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

Just Say No

The woman was convinced. She saw that the tree was beautiful, and it’s fruit looked delicious, and she wanted the wisdom it would give her. So she took some of the fruit and ate it. Then she gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it, too.” Genesis 3:6

I remember it like it was yesterday…or a couple of weeks ago anyway.  I am the youngest of eight children.  Some call me the baby of the family…I know Momma and Daddy saved the best for last.  My brothers and sisters nicknamed me Precious.  I used to think it was because they were jealous, but I later learned they were just right.  And, because I was so precious, well I often was the target of pranks and other acts of terrorism.

The two sisters and I were called the three little ones.  That was because everybody else was several years older and therefore bigger.  The other two members of “the three little ones” were the main terrorists.  They loved to hold me down and tickle me mercilessly and then pull my ears till they were blood red. It’s because of them one of my ears sticks out further than the other. They were two tough cookies.

One time they pushed me out the door in my underwear and wouldn’t let me back in.  I banged and banged on the door all to no avail.  They, of course, will deny all of this but trust me, at the Judgement Seat all will be revealed, and they will surely be grateful for grace.

I have always had an affection for sweet things, and they even used that against me.  One day one of them came up and said, “Dewayne, do you want some candy?”  Well, my response was, “Well sure.”  It was in a small box and in my excitement, I didn’t take time to read the label.  Honestly, since I was only about eight, I probably wouldn’t have known the difference anyway.  So, I opened the box and found that it was filled with chocolates.  There were only three or four pieces in the box and before long…they were gone.

I did notice that they tasted a little different, but they were sweet,  and they were brown so hey, that was close enough for me.  I should have been suspicious that the terrorists were being so nice, but I always was a trusting soul.  Well, several hours passed and before long time wasn’t the only thing that was passing.  You see, my loving sisters had fed me a whole box of Ex-Lax.  They would deny it, you probably can’t believe it, but trust me I was there.  Oh, boy was I there.

Well, I learned a lot of lessons growing up and this is one of them.  You see, things are often not what they seem to be. I thought I was a getting a box of chocolates and instead I got a box of trouble.  It looked like chocolate, it even tasted somewhat like chocolate, but it wasn’t anything close.  Did you know that the Bible warns us how the Devil can disguise himself?  It says that he can disguise himself as an angel of light when in fact He is the angel of darkness.  Remember that…things are not always as they seem.

I learned too that not everyone who comes bearing gifts can be trusted.  I should have known better when they offered that box but my desire for chocolate overruled my common sense.  That is what got Adam and Eve in trouble in the garden. The story is found in Genesis, and it says, “The woman was convinced. She saw that the tree was beautiful, and its fruit looked delicious, and she wanted the wisdom it would give her. So, she took some of the fruit and ate it. Then she gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it, too.” And that is how I found myself eating Ex-Lax.

It’s a tricky world out there…terrorists are lurking everywhere and sometimes they might be related so be careful.  Be sure and use your good common sense if someone offers you a little box filled with chocolates.  You might be getting more than you bargained for.  Like I said, I probably wouldn’t have understood the label even if I had read it. But do you know what?  My Momma would have.  In fact, if I had gone to her this story would have been totally different.  But I didn’t.

As we journey through this upside-down world, don’t forget to go to your Dearest Daddy with your questions and mysteries.  He is always there, and He is always watching out for you.  You can trust Him. His box of chocolate is always the real deal.  So have a seat, open the box, and enjoy.  You can rest in Him.  He’s got this. Bro. Dewayne

Posted in Family, fear, gratitude, life, love, loving others, Scripture, thankful

Holy Moley!

God has not given us a spirit of fear but of power, love and a sound mind.” 2 Timothy 1:7

It was January of 2004, and it was a day to remember.  On that day, as a gift from a friend, I received my first flat panel television.  Of course, back then it was brand new technology, and they were a little different.  This one was about three inches thick and weighted about seventy pounds.  I still keep it stored away simply because it is so special.  Over the years, things have changed and that is true with televisions too.  Thankfully, they have gone on a diet.  Today, a larger television weighs less than half of the earlier models.  Regardless, it can still be a little tricky to hang one on the wall…especially if you are “tool” challenged. Let me explain.

A while back I was going to attempt to mount a television on our bedroom wall.  I mean, it seemed easy enough.  You take the television off the other wall, take the mount off the other wall, and go to the new wall.  You drill a couple of holes and mount the mount.  “That’s easy,” I said.  “That’s no problem,” I said.  “Anybody can do that,” I said.  “In fact,” I said, “a blind man could do it.” About then discovered my name wasn’t “anybody” and I wasn’t blind.

Our house is old, and I do mean old.  How old?  Well, Miss Alice’s house next door was built in 1902, and she said when her house was being built ours was already there.  That means our house is at least 119 years old—holy moley—that is old.  At any rate that means there must be some plaster walls and there are.  There is a reason why someone invented sheetrock and the reason is no one likes plaster walls.  They are a pain. They easily crack. They are difficult to drill through and oh, a stud finder doesn’t work and if you are going to mount a television…you need to find the studs in the wall.

I started searching for the elusive stud in the wall.  I tapped on the wall, I laid hands on the wall, I talked to the walI, but all to no avail.  I then called a friend of mine and he said to start drilling holes till you find a stud.  I was paralyzed—I could just imagine my wall having a religious experience and becoming very holey. But anyway, I started drilling.

Well, five holes later (we need to hum a few bars of, “holy, holy, holy”) I finally found a stud and amazingly when I found one, I could find the next.  As I screwed the bolts into the wall, I said a prayer and put the television on the mount.  It worked.  And, believe it or not, it is still there today.  I just hope that no one looks behind the television and sees all the “oops!” If you should ever hear a loud moan from over Poplar Street way, well it might be that things went south after all.

One of the things I learned (again) through all of this is how fear can paralyze us.  I mean I stood there and looked and studied (no pun intended) and looked and studied…trying to get the courage to start drilling. I was afraid that I might end up drilling hole after hole after hole and have Swiss cheese instead of a wall.  I was afraid and so for a while I did nothing.  When I finally decided that I could and should…it gave me the courage to start and finish my project.

If you find yourself facing a difficult task, if you find yourself overwhelmed with fear—find someone to give you a little encouragement. Sometimes that might come in the form of flesh and bones, but it can come without either—it just might come from God and from His Word.  When you find yourself in the grip of fear, remember 2 Timothy 1:7, “God has not given us a spirit of fear but of power, love and a sound mind.”  And always remember that regardless of what we face, we can have the confident assurance that, “He’s got this.”

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

No-See-Um

“Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.” Hebrews 13:8

I slapped my arm but didn’t see a thing.  About thirty years ago we were visiting in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan.  It was a beautiful area, and it was almost like being in another part of the world.  There were rich woodlands, new foods to enjoy and the crystal-clear water of Lake Michigan. It reminded me of some of the places I have visited in Europe.  With all its wonders there was one thing that I didn’t like…no-see-ums.

Most of us are familiar with the various biting pests we find flying and crawling around.  There is the bomber-size horsefly.  You can usually hear them coming…even before you see them coming and their bite is horrendous. Then there is the yellow fly and that pesky one that hovers around when you are sitting on the patio.  They seem particularly innocent and that’s when they get you.  And the king of biting insects is, of course, the mosquito.  Some people wonder why God created the mosquito.  I think it is one of the great mysteries of the universe.

While not too common around here, the no-see-um that I encountered in Michigan was a flat-out, no doubt about it, pain in the neck—or else wherever those chose it bite you.  They are very small…in fact…smaller than a flea.  Because of that you will feel the bite and go to swat at the culprit but see nothing to hit.  They are a neutral color and manage to just “blend in.”  Their bite is painful and can take hours or even days before a welt shows up on your skin.  Well, since I don’t make too many trips to the Upper Peninsula, it wasn’t too big a deal…until I found out they like South Florida.

When my wife Judy and I checked into the place we were staying in Fort Myers one of the first things we did was go and sit on the balcony that overlooked Estero Bay.  It was beautiful.  From our fourth-floor vantage point, we could see for miles and saw dolphins, manatees, fish, birds and even an alligator.  However, it wasn’t what we saw that soon grabbed our attention…it’s what we didn’t.  Soon, too soon, we were slapping and scratching but not seeing.  We soon realized that no-see-ums love South Florida as much as they loved the Upper Peninsula.

Well, we retreated inside until we could find something that would discourage them from making us lunch.  A day later we were eating at a local restaurant and there on the table was “No-See-Um” spray. It was all natural and Judy tried some and thankfully it worked.  Not all but most of the misery caused by these almost invisible, blood sucking, stinking, pain-in-the-neck (you can tell I’m a little bitter) insects was finally over. And, for the ones who managed to escape the spray, I learned to spot them and eliminate them.  And yes, there was pleasure in revenge.

No-see-um bites are painful and adding to the pain is the fact that you don’t see it coming.  I mean a horsefly is big enough to spot and sounds like a small helicopter coming in for a landing.  Even a pesky mosquito buzzes if it’s close to your ear.  But the no-see-um is a sneaky one at best.  And do you know what?  Some of the most irritating and painful things in life are too.  How many times have you been just having the best day and some circumstance comes along and changes everything?  The truth is it happens too often.  But there is good news.

While we sometimes can’t change our circumstances and sometimes all the wisdom in the world won’t change an outcome, there is hope.  And that hope is found in a relationship with a God who will not leave us or forsake us and is wiser, bigger, and stronger than anything we will face.  I know you hear that from me a lot but there is a reason…I believe it. I’ve been a Jesus follower for several decades and while there have been plenty of pesky and painful things along the way—He has been faithful—even when I wasn’t. I love what the writer of Hebrews said in the Bible, “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.” Period. Big or small, visible or not, there’s just comfort in knowing that no matter what, “He’s got this.”  Bro. Dewayne

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

Ordinary Things

Giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.” Ephesians 5:20

It was one strange bouquet of emotions.  It was the end of good Sunday.  We had a great day at church and after a good nap we headed down to Paducah to return a lawn mower.  We had ordered the mower online and when it arrived it was damaged…of course.  Well, that meant borrowing something big enough to haul it back to the store. About that time our Paducah tribe came to the rescue with their SUV.  They hauled it there and we drove down to finish the return and of course see the family.

We headed to the store that we had ordered it from, returned it, and then celebrated with a trip to Cold Stone.  It was awesome and of course, Papa had to taste the flavors the three grandsons had ordered…as well my daughter’s. After all the eating and sampling, we headed on back to Harrisburg.  Judy, my wife, was a little hungry so I told her we would whip in and buy some diesel and then swing into McDonald’s.  It was a plan.  When we got back in town, I pulled into the station and began to fill up the Jetta.  It was just about then that things went…south.

I decided to clean the windshield since we were there and there must have been something in the water because it was a mess.  Usually, they use plain water but there was nothing plain about this stuff.  While I was trying to get that off the windshield, a man at the other side of pump started talking to me.  Well, between his not too clear speech and my not too good hearing, there was a lot of nodding and agreeing to things that I probably didn’t agree with.  Well, honestly after a while, it was time to draw this conversation to a close.  So, with a bit of frustration about the stuff on the windshield and the too long conversation with my friend, I finally said, “See you later.”

I walked back to the driver’s side, opened the door, cranked the engine, and proceeded to drive off.  About 1.5 seconds after the car started moving there was a very discomforting noise from the back of the car.  I can’t describe it, but I knew exactly what had happened.  I had totally forgotten the nozzle was still in the car and as I drove off…it didn’t come with me.  Well, I immediately stopped and then circled back around not knowing what to expect. Had the nozzle ripped part of the car off? Was fuel spilling on the ground? Had the fuel hose been torn from the pump?  It was not a good moment and there were plenty of emotions rolling around in my mind.

The short list included being frustrated that the guy had distracted me, anger at myself for forgetting that the nozzle was still attached to the car, and a big dose of embarrassment. Oh, and there was one more big emotion…gratitude. It was like a bouquet of weeds and a rose. You see, amazingly, while the hose was laying on the ground, it was not spewing fuel nor was it broken.  Also, the car really had no damage to speak of.  There were no dents, no dings, and not even a scratch.  One small part of the filler thing was pulled loose but that really wasn’t important.  Amazing.

First, I know I probably need to turn in my “man card” for having done this.  If I have said it once, I have said it twenty-five times, “I can’t believe I did that.”  And honestly, it is all on me.  My long-winded friend was not to blame, and I had no right to be frustrated about the windshield either.  Nope…it was my fault.  But here is the part I love.  This is the part that forced me to write this story when I would have much more rather kept it off the page.  What forced me to write was my overwhelming sense of gratitude for my Dearest Daddy watching out for His child.  I mean this could have been nasty, but He had it all under control. I can even say “thank-you” for this because I would have missed the blessing of His kindness if it hadn’t had happened.

Well, like the song says, “He is a good, good Father.”  Hans Christian Andersen said, “The whole world is a series of miracles, but we’re so used to them we call them ordinary things.”  He is so right.  Our world is filled with love notes from a God that loves His creation dearly.  How incredible is that? Paul wrote in the New Testament part of the Bible, “Giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.  So, whatever we do, whatever happens, believe He is in control and be sure and give Him thanks.  I know more than ever that whatever it is, “He’s got this.” Bro. Dewayne

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

Dangerous Currents

Here on earth, you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world.” John 16:33

For the first time in a long time, I was genuinely frightened, in fact, I was afraid.  One of the things we enjoyed about our getaway at Key Colony is the fact that we can snorkel right there.  At each end of the beach, two small jetties have been built.  They extend out into the water for about 75 feet and keep the waves from passing boats and storms from creating waves that might take away the sandy shore.  Fish like reefs and in a way that is what the jetties are—the underwater nooks and crannies make great places for the small fish to eat and hide.

While only a few of the fish have brilliant colors, there are literally hundreds of them.  It is fascinating to watch them as they swim in large spools or dart in and out of the rocks…looking for food and making sure they don’t become lunch themselves.  One morning, I was heading out for a swim with my mask to see what I could see.  A guy who had been spear fishing earlier said that if I would go out to the point on the west jetty, I would see some large angel fish.  So, without much thought, I headed out.  Maybe I should have thought.

You see, on the other side of the jetty is a large channel that went to the other side of the island.  It is a major thoroughfare for all the fishing boats going in and out so naturally the water was much choppier there.  I began to swim out making sure my breathing tube from my face mask stayed above the water.  As I swam, I looked for fish but really the water was too murky to see.  It was also too murky for me to realize that I couldn’t see the rocks in the jetty either.  I lifted my face out of the water and saw that I was being carried by the strong current out into the channel.  I was concerned.

I immediately turned around and began to swim back toward the jetty and the relative safety and calm it provided. I had my face in the water and through the murkiness could occasionally see the bottom.  What I saw wasn’t good.  As I took a stroke forward, I was being carried back more than I was moving forward.  I picked up the pace and intensified my efforts and slowly, too slowly, began to make some progress but swimming against the current was very difficult.  In a short period of time, I was gasping for breath through my breathing tube and my arms were very tired.  The outcome was in the balance.

Well, somehow, someway, I was able to keep going and after several minutes that seemed like several hours, I could feel the protective calm of the jetty as the current let go of me.  I was safe.  I was tired, and I was exhausted, but thankfully  I was safe.  When I could finally touch sand, I stood up and saw Judy coming.  I quickly waved her off.  I knew I didn’t want her to experience what I just did.  And not only did I not see the angel fish I felt like I could almost see the angels, “comin’ after me.”

I was amazed how strong that current was that wanted to pull me out into the channel.  If it had been obvious from the surface…if I had known, I wouldn’t have gone.  My friend who told me about the angel fish didn’t mention the current—either it wasn’t an issue earlier or he had fins that helped him fight the unseen force.  Regardless, I was once again grateful that God gave me the strength to overcome. Strength.To.Overcome.  There are many things about this whole God thing that make me glad that I am a believer and on that list is the ability to be an overcomer.

My friend Jesus said in His Word, the Bible, that we would have troubles in this world, and He told the truth, times two.  But He didn’t stop there.  He went on to say that we should “be of good cheer” because He had “overcome the world.”  In other words, we can face the storms of life and the currents that threaten to pull us out to sea, because He is there with us and for us.  We can be overcomers because He is an overcomer. I like that…a lot.

I will probably remember my encounter at the point of the jetty for a while…and I want to remember.  You might ask, “Why?”  Well, it was such a good reminder that as I do life, I need to pay attention, I need to be prepared, and I need to trust—not in a pair of flippers or better swimming skills.  No, it will remind me that there are dangerous waters in life to navigate and I need to trust in my Heavenly Father, my Dearest Daddy to help me through it all.  It’s just good to know that He is there and, no matter what, “He’s got this.”  Bro. Dewayne

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

The Power of Remembering

Then if My people who are called by My name will humble themselves and pray and seek My face and turn from their wicked ways, I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sins and restore their land.” 2 Chronicles 7:14

It was a beautiful Sunday morning in December 1941…of course, almost every day in Hawaii is a beautiful day.  The skies were blue, the breeze was gentle, and it was the one day when at least some of the sailors and soldiers could sleep in.  Then, at 7:55 am Hawaii time, a swarm of Japanese aircraft attacked without warning killing 2,403 military and civilians.  In a brief moment in time the United States was at war with Japan and was thrown into World War II. President Franklin Roosevelt famously called December 7th, “a day that will live in infamy.” The battle cry throughout the Pacific War was “Remember Pearl Harbor.”

Fast forward with me sixty years.  It was a beautiful Tuesday morning in September 2001.  The sky was a deep blue without a cloud in the sky and then it happened.  Without warning, at 8:06 am EDT, a hijacked airliner crashed into the North Tower of the World Trade Center. A short time later, at 9:03 am EDT, the South Tower was also struck.  Unbelievably, a third airliner crashed into the Pentagon at 9:37 am EDT, with a final airliner, most likely destined for Washington D.C., crashed into a Pennsylvania field at 10:03 am.  In all, these attacks killed 2,977 innocent people…more than the attack on Pearl Harbor.  The cry after September 11th or 9/11, was, “We will never forget.”

Though it is hard to believe, 20 years have come and gone since that horrific morning in September.  Most can remember exactly what they were doing that day as the events unfolded on national television.  In a brief moment in time, our world was changed forever.  As we observe what is now called, Patriot Day, we must renew our vow to never forget those tragic minutes and the days, weeks, months and years that followed.

I well remember how for a brief moment in time our country stood united. While it didn’t last long, only a couple of days, it showed us, it taught us, the power and beauty of unity.  But then, as always, finger pointing and blame throwing, ruled the day and unity slipped through our fingers like loosely held sand. And if we are not careful, time will further rob us of the reverence owed to so many and the honor for those who gave their lives trying to save others.  And that too would be a tragedy.

On this twentieth observance of 9/11, I hope you will join millions of others and make  sure we never forget.  Take time to pause and reflect and remember.  I know these are difficult days and in so many ways we are frustrated and filled with doubt and fear.  But remember two things.  First and foremost, the God who created all of this is greater than any circumstance that we may face.  He knows our past and is willing to forgive.  And, He knows the future and is willing to walk with us.  Don’t lose hope and don’t lose faith.  He is able and willing.

Let me also encourage you not to lose hope in America.  With all her warts and flaws she is still the best country in the world. Having visited a couple of dozen countries in Europe, Africa, and Asia, I can tell you there is no place like America.  Rare is the country where a people are free to worship and live like we do. In the New Testament book called the Gospel of John, many people decided to no longer follow Jesus.  He looked at His followers and said, “Will you leave me too?”  One of them spoke up and said, “Where would we go?  You alone have the words of life.”   That is so true and before we throw America under the bus, be sure you know the answer to the question, “Where would you go.”  There is no place like home and no place like America.

So let’s not forget.  Let’s show the world we are a people that remember so we can honor.  Let’s show the world that while we are not perfect, we do believe in our God and our country.  God made a promise to His people and it is one that we can claim for ourselves.  He said, “If My people, who are called by My name, will humble themselves and pray, and seek My face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, will forgive their sins and heal their land.”  It was true for them and it is true for any people willing to put God first.  To sum it all up, it simply means…He’s got this.  Bro. Dewayne

Posted in Family, fear, gratitude, life, prayer, Scripture, Southern born, sovereignty of God

Chicken Little

“I know that You can do anything, and no one can stop You.” Job 42:2

Poor Chicken Little.  He had it all wrong.  The story is told of a little chicken (aptly named Chicken Little) who was walking one day, and a bird dropped an acorn which hit him on the head.  Chicken Little assumed that the sky was falling and the world as he knew it was coming to an end.  He rushed to tell the king and along the way told others of the bad news. They in turn joined him in the quest to tell the king. The only problem was… the sky wasn’t falling.

When I was a kid, like so many of us, I wrestled with fear.  There was the standard fear of the dark.  When the lights went out, my heart rate went up.  My vivid imagination allowed for plenty of strange things to be seen in the darkness and sometimes even in the light.  I remember as a six or seven-year-old sitting in the bathtub and seeing “eyes” peering at me from inside the overflow drain.  “Maybe it is a snake” I thought.  “Perhaps it is a giant rat inside the drain.”  Regardless, for years I lived in fear until one day I got brave.  I took a flashlight into the bathroom and shined the light in the drain.  It turned out to be the tops of two brass screws inside the drain.

When I was a little older the fear thing still lingered.  With too many people and not enough house, I found myself sleeping in the dining room.  Mom and dad moved the table somewhere and put a twin bed there instead.  We lived in Florida and trust me it was HOT and it was HUMID and air conditioning was something that we DIDN’T have.  Each night I would crawl into bed, a fan in the window at least stirring the warm evening air. And each night the monsters would come out.  Of course, they weren’t real.  Of course, they didn’t exist. Right…but try telling that to a young boy with a vivid imagination.

I had to do something, and I did.  I would reach down and pull the sheet and bedspread over my head and lie still.  I don’t know if the idea was the sheet and bedspread would somehow protect me or if they would simply hide me.  But there I would lie hiding, sweating, and praying, that whatever hid in the darkness wouldn’t eat me.  I guess it worked because I’m still here today but boy was it HOT!

I guess I finally overcame most of my fears. I have to admit though, when Bubba the goose hisses at me in the park, it still makes my skin kinda tingle. To some degree fear is still a stalker in my life.  Instead of rats in a drain or monsters in the dark or bad guys in the house, it has become the uncertainty of these uncertain days.  And I know I am not alone.  Every time we turn on the news, we are told that the sky is indeed falling and that the end of world as we know it is coming.  As I waited for the morning weather forecast today, a story popped up on the screen about a new strain of the swine flu in China that could or would certainly be the next pandemic.  What? Excuse me?

I am a guy who gets to serve God and people as a pastor and there is one thing I know.  God is in charge, and He is bigger than any of it and all of it.  You may have heard of a guy named Job—and no he was not related to Steve Jobs, (smile).  His sky in fact did fall and he ended up losing everything.  Well, actually his “why don’t you give up and die” wife stuck around, but so did his faith in God.  In fact, in the midst of his hot mess, Job said this, “I know that You can do anything, and no one can stop You.” Score one for Job.  He believed that God was in charge, that God had a plan, and that nothing was going to happen on His watch unless He said so.

Now that is some real good, real comforting, real “you take that fear” news.  But you also need to know that sometimes that can be hard.  God’s plans don’t always mean I get what I want…in fact, often it means the opposite.  But hey, I was the guy who manufactured monsters in his head.  But it still means that God is good, that God is faithful, and that God can be trusted.  It does mean that He is watching out for my good and He is working to bring His glorious plan to pass.

A friend of mine recently suggested that perhaps it is time that we turn off the bad news.  I agree.  The broadcasters know that bad news “sells” and they are dishing it out by the buckets full.  Corrie ten Boom, a concentration camp survivor from World War II said, “If you look at the world, you will be distressed.  If you look within, you will be depressed.  But if you look at Christ you will be at rest.” What powerful and true words.  If you are not a God follower perhaps this sounds a little far-fetched.  Trust me…He is worth checking out. He is the real deal…not church…not religion…and certainly not the fear mongers. You can rest in Him…because He’s got this. Bro. Dewayne

Posted in fear, gratitude, life, priorities, Scripture, sovereignty of God, Trials

Listening

Serve only the Lord your God and fear Him alone. Obey His commands, listen to His voice, and cling to Him.” Deuteronomy 13:4

It seems that everywhere I go, bells are ringing.  Bells are incredible instruments.  At Christmas, they joyfully announce the arrival of the Christ child.  A week later they peal in the New Year.  Sometimes their message is one of sorrow.  In a week or so we will observe the 20th anniversary of the 9/11 attack in New York.  Around the nation, bells will toll mournful as we grieve the loss of so many lives. Many churches ring their bells on Sunday morning, inviting, reminding, and urging people to come to worship.  Yes, bells are still an important part of our culture.

The bells I hear though are totally different.  In fact, I’m not sure bells describe what I hear…but for sure something is ringing…in my ears.  They call it tinnitus—I call it annoying.  I’m not sure when it started by it was ears—uh, make that years, ago.  It is mainly in my left ear, my bad ear, and 24 hours a day, seven days a week, there is this ringing sound.  Sometimes it is louder than others—sometimes softer but is always there.  Some people even say it sounds like crickets…or even cicadas.  All I know is that I sure wish it would stop.  And that’s not all.

I also have the gift of floaters, also, in my left eye.   Hmmm…left ear, left eye, left-handed.  Is there a connection here?  So, you may ask, “What are floaters?”  In the optical world they are small pieces of something that float around in the fluid that fills your eye.  They are sometimes dots and sometimes strands but all the time they too are annoying.  I notice them most when I look at a bright computer screen…there goes one…there’s another…or at any kind of white or bright background.  And, like the ringing, they are always there.

There are many proposed cures for the ringing…none seem to work…and there is a fix for the floaters, but it involves sticking a needle in your eye.  I remember a childhood rhyme about a needle in my eye and it didn’t sound good then and it doesn’t sound good now.  What am I going to do?  Well, so far, the best trick is to…ignore them both.  I am learning to ignore the ringing and I am learning to ignore the floaters.  Oh sure, it takes practice, but I am learning to deal with it.  They never totally go away but with a bit of practice, I can zone out the ringing and stare past the floaters.

Learning to ignore ringing ears and floater eyes is a good thing but I also am learning that it is not a good thing to ignore everything.  Remember that red engine light…not the orange one…the red one…uh, don’t ignore that.  How about the speed warning you set one day in your gadget rich new car…the one that says, “Slow down?”  Probably shouldn’t ignore that either.  Reminder of your anniversary on your calendar? Nope.  The alarm clock in the morning? Not that either.  You see there are things you can and perhaps should ignore and there are some you just should pay attention too.

When I was growing up, I learned not to ignore my Daddy’s voice.  He would call, “Dewayne, come here.”  My response was a prompted, “Yes, sir.”  He would wait just a few seconds and ask, “Are you coming?”  I would respond again with, “Yes, sir.”  And he always, always responded with, “Make me know it.”  He was making sure I was hearing and responding to his request and not hearing and ignoring it.  It has stuck with me all of my life.  Make.Me.Know.It.

My other Father, my Dearest Father in heaven, wants me to respond to Him too.  He doesn’t shout, in fact, sometimes He whispers, but I have found that if I will intentionally listen, I can hear Him.  Moses, the guy who parted the Red Sea, wrote in Deuteronomy, “Serve only the Lord your God and fear Him alone. Obey His commands, listen to His voice, and cling to Him.” Sounds like a good plan to me.

If I am wise, I will respond with a “Yes, Lord” and never give Him cause to say, “Make me know it.” I say that not because of fear, but because of respect.  You see I obeyed my earthly father, most of the time, because I loved and respected him.  And, that is also true for my Dearest Daddy.  He is worthy of our deepest love and respect. Let’s make sure our hearts and ears hear the sweet whispers of heaven. Let’s not miss it when He whispers, “I’ve got this.”  Bro. Dewayne

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

Help, I’ve Fallen

Though he fall, he shall not be utterly cast down; for the Lord upholds him with His hand.” Psalm 37:23

It is a call I get all too often. I have the privilege of serving as a pastor.  That privilege includes being there when people are walking through a crisis. One thing about the pastorate is when I wake up each morning, whether I go to the office or not, I never know what the day will hold.  It is not at all uncommon for someone to call me.  Sometimes it is good news…the baby came…I got the job…we bought a house.  Sometimes, and frankly too often, it is difficult news.  It could be a child going down a difficult path, a job lost, a marriage violated or difficult news of an accident or health crisis.

Some of the most common health crises is when a senior adult takes a fall.  Life is ordinary and then suddenly, a loss of balance or a toe caught on a rug, results in a hard fall and we all know older bones can be very unforgiving.  I can’t tell you how many calls I have received about broken bones and broken bodies.  One of the most difficult situations is when the person fell and can’t get to a phone to call for help.  We have had several situations when someone would fall and have to lay in the floor for hours….long hours.

In one instance, a friend fell in her driveway, and no one found her till the next morning.  She was an amazingly resilient lady and after surgery recovered well, but that is not always the case.  One of the newer devices I really appreciate is a “call button” that a person wears and if they have an emergency, they can press a button and help is soon on the way.  I see the commercials on tv, and they show a woman in the kitchen in pain.  She presses the button and says, “Help! I’ve fallen and I can’t get up.”  Another scene shows a man down in the park and he presses the button and says, “Help! I’ve fallen in the park, and I can’t get up.”  The last one is someone down in the shower and they too can’t get up and are calling for help.

It is times like these that those simple rescue devices are so valuable.  There is no telling how many lives have been saved.  Of course, for them to work you must have one and you must wear one. And if you do…help is on the way.  It can’t reverse the circumstances, but it can change the outcome.  “Help! I’ve fallen and I can’t get up.”  It is true when we fall physically but the truth is we can fall in other ways…emotionally and spiritually just to name a couple…and we find we can’t get up.  And I want you to know that there is something better than a button to press…there is a God to call on.

I’ve long said that God often gets a bad rap.  Too often preachers and teachers present Him as a lightening tossing, fire breathing God who can’t wait to send down a little fire and brimstone on creation.  Well, God is holy, and God is just, but first and foremost He is a God of rescue and redemption.  He is a God of love.  The New Testament writer even tells us that He wants no one to perish but everyone to be rescued.  Now, that’s love.  Maybe you think you are beyond rescue…you’ve fallen too far.  No so.  His grace is deep, and it is wide.

One of my favorite Bible verses is Psalm 37:24. It says that even if I fall, I will not be utterly cast down. In other words…no matter how hard or how far I fall, I don’t have to stay down.  The reason?  It simply says that God will pick me up with His strong hand.  Either He will pick me up or grab me on the way down but either way it is not a knockout punch…His grace is sufficient.  If you are feeling down for the count, maybe it’s time to cry out, “Help! I’ve fallen and I can’t get up.”  You will find His strong hand right there to help you up.  He is just waiting for you to ask.  I like that.  Can He pull it off?  Without a doubt…He’s got this.  Bro. Dewayne

Posted in fear, forgiveness, Grace, gratitude, life, loving others, prayer, Scripture, thankful, Trials, wisdom

God’s Perspective

We love because He first loved us.” 1 John 4:19 (CSB)

They were all heading straight for disaster, and they didn’t have a clue.  So, I was walking on our local bike path the other day.  It was early morning but not so early that the sun wasn’t already hot.  It was going to be warm one—especially for this time of year.  As I was walking, I looked down and saw several, no many, earthworms on the bike trail. They were trying to make it across.

I know, you’re thinking, “Why did the earthworm cross the bike path?”  The answer is “I don’t know but it sure wasn’t going well.”  Some had already bit the bullet and others were in the struggle of their wormy lives.  Most were squirming…doing everything they could to make it to the other side.  The only thing is I could see what they could not.  They were a long way from home.

I can just imagine one of the worms with the gift of leadership shouting to his friends, “Keep going guys.  You can make it.  Just a little further.”  The trouble is he just didn’t have the whole picture…the view from above.  From his perspective the end was right over there.  From his perspective just a few more inches and they would be home free. Perspectives from ground level are often like that.  That is why we need someone with a better view.

One of the things I love about believing in God is knowing that He has a higher, better view. He can see things that you just can’t see at ground level.  And when He speaks…He speaks true encouragement because He knows what is around the bend or a few days down the road.  God is really good at helping His kids do life.  If only we would learn to listen.  If only…

See, I talked to some of the earthworms as I walked.  I would say things like, “It’s not looking good, partner.”  Or maybe, “Dude, you’re not gonna make it squirming like that.” Then, “Hey, why are you crossing the bike path anyway?”  I just had to ask. Well, no one listened and on they squirmed.  It was going to be hard day for most of them.

And, then, and this is the truth, I would sometimes stop and actually pitch one or two of them into the cool, wet grass.  It was a random thing I would do.  I would stop, pick one out, and chuck them to the side.  While not one of them said “thanks” it was enough for me to save him or her from the dreaded concrete desert. It just felt good to save a life—even if it was just an earthworm.  I just hope it wasn’t his cousin I put on a hook last week.

When I thought about this whole perspective and rescue thing I just naturally thought about God.  Along with His great perspective, He cares enough to rescue us.  He wants to rescue every person from an eternity without Him.  I mean He loves us so much…and He loved us before we even thought about loving Him.  The Bible says that we love Him because He first loved us.  He saw all our warts, all our imperfections, all our bad choices and chose to love us anyway.  He loved us before we even promised to try and do things right.  A promise, by the way, that we could never keep anyway.

Sometimes, I would pick an earthworm to save for no apparent reason.  I just picked one.  God said, “That will never do.” And do you know what, He loved the whole world…everybody…everyone.  Now we still have to choose to repent, choose to follow, choose to believe.  But when we do…well, the welcome sign is out.  Welcome home, son.  Welcome home, daughter. And this is the best part.  Should we wander back onto the concrete desert, He doesn’t say, “Good grief or good luck.”  No, He just reaches out, takes us by the hand and pulls us back into the cool, green grass called His presence.  You gotta love that.

Well, I don’t know if you will ever feel compelled to rescue an earthworm or not.  But the next time you see one on the sidewalk on a hot day, just remember the time He rescued you.  Remember the time He didn’t leave you out in the hot to become a crispy critter.  No, He reached down and picked you up.  Isn’t it great to have a God that cares? That you can rest in?  A Father that’s got this? Yup…I know it’s so. Bro. Dewayne