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

Chosen

Even before He made the world, God loved us and chose us in Christ to be holy and without fault in His eyes.” Ephesians 1:4

I was as surprised as she was.  One on the wonderful things about Key Colony and the Continental Inn happens every day about twelve hours apart. The place where we stay has a small private sand beach.  Now that doesn’t sound too impressive until you realize that sand beaches aren’t that common in the Florida Keys.  Most often when you make it to the shore, you find it covered with large rocks.  In fact, that was our first experience many years ago.  The kids were young, and we drove down from Naples where we were staying.  When we arrived, we rushed to the “beach” only to find it covered with large rocks.  Bummer.

At the Inn there is glorious sand and an abundance of clear water.  Both are amazing.  But here is the special part.  The beach faces the east which means every morning there is a beautiful sunrise.  Every day I would go out with a cup of coffee while the water was like glass, and it was still dark.  The fingernail moon would be there offering little light but plenty of beauty and the stars glimmered in the dark night sky.  And slowly, God gave birth to a new and beautiful day.  Every morning I would say, “This is the day the Lord has made, and I will rejoice and be glad in it.” At that point it was a blank canvas, but I knew the Maker of masterpieces would be painting that day and He works wonders…always.

So, the sun would rise and about twelve hours later it would take it’s bow and night, a time of rest, would come.  Everything is beautiful in it’s time.  Now here is the part you have to love.  Every evening Judy and I would walk out the front parking lot, go about 100 yards and there was Sunset Park.  It was a small peninsula where the community had set up benches and built a small pier, and folks gather there to watch the sunset.  Imagine that.   A place where you can watch the sunrise over the water in the morning then walk a short distance and see the sun set…again over water.  It was amazing.

On our second night, something magical happened.  Again, people gather at Sunset Park every evening to watch the sunset. This particular night I noticed, actually almost bumped into, a group of four young people.  I nodded and smiled, and they did the same.  Judy and I found our favorite bench and the group of four chose to stand about fifteen feet from us. They were smiling…as were we.  It is a moment to enjoy…and then it got better.

About that time, I heard laughter of joy and looked over as one of the young men slipped an engagement ring on the left hand of the “one” he had chosen.  It was a total surprise for her and for us.  I don’t know if I have ever experienced this event as a stranger looking on and in, but it was a beautiful moment.  She was laughing and jumping, and they were hugging and celebrating.  Their friends, who were in on the surprise, were beaming from ear to ear.  And, all this is happening in a beautiful waterfront setting as God puts His seal of approval on another day.  It was glorious.

When it was time to go, Judy and I walked over and congratulated the young couple and told them it was their lucky day since I was a pastor, and we could seal the deal right then.  I shared about five lines from the traditional ceremony I use, and we all laughed together.  What a wonderful moment.  I think the joy of it all might be summed up in one word…chosen.  You see, the young man chose her to be his.  Out of all the girls in his world…he chose this one to spend his life with.  And…she chose him by saying, “Yes.”

It is a wonderful thing to be chosen and never is that more beautiful than when we realize that God chose to love us…He chose us to be His bride. If we are willing to accept His invitation to be His, like her, our lives will never be the same.  To be loved like that is the greatest of all gifts. God didn’t have to love us…He chose to love us.  We were scarred by sin and brokenness and yet He saw in us beauty.  We weren’t worthy of His love and yet He still extended it and to Him each of us are as beautiful as a bride on her wedding day.

Being chosen is a glorious thing and I hope you have accepted God’s invitation to be His beloved.  Remember, no matter how scarred your life may seem you will always be beautiful in His eyes.  And this marriage, well, it can never go south.  Sadly, many marriages don’t end well, but He has promised to never leave us or forsake us.  He will be yours and you will be His…forever.  If you haven’t already, why not accept His proposal today?  He is patiently waiting for you to say, “Yes.”  And, when you do, you will find Someone who will walk by your side no matter what…One who believes in you, One who loves you, and who will whisper security and assurance with six simple words…I’ve got you and no matter what, I’ve got this.  Bro. Dewayne

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

Eating Your Words

The one who reveals secrets is a constant gossip; avoid someone with a big mouth.” Proverbs 20:19

The more I chewed the bigger it got.  I have lots of food memories from growing up.  First you need to remember that I was born in the South and folks from the South have a whole different way of eating.  And trust me…that means it was good…mostly.  I can remember fried chicken Sunday dinners with green beans and mashed potatoes…the kind that didn’t come from a box but from a real potato.  A lot of Sundays we had pot roast with those same yummy potatoes and green beans. And “dinner on the grounds” at church was a potluck straight from heaven.

My mama was the biscuit queen.  You can’t imagine how good they were hot out of the oven.  While we did occasionally have desert, we really didn’t need it.  We would just take one of mama’s biscuits, slather it with butter and then pour cane syrup all over it.  Shoot-that-thing! You don’t know good if you’ve never had homemade biscuits and cane syrup.  Now with all that said, there were a few things we had that were a bit—different.

I remember I decided to try something new with peanut butter. It could have been that we were out of jelly but anyway I got the mayonnaise out of the refrigerator, smeared it on some bread and then loaded on the peanut butter.  Bam…just like that a new delicacy was born.  That became one of my favorites for years.  One day, though, I had one and then got the stomach flu and well, we parted ways. No pun intended.

We didn’t have a whole lot of candy growing up and I’ve always had a sweet tooth.  Somewhere along the journey I discovered the sugar bowl.  Did you know you can get a teaspoon full of sugar and put it in your mouth and it tastes like a candy bar?  Well, it probably didn’t taste like a Snickers, but it was plenty sweet.  You know what they say, “Necessity is the mother of invention.”

School lunches were always an adventure.  There were deviled egg sandwiches (awesome), deviled egg sandwiches with potted meat mixed in (not so awesome), potted meat sandwiches without deviled eggs (yuk) and finally Vienna sausages (uh, well, somewhat good).  You just never knew what mom was going to put in the lunch bag.  My all-time favorite was and is pimento cheese.  And then there was—tripe.

Tripe wasn’t a lunch item, it was always for supper.  Some of you may not have discovered the wonder of tripe or even know what it is.  Well, for those of you who don’t know tripe is cow’s stomach.  Yup and let me just tell you it was an experience.  It always smelled great cooking but eating it was a real challenge.  Mama usually cut it up in pretty small pieces, but you still had to get a sharp knife to get it down to bite size.  Now tripe was…chewy.  In fact, tripe was very chewy.  Which is why it never made it into the lunch bag—it took two hours to eat one small piece.  You see, the more you chewed it, the bigger it got! 

I’ve heard it said that celery is one of those negative calorie foods…it actually takes more calories to chew it and digest it than are in the food itself.  I think tripe must be one of those also.  In fact, I am sure there is a tripe diet somewhere out there.  You take a bite, chew for two hours and bam…lose two pounds.  Good, ole, tripe.  The supper of champions.

Did you know that tripe and gossip are first cousins?  No really. You mutter a few words about your friend and before you know it, you have yourself a belly full of trouble. Those few hurtful words just get bigger and more hurtful each time they are repeated. Feelings get hurt, relationships are broken and talk about a belly ache…oh yeah.  While the Bible doesn’t say much about tripe it does say a lot about gossip.  One of my favorites is Proverbs 20:19, “The one who reveals secrets is a constant gossip; avoid someone with a big mouth.”  How’s that for being straight to the point?

One of the best ways to avoid gossip is to remember a couple of things.  If the person you are telling isn’t part of the problem…don’t say it. Also, if you wouldn’t say something to a person’s face you shouldn’t share it behind their back.  Now the problem is, most of us just love a good piece of juicy gossip.  The Bible says, “A gossip’s words are like choice food that goes down to one’s innermost being.” That might be true but I know one more thing about tripe.  If it gets stuck in your throat you are in deep weeds.  That choice piece of gossip can get stuck too, and can cause heart breaking consequences.

Well, I gave up tripe a long time ago.  I guess I had enough when I was a kid.  I wish I could say I have totally given up gossip the same way.  I have found out given half-a-chance I can find myself saying, “Hey, did you hear…” and that tripe-like-sin is right back in my mouth.  We just need to be careful to keep it out of our mouth.  The good news is Jesus is more than willing to help if you ask.  He can handle all kind of things whether it be a tough piece of tripe stuck in the wrong place or a juicy piece of gossip right on your lips.  Just ask Him.  He will help…cause He’s got …even this.  Bro. Dewayne

Posted in Family, Grace, gratitude, life, love, loving others, Military memories, prayer, priorities, Scripture, sovereignty of God, thankful, travel, Trials, wisdom

Joe

Teach us to number our days carefully so that we may develop wisdom in our hearts.” Psalm 90:12

“Hi.  My name is Joe.”  My wife Judy and I recently took a trip down to the Florida Keys and Key Colony in particular.  The place we stayed was called the Continental Inn.  It is a bit of old Florida with twenty or so studio condos combined with a small sand beach and a couple of tiki huts.  It is not very crowded, but this was Labor Weekend, and there were more folks there than usual.  Being a small place, it seems more like family than it does just a group of people on vacation.  It was there under one of the tiki huts that I met Joe.

Joe, his wife, and her sister and husband were down for a long weekend from Juniper, Florida.  It was the other couple’s anniversary, and they were there to celebrate.  They were sitting near us on the beach, and it wasn’t long before we struck up a conservation.  Day one was more like a “Hey, good to meet you and glad you are here.”  The next day, we were back on the beach and so were they and it was then that I really got to talk with Joe.

He started by introducing himself again.  And then as his story unfolded, I was fascinated.  First, I learned that Joe was a Korean War era veteran.  While he didn’t actually serve in the war, he did volunteer for service during that difficult time.  He chose the Army and proudly served his country.  Being a Korean War veteran could only mean he was up in his years…and he was.  If I remember right, he was about to turn 84.  Thanks for your service, Joe.

Joe used a large walking stick to get around.  He told me on day two, rather matter-of-factly, that he was legally blind.  That explained the stick.  Rather than a white cane he had this large walking stick that came from the Smokey Mountains.  I asked him how much he could see, and he explained that at about five feet away I was just a blob. You can imagine my surprise when he told me how he still drove a three-wheel bike around his neighborhood.  When I asked him how, he simply said he could see some of the sidewalk and most everyone knew him and kinda stayed out of his way.  A little blindness wasn’t going to stop him.  Way to go, Joe.

About then, Joe shared with me that he had stage four prostate cancer that had gone into his bones.  Almost casually, he said, “And of course, I am on chemo.”  What was amazing, was that he didn’t see his cancer as a roadblock or a big deal for that matter.  It was simply something that he dealt with—no whining, no complaining.  Nope, Joe wasn’t gonna let a little cancer stop him either.  You’re amazing, Joe.

All the time we chatted (almost like we were discussing the weather and not cancer and blindness) he was constantly smiling and explaining to me how much he loved life.  These speed bumps were just that—bumps on his highway of life.  He told me how much he loved people.  That is probably why he regularly volunteers at the Veteran’s Hospital, helping guys less fortunate than him.  Less.Fortunate.Than.Him.  I think it will be a long time before I forget Joe and his big smile, big heart, and great outlook.

There’s one more part of Joe’s story.  You see, Joe was a Jesus follower…in fact, all four in the group were.  What made Joe standout was his gratitude for each day that God gave him.  I couldn’t help but notice that his knees and elbows were covered with bandages and wounds.  I can only guess those came from the times his blindness got in the way and his stick couldn’t save him. After our hour conversation I noticed that not one time did he complain about his circumstances. He shared stories of his past with gratefulness and shared his present days with the gusto of healthy 45-year-old.  And he was confident of his future too…because he was confident in his relationship with the God who made him.

I know I talk about this verse a lot but that is because it means a lot to me.  The author, who happened to be Moses (you might remember him from the time the Red Sea parted), asked God to help us number our days so that we could have a heart of wisdom.  He was saying, “God help us to appreciate every day you give us.”  It was so very obvious that Joe did exactly that.  No, I don’t think he wasn’t the richest guy on the beach that day…unless you number richness not in dollars but in joy, and happiness and love. Joe bore the scars from many a fall, but he shined with the victories of never staying down.  I didn’t get around to asking but I bet Joe knew the secret to living out his faith in God.  What is that you ask?  It’s knowing and believing three small words…He’s got this.  Bro. Dewayne

Posted in food, Grace, gratitude, life, prayer, priorities, Scripture, thankful, Trials, wisdom

Sand Through an Hourglass

So be careful how you live. Don’t live like fools, but like those who are wise. Make the most of every opportunity in these evil days.” Ephesians 5:15-16

The thief has struck again.  Without anyone noticing a thief has been stealing from us all.  It happens every day and no one does anything to stop it because they can’t.  Slowly and almost without notice the thief takes from us.  Who is this thief?  It is time itself…the calendar.

The day of the year with the most daylight hours is around June 21st.  It is known as the summer equinox.  On that day the tilt of the earth allows the northern hemisphere to be closest to the sun allowing the maximum amount of daylight hours.  On June 21st sunrise occurs at 5:32 am in our town.  Fourteen hours and forty-six minutes later it sets at 8:19 pm.  From that time forward, slowly, and surely the amount of daylight hours began to recede.

You ask, “How much?”  Well, today the sun will rise at 6:35 am and will set at 7:00 pm.  If you do the math, you will discover that will give us 12 hours and 25 minutes of daylight.  Amazingly you will find that the thief has taken over two hours of daylight from us.  And each passing day he will take another few minutes.  Finally, someday in the near future, we will get up and wonder why it is still dark, or why the sun is setting so early.  The answer is the daylight thief. Like sand through an hourglass, he steals away the day.

I find all this pretty fascinating.  As the days and weeks march by, it reminds us that fall is coming.  Before long the leaves will be changing colors and falling to the ground.  Soon our thoughts will turn to cooler temperatures, beautiful mums, and Thanksgiving.  On December 21 the process will all reverse.  We will begin to gain back those precious minutes of daylight and it will remind us of the promise that spring is on its way.

The amazing part of all of this is how subtly it all happens. It is true of the calendar and the hours of daylight we experience, and it is true of so many small things in our lives.  We take in a few too many calories and before long we wonder why our clothes are tighter.  Humidity?  I mean they do call it the air you can wear.  We miss a few days of exercise and wonder why our energy level suddenly drops.  We miss a few days talking with our Dearest Father and wonder why He feels like a stranger. We miss our time with the Book and find ourselves bumbling our way through life. Sigh.  It is all too familiar and all too predictable.

The secret, I believe, is to be aware.  I have an Apple watch that tells me more than I need or want to know.  One of the things it tells me is the time of the sunrise and sunset.  A few days ago, the sun was setting at 7:45 pm and I knew that meant before long it would be setting at 7:00 pm.  Sure enough, it is.  Whether it is exercise or calories or prayer or reading the Book, if we pay attention, we will have fewer surprises and consequences.  I like what Moses said.  He wrote, “Teach us to number our days carefully so that we may develop wisdom in our hearts.”  You know, wisdom to watch what we eat and how much we exercise.  Wisdom to stop and talk to God and read His Book.  Yup…good, good advice.

Paul, one of the writers of the New Testament, put it another way.  He said we should make the most of everyday, not living as someone who is foolish but as someone who is wise.  He goes on to say we should do this because the days are evil—or full of difficulties and challenges.

The fact is we all get 1440 minutes a day—no more, no less. The hours of daylight may change, but time has been set for eternity.  1440 opportunities to make the most of life, to get it right.  And, because we are imperfect humans, we can use some of those minutes to talk to our Dearest Father about our warts and failures.  We can snuggle up close as He whispers assurances of love and forgiveness.  We can just rest and know…that He’s got this.  Bro. Dewayne

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

Same Kind of Different As Me

Above all, clothe yourselves with love, which binds us all together in perfect harmony.” Colossians 3:14

Opposites attract.  I’ve heard that all my life and I think it is true…well, at least sorta.  I mean, take my wife Judy and me.  In a lot of ways, we are similar.  We both like to eat…though I prefer dessert and she prefers food.  We both love traveling and adventures. We both love Jesus.  We both love to serve people.  Oh, and we both love each other.  So, there you go…but wait, in some ways we are different.  We recently went on vacation.  She packed her bag and I packed mine.  Let me rephrase that.  She put…some would say dumped, clothes in her suitcase, sat on it, and closed it.  As for me, well, I neatly organized each item and even sorted them by the function and when they would be used. We are sometimes different.

You can see that difference with our phones too.  If you look at Judy’s phone you will see that the inbox of her email account has 28,246 emails…and I’m not kidding.  On the other hand, my inbox has about 10 emails in it.  In her case, it is a system for keeping and in my case, it is a system for filing.  Hers is “Welcome home and stay as long as you like” and mine is, “In you come and out you go.”  She invited the relatives to move in and I invite them to stay…for just a while.  And then there are the little red dots.

On the iPhone, when there is something that requires action, a little red dot appears on the screen.  The dot stays there until you do something about it.  Well, Miss Judy’s screen on her iPhone looks like it has a case of measles.  There is a red dot here, and here, and here, and here, and oh, here too.  Now on my iPhone, dots are not welcome.  When one appears I almost immediately stop what I am doing to find out what it wants me to do.  You know how when you are growing up and some people get acne, and some don’t?  Well, my phone is the one that doesn’t.

Now, all this is well and good and there really isn’t a right or a wrong…unless of course you can’t see the screen for all the dots.  No, the Bible makes it clear that each one of us is fearfully and wonderfully made.  Each one of us is a jewel…a masterpiece. Some like a full inbox and some like it empty.  Some are organized and some, well, are not quite as much. Smile.  But here is what we need to remember…especially in relationships…especially in marriage.  Someone once said that if both people in a marriage are exactly alike…well, one of them isn’t necessary.  In any relationship…and especially in marriage…diversity is a good thing…a needed thing.

But wait…it’s not just in marriage…it is true with the team at work.  It is true with the people you worship with.  It is even true with the team you play with.  Diversity adds depth.  Diversity adds richness.  When we start feeling comfortable to associate with those who are different from us; when we start embracing others, even though we don’t always agree, a strength develops, and we all become better for it.

Judy and I have been married now for 45 years and people frequently tell us how much they appreciate the example we set in our marriage.  Well, first, let’s be honest.  That is largely because I married up when I married Judy.  But beyond that, well, we have learned and are learning to appreciate our differences.  There was a bestselling book and later a movie about two men from backgrounds that could not have been more different.  And yet, over time, and with no small thanks to Jesus, they became friends.  The impossible became possible.  The book and later the movie were entitled, “The Same Kind of Different as Me.” Read the book, it will inspire you.

I think that means that in spite of the fact, that they were incredibly different, there was something that overpowered their differences and that was love.  They both discovered Jesus and that led them to share Christian love for each other. Paul, the guy who wrote a chunk of the New Testament said it like this, “Above all, clothe yourselves with love, which binds us all together in perfect harmony.” The common denominator of love strengthened their lives and their friendship.  It worked there and I can tell you it will work in whatever world you live in. We will become stronger and better when we learn to accept ourselves and others for who God made us. Need a little help?  No problem…He’s got that.  Bro. Dewayne 

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

The Power of Remembering

Then if My people who are called by My name will humble themselves and pray and seek My face and turn from their wicked ways, I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sins and restore their land.” 2 Chronicles 7:14

It was a beautiful Sunday morning in December 1941…of course, almost every day in Hawaii is a beautiful day.  The skies were blue, the breeze was gentle, and it was the one day when at least some of the sailors and soldiers could sleep in.  Then, at 7:55 am Hawaii time, a swarm of Japanese aircraft attacked without warning killing 2,403 military and civilians.  In a brief moment in time the United States was at war with Japan and was thrown into World War II. President Franklin Roosevelt famously called December 7th, “a day that will live in infamy.” The battle cry throughout the Pacific War was “Remember Pearl Harbor.”

Fast forward with me sixty years.  It was a beautiful Tuesday morning in September 2001.  The sky was a deep blue without a cloud in the sky and then it happened.  Without warning, at 8:06 am EDT, a hijacked airliner crashed into the North Tower of the World Trade Center. A short time later, at 9:03 am EDT, the South Tower was also struck.  Unbelievably, a third airliner crashed into the Pentagon at 9:37 am EDT, with a final airliner, most likely destined for Washington D.C., crashed into a Pennsylvania field at 10:03 am.  In all, these attacks killed 2,977 innocent people…more than the attack on Pearl Harbor.  The cry after September 11th or 9/11, was, “We will never forget.”

Though it is hard to believe, 20 years have come and gone since that horrific morning in September.  Most can remember exactly what they were doing that day as the events unfolded on national television.  In a brief moment in time, our world was changed forever.  As we observe what is now called, Patriot Day, we must renew our vow to never forget those tragic minutes and the days, weeks, months and years that followed.

I well remember how for a brief moment in time our country stood united. While it didn’t last long, only a couple of days, it showed us, it taught us, the power and beauty of unity.  But then, as always, finger pointing and blame throwing, ruled the day and unity slipped through our fingers like loosely held sand. And if we are not careful, time will further rob us of the reverence owed to so many and the honor for those who gave their lives trying to save others.  And that too would be a tragedy.

On this twentieth observance of 9/11, I hope you will join millions of others and make  sure we never forget.  Take time to pause and reflect and remember.  I know these are difficult days and in so many ways we are frustrated and filled with doubt and fear.  But remember two things.  First and foremost, the God who created all of this is greater than any circumstance that we may face.  He knows our past and is willing to forgive.  And, He knows the future and is willing to walk with us.  Don’t lose hope and don’t lose faith.  He is able and willing.

Let me also encourage you not to lose hope in America.  With all her warts and flaws she is still the best country in the world. Having visited a couple of dozen countries in Europe, Africa, and Asia, I can tell you there is no place like America.  Rare is the country where a people are free to worship and live like we do. In the New Testament book called the Gospel of John, many people decided to no longer follow Jesus.  He looked at His followers and said, “Will you leave me too?”  One of them spoke up and said, “Where would we go?  You alone have the words of life.”   That is so true and before we throw America under the bus, be sure you know the answer to the question, “Where would you go.”  There is no place like home and no place like America.

So let’s not forget.  Let’s show the world we are a people that remember so we can honor.  Let’s show the world that while we are not perfect, we do believe in our God and our country.  God made a promise to His people and it is one that we can claim for ourselves.  He said, “If My people, who are called by My name, will humble themselves and pray, and seek My face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, will forgive their sins and heal their land.”  It was true for them and it is true for any people willing to put God first.  To sum it all up, it simply means…He’s got this.  Bro. Dewayne

Posted in Family, gratitude, life, Scripture, thankful, Trials

Some Assembly Required

The instructions of the Lord are perfect, reviving the soul. The decrees of the Lord are trustworthy, making wise the simple. The commandments of the Lord are right, bringing joy to the heart. The commands of the Lord are clear, giving insight for living.” Psalm 19:7-8

I came so close, but missed it by a mile.  Last year I was checking out the Walmart clearance aisle and came upon a bike carrier thing for your car.  Well, I happen to own two bikes and even occasionally ride them, so I bought it.  I brought it home and put it on a shelf where it happily lived.  And then, I decided to be cool.

Judy and I are regular exercisers but it normally is limited to her doing walking and REFIT (something that involves dancing and rhythm so I’m out) and me walking.  We both do some hiking. Well, we decided it was time to expand our horizons so we found a bike trail down at Fort Massac and decided to load up the bikes and give it a try.  So I went and found the bike thing and proceeded to try assemble it.  Note the word try.

I dumped the parts on the kitchen counter  (first hint that I am not a mechanic) and then it happened.  Because it involved attaching this thing to my car and the fact that it involved two bikes being attached to this thing and the fact that I didn’t want to get sued if they fell off the thing—I read the directions.  That is the miracle.  Everyone knows that men don’t stop and ask for directions when driving and we don’t read the directions when we are putting something together.  That is not manly.  Ask for directions, read the directions and it is almost an automatic surrender of your man-card.

I decided to risk being disbarred and read the directions anyway.  Now let me say it proved that we men are justified in not reading them in the first place.  Whoever wrote these directions obviously didn’t have a clue about the bike thing or the English language.  But I gave it due diligence and proceeded to assemble it.  It only had about six major parts, so hey, it couldn’t be that hard.  Right? Wrong.

After about an hour, yes, I said an hour, the six parts were assembled.  Judy and I took this thing out and try to strap it to the back of our car.  I have used one of these before and this one just didn’t make sense.  There was one part of the rack that had some sharp parts and I could see this thing doing some serious damage to the car.  Well, after an hour, we had it sorta mounted and even put the bikes on it.  Something just didn’t seem right.  My final thought was, “What did you expect for $15 bucks.  So I took the bikes off, threw the thing in the garage and called it a day.  I didn’t want to ride the bike anyway.

I go back in the work room (aka the kitchen) and began picking up the mess.  When I grabbed the box this thing came in I looked inside.  And there, wedged neatly inside, was a part, a really big part, a really important part.  Oops. As I thought about it I did remember reading something about this middle brace thing, but I thought the guy in China was probably on a rant or something.  So I pulled out the part and had an epiphany…my ah-ha moment.  I brought the thing back in, disassembled too much of it, and attached the new found part.  Ta-da—it all made sense.  Amazing.  Miraculous.

Now the crazy ending to this crazy story is that we put the thing back on my car, put the bikes back on the thing and I still didn’t feel like it looked safe.  I could hear the lawyer calling.  “Yes, we are calling to sue you for everything you have because your bike fell off this thing attached to your car.  Will you be paying with cash, credit card, or your left arm?”  So, the bottom line …the thing is still in the garage and the bikes are still parked.  Stupid directions.  They must be related to the watermelon.

Here is what I learned.  Man-card or not, it is beneficial to read the directions.  I know it goes against everything we men hold dear but we just need to be over-comers and read them.  But, and it is a big but, you really need to read them carefully and then do what they say.  I halfway read them and ended up leaving a big, important part in the box.  That cost me time, frustration and a chunk of my pride.  Bummer.

I asked myself, “If reading the instructions on putting a bike thing together are important, I wondering if it is important to read “the Instructions,” aka, the Bible.” I mean the Bible is like the most important instruction manual of all time.  And the answer was clear. Yes.  I should, we should, read it carefully and apply it fully.  There is probably a paragraph on the instructions for the bike thing that tells me how important the instructions are…to ready them carefully. I didn’t read that part.

Well, the Bible has a lot to say about, “Hey, read this…it is really important.”  It goes like this, “The instructions of the Lord are perfect, reviving the soul. The decrees of the Lord are trustworthy, making wise the simple. The commandments of the Lord are right, bringing joy to the heart. The commands of the Lord are clear, giving insight for living.” And somewhere it should say you will have fewer calls from lawyers if you read it. Fewer regrets, fewer consequences, fewer disasters.  Yup.  Read them and apply them.

So I’m gonna give the bike thing another shot and I’ll tell you now, I’m going to follow the directions.  It might not turn out well but I have to redeem my man-card. I’ll let you know.  But one thing is for sure.  If you choose to read, follow and apply “the Instruction manual” you won’t regret it.  It says in there that if we follow the instructions we can rest in Him.  Oh and it also says, “I’ve got this.”  He does.  Bro. Dewayne

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

T-Minus 10 Seconds and Counting

A fool’s way is right in his own eyes, but whoever listens to counsel is wise.” Proverbs 12:15

It was summer, I was eight and bored.  When you are eight the last thing you want is to be bored. But the good part was since it was the 60’s it seemed I had no problem inventing ways to have fun and get into trouble.  Though it might be hard for some of our younger Grits readers to believe, back in those days there were only three channels on our black and white television, no internet, and no smart devices. It was a world where being creative was natural.  So, I got creative.

I lived in a world with few actual toys.  Oh sure, we had great Christmases and birthdays were nothing to sneeze at, but beyond that…it was slim pickings in the toy world.  But not to worry—all you had to do is look around and bam—-goodbye boredom.  For example, you go to the “junk drawer” and there you would find a collection of rubber bands from the daily newspaper.  String about ten of them together and you have a bug killer.  In those days, love bugs were everywhere in Florida.  They would take up roost on Daddy’s car and I would pick them off one by one.  Need something else?  Find a piece of chain and drag it through the sand—which was everywhere.  As you pulled it along, it became a train…leaving its track in the sand.  Then, if you really wanted something cool, you went back to the “junk drawer” and found the left over firecrackers from the 4th of July.  Here comes trouble.

I wanted to do something more than just blow something up so I decided to make a spacecraft.  In the early sixties that was all the rage.  The space race was well underway and the Russians were in the lead.  It was time to help NASA out.  I went to the trash and got a tin can.  I peeled off the label and then punched a hole in the end that still had a lid.  I then dug a small hole in the ground to make sure the full force of the firecracker went up and not out. I pulled the fuse up through the hole, put the can in the hole, open end down, firecracker up.  We were ready for launch.  No worry, NASA, help is on the way.

I lit the fuse and it quickly burned and allowed the firecracker to fall down inside the can where it promptly exploded.  It worked just like I expected.  A loud bang and the silver rocket soared into the sky.  While it didn’t make it into space, it did go about forty or fifty feet.  Well, as you know, what goes up…must come down…and it did.  It was then that I realized I probably should have gotten a little farther away from my Daddy’s car. As the can fell down to earth, it landed smack-dab in the middle of the hood of the car.  There was a bang and then, there was a moan.  Even from where I stood, I could see that there was going to be a dent…a very obvious and pronounced dent.

As it turned out my career with NASA was going to be short lived.  Well, I dreaded Daddy coming home and discovering my failed space attempt.  I knew there was going to be consequences but either Daddy once again extended grace (he did that a lot…probably because I got in trouble a lot) or maybe I have a short or selective memory.  Either way, the only thing I remember is I learned to launch my rockets further from the house and the car.  You see, there was nothing wrong with launching a rocket or two…the error was not more carefully figuring the details and consequences.

That was a lesson that I have never forgotten even though I may not have perfectly followed it.  Before you launch, before you act, before you speak, before you say yes or no…check the details and count the cost.  I bet Eve figured that out after her encounter with the serpent in the garden.  I bet David figured that out after his rooftop encounter with Bathsheba.  I bet Peter figured it out after his fireside chat with a young girl and his subsequent denial.  One of the writers in the Old Testament book of Proverbs said, “A fool’s way is right in his own eyes, but whoever listens to counsel is wise.” That might describe my adventure into rockets that summer day.  From my eight year old perspective, all systems were go.  I bet I would have had a different outcome if I would have checked with Momma first.  She probably would have suggested a better launching pad.

Well, no harm, no foul.  The car wore the dent for the whole time we owned it, but I did learn a good lesson—when you decide to launch—check the details and get some counsel.  As we journey today, that is still good advice.  Regardless of what comes along, think about it before you do it and there is a Heavenly Father who is so wise and is just waiting to help us navigate our world.  And when there is a misfire, a mishap…don’t worry, He will still be there and if you listen, you will probably hear those three comforting words, “I’ve got this.”  Bro. Dewayne

Posted in Family, fear, gratitude, life, prayer, Scripture, Southern born, sovereignty of God

Chicken Little

“I know that You can do anything, and no one can stop You.” Job 42:2

Poor Chicken Little.  He had it all wrong.  The story is told of a little chicken (aptly named Chicken Little) who was walking one day, and a bird dropped an acorn which hit him on the head.  Chicken Little assumed that the sky was falling and the world as he knew it was coming to an end.  He rushed to tell the king and along the way told others of the bad news. They in turn joined him in the quest to tell the king. The only problem was… the sky wasn’t falling.

When I was a kid, like so many of us, I wrestled with fear.  There was the standard fear of the dark.  When the lights went out, my heart rate went up.  My vivid imagination allowed for plenty of strange things to be seen in the darkness and sometimes even in the light.  I remember as a six or seven-year-old sitting in the bathtub and seeing “eyes” peering at me from inside the overflow drain.  “Maybe it is a snake” I thought.  “Perhaps it is a giant rat inside the drain.”  Regardless, for years I lived in fear until one day I got brave.  I took a flashlight into the bathroom and shined the light in the drain.  It turned out to be the tops of two brass screws inside the drain.

When I was a little older the fear thing still lingered.  With too many people and not enough house, I found myself sleeping in the dining room.  Mom and dad moved the table somewhere and put a twin bed there instead.  We lived in Florida and trust me it was HOT and it was HUMID and air conditioning was something that we DIDN’T have.  Each night I would crawl into bed, a fan in the window at least stirring the warm evening air. And each night the monsters would come out.  Of course, they weren’t real.  Of course, they didn’t exist. Right…but try telling that to a young boy with a vivid imagination.

I had to do something, and I did.  I would reach down and pull the sheet and bedspread over my head and lie still.  I don’t know if the idea was the sheet and bedspread would somehow protect me or if they would simply hide me.  But there I would lie hiding, sweating, and praying, that whatever hid in the darkness wouldn’t eat me.  I guess it worked because I’m still here today but boy was it HOT!

I guess I finally overcame most of my fears. I have to admit though, when Bubba the goose hisses at me in the park, it still makes my skin kinda tingle. To some degree fear is still a stalker in my life.  Instead of rats in a drain or monsters in the dark or bad guys in the house, it has become the uncertainty of these uncertain days.  And I know I am not alone.  Every time we turn on the news, we are told that the sky is indeed falling and that the end of world as we know it is coming.  As I waited for the morning weather forecast today, a story popped up on the screen about a new strain of the swine flu in China that could or would certainly be the next pandemic.  What? Excuse me?

I am a guy who gets to serve God and people as a pastor and there is one thing I know.  God is in charge, and He is bigger than any of it and all of it.  You may have heard of a guy named Job—and no he was not related to Steve Jobs, (smile).  His sky in fact did fall and he ended up losing everything.  Well, actually his “why don’t you give up and die” wife stuck around, but so did his faith in God.  In fact, in the midst of his hot mess, Job said this, “I know that You can do anything, and no one can stop You.” Score one for Job.  He believed that God was in charge, that God had a plan, and that nothing was going to happen on His watch unless He said so.

Now that is some real good, real comforting, real “you take that fear” news.  But you also need to know that sometimes that can be hard.  God’s plans don’t always mean I get what I want…in fact, often it means the opposite.  But hey, I was the guy who manufactured monsters in his head.  But it still means that God is good, that God is faithful, and that God can be trusted.  It does mean that He is watching out for my good and He is working to bring His glorious plan to pass.

A friend of mine recently suggested that perhaps it is time that we turn off the bad news.  I agree.  The broadcasters know that bad news “sells” and they are dishing it out by the buckets full.  Corrie ten Boom, a concentration camp survivor from World War II said, “If you look at the world, you will be distressed.  If you look within, you will be depressed.  But if you look at Christ you will be at rest.” What powerful and true words.  If you are not a God follower perhaps this sounds a little far-fetched.  Trust me…He is worth checking out. He is the real deal…not church…not religion…and certainly not the fear mongers. You can rest in Him…because He’s got this. Bro. Dewayne

Posted in fear, gratitude, life, priorities, Scripture, sovereignty of God, Trials

Listening

Serve only the Lord your God and fear Him alone. Obey His commands, listen to His voice, and cling to Him.” Deuteronomy 13:4

It seems that everywhere I go, bells are ringing.  Bells are incredible instruments.  At Christmas, they joyfully announce the arrival of the Christ child.  A week later they peal in the New Year.  Sometimes their message is one of sorrow.  In a week or so we will observe the 20th anniversary of the 9/11 attack in New York.  Around the nation, bells will toll mournful as we grieve the loss of so many lives. Many churches ring their bells on Sunday morning, inviting, reminding, and urging people to come to worship.  Yes, bells are still an important part of our culture.

The bells I hear though are totally different.  In fact, I’m not sure bells describe what I hear…but for sure something is ringing…in my ears.  They call it tinnitus—I call it annoying.  I’m not sure when it started by it was ears—uh, make that years, ago.  It is mainly in my left ear, my bad ear, and 24 hours a day, seven days a week, there is this ringing sound.  Sometimes it is louder than others—sometimes softer but is always there.  Some people even say it sounds like crickets…or even cicadas.  All I know is that I sure wish it would stop.  And that’s not all.

I also have the gift of floaters, also, in my left eye.   Hmmm…left ear, left eye, left-handed.  Is there a connection here?  So, you may ask, “What are floaters?”  In the optical world they are small pieces of something that float around in the fluid that fills your eye.  They are sometimes dots and sometimes strands but all the time they too are annoying.  I notice them most when I look at a bright computer screen…there goes one…there’s another…or at any kind of white or bright background.  And, like the ringing, they are always there.

There are many proposed cures for the ringing…none seem to work…and there is a fix for the floaters, but it involves sticking a needle in your eye.  I remember a childhood rhyme about a needle in my eye and it didn’t sound good then and it doesn’t sound good now.  What am I going to do?  Well, so far, the best trick is to…ignore them both.  I am learning to ignore the ringing and I am learning to ignore the floaters.  Oh sure, it takes practice, but I am learning to deal with it.  They never totally go away but with a bit of practice, I can zone out the ringing and stare past the floaters.

Learning to ignore ringing ears and floater eyes is a good thing but I also am learning that it is not a good thing to ignore everything.  Remember that red engine light…not the orange one…the red one…uh, don’t ignore that.  How about the speed warning you set one day in your gadget rich new car…the one that says, “Slow down?”  Probably shouldn’t ignore that either.  Reminder of your anniversary on your calendar? Nope.  The alarm clock in the morning? Not that either.  You see there are things you can and perhaps should ignore and there are some you just should pay attention too.

When I was growing up, I learned not to ignore my Daddy’s voice.  He would call, “Dewayne, come here.”  My response was a prompted, “Yes, sir.”  He would wait just a few seconds and ask, “Are you coming?”  I would respond again with, “Yes, sir.”  And he always, always responded with, “Make me know it.”  He was making sure I was hearing and responding to his request and not hearing and ignoring it.  It has stuck with me all of my life.  Make.Me.Know.It.

My other Father, my Dearest Father in heaven, wants me to respond to Him too.  He doesn’t shout, in fact, sometimes He whispers, but I have found that if I will intentionally listen, I can hear Him.  Moses, the guy who parted the Red Sea, wrote in Deuteronomy, “Serve only the Lord your God and fear Him alone. Obey His commands, listen to His voice, and cling to Him.” Sounds like a good plan to me.

If I am wise, I will respond with a “Yes, Lord” and never give Him cause to say, “Make me know it.” I say that not because of fear, but because of respect.  You see I obeyed my earthly father, most of the time, because I loved and respected him.  And, that is also true for my Dearest Daddy.  He is worthy of our deepest love and respect. Let’s make sure our hearts and ears hear the sweet whispers of heaven. Let’s not miss it when He whispers, “I’ve got this.”  Bro. Dewayne