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

Grace and the Big Bang

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A Wrecked Wednesday

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Remember

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Rocking on Lake Victoria

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Home is Better

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Humpty Dumpty and Me

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

Some things never change. As we were growing up, we all learned various nursery rhymes and fairy tales.  Some were funny, some serious, and some a little bizarre.  One of my favorites was Humpty Dumpty.   Why?  I think because his story could have easily been our story—after all, we’ve all fallen off a wall at one time or another. I love the story too because what didn’t happen for old Humpty Dumpty, can happen for us.

If there had been a headline that day it might have read something like this, “Local Egg Takes a Tumble.” The story would begin with, “Apparently a well-known and respected egg, Humpty Dumpty, decided to take a rest on top of a wall just outside of town. While sitting there he lost his balance, fell off the wall and was shattered into several pieces. Fortunately for Mr. Dumpty there were witnesses who immediately called 911. Paramedics, along with representatives from the local government, were quickly on the scene. It is reported that local clergy were also on scene, though they didn’t stay long. Unfortunately, no one was unable to put Mr. Dumpty back together again.”

What a sad tale! There he lay–his life in pieces–kinda like a lot of folks today. You would have thought the local citizenry, government, and churches would have been sympathetic but no. First, some questioned why an egg was on the wall in the first place. After all, given his rounded bottom he was certainly a high risk. Second, he was in a fragile state–in fact, he lived in a fragile state. Others blamed the builders of the wall. If the wall had only been six inches high, he wouldn’t have suffered such massive fractures. Others blamed the weather service because they didn’t put out a high wind warning that day for eggs on walls. And the church–well, they said a respectable egg should have been in church, for it was a Sunday.

Well on and on it went, and in the end–Mr. Dumpty was still broken. You know, some things never change. When sin entered the world Adam blamed God, (God because He gave Adam the woman & Eve because she gave him the fruit), Eve blamed the snake, and the snake? Well, he just smiled. It wasn’t a time for finger pointing then, nor is it now.  For all around us are Humpty Dumptys…broken lives in a broken world.

But then, along comes God. God made the very first promise of a Rescuer, a Redeemer, and a Savior way back in Genesis 3. One day the Redeemer would come and provide the cure for sin–His own death on a Roman cross–and then come back to life thus defeating death forever. And the snake well, he would be cast into a very hot fire for a very long time.

You see, I am so glad that God is more interested in redemption than blaming. He is still inviting people, all people to come home. Scared people, sick people, broken people, mean people, and nice people–all get the same invitation–come home. And the path is always the same. Jesus said in John 14:6 “I am the Way, the Truth and the Life and no one comes to the Father but by Me.” It’s not religion, it’s not good works, and it’s not winning by out-blaming the person next to you. It is grace.

The world could use a little good news don’t you think? So today why not share some? When you see the next scared person, the next broken person, the next difficult person (and it might be in the mirror), just assure them that God loves them and that regardless of their past they can come home. Tell them to rest in Him. Why? He’s got this. Bro. Dewayne

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

Washer Hoses and a Dose of Oops

And above all things have fervent love for one another, for “love will cover a multitude of sins.” 1 Peter 4:8

It’s an old, old story…at least for we Taylors.  As the baby of our family, I came along toward the tail end of so many good memories.  Daddy and Mama had eight kids in all.  They had five, apparently needed a break, and then decided to have three more. Well, I’m not sure how much it was a decision as it was a fact of life…no pun intended.  There were plenty of tales in the Taylor household but like I said, some happened before I came along.

Daddy and Mama started out with three boys.  From everything I know, they were all rough and tumble and that’s just the way it was.  Well, apparently, one day things got a little out of hand.  More on that in a few minutes.  What you need to know now is that one day my Mama went out to use her washing machine and made a startling discovery.  Someone had cut the hoses to the machine and the natural suspects were the three older brothers.  I’m not sure why they were suspects unless that was part of their rough and tumble motif.  I can’t verify it, but I would suspect that at some point, Mama said, “Just wait till your father gets home.”

Well, eventually he did, and Mama told him what had happened.  He lined the boys up for a time of interrogation.  They assured him that while they were rough and tumble, they weren’t stupid—there was no way they cut the hoses.  Well, Daddy didn’t buy it.  He was sure that they did.  I’m not sure how long they were in the “police lineup” but eventually Daddy said if no one would confess they would all get punished…and they did.  I don’t know if it was a switch or a belt, but they got a spanking.  Case closed.  Daddy was sure they wouldn’t be cutting anymore hoses.

Well, the only problem was this—they didn’t cut them in the first place.  Several days later, one of their rough and tumble “friends” confessed to the deed.  It turns out in their rough and tumbling the “friend” had gotten mad and decided to get a little revenge so…he cut the hoses.  When word got back to Daddy, he called a meeting of “the boys.”  Again, I wasn’t there but I heard it went something like this.  “Boys, I found out you didn’t cut the hoses to the washing machine—your “friend” did it.  Now, at this point in the story it would seem logical that Daddy would at least attempt to apologize for the undue punishment.  That didn’t happen.  Instead, he said something like this, “You probably needed the spanking anyway.”

I know, you’re thinking, “What! That’s not right.  It’s not fair.” But don’t be too quick to cast judgement on my Daddy.  The bottom line is he should have apologized, but that was a different time and we don’t know all the details.  Sometimes it is hard for people to apologize…even when they are wrong.  Can you identify with that?  I know I sure can. Often the words, “I’m sorry” just couldn’t find their way off my tongue. And if you are a member of the human race, you have probably experienced that too.

Here’s what I do know.  My Daddy was a good man, but he wasn’t a perfect man.  He, like me, made mistakes.  When I heard this story a long time ago, honestly, we probably all laughed.  Later, I’m sure it made me think and I came to this conclusion. Instead of judging him for a lapse of judgement in a moment of time I decided to go with what I knew to be true.  My Daddy loved them, and he loved me and that was simply enough.  I was willing to let love cover a multitude of sins.  I know God’s love has sure covered a big multitude of my sins…and I am grateful for that.

The big take away is this.  If you find someone has cut your washing machine hoses the most likely suspect probably doesn’t live in your house—possibly but not probably.  But more than that—always remember we are recipients of a whole pile of God’s grace and we should be willing to extend a little.  Forgiveness is not for the person you’re forgiving—it is for you.  A heart willing to forgive is a happy heart.  And, when you find yourself against a rock and hard place trying to forgive someone who hurt you…just remember your Heavenly Father is an expert at forgiving and trust me, “He’s got this.”

Bro. Dewayne

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

Yes and No

Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.” James 1:17

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

April Snow

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Losing Lift

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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