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

Me, Momma, and Mrs. Crabtree

When He saw the crowds, He had compassion on them because they were confused and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.” Matthew 9:36

I went just a little too far.  When you are an overactive six-year-old, church can be quite difficult.  My pastor was one of my favorite people but when you’re an overactive six-year-old, preaching can be, well, a little boring.  I’ve always loved church music but when you’re an overactive six-year-old, well, the best singers just aren’t enough.  Momma tried to keep me busy.  Her favorite tool was to give me the bulletin and a pen or pencil and I would color in all the little circles.  You would be amazed how many different little circles there were each week.  Well, that would work for a while, but you know, when you are an overactive six-year-old, nothing is going to work for long.

Well, one particular Sunday, the circle thing didn’t even make it past the song service.  By the time they were passing the plates I was out of things to do.  The service was always very predictable.  There would be an opening song, the announcements, a couple of more songs, then the offering, a special music thing, and then the preaching.  After the pastor finished, we would have one more song and call it a day.  Of course, there were always a couple of prayers thrown in for good measure.  So, I knew it was just about time for the preacher to start preaching when I heard Mrs. Rosalyn Crabtree start singing.

Now let me tell you right now, Mrs. Crabtree could flat sing.  I don’t know if she had voice lessons or not, but she sounded like one of those opera singers.  When there was a solo in the choir it was usually Mrs. Crabtree who sang, and more often than not, she sang right before the preacher.  She and her husband Jake were two of my favorite people too.  They taught me in the youth department when I got older, and we even had Rosalyn sing at our wedding when my wife and I were married.  They were great folks.

But this Sunday, well, it was just destiny that I was going to get in trouble.  I was bored by the time the offering was done, so I started poking Momma in the side.  She had her girdle on and it always amazed me just how tight that thing was.  Well, she finally had enough of the poking and said so in a way that I knew if I continued, it wasn’t going to be pretty.  But then Mrs. Crabtree started to sing.  Well, while she was singing, I decided to cover my ears with my hands. Why?  Well, I guess that is what overactive-six-year-olds do.  Well, when I took my hands down there was obviously a big sound difference.  So, I put them back up and then took them down.  I had discovered a new game.

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

I found out if I did this fast it made a “wa-wa” sound in my ears.  The faster my hands covered and uncovered my ears, the faster the “wa-wa.” I thought this was pretty grand entertainment. Momma didn’t think so. I stopped for a minute but decided it was worth the risk. It wasn’t.  Before I knew it, she and I were heading out the door. I had crossed the line and me and Momma had a little “come to Jesus” meeting.  And do you know what?  That urge to put my hands over my ears strangely disappeared and has never returned.  I guess you could say that Momma discovered a vaccine for that like the one for the COVID virus and it was highly effective. Very.highly.effective.

I am glad that I had a Momma who knew how and when to administer a little discipline…even if it meant taking me out smack dab in the middle of church.  And I am glad that we had a church where no one smirked, and no one said I shouldn’t be there.  We had a church where families and kids were more than welcome and I have tried to make sure that at the churches I pastor, the same is true today.  Rich or poor, black, white, or brown, young, or old—everybody is welcome.  I know that is the way it ought to be because that is the way that Jesus did it. I figure if that was the way He did it—we should do it too.

One time when Jesus was teaching, He looked at the people and had compassion on them because He saw them like a flock of sheep needing a shepherd. Compassion—love in action.  Compassion—love that says come on in, you are welcome here.  I like that.  You see, God is an inclusive God.  He even invites overactive six-year-olds like me and you into His presence.  And He’s always ready to help, always ready to love and always ready to say, “Don’t worry…I’ve got this.” Bro. Dewayne

Posted in fear, forgiveness, friends, Grace, gratitude, life, missions, prayer, Scripture, travel, Trials, wisdom

Big Rivers, Hungry Crocs & Fat Hippos

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Last Part–the Best Part

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Posted in Family, forgiveness, friends, Grace, gratitude, life, loving others, prayer, Scripture, Southern born, thankful

Daddy’s Babies

Dear friends, if God loved us in this way, we also must love one another.” 1 John 4:11

Daddy had eight children and a whole lot of babies.  I was always amazed that Daddy and Momma had eight children.  I’m not sure they ever figured out what was going on, but I sure am glad it took them as long as it did!  If they had stopped a little sooner, well, I wouldn’t have made the cut. In the Taylor tribe we all know they were striving for perfection, and it just took a while—you know the whole saving the best for last thing.  Honestly, and not kidding, maybe too they knew that the things that really matter in life can’t be found in a store.  Maybe they realized that family, and lots of it, was better than fancy houses and nice cars.

Well, like I said, my Daddy had lots of other babies besides the ones he and Momma gave names too.  You see, my Daddy loved flowers.  He loved his amaryllises, and he loved his bromeliads. The first he would carefully cultivate and sometimes even guard.  I remember he had a beautiful all white one that someone actually dug up and stole from our yard.  He was not happy.  The bromeliads were placed under the large oak trees we had and needed just a little care…until the weather changed.  Since it was north Florida, it didn’t happen often but sometimes the temperature would drop near freezing and when it did, the call always rang out, “Dewayne, you need to bring in the bromeliads”.  That meant carrying each pot into the breezeway or garage to protect them from the cold.  They were scratchy and heavy but all that didn’t matter.  He had to protect the babies.

His most favorite babies also needed the most care.  They lived in the backyard in a large diamond shaped garden.  It was his prized rose garden.  I can’t remember exactly how many lived there but it was probably a couple dozen or more.  These did have names and three that stick out in my memory are Mr. Lincoln, Peace, and Tropicana. I do remember that across the backyard these needy, sticky, bushes rewarded him and us with beautiful blooms throughout the growing season. But…they were needy.

Daddy would come home from work about four, have a cup of coffee with Momma in the backyard under the tree and then see what the babies needed.  Sometimes, often actually, there was pruning to do.  I know regular flowering bushes get “deadheaded” but that was much too common for Daddy’s babies…they were always pruned. They also frequently needed to be sprayed with an insecticide.  It seemed bugs liked his roses as much as he did. Then, about once a month they needed to be fertilized.  He would go from bush to bush, adding a small cup of granular fertilizer and then work it into the soil and pine straw that nestled at the base of every bush.

All that was pretty much left to the expert eye and care of my Daddy but there was one thing that often fell to me.  I would come home from school and soon Momma would say, “Dewayne, Daddy wants you to water the rosebushes before he gets home.”  Now I need to be honest and say that is not something I wanted to hear or do.  The water hose needed to be placed at the base of each bush and the water slowly, and I do mean slowly, allowed to seep into the dirt.  It easily took an hour and a half to complete the task and whining or not…I did it.  One, Daddy said to do it and that was probably the biggest motivation but there was another.  I was helping take care of something he loved and that was important too.

Well, eventually, I grew up and moved away, Daddy went to be with Jesus, Momma sold the house, and a lot of the babies were left behind.  I’m sure some were taken and moved but others were just gone…all but the memories of a man who loved his babies and loved his kids.  Looking back, I appreciate now those hours moving the hose from bush to bush.  Looking back, I realize it wasn’t about watering bushes…it was about honoring him and pleasing him.  It was about loving what he loved.

Did you know that is a lot of what serving God is all about?  You see, God loves this old, broken world…always has and I always will.  He loves each of His “babies” and longs for them to come into relationship with Him by faith in His Son, Jesus.  He has even asked us to “water the garden” by sharing that good news with those around us who don’t know Him yet. I know it can sometimes be scary or maybe inconvenient. It might even be we figure some of them just aren’t worthy of His love and forgiveness. Well, the truth is that would be all of us because we are all broken and messed up but that never stopped God from caring and loving us.  And because He loved us…we should love others.

In His Book, John wrote and said, “Dear friends, if God loved us in this way, we also must love one another.” So today, why not look for a way to “water” someone’s life with a little love, a little grace, and a little kindness.  That would make Him smile.  And He is just waiting to help you.  Daddy showed me how to water his babies and our Dearest Daddy will do the same.  He’s got this. Bro. Dewayne 

Posted in Family, forgiveness, friends, gratitude, life, Scripture, thankful, Trials

Chatting With the Father

And after the earthquake there was a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire there was the sound of a gentle whisper.” 1 Kings 19:12

“What was that, again?”  We had a winter storm and though it wasn’t as nasty as they said it was going to be it was still more than enough to warrant staying off the roads and in the house. Turns out, it was a two day in the house deal.  Well, we had an invitation to go eat dinner with a couple on Friday night, but it looked like the weather was going to nix that.  Another good friend was invited to go and frankly, I was disappointed when it looked like it wasn’t going to happen. She wasn’t sure the roads would be safe. I mean, this was one of those good invites…great friends and great food.  So, my wife Judy and I were thrilled when she called and said it looked like the roads were going to be clear enough…so Friday night we were off and running.

Judy sat up front and I was in the backseat.  Our friend owns one of those Toyota off road things…you know, the kind that would be at home in a safari in Africa so trust me the roads were not going to stop us.  I told her we should go four-wheeling before the night was over. Smile. So, anyway, soon we were on our way.  Now, her vehicle may be made to conquer Africa, but it is not made for conversation…especially for those in the backseat.  I was content to just ride but several times a question or something came from the front seat, directed my way.  The result was a “Huh,” or a “What?”

You see, first, I do have some hearing loss.  There are some frequencies that I hear perfect and some that I just don’t.  Usually, questions from my wife fall in the latter category.  Second, her Africa eating vehicle had those tires that like to sing…loudly. Third, there was a pretty good portion of wind noise and finally, I was in the back seat, and they were in the front seat facing away from me.  The bottom line, there wasn’t going to be a lot of conversation…at least not any that involved me.  It was true going…and it was true coming home. All that was fine by me except when it was a question requiring an answer and then well, we were back to the “Huh,” and “What’s.”  I must confess it was just a hair frustrating.

I wasn’t surprised…with that much interference a person with good hearing would probably have struggled.  You put enough interference out there and nobody can hear anything.  That is true with people and wait for it, it is equally true with God.  I believe in prayer…not the wish list kind but the kind where I get to know God better. I believe in prayer…the kind where I can chat with my Dearest Daddy.  No, it is not formal, but it is respectful.  The one thing I forget too often is that it is a conversation, going both ways.  I do the part of me speaking very well…I just don’t do the part of me listening as well.  Sometimes I forget that He probably has more to say to me than I do to Him.  How interesting.

Another thing is that interference thing.  Just like my experience in my friend’s “over the river and through the woods” vehicle, so too often there is plenty of interference between me and my Father.  Yesterday’s sin and failures, today’s plans and worries about tomorrow all tend to speak loudly in my mind and heart and if I am not careful…drown out His voice.  You see God often is more of a whisperer than a shouter and trust me His whispers are worth hearing. One time, He was talking with one of His prophets.  There were all kind of big things going on, a fierce wind, fire, and earthquake and yet God didn’t speak through those…instead, He whispered.

So let me encourage you to take the time to get away, get quiet and get still.  When you get there have a chat…not filled with big and flowery words but words from a sincere heart spoken directly to a Dearest Father who loves you more than you can imagine.  Then be sure and give Him a moment or two speak into the conversation.  Listen carefully for He might speak softly.  He will whisper His love and probably just assure you that, “He’s got this.” Bro. Dewayne

Posted in Family, forgiveness, friends, Grace, gratitude, life, love, prayer, Scripture, Southern born, sovereignty of God, thankful, Trials

Biscuits, God, and You

Then Martha said to Jesus, “Lord, if You had been here, my brother wouldn’t have died. Yet even now I know that whatever You ask from God, God will give You.”  “Your brother will rise again,” Jesus told her.” John 11:21-23

Biscuits…hot, with butter and syrup.  There are certain foods that almost act like a time machine and one of them is a good, southern biscuit.  My Momma was a good cook, but her biscuits were like their own food group.  She would clear off the counter, get out the lard, flour and milk (and I guess a couple of other things), mixed them together in a bowl, plop out the mixture on the counter and roll it out with her ancient rolling pin.

If I remember right, she would grab a ball of the dough, flatten and shape it in her hand and then put it on the pan. Then, for whatever reason, she would take a finger or her thumb and put a little dimple in the top.  After a few minutes in the oven, out they came, heaven in a pan.  While still hot, we would add butter and just like that—a timeless, priceless southern delicacy. Need dessert? No problem, just add butter and syrup and you have southern dining at its best.

When we recently traveled south, we visited with two of my three sisters and both of them made…biscuits.  I’m not sure if it was Momma’s recipe or not but what I can tell you is that they were delicious. While both served real butter, not that fake stuff, one served them with orange marmalade. My, my they were good.  But wait…there is more.  We also visited with Judy’s brother and his wife Sandra also made biscuits.  I am sure somewhere down the line we must be related because the biscuit DNA was a perfect match. Awesome…pure awesome.

My oldest biscuit making sister recently sent me an article about prayer that just happened to mention biscuits and I knew I needed to share it here with all my grits and biscuit loving friends. 

The story goes like this. One Sunday morning at a small southern church, the new pastor called on one of his older deacons to lead in the opening prayer. The deacon stood up, bowed his head and said, ”Lord, I hate buttermilk.”

The pastor opened one eye and wondered where this was going. The deacon continued, “Lord, I hate lard.” Now the pastor was totally perplexed. The deacon continued, “Lord, I ain’t too crazy about plain flour. But after you mix ’em all together and bake ’em in a hot oven, I just love biscuits.”

“Lord, help us to realize when life gets hard, when things come up that we don’t like, whenever we don’t understand what You are doing, that we need to wait and see what You are making. After You get through mixing and baking, it’ll probably be something even better than biscuits. Amen.”

I just love that story and isn’t it so true? If we took the ingredients for biscuits, or most any other thing and tasted them individually, we probably wouldn’t eat much. But when mixed together…well good things happen.  We have a loving Heavenly Father, our Dearest Daddy, who can and will masterfully mix circumstances and events in our life.  Sometimes, perhaps often, by themselves they make no sense and leave us wondering what God is up to.  But, if we are willing to wait, if we are willing to trust, we will usually find that God had a surprise for us…better even than hot biscuits.  Now, I need to be fair and say that some of those surprises might be on the other side of the last heartbeat but regardless…He can be trusted.

So, the next time, you are enjoying a good homemade hot biscuit smothered in melted butter and perhaps a big baptism of syrup, remember that biscuit only happened when the biscuit maker put everything together.  And, when the circumstances of life don’t make sense, well, just hang on.  When the heavenly “Biscuit Maker” gets done, well, it will be worth it all, worth the wait.  Don’t you worry…He’s got this. Bro. Dewayne

Posted in Family, forgiveness, friends, Grace, gratitude, life, love, loving others, prayer, Scripture, travel

She Just Wasn’t Herself

For from His fullness we have all received, grace upon grace.” John 1:16

She just wasn’t herself. A year ago, we were in Panama City Beach on Florida’s Gulf coast for several days.  We were blessed to have a condo right on the beach and five stories up.  The sights and sounds of the Gulf were just amazing.  We have been here many times over the years, but this year was a little different.  You see, I was raised over on the East Coast of Florida where the Atlantic Ocean lives.  There the water is grey and is in constant motion from the waves as they make their way to shore.  Usually, the Gulf is just different.  Here the water usually has just a slight chop and it is not uncommon for it to be a bluish-green color.  In a word…it is beautiful.  All of that is especially true in the winter months.  While the water is too cold for me, I never grow tired of its beauty.  But this year…well, it was different.

From the get-go, the water was much more boisterous.  The waves were constant and large…especially for the Gulf.  The sounds of water tumbling toward the shore filled the air.  The red flag flapping on the pole said, “Stay out of the water” but not many needed a flag…especially not today.  Today the turbulent water said it all—stay clear…stay on shore.  And while the air temperature was a pleasant 72 degrees, the grey clouds, matching the color of the water, echoed that message.  The bottom line was the Gulf just wasn’t herself.  The old girl was stirred up about something.  What, I didn’t know, but she wasn’t herself.

The strange thing is that even though she was not herself, even though she was something totally different, the beauty was still there.  There was something about the waves and the grey water that was still beautiful.  Perhaps it was the power and majesty of nature and knowing that it was all there by Divine design.  Perhaps it was knowing that sometime in the future I would be back…and so would she.  I knew that those three or four days didn’t dictate her permanent nature…it was just a moment in time.

At that moment, it occurred to me that what is true with the Gulf is true with us.  You see, we all have our days.  We all have times when we are just not ourselves and instead of calm and peaceful, instead of a thing of beauty, we act the opposite—turbulent and troubled—more “beastful” than beautiful.  And, like the Gulf, we and perhaps not even they, can explain why they are struggling that day, week, month or perhaps year.  And probably, most likely, you don’t need to tell them…they know it.  You are on the shore looking in, but they are in the midst of the waves…struggling.  And hopefully, soon the time will pass, and the calm and color will return to their lives.

What do you do when you bump into someone who is acting like the turbulent Gulf?  I think we should do what God does for us…extend a little grace.  Grace is defined as unmerited favor and that is what He extends to us and encourages us to extend to them.  Grace receivers should always be grace extenders.  I like the way John, the one in the Bible, puts it.  He says, “For from His fullness we have all received, grace upon grace.” Jesus, so full of grace, went about splashing grace on everyone He met—including us.  And it just seems right that we should do the same.  First, understanding God’s gracefulness to us, be full and then splash it on everyone we bump into—especially the ones who need it the most.

Well, we eventually had to head home.  We left the Gulf and according to the forecast she would be turbulent for a few more days…but not forever.  Calmer days were ahead for her and for me and for you.  And that person that is struggling right now, go ahead and splash a little grace on them.  It just might be the thing that brings a return of calm and beauty to their lives.  And whether you find yourself in the turbulence or on the shore looking on, remember this.  No matter if you need grace or need to extend some, He will be there.  He’s got this. Bro. Dewayne

Posted in Family, forgiveness, friends, Grace, gratitude, life, love, Scripture, thankful, Trials

Braces Not Dentures

Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my concerns. See if there is any offensive way in me; lead me in the everlasting way.” Psalm 139:23-24

Dentures…not exactly what I meant to say.  So as a public speaker I have had plenty, and I do mean plenty, of misspeaks. Since I wasn’t sure misspeak was a word and given today’s story, I decided to check it.  Yup…it is a word and yup…it sure does fit.  A misspeak is when you fail to express yourself insufficiently, clearly, or accurately.  They probably invented that word just for me—or at least people like me.  My most famous misspeak will remain a guarded secret.  Even though it happened very publicly I would rather it not be shared again publicly until my funeral.

Misspeaks can be quite funny.  I had so many at a church I previously pastored that when it was time to move on, they came up with a book of “Dewayne-isms.” And fortunately for me most of mine have been funny…just like the one that prompted this story.  I was speaking about the fact that Jesus told His followers up front that a life that included following Him was going to be hard.  He put it like this, “In this world you will have trouble.  But be of good cheer because I have overcome the world.”  There you go…crystal clear.  Too often though you will hear Christian speakers making some pretty big promises on God’s behalf. It usually includes the fact that if we choose to follow Jesus…the rewards are enormous. It is about then that I list a few.  They usually include things like you will never get sick. You will always have a job and never lose said job.  Every promotion at that job is a guaranteed thing and on and on and on.

Right before I end the list, I always throw the kids in.  They will all be handsome and attractive, be superstar athletes and never, ever need braces.  Well, that is what I meant to say but instead of saying braces, I said dentures. So flying out of mouth came, “And your kids will never need dentures.” Ok, I know and you know that dentures is not even close to braces so where it came from…who knows?  But it took about one second for the crowd to catch it and have a good laugh.  Of course I corrected it right away and even added a bit to add to the unexpected humor. We all had a good laugh, and I can only imagine the next time braces or dentures come up in a conversation, someone just might say, “I remember when…”

Misspeaks—it is a love/hate relationship and as I said often quite funny…until it isn’t.  I suppose you, like me, have said things we wish we hadn’t.  It’s the kind of thing that happens when you say something and you instantly wish it hadn’t.  It’s the kind of thing that we call a slip of the tongue but then you wonder, “Where did that come from anyway?”  And these misspeaks can sometimes leave a scar—the size of Texas.  Jesus said one time that these kind of misspeaks come from the heart. He said, “It is out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks.”  He was saying that often our words reveal what is lurking in the heart.

Now these are not the funny things we say like dentures and braces, no, these are those unkind and hurtful things we say about people…even those and often those…close to us. Typical topics can include weight, appearance, fashion, cooking, housekeeping, oh, and the need for dentures…I mean braces.  You might be wondering, “How do I prevent these things from happening?”  Well, speaking of housecleaning, maybe we need to do some “heart-cleaning.”  The best way to keep the tongue under control is to keep our heart under control. There is a scripture in the Old Testament that says, “Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my concerns. See if there is any offensive way in me; lead me in the everlasting way.”

Boom…there you go.  We need to ask God to give us a day-by-day heart checkup and if He finds anything that doesn’t belong there…ask Him to take care of it.   Often that will include leading you down a different path…a better path…a right path.  One thing I have learned about God is that He really does want to help us do the right thing…including managing our hurtful misspeaks.  If you are like me and sometimes struggle with what you say, just ask and He will help you…every time…anytime.  He’s got this.  Bro. Dewayne

Posted in Christmas, Easter, forgiveness, Grace, gratitude, Holidays, life, love, Scripture, sovereignty of God, thankful

Long Shadows

Why do you seek the living among the dead? He is not here but is risen!”  Luke 24:5b-6a

It cast a long shadow.  Can you imagine what it was like that night when Jesus was born?  Can you imagine being nine months pregnant and making a weeklong journey walking or on the back of a donkey?  Can you imagine mile after mile until there were 90 of them in the rearview mirror?  Can you imagine arriving only to discover that there was no room, no space anywhere and the pains of birth begin and become stronger and stronger. No room, no midwife, no doctor, and no hospital.

Finally, someone offers a stable for the night.  It almost certainly was not a wooden affair but rather a cold, damp cave.  Wood would have been very scarce so rather than a cozy manger made of wood there would have been one chiseled from stone.  And there in those difficult circumstances, the King and creator of the universe took on the form of a human baby.  Jesus was born and according to scriptures was wrapped in strips of cloth or swaddling cloths.  And most of it, all of it, cast a long shadow into His future.

Have you ever wondered why Luke made it a point to mention the swaddling cloths?  It is interesting to know that some thirty-three years later, after His death on the cross, this same Jesus would be prepared for burial by being wrapped once again in strips of cloth or swaddling cloths.  You see, those birth cloths cast a long shadow…all the way to His death. The reason for Christmas was Easter.  And that manger, that stone manger, casts a long shadow too. After His death on the cross, it was in a tomb carved from stone that held the body of Jesus.  As a baby He was laid in stone and as the Redeemer of man, they laid Him in a tomb of stone.  How amazing…how wonderful.

But here is the most amazing part.  The baby that first Christmas night would not stay in the stony manger long and soon also cast off those swaddling cloths. The long shadow they cast would tell the same truth.  After Jesus’ death on the cross, after His burial, He refused to stay dead.  On the third day, He cast off the swaddling cloths of death and burst out of the stony tomb, proving He was indeed the Son of God…the Savior of the world.  Christmas was the beginning of His earthly existence, but the end of the story proved His eternal existence.  He was who He claimed to be, and He did do what He was sent to do.

Jesus came to earth that first Christmas on a rescue mission.  Pastor Chuck Swindoll writes, “This is the message of Christmas: On a rescue mission designed by His Father before time began, Jesus silently slipped into our world, breathed our air, felt our pain, became acquainted with our sorrows, suffered and died for our sins . . . to show us the way out of our darkness and into His glorious light.”

As we approach Christmas, let me encourage to look beyond the stable, the manger and the Baby that lies there.  While wondrous for sure, the end of the story is even grander than the beginning.  God became man…that is amazing…but that the God-Man died for man…well that is even more so.  So, when you see the manger, remember an empty grave.  When you think of the swaddling cloths, imagine them neatly folded in an empty tomb. And remember the greatest wonder of all when the angel said to Mary of Magdalene, “Why do you seek the living among the dead? He is not here but is risen!”

Merry Christmas friends but may I also say, “Happy Easter” for they are forever linked together. The baby in the manger became the Savior on the cross and the Savior of the cross became the King of Kings.  Hallelujah.  Oh, and that King is the One who waits patiently for us to trust Him.  After all, today and everyday…He’s got this.  Bro. Dewayne

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

Three Questions

This means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun!” 2 Corinthians 5:17

He nervously paced the floor as the preacher preached.  My wife Judy and I were recently visiting family in South Georgia. We were at her brother’s house…patiently waiting as his wife prepared us some good southern cooking…chicken and rice, green beans, and a hearty salad…with peach cobbler and ice cream for dessert.  Thinking about it…maybe we weren’t so patient after all.  Anyway, one thing led to another and so her brother, who happens to be a preacher, began to share a story.  Many years ago, he had decided that God was calling him into the ministry and at that time he was filling in wherever he could.  He was still learning and practicing.

Well, his Daddy was the assistant warden at the local work camp…a sort of low security prison…and he suggested that he might find a captive audience there…pun fully intended.  So, her brother began to preach there at the jail.  They would lead him into the dining hall, bring in the prisoners and then…they would lock the doors.  He would begin to tell them about God’s love for broken people…just like them…just like us.  And, while he was preaching, this old man would walk the floor, slowly pacing, and in his own way engage with the preacher.  It was a grunt here and moan there, but it was obvious he was tracking where the preacher was going.

One time, at the end of the sermon, he came up to Judy’s brother and asked him if he could tell him about a sermon he had.  He told Judy’s preacher brother that his sermon asked three questions.  “First,” he said, “Do you have religion?”  Now the question wasn’t about what church you attended but rather did you know God personally.  You see that is the whole point of Jesus…that if you are willing to believe what Jesus said and believe in what He did…you can be a part of God’s family.  That was first because it is most important.  So, do you have religion—that kind of religion?

The old man spoke again and said, “There is another question.”  He wanted to know if you had religion, was it the “catching kind?” The old man was wise enough to know that religion that ain’t worth catching, ain’t worth having. The truth is too often the reason people aren’t interested in what we are “selling” is because it doesn’t seem to be working for us. And, if it isn’t working for us, why would it work for them?  Now, that’s a good question.  So, if you are the religious sort, is your religion worth catching?

Finally, the old man said, “Now the third question is this.  If you have religion, and if it is the catching kind…if anyone catching it?”  See, he knew that real religion, the kind that Jesus brings…brings change.  The Bible says that if anyone believes in Jesus, they become a new creation…the old life passes away and the new comes. We have a couple of fellas in our church that met Jesus while they were serving time in prison, and they will gladly tell you that they came out different than they went in.  That kind of religion is worth sharing.  That kind of religion is worth catching.

Well, with that the old man turned away and Judy’s brother went his own way too.  But do you know what?  He never forgot that old man’s sermon.  In fact, he preached it a time or two and now here I am writing about it.  The old man didn’t have much education and I’m not sure he ever made it out of prison.  But right there where he was, he was making a difference. You know, God created us to make a difference and those three questions can help us determine if we are. You can tweak those questions to read like this.  First, do you have something you are passionate about? Second, is it a passion worth sharing with those around you? Third, is anyone catching your passion, your dream, your vision?

For me the greatest passion of life is knowing God personally and trust me…it is a passion worth sharing and certainly worth catching.  Now remember, I’m not talking about religion in the plain old sense or church in the ordinary sense.  I am talking about experiencing the life changing power of the grace and forgiveness of God.  If you haven’t caught it yet…well, trust me it is worth catching.  God loves people…all people regardless of skin color, economic status or how long or short their sin list might be.  Your sin can’t out grace God’s grace.  You need to know this.  He wants to know you personally and wants you to personally know Him.  And, no matter what you have done, rest assured, He’s got this.”  Bro. Dewayne