Posted in Family, fear, forgiveness, Grace, gratitude, life, love, loving others, prayer, Scripture, thankful, Trials

No Trespassing

Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are My disciples.” John 13:35

It was kinda confusing.  A while back I was walking in our neighborhood.  It was early in the morning and the birds were singing, the sun was shining and as Mister Rogers would say, “It was a beautiful day in the neighborhood.”  As I was walking, I would look at the different houses and their yards.  I noticed that several, well actually more than several of the homes, had no trespassing signs in their yard or stuck on the house. One home had six or seven signs and about a half dozen security cameras.  I think they must have had something very important inside.

I’m not sure what the deal is but there probably is a valid reason. But being from the friendly side of the South, we generally didn’t stick “no trespassing” signs up.  More than likely, we would stick up a “hey, y’all come on in” sign.  Of course, that was several decades ago and maybe now they have some not so friendly signs up too.  At any rate this is America, and you can pretty much put up what you want as long as it isn’t too mean.  But this one house confused me.

As you probably can guess, they had a no trespassing sign.  But right next to the no trespassing sign, they had a big welcome sign.  It caused me to wonder which one was right.  I didn’t know if I was welcome to come up on the porch and sit, or I was going to get shot if I did.  I wasn’t sure so I kept right on walking, and I was real sure I didn’t want to find out. To be sure there are lots of times when we also seem to send a conflicting message.

Sometimes I see this in churches.  There will be a sign on the message board that says everyone welcome.  There might even be a parking spot in the parking lot that says, “reserved for guests.”  Sometimes they have people standing at the door to shake your hand when you come in.  But then I wonder, “do they really mean that or are they trying to act nice?”  I mean everyone expects churches to be friendly because Jesus was.  He liked everybody.  I heard a preacher say once that it was pretty amazing that people who were the least like Jesus, felt the most comfortable around Him.  It seemed they liked Him, and He liked them.

On the other hand, Jesus was always bumping heads with the religious elite.  Theoretically they should have been the most like Him, but they didn’t like Him and I’m not sure He was too fond of them.  Of course, Jesus was always trying to find the best in others but some of those guys in the New Testament were really mean.  I don’t think there was a welcome sign on their house for either Jesus or the ones He hung out with.

However, there was one group they really didn’t like and that was the tax collectors.  They worked for the Roman government, and they were seen as thieves and traitors.

Do you know what Jesus did?  Jesus invited one of them to be a part of His inner circle.  Can you even imagine that?  “Hey Matthew,” Jesus said, “why don’t you come and be a part of our group?”  I bet the religious guys about fainted and so did the rest of Jesus’ followers.  I can just hear them now, “Well, there goes the neighborhood.”  They might have been right, but Jesus was always more concerned for the neighbor than the neighborhood.  He really loved people.

When Jesus was explaining to those who followed Him how people would know that they were friends with Jesus, do you know what He said?  It wasn’t because they went to church on Sunday.  It wasn’t because they knew all the answers.  And it wasn’t even because they wore the right kind of clothes when they were hanging around Jesus.  Nope.  Jesus said that people would know that we were friends with Jesus because of the way they loved—and in particular… loved each other.  This is never a popular topic when I speak in church. The reason is it is a lot easier to dress right, talk right, and go to church, than to love someone—particularly someone who is not very lovable.  But that is what He said do.

There is a secret to loving others.  All we need to do is remember that when we were not lovable at all, Jesus chose to love us.  And if we will let that roll around in our heads and hearts a while, I think we will find that loving others is just a little bit easier.  The next time you are all worked up about something, maybe trying to love someone, just get up next to Jesus and sit awhile.  You won’t find a no trespassing sign there…just one that says “welcome.”  And you can just sit back and let Him handle whatever you’re stressed about…because He’s got this.  Bro. Dewayne

Posted in Family, forgiveness, Grace, gratitude, life, love, loving others, prayer, Scripture, sovereignty of God, thankful, Trials

Nature’s Love Song

But as for me, I will sing about Your power. Each morning I will sing with joy about Your unfailing love. For You have been my refuge, a place of safety when I am in distress.” Psalm 59:16

After a long silence…they are singing. I stepped out into my backyard to finish my last cup of coffee…well, at least for a couple hours.  When I opened the door, my backyard, and apparently the backyards, and front yards, and side yards of my neighbors were all filled with hundreds, and who knows maybe thousands, of cicadas singing their song.  What is a cicada?  Well, it an insect, and quite honestly, an ugly insect that emerges late summer.  And if I’ve got it right…this bunch is special…special indeed.

So, when Facebook only existed at Harvard University and when the sitcom “Friends” aired its last episode, a newly hatched brood of cicada nymphs (babies) fell from the trees and burrowed into the dirt.  They stayed there snacking on the sap of rootlets and slowly growing…until now.  The cicadas that were singing that morning, again if I am correct, have been preparing for these days for 17 years and folks, to them it is time to party.

You’ve probably heard the song of the cicadas.  It can be loud and it can be annoying, unless of course you are a cicada.  You see, they are not just singing, they are singing a love song.  They are letting everyone know that they are up, they are out, and they are ready to prepare for the future.  They have just a few days to sing their love song, find someone to love, start a family and, uh, die. That is one reason they are singing with such gusto. They don’t worry about annoying their neighbors…they are just looking for love.

In a few days, our yards will be a lot quieter.  The party will be over, their love song will be silenced and buried in the ground will be millions and millions of nymphs waiting for their time to sing.  The beautiful thing about us is that we don’t have to wait 13 years, or 17 years or even one year to sing.  We have the opportunity to sing every day, and it is an opportunity we should embrace.  There is a Latin saying that says “Carpe diem.” Now don’t confuse that with the surgery you have when your wrist hurts.  That is carpal tunnel and has nothing to do with singing…unless it is the blues.

No, Carpe diem means that we are to seize the day…to make the most of every day.  It means that we are to sing our love song clearly and loudly.  “Love song” you ask?  Sure.  If we look around we have so much to sing about.  Breathing makes the list…so does seeing, hearing, and walking.  If you don’t think those things are worth singing about about…ask someone who can’t. Oh, and then there are people…people like family, like friends, like the guy who rides on the back of the trash truck and once a week hauls your garbage off.  Ever thank him? Ever include him in your love song, your life song?  If not, why not?  You see the more we are grateful, the more we realize how much we have to sing about.

I know for me when I walk out in the morning and see the sun rising and the moon fading, my mind immediately goes to Creator God, my Dearest Daddy, who thought us worthy of another day.  Oh sure, it’s not gonna be perfect, in fact, it might be difficult, but it is and should be something worth singing about.  A song writer in the Bible put it this way, “But as for me, I will sing about your power. Each morning I will sing with joy about your unfailing love. For you have been my refuge, a place of safety when I am in distress.” Well, put Mister Songwriter, well put.

So, tomorrow, step out and see who is singing in your world…and join them.  Dare to believe that you have a reason to sing…even if your world is less than you wished for. Stop, pause, and listen, and believe.  There is Someone who loves you dearly, Who wants to walk with you, Who believes in you and that is something no circumstance can steal away. So, sing and believe, “He’s got this.”  Bro. Dewayne

Posted in Family, fear, forgiveness, Grace, gratitude, life, love, prayer, priorities, Scripture, Southern born, sovereignty of God, thankful, Trials


The Lord watches over the foolish; when I was helpless, He saved me.” Psalm 116:6

It was the day of my Daddy’s funeral. I was 20 years old, into my second year in the Air Force and I was pretty much convinced I was invincible.  When you are a young buck, independent and all that, it seems you are going to live forever…and I guess you think that those around you will too.  That Sunday in July 1974 changed all that.  That day my Daddy slipped away from us, and we were left to say goodbye.  So, I’m sure there were trips to the funeral home, conversations with the pastor, and details to be ironed out.  And then suddenly it was the day of the funeral.

For some reason I don’t remember much about the service.  I remember walking into the church and my then girlfriend telling me not to cry.  I guess big boys don’t cry after all.  I remember a church mostly filled and I remember we sang the old hymn, “In the Garden.”  Beyond that there is a void…an emptiness…until lunch.  Down south the answer to everything is food…and that is especially true when it comes to grieving.

We had dinner at the home place and there were plenty of people and plenty of food.  I was standing out in the backyard talking with a bunch of guys.  One of the neighborhood guys I grew up with had a new Honda 750 motorcycle.  Like I said…when you are 20 you think you are invincible or maybe since I had just come from my Daddy’s funeral, I needed to prove that I thought I was.  Regardless, he asked me if I wanted to take it for a ride.

Now a Honda 750 is a lot of motorcycle…especially for 1974.  I mounted my metal steed and headed for the road.  The roads were Wheat, Firestone, 118th St., and Ricker. They formed a very large block about a mile each way. If you took four right turns, you would end up back where you started.  At first, I went easy because my experience on motorcycles was just about like it was for horses…an occasional ride…very occasional. I made the first right onto Firestone and a mile later made my second right onto 118th.  I’m not sure what prompted it, but I decided to see how fast the Honda would go. So, I opened the throttle and quickly shifted through the gears.  I was going fast…too fast.

Before I knew it I was somewhere over 100 miles an hour on a one mile stretch of road on a machine I knew little about. I looked up and coming up very quickly was the stop sign where the road ended at Ricker Road.  I needed to stop so I began to downshift and hit the brakes and somehow, someway I managed to bring me and the Honda to a stop.  My heart was just about to jump out of my chest and all of a sudden, I didn’t feel very invincible. In fact, I felt quite the opposite.  Suddenly I realized that life can be very fragile.  I got back to the house in one piece.  I’m sure I shared the story with the guys and we probably all had a good laugh but one of us wasn’t laughing on the inside.

You see that day I came face to face not with my invincibility but rather my mortality. I realized that life was precious and was something to be valued and guarded. I’m still not sure what I was trying to prove that day or maybe it was some sort of weird ritual thing that boys do when their Daddy dies.  I know this.  If my Daddy had been there that day there would have been a very serious discussion about me, motorcycles, and safety.  But, fortunately, my Dearest Daddy was there to watch over me. And even though I was not acting responsibility or even rationally, He still cared, He still rescued me. The Psalmist writes in Psalm 116:6 “The Lord watches over the foolish; when I was helpless, He saved me.”

My earthly Daddy, after our talk, would have extended grace that day. My Heavenly Father extended grace too that day.  He watched over me, protected me, and gave me the opportunity to live and experience life.  Thanks, Father.  Over the decades of my life since that hot July day on the day of my Daddy’s funeral, I have experienced God’s grace over and over, again.  He has been there for me and from experience I can tell you for a fact that He does indeed, “have this.” Bro. Dewayne

Posted in Family, forgiveness, Grace, gratitude, life, love, loving others, priorities, Scripture, Southern born, thankful

Just Like Papa

And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds.” Hebrews 10:24

It is one of my favorite pictures.  It was several years ago when Blake and Sarah were stationed in Savanah, Georgia.  He served in the United States Army and they are one of thousands of families who made the sacrifice to go where they are sent and do what they are called to do.  Now, of all the places the Army can sent a family, Savanah was good duty.  Located in the Southeast corner of Georgia it is rich in heritage and about 25 miles from the beach.  Not bad.

Well, one day Judy suggested we should go down and see them.  Let’s see…family, grits (the food not the stories), history, and pralines (in case you don’t know they are a crisp or semi-crisp candy typically consisting of butter, brown sugar, and pecans. You need to try them.) Yup…sounds like a great idea.  We load up the van and off we go.  It’s about an eleven- hour drive and we broke it up into two days because we are not as young as we used to be and to us the journey is part of the adventure.

When we arrived in Savanah, there were the usual “big hellos” and “what’s happening?” Soon after greetings, the next two big questions were, “what are we going to eat” and “where do we want to go?” We decide to go to the historic downtown.  If you have never been to Savanah, it is hard to describe this special part of the city.  It is a series of parks, literally block after block, filled with trees, flowers, monuments, and fountains.  Oh, and there is a Five Guys Burgers and Fries nearby.  It can’t get any better. It’s like the Southern part of heaven.

After three or four blocks of strolling, I decide it is time to sit down.  I wander over to an empty park bench and sit a spell.  As I sometimes do, I lean back, locking my hands behind my head and just relax.  The birds are singing, the squirrels are playing, and life is good.  And then, it got better.  While I am sitting there doing my relaxing thing, my grandson Will, who was about four, comes over to the park bench and eyes his Papa. What he does next is recorded in a photograph and in my heart.

Will, with a bit of a struggle, climbs up and sits on the park bench.  He then gives me a look, raises his hands behind his head, locking his fingers.  He is being like his Papa. He is doing what he sees me doing. Judy, with the keen eye of a great photographer and grandmother, snaps the picture.  It was only when we got home that we saw the true beauty of the picture.  Today, a copy sits on my desk in my home-office, and it is indeed one of my treasures.

Will reminded me that there are always people watching and looking and often imitating us.  Sometimes they are family, sometimes they are fellow church members, sometimes neighbors, and sometimes even strangers.  But they are watching and looking to see what we are going to do, how we are going to react, and then they do what we do. That might be the reason when one of Jesus’ disciples deserted Him…they all did. It might be why when one shouted “crucify Him,” they all did.  This picture makes me pause and ask, “What are my kids, my grandkids, my friends, the yet to be friends around me, seeing when they see me?”  What do they see at the park, in Wal-Mart and yes, on Facebook.  Hmmm.

The guy who wrote Hebrews says that we should consider—we should weigh carefully “how we may spur one another on toward love and good works.”  In other words, the things we do and say should cause others to do good—and not evil. We are to be beacons of light shining out into a dark, rough, and dangerous sea.  I guess I really love that picture because of the innocence of it all.  But what if, what if, that same picture showed me being hateful or rude.  What brought me joy would, and should, instead bring tears.

Today is a new day.  I like new days.  New days say I get another chance.  Let’s use this day with the knowledge that people are watching and we get to show them the way to get it right—not wrong.  I know, it is a daunting task…but we have a great, big God pulling for us.  Just like I got to set an innocent example for Will, so Jesus has set a sterling example for us.  Just follow the Leader and you can’t go wrong.  So, climb up on the bench, sit a spell and rest.  He’s got this.  Bro. Dewayne

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

So Long… Not Gonna Miss You

And it came to pass at the end of the four hundred and thirty years—on that very same day—it came to pass that all the armies of the Lord went out from the land of Egypt.” Exodus 12:41

She was waving goodbye…and I was glad. We all know there is a reason why the windshield is the largest window in a car.  It is very important that we can see clearly where we are heading…where we are going.  I also suppose that we understand that the side windows are also important…if not for navigation, at least for pleasure.  They allow us to look around as we journey.  The second largest window in the car is the rear window but without another important item…well, the rear window is rendered almost useless.

That important item is the rearview mirror.  It allows us, at a glance, to see what is behind us.  We get to see if another driver is impatiently following us…too closely. We can tell if they are too close by reading their expression.  If you can see their scowl, then you are right…they are too close.  Another thing the rearview mirror allows us to do is see what or if someone is chasing us.  Imagine with me that you are driving down the road doing, let’s say, 69 in a 55 mph zone or about 14 miles per hour over the speed limit.  That is probably enough to get you into trouble with whatever law enforcement is in the area.

As you top a hill or round a curve you see a police vehicle hiding or prominently sitting beside the road.  It doesn’t matter because, well, it is too late. You pass by their vehicle trying to decide whether to hit the brakes, knowing that your brake lights will be an admission of guilt, or maybe just coast.  Almost immediately, your rearview mirror becomes very important.  You want to know if they are coming…to see if they are chasing you. Gulp. Well, like the songs says, “Sometimes you win, sometimes you lose, big time Charlie’s got the blues.”

Of course, the other purpose of the rearview mirror is to see what you just left.  If it is family, you might look as they are waving goodbye.  Perhaps, it might be the other side of a big, and I mean big, traffic jam you just came through.  You look back and sigh or smile and are grateful it is behind you.  Boy, do I know about that one.  I also know the pleasure of looking in the rearview mirror of life as a less than pleasant situation slowly fades away.  My most recent pleasurable goodbye was as I watched Corena waving and fading away.  Oh, and if you don’t know who Corena is, check out and search for her…trust me…she is there.

Whether it is a traffic jam or an illness or something else, it is always a good thing when something difficult finally fades away in the rearview mirror of life.  What you thought would never end…does…and you are grateful.  One of the most valuable life lessons we can learn is that things don’t come to stay…they come to pass.  Several times in the Bible, the writer will use the term, “And it came to pass” and it means that when the time was right, things moved on.  Someone once said, “My favorite verse in the Bible is, “And it came to pass…”

One source said that the Bible repeats that phrase 396 times. One of my favorites is Exodus 12:41. It says, “And it came to pass at the end of the four hundred and thirty years—on that very same day—it came to pass that all the armies of the Lord went out from the land of Egypt.”  Whew.  That is one long traffic jam.

“It came to pass.” I like that. While it may not be my favorite verse, I am very grateful that it is true…things don’t come to stay…they come to pass. That pesky traffic jam will soon fade.  That dance with Corena, “Sorry ma’am, the music has stopped.”  And here is just one more bit of really, good news.  When we choose to make Creator God our Father, well, we have the confident assurance that He will be there with us through the whole thing…even if that means stepping into heaven.  Regardless, take it to the bank, He’s got this.  Bro. Dewayne

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

He’s Writing a New Story

God, who began the good work within you, will continue His work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns.” Philippians 1:6

“Do you have a pencil?” he asked.  Realizing there were plenty of kinds of pencils he added, “You know, the old-fashioned kind?”  I’m not sure why he needed it, but I rummaged through my desk drawer and found one.  I think he needed one with lead on one end and an eraser on the other.  The kind where you use one end to write a story or make a mark and the other you use to remove your “oops.” Today we are more likely to use the delete key on a keyboard. Erasers were my friends. Delete keys are my new friend. It makes my oops disappear.  I have a lot of oops.

My delete key changes things.  As I look back over the last year, I am still amazed at the way things were shutdown.  I was even more amazed as I was forced to go to my calendar and delete things.  On my personal calendar and on the church calendar, one by one, meetings and events were deleted. It was difficult for me…it was difficult for us and in the midst of it all, I almost lost sight of the big picture…a picture so big only God could be holding the brush.

One day I found myself staring at the calendar like a blank canvas and I realized what had been planned didn’t matter anymore. But here is the really, good part. The space that was cleared left plenty of room–room for God to write a new story. A different story. A better story. Things like a new Wednesday program for our church was born.  In the white space created by that largely empty calendar, Grits was born. The bottom line is without God orchestrating the delete button, things that needed to change would have stayed the same. A new men’s, ladies, and children’s program would not have been born.  And a year’s worth of Grit’s stories would still be in my head and heart but not on the page. The thing I resisted led to the freedom to do it.

I’ve heard stories of different ways God used that hot mess to rewrite lives.  We saw what could happen if we started to freely, to openly, invite Him to use the delete button and rewrite the stories of our lives.  We discovered opportunities, adventures that suddenly filled the pages of our lives.  A walk to the park became a safari. Homemade pizza night became an edible art gallery. The dining room table was cleared, and we pulled out the family games that had stayed in the closet too long.

Cards were written, calls made, and stories shared.  Think about it. Remember how the kids’ faces lit up as they heard again how you met each other or how you met Jesus? Think of the new stories yet to be told as we look back when things were so hard, and we all learned how to trust God for help.  We saw faith leaping off the page of the Bible and right onto the pages of our lives. If we asked, we might hear our kids tell us “Mom, Dad that bad time was the best time because we got to be together.” How about that?

Yes, those really were challenging times.  Financially. Emotionally. Spiritually.  And honesty…they still are. But what if God is writing a new story that in the end is the stuff of legends?  What if in a few years these days are some of the best memories?  And it was all possible because we said, “Ok God–go ahead and use the delete key.  I’m trusting that Your story is better than my story. I’m trusting You.”

You see, God’s best use of the delete key is when He applies His grace to our sins, our mistakes, our misguided decisions, our oops.  New pasts and new futures are His specialties, and they are often written in crazy days like these.  So, go ahead, press that delete key. Rest in Him.  He’s got this.  Bro. Dewayne

Posted in Family, fear, Grace, gratitude, life, love, prayer, Scripture, Southern born, thankful, Trials

Free to Be Me

God saw all that He had made, and it was very good indeed. Evening came and then morning: the sixth day.” Genesis 1:31

It was a profound statement.  It was1967 and I was in junior high.  In Jacksonville that meant grades 7-9 and it meant a whole different world from elementary school.  For the first time we went to separate classes and actually got to choose some of our food at lunch in the cafeteria. I remember, for a dime, you could actually buy a bowl of french fries. While they weren’t anything like McDonald’s, I do believe they were potatoes, and they were long and skinny.

It may have been the sixties, but there were rules. For the girls skirts and dresses had to be a certain length. For the guys your hair could only be so long and then there were the big three: shirt tucked in, wear a belt, and socks.  Break those and you and the principal had a date.  By the time I was in the ninth grade, things were relaxing some and that included the big three.  On Fridays, boys were allowed to untuck their shirts, not wear a belt, and not wear socks. Holy moly, what was the world coming to?  Looking back, the cool thing was to take the socks that you weren’t wearing and put them hanging out of your rear pant’s pocket.  Every Friday, my shirt was out, my belt stayed home, and my socks were flapping in the breeze.  Do you know why?  It was cool…and I wanted to be cool. I wanted to be in. I wanted to be accepted.

As you know, through the years the trends have changed, styles have come and gone, and so have the labels.  In high school Gold Toe socks were coveted and so were Gant shirts. We couldn’t afford either but when I joined the Air Force and could shop at the Base Exchange, they carried both and both became part of my world.  I was cool. I was in. I was accepted. Some things never change, and this is one of those.  There was always something that someone was wearing that if you had it, you just knew you would feel cool…accepted…part of the “in” crowd.  When I came to my current church, it was  shirts with ponies and shoes named “Crocs.” Whatever the newest label, and there was always one, peer pressure and the desire to be cool, accepted, and in, pushed and pulled.  It seemed I always wanted to be what someone else was.

Thankfully, some of that has changed.  Ponies and crocs aren’t really that cool anymore, and I’m starting to realize that a label doesn’t define who I am.  I.Am.Me. In fact, my four favorite shirts are from Walmart and cost a grand total of $9.88 each. There’s nothing on the pocket—they are just plain shirts which is pretty cool, because I define them…they don’t define me.

I read something this morning that was just profound.  Here it is. Are you ready?  “Each person was born an original; no one should die a copy.” Wow.  It goes like this.  Somewhere in heaven, God came up with a design plan for me.  He wrote the design and then declared it an original and just right. In fact, in Genesis 1:31, the Bible says, “God saw all that He had made, and it was very good indeed.” And do you know what?  That includes me and that includes you. There is not another me or you, anywhere, and that was intentional. I don’t need to be you and you don’t need to be me. We just need to be who God made us. Sure, fashion labels are fine, and I’m even sure there is a perfect weight and height, but those don’t dictate who we are…God does.

In the years that God gives me, I hope I will remember this.  When the clock stops ticking, the heart stops beating, and you are having a chicken dinner somewhere in my honor, I hope someone will be able to say, “That Dewayne, he was an original. God broke the mold when He made him.”  I don’t want to die a copy…I want to die an original.

Given my bent to be a people pleaser and desire to be cool, accepted and in, I’m sure that will be a challenge. Gratefully, my Dearest Daddy will be with me along the way to remind me that I am a custom-made job, and you are too.  And, if I am wise enough to ask and listen, He will help me be me.  Oh, and if I struggle, and I will, and you will too, just listen as He reassures us that, “He’s got this.” Bro. Dewayne

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

Life on the Bench

For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways and My thoughts than your thoughts.” Isaiah 55:9

It’s hard to be on the bench when the team is on the field. I guess when they were giving out abilities for sports I was in the wrong line.  It just never was my strong suit. My first and only experience with little league ball didn’t happen till I was probably in the fourth grade.  I joined a team and clearly wasn’t going to be a starter.  When I did play it was right field.  Actually, it was about this time I began to learn about prayer.  As soon as I took the field, I would pray that the other team wouldn’t hit a ball in right field.  That didn’t work too well.  My other and more serious prayer meetings occurred at the plate. I didn’t pray to get on base…I prayed to survive.

So even though I felt safest on the bench, it wasn’t where I wanted to be.  I wanted to be a hero, a winner, and from where I sat the bench was for the guys who weren’t good enough.  It was there that I learned to hate the bench and I would spend the rest of my life relearning that sometimes the bench is where God teaches us our greatest lessons. In fact, I am learning that any place God puts you is the place to be.  The bench is not for losers or second-stringers, no, it is for people willing to trust that He knows best.

In 2018, I had a hard lesson to learn.  My wife Judy and I were leading a mission team to Uganda, East Africa.  We arrived in Africa and made it to the guest house.  My first night there, the night before we were to leave for the islands to work, I came down with the flu…the real flu.  The team had to go on without me and Judy stayed back to help care for me.  Boy, I didn’t like that, but later I did begin to understand it.  It turns out that God raised others to lead, and the team went on to do some great work.  While I hated not being there to lead, God had a better plan.  And, I think He just did it again.

This past weekend was our first Back to School Community Outreach since COVID or as it turned out…in the midst of COVID.  This event draws hundreds of people and as pastor, I was a key leader, and my wife was in charge of the event.  Tuesday, I started having some symptoms of what I thought was my annual sinus thing.  It wasn’t…it was COVID.  I was down and out for the count and Judy was quarantined.  Once again, God chose…God chose…to remove the two key leaders.  The reason? Well, I don’t have all the answers to that one, but I do know He had a plan, and He can be trusted.

If the past is any indicator, it was about giving other leaders a chance to lead and letting the church be the church even when certain people are not there.  It was a challenge. It was a test. It was an opportunity to trust the Lord.  Well, normally, I would have been stomping my feet about being on the bench…but not this time.  No, I’m slowly learning that God is better at being God than I am.  I am learning that He is smarter than me, more caring than me and never, ever, makes a mistake.  My only job is to trust Him and learn whatever He wants me to personally learn.

I didn’t chose this dance with Corena…my pet name for the COVID.  I didn’t ask her to dance…she just cut in and changed my immediate plans.  It happened in 2018 with the flu in Africa and most likely it will happen again sometime in the future. In the Old Testament part of the Bible, God says, “For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways and My thoughts than your thoughts.” My response can only be, “Yes, Lord.”

Fortunately my dance with Corena is almost history and hopefully I have learned all I need to learn from this time on the bench.  I’m sure it includes that no matter what—God is good, God is faithful, and God can be trusted.  Oh, and it also includes another dose of, “Don’t worry, son, I’ve got this.” Bro. Dewayne

Posted in Family, forgiveness, Grace, gratitude, life, love, loving others, Scripture, Southern born, thankful, Trials, wisdom

Chucking Rocks

When they kept on questioning Him, He straightened up and said to them, “If any one of you is without sin, let him be the first to throw a stone at her.” John 8:7

I should have listened.  I was a pretty good kid when I was young but let’s be honest.  Pretty good doesn’t mean perfect and pretty good doesn’t mean not mischievous.  I think it means I was somewhere close to normal.  The only thing is normal can still get you into trouble.

One day I was with the family and I’m pretty sure we were at a laundromat.  Apparently, the washing machine had broken down and we had to do the wash at the mat.  My daddy and I were out in the parking lot while mama was washing the clothes.  I was about nine and bored and that is not a good combination.  The parking lot was gravel and all those rocks just seemed to be saying, “Throw me.”  So, I obliged.

At first it was a little toss here and there but the more I threw, the more I wanted to throw.  First it was random, but then I started taking aim.  Several things were laying along the edge of the parking lot and they made great targets but then I got an idea.  If hitting a can was good, imagine hitting a moving target.  So, I started chucking the rocks in the direction of the road and at the cars passing by.  Bad idea.

Now, if you are going to chuck rocks at a car, every nine-year old rock chucker knows you don’t just chuck your rock with obvious intention.  You ease into it. Well, I started easing into it and before long, my rocks were landing dangerously close to cars going by.  My Daddy thought it was kinda accidental and it garnered a “Dewayne, be careful not to hit the cars.”  He hadn’t caught onto my real plan to “ping a hub cap.”  Anyway, I kept chucking so he upped the warning.

“Dewayne, listen, don’t throw rocks at the cars.” He had finally caught on and I should have quit while I was ahead.  I finally got close enough so that we entered “Final Jeopardy.” “Question—what happens if you hit a car? Answer—I’m gonna give you a spanking.”  Yeah, well, you can probably guess where this is going.  I chucked a rock and hit a car going by and it was “Final Jeopardy.”  Daddy got mad, the driver got mad, and I got in trouble.

Well, Daddy was able to talk to the driver and he promised him the “grapes of wrath” would fall when we got home.  As he drove off, Daddy explained about the “grapes of wrath.” Translated it meant I was gonna get a spanking when we got home, and it wasn’t gonna be a little one.  So, as soon as we pulled into our driveway, I ran into the house and hid under the dining room table.  Soon, I heard Daddy’s voice, “Where are you, Dewayne?”  I felt like Adam and Eve in the garden after they had chucked rocks at God and decided to sin.  God was looking for them and they were hiding too.

And that’s where things get fuzzy.  I don’t remember the spanking which means I probably got grace instead.  It probably means that Daddy and I had a long talk about chucking rocks at cars and how that was not a good thing to do.  It must have worked because I don’t think I ever chucked another rock at a car…at least one that was moving. That day I learned about obedience and how it has a whole lot less consequences than disobedience.  I also learned about grace.  Grace is when you deserve a spanking but instead you get a talking.  But I also learned about rock chucking. I learned that it was ok to chuck rocks at things like stumps and cans, but it is not ok to chuck rocks at things like cars. When you do there are consequences…big ones.

Now, there’s another kind of rock chucking that I’m still learning about and that is chucking rocks at people. I’m not talking about waylaying someone with a stone but rather waylaying them with our judgmental acts and words. It’s what we do when we see someone fail and we decide to make ourselves feel better by knocking them down.

Jesus ran into this when some religious people found a woman sinning big-time.  They dragged her into the middle of a crowd and wanted to stone her.  They asked Jesus what would He do?  He told them that the person that had never sinned should chuck the first rock.  Well, slowly they all walked away because they had all messed up. “Where are your accusers?” Jesus asked the woman.  She replied that they had left…and indeed they had.

The only ones left were her, the sinner, and Him, the One who had never sinned.  He could have chucked rocks but instead He loved her and forgave her.  She deserved the rocks, but He gave her grace.  I like that.  A lot.  So, He dismissed her a smile and a word of “now don’t go on sinning” and the rocks stayed on the ground…right where they belong.

I am so grateful for grace…and you should be too.  If we have experienced grace, we should extend some too. You see, rocks make great parking lots and driveways, but are terrible weapons. They need to stay in the quarry or on the ground.  My Daddy showed grace then and my Dearest Daddy shows it every day.  We should too.  It’s good to know though when we are hiding under the dining room table and He calls, we can come out and sit in His lap and learn about the consequences of sin but also the wonders of grace.  So, come on out from your hiding place. We can rest in Him because, “He’s got this.” Bro. Dewayne

Posted in Family, food, forgiveness, Grace, gratitude, life, prayer, Scripture, Southern born, sovereignty of God, thankful, Trials, wisdom

Kickapoo Joy Juice

Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights.” James 1:17

I guess I needed a little Kickapoo Joy Juice.  When I was a kid, I loved anything that was free.  It seemed back then marketers were always giving something away to try to lure consumers.  When I was about nine or ten and living in Jacksonville, one of the local radio stations, WAPE or “The Ape,” was giving away little orange styrofoam balls.  You would put the ball on your car antenna (which in those days was a metal stick about thirty inches long).  “The Ape” would have cars driving around and if they got behind you and announced your tag number on the radio, you received a prize.  It was amazing how many people had those balls on their antennas.  I think at one time we put two or three on there trying to increase our chances.

I also remember different companies giving away vinyl decals.  Countless times I would go the local “Minute Market” to see if they had anything.  One of my favorites was a soft drink that came out in 1965.  It was taken from the comic strip, Li’l Abner, and was called “Kickapoo Joy Juice.” It was similar to Mountain Dew and like Mountain Dew, had an extra kick of caffeine. I would go to the store and, if I had a dime, I would buy the drink but the real mission was to get the free decal to put somewhere in my room or on my notebook.  From the number of decals I had, you would have thought it was my favorite drink.

Recently, I bumped into another kind of Kickapoo.  During my dance with COVID, remember I nicknamed her Corena, my doctor and friend decided it would be good for me to try an infusion of special medicine.  It is given to folks that have a compromised immune system.  In my case because of my age and the fact that I am diabetic he thought it appropriate. So I went to the hospital, pulled out my wallet and got some Kickapoo Joy Juice.  And even that was an experience.

They asked me to wait in my car and they would come and get me.  Sure enough, after a few minutes, two people came out.  One was a nurse to make sure I felt like walking, I did, and the other was an escort, a bouncer of sorts, to “part the water.”  Her job was to either stop normal people when I came anywhere close, or to stop me from being too close to them.  I’m not sure if I felt important or felt like one of the lepers from the Bible.  Remember how they had to shout, “Unclean, unclean?”  Well, I’m pretty sure I know how they felt. But everyone was super kind and before long I was settled in to get my infusion of “Kickapoo.”

Well, it took almost an hour for the infusion and then I had to stick around for another hour just to make sure something weird didn’t happen.  It didn’t.  I went home and since I was in the middle of the storm, I really didn’t have a good day or night but about noon the next day, my fever broke, and I began to feel some better. I’m not at a hundred precent but each day is getting better and I am grateful. I.Am.Grateful.

Saturday night I was having supper with Judy, and she prayed the blessing for our food.  I thought she went a little over the top thanking God for this bump in our lives.  When she finished praying, I jokingly said, “Let’s not overdo the gratitude thing for this.”  I said it in jest, but really, it didn’t need to be said at all.  I don’t know all the good that is going to come out of my dance with Corena, but I know it will far outweigh the bad.

The same James, the half-brother of Jesus, that I quoted a couple of stories ago, said that every good and perfect gift comes down from the Father above.  Think about that. Every good and perfect gift comes down from a God who loves us more than we can imagine.  Just like my doctor and friend knew the cost would be high for my dose of Kickapoo Joy Juice, he also knew it would be of great benefit.  And my Abba Father,  sent His only Son to a broken world and a cruel cross for the same reason, except it was more than for our benefit.  It was so we could be redeemed…set free.  Amazing. He knew the price, which was higher than we could ever imagine, yet He did it.  Why?  He just loves us so.

Well, hopefully my dance with Corena continues to a swift end.  Thanks for the dance Corena, because you taught me to hurt with others.  And thank you Dearest Daddy for trusting me with the dance and for showing me once again that, “You’ve got this.” Bro. Dewayne