Babe’s Chicken Dinner House–Garland, TX

It has been too long since I’ve eaten at Babe’s. I was in town serving with Mercy Chefs and I wanted to treat my family to something that was truly memorable.

Naturally, I went for the fried chicken. It wasn’t heavily seasoned which made my children happy, but what it lacked in spice, it made up for it in chicken fried perfection. The skin has a delicious crunch and the meat is unbelievably juicy. I rarely fry chicken for a number of reasons, but one of them is that it is an art to have chicken fried this perfectly.

As I was able to sample the abundance of sides from the lazy Susan, I was reminded of simpler days when my mom filled the house with the aroma of fried chicken after church. The mashed potatoes with the cream gravy was my favorite. To be honest, my favorite food is pretty much anything with gravy. The corn, somewhere between whole kernel and creamed corn was another nice addition. I enjoy corn so much that I used to eat it straight off the stalk on my grandparents’ farm. I feel they tried too hard in seasoning the green beans, though. The flavor wasn’t bad, but not really good either. No worries. It made more room for gravy.

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This gravy is outta control.

I almost forgot about the banana pudding. Normally, meringue makes me sad, but it works with their pudding. The banana flavor was intense. I’m assuming that they are fortifying it with banana extract or maybe liqueur. The presence of the banana flavor was intense and delightful.

I rarely give out a five star review, but the food coupled with the atmosphere brings back some really nice memories. I don’t remember my grandma frying chicken, but I fondly remember her rooster stroganoff. You made sure to get your fill on your first plate because there was no chance for seconds as everyone greedily snatched it up by the ladleful. We will return to Babe’s so we can begin to form a new generation of memories.

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A Generational Curse

‘The Lord is slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love, forgiving iniquity and transgression, but he will by no means clear the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children, to the third and the fourth generation.’ (Numbers 14:18 ESV)

While I was wasting time today, I came across a blog post that piqued my interest.  The author, Lisa M. Price, was correlating personal responsibility with societal ills.  I can’t agree more.  It’s easy to blame our problems on racism, liberalism, conservatism–pick any -ism you choose, but before we release the scapegoat into the wilderness, maybe we need to look inwardly.  Perhaps we can take responsibility for our errors instead of pointing fingers at others.  I think the elephant in the room is the fact that we say our problems are typically somebody else’s fault, and we certainly shouldn’t rely on the government to shore up our problems.  It’s apparent that the government cannot even handle the responsibilities it’s been given.  It’s like having a podiatrist perform brain surgery.  He may be the best foot doctor in the world but I’m not letting him near my head.

In my estimation, the largest issue that negatively impacts society are the abundance of broken homes.  I was alarmed at the statistics I read on singlemotherguide.com, but the first sentence is what I found staggering.  It states, “…single motherhood is now becoming the new “norm”.  Granted, there are many reasons that a woman may become a single mother, but I’m focusing on the irresponsible aspects.  The statistics support that this new “norm” is the normalizing of immorality.  49% of single mothers have never been married.  This isn’t merely men acting like pigs and sowing their sinful oats.  Women also shirk decency by behaving like harlots.

I know, it’s time to bring up the liberal rhetoric because we all have the right to do whatever we want to be happy.  That sounds reasonable on the surface, but it really means, “Let us indulge our wanton lusts and engage in whatever debasement and humiliation is necessary to attain happiness.”  Are you happy?  Your doctor tells you that you are pregnant.  Are you happy now?  You can’t find the guy you had a one night stand with and decide it’s best to have an abortion.  Does this make you happy?  You have complications when the doctor removes your unborn baby with a giant suction tube.  You don’t have to worry about that inconvenience but now you are sterile.  Is this what you were thinking of when you were thinking about your happiness?

I’m not trying to pick on women, but who is stuck with all of the decisions and responsibilities when dad skips town or moves to prison?  This isn’t racism, either.  Black people have the same responsibilities with their bodies as whites and Hispanics.  I’m also not trying single out the poor as I have a heart to minister to the homeless.  The fact is that 39.6% of unwed mothers are poor according to NWLC.  Of those, more than half live in extreme poverty.  Does this ensure that children of unwed mothers will overcome poverty?  Of course not.  Children that grow up in poverty will likely remain in poverty.  Then their children will live their lives in poverty.  The tragedy in this nightmare is that the children are innocent but are paying for their parents’ sins.

Poverty doesn’t care about the color of your skin.  Poverty is in many cases, the result of bad decisions.  The problem with poverty is that it rarely stops at one generation.  If you make bad decisions that land you in the poorhouse, those decisions can impact generations.  Your one night stand may affect your great-grandchildren.  Do you have a right to engage in risky behavior that can cause unhappiness in your great-grandchildren’s lives in the name of happiness?  If I was a sociopath that enjoyed killing people, do I have a right to murder my neighbor so that I can be happy?  It’s an absurd example, but the truth is that my actions can and do impact my children’s lives.  I have the ability to improve their lives through a pattern of good decision making or I can destroy their future if I make some ill-conceived choices.

Nowhere in the Bible does it say that we have a right to happiness. Happiness is not guaranteed in this life and in our reckless pursuit of happiness, we should not compromise our integrity.  We need to consider the consequences and refrain from activity that could negatively affect not only our lives, but the lives of our children.  This “new normal” isn’t working out.  It’s irresponsible to label aberrant behavior as normal in the first place.

The Least of These

He said also to the man who had invited him, “When you give a dinner or a banquet, do not invite your friends or your brothers or your relatives or rich neighbors, lest they also invite you in return and you be repaid. But when you give a feast, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed, because they cannot repay you. For you will be repaid at the resurrection of the just.” (Luke 14:12-14 ESV)

Saddest.  Tree.  Ever.  We were contending with 30 mph winds and the tree took some serious abuse.
Saddest. Tree. Ever. We were contending with 30 mph winds and the tree took some serious abuse.

Yesterday, we had the opportunity to spend some time in Ft. Worth, TX to participate in Mercy Chefs’ “17 Days of Christmas.”  Heather and I have talked about serving the homeless on Christmas Day for years, and we were blessed with the opportunity to serve around 100 homeless and underprivileged men, women, and children. This project will continue through December 31.

(In case you are not familiar with Mercy Chefs, let me explain.  We are primarily a disaster response and relief ministry.  We serve hot chef prepared meals to first responders, victims, and volunteers. Fortunately, we don’t have continual disasters, so when we have downtime, we partner with other ministries to feed the homeless.)

I’m always amazed when we are obedient to Christ.  We serve with the intention to bless others, but we always seem to be the ones blessed by the homeless.  Yesterday, I sat down with a 60 year old man who has been out of prison for 18 months.  He spent a couple of years in prison after he beat up some creeper who was abusing his fifteen year old daughter.  What surprised me was that this man, Terry Gibson, was a brother in Christ and could quote scripture better than I could.

Learning about Terry Gibson and his circumstances.
Terry said that before today, he hadn’t eaten in two days.

Terry said that he was a manager at a classic car dealership for ten years before he went to prison.  He was a single father who had custody of his three children.  I spent about an hour listening to him as he told me that his predicament came solely because he didn’t trust God to handle the precarious situation with the sexual predator that was after his daughter.

As I imagine myself in his shoes, I know that if I was faced with a similar situation with one of my three daughters, I might be tempted to handle the matter similarly.  I pray that I am never thrust into a comparable position.

My wife and middle daughter watching "Elf" with a couple of new friends on the side of the Mercy Chefs trailer.
My wife and middle daughter watching “Elf” with a couple of new friends on the side of the Mercy Chefs trailer.

His troubles are far from over as he is still picking up his broken life. His children, feeling abandoned by his imprisonment, have pretty much abandoned their relationship with their father.  He attributes it to his unwillingness to allow God to handle his dilemma.  Yet, he is still upbeat.  He is thankful for his experience in prison as it has drawn him closer to God.  He served as a father figure for many young men behind bars, and now he offers his wisdom to kids and young adults on the streets.

My family.
My family.

When we parted ways, he left with a full belly and a warm blanket and I left with a fresh perspective.  God can and does use the least of us to serve Christ, and I’m blessed to have a new friend.  We may never meet again, but I don’t have to worry about him.  He is safe with the Lord, but I do pray for him and his family and I pray that God saves others through him.  It was a Merry Christmas, indeed.

Focusing On What’s Important

It’s the day before Christmas (I think calling it Christmas Eve-Day is awkward) and I see an article from CNN regarding the new generation of megachurches.  These are absolute monstrosities, and at the very least, are examples of bad stewardship of resources.  I’m not writing to bash megachurches (though I could go on about Joel Osteen, Creflo Dollar, or social justice adherents or seeker-sensitive preachers), but I was reading the comments in response to the article where I saw the usual atheist propaganda.

I get frustrated when unbelievers twist scripture saying that Christians aren’t supposed to judge, and Christians should be poor, and Christians are hypocrites because they presume we are not living a godly life.  I’m not a rube, I know that there are many who just pay lip service to Christ while living their little hedonistic lives.  The accusation is that we are charged to feed the hungry and clothe the poor.  They are right as Matthew 25:35-40 is very clear that whatever we do to the least among us we are doing to Christ.  We, as Christians, know (or at least should know) what we are supposed to do, and as I read the comments denouncing Christians, it appears that the belief of our responsibilities releases the unbeliever from any responsibility.  Matthew 7:5 is clearly written for the Christian, but it would do unbelievers well to take the plank out of their own eye before they start pointing fingers.

Jesus says the poor will always be with us, but that does not release us of our responsibility.  I say “our” loosely, because it should include Christians and non-Christians alike.  I’m not saying that unbelievers do not care about their fellow man, it’s just the loudest ones appear to call foul on the Christian while doing nothing themselves.  Further, social justice should not be the ultimate goal for the Christian.  What is the point in feeding and clothing someone if you don’t share the Gospel?  People die everyday with full bellies and without repentance and faith in Jesus Christ, that full belly was useless.

Let the unbeliever worry about social justice and saving the northern hairy-nosed wombat.  Let us feed body and soul.  Let us be a light in the darkness.  Let us bless our enemies while they curse us and our King (Matthew 5:44).  Let us be slaves to Christ and remember Mark 10:45–“For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

CC image courtesy of Stephan Rebernik on Flickr.

Is Endless Punishment Really the Best Option?

It’s common to hear people say that they will never submit to God because of His threats of eternal torture.  That is interesting because I have yet to hear someone refer to hell as eternal torment.  Torture undoubtedly refers to some type of unmerited experience, where torment could be entirely deserved.  The Doctrine of Endless Punishment has nothing to do with eternal torture.  If one finds himself in hell, it is a punishment he earned because he rejected his Savior in favor of a logical error.  Adhering to a fallacious argument like the argumentum ad baculum, or the Threat of Force fallacy, is unwise because it cannot diminish the reality of hell.

Universalism is the preferred religion of post-moderns as it ignores man’s sinful nature and the threat of hell along with it.  Joel Osteen’s brand of Christianity encapsulates this perfectly as sins are regarded as no more than mistakes, and if we have positive vibes, God will shower us with gifts because we deserve it.  This “God owes me” mentality is impossibly stupid.  How can we have the audacity to demand anything from God?  He owes us nothing but wrath, but we feel entitled to His grace.  This reasoning reduces God to an instrument that we wield to satisfy our carnal desires.

If we believe that eternal punishment is too mean, what other alternatives does God have?  In his commentary on Revelation, Chuck Missler suggests that there are three other options at God’s disposal, all of which would result in something worse than hell.

  1. God could let the world just continue to exist forever.

On the surface, this seems to be perfectly reasonable.  But what about the cruelty and injustice?  What about pain and disease?  This would go unchecked, and this Garden of Eden would go on and on.

  1. God could force man into automata.

Can anyone honestly say they would prefer life without free will?  We would be nothing more than mere robots carrying out orders.  Maybe this would be easier, but would we have meaningful lives?  Of course not, but without free will we would never realize it.  As a result, God would be forcing us to love Him which runs contrary to His nature.

  1. He can withdraw Himself.

We might assume that this would look something like number one, but in this case He would not be simply be ignoring His creation.  He would be turning His back on it.  The world was spoken into existence, and if the Word (revealed as Jesus in John 1:1-5) chooses to withdraw from His creation, we could expect that we would not exist.  It is impossible to imagine what it would be like without Him, but I suspect it would be much like it was before Genesis 1.

These are all bad scenarios for man and they all go against God’s nature.  From man’s perspective, the best option is an eternal hell.  What makes hell so appealing is the fact that God provides a way for us to avoid hell through Jesus Christ.  For many, this is preposterous as this would require submission to God.  Some find it much easier to impugn God’s character.  After all, if we must repent of our sins, we have to acknowledge our depravity.

Image courtesy of Kevin Dooley

Again With the Persecution?

I just read an article from the Daily Caller regarding another story of a “bigoted” florist that refused to sell flowers for a gay wedding.  I really can’t say that this story is news because it happens so frequently nowadays.  This particular story caught my attention because the state of Washington is not only levying fines against the business, but it is suing the owner personally, which seems to go beyond punitive.  As for me, these tolerance/intolerance shenanigans are so bizarre that I would find them laughable if they weren’t so devastating to those who are only trying to honor God.

Barronelle Stutzman, the proprietor, sold flowers to homosexuals.  She even sold flowers to this same couple.  In all likelihood, Ms. Stutzman gladly provided her services to anyone for all occasions except one:  same-sex weddings.  In those instances, she helpfully directed customers to florists that would sell flowers for these special occasions.  Her reason was simple.  She was upholding her convictions as she did not want to sin against God.

Before you launch into your “selling flowers for gay weddings is not in the Bible” tirade, let’s look a little closer.  Granted, the Bible has no explicit command to refrain from participation in gay wedding ceremonies, so this matter is adiaphora.  The Christian could make a determination that he is not sinning by providing a service for a gay wedding.  After all, he’s not performing the actual ceremony.  For another Christian, his conviction may be that any participation would be sinful.  Either way, a person’s faith should not be subject to government intrusion.

The Bible says that homosexuality is a sin and defines marriage as being exclusively between one man and one woman. 1 Thessalonians 5:22 tells us to abstain from the appearance of evil.  I’m not trying to be inflammatory, but the Bible is clear on matters of sin.  Sin is evil.  Further, we should be mindful of our actions so that we do not become a stumbling block for other Christians. (1 Corinthians 8:13)  Romans 14:13-23 is an important passage that helps clarify, and I believe is especially helpful in navigating issues that are not specifically addressed in the Bible.

Consider the consumption of alcohol.  The Bible condemns drunkenness, but does not prohibit drinking.  It’s actually very clear that drinking alcohol is lawful; it’s the excessive drinking that is sinful.  If I personally think drinking is sinful, I am committing a sin if I drink a glass of wine because I’m not acting on my faith. (Romans 14:23)

This shouldn’t even be an issue.  This is not discrimination.  If anything, it’s a moral issue and the government shouldn’t be in the business of legislating morality.  Actually, in this case, Uncle Sam is legislating immorality.  If the florist was Muslim, it’s unlikely that anyone would object.  Islam forbids homosexuality and in certain countries, one could receive the death penalty by being a homosexual.  That’s the double standard that is pervasive in American culture today.  The tolerance/intolerance duality is hardly anything that resembles egalitarianism.  Matthew 10:22 and John 15:18 illustrate the real reason for the animosity.  The world hates Jesus Christ and we are hated because we love Him.

I understand that this is an unpopular position.  Before I was saved, I would have been on the bandwagon hurling insults at prudish Christians (and I identified as a Christian).  I also would have ridiculed homosexuals as I affirmed their right to do whatever they wanted.  Only five years ago I came to understand that I was an utterly depraved and wrong-headed unregenerate.  I realized that I must repent and put my trust in Jesus.

As a Bible believing Christian, the world views me as bigoted and small minded.  I can live with that.

BBQ Chronicles: Smithfield’s Chicken ‘N Bar-B-Q–Fayetteville, NC

Last week I endured a marathon road trip to Portsmouth, VA and back to Shreveport in four days. It was somewhere on the order of 2500 miles. I went to assist a friend transport a mobile kitchen for Mercy Chefs. We only slept 3-4 hours a day so that we could cover these miles. As a result, we had our share of truck stop food.

On December 4, we decided that we needed to enjoy some fine BBQ, not once, but twice. Our first stop was at Smithfield’s Chicken ‘N Bar-B-Q in Fayetteville, NC. That evening we were passing through Birmingham, AL and had to make a stop at Dreamland BBQ.

Simple presentation.  Big flavor.
Simple presentation. Big flavor.

Everyone knows that I’m a BBQ junkie. I take my fifteen year old daughter on Texas road trips to seek out and savor the best BBQ. I was pleased to sample some Carolina BBQ. I’ve heard about it and my chef buddy I was accompanying actually made Carolina BBQ on a deployment in Chambrun, Haiti. It was delicious then and I expected nothing short of perfection in North Carolina.

You may think a pulled pork sandwich is just a pulled pork sandwich. If you blindly accept that error as truth, then you live an empty life. I don’t want to sound mean, but the sweet pork tangified with the right amount of vinegar elevates this humble sandwich to something epic.

I was skeptical of the slaw on the sandwich as I really don’t like slaw. There is something unappetizing about shredded cabbage coated with a runny mayo. This slaw wasn’t runny and I had to try the sandwich as it was intended.

I’m not going to say that I became an overnight fan of slaw, but the crunch paired with the soft pork works. The fries were frozen, but were mightily fried and I hungrily scarfed them down.

Extreme closeups make me hungry.
Extreme closeups make me hungry.

My only regret is that I was too full to sample the fried chicken. The week prior, I enjoyed Gus’s World Famous Fried Chicken in Little Rock, AR. I suspect that Smithfield’s chicken was insanely good. I’ve never been to a restaurant that sells sacks of fried chicken skin. If they sell chicken cracklings, the chicken itself must be unmatched. Maybe I’ll have the opportunity to pit Gus’s and Smithfield’s against each other one day, but in the meantime, I’d like to see a restaurant at home sell fried chicken skin.

BBQ Chronicles: Dreamland BBQ–Birmingham, AL

Our trip back from Virginia is nearing its completion, so we had to celebrate with a second round of BBQ today. As we passed through Birmingham, AL, we decided to stop at Dreamland BBQ.

I have heard many good things about Dreamland. I actually visited the Mobile, AL location a few months ago. The ribs were tough last time, so I thought I needed to try a different location at a different time.

That pit is enormous.
That pit is enormous.

We started with BBQ nachos with pulled pork. Those alone are worth a visit. The nachos are loaded with meat and jalapeños and are sure to please. I also have to state that I love the sauce. It is tangy and spicy and is the perfect complement to any meat. It is served with white bread. If you are given white bread for dipping, you can feel confident that the sauce will enhance the meat.

That's a lot of ribs.  I like how the sauce is haphazardly slathered on top.
That’s a lot of ribs. I like how the sauce is haphazardly slathered on top.

Now for the ribs. They are hickory smoked. That is notable for two reasons. First, the hickory imparts a very unique taste to the ribs. These spare ribs had incredible flavor. However, hickory burns hot and can leave ribs tough, just like the first time I ate them. I want the meat to release from the bone with a little effort. I don’t want to fight the ribs which is what happens when you consume tough, leathery ribs. I like the flavor, but tough ribs are bad news. If you want tender ribs, just go to Tyler, TX.

Extreme closeup.  These ribs may be tough, but they really taste great with that hickory flavor.
Extreme closeup. These ribs may be tough, but they really taste great with that hickory flavor.

As for the sides, they were nothing special. Typical baked beans and potato salad. Probably Sysco brand and they aren’t even punched up. You can punch up a can of beans and make them phenomenal. Or you can heat and serve. These happen to be heat and serve beans.  If you want to be dazzled by beans, you may want to visit The Cotton Boll Grill.

Conclusion: BBQ nachos are required eating. Don’t waste your time on sides. The sauce is excellent. The hickory smoke is great. Stick with pulled pork or chicken. The leathery ribs get a ding for toughness. This establishment is worth your time as it scores three stars out of five.

Another Mercy Chefs Adventure

Mercy Chefs adventures have become a regular facet in my life, and until recently, I have not had exposure to the logistics issues that need to be addressed to have a successful deployment. Three weeks ago, I went to Tuscaloosa, AL to assist in the transport of the command center. We were undertaking massive Thanksgiving feedings in Texas, and with our resources spread over several locations, we needed a central position to effectively manage the operation.

Yesterday, I embarked on an adventure with Chef John Stout to Portsmouth, VA. We were tasked with driving Mercy 3 (our third mobile kitchen) back to its home. He was coming from Dallas and picked me up in Shreveport so that we could deliver our cargo.

We had a late start and didn’t get settled into our hotel in Duluth, GA until about 2 am. I finally dozed off about 3:30 am and I was in the shower three hours later. I felt like time had slowed to a crawl as we journeyed today. We were pulling a massive trailer, plus I’m a slow driver, so it took about five minutes shy of eternity to reach our destination. Fortunately, it turned out to be the ideal time for some great fellowship with two integral members of the Mercy Chefs organization, Donna Testa and Gary LeBlanc. Gary is not only the CEO, but he made a killer turducken gumbo for dinner. That’s what chefs like to do. If we aren’t serving, we like to eat.

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Chef Gary made an incredible turducken gumbo.

I hope to sleep five hours tonight as I’m ready for the trip home. I’m glad to experience what it is like beyond the deployment. It’s a lot of…well, logistics. I’ve only scratched the surface and I’m sure I’ll have the opportunity to learn and grow in the coming weeks and months.

In the meantime, I’d really like this Lunesta to kick in. It’s 1:19 am and I’ll be back in the truck in no time.

Mercy Chefs is a 501c3 nonprofit organization. Please consider partnering with us in feeding body and soul.

Pow Wow Texaco and Deli–Ruston, LA

When I’m headed east on a road trip, I’m usually ready for lunch around Ruston or Monroe. We initially stopped in Ruston to try Ponchatoulas, but there was no way we could park this humongous trailer. It was time for Plan B.

We had just about given up when we saw an interesting Texaco. The sign claimed Cuban sandwiches that were “pure awesomeness.” Call me skeptical, but that’s a pretty bold claim.

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The Cubano Caliento.

It was a typical gas station with a small deli. This one specialized in Cubans and Honduran tamales, but had other delights as well.  I ordered a cup of gumbo and seized upon the Cubano Caliento–a Cuban made with ghost pepper cheese. The sandwich man asked me twice because he didn’t want me to cry. Undaunted, I went forward with my decision.

The gumbo was really nice. It was thinner than I like, but it had incredible taste. There’s something atypical about the flavor. I can’t put my finger on it, but it works.

The Ghost Cuban was amazing! It was a little short on ham, but the pulled pork was perfectly seasoned. The ghost cheese was warm, but not death-defying hot. It was perfect. I finished my sandwich twenty minutes ago, and my esophagus is still simmering.

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Pure awesomeness.

This is a diamond in the rough. The cheesy sign is an accurate representation. Their Cubans are pure awesomeness.