Devotion in Motion: It’s a matter of taste

By Bro. John L. Cash

Pork chops are not my favorite food. I don’t hate pork chops. If I sit down to a meal and the main course is a pork chop, I’ll eat it. No problem. But if I were going through a buffet line and the two choices of entrée were pork chops or something else, I’d probably choose the something else. It’s just a matter of personal taste.

That’s kind of the same way I feel about contemporary Christian music. It’s not my favorite style of music. I don’t complain when other people play it. I sing it when our choir director picks it out. But—just to give you an example–we used to have two Christian radio stations on satellite radio. One station played contemporary Christian music, and the other played hymns. I always listened to the one that played traditional church songs and hymns. It’s just a matter of my personal taste.

guitar-1343160_640Lately, however, I’ve become a bigger fan of contemporary Christian music than I was in the past. I’m a public educator, and I’m in and out of a lot of classrooms all over the place. I’ve been in two classrooms lately where the students were allowed to listen to the radio while they were working on written classwork. The students chose the station, and the one they picked was K-LOVE Radio.

I noticed that the kids really knew the Christian songs, and they’d learned the words. The other thing I noticed was that these teenagers are very loving, kind, and respectful kids. Their classroom had a peaceful ambience and a joyful vibe. The world could use a whole lot more of what these young people have.

I’ve been working in the Church a long time. Something I’ve come to realize is that the world is a big place, and Christianity is a really big religion. There are as many difference ways to express love for Christ as there are individual Christians. Because of that, I’m trying to be careful not to let my personal preferences discourage another Christian from enjoying something that is not my first choice. This modern Christian music still isn’t my favorite. But I hope and pray that the world gets a lot more of it.

rp_john-l-cash-212x300.jpgDr. John L. Cash is the “Country Preacher Dad.” He was raised in Stuttgart, Arkansas, and has spent the last 30 years being a country preacher in the piney woods five miles south of the little town of Hickory, Mississippi. (On week days has a desk-job at a public school, where he used to teach Latin on closed-circuit-television.) He and his lovely wife, Susan, live in the parsonage next door to the Antioch Christian Church. Their kids include Spencer (age 25), his wife Madeline (age 24), and Seth (age 21). You can send him a note at brotherjohn@ilovechurchcamp.com.

Devotion in Motion: Thou shalt eat a chip

44 “For every tree is known by its own fruit. For men do not gather figs from thorns, nor do they gather grapes from a bramble bush. ~ Luke 6:44  (NKJV)

By Bro. John L. Cash

I’ve had so much success these past two weeks writing about store-brand foods that I just had to write one more before I switch to another topic. Spencer and Madeline were home from University of Georgia the other day, where he is teaching school and she is finishing a Master’s degree in social work. They spent Friday night with us, and then we enjoyed a leisurely Saturday morning.

smiling-face-with-heart-shaped-eyesI’m really enjoying having grown children because it’s so evident to me how much they all love me. I mean, every one of them is so good to me — and it’s almost like when they’re looking at me I can see valentine hearts coming out of their eyes. Nevertheless, I sometimes get the feeling they’re “humoring” me a bit, the way you do when you’re dealing with a cranky elderly person. Clearly, they truly have love for me. But for my generic brand options? Maybe not so much.

About noon on that sunny Saturday, I found my new bag of “Always Save Brand Barbecue Potato Chips” in the kitchen pantry.  These are my favorite.  I buy another bag every time we run out.  When we all sat down at the table for lunch, I began extolling the virtues of my generic chips, insisting that they are clearly a premium brand of potato chips dispensed in a plain, perfunctory sack. All those present at the table politely smiled and slightly nodded their heads. They were being nice. But clearly they thought I had rocks in my head.

I opened the bag and offered them around the table. Everyone said they wouldn’t care for any. They made up a variety of unconvincing excuses. I persisted, but they persisted, too. Finally I did something I almost never do. I decided to “pull rank” on everybody at the table.

AS_FeaturedProducts_PotatoChipsI said, “Look. I am the father in the family, and that means I’m the head of the house. So, because of that, everybody has to eat a potato chip.” Reluctantly, and only to please the aging pastor who’s entering his dotage, everybody ate a chip.

My wife Susan was the first one to speak up. “John, these are really good. They really are barbecue-chip-perfection. They must be repackaged Lay’s Potato Chips. You can’t eat just one.” Spencer and Madeline didn’t make any formal pronouncement, but they each began to eat handfuls of chips, too. They were so delicious that we all ate the rest of the chips with lunch. (Actually, we sort of ate the rest of the chips INSTEAD of lunch. Sometimes barbecue potato chips are just that irresistible.)

There’s a profound life lesson here. When it comes to store-brand foods, people might not believe the words on the ugly yellow bag, but they can’t argue with the deliciousness of the potato chips.

And, in life, people don’t always believe what you say, but they can never deny what you are and what you do.

Be something great this week. And do something good.

rp_john-l-cash-212x300.jpgDr. John L. Cash is the “Country Preacher Dad.” He was raised in Stuttgart, Arkansas, and has spent the last 30 years being a country preacher in the piney woods five miles south of the little town of Hickory, Mississippi. (On week days has a desk-job at a public school, where he used to teach Latin on closed-circuit-television.)  He and his lovely wife, Susan, live in the parsonage next door to the Antioch Christian Church (where springtime is beautiful this year.)  Their kids include Spencer (age 25), his wife Madeline (age 24), and Seth (age 21). You can send him a note at brotherjohn@ilovechurchcamp.com.

Devotion in Motion: When influence and suggestion meet

14 “You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden.”  ~ Matthew 5:14  (NKJV)

By Bro. John L. Cash

It’s so much fun to be a weekly columnist like me. Very often, readers send me a note to let me know that they liked my column. I’m always amazed at the essays that they single out. For instance, last week some folks told me that they liked my story about a box of generic breakfast cereal. Since (apparently) I’m “on a roll” here, I thought I’d write a second installment on the subject of “Things That Are Great About Store-Brands.”

So, as I was saying, another reason that store-brands are so much fun is that they have the coolest recipes in the world on their boxes. For instance, here’s a recipe for muffins from a box of “Best Choice” bran flakes.

muffin1 1/2 cups Best Choice® Enriched Bran Flakes Cereal
1 cup mashed ripe bananas (3 medium)
1/2 cup Best Choice® Milk
1 Best Choice® Egg
1/4 cup Best Choice® Sugar
3 tablespoons Best Choice® Vegetable Oil
1 cup Best Choice® All-Purpose Flour
2 teaspoons Best Choice® Baking Powder
1/4 teaspoon Best Choice® Baking Soda
1/8 teaspoon Best Choice® Ground Nutmeg

Have you noticed that every ingredient in this recipe is a “Best Choice” brand product? Well, actually, the bananas don’t specify a brand. (What do you want to bet it’s because “Best Choice” doesn’t sell bananas?)

I’m pretty sure this recipe would turn out OK if you used a name-brand product instead of a generic. For instance, if you stirred in “Borden” milk rather than “Best Choice” milk, the batter wouldn’t give off a poisonous gas. I suspect it would turn out just fine either way. But the “Best Choice” company is using a smart tactic; they’re using their influence to try to persuade you to use their products.

Now, let me tell you, this way of thinking is not a bad thing at all. We all have influence, and we need to use every bit of influence we have to try to bring about good things in this world. And sometimes we don’t have to do very much at all to make a big (sometimes eternal) difference.

Not too long ago, Susan was chatting with a friend who was going through a bad time in her life. Susan told her that she (personally) had found great help in her relationship with the Lord — specifically as a part of His Church. She suggested that her friend (who didn’t belong to a church) try visiting a worship service.

Her friend followed her advice and started going to a Bible study on Sunday mornings. Susan suggested a very understandable version of the Scriptures to her friend, and sent her a copy. These were small things—mere suggestions. But these little gestures brought about a wonderful outcome. Her friend believed the Gospel, gave her life to the Lord, and on Easter she was baptized into Christ.

You see, it all starts with a simple suggestion. Use every bit of influence that you have for the Lord this week. That’s just my suggestion. :-)

rp_john-l-cash-212x300.jpgDr. John L. Cash is the “Country Preacher Dad.” He was raised in Stuttgart, Arkansas, and has spent the last 30 years being a country preacher in the piney woods five miles south of the little town of Hickory, Mississippi. (On week days has a desk-job at a public school, where he used to teach Latin on closed-circuit-television.) He and his lovely wife, Susan, live in the parsonage next door to the Antioch Christian Church (where the Preacher got a great report from his cardiologist this week.) Their kids include Spencer (age 24), his wife Madeline (age 24), and Seth (age 21). You can send him a note at brotherjohn@ilovechurchcamp.com.

The “best choice” in the grocery store and in life

14 Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse.

15 Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep.  ~  Romans 12:14-15  (NKJV)

By Bro. John L. Cash

A friend of mine used to work in a pie factory. The factory was for a famous company, a brand you would be familiar with. He said that every day they made thousands of pies. Half of the pies they put in “name brand” boxes and the other half they put in “store brand” boxes. The pies were identical. The only difference was the packaging.

I do a lot of the grocery shopping for the Cash household. We have a new grocery store in our little town that sells a lot of generics, and I’m conducting scientific research. Every week I buy a “name brand” item and also the “store brand” item that is supposed to be the equivalent. Then I bring both of them home and do a side-by-side examination and taste-test. (Sometimes Seth helps me.) Many times the products are exactly the same; they even have the same “lot number” on the package, which indicates they came off the same assembly line.

If the items are truly identical, I have permission from my wife to buy the generic from now on. But, if the generic is inferior, I don’t buy it any more. Also (as punishment for being cheap) I end up having to eat the inferior product by myself. That doesn’t bother me too much because I was born without a sense of smell.

I’ve had a lot of success in doing this, and our grocery bill is steadily going down. But I’ve noticed a few things. It seems to me that there is a rule that if you make generic soup, the can it comes in has to have an ugly label.  cerealAlso, it appears that there’s a federal regulation that says that if you make generic breakfast cereal, you have to name it something kind of off-the-wall. My favorite store brand cereal is called “Live Life 100%.” (I think it’s a knock-off of “Life” cereal.) I really like “Live Life 100%” cereal. Honestly, I’m in the process of finishing my 3rd box of it.

Not only is “Live Life 100%” a great cereal, I also think it’s a great sentiment. I truly do want to live my life one-hundred-percent, don’t you? “Living Life 100%” would be a great way to please the Lord. And, as a bonus, you’d probably have a great feeling at the end of the day.

But what exactly does it mean to “Live Life 100%”? I’m pretty sure that a lot of people in our culture would equate “100% Living” with “being wired and hyperactive all the time.” That’s a dangerous belief. Being “manic” is not a way of life that ends well. After all, cocaine addicts are awake, alert, and busy, but I’m sure this is not life as God intends it to be.

Today’s Scripture text (at the top) is a good one. It helps us to understand what “100% Living” might be for those of us who call ourselves Christians. Clearly, we’re not called to go “full blast” all the time. The Bible says we’re called to rejoice with those who rejoice, but to mourn with those who mourn. Our mission is “Live Life 100%” by striving to embrace every joy3opportunity, responding to every situation appropriately, as we imitate the life of our Saviour. No doubt we will have a million different emotions and feelings as we follow the footprints of Jesus.

So, eat a breakfast of “Live Life 100%” this week. And when you get through, you can probably wash your dishes with “Joy.” ;-)

rp_john-l-cash-212x300.jpgDr. John L. Cash is the “Country Preacher Dad.” He was raised in Stuttgart, Arkansas, and has spent the last 30 years being a country preacher in the piney woods five miles south of the little town of Hickory, Mississippi. (On week days has a desk-job at a public school, where he used to teach Latin on closed-circuit-television.) He and his lovely wife, Susan, live in the parsonage next door to the Antioch Christian Church (where the parsonage cats say that the store brand canned food is really the same as “9 Lives.”) Their kids include Spencer (age 24), his wife Madeline (age 24), and Seth (age 21). You can send him a note at brotherjohn@ilovechurchcamp.com.

Devotion in Motion: What to do about the haters

17 ¶ “Sanctify them by Your truth. Your word is truth.” ~ John 17:17 (NKJV)

By Bro. John L. Cash

As the great modern philosopher Taylor Swift once said, “Haters gonna hate, hate, hate, hate, hate.” And as the great Protestant reformer Martin Luther of haters-gonna-hate-catGermany once said, “This is most certainly true.”

So, parents, get ready. “The haters” are going to “hate” on your children. If it hasn’t happened yet, it’s going to. Be prepared.

Let me give you an example of what I’m talking about. When Seth was in middle school, he became a cigarette smoker. Now I’ve never been a smoker. I tried it once when I was a kid. I took a long drag off of a “Lucky Strike” (filtered), and instantly the interior of my respiratory system broke out in spots. I’ve never smoked another one. That first cigarette was plenty.

The same thing happened to his mother. Susan tried one cigarette, and that was enough to last her for the rest of her life.

But when Seth was in 5th grade, some big boys offered him a cigarette. He lit it up, smoked it, and enjoyed it very much. He told me that after that first time, he smoked whenever a cigarette was offered or was available. I guess smoking just agrees with some people more than others.

a very sweet boy

Seth, a very good young man :-)

Now, as you might imagine, this wasn’t something his mom and I had planned for our youngest child. We always talked to our boys about the danger of lung cancer. And we tried to set a positive example for our children. We never had a conversation in which we said, “Seth, you’re going to be turning 10 years old soon. Your mom and I have been talking, and we think it’s about time we bought you a Bic lighter.” (Just sayin’.)

That’s the “smoking” part of the story. Now we get into the “hater” part of the story.

One day a man, who also had a teenage son, walked up and said this to me: “I saw Seth walk behind the gymnasium with one of Spencer’s friends. I’m glad the older boys take up time with him.” That’s what he SAID. But from his tone of voice, I knew the meaning of what he was trying to convey. What he MEANT was, “Seth is a hoodlum. I saw him smoking behind the gym.”

Well, this is where the “be prepared” part kicks in. I answered with the first thing that came into my head: “I would imagine that Seth went behind the gym to smoke a cigarette. I think Seth smokes Camels-without-filters-in-a-crushpack. He’s a very tough little kid. We wish he didn’t smoke, but he does it anyway. You know how it is. Your son is a smoker.”

(Note to the reader: Everyone in a 100-mile-radius had seen this man’s son light up. Honestly, the kid used a 3-pound-coffee can in his car for an ashtray.)

To which the man answered, “Oh, no, Mr. Cash. My son doesn’t smoke.”

Later on, as I was recounting this story to my older son, I said, “Spencer, it’s the oddest thing. After the man said what he did, I heard a roaring sound in my ears. It was such a thunderous thing that I was afraid everyone in the room could heard it.” Spencer (who was wise beyond his years and also knew the young smoker) said, “Dad, I know what it was. It was the sound of all the truth being sucked out of the room.”

yosemite samThis story still makes me mad when I think about it. (Susan just proofread this story. She said she would not have been so pastoral in her reply. If the man had said it to her, she would have turned into Yosemite Sam and started shooting the place up. But I digress.)

People who think your kids are always bad and that their kids are always good are the worst — because those parents are stupid, and it’s always a lie. But I tell it to you because you’re going to go through a similar situation some day. There are people in this world who insist on pointing out the unpleasant realities in your life. The best thing you can do (in my opinion) is to tell them the truth. Beat them to the punch line. It ruins all the fun for the haters in this world.

There’s one more thing to realize. The haters who insist on pointing out the unpleasant realities in your life often refuse to tell the truth about their own situations. In that case, your strategy is different. Don’t point out to them that they’re lying. It’s quite enough just to know the truth in your own heart.

There’s an ancient Jewish story about a king who had a contest to figure out the “strongest thing in the world.” And at the end of the story, the winner is truth. The older I get, the more I believe that. Most of all, I remember that Jesus said that God’s Word is Truth.

So, parents everywhere, get ready for the haters. There are just three things to remember:

1. Tell the truth.

2. Know the truth.

3. And most of all, believe the truth.

john l cashDr. John L. Cash is the “Country Preacher Dad.” He was raised in Stuttgart, Arkansas, and has spent the last 29 years being a country preacher in the piney woods five miles south of the little town of Hickory, Mississippi. (On week days has a desk-job at a public school, where he used to teach Latin on closed-circuit-television.) He and his lovely wife, Susan, live in the parsonage next door to the Antioch Christian Church (where the Preacher’s son, Seth, is no longer a smoker because it gives him a migraine.) Their kids include Spencer (age 23), his wife Madeline (age 23), and Seth (age 20).