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

When Bad News Meets Good News

See how very much our Father loves us, for He calls us His children, and that is what we are!” 1 John 3:1

Some things were just better in the old days…like the weather report.  Back when the local weather was sponsored by one of the local oil brands and the weatherman wore a service station (that is a gas place where they pumped your gas, checked your oil and cleaned your windshield) uniform, things were so much simpler.  He would get his magic marker out and draw some symbols on his paper map and forecast the weather. It was easy.  If it was going to be hot…he would say it was going to be hot.  If it was going to be cold…he would say it was going to be cold.  If it was going to rain…he just laid it out in simple terms.  Yup…those were the days.

It kinda reminds me of my visit to a gift shop in the Smokey Mountains.  They had what they called a “Hillbilly Weather Station.”  It was a rock attached to a string.  It also had a card that went with it that said if the rock was hot, it was hot. If the rock was cold, it was cold. If the rock is wet, it was raining and finally, if the rock was swinging on the string, it was windy.  My simple sense of humor likes that even now.  But today, they have to give us a lot more information and most the time I am grateful, except for this.

This is this.  Instead of simply saying it is going to be hot they must go a step further and give us what they call the “feel like temperature.”  In other words, if the temperature is going to be 90 degrees and there happens to be a bunch of humidity in the air, well, they let us know it is going to feel like 100 degrees and we are going to be extra miserable. And, if it is cold and there is a wind, well, just to make sure we know how miserable we really are, we have wind chill. Now I know their intent is good, but I just wish they wouldn’t go the extra mile in defining and describing my misery.

If that isn’t enough, the news folks seem to feel like they must top the weather folks.  They scrap up every bit of bad, discouraging, and disgusting news they can find and then read it to us with passion and glee.  It is almost like they want to say, “You only thought things were bad…just listen to this”.  And “this” is always about the awfulness of our broken world.  Yup, I think the weather and news people are in cahoots with one another to make sure we are miserable.

Well, if that isn’t enough, then there are some folks that we bump into in our world and it seems they just can’t wait to slosh their negativity on someone else.  Like Eeyore in the Winnie the Pooh stories, theirs is a “woe is me” world.  Eeyore once said, “I wish I could say yes…but I can’t.”  Well, the truth is we can.  In a world where some choices are limited, the choice of how we act and think is all ours.  We get to choose to be what stories our “newscast” is going to cast and what report our “weather reporter” is going to report.

One of the reasons I love God is that He is a positive thinker.  His book, the Bible, is a reality check but it is also a book of good news.  In fact, when describing the story of how much God loves us and how He sent His son into this broken world to pay the price for our sin…it is called “the” Good News or Gospel.  And if you allow that Good News to be your good news—well it changes everything.  So, if you need a change, if you need some Good News, why not try the Bible.  It will tell you the truth, but that truth includes God’s incredible love for me and for you.

In a part of the Bible called the New Testament, John, one of Jesus’ closest followers wrote, “See how very much our Father loves us, for He calls us His children, and that is what we are!” Wow…the God who made it all loves us enough to call us His own.  Now that is worth hearing about and the place to go to hear it is His Word.  So, when you are feeling down and things look hopeless, why not look up…to the God who wants to be your Dearest Daddy.  Imagine a world of Good News…with Someone who is waiting to whisper to you, “Don’t worry.  I’ve got this.”  Bro. Dewayne

Posted in Family, forgiveness, friends, Grace, gratitude, life, love, loving others, Scripture, Southern born, travel, Trials

Define “Sandwich”

Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice.” Philippians 4:4

She thought it was funny.  A long time ago, my family and I were visiting with my sister Kathy and her husband Stann.  They lived way down South in the land of grits and hospitality, and we lived just across the river in Southern Illinois.  We had had a great visit with them but soon it was time for us to head North.  All of my sisters are good cooks…something they must have got from Momma.  They also have good hospitality genes.  When you visit you feel welcomed and when you leave, you know you will be missed.

Well, when it came time for us to leave, Miss Hospitality, kindly made us a lunch.  She said, “I packed y’all some snacks and ham sandwiches so you can stop on the way and have a picnic”.  I remember thinking just how kind that she was.  To go through all that trouble and to save us a few dollars to boot.  So, we loaded up and off we went.  The girls were young, only seven or eight, and Sarah was not even a glimmer in our eyes. We drove and drove and then we drove some more and before long it was time for the big picnic.

If my memory serves me right we stopped at a picnic area on Nickajack Lake just north of the Georgia border and right inside Tennessee.  It was a beautiful place for a great picnic lunch.  My mouth watered as I thought about those delicious ham sandwiches with all the trimmings. And, and my wallet was happy too. McDonald’s wouldn’t be getting my business today…thanks to my kind sister.  Did I mention how nice she was?

Well, we found a parking spot and chose a picnic table near the lake.  Could it be any better?  Well, I’m sure we bowed our heads in prayer, thanking God for the food and for the kindness of the one who made it possible.  Judy passed out the sandwiches and strangely, I didn’t see any fixings.  Hmmm. That was a bit strange.  Nevertheless, I was grateful for the sandwich and I must have been the first to take a bite.  Uh, something was wrong.  Something was missing.

As I bit through the bread, there was no ham…there was no mustard…there was no mayo.  All that lay between the bread was a single piece of paper that read, and I quote, “Ha, Ha, Ha.”  Wait.  What? Well apparently my Southern belle, hospitality laden sister had decided to play a practical joke.  There were no ham sandwiches only meatless, slices of bread.  Strangely, I don’t remember laughing. I only remember mourning the loss of my free lunch. Ha.Ha.Ha.

They say what goes around comes around and all my life I have been a practical joker and this time the joke was on me and my dear hungry wife and two precious, little hungry daughters.  I guess the winner of the day was McDonald’s who ended up with my $6.75 after all.  While I don’t remember laughing, I’m glad I don’t remember being mad either.  In fact, I am sure that before long (but after a visit to McDonald’s), we were all laughing and couldn’t wait to call my sister when we got home.

As we journey through life we are going to have a lot of opportunities to either laugh or well, get mad.  Can I suggest, may I encourage you, us, to do the latter and not the former?  Too often we allow the fire of the moment to burn some valuable bridges.  I can imagine a nasty phone call with words of regret and then days, weeks and months of silence from a broken relationship.  Crazier things have happened, trust me.  But gratefully, that wasn’t the way this story ended.  In fact, I wonder if Kathy even remembers this. I do and it makes me smile.

Paul, the guy who wrote a lot of the New Testament, sitting in a Roman prison with NO ham sandwiches said, “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice.” Well spoken, Paul, well spoken. So tomorrow or the next day, if you hit a bump, try to remember to smile and not frown.  If someone decides to pull a joke at your expense, go ahead and extend a little grace and a smile. When you do, if you do—you can be sure the Father is smiling too.  And no matter what, as always, He’s got this. Bro. Dewayne

Posted in Family, food, friends, gratitude, life, Scripture, Southern born, thankful, travel

Cheese Grits and Turnip Greens

So you have not received a spirit that makes you fearful slaves. Instead, you received God’s Spirit when He adopted you as His own children. Now we call Him, “Abba, Father.” Romans 8:15

It was a good gig.  It was my daughter Jennifer’s 40th birthday and her husband Matt decided to do it right.  He booked them on a Disney cruise and then to top it off a couple of days at Disney.  They asked Judy if she could come down and stay with the kids and of course she said yes.  After some adjustments with her calendar and making sure everything at 217 (our Airbnb) was covered…she was on the road again.  And me…well…I stayed back, watered the plants, filled the fountains, and did work stuff.

Well, by Thursday night I was ready for a visit so I loaded up the car and headed south to Murray.  It is funny but when you cross the bridge into Kentucky, you can tell you are in the south.  After a couple of hours of driving I found myself with my favorite big person and two of my favorite smaller people—my wife, Judy and two of my grandchildren, Ellie and James. All three of them are pretty keen on me and that always makes me feel so special. After a night of riding around the neighborhood with the windows down and the sunroof open, we headed back to the house and before too long…bed.

The next morning, after we took them to school, we eventually ended up back in Murray and it was time for lunch.  There are plenty of options in Murray but we ended up at a place we had tried before and really enjoyed.  As we walked into the door, the sign said the special of the day, since it was Friday, was fish.  That sealed the deal.  Now the special sounded good for a couple of reasons—lots of food and a great price—$10.99.  So here is how it played out.  For my $10.99 I got four large fillets of fish.  Now, I’m pretty sure they weren’t farm raised catfish but they were still plenty tasty.  So, plenty of fish…check.  Then it came with French fries…hot and plenty…check.  Three hushpuppies…fried golden brown and very good…check.  Three onion rings…these also were very good…lightly battered and fried just right…check. Whew. That was a lot of food…good food.  But we weren’t done.

The special also came with two more sides.  Now this place listed about twenty-two different sides and they were not just sides…many of them were southern sides.  I won’t list them all but I will tell you what I got.  First, I got a bowl full of cheese grits.  They were delicious with lots of cheddar cheese.  My final side was a bowl full of southern seasoned turnip greens.  Well, by now I am in hog heaven.  I mixed up a mound of tartar sauce and ketchup and started eating and it was just good.  Believe it or not, this food eating preacher didn’t even come close to eating it all.  I was forced to leave some it behind…too full to even think of carrying some home.

Now that you all are wanting to know the name of the place in Murray and you are drooling over yourself, here’s why I wrote this.  First, I just love a good deal.  I love it when I go to a place to eat and it is a good value…plenty of good food for a good price and this place nailed it.  Second, it spoke to my heritage.  Everything from the hushpuppies to the cheese grits to the turnip greens just tasted southern.  And since my roots go deep in the south, all of it said one thing…home and we all know there is no place like home.

Now that I think about it that is what I like about Jesus too.  When I think of Him…when I spend time with Him, I always feel at home.  I never feel like a stranger, I never feel like a visitor.  It’s like He invites me in and tells me to sit back, relax and sit a while.  And when I am with Him I know I am experiencing my new heritage.  Every day with Him my roots grow deeper and deeper.  On one side it is like spending time with my best friend and on the other it is like being with a special family member.  Maybe that it is…after all, when I asked Jesus to forgive me of all my sin, His Father became my Father…my Dearest Daddy and that is all so very special.

So, if you are planning a trip to Murray, Kentucky, let me know and I’ll point you in the right direction.  And if you are looking for a place that sure feels like home, well, just ask Jesus and He will invite you in to stay.  But like those southern sides…it gets better and better.  When you get Jesus…you get the Father…one that invites you to call Him Dearest Daddy.  It’s true…it’s in the Bible.  And He will be glad to help you as you do life.  Take it from me, I know, He’s got this.  Bro. Dewayne 

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

Scars are Stories

When Jesus stood up, he said to her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?” “No one, Lord,” she answered. “Neither do I condemn you,” said Jesus. “Go, and from now on do not sin anymore.” John 8:10-11

It’s a great setup.  I’ve written several times about my early morning routine. It involves coffee, the weather report and Jesus.  I am a creature of habit and mess with my habits, and it messes me up. But sometimes I do something a little different that just works better.  When I fell a couple of months ago and messed up my hand, my wife Judy donated a little lap desk to help me study and write.  Well, she never took it back, so it became…mine.  I also found out that this little desk made a great addition to my routine as it is a great place to put my iPad and my coffee cup. Boom.  Things just got better.

Well, the other morning I was sipping coffee and using my iPad to read a couple of devotions.  The guy I was reading wrote about scars and as I was reading…I was looking.  You see, my hands have several scars and each one is a story.  On my right thumb is one that reminds me of the ten year old (or so) who was cutting watermelon and ignored his Daddy’s advice about how to use a knife. On my middle finger of my right hand, right on the knuckle, is an inch long scar caused by my careless use of an X-Acto knife I was using to build a model car or plane.

Let’s look at my left hand.  On my index finger are two scars…close together.  One was caused when I was riding with my sister and her then boyfriend in his car.  The car in front of us stopped…and he didn’t.  This was before seatbelts and when I headed for the windshield, I threw my hand up to protect my head.  I guess it worked but I did cut my hand up in the process.  I guess hand is better than head.  The other scar was a woodcutting thing.  I didn’t cut it with the saw or you might be calling me “Three Fingers.”  No, a piece of wood that was in a bind slipped and whacked my hand leaving a nasty gash.

There are a couple of smaller scars on both hands but their birth didn’t garner a memory.  I do have a couple of scars in other places, like the one by my eye which happened on a racquetball court.  A guy hit me with his racket on that one.  But by and large most of my physical scars are on my hands because that is where all the action is.  In other words, whatever you put out there in life will probably get scarred…like our hearts.  All of us probably have some scars left when we put our heart out there and someone wounded us.  It’s just life.

But now for the bigger story.  Remember that scars may be a sign of a painful wound…but they are also a sign of healing.  The scars that are on my hands were bleeding and painful when they happened but gradually they healed over and the bleeding stopped and they healed over. That’s a good thing.  Now you know and I know that wounds on our heart are a whole different animal.  They may heal but it often takes more than some antibiotic cream and a Band-Aid. They say that time heals all wounds and that might be partially true.  Time does help but time can’t always heal.  The good news is there is something…Someone…who can heal and His name is Jesus.

My friend Jesus is a healer of hearts.  When He walked the earth, He amazed the people in many ways…twice He gave everyone a free lunch.  But countless times He would take the broken, the castaways and lovingly put their lives back together.  I love the story when a woman was caught in adultery.  The religious people wanted to stone her but Jesus chose to love her.  I suppose in my life, and in yours, there have been some stoning opportunities but here is one thing I know.  Jesus isn’t a rock chucker—He is a heart healer and He wants to help heal yours today.

So, how about it?  Do you have some wounds on your heart that time just hasn’t taken care of? Are you still hurting from a train wreck in life years ago?  Why not give Jesus the opportunity to help?  “How” you ask?  Well, why not try asking?  It is called prayer and trust me it is worth a shot.  The other key element is faith—believing that He is there listening.  Don’t be surprised if the first thing you hear is Him asking you to forgive because forgiving others always helps heal our own wounds.  So, when you are done reading, why not start praying.  He is waiting and He is willing.  He’s got this. Bro. Dewayne

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

Be You!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Coach

A man who has friends must himself be friendly.” Proverbs 18:24

We have a new staff member at 217. If you are a regular reader of “Grits” you know a lot about the Taylor tribe.  Included in that information is the fact that my wife, Judy, and I have an Airbnb on top of our garage.  It is a classy two-bedroom apartment that we rent out as a short-term vacation rental.  We have lots of people stay and well, it is quite fun.  Our staff is small at 217.  There is Judy who manages everything and trust me that is a big job.  She also helps with the cleaning when needed.  We have a great lady who does the bulk of our cleaning, and she is awesome!  She is always willing to go the extra mile and when Judy and I need to be gone she makes sure the water fountains stay running and flowers keep blooming. My job is to serve as the occasional handy man and the guy who mows and trims the grass. It is not the most important job but trust me in grass growing season I am definitely the man.

So that is the staff at 217…or at least it was.  About a year ago a new and unexpected member was added to the team.  His name is Coach. So, here’s the deal.  Last year our neighbors, who are also awesome, decided to get a cat to make sure no unwanted rodents took up residence in their garage. So, they got a cat and named him Coach. Now to be honest I am not a big fan of cats.  Most of them are a little bossy and arrogant so at first, I was pretty cool to the idea of a new feline friend.  And then it happened.

As it turns out, Coach has more personality than most people I know.  He is cool and calm and way friendly.  You know how some cats think they own the place?  Well, Coach is satisfied with just working the crowd.  If Judy and I are out on the patio, he will sway his way over and just make his presence known in a gentle way.  It seems he is saying, “Hey, my name is Coach and I just wanted to say hi.” Now really, this cat has it down.  You can’t help but like him.  Now if I am cool on cats, Judy is cold on cats, but not this one.  While she wouldn’t want one of her own, she sure doesn’t mind that he came to the neighborhood.

Now this is the 217 part.  When a guest pulls up at 217 and parks, it is not unusual for Coach to come on over and say hi.  It almost seems that he is just watching and waiting for them to come.  You would think he had peeked at Judy’s reservation book to see when guests were coming.  At first, we were a little concerned that the guests might see him as a bother but not to worry.  He is a hit almost every time.

Earlier this week, I came home from work and there was our guest bending down to pet Coach. At first, I always explained that he wasn’t our cat but belonged to the neighbors. But now that he is a social rock star, I let that go.  I mean if the guests want to think that Mr. Cool belongs to me who am I to correct them?  Way to go coach.  Way to go.

Do you know what?  If I were a cat, I would want to be like Coach.  But wait…why can’t I, why can’t we, be like Coach now?  Why can’t we make a conscious decision to be kind? Friendly? Loving?  Hmmm…the truth is, we can.  Every day we bump into people, dozens of them, and have the opportunity to make them feel special.  Every day we bump into people and have the opportunity to be a friend, to offer a smile, to make their day a little better.  Every day we have the choice.  I like that.  I want that.

I know that all cats are not like Coach, and I certainly know that not all people are like Coach, but I also know we all can be.  Tucked away in the Christian Bible is a book called Proverbs.  In that book is this, “A man who has friends must himself be friendly.” In other words, if we want friends, we need to be one.  If we want others to like us…we need to be likable. I saw a quote today that said, “Our vibes draw our tribes.”  That is so true.  So, let’s take a lesson from Coach and be the kind of person who makes someone’s day.  Need a little help?  Well, the “Head Coach” is just waiting to lend a hand.  He’s got this.  Bro. Dewayne

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

Seize the Day

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

After a long silence…they are singing. I stepped out into my backyard to finish my last cup of coffee…well, at least for a couple hours.  When I opened the door, my backyard, and apparently the back yards, and front yard, and side yards of my neighbors were all filled with the sound of cicadas singing their song.  What is a cicada?  Well, it an insect, and quite honestly, an ugly insect that emerges late summer.  And if I’ve got it right…different kinds emerge at different times and even years.

So, when Facebook only existed at Harvard University and when the sitcom “Friends” aired its last episode, a newly hatched brood of cicada nymphs (babies) fell from the trees and burrowed into the dirt.  They stayed there snacking on the sap of rootlets and slowly growing…until the time is right.  The cicadas that were singing this morning, again if I am correct, aren’t the ones who have been preparing for these days for 17 years—most of these are in the dirt for a much shorter time…only a year or two.

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

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

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

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

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

Posted in Family, forgiveness, friends, Grace, life, loving others, missions, Scripture, travel, Trials

Dropping the Baggage

I focus on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead.” Philippians 3:13b

Baggage…it is a fact of travel and a fact of life.  Our team of four checked in at the airport and gladly gave our baggage to the agent at the desk.  One by one, our bags, as varied as the people who packed them, were weighed, and given up.  And honestly, we were glad to do so.  With our baggage handed over, our journey, our travel experience was a lot easier.  When you give your luggage up, you always wonder if you will see it again.  These days, the airline (at least the one we flew) sent us a text letting us know everything was safely onboard the plane.  Nice.

Well, we landed in Atlanta and waited just a while and soon it was time to board the plane for our final leg of our journey…the one that would take us all the way to England.  Sure enough, a message let us know our bags were onboard and would make the journey with us.  That is always a good feeling.  A little over seven hours later, it was time to land and sure enough our bags were there, and we took an Uber to the hotel.  Well, the next leg of our journey was by train, so we had to walk a little and take the tube (the British word for the subway—not the sandwich shop) to the train station.  As we left our hotel, we had our first personal experience with our luggage.

You see, this time there was no one to take our luggage—except us. Some of us had smaller bags, some had baggage so large we nick named it “the beast.”  There was a variety of smaller backpacks and whether all of them had wheels or not, they were a necessary hassle.  If it wasn’t for the fact that it is a common sight in London…I’m sure we would have looked quite comical. But we pushed and pulled, lifted, and dragged, squeezed through tight tube gates and balanced all of this on the narrow steps of several escalators.  Oh yes…it was fun.

Well, the good news is, we made it.  We made it all the way to our destination and when the time came, we made it all the way back home…well almost.  Turns out the beast got left by the airline in London, but it did arrive several days later.  Because I am a person who likes to prepare, I watched several travel videos to learn about England and also how to travel.  The guy in the video made one point very clear. When you pack, remember that everything you decid to take with you, you will have to push, pull, drag, and carry along the way.  And you know what…he was exactly right.  I was very glad that my bag was one of smaller and lighter ones (32 pounds, thank-you) and my backpack was too. I was glad that at the last minute I did indeed determine I didn’t need the kitchen sink after all!

Well, we all know that baggage is part of the travel deal but baggage is also part of this journey called life.  Along the way, we pick up things, some our fault and some no fault of our own at all, and we find ourselves dragging it through life.  A difficult childhood, a broken heart, a bad financial decision, or romance decision and on and on it goes.  Baggage…we all have our fair share.  But here is the good news.  It turns out that even if we can’t totally ditch all this unwanted baggage, we can at least lighten the load.  And often, it begins with two small words—letting go.

You see, we can’t undo what others have done to us and short of some sort of a miracle we can’t forget either but there is something we can do.  We can choose to refuse to allow the baggage to weigh us down.  We can determine to what extent we give the person or the event space in our lives today.  We can let it go…we can largely leave it behind.  It will probably involve some forgiveness—whether it be someone else—or yourself. I really love the place in the Bible where Paul, who had tons of baggage, some he made and some others gave him, simply says he chose to forget.

Just for the record he wasn’t talking about actually forgetting but rather choosing not to allow the baggage of the past to impact his today. That was something he could do and something we can do.  And when we do…we are going to find out that life is a lot easier when we are not weighted down with yesterday’s baggage.  So, what do you say? Why not let today be the day we drop the bags of the past and sprint toward what lies before?  On our journey, we would sometimes help another person with their bags, and I am glad I can tell you that God is just waiting to help us with our baggage too.  Don’t you worry. He’s got this.  Bro. Dewayne

Posted in Family, friends, gratitude, life, loving others, missions, Scripture, sovereignty of God, thankful, travel

Same Words, Different Melody

When He saw the crowds, He had compassion on them.”  Matthew 9:36a

It was familiar but not.  One of the highlights of our recent trip to England was the opportunity to experience so many things that were similar to life in America but at the same time different.  After all, we all spoke English, but our English and the English the Brits spoke was just a little different.  More on that in another story.  We both drive cars but on different sides of the road.  They drive on the left (who knows why) and we drive on the right because…we are right.  We like (love) ice in our drinks, and when we ask for ice, they look at you like, “What?” Crisps are potato chips and flats are apartments.  Like I said..we both speak English but not quite the same.

Another thing I enjoyed while there was attending worship.  I am a Christian who happens to be a Baptist.  The church I attended there was Baptist too and while it was the same, it was different.  They didn’t have offering plates…they used these little bag things with a pole attached.  It was like a fish net but was made a cloth instead of netting.  One of the things we really loved…and wished we could import…was the fellowship time at the end of the service.  After the last prayer, instead of rushing out the door to the nearest restaurant or appointment, everyone, gathered at the back of the worship hall and just visited.  There were some light refreshments but mostly people just talked.  How novel.

One thing that was a little different was the songs that they sang.  While some were familiar there were several that were totally new to us.  So, I was glad when the song person said we were going to sing, “When I Survey the Wondrous Cross.”  That is a wondrous (pun intended) song and one of the older hymns that I enjoy singing.  As the instruments, a piano, flute, and guitar began to plan the introduction…something wasn’t quite right…not familiar.  And soon, very soon, I realized that while I knew the words, I certainly wasn’t familiar with the melody. How about that?  Same song, same words, different melody.

So, I jumped right in and worked my way through the unfamiliar melody motivated by the beautiful familiar words.  And even with the different melody, the words carried me into worship.  And just about then it hit me.  In life, church or no church, we can come together and do life.  We may walk or dance to a different tune but still can be carried by the same message.  Wouldn’t it be a better world if we realized that we are all created by the same God and the things that make us different are not a weakness but a strength?  Wouldn’t it be a better world if we were not driven apart by skin color, or our heart language or the social economic station we are in life?  Let me tell you. It.Would.Be.Better.

Of the thousand things that I love about Jesus, one of the best is that He loves people.  Period.  When He lived here, He just saw people as people.  Some might have been more broken than others, but He loved them all the same.  One time a bunch of people met Him on the shore as He got out of a boat.  I’m sure there were all kinds of people there that day but all He saw was people and the Bible just says He had compassion on them.  He loved them.

If you are a Jesus follower, or even if you are not, why not follow the example of this lowly man from an obscure part of the world.  Why not set out today to see people as people…and love them regardless.  Even if they look different, speak different, believe differently or, gulp, vote differently than you…why not just love them?  If you happen to be a Jesus person, well, I’m sure that is something that would make Him smile…and if not well…He probably would smile anyway.  Accepting people as people isn’t easy but with a little help from the One who made us…anything is possible.  In other words, He’s got this.  Bro. Dewayne

Posted in forgiveness, Grace, gratitude, life, prayer, priorities, Scripture, thankful

Stop the Music

But Martha was distracted with much serving. And she went up to him and said, “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Tell her then to help me.” But the Lord answered her, “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things, but one thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her.” Luke 10:40-42

I am so easily distracted.  I mean if there is more than one thing going on at a time I flounder.  One of the great miracles of modern time is that when I am on stage speaking, I walk, talk, and breathe all at the same time.  Probably more of a miracle is the fact that I have not fallen off the stage—yet. I’m sure there is a syndrome or something for people like me—I think they spell it “man” or “men,” if it is plural.

I try to have a quiet time each morning.  A quiet time is when you set apart some time to read the Bible and pray.  It is a great way to begin or end the day.  The name is very appropriate.  For me, it must be quiet.  Sometimes I like to change things up, and in the process get too many things going on—which usually means more than one.  It’s like going through a buffet line. We must be careful not to get too much on our plate.  Well, sometimes that happens to me in my quiet time. Let me explain.

First, I do my quiet time thing on my iPad.  I use the You Version app and it is just incredible.  If you own a smartphone or a tablet of some sort you can download the app from the Apple or Android store for free.  It has all kinds of devotions and reading plans as well as a zillion translations of the Bible.  Even if you speak Swahili, they can fix you up.  No kidding.  One of the totally cool features of the app is that it will read the Bible to you. Amazing.

Well, a while back, I was about to start my quiet time and decided I would try some soft music. I asked Alexa, who lives with Judy and me, to play some music. I said, “Alexa please play Christian instrumental music on Pandora.”  As always, she was so kind and said she would be glad to do that.  In a few seconds beautiful music was wafting through the air in my office.  Then I opened my You Version app and began to read.  I was able to pull that off well, but I really had to concentrate on the words on the page and not the words of the songs that were playing.  Just to be as clear as mud, the words weren’t really playing—they were just playing in my head. I told you, I get easily distracted.

Well, scripture is a part of most every devotion in You Version so after I had read the devotion, I mashed the button that started the app reading to me.  That’s when things went south.  The beautiful music is wafting through the air and now this guy was reading God’s word to me and the two collided in my brain.  I found I couldn’t focus on either one.  The same thing happens when I am watching the news and Judy comes in and starts chatting.  It is an audio disaster.  And then, as if it couldn’t, it got worse.

In my home office I have several clocks and one of them plays the beautiful Westminster chimes. Well, while my brain was struggling with the music and the guy reading to me—the clock went off. It was the top of the hour, and it began playing its melody.  And what would normally be one of my favorite sounds, suddenly pushed me over the edge.  If a quiet time is supposed to make you more spiritual…it, or rather I, failed.  As the music is wafting, the guy is reading, and the clock is dinging—I lost it.

With all that going on, I shouted, yes shouted, at my friend Alexa, “Alexa, STOP THE MUSIC!” Oh my, did I feel bad.  She did and at about the same time the clock stopped dinging and the guy stopped reading.  Suddenly…there were only the sounds of silence and the Whisperer whispering, “Dewayne, it’s ok.  Don’t let all this stuff that doesn’t matter get to you.  Just listen for Me and to Me and everything else will fall into place.”  That’s it.  That was the message for the quiet time that day.  I told my Father I was sorry for getting all frustrated and, as always, He gently whispered words of forgiveness.

In the Bible a woman named Martha got all frustrated and distracted too and Jesus told her the same thing.  He told her not what she wanted to hear but what she needed to hear. He told her that she was all worked up over nothing.  I guess it’s good to know that I’m not the only one who gets distracted and frustrated. Did I mention annoyed? Jesus invited Martha to come have a seat with Him and rest and it’s the same invitation He gives us.  I like that.  And do you know what? No matter the mess, it’s just good to know that He’s got this.  Bro. Dewayne