Devotion in Motion: Of Ribs and Righteousness

12 Not that I have already attained, or am already perfected; but I press on, that I may lay hold of that for which Christ Jesus has also laid hold of me. Philippians 3:12  (NKJV)

By Bro. John L. Cash, “Country Preacher Dad”

Inspired by what he has seen on the TLC program “The Barbeque Pitmasters,” our son Seth has decided to become a master chef of the grill. Last Saturday (while his mother was at the Ole Miss football game) he treated Spencer and me with a wonderful rack of hickory-smoked baby-back ribs. They were delicious. After we polished off the meat, we gave the bones to our yard-dogs and they devoured them. A good time was had by all.

Although Spencer and I were thrilled with the ribs, Seth was quite aggravated with himself for the way that they’d turned out. He had put them under the broiler, and they’ turned a bit darker than he judged they should be. I realized that the problem wasn’t with the ribs (which were great) but with Seth’s expectations. He thought he would be able to prepare ribs like the people he’d seen on television—world championship winners—the first time he ever prepared ribs. He is just now starting to learn something that all of us run into. Most things we attempt aren’t perfect the first time; but with practice, most things do show progress.

My wife Susan and I have taken to sitting down every day and watching the old reruns of Julia Child on “The French Chef.” Susan says she likes to watch her because she doesn’t use anything fancy—even her pots and pans are mismatched and old. We were surprised the other day when she described her philosophy of cooking. She said that the process of cooking and learning to cook is really made up mostly of failures. We cook things, and they are failures, but usually the failures are still edible. With practice, we finally get it closer to ” just right”.

Susan and I have seen this borne out in our own experience. Susan was 19-years-old when she married me, and we came down to serve this little church in Mississippi. She would tell you that, at that time, she didn’t know how to cook much of anything. But now people frequently tell me what an excellent cook she is (even though I don’t need any convincing.)

She used a very smart method to learn to cook. Whenever she tasted something that was especially good, she asked the cook how she prepared it and to please write down the recipe. Then she tried to prepare the recipe on her own. Some of her attempts were failures (like when as a teen-bride she forgot to de-bone the chicken before it went into the dumplings. We ate around the bones.) But the failures became meals. The meals became lessons. With practice the recipes became successes, and failures became fewer and farther between.

Traveling the path of righteousness is a lot like traveling the path of learning to cook. As we strive, we have a lot more failures than successes. In today’s Scripture lesson (at the top), the Apostle Paul says that he is not where he wants to be spiritually. He has not “attained” and he has not been made “perfected.”  His response to this is not to give up on his spiritual quest but to “press on” toward the goal.

Dear mamas, don’t be discouraged by your failings this week, but ask the Lord for the strength to press on: “Yard by yard, life is hard, but inch by inch, it’s a cinch!”

Dr. John L. Cash is the “Country Preacher Dad.” He was raised in Stuttgart, Arkansas, and has spent the last 25 years being a country preacher in the piney woods five miles south of the little town of Hickory, Mississippi. (On week days he works at a public school.) He and his lovely wife, Susan, and his sons, Spencer (age 19) and Seth (age 16) live in the parsonage next door to the Antioch Christian Church (where Seth’s mother insisted that he prepare ribs on Labor Day to make up for the ones she missed.) He would love to hear from you in an email sent to