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

Miracles

For nothing will be impossible with God.” Luke 1:37

Well, there are miracles and then there are miracles.  One of the great adventures that Judy and I have been privileged to be a part of are church mission trips.  Specifically, mission trips to Africa.  For the past 15 or 16 years, our church has been an active participant in mission adventures.  At least once a year we try and send a team to Africa.  We started in Niger and then had to move a little south to the country of Mali.  We were privileged to serve there for several years.

I can’t explain how incredible it is to go on a mission adventure.  I also can’t really explain the draw that so many feel to this place called Africa. Where this story begins was a pretty difficult place.  We would stay in the bush often sleeping on the ground in tents.  The temperature would hover over 100 degrees.  I have one picture that showed a thermometer with a reading 125 degrees.  The food, well, let’s just say it wasn’t McDonald’s.  So, what is it that causes people to step way out of their comfort zones just to serve others.  This story is part of that answer.

We were on a medical trip in Mali and the days were long and fruit was plentiful.  We had a full team including two medical doctors and several nurses.  They would treat the physically broken and we would try and share the truth of God’s love to the spiritually broken.  We would tell stories of Jesus and how He would go and help people.  We then would simply explain that we wanted to be like Him and help others.  We explained that people who knew Jesus in America had bought and paid for the medicine that they were receiving.  It was free to them because someone else paid the price.  It was always a great lead into the gospel stories because Jesus did the same for us.

Well, it was the end of a long day.  Most of us had wandered back to camp and were sitting around and chatting about the day’s activities.  Suddenly someone ran into the camp and shouted that there was an emergency back at the clinic.  We all rushed back over and what we found was grim…very grim.  A little girl, about nine if I remember correctly, had been climbing a tree.  She was about twenty-five feet up in the air when she slipped and fell—landing directly on her face.  Her father had carried her on a Moto (a small motorcycle) about three or four miles.  She was semi-conscious and unresponsive.

Two things happened simultaneously.  First, the doctors when to work and the saints went to praying.  Her pupils were unresponsive and though she was breathing, her respirations were rapid and shallow.  About an hour later the doctors said it was probably only a matter of time, her brain injuries seemed very serious.  I slipped into my pastor mode and wondered what an African funeral was like.  The doctors took turns sitting with her through the night, and then took her to the nearest first aid station. This part is fuzzy, but it seems like at some point the father went ahead and took her back to her village.

The next day we went back to work with a somewhat heavy heart.  And then something happened…we heard that the little girl had woken up.  We then heard that she was speaking and walking around.  We then heard that she was responding and acting almost completely normal.  “What is this,” I wondered.  Again, if I remember correctly either that day or the next the father brought his little girl back to the doctors and there she stood.  A living, breathing, miracle.  It can be described as nothing else.  God had heard the prayers of His children and chosen to reach down from heaven and touch this little girl and give her back her life.  It.Was.A.Miracle.

Many of us have been to Africa many times and we have seen more than one miracle.  Sometimes it looked like this, sometimes it was God acting to avoid a terrible tragedy and sometimes it like a frog strangling rainstorm when it hadn’t rained for months and months.  But each time it was obvious that God was still God, and He can do what He wants, when He wants.  After all, He is God.  For the skeptics out there, who think that God doesn’t do the miracle thing—that it died out in the old days—well, that little girl would beg to differ with you.

Tucked away in the book of Luke, incidentally, written by a physician in Jesus’ day, are some words that say it all.  It says, “For nothing shall be impossible with God.” Nothing. Period. Seven words that can shake your world and this world. So, what is rocking your world today?  COVID still keeping you up at night? Wondering about tomorrow or the next meal?  Worried about our country?  Well, I don’t know what God has planned—after all I’m in sales and not management—smile. But I do know that nothing is too big for Him to handle.  Just like that little girl in Africa who discovered she could lay down and rest in Him—so can you.  After all,…He’s got this.  Bro. Dewayne

Posted in Family, fear, friends, gratitude, life, loving others, Scripture, Southern born, thankful, travel, wisdom

Bruiser

Hi Grits Family! Hey, my wife Judy and I are going to be “out of pocket” aka “not available” to write for the next couple of weeks.  During that time, we decided to send out some of our past stories.  I hope you enjoy the ones we selected and look forward to some “fresh Grits” in a couple of weeks. God bless.  Bro. Dewayne

The one who walks with the wise will become wise, but a companion of fools will suffer harm.” Proverbs 13:20

I saw it coming.  I never saw it coming.  Both are true, and the truth is, it didn’t matter. So, about a month ago now, two-thirds of the family (that would be two of my three daughters and their families) were able to jail break and go to Florida for a week.  The middle daughter had been going to the Palm Coast of Florida for the last several years and she suggested we give it a try. I was a reluctant participant.

You see, I was raised on the Northeast coast of Florida.  My growing up years consisted of regular trips to the beach.  Many years later I discovered the Gulf coast with its sugary white sands and clear blue-green waters, and I was sold.  Because of this, I wasn’t overly excited when the plans for the East coast were drafted.  However, having done life being the only male in the house (there was my wife, three daughters, a girl dog, a girl cat or two and six female tropical fish.  Even the mice in the barn were girls.) I realized that resistance was futile.  So off to the East coast we went.

I was pleasantly surprised.  We were about an hour or so South of Jacksonville (where I was raised) in a nice condominium complex. We shared the place with our middle daughter and family, and it was just perfect.  It overlooked the golf course with a great view of the ocean.  The grounds were well maintained, and it had two very nice pools—one family and one for the adults who liked things a little quieter.  The normal vacation crowd was much smaller and that was good news given the COVID thing. The only problem was “they” were there.

“They” were waves.  Pretty big waves.  You see on the Gulf side you usually have little friendly waves.  The waves gently bump into you and seem to say, “Hi, we are glad you are here.”  The waves in the Atlantic are from the Southside of Chicago.  They are gangster waves. When we went to the beach they were waiting.  This is the part I remember from my growing up and from one or two vacations from earlier years.  You can hear them before you see them.  They are inviting you into the water—so they can bully you.

Anyway, we get to the beach, and you know they didn’t look too intimidating.  I mean they weren’t gentle “hey, glad you are here waves” but they weren’t “terminator” waves either.  We set our stuff down on the beach and off we went into the water.  First, I tested the waves with a knee-deep stand.  Not bad.  Then I went a little deeper.  Still not too bad but I could begin to feel them.  They wanted me.  They had my number.

I was out in waist deep water and realized the power of perception.  Those waves that didn’t seem so big from shore were suddenly larger—much larger.  I turned to talk to Judy who was close by and looked back just in time to see a large wave coming.  Fortunately, I was able to keep my footing and survived the onslaught.  I smiled.  My sunglasses were still on my face and my hat was still on my head.  I was an overcomer.  Who’s the man now?! That’s when “Bruiser” came.

“Bruiser” was epic, “Bruiser” had one goal in mind—take me down.  I saw him coming but it was too late.  “Bruiser” was well over my head and broke right on top of me.  One minute I was standing and the next minute I was in a washing machine of ocean water…in the spin cycle.  When I came to surface, of which I was very grateful, “Bruiser” had moved on.  My swim shirt was over my head, my hat was gone, and my pride and body were a little bruised.  He had won. I had taken on the big boy and come up short.  Probably worse of all my Seattle hat, the one I had worn for several years was lost to the jaws of “Bruiser.”   It never had a chance.  May he rest in peace.

Well, one time in the spin cycle was enough for me that day. And somewhat gratefully I was glad to learn that others in the family had suffered similar fates. Even the son-in-laws got bowled over a time or two. Hats and sunglasses were lost but what was found was the joy of being with family.  We had a good time.

I did learn, or perhaps more accurately, relearn a lesson about the waves of the Atlantic.  They can be powerful.  Usually there is a flag system that warns of particularly rough waves.  Our beach didn’t have that, but I later heard on the news there had been some big waves.  Oh well, hindsight is 20/20.  Sometimes they manage to sneak in but even when you see them coming, they can take you down.

Life is the same way.  A day at life’s beach can quickly turn into a spin cycle of ocean water.  We can get bowled over by circumstances, uncertainties, tragedies, and pandemics. Even when we see them coming, they can be overwhelming.  After my encounter with “Bruiser” that day, I decided it was time to visit the pool—eventually all of us did.  The Bible says, “The one who walks with the wise will become wise, but a companion of fools will suffer harm.”  Translated another way that means there is a time to swim in the ocean and there is a time to head to the pool. Wisdom is knowing when to do what. Wisdom is also knowing that no matter what life throws at you, we can rest in the One who makes the waves because He’s got this.  Bro. Dewayne

Posted in Family, forgiveness, friends, Grace, gratitude, life, love, loving others, Scripture, thankful, travel, Trials

Night and Day

Hi Grits Family! Hey, my wife Judy and I are going to be “out of pocket” aka “not available” to write for the next couple of weeks.  During that time, we decided to send out some of our past stories.  I hope you enjoy the ones we selected and look forward to some “fresh Grits” in a couple of weeks. God bless.  Bro. Dewayne

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

One man’s way of packing is another woman’s dump, stuff and close.  Judy and I have been married for 46 years.  In case you are wondering that is 552 months (give or take a few days) and 16,831 sunrises and sunsets.  It has been an incredible journey that has been marked by a few bumps and a whole lot of good times.  You might ask, “So what’s the secret?”  Well, I am sure there are several.  We both are Jesus followers though she is a lot better at it than I am.  We are both committed to our marriage—she would kill me if I even thought of leaving.  And, honesty, she is a really, classy lady. With that being said, I can tell you one reason that didn’t make the list.  We are alike.

Nope, ain’t gonna happen, you gotta be kidding me.”  In fact, we are pretty “unalike” in several ways.  She is definitely more optimistic.  In fact, she is so optimistic that for her it’s not a matter of the glass being half-full or empty—she doesn’t even need a glass.  Me, well, not so much.  I need to analyze and rationalize.  Judy thrives around people.  Put her a room of strangers and she is a like a pinball game going from person to person—sharing, chatting, and laughing.  Me, well, I head to the nearest wall and lean.  If I can find one person to talk with—I’m good.

On the other side of the coin, I am organized.  Go to my office, either at home or work, and you will find a neat and tidy desk.  A place for everything and everything it is place.  Go into Judy’s office and you might have a difficult time finding the desk.  I am generally a focused person.  If there is a task to do, I sit down and get it done.  If the house is on fire, that will have to wait until I am done.  Judy would probably not notice the house was on fire and if she did notice, she would immediately begin visiting with the firemen.

Now you probably need to know that Judy suggested this story.  We are leaving for vacation soon. Can someone say “YAY”? That foray will cause us to have to pack our luggage.  Now given what you know, here’s how it will go.  I will take my suitcase, lay everything out on the bed, carefully fold and sort each item, and then assign them a specific place in the luggage.  I will overpack because you never know what you might need.  When I get done the suitcase will look like a clothing file cabinet—neatly packed.

Judy, on the other hand, has a different technique.  She, too, will place her luggage either on the bed or floor. She too will probably overpack because you never know what you will need, however, that’s where the similarity ends.  She will then proceed to dump her clothes, shoes, etc., in the bag, on the bag, and anywhere near the bag.  Then she will begin to heap and pile the clothes in the hopes that the thing will close when she is done.  It’s a fifty-fifty chance.  She may call in reinforcements (me) if needed but that is always a last resort.

Like I said, in many ways we are not alike.  But, with that said, that is not a weakness, it is a strength. Where I am weak, she is strong and vice versa.  We have learned (and are still learning) that the power of a team lies in loving, sharing, working together and yes, forgiving.  Oh, and I also have learned the power of two incredibly powerful words, “Yes, dear.”  No, that would be “I’m sorry.” In Ecclesiastes 4:9-10 it says, “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.” You can take that to the bank.

There’s one more thing that is quite interesting. In our 16,831 days of marriage, we have shared 14,615 of those as a team working together in vocational ministry.  I am certain that without Judy, and all the ways we are different, we would not have seen all the amazing things God has done.  It is a story of love, grace, loyalty, and friendship.  Now before you gag yourself and throw up, know that we definitely don’t always get it right.  But there is one thing you can take it to the bank.  The Bible says that we are fearful and wonderfully [and let me add differently] made.  Someone once said if you and your spouse are alike then one of you isn’t necessary.  Hmmm.

So, there you go.  I hope today’s big truth, that it is more than ok to be different, will strengthen your resolve and commitment in your marriage. But I think it works at work, at church, and even with your neighbors.  And when the frustration begins to build, like the next time he or she doesn’t pack the way you do, remember this—hang tight because both of you will get to the same place in the end.  And if it gets really hard—just go and sit with your Dearest Father and rest.  He’ll whisper some things like “let it go—it doesn’t matter how they pack it just matters that you keep traveling together.” And you will say, “Oh yeah…that’s right.”  And He will remind you once again that, it’s ok because…He’s got this. Bro. Dewayne

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

Got Your Boots On?

For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.” Philippians 1:21

Thank you, Ruby and Laura.  I was preparing for a message that I was going to share at the church I pastor.  I am always amazed how God brings to my mind different angles and ideas and illustrations to help make a truth stick.  I learned a long time ago if we can’t remember what we hear, well, it can’t help us a lot.  Stories help things to stick.  They are like “duct tape” and I’ve learned that sermons need a lot of duct tape.

The message was about being ready…ready for whatever God has next in our lives.  And for the record that can be just about anything.  My wife, Judy, and I have had several God “whatevers” through the years. Some we saw coming and some we didn’t, but it was always exciting to know that God was and is on the move.  Well, when I thought about being ready, I remembered part of a message that pastor John Piper taught.  He was speaking in the year 2000 to a huge group of young people and he was making the point that they should make their lives matter.  Well, let’s just say he did a good job.

As part of his message that day, he told the story of two women, Ruby and Laura.  Ruby was a nurse who had committed her entire life to caring for the poor and broken of the world for the cause of Christ.  She chose to remain single so she could devote everything…everything…to her mission. She was all in…one hundred percent.  Laura was a medical doctor who took “early retirement” so she could do the same thing.  She wanted to make a bigger difference, so she closed up shop and joined Ruby doing mission work.

So, they were loving God and loving people in Cameroon, East Africa.  By the time the story was told, they were, well, older.  Ruby was into her eighties and Laura was chasing her…she was in her very late seventies.  As John Piper tells the story, these two incredible ladies were driving their jeep in the mountains when, without warning, their brakes went out and they sailed over a cliff and literally into eternity.  Both ladies died in the crash and both ladies went out “with their boots on.”  At a time when most would be at home rocking grandbabies, they were still making a difference.

I know, some would say what a tragedy it was that these two ladies died that day.  Some would wonder why they just didn’t play it safe.  I have a feeling that Ruby and Laura would tell us that they were playing it safe—because their lives were not held by circumstance or chance but rather by God.  They would tell us they danced into eternity with the One they loved…Jesus and they would, of course, be right.

I find myself desiring to finish well.  I know, I will not be a Ruby or a Laura, but I do want to go out “dancing” with the One who loves me most and best.  I want to go out with my boots on.  Sometimes we see our later years as years to relax but I wonder if we aren’t missing something. Maybe our later years are our best years to serve Him and them.  Maybe our later years are intended to be the finest chapters of our lives.

Tomorrow, Judy and I will be getting on a plane and flying to Europe to minister to a group of folks from East Africa. They are in a poverty-stricken area and few, if any, know Jesus.  It is going to challenging but it also is going to be a great adventure. I won’t be driving a jeep on dangerous mountain roads, so I won’t have to worry about my brakes giving out. Smile.  But I do know that no matter what, our lives are in the hands of our Dearest Daddy and that is never a bad thing.  In fact, there is nothing better.

Paul, the guy who wrote a chunk of the New Testament, knew about dangerous mountain roads and losing your brakes.  He was an “all in” sorta guy and ultimately was martyred for his faith.  Anyway, he wrote, “For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.” In other words, if God chose to keep him here on earth…that was good.  If God chose to call him heaven…that was good too.  All that mattered was living “all in” and going out “with his boots on.”

So, no matter what, if you are a Jesus person let me encourage you to go “all in” and leave the details to the One who loves you most.  If you haven’t discovered Jesus yet, let me encourage you to make that your pursuit starting now.  It is a journey you won’t regret.  Living “all in” and being willing to go out “with your boots on” can sound daunting. Truth is, it just doesn’t sound daunting…it is.  The good news is the One who loves you most will always be right by your side, whispering softly, “Go ahead, don’t worry, I’ve got this.” Bro. Dewayne

Posted in Family, friends, gratitude, July 4, life, loving others, Military memories, priorities, Scripture, Southern born, sovereignty of God, thankful, travel, USA

July 4. 1972

No one has greater love than this: to lay down his life for his friends.” John 15:13

It was fifty years ago today.  The summer of 1972 was unlike any other summer I had experienced.  I had joined the Air Force and spent the summer at “camp” with about forty new friends.  We shared one thing in common—we had taken an oath to “protect the constitution of the United States against all enemies…foreign and domestic.”  We had also committed to obeying the orders of those appointed over us and at this point…that was everyone else but us.  We were brand new, raw recruits who knew a lot about being a civilian and virtually nothing about being in the military.  But we didn’t have to worry…our drill sergeant was taking care of that.

I arrived at Lackland Air Force Base in the early morning hours of June 13th…early as in about 2:00 am.  This was intentional because the Air Force actually wanted you to be disorientated the first few days.  I think it was supposed to make us more cooperative.  Anyway, we quickly got into a routine sporting our new haircuts and green fatigue uniforms. They kept us going from before sunrise and put us to bed even before it was dark.  That was ok too because we were wore out.

This was my first time away from home, but the schedule didn’t allow for home sickness. But all that changed one night in July.  There wasn’t a lot of free time…whether it was a Tuesday, a Friday, or a Sunday…though they did allow time for church for anyone who wanted to go.  Most of us wanted to go…not because we loved God but for a couple of hours, we could forget the grind of basic.

Back then the Air Force didn’t observe holidays either.  Of course, the only one that occurred in my time in basic was—Independence Day.  As I remember, we definitely did NOT get the day off, but I do think we got to do some extra marching…I think it was supposed to be patriotic.  Anyway, it was soon time for lights out and then it happened. I was lying in my bunk; the skies had finally darkened, and I heard a familiar sound.  It was the sound of exploding fireworks.

I eased out of bed and knelt down in front of the window. From there, I watched the fireworks display for the base explode and light up the sky. And as I watched, a wave of homesickness washed over me.  I remembered all the times that we would go to downtown Jacksonville to the riverfront and watch the fireworks together as a family.  I remembered the times we would go to a small neighborhood grocery store and sneak into the backroom where they sold illegal fireworks and load up.  I remembered and as I did I knew that this was the first of many times that being a member of the military would mean separation…and sacrifice.

Before long the fireworks were over and I went back to my bunk and after too many minutes of loneliness, drifted off to sleep.  The next morning it was back to business as usual.  The summer of ’72 passed pretty quickly and before I knew it, I was done with basic and moved on to what was next…more training…and more new adventures. And what I discovered that night, kneeling at my window in basic, came true.  There were many more days and holidays when family was far away.  But also knew it was a small sacrifice to make to serve my country.

So today, be sure and remember those who are serving, who are sacrificing, that we can enjoy our freedoms.  Remember freedom is never free and we should be thankful for those willing to make ours possible.  Jesus said, “No one has greater love than this: to lay down his life for his friends.” That is so, so true. Look, we all know America is far from perfect, but she is still the best country on the planet—remember that today too. And if you are one of those separated from family to serve, thank you and know that the One who died for you, loves you and will never leave you.  No matter what you are facing today, He’s 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, 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 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

Posted in Family, friends, Grace, gratitude, life, Scripture, sovereignty of God, thankful, travel

At 217

The Lord directs the steps of the Godly. He delights in every detail of their lives.” Psalm 37:23

It stands tall.  When we moved to 217 West Poplar Street our yard was a blank slate.  The house had sat empty for more than a few years and while someone made sure the grass was cut, no one cared if it was beautiful.  When my wife Judy came…all that began to change.  Somewhere along her journey she acquired what can only be described as a green thumb. She has a way with plants that causes them to grow…to thrive.  What was once a blank slate is now a garden, lush and green, with many kinds of plants, trees, and flowers.

Her style, though planned, is not one that is starchy or stiff.  The flowers and plants are allowed to grow freely…to multiply.  While there are times when pruning has to be done and digging has to occur, largely they are allowed to “bloom where they are planted.”  The best example of that is Herbert the tree.  I need to tell you that I only recently named the tree Herbert.  I thought it might add more human interest to the story.  Anyway, several years ago, a maple tree began to grow in one of our flower beds.  Now, honestly, that usually doesn’t end well for the tree.  But this one, well, somehow the story turned out differently.

Herbert started growing too close to the fence in our front yard.  I can say with certainty that he was probably cut down a couple of times and each time he came back.  So finally, somehow, we decided to let him grow—and he did.  Time gets away from us all and it may be longer than I think, but I think Herbert is now about five years old.  He has grown from a little maple sapling into a 25-30-foot-tall tree.  He was planted by nature, but it was our decision to let him grow…to bloom where he was planted.  I’m glad we did.

Herbert is now big enough to provide shade in our front yard and he also adds depth and dimension to our yard. Oh, and now, for the first time, when I rake leaves in the fall, at least some of them are mine and not my neighbor’s.  Somehow that is satisfying. A friend says I should have cut Herbert down a long time ago…you know, wrong place. But I told him that we were going to give him a chance.  While the place nature put him isn’t the best, he is a constant reminder to us that we should grow, to flourish, wherever God plants us.

Our life has been a series of great adventures.  While some folks choose to grow in the same community all of their lives and maybe live in the same house…well, ours has been different.  It really wasn’t us making the call…I believe it was a sovereign God working and planning what He thought best for us.  Our path isn’t your path, but it was the one that God chose for us.  One of the writers of the Jewish hymnbook in what we call the Old Testament said, “The Lord directs the steps of the Godly. He delights in every detail of their lives.”  In other words, life, and especially the life of someone who follows Jesus, isn’t a series of accidents and circumstances but rather the handiwork of a Master Gardener. And for those Jesus followers, well that Master Gardener just happens to be their Dearest Daddy.

So, when you drive by our house on Poplar Street look at Herbert.  He lives by the alley and by the fence on the East side of our front yard.  Notice that he is closer to the fence than he should be but also remember that he is simply, “blooming where he was planted.”  It seems to be working out well for Herbert and guess what?  It seems to work out well for us humans too. Regardless of where you’ve been planted and regardless of the soil—just keep trusting the Master Gardner…He’s got this.  Bro. Dewayne