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!

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

Remember

I will remember the Lord’s works; yes, I will remember Your ancient wonders. I will reflect on all You have done and meditate on Your actions.” Psalm 77:11

I remember when. It is a line that is heard a lot in conversation.  A favorite time. A favorite trip. A favorite memory.  It seems the older we get, the more we use those three words. I remember when gas was 18 cents a gallon.  I remember when a Coke was 5 cents.  I remember when a Whopper was 49 cents.  I remember my first new car was $2,795.  I remember my friend bragging that he could boil water in a paper cup and I was introduced to the microwave.

Now would be a good time to tell you that I am not 102 years old.  In fact, I am, well never mind.  Let’s just say not that old.  The ability to remember is one of the gifts that God gave to us as humans.  I can remember when I met my wife Judy–boy, was she cute.  I can remember when our first daughter was born–boy, she was cute too–took after her mom.  First granddaughter–yup, cute too. I remember when.

We all have those great memories.  Unfortunately, we also all have those “not so great” memories.  Times when we made unwise decisions that resulted in Goliath size consequences in our lives.  They usually involved a split moment in time when “the want” outweighed “the wisdom” and we acted.  The results were scars, broken hearts, financial disasters, and regret.

So, what do you do with this memory thing?  We all can remember back before the COVID thing was a thing…when things were…normal. Want to go out and eat? Sure. Want to go shopping.  Sure.  Want to go on vacation? Sure.  Want to go to church?  Sure.  Then came that long stretch when things were anything but normal.  Gratefully, now, we are beginning to taste, at least, a variation of normal. But the question remains, “What do we do with yesterday? What do we do with the regrets? What do we do with yesterdays that leave us longing or weeping? What do we do with fear of the unknowns?”

Saul (aka Paul) had to deal with that.  He had a long history of regrets.  As a young man climbing up the corporate ladder, he made his living imprisoning people for believing in Jesus.  People who followed Jesus would quake when he walked into town.  It usually meant someone was going to jail.  Or worse.  He once stood by as a mob stoned a young man named Stephen.  He nodded his approval with each sickening thud as stone met flesh.

So, what happened?  He met Jesus and he was instantly and forever changed.  He went from Jesus hater to Jesus follower.  The only problem was people have long memories and he was a people.  Every look in the polished metal mirror reminded him. Every trip to a new town carried the dread that someone would say, “Hey, isn’t that the guy?”  Ever had that happen?  Ever dread that happening?  Well, Paul did too, and he gave us some mountain moving advice in Philippians 3:13a-14.

He wrote “This one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and reaching forward to what is ahead, I pursue as my goal the prize promised by God’s heavenly call in Christ Jesus.”  There you go.  He says “I am not going to let my past control my present or my future”.  Paul accepted one amazing deal.  Grace.  God had forgiven him of all his messes in the past and he finally made the decision to live in grace rather than regret.

So, as we continue our journey through these days of a new different, we can long for the old days, or we can live in gratitude and grace.  As memories of mistakes the size of Everest sneak their way into our present, we can sink or we can swim in His grace.  As we look in the mirror, we can see what might have been or believe what God says is. The author of Psalm 77 said, “I will remember the Lord’s works; yes, I will remember Your ancient wonders. I will reflect on all you have done and meditate on your actions.”

You need to know and believe that He’s pretty keen on you.  He’s not ashamed or afraid to call you His.  There is never a hint of regret for His decision to let you in the family.  Hey, believe that.  Rest in that. He’s got you. He’s got this.  Bro. Dewayne

Posted in Family, Grace, gratitude, life, love, loving others, Mother's Day, priorities, Scripture, Southern born, thankful, wisdom

Mama and Her Day

Jesus also did many other things. If they were all written down, I suppose the whole world could not contain the books that would be written.” John 21:25

The older I get the more precious the memories become.  This Sunday homes across America will be observing Mother’s Day. While I always assumed that Hallmark or Russell Stover’s came up with the idea, apparently, I was wrong.  It turns out that Mother’s Day as we know it, began in the early 1900s. A woman named Anna Jarvis started a campaign for an official holiday honoring mothers in 1905, the year her own mother died. The first larger-scale celebration of the holiday was in 1908, when Jarvis held a public memorial for her mother in her hometown of Grafton, West Virginia.

Over the next few years, Jarvis pushed to have the holiday officially recognized as it was celebrated in more and more states across America. Finally, in 1914, President Woodrow Wilson signed a proclamation making Mother’s Day an official holiday, to take place the second Sunday of May. Well, whether it was Hallmark’s idea or Anna Jarvis, it certainly was a winner.  The bottom line is when God gave the childbearing and a chunk of childrearing to Eve instead of Adam, He did a good thing. If it had been left up to the guys, the population of the world would probably be 53 and without a mother’s love and influence…things just wouldn’t be the same.  Mothers are change makers.

Something that I have come to realize is that Mother’s Day is bigger than those who give physical birth to someone.  While that is so important, let’s not stop there.  It is even bigger than those who welcomed a child through adoption, and it exceeds those who foster children.  Mothering includes all the women who have poured their lives into the lives of others.  It could be a caring school teacher, a loving church member, or the neighbor down the street who cares.  Mother’s Day is a big deal and rightfully so.

And then of course, and guys this is for you, don’t forget to honor the mother of your children.  She deserves a prize for marrying and living with you.  I know in my life, as much as my Daddy played a role in raising me, Mama outshined him.  In so many ways, she was my hero.  I only wish I could have seen it more clearly then.  Time and again she was there to nurse, guide, prod, and yes- admonish me, on my journey to becoming a man.

I remember the time I was so sick, and she held me gently in her lap, in the middle of the night, till my fever broke or my tummy settled, and I could fall to sleep.  I remember the time that a couple of bullies from junior high were going to plummet me. I was outgunned and outnumbered until Mama stepped up and stepped in.  I remember in second grade I forgot an important assignment and Mrs. Webb had everyone convinced that they would stay in second grade forever it they didn’t turn it in.  Yup, it was Mama who stopped her world to save mine.

I remember when I had a new pair of jeans, a rare gift, and while I was horseback riding, I was shoved into a tree by the horse and ripped a huge hole in one leg.  Now days it would be fashionable—then it was an embarrassment.  Somehow, someway, she managed to fix it.  Oh, and I remember hundreds of suppers and dozens of pies and homemade fruitcake with grandma’s recipe.  And on and on it would go.  Everyday something said, “I love you.”  Oh, and for the record, just like your mama, my Mama wasn’t perfect, but she sure had a way of saying, “I love you.”  She raised eight kids and I got the privilege of being last and, though no one would admit it, her favorite.

The Bible says that if all the things that Jesus did were written down the whole world couldn’t hold the books.  Well, that would be an exaggeration for any mama, but I do know this.  If I could remember just half of all that my Mama did for me, for our family, well this story would be a whole lot longer.  Mama went to heaven when I was only 24 years old and she never met any of my children but hopefully as we trust Jesus, like she did, God will remedy that…one day.  Until then, I want to say, “Thank you, Mama” for always being there.  Thank you Judy, for being an incredible wife, mother to our children, and MaMa to our grandchildren.  And finally, to all you ladies who have poured your lives into the lives of others, thanks for making a difference.  Thanks for never giving up and always believing, “He’s got this.”  Bro. Dewayne

Posted in Family, fear, Grace, gratitude, life, love, Military memories, priorities, Scripture, Southern born, sovereignty of God, thankful, travel, USA, wisdom

Home is Better

He will wipe every tear from their eyes, and there will be no more death or sorrow or crying or pain. All these things are gone forever.” And the one sitting on the throne said, “Look, I am making everything new!” Revelation 21:4-5

Who would have known?  In 1977, my wife and I packed up our stuff and moved to Germany.  It wasn’t a sudden urge we had—it was courtesy of the Air Force.  When we had been married about seven months, we received an assignment to move to Europe.  We were excited about moving there, but also realized Germany was 4,657 miles from everything that was familiar to us.  We were off on a great adventure, without cell phones or internet!

We loved it.  Our part of Germany was filled with history and beautiful landscapes.  Rich forests and small hills and mountains framed every view.  And honestly, it was a little like home.  While it was true that the local folks spoke a different language, there was enough English sprinkled around that we were able to get by.  We even learned a little (and I do mean a little) German to help.  We drove our cars on the right side of the road,  just like home (unlike the Brits), we could drink the water just like home, we had stores kinda like home, and we even had a church…just like home.  But it wasn’t…home.

Throughout the three years we were there, we would celebrate when it came time for friends to “ship” back to the United States.  Our church even had a special song titled, “Goodbye, World, Goodbye” that we sang every time someone left to go back to the states.  They were bitter-sweet moments.  We would miss them, but we knew where they were going. They were going home.

There was one thing that we would do, every once in a while, to remind us of home.  It might seem strange, but it wasn’t to us.  Germany was a place of great food but once again…it wasn’t home.  I found out that not many Germans eat grits.  Imagine that. But they did share one thing that was purely American—McDonald’s.  Located downtown in a large city, not too far from where we lived, was a McDonald’s very much like ours back home. And when we could afford it, which wasn’t often, we would go and have a taste of home.  Each bite of the burgers and fries said, “Remember home.”  Each bite said, “This place is good but remember, it’s not home.”

Well, one day it was our turn to go…home.  It was our turn to hear, “Goodbye, World, Goodbye” and know it was for us.  It was our turn to leave there and go home and as soon as we were home, we knew instantly that while “there” was very good—it wasn’t home. Home was better.  Home was home.

Jesus followers need to remember that very important truth—Home is better—Home is home.  This world is good.  We enjoy life with friends and family, and there is a McDonald’s on every corner.  But what used to remind us of home now reminds us that we are not there…yet. Even with all its warts and imperfections, God has done a great job providing us a temporary location to live out our days, but remember, Home is going to be—better.  The Bible tells me that Heaven is a place where there is no more pain, suffering, sickness or sorrow.  No hospitals, no nursing homes, and no funeral homes.  Simply put—the former things are gone, and everything will be new.  Home will be better.

I know I speak for Judy too when I say that our time in Germany was three of our favorite years together. I also know I speak for her when I say home was, and home is, better. Life here is good but one day, it will be my turn, your turn, to find out that Home is better.  When it came time to leave Germany and go home, the Air Force paid for our ticket and I am glad to let you know that our ticket to Home is paid for too—by God’s Son, Jesus Christ. All we have to do is accept it and when we do—life here gets better and Home is thrown in. When we accept it, we find out that God loves to give us a “McDonald’s” or two, here and there, just to remind us of Home…to remind us that till we get there, He is with us and that at every turn, “He’s got this.”  Bro. Dewayne

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

The Best Part

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

I like it straight black—plus nothing, minus nothing.  Coffee has long been a part of my life.  It all started when I was growing up.  The name Taylor and the word coffee have gone together for a long, long time.  I can remember every day my Daddy would get home from work about 4:00 in the afternoon. He carpooled with three other men and just like clock work they would pull up and he would get out.  It was a certainty.  The other certainty was the coffee.  Mama would have a fresh pot percolating on the stove and perfectly timed to be ready when he got home.  She would meet him in the yard, and they would share the day and have a cup of coffee.

He didn’t just drink coffee then either.  It was not unusual for him to say, “Dewayne, go get me a cup of coffee.”  The please was implied and it seemed there was always a pot on the stove.  One time there wasn’t so I improvised.  I didn’t understand the in and outs of coffee making, so I just spooned in some coffee grounds in the cup and added some lukewarm water.  That day I learned how not to make coffee!  As I remember it, Daddy liked his coffee with sugar and cream and always drank it from one of those thick Victor coffee cups made after World War II.  It didn’t hold much but it was a good cup to drink from.

I can’t even remember not drinking coffee though I can remember Mama telling me about coffee stunting my growth.  Since I ended up on the shorter side, she must have been telling the truth.  And, like my Daddy, I drank mine with sugar and cream—lots of sugar and lots of cream.  Eventually I switched to a powered creamer called Cremora along with a hefty dose of artificial sweetener.  Somewhere along the road they said that Cremora was bad for you, so after much consternation I went to having my coffee with just the sweetener—three packs please.  It was so sweet it would make you pucker.

Well, you know how it goes.  They (whoever they are) then determined that the sweetener was bad for you, too.  I talked it over with the guys at work and one of them said, “If you will drink coffee black for three weeks, you’ll never drink it any other way.”  Well, I did and he was right.  Ever since then, I drink my coffee strong and straight black.  And the amazing part is for the first time I began to taste the coffee and not the stuff I added to it. It was just about then I began to understand the Folger’s commercial that said, “The best part of waking up is Folger’s in your cup.”  I take one exception to that though—it is always best to wake up—breathing.

I think if I learned anything from my coffee journey it was that sometimes more is just more.  It seems most of us are tempted to add something to whatever we are doing at the time.  Have a great recipe—we are tempted to add this or that.  Have a truck pretty tricked out?  Well, hey, why not add one more thing?  I know my office is stuffed to the gills with stuff from all over the world but sometimes, well, more is just more.  Instead of seeing things, you start seeing a wall full of stuff. I have a box on the floor in my church office.  It is full of things that I’ve decided can go home…the problem is it has been there for, uh, several weeks.

Now one thing we must be careful not to mess with is God’s grace.  It is fine just the way it is.  When you start messing with grace you end up with something that is not very “gracy and when something is not very “gracy” it loses it “graciness” and that is never a good thing.  I love the fact that God got it right from the start.  There has never been a grace 2.0 because version 1 was just exactly right.

When it comes to God stuff, it seems we want to make it harder and more complex than it really is.  That’s why I like John 3:16 that says, “For God loved the world in this way: He gave His one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him will not perish but have eternal life.” Boom…perfection.

Well, I think I’ll have a cup of straight black coffee a little later on and I think I’ll rewrite that Folger’s jingle to say, “The best part of waking up is Jesus in your cup.”  It doesn’t get any better than that. Just knowing Him makes it worthwhile…because always, “He’s got this.” Bro. Dewayne

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

Right Tool… Right Job

For I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength.” Philippians 4:13

They’re in the garage…waiting.  Ok, let’s be totally honest.  I am, uh, not very handy when it comes to power tools.  It’s not that I don’t use them, and it’s not that I can’t use them, I just don’t use them as effectively as others.  I know when I work with the guys at church on some project, generally speaking, they won’t let me use the power tools.  It’s an act of protection—for me and for them.  Now, with all that said, I do have a pretty good collection of power tools.  And, when I do need them, they are there and if I am careful and patient, I can usually get the job done.

I have a set of tools all made by Ryobi.  The idea is that you have all these different tools, but they are all powered by the same battery or power source.  Several companies do this but I chose Ryobi mainly because they were cheaper than most of the other “he-man” professional brands.  I have, and this is the short list, a couple of drills, an impact driver, a saws-all, a circular saw, a light, a grinder, two string trimmers, two blowers (one small and one big) and a partridge and a pear tree.  Just checking to see if you were still there. Now all these tools use the same battery—the same power source which means I can switch the battery between them all.  It is cool and it is convenient.

Several of these tools, like the drills, blowers, and string trimmers, I use pretty frequently. Some, though, I rarely use—but here is the deal.  I may not use them often, but when I need one, they are so valuable.  I had a piece of metal sticking up in my back yard from an old house that once stood there.  This metal was a pain in the neck.  I would forget and hit it with my lawnmower and bump it with the string trimmer.  No matter what I did, I couldn’t get rid of it.  Then one day I bought a grinder to add to my tool collection.  I took that dude in the backyard and eight years of frustration disappeared in a matter of seconds.  The difference? Right tool for the job.

While all these tools do different things, like I said, they all have the same battery.  I have learned one thing.  The tools without the battery are totally useless.  They might look impressive as you look into my big green Ryobi tool bag, but take away the power and they are just space stealers on a shelf.  However, put in the battery and bam—they become powerful and useful.

I suppose you are already connecting the dots here.  You probably have already figured out that all of us are different, and all of us have different skill sets, but all of us also need a power source to be what we were created to be.  Some might consider that to be a positive attitude or a strong work ethic, and while those are good things…they are not the thing.  From where I sit, the One who made me, who designed me is the source of strength in my life.  He makes all the skill sets come alive.  Paul, one of the writers of the New Testament said it right when he wrote, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”  At least for me, when I plug Jesus into life, into a situation, all of a sudden, there is power to do—to overcome.

Now, don’t make the mistake of confusing church and religion for Jesus.  In and of themselves I guess they are fine, but they are anemic substitutes for the real deal. Jesus is the power source that can change lives and He is just waiting to change yours.  Why not jump on the web and do a little research? Oh, sure you will find some who will think this God stuff is just a crutch to give hopeless people something to hope in.  But you are also going to find a big bunch of incredible people who believe just the opposite.  Hey, give it a shot.  I know after this crazy past year, as well as a zillion other tough situations, He is the real deal, and I’ve never found anything that He can’t handle.  Take it to the bank…He’s got this.  Bro. Dewayne

Posted in Family, fear, Grace, gratitude, life, loving others, prayer, Scripture, Southern born, thankful, Trials, wisdom

Humpty Dumpty and Me

I am the Way, the Truth and the Life and no one comes to the Father but by Me.” John 14:6

Some things never change. As we were growing up, we all learned various nursery rhymes and fairy tales.  Some were funny, some serious, and some a little bizarre.  One of my favorites was Humpty Dumpty.   Why?  I think because his story could have easily been our story—after all, we’ve all fallen off a wall at one time or another. I love the story too because what didn’t happen for old Humpty Dumpty, can happen for us.

If there had been a headline that day it might have read something like this, “Local Egg Takes a Tumble.” The story would begin with, “Apparently a well-known and respected egg, Humpty Dumpty, decided to take a rest on top of a wall just outside of town. While sitting there he lost his balance, fell off the wall and was shattered into several pieces. Fortunately for Mr. Dumpty there were witnesses who immediately called 911. Paramedics, along with representatives from the local government, were quickly on the scene. It is reported that local clergy were also on scene, though they didn’t stay long. Unfortunately, no one was unable to put Mr. Dumpty back together again.”

What a sad tale! There he lay–his life in pieces–kinda like a lot of folks today. You would have thought the local citizenry, government, and churches would have been sympathetic but no. First, some questioned why an egg was on the wall in the first place. After all, given his rounded bottom he was certainly a high risk. Second, he was in a fragile state–in fact, he lived in a fragile state. Others blamed the builders of the wall. If the wall had only been six inches high, he wouldn’t have suffered such massive fractures. Others blamed the weather service because they didn’t put out a high wind warning that day for eggs on walls. And the church–well, they said a respectable egg should have been in church, for it was a Sunday.

Well on and on it went, and in the end–Mr. Dumpty was still broken. You know, some things never change. When sin entered the world Adam blamed God, (God because He gave Adam the woman & Eve because she gave him the fruit), Eve blamed the snake, and the snake? Well, he just smiled. It wasn’t a time for finger pointing then, nor is it now.  For all around us are Humpty Dumptys…broken lives in a broken world.

But then, along comes God. God made the very first promise of a Rescuer, a Redeemer, and a Savior way back in Genesis 3. One day the Redeemer would come and provide the cure for sin–His own death on a Roman cross–and then come back to life thus defeating death forever. And the snake well, he would be cast into a very hot fire for a very long time.

You see, I am so glad that God is more interested in redemption than blaming. He is still inviting people, all people to come home. Scared people, sick people, broken people, mean people, and nice people–all get the same invitation–come home. And the path is always the same. Jesus said in John 14:6 “I am the Way, the Truth and the Life and no one comes to the Father but by Me.” It’s not religion, it’s not good works, and it’s not winning by out-blaming the person next to you. It is grace.

The world could use a little good news don’t you think? So today why not share some? When you see the next scared person, the next broken person, the next difficult person (and it might be in the mirror), just assure them that God loves them and that regardless of their past they can come home. Tell them to rest in Him. Why? He’s got this. Bro. Dewayne

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

Too Much Spaghetti

A cheerful heart is good medicine, but a broken spirit saps a person’s strength.” Proverbs 17:22

I cooked way too much spaghetti.  Well, I guess it is all official.  Things are back to normal.  You see, I am a pastor/teacher/preacher. That means I have the privilege of serving with a bunch of people in a church and have the opportunity to share truth from the Bible…often several times a week.  It is something that I truly enjoy. When I am sharing something and see the expression on someone’s face change, as if to say, “I get it,” well, it doesn’t get much better than that.

Pastoring is my second career.  I spend twelve years in the Air Force and just loved it and then God came up with another idea.  I separated from the Air Force and became a pastor.  That was 39 years ago.  Wow…that sounds like a long time but seems like yesterday. When I first starting preaching, my sermons were like 23 minutes long and sometimes that seemed like an eternity…for me and probably for them.  Over the years, things have gotten, well, longer.  Someone once said, “The longer you preach, the longer you preach.”  I believe I can testify to that.

So, before the COVID thing happened, I was generally speaking about 40-45 minutes. People were kind and most were even grateful for the message but there’s another old saying that says, “Never speak longer than the audience’s seat can bear.”  Well, let’s just same I probably reached and exceeded that limit.  So, because of COVID, for several months, the sermons were on Facebook Live and for that and a couple of other reasons I made a concerted effort to preach a little shorter…usually about 35 minutes.  I was so proud of myself…and then…well, yesterday happened.

Yesterday, I cooked too much spaghetti.  Now that is “code” that I simply prepared too much material.  Even before Sunday, I had cut about 20 percent of the material and I thought that would do it.  It didn’t.  The bottom line is that I preached, gulp, 45 minutes.  Oh my. I don’t think I chased too many rabbits—it was just too much spaghetti.  At the end of the service I told the folks that I appreciated their patience. They are such a gracious group of people.  I also smiled and told them that it was a great sign that things were definitely back to normal.

I always greet the people as they leave after the service and something happened that still has me smiling.  The mother of one of our members was in the service.  I know her and well, she is a friend and a very special lady.  Her husband passed away about a year ago and I was privileged to have a part in his service.  As she shook my hand, she shared that because of having to care for her husband and for health reasons she hadn’t been in church for several years.  Then she explained how each week she was sure to listen to our service, and me, on the radio.  I smiled and said how grateful I was.  And then she said, “You know, I sure enjoyed today but you know, at home, I can just turn the radio off when I am ready.”  I laughed, she laughed, and everyone who was standing in earshot did too. It was a precious moment, and it made my day.

This story isn’t about sermons, long or short, but rather it is about the fact that life is getting back…not to normal, but I believe something better than what it was.  I’ve said it so many times, it won’t be the same and in some ways that is not bad.  In fact, in some ways, it is just better.  I believe the COVID year has taught us to love God better and love people better.  I believe the COVID year has taught us to appreciate the small things in life that make life better.

This past Friday night, for the first time in a long time, I sat around a table with friends, as we shared a meal, but more than that—we laughed, a lot, and it was good.  So, this week my goal is to preach a little shorter and laugh a little more.  After all the Bible tells us that a cheerful heart is good medicine and I just tend to believe what it says. We can laugh, even in our hot mess world, because ultimately, we are certain of one thing—He’s got this.  Bro. Dewayne