Posted in Family, forgiveness, Grace, life, Military memories, priorities, Scripture, Trials, wisdom

Mr. Bowlen

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 a long, hard day.  When my wife and I lived in Warrensburg, Missouri we were renting a home in a still developing subdivision called Valley View.  We were just back from a three-year USAF stay in Germany, still newlyweds with only four years under our belt, and with a newly hatched dream.  While we loved the house we were renting, we, like so many, dreamed of owning our own home.  It was a crazy time economically as interest rates were running about 18 percent and inflation was at a record rate. And then a window opened.

The developer of our subdivision was a rough around the edges man named Mr. Bowlen.  We bumped into him around the neighborhood as he was still building houses. He planted a thought in our minds and hearts.  He said the government had a program that might allow us to build a house.  They would pay half the interest.  Well compared to eighteen percent, nine sounded pretty enticing. And before we knew, we were approved and a piece of land on Hilltop Drive had our name on it.  He let us add a few things like a bay window and a fireplace in the basement.  It added a bit to the bottom line, but they were worth it.

I’m still not sure if this was a wise financial decision for us.  It ended ok, and that’s another story, but it did cause some financial tension.  To help, he suggested I do some work equity and let me tell you…it was hard work.  I ended up doing all the painting and staining inside and out.  And for a guy who had never done anything like that—it was a challenge.  That’s another story, too.  There was also another opportunity to help with the financial tension.

Mr. Bowlen told me that he would be willing to let me work for him on Saturdays doing some basic labor.  He then said he would pay me $15.00 per hour.  Now that was good money back in 1983 so I agreed although I was way out of my comfort zone.  To set the stage, I was in the Air Force, that was my day job, I was pastoring a small church for a whopping $50 a week, that was my Sunday job, and now I was going to work for Mr. Bowlen on Saturdays.  Like I said…it was way out of my comfort zone.  So, Saturday came.

The work site was just down from our rental house, so I just walked over.  It was early in the morning and we were going to be putting up metal (as in heavy metal) forms to pour a basement for another house.  We had to lift the forms in place and hammer pins in place to hold it all together.  Well, besides dropping my hammer one time inside the forms, things went pretty well.  We called it a day about 4:00 pm…just in time for me to get home and start trying to write a sermon for the next day.  I was exhausted.  I bet that was at least one short sermon!

So, the next week I bumped into Mr. Bowlen and he had a check for me.  Finally, the fruit of my labor that Saturday was in my hands.  Based on his comment about $15.00 per hour and eight hours of labor, I was expecting a check for around a hundred dollars. Instead, I found a check for forty dollars and some change.  I was, uh, shocked.  I said, “Mr. Bowlen is this right?” He assured me that it was, and I said, “I thought you were paying $15.00 an hour.”  He chuckled and said, “Oh, I was only kidding about that.  We pay laborers $5.00 an hour.”  I wasn’t laughing.  In fact, as much as I liked him, I felt betrayed—ripped off.  From my view, one thing was promised, and another given. And that was my first and only Saturday working for Mr. Bowlen.

Betrayed and ripped off.  Have you ever felt that way?  Have you ever felt that way about another person?  Have you ever felt that way…about God?  Because people are broken and imperfect, just like us, there is a measure of understanding. It doesn’t make it any less painful but at least it sometimes softens the blow.  But what about God?  What about when it seems God doesn’t keep His Word?  That’s a tough one.

What I have learned over my years as a Jesus follower, and as a pastor, that when it seems we feel betrayed or ripped off by God it is because we have misread or misapplied His Word.  You see, His Word is full of promises, but we need to make sure that the promises were made to us and for us.  We can’t claim promises that were made to another person or group of people.  God made promises to Abraham that just aren’t ours to claim.

Too often, unfortunately, preachers, teachers, and ordinary people make promises on God’s behalf that God never intended or said.  And, when they don’t come true, well, we blame God and that is not right or fair.  I’ve been a Jesus follower for 45 years now, and I can tell you one thing—He has never failed me or failed to keep His Word.  He is a promise keeping God—when the promise is mine.  No, I’ve not always liked how things turned out or His way of working something out, but I can say I’ve never felt betrayed or ripped off.  He is a good God who is good at being God.  You can trust Him.

Well, Mr. Bowlen’s little joke was a hard lesson for me to learn but it was a valuable one.  His heart was good, but his sense of humor was not.  I’m glad my Dearest Daddy, the God I can call Father, has a perfect heart and His will and plan for me is perfect.  I know no matter what I will face, His plan is for my good and His glory—and that is good enough.  I can face today knowing, “He’s got this.”  Bro. Dewayne

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

Together

I give you a new command: Love one another. Just as I have loved you, you are also to love one another. By this everyone will know that you are My disciples, if you love one another.” John 13:34-35

I’m not much of a sports fan.  Oh, I watch the Super Bowl and the World Series and occasionally I tune into the Master’s.  I am amazed by March Madness and pull for the Blues if they are in the Stanley Cup playoffs.  But when it comes to getting into the nitty-gritty of the sports world, well, not so much.  Even so, I do know one or two things that can make a team strong. While each team will have a wide variety of talents and skill levels, while every team will have players from different races and social stations, while every team will have all kinds of personalities, there is one thing they must have in common.  They must have a love, a passion, for the game.

I mean it just works.  Take my family, your family, for example.  In a world where fewer and fewer marriages stay intact, where relationships are fractured, where time is easy to schedule but difficult to find…someone, or several someone’s must have a passion for the family, not just for it to survive, but for it to thrive.  Passion and love will somehow carve time out of a busy day for one another.  Passion and love will find a way to put others at the front of the line.  Passion and love will share the burden of life and make it easier to bear.

Take your place at work, for example.  For many, work is just work. However, the bottom line is work gives you the opportunity to spend several, or more than several, hours with a group of people, day after day.  While it is great to be passionate about the job you do, doesn’t it also make sense to be passionate about the people you do it with?  I spoke at the funeral service of a person recently and one of the things that was said of her was that her co-workers were like a second family to her.  What about you?  How would that impact your desire to get up and go to work each day?

Take your church, for example.  If there is a place where we should be up to our eyeballs in relationships, it is where we worship.  One of the most powerful forces in culture is when a group of Jesus followers gather to worship and do life together.  One thing is certain—Jesus was and is a game changer. In fact, the way we do time is centered on His birth.  And, when, His followers get it right, they become an impactful force for good in our communities, towns, and even the world.

Whether in the church or not—we have to find common ground.  We somehow have to determine that in our small part of the world, what draws us together will be stronger than what would pull us apart.  That is what got this great experiment called America going in the first place.  It wasn’t that everyone agreed, but that they found common ground and they let that common ground be the glue that pulled the country together.

Each one of us needs to find that one thing that will help us pull it all together—whether that be family, business, church, or community.  I know for me that cohesion is all about being a Jesus follower. His ability to change lives and His teachings lived out in the lives of people are just game changers.  One of the things I love about people is the great diversity.  God made each one of us different and unique. We are all over the map—no pun intended.  But that diversity may well be a strength and not a weakness.  It only becomes a weakness if we allow it to pull us apart and not together.

We need each other and there is power and beauty in God’s creation. When we work together, we become a force to be reckoned with—and the enemy knows it.  So, as we emerge from the crazy time of COVID and division, let’s remember what is good about our communities, our towns, our country—and even this sometimes, upside-down world. Let’s remember the power of love and kindness. If you are a Jesus follower, let’s remember He said they will know us by our love…not our judgement.  And even if you aren’t a Jesus follower—well, that’s just good stuff.  We are stronger and better together and with a little help from the One who created all this—we can do it.  After all, He’s got this. Bro. Dewayne

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

Satan, Sally and Ruff

She will give birth to a Son, and you are to give Him the name Jesus, because He will save His people from their sins.” Matthew 1:21

My name is Sue. How do you do?  Everybody needs a dog.  Now I know that is a generalization, but the fact is dogs can add a lot to life.  Sometimes that “lot” is good and sometimes not so much.  The bottom line is that dogs are kinda like people.  They are all different, they all have different personalities, and they all have different names.

When I was growing up, I can remember three outdoor dogs that we had.  Mama and Daddy had an indoor dog named Penny. She was a, uh, well, overweight chihuahua mix and was pretty much the queen bee of the house.  But through the years that I remember we had three other dogs and all three were as different as night and day. The first one had a very unusual name.

Now, first remember these were real outdoor dogs.  We are talking their dog food was whatever scraps were left over from dinner and a bath very rarely.  So regardless of what adjectives I use to describe them, you would never find them at a dog show.  The first one was a beautiful, red, long hair, Irish setter.  I’m not sure where we got him, but I can assure you he was free.  We definitely, did not pay for dogs.  Besides the fact that this dog was really pretty, his name set him apart.  His name was, wait for it, Satan.  Yes, folks, we actually had a dog named Satan.  Even as I type this, I am saying, “You’ve got to be kidding me.”  But…I am not.

Satan, the dog—not the king of evil—didn’t get his name from his behavior but rather from his red coat.  You know how we like to dress Satan (the king of evil not the dog) in red? Well, I guess Mama and Daddy decided it seemed appropriate.  I know when I am introduced to someone, sometimes I hear their name and say, “Well, he or she looks like a Judy or a Sam.  Well, Satan, the dog, with his red coat fit the bill.  What a crazy name for a dog.

The second dog that holds a spot in my dog hall of fame was a beagle named Sally.  Now Sally, I think, is a kinda happy name.  I have a hard time imagining a stern-faced Sally though I am sure there are plenty out there.  Well, Sally, the dog, had a bubbly personality and had the unique ability, wait for it, to smile.  Now, as Jerry Clower the comedian, used to say, “if I am lying, I am dying.”  You could walk up to ole Sally and give her a greeting and she would turn her upper lip right up and smile at you.  Bring her supper and up the lip would go.  She was a nice contrast, as you can imagine, to, uh, Satan (not the king of evil but the dog.)

The third and final dog that fills my memory of dogs in my growing up years was a rough and tumble, short legged, who knows what breed or breeds, dog we named, wait for it, Ruff. Our dog Ruff didn’t stand out with a shiny red coat nor could he smile.  He was just Ruff. If he was a human, he probably would have driven a big Harley hog, wore a leather jacket, and smoked cigarettes.  He was rough.  He may have had small dog syndrome because truthfully, he was short and stocky.  But, regardless, he was a good dog, and he was loyal.  He ruled the backyard and protected us from all the bad guys.

Three dogs, three distinct personalities and characteristics and three names that kinda, sorta, fit them.  Back in the old days of the Bible, names were a really big deal. You would name your son or daughter based on your hopes and dreams for them.  Sometimes it worked out…and sometimes, well, it didn’t.  I know when Joseph learned that Mary was going to have Jesus, he had some inside help on the name.  I mean an angel shows up and says, “Hey, Mary is going to have a baby and you are to name Him Jesus because He is going to save the world.” Now that is one important name.

And guess what?  That is exactly what He did.  His destiny was to die on a Roman cross to pay for the sins of the whole world—mine and yours and well, everybody’s.  When you hear the name of Jesus—think Savior because that is what He is.  His name is special, very special, and is one that should not, ever, be thrown around lightly.  Guess what? God likes to give names to His kids too.  In the last book of the Bible, it says that God will give us a new name written on a white stone and no one will understand the name but one who gets it.  Until then, well, He just calls us son or daughter. I like that.  And as His son or daughter, we have the assurance that no matter what comes our way, we can count on Him.  We can know for sure, “He’s got this.”  Bro. Dewayne

Posted in Easter, Family, forgiveness, Grace, gratitude, life, prayer, priorities, thankful, wisdom

Resurrection

I want to know Christ—yes, to know the power of His resurrection.” Philippians 3:10

Like it or not…it was time.  Every spring and summer, my wife and I are blessed to have one of the most beautiful yards on our street.  Some people say it is one of the most beautiful yards in town.  When we moved to 217 West Poplar Street, it was a blank canvas.  There were literally no flowers and no flowering trees.  Judy, who has a green thumb, over the years has made our yard into several beautiful gardens.  She plants it and it grows.

Well, every fall, as the temperatures fall, some things go to sleep and some things just die.  The perennials go to sleep to be awakened the next spring and the annuals die and will have to be replanted or reseeded. Fall and winter leave a carnage of dead stems, leaves, and blooms and before the perennials can be awakened, last year’s carnage needs to go.  There’s where I come in.  She is the “make it happen” person and I am the “cleanup the carnage” person.  So, every later winter or very early spring, I have my work cut out for me.

Last week, I would come home from work and select a section of the yard to cleanup.  Using my string trimmer (hey, don’t laugh…it works), my rake, my loppers, and a couple of other tools for good measure, I would wack, cut, trim and rake my way through each flower bed.  When I was done, I would have a pretty clean slate for the coming spring.  If you saw all this when I was done, it would look pretty empty.  You would think, “Nothing is gonna happen there.”  But you would be perfectly wrong.

You see, beneath the soil, all those perennials (plants that come back year after year) that have slept all winter, that for all practical purposes seemed dead, are about to spring (no pun intended) back to life.  Green sprouts will be pushing up everywhere.  Before long what was bare is filled with new life and what is filled with new life will soon be filled with the beautiful blooms of spring and summer.  It really is quite amazing.

Well, let me just tell you.  For five days, I went out, two or three hours a day and did my carnage removal thing.  And, at least for this guy whose job has him sitting at a desk studying, it was hard work.  My arms were tired, my shoulders ached, and I was thoroughly and completely—pooped.  Somewhere along the journey, I lost my vision. All I knew was I was tired and that there seemed to be no end to the carnage of last fall and winter.  But then it hit me, and my focus returned.

It wasn’t just work. It wasn’t just something that had to be done.  I was on a mission.  I was preparing for…resurrection.  My work for those five days, was a work with purpose.  As I cleared away the old, I was making way for the new.  And because of my faithfulness in late winter or early, early spring—the resurrection could happen.  Already, tiny green sprouts are breaking through the dirt and reminding me that my work was not in vain.  It has a purpose.

In a few weeks, we will be celebrating another resurrection and this one is the biggie.  We are going to celebrate the fact that two thousand years ago, a man—the God-man—willingly died on a Roman cross to pay the price for the sins of the entire world.  That day the sin for every man, woman, and child was atoned for, making it possible for those same people to have forgiveness, power to live this life, and live forever in heaven.  Anyone who is willing to believe and choose to follow Him can have the privilege of calling God—Father. But He didn’t just die.

See, anyone can die on a cross and claim anything.  Jesus didn’t stay dead—He physically, really and completely came back to life.  He resurrected and one of the reasons He did?  He did it to prove that He was Who He said He was and did what He said He would do. His death shouted, “I love you” and His resurrection shouted, “I am victorious over death.”  Wow.  So, here’s the deal. 

Remember I mentioned in a few weeks we were going to celebrate the “biggie?”  Well, this is what I was talking about.  And these weeks are like my time preparing the gardens for their resurrection.  These weeks are a time for us to prepare our hearts and minds for the big event—Resurrection Sunday.  The more I prepare the gardens for their resurrection, the bigger the celebration of life as they sprout and bloom.  And guess what?  It’s true with Easter.  The more we prepare, the bigger the celebration. Like Paul, said, “I want to know Christ—yes, to know [to celebrate] the power of His resurrection.”

Each evening after work I had to make a conscious decision to prepare the gardens for resurrection.  Wanting to, longing to, intending to, just wouldn’t cut the mustard.  It is time for us to prepare to celebrate His resurrection.  Wanting to, longing to, intending to, just won’t get the job done.  We have to decide to prepare—for the resurrection.  It’s a reason to celebrate you see because He lives—we too can live.  So, start today, get ready for the biggie—the resurrection of Jesus.  Need help in preparing? Not sure how? No problem.  The One who made it all possible is a great party planner.  Just ask Him.  He’s got that, too.  Bro. Dewayne

Posted in Family, fear, forgiveness, Grace, gratitude, life, thankful

Sinning Starts Early

But if we confess our sins to Him, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all wickedness.”

I used to think I was a pretty good kid. As I have shared with you from my past, various memories come to life. Some are humorous, some are serious, some are painful, and some are, well, criminal. I still think the crime of the century was when I decided to rob the little world bank that my Mama brought home from church…for safekeeping. But there was at least one more thing that I did that proved for certain I was, and still am, a sinner.

I was probably eight years old.  While there wasn’t a Wal-Mart to be found, there were other stores that were the forerunners of today’s retail mega-giant.  Ours was called Atlantic Mills and it was the place to go for good deals on just about anything you could imagine.  I remember it well because that is where we bought our Easter outfits.  We would go either Friday or Saturday before Easter (depending on Daddy’s payday, of course) and the girls would get their patent leather shoes and frilly dresses and I would get a shirt and tie.  Even then it was quite the event.

Easter wasn’t the only time we went to Atlantic Mills.  We would occasionally go just to shop around.  Of course, at my young age, I equated shopping with buying. I still do.  Why go to a store if you are not going to buy something? That’s like going to a restaurant with no intention of eating.  What? Really? So, anyway, one time we went to Atlantic Mills and it was one of those times when we weren’t buying—we were looking.  Well, that just didn’t work for me, so I started begging Mama for a dollar.  Now, keep in mind, a dollar in 1962 was the equivalent of the entire economy of a third world country.

Mama said no. Period, nada, ain’t gonna happen.  Well, I kept begging. (I was pretty good at it. Give me enough time and I could wear anyone down.) Finally, out of shear desperation, she reached in her purse and pulled out—a quarter.  Was I grateful?  Of course not.  Even then a quarter just didn’t have a lot of buying power.  I finally gave up and took my quarter to look for a treasure.  Two things happened in the next few minutes. First, I started feeling guilty for hassling my Mama and decided I should spend the quarter to buy something for her.  Someone say, “Awww.”

The second thing was I really realized that besides candy, there wasn’t a lot in Atlantic Mills for a quarter. Well, I looked around and found a pretty scarf that I just knew my Mama would like.  The problem was it was something like $1.49.  At that point, my young sinner/criminal mind began cooking something up.  I wasn’t about to outright steal it.  That could get you hard time.  So, I decided that I would switch the price tags.  I looked around and found something for a quarter, found a place where no one could see me, and carefully removed that price tag and put it on the scarf.  There. Done deal.  No one would ever know the difference.  Oops.

I went to the checkout counter and found out two things.  First, did you know even then there was a code on the price tag indicating what department it came from.  I found out too late that they didn’t sell scarves in hardware.  Second, the checkout lady was not a newcomer to the checkout business and she quickly realized that this scarf was worth more than a quarter.  Bottom line—she nailed me.  She looked down at my frightened face and into my tearing eyes and said, “Did you switch this price tag?”  Well, I “spilled my guts” and I believe I even told her why.  She didn’t turn me in…she didn’t have too. Her words were punishment enough.  I walked away a mess with my quarter still in my hand. As far as I remember I didn’t buy anything that day and I guess I gave the quarter back to Mama. It was a total disaster.

Now, before you act as the States Attorney and put me on trial, the statute of limitations has expired on this.  And besides that, I was just doing what sinners do—sin. And since we are all sinners, all of us can probably identify with this sin thing. It didn’t matter that I was eight—I was old enough to know better.  I don’t know if I told Mama or not, but that didn’t matter because God knew and He is even more important than Mama. It is things like this, and a lot more, that make me a big fan of God.  The way He extends His grace to sinners like me is just amazing.  It is so amazing they wrote a song about it.

I well remember the guilt and shame I felt that day which probably means I did confess to God and probably to Mama too.  I’m sure both of them forgave me.  A guy named John, who was a BFF (best friend forever) of Jesus and who wrote some of the New Testament said that if we are willing to confess our sins, God is more than willing to forgive us.  That is good news. And the best part?  There are no limitations. His love and grace go longer and farther than the “Energizer bunny.” No matter what, if we come to Him in sincerity and repentance, He will sincerely forgive us.  He could handle my eight -year-old sins then and my sins today.  As always, He’s got this. Bro. Dewayne

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

Songbird

For we walk by faith, not by sight.” 2 Corinthians 5:7

It happens every year…just about this time.  One of the amazing things about God’s creation is the preciseness of it all.  You can predict the time of the sunrise a hundred years from today within seconds.  The seasons come and go with precise assuredness and it is not an accident.  Oh no, it is by intentional design.  The Creator God of it all is the God of details and He doesn’t miss one.  Just a couple of weeks ago here in Southern Illinois we were freezing and snowed in with ten inches of snow.  Today it was just over sixty degrees, the grass is greening,  and the limbs of the trees are swelling with anticipation. They all know it is time.  Even a late snow won’t upset the apple cart.

I know sometimes we worry about some things and sometimes we worry about everything, but nature just doesn’t seem to have that problem.  Sometimes I long for that.  When things around me see so confusing and threatening, when it seems that the new normal isn’t normal at all…I just have a tendency to worry.  But nature doesn’t miss a beat.  This morning, I got up at my somewhat usual 4:30 am (don’t ask me why) and began my day with a cup of coffee and a time with Jesus.  It works well.  The coffee wakes me up and my time with Jesus sets me up for a brand new day. 

At 4:30 am the sun is still sleeping so the skies and the countryside are still dark…very dark.  But something happens every year…just about this time.  Somewhere in my yard, somewhere outside my window a songbird starts to sing.  I’m sure it is a different bird every year and it might even be a different bird every day but long before daylight, he or she decides to sing.  I find it very…refreshing.  Though it is dark, the songbird sings in anticipation of what is coming.  Somehow, they know that the darkness of night is just about over and the sun is going to rise.  They seem to know that the darkness cannot last forever…it must give way to the power of light.

By faith, the songbird sings its celebration of Spring and of a new day.  And do you know what?  Sure enough, in about thirty or forty minutes, the dawn begins to break and God honors their faith.  Day in and day out the songbird sings and day in and day out God is faithful.  I think there is a lesson there for us. Actually there are two.  First, is the lesson of our faithfulness.  The songbird sings not because it sees the light but because it believes the light is coming.  Tucked away in a letter that Paul wrote to the church located in Corinth are these words, “For we walk by faith, not by sight.”  We.Walk.By.Faith.

The songbird sings by faith and God calls us to walk by faith.  Walking by faith believes that what God has said will come to pass.  And the second lesson?  It is the lesson of His faithfulness.  Our faithfulness is based on a faithful One.  We have all lived long enough to know that put your faith in the wrong thing and you’re toast.  But put your faith in the One who is faithful and it is the most sane, most logical thing that you can do. In 2020 it was difficult to find sure footing.  Everywhere you stepped it was shifting sand. The one exception to that was God.  The God who was God last March when we started this COVID mess is the same faithful God today, one year later.  He does not change. You can take that to the bank.

So tomorrow morning, even if it’s out of the range of my hearting, a songbird will begin to sing in the darkness.  It will be announcing, by faith, that a new day is coming—daylight is coming. And, Lord willing, most of us will awaken from a night of rest.  For some it may be dark and for others quite light, but for all of us we have the opportunity to take our first steps in the new day.  I hope they will be steps of faith…faith in a Dearest Daddy who loves us enough to guide us, to help us and to lead us.  All we have to do is believe…in Him…in who He is and what He said.  He has never failed, you know.  It is totally foreign to Him.  He can and will come through…not matter what.  Whether it is this or that…He has both.  I like that.  Bro. Dewayne

Posted in Family, fear, forgiveness, Grace, gratitude, life, loving others, priorities, Southern born, thankful

Me, Mama, and Mrs. Crabtree

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Posted in Family, 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