Road trips, Goo Goo Clusters
and gratitude


As I write this, I’ve just returned from a concert in Nashville. I’m so grateful I got to go. It was one of those shows where the voice, lyrics and music combine to create more than the sum of their parts — where it feels like the bass drum is reverberating somewhere in your insides.


While I was in Nashville, my buddy Dustin and I explored downtown; ate Goo Goo Clusters, a famous Nashville treat; and lazed around watching action movies.


Next weekend I’m going on another fun trip — a field trip with my mentor and 14 high schoolers to Boxley and Lost Valley State Park in Arkansas. It’s a place that affected me years ago, traveling on this same field trip with the same kooky creative writing teacher. There are caves, poems, gravestones and more to be experienced, and I can’t wait to help guide a group of hormonal teenagers through it all.


The field trip will be a welcome diversion for my mentor. She and her family just took her daughter to a federal prison. My mentor’s daughter has been convicted — wrongly, we believe — of conspiracy to distribute illegal narcotics, and will likely spend the next few years of her life unjustly incarcerated. She would probably tell us to thank God for every breath we breathe in freedom.


After reading that paragraph, I’m sure you’re thinking, “Oh man. I need to be thanking God all the time!” And we all know gratitude is important. But we don’t seem to really learn that until we’re in desperate need of it.


That’s how Meridian musician John Paul Dove felt earlier this year. You can read on page 16 about how a deep depression led him into deep gratitude.


I asked John Paul, Kellye Smith (page 18) and Talya Straughter (page 14) to write “gratitude stories” for this edition. If you’re having trouble remembering who God is and you need to borrow some faith from the testimonies of others, read what these folks have to say.


I’ll be honest: I have trouble remembering who God is at times. I think a lot about God, but a lot of times I’m thinking too much. Then I wind up trying to relate to a god I’ve thought up instead of the God of Scripture — the God who saved me and loves me. For instance, I try to thank Him for something, and then I start feeling guilty for enjoying that something — for daring to have fun and live in freedom. I know I’m not alone, right?


Let’s make a deal: Let’s stop thinking about God in our own way, and instead be transformed by the renewing of our minds (Romans 12:2). Let’s really learn His promises, His character, His attributes, instead of creating Him in our own image. (Who wants a god who acts like us, anyway?)


Then, as we get to know Him better, we can engage with the God who is love. We can thank Him for concerts and Goo Goo Clusters and, yes, every breath we breathe in freedom. And we can move forward in His will for our lives.


Our cover story is about a couple that seems to understand just who God is. Their attitudes and speech reflect Him — and they prayed for this magazine editor before we left the interview. Get to know Larry and Carla Nicks on page 20.


You can also read about Casey Combest, a music recording whiz who quit seminary in order to impact the world through song (page 28). And if you’re looking for help with the Thanksgiving holiday, we’re featuring three Mississippi restaurants offering ready-made meals (page 30).


I hope your Thanksgiving is wonderful. But I know it might not be. I hope God uses this magazine to draw you closer to Him today, and that whatever your circumstances, you can praise Him in gratitude.




Katie Eubanks