Posted in Family, Grace, gratitude, life, prayer, Scripture, thankful

A Walk in the Park

Let heaven and earth praise Him, the seas and everything that moves in them.” Psalm 69:34

It was a walk in the park.  No, really. You have probably heard the cliche that says, “Oh, no deal…it was a walk in the park.”  The person saying that is indicating that whatever they had just done was…easy. No stress, no strain…like the old 70’s song says, “Easy like Sunday morning.”  However, every once in a while, it turns out to be exactly what the words say…a walk in the park.

It was a Monday morning in middle July, and I figured it was just about time for me to get back to walking. I put on my exercise clothes (it had been a while since I had used them, so they asked me for proof of ownership) and hopped in the car to drive to the park.  It was early…oh, I would guess about 5:50 in the morning.  As I began my walk around the lake, I quickly realized that this was a good idea. They say that exercise is just one of those things that is good…really good…for you.  It stretches things that have gotten a little stiff, clears your head and your heart, and opens your eyes.

As I walked, I had one of those ah-ha moments and realized that I was enjoying a genuinely cool morning in the middle of July.  That doesn’t happen often.  There was a light breeze which made the mid-sixties feel even better.  As I walked around the lake, I couldn’t help but notice the greenness all around me.  That was no accident.  God had decided to bless us with several days of showers and the grass, flowers, and trees were all grateful—and so was I.

A little further down the path I saw a little duck family.  A momma duck had hatched six eggs and her little ducklings were waddling along behind her.  They were cute and I couldn’t help but smile at their cuteness.  I knew it was a good day too because even the usually gruff and grouchy geese were in a good mood.  They still hissed at me a bit, but it somehow seemed…friendlier.  It was just about then that I started praying, well, actually talking with my Dearest Daddy.  It was one of those times it seemed as natural as breathing.  I talked, out loud, with Him thanking Him for all that my senses had absorbed. It was good.  And then, well, it got better.

I rounded the curve around the lake heading east and there was an orange glow peeking through the trees. At first, I thought it was one of the orange tinted street lights you see around town but then I really saw it. It was one of those incredible, Southern Illinois sunrises.  It was big and it was beautiful. As I walked, I was just overwhelmed with this masterpiece the Heavenly Rembrandt had given us to enjoy.  It was one of His larger than normal “love notes” that seemed to say, “I love you and you can face today knowing that I am with you…no matter what.”

As I looked at the sun that morning, over and again I might add, I thought about what the Psalmist wrote in the Bible.  He said “Let heaven and earth praise him, the seas and everything that moves in them.”  That morning, I couldn’t have agreed with Him more.  All of nature around me seemed to be declaring His glory.  From the greenness of the grass, to the sound of little ducklings waddling on their small webbed feet, to the gentle breeze. They all were singing His praises and I just had to join in.

I know life can’t always be a “walk in the park” but I do know that when He walks with me…life is better.  I also know that if we will just take the time to look around, we will see heavenly “sticky notes” from the One who loves us more than we can imagine.  And the best part?  He has a grand finale planned for us that goes on and on—and that is called heaven.  Until then we have the confident assurance that He is there and that no matter what, “He’s got this.”  Bro. Dewayne

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

Dance With the One Who Brought You

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

There are two things we need to pack away from this story. First, the Jesus who was your BFF (that’s best friend forever) during the messes of life wants to be your BFF every day. The One who takes care of your fears and anxieties during the storm wants to take care of them after the storm. He wants to be your Savior, your Redeemer, your Rescuer, not for a while but forever.

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

The question is, what are you going to do when “this” (whatever that happens to be for you) is all over? Are you gonna run as fast as you can to a life crammed with stuff or are you going remember the One who stood by your side and spoke to your heart? Someone once said if Satan can’t get you to sin…he will keep you too busy. He knows that is just about as good.  You, I need to remember to “dance with the One who brought you.” Over the din of busyness, remember to not forget the One who whispered, “Rest in Me” and “I’ve got this.” Bro. Dewayne

Posted in Family, Grace, gratitude, life, love, prayer, thankful, travel

The End Isn’t the End

The heavens proclaim the glory of God. The skies display his craftsmanship.” Psalm 19:1

It seemed like the end of the road…but it wasn’t.  My wife Judy and I live in Southern Illinois.  I know, when you think of Illinois you think about Abraham Lincoln and Chicago but believe me there is a whole lot more to Illinois than that.  The part of Illinois that we call home is south, way south.  Our nook and cranny of Illinois, which is right at the Shawnee National Forest, is crammed full of natural beauty.  Lush forests, rock bluffs, waterfalls, and hiking trails galore are but a few of our treasures.

Often Judy and I will get in our car and just drive. One of our favorite drives takes us up to U.S. Highway 1 heading east.  The area is pure country with plenty of green scenery and rolling hills.  The road ends in a small town called Cave-In-Rock.  There are a few stores, a couple of restaurants and, you guessed it, a large cave in a rock.  The story goes that the cave was used by river pirates.  Fess Parker’s movie, “The River Pirates” was filmed there.  It is really worth seeing.  But there is one more thing that grabs my attention.

You see, U.S. Highway 1 ends at Cave-In-Rock and it ends by running right into the Ohio River.  You are traveling down this really, nice road and all of a sudden…boom…you’re done…no more road.  The end.  But guess what?  It’s not really the end because right there in town where the road ends, is an old fashioned, but fully functioning, ferry.  It is provided free of charge for those who need to keep going to the other side…to Kentucky. It turns out, about every 15 or 20 minutes the ferry makes a run carrying people to the other side.  So, what you thought was the end…wasn’t.

Today I did a funeral for a real nice lady and told the crowd gathered there that it seems when we go to cemeteries that all the headstones seem to say, “The end” but I told them that isn’t necessarily so.  I told them that the end didn’t have to be the end, but rather a new beginning. I also told them about how a man, a man we shouldn’t know anything about, changed everything by dying and then coming back to life.  I told them that He promised that if we would believe in Him and what He did, that He would give us life eternal, too. That means that death isn’t a dead end, but a way for us to get from here, where things are broken, to a place called heaven where they aren’t.

I know, I know.  Sound a little old fashioned?  Sound a little archaic? But maybe it should sound like something else…like hopeful.  Maybe, just maybe it is worth checking out.  Some people think things like God, heaven and hope are just crutches to lean on, but I think something different.  I think they are a reality…something that each of us need to look into.  When I look around at all this beauty in my part of the world, I just get the sneaking suspicion that it is too grand to be an accident. When I look up and see a zillion stars, they all seem to be saying, “Hey, God created us.” Yup, I have a feeling that it was created by Someone.  Amazingly a whole chunk of the world agrees.

I hope this Grits might at least stir your interest in the hope that Jesus can give.  I mean it is worth checking out since 100% of us are going to come to an end out there somewhere.  Why not check it out?  God can handle our doubts and accusations so don’t worry about offending Him.  Go to Him with your questions and listen carefully.  You might just hear a gentle whisper as He tells you He loves you and yes, “He’s got this.”         Bro. Dewayne

Posted in Family, fear, forgiveness, Grace, life, Scripture, Southern born, Trials

Dumb…..Real Dumb

Don’t be deceived: God is not mocked. For whatever a person sows he will also reap.” Galatians 6:7

I’m sure the doctor just rolled his eyes.  When I was eleven or twelve, you know about sixth grade, my Daddy and Momma got me one of the coolest Christmas presents ever.  Most of you have seen the movie “A Christmas Story” about a kid who wanted a Red Ryder BB gun for Christmas. Well, this story isn’t like that, but it’s about something even better than a Red Ryder BB gun.  That year, wait for it, they got me a Daisy double-barrel BB gun.  It was designed after a real double-barrel shot gun.  It had two barrels (you probably figured that out), two triggers, and even broke in the middle to cock it. It was amazing.

I can remember going outside to shoot that gun…there was not another one like it in the whole neighborhood.  I wish I could tell you how well I took care of it…especially since, if you can find one now, they would sell for well over a thousand dollars.  But, honestly, it was well used, and under cared for, and one day one of the barrels stopped working.  Well, I always enjoyed fixing things so I just started taking things apart to work on it.  I figured out that the left barrel wasn’t working.  So, I took the “BB thingy” inside the barrel out, cleaned it real good, oiled it, and then stuck it back in.

After I put everything back together, I cocked the gun and pulled the trigger, but as far as I could tell it still wasn’t working.  I decided that I would put my finger over the bad barrel to see if I could feel any air coming out.  Now, I know that sounds like a really, bad idea, and it was.  I know it was not smart or safe.  I know it was just pure old dumb.  But, regardless, I did it.  I sure wish I hadn’t.

Well, things wouldn’t have been so bad because as it turns out the barrel wasn’t working.  The problem was that I had my finger over the wrong barrel and pulled the wrong trigger and as I squeezed that trigger, the gun fired, and a BB went right into my finger…clear to the bone.  Oh, and yes, that was a dumb idea, and yes, it did hurt…boy, did it hurt.

I put the gun down and ran into the house holding my throbbing and bleeding third finger on my right hand.  Momma didn’t have time to give me a lecture or even holler at me.  We headed right to the emergency room.  After checking in we saw the doctor who when he heard the story gave me that, “what a really a dumb idea” look. After numbing things up, he proceeded to dig around with a medical tweezer until he found the BB, got ahold of it and pulled it out.  Shot or no shot—it hurt.  I got a nice bandage and the opportunity to make a story up on what happened.  I wasn’t about to tell the truth…that was way too embarrassing.

If you look on my right hand and at my ring finger you can still see to this day a nice little dimple where the BB went into my finger.  It is there to remind me not to stick my finger over the barrel of a BB gun…or any gun for that matter.  It is there to remind me that there are consequences when we choose dumb over smart, or wrong over right.  It reminds me of that part of the Bible that says the rules of God are always right…whatever you plant, you harvest.  Do dumb and you get dumb consequences…every time.

I hope this Grits will help me and you both to think before we act…you know, to think things through.  Fortunately, God is more than ready to help us make the right decisions if we are willing to ask.  Uh, I didn’t ask that day and when we just don’t get around to doing that…well, He is still there to help us deal with the consequences too.  I’m glad He’s not like the doctor, rolling His eyes at my mistakes.  No, He is too loving to do that.  In fact, if you listen, you will hear Him say, “Don’t worry, dumb or not, I’ve got this.”  Bro. Dewayne

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

Between a Rock & a Hard Place

Now if any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God—who gives to all generously and ungrudgingly—and it will be given to him.” James 1:5

Dewayne, we have a problem.” It was Judy got my attention as I was going out to the garage to get something.  I think I know how it must have felt when the crew of Apollo 13 uttered those now famous words, “Houston…we have a problem.” I had started painting our upstairs bathroom. You need to know I am no Michelangelo, and this was not going to be a Mona Lisa. Into that melee came the news.  “We” have a problem.

I quickly explained to Judy that I didn’t have time for a problem.  My paint was drying and some of it was in the wrong place, like the floor.  She told me there was a cat trapped in her car.  Wait.  What?  Now the night before she had told me she saw a cat go in our garage and I should check before I closed it up for the night.  About 9.30, I went out and did the “here, ktty, kitty” thing, shined my flashlight around in the corners and such.  No cat. “Good.” I said.  Or not.

Now it turns out our homeless friend didn’t move on—he moved in.  The crazy part was that it took up residence in the engine compartment of her car.  Silly cat.  I was going to say, “Stupid cat” but I thought you might think me harsh.  So anyway, I left the drying paint in the bathroom to attempt a rescue.  It was about then that I discovered why it is so expensive to work on Volkswagen cars.  You open the hood to only discover that every square inch is stuffed with something.  And somewhere in all of that was the cat.  Silly cat.

A friend was there with Judy and all three of us looked and prodded, we called and cooed and saw nothing, we just heard the occasional meow of the cat. Judy volunteered to look if I jacked up the car to see if we could see underneath.  I did and she couldn’t.  It was time to call in the calvary.  I called my neighbor Jared, who manages a local tire place.  Surely, he would have an idea.  As we waited for him to arrive, we continued to prod and poke, coo and call.  In my sweetest voice I kept saying, “Hey silly cat, come here silly cat.”  I wanted to say stupid cat, but I was trying to be Christian about this whole deal.

Then it happened.  The cat, who turned out to be the cutest kitten south of Chicago wiggled out of its tight spot and ran to the corner of the garage.  We then moved from poking and prodding under the hood to poking and prodding in the corner filled with stuff we didn’t need.  Cute or not this kitten was about to mash my button. Not to bore you with details but four grown adults spent the next ten minutes chasing this cute little silly cat from one corner of the garage to the other.  From behind the washer and dryer to the corner of no return, we played hide and seek. Finally, the cute little kitten saw the light of day, ran through our friends hands and legs and out the door.  Game. Set. Match.

The cute little silly kitten was on the run and that was all that mattered.  Jared went back to work, the ladies went on with life, and I went upstairs to scape dried paint off the floor and I know I heard this kitten laughing from across the street.  So, what is up with all this?   Surely the kitten knew better.  Surely, he or she knew the danger of living under the hood of a car- but probably not.  To the cute little kitten, it was just a place to hide.

You see the kitten wasn’t silly, the kitten wasn’t stupid (well, not really stupid anyway). The kitten just lacked experience.  It was naive. It hadn’t lived long enough to understand the dangers of garage living.  And do you know what?  That is true of a lot of us. Solomon, the wisest guy to ever live, wrote in Proverbs, “I saw among the inexperienced, I noticed among the youths, a young man lacking sense.”  And the crazy part was that it had nothing to do with age.  We have all made some crazy decisions at one time or another. Too often we just throw common sense to the wind and well, we end up with a train wreck.

The good news is that God is in the train wreck avoidance business.  That’s what He led the half-brother of Jesus to write in James 1:5, “Now if any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God—who gives to all generously and ungrudgingly—and it will be given to him.” If we would do that one simple thing, we could avoid a lot of painful situations.  Just stop for a moment, ask God if this is the wise thing to do, and wait for an answer.  By the way, silence might be an answer, so don’t miss it.

Well, I hope our cute little kitten found a new place to live and hopefully it wasn’t in someone’s engine compartment.  And I hope we will learn to trust a wise, loving Father to give us the wisdom we need to live better lives with fewer regrets and better consequences.  You know He loves you, don’t you?  He wants you to come to Him and rest in the safety of His arms.  He wants you to know He has this.  And He does.  Bro. Dewayne

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

Sunrise and Sunset

It will soon be time for me to leave this life. I have fought a good fight. I have finished the work I was to do. I have kept the faith.” 2 Timothy 4:6-7

It was a warm North Florida Sunday morning that would change everything.  I was raised in Jacksonville, Florida and was fortunate to live in one place and one house all of my growing up years.  Our house was a converted World War II army barracks with a couple of rooms added on.  I’m not sure who moved it there, or who added what, but it was home…my home. I lived there till I graduated from high school and joined the Air Force. My Daddy had some heart issues while I was still in high school and unfortunately, they went from bad to worse.  This was before all the miraculous medicines and surgeries that we have now. So, times were hard for him…and us.

In the summer of 1974, somehow it came about that we, the family, would get together and paint the house.  It was a wooden structure, and time and weather had taken a toll on the outside.  The old wood siding looked pretty rough, and as I remember it, Daddy said he wanted to have the house painted before he died.  Now that is my memory, and it may not be entirely accurate but something like that is how we ended up painting the house in mid-July.  Several, if not all, the brothers were on hand as we scraped and painted the house.  I don’t know if my sisters were painters or not, but I wouldn’t be surprised if they were.

As darkness crept up on us on Saturday, July 13th, the house was just about painted.  We worked until nearly dark and finally, it was done.  It looked amazingly better and Daddy and the rest of us were proud of our hard work.  Daddy did little, if any, of the painting because of his health.  But there was something he did do.  Several of the wooden windows needed the panes reglazed, so he was working on those.  We had a wash-room built onto the house and he was working on that window when darkness fell Saturday evening.

The next morning, Sunday, July 14th, Momma when in to check on Daddy in the bedroom they shared. That was when she found that sometime early in the morning, he slipped from us. I clearly remember the chaos of those moments as we called the ambulance and tried to perform CPR, but it was too late.  Daddy was gone. All of a sudden, those last days of working and painting together became so important, so special.  We had pulled together and given Daddy one of his desires.  It is almost like he was waiting for the job to be done so he could go home.

Later that day, as we were trying to figure everything out, someone found that window he had been working on the night before.  It was laying on two sawhorses with a rag and his tools still in place.  As it turned out, it was the last work he did on this earth.  Someone snapped a picture but as far as I know it has been lost to time, but in my mind I can see it as clearly as if I was standing there.  Daddy’s work on this earth was over and yet he lives on.  He lives on in heaven and he lives on in our hearts.  The freshly painted old World War II barracks was a reminder of our love and respect for the man we called Daddy.

All of that was 47 years ago today.  It is hard to imagine that so much time has passed since he passed from this world into a better world…a world where bad hearts have no place and where time doesn’t matter.  One day, because of God’s good grace, I will see my Daddy again.  My Momma joined him in heaven just four short years later…both were just 62 years old.  But when I get there, when we get there, all that won’t matter because God is going to make it all right…all new.

I supposed the whole purpose of this Grits is just to allow me to relive a good memory of a good man.  I suppose it is just to help me make sure that his memory lives on here, as he lives on there.  And I suppose the big truth for this Grits is that we should live each day to the fullest and do whatever it is we should do.  It might be painting a house, or glazing a window, or it just might be showing someone that you love them.  We don’t know what day will be our last day, so we should live each one to the fullest. Then, we can say something like Paul said when he wrote, “It will soon be time for me to leave this life. I have fought a good fight. I have finished the work I was to do. I have kept the faith.” And my friend, that is a legacy worth leaving.

Losing my daddy at twenty years old was hard, very hard. Then mama was gone, just four short years later, which left me feeling they were both gone too soon.  For some of you, that hardness is yet to come.  But from the voice of experience, let me say, you don’t have to walk it alone.  When you are drowning in the sea of sorrow and confusion, He will not leave you to bear it alone. He wants to walk with you, carry you, and whisper as only He can, “I’ve got this.” And He does. Bro. Dewayne

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

Scars and Souvenirs

We know that all things work together for the good of those who love God, who are called according to his purpose., I have engraved you on the palms of my hands…” Romans 8:28

I was probably nine years old when it happened.  If you look at my hands you will see several scars.  Over here is one from an “exacto” knife when I was putting together a car model.  Over there is one from a car accident.  I was riding with my brother-in-law and the car in front of him decided to stop and he decided not to.

There is one on my right thumb—its the one that has been there for the last 55 years.  We were visiting with my Uncle Hardy down near Chiefland, Florida.  He was mom’s brother and the city manager of that small central Florida town.  They had an annual Watermelon Festival that included all the melon you could eat and an opportunity to ride on the back of the city’s garbage truck in the parade.  That was a big deal.  I didn’t get out much.

There are two things that Uncle Hardy had that impacted my life. One was a hairline that didn’t include much hair.  Thanks Uncle Hardy.  The other was a fish camp on the Suwannee River.  It was an old Florida cabin with a tin roof, the kind legends are born from, at least for a nine-year-old.  We would take boat rides, swim in the river, and eat watermelon. And that’s where “a scar was born.”

We were eating watermelon and I picked up a large butcher knife to slice off the watermelon from the rind.  I didn’t have a lot of experience with butcher knives, but I was feeling a little like “Indiana Jones” so I picked it up.  Like I said, I didn’t have a lot of experience, so I began slicing the watermelon pulling the knife toward me and my little nine-year-old hand. My dad saw it and said, “Dewayne.  Be careful with the knife. Don’t pull it toward you—push it away”.

Well, when you are nine and know it all, and you’re feeling like Indiana Jones you don’t listen to your Daddy or common sense. So I kept right on slicing and then it happened.  I got a little too close to my hand and neatly sliced a half-moon cut in my thumb.  Well, so much for Indiana Jones.  There was the usual holler, a bit of tears, a daddy’s “I told you so,” a big bandage, a little embarrassment, and the makings of a scar.

It healed fine, leaving a scar and a gentle reminder.  When you are using a knife don’t pull it toward you…push it away.  Daddy was right.  There is only one scar on my hand from using a knife incorrectly. That is because every time I am tempted to do it wrong, the scar on my right thumb says don’t.  And now the scar has become a sort of souvenir. When I see it I don’t remember the pain, the tears or the embarrassment, I remember the lesson.

How about you?  Have any scars…visible or invisible?  When you see them or think about them, does your mind instantly go back to pain? Do you find yourself constantly living “it” all over again—the hurtful word, the unkind act, the feeling of being rejected or forgotten?  What if we “scar bearers” could remember the lesson instead of the pain? What if we could remember the promise instead of the pain?  Promise?  Yes, the one found in Romans 8:28 “We know that all things work together for the good of those who love God, who are called according to His purposes.” This is a “go to” promise for me because I have a lot of oops, bumps, bruises, and scars.  I’m learning, though, to look at all of that not for the pain they caused, but the good God brought from them.

I’m determined to learn to glean as much as I can from each day.  It’s something I picked up during 2020.  It’s ironic how 2020 means clarity and yet we had so little of it.  But we have a God who can see all things with perfect insight.  So instead of singing the blues, I’m gonna work at turning my scars into souvenirs.  And I’m gonna lay my head down tonight and rest in Him. But there’s more.  I know now my daddy was a lot wiser than I was. He had experience with knives and watermelon.  And my heavenly Father…well, He knows everything, and do you know what?  He’s got this. Bro. Dewayne

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

Deep Dish

Taste and see that the Lord is good. Oh, the joys of those who take refuge in him!” Psalm 34:8

Bring on the deep dish.  My wife Judy really prefers thin crust pizza.  For the sake of family unity, I like thin crust pizza…sorta.  But deep, down inside, if the truth was brought to the surface, I am a deep dish kind of guy.  In fact, if we are being honest, I would choose deep dish anything and everything.  Take lasagna as an example.  Some folks make theirs, oh, about two inches deep and that is totally fine.  Invite me over for some Italian fare and I am on.  But ask my preference and I will order deep dish every time.

Remember that pizza thing? Well, give me a thick crust, deep dish slice just about the size of the state of New Hampshire.  Oh, and can we talk about pie and cobbler?  Bring on the deep dish.  Imagine layers of apples, blackberries, peaches, or cherries… all cooked to perfection along with layers, and I mean layers, of flaky crust.  Hmmmm. Can I have a witness? I can taste it right now.  And here’s the reason why I chose deep dish.  It not that it means you always get more…I mean if it was about more – I could, and would, just get seconds.  Nope.  The reason is when you go deep, you get more of the good stuff.

With pizza it is more cheese and every other ingredient under the sun.  With pies and cobblers, it is more fruit, more crust, and more sugar. Oh yes…bring on the sugar.  Lasagna….layers upon layers of pasta and gobs and gobs of melted cheese all smothered in a rich red sauce.  More of the good stuff…it is that simple.  It is true with food, and it is true with life.

Too often we do life by simply just getting by.  I think we sometimes forget that the best things in life aren’t available at Wal-Mart or Target but are the things that we enjoy and experience in life.  A beautiful sunrise or sunset…check.  A beautiful fall or spring morning in the garden as flowers show off their glory. Check.  Sharing a good meal with family and friends…all deep dish of course. Check. My oldest granddaughter and I started a tradition when she was three.  We will get a bag of ginger snaps and a big glass of cold milk and start dunking. Now that is one special memory…a deep-dish memory.

And, honestly, many of the deep dish things in life for me come from above…way above…like from God.  I have been a Jesus follower now for about 45 years and I call Him Dearest Daddy and He calls me His child.  Now all that has nothing to do with who I am, and it has nothing to do with my performance.  Nope. It has everything to do with His deep dish love for me and Whose I am.  Check this out.  The Bible says that God loves us, all of us, so much He sent His Son Jesus to die on a Roman cross to pay the price for our sins and failures.  It also says that if we believe that, and Him, He will forgive us…no strings attached. Believe and start following… and you’ve got deep dish love.

And just like with pizza, lasagna, pie and cobbler, deep dish means you just get more of the good stuff and the good stuff from God just keeps coming.  All those sunrises and sunsets, all those flowers, all the moments with friends and family…even the air that we breath…they are all deep dish blessings from the One who made it all.  I know the press on God these days by those who say we know Him isn’t always true or good. Too often we fumble the ball in life, but I hope you will look past our mistakes and give Him a try.

In the Jewish and Christian book of Psalms, the author says we should taste and see to discover just how good God is.  I hope you will take that advice.  After all, while settle for the thin crust of religion, or maybe just nothing, when you can have the deep dish of His love and calling Him Father.  I think you will discover He is Someone worth knowing…especially when things get hard.  He’s the kind of God that will let you know, “I’ve got this.”  And…He always does. Bro. Dewayne

Posted in Grace, life, love, loving others, missions, Scripture, Trials

Easy Preaching…Hard Living

“Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles of any kind come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy.” James 1:2

It sounded so good when I said it.  So I am a pastor/teacher which means I get to tell people about the Bible and how they should do this and do that.  I really enjoy teaching and the truth is life is just better when we follow what the Bible says.  It really is so much more than a rule book.  It tells us all about God but it also gives us His guidelines for living. I have discovered that when I follow what it says, my life has fewer regrets and smaller consequences.  Trust me, it works.

The bottom line is talking is easier than doing. It is one thing to stand up before a bunch of people and teach something and quite another to do it.   We call it “easy preaching and hard living” and that is especially true when it comes to living, working and dealing with people. That is probably why the Bible talks a whole lot about loving people. Its pretty amazing but you can sum up a whole bunch of the Bible with four words…love God…love people. That may be only 17 letters but they are filled to the brim with impact.

I talked about loving your neighbor as yourself a couple of week ago.  Oh, man, did it go well.  I talked about loving people like Jesus loves us and how if we experienced love from Him we should be willing to share that same love.  Yup…it preached really good.  I know I left church ready to love the world. For example, imagine this.

Let’s pretend, you know, hypothetically speaking, there was a family that bought a house in a quiet, historic neighborhood.  Imagine that one of the residents welcomed the new neighbors and told them how glad they were to have them in the neighborhood. Then a day or two later the old neighbors began hearing a very loud, very large dog barking and realized it was coming from the direction of the new neighbors.  Apparently, they had a big dog who wasn’t happy and decided to let his displeasure be known…to the whole world.

Well, now imagine that one neighbor talked to another neighbor and it was decided that someone should talk to the new neighbor about the situation. So one of the neighbors went down and very kindly asked if they could maybe encourage their dog to not bark quite as loud or often.  The new neighbors were very understanding and said they would keep the dog inside more.  Wouldn’t that kind?  All the neighbors decided that these neighbors were gonna be easy to love.

Then, imagine that a cat just shows up in the other neighbor’s yard and it belonged to the new kids on the block. And, horror of horrors, it is looking for breakfast and on the menu is bird…the neighbor’s birds.  So, let’s pretend that old neighbor goes down and asks the new neighbors to please keep their precious kitty at home.  Well, they were nice but said the cat couldn’t stay inside because it wouldn’t use the litter box. Hmmmm…wouldn’t that be…shall we say…more difficult.

Then, and remember this is all hypothetical, the new neighbors decided one dog was not enough so they added two full grown German shepherds and another large “I’m not sure what it is” dog for a total of four.  Then imagine that these dogs are a tight knit group meaning when one barks they all bark…a lot.  So as a result, if all this were real, the nice, quiet historic neighborhood wouldn’t be quite as quiet as it was.  I bet the old neighbors would have to do a lot of learning about patiently, loving neighbors. They would probably realize that Jesus stuff can be quite challenging.

Well, of course, this is all just hypothetical but the truth is when Jesus walked the earth for those three years, it often wasn’t easy for Him either.  But regardless of who and what…He loved people and He told His followers that they were to do the same.  As Jesus followers we are not only to love when it is easy…we are to love period.  We are to love our neighbor…even those hypothetical ones with large dogs who like to bark…a lot.  We are to love our neighbor, even the hypothetical ones, who might have a cat that likes to eat birds…our birds. We are to love our neighbors…period.  No if’s, no and’s and no but’s.

James, the half-brother of Jesus told us that we should count it joy when we have trials. A preacher I know (that would be me) is going to say in an upcoming sermon that the orchard where patience and love grow is often difficult but the fruit is oh so sweet.  And that is the truth.  So, not hypothetically, I’m going to do my best to love my neighbor.  You see, we need to make sure that they know we love Jesus and because we love Jesus…we love them. Is it going to be challenging?  Absolutely but if I understand the Book correctly, we don’t have to go it alone.  He’s got this.

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

Lasting Words

Teach us to number our days carefully so that we may develop wisdom in our hearts. Numbers 90:12

It wouldn’t cut soft butter today but back then it was cutting edge. I’m a tech guy.  I loved the newest and greatest technology.  When a new something comes out, if I’m not careful, I am on my way to grab one.  Of course, the funny part is it usually ends up sitting around somewhere.  Even my newest iPhone is mad because of the hours it sits on the counter—unloved and unattended.  Frequently I have to apologize for not returning a call or not answering a text…not because I’m ignoring a person—I’m ignoring my phone.

This love affair with tech began when I was a kid. When it came time for Christmas, I would browse the Sears catalogue and dream of the cool gifts that might come my way. And somehow, Momma and Daddy, with a little help from Santa, would pull it off.  Of course, sometimes they surprised me.  It would have been Christmas of, oh, 1966 and I received something totally unexpected and totally cool. It was a small, battery powered, portable reel-to-reel tape recorder.  This was before eight-tracks, before cassettes…before anything.  The size of large book, it gave me the ability to record something and play that something back.

One time I took my recorder to my grandparent’s house in Gainesville, Florida.  My grandfather (there was no “Papa” with him) was talking with my Daddy and was even telling a joke.  I decided to start the recorder and record what they were saying. Sure enough it worked and later, I played the tape for everyone, and we all marveled at the ability for something so small to do that.  But here is the amazing part.  Somewhere in my stuff, is a small reel of tape and on that tape is my grandfather and my Daddy’s voices…probably one of the few recordings to exist.  Even though they are gone…their voices live on.

Their.Voices.Live.On.  Think about that for just a moment.  Both of these men who influenced me so much have long since passed away. But through technology their voices can still be heard.  Oh, I know it is not a big deal now, but back then…it was so unusual and that makes the recording valuable.  They are, if you will, speaking from the grave.

In one of those moments of clarity, I recently realized that I too, one day, will speak from the grave.  My life, my actions, my priorities, my values, sermons I have preached, and stories I have written, will all be left behind and all will speak.  And I wonder…what will they say of me and what will they say of who I was?  When my great grandchildren hear the stories of their great Papa, will those stories be stories worthy to share? Will the words encourage them to live right and do right, or leave them scratching their head like a batter thrown a good curve ball on a hot Saturday afternoon? We should all hope to leave a story that is worth telling…one that brings some light and laughter into their world.

There is a verse I keep coming back to time and again.  Moses wrote it thousands of years ago and yet it is as fresh as today’s news.  He asked God to help him number his days that he could gain a wise heart.  He wasn’t asking for his math to be accurate when he counted birthdays.  No, he was asking that he be wise enough to make the most, the very most, of every single day.

Legacy.  It is a great word, and we are all leaving one.  The only question is, “What kind will it be?” That is up to us.  Five days a week I write a story but in reality…I write one everyday…and so do you.  Let’s be sure to write one worth telling.  Fortunately, there is a publisher who is all about helping us and if we are Jesus followers, we call Him Dearest Daddy.  He is more than willing to help us write a best seller…after all, that’s just one more thing He does.  He’s got that too.  Bro. Dewayne