Posted in Family, friends, Grace, gratitude, life, love, Scripture, thankful, Trials

Walking Together

Two are better than one because they have a good reward for their efforts. For if either falls, his companion can lift him up; but pity the one who falls without another to lift him up.” Ecclesiastes 4:9-10

“Love Will Keep Us Together.”  It is one of our songs from the 70’s and it has been a way of living for us.  We sleep in the same bedroom in the same bed.  We eat our meals together.  We go out and eat together.  We watch television…mostly together.  We travel together…doing vacations…together.  We are a together kind of couple.  The old saying goes, “the family that prays together, stays together” and I do believe there is truth in that statement. A nationally known speaker said that 80 percent of couples who pray together stay together.  Interesting…if nothing else.

Well, this week my wife Judy and I carried this together thing to a new level.  Tuesday of this week, after a week of being ill with traveler’s disease (there’s a Grits story on that), I began feeling a little puny.  As the day went on, I felt worse.  Of all days, it was Judy’s birthday, and she had a lunch party with several of her friends so we didn’t see each other till after I got home from work.  So, I walked in, and she was sitting at her desk. I think I spoke first and said I just wasn’t feeling good, and she responded with, “I don’t feel good either.”  We decided to postpone our birthday dinner plans and sat around each progressively feeling worse.

Being a COVID veteran, I had my suspicions but didn’t say much but the night and the next morning said it all.  We both tossed and turned, got hot and then cold, had headaches (her’s was mega) and body aches. I got up first and felt just miserable and then Judy came in.  Now Judy is one of those folks who rarely gets sick and rarely complains.  She came into my office and simply said, “I feel terrible. We need to go the doctor.”  Well, she took a home COVID test and it was a clear positive.  The long and short of it all, we both had COVID, and it was one more thing we did together.

I told her I was grateful she was sick with me.  Let me explain. First, because I didn’t have to walk this alone and, second, I knew she could identify with how I felt.  Her body hurt like mine.  When I had COVID over year ago she was sympathetic but this time she empathic.  What is the difference?  Think of it this way.  If a person on the shore sees a person struggling in water and throws them a life preserver…they are sympathetic. But when that same person jumps into the water and struggles with that person…they are empathetic.

Over the last forty-six years of marriage (we celebrate that on June 26th) we have had plenty to celebrate but it occurred to me that we sometimes miss reasons to “tip our glass.”  This might be one of those.  We walked the COVID valley together, caring for one another, helping one another.  We walked the dark road each shining light on the other’s path.  That is love and frankly, that is a little Jesus too. It probably is a great example of Proverbs 4:9-10, “Two are better than one because they have a good reward for their efforts. 10. For if either falls, his companion can lift him up; but pity the one who falls without another to lift him up.” It’s true in life, it’s true in marriage and it is true in COVID.

So, there you go.  It is wonderful to have a wife and a friend like Judy to walk with me, but did you know there is something even better?  You see my Dearest Daddy in heaven walks with me too.  Honestly, I felt so bad I couldn’t even think about praying but that is ok because the Bible teaches that the God’s Holy Spirit was praying on my behalf.  And, the Bible also says that Jesus is constantly interceding for us too.  Talk about a prayer team.  That might be why I just know that if I listened, I would hear the sweet whisperer whispering, “Don’t worry, son, We’ve got this!” Bro. Dewayne

Posted in fear, forgiveness, friends, gratitude, life, loving others, missions, Scripture, thankful, travel, Trials

Sleepy Lions

Stay alert! Watch out for your great enemy, the devil. He prowls around like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour.” 1 Peter 5:8

We found him sleeping in the grass.  Sound asleep.  A while back I had the privilege of going to Uganda and visiting with Watoto ministries.  The trip allowed me to see the incredible work of Watoto up front and personal.  They work with orphaned babies and children as well as single mothers.  They raise the kids to become Christian leaders and help the mothers provide for their families.

Part of the trip involved us going to Northern Uganda to see the work there. It also gave us the opportunity to take a one-day safari.  A safari gives you the opportunity to see animals in the wild.  You are on their turf and their terms.  We saw a large variety of animals but there was one we all wanted to see.  The lion.  It is like the holy grail of safaris–to see the “king of the jungle.”

Our guide that day just happened to be one of park rangers, so he had access to areas others did not.  So off we went.  Before long there was a report of a lion sleeping in a tree.  We went cross country and before long, bam, there was a lion…sound asleep.  Well, it was pretty incredible–asleep or not. We snapped about a hundred pictures of our sleeping friend and moved on.

We drove for about 30 minutes and another report came of a group of lions about 50 yards off the road.  Our guide, the ranger, told the driver to drive though the ditch and he did.  Sure enough, there were the lions.  There were about five or six of these magnificent beasts–all sound asleep.  What is up with lions and sleeping?

Well, it turns out that lions sleep 20 hours a day.  They hunt, eat and sleep.  That’s about it. Our driver gets to within five or six feet of the sleeping feline.  Our guide shouts, the driver honks the horn and nothing.  And then he does something totally unexpected.  He throws water on the lion.

What? Excuse me? Well, the king of the jungle, who turned out to be a queen, sits up, yawns and looks at us.  Hmmm…this lion thing is not what it is cracked up to be.  You would be tempted to think that every lion was like this lion.  That would be a mistake.

You see, there are some nasty lions out there and they would like to invite you to lunch. Lions are vicious predators and will eat you. I’ve watched enough National Geographic shows to know that not all lions are created equal.  I also know this.  Not all lions live in Africa.  In fact, there is one who lives close–very close.  He doesn’t have a mane or a tail, but he does have an appetite.  His name isn’t Mufasa or Simba. It is Satan.

The Bible, in 1 Peter 5:8, says this, “Stay alert! Watch out for your great enemy, the devil. He prowls around like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour.” On the safari we stayed alert looking for a lion. In this case we need to stay alert because the lion is looking for us.  And guess what?  He’s looking for lunch.

Peter said Satan is like a roaring lion.  If you’ve studied lions a bit, you know that a lion doesn’t roar when its stalking prey.  A lion roars for two different reasons.  One, he is declaring his dominance.  He is claiming his territory. This is mine.  He also roars to invite others to join his pride. The devil does both.

Satan is always roaring saying “this is mine and that is mine” but nothing is truly his. Nothing. It belongs to a much larger, much stronger Lion–the Lion of Judea. Satan is a liar–remember that. He wouldn’t know the truth if it stared him in the face. No pun intended.

He is also looking for others to join his pride.  He is looking for people who are discouraged and disheartened with life and with God and inviting them to join him.  Joining him is a big mistake. He is a loser, and he knows it.  That is why he is roaring so loudly.  His time is limited and he wants to take as many with him as he can.

Now if you are a believer, Satan can’t steal your salvation, but he can steal your peace, your character, your witness, your family, your integrity–well the list goes on and on.  That is why Peter said, “Stand firm against him, and be strong in your faith.” Peter knew from experience just how good Satan is at taking what is not rightfully his.

Jesus said in John 10:10 “The thief comes to steal, kill and destroy.”  That’s the enemy but Jesus isn’t done speaking. He goes on to say, “I have come to give you life and life more abundantly.”  He is saying, “if you trust Me, the Lion of Judah, you can rest in Me. I’m never asleep and I’m never out-gunned. I’ve got this.” And, He does. Bro. Dewayne

Posted in Family, Grace, gratitude, life, loving others, Scripture, thankful, Trials

Songbird Stubbornness

Don’t be misled—you cannot mock the justice of God. You will always harvest what you plant.” Galatians 6:7

Some people…some things are just slow learners.  A couple of weeks ago, my wife Judy was “grand-dog” sitting for our daughter Jennifer and tribe.  It was a great opportunity to sit back and relax and have some space.  She read, she walked, and she just did Judy stuff. I was back home going to work so it is possible there was just a little jealousy on my part.  It just sounded like she was just having more fun than I was.

Where the tribe lives there is plenty of country and plenty of wildlife.  Deer are frequent visitors to the backyard with an occasional skunk, raccoon, and possum.  Oh and every once in a while, Bigfoot stops by for short visit.  There was one rather intriguing friend who showed up every day and did the craziest thing.  You see, there was this beautiful bluebird that would spend a large portion of the morning and a chunk of the evening sitting the patio.  There was food there, water was also available, so it was a good gig.  But that wasn’t the crazy thing…this was.

This bluebird would fly into the glass of the bedroom window by the feeder. It wasn’t a mistake, it wasn’t bad navigation…it was intentional. He would take off, fly straight into the window, bounce off and then return to his perch.  He would then do it over and over again.  Fortunately, and apparently, he didn’t have time to build up a lot of speed so there was no damage to the window and little to him…though he certainly had to have a splitting headache.  And the truth is if you were to go to their house this morning that little bird would be doing the same thing today.

This obviously caused Judy and I to try and figure this all out and I think we finally did.  You see, the window has a film on it that can make the window somewhat like a mirror.  The best we can tell, in the reflection caused by the window, he saw what he thought was another male bluebird and that was just not going to cut it.  So, he decided to do something about it and flew over to “take care of business.”  How about that?

There are two lessons in this little story and if we learn them, we should all be grateful to the little bluebird.  First, don’t think that everyone or, in his case, everything is your enemy.  It’s too bad that our friend didn’t think to have the bird in the mirror over for lunch.  He would have quickly learned that what he thought was an enemy…was himself.  It has been said, and it certainly is true, that sometimes we are our own worst enemies. And, hey, when the enemy is a reality, go ahead and extend just a little grace. After all, you catch more flies with sugar than salt.

The second lesson is more personal and personally profitable.  Our friend never seemed to figure out that the bird in the window wasn’t real.  Over and over again, he banged into the window appearing not too smart and getting a whale of a headache in return.  You see, it just doesn’t make sense to keep doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.  Paul, one of the heavy weights who wrote a lot of the New Testament said, “God won’t be mocked.  Whatever a person sows, he will also reap.”  Paul was right.  If you want a different result…you must do something different.  God advice…good advice.

So, this week as you journey, if you find yourself tempted to fly into a window or a wall, hit the pause button.  Ask yourself if the collision is going to be worth it.  Ask yourself if this headache is worth a bigger one!  Oh, and just in case you find yourself doing something over and over again with the exact same result…maybe, just maybe, you should try sometime different. After all, if you want something besides corn, you gotta sow some different seed.  And if all else fails, well, you can always ask the Dearest Daddy of heaven for some advice.  I think you will find His way is always best.  You know, “He’s always got this.”  Bro. Dewayne

Posted in Family, fear, food, friends, Grace, gratitude, life, loving others, prayer, Scripture, sovereignty of God, thankful, travel, Trials

An Angel from Bowling Green

The steps of a good man are ordered by the Lord…and He delights in His way.” Psalm 37:23

Did you know that some angels come from Bowling Green, Kentucky?  Well, my wife Judy and I recently returned from vacation.  Now, I really like vacations.  We are blessed that God has provided the means for us to go and our church (I’m a pastor) provided the time.  And believe me…it was time.  We saved, planned, and decided a return trip to Punta Cana sounded like just the thing we needed.  We bought tickets, made the reservations, and like the old Willie Nelson song says, we were back on the road again. And…we were excited!

We decided to stay at a place where we had stayed several times before.  We figured with Covid and all of that it might be better to go to a place we were familiar with.  We had a great flight down and soon we are were in paradise….well, sorta.  Truthfully, it was somewhat apparent that Covid had taken the wind out of the sails of our familiar place. It just wasn’t the same.  But, like we always say…at least we were away. The Dominican is a great place, but you still must be careful…stay at the resort, eat at the resort and above all…don’t drink the water. Most of the time Judy and I are good rule keepers…and we were this time, too.

Then came Wednesday.  That day I could tell my appetite was a bit off, but it was no deal. At supper that night I ate very little and as we walked back to the room, I told Judy I just felt a bit sad.  Well, in a few minutes, I found out I wasn’t sad…I was sick.  In spite of all my precautions, I apparently had the dreaded “traveler’s disease.”  If you don’t know what it is…I’ll let you look it up, but it is enough to say it ain’t fun. Period.  Well for the next two days I pretty much stayed in the room and by Saturday, going home day, I wasn’t much better.  We boarded the bus for the airport and things went from bad to worse.

As we sat there, my stomach got more and more queasy, and I was pretty certain I was going to quickly be the most unpopular guy on the bus.  Meanwhile as I doing my best to “keep my cookies,” Judy was having a great conversation with the mother of a family sitting by us.  She was talking to them, and I was talking to myself, “Don’t lose it, don’t lose it.”  Soon we arrived at the airport, thankfully with stomach intact, and got into a very long line to check our luggage for the flight.  I tried but I just couldn’t stand there so I told Judy I was going to the restroom and try and sit-down.  She kindly handled the luggage and both backpacks and I went and collapsed.

I watched from a distance.  I was praying, “God, I sure need Your help, but I know I need to trust you…so Your will be done.” While I was praying there, Judy was praying in line. Soon, but not soon enough, Judy was almost at the counter and waved for me to come on over.  I did and when I got there, the friendly family “just happened to be” in front of her.  I was standing there, more miserable than ever, and the mother’s mother, mouthed the words, “Are you ok?” I simply said I was not, telling her my stomach was very upset.  And then…it happened. The mother said, “I have some Pepto Bismol in my luggage, would you like some”?  I responded with a very grateful “yes”.

So right there, though she was next in line, she laid her luggage (which was the size of Texas) on the floor, opened it up, dug around (she packed like Judy…smile) and quickly produced a small bottle of Pepto.  I quickly opened it up and took a swig.  Borne on the wings of prayer, within a few minutes, and I do mean a few minutes, I was much better.  No, I wasn’t normal, but I knew I wouldn’t be losing my cookies.  A dose or two later and I was much, much better. I was going to survive.  And all of that…because a caring Dearest Daddy heard the prayers of His kids.

Some would be tempted to say it was happenstance, some would say it was just a nice person being nice, but for those of us who know God, we know differently.  It makes me go back to that great verse in the Old Testament part of the Bible, “The steps of a good man are ordered by the Lord, and He delights in His way.”  You see this whole thing was all about God and not about me.  He took care of me…and it delighted Him to do so.  I love that.  So, while the vacation didn’t make the top ten…God did.  In fact, He is number one and the only One.  It just proves what we have learned together…He’s got this.  Bro. Dewayne

Posted in Family, gratitude, life, loving others, Scripture, thankful, travel, USA, wisdom

Mountains or Monuments

Where there is no vision, the people perish.” Proverbs 29:18

It was on my bucket list.  I confess…I am a pretty big fan of America. I mean, even with all of its warts, and there are plenty, with all its flaws, surely a bucket full, it is the best place to call home.  Over the years I have visited over twenty-five countries—some in Europe, some in Asia and some in Africa.  Some were affluent, some were poor, and some were somewhere in between. All had something to offer but none could match this land I call home.  While some of my visits were brief, my wife Judy and I lived three years in Germany and the final word was…wait for it…home is better…there is and was no place like home.

I think the secret to learning to appreciate where you live is to learn to look for the good and not bad, the whole and not the broken.  The way we look at things can vastly change how we experience things.  A few days ago, I mentioned a quote from a movie that I had watched which, by the way, was based on a true story.  The guy said, “There are two ways to live—either nothing is a miracle, or everything is a miracle.” He opted for the latter and I think I will too.

Last year, we were out west on a trip with part of our tribe.  The main, but not only, destination was to see Mount Rushmore.  I’ve seen a chunk of America, but I hadn’t seen that…and yes, it was on my bucket list.  So, the day came. As we drove toward the monument, suddenly, around a curve we were face to face, if you will, with Washington, Roosevelt, Jefferson and Lincoln and it was amazing.  We parked the car and frankly, the closer we got, the more amazing it became.

This great tribute to America (no, it wasn’t just a tribute to four men) took over fourteen years to build.  As you keep in mind it was about ninety years ago, you begin to appreciate the vision, work, and skill that it took to turn a mountain into a monument.  I was amazed to learn that many of the workers, who often had 12 hours days, were paid about $14 dollars…a week.  Those were hard times, and they were grateful to have a job.  But for many…the job became a passion…a mission…a cause to believe in.

Somewhere along the journey, they stopped seeing a mountain and began to see presidents.  Somewhere along the journey they began to see what Gutzon Borglum saw. While the project wasn’t his idea (that belongs to a guy named Doane Robinson) he was the one that chose that mountain.  The quality of the stone led him there and, honestly, where others saw just a mountain, he saw presidents. He.Saw.Presidents.

So, perhaps, just perhaps, it does matter what we see around us.  Perhaps if we choose to see miracles…or like Borglum to see monuments where others see just a block of stone, perhaps we can help make this world a better place.  Perhaps our lives, regardless of our messy circumstances, will take on a deeper meaning and a deeper purpose.  Perhaps if we learn that it is not about us but about others…things will change…for the better.

One of the writers in the Old Testament part of the Bible said that when people don’t have a vision, when they choose to see desolation rather than miracles, well, they perish.  It is true individually and it is true corporately.  If we are going to see a better world, two things need to happen.  First, we need to learn not to just see a mountain but what that mountain can become.  Secondly, and this one is for God followers, we need to believe again that with God nothing is impossible.  As we stand on the edge of the new normalcy, with that stinking COVID in the rearview mirror, let’s choose to believe again.  And why stop there?  Why don’t we determine to see presidents where others see mountains and believe that “He’s got this.”  Bro. Dewayne

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

Thanks, Daddy…and Momma

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Posted in Family, 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, fear, forgiveness, friends, Grace, life, loving others, Scripture, thankful, Trials

Grace and the Big Bang

Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those in Christ Jesus.” Romans 8:1

I had no idea.  I never saw it coming.  When I woke on that Wednesday morning, I had no idea that something as dramatic as an automobile accident was going to occur.  In fact, up to the point of impact everything was routine and then just like that, it changed. Now keep in my mind, in the world of accidents, mine was, well, minor.  No one was hurt and that was the most important thing.  But regardless, it was a big deal.  It was the kind of deal that leaves a person scarred and wiser.

That accident at that corner happened 16 years ago and yet to this day, I never approach it without thinking about that day.  I always, and I mean always, look both ways several times…just to be sure.  Yes, the big trees and bushy bushes that obscured my vision that day are long gone but the memories are not.  They are my constant companion next to me in the driver’s seat and they whisper…be careful.  That is not a bad thing as long as they are whispering and not shouting.

Perhaps there is an “accident” in your past that has left you a little scarred and a little wiser.  The important thing is to make sure it stays in the past, forgiven, and is only invited in your present to whisper a wise word or two.  The lessons of the past can help us not make the same mistake in our todays, but don’t let them own you.

Two more lessons came from that Wednesday “Closer Encounter of the Ouch Kind.” I learned that little things could take down big things.  The other driver was driving a much smaller car, a Honda Accord.”  I, on the other hand, was driving a Pontiac Grand Prix.  Logic would say that I would win the day but amazingly my car was totaled, and she was able to drive her car away from the scene.  How is that possible?  She was the one who delivered the punch and fate determined where.  She hit me right at the door post of the driver’s side door.  It was a critical area that bend the firewall and a bunch of other things that weren’t supposed to be bent.  Bottom line? It was a knock-out punch.

An important lesson was reenforced in my life that day.  Smaller things can cause massive damage to bigger things.  It is true with cars, but it is also true of things like reputations, character, and life.  It is important that we guard our heart and minds and keep the things that matter well-guarded and safe. Remember the words written by the wisest man ever to live, King Solomon.  He said we need to catch the little foxes that ruin the vines.  You see, ruined vines don’t produce grapes and a ruined character takes a long time to recover.

Oh, and there was one more very important lesson from that day.  The accident was my fault but there were some extenuating circumstances.  The big trees and bushy bushes really shouldn’t have been there and later they were removed.  But in my hand remained the ticket that said, “This was your fault.”  The police office apologized for having to write the ticket but it all still said, “It was your fault.” But then an amazing thing happened.  Someone heard about the accident and the ticket and extended…grace.  Though I was technically in the wrong, they also knew the circumstances and the ticket was dismissed and the fine removed. Grace.

Paul talked a lot about grace in the New Testament part of the Bible but perhaps he said it best in a letter he wrote to the Christians in Rome.  He said, “There is no condemnation for those in Christ Jesus.”  In other words, because of Jesus, the guilt and penalty for their sins, for our sins, can be removed. And it doesn’t happen because we earn it, it happens because He loves us. You see, if we will believe in who Jesus was and trust what He did…the charges and penalty can be removed.  We can be declared, “Not guilty.”  How about that?

You may or may not have an “oops” on your driving record, but we all have plenty of oops as we travel the highways of life.  It is good to know that there is Someone who has the power and the authority to extend grace—unmerited favor.  His name is Jesus, and He is waiting to help us.  No matter how obvious, no matter how big, you need to know, “He’s got this.” Bro. Dewayne

Posted in Family, forgiveness, Grace, life, Scripture, thankful, Trials

Skunked

Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me.” Psalm 51:10

The little stinker was not welcome.  A while back we went down to visit our daughter and son-in-law down by Kentucky Lake.  We really went to see the grandkids, but we won’t tell them that.  The place where they live is just beautiful.  Close to the lake and surrounded by beautiful woods, it is the kind of place drinking a cup of coffee in the morning was made for.  Of course, this time of the year, everything is lush and green.  Gone is the bareness of winter as the time for things to sleep was replaced by a time of new life.

Because they are in a forested area there is plenty of wildlife around.  It is not uncommon to see deer feeding down by the tree line and birds of every sort.  Up the road a piece is a herd of Bison, a few horses, and cattle.  They have a couple of dogs too, which adds to the mix.  Oh, and then there was the unwelcome guest.  Two or three days before our arrival, my son-in-law spotted a skunk in the backyard.  They were hoping that he was just passing through, but apparently, he kinda likes the place.  Even when they don’t see him, they know he is around by the pungent odor that he carries with him.

Their two dogs, Rupp and Callie, seem to have a real affection for the skunk. They can’t wait to run down to the woods to try and find their new friend.  Despite all efforts, they keep running and looking and one day, well, its gonna happen.  Saturday morning during our visit, there was a “close encounter of the skunk kind.”  Rupp is the much more obedient of the two dogs.  He will generally come when he is called and while he and the skunk are pals, they are not on a first name basis.  Callie on the other hand has gone over the edge.  That morning, Callie took off and either met the skunk or came close because she came back wearing some of his perfume.  It wasn’t a direct hit, but there was an aroma.

She came in the house and ran into the master suite and soon it wasn’t “sweet” any longer. What she apparently loved to roll in was, uh, not so pleasant to us.  In fact, both occupants of the bedroom were up and outta there.  Now personally, Callie didn’t smell that bad to me.  Either my smeller wasn’t as sensitive (no COVID, thank you) or I quickly got used to it, but regardless it wasn’t a big deal.  Well, Callie ended up banned from the yard forever (except on a leash) and Jen ran her through the equivalent of a dog carwash.  She did smell a lot better. Hey, no harm, no foul.

So that evening, after driving back home, I put on the same pajama shirt that I had worn that morning and proceeded to study my sermon.  As I sat at my desk, I noticed a faint but familiar odor—it was the offensive perfume.  Apparently, there was an odor after all and later when my nose was more awake, it became evident. I changed shirts and threw that one in the wash.  Hopefully by the time we visit again, Mr. Skunk will be history.

You know I was surprised to smell the odor on my shirt that evening.  That morning I didn’t smell a thing and that night it was clearly obvious.  What was the difference?  I think there was enough odor in the air at my daughter’s house that my shirt simply smelled like everything else.  I grew too accustomed to the odor.  The offensive smell became “normal.”  I have a feeling that may happen more often than we realize.  It has nothing to do with skunks, but everything to do with our “skunky” or sinful actions.

If we are not careful, we become too accustomed to our harsh words, or our negative mindset or our unkind actions.  And, because they are part of our “normal” we never ever know it.  But remember this…those around us know it and Someone even more important knows it—God.  The best way to fix the problem is to live in such a way, that that kind of “normal” is never normal.  Just like a fresh environment revealed the odor in my shirt, we should allow our environment to be so pure that anything stinky will become readily apparent.

One time King David of Old Testament fame got more than a little “skunky” and spent most of the rest of his life trying to get rid of the stench.  He prayed a lot during those days and one of his prayers went like this, “Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me.”  That’s a good prayer for sure.  And, by God’s grace, he was made clean.  In fact, he was known as a “man after God’s own heart.”  So, when you get “skunked” just take it to the Father and rest assured that He can handle anything and everything.  He’s got this—even our stinky sin.  Bro. Dewayne

Posted in Family, food, friends, Grace, gratitude, life, love, loving others, Military memories, prayer, Scripture, Southern born, thankful, travel, USA

Home is Better

He will wipe every tear from their eyes, and there will be no more death or sorrow or crying or pain. All these things are gone forever.” And the One sitting on the throne said, “Look, I am making everything new!” Revelation 21:4-5

Who would have known?  In 1977, my wife and I packed up our stuff and moved to Germany.  It wasn’t a sudden urge we had—it was courtesy of the Air Force.  When we had been married about seven months, we received an assignment to move to Europe.  We were excited about moving there, but also realized Germany was 4,657 miles from everything that was familiar to us.  We were off on a great adventure, without cell phones or internet!

We loved it.  Our part of Germany was filled with history and beautiful landscapes.  Rich forests and small hills and mountains framed every view.  And honestly, it was a little like home.  While it was true that the local folks spoke a different language, there was enough English sprinkled around that we were able to get by.  We even learned a little (and I do mean a little) German to help.  We drove our cars on the right side of the road, just like home (unlike the Brits), we could drink the water just like home, we had stores kinda like home, and we even had a church…just like home.  But it wasn’t…home.

Throughout the three years we were there, we would celebrate when it came time for friends to “ship” back to the United States.  Our church even had a special song titled, “Goodbye, World, Goodbye” that we sang every time someone left to go back to the states.  They were bitter-sweet moments.  We would miss them, but we knew where they were going. They were going home.

There was one thing that we would do, every once in a while, to remind us of home.  It might seem strange, but it wasn’t to us.  Germany was a place of great food but once again…it wasn’t home.  I found out that not many Germans eat grits.  Imagine that. But they did share one thing that was purely American—McDonald’s.  Located downtown in a large city, not too far from where we lived, was a McDonald’s very much like ours back home. And when we could afford it, which wasn’t often, we would go and have a taste of home.  Each bite of the burgers and fries said, “Remember home.”  Each bite said, “This place is good but remember, it’s not home.”

Well, one day it was our turn to go…home.  It was our turn to hear, “Goodbye, World, Goodbye” and know it was for us.  It was our turn to leave there and go home and as soon as we were home, we knew instantly that while “there” was very good—it wasn’t home. Home was better.  Home was home.

Jesus followers need to remember that very important truth—Home is better—Home is home.  This world is good.  We enjoy life with friends and family, and there is a McDonald’s on every corner.  But what used to remind us of home now reminds us that we are not there…yet. Even with all its warts and imperfections, God has done a great job providing us a temporary location to live out our days, but remember, Home is going to be—better.  The Bible tells me that Heaven is a place where there is no more pain, suffering, sickness, or sorrow.  No hospitals, no nursing homes, and no funeral homes.  Simply put—the former things are gone, and everything will be new.  Home will be better.

I know I speak for Judy too when I say that our time in Germany was three of our favorite years together. I also know I speak for her when I say home was, and home is, better. Life here is good but one day, it will be my turn, your turn, to find out that Home is better.  When it came time to leave Germany and go home, the Air Force paid for our ticket and I am glad to let you know that our ticket to Home is paid for too—by God’s Son, Jesus Christ. All we must do is accept it and when we do—life here gets better and Home is thrown in. When we accept it, we find out that God loves to give us a “McDonald’s” or two, here and there, just to remind us of Home…to remind us that till we get there, He is with us and that at every turn, “He’s got this.”  Bro. Dewayne