Posted in Family, Grace, gratitude, life, love, prayer, thankful, travel

The End Isn’t the End

The heavens proclaim the glory of God. The skies display his craftsmanship.” Psalm 19:1

It seemed like the end of the road…but it wasn’t.  My wife Judy and I live in Southern Illinois.  I know, when you think of Illinois you think about Abraham Lincoln and Chicago but believe me there is a whole lot more to Illinois than that.  The part of Illinois that we call home is south, way south.  Our nook and cranny of Illinois, which is right at the Shawnee National Forest, is crammed full of natural beauty.  Lush forests, rock bluffs, waterfalls, and hiking trails galore are but a few of our treasures.

Often Judy and I will get in our car and just drive. One of our favorite drives takes us up to U.S. Highway 1 heading east.  The area is pure country with plenty of green scenery and rolling hills.  The road ends in a small town called Cave-In-Rock.  There are a few stores, a couple of restaurants and, you guessed it, a large cave in a rock.  The story goes that the cave was used by river pirates.  Fess Parker’s movie, “The River Pirates” was filmed there.  It is really worth seeing.  But there is one more thing that grabs my attention.

You see, U.S. Highway 1 ends at Cave-In-Rock and it ends by running right into the Ohio River.  You are traveling down this really, nice road and all of a sudden…boom…you’re done…no more road.  The end.  But guess what?  It’s not really the end because right there in town where the road ends, is an old fashioned, but fully functioning, ferry.  It is provided free of charge for those who need to keep going to the other side…to Kentucky. It turns out, about every 15 or 20 minutes the ferry makes a run carrying people to the other side.  So, what you thought was the end…wasn’t.

Today I did a funeral for a real nice lady and told the crowd gathered there that it seems when we go to cemeteries that all the headstones seem to say, “The end” but I told them that isn’t necessarily so.  I told them that the end didn’t have to be the end, but rather a new beginning. I also told them about how a man, a man we shouldn’t know anything about, changed everything by dying and then coming back to life.  I told them that He promised that if we would believe in Him and what He did, that He would give us life eternal, too. That means that death isn’t a dead end, but a way for us to get from here, where things are broken, to a place called heaven where they aren’t.

I know, I know.  Sound a little old fashioned?  Sound a little archaic? But maybe it should sound like something else…like hopeful.  Maybe, just maybe it is worth checking out.  Some people think things like God, heaven and hope are just crutches to lean on, but I think something different.  I think they are a reality…something that each of us need to look into.  When I look around at all this beauty in my part of the world, I just get the sneaking suspicion that it is too grand to be an accident. When I look up and see a zillion stars, they all seem to be saying, “Hey, God created us.” Yup, I have a feeling that it was created by Someone.  Amazingly a whole chunk of the world agrees.

I hope this Grits might at least stir your interest in the hope that Jesus can give.  I mean it is worth checking out since 100% of us are going to come to an end out there somewhere.  Why not check it out?  God can handle our doubts and accusations so don’t worry about offending Him.  Go to Him with your questions and listen carefully.  You might just hear a gentle whisper as He tells you He loves you and yes, “He’s got this.”         Bro. Dewayne

Posted in fear, forgiveness, gratitude, life, prayer, Scripture, thankful, travel, Trials

Big Foot, Lions, Tigers and Bears

 “You will have suffering in this world. Be courageous! I have conquered the world.” John 16:33b

If you remember from yesterday, Judy and I had climbed to the top of a bluff in Southern Illinois.  It was smack dab in the middle of the COVID hot mess and we needed a break, so we took a hike.  As we stood there, it was just beautiful. Tens of thousands of acres were bursting into spring and God was shouting, “Hey just like winter’s dreary brownness must give way to the new life of spring–this will pass.”  It was a good moment.  Before long, with night just over an hour away, it was time to go down from the bluff and head home.  Folks say there is no place like home–that is if you can find it.

Well, the magical phone app Judy was using is called, “All Trails.”  It really is quite cool. You start the app at the selected trailhead and using GPS it guides you through the woods.  The trail is shown right there on the screen–even ones that aren’t even there. And that, dear friends, is where the fun began.

So, according to our trusty app, Stoneface trail made a loop back to the car.  Now a loop is better because you don’t have to see the same scenery twice.  It’s all new.  We decided to take the loop.  At first the trail was pretty evident.  We came to a low split rail fence across the trail.  We thought it meant no horses on Stoneface.  What it really meant was if you go past this point you are going to die.  We went past that point.

We walked and hiked for a while and strangely that grumpy feeling started coming back again.  It may have had to do with the fact that I started to realize that the app was lying to us.  “Trail? What trail? I don’t know anything about a trail.” So, we reached the point where we had to go down the bluff.  Remember, there is no trail, there is no sign of a trail…only a friendly app that kept saying, “you’re on the trail.”

Now there are not words to describe this journey but I’m going to try.  We were walking, sliding, down a 90% embankment (ok maybe it was like 20%) and rocks covered with leaves are rolling like ball-bearings under our feet. We cross rivers (ok- creeks), change time zones, and go through small Grand Canyons.  I’m growing concerned.  “Hey Judy, we have less than an hour of daylight.” “No problem” she said.  “The app says we are on the trail,” she said.  I won’t tell you what I said.

On we went with our app spewing out lies about trails.  Then it happened.  I saw some movement out of the corner of my eye and there just forty yards away was Bigfoot–or the Abominable Snowman–I couldn’t tell for sure.  We were in deep weeds.  Then, I heard a duet being played by a banjo and guitar.  Yup–we were going to die.  On we marched–lions, tigers and bears frolicked all around us.  “Hey Judy,” I said.  “The app says…,” she said.

So, the app lied.  Period.  But there is one thing it didn’t lie about.  After about an hour or so, she said, “I see the car.”  I said, literally, “Thank you Lord.” Another ten minutes or so and I was hugging that glorious thing–no, not Judy, the car.  So, what is the moral of this strange and twisted trail–I mean, tale.  Trust.

While the app didn’t tell the truth about the trail, it did tell the truth about the one thing that mattered–the destination.  It led us to the car.  And, you know, I think the app kinda reminded me of God. First and emphatically, unlike the app, God never lies…we just stop believing and trusting Him.  We think He promises paved roads and smooth journeys and then we get mad when He doesn’t deliver.  Read this carefully–God never promised that.  In fact, Jesus said in John 16:33b “You will have suffering in this world. Be courageous! I have conquered the world.”

He told us the path would be rough.  He told us the trail would be difficult.  He didn’t promise storm free living, rather He promised He would never leave us–never abandon us, and He doesn’t.  Most importantly, He said we are going home, and we are.  If we confess our sins, trust in what Jesus did on the cross, turn from our sins and choose to follow Him–we are going home.  That is the gospel truth–literally.

So, there you go.  If you go to Stoneface…don’t take the loop.  If are feeling overwhelmed–trust Jesus.  If you are feeling like God didn’t keep His end of the deal…remember the truth…it’s not smooth sailing but He is leading us home.  No matter how big the waves of the storm, He is bigger.  So, rest in Him.  He’s got this.

Posted in gratitude, life, Scripture, thankful, travel

Stoneface

 “A person’s steps are established by the LORD, and He takes pleasure in his way.” Psalm 37:23

Stoneface.  Without context that could means several things.  Like when you are late for supper again…and your wife gives you the look–stone face. Or you have your eye on a parking spot and someone whips in front of you and you give the other driver the look–stone face.  Well here in Southern Illinois, it can also mean a rock formation that when viewed from the side looks like a man’s face.

During the COVID shutdown, Judy and I decided to take a hike and see this natural formation.  After work, we slipped on some comfortable shoes and drove out to the trailhead.  That is where the story begins.  Now this is going to be a two-part deal so be sure and tune in on tomorrow for part two.

So, at the trailhead, several things became apparent rather quickly.  One, the trail wasn’t maintained very well.  Well, actually it wasn’t maintained at all.  There were holes, rocks, roots, and a host of other hazards that made the hike not difficult but challenging.  Second, it was wet.  There were several places where water had found a way to puddle up (it didn’t practice social distancing) and the result was a mud obstacle course. I should have worn my boots. Third, at times the trail became difficult to follow.  Now at no point did it totally disappear but it was a little difficult to see.

Oh, and there was one more thing. Up. The trail went up. That shouldn’t have caught me by surprise since Stoneface was up and I was down.  But after a while it occurred to me that this was more up than I thought it should be.  The bottom line is this hike was not meeting my expectations and I might have gotten a little grumpy. Judy with her optimistic spirit was chatty all the way up.  “Oh look,” she said at a rock by the trail. “Oh look,” she said at a tree growing by the trail.  Like I said, I may have been a little grumpy.

After a while we got to the top of the bluff and the trail improved and so did my attitude.  I started noticing the rocks by the trail. Do you know what?  They were beautiful.  I started noticing the trees by the trail.  Each one was unique–hand crafted by a God much bigger than me.  Within a few minutes I too was quite chatty.  God had impressed me.

From the top of the bluff the rock formations were incredible and so was the view.  You could see the beautiful Southern Illinois landscape for miles and miles.  The handiwork of God was awesome.  As we were standing on top of the bluff I looked down and right there, slightly below us, was Stoneface. It was smaller than I expected but more detailed and obvious too.  About then it happened. I was glad to be there.

The rocks, roots and holes on the trail were far less significant.  The times when the trail seemed difficult to follow no longer mattered.  My chatty sweetie that seemed a little annoying on the way up seemed especially beautiful at the top. It was worth it. And just about then it hit me.

God’s plans for me–they’re not always smooth and paved.  They have their potholes and puddles.  They aren’t always downhill for He is often leading me uphill for a view from the top–to see His grandeur.  Psalm 37:23 says, “A person’s steps are established by the LORD, and He takes pleasure in his way.” That means that God directs my life and He is leading me in a way that is for my good and His glory.  Always.

Proverbs 3:5-6 says, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and don’t lean on your own understanding.  In all your ways, acknowledge Him and He will make your paths straight.”  2021–trust.  Illness–trust.  Personal loss–trust. Unemployment–trust. You get the idea.  The path may be a little challenging but the view from the top will be worth it.  Always. So, trust Him.  Rest in Him.  He’s got this.  Bro. Dewayne 

Posted in fear, forgiveness, Grace, gratitude, life, loving others, missions, prayer, priorities, Scripture, thankful, travel, Trials, wisdom

Perseverance

Trust in the Lord with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding. Seek His will in all you do, and He will show you which path to take.” Proverbs 3:5-6

Perseverance…don’t quit.  In my inventory of weaknesses is something that I wish wasn’t.  I would like to tell you that I have the perseverance of a thoroughbred race horse bolting from the gate with only one goal—to finish and to finish first.  And while I am not a quitter, I do sometimes, “peter out.”  Merriam Webster defines that as “to gradually become smaller, weaker, or less before stopping or ending”.

During 2020 there were too many times when I just wasn’t sure I was going to finish well—or finish at all.  But that wasn’t always a bad thing because it caused me to look inwardly and upward—to my Dearest Daddy.

During those times when I wasn’t sure of much of anything, it was then that I found myself turning to the One who was sure.  When my steps were unsure, I found myself tracking with the One whose steps were rock solid and sure.  I think 2020 taught me something of hanging in there—to persevere—to keep going.  While I was out west this past May I saw it over and over again.  First, it was a wild flower blooming in what can only be called dust.  The roots had somehow dug deep and found the water of life.  I saw it in a small tree as it grew from a crevice in a large rock.  It made no sense but somehow that tree decided there was a way to grow in an impossible place.

I saw it too from another small tree growing from a large rock in the middle of a lake.  There was no soil to be found and yet it grew…it persevered.  It decided that it would survive, it would thrive, even though the odds were totally against success.  You see, the Bible is filled with stories of men and women who trusted God against all odds.  A shepherd boy becomes a king, another “has-been” shepherd leads a million or so people to a new land—the promised land.  A band of eleven men from various walks of life chose to follow a young rabbi (who happened to be the Son of God) and the message they shared changed the world.

All of these folks failed at one time or another, but they didn’t quit.  They chose to persevere.  If you wonder how America has lasted for these 245 years, there are two reasons.  The hand of God and the perseverance of ordinary men and women who gave what they had for a cause they believed in. A.Cause.They.Believed.In.

We have survived one of the greatest challenges we have faced in our lifetime—the pandemic of 2020. However, I am sure the greater enemy wasn’t the pandemic, but rather the division that swept our land like a wildfire. Someone wiser than you or me once said that a house divided against itself cannot stand—Jesus said that before Lincoln did.

William Carey, a great missionary, once said, “The future is as bright as the promises of God” and I believe that is true today.  But we need to learn from the founding fathers, from the men who stormed Normandy or trudged through the jungles of Vietnam or froze on the hills of Korea.  We have to learn again to trust the hand of God.  The Bible says that we should trust God with everything we have and turn away from the tendency to trust ourselves.  If we do that…He will guide us…He will direct us.  We also need to learn the lesson of that small tree growing from that giant rock.  We will not quit, we will persevere—we will find life in the most unlikely of places.  Trust God and don’t quit.  That sounds like a plan.

With the pandemic largely in the rearview mirror, it seems to some degree we have been given a second chance.  I hope we will take advantage of this gift God has given us.  I hope we will learn the power of perseverance and the power of four simple words, “Love God…Love People.”  I may not know what tomorrow holds but I do know the One who holds tomorrow and that is good enough for me.  I am certain no matter what, that as always, “He’s got this.”

Posted in Family, gratitude, life, missions, Scripture, thankful, travel, USA

Monuments or Mountains

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 live.  Over the years I have visited some 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.

Several weeks ago, 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 see 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 amazing 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, then 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 hour 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 chose 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 or what seems to be hot mess, 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 Family, gratitude, life, love, loving others, missions, prayer, priorities, Scripture, Southern born, sovereignty of God, thankful, travel

June 12th

Give thanks to the LORD, for He is good; for His steadfast love endures forever!” 1 Chronicles 16:34 (ESV)

I wonder if one day is really enough.  It was in 1863 when President Lincoln decided that we needed to have a defined day of Thanksgiving.  So, the final Thursday in November was so designated.  Later, on October 31, 1939, and strictly for business reasons, Franklin Roosevelt redesignated it as the next to last Thursday in November and since then that has been the day we celebrate Thanksgiving.  But wait, it isn’t November, and in fact, it is nowhere near November, so what gives?

Well, what gives is June 12th.  You see, I graduated from high school on June 8, 1972 and the following Monday, June 12th, I left for basic training in the United States Air Force.  It wasn’t a matter of strategic planning but rather a slight misunderstanding.  A friend suggested we join together under what was called, “The Buddy Plan.”  Two guys could join together, go through basic together and then be assigned together for their first assignment.  Well, we agreed, I signed up and he didn’t.  But here’s the deal.  I am absolutely certain that God sovereignly planned that for my good and His glory.

It turned out the Air Force was a good move for me.  It taught me dozens if not hundreds of life disciplines that have served me well all of my life.  God used the Air Force to position me to meet my wife Judy and then to teach us how to pick up and move when an authority said too.  For us, and between the Air Force and God, that included a year in Georgia, three years in Germany, six years in Missouri and finally 35 years in Illinois.  We learned to go when and where we were told, and we learned to trust.  It also helped us forge a strong marriage that has seen us through 45 years of adventures.

It turned out that God was also using the Air Force to prepare me for the real purpose of my life—our lives together—the pastorate.  Strangely, but really not, it was also on another June 12th, this one in 1983, that I was ordained into the gospel ministry.  And because God has a great sense of humor, I found myself pastoring a church with, well to be blunt, no training whatsoever.  I well remember I was filling in at a church when they asked me to be their pastor. I told them I didn’t know how to do that.  They replied, “Don’t worry, we will teach you.” And do you know what?  They did.

The game changer was the fact I was trained as an administrative specialist in the Air Force and when God spoke to my heart with a new set of “orders,” I was prepared.  Twelve years of administration were like twelve years of on-the-job training for the pastorate.  I learned to write, research, organize and manage an office.  When I stepped out of the Air Force and into a church office, I was strangely at home.  Of course, nothing could prepare me for what has sometimes been a wild ride of pastoring a church.  It has been a journey, a glorious, “you’ve got to be kidding me,” ride.

As I glance in the rearview mirror of my life, I am overwhelmed with the incredible goodness of God and that has led me to this conclusion—one day is not enough.  We need Thanksgiving but even more we need to celebrate, “Thanks-living.”  As you can probably guess, Thanks-living is understanding the importance of living a life that celebrates the goodness of God every day.  Someone said that there are two ways to live life—nothing is a miracle or everything is a miracle.  I’ll take the latter.  Also, I think the heart of those brief words speak to being grateful too.  Everywhere, everyday there is something to be grateful for.

So, tomorrow, is a special day for me and Judy.  Even though she wasn’t there for the first June 12th, she was there for the second and every one since.  She has been my best friend, my ministry partner and my cohort in our many adventures. I thank God for her, our family, and the countless folks we have met along the way.  The Bible tells us to, “Give thanks to the LORD, for He is good; for His steadfast love endures forever!” I think that is a pretty awesome idea.  I don’t know what the years ahead hold, but if it is anything like the past, it’s gonna be a great ride and of course, no matter what, He’s got this.  Bro. Dewayne

Posted in Family, fear, forgiveness, Grace, gratitude, life, loving others, missions, prayer, Scripture, sovereignty of God, thankful, travel, Trials, wisdom

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 fear, Scripture, thankful, travel, Trials

Wildfire

“A word spoken at the right time is like gold apples in silver settings.” Proverbs 25:11

Nothing could have prepared me.  When my wife Judy and I traveled out west we witnessed what we had only seen from afar on the news. The devastation of a wildfire.  It seems like everyday this time of year there is a story of yet another fire gone wild.  Sometimes, too often, they are in California but this one was in Colorado.  While we didn’t actually see the fire, we were engulfed in its affects.

As we drove on I-70, we traveled some of the very same places we went when we traveled with Amtrak going west on the California Zephyr.  It was interesting to see from the car what we had seen from the train.  Part of that route had been the victim of a wildfire a year or two before.  While much of the ground cover had recovered, many of the ravaged trees were still there reminding those who saw it of what had happened there.  At least there was a glimpse of life from the greenery that covered the ground.  It seemed to say, “There is hope.”

When we arrived on the west side of Rocky Mountain National Park we saw something totally different…something that said anything but hope.  I wasn’t sure exactly when but it was obvious a much more recent wildfire had consumed what it had taken nature hundreds and hundreds of years to grow.  Acres and acres, in fact, hundreds upon hundreds of acres had been burned to the point that only a black char remained.  As it turned out, in October of 2020, a fire had swept through a vast portion of the park.  Sadly, it appears to have been started, not by something, but someone.

The ranger said that the fire was driven by winds of hurricane force as it swept over the hills and through the valleys.  And yet, there was a miracle.  Right before it would have consumed the town of Grand Lake, a moisture laden fog moved in and saved the town.  For the lush forests, it was simply too late.  In a matter of 24 hours, that part of the park was horribly scarred for the foreseeable future.  The power of the wildfire that I had seen on the news suddenly became very real and personal.

It made me think.  It helped me remember.  You see James, the half-brother of Jesus, wrote in the Bible book that bears his same, about another kind of wildfire.  He was writing about the tongue and the damage it can cause when he said, “But a tiny spark can set a great forest on fire and among all the parts of the body, the tongue is a flame of fire.”  A.Flame.Of.Fire.  There is nothing else quite like the tongue.  A harsh word casually spoken, a criticism thoughtlessly thrown, a sarcastic comment—in a moment in time just as the fire consumed the beauty of nature so our words can scar the people-scape around us.

While a word thoughtlessly cast can destroy, a word of kindness can have the opposite affect.  Proverbs, a Book of Wisdom, in the Bible tells us, “A word spoken at the right time is like gold apples in silver settings.” What a strong contrast.  Our words can be like a fire that destroys or a gentle fog that holds the fire at bay—like the one that stopped the fire that October evening.

Destruction or delight, ravaging or restoring…the choice is ours.  Today, as we journey, let’s be “word aware”…understanding that we hold in our words the power to destroy or heal.  I know my past holds some painful memories of word abuse and for that reason I am very grateful for grace.  Today ask God to help you hold your tongue when needed and release it for good when the opportunity arises. Need a little help?  Not a problem.  Simply ask God and He will be there to help you make the right move…the right choice.  Rest assured…He’s got this. Bro. Dewayne

Posted in Family, Grace, gratitude, life, Scripture, travel, Trials, wisdom

Joy in the Journey

Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!” Philippians 4:4

It just depends.  My wife Judy and I recently returned from a trip out west.  It was a trip that would involve flying and driving.  It was also a trip with one purpose…to get away, to relax, to enjoy.  It is not uncommon for us to take a trip and encounter some less than perfect weather.  We have learned to say, “Oh well, at least we are still away.” Away…that’s a good thing.  You see, the purpose of a journey can often determine the success of the journey.  Set your sights too high and too narrow and you will often find frustration and stress.

Let me explain.  The first leg of our journey was simple…get to Colorado as quickly as possible.  Because that was the goal…we flew.  Also, because that was the goal every delay caused me to have a stressful moment.  Long check-in, stress.  Long security, frustration.  Flight delay, double both.  You see, the point was to get there…not to enjoy the journey.  When I was much younger, just the thought of getting to fly was exciting.  I would always ask for the window seat so I could watch the world go by.  The joy was the journey, but now, alas, it is just a means to get somewhere, and the wonder and joy have slipped away.

Leg two of the journey was different.  It was a hybrid of experiences. Renting a new and different car to drive, driving in a new part of the world, and going at a pace that better enabled me to enjoy it. Usually. But honestly, there was still a battle to be fought…an alligator to be wrestled to the earth.  I had to determine if the destination was the goal…or was it the journey?  I mean I know that there is always a destination but if that becomes obsessive, the joy quickly slips away.  It was my call—enjoy the journey or race to the destination.

You see, if I am racing to the destination, then put me on an interstate highway where the roads are wide, and the speed limit is high.  Out in Wyoming, the speed limit on the interstate was 80 mph…Katie bar the door.  Oh, and those long, straight two-lane roads—yup, 75 mph.  That fit my destination minded mindset just fine, thank you.  But then there were the times that we were in the Rocky Mountains on a curvy, mountain road just driving.  There really wasn’t a place we had to be—we were just driving and that changed everything.  If there was a slower driver in front…that was fine. We would just sit back and enjoy the scenery as it slid by the windows.  The journey was the destination and joy was the result.

But here is what I discovered.  As soon as there was a “gotta be there” destination and mindset then that same road and that same slow driver became a stress point.  The only thing that changed was the pressure to get there.  That same scenery was an ignored blur as the only thing that mattered was looking for a passing zone so I could get there—wherever there happened to be.  The end of the day often told the story—tired and stressed or refreshed and blessed—the way I traveled seemed to make all the difference.

There will always be a destination to get to and there will always be slower drivers and unexpected obstacles to keep us from getting there, but joy in the journey changes everything.  Jesus knew that His destination was a Roman cross, but He never let the that stop Him from enjoying the day and loving those around Him.  He loved the joy of the journey.  I can just imagine Him smiling as He changed the life of a leper or blessed a small child…all joy in the journey.  Paul, one of the guys who wrote a large part of the New Testament, said, “Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!”  In other words have joy in the journey…no matter what that journey looks like.  He did that really well.

So, when you find yourself on a winding, two-lane road, enjoy the journey.  Take a moment to watch the beauty around you slide by the windows.  See what God has allowed to come into your world that day and the destination will come soon enough.  And when you find yourself backed into a rushed corner, there’s a couple of things you can do.  First, plan a little better when you can and then use that extra time to talk to the Father about that day or maybe relax in Him because, “He’s got this.”  Bro. Dewayne

Posted in Family, forgiveness, Grace, gratitude, life, love, loving others, Military memories, prayer, priorities, Scripture, thankful, travel, Trials, USA

Heroes

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

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 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.  Bro. Dewayne