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

Numbers Talk

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

Numbers talk. Take 2.29.  Add a dollar mark and it becomes the price for a value meal at your local fast food place, or perhaps the price for gallon of gas…at least a while back.  At a colon and it becomes the time on a clock twice a day, early morning and mid- afternoon.  Numbers talk.  Take 4.5.6.  At first glance they are three random sequential numbers—three numbers connected only by their sequence. I guess you could say it is a picture of our neighborhood—a couple of evens and one odd ball.  Of course, you could place these numbers on a clock and they too would become a time that occurs twice a day, everyday…once early in the morning and once later in the afternoon.  Numbers talk.

For the folks who live in the small Southern Illinois town of Harrisburg those numbers speak loudly and mournfully. The year was 2012 and it was a leap year with February having twenty-nine days…or letting the numbers talk it was 2.29.  The National Weather Service had forecasted potentially dangerous weather, and some had taken the warning seriously.  Others, softened by previous warnings, assumed it would be another false alarm.  At 4:56 in the morning, or 4.5.6 a line of damaging storms tore through the Southwest side of Harrisburg and in that tangle of lightening, thunder, wind, and rain raged an F-4 tornado.  For miles and miles, it tore through the countryside and several small towns…one of which was Harrisburg.

The tornado sirens were screaming their harrowing sound warning people of the impending disaster.  I heard the sirens and yet stayed comfortably in my bed till Judy made me get up.  My daughter and her husband were staying with us for the night and he and I went out the backdoor to see what we could see in the darkness.  Looking Southeast, in a flash of lightening we saw, what could only be the tornado, as it ripped through that part of our small community.  Before long, sirens were racing all through the town as police, fire and ambulances all raced to help those impacted by the storm. Streets were almost crowded with neighbors helping neighbors.

Daylight revealed the damage and destruction.  Where homes and businesses stood, now were piles of debris. Much of that part of town was severely damaged and sadly, eight people were torn from our lives that day and many more were injured.  Suddenly what we had seen so many times on the Weather Channel and the national news was in our backyard.  It was amazing to see how help poured in from all over the nation.  Various relief agencies, as well as hundreds of everyday people came to our town to help in any way they could.  Churches, often separated by doctrine or denomination, came together to help the hurting.  For the coming months, our church and other organizations would house and feed hundreds of volunteers who came to clean up and help rebuild the community.  We mourned together, we worked together, and we came together, and through it all, we emerged a stronger community.

So, if this year was a leap year then yesterday would have been the 29th and not the first day of March and it would have been the ninth observance of the Harrisburg Leap Day tornado.  I know that day is firmly etched in the minds and memories of everyone who lived in Harrisburg at the time.  But also etched there is the beautiful and powerful unity that we experienced during the days that followed the 29th.  Slowly, the physical scars have be repaired and rebuilt but the scars of those lost, of course, will remain forever.

There’s a verse in the Bible (written by a guy locked up in prison for nothing more than being a Jesus follower) that talks about how God can bring good from even the worse-case scenario. Now it doesn’t say that everything is good, because that just simply wouldn’t be true.  But it does say for those who are willing to trust, those who are willing to look and see, that He can bring good.  I know for me that is the memory of people coming together to help people.  Religion and politics, social status, and separation were laid aside as people just helped.  And, perhaps, that was when the seed was firmly planted in my heart that no matter what—how tall the mountain or wide the raging river, no matter how hot the fire or difficult the journey, that my Dearest Daddy, is in control. Perhaps that is when I knew, “He’s got this” and He still does. Bro. Dewayne

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

Backyard Cars

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Posted in Family, gratitude, life, priorities, Southern born, thankful, travel, wisdom

Free Money

Lazy people want much but get little, but those who work hard will prosper.” Proverbs 13:4

It was like free money.  Ah, those were the good old days.  When I was nine or ten years old, we used to go and visit our grandparents who lived in Gainesville, Florida.  It was always an adventure to go to their house.  While they weren’t necessarily rich, they were richer than we were. They had a fireplace which to me was an adventure all by itself.  I remember one time, without permission, (oops), I went in the living room where the fireplace was.  I had some newspaper and matches and decided that I was going to start a fire.  There were several problems with that plan, but the big one was the draft in the chimney was closed.  When I lit the papers, all the smoke began pouring into the living room and I didn’t have a clue on how to stop it. I’m not sure how that all turned out, but that is probably because I have mentally blocked the consequences.

Also, I remember they had an old garage behind the house and it was just filled with stuff.  It was dark and dank and my imagination would race as I thought about what could be lurking in the recesses and corners.  I can only wish I had some of those old treasures today.  Beyond the garage was a large backyard that was really one big flower garden.  There were several flower beds with daylilies, camellia bushes, and amaryllis.  And then, beyond the backyard…was free money.

Imagine small city side streets with shallow ditches lining each side of the road.  Imagine vines and low bushes almost overcoming the ditches and then imagine free money up and down the streets.  You see, back in those days, cokes came in glass coke bottles and if you found a coke bottle you could take it to the store where they would give you two cents per bottle. On top of that you did your part to stop littering.   Now keep in mind down south any soft drink was a coke. Someone might ask you, “Do you want a coke?” If you said yes, and who wouldn’t, they would respond with “what kind?” It might be a root beer, an orange or grape Nehi or something else.  Whatever kind—the bottles all brought two cents each.

I would walk the streets around my grandparent’s house collecting bottles.  On a good day I might find ten bottles which put twenty cents in my pocket. Now wait…don’t think that isn’t much because also in those days there was something called penny candy.  Yup, it was a penny for each piece and there were a whole bunch to choose from.  You could fill a small bag with twenty cents, which I did almost every time. You can probably understand why going to Gainesville was one of my favorite trips.  I loved my grandparents, but I loved finding those bottles too.  And the store…it was right across the street.

Times have certainly changed and getting a deposit for a coke bottle is all but gone.  I was reading my water bottle label the other day and discovered if you lived in Oregon it was worth a whole dime.  Shoot that thang!  I sometimes wonder if we need to do a better job of teaching our kids or grandkids the value of earning a little money? Whether it was finding bottles or mowing yards for $2.00 it taught me lessons about working to get what you want.  Too often kids grow up without learning the value of work or money for that matter.  I’m pretty sure one of the best gifts we can give our kids is teaching them the value of working for something.  Looking back, I’m thankful my Daddy and Mama gave me that opportunity.

The Book of Proverbs is a whole book in the Jewish and Christian Bibles dedicated to wisdom.  Well, one of the proverbs in that Book says that people who don’t work want much but get little, but those who work hard will prosper. There’s a lot of truth in those few words. We often see work as a curse but in many ways, it is a gift…a great teacher. However, there is one area that I am glad work doesn’t play a part and that is as the way to heaven.  In that case all the work in the world will leave you far short. But the good news is that God offers forgiveness and heaven as a gift to anyone who is willing to believe.  What I could never earn, He freely provides. How about that!

I don’t necessarily long for the old days, but I am grateful for the days I’ve lived.  Each season of life has had its ups and downs…its values and lessons.  I still clearly remember the sheer joy of finding those two cent bottles.  Times change and the way lessons are learned may change but through the years, the faithfulness of my Dearest Daddy has never changed.  He has always been there and no matter what tomorrow brings.  He’s got this.  Bro. Dewayne

Posted in Family, gratitude, life, prayer, Scripture, sovereignty of God, thankful

Mr. Toad

Take delight in the Lord, and He will give you your heart’s desires.” Psalm 37:4

It seems impossible but it is true. It has been several years ago, but I remember it quite well.  I was talking with one of our church members and she began to tell me a tale.  It was either a tall tale or a tale of faith and I believe it was the latter.  It was summertime and it was hot—the perfect time to take a swim in the swimming pool—if you are blessed or cursed to own one. They did.  One of her grandsons, we’ll call him Billy, was over and they were swimming together.  If my memory serves me correctly, he was messing around the edge of the pool and decided to look in the skimmer.  When he looked inside, he saw it.

It was a toad.  To be more specific it was a very dead, swollen toad.  It had apparently found its way into the skimmer and was unable to escape.  After a while, you might say it gave up the ghost.  Billy reached into the skimmer and picked up the now deceased toad.  Since he had a pretty sensitive heart, it kinda upset him that the toad had met such an untimely death.  Now his grandmother, Ellen, is a woman of great faith and she had been working diligently to instill that same faith in her grandchildren.  Well, in just a moment, Billy decided to put their faith to the test.

He asked his grandmother, “Can we pray for the frog?”  Well, Ellen explained that the toad was beyond help.  Billy then suggested they could pray for the toad to be, uh, resurrected, you know, like Lazarus.  Now I have to admit if it had been me, I probably would have come up with some kind of excuse of why that wouldn’t work.  But not Ellen.  She told Billy that they could indeed pray for the toad and I’m sure she explained that it was up to God to do the rest.

So, Billy prayed and asked God to bring the frog back to life.  As a step of faith, they didn’t bury the frog but left it there beside the pool…in the hot sun.  So, Ellen and Billy went inside the house, perhaps for lunch or perhaps just for a break.  After a good while they decided to go back outside for another swim.  As they neared the pool, what do you think they saw?  Well, there was Mr. Toad… very much alive.  They were so excited.  They saw only one possibility—God had answered their prayer.  I supposed you could come up with some scientific answer like the toad was in a comma, but I believe God just heard a little boy’s prayer and decided to teach him a lesson about faith and prayer.

It is common, I know, for us to try and explain away the impossible.  I know when Jesus came back to life people tried to explain that away too. Some said he was in a comma or simply had passed out.  But when the guys doing the crucifying are professionals…well, that just isn’t an option.  You might say they were very good at their job.  No, the simplest explanation is the one that says He said He could do it, and He did.  So, I think the simplest explanation for Mr. Toad is that God decided to bring glory to His name by answering this simple prayer of faith.

I wonder how different the world might be if we had the faith to pray prayers like that.  I’ve never believed that prayer is a cosmic wish list. I also know that just because I pray and ask for something God is not obligated to fulfill my wish.  The Bible clearly teaches that prayer is more about our faith in God than getting something out of God. Powerful prayers come when God’s people align their hearts with God’s will.  The Old Testament psalmist said, “Take delight in the Lord, and He will give you your heart’s desires.

Does that undermine prayer? Not at all. In fact, I believe it validates prayer.  God is working every day and in every way.  We simply need to discover what He is doing and join Him—perhaps in person or perhaps on our knees.  There is a world out there that needs to know God and the best way for that to happen is for us, His kids, to demonstrate our faith and trust in Him.  We need to pray, and live, in such a way that shouts, “I believe—and I believe He’s got this.”  And…He does. Just ask Mr. Toad!

  Bro. Dewayne 

Posted in Family, food, life, loving others, Scripture, Trials

I Finally Won!

Pay careful attention to your own work, for then you will get the satisfaction of a job well done, and you won’t need to compare yourself to anyone else. For we are each responsible for our own conduct.” Galatians 6:4-5

Deep inside I was kinda, sorta…glad.  Several years ago, I was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes.  Now, it was one of those good news, bad news things.  The bad news of course was that I had the stinking thing.  The good news was that compared to some folks and their struggle with it…well, I was pretty, blessed.  With medicine and by watching what I eat, it was quickly under control.  Of course, the only problem was the “watching what I eat” thing. It was a matter of definition.  To me watching what I ate meant as my fork hit my plate, I watched carefully to make sure nothing fell off. Trust me…it had very little to do with being healthy.  Of course, to my wife Judy, watching what I ate meant…watching what I ate. Watch your carbs, eat your greens, portion control and…well, you get the idea.

I have always been one of the guys who wrestled with food stuff. Because of that, weight and things like diabetes are a pretty constant struggle.  Judy, on the other hand, hasn’t had much of a weight struggle at all.  It seems she can eat carbs till the cows come home and it just doesn’t seem to impact her.  It just didn’t seem fair.  And then, if that wasn’t enough, she also seems to be better at things than me.  She sins less, she reads her Bible more, and I bet St. Peter in heaven even gives her rave reviews on her prayers.  She’s no Mother Teresa, but I think most of the time she must be a first cousin or something.

Well, I finally found something that I can beat her in…and I’m enjoying it way too much. Smile.  So earlier this year Judy was preparing for her annual checkup with the doctor (she beats me at that, too) and so she had the doctor order a panel of blood tests to prepare for the visit.  All of us, including the doctor, were very surprised to learn that she was diabetic.  It is most certainly a gene thing…though she does like her bread.  At any rate, her sugar level was much higher than mine and her A1C…well, I smoked her.  So, when she was diagnosed, I thought it would be a great time to get serious with my own demon and before long I was regularly waxing her.  I loved it—I love it.

I was never so glad to stick my finger.  “Good morning, honey.” “Did you sleep well, honey?”  “Did you check your sugar yet, honey?”  “It was what, honey?  Oh my…that’s too bad. Mine was…” I just love it.  Now I am sure somewhere in the Bible it says that being glad your wife has diabetes is a sin.  In fact, I’m not glad she is diabetic…I’m just glad to beat her at something.  I mean, on the rare occasion that I get to be right and she is wrong, it is like one of those Christmas mornings when you get everything you wanted.

While I enjoy my little diabetic victory, and I think Judy at least tolerates it, we all really must be careful when we start comparing ourselves to others.  Comparatitis (yup, made that one up) can be very damaging and maybe even dangerous.  If you are the one always struggling, it can leave you feeling less than and if you are always on the winning side it can lead to a bad case of pride. Regardless, it is something that we have to keep an eye on.  It probably isn’t surprising, but this isn’t a new deal at all.  It has been around since the beginning of time.  I mean it was comparatitis that caused Cain to take out Abel.  Bummer.

Paul, the guy from the New Testament, gives some great advice.  He says, “Pay careful attention to your own work, for then you will get the satisfaction of a job well done, and you won’t need to compare yourself to anyone else. For we are each responsible for our own conduct.”  Boom…right on Paul.  When I watch what I eat (that’s a win) and when I see good results (that’s a win), I don’t need for someone else to fail for me to feel good. How about that?  Well, truth be known, it is a struggle to not compare ourselves with others, but I just happen to know someone who can help.  God loves to help struggling pilgrims and He wants to help us.  Just ask, and you will find Him ready, willing, and able to walk with you along your journey.  He loves us regardless of what the meter says and no matter what, “He’s got this.”  Bro. Dewayne

Posted in Family, gratitude, life, sovereignty of God, Trials

Watch Out Below

Watch therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour.” Matthew 25:13

The clock was ticking…and I didn’t even know it.  Getting older is, well, interesting.  It certainly has its perks…like you mess up and people just give you that knowing nod, you know, the one that says, “We’re gonna give you a pass on that because you are old(er).  Of course, sometimes they are not understanding, and they give you the “what for”.  One of the things that is just a bit difficult are the things that you lose.  You know sometimes you lose your mind, sometimes you lose your hair, sometimes you lose your teeth, sometimes you lose your vision and sometimes you lose your hearing.  Wait, what did you say?

Well, I can speak from personal experience on a couple of those things.  My hair is in full retreat and my hearing, in a least one ear, is well, less than.  One of favorite hearing tests is the fact that I can cover my “bad” ear and still hear our clock ticking at 25 feet.  If I cover my good ear…not matter how close I get…I can’t hear a thing.  One time I put my face up to the face of the clock and still couldn’t hear a thing.  But here’s what is kinda strange—it’s not every sound, but only certain frequencies.  I can hear most voices (except for some reason my wife’s), most music, and most other sounds.  Of course, some things you just can’t hear—or see coming. That happened a couple of years ago.  A clock was ticking, and I had no idea.

My wife called me one Wednesday afternoon.  She sounded a bit frustrated—you know like that tone wives have when they ask their husbands to take the trash out for three days…well, it was kinda like that.  Just a little edgy.  But this had nothing to do with the trash.  Instead, she said, “Dewayne the ceiling in the middle bedroom has fallen.”  I said, “What?” She repeated what she said, yes—I had heard her right.  It turns out that over half of the plaster ceiling in the spare room was now laying on the bed and floor.  I said I was on my way! When I got home, I found out that she was not kidding or even exaggerating.  Water-soaked plaster and blown insulation covered the bed and the entire floor.  What a mess! How do you even begin to clean it up?

As it turns out…it was not a fluke. We have an air conditioning unit in our attic for the upstairs. When the company installed it, they build a small platform where the overflow pan would sit.  The pan was there in case the primary drain clogged. So, unknown to me the main drain clogged, and the pan began to fill. The pan also had a drain but in this case, it just wasn’t enough to handle the excess water. As it filled with water the platform slowly, ever so slowly, began to tilt.  As it tilted, the water in the pan spilled over the edge and onto the attic floor, seeping into the ceiling.  Slowly, surely, over a few days, and believe it or not, without a drip, the ceiling continued to absorb the water until it had enough… and the insulation and plaster fell…big time.

It was a sloppy, no fun, you’ve got to be kidding me, mess.  And then, of course, we had to repair the ceiling.  It took us a couple of hours to clean up the mess and a good friend helped me repair the ceiling. We also had someone come in and properly rebuild the platform so it would not give way again.  In two or three weeks the whole thing was a memory.  It was a learning experience for sure.  One lesson I learned, is to make a trip to the attic on a regular basis and make sure everything is working.  Pour some bleach in the drain to kill any algae and make sure the drain isn’t clogged. Two, understand that there are clocks ticking that we don’t hear…can’t hear and when the straw breaks the camel’s back—you’ve got yourself a dead camel.

Life is filled with surprises and with some of them, all the preparation and all the good intentions in the world, can’t help you avoid them.  But we can do what we can.  It never occurred to me to ask God why He allowed that ceiling to fall.  I mean, I know He loves me and I’m sure on that day He wasn’t mad at me.  The bottom line is… I didn’t do my part.  My part was to make a trip to the attic every once in a while and check things out.  His part was to help me not lose my cool in the midst of the mess.  And, amazingly, even though I didn’t do my thing…He did His.  He sent friends to help and now in the summer when the air is running I make an occasional trip to the attic.  You know, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure—or several pounds of wet insulation and plaster. So, thank you Father for helping me grow in patience and shrink a little in frustration.  Thank you for being faithful and for always being there.  I know You’ve got this.  Bro. Dewayne

Posted in Family, forgiveness, Grace, gratitude, life, Scripture, Southern born, thankful

S & H Green Stamps

Now all glory to God, who is able, through His mighty power at work within us, to accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or think.” Ephesians 3:20

I guess it was the bonus thing.  Take a country boy from the far-out suburbs of North Florida and a trip anywhere was a treat.  When times were lean, Daddy and Mama would pay our electric bill downtown at the electric company.  It wasn’t unusual for us to wait to the last day or so and we would have to take it down to the drop box.  The office was located downtown on the St. John’s River and we would make an adventure out of the trip.  We would park and make the payment and then play along the Riverwalk. It is one of those great memories.

So, anytime Mama or Daddy said, “Let go” we were all in.  That was especially true when Mama would head to the grocery store.  Daddy was paid on every other Friday.  On payday when he got home from work, they would deposit his check and go buy groceries. While we started with eight kids, by the time I was eight or so several had gotten married but that still made for a lot of groceries to buy.  Mama would usually shop at Food Fair.  For one thing they had good prices but there was a bonus.  Food Fair gave out S&H Green Stamps.

It was kinda like the card that some stores today use to offer discounts on food and gas but different.  When you got to the checkout, the person would hand ring all the groceries (no scanners in those days!) and total everything up.  Then she had this special little machine and based on what Mama spent that week, she would mash the appropriate buttons and this little machine would spit out all these little “green stamps.” So, along with your receipt you left the store with a handful of stamps.

At the store, near the front, you would find these little stamp collecting books. Each page would hold, oh let’s say, twenty stamps.  So, we (Mama would often let us lick the stamps and stick them in the book) would put the stamps in the book and then put the books in a safe place like the china cabinet.  Week after week, and especially on payday we would stick and save, stick and save.  Finally, after a while, we would have several books of stamps and it was redemption time.

Along with the little books for the stamps, there were catalogs filled with stuff that you could redeem with the stamps.  There were all kinds of small appliances, toasters, and the like, as well as other things for the house.  And, if I remember right, there were even a few toys in there also.  When redemption time came we would look and shop and see what we could buy with our S&H Green Stamps.  Rarely, but sometimes, Mama would even let us have the stamps and we could go shopping for something we wanted. It was like a mini-Christmas in April, or August or whenever.

It was a pretty good marketing ploy if you think about it.  The fact that they gave away “green stamps” enticed us to shop there.  It really was a bonus and it really worked. It is always special when you get more than you expect—and that is something that I really like about God. Although I went to church all my life, I was twenty-one when I finally got it in my head that I didn’t have to please God to go to heaven.  I finally understood that you go to heaven not based on what you do but on what Jesus did when He died on a Roman cross and rose again.  Trust and believe in Him and, well, it is redemption day. You get your ticket punched for heaven but there is more.  There is a bonus.

You see, not only does God make you eligible for heaven by forgiving everything you’ve ever done wrong but there is something else.  There are S&H Green Stamps—an unexpected bonus. I mean, I’m glad for heaven but to know that my Father up in heaven cares for me and walks with me every day—now that’s a bonus. When times are hard, He is there.  When I need a friend, He is there. When I mess up, He is there…ready to love and forgive. He.Is.Always.There. Paul, the guy who penned a bunch of the New Testament said it this way, “Now all glory to God, who is able, through his mighty power at work within us, to accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or think.” Yup…well said Paul.

You know, sometimes the future can be pretty scary.  A lot of us…most of us…discovered that in 2020.  If there was anything that was certain it was that the future was uncertain.  It was so assuring to know that what I didn’t know…He did. That when I went where I hadn’t gone before…His footprints were already in the sand. And, what I couldn’t handle…He could and He did. Throughout this past year, each time I wrote,  I’ve tried to close my story with the words, “He’s got this.” And do you know what?  He really does and that my friend…is a bonus.  Bro. Dewayne

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

A Morning Nightmare

He comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort others. When they are troubled, we will be able to give them the same comfort God has given us.” 2 Corinthians 1:4

It was the thing that nightmares are made of.  I wasn’t there for this, but trust me I have lived it over and over again with my wife, Judy. Let me tell you the story.  When she was four or five years old, her father and mother went to work and so she had a babysitter that lived close by. It was a regular routine. Simple.  Simple and routine till one day it wasn’t.

On the first day of school, the babysitter and her friend were taking the kids to school. The kids were entering first grade, there was no kindergarten. After they had dropped the kids off, it was back to her house again.  If you’ve ever been to Valdosta, Georgia you need to know multiple times at multiple locations train tracks would cross the roads and highways.  Just a few miles from the grade school was a pulpwood plant and often trains would drop off logs to be made into paper.  On that particular morning, after leaving the school, the car approached this train crossing.  In the early 60’s, many of the crossings didn’t have lights or gates and this was one of those.  As the car approached the crossing, that’s when it happened.

It was not unusual for trains to just stop short of the crossing and sit there.  As the car approached the crossing there was a train and the young lady who was driving assumed it was just waiting as they often did.  Unfortunately, she was wrong.  As the car neared the crossing and proceeded onto the tracks, she realized that the train was in fact moving—slowly—but moving.  In a panic she thought she was pressing the gas pedal, when in fact she pressed the brake—stopping the car dead on the track. As if in slow motion, the train hit the car and slowly, methodically pushed it down the tracks.  Even at such a slow speed, it took a while for the train to stop. The damage was extensive.

The collision was not without consequences and injuries.  The lady in the front passenger seat where the train hit received two broken arms.  The girl behind the passenger seat had a broken leg.  The driver literally had a nervous breakdown.  Thankfully, four-year-old Judy was only knocked to the floorboard where she tried her best to hold on to the “hump.”  While everyone was taken to the hospital, gratefully the injuries, though serious, were not life threatening. As often is the case in situations like this, not all the injuries were physical.

When I met Judy in 1974, she was sixteen and full of fun and life.  Because she lived on the other side of most of the tracks, we would often have to cross them.  While never in a dangerous way, if I heard a training coming, I would speed up to make it across the crossing.  I still remember the fear that came across her face.  Each time it happened, she was reliving what happened.  The accident still deeply affected her emotionally. Even if there was a crossing guard with lights, she would tense up, even though I was slowing down to a stop.  What happened that morning 12 years earlier left lifelong scars.

At first I didn’t really understand and thought perhaps, just perhaps, she was overreacting.  But it didn’t take years, or months or even more than a couple of weeks, for me to realize that for her…this was a big deal.  I also quickly realized that I owed it to her, this young woman I loved, to be very careful around train tracks.  It didn’t scare me one bit, but it did scare the one I loved, the one I cared for.

So, can I ask you a question?  Is there someone in your life, in your world that you care about that might need a bit of special consideration? Is there someone who has a life experience that has left them scarred or wounded?  Divorce? Tragedy? Abuse? Death? Illness? Prejudice? You see, in our very imperfect world, you don’t have to travel far to find the wounded and the broken.  And what isn’t a big deal to you, might be a tsunami of emotions and difficult memories for someone else.  And honestly, we need to be sensitive.  We need to care. Jesus did that so well.  The Bible tells how God cares and comforts us in our trouble so we can care and comfort those we meet in our daily walkabout life.

So, if you bump into someone’s world and they seem to act differently in a certain situation, why not precede with caution?  Why not be the one that brings comfort and understanding to their fractured moment? You could be the one that finally brings healing and peace in their world.  Judy is much better now.  But if there is an unguarded crossing and a train whistle in the distance, you can bet I still slow down and check the situation out.  Judy, well, she knows this guy loves her enough to do exactly that. And, by the way, there is a Dearest Daddy who loves His kids even more than that.  And no matter how your world is scarred or rocked…rest assured, He’s got this.  Bro. Dewayne

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

My Friend Charlie

A cheerful heart is good medicine, but a broken spirit saps a person’s strength. Proverbs 17:22

His name was Charlie. He was my friend, and he was a lot of fun. Over the years I have met so many different people.  They have been like a kaleidoscope of colors and patterns all coming together to form a beautiful display.  Now sometimes the colors were muted and gray, but more often they were an explosion of color and life.  As I look back over the years my mind goes to my friend Charlie.

I met Charlie when I became the pastor of Cobden First Baptist Church. Cobden is a small town in Southern Illinois and God allowed us to stay there for 14 years.  It was amazing.  And trust me, God had to use His spiritual shoehorn to pry us from the friends we made there.  Our time at Cobden was the perfect storm in a good way.  So many of us were raising our kids and for whatever reason we just liked to have fun.  If church is supposed to be about community—we had a good one.  None of us were perfect but when the bumps came, we loved our way right through them.

Charlie and I were pretty good buds from the get go.  One of the first things he did for me was drive me around the community pointing out where different members lived and, more importantly, where people lived who didn’t know Jesus.  You see, Charlie loved Jesus and Charlie loved people.  Our families quickly became fast friends and that meant, among other things, food.  Right after we arrived in town, Charlie and Cheryl, his wife, invited us over for supper and we had Dixie BBQ. This “mom and pop” place located a few miles from town became an instant favorite that night.  Thank you guys for that.

Charlie loved practical jokes…a lot.  There was the time that we had a deacons’ Christmas party at an old mansion located on the Ohio River. We had the place to ourselves and being Baptists, we were definitely teetotalers, so we told the owners to leave the bar closed. Period.  Well, we were having a great time and then, without warning, our server comes up to our table, specifically to me, and sets a nice cold Budweiser right in front of me.  I could have died. I wanted to die.  I mean I saw the light at the end of the tunnel. I tried to explain to the server that this was a mistake and she told me, “No sir, that man right over there ordered it for you.”  Oh, yes it was Charlie and we laughed till it hurt.

Another time, and I do not know the occasion, he decided to out-do himself.  I’m thinking it must have been pastor appreciation month or something.  So, I get up to preach and I read the scripture for that morning and asked everyone to bow their heads as I prayed.  I prayed a nice, pastorally prayer and when I said “Amen” at the end and opened my eyes, there were almost two hundred people, all holding a newspaper up over their faces like they were reading them.  Instead of smiling faces I saw last week’s headlines.  It was crazy and we laughed till it hurt.

One time, though, Charlie got into trouble.  I think again it must have been a pastor appreciation deal and we were having a fellowship after church.  Again, think food, think Baptist, and think fun.  Well, just about that time Charlie came up behind me and pied me in the face with a large vanilla cream pie.  Well, I thought it was hilarious and some people laughed—but not everyone—especially Charlie’s mama, Grandma Veda.  She got mad because she thought it was disrespectful.  I believe it took a while for Charlie to get out of the doghouse for that one, but we did manage to salvage some of the pie.

Well, that is just a short list of all the special memories I have because of Charlie.  Without trying I can still see his smiling face in my mind’s eye.  It was people like him that made those years at Cobden so memorable.  And here’s the deal.  I believe that church should be like a community. I think, dare I say it…that it should be fun. I know we have a hard time imagining Jesus smiling, much less laughing, but I believe He did.  How could you be that full of joy and not let it leak or slosh out?

I know there is a time to be serious but there is also a time to laugh and we need to be sure and do both.  A sour expression doesn’t mean you’re spiritual…it just means you might be a bit…sour.  Proverbs (that’s the book of wisdom in Christian and Jewish Bibles) 17:22 says, “A cheerful heart is good medicine, but a broken spirit saps a person’s strength.” Now, that is worth remembering.  In these crazy days—in fact, especially in these crazy days—of COVID-19, vaccines, elections and the like, let’s remember to just laugh.  The mask might hide your smile, but it can’t stop your laugh. I’m glad we have a God with a good sense of humor—after all He made me and you. Smile.  And I’m glad we have a God that can give us a reason to laugh because no matter what—He’s got this.  Bro. Dewayne

Posted in Family, fear, forgiveness, Grace, gratitude, life, loving others, prayer, Southern born, wisdom

Miracles and Concubines

Then Abraham fell on his face and laughed and said to himself, “Shall a child be born to a man who is a hundred years old? Shall Sarah, who is ninety years old, bear a child?” Genesis 17:17

I quit just a little too soon.  I think there must have been this line in heaven where all the babies wait to be assigned dads, moms, skills, and bodies in heaven.  I can just imagine me standing there waiting.  I am watching as all the boy babies make it to the front and they are soon on their way with these bodies that are destined to be tall and muscular.  They make the jump to earth and their new homes just waiting to grow up and become the next Babe Ruth or Michael Jordan.  I can also imagine my turn at the front of the line and Saint Peter saying something about sports and I miss understood and thought he said something about ketchup, and I said, “Sure, I’ll take a squirt.” Anyway, I arrived on earth a little shorter than average and not a sports bone in my body.  I should have listened closer.

All this became pretty apparent when it came to choosing teams.  Whether it was kickball, volleyball, basketball, dodgeball, or baseball, when the teams were chosen I was near the end of the line. As far as school sports, well, there were hundreds of kids in the schools I attended and trust me no one ever offered me a contract.  The only place I had a measure of success was, of course, at church.  I managed to make the church softball team though it was the “B” team. We did play tackle football after our Bible study time on Wednesday nights and there I made a name for myself. One of our teachers was named Eddie and he was, well, one large man and no one could tackle him, so they called him “Big Eddie.”  While I wasn’t nearly that large, I was harder to tackle so I gained the name “Little Eddie.”  Hey, when you are nameless in the world of sports, you will take anything.

My only foray into “professional sports” was Little League baseball when I was about 9 or 10.  I don’t remember if I actually made the team, or if everyone made the team.  Regardless, we were called the Gators and we, or rather they, were pretty good.  Again, I had absolutely no talents in baseball, so I was assigned to right field on the rare occasions that I got to play.  I was the kid who prayed a lot during the games.  It wasn’t that I was particularly spiritual—it was emotional survival.  First, I would pray that they wouldn’t play me and then, if they did, I would pray that no one would hit the ball to right field.  It didn’t work. Invariably someone would and well, it wasn’t good.

Then, of course, there was the batting thing.  Did you know that there are players who actually say they can see the stitches on the ball as it comes toward them?  Did you know there are players who actually know when and how to swing?  Can you guess I wasn’t one of those players?  Nope, the pitcher would pitch, and I would wonder where the ball was. That wasn’t pretty either.  So, the sad (you are feeling sorry for me by now, aren’t you) bottom line is that one day I just refused to go to practice.  I made it through about three quarters of the season and I just gave it up—I quit.

Well, guess what?  It turns out that even without me, the Gators ended up winning the championship.  Yup, they sure did.  I remember, the coach came by my house one evening and he was carrying a trophy.  He said that the team had won it all and even though I hadn’t finished the season, he wanted me to have a trophy.  I probably mumbled something about quitting because I was hit by a semi-truck and thanked him for bringing the trophy by.  The truth was there was no excuse—I just quit. And the other truth is because of that, the trophy meant absolutely, the grand total of—nothing.  I didn’t earn it and I didn’t deserve it.  Not because I wasn’t good, but because I didn’t finish.

I really don’t have a lot of regrets life but that is a small one I do own.  I’m ok with not being tall and gifted in sports, but I’m really not ok with being a quitter.  Not then—not now. If I would have waited, I could have been a champion, but I didn’t wait it out.  You know there was a guy in the Bible who had the same issue.  God had promised him a son, an heir.  The only problem was he and his wife were old—really old.  In fact, when God told him he was going to have a son, this guy fell on his face and laughed and said, “Shall a child be born to a man who is a hundred years old? Shall Sarah, who is ninety years old, bear a child?”

Instead of believing God, he decided to do things his way or really Sarah’s way. Since she couldn’t conceive, they opted for a concubine rather than wait on the miracle.  What a bad idea.  He and the concubine did have a son, but it wasn’t the son God had promised.  It really didn’t go well…and sadly it still isn’t going well.  Much of the conflict in that part of the world stems from this one man.  Oh, the consequences.

Oh, and by the way, guess what?  When they were both older than dirt, Sarah, his wife, did in fact conceive and the promised son was born.  God came through after all—surprise, surprise.  If only they had finished the season…if only they had waited, how different things would have been.  The good news is that God kept His word and blessed Abraham beyond his wildest dreams. You see even though Abraham quit believing, God never quit believing in him…and He won’t quit believing in you either.  I like that…actually, I love that.  Regardless of what you are waiting on, just hang on…just be patient, just wait and see what God has in mind. He’s never late and He’s never early, He’s right on time because He’s got this. Bro. Dewayne