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

Zone of Fire

And the tongue is a fire, a world of iniquity.” James 1:6a

Hi Grits Family! Hey, my wife Judy and I are going to be “out of pocket” aka “not available” to write this week—on another great adventure.  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” next week. God bless.  Bro. Dewayne

It was over in a flash.  Well, almost everyone has heard of Johnny Cash and almost everyone has heard his number one hit, “Ring of Fire.”  Well, Johnny had his ring, and I had my “zone of fire.” Twenty-five or so years ago my brother decided he would come up and visit with my wife and me.  It was a big deal because he is from the deep South and well, for him to cross the Mason-Dixon Line was pretty much a miracle.  When we were making plans, he mentioned that he wanted to go pheasant hunting.  Well, I checked into it and found that there was a “bird farm” about an hour from where we lived.

A “bird farm” is a business that owes a ton of land and then raises birds to be released into the wild for the purpose of hunting.  When the day came, we drove up to the bird farm.  When we got there, it was me, him and a couple of other guys. We checked in and the guy said that we would have a dog hunt with us.  That was strange since we didn’t pay for one but hey, ok.  We headed out with the dog and the guide. The way this works is you form a line, straight across, and about fifteen to twenty feet apart.  Then the dog works the area in front of you as you move forward.  If the dog goes on point (which means he found a bird) then the guide scares up the bird and someone, or a lot of someone’s, shoot.  So, we hunted, and hunted and hunted. The bottom line? I was pretty sure there wasn’t a bird within a hundred miles of that place.  The dog never went on point.

From there things went downhill.  The owner came and said that he had accidentally given us the dog and we had to give him up…so we did.  That meant we were totally on our own.  We would walk through the fields saying, “Here birdie, birdie.”  Ok, not really but we did walk through the field just trying to scare up a bird.  It was beginning to look like a continuation of the time with the dog when it happened.  As we walked through the field, and with no warning, we scared up a bird.  It was a beautiful male pheasant and he just exploded off the ground about thirty feet in front of me and slightly to my right.

I can’t tell you how fast this all happened.  He leapt into the air, I raised my bird gun and fired.  It really was over in a flash, and it was a perfect shot.  Just like that the bird was down and everyone was excited.  I had shot pheasant once or twice before but honestly it was a great shot…all except one thing.  Not once, not for a millisecond did I think about my “zone of fire.” Basically, the zone of fire is the predetermined area where it is safe for you to fire your weapon.  It obviously includes where there aren’t any people.  Now, it all worked out just fine.  I was within my zone of fire, but it was not because I intentionally did it—it was just luck.

While I don’t personally believe in luck, I do believe in a God who takes care of us…even when we are just a little—careless.  Truth be known, if that bird was a little closer to the line of guys, I could have wounded one of my friends and that would have been unbelievably tragic.  When you have a weapon, you need to be sharp, you need to be focused, and you need to be careful.  You must always be aware of your zone of fire.

That truth doesn’t just apply to weapons, you know.  We need to apply it anytime we are with people.  You see, we carry a lethal weapon with us all the time.  That would be our mouth.  And if we are not careful, a situation may come up, and before even thinking, boom…someone is wounded or hurt.  And the crazy part? It can happen in a flash just like that pheasant exploding off the ground in front of me.  In a moment of time, we can fire words from our mouth that will leave a lasting, and sometimes permanent scar, on the heart of someone around us.  We just need to be careful.

James, the half-brother of Jesus said that the tongue is a fire, a world of iniquity. We all know the stories of the wildfires in the West—the grave property damage and the tragic loss of life.  And James says in the same way the tongue can cause that kind of damage in the lives of people.  What can we do to prevent that?  The same thing when we are using our weapons around others.  We need to be sharp; we need to be focused, and we need to be careful.  Now, I have a friend who is a weapons expert and a great hunter. If he had been there that day, he would have given us a safety briefing which would have included our “zone of fire.”

We have an expert with our tongues too.  He is our Dearest Daddy and because He made us, He knows the destructive power of the tongue and can help us control it. As we walk through each day, He will be by our side, and He will guide us and help us.  He will whisper the guidance we need to be safe and not hurt others.  He is a guide that can be trusted and depended on.  And because of that…He’s got this.  Bro. Dewayne

Posted in Family, fear, friends, Grace, life, missions, prayer, Scripture, thankful, travel, Trials

Praying Mantis

When you’re in over your head, I’ll be there with you. When you’re in rough waters, you will not go down. When you’re between a rock and a hard place, it won’t be a dead end—because I am God, your personal God, the Holy of Israel, your Savior.” Isaiah 43:2-3a

  • Hi Grits Family! Hey, my wife Judy and I are going to be “out of pocket” aka “not available” to write this week. 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” next week. God bless.  Bro. Dewayne

He was coming after me.  Over the years, my wife Judy and I have made many trips to Africa.  We have spent time in Niger, Mali, and Uganda.  All were unique in their own way, and all were very special.  Our time in Mali was especially so.  We were working with one of our favorite missionaries.  She is the real deal kind—the kind that if you were to stick her finger…she would bleed Jesus.  Those trips were also highlighted because we worked with a group of One-Story girls.  These college age young ladies gave up the comforts of home to spend a couple of years living in the African bush telling people about Jesus.  They were incredible.

So, on one of these trips the team had one of those especially good days.  We were able to minister and share with a lot of folks.  We would start early and go the entire day.  We would do mostly medical missions and storytelling and encouraging.  When we got back to wherever we were staying we would have supper together.  Then, when the African sun had finally called it a day, we would gather under a large open air bamboo….uh, thing.  We would sing, share stories, and have a brief devotion before joining the sun and calling it a day too.

These team times were very special moments.  As the days passed, we as a team became closer and closer together.  There were about twelve or fourteen of us…so not too large.  Of course, that didn’t include other guests.  Sometimes Africans from where we were staying would join us, and of course some or all the interpreters.  And then there were the other guests.  Their names would make you think they were members of the team…but they weren’t.  Praying may have been part of their name but, it wasn’t on their agenda.  They were…praying mantis.

These large insects—about the size of a small eagle—would be drawn to the light as we sang and shared.  Slowly they would start circling, choosing their targets.  Now, I don’t know if they intended to bite someone—I don’t think so, or if they intended to carry someone off to their secret lair.  Regardless, it was just a little spooky.  Finally, and who knows why, I was picked by one of them.  Repeatedly, this fellow would dive and try to land on me—particularly my face. Ok…it was weird.  I was grateful when the prayer time was over. I confess I cheated and kept one eye open looking out for my newfound friend.

Judy and I headed back to our hut and prepared for bed.  We had a mosquito net over our bed to keep out those pesky insects and their friends. Soon it was lights out and off to sleep.  Sometime later, we were awakened by the sound of something larger than a mosquito.  Lion? No. Tiger? No? Elephant? No. It was the…praying mantis.  Apparently, he followed me home and waited for the lights to go out before once again taunting me.  It turns out there was a small hole in the top of our mosquito net, and he found his way in and then…it happened.

As Judy and I lay in the African night, from out of the darkness (no electricity) the praying mantis landed square on my face.  Now what happened next can’t be written because it goes beyond the 26 letters in the English alphabet. I jumped up and started clawing in the darkness trying to find my stalking insect.  I finally grabbed him (gross), wrestled him to the bed (remember they are the size of eagles…smile), raised the net and chucked him outside somewhere, anywhere but where I was.  And then I did some praying of my own.  “Lord, please don’t let him find the hole again.”  Thankfully, he didn’t, and thankfully that was the last I saw of him.

Well, the next night I had a testimony to share at story time.  We all had a good laugh (and by the way…they really aren’t as big as …eagles but it sure seemed that way.) I remember telling my teammates how grateful I was for answered prayer…and honestly, I was.  Until you’ve had something like that land on your face, in the dark, in Africa—well you just can’t appreciate a God who answers unusual prayers. But you know, that’s the kind of God that He is.  Nothing is too big…and nothing is too small for this Dearest Daddy who calls us His own.

One time God was talking to Israel through the prophet Isaiah, and He said no matter what we face…when we are over our head in trouble, or maybe between a rock and a hard place or even the occasional fiery furnace—He will be with us. Why?  Because He is our Savior, our Lord, our God. Wow…what a great scripture and I can add to that list “face eating praying mantis.”  God is always there with us and for us and no matter what, He’s got this.  Take that, Mr. Mantis.  Bro. Dewayne

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

Dancing with THE Star

The earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it.” Psalm 24:1

It wasn’t my strong suite.  I never could dance worth a hoot.  I was born in the fifties and raised in the sixties and seventies and while everyone else was doing the boogie woogie, I was kinda left on the sideline.  My best efforts somewhat resembled someone using one of those old-time vibrating, belt exercise machines—every part of your body going somewhere besides where it was supposed to.  That’s the bad news.  The good news is that I could pull off a slow dance.  It wasn’t perfect but at least I didn’t look like I was totally clueless.

Another piece of good news is that I married someone who is very understanding about this dance thing.  My wife Judy can put some moves on but since she knows I would embarrass myself if I tried, she rarely asks.  But occasionally, ok, maybe rarely, we do slow dance and honestly…I like it.  I mean what is there not to like about holding the person you love most in this whole world close and swaying together in time to the music?  Not bad…no sir…not bad.

Now there are rules with slow dancing and one of the most important is that someone must lead.  If you get a couple on the floor and they both want to lead you end up with stomped on toes and a hefty dose of frustration.  But when there is surrender and cooperation even the most inexperienced couples are worth admiring.  Surrender and cooperation—that’s a good combination for sure. And do you know what? It not only works on the dance floor with your sweetie…it works as we dance through life with the One who made us.

Imagine, if you can, if you will, that God invites you to dance with Him on the dance floor of life.  Imagine, if you can, if you will, that you move onto the floor but there seems to be a problem…both of you want to lead. You soon find yourself tugging and pulling with the One you said you would follow and it ain’t pretty.  You see, for the dance to work, One leads and one follows.  That’s just the way it is.  And when we allow the Leader to lead…it is a beautiful thing.  It reminds me of two words that we need to remember in our relationship with our Father.  Those two words are owner and steward.

You see, as God, He not only wants to lead…He owns.  You might say it is His dance floor. The Bible makes it clear that He doesn’t own part of it…He owns all of it. Psalm 24:1 says, “The earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it.” So, you can see that He not only wants to lead—He has the right to lead.  But being the gracious dance partner that He is, He allows us the honor of dancing with Him.  He is owner of the dance…we are the steward of the dance.  And trust me with this one—this is better than “Dancing with the Stars” because here you are “Dancing with THE Star” and it doesn’t get any better than that.

So, as you waltz thought this life be sure you have the right partner…some call Him Father but I like to call Him Dearest Daddy. And as you dance, allow Him to lead you across the floor because when it comes to dancing through life…well, He is the master.  Afraid you might step on His toes?  Don’t you worry, He loves you so much.  Just let Him lead.  He’s got this.  Bro. Dewayne

Posted in Family, fear, friends, Grace, gratitude, life, love, loving others, prayer, priorities, Scripture, thankful, wisdom

Short Stories…Big Truths

Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in Me, even if he dies, will live.” John 11:25

Short stories with big truths.  It all started on a Saturday morning.  We were a few months into writing stories on Facebook, and then decided to take the next step and build a website where our stories could be more easily accessed.  Many of our friends were suggesting compiling the stories into a book.  Well, that dream hasn’t happened and may not.  But the website did.  We decided to call it Grits with Grace.  Grits spoke of our Southern heritage and grace of the most powerful thing we have ever experienced.  Next came the tag line, “Short Stories with Big Truths.” Judy staged the picture in our backyard and, well, you probably know the rest.

Short stories with big truths.  Hmmm. That came home this morning as I was walking.  Sometimes, maybe once a week, I take my walk through our local cemetery.  It is rather large and if I make a couple of laps around the outside coupled with a shorter one, I end up with about two miles.  As I have written before, I love this walk because of all the life stories you can find on the headstones.  I take the same route each time…I am a creature of habit.  What I saw this morning I had seen many times before but this morning it spoke to me.

His name was Keith.  I could give you the last name but for privacy I won’t.  He was born on July 3, 1956, just a couple of years before me.  In other words, I was two and a half years old that day when he started his life journey.  It was the next date that always catches my attention. It was the date that he died.  Keith drew his last breath on May 31, 1964, at the too young age of 7 years, 10 months and 29 days. I don’t know the cause of his untimely death…only that it was a too short story.  Was it car accident, a bike accident?  Did he fall while playing?  Perhaps it was one of too many childhood illnesses.  Even polio could be a possibility.  Well, like I said we don’t know.  The only thing we know is that something unexpectedly stepped in and stole his years away.

Short stories.  The cemetery is full of headstones that speak of short stories.  Walk a while and you will see that truth played out and that is why I am writing this story.  You see, Keith is a reminder to me, as are all the headstones are, of a big truth.  The number of our days are a closely guarded secret of the One who created us.  He, and only He, knows when we will step into eternity.  Death is certainly no respecter of race, color, creed, or economic status.  Death doesn’t care about age.  We only know that one day it will come but don’t let that deflate you or scare you because Jesus took care of death two thousand years ago when He resurrected that first Easter morning.

I’m sure Keith didn’t know he was going to have such a short story, but I hope he knew the One that could make a difference.  I hope he knew Jesus.  I hope you know Jesus.  When Jesus is entered into any equation, well, it changes everything but especially death.  With Jesus death is not the end but the beginning and no matter how many years we live here—the life on the other side is so much more…so much longer.  Keith teaches us that some stories are short, very short and some stories are long, very long.  Jesus teaches us that it isn’t the length of the story that matters, it is what we do with Him.  He is what matters…not church, not religion, not religious stuff—just Jesus.

I really like what Jesus said in John 11:25—one of the books in the Bible that tells the story of Jesus.  It says, “Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in Me, even if he dies, will live.” The her is a woman named Martha and her brother had just died with a too short story.  Jesus is just letting her know that death doesn’t have to call the shots because He does.  Short stories…those will always be with us but so will big truths—like the one that says, “I’ve got this” because He does.  Bro. Dewayne

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

Guess Who Moved?

Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever.” Hebrews 13:8

It was a late October morning that I noticed it again.  Sometimes I like to go and sit on our patio early in the morning.  Sometimes I beat the sunup and sometimes it beats me.  On this particular morning, it was just peeking over the horizon.  From where I sat, it was perfectly centered between two houses that sit east of my house.  As always, it did a great job as it brought warmth to the earth and light to a new day.  It is well.  It is well indeed. The sunrise always reminds me that all of this is God’s.  Each new day is His day.  He is the owner, and I am but a steward.

Now fast forward about two or three weeks.  I was out again on the patio…just a bit later than the other time and then I noticed it.  The sunrise had moved considerably south.  Now, instead of between the two houses, the sun was way on the other side.  It was then that I thought it…and maybe said it, “My the sun has sure moved further south.”  I even called my wife over and pointed out this fact to her.  How amazing.  How incorrect.

You see, in fact, the sun hadn’t moved at all.  If you remember from your school days, we all learned that the earth is not the center of the universe…the sun is.  So, in fact, the sun had not moved but rather the earth had changed its “tilt.”  As the earth’s northern hemisphere tilts further from the sun, cooler temperatures come and fall becomes winter. The daylight of the days grow shorter and the sunrise and sunset slowly but surely shift.  But the thing to remember is that the sun doesn’t change…we do.

Well, turns out the sun has a lot in common with the Son and the Father…and the Holy Spirit for that matter.  You see, God is steadfast, immovable and the times when it seems like He is further away…well guess what?  He isn’t the one who moves.  It is us.  There is an old story about an elderly couple that was riding in their older pickup truck.  The woman said to her husband who was driving, “Do you remember when we used to sit side-by-side when we would ride together.?  The old gentleman behind the wheel, gently reminded her, “Wonder who moved?”  Who.Moved.

You see, the truth is if we feel further from God than we used to it is us and not Him who has moved. He says in His Word that He will never leave or forsake us. He is like the North Star…the one thing we can count on in these uncertain times and in this uncertain world.  He is dependable, trustworthy, and rock solid.  Today, if you are feeling abandoned…you are not.  Today, if you were feeling alone…you are not.  Today if you feel like no one cares…you are wrong.  There is someone and while some simply call Him God…I like to call Him my Dearest Daddy…because that is what He is. Abba Father.

So today, take a moment and notice all the moveable things—sunrises and sunsets, the leaves as the wind blows through the tree, a falling star that burns in the atmosphere or circumstances that change around us.  And then, think about this.  It is one of those amazing verses in the Bible that is nice and short…easy to believe and easy to memorize. It says, “Jesus Christ, the same yesterday, today and forever.” Dependable. trustworthy. Rock solid.  And, because He is all of that and so much more, we can rest in the calm assurance that, “He’s got this.”  Bro. Dewayne

Posted in Family, friends, Grace, gratitude, life, love, loving others, missions, prayer, priorities, Scripture, sovereignty of God, thankful, travel, Trials

We Need Rain

Delight yourself in the Lord, and He will give you the desires of your heart.” Psalm 37:4

It was drier than two-month-old bread.  We are so dry here in Southern Illinois.  Word on the street is that we are in a severe drought.  But there is another word on the street—it is supposed to rain tonight.  It reminds me of another time and another rain. It’s been several years now, but the story is as fresh as today’s bread.  We were on our second trip to Niger, West Africa.  We would fly forever and finally arrive in the capital city of Niamey.  There were two things that were always the same.  It was always very late at night, and we were always totally exhausted.  After a day getting acclimated, we would load up and drive all day on one of the few paved roads in the entire country.

Niger is a sub-Saharan country in West Africa.  It was on the edge of the Saharan Desert—hot, dry, and dusty.  Our journey would take us to a small city in the middle of nowhere.  We would stay with a family there who were kind and filled with hospitality.  As is customary, we would settle in and then go see the “chief” of the village.  We would meet, greet, and thank him for allowing us to come and stay in the village.  On this particular trip we were distributing food to several dozen families in the area.  Because of the extreme dryness, food was always in short supply and because of a few years of drought—it was life-threatening.

As we met with the chief, we told him we were servants of the Creator God and asked him if there was anything that we could pray for.  Without hesitation, he said, “I want you to pray for rain. It hasn’t rained here in a very long time, and we are desperate.  We have prayed but no rain has come.”  We prayed there and then and told him we would pray more—even asking people in America to pray.  And we did, both.

What happened next is the things of legends—except it is not a legend—it is truth.  After immediately contacting some of our folks back in America and praying ourselves…again…we went to sleep.  Sometime in the middle of the night, the wind began to blow, and the temperature began to fall.  Soon, there was the sound of a distant thunder.  Then, as we stood in our doorway and watched, a heavy rain began to fall.  David, one of our team members, was soon out dancing in the rain.  All of us were dancing in our hearts.

We would later learn that our friends in America, watching the radar online, saw a storm develop from nothing and move across our area.  As we danced in Africa—they were dancing in America.  That very night, right at three inches of rain fell in that village on the edge of the desert.  It was unbelievable.  It rained for several hours and fell so hard that several walls, made of mud, straw, and manure, collapsed.  A couple of storage buildings lost walls too.  When light finally came, literally, small lakes of water were everywhere.  We would be using the four-wheel drive feature on our trucks for several days.

I can’t remember if the chief came to us or summoned us to go to him, but that day we had another conversation.  He thanked us for praying and said that our God did what their god did not do.  He was grateful for us coming to the village and invited us to stay as long we wanted—and to return as often as we wanted.  Such are the wonders and miracles of the one true God.  This would not be the last or only miracle we would witness in West Africa.  It is amazing what God can and will do if the primary focus is to glorify His name.  I sometimes wonder if the people there still speak of the night of the rain.  I know we do.

There is an intriguing scripture in the Psalms—a collection of Hebrew hymns in the Jewish and Christian Bibles.  It is found in Psalm 37:4. It says that if we are willing to delight ourselves in God, He will give us the desires of our heart.  At first that sounds like a “rub the bottle and a genie pops out” story.  Trust me…it is not.  You see the first part is key—when we delight ourselves in God—then our desires align with His desires and when that happens—miracles do too.

This year, let me encourage you in a couple of areas.  First, if you haven’t thought much about Creator God—Jehovah God—in a while—why not revisit Him?  I believe you will come to the same conclusion I did years ago.  He is amazing.  And then, as we journey through this these challenging days, let’s commit to making His desires, our desires.  Let’s get on the same page with Him and watch, in wonder, what He can and will do.  It may not be exactly what we want but it will be what is exactly right.  He doesn’t make mistakes.  Wrapped up in all of this is that powerful truth we end each story with.  It is good news for this day and every day.  We can have the confident assurance that, “He’s got this” and He does.  Bro. Dewayne

Posted in Family, forgiveness, Grace, gratitude, life, Scripture, Trials

Mirrors and Band-Aids

Act on what you hear! Those who hear and don’t act are like those who glance in the mirror, walk away, and two minutes later have no idea who they are, what they look like.” James 1:24

Well, it just made me laugh.  At least for me the internet is a love, hate relationship.  There is so much good stuff out there but if you are older than two, you know there is a ton of junk too.  So, you learn to tread carefully and get the good stuff and avoid the bad like the black plague. And, if you happen to stumble into something that is poisonous, run, don’t walk to the nearest exit.  On the other side of the coin, when you find something good, apply it and share it.

Every day I receive probably five or six devotionals in my email.  The good news is they are always safe reading.  The better news is that often they are more and this week I got something that was more.  It told a story that goes like this.  “A drunken husband snuck up the stairs quietly one evening as his wife James 1:24was sleeping.  He looked in the bathroom mirror and discovered he had several bumps and bruises from a fight earlier that night.  He doctored himself up and then proceeded to climb into bed smiling at the thought that he had pulled one over on his sleeping wife.”

“When morning came, he opened his eyes and there stood his obviously unhappy wife.  While glaring, she said, “You were drunk last night, weren’t you?”  The husband said, “No honey…I wasn’t.”  “Well,” she replied, “if you weren’t, then who put all the Band-Aids on the bathroom mirror?” Boom.  Gotcha.  I hope that made you smile because it sure did me.  And as a writer of the blogs and a teacher, I realized this story is just stuffed with truths and lessons for us to learn.  As an example, I wonder how he expected to explain the Band-Aids that were supposed to be on his face…let alone the ones that ended up on the bathroom mirror.  The marks and scars of our misguided steps will always tell a story.  There’s a verse in the Old Testament that says we can be sure our sins will find us out.  How true.

Another great lesson from our story teaches us that we should play close attention when we look in the mirror.  In this case since the husband was drunk…well, he was also clueless.  What is amazing to me are the times when we are stone sober and take a look in the mirror, see something that isn’t right and still walk away leaving whatever it was intact and in place. There’s a verse for that one too. James, the half-brother of Jesus, says that when we know what to do and don’t do it, we are like a person who looks in a mirror, sees that something is awry and chooses to just walk away.  Remember it is better to take care of the problem and yes, it is better to not only read and discover what to do…but then…do it.  An ounce of prevention is indeed better than a pound of cure.

Oh, and then there is the lesson about self-fixing.  The man saw the mess and tried to fix it up himself.  How many times have we tried that…and failed miserably.  One of the lessons I have learned through the years is that while self-fixing is sometimes admirable, it can never do what only God can do.  There are plenty of mishaps and messes in life that we need the help of Someone bigger than us.  Enter a God who loves us so much.  Enter a God that loves us too much to leave us alone…like we are.  He is in more than the fix-it-up business…He is in the rescue; redeem and resurrect business and He can’t wait to be a part of your life.

Well, I reckon we can’t leave this story without stating the obvious.  And what is that?  The dude shouldn’t have been drunk in the first place! Whether he was seeking an escape or just stopped by the bar and stumbled into a mess… neither matters.  Remember, mess with a snake and you will eventually get bit…it is just how it goes. But regardless, accidental, or intentional, God is there not to lecture but to redeem…not to point a finger but to point the way to your rescue.  No matter what…He’s got this.  Bro. Dewayne

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

Play Ball

Then Jesus said, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.” Matthew 11:28

It almost seems humorous now…and in some twisted sense of reality…I guess it was. I couldn’t believe my eyes.  One of the earthquakes from the corona virus was the total disruption of sports.  I’m not a big sports guy but I do have my favorites.  I really enjoy college football and I remember being shocked that several conferences did not play in the fall of 2020.  I remember telling several folks that I’m not sure you can even have fall without college football. I found out that we could.

I was surely surprised when March Madness went by the wayside that year. Once again, I like college ball because for the most part it is sports at its purest.  I knew things were pretty serious when they cancelled this spring classic. We all said there is always next year…and there was but some just refused to wait. Enter professional sports. It seems from where I sit that so many of the professional sports are about money and not about the love of whatever game they are playing.

When professional sports started trying to come back, I was amused to what extent the leagues went to get it going.  There was the NBA (National Basketball Association) bubble thing in Orlando—and I’m really not sure what that was about, the NHL (National Hockey League) and their attempt to have a kinda, sorta, season and playoffs.  NASCAR (I’m not sure what all that stands for, but I do like what they stand for) did a little better.  Finally, and then, there is the MLB or Major League Baseball.  That year they played a 60-game season and then some kind of playoff system crowned with a sorta, kinda world series.

I remember one MLB game that year at my son-in-law’s house. I remember one of the teams was the Philadelphia Phillies and the game was being played in their park.  Here’s where it gets interesting.  First, as we watched this game, they had filled the entire lower level of the stadium with cardboard fan look-a-likes. If I remember this correctly people paid to have their picture sitting in these seats.  It gets better.

So, there were the lower stands stuffed to the gills with fake people and then to complete the “ruse” they piped in fake crowd noise to go along with the fake people.  I’m sure I wasn’t the only person going, “what?”  I’m not sure what the purpose of all that was but one thing is certain—it was not real. I am sure that was perfectly fine in those crazy times.  In fact, now that I think about it, it was probably perfectly normal for those crazy times.

The mask thing is finally and mostly in the rearview mirror…or is it? I mean the paper and cloth masks much fewer but what about another kind…the kind people wear when they are uncomfortable with who they are or what people might think of them? What about the kind people where when they feel the need to hide behind something or pretend to be something they are not?  Like an actor on a stage, they simply are playing a part.  I get that because people can be harsh and judgmental. But let me share something that just might help.  There is a God who loves you unconditionally and He is waiting for you to come and join His family.  Once He becomes your Father, no amount of failure, no amount of sin can separate you from Him.  It gets better.

Not only will He love you unconditionally, but He is also comfortable with the way He made you.  You don’t need to pretend; you don’t need to disguise—you can be you.  And when you mess up, ask and He will forgive you. When you are lonely, He will always be there. When you are afraid, He will be your Mighty Warrior and when you need to be real—you can be.  He will be your BFF—your best friend forever—literally.  So, weary one, come to Jesus.  He tells us that if we come to Him, He will give us rest.  And when we are facing the giants of our past, our todays or our tomorrows—He is big enough.  After all, He’s got this. Bro. Dewayne

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

Waiting.

Wait on the Lord; be of good courage, and He shall strengthen your heart; wait, I say, on the Lord!” Psalm 27:14

I waited and waited, and it seemed like it would never come. People say that good things come to those who wait.  I’ve heard that a lot but I’m not sure I believe it.  In fact, I’m not even sure I know what it means.  But one thing is sure…I know what it means to wait…especially if it involves the government and a by-pass.

When we came to Harrisburg in 2000, we bought a house on West Poplar Street. Now back in those days that was THE main drag.   Every car and truck going East and West through Harrisburg had to travel down Poplar Street.  When we were looking at houses with our realtor, we were told that a by-pass was on the planning board and would be done within five years.  Well, that sounded pretty good, so we bought the house and waited…and waited…and waited.  As it turned out it was a little longer than five years.  In fact—it was almost twelve.

Now in our 22nd year at 217, I am grateful, very grateful, that the by-pass finally came. I know some folks weren’t sure we even needed one and some went another way, so they were indifferent.  You might ask, “What’s the big deal about the by-pass?”  Well, if you have ever lived on West Poplar Street…you would know.

You see, Mr. Bob, my neighbor back in the days before the by-pass, told me that he counted in one day, and 60 semi-trucks went by his house in one hour–that is one per minute.  In those days there were certainly a lot of coal trucks but believe me there were still plenty of other trucks too.  You kinda wondered where in the world were they all going.

Now check this out…for the first seven years…count them 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7 years or 2,555 days, there was a hole in the road right before my house. Every time a semi-truck went by it would hit that hole with a resounding “BANG.”  Allowing for 60 trucks an hour and 12 driving hours in a day that equates to 1,839,600 bangs. Remember how people say if you live by a railroad track long enough you stop hearing the whistle?  Trust me…that does not apply to bangs.

Now do you understand why I was so excited about the bypass?  Oh, and did I mention waiting two or three minutes just to get out of my driveway?  So, we waited and finally in 2012, the bypass opened, and traffic was drastically reduced. Oh, and gravy on the mashed potatoes, they even fixed the hole.

I guess it is true, good things come to those who wait.  But waiting is hard.  There was a lady in the gospels who was sick for twelve long years…about the same time I waited for the by-pass.  She had been to doctor after doctor and the only thing that left her was all her money.  Then she met Jesus and He changed everything. She was overwhelmed with gratitude.

I supposed that is the one good thing about waiting. When, and if, what you are waiting on comes to pass, you are usually pretty grateful.  She was, I am, and you would be too.  The psalmist writes, “Wait on the Lord; be of good courage, and He shall strengthen your heart; wait, I say, on the Lord!” (Psalm 27:14)

Down in the South we say, “a watched pot never boils.” Well, that isn’t true…it will boil, but it sure seems to take longer. So, if there is something in your life and you are praying and you are waiting, be patient.  Wait on the Lord and who knows, your “by-pass” may come too.  All those Covid hot mess repercussions hung around way too long. I tried to believe that they didn’t come to stay and sure enough, for the most part, they finally left town. I think this afternoon I will go sit in my quieter front yard and take a rest with the God who made all of this.  He even had a big hand in the by-pass! After that, I’ll just remind myself that no matter what…He’s got this.  Bro. Dewayne

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

Seasoning for the Seasons

If the salt loses its flavor, how shall it be seasoned? It is then good for nothing but to be thrown out and trampled underfoot by men.” Matthew 5:13b

Man..that would have to be bland.  I was talking to someone the other day and they said something that caught my ear.  They said, “I don’t like salt.”  Wait. What?  I mean I’ve heard lots of people say that they don’t use salt.  The reason is usually a doctor or a spouse that has laid down the law.  It is usually medically driven, and you do without so you can keep on doing.  But this person said he didn’t like salt. That is just hard to imagine.

You all probably know that I love food…just about all kinds, all flavors, and all portions.  But food without seasoning just kinda takes away the whole point.  You know what Jesus said don’t you?  He said that salt that has lost it savor…its flavor…its ability to influence is worthless.  “Chuck it out on the sand pile,” he said.  Imagine grits with no salt, green beans with no salt (or fatback…oh my), mashed potatoes with no salt (wait that might even be a sin) and the list just goes on and on.  At least for me it becomes a gray world where eating becomes something you have to do instead of something you want to do…you crave to do.

I was listening to a short devotional video that sparked all this thinking about seasoning and salt.  The person said we should allow God’s Word to marinate our lives.  Let me explain.  I like chicken.  I really like fried chicken. I especially like fried chicken that has been dipped in a really good dry mixture of spices—how many does the Colonel use? Or maybe it is a wet batter just waiting to be plunged to a frying pan of hot grease.  Can someone say hallelujah?

Believe it or not there are other ways to eat chicken and one of the most popular is grilled chicken. I’m a fan of that too but especially when the chicken has been marinated in some sort of marinade.  You see, as the chicken takes a bath in whatever it is the flavor of the marinade slowly seeps into the chicken…changing it from just chicken to something that is just about heavenly.  Are you tracking with me?  So, the bottom line just seems to be the things that we season our food with changes the whole experience.  It is true with food…and it is true with life.

An unseasoned life can be pretty boring and at the same time a life seasoned with the wrong things can be pretty disastrous.  It is important that we allow the right things to influence us.  The wrong environments, the wrong company, the wrong media habits, and the wrong mindset can all set us up for a life that at the least is less than and at the most leaves us depressed, discouraged, and disillusioned.  Just like with food…the seasonings matter.  Colonel Sanders talks about his secret blend of seasoning and spices, but I don’t want this to be a secret.

You see, as I have journeyed through the kitchen of life (and trust me I have ended up in a few frying pans) I have discovered the secret to a well-seasoned life.  Are you ready?  It is a personal relationship with the God who created it all.  Now wait…don’t close the book yet.  Notice I didn’t say religion, I didn’t say church, I didn’t say doing this or doing that…I said a personal encounter with the God who loves me and you enough to give His Son to a Roman cross.  When you add that kind of love to your life…it’s gotta be good.  Smucker’s (they make jams and jelly) says this, “If it is Smucker’s it has to be good.”  I’ve had their stuff and it is pretty sweet…no pun intended.

Well, let me tell you, if it is God, contrary to what you have heard, it has got to be good.  Now I’m not talking about the version you see too often in the lives of people…I am talking about the version that you find in His book…the Bible.  So, if you are thinking about adding some seasoning to your life, let me encourage you to get a copy of the Bible and try reading about Jesus.  You might want to start in the Gospel (which means Good News) of John.  Using the index will make it easy to find.  What you will discover will change the flavor of your life.  If you are finding that things in your world are just a little or a lot bland—ask the Master Chef—He’s got this.  Bro. Dewayne