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

Perseverance

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Show a Little Gratitude

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What are you doing when “this” is all over? Are you gonna run as fast as you can to a life crammed with busy and stuff? Or are you going remember the One who stood by your side and spoke to your heart? As rumors circulate of life returning to normal, the noise of life will get louder and louder. Over the din, plan now not to forget the One who whispered, “Rest in Me” and “I’ve got this.” Bro. Dewayne

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

Hope

Daughter, your faith has made you well. Go in peace. Your suffering is over.” Mark 5:34

She knew the pain of isolation. For her rejection was a way of life. For twelve years she was alone. For twelve years she felt the pain of rejection. For twelve years she knew nothing but unworthiness. We don’t know her real name. Her condition named her–defined her. She was known as the “woman with an issue of blood.”

That name made her unacceptable in most circles. Church? “So sorry, unworthy.” Her neighborhood? “So sorry, unclean.” Her family? Well, there really wasn’t one that would claim her. Like I said she was an expert at social distancing. No one wanted her. And it hurt. A lot.

It wasn’t that she didn’t try to make things right. Her story is found in Mark 5 and in verse 26 we read, “She had suffered a great deal from many doctors, and over the years she had spent everything she had to pay them, but she had gotten no better. In fact, she had gotten worse.” She so craved an end to this nightmare of loneliness and illness. Her body was worn down by the blood loss and her spirit was worn down by the rejection. She had seen every physician, but the only result was a depleted bank account and a worsening condition. She was at the end. And that is where she found Jesus.

We are not told how she came to know of Jesus, but it was probably word of mouth. Someone said and someone repeated, “Jesus heals people. Jesus touches people…even unworthy people. Jesus accepts people…even people that no one else wants.” She heard a crowd. She saw a crowd and at the middle of this crowd was her only hope.

She weaved her way to the center trying to conceal her face because if they knew who she was, she would quickly be pushed aside. She believed that if she could just touch His robe, she could–she would be healed. Finally, she saw His back and stumbling she touched His robe. Immediately she knew it. Immediately she felt it–it was done. It was over. She was healed.

Jesus knew it too. He felt power leave His body and He asked the crowd, “Who touched me?” The disciples, perhaps with a smile, said, “Lord, you see the crowd. What do you mean who touched you?” But Jesus knew what they didn’t. Someone’s life was changed, and it was her. She, so used to rebuke and rejection, came trembling and confessed, “It was me.” Before she could apologize or explain, He said it.

In verse 34, Jesus says, “Daughter, your faith has made you well. Go in peace. Your suffering is over.” What did He say? Daughter? She had been called unworthy, unclean, unwanted, but “Daughter?” That was a name she had never heard. And He declared an end to her war with suffering. She was made whole. She was accepted. She was clean. Amazing.

It all happened because of a five-letter word. Faith. She believed. Let’s be careful here. She didn’t just believe, she believed in Jesus. It wasn’t just faith, it was faith in Him. You see when we believe there can be hope. But when we choose to believe in Jesus there is healing, there is life, there is rescue.

They parted ways then. There was a twelve-year-old girl who needed to be raised from the dead. She needed her own miracle. But for this woman, life was never the same. Maybe she went home. Maybe she went to the market. Maybe she went to the temple. It doesn’t matter where she went, the stigma was gone. She was no longer called unclean, no longer called unworthy, no longer called unwanted. She had a new name. It was “daughter.”

So how about you? Does this story resonate within you? Are her names… your names? Is her pain …your pain? Why not fight the crowd, break your spiritual social distancing, your isolation, and come to Jesus? And, like her, why not believe? Have the courage to believe that you will find healing and rest in Him. After all, He’s got this. Bro. Dewayne

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

Freedom Day

When the Lord brought back the captivity of Zion, we were like those who dream. Then our mouth was filled with laughter, and our tongue with singing.” Psalm 126:1-2a

I woke up and realized it wasn’t a dream.  I remember last year the rumor was confirmed.  Our school system was shutting down for two weeks as a preventive measure against COVID -19.  Our church leadership met and decided to show support for the community we would also dismiss services for the next two weeks.  Little did we know that eventually we would be shut down for ten weeks.  Those ten weeks seemed like eternity and included Easter and Mother’s Day.  It seemed we were locked down and locked up…and it would never end.

Soon, mandated by the state government, nonessential stores were ordered to close.  Restaurants were ordered to close.  Soon shelves in grocery stores were bare of some items and a roll of toilet paper was like gold.  In the early days, our area was virtually unscathed by the virus but the reality of a new normal was very real.  Schools were closed for a long period and something called “on-line learning” became an everyday, everywhere, deal.  It seemed we were forced and destined for not only a new normalcy but a very different one.

Soon masks were the big topic…and divider.  Whether they should be required or not divided families, friends, neighbors, and churches.  At first it was something that was mandated, but not really enforced however soon it was.  While stores used to have signs that said, “No shoes and shirt…no service” it became, “No mask, no entry.”  Something that was very foreign (no pun intended) to us because an everyday topic.  Many were confused, angry, and discouraged. Would this thing ever end?  Would things ever be the way they were?  A few nodded yes, but most shook their head no. Like a sour love story, we might learn to comply, but we would never love it.

This spring, a year after it started, things began to change…a new wind was blowing and it was bringing hope.  States began easing or removing restrictions, the virus began retreating and the promise of life without “Thou Must or Thou Can’t” advanced…flooding in like desert rain on the drylands. And then last Friday, June 11, in one of the most restrictive states in the nation, freedom day came.  Last Friday, Illinois finally became an open state—and it was like a dream come true.  On a much smaller scale, it was like the children of Israel finally leaving Egypt. They were free and yes, we are free.

Like the children of Israel, we too will now face some choices.  Are we going to hold onto the fear of last year or let it go? Are we going to let what divided us still do so? Are we going to hold onto grudges and remain a divided people?  The choice is ours. We can let the past lay in the past, learning what we need to learn, or we can run forward embracing what lies ahead.  I hope we will run forward.  I hope we will remember and understand that God was faithful, is faithful and will be faithful, no matter what next week or next year holds.  The future is in His hands…and that is a good thing.

So, last Friday, I told my wife Judy that it was Freedom Day…a reason and a cause to celebrate.  I will not seek division, I will not be a part of the past, I am running forward, and I hope you will join me.  The book of Psalms, found in the Jewish and Christian scriptures says, “When the Lord brought back the captivity of Zion, we were like those who dream. Then our mouth was filled with laughter, and our tongue with singing. They said among the nations, “The Lord has done great things for them.” The Lord has done great things for us, and we are glad.

We.Are.Glad.  Be sure today and do three things.  First, if you are a Jesus follower…be sure and thank Him for guiding us and bringing us out of this past year or so.  Second, celebrate what He has done.  Throw a party of sorts.  We’ve waited for it…now celebrate it.  Third, remember.  Remember those who suffered and lost during the COVID time.  For many, those sixteen months or more, are very painful…share and feel their pain and remember that in some parts of the world, bondage continues.  And while you are remembering, remember this.  In March of 2020 I wrote the first blog for Grits and I closed it with the words, “He’s got this.” Well, He did, He does, and He will.  Bro. Dewayne

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

Sleepy Lions

Stay alert! Watch out for your great enemy, the devil. He prowls around like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour.” 1 Peter 5:8

We found him sleeping in the grass.  Sound asleep.  A while back I had the privilege of going to Uganda and visiting with Watoto ministries.  The trip allowed me to see the incredible work of Watoto up front and personal.  They work with orphaned babies and children as well as single mothers.  They raise the kids to become Christian leaders and help the mothers provide for their families.

Part of the trip involved us going to Northern Uganda to see the work there. It also gave us the opportunity to take a one-day safari.  A safari gives you the opportunity to see animals in the wild.  You are on their turf and their terms.  We saw a large variety of animals but there was one we all wanted to see.  The lion.  It is like the holy grail of safaris–to see the “king of the jungle.”

Our guide that day just happened to be one of park rangers, so he had access to areas others did not.  So off we went.  Before long there was a report of a lion sleeping in a tree.  We went cross country and before long, bam, there was a lion…sound asleep.  Well, it was pretty incredible–asleep or not. We snapped about a hundred pictures of our sleeping friend and moved on.

We drove for about 30 minutes and another report came of a group of lions about 50 yards off the road.  Our guide, the ranger, told the driver to drive though the ditch and he did.  Sure enough, there were the lions.  There were about five or six of these magnificent beasts–all sound asleep.  What is up with lions and sleeping?

Well, it turns out that lions sleep 20 hours a day.  They hunt, eat and sleep.  That’s about it. Our driver gets to within five or six feet of the sleeping feline.  Our guide shouts, the driver honks the horn and nothing.  And then he does something totally unexpected.  He throws water on the lion.

What? Excuse me? Well, the king of the jungle, who turned out to be a queen, sits up, yawns and looks at us.  Hmmm…this lion thing is not what it is cracked up to be.  You would be tempted to think that every lion was like this lion.  That would be a mistake.

You see, there are some nasty lions out there and they would like to invite you to lunch. Lions are vicious predators and will eat you. I’ve watched enough National Geographic shows to know that not all lions are created equal.  I also know this.  Not all lions live in Africa.  In fact, there is one who lives close–very close.  He doesn’t have a mane or a tail, but he does have an appetite.  His name isn’t Mufasa or Simba. It is Satan.

The Bible, in 1 Peter 5:8, says this, “Stay alert! Watch out for your great enemy, the devil. He prowls around like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour.” On the safari we stayed alert looking for a lion. In this case we need to stay alert because the lion is looking for us.  And guess what?  He’s looking for lunch.

Peter said Satan is like a roaring lion.  If you’ve studied lions a bit, you know that a lion doesn’t roar when its stalking prey.  A lion roars for two different reasons.  One, he is declaring his dominance.  He is claiming his territory. This is mine.  He also roars to invite others to join his pride. The devil does both.

Satan is always roaring saying “this is mine and that is mine” but nothing is truly his. Nothing. It belongs to a much larger, much stronger Lion–the Lion of Judea. Satan is a liar–remember that. He wouldn’t know the truth if it stared him in the face. No pun intended.

He is also looking for others to join his pride.  He is looking for people who are discouraged and disheartened with life and with God and inviting them to join him.  Joining him is a big mistake. He is a loser, and he knows it.  That is why he is roaring so loudly.  His time is limited and he wants to take as many with him as he can.

Now if you are a believer, Satan can’t steal your salvation, but he can steal your peace, your character, your witness, your family, your integrity–well the list goes on and on.  That is why Peter said, “Stand firm against him, and be strong in your faith.” Peter knew from experience just how good Satan is at taking what is not rightfully his.

Jesus said in John 10:10 “The thief comes to steal, kill and destroy.”  That’s the enemy but Jesus isn’t done speaking. He goes on to say, “I have come to give you life and life more abundantly.”  He is saying, “if you trust Me, the Lion of Judah, you can rest in Me. I’m never asleep and I’m never out-gunned. I’ve got this.” And, He does. Bro. Dewayne

Posted in Family, forgiveness, Grace, gratitude, life, love, loving others, Military memories, prayer, priorities, Scripture, thankful, travel, Trials, USA

Heroes

Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends.”        John 15:13

Years later, it still tugs at my heart. I’m not sure how I found my way there, but I was grateful.  During my assignment in Sembach, Germany we had the opportunity to see so much.  From Hitler’s hideaway called “The Eagle’s Nest” in Berchtesgaden to the windmills of Holland to the Alps of Switzerland we were constantly amazed at what was all around us.  But nothing prepared me for Luxembourg.

We had some friends that we had known in our days at Moody Air Force Base in South Georgia.  They received orders to Germany several months before we did.  They were only a couple of hours from us so we saw each other pretty frequently.  It must have been during one of our forays that we came to it—Luxembourg American Cemetery.  It was one of the most hollowed sights I have ever seen.

There, in the cemetery, are 5,075 white Lasa marble crosses and stars of David.  Row after row of headstones that mark the final resting place of American heroes.  Each one made the ultimate sacrifice for us, for you and me, that we can live in freedom.  General George Patton is buried there. Two Medal of Honor recipients are also buried there: David G. Turner and William D. McGee. Twenty-two sets of brothers lay buried side by side throughout the cemetery. Some, 371 in fact, were never found.  They are simply listed as missing in action.  102 are just unknown.

This place of honor was established on December 29, 1944.  Many of the soldiers died during the Battle of the Bulge…Hitler’s last push to turn the tide of the war in Germany’s favor.  It failed but it came at great cost to the Allied forces. It was a harsh winter and because of the urgency of the times many were sent to fight with little or no winter gear. The desperate Germans showed little mercy to those taken prisoner.  And, all this occurred just nine months, nine months, before the war ended.  So many had survived D-Day and countless days of combat only to make the ultimate sacrifice months before the grand reunion with family.

Heroes.  It is a word we throw around lightly these days.  In a world where everyone gets a trophy we are in danger of losing the value of this incredible word.  Hero. Dictionary.com defines it as “a person noted for courageous acts.” Oxford says it is a person who is admired or idealized for courage. Webster defines it as an illustrious warrior or one who shows great courage.  Another place said it is a person who at great danger to themselves puts others first.

I went to Toys-R-Us one time and there they had several aisles of super hero stuff.  As I turned the corner a sign caught my eye.  It simply said, “Real Heroes.”  Along that aisle were the soldiers and sailor figures as well as police, firemen, and other emergency responders.  If I went to that aisle today it would have to include doctors, nurses and other medical professionals.  Real heroes…real people putting others first at peril to themselves.

But there would be one missing.  Jesus Christ, the Hero of Heaven, who willingly, who bravely, gave Himself to a Roman cross that men, women and children could be free. The cross was so horrible it was called the death of deaths.  It was so horrible it was illegal to crucify a Roman citizen.  And yet…He went.  Why?  He loved me. He loved you.

Amazingly it was not for some of us but all of us. Skin color, economic station, language, nationality, capacity to be bad or good doesn’t matter.  The Bible simply says, “He came to seek and save that which was lost.”  It simply says, “Whoever calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”  It simply says He is not willing for any to perish but all to come home. Anyone—I like anyone. Anyone who acknowledges their need for a rescue will find one in Jesus. And this Hero not only does a meet and greet, He invites you to join His family.  How about that!

So when you hear the national anthem, place your hand over your heart as a salute to those who paid the price for our freedom.  When you see a veteran, thank them for his or her service and sacrifice.  When you walk through a cemetery with your kids, point out the graves of the men and women who served and tell them why they are so special.  And when you talk to the Hero of Heaven next time, thank Him for forgiving your sin.  Thank Him for always being there.  Thank Him for giving you a place to rest.  And, thank Him for having this….because He does.  Bro. Dewayne

Posted in Family, food, forgiveness, Grace, life

Stupid Watermelon

For I am conscious of my rebellion, and my sin is always before me. Against you—you alone—I have sinned and done this evil in your sight.” Psalm 51:3-4

Hi Grits family- Judy and I are out of pocket for the next four days, so we are giving you the opportunity to revisit some of our favorites.  So, God bless, enjoy and we will see you soon.

I should have just stayed home.  You probably don’t know there is such a thing as a stupid watermelon but if you live long enough you will surely run into one.  In my case it happened just a couple of weeks ago at our local grocery store.  Before I begin the story you need to know that I am one of those slightly older people who has “old people’s skin.”  In case you don’t know “old people’s skin” happens as a person ages.  The result is skin that bruises and wounds easily.  Let me just say, “It ain’t fun.” It goes like this.

You are opening the storm door with one of those automatic closing things.  The wind catches the door, banging into your arm.  Congratulations…you are the proud owner of a new bruise.  You are carrying a pile of limbs to the rubbish pile and one shifts in your hands and against, or rather into, your arm.  You win again.  You are going up the stairs…yes, I said up the stairs, and your foot catches on the riser and you fall against the wall.  Double congratulations…you win a bruise and cut.  Sigh.

And it is always the hand you use the most.  In my case I am left handed so my left arm continually looks like I play major league football or have wrestled with a full-grown lion.  Either way…its’ not pretty.  And mark my word, just about the time you get it healed up…bam…you start all over again. That, dear friends, is where the stupid watermelon comes along.

I don’t do grocery stores.  I definitely do food…I just don’t do grocery shopping.  Well, one evening I was feeling pretty jovial and decided to go to the grocery store with my wife Judy.  We enter the store and get one of those cute (on no…I said cute again) mini baskets and off we go.  We are heading back to the bakery so I am in a particularly good mood.  I can already taste the greasy, fried dough.  Then…it happens.  There is a sign that says, “Watermelons – $3.99.”  Judy loves watermelons.

We pause and begin to study the watermelons.  She thumps them.  She pats them. She caresses them.  After several minutes the winner is chosen.  “I want this one” she declares.  Her galant, strong prince, hoists the winning melon out of the bin of losers and prepares to put it in the buggy.  Because we have a mini-buggy, I decided to put it in the bottom rather than the top.  That is where things got ugly.

I bend over and prepare to slide the watermelon into the too small bottom portion of the buggy. Just at the time of releasing the melon and removing my hand—it slips. As it falls into the too small bottom portion it rolls on my hand and catches my finger between the basket and watermelon. “Ouch,” I said.  When I was able to maneuver my finger from between the basket and melon—I saw it.  Not a bruise…oh no…but a nice ¾ inch skin laceration.  It was bleeding. Badly. Profusely.  It was then the true nature of the melon escaped my lips, “Stupid watermelon.”  No wonder they were on sale for $3.99. 

It seems at least they could have put a sign up that read, “Stupid Watermelons – $3.99.” 

Well, I quickly became obsessed over the true nature of the evil watermelon.  “Hey Judy, do you have a tourniquet to stop the bleeding from the stupid watermelon?” “Honey, do you want some cheese to go with the stupid watermelon?” On and on it went and the watermelon and I became mortal enemies.  And the coup-de-grace?  Not only was it stupid…it wasn’t even sweet.  Sigh.

But no, I had to find out the hard way.  About then Judy said something like, “Well, it really wasn’t the watermelon…it was the buggy.” I began to protest but I think she said something like, “And you know it happened because it slipped out of your hand.”  By that I assumed she meant the one that was cut and bleeding.  Somehow it didn’t make my hand feel any better and two weeks later I still have some healing to do.  But…she was right.

It wasn’t the watermelon, it wasn’t the buggy it wasn’t even me.  It was just one of those things that happen.  I just needed to blame something because my hand hurt and 746 people were going to ask, “What happened to your hand?”  Blaming it on a stupid watermelon just seemed easier.  The truth is, it is easier to blame than it is to own.  It has been that way since the beginning of time.  In the garden, Adam blamed Eve and God for the hot mess they were in after they chose to sin.  Eve, of course, blamed the serpent and the serpent, well, he just smiled.

Whether it is broken skin or a broken heart; whether it is someone’s fault or not; whether you own part of the skirmish or all of it—why not take a moment and own it. Press the pause button, calm down and then just eat the watermelon.  That way, you will get the last laugh.  Then, tell God about it, all about it and take a rest in Him.  He’s got that and this.  Bro. Dewayne

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

Lifeline

The Lord is good, a stronghold in the day of trouble; and He knows those who trust in Him.” Nahum 1:7

Nahum 1:7. It was in the Bible and it was his verse.  Church has always been a part of my culture.  From the time I was born it seems I always found my way to a building with a steeple on top. That also means I bumped into several pastors and preachers too.  Each one left a fingerprint on my life and because of that each one made a difference.  Speaking of different…each one was.  Different gifts, talents, and personalities, but each one made an impact.  I am grateful.

When my wife Judy and I moved to Germany in 1977 for a stint overseas with the Air Force, we were fortunate to have a church not too far from where we lived and the base where I worked.  It wasn’t long before we were part of that family.  In fact, it wasn’t long before we were good friends with the pastor and his wife.  He was a young pastor, had an infectious smile and a great personality and we hit it off right from the start.  We were about five or six years different in our ages, so he was kinda like a big brother only he wasn’t very big…but his heart was.

One of the things (literally) that I liked about hanging with Steve (not his real name) was he had a new shiny, red Volkswagen sports car.  It was great on curves and it was plenty fast and since Germany had lots of curves and often no speed limit on the autobahn…well, it was fun.  I guess in some ways we were like a couple of teenagers.

Steve also was a Godly guy.  He really tried to live his faith out. One of the things that he shared with me was his “life verse.”  In case you don’t know what that is, it is a verse from that Bible that jumps off the page at you and gets stuck in your mind and heart. So, Steve’s verse came from one of those books in the Old Testament that no one can find.  It is called the Book of Nahum and his verse came from chapter one, and verse seven.  It goes like this, “The Lord is good, a stronghold in the day of trouble; and He knows those who trust in Him.”

It is the kind of verse that you gotta love.  It is the kind of verse that can be a lifeline when the sea of life gets rough.  It isn’t that the verse has any magic powers, it’s just that it contains a boatload of truth.  God is good, and it isn’t that He just does good, He is good.  He is like a place you can run to when things go south, and He remembers my name, your name, our names.  Those are great truths when the sun is shining in life and really, great truths when the storm clouds roll in…just like it did for Steve one day.

Without warning, he learned that his marriage was over, there was another guy.  It was just one of those crazy things that happen, and it broke his heart and our hearts.  The bottom line, he decided it was best to head back to the states and in a short while…he was gone.  I never saw him again but if by chance he reads this someday, I hope he knows there were some things that stuck with me…like his life verse.  No, his verse didn’t become mine, but it stuck.  God is good, God is a refuge, God knows my name.

How about you?  Do you have a verse that jumped off the page one day and into your heart and life?  Mine for a real long time has been Proverbs 3:5-6 but for the last several years it has had some real competition with Psalm 37:23-24.  Check them out…they are both awesome scriptures.  That is one thing about the Bible.  Even if you’ve never taken the leap of faith to believe, and I hope you will, you will find it an incredible Book of wisdom and knowledge and who knows, if you try it, it might just leap right into your life.  God is good, God is a refuge, God knows my name.  It was good back in 1977, it is good today, and when I launch from here to there, it will still be good. And no matter the circumstance, no matter the deal, it reminds me that, “He’s got this.”  Bro. Dewayne

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

Grace and the Big Bang

Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those in Christ Jesus.” Romans 8:1

I had no idea.  I never saw it coming.  When I woke on that Wednesday morning, I had no idea that something as dramatic as an automobile accident was going to occur.  In fact, up to the point of impact everything was routine and then just like that, it changed. Now keep in my mind, in the world of accidents, mine was, well, minor.  No one was hurt and that was the most important thing.  But regardless, it was a big deal.  It was the kind of deal that leaves a person scarred and wiser.

That accident at that corner happened 16 years ago and yet to this day, I never approach it without thinking about that day.  I always, and I mean always, look both ways several times…just to be sure.  Yes, the big trees and bushy bushes that obscured my vision that day are long gone but the memories are not.  They are my constant companion next to me in the driver’s seat and they whisper…be careful.  That is not a bad thing, as long as they are whispering and not shouting.

Perhaps there is an “accident” in your past that has left you a little scarred and a little wiser.  The important thing is to make sure it stays in the past, forgiven, and is only invited in your present to whisper a wise word or two.  The lessons of the past can help us not make the same mistake in our todays, but, don’t let them own you.

Two more lessons came from that Wednesday “Closer Encounter of the Ouch Kind.” I learned that little things can take down big things.  The other driver was driving a much smaller car, a Honda Accord.”  I, on the other hand, was driving a Pontiac Grand Prix.  Logic would say that I would win the day but amazingly my car was totaled, and she was able to drive her car away from the scene.  How is that possible?  She was the one who delivered the punch and fate determined where.  She hit me right at the door post of the driver’s side door.  It was a critical area that bent the firewall and a bunch of other things that weren’t supposed to be bent.  Bottom line? It was a knock-out punch.

An important lesson was reenforced in my life that day.  Smaller things can cause massive damage to bigger things.  It is true with cars, but it is also true of things like reputations, character, and life.  It is important that we guard our heart and minds and keep the things that matter well-guarded and safe. Remember the words written by the wisest man ever to live, King Solomon.  He said we need to catch the little foxes that ruin the vines.  You see, ruined vines, don’t produce grapes and a ruined character takes a long time to recover.

Oh, and there was one more very important lesson from that day.  The accident was my fault but there were some extenuating circumstances.  The big trees and bushy bushes really shouldn’t have been there and later they were removed.  But in my hand remained the ticket that said, “This was your fault.”  The police office apologized for having to write the ticket but it all still said, “It was your fault.” But then an amazing thing happened.  Someone heard about the accident and the ticket and extended…grace.  Though I was technically in the wrong, they also knew the circumstances and the ticket was dismissed and the fine removed. Grace.

Paul talked a lot about grace in the New Testament part of the Bible but perhaps he said it best in a letter he wrote to the Christians in Rome.  He said, “There is no condemnation for those in Christ Jesus.”  In other words, because of Jesus, the guilt and penalty for their sins, for our sins, can be removed. And ,it doesn’t happen because we earn it, it happens because He loves us. You see, if we will believe in who Jesus was and trust what He did…the charges and penalty can be removed.  We can be declared, “Not guilty.”  How about that?

You may or may not have an “oops” on your driving record, but we all have plenty of oops as we travel the highways of life.  It is good to know that there is Someone who has the power and the authority to extend grace—unmerited favor.  His name is Jesus, and He is waiting to help us.  No matter how obvious, no matter how big, you need to know, “He’s got this.” Bro. Dewayne

Posted in Family, forgiveness, Grace, life, prayer, thankful, Trials

Skunked

Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me.” Psalm 51:10

The little stinker was not welcome.  A couple of days ago we went down to visit our daughter and son-in-law down by Kentucky Lake.  We really went to see the grandkids, but we won’t tell them that.  The place where they live is just beautiful.  Close to the lake and surrounded by beautiful woods, it is the kind of place drinking a cup of coffee in the morning was made for.  Of course, this time of the year, everything is lush and green.  Gone is the bareness of winter as the time for things to sleep was replaced by a time of new life.

Because they are in a forested area there is plenty of wildlife around.  It is not uncommon to see deer feeding down by the tree line and birds of every sort.  Up the road a piece is a herd of Bison, a few horses, and cattle.  They have a couple of dogs too, which adds to the mix.  Oh, and then, there was the unwelcome guest.  Two or three days before our arrival, my son-in-law spotted a skunk in the backyard.  They were hoping that he was just passing through, but apparently, he kinda likes the place.  Even when they don’t see him, they know he is around by the pungent odor that he carries with him.

Their two dogs, Rupp and Callie, seem to have a real affection for the skunk. They can’t wait to run down to the woods to try and find their new friend.  Despite all efforts, they keep running and looking and one day, well, its gonna happen.  Saturday morning during our visit, there was a “close encounter of the skunk kind.”  Rupp is the much more obedient of the two dogs.  He will generally come when he is called and while he and the skunk are pals, they are not on a first name basis.  Callie on the other hand has gone over the edge.  That morning, Callie took off and either met the skunk or came close because she came back wearing some of his perfume. It wasn’t a direct hit, but there was an aroma.

She came in the house and ran into the master suite and soon it wasn’t “sweet” any longer. What she apparently loved to roll in was, uh, not so pleasant to us.  In fact, both occupants of the bedroom were up and outta there.  Now personally, Callie didn’t smell that bad to me.  Either my smeller wasn’t as sensitive (no COVID, thank you) or I quickly got used to it, but regardless it wasn’t a big deal.  Well, Callie ended up banned from the yard forever (except on a leash) and they ran her through the equivalent of a dog carwash.  She did smell a lot better. Hey, no harm, no foul.

That evening, after driving back home, I put on the same pajama shirt that I had worn that morning and proceeded to study my sermon.  As I sat at my desk, I noticed a faint but familiar odor—it was the offensive perfume.  Apparently, there was an odor after all and later when my nose was more awake, it became evident. I changed shirts and threw that one in the wash.  Hopefully by the time we visit again, Mr. Skunk will be history.

You know I was surprised to smell the odor on my shirt that evening.  That morning I didn’t smell a thing, but that night it was clearly obvious.  What was the difference?  I think there was enough odor in the air at my daughter’s house that my shirt simply smelled like everything else.  I grew too accustomed to the odor.  The offensive smell became “normal.”  I have a feeling that may happen more often than we realize.  It has nothing to do with skunks, but everything to do with our “skunky” or sinful actions.

If we are not careful, we become too accustomed to our harsh words, or our negative mindset, or our unkind actions.  And, because they are part of our “normal” we never even know it.  But remember this…those around us know it and Someone even more important knows it—God.  The best way to fix the problem is to live in such a way, that that kind of “normal” is never normal.  Just like a fresh environment revealed the odor in my shirt, we should allow our environment to be so pure that anything stinky will become readily apparent.

One time, King David of Old Testament fame, got more than a little “skunky” and spent most of the rest of his life trying to get rid of the stench.  He prayed a lot during those days and one of his prayers went like this, “Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me.” That’s a good prayer for sure.  And, by God’s grace, he was made clean.  In fact, he was known as a “man after God’s own heart.”  So, when you get “skunked” just take it to the Father and rest assured that He can handle anything and everything.  He’s got this—even our stinky sin.  Bro. Dewayne

*A special thank you to Ellie Grace, (granddaughter) for making today’s graphic-great job Ellie!