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Posted in Family, fear, gratitude, life, loving others, prayer, priorities, Scripture, sovereignty of God, thankful, travel, Trials, wisdom

Yes and No

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

2020 was a year to remember or maybe, to forget. Years from now, when I think of that particular year, I will remember it as the “Year of No”. You see, to me it seemed every time I turned around someone was telling me no. I couldn’t do this and I couldn’t do that.  Included in that batch of “noes” were trips to conferences and vacations. I remember a particular task I just didn’t want to do.  I had put it off for several weeks.  It wasn’t that I was procrastinating–I was just hoping.  Maybe something would change.  Maybe what appeared to be a new normalcy was a bad dream and I would wake up, stretch and yawn, make a cup of coffee and get ready to go.  Instead…I cancelled the reservation.  As it turned out I wouldn’t be needing a rental car for a week in California.  Not now.

You see, my wife Judy and I love to travel—to take adventures. Last spring our adventure was a rerun of sorts.  Catch the train to Chicago, spend the night there and enjoy the Chicago skyline, wake up and board the train for California.  For two days America would fly by our windows–farmlands, plains, mountains. Once in California we would see some of the most incredible scenery you could imagine.  It was going to be a great trip and then the pandemic and its buddies said, “no.”

Actually, that was just one of several “noes”  We were going to a pastor’s retreat in North Carolina to get recharged.  No. We were going to the Southern Baptist Convention–something we do every year. No.  I had a doctor’s appointment in Paducah.  I’m not usually a fan of doctor appointments–you know, “Step right here on the scale.”  You know the drill.  But I was excited—at least I was going somewhere, anywhere.  No. No. No. No.

In the midst of the flurry of “noes” something happened.  Judy reminded me of a song by Michelle Williams, “Say Yes,” that we had enjoyed many times before .  It had slipped from my playlist.  Maybe it shouldn’t have.  The words go something like this, “When Jesus say yes, nobody can say no. When Jesus say yes, nobody can say no. When Jesus say yes, nobody can say no. When Jesus say yes, nobody can say no.”

The song continues, “I’m not worried ’bout a thing, ’cause, I know You are guiding me. Where You lead me, Lord, I will go. I have no fear ‘cause, I know Who’s in control. There’s no limit to what You can do ’cause it all belongs to You–Yes, it all belongs to You. You’re Almighty and all powerful and it all belongs to You. Yes, it all belongs to You. When Jesus say yes, nobody can say no.”

Ok, it rocked me good—in fact, it changed my outlook.  It helped me see, again, that life is filled with yes and “noes.”  You know, that’s just life.  Trips get cancelled, schools get closed, schedules get train wrecked (no pun intended), and kids drive parents crazy, and parents drive kids crazy.  Circumstances seem to drown us, and life sometimes just scares us.  And then, if we are Jesus followers, we simply pause and remember,“When Jesus say yes, nobody can say no.”

Well, here we are a year later and while there is still an occasional “no,” the truth is, “yes” is coming back in vogue. We can go and eat at most restaurants. We can plan vacations–at least in most parts of America. We can ride the train or take a plane. We are even talking about a mission trip to Africa sometime this summer. “When Jesus say yes, nobody can say no.”

I hope I am wise enough to learn from all of this.  “Learn what” you ask?  That God is running this show.  He says “yes” and He says “no.”  He opens and closes doors.  And you need to know something.  He doesn’t seek nor need my permission or approval–or yours.  After all, get ready, He is God and well, we are not.  Now all that would be scary except for one thing.

James 1:17 says, “Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.” Our Father is not a “bad news, I’m gonna deprive you just because I can” God.  Nope.  He is an “I love you and I’m going to watch over you” God.  And what are we supposed to do? Just listen as He whispers, “Trust me.” In a month or so, Judy and I are heading to Colorado and the Badlands of South Dakota.  Eventually, we will probably make it to California.  If not, well, I bet He’s got one whale of a better idea.  Regardless, I’m learning to rest in Him.  After all, “He’s got this.”  Bro. Dewayne

Posted in Family, fear, life, Scripture, sovereignty of God, thankful

April Snow

For by Him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through Him and for Him. And He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together.” Colossians 1:16-17

Surprise, surprise, surprise.  Three of Gomer Pyle’s favorite words.  If you are old enough that name means something.  If you are not, well, your only comment would be, “Who would name their kid Gomer?”  Well, I guess Mr. and Mrs. Pyle did.  Gomer was a television character from the sixties who started in the Andy Griffith Show and then later had his own show called, “Gomer Pyle, U.S.M.C.”  That’s right…this most unlikely of candidates joins the Marines and proceeds to drive Sergeant Carter, his drill sergeant and boss, crazy. If you can find it somewhere, and you like just crazy comedy, it might be worth your time.

On both shows Gomer had this high pitch, country twangy voice that really fit his character.  But here’s the funny part…he actually had an incredibly rich baritone singing voice.  It was so unexpected…kinda like a beautiful song coming from a barnyard chicken.  He managed quite a career as an actor and as a singer.  Sometimes it is the unexpected that keeps life interesting.

So, last night, a Tuesday and a little past the middle of April, something happened that was really unexpected.  It snowed.  While the ground was warm enough that it didn’t stick, it snowed to beat the band. Now if this was Alaska it wouldn’t be a deal, but this is Southern Illinois.  Southern Illinois, as in, we are in full blown Spring.  Southern Illinois, as in, flowers blooming, trees budding and grass growing.  Just like Gomer’s rich baritone voice…this was totally unexpected. We had to haul plants into our garage and cover up what we could in hopes of saving them from the freeze.  We will see.

Although the weather folks had let us know a little ahead of time, that didn’t change the fact that this was unseasonable and unexpected.  To some degree it caught them and us off guard.  And, honestly, that is often the case in life.  Things come and go and sometimes we see them a mile down the road and sometimes, like Gomer, all we can say is “Surprise, surprise, surprise.”  I know our third child was a surprise…at least to us.  Of course, there was Someone who knew all about it.  Wondering who?

That “Who” would be God.  Have you ever thought about the fact that God never says, “Oops?”  How about this?  Have you ever thought about the fact that God has never, and will never say, “Sure didn’t see that one coming.”  Nope, with God there is never an oops and He is never surprised.  From the beginning of history here on planet earth until He decides to call it a day, nothing ever catches Him off guard.  Nothing.  I like that…a lot.  Things may catch us off guard but Him, …never. I like what Paul said in the New Testament.  He let us know that not only did God create all things, He is the One who holds it all together.  That means no matter how much it seems like the world is crumbling around us…it’s not…at least not without His permission.

I hope we are done with the “surprise” April snow storms and freezing temps.  For me, once was enough.  And while we are at it, I also hope we are done with the 2020’s of life and the pandemics.  I guess the truth is, only God knows.  However, that fact alone gives me peace.  The God who made it all knows all about it.  All I have to do is to remember to trust Him and believe that He will be there whenever whatever happens.  Even if it snows in July, I know beyond a shadow of a doubt, “He’s got this.”  Bro. Dewayne

Posted in Family, gratitude, life, Scripture, thankful, Trials

Contact- Lost and Found

Now to Him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to His power that is at work within us, to Him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.” Ephesians 3:20-21

He did it again.  It was a love note from my Heavenly Father and at least for me…it was a big one.  It all started with a nap.  You see, every day after lunch I take a short nap.  I have done it for at least 45 years.  It goes something like this.  Eat. Nap. Back to work.  It seems as soon as lunch is done so am I. (It could have something to do with my 4:30 am wakeup time.)  It is my understanding that the folks who live in Japan do this, and they live longer and are healthier. So, Monday, I ate a sandwich and then went to take my nap.  Generally, it is about 15 or 20 minutes and as usual, that’s what happened.  However, as I woke up, I sat up, and it was then that I messed up.

You see, accidentally and totally unintentionally, I touched my right eye as I set up.  It might have been one of those getting the momentum going in the right direction kind of thing.  At any rate, I touched the eye where I wear my “mono vision.” I knew right away something changed.  I have a test I perform to make sure my contact is doing its thing. I simply look at my watch and if I can read it, all is well. However, when I looked that day it was way past blurry.  That meant my contact was either on the bed somewhere or lost in my eye.  From the way things felt—it was lost in my eye.  I called my eye doctor friend.

I explained that I thought my contact was lost in my eye and she kindly agreed to meet me there. That’s the kind of person she is—kind. I was soon at her office and in her eye checking chair. She looked and looked. Nothing. Next, she put in some dye to make the contact stand out and then even rolled my eye lid up to peek there. Nothing.  In spite of all her best efforts—no contact was to be found.  We were pretty sure it had jumped out.  Only time would tell the tale.

Well, throughout the rest of the afternoon and evening, every once in a while I knew I could feel it.  It would stick its little head out and when I went and looked it had already disappeared again.  This happened again and again.   I went to bed that night knowing my friend was still in there.  Well, the next morning, it greeted me but at the same time alluded me. It was frustrating.  It was going to be one of those things that make your day a little more difficult.

And then it happened.  I was chatting with my wife Judy, and I felt it.  I could tell it was right near the edge of my eye lid.  I rushed to the bathroom and reached in, pinched and boom—I got it. Oh, happy days were here again! Talk about a game changer…you would have thought I won the lottery and in a way, I guess I had!

Here’s the best part!  I knew it was a love note from my Dearest Daddy.  You say, “Really?”  And I say, “Absolutely.”  You see He is a good, good Father who is into the details.  He cares about the biggest things and He cares about the smallest things.  Paul, the guy who wrote most of the New Testament, said that He could and would do more than we can ever imagine.  Trust me, it was no accident the contact suddenly made its appearance, and it was no accident that it was right where I could grab it. Yup…it was a love note.

So, I told Him thanks about a dozen times, and I figured I had to write this story.  I had to take another opportunity to tell Him thanks by telling you about Him. I just had to share this big truth—God cares about the little things.  Oh, and it doesn’t happen every time or all the time—nope, and that is what makes it special.

So, today, why not look around for a special love note from your Heavenly Father. If you think about it, even the fact that we are breathing His air is amazing!  Whether it is a lost contact that is found or just a beautiful day in the neighborhood, remember to say, “Thank you.” Learning to see the little things and being grateful is better…in fact, it is a lot better.  And as we learn to be grateful, well, we will recognize more and more that great truth, no matter what, “He’s got this.”  Bro. Dewayne

Posted in Family, forgiveness, Grace, gratitude, life, loving others, priorities, Scripture, thankful, travel, Trials, wisdom

Tripped Up by Life

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

Well, it’s a week later.  If you are a regular Grits reader you might remember that a week ago, I wrote about my grand adventure as I hiked a local trail called, “Indian Point.”  It is an incredible trail and a hike that I will remember for quite a while.  Whenever I do something for the first time it kinda hangs in my memory.  For instance, this time I remember the first quarter or third of a mile up the hill that the trail was more roots than dirt.  I remember after a while there were several short trails leading to some large rock outcrops.  I took a detour down one and stood amazed as I surveyed the valley below.  I also remember what happened next.

Next was my boot caught a root. In a split second I tripped and landed flat on my face.  I told you last week that I fell very hard and it hurt. I haven’t changed my mind. I banged up my left arm and side and well, let’s just say all week the pain just kept right on coming.  Finally, on Saturday, almost a week later, I could cough and bend over without my side not so gently reminding me of the fall.  My arm, on the other hand, is still plenty sore and I am sporting a really, ugly bruise.  It isn’t one of those wimp bruises either.  It covers most of my elbow and upper forearm and is a nice purple and yellow color.  It’s the kinda bruise when people see it, they say “ouch.”

This past Sunday I returned to Indian Point.  My wife Judy was back from her journey to the “Southland” and I wanted to share the trail with her.  I narrated the way along the trail and finally we came to the place where I fell. Right in the middle of the trail was the root…the only one, but then it only takes one. I told her, “This is where it happened.” I think maybe she then had a better understanding of my fall and a new appreciation for the bruise that I am still sporting. Perhaps, that experience made my experience better because it became her experience too. I know this is true because right there she gave me a sermon about hiking alone and being careful.

So, do you know someone that is pretty bruised up over life?  Has someone shown you their “bruise” recently?  No, I’m not talking about the kind that comes from tripping over a root, but the kind that comes from tripping over something in life.  An unkind word. An unnecessarily sharp criticism. A sarcastic zinger.  The loss of a friend or a job or a marriage?  You see, there are a lot of bruised folks around us, and it is important that we stop long enough to feel their hurt and pain.  Jesus did that so well.  It didn’t matter what, it seemed He always had the time to hurt with someone.

Whether it was a leper, a woman with a bad reputation, or a tax collector hated and disowned by everyone, He always took the time to stop, take a look at their bruised life, and hurt with them. One time He came ashore from a boat ride across the lake and there was a gaggle of people bruised and banged up by their broken world.  The Bible tells us that He saw them and then He had compassion on them.  He.Saw.Them.  In other words, He saw their bruises and then loved them.

So, if you bump into me this week, no pun intended, ask and I will show you my bruised arm.  It should be good for at least five or six more days.  We can laugh together because of the story, but at the same time it will be a good reminder for both of us to be like Jesus and share another’s hurt and pain.  Oh, and be sure and watch out for those roots…remember it only takes one.  But if you do fall, I know someone who can pick you up.  And if you listen carefully, you will hear Him whisper, “Don’t worry…I’ve got this.”   Bro. Dewayne

Posted in Family, forgiveness, Grace, gratitude, life, loving others, Scripture, thankful, travel, wisdom

Greener Pastures

For everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” Romans 10:13

He was standing in the road.  A while back my wife Judy and I were on the road again…this time in middle Tennessee.  We like to travel a lot…it’s just something we enjoy.  We love to see what’s new and different and there is always something.  We were on our way to a waterfall and we had to travel down a narrow winding road.  As we were zipping along, at the breakneck speed of 25 mph, we rounded a curve in the road and there he was.

He was a young calf, oh, I would guess about 250 pounds grown.  He was calmly eating some weedy grass along the shoulder of the road.  It wasn’t a deal because I was going so slow but if I had been traveling a little faster…well, he could have been ground beef.  Oh, and by the way, what do you call a cow with no legs? Ground beef.  Get it?  Well, I probably lost some readers with that one.  Anyway, I slowed down a bit more and gently swerved around the calf.  I told Judy we should have snapped a picture.

As we drove around the calf, I couldn’t help but notice a couple of things.  First, his name must have been Houdini because there was no gate and as far as I could tell, we couldn’t see a hole in the fence where my new friend could have escaped.  Second, as he contentedly munched on his weedy grass, on the other side of the fence was a great pasture just filled with nice, lush, green grass.  It was obviously where he had been before he did his Houdini thing and escaped.  Why in the world would he leave that for where he was is beyond me.  The only answer I could come up with is…the grass is always greener on the other side of the fence.

Well, we went on our way and I told Judy when we came back let’s be sure and get his picture.  So, on the return trip as we neared the curve where he was before, we found an empty road.  Our friend had disappeared.  We traveled on a short distance and soon, off to our right, we found our calf.  Houdini had once again magically crossed the fence and this time was back in the greener pasture. How about that?  There were only two possible solutions.  One, he decided it was time to go home or two, in a moment of indecision he decided the grass was indeed greener on the other side of the fence…again.

Strangely, I can identify with the indecisive calf.  I mean, how many times have I changed my mind about this or that? I know sometimes it takes me fifteen minutes to decided what toothpaste to buy or what to get on my hamburger.  I guess the bottom line is that we are a fickle bunch, aren’t we?  But I am so glad that God isn’t fickle.  I was praying this morning and telling God how glad I am that He has never changed His mind about allowing me into the family.  I mean I am sure I have given Him lots of reasons to change His mind, but it never seems to faze Him.  I like that. A lot.

So, if you find yourself wondering back and forth in-between the pastures of life, just remember that when it comes to you and His love for you, well, God isn’t looking for greener pastures or different or better people for that matter. God loves people, all people, and anyone who wants to come and graze in His pasture is more than welcome.  The gate is always open to anyone who is willing to leave their old pasture and put their faith in His Son Jesus.  It’s that simple.  There’s a verse in the New Testament of the Bible that says anyone who is willing to ask can be forgiven and cross over to His ultimate green pasture.  So, how about you?  Ready to switch pastures?  He’s ready if you are.  You will find the gate open and Him showing you the way.  Trust me…He’s got this.  Bro. Dewayne

Posted in fear, Grace, Military memories, Scripture, travel, Trials

Losing Lift

 Oh, what a miserable person I am! Who will free me from this life that is dominated by sin and death? Thank God! The answer is in Jesus Christ our Lord.” Romans 7:24-25

It was something I thought I would never see.  From 1977 to 1980 my wife Judy and I were stationed with the Air Force in Germany.  I have said it so many times but it was a great time.  We were young, still newly married and had the opportunity to see and experience so much of Europe.  It was good duty too.  I was assigned to a small base and provided administrative support for one of the flying squadrons.  We flew the OV-10—a twin engine forward air control aircraft.  There weren’t many enlisted guys in the squadron and the pilots treated us like family.

Obviously safety, and in particular flight safety, was always a big deal.  I remember right before I left to come back to the States we were on a long streak of accident free flying.  The commander was also due to rotate back to the States in just a couple of weeks.  He said, “The best gift you guys can give me is to remain accident free.” A couple of days later, however, one of our planes crashed.

What I thought I would never see, and certainly didn’t want to see, was another crash.  One day, I was standing in my office talking to one of the pilots about who knows what.  I was looking out the window as we chatted and saw an aircraft, not one of ours but a F-4 fighter jet, literally falling out of the sky.  I blurted out to the pilot I was talking to, “That plane is going to crash.”  I remember his response to this day, “That’s not something to joke about.”  I wasn’t joking.  Less than half a mile from where we were this massive fighter aircraft did literally fall from the sky.  The pilot ejected but sadly did not survive.  It was devastating.  I can still see the explosion in my mind.

As it turns out the plane wasn’t trying to land and where he crashed had nothing to do with our base.  He was flying over the area, lost airworthiness, and went into what is called a flat spin.  When this happens, planes can lose their lift and they crash.  You see, to stay in the air, planes have to have the lift provided by forward movement and air moving in and around their wings.  When that doesn’t happen, planes fall from the sky.

It not only happens to planes…it happens to people…like me…like you.  At the beginning of this year, I did the healthy thing.  I began eating right, checking my sugar levels, and exercising five or six times a week. The results came quickly and were amazing.  After three months I had my blood checked and the results were what my physician called, “beautiful.”  Literally every critical number was in the normal range. It was amazing…it was awesome.  And then, I lost my lift.

The best I can tell my success began my downfall. After winning so big, I wasn’t sure what was next.  It was like the day after Christmas.  The win was in the bag and I lost my drive to keep on winning.  Over the last month or so I returned to my poor eating habits and slowly, or perhaps not so slowly, things began to change…for the worse.  The only win is that I am still exercising. Like I said, “When you lose your lift…you crash.”

I was thinking about this before I began writing this morning and decided I really should share my story.  Maybe I can help keep someone from crashing.  And, it really doesn’t have to be about health…it can be anything.  The bottom line is when we lose our momentum, our drive, our lift in any area of our lives—spiritually, emotionally or physically—we are in danger of crashing.  Marriages can go south, God can become a distant relative and we can become emotionally disconnected.  We need to be careful.

Paul, the guy who wrote a chunk of what we call the New Testament, knew about losing lift and I think he knew about crashing too.  He asked the question, “Oh, what a miserable person I am! Who will free me from this life that is dominated by sin and death?”  Can you identify with that question?  Honestly, I can.  But it is the answer that gives me hope.  It is the answer that can give you hope.  He writes, “Thank God! The answer is in Jesus Christ our Lord.”  Bam!  There you go.  The answer is our faith and trust in Jesus.

I’m glad he didn’t just say to try harder or maybe pull yourself up by your bootstraps.  I’m glad he confirmed what I know and what you might know.  The answer is Jesus.  He doesn’t just limit His help to obvious God stuff—He is there always and in every way. So, here’s the deal.  I’m not going to throw in the towel and I hope you won’t either.  I may fall a little further but I won’t stay down.  And, regardless, He loves me, when I get it right and when I don’t.  And no matter what, spiritually, emotionally, or physically He goes with He—never condemning and always encouraging.  I like that.  It’s good to know that, “He’s got this.”

Posted in Grace, life, loving others, Scripture, Southern born, wisdom

Steel Gladiators

“Finishing is better than starting. Patience is better than pride.” Ecclesiastes 7:8

We were opposite each other—two fire breathing chariots just waiting.  Well, that isn’t exactly how it happened but maybe it was.  My wife Judy and I were returning from a trip to Kentucky where grits and a southern draw are standard issue.  We were back in our town of Harrisburg, and were going to swing by the church to check a couple of things for an event that evening.  We were giving away some food boxes and wanted to make sure we were set to go.  To get there we had to cross a pretty busy intersection.  I pulled up and that’s when I saw him sitting there.  He was anxiously waiting for a break in the steady steam of cars.  Even from that distance I could see his darting eyes as his sweaty palms gripped his steering wheel.

I pulled up on the opposite side of the road headed in the opposite direction. We were two men, to gladiators of automobiles, about to pass side by side. I knew he was there first so he had the right a way…that was never in debate.  I also knew there would be only a quick window to cross the road.  There was no blinker on my opponent’s car—we would pass quickly like two ships in the night.  I knew, too, that there was a chance that he would not follow the rules.  Blinker or not, he might turn across my lane. Try as I might, I couldn’t read his mind or his intentions. 

Suddenly there was a break in the traffic, my left foot moved from brake to accelerator and I was sure the same was happening in the car opposite me.  Like I said…two ships in the night…side by side in opposite directions. No deal. No challenge. And, then, yes, it happened.

Instead of going straight as his no blinker indicated he cut across in front of me and turned.  I had fallen for the oldest trick in the book.  It was the old “I’m really going to turn but I’m not going to tell you” trick!  Well, I quickly hit my brakes as he quickly turned in from of my chariot.  I confess. I gave him the two hands in the air, “Dude, what are you doing?” gesture and he responded with the two hands in the air, “Dude, I had the right of way” gesture. It was all over in a moment of time.  Two gladiators of steel on two totally different wave lengths of communication that left both of us wondering. First, him wondering why I was upset when he clearly had the right of way and second, me wondering why he didn’t let me know he was going to turn in front of me. Hey…blinker equals turn. No blinker equals no turn. Dude.

Are you confused by now?  Are you wondering what this is all about? Does any of it really matter? Probably the answer to all three of those questions is, wait for it, no.  But it does show how easily it is to miscommunicate our intentions and it also shows just how easy it is for moments of waiting to escalate to moments of tension.  And, amazingly, it doesn’t have to involve two gladiators of steel waiting at an intersection. It can easily be the one you are married to, or the ones you gave birth to, or the ones that you work with or, my favorite, the ones you sit next to in worship at church.

But, the answer is always the same.  Keep your foot on the brake till you know clearly what the other person’s intention is.  Just wait, be patient, and most likely you will come out looking a little bit more like Jesus and the more gallant in the exchange. The writer of Ecclesiastes says, “Finishing is better than starting. Patience is better than pride.” Hmmm…that’s really good. We usually have more time than we think and we all know the pleasure of letting someone go first. They smile and think, “What a nice person.”  And most times, that beats beating someone across an intersection, or to a place in line or to a parking spot.

Ok, you gladiators of steel, all right you Walmart line cutters, it’s time to keep our foot on the brake and our hearts in our chest.  Let’s determine that nothing is more important than for a Jesus follower to act like Jesus—at the intersection, in the line, at home or at church.  Feeling challenged about now?  I know, me too, that’s why it is so important to remember, “He’s got this.” So, ladies and gentlemen…start your engines. Bro. Dewayne

Posted in fear, Grace, life, loving others

Broken Lives, Broken Hearts

 “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death I will fear no evil.  You are with me.” Psalm 23:4

 It was late afternoon.  My wife Judy and I live on one of the main streets that run through our small city.  We have a sidewalk and as you can imagine it is not unusual for all kinds of people to be walking by all the time. Sometimes there are families, loud and happy as they stroll and sometimes it just someone going somewhere.  But then sometimes it is a someone like yesterday.  Though not all the details were apparent…he wore chapter after chapter of his broken life story.

Life was hard…it was as clear as glass.  He was shuffling along pushing an empty shopping cart.  At first I thought he was an older man I see walking laps around our block.  He pushes a walker and is bound and determined not to let age stop him.  But this was not him.  This man was older but not that old and life had not been kind.  His clothes were wore and tattered.  He would take a few steps and then stop and look around and then take a few more.  He reminded me of someone I had seen at the park several months ago.

That particular day I was walking in the city park.  It wasn’t a casual walk but the exercising kind. That day was like a lot of spring days—the sun was shining, the birds were singing, the trees were doing their “leafing out” thing and it was a good day.  Then, I heard something…someone. 

I was alone in the park till then.  As I crossed the bridge on the North end of the park there was a man in his forties or fifties.  He was dressed normally—whatever that means—but that was where normalcy ended.  At first, I thought he had one of those things in his ear that enabled him to talk on his cell phone.  The closer I got the more I could see and hear.

He was angry.  He was shouting. He was cursing. Then he began to pick up rocks and throw them violently in one direction and then another.  I realized he was fighting a battle with someone I could not see but he could.  To him it was real–very real.  He felt threatened and hurt by an enemy only he could see.

That day I prayed.  I asked God to deliver him from the invisible demon that was haunting him.  I asked God for His peace to come upon this peace-less man.  Later I saw him leaving the park, less angry, less violent and no longer cursing. It seemed from where I was that a moment of calm had come to his storm wrecked mind.  I was grateful and told God so.

I have thought about that day several times and it came to my mind again yesterday when this man covered with brokenness walked by my house.  My verbalized thoughts were, “Oh, Lord, how hard his life must be. Help him…be with him” Soon, he had moved on and I was left alone with my own thoughts. You know, not all people with hard lives walk down streets pushing empty carts.  Some are the people you and I pass in Walmart, or maybe it is the neighbor next door or perhaps the person you sit next to in church on Sunday.

The truth is there are a lot of folks fighting and fearful of enemies–enemies that don’t have or need a face to wreck lives.  There’s still the COVID thing, the loss of a job or business, the fear of losing their marriage or someone they love, the fear that things will never be the same, the fear that this fear will own them–consume them.

My mind goes back to Psalm 23:4. David, chased by a crazed king consumed with jealousy, chased by too many memories of too many failures writes, “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death I will fear no evil.  You are with me.”  He was wise enough to know that as he walked through this valley it wasn’t filled with real monsters–only monster “wanna-be’s.”

You see, for him the valley became a roadway and not a residence.  Death, or things that cause death, because of his faith in a “bigger-than-anything” God, was reduced to a shadow.  Shadows can frighten but they can cause no real damage or harm.  How did that happen? Well, somewhere along the way David chose to believe his God and he found peace.  He said, “I don’t need to fear evil, no matter what it looks like, because You are with me.”  You.Are.With.Me.

Today as you journey, remember all around us are people who fight battles with enemies only they can see.  Be sure and swift not to judge but to pray.  That day in the park and I guess to some degree yesterday, I got it right but trust me I don’t always do that.  It’s then that I pray a different prayer–one for forgiveness.  And if you are fighting those invisible enemies today–just a word or two.  God loves you.  Rest in Him.  He’s got this.  Bro. Dewayne

Posted in life, Scripture, thankful, travel, wisdom

Falling for Indian Point

“The steps of a good man are ordered by the Lord, and He delights in his way. Though he fall, he shall not be utterly cast down; for the Lord upholds him with His hand.” Psalm 37:23-24

 I fell and I fell hard.  It was Sunday afternoon.  I had the opportunity to speak a couple of times at the church where I pastor and it was, as always, one of the things I just enjoy.  I love sharing and watching truth come alive in people.  It was a great day to be at church too because every Sunday someone new comes back from the COVID blip.  It is like Christmas morning and a family reunion all rolled into one.  After church there was lunch with a couple of friends and family and then…wait for it…the nap.

There is something about a Sunday afternoon nap that is almost sacred.  After speaking and eating, napping is just a natural.  Well, after all the essentials were done, I decided to…take a hike.  My wife Judy was down south visiting family so I had some time to myself.  I really enjoy hiking with her but second best is just taking a hike.  It was a beautiful day and Judy and I had talked several times about trying a trail called Indian Point.  That was my destination. So after a short drive,  I arrived and was glad to find it wasn’t too crowded

So, I hopped out of the car and off I went.  I forgot my hiking stick in the trunk until I was about ten minutes in and I would regret that a little later but hey.  The first part of the trail was like a nice walk in the woods.  There were plenty of rocks and roots to avoid but not enough to distract from the beauty around me.  I slowly ascended and soon, off to my right, I began noticing spurs off the trail that led to various lookouts.  They were amazing.  Atop large rock formations, the valley below spread out like a beautiful quilt in various shades of green.  God impressed me…again.

Soon I was back on the trail, still amazed and still climbing up.  Before long, I could see what had to be the trail’s name sake…Indian Point.  It was a large rock outcropping many, many yards wide and it just invited you to come and see.  So, I stepped up the pace in anticipation of what was coming.  I should have been a little more careful.  On my way to the point, I suddenly had an unexpected experience.  As I was walking and as I was looking ahead, my boot caught a small root knob and, well, it wasn’t pretty.

I’m not sure if my hiking stick would have saved me or not but since it was back in the car that didn’t matter.  I stumbled for one step and then just fell. There was no time to break the fall, no time to put my hand out—I fell and I fell hard.  I landed on my left side and frankly for the first few seconds I was just stunned.  And then, in a moment of brilliance, I said, out loud, “That hurt.” And it did.  In my pride, I was immediately glad that no one was around to see my descent and painful crash landing.

I slowly, ever so slowly, stood up and accessed the damages.  First, thankfully, it involved no blood but it did include a large knot on my left forearm, a banged-up knee and a rib cage that said, “Ouch.”  Ok, so, I proceeded to the lookout, determined not to let what had happened rob me of the moment—and it didn’t.  I continued on the trail and what lay before me was just amazing.  The incredible rock bluffs, caves and flowering trees were amazing.  I was blown away. God was obviously showing off when He made this part of Southern Illinois.

So, I made it back to the car and, yes, there were definitely some sore body parts.  A few minutes later, I had to cough and I quickly found out just how sore my ribcage was.  When I got home, I found out I couldn’t even bend over to get my boots off.  The good news is that after taking too much Ibuprofen, I could.  And for all of you who are worrying, by Monday morning things were better.  My arm and ribs are still stinking sore but other than that—I’m ok.  Oh, and for the record, I wouldn’t have missed the hike for anything.  I can’t wait to take Judy with me.

My big take away wasn’t the fact that I fell, or that I was going too fast, or that I should have been paying closer attention—though all those are valid.  My big take away—and don’t miss this—was how something so small could cause me to fall so hard.  The root knob was probably two inches high but it was all that was needed to bring me down. For all my trails in my future, at least as long as I remember how bad this hurt, I will probably be a little more careful.  I know I was a bit sloppy in my walking but it’s hard to look down when things above are so beautiful. There’s a lot of truth in that one!

My Dearest Daddy, of course, knew all about all of this and you might want to debate His goodness.  If He is so good why this and why that but you would be missing the point.  The fact is…I walked away.  The fact is…this morning, I can move.  The fact is…I was able to enjoy the rest of the hike.  The fact is…He is a good, good Father.  One of my favorite Bible verses says that He directs my steps and even if I do fall, He is there to pick me up.  I like that…a lot and He was there to pick me up.  And, He will be there to pick you up.

So, if you have some time and enjoy hiking, take a hike on Indian Point trail in Southern Illinois and be prepared to be impressed. Watch for the rocks and the roots and don’t get too much in a hurry.  You might take a tumble and you might miss something spectacular.  And don’t be afraid because whether it is a trail or day at the office, or no matter what, “He’s got this.”  Bro. Dewayne

Posted in Family, fear, food, gratitude, life, loving others, prayer, Scripture, sovereignty of God, thankful, travel, Trials, wisdom

Steak and Shake

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

We met when I was just a kid. A long time ago and in a galaxy far, far away (think Star Wars) one of my favorite things to do in the summer was to go and visit my sister and brother-in-law in Daytona Beach.  I lived in Jacksonville and they were kind enough to invite me to spend a week with them.  Trust me…it was like a different world.  Our west Jacksonville neighborhood was half town and half country and the most exciting thing that ever happened was if and when there was a fire call, and we would chase the firetruck.  I’ll write more on that one day.

Now compare that with Daytona Beach.  Can someone say, “Night and day?”  Daytona Beach was a happening place and there was always something to do.  We would drive over to the beach, cruise the strip, and go out to eat.  One of my favorite places to go was Steak and Shake.  Back in the early and mid 60’s, it was not a new establishment, but it was still up and coming.  They were famous for their steak burgers, skinny fries, and milkshakes.  For a ten year old from the westside of Jacksonville, it was heaven.

Steak and Shake was different than most fast-food places.  There, you could actually go inside, be seated and be served, and through the years that is how it has remained.  When I grew up, it was only natural that Steak and Shake was one of my “go to” places to eat.  Oh, it wasn’t an every-week event, but we did go about once a month.  The routine was always the same.  Park, go inside and be seated, order, eat, and leave.  It worked well, but then something called COVID changed things up.  First, and at most locations, you can now only go through the drive-thru.  But in Cookeville, Tennessee we stumbled upon the future—the new Steak and Shake.

At this location, which I am sure will be true for all the rest too, when you walk in, there is not a hostess to seat you and no counter to order at.  Instead, there are several kiosks (computer touch-screens) and from there you can order your food.  Then…you just sit down…wherever you want.  Feel free to go up and get your drinks from the drink station (remember, this wasn’t in Illinois) and finally someone would bellow out your order number and you would walk up and get your food.  Boom—just like that burgers and fries were flying into hungry mouths washed down by delicious milkshakes.  It was new, it was different and I loved it.

I am sure that the COVID mess that we all have disdained is at least partly responsible for their new system, but it also shows that not all the changes are going to be bad.  At our church we are doing Wednesday nights totally different, and it is totally working.  We have a men’s group called “Man Time” (how creative is that); a women’s Bible study (well, not creative but it works) and then something called “The Big A Club” for the kids.  There are people everywhere.  And get this—men are coming to church on a Wednesday night! What?  And it all came about because of the pause that COVID caused.

Someone from ancient times (I’m not talking about 1950!) said the only thing constant is change and they were right.  Some of the changes are not good.  In fact, some of the cultural changes might be considered dangerous.  But we need to work to accept the good and temper the others.  It gives us a great opportunity to be the salt and light that Jesus talked to us about.  People all around us have lots of questions which should lead to lots of opportunities to talk about faith…and Jesus.

Romans 8:28 remains one of the most popular verses in the Bibles.  It says that for those who love God, He can bring good out of every situation.  We sure like to quote that, but I wonder if we are willing to trust it?  Hey, I’ve been writing three small words for a year and some of you have been here for that whole time—“He’s got this.”  So, as things morph around us, let’s be courageous enough to address the dangerous, but flexible enough to embrace the other.  It might not be easy but if He is in control and we trust Him…it’s gonna be fine.  And, can I say it one more time?  He’s got this.  Bro. Dewayne