Posted in Family, forgiveness, Grace, gratitude, life, Scripture, sovereignty of God, thankful, Trials

A Lesson from the Beanfield

For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways and My thoughts than your thoughts.” Isaiah 55:9

It’s one of the strangest things I’ve seen.  The small town where I live is a diverse group of people with a diverse economy.  Not too many years ago there were many coal mines providing massive amounts of jobs to those living in and around our town of Harrisburg.  Also surrounding our town are fields and fields of crops…mostly soybeans and corn.  While the coal mines fell victim to the economy and the unfavorable political landscape, fortunately the farmers are still planting and plowing away.

Well, not too far from my house, there is a soybean field that each year it is planted teaches me a very valuable lesson.  As soybean fields go it is not that large, but it is still several dozen acres even though it is located in town.  But what makes this field so different?  Let me explain.  By this time of the year, the bean plants have all turned brown and the pods and beans are left standing to allow them time to dry out.  At the right time, the farmer will bring a combine in and in short order…the plants and beans will be history.  Well, at least most of the plants.

You see, at this particular field, there is a busy road that borders the field.  On that busy road there are two or three streetlights that are close enough to the field to illuminate the plants around that area all through the night.  Because of that, the plants receive some sort of light 24 hours a day. That sounds good, doesn’t it?  Well, my farmer friends tell me it isn’t. You would think more light equals more growing and more growing means more beans, but it just isn’t true with soybeans. You see, for the plants to sprout and produce beans they need a certain amount of darkness.  Without that darkness, you have large, green, lush plants but not a single bean.  Not one. Nada.

It can and would go unnoticed except for all the other plants in the field are brown and about to give up their harvest but the plants by the light are in stark contrast in two ways.  Their color…green and their lack of a coming harvest.  So, when the combine goes to that field, they will carefully avoid the green plants.  There is no sense harvesting plants with no beans.  They will be left standing as a testimony to a great truth.  Soybeans, and people for that matter, need a little darkness to become what they were meant to be. Think about that.

None of us like hard times, valley times, but the truth is…that is when we learn, that is when we become stronger and if you are a spiritual person…that is when our faith in God grows the most.  Being a Jesus follower, I’m inclined to believe that is at least one reason God allows some difficultly in our lives.  People sometimes want to know if God is so good why does He allow this or that.  Well, borrowing a line from the movie, “Rudy,” when he wanted to know why God hadn’t allowed him to make the Notre Dame football team, his priest said, “I know two things.  There is a God. I am not Him.” That’s pretty powerful if you ask me.

We all want to know why bad things happen, especially to good people…I get that.  I have a ton of questions personally, but I’m learning that in the times when I don’t get it…I don’t understand…I can still trust Him.  And honesty…that just isn’t hard.  As I look back over my life, I can see time and again how He stepped up for me…protected me…cared for me.  Those times make the other times bearable.  I like what Isaiah 55:9 says, “For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways and My thoughts than your thoughts.” Frankly, I like having a God so much bigger than me that I can’t figure Him out. There’s a calming assurance in that.

So, if you ever are driving through our farming country and you spot a brown field with green plants next to a streetlight, well, just remember this story and the lesson it taught us about soybeans and us. We need a little darkness to help us grow.  And don’t you worry, if you are one of God’s kids, your Dearest Daddy knows exactly what He is doing.  You can take it to the bank, or the grain bin, “He’s got this.”  Bro. Dewayne

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

Speak No Evil

Then Jesus stood up again and said to the woman, “Where are your accusers? Didn’t even one of them condemn you?” “No, Lord,” she said. And Jesus said, “Neither do I. Go and sin no more.” John 8:10-11

It’s gonna happen…it just should not happen there.  Life is filled with bumps and bruises.  They’re gonna happen like it or not but sometimes they are made worse by the timing and location.  A flat tire is never fun but take that same flat tire and let it happen on a rainy Monday on the way to an interview for a new job and it is just worse.  Your car breaking down is just a bad deal but when it happens out in the middle of nowhere and with no cellphone service…well, your day just went south.

I once experienced something that well, it just shouldn’t have happened but where it happened and how it happened just made it worse.  It was a Sunday morning in South Georgia and like any other Sunday morning I was in church.  I went to church for several reasons…like it was the right thing to do, I thought it might make God happy and usually I enjoyed it.  On this particular day…well, let’s just say I had that proverbial flat tire on a rainy Monday out in the middle of nowhere.  The story goes like this.

Ever since I was a kid I liked to sing, and people said they enjoyed it.  So, I was occasionally asked to sing at church.  On this particular Sunday morning I was asked to sing.  Now there is something you need to know before we go any further.  You see, the church I attended was strict with certain things and one of those things was that guys should not have hair over their ears.  That was a big no, no.  And believe it or not, even though I was in the Air Force I had found a way to have hair over my ears.  It involved “Dippity-do” but that’s another story.

Well, that Sunday was my time to sing.  I went to the stage and did the very best I could to sing for Jesus.  With my “hair over my ears” waving in the wind I went up and I came down.  I was glad to sing but was also glad it was over.  Well, it wasn’t.  Because that Sunday we had a special speaker.  And because of what happened, I remember him very, very, well.  He stepped behind the pulpit, and I got the surprise of my young life.  I was surprised because what he said was like a dagger in my heart.  Here’s what he said.

With his deep and authoritative voice, in front of the entire church, he said, “Young man, if I had hair like yours, I would be ashamed to stand up and sing for Jesus.”  I was shocked.  I was hurt.  I was mortally embarrassed.  Not because of my hair, not because I had caused Jesus to frown (which I didn’t) but because this man who represented God had put me on trial, judged me, and sentenced me.  Honestly, it’s a miracle I didn’t walk out and keep right on walking.

Like I said, things like this happen but they should never, ever happen in church.  We wonder why people don’t want to come to church and unfortunately too often it is things like this.  You see, church should be a safe place…a loving place.  Church should be a place not for perfect people (because there aren’t any) but for forgiven people.  Church should be a grace place and not a place to judge and throw rocks.  Church should be a place where people see Jesus everywhere…in the lives of everyone.

I love the fact that the people who flocked to Jesus were the most broken in the community.  They liked Him and He loved them. He was perfectly comfortable with sitting down with the worse sinner in town and having lunch.  Trust me, that drove the religious people crazy.  They said some very nasty things about Jesus because of that but the truth is…Jesus came to rescue the lost, the broken…people like me and you.

Well, the good news is I survived that Sunday morning, but it left a scar that remains to this day. My wife reminded me that my pastor came up afterwards and apologized.  I’m glad he did.  We need to have the courage to speak up when a wrong occurs…Jesus would. I can never get enough of the story in the Bible about the woman taken in adultery.  The rock throwers wanted to kill her but instead Jesus loved and forgave her.  I like that. A lot.  So, if you find yourself wounded by a rock chucker just remember Jesus loves you…even if someone else doesn’t.  And remember, no matter what, “He’s got this.” Bro. Dewayne

Posted in Family, forgiveness, Grace, gratitude, prayer, Scripture, thankful, Trials

Change My Heart

For godly grief produces a repentance that leads to salvation without regret, but worldly grief produces death.”  2 Corinthians 7:10

I have a sorry prayer life.  No really, I do.  I know that prayer is a very important part of life.  The Bible talks so much about it.  And honestly, it isn’t that it is terribly hard.  If you look and listen to what Jesus says about prayer, you will not only see how important – but how simple it is.  He gave us His now famous lesson on prayer which we call the Lord’s Prayer, but it is better called the Disciples Prayer or the Model Prayer. The Model Prayer was not that long, contained no big, spiritual words, and it was straight to the point.

Now if all this is true, why do I struggle with prayer so much?  Why do you struggle with prayer so much?  Well, I can’t and shouldn’t speak for you but I can speak for me.  I have a “sorry” prayer life.  Now you might be sayings, “Dewayne don’t be so harsh on yourself.  It can’t be that bad.”  Well, actually I’m not using sorry as an adjective for my prayer life but rather as a way to tell you about two things that I throw in my prayer life that really shouldn’t be there.  What are they?

Here’s how it works, way too often I find myself telling God that I am sorry for this and sorry for that.  Now that really sounds good, doesn’t it?  Well, I can’t think of a single time where God told me to tell Him I was sorry for my sin.  Nope, I can’t think of once.  You know how it goes.  We tell God good morning and then begin to tell Him that we are sorry for this and sorry for that and of course, we are sorry for this and that.  And most likely the next morning, you find yourself telling Him you were sorry for the same things all over again.  There is a better way.

The better prayer is a prayer of repentance.  It is fine to let Him know you are sorry, but don’t stop there.  Let Him know that you intend to not do this or that again.  Repentance is a great Bible word that means to have a change in attitude and/or a change in direction.  When you repent you are telling God that you are changing your attitude toward that juicy sin.  You are going from liking to hating and from clinging to leaving.

Paul, one of the writers of the New Testament, said that godly grief produces a repentance that leads to salvation without regret, but worldly grief produces death. In other words repentance leads to life and being sorry leads to the death of your joy and peace. Oh, and by the way, be sure and ask Him for His power and strength to do that because you will surely need it.  This whole Jesus journey is all about Him anyway.  So be sorry, that can’t hurt, but better, repent.  It’s a game changer.

Now the other part of my “sorry” prayer life goes like this.  I spend several minutes or longer telling God just how sorry I am.  No, not like what we’ve already talked about.  This kind of sorry is the kind that tells God how much of a failure I am, how I am worthless, how I have never succeeded and so I probably won’t succeed today either.  I am one sorry piece of creation.  Really? I hate to admit it but I’ve been known to do it.  It’s like telling God He is junk maker and not a masterpiece creator.  I’m speaking to me but you can join in.  It is time to believe what God says about us and not what the devil says.  Let’s not waste our prayer time telling God how messed up we are but rather thanking Him for making us a new creation.

I know, trust me I know, I (or we) are not perfect.  I know I (or we) fail too many times.  But those imperfections, those failures, do not determine who we are.  God determines who we are and when we put our faith in His Son we are precious in His sight and we are His trophies of grace.  Let’s not try and convince Him otherwise (as if we could) but rather let’s spend those precious moments in prayer thanking Him for all of His marvelous grace.

I think it is time we change our “sorry” prayer lives.  What about you?  Are you willing to leave the mess at the door and enter His grace room with repentance and gratitude for all He has done for you?  Are you willing to turn your “sorry” prayer life into a time of celebration of forgiveness and hope?  Well, I’m sure going to give it a whirl.  I know that when I do, I’m going to find that rest I’ve been looking for.  And I’m going to get up and believe like He’s got it.  Because He does.  Bro. Dewayne

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

Dessert or Desert

By this everyone will know that you are My disciples, if you love one another.” John 13:35

Hmmm…I said.  I like to talk, and I guess it can be said I like to write.  When I write I love to use words in special ways.  One of those is playing words off one another—using the same word in the same sentence in a different way. I’ve found that I often bump into words that can dramatically change in meaning by changing just one letter.  Here’s an example. First, we have the word dessert.  Now this is one of my favorite words because of all the images that pop into my mind.  In one corner of my brain, a picture of a perfectly prepared pecan pie appears.  Over in another corner is my daughter’s apple crumb pie.  Oh my, is that good!  Wait, over there is my friend Maggie’s fried pecan pies. And then over there is the dessert display case at my favorite local restaurant.  It is filled with pies, cakes, cookies and cream horns.

Well, now that we are all drooling you can almost taste the word dessert.  Even if you are not a fan of sweets, surely it stirred your heart a little.  Now we are going to change just one small letter.  Are you ready?  We are going to go from dessert to desert.  Wait? What?  Yup, just remove one of the “s” in the word and we go from sweets heaven to the Sahara.  We go from visions of sugar plums dancing in our heads to sand…lots of sand.  Now we are not thinking about pleasure but rather pain.  There is not abundance…there is leanness. Just like the word dessert makes our mouth water…desert makes us thirsty.  And it all happens with just one small letter.

What is true with words is also true about birds.  I was reading the other day and it talked about two different kind of birds.  Even though they are radically different, the bottom line is they are still both birds.  Both defy gravity and fly and both have feathers.  One is one (there’s that play on words) of the smallest birds in the world and the other is one of the larger ones. One is tiny and cute and the is large and ugly.  One is a hummingbird and the other is a vulture. Both birds…but both miles apart…just like our words dessert and desert.

One of the ways the birds are different is their eating habits.  The hummingbird spends it’s time zipping around our yard, going from feeder to feeder and flower to flower looking for “dessert.” Their diet consists of nothing but something sweet—nectar.  The vulture, on the other hand, soars overhead.  He could care less about something sweet—he is looking for his next meal too but his is a “desert” or to put it plainly…something dead.  Both are birds, but both are entirely different.  Their differences may seem big, but really they are not.  You might say they are separated by a letter or two.

You know, that is true about us.  We really aren’t that different and yet…we are.  Each one of us is uniquely made by God.  You might say we are each handcrafted by the Master craftsman of it all.  An old children’s song that used to float around the Christian music world said, “Look all the world over, there’s no one like me…no one like me.  Look all the world over, there’s no one exactly like me.” God made each one of us different…on purpose.  What a boring world it would be if we were all the same.

Now my intention when I started writing this story was to say how in our world we should be more like the hummingbird and look for sweetness than the vulture who looks for death and decay.  But as I wrote I realized the bigger truth is that we should just be who we are…and allow others to do the same. Skin color, economic status, music tastes, piercings and tats or not…we are all uniquely made.  I wonder how much better the world would be if we learned to love one another.  I mean after all, the biggest sign that a person is a Jesus follower is not if we go to church but if we love other people.  How about that?

So the next time you are in a bakery…or your backyard…remember that we aren’t as different as we seem.  Rather than judge and criticize, why not go ahead and see people as creations of God. After all,…the Bible does say He loved everybody enough to send His Son to die on a Roman cross…everybody.  And if you happen to know that story…then be sure and spread it around.  It is the best news ever.  And while you’re chatting with that person, be sure and let them know that there is Someone who, no matter what, has it under control.  Tell them that, “He’s got this…no matter what this or that is.”  Bro. Dewayne

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

Rubbish

He does not punish us for all our sins; He does not deal harshly with us, as we deserve. For His unfailing love toward those who fear Him is as great as the height of the heavens above the earth. He has removed our sins as far from us as the east is from the west.” Psalm 103:10-12

It always amazes me.  At 217, like most homes, we have a trash can in several rooms in our house.  Of course, the main attraction is in the kitchen.  There we have a stainless steel, thirteen-gallon can.  It holds, oh, I’m guessing, about thirteen gallons of trash—bet you saw that one coming, didn’t you?  At any rate, it always surprises me just how fast that can will fill up.  It is only my wife Judy and me in the house and yet we manage to fill it up at least a couple of times a week.  The bottom line is we produce more trash than we think.

Now for part two.  In Judy’s home office, in my home office, in both bathrooms, and in at least one of the bedrooms we have additional trash cans.  Now these don’t fill up quite as fast but guess what?  They do fill up.  So occasionally one of us will make the rounds and gather all the trash from the other parts of the house.  Well, surprise again!  You would be amazed just how much trash we gather.  As we make the rounds, the bag we are carrying gets fuller and fuller and fuller.  And by the time we are done we have a very full and very heavy bag. How about that?!

All the trash, whether it is from the kitchen, or the rest of the rooms ends up in the monster size can outside. Once a week, the trash guys drive by the house, grab the can, and dump it into their truck and off it goes wherever trash goes that they collect.  All I know is I am grateful that someone takes care of all my rubbish (that’s a British word I learned while in England) so I don’t have to deal with it anymore.  How about that?!

You know it isn’t just physical rubbish that we must deal with in life. The truth is we do a pretty good job of producing life rubbish too.  There are words that should have never been spoken, thoughts that we should not have thought, actions that would have been better undone and that is just the short list. The Bible tells us that we all have done things that are wrong…that are offensive…both to others and to God. Too often we brush it off…excuse it away but the bumps, bruises, and scars on the lives of others don’t go away that easily.  And honestly, God just can’t brush it off either.  But there is hope…big time.

You see God made a way for all the rubbish of our lives to be forgiven.  In fact, He says in His book that all our rubbish can be taken not just to the dump, but as far as the east is from the west.  In another place He says they are dumped in the sea…never to be seen again.  You might wonder why God would do that for us.  The answer is one word…love.  God knows we are broken but He just loves to us too much to leave us that way.  That is why He sent His Son Jesus to die in our place on an old rugged cross.

Here’s more good news.  No matter what kind of rubbish you have accumulated, no matter if you think it is impossible for anyone to take care of your rubbish…God can…and God will.  All you must do is ask.  Now don’t confuse this with religion or starting this or stopping that.  This is all about His love for you and His amazing grace.  So why not take your rubbish to the curb…right now…today? You can, because “He’s got this.” Bro. Dewayne

Posted in Family, forgiveness, friends, Grace, gratitude, life, love, loving others, Scripture, Southern born, travel, Trials

Define “Sandwich”

Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice.” Philippians 4:4

She thought it was funny.  A long time ago, my family and I were visiting with my sister Kathy and her husband Stann.  They lived way down South in the land of grits and hospitality, and we lived just across the river in Southern Illinois.  We had had a great visit with them but soon it was time for us to head North.  All of my sisters are good cooks…something they must have got from Momma.  They also have good hospitality genes.  When you visit you feel welcomed and when you leave, you know you will be missed.

Well, when it came time for us to leave, Miss Hospitality, kindly made us a lunch.  She said, “I packed y’all some snacks and ham sandwiches so you can stop on the way and have a picnic”.  I remember thinking just how kind that she was.  To go through all that trouble and to save us a few dollars to boot.  So, we loaded up and off we went.  The girls were young, only seven or eight, and Sarah was not even a glimmer in our eyes. We drove and drove and then we drove some more and before long it was time for the big picnic.

If my memory serves me right we stopped at a picnic area on Nickajack Lake just north of the Georgia border and right inside Tennessee.  It was a beautiful place for a great picnic lunch.  My mouth watered as I thought about those delicious ham sandwiches with all the trimmings. And, and my wallet was happy too. McDonald’s wouldn’t be getting my business today…thanks to my kind sister.  Did I mention how nice she was?

Well, we found a parking spot and chose a picnic table near the lake.  Could it be any better?  Well, I’m sure we bowed our heads in prayer, thanking God for the food and for the kindness of the one who made it possible.  Judy passed out the sandwiches and strangely, I didn’t see any fixings.  Hmmm. That was a bit strange.  Nevertheless, I was grateful for the sandwich and I must have been the first to take a bite.  Uh, something was wrong.  Something was missing.

As I bit through the bread, there was no ham…there was no mustard…there was no mayo.  All that lay between the bread was a single piece of paper that read, and I quote, “Ha, Ha, Ha.”  Wait.  What? Well apparently my Southern belle, hospitality laden sister had decided to play a practical joke.  There were no ham sandwiches only meatless, slices of bread.  Strangely, I don’t remember laughing. I only remember mourning the loss of my free lunch. Ha.Ha.Ha.

They say what goes around comes around and all my life I have been a practical joker and this time the joke was on me and my dear hungry wife and two precious, little hungry daughters.  I guess the winner of the day was McDonald’s who ended up with my $6.75 after all.  While I don’t remember laughing, I’m glad I don’t remember being mad either.  In fact, I am sure that before long (but after a visit to McDonald’s), we were all laughing and couldn’t wait to call my sister when we got home.

As we journey through life we are going to have a lot of opportunities to either laugh or well, get mad.  Can I suggest, may I encourage you, us, to do the latter and not the former?  Too often we allow the fire of the moment to burn some valuable bridges.  I can imagine a nasty phone call with words of regret and then days, weeks and months of silence from a broken relationship.  Crazier things have happened, trust me.  But gratefully, that wasn’t the way this story ended.  In fact, I wonder if Kathy even remembers this. I do and it makes me smile.

Paul, the guy who wrote a lot of the New Testament, sitting in a Roman prison with NO ham sandwiches said, “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice.” Well spoken, Paul, well spoken. So tomorrow or the next day, if you hit a bump, try to remember to smile and not frown.  If someone decides to pull a joke at your expense, go ahead and extend a little grace and a smile. When you do, if you do—you can be sure the Father is smiling too.  And no matter what, as always, He’s got this. Bro. Dewayne

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

Scars are Stories

When Jesus stood up, he said to her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?” “No one, Lord,” she answered. “Neither do I condemn you,” said Jesus. “Go, and from now on do not sin anymore.” John 8:10-11

It’s a great setup.  I’ve written several times about my early morning routine. It involves coffee, the weather report and Jesus.  I am a creature of habit and mess with my habits, and it messes me up. But sometimes I do something a little different that just works better.  When I fell a couple of months ago and messed up my hand, my wife Judy donated a little lap desk to help me study and write.  Well, she never took it back, so it became…mine.  I also found out that this little desk made a great addition to my routine as it is a great place to put my iPad and my coffee cup. Boom.  Things just got better.

Well, the other morning I was sipping coffee and using my iPad to read a couple of devotions.  The guy I was reading wrote about scars and as I was reading…I was looking.  You see, my hands have several scars and each one is a story.  On my right thumb is one that reminds me of the ten year old (or so) who was cutting watermelon and ignored his Daddy’s advice about how to use a knife. On my middle finger of my right hand, right on the knuckle, is an inch long scar caused by my careless use of an X-Acto knife I was using to build a model car or plane.

Let’s look at my left hand.  On my index finger are two scars…close together.  One was caused when I was riding with my sister and her then boyfriend in his car.  The car in front of us stopped…and he didn’t.  This was before seatbelts and when I headed for the windshield, I threw my hand up to protect my head.  I guess it worked but I did cut my hand up in the process.  I guess hand is better than head.  The other scar was a woodcutting thing.  I didn’t cut it with the saw or you might be calling me “Three Fingers.”  No, a piece of wood that was in a bind slipped and whacked my hand leaving a nasty gash.

There are a couple of smaller scars on both hands but their birth didn’t garner a memory.  I do have a couple of scars in other places, like the one by my eye which happened on a racquetball court.  A guy hit me with his racket on that one.  But by and large most of my physical scars are on my hands because that is where all the action is.  In other words, whatever you put out there in life will probably get scarred…like our hearts.  All of us probably have some scars left when we put our heart out there and someone wounded us.  It’s just life.

But now for the bigger story.  Remember that scars may be a sign of a painful wound…but they are also a sign of healing.  The scars that are on my hands were bleeding and painful when they happened but gradually they healed over and the bleeding stopped and they healed over. That’s a good thing.  Now you know and I know that wounds on our heart are a whole different animal.  They may heal but it often takes more than some antibiotic cream and a Band-Aid. They say that time heals all wounds and that might be partially true.  Time does help but time can’t always heal.  The good news is there is something…Someone…who can heal and His name is Jesus.

My friend Jesus is a healer of hearts.  When He walked the earth, He amazed the people in many ways…twice He gave everyone a free lunch.  But countless times He would take the broken, the castaways and lovingly put their lives back together.  I love the story when a woman was caught in adultery.  The religious people wanted to stone her but Jesus chose to love her.  I suppose in my life, and in yours, there have been some stoning opportunities but here is one thing I know.  Jesus isn’t a rock chucker—He is a heart healer and He wants to help heal yours today.

So, how about it?  Do you have some wounds on your heart that time just hasn’t taken care of? Are you still hurting from a train wreck in life years ago?  Why not give Jesus the opportunity to help?  “How” you ask?  Well, why not try asking?  It is called prayer and trust me it is worth a shot.  The other key element is faith—believing that He is there listening.  Don’t be surprised if the first thing you hear is Him asking you to forgive because forgiving others always helps heal our own wounds.  So, when you are done reading, why not start praying.  He is waiting and He is willing.  He’s got this. Bro. Dewayne

Posted in Family, forgiveness, friends, Grace, life, loving others, missions, Scripture, travel, Trials

Dropping the Baggage

I focus on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead.” Philippians 3:13b

Baggage…it is a fact of travel and a fact of life.  Our team of four checked in at the airport and gladly gave our baggage to the agent at the desk.  One by one, our bags, as varied as the people who packed them, were weighed, and given up.  And honestly, we were glad to do so.  With our baggage handed over, our journey, our travel experience was a lot easier.  When you give your luggage up, you always wonder if you will see it again.  These days, the airline (at least the one we flew) sent us a text letting us know everything was safely onboard the plane.  Nice.

Well, we landed in Atlanta and waited just a while and soon it was time to board the plane for our final leg of our journey…the one that would take us all the way to England.  Sure enough, a message let us know our bags were onboard and would make the journey with us.  That is always a good feeling.  A little over seven hours later, it was time to land and sure enough our bags were there, and we took an Uber to the hotel.  Well, the next leg of our journey was by train, so we had to walk a little and take the tube (the British word for the subway—not the sandwich shop) to the train station.  As we left our hotel, we had our first personal experience with our luggage.

You see, this time there was no one to take our luggage—except us. Some of us had smaller bags, some had baggage so large we nick named it “the beast.”  There was a variety of smaller backpacks and whether all of them had wheels or not, they were a necessary hassle.  If it wasn’t for the fact that it is a common sight in London…I’m sure we would have looked quite comical. But we pushed and pulled, lifted, and dragged, squeezed through tight tube gates and balanced all of this on the narrow steps of several escalators.  Oh yes…it was fun.

Well, the good news is, we made it.  We made it all the way to our destination and when the time came, we made it all the way back home…well almost.  Turns out the beast got left by the airline in London, but it did arrive several days later.  Because I am a person who likes to prepare, I watched several travel videos to learn about England and also how to travel.  The guy in the video made one point very clear. When you pack, remember that everything you decid to take with you, you will have to push, pull, drag, and carry along the way.  And you know what…he was exactly right.  I was very glad that my bag was one of smaller and lighter ones (32 pounds, thank-you) and my backpack was too. I was glad that at the last minute I did indeed determine I didn’t need the kitchen sink after all!

Well, we all know that baggage is part of the travel deal but baggage is also part of this journey called life.  Along the way, we pick up things, some our fault and some no fault of our own at all, and we find ourselves dragging it through life.  A difficult childhood, a broken heart, a bad financial decision, or romance decision and on and on it goes.  Baggage…we all have our fair share.  But here is the good news.  It turns out that even if we can’t totally ditch all this unwanted baggage, we can at least lighten the load.  And often, it begins with two small words—letting go.

You see, we can’t undo what others have done to us and short of some sort of a miracle we can’t forget either but there is something we can do.  We can choose to refuse to allow the baggage to weigh us down.  We can determine to what extent we give the person or the event space in our lives today.  We can let it go…we can largely leave it behind.  It will probably involve some forgiveness—whether it be someone else—or yourself. I really love the place in the Bible where Paul, who had tons of baggage, some he made and some others gave him, simply says he chose to forget.

Just for the record he wasn’t talking about actually forgetting but rather choosing not to allow the baggage of the past to impact his today. That was something he could do and something we can do.  And when we do…we are going to find out that life is a lot easier when we are not weighted down with yesterday’s baggage.  So, what do you say? Why not let today be the day we drop the bags of the past and sprint toward what lies before?  On our journey, we would sometimes help another person with their bags, and I am glad I can tell you that God is just waiting to help us with our baggage too.  Don’t you worry. He’s got this.  Bro. Dewayne

Posted in forgiveness, Grace, gratitude, life, prayer, priorities, Scripture, thankful

Stop the Music

But Martha was distracted with much serving. And she went up to him and said, “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Tell her then to help me.” But the Lord answered her, “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things, but one thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her.” Luke 10:40-42

I am so easily distracted.  I mean if there is more than one thing going on at a time I flounder.  One of the great miracles of modern time is that when I am on stage speaking, I walk, talk, and breathe all at the same time.  Probably more of a miracle is the fact that I have not fallen off the stage—yet. I’m sure there is a syndrome or something for people like me—I think they spell it “man” or “men,” if it is plural.

I try to have a quiet time each morning.  A quiet time is when you set apart some time to read the Bible and pray.  It is a great way to begin or end the day.  The name is very appropriate.  For me, it must be quiet.  Sometimes I like to change things up, and in the process get too many things going on—which usually means more than one.  It’s like going through a buffet line. We must be careful not to get too much on our plate.  Well, sometimes that happens to me in my quiet time. Let me explain.

First, I do my quiet time thing on my iPad.  I use the You Version app and it is just incredible.  If you own a smartphone or a tablet of some sort you can download the app from the Apple or Android store for free.  It has all kinds of devotions and reading plans as well as a zillion translations of the Bible.  Even if you speak Swahili, they can fix you up.  No kidding.  One of the totally cool features of the app is that it will read the Bible to you. Amazing.

Well, a while back, I was about to start my quiet time and decided I would try some soft music. I asked Alexa, who lives with Judy and me, to play some music. I said, “Alexa please play Christian instrumental music on Pandora.”  As always, she was so kind and said she would be glad to do that.  In a few seconds beautiful music was wafting through the air in my office.  Then I opened my You Version app and began to read.  I was able to pull that off well, but I really had to concentrate on the words on the page and not the words of the songs that were playing.  Just to be as clear as mud, the words weren’t really playing—they were just playing in my head. I told you, I get easily distracted.

Well, scripture is a part of most every devotion in You Version so after I had read the devotion, I mashed the button that started the app reading to me.  That’s when things went south.  The beautiful music is wafting through the air and now this guy was reading God’s word to me and the two collided in my brain.  I found I couldn’t focus on either one.  The same thing happens when I am watching the news and Judy comes in and starts chatting.  It is an audio disaster.  And then, as if it couldn’t, it got worse.

In my home office I have several clocks and one of them plays the beautiful Westminster chimes. Well, while my brain was struggling with the music and the guy reading to me—the clock went off. It was the top of the hour, and it began playing its melody.  And what would normally be one of my favorite sounds, suddenly pushed me over the edge.  If a quiet time is supposed to make you more spiritual…it, or rather I, failed.  As the music is wafting, the guy is reading, and the clock is dinging—I lost it.

With all that going on, I shouted, yes shouted, at my friend Alexa, “Alexa, STOP THE MUSIC!” Oh my, did I feel bad.  She did and at about the same time the clock stopped dinging and the guy stopped reading.  Suddenly…there were only the sounds of silence and the Whisperer whispering, “Dewayne, it’s ok.  Don’t let all this stuff that doesn’t matter get to you.  Just listen for Me and to Me and everything else will fall into place.”  That’s it.  That was the message for the quiet time that day.  I told my Father I was sorry for getting all frustrated and, as always, He gently whispered words of forgiveness.

In the Bible a woman named Martha got all frustrated and distracted too and Jesus told her the same thing.  He told her not what she wanted to hear but what she needed to hear. He told her that she was all worked up over nothing.  I guess it’s good to know that I’m not the only one who gets distracted and frustrated. Did I mention annoyed? Jesus invited Martha to come have a seat with Him and rest and it’s the same invitation He gives us.  I like that.  And do you know what? No matter the mess, it’s just good to know that He’s got this.  Bro. Dewayne

Posted in Family, forgiveness, friends, Grace, life, loving others, Scripture, Trials

Steel Gladiators

Hi Grits Family! Hey, my wife Judy and I are going toImage be “out of pocket” aka “not available” to write for the next couple of weeks.  During that time, we decided to send out some of our past stories.  I hope you enjoy the ones we selected and look forward to some “fresh Grits” in a couple of weeks. God bless.  Bro. Dewayne

Finishing is better than starting. Patience is better than pride.” Ecclesiastes 7:8

We were opposite each other—two fire breathing chariots just waiting.  Well, that isn’t exactly how it happened but maybe it was.  My wife Judy and I were returning from a trip to Kentucky where grits and a southern draw are standard issue.  We were back in our town of Harrisburg and were going to swing by the church to check a couple of things for an event that evening.  We were giving away some food boxes and wanted to make sure we were set to go.  To get there we had to cross a busy intersection.  I pulled up and that’s when I saw him sitting there.  He was anxiously waiting for a break in the steady stream of cars.  Even from that distance I could see his darting eyes as his sweaty palms gripped his steering wheel.

I pulled up on the opposite side of the road headed in the opposite direction. We were two men, to gladiators of automobiles, about to pass side by side. I knew he was there first, so he had the right a way…that was never in debate.  I also knew there would be only a quick window to cross the road.  There was no blinker on my opponent’s car—we would pass quickly like two ships in the night.  I knew, too, that there was a chance that he would not follow the rules.  Blinker or not, he might turn across my lane. Try as I might, I couldn’t read his mind or his intentions.

Suddenly there was a break in the traffic, my left foot moved from my brake to my accelerator, and I was sure the same was happening in the car opposite me.  Like I said…two ships in the night…side by side in opposite directions. No deal. No challenge. And, then, yes, it happened.

Instead of going straight as his no blinker indicated he cut across in front of me and turned.  I had fallen for the oldest trick in the book.  It was the old “I’m really going to turn but I’m not going to tell you” trick!  Well, I quickly hit my brakes as he quickly turned in from of my chariot.  I confess. I gave him the two hands in the air, “Dude, what are you doing?” gesture and he responded with the two hands in the air, “Dude, I had the right of way” gesture. It was all over in a moment of time.  Two gladiators of steel on two totally different wave lengths of communication that left both of us wondering. First, him wondering why I was upset when he clearly had the right of way and second, me wondering why he didn’t let me know he was going to turn in front of me. Hey…blinker equals turn. No blinker equals no turn. Dude.

Are you confused by now?  Are you wondering what this is all about? Does any of it really matter? Probably the answer to all three of those questions is, wait for it, no.  But it does show how easily it is to miscommunicate our intentions and it also shows just how easy it is for moments of waiting to escalate to moments of tension.  And, amazingly, it doesn’t have to involve two gladiators of steel waiting at an intersection. It can easily be the one you are married to, or the ones you gave birth to, or the ones that you work with or, my favorite, the ones you sit next to in worship at church.

But the answer is always the same.  Keep your foot on the brake till you know clearly what the other person’s intention is.  Just wait, be patient, and most likely you will come out looking a little bit more like Jesus and the more gallant in the exchange. The writer of Ecclesiastes says, “Finishing is better than starting. Patience is better than pride.” Hmmm…that’s good. We usually have more time than we think, and we all know the pleasure of letting someone go first. They smile and think, “What a nice person.”  And most times, that beats beating someone across an intersection, or to a place in line or to a parking spot.

Ok, you gladiators of steel, all right you Walmart line cutters, it’s time to keep our foot on the brake and our hearts in our chest.  Let’s determine that nothing is more important than for a Jesus follower to act like Jesus—at the intersection, in the line, at home or at church.  Feeling challenged about now?  I know, me too, that’s why it is so important to remember, “He’s got this.” So, ladies and gentlemen…start your engines. Bro. Dewayne