Posted in Family, fear, friends, gratitude, life, New Year, prayer, Scripture, sovereignty of God, thankful, Trials, wisdom

Happy New Year!

We know that all things work together for the good of those who love God, who are called according to His purpose.” Romans 8:28

I slowly walked to the edge, paused, and…”. Well, it was a long time ago but most of the picture remains intact.  I was about nine years old, and our church Sunday School decided to have a picnic.  We loaded up on a bus or two and drove to the lake.  It was a natural freshwater lake with a beach and a dock.  And speaking of docks…this was a big one.  It left the shore and went out about a mile…well, it seemed like a mile…remember I was only nine.  In fact, it probably went out about fifty yards or so.  Then it made a 90 degree right turn and went on for another fifty yards.  By any standard it was a long dock.

However, it was what was at the end of the dock that caused me to pause.  There, built into the dock was the “Tower of Terror.”  Now for those of you who are familiar with Disney World you know that is the name for one of their attractions.  You are taken inside a building and end up in the dark (mostly) and then without warning…the floor gives way and you are falling for what seems like forever.  Now all this is speculation and hearsay for me because trust me I would never, will never find out personally. No. Not. Nada.  But that day when I was nine, I faced my own “Tower of Terror.”

The tower at the lake that day was probably thirty or forty feet in the air.  You climbed a ladder attached to the tower and at the top was a good-sized platform.  This was where you could stand, look, and gather courage to walk to the edge and jump off.  Well, pushed by peer pressure and goaded by friends, I somehow found myself on the top and they were all saying one thing, “Jump!” Trust me, the last thing that I wanted to do was jump off that perfectly good tower.  I walked slowly to the edge and looked down.  The water seemed to be a zillion yards below me. There were only two options.  First, take the plunge or two, go back down the ladder.  With my heart pounding, with my peers all telling me to jump, I….

I honestly don’t remember what I did. I don’t know if I finally overcame my fear, swallowed my pride and jumped or swallowed my pride and slowly, with great humiliation, went back down the ladder.  Either one at the time felt unbearable and I know one thing even today…fear can paralyze you and fear can cause you to make some pretty crazy decisions.  Most of us personally know the truth in those words.

Well, today we find ourselves at the edge of another kind of platform…and for some, it might look like a “tower of terror.”  We are days and hours away from New Year’s Eve and honestly it can seem quite frightening…especially these days and with these circumstances. Considering all this, what should we do? What can we do?  Well, it seems logical to me that when I face something bigger than me, I need to find something or Someone bigger than the mountain, the obstacle that I am facing.  For me, hands down, that is God. 

There are two truths that I have found in God’s Word that really help me.  Maybe it will help you too.  First, is the sovereignty of God.  That simply means that God is in charge. I love the scripture that reminds me that every day is made by God…He is the owner and therefore the planner. It also means that He is in control…He.Is.In.Control. There is something peaceful in knowing that God is and if He is…well, worry shouldn’t rule us. But it gets better.

Not only does He make every day, but He also makes us an incredible promise.  If you are a Bible person you probably know this one.  In the book of Romans, Chapter 8, it says, “All things work together for the good of those who love God and who are called according to His purpose.”  Wow.  While that doesn’t mean that everything is good…we know that…it does mean that God can bring good from every circumstance.  What that also means is we have a promise from God that no matter how wonky 2023 may be, He can and will bring something good from it.  Now the truth of that should certainly bring some inner peace into the chaos of our lives. 

So, the bottom line is, “Happy New Year!” The God who makes the day makes the year and the God who makes the year manages the outcome.  Hey, sprinkling a little truth into a murky future can change a lot of things.  Now all of that isn’t a promise of easy but it is a promise of His faithfulness and that no matter what, “He’s got this.” Bro. Dewayne

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

Figuring it Out

If you need wisdom, ask our generous God, and He will give it to you. He will not rebuke you for asking.” James 1:5

It was a close call, but grace stepped in.  Every year, our church sends a group of missionaries to help process Operation Christmas Child shoeboxes in Atlanta. “Atlanta,” you say?  “I didn’t know they needed missionaries in Atlanta?”  Well, missionaries, at least to some degree, are folks who take a good message or do a good deed to a needy place and trust me that is anywhere and everywhere.  But in this case, it was also an opportunity to be a part of something very big that would impact thousands and thousands of people with the joy of a gift in the shape of a shoebox filled with items of love and the joy of a gift in the shape of a cross and an empty tomb—the message of Jesus.

Well, last year I almost didn’t make it. I almost missed the boat.  The week of the trip, two families in our church lost loved ones and as pastor and friend, I was asked to do the services for their loved ones—two precious mothers.  As it turned out the services would be held almost immediately after my return from Atlanta. Add to that, each service would require more than a few hours of preparation.  I believe each funeral service should be crafted in prayer and made as personal as possible and that requires time.  So, I told Judy I just didn’t think I could make the trip.  It would just be easier if I stayed back and worked.  She wanted very much for me to go but also knew the importance of the task at hand.

After some discussion, the decision was made…she would go, and I would stay.  I had made this trip several times and I knew it was going to be meaningful but easier just sounded easier. But then she said something that caused me to re-evaluate.  It was something like, “Now, don’t be upset when I come back and tell you what a good time we had.”  It was a moment of clarity.  It caused me to remember the times before and that feeling of making a difference, the times of fellowship with the team, and at that moment, I knew I needed to go.  This time easier just wasn’t the best choice.

I began immediately to prepare the services and asked God to multiply the time that I had.  Then, Tuesday morning, the next day, with almost thirty others, I boarded the bus and headed to Atlanta…and it was an incredible trip. The journey, the destination, the work was all just incredible.  We got back in town Thursday evening, and I went straight back to working to finish the two funeral services. In my heart I knew I had made the right decision. The first service was Friday, and it was my privilege to stand before a group of people and share about a life well lived and a great God who loves us—a bunch.  The other service wasn’t till Sunday and, unknown to me, I would not be there for that one.  I would be at home with the flu.  Fortunately, the work for the service was done and someone else would use that work.  God knew all of this and used all of this.  Amazing.

Each day we are challenged to make decisions.  Sometimes they are obvious and sometimes they are not.  Sometimes the choice is between easy and hard.  Ask God for wisdom to make the right one.  Oh, you will miss it sometimes regardless, but I have learned that He has a way of honoring our hearts and intentions.  I just know that this time the easy thing was not the right thing…it was just easy.  I returned from Atlanta not depleted and tired but filled and refreshed.  Helping others has a way of doing that. And, God, well, He always does all things, well!

James, the half-brother of Jesus, says in the Book of the Bible that bears His name, “If you need wisdom, ask our generous God, and He will give it to you. He will not rebuke you for asking.” You gotta love that.  Need wisdom? Just ask.  Will He be upset because you “bothered” Him?  Absolutely not.  He is like a dearest daddy just waiting to help and the reason why He is like that is because that’s what He is—our Dearest Daddy.  So, as you journey life today and you come to those crossroads called decisions, no matter how simple or complex, just ask and He will be there for you.  Don’t worry, “He’s got this.” Bro. Dewayne

Posted in Christmas, Family, friends, gratitude, life, love, loving others, priorities, Scripture, sovereignty of God, thankful, wisdom

Time…Our Treasure

Lord, You have been our refuge in every generation. Before the mountains were born,

before You gave birth to the earth and the world, from eternity to eternity, You are God.” Psalm 90:1-2

I glanced back in the rearview mirror and watched it disappear, just like that Christmas came and went.  It never ceases to amaze me how quickly time passes.  At one time there was a saying that said, “You are slower than Christmas.”  Well, at least for me that simply is not true anymore.  It seems like yesterday that we were talking about another new year, another new month, or another new week and now it is time to start it all over again.  In a very few days we will be celebrating January 1st and the start of another New Year. Amazing.

As you know Christmas fell on Sunday this year. For most folks the day of the week Christmas arrives is not that big of a deal.  However, for us preacher-teacher types it certainly is a big deal.  It is a definite shift to go from ho, ho, ho and opening presents to “Holy is the Lord.” It is almost like shifting a car from forward to reverse.  Christmas on Sunday normally occurs every six or seven years but guess what? Because of the way Leap Year falls next time, it will be eleven years before we celebrate Christmas on a Sunday again.  Eleven years.  For me, that means I will be knocking on eighty—loudly.  For some of you, it means your seven-year-old son or daughter will be knocking on 18. Is that crazy or what?

The crazier part of all of this is that those eleven years…if we get to see all of them…will pass so very quickly.  It is such a good reminder that we need to savor each day the Savior gives us.  We need to remember how precious every minute, hour, day, month, and year are.  The Bible has a lot to say about time and how we handle it. First, Moses tells us in Psalm 90, “Teach us to number our days carefully so that we may develop wisdom in our hearts.” That is such good counsel.  Like a cook carefully measures the ingredients in whatever they are preparing, so we need to carefully measure the value of each day. And when we do, if we do, we will discover the wisdom of the God of the ages.

Another great scripture is found in the New Testament of the Christian Bible.  Paul was writing to a group of Jesus people in Ephesus.  He said to them, “So be careful how you live. Don’t live like fools, but like those who are wise. Make the most of every opportunity in these evil days.”  Make the most or squeeze everything you can out of each day.  There are two things we need to remember about days. First, they all belong to the Lord…we are just managers and second, each day is a gift from Him.  No matter how difficult or how easy—each day is a present from Him to His children.  So, we should handle it with care and use it wisely.

Two of the things I love about God is His is generosity and wisdom.  He gives and guides and then helps us to make the most of every day…every gift.  As we look forward to our next installment of time—no matter how much or little we get to experience—always remember that there is One who is standing close just waiting to help us.  No matter what—He’s got this.  Bro. Dewayne

Posted in Christmas, Family, friends, gratitude, Holidays, life, loving others, Military memories, Scripture, thankful, travel

Memory Trees

You have turned my mourning into joyful dancing. You have taken away my clothes of mourning and clothed me with joy.” Psalm 30:11

Just a heads up. Christmas trees. They all have their own time to be setup. They all have their own design and style.  They all have their time when they are trashed or stowed.  There is a common denominator.  Those three things are determined by the creators, the admirers of the trees.  That is what makes every tree special. At our house, we do something just a bit different.  We have four trees that make a small, enchanted forest of sorts.  The tallest is about six foot and the smallest is about 30 inches.  It was an idea that I came up with several years ago and we love it.  They are decorated with a wide variety of ornaments and keepsakes from over the decades…and we love that too.

On one tree, we have a Styrofoam snowman’s head that was made by my sister when she was in the third grade…and trust me…that was a really, long time ago.  There is a glitter covered cross from when my wife Judy was in the fourth grade.  Of course, there are three “baby’s first Christmas” ornaments—one for each of our daughters.  There is a 3×5 index card with two buttons on it.  Written, by my oldest granddaughter when she was about 5 years old, is her name over one button and Papa written over the other.  It is priceless.  We were buddies…we are buddies. And on and on it goes…families, friends, and special memories all gathered in one place.

So, by now you are wondering, “Why are you writing about Christmas trees after Christmas has passed?”  It’s a bit of a story. When we were in Germany in 1979, we lived in base housing.  They were large, four-story apartment buildings, with three stairwells—all full of military families.  We were on the top floor, and we had one neighbor across the hall, and they had a phone in their home.  One year, near Easter, I needed to use the phone, so I knocked on the door and his wife came to the door.  I asked if I could use their phone and she was kind enough to say yes.

As I entered their apartment, I noticed one thing right away.  Sitting in their living room was their Christmas tree in all its splendor.  Now, keep in mind it was right before Easter.  I made my call and just had to ask the obvious question.  I politely said, “So why do you still have your Christmas tree up?”  And, without missing a beat, she said, “It makes me happy.”  I never forgot that simple answer and the great truth it taught me.  It.Makes.Me.Happy.

I love the fact that this sweet lady decided to keep her tree up…not based on popular opinion, not on what the masses did, or what was “normal.”  She decided based on what was good for her—for her mental health.  I didn’t think her odd at all—rather, I thought her strong and wise.  I wonder how many decisions we make every day that are not based on what may be good for us but based on what the Smith’s or Jones’ might think of us? I wonder how many things we wear, or eat, or watch, or do, that are based on the opinion of others?  I wonder how many of our faith decisions are based on the same.  Church—no church. Kindness—no kindness. Love—no love. Jesus—no Jesus. Hmmmm. I just wonder.

One year we decided to leave our trees up for several weeks after Christmas and it was ok.  They had transformed from Christmas trees to memory trees.  Maybe, perhaps we will do that again this year. So, if you drive by 217 you might see a small, enchanted forest in our front bay window.  It will be four trees starting at about six feet tall and going down to 30 inches.  If you could get close enough, you would see the trees covered with special ornaments—and almost everyone would represent a special memory or event.  And why will they be there?  Well, it might just be a reminder that we have so much to be thankful for.

If we do leave our trees up, or at least until we take them down, we will drink coffee and do our Jesus things like reading the Bible or praying and occasionally we will look up and be happy—happy for all the blessings that God has sent our way.  Someone writing about God in His Book said that God had turned their mourning into joyful dancing. He had taken away their clothes of mourning and clothed them with joy. I couldn’t agree more.  Even in these different days, these different months, and years, we will have happy moments.  We will pause and thank God that in the past He always showed up and today and all the today’s yet to come He will do it again. After all, He’s got this.  Bro. Dewayne

Posted in Family, life, prayer, Scripture, sovereignty of God, thankful, travel, Trials


Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not rely on your own understanding; in all your ways know Him, and He will make your paths straight.” Proverbs 3:5-6

It’s rather a paradox.  The story is told of two people who were married, and both happened to be doctors.  They were walking down the street together, holding hands, and someone saw them and said, “Oh look, a “pair of docs.” Smile.  I have a paradox of my own, but it has nothing to do with doctors.  You see, I love to travel.  My wife Judy and I genuinely look forward to traveling.  It is one of our “life candies.”

Now for the paradox.  To travel, you have to have somewhere to go.  Whether it is a plane, train, or automobile…you must go and going always involves opportunities for frustration.  Whether it is a canceled flight or train or a sudden traffic jam on the interstate, interruptions will and do come.  On one trip, we happened to be driving south on Interstate 24.  There was a stretch of road south of Paducah, Kentucky that the Department of Transportation had been working on for a long, long time.  The two south bound lanes have been reduced to one and that can spell slowdown.  But this time it didn’t.  Everyone managed to merge to one lane, and we were merrily heading south at a reduced but very respectable speed…until we weren’t.

Suddenly, I looked up and I could see lots and lots of brake lights.  So, I began to slow down and quickly found myself in a traffic jam.  Well, we managed to creep along at a blazing five or ten miles per hour.  I looked on the GPS and it confirmed there was an accident up ahead and that was the reason for the slowdown.  It also told me that the mess was somewhere between long but not the longest.  After a while the GPS told me that we were nearing the spot of the accident.  I was expecting the worse…police cars, ambulances, and destroyed vehicles, but that wasn’t what I found. Pulled off on the shoulder, as in not blocking any lanes, were three vehicles.  One had no damage and the other two had minor damage.  Apparently they were following too closely and someone hit the brakes and well, the rest is history.

There was no police presence, yet, there was no ambulance—in fact, everyone was standing around chatting and as soon as we passed the scene, it was over.  It was back to normal…zooming south again.  Two things quickly occurred to me. First, the choice of those two drivers to follow too closely sure caused a mess.  If one of them was in a hurry…well, they weren’t anymore.  Second, it seemed to me that while traffic needed to slow down, it didn’t need to almost come to a standstill.  It could have been curiosity or maybe a case of overreaction.  We do that well sometimes, don’t we? The bottom line is…it doesn’t matter…things happen. Period.

And therein lies the paradox.  Practically speaking, if we travel, we will have bumps and slowdowns.  It is just a part of life—the journey.  So, the trick is to do all that you can to avoid the bumps and slowdowns and don’t let them “eat your lunch” or keep you from doing the things you love.  You learn to accept them as part of the journey.  Now, I’m still learning this, but I have a feeling it is something worth exploring.  This goes somewhere beyond knowing the joy is in the journey which includes joy in the bumps and slowdowns.  It means somehow, (I’m still working on it), allowing those inconveniences to become part of the adventure.  I know that sounds crazy but at the same time it sounds…enticing.

I’m one of those crazy people who believe the Bible and believe what it teaches about life and God, and I am learning to believe that God has His hand on the wheel and throttle of life. He has a reason for cruising free and clear down the interstate of life and He has a reason for the bumps and slowdowns of life. It becomes a matter of being willing to trust Him for both.  A favorite proverb from the Book of Proverbs says, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not rely on your own understanding; in all your ways know Him, and He will make your paths straight.” Well, there you go.  Do life by trusting Him.

When I saw those brake lights the other day and had to slowdown…and even stop, it seems there was a whisper in my ear. It wasn’t shouting frustration or demanding an explanation. It was something I had heard before and needed to hear again.  It simply said, “Don’t worry, son, I’ve got this.” Bro. Dewayne

Posted in Christmas, Easter, forgiveness, Grace, gratitude, Holidays, life, love, Scripture, sovereignty of God, thankful

Long Shadows

Why do you seek the living among the dead? He is not here but is risen!”  Luke 24:5b-6a

It cast a long shadow.  Can you imagine what it was like that night when Jesus was born?  Can you imagine being nine months pregnant and making a weeklong journey walking or on the back of a donkey?  Can you imagine mile after mile until there were 90 of them in the rearview mirror?  Can you imagine arriving only to discover that there was no room, no space anywhere and the pains of birth begin and become stronger and stronger. No room, no midwife, no doctor, and no hospital.

Finally, someone offers a stable for the night.  It almost certainly was not a wooden affair but rather a cold, damp cave.  Wood would have been very scarce so rather than a cozy manger made of wood there would have been one chiseled from stone.  And there in those difficult circumstances, the King and creator of the universe took on the form of a human baby.  Jesus was born and according to scriptures was wrapped in strips of cloth or swaddling cloths.  And most of it, all of it, cast a long shadow into His future.

Have you ever wondered why Luke made it a point to mention the swaddling cloths?  It is interesting to know that some thirty-three years later, after His death on the cross, this same Jesus would be prepared for burial by being wrapped once again in strips of cloth or swaddling cloths.  You see, those birth cloths cast a long shadow…all the way to His death. The reason for Christmas was Easter.  And that manger, that stone manger, casts a long shadow too. After His death on the cross, it was in a tomb carved from stone that held the body of Jesus.  As a baby He was laid in stone and as the Redeemer of man, they laid Him in a tomb of stone.  How amazing…how wonderful.

But here is the most amazing part.  The baby that first Christmas night would not stay in the stony manger long and soon also cast off those swaddling cloths. The long shadow they cast would tell the same truth.  After Jesus’ death on the cross, after His burial, He refused to stay dead.  On the third day, He cast off the swaddling cloths of death and burst out of the stony tomb, proving He was indeed the Son of God…the Savior of the world.  Christmas was the beginning of His earthly existence, but the end of the story proved His eternal existence.  He was who He claimed to be, and He did do what He was sent to do.

Jesus came to earth that first Christmas on a rescue mission.  Pastor Chuck Swindoll writes, “This is the message of Christmas: On a rescue mission designed by His Father before time began, Jesus silently slipped into our world, breathed our air, felt our pain, became acquainted with our sorrows, suffered and died for our sins . . . to show us the way out of our darkness and into His glorious light.”

As we approach Christmas, let me encourage to look beyond the stable, the manger and the Baby that lies there.  While wondrous for sure, the end of the story is even grander than the beginning.  God became man…that is amazing…but that the God-Man died for man…well that is even more so.  So, when you see the manger, remember an empty grave.  When you think of the swaddling cloths, imagine them neatly folded in an empty tomb. And remember the greatest wonder of all when the angel said to Mary of Magdalene, “Why do you seek the living among the dead? He is not here but is risen!”

Merry Christmas friends but may I also say, “Happy Easter” for they are forever linked together. The baby in the manger became the Savior on the cross and the Savior of the cross became the King of Kings.  Hallelujah.  Oh, and that King is the One who waits patiently for us to trust Him.  After all, today and everyday…He’s got this.  Bro. Dewayne

Posted in Christmas, Family, friends, Grace, gratitude, Holidays, life, love, loving others, prayer, priorities, Scripture, Southern born, sovereignty of God, thankful, Trials, wisdom

It’s a Downtown Christmas

I pray that you, being rooted and firmly established in love, may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the length and width, height and depth of God’s love.” Ephesians 3:17b-18

This was one time paying a bill was fun.  My life as a kid was good.  While we didn’t have everything, we had plenty and we had each other.  A few weeks out from Christmas (believe it or not, we actually celebrated Thanksgiving before jumping into Christmas) we would get all the Christmas decorations down from the attic and decorate the house. I told you about the special Santa that used to hang on our chimney and believe it or not I was able to find one exactly like it and it now hangs in my office.  He keeps an eye on me all through the year to make sure I am behaving.

One of my favorite memories was the times when we had to go to downtown Jacksonville to pay our utility bills.  I suppose it was the electric bill because we had a pump in the backyard for our water and we didn’t use gas.  At any rate, with a tight budget, we would have to take the bill down to the electric company and drop it off the night before it was due. Christmas or not, off we would go to downtown.  But during the Christmas season…it was special indeed.  Here’s why!

Back in the day, all the department stores would decorate their windows with all things Christmas.  There would be figures whose arms and legs would move, reindeer that lifted their heads as if to fly, boys and girls skating on a make believe lake and on and on the list would go. It was certainly a magical thing to see and experience.  In its own small way, it made Christmas, Christmas.

Now here’s the good part.  Truth be known, if it wasn’t for the tight budget that forced us to make time to go downtown to pay the bill—we probably would have missed that beautiful part of our Christmas memories.  I know that often this is not by accident but rather by design.  You see God is always working, sometimes out front and sometimes in the background, but He is always working and yes, He does work in strange ways.  And often, what seems like a difficulty can be His way of bringing something good to light.  If we are willing to be patient, then time after time we will see His Divine handiwork.

I think one of the best things will be when we finally get to heaven and see that it is full of surprises.  We will know all the things God saved us from that we never saw happening and all the things He arranged that we skipped over and counted as consequence.  And as much as we think we know, I believe we are going to be astounded by the depth and width of His great love for us.

Paul, the guy who wrote a big chunk of the New Testament said it best when he wrote, “I pray that you, being rooted and firmly established in love, may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the length and width, height and depth of God’s love.”  And honestly, that is one prayer we may not see answered because His love is so vast. So today, why not keep a special look out for all the ways God especially works in your life. Some will cause you to be filled with gratitude and others, well, they might make you grateful that indeed, “He’s got this.” Bro. Dewayne

Posted in Christmas, Family, friends, Grace, gratitude, Holidays, life, love, priorities, Scripture, Southern born, thankful, wisdom

On the Other Side of the Wall

Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.” James 1:17

The walls were thin…real thin.  The house I was raised in was a converted World War II barracks that had been moved from wherever to the corner of Wheat and Carlton Roads. It was a two-bedroom, one bath house with more people than bedrooms.  We were normally scattered about in the house to sleep but not on Christmas Eve.  That night, the three little ones, as we were known, were all put in one bedroom and in one bed.  That night was a night of wonders enhanced by the sounds coming through the thin walls.

We were put to bed early in those early days because Santa Claus was coming to town. We reluctantly surrendered and tried to go to sleep.  We made every excuse possible to peek and see what was happening on the other side of the thin wall.  We even resorted to telling white lies about having to use the restroom but all to no avail.  We were Christmas Eve prisoners while Santa came on the other side of the thin wall.

What we couldn’t see…we could hear.  There were voices, there was laughter and occasionally there was the sound of a toy…a present…being tested. I remember one time my sister had asked for a chord organ and imagine the thrill when through the thin wall came the sound of music.  Well, it took a while but eventually we would drift off to sleep with visions of Christmas morning dancing in our heads.  Each Christmas, we were startled awake by the sound of an old .410 shotgun being fired.  Like horses at the starting gate, we knew it was off to the races. With the final permission, we flung open the door and walked into a wonder land of wonderful things.

Each Christmas morning there around the room would be at least some of the things we had asked Santa for.  We were far, very far, from rich but somehow Santa would bring at least some of the things we had asked for along with others we had not even thought of.  It was an amazing and wonder filled morning.  Even as I write, as my mind races back to those times, I smile.  I smile because of the gifts, those we asked for and those more than we could have imagined, but I also because now I know the sacrifice that made all that possible.  Oh, how blessed I was…we were.

Each Christmas I knew we probably wouldn’t get everything we asked for, but I knew we would be amazed at what filled the room.  It seemed someone had mined our minds and dug up treasures galore.  I truly treasure those memories and today…I treasure the same thing but not just on Christmas morning.  Each day I am amazed how another Father, my heavenly Father, fills my life with gifts.  Each day He blesses and each day He shows His love in practical ways. Sometimes it is the answer to a prayer, sometimes it is just His attention to the small details of life and sometimes it is just His love, His presence. And sometimes, it is Him walking with me through some challenging circumstance…some difficulty…expected or not.

I have learned that He is a God who can be trusted.  And even though I don’t always get the exact answer to a prayed prayer, I know this. He never gets it wrong.  Sometimes that means things I thought of, but it always includes things He thought of.  Just like Christmas morning while I didn’t always know what was going to be on the other side of the thin wall, I knew it was going to be good.  Why? Because it was all planned by someone who loved me dearly.

James, the half-brother of Jesus said, “Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.” That teaches us that God is the giver of good and perfect things and that His nature and character about giving never changes.  What we must do is trust that “Father knows best.” I’m sure I asked for some crazy things growing up and I’m also sure my parents were wise enough not to grant every wish or request.  We can know the same about God.  So be brave enough not to allow disappointment to be a part of your God vocabulary because He is for you and not against you.  He is so much wiser and more able than we are.  We can rest assured that no matter what it looks like, “He’s got this.”  Bro. Dewayne

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

Cooking Lesson

Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord, and whose hope is the Lord.” Jeremiah 17:7

It looked like a chocolate mud puddle…or worse. Well, I am a firm believer that God wires people in different ways. Some people are gifted in music, some in speaking; some are mechanically minded while others are whizzes at math.  It is no wonder why the Bible says that we are “fearfully and wonderfully made!”

Now if you are a regular Grits reader you know that I am a “foody.” I am blessed to have a wife who can cook very well. As a pastor at a church, one of my favorite things is when we decide to have a potluck. A potluck is when all the families bring a dish or two or three and we all share. At my church, a potluck doesn’t involve luck at all—you know it is going to be good.  I guess I appreciate good cooks so much because I am not one.  If cooking is a gift, I was in the wrong line when the gifts were distributed.  Let me explain.

One day I decided I wanted something sweet to eat.  I looked in the pantry and, in the refrigerator, but came up empty handed. I looked in the kitchen cabinets and found several boxed mixes.  There were two or three for cakes and one for brownies.  As my mind thought of sweet, gooey brownies–it was a done deal. I read the box and found I needed several ingredients–the mix–check; oil–check; water–check and two eggs–uh, no eggs.

I asked Judy what would happen if I skipped the eggs–she simply said, “It won’t work.”  She said something about a chemical reaction and the brownies being as flat as a pancake, but my mind had one thought–sweet, gooey brownies. I decided to press forward.  In fact, I even added more oil, more water, and some heavy whipping cream just for good measure.  After all, doesn’t more make everything better?  Who cares if it has nothing to do with brownies?

Well, I put them in the oven and set the timer for about twenty-five minutes.  Soon the timer was going off and I opened the door and peeked inside expecting a pan of delicious brownies.  What I found was anything but.  In fact, it resembled an oil slick…the kind you see when a tanker spills its cargo. It was some sort of goo—I guess a combination of pools of the oil, a black slime in the middle and a hard edge all around.  I guess that thing about the chemical reaction was right. Instead of ending up with a nice gooey brownie I ended up with a gooey mess.  It turned out that I wasted all those ingredients and twenty-five minutes of electricity.

So, what is the moral of the story?  Well, for one there is a reason why there is something called a recipe.  Someone smarter than me determined what it takes to make a delicious brownie and they were kind enough to share their wisdom.  If the recipe calls for eggs–it needs eggs.  I don’t know what the eggs do but I do know it does something important.  Someone on the internet suggested you could use Diet Coke instead of eggs.  I don’t know if that is true or not and I am not going to try and find out.  I’ve learned my lesson.  From now on Judy can cook the brownies and I will remain the eater in the family.

Oh, by the way, that following the recipe thing applies to God also.  You see, the greatest “cookbook” for a successful and purposeful life is the Bible. It is filled with recipe after recipe for a life that is truly worth living and it all starts with trusting and having faith in God.  In the Old Testament part of the Bible, a guy named Jeremiah said, “Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord, and whose hope is the Lord.” He knew what we need to know…God is reliable.

The Bible says that Jesus is the one essential ingredient to our salvation.  I don’t know if Diet Coke will replace eggs, but I do know nothing can replace Jesus. You can add all the good works you want; add all the church you want and get baptized till you wrinkle but without Jesus—it just won’t work.  It is He and He alone that makes salvation possible.  All our additions will only make a gooey mess out of salvation.  Add the key ingredient and you can’t miss!

Well, for all you brownie lovers out there I hope you learned from my disaster!  Just remember, those ingredients are listed and needed for a reason–it won’t work without them.  And for each of you who are looking for a full life—one with purpose and peace, don’t forget the key and that is Jesus. Go ahead, ask others, and ask Him.  You will find He is the real deal.  Need a hand in the kitchen of life? Give God a chance. I’ve found that He is always willing and always there. Even when your life looks like a chocolate mud puddle…or worse…you can have the assurance that “He’s got this.”  Bro. Dewayne

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

Three Questions

This means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun!” 2 Corinthians 5:17

He nervously paced the floor as the preacher preached.  My wife Judy and I were recently visiting family in South Georgia. We were at her brother’s house…patiently waiting as his wife prepared us some good southern cooking…chicken and rice, green beans, and a hearty salad…with peach cobbler and ice cream for dessert.  Thinking about it…maybe we weren’t so patient after all.  Anyway, one thing led to another and so her brother, who happens to be a preacher, began to share a story.  Many years ago, he had decided that God was calling him into the ministry and at that time he was filling in wherever he could.  He was still learning and practicing.

Well, his Daddy was the assistant warden at the local work camp…a sort of low security prison…and he suggested that he might find a captive audience there…pun fully intended.  So, her brother began to preach there at the jail.  They would lead him into the dining hall, bring in the prisoners and then…they would lock the doors.  He would begin to tell them about God’s love for broken people…just like them…just like us.  And, while he was preaching, this old man would walk the floor, slowly pacing, and in his own way engage with the preacher.  It was a grunt here and moan there, but it was obvious he was tracking where the preacher was going.

One time, at the end of the sermon, he came up to Judy’s brother and asked him if he could tell him about a sermon he had.  He told Judy’s preacher brother that his sermon asked three questions.  “First,” he said, “Do you have religion?”  Now the question wasn’t about what church you attended but rather did you know God personally.  You see that is the whole point of Jesus…that if you are willing to believe what Jesus said and believe in what He did…you can be a part of God’s family.  That was first because it is most important.  So, do you have religion—that kind of religion?

The old man spoke again and said, “There is another question.”  He wanted to know if you had religion, was it the “catching kind?” The old man was wise enough to know that religion that ain’t worth catching, ain’t worth having. The truth is too often the reason people aren’t interested in what we are “selling” is because it doesn’t seem to be working for us. And, if it isn’t working for us, why would it work for them?  Now, that’s a good question.  So, if you are the religious sort, is your religion worth catching?

Finally, the old man said, “Now the third question is this.  If you have religion, and if it is the catching kind…if anyone catching it?”  See, he knew that real religion, the kind that Jesus brings…brings change.  The Bible says that if anyone believes in Jesus, they become a new creation…the old life passes away and the new comes. We have a couple of fellas in our church that met Jesus while they were serving time in prison, and they will gladly tell you that they came out different than they went in.  That kind of religion is worth sharing.  That kind of religion is worth catching.

Well, with that the old man turned away and Judy’s brother went his own way too.  But do you know what?  He never forgot that old man’s sermon.  In fact, he preached it a time or two and now here I am writing about it.  The old man didn’t have much education and I’m not sure he ever made it out of prison.  But right there where he was, he was making a difference. You know, God created us to make a difference and those three questions can help us determine if we are. You can tweak those questions to read like this.  First, do you have something you are passionate about? Second, is it a passion worth sharing with those around you? Third, is anyone catching your passion, your dream, your vision?

For me the greatest passion of life is knowing God personally and trust me…it is a passion worth sharing and certainly worth catching.  Now remember, I’m not talking about religion in the plain old sense or church in the ordinary sense.  I am talking about experiencing the life changing power of the grace and forgiveness of God.  If you haven’t caught it yet…well, trust me it is worth catching.  God loves people…all people regardless of skin color, economic status or how long or short their sin list might be.  Your sin can’t out grace God’s grace.  You need to know this.  He wants to know you personally and wants you to personally know Him.  And, no matter what you have done, rest assured, He’s got this.”  Bro. Dewayne