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

The Thumb

Imitate God, therefore, in everything you do, because you are His dear children.” Ephesians 5:1

He gave me the thumb and I wasn’t sure I liked it.  It was just about a year ago.  It was a Saturday afternoon and I decided to take a trip to Marion.  With my wife Judy out in Oklahoma doing family mission work I was a little bored.  I wasn’t heading to anyplace in particular just getting out of town.  As those who live around here know, the road to Marion is a nice four lane highway with a speed limit of 65 mph.  I was hitting that right on the nose.  Now, frankly, most of the time I am like most drivers and do a couple of miles over the limit.  But today I was a law-abiding citizen.  And then I saw him.

Up ahead some distance was a guy and his lady friend on a Harley.  He was doing probably about 62 mph…just enough so I was either going to have to slow down or get into the left lane and pass him.  The closer I got I could see that he looked just what my prejudiced eyes thought he would. Three or four days of stubble covered his face, a bandana held his hair down, well-worn jeans, a few tats, and some sort of leather vest finished his look.  His lady friend also sported a bandana and was dressed in black.  She reminded me of a female version of Johnny Cash.

So, giving the biker dude plenty of girth, I moved over into the left lane, cruise still set to 65.  Just before I got even with the guy on the bike, he nudged the throttle on his Harley and soon was about 40 yards ahead of me.  I thought, “Well, ok, maybe Harley’s don’t have cruise and he realized he was doing under the speed limit.  But wait…now he’s slowing down again.  Strange.  I went back into the left lane and when we were about even—he throttled up again.  Well, back into the right lane I went.  As I did, he did his slow down thing again.  I got back into the left lane and when I did his lady friend turned around and gave me “the look.”

I can’t really explain the look.  I know when Judy gives it to me it never ends well.  So, I filed that away.  Soon I was even again with my friend on the Harley, and he looks over at me.  I give him a shrug of the shoulders, the kind that says, “Hey dude, what’s up?” And that’s when he gave me the thumb.  Now I don’t speak sign language at all.  I do know when some people do certain things with their fingers it can be pretty ugly.  I’ve had that happen before.  But no one has ever given me the thumb.

He simply held up his hand, fingers tucked in and his thumb sticking out—kinda like a hitchhiker would do when thumbing for a ride. His thumb pointing to the rear of his bike, he gave it a jerk—pointing behind him—and throttled big and shot off into the distance.  Just like that, he and she were gone.  And not speaking fluent biker hand signs, I was left trying to figure out if I was glad or mad or offended or off-ended. I need to tell you that I’m not sure off-ended is a real word but it sounded good.

So as the biker dude took off, several scenarios kinda played through my mind.  I mean if he was being a jerk, I could play like Clint Eastwood, reach under my seat and draw out my 45 magnum and say, “Go ahead…make my day.”  But the only thing under my seat was an umbrella and it wasn’t a 45 magnum anyway.  And maybe he wasn’t being a jerk after all.  He might have been saying, “Hey, the girl on the back is my wife Sally.  I just wanted to introduce her to you.”  It could have been that he wanted me to fall in behind him so he could break the wind for me like one of those NASCAR drivers.

Truth is—I don’t have a clue.  So, I pulled back into the right lane and kept on driving.  I even notched it down a couple of miles per hour to give the biker dude plenty of room. He turned right heading toward Pittsburg and I will probably never see him again.  But one thing is sure.  If he should happen to walk into church this Sunday, unless I violated some sort of biker code I don’t know about, I won’t have to be embarrassed.  I played it cool and hopefully acted like Jesus wanted me too.  And that is what matters.

Paul told some folks at Ephesus who were Jesus followers that they should imitate God in everything they do.  It not only applies to them—it applies to us. In other words, if we are Jesus followers, we should speak, act, think and respond like Him because we are His dear children. Now, I don’t always get it right.  In fact, too often I get it wrong.  But that day…it felt pretty good that I didn’t do something to embarrass myself or my Dearest Father.  So, if someone gives you the thumb, or worse, just hit the pause button. Pull back into the right lane, bump your cruise down a couple of mph and rest.  You know why, don’t you?  That’s right…He’s got this.  Bro. Dewayne

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

Locks

Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life.” Proverbs 4:23

Well, that didn’t do a lot of good.  My wife Judy and I recently attended a pastor’s conference at the Billy Graham Training Center in North Carolina.  It was so refreshing to get away and as always, we were treated like royalty.  The teaching, the facilities and the food were all top notch.  In these crazy days we are living it was like an oasis where we could pause and refill—to drink deeply from His well of living water.

So, too soon, it was time to head back home and because the conference was over in the middle of the day, it just made sense to stop about halfway and spend the night. Cookeville, Tennessee is just about the midway point, so we booked an Airbnb. It was a nice place and we unloaded and then went to get a bite to eat. In the meantime, it decided to rain.  Now let me explain this was one of those rains that could drown a fish.  It rained, rained hard and it rained a long time. I was about to check the price on gopher wood.  Anyway, when we got back to our home for the evening, I jumped out of the car and unlocked the door and Judy followed.

Well, it continued to rain and several times I went outside to see what was happening.  You could hear the rain from inside the apartment and you could just tell it was coming down in buckets.  Of course, there was the occasional lighting followed by a good, ole thunderclap.  Each time I went out I was careful to lock the door back.  You know, the neighborhood looked safe, but you can never tell.  Finally, it was time to head to bed and I checked the door and it was locked.  We were safe and sound.

Well, sometime in the night, I woke up to rollover and I thought I heard something.  Now don’t panic…it was nothing, but I thought it might be something.  And then, something occurred to me, a question really.  I asked myself, “Did you leave the key in the lock on the door?”  Well, that made me wonder…and for good reason.  So, in the middle of the night I got up and turned on the lights.  I looked on the counter and guess what?  The key was nowhere to be seen.  I had a sneaking suspicion I knew just where to find it.

I walked over to the door, unlocked the deadbolt, and opened the door and there for everyone and anyone to see and find…was the key.  Well, I obviously took it out of the lock and gratefully locked the door back, put the key on the counter and went back to bed.  After a short prayer thanking God for keeping us safe, I drifted back off to sleep…no harm and no foul.  But it did make me think.

You see the door had two locks…one on the doorknob and one a deadbolt.  Those together would certainly keep out any bad guys.  But with the key right there…well, those locks weren’t going to keep anyone out.  With the key in the lock, it was like hanging out a “Y’all come on in!” sign. As I mentioned, no one tried to come in, but I had rendered the locks useless by leaving the key there.

It made me wonder how often do we leave the keys in the locks that guard our heart, our mind, our character, our marriage, our anythings?  You see, God watched out for Judy and me that night and gratefully, He also watches out for us in life.  But as sure as an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, so it is better to remove the key and lock the lock.  Wouldn’t it have been crazy, though,  for me to leave the key in the lock because, after all, no one tried to come in…yet?  And just because nothing has gone amiss in our lives yet doesn’t mean that it can’t and it won’t.

The Bible tells us in the Book of Smart Living, aka Proverbs, to guard our hearts because out of it comes the wellspring of our lives. In other words, we need to lock the door of our hearts and put the key safely away. If you are wondering the best way to guard your heart, to lock the door to your heart, I believe the Bible is the answer.  It is just jam-packed with help from the One who made us.  And remember, the Bible isn’t just a book of rules…it is a book for living well. Like guardrails on a curvy road, it keeps us from big regrets and consequences.  Written on the pages and in between the lines is His calm assurance that we don’t have to worry because He is with us and yes, He’s got this.  Bro. Dewayne

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

His Plan

 Don’t be like them, for your Father knows exactly what you need even before you ask Him!” Matthew 6:8

 I read it…and I just didn’t like it.  We live in a house with what seems like a lot of rooms.  I once heard Pastor Andy Stanley say that we know we are blessed because we even have rooms for our cars.  They are called garages.  I suppose my favorite room is the kitchen because that is where Judy cooks our delicious meals.  She is a very good cook, and I am a very good eater!  My second favorite room is my home office or, you could say my, “Man Cave.”

While it is true that it is where I do a lot of my studying and writing, its walls are full of memories.  On one wall is a display of my career in the Air Force.  There is a picture of my flight (think squad in the Army), as well as several awards and medals I received while in the service.  I also have a couple of items from World War II that I treasure.  Then there are five pellet and BB guns hanging over my desk.  Several bring childhood memories. On two walls are items from mission trips in Africa and Asia.  My two favorite things are a Tuareg sword that a friend in Niger gave me and a picture of me and another team member praying over a man who was demon possessed.

Rooms can be very special and for various reasons.  I was reading this week and by way of illustration a writer told a story of young boy who had a dream that he was in heaven.  Someone showed him a room filled with cars, boats and other toys but piled on the other side of the room were arms and legs and other body parts.  I know it sounds gruesome. When the boy asked his guide what it mean he was told that all of it were answers to prayers that people never prayed.  I guess it makes for a good story but honestly—I didn’t like it.

“Why” you ask?  Well, the idea that the God that loves me and cares for me, would let me walk around blind or crippled only because I didn’t ask just doesn’t work for me.  I mean He loved me enough to send His Son to die for me…for the whole world…and that God would allow His kids to be lame only because they didn’t ask just doesn’t work.  Oh, and then, Jesus said that He knows what we need even before we ask.  No, I think God is an opened handed, loving Father who cares for us.

Of course, I also believe that prayer is far more than a wish list.  I believe the scriptures teach about prayer being more about fellowship and an intimate relationship between God and His children.  Prayer isn’t about changing God’s mind or persuading Him to do this or that.  No, prayer is about changing us…to believe…to trust…to love the One who made us.  I know there are a lot of scriptures in the Bible about prayer, but we only get a clear picture when we put them together. Like a giant jigsaw puzzle comes to life when all the pieces are in place…so it is with prayer.

Well, I don’t think there will be those kind of rooms in heaven but if there were…I know one I do think would be there.  And that room would be a gallery of pictures of all the things our Dearest Daddy did for us that we never even knew about.  It would be a room filled with unnoticed miracles, love notes, and blessings and it would have to be a big room because He is a busy God…loving, blessing and caring…for each of us.

I’m grateful for the open-handed love of our great God.  If we will take the time to pause and look, we will see more and more of what He does for us every day.  My wife Judy and I are learning that so often the joy is in the journey, and do you know what?  I am learning that the power of prayer is in the intimacy, the relationship that can only come from time spend together with the One who made me…made us.  Oh, and when we are talking, and I’m sharing my concerns, I just know He is there listening and sometimes whispering…telling me not to worry because, “He’s got this.”  Bro. Dewayne

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

Nice Landing…But

In those days there was no king in Israel; everyone did what was right in his own eyes.” Judges 21:25

What? Really? You’re kidding? Several years ago, something happened that made the national news and caused quite a stir for a particular airline. It seems that a Southwest Airlines flight was on its way to Branson, Missouri.  It was dark and for a lot of us even driving a car in the dark is a deal but that’s nothing for professional pilots.  Anyway, as they made their approach to the airport, they saw lights and a runway and performed a perfect landing–at the wrong airport.  How in the world did that happen?

Well, when asked, it turns out the pilots were a little confused.  They saw the lights and assumed that it was the Branson airport which of course, it wasn’t.  Now all that might seem somewhat forgivable…I mean everyone makes a mistake.  But one small factor makes forgiveness a little more difficult:  electronics.  Now I am not a pilot, but I do know that modern avionics do an amazing job helping the pilot fly the plane. My nephew and brother-on-law fly professionally, and they sometimes share with me about the amazing aircraft they fly.

There was a story on the news that expressed concern that the aircraft and all its electronics perhaps do too much of the flying of the aircraft. In the case of the mistaken airport, we can only presume that the avionics were doing their job and had the plane headed in the right direction.  At some point, the pilots took over, ignored all that the electronics were telling them and made a big and potentially disastrous mistake.  I can just hear their GPS saying, “Turn around when possible.”  Ok, that’s stretching it but the bottom line remains–the instruments were telling them the truth, but they did what they thought was right.  Oops.

We have such a terrible tendency to do the same.  God gave us His Word not as a bunch of do’s and don’ts but rather as a guidebook, a GPS, if you will, to get us through life.  It gives us good solid advice and points us in the way we should go.  If we choose to ignore it, well, we can metaphorically end up at the “wrong airport” or worse than that in a devastating fiery crash with equally disastrous consequences. Either because of circumstances or our stubborn pride, we sometimes just insist on doing what we think is right—even when we know better.

The Bible speaks of this in Judges 21:25 “In those days there was no king in Israel; everyone did what was right in his own eyes.” In other words, in the vacuum of leadership, the people did whatever they wanted.  Does that somehow sound familiar? Growing up in the sixties I thought we did a pretty good job of doing our own thing, but I do believe that culture today is showing us up. It’s not that we don’t know better.  It’s not that we don’t have something to guide us.  It’s not that we don’t have a king—no, there is a King–we just tend to ignore Him when it gets too uncomfortable or goes against our grain.

In the case of the Southwest pilots, they were very fortunate because the consequences were smaller than they could have been. They had to answer for their actions and I’m sure they either lost their jobs or were sent back to “driver’s education.”  But let’s be honest.  Sometimes what was true for them is also true for us.  We just get sloppy in our living and well, that leads down a path we just need to avoid.

A lot of the “rough air” and “pilot error” we experience in life can be avoided if we will take the time to read the Book, trust the Book, and apply the Book.  But even then, we won’t always get it right.  No one, including pilots, are perfect.  The good news is that when we fail and even when we crash there is grace.  The One who made us all is ready and willing to forgive us of all our errors and sins.  We just need to ask.  And if we will, and when we do, we can rest assured that, “He’s got this.”  Bro. Dewayne

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

Unexpected Gratitude

For God so loved the world, that He gave His only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life.” John 3:16

I made a random turn…into the cemetery.  One evening my wife Judy and I were out on a mission.  One of our ladies had given us some homemade ice cream and we were returning the container.  Oh, in case you are wondering, it was way beyond delicious.  It was peach and it was just peachy.  I’ve already put in a request for strawberry next.  We returned the container and just kinda started driving randomly.  As we went down the street the entrance to the cemetery came up on the right—and I turned right in.

Slowly we started driving down the lanes and just as slowly I started reading some of the headstones there.  First, though, on the left was Harrisburg’s “Little Arlington.”  It was dusk and the lights were on, and I was so impressed with all the work that went into honoring those who had served their country. It represented sacrifice. For some the ultimate sacrifice…the kind of sacrifice that means you don’t get to come home from the war.  I love what is often said, “All gave some, but some gave all.” For that, I was moved, and I was grateful.

Just down the lane was a grave that caught my attention.  It was a young soldier who went to Korea to fight for his country in what has been called “the forgotten war.”  He was 27 years old when he died on some battlefield, some hill in a country for away.  He was fighting and ultimately died for the cause of freedom.  I was moved and I was grateful.

In several places, Judy and I would stop as we saw a headstone that was personal because we knew, we loved, the ones buried there.  Sometimes both of the names were etched there in the stone, and it symbolized two lives joined into one story.  And for both the story had concluded.  Sometimes though only one name had the start and finish dates. The other story was still being written and there was a heart longing for heaven and a long-awaited reunion.  One stone declared and celebrated 72 years of marriage.  So many of those story writers had touched our lives.  I was moved and I was grateful.

There were also stones of tragedy.  There stood the stone marking the grave of two brothers tragically killed one night by a drunk driver.  Several other stones showed lives cut short by a tragic accident.  Over there was the headstone of one of the victims from the 2012 tornado.  Everywhere were stories of people who touched the lives of others. One stone showed an American flag engraved in full color—the grave of a proud veteran.  One grave was that of a pastor and a veteran of World War II.  So many stories, so many lives, so many contributions.  I was moved and I was grateful.

As we continued around the lanes inside the hallowed grounds, we noticed there were places where whole families were buried together.  Generations of fathers and mothers, sons and daughters lay in eternal rest together.  The stones often bore nicknames and tag lines of the one who lay there.  On one grave was a tattered flag that said, “#1 Dad.” Some graves though were barely marked.  The only indication that someone lay there was a rock or a stone.  In another part of the cemetery were the pauper graves.  I have stood at some of those graves as we laid to rest someone that almost no one knew.  Once it was the funeral director and me.  No one else came. I was moved and I was grateful.

“Wait,” you say.  “How can you be grateful?”  Well, the reason is simple.  Whether it was a family plot of many generations or a solitary grave of a person when no one came—Jesus was still there.  He is the unseen attendee of every funeral.  For many He is there as Savior and Lord. For others He is there as the Sovereign Lord who wishes all to believe but knows not all will.  But He is there.  He is always there.  When we need Him, when we want Him and yes, even when we ignore Him.  I am moved and I am grateful.

When you get some time, take a slow drive through the cemetery.  It is anything but morbid…it is in fact one of the most meaningful things we can do.  You will be touched, you will be moved, and yes, somewhere along the way you will be grateful.  Let each headstone with a start and finish date be a reminder that for you there is still time.  Still time to make a difference, still time to mend a relationship, still time to finish well.  But most importantly…there is still time to believe and trust in Him.  The Book says that if anyone will call on His name…they will be saved—forgiven—rescued. No story is so bad that He can’t change the end.  Once again, I am moved and I am grateful.

Many see the cemetery and think death.  For those who truly understand grace and Jesus they know the cemetery isn’t about death it is about life.  You learned it in Sunday School but now hear it again…like the first time.  “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever (that is you and me) calls on His name will not perish but have everlasting life.”  So, trust in Him and rest in Him.  For He has all of this.  Bro. Dewayne

Posted in Family, forgiveness, Grace, gratitude, Integrity, life, prayer, priorities, Scripture, Trials

Shock Factor

There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way to death.” Proverbs 14:12

I call it the “shock factor” and I am not a fan.  One of the things that I love about deep South Florida and the Keys is the water temperature.  I mean it is perfect.  When you wade into the water there is no gasping or shuddering.  There is no “shock factor.” On the other hand, I have been to the Florida panhandle many times, often in the dead of summer, and it always seems the water is cold. It probably isn’t but it sure seems that way.

Several years ago, we were down with the family.  We had a place on the beach and soon there was a clamor of “let’s go to the beach.” Well, I am not a fan of the beach, but I am a fan of my family so off we went. We got there and it was time to take the plunge.  So, I put my little toes in the water and was shocked at how cold the water seemed.  Holy moley…I thought this was the Gulf not the North Sea! Well, I inched a little more trying my best not to act like a girl—sorry ladies.  As I waded out, the water got higher and higher until finally it was time to go all in.  Yep, I finally just bent my legs, and the water came up to my neck.  Holy moley, for the second time!

Well, for about four or five minutes it was just cold—I swore I saw penguins walking on the beach.  Hot temperature or not…sun or not—it was cold. Then gradually I realized, it wasn’t cold anymore.  In fact after a bit, it actually felt pretty warm.  Had my body temperature changed?  Nope.  Had the water warmed up?  Nope.  Fact was I just acclimated to the water.  In other words, I just got used to the water and when I did, the shock factor was gone.  I found out you could even get out of the water for a couple of minutes and return without shouting, “holy moley!”

I find this whole hot/cold water thing kinda interesting.  You have probably heard about how a frog can be put into a pot of water.  As heat is applied to the pot the ole frog just sits there and until the water is boiling and he is cooked.  He doesn’t sense the temperature change because his body temp is controlled by his environment. And then I realized that is exactly how it is with us and sin.  The longer we stay in a certain sin–and the more often we visit there–the lower the shock factor.  In fact, it sounds crazy but it explains what is happening all around us today. It probably explains why so many “Christians” can live in sin and feel quite comfortable there. They have lost the “shock factor.”

When it comes to water temperature, God gives us the shock factor to physically warn our bodies that something is different–perhaps dangerous.  He does the same for us morally and spiritually. When we are walking down a path with big regrets and bigger consequences, He sometimes sends the “shock factor” to wake us up. That “Oh my, what am I doing?” thing is from God, and He is warning us to get out—fast. In the Old Testament part of the Bible, there is a verse in the book of Proverbs that says, “There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way to death.”  That is so true…just ask the frog.

So unlike Mister Frog, we can physically “feel the heat” but morally and spiritually we aren’t much different. We need to be wise enough to jump out while we can.  Many a good frog has waited to late…and so has many a person.  That uncomfortable feeling is there for a reason…jump while you can. Like a good lifeguard, God is waiting for us to call for help.  You can trust Him…He’s got this. Bro. Dewayne

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

Precious Memories

And we are confident that He hears us whenever we ask for anything that pleases Him.” 1 John 5:14

It’s a song we often sing at funerals…but it’s also a good song to live by.  The other day I was sitting around talking with some friends and we began sharing about some of our experiences.  Before long we discovered that our friend had been in the military and spent some time in Germany…just like my wife and I.  Before long, our sentences were punctuated with, “I remember…” and the room swelled with great times and great memories.  I know from where I sit there are some incredible times where God just blessed.  One of those times was my vision trip to work on the islands of Lake Victoria in Uganda.

This would be one mission trip that I would be taking all by myself.  There was not a team and Judy was unable to go.  It was me and God and I discovered that was good combination…a great combination.  I remember (there’s our word) that I had asked the church family to really pray for me while I was gone.  In fact, I gave them three specific things to pray for. First, I asked them to pray for my time in the boat.  Because we were ministering on the islands, we would spend several hours a day in a small (about 25 feet) open boat.  We would be cruising Lake Victoria, the second largest lake in the world.  In fact, it was like a small sea.  I sometimes have a tendency for motion sickness. Normally that is limited to going “round and round.”  However, when it comes to waves and boats it can be “game on.”

My second prayer request was for an effective interpreter. When you speak with an interpreter, you say a few sentences then you pause, and he interprets what you said. Well, during my previous trips to another part of Uganda when I was teaching and preaching, my interpreter was very good.  It was almost like he was an extension of me.   I knew having a good interpreter would greatly impact the effectiveness of the trip.  So I asked for prayer that God would send just the right man.

Finally, I asked my friends and family to pray that I wouldn’t wimp out.  Now hang on–I’m not a newbie in the world of mission trips, but it was my first solo journey.  There is a time to whine and a time not to whine. Is that in the book of Ecclesiastes? The bottom line is the time on any mission trip is too valuable to be a whiner. So, I needed to be flexible and remember this whole deal wasn’t about me but Him and them.  There is saying for people who go on mission trips.  It says, “Blessed are the flexible for they shall not break.”  Amen, Lord, Amen.

So, for those of you who wonder if God answers prayer, the answer is, “He does.”  When we pray for His will to be done and His purpose to be accomplished, hang on because those are prayers He loves to answer. To be direct and to the point—God answered the prayers of His kids clearly and specifically.  First—no motion sickness.  The lake was not calm–in fact one day we had whitecaps.  Still—without a pill or a patch—I was totally free from motion sickness.  That interpreter?  God answered that prayer with a local pastor who was better than any other person I have worked with.  He was so animated and led of the Lord—totally awesome.  Last, wimping out?  Well, those of you who know me best would probably have said, “Who is this guy?”  One time when it was 10:00 pm and our supper had still not yet appeared, I almost whined but was able to stifle it. God was just incredibly good, and I came home with a full heart and a vision of how we could begin a ministry to the people who lived on the islands of Lake Victoria.

It is important to remember that God is not a genie with a magic lamp.  God is not Santa Claus waiting to receive our wish list. God is not a vending machine where we put our quarter in and get what we want.  God is God.  And when we pray for His will to be done…amazing things can and do happen. John, one of Jesus’ closest disciples, said, “And we are confident that He hears us whenever we ask for anything that pleases Him.” That is not a statute of limitations but rather an invitation to join God in His work.  Let’s join God in a conversation…not just when you are in trouble…but rather every day.  You will find that He is waiting and willing to have a chat with you.  Oh, and don’t be surprised, when He responds, “Don’t worry, I’ve got that.” Bro. Dewayne

Posted in Family, gratitude, life, Scripture, thankful

Have a Good Day!

This is the day the Lord has made. We will rejoice and be glad in it.” Psalm 118:24

“Sometimes you feel like a nut…sometimes you don’t.”  You might remember that as the slogan for the Mounds candy company.  One of their candy bars has almonds and one doesn’t. Frankly…I like them both.  The slogan reminds me of the way days sometimes go.  Sometimes they are smooth sailing and sometimes, well, they aren’t.  There is an old saying that asks the question, “Did you get up on the wrong side of the bed today?” It usually means someone is a bit grumpy and often it is associated with the day they are having. It goes back in time when getting out of bed on the left side was akin to bad luck and a bad day.

One of my favorite kid’s books is titled, “Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day.” It’s a humorous account of a little boy who has not a day, but seemingly a life, that constantly goes south.  Ever wonder what a bad day might look like?  Well, someone wrote a list of ten things that might be very good indicators of a very bad day.  It goes like this.

Top Ten Indicators of a bad day!

1. You realize you just sprayed spot remover under your arms instead of deodorant.

2. Your doctor tells you that you are allergic to chocolate chip cookies.

3. The gypsy fortune teller offers to refund your money.

4. The worst player on the golf course wants to play you for money.

5. Everyone is laughing…but you.

6. You turn on the news and they are showing emergency routes out of your city.

7. You wake up to the soothing sound of running water…and remember you just purchased a water bed.

8. Your horn sticks on the freeway–behind 32 guys riding motorcycles, wearing leathers, chains and very angry looks.

9. You call the crisis hotline and they put you on hold.

10. Your four year old tells you that it’s ALMOST impossible to flush a grapefruit down the toilet.

Well, I hope that made you smile.  We all have stories of days when it seemed like Murphy (of Murphy’s Law fame) was our worst best friend and absolutely nothing goes right.  It makes us want to go back to bed and try it all again.  Well, something that just keeps rolling around in my head (and my heart) is this scripture that talks about the fact that God makes each day.  It says, “This is the day the Lord has made. We will rejoice and be glad in it.” I’m glad it didn’t say be happy about it because that might really be hard.  No, it says, “Rejoice” or be joyful.  You see joy and happiness are not the same.  Happiness depends on circumstances and joy depends on our trust in God—and those two things are far, far apart.

I have to admit that I am not always the most optimistic person, though I do try to see the glass as half full rather than half empty.  But I am learning that if I look around closely, I will see little love notes from my Dearest Daddy.  Mostly they are small, little blessings that can go unnoticed. But if I slow down and look around, there they are.  I think it is important to train our eyes, and minds, to look for the ways He works His God magic.  So, why not decide that today, right now, you are going to journey today with an eye for Him.  You might be surprised how differently your day goes.  Oh, and if it really is a difficult day, if it really seems like Alexander’s Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day, well, just remember that every day and any day, “He’s got this.”

Bro. Dewayne

Posted in Family, forgiveness, Grace, gratitude, life, love, prayer, priorities, Scripture, thankful, Trials, Uncategorized

What’s Your Worth?

“For God so loved the world that He gave His only Begotten Son that whosoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.” John 3:16

Well, this week was the week we got to pay the first installment on our property taxes. There is a first installment because there is a second installment and there is a second installment because tax are well, really steep. All this reminds me of something that came in the mail last year and it was from the tax guy—the assessor to be specific.

They told me they had driven by my house and they really liked it—a lot.  And, since they liked it so much, they thought it was worth a lot more than they had previously thought.  A whole lot more.  They blessed me with a reassessment and the grand prize was I got to pay more property taxes. Yay.  Well, not really but it did give me a great opportunity to learn about how much God loves me.  Here’s what happened.

If you have been here before you probably know my day job is being a pastor. It is something that I really enjoy.  My favorite thing is  sharing THE story but also sharing stories.  I love to take big truths and present them in a way that anyone can grasp them.  I think that is what Jesus did and I figure if He did it I should too.

So a while back I was sharing the story from the Bible how four guys take this paralyzed guy to see Jesus.  When they got there, the house was stuffed with people.  There was no way they were going to get in.  So they decided to take this guy up on the roof, dig a hole in the roof and then lower him right in front of Jesus.  It was crazy, it was  radical, and it was different, but they believed two things.  They believe that Jesus could heal their friend and that the friend was worth the effort.  We all could use friends like that.

They began to haul this guy up the ladder to the roof.  Can you even imagine how difficult and challenging that was?  I mean how do you keep a paralyzed guy from falling off his mat while climbing a ladder?  Well, somehow they pulled it off.  When they got to the top they began to remove the thatch first and then break apart the mud and tiles.  After they had made a hole big enough to get this guy through—they lowered him down and He landed right in front of Jesus. I bet there were more than one person who wondered what in the world was going on. I bet too some people were grumbling about tearing up a perfectly good roof to get some poor, paralyzed guy in front of Jesus. I mean if he had been some rich guy maybe but a nobody? And that’s what rung my bell.

You see to those four guys and to Jesus—this guy wasn’t a nobody—he was a somebody.  He was worth way more than a hole in the roof.  In fact, through the eyes of Jesus every soul if incredibly valuable—including yours.  And that’s when the reassessment thing came into focus. Remember, when the tax folks drove by my house they liked what they saw and they increased my assessment.  Their assessment really only means I get to pay more taxes.  It really doesn’t tell me what my house is really worth.

You see, I learned a while back that anything you or I own—our house, our car, is worth only what someone is willing to pay for it. That’s the bottom line.  So here’s the deal.  God drove by your soul, my soul and assigned a value to it—what it was worth to Him and what He was willing to pay to redeem it.  Do you know what that was?  Well, we find it in the Bible.  It says, “For God so loved the world that He gave His only Begotten Son that whosoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.  Get that—everlasting (as in eternal) life.  God’s assessment of our value to Him was the life of His very own Son.  He allowed His Son to die on a Roman cross because He counted us as somehow worth it.  He just loved us that much.

Well, the end of the story for the paralyzed guy was pretty amazing too.  Jesus first calls him Son—not worthless, not broken, but Son. Then He forgives the guy’s sin—not what he wanted but what he needed—and finally, He tells him to stand up, take his mat, and go home.  Three seemingly impossible things but with Jesus, as you can probably guess, nothing is really impossible when He shows up. The guy jumps up, takes his mat and leaves as the crowd is standing in disbelief.  They said they have never seen anything like that—and they hadn’t. The key thing is that the guy had to not only believe but also act on what he believed and each one of us must do the same.  We have to believe that Jesus is Who He says He is and can do what He says He can do.  When we believe that—we are forgiven and God becomes our Father.

Truth be known, I wasn’t too happy about my reassessment but I was glad it taught me a new way to look at how much God loves me…and you.  When we are down on ourselves, when all I can see are failures and warts, when I want to give up and quit, I remind myself that my Heavenly Father thinks I am worth a lot. You see, I’m also learning that His opinion is the only one that matters. So why not take a rest in Him today.  Because you know—He’s got this. Bro. Dewayne

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

Conversations

Let your conversation be gracious and attractive so that you will have the right response for everyone.” Colossians 4:6 

It was just a little misunderstanding. The story is told of a pastor who visited a man in the hospital.  As he stood by the bed, the man began to be in deep distress. Unable to speak, he quickly wrote the pastor a note, handed it to him and then just died. In all the confusion of the moment, the pastor slid the note into his pocket and forgot about it. Several days later the pastor was conducting the memorial service for the man. The pastor was describing the man…his life, his good heart, and his service for others. Then it happened. 

The pastor suddenly remembered that he had the note in his suit pocket.  He told the audience, “I have just remembered the day Joe died, I was visiting him in the hospital, and he slipped me a note right before he passed away. I failed to read it and have just now remembered it is in my pocket. How special it would be if we can share his last thoughts together now. So, the pastor reached into his pocket, pulled out the note and read, “You’re standing on my oxygen hose.” Smile. 

As a pastor you can bet, I have some crazy stories and a lot of them revolve around little misunderstandings and lack of communication. Recently I told the story of how I was visiting one of our members in the hospital and she was quite ill. When I make a visit, I naturally slip into my “let me help you feel better mode.” For me there are two great fix-all’s—humor and food. But sometimes, many times, a person just needs compassion and kindness. This was one of those times. 

I walked into the hospital room, and she was lying in the bed softly moaning. I moved over by the bed and whispered her name. She opened her eyes, slightly smiled, and said, “Pastor, thank you for coming by.” We shared for just a few minutes, and it was obvious she was extremely sick. And then she said, “I just want to go home.”  I softly said, “I know.” And she said it again and then another time. Each time I responded with some simple words of understanding. After the third time I upped my game. I said, “I know you want to go home and when God is ready, He will take you.” 

Well, imagine my surprise, and embarrassment, when she said, “NOT that home, pastor, my home.”  Oh…oops. I was ready to ship her off to heaven and she was just wanting to go back to her house. Like I said, sometimes there is just a lack of understanding and communication. When that happens, we need to admit that we missed it and if necessary, ask for a little grace or give a little grace. I quickly apologized for the misunderstanding, she did get better and indeed went to her home. We even had the chance to laugh about it later. 

In the world we find ourselves these days there are multiple opportunities for misunderstandings. When we find ourselves in too close of quarters for too long, when we have differing opinions about everything from the corona virus to what is wrong with our country—misunderstandings are bound to happen. In the regular world the normal response would be to get mad and often get even. In the regular world the normal response would be more anger and more division. But for Jesus followers that is just not an option. 

The Bible tells us over and again that if we follow Jesus we are to act like Jesus. We often get that when it comes to moral responses—and rightfully so. But we too often miss the biggest application—how we respond when we bump into other people…or they bump into us. Paul, one of the major writers in the Bible says, “Let your conversation be gracious and attractive so that you will have the right response for everyone.”  I like that. Gracious and attractive. Momma used to say, “If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything.  I wonder if Momma knew Paul? 

Well, the bottom line is there will always be plenty of opportunities to bump into people.  There will always be plenty of opportunities to respond in a “not so Jesus way.”  But what if we hit the pause button before we speak and ask ourselves, “Is this gracious or attractive? Is this nice?” I wonder how things would change. In these days, the world needs “Jesus lights.” It needs us to shine for Him even when we get a little tired and a little weary. We need to recognize when we are set up for regretful words. Let’s choose option “B.”  Let’s rest in Him and choose to think before we speak. After all, He’s got this.    Bro. Dewayne