Posted in Grace, life, Family, Southern born, thankful, gratitude, wisdom, forgiveness

Wrong Pew-Wrong Girl

Pride leads to disgrace, but with humility comes wisdom.” Proverbs 11:2

It was an oops…a big oops.  I was in my early twenties and life was good.  I was enjoying my first enlistment in the Air Force, I was stationed not far from my hometown of Jacksonville, Florida but more importantly, smack-dab in the middle of the land of grits.  I was engaged to the prettiest girl in town and we were both Jesus followers and involved in a local church.  And that’s where it happened.

I have always loved music and most would say that I have a pretty good singing voice. It started when my Mama forced my oldest sister to let me sing “I Love You, Truly” in her wedding, I have had multiple opportunities to sing publicly—at least in my limited world.  Later I would be a part of a couple of singing groups and so it probably isn’t surprising that I would provide special music at our church.  So, here’s how it played out.  Things are always pretty predictable in the services of Baptist churches.  There would an opening song, someone would give a welcome and make some announcements, we would sing two more songs, take the offering (and sometimes the word “take” was very literal), there would be a special song and then the preacher would preach.  After he got done (which could take a while) there would be a closing song and prayer. These things were so set in stone, they were printed every Sunday in the bulletin.  You didn’t mess with the “order of worship.” If it wasn’t in there—we didn’t do it.

Sometimes, I would be the one who sang right before the message.  I was usually pretty comfortable in front of people and that turned out to be a good thing because later on I would become the guy who talked for a long while.  Now even though I was comfortable singing in front of people, each time it was still a little nerve racking. While I definitely can be the life of the party, I sure didn’t want to embarrass myself in from of a couple of hundred people.  Well, one day I did…but not like you think.

On that particular Sunday, at the appropriate time, I went up to the stage and sang my song. I don’t remember the name of the song but I do know it went well.  I know because it was one of those times I left the stage smiling.  The people had enjoyed the presentation and I had enjoyed presenting it.  All was well.  So off the stage I bounded. Truth be known, I was probably feeling just a little cocky.  I should have remembered that the Bible says, “Pride leads to disgrace, but with humility comes wisdom.”  But I didn’t.

My fiancée Judy and I always sat over by the wall and about halfway back in the pews. We were as predicable as the sunrise. So that is where I headed.  It was a “zippy do dah” moment and when I got to the place, I sat right down and through my arm around the girl I loved.  Only it wasn’t. I sat there for about four-seconds and realized something didn’t feel just right.  I glanced over to my right expecting to see the face of my fiancée but instead I saw the face of the preacher’s daughter. Her face was a doing two things at once.  First, she was smiling and second it said, “Why are you here and why do you have your arm around me.”  Oops. I had missed my landing zone by one pew.  There’s an old saying, “Right church, wrong pew.”  It means you had the right general area but not the right exact spot. Well, in my case I had the wrong row and the wrong girl. I sheepishly stood and moved back one row.  Right row, right girl.

So I bet you’re wondering what happened? Well, gratefully Judy wasn’t mad.  I mean she could have given me the “what for” but she didn’t.  The crowd, well, as you can imagine they were laughing and if I remember correctly, it all warranted a comment from the pastor who happened to be the father of the girl. Well, it all turned out fine, but it was definitely one of those times you don’t forget.  As I think about it—I have had lots of those moments which means I have had lots of learning opportunities.

The lesson that day was, “be sure you know where you are supposed to land.”  In my “zippy-do-dah” moment I had landed at the wrong airport.  It was no deal because it was an honest mistake.  No harm—no foul.  But that’s not always the case.  Sometimes our oops, especially the intentional or semi-intentional ones, can leave a mark or two.  When you are a life of the party kind of guy it is too easy to have a laugh at someone’s expense.  I’ve learned that in life it is easy to do something on the spur of a moment that can have a long lasting “oops”.  Can someone say, “I bought a new car.”  Can someone say, “Seven years of payments.” Smile.

Well, Judy and I have been married coming up on forty-five years and when she reads this she will remember and odds are, she will smile.  I am grateful we have lots of days that cause us to smile and far fewer of the kind that cause us to wince in pain.  That is called grace—extended and received.  So, as you navigate through life and you’re preparing to land at your selected airport—make sure it is the right one.  You might want to contact “the tower” and confirm His opinion of your intended landing site.  It might save you some embarrassment and pain.  You can always count on Him…He’s got this.

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

I’m All Shook Up

The prudent see danger and take refuge, but the simple keep going and suffer for it.” Proverbs 27:12

I grabbed it and couldn’t let go.  I’ve said it before but growing up, times were pretty hard.  My Daddy worked very hard to provide a good home for us and we always had plenty of good food.  Sure, sometimes there was more “loaf than meat” but hey it was still good.  One of my favorite food memories from when I was nine or ten was a fried potato sandwich.  When there wasn’t any meat for sandwiches, Mama would slice some potatoes and fry them up.  We would slap those things between two pieces of bread with some mayo and instant heaven.  I mean who doesn’t like home fries anyway?

We lived in an old World War II barracks that had been converted into a two bedroom house with a breezeway that led to a closed in garage that served as a third bedroom.  We also had two acres of land which was great for playing but not so great for mowing.  We didn’t have a riding mower until I was in my teens so the two acres had to be mowed by hand. To get it done we had an old push mower.  Just trust me that was a lot to mow with a push mower.  Anyway, this mower had two unique qualities.  First, it didn’t have a throttle.  It had one speed—wide open.  It was one of those deals where you wrapped a rope around the top and gave it a yank.  If you said your prayers and held your tongue just right—it would crank.  And like I said, when it started…it started.

The other quirk with our lawnmower was that it didn’t have a kill switch either.  There were two ways to turn it off.  First, you could take a screwdriver and ground the spark plug to a metal part on the mower.  The second was a lot more risky.  You could attempt to pull the spark plug wire off the spark plug.  Now, keep in mind I was pretty young and didn’t understand all the dynamics of a spark plug, the coil and touching the wrong thing at the wrong time.  I was a setup for a shocking experience.

So one day…you can see it coming can’t you? Well, one day, I was done mowing and the lawnmower was running wide open.  I had to kill the beast—slay the dragon if you will.  I was a good piece from the shed and didn’t have a screw driver so that left only option 2—pulling off the spark plug wire.  Running wide open, shaking like a hula dance (that would be me and not the lawnmower) I reached down and grabbed a hold.  I still don’t know if I grabbed the wrong part or if the current came though the brittle insulation on the wire but it got me.

I’m not sure if I can describe the sensation that I experienced. I can vividly remember two things.  My  whole arm shaking and the fact that I couldn’t get loose.  I’m sure I’ve never experienced anything quite like it.  Like the Ray Stevens song about the Mississippi Squirrel, I was sure “something had a hold of me.”  I don’t know how I got loose.  It may have been mercy from above or pure desperation but I did get loose. The lawnmower was still running and my arm was still shaking.  If you ever see this strange twitch in my left arm—well, it still hasn’t got over the sensation.

I’m supposing I got a LONG screwdriver and killed the engine and I am also sure I never, and I mean never, went out again without it again.  You only need to grab the wrong thing one time and you will never do it again.  I know that is true with quirky old lawnmowers but I also know it is true with bad decisions.  I suppose everyone of us has a bad decision somewhere in our past—and I am not talking about spicy pizza as a midnight snack.

There are certain things, and a lot of times they are lawbreakers, that you shouldn’t do once much less twice.  If we would just hit the pause button and think about it we could eliminate a lot of our regrets and consequences.  Do I really want to do that? Do I really want to keep that date? Is that a call I really want to make? Is that a relationship I really want to maintain?  Think about it.  I have never done this before but I just need to use that verse we wrote about recently.  It is from Proverbs (which is like wise sayings) and it tells us the prudent (or wise) person will see danger and take refuge.  The simple (inexperienced) person will see the danger and keep right on going.

Let me tell you.  I grabbed that wire once and once was enough.  The only thing that would have been better was if I would have walked to the shed and got the screwdriver. It wasn’t that far.  But, I thought I would be the exception.  I thought I could pull it off…no pun intended…and I was wrong. I.Was.Wrong.  I don’t know if there is anything in your life right now that is a bad idea or maybe you’re making plans.  Take some advice from a former “wire grabber.”  Don’t.  Just do the right thing and you won’t regret it.  Oh, and if you don’t, there is a God who loves and cares for you.  And if you ask, He will help.  He’s got this. 

Posted in Family, forgiveness, Grace, gratitude, life, loving others, Scripture, Southern born, sovereignty of God, thankful, wisdom

Patrol Boy

But the Lord said to Samuel, “Do not look at his appearance or his stature because I have rejected him. Humans do not see what the Lord sees, for humans see what is visible, but the Lord sees the heart.” 1 Samuel 16:7

It was a dream come true.  Growing up when I did was a blast.  I was born in 1954 (and yes that was a long time ago) and things were just different.  Life was slower, people mattered more, things mattered less, and respect was a big deal.  I was raised to call people older than me, sir and ma’am.  It’s kinda humorous, but now I am the senior adult and I still call everybody and their brother, “sir.”  It was just ingrained in me from my earliest memories.

Back in those days, when you were in the sixth grade you were the king of the mountain.  You see in Florida in the early sixties elementary school went from first  thru sixth grade.  There was no kindergarten.  Part of being the king of the mountain was the prospect of being selected to be a “patrol boy.”  Now, the first thing you need to know is the term “patrol boy” was a term of respect.  Today I think they still have crossing guards but back then…patrol boys were the state police of the day.  They had a belt that went around their waist and over their shoulder and of course, the flag.  It was a two-piece design that was about five foot long when put together.  Oh, I almost forgot.  They had a safety helmet too.  They definitely- looked the part.

At the end of each school day, these brave traffic warriors would be dismissed from class a little early, depending on how far their post was. They would put on their belt and helmet, grab their flag, and head out for duty.  Now this was the real deal.  A teacher or aide didn’t accompany them.  The lives of their peers were in their hands—and they were granted authority to stop traffic.  Again, it was an honor and a dream to get that belt, helmet, and flag.  The selection process was done at the end of the school year of our fifth grade.  I’m not sure what the criteria was, but I do know not everyone got selected.

Ok, let’s be honest.  I wanted…I really wanted to be a patrol boy.  It was like I was born for it.  It was like my destiny.  I could tell you that I wanted to help save lives.  I could tell you that the safety of every kid who crossed at my post was what drove me but that wouldn’t be true.  No, I’m afraid it wasn’t quite that noble.  I’m afraid it had nothing to do with safety…it had to do with…the belt, the helmet, and the flag.  Now don’t laugh, it was a big deal. The uniform has led a lot of guys to sign up for the Marines.  I was no different.  I wanted people to look at me and say, “There goes a patrol boy.  Leader of peers and a hero to boot.”

Well, it happened.  I was selected and honestly, it was just about everything I thought it was going to be—at least through my eyes.  No one ever called me a hero, nor  did I outright save anyone’s life, but there was something about the way it made me…feel. Looking back, I think there is a word for it…pride.  You know there is a good pride…the kind that lets you know you did your best.  There is also the kind that says, “I’’m a patrol boy and you’re not.”  It’s closely related to the kind that says, “I have power and you don’t. You have to listen to me…obey me.”  Bummer.

As far as I know, at least from the outside, I did a pretty good job.  I received and proudly wore my little pin, which I got to keep at the end of the year that marked my service.  No one got ran over on my watch and I think I only got in trouble once.  That was when one of my fellow patrol boys made me mad and I whacked him with my flag.  Not very hero like.  But the deal was while it looked good from the outside, it didn’t look that good on the inside.  Trust me it wasn’t as pretty.  I realize now that all of us have a tendency to play that game—pretty good on the outside and pretty dingy on the inside.  Someone once said you can fool some of the people some of the time, but you can’t fool all of the people all of the time.

There should be another saying, “you can’t fool God any of the time.”  You see, God’s got this “vision thing” that allows Him to see right past the skin and right into our heart.  He sees our real thoughts, our real motives, our real selves.  It’s been kind of a “go to” verse for me recently but here’s what it says, “The Lord said to Samuel, “Do not look at Eliab’s appearance or stature because I have rejected him. Humans do not see what the Lord sees, for humans see what is visible, but the Lord sees the heart.” Wow…that is one scary thought.  God sees what matters.  I wonder if it would be a good idea to talk to ourselves sometimes and just ask the question, “Hey, how’s your heart?  Is everything ok?” If we would be willing to do that, it would be a game changer.

Well, I enjoyed my year as a patrol boy.  The next year I went to junior high and went from the top of the heap to the bottom.  In fact, now that I think about there were a couple of guys who did their best to make junior high hard for me.  Today we call it bullying.  I wonder if it was payback for some misused authority.  Hmmmm.  What goes around…comes around.  Anyway, I’m glad I don’t have just  a “patrol boy” watching over me.  Nope, I have the King of Kings and that’s pretty awesome!  I don’t have a thing to worry about because “He’s got this.”

Posted in Family, forgiveness, Grace, life, loving others, missions, prayer, priorities, Scripture, thankful, travel, wisdom

Zone of Fire

And the tongue is a fire, a world of iniquity.” James 1:6a

It was over in a flash.  Well, most everyone has heard of Johnny Cash and most everyone has heard his number one hit, “Ring of Fire.”  Well, Johnny had his ring and I had my “zone of fire.” Twenty-five or so years ago my brother decided he would come up and visit with my wife and I.  It was a big deal because he is from the deep south and well, for him to cross the Mason-Dixon Line was pretty much a miracle.  When we were making plans, he mentioned that he wanted to go pheasant hunting.  Well, I checked into it and found that there was a “bird farm” about an hour from where we lived.

A “bird farm” is a business that owes a ton of land and then raises birds to be released into the wild for the purpose of hunting.  When the day came, we drove up to the bird farm.  When we got there, it was me, him and a couple of other guys, we checked in and the guy said that we would have a dog hunt with us.  That was strange since we didn’t pay for one but hey, ok.  We headed out with the dog and the guide. The way this works is you form a line, straight across, and about fifteen to twenty feet apart.  Then the dog works the area in front of you as you move forward.  If the dog goes on point (which means he found a bird) then the guide scares up the bird and someone, or a lot of someones, shoot.  So we hunted, and hunted and hunted. The bottom line? I was pretty sure there wasn’t a bird within a hundred miles of that place.  The dog never went on point.

From there things went downhill.  The owner came and said that he had accidentally given us the dog and we had to give him up…so we did.  That meant we were totally on our own.  We would walk through the weeds saying, “Here birdie, birdie.”  Ok, not really but we did walk through the field just trying to scare up a bird.  It was beginning to look like a continuation of the time with the dog when it happened.  As we walked through the field, and with no warning, we scared up a bird.  It was a beautiful male pheasant and he just exploded off the ground about thirty feet in front of me and slightly to my right.

I can’t tell you how fast this all happened.  He leapt into the air, I raised my bird gun and fired.  It really was over in a flash and it was a perfect shot.  Just like that the bird was down and everyone was excited.  I had shot pheasant once or twice before but honestly it was a great shot…all except one thing.  Not once, not for a millisecond did I think about my “zone of fire.” Basically, the zone of fire is the predetermined area where it is safe for you to fire your weapon.  It obviously includes where there aren’t any people.  Now, it all worked out just fine.  I was within my zone of fire, but it was not because I intentionally did it—it was just luck.

While I don’t personally believe in luck, I do believe in a God who takes care of us…even when we are just a little—careless.  Truth be known, if that bird was a little closer to the line of guys I could have wounded one of my friends and that would have been unbelievably tragic.  When you have a weapon, you need to be sharp, you need to be focused, and you need to be careful.  You must be always be aware of your zone of fire.

That truth doesn’t just apply to weapons, you know.  We need to apply it anytime we are with people.  You see, we carry a lethal weapon with us all the time.  That would be our mouth.  And if we are not careful, a situation may come up, and before even thinking, boom…someone is wounded or hurt.  And the crazy part? It can happen in a flash just like pheasant exploding off the ground in front of me.  In a moment of time, we can fire from the mouth that will leave a lasting, and sometimes permanent scar, on the heart of someone around us.  We just need to be careful.

James, the half-brother of Jesus said that the tongue is a fire, a world of iniquity. We all know the stories of the wildfires in the west—the grave property damage and the tragic loss of life.  And James says in the same way the tongue can cause that kind of damage in the lives of people.  What can we do to prevent that?  The same thing when we are using our weapons around others.  We need to be sharp, we need to be focused, and we need to be careful.  Now, I have a friend who is a weapons expert and a great hunter. If he had been there that day, he would have given us a safety briefing which would have included our “zone of fire.”

We have an expert with our tongues too.  He is our Dearest Daddy and because He made us, He knows the destructive power of the tongue and can help us control it. As we walk through each day, He will be by our side and He will guide us and help us.  He will whisper the guidance we need to be safe and not hurt others.  He is a guide that can be trusted and depended on.  After all, He’s got this. 

Posted in Family, forgiveness, Grace, gratitude, life, loving others, prayer, priorities, Scripture, thankful, wisdom

My Blurry World

Rather, clothe yourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ, and do not think about how to gratify the desires of the flesh.” Romans 13:14

One day it became obvious.  We all know about DNA and how we pick things up from our ancestors.  Whether it is hair (or lack of it) from an uncle or our leaning toward a certain body build, the ones who have gone before have left their fingerprints all over us. However, sometimes, it doesn’t work that way.  My Daddy and Mama both wore glasses and yet somehow, I ended up with pretty good vision.  I can remember in my younger years I could spot something in the distance that others would miss.  It was better than 20/20.

Then one day I noticed something.  While I don’t remember the exact day, I do remember the thing that called my attention to it.  One day, I looked down at my watch and realized that it was a bit fuzzy.  Hmmmm.  So, I moved my arm around a bit and soon everything was back in focus.  There….problem solved.  This went on for a while and though it was a slight inconvenience it wasn’t a deal.  Yet.

I was about 40 when this “slight inconvenience” began but I don’t think I fully understood that it was a beginning.  As the years went by, I began playing the trombone. You know, to get my eyes to adjust I would have to move my watch, or the book or whatever, in and out to gain focus.  That worked…until one day my arms just weren’t long enough.  My eye doctor told me what I already knew—it was time for readers.

Readers are these glasses you wear when your arms are too short. You don’t wear them all the time, you simply put them on when you need to look at something close up.  So, every morning, I wake up—or at least that’s the plan. And, because my regular vision is good, I still have the ability to see around the room and far off.  But when I sit down and want to read my Bible or my iPad it instantly becomes apparent—I need my readers.  I quickly remember that it is a blurry world without them—at least my close-up world is. So, I slip them on and boom—I can see—clearly.

The key is remembering where your glasses are.  I have multiple pairs in my home office,  I have two on my desk and one by my chair when I read.  I know that they are essential—to see close-up.  I know some people struggle with the far-off thing and I might too one day but for now…readers are my friends…readers are my essentials.  Nobody wants to live in a blurry world, especially when the world is so blurry you can’t make heads or tails of anything.

I’m a Jesus follower and because of that I know there is a pretty promising future out there.  I’m sure He has my future in His hands though I’m not sure what that always looks like.  I am learning just to hang on and trust.  I do know ultimately because of my faith in Him (and certainly not because I deserve it) I will spend my forever with Him in a place called Heaven. I don’t know where you land with that but, hey, it is most definitely worth checking out.  Grab a copy of the Bible and read it for yourself.  It’s been around a really long time with no revisions so it’s something that can be trusted.

But that is then. What about the here and what about the now?  Well, just like I really need a little help reading up close, I need more than a little help to do life—up close and personal. And that is one of my favorite things about following Jesus.  He doesn’t wait for a time way off in the future to be there for me.  He is here now.  Sometimes it is from the Bible, sometimes it is in my every day walkabout life, and sometimes it seems like a still small voice but He is there to help me in my otherwise blurry life. Over and again, I see His handiwork—I call them love notes—as He helps me journey.  I’m learning the more I look—the more I see.  The more I see—the more I want to look.

It took me awhile but now it is a natural reflex for me to put my glasses on. When I pick up a book, glasses on. When I’m reading the instruction manual, glasses on.  When I’m setting the thermostat, glasses on.  I’m also learning to put on Jesus the same way.  Difficult decision…Jesus on.  Wisdom to make it through the day…Jesus on.  Need help forgiving or being kind…Jesus on.  Paul, one of the writers in the New Testament, says that we should make it a point to put on Jesus, but he doesn’t stop there. He says that we should not even crack the door open for things that are contrary to the Word. He knows nothing blurs our world like going crossways with God. And here’s the amazing part…it really works.  Just like my glasses give me clarity, so does Jesus.  He makes life make sense.  And I have the confident assurance that because He can see clearly…He always knows the answer.  And because He does, He’s got this. 

Posted in Family, forgiveness, Grace, gratitude, life, loving others, Military memories, prayer, priorities, Scripture

Blindside

So whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets.” Matthew 7:12

I was blindsided.  It was time for a haircut. Now that is a relative statement—you know like relatively speaking.  I had five brothers and only two of us are left.  All the brothers had hair—lots of hair. No receding hairlines, no clogged drains in the shower, no nothing but lots of hair.  And then there is me.  While my daddy had a receding hairline he never lost his hair.  Well, that was them and that was him but it sure isn’t me.  It started with a receding hairline, then it became a thinning receding hairline and then it became a full blown retreat.  I now have a really, long forehead.  I don’t know if it is still in full retreat or if we are holding our own.  The jury is still out. So, I’m trying to say that a haircut for me is a relative statement. I am grateful that getting a haircut still doesn’t mean getting a solitary hair cut, but I do remember the days when there were more than a few.

Now, I keep my hair short for two reasons.  First, I have grayish white hair and I found it doesn’t look quite as white if I keep it shorter.  Second, and I can only guess, it is a carryover from my days with my Daddy and in the military.  For the first 18 years of my life my Daddy made sure I kept my hair short (even though it was the late sixties and early seventies).  After him, it was twelve years in the Air Force, and they made sure it was short. Well, after 30 years of short hair I figured, why change now?  So, the bottom line is about once a month I go see my hair cutter person.  Even after a month, my hair is sparse and less than an inch long.

So, I was in the chair and she was clipping and buzzing along.  She has cut my hair for the last 15 or so years so she knows the landscape pretty well.  Well, she said, “Dewayne did you hit your head or something?”  I assured her I hadn’t, but she was sure something had happened.  Well, my wife Judy had gotten me a pair of virtual reality goggles for Christmas.  I had used them the night before and the straps fitted pretty tightly around my head, so I assured her that was what she was seeing.  Then she said, “Well, let me show you.”

Before I knew it, there was a mirror in my hand, and she turned me around so I was looking in the mirror.  I could see something I had never seen—the back of my head.  Oh.My.Goodness.  You see, I naturally assumed that my…oh, how I hate to use the word…baldness stopped on top of my head.  I also assumed that I had the mane of Samson in the back.  I was wrong.  There in the mirror I got to see what everyone else saw all the time.  While it wasn’t totally hairless let’s just saw it was pretty thin.  You might say it was wavy—you know, the hairs there had plenty of space to wave at one another.

Well, I gasped and bless her heart, she did her best to assure me it wasn’t that bad—the average person looking wouldn’t even notice.  She said you would have to look real close to see it.  She was so nice, but I had the strangest feeling she was not telling the whole truth.  And in that moment I realized that my days of teasing people with a halo at the back of their head were probably over.  I had reached a new level of membership in the hair club—or perhaps more appropriately, the “no hair club.” What struck me as funny was I had no idea.  I really was blindsided.  I couldn’t see what any other person walking behind me could see.  To make matters worse, let’s just say that I’m not the tallest guy in the neighborhood. That means everyone taller than me, which is probably 90% of the adult population, had a great view of my impending hair doom.

Well, that started the wheels turning in my mind.  I wondered just how many other things are there about me that I am totally blind to?  How many times did my impatience at the grocery store show?  How many times did my glaring eyes betray my true feeling when some nice “little, old lady” pulled out in traffic in front of me?  How many times was my sarcasm not as veiled as I thought?  Oh my!

So, I think I might have learned something valuable at the hair cutting place that day.  It wasn’t that I should get a hand mirror so I can see the back of my head.  No, it was the fact that I should, we should, be aware that people are always deserving of our courtesy, our kindness, our compassion.  If we are Jesus people, especially if we are Jesus people, we should make a conscious decision to be authentically nice. The golden rule, which is found in the Bible, says “So whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets.” Truth is it is not always easy to be kind, but it is always right.  And when it seems especially hard, don’t panic.  God is good at being kind so you can rest assured that He will help you. After all, “He’s got this.”

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

Jesus Road

There is no distinction between Jew and Greek, because the same Lord of all richly blesses all who call on Him. For everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” Romans 10:12-13

It seemed like a waste of time.  I was part of a mission’s medical team and we were ministering in Uganda.  We were working with a ministry that helped orphans and due to war, aids and poverty—there were many to help.  After ministering at the orphanage, we went out to local villages and bush to reach more of the people.  Medical care, though extremely inexpensive, was out of the reach of most of the people.  That alone clearly speaks of their poverty.  It was such an opportunity to help others.

Before we started the clinic, I would have the opportunity to speak to the people.  I would explain that there was a Man named Jesus who was like no other man.  He would go from village to village helping people—often healing them of their diseases.  I would explain that He did it because He loved them.  Then, I would tell the people that we were followers of that Man and just as He wanted to help people—we wanted to help them.  I explained that the medicine and the doctors were there at no charge to them because someone else had paid the price.  And naturally, that led to me sharing how God was offering them a way for their spiritual brokenness to be forgiven.

Some of the people in the village had heard of this Man—many had not.  Some were Muslims and some followed whatever local religion they were familiar with.  Before they saw the doctors, we had the privilege of sharing with them more about this man Jesus.  We would ask them if they wanted to leave whatever “god” road they were on and walk the Jesus Road.  While it seems simplistic here, there it made perfect sense.  There was no pressure just an opportunity to believe.  Whether they said yes or no, the medicine, the help, was theirs for free.  That’s what Jesus would do.

It had been a long day and we had seen well over a hundred patients—maybe two hundred.  Many had said yes to the question about the Jesus Road, but some simply said no. As the day wore on, our spirits were still willing, but our bodies were growing tired.  Finally, there was just one man left and it was my turn to share with him.  He was tall and dressed in the traditional Muslin clothing.  I could tell that he was elderly, but I was surprised to learn that he was 81 years old.  Now, honestly, the chances of a Muslin man that old choosing to change roads was slim to none.  It seemed like an exercise in futility.

I shared a Bible story with him and was surprised that he paid close attention.  At the end of the story, which spoke of a person choosing to walk the Jesus Road, through the interpreter, I asked him, “Would you like to follow this Jesus Road?”  Much to my utter surprise, he responded, “Yes, I would.”  I was certain he just didn’t understand my question, so I rephrased it and his response was the same. Amazing.  Finally, I said, “Do you understand that walking the Jesus Road requires you to leave the road you are on?”  I said, “You cannot walk two roads…only one.” His response was, “I choose the Jesus Road.”

We bowed our heads and he prayed telling Creator God that he was a sinner, but he believed that Jesus had died to pay for his sins.  He said that he was willing to leave all other roads and follow only Jesus.  And just like that, this dear old man, became a Jesus follower. Did he fully understand all the theology that was involved?  Probably not, but he did know that God loved him, that he was a sinner and Jesus would forgive him and that was enough.  What seemed like a waste of time, an exercise of futility, turned into the most amazing moment of the trip.  That day that man became a child of God.

This story never grows old—and neither does the old, old story about Jesus being born, living, dying, being buried, and coming back to life in three days—never to die again. It is a factual, amazing story.  I am always amazed that we know more about this carpenter from a small village in the middle of nowhere than we do of all the Roman emperors.  Do you know the reason?  Jesus is the real deal.  How about that?

You might be surprised to learn that Jesus wasn’t a big fan of religion. In fact, neither is God.  I always think of religion as man’s attempt to reach God while Jesus was God’s way to reach us.  A relationship with God is not about church, being good, or keeping rules.  It is about God’s love and our faith in what Jesus did.  It is simple, it is powerful, and it is true.

If you want a witness, you can go to Uganda and find my 81-year-old friend, but truthfully, he probably isn’t there.  By now, he has most likely followed the Jesus Road straight into heaven.  That’s where it ultimately ends.  And as much as I love the fact that the road leads there, I am also so glad that there is room for two to walk side by side—Jesus and me, Jesus and you, Jesus and us.  And as we walk, I know that I can face whatever the road holds because, “He’s got this.”  Bro. Dewayne

Posted in Family, forgiveness, Grace, gratitude, life, New Year, prayer, priorities, Scripture, thankful

Watch the Small Print

Throw all your anxiety onto Him, because He cares about you.” — 1 Peter 5:7

Just pay a separate fee.  I’m a fan of the infomercials on television that you see all the time.  No, I’m not interested in the products and I don’t like the way they interrupt my viewing times. I like them because they are funny.  As you watch them, it is as if they had just discovered the fountain of youth. It is always something that they think I just can’t live without.  And, it is like they are my new very best friend.  They like me so much they are offering a deal that I just can refuse.

Sometimes it is a garden hose that expands like crazy when connected or shrinks up like a snake when it is isn’t.  Or maybe it is some miracle herbal supplement that is guaranteed to make me lose weight, or gain weight, or grow hair, or remove hair from where you don’t want it.  Regardless—they all carry a money back guarantee.  If you don’t like it…just send it back—minus shipping and handling and your firstborn.

My favorites are the ones that offer you two for the supposed price of one. That’s right folks because we like you so much, we are going to send you two of these amazing products—just let us know—and, of course, pay a separate fee. Wait. What?  If I am paying a separate fee isn’t that like walking into a donut shop and asking for two donuts and paying for both?  Or maybe going into Best Buy and them saying we are not going to sell you one television today, but two. All you have to do is pay a separate fee. I think that is called two for the price of two.

Then of course there is the small print.  On most screens there are like fifteen lines of extremely small print.  We are going to send you a two-week supply of this amazing product that will cause you to grow six inches overnight—and it is free.  What you can’t read is the small print that says if you don’t cancel in five minutes and speak fluent Swahili then the deal is off.  I remember we were driving back from somewhere on a trip listening to a radio show that I trusted.  They were offering a two-week supply of this amazing herbal deal that would help me lose weight.  Well, I needed to lose weight and there was no risk, right?  Well, a month later I was fighting a $69.99 charge on my credit card.  Oh, the small print.

I saw a commercial today for those amazing HD Tactical Sunglasses on television.  They made them sound like they would cause the blind to see. Well, I bought some at a local store and they didn’t exactly live up to all the hype.  In fact, they were so dark I couldn’t see anything—in HD, SD or any other D. They are in the car waiting for a return trip to the store.  The bottom line is if it sounds too good to be true…it probably is.  And it seems the more the hype—the greater the chance that it is full of hot air and not so true promises…except one.

The exception to this rule is one you won’t find on television.  That one exception is God. Here’s the deal.  He never makes a promise He won’t keep and He’s not big on the small print.  He lays it all out and there is no separate fee.  In fact, His gift of love and forgiveness comes prepaid—no shipping and no handling. I need to be honest and tell you that sometimes folks speaking for God like to make promises on His dime and then God gets the bad rap.  But there’s an answer for that too.  Just get a copy of His Word and check it out for yourself.  Like I said…He lays it out and it is a deal you just shouldn’t pass up.

As we begin this New Year, here’s some great advice.  First, record your favorite shows on the DVR and watch them later when you can fast forward through the commercials.  You can save yourself a chunk of time and if you are tempted by those outrageous claims in the commercials, you might save a few bucks too. Second, tune in to God.  He’s good, He’s faithful and He can be trusted.  Notice, by the way, that I didn’t say religion—I said God.  He has a great “no extra fee” offer.  He says, “Throw all your anxiety onto me, because I care about you.” And do you know what?  He really does.  There is nothing that He and you are going to face that He can’t handle.  Rest assured, “He’s got this.”

Posted in Christmas, Family, forgiveness, Grace, gratitude, Holidays, life, loving others, Scripture, Southern born, thankful

Miss Scarlet

For this is how God loved the world: He gave His one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him will not perish but have eternal life.” John 3:16

I had to do a double take.  When Faith, my oldest granddaughter, was only three, she started a Christmas family tradition, and it all began with her playing with our nativity set.  First, the family nativity set was purchased way back when we had two daughters when they were three and four years old.  Each year we would go to the attic and bring down the Christmas decorations.  And there, in its original box, now tattered by the years, sat the nativity set. We bought it from Sears and Roebuck for about thirty dollars and trust me back then, that was a lot of money.  Through the years the angel lost his or her wings several times and more than one head was knocked off.  Always, a little glue fixed the injury…at least more or less.

As the years passed and the injured players grew in number, let’s say we were just a little less careful with the old nativity set. When Faith came along it was just natural that she wanted to play with the nativity set and that was fine.  Now for part two.  Being from the South and loving history, somewhere, somehow, we ended up with an ornament of Scarlet O’Hara from the movie “Gone with the Wind.”  She was dressed in a curvy, clingy red dress that probably went a little too far south in the front.  Well, each year she ended up on the Christmas tree.  And then it happened.

That year, probably around 2003 or 2004, Faith was playing with the nativity set and somehow or another she spied Miss Scarlet on the tree.  She simply saw it as another member of the cast.  So, she took Scarlet off the tree and as she played, she included her in the cast of characters.  When she was done, she just let Miss Scarlet stay in their midst.  There was Baby Jesus, Mary and Joseph, the Three Wise Men, the Innkeeper (I’m not sure why he was invited), and a shepherd boy, along with several barnyard friends and standing right in the middle was Scarlet.

Well, sometime later I was walking by and happened to glance at the nativity set.  I went down the checklist to make sure everyone was there and then I spotted her.  There was Miss Scarlet curvy, clingy dress and all. My first thought was, “What in the world is Miss Scarlet doing in Bethlehem?  What is a girl like her doing with Jesus?”  I was just about to remove her when it occurred to me.  I realized that if anyone was supposed to be there it was Miss Scarlet.  I realized that she was the whole point of the story.  Jesus came for people who had messed up in life. People who had made mistakes, people like her, like me and like you. That is why Jesus came in the first place.  He knew that the religious elite wouldn’t give Him the time of day.  But the ordinary, broken people…well, they got it.

So, Miss Scarlet stayed and for the past 16 or 17 years, I still go to the attic and get the decorations down. I still find the old, tattered box and bring it down too.  I carefully unpack the cast of that night in Bethlehem and there among the characters is Miss Scarlet.  Each year, I make sure she was a prominent spot in the nativity and each year that reminds me that she is what Christmas is all about.

You see, the Bible tells us that God loved the world so much that He gave His Son, His only Son to be born into a broken world. He did it because He loved us so much and amazingly, He said if we would believe in Him, put our trust in Him, we could call Him Father, our Dearest Daddy.  He also promised that every Christmas for forever we could be with Him.  Amazing.

I am so grateful that Faith taught me an important lesson that Christmas season so many years ago.  It is one of my favorite stories and one of my favorite Christmas traditions.  And each year, Miss Scarlet reminds me that broken people are always welcomed home for Christmas into God’s loving arms.  He doesn’t care if we are dark or light skinned, rich or poor, or part of the social elite or socially broken.  He just loves us and that is amazing.

So, this Christmas season, if you have a nativity set or even if you don’t, remember the story about how Miss Scarlet got invited into the story and that you are, too.  Especially this Christmas when things are so crazy, why not find yourself right there in the cast of characters, resting right next to Baby Jesus.  Mary and Joseph and Miss Scarlet would remind you that one thing is sure…He’s got this.

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

The Brothers

Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples.” John 13:35

It just bears repeating.  They say that two of the things that has been so difficult about this season called COVID-19 is the isolation and the division it causes.  I couldn’t agree more.  One of the things I have read and heard over and again is how pastors in particular have struggled through all of this.  Church size and denomination mattered little. With so many different opinions, unity was bound to suffer…and it has.

I’ve said it several times, but personally as a leader it has been incredibly difficult.  I have served as a pastor for 38 years and twenty of those have been with the church family located at 1300 South Feazel Street.  It has been a great ride.  One of the gifts it seems that God has given me is the ability to bring and sometimes hold the family together. But this season has made me doubt that giftedness.

Oh, I know, you can’t please everyone.  I even wrote a story about that.  But this has been one time that the family is divided and it seems there is no easy solution. As the pastor, I’m not called to one group or another—I’m the shepherd of the whole family. Oh, it’s gonna be ok.  Our best days are ahead of us, but can I be honest?  I began to wonder if our love, my love was going to be enough to see us through this in one piece.  There’s a part of the Bible that says love will cover the multitude of sins, but could it be enough to cover our journey through COVID-19?  Like the old Christmas song says, “I wonder as I wander”. And then God sent me a love note.

The Saturday after Thanksgiving we had our family celebration at my daughter’s house outside of Murray, Kentucky.  My wife and I went down Friday, spent the night and enjoyed some good family time.  The rest of the tribe joined us Saturday for a great meal and more family stuff.  About mid-afternoon it was time to head home.  We had church the next day and there was a full night of preparation waiting for us. So we headed north.  When we got home, I turned up the furnace (I had turned it down to save the planet and a few bucks) and started unloading the car.  After about thirty-minutes or so it occurred to me that the house wasn’t getting any warmer. Hmmmm.

I went downstairs and our furnace was stone, cold dead.  It was really strange as the breaker had flipped. I called one of the brothers in our church who knew about boilers…in fact, he had helped me before when I had some trouble.  Our boiler is older than our first born so…well, you know.  Since it was Saturday evening I just called for some advice.  He gave some. Since it sounded electrical, he suggested I start with an electrician. That sounded like good advice, so I thanked him.

I called another brother in the church (we have a lot of brothers in the church) who knew about electrical stuff (which appeared to be the problem) and asked if he could maybe come by Sunday afternoon and take a look.  He refused.  He said it couldn’t wait till then and volunteered to come as soon as he finished supper. I thanked him and also thanked God for brothers to call when there is a need.  In just a few minutes the doorbell rang.  I assumed it was the electrical brother but in fact it was the boiler brother.  Before long, the other brother showed up too.  So, on a Saturday night, two brothers came to try and make sure Judy and I weren’t cold that night. 

Working together they found a short in the control box and within an hour the furnace was up and running. That night Judy and I slept warm because two brothers were willing to help another brother in a time of need.  I was pretty overwhelmed.  I said to them, “Thank you for loving us.”  The boiler brother said, “How do you know we love you?”  And the answer was simple truth.  I said, “Because of your actions.” The COVID-19 hot mess had left me running on empty so God caused a furnace to fail so He could send to brothers over to say, “I love you.”  Isn’t that just like our Dearest Daddy?  I think it is.

The Bible says people will know we are Christians by our love.  Love is a great noun, but it is an even more powerful verb.  Compassion is love in action.  God demonstrated that by sending His Son to die on a Roman cross.  These two men, on a Saturday night, demonstrated it by coming and doing.  I believe the one quality that must be evident in a church is love.   We need to love God and we need to love each other.  God has made it clear that nothing will come between Him and us.  We must make sure that nothing Satan throws out today comes between brothers and sisters.

We talked Sunday about how amazing it was that God could ask a young virgin girl to be the mother of Jesus.  She couldn’t understand how that could happen.  An angel simply said, “With God nothing is impossible.” We wonder how we can love when we disagree, when we are hurt, when we being pulled in opposite directions.  The answer is simple…everything is possible with God.  Judy and I rested good that night with a warm house and a heart warmed by love…both His and theirs.  It reminded me fresh and anew that He’s got this.