Posted in Christmas, Family, fear, forgiveness, gratitude, Holidays, life, love, loving others, Scripture, Southern born, thankful, Trials

Gifts and Lizards

Love keeps no record of wrongs.” 1 Corinthians 13:5b

It was a lizard but when you’re eight—it’s a dinosaur.  Growing up in North Florida, which is a somewhat, semi-tropical area, there were always all kinds of insects and reptiles to watch or capture.  One of these was a small lizard…a sort of dinosaur in miniature.  It seemed they were everywhere.  Sometimes they were brown and sometimes they were green but always they stirred my imagination and when that happened, they were always bigger and more vicious than they were in reality. But it is amazing what an eight-year-old mind can come up with when he has too much time on his hands. I know I captured more than a few…usually by grabbing them by their tail.  I was always amazed when their tail broke off and while he managed to scurry away, his tail remained…still wiggling.  I later learned that their tail would slowly grow back, and I guess I’m glad they did.

As I grew older, it seems the lizards got smaller and soon became a sense of novelty and nothing more. Gone was the fear of what they could do to me as I realized what I could do to them.  I’ve found out that not only applies to lizards but memories from days gone by. About the time I was chasing lizards and yet being a little fearful…something happened.  It was Christmas time and as the day approached, I knew I didn’t have anything to give to my Momma. Poking around the house, I discovered a plastic flower arrangement sitting in the corner of the breezeway that connected our house and a garage turned into a bedroom.  Partly out of desperation and party through the eyes of an eight-year-old, I decided I would wrap the well-worn and faded flowers and give them to my Momma for Christmas.  So, I put them in a box, wrapped it all up and put it under the tree.

Christmas morning came and as was tradition, we all gathered in the living room as the presents were handed out and I watched as Momma was handed the box and unwrapped it.  Probably speaking to no one in particular, I heard her say, “Well, these are just those old flowers from the porch.” I was devastated. I knew it wasn’t much but I was hoping that something ordinary would be magically transformed by Christmas.  Now, let’s be clear.  Momma wasn’t being mean or hurtful.  Her words that day were just a statement of fact, and she might probably was not aware I had heard them…but I had…and a scar was born.

For years and years, I carried those words in my heart…and with them came the rejection that only an insecure eight-year-old can feel.  A few words casually spoken left a wound that for years refused to heal.  Listen, I know my Momma and I know she loved me but sometimes the best of us can utter words that get stuck in our memories and like those lizards…seem to grow into monsters.  Probably all of us have them…probably all of us have said them…probably all of us regret saying them.

I can’t remember if I ever told Momma about that Christmas and those words, but I can tell you it is no longer a deal.  Yes, there is a small scar on my heart, but that scar reminds me of something important.  Scars are wounds that have healed.  As I grew older, I was able to let go of the hurt because I grew to understand that no matter what words she spoke that day, her actions over the years more than proved her love.  If nothing else, those words remind me that she wasn’t perfect…just like me, just like you and just like the last person who wounded us.

Remember this.   Christmas is about love and love is about forgiveness.  My favorite verse in 1 Corinthians 13 reminds me that “love keeps no record of wrongs.”  It turns out that love makes choices possible.  We get to choose what to do with the things that are tossed into our laps.  We get to choose what we do when someone else’s mess gets sloshed on us.  I’ve learned I can’t control others; I can’t always control the circumstances around me; but I can always control my response…and that is important.

So about sixty Christmas’s have come and gone.  Momma is long in heaven, and I am grateful that I can sit and click keys on my keyboard and smile at all the precious memories I treasure in my heart.  And some of those memories that used to be dragons are now simply little lizards.  In case you are wondering how that works…well once you’ve experienced God’s grace and His forgiveness…it is a no brainer.  After all, He’s got this. Bro. Dewayne

Posted in Christmas, Easter, Family, friends, Grace, gratitude, Holidays, life, love, loving others, priorities, Scripture, Southern born, thankful

Remembrance

Do this in Remembrance of Me.” Luke 22:19b

They hang on my wall…365…one above the other.  As I have grown older, I have found that certain memories are just…well…precious.  That seems to be especially true at this time of the year.  My memories growing up of Thanksgiving and Christmas always cause me to smile.  Two memories that I especially cherish involve two simple things that now are two of my most prized possessions.  The first was made possible by the generosity of my oldest brother.  A couple of years ago I wrote a story about a 410 shotgun that had belonged to our Daddy.  It was a family heirloom.  I didn’t who ended up with it, but it turned out it was my brother and he in an incredible act of generosity chose to pass it to me.

It now hangs on the wall in my home office, and it is fired only once a year. You see, Daddy or one of my brothers, used to fire the old 410 on Christmas morning as a sort of wakeup call for my two sisters and me.  So now, starting with last year, on Christmas morning, the old 410 once again comes to life and calls us to leave our beds and celebrate. Every day, I glance up at that old 410, and every day it reminds me of days gone by and I am overcome with gratitude.  I am thankful for a Daddy and Momma who loved me and a family that could gather with one another and celebrate.

The other thing that hangs on my wall…365…is a plastic Santa Claus face.  It has a LED bulb in it that allows it to burn 24 hours a day…and I remember…and I am grateful.  You see, when I was a boy, my family had a Santa face just like this one…just.like.this.one.  It hung up on our roof attached to our small chimney and it announced that Christmas time had come.  I’m sure it came from one of the local stores and probably cost just a few dollars. Well, that old Santa disappeared but I was able to find one on eBay and trust me it didn’t cost $4.50 but do you know what?  It was worth every dollar because every day it too reminds me of a Daddy and Momma who made sure, somehow, that we had a wonderful Christmas. It reminds me of a family that could and would gather with one another and celebrate.

So, those days are gone and all but one of my brothers are gone too, but guess what?  Those days and those loved ones live on in my memories and in my heart and those two things, an old 410 shotgun and a plastic Santa face from my boyhood days remind me to remember and be grateful.  I’ve said more than once if I could remember everything from my childhood, I would have enough Grits’ material to write forever. Smile.  I’ve discovered that things can sometimes help us remember and that is important because while some things probably need to slip away…many…perhaps most…need to live on.

Have you ever wondered why Jesus on the night before He died did something crazy like serve supper?  If you are familiar with that story, you know it was a pretty simple meal…bread and wine but the meaning was anything but simple.  The next day He was going to die on a Roman cross, and He wanted to make sure the guys who followed Him would never forget what it was about. He explained how the bread represented His body broken on that cross and how the wine represented His blood that was shed so that any of us…all of us…who chose to believe could have eternal life.  That’s why He said, “Do this in remembrance of Me.”  It was His way of saying we should always remember and never forget.

So, what is it in your life that helps you remember?  A simple, or elaborate, wedding ring? A watch? Family pictures? Whatever it is, it is there to remind us and cause us to be thankful.  Christmas this year falls on a Sunday and we are going to celebrate the Lord’s supper that day at our church. I know it is almost a month away, but I am already looking forward to it.  It is going to remind us once again what Christmas and Easter are all about—a God, a Father, a Dearest Daddy, who loves us so much He gave His Son to a stable, a broken world and a Roman cross. Be sure in the hustle and bustle of the holidays to take time to remember and reflect.  For me it is an old 410 shotgun, a plastic Santa and an old rugged cross and a heavenly Father who always reminds me, “I’ve got this.” Bro. Dewayne

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

Paradise Lost and Found

For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through Him.” John 3:17

It was paradise lost. I’m not sure why it happened.  And I’m not sure how it happened…but it did.  Over the years, we had accumulated a great collection of large tropical plants to accent our patio during the summer.  Our guests love our garden, and I suppose they loved our plants too.  But then something happened.  You see, to keep them alive through the winter, we would move them into our garage and nurse them during the cold weather.  We would install special lights, water them, and learn to squeeze our car in-between them.  It was a hassle, but we did it…until we didn’t

This year, well, we didn’t. It all started when we had a light frost early in the season and since Judy was gone…I just didn’t mess with it.  That’s the bad news.  The good news is that somehow, they survived. Since it happened on my watch, I breathed a sigh of relief.  Well, apparently that opened a pandora’s box because when the next frost came, and I believe it was on my watch again, I found a reason to throw caution to the wind.  Once again, they survived and so did I.

Fast forward a little while later and we were deeper into fall and nudging winter.  With Judy back, the plants were in safer hands.  When the temperatures threatened to move from frost to freeze, we braved the cold wind and move them inside displacing the car to the fate of the cold.  Well, sure enough, it warmed up again and out they came.  Well, if you are regular Grits reader, you know we recently went on a cruise.  We knew the forecast called for a couple of cold mornings, but we were pressed for time, and we just couldn’t think of anyone to gather the plants in for us…so we left them to their fate.

Sure enough, it froze and so did they…all of them.  At first, it wasn’t too bad but then it was.  Some quickly, some slowly began to show the damage of a freeze on something that was never meant to see it or feel it.  Some leaves wilted and some turned dark brown.  The result was paradise lost.  What was once beautiful how looked like a tropical war zone.  It also meant that there is a lot of whacking and cleaning up to do.  It is sad in a way but wait, there is a silver lining.

You see, first, there is going to be a lot more room in my garage this winter.  Yay.  It also means that come spring there is going to be a fresh start…a new beginning.  Yes, there will be a cost involved…there usually is for new beginning…when something is reborn. But it will be worth it. Several of the plants were showing their age and the new will be fresher than the old. It.Will.Be.Worth.It.

You know God said the same thing about us, don’t you?  You know that God knew we needed a lot more than a time in the “garage,” we needed a fresh start, a new birth and yes, it came at a great price.  It meant there had to be a Christmas and there had to be an Easter.  It meant His Son leaving heaven for a stable and a feeding trough and it meant a rugged Roman cross, a horrible death but gratefully…also a resurrection.  It meant we could go from eternal death to eternal life—that we could go from war to peace—that we could call Him…wait for it…Father. But all that was possible only after the price was paid. Like the song says, “Jesus paid it all, all to Him I owe.  Sin had left a crimson stain, but He made it white as snow.”

White as snow. From death to life. How amazing is that?  Soon, very soon, I will scour the yard and remove the death…preparing for spring and new life.  I’m going to look past the present and look forward to the new…to spring.  And, if your world looks a little like my backyard with more dead than alive, just remember that God waits to bring new life into your life.  He said in John 3:17 that His Father didn’t send Him to condemn the world but rather through Him we, you, could be saved…rescued…redeemed.”  That is good…that is really good.  So, no matter the mess, write it down…He’s got this.  Bro. Dewayne

Posted in Family, food, friends, Grace, gratitude, Holidays, life, loving others, prayer, Scripture, thankful, Thanksgiving

Leftovers and Ruts

Jesus replied, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to Me will never be hungry again. Whoever believes in Me will never be thirsty.” John 6:35

It’s Friday…turkey again. Well, the big day was a big deal and for most of us it circled around a big meal.  In many cases homes were filled with family and like planes in a landing pattern at the airport, they circled the feast wondering where to land. There were so many choices…it was like Golden Corral had moved into our kitchens.  So, we circled, we landed, and we ate. But there is one tradition that we can’t forget when it comes to Thanksgiving.  Invariably we prepare way too much and that can only mean one thing: leftovers. It is like the feast all over again…like a good ballgame going into overtime.

So, at least around the Taylor tribe there is always a round two.  Sometime after dessert and a nap, we groggily rise from the couch or bed and mosey into the kitchen.  There the plates are retrieved from the refrigerator or maybe just uncovered, and we do it again.  Oh, leftovers, life is sweet indeed.  After everyone has had their fill, again, anything that is left goes back to the refrigerator again.  And, like Lazarus in the Bible, don’t worry they will get resurrected again…and again.

Leftovers are a game a preference.  For some it is game over after the main event, for others there is a round two, a round three and who knows…a round four.  I know for my wife Judy and me the rule seems to be oh, about a week.  Recently she cooked a great dish of baked spaghetti, and it was awesome…not once, not twice but for five days we enjoyed it until the last serving make its way to the microwave.  Oh, and by the way, yup, it was still good, way good. But all good things must come to an end and so it is with leftovers.  Each kitchen master will make the decision when it is time to move from leftovers and makeovers (aka turkey born again) to something new and fresh.  That is a good thing…and in life that is a necessary thing.

As we do life it is often too easy to get stuck and be satisfied with the leftovers…with whatever.  Again, it works for food a few days but eventually what we enjoyed the first day or two can and will be toxic.  The fine line is to know when it is time for something else, something fresh, something new.  In the kitchen we call them leftovers but in life we call them ruts.  Ruts are when we simply do the same thing over and over again because they are easy, they are familiar, they are comfortable.  Well, ruts may be all of that and more, but ruts can be dangerous. Like leftovers left too long on the counter or too long in the refrigerator, ruts can lead to spoilage. Ruts can damage marriages, stifle careers and make relationships staler than two-week-old bread.  Most sadly, spiritual ruts can make God seem out of date, unnecessary, and eventually unwanted.

So, what is the answer to the leftover dilemma.  Well, perhaps we should follow the advice of the guy in the song, “The Gambler.”  We need to “know when to hold ‘em, know when to fold ‘em and know when to walk away.”  God never intended life and never intended our relationship with Him to be like five-day old turkey. In fact, He invites us to His table where there are no leftovers, only fresh bread and living water.  Jesus called Himself that for a reason. He was saying don’t settle for the old when you can have the new…don’t eat stale when you can have life and have it more abundantly.

So, enjoy the leftovers this Thanksgiving but be sure they don’t become permanent fare.  And, most importantly, don’t let your friendship and fellowship with your Dearest Daddy digress to leftovers—for He wants something new for you every day.  Need help with that? No problem, just ask. He’s got this.  Bro. Dewayne

Posted in Family, fear, food, friends, gratitude, Holidays, life, loving others, Military memories, priorities, Scripture, Southern born, thankful, Thanksgiving, travel, Trials

A Thanksgiving to Remember

But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and reaching forward to what is ahead…” Philippians 3:13

It was a Thanksgiving to remember.  Throughout the years, Thanksgiving has been a big deal in our family.  Growing up it was a time when Momma would buy a huge turkey and cook it all night in the roaster oven that set by the stove for such an occasion.  It was a time when pies were baked, ambrosia was made, and giblet gravy simmered on the stove.  It was a time for two kinds of dressing—cornbread and cornbread with oysters. I’m not sure where that came from, but it was pretty popular.  Then, of course, it was a time when most everyone would come home, and we would feast on good food and fellowship with family.

When I graduated from high school and enlisted in the Air Force things had to change.  My first duty station was about 15 miles from the Canadian border in a town called Minot—Minot, North Dakota.  I arrived there in October, and it was already too cold for a Florida boy.  The holidays were looming ahead, and it looked like Thanksgiving was going to be a solo flight.  But then something happened.  Somehow, remember this is long before cellphones, my brother Jimmy, who lived in Amarillo, Texas, called and invited me to his house for Thanksgiving.

Again, somehow, someway, it happened.  My base pay of $320 per month didn’t allow for plane tickets so it meant a trip to the credit union to see if I could get a loan. They granted it and I bought the ticket, got my leave approved and had someone haul me to the airport. So, like the song says, over the river and through the woods, I was on my way, not to grandmother’s house but my brother’s.  I can remember flying down to Amarillo on that two engine, piston driven, plane feeling excited and afraid all at the same time.  What in the world was I doing?

Soon enough, I was on the ground and there was my big brother and a couple of his kids waiting for me.  The best I can remember he worked, maybe managed, a ranch of sorts.  It seemed we drove a long way out into the Texas countryside before finally arriving at his house.  The next day was Thanksgiving and it was so much like the one at home.  We ate well and enjoyed good family fellowship.  The thing that was so different was that in the past I was treated as the baby of the family—which I was.  But that day—I was his peer.  I was a man.

As much as I enjoyed Thanksgiving Day, the next couple of days were also awesome.  We went jackrabbit hunting.  It was cold with snow covering the ground, and we would jolt and bounce through the fields in his old Willis Jeep.  Back at the house we drank hot coffee as he would spin tales about his time in the Air Force.  Jimmy was always bigger than life and he was that day too.  We also put up the Christmas tree while I was there.  One of his favorite Christmas albums was Charlie Pride’s “Christmas in My Hometown.” We played it over and over again while I was there.  To this day it is still one of my favorites.

Soon it was time for me to head back to the far north.  We headed back to the airport and soon those piston engines were shaking and vibrating the old plane again as I flew back to Minot.  I’ve had many good Thanksgivings over the years but that one stands out for me.  It was a time when my brother made sure I wasn’t alone at a time when too many were.  That was back in 1972 so a lot of water has flowed beneath the bridge.  I’m decades older and he is now in heaven.  But I am left with the memories…memories that still refresh my soul and make me smile.

To be honest, there are other Thanksgivings that were not so easy…times when another brother and his family were not on speaking terms with the family, times when Daddy was sick and times when the family went separate ways. But I have grown to realize that each of us have a choice.  We can choose to remember and relish the good times, or we can remember and dwell on the hard times.  The choice is ours.  Paul, the guy who wrote about two-thirds of the New Testament in the Bible had plenty of hard memories.  He was a pretty bad guy before he met Jesus.  After Jesus, he began to write some new stories in his life, and he made the decision to leave the past in the past.  We should too.

I know holidays can be hard because of the past, or maybe the present. Let me encourage you to choose to remember the good and let go of the rest.  It’s not easy but it is possible—with a little help from God.  I know these days He’s getting a lot of bad press, but trust me, if you don’t know Him you should get acquainted.  He loves you more than you know, and He wants to help you do life here.  He can even help with those difficult memories.

One of the things that is a staple of mine in life is to eat and nap. Today, Lord willing, I will eat a very good meal, and I will take a very nice nap.  Try it—you’ll like it.  Also today, I’m going to take a nap of sorts with my best friend Jesus. I’m going to pull aside, rest and just chat about all the ways He has blessed me.  It might take a while because I’m pretty blessed—and so are you.  We also will probably talk about some of the hard things going on now. He won’t judge me—He will just love me. You know that Thanksgiving so many years ago my brother treated me as his peer. Today Jesus treats me as a friend—a friend closer than a brother.  A friend that can handle my past and my future.  A friend I can trust. That’s why, He’s got this. Bro. Dewayne

Posted in Family, food, friends, Grace, gratitude, Holidays, life, prayer, priorities, Scripture, Southern born, sovereignty of God, thankful, Thanksgiving, travel, Trials

Worth Every Mile

Giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.” Ephesians 5:20

It was crazy but worth every mile.  For years my side of our Taylor tribe held a family reunion. It all started after the death of both of our parents and just seemed like the right thing to do.  Fortunately for all of us, we had some very committed and caring siblings that made sure it happened.  While the date bounced around, for a while we held it on Thanksgiving weekend.  I know for us that was a good time.  Being a pastor, each year was a more of a maybe than a definite yes or no, so we didn’t make every one…but every one we did make was, well, special.

I remember one year someone in the church family had died and I needed to stay and officiate at their service.  To me honoring life after a death is not an obligation but an honor so if I can I try to be there, both for the one who has slipped into eternity but especially for those left behind. That meant on the Wednesday before Thanksgiving that year, we had a service and rather than leave town on Tuesday, we stayed and held the service and left as soon as it was over…about noon as I remember.

Now everyone knows that Wednesday before Thanksgiving is the biggest, the busiest, the craziest travel day of the year and that year—the Taylor tribe from Illinois discovered that truth firsthand.  We had no more gotten on the interstate highway—less than an hour from our home— and we ran into heavy traffic.  That song about “over the river and through the woods” was more than just a song.  It seemed that everyone in the world, or at least the Midwest, was going to grandmother’s house and apparently, she lived down by Atlanta.

There was not a time that there wasn’t traffic and a couple of times there was just one of those standstills.  That is when, for no apparent reason, in the middle of nowhere traffic just stops. There was not an intersection, there was not an accident or a broken-down vehicle—it was like people just decided to press pause.  Now if you know anything about me, you know I don’t do traffic well but this time, well, I did better than average.  As the day pressed on, as the traffic got heavier, as day turned to night, as the clock ticked off the minutes and hours, as we got more and more tired…well, average disappeared.

By the time we were on outside of Atlanta on Interstate 20 heading west, it was about 1:30 am.  1:30 am…think about that. I can still remember the fact that the interstate, every lane, was packed with traffic…bumper to bumper…at 70 miles per hour.  I didn’t believe it then and as my fingers press the keys…I can’t believe it now.  Where in the world were all these people going at that time of the night…uh, make that morning?  Of course…they were going to grandmother’s house.

Well, we finally arrived at John Tanner State Park at about 2:30 am.  We were tired.  We were exhausted but all that didn’t matter.  We were there.  We opened the car doors and stumbled out of the car and into the lodge. Waiting for us was a was a beautiful moment of clarity.  There in the “living room” of the lodge was a big chunk of the Taylor tribe.  Instead of going to bed, they had waited up to greet us and it was at that moment it was worth it all.  Just then I had an epiphany…this, this was family. While they couldn’t drive the miles for us they could be there and greet us and simply say “we are glad you made the drive.”

Well, we all quickly went to bed and woke up a little later the next day.  The morning was spent preparing the feast and what a feast it was.  We told stories, we laughed, we shared and we ate…a lot.  And I knew beyond a shadow of a doubt it was worth every minute in the car and every mile in traffic.  Well, that was many years ago and the family reunions don’t occur that way anymore.  And, too many—and even one is too many—of our family have changed their address from this world to the next. And while I wish I had more of those memories, I am so grateful for each and every one that I have.

While this Thanksgiving will be different than those and for many, different even from last year, let’s strive to make this one worth remembering too.  Let’s remember the key word in the holiday—thanks.  Paul, the guy in the Bible, said, “Give thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.”  As always, he was spot on.  Like Bing Crosby sings in the movie, “Holiday Inn,” let’s remember we have plenty to be thankful for…because we do.  And, if you are struggling in the gratitude department, just take a look around and count your blessings and then remember that no matter what, “He’s got this.” Bro. Dewayne

Posted in Family, friends, gratitude, Holidays, life, priorities, Scripture, thankful, Thanksgiving, Trials

Black Friday Sale

Rest in God alone, my soul, for my hope comes from Him.” Psalm 62:5

We stumbled into Black Friday.  It was 1980.  We had just returned from a three-year tour in Germany while serving in the United States Air Force.  It is amazing how things can change in three short years.  We enjoyed our time in Germany immensely, but it was so good to get back to the greatest country in the world…the USA. We were being assigned to Whiteman Air Force Base in Knob Noster, Missouri.  No, I am not kidding.  We quickly settled into the new version of our old life.  See, you only thought “new normalcy” was something new!

We got back in the country in August and before we knew it, Thanksgiving was right around the corner.  I don’t remember anything about Thanksgiving Day, but I sure do remember the day after.  I was off on Friday and since Kansas City was only about 45 minutes away, we decided to drive into the city and go shopping.  It sounded like a great idea.  It probably was a great idea before we left for Germany in 1977, but things had changed.  It was a new normal but we were unaware of this phenomena.

We got up on Friday, ate and headed into the city.  Visions of good deals and the excitement of the Christmas season were dancing in our heads.  We picked our mall—there were several to choose from—and off we went.  As we drove down the highway and neared the exit and the mall, much to our surprise there was traffic everywhere.  The exit was jam packed and once we got into the parking lot, we realized it was stuffed to the gills.  We kept saying over and over again, “What in the world is going on?”

Well, I can’t remember if we gave up on that mall or not.  I don’t remember finding a parking spot, but I may have blocked it from my memory.  We tend to do that with nightmares!  Anyway, we headed to mall number two.  It was much larger, with a very, large parking lot and plus by now the initial rush was slowing down some.  After circling the area several times, we did manage to find a parking spot.  Hey, what if it was ten miles from the mall?  Smile.

We hiked to the mall and joined a sea of people as they weaved their way through the stores.  It was about that time we finally asked someone, “So what is the deal (no pun intended) with all the people?  Why is everyone here?”  It sounds almost humorous now, but we were sincerely in the dark.  The clerk looked at us like we had just returned from the moon or something and I guess in that instance, we had.  Apparently while we were in Germany this thing called “Black Friday” was either born or exploded.  We had walked into a feeding frenzy of holiday madness. Since that time, it has taken on a life of its own.  Stores that opened at crazy hours were now opening on Thanksgiving Day itself.  People would storm the doors and fight for the right to get a good deal.  But.Not.This.Year.

This year it is going to be different.  Because of this year’s new normalcy, many stores that were open on Thanksgiving last year will be closed.  Employees who in year’s past had to work will now have time with their families.  In the recent weeks leading up to Black Friday, stores have been offering, promising, Black Friday pricing for weeks and not for a day.  That might just save someone’s life.  Perhaps Friday morning will look more humane and not so much like the Allied troops storming the beaches at Normandy.

I know it is hard to find good things in bad days but maybe, just maybe, if we look hard enough, we might find that parts of the new normalcy will be a better normalcy.  It seemed from the beginning that part of the COVID thing was a forced Sabbath. God tells us in His Word to rest in Him alone because all our hope should come from Him. It was like He said, “Enough is enough of this madness we call life. Slow down, already.”  And, we did…we have.  Maybe we will rediscover the blessings all around us. Maybe we will rediscover the wonder of a little Baby born in a feeding trough to save the world from the madness of sin.  Maybe we will rediscover the value of family, of others, of generosity, of love.  I hope so.

After my initial baptism into the fires of Black Friday I have not been much of a fan.  I’ve never stood in line at the door, I’ve never fought someone for a deal, and I’ve never got up at 2:00 am to go shopping. But I have rushed through the holidays like a bull running the streets of Spain.  Maybe this year I will slow down.  Maybe you will too.  Sound challenging?  It is.  But pressing the pause button is not a bad idea…especially if it causes us to rest next to our Dearest Daddy.  And especially if it causes me to realize…He’s got this.  Bro. Dewayne

Posted in Family, friends, gratitude, Holidays, life, love, loving others, prayer, thankful, Thanksgiving, travel

How Thoughtful

I thank my God in all my remembrance of you.” Philippians 1:3

It was a memorable Thanksgiving.  My wife Judy and I have a treasure chest full of good memories and stories.  That is one reason I like Grits so much.  It gives me the opportunity to remember and share just some of those treasures.  A lot of the memories and stories were written during our fourteen years at Cobden First Baptist.  During those years, we were slowly wedded into what can only be described as family.  Our children grew up there…and one, baby Sarah was born there.  We laughed together, we cried together and well, we did life together.

As our tenth anniversary approached, the church planned a big surprise.  They decided to raise the money for Judy and me to visit the Holy Land.  It was about a year later that the funds were in place, the plans were made, and the tickets bought.  We were to see Greece, Israel and Egypt.  We would visit many of the sites of ancient Greece, walk where Jesus walked and see where the Pharaohs lived and died. It was an incredible journey that we can never forget and there was something that happened after the trip that remains one of our most special memories.

You see, the way the trip was planned meant that we would be gone from our girls over Thanksgiving.  It was a hard call for us but once again the church made it easier.  One of the families agreed to move into our house while we were gone and ride herd over the three Taylor girls. So while we would miss Thanksgiving with them, they had Thanksgiving there with our good friends.  I can well remember Thanksgiving in Egypt.  Of course, there it was just another day. The only way you would have known it was Thanksgiving was that the American Embassy announced on the English-speaking channel that they would be closed that day.  We found it hard to believe that the rest of the world just went about their way as America celebrated the goodness of God.

Well, in a few days after that day, we were back home.  I remember we got back home at about 3:30 am and it was a Sunday.  We set the alarm and later I fumbled through some sort of message.  I am sure it was not one of my better ones but once the church was kind enough to act like it was.  Now for the surprise—now for a very special Thanksgiving memory.  Are you ready?  Well, we drove home after church, ready for a nap and wondering what we were going to eat for lunch.  We walked in the back door and into the kitchen and there, waiting for us, was a Thanksgiving dinner with all the trimmings.  As we walked into the dining room we found the table set with our finest china…just like it would have been had we been there for Thanksgiving Day.

Can you feel it? Can you imagine it?  I know for us it was one of those memories that will burn in our hearts and minds till the last heartbeat.  And, as you can guess, it wasn’t just the meal, it wasn’t just the table—it was the thoughtfulness of it all.  And that is the big truth I want you to remember. While this particular memory was so generous and amazing…it was the thoughtfulness of it all that writes it on our hearts in permanent ink.  You see, we all can make that impact…rich or poor…because thoughtfulness doesn’t have to be expensive…at least not in the sense of dollar bills and coins.  Thoughtfulness is something that the poorest or richest can do.

Paul writes in Philippians 1:3, “I thank my God in all my remembrance of you.” It’s special that he wrote that, but it is even more special when we realize this.  Not every memory of his time in Philippi was good…after all he got beat up and thrown in jail for doing nothing but helping a young girl. No…what caused him to write that was the thoughtfulness of his friends there.  More than once they were a friend when no one else would be.  I’ve pastored four churches in my forty-year pastoring journey and along the way we have met so many wonderful, thoughtful people. From Quarles…my first church, to Dorrisville, my present church, our hearts have been touched with thoughtful people.

This week, be sure and do what anyone can do but so many won’t remember to do…be thoughtful toward someone who needs a little lift, a little love, a little kindness. After all, our Dearest Father has been so thoughtful to us.  If you need a little guidance along the way, just remember that your thoughtful Father thought about that too. He’s got this. Bro. Dewayne

Posted in Family, gratitude, life, loving others, Military memories, prayer, priorities, Scripture, thankful, USA, Veteran's Day

A Penny and a Nickel

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

This story has become my annual story for Veteran’s Day.  It was a wonderful day that day and it spoke deeply into my heart. Be sure and thank each veteran you encounter especially on this day…the day we honor them.

I had never noticed it before.  A couple of weeks ago my wife Judy and I visited the national battlefield at Dover, Tennessee.  I was so impressed.  Fort Donelson National Battlefield is a Civil War battle site sandwiched between the Cumberland and Tennessee Rivers.  The South had built two forts there for the purpose of controlling those two rivers.  It was a major supply line for the South.  Many of the original earthworks are still there.  You can imagine the Union and Southern soldiers huddling down rising only to fire at one another.

One spot on the tour showed where the big Southern guns were mounted.  In fact, many of them were still there.  There were three on one side and seven on the other.  The guns could hurl a 30-pound shell over a mile and were some of the deadliest weapons of the war.  At that spot, an American Bald Eagle was perched in a large oak tree right on the bluff.  It was as if he was watching over the sacredness of this hallowed ground.  Men—both Union and Southern, shed their blood on these grounds.  One side dying to preserve the Union and the other dying to tear it apart.  After more than a few minutes the eagle took his leave and so did we.

The car tour then took us out of the park and down the road a mile or so.  There we found more earthworks, more cannon and more ground stained with blood.  Leaving there we headed down the road to the National Cemetery established after the battle. The Union soldiers won the day, but the cost was high on both sides.  Judy and I parked the car and walked around the cemetery.  There were hundreds of graves…all men who had fought for the Union.  Sadly, the Confederate dead were dumped into mass graves and covered over.  They remain that way today.

At the cemetery, there were many graves from the Civil War era but since it is still an active military cemetery, warriors from virtually all the wars are buried there.  Judy and I saw graves from the World War I, World War 2, Korea, Vietnam, and the Gulf Wars.  We even saw one grave from what was called the Second Seminole War or the Florida War. Row upon row of graves, some older ones with only a last name and their assigned unit, lay silently giving testimony to their last full measure of devotion to their country.  There was one more thing.

We noticed that laying on top of many of the headstones there were coins.  They were mostly pennies with a sprinkling of silver coins also.  I didn’t really know what they meant but I had an idea, and I was right.  There is a tradition that honors men and women who served their country.  You mainly see it in national cemeteries but also at others scattered throughout our Land.  When you see a penny on top of the headstone of a veteran, it means that someone stopped and reflected on the soldier’s life and service. It is a form of remembrance.  And, when a family member returns to the grave, they have the assurance that someone remembered and honored their loved one’s sacrifice and service.

If there was a silver coin, and back in the old days a nickel in particular, it meant the person who stopped by had a special relationship with the fallen soldier.  They may have gone through basic training together or were assigned to the same unit.  There has always been a special bond with men and women who fought together…who perhaps died together.  It is a bond that lives on beyond death and those silver coins honored that bond.

The Bible is full of renowned, well known, verses but one that stands out is where Jesus said, “Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.”  That is what those silver coins were saying.  It was a silent testimony of loyalty one for another.  This band of brothers was willing to die for the other…and many did.  What an amazing story of love and commitment.

Today we honor the men and women of our great country who served or are actively serving in its armed forces.  For 244 years brave soldiers have put their lives on the line.  As the saying goes, “All who served gave some, but some gave all.”  We should be incredibly grateful for both.  As you journey through life today and you recognize a man or woman who was or is member of the armed forces, take the time to thank them for their service.  The freedoms we enjoy came at great cost whether it was the ultimate sacrifice or the daily sacrifice of hardship or separation from family.  Be sure and let them know you appreciate it.  It is just the right thing to do.  Oh, and don’t forget to thank the One who provides the ultimate freedom…Jesus Christ.  Because of Him, we can rest…because of Him we can have the peace of knowing…He’s got this.  Bro. Dewayne

Posted in Family, food, friends, gratitude, Halloween, life, love, loving others, prayer, Scripture, thankful, Trials

Trick and Treat

Jesus told him, “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.” John 14:6

Free Candy.  Holidays have always been special to me.  Of course, the king of the mountain is the one where we celebrate the birth of a King.  Of course, it took me awhile to get where I began to understand it wasn’t all about presents or a guy in a red suit, but I did eventually get a better understanding.  Oh, and then there is the one where the King that was born on Christmas defeats the big bad king—Death.  Well, and yes, it took me awhile to figure that one out too.  Turns out, it wasn’t about a bunny and free candy.  I’m slow but I usually, eventually, get there.

We could go and on…Memorial Day is not only about cookouts, but Independence Day is also about the price of freedom and not just fireworks, and finally, Thanksgiving is not just being about turkeys and pies.  There is nothing wrong with all of that—it’s just important that we remember what the main thing is—and camp there.  So, today, Halloween, what is that all about?  Well, when I was a kid, it was about one thing and one thing only—free candy.  We would dress up in whatever was handy—no bought costumes in those days—just hobos and pirates—grab the bag that momma had made us and hit the streets running.  We would go from house to house, from door to door, shouting those magic words, “Trick or Treat,” and stick our bag out and the candy came flying. Oh, and you better believe we said, “Thank you,” cause Momma taught us to.  Yup, in those days, things were just different.  There never was a trick…it wasn’t even an idle threat; it was just part of what we said.

I guess today all that has changed.  Today, Halloween has a bad rap.  The age of innocence is long gone.  Televisions and theaters are filled with horrible horror films and the whole holiday is now considered by most Jesus people to be a pagan sin feast…and maybe it is.  On the other hand, I think it is also Reformation Day…the day Martin Luther took a stand about God and grace.  But there is that one thing that has changed.  There is that one thing we have hung on to and that is those three words, “Trick or Treat.”  I’m glad those are still around because tucked away they hold some pretty big truths.

First, all this sin stuff started in the Garden of Eden when Satan tricked Eve into believing him and doubting God.  He was so convincing that she began to believe that God was holding out.  He was the good guy and God…He was selfish and wanted to keep everything for Himself.  Trick, trick trick.  But thankfully that is not the end of the story—for God had a treat for Satan’s trick.  God sent Truth into the world in the form of His Son Jesus.  Much later after the garden, when Jesus told us He was the Way, the Truth and the Life” He meant exactly that.  The truth is…He is Truth.  No tricks, no deception, no kidding…He is the antidote to the devil’s lie.  Believe the Truth and you live—believe the lie and die forever.  Wow.

But wait…there is more.  You see not only is there the trick and not only is there the Truth…there is that little connecting word, “or.”  You see, the word “or” makes sure we understand that there is a choice here.  We don’t have to be stuck with the lie and no, we don’t have to take the Truth…though we would be foolish not to do so.  There is free will. God offers eternal life to anyone, and Satan offers death to everyone.  God offers eternal life to anyone who will believe in Him and ask, and the enemy offers death to everyone else.  Listen, don’t be tricked by the trickster, the consequences of a wrong choice are just disastrous.

So, I hope in your part of the world you can let your kids load up on free candy.  I’m sure your dentist will be very happy.  Be careful and be safe and steer way clear of all the junk that is out there—and trust me—there is plenty.  Oh, and don’t forget the lesson from those three small words, “Trick or Treat.”  Remember that the trickster is a liar and offers spiritual death and the Treater is the Truth and offers eternal life.  Oh, and don’t forget three more important words, “He’s got this.”  Bro. Dewayne