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, gratitude, life, love, prayer, Scripture, thankful, Trials

Tragedy, Triumph and Toughness

Where, death, is your victory? Where, death, is your sting?” 1 Corinthians 15:55

They may have feathers, but they are definitely a “band of brothers.”  The other day when I was walking in the park, I once again realized what a “band of brothers” the geese and ducks are in the park.  As I made my laps around the park pond, I couldn’t help but notice what was happening.  No, they were not a few like the Marines, and I have no clue if they were proud of anything besides the huge mess they make on the walking path, but they were quite the band.  Their slogan might be, “The Tragic, the Triumph, and the Tough.” Hmmm…that sounded better when I thought it up but hey, let’s see how it goes.

Monday of this week, I noticed in the geese and duck community there were signs of tragedy brought on by a duck couple’s poor choices.  Monday, they had decided to lay some eggs and they chose the worse place ever—just three feet off the walking path.  It was simply a hole in the ground with no protection, no anything.  It was an invitation to disaster.  Tuesday she was on the nest, and he was doing his daddy duck thing—waddling, strutting, and quacking.  By Wednesday, it was game over.  Lap one, they were gone, and one lone egg lay on the grass outside the nest.  Lap two, they were back, and the egg was gone.  Lap three they were walking around sadly quacking.  I don’t speak fluent duck, but it seemed they were asking, “What happened?” I told them…out loud… “Bad choice guys, bad choice.”  It was a tragedy.

But with the occasional tragedy comes moments of triumph.  About ten or eleven days ago, I found a bunch of feathers by the walking path…bummer…and it looked like another sad tale…and it was.  But then something happened.  A little further down the path, there were two small ducklings that had somehow survived the onslaught.  They were survivors…they were beating the odds.  Here’s the amazing part. They are still surviving.  When I walked a couple of days ago, they were still there…sticking together…a small “band of brothers.”  They were hanging around a couple of big ducks, but it was clear that they were on their own.  Way to go little ducks…keep on keeping on!  It was a moment of triumph.

And then there were the tough guys. They had survived being goslings and now they were big, they were bad, and they were tough.  The geese love to stand around on the walking path and, uh, well, you know.  It’s really quite messy.  That day, I was speeding along, and I soon realized the geese and I were on a collision path…either them or me were going to have to hit the grass and it wasn’t going to be me. So, I “parted the waters” and they all puffed their chest out and started hissing at me.  They hissed, I kept walking and they finally moved. We had played chicken (no pun intended) and I had won, but I had to admire their toughness. Like I said, “gutsy.”

Tragedy…Triumph…and Toughness. It seems life is life no matter what. We all know about tragedy…live long enough and it is going to mess with your life.  The difference is ducks and geese rarely see it coming and we often do. The difference is they have to face it alone, but we have a Someone who will walk with us through the hard times. That someone is Creator God.  He is always there and always willing to help. He can turn tragedy into triumph.  While there are plenty of epic failures in our paths, we can also know the joy of winning…of triumph. I remember when ABC Sports tag line was “the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat” and that is the way of life.  Sometimes we win and sometimes…well, we don’t.

I know it is natural for us, like our goose friends, to puff our chest out, and hiss and strut around trying to prove how tough we are. But truthfully, often we are not tough enough and that is when we need to lean on the One who is.  Our Dearest Daddy loves us so much that He sent His Son to take on our greatest enemy…death…and soundly thrash it.  No wonder Paul, one of the guys God used to pen a lot of the New Testament, said, “Who got the last word, oh, Death? Oh, Death, who’s afraid of you now?”  You gotta love Jesus’ toughness when it came to taking on sin and the grave.

Well, if you live in Harrisburg, Illinois or if your town has a park with a goose and duck “band of brothers” stop by and see what you can see…what you can learn.  And if you’ve never met the God who took on death and won…why not check Him out today.  You will discover a God who is strong enough to say, with confidence, “I’ve got this.”  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 food, gratitude, life, Military memories, priorities, Scripture, thankful, Veteran's Day

Cracker Barrel Moments

“He has shown you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God?” Micah 6:8

 It was an unexpected blessing. This morning my friend Jeremy gave me a call and asked if I wanted to go to Marion (a town about 25 miles from where we live) with him.  He needed some stuff from Sam’s so it just sounded like a good thing to do.  And do you know what? It was.  He swung by the house and off we went.  As we traveled we talked.  We have one of those “what’s said in the truck, stays in the truck” things so it is good to have a place where you can let your hair down (uh, if you’ve ever seen my hairline you know that is metaphorically speaking) and just be guys.

As we neared Marion, he took a turn down Main Street, which was a little odd for going to Sam’s, and before I knew it we were at Cracker Barrel.  That caught me off guard since I thought we were just doing the Sam’s thing. It turns out my bad ear failed to hear the part about, “I’ll buy your breakfast.”  So, hey, the trip went from good to really good. Let’s see…time away with a brother and free breakfast…yup…that works.  We were quickly seated in Cracker Barrel but that is when the quickly ended and it was also when I realized I might be having a couple of “Cracker Barrel moments.”

We waited awhile before a server came by.  He was kind and gracious and so were we.  He took our order and Jeremy and I began to talk.  We talked about this and we talked about that and then, because there was time, we talked about that again.  Finally, after oh, three days, our food came.  It really wasn’t too big of a deal because I was spending time with a friend, and I was studying for a sermon on patience and needed some practice.  But I did say to Jeremy, pointing at the food, “I was just about to have to work on my patience.”  He smiled and said, “Hey, you got some place to go?” Ah…Cracker Barrel moment number one. Enjoy the moment.  Truth was there was nothing I was going to do that was more important than just visiting with a friend.  Someone once said that one of the most spiritual things we can do is take a nap.  Number two on that list might be visiting with a Christian brother. Check.

Cracker Barrel moment number two happened a few minutes later.  After we were seated for a few minutes an older couple came in and sat down nearby.  Their server was there immediately.  I think I frowned. Their food came (before ours…I might have frowned) and then shortly after, our own breakfast feast arrived.  Judy was not around so I order the works.  Then it happened.  A young man walked in and was seated close to the older couple.  I watched as the young man went over to the older man, excused himself for interrupting, said something.  They shook hands and the young man returned to his table.

The older couple left first and then Jeremy and I stood to leave too.  I stopped at the table of the young man and asked, “I saw you go over and talk to that older man.  What was that about?”  I really already knew.  The young man said, “He was a veteran I was thanking him for his service.”  Yup…I was right.  The older gentleman had a ball cap on and it identified him as a veteran. I said, “Well, thank you for thanking him for his service.  That was very kind.”  I don’t know who his Momma was, but she sure did a good job raising him.

Two Cracker Barrel moments—two exact opposite lessons yet both valuable.  Live for the moment…whatever is next can probably wait and always, and I mean always, take the opportunity to do the right thing…like thanking a veteran.  I left Cracker Barrel a lot fuller that day…pun intended. We enjoyed a good meal, some great fellowship, and had a blessing thrown in for dessert.

Tucked away in one of those books of the Bible that we rarely read is a verse that says, “He has shown you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God?” I think my visit to Cracker Barrel hit on a couple of those.  None of us know which day will be our last day but it is good to know the One who does. Until that time we need our Cracker Barrel moments to remind us we are still learning and that “He’s got this.”

Posted in fear, forgiveness, gratitude, life, prayer, Scripture, thankful, travel, Trials

Big Foot, Lions, Tigers and Bears

 “You will have suffering in this world. Be courageous! I have conquered the world.” John 16:33b

If you remember from yesterday, Judy and I had climbed to the top of a bluff in Southern Illinois.  It was smack dab in the middle of the COVID hot mess and we needed a break, so we took a hike.  As we stood there, it was just beautiful. Tens of thousands of acres were bursting into spring and God was shouting, “Hey just like winter’s dreary brownness must give way to the new life of spring–this will pass.”  It was a good moment.  Before long, with night just over an hour away, it was time to go down from the bluff and head home.  Folks say there is no place like home–that is if you can find it.

Well, the magical phone app Judy was using is called, “All Trails.”  It really is quite cool. You start the app at the selected trailhead and using GPS it guides you through the woods.  The trail is shown right there on the screen–even ones that aren’t even there. And that, dear friends, is where the fun began.

So, according to our trusty app, Stoneface trail made a loop back to the car.  Now a loop is better because you don’t have to see the same scenery twice.  It’s all new.  We decided to take the loop.  At first the trail was pretty evident.  We came to a low split rail fence across the trail.  We thought it meant no horses on Stoneface.  What it really meant was if you go past this point you are going to die.  We went past that point.

We walked and hiked for a while and strangely that grumpy feeling started coming back again.  It may have had to do with the fact that I started to realize that the app was lying to us.  “Trail? What trail? I don’t know anything about a trail.” So, we reached the point where we had to go down the bluff.  Remember, there is no trail, there is no sign of a trail…only a friendly app that kept saying, “you’re on the trail.”

Now there are not words to describe this journey but I’m going to try.  We were walking, sliding, down a 90% embankment (ok maybe it was like 20%) and rocks covered with leaves are rolling like ball-bearings under our feet. We cross rivers (ok- creeks), change time zones, and go through small Grand Canyons.  I’m growing concerned.  “Hey Judy, we have less than an hour of daylight.” “No problem” she said.  “The app says we are on the trail,” she said.  I won’t tell you what I said.

On we went with our app spewing out lies about trails.  Then it happened.  I saw some movement out of the corner of my eye and there just forty yards away was Bigfoot–or the Abominable Snowman–I couldn’t tell for sure.  We were in deep weeds.  Then, I heard a duet being played by a banjo and guitar.  Yup–we were going to die.  On we marched–lions, tigers and bears frolicked all around us.  “Hey Judy,” I said.  “The app says…,” she said.

So, the app lied.  Period.  But there is one thing it didn’t lie about.  After about an hour or so, she said, “I see the car.”  I said, literally, “Thank you Lord.” Another ten minutes or so and I was hugging that glorious thing–no, not Judy, the car.  So, what is the moral of this strange and twisted trail–I mean, tale.  Trust.

While the app didn’t tell the truth about the trail, it did tell the truth about the one thing that mattered–the destination.  It led us to the car.  And, you know, I think the app kinda reminded me of God. First and emphatically, unlike the app, God never lies…we just stop believing and trusting Him.  We think He promises paved roads and smooth journeys and then we get mad when He doesn’t deliver.  Read this carefully–God never promised that.  In fact, Jesus said in John 16:33b “You will have suffering in this world. Be courageous! I have conquered the world.”

He told us the path would be rough.  He told us the trail would be difficult.  He didn’t promise storm free living, rather He promised He would never leave us–never abandon us, and He doesn’t.  Most importantly, He said we are going home, and we are.  If we confess our sins, trust in what Jesus did on the cross, turn from our sins and choose to follow Him–we are going home.  That is the gospel truth–literally.

So, there you go.  If you go to Stoneface…don’t take the loop.  If are feeling overwhelmed–trust Jesus.  If you are feeling like God didn’t keep His end of the deal…remember the truth…it’s not smooth sailing but He is leading us home.  No matter how big the waves of the storm, He is bigger.  So, rest in Him.  He’s got this.

Posted in gratitude, life, Scripture, thankful, travel

Stoneface

 “A person’s steps are established by the LORD, and He takes pleasure in his way.” Psalm 37:23

Stoneface.  Without context that could means several things.  Like when you are late for supper again…and your wife gives you the look–stone face. Or you have your eye on a parking spot and someone whips in front of you and you give the other driver the look–stone face.  Well here in Southern Illinois, it can also mean a rock formation that when viewed from the side looks like a man’s face.

During the COVID shutdown, Judy and I decided to take a hike and see this natural formation.  After work, we slipped on some comfortable shoes and drove out to the trailhead.  That is where the story begins.  Now this is going to be a two-part deal so be sure and tune in on tomorrow for part two.

So, at the trailhead, several things became apparent rather quickly.  One, the trail wasn’t maintained very well.  Well, actually it wasn’t maintained at all.  There were holes, rocks, roots, and a host of other hazards that made the hike not difficult but challenging.  Second, it was wet.  There were several places where water had found a way to puddle up (it didn’t practice social distancing) and the result was a mud obstacle course. I should have worn my boots. Third, at times the trail became difficult to follow.  Now at no point did it totally disappear but it was a little difficult to see.

Oh, and there was one more thing. Up. The trail went up. That shouldn’t have caught me by surprise since Stoneface was up and I was down.  But after a while it occurred to me that this was more up than I thought it should be.  The bottom line is this hike was not meeting my expectations and I might have gotten a little grumpy. Judy with her optimistic spirit was chatty all the way up.  “Oh look,” she said at a rock by the trail. “Oh look,” she said at a tree growing by the trail.  Like I said, I may have been a little grumpy.

After a while we got to the top of the bluff and the trail improved and so did my attitude.  I started noticing the rocks by the trail. Do you know what?  They were beautiful.  I started noticing the trees by the trail.  Each one was unique–hand crafted by a God much bigger than me.  Within a few minutes I too was quite chatty.  God had impressed me.

From the top of the bluff the rock formations were incredible and so was the view.  You could see the beautiful Southern Illinois landscape for miles and miles.  The handiwork of God was awesome.  As we were standing on top of the bluff I looked down and right there, slightly below us, was Stoneface. It was smaller than I expected but more detailed and obvious too.  About then it happened. I was glad to be there.

The rocks, roots and holes on the trail were far less significant.  The times when the trail seemed difficult to follow no longer mattered.  My chatty sweetie that seemed a little annoying on the way up seemed especially beautiful at the top. It was worth it. And just about then it hit me.

God’s plans for me–they’re not always smooth and paved.  They have their potholes and puddles.  They aren’t always downhill for He is often leading me uphill for a view from the top–to see His grandeur.  Psalm 37:23 says, “A person’s steps are established by the LORD, and He takes pleasure in his way.” That means that God directs my life and He is leading me in a way that is for my good and His glory.  Always.

Proverbs 3:5-6 says, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and don’t lean on your own understanding.  In all your ways, acknowledge Him and He will make your paths straight.”  2021–trust.  Illness–trust.  Personal loss–trust. Unemployment–trust. You get the idea.  The path may be a little challenging but the view from the top will be worth it.  Always. So, trust Him.  Rest in Him.  He’s got this.  Bro. Dewayne