Posted in fear, Grace, Military memories, Scripture, travel, Trials

Losing Lift

 Oh, what a miserable person I am! Who will free me from this life that is dominated by sin and death? Thank God! The answer is in Jesus Christ our Lord.” Romans 7:24-25

It was something I thought I would never see.  From 1977 to 1980 my wife Judy and I were stationed with the Air Force in Germany.  I have said it so many times but it was a great time.  We were young, still newly married and had the opportunity to see and experience so much of Europe.  It was good duty too.  I was assigned to a small base and provided administrative support for one of the flying squadrons.  We flew the OV-10—a twin engine forward air control aircraft.  There weren’t many enlisted guys in the squadron and the pilots treated us like family.

Obviously safety, and in particular flight safety, was always a big deal.  I remember right before I left to come back to the States we were on a long streak of accident free flying.  The commander was also due to rotate back to the States in just a couple of weeks.  He said, “The best gift you guys can give me is to remain accident free.” A couple of days later, however, one of our planes crashed.

What I thought I would never see, and certainly didn’t want to see, was another crash.  One day, I was standing in my office talking to one of the pilots about who knows what.  I was looking out the window as we chatted and saw an aircraft, not one of ours but a F-4 fighter jet, literally falling out of the sky.  I blurted out to the pilot I was talking to, “That plane is going to crash.”  I remember his response to this day, “That’s not something to joke about.”  I wasn’t joking.  Less than half a mile from where we were this massive fighter aircraft did literally fall from the sky.  The pilot ejected but sadly did not survive.  It was devastating.  I can still see the explosion in my mind.

As it turns out the plane wasn’t trying to land and where he crashed had nothing to do with our base.  He was flying over the area, lost airworthiness, and went into what is called a flat spin.  When this happens, planes can lose their lift and they crash.  You see, to stay in the air, planes have to have the lift provided by forward movement and air moving in and around their wings.  When that doesn’t happen, planes fall from the sky.

It not only happens to planes…it happens to people…like me…like you.  At the beginning of this year, I did the healthy thing.  I began eating right, checking my sugar levels, and exercising five or six times a week. The results came quickly and were amazing.  After three months I had my blood checked and the results were what my physician called, “beautiful.”  Literally every critical number was in the normal range. It was amazing…it was awesome.  And then, I lost my lift.

The best I can tell my success began my downfall. After winning so big, I wasn’t sure what was next.  It was like the day after Christmas.  The win was in the bag and I lost my drive to keep on winning.  Over the last month or so I returned to my poor eating habits and slowly, or perhaps not so slowly, things began to change…for the worse.  The only win is that I am still exercising. Like I said, “When you lose your lift…you crash.”

I was thinking about this before I began writing this morning and decided I really should share my story.  Maybe I can help keep someone from crashing.  And, it really doesn’t have to be about health…it can be anything.  The bottom line is when we lose our momentum, our drive, our lift in any area of our lives—spiritually, emotionally or physically—we are in danger of crashing.  Marriages can go south, God can become a distant relative and we can become emotionally disconnected.  We need to be careful.

Paul, the guy who wrote a chunk of what we call the New Testament, knew about losing lift and I think he knew about crashing too.  He asked the question, “Oh, what a miserable person I am! Who will free me from this life that is dominated by sin and death?”  Can you identify with that question?  Honestly, I can.  But it is the answer that gives me hope.  It is the answer that can give you hope.  He writes, “Thank God! The answer is in Jesus Christ our Lord.”  Bam!  There you go.  The answer is our faith and trust in Jesus.

I’m glad he didn’t just say to try harder or maybe pull yourself up by your bootstraps.  I’m glad he confirmed what I know and what you might know.  The answer is Jesus.  He doesn’t just limit His help to obvious God stuff—He is there always and in every way. So, here’s the deal.  I’m not going to throw in the towel and I hope you won’t either.  I may fall a little further but I won’t stay down.  And, regardless, He loves me, when I get it right and when I don’t.  And no matter what, spiritually, emotionally, or physically He goes with He—never condemning and always encouraging.  I like that.  It’s good to know that, “He’s got this.”

Posted in Grace, life, loving others, Scripture, Southern born, wisdom

Steel Gladiators

“Finishing is better than starting. Patience is better than pride.” Ecclesiastes 7:8

We were opposite each other—two fire breathing chariots just waiting.  Well, that isn’t exactly how it happened but maybe it was.  My wife Judy and I were returning from a trip to Kentucky where grits and a southern draw are standard issue.  We were back in our town of Harrisburg, and were going to swing by the church to check a couple of things for an event that evening.  We were giving away some food boxes and wanted to make sure we were set to go.  To get there we had to cross a pretty busy intersection.  I pulled up and that’s when I saw him sitting there.  He was anxiously waiting for a break in the steady steam of cars.  Even from that distance I could see his darting eyes as his sweaty palms gripped his steering wheel.

I pulled up on the opposite side of the road headed in the opposite direction. We were two men, to gladiators of automobiles, about to pass side by side. I knew he was there first so he had the right a way…that was never in debate.  I also knew there would be only a quick window to cross the road.  There was no blinker on my opponent’s car—we would pass quickly like two ships in the night.  I knew, too, that there was a chance that he would not follow the rules.  Blinker or not, he might turn across my lane. Try as I might, I couldn’t read his mind or his intentions. 

Suddenly there was a break in the traffic, my left foot moved from brake to accelerator and I was sure the same was happening in the car opposite me.  Like I said…two ships in the night…side by side in opposite directions. No deal. No challenge. And, then, yes, it happened.

Instead of going straight as his no blinker indicated he cut across in front of me and turned.  I had fallen for the oldest trick in the book.  It was the old “I’m really going to turn but I’m not going to tell you” trick!  Well, I quickly hit my brakes as he quickly turned in from of my chariot.  I confess. I gave him the two hands in the air, “Dude, what are you doing?” gesture and he responded with the two hands in the air, “Dude, I had the right of way” gesture. It was all over in a moment of time.  Two gladiators of steel on two totally different wave lengths of communication that left both of us wondering. First, him wondering why I was upset when he clearly had the right of way and second, me wondering why he didn’t let me know he was going to turn in front of me. Hey…blinker equals turn. No blinker equals no turn. Dude.

Are you confused by now?  Are you wondering what this is all about? Does any of it really matter? Probably the answer to all three of those questions is, wait for it, no.  But it does show how easily it is to miscommunicate our intentions and it also shows just how easy it is for moments of waiting to escalate to moments of tension.  And, amazingly, it doesn’t have to involve two gladiators of steel waiting at an intersection. It can easily be the one you are married to, or the ones you gave birth to, or the ones that you work with or, my favorite, the ones you sit next to in worship at church.

But, the answer is always the same.  Keep your foot on the brake till you know clearly what the other person’s intention is.  Just wait, be patient, and most likely you will come out looking a little bit more like Jesus and the more gallant in the exchange. The writer of Ecclesiastes says, “Finishing is better than starting. Patience is better than pride.” Hmmm…that’s really good. We usually have more time than we think and we all know the pleasure of letting someone go first. They smile and think, “What a nice person.”  And most times, that beats beating someone across an intersection, or to a place in line or to a parking spot.

Ok, you gladiators of steel, all right you Walmart line cutters, it’s time to keep our foot on the brake and our hearts in our chest.  Let’s determine that nothing is more important than for a Jesus follower to act like Jesus—at the intersection, in the line, at home or at church.  Feeling challenged about now?  I know, me too, that’s why it is so important to remember, “He’s got this.” So, ladies and gentlemen…start your engines. Bro. Dewayne

Posted in fear, Grace, life, loving others

Broken Lives, Broken Hearts

 “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death I will fear no evil.  You are with me.” Psalm 23:4

 It was late afternoon.  My wife Judy and I live on one of the main streets that run through our small city.  We have a sidewalk and as you can imagine it is not unusual for all kinds of people to be walking by all the time. Sometimes there are families, loud and happy as they stroll and sometimes it just someone going somewhere.  But then sometimes it is a someone like yesterday.  Though not all the details were apparent…he wore chapter after chapter of his broken life story.

Life was hard…it was as clear as glass.  He was shuffling along pushing an empty shopping cart.  At first I thought he was an older man I see walking laps around our block.  He pushes a walker and is bound and determined not to let age stop him.  But this was not him.  This man was older but not that old and life had not been kind.  His clothes were wore and tattered.  He would take a few steps and then stop and look around and then take a few more.  He reminded me of someone I had seen at the park several months ago.

That particular day I was walking in the city park.  It wasn’t a casual walk but the exercising kind. That day was like a lot of spring days—the sun was shining, the birds were singing, the trees were doing their “leafing out” thing and it was a good day.  Then, I heard something…someone. 

I was alone in the park till then.  As I crossed the bridge on the North end of the park there was a man in his forties or fifties.  He was dressed normally—whatever that means—but that was where normalcy ended.  At first, I thought he had one of those things in his ear that enabled him to talk on his cell phone.  The closer I got the more I could see and hear.

He was angry.  He was shouting. He was cursing. Then he began to pick up rocks and throw them violently in one direction and then another.  I realized he was fighting a battle with someone I could not see but he could.  To him it was real–very real.  He felt threatened and hurt by an enemy only he could see.

That day I prayed.  I asked God to deliver him from the invisible demon that was haunting him.  I asked God for His peace to come upon this peace-less man.  Later I saw him leaving the park, less angry, less violent and no longer cursing. It seemed from where I was that a moment of calm had come to his storm wrecked mind.  I was grateful and told God so.

I have thought about that day several times and it came to my mind again yesterday when this man covered with brokenness walked by my house.  My verbalized thoughts were, “Oh, Lord, how hard his life must be. Help him…be with him” Soon, he had moved on and I was left alone with my own thoughts. You know, not all people with hard lives walk down streets pushing empty carts.  Some are the people you and I pass in Walmart, or maybe it is the neighbor next door or perhaps the person you sit next to in church on Sunday.

The truth is there are a lot of folks fighting and fearful of enemies–enemies that don’t have or need a face to wreck lives.  There’s still the COVID thing, the loss of a job or business, the fear of losing their marriage or someone they love, the fear that things will never be the same, the fear that this fear will own them–consume them.

My mind goes back to Psalm 23:4. David, chased by a crazed king consumed with jealousy, chased by too many memories of too many failures writes, “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death I will fear no evil.  You are with me.”  He was wise enough to know that as he walked through this valley it wasn’t filled with real monsters–only monster “wanna-be’s.”

You see, for him the valley became a roadway and not a residence.  Death, or things that cause death, because of his faith in a “bigger-than-anything” God, was reduced to a shadow.  Shadows can frighten but they can cause no real damage or harm.  How did that happen? Well, somewhere along the way David chose to believe his God and he found peace.  He said, “I don’t need to fear evil, no matter what it looks like, because You are with me.”  You.Are.With.Me.

Today as you journey, remember all around us are people who fight battles with enemies only they can see.  Be sure and swift not to judge but to pray.  That day in the park and I guess to some degree yesterday, I got it right but trust me I don’t always do that.  It’s then that I pray a different prayer–one for forgiveness.  And if you are fighting those invisible enemies today–just a word or two.  God loves you.  Rest in Him.  He’s got this.  Bro. Dewayne

Posted in life, Scripture, thankful, travel, wisdom

Falling for Indian Point

“The steps of a good man are ordered by the Lord, and He delights in his way. Though he fall, he shall not be utterly cast down; for the Lord upholds him with His hand.” Psalm 37:23-24

 I fell and I fell hard.  It was Sunday afternoon.  I had the opportunity to speak a couple of times at the church where I pastor and it was, as always, one of the things I just enjoy.  I love sharing and watching truth come alive in people.  It was a great day to be at church too because every Sunday someone new comes back from the COVID blip.  It is like Christmas morning and a family reunion all rolled into one.  After church there was lunch with a couple of friends and family and then…wait for it…the nap.

There is something about a Sunday afternoon nap that is almost sacred.  After speaking and eating, napping is just a natural.  Well, after all the essentials were done, I decided to…take a hike.  My wife Judy was down south visiting family so I had some time to myself.  I really enjoy hiking with her but second best is just taking a hike.  It was a beautiful day and Judy and I had talked several times about trying a trail called Indian Point.  That was my destination. So after a short drive,  I arrived and was glad to find it wasn’t too crowded

So, I hopped out of the car and off I went.  I forgot my hiking stick in the trunk until I was about ten minutes in and I would regret that a little later but hey.  The first part of the trail was like a nice walk in the woods.  There were plenty of rocks and roots to avoid but not enough to distract from the beauty around me.  I slowly ascended and soon, off to my right, I began noticing spurs off the trail that led to various lookouts.  They were amazing.  Atop large rock formations, the valley below spread out like a beautiful quilt in various shades of green.  God impressed me…again.

Soon I was back on the trail, still amazed and still climbing up.  Before long, I could see what had to be the trail’s name sake…Indian Point.  It was a large rock outcropping many, many yards wide and it just invited you to come and see.  So, I stepped up the pace in anticipation of what was coming.  I should have been a little more careful.  On my way to the point, I suddenly had an unexpected experience.  As I was walking and as I was looking ahead, my boot caught a small root knob and, well, it wasn’t pretty.

I’m not sure if my hiking stick would have saved me or not but since it was back in the car that didn’t matter.  I stumbled for one step and then just fell. There was no time to break the fall, no time to put my hand out—I fell and I fell hard.  I landed on my left side and frankly for the first few seconds I was just stunned.  And then, in a moment of brilliance, I said, out loud, “That hurt.” And it did.  In my pride, I was immediately glad that no one was around to see my descent and painful crash landing.

I slowly, ever so slowly, stood up and accessed the damages.  First, thankfully, it involved no blood but it did include a large knot on my left forearm, a banged-up knee and a rib cage that said, “Ouch.”  Ok, so, I proceeded to the lookout, determined not to let what had happened rob me of the moment—and it didn’t.  I continued on the trail and what lay before me was just amazing.  The incredible rock bluffs, caves and flowering trees were amazing.  I was blown away. God was obviously showing off when He made this part of Southern Illinois.

So, I made it back to the car and, yes, there were definitely some sore body parts.  A few minutes later, I had to cough and I quickly found out just how sore my ribcage was.  When I got home, I found out I couldn’t even bend over to get my boots off.  The good news is that after taking too much Ibuprofen, I could.  And for all of you who are worrying, by Monday morning things were better.  My arm and ribs are still stinking sore but other than that—I’m ok.  Oh, and for the record, I wouldn’t have missed the hike for anything.  I can’t wait to take Judy with me.

My big take away wasn’t the fact that I fell, or that I was going too fast, or that I should have been paying closer attention—though all those are valid.  My big take away—and don’t miss this—was how something so small could cause me to fall so hard.  The root knob was probably two inches high but it was all that was needed to bring me down. For all my trails in my future, at least as long as I remember how bad this hurt, I will probably be a little more careful.  I know I was a bit sloppy in my walking but it’s hard to look down when things above are so beautiful. There’s a lot of truth in that one!

My Dearest Daddy, of course, knew all about all of this and you might want to debate His goodness.  If He is so good why this and why that but you would be missing the point.  The fact is…I walked away.  The fact is…this morning, I can move.  The fact is…I was able to enjoy the rest of the hike.  The fact is…He is a good, good Father.  One of my favorite Bible verses says that He directs my steps and even if I do fall, He is there to pick me up.  I like that…a lot and He was there to pick me up.  And, He will be there to pick you up.

So, if you have some time and enjoy hiking, take a hike on Indian Point trail in Southern Illinois and be prepared to be impressed. Watch for the rocks and the roots and don’t get too much in a hurry.  You might take a tumble and you might miss something spectacular.  And don’t be afraid because whether it is a trail or day at the office, or no matter what, “He’s got this.”  Bro. Dewayne

Posted in Family, fear, food, gratitude, life, loving others, prayer, Scripture, sovereignty of God, thankful, travel, Trials, wisdom

Steak and Shake

We know that all things work together for the good of those who love God, who are called according to His purpose.” Romans 8:28

We met when I was just a kid. A long time ago and in a galaxy far, far away (think Star Wars) one of my favorite things to do in the summer was to go and visit my sister and brother-in-law in Daytona Beach.  I lived in Jacksonville and they were kind enough to invite me to spend a week with them.  Trust me…it was like a different world.  Our west Jacksonville neighborhood was half town and half country and the most exciting thing that ever happened was if and when there was a fire call, and we would chase the firetruck.  I’ll write more on that one day.

Now compare that with Daytona Beach.  Can someone say, “Night and day?”  Daytona Beach was a happening place and there was always something to do.  We would drive over to the beach, cruise the strip, and go out to eat.  One of my favorite places to go was Steak and Shake.  Back in the early and mid 60’s, it was not a new establishment, but it was still up and coming.  They were famous for their steak burgers, skinny fries, and milkshakes.  For a ten year old from the westside of Jacksonville, it was heaven.

Steak and Shake was different than most fast-food places.  There, you could actually go inside, be seated and be served, and through the years that is how it has remained.  When I grew up, it was only natural that Steak and Shake was one of my “go to” places to eat.  Oh, it wasn’t an every-week event, but we did go about once a month.  The routine was always the same.  Park, go inside and be seated, order, eat, and leave.  It worked well, but then something called COVID changed things up.  First, and at most locations, you can now only go through the drive-thru.  But in Cookeville, Tennessee we stumbled upon the future—the new Steak and Shake.

At this location, which I am sure will be true for all the rest too, when you walk in, there is not a hostess to seat you and no counter to order at.  Instead, there are several kiosks (computer touch-screens) and from there you can order your food.  Then…you just sit down…wherever you want.  Feel free to go up and get your drinks from the drink station (remember, this wasn’t in Illinois) and finally someone would bellow out your order number and you would walk up and get your food.  Boom—just like that burgers and fries were flying into hungry mouths washed down by delicious milkshakes.  It was new, it was different and I loved it.

I am sure that the COVID mess that we all have disdained is at least partly responsible for their new system, but it also shows that not all the changes are going to be bad.  At our church we are doing Wednesday nights totally different, and it is totally working.  We have a men’s group called “Man Time” (how creative is that); a women’s Bible study (well, not creative but it works) and then something called “The Big A Club” for the kids.  There are people everywhere.  And get this—men are coming to church on a Wednesday night! What?  And it all came about because of the pause that COVID caused.

Someone from ancient times (I’m not talking about 1950!) said the only thing constant is change and they were right.  Some of the changes are not good.  In fact, some of the cultural changes might be considered dangerous.  But we need to work to accept the good and temper the others.  It gives us a great opportunity to be the salt and light that Jesus talked to us about.  People all around us have lots of questions which should lead to lots of opportunities to talk about faith…and Jesus.

Romans 8:28 remains one of the most popular verses in the Bibles.  It says that for those who love God, He can bring good out of every situation.  We sure like to quote that, but I wonder if we are willing to trust it?  Hey, I’ve been writing three small words for a year and some of you have been here for that whole time—“He’s got this.”  So, as things morph around us, let’s be courageous enough to address the dangerous, but flexible enough to embrace the other.  It might not be easy but if He is in control and we trust Him…it’s gonna be fine.  And, can I say it one more time?  He’s got this.  Bro. Dewayne

Posted in Family, fear, forgiveness, Grace, gratitude, life, Scripture, sovereignty of God, thankful, Trials

Amazing Grace

Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? And not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father. But even the hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not, therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows.” Matthew 10:29-30

It’s worth telling again.  We all have told a good joke that we relish telling again and again.  Or perhaps there a story that is just too good to tell only once.  Well, this is one of those stories.  Last year, in the early days of Grits, before the Grits Facebook page and before the website, I wrote a story about something that happened on a Friday. And trust me…it was pretty amazing.  You see, I’m one of those people who believe that God is always working.  And on that particular day, I think He looked down from heaven and decided I was going to need a little extra help.  It goes like this.

So, it was Friday and Judy tricked me into some really laborious yard work.  I kinda volunteered to rebuild a flower bed and ended up being drafted to build a sidewalk next to the flower bed.  It involved moving and setting 28 of those 16 by 16 concrete paving things and 15 of those blocks that you use to build a wall.  Well, several hours later we had a sidewalk and a small wall with a new flower bed.  It looks awesome.  She was tired…I was exhausted.

I showered up, sat on the couch for a while and then decided I needed to pick up the garage.  Our nightly vacation rental property is over our garage and due to a lack of storage space there were several containers of winter decorations from there that had taken up residence.  Either the car or the containers had to go.  I voted for the containers.

So, I pulled both cars out of the garages (yes garages…we have two…go figure.) In the smaller garage where my car is parked there is a storage shelf–an obvious new home for the stuff that Judy had put in the other garage.  Well, to make a long story shorter I started rearranging the shelf to make room for the stuff.  Finally, I began to move the heavy containers and I began to mutter.  It went like this, “I’m too tired to be messing with this stuff. I didn’t create the mess so why am I having to fix it.”  Honestly, I got just a little mad.

So, I finally got everything where it would now live but there were three winter doormats still on the floor.  I picked them up and carried them to the basement in our house.  I came out to finish and close up shop.  As I looked in my garage–there it was.  I had a tool rack mounted on the wall.  It held rakes, shovels, brooms, clippers…you name it. It was seven feet long and heavy. I hadn’t touched it but there it was on the garage floor–all of it. It didn’t fall down–it fell out–right where my car would have been if it had been in the garage.  Trust me it would have left more than a few small scratches.  We are talking “lions and tigers and bears–oh my.”

So, my first thought was what in the world happened? Well obviously, the wall anchors holding the rack had failed.  But my second thought–literally–was my car wasn’t in the garage for one reason–I had cleaned up Judy’s mess.  If I hadn’t done that–it would have been, well, never mind.  Now I drive a five-year-old vehicle by choice, but I have always tried to take care of our vehicles.  I figured if I am going to drive an older car it might as well look good.

So, I am amazed–not that I got the garage picked up; not that the thing with the tools fell off the wall, but that my Father carefully orchestrated a series of events to make sure my car wasn’t in the way.  “Dewayne, do you really think that God cares about such things?”  No…I don’t think…I know.  And that’s not all. I am certain that when I finally get to heaven, I am going to be amazed at the things He did that I didn’t even know about.

Now I know we continue to be frustrated and maybe even discouraged about the events that surround us. Just remember what Jesus said in Matthew 10:29-30 “Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? And not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father. But even the hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not, therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows.”

Fear not.  Hey, crazy world…fear not. Hey, uncertain future…fear not. Watch out new normalcy…fear not. High gas prices…fear not.  Remember, if you know Jesus then God knows you.  You call Him Dearest Father and He calls you His child. Trust me, you are of more value to Him than many sparrows. So, rest in Him.  He can move cars and mountains. He’s got this.  Bro. Dewayne

Posted in fear, Grace, gratitude, life, prayer, Scripture, sovereignty of God, thankful, Trials, wisdom

Believing Again

I am sure of this, that He who started a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.” Philippians 1:6

What do you know? There is light at the end of the tunnel.  This morning it happened again.  I got up about 5:15 am (I put the “am” there for those of you who might not be aware that it does happen twice a day) and it was dark.  It was dark yesterday and it will be dark tomorrow but somewhere down the road, it will not be.  There is light at the end of the tunnel.  Though my day started in the dark today, it didn’t stay that way either. After a while, actually quite a while, the black turned to gray, and slowly the gray turned to light.  Yes, there is light at the end of the tunnel.

The past 365 days or so may have caused us to doubt that the light at the end of the tunnel would ever come.  When each day seems the same as the one before, we tend to think all days will be like that. We come to expect the same and even if the same is a good same—well, it gets old.  Live in a place where every day is sunny and dry, and you soon start to long for rain.  Live in a place where rain is abundant and clouds the norm, and you soon long for sun.  It’s just the nature of the beast.

But, what if?  What if we could learn to live in anticipation?  What if we could learn to be content with today and anticipate the wonder, the unknown of tomorrow?  That was the monster of this last year, wasn’t it?  We just didn’t know what tomorrow would look like—what the future would look like.   And, honestly, it scared most of us to death.  For many, it was a deal breaker with our faith.  Simply put, at minimum our faith took a hit and at worst there was a faith funeral.  That was then, but this is now.  Now we can see the light at the end of the tunnel and there is hope.

I’m still pretty sure that the post COVID world and the new cultural landscape—well,  things will be different.  Some of them, most of them, we may not like.  It may seem like a too long walk on a soft-sanded beach where each step is like quicksand or shifting sands.  So what are we to do?  Well, maybe, just maybe we should have a repairing—a faith repairing or perhaps a resurrection—a faith resurrection. You see, there is nothing like uncertain times or new times to cause us to return to faith.  It’s a paradox really—often the thing that weakens or slays our faith is the very same thing that will cause it to be strong or come to life again.

After the children of Israel had left Egypt, they woke up one morning to find the whole Egyptian army hot in pursuit.  It looked like game over—it looked like slavery all over again.  But.Then.God.  Let those three words soak in.  But then God acted again on their behalf and split a sea wide-open and invited the people to trust Him and walk over on dry ground.  They took Him up on the offer and they were saved—and the Egyptians, well, they should have paid closer attention at swim lessons.

It’s still true.  God is good, God is faithful, and God can be trusted.  It’s true in the brilliant sunlight and it is true in the dark of night.  The One who we trusted in the beginning is the One who is worth our trust as dawn begins.  Paul, the Jesus hater turned Jesus follower, said there was never the slightest doubt in his mind that the God who started this great work in you—in us—would keep at it and bring it to a flourishing finish. How great is that?

So, I know Easter is in the rearview mirror but maybe today would just be a great day to have a resurrection—a faith resurrection.  Maybe today is the day you just start believing again or maybe, just start believing more.  God hasn’t changed—He never does.  The One who was faithful before is faithful now.  No matter what—and you know it—He’s got this.  Bro. Dewayne

Posted in Grace, gratitude, love, prayer, Scripture, thankful, Trials, wisdom

Trust

Though they stumble, they will never fall, for the LORD holds them by the hand.” Psalm 37:23

It seems so easy…but it just not. In the Disney movie Aladdin, the central figure named Aladdin (bet you saw that one coming) and the beautiful young princess are in a difficult situation.  Options are limited because the bad guys are just about to win the day–grab her and jail him.  He reaches out his hand, looks her in the eyes and says, “Do you trust me?”

Well, you’ve probably seen the movie a dozen times, but the bottom line is she does, they escape, and eventually live happily ever after.  But not before one more precarious situation, one more extended hand and one more time the all-important question asked, “Do you trust me?”  She does.  She extends her hand and well, you know.

Times like these times help us begin to understand just how difficult it might have been for these two fictitious characters.  To not trust meant certain disaster. To trust meant risk.  It’s a hard call–well especially in the movie because Aladdin wasn’t some dashing, super strong, super-hero but a, gulp, “street rat,” a nobody, from the wrong side of town.

But what about us–what about our plot–our uncertainty.  Well, there is an extended hand and there is that all important question, “Do you trust me?”  But that’s where things change.  The hand extended to us doesn’t belong to a “street rat” but rather to the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords.  It belongs to the One who speaks and a billion stars begin to twinkle. And the one on the receiving end?  Oh, that would be us–the one He calls son, daughter, child of mine.

I love Psalm 37:24. Speaking of God and us, it says, “Though they [that would be us] stumble, they will never fall, for the LORD holds them by the hand.” Never fall, never perish, never. Let that soak in.  The word picture is that of a person—perhaps a small child or maybe a frail senior adult—who has lost their footing and consequently is on their way down to certain pain and suffering.  Then, at the last minute, the hand reaches down and takes hold, and they are saved.

That has to be what caused the prophet Habakkuk 3:17-18 to say, “Though the fig tree should not blossom, nor fruit be on the vines, the produce of the olive fails and the fields yield no food, the flock be cut off from the fold and there be no herd in the stalls, 18.  yet I will rejoice in the LORD; I will take joy in the God of my salvation.”

It’s not a hard call really.  I mean He’s all powerful and loves us like no prince has ever loved his princess…cares for us more than any husband his bride.  He has a perfect track record. Never fails…no, not once. Regardless of how scary the days were or may become, He is bigger, He is stronger, and He can be trusted. So, listen carefully today. Tune out or turn down the volume of a screeching world and you will probably hear a soft whisper saying, “Do you trust me?”  And look with Spirit eyes and you might even see a hand extended.  You don’t even need to try and take hold for He’s got you and yes, He’s got this.  Bro. Dewayne

Posted in Family, gratitude, life, love, loving others, priorities, Scripture, thankful, wisdom

Learning to Speak Love

Remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how He Himself said, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’” Acts 20:35b

It was, well, amazing.  I like to receive presents.  I love to receive presents.  Some guy wrote a book about the five love languages and basically, he said that everyone has at least one love language.  If you want to “ring someone’s bell” or “top off their love tank”, you do it by speaking their love language.  Well, my two primary love languages are gifts and words of affirmation.  Every time one of you leaves a kind comment about Grits, the nozzle goes in my love tank and fills it up.  How about that?

Well, my other love language is this gift thing.  When someone gives me something, it just rings my bell.  Several years ago, a friend visited Gettysburg and brought me back a set of coasters.  It was totally unexpected, and it just rang my bell.  He probably thought, “What’s the deal, dude?  It is only a set of coasters.” But no, it was more.  It said, “I thought of you.”  And, several years later it still brings a smile to my face.  We have a couple of good friends that like to travel and they often bring me a souvenir of their travels and it is always blesses me. Boom—a full love tank.

Well, something happened recently that was pretty awesome.  We have a family who is part of our church family and they are just a special group of people.  It is hard to put a finger on it but words like authentic and caring come to mind.  Well, a couple of weeks ago after our morning service, the mom in this family came up to me and was just beaming—and I mean beaming with joy and excitement. Her entire countenance said, “Something good had happened.”  I wasn’t sure what it was, but I couldn’t wait to hear what it was.  I was in for a surprise.

Here is what tumbled out of her mouth.  “We bought you something and I couldn’t wait to tell you.  I know I was supposed to wait but I just couldn’t.  I saw this on Facebook and said, “We have to buy this for Bro. Dewayne.”  She bubbled and bubbled, and I was in awe.  The gift was the “Fingerprint” of God.  It was a print in the shape of a fingerprint and the fingerprint was made from a scripture from each book in the Bible.  It sounded amazing and when it came in and they gave it to me, it was.  It will soon have a home in my church office, and it will have a story…this story.

You see, the gift really was amazing, but the unseen gift was equally so.  What was the unseen gift?  It was their—her—unbridled, unlimited joy and enthusiasm in not “getting” a gift but “giving” one.  Her joy in giving this special print to me, her friend, and her pastor, touched me and taught me.  It touched me that this special family made a sacrifice and bought me this gift.  It taught me that just like Jesus said, “It is more blessed to give than to receive.”  I have heard that verse for many, many years and have seen it on display at different levels.  But this time…this act of love taught me what it really means.

I have to wonder if this is what it is like when a person comes to follow Jesus for the first time.  I mean the Bible says God throws a party. The Bible says that all heaven breaks loose when someone comes home.  I can just imagine the smile on Jesus’ face when a person He loves and died for finally gets it and trusts Him.  I bet it looks at least something like the face of this family and especially my friend who shared the news with me, “We bought you something.”  We want to..wait for it…not get, but give.  Amazing.

Though I love to travel and try and go to Africa once a year, I have always struggled with learning a new language.  But I wonder if that might need to change?  Maybe today, maybe this week, maybe I, maybe you, need to learn a new language.  No, I’m not talking Swahili—I’m talking about someone’s love language.  Someone in your world, your spouse, your kids, your neighbor ,or maybe someone else.  Learn what tops their love tank and do it.

The guy who wrote the book says the love languages are gifts, words of affirmation, acts of service, physical touch, and quality time. Why not learn and practice someone’s love language today?  If you are like me and struggle with learning (I can barely speak English), just ask the Father for a little help.  He will be more than glad to help you.  He loves it when His kids can speak love.  Yup…He’s got that too.  Bro. Dewayne

Posted in Grace, gratitude, life, love, Scripture, thankful, wisdom

Mona Lisa

For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things He planned for us long ago.” Ephesians 2:10

I wonder if he really knew it? I’m talking about Leonardo de Vinci.  He was the painter of the infinitely famous “Mona Lisa.”  It has been called “the best known, the most visited, the most written about, the most sung about, the most parodied work of art in the world.” Now by any standard that is a masterpiece.  It was finished around 1517 and is likely the portrait of Lisa Gherardini.  Its name “Mona Lisa” would translate to Ma’am Lisa.  I’m glad her name was Lisa or else we would have Mona Hazel or Mona Gertrude. Nice names but, well, you know.

But did he know it?  I wonder if de Vinci realized what a powerful masterpiece he had created?  Did he know the way he captured her smile, or the light would captivate the world? I suppose that in his lifetime the painting was appreciated but did it make it to rock star status?  But there really is a bigger question.  Did she know it?

Did Mona Lisa know that the portrait of herself was a masterpiece destined to be the most valuable painting in the world?  Did she know that her slightest of smiles would capture the hearts of men and appreciation of women?  Did she ever look in her mirror and see herself for what she was, a masterpiece?

Can I ask you a question?  What do you see when you glance in the mirror?  Do you know that the someone staring back at you is as valuable as the Mona Lisa? Do you know that even though you are not famous in the neighborhood, you are famous in the halls of heaven?  It’s true.

Ephesians 2:10 is one of my absolute favorites.  It seems to pop up over and again in Grits.  It says,  “For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things He planned for us long ago.” You see an artist far more talented, far more substantial than Leonardo de Vinci created you.  He carefully applied stroke after stroke and then stood back, looked at His work, and declared you a masterpiece.  Declared you, yes you, a masterpiece.

Don’t ever doubt this. You are what God declares you to be.  Don’t let a glance in the mirror, don’t let a harsh comment from a friend or critic, don’t let an act of unkindness steal that away.  You are a masterpiece.  Don’t let your crazy circumstances, your empty portfolio, the nameless brand of your clothing, or your street address, steal that away.  You are a masterpiece.

In our bathroom, we have two small tiles with a few words on them.  They are small in size, but the words are massive.  Here is what they say, “It is not who you are that holds you back, but who you think you are not.”  There is real truth and freedom in those words.  So, if you are haunted by the thoughtless words of someone in your life and you are living that lie…today is freedom day.  Today is name change day.  You are not an accident, a mistake, or junk.  You are a masterpiece. God says so.

As we move on after a fabulous Easter Sunday, remember this.  Each time you worship, Easter or not—in church or not, you are praising Someone who thought so highly of you that He died for you.  He.Died.For.You. And then, like whip cream and cherry on a sundae He adds a description, “masterpiece.”

God bless you today.  The weather guy said it is going to be a beautiful day.  It’s gonna be a great day for a masterpiece like you to step outside and enjoy what the Master Creator has made–just for you.  Enjoy this day and rest in Him.  No matter what…He’s got this.  Bro. Dewayne