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

Les Was More *

When He went ashore, He saw a great crowd, and He had      compassion on them.” Mark 6:34a

*Photo credit: used by permission Keith Cotton, keithcotton.com

Simply put…Les was more.  I had been the pastor of a church in the village of Cobden located in Southern Illinois.  When I went there in 1986, I didn’t know two things.  First, this would be my family’s home for the next fourteen years.  During that time our lives were bonded with the people of the church and the community in a way that I’m not sure I can describe.  Literally, we became family.  The memories and relationships of those days remain firmly stamped in our minds and hearts.  And, I guess, that is the second thing I didn’t know. So many of the people…young, old, rich and poor, single and married, in the church and out…were so very special.  And that leads us to Les.

Cobden had several iconic residents that lived in a local shelter care home.  Each one was special and each one was different.  But at the top of the heap was Les.  I officially met one day when he was walking by our church carrying his sickle.  He was old for his age and had more wrinkles than he should. Bent over, he would peer though his squinting eyes and occasionally have a conversation with himself…or maybe God.  Anyway, that day, I opened the office door and told Les hello and invited him to come to church.  He acknowledged me and asked if I happened to have any coffee.  Well, I did and invited him in to have a cup.  And that was the beginning.

From that day forward, almost every day, Les would show up at the office and ask, “You wouldn’t happen to have a cup of old, cold coffee, would you.”  I can still hear him today.  And usually, I could accommodate him.  It might be cold and sometimes it was old but to Les it didn’t matter one bit.  It wasn’t long before Les started coming to church.  Now you would be wrong to assume that Les was a slow thinker.  He was anything but that. No, he was just Les and I loved the way our people grew to love him…sickle and all.

One day, at the office, getting his cup of “old, cold, coffee,” he said to me, “I want to be baptized.”  Well, that surprised even me.  So, I gave him my full attention and explained that to be baptized you needed to believe that Jesus had died for your sins and believe that He was the Son of God. And that wasn’t all. I explained a person needed to be willing to follow Jesus…kinda making Him the new “boss” of their lives.  Well, without a moment’s hesitation, Les assured me he understood all of that.  So right there, right then, Les became a Jesus follower.

He then circled back to what had started the conversation…he wanted to be baptized.  I asked Les if he understood that to be baptized, he would have to go under the water…all the way under the water. I really wasn’t surprised when he said he did. Now Les was one of those fellows that with age and life had become pretty bent over.  To look out, Les had to look up.  So, I knew this baptism thing might be a bit of a challenge, but I also knew this was going to be special and it was.  So, in a couple of weeks, on a Sunday morning, I stood in the baptistry and took Les’ hand as he came down into the water.  I can’t remember but I may have called in reinforcements.  But, regardless, I smiled as he gently slipped beneath the waters and came up again.  And the church…well…it exploded in applause.

Years later, in fact nine years after I had left our friends and family in Cobden, I received a call from the local funeral home there letting me know Les had died.  They wanted to know if I would be willing to come back and do the funeral.  I assured them it would be an honor.  On that day we said goodbye to Les but really it was more of a “see you later.”  You see, Les, because of his commitment to follow Jesus had left the shelter care home in Cobden for a new home in heaven.  I also knew that he was no longer bent over by age and life…that he could now look out and not have to look up.  Now when he looked up it was to see the face of the Man who loved him and died for him.

As we journey through life, we need to realize that all around us are people like Les. Oh, not necessarily because they might live in shelter care, but more because they are just…special.  You see, God’s world is filled with special people…all we must do is learn to see them.  They might be a guy at the grocery store or the lady who brings the mail.  They might be our doctor or the guy on back of the truck that gets our trash.  Why not determine, starting today, to see people as God sees people?  Jesus did.  When He looked at people, and He did that a lot, He saw them as special and had compassion on them…loved them.  We all might need a little help in this department, but the good news is, our Dearest Father is just waiting to help.  Just ask…because you know, “He’s got this.”

Posted in Family, friends, Grace, gratitude, life, love, loving others, prayer, priorities, Scripture, wisdom

Shiny Keys

“The master was full of praise. ‘Well done, my good and faithful servant.” Matthew 25:21a

When I entered the room, I saw it for the first time. It’s funny how there are some things right in front of your eyes and you never, ever see them.  That happened today.  I was up early, and it was Thursday.  Thursday is my self-imposed deadline to make sure I am well on my way to have the next week’s Grits well underway.  My wife Judy and I have learned that it is better to get a head start on Grits and before that can happen, I must write them.  So, Thursday morning, found me at the computer and mashing keys.  And then it happened.

I needed to leave my home office for a minute and when I came back into the office, I noticed something.  Let me set up the scene.  In one corner of my desk, I have a desk lamp.  In the middle of the desk, I have my iMac.  The keyboard and trackpad sit right in front of it. So, as I came back into the office, the light was reflecting onto my keyboard and that’s when I saw it.  I noticed that several, more than a few actually, keys were shiny, and others were dull with their factory matte finish.  I backed up a step or two and replayed the scene.  Sure enough, some were shiny, and some were flat. How interesting.

Well, a closer look, a closer investigation revealed what I thought would be the case.  The shiny keys were those that I used the most. You know, the letters that you would find over and over again in any writing.  Some other keys were somewhere in the middle. While the matte finish wasn’t worn totally off, they weren’t members of the shiny club either.  And finally, other keys, like the “x” and “z,” keys looked practically brand new…because they were. And that made me think.

What if we could magically transform ourselves to the keys on the keyboard? I know, I know about now you’re wondering what I had to drink this morning! Sure it was coffee? Well, it was.  But if we could, would we be one of the well-worn keys that made a bigger impact in the story.  Would our lives impact the world around us in a positive and productive way? Whether it is the smaller circle of our families or the bigger circle of our community, would our impact be missed if we weren’t there?  My wife plays the piano and recently she was playing at our senior adult center.  One black key, a D#, was totally gone and she was saying how difficult it was to play without it.  Is that our impact?

I am sure of one thing.  When my Dearest Daddy finally decides it is time to disconnect my keyboard, I want to know that I have made a difference.  I want to finish like a shiny key—one that is worn smooth with life.  I don’t want to go out barely used and barely missed.  How about you?  Of course, that comes with a risk.  The keys are shiny because my fat, little fingers bang on them all the time.  And if the keys of your life’s keyboard are going to be shiny, it can only come with a lot of banging around.  But trust me…it is worth it.

The best keys, the shiniest keys, belong to those who have learned the grandest purpose in life…love God and love people.  If you get that one right, well, trust me you will have an impactful life.  And it goes further.  When we choose to love God like He says, we will have an impactful eternity.  I’m one of those folks that believes the end here is just a beginning there.  I believe there is more…a lot more…after the last heartbeat. And as a Jesus guy, I want to be sure that He is pleased with my keys. In a story Jesus told in the New Testament part of the Bible, the master of a servant was full of praise and says, “Well done, my good and faithful servant.” In other words, “Good job.”

I want to make it to heaven with a life of shiny keys…well worn, well used for others and Him. Does that sound noble? Well, I don’t know about that.  I think rather that is the least we can do for a Heavenly Father that loves us so much and is always there for us.  To be a shiny key, we need a lot of help and I know, and you know…He’s got this. Bro. Dewayne

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

Baseball, Miracles, and Concubines

Then Abraham fell on his face and laughed and said to himself, “Shall a child be born to a man who is a hundred years old? Shall Sarah, who is ninety years old, bear a child?” Genesis 17:17

I just quit a little too soon.  So, I think there must be this line in heaven where all the babies wait to be assigned dads, moms, skills and bodies in heaven.  I can just imagine me standing there waiting.  I am watching as all the boy babies make it to the front and they are soon on their way with these bodies that are destined to be tall and muscular.  They make the jump to earth and their new homes just waiting to grow up and become the next Babe Ruth or Michael Jordan.  I can also imagine my turn at the front of the line and Saint Peter saying something about sports and I miss understood and thought he said something about ketchup, and I said, “Sure, I’ll take a squirt.” Anyway, I arrived on earth a little shorter than average and not a sports bone in my body.  I should have listened closer.

All this became pretty apparent when it came to choosing teams.  Whether it was kickball, volleyball, basketball, dodgeball or baseball, when the teams were chosen, I was near the end of the line. As far as school sports, well, there were hundreds of kids in the schools I attended and trust me no one ever offered me a contract.  The only place I had a measure of success was, of course, at church.  I managed to make the church softball team though it was the “B” team. We did play tackle football after our Bible study time on Wednesday nights and there I made a name for myself. One of our teachers was named Eddie and he was, well, one large man and no one could tackle him, so they called him “Big Eddie.”  While I wasn’t near that large, I was harder to tackle so I gained the name “Little Eddie.”  Hey, when you are nameless in the world of sports, you will take anything.

My only foray into “professional sports” was Little League baseball when I was about 9 or 10.  I don’t remember if I made the team or if everyone made the team.  Regardless, we were called the Gators and we, or rather they, were pretty good.  Again, I had absolutely no talents in baseball, so I was assigned to right field on the rare occasions that I got to play.  I was the kid who prayed a lot during the games.  It wasn’t that I was particularly spiritual—it was emotional survival.  First, I would pray that they wouldn’t play me and then, if they did, I would pray that no one would hit the ball to right field.  It didn’t work. Invariably someone would and well, it wasn’t pretty very often.

Then, of course, there was the batting thing.  Did you know that there are players who say they can see the stitches on the ball as it comes toward them?  Did you know there are players who actually know when to swing and how to swing?  Can you guess I wasn’t one of those players?  Nope, the pitcher would pitch, and I would wonder where the ball was. That wasn’t pretty either.  So, the sad (you are feeling sorry for me by now, aren’t you) bottom line is that one day I just refused to go to practice.  I made it through about three quarters of the season, and I just gave it up—I quit.

Well, guess what?  It turns out that even without me, the Gators ended up winning the championship.  Yup, they sure did.  I remember, the coach came by my house one afternoon and he was carrying a trophy.  He said that the team had won it all and even though I hadn’t finished the season he wanted me to have a trophy.  I probably mumbled something about quitting because I was hit by a semi-truck and thanked him for bringing the trophy by.  The truth was there was no excuse—I just quit. And the other truth is because of that the trophy meant absolutely, the grand total of—nothing.  I didn’t earn it and I didn’t deserve it.  Not because I wasn’t good but because I didn’t finish.

I really don’t have a lot of regrets life but that is a small one.  I’m ok with not being tall and gifted in sports but I really am not ok with being a quitter.  Not then—not now. If I would have waited, I could have been a champion, but I didn’t wait it out.  You know there was a guy in the Bible who had the same issue.  God had promised him a son, an heir.  The only problem was they both were old—really old.  In fact, this guy fell on his face and laughed and said, “Shall a child be born to a man who is a hundred years old? Shall Sarah, who is ninety years old, bear a child?”

Instead of believing God he decided to do things his way or really Sarah’s way. Since she couldn’t conceive, they opted for a concubine rather than wait on the miracle.  What a bad idea.  He and the woman did have a son, but it wasn’t the son God had promised.  It really didn’t go well…and sadly it still isn’t going well.  Much of the conflict in that part of the world stems from this one man.  Oh, the consequences.

Oh, and by the way, guess what?  When they were both older than dirt, Sarah, his wife did in fact conceive and the promised son was born.  God came through after all—surprise, surprise.  If only they had finished the season…if only they had waited how different things would have been.  The good news is that God kept His word and blessed Abraham beyond his wildest dreams. You see even though Abraham quit believing, God never quit believing in him…and He won’t quit believing in you either.  I like that…I love that.  Regardless of what you are waiting on, just hang on…just be patient, just wait and see what God has in mind.  He’s got this. Bro. Dewayne

Posted in Family, food, forgiveness, friends, Grace, gratitude, life, loving others, priorities, Scripture, Trials

Patience 101 – Repeating the Class

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

And I thought I was just going out to eat! Just a couple of weeks ago, a couple of good friends invited my wife Judy and I to go out and eat.  It sounded like a special gig.  A restaurant located in a small town, oh, about 15 miles from our small town, had invited a renowned chef to come in and cook that evening.  My friend had received an invitation right from the owner’s lips to come and experience it and he invited us.  Now I am not much of a gourmet nor is gourmet food my deal.  To ring my bell, all you need to do is serve up some meat and mashed potatoes and another starch or two and I’m in.  Even so, it was chance to spend some time with these good friends…so we made a date.

They said they would make some reservations which for Southern Illinois is kinda unusual.  All we SI people do is show up and eat.  But I can be partial to reservations…especially if it keeps me from waiting.  So, with the idea this was a special thing for a small group of special people and with the safeguard of reservations, I was looking forward to our Friday night gig.  Oh, and a bonus was the fact this was Friday night of Valentine’s weekend and Judy said this could count as “date night.”  Sweet.  Can’t fail. In the bag. And then…the school bell rang.

As we drove from our small town to the other small town, the car was filled with chatty talk. Nice and easy…just the way I like it.  As we approached the restaurant, I noticed there were quite a few cars but that wasn’t totally unusual.  It was when we got to the door that usual went out the window. The small foyer, the area around the check-in stand and the restaurant was packed to the gills.  At that brief moment, my countenance may have sagged just a little. But since we had reservations…it was no deal.  And then the school bell rang.

One of my friends checked us in and came back with the news—forty-five minutes to an hour.  Wait. What?  I said, “But don’t we have reservations?”  Well, no.  It turns out only parties of eight can get those cherished promises of a quicker sit-down.  So, that is how God enrolled me, once again, into the school of patience.  So, there I sat in the small foyer with what seemed like a thousand other people. Some were there to enjoy the gourmet chef, and some were there for a fish dinner.  It didn’t matter. I was in the school of patience. My Dearest Daddy knew I had some learning to do in the patience department and He had enrolled me.

Well, our time in class turned into about two and half hours and when we finally ate almost all of the gourmet food was gone and I had a hamburger…which by the way was just fine with me. At the end of the evening, an unseen hand handed me my test.  There at the top of the page was a well-earned, unqualified, no doubt about it—F.  Yup I had failed again.  And the bad news is, this is required curriculum…which meant there would be other classes…other opportunities…for me to learn and get tested.  Rats.  I should have studied more.  I should have prepared more. I should have done something or anything, but I didn’t. Class dismissed.  See you next time, pal.

Now with all that said, it was a good evening.  I still got to be with my wife and friends.  I did occasionally smile and engage in conversation.  Oh, and the burger was really pretty good and, wait for it, my friend paid the tab.  I think he did it out of sympathy and compassion.  Regardless, it was kind. So, when we got home, I sat down and relaxed, confessed my failing grade to my Father and vowed to do better.  We will see.  We will see.  This is one area that this Jesus journeyman is a little slow to learn and God ain’t gonna let it go. Solomon, one of the smart guys from the Old Testament Bible said, “Finishing is better than starting. Patience is better than pride.” Boy, he hit that one on the head.  Looking back, I should have remembered, I should have believed that thing that I write every time I write, “He’s got this,” because…He does. Bro. Dewayne

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

Confession

So now there is no condemnation for those who belong to Christ Jesus.” Romans 8:1

It was the summer of my rebellion.  I know, some people are born compliant, and some are born a little on the rebellious side.  I was born compliant.  I have always been a rule keeper—well, at least most of the time.  I suppose that is why I took to religion so well.  You see religion is all about keeping the rules.  The idea is if you keep enough of the rules then people will like you and most importantly, God will like you.  And sure enough, it worked—well, at least part one worked.  In my younger years, most of the adults thought I was a good boy.  Church? Got it.  Drinking? Not a drop.  Drugs?  Nope. I can hear them saying it now, “That Dewayne is such a nice boy.”  And, I suppose outwardly I looked pretty good, but pretty good won’t get you to heaven.

You see the second part of the religion mantra is that you can make God happy by performing—by keeping the rules.  That one is 100% false.  There is no one, except Jesus, that was good enough to go to heaven.  Yet it seems so many church people say they believe that rules won’t get you to heaven but act as if they will. They carefully do this and that and boy, if you happened to be one of the ones who didn’t keep the rules, you were tried, convicted, and sentenced.  That’s why I had to keep my cussing summer quiet.

I think maybe all the rule keeping must have finally got to me.  The bottom line is during the summer between my junior and senior years of high school—I started cussing.  I had a job at an apartment complex down the road from our house and I worked with the son of the head maintenance man.  He was not a Jesus person, and he did like to cuss.  So, one day, I just started cussing too.  I had heard enough cuss words at school to know most of them, so I didn’t have to have any lessons…though I did have to work on my voice inflections.

It was a very tricky time in my life because I had to turn the cussing on at 8:00 am and I had to be sure and turn it off at 5:00pm.  That’s what you have to do when you are living a double life.  Under no circumstances did I want to spoil my good boy image at church or with my Momma and Daddy. I do remember one time I let a small one slip and Momma looked at me with eyes that said, “Where did that come from?” Of course, I didn’t, I couldn’t let her know that her baby son was a cusser.

And, as quickly as it came, it passed.  At the end of the summer, I had to go back to school and therefore had to quit my job.  All I know is that the cussing stopped and my rule keeping world got a little easier.  I managed to please a lot of people, but I knew I was far from pleasing God.  It would be several more years before I finally figured out that rule keeping didn’t work and religion didn’t either.  When I was 21, I finally found grace and boy was that a game changer.  Honestly, it is taking me a long time to shake the deep roots of rule keeping and religion.  I’m still working on it.

You might ask, “How do you know if you are under the influence of religion and rule keeping?”  Well, its two main indicators are self-condemnation and a tendency to judge others.  Rule keepers are acutely aware when they or others around them break a rule.  Rule keepers (and religious people) like to point out other people’s sins and faults because it makes them feel better about themselves.  If they can make you feel bad, then it makes them feel better.  It’s a twisted world.

God’s way is so much better than religion and rules.  Did you know His Book, the Bible, actually says that when someone believes in Jesus and becomes one of His followers that there is no condemnation—none—nada?  I mean when the prosecuting attorney and the judge both acquit you—the trial is over.  I’m slowly learning just how valuable that is.  There is an audience of One that Jesus followers must live for and that is God…their Heavenly Father…their Abba Father…their Dearest Daddy.  I love what Toby Mac (a contemporary Christian singer) said, “I gave God a million reasons not to love me.  Not one of them changed His mind.”  I like that!

Well, I’m glad my cussing summer is ancient history.  I still look back at those two or three months and wonder what in the world was I was thinking?  The truth is…I probably wasn’t.  But now, by grace, that, and all my other failures, warts and sins are forgiven…all because of Jesus.  I’m so grateful for that. If you have never discovered grace and forgiveness, especially God’s kind, I hope you will check it out.  Don’t get confused with religion and rule keeping like I did.  God’s got something far, far, better than that.  Think you’ve messed up too much to be forgiven?  Nope…don’t give it a second thought.  Trust me…He’s got this.  Bro. Dewayne

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

An Angel Named Tom

Whatever is good and perfect is a gift coming down to us from God our Father, who created all the lights in the heavens.” James 1:17

It was the same story every night. When my family and I lived in Cobden we had the adventure of living in a 100-year-old Victorian home.  It really was an adventure.  It was partially restored and over the thirteen years we lived there, we changed and upgraded so many things.  It was kinda like the kid’s song, “The Song that Never Ends.”  So many of the things we did were low budget because, well, we had a low budget. Money was a little tight, but it seemed God always provided.

The house didn’t have air conditioning and sometimes that was a bit uncomfortable.  It did have one of those big attic fans…you know, the kind that can suck the sheets right off the bed. That provided a cool breeze through the windows on those comfortable, Southern Illinois, nights.  However, if you’ve ever lived in a place like Southern Illinois, you know that often the days and nights are anything but comfortable.  It is more like living in the Amazon basin in South America.  Two words described it: hot and humid. On those nights, there was no attic fan in the world that was going to help.

Eventually we got a used window air conditioner and put it in our bedroom.  Then we would make beds on the floor, and everyone would sleep in the same room until the nights became more bearable.  We sounded like the Walton’s as we all said goodnight to one another. This went on for several years until one day hope…and help…arrived.  Someone had a used central air conditioning unit that they sold to us on the cheap.  The only problem, the upstairs didn’t any duct work or vents…nada…zero.  And then God sent us a couple of heroes…or at least to us they were heroes.

A family in our church had a son who installed air conditioning.  His name was Tom.  He lived an hour away but, knowing our plight, he wanted to help.  He said he would come over after work (driving an hour) and install our air conditioning…including building the duct work we would need.  And, that’s not all, his dad Bill, who attended our church, joined the team. So, for the next couple of weeks, in the heat of summer, after working a long day, these two men came and climbed into our attic and worked and sweated.  Oh yes, I was there too but only as a nuisance, I’m sure.

After a couple of weeks of intense, hot labor, finally the day came to flip the switch. Wonderful, magically cool air began flowing softly through the new installed system.  What was normal for so many was heaven for us.  What had been a hot summer routine of pallets on the floor and life with the Waltons came to a close.  And, even now, as my fingers mash the keys on the keyboard, I am smiling.  I am just amazed how God provided this family and these friends to help us…without taking a dime. Two angels of mercy with the unlikely names of Tom and Bill.

Over the years, there have been other stories, other angels of mercy and I’ll write about them too one day.  The stories need to be told because they are stories of love—both the love of God and love of God lived out.  The stories need to be told because they remind us, all of us, to be grateful for the things God has provided through this great adventure called life.  James, the half-brother of Jesus said, “Whatever is good and perfect is a gift coming down to us from God our Father, who created all the lights in the heavens.” There is no doubt in my mind that is true…not just for me…but for you too.

It’s a bit tricky but be sure and look around for the everyday blessings that God sends your way…oh, and He does send them.  When you see them, remember them, write them down in your heart or in a journal.  Then, when leaner times come, they will remind you of the faithfulness of your Dearest Daddy. Also, they will also remind you that no matter what, you can know, you can believe that, “He’s got this.” Bro. Dewayne

Posted in Family, food, friends, Grace, gratitude, life, priorities, Scripture, Southern born

Poached Eggs. Really?

In the same way, let your good deeds shine out for all to see, so that everyone will praise your heavenly Father.” Matthew 5:16

Poached eggs.  For some reason they have never made it on my list of favorite things.  It could be the name.  When something is poached it usually means it was taken by some illegal means.  Well, now that I think of it…maybe the name does fit. To me, unless it was Easter or Momma was making egg salad sandwiches, eggs were cooked in grease not water. I can vaguely remember something about my mom cracking an egg and dropping it into some water…no wait, maybe that was teabags.  At any rate, the thought of eating an egg that had just been floated around in some water like a jelly fish never, ever, crossed my mind. Grease and eggs…eggs and grease…a match made in heaven.

However, interestingly enough, not everyone is like me.  One of my best buds actually likes poached eggs. Of course, you must take in consideration that he also likes sugar on his grits.  But anyway, you read it right–he really likes them.  So, we were having this discussion about how to cook eggs (don’t all guys have those discussions?) and his passion for poached eggs boiled to the top–no pun intended.  So how did he become such a fan of poached eggs?  Well, here’s the deal.

It turns out that his grandmother was a really big fan of poached eggs.  Anytime he (or another family member) went to her house, it was time for poached eggs.  Over and over again, “Hey, you want me to cook you a poached egg?” That standard answer was, “No Grandma, that’s ok.”  Apparently, she was insistent because the standard answer was, “Sure you do, let me whip one up for you.” And, before long, a nice, wiggly kinda cooked egg was sitting before him.  Well, before long he was sorta, kinda brain washed and before long he was hooked.  Now that I think about it, I wonder if he had an aunt that liked sugar on her grits?  Hmmm.

So, the long and short of it is, all these years later–he still likes poached eggs.  Truth is, if it wasn’t for Grandma’s passion, he wouldn’t be such a fan–but her passion became one of his. That really says a lot about influence and legacy. You see, we are all influencers…whether it is food, habits, or speech.  I know Judy and I, being from the South, don’t press buttons…we mash them.  Wonder where that came from?  We don’t give people a ride to the store, we “carry” them. Oh, and no I don’t eat sugar on my grits…and apparently neither did my relatives.

You know that passion thing is true about eggs, but it is also true about God.  It seems that things that we are passionate about are the things that end up in the lives of those around us…especially those closest to us. The bottom line is what we are passionate about is contagious. The more passionate we are about God the more likely it will be caught by someone else.  It might be our kids, grandkids, or the guy next door but our faith should be highly contagious. Someone once said, “our faith is more easily caught than taught.” There is so much truth in that.

The truth is, I don’t know how you like your eggs–but it just might be similar to the way your momma or daddy liked them.  Let’s be so passionate about God and our faith that someone can’t be around us without being infected–uh, make that affected! Jesus said in His Sermon on the Mount, “In the same way, let your good deeds shine out for all to see, so that everyone will praise your heavenly Father.” In other words, make sure that what we do and how we do it, reflects favorably on you…but most importantly, on God. I’m sure God is not a fan of poached eggs, but I do know He is a fan of yours.  Don’t worry, He’s got this…poached or not. Bro. Dewayne

Posted in Family, friends, Grace, gratitude, Integrity, life, loving others, prayer, Scripture, Southern born, Trials

Be A Barney

For instance, there was Joseph, the one the apostles nicknamed Barnabas (which means “Son of Encouragement”).” Acts 4:36

It happened driving down the road at 55 miles per hour.  When I was growing up, there was one man outside my family that I respected so much…one that garnered my admiration. It was my pastor.  His name was James Branch.  I happened to be an insider at his house because his son was one of my best friends. It didn’t matter when or where—I always saw him as a man I could trust and more than once he was there for my family.  When my Daddy died early one Sunday morning, he was at my house.  I can still remember him on the back porch in his white shirt minus the black tie he wore, consoling my Momma.  She was so upset and began to hyperventilate. Bro. Branch, with his hand on her shoulder, softly spoke words of comfort and peace. There can be no doubt he played a big role in how I would later serve as a pastor.

That might be why it stung so much.  I received an email a while back from a national organization. It revealed the results of Gallup’s national survey on American’s perception of the honesty and ethical standards of different professions.  Not surprising, 89% of Americans gave nurses high or very-high standards.  Doctors stood at 77% followed by pharmacists at 71%.  Well, I certainly can’t argue with that.  These dedicated folks have surely shown their colors during the COVID-19 pandemic.  Hats off to our schoolteachers too who scored 75% and our men and women in blue who scored 52%—the only other profession about which a majority of Americans say have high or very high ethics and honesty.

The article went on to say that clergy or ministers came in at 39% when it came to honesty—right between judges and nursing home operators.  While senior adults as a group ranked pastors higher (51%), the younger generation (ages 18-34) rated pastors only at 24 percent.  To put it in perspective, in 1985, pastors received a 67% rating.  When I think of my pastor in 1974 who stood on the back porch with my grieving family, I have to wonder, “what happened?”  Why is it that so many think so lowly of clergy? Some of the reasoning, I believe, is a cultural shift—while too much, might, just might, be the truth. It seems we can only go a few weeks without some named pastor being in the news for some breach of trust.  I just don’t know.

When I read this news, I grieved. After all, pastors, above all other Jesus followers, should be, must be, people of integrity.  We should set the example.  Granted, we are not perfect—in fact far from it.  Like the old saying goes, “Christians, including pastors, aren’t perfect, we are just forgiven.”  I like that.  This is why what happened that day driving 55 miles per hour meant so much.  My phone rang.

I looked at the caller ID and saw it was a young man who is a member at the church I pastor.  Honestly, I wondered why he was calling.  While we speak often at church, he is not on my speed dial and I’m sure I am not on his.  I answered the phone and exchanged greetings and said, “Hey, what can I do for you?”  What happened next was not what I could do for him, but what he did for me.  I won’t get it all right, but the bottom line is he said, “I know you have a really hard job right now with all that is going on.  I want you to know as one of the younger generation, I think you are doing a good job.” He shared how he and another of our young guys were talking the other night—sharing the same thing.  It made my day and I told him so.

It turned out that he was driving in the same direction as I was and had passed me and just felt prompted to make that call.  I’m so glad he did.  It is one of those times I just wonder if the Whisperer whispered in his ear and said, “Call Dewayne.  He needs a good word about now.”  And thankfully he did.  So, let me encourage you to be an encourager.  We all know people who just need a word to help keep them going.  There was a guy in the Bible whose name was Barnabas, which literally means “encourager.”  I’m assuming he was such a positive force in the lives of others, someone said, “We’ll just call you Barney…and it stuck”.

So, to my Barney that Friday morning, thanks.  Thanks for listening to the Lord and thanks for encouraging a guy who happens to be a lot older than you and who happens to be a pastor.  And keep it up.  There are a lot of empty cups out there that need filling. I love the fact that my Dearest Daddy believes in me.  I’m still amazed how much Judy believes in me.  But when someone outside that circle cares and believes…that is special.  Let’s join Jesus and be the light in someone’s day.  Encourage everyone you know and assure them that everything is going to be great. Why? Because “He’s got this.” Bro. Dewayne

Posted in Family, friends, gratitude, life, loving others, prayer, priorities, Scripture, thankful

Good Morning!

This is the day the Lord has made. We will rejoice and be glad in it.”  Psalm 118:24

Good morning, Sunshine! Ok…that might be an overstatement…especially as I get a little older.  But, regardless, I love mornings…especially the early mornings. All my adult life I have been an early riser—like 4:30 am early. With few exceptions, I don’t use an alarm clock and after a wake-up ritual, I am ready to go.

As you probably know older people tend to lean toward two extremes. One group is sleeping in—they revert back to their teen times. The other group wakes up before the crack of dawn—they revert back to when they were babies. That is me. I normally wake up when the first number is a four. I say good morning to the bathroom and head to my favorite room in the house—my man-cave or home office. I usually spend an hour or so with the door closed—it is my domain. You might wonder, “what do you do in there?”

Well, here is a look into the inner sanctum. First, I turn on the lights—all of them.  I found out a long time ago the best way to jumpstart your brain is to flood the room with light.  So, I do. Then, I make a cup of coffee with my Keurig. We are very close friends.  It took me a while to become friends because he had expensive tastes.  But when Sam’s started offering cheaper coffee—we buddied up. Next, I also turn on the fireplace, regardless of the season, light a candle and sit back for a few minutes of news and weather.

After those preliminaries, I pull out my iPad and open YouVersion and read several devotionals.  If you are a Jesus follower or a Jesus searcher, you really need to go to your app store and download YouVersion—it for free.  Whether you are growing in Him or searching for Him…it is a go to place. After YouVersion, I read several email devotionals to get some more insight for the day. I also read some scripture—either for study purposes or just to read. Then, either at my desk or back in my chair I usually pray thanking God and asking Him to watch over the one’s I love and the upcoming day. So, there you go.  This best part of waking up is a little coffee and a little more of God.

Mornings are my most productive time. Almost all of these stories are written early in the morning. My most productive study time is early in the morning. Most of my sermons are born then. If exercise is going to happen—it has to happen in the morning. Truth be known, half of my day happens in the first three or four hours of the new day. I often find what didn’t make sense at 4:00 pm makes plenty of sense at 5:30 am. What’s seemed overwhelming at 7:00 pm is no problem at 6:00 am.

Another of my favorite morning things, if the season is right, is to go out and sit on the patio and watch the sun rise—for the dawn to break and for the day to begin. I never ceased to be amazed at creation—the birth of another day. As darkness gives way to dawn, as night slips away to day, it is a visual promise from my Dearest Daddy that He is not done yet.  Psalm 118:24 says, “This is the day the Lord has made. We will rejoice and be glad in it.” His job is to make them, and our job is to enjoy them.  Even the more difficult days have lessons to learn…He’s not a waster…He is a provider.

Well, out on the patio I finish my last cup of coffee and sit back and take it all in.  A new day, a fresh promise, another opportunity to enjoy my Dearest Father.  So, what is your fresh start like?  It really doesn’t matter if it starts with a four or a nine.  It doesn’t matter if it is coffee or tea (but I can’t imagine that). It doesn’t matter if it is rain or sunshine…just make sure you know and remember that as you stroll with Him today…He’s got this.  Bro. Dewayne

Posted in Family, fear, food, forgiveness, friends, Grace, life, prayer, priorities, Scripture, thankful, Trials

Warning Signs

The prudent see danger and take refuge, but the simple keep going and suffer for it.” Proverbs 27:12

This is the kind of story I don’t like writing.  Since some of you know me and some of you don’t, I’ll start by saying that I have issues.  Yup…and more than one.  With that said, this story is about my health issues.  All my life I have had this battle with my weight.  Although people say I wear it well, I pack more baggage than I need to carry on this trip called life. Consequently, most of the time I am either on the way up…or on the way down.  That’s just the way it is.  And honestly, it is all about—sugar.

You see, I love snacks, and, I love sweet snacks.  Now I’m not talking about candy though I’m not saying I would turn down a Butterfinger.  No, I like the baked stuff and I am an equal opportunities eater.  Pies, cakes, donuts, cookies, brownies, cinnamon rolls—if it is baked and sweet—count me in.  To help counter the calories, I do try and exercise—at least some.  In fact, at the beginning of 2021 I managed to walk a couple of miles a day, five and six times a week for months.  Yay for me…but then something happened.  However, and whatever the cause, sometime in late fall I quit and when I quit—it happened.  The flat-out truth is I started gaining girth like a snowball going downhill.

Well, I did what any self-respecting foodaholic does—I just quit getting on the scale and, oh yes, I quit checking my blood sugar too.  Did I mention that I am a diabetic? Did you also know that donuts, cake, pie, cookies, and brownies don’t go with diabetes? But don’t worry, I’m not a severe diabetic. That’s another way you quit doing the right thing.  You simply justify your behavior. A guy said this week that justifying is “just a lying.” Ouch.

I was a recipe, no pun intended, for disaster.  I could tell I wasn’t doing well.  I could feel my body saying, “Excuse me.”  After binge eating on whatever was sweet one recent Sunday, I got on the scale on Monday.  Holy moly.  I also checked my blood sugar on Monday. Holy moly the second time.  Good grief.  I was so frustrated with myself.  I didn’t even have to ask; how did it happen?  I knew…all too well. In fact, a friend asked me what I did to end up there.  I told him the answer was, “What didn’t I do?”

Here’s the deal.  You know those red lights and crossing guards at railroad crossings?  Do you know the consequences when you ignore them?  Well, I ignored the lights and the crossing guard and the easiest way to do that was just quit—quit weighing and quit sticking your finger.  Anybody can tell you the truth of this. To start down the wrong path just STOP doing the things that help you be accountable.  Maybe, your AA meetings.  Maybe your exercise.  Maybe going to church.  Maybe reading your Bible.  Well, the list goes on and on.

I stumbled on a really, good verse in the book of Proverbs.  It says a wise person will see danger and take cover.  A foolish (or inexperienced) person will see the same danger and keep right on going.  That’s a good verse. No, that’s a great verse. What about you, what is it in your life right now that you can see the red lights flashing and the crossing guard down?  More importantly, what are going to do with it?  Trust me…it is really important.  You see that decision will determine your regrets and consequences.  Remember that “holy moly” moment I wrote about? Yup, that’s the deal.

The answer is simple.  Stop saying tomorrow and start today.  There’s a saying I just love—when you are tempted to stop, just remember why you started.  I know I’m only just started but already I can feel and see a difference. When I visit my doctor again in about three months, I hope we can have a different conversation than the one we had recently. I am grateful that my body still responds to doing the right things.  And for me it is relatively easy…at least with these two things.  But trust me there are other things that are a daily battle.

The good news is I have Someone who stays by my side…as the Bible says, a friend closer than a brother.  Who would that be?  My Dearest Daddy.  He is for me and never against me.  He has things planned for me that are too good to miss. I know this season of COVID has messed with our spiritual stuff badly.  But I hope you will make the decision, today, to “get back on the scale.”  Your Heavenly Father will be there to help.  He’s got this.  Bro. Dewayne