Posted in Family, forgiveness, Grace, gratitude, life, love, loving others, priorities, Scripture, sovereignty of God, thankful, travel

Chosen

Even before He made the world, God loved us and chose us in Christ to be holy and without fault in His eyes.” Ephesians 1:4

I was as surprised as she was.  One on the wonderful things about Key Colony and the Continental Inn happens every day about twelve hours apart. The place where we stay has a small private sand beach.  Now that doesn’t sound too impressive until you realize that sand beaches aren’t that common in the Florida Keys.  Most often when you make it to the shore, you find it covered with large rocks.  In fact, that was our first experience many years ago.  The kids were young, and we drove down from Naples where we were staying.  When we arrived, we rushed to the “beach” only to find it covered with large rocks.  Bummer.

At the Inn there is glorious sand and an abundance of clear water.  Both are amazing.  But here is the special part.  The beach faces the east which means every morning there is a beautiful sunrise.  Every day I would go out with a cup of coffee while the water was like glass, and it was still dark.  The fingernail moon would be there offering little light but plenty of beauty and the stars glimmered in the dark night sky.  And slowly, God gave birth to a new and beautiful day.  Every morning I would say, “This is the day the Lord has made, and I will rejoice and be glad in it.” At that point it was a blank canvas, but I knew the Maker of masterpieces would be painting that day and He works wonders…always.

So, the sun would rise and about twelve hours later it would take it’s bow and night, a time of rest, would come.  Everything is beautiful in it’s time.  Now here is the part you have to love.  Every evening Judy and I would walk out the front parking lot, go about 100 yards and there was Sunset Park.  It was a small peninsula where the community had set up benches and built a small pier, and folks gather there to watch the sunset.  Imagine that.   A place where you can watch the sunrise over the water in the morning then walk a short distance and see the sun set…again over water.  It was amazing.

On our second night, something magical happened.  Again, people gather at Sunset Park every evening to watch the sunset. This particular night I noticed, actually almost bumped into, a group of four young people.  I nodded and smiled, and they did the same.  Judy and I found our favorite bench and the group of four chose to stand about fifteen feet from us. They were smiling…as were we.  It is a moment to enjoy…and then it got better.

About that time, I heard laughter of joy and looked over as one of the young men slipped an engagement ring on the left hand of the “one” he had chosen.  It was a total surprise for her and for us.  I don’t know if I have ever experienced this event as a stranger looking on and in, but it was a beautiful moment.  She was laughing and jumping, and they were hugging and celebrating.  Their friends, who were in on the surprise, were beaming from ear to ear.  And, all this is happening in a beautiful waterfront setting as God puts His seal of approval on another day.  It was glorious.

When it was time to go, Judy and I walked over and congratulated the young couple and told them it was their lucky day since I was a pastor, and we could seal the deal right then.  I shared about five lines from the traditional ceremony I use, and we all laughed together.  What a wonderful moment.  I think the joy of it all might be summed up in one word…chosen.  You see, the young man chose her to be his.  Out of all the girls in his world…he chose this one to spend his life with.  And…she chose him by saying, “Yes.”

It is a wonderful thing to be chosen and never is that more beautiful than when we realize that God chose to love us…He chose us to be His bride. If we are willing to accept His invitation to be His, like her, our lives will never be the same.  To be loved like that is the greatest of all gifts. God didn’t have to love us…He chose to love us.  We were scarred by sin and brokenness and yet He saw in us beauty.  We weren’t worthy of His love and yet He still extended it and to Him each of us are as beautiful as a bride on her wedding day.

Being chosen is a glorious thing and I hope you have accepted God’s invitation to be His beloved.  Remember, no matter how scarred your life may seem you will always be beautiful in His eyes.  And this marriage, well, it can never go south.  Sadly, many marriages don’t end well, but He has promised to never leave us or forsake us.  He will be yours and you will be His…forever.  If you haven’t already, why not accept His proposal today?  He is patiently waiting for you to say, “Yes.”  And, when you do, you will find Someone who will walk by your side no matter what…One who believes in you, One who loves you, and who will whisper security and assurance with six simple words…I’ve got you and no matter what, I’ve got this.  Bro. Dewayne

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

Eating Your Words

The one who reveals secrets is a constant gossip; avoid someone with a big mouth.” Proverbs 20:19

The more I chewed the bigger it got.  I have lots of food memories from growing up.  First you need to remember that I was born in the South and folks from the South have a whole different way of eating.  And trust me…that means it was good…mostly.  I can remember fried chicken Sunday dinners with green beans and mashed potatoes…the kind that didn’t come from a box but from a real potato.  A lot of Sundays we had pot roast with those same yummy potatoes and green beans. And “dinner on the grounds” at church was a potluck straight from heaven.

My mama was the biscuit queen.  You can’t imagine how good they were hot out of the oven.  While we did occasionally have desert, we really didn’t need it.  We would just take one of mama’s biscuits, slather it with butter and then pour cane syrup all over it.  Shoot-that-thing! You don’t know good if you’ve never had homemade biscuits and cane syrup.  Now with all that said, there were a few things we had that were a bit—different.

I remember I decided to try something new with peanut butter. It could have been that we were out of jelly but anyway I got the mayonnaise out of the refrigerator, smeared it on some bread and then loaded on the peanut butter.  Bam…just like that a new delicacy was born.  That became one of my favorites for years.  One day, though, I had one and then got the stomach flu and well, we parted ways. No pun intended.

We didn’t have a whole lot of candy growing up and I’ve always had a sweet tooth.  Somewhere along the journey I discovered the sugar bowl.  Did you know you can get a teaspoon full of sugar and put it in your mouth and it tastes like a candy bar?  Well, it probably didn’t taste like a Snickers, but it was plenty sweet.  You know what they say, “Necessity is the mother of invention.”

School lunches were always an adventure.  There were deviled egg sandwiches (awesome), deviled egg sandwiches with potted meat mixed in (not so awesome), potted meat sandwiches without deviled eggs (yuk) and finally Vienna sausages (uh, well, somewhat good).  You just never knew what mom was going to put in the lunch bag.  My all-time favorite was and is pimento cheese.  And then there was—tripe.

Tripe wasn’t a lunch item, it was always for supper.  Some of you may not have discovered the wonder of tripe or even know what it is.  Well, for those of you who don’t know tripe is cow’s stomach.  Yup and let me just tell you it was an experience.  It always smelled great cooking but eating it was a real challenge.  Mama usually cut it up in pretty small pieces, but you still had to get a sharp knife to get it down to bite size.  Now tripe was…chewy.  In fact, tripe was very chewy.  Which is why it never made it into the lunch bag—it took two hours to eat one small piece.  You see, the more you chewed it, the bigger it got! 

I’ve heard it said that celery is one of those negative calorie foods…it actually takes more calories to chew it and digest it than are in the food itself.  I think tripe must be one of those also.  In fact, I am sure there is a tripe diet somewhere out there.  You take a bite, chew for two hours and bam…lose two pounds.  Good, ole, tripe.  The supper of champions.

Did you know that tripe and gossip are first cousins?  No really. You mutter a few words about your friend and before you know it, you have yourself a belly full of trouble. Those few hurtful words just get bigger and more hurtful each time they are repeated. Feelings get hurt, relationships are broken and talk about a belly ache…oh yeah.  While the Bible doesn’t say much about tripe it does say a lot about gossip.  One of my favorites is Proverbs 20:19, “The one who reveals secrets is a constant gossip; avoid someone with a big mouth.”  How’s that for being straight to the point?

One of the best ways to avoid gossip is to remember a couple of things.  If the person you are telling isn’t part of the problem…don’t say it. Also, if you wouldn’t say something to a person’s face you shouldn’t share it behind their back.  Now the problem is, most of us just love a good piece of juicy gossip.  The Bible says, “A gossip’s words are like choice food that goes down to one’s innermost being.” That might be true but I know one more thing about tripe.  If it gets stuck in your throat you are in deep weeds.  That choice piece of gossip can get stuck too, and can cause heart breaking consequences.

Well, I gave up tripe a long time ago.  I guess I had enough when I was a kid.  I wish I could say I have totally given up gossip the same way.  I have found out given half-a-chance I can find myself saying, “Hey, did you hear…” and that tripe-like-sin is right back in my mouth.  We just need to be careful to keep it out of our mouth.  The good news is Jesus is more than willing to help if you ask.  He can handle all kind of things whether it be a tough piece of tripe stuck in the wrong place or a juicy piece of gossip right on your lips.  Just ask Him.  He will help…cause He’s got …even this.  Bro. Dewayne

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

The Power of Remembering

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Posted in Family, forgiveness, Grace, gratitude, life, love, Scripture, Southern born, thankful

T-Minus 10 Seconds and Counting

A fool’s way is right in his own eyes, but whoever listens to counsel is wise.” Proverbs 12:15

It was summer, I was eight and bored.  When you are eight the last thing you want is to be bored. But the good part was since it was the 60’s it seemed I had no problem inventing ways to have fun and get into trouble.  Though it might be hard for some of our younger Grits readers to believe, back in those days there were only three channels on our black and white television, no internet, and no smart devices. It was a world where being creative was natural.  So, I got creative.

I lived in a world with few actual toys.  Oh sure, we had great Christmases and birthdays were nothing to sneeze at, but beyond that…it was slim pickings in the toy world.  But not to worry—all you had to do is look around and bam—-goodbye boredom.  For example, you go to the “junk drawer” and there you would find a collection of rubber bands from the daily newspaper.  String about ten of them together and you have a bug killer.  In those days, love bugs were everywhere in Florida.  They would take up roost on Daddy’s car and I would pick them off one by one.  Need something else?  Find a piece of chain and drag it through the sand—which was everywhere.  As you pulled it along, it became a train…leaving its track in the sand.  Then, if you really wanted something cool, you went back to the “junk drawer” and found the left over firecrackers from the 4th of July.  Here comes trouble.

I wanted to do something more than just blow something up so I decided to make a spacecraft.  In the early sixties that was all the rage.  The space race was well underway and the Russians were in the lead.  It was time to help NASA out.  I went to the trash and got a tin can.  I peeled off the label and then punched a hole in the end that still had a lid.  I then dug a small hole in the ground to make sure the full force of the firecracker went up and not out. I pulled the fuse up through the hole, put the can in the hole, open end down, firecracker up.  We were ready for launch.  No worry, NASA, help is on the way.

I lit the fuse and it quickly burned and allowed the firecracker to fall down inside the can where it promptly exploded.  It worked just like I expected.  A loud bang and the silver rocket soared into the sky.  While it didn’t make it into space, it did go about forty or fifty feet.  Well, as you know, what goes up…must come down…and it did.  It was then that I realized I probably should have gotten a little farther away from my Daddy’s car. As the can fell down to earth, it landed smack-dab in the middle of the hood of the car.  There was a bang and then, there was a moan.  Even from where I stood, I could see that there was going to be a dent…a very obvious and pronounced dent.

As it turned out my career with NASA was going to be short lived.  Well, I dreaded Daddy coming home and discovering my failed space attempt.  I knew there was going to be consequences but either Daddy once again extended grace (he did that a lot…probably because I got in trouble a lot) or maybe I have a short or selective memory.  Either way, the only thing I remember is I learned to launch my rockets further from the house and the car.  You see, there was nothing wrong with launching a rocket or two…the error was not more carefully figuring the details and consequences.

That was a lesson that I have never forgotten even though I may not have perfectly followed it.  Before you launch, before you act, before you speak, before you say yes or no…check the details and count the cost.  I bet Eve figured that out after her encounter with the serpent in the garden.  I bet David figured that out after his rooftop encounter with Bathsheba.  I bet Peter figured it out after his fireside chat with a young girl and his subsequent denial.  One of the writers in the Old Testament book of Proverbs said, “A fool’s way is right in his own eyes, but whoever listens to counsel is wise.” That might describe my adventure into rockets that summer day.  From my eight year old perspective, all systems were go.  I bet I would have had a different outcome if I would have checked with Momma first.  She probably would have suggested a better launching pad.

Well, no harm, no foul.  The car wore the dent for the whole time we owned it, but I did learn a good lesson—when you decide to launch—check the details and get some counsel.  As we journey today, that is still good advice.  Regardless of what comes along, think about it before you do it and there is a Heavenly Father who is so wise and is just waiting to help us navigate our world.  And when there is a misfire, a mishap…don’t worry, He will still be there and if you listen, you will probably hear those three comforting words, “I’ve got this.”  Bro. Dewayne

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

God’s Perspective

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

No Trespassing

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

It was kinda confusing.  A while back I was walking in our neighborhood.  It was early in the morning and the birds were singing, the sun was shining and as Mister Rogers would say, “It was a beautiful day in the neighborhood.”  As I was walking, I would look at the different houses and their yards.  I noticed that several, well actually more than several of the homes, had no trespassing signs in their yard or stuck on the house. One home had six or seven signs and about a half dozen security cameras.  I think they must have had something very important inside.

I’m not sure what the deal is but there probably is a valid reason. But being from the friendly side of the South, we generally didn’t stick “no trespassing” signs up.  More than likely, we would stick up a “hey, y’all come on in” sign.  Of course, that was several decades ago and maybe now they have some not so friendly signs up too.  At any rate this is America, and you can pretty much put up what you want as long as it isn’t too mean.  But this one house confused me.

As you probably can guess, they had a no trespassing sign.  But right next to the no trespassing sign, they had a big welcome sign.  It caused me to wonder which one was right.  I didn’t know if I was welcome to come up on the porch and sit, or I was going to get shot if I did.  I wasn’t sure so I kept right on walking, and I was real sure I didn’t want to find out. To be sure there are lots of times when we also seem to send a conflicting message.

Sometimes I see this in churches.  There will be a sign on the message board that says everyone welcome.  There might even be a parking spot in the parking lot that says, “reserved for guests.”  Sometimes they have people standing at the door to shake your hand when you come in.  But then I wonder, “do they really mean that or are they trying to act nice?”  I mean everyone expects churches to be friendly because Jesus was.  He liked everybody.  I heard a preacher say once that it was pretty amazing that people who were the least like Jesus, felt the most comfortable around Him.  It seemed they liked Him, and He liked them.

On the other hand, Jesus was always bumping heads with the religious elite.  Theoretically they should have been the most like Him, but they didn’t like Him and I’m not sure He was too fond of them.  Of course, Jesus was always trying to find the best in others but some of those guys in the New Testament were really mean.  I don’t think there was a welcome sign on their house for either Jesus or the ones He hung out with.

However, there was one group they really didn’t like and that was the tax collectors.  They worked for the Roman government, and they were seen as thieves and traitors.

Do you know what Jesus did?  Jesus invited one of them to be a part of His inner circle.  Can you even imagine that?  “Hey Matthew,” Jesus said, “why don’t you come and be a part of our group?”  I bet the religious guys about fainted and so did the rest of Jesus’ followers.  I can just hear them now, “Well, there goes the neighborhood.”  They might have been right, but Jesus was always more concerned for the neighbor than the neighborhood.  He really loved people.

When Jesus was explaining to those who followed Him how people would know that they were friends with Jesus, do you know what He said?  It wasn’t because they went to church on Sunday.  It wasn’t because they knew all the answers.  And it wasn’t even because they wore the right kind of clothes when they were hanging around Jesus.  Nope.  Jesus said that people would know that we were friends with Jesus because of the way they loved—and in particular… loved each other.  This is never a popular topic when I speak in church. The reason is it is a lot easier to dress right, talk right, and go to church, than to love someone—particularly someone who is not very lovable.  But that is what He said do.

There is a secret to loving others.  All we need to do is remember that when we were not lovable at all, Jesus chose to love us.  And if we will let that roll around in our heads and hearts a while, I think we will find that loving others is just a little bit easier.  The next time you are all worked up about something, maybe trying to love someone, just get up next to Jesus and sit awhile.  You won’t find a no trespassing sign there…just one that says “welcome.”  And you can just sit back and let Him handle whatever you’re stressed about…because He’s got this.  Bro. Dewayne

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

Nature’s Love Song

But as for me, I will sing about Your power. Each morning I will sing with joy about Your unfailing love. For You have been my refuge, a place of safety when I am in distress.” Psalm 59:16

After a long silence…they are singing. I stepped out into my backyard to finish my last cup of coffee…well, at least for a couple hours.  When I opened the door, my backyard, and apparently the backyards, and front yards, and side yards of my neighbors were all filled with hundreds, and who knows maybe thousands, of cicadas singing their song.  What is a cicada?  Well, it an insect, and quite honestly, an ugly insect that emerges late summer.  And if I’ve got it right…this bunch is special…special indeed.

So, when Facebook only existed at Harvard University and when the sitcom “Friends” aired its last episode, a newly hatched brood of cicada nymphs (babies) fell from the trees and burrowed into the dirt.  They stayed there snacking on the sap of rootlets and slowly growing…until now.  The cicadas that were singing that morning, again if I am correct, have been preparing for these days for 17 years and folks, to them it is time to party.

You’ve probably heard the song of the cicadas.  It can be loud and it can be annoying, unless of course you are a cicada.  You see, they are not just singing, they are singing a love song.  They are letting everyone know that they are up, they are out, and they are ready to prepare for the future.  They have just a few days to sing their love song, find someone to love, start a family and, uh, die. That is one reason they are singing with such gusto. They don’t worry about annoying their neighbors…they are just looking for love.

In a few days, our yards will be a lot quieter.  The party will be over, their love song will be silenced and buried in the ground will be millions and millions of nymphs waiting for their time to sing.  The beautiful thing about us is that we don’t have to wait 13 years, or 17 years or even one year to sing.  We have the opportunity to sing every day, and it is an opportunity we should embrace.  There is a Latin saying that says “Carpe diem.” Now don’t confuse that with the surgery you have when your wrist hurts.  That is carpal tunnel and has nothing to do with singing…unless it is the blues.

No, Carpe diem means that we are to seize the day…to make the most of every day.  It means that we are to sing our love song clearly and loudly.  “Love song” you ask?  Sure.  If we look around we have so much to sing about.  Breathing makes the list…so does seeing, hearing, and walking.  If you don’t think those things are worth singing about about…ask someone who can’t. Oh, and then there are people…people like family, like friends, like the guy who rides on the back of the trash truck and once a week hauls your garbage off.  Ever thank him? Ever include him in your love song, your life song?  If not, why not?  You see the more we are grateful, the more we realize how much we have to sing about.

I know for me when I walk out in the morning and see the sun rising and the moon fading, my mind immediately goes to Creator God, my Dearest Daddy, who thought us worthy of another day.  Oh sure, it’s not gonna be perfect, in fact, it might be difficult, but it is and should be something worth singing about.  A song writer in the Bible put it this way, “But as for me, I will sing about your power. Each morning I will sing with joy about your unfailing love. For you have been my refuge, a place of safety when I am in distress.” Well, put Mister Songwriter, well put.

So, tomorrow, step out and see who is singing in your world…and join them.  Dare to believe that you have a reason to sing…even if your world is less than you wished for. Stop, pause, and listen, and believe.  There is Someone who loves you dearly, Who wants to walk with you, Who believes in you and that is something no circumstance can steal away. So, sing and believe, “He’s got this.”  Bro. Dewayne

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

Invincible

The Lord watches over the foolish; when I was helpless, He saved me.” Psalm 116:6

It was the day of my Daddy’s funeral. I was 20 years old, into my second year in the Air Force and I was pretty much convinced I was invincible.  When you are a young buck, independent and all that, it seems you are going to live forever…and I guess you think that those around you will too.  That Sunday in July 1974 changed all that.  That day my Daddy slipped away from us, and we were left to say goodbye.  So, I’m sure there were trips to the funeral home, conversations with the pastor, and details to be ironed out.  And then suddenly it was the day of the funeral.

For some reason I don’t remember much about the service.  I remember walking into the church and my then girlfriend telling me not to cry.  I guess big boys don’t cry after all.  I remember a church mostly filled and I remember we sang the old hymn, “In the Garden.”  Beyond that there is a void…an emptiness…until lunch.  Down south the answer to everything is food…and that is especially true when it comes to grieving.

We had dinner at the home place and there were plenty of people and plenty of food.  I was standing out in the backyard talking with a bunch of guys.  One of the neighborhood guys I grew up with had a new Honda 750 motorcycle.  Like I said…when you are 20 you think you are invincible or maybe since I had just come from my Daddy’s funeral, I needed to prove that I thought I was.  Regardless, he asked me if I wanted to take it for a ride.

Now a Honda 750 is a lot of motorcycle…especially for 1974.  I mounted my metal steed and headed for the road.  The roads were Wheat, Firestone, 118th St., and Ricker. They formed a very large block about a mile each way. If you took four right turns, you would end up back where you started.  At first, I went easy because my experience on motorcycles was just about like it was for horses…an occasional ride…very occasional. I made the first right onto Firestone and a mile later made my second right onto 118th.  I’m not sure what prompted it, but I decided to see how fast the Honda would go. So, I opened the throttle and quickly shifted through the gears.  I was going fast…too fast.

Before I knew it I was somewhere over 100 miles an hour on a one mile stretch of road on a machine I knew little about. I looked up and coming up very quickly was the stop sign where the road ended at Ricker Road.  I needed to stop so I began to downshift and hit the brakes and somehow, someway I managed to bring me and the Honda to a stop.  My heart was just about to jump out of my chest and all of a sudden, I didn’t feel very invincible. In fact, I felt quite the opposite.  Suddenly I realized that life can be very fragile.  I got back to the house in one piece.  I’m sure I shared the story with the guys and we probably all had a good laugh but one of us wasn’t laughing on the inside.

You see that day I came face to face not with my invincibility but rather my mortality. I realized that life was precious and was something to be valued and guarded. I’m still not sure what I was trying to prove that day or maybe it was some sort of weird ritual thing that boys do when their Daddy dies.  I know this.  If my Daddy had been there that day there would have been a very serious discussion about me, motorcycles, and safety.  But, fortunately, my Dearest Daddy was there to watch over me. And even though I was not acting responsibility or even rationally, He still cared, He still rescued me. The Psalmist writes in Psalm 116:6 “The Lord watches over the foolish; when I was helpless, He saved me.”

My earthly Daddy, after our talk, would have extended grace that day. My Heavenly Father extended grace too that day.  He watched over me, protected me, and gave me the opportunity to live and experience life.  Thanks, Father.  Over the decades of my life since that hot July day on the day of my Daddy’s funeral, I have experienced God’s grace over and over, again.  He has been there for me and from experience I can tell you for a fact that He does indeed, “have this.” Bro. Dewayne

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

Just Like Papa

And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds.” Hebrews 10:24

It is one of my favorite pictures.  It was several years ago when Blake and Sarah were stationed in Savanah, Georgia.  He served in the United States Army and they are one of thousands of families who made the sacrifice to go where they are sent and do what they are called to do.  Now, of all the places the Army can sent a family, Savanah was good duty.  Located in the Southeast corner of Georgia it is rich in heritage and about 25 miles from the beach.  Not bad.

Well, one day Judy suggested we should go down and see them.  Let’s see…family, grits (the food not the stories), history, and pralines (in case you don’t know they are a crisp or semi-crisp candy typically consisting of butter, brown sugar, and pecans. You need to try them.) Yup…sounds like a great idea.  We load up the van and off we go.  It’s about an eleven- hour drive and we broke it up into two days because we are not as young as we used to be and to us the journey is part of the adventure.

When we arrived in Savanah, there were the usual “big hellos” and “what’s happening?” Soon after greetings, the next two big questions were, “what are we going to eat” and “where do we want to go?” We decide to go to the historic downtown.  If you have never been to Savanah, it is hard to describe this special part of the city.  It is a series of parks, literally block after block, filled with trees, flowers, monuments, and fountains.  Oh, and there is a Five Guys Burgers and Fries nearby.  It can’t get any better. It’s like the Southern part of heaven.

After three or four blocks of strolling, I decide it is time to sit down.  I wander over to an empty park bench and sit a spell.  As I sometimes do, I lean back, locking my hands behind my head and just relax.  The birds are singing, the squirrels are playing, and life is good.  And then, it got better.  While I am sitting there doing my relaxing thing, my grandson Will, who was about four, comes over to the park bench and eyes his Papa. What he does next is recorded in a photograph and in my heart.

Will, with a bit of a struggle, climbs up and sits on the park bench.  He then gives me a look, raises his hands behind his head, locking his fingers.  He is being like his Papa. He is doing what he sees me doing. Judy, with the keen eye of a great photographer and grandmother, snaps the picture.  It was only when we got home that we saw the true beauty of the picture.  Today, a copy sits on my desk in my home-office, and it is indeed one of my treasures.

Will reminded me that there are always people watching and looking and often imitating us.  Sometimes they are family, sometimes they are fellow church members, sometimes neighbors, and sometimes even strangers.  But they are watching and looking to see what we are going to do, how we are going to react, and then they do what we do. That might be the reason when one of Jesus’ disciples deserted Him…they all did. It might be why when one shouted “crucify Him,” they all did.  This picture makes me pause and ask, “What are my kids, my grandkids, my friends, the yet to be friends around me, seeing when they see me?”  What do they see at the park, in Wal-Mart and yes, on Facebook.  Hmmm.

The guy who wrote Hebrews says that we should consider—we should weigh carefully “how we may spur one another on toward love and good works.”  In other words, the things we do and say should cause others to do good—and not evil. We are to be beacons of light shining out into a dark, rough, and dangerous sea.  I guess I really love that picture because of the innocence of it all.  But what if, what if, that same picture showed me being hateful or rude.  What brought me joy would, and should, instead bring tears.

Today is a new day.  I like new days.  New days say I get another chance.  Let’s use this day with the knowledge that people are watching and we get to show them the way to get it right—not wrong.  I know, it is a daunting task…but we have a great, big God pulling for us.  Just like I got to set an innocent example for Will, so Jesus has set a sterling example for us.  Just follow the Leader and you can’t go wrong.  So, climb up on the bench, sit a spell and rest.  He’s got this.  Bro. Dewayne

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

Chucking Rocks

When they kept on questioning Him, He straightened up and said to them, “If any one of you is without sin, let him be the first to throw a stone at her.” John 8:7

I should have listened.  I was a pretty good kid when I was young but let’s be honest.  Pretty good doesn’t mean perfect and pretty good doesn’t mean not mischievous.  I think it means I was somewhere close to normal.  The only thing is normal can still get you into trouble.

One day I was with the family and I’m pretty sure we were at a laundromat.  Apparently, the washing machine had broken down and we had to do the wash at the mat.  My daddy and I were out in the parking lot while mama was washing the clothes.  I was about nine and bored and that is not a good combination.  The parking lot was gravel and all those rocks just seemed to be saying, “Throw me.”  So, I obliged.

At first it was a little toss here and there but the more I threw, the more I wanted to throw.  First it was random, but then I started taking aim.  Several things were laying along the edge of the parking lot and they made great targets but then I got an idea.  If hitting a can was good, imagine hitting a moving target.  So, I started chucking the rocks in the direction of the road and at the cars passing by.  Bad idea.

Now, if you are going to chuck rocks at a car, every nine-year old rock chucker knows you don’t just chuck your rock with obvious intention.  You ease into it. Well, I started easing into it and before long, my rocks were landing dangerously close to cars going by.  My Daddy thought it was kinda accidental and it garnered a “Dewayne, be careful not to hit the cars.”  He hadn’t caught onto my real plan to “ping a hub cap.”  Anyway, I kept chucking so he upped the warning.

“Dewayne, listen, don’t throw rocks at the cars.” He had finally caught on and I should have quit while I was ahead.  I finally got close enough so that we entered “Final Jeopardy.” “Question—what happens if you hit a car? Answer—I’m gonna give you a spanking.”  Yeah, well, you can probably guess where this is going.  I chucked a rock and hit a car going by and it was “Final Jeopardy.”  Daddy got mad, the driver got mad, and I got in trouble.

Well, Daddy was able to talk to the driver and he promised him the “grapes of wrath” would fall when we got home.  As he drove off, Daddy explained about the “grapes of wrath.” Translated it meant I was gonna get a spanking when we got home, and it wasn’t gonna be a little one.  So, as soon as we pulled into our driveway, I ran into the house and hid under the dining room table.  Soon, I heard Daddy’s voice, “Where are you, Dewayne?”  I felt like Adam and Eve in the garden after they had chucked rocks at God and decided to sin.  God was looking for them and they were hiding too.

And that’s where things get fuzzy.  I don’t remember the spanking which means I probably got grace instead.  It probably means that Daddy and I had a long talk about chucking rocks at cars and how that was not a good thing to do.  It must have worked because I don’t think I ever chucked another rock at a car…at least one that was moving. That day I learned about obedience and how it has a whole lot less consequences than disobedience.  I also learned about grace.  Grace is when you deserve a spanking but instead you get a talking.  But I also learned about rock chucking. I learned that it was ok to chuck rocks at things like stumps and cans, but it is not ok to chuck rocks at things like cars. When you do there are consequences…big ones.

Now, there’s another kind of rock chucking that I’m still learning about and that is chucking rocks at people. I’m not talking about waylaying someone with a stone but rather waylaying them with our judgmental acts and words. It’s what we do when we see someone fail and we decide to make ourselves feel better by knocking them down.

Jesus ran into this when some religious people found a woman sinning big-time.  They dragged her into the middle of a crowd and wanted to stone her.  They asked Jesus what would He do?  He told them that the person that had never sinned should chuck the first rock.  Well, slowly they all walked away because they had all messed up. “Where are your accusers?” Jesus asked the woman.  She replied that they had left…and indeed they had.

The only ones left were her, the sinner, and Him, the One who had never sinned.  He could have chucked rocks but instead He loved her and forgave her.  She deserved the rocks, but He gave her grace.  I like that.  A lot.  So, He dismissed her a smile and a word of “now don’t go on sinning” and the rocks stayed on the ground…right where they belong.

I am so grateful for grace…and you should be too.  If we have experienced grace, we should extend some too. You see, rocks make great parking lots and driveways, but are terrible weapons. They need to stay in the quarry or on the ground.  My Daddy showed grace then and my Dearest Daddy shows it every day.  We should too.  It’s good to know though when we are hiding under the dining room table and He calls, we can come out and sit in His lap and learn about the consequences of sin but also the wonders of grace.  So, come on out from your hiding place. We can rest in Him because, “He’s got this.” Bro. Dewayne