Posted in Family, forgiveness, Grace, gratitude, life, loving others, Military memories, prayer, priorities, Scripture, travel, Trials, wisdom

Lifeline

The Lord is good, a stronghold in the day of trouble; and He knows those who trust in Him.” Nahum 1:7

Nahum 1:7. It was in the Bible and it was his verse.  Church has always been a part of my culture.  From the time I was born it seems I always found my way to a building with a steeple on top. That also means I bumped into several pastors and preachers too.  Each one left a fingerprint on my life and because of that each one made a difference.  Speaking of different…each one was.  Different gifts, talents, and personalities, but each one made an impact.  I am grateful.

When my wife Judy and I moved to Germany in 1977 for a stint overseas with the Air Force, we were fortunate to have a church not too far from where we lived and the base where I worked.  It wasn’t long before we were part of that family.  In fact, it wasn’t long before we were good friends with the pastor and his wife.  He was a young pastor, had an infectious smile and a great personality and we hit it off right from the start.  We were about five or six years different in our ages, so he was kinda like a big brother only he wasn’t very big…but his heart was.

One of the things (literally) that I liked about hanging with Steve (not his real name) was he had a new shiny, red Volkswagen sports car.  It was great on curves and it was plenty fast and since Germany had lots of curves and often no speed limit on the autobahn…well, it was fun.  I guess in some ways we were like a couple of teenagers.

Steve also was a Godly guy.  He really tried to live his faith out. One of the things that he shared with me was his “life verse.”  In case you don’t know what that is, it is a verse from that Bible that jumps off the page at you and gets stuck in your mind and heart. So, Steve’s verse came from one of those books in the Old Testament that no one can find.  It is called the Book of Nahum and his verse came from chapter one, and verse seven.  It goes like this, “The Lord is good, a stronghold in the day of trouble; and He knows those who trust in Him.”

It is the kind of verse that you gotta love.  It is the kind of verse that can be a lifeline when the sea of life gets rough.  It isn’t that the verse has any magic powers, it’s just that it contains a boatload of truth.  God is good, and it isn’t that He just does good, He is good.  He is like a place you can run to when things go south, and He remembers my name, your name, our names.  Those are great truths when the sun is shining in life and really, great truths when the storm clouds roll in…just like it did for Steve one day.

Without warning, he learned that his marriage was over, there was another guy.  It was just one of those crazy things that happen, and it broke his heart and our hearts.  The bottom line, he decided it was best to head back to the states and in a short while…he was gone.  I never saw him again but if by chance he reads this someday, I hope he knows there were some things that stuck with me…like his life verse.  No, his verse didn’t become mine, but it stuck.  God is good, God is a refuge, God knows my name.

How about you?  Do you have a verse that jumped off the page one day and into your heart and life?  Mine for a real long time has been Proverbs 3:5-6 but for the last several years it has had some real competition with Psalm 37:23-24.  Check them out…they are both awesome scriptures.  That is one thing about the Bible.  Even if you’ve never taken the leap of faith to believe, and I hope you will, you will find it an incredible Book of wisdom and knowledge and who knows, if you try it, it might just leap right into your life.  God is good, God is a refuge, God knows my name.  It was good back in 1977, it is good today, and when I launch from here to there, it will still be good. And no matter the circumstance, no matter the deal, it reminds me that, “He’s got this.”  Bro. Dewayne

Posted in Family, gratitude, life, loving others, Military memories, prayer, Scripture, Southern born, thankful

Unkept-the Look

Guard your heart above all else, for it is the source of life.” Proverbs 4:23

It was unkept…but it was cool. Ok, let’s just lay it out there.  I am just a tad on the old school side.  I was a teenager in the late sixties and early seventies with a daddy who wasn’t fond of anything countercultural—and that included longer hair.  That was phase one.  Phase two was twelve years in the United States Air Force.  They and my Daddy would have gotten along really well- since they weren’t fond of anything countercultural either.  Phase three was being a Baptist pastor.  Back in the days, Baptists were pretty much not fond of anything countercultural either.  Suits and ties were the norm and facial hair was basically a no-no.  So, you can probably understand that I wrestle with some of the new fashion norms. It’s not that I don’t like them—it’s just that I don’t understand some of them.

As an example, part of my morning routine is having a time with God.  Part of that is watching a short video of someone speaking.  This morning it was a pretty successful young pastor from somewhere.  As the video began I noticed a couple of things.  First, his hair had the now fashionable “unkept” look.  It was like he got out of bed, ran his fingers through his hair and went to work.  Again, that’s cool.  Hang with me.  Second, he sported the wildly popular beard stubble look.  I mean, if you don’t have a stubble… you’re not ready to rumble.  He had a good stubble.  Hey, that’s cool.  I wish the Air Force had discovered that when I was in. Again, the cool “unkept” look.

Another fashion statement with the “unkept” look are jeans with holes in them.  They are crazy poplar.  When I was growing up jeans with holes were tossed out and people who wore them were poor.  Now, people pay big bucks to have jeans with holes.  Hey, just buy a regular pair and give them four years—bam—another cool “unkept” look.  And you save a few bucks.  Another “unkept” look that is popular with the “we don’t own an iron” crowd is the wrinkled look.  You just grab your shirt or whatever and throw it on and you are in. Again, totally cool—totally in.

I’ve even seen this in yards.  There are folks who have unkept yards because they just don’t like to mow grass or trim their yards but there is another group that simply loves that look.  To them unkept is “unkept—the cool kind.”  To some folks an “unkept” yard is all about nature.  I really liked that when I was young—my Daddy did not.  It just wasn’t his thing.

So, what’s up?  Well, through the years different things have come and gone.  It’s just the way culture works.  Things are fashionable for awhile and they move on.  I know there was a time I couldn’t imagine preaching without a tie.  I even said one time that I didn’t think I could preach without a tie.  Now days, I usually preach with an open collar.  Things change.  Right now “unkept” is cool and one day it probably won’t be and I’m good with it either way.  But wait.

While “unkept” is cool, fashion wise…it is not cool or healthy to like an “unkept” life.  You ask, “What is that?”  It is a life that is lived solely in the moment.  In the sixties it was the “if it feels good, do it” thing and each decade has had its version of that thought pattern.  But the bottom line is that when we live “unkept” lives there are usually consequences and regrets.  I said this morning to my wife Judy that “success is not accidental, it is intentional.”  That almost sounds deep.  I also think that God’s peace, and joy, and happiness, and a host of other things that make life worth living aren’t accidental either…they are intentional.

For me, as a Jesus follower, that intentionality involves checking in with God on a regular basis to see what He thinks about my day…my life.  For me it is a daily dose of His Book, the Bible. Trust me on this one…there is a reason why it remains one of the best-selling books of all time.  The truths and teachings of Jesus are found in the second part, the New Testament, and they were groundbreaking two thousand years ago and they still are today.

Ok, so I don’t know if I will ever do the “unkept” thing or not.  It took me a long time to figure out I could teach without a tie.  But I do know this. When it comes to life, a “kept” life is just better—fewer consequences—fewer regrets.  That is probably why the Book says, “Guard your heart above all else, for it is the source of life.” God really wants what is best for us…He loves us that much.  If you find yourself in an “unkept” mess, just remember that He is there waiting and no matter what it is, “He’s got this.”

Posted in Family, fear, forgiveness, Grace, gratitude, life, Scripture, thankful, Trials, wisdom

Grace and the Big Bang

Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those in Christ Jesus.” Romans 8:1

I had no idea.  I never saw it coming.  When I woke on that Wednesday morning, I had no idea that something as dramatic as an automobile accident was going to occur.  In fact, up to the point of impact everything was routine and then just like that, it changed. Now keep in my mind, in the world of accidents, mine was, well, minor.  No one was hurt and that was the most important thing.  But regardless, it was a big deal.  It was the kind of deal that leaves a person scarred and wiser.

That accident at that corner happened 16 years ago and yet to this day, I never approach it without thinking about that day.  I always, and I mean always, look both ways several times…just to be sure.  Yes, the big trees and bushy bushes that obscured my vision that day are long gone but the memories are not.  They are my constant companion next to me in the driver’s seat and they whisper…be careful.  That is not a bad thing, as long as they are whispering and not shouting.

Perhaps there is an “accident” in your past that has left you a little scarred and a little wiser.  The important thing is to make sure it stays in the past, forgiven, and is only invited in your present to whisper a wise word or two.  The lessons of the past can help us not make the same mistake in our todays, but, don’t let them own you.

Two more lessons came from that Wednesday “Closer Encounter of the Ouch Kind.” I learned that little things can take down big things.  The other driver was driving a much smaller car, a Honda Accord.”  I, on the other hand, was driving a Pontiac Grand Prix.  Logic would say that I would win the day but amazingly my car was totaled, and she was able to drive her car away from the scene.  How is that possible?  She was the one who delivered the punch and fate determined where.  She hit me right at the door post of the driver’s side door.  It was a critical area that bent the firewall and a bunch of other things that weren’t supposed to be bent.  Bottom line? It was a knock-out punch.

An important lesson was reenforced in my life that day.  Smaller things can cause massive damage to bigger things.  It is true with cars, but it is also true of things like reputations, character, and life.  It is important that we guard our heart and minds and keep the things that matter well-guarded and safe. Remember the words written by the wisest man ever to live, King Solomon.  He said we need to catch the little foxes that ruin the vines.  You see, ruined vines, don’t produce grapes and a ruined character takes a long time to recover.

Oh, and there was one more very important lesson from that day.  The accident was my fault but there were some extenuating circumstances.  The big trees and bushy bushes really shouldn’t have been there and later they were removed.  But in my hand remained the ticket that said, “This was your fault.”  The police office apologized for having to write the ticket but it all still said, “It was your fault.” But then an amazing thing happened.  Someone heard about the accident and the ticket and extended…grace.  Though I was technically in the wrong, they also knew the circumstances and the ticket was dismissed and the fine removed. Grace.

Paul talked a lot about grace in the New Testament part of the Bible but perhaps he said it best in a letter he wrote to the Christians in Rome.  He said, “There is no condemnation for those in Christ Jesus.”  In other words, because of Jesus, the guilt and penalty for their sins, for our sins, can be removed. And ,it doesn’t happen because we earn it, it happens because He loves us. You see, if we will believe in who Jesus was and trust what He did…the charges and penalty can be removed.  We can be declared, “Not guilty.”  How about that?

You may or may not have an “oops” on your driving record, but we all have plenty of oops as we travel the highways of life.  It is good to know that there is Someone who has the power and the authority to extend grace—unmerited favor.  His name is Jesus, and He is waiting to help us.  No matter how obvious, no matter how big, you need to know, “He’s got this.” Bro. Dewayne

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

A Wrecked Wednesday

If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.” 1 John 1:8

It happened on a Wednesday afternoon back in 2005.  I had left work and ran home to do something. I am a creature of habit which means I do the same thing over and over again.  That includes the way I come and go to work.  For years I followed the same path and then one day I just changed and now for the last six years or so I have followed that path.  It’s just me and the way I am wired.

On that particular day I was doing my habit thing. I pulled out of the alley that borders my house and onto the street.  Within a block there is a stop sign and like I did every time, I stopped.  This intersection was more than a little tricky because of several trees and bushes that were planted right along the road.  We are talking big trees and bushy bushes…all planted …very, close to the road.  So, after I stopped and looked both ways, I edged out, stopped again, and did my best to peer through the bushy bushes and around the very, big trees.  I didn’t see anything (besides bushes and trees), so I pulled out.  Well, my best was not good enough.

As I pulled out, I pulled right into the path of a Honda Accord.  There was no time for an oops, no time to stop and restart, no time to do anything but brace for impact.  The Honda hit me on the driver’s side, right at the door post of my much larger Pontiac Grand Prix.  I had never had an accident before, and I still remember how impactful (no pun intended) it was.  Fortunately, the other driver was not hurt and besides a couple of sore spots neither was I.  The only thing hurt was my pride.  I had caused an accident.  I was a bad driver—or, at least, that’s how I felt.

Truthfully, that wasn’t true.  I wasn’t a bad driver, but the accident was still my fault.  Well, before long the police were there, and they did their police thing.  They asked questions and I explained how I had tried to look but just couldn’t see the car coming.  He said he certainly understood and in fact, a police officer had been involved in an accident at the same spot for the same reason.  All of that didn’t change the bottom line…it was my fault.  All the reasons and excuses weren’t going to change that. It.Was.My.Fault.

I wanted to blame the owner of the trees and bushes.  In fact, I did blame the owner of the trees and bushes. I even went to their house and explained about the trees and the bushes.  I wanted somehow to shift the blame from me to someone, to anyone. I learned that from my grandfather, a zillion times removed.  His name was Adam.  When he sinned he blamed Eve and God.  He may have sinned but “Hey,” he said, “it wasn’t my fault.”  He found out what I found out…the bottom line is the bottom line. It.Was.My.Fault. We need to own our sin.  John, the one in the Bible, said that if we don’t own our sin or if we say we have no sin, we are only deceiving ourselves.

Well, there were consequences. For my efforts I was given a ticket which tainted my almost perfect driving record. I say almost because way back in 1984, I was in a hurry going to a revival and was pulled over for speeding.  I explained to the officer I was a pastor and going to church (that was when I found out that was NOT the right thing to say.)  Anyway, the insurance company didn’t like my now further tainted record.

The one consolation was shortly after that day…the trees and bushes totally disappeared…the city took care of that.  Oh, and to this day, I avoid that intersection.  I still tense up when I cross there.  Now there is more to this story and I’ll write about that tomorrow.  But until then just know this.  God is good, God is faithful, and God can be trusted, and even when it is all our fault, well, we can know, “He’s got this.” Bro. Dewayne

Posted in Family, forgiveness, Grace, life, prayer, thankful, Trials

Skunked

Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me.” Psalm 51:10

The little stinker was not welcome.  A couple of days ago we went down to visit our daughter and son-in-law down by Kentucky Lake.  We really went to see the grandkids, but we won’t tell them that.  The place where they live is just beautiful.  Close to the lake and surrounded by beautiful woods, it is the kind of place drinking a cup of coffee in the morning was made for.  Of course, this time of the year, everything is lush and green.  Gone is the bareness of winter as the time for things to sleep was replaced by a time of new life.

Because they are in a forested area there is plenty of wildlife around.  It is not uncommon to see deer feeding down by the tree line and birds of every sort.  Up the road a piece is a herd of Bison, a few horses, and cattle.  They have a couple of dogs too, which adds to the mix.  Oh, and then, there was the unwelcome guest.  Two or three days before our arrival, my son-in-law spotted a skunk in the backyard.  They were hoping that he was just passing through, but apparently, he kinda likes the place.  Even when they don’t see him, they know he is around by the pungent odor that he carries with him.

Their two dogs, Rupp and Callie, seem to have a real affection for the skunk. They can’t wait to run down to the woods to try and find their new friend.  Despite all efforts, they keep running and looking and one day, well, its gonna happen.  Saturday morning during our visit, there was a “close encounter of the skunk kind.”  Rupp is the much more obedient of the two dogs.  He will generally come when he is called and while he and the skunk are pals, they are not on a first name basis.  Callie on the other hand has gone over the edge.  That morning, Callie took off and either met the skunk or came close because she came back wearing some of his perfume. It wasn’t a direct hit, but there was an aroma.

She came in the house and ran into the master suite and soon it wasn’t “sweet” any longer. What she apparently loved to roll in was, uh, not so pleasant to us.  In fact, both occupants of the bedroom were up and outta there.  Now personally, Callie didn’t smell that bad to me.  Either my smeller wasn’t as sensitive (no COVID, thank you) or I quickly got used to it, but regardless it wasn’t a big deal.  Well, Callie ended up banned from the yard forever (except on a leash) and they ran her through the equivalent of a dog carwash.  She did smell a lot better. Hey, no harm, no foul.

That evening, after driving back home, I put on the same pajama shirt that I had worn that morning and proceeded to study my sermon.  As I sat at my desk, I noticed a faint but familiar odor—it was the offensive perfume.  Apparently, there was an odor after all and later when my nose was more awake, it became evident. I changed shirts and threw that one in the wash.  Hopefully by the time we visit again, Mr. Skunk will be history.

You know I was surprised to smell the odor on my shirt that evening.  That morning I didn’t smell a thing, but that night it was clearly obvious.  What was the difference?  I think there was enough odor in the air at my daughter’s house that my shirt simply smelled like everything else.  I grew too accustomed to the odor.  The offensive smell became “normal.”  I have a feeling that may happen more often than we realize.  It has nothing to do with skunks, but everything to do with our “skunky” or sinful actions.

If we are not careful, we become too accustomed to our harsh words, or our negative mindset, or our unkind actions.  And, because they are part of our “normal” we never even know it.  But remember this…those around us know it and Someone even more important knows it—God.  The best way to fix the problem is to live in such a way, that that kind of “normal” is never normal.  Just like a fresh environment revealed the odor in my shirt, we should allow our environment to be so pure that anything stinky will become readily apparent.

One time, King David of Old Testament fame, got more than a little “skunky” and spent most of the rest of his life trying to get rid of the stench.  He prayed a lot during those days and one of his prayers went like this, “Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me.” That’s a good prayer for sure.  And, by God’s grace, he was made clean.  In fact, he was known as a “man after God’s own heart.”  So, when you get “skunked” just take it to the Father and rest assured that He can handle anything and everything.  He’s got this—even our stinky sin.  Bro. Dewayne

*A special thank you to Ellie Grace, (granddaughter) for making today’s graphic-great job Ellie!

Posted in Family, fear, forgiveness, Grace, gratitude, life, love, loving others, Scripture, sovereignty of God, thankful, Trials, wisdom

Remember

I will remember the Lord’s works; yes, I will remember Your ancient wonders. I will reflect on all You have done and meditate on Your actions.” Psalm 77:11

I remember when. It is a line that is heard a lot in conversation.  A favorite time. A favorite trip. A favorite memory.  It seems the older we get, the more we use those three words. I remember when gas was 18 cents a gallon.  I remember when a Coke was 5 cents.  I remember when a Whopper was 49 cents.  I remember my first new car was $2,795.  I remember my friend bragging that he could boil water in a paper cup and I was introduced to the microwave.

Now would be a good time to tell you that I am not 102 years old.  In fact, I am, well never mind.  Let’s just say not that old.  The ability to remember is one of the gifts that God gave to us as humans.  I can remember when I met my wife Judy–boy, was she cute.  I can remember when our first daughter was born–boy, she was cute too–took after her mom.  First granddaughter–yup, cute too. I remember when.

We all have those great memories.  Unfortunately, we also all have those “not so great” memories.  Times when we made unwise decisions that resulted in Goliath size consequences in our lives.  They usually involved a split moment in time when “the want” outweighed “the wisdom” and we acted.  The results were scars, broken hearts, financial disasters, and regret.

So, what do you do with this memory thing?  We all can remember back before the COVID thing was a thing…when things were…normal. Want to go out and eat? Sure. Want to go shopping.  Sure.  Want to go on vacation? Sure.  Want to go to church?  Sure.  Then came that long stretch when things were anything but normal.  Gratefully, now, we are beginning to taste, at least, a variation of normal. But the question remains, “What do we do with yesterday? What do we do with the regrets? What do we do with yesterdays that leave us longing or weeping? What do we do with fear of the unknowns?”

Saul (aka Paul) had to deal with that.  He had a long history of regrets.  As a young man climbing up the corporate ladder, he made his living imprisoning people for believing in Jesus.  People who followed Jesus would quake when he walked into town.  It usually meant someone was going to jail.  Or worse.  He once stood by as a mob stoned a young man named Stephen.  He nodded his approval with each sickening thud as stone met flesh.

So, what happened?  He met Jesus and he was instantly and forever changed.  He went from Jesus hater to Jesus follower.  The only problem was people have long memories and he was a people.  Every look in the polished metal mirror reminded him. Every trip to a new town carried the dread that someone would say, “Hey, isn’t that the guy?”  Ever had that happen?  Ever dread that happening?  Well, Paul did too, and he gave us some mountain moving advice in Philippians 3:13a-14.

He wrote “This one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and reaching forward to what is ahead, I pursue as my goal the prize promised by God’s heavenly call in Christ Jesus.”  There you go.  He says “I am not going to let my past control my present or my future”.  Paul accepted one amazing deal.  Grace.  God had forgiven him of all his messes in the past and he finally made the decision to live in grace rather than regret.

So, as we continue our journey through these days of a new different, we can long for the old days, or we can live in gratitude and grace.  As memories of mistakes the size of Everest sneak their way into our present, we can sink or we can swim in His grace.  As we look in the mirror, we can see what might have been or believe what God says is. The author of Psalm 77 said, “I will remember the Lord’s works; yes, I will remember Your ancient wonders. I will reflect on all you have done and meditate on your actions.”

You need to know and believe that He’s pretty keen on you.  He’s not ashamed or afraid to call you His.  There is never a hint of regret for His decision to let you in the family.  Hey, believe that.  Rest in that. He’s got you. He’s got this.  Bro. Dewayne

Posted in Family, Grace, gratitude, life, love, loving others, Mother's Day, priorities, Scripture, Southern born, thankful, wisdom

Mama and Her Day

Jesus also did many other things. If they were all written down, I suppose the whole world could not contain the books that would be written.” John 21:25

The older I get the more precious the memories become.  This Sunday homes across America will be observing Mother’s Day. While I always assumed that Hallmark or Russell Stover’s came up with the idea, apparently, I was wrong.  It turns out that Mother’s Day as we know it, began in the early 1900s. A woman named Anna Jarvis started a campaign for an official holiday honoring mothers in 1905, the year her own mother died. The first larger-scale celebration of the holiday was in 1908, when Jarvis held a public memorial for her mother in her hometown of Grafton, West Virginia.

Over the next few years, Jarvis pushed to have the holiday officially recognized as it was celebrated in more and more states across America. Finally, in 1914, President Woodrow Wilson signed a proclamation making Mother’s Day an official holiday, to take place the second Sunday of May. Well, whether it was Hallmark’s idea or Anna Jarvis, it certainly was a winner.  The bottom line is when God gave the childbearing and a chunk of childrearing to Eve instead of Adam, He did a good thing. If it had been left up to the guys, the population of the world would probably be 53 and without a mother’s love and influence…things just wouldn’t be the same.  Mothers are change makers.

Something that I have come to realize is that Mother’s Day is bigger than those who give physical birth to someone.  While that is so important, let’s not stop there.  It is even bigger than those who welcomed a child through adoption, and it exceeds those who foster children.  Mothering includes all the women who have poured their lives into the lives of others.  It could be a caring school teacher, a loving church member, or the neighbor down the street who cares.  Mother’s Day is a big deal and rightfully so.

And then of course, and guys this is for you, don’t forget to honor the mother of your children.  She deserves a prize for marrying and living with you.  I know in my life, as much as my Daddy played a role in raising me, Mama outshined him.  In so many ways, she was my hero.  I only wish I could have seen it more clearly then.  Time and again she was there to nurse, guide, prod, and yes- admonish me, on my journey to becoming a man.

I remember the time I was so sick, and she held me gently in her lap, in the middle of the night, till my fever broke or my tummy settled, and I could fall to sleep.  I remember the time that a couple of bullies from junior high were going to plummet me. I was outgunned and outnumbered until Mama stepped up and stepped in.  I remember in second grade I forgot an important assignment and Mrs. Webb had everyone convinced that they would stay in second grade forever it they didn’t turn it in.  Yup, it was Mama who stopped her world to save mine.

I remember when I had a new pair of jeans, a rare gift, and while I was horseback riding, I was shoved into a tree by the horse and ripped a huge hole in one leg.  Now days it would be fashionable—then it was an embarrassment.  Somehow, someway, she managed to fix it.  Oh, and I remember hundreds of suppers and dozens of pies and homemade fruitcake with grandma’s recipe.  And on and on it would go.  Everyday something said, “I love you.”  Oh, and for the record, just like your mama, my Mama wasn’t perfect, but she sure had a way of saying, “I love you.”  She raised eight kids and I got the privilege of being last and, though no one would admit it, her favorite.

The Bible says that if all the things that Jesus did were written down the whole world couldn’t hold the books.  Well, that would be an exaggeration for any mama, but I do know this.  If I could remember just half of all that my Mama did for me, for our family, well this story would be a whole lot longer.  Mama went to heaven when I was only 24 years old and she never met any of my children but hopefully as we trust Jesus, like she did, God will remedy that…one day.  Until then, I want to say, “Thank you, Mama” for always being there.  Thank you Judy, for being an incredible wife, mother to our children, and MaMa to our grandchildren.  And finally, to all you ladies who have poured your lives into the lives of others, thanks for making a difference.  Thanks for never giving up and always believing, “He’s got this.”  Bro. Dewayne

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

Rocking on Lake Victoria

Do not be afraid or discouraged, for the Lord will personally go ahead of you. He will be with you; He will neither fail you nor abandon you.” Deuteronomy 31:8

It was like something out of National Geographic. I was on a vision trip to Uganda several years ago and it was one adventure after another.  I was working with a missionary who had a ministry to the people living on the islands of Lake Victoria.  This massive lake is the second largest in the world and is more like an inland sea than a lake.  There are places that you can lose sight of the shoreline and you feel very much like you are out on the ocean.

Our vessel was anything but an ocean liner.  It was a handcrafted open vessel that was about twenty-five feet long and powered by a fire breathing dragon of a motor with a whopping ten horsepower.  We would tear across the lake at a heart stopping ten miles an hour. Ok, there really wasn’t a fire breathing dragon effect, nor were we tearing across the lake, but it was a great adventure!  Usually.

One day, after a long day of preaching and teaching, it was time to head back to our home island.  We were a little late leaving and night was coming soon, so it was imperative that we begin heading back.  Our boat was parked in a small, secluded harbor and from there we all loaded up.  There were only about six of us in the boat and the small engine started and off we went.  As soon as we left the harbor we were greeted by some rough water.  The waves were large enough to be “white caps” and I gave the missionary a glance but he assured me that these were not big waves. Well, beauty is in the eye of the beholder and so is wave size.  These were boat swallowing monsters.  And then, after a few minutes, it happened.

As the pilot guided the boat and tried to determine just how to navigate the large waves…the motor quit.  I mean, it just stopped.  Suddenly, at least in my eyes, things got a bit more interesting.  We could no longer navigate the waves, rather, we were at their mercy and no matter how hard the pilot pulled, the engine wouldn’t start.  About then I began a worship service of sorts, part music, part prayer and part personal eulogy. You know, “Friends we are gathered here to honor the life of…” Meanwhile the pilot is still pulling on the motor and I kept praying.

Finally, one of the guys in the boat named Joseph went to work on the motor.  Joseph is a young man that can do just about anything—from preaching to apparently fixing motors.  The shorter version of a long story is that He proceeded to take the carburetor apart and “blow it out.”  Now keep in mind we are still rocking like crazy…and I still am praying and preparing to die.  But I had planned my funeral just a little too soon.  Before long, Jospeh had the carburetor reassembled and back on the motor.  Three or four quick pulls later and we were back “on the road.”  The waves were still big (at least to me) but we were underway and eventually we arrived back at the other island.  Safe—if not too sound.

It really was one of those times that I wished I had paid more attention at swimming lessons because I wasn’t totally sure of the outcome.  But thankfully I did remember one thing. I remembered that whether I am rocking in a boat on the world’s second largest lake in East Africa or driving down the Interstate at 70 miles-per-hour surrounded by people looking at their cellphones or doing life in a tumultuous point in history, my Father, my Dearest Daddy, is in control.  Fate and circumstances are not calling the shots—He is. And if that isn’t enough, we have the promise that the Lord will personally go ahead of us. He will be with us; He will neither fail us, nor will He abandon us.

Now to be clear that doesn’t mean that everything is going to turn out exactly as I would like.  It doesn’t mean that I get to write the script and He has to follow it.  Quite the contrary, He is writing the script and He invites me to trust Him and to believe that ultimately the end of the story is for my good and His glory.  I’m learning that the story never ends here—it ends there.  For the person who decides to trust Him there is always a surprise ending and that is—the end is not the end.  We may change locations, but the story continues.  How about that?

So, I survived that day on the lake and now have returned many times…each time taking others with me including the one that I love most on this earth—my wife, Judy. I do so knowing, that while there are risks, ultimately the pilot of the boat doesn’t sit at the back but up in heaven and He’s got his eye on us and everything we do.  It’s true in East Africa and its true where you and I live.  We can say with certainty that if we belong to Him, we don’t have to worry because, “He’s got this.”  Bro. Dewayne

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

Home is Better

He will wipe every tear from their eyes, and there will be no more death or sorrow or crying or pain. All these things are gone forever.” And the one sitting on the throne said, “Look, I am making everything new!” Revelation 21:4-5

Who would have known?  In 1977, my wife and I packed up our stuff and moved to Germany.  It wasn’t a sudden urge we had—it was courtesy of the Air Force.  When we had been married about seven months, we received an assignment to move to Europe.  We were excited about moving there, but also realized Germany was 4,657 miles from everything that was familiar to us.  We were off on a great adventure, without cell phones or internet!

We loved it.  Our part of Germany was filled with history and beautiful landscapes.  Rich forests and small hills and mountains framed every view.  And honestly, it was a little like home.  While it was true that the local folks spoke a different language, there was enough English sprinkled around that we were able to get by.  We even learned a little (and I do mean a little) German to help.  We drove our cars on the right side of the road,  just like home (unlike the Brits), we could drink the water just like home, we had stores kinda like home, and we even had a church…just like home.  But it wasn’t…home.

Throughout the three years we were there, we would celebrate when it came time for friends to “ship” back to the United States.  Our church even had a special song titled, “Goodbye, World, Goodbye” that we sang every time someone left to go back to the states.  They were bitter-sweet moments.  We would miss them, but we knew where they were going. They were going home.

There was one thing that we would do, every once in a while, to remind us of home.  It might seem strange, but it wasn’t to us.  Germany was a place of great food but once again…it wasn’t home.  I found out that not many Germans eat grits.  Imagine that. But they did share one thing that was purely American—McDonald’s.  Located downtown in a large city, not too far from where we lived, was a McDonald’s very much like ours back home. And when we could afford it, which wasn’t often, we would go and have a taste of home.  Each bite of the burgers and fries said, “Remember home.”  Each bite said, “This place is good but remember, it’s not home.”

Well, one day it was our turn to go…home.  It was our turn to hear, “Goodbye, World, Goodbye” and know it was for us.  It was our turn to leave there and go home and as soon as we were home, we knew instantly that while “there” was very good—it wasn’t home. Home was better.  Home was home.

Jesus followers need to remember that very important truth—Home is better—Home is home.  This world is good.  We enjoy life with friends and family, and there is a McDonald’s on every corner.  But what used to remind us of home now reminds us that we are not there…yet. Even with all its warts and imperfections, God has done a great job providing us a temporary location to live out our days, but remember, Home is going to be—better.  The Bible tells me that Heaven is a place where there is no more pain, suffering, sickness or sorrow.  No hospitals, no nursing homes, and no funeral homes.  Simply put—the former things are gone, and everything will be new.  Home will be better.

I know I speak for Judy too when I say that our time in Germany was three of our favorite years together. I also know I speak for her when I say home was, and home is, better. Life here is good but one day, it will be my turn, your turn, to find out that Home is better.  When it came time to leave Germany and go home, the Air Force paid for our ticket and I am glad to let you know that our ticket to Home is paid for too—by God’s Son, Jesus Christ. All we have to do is accept it and when we do—life here gets better and Home is thrown in. When we accept it, we find out that God loves to give us a “McDonald’s” or two, here and there, just to remind us of Home…to remind us that till we get there, He is with us and that at every turn, “He’s got this.”  Bro. Dewayne

Posted in Family, food, forgiveness, Grace, gratitude, life, love, loving others, Scripture, Southern born, thankful, wisdom

The Best Part

For God loved the world in this way: He gave His one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him will not perish but have eternal life.” John 3:16

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 clock work they would pull up and he would get out.  It was a certainty.  The other certainty was the coffee.  Mama 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 in 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 Mama 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 weeks.

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 “gracy and when something is not very “gracy” 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.  That’s why I like John 3:16 that says, “For God loved the world in this way: He gave His one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him will not perish but have eternal life.” Boom…perfection.

Well, I think I’ll have a cup of straight black coffee a little later on 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