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

The Thumb

Imitate God, therefore, in everything you do, because you are His dear children.” Ephesians 5:1

He gave me the thumb and I wasn’t sure I liked it.  It was just about a year ago.  It was a Saturday afternoon and I decided to take a trip to Marion.  With my wife Judy out in Oklahoma doing family mission work I was a little bored.  I wasn’t heading to anyplace in particular just getting out of town.  As those who live around here know, the road to Marion is a nice four lane highway with a speed limit of 65 mph.  I was hitting that right on the nose.  Now, frankly, most of the time I am like most drivers and do a couple of miles over the limit.  But today I was a law-abiding citizen.  And then I saw him.

Up ahead some distance was a guy and his lady friend on a Harley.  He was doing probably about 62 mph…just enough so I was either going to have to slow down or get into the left lane and pass him.  The closer I got I could see that he looked just what my prejudiced eyes thought he would. Three or four days of stubble covered his face, a bandana held his hair down, well-worn jeans, a few tats, and some sort of leather vest finished his look.  His lady friend also sported a bandana and was dressed in black.  She reminded me of a female version of Johnny Cash.

So, giving the biker dude plenty of girth, I moved over into the left lane, cruise still set to 65.  Just before I got even with the guy on the bike, he nudged the throttle on his Harley and soon was about 40 yards ahead of me.  I thought, “Well, ok, maybe Harley’s don’t have cruise and he realized he was doing under the speed limit.  But wait…now he’s slowing down again.  Strange.  I went back into the left lane and when we were about even—he throttled up again.  Well, back into the right lane I went.  As I did, he did his slow down thing again.  I got back into the left lane and when I did his lady friend turned around and gave me “the look.”

I can’t really explain the look.  I know when Judy gives it to me it never ends well.  So, I filed that away.  Soon I was even again with my friend on the Harley, and he looks over at me.  I give him a shrug of the shoulders, the kind that says, “Hey dude, what’s up?” And that’s when he gave me the thumb.  Now I don’t speak sign language at all.  I do know when some people do certain things with their fingers it can be pretty ugly.  I’ve had that happen before.  But no one has ever given me the thumb.

He simply held up his hand, fingers tucked in and his thumb sticking out—kinda like a hitchhiker would do when thumbing for a ride. His thumb pointing to the rear of his bike, he gave it a jerk—pointing behind him—and throttled big and shot off into the distance.  Just like that, he and she were gone.  And not speaking fluent biker hand signs, I was left trying to figure out if I was glad or mad or offended or off-ended. I need to tell you that I’m not sure off-ended is a real word but it sounded good.

So as the biker dude took off, several scenarios kinda played through my mind.  I mean if he was being a jerk, I could play like Clint Eastwood, reach under my seat and draw out my 45 magnum and say, “Go ahead…make my day.”  But the only thing under my seat was an umbrella and it wasn’t a 45 magnum anyway.  And maybe he wasn’t being a jerk after all.  He might have been saying, “Hey, the girl on the back is my wife Sally.  I just wanted to introduce her to you.”  It could have been that he wanted me to fall in behind him so he could break the wind for me like one of those NASCAR drivers.

Truth is—I don’t have a clue.  So, I pulled back into the right lane and kept on driving.  I even notched it down a couple of miles per hour to give the biker dude plenty of room. He turned right heading toward Pittsburg and I will probably never see him again.  But one thing is sure.  If he should happen to walk into church this Sunday, unless I violated some sort of biker code I don’t know about, I won’t have to be embarrassed.  I played it cool and hopefully acted like Jesus wanted me too.  And that is what matters.

Paul told some folks at Ephesus who were Jesus followers that they should imitate God in everything they do.  It not only applies to them—it applies to us. In other words, if we are Jesus followers, we should speak, act, think and respond like Him because we are His dear children. Now, I don’t always get it right.  In fact, too often I get it wrong.  But that day…it felt pretty good that I didn’t do something to embarrass myself or my Dearest Father.  So, if someone gives you the thumb, or worse, just hit the pause button. Pull back into the right lane, bump your cruise down a couple of mph and rest.  You know why, don’t you?  That’s right…He’s got this.  Bro. Dewayne

Posted in Family, forgiveness, Grace, gratitude, life, love, loving others, prayer, priorities, Scripture, thankful, wisdom

Unexpected Gratitude

For God so loved the world, that He gave His only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life.” John 3:16

I made a random turn…into the cemetery.  One evening my wife Judy and I were out on a mission.  One of our ladies had given us some homemade ice cream and we were returning the container.  Oh, in case you are wondering, it was way beyond delicious.  It was peach and it was just peachy.  I’ve already put in a request for strawberry next.  We returned the container and just kinda started driving randomly.  As we went down the street the entrance to the cemetery came up on the right—and I turned right in.

Slowly we started driving down the lanes and just as slowly I started reading some of the headstones there.  First, though, on the left was Harrisburg’s “Little Arlington.”  It was dusk and the lights were on, and I was so impressed with all the work that went into honoring those who had served their country. It represented sacrifice. For some the ultimate sacrifice…the kind of sacrifice that means you don’t get to come home from the war.  I love what is often said, “All gave some, but some gave all.” For that, I was moved, and I was grateful.

Just down the lane was a grave that caught my attention.  It was a young soldier who went to Korea to fight for his country in what has been called “the forgotten war.”  He was 27 years old when he died on some battlefield, some hill in a country for away.  He was fighting and ultimately died for the cause of freedom.  I was moved and I was grateful.

In several places, Judy and I would stop as we saw a headstone that was personal because we knew, we loved, the ones buried there.  Sometimes both of the names were etched there in the stone, and it symbolized two lives joined into one story.  And for both the story had concluded.  Sometimes though only one name had the start and finish dates. The other story was still being written and there was a heart longing for heaven and a long-awaited reunion.  One stone declared and celebrated 72 years of marriage.  So many of those story writers had touched our lives.  I was moved and I was grateful.

There were also stones of tragedy.  There stood the stone marking the grave of two brothers tragically killed one night by a drunk driver.  Several other stones showed lives cut short by a tragic accident.  Over there was the headstone of one of the victims from the 2012 tornado.  Everywhere were stories of people who touched the lives of others. One stone showed an American flag engraved in full color—the grave of a proud veteran.  One grave was that of a pastor and a veteran of World War II.  So many stories, so many lives, so many contributions.  I was moved and I was grateful.

As we continued around the lanes inside the hallowed grounds, we noticed there were places where whole families were buried together.  Generations of fathers and mothers, sons and daughters lay in eternal rest together.  The stones often bore nicknames and tag lines of the one who lay there.  On one grave was a tattered flag that said, “#1 Dad.” Some graves though were barely marked.  The only indication that someone lay there was a rock or a stone.  In another part of the cemetery were the pauper graves.  I have stood at some of those graves as we laid to rest someone that almost no one knew.  Once it was the funeral director and me.  No one else came. I was moved and I was grateful.

“Wait,” you say.  “How can you be grateful?”  Well, the reason is simple.  Whether it was a family plot of many generations or a solitary grave of a person when no one came—Jesus was still there.  He is the unseen attendee of every funeral.  For many He is there as Savior and Lord. For others He is there as the Sovereign Lord who wishes all to believe but knows not all will.  But He is there.  He is always there.  When we need Him, when we want Him and yes, even when we ignore Him.  I am moved and I am grateful.

When you get some time, take a slow drive through the cemetery.  It is anything but morbid…it is in fact one of the most meaningful things we can do.  You will be touched, you will be moved, and yes, somewhere along the way you will be grateful.  Let each headstone with a start and finish date be a reminder that for you there is still time.  Still time to make a difference, still time to mend a relationship, still time to finish well.  But most importantly…there is still time to believe and trust in Him.  The Book says that if anyone will call on His name…they will be saved—forgiven—rescued. No story is so bad that He can’t change the end.  Once again, I am moved and I am grateful.

Many see the cemetery and think death.  For those who truly understand grace and Jesus they know the cemetery isn’t about death it is about life.  You learned it in Sunday School but now hear it again…like the first time.  “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever (that is you and me) calls on His name will not perish but have everlasting life.”  So, trust in Him and rest in Him.  For He has all of this.  Bro. Dewayne

Posted in Family, fear, forgiveness, Grace, life, love, loving others, Southern born, thankful

Just Say No

The woman was convinced. She saw that the tree was beautiful, and it’s fruit looked delicious, and she wanted the wisdom it would give her. So she took some of the fruit and ate it. Then she gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it, too.” Genesis 3:6

I remember it like it was yesterday…or a couple of weeks ago anyway.  I am the youngest of eight children.  Some call me the baby of the family…I know Momma and Daddy saved the best for last.  My brothers and sisters nicknamed me Precious.  I used to think it was because they were jealous, but I later learned they were just right.  And, because I was so precious, well I often was the target of pranks and other acts of terrorism.

The two sisters and I were called the three little ones.  That was because everybody else was several years older and therefore bigger.  The other two members of “the three little ones” were the main terrorists.  They loved to hold me down and tickle me mercilessly and then pull my ears till they were blood red. It’s because of them one of my ears sticks out further than the other. They were two tough cookies.

One time they pushed me out the door in my underwear and wouldn’t let me back in.  I banged and banged on the door all to no avail.  They, of course, will deny all of this but trust me, at the Judgement Seat all will be revealed, and they will surely be grateful for grace.

I have always had an affection for sweet things, and they even used that against me.  One day one of them came up and said, “Dewayne, do you want some candy?”  Well, my response was, “Well sure.”  It was in a small box and in my excitement, I didn’t take time to read the label.  Honestly, since I was only about eight, I probably wouldn’t have known the difference anyway.  So, I opened the box and found that it was filled with chocolates.  There were only three or four pieces in the box and before long…they were gone.

I did notice that they tasted a little different, but they were sweet,  and they were brown so hey, that was close enough for me.  I should have been suspicious that the terrorists were being so nice, but I always was a trusting soul.  Well, several hours passed and before long time wasn’t the only thing that was passing.  You see, my loving sisters had fed me a whole box of Ex-Lax.  They would deny it, you probably can’t believe it, but trust me I was there.  Oh, boy was I there.

Well, I learned a lot of lessons growing up and this is one of them.  You see, things are often not what they seem to be. I thought I was a getting a box of chocolates and instead I got a box of trouble.  It looked like chocolate, it even tasted somewhat like chocolate, but it wasn’t anything close.  Did you know that the Bible warns us how the Devil can disguise himself?  It says that he can disguise himself as an angel of light when in fact He is the angel of darkness.  Remember that…things are not always as they seem.

I learned too that not everyone who comes bearing gifts can be trusted.  I should have known better when they offered that box but my desire for chocolate overruled my common sense.  That is what got Adam and Eve in trouble in the garden. The story is found in Genesis, and it says, “The woman was convinced. She saw that the tree was beautiful, and its fruit looked delicious, and she wanted the wisdom it would give her. So, she took some of the fruit and ate it. Then she gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it, too.” And that is how I found myself eating Ex-Lax.

It’s a tricky world out there…terrorists are lurking everywhere and sometimes they might be related so be careful.  Be sure and use your good common sense if someone offers you a little box filled with chocolates.  You might be getting more than you bargained for.  Like I said, I probably wouldn’t have understood the label even if I had read it. But do you know what?  My Momma would have.  In fact, if I had gone to her this story would have been totally different.  But I didn’t.

As we journey through this upside-down world, don’t forget to go to your Dearest Daddy with your questions and mysteries.  He is always there, and He is always watching out for you.  You can trust Him. His box of chocolate is always the real deal.  So have a seat, open the box, and enjoy.  You can rest in Him.  He’s got this. Bro. Dewayne

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, forgiveness, Grace, gratitude, life, love, prayer, priorities, Scripture, thankful, Trials, Uncategorized

What’s Your Worth?

“For God so loved the world that He gave His only Begotten Son that whosoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.” John 3:16

Well, this week was the week we got to pay the first installment on our property taxes. There is a first installment because there is a second installment and there is a second installment because tax are well, really steep. All this reminds me of something that came in the mail last year and it was from the tax guy—the assessor to be specific.

They told me they had driven by my house and they really liked it—a lot.  And, since they liked it so much, they thought it was worth a lot more than they had previously thought.  A whole lot more.  They blessed me with a reassessment and the grand prize was I got to pay more property taxes. Yay.  Well, not really but it did give me a great opportunity to learn about how much God loves me.  Here’s what happened.

If you have been here before you probably know my day job is being a pastor. It is something that I really enjoy.  My favorite thing is  sharing THE story but also sharing stories.  I love to take big truths and present them in a way that anyone can grasp them.  I think that is what Jesus did and I figure if He did it I should too.

So a while back I was sharing the story from the Bible how four guys take this paralyzed guy to see Jesus.  When they got there, the house was stuffed with people.  There was no way they were going to get in.  So they decided to take this guy up on the roof, dig a hole in the roof and then lower him right in front of Jesus.  It was crazy, it was  radical, and it was different, but they believed two things.  They believe that Jesus could heal their friend and that the friend was worth the effort.  We all could use friends like that.

They began to haul this guy up the ladder to the roof.  Can you even imagine how difficult and challenging that was?  I mean how do you keep a paralyzed guy from falling off his mat while climbing a ladder?  Well, somehow they pulled it off.  When they got to the top they began to remove the thatch first and then break apart the mud and tiles.  After they had made a hole big enough to get this guy through—they lowered him down and He landed right in front of Jesus. I bet there were more than one person who wondered what in the world was going on. I bet too some people were grumbling about tearing up a perfectly good roof to get some poor, paralyzed guy in front of Jesus. I mean if he had been some rich guy maybe but a nobody? And that’s what rung my bell.

You see to those four guys and to Jesus—this guy wasn’t a nobody—he was a somebody.  He was worth way more than a hole in the roof.  In fact, through the eyes of Jesus every soul if incredibly valuable—including yours.  And that’s when the reassessment thing came into focus. Remember, when the tax folks drove by my house they liked what they saw and they increased my assessment.  Their assessment really only means I get to pay more taxes.  It really doesn’t tell me what my house is really worth.

You see, I learned a while back that anything you or I own—our house, our car, is worth only what someone is willing to pay for it. That’s the bottom line.  So here’s the deal.  God drove by your soul, my soul and assigned a value to it—what it was worth to Him and what He was willing to pay to redeem it.  Do you know what that was?  Well, we find it in the Bible.  It says, “For God so loved the world that He gave His only Begotten Son that whosoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.  Get that—everlasting (as in eternal) life.  God’s assessment of our value to Him was the life of His very own Son.  He allowed His Son to die on a Roman cross because He counted us as somehow worth it.  He just loved us that much.

Well, the end of the story for the paralyzed guy was pretty amazing too.  Jesus first calls him Son—not worthless, not broken, but Son. Then He forgives the guy’s sin—not what he wanted but what he needed—and finally, He tells him to stand up, take his mat, and go home.  Three seemingly impossible things but with Jesus, as you can probably guess, nothing is really impossible when He shows up. The guy jumps up, takes his mat and leaves as the crowd is standing in disbelief.  They said they have never seen anything like that—and they hadn’t. The key thing is that the guy had to not only believe but also act on what he believed and each one of us must do the same.  We have to believe that Jesus is Who He says He is and can do what He says He can do.  When we believe that—we are forgiven and God becomes our Father.

Truth be known, I wasn’t too happy about my reassessment but I was glad it taught me a new way to look at how much God loves me…and you.  When we are down on ourselves, when all I can see are failures and warts, when I want to give up and quit, I remind myself that my Heavenly Father thinks I am worth a lot. You see, I’m also learning that His opinion is the only one that matters. So why not take a rest in Him today.  Because you know—He’s got this. Bro. Dewayne

Posted in Family, forgiveness, Grace, life, love, priorities, Scripture, thankful, Trials, wisdom

It’s Time to Remember

Lazy people want much but get little, but those who work hard will prosper.” Proverbs 13:4

I remember…in fact, I don’t think I can forget.  This past spring, I spend a long day working in the yard.  Generally speaking, I enjoy working in the yard…just not overwhelmed and all day. Let me just say that I am not as young as I used to be…and probably not as healthy as I ought to be. At any rate there was a job to be done so I jumped in. There were two things that needed to be done.

The first thing I did was to “deadhead.”  Now you may already know what that means but just in case, here you go.  In the fall, when all the green stuff dies it leaves this brown stuff.  The green stuff is pretty—the brown stuff is not.  You are supposed to cut the brown stuff in the fall, so it looks better all winter.  The other reason for cutting it in the fall is that you don’t have to do it in the spring.  Well, we were busy, we were lazy, we ignored it—it doesn’t matter—the bottom line was we had a bunch of deadheading to do.  Bummer. 

So that Saturday I deadheaded.  Here’s the lesson—don’t put off today what you need to do till tomorrow.  The problem or task may be even bigger, and it can even be more difficult.  And frankly, tomorrow may never come. Every person gets 1440 minutes a day and if we are wise, we will use them wisely. Proverbs 13:4 says, “Lazy people want much but get little, but those who work hard will prosper.” Ouch.  Thanks Solomon! So, in a week or two or three, there will be deadheading to do.  I need to remember last spring because this fall can make next spring—better.  Remember each day is a gift…work for the kingdom, love someone—but do it now.

Now the other thing I did that Saturday was rake leaves—didn’t do that either last fall—see paragraph two above.  But here’s the weird part.  With the exception of a medium size maple tree and several crepe myrtles, I don’t have any trees.  What?  I’m raking leaves and I don’t have any trees—what kind of deal is that?  Well, you see, my neighbors do.  I get to rake their leaves every year.  Now listen, I don’t mean just a few—I mean a lot.  Not fair?  Doesn’t matter—I still must deal with the leaves.

Lesson two is to remember that your “messy” will always end up in someone else’s life.  Just as those leaves blow my way—so our “messy” finds its way into the lives of those around us.  Remember that your sin is never just your sin.  Also, instead of being bitter about someone’s “messy,” do the Jesus thing and forgive.  After all, none of us are perfect and forgiveness just makes our life better.

So, I was tired—real tired—that spring Saturday but here it is fall again and I am faced with a decision.  Will I make the most of these days so those spring days will be a little easier or will I procrastinate and pay the price next spring?  I am hoping that I will be wise enough not to put off till tomorrow what needs to be done today.  I hope I will remember that if I am wise next spring can l be—better.  Oh, there was something good that came from that long Saturday, there was a good sense of accomplishment as I made up for last fall’s indiscretion.  Well, you know what they say, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” And that is true.  And you know they also say, “He’s got this” and that is definitely true.   Bro. Dewayne

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

Conversations

Let your conversation be gracious and attractive so that you will have the right response for everyone.” Colossians 4:6 

It was just a little misunderstanding. The story is told of a pastor who visited a man in the hospital.  As he stood by the bed, the man began to be in deep distress. Unable to speak, he quickly wrote the pastor a note, handed it to him and then just died. In all the confusion of the moment, the pastor slid the note into his pocket and forgot about it. Several days later the pastor was conducting the memorial service for the man. The pastor was describing the man…his life, his good heart, and his service for others. Then it happened. 

The pastor suddenly remembered that he had the note in his suit pocket.  He told the audience, “I have just remembered the day Joe died, I was visiting him in the hospital, and he slipped me a note right before he passed away. I failed to read it and have just now remembered it is in my pocket. How special it would be if we can share his last thoughts together now. So, the pastor reached into his pocket, pulled out the note and read, “You’re standing on my oxygen hose.” Smile. 

As a pastor you can bet, I have some crazy stories and a lot of them revolve around little misunderstandings and lack of communication. Recently I told the story of how I was visiting one of our members in the hospital and she was quite ill. When I make a visit, I naturally slip into my “let me help you feel better mode.” For me there are two great fix-all’s—humor and food. But sometimes, many times, a person just needs compassion and kindness. This was one of those times. 

I walked into the hospital room, and she was lying in the bed softly moaning. I moved over by the bed and whispered her name. She opened her eyes, slightly smiled, and said, “Pastor, thank you for coming by.” We shared for just a few minutes, and it was obvious she was extremely sick. And then she said, “I just want to go home.”  I softly said, “I know.” And she said it again and then another time. Each time I responded with some simple words of understanding. After the third time I upped my game. I said, “I know you want to go home and when God is ready, He will take you.” 

Well, imagine my surprise, and embarrassment, when she said, “NOT that home, pastor, my home.”  Oh…oops. I was ready to ship her off to heaven and she was just wanting to go back to her house. Like I said, sometimes there is just a lack of understanding and communication. When that happens, we need to admit that we missed it and if necessary, ask for a little grace or give a little grace. I quickly apologized for the misunderstanding, she did get better and indeed went to her home. We even had the chance to laugh about it later. 

In the world we find ourselves these days there are multiple opportunities for misunderstandings. When we find ourselves in too close of quarters for too long, when we have differing opinions about everything from the corona virus to what is wrong with our country—misunderstandings are bound to happen. In the regular world the normal response would be to get mad and often get even. In the regular world the normal response would be more anger and more division. But for Jesus followers that is just not an option. 

The Bible tells us over and again that if we follow Jesus we are to act like Jesus. We often get that when it comes to moral responses—and rightfully so. But we too often miss the biggest application—how we respond when we bump into other people…or they bump into us. Paul, one of the major writers in the Bible says, “Let your conversation be gracious and attractive so that you will have the right response for everyone.”  I like that. Gracious and attractive. Momma used to say, “If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything.  I wonder if Momma knew Paul? 

Well, the bottom line is there will always be plenty of opportunities to bump into people.  There will always be plenty of opportunities to respond in a “not so Jesus way.”  But what if we hit the pause button before we speak and ask ourselves, “Is this gracious or attractive? Is this nice?” I wonder how things would change. In these days, the world needs “Jesus lights.” It needs us to shine for Him even when we get a little tired and a little weary. We need to recognize when we are set up for regretful words. Let’s choose option “B.”  Let’s rest in Him and choose to think before we speak. After all, He’s got this.    Bro. Dewayne

Posted in Family, fear, gratitude, life, love, loving others, Scripture, thankful

Holy Moley!

God has not given us a spirit of fear but of power, love and a sound mind.” 2 Timothy 1:7

It was January of 2004, and it was a day to remember.  On that day, as a gift from a friend, I received my first flat panel television.  Of course, back then it was brand new technology, and they were a little different.  This one was about three inches thick and weighted about seventy pounds.  I still keep it stored away simply because it is so special.  Over the years, things have changed and that is true with televisions too.  Thankfully, they have gone on a diet.  Today, a larger television weighs less than half of the earlier models.  Regardless, it can still be a little tricky to hang one on the wall…especially if you are “tool” challenged. Let me explain.

A while back I was going to attempt to mount a television on our bedroom wall.  I mean, it seemed easy enough.  You take the television off the other wall, take the mount off the other wall, and go to the new wall.  You drill a couple of holes and mount the mount.  “That’s easy,” I said.  “That’s no problem,” I said.  “Anybody can do that,” I said.  “In fact,” I said, “a blind man could do it.” About then discovered my name wasn’t “anybody” and I wasn’t blind.

Our house is old, and I do mean old.  How old?  Well, Miss Alice’s house next door was built in 1902, and she said when her house was being built ours was already there.  That means our house is at least 119 years old—holy moley—that is old.  At any rate that means there must be some plaster walls and there are.  There is a reason why someone invented sheetrock and the reason is no one likes plaster walls.  They are a pain. They easily crack. They are difficult to drill through and oh, a stud finder doesn’t work and if you are going to mount a television…you need to find the studs in the wall.

I started searching for the elusive stud in the wall.  I tapped on the wall, I laid hands on the wall, I talked to the walI, but all to no avail.  I then called a friend of mine and he said to start drilling holes till you find a stud.  I was paralyzed—I could just imagine my wall having a religious experience and becoming very holey. But anyway, I started drilling.

Well, five holes later (we need to hum a few bars of, “holy, holy, holy”) I finally found a stud and amazingly when I found one, I could find the next.  As I screwed the bolts into the wall, I said a prayer and put the television on the mount.  It worked.  And, believe it or not, it is still there today.  I just hope that no one looks behind the television and sees all the “oops!” If you should ever hear a loud moan from over Poplar Street way, well it might be that things went south after all.

One of the things I learned (again) through all of this is how fear can paralyze us.  I mean I stood there and looked and studied (no pun intended) and looked and studied…trying to get the courage to start drilling. I was afraid that I might end up drilling hole after hole after hole and have Swiss cheese instead of a wall.  I was afraid and so for a while I did nothing.  When I finally decided that I could and should…it gave me the courage to start and finish my project.

If you find yourself facing a difficult task, if you find yourself overwhelmed with fear—find someone to give you a little encouragement. Sometimes that might come in the form of flesh and bones, but it can come without either—it just might come from God and from His Word.  When you find yourself in the grip of fear, remember 2 Timothy 1:7, “God has not given us a spirit of fear but of power, love and a sound mind.”  And always remember that regardless of what we face, we can have the confident assurance that, “He’s got this.”

Posted in Family, food, gratitude, life, love, loving others, priorities, Scripture, Southern born, thankful

Sometimes More is Just More

Command those who are rich in this present age not to be haughty, nor to trust in uncertain riches but in the living God, who gives us richly all things to enjoy.” 1 Timothy 6:13

I like coffee…a lot.  Coffee has been a best friend of the Taylor tribe for as long as I can remember.  I grew up with my Daddy’s words, “Dewayne, get me a cup of coffee” ringing in my ears.  One of my favorite memories of my parents is Daddy coming home about 4:00 pm and Momma having a fresh pot of coffee waiting.  She would pour up two cups and they would sit under the tree in the back yard and visit and drink coffee.  Now I am one of those coffee drinkers who likes their coffee bold and strong.  Someone said drinking weak coffee is like drinking brown dishwater.  I agree.

Now this is one area that my wife Judy and I don’t quite agree on.  She likes her coffee, well, mild.  You might say I like man coffee and she likes lady coffee and that works because I am a man and she is a lady.  The only time that doesn’t work is when I am downstairs and the only coffee there is her lady coffee.  It is something called breakfast blend and it is pretty mild. So, when I am downstairs, what am I to do?  Well, I stumbled on the answer awhile back.  Less.

That’s right…less.  You see we have one of those Keurig coffeemakers.  I know, I know…you purest coffee drinkers out there are probably gagging, but it is a good compromise for flavor and a fast cup of coffee.  One of the features on the Keurig is that you can easily adjust the amount of water in the cup.  You can set it on anywhere from four to twelve ounces.  So, if the coffee is a little on the lady side, well, I just set it to use less water.  Less water equates to stronger coffee.  Boom…problem solved.

You see, when it comes to how big the cup of coffee, sometimes more water is just more.  The coffee may still look black (which is how I drink it) but the amount of water vastly affects the flavor.  More water equals less flavor.  And that is not only true in coffee (or tea I suppose…though I am not a hot tea drinker) it is true in life.  Sometimes we just think if we can pour in more of this or more of that we will be happier.  Often, we are not any happier…we are just a lot busier.  Often, we are not any happier…we are just further into debt.  Often, we are not any happier…we are just in greater need for a larger wardrobe.

Along with more is better (and often it is not) comes the thought that, “If I only had…” and in our “culture of much”, that is often thought and often believed.  Well, take it from someone who often looked for happiness at Best Buy or Target…it just isn’t so.  The thing that can make life worth living is not found in a store…it is found in the people we love most…that matter the most.  The thing that makes life worth living is not found in a store…it is found by looking to the Heavenly Father.  The fact is, He made all things for us to enjoy…yup, it’s in the Bible.  But keep in mind that He has given us nothing to worship.  That belongs to Him and Him alone.

Remember, you can adjust your coffee flavor in your Keurig with the amount of water you choose. If you like stronger coffee…more isn’t better…it’s just more.  And when it comes to life, learn to appreciate, to love those around you.  Take the time to enjoy them.  In that case more is not only more…it is abundant. And when you need to add some richness to life, you’ll find no better source than God.  He loves you so much and wants you to experience life to the fullest.  In fact, He said, “I have come that you might have the life that is truly life.”  And to help you along the way, He will be right there beside you, ready to help, ready to assure, ready to let you know, “He’s got this.” Bro. Dewayne

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

Giants Among Us

Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.” Ephesians 4:32

There are giants among us…we saw them. These giants were the massive redwoods of California, and they are the tallest and perhaps the largest trees on earth. They can grow up to 380 feet in height and up to 26 feet in diameter. Not only that, they can live up to 2,200 years. The giant redwoods are an evergreen tree only found in a narrow strip of coastal California and just north of the Oregon border.

The redwoods seem larger than life and that’s because they are. They are not the only giants around though.  There are the humankind, but I’m not talking about their height or weight. I am talking about heroes—people with big hearts and brave souls. These amazing people do the most amazing things. They lay their lives on the line for their country, they put on a badge and go into dangerous situations for a few dollars a week.  They charge into burning buildings when everyone else is trying to get out.

That is just a few for the list goes on and on.  There are also other kinds of giants—larger in life in the quest for excellence, to change the world or perhaps, to be like Jesus. These are some of the people I admire the most—true spiritual giants. Over a couple of years ago I met one.  I was amazed by her story.

It all started when we were invited over to a friend’s house for supper. When we arrived, we had the opportunity to meet her mother who lives with her. That is when I realized it probably wouldn’t be a normal evening. When her mom spoke to us you could tell she was struggling with her voice.  Before long, she explained and that was the beginning of an incredible story.

She explained in 1950 when she was 19 years old, she was diagnosed with polio.  If you know a little about those times, there was an epidemic of this terrible, dreaded disease.  It struck without warning and without rhythm and that was the case here. It left this dear saint partially paralyzed and affected her vocal cords.  I was enthralled with her story as she shared, they said she would never walk—but they were wrong.

Then she shared more and more of her story.  When she was born (and remember this is around 1930) there were twins and she weighed less than two pounds.  She was a fighter from the beginning and fight she did.  Later, when she was eleven, she basically was put out to fend for herself and she did.  She had a strong constitution and work ethic.  I was amazed.

She married and had three miscarriages before giving birth to her daughter.  She would end up having 21 surgeries for various reasons and lives with a colostomy.  She has been told that she has cancer though they really can’t pinpoint the source.  I know there are several things that I am leaving out but that is enough for you to get the picture.  Her life has been difficult from the get-go but that is not the main story.

The most amazing story is her faith.  Receiving Christ at a young age, her journey of faith has been strong and steady.  Like Job, her love for God only grew deeper and stronger.  She shared that evening how blessed she was that God had entrusted her with this suffering.  From her lips poured words of praise for her Savior. Then came stories of incredible generosity to those in need—both physically and spiritually.

Judy and I both left that night refreshed as if we had drunk deeply from a cool spring. We were blessed, encouraged, and challenged by a saint who had given more than she took.  She isn’t the only one.  Over my almost four decades of pastoring, I have bumped into so many spiritual heroes.  You had to bump into them because like most heroes, they don’t brag about their lives and stories.

When I left that night, I also left strengthened.  It is instances like this that solidify my own faith.  When I see and hear stories such as this one, it shouts to me, “God is real.”  It also does one more thing.  It causes me to examine the life story I am writing.  When people read my life, what does it say about me…and about the God I serve?

Each one of us are writing a story and during this hot mess called life, we all have special opportunities to write a saga.  The way we live, act, and speak will tell a tale.  Hopefully it will be one of grace and kindness.  Paul wrote in the Bible that we should be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.

That is a tall order, but God is in the business of filling tall orders.  Why not take a moment and ask your Heavenly Father for a little, or maybe a lot, of help?  Let Him know you’ve been treading water a lot these days and you could use a little rest.  Don’t worry—He is ready and willing to help.  He’s got this.  Bro. Dewayne