Posted in Family, fear, friends, Grace, gratitude, life, Military memories, prayer, priorities, Scripture, Southern born, sovereignty of God, thankful, travel, Trials, wisdom

The Phone Call

Trust in the Lord with all your heart and don’t lean into your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him and He will make your paths straight.”  Proverbs 3:5-6

It was a phone call that was to change my life.  It was from my brother-in-law’s brother.  We were fringe friends, and he had an idea.  We were both seniors in high school and both really didn’t have plans for after graduation.  So, he says, “Hey Dewayne.  Why don’t we join the Air Force together?  They have the buddy plan.  We can attend basic training together and go to our first duty station together.  We can be buds.”  Well, I didn’t have any better ideas and I liked the idea of serving my country and I was always kinda adventurous so, “Why not?”  I went down and signed up singing, “Off we go into the wild blue yonder.”  We were set.  Or not.

After I went down to sign up, I called my brother-in-law’s brother and said, “Have you signed up yet?”  Silence.  He then told me that he had changed his mind.  We were no longer buds.  Well, regardless, I was going into the Air Force.  That much was decided. What wasn’t decided was what to do in the Air Force.  They have this test they give you to decide what best suits your talents and abilities.  I took the test. When the recruiter gave me the results he was smiling.

“Well, Dewayne, looks like you are strong in the administrative field.” “What?” I said.  “Administration.” he said. 

He tried to make it sound really important, but he was really saying I was going to be a secretary.  Now this was not cool.  My dad was a jet engine mechanic.  One brother had served in the Army and I’m not sure what he did but it wasn’t typing.  Another brother who joined the Air Force saved the world—or at least that’s what he told me.  My other brother joined the Coast Guard—saving lives and stuff. Me?  Well, I get to be a secretary.

So anyway, I kept my word and joined the Air Force.  I even realized that being a 702X0, (that is the official designation for an administrative specialist), was not too bad.  When guys were standing in the rain guarding planes I was in a nice, warm office.  There were always a few unkind jokes about 702X0 guys but when those guys wanted their leave papers processed, the joke was on them.  Yup, it was totally unexpected but it turned out the Air Force was right.  I was in my groove.

Now for the best part of the story.  Later I met my wife Judy and we decided to make the Air Force a career.  Secretary or not, she thought I was rather dashing even if I did type instead of fly a plane.  The days and years went by and then I heard a whisper—the God kind.  It said something about pastoring and preaching.  I told the Whisperer that I was gonna stay in the Air Force and we could talk later.  Another year passed and the Whisperer kept whispering and finally I said, “Yes.”  So, after twelve years I left the Air Force and walked from one office…and right into another.  Then it hit me like a ton of bricks.

I had been in school for twelve years.  I suddenly realized that God had been grooming me for the pastorate all along.  Can you imagine if I had done my thing and become a mechanic and then walked into the pastorate where working on jet engines didn’t help you write sermons?  Because of God’s sovereignty and wisdom, I left one office where I typed, wrote, researched, supervised, filed and zillion other things and walked right into another where almost all those skills were needed.  Can someone say, “Amazing?”

So here I am 40 years into my calling as a pastor sitting at a computer and writing.  It all happened because the Whisperer whispered and for once I had the common sense to figure out He was a lot smarter than I was.  Proverbs 3:5-6 has been a powerful force in my life, all my life.  It says, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and don’t lean into your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him and He will make your paths straight.”  I know from personal experience that is true.

I haven’t always gotten it right.  I haven’t always listened to the Whisperer, trusted Him totally or not leaned into my own understanding.  But when I did, I have always had better outcomes and fewer regrets.  And do you know what? Even in this crazy new world, even in today’s circumstances, He’s still got a plan.  This isn’t a world gone mad or to use my favorite word, “crazy.” This is a world under the watchful eye and caring heart of our God.  And He is crazy about us.  So, go ahead and surrender to Him—rest in Him.  He’s got this. Bro. Dewayne

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

Kitchen Wisdom

It was the duty of the trumpeters and singers to make themselves heard.” 2 Chronicles 5:13

They hang silently on the wall…shouting…with no one listening.  We have lived at 217 West Poplar Street for almost twenty-three years. Given I’m a Baptist pastor that is quite amazing since we preachers don’t usually stay in one place that long.  That might be why so many of us preachers are fond of Willie Nelson’s song, “On the Road Again.” You might wonder why we tend to move around, and the answer is three-fold. First, sometimes God says go, sometimes the people we serve say go and finally, sometimes we say go. There you go…no pun intended.

So, to live in one place for that many years means that we have hung around long enough to see our kids grow up and have kids, for sticks to become trees and flowers to not only bloom but multiply. As the years have gone by, we have painted the house, inside and out, a couple of times and redecorated more times than that.  Furniture has come and gone and so have a lot of decorator items.  You know how it is—tastes and styles change and of course we must occasionally keep up with the Jones.

Well, amidst all that change there are somethings that have hung around—and hung is a good word for it.  As an example, we papered the main part of our kitchen, and it is still there today—two decades later.  There are two reasons.  First, we like it and second, we definitely do not like stripping wallpaper, so every time we think about changing it—-we just think about stripping it.  Now hanging over the stove is something that we have had for a long time—in fact, it may have come with us from our previous home.

It is a three-dimensional wall plaque that, along with other things, has six words on it. I hadn’t really read it in a long time but this morning I happened to glance over at the stove and for the first time in a long time—well, I read it.  Here’s what it says, “Live well, Laugh often and Love much.” Now that is a great mantra to live by. And for the past couple of decades, it has hung in the same place, over the stove, shouting its grand advice and yet, for the most part, no one listened.

Regardless…it is great advice.  Think about it. Live well.  Stop and smell the roses. Learn to appreciate the people who fill your life—especially the ones we call family. Take the time to admire a sunrise and sunset—like it was the first one you ever saw.  Laugh often.  Rediscover the fine art of laughing at a corny joke or the crazy antics of your dog or one of your grandkids. Sometimes we just need to laugh till we cry.  Love much. Love the way you did when you first saw him or her.  Love homemade ice cream like you did the first time you tasted it.  Love God like the day He forgave you.

Someone said once, we need to learn to dance like no one is watching.  I like that—especially considering I can’t dance.  But for any of this to happen, we must learn to listen to the things that matter and yet are so easy to ignore.  Like the plaque over the stove.  Like the song the frogs sing after a spring rain.  Like the symphony the stars lift to the One who made it all.  Starting today, starting now, why not take time to read or perhaps just listen to all that is going on around us.  No, not the static, not the noise, but rather the music of life.  The words go something like this—live well, laugh often, and love much.

There’s an interesting verse tucked away in the Old Testament part of the Bible.  It says, “And it was the duty of the trumpeters and singers to make themselves heard.”  We learn that it was their job to be heard but it was the people’s job to listen…and respond. The music of life, laugher and love are all around us—we just need to listen. My Dearest Daddy sometimes, well a lot of the time, must remind me to slow way down and listen as His creation sings and as He whispers, “I’ve got this.” Bro. Dewayne

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

Backyard Cars

But Peter said, “I don’t have silver or gold, but what I do have, I give you: In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, get up and walk!” Acts 3:6

Sometimes it seemed like a parking lot.  We have all seen it, but I experienced it.  As I have often said, there were certain benefits to growing up urban county.  We weren’t country like horses and cows, but we were country like with room to run, places to play and cars in the backyard.  What?  Yup. I know we have all seen yards where there are old cars hanging around the yard.  I know each time I drive to Paducah down Route 145 in Southern Illinois I pass a house with an old Capri parked in the yard…permanently.  Over the years that I have seen it, weeds and green algae have slowly grown over it.  I’m not sure about the story behind the old Capri, but it is there year after year.

Over the years I lived at 6008 Carlton Road, we had several cars parked in our backyard.  When my granddaddy Taylor died, we inherited his old Pontiac Sedan.  I’m not sure what year it was but it was old…probably the late forties if I were to guess.  I know at least for a while it was a runner, but later it became a sitter.  Regardless, it was a great place to play and hide in a good game of hide and seek.  A while back I was converting some old family movies to digital so we could watch them again.  There is one simply titled, Alston and Leslie Taylor and their children – 1960’s.  In the middle of the video there was my daddy, and he was working on the old Pontiac.  It was good to see him again.  It reminded me what a good man he was.

I have a feeling that there was a reason that he was working on granddaddy’s Pontiac.  You see I remember that our main driver, a 1957 Plymouth, blew an engine so it was parked under the tree in the backyard.  So, I think Daddy may have been working on the Pontiac so we would have something that would get us from here to there.  The Plymouth sat there for quite a while.  Motors were expensive and it would be a while before Momma and Daddy could scrape the money together to buy a rebuilt one.  I know they eventually did, but until then it was the old Pontiac.

And then there was the Sunbeam.  My brother Lee bought a car from somebody, and it was quite unusual.  It was a British made car and it almost had that James Bond allure about it.  I was trying to think how to describe it and simply put, it was cool.  Well, it was cool until it quit running.  You see, certain cars, and especially British ones, are hard to work on and expensive to repair.  Well, somewhere along the road (no pun intended) it died.  Rather than bury it, we just parked it the backyard where it became one of the original storage sheds.  We slowly stuffed it to the gills with—stuff.

Well, eventually the Plymouth got fixed, the Pontiac got hauled off and the Sunbeam went somewhere, and our backyard looked a little less like a small junkyard and more like a garden.  Daddy had a love for growing roses and I have to admit they looked a lot better than the old cars that adorned our yard for a season.  Thinking back, I wonder what people thought about the old World War II barracks turned house with a car or two parked in the backyard.  I wonder if they, like me, like you, were tempted to judge the people that lived there?

I wonder if they ever pondered why the house needed painting most of the time or why there were old junk cars sitting in the yard?  I wonder if they thought the people who lived there were lazy or unkept.  Well, in the case of 6008 Carlton Road they would have been wrong on both cases.  My Daddy was a hard worker making sure the folks under his care had food and clothes.  He worked until his heart said no, and even then he found a job as a security guard.  Momma worked hard taking care of us.  She poured her life into our lives and made sure there was supper on the table and clean clothes to wear.  I would suppose they both were too busy pulling it all together to worry what people thought.

I know this.  When I drive south to Paducah and pass that old house with the overgrown Capri in the front yard, it won’t be thoughts of judgement that pass through my mind. Instead, I will remember two people who worked hard to make life possible for me, and my brothers and sisters.  And then I will remember that until I have walked in someone’s shoes, I have no business looking down on anyone.  Most folks don’t wake up some morning and just decide to have their world go south.  Sometimes it just happens.  But what I do know is that Jesus, the Man a lot of us have committed to follow, wouldn’t cast a rock, rather He would lend a hand. 

One day a couple of Jesus followers were going to church, and they passed by a man who couldn’t walk.  The guy was begging and that was the honorable thing to do given there was no security net for help in those days.  He looked up and the two Jesus guys looked down.  They said, “You know, we don’t have any money, but we do have an answer.  And right there, right then, they reached down and in the name of Jesus they healed the guy.  He got up, did a little dance and they all went to church together. How about that?  So, who can you help today?  What house have you driven by so many times before but perhaps today you need to stop? I know in a world of risks, that can be hard but hey, I know Someone who will help make it happen.  His name is Jesus and He’s got this.  Bro. Dewayne 

Posted in Family, fear, life, Scripture, Southern born, sovereignty of God, Trials

Shiny, Like New…but Dangerous

Don’t answer the foolish arguments of fools, or you will become as foolish as they are.” Proverbs 26:4

It was deadly but I didn’t know it. There was always something to find at 6008 Carlton Road. Like so many older, country home places things had a way of accumulating. Back in those days there were several unsanctioned dumps around the countryside, and no one thought a thing about using them—it was just part of living out in the county. The problem, at least for the Taylors, was we didn’t own a truck and, except for my brother who lived sometimes in Texas and sometimes across town, we didn’t know anyone who did.  So, we had stuff laying around.

One of the things we had laying around was an old washing machine.  It had long since quit working so it sat in the lawn behind the junk room for a long time.  It was there that I found something quite amazing.  In the lid, I think, was some short of “switchy” thing. It had wires connected to it and in the middle was a glass thing and in that glass thing was some silver liquid. Well, you can bet that that caught my eye. So, I decided that I needed to get it out of there. So, I cut it free from the old washing machine, put it in some sort of small container and found something—who knows what—and broke the glass.

The silvery stuff stuck together in a small puddle and if I took my finger and pushed it around it would always come back together.  I also found out that some of it would stay on my finger. Now I have no idea how this part happened, but I am certain it did.  Somewhere, somehow, I found a dime.  Now trust me that was no small deal because that in those days that would buy a Coke and a Snickers, so it was big money. So, I found this dime and for some reason, I put it next in the silvery stuff and guess what happened?

Well, what happened is, for whatever reason, the silvery stuff stuck to that dime like white on rice.  There were two things I didn’t know then that I know now.  First, back in those days the silver coins like dimes and quarters were really made of silver.  Second, that silvery stuff was something called mercury and apparently mercury likes silver and what happened next was almost magical.  No matter how bad that dime looked, when the mercury got all over it, it looked better than brand new.  It went from dull and old to looking shiny and new.  Like I said, it was pretty amazing. Well, I never found out exactly how long the dime looked that way because it pretty quickly made its way to the Minute Market down the road for that Coke and Snickers.

Well, I didn’t know that I was playing with something that was pretty dangerous—mercury.  We know now that mercury is nothing to mess with.  We know that it can cause some serious health concerns.  In fact, the people who build stuff aren’t allowed to use it anymore.  Between mercury and the lead paint our house was painted with, it’s probably a miracle we all turned out ok.  Of course, you can probably tell from these stories that I always was just a little different—adventurous but just a little hyper.  I’m sure I had some sort of syndrome and didn’t know it.

This caused me to wonder how many things do we have laying around in our lives that just like mercury…and the lead paint for that matter…are dangerous and poisonous? I wonder how many toxic habits or relationships we hang on to and handle either because we don’t know or are just too stubborn to let go? It reminds me of the monkey trap where someone would build a cage and put a banana in it.  A monkey would come along and reach into the cage for the banana only to discover that he could get his hand out with the banana.  Too often, rather than let it go, they would hang on too long and end up either in a zoo or some native’s stew pot.  Hmmm.

King Solomon, the guy who wrote the book of Proverbs in the Old Testament, was one of the wisest men ever to live.  He said, “Don’t answer the foolish arguments of fools, or you will become as foolish as they are.” In other words—steer clear of fools and folly or you are bound to end up in deep weeds.  The crazy part about King Solomon is that in the end he ended up not taking his own good advice.  Let me encourage you, and me for that matter, to be careful about the things we allow to stick around in our lives.  Like the dime, it may look shiny and new, but it just might be dangerous…very dangerous.  Need some insight, a little wisdom?  No, problem just ask, and God will be glad to help.  He’s got this.  Bro. Dewayne

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

Mysterious Ways

Those who look to Him for help will be radiant with joy.”
Psalms 34:5

They say that God works in mysterious ways…and I believe He does.  Throughout my years as an adult believer, God has shown up in different ways and it always leaves me feeling very grateful.  When people ask me can God be trusted, without hesitation, I can give an unqualified yes.  And I can say that not only because the Bible tells me so but because of the times He proved Himself.  Some were big and some were small but each one, every one, was significant and real.

Let me tell you a story.  When my wife Judy and I were married I was a buck sergeant in the Air Force and, well, things were quite lean.  With a lot of help from the Lord (and that’s another story), we were able to travel to Germany together for a three-year stint.  We loved it but honestly things were even more financially tight there than here.  With the fluctuation of the German Mark and the fact that things just cost more—there were plenty of times when there was more month than money.  It was during one of those times that God showed off.

Judy and I had gone to the Base Exchange (the store on base) to get a few things that we had to have.  It was one of those times when there was more month than money and we had to choose what was important very carefully.  Well, I don’t remember the details, but we had a discussion right there in the store about what to do.  Now when I say discussion, it wasn’t exactly a friendly chat, but neither was it a hollering match.  In fact, I’m grateful because I don’t think we’ve ever had one of those.  But anyway, it was a little “heated.”

Well, we made our way to the front of the store and the tension was so thick you could cut it with a knife.  Like I said, I don’t remember the details, but it was all about money—or rather, the lack of it. And, I can probably say with certainty that most of the heat was coming from Sergeant Taylor and not his sweet wife. So, there we were standing in line, me yakking and sweet Judy holding her tongue.  And just about then…it happened. Believe it or not, over the din of the crowd I heard something sliding…being pushed on the tile floor.  I looked down.

As I looked down, there at my feet, was a crumpled up twenty-dollar bill.  I was shocked. I couldn’t believe it. I think I said, “Judy, look down.”  We both were flabbergasted.  Apparently, and I do believe this to be right, that crumpled up twenty-dollar bill was just what we needed to get past whatever crisis we were going through.  Now, to put your mind at ease, there wasn’t any way to determine who had lost or dropped the money. As far as I am concerned God had acted on our behalf.  He put it there.  He is the One who somehow caused me to hear the slightest of sound of paper on a tile floor.  It was my Father who caused me to look down.

Well, we picked up the gift and went to the cash register and paid for our items with what God had provided.  It was amazing.  What else is amazing is how quick my demeanor changed too. Frowns changed to smiles. Frustration turned to peace. Hopelessness changed to hope. You know, I personally believe that things like this happen all the time—everyday and in various ways.  The reason we don’t usually see them is that we aren’t looking. The reason we don’t recognize them is we tend to explain them away.  Small miracles become mere happenstance and sadly, we miss the blessing, and He misses His glory.

All the events of that day were the orchestration of my Dearest Daddy.  The tight budget that I looked on with distain was the setup for God’s grand provision.  Without the first, the second wouldn’t have happened.  One of the authors of the Psalms wrote and said, “Those who look to Him for help will be radiant with joy.” And, that Grits family, is the truth.  So, starting now, starting today, let’s look carefully, let’s listen carefully for the Whisperer whispering, “Don’t worry child…I’ve got this.”  Bro. Dewayne

Posted in Family, food, Grace, gratitude, life, priorities, Scripture, thankful

The Best Part

Each time He said, “My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.” Second Corinthians 12:9a

I like it straight black—plus nothing, minus nothing.  Coffee has long been a part of my life.  It all started when I was growing up.  The name Taylor and the word coffee have gone together for a long, long time.  I can remember every day my Daddy would get home from work about 4:00 in the afternoon. He carpooled with three other men and just like clockwork they would pull up and he would get out.  It was a certainty.  The other certainty was the coffee.  Momma would have a fresh pot percolating on the stove and perfectly timed to be ready when he got home.  She would meet him in the yard, and they would share the day and have a cup of coffee.

He didn’t just drink coffee then either.  It was not unusual for him to say, “Dewayne, go get me a cup of coffee.”  The please was implied and it seemed there was always a pot on the stove.  One time there wasn’t so I improvised.  I didn’t understand the ins and outs of coffee making, so I just spooned in some coffee grounds in the cup and added some lukewarm water.  That day I learned how not to make coffee!  As I remember it, Daddy liked his coffee with sugar and cream and always drank it from one of those thick Victor coffee cups made after World War II.  It didn’t hold much but it was a good cup to drink from.

I can’t even remember not drinking coffee though I can remember Momma telling me about coffee stunting my growth.  Since I ended up on the shorter side, she must have been telling the truth.  And, like my Daddy, I drank mine with sugar and cream—lots of sugar and lots of cream.  Eventually I switched to a powered creamer called Cremora along with a hefty dose of artificial sweetener.  Somewhere along the road they said that Cremora was bad for you, so after much consternation I went to having my coffee with just the sweetener—three packs please.  It was so sweet it would make you pucker.

Well, you know how it goes.  They (whoever they are) then determined that the sweetener was bad for you, too.  I talked it over with the guys at work and one of them said, “If you will drink coffee black for three weeks, you’ll never drink it any other way.”  Well, I did, and he was right.  Ever since then, I drink my coffee strong and straight black.  And the amazing part is for the first time I began to taste the coffee and not the stuff I added to it. It was just about then I began to understand the Folger’s commercial that said, “The best part of waking up is Folger’s in your cup.”  I take one exception to that though—it is always best to wake up—breathing.

I think if I learned anything from my coffee journey it was that sometimes more is just more.  It seems most of us are tempted to add something to whatever we are doing at the time.  Have a great recipe—we are tempted to add this or that.  Have a truck pretty tricked out?  Well, hey, why not add one more thing?  I know my office is stuffed to the gills with stuff from all over the world but sometimes, well, more is just more.  Instead of seeing things, you start seeing a wall full of stuff. I have a box on the floor in my church office.  It is full of things that I’ve decided can go home…the problem is it has been there for, uh, several months.

Now one thing we must be careful not to mess with is God’s grace.  It is fine just the way it is.  When you start messing with grace you end up with something that is not very “gracey and when something is not very “gracey” it loses it “graciness” and that is never a good thing.  I love the fact that God got it right from the start.  There has never been a grace 2.0 because version 1 was just exactly right.

When it comes to God stuff, it seems we want to make it harder and more complex than it really is.  Grace is enough. That’s why I like the first part of Second Corinthians 12:9 that says, “Each time He said, “My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.” Boom…perfection.

Well, I think I’ll have a cup of straight black coffee a little later and I think I’ll rewrite that Folger’s jingle to say, “The best part of waking up is Jesus in your cup.”  It doesn’t get any better than that. Just knowing Him makes it worthwhile…because always, “He’s got this.” Bro. Dewayne

Posted in Family, friends, gratitude, life, loving others, Military memories, prayer, priorities, Scripture, sovereignty of God, thankful, travel, Trials, USA, wisdom

Black Rock

You are my rock and my fortress.” Psalm 31:3

It was worth the wait.  My wife Judy and I decided to hit the road for a quick trip to Dayton, Ohio.  It all started when my son-in-law sent me a picture from the National Air Force Museum located in, wait for it, Dayton. Being an Air Force veteran, I had heard of it but had never taken the opportunity to go and see it.  When he sent me a couple of pictures…I knew it was time.  So, we loaded up and drove up and over and in about five hours we were there.

Let me just say it was worth every mile.  The museum is housed in four huge hanger type buildings and each hanger held a different era of air history.  The first was the period from the Wright brothers to World War I, the second was World War II, the third was the Korean and Cold Wars and finally the last was filled with Vietnam and the years following.  Literally hundreds of aircraft were on display, and I was in awe.  My favorite was World War II because, like so many, I admire what Tom Brokaw called “the Greatest Generation.” Their commitment and sacrifice were and still is amazing.  While war is never romantic, the sight of these brave men and women and their flying machines, stirred powerful emotions of a time gone by.

Well, after the museum, we did what everyone does…eat.  Using our GPS, we navigated our way to a large shopping area and saw a restaurant called “Black Rock.” We asked someone and they assured us it was very good, but they also said we probably couldn’t get in. We decided to try anyway.  Well, we could get in, but it was going take about 45 minutes. So, we added our names to the wait list and waited.  Sure enough, about 45 minutes later, the text came, and we were in.

The place was packed and loud so were excited to see what all the uproar was about.  Our server came to our table, and she explained what they are most famous for…a black rock.  Here’s the deal.  If you order steak, they bring it to your table…raw. They also bring a square chunk of black lava rock that is heated to—wait for it—755 degrees.  The raw meat is sizzling in the middle of the rock, and you get to cook your own steak.  You slice off a bite size piece of steak, lay it on the 755-degree rock in a puddle of melted garlic butter and in about 15 seconds for each side—you are ready to eat. It was awesome.

With a special creamy steak sauce for dipping, well, it really was just delicious.  I know and you know the rock idea is a hook, a crowd getter but it was more.  There was something special about slicing and cooking your meat on that super-heated rock.  While the food tasted so good—the experience was more—much more. I think my man genes were set to high as I sliced a chunk of raw meat and cooked it for my wife. I felt like the hunter, gatherers of old. I could almost hear the wolves howling in the distance.

Now trust me.  If they had brought that piece of meat already cooked, I would have said it was a pretty good steak, but the rock changed everything. The sound of sizzling meat changed everything. In other words, some things change everything and that was true that night, but it is truer every day, in every way, and everywhere—when that Rock is Jesus. Just like the rock changed the meal, the presence of the Rock of Ages in our lives makes all the difference in the world.

And get this—it had to be the rock.  A small charcoal fire, nope.  A propane gas burner, nope. An electric burner, nada. It was the rock, that 755-degree, meat sizzling, butter melting rock that changed it all. And I want you to know that it is the Rock of Ages that can burn away all the dross of sin that separates us from God.  If you are willing to let Him, He wants, He waits to forgive and give you a fresh start.  It is something that being good, that church, that religion just can’t do.  It is a singular act of God and His grace that makes the difference. It is what caused the writer of Psalms to pen, “You are my rock and my fortress.”

So, if you ever see a restaurant named, “Black Rock” whip in an experience the cooking power of a 755-degree piece of black lava rock.  And, if you find yourself down and out and out of luck, remember to look for the Rock of Ages.  He is waiting to forgive you and call you His own.  He is waiting to change your life forever.  He’s waiting to whisper, “I’ve got this.  Bro. Dewayne

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

Nickels, Dimes, and Quarters

If you help the poor, you are lending to the Lord—and He will repay you!” Proverbs 19:17

It was part generosity and part tradition.  When I was growing up, Sunday meant going to church. My Momma would always make sure I had taken a bath, combed my hair, brushed my teeth (I think), had clean clothes, and had an offering.  There was something about going to church and taking an offering.  It almost seemed like either God would be mad if I didn’t or the people at church would think we were poor or something…which we might have been.

Now the offering wasn’t a whole lot, but it was more than the widow lady in the Bible gave.  Her offering was less than a penny, but it was really everything she had.  Momma gave me a quarter most times but sometimes it was a dime and on rare occasions it was a dollar.  Trust me, that was a rarity.  Anyway, I finally figured out that it wasn’t the amount that mattered anyway.  What mattered was that Momma thought it was important and it mattered that I didn’t pocket the quarter.  Jesus said something about it was more blessed to give than to receive and I’m sure Momma knew that.  So anyway, I gave the quarter.

I read a story the other day about a little girl who went to church just like me.  Her Momma gave her a dime and a nickel. The little girl asked, “Which one am I supposed to give?” and her Momma told her she could decide.  Well, when she came home from church, her Momma asked her which one she gave, and she said she had given the nickel.  When asked why she gave the nickel instead of the dime she said, “Well, the preacher said that God loves people who give cheerfully, and I was a lot happier when I gave the nickel and kept the dime.”  Smile.

I know that I am still a work in progress.  God started the project way back in 1975 and He’s still working today.  I’ve heard it said that His work isn’t done until He takes us home to live with Him.  I believe that is true.  One of the areas that He is working on with me is generosity.  They say that if you want to carve a duck from a block of wood you just cut off everything that doesn’t look like a duck. Well, that is what God does with us except He’s not making ducks. He is making Jesus followers. And one thing I know for sure is that Jesus was always generous.  He was so generous He gave His life away on a wooden cross to pay for everyone’s sin.  Now that is generosity.  Now that is love.

My point isn’t that you ought to give to the church.  The point is we should all learn to be generous to others.  A generous life is a happy life, and a generous heart is a happy heart.  In the Old Testament part of the Bible in the Book of Proverbs it says, “If you help the poor, you are lending to the Lord—and He will repay you!”  You know, I believe that is true.  I’m also sure that the repayment may not be dollars and cents but rather a deep sense of peace and joy in our lives—and that is better—that is priceless.  Remember this—God is more than willing to help you be like Jesus, but it all starts when we believe what He did and what He said. He died and came back to life and promised to forgive anyone who asked.  Need a little help with that?  Well, don’t worry, He’s got that too.

Bro. Dewayne

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

Lights, Camera, Action!

Behold, how good and pleasant it is when brothers dwell in unity!” Psalm 133:1

Well, it happened again. Last fall I bumped into an incredible group of young men…our Middle School Baseball team.  These guys had played ball together for more than a few years and had developed into a baseball force to be reckoned with.  Well, apparently no one could reckon with them because they finished the season totally undefeated and as state champions.  It was a thrill to watch and experience. Their mantra was printed on the back of their uniforms for all to see and note.  It was two words and a single line.  Printed vertically, on top was the word “we” followed by a line and then one more word, the word “me.”  It translated “we over me.” They had chosen to not be a bunch of individuals but one team. Team mattered before any individual player.  That is how you win championships.

Well, indeed, it did happen again.  This time there was not a ball of any kind in sight…in fact, it had nothing to do with sports, per se.   And, no, there wasn’t a uniform or a shirt that said, “we over me” but regardless the truth was there as plain as the nose on your face.  What was, “it?” It was our high school’s production of Mary Poppins and while it was their production it was bigger than any one school or age group.  First, you need to know that our city is a small one and our school system is small compared to many.  But what I just witnessed was amazing. If there were state championships for the performing arts…well these students of all ages knocked it out of the park.

This was no small production—the cast probably numbered somewhere around fifty-five…plus a few more.  I’m not sure how many band members were in the pit, but I can tell you though unseen they were not unheard.  And then there were more hands and feet behind the scenes moving props, helping people fly (yes, I do mean fly) but wait, we are not done yet.  Those props, the incredible costumes, and a zillion other things just didn’t happen…it took a pretty large village to raise this production from dream to reality.

The bottom line is for two and a half hours I sat, fully engaged and amazed, as every single actor and actress, every single band member, every single person behind the scenes gave their all—and then some.  Two things were very obvious.  First, the quality of the production. Small town or not, smaller school or not, the quality was amazing, and I know that never comes cheap.  I just wonder how many hours were spent memorizing, practicing, and preparing? Like I said, “amazing.”

The second thing that was obvious was this wasn’t about a person or even a few people—it was about, team.  This was all about “we over me.”  I watched as this mass in force came together and put self aside for the good of the production…the whole cast.  Just like with the baseball team, it would have been easy for some to demand the spotlight, but no one did. It was a sight to behold and the arts department and all those who had a part deserved a “state championship” trophy.  Way to go, team.  Way to go.

When the last song was sung and the last bow taken, I knew I wanted to write about this.  Not only because they deserve it…and they surely do…but also because there is a very important lesson for all of us.  That lesson?  What do you suppose we could do as a group of people, as a church, as a community, as a nation if we could just lay aside our issues and decide to come together.  D.L. Moody was a pastor/teacher from decades ago and he posed the thought, “The world has yet to see what God could do with one man or woman totally surrendered to Him.” He went on to say, “I want to be that man.”

What could God do with a people that said yes to Him, who put aside the spotlight to stand in His light?  What could happen in the places we live if we decided one thing mattered…Him. Not one denomination but rather a radical faith in one God.  It was what our country was founded on and if it worked then…well, it just might work now. One of the guys who wrote in the Book of Psalms in the Jewish and Christian Bible said, “Behold, how good and pleasant it is when brothers dwell in unity!” Translated today it just might say, “Behold, how good and pleasant it is when we practice—we believe, “we over me.”

So, congratulations to an outstanding group of students and their parents and leaders.  You not only did a great job but perhaps the greatest thing you did was show what can happen when a group of people come together for the good of others. It’s no easy task but it is not impossible…it just needs a little help from someone bigger than us…and He’s got this.  Bro. Dewayne

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

Small Changes….Big Difference

Sell your possessions and give to those in need.” Luke 12:33

I could see them flashing a mile down the road. They were two senior adults—just two of the many special people I have met and known over the years.  These two folks had a special heart for giving and not just giving but giving so others could know the same God they did.  Though they gave generously the way others did they had a couple of other ways that were pretty special. And that is why it wasn’t uncommon to see them pulled off the road on a busy highway…flashers flashing.  I know it caused people to wonder.

On any given day, you could be driving down Highway 51 near Cobden, Illinois and see a nice, new Cadillac on the side of the road.  With their emergency flashers warning oncoming traffic of their presence, you might think that they were broke down and needed assistance but that wasn’t the case. They would be…picking up cans.  Yup…that’s right.  They would regularly, and I do mean regularly, go out on the highways and byways around Union County and gather cans to sell and recycle.  You might wonder why since usually folks’ pickup cans because they have a need. Some may have seen the Cadillac and thought them greedy but there was a different story in the making.  There was a need, but it wasn’t theirs…it was people all around the world who needed to hear about their Jesus.

You see, everything that these two collected when they sold their cans went to fund missions—telling people about Jesus. How about that?  They could, and did, write a check but this was their special way of giving.  Oh, but that wasn’t all.  Everywhere they went, they would be sure and keep their eyes…on the ground.  Yup, that’s right.  They were looking for change that people dropped and believe it or not…they found a lot.  Every year they would make a trip to California to see family.  They would stay for several weeks and would always come back with a story—and more money for missions.  It was not uncommon for them to find not a few dollars but more…a lot more.  And guess what?  Yup, that’s right…every dollar went to missions. They told me one time someone saw them either picking up cans or change in California and thinking they were needy…gave them twenty dollars. They explained, but the person insisted they keep the twenty—and share it around the world.

While their example can teach us many lessons there is one that deserves our attention today.  You see, they had learned that small things can add up to make a big difference. There is no telling how many thousands of dollars in cans and change they gathered to give away.  It was their special way, an unusual way, a unique way…to give. You see, small things can add up.  I read something the other day that was crazy.  Get ready.  The story said that the TSA, the folks that run security at the airports, find an amazing amount of change at the security checkpoints.  You know the drill; people have to empty their pockets to go through security and apparently a lot of folks drop their change on the floor or leave it in the bins and it all adds up. “How much?” you ask?  Well, in 2019 the TSA collected a whopping $900,000 in change. You read that right—$900,000. That is just crazy amazing.

In case you are wondering, theirs doesn’t go to missions but they do have to report to Congress how it is used.  Usually, it is something mundane like buying supplies.  How boring. While I am impressed by the amount, I am much more impressed by the heart and soul of two seniors who picked up cans and change to make a difference in the hearts and lives of people everywhere.  That, Grits family, is pretty noble and pretty amazing.

So, what can we do to make a difference in the lives of people?  Now this story happens to be about two Jesus people but making a difference isn’t limited to people who follow Jesus.  We all can make a difference.  Hey, why not find a way, even if it is small and simple, and start making an impact in your world?  Jesus told a guy in the New Testament part of the Bible who had a lot of stuff, “Sell your possessions and give to those in need.” Sounds like yard sale time to me!  Remember, the smallest thing can be made big in the hands of God. Need some ideas? Wondering how? Just ask and the God of Generosity will fill in the blanks.  He’s got this.  Bro. Dewayne