Posted in Christmas, Family, friends, gratitude, Holidays, life, loving others, missions, prayer, Scripture, sovereignty of God, thankful, travel, wisdom

Figuring it Out

If you need wisdom, ask our generous God, and He will give it to you. He will not rebuke you for asking.” James 1:5

It was a close call, but grace stepped in.  Every year, our church sends a group of missionaries to help process Operation Christmas Child shoeboxes in Atlanta. “Atlanta,” you say?  “I didn’t know they needed missionaries in Atlanta?”  Well, missionaries, at least to some degree, are folks who take a good message or do a good deed to a needy place and trust me that is anywhere and everywhere.  But in this case, it was also an opportunity to be a part of something very big that would impact thousands and thousands of people with the joy of a gift in the shape of a shoebox filled with items of love and the joy of a gift in the shape of a cross and an empty tomb—the message of Jesus.

Well, last year I almost didn’t make it. I almost missed the boat.  The week of the trip, two families in our church lost loved ones and as pastor and friend, I was asked to do the services for their loved ones—two precious mothers.  As it turned out the services would be held almost immediately after my return from Atlanta. Add to that, each service would require more than a few hours of preparation.  I believe each funeral service should be crafted in prayer and made as personal as possible and that requires time.  So, I told Judy I just didn’t think I could make the trip.  It would just be easier if I stayed back and worked.  She wanted very much for me to go but also knew the importance of the task at hand.

After some discussion, the decision was made…she would go, and I would stay.  I had made this trip several times and I knew it was going to be meaningful but easier just sounded easier. But then she said something that caused me to re-evaluate.  It was something like, “Now, don’t be upset when I come back and tell you what a good time we had.”  It was a moment of clarity.  It caused me to remember the times before and that feeling of making a difference, the times of fellowship with the team, and at that moment, I knew I needed to go.  This time easier just wasn’t the best choice.

I began immediately to prepare the services and asked God to multiply the time that I had.  Then, Tuesday morning, the next day, with almost thirty others, I boarded the bus and headed to Atlanta…and it was an incredible trip. The journey, the destination, the work was all just incredible.  We got back in town Thursday evening, and I went straight back to working to finish the two funeral services. In my heart I knew I had made the right decision. The first service was Friday, and it was my privilege to stand before a group of people and share about a life well lived and a great God who loves us—a bunch.  The other service wasn’t till Sunday and, unknown to me, I would not be there for that one.  I would be at home with the flu.  Fortunately, the work for the service was done and someone else would use that work.  God knew all of this and used all of this.  Amazing.

Each day we are challenged to make decisions.  Sometimes they are obvious and sometimes they are not.  Sometimes the choice is between easy and hard.  Ask God for wisdom to make the right one.  Oh, you will miss it sometimes regardless, but I have learned that He has a way of honoring our hearts and intentions.  I just know that this time the easy thing was not the right thing…it was just easy.  I returned from Atlanta not depleted and tired but filled and refreshed.  Helping others has a way of doing that. And, God, well, He always does all things, well!

James, the half-brother of Jesus, says in the Book of the Bible that bears His name, “If you need wisdom, ask our generous God, and He will give it to you. He will not rebuke you for asking.” You gotta love that.  Need wisdom? Just ask.  Will He be upset because you “bothered” Him?  Absolutely not.  He is like a dearest daddy just waiting to help and the reason why He is like that is because that’s what He is—our Dearest Daddy.  So, as you journey life today and you come to those crossroads called decisions, no matter how simple or complex, just ask and He will be there for you.  Don’t worry, “He’s got this.” Bro. Dewayne

Posted in Christmas, Family, friends, gratitude, life, love, loving others, priorities, Scripture, sovereignty of God, thankful, wisdom

Time…Our Treasure

Lord, You have been our refuge in every generation. Before the mountains were born,

before You gave birth to the earth and the world, from eternity to eternity, You are God.” Psalm 90:1-2

I glanced back in the rearview mirror and watched it disappear, just like that Christmas came and went.  It never ceases to amaze me how quickly time passes.  At one time there was a saying that said, “You are slower than Christmas.”  Well, at least for me that simply is not true anymore.  It seems like yesterday that we were talking about another new year, another new month, or another new week and now it is time to start it all over again.  In a very few days we will be celebrating January 1st and the start of another New Year. Amazing.

As you know Christmas fell on Sunday this year. For most folks the day of the week Christmas arrives is not that big of a deal.  However, for us preacher-teacher types it certainly is a big deal.  It is a definite shift to go from ho, ho, ho and opening presents to “Holy is the Lord.” It is almost like shifting a car from forward to reverse.  Christmas on Sunday normally occurs every six or seven years but guess what? Because of the way Leap Year falls next time, it will be eleven years before we celebrate Christmas on a Sunday again.  Eleven years.  For me, that means I will be knocking on eighty—loudly.  For some of you, it means your seven-year-old son or daughter will be knocking on 18. Is that crazy or what?

The crazier part of all of this is that those eleven years…if we get to see all of them…will pass so very quickly.  It is such a good reminder that we need to savor each day the Savior gives us.  We need to remember how precious every minute, hour, day, month, and year are.  The Bible has a lot to say about time and how we handle it. First, Moses tells us in Psalm 90, “Teach us to number our days carefully so that we may develop wisdom in our hearts.” That is such good counsel.  Like a cook carefully measures the ingredients in whatever they are preparing, so we need to carefully measure the value of each day. And when we do, if we do, we will discover the wisdom of the God of the ages.

Another great scripture is found in the New Testament of the Christian Bible.  Paul was writing to a group of Jesus people in Ephesus.  He said to them, “So be careful how you live. Don’t live like fools, but like those who are wise. Make the most of every opportunity in these evil days.”  Make the most or squeeze everything you can out of each day.  There are two things we need to remember about days. First, they all belong to the Lord…we are just managers and second, each day is a gift from Him.  No matter how difficult or how easy—each day is a present from Him to His children.  So, we should handle it with care and use it wisely.

Two of the things I love about God is His is generosity and wisdom.  He gives and guides and then helps us to make the most of every day…every gift.  As we look forward to our next installment of time—no matter how much or little we get to experience—always remember that there is One who is standing close just waiting to help us.  No matter what—He’s got this.  Bro. Dewayne

Posted in Christmas, Family, friends, gratitude, Holidays, life, loving others, Military memories, Scripture, thankful, travel

Memory Trees

You have turned my mourning into joyful dancing. You have taken away my clothes of mourning and clothed me with joy.” Psalm 30:11

Just a heads up. Christmas trees. They all have their own time to be setup. They all have their own design and style.  They all have their time when they are trashed or stowed.  There is a common denominator.  Those three things are determined by the creators, the admirers of the trees.  That is what makes every tree special. At our house, we do something just a bit different.  We have four trees that make a small, enchanted forest of sorts.  The tallest is about six foot and the smallest is about 30 inches.  It was an idea that I came up with several years ago and we love it.  They are decorated with a wide variety of ornaments and keepsakes from over the decades…and we love that too.

On one tree, we have a Styrofoam snowman’s head that was made by my sister when she was in the third grade…and trust me…that was a really, long time ago.  There is a glitter covered cross from when my wife Judy was in the fourth grade.  Of course, there are three “baby’s first Christmas” ornaments—one for each of our daughters.  There is a 3×5 index card with two buttons on it.  Written, by my oldest granddaughter when she was about 5 years old, is her name over one button and Papa written over the other.  It is priceless.  We were buddies…we are buddies. And on and on it goes…families, friends, and special memories all gathered in one place.

So, by now you are wondering, “Why are you writing about Christmas trees after Christmas has passed?”  It’s a bit of a story. When we were in Germany in 1979, we lived in base housing.  They were large, four-story apartment buildings, with three stairwells—all full of military families.  We were on the top floor, and we had one neighbor across the hall, and they had a phone in their home.  One year, near Easter, I needed to use the phone, so I knocked on the door and his wife came to the door.  I asked if I could use their phone and she was kind enough to say yes.

As I entered their apartment, I noticed one thing right away.  Sitting in their living room was their Christmas tree in all its splendor.  Now, keep in mind it was right before Easter.  I made my call and just had to ask the obvious question.  I politely said, “So why do you still have your Christmas tree up?”  And, without missing a beat, she said, “It makes me happy.”  I never forgot that simple answer and the great truth it taught me.  It.Makes.Me.Happy.

I love the fact that this sweet lady decided to keep her tree up…not based on popular opinion, not on what the masses did, or what was “normal.”  She decided based on what was good for her—for her mental health.  I didn’t think her odd at all—rather, I thought her strong and wise.  I wonder how many decisions we make every day that are not based on what may be good for us but based on what the Smith’s or Jones’ might think of us? I wonder how many things we wear, or eat, or watch, or do, that are based on the opinion of others?  I wonder how many of our faith decisions are based on the same.  Church—no church. Kindness—no kindness. Love—no love. Jesus—no Jesus. Hmmmm. I just wonder.

One year we decided to leave our trees up for several weeks after Christmas and it was ok.  They had transformed from Christmas trees to memory trees.  Maybe, perhaps we will do that again this year. So, if you drive by 217 you might see a small, enchanted forest in our front bay window.  It will be four trees starting at about six feet tall and going down to 30 inches.  If you could get close enough, you would see the trees covered with special ornaments—and almost everyone would represent a special memory or event.  And why will they be there?  Well, it might just be a reminder that we have so much to be thankful for.

If we do leave our trees up, or at least until we take them down, we will drink coffee and do our Jesus things like reading the Bible or praying and occasionally we will look up and be happy—happy for all the blessings that God has sent our way.  Someone writing about God in His Book said that God had turned their mourning into joyful dancing. He had taken away their clothes of mourning and clothed them with joy. I couldn’t agree more.  Even in these different days, these different months, and years, we will have happy moments.  We will pause and thank God that in the past He always showed up and today and all the today’s yet to come He will do it again. After all, He’s got this.  Bro. Dewayne

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

Long Shadows

Why do you seek the living among the dead? He is not here but is risen!”  Luke 24:5b-6a

It cast a long shadow.  Can you imagine what it was like that night when Jesus was born?  Can you imagine being nine months pregnant and making a weeklong journey walking or on the back of a donkey?  Can you imagine mile after mile until there were 90 of them in the rearview mirror?  Can you imagine arriving only to discover that there was no room, no space anywhere and the pains of birth begin and become stronger and stronger. No room, no midwife, no doctor, and no hospital.

Finally, someone offers a stable for the night.  It almost certainly was not a wooden affair but rather a cold, damp cave.  Wood would have been very scarce so rather than a cozy manger made of wood there would have been one chiseled from stone.  And there in those difficult circumstances, the King and creator of the universe took on the form of a human baby.  Jesus was born and according to scriptures was wrapped in strips of cloth or swaddling cloths.  And most of it, all of it, cast a long shadow into His future.

Have you ever wondered why Luke made it a point to mention the swaddling cloths?  It is interesting to know that some thirty-three years later, after His death on the cross, this same Jesus would be prepared for burial by being wrapped once again in strips of cloth or swaddling cloths.  You see, those birth cloths cast a long shadow…all the way to His death. The reason for Christmas was Easter.  And that manger, that stone manger, casts a long shadow too. After His death on the cross, it was in a tomb carved from stone that held the body of Jesus.  As a baby He was laid in stone and as the Redeemer of man, they laid Him in a tomb of stone.  How amazing…how wonderful.

But here is the most amazing part.  The baby that first Christmas night would not stay in the stony manger long and soon also cast off those swaddling cloths. The long shadow they cast would tell the same truth.  After Jesus’ death on the cross, after His burial, He refused to stay dead.  On the third day, He cast off the swaddling cloths of death and burst out of the stony tomb, proving He was indeed the Son of God…the Savior of the world.  Christmas was the beginning of His earthly existence, but the end of the story proved His eternal existence.  He was who He claimed to be, and He did do what He was sent to do.

Jesus came to earth that first Christmas on a rescue mission.  Pastor Chuck Swindoll writes, “This is the message of Christmas: On a rescue mission designed by His Father before time began, Jesus silently slipped into our world, breathed our air, felt our pain, became acquainted with our sorrows, suffered and died for our sins . . . to show us the way out of our darkness and into His glorious light.”

As we approach Christmas, let me encourage to look beyond the stable, the manger and the Baby that lies there.  While wondrous for sure, the end of the story is even grander than the beginning.  God became man…that is amazing…but that the God-Man died for man…well that is even more so.  So, when you see the manger, remember an empty grave.  When you think of the swaddling cloths, imagine them neatly folded in an empty tomb. And remember the greatest wonder of all when the angel said to Mary of Magdalene, “Why do you seek the living among the dead? He is not here but is risen!”

Merry Christmas friends but may I also say, “Happy Easter” for they are forever linked together. The baby in the manger became the Savior on the cross and the Savior of the cross became the King of Kings.  Hallelujah.  Oh, and that King is the One who waits patiently for us to trust Him.  After all, today and everyday…He’s got this.  Bro. Dewayne

Posted in Christmas, Family, friends, Grace, gratitude, Holidays, life, love, loving others, prayer, priorities, Scripture, Southern born, sovereignty of God, thankful, Trials, wisdom

It’s a Downtown Christmas

I pray that you, being rooted and firmly established in love, may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the length and width, height and depth of God’s love.” Ephesians 3:17b-18

This was one time paying a bill was fun.  My life as a kid was good.  While we didn’t have everything, we had plenty and we had each other.  A few weeks out from Christmas (believe it or not, we actually celebrated Thanksgiving before jumping into Christmas) we would get all the Christmas decorations down from the attic and decorate the house. I told you about the special Santa that used to hang on our chimney and believe it or not I was able to find one exactly like it and it now hangs in my office.  He keeps an eye on me all through the year to make sure I am behaving.

One of my favorite memories was the times when we had to go to downtown Jacksonville to pay our utility bills.  I suppose it was the electric bill because we had a pump in the backyard for our water and we didn’t use gas.  At any rate, with a tight budget, we would have to take the bill down to the electric company and drop it off the night before it was due. Christmas or not, off we would go to downtown.  But during the Christmas season…it was special indeed.  Here’s why!

Back in the day, all the department stores would decorate their windows with all things Christmas.  There would be figures whose arms and legs would move, reindeer that lifted their heads as if to fly, boys and girls skating on a make believe lake and on and on the list would go. It was certainly a magical thing to see and experience.  In its own small way, it made Christmas, Christmas.

Now here’s the good part.  Truth be known, if it wasn’t for the tight budget that forced us to make time to go downtown to pay the bill—we probably would have missed that beautiful part of our Christmas memories.  I know that often this is not by accident but rather by design.  You see God is always working, sometimes out front and sometimes in the background, but He is always working and yes, He does work in strange ways.  And often, what seems like a difficulty can be His way of bringing something good to light.  If we are willing to be patient, then time after time we will see His Divine handiwork.

I think one of the best things will be when we finally get to heaven and see that it is full of surprises.  We will know all the things God saved us from that we never saw happening and all the things He arranged that we skipped over and counted as consequence.  And as much as we think we know, I believe we are going to be astounded by the depth and width of His great love for us.

Paul, the guy who wrote a big chunk of the New Testament said it best when he wrote, “I pray that you, being rooted and firmly established in love, may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the length and width, height and depth of God’s love.”  And honestly, that is one prayer we may not see answered because His love is so vast. So today, why not keep a special look out for all the ways God especially works in your life. Some will cause you to be filled with gratitude and others, well, they might make you grateful that indeed, “He’s got this.” Bro. Dewayne

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

On the Other Side of the Wall

Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.” James 1:17

The walls were thin…real thin.  The house I was raised in was a converted World War II barracks that had been moved from wherever to the corner of Wheat and Carlton Roads. It was a two-bedroom, one bath house with more people than bedrooms.  We were normally scattered about in the house to sleep but not on Christmas Eve.  That night, the three little ones, as we were known, were all put in one bedroom and in one bed.  That night was a night of wonders enhanced by the sounds coming through the thin walls.

We were put to bed early in those early days because Santa Claus was coming to town. We reluctantly surrendered and tried to go to sleep.  We made every excuse possible to peek and see what was happening on the other side of the thin wall.  We even resorted to telling white lies about having to use the restroom but all to no avail.  We were Christmas Eve prisoners while Santa came on the other side of the thin wall.

What we couldn’t see…we could hear.  There were voices, there was laughter and occasionally there was the sound of a toy…a present…being tested. I remember one time my sister had asked for a chord organ and imagine the thrill when through the thin wall came the sound of music.  Well, it took a while but eventually we would drift off to sleep with visions of Christmas morning dancing in our heads.  Each Christmas, we were startled awake by the sound of an old .410 shotgun being fired.  Like horses at the starting gate, we knew it was off to the races. With the final permission, we flung open the door and walked into a wonder land of wonderful things.

Each Christmas morning there around the room would be at least some of the things we had asked Santa for.  We were far, very far, from rich but somehow Santa would bring at least some of the things we had asked for along with others we had not even thought of.  It was an amazing and wonder filled morning.  Even as I write, as my mind races back to those times, I smile.  I smile because of the gifts, those we asked for and those more than we could have imagined, but I also because now I know the sacrifice that made all that possible.  Oh, how blessed I was…we were.

Each Christmas I knew we probably wouldn’t get everything we asked for, but I knew we would be amazed at what filled the room.  It seemed someone had mined our minds and dug up treasures galore.  I truly treasure those memories and today…I treasure the same thing but not just on Christmas morning.  Each day I am amazed how another Father, my heavenly Father, fills my life with gifts.  Each day He blesses and each day He shows His love in practical ways. Sometimes it is the answer to a prayer, sometimes it is just His attention to the small details of life and sometimes it is just His love, His presence. And sometimes, it is Him walking with me through some challenging circumstance…some difficulty…expected or not.

I have learned that He is a God who can be trusted.  And even though I don’t always get the exact answer to a prayed prayer, I know this. He never gets it wrong.  Sometimes that means things I thought of, but it always includes things He thought of.  Just like Christmas morning while I didn’t always know what was going to be on the other side of the thin wall, I knew it was going to be good.  Why? Because it was all planned by someone who loved me dearly.

James, the half-brother of Jesus said, “Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.” That teaches us that God is the giver of good and perfect things and that His nature and character about giving never changes.  What we must do is trust that “Father knows best.” I’m sure I asked for some crazy things growing up and I’m also sure my parents were wise enough not to grant every wish or request.  We can know the same about God.  So be brave enough not to allow disappointment to be a part of your God vocabulary because He is for you and not against you.  He is so much wiser and more able than we are.  We can rest assured that no matter what it looks like, “He’s got this.”  Bro. Dewayne

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 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