Posted in Family, food, friends, Grace, gratitude, Integrity, life, loving others, Scripture, thankful

Just Follow the Recipe

For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” Jeremiah 29:11

It sounds morbid but it’s not…I think.  My wife Judy and I have been married forever and that means we are not quite as young as we used to be.  Sometimes, to pass the time, we joke around and sometimes that includes what would happen if one of us was to uh, well, you know, pass.  So, I’ve always told her if she was to go first, I wouldn’t remarry…I would just get a dog.  I laugh and she laughs but then she always assures me that would never work.  She and I both know just how much I depend on her to do life.  I can clean house…kinda.  I can wash clothes…sorta…you know, all in one big load but there is one thing that I can’t do.  I can’t cook.

When she leaves town to babysit or whatever, the menu at the Taylor house changes dramatically.  If it is anything more than grits in the microwave, a sandwich, or a frozen dinner…we are in deep weeds.  So, the other day, when my friend David began talking about cooking, I started listening.  He is a great cook…actually on that particular day it was a smoked Boston butt with the fixings and a homemade, handmade peach cobbler with homemade ice cream.  Like I said…he can cook.

As we were talking about cooking, he mentioned that he had a scale and instead of measuring all the ingredients, he weighed all the ingredients (in grams). So instead of a cup of flour you might have 283 grams of flour. He said that most recipes give the amounts in grams too. And, if you do this, it becomes really easy to follow a recipe and if I could follow a recipe, I should be able to cook. Boom! Cooking problem solved and I could still get a dog.

The big thing about the scale is that it is just more accurate.  A packed cup of flour is probably a lot more than a cup of flour loosely put in the cup.  Well, the more accurate the measurements are, the better the end result.  Are you tracking with me?  The scale is a game changer and guess what?  So is God. Just like the scale would help me stay on track with the recipe, so God can and will help me walk the path of life.  With Him, life isn’t perfect, but it is better…so much better.

The reason I am a terrible cook isn’t that I can’t read, it is that I want to change the recipe. I always figure if one cup of sugar is good…two would certainly be better.  If a teaspoon of cinnamon is good in an apple pie…well, two should be twice as good.  But if I had a scale and was willing to follow the scale…I could make a perfect pie every time.  And when I, when we, are willing to follow God in the recipe of life…we can cook up some good pies…trust me.

 I have grown to love something that is recorded in one of the Old Testament books.  In Jeremiah 29:11 God says, “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” I know that is written to the nation of Israel, but I also know the truth is written for every one of God’s kids.  So, as you are whipping up days and experiences in the kitchen of life, be sure and invite God to come along.  Follow Him and the disasters are fewer and farther apart.  When the dust from the flour clears, you can be assured that, “He’s got this.” Bro. Dewayne

Posted in Family, forgiveness, friends, Grace, gratitude, Integrity, life, loving others, prayer, Scripture, sovereignty of God, thankful

Puff Graham

If you are faithful in little things, you will be faithful in large ones. But if you are dishonest in little things, you won’t be honest with greater responsibilities.” Luke 16:10

Puff Graham.  Those two words changed our world.  Many of us have heard of and admired Billy Graham.  He was a country boy who later became one of the world’s most renowned preachers.  His passion and love for God and people drew millions of people to hear what he had to say.  His message was simple—God loves you and he made it clear that if a person was willing to ask, God would forgive them and give them a home with Him in heaven.

Many books and plenty of documentaries have been written and made about Dr. Graham but one fact that amazes me is little known.  It was 1949 and he was out in Los Angeles conducting a series of revival meetings.  The crowds were good and the results incredible and the meetings when on for several weeks. Slowly, though, the meetings seemed to be losing momentum and I’m sure it crossed Billy Graham’s mind if it was time to move on.  About that time something happened.

One evening, as he approached the tent where the meeting was being held, he was amazed to find the largest crowd ever.  He wondered what had happened.  Well, what had happened was a two-word directive from publisher William Randolph Hearst.  The directive simply said, “Puff Graham.”  The directive ordered all of Hearst’s vast media holdings to start promoting the young evangelist. Almost overnight, Billy Graham attained “celebrity” status.

I suppose it would have been tempting for Dr. Graham to use that to promote himself but no…he used it only to promote the One he loved.  It is interesting that according to Dr. Graham, he really had no relationship with Hearst.  There was no real reason for this to happen except for one…the providence and sovereignty of God.  I believe God honored Billy Graham for his character and integrity.  He knew He could trust the young evangelist with success.  You see, the truth of the matter is riches are harder to handle than poverty and success is harder to handle than failure.

If we want God to bless us more then we need to be ready and able to handle those blessings.  The One who made us knows if we are ready to be “puffed” or not.  Jesus said, “If you are faithful in little things, you will be faithful in large ones. But if you are dishonest in little things, you won’t be honest with greater responsibilities.”  The story is told of a young man applying for a job.  After the interview, he and the man doing the interview went to the cafe for lunch.  The young man was first in line and the other man watch as he got a pat of butter and slipped it under his napkin so he wouldn’t be charged for it.  Well, he wasn’t charged, nor did he get the job.

“Puff Graham.” Two words that tell a big, big story.  Let’s be sure and be the kind of people that God can do whatever He wants in our lives.  Let’s live worthy of being “puffed” however that looks and whatever that means.  But let’s also be the kind of people who are willing to promote others.  Let’s look for opportunities to lift someone…even if it means not promoting ourselves.  One thing is certain.  We can trust God to do what is best for us and what is best for His Kingdom.  We can rest assured that, “He’s got this.” Bro. Dewayne

Posted in Family, fear, forgiveness, friends, Grace, gratitude, Integrity, life, love, loving others, Scripture, Trials

Busted

He is so rich in kindness and grace that He purchased our freedom with the blood of His Son and forgave our sins.”  Ephesians 1:7

I got caught…plain and simple.  It was a long time ago, and I was just short of being a teenager, that I got caught.  My sister and brother-in-law lived in Daytona Beach and once a summer they would invite me down to spend a week with them.  I always thought it was pretty cool that they did that.  But apparently, it wasn’t cool enough.

You see, every day, they would have to head off to work.  They would leave early in the morning, and they would get home later in the afternoon but at different times.  My brother-in-law would get home first and then about an hour later my sister would arrive. It was kind of them to invite me and trust me with the house during the day.  There were only a few rules so it shouldn’t have been a big deal to follow them.  Of the rules, there was one that was at the top of the list.  It was, wait for it, don’t adjust the thermostat. It was hot, as it always was, in Florida in the middle of summer.  So, one day, I decided to break the rule.

I’m not sure what prompted my act of ingratitude and rebellion, but I turned the thermostat down, way down.  Then I sat back to enjoy the cool, cool air while the meter outside went round and round.  My plan, and it was a good one, was simply to turn the air back up in time for the temperature to adjust before anyone got home.  It was a good plan, but it wasn’t foolproof.  Sometime, oh about 1:00 in the afternoon, I decided to go outside.  So, with the air conditioner humming, I went outside and closed the door which promptly…locked.  Yes, friends, I was locked out of the house with the air conditioning

running.

Well, I stewed and fretted about what to do and the best I could come up with was to rush into the house as soon as my brother-in-law got home and turned the thermostat back up.  Surely it would work.  The fallacy was of course the temperature.  There is a big different between a house that is supposed to be 78 degrees and one that is 65…a big difference.  So, he came home, and I sneaked around and went to the thermostat and immediately turned it back up. Of course, it stopped running and it was then that I heard the voice of justice.

From the kitchen I heard these words, “Dewayne, did you mess with the thermostat?”  Well, I knew the answer and so did he.  I got caught red-handed.  Now, I don’t remember the conversation that followed, nor do I remember if there were any consequences.  But, let me tell you what I do remember. I remember the feelings of remorse that I had treated their kindness with disobedience.  I felt it then and believe it or not I feel it some today. I may have been a young preteen, but I was old enough to know better and my conscience let me know it.

What was true then is true today…and rightfully so.  Sometimes a guilty conscience is a more fitting punishment than anything else.  I had betrayed their trust and that, at least to me, was a big deal.  I only wish I had realized it before that little voice in my head persuaded me to adjust the thermostat.  It’s possible in some small way I felt what Eve felt that day in the garden.  The amazing thing is my sister and brother-in-law must have extended grace because it wasn’t the last time I was invited down.  Oh, and by the way, I never messed with the thermostat again—never.

We all break rules.  Some people break them more often than others, but we are all rule breakers and too often we break the ones God gave us in His Book.  He gave them for our good, but we are just rule breakers by nature.  The amazing part is He loves us so much that if we ask Him, He will extend grace not once or twice but over and over and over.  I know that from experience.

More than once I have “turned the thermostat” down and got caught.  But each time, when I asked, He met me with forgiveness and love. That is pretty amazing.  No matter what you have going on or what rule you have broken, why not try asking Him for some grace.  He loves you and He loves to forgive.  He is a just God, but He is a loving God too.  And no matter the deal, He can handle it.  His grace is enough.  He’s got this.  Bro. Dewayne

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

Writing Every Day

Teach us to number our days carefully so that we may develop wisdom in our hearts. Numbers 90:12

It wouldn’t cut soft butter today but back then it was cutting edge. I’m a tech guy.  I loved the newest and greatest technology.  When a new something comes out, if I’m not careful, I am on my way to grab one.  Of course, the funny part is it usually ends up sitting around somewhere.  Even my iPhone is mad because of the hours it sits on the counter—unloved and unattended.  Frequently I have to apologize for not returning a call or not answering a text…not because I’m ignoring a person—I’m ignoring my phone.

This love affair with tech began when I was a kid. When it came time for Christmas, I would browse the Sears catalogue and dream of the cool gifts that might come my way. And somehow, Momma and Daddy, with a little help from Santa, would pull it off.  Of course, sometimes they surprised me.  It would have been Christmas of, oh, 1966 and I received something totally unexpected and totally cool. It was a small, battery powered, portable reel-to-reel tape recorder.  This was before eight-tracks, before cassettes…before anything.  The size of large book, it gave me the ability to record something and play that something back.

One time I took my recorder to my grandparent’s house in Gainesville, Florida.  My grandfather (there was no “Papa” with him) was talking with my Daddy and was even telling a joke.  I decided to start the recorder and record what they were saying. Sure enough it worked and later, I played the tape for everyone, and we all marveled at the ability for something so small to do that.  But here is the amazing part.  Somewhere in my stuff, is a small reel of tape and on that tape is my grandfather and my Daddy’s voices…probably one of the few recordings to exist.  Even though they are gone…their voices live on.

Their.Voices.Live.On.  Think about that for just a moment.  Both of these men who influenced me so much have long since passed away. But through technology their voices can still be heard.  Oh, I know it is not a big deal now but back then…it was so unusual and that makes the recording valuable.  They are, if you will, speaking from the grave.

In one of those moments of clarity, I recently realized that I too, one day, will speak from the grave.  My life, my actions, my priorities, my values, sermons I have preached, and stories I have written, will all be left behind and all will speak.  And I wonder…what will they say of me and what will they say of who I was?  When my great grandchildren hear the stories of their great Papa, will those stories be stories worthy to share? Will the words encourage them to live right and do right, or leave them scratching their head like a batter thrown a good curve ball on a hot Saturday afternoon? We should all hope to leave a story that is worth telling…one that brings some light and laughter into their world.

There is a verse I keep coming back to time and again.  Moses wrote it thousands of years ago and yet is as fresh as today’s news.  He asked God to help him number his days that he could gain a wise heart.  He wasn’t asking for his math to be accurate when he counted birthdays.  No, he was asking that he be wise enough to make the most, the very most, of every single day.

Legacy.  It is a great word, and we are all leaving one.  The only question is, “What kind will it be?” That is up to us.  Five days a week I write a story but in reality…I write one everyday…and so do you.  Let’s be sure to write one worth telling.  Fortunately, there is a publisher who is all about helping us and if we are Jesus followers, we call Him Dearest Daddy.  He is more than willing to help us write a best seller…after all, that’s just one more thing He does.  He’s got that too.  Bro. Dewayne

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, forgiveness, Grace, gratitude, Integrity, life, prayer, priorities, Scripture, Southern born, thankful, Trials, wisdom

What Lurks Beneath the Surface

Search me, O God, and know my heart! Try me and know my thoughts!     And see if there be any grievous way in me.” Psalm 139:23-24

There was something stinky right below the surface.  There were a lot of things I just didn’t know or understand growing up, but that was ok because my world was pretty low key.  Looking back, maybe, perhaps those were some of my favorite memories in this journey called life. This was especially true in the years before junior high.  As an elementary age kid, it was sunup to sundown adventures. Little did I know that something was brewing right beneath my feet.

We lived in the country which meant no city water or sewer.  In fact, I think I can safely say I didn’t even know there was such a thing.  We had a well and pump in our backyard and that is where our water came from, and I thought that is what everyone did.  We also had something called a septic tank.  That handled all the, uh, waste, from the Taylor Tribe.  There were two things I didn’t know. First, I didn’t know we had one and second, I didn’t know it was right under our back porch.  All that changed when one day big truck pulled into our yard.  It turns out they were there to “pump out our septic tank.”  Now anything that was big and mechanical I was all about.  I watched in amazement as they moved some dirt and pried this huge, heavy slab of concrete off an equally huge tank thing.

It was just about then, I decided to back up because whatever was in there was not cool.  They put a big hose in that tank thing and began to suck it all out.  Now I know this is a bit gross but stay with me.  So, the tank was empty, and they slid the lid back in place and off they went. Well, soon I forgot the big truck and forgot about the thing under our porch.  Months later, I was playing in our backyard, and I noticed that water was bubbling up from the ground…not in one place but several.  And, soon, my nose took me back to what was under the porch.  It turned out that thing under the porch had what was called a drain field…and it wasn’t working. And because it wasn’t working…what was hidden beneath the ground soon wasn’t. The stinky was revealed.

Well, afford it or not, like it or not, they came and dug up a big part of our backyard and replaced the old clay tile pipes with new ones. It was all pretty interesting and soon the holes were covered up and the equipment moved on and magically, the stinky was gone.  Looking back, I think it was funny that something so funky and yucky could be right there beneath my feet and I never knew it…until it came to the surface.  And once it started to bubble up…what was hidden no longer was.

I’ve lived long enough now to know what was true in my backyard is true in life.  So often we allow some foul stuff to hang around in our lives.  You know, secret sins, bad habits, and destructive addictions—stuff rolling around in our minds or banging around in our hearts.  We manage to keep it all under control, “under the ground,” until one day…it bubbles to the surface, and you find yourself wondering, “Where did that come from?”  Worse than that, people start wondering the same thing.  You can take it to the bank that secrets often don’t remain secret.  Moses, yup, the guy who led God’s people out of Egypt, said that we can be sure our sin, or our habits, or our addictions will be found out…they will eventually come to the surface.

What I learned about septic tanks as a kid is true today too.  They needed regular maintenance and sometimes repair to function right.  We need the same.  We need to regularly examine our heart and our conscience to see if there is anything we need to get “pumped” out.  If we are God followers, we need to have the courage to ask Him to check out what lurks below the surface of our lives.  One of the writers of the Psalms in the Old Testament part of the Bible said, “Search me, O God, and know my heart! Try me and know my thoughts! And see if there be any grievous way in me.”

Some prayers are harder to pray than others…and this is one of those.  Search me, know me, try me…know my thoughts.  Giving God permission (though He really doesn’t need it) to pry into your stuff is hard but profitable. I mean, the prying isn’t for Him…it is for you.  It helps you be a better you.  Oh, and don’t worry…you can’t surprise Him.  The big surprise is when you hear Him say, “Oh all that stuff, no problem.  I’ve got this.”  Bro. Dewayne

Posted in Family, friends, Grace, gratitude, Integrity, life, love, loving others, Scripture, Southern born, thankful, Trials

Patrol Boy

But the Lord said to Samuel, “Do not look at his appearance or his stature because I have rejected him. Humans do not see what the Lord sees, for humans see what is visible, but the Lord sees the heart.” 1 Samuel 16:7

It was a dream come true.  Growing up when I did was a blast.  I was born in 1954 (and yes, that was a long time ago) and things were just different.  Life was slower, people mattered more, things mattered less, and respect was a big deal.  I was raised to call people older than me, sir and ma’am.  It’s kinda humorous, but now I am the senior adult and I still call everybody and their brother, “sir.”  It was just ingrained in me from my earliest memories.

Back in those days, when you were in the sixth grade you were the king of the mountain.  You see in Florida in the early sixties elementary school went from first thru sixth grade.  There was no kindergarten.  Part of being the king of the mountain was the prospect of being selected to be a “patrol boy.”  Now, the first thing you need to know is the term “patrol boy” was a term of respect.  Today I think they still have crossing guards but back then…patrol boys were the state police of the day.  They had a belt that went around their waist and over their shoulder and of course, the flag.  It was a two-piece design that was about five foot long when put together.  Oh, I almost forgot.  They had a safety helmet too.  They definitely looked the part.

At the end of each school day, these brave traffic warriors would be dismissed from class a little early to go and man their assigned post. They would put on their belt and helmet, grab their flag, and head out for duty.  Now this was the real deal.  A teacher or aide didn’t accompany them.  The lives of their peers were in their hands—and they were granted authority to stop traffic.  Again, it was an honor and a dream to get that belt, helmet, and flag.  The selection process was done at the end of the school year of our fifth grade.  I’m not sure what the criteria was, but I do know not everyone got selected.

Ok, let’s be honest.  I wanted…I really wanted to be a patrol boy.  It was like I was born for it.  It was my destiny.  I could tell you that I wanted to help save lives.  I could tell you that the safety of every kid who crossed at my post was what drove me but that wouldn’t be true.  No, I’m afraid it wasn’t quite that noble.  I’m afraid it had nothing to do with safety…it had to do with…the belt, the helmet, and the flag.  Now don’t laugh, it was a big deal. The uniform has led a lot of guys to sign up for the Marines.  I was no different.  I wanted people to look at me and say, “There goes a patrol boy.  Leader of peers and a hero to boot.”

Well, it happened.  I was selected and honestly, it was just about everything I thought it was going to be—at least through my eyes.  No one ever called me a hero, nor did I outright save anyone’s life, but there was something about the way it made me…feel. Looking back, I think there is a word for it…pride.  You know there is a good pride…the kind that lets you know you did your best.  There is also the kind that says, “I’’m a patrol boy and you’re not.”  It’s closely related to the kind that says, “I have power and you don’t. You have to listen to me…obey me.”  Bummer.

As far as I know, at least from the outside, I did a pretty good job.  I received and proudly wore my little pin, which I got to keep at the end of the year that marked my service.  No one got ran over on my watch and I think I only got in trouble once.  That happened when one of my fellow patrol boys, a friend no less, made me mad and I whacked him with my flag.  It certainly wasn’t very hero like and trust me it wasn’t as pretty.  Something on the inside—that should have stayed on the inside—oozed out. I realize now that all of us have a tendency to play that game—pretty good on the outside and pretty dingy on the inside.  Someone once said you can fool some of the people some of the time, but you can’t fool all the people all of the time.

There should be another saying that says, “You can’t fool God any of the time.”  You see, God’s got this “vision thing” that allows Him to see right past the skin and right into our heart.  He sees our real thoughts, our real motives, our real selves.  It’s been kind of a “go to” verse for me recently but here’s what it says, “The Lord said to Samuel, “Do not look at Eliab’s appearance or stature because I have rejected him. Humans do not see what the Lord sees, for humans see what is visible, but the Lord sees the heart.” Wow…that is one scary thought.  God sees what matters.  We need to remember that.

Well, I enjoyed my year as a patrol boy.  The next year I went to junior high and went from the top of the heap to the bottom.  In fact, now that I think about there were a couple of guys who did their best to make junior high hard for me.  Today we call it bullying.  I wonder if it was payback for some misused authority.  Hmmmm.  What goes around…comes around.  Anyway, I’m glad I don’t have just a “patrol boy” watching over me.  Nope, I have the King of Kings and that’s pretty awesome!  I don’t have a thing to worry about because “He’s got this.” Bro. Dewayne

Posted in Family, friends, Grace, gratitude, Integrity, life, loving others, prayer, Scripture, Southern born, Trials

Be A Barney

For instance, there was Joseph, the one the apostles nicknamed Barnabas (which means “Son of Encouragement”).” Acts 4:36

It happened driving down the road at 55 miles per hour.  When I was growing up, there was one man outside my family that I respected so much…one that garnered my admiration. It was my pastor.  His name was James Branch.  I happened to be an insider at his house because his son was one of my best friends. It didn’t matter when or where—I always saw him as a man I could trust and more than once he was there for my family.  When my Daddy died early one Sunday morning, he was at my house.  I can still remember him on the back porch in his white shirt minus the black tie he wore, consoling my Momma.  She was so upset and began to hyperventilate. Bro. Branch, with his hand on her shoulder, softly spoke words of comfort and peace. There can be no doubt he played a big role in how I would later serve as a pastor.

That might be why it stung so much.  I received an email a while back from a national organization. It revealed the results of Gallup’s national survey on American’s perception of the honesty and ethical standards of different professions.  Not surprising, 89% of Americans gave nurses high or very-high standards.  Doctors stood at 77% followed by pharmacists at 71%.  Well, I certainly can’t argue with that.  These dedicated folks have surely shown their colors during the COVID-19 pandemic.  Hats off to our schoolteachers too who scored 75% and our men and women in blue who scored 52%—the only other profession about which a majority of Americans say have high or very high ethics and honesty.

The article went on to say that clergy or ministers came in at 39% when it came to honesty—right between judges and nursing home operators.  While senior adults as a group ranked pastors higher (51%), the younger generation (ages 18-34) rated pastors only at 24 percent.  To put it in perspective, in 1985, pastors received a 67% rating.  When I think of my pastor in 1974 who stood on the back porch with my grieving family, I have to wonder, “what happened?”  Why is it that so many think so lowly of clergy? Some of the reasoning, I believe, is a cultural shift—while too much, might, just might, be the truth. It seems we can only go a few weeks without some named pastor being in the news for some breach of trust.  I just don’t know.

When I read this news, I grieved. After all, pastors, above all other Jesus followers, should be, must be, people of integrity.  We should set the example.  Granted, we are not perfect—in fact far from it.  Like the old saying goes, “Christians, including pastors, aren’t perfect, we are just forgiven.”  I like that.  This is why what happened that day driving 55 miles per hour meant so much.  My phone rang.

I looked at the caller ID and saw it was a young man who is a member at the church I pastor.  Honestly, I wondered why he was calling.  While we speak often at church, he is not on my speed dial and I’m sure I am not on his.  I answered the phone and exchanged greetings and said, “Hey, what can I do for you?”  What happened next was not what I could do for him, but what he did for me.  I won’t get it all right, but the bottom line is he said, “I know you have a really hard job right now with all that is going on.  I want you to know as one of the younger generation, I think you are doing a good job.” He shared how he and another of our young guys were talking the other night—sharing the same thing.  It made my day and I told him so.

It turned out that he was driving in the same direction as I was and had passed me and just felt prompted to make that call.  I’m so glad he did.  It is one of those times I just wonder if the Whisperer whispered in his ear and said, “Call Dewayne.  He needs a good word about now.”  And thankfully he did.  So, let me encourage you to be an encourager.  We all know people who just need a word to help keep them going.  There was a guy in the Bible whose name was Barnabas, which literally means “encourager.”  I’m assuming he was such a positive force in the lives of others, someone said, “We’ll just call you Barney…and it stuck”.

So, to my Barney that Friday morning, thanks.  Thanks for listening to the Lord and thanks for encouraging a guy who happens to be a lot older than you and who happens to be a pastor.  And keep it up.  There are a lot of empty cups out there that need filling. I love the fact that my Dearest Daddy believes in me.  I’m still amazed how much Judy believes in me.  But when someone outside that circle cares and believes…that is special.  Let’s join Jesus and be the light in someone’s day.  Encourage everyone you know and assure them that everything is going to be great. Why? Because “He’s got this.” Bro. Dewayne

Posted in Family, forgiveness, friends, Grace, Integrity, life, love, loving others, Scripture, Southern born, thankful, Trials, wisdom

Your Slip is Showing

A good person produces good things from the treasury of a good heart, and an evil person produces evil things from the treasury of an evil heart. What you say flows from what is in your heart.” Luke 6:45

Pardon me, but your slip is showing.  Change is everywhere.  I can well remember my Momma getting dressed for church.  In those day she always wore a couple of extra “accessories.”  First, she was a big fan of what I guess was called a girdle.  As I remember, these things were designed to hold things in place around a lady’s waist.  I never saw Momma put one on, but I know she wore one.  How?  When we were sitting in church, I would get bored and start doing “things.”  Things are anything that helped me pass the time.  So, I would poke my Momma in the side, only to find that it was hard as a rock.  As impenetrable as the Great China Wall, there was something firming things up.  I suspect it was “the girdle.”

The other thing was something called a slip.  As best as I could tell it was worn under a lady’s dress to ensure that nothing was seen through.  Now I know more about this because my Momma always wanted to be sure her slip wasn’t showing.  It was important to have the slip shorter than your dress by a couple of inches.  Well, since she couldn’t see behind her (we didn’t have a full-length mirror), she would say, “Dewayne, is my slip showing?”  I would get behind her and give her the report.  I think in our early years of marriage, slips were still in vogue.  I’m pretty sure Judy asked me to give her the “slip” report too.

Nobody, and I mean nobody, wanted to get to church and have their slip showing.  How many times did we get somewhere public and there in front of us would be a lady with her slip showing? Momma would sadly shake her head and say, “Oh my, her slip is showing.  She should have had someone check.”  Well, some time ago slips went out of vogue and so also went the way of the slip report.  No slip…no report.  But the saying still lingers.

When you hear someone say, “Your slip is showing.” it means that something they intended, or perhaps should have intended, to be hidden is there for everyone to see. Well, here’s a news flash.  Someone needs to tell everyone that their “slip” is showing in social media.  Now I am not a social media person.  I use it to post Grits, to make a couple of church announcements and wish people happy birthday.  But beyond that, it just isn’t my thing.  But even with that limited exposure, and thanks to folks who sometimes tell me what they see, well, there are a lot of “slips” showing.

I’ve almost stopped being shocked at what people write on social media.  It seems people confuse the privacy of their journal with things like Facebook.  Things that should never be written or spoken spew on the pages like a bad case of the stomach flu.  Hurtful, painful words too often fill the screen of our devices.  I remember one time a lady who attended our church at the time wrote some very un-Jesus like words.  I asked her about it, and she said, “Well, I didn’t know the whole world would see them.” What? Duh?”

So, I think when we see someone being unkind and harsh in social media we should just say, “Pardon me, but your slip is showing.”  Now “showing your slip” with unkind words is never right.  You know your Momma taught you, “If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all.”  Well, Jesus gives us another perspective and warning.  He tells us that out of the abundance of the heart, the mouth speaks.  In other words, what comes out of our mouth is simply revealing what is in our hearts. And if hurtful, unkind, and sometimes untrue words flow from our mouths, or our fingers, according to Jesus, it is just revealing what is in our hearts.

I know, if you aren’t a Jesus follower that doesn’t make a lot of sense but hey, kindness is really in vogue these days even in the secular world.  It might be selective kindness, but it is there.  Now, if you are a Jesus follower, God gives us a word for this kind of practice.  It is called sin.  No matter the circumstances or the way we attempt to justify it, it is sin.  If you feel the need to express your displeasure with someone, why not try praying.  God is always up for an authentic prayer on behalf of someone and you also won’t be surprised to hear “your slip is showing.”

I happen to be one of those people who too often speaks without thinking but I am learning to hit the pause button.  They say the older you get the more you lose your filter. You say things…and write things…that are just not right, or kind or both.  Then, you end up telling God you are sorry and experiencing that regret thing.  Of course, you may not have any remorse…and that is the saddest of all.

So, what do you say?  Let’s start a “Pardon me, your slip is showing” campaign.  It is a gentle way of letting someone know that their communication, whether it be social media or spoken, shall we say, is embarrassing. They may not thank you now but maybe, just maybe, they will later.  And if you are like me and sometimes wrestle with putting your mouth in gear when you shouldn’t, ask God to help.  He will, trust me.  This is a big deal to Him.  The good news is that like everything, “He’s got this.” Bro. Dewayne

Posted in Family, friends, gratitude, Integrity, life, love, loving others, priorities, thankful, wisdom

Baits, Hooks and Bill

A friend is always loyal, and a brother is born to help in time of need.” Proverbs 17:17

His name was Bill, and he was an investor—in people.  When Judy and I landed in Warrensburg, Missouri via God, and the Air Force we began attending First Baptist Church.  For us God and the church thing was an all-in deal so soon we were singing in the choir, attending church, and going to Sunday School. Our Bible Study teachers were Bill and Edith Hensley, and they were a class act.  The time we spend in their class was rich in every way imaginable.  We build friendships and did life together.  It seemed that whether you were in the Air Force like I was or a professor at the local university or a lawyer, it just didn’t matter.  We were pilgrims journeying with each other and with Jesus and it was good.

Bill was a lawyer by trade and a disciple-maker by faith.  He believed in Jesus, believed the Bible, and believed in people—including me.  I’m not sure how it happened but he kinda adopted me and began investing in me by teaching me about fishing, hunting, and growing in my faith.  He loved to fish.  He would often call the house and say, “What time is it?”  Now it might be time to wash the car or time to mow the grass, but I knew what the answer was.  “It’s time to go fishing” I would reply and in about 30 minutes I would be in his pickup truck heading to some pond to see if we could catch a bass or two.

That was the case one late summer evening.  We had the boat out in a small pond.  Things had been slow, and the sun was just about to call it a day.  Bill suggested that I make a cast or two more toward the shore.  He pointed out a log that just broke the surface about three feet from land.  I gave the rod a swing and amazingly that ole hula-popper landed right up next to that log.  A hula-popper is a soft lure that sounds just like a wounded frog when you pull up on the rod.  I pulled up on the rod and heard the familiar gurgling sound.  Nothing happened.

I gave it another tug and two things happened.  First there was a small splashing sound and second the lure stopped dead in the water.  At first, I thought I had snagged the log, but I soon realized I had hooked a pretty good size bass.  Now since it was late summer the water was a bit cool so there wasn’t this epic battle—you know, man against whale.  Instead, it was like reeling in a big piece of wood.  Of course, there was a tug here or there but whatever was on the other end of the rod wasn’t up for much of a fight.

Before long the fish was beside the boat and Bill got the net and bought him on board.  It turned out to be a good-sized fish.  It was a 6.5-pound largemouth bass.  I couldn’t believe it, Bill couldn’t believe it and I am pretty sure the bass couldn’t believe it either.  Well, we snapped a couple of pictures and headed for shore with the bass safely in the fish well.  I asked Bill if I should have him mounted but he said no because I was sure to catch a bigger one someday in the future.  Well, I haven’t and honestly, I believe he knew (because I didn’t know) my Air Force salary couldn’t handle the cost.

Bill and I enjoyed many more fishing trips before I finally moved out of the area and over into Southern Illinois.  I slowly lost touch with Bill and Edith and now they are both in heaven.  I am sure they heard, “well done.”  I can only imagine how many lives they touched.  I do know that night I learned a couple of good lessons.

The first lesson came thanks to that old bass.  I wonder how many “almost” nights he had laid up by that log.  You don’t get to be 6.5 pounds in a few nights or by making bad decisions.  So many a night there he lay and each of those nights he was wise enough to say no when a fisherman came by with a tempting bait.  For some reason that night was different.  It wasn’t that I was an expert, and it wasn’t that the bait seemed that real.  More than likely he just let his guard down and bit the bait.  That night at the cost of his life he learned a valuable lesson.  As Bob Goff puts it, “It is always better to resist the bait than struggle on the hook.”  Now that is good advice. So, in these days that take way too much energy just to do life, don’t get too lax and make a really bad decision.  Resist the bait.

The other lesson was from Bill…the man who invested his time, his wisdom and even some of his resources in a young Air Force sergeant. Bill was simply a good man who loved Jesus.  He was busy but he wasn’t too busy to pour his life into mine.  The Bible says, “A friend is always loyal, and a brother is born to help in time of need.” Bill was that to me and I know that I am a better person for knowing him.

In days like these when it seems the chief topic is survival, don’t get so self-absorbed that you can’t invest in the folks in your world.  There are plenty of people like me who need someone a little wiser to speak into their lives.  Why not be that voice?  That voice may be whispering, “Don’t take the bait” or it might be encouraging someone to trust in the One who is worthy…to trust and rest in the God who made it all.  I think Bill was one of the ones who spoke into my life and helped me believe that I could trust God because, “He’s got this.”  Thanks, Bill.  Bro. Dewayne