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

Dance With the One Who Brought You

But one of them, seeing that he was healed, returned and, with a loud voice, gave glory to God. He fell facedown at His feet, thanking Him. And he was a Samaritan.” Luke 17:15-16

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. If you went to Walmart during COVID 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 down 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 was your BFF (that’s best friend forever) during the messes of life wants to be your BFF every day. The One who takes 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.

The question is, what are you going to do when “this” (whatever that happens to be for you) is all over? Are you gonna run as fast as you can to a life crammed with stuff or are you going remember the One who stood by your side and spoke to your heart? Someone once said if Satan can’t get you to sin…he will keep you too busy. He knows that is just about as good.  You, I need to remember to “dance with the One who brought you.” Over the din of busyness, remember to not forget the One who whispered, “Rest in Me” and “I’ve got this.” Bro. Dewayne

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

The Snake and the Girls

Call upon Me in the day of trouble; I shall rescue you, and you will honor Me.” Psalm 50:15

The story you are about to read is true and it may scar you forever.  When our girls were young, about six and five, we lived in Cobden, Illinois.  We owned a large 100-year-old Victorian home which was located on the edge of town.  We had woods nearby and of course lots of flower beds.  The church where I pastored was wanting to hire a guy to lead worship and work with the youth.

His name was David, and his wife was Sue.  They came and stayed for the weekend, and we had them over for supper on Saturday night.  After we had eaten, we were sitting around and chatting.  It was getting close to bedtime, so we told the girls it was time for them to go upstairs and get ready for bed.  So, because they were perfect little girls (not), off they went while we continued to visit and chat.  It was just about then chaos broke out.

We heard what sounded like a herd of water buffalo coming down the stairs combined with the sound of a tornado siren going off.  I looked at Judy, she looked at me as we waited to see what the girls had cooked up.  All parents know that when kids are told to get ready for bed there is always a great conspiracy to not do it.  It has gone on for ages.  Sure enough, here they come, screaming at the top of their lungs, “Daddy, there’s a SNAKE in the bathroom!  There’s a SNAKE in the bathroom!”  Really, I mean give me a break. Is that the best that you have?

I try to believe my children, but this was just a little far-fetched. I started the usual parent stuff, “There’s no snake in the bathroom. You better get right upstairs and get ready for bed.”  There were probably a couple of mild threats that included something about the wrath of God but all to no avail.  They were sticking to their story.  So, off we went to find the nonexistent snake.  Whoever heard of such a thing?  Snake in the bathroom.  Right. Sure.

So, we all tramp upstairs, with David and Sue in tow, to see this mysterious serpent.  I went first not because I was bravest but because Judy made me.  I looked around and thankfully there was no snake.  Then the girls gave us one more small detail.  “It’s in the toilet, Daddy” they said.  Right. Sure.  I tentatively walked over and took a look.  No snake. Yay and then one of the girls said, “Look under the seat, Daddy.”  Well, by now I was sure this was a grand plan to avoid bedtime.  And then I lifted the seat.

There, neatly conformed to the shape of the bowl was indeed a snake.  Yes, he was only about 15 inches long but to me it looked like a giant anaconda and about that time they weren’t the only ones screaming.  I dropped the seat, and we all left the bathroom to formulate a plan of attack.  It involved a clothes hanger and a brave soul.  I was elected.  We got a clothes hanger and straightened it out.  The plan was to lift the lid, push the snake into the water and flush. The snake would be sucked down the drain. Crisis solved.  So, I tip-toed over to the toilet, lifted the lid and poked the snake.  It fell into the water, and I flushed.

I learned three things about snakes at that moment.  First, they are very buoyant.  Secondly, they swim really well. In an act of desperation, I even tried to hold the snake under the water with the clothes hanger.  Lesson number three.  They can hold their breath for a reall, long time.  There was only one thing left to do.  Call Bob, our friend and neighbor.  Bob was a biology teacher, so he knew about snakes. Bob liked snakes.  Bob wasn’t afraid of snakes.  And Bob lived right down the street. So we made the call and in a few minutes Bob came to the rescue.  He assured us that it was harmless, and he reached down and picked up the snake.  Bob was a little weird like that.

The girls went to bed and David and Sue went on to take the job at the church. At least they knew we obviously didn’t practice snake handling. For years…Rebecca rarely visited the bathroom without first checking under the seat. Judy and I learned to be a bit less suspicious of our girls’ bedtime antics. And Bob…well although he lives an hour away, I keep his number of speed-dial.  It always pays off to have a friend like Bob.

I keep God on speed dial too.  In all the craziness that night there was a lot of praying going on.  And like Bob, actually even better than Bob, God is always there. He doesn’t care if it something crazy like a snake in the toilet or a pandemic in the world…He can handle it. God tells us in the Bible that when we get in trouble, when we don’t know what to do, or when we simply don’t know the answer, give Him a holler and He will come to the rescue. You know, I’m glad for friends like Bob. I’m especially glad for a Friend like Jesus. He’s never surprised when I call…never too busy…never annoyed.  He just whispers, “No problem, Dewayne. Take it easy. You can rest in me. I’ve got this.”    Bro. Dewayne

Posted in Family, fear, forgiveness, Grace, life, Scripture, Southern born, Trials

Dumb…..Real Dumb

Don’t be deceived: God is not mocked. For whatever a person sows he will also reap.” Galatians 6:7

I’m sure the doctor just rolled his eyes.  When I was eleven or twelve, you know about sixth grade, my Daddy and Momma got me one of the coolest Christmas presents ever.  Most of you have seen the movie “A Christmas Story” about a kid who wanted a Red Ryder BB gun for Christmas. Well, this story isn’t like that, but it’s about something even better than a Red Ryder BB gun.  That year, wait for it, they got me a Daisy double-barrel BB gun.  It was designed after a real double-barrel shot gun.  It had two barrels (you probably figured that out), two triggers, and even broke in the middle to cock it. It was amazing.

I can remember going outside to shoot that gun…there was not another one like it in the whole neighborhood.  I wish I could tell you how well I took care of it…especially since, if you can find one now, they would sell for well over a thousand dollars.  But, honestly, it was well used, and under cared for, and one day one of the barrels stopped working.  Well, I always enjoyed fixing things so I just started taking things apart to work on it.  I figured out that the left barrel wasn’t working.  So, I took the “BB thingy” inside the barrel out, cleaned it real good, oiled it, and then stuck it back in.

After I put everything back together, I cocked the gun and pulled the trigger, but as far as I could tell it still wasn’t working.  I decided that I would put my finger over the bad barrel to see if I could feel any air coming out.  Now, I know that sounds like a really, bad idea, and it was.  I know it was not smart or safe.  I know it was just pure old dumb.  But, regardless, I did it.  I sure wish I hadn’t.

Well, things wouldn’t have been so bad because as it turns out the barrel wasn’t working.  The problem was that I had my finger over the wrong barrel and pulled the wrong trigger and as I squeezed that trigger, the gun fired, and a BB went right into my finger…clear to the bone.  Oh, and yes, that was a dumb idea, and yes, it did hurt…boy, did it hurt.

I put the gun down and ran into the house holding my throbbing and bleeding third finger on my right hand.  Momma didn’t have time to give me a lecture or even holler at me.  We headed right to the emergency room.  After checking in we saw the doctor who when he heard the story gave me that, “what a really a dumb idea” look. After numbing things up, he proceeded to dig around with a medical tweezer until he found the BB, got ahold of it and pulled it out.  Shot or no shot—it hurt.  I got a nice bandage and the opportunity to make a story up on what happened.  I wasn’t about to tell the truth…that was way too embarrassing.

If you look on my right hand and at my ring finger you can still see to this day a nice little dimple where the BB went into my finger.  It is there to remind me not to stick my finger over the barrel of a BB gun…or any gun for that matter.  It is there to remind me that there are consequences when we choose dumb over smart, or wrong over right.  It reminds me of that part of the Bible that says the rules of God are always right…whatever you plant, you harvest.  Do dumb and you get dumb consequences…every time.

I hope this Grits will help me and you both to think before we act…you know, to think things through.  Fortunately, God is more than ready to help us make the right decisions if we are willing to ask.  Uh, I didn’t ask that day and when we just don’t get around to doing that…well, He is still there to help us deal with the consequences too.  I’m glad He’s not like the doctor, rolling His eyes at my mistakes.  No, He is too loving to do that.  In fact, if you listen, you will hear Him say, “Don’t worry, dumb or not, I’ve got this.”  Bro. Dewayne

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

Tragedy, Triumph and Toughness

Where, death, is your victory? Where, death, is your sting?” 1 Corinthians 15:55

They may have feathers, but they are definitely a “band of brothers.”  The other day when I was walking in the park, I once again realized what a “band of brothers” the geese and ducks are in the park.  As I made my laps around the park pond, I couldn’t help but notice what was happening.  No, they were not a few like the Marines, and I have no clue if they were proud of anything besides the huge mess they make on the walking path, but they were quite the band.  Their slogan might be, “The Tragic, the Triumph, and the Tough.” Hmmm…that sounded better when I thought it up but hey, let’s see how it goes.

Monday of this week, I noticed in the geese and duck community there were signs of tragedy brought on by a duck couple’s poor choices.  Monday, they had decided to lay some eggs and they chose the worse place ever—just three feet off the walking path.  It was simply a hole in the ground with no protection, no anything.  It was an invitation to disaster.  Tuesday she was on the nest, and he was doing his daddy duck thing—waddling, strutting, and quacking.  By Wednesday, it was game over.  Lap one, they were gone, and one lone egg lay on the grass outside the nest.  Lap two, they were back, and the egg was gone.  Lap three they were walking around sadly quacking.  I don’t speak fluent duck, but it seemed they were asking, “What happened?” I told them…out loud… “Bad choice guys, bad choice.”  It was a tragedy.

But with the occasional tragedy comes moments of triumph.  About ten or eleven days ago, I found a bunch of feathers by the walking path…bummer…and it looked like another sad tale…and it was.  But then something happened.  A little further down the path, there were two small ducklings that had somehow survived the onslaught.  They were survivors…they were beating the odds.  Here’s the amazing part. They are still surviving.  When I walked a couple of days ago, they were still there…sticking together…a small “band of brothers.”  They were hanging around a couple of big ducks, but it was clear that they were on their own.  Way to go little ducks…keep on keeping on!  It was a moment of triumph.

And then there were the tough guys. They had survived being goslings and now they were big, they were bad, and they were tough.  The geese love to stand around on the walking path and, uh, well, you know.  It’s really quite messy.  That day, I was speeding along, and I soon realized the geese and I were on a collision path…either them or me were going to have to hit the grass and it wasn’t going to be me. So, I “parted the waters” and they all puffed their chest out and started hissing at me.  They hissed, I kept walking and they finally moved. We had played chicken (no pun intended) and I had won, but I had to admire their toughness. Like I said, “gutsy.”

Tragedy…Triumph…and Toughness. It seems life is life no matter what. We all know about tragedy…live long enough and it is going to mess with your life.  The difference is ducks and geese rarely see it coming and we often do. The difference is they have to face it alone, but we have a Someone who will walk with us through the hard times. That someone is Creator God.  He is always there and always willing to help. He can turn tragedy into triumph.  While there are plenty of epic failures in our paths, we can also know the joy of winning…of triumph. I remember when ABC Sports tag line was “the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat” and that is the way of life.  Sometimes we win and sometimes…well, we don’t.

I know it is natural for us, like our goose friends, to puff our chest out, and hiss and strut around trying to prove how tough we are. But truthfully, often we are not tough enough and that is when we need to lean on the One who is.  Our Dearest Daddy loves us so much that He sent His Son to take on our greatest enemy…death…and soundly thrash it.  No wonder Paul, one of the guys God used to pen a lot of the New Testament, said, “Who got the last word, oh, Death? Oh, Death, who’s afraid of you now?”  You gotta love Jesus’ toughness when it came to taking on sin and the grave.

Well, if you live in Harrisburg, Illinois or if your town has a park with a goose and duck “band of brothers” stop by and see what you can see…what you can learn.  And if you’ve never met the God who took on death and won…why not check Him out today.  You will discover a God who is strong enough to say, with confidence, “I’ve got this.”  Bro. Dewayne

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

Sunrise and Sunset

It will soon be time for me to leave this life. I have fought a good fight. I have finished the work I was to do. I have kept the faith.” 2 Timothy 4:6-7

It was a warm North Florida Sunday morning that would change everything.  I was raised in Jacksonville, Florida and was fortunate to live in one place and one house all of my growing up years.  Our house was a converted World War II army barracks with a couple of rooms added on.  I’m not sure who moved it there, or who added what, but it was home…my home. I lived there till I graduated from high school and joined the Air Force. My Daddy had some heart issues while I was still in high school and unfortunately, they went from bad to worse.  This was before all the miraculous medicines and surgeries that we have now. So, times were hard for him…and us.

In the summer of 1974, somehow it came about that we, the family, would get together and paint the house.  It was a wooden structure, and time and weather had taken a toll on the outside.  The old wood siding looked pretty rough, and as I remember it, Daddy said he wanted to have the house painted before he died.  Now that is my memory, and it may not be entirely accurate but something like that is how we ended up painting the house in mid-July.  Several, if not all, the brothers were on hand as we scraped and painted the house.  I don’t know if my sisters were painters or not, but I wouldn’t be surprised if they were.

As darkness crept up on us on Saturday, July 13th, the house was just about painted.  We worked until nearly dark and finally, it was done.  It looked amazingly better and Daddy and the rest of us were proud of our hard work.  Daddy did little, if any, of the painting because of his health.  But there was something he did do.  Several of the wooden windows needed the panes reglazed, so he was working on those.  We had a wash-room built onto the house and he was working on that window when darkness fell Saturday evening.

The next morning, Sunday, July 14th, Momma when in to check on Daddy in the bedroom they shared. That was when she found that sometime early in the morning, he slipped from us. I clearly remember the chaos of those moments as we called the ambulance and tried to perform CPR, but it was too late.  Daddy was gone. All of a sudden, those last days of working and painting together became so important, so special.  We had pulled together and given Daddy one of his desires.  It is almost like he was waiting for the job to be done so he could go home.

Later that day, as we were trying to figure everything out, someone found that window he had been working on the night before.  It was laying on two sawhorses with a rag and his tools still in place.  As it turned out, it was the last work he did on this earth.  Someone snapped a picture but as far as I know it has been lost to time, but in my mind I can see it as clearly as if I was standing there.  Daddy’s work on this earth was over and yet he lives on.  He lives on in heaven and he lives on in our hearts.  The freshly painted old World War II barracks was a reminder of our love and respect for the man we called Daddy.

All of that was 47 years ago today.  It is hard to imagine that so much time has passed since he passed from this world into a better world…a world where bad hearts have no place and where time doesn’t matter.  One day, because of God’s good grace, I will see my Daddy again.  My Momma joined him in heaven just four short years later…both were just 62 years old.  But when I get there, when we get there, all that won’t matter because God is going to make it all right…all new.

I supposed the whole purpose of this Grits is just to allow me to relive a good memory of a good man.  I suppose it is just to help me make sure that his memory lives on here, as he lives on there.  And I suppose the big truth for this Grits is that we should live each day to the fullest and do whatever it is we should do.  It might be painting a house, or glazing a window, or it just might be showing someone that you love them.  We don’t know what day will be our last day, so we should live each one to the fullest. Then, we can say something like Paul said when he wrote, “It will soon be time for me to leave this life. I have fought a good fight. I have finished the work I was to do. I have kept the faith.” And my friend, that is a legacy worth leaving.

Losing my daddy at twenty years old was hard, very hard. Then mama was gone, just four short years later, which left me feeling they were both gone too soon.  For some of you, that hardness is yet to come.  But from the voice of experience, let me say, you don’t have to walk it alone.  When you are drowning in the sea of sorrow and confusion, He will not leave you to bear it alone. He wants to walk with you, carry you, and whisper as only He can, “I’ve got this.” And He does. Bro. Dewayne

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

Big Foot, Lions, Tigers and Bears

 “You will have suffering in this world. Be courageous! I have conquered the world.” John 16:33b

If you remember from yesterday, Judy and I had climbed to the top of a bluff in Southern Illinois.  It was smack dab in the middle of the COVID hot mess and we needed a break, so we took a hike.  As we stood there, it was just beautiful. Tens of thousands of acres were bursting into spring and God was shouting, “Hey just like winter’s dreary brownness must give way to the new life of spring–this will pass.”  It was a good moment.  Before long, with night just over an hour away, it was time to go down from the bluff and head home.  Folks say there is no place like home–that is if you can find it.

Well, the magical phone app Judy was using is called, “All Trails.”  It really is quite cool. You start the app at the selected trailhead and using GPS it guides you through the woods.  The trail is shown right there on the screen–even ones that aren’t even there. And that, dear friends, is where the fun began.

So, according to our trusty app, Stoneface trail made a loop back to the car.  Now a loop is better because you don’t have to see the same scenery twice.  It’s all new.  We decided to take the loop.  At first the trail was pretty evident.  We came to a low split rail fence across the trail.  We thought it meant no horses on Stoneface.  What it really meant was if you go past this point you are going to die.  We went past that point.

We walked and hiked for a while and strangely that grumpy feeling started coming back again.  It may have had to do with the fact that I started to realize that the app was lying to us.  “Trail? What trail? I don’t know anything about a trail.” So, we reached the point where we had to go down the bluff.  Remember, there is no trail, there is no sign of a trail…only a friendly app that kept saying, “you’re on the trail.”

Now there are not words to describe this journey but I’m going to try.  We were walking, sliding, down a 90% embankment (ok maybe it was like 20%) and rocks covered with leaves are rolling like ball-bearings under our feet. We cross rivers (ok- creeks), change time zones, and go through small Grand Canyons.  I’m growing concerned.  “Hey Judy, we have less than an hour of daylight.” “No problem” she said.  “The app says we are on the trail,” she said.  I won’t tell you what I said.

On we went with our app spewing out lies about trails.  Then it happened.  I saw some movement out of the corner of my eye and there just forty yards away was Bigfoot–or the Abominable Snowman–I couldn’t tell for sure.  We were in deep weeds.  Then, I heard a duet being played by a banjo and guitar.  Yup–we were going to die.  On we marched–lions, tigers and bears frolicked all around us.  “Hey Judy,” I said.  “The app says…,” she said.

So, the app lied.  Period.  But there is one thing it didn’t lie about.  After about an hour or so, she said, “I see the car.”  I said, literally, “Thank you Lord.” Another ten minutes or so and I was hugging that glorious thing–no, not Judy, the car.  So, what is the moral of this strange and twisted trail–I mean, tale.  Trust.

While the app didn’t tell the truth about the trail, it did tell the truth about the one thing that mattered–the destination.  It led us to the car.  And, you know, I think the app kinda reminded me of God. First and emphatically, unlike the app, God never lies…we just stop believing and trusting Him.  We think He promises paved roads and smooth journeys and then we get mad when He doesn’t deliver.  Read this carefully–God never promised that.  In fact, Jesus said in John 16:33b “You will have suffering in this world. Be courageous! I have conquered the world.”

He told us the path would be rough.  He told us the trail would be difficult.  He didn’t promise storm free living, rather He promised He would never leave us–never abandon us, and He doesn’t.  Most importantly, He said we are going home, and we are.  If we confess our sins, trust in what Jesus did on the cross, turn from our sins and choose to follow Him–we are going home.  That is the gospel truth–literally.

So, there you go.  If you go to Stoneface…don’t take the loop.  If are feeling overwhelmed–trust Jesus.  If you are feeling like God didn’t keep His end of the deal…remember the truth…it’s not smooth sailing but He is leading us home.  No matter how big the waves of the storm, He is bigger.  So, rest in Him.  He’s got this.

Posted in Family, fear, forgiveness, Grace, life, Southern born, thankful, Trials, wisdom

One Big Earthworm

Can a man carry fire next to his chest and his clothes not be burned? Or can one walk on hot coals and his feet not be scorched?” Proverbs 6:27-28

That’s gotta be one big earthworm.  It was a great spring morning.  Judy and I were living in Cobden, Illinois and over the years we had put together a really, beautiful yard.  Judy can visualize how something is going to look and then has the knack to make it grow.  I do the grunt work.  I’m the yard man and she is the architect. That day we were putting some mulch around the flower beds.

Our yard had a retaining wall at one of the front corners and the yard sloped in that corner.  I would mulch leaves (we had four large maple trees) and put them there in the fall.  Then next spring we would use it as free (and I love free) mulch.  I would take my trusty pitchfork and our oversized trash can down to the corner, fill up the can and take it to wherever she wanted it dumped.  Then we would spread it out.  Great plan. Beautiful day.  All is well.  And then he showed up.

I went to the corner, loaded up the can, brought it to the middle of the yard to one of our flower beds and where she said dump it.  I dumped it.  I was about to use the pitchfork to start spreading the mulch when I noticed the tip of an earthworm barely sticking out of the mulch.  In order to appreciate this you need to know that earthworms, in Judy’s eyes, are held in very high regard.  It’s something about they aerate and loosen up the soil making it better for the flowers.  I thought they were just fish bait. Silly me.

“Hey, there’s an earthworm” Judy exclaimed with the excitement of a kid on Christmas morning.  “Grab him and put him in the garden.”  So, hey, I’m just the grunt man so I reached down and pulled on the little fella.  The little fella didn’t move.  I looked at Judy with a quizzical look. My thought was that if he wanted to stay that bad, he could just go with the next pitchfork load.  No…that wasn’t gonna happen.  So, I gave it another shot, and this dude wasn’t moving.  “Poud (that’s Judy’s nick name) this guy isn’t coming.”

I took matters to the next level and took the pitchfork and shoved it into the mound around the earthworm and gave it a lift and a flip.  Well, shoot that thing, there was a stinking snake.  It wasn’t some innocent “let me aerate your soil” earthworm it was a 14 foot boa constrictor.  Ok, that might be a slight exaggeration.  But it was a snake, it was about two feet long and it was moving and so was I.  Now both Judy and I were a lot younger then, but even for our age we were out of there!  And I do believe the grunt man outran the pretty little architect.

You ask, “What kind was it?”  Don’t know. Don’t care.  There are only two kinds of snakes—living and dead and this one was definitely alive.  Honestly, I have blocked out what happened next.  I can’t tell you if we went back and he was gone.  I can’t tell you if I got a shovel and in pure self-defense ended the life of the slithering creature or what.  I can only tell you that he was no longer a threat and I never, and I mean never, looked at the pile of mulch in the same way.

If I learned anything that day…and trust me I did…it was to be careful what you decide to pull on because things are not always as they seem.  Ask Eve.  The Genesis account of creation and the fall of man says that the serpent (that’s Bible code for snake) was “more crafty” than any other beast of the field that the Lord God had made. The Hebrew language implies that the snake was beautiful, appealing. Intrigued she decided to strike up a conversation with him.  “Bad idea, Eve.” Just run. But no, she didn’t, and now we have this messed up world and it was all because Eve grabbed a hold of something she should have left alone.

There’s an old tale about a man who was walking up a mountain and it was getting cold.  The man saw a rattlesnake and the snake said, “Please put me in your coat and take me down the mountain.”  The man said, “No way, you will bite me.”  The snake assured him he would not.  He picks the snake up, puts it in his coat and goes down the mountain.  As the temperature rises the snake gets a little more frisky, and bites the man.  The man, shocked, says, “You said you wouldn’t bite me.”  And the snake replied, “You knew what I was when you picked me up.”  So true. So tragically true.

The Bible also says this, “Can a man carry fire next to his chest and his clothes not be burned? Or can one walk on hot coals and his feet not be scorched?”  “What does that mean?” you ask.  It means the next time a snake wants to strike up a conversation, run.  It means the next time you are tempted to sin, run. It means the next time your wife wants you to grab the tail of an oversized earthworm, run. No…it doesn’t mean that, but it does mean be sure you know what you are grabbing before you take hold.

Fortunately, our Abba Father knows all about snakes and sin and grabbing hold when we shouldn’t.  He also loves us enough to give us wisdom to know the difference.  James, the half-brother of Jesus, wrote, “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God.” With wise counsel like that we don’t have to fear oversized earthworms or the other stuff we are living through right now.  No, we can rest in Him.  He’s got this. Bro. Dewayne

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

Thanks, Tim

Then Jesus said to him, “What you do, do quickly.” John 13:27b

And just like that, he was gone.  Most of you know I started writing Grits last year at the very beginning of the COVID hot mess.  I woke up one morning and just decided to share a story and just like that Grits was born.  Since then, it has been my privilege to share stories from my life and adventures with others—especially my wife Judy.  Over this past year so many of you have become members of the Grits family—faithfully reading and often sharing your thoughts and words of encouragement. It has been a great ride and I’m looking forward to sharing more as God gives me writer’s grace.

One of the most faithful members of the Grits family was a friend I knew through ministries at church. He helped in several different ways, and I learned to appreciate his heart.  He was a regular reader and every day he would comment on that day’s story and more than once his words encouraged me to keep tapping the keys on my computer.  He loved people, he loved God and he loved God’s creation.  If you saw Tim, you would see his love of nature…you might say he wore it.  He looked like a mountain man and had a mountain size heart to match. He was a bit different but that is what made him special.

Last Monday I wrote about Freedom Day…the date our state was finally declared open and largely free from the restrictions that had been in place during COVID.  Let me share part of what he shared that day. He wrote, “Another awesome message!! The key words to always remember are “He’s got this”! I do not intend to hold onto the fear of last year, I intend let it go! I am running forward!” He went on to share how during COVID he had learned an even deeper appreciation for the beautiful creation around him.  You might say he learned to look for the good and not the bad.

That was Monday.  Tuesday morning, Tim woke up with a terrible headache and his wife took him to the hospital.  The bottom line is Tim had a massive stroke and a couple of days later he went to be with the God he loved.  Just like that…he was gone.  Tim was only seventy years old…a good, wooly, mountain man, nature loving, people loving seventy.  And, I guess in his own way, he did exactly what he said he would do.  He let go of any fear and ran forward…right into the arms of Jesus.

I will certainly miss Tim and his contribution to the Grits family.  I am grateful for all he did to keep me pressing keys.  I’m also thankful for a lesson he brought home to me. It was something I knew but need to be reminded of again and again.  That lesson is this fact—we don’t know about tomorrow.  For some reason, I have been tossing around the thought that I will do this or that when I turn seventy but truthfully—seventy may never come.  Tim’s home-going is a vivid reminder that we should not wait—we should go—we should do.

It is a scripture totally out of context, but it is a good reminder.  When Judas was going to betray Jesus, the young Rabbi, Messiah said, “Whatever you are going to do…do quickly.” Like I said it is out of context, but it does remind us to do whatever we are going to do now.  Go ahead, take the next great adventure, tell someone that you love them, take a moment to be kind, encourage someone who is a bit down, dare to dream. It was just a couple days ago that I wrote how we don’t know what tomorrow holds but we do know who holds tomorrow. So let’s live life fully, completely, now—not later.  So, thanks Tim for all your good words and thank you for reminding all of us that not matter what, “He’s got this.” Bro. Dewayne

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

Anger Management 101

Be angry and do not sin. Don’t let the sun go down on your anger, and don’t give the devil an opportunity.” Ephesians 4:26

I think I have figured it out.  From the time I could remember my mom always told me, “Dewayne, I think you are going to be six feet tall when you grow up.”  I believe she based that on the fact that I kinda looked like my brother Joe and he was somewhere near that.  Anyway, I grew up with the expectation that I would, well, grow up.  Somewhere, something got lost in the translation.

The bottom line is for all of my life I have been slightly height challenged.  Now, it wasn’t as bad as it could have been, but it was apparent early on that mom had misjudged the gene pool.  Unless a miracle was on the horizon the height expectations needed to be lowered…a lot.  By the time I was in the eighth grade I was still about 5”6”.  I had managed to lose some of my roundness but I just came up short (pun intended) on the height deal. Too bad I wasn’t born a couple of thousand years ago. Back then, I would almost be tall.

When I was in the ninth grade, I was at the top of the pecking order grade wise. In Florida high school didn’t start till tenth grade so we ninth graders were the kings of the junior high campus…even if you were a tad short.  One day in class the teacher stepped out of the room.  A guy I knew, and he might have even been a friend, grabbed my pencil and said he was going to break it.  “Don’t do it, man” I said in my deepest, tallest voice.  He kept threatening to break it and I kept threatening to break him.  He broke it and I exploded.

Now before we go on you need to know I was a pretty compliant kid.  I am a conflict avoidance adult, and I was a conflict avoidance kid.  Something just snapped.  I flipped the table over on him, put him in a head hold and proceeded to teach him not to break my pencil.  Can someone said, “Stupid?”  Well, the teacher walks in, someone breaks up the fight and we get a free trip to the principal’s office.  Judgement was swift and right to the seat of the problem.  Two swats a day for five days administered by the athletic director.  He was not five-six.

So, for the next five days I was to report first thing in the morning to his office, bend over and grab my ankles and two hard swats.  Pow—pow.  Swift, powerful, and man did they hurt.  And they worked. I always left with a strong desire to join the Peace Corps. I never got into another fight.  Break my pencil?  Sure, go right ahead. I have a spare. I always wondered what sparked that outburst.  I think I know.  It was short man syndrome or SMS.

I found out that SMS is “an angry male of below average height who feels it necessary to act out in an attempt to gain respect and recognition from others and compensate for his short stature.” I’m pretty sure that is what happened that day.  I was wanting some respect and was willing to act stupid to get it. Did I mention two swats a day for five days?  So, that week, about day three and swat number six I got over my syndrome and a chunk of my anger.  I was just fine at 5’6”.  Fortunately, the Lord gave me a couple of more inches and I ended up at a respectable 5’8”.  However, I think I am back down to five-seven now.  You know, the Lord gives, and the Lord takes away.  Smile.

I really did learn a valuable lesson that day.  You should never, and I mean never, let your anger get the best of you.  Anger is not a sin when it is controlled and directed in the right direction.  Jesus got angry at the people who were abusing His Father’s house. The problem isn’t anger—the problem is control—or lack of it. Paul wrote about this when he said, “Be angry and do not sin. Don’t let the sun go down on your anger, and don’t give the devil an opportunity.” Keep your temper tame and don’t let it simmer over night.  It’s great for a pork butt but terrible for anger.  And every time we don’t, we give Satan the opportunity to win. And, when he wins…we lose.  Every time.

So, I’ve learned to be happy where I am. I think 5’8” or 5’7” is just about right. I’m still taller than Judy and she thinks I’m tall, or at least tallish, dark, and handsome.  Also, I’m learning not to lose it because I always lose when I do. And, I am learning to trust in Him.  If someone breaks my pencil, I’m learning to let God handle it.  It’s much better than visiting the coach every morning for five days.  There’s something else. I found out that when I’m not facing the coach in the morning, I rest better…especially in Him.  I fall to sleep knowing, “He’s got this.”  And He does.     Bro. Dewayne

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

Perseverance

Trust in the Lord with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding. Seek His will in all you do, and He will show you which path to take.” Proverbs 3:5-6

Perseverance…don’t quit.  In my inventory of weaknesses is something that I wish wasn’t.  I would like to tell you that I have the perseverance of a thoroughbred race horse bolting from the gate with only one goal—to finish and to finish first.  And while I am not a quitter, I do sometimes, “peter out.”  Merriam Webster defines that as “to gradually become smaller, weaker, or less before stopping or ending”.

During 2020 there were too many times when I just wasn’t sure I was going to finish well—or finish at all.  But that wasn’t always a bad thing because it caused me to look inwardly and upward—to my Dearest Daddy.

During those times when I wasn’t sure of much of anything, it was then that I found myself turning to the One who was sure.  When my steps were unsure, I found myself tracking with the One whose steps were rock solid and sure.  I think 2020 taught me something of hanging in there—to persevere—to keep going.  While I was out west this past May I saw it over and over again.  First, it was a wild flower blooming in what can only be called dust.  The roots had somehow dug deep and found the water of life.  I saw it in a small tree as it grew from a crevice in a large rock.  It made no sense but somehow that tree decided there was a way to grow in an impossible place.

I saw it too from another small tree growing from a large rock in the middle of a lake.  There was no soil to be found and yet it grew…it persevered.  It decided that it would survive, it would thrive, even though the odds were totally against success.  You see, the Bible is filled with stories of men and women who trusted God against all odds.  A shepherd boy becomes a king, another “has-been” shepherd leads a million or so people to a new land—the promised land.  A band of eleven men from various walks of life chose to follow a young rabbi (who happened to be the Son of God) and the message they shared changed the world.

All of these folks failed at one time or another, but they didn’t quit.  They chose to persevere.  If you wonder how America has lasted for these 245 years, there are two reasons.  The hand of God and the perseverance of ordinary men and women who gave what they had for a cause they believed in. A.Cause.They.Believed.In.

We have survived one of the greatest challenges we have faced in our lifetime—the pandemic of 2020. However, I am sure the greater enemy wasn’t the pandemic, but rather the division that swept our land like a wildfire. Someone wiser than you or me once said that a house divided against itself cannot stand—Jesus said that before Lincoln did.

William Carey, a great missionary, once said, “The future is as bright as the promises of God” and I believe that is true today.  But we need to learn from the founding fathers, from the men who stormed Normandy or trudged through the jungles of Vietnam or froze on the hills of Korea.  We have to learn again to trust the hand of God.  The Bible says that we should trust God with everything we have and turn away from the tendency to trust ourselves.  If we do that…He will guide us…He will direct us.  We also need to learn the lesson of that small tree growing from that giant rock.  We will not quit, we will persevere—we will find life in the most unlikely of places.  Trust God and don’t quit.  That sounds like a plan.

With the pandemic largely in the rearview mirror, it seems to some degree we have been given a second chance.  I hope we will take advantage of this gift God has given us.  I hope we will learn the power of perseverance and the power of four simple words, “Love God…Love People.”  I may not know what tomorrow holds but I do know the One who holds tomorrow and that is good enough for me.  I am certain no matter what, that as always, “He’s got this.”