Posted in Family, gratitude, life, love, loving others, missions, prayer, priorities, Scripture, sovereignty of God, thankful, travel

Precious Memories

And we are confident that He hears us whenever we ask for anything that pleases Him.” 1 John 5:14

It’s a song we often sing at funerals…but it’s also a good song to live by.  The other day I was sitting around talking with some friends and we began sharing about some of our experiences.  Before long we discovered that our friend had been in the military and spent some time in Germany…just like my wife and I.  Before long, our sentences were punctuated with, “I remember…” and the room swelled with great times and great memories.  I know from where I sit there are some incredible times where God just blessed.  One of those times was my vision trip to work on the islands of Lake Victoria in Uganda.

This would be one mission trip that I would be taking all by myself.  There was not a team and Judy was unable to go.  It was me and God and I discovered that was good combination…a great combination.  I remember (there’s our word) that I had asked the church family to really pray for me while I was gone.  In fact, I gave them three specific things to pray for. First, I asked them to pray for my time in the boat.  Because we were ministering on the islands, we would spend several hours a day in a small (about 25 feet) open boat.  We would be cruising Lake Victoria, the second largest lake in the world.  In fact, it was like a small sea.  I sometimes have a tendency for motion sickness. Normally that is limited to going “round and round.”  However, when it comes to waves and boats it can be “game on.”

My second prayer request was for an effective interpreter. When you speak with an interpreter, you say a few sentences then you pause, and he interprets what you said. Well, during my previous trips to another part of Uganda when I was teaching and preaching, my interpreter was very good.  It was almost like he was an extension of me.   I knew having a good interpreter would greatly impact the effectiveness of the trip.  So I asked for prayer that God would send just the right man.

Finally, I asked my friends and family to pray that I wouldn’t wimp out.  Now hang on–I’m not a newbie in the world of mission trips, but it was my first solo journey.  There is a time to whine and a time not to whine. Is that in the book of Ecclesiastes? The bottom line is the time on any mission trip is too valuable to be a whiner. So, I needed to be flexible and remember this whole deal wasn’t about me but Him and them.  There is saying for people who go on mission trips.  It says, “Blessed are the flexible for they shall not break.”  Amen, Lord, Amen.

So, for those of you who wonder if God answers prayer, the answer is, “He does.”  When we pray for His will to be done and His purpose to be accomplished, hang on because those are prayers He loves to answer. To be direct and to the point—God answered the prayers of His kids clearly and specifically.  First—no motion sickness.  The lake was not calm–in fact one day we had whitecaps.  Still—without a pill or a patch—I was totally free from motion sickness.  That interpreter?  God answered that prayer with a local pastor who was better than any other person I have worked with.  He was so animated and led of the Lord—totally awesome.  Last, wimping out?  Well, those of you who know me best would probably have said, “Who is this guy?”  One time when it was 10:00 pm and our supper had still not yet appeared, I almost whined but was able to stifle it. God was just incredibly good, and I came home with a full heart and a vision of how we could begin a ministry to the people who lived on the islands of Lake Victoria.

It is important to remember that God is not a genie with a magic lamp.  God is not Santa Claus waiting to receive our wish list. God is not a vending machine where we put our quarter in and get what we want.  God is God.  And when we pray for His will to be done…amazing things can and do happen. John, one of Jesus’ closest disciples, said, “And we are confident that He hears us whenever we ask for anything that pleases Him.” That is not a statute of limitations but rather an invitation to join God in His work.  Let’s join God in a conversation…not just when you are in trouble…but rather every day.  You will find that He is waiting and willing to have a chat with you.  Oh, and don’t be surprised, when He responds, “Don’t worry, I’ve got that.” Bro. Dewayne

Posted in Family, fear, gratitude, life, prayer, Scripture, sovereignty of God, thankful, travel, Trials, wisdom

No-See-Um

“Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.” Hebrews 13:8

I slapped my arm but didn’t see a thing.  About thirty years ago we were visiting in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan.  It was a beautiful area, and it was almost like being in another part of the world.  There were rich woodlands, new foods to enjoy and the crystal-clear water of Lake Michigan. It reminded me of some of the places I have visited in Europe.  With all its wonders there was one thing that I didn’t like…no-see-ums.

Most of us are familiar with the various biting pests we find flying and crawling around.  There is the bomber-size horsefly.  You can usually hear them coming…even before you see them coming and their bite is horrendous. Then there is the yellow fly and that pesky one that hovers around when you are sitting on the patio.  They seem particularly innocent and that’s when they get you.  And the king of biting insects is, of course, the mosquito.  Some people wonder why God created the mosquito.  I think it is one of the great mysteries of the universe.

While not too common around here, the no-see-um that I encountered in Michigan was a flat-out, no doubt about it, pain in the neck—or else wherever those chose it bite you.  They are very small…in fact…smaller than a flea.  Because of that you will feel the bite and go to swat at the culprit but see nothing to hit.  They are a neutral color and manage to just “blend in.”  Their bite is painful and can take hours or even days before a welt shows up on your skin.  Well, since I don’t make too many trips to the Upper Peninsula, it wasn’t too big a deal…until I found out they like South Florida.

When my wife Judy and I checked into the place we were staying in Fort Myers one of the first things we did was go and sit on the balcony that overlooked Estero Bay.  It was beautiful.  From our fourth-floor vantage point, we could see for miles and saw dolphins, manatees, fish, birds and even an alligator.  However, it wasn’t what we saw that soon grabbed our attention…it’s what we didn’t.  Soon, too soon, we were slapping and scratching but not seeing.  We soon realized that no-see-ums love South Florida as much as they loved the Upper Peninsula.

Well, we retreated inside until we could find something that would discourage them from making us lunch.  A day later we were eating at a local restaurant and there on the table was “No-See-Um” spray. It was all natural and Judy tried some and thankfully it worked.  Not all but most of the misery caused by these almost invisible, blood sucking, stinking, pain-in-the-neck (you can tell I’m a little bitter) insects was finally over. And, for the ones who managed to escape the spray, I learned to spot them and eliminate them.  And yes, there was pleasure in revenge.

No-see-um bites are painful and adding to the pain is the fact that you don’t see it coming.  I mean a horsefly is big enough to spot and sounds like a small helicopter coming in for a landing.  Even a pesky mosquito buzzes if it’s close to your ear.  But the no-see-um is a sneaky one at best.  And do you know what?  Some of the most irritating and painful things in life are too.  How many times have you been just having the best day and some circumstance comes along and changes everything?  The truth is it happens too often.  But there is good news.

While we sometimes can’t change our circumstances and sometimes all the wisdom in the world won’t change an outcome, there is hope.  And that hope is found in a relationship with a God who will not leave us or forsake us and is wiser, bigger, and stronger than anything we will face.  I know you hear that from me a lot but there is a reason…I believe it. I’ve been a Jesus follower for several decades and while there have been plenty of pesky and painful things along the way—He has been faithful—even when I wasn’t. I love what the writer of Hebrews said in the Bible, “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.” Period. Big or small, visible or not, there’s just comfort in knowing that no matter what, “He’s got this.”  Bro. Dewayne

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

Dangerous Currents

Here on earth, you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world.” John 16:33

For the first time in a long time, I was genuinely frightened, in fact, I was afraid.  One of the things we enjoyed about our getaway at Key Colony is the fact that we can snorkel right there.  At each end of the beach, two small jetties have been built.  They extend out into the water for about 75 feet and keep the waves from passing boats and storms from creating waves that might take away the sandy shore.  Fish like reefs and in a way that is what the jetties are—the underwater nooks and crannies make great places for the small fish to eat and hide.

While only a few of the fish have brilliant colors, there are literally hundreds of them.  It is fascinating to watch them as they swim in large spools or dart in and out of the rocks…looking for food and making sure they don’t become lunch themselves.  One morning, I was heading out for a swim with my mask to see what I could see.  A guy who had been spear fishing earlier said that if I would go out to the point on the west jetty, I would see some large angel fish.  So, without much thought, I headed out.  Maybe I should have thought.

You see, on the other side of the jetty is a large channel that went to the other side of the island.  It is a major thoroughfare for all the fishing boats going in and out so naturally the water was much choppier there.  I began to swim out making sure my breathing tube from my face mask stayed above the water.  As I swam, I looked for fish but really the water was too murky to see.  It was also too murky for me to realize that I couldn’t see the rocks in the jetty either.  I lifted my face out of the water and saw that I was being carried by the strong current out into the channel.  I was concerned.

I immediately turned around and began to swim back toward the jetty and the relative safety and calm it provided. I had my face in the water and through the murkiness could occasionally see the bottom.  What I saw wasn’t good.  As I took a stroke forward, I was being carried back more than I was moving forward.  I picked up the pace and intensified my efforts and slowly, too slowly, began to make some progress but swimming against the current was very difficult.  In a short period of time, I was gasping for breath through my breathing tube and my arms were very tired.  The outcome was in the balance.

Well, somehow, someway, I was able to keep going and after several minutes that seemed like several hours, I could feel the protective calm of the jetty as the current let go of me.  I was safe.  I was tired, and I was exhausted, but thankfully  I was safe.  When I could finally touch sand, I stood up and saw Judy coming.  I quickly waved her off.  I knew I didn’t want her to experience what I just did.  And not only did I not see the angel fish I felt like I could almost see the angels, “comin’ after me.”

I was amazed how strong that current was that wanted to pull me out into the channel.  If it had been obvious from the surface…if I had known, I wouldn’t have gone.  My friend who told me about the angel fish didn’t mention the current—either it wasn’t an issue earlier or he had fins that helped him fight the unseen force.  Regardless, I was once again grateful that God gave me the strength to overcome. Strength.To.Overcome.  There are many things about this whole God thing that make me glad that I am a believer and on that list is the ability to be an overcomer.

My friend Jesus said in His Word, the Bible, that we would have troubles in this world, and He told the truth, times two.  But He didn’t stop there.  He went on to say that we should “be of good cheer” because He had “overcome the world.”  In other words, we can face the storms of life and the currents that threaten to pull us out to sea, because He is there with us and for us.  We can be overcomers because He is an overcomer. I like that…a lot.

I will probably remember my encounter at the point of the jetty for a while…and I want to remember.  You might ask, “Why?”  Well, it was such a good reminder that as I do life, I need to pay attention, I need to be prepared, and I need to trust—not in a pair of flippers or better swimming skills.  No, it will remind me that there are dangerous waters in life to navigate and I need to trust in my Heavenly Father, my Dearest Daddy to help me through it all.  It’s just good to know that He is there and, no matter what, “He’s got this.”  Bro. Dewayne

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

Ready…or Not

Preach the word; be ready in season and out of season.”
2 Timothy 4:2

“Do you think they would mind?” she asked.  It was very early in the morning on our last day at Key Colony.  I awoke from a good night’s sleep (I mean we were on vacation), made a cup of coffee, and headed down to the beach.  Sunrise was a good hour away, but the water and the air were both calm.  The only sound was the gentle lap of the waves against the sandy shore.  This is my time of the day.  God is in the labor room delivering another day for us to enjoy…and I love it.

After a while, the sky slowly turned gray, and you could see the beginning of the sunrise.  It was going to be a good one.  About that time, my wife Judy wandered out and sat down with me.  Just when you think something couldn’t get better…it does.  Judy seems to make anything better.  We chatted and sipped coffee enjoying the creation process.  After another few minutes, the sun peeked over the horizon and another day was born.  Good job, Father, and thank you.  Now that it was daylight, you could see that the water was not only calm…it was crystal clear.  It was then that Karen walked up.

We had talked with Karen and her boyfriend the night before.  We talked about life, faith, and God.  It was an opportunity for me to share some about how much God loved us.  Gary had a large tattoo on his left arm that said, “Faith.”  That gave an opportunity to talk about not only faith, but where that faith should be directed.  I shared it wasn’t enough just to have faith…you had to direct that faith in the right direction…right toward God.

When Karen walked up that morning, I noticed that she was carrying two small containers. I could tell that something was on her mind and that is when she asked the question.  She asked, “Do you think they would mind if I poured my son’s and husband’s ashes in the water?” I quickly assured her that I am sure they would not.  It turned out that her son had tragically died of an opioid overdose at the age of 22.  I didn’t get the details of her husband’s death but since she was in her early fifties, I assumed he too died young.  Then, it was my turn to ask a question.  I asked, “Would you like me to say a prayer?”  And, without hesitation, she answered yes.

Judy asked if Karen would like to have a picture taken and she agreed to that too. All three of us walked down into the water and slowly Karen opened the containers and poured the ashes into the water.  As they touched the water, it turned to a color very similar to wet cement but then just as quickly the color disappeared.  She said a few words, speaking to the souls she could no longer hold.  And then, I asked God for His peace to be on Karen.  I thanked Him for His love…even in hard times like this.  With an amen we were done. Almost.

Judy and I both gave Karen a hug…that was the only way we knew we could tell her we cared, and that God cared too.  As we left the water, Karen headed to Dunkin’ Donuts for a cup of coffee and Judy and I returned to our chairs by the beach.  We knew that we had kept a divine appointment.  I wish I could write and share how Karen and Gary both placed their faith in Jesus but that wasn’t the case…at least not that day.  But I do know we scattered seed in their lives.  I know we left fingerprints on their lives and heart and who knows what God will do with that.

When I woke up that morning, I didn’t know I was going to preside over a funeral standing in the Florida Straits.  Judy didn’t know she was going to act as a memory maker for Karen…but our Dearest Daddy did.  He knew…just as He always does.  We just need to be ready whenever He opens a door or a window and then simply walk where He leads.

Paul, the one who wrote a chunk of the New Testament, told a young preacher named Timothy one day, “Preach the word; be ready in season and out of season.”  When he said to preach…trust me, it was more than standing on a stage on any given Sunday…and it wasn’t just for preachers and teachers.  It was for all of us Jesus followers and it is for all places…planned…or not.  I learned a long time ago that the best sermons are often not preached on Sunday…rather, they are lived out over the course of the other six days. So, let’s be ready to be used.  It may be at the store, on the job or at the ballfields.  Just remember this.  When the time comes, He will be there to help and you can rest assured, “He’s got this.” Bro. Dewayne

Posted in Family, forgiveness, Grace, gratitude, life, love, loving others, priorities, Scripture, sovereignty of God, thankful, travel

Chosen

Even before He made the world, God loved us and chose us in Christ to be holy and without fault in His eyes.” Ephesians 1:4

I was as surprised as she was.  One on the wonderful things about Key Colony and the Continental Inn happens every day about twelve hours apart. The place where we stay has a small private sand beach.  Now that doesn’t sound too impressive until you realize that sand beaches aren’t that common in the Florida Keys.  Most often when you make it to the shore, you find it covered with large rocks.  In fact, that was our first experience many years ago.  The kids were young, and we drove down from Naples where we were staying.  When we arrived, we rushed to the “beach” only to find it covered with large rocks.  Bummer.

At the Inn there is glorious sand and an abundance of clear water.  Both are amazing.  But here is the special part.  The beach faces the east which means every morning there is a beautiful sunrise.  Every day I would go out with a cup of coffee while the water was like glass, and it was still dark.  The fingernail moon would be there offering little light but plenty of beauty and the stars glimmered in the dark night sky.  And slowly, God gave birth to a new and beautiful day.  Every morning I would say, “This is the day the Lord has made, and I will rejoice and be glad in it.” At that point it was a blank canvas, but I knew the Maker of masterpieces would be painting that day and He works wonders…always.

So, the sun would rise and about twelve hours later it would take it’s bow and night, a time of rest, would come.  Everything is beautiful in it’s time.  Now here is the part you have to love.  Every evening Judy and I would walk out the front parking lot, go about 100 yards and there was Sunset Park.  It was a small peninsula where the community had set up benches and built a small pier, and folks gather there to watch the sunset.  Imagine that.   A place where you can watch the sunrise over the water in the morning then walk a short distance and see the sun set…again over water.  It was amazing.

On our second night, something magical happened.  Again, people gather at Sunset Park every evening to watch the sunset. This particular night I noticed, actually almost bumped into, a group of four young people.  I nodded and smiled, and they did the same.  Judy and I found our favorite bench and the group of four chose to stand about fifteen feet from us. They were smiling…as were we.  It is a moment to enjoy…and then it got better.

About that time, I heard laughter of joy and looked over as one of the young men slipped an engagement ring on the left hand of the “one” he had chosen.  It was a total surprise for her and for us.  I don’t know if I have ever experienced this event as a stranger looking on and in, but it was a beautiful moment.  She was laughing and jumping, and they were hugging and celebrating.  Their friends, who were in on the surprise, were beaming from ear to ear.  And, all this is happening in a beautiful waterfront setting as God puts His seal of approval on another day.  It was glorious.

When it was time to go, Judy and I walked over and congratulated the young couple and told them it was their lucky day since I was a pastor, and we could seal the deal right then.  I shared about five lines from the traditional ceremony I use, and we all laughed together.  What a wonderful moment.  I think the joy of it all might be summed up in one word…chosen.  You see, the young man chose her to be his.  Out of all the girls in his world…he chose this one to spend his life with.  And…she chose him by saying, “Yes.”

It is a wonderful thing to be chosen and never is that more beautiful than when we realize that God chose to love us…He chose us to be His bride. If we are willing to accept His invitation to be His, like her, our lives will never be the same.  To be loved like that is the greatest of all gifts. God didn’t have to love us…He chose to love us.  We were scarred by sin and brokenness and yet He saw in us beauty.  We weren’t worthy of His love and yet He still extended it and to Him each of us are as beautiful as a bride on her wedding day.

Being chosen is a glorious thing and I hope you have accepted God’s invitation to be His beloved.  Remember, no matter how scarred your life may seem you will always be beautiful in His eyes.  And this marriage, well, it can never go south.  Sadly, many marriages don’t end well, but He has promised to never leave us or forsake us.  He will be yours and you will be His…forever.  If you haven’t already, why not accept His proposal today?  He is patiently waiting for you to say, “Yes.”  And, when you do, you will find Someone who will walk by your side no matter what…One who believes in you, One who loves you, and who will whisper security and assurance with six simple words…I’ve got you and no matter what, I’ve got this.  Bro. Dewayne

Posted in Family, Grace, gratitude, life, love, loving others, Military memories, prayer, priorities, Scripture, sovereignty of God, thankful, travel, Trials, wisdom

Joe

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

“Hi.  My name is Joe.”  My wife Judy and I recently took a trip down to the Florida Keys and Key Colony in particular.  The place we stayed was called the Continental Inn.  It is a bit of old Florida with twenty or so studio condos combined with a small sand beach and a couple of tiki huts.  It is not very crowded, but this was Labor Weekend, and there were more folks there than usual.  Being a small place, it seems more like family than it does just a group of people on vacation.  It was there under one of the tiki huts that I met Joe.

Joe, his wife, and her sister and husband were down for a long weekend from Juniper, Florida.  It was the other couple’s anniversary, and they were there to celebrate.  They were sitting near us on the beach, and it wasn’t long before we struck up a conservation.  Day one was more like a “Hey, good to meet you and glad you are here.”  The next day, we were back on the beach and so were they and it was then that I really got to talk with Joe.

He started by introducing himself again.  And then as his story unfolded, I was fascinated.  First, I learned that Joe was a Korean War era veteran.  While he didn’t actually serve in the war, he did volunteer for service during that difficult time.  He chose the Army and proudly served his country.  Being a Korean War veteran could only mean he was up in his years…and he was.  If I remember right, he was about to turn 84.  Thanks for your service, Joe.

Joe used a large walking stick to get around.  He told me on day two, rather matter-of-factly, that he was legally blind.  That explained the stick.  Rather than a white cane he had this large walking stick that came from the Smokey Mountains.  I asked him how much he could see, and he explained that at about five feet away I was just a blob. You can imagine my surprise when he told me how he still drove a three-wheel bike around his neighborhood.  When I asked him how, he simply said he could see some of the sidewalk and most everyone knew him and kinda stayed out of his way.  A little blindness wasn’t going to stop him.  Way to go, Joe.

About then, Joe shared with me that he had stage four prostate cancer that had gone into his bones.  Almost casually, he said, “And of course, I am on chemo.”  What was amazing, was that he didn’t see his cancer as a roadblock or a big deal for that matter.  It was simply something that he dealt with—no whining, no complaining.  Nope, Joe wasn’t gonna let a little cancer stop him either.  You’re amazing, Joe.

All the time we chatted (almost like we were discussing the weather and not cancer and blindness) he was constantly smiling and explaining to me how much he loved life.  These speed bumps were just that—bumps on his highway of life.  He told me how much he loved people.  That is probably why he regularly volunteers at the Veteran’s Hospital, helping guys less fortunate than him.  Less.Fortunate.Than.Him.  I think it will be a long time before I forget Joe and his big smile, big heart, and great outlook.

There’s one more part of Joe’s story.  You see, Joe was a Jesus follower…in fact, all four in the group were.  What made Joe standout was his gratitude for each day that God gave him.  I couldn’t help but notice that his knees and elbows were covered with bandages and wounds.  I can only guess those came from the times his blindness got in the way and his stick couldn’t save him. After our hour conversation I noticed that not one time did he complain about his circumstances. He shared stories of his past with gratefulness and shared his present days with the gusto of healthy 45-year-old.  And he was confident of his future too…because he was confident in his relationship with the God who made him.

I know I talk about this verse a lot but that is because it means a lot to me.  The author, who happened to be Moses (you might remember him from the time the Red Sea parted), asked God to help us number our days so that we could have a heart of wisdom.  He was saying, “God help us to appreciate every day you give us.”  It was so very obvious that Joe did exactly that.  No, I don’t think he wasn’t the richest guy on the beach that day…unless you number richness not in dollars but in joy, and happiness and love. Joe bore the scars from many a fall, but he shined with the victories of never staying down.  I didn’t get around to asking but I bet Joe knew the secret to living out his faith in God.  What is that you ask?  It’s knowing and believing three small words…He’s got this.  Bro. Dewayne

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

Waverly

When you go through deep waters, I will be with you.” Isaiah 43:2

It was only three hours away, but it was another world.  A short while ago a horrible and intensely powerful flash flood ravaged a small town in Western Tennessee. A small, benign creek traced its way through the center of town.  It is appropriately named, “Trace Creek.” Normally only a couple of feet deep, it gently winds for several miles surrounded by hills.  On a Saturday, a storm system set up shop right over that region and seventeen inches of rain fell in a short period of time. Disaster was coming.

As the rainwater funneled from the hills to the valley, Trace Creek became the collecting point and soon what was a benign creek became a killing flood.  The water rose not in hours but minutes—not in inches, but feet.  A railroad bed that was holding some of the torrent back gave way and a twenty-foot wall of water came down on the town.  As it did, death and destruction struck on what can be only described as “biblical proportions.” As the kid’s song from Sunday school says, the flood was deep, and the flood was wide.

In that short period of time cars became boats and houses were swept off their foundations.  Fences were laid over and trees and power poles were simply bowled over by the force of the water.  Sadly, over twenty people lost their lives and many, many more, were injured. I’m sure no one went to bed the night before dreaming of a flood, at least not of this proportion. It was a nightmare from nowhere.  In a couple or three hours it was over leaving behind a disaster zone that will take years to recover and rebuild.  Some, like the loss of life, will never be the same.

Our church had a personal touch with this small West Tennessee town as a couple of our families moved there last year.  While they were safe, many of their friends were not.  They quickly became important cogs in the wheels of rescue and recovery and that’s where we had an opportunity to help.  We had recently hosted our “Back to School” community event and because of COVID, the crowd had been smaller than in previous years and we had many school supply bags left over and several hundred pair of shoes.  We were disappointed, but suddenly something began to make sense.  It was an opportunity.

At the invitation of one of churches there, we loaded up the supplies and shoes and headed to West Tennessee.  When we arrived, the destruction was beyond description.  Our small Southern Illinois city had suffered an F-4 tornado in 2012 so we knew about disasters but this, this was beyond even what we had experienced.  Soon we were setup and giving away the supplies and shoes.  There were stories, there were tears, and there were thanks.  At the end of a hot day, we were the ones who were blessed.

As was the case for us in 2012, their town actually experienced another kind of flood…a flood of kindness, generosity, and love.  Hundreds, if not thousands, of people poured in to offer any help they could give.  Restaurants and stands were set up offering free food and supplies. Life necessities were given to anyone with a need.  It was amazing especially in a world of “me first”. It was obvious that is not always the case.  Love and generosity ruled the day.

Across the street from where we were working was a house that had been flooded with about four feet of water. As cleanup started, the owners had emptied all of their contents and piled them by the road.  I looked and in one of the discarded chairs was a large, white Bible. It didn’t seem right to see it discarded, so I went and asked the owners if I could get it and take it home.  They were grateful.  You see, it had been wet in the flood and couldn’t stay, but it’s present place, in the trash, was not a statement of their faith.  They just didn’t know what to do.  So, it is with me…a reminder of my day in that small West Tennessee town…a town called Waverly.

The story of the Bible, and that it was not discarded because of a lack of faith, was a blessing to me.  People in that disaster didn’t give up on God or each other for that matter.  They chose to still believe…in God, in their town, and in each other.  As I said it will take years, but Waverly will come back, and they will be stronger than before. Their situation reminds me of a verse in the Old Testament that says, “When you go through deep waters, I will be with you.”

You see, even in the midst of disaster, even when our circumstances don’t make a lick of sense, and these days that is often every day, well, He is still there.  Even when we go through the darkest valley we don’t have to fear because He is with us.  No matter how high the water or how hard the circumstances, listen, and you will hear the Whisperer whispering, “Rest in Me.  I’ve got this.”   Bro. Dewayne

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

Life on the Bench

For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways and My thoughts than your thoughts.” Isaiah 55:9

It’s hard to be on the bench when the team is on the field. I guess when they were giving out abilities for sports I was in the wrong line.  It just never was my strong suit. My first and only experience with little league ball didn’t happen till I was probably in the fourth grade.  I joined a team and clearly wasn’t going to be a starter.  When I did play it was right field.  Actually, it was about this time I began to learn about prayer.  As soon as I took the field, I would pray that the other team wouldn’t hit a ball in right field.  That didn’t work too well.  My other and more serious prayer meetings occurred at the plate. I didn’t pray to get on base…I prayed to survive.

So even though I felt safest on the bench, it wasn’t where I wanted to be.  I wanted to be a hero, a winner, and from where I sat the bench was for the guys who weren’t good enough.  It was there that I learned to hate the bench and I would spend the rest of my life relearning that sometimes the bench is where God teaches us our greatest lessons. In fact, I am learning that any place God puts you is the place to be.  The bench is not for losers or second-stringers, no, it is for people willing to trust that He knows best.

In 2018, I had a hard lesson to learn.  My wife Judy and I were leading a mission team to Uganda, East Africa.  We arrived in Africa and made it to the guest house.  My first night there, the night before we were to leave for the islands to work, I came down with the flu…the real flu.  The team had to go on without me and Judy stayed back to help care for me.  Boy, I didn’t like that, but later I did begin to understand it.  It turns out that God raised others to lead, and the team went on to do some great work.  While I hated not being there to lead, God had a better plan.  And, I think He just did it again.

This past weekend was our first Back to School Community Outreach since COVID or as it turned out…in the midst of COVID.  This event draws hundreds of people and as pastor, I was a key leader, and my wife was in charge of the event.  Tuesday, I started having some symptoms of what I thought was my annual sinus thing.  It wasn’t…it was COVID.  I was down and out for the count and Judy was quarantined.  Once again, God chose…God chose…to remove the two key leaders.  The reason? Well, I don’t have all the answers to that one, but I do know He had a plan, and He can be trusted.

If the past is any indicator, it was about giving other leaders a chance to lead and letting the church be the church even when certain people are not there.  It was a challenge. It was a test. It was an opportunity to trust the Lord.  Well, normally, I would have been stomping my feet about being on the bench…but not this time.  No, I’m slowly learning that God is better at being God than I am.  I am learning that He is smarter than me, more caring than me and never, ever, makes a mistake.  My only job is to trust Him and learn whatever He wants me to personally learn.

I didn’t chose this dance with Corena…my pet name for the COVID.  I didn’t ask her to dance…she just cut in and changed my immediate plans.  It happened in 2018 with the flu in Africa and most likely it will happen again sometime in the future. In the Old Testament part of the Bible, God says, “For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways and My thoughts than your thoughts.” My response can only be, “Yes, Lord.”

Fortunately my dance with Corena is almost history and hopefully I have learned all I need to learn from this time on the bench.  I’m sure it includes that no matter what—God is good, God is faithful, and God can be trusted.  Oh, and it also includes another dose of, “Don’t worry, son, I’ve got this.” Bro. Dewayne

Posted in Family, Grace, gratitude, life, prayer, thankful, travel, Trials, wisdom

The One in Control

Two are better than one because they have a good reward for their efforts.” Ecclesiastes 4:9

I soon discovered who was in control…and it wasn’t me. My adventure with my wife, Judy, down Jack’s Fork River in Southeast Missouri was a lesson in life. Jack’s Fork is a tributary to the Current River. The key word there is “current,” because there is one, both on Jack’s Fork and its big brother. At the launching place the current is hardly noticeable. It all seems so serene, so gentle, so docile. The reason for that is the fact at that particular point, the river is somewhat wide…at least compared to downstream. It seemed to be saying, “Come on in.  Trust me.” We have a saying for that “Liar, liar. Pants on fire.”

As Judy and I launched from the shore I was immediately impressed with how stable the canoe seemed to be. “This isn’t so hard,” I said. “This is going to be a breeze,” I said. “We’ve got this,” I said. I decided it would be good time to test my steering and guiding capabilities for the canoe. If you want to go to the left…you paddle on the right. “Paddle, right,” I said to Judy. The canoe went straight. I decided to try the other way, “Paddle, left,” I said to Judy. The canoe went straight. Hmmm. It kinda reminded me of my teenage kids. It kinda reminded me of me when God was saying one thing and I didn’t listen.

Well, I tried “Plan B” of the steering plan and that is when the guy or gal in the back drags the paddle in the water. If you want to go left ,you drag your paddle in the water on the left side and if you want to go right you do the opposite. Now this produced some results…I think. I say I think because sometimes it seemed to work and sometimes it didn’t and there was a reason. You see I might have been in the back trying to steer but really, it was the current that was the boss. And too soon that became apparent.

About ten minutes into the trip, the river narrowed a bit and took a turn to the left. The water went from gentle to a class 14 rapid…the kind you see on television when people are dying. Waves, 15 feet tall, threatened to swamp the boat. Ok, that might be a slight exaggeration, but the current was definitely faster and stronger, and we did lose four or five boats there. Somehow, Judy and I survived the challenge but trust me it had nothing to do with skill and a lot to do with grace.

But here’s the deal. No matter what I did, no matter how hard I tried, it seemed I wasn’t in control. The current took us where it wanted. The best I could manage was to manage to stay away from the hazards and stay somewhere in the middle of the swift water. It would pull us this way and push us that way and we were along for the ride. Even in smoother water it seemed we spent a lot of time going from side to side instead of down the river.

I think I know the problem…inexperience. I knew the basics, I knew some of the mechanics, but I just didn’t have the time in the saddle, if you get my drift, partner. Someone who had done this a lot wouldn’t have had the same issues Judy and I did. With experience, you learn to read the river and use the current to your advantage. And, equally important, you learn to work together as a team. By reading the river and working as a team, you overcome the obstacles and hazards and that increases your chances of arriving safely…and dry.

Speaking of dry…Judy and I did arrive dry. The only time we got wet was when we stopped for a rest and some snacks and then it was a welcome relief to get in the cold water. So, whether it is in marriage or family, at home or at church, or at work, perhaps we should learn to “read the river” and work with, and not against, one another. The wisest guy to ever live and the author of one of the books of wisdom in the Bible said it best, “Two are better than one because they have a good reward for their efforts.” The current may be strong but two might just be able to overcome it. It gets better.

You see, the same guy says in the same place, that a three strand cord is not easily broken. You see, often our best efforts are just not enough. Sometimes those currents can become raging rapids and sometimes it happens with little or no warning. Why not invite a third party along for the ride? Why not invite God along for the journey? I know that He has all the experience in the universe and beyond and the One who made river, knows the river better than we ever will. As you are navigating the river of life, take a moment and listen from the back of the boat. You will hear the Whisper say, “Hey, take a break. I’ve got this.” And do you know what? He does. Bro. Dewayne

Posted in Family, life, prayer, Scripture, travel, Trials

While I’m Waiting

Consider it a great joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you experience various trials, because you know that the testing of your faith produces endurance.” James 1:2-3

At first it seemed unfair but then, there it was, conspiracy.  There is a lot of talk today about conspiracy schemes.  When and whatever happens there is someone who will say there is a dark diabolical reason for it happening.  I wasn’t sure about it until it happened to me.  Yes, there was a conspiracy.

Last year, my wife Judy and I were able to attend a pastor’s conference in North Carolina.  It was so good to pack a few things, jump into our 44 mpg Jetta and hit the road.  Willie Nelson’s “On the Road Again” was ringing in my ears.  We cruised across Tennessee and were heading toward North Carolina when it happened.  About five miles from the border, our GPS talky thing said, in her most gentle voice, “traffic ahead.”  Well, it wasn’t like we were in Chicago or something so that could only mean trouble.

Soon, very soon, trouble was staring me in the face.  Break-lights and slowing vehicles were everywhere.  We were in a slowdown—we were in—traffic.  Signage and the talky thing confirmed my worse fears—there was construction ahead.  Now you need to know something.  First, I am not patient in traffic.  Ok, that wasn’t totally transparent.  I am totally impatient in traffic.  In fact, I’m not patient period.  Whether it be in traffic or at the store, I am changing lanes like a one-armed paperhanger looking for the shortest and fastest lane.  The Bible says we are fearfully and wonderfully made but I must have missed the patience part.

Have ever been driving and the traffic going in the opposite direction is stopped and you are feeling sorry for them?  Well, I was the one stopped, and I could just feel the empathy of the other drivers.  It turned out to be about a 45-minute stop and go.  The amazing part was I did pretty good.  Judy was beaming at my surprised patience.  I even said, “Well, at least going home we won’t have to deal with this.”  Soon (though not soon enough) we were through the construction—we were on our way.  Hit the fast forward button.

That was Wednesday.  Too quickly the days of the conference went by and in no time, it was time to go home.  After the conference ended at noon, we jumped into our 44 mpg Jetta and hit the road toward home.  Willie was once again whirling around in my head singing “On the Road Again.”  We were nearing the site of Wednesday’s lesson in patience feeling confident and glad that we were heading in the other direction.  And then it happened.  The GPS talky thing mentioned traffic, 14 miles per hour, and delays. Wait. What?  We were not supposed to have to deal with this. And this is when I knew there was a conspiracy.  They had changed sides.

Here’s how I think it played out.  The North Carolina Department of Transportation called the conference center, asked when I was leaving and then quickly moved the construction to the West bound side so they could get me again.  I am sure of it.  So, another slowdown, another wait in traffic, but this time they were merciful since it was only 27 minutes and 14 seconds.  Oh yes, I was counting.  And the people going east, were zooming by with looks of mercy for those of us stuck.  It just wasn’t fair.

I know the Bible well enough to know that you don’t pray for patience.  That is one prayer you won’t hear passing through my lips.  Pray for patience and you end up with traffic. Pray for patience and you end up locked in your house with three kids for three months.  So, I got that.  But there is a pesky couple of verses found in James 1:2-3 that says, “Consider it a great joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you experience various trials, because you know that the testing of your faith produces endurance.” I really like the Bible, but I really don’t like those verses.

Of all the emotions I feel when I am sitting in traffic, joy is not the one that comes to mind—and certainly not great joy.  But then I read verse 3 and it gives me pause.  James says I should appreciate the moments in traffic because it helps me to grow. It helps me to be a better person.  It helps me be stronger—it builds endurance.  Like lifting weights at the gym strengths muscles so trying situations strengthens our faith in God.  Which means part of that whole 2020 deal, and 2021 for that matter, should be to make us stronger in our faith.  Hmmmm.

Well, in the end I did pretty good through traffic lesson number two and we managed to get home that evening just about on time.  Truth be known…God was good, God was faithful and even in traffic, God can be trusted.  No matter what, He has my good at His heart.  He wants me to thrive in this world and not just survive.  And that means sometimes learning patience sitting in traffic.  As you travel today wherever and however that looks, just know God is the traffic manager of your life.  Just sit back, enjoy the pause and rest in Him. He’s got this. Honk, Honk.  Bro. Dewayne