Posted in Family, fear, friends, gratitude, life, priorities, Scripture, Southern born, thankful, Trials

Playing Army

A thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I have come so that they may have life and have it in abundance.” John 10:10

It is an 8mm movie memory.  Like so many families we had a home movie camera growing up.  It is so much fun to go back and watch some of the ones that I have.  One that I remember so well from my childhood days was a clip of my nephew Little Joe.  As you can imagine, since there was a Little Joe, there must have been a Big Joe…and there was.  He was one of my older brothers who is no longer with us, and he had a son we called Little Joe.  Anyway, in one of the movies, it shows Little Joe, and he is wearing a full, miniature Army fatigue uniform.  My big brother Joe had been in the Army, so it was only fitting to see Little Joe dressed like his dad.

In the film clip, Little Joe is marching like a soldier.  Rigid…almost at attention as he marched, with his little face sternly looking at the camera…he looked the part.  He was probably five which means all of this was a zillion years ago.  Thinking of those days, I remembered, once again, how things have changed.  When I was growing up, playing Army was a regular thing…and we took it seriously.  We didn’t have uniforms, but we were armed to the teeth. 

Our arsenal included two different kinds of bullets.  First, there were those from the chinaberry tree. This tree produced hundreds, if not thousands, of green berries the size of small marbles.  The other bullet came from an evergreen that grew in our yard.  They were about the same size but had little pointy things.  Both were plentiful and effective. We would fill our pockets and then head for the woods…hurling them at one another.  But there was more.

We also had dirt clods.  In those days, it seemed there was always construction going on around us and of course that meant digging and digging meant dirt clods.  We would gather at a selected building site, divide into small teams, get behind a dirt pile and lob dirt “grenades” at one another.  We would hurl and duck or duck and hurl and we had a blast except for when a clod hit us in head.  Then, well, it wasn’t fun anymore.

Those building sites also provided a ready selection of pretend weapons…usually surveyor sticks.  Some were long and made great swords and some were wedge shaped and made great machine guns.  The effectiveness of the weapon depended on how good the sound effects were. We would play long, play hard and then come home dirty. Baths were essential and not optional.

Those days of playing army were some of the best memories of my childhood.  Gratefully I was also privileged to serve twelve years in the real Air Force and those days, too, hold so many of my life’s special memories.  But what I thought we should learn today is the fact that while playing army was fun when I was a boy, there is still a war going on today…and it’s not play.  I am learning that there is a battle being waged for so many of the things that we value most in life.  Not the least of these are our faith and families.

Whether you believe in the spirit realm or not, whether you believe in a God or a devil or not, you had better believe that there are things that want nothing more than to wage war against you and what you hold dear.  Sometimes it is a spirit of mediocrity, sometimes it might be a busy lifestyle or perhaps it is a drive to own the things we drive, or live in, or wear.  Perhaps it is a deluge of small things that when added up will cost us…and cost us dearly.

In the Christian New Testament, a young Jewish Rabbi and Messiah named Jesus spoke about a thief and what he does.  Why not think for a few minutes what identities you might assign to this thief.  Look at the things I wrote about above.  Now listen to the rest of what Jesus said, “The thief comes to steal, kill and destroy.”  There you go…boom.

Thieves steal but they can do more, much more, so we must be on guard.  The good news is this is one battle we don’t have to face by ourselves. That same Messiah who defeated death and rose from the dead is ready, willing and able to help.  All we have to is ask.  One more thing.  Don’t confuse Jesus with religion or even church. They might be related but the answer lies with the Man and nothing else. All we have to do is ask. He wants to help you guard what really matters and fight those life battles that are just too big for us on our own. No matter what we face, no matter the fight we can be sure that, “He’s got this.” Bro. Dewayne

Posted in Family, fear, friends, Grace, gratitude, life, Scripture, thankful, travel, Trials

God and Waze

Trust in the Lord with all your heart and don’t lean on your own understanding.  Acknowledge Him and He will guide your steps.” (Proverbs 3:5-6)

Some things just don’t get old…at least not yet.  One of the modern marvels that still amazes me is the GPS units that are found in most cars today.  The fact that a satellite circling the earth at 17,500 miles per hour and at an altitude above the earth of 12,600 miles can talk to this little device on or in my dash is, well, amazing.  The fact that it can tell precisely where I am and exactly how fast I am traveling is even more amazing. All that is made possible by the actual GPS unit and the maps that are stored inside it.  But that isn’t all.

Along with the satellite and the receiver are the applications, or apps, that translate the data.  One of the most popular, and most amazing, is one called, “Waze.” What’s amazing about Waze is that it is free, and it works in conjunction with most smartphones.  What’s more amazing about Waze is that it allows users to input information about traffic and even where police might be hiding. Smile. 

Now sometimes the GPS devices just don’t get it right.  I remember one time my wife Judy and I were traveling to a funeral in another town.  When we finally arrived where the GPS told us to go…we were sitting in the middle of nowhere looking at a corn field.  I have to admit I was a little put out…as in put out in the middle of nowhere. So, there have been opportunities to throw in the towel on these little wiz-bangs…but that would be a big mistake.  You see most of the time it gets it perfectly right. Let me explain.

Last week Judy and I were traveling west on I-40 returning from a conference in North Carolina.  Waze gave us an estimated time of arrival and we were cruising.  Then, out of the blue, Waze tells me it had found a faster route and automatically rerouted us, but the funny part was the faster route was five minutes longer than the original route. “What?” I said out loud but to really no one. So anyway, it said we were to get off the interstate in four miles and I told Judy that we might as well give it a try.  I’m glad we did.

When we arrived at the designated exit, there were several cars and several semi-trucks taking the exit.  Apparently, we weren’t the only ones using Waze.  As we exited, we noticed an official truck backing up the interstate with one of those big electronic signs.  It was flashing this message, “Caution. Stopped Cars Ahead.” Hmmm I began to be very glad we exited. Soon we were on our new route that at partially paralleled the interstate where we could see cars and trucks at a complete standstill.  After a few miles, Waze had us turn right and we crossed over the interstate and there we saw the problem.  A semi-truck and several cars had collided totally shutting down the west bound lanes.  We turned left and back on to a now totally empty interstate.  My Dearest Father had used Waze, to send us a love note and had rescued us in a big, big way. He didn’t save us minutes but probably several hours.

So, what if I had said, “You know Judy, Waze has led us wrong before, how do I know it isn’t wrong this time?” In other words, what if I had ignored Waze and followed my own best plan.  Well, the answer is obvious, isn’t it?  I would have found myself stuck in a miles long traffic jam. But because, in a moment of faith and clarity, (for once) I listened to Waze and trusted it—I was rescued. How about that? And if you know anything about me from Grits, you know I don’t do traffic jams well…at all.

I know sometimes it is a hard call to know when to trust and when not to…especially when there is a chance that what we are trusting in just might fail or be wrong.  But I have good news! While a GPS might miss it sometimes, causing us to have doubts, there is a system that always gets it right.  It is, “God’s Providential System.” This one you won’t find in Best Buy, but you will find in the Bible.  The word providence means to foresee or foreknow.  And since it is God, we can have the confident assurance that He always gets it right.  We just need to trust Him because He sees what we do not.

One of my favorite verses in the Old Testament part of the Bible is found in Proverbs 3:5-6.  It says, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and don’t lean on your own understanding.  Acknowledge Him and He will guide your steps.”  How awesome is that. Add to that the fact that He always has our best at His heart and that is a winning combination.  Oh sure, we can bump along the road of life without Him but if you’ve tried that you probably know it isn’t a real good idea. At least from where I sit, it makes a lot more sense to trust Him each day and in every way.  I’ve learned that Waze is a great tool but far more importantly, I’ve found that my Dearest Daddy is a great God who loves me—and you.  Oh, and, always, and I do mean always, “He’s got this.” Bro. Dewayne

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

Zwei or Saar?

A person’s steps are established by the Lord, and He takes pleasure in his way.” Psalm 37:23

We were so close and yet so far away. It was 1977 and we were brand new at our new assignment in Germany. We had purchased a 1967 Volkswagen station wagon which turned out to have virtually no floorboards just floor mats.  We found that out the first time it rained.  It rains a lot in Germany.  Anyway, we named him Herman.  He wasn’t fast, he wasn’t pretty.  But he would go…most of the time.

Our friends that lived a couple of hours away invited us to come over and spend the weekend with them.  We lived in Sambach which wasn’t too far from Sembach where I worked.  You can probably already tell that things can get confusing in Germany in a hurry.  So, we had been in country for about 10 days, we had our international driver’s license which meant I paid someone $15 dollars, and we had Herman.  Not to sound like Gilligan’s Island but we started out on a three hour trip…a three hour trip.

We were heading to a small city called  Zweibrucken.  That is where our friends lived.  The Air Force had a small airbase there where he worked and since Zweibrucken means “two bridges” I assume they had those also.  It was simple.  Get on this highway with your car named Herman with no floorboards, drive about an hour or so, take a left and head toward Zweibrucken.  Not a deal. Right? Well, not so fast.

Soon Judy and I were traveling along, excited for a new adventure.  We had no traveling experience in Germany, it was raining, remember it does that a lot in Germany, so we have miniature swimming pools for floorboards and the antique wipers are just keeping up with the rain.  The directions were simple: drive for about an hour, take a left and head for Zweibruken. We probably should have written that down.

After about an hour we came to a large directional sign.  It said Saarbrucken straight ahead.  Well, Mr. “I’m a man who doesn’t get lost” looked at his sweet, dear “Don’t look at me, I’ve never been out the country before either” wife and said, “Uh was that Saarbrucken we were looking for?”  You know, if you’ve seen one “brucken” you’ve seen them all.

Well, I couldn’t remember, she couldn’t remember so we kept driving and it kept raining.  We drove for quite a while and suddenly found ourselves in Saarbrucken which happens to be on the French border. We also found ourselves on the verge of having to speak French. Since we didn’t speak French or German either we decided we had better turn around before we started an international incident.

I did a quick turn around and head back the way we came.  We are disoriented, discouraged, and disappointed.  We drove back about 30 miles or so and there we saw a sign:  Zweibruken.  Hallelujah.  I remembered, she remembered—sweet Zweibruken. We exit off of the autobahn (which is German for you can drive fast if you don’t drive a Herman) and as we exited we see our friend just pulling away.  He had come to look for us and was just about to give up.  We saw him, he saw us.  We laughed, we embraced. We had made it.  “Guten Tag.” Guten Tag, indeed!

We still laugh about that crazy story.  Two young people who didn’t know a thing about driving in a foreign country, taking off in a too old Volkswagen station wagon with swimming pools for floor boards and getting lost. Yup, life was good. Now if I remember right I was probably frustrated, a bit mad, discouraged, and discombobulated. I’m not exactly sure what that means but I am sure I felt it that day.  But the bottom line is we had fun. Even then we laughed at the hot mess we were in.  It was a story we would tell our kids one day.  Well, we have and it still brings a smile to our lips.

I know there is so much craziness today.  So many missteps, so many “I don’t knows,” so many “Saars” when it should have been a “Zwei.” But remember this.  There is a God that is writing this story called your life and He is a God who loves a good adventure.  And the things that we count as disruptions just might be one of His great adventures purposely put in our path for our ultimate good and pleasure.  David in Psalm 37:23 writes, “The steps of a good person are ordered [directed, planned] by the Lord.  And He delights in that path.”  In other words, God has a plan and it is a plan that He has written just for you.

I know I sometimes question my GPS when it takes me down some crazy roads to save a minute or two but I am learning to just enjoy the journey.  I wrote a few days back that Judy and I love to drive around and try to get lost.  One of my friends said, “Come on down to Pope County.  I can get you lost.”  I think I’m gonna take him up on it.  I’ll have my trusty GPS and my friend so it should be a great adventure.  I’ll just go along for the ride and rest in Him.  After all, He’s got this.  Guten Tag. Bro. Dewayne

Posted in Family, fear, food, forgiveness, life, love, loving others, Scripture, Southern born, Trials, wisdom

Green Gold

Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” Romans 10:13

There it was…green gold.  Well, it isn’t news to hardly anyone but inflation is here and it is quite healthy.  I don’t go to the store, especially the grocery store, too often.  I suppose that helps feed (no pun intended) the sticker shock when I do.  I’ve lived way long enough to enjoy telling my grandchildren and those significantly younger than me about “the good old days.”  And if inflation is good for nothing else, it sure gives me more fodder for my “good old days” stories.

My wife Judy and I are both from the south and like many Southerners, we are fans of things southern, especially food.  Enter, stage right, watermelon.  Both of us are big fans of watermelon but my wife is president of the watermelon fan club.  The only thing I have never understood is her need to baptize her watermelon with salt.  It just doesn’t make sense.  Well, starting about this time of the year, it is not uncommon for her to go to the store and come home with a watermelon.  And then it happened.

She indeed got to the store, not looking for a watermelon but since the produce department is at the entrance, she wandered through.  And, there they sat…watermelons.  The store had a whole big bin of them…there for the taking.  And then she saw the price.  These small, round watermelons, from Mexico mind you, were there for the taking for…wait for it…just about ten dollars each. What? You’re kidding, right?  Nope.  And just in case you don’t live in a watermelon world, a year ago a high price would have been less than half that.

She sent a picture of the bin of green gold to the family group text, and we all groaned and moaned.  Later that night she also shared that four, count them, four ears of sweet corn were over four dollars…more than a dollar an ear.  And the hard news is if Judy loves watermelon…she craves sweet corn.  What in the world is going on?  And I thought people hoarding toilet tissue was weird.

You see, when I was a kid, watermelons had seeds and were the shape and size of the Goodyear blimp.  These monsters often weighed twenty or more pounds, were always sweet as honey and cost fifty cents.  Slowly, over time, they shrank and a really sweet one is like finding a needle in a haystack.  Corn, not too terribly long ago would set you back a couple of dollars for a dozen—not two ears. What in the world is going on?

Well, they say it is all about supply chain issues, the price of fuel, the state of world politics and Bigfoot.  Well, no one has mentioned Bigfoot yet, but I’m sure it figures in there somewhere.  Prices are in such a flux that sticker shock and the potential for higher prices tomorrow dominate too much of our time and energy.  If only there was something that hasn’t gone up.  There is.

I am glad to report that God has not raised His prices.  He still offers eternal life to anyone who believes for the grand total of…zero.  How is that possible? When He came up with the plan to let us become part of His family, He paid the entire bill—and what a bill it was.  It involved His Son being nailed to a cross and dying for the sins of the whole, entire, world. Every man, woman or child who believes and asks receives a clean bill (no pun intended) of spiritual health.   Every sin, no matter what, is forgiven.  It has been that way since the first Christmas and Easter, and it will stay that way.  He is not going to raise the rate.

You won’t find a better deal no matter how far and wide you look. Someone said heaven isn’t about doing…it is about done.  It is not about keeping a bunch of rules…it is about a relationship with the One who made us all. So, if you are shopping for some hope, if you are in the market for a new beginning, you need to start right there.  I bought in (no pun intended) a long time ago and it was the best decision of my life, and it will be the best decision of your life too.  Paul, the guy who wrote a chunk of the New Testament, wrote that anyone, a.n.y.o.n.e., who asks will be forgiven.  What a deal.

Well, I’m not sure what is going to happen with me and Judy and our watermelon habit.  I’m not sure what she will do about sweet corn gold either, but I do know this.  No matter what, my Father, the One who creates watermelons and sweet corn, has it covered.  He’s got this.  Bro. Dewayne

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

Faithful Friend

Circumstances can make for strange bed fellows. There was a group of guys who hung together–ten of them in fact. Truth be known in another world they would have never been friends. Nine of the guys were Jewish and one was a Samaritan. They lived on opposite sides of the tracks. The Jewish guys would have been raised to believe that the Samaritans were “less than” and the Samaritan would have been raised to believe that all Jews were “better than you” temple goers. Like oil and gas, they wouldn’t have mixed. Leprosy changed all that.

We are not told how, who knows, but they contracted leprosy or the walking death. Their lives were reduced to isolation and suspicion. During the COVID mask days, if you went  to Walmart without a mask, you might know some of how they felt. They were forced to live away, far away and proclaim their uncleanness to anyone they met. The fact that nine were Jews and one was a Samaritan just didn’t matter anymore.

Well, one day something happened. Luke 17:11-17 tells us Jesus was walking along and He heard this group hollering. They were saying, “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us.” We aren’t told of how they knew of Jesus or why they believed He could change their lives. All we do know is that they somehow believed and hollered. And Jesus answered.

Over the distance he hollers back, “Go show yourselves to the priest.” There was not a pronouncement of healing. There was only a command to trust. They found themselves at the crossroads of reality and faith. They looked at their diseased bodies and weighed it against faith. A step toward the priest meant they believed. To stand where they were meant “nope.” Well, “hope” beat out “nope” and off they went.

As they took the first step–and the one after that–amazingly they were healed. You could hear the whooping and hollering across the wilderness. Man, were they happy! They were free and they were outta there. Fading in the dust was the Master who had set them free. But wait. One of them is coming back. It is the Samaritan–the unlikely one. He falls at the feet of the Freedom Giver and gives Him thanks and praise. The unlikely one, and the only one, who gets it right.

Jesus wonders, “Weren’t there ten of these guys?” Weren’t nine of them good Jewish boys?” He was impressed that this “foreigner” came back to say thanks and I think he gets a second helping. Jesus says “Go your way, your faith has healed you.” I think the Samaritan dude got healed of leprosy and a relationship with the Healer. He got more–way more.

There are two things we need to pack away from this story. First, the Jesus who became your BFF (that’s best friend forever) in this mess called life wants to be your BFF everyday. The One who took care of your fears and anxieties during the storm wants to take care of them after the storm. He wants to be your Savior, your Redeemer, your Rescuer, not for a while, but forever.

Linked to that is this idea of gratitude. When the nine were set free they left Jesus in the dust, “adios,” see you later. They were thankful for the moment but not the minutes following. The Samaritan, however, came back. He was determined not to forget what Jesus had done for him. The right thing, the wise thing but probably not the popular thing.

So, we ponder, what will we do tomorrow and the day after? Are you gonna run as fast as you can to a life crammed with busy and stuff or are you going remember the One who stood by your side and spoke to your heart? As rumors continue to circulate of life returning to normal, the noise of life will get louder and louder. Over the din, plan now not to forget the One who whispered, “Rest in Me” and “I’ve got this.” Bro. Dewayne

Posted in Christmas, Easter, Family, fear, forgiveness, friends, Grace, gratitude, life, love, prayer, Scripture, sovereignty of God, thankful, Trials, wisdom

Good Friday but Resurrection Sunday

He made the One who did not know sin to be sin for us, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God.” 2 Corinthians 5:21

One of my favorite holiday songs speaks of Christmas being “the most wonderful time of the year.”  I suppose in the eyes of most folks Christmas has become the ultimate “feel good” holiday.  It is jam packed with great music, great food, fun parties, and beautiful decorations.  Throw the birth of a cute little newborn in the mix and it seems like a slam dunk. All of that leads to idealistic dreams of what Christmas should be but, frankly, too often those dreams don’t measure up to reality.

If we could step back a couple of thousand years, we would see that same baby grown to be a man and it seems that the whole known world isn’t celebrating His birth but shouting for His death. While the song speaks of Christmas being that “wonderful time,” for a significant part of the world, this week—and especially this Sunday—is truly more than wonderful.  It is amazing. For this is the week that we celebrate the death, burial, and resurrection of our beloved Savior, Jesus Christ.

I’ve always thought it ironic that we call the day that Jesus died “Good Friday.”  I mean it is obvious that it wasn’t good day for Him.  A Roman crucifixion was so horrible that it was against the law to crucify a Roman citizen and it was called, “the death of deaths.” So why call it Good Friday? Well, for those of us who believe He is who He said He was, and He did what He said He could do, defeat death, well it’s a very big deal.

For starters, we believe His death that day was the sacrifice for our sins.  The Bible tells us that “without the shedding of blood is no remission {of sins}”—Hebrews 9:22.    We celebrate Good Friday because for each believer in Jesus it means the sin slate is wiped clean. Imagine having every wrong thing you ever did forgiven, blotted out, and you might begin to understand this important day.

Imagine this—it’s the greatest trade ever.  Jesus says I will take the rap for your sin and in exchange you can have my perfection. 2 Corinthians 5:21, one of the letters that make up the New Testament, puts it this way: “He made the One who did not know sin [that’s Jesus] to be sin for us, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God.” He took our wrongs so we could be made right.  Amazing.

Wait…it gets better. For those who walked with Him on this earth, that Friday appeared anything but good—to them it appeared to be the end.  Every hope of Him being their overcoming King ended with every blow of the hammer.  He died, they buried Him, but then came Resurrection Sunday.  If Friday was good than Sunday must be super.  For on that day Christ physically resurrected from the dead. The most authenticated, sacred writing in the world, the Bible, along with historical evidence, all comes to the same conclusion: He came back to life. He lives.

The physical resurrection of Christ proves His deity.  In other words, the proof of the pudding is in the tasting, and He proved He was and is the Son of God.  And it only gets better!  He defeated death and because He did, we have that same knowing hope.  His victory over death becomes ours.  It is an incredible story…one worth your own personal investigation.

Let me encourage you to check Him out.  There is plenty of bunk on the internet but there is also plenty of truth.  See why such a large chunk of the world population connects Jesus with God.  See what all the excitement is about.  And hey, maybe find a place you trust and experience the resurrection celebration somewhere in person this Easter Sunday. You will discover a God who loves you a ton and just waits to welcome you into His family. And when you’re in His family you can know two things.  First, you are His and He will never change His mind.  Second, well, no matter what you face, “He’s got this.” Bro. Dewayne

Posted in Family, fear, forgiveness, Grace, gratitude, life, loving others, prayer, priorities, Scripture, Trials

It Came from Behind

I have loved you even as the Father has loved me. Remain in My love.” John 15:9

It came from the backseat.  My entry into the world of pastoring was…abrupt.  I told God I was willing to be a pastor and the next thing I knew…I was one.  I spoke at a small church about 25 miles from where we lived. They were kind enough to invite me to come back and that is when it happened.  They asked me and my wife Judy to leave the room and when we went back in, they said, “We just voted to ask you to be our pastor.”  Well, I was honored but told them I didn’t know how to do that.  They smiled and said, “Don’t worry…we will teach you.”  And they did.

Soon we were in love with them, and they loved us back.  So, our lives changed dramatically and very quickly. When I became their pastor, we had one daughter, Rebecca and Judy was pregnant with our second child.  Jennifer came into our family in August and our Sunday mornings went from crazy to crazier.  New to this pastor thing, I wanted to get to our church before anyone else and since we lived some distance away, we had to leave pretty early.

These were the early days of car seats but the bottom line was the same.  Every child had to be strapped into a car seat.  That included cute little three-year-old blonds who were not fond of car seats…cute little three-year-old blonds who would later declare, “Give me my way and it will be ok.”  Well, one Sunday morning, Rebecca decided she was not going in the car seat.  So, it fell to me to convince her that one way or another she was.  There was a battle and I’m sure of two things.  First, she did end up in the car seat.  Second, I’m sure I wasn’t feeling very spiritual as I drove to church that morning.

So, after wrangling her into the car seat and with sweet little, innocent baby Jennifer on the other side, we left for church.  The crying was over and there was a deafening silence from the back seat.  And then, it happened. From the silence came this sweet, child’s voice that said five words that to this day are part of our tribe’s history.  Those five words were, wait for it, “I’m standing on the inside.” I know, I just know, Judy and I had to look at each other and refrain from laughing. I.Am.Standing.On.The.Inside.

Well, the rest of the trip is lost to time but who cares…we had our memory.  As I said earlier that little blond was just a little strong willed from the beginning and yes, she later said, “Just give me my way and it will be ok.” Well, I’m sure only a few of you know our oldest daughter but after a few, ok, more than a few times of knocking our heads together (figuratively speaking) she has grown into one of my favorite people.  And more than a few times I have referred to that Sunday morning.

It is no secret that a lot of us have a bent toward rebellion.  Sometimes it is with parents, sometimes spouses, and too often with God.  Rebellion is what got us in trouble with God in the first place.  God said no and our original parents in the Garden of Eden said, “Yes” and the rest is history.  Why is that?  Well, there are many reasons but a primary one is a lack of trust and understanding.  You see, little Rebecca thought I was being mean.  I knew I was being loving and responsible.  I was trying to protect her.  And guess what?  So is God. In fact, John 15:9 says, “I have loved you even as the Father has loved me. Remain in my love.” Wow!

You see, He knows all about the pain, suffering and consequences of sin and wants to protect us from that.  His book, the Bible, really isn’t a law book…it is a love book and in one way or another that is declared verse after verse, page after page, and chapter after chapter. If we listen carefully, we will hear the Whisperer whispering and often it will be words of love and encouragement.  And, sometimes, we will just have to sit in the car seat…period.  There are two things we can take to the bank.  First, He has our best interest in mind. Period.  And secondly, that no matter what, car seat or not, “He’s got this.”  Bro. Dewayne

Posted in Family, fear, gratitude, life, prayer, priorities, Scripture, Trials

First It Was…Then It Wasn’t

I focus on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead.” Philippians 3:13

Twenty-two years ago, we moved to Harrisburg.  More specifically we moved to 217 West Poplar Street.  The house had been vacant for several years and we had a lot of work to do—inside and out.  Our lawn, or perhaps yard would be a better word, was a collection of weeds.  Except for one clump of daylilies, there was nothing—just a healthy crop of weeds and crabgrass. Now some would see that as a problem…an overwhelming one at that.  But what they would see as a problem—my wife, Judy, saw as an opportunity.  Just like an artist with a blank canvas, she went to work.

First you need to know that Judy has a green thumb—figuratively speaking. She has the amazing ability to plan and plant flowers and make gardens.  So, soon after we moved in, she set about turning the house into a home and the yard into a tapestry of flower beds. Before long, there were flower gardens filled many beautiful blooms.  Things were definitely looking up.

That year, I believe in the fall, we planted a pink dogwood tree.  Well, it might be better described as a pink dogwood twig. Now you might know that dogwood trees are just a little finicky.  You have to cuddle and nurture them, or they will take their ball and go home.  Well, we took good care of the little dogwood tree, and it grew.  I can remember after about three years it finally bloomed! It continued to grow and before long it was a real tree.  Judy and I were so proud.

After fifteen good years, our pride and joy started looking a little sick.  There were fewer leaves and the leaves it had were just not healthy.  I had a hunch that our dogwood tree was “checking out” and sure enough that spring it gave up the ghost. Apparently, an insect called a bore decided to bore into our tree.  Why?  Well, I guess he was just bored. Sorry, I couldn’t resist.  After it was apparent that the tree was dead, I remember saying to Judy that I just couldn’t imagine the front yard without it.

Well, even after it died, I let it stand for several months (hoping for a resurrection?) but finally decided to take it down. I had long ago given away my he-man chainsaw, so armed with my lobbers and—get ready—my saws-all, I tackled the tree.  Limb by limb, slowly the tree came down. It was a sad moment but soon after I was done, we looked and both of us commented how much better it looked without the dead tree there.  Did you catch that?  I couldn’t imagine it gone and then I couldn’t imagine it there!  What was the difference? Life and death.

You see, alive the tree was an asset—it added to our yard.  In the spring it had beautiful blooms and, in the fall, it had red leaves and berries. Once it died, well, it was a liability. I’m not sure why I left it standing as long as I did but truthfully it was better gone. Looking back, I began to wonder how many things in our life that were once an asset have now become a liability? The truth is times change, we change and sometimes we need to be willing to let go.  I know in view of 2020; it was very hard to let go of 2019. We held on to that old normalcy with a death grip. But no matter how hard we grasped, it slipped like beach sand through our fingers.

So, is there something that was good for back then but is pulling you down now?  Is it time to let go of an old friendship? An old habit? An old addiction? The truth is if we think about it, all of us have something that we need to be willing to let go of—and no, your spouse and kids don’t count! Smile. Our friend Paul, one of the main writers of the New Testament part of the Bible said he was going to let go of the past and reach for the future. Now that is good advice. As we journey in life let’s learn and perhaps honor the past but be ready and willing to embrace the future.  Sound a little frightening?  Don’t worry you don’t need to face it alone.  He’s got this. Bro. Dewayne

Posted in Family, fear, forgiveness, Grace, gratitude, life, Military memories, prayer, priorities, Scripture, Southern born, thankful, Trials

“Yes, Sir”

My sheep hear My voice, I know them, and they follow Me.” John 10:27

Bummer.  I knew I should have listened.  I have always liked music and I have always loved to sing.  From the time my mother forced my oldest sister to allow me to sing at her wedding…I’ve been hooked.  Not only do I like music I generally like all kinds of music.  To me music is the melody of life.  It often expresses emotions and feelings that otherwise might go unexpressed. So, I sing…loud and all the time.

You know, some people say, “I saw you at the store the other day.”  Not me.  People will say, “I heard you at the store the other day.”  Regardless of where I am there is usually a song somewhere close by.  And the funny part is you never know what you will get.  It might be “Amazing Grace” or Hank Williams’ “Your Cheatin’ Heart.”  That’s not an issue except for the fact I work at a church.  It can be kinda strange.

I also have a hard time getting the words right.  I know some of the words to hundreds of songs but unfortunately know all the words to very few.  People used to correct me when I would get the words wrong.  Most finally gave up.  Now they just smile. I should have listened a long time ago when someone would try and correct me.  Especially since that time in basic training.

Basic training in the Air Force is that time when they teach you how to be an airman.  That includes knowledge and action.  Clearly it involves learning to follow orders.  I was raised in the South so saying, “Yes, sir” or “Yes, ma’am” came really easy for me.  I was even a pretty compliant person.  But one day, well, I just missed it.

For some reason I was in the barracks by myself, and I was letting it go.  It was an old hymn, maybe “Amazing Grace.”  From somewhere a voice boomed, “Shut-up.” Well, I thought it was one of the guys jerking my chain, so I kept right on singing at the top of my lungs.  From somewhere the booming voice boomed again, “I said shut-up.”  It was just about then that I vaguely remembered hearing that voice before.  “Oh, that’s right,” I said, “that’s the voice of my drill instructor, Sergeant Catchings.”  Oops.  Game, set, match.

So here he comes from somewhere and he is madder than a hornet.  “Taylor,” he said, “didn’t I tell you to shut up?” he boomed in his drill sergeant voice.  I knew there was no use trying to explain that I didn’t know it was him, so I just muttered a weak, “Yes, sir.”  Then he walks over to the mop closet, opens the door and invites me to step inside.  Gulp.  I step inside and as he shuts the door he said just one word, “Sing!”

So, with all its odors and in the dark, I start belting out “Amazing Grace.”  After a few verses, he opens the door and says, “Do you know, “Rock of Ages?”  “Yes, sir” I said.  Once again came the one-word command, “Sing.” The door closes, and I sing.  After a few verses, the door opens and he said, “Do you know…” and he named another hymn now long forgotten. “Yes sir” I said. You know what he said, “Sing.”  Well, after a few verses the door opens and he says, “Get out.”  I wasn’t sure if he meant out of the closet or out of the Air Force and I didn’t stick around to find out.  I got out.

Well, I learned something that day.  It is important that I learn to recognize and obey the voices around me…especially those that might be in charge.  I never missed the voice of Sergeant Catchings again.  When I heard that booming voice…I listened. No more mop closets for me. I learned that day to listen for my drill instructor and even more importantly, I’m learning to listen for God.

You see, one day Jesus was describing His followers to a bunch of religious bad guys.  He said, “My sheep (code for followers) know My voice. I know them and they follow Me.” That verse, in English, has 12 very important words.  First, He said, “My sheep know my voice.” Check.  We need to recognize Jesus’ voice.  Amid all the noise of the world we have got to hear Him.  Second, He said, “I know them.” Wait, what? He knows us. I like that.  It means that He has a relationship with me.  He is looking out for me.  It also means He knows my quirky habits like singing too loud in the middle of Walmart…and loves me anyway.  Last, “They follow me.” What He is saying is that followers follow. Plain and simple.  Follow Him and you might avoid the “mop closets” of life. Trust me…I’ve been there and done that.  It’s not the kind of place you want to visit or sing in.

I’m sure Sergeant Catchings had my best interest in mind.  He was there to teach me discipline and he did. Looking back, I’m sure he thought it was all pretty humorous.  So do I…now.  But that day, well, I just wish I had listened a little closer.  These days, I’m learning to listen for the whisperer whispering, “Don’t worry.  I’ve got this.” And I believe He does. Bro. Dewayne

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

Boom, Crash, Ouch!

And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to His purpose for them.” Romans 8:28

Well, it happened again.  It was Saturday evening and it had been a good day.  I was able to get a lot of yard work done including mowing my yard.  I found out, though, that I had violated a cardinal rule. In Southern Illinois you never, and I mean never, mow the yard before the first of April.  My neighbor and some guys at church told me all about it. Oops.  Anyway, it was a good day.  Later that afternoon my wife Judy and I went to eat at our favorite local restaurant and came home to study and prepare for Sunday.

As I entered the kitchen, I saw a box of tools that I had been using for various inside projects.  My wife Judy had asked me earlier if was done with them and I said yes.  That was code for “Hey, get your tools out of my kitchen and back in the garage.”  Got it…it just took a while.  So, seeing the box of tools, I picked them up and carried them to the garage.  I could feel Judy smiling.  While I was in the garage, I saw a bottle of algae killer which reminded me that our little goldfish pond had looked more than a little green earlier in the day.  I grabbed the bottle, went out to the pond, and gave it a dose. Check.

So, I went back to the garage, put the algae stuff back on my work bench and was headed back into the house when I saw it.  It was the net that I use to get floating stuff out of the pond.  Well, having just visited the pond I knew there was plenty of stuff floating in the water, so I grabbed the net and headed back to the pond.  I should have quit while I was ahead.  As I bounded up the single step from my driveway and onto the patio, I caught my toe on the edge of the concrete and fell…hard…real hard.

Part of this happened at hyper-speed and part of it happened in slow motion.  The falling part of fast but it all seemed to slow down as I watched my extended fingers and hand hit the concrete and bend in the direction they were never meant to go.  It wasn’t pretty.  I was stunned and I was hurting.  Remember the commercial for the lady who falls and says, “Help, I’ve fallen, and I can’t get up.”?  Well, that was me.  My hand wouldn’t work, and my body just hurt.  After several minutes I rolled around and managed to sit up and then get up.

I made it into the house and told Judy I had fallen, hard. Amazingly, most of my body still worked but my hand didn’t fare so well. I will spare you all the details, but the good news is that nothing was broken and none of the tendons were torn.  They were stretched and strained but the doctor said in a week or two they should heal.  Someone asked if I lost my religion in all of that and the answer was, “No.”  In fact, the first thing I thought, when I could think, was “thank you, Lord.”  Why? Well, here’s the short list.

First, it was my right hand and for once I was grateful I am left-handed. A lot of what I do involves a pen and a keyboard. So while it was a bit inconvenient it was not life changing. God was good. Second, my late sixties model body still bounces well.  It really could have been a different story. Many a person has had a less dangerous fall than mine and didn’t fare so well. And finally—people.  Judy was there for me and when I got to church and shared some of this during a preaching time (I’m a pastor) so many were concerned.  It’s lovely to be loved.

I had a quote in that morning’s message that said something I needed to hear…and you need to hear.  It goes like this, “Trust [in God] is believing that when everything seems to be falling apart it is actually God arranging things just the way He wants them.” Boom! You see, I am sure God has all kind of good things to teach me through this.  And it made a great sermon illustration and gave me one more “Grits” story.  Thank you, Lord.

As I write this my hand is still sore, it is still bruised, and it is still swollen.  I’ve grown up with mismatched ears and now I have mismatched hands.  Go figure.  If you don’t mind me using an overused verse from the Bible, remember what Paul said in Romans 8:28, “And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to His purpose for them.” It’s true and He proves it over and over again. Oh, and I think I can tell you with certainty one more thing, one more time.  Write it down, take it to the bank, “He’s got this.”  Bro. Dewayne