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, 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, life, love, loving others, Memorial Day, Military memories, Southern born, 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.  This Memorial Day weekend found my wife and I on the road again.  That’s a good thing.  Last year, 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 is thankfully in retreat, but it is 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 today, 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 today.  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 today.  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 Grace, Memorial Day, Military memories, Scripture, travel

Heroes

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

I’m not sure how I found my way there, but I was grateful.  During my assignment 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 pretty frequently.  It must have been during one of our forays that we came to it—Luxembourg American Cemetery.  It was one of the most hollowed 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, 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 super hero 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.  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.