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

Tulip Bulbs

Let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up.” Hebrews 12:1b

It was one of the craziest things I have seen.  In my spare time or when I need to check out, I like to watch television…but not like you might think.  You see, a long time ago I kinda checked out on network television.  It finally got crazy enough that I decided I just didn’t need it.  I know there are some good shows out there but for me the craziness overshadowed them.  For years now, my viewing habits centered around house stuff, nature stuff, travel stuff, history stuff, and stuff-stuff or how this works or that works.

Anyway, was watching a travel show and this episode was on Holland.  On this show, they would fly all over the country and talk about what you were seeing. If you know anything about Holland you know they are famous for wooden shoes, windmills, canals and, wait for it, tulips.  So, they were flying over a tulip farm.  Imagine, if you can, this massive field of every color of tulip imaginable. It was truly beautiful.  I’m thinking how all the flowers will end up in the flower markets around Europe and how much joy they will bring to the people who bought them or received them.

And, then, it happened.  Are you ready? Probably not. The angle of the camera changes some and it shows a tractor, and it is not harvesting the flowers—it is cutting them down. Say what? Yup…if I’m lying, I’m dying.  The massive clipper thing was laying waste to zillions and zillions of flowers. And, in case you’re wondering, no one was coming along and picking them up.  They were laid—not to rest but to waste. What in the world is going on?  Well, here is deal.

This farm wasn’t in the flower business…it was in the bulb business.  In other words, they were not selling flowers, they were selling the bulbs that produced the flowers.  Their logic was simple—and even scientific.  The flowers would drain the bulb of nutrients and they discovered that if they cut the flowers, the bulbs would benefit directly. Bigger and healthier bulbs meant a better price and for them…a bigger profit. While I still don’t understand why they couldn’t find a way to save the flowers, I think I understand why they did what they did.  But what a waste.

The big truth here is really big.  How can this apply to our life journeys, our Jesus journey?  Well, the answer is this.  When we are willing to lay aside the good for something better, or the better for the best, it suddenly makes sense.  We all have things in our lives that may not be bad but the question to ask is, “Are they the best?” And remember—best is always better than better.

The author of Hebrews, which sounds like it belongs in the Old Testament instead of the New says, in Hebrews 12:1, “Let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up.” In other words, whatever causes us to not run our life race effectively, needs to be discarded—no matter how much it is liked—no matter how attractive it might be.  We may need to cut the optional to enhance or save the essential.  Worth it? Always.

Now when I first saw them cutting the flowers, it just seemed so illogical, and we might feel the same way when we started choosing best over better but remember this.  God knows what is best, He desires the best for us, and He will help us choose the best if we will but ask.  It’s just another of those times when He’s waiting to let you know, “I’ve got this.” Bro. Dewayne

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

Me, Momma, and Mrs. Crabtree

When He saw the crowds, He had compassion on them because they were confused and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.” Matthew 9:36

I went just a little too far.  When you are an overactive six-year-old, church can be quite difficult.  My pastor was one of my favorite people but when you’re an overactive six-year-old, preaching can be, well, a little boring.  I’ve always loved church music but when you’re an overactive six-year-old, well, the best singers just aren’t enough.  Momma tried to keep me busy.  Her favorite tool was to give me the bulletin and a pen or pencil and I would color in all the little circles.  You would be amazed how many different little circles there were each week.  Well, that would work for a while, but you know, when you are an overactive six-year-old, nothing is going to work for long.

Well, one particular Sunday, the circle thing didn’t even make it past the song service.  By the time they were passing the plates I was out of things to do.  The service was always very predictable.  There would be an opening song, the announcements, a couple of more songs, then the offering, a special music thing, and then the preaching.  After the pastor finished, we would have one more song and call it a day.  Of course, there were always a couple of prayers thrown in for good measure.  So, I knew it was just about time for the preacher to start preaching when I heard Mrs. Rosalyn Crabtree start singing.

Now let me tell you right now, Mrs. Crabtree could flat sing.  I don’t know if she had voice lessons or not, but she sounded like one of those opera singers.  When there was a solo in the choir it was usually Mrs. Crabtree who sang, and more often than not, she sang right before the preacher.  She and her husband Jake were two of my favorite people too.  They taught me in the youth department when I got older, and we even had Rosalyn sing at our wedding when my wife and I were married.  They were great folks.

But this Sunday, well, it was just destiny that I was going to get in trouble.  I was bored by the time the offering was done, so I started poking Momma in the side.  She had her girdle on and it always amazed me just how tight that thing was.  Well, she finally had enough of the poking and said so in a way that I knew if I continued, it wasn’t going to be pretty.  But then Mrs. Crabtree started to sing.  Well, while she was singing, I decided to cover my ears with my hands. Why?  Well, I guess that is what overactive-six-year-olds do.  Well, when I took my hands down there was obviously a big sound difference.  So, I put them back up and then took them down.  I had discovered a new game.

I thought this was a pretty grand entertainment. Momma didn’t think so.

I found out if I did this fast it made a “wa-wa” sound in my ears.  The faster my hands covered and uncovered my ears, the faster the “wa-wa.” I thought this was pretty grand entertainment. Momma didn’t think so. I stopped for a minute but decided it was worth the risk. It wasn’t.  Before I knew it, she and I were heading out the door. I had crossed the line and me and Momma had a little “come to Jesus” meeting.  And do you know what?  That urge to put my hands over my ears strangely disappeared and has never returned.  I guess you could say that Momma discovered a vaccine for that like the one for the COVID virus and it was highly effective. Very.highly.effective.

I am glad that I had a Momma who knew how and when to administer a little discipline…even if it meant taking me out smack dab in the middle of church.  And I am glad that we had a church where no one smirked, and no one said I shouldn’t be there.  We had a church where families and kids were more than welcome and I have tried to make sure that at the churches I pastor, the same is true today.  Rich or poor, black, white, or brown, young, or old—everybody is welcome.  I know that is the way it ought to be because that is the way that Jesus did it. I figure if that was the way He did it—we should do it too.

One time when Jesus was teaching, He looked at the people and had compassion on them because He saw them like a flock of sheep needing a shepherd. Compassion—love in action.  Compassion—love that says come on in, you are welcome here.  I like that.  You see, God is an inclusive God.  He even invites overactive six-year-olds like me and you into His presence.  And He’s always ready to help, always ready to love and always ready to say, “Don’t worry…I’ve got this.” Bro. Dewayne

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

Not Bad, Just Hard

I am the Way, the Truth and the Life.  No one comes to the Father, but by Me.” Jesus in John 14:6

It was Monday…and my brother died. It wasn’t a total surprise as we knew his health was deteriorating. He and his wife had been living in an assisted living facility for several years.  As he grew older, as often happens, his body began to wear out and finally Monday morning it just quit working.  He not only was my brother, but he was my oldest brother. He was seventeen years older than me and in so many ways he was more than just a brother…he was like a second father. To a large degree he helped mold me into who I am today…especially spiritually.  My brother was a believer, a Jesus follower and if I may say so…a pretty good one at that.  In fact, I can’t remember him ever not being a Jesus follower. 

He was the one who always made sure I had a ride to church.  He was one of those three-time-a-week goers, so I suppose that is why it has been a habit in my life too.  Over the years, he shared a lot of good advice with me…advice that has guided me along my journey. When I became a pastor, he offered me some Godly wisdom and for my birthday gifted me with a couple of foundational books.  At one of the churches I pastored, he felt led to lend a hand financially…something he did for more than a few years. He was like a father but he also was like the State Farm commercial that says, “just like a good neighbor, State Farm is there.” He was always there.  Oh, we lived in different parts of the country…but that didn’t matter.  That’s how some relationships are.

My brother wasn’t just my oldest brother…he was my last brother.  When he left town on Monday for a bigger and better place, I looked around and realized I was the last brother standing.  And that was another of those, “mortality moments.”  He was just shy of 86 when he left here and went there—there being heaven.  Eighty-six is a pretty good number, especially for men and especially for Taylor men. At first there were five of us Taylor men and three had already changed addresses—thankfully all in heaven.  So, that left the bookends—my oldest brother at one end and me, the youngest at the other. He lived a long, good life…not the richest guy, not the most popular guy, and not the most powerful guy. In the end those don’t matter anyway.  What matters is he was a Jesus guy. He made a difference. He made an impact. He left a legacy.

So, what happened that Monday morning when the last heartbeat came? Often our first thought is something bad happened.  Well, I guess you could say God, through His Word, helped me have a different view.  As I looked at all of this, death, life, and all that it entails, it seemed God said, “Dewayne, this isn’t bad…it’s just hard.”  It immediately became lodged not in my throat but in my heart.  Not.Bad.Just.Hard.  Now don’t misread this, because there is plenty of bad in the world but with God painted into the picture, His grace and mercy can change bad to just hard.

You see, when my brother’s heart stopped the other day, he gave up a broken world for one that is perfect. He gave up a broken body for one that is perfect. He gave up sickness, tears, and sadness for a place where none of that exists. No assisted living, no hospitals, no funeral homes—just a home like none we can ever imagine—at home with his Dearest Daddy.  See, it’s hard for us, sometimes really hard for us, however for him…no…he’s doing better than ever before. You might say that he is more alive than ever before.

My brother loved our family reunions and guess what? There is one coming that will outshine them all.  Because of my pastoral responsibilities and distance, I didn’t make too many of the reunions but this one coming up…I’ll be there.  Oh, it isn’t because I’m a preacher, or go to church, or belong to one denomination or another.  No, just like my brother, I’ll be there because I am a Jesus guy and He is the way to the reunion of all reunions.  Jesus said, “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life and no one comes to the Father but by Me.”  Yes, it is a narrow road but the grand part is everyone is invited to participate.  All you have to do is say, “Yes” to Jesus.

So, my brother died…well…actually His body died but not him.  I’ll see him again and that’s not bad. The separation is hard but there is a party coming…one for the ages.  You need to know that God wants you there also, and He made it possible for that to happen.  Jesus, faith, grace, and mercy.  Indeed, He’s got this. Bro. Dewayne

Posted in fear, forgiveness, friends, Grace, gratitude, life, missions, prayer, Scripture, travel, Trials, wisdom

Big Rivers, Hungry Crocs & Fat Hippos

But if you don’t do this, you will certainly sin against the Lord; be sure your sin will catch up with you.”  Numbers 32:23

How do things like this happen?  If you are older than three, you have probably already bumped into something that got bigger than you intended.  Whether you are a toddler reaching for the cookie jar or a teenager thinking no one will ever know or in a marriage pushing the limits…well, you’ve probably had that emptiness in your stomach when the cookie jar crashes, or dad says, “Son, we need to talk” or you come home to an empty house because word got around.  How does it happen?

Really the answer to that question is older than time and bigger than a short story with a big truth or, for that matter, a thick book full of truths but maybe we can at least cast a little light in the arena.  Judy and I have been to East Africa and the country of Uganda more than a few times.  We launch our trips to the islands of Lake Victoria from the small town of Jinga.  We enter town, with the lake on our right, and cross a small channel that leads to a decent size dam.  On the other side of the dam, and no more than fifty yards wide, is the origin of the mighty Nile River.

Now trust me, if you saw the Mighty Nile at this point you wouldn’t be too impressed.  It wanders through the Ugandan countryside on its way north before eventually emptying into the Mediterranean Sea.  The journey is somewhere over 4,100 miles and slowly the river grows and grows until it is almost two miles wide at some points.  Judy and I had the opportunity to take a ride on the Nile and besides being impressed by its size, I was more than impressed with the very large and very hungry, crocodiles that call the Nile home.  Oh, and did I mention the animal that causes more deaths in Africa than any other animal? It might not be what you think—the hippopotamus and there are lots of them in the Nile. Lots.

So, we begin with something that is relatively small that becomes large and we have something relatively benign that is dangerously filled with things that want to eat you or stomp you to death.  Either way—something little becomes big and dangerous.  And that, dear friend, is how things get out of control in our lives too.  It starts as something we think we can handle, something that almost, almost, seems safe and before long—we have a monster on our hands.  Let’s revisit the Nile.

If you were to start floating down the Nile in your little boat the first chunk of your journey would be easy.  But somewhere upstream (since the Nile flows north) there is something that will kill you—Murchison Falls.  The entire Nile River is funneled down into a rock channel that is only 23 feet wide before the water violently plummets 141 feet.  Go there and you are dead—no exceptions.  It’s the same results when we don’t pay attention to the tension that sometimes occurs in our lives.  When that tension is there…it is there for a reason.  Andy Stanley gives two good pieces of advice.  First, pay attention to the tension; and two, if something bothers you, let it bother you.  That’s good stuff.

So, the big truth today is we sometimes need to hit the pause button.  We also need to understand that we are not the exception to the rule…we can get hurt, we can create a disaster, and yes, someone will find out. Oh, by the way, do you really think it is a secret from God? The Old Testament gives us a sound warning—be sure your sins will find you out and often, when it does, well, its gonna leave a mark—a bruise—or worse.

As you journey today or tomorrow, you might want to listen for the Whisperer whispering His gentle words of warning.  Don’t ignore them…He knows truth and He knows consequences.  Our sin cost His Son His life.  However, if we ask, He will be there to help and to guide. No matter how big the crocs, or how fat the hippos, or how violent the falls—you can trust the fact that, “He’s got this.”    Bro. Dewayne

Posted in Family, food, friends, Grace, gratitude, life, prayer, Scripture, thankful, Trials

Bad Blood – Sugar

So you must live as God’s obedient children. Don’t slip back into your old ways of living to satisfy your own desires.” 1 Peter 1:14

Is there a pill for that? Well, it’s time to write about diabetes, falling off the wagon and trying to climb back on.  What’s the old saying, “Same song, second (or third) verse?” So, a while back, I stopped watching what I was eating and justified it with another old adage, “Ignorance is bliss.”  I would eat my way through just about anything unhealthy with the comfort of what you don’t know won’t hurt you…wait, is that my third adage? Guess what?  Ain’t so. As I rolled through Thanksgiving and right into Jingle Bells, I had the sneaking suspicion that things weren’t well in the blood sugar arena.

Is there a pill for that?

Bro. D

You need to know a couple of things.  Judy was cooking healthy, and I faithfully took my diabetes medicines, but the bottom line was I was taking in way too may carbs, and a lot of sugar, for the medicine to work.  Adding to my demise was the fact that I stopped walking in early November when the weather changed.  Can someone say, “Recipe for disaster?”  Well, I finally got my courage up and made a doctor’s appointment and scheduled some tests at the laboratory to determine where I was.  Well, where I was …was in deep weeds.

When your doctor, I call him Doc, calls you a couple of days before Christmas, you know it probably isn’t to wish you Merry Christmas.  We are friends, and he was his normal, cordial self and then he said, “Well, preacher, I got your lab results back.”  At that moment I knew I was busted…and busted good. I was going to give you the numbers, but I chickened out at the last minute.  Let’s just say they were not good—just a few miles down the road from disaster.  Well, he suggested I watch the sugar and carbs and I told him I would try.  Then, I had a cookie.

Like all good sugar addicts, I kept right on munching my treats.  But one thing I did do was set a “drop-dead” date.  It was Thursday, January 12th. I woke up that morning, dusted off my trusty sugar testing kit and, well, the news was worse than before. Ouch…but it was enough to cause me to start walking “the straight and narrow.”  Oh no, another adage.

Well, Sunday morning, I was talking with a friend about blood sugar and stuff—you know typical church talk. Smile.  I said something like this, “I want a pill that will allow me to eat all the bad stuff and still manage my sugar.”  Yeah, right.  That’s what we all want.  Live poorly with no consequences.  You might as well go hunting unicorns.  And then it hit me.  That is exactly the kind of god we want.  We want a god that winks at our sin, our bad choices and allows us to mosey on our way.  Well, there might be a god for that but it sure isn’t the real God.

You see, God loves us way too much to ever, ever leave us where we are.  He knows full well the cost and consequences of bad choices and sin and He just won’t, can’t leave us there.  No, there isn’t a pill to cover (or at least fully cover) your bad eating habits and there isn’t a god (not a real God) who will let you stay in your mess.  And guess what? Doing the right thing is a good thing.

After a couple of weeks of eating right and exercising, my blood sugar is way good.  And a path of obedience (His will always leads down the path to fewer regrets and small consequences) is always good…way good.  So, let me encourage you to start today to do the right thing…the God thing. His Word says, “So you must live as God’s obedient children. Don’t slip back into your old ways of living to satisfy your own desires.” That’s good advice. You will find that He will be there to help you make right choices.  He’s got this. Bro. Dewayne

Posted in Family, food, Grace, gratitude, life, love, loving others, missions, prayer, priorities, Scripture, sovereignty of God, thankful, travel, Trials, wisdom

Their Best

Do to others whatever you would like them to do to you. This is the essence of all that is taught in the law and the prophets.” Matthew 7:12

It was our second trip to West Africa.  We were back on the dry sandy desert fringes of Niger doing a food distribution.  It was such a barren land made worse by an ongoing drought.  The people would do just about anything for food.  While we had prepared to feed many of the people, truthfully, we couldn’t feed them all.  So, families with the greatest need were chosen.  We would go to their villages the day before the food distribution and meet with them and do some registration work before the distribution.

It is hard to describe the poverty there.  Simply put, most of the people had nothing.  They had little food and little water but something amazing happened everywhere we went.  We would gather with the leaders and the people in their village.  We would give them a word of greeting and then they would greet us.  All of this, of course, was done with the help of interpreters.  After a while, we would complete the necessary paperwork and finalize details for them to come to main village the next day.  And then, it would be time to say goodbye for the day.

This was a repeat of the greeting we had done when we arrived.  They would graciously thank us for coming and we would graciously thank them for allowing us to come.  Then it happened…every time.  These incredibly poor people would present us with gifts.  Often it was some sort of leather craft decorated according to their customs and their people group.  It was such a gracious act of kindness and we always left feeling incredibly blessed.  They who had so little gave to us who had so much.

It was the last appointment of the day.  We drove and drove—it was more than several kilometers.  When we arrived at the site, we realized it wasn’t a village it was just a meeting place.  The people we were to meet were truly nomads.  Someone had set up a large tent made from skins and rugs to offer some shade from the searing Saharan Desert sun.  When we arrived, there was one or two people there but soon many more arrived and the area under the tent was filled with five white guys and a bunch of men whose skin was tough like leather and tanned a deep brown.  Then we really saw it.

In the middle of the tent and now surrounded by people sat a medium sized metal bowl.  In the bowl was what can only be described as dirty, brown water.  As I looked at the bowl you could see something swimming.  It was the larva from some sort of insect native to Niger. I assumed that perhaps this was for us to wash our hands though I was quite certain my hands were cleaner than the water in the bowl.  I would soon find out that the water wasn’t for washing.

Soon the greeting started.  We thanked them for letting us come and they thanked us for coming.  Then someone in their group made the presentation.  It wasn’t a brightly colored trinket…it was the gift of water.  And the brown water in the bowl wasn’t for washing hands soiled by the West African dust.  No, it was a portion of their precious drinking water. That brown water with larva swimming it in was what they drank every day, and they were offering something very precious to them—something they could ill afford to give.

Ordinarily, we would try and eat or drink what they offered, but our missionary knew, and we knew, that one drink of this water would make us very seriously ill.  So, through the interpreter our missionary explained that while we deeply appreciated their kindness and generosity, we could not partake in the water for that reason.  They certainly understood so the water remained throughout our visit. At the end we reversed the greeting process and climbed aboard our four-wheel drive for the long drive back to where we were staying.

The ride was quieter than normal.  Each one of us was clearly aware of what had just happened.  We all were pierced to our hearts over this act of immense generosity and the immense blessings that God had graciously poured on our lives.  Mission trips tend to do this to anyone who travels to a third world country.  There is always some kind of guilt over having so much while those you serve have so little.  But understanding God’s grace and humbly serving others at least helps.  But it always changes you.  It always marks your life.

In my mind’s eye I can clearly see the bowl of water all these years later.  I can still see the people coming through the gate after walking kilometers to get their food.  I can still see them trying to manage the heavy bags of rice and millet.  But something was missing.  Not one person complained about the lack of a vehicle to carry their load.  Each was just grateful to be able to eat that night.  And, yes, we were changed again.  I would like to think that a little of their gratitude rubbed off on us and that it still remains.  I know we will never forget those eleven or twelve days in Niger.

You don’t have to go to Africa, or Haiti, or Nicaragua, or London, or China, or Bulgaria, or the Philippines or wherever to serve.  Each of us are missionaries on a mission field and each of us can serve others…just like Jesus did.  One day He was sitting on a hillside teaching the people and He said, “Do to others whatever you would like them to do to you. This is the essence of all that is taught in the law and the prophets.” It really is that simple. It won’t get you to heaven…God’s grace and faith in what Jesus did on the cross does that. But it is an opportunity to be like Him…to love like Him.  It’s a tall order but don’t worry, you know that He’s got this too.  Bro. Dewayne 

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

Journey with Faith & Gratitude

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

It was good…and suddenly it wasn’t. Yup…it was my birthday…not the last one but the one before that.  I was on my way to Cracker Barrel to have breakfast with three of my friends…and one of them was buying. It was snowing and the roads were ok but not great. As we neared the restaurant my Apple Watch vibrated and I glanced down and saw three words, “Help, Help, Help.”  Now that will get your attention.  The message was from my oldest granddaughter and moments later was followed by another short message, “I have been in an accident.”  Then for a few minutes things went silent.  While we knew she was on her way to work we had no idea where she was.

The message was sent through our family chat group so soon messages were flying but her end was silent.  We were frightened…we were afraid. A free breakfast suddenly had lost every bit of its appeal.  Only one thing mattered and that was a young lady somewhere who was in trouble.  Well, soon she let us know that she had called 911 and the police and an ambulance were on the way. Through a location service on her phone, we learned where she was, off, literally off, Interstate 57.  Her dad immediately was on the way and after a long, few minutes, was there with her.   Here’s what happened.

She was driving on the Interstate and apparently hit a patch of black ice.  Though going straight, the back of the car began to fishtail, and she went off the side of the road and down a steep embankment.  The journey was well over 100 feet and the car missed several small trees and ended up in a ditch at the bottom.  The airbags deployed and that gave her a mild concussion.  Her left leg was also banged up but amazingly she was ok.  When we later saw the pictures of the path of the car, it was clear that something Divine had happened.  Someone bigger than her was in control that day.

One of the most revealing things in the photo was a large and deep concrete culvert. The truth is if she had been no more than 50 feet further down the road, she would have dove, front end first into this deep culvert and the story would have had a different ending.  God, and I do believe it was Him, that day and in that circumstance administered a large dose of grace that averted a tragic ending.  His ways are mysterious and why her and why then is known only to Him.

Things like this happen all the time with all kinds of different outcomes but one thing remains constant.  For those of us who believe in Him and follow Him it is a moment in the classroom of faith.  It’s one of those constant lessons in life and a school that we never really graduate from.  The Bible says we are to walk by faith, and it also says that without faith it is impossible to please God.  That day God shouted, “Trust me.”  But there is more.  We also learned a little more about gratitude.  You see, I can say that it never occurred to me to ask God, “Why did you allow this?”  No, rather, the only thing that I could say was thank You, not for the accident but watching over her through the accident.  And, honestly, it was because of the accident I discovered again His watch care. Had she arrived at work safety that day, well, I probably wouldn’t have given it a second thought.

Faith and gratitude…two very important cobblestones that we need to learn to navigate this journey called life.  And as we journey, there will be times when it is easy to believe and easy to rejoice and there will be times when it seems impossible.  But remember, He really is a good, good Father and in this broken, fragile world He is still God.  Why He averts somethings while allowing others I don’t have a clue, but I know He is worthy of my trust.  One of my favorite parts of the Bible assures me that He can, He does, bring good even out of bad situations and for that I am grateful. I am still enrolled in the school of faith and one of our class mottos are three incredibly powerful words, “He’s got this.”  And…He does.  Bro. Dewayne

Posted in fear, forgiveness, friends, Grace, gratitude, loving others, prayer, priorities, Scripture, thankful, Trials

The Last Part–the Best Part

Before the Passover Festival, Jesus knew that His hour had come to depart from this world to the Father. Having loved His own who were in the world, He loved them to the end.” John 31:1

Some of you might remember Paul Harvey.  He was a radio commentator for many years and was particularly famous for his “rest of the story” stories.  He would tell a somewhat familiar tale and then add a surprise ending to it and conclude with, “And now you know the rest of the story.”

You might remember an Old Testament story about Elisha. Elisha and his servant were surrounded by the bad guys and from the servant’s perspective, it wasn’t going to end well.  Elisha asked God to open the servant’s eyes so he could see what was going on.  God did and the servant saw that the hills were surrounded with heavenly warriors and chariots of fire.  Things got better…quick.

So, the bad guys came down upon the city and Elisha prayed that God would smite them with blindness and boom–He did.  It sounds almost comical, but Elisha basically tells them, “You guys are lost…let me lead you to where you need to be.”  He leads them smack dab into the middle of Samaria…the Israelites’ stronghold.  And that’s where the rest of the story gets amazing.

Elisha then prays for the bad guys’ eyes to be opened and just like that—they were.  They took one look around and realized they were in very deep weeds. The Israelite king saw an opportunity and said to Elisha, “Can I kill them, can I kill them?”  I love this.  Elisha said, “No, you can’t kill them…that’s not what you do to people who surrender.  What you can do is give them something to eat and drink and let them go.”  I’m sure the king’s jaw hit the ground.  The “let’s kill them” plan sure sounded better.

Well, he fed them and let them go. Guess what?  We’ll let the Bible tell the end of the story.  In 2 Kings 6:23 we read, “So the king prepared a great feast for them, and after they had finished eating and drinking, he sent them away, and they returned to their master. Then the bands from Aram stopped raiding Israel’s territory.” Did you get that?  The bad guys weren’t the bad guys anymore. A little kindness changed the whole story. How about that?

If the king had killed them, there would have been revenge. They would have attacked and then the king would have attacked and on and on it would have gone.  But instead, a simple act of kindness broke the domino effect.  Instead of war there was relief–and peace.  In days when sides are still being chosen and tempers still flare—when hate and division are the new headlines and bylines—when no one trusts anyone—we Christ followers can and should be different.  We should be givers more than takers.  We should be lovers and not haters.  We should be like Jesus.

The Bibles says in John 13:1 “Before the Passover Festival, Jesus knew that His hour had come to depart from this world to the Father. Having loved His own who were in the world, He loved them to the end.” Those “ones” He loved–included the guy who would betray Him to the crucifiers.  It included the one who would deny that he even knew Him.  How amazing is that? We can’t really do much about how people act, but we can do a lot about how we respond to them.  If the dominos are going to be interrupted, it will have to be us. The chain reaction is broken when we act like the One who chose not to retaliate but rather to redeem—to restore.

Some days it seems that a too short fuse has been lit and there is not time or hope to stop the future devastation. Let me challenge us today—during these crazy days that are getting crazier by the minute—to do the crazy thing and love, serve and care for others. Let me challenge us to be like Jesus.

How can we do that?  Well, first, as Jesus followers we are God’s kids and that is what He expects us to do. Jesus said we should be peacemakers—whether it is on the street, in the church, or at home.  Second—we can trust Him.  We can rest in Him because we know the end of the story—and it ends well—and no circumstance, no ploy of Hell can change that.  Third—remember, He’s got this—He really does.  Whether it is a resurgence of the virus or another revolting piece of news.  God is good, God is faithful, and God can be trusted.  Sounds like a no brainer to me.  Bro. Dewayne

Posted in birthday, Family, friends, gratitude, life, loving others, Scripture, sovereignty of God, thankful, Trials

Our Longest Day

Let us not get tired of doing good, for we will reap at the proper time if we don’t give up.” Galatians 6:9

It was a long day.  I can’t tell you how many times I have said it.  My wife, Judy, often greets me at the end of the workday as I come home.  She will say, “How was your day today?”  And sometimes I will respond, “It was one long day.”  Then there are other times, often on a Friday or Saturday, when the day seems to stretch on forever.  I get so much done around the house and yard and at the end, I tell Judy, “What a great long day today.”  Often the circumstances of the day seem to dictate how the day will be remembered and perceived.

Perhaps you are familiar with the date, June 6th.  No?  What if I were to add the year 1944 to the equation?  Well, if you have studied your history, you probably made the connection with World War II and you might have even remembered that was the day of the Allied invasion of Normandy, France—the beginning of the end of that great conflict.  It was a massive undertaking, and the outcome was never a sure thing.  But at the end of the day, and with great cost, the Allies gained a foothold on the European continent.  Someone there that day called it, “the longest day.” And it was.

All of us have “longest days” and yes, I know that the last several years may have seemed like a secession of them.  Sometimes those “longest days” cause us to mourn, but sometimes they are a reason to celebrate. For my wife and me, January 24th was one of those.  You see, on that day, forty-two years ago this year, our first daughter was born, and it was a long and exciting day.

Late Thursday evening Judy started having some consistent labor pains and when they didn’t stop, we knew it was time to head to the hospital.  When we arrived, they decided to keep her, and the journey began in earnest.  Judy had decided to have Rebecca without much intervention from medicine, so it was a challenging process.  By the way, if it had been me, I would have had every drug available to modern man.  We all know if populating the world was left in the hands of men—it would be a very, small world.

At any rate, the hours began to pass.  As the clock ticked the seconds, minutes, and hours by, it soon became apparent that this was not going to be a sprint but rather a marathon. All day Friday, I (her faithful husband) stayed by her side, encouraging her each step of the way.  Well, okay, maybe there were a couple of exceptions.  A friend of mine brought me a huge burger and fries which I dutifully ate while Judy watched—no, make that glared.  What was I thinking?  Oh, that’s right…I wasn’t.

The hours continued to tick by and soon it was evening and while things were progressing, Rebecca was determined to delay her grand arrival. Finally, at about midnight, Dr. Dickerson, came in to check on Judy and announced it was about time. I had the television on and one of those ultra-low budget Japanese monster movies was on.  Before long, the doctor and I were enthralled with the movie. So, while Judy was groaning in labor, the doctor and I watched as Godzilla ate up the known world.

Finally, the movie was over, and Dr. Dickerson announced it was time to head to the delivery room.  Coincidence?  I was allowed to go in and not much later, Rebecca made her grand appearance.  The baby was crying, Judy was more than relieved and crying, and I was more than excited and crying.  As it turned out, Judy had endured 23 hours of labor before Rebecca was born.  Oh, and when she arrived, she weighed 8 lbs. 15.5 ounces. What a prize!

For years and every once-in-a-while—even today we still talk of our longest day.  Well, actually it was Judy’s longest day.  For me it was burgers, fries, and a cheesy monster movie. But for both of us it was a day we will never forget—the day God blessed us with our first daughter.  And before it was all said and done—He would bless us two more times with two more daughters and later with eight grandchildren.  That is incredible. And what’s more incredible?  The next day, the pastor asked me to speak on the radio and give my testimony for Baptist Men’s Day.  I’m sure that longest day was part of what I said that day and God used that to launch me—us— into the ministry of pastoring.

So, when you have your longest day, keep in mind a couple of thoughts.  First, every day is created by the Creator God.  His Word says tells us that this day, every day, is a gift that He created just for us.  How about that? And if we will allow God to direct our steps in that day, we will not only endure—we can thrive.  I know it seems sometimes that the finish line—the prize, is always just out of reach—but it will come if we keep on.

Paul was one of the writers in the New Testament and he knew a whole lot about long days.  He may not have known about the labor pains that produce babies, but he did know a lot about the kind of “labor pains” life can sometimes send our way. He said, “Let us not get tired of doing good, for we will reap at the proper time if we don’t give up.” The bottom-line is don’t give up—don’t quit.  And by the way, even if you are not a Jesus follower, that is still good advice.  The farmer gets the harvest if he keeps working the field.  The good news is that God is just waiting to help you through every day, including your longest day.  He is right there and mark it down, “He’s got this.”  Bro. Dewayne

Posted in Family, friends, gratitude, life, Scripture, Southern born, sovereignty of God, thankful, Trials

Treasure or Trash

You must not covet your neighbor’s house. You must not covet your neighbor’s wife, male or female servant, ox or donkey, or anything else that belongs to your neighbor.” Exodus 20:17

I hardly could believe my eyes.  It was a bright, warm morning and I was on my way to school.  This particular day I decided to walk and since it wasn’t that far it wasn’t a big deal.  Our house had been enveloped by one of those newfangled suburban sub-divisions consisting of dozens and dozens of near alike houses.  The shortest way to school was to cut between two of those houses so…I did.

On the other side of my cut-through was a cul-de-sac—a street that ended in a circle—one way in and one way out.  As I emerged from my path and stepped onto the pavement—I saw it.  There, clearly in someone’s trash, was a blue ten-speed bicycle. It was about twenty yards from where I was and from there—it looked brand new.  My bike wasn’t that old but it only had three speeds and what was that compared to ten? I decided to do a “fly by” before I left the scene so I turned left and strutted over.  I didn’t touch it, I didn’t pick it up, I just took a quick look and determined one thing right then. If by some miracle this treasure was still there on my way home from school it was going home with me.

All the way to school I could think of nothing but that blue bike and the more I thought about it—the bigger and better it got.  My day dreams only continued to grow as I spent my day at school. I was dreaming about how great it would be to have a new ten-speed bike. I just couldn’t wait to clean it up, check the tires, and take off.  Well, as soon as school was over, I started trekking home and toward that blue bike. So, soon I was back in the neighborhood, back on that street and heading toward the cul-de-sac. As I neared the place where the bike was,  I looked, and it was gone.  No, just kidding, it was still there.

I immediately went over, picked up the bike and started toward home.  As I walked, I began to look and it was about then that reality set in.  You see, the fact was that the bike was not nearly new.  There were parts missing and parts broken.  The tires were flat, cables that were supposed to shift those ten speeds were either missing or a mess.  The bottom line was this.  It became quickly apparent that there was a reason why the blue bike was in the trash.  The reason?  It was trash.

You might be wondering how I was able to see one thing when the reality was totally different. You might be wondering how I could see treasure when in fact it was trash.  Well, the answer is really quite simple.  We all see what we want to see.  When I saw the blue ten-speed bike, my discontentment with what I had quickly grew.  What I had seemed to be so much less than what I saw—or thought I saw.  Only when I got what I thought I wanted did I realize it was so much less. So.Much.Less.

This is a big truth. Often what we don’t have, what we can’t have, what we shouldn’t have just naturally looks bigger and better than what we have. Sadly, we don’t realize it till we have thrown away the better for the bad.  It is true in careers, it is true in friendships, it is true in marriages and it is true in a hundred other situations. Stop and think how much regret and remorse we have to own because we chased something that we thought was better than what was in our hands.

Our world can easily become one of mirages and not reality so be careful what you chase.  Remember the grass is not always greener on the other side of the fence. It probably just appears that way because that is what we want to see—and believe. One of God’s big ten makes it clear—we shouldn’t covet.  Put another way—we should be satisfied with what we have. So, if you are walking down the road and see a blue bike in the trash, you might want to think it though carefully before you take it home. A second look, a pause, might save you a ton of regret. Need a second opinion, I know just where to go…my Dearest Daddy. He will know just what to do…He’s got this.  Bro. Dewayne