Posted in Family, friends, gratitude, life, love, loving others, Memorial Day, prayer, priorities, Scripture, thankful, Trials, wisdom

Bumped. Bruised. Battered.

When He saw the crowds, He felt compassion for them.”  Matthew 9:36

It was the week before Memorial Day.  Well, believe it or not, I have started exercising again.  For the last six weeks, I have been walking a couple of miles five times a week. To keep it interesting, I try and walk different routes.  So, on the Thursday before Memorial Day, I decided to walk in our local cemetery.  It is quite large, and I had a route picked out that was about nine tenths of a mile long.  I would do two laps and then part of another to get my two miles in.

I like walking in the cemetery because of all the stories that are told on the various headstones. It is almost like walking through a large library with each headstone representing the book of a person’s life.  The length of life and the things they valued are often shown. Some have many details and others leave that up to the living to figure it out. However, on that particular Thursday, I noticed that many of the graves were marked with an American flag…the symbol of our great country.  These were largely on the graves of those who had served their country.  There were dozens and dozens, and I found my eyes drawn to them…and what they represented.

It was then that I noticed something.  While many of the flags were pointed straight to the sky above…others were not.  Some were bumped and haphazardly pointed someplace besides up.  They had been hit by something…whether a careless foot or lawnmower.  Others had been knocked completely down and lay in the grass and dirt…someplace they were never intended to be and then some had become victims of the mower’s blade and lay tattered. As I walked something began to stir in me.  It occurred to me that someone should do something.  It just wasn’t right.  And then it also occurred that that someone was me.

So, as I walked, I began straightening some, replanting others and gathering the shredded remains of others.  Yes, it did require some time, it did require some detours, but it was worth every minute.  It simply was the right thing to do.  On Saturday, I found myself again back at the cemetery and once again straightening, replanting and gathering shreds to be property disposed of later.  It was right and it felt right.  When I once again entered the cemetery that Memorial Day Monday, I looked at the flags and felt a good sense of pride that I had made a difference…not to all but to some.  And then it hit me.

In a moment of time, I didn’t see flags but I saw people. I realized that all around me were people that had been bumped, bruised, and battered.  And I began to wonder what could I do to help them?  I know that often there isn’t a fix…certainly not one as easy as picking up or straightening up a flag in a cemetery but maybe – just maybe, a kind word or action could help the wounded, the bruised, and the bumped have a better day.

So, today I write a story, but I am also writing a reminder to me, to you, to all of us.  The reminder is to look around with seeing eyes and look for the wounded and the hurting and extend a hand, a hug, or a heart.  And who knows, another day when you see that person you may see their step is a little lighter and their smile a little brighter…because you took the time to straighten the bumped, replant the bruised, and maybe help pick up the pieces of a broken life.  It is probably risky, and may be costly, but trust me it will be worth it.

Jesus was so good at this.  One time He was coming ashore after a ride across a lake, and he was greeted by a whole crowd of bumped, bruised, and battered people and the Bible simply says, “When He saw the people, He had compassion on them.” He loved them, touched them, and sometimes even served them lunch.  He simply couldn’t leave them the way they were…love wouldn’t allow it.  If you are a Jesus follower…and even if you are not…love demands that we act. Love demands that we show a little kindness.  Sound challenging?  It is but know this…that God you believe in or at least want to believe in is just waiting to help.  Trust me…He’s got this.  Bro. Dewayne

Posted in Family, friends, gratitude, July 4, life, loving others, Military memories, priorities, Scripture, Southern born, sovereignty of God, thankful, travel, USA

July 4. 1972

No one has greater love than this: to lay down his life for his friends.” John 15:13

It was fifty years ago today.  The summer of 1972 was unlike any other summer I had experienced.  I had joined the Air Force and spent the summer at “camp” with about forty new friends.  We shared one thing in common—we had taken an oath to “protect the constitution of the United States against all enemies…foreign and domestic.”  We had also committed to obeying the orders of those appointed over us and at this point…that was everyone else but us.  We were brand new, raw recruits who knew a lot about being a civilian and virtually nothing about being in the military.  But we didn’t have to worry…our drill sergeant was taking care of that.

I arrived at Lackland Air Force Base in the early morning hours of June 13th…early as in about 2:00 am.  This was intentional because the Air Force actually wanted you to be disorientated the first few days.  I think it was supposed to make us more cooperative.  Anyway, we quickly got into a routine sporting our new haircuts and green fatigue uniforms. They kept us going from before sunrise and put us to bed even before it was dark.  That was ok too because we were wore out.

This was my first time away from home, but the schedule didn’t allow for home sickness. But all that changed one night in July.  There wasn’t a lot of free time…whether it was a Tuesday, a Friday, or a Sunday…though they did allow time for church for anyone who wanted to go.  Most of us wanted to go…not because we loved God but for a couple of hours, we could forget the grind of basic.

Back then the Air Force didn’t observe holidays either.  Of course, the only one that occurred in my time in basic was—Independence Day.  As I remember, we definitely did NOT get the day off, but I do think we got to do some extra marching…I think it was supposed to be patriotic.  Anyway, it was soon time for lights out and then it happened. I was lying in my bunk; the skies had finally darkened, and I heard a familiar sound.  It was the sound of exploding fireworks.

I eased out of bed and knelt down in front of the window. From there, I watched the fireworks display for the base explode and light up the sky. And as I watched, a wave of homesickness washed over me.  I remembered all the times that we would go to downtown Jacksonville to the riverfront and watch the fireworks together as a family.  I remembered the times we would go to a small neighborhood grocery store and sneak into the backroom where they sold illegal fireworks and load up.  I remembered and as I did I knew that this was the first of many times that being a member of the military would mean separation…and sacrifice.

Before long the fireworks were over and I went back to my bunk and after too many minutes of loneliness, drifted off to sleep.  The next morning it was back to business as usual.  The summer of ’72 passed pretty quickly and before I knew it, I was done with basic and moved on to what was next…more training…and more new adventures. And what I discovered that night, kneeling at my window in basic, came true.  There were many more days and holidays when family was far away.  But also knew it was a small sacrifice to make to serve my country.

So today, be sure and remember those who are serving, who are sacrificing, that we can enjoy our freedoms.  Remember freedom is never free and we should be thankful for those willing to make ours possible.  Jesus said, “No one has greater love than this: to lay down his life for his friends.” That is so, so true. Look, we all know America is far from perfect, but she is still the best country on the planet—remember that today too. And if you are one of those separated from family to serve, thank you and know that the One who died for you, loves you and will never leave you.  No matter what you are facing today, He’s got this. Bro. Dewayne

Posted in Father's Day, friends, Grace, life, love, loving others, Military memories, prayer, priorities, Scripture, Southern born, thankful, Trials

Thanks, Daddy…and Momma

Children, obey your parents because you belong to the Lord, for this is the right thing to do. “Honor your father and mother.” This is the first commandment with a promise.” Ephesians 6:1-2

This Sunday is Father’s Day, and it causes me to remember.  These days, I think it happens somewhere around a person’s 11th birthday. But back when I was a boy about to become a young man, it happened when I was 13 or 14.  When you are younger it seems you notice more of the things that Daddy and Momma’s do.  You appreciate the fact that that they do the ordinary things…the everyday things.

Things like washing clothes and cooking supper.  Things like ironing your shirts and cleaning the house.  Things like taking you fishing after a long day at work and teaching you the value of work.  Things like providing a place for you to sleep at night and knowing you were safe.  And, yes, things like showing you what two married people are supposed to look like…live like.

However, right before you take the leap into your teen years, something happens.  Suddenly enough is not enough.  Suddenly you know more—especially more than your parents.  Then you spend more than a few years not being appreciative, but rather telling them and anyone who would listen how hard things are “where I live.”  The fact that it was the sixties and seventies didn’t help.  It seemed that everyone around me was doing their own thing but all I could do was my Daddy’s thing.  Whatever he said, went, and that’s just the way it was. And yes, what Momma said went too.

When I was eighteen and stepped onto a plane to fly to basic training in the Air Force something began to click.  The things that Daddy taught me began to make sense.  All those “yes, sirs” and “yes, ma’am’s” that the Air Force required came easy for me because that’s the way I was raised.  When the call came to “get up, get up,” well that came easy too because I had a Daddy and a Momma who thought I didn’t need to lay in bed all day.  And going to work…second nature.  My Daddy demonstrated that year after year and by example taught me a strong work ethic.

Largely because of the times they said, “Because I said so” and set boundaries and enforced them, well, I’ve never woke up with a hangover, never spent a night (or an hour) in jail and have never been fired from a job. As I look back from my six and a half decades viewpoint (uh, plus three for good measure), I realize that my two incredible parents were right after all.  And I may, no I didn’t, appreciate it at the time but they saved me from a lot of regrets and consequences.

It is safe to say that time changes our viewpoint and as I sit here today mashing keys and writing, I realize just how blessed I have been.  My Daddy was quite the ordinary guy, but that is exactly what made him extraordinary.  He wasn’t perfect and gratefully he didn’t expect me to be either, but he did teach me respect for him and for others.  For 46 years I have respected the woman I am married to because he taught me to respect my Momma.  He (with a lot of help from God) helped me be the man I am today and for that I will be eternally grateful.

God chose to take my Daddy to heaven when I was only twenty years old…before he could meet my wife, my kids, and their kids.  I remember the summer Sunday morning we found him in bed. Sometime in the early, early morning he had slipped away from us and made the trek to heaven.  I’m glad I will see him again someday.  I’m not sure how all of this works but maybe, just maybe I will get to introduce him to my sweet wife and family.  What a day that will be for sure.

So, thanks Daddy, and Momma, for all you did for me…for the love and the sacrifices you made for me and the rest of the tribe.  And Grits family, remember to honor your father and mother, just like God says in His word.  It’s the first command with a promise and I promise you won’t regret it.  And, if you find that hard because of some very difficult memories and scars left from actions best not done, or words best not spoken, try and reach into God’s grace bucket and sling some around.  If you are a Jesus follower, your Dearest Daddy in heaven would like that and He’s even willing to help. As always, He’s got that…and this. Bro. Dewayne

Posted in Family, friends, Grace, gratitude, Holidays, life, love, loving others, Memorial Day, Military memories, prayer, Scripture, sovereignty of God, thankful, travel, Trials

Heroes

“Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends.”        John 15:13

There are some Grits’ stories that I just can’t let go of.  Today is Memorial Day…the day we honor all those who gave their lives for our freedom.  This special day is so close to my heart and so is this story. I hope you will enjoy it now and probably each Memorial Day in the years to come.  God bless you and God bless America.

Years later, it still tugs at my heart. I’m not sure how I found my way there, but I was grateful.  During my assignment with the Air Force in Sembach, Germany we had the opportunity to see so much.  From Hitler’s hideaway called “The Eagle’s Nest” in Berchtesgaden to the windmills of Holland to the Alps of Switzerland we were constantly amazed at what was all around us.  But nothing prepared me for Luxembourg.

We had some friends that we had known in our days at Moody Air Force Base in South Georgia.  They received orders to Germany several months before we did.  They were only a couple of hours from us, so we saw each other often.  It must have been during one of our forays that we came to it—Luxembourg American Cemetery.  It was one of the most hallowed sights I have ever seen.

There, in the cemetery, are 5,075 white Lasa marble crosses and stars of David.  Row after row of headstones that mark the final resting place of American heroes.  Each one made the ultimate sacrifice for us, for you and me, so that we can live in freedom.  General George Patton is buried there. Two Medal of Honor recipients are also buried there: David G. Turner and William D. McGee. Twenty-two sets of brothers lay buried side by side throughout the cemetery. Some, 371 in fact, were never found.  They are simply listed as missing in action.  102 are just unknown.

This place of honor was established on December 29, 1944.  Many of the soldiers died during the Battle of the Bulge…Hitler’s last push to turn the tide of the war in Germany’s favor.  It failed but it came at great cost to the Allied forces. It was a harsh winter and because of the urgency of the times many were sent to fight with little or no winter gear. The desperate Germans showed little mercy to those taken prisoner.  And, all this occurred just nine months, nine months, before the war ended.  So many had survived D-Day and countless days of combat only to make the ultimate sacrifice months before the grand reunion with family.

Heroes.  It is a word we throw around lightly these days.  In a world where everyone gets a trophy, we are in danger of losing the value of this incredible word.  Hero. Dictionary.com defines it as “a person noted for courageous acts.” Oxford says it is a person who is admired or idealized for courage. Webster defines it as an illustrious warrior or one who shows great courage.  Another place said it is a person who at great danger to themselves puts others first.

I went to Toys-R-Us one time and there they had several aisles of superhero stuff.  As I turned the corner a sign caught my eye.  It simply said, “Real Heroes.”  Along that aisle were the soldiers and sailor figures as well as police, firemen, and other emergency responders.  If I went to that aisle today it would have to include doctors, nurses, and other medical professionals.  Real heroes…real people putting others first at peril to themselves.

But there would be one missing.  Jesus Christ, the Hero of Heaven, who willingly, who bravely, gave Himself to a Roman cross that men, women, and children could be free. The cross was so horrible it was called the death of deaths.  It was so horrible it was illegal to crucify a Roman citizen.  And yet…He went.  Why?  He loved me. He loved you.

Amazingly it was not for some of us, but all of us. Skin color, economic station, language, nationality, capacity to be bad or good doesn’t matter.  The Bible simply says, “He came to seek and save that which was lost.”  It simply says, “Whoever calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”  It simply says He is not willing for any to perish but all to come home. Anyone—I like anyone. Anyone who acknowledges their need for a rescue will find one in Jesus. And this Hero not only does a meet and greet, He invites you to join His family and He walks with you throughout life.  How about that!

So when you hear the national anthem, place your hand over your heart as a salute to those who paid the price for our freedom.  When you see a veteran, thank them for his or her service and sacrifice.  When you walk through a cemetery with your kids, point out the graves of the men and women who served and tell them why they are so special.  And when you talk to the Hero of Heaven next time, thank Him for forgiving your sin.  Thank Him for always being there.  Thank Him for giving you a place to rest.  And, thank Him for having this….because He does.  Bro. Dewayne

Learn more about Luxembourg here: Luxembourg American Cemetery | American Battle Monuments Commission (abmc.gov)

Posted in Family, friends, gratitude, Holidays, Integrity, life, love, loving others, Memorial Day, Military memories, prayer, priorities, Scripture, thankful, USA

Memorial and More

Once you were alienated and hostile in your minds expressed in your evil actions. But now He has reconciled you by His physical body through His death, to present you holy, faultless, and blameless before Him.” Colossians 1:21-22

It was a moment I will probably never forget.  My wife and I love adventures.  We look for ways to do things on a limited budget and we’ve actually gotten pretty good at it.  A few years back we discovered we could take a train from Carbondale to Chicago, stay downtown at a nice hotel for a couple of nights and enjoy whatever was happening around us…all on a shoestring budget. We would usually go around Memorial Day or the Fourth of July.  It was pretty awesome.

Several years ago we went the week of the 4th.  We grabbed a very nice hotel room and managed to snag a room that literally faced the fireworks display.  It was awesome.  At Millennium Park they have these incredible free outdoor concerts.  Thousands of people from all walks of life gather on the large lawn to listen.  Because it is the 4th, they share a lot of patriotic music. They usually have a section where they honor the veterans by asking them to stand when the theme for their branch of the service is played.

I am a veteran.  I served in the United States Air Force for 12 years and it was one of the most rewarding experiences of my life. And that’s the problem.  You see, because it was so rewarding, I always felt awkward standing to be honored because I felt like I received so much more than I gave.  So that night, I knew that part of the concert was coming, and I was dreading it.  I knew that Judy would urge me to stand, I would say no, and she would give me the look.  Again.  But that night, for some reason, something changed.

It was time.  The stirring songs from each branch of the service began playing.  Soon, the Air Force theme was playing.  I looked at Judy and said, “I’m going to stand just for you.”  As I stood something happened.  First, I saw others standing that had served in the Air Force and I felt community…I stopped feeling apart and instead felt a part—a part of the family.  But what happened next was amazing.

There was a mother with a couple of young boys sitting about eight or ten feet from me.  The younger of her sons, probably seven or eight, looked at me and said this, “Mom, is he a hero?”  And I watched and listened as she said, “Yes.  He served our country so that we can be free.”  Then she turned to me and mouthed the words, “Thank you for serving.” Well, that was the highlight of the trip for me, and it was the day an unexplainable wall fell.

I am certain that I do not deserve the title hero.  The men and women with crosses over their graves in all the national cemeteries deserve that.  The warriors who came back from the various wars and conflicts bearing the physical and emotional scars of war deserve that.  But the one thing that I realized that night was that we should be thankful for our freedom.  We can and should honor each person who served for their willingness and sacrifice.

I’m still shy about standing at Veteran’s Day events.  I still feel awkward at concerts when veterans are asked to stand.  But it’s not because I’m ashamed to say I served. No, it is because I received more than I could ever give back.  I was privileged to wear the uniform of my country.  And that is pretty awesome.  But wait. There’s more.

As I write this story another one is stirring in my heart.  It flashed in my mind that this isn’t the only time, the only circumstance, that makes me feel this way.  It is also my faith in God.  That day when I followed Christ, I also received more than I could ever give back. That day I was welcomed into the family of a God who loved me enough to give His Son to a Roman cross.  Paul in the Bible tells us that we went from being alienated and hostile toward God to being able to call Him Father. Jesus caused my billion failures to disappear so He could present me faultless and blameless to His Father.

We all need heroes.  This Memorial Day would you take the time to remember those who bled and died that we could be free?  Would you take your kids to the cemetery for your community’s Memorial Day service?  I hope that you will.  But I also hope you will pause and thank the Hero of Heaven for sacrificing His life so that people like you and me can be truly free.  And finally, next time you have the opportunity to stand not as a hero but because of the One, stand proudly and thank Him.  Thank Him that you can rest in Him.  Thank you because He’s got this.  Bro. Dewayne

Posted in Family, friends, Grace, gratitude, Holidays, life, love, loving others, Memorial Day, Military memories, prayer, Scripture, thankful, USA

Thank You, Mr. Charles

Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.” John 15:13

It’s the way it ought to be.  Memorial Day a couple of years ago found my wife and I on the road again.  That’s a good thing.  2020, as we all know, was a year with most travel shut down for a chunk of the year.  It was almost refreshing to spend time again waiting in line as hundreds of other travelers rediscovered the freedom to travel this great land.  It was busy because the COVID threat was thankfully in retreat, but it was also Memorial Day weekend…the traditional start of summer.  Smile.

As we were waiting to board, the announcer person at the desk announced that the boarding process would be starting in just a few minutes.  She let us know that there was going to be a “pecking” order for boarding.  Those with special needs and little children were allowed to board first, followed by the people who were what they called “Sky Priority” and what I would call, “the blessed.”  That group included the “First Class” folks as well as those in business class.  They would all be followed by the normal people in the main cabin.  But there was one more group of people who received special treatment…and boy, did they deserve it.

Right behind the people with special needs and small children came this announcement, “Those individuals on active duty in the United States Armed Forces are invited to board now.”  Yup…that’s right.  Delta did it right.  They gave special honor to those serving their country and the reason was simple…they deserved it.  And they don’t do it just on Memorial Day weekend—they do it all the time—because they deserve it all the time.  Every day, but especially on Memorial Day, we have the opportunity to do what Delta does on every flight—honor those who are serving our country.  And we can take it one step farther—we can honor those who have served.  I know that is normally reserved for Veteran’s Day, but can we thank them enough for all they have done for all of us?

My wife stumbled upon a story on Facebook that struck especially close to home…literally.  We contacted them and received permission to share their post. It goes like this, “When Mr. Charles & Ms. Debbie, with C.D. Ives logging company, were working on clearing trees at a job site north of Naylor in Lanier County, Georgia, between GA Highway 135 & U.S. Highway 221, Mr. Charles noticed the A-10s from Moody Air Force Base would regularly fly over where he was clearing trees; sometimes they would get so close he could easily make out the pilot in the cockpit!”

“He figured since he could see them, maybe they’d be able to see a message letting them know his appreciation for what they do, using only what he had on hand at his job site: trees! Mr. Charles positioned them to spell out “THANKS USAF,” painting them in red, white, & blue paint so they stand out a little better.” The author went on to say, “Hopefully, the pilots have been able to catch a glimpse of this “Thank You” from Mr. Charles & Ms. Debbie as they fly over!”  (credit: 05.30.21 The Georgia Photography Fanatic, https://www.facebook.com/thegeorgiaphotographyfanatic)  I can only add, how appropriate and how thoughtful.

Like I said, it strikes close to home.  You see, Judy was raised right there in that South Georgia area and me, well, I spent four years stationed at Moody Air Force Base myself and yes, it was there that I met Judy and we began our life together.  I am grateful that Mr. Charles took it upon himself to honor those pilots at Moody and I hope they got the message.  But the question is this, “What can we do right now, today, to honor those who paid the ultimate price and for those who served or are serving?”

Well, there will be multiple opportunities.  Maybe your community will have a Memorial Day service or parade.  Why not attend?  Why not take your children and let them experience the honor afforded those who gave their life that we could be free?  Why not visit a local cemetery and look for graves that mark the deceased as a member of the armed forces?  Why not stop and say thanks to someone you know who served their country in one of the armed forces?  Why not thank God for your freedom and their sacrifice?  Why not make a point today to find a way to say, “Thank-you?”

One of the most powerful love verses in the Bible says, “Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.” The Book makes it clear that those who die for another or even those willing to die for others are worthy of our honor and respect.  So, let’s all enjoy the time with family and friends this Memorial Day.  Have a burger and a dog but make it a priority to remember what it is all about—honoring those who laid their life on the line that we could be free.  Remembering their sacrifice and remembering the awesome love and power of our great God will also help us remember that no matter what, “He’s got this.”  Bro. Dewayne

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

Remembering Momma

Her children rise up and call her blessed; her husband also praises her: Many women have done noble deeds, but you surpass them all!” Proverbs 31:28-29

Well, it’s time. Enter Mother’s Day…a day to celebrate our mothers, our wives and other ladies who have poured their life into our lives, but time can make that harder.  Let me explain. You see, time can be a bane and a blessing. It is difficult to live with but we sure can’t live without it and as we get older, it can begin to fuzz the brain and our memories. Things that at one time were vivid and clear become a midst and sometimes disappear into the fog.

That seems to be true of so many of my childhood memories—my Momma memories. Things that I am sure were so valuable, so definitive at the time, are now simply not there. I am sure that is the case with my memories of my parents as a child. When that happens, I simply fill in the gaps with hints and clues from the things I do remember. As the pieces come together, it quickly becomes obvious that my Momma was one of my anchors and a huge blessing in my life.

As I scan the landscape of my childhood, as I piece the pieces together, I realize that I had a really good childhood, and it was largely because of my parents and in particular, my mother. As the baby of eight, by the time they got to me, two things were obvious: they had it down to a science, and I was pretty spoiled.

Because of our finances, we didn’t get everything we wanted (not by a long shot), but Christmas, birthdays, and usually even ordinary days were special. Momma was often the one who made that happen. She was a stay-at-home, hold the fort down, mom and was always there when I needed her. Perhaps you have heard of a Swiss Army knife.  It is one crazy invention where a simple pocketknife becomes an all-purpose, whatever you need tool. And that describes Momma. Whatever the occasion she was there for us…for me. Well, truth be known, while she didn’t wear a habit like Mother Teresa or a nurse’s uniform like Florence Nightingale or banish a sword like Joan of Arc, she was that and more in my eyes.

I wonder how many times was I sick, and she became Doctor Momma?  On so many occasions I can remember her pulling me into her lap and holding me. On one particular occasion when I was over five and under ten, I was very sick— fever, nausea, and a young body that felt like it had been beaten.  I know now it was probably the flu and probably contagious and yet there she was in our old rocking chair, at two in the morning, cradling me and holding me.  That was Momma.

Sometimes Momma put on her Leonardo da Vinci hat and showed a designer flare. I can remember as a teenager I had a rather new pair of jeans—ordinary to some—valuable to me. I was horseback riding one day, and the horse cut a corner too sharply and ran me into a pole, ripping my jeans right above the knee. Bummer. My Momma simply cut the legs off the jeans where they were torn, put in some bright red cloth, and sewed them back together. There you go…good as new, and since it was the 70’s, it made a statement. I had a one-of-a-kind pair of jeans.

Two or three times a day Momma always put on her chef’s hat. A couple of years ago I made a thoughtless and inaccurate comment about Momma’s cooking not being “the best in the world.” Can someone say, “Dumb?”  Can someone say, “Really?” No, Momma was a great cook and my waistline still proves it.  She had the amazing ability to take the ordinary and make it extraordinary. To me, her chicken and dumplings and blackberry dumplings were both legendary.  Oh, and did I mention her fried corn beef hash?  No, Chef Momma was amazing…and we loved her for it.

Yup, my Momma was amazing and the longer I live the more I realize just how blessed I was to have her.  It has been said that men often marry women like their mothers.  Well, that at least helps to explain the amazing wife that God has given me.  In so many ways she too is that wife, that mother, that grandmother that so many wish they had.  I don’t have to wish…Judy is my wish come true. Someone once said that a person who has one good friend in their life is blessed.  Well, without going any further than my home I know I have had two—Momma and my precious wife Judy.  Thank You, Lord…a bunch.

Remember, there is no such thing as perfect Momma’s but a lot of us have been blessed with great ones. On this Mother’s Day, if Momma is still around, be sure and let her know how much you appreciate her.  And if she isn’t…well, be sure and thank the Lord.  And one more thought…be sure and thank your wife, for all she has done. Guys, trust me, we would be lost without them.  Oh, and do remember this, there is a God who loves you more than your Momma ever could or did.  It’s good to know that no matter what…He’s got this. Bro. Dewayne

Posted in Easter, forgiveness, Grace, gratitude, life, love, Scripture, thankful, wisdom

One Ugly Cross

For the word of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but it is the power of God to us who are being saved.” 1 Corinthians 1:18

It’s an Easter tradition. Well, we are waving goodbye to Easter as it disappears in the rearview mirrors of our lives.  Before we let it get too far gone, I want to share something that happens every year at our church. It is the story of a cross.  I know all Christian churches have crosses, in fact, we have several.  But each Easter there is a special cross that sits at the entrance of our church.  And it has a story to tell.

Our church has two services on Sunday morning—one early and one later.  When people come to our early service on Easter morning, they are greeted by what can only be described as one ugly cross.  It is made of weathered 2×4’s and covered with…chicken wire.  I am sure more than one person sees that cross and wonders how the custodian could forget to store it before services started. What they wouldn’t know is something is going to happen to that old rugged cross…something that will make it beautiful.

Long ago, there was another old rugged cross and it too was ugly.  It was “repurposed” as criminal after criminal was hung from it.  Nails were driven through human flesh and blood was spilt.  Rome didn’t take kindly to those who rebelled against their stern and unfair system of “justice.”  Like the cross in our foyer, it didn’t need to be displayed…it needed to be hidden.  Then, one day, something different happened. Something different indeed.

So, what about the ugly cross at our church?  Well, you see during time in-between our two services a wonderful transformation takes place.  The ladies take dozens of beautiful flowers and completely cover the cross and piece by piece, bloom by bloom, that ugly old cross becomes beautiful.  And two thousand years ago, the same thing happened.

I know, the thought of Jesus, the Rose of Sharon, the perfect Lamb of God, nailed to a Roman cross, well, is anything but beautiful…until we remember.  We remember that He was held not by nails of iron but by love.  We remember that He was there not for His own sin but for ours.  He was there so that we could call His Father our Father and suddenly the beauty of His old, rugged cross takes on a new beauty.  It is a beautiful picture of love, sacrifice, and redemption.

Perhaps that is what led the hymn writer to write, “On a hill far away stood an old rugged cross—the emblem of suffering and shame. And I love that old cross where the dearest and best for a world of lost sinners was slain.” Perhaps the author was able to see past the blood and gore to a Savior’s blessed glory. Perhaps he saw what we should see…what we need to see. Paul saw it…that is why he wrote, “For the word of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but it is the power of God to us who are being saved.” No doubt.

Well, at the end of our second service, people stop and pose by the now beautiful cross and its beautiful blooms.  Its beauty reminds us that instead of an instrument of death, it was an instrument of redemption.  Its beauty shouts that He is no longer hanging on a cross, He is no longer tucked away in a borrowed tomb, no, He is alive…He lives.  Hallelujah…what a Savior…what a Redeemer…what a Rescuer.

Monday after Easter, our cross was stripped of its now dying flowers and it was stored away to be rediscovered next year.  But let’s make a point to never forget what the old, rugged cross is all about…redemption, rescue, and love.  Let’s gather each week, whether it is Sunday or another day, and celebrate an old cross and an empty tomb.  Because they are both empty, we have a reason to celebrate.  Need a little help with that? Don’t worry…He’s got that.  Bro. Dewayne

Posted in Easter, Family, forgiveness, Grace, gratitude, Holidays, life, love, prayer, Scripture, Southern born, thankful, wisdom

The Easter Suit

But God demonstrated His love for us in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” Romans 5:8

It’s just another one of those special memories.  It was spring in Jacksonville, Florida—number fifteen or so in my life journey.  Back in those days, Easter was a big deal, and so was what you wore.  We were raised in the tradition that Easter meant a new outfit…it is just what we did.  But just like Christmas beliefs and traditions sometimes change…so did this Easter tradition.  As we got older…the new outfits got fewer and fewer—but then—for some reason, it happened.  One year, when I was in my mid-teens, Momma and Daddy loaded me up in the car, drove across town to a men’s store for the sole purpose of buying me an Easter suit.

I’m not sure what prompted this or a hundred other sacrifices they made for us, but it happened.  The name of the store is lost to time, but it may have been Tatum’s—a store known for quality men’s clothing at a good price.  So, we arrived and went in and soon I was trying on suits.  They say some things never change and that is true.  Today when I shop for just about anything it isn’t the label that matters or even the style—price takes the day.  It is a matter of practicality and budget.  It is true today and it was true even then.  Remember, somethings don’t change.

Soon, with the help of our salesperson, we had settled on a subtle green tweed suit.  It was a very nice suit and it was on sale. I would later realize that might have been because it was a rather heavy wool material and there wasn’t a lot of demand for that in Florida.  Regardless, it was soon mine.  But Momma and Daddy weren’t done yet.  The salesman led us over to the shirt department and together we picked out a creamy yellow shirt that matched the suit perfectly.  But wait…there was more.  Next came a tie.  To this day I can remember this—my first tie—bought just for me.  It was a loosely woven linen striped tie of pastel colors.  Again, a perfect match for the new suit and shirt.

There was some tailoring to the done but by Easter I was set and dressed to the nines.  That morning, I assembled my new outfit and headed off to church.  I was so proud but for a special reason…one you have read in Grits before.  I was proud because of all my parents had done to make sure I had a new Easter suit. Why that year? I don’t know.  Maybe it was because I was stepping into manhood.  All I know is that year, and for several years that followed, the subtle green wool suit, which was too warm for Florida weather, owned a place in my closet. It was special and that was all that mattered. It was a suit of love…a suit of sacrifice.

Looking back their Easter sacrifice became even more special. You see that gift and sacrifice reminded me of the gift and sacrifice that God made for us that first Easter.  He gave His best, His only Son to a Roman cross so we could be forgiven and dressed in His righteousness.  And unlike my suit that was a little too warm for Florida…His gift was perfect…in more ways than one. A perfect sacrifice for an imperfect world filled with imperfect people. And why? Because of love.

Easter, Resurrection Sunday, is in the rearview mirror now but it would serve us well to remember that every time the sun rises, it reminds us of what happened that Sunday morning so long ago. It is no accident that Christians worship on Sunday…by design it is a celebration of the resurrection. I’m not sure how long I held onto that subtle green, too warm, suit but I have never forgotten the love that bought it for me.  And I’m sure I will never forget the love of a God who cared enough to give His very best so that we could call Him “Dearest Daddy.”

Paul, one of the writers of the New Testament wrote a letter to the Christians in Rome.  In it, he gave them an Easter suit of sorts, a reminder of God’s great love.  He wrote, “But God demonstrated His love for us in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.”  Imagine that—broken and unworthy—and yet He loved, and He gave.  As we journey this week, don’t leave the message of Easter behind.  He loves us, He cares for us, and He’s got this.  Bro. Dewayne

Posted in Christmas, Easter, Family, fear, forgiveness, friends, Grace, gratitude, life, love, prayer, Scripture, sovereignty of God, thankful, Trials, wisdom

Good Friday but Resurrection Sunday

He made the One who did not know sin to be sin for us, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God.” 2 Corinthians 5:21

One of my favorite holiday songs speaks of Christmas being “the most wonderful time of the year.”  I suppose in the eyes of most folks Christmas has become the ultimate “feel good” holiday.  It is jam packed with great music, great food, fun parties, and beautiful decorations.  Throw the birth of a cute little newborn in the mix and it seems like a slam dunk. All of that leads to idealistic dreams of what Christmas should be but, frankly, too often those dreams don’t measure up to reality.

If we could step back a couple of thousand years, we would see that same baby grown to be a man and it seems that the whole known world isn’t celebrating His birth but shouting for His death. While the song speaks of Christmas being that “wonderful time,” for a significant part of the world, this week—and especially this Sunday—is truly more than wonderful.  It is amazing. For this is the week that we celebrate the death, burial, and resurrection of our beloved Savior, Jesus Christ.

I’ve always thought it ironic that we call the day that Jesus died “Good Friday.”  I mean it is obvious that it wasn’t good day for Him.  A Roman crucifixion was so horrible that it was against the law to crucify a Roman citizen and it was called, “the death of deaths.” So why call it Good Friday? Well, for those of us who believe He is who He said He was, and He did what He said He could do, defeat death, well it’s a very big deal.

For starters, we believe His death that day was the sacrifice for our sins.  The Bible tells us that “without the shedding of blood is no remission {of sins}”—Hebrews 9:22.    We celebrate Good Friday because for each believer in Jesus it means the sin slate is wiped clean. Imagine having every wrong thing you ever did forgiven, blotted out, and you might begin to understand this important day.

Imagine this—it’s the greatest trade ever.  Jesus says I will take the rap for your sin and in exchange you can have my perfection. 2 Corinthians 5:21, one of the letters that make up the New Testament, puts it this way: “He made the One who did not know sin [that’s Jesus] to be sin for us, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God.” He took our wrongs so we could be made right.  Amazing.

Wait…it gets better. For those who walked with Him on this earth, that Friday appeared anything but good—to them it appeared to be the end.  Every hope of Him being their overcoming King ended with every blow of the hammer.  He died, they buried Him, but then came Resurrection Sunday.  If Friday was good than Sunday must be super.  For on that day Christ physically resurrected from the dead. The most authenticated, sacred writing in the world, the Bible, along with historical evidence, all comes to the same conclusion: He came back to life. He lives.

The physical resurrection of Christ proves His deity.  In other words, the proof of the pudding is in the tasting, and He proved He was and is the Son of God.  And it only gets better!  He defeated death and because He did, we have that same knowing hope.  His victory over death becomes ours.  It is an incredible story…one worth your own personal investigation.

Let me encourage you to check Him out.  There is plenty of bunk on the internet but there is also plenty of truth.  See why such a large chunk of the world population connects Jesus with God.  See what all the excitement is about.  And hey, maybe find a place you trust and experience the resurrection celebration somewhere in person this Easter Sunday. You will discover a God who loves you a ton and just waits to welcome you into His family. And when you’re in His family you can know two things.  First, you are His and He will never change His mind.  Second, well, no matter what you face, “He’s got this.” Bro. Dewayne