Posted in Family, food, forgiveness, Grace, gratitude, life, Scripture, thankful, Trials

Simply Nonstick

For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast.” Ephesians 2:8-9

Slip sliding away.  Now let’s be honest and let’s be clear.  I don’t have a clue about cooking, but I do know just a little about frying pans.  Back in the old days when it came to frying pans it was cast iron or nothing and cast iron had and has its place.  But some years ago, they started making frying pans that food stuff wouldn’t stick too.  Well about seven or eight years ago we bought a pricy set of pots that were supposed to be stick proof and I guess for the first few years they were.  Then, slowly, and as sure as a slug on a sidewalk, it stopped being non-stick.

Now my experience with frying pans is limited to frying, or maybe it is just cooking in a frying pan, eggbeaters for my breakfast and if you weren’t careful you ended up with a sticky mess.  Sometimes there was more egg left in the pan than there was on my plate.  Finally…my wife Judy said enough.  She went to the Walmart store and bought one of those pans you see advertised on television.  The ad said that “nothing would stick”. It showed eggs, burnt butter and cheese, you name it and with just a tilt of the pan—off it would go.  Turns out that was not exactly true. I told her she should take the thing back, but she said it was too late.

Well, out of frustration I decided to try something.  I sprayed the pan with some Pam…it’s like cooking oil in a spray can – I think. After spraying the pan, I poured some eggbeaters in and just like that – problem solved.  Those eggs—or eggbeaters—were sliding all over the pan just like the commercial.  It turns out all that the pan needed was a little help.  The bottom line is it is good to have a pan that doesn’t try and keep my eggs.

You know that made me think.  That pan and the spray stuff is a whole like God’s grace and our faith.  Imagine with me that the pan is the grace of God.  Grace simply means God’s unmerited favor.  Now imagine that the spray on stuff is like faith.  Faith is when we believe something that we can’t see, touch, or feel.  Put the two together and you have a combination that simply will not allow sin to stick and that is good news.  Just like the eggbeaters slid right out that pan, so sin is forgiven and won’t stick around to condemn us.  Grace and faith—what a wonderful combination.

Paul, the guy in the Bible who wrote a lot of the New Testament said this, “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast.” “By grace through faith,” put the two together and your sin just won’t stick to your account. Gone. Forgiven. Banished. And just like the eggs, or eggbeaters, have little or nothing to do with their time in the pan so when it comes to God’s forgiveness that is true too. All we do is believe…everything else is on God. Oh, and just like the commercial…no sin and I mean no sin, is going to stick—no matter how big or bad. His grace is sufficient for the job. You gotta love it.

So, if the next time you are frying something, and it sticks to the pan—just head to the store and get you one of those fancy new ones.  Oh, and don’t forget the Pam.  And the next time you get into deep weeds with your sin, just remember this story and step into God’s grace and your faith…it is a winning combo.  No matter how big the mess…His grace is enough. All you need to do is ask for His forgiveness and I can already tell you His reply—I’ve got this.”  Bro. Dewayne

Posted in Family, forgiveness, Grace, love, Scripture

A Daddy’s Love

“And because we are His children, God has sent the Spirit of His Son into our hearts, prompting us to call out, “Abba, Father.” Galatians 4:6

I might have been just a little difficult when I was little.  I can remember when I was quite young that I wasn’t very quiet.  I also remember that I had a hard time standing still.  I used to rock side to side sometimes and I can remember Momma asking, telling me, to hold still.  I’m sure there is a name for it now but back then it was just kind of a weird normal. At any rate it might explain some of the things I did that got me into a hot mess.

I can remember the time that I stuck my daddy’s water hose in the ground and couldn’t get it out.  We lived in North Florida and the soil was very sandy.  I discovered if you turned the water on and pressed the end of the hose against the soil, it would kinda self-drill into the sand.  On a good day I could get the hose three or four feet into the ground.  That was the easy part.  The problem was getting it back out of the ground.  You see, the water and sand created a seal around the hose and no matter how hard I tried…it was stuck.  I suppose you can imagine how upset, maybe angry, my daddy was when he came home and tried to water his roses and his hose was stuck in the ground.  Hmmm…not good, not good at all.

Of course then there was the time I found some leftover firecrackers in the workroom we had attached to the back of the house.  I decided that I could make a rocket of sorts with the firecrackers and a can.  I went to the trash and found a tin can, poked a small hole in the bottom and then fed the fuse for one of the firecrackers through the hole.  Then, I dug a hole just the size of the can, put the can in the hole and lit the fuse and…ran.  The firecracker exploded as planned and that propelled the can up in the air probably twenty or thirty feet.  There was only one problem.  I had dug the hole for the can right next to the front of daddy’s car.  Well, what goes up must come down and that can came right down…and landed right on the hood of daddy’s car.  Since this was a long time ago, it was when cans were made a lot stronger than they are today and when that can hit the hood—it definitely left a mark…a dent in fact.  Hmmm…not good, not good at all.

The worst of them all was the time I shot my daddy in the back with my BB gun.  We were hunting squirrels and daddy had let me take my BB gun along.  I was walking along and violated one of the big rules of gun safety—actually two of them.  First, make sure your safety is one and two, keep your finger off the trigger.  Well, I apparently flunked gun safety because my safety was not on and I had my finger on the trigger.  I stumbled and shot daddy dead in the back.  Now calm down.  The good news is he had on a heavy hunting coat and the BB gun was pretty weak.  The bottom line is he hardly felt it but he did feel it enough to turn around and give me “the look.”  I’m sure I had to retake Gun Safety 101.  Hmmm…nor good, not good at all.

So you would think after these three things and probably a couple of dozen more I can’t remember, my daddy promptly disowned me or at least sent me off to reform school or the French Foreign Legion.  But the truth of the matter is…he didn’t.  Oh, I’m sure there was some sort of punishment but one thing was for sure.  He never stopped loving me…he never disowned me. No matter what…I was still his son and his love, a father’s love, never failed. I know for some of you that is hard to understand, because it just wasn’t that way with your daddy.

Let me share some good news with you.  No matter what kind of daddy you had growing up there is another Daddy in heaven who loves you no matter what.  In fact, the Bible says He is an Abba Father…or Dearest Daddy and He is just waiting for you to be a part of His family.  And that happens when you ask and when you believe—ask Him to forgive your sins and believe that His Son Jesus in fact died for your sins making that forgiveness possible.  Trust me…it is the greatest gift and the greatest decision you will ever make.  Why not ask Him today?  Why not let Him make you His.  I promise you won’t regret it.  If you are afraid you’ve messed up to bad…well, don’t you worry about that.  No matter what you have done you can be assured that, “He’s got this.” Bro. Dewayne

Posted in Grace, gratitude, life, missions, Scripture, sovereignty of God, travel

Don’t Drink the Water

“For His anger lasts only a moment, but His favor lasts a lifetime! Weeping may last through the night, but joy comes with the morning.” Psalm 30:5

It was my first real mission trip. In 2003, I was given the opportunity to go on a mission trip to Bulgaria. In case you don’t know what a mission trip is, it is when you go to a different part of the world and do Jesus stuff. It might be medical, it might be teaching, it might be giving food away or most anything else that Jesus might do. Bulgaria is up by the Black Sea and snack dab in the middle of the old Soviet block. It was a different world. Imagine stepping back in time to the late fifties or early sixties and that’s where we landed.

When we arrived, it was instant culture shock. The food was different, the language was different, the people were different…everything was different. And there was one big rule—don’t ever drink the water. I was a little nervous and a whole lot excited. Get ready, boys, this is the great adventure. We were given an assignment and my new friend Mike, and I were sent to work a couple of hours from the rest of the group. We were up by the Blue Danube River and not far from the North Sea. We would be working with the Roma people. These folks, also known as Gypsies, were the outcasts of their society…the poorest of the poor and broken.

When we arrived, we were shown a nice apartment where we would stay. It was very recently remodeled and look almost American. We began working right away and starting going to remote villages. Through an interpreter we would talk to folks, I would sing and then one, or both of us, would teach about Jesus. The people were so kind. I remember I was introduced to Turkish coffee for the first time in my life. As you might know with Turkish coffee, they simply dump the grounds in the pot and boil them. They poured me a cup and I took a slug. First response—I almost choked on the grounds. Second response—I didn’t know what to do with the grounds, so I chewed them. Yup…the best part of waking up is with coffee grounds in your cup.

Later in the week, and near the end of our time with the people, we were given the opportunity to do some preaching down on the city square. It was pretty awesome. I sang a song and then preached…and let me tell you I preached. They might not have understood everything I said, but they knew I was excited about it. After I finished it was hot and I was thirsty. A nice street vendor offered me some red Kool Aid. I was so grateful. He filled up a glass and I drank the whole cup in one swig. Man, it was so good, so fruity, and so made with the water… I was not supposed to drink. I never gave it a second thought…until later that night.

After we got back to the apartment, we had supper and went to bed. About 11:00 pm we heard this awful noise and it came from the bathroom. Well, it turns out, a majority of the new plaster ceiling in the bathroom had fallen—filling the sink, the toilet and the floor with plaster pieces. We quickly decided we could clean it up in the morning. There is a great verse in the Bible that says, “Weeping may last through the night, but joy comes in the morning.” Well, that verse took on new meaning for me that night.

About 2:00 am I was suddenly awakened by what can only described as the worse cramping and nausea I have ever felt. Remember the red Kool Aid? Well, it was revenge time. I quickly went to the bathroom only to rediscover the sink and toilet totally filled with fallen plaster. It wasn’t a pretty picture. I can only remember trying to clean out the sink and the toilet before the impending disaster hit. I barely made it. Long story short, I was a regular attender to the bathroom all night and into the next day. Sure enough, there was weeping thought the night and joy was scarce. The only “joy” in the morning was when the guys went to the local pharmacy and bought me a Depends. HaHa. Thanks guys.

Well, I was sick for the next day or so, but before we got on the plane for home, I was better. Someone let my wife Judy know that I was really sick and that she should look for the insurance policy. Ok, it wasn’t that bad, but I thought it was. I did learn a couple of really good lessons. One…when you do something that God wants you to do…it doesn’t mean that everything is going to be rosy. In fact, you may end up with a bouquet of weeds. But, I wouldn’t trade the experience for anything. Second…when the rule book says “don’t drink the water, DON’T drink the water. Write it on your hand, write it in your Bible, put duct tape over your mouth, but DON’T drink the water. And by the way, when God says don’t do something, there is also a reason why. He’s not being mean…He is being loving.

Well, we made it home and that trip led to many more…not to Bulgaria but rather to Africa. And guess what? We definitely couldn’t drink the water there either! Guess what again? I didn’t drink the water, because I remembered a lesson that I had learned a couple of years earlier. It just one way that God can take the worst things and teach us something good. Yay God. So, as we journey through these “Bulgarian” days and should we forget and “drink the water,” you will find a loving Heavenly Father who will walk you through the hardest times. He won’t walk out on you, ever. You will find that you can always rest in Him because He’s got this. Bro. Dewayne

Posted in Family, food, forgiveness, Grace, loving others, priorities

Pot Roast and Traditions

“Jesus replied, “And why do you, by your traditions, violate the direct commandments of God?” Matthew 15:3

It is a tale that I could identify with. The story is told of a young girl who was watching her mother prepare Sunday’s lunch. She watched as her mother carefully cut the pot roast in two before placing it in the pan. This intrigued her so she asked her mother why she did this. Her answer was simple and direct, “Because my mother did.” She wasn’t quite satisfied with the answer so her mother told her to go and ask grandma. And she did. Grandma gave her the same answer, “Because my mother did.” Well, the little girl decided to ask her great grandmother why she cut her roast in two. So, the next time she was at the nursing home visiting, she asked. Without missing a beat she said, “Well, honey, my pot was too small.”

Isn’t it funny how something done for a particular reason can be passed on and on. Isn’t it strange how we do something and long after the reason for doing it is gone…we keep right on doing it? I know because I’ve got a “thing” in my world. You, way back in 1985, my wife Judy and I purchased a Oldsmobile Cutlass Cruiser. It quickly became one of our favorite cars. It had the woodgrain trim down the side and seating for eight. It also had something else…it had a digital dash. Now keep in mind that was pretty high tech for 1985. Well, it had a little glitch.

That little glitch really was big one…the gas gauge was just not accurate. It often said you had more gas than you did. Well, one day, it got me…I ran out of fuel. After a lift to a station and returning with a borrowed gas can of gas, I was soon back on the road again…sing it Willie. And, that day, a new habit was born. Every time I bought fuel I would fill the tank and reset the trip odometer so I would know how far I could go. I never trusted the gauge again. So I would fill up with gas and reset the trip odometer…over and over again.

Well, one day it was time for the Oldsmobile Cruiser to cruise on and we got another car. New car, new gas gauge…no need to reset the trip odometer, right? Maybe not but the same old habit remained…always fill the tank and always reset the trip odometer. Now the gauge in the new car worked perfectly but the old habit remained. And guess what? It remains today. Here’s the deal. Thirty-seven years have come and gone and every time I buy fuel—I press reset. And if Judy happens to buy fuel instead of me, and she forgets to hit reset, I explain to her she needed to do it. And, she gives me the, “why” look and I just tell her because it’s just what we do. You might say I cut the roast in half because I always have.

So, is there something in your life that you are clinging to just because you have always done it that way? Of course it might be something that is totally harmless but sometimes…sometimes it isn’t. Sometimes it can lead to an angry exchange because someone didn’t keep the habit…the tradition. Sometimes relationships can be damaged. I’ve seen this so many times in churches. A tradition is messed with and World War III breaks out. The bottom line is there are habits, there are things, there are traditions that are noteworthy and good but we shouldn’t let them break friendships, relationships and hearts. Honestly, we may not need to cut the roast in two after all.

In the Bible back in the days of Jesus, the religious leaders added all kind of rules and traditions to their daily lives. The crazy part is they gave the traditions the same weight as the Law of God and trust me that was not a good idea. In fact, it wasn’t a good idea then and it sure isn’t now either. Jesus, talking to the temple leaders, said, “And why do you, by your traditions, violate the direct commandments of God?” Now that’s a good question.

I hope this will remind us that there are more important things to do than cutting your roast in half. In other words, there are hills worth dying on and others that should be let go. And most important, don’t let opinions and traditions drive a wedge between you and another person. It just isn’t worth it. A broken heart or relationship is far too high of a price to pay. If you ever need some advice about this, just ask your Heavenly Father. He will tell you that people matter more than pride, or traditions or habits. And if you have already made a mess with this, don’t worry, He can help with the cleanup…He’s got this. Bro. Dewayne

Posted in Family, forgiveness, friends, Grace, loving others, Scripture

Stinky Feet

 “Our lives are a Christ-like fragrance rising up to God. But this fragrance is perceived differently by those who are being saved and by those who are perishing.” 2 Corinthians 2:15

I smelled it as soon as I opened the door. When God made us, He did a really good job. In one place His Word says that we are fearfully and wonderfully made. In another it says that we are made just a little lower than the angels. And then at the beginning He says that we are made in His image. Wow…that is all pretty impressive. When God was working on our blueprint, He decided to give us five senses—five ways to interact with our world around us. Those five senses are touch, sight, hearing, smell, and taste. All five of them are incredible and it is almost impossible to pick one over the other. For a foodie like me, it would seem that taste would be my number one, but I’m just not sure.

If smell isn’t number one, it certainly is a close second. Smell enhances our taste and can trigger so many different emotions. Smell can change what is going on in a whole room. Many years ago, I went through a period when I had—oh, I hate to admit it—stinky feet. It was bad. To this day, I am in the habit of taking off my shoes when I am in the house. I think it is a throwback to my Southern genes. Anyway, when I would go to someone’s house, I would kick my shoes off and what was in the shoes suddenly spread throughout the room. It wasn’t pretty. I’m trying to say, it was really bad.

Within minutes, perhaps seconds, moans and groans filled the air along with the atrocious odor. There was an immediate rebellion and demands to stuff my stinky feet back into my shoes. I had no choice. The good news is that it turns out there was something about my walk-around, everyday shoes that caused the odor. When I changed shoes, the offensive odor went with them. But to this day, I (and maybe you) should be aware that certain things can cause certain reactions—and they are not always good. But, fortunately sometimes they are.

Enter Bath and Body “Leaves” candles. You probably know that Bath and Body is famous for several things but their three wick candles are—well, wicked. And one of our favorite scents is “Leaves.” It is just the essence of fall. During this time of the year I can walk into my house after a long day and as soon as I open the door a sense of calm and “all-things-good” just washes over me. I love it. Try as I may, I can’t describe it—it is just good. And then it happens.

Slowly, the longer I stay in the area where the candle is, the rich aroma of fall suddenly disappears. That smell that made me feel so relaxed seems to mysteriously disappear. But wait—don’t lose hope. If I go back outside, if I go upstairs and come back—it comes back. Once again, the rich aroma of fall invades my senses and I am changed. This cycle goes on hour after hour and day after day. In the mornings, I like another candle in my home office. It is called Teakwood Mahogany. It is a man candle. After a few minutes…I smell nothing. Judy opens the door and comes into my office and is instantly overwhelmed—almost offended—by the strong smell. Amazing.

The truth is, it can be dangerous. It isn’t dangerous if it is the scent of a candle, but what if it is the scent of love in your marriage? What if it is the scent of faith in your Dearest Daddy? What if it is the scent of contentment—in all things being well? If and when that happens—it becomes dangerous. When the aroma of life becomes like stinky feet or as bland as an unscented candle—well, it can and will lead down paths that we don’t want or need to take. Marriages go south, faith downs in fear, and discontentment creeps into every corner of our lives. At best we become unhappy, but worse, we began to throw away the things most precious to us. I am certain that in this COVID hot mess some of the things most precious to us have been cast aside like leftover food. Last night’s spaghetti becomes today’s stinky garbage. We must beware.

I think, like leaving the room refreshes the aroma, we need to keep moving. We must avoid becoming stagnate. You know what happens to a stream that stops flowing don’t you? It becomes a slimy pit. So, we need to find ways to keep our marriages, our faith, our contentment, fresh, by stirring our lives with His grace—with His presence. We have to make sure the aroma we are giving off is pleasant and not “stinky feet.”

Paul, one of the Bible writer guys, says, “Our lives are a Christ-like fragrance rising up to God. But this fragrance is perceived differently by those who are being saved and by those who are perishing.” Well said, Paul, well said. What kind of aroma are you sharing with your family, your church, your workplace, your neighborhood? Is it the sweet smell of love, faith and contentment, or is it the atrocious odor of self and sin? I know one of the best things I ever did was ditch those shoes. Bye, bye stinky feet. What do we need to get rid of so we won’t be offensive but rather be welcoming? Nothing smells as sweet in our lives like the aroma of Jesus. So, sit down, pull off your shoes and rest with Him. He’s got this. Bro. Dewayne

Posted in food, friends, Grace, life, Scripture, Trials, wisdom

Small Things…Big Consequences

“Catch the foxes for us—the little foxes that ruin the vineyards.” Song of Solomon 2:15

Recently, we had a couple of visitors at our home…and they were not welcome. We all have them at one time or another…I guess. One of the things about living in an older home is they seem to always find a way in. I am talking about the little brown furry ones…mice. This time of year it seems they want to come inside out of the cold. Who can blame them? Well, I can…and they visit at their own peril.

I don’t like them and my wife Judy really doesn’t like them. So when we found out they were visiting, we launched an all out war. We set two kinds of traps and used a glue board. Well, they laughed at the glue board and the fancy new traps we bought. But the old fashioned ones finally sent them to brown furry heaven. Did I feel bad? Nope, in fact I did my little happy dance.

The furry little visitors really liked to visit our pantry and in fact that is where they met their demise. We have since found a way to discourage their cousins from visiting by putting almost everything in plastic containers. But, it turns out that they had the last laugh. You see, I had purchased a variety pack of chips. They were small bags of, oh, six or seven kinds of snack foods. Well, as it turns out, the little furry brown visitors liked to chew a hole in the bag to see what was on the inside. As far as I could tell, they didn’t eat any, they just chewed a hole.

Well, I found this out the hard way. I selected a bag, opened it up and popped a chip in my waiting mouth. I was surprised to discover that it was stale. Hmmm. I looked and sure enough there was a whole about the size of a nickel in the bag. Bummer. So, I tossed that one in the trash and started going through the rest of the bags. Believe it or not, most of the bags had smallish holes. Well, because that meant the furry little visitors had nibbled on the bag and because that meant the chips were stale, all of them went in the trash. Being a rather frugal person…it kinda made me mad.

There were a couple of bags that survived and when I was packing for a recent trip to North Carolina, I decided to take some snacks. There was one bag of Fritos that had escaped the onslaught of the furry visitors and I figured something salty might taste good later on so I tossed them into my snack bag. Sure enough, one night at the hotel, I decided the time for something salty had come. I opened the bag, and with great anticipation tossed a couple of Fritos in my mouth. Well, guess what? Yup…they were stale.

Wait a minute. We had checked the bags…the violated ones had been tossed and only the survivors were kept. This was one of the survivors. So, I began to check the bag again and here is what I found. At the bottom of the bag, near the seam, was the tiniest, the smallest hole you could imagine. It was so small, I had to look twice. But guess what? It was enough for the seal to be broken and when the seal is broken…things go stale pretty quickly. Sure, the fresh by date was months down the road, but that assumed a little furry visitor didn’t poke a hole in the bag.

And that made me think. How could such a small hole make such a big difference? Of course the answer is…the seal was broken…the integrity of the bag was violated. And that made me think about us, about me and my life and my decisions. It made me realize that you don’t have to do something incredibly stupid to have things go south in your life. We are not surprised by some of the things we do…you know…eat a dozen donuts and gain a pound or two. But too often we think the little things don’t matter…but they do…oh, they do.

And all that leads up to one of my favorite verses from the Old Testament. It is found in the Song of Solomon, chapter two, verse 15, “Catch the foxes for us—the little foxes that ruin the vineyards.” Great verse. The author is saying it often it isn’t the elephants walking through our lives that get us…it is the little things that can make life go stale. So we have to be on alert. Remember little things can have big consequences. If you need some help, you might want to call an exterminator…but not the kind you think. You might want to ask the Creator…He is ready to help. As always, big or little, He’s got this too. Bro. Dewayne

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

Nothing But the Truth….the Whole Truth

By His divine power, God has given us everything we need for living a godly life.” 2 Peter 1:3

It was a cute little sign…if only it had told the whole truth.  Well, I was still in North Carolina and my wife Judy was still in Illinois.  If she had been with me this probably wouldn’t have happened.  The schedule gives us some time off Tuesday afternoon just to relax or whatever. I decided to drive up to Mount Mitchell which is the highest point east of the Mississippi River.  It was only about thirty miles and best of all most of it was on the Blue Ridge Parkway.  Because of the elevation, there was already some beautiful color on some of the trees. God was doing it again.

Judy and I had made this drive last year but on that particular day everything was “socked” in.  There were heavy clouds, a misty fog, a strong wind, and it was quite chilly.  This year, the skies were blue, and the sun was shining bright.  While there was a wind, and it was still chilly…it made for a perfect day to see what God had been up to.  There’s an area called Craggy Gardens where there is an observation place and a welcome center.  Well, before I got to that I saw a sign that said Craggy Gardens Picnic Area.  It looked interesting so I turned left.

When I got to the top and to the parking area, I happened to see a sign.  I walked over and it said, “Trail to welcome center.” It also gave the distance which was a mere eight tenths of a mile.  Roundtrip was just 1.6 miles and I do two miles a day regularly, so this wasn’t even a challenge.  I slipped on my boots, grabbed my walking stick, and headed to the trail.  To get started there were about ten steps.  Well, this is where all the trouble started.  While the sign said where you were going and it even told you how far, it failed to mention the fact that it was all, and I do mean all, uphill.

Now there is uphill and there is UPHILL and this one was exactly that.  In short order I was huffing and puffing like an old steam train engine.  Now keep in mind I walk fast regularly.  None of that made a lick of difference.  This trail was a monster…a preacher eater if there ever was one.  Well, I finally made it to some sort of a shelter where I could sit down and try and catch my breath.  A couple of people showed up and I asked if they knew CPR and they quickly moved on…I was on my own.

Before I could stand, two more people came, and they were from Singapore. They spoke limited English, but they did assure me that the welcome center was somewhere ahead…about 500 meters.  So, I followed them and suddenly realized we were now going downhill about as steep as I had been going uphill.  I asked one more time how much further it was to the welcome center, and he pointed down, way down in the valley.  It then occurred to me we had not parked in the same place.  My car was at the picnic area and his was at the welcome center.  He was almost back, and I was still heading away from my car.  I made a decision…a wise decision…a lifesaving decision.

I told them I was turning around, and they smiled and eventually, I made it back to the car.  I wanted to tell the little sign what I thought but figured it wouldn’t matter.  After all he had told the truth…just not the whole truth or the whole story.  Exhausted, it felt great to pull off my boots and get into the car. Soaked with sweat…I knew I was done. Maybe.

I went ahead and drove up to the top of Mount Mitchell, elevation 6,638 feet. When I got there, there was another little sign.  It said it was only 300 yards to the observation deck. I said, “Anyone can do 300 yards.” Well, off I went.  You know what, I am a slow learner.  Yup, it was only 300 yards…straight up.  At the top, huffing and puffing, I looked around and then headed down.  I had had my fill of “mountain goating” and it was time for this preacher to go take a nap. And I did.

The point of this story is simple.  Before you take a hike make sure the signs are telling you the truth.  And before you take a hike down the path of life, make sure the signs along the way are telling the truth and giving you all the information, you need.  If not, you might end up huffing and puffing and looking for someone who knows CPR.  Can I make a suggestion?  Before you start, read the Guide to Hiking through Life Book, the Bible.  It is all true, and it gives you everything you need to succeed in your journey.  I didn’t see a ranger that day, but I can promise you there will be One guiding you as you hike the trails of life.  Some call Him God, some call Him Father, but I still like knowing He is my Dearest Daddy. And no matter what, He’s got this. Bro. Dewayne

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

No Excuse

The Spirit is the One who gives life. The flesh doesn’t help at all. The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and are life.”  John 6:63

“Breach your weapons, lay them on the ground and put your hands on your head.” Fifteen words I didn’t think I would ever hear.  As I’ve said before I was raised in Jacksonville, Florida.  We lived out in the country and would often go hunting not too far from my home. We would also go shooting.  What is shooting?  Well, that is when you go somewhere and just waste ammunition. There was an old dump about four miles from my house and that was a favorite place to go shoot.  There was an abundance of old bottles and cans there just waiting to give up the ghost.

When I was about nineteen, and in the Air Force, a couple of friends (who were in the Navy) decided to go shooting.  We got in our cars and went to the old dump and preceded to start what sounded like World War III.  We had rifles and shotguns, and we were blasting away.  Cans were flying and bottles were shattering and then without trying we all happened to empty our guns at the same time.  There was a moment of silence and then we heard it.

It was that static noise when someone mashes the button on a public address system before beginning to speak. It was then that we heard those fifteen words—which I still remember to this day even though it was 48 years ago, “Breach your weapons, lay them on the ground and put your hands on your head.”  Ok, two things almost happened at that moment.  I almost died and I almost lost bladder control.  I was scared to death.  I had only been pulled over by the police once and I had never been arrested.  I was certain that the Air Force would not like the fact that one of their ambassadors was arrested…especially on weapons charges.

So, you have to be wondering, “What in the world was going? Didn’t you know better?”  And the answer is “No.”  You see, Jacksonville and Duval County had merged into one making it the largest city in the United States.  That also meant that all the laws that applied to the city now applied to the county.  Well, since it was against the law to discharge a weapon in the city limits, which now included the old dump, we were in deep weeds. You can imagine we did some tall explaining to the police officer. I am sure it included an appropriate amount of praying, begging, and pleading. I imagine it also included the “we are serving our country” card too.

Well, somehow, we got off the hook. I’m sure I explained that I was raised in the area and had gone shooting there a lot.  I’m also sure I explained that we didn’t know about the law being changed.  I’m also sure he said ignorance of the law was no excuse and made sure we understood that it had better never happen again.  And do you know what?  It didn’t.  As far as my buddies and I were concerned, the old dump was safe and sound. At least this part of the Air Force and Navy was done.

I never forgot that lesson about ignorance of the law being no excuse. When I drive, and I am pretty much a rule follower, if I don’t know the speed limit, I settle at a speed that I know should be safely below what might be posted.  I found out one time (and I’ll write about that another time) that it costs to break the law.  And sometimes it can be pricey.  That is true for man’s law, but it is also true for God’s laws.

You see, at one time or another, we have all broken one or more and probably many of God’s laws.  We are just a rebellious bunch and there really is no excuse. We just sorta, kinda, like breaking laws. The Bible even says that. But here’s the deal—we forget one thing about laws.  Generally speaking, laws are there for a reason—our protection.  There is a reason why the speed limit isn’t 120 mph.  There is a reason why you should wear your seatbelt.  There is a reason why you shouldn’t jump from a cliff that says, “rocks below.”  They are all there to keep you within the guardrails of life.  I know, we think laws are there to make us miserable, and maybe that is true for the laws of man.  But when it comes to God—well, obeying His laws means less regrets and fewer consequences.  It means a better life.

Well, if you happen to be traveling through Duval County in Northeast Florida and you have the urge to go shooting…you might try a different county.  Unless they changed their mind, it is still against the law.  And if you find yourself being lured toward some moral disaster and away from what God says is right—breach your weapon, lay it on the ground and raise your hands in surrender.  Not to a policeman, but to the God who loves you enough to help you get through life—with less regrets and fewer consequences. It might seem hard but if you choose to rest in Him, you will find out that all things are possible.  Yup…He’s got that too. Bro. Dewayne

Posted in Family, friends, gratitude, life, loving others, missions, priorities, Scripture, thankful, travel, wisdom

But the Seat is Empty

He Himself has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” Hebrews 13:5b

Well, that didn’t take long.  I decided to do something that is unusual for me.  I had registered my wife Judy and I for a pastor’s conference.  I was thinking one day and said to myself, “Maybe it would be good for me to just get away by myself.” Well, I talked it over with Judy and she agreed.  Of course, the fact that she was leaving right after the conference for a mission trip to Puerto Rico probably figured in.  So, the decision was made…I would go, she would stay. Where to go and when to stay and where to eat and when to eat would be my call. It was a good plan.

The day came.  We had great services at church, and I had a sandwich for lunch and a quick nap before I hit the road.  With a hug and a kiss, I was off on the great adventure.  I had the satellite radio playing hits from the 60’s, the cruise was set for the speed limit, and I passed the time just enjoying the beautiful day and the slowly changing color of the trees.  And then…it began to happen. It started when I caught myself causally glancing over at the passenger seat. Normally it would have held my favorite person in the whole world.  It sat empty.  No deal…but it was a thought.  I would occasionally put my hand in the seat as if feeling to see if she was there.  She wasn’t.

After several hours, I arrived at my hotel for the night.  I had chosen well.  It was very reasonable and very nice.  I opened the door and marveled at the room.  I wanted to share the moment with her, but she wasn’t there.  I called and let her know I was there safely and then planned supper.  There was no doubt where I was going.  Fazoli’s. They had their pizza baked spaghetti back on the menu and I had been wanting to go…so I did.  This was a place Judy probably wouldn’t have chosen but tonight it was my call and honestly…it was very good. That was followed with a visit to a creamery called, “The Lazy Cow.” I picked the place and the flavor.  “Not bad,” I said to no one as a went back to my room.

The room was still nice, but it was quiet…too quiet.  I called Judy and told her about supper and the ice cream, but it wasn’t the same as experiencing it with her.  After a while we said good night and we both went to bed in different beds, different rooms, and different states.  The next morning, she said she didn’t sleep too well, and I told her the same. I told her some plans I had made, and she shared hers.  After a couple of minutes, we said goodbye.  And that is when it hit me.

It was nice picking what music I wanted to listen to as I drove.  It was nice stopping when I wanted to stop. It was nice choosing to go to Fazoli’s and later getting ice cream. All that was nice, but she wasn’t there and that made it all less nice. Oh, it is still a good plan, and I will enjoy my time away.  I’m sure the teaching is going to be great and all that, but it will be different.  It might, it probably will be less than if she was there.  Think about that.  Think about something else.

Do we ever think or maybe even act on what life would be like without God? We muse how grand it might be without the rules, to make our own choices and decisions and not have to worry about what He might think. I know for some of you that may be everyday but for a chunk of us that is far stretch and yet too often we live that very same way. We include God when it is convenient and leave Him at home when it isn’t. I’ve already discovered that while this week will be good for me…it is not something I want to do all the time.

The bottom line is Judy is just too much a part of my life…and that is how we need to make it with God.  We need to make Him so much a part of our lives, that when we look around and realize we left Him (He will never leave us) that we are wise enough to go back and join Him.  Lord willing this Thursday, I’ll be back home…and home is a good place.  God said He will never leave us or let us go and there is a lot of comfort in that.  There’s also a lot of comfort in knowing that even when we take a trip and fail to invite Him, He’s still there…He’s still got this. Bro. Dewayne

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

Sticks and Such

And he looked up and said, “I see men, but they look like trees, walking.” Mark 8:24

He was still there the next morning.  A while back a couple of awesome friends allow us to use their camper for a whole week.  It was a pastor appreciation thing, and we sure appreciated it.  Now I need to tell you this wasn’t one of those camper campers—this was one of those fancy ones—the kind that moves you from camping to glamping.  They set it up for us in a beautiful campground in the Land Between the Lakes.  The leaves were falling, the weather said fall, and we were two happy campers…no pun intended.

One evening I went out to find my car covered with a healthy crop of wet leaves.  With nothing important to do at the time, I begin picking the leaves off my car.  There were lots of different kinds of leaves.  As I worked my way around the car, I found something unusual on the driver’s side rear door.  It was a small stick about three inches long and it was stuck on the side of the door.  I thought that is kind of odd, so I took a closer look.  What I saw was what appeared to be one of those insects that look like a stick.  It had a small head and several joints down its body. It was amazing.  I said, “Hey Judy, come look at this cool insect.  It looks just like a stick.”

Well, she came over and looked and she said, “Are you sure that is an insect?”  I assured her that it was since I am an amateur entomologist.  Oh, in case you are wondering that is someone who studies insects.  I know because I looked it up.  So, me, the amateur entomologist, left this fine specimen of the insect world to spend the night on my car.  I really couldn’t believe she had questioned my judgment.  After all what does she know about entomology anyway?  Well, apparently a lot.

The next morning, we were leaving. As I carried our stuff out to the car, I took the time to pick the remaining leaves off my car and guess what?  My stick friend was still there.  I told Judy, “Hey that stick insect is still on the car.  How cool is that?”  She gave me that “Are you sure it isn’t a stick” look and I gave her the “I know what I am talking about” look.  There was only one way to prove her that I knew what I was talking about.  It was time for the touch test.  I went over to the car and looked again at my friend.  Head.  Check. Body. Check.  Legs.  Well, real small looking legs, but check.  So, I gave it a poke.  It fell off the car.

Yup.  I hate to admit it, but it was a stick.  I had to do the hard thing but the right thing. I went in and told Judy, “Hey you know that stick insect?  It was a stick.”  How about that?  I tried to lightly brush it off but no, I got a full load of the “I told you so.” Looks.  The bottom line was, she was right.  She knew her sticks and I obviously didn’t know my insects.  I think it is kinda funny that something I thought that was supposed to look like a stick really was.  No wonder it didn’t move all night.  I guess those weren’t legs after all.

I realized that morning that not everything that looks like a stick insect is in fact, a stick insect—it might just indeed be a stick.  Things are not always as they appear.  Seeing sometimes is not believing.  Our eyes can deceive us.  Our hearts can deceive us. Our minds can deceive us. Things can be deceiving.

There is a cool scripture about Jesus healing a guy who was blind.  Jesus touched his eyes and said, “What do you see?”  The man said, “I see men but they look like trees walking.”  Well, Jesus touched his eyes again and basically said, “What about now?”  And guess what?  He could see just fine.  Now obviously the man wasn’t seeing trees walking but that is what he thought he could see.  In a world where things are upside-down, we should take the time and carefully examine something before we buy into it.  If I had poked that stick sooner, I would have discovered the truth sooner.  Things are not always as they appear.

However, there is One we can trust who is always spot on and that is God.  He is the real deal and the lens that we view Him is through His Word.  Don’t trust what people say about God—read it for yourself.  God gave us His Word to show Himself to us and then invites every person to read for themselves.  And how often do you get to talk to the Author while you read His book? That’s pretty cool.  And if you chose to read about Him, you will be amazed at what you find.  You won’t find a God that looks like a God.  You will find a God that is God and Who can do what He says.  You will find a God who loves you—a lot.  You will find a God who is not afraid of our investigation of Him because He will stand any test.  So, go ahead.  Read up.  You will find the real deal.  A God that invites you to rest in Him.  A God who’s got this.  Bro. Dewayne