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

Three Days Day Two

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 never saw it coming. Day one of “Three Days” was so awesome you would think that the day following a trophy day would be at least somewhat awesome, right?  Let me tell you that is not always the case.  If you read, “Three Days, Day One” you know that I my day job is being a pastor and one day recently, I and the church, had a “trophy Sunday.”  Now I need to be honest and let you know that not every Sunday qualifies as a “trophy Sunday.”  In fact, some of them can be pretty difficult but that’s not a deal because it just the way life is.  “Less than days” have nothing to do with where you work or what you do—it has to do with life.  Like I said in day one, when you have a really good day, put it on your trophy shelf so you can easily find it when you need a reminder that you are blessed.

Well, you know that Mondays always follow Sundays.  It is no accident that Mondays get a bad rap.  It just seems that if you are going to have a challenging day, Mondays get the call and in my case, that is exactly what happened.  So after the trophy day at church on Sunday, I bounded (slight overstatement there) out of bed about 4:10 am, ready to embrace the day.  Because it was Thanksgiving Week and because my wife Judy and I were taking a trip down south to see family, I only had two days in the office that week.  I expected and needed some productive time.  There were several things that just had to get done before I left but I was confident that I could get it done.  So, like a horse in the starting gate, I raced to the office…early.

When I got to the office, for fortification, I made a cup of coffee and then hit the spacebar on my computer and immediately noticed that it was a little slow to wake up. “Hmmm,” I said, wondering what was up with that. It did eventually start responding but things were just not right.  One of the things I had to get done was to update the electronic sign for our church.  To do that my Apple computer needed to talk to the sign which— speaks Windows—think EngIish and German. I have a program on my computer that is supposed to act like a translator but it was on strike. From there things just went downhill.  Not only was the Apple computer not speaking to the Windows sign, everything, and I mean everything,  just came to standstill.  No matter what I did, no matter how many times I restarted the computer, nothing helped. I watched the clock as my precious day slipped away through my idle hands.

Now, I believe in God.  I believe that God directs my day and my path.  One of my favorite verses in the Bible says, “The steps of a good (good as in God’s goodness) are directed by the Lord and it is He who directs His path.”  I know it and I believe it though my faith that particular day was sagging.  In fact, I left the office that day feeling just a little put off with God.  I mean didn’t He know I had to get this stuff done?  Didn’t He know I only had a little time to get a lot done?  Well, I finally just said to Him, “God why are you doing this to me.” I was frustrated and maybe, just maybe a little angry…if not at God at least the circumstances.  Looking back, I realized that I was having a little case of “spiritual amnesia.”

Spiritual amnesia?  Yup…it’s a real deal and I really had it.  You see, I had already forgotten the “trophy Sunday” and even forgot to revisit it to remind me of God being a good God.  I had forgotten that I believe that God directs and plans my day…meaning He had planned that day as an exercise of faith and trust…in Him.  I forgot it all and that was not fair to Him, my wife, Judy, who bore some of the brunt of my frustration and anybody else who happened to be close enough to feel and hear my frustration.  Are you getting the picture that Monday was not a “trophy day?” Ever had a day like that?  Trust me, I get it and I understand and so does our Dearest Daddy.

Well, that night, I sat down at my happy home computer and worked and watched how that same God that I had grumbled about multiplied my time and efforts and much of what I needed to get done, got done in just a couple of hours.  It was then that my “spiritual amnesia” fog began to clear.  It was then that I remembered that God doesn’t do things to people…He does things for people.  You see that non-trophy day was about learning—-I was in “God school” and He was teaching me things like faith, trust and patience.  I also remembered the rest of that favorite verse.  It says that even if I should stumble and fall, I will not stay down because He, God, will pick me up.  I may fall in the mud puddle of frustration but He loves me too much to leave me there.

So the day ended better than it started.  I went to bed that night with a feeling that no matter what tomorrow held, I would do what I could do and just leave the rest to Him.  I got out of bed, had my coffee and had a little talk with Him and He whispered to me that He would be with me that day and that no matter what He would not abandon me.  I knew that somehow the third day of “Three Days” was going to be ok and that what I write each day is indeed true, “He’s got this.” Bro. Dewayne

Posted in Family, gratitude, loving others, missions, prayer, priorities, Scripture, sovereignty of God, thankful

Three Days, Day 1

For this is how God loved the world: He gave His one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him will not perish but have eternal life.” John 3:16

They say that God works in mysterious ways.  Last week God showed up in three very different ways on three very different days.  Now if you aren’t a God follower you might write this off as chance and circumstance, but my life and faith journeys won’t let me do that.  Regardless, sit back and enjoy the story.

If you are a Grits reader you know that my day job is leading a church.  I am the senior pastor (by position and by age) at a local church so God plays a big part of my walkabout life—both at church and otherwise.  Well, it all started on Sunday.  It was a special day because we had a guest visiting our church who works in another part of the world.  She is a good friend of ours and our church.  We have visited her and served with her several times in another country. She shared about her work at a brunch we held and also some in our services. And it was so good.

Our worship services consist of two big parts—the music part and the Word part.  The Word part is when I get to share with the folks both in the room, on the radio, Facebook Live, and YouTube.  I love it…when it goes right. Smile.  Well, this particular day, the music part was just awesome, and the sermon came together in a way that only God could orchestrate.  He was good.

We also gathered our shoeboxes for Operation Christmas Child.  If that doesn’t ring a bell just google it and you will discover one of the most purposeful things you can do to help kids and share the Good News of Jesus. Basically, you fill a shoebox with kid’s stuff, pray for that special child and then drop it off at a collection point.  Samaritan’s Purse will ship the box (about 12 million of them) around the world with the purpose of sharing the love of Jesus and making some child’s day.  It is awesome.  Well, that day we collected our boxes, all 519 of them, and the climax was our kids marching in carrying a bunch of filled boxes.  It was very good.

So, when I was giving some closing comments at the end of the service, I told the folks that this was a “trophy Sunday.” What I meant was that it was the kind of day that you put in the special part of your brain where you put memories that you don’t want to forget.  Just like a trophy reminds you of a special event, so that day was one we should keep safe because one day, someday, you just might need to be reminded that God is indeed good.

You see, not every day is a trophy day.  Not every day is going to be cloudless and sunny. There are going to be days that make you wonder “what in the world was God thinking?”  It may be one of those days when you think “how could a good God ever allow something like this happen?”  It may be one of those days that rub you wrong…like a cheap, scratchy wool sweater.  We all have them, don’t we?  When one rolls around, you simply go to your trophy shelf and remember that God is good and even that is bigger than it sounds.  You see God doesn’t just do good…He is good.  And that is true even when our world goes south.  And sometimes it will.

The biggest trophy on my trophy shelf is a bloodied, Roman cross.  It is where Jesus died a sacrificial death…not for His benefit but for ours.  His death that day paid the price for the sin, the messes, the brokenness of an entire world.  And God said if we would believe what He did and choose to follow Him, we could have His love on our trophy shelf forever.  I know in today’s world that sounds hokey but trust me, it is anything but.  Go ahead check it out, check Him out.  It is a trophy worth having. One of the best-known verses in the Bible is John 3:16. It simply says that God loved the lot of us—all of us—so much He allowed His only Son to die so that anyone who believed in Him, could live forever.  Like I said, check it out.  Hey, and watch Grits for the next couple of days for parts two and three of “Three Days.” It is a story that gives weight to the fact that, “He’s got this.” See you then. Bro. Dewayne

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


No, dear brothers and sisters, I have not achieved it, but I focus on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead.” Philippians 3:13

One of the best things about Thanksgiving doesn’t happen on Thanksgiving.  Well, let’s be honest, for most of us blessed enough to live here in America it is a day to throw the diet out the window, to loosen the belt a notch, to forget trying to bend over.  It is the day after the feast. I know for the Taylor tribe we have perfected the feast to a fine art.  Each year there are certain items that just must be on the table.  There is the most incredible mac-n-cheese in the world, a sweet potato soufflé, oh, and strawberry pretzel salad. And that is the short list.  There is also green bean casserole, rolls, some sort of salad and, well, you get the idea.  Even a sampling of the feast will cause your belt to shrink a notch or two.  Thanksgiving food…you gotta love it.

But here is the best part.  Eventually, probably hours but maybe the next day, there will be a hint of hunger.  As full as you feel after the feast, you will get hungry again and that’s when it happens.  You can go to the refrigerator and start unloading the leftovers. All that joy from the Thanksgiving feast is reborn right before your eyes.  And the amazing part is that some of the dishes taste even better than the first time.  A couple of minutes in the microwave will have you smiling just like the day before.  And the hits just keep on coming because some, not all mind you, but some will make it for day two.

And then there is the turkey.  Mr. Turkey must be related to the cat because it seems to have nine or more lives.  After the initial onslaught of Thanksgiving and the day after, there always seems to be more turkey. What should we do?  Well, some might be given a quick trip to the freezer, but some will be reborn in a myriad of creative and tasty recipes.  Who knows the multitude of ways Mr. Turkey can be reborn in the days following Thanksgiving?  You see, in some ways, Thanksgiving is the holiday that just keeps on giving.  Just ask your waistline.

I realize that some folks aren’t fans of leftovers.  I knew one guy who simply refused to eat them and of course that is every person’s choice. But as for me, I say bring them on.  Whether it is a Thanksgiving feast or a leftover burger from some fast-food place, it is all waiting for a second chance to satisfy that hunger pain.  Now to be fair, sometimes those leftovers are better left alone.  What might have been a crunchy delight one day can be a soggy mess the next, so you must choose your leftovers carefully.  Sometimes, it’s better to let that tasty dish go on the first go around.

Do you suppose that is true in life too?  You know, our choices and actions can be like those leftovers.  Some choices are worth savoring for days, weeks, and months or maybe even a lifetime.  Trusting Jesus…now that was a good decision that will last forever.  Marrying my wife Judy…check.  Forty-five years later and I’m still humming, “We’ve Only Just Begun.”  Having kids? That’s a good one too though there have been times in their teen years when I pondered checking the return policy.  The truth is all of us, if we look, will discover there are some great leftovers that spill joy into our lives every day.

Truthfully, and painfully, there are some leftovers that still cause our hearts to hurt.  A broken relationship left unattended, a harsh word spoken and left hanging without an apology, poor health decisions…yes, there are painful leftovers in every person’s life. While we can’t just make them disappear like fog burning off in the morning, we can do what we can do and that is to seek and receive forgiveness.  First, let it start with God.  Let Him know how you regret and repent or turn from whatever it was.  Then, if an apology is due, give it.  Even if the person is no longer around, you can apologize.  Maybe write a letter and then burn it.  And lastly, we need to forgive ourselves and that, by the way, might be the most difficult thing to do.  And then, take the sad leftovers and take them to the trash…where they belong.

I love what Paul the Bible writer said.  He said we should forget the past and look forward.  He wasn’t saying we should forget because that probably isn’t possible.  He was saying we should not allow a past that is forgiven to own us in the present.  He was saying we need to get rid of those old, rotten leftovers and that is something we can do. So, savor the good and ditch the regretful. Sound difficult? That’s ok because there is a Dearest Father who will help you.  In fact, listen carefully, even now He is whispering, “I’ve got this.” Bro. Dewayne

Posted in Family, food, Grace, gratitude, Holidays, life, love, loving others, prayer, priorities, Southern born, thankful, Thanksgiving, wisdom

Thanks-Giving Living

Giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.” Ephesians 5:20

Everything seemed bigger then.  I liked being a kid.  I know there were times I didn’t, but overall things were pretty cool.  For one thing, there were few responsibilities.  There was always someone bigger and more important than me to handle things.  I didn’t worry about where the food came from, who was going to pay the electric bill or what would happen if the wrong person got elected and lived in something called the White House.  My house happened to be white, so my world centered around that white house. Of course, there were only three channels to tell me about the world outside my small world so, yeah, l liked being a kid.

When I was a kid, the holidays were just a big thing and the two at the top of the list were Thanksgiving and Christmas. These were the mammoths of all holidays.  Thanksgiving, of course, came first and was like the kickoff for the Christmas season. Thanksgiving meant that it was ok to start doing Christmas stuff.  Now days that has been assigned to the Fourth of July. Smile.  But anyway, these two special days shared two things that made them special.  They were all about family and they were all about food. Family and food.  They were big then and they are big now.

Of course, big was relative…not relative like my grandmother or my Uncle Hardy…but relative in the sense of perspective.  You see, as a kid, everything was bigger.  A while back I went back to where I was raised. The house, though slightly remodeled, was still there and about the same.  But when I saw it that day, I remember thinking how small it seemed.  I mean it was never big, but it certainly seemed bigger.  The difference wasn’t the house but how I saw it.  Enter Thanksgiving. Thanksgiving was so exciting because it meant that anyone who was related to the Taylor tribe was going to be somewhere together.  Most often it was home…the white house on the corner of Carlton and Wheat. It was a big deal because we had quite a big tribe.  Momma and Daddy had eight kids and they probably would have had more but I think they finally figured out what was causing it.  And everyone came home.

And then…there was the food.  Momma would cook the biggest turkey we could find…usually right around twenty-five pounds.  There would be dressing, plain and oyster, giblet gravy, mashed potatoes and gravy, green beans, ambrosia, and a bunch of other stuff.  There would be several kinds of pies including the infamous “minced meat pie.”  Best I could tell that was a pie for the adults because I think it really had meat and only an adult could like that.  Then after the vast spread was spread, we would all gather around the kitchen (we wouldn’t fit around the table) and someone would pray…usually my oldest brother because he was a lay preacher.  And then…we would eat…a lot.

From my kid perspective it was good, and it was fun.  I probably didn’t think much about what giving thanks was all about.  I mean, my big brother talked about being thankful when he was talking to God in the prayer, but really, I probably didn’t get the whole thanksgiving thing…then.  But now, well, I certainly understand it more.  As I grew up and some of that responsibility that my parents bore fell on me, I began to understand.  When I started to realize that things I took for granted didn’t just happen, that they took hard work and a lot of love, well, I started feeling grateful.  The more I understood, the more I appreciated all that my Momma and Daddy did for me as a kid.  They worried so I didn’t have to. They provided so I could have food to eat, a place to sleep, clothes to wear and a life that was…fun.

So, this week, I’m going to remember and be thankful.  I’m going to do my best not to grumble about what I don’t have and choose to be grateful for what I do. Somewhere this week I will play the role of my big brother and pray, and I will thank God for all the blessings He has given to me and my family.  This week I will celebrate that there is food to eat and family to enjoy…just like when I was a kid.  God is good…always has been, always will be.  Paul, the guy who wrote most of the New Testament Bible said, “Giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.” I think he was telling us to be sure and celebrate Thanksgiving, not one day, but every day.  Oh, and when you are thanking God for being God be sure and thank Him because, each day and every day, “He’s got this.” Bro. Dewayne

Posted in Family, Grace, gratitude, life, love, priorities, Scripture, thankful, travel

Sports Card Heaven

I love those who love Me, and those who seek Me diligently find Me.” Proverbs 8:17

Well, it sure wasn’t my thing.  Each November we take a short vacation with the Guest tribe.  Their tribe consists of my oldest daughter, Becca, her husband, Jonathan and three of my grandchildren, Faith, Hope, and Ethan.  It’s usually a three- or four-day trip to the Smoky Mountains but this year the tour guide, Becca, decided we would go to Branson, Missouri.  So, over the river and through the woods we went, and we all ended up in that Southwest Missouri vacation mecca.

The first day we went shopping before heading to the Sights and Sounds theater to see a production on the life of Jesus—more on that in another Grits. Shopping just isn’t my thing.  We got to the outdoor mall and the boys went one way and the girls went another.  I figured my chances were better with the guys.  I mean whatever they wanted to look at had to beat girl stuff.  Well, Jonathan and Ethan eat, sleep and breathe sports so naturally our shopping selections curved in that direction.  The first stop was a shop that specialized in hats and shirts for the various team sports.  We poked around for a while, liking this one and trashing another one—you know, the right team, wrong team thing.  Soon, it was time to move on.

So down the mall a way, there was another sports shop called, “On the Ball Sports.” This store sold a good variety of sports memorabilia.  It’s funny…neither store sold the tools of the trade but rather things that indicated what team or player you liked.  We entered “sports heaven” and it was soon apparent that this was not going to be a short visit.  We were there for the long haul, and it wasn’t what you might think that held us there.  It wasn’t jerseys or hats; it wasn’t pictures or mugs—it was sports cards. I’m not even sure of the official name but they had guys, or mostly guys, pictures on them and described who and when they played.

It turned out that I discovered my grandson Ethan was totally into sports cards.  This store had a very large selection and the young man working there was helpful and friendly.  We looked and looked and then we looked some more.  I discovered there might be, oh, a zillion cards for each player and based on their popularity and condition, they could be quite valuable.  The most expensive card we saw was worth $850 dollars.  I’m not sure why.  I asked a lot of questions and got lots of answers but quickly determined I should stay with my day job and try some other investments.

Well, two days later, ok, that is an exaggeration, about an hour and a half later, we walked out of the store.  While I had to take a couple of breaks from “card heaven” I did manage to stay there even though the Bass Pro Shop was next door.  You might ask, “Dewayne, why didn’t you just go next door.  Why did you stay in the card shop for so long if it wasn’t your thing?”  Well, the answer really is quite simple.  While it wasn’t my thing…it was my grandson’s thing, and I learned a long time ago that we should learn to love the things that those we love… love.  Did you track with that?

Well, it goes like this.  If you don’t like to shop but your wife does, you learn to love shopping.  And, on the other hand, ma’am if your husband loves to fish, you might want to give it a try. And here is the great part.  When you do that, you are showing love.  The whole tribe made jokes about my stint in “card heaven” for the rest of the trip.  It was fun and it kept the memory alive.  Into the days, weeks, and months, I’m sure we will occasionally remember our time together in “card heaven.”  Oh, and guess what Ethan is getting for Christmas.  I promise you it is something he loves.

What is true in our human world is also true in our spiritual world.  If you happen to be a Jesus follower, one of the surest ways to a close and personal relationship with Him is to learn to love the things that He loves.  And the amazing thing is the things He loves always makes life better and they never carry any regrets or consequences.  It is like following a guide who always knows the best fishing holes, the best golf courses, or the best places to hike.  It is always…good.

Solomon, one of the smartest guys to ever live, wrote about God. Writing for God, he said, “I love those who love Me, and those who seek Me diligently find Me.” Just like the time I spent leaning over the counter with my grandson, it is valuable to spend time with Him, leaning at the counter of life, asking questions, learning, and loving what He loves.  Yup, it is always…good.  And why not take it a step further and just believe and trust…even if you don’t understand, that, “He’s got this.”   Bro. Dewayne

Posted in Family, Grace, gratitude, life, love, priorities, Scripture, thankful, Trials

Not Over Yet

I know that You can do all things, and that no purpose of Yours can be thwarted.” Job 42:2

One day, Siri gave me the bad news.  I am a pastor. I’m not sure what you do on Saturday nights, but I know what is on my schedule.  Forever, well almost forever, my Saturday nights have been reserved for doing the final studying for the message I am to deliver the next morning.  My wife and I don’t generally accept engagements on that special night because, well, Sunday’s message is a big priority.  Now, there is one kinda, sorta, exception.  Notre Dame football.

I am not sure how it all started, but a long time ago I became a Notre Dame football fan. It really is the only thing in the sports world that I consistently follow.  I’m not a huge sports fan, however, college football and Notre Dame football, rank pretty high with me.  If I know there is a Notre Dame game scheduled for Saturday night I will try and study earlier in the day to free up some time to watch the game that night.  Well, a year ago, on a Saturday night in November, despite all my good intentions, that just didn’t happen.  That meant that the Irish would have to play largely without me.  Now what made that particularly difficult was the Irish, ranked number four in the nation, was playing Clemson who was ranked number one.  It was going to be a good game.

So, what is a pastor/Notre Dame fan supposed to do?  Well, I watched bits and pieces of the game and occasionally would ask Siri on my Apple watch what the score was.  The Irish started off strong with a touchdown and by halftime had a pretty comfortable lead.  I was ecstatic.  I tuned in and out for most of the evening.  I checked in somewhere and the lead had shrunk to four points.  I figured I best not check in anymore or else the crowd at church was going to get a half-baked sermon.  So, I studied, and wrote and wrote and studied.  Finally, about 9:45 pm or so I couldn’t resist the urge any longer.  I asked Siri, “Hey Siri, what’s the score in the Notre Dame football game?”  Her response was discouraging. No, it was devastating.

In her chirpy, Siri voice, totally indifferent to the pain she was about to cause, she said, “Notre Dame is losing to Clemson by a score of 26 to 33 with two minutes remaining.”  What?  I was studying about joy and mine plummeted like a roller coaster on a greased track.  I muttered under my breath (never mind what I muttered) and studied a bit more before calling it quits.  I went to bed.  Notre Dame hadn’t lost a home game in forever and tonight that streak was going to end.  Bummer.

The next morning, after some coffee, I picked up the sermon to give it the final look over.  After a while, I went over to the computer to look something up and my email app was open.  I took a moment to scan the list of emails that had come over night.  Halfway down the list my glaze came to a screeching halt.  I couldn’t believe what I was seeing.  I get a regular email from a company that sells sports stuff.  I especially like their fan gear like Notre Dame hoodies.  If the Irish win, they will send out an email that declares their victory and then offer a special discount to celebrate.  And…there it was.

The brief summary in the email said it all, “Irish Beat Clemson.” Whoa…what?  As fast as a rabbit running from a bobcat, I opened the email and saw that the Irish had indeed beat Clemson in a double overtime thriller by a score of 47 to 40.  Fortunately, my Hopper thing from Dish records primetime and it had recorded the game.  As fast as I could I turned on the television, went to the DVR and clicked the button and there was the game in all its glory.  I cheated and watched the final two minutes but saved the rest for later. I got to watch the thriller ending after all…and it was incredible.  Go Irish.  Baptist or not—I love Notre Dame football.

Here is the amazing part.  I went to bed Saturday night assuming that my team had lost. Down seven with two minutes to play—no way.  But I should have known better because the Irish are famous for thrilling finishes but most of them don’t involve the number one team who had a 37-game winning streak…the reigning national champs.  Yup, I went to bed a loser and woke up a winner.  You just never know what is going to happen. It is true with Notre Dame football, but better yet it is true in life—especially when God is the head coach.

Life can be difficult…especially these days.  We have never seen so many uncertainties from so many directions and all at the same time.  It is easy to think that we’ve lost the game.  It is easy to go to bed thinking all is lost, game over.  But God has an amazing way of turning it all around.  An old quote says, “It ain’t over till the fat lady sings.” Well, I don’t know who this lady is and you shouldn’t call people fat anyway, but let me tell—with God in the mix she isn’t even humming her first bar of music.  I’m trying to say, don’t give up…don’t be discouraged. You, or it, may seem like a lost cause but never, never is that true with God on your side.

I’ve heard some people say they like to read the end of a book first to see how things turn out.  Well, I have read the end of His Book—and He wins in the end.  Job, who knew all about hot mess circumstances said, “I know that You can do all things, and that no purpose of Yours can be thwarted.”  Wow. You see, as I watched my recorded version of the game—even knowing the outcome—I winced at some missteps and cheered for every score.  And the best part—I rested knowing that nothing I was about to see could change that outcome.  The Irish were going to win.  If you are a Jesus follower, no matter how crazy life gets, no matter how it seems God can’t pull it out—just rest in knowing He can. Nothing can change His planned outcome in this game called life.  With Jesus you can rest assured, He’s got this.  Bro. Dewayne

Posted in Family, Grace, gratitude, life, love, loving others, Military memories, Scripture, Southern born, sovereignty of God, thankful, Thanksgiving, travel, Trials

The Rock

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

The Rock.  If you talk to someone that has done “hard time” they will probably think you are talking about Alcatraz.  If you talk to someone who likes action movies, they will probably think you are talking about Dewayne “The Rock” Johnson.  But if you are talking to me or my wife Judy, then we will know you are talking about “the rock.”  It’s a long story.

Judy and I met and fell in love in short order.  I walked into her church one Wednesday night. I asked her out the next week and ever since then we have been a “we”.  We were together as much as possible—we wanted to be together as much as possible. Since my Daddy had passed away that summer, Mama decided to spend Thanksgiving with my brother Joe up in the mountains, and I was invited to come join them.  It was a deal because I really wanted to be with Judy, but I knew my place was with family and my Mama especially.  So, I went.  I told Judy I would miss her, and I would bring her something back from the mountains.

Now I’m known for doing crazy things—it’s just me. While in the mountains I tried to think of something to take to Judy.  It didn’t seem appropriate to take her a typical souvenir, so I got an idea.  I would take her part of the mountains. I went out and found a rock. It was about the size of a pumpkin roll…elongated and was even orange with white stripes. As Thanksgiving rocks go…it was a pretty, good one.  I washed it up and put it in the car.  Game. Set. Match.

I’m sure in the book of love etiquette there is a chapter on what to bring your love when you go to the mountains.  I am also sure if I had read that chapter a rock would not have made the cut.  But hey, I was inexperienced.  So, I get back to Valdosta where I was stationed in the Air Force and where Judy lived.  After the appropriate number of hugs and kisses I presented her with her gift.  She seemed thrilled and seemed to appreciate my thoughtfulness.  Please note the word seemed.

Time goes by.  We were married a while later and the rock made the trip from her parent’s house to our new apartment.  We later received orders to Germany and the rock made the trip with us.  When we came home from Germany and moved to our new duty assignment in Warrensburg, Missouri, the rock came with us. And on and on it went.  To the home we built in Warrensburg, to the little parsonage in LaMonte, where I had my first full-time pastorate, to Cobden, Illinois where we pastored for 14 years.  Finally, it came with us to Harrisburg. It was part of the family. It was more than a pet rock it was “the rock.”

About ten years ago, around 2010, somehow the topic of the rock came up. I was sharing how endeared I was to the rock—how important it was and then it happened.  Judy told me she never liked the rock.  She told me that she wasn’t thrilled all those years ago. She only pretended to be thrilled to make me happy.  The bottom line was the rock was just a rock.  Oh, the agony.  Oh, the pain. Oh the “you’ve got to be kidding me.”  Here I’ve been hauling this rock all over the world for nothing.  I knew I should have gotten her one of those Smoky Mountain snow globes!

Well, like a pet who’s forgotten how to be potty trained, the rock was moved to the yard. It was still special to me, so it now sits on the grave of one of my favorite pets.  Somehow that just seemed appropriate and if I were to move tomorrow—yes, the rock would go.  If nothing else, it is a monument on what not to bring the girl you love from the mountains.  I’m glad that God is better at gifts than I am.  It seems—no, it more than seems, that He always gets it right.

He talks a lot about gifts in His Book.  He loads us up day after day.  Every sunrise and sunset is a gift.  Every breath is a gift.  Every fall leaf that floats to the ground full of color is a gift.  We need to look and recognize all that He gives us.  James, one of Jesus’ half-brothers, wrote that every good gift, every perfect gift comes down from our Dearest Daddy.  He just loves to shower us with His best and He does it again and again.

Well, it was no accident that I brought a souvenir rock home that year, it was no accident it was orange with white stripes, and it was no accident that it is still with us. In fact, the word souvenir is from the French, meaning “a memento, keepsake, or a token of remembrance which a person acquires for the memories the owner associates with it.” How about that! Still, I guess it wasn’t the right gift for her on that day. Today though, it was the right motivation to remind us of this year, above all years, to be grateful for a God, a Heavenly Father who is oh so generous to His kids.  Why not sit down today and make a list of all the things God has provided and all the needs He met?  Take your time…enjoy the moment and when you are done…read the list to Him and say “Thank-you, Father.”  And then for all the things that are bigger than you or for the things that just look like rocks, gratefully give them all to Him because, as always, He’s got this.     Bro. Dewayne

Posted in Family, forgiveness, Grace, gratitude, life, love, prayer, priorities, Scripture, thankful, Trials

Satisfied and Grateful

Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” First Thessalonians 5:18

It was the strangest thought but somehow it made sense.  The other morning, I was doing my walking thing.  It was a brisk morning with a strong wind and cloudy skies and just for fun…a light rain.  It was one of those mornings the treadmill probably made sense, but I didn’t listen.  I turned in a good time…not that I desired to go fast but I desired to get back to my car.

So, in an attempt to take my mind off the wind, rain, and cold, I was mulling around some ideas about a message series I am teaching at the church where I pastor.  It is called “Taking Care of Business” and carries the idea that as Jesus followers or as Jesus churches we are called to do and not just talk.  We are called not to just believe but to act. Our lives and the life of our church needs to show a spiritual profit or, like any other business” we will go out of business.  And that’s when it happened.

Here’s what came to my mind.  From out of the blue, or in this case gray, came, “Your neighbor’s wife will only look attractive to you when you are unhappy with yours.”  Now keep in mind the statement has nothing to do with my wife or my neighbor’s wife—it has to do with being content with what you have.  You see, in these crazy days, it is often easy for the grass on the other side of the fence to look enticing. Other things, including other gods, suddenly look better. It can be true in marriages but more importantly it is true in our faith.

We live in a world of constant flux and when that is true it can impact anything and everything.  We grow discontent and emotionally and spiritually disoriented.  We start looking for something, anything really, to make us feel better or good.  And too often we look in all the wrong places.  The contentment satisfier is, wait for it, Jesus. Never ever confuse that with anything else…including church.

If you want to be content, if you want to be happier, learn to be grateful for what you have instead of grumpy because of what you don’t.  Remember that the things that matter aren’t bought in a store they come from meaningful relationships.  They are born in delivery rooms and discovered on a hilltop as the sun goes down in a beautiful array of colors. They are the products of dreams and the anchor of our hope.  They are the “notes” from a loving God who says, “I love you” every single day.  You see the Bible guy Paul, and probably sitting in some difficult place said, “Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” I think He discovered that gratitude doesn’t depend on circumstances—it depends on perspective.  Hmmm.

So why not today, make a list and check it twice, of all the things God has allowed to come into your life.  Instead of longing for the girl next door (remember the analogy), why not cuddle up close to all that is already within your grasp.  Why not love, why not appreciate, why not listen for the whisper of the Whisperer as He tells you how special you are—just the way you are—and assures you that “He’s got this.”  Bro. Dewayne

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

All That Glitters

I know how to make do with little, and I know how to make do with a lot. In any and all circumstances I have learned the secret of being content.” Philippians 4:12a

It was a while back, but I remember it well.  I woke up to find my neighbor’s yard covered with gold.  I am an early riser.  Well, actually, I am a crazy, early riser.  Normally, my bladder and I decide it is about time to get up at around 4:30…am.  If you want to see what a quiet world looks like…try it at 4:30 in the morning.  These days the sun isn’t even close to waking up yet.  He won’t make his appearance for another couple of hours.  I usually get up, make some coffee in my magic Keurig machine, watch the weather, and have some God time. Predictable…just the way I like it.

Part of that routine is to eventually take a peek out one of the windows to see if the sun is peeking above the horizon.  Naturally that means looking to the East.  That eventful Saturday morning I did exactly that.  As I looked out the window, I noticed that my neighbor’s yard was covered with gold.  I couldn’t believe it.  What made this even more unusual was the fact that my neighbor at the other end of our alley had struck it rich too.  This was incredible.  And, if that wasn’t enough, when I was walking a few days earlier, one of my friend’s hit the jackpot.  Gold was everywhere.  Now you might think that I was jealous…but I wasn’t—not this time. You see, their yards had been “papered” as in with toilet paper. It wasn’t pretty.

Now you are wondering, “I’m just a bit confused.” You said their yards were covered with gold. That doesn’t sound like gold to me.”  Well, you’ve got a point there.  But let’s step back to last year.  COVID was all the rage.  People were doing all kinds of strange things.  When you went to the grocery store there were certain things, things that you would expect, out of stock.   Hand sanitizer was a pipe dream.  Bleach wipes were the things of legend.  Certain food items were long gone from the shelves.  It was a shopper’s nightmare.  But there was one thing that topped them all.  Toilet paper.

For whatever reason, and it still remains a mystery, people began to hoard toilet paper.  It was like gold.  People were selling it on e-bay for unbelievable prices.  There were even people on the side of the road hawking their rolls of gold for ten, even fifteen times the ordinary price.  The nightly news would show people coming out of stores with rolls of the stuff.  It. Was. Crazy. Then as people realized that this probably wasn’t Armageddon, two things happened.  The rolled gold was back in stock and the price plummeted.  People that had bought tons of this stuff as an investment of sorts were stuck holding the bag. Ha-ha…the joke…or rolls…were on them.

Now here is what was amazing.  I woke up only to discover my neighbor’s yard is covered in the very same thing that was gold.  And listen, it wasn’t the cheap stuff.  Since they weren’t home, Judy and I went over and picked up the mess…I know neighbor of the year, right?  But when we did, I realized this was “Charmin Plus” or something. If toilet paper was gold this would be 24 karat and yet there it was lying out in the yard.  Well, I guess all that glitters isn’t gold after all.

Thanks to a somewhat return to normalcy all that almost seems laughable.  Almost. There is still plenty of strangeness, but hang in there.  Don’t quit and don’t give up. The question comes to mind, in the meantime, what do we do? That’s a great question and here are a couple of answers.  First, don’t lose hope.  If I watch too much of the evening’s bad news, I find myself being convinced that life as we knew it is over.  Well, it will be different, but it is far from over.  One day, one way or the other, Mr. COVID and all his weirdness is going to pack up and leave town.  One day it will be old news.  Until then, just keep trusting…in God. One of the writers of Psalms in the Bible…someone just like you and me…wrote, “Take delight in the Lord, and He will give you your heart’s desires.” What that means is if we are willing to delight in Him suddenly the things we desire… look a whole lot like His.  And when that happens—hope explodes!

The second thing is to learn, or maybe relearn, the magic of contentment.  While our old way of doing life has taken a vacation somewhere, a chunk of it will be back.  Just like toilet paper made a comeback—so will normalcy.  Now, until that time, just sit back and be content. I like what Paul, a guy in the Bible, said, “I know how to make do with little, and I know how to make do with a lot. In any and all circumstances I have learned the secret of being content.”  What makes that incredibly valuable is that he wrote that sitting in a stinking Roman prison.  Amazing.

Well, all that glitters is indeed not gold but all around us are golden nuggets from our Dearest Daddy.  He whispers to us that He’s still around and still in control.  Each sunrise and sunset, each new baby that bursts on the scene, each tree covered in color and glory shouts to us that we can rest in Him. Each new day is indeed a gift from Him and that is golden. Remember this…each day committed to trusting Him is a step in the right direction.  Go ahead…trust Him…He’s got this.  Bro. Dewayne

Posted in Family, fear, food, Grace, gratitude, life, love, prayer, priorities, Scripture, thankful, travel, Trials

Welcome to the Buffet

I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.” John 10:10

It’s not for everyone…and I didn’t think it was for me.  You see, several years ago my wife Judy and I decided to take the plunge and go on a cruise.  I always wrote cruises off because the thought of being in that small of an area with 4,000 of my closest friends just didn’t sound appealing.  Well, for whatever reason, I finally said yes, and I am so glad that I did.  We had a great time.  If you regularly read Grits, you know we love to travel.  Well, take that, plus good food and entertainment and the fact that somehow it just didn’t seem crowded and well, it was fun.

I had always heard that the food was plentiful and incredible, and it really was.  All you wanted, when you wanted and all included.  When you bought your ticket, all the perks were thrown in and I was determined to make sure I took advantage of them all.  They say the average person gains like five pounds on a cruise and I am pretty sure I can testify to that.

Now let me ask you question.  Wouldn’t it have been crazy if I had chosen not to take advantage of all that had already been paid for?  Wouldn’t it have been crazy if I had bought cans of sardines and cases of crackers on board to eat instead?  Well trust me, it would have. The crazy part is that too often we ignore the wonderful blessings that God gives us as His children.

I received an email years ago and it told how Bill Bright, a great teacher and leader, used to tell the story of a man who carefully saved his money until he was finally able to travel on a beautiful cruise ship. It was all he could do just to save enough to buy his ticket. Thinking he wouldn’t have enough money to buy meals in the ship’s fine dining room, he decided to take along some cheese and crackers for food.

For several days he sat in his cabin, watching the stewards go by with carts full of luscious lobster, prime rib, fresh fruits, and vegetables. Finally, he couldn’t stand it any longer. He reached out and grabbed one of the stewards by the arm and begged him for a plate of food. “Please, help me. I’ll go to work; I’ll scrub the deck. I’ll do anything to get something to eat. My cheese and crackers are turning stale, and I’m starving to death.”

“But, sir,” the steward replied, “don’t you know? Your food comes with your ticket.”

Sadly, many Christians live their life the way this man did on the cruise ship. Rather than embracing and receiving all that God has for them they become satisfied with “cheese and crackers,” living off the scarcity of the world when they could be dining on steak and baked potatoes. Either out of stubbornness or just a lack of knowledge, they don’t allow the Holy Spirit to take control of their lives and produce the luscious fruit of the Spirit–love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. They choose spiritual poverty over abundant life and scarcity over the joy of enjoying the abundance of their Dearest Daddy.

I’ve discovered that it is too easy to slip into a scarcity mindset when God wants us to have such much more.  And, no, I’m not speaking of things.  Things are just things.  I am speaking of the richness of knowing Creator God—up close and personal. Too often I’ve been satisfied at times with the bare bones of salvation—a hope of heaven for sure but the rest of the time just walking into walls in this life—afraid and seemingly alone. The best day of your life is the day you trust Jesus and second best…well, it is finally figuring out that He is with you and me and will be with us all the way.  It is figuring out, and believing, that…He’s got this. Bro. Dewayne