Posted in Family, fear, forgiveness, friends, Grace, life, loving others, Scripture, Southern born, thankful, Trials

Me, Momma, 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.  Momma 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 Momma 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 thought this was a pretty grand entertainment. Momma didn’t think so.

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. Momma 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 Momma 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 Momma 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 Momma 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 fear, forgiveness, friends, Grace, gratitude, life, missions, prayer, Scripture, travel, Trials, wisdom

Big Rivers, Hungry Crocs & Fat Hippos

But if you don’t do this, you will certainly sin against the Lord; be sure your sin will catch up with you.”  Numbers 32:23

How do things like this happen?  If you are older than three, you have probably already bumped into something that got bigger than you intended.  Whether you are a toddler reaching for the cookie jar or a teenager thinking no one will ever know or in a marriage pushing the limits…well, you’ve probably had that emptiness in your stomach when the cookie jar crashes, or dad says, “Son, we need to talk” or you come home to an empty house because word got around.  How does it happen?

Really the answer to that question is older than time and bigger than a short story with a big truth or, for that matter, a thick book full of truths but maybe we can at least cast a little light in the arena.  Judy and I have been to East Africa and the country of Uganda more than a few times.  We launch our trips to the islands of Lake Victoria from the small town of Jinga.  We enter town, with the lake on our right, and cross a small channel that leads to a decent size dam.  On the other side of the dam, and no more than fifty yards wide, is the origin of the mighty Nile River.

Now trust me, if you saw the Mighty Nile at this point you wouldn’t be too impressed.  It wanders through the Ugandan countryside on its way north before eventually emptying into the Mediterranean Sea.  The journey is somewhere over 4,100 miles and slowly the river grows and grows until it is almost two miles wide at some points.  Judy and I had the opportunity to take a ride on the Nile and besides being impressed by its size, I was more than impressed with the very large and very hungry, crocodiles that call the Nile home.  Oh, and did I mention the animal that causes more deaths in Africa than any other animal? It might not be what you think—the hippopotamus and there are lots of them in the Nile. Lots.

So, we begin with something that is relatively small that becomes large and we have something relatively benign that is dangerously filled with things that want to eat you or stomp you to death.  Either way—something little becomes big and dangerous.  And that, dear friend, is how things get out of control in our lives too.  It starts as something we think we can handle, something that almost, almost, seems safe and before long—we have a monster on our hands.  Let’s revisit the Nile.

If you were to start floating down the Nile in your little boat the first chunk of your journey would be easy.  But somewhere upstream (since the Nile flows north) there is something that will kill you—Murchison Falls.  The entire Nile River is funneled down into a rock channel that is only 23 feet wide before the water violently plummets 141 feet.  Go there and you are dead—no exceptions.  It’s the same results when we don’t pay attention to the tension that sometimes occurs in our lives.  When that tension is there…it is there for a reason.  Andy Stanley gives two good pieces of advice.  First, pay attention to the tension; and two, if something bothers you, let it bother you.  That’s good stuff.

So, the big truth today is we sometimes need to hit the pause button.  We also need to understand that we are not the exception to the rule…we can get hurt, we can create a disaster, and yes, someone will find out. Oh, by the way, do you really think it is a secret from God? The Old Testament gives us a sound warning—be sure your sins will find you out and often, when it does, well, its gonna leave a mark—a bruise—or worse.

As you journey today or tomorrow, you might want to listen for the Whisperer whispering His gentle words of warning.  Don’t ignore them…He knows truth and He knows consequences.  Our sin cost His Son His life.  However, if we ask, He will be there to help and to guide. No matter how big the crocs, or how fat the hippos, or how violent the falls—you can trust the fact that, “He’s got this.”    Bro. Dewayne

Posted in Family, fear, friends, Grace, gratitude, life, love, prayer, Scripture, sovereignty of God, thankful, travel, Trials

Journey with Faith & Gratitude

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

It was good…and suddenly it wasn’t. Yup…it was my birthday…not the last one but the one before that.  I was on my way to Cracker Barrel to have breakfast with three of my friends…and one of them was buying. It was snowing and the roads were ok but not great. As we neared the restaurant my Apple Watch vibrated and I glanced down and saw three words, “Help, Help, Help.”  Now that will get your attention.  The message was from my oldest granddaughter and moments later was followed by another short message, “I have been in an accident.”  Then for a few minutes things went silent.  While we knew she was on her way to work we had no idea where she was.

The message was sent through our family chat group so soon messages were flying but her end was silent.  We were frightened…we were afraid. A free breakfast suddenly had lost every bit of its appeal.  Only one thing mattered and that was a young lady somewhere who was in trouble.  Well, soon she let us know that she had called 911 and the police and an ambulance were on the way. Through a location service on her phone, we learned where she was, off, literally off, Interstate 57.  Her dad immediately was on the way and after a long, few minutes, was there with her.   Here’s what happened.

She was driving on the Interstate and apparently hit a patch of black ice.  Though going straight, the back of the car began to fishtail, and she went off the side of the road and down a steep embankment.  The journey was well over 100 feet and the car missed several small trees and ended up in a ditch at the bottom.  The airbags deployed and that gave her a mild concussion.  Her left leg was also banged up but amazingly she was ok.  When we later saw the pictures of the path of the car, it was clear that something Divine had happened.  Someone bigger than her was in control that day.

One of the most revealing things in the photo was a large and deep concrete culvert. The truth is if she had been no more than 50 feet further down the road, she would have dove, front end first into this deep culvert and the story would have had a different ending.  God, and I do believe it was Him, that day and in that circumstance administered a large dose of grace that averted a tragic ending.  His ways are mysterious and why her and why then is known only to Him.

Things like this happen all the time with all kinds of different outcomes but one thing remains constant.  For those of us who believe in Him and follow Him it is a moment in the classroom of faith.  It’s one of those constant lessons in life and a school that we never really graduate from.  The Bible says we are to walk by faith, and it also says that without faith it is impossible to please God.  That day God shouted, “Trust me.”  But there is more.  We also learned a little more about gratitude.  You see, I can say that it never occurred to me to ask God, “Why did you allow this?”  No, rather, the only thing that I could say was thank You, not for the accident but watching over her through the accident.  And, honestly, it was because of the accident I discovered again His watch care. Had she arrived at work safety that day, well, I probably wouldn’t have given it a second thought.

Faith and gratitude…two very important cobblestones that we need to learn to navigate this journey called life.  And as we journey, there will be times when it is easy to believe and easy to rejoice and there will be times when it seems impossible.  But remember, He really is a good, good Father and in this broken, fragile world He is still God.  Why He averts somethings while allowing others I don’t have a clue, but I know He is worthy of my trust.  One of my favorite parts of the Bible assures me that He can, He does, bring good even out of bad situations and for that I am grateful. I am still enrolled in the school of faith and one of our class mottos are three incredibly powerful words, “He’s got this.”  And…He does.  Bro. Dewayne

Posted in fear, forgiveness, friends, Grace, gratitude, loving others, prayer, priorities, Scripture, thankful, Trials

The Last Part–the Best Part

Before the Passover Festival, Jesus knew that His hour had come to depart from this world to the Father. Having loved His own who were in the world, He loved them to the end.” John 31:1

Some of you might remember Paul Harvey.  He was a radio commentator for many years and was particularly famous for his “rest of the story” stories.  He would tell a somewhat familiar tale and then add a surprise ending to it and conclude with, “And now you know the rest of the story.”

You might remember an Old Testament story about Elisha. Elisha and his servant were surrounded by the bad guys and from the servant’s perspective, it wasn’t going to end well.  Elisha asked God to open the servant’s eyes so he could see what was going on.  God did and the servant saw that the hills were surrounded with heavenly warriors and chariots of fire.  Things got better…quick.

So, the bad guys came down upon the city and Elisha prayed that God would smite them with blindness and boom–He did.  It sounds almost comical, but Elisha basically tells them, “You guys are lost…let me lead you to where you need to be.”  He leads them smack dab into the middle of Samaria…the Israelites’ stronghold.  And that’s where the rest of the story gets amazing.

Elisha then prays for the bad guys’ eyes to be opened and just like that—they were.  They took one look around and realized they were in very deep weeds. The Israelite king saw an opportunity and said to Elisha, “Can I kill them, can I kill them?”  I love this.  Elisha said, “No, you can’t kill them…that’s not what you do to people who surrender.  What you can do is give them something to eat and drink and let them go.”  I’m sure the king’s jaw hit the ground.  The “let’s kill them” plan sure sounded better.

Well, he fed them and let them go. Guess what?  We’ll let the Bible tell the end of the story.  In 2 Kings 6:23 we read, “So the king prepared a great feast for them, and after they had finished eating and drinking, he sent them away, and they returned to their master. Then the bands from Aram stopped raiding Israel’s territory.” Did you get that?  The bad guys weren’t the bad guys anymore. A little kindness changed the whole story. How about that?

If the king had killed them, there would have been revenge. They would have attacked and then the king would have attacked and on and on it would have gone.  But instead, a simple act of kindness broke the domino effect.  Instead of war there was relief–and peace.  In days when sides are still being chosen and tempers still flare—when hate and division are the new headlines and bylines—when no one trusts anyone—we Christ followers can and should be different.  We should be givers more than takers.  We should be lovers and not haters.  We should be like Jesus.

The Bibles says in John 13:1 “Before the Passover Festival, Jesus knew that His hour had come to depart from this world to the Father. Having loved His own who were in the world, He loved them to the end.” Those “ones” He loved–included the guy who would betray Him to the crucifiers.  It included the one who would deny that he even knew Him.  How amazing is that? We can’t really do much about how people act, but we can do a lot about how we respond to them.  If the dominos are going to be interrupted, it will have to be us. The chain reaction is broken when we act like the One who chose not to retaliate but rather to redeem—to restore.

Some days it seems that a too short fuse has been lit and there is not time or hope to stop the future devastation. Let me challenge us today—during these crazy days that are getting crazier by the minute—to do the crazy thing and love, serve and care for others. Let me challenge us to be like Jesus.

How can we do that?  Well, first, as Jesus followers we are God’s kids and that is what He expects us to do. Jesus said we should be peacemakers—whether it is on the street, in the church, or at home.  Second—we can trust Him.  We can rest in Him because we know the end of the story—and it ends well—and no circumstance, no ploy of Hell can change that.  Third—remember, He’s got this—He really does.  Whether it is a resurgence of the virus or another revolting piece of news.  God is good, God is faithful, and God can be trusted.  Sounds like a no brainer to me.  Bro. Dewayne

Posted in Family, fear, friends, Grace, gratitude, Integrity, life, loving others, priorities, Scripture, Southern born, thankful, Trials

Get a Job

The Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to work it and keep it.” Genesis 2:15

It was time to go to work. It may sound out of date…and maybe it is but I was counting the days till I turned 15.  Not because I was eligible for a learner’s permit, not because I was on the edge of moving on to high school but because, wait for it, I could get a work permit.  You see in Florida when you turned 15 you could get your social security number and get a work permit and…work.  I was ready and I had an in.

Sue Lovell was a neighbor who lived catty-corner from us at 6008 Carlton Road.  She lived in one of the nicer homes in the sub-division that had surrounded us, and we lived in our “used to be” army barracks.  I can remember Sue well.  She was a little different but at the same time very kind.  Well, she worked at this small restaurant called the Village Oven and she offered to try and get me a job if I wanted.  Well, I wanted and next thing I knew I was hired.

My job was not working on a computer or running a business and making life changing decisions. No, I started by serving people…sorta. Looking back, it probably was a little challenging especially for someone just getting their feet wet in the working world.  First, I was the busboy which meant it was my responsibility to clear all the tables. As soon as someone left, I rushed out and cleaned the table.  Second, I was the dishwasher which meant I scraped the plates and then loaded and ran the commercial dishwasher that was tucked out front under the counter.  Of course, I also unloaded the dishwasher and made sure there was a constant supply of plates, bowls, glasses, and silverware.  But wait there is more.

I was also head of the cleaning crew—which consisted of—me. After our customers left, I was to mop the restaurant floor and clean the bathrooms. Looking back, it seems that besides the cooking and waiting, I had my hands in just about everything.  There was always plenty to do…time passed quickly, and it taught me responsibility. I was beginning to get the feel of helping and serving others. The best part of the job, of course, was getting paid.  My hours varied from a few to a lot, and I made a whopping, jaw dropping seventy-five cents an hour. Since this was about 1969, I suppose that was a fair wage and that seventy-five cents went a long way.

I can remember my largest paycheck was around $23.  It must have been during the summer, and I worked somewhere over 30 hours.  I always felt a little rich when I got my check, but that week—I felt more than pretty rich—I felt like Mr. Rockefeller. There is a certain pride in a job done well and getting paid “certificates of appreciation” as Rabbi Daniel Lapin calls them.  Most of us call them dollars and they did make me feel appreciated.  I can’t remember exactly how long I worked at the Village Oven but I worked long enough to appreciate the value of bringing home a paycheck.  I worked long enough to spread my wings a little and fly the friendly skies of growing up.

I’m grateful to Sue Lovell for helping me get the job and I am grateful that my Momma and Daddy drove me the six or seven miles to work and picked me up…sometimes late at night.  I know now that often it is the small things that people do that should and do get stuck in our memories.  It is also the small things that can make a big difference later on.  My first job taught me about serving others, commitment, responsibilities, respect for my bosses, and teamwork at an early age. I can’t measure the entire value of that work experience, but I know I sure learned a lot about how the adult working world operated.

God gave us work even before sin came along.  He knew the value of a man, woman or young adult getting their hands dirty.  He knew the value of working and making a difference and while it may seem hard at the time, the benefits can last a lifetime.  Genesis, the first book in the Bible, says, “The Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to work it and keep it.” The God who made us knows what is best for us.  I’ve heard it said that we should bloom where we are planted, and I think that means caring for the garden around us too.  If you find yourself a little overwhelmed with this work thing or any other thing, just ask God and He will lend a hand…He’s got this.  Bro. Dewayne

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

Ready…..or Not

Preach the word; be ready in season and out of season.”

2 Timothy 4:2

Do you think they would mind,” she asked?  It was over a year ago but even now I savor the moment. It was very early in the morning on our last day at Key Colony.  I awoke from a good night’s sleep (I mean we were on vacation), made a cup of coffee, and headed down to the beach.  Sunrise was a good hour away, but the water and the air were both calm.  The only sound was the gentle lap of the waves against the sandy shore.  This is my time of the day.  God is in the labor room delivering another day for us to enjoy…and I love it.

After a while, the sky slowly turned gray, and you could see the beginning of the sunrise.  It was going to be a good one.  About that time, my wife Judy wandered out and sat down with me.  Just when you think something couldn’t get better…it does.  Judy seems to make anything better.  We chatted and sipped coffee enjoying the creation process.  After another few minutes, the sun peeked over the horizon and another day was born.  Good job, Father, and thank you.  Now that it was daylight, you could see that the water was not only calm…it was crystal clear.  It was then that Karen walked up.

We had talked with Karen and her boyfriend the night before.  We talked about life, faith, and God.  It was an opportunity for me to share some about how much God loved us.  Gary had a large tattoo on his left arm that said, “Faith.”  That gave an opportunity to talk about not only faith, but where that faith should be directed.  I shared it wasn’t enough just to have faith…you had to direct that faith in the right direction…right toward God.

When Karen walked up that morning, I noticed that she was carrying two small containers. I could tell that something was on her mind and that is when she asked the question.  She asked, “Do you think they would mind if I poured my son’s and husband’s ashes in the water?” I quickly assured her that I was sure they would not.  It turned out that her son had tragically died of an opioid overdose at the age of 22.  I didn’t get the details of her husband’s death but since she was in her early fifties, I assumed he too died young.  Then, it was my turn to ask a question.  I asked, “Would you like me to say a prayer?”  And, without hesitation, she answered yes.

Judy asked if Karen would like to have a picture taken and she agreed to that too. All three of us walked down into the water and slowly Karen opened the containers and poured the ashes into the water.  As they touched the water, it turned to a color very similar to wet cement but then just as quickly the color disappeared.  She said a few words, speaking to the souls she could no longer hold.  And then, I asked God for His peace to be on Karen.  I thanked Him for His love…even in hard times like this.  With an amen we were done. Almost.

Judy and I both gave Karen a hug…that was the only way we knew we could tell her we cared, and that God cared too.  As we left the water, Karen headed to Dunkin’ Donuts for a cup of coffee and Judy and I returned to our chairs by the beach.  We knew that we had kept a divine appointment.  I wish I could write and share how Karen and Gary both placed their faith in Jesus but that wasn’t the case…at least not that day.  But I do know we scattered seed in their lives.  I know we left fingerprints on their lives and heart and who knows what God will do with that.

When I woke up that morning, I didn’t know I was going to preside over a funeral standing in the Florida Straits.  Judy didn’t know she was going to act as a memory maker for Karen…but our Dearest Daddy did.  He knew…just as He always does.  We just need to be ready whenever He opens a door or a window and then simply walk where He leads.

Paul, the one who wrote a chunk of the New Testament, told a young preacher named Timothy one day, “Preach the word; be ready in season and out of season.”  When he said to preach…trust me, it was more than standing on a stage on any given Sunday…and it wasn’t just for preachers and teachers.  It was for all of us Jesus followers and it is for all places…planned…or not.  I learned a long time ago that the best sermons are often not preached on Sunday…rather, they are lived out over the course of the other six days. So, let’s be ready to be used.  It may be at the store, on the job or at the ballfields.  Just remember this.  When the time comes, He will be there to help and you can rest assured, “He’s got this.” Bro. Dewayne

Posted in Family, fear, friends, life, Scripture, thankful, Trials, wisdom

It Wasn’t Pretty

As a dog returns to its vomit, so a fool repeats his foolishness.” Proverbs 26:11

It just wasn’t pretty.  When we arrived in Cobden, Illinois in 1986 they provided a home for us.  The only problem was the church was “L” shaped and the house sat right in the middle of the “L.”  The reason that was a problem was whenever someone needed something, they knew right where to come.  We might as well have had a billboard in our front yard advertising where the preacher lived. Every person needing some gas or baby diapers knew right where to come. That was all fine except I do believe they watched to see when we were eating supper before they rang the doorbell.

Sometimes it was a church member needing in the building.  Early, oh, about 6:30 am, one Saturday morning my wife Judy and I were still snuggled down in our bed. About that time, we heard someone first pulling on the front door of the church and then hollering, “Where’s that preacher and why is the door locked?” Well, the preacher was still in bed, after all it was Saturday, it was just after daybreak, and the door was locked for that reason. It was just about that time when Judy said, “Dewayne, we need to move.” So, the church said OK, and we found an older Victorian home, made a ridiculously low offer (because that is all we could afford) and to everyone’s surprise they said yes. Holy moly.

We moved and began life as homeowners.  Homeowners meant that we were responsible for everything.  Things like yard stuff. Things like trimming trees.  Things like getting stuck in a tree while trimming it.  Yup, that’s right.  In our backyard was a large and old Redbud tree.  While it was still alive, it had seen better days.  In fact, there were several dead limbs up in the tree.  Mr. Homeowner, that’s me, decided to trim it up.  I didn’t have a ladder, so I found a bucket, or a stool, or something to stand on and managed to get up in the tree.  I sawed away with my handy pruning saw and soon I was ready to get back down. It was then that I discovered the laws of climbing a tree using a bucket or something.  It wasn’t pretty.

I decided it would be best to go down backwards facing the tree. It sounded like a sound idea.  It wasn’t.  With one foot in a crook of the tree, I gingerly lowered my other leg to the stool or bucket or whatever it was. And, as fate would have it, my foot landed not in the middle but on the edge of whatever it was and yes, it tipped over.  And what happened next still causes me to groan.  As the bucket or stool or whatever it was tipped over, I found myself with one leg caught in the tree and my other leg on the ground. In other words,…I was in trouble.  My foot with my leg attached was over my head and I was in pain.  For a gymnast…no problem.  For a ballerina, no problem.  For a slightly out of shape preacher, homeowner…big problem.

It was so bad I have managed to block out the details of the rescue.  I think it involved me hollering, Judy hearing and coming, and her somehow freeing my leg from the crook of the tree. I was grateful…boy, was I grateful. Like Jacob who left an encounter with God with a limp, I left the tree with a hip that holds grudges. To this day, whenever I raise my leg to do something, I am not so gently reminded of that day.  I did something to something, and it was a lifetime reminder to not use a bucket, or a stool, or some other something other than a ladder to climb into a tree.  I.Learned.

One thing that most living animals have is the ability to learn.  Bucks get to be big bucks by learning when and where to go and not go.  All the family dogs know who to beg for food from.  His name is Papa.  You get the idea.  So, assuming you don’t die from climbing a tree without the proper tools, at least you learn how not to do it…and that is valuable.  As we journey through life, God usually gives us a chance to learn.  The important thing is to…wait for it…learn.  Everyone makes mistakes but it is simply foolish to keep making the same ones over and over again. The author of Proverbs says it this way, “As a dog returns to its vomit, so a fool repeats his foolishness.” Sometimes the Bible just lays it out there, doesn’t it?

Well, that was a one-time experience.  I can’t say that is true for everything I’ve done, but it was true about that one thing.  There are some things in life that once is enough.  But what do you do if you find your leg hung in a tree above your head?  Well, you holler and pray.  If you are lucky someone might hear you.  The good news is that God will hear you and while I don’t know if and how the rescue might come, I do know He won’t laugh at you.  He will just whisper, “I’ve got this.” Bro. Dewayne

Posted in birthday, Family, fear, friends, gratitude, heaven, life, Scripture, sovereignty of God, thankful, Trials

Happily Ever After

You saw me before I was born. Every day of my life was recorded in Your book. Every moment was laid out before a single day had passed.” Psalm139:16

Cinderella and happily ever after.  Most of us grew up knowing at least something of fairy tales.  When I was younger it was largely by reading books.  In those days, Mr. Disney was just getting started and there were few animated films but slowly things changed.  Over the years, what was once only printed on the pages of a book became alive on the screen before our eyes…and it was amazing.  For years there were the classics, Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty, Pinocchio, and Peter Pan to name just a few.  And the list has grown and grown.  When we watch them, we often want to be them. As the story plays out and ends with the dramatic “happily ever after” we sigh and long…if only.

Each fairy tale, every animated story begins with a “once upon a time…” It sets the stage for the story and then slowly, and almost invariably, the plot develops and oh so often there are plenty of bumps and bruises along the way.  There is usually a bad guy or guyette and they slosh their mess all over the screen, hurting and wounding.  And then, right when it seems that they are going to win…things turn around.  Good overcomes evil, the weak become strong and the impossible becomes…possible. Just about then the “happily ever after” music begins and we smile at the end, we savor the redemption, and we leave feeling good but knowing that story could never be our story.  Or can it?

You see, all our lives begin with a “once upon time…” All of us have a beginning.  In fact, today just happens to be my birthday and on this day, I think about my, “once upon a time.”  On that day a grand story began to be written.  A little boy with dreams about a big future. A teenager trying to figure out what life was all about.  A husband and later a father trying to figure that out—still trying to figure that out.  Twelve years in the service of his country and forty years in the service of his King. Mountains and valleys, wins and losses, victories, and defeats—fighting monsters and dragons and loving his fair maiden and their princesses. Whew…what a journey.

And honestly, there were times when I would ponder how all this would play out.  Having watched a whole lot of “redemption” movies where the end is always exactly how we would want it, I wondered, “What about this story?”  Perhaps you have done the same.  Perhaps you have wondered how your story will end.  Perhaps you have longed for a different story…a different prince or princess, a different role, something, anything different.  Well, I have some good news for you.  The Playwright for your story never makes a mistake and never gets it wrong.  He has been writing stories since before the beginning of time.  In fact, the Bible says that He wrote every scene of your life before there was a “once upon a time.”  In Psalm 139:16 it says, “You saw me before I was born. Every day of my life was recorded in Your book. Every moment was laid out before a single day had passed.” Wow…how about that?

But wait…it might just get better.  So, every story, including yours, can be like every fairy tale.  A beginning, a story filled with up and downs, bumps and bruises, toads, and princes.  But here’s the best part—every story can have a “happily ever after.”  No, really.  You see the same book and the same God who promises that every day, every scene in your story has been written and planned promises a “happily ever after.”  Oh, it is not always here, though sometimes it is.  It is in eternity.  When we are willing to put our faith and trust in the Prince of Peace and the King of Kings we have the promise of an eternity that is beyond our wildest dreams.  Believe what He did and choose to follow Him and heaven is the end of the story.

It is nice when the story, our story, plays out like we want and wish. It would be nice if every detail was just as we would have written it. Perhaps, but maybe not, because the One who writes the story, our story, is far wiser than us.  We probably won’t be able to understand or see that entirely till the end but, well, that is what faith is all about.  So, trust Him for the grand finale. It is going to be a wiz-bang finish.  And until then…enjoy the show…savoring the good scenes and trusting in the hard ones.  He’s got this.  Bro. Dewayne

Posted in fear, friends, Grace, gratitude, life, New Year, prayer, Scripture, sovereignty of God, thankful

The Captain

The men were amazed and asked, “What kind of Man is this? Even the winds and the sea obey Him!” Matthew 8:27

It was a long, long time ago.  There are many historical events that are almost timeless.  They carry with them a mystical allurement that keeps them alive in the minds of people.  No matter how much is written, when that event is mentioned, immediately interest is peeked, eyes focus and ears open. Such is the story of the Titanic.  It was on May 31, 1911, that the Titanic was launched.  Now launched didn’t mean open for business…ready to sail.  No, it meant that Titanic had what it needed to be called a ship but not what it took to make money.  The hull, the keel, the engines all were in placed but people don’t pay for that…they pay for the good stuff, the nice stuff, the luxurious stuff.

Well, almost a year later, on April 10, 1912, all that stuff was in place and the great Titanic was ready to set sail.  The appointments of luxury were amazing.  For that time and that place there simply was nothing like the Titanic.  Of course, there were different classes of people who bought tickets—from the very rich to the improvised poor looking for a fresh start in America. But the Titanic was really…or was she?

Four days after her maiden voyage began, she struck an iceberg and, in a few hours, sank in the icy North Atlantic taking with her well over a thousand souls.  While all the details are a matter of debate, most agree that the basic design of the ship was flawed.  The watertight compartments instead of being totally sealed allowed water to overflow from one compartment to the next.  Like a cascading river, the water flowed from one compartment to the next sealing the fate of the “unsinkable” ship.  Not one detail for the comfort of the Uber rich was overlooked and yet the one thing that could have kept her afloat was.  Amazing…and disconcerting…worrying.

I think what prompted me to write this story was the New Year.  We all, well those who were awake, watched the ball fall, the peach drop, the fireworks explode.  We celebrated; we partied launching into the seas of another New Year.  But as we launched, did anyone, did someone, did I, did you stop and examine the “ship” that was going to carry us into 2023?  Did we carefully craft the “luxurious” while ignoring the crucial…the vital?  Did we plan diets and dream of vacations while being strangely silent about the most important? Did we launch into 2023 without the one thing that would ensure our safety…our survival?

What is the one thing?  Better yet, who is that Someone?  Well, the answer is Creator God. These days I still feel compelled to make sure we understand that I am not talking about church (though that is profitable) or religion (though that can be good) but I am talking about making sure He is the Captain of our ship.  Try this on for size.  When the Captain of your ship is the Master (and dare I say Maker) of the storm, there is great comfort.  The passengers have the calming assurance that no matter what, He is there, He is ready, He is in charge.

One time the disciples of Jesus found themselves in the midst of a terrible storm, in what could only be described as an oversized rowboat.  They were frightened to the point that they thought death was imminent. Just about then they remembered that Jesus was asleep at the back of the boat.  They woke Him with a shout of “Don’t you care we are about to drown?”  Well, Jesus got up, spoke to the wind and waves, demanding calm…and it happened.  He then asked the guys about their faith.  Where.Was.Their.Faith.  Looking around at the now calm sea and their frail oversized rowboat they asked a question, “What kind of Man is this? Even the winds and the sea obey Him!” Hmmm…good question.

The answer, of course, is that He is and was a one-of-a-kind Man, a Man like no other, God in human form. He was the Captain and Master of the storm and what was true then is true now…with Jesus in your boat you don’t have to fear. So, as we launch into 2023, shouldn’t we make sure that our Captain is Jesus, and shouldn’t we invite Him to lead and guide us?  Any unknown, any new horizon can be frightening…unless the Creator and Master of it all is on board.  If He is…we don’t have to worry because we have the confident assurance that, “He’s got this.” Bro. Dewayne

Posted in Family, fear, friends, gratitude, life, New Year, prayer, Scripture, sovereignty of God, thankful, Trials, wisdom

Happy New Year!

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

I slowly walked to the edge, paused, and…”. Well, it was a long time ago but most of the picture remains intact.  I was about nine years old, and our church Sunday School decided to have a picnic.  We loaded up on a bus or two and drove to the lake.  It was a natural freshwater lake with a beach and a dock.  And speaking of docks…this was a big one.  It left the shore and went out about a mile…well, it seemed like a mile…remember I was only nine.  In fact, it probably went out about fifty yards or so.  Then it made a 90 degree right turn and went on for another fifty yards.  By any standard it was a long dock.

However, it was what was at the end of the dock that caused me to pause.  There, built into the dock was the “Tower of Terror.”  Now for those of you who are familiar with Disney World you know that is the name for one of their attractions.  You are taken inside a building and end up in the dark (mostly) and then without warning…the floor gives way and you are falling for what seems like forever.  Now all this is speculation and hearsay for me because trust me I would never, will never find out personally. No. Not. Nada.  But that day when I was nine, I faced my own “Tower of Terror.”

The tower at the lake that day was probably thirty or forty feet in the air.  You climbed a ladder attached to the tower and at the top was a good-sized platform.  This was where you could stand, look, and gather courage to walk to the edge and jump off.  Well, pushed by peer pressure and goaded by friends, I somehow found myself on the top and they were all saying one thing, “Jump!” Trust me, the last thing that I wanted to do was jump off that perfectly good tower.  I walked slowly to the edge and looked down.  The water seemed to be a zillion yards below me. There were only two options.  First, take the plunge or two, go back down the ladder.  With my heart pounding, with my peers all telling me to jump, I….

I honestly don’t remember what I did. I don’t know if I finally overcame my fear, swallowed my pride and jumped or swallowed my pride and slowly, with great humiliation, went back down the ladder.  Either one at the time felt unbearable and I know one thing even today…fear can paralyze you and fear can cause you to make some pretty crazy decisions.  Most of us personally know the truth in those words.

Well, today we find ourselves at the edge of another kind of platform…and for some, it might look like a “tower of terror.”  We are days and hours away from New Year’s Eve and honestly it can seem quite frightening…especially these days and with these circumstances. Considering all this, what should we do? What can we do?  Well, it seems logical to me that when I face something bigger than me, I need to find something or Someone bigger than the mountain, the obstacle that I am facing.  For me, hands down, that is God. 

There are two truths that I have found in God’s Word that really help me.  Maybe it will help you too.  First, is the sovereignty of God.  That simply means that God is in charge. I love the scripture that reminds me that every day is made by God…He is the owner and therefore the planner. It also means that He is in control…He.Is.In.Control. There is something peaceful in knowing that God is and if He is…well, worry shouldn’t rule us. But it gets better.

Not only does He make every day, but He also makes us an incredible promise.  If you are a Bible person you probably know this one.  In the book of Romans, Chapter 8, it says, “All things work together for the good of those who love God and who are called according to His purpose.”  Wow.  While that doesn’t mean that everything is good…we know that…it does mean that God can bring good from every circumstance.  What that also means is we have a promise from God that no matter how wonky 2023 may be, He can and will bring something good from it.  Now the truth of that should certainly bring some inner peace into the chaos of our lives. 

So, the bottom line is, “Happy New Year!” The God who makes the day makes the year and the God who makes the year manages the outcome.  Hey, sprinkling a little truth into a murky future can change a lot of things.  Now all of that isn’t a promise of easy but it is a promise of His faithfulness and that no matter what, “He’s got this.” Bro. Dewayne