Posted in Family, friends, Grace, gratitude, life, Scripture, thankful, Trials, wisdom

It Wasn’t Pretty

As a dog returns to its vomit, so a fool repeats his foolishness.” Proverbs 26:11

It just wasn’t pretty.  When we arrived in Cobden, Illinois in 1986 they provided a home for us.  The only problem was the church was “L” shaped and the house sat right in the middle of the “L.”  The reason that was a problem was whenever someone needed something, they knew right where to come.  We might as well have had a billboard in our front yard advertising where the preacher lived. Every person needing some gas or baby diapers knew right where to come. That was all fine except I do believe they watched to see when we were eating supper before they rang the doorbell.

Sometimes it was a church member needing in the building.  Early, oh, about 6:30 am, one Saturday morning my wife Judy and I were still snuggled down in our bed. About that time, we heard someone first pulling on the front door of the church and then hollering, “Where’s that preacher and why is the door locked?” Well, the preacher was still in bed, after all it was Saturday, it was just after daybreak, and the door was locked for that reason. It was just about that time when Judy said, “Dewayne, we need to move.” So, the church said OK, and we found an older Victorian home, made a ridiculously low offer (because that is all we could afford) and to everyone’s surprise they said yes. Holy moly.

We moved and began life as homeowners.  Homeowners meant that we were responsible for everything.  Things like yard stuff. Things like trimming trees.  Things like getting stuck in a tree while trimming it.  Yup, that’s right.  In our backyard was a large and old Redbud tree.  While it was still alive, it had seen better days.  In fact, there were several dead limbs up in the tree.  Mr. Homeowner, that’s me, decided to trim it up.  I didn’t have a ladder, so I found a bucket, or a stool, or something to stand on and managed to get up in the tree.  I sawed away with my handy pruning saw and soon I was ready to get back down. It was then that I discovered the laws of climbing a tree using a bucket or something.  It wasn’t pretty.

I decided it would be best to go down backwards facing the tree. It sounded like a sound idea.  It wasn’t.  With one foot in a crook of the tree, I gingerly lowered my other leg to the stool or bucket or whatever it was. And, as fate would have it, my foot landed not in the middle but on the edge of whatever it was and yes, it tipped over.  And what happened next still causes me to groan.  As the bucket or stool or whatever it was tipped over, I found myself with one leg caught in the tree and my other leg on the ground. In other words,…I was in trouble.  My foot with my leg attached was over my head and I was in pain.  For a gymnast…no problem.  For a ballerina, no problem.  For a slightly out of shape preacher, homeowner…big problem.

It was so bad I have managed to block out the details of the rescue.  I think it involved me hollering, Judy hearing and coming, and her somehow freeing my leg from the crook of the tree. I was grateful…boy, was I grateful. Like Jacob who left an encounter with God with a limp, I left the tree with a hip that holds grudges. To this day, whenever I raise my leg to do something, I am not so gently reminded of that day.  I did something to something, and it was a lifetime reminder to not use a bucket, or a stool, or some other something other than a ladder to climb into a tree.  I. Learned.

One thing that most living animals have is the ability to learn.  Bucks get to be big bucks by learning when and where to go and not go.  All the family dogs know who to beg for food from.  His name is Papa.  You get the idea.  So, assuming you don’t die from climbing a tree without the proper tools, at least you learn how not to do it…and that is valuable.  As we journey through life, God usually gives us a chance to learn.  The important thing is to…wait for it…learn.  Everyone makes mistakes but it is simply foolish to keep making the same ones over and over again. The author of Proverbs says it this way, “As a dog returns to its vomit, so a fool repeats his foolishness.” Sometimes the Bible just lays it out there, doesn’t it?

Well, that was a one-time experience.  I can’t say that is true for everything I’ve done, but it was true about that one thing.  There are some things in life that once is enough.  But what do you do if you find your leg hung in a tree above your head?  Well, you holler and pray.  If you are lucky someone might hear you.  The good news is that God will hear you and while I don’t know if and how the rescue might come, I do know He won’t laugh at you.  He will just whisper, “I’ve got this.” Bro. Dewayne

Posted in Family, friends, life, Scripture, Southern born, thankful

The Gap

“I remember the days of old; I meditate on all You have done; I reflect on the work of Your hands.” Psalms 143:5

I’m not sure why…but there’s a gap. When I started school in Jacksonville, Florida there was no kindergarten.  It was like one day you were at home and the then you weren’t.  My first four grades of elementary school were at Wesconnect Elementary School and the last two were at a brand-new school—Jacksonville Heights Elementary School. Unlike Wesconnect that required a bus ride, the new school was only several blocks down the road from my house.  

Wesconnect was an old…real old.  It was all brick with no air conditioning. It was hot. That is one reason why we didn’t start school till after Labor Day.  I remember it having large paned windows, oak floors and tall ceilings.  Hundreds of footsteps would echo through the halls. And, to a little kid like me, it was big—like huge.  It was at Wesconnect, that I met and fell in love for the first time.  She was an older than me—my first-grade teacher—Mrs. Jones.  And, like the song from the seventies says, “we had a thing going on” or at least I did.  She was pretty (at least from my seven-year-old perspective) and she was pretty nice.  I became her number one eraser cleaner.  But soon, it was time to move on.  So, I passed first grade and it was so long Mrs. Jones.

By second grade I was a veteran.  A lot of the insecurities were gone and I met Mrs. Webb.  She, like Mrs. Jones, was a kind teacher.  I think, though I am not sure, that my sister and I had our tonsils out about then and she had all the kids write me get well cards.  I can still remember how special it was to receive that big envelope from my classmates. Thank-you, Mrs. Webb.  Third grade meant yet another teacher…this time Mrs. Wilson.  Now I don’t mean this in a mean way but she kinda reminded me of one of the witches from “The Wizard of Oz.”  She was an older lady, and wore her hair in a tight bun and was quite stern.  I didn’t clean Mrs. Wilson’s erasers.  But looking back, she was a good teacher and she helped us learn and that is what mattered.  I managed to pass again, so soon it was so long Mrs. Wilson.

Fifth grade meant a new school (with air conditioning—smile) and yet another new teacher and her name was, get ready for it, Mrs. Slappy.  She was rather short, had bright red hair and was rather snappy.  Today I think I would use the word, “feisty.”  As I remember her class, it was fun and I had a new responsibility.  She selected me (and a couple of others) to be trained to run the film strip projector and the movie projector.  It was a big deal.  When we were going to see a film strip or movie in class, one of us would go down and check out the equipment, set it up and operate it.  Wow…what responsibility and to think, she trusted me.  That was a big deal. Thank you, Mrs. Slappy.

My final year in elementary school, sixth grade, was a landmark year.  I had my first male teacher, Mr. Perry and was selected to be a “patrol boy.”  Mr. Perry was, as you can imagine, a little different from Mrs. Jones in First grade but I remember him being imposing but fair.  He was a “rules” guy but as long as you followed the rules, you did ok.  That served me well then and really for the rest of my life.  I know it started at home but Mr. Perry reenforced it…a lesson well learned. Well, there you go my parade of teachers. The end. Thanks for reading.

Well, not quite.  You see there was a reason I walked you through all of that.  Did you notice something? Well, if you noticed that there is a gap…you are right.  You see, for some reason, and who knows why, there is a total gap for the fourth grade.  I have absolutely no memories of my teacher, classmates, or surroundings.  I know it was Wesconnect but beyond that…zero…and that intrigues me.  I don’t know or believe it was anything bad…there is just a gap. In fact, it means that there was probably a really good teacher who taught me, good friends that I met and played with and a whole year of great memories that, for some reason, I have forgotten. I.Have.Forgotten.

And that made me think.  How many other incredibly good things have I forgotten?  It seems we have no problem remembering all the bad stuff but sometimes we tend to sometimes forget the good stuff, the great stuff that comes our way.  I love writing about my days as a kid but I wonder how many good stories I could write if I remembered all the other adventures that came my way.  How many more adventurous things came my way that slipped away.  Hmmm.

Remembering the good always feeds gratitude and dwelling on the bad tends to feed the opposite. And, trying to filling unexplained gaps, well, can do the same.  Why don’t we celebrate the good, let the hard stuff stay in the rearview mirror and those gaps…just let them be.  I like what the writer of Psalms 145:3 said, “I remember the days of old; I meditate on all you have done; I reflect on the work of your hands.”  In other words, whether it was good, whether it was difficult or whether there is a gap, we know and celebrate one constant, “He’s got that.”  Bro. Dewayne

Posted in Family, friends, life, priorities, Scripture, thankful, Trials

And the Winner Is

So I run with purpose in every step. I am not just shadowboxing.” 1 Corinthians 9:26

It was a whale of a deal—I think.  Three or four months ago my wife Judy and I were at HomeGoods.  She was shopping and I was sitting.  HomeGoods is a great store if you are looking for things for your house.  After checking my email and winning several hands of Solitaire, I decided to at least look around.  If you know anything about me you know there is a word that draws me like iron to a magnet, like a moth drawn to the flame, like water seeks lower ground—well, you get the idea.  And what is that word? CLEARANCE.

Different stores use different colors of signs announcing their clearance but I can spot any of them a mile away.  That particular night it was in a pretty obvious place, so I decided to check out the clearance aisle.  Now I need to be candid and let you know I see clearance stuff like I see Dairy Queen.  You see there is nothing I need at Dairy Queen, but DQ isn’t about needing it is about wanting.  I want ice cream…I don’t need ice cream.  Yes, I know it feels like a need, but it isn’t. Ice cream isn’t like air…we can live without it…I think. Anyway, when it comes to the clearance aisle it isn’t about needing it—it is about being a good deal.  Who can pass up something that is like 90% off?  Well, apparently, I can’t.

I wandered back to the clearance aisle and started poking around.  Nothing really caught my eye until right before I was about to walk away.  There was a flat box about fifteen inches square and it looked intriguing. Something was stacked on top of it which is probably why it was still there.  On the cover it showed a round circle with about 25 red balls sitting in small indentions.  It was beautiful…I think.  It was imported from Italy and made of beautiful, and I am not exaggerating, alabaster. It felt expensive, it looked expensive, and the original price was rather pricey.  It was marked $39.99.  Nice.

So, I looked around on the box and found the clearance price.  It was…get ready…three dollars and ninety-nine cents.  “What?” I said.  “Can it be?”  I said.  “Ninety percent off?” I said.  I mean I was amazed.  I couldn’t wait to show it to Judy.  I covered it back up and went to find her.  She was already in line, but I pulled her out to show her my prize.  When we got to the aisle, I showed it to her.  She was impressed and then she popped the question, “What is it?”  I told her I wasn’t sure, but I thought it was some sort of game.  There were no rules and no indications that’s what it was but hey, it was $3.99. We bought it.

We proudly set it up first on a table and then in our bay window.  I checked the internet but couldn’t find any information on the item.  I did find the company and they were sellers of fine alabaster but our treasure remained a mystery.  Enter the grandkids.  Judy made the mistake of showing this treasure to Will, one of our grandsons. She explained it was sorta like checkers (really?) and you would jump the balls like you do in checkers.  However, since the “board” was round there were logistical problems.  So, they started to “play” and then he popped the question.  He asked, “How do you win?”  And Judy said, “I don’t know.”

I thought that was great because so often in life we play the game and have no idea how to win.  And, truth be known, it affects all kinds of areas in our life.  How do you win in your career? How do you win in your marriage? How do you win in choosing your potential mate? How do you win with church? With Jesus?  You see, without knowing how to win you are sure to either get bored or get lost.  As much as I believe there is joy in the journey, I also know that there has to be goal, a measuring stick, a finish line.  Success needs to be measured.  If it isn’t you might find yourself stuck in a rut and as someone said, “a rut is a grave with the ends knocked out.”  So, what are we to do?

It seems to me that we should approach life with a goal—what do I want to see happen today?  Regardless of the arena, try and define what would be a win for that day.  And the best part?  You can start stringing those days together and before long you have a life of wins.  Now when you are defining a win, I believe you should set the definition in line with an authority, and I can think of no better authority than the Word of God. Even if you aren’t a God-follower you will find that the Bible is a Book worth reading, knowing, and following.  Go ahead and give it a read.  And if you are a God-follower, well, you probably already knew that—we just need to do it.

Paul, one of the writers of a chunk of the New Testament said that we should run with a purpose and not be like a shadow boxer.  We shouldn’t run like Forest Gump, aimlessly, but rather like Jesse Owens.  We should box like a man in the ring making every punch count.  Run with a purpose, fight like it matters…because it does.  Anyway, Judy and I are going to keep the game even though we don’t know how to play or win.  But tomorrow, I think I’ll wakeup and have a chat with my Dearest Daddy, my Trainer, my Coach and get His opinion on how to win in life. After all, He never loses, and He’s always got this.  Bro. Dewayne

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

Unwanted Legacy

Do not be deceived: “Bad company corrupts good morals.”

1 Corinthians 15:33

It was an unwanted legacy.  My wife Judy and I have three adult daughters. It is a standing joke in our house that anything that is bad or negative (weight, cholesterol, heart issues, blood pressure, etc) always come from me…the dad.  The good stuff invariably is attributed to the mom.  Now there can be no doubt that our daughters get their good looks from her, but I think there might be a little prejudice about this other stuff.  I am sure it all can’t possibly come from me.  Or can it?  You see, sometimes I think that I might, accidentally, unintentionally pass on an unwanted legacy.  Let me give you an example.

So back in August of last year I went dancing with my worse girlfriend, Corena.  In case you don’t know that was my nickname for the COVID virus.  Yes, I had been vaccinated but regardless she asked if I wanted to dance and apparently, I said yes.  It wasn’t fun.  As COVID cases go, might wasn’t too bad but it was enough to make me glad when the dance was over. Fortunately, as far as I know, no one, including my wife, came down with it.  After a week or so, it was all over and in the rearview mirror.  No harm, no foul just a bump in the road of life.

Well, late this past fall I started feeling crummy again.  I checked in with my doctor and friend and he quickly diagnosed me with the flu—let’s nickname that “Flo”.  Now this wasn’t the stomach flu…this was the real deal.  I’m not sure if it was Type A or Type B but I do know it was the kind that made you want to die. It, like Corena, lasted long enough for me not to want to have it again and I was glad when she waltzed out of the room.

Well, it all started on a Friday evening. I developed a cough and just started crashing.  Unfortunately, three of my grandsons were spending the night and not knowing what the deal was…they just cuddled up with “Papa.” As the night went on it was apparent that I had something, but we just didn’t know what.  The next day they all loaded up and went home and I went to bed. At the time I didn’t know what I had but I hated that I might have infected them. My diagnosis didn’t arrive until Sunday and the bad news came on Monday.

Yup…my daughter called and two of the three had an unexpected, unwanted legacy.  It wasn’t high blood pressure, or cholesterol, or hair loss…it was the flu.  Fortunately, there weren’t any complications, but they sure felt lousy for several days.  I can remember Judy talking on her phone to our daughter with the speaker on and I could hear one of coughing and it just broke my heart.  Unexpected, unintentional, or not…I had infected, impacted them.  It was an unexpected, unwanted legacy.

Well, all that thankfully is in the rearview mirror but the whole deal left me with an important lesson.  Whether it is a health deal or some other sort of deal, we need to understand and realize that we are all impacting those around us.  And, often, it is the ones closest to us…the ones we love the most.  Of course, there are plenty of good legacies and for those we can and should be grateful and proud.  But there are others…actions and words that scar or habits that hurt…that we need to arrest so we can avoid passing them down and around.  Perhaps it would be a good idea to take our “legacy temperature” frequently. Perhaps we should ask and honestly answer the question, “Is there something that might be a story, a memory, a habit that might be an unwanted legacy?” If there is, we should take action to stop it or change it.  The good news is- rarely is it too late to stop before there is an unwanted impact or infection.

It’s probably not the best verse for this story but it sure rings true.  Paul, the one who wrote a bunch of the New Testament Bible said, “Do not be deceived: “Bad company corrupts good morals.” Usually, bad company is intentional, and unexpected and unwanted legacies are not…but the outcome can be same.  So, starting today, ask the hard questions and make sure what you are leaving behind is not only worth sharing but a story that would make others smile.  Need a little help?  I know just the one…my Dearest Daddy. He is always there, always willing to help.  He’s got this too. Bro. Dewayne

Posted in forgiveness, friends, Grace, life, loving others, prayer, Scripture, Trials

That Love Your Neighbor Thing

You have heard the law that says, ‘Love your neighbor’ and hate your enemy. But I say, love your enemies! Pray for those who persecute you! In that way, you will be acting as true children of your Father in heaven.” Matthew 5:43-45

“You’re nothing but a little Hitler.”  The life of a pastor is always interesting.  You really never know what is going to come your way.  I’ve been doing this pastor thing for 40 years now and I know two things.  First, generally speaking, the sun will come up tomorrow.  There is no guarantee, but it has a pretty good track record.  Second, you (pastor or not) are going to step in someone’s mess today.

Her name was Karen. Her mother attended our church and she and her two boys would occasionally visit.  I decided one day to go by and just let her know that we enjoyed having her visit.  I mean it sounded like a good thing, it sounded like the right thing.  What could possibly go wrong, right?  Well, I pulled into her driveway and went up to the door.  I did my gentle, nonthreatening knock and she came to the door.  I gave the standard, “Hi Cindy, I just wanted to come by and let you know we are so glad you are visiting with us” spill.  It was pleasant…it was sincere.

I don’t remember everything she said that day.  It could be “pastoral amnesia.”  That is a defense mechanism that pastors must use to guard their hearts when someone decides it is their spiritual gift to break them. It might be PTSS (Pastor Traumatic Stress Syndrome) where the event was so traumatic that you block it out.  Anyway…she cut loose and the two things I do remember included something about me running a cult and brain washing people.  The last thing I remember was when she said, in all seriousness, “You are nothing but a little Hitler.”

Well, that hurt—a lot.  It hurt so much that 30 years later I can still hear her voice, still feel her words, and still wish I had never knocked on that door.  Not too long ago I was asked to do her stepfather’s funeral and when I saw her all the hurt came flooding back. The anger was long gone but the scar ran deep. There is an old saying that is a lie.  It says, “Sticks and stone may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.”  Really?  I wonder who came up with that one.  They must have been deaf and blind.  Words are an incredibly powerful tool or weapon—depending on the sender.

I am still amazed at the emotional energy that chance encounter had for me that day.  But it wasn’t chance…it was somehow prescribed by my Dearest Daddy to help me grow to be more like Jesus.  He knew (and He was right) that there would be many more awkward moments in the days ahead and I needed to learn about how to handle them…like Jesus.  One morning, I listened to a devotional by one of my favorite writers, Bob Goff.  He was talking about loving your enemies…or maybe folks who act like your enemies. He quoted Jesus and here’s what Jesus said, “You have heard the law that says, ‘Love your neighbor’ and hate your enemy. But I say, love your enemies! Pray for those who persecute you! In that way, you will be acting as true children of your Father in heaven.”

Wow…that is way powerful.  Bob’s day job is being a lawyer. He told a story about a witch doctor in Uganda that he took to trial.  This witch doctor believed in child sacrifice and practiced it.  No one before had had the courage to take on these bad guys.  Well, Bob did, and he won.  Later, he decided to go visit this guy on death row.  The former witch doctor, who had become a Christ follower, told Bob that he forgave him.  That confused Bob because the other guy was the bad guy.  But what is important is the former witch doctor was extending grace because he wanted to be like Jesus…like his Father.  How about that?

This two year and running mess has been a breeding ground for more than germs…it has been a breeding ground for division, unkindness, judging, and hurting.  I know it and you know. And, unfortunately, God’s kids have not been exempt.  This world is watching and seeing and wondering if this God thing is real or a hoax.  One way we can show them that Jesus is the real deal is by loving one another.  Just because the evening news is filled with hate and bitterness doesn’t mean it should infect our Jesus world.  Remember He said that the world would know we are Christians by our love…not our dogmatism.

I put something on the church sign a while back. It said, Jesus First. Before. Everything. Else. Period.  I believe that.  He is more important than COVID, masks, politics, and everything else.  He is first and when we allow Him to be first…we all do better.  Our world does better. Our marriages do better. Our churches do better.

Our challenge, as we continue this journey called life, if you are a Jesus follower, is to make sure you are following closely.  Mimic His every Word and every step.  And if you are not yet a follower, I hope you soon will be.  I know sometimes we Jesus followers don’t get it right—but trust me He never gets it wrong.  You can rest in Him.  He’s got this. Bro. Dewayne

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

Daddy’s Babies

Dear friends, if God loved us in this way, we also must love one another.” 1 John 4:11

Daddy had eight children and a whole lot of babies.  I was always amazed that Daddy and Momma had eight children.  I’m not sure they ever figured out what was going on, but I sure am glad it took them as long as it did!  If they had stopped a little sooner, well, I wouldn’t have made the cut. In the Taylor tribe we all know they were striving for perfection, and it just took a while—you know the whole saving the best for last thing.  Honestly, and not kidding, maybe too they knew that the things that really matter in life can’t be found in a store.  Maybe they realized that family, and lots of it, was better than fancy houses and nice cars.

Well, like I said, my Daddy had lots of other babies besides the ones he and Momma gave names too.  You see, my Daddy loved flowers.  He loved his amaryllises, and he loved his bromeliads. The first he would carefully cultivate and sometimes even guard.  I remember he had a beautiful all white one that someone actually dug up and stole from our yard.  He was not happy.  The bromeliads were placed under the large oak trees we had and needed just a little care…until the weather changed.  Since it was north Florida, it didn’t happen often but sometimes the temperature would drop near freezing and when it did, the call always rang out, “Dewayne, you need to bring in the bromeliads”.  That meant carrying each pot into the breezeway or garage to protect them from the cold.  They were scratchy and heavy but all that didn’t matter.  He had to protect the babies.

His most favorite babies also needed the most care.  They lived in the backyard in a large diamond shaped garden.  It was his prized rose garden.  I can’t remember exactly how many lived there but it was probably a couple dozen or more.  These did have names and three that stick out in my memory are Mr. Lincoln, Peace, and Tropicana. I do remember that across the backyard these needy, sticky, bushes rewarded him and us with beautiful blooms throughout the growing season. But…they were needy.

Daddy would come home from work about four, have a cup of coffee with Momma in the backyard under the tree and then see what the babies needed.  Sometimes, often actually, there was pruning to do.  I know regular flowering bushes get “deadheaded” but that was much too common for Daddy’s babies…they were always pruned. They also frequently needed to be sprayed with an insecticide.  It seemed bugs liked his roses as much as he did. Then, about once a month they needed to be fertilized.  He would go from bush to bush, adding a small cup of granular fertilizer and then work it into the soil and pine straw that nestled at the base of every bush.

All that was pretty much left to the expert eye and care of my Daddy but there was one thing that often fell to me.  I would come home from school and soon Momma would say, “Dewayne, Daddy wants you to water the rosebushes before he gets home.”  Now I need to be honest and say that is not something I wanted to hear or do.  The water hose needed to be placed at the base of each bush and the water slowly, and I do mean slowly, allowed to seep into the dirt.  It easily took an hour and a half to complete the task and whining or not…I did it.  One, Daddy said to do it and that was probably the biggest motivation but there was another.  I was helping take care of something he loved and that was important too.

Well, eventually, I grew up and moved away, Daddy went to be with Jesus, Momma sold the house, and a lot of the babies were left behind.  I’m sure some were taken and moved but others were just gone…all but the memories of a man who loved his babies and loved his kids.  Looking back, I appreciate now those hours moving the hose from bush to bush.  Looking back, I realize it wasn’t about watering bushes…it was about honoring him and pleasing him.  It was about loving what he loved.

Did you know that is a lot of what serving God is all about?  You see, God loves this old, broken world…always has and I always will.  He loves each of His “babies” and longs for them to come into relationship with Him by faith in His Son, Jesus.  He has even asked us to “water the garden” by sharing that good news with those around us who don’t know Him yet. I know it can sometimes be scary or maybe inconvenient. It might even be we figure some of them just aren’t worthy of His love and forgiveness. Well, the truth is that would be all of us because we are all broken and messed up but that never stopped God from caring and loving us.  And because He loved us…we should love others.

In His Book, John wrote and said, “Dear friends, if God loved us in this way, we also must love one another.” So today, why not look for a way to “water” someone’s life with a little love, a little grace and a little kindness.  That would make Him smile.  And He is just waiting to help you.  Daddy showed me how to water his babies and our Dearest Daddy will do the same.  He’s got this. Bro. Dewayne 

Posted in Family, friends, gratitude, life, priorities, Southern born, thankful


Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content.” Philippians 4:11

You just had to look around.  When I was growing up, somewhere and sometime between January and December, toys from my birthday and Christmas, slowly disappeared. I know some kids take extremely good care of the toys.  I had a friend once who took me down in his parent’s basement and there on the shelves were toys from when he was a small boy…all in perfect condition. They looked new though they were fifty years old.  Well, my toys just didn’t fair that well.  I don’t think I was overly harsh with them, but I was adventurous, and I did enjoy taking things apart.

Then the question becomes, “What do you do when the toys from the store are scarcer than hen’s teeth?  The answer is, “you get creative.”  I am thinking how many times I wandered over to one of the building sites across the street from my house and “borrowed” a couple of the surveyor sticks they had put out.  The shorter wedge cut ones made great rubber band guns and the thinner, taller ones made awesome “dirt clod” launchers.  The technique was simple…you simply stuck the end of the stick in the dirt and gave it a swift kick.  Instantly, a dirt clod was on its way to either a target or the kid down the street.  Boy, was that fun though looking back I’m sure the surveyor guys didn’t appreciate their sticks disappearing.

Sometimes, a new toy was just laying around.  It was the age of hula hoops and they made great “ant bombers.”  All you had to do was check and make sure your sister wasn’t watching, find a way to cut the hula hoop in half, get some matches and you were all set.  Then you would light the one end of the hula hoop which would begin to burn and melt.  As the plastic melted, it dripped to the ground sizzling and burning…the perfect red ant bomber.  I must confess a lot of good ants lost their lives that way but don’t worry.  You see sometimes they got me with their stingers before I got them with my firebombs.  Boy, that fun too.

Then, of course, you could make your very own train.  There was always a length of chain laying around the yard and there was always plenty of good, ole Florida sand.  All you had to do was drag that chain behind you and as you did the sand got pushed aside and the chain left a track in the sand. Round and round and up and down we would go leaving tracks everywhere. I can’t tell you how many times and how many hours we played making “train tracks.”

If all else failed, you could sneak into “Daddy’s tool shed.” It was attached to the house and honestly it was more of a junk shed than a tool shed but there was cool stuff laying around everywhere.  I remember Daddy had a bunch of one-pound cans of either freon or something like that.  It attached to a contraption that had a trigger.  It was made to spray liquids from a small glass container that was attached.  I discovered if you mashed that trigger the freon coming out would instantly make frost—freezing whatever it landed on.  It was amazing.  So, I found out that if you got tired of “fire-bombing” the ants, you could freeze them.  Now, don’t call the animal rights people…it was just part of growing up.

I could keep going but you can probably get the idea that there was plenty to do around the old homestead…and it really was…fun.  Back in those days television, especially during the day or early afternoon, consisted of soap operas or game shows…neither of which was exciting for a young boy.  So, I could learn to like them…not…or get creative.  I could have sat around and complained because I didn’t have what other kids had…or get creative.  Well, I chose to get creative…and I am glad I did.  Some of my best memories were out in the backyard just figuring out how to have a little fun.

So, how about you?  Do you find yourself discontented and bored with life?  Do you find yourself bemoaning what others have and what you don’t?  Can I suggest that you look “in your backyard” and see what might be there?  It might be an evening drive with the family.  It might be sitting under the tree having some tea or coffee just sittin’ and listenin’. It might be playing with the kids or waving at the cars going by.  Whatever, you might just find some unexpected pleasure…you might find a little peace…you might find a little contentment.  My friend Paul from the New Testament said he had learned to be content wherever and whatever he was doing.  I think that is something all of us need to learn.  Need a little help?  I know I do.  That’s when my Dearest Daddy often shows up just to let me know that He loves me and that no matter what, “He’s got this.”  Bro. Dewayne

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

Life From Ashes

The Lord Himself will fight for you. Just stay calm.” Exodus 14:14

It was a night that will not be forgotten.  For many years, my family has visited the Pigeon Forge, Tennessee area for vacation. It has not been every year – but occasionally.  We love the trails and the mountains and, of course, all the places to eat.  In some ways it is like a county fair because fair food and rides are everywhere.  Several years ago, we began joining my daughter and son-in-law with the grandkids in the fall…usually in November.  In a word, it is fun.

In 2016 something happened that changed that area forever.  A fire started by human hands near Chimney Tops on November 28th of that year and quickly spread through the dry, tinder forests.  The results were catastrophic and have been cited as the worst natural disaster in Tennessee history.  Before it was all said and done, 14 people lost their lives, 2,460 buildings were destroyed, and 17,900 acres were burned.  We watched on the news as it happened but also saw from a distance some of the devastation years later when we visited.  There was safety in that, on television and from a distance, but what happens when the tragedy gets more personal?

A couple of years later we once again returned to the Gatlinburg area.  Rebecca, my daughter, always makes the reservation, and she did again this time.  As we were driving to the cabin, we passed through an area that had obviously been damaged by the wildfire.  Judy made the comment that according to the GPS we were not too far from our cabin.  We could look up on the ridge and see many cabins far above the valley floor.  What we did not see was a lot of trees.  Apparently, the fire had destroyed them.

As we made our turn on the road that would lead to our cabin, it soon became apparent that we would see the power of the fire from that night up close.  The higher we climbed, the more we saw.  There were trees scarred by the flames and only the foundations remaining where cabins worth hundreds of thousands of dollars had once stood.  Some cabins had been rebuilt, some were being rebuilt, and some, well, stood as silent witnesses of destruction.  It was harsh, it was sad, it was awakening.  Suddenly the memories of what I saw on the news four years ago came to life like the dry bones Jeremiah saw in the Bible.

After an almost two-mile trip up the mountain, we came to our cabin.  There it stood, looking strangely new in one of Gatlinburg’s esteemed older rental areas.  It was indeed new because it, like almost every house in the area, had been destroyed by the fire that night.  In front of the house was a twenty-foot section of tree that, while not alive, still sends a message.  Carved into the massive trunk were the words “Smoky Strong.”  I’m sure the tree was alive and well the night the fire swept the mountain, but even today it sends a message…we are not done.

All around the area were signs of destruction…of what used to be.  But wait…don’t miss this.  Also, all around the area were signs of new life, of renewal, of rebirth.  New trees are replacing those lost, new homes are replacing the damaged, and many foundations will one day bear a new building.  The pain and suffering of that night is being replaced by the hope of the future.  I think we all can learn a lesson from Gatlinburg.  Over the last couple of years, a fire of sorts has swept thru our nation.  It bore several names, names like COVID, disunity, racism, and its flames were the flames of fear and hatred. The question is what will we do with this hot mess?  That is a question we have been asking now for too many months.

I’m sure many have concluded that life will never be the same, and that is probably true.  But why do we have to assume that this also means it won’t be better?  Why do we have to assume that our best days are behind us?  I know this.  God is still God, and the last time I checked, He has not given up control to His enemy the Devil, or fear, or COVID.  Moses, speaking for God, said, “The Lord Himself will fight for you. Just stay calm.” You see, He still reigns, and as long as that is true then the best is yet to come. The.Best.Is.Yet.To.Come.

I’m sure the house that once stood there was beautiful in its own rights.  I never saw it, but I sat in its successor, and it was beautiful.  I stood on the deck and had a clear view of the mountains and the valley below—a view that may have been obscured by the trees of the old normalcy.  Perhaps the ability to see clearer is a gift.  Perhaps the ability to trust God deeper is a gift from our Heavenly Father.  No, as I have said before, COVID and all its side effects are not good, but God can and will bring good from it.  For some of us, that means a deeper trust in Him. For some, it means a clearer view of what really matters in life.  For some, it will be the realization that it is good to have a Dearest Daddy we can rest in—knowing He’s got this.  Bro. Dewayne

Posted in Family, fear, friends, Grace, gratitude, life, loving others, missions, prayer, priorities, Scripture, thankful, travel

Trust Your Purpose

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

His name was Scott, and he was doing God stuff in Africa.  In my office there is a picture.  It shows a group of people under a tree, and it is very apparent that we are not in Kansas anymore.  There is a lady dressed in African attire with her hand on the head of an African man. There are four African folks sitting and watching.  Next to the man are two men…myself and a man much my junior, Scott.  And indeed, he was there doing God stuff.  In fact, that is why we were under the tree.

You see, under the tree was a man who said he was possessed by a demon and, needed, wanted, our help.  So, we laid hands upon the man asking Creator God, the One that is not bound by time, space or borders, to intervene in this man’s life.  Soon, our time was finished. The man was at peace, the other Africans probably mystified by it all and we, the three from another time and place, were grateful for the opportunity to represent God in this hard place called Mali.

So exactly how did two American men so different in starting points, backgrounds, and generations end up under a tree in Africa?  Well, it was a God thing.  My wife Judy and I have led teams to Africa for years and that’s why we were there.  Scott, the younger man, had decided to give up a chunk of his life and go live in Africa to share Jesus with the people there. For some reason, we just hit it off.  The common denominator was Jesus and that was enough.  Our time together was marked by wandering the various villages where we would visit and tell stories from the Bible to people who had never heard them before.  It was profitable…both for them and for us.

Soon, too soon, our time on African soil came to an end and it was time to leave.  We talked about another time…perhaps next year.  Time came and went and before we knew it…it was next year.  That year we were going to do several things, but one thing was new…we were going to do an eye clinic.  We would have an eye doctor with us and with a few incredible tools we could test eyes and give away glasses.  I took the training to use one of the devices and agreed to work in the eye clinic.  And off we went to Africa.

When we arrived, there was my friend Scott.  He was excited to see me and was looking forward to wandering the villages and telling Jesus stories with me.  I told him that I would be working in the clinic and watched as disappointment filled his eyes. Over the next few days we did clinics and once or twice Scott stopped in to see if I could get away to wander. I told him I couldn’t since I was one of just a few that knew how use the machine.  Finally, on our last day of the trip I did manage to sneak away, and we wandered for a few hours, telling stories.  And that is when I got it.  I had missed an opportunity to use my calling, my purpose, my giftedness.  I wasn’t called to check eyes…I was called to wander…and tell stories…of Him. It was a powerful lesson for me.

I still wonder how I missed it that year in Africa and the picture in my office reminds me to be careful not to miss it again. Oh, and that is not only true in Africa…it is true here in my hometown.  God made each of us and in His wisdom, He gifts us to make a difference.  That is true for people who believe…and people who don’t.  All of us are created to make a difference and that is what we need to do.  I have found and know that becomes much more powerful when we ask God to come into our lives in a personal and real way…through His Son Jesus.

Someone gave me a small, white plaque that now sits on my desk.  It has three words on it, “Trust your purpose.”  That too is a reminder for me to be sure and seek and do what God has created for me.  Sometimes that looks like wandering and telling stories, but sometimes it is something as simple as being kind or giving someone a break in traffic.  We need to find our purpose and then trust that purpose…do what God on purpose created us to do.  It says in His Book that we are a masterpiece created by Him and for Him to do the things He planned for us. Trust me, that will make you get out of bed in the morning!

So today, this day, trust your purpose.  If God is your Father, trust Him to lead you as you wander today.  Not your Father?  Well, He would love to fix that.  Just ask.  And then you can have the confident assurance that He will lead you into some adventures that are bigger and better than you can imagine.  Trust me…He’s got this.  Bro. Dewayne

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

Baits, Hooks and Bill

A friend is always loyal, and a brother is born to help in time of need.” Proverbs 17:17

His name was Bill, and he was an investor—in people.  When Judy and I landed in Warrensburg, Missouri via God, and the Air Force we began attending First Baptist Church.  For us God and the church thing was an all-in deal so soon we were singing in the choir, attending church, and going to Sunday School. Our Bible Study teachers were Bill and Edith Hensley, and they were a class act.  The time we spend in their class was rich in every way imaginable.  We build friendships and did life together.  It seemed that whether you were in the Air Force like I was or a professor at the local university or a lawyer, it just didn’t matter.  We were pilgrims journeying with each other and with Jesus and it was good.

Bill was a lawyer by trade and a disciple-maker by faith.  He believed in Jesus, believed the Bible, and believed in people—including me.  I’m not sure how it happened but he kinda adopted me and began investing in me by teaching me about fishing, hunting, and growing in my faith.  He loved to fish.  He would often call the house and say, “What time is it?”  Now it might be time to wash the car or time to mow the grass, but I knew what the answer was.  “It’s time to go fishing” I would reply and in about 30 minutes I would be in his pickup truck heading to some pond to see if we could catch a bass or two.

That was the case one late summer evening.  We had the boat out in a small pond.  Things had been slow, and the sun was just about to call it a day.  Bill suggested that I make a cast or two more toward the shore.  He pointed out a log that just broke the surface about three feet from land.  I gave the rod a swing and amazingly that ole hula-popper landed right up next to that log.  A hula-popper is a soft lure that sounds just like a wounded frog when you pull up on the rod.  I pulled up on the rod and heard the familiar gurgling sound.  Nothing happened.

I gave it another tug and two things happened.  First there was a small splashing sound and second the lure stopped dead in the water.  At first, I thought I had snagged the log, but I soon realized I had hooked a pretty good size bass.  Now since it was late summer the water was a bit cool so there wasn’t this epic battle—you know, man against whale.  Instead, it was like reeling in a big piece of wood.  Of course, there was a tug here or there but whatever was on the other end of the rod wasn’t up for much of a fight.

Before long the fish was beside the boat and Bill got the net and bought him on board.  It turned out to be a good-sized fish.  It was a 6.5-pound largemouth bass.  I couldn’t believe it, Bill couldn’t believe it and I am pretty sure the bass couldn’t believe it either.  Well, we snapped a couple of pictures and headed for shore with the bass safely in the fish well.  I asked Bill if I should have him mounted but he said no because I was sure to catch a bigger one someday in the future.  Well, I haven’t and honestly, I believe he knew (because I didn’t know) my Air Force salary couldn’t handle the cost.

Bill and I enjoyed many more fishing trips before I finally moved out of the area and over into Southern Illinois.  I slowly lost touch with Bill and Edith and now they are both in heaven.  I am sure they heard, “well done.”  I can only imagine how many lives they touched.  I do know that night I learned a couple of good lessons.

The first lesson came thanks to that old bass.  I wonder how many “almost” nights he had laid up by that log.  You don’t get to be 6.5 pounds in a few nights or by making bad decisions.  So many a night there he lay and each of those nights he was wise enough to say no when a fisherman came by with a tempting bait.  For some reason that night was different.  It wasn’t that I was an expert, and it wasn’t that the bait seemed that real.  More than likely he just let his guard down and bit the bait.  That night at the cost of his life he learned a valuable lesson.  As Bob Goff puts it, “It is always better to resist the bait than struggle on the hook.”  Now that is good advice. So, in these days that take way too much energy just to do life, don’t get too lax and make a really bad decision.  Resist the bait.

The other lesson was from Bill…the man who invested his time, his wisdom and even some of his resources in a young Air Force sergeant. Bill was simply a good man who loved Jesus.  He was busy but he wasn’t too busy to pour his life into mine.  The Bible says, “A friend is always loyal, and a brother is born to help in time of need.” Bill was that to me and I know that I am a better person for knowing him.

In days like these when it seems the chief topic is survival, don’t get so self-absorbed that you can’t invest in the folks in your world.  There are plenty of people like me who need someone a little wiser to speak into their lives.  Why not be that voice?  That voice may be whispering, “Don’t take the bait” or it might be encouraging someone to trust in the One who is worthy…to trust and rest in the God who made it all.  I think Bill was one of the ones who spoke into my life and helped me believe that I could trust God because, “He’s got this.”  Thanks, Bill.  Bro. Dewayne