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

Hope

Daughter, your faith has made you well. Go in peace. Your suffering is over.” Mark 5:34

She knew the pain of isolation. For her rejection was a way of life. For twelve years she was alone. For twelve years she felt the pain of rejection. For twelve years she knew nothing but unworthiness. We don’t know her real name. Her condition named her–defined her. She was known as the “woman with an issue of blood.”

That name made her unacceptable in most circles. Church? “So sorry, unworthy.” Her neighborhood? “So sorry, unclean.” Her family? Well, there really wasn’t one that would claim her. Like I said she was an expert at social distancing. No one wanted her. And it hurt. A lot.

It wasn’t that she didn’t try to make things right. Her story is found in Mark 5 and in verse 26 we read, “She had suffered a great deal from many doctors, and over the years she had spent everything she had to pay them, but she had gotten no better. In fact, she had gotten worse.” She so craved an end to this nightmare of loneliness and illness. Her body was worn down by the blood loss and her spirit was worn down by the rejection. She had seen every physician, but the only result was a depleted bank account and a worsening condition. She was at the end. And that is where she found Jesus.

We are not told how she came to know of Jesus, but it was probably word of mouth. Someone said and someone repeated, “Jesus heals people. Jesus touches people…even unworthy people. Jesus accepts people…even people that no one else wants.” She heard a crowd. She saw a crowd and at the middle of this crowd was her only hope.

She weaved her way to the center trying to conceal her face because if they knew who she was, she would quickly be pushed aside. She believed that if she could just touch His robe, she could–she would be healed. Finally, she saw His back and stumbling she touched His robe. Immediately she knew it. Immediately she felt it–it was done. It was over. She was healed.

Jesus knew it too. He felt power leave His body and He asked the crowd, “Who touched me?” The disciples, perhaps with a smile, said, “Lord, you see the crowd. What do you mean who touched you?” But Jesus knew what they didn’t. Someone’s life was changed, and it was her. She, so used to rebuke and rejection, came trembling and confessed, “It was me.” Before she could apologize or explain, He said it.

In verse 34, Jesus says, “Daughter, your faith has made you well. Go in peace. Your suffering is over.” What did He say? Daughter? She had been called unworthy, unclean, unwanted, but “Daughter?” That was a name she had never heard. And He declared an end to her war with suffering. She was made whole. She was accepted. She was clean. Amazing.

It all happened because of a five-letter word. Faith. She believed. Let’s be careful here. She didn’t just believe, she believed in Jesus. It wasn’t just faith, it was faith in Him. You see when we believe there can be hope. But when we choose to believe in Jesus there is healing, there is life, there is rescue.

They parted ways then. There was a twelve-year-old girl who needed to be raised from the dead. She needed her own miracle. But for this woman, life was never the same. Maybe she went home. Maybe she went to the market. Maybe she went to the temple. It doesn’t matter where she went, the stigma was gone. She was no longer called unclean, no longer called unworthy, no longer called unwanted. She had a new name. It was “daughter.”

So how about you? Does this story resonate within you? Are her names… your names? Is her pain …your pain? Why not fight the crowd, break your spiritual social distancing, your isolation, and come to Jesus? And, like her, why not believe? Have the courage to believe that you will find healing and rest in Him. After all, He’s got this. Bro. Dewayne

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

June 12th

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Heroes

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

Years later, it still tugs at my heart. I’m not sure how I found my way there, but I was grateful.  During my assignment in Sembach, Germany we had the opportunity to see so much.  From Hitler’s hideaway called “The Eagle’s Nest” in Berchtesgaden to the windmills of Holland to the Alps of Switzerland we were constantly amazed at what was all around us.  But nothing prepared me for Luxembourg.

We had some friends that we had known in our days at Moody Air Force Base in South Georgia.  They received orders to Germany several months before we did.  They were only a couple of hours from us so we saw each other pretty frequently.  It must have been during one of our forays that we came to it—Luxembourg American Cemetery.  It was one of the most hollowed sights I have ever seen.

There, in the cemetery, are 5,075 white Lasa marble crosses and stars of David.  Row after row of headstones that mark the final resting place of American heroes.  Each one made the ultimate sacrifice for us, for you and me, that we can live in freedom.  General George Patton is buried there. Two Medal of Honor recipients are also buried there: David G. Turner and William D. McGee. Twenty-two sets of brothers lay buried side by side throughout the cemetery. Some, 371 in fact, were never found.  They are simply listed as missing in action.  102 are just unknown.

This place of honor was established on December 29, 1944.  Many of the soldiers died during the Battle of the Bulge…Hitler’s last push to turn the tide of the war in Germany’s favor.  It failed but it came at great cost to the Allied forces. It was a harsh winter and because of the urgency of the times many were sent to fight with little or no winter gear. The desperate Germans showed little mercy to those taken prisoner.  And, all this occurred just nine months, nine months, before the war ended.  So many had survived D-Day and countless days of combat only to make the ultimate sacrifice months before the grand reunion with family.

Heroes.  It is a word we throw around lightly these days.  In a world where everyone gets a trophy we are in danger of losing the value of this incredible word.  Hero. Dictionary.com defines it as “a person noted for courageous acts.” Oxford says it is a person who is admired or idealized for courage. Webster defines it as an illustrious warrior or one who shows great courage.  Another place said it is a person who at great danger to themselves puts others first.

I went to Toys-R-Us one time and there they had several aisles of super hero stuff.  As I turned the corner a sign caught my eye.  It simply said, “Real Heroes.”  Along that aisle were the soldiers and sailor figures as well as police, firemen, and other emergency responders.  If I went to that aisle today it would have to include doctors, nurses and other medical professionals.  Real heroes…real people putting others first at peril to themselves.

But there would be one missing.  Jesus Christ, the Hero of Heaven, who willingly, who bravely, gave Himself to a Roman cross that men, women and children could be free. The cross was so horrible it was called the death of deaths.  It was so horrible it was illegal to crucify a Roman citizen.  And yet…He went.  Why?  He loved me. He loved you.

Amazingly it was not for some of us but all of us. Skin color, economic station, language, nationality, capacity to be bad or good doesn’t matter.  The Bible simply says, “He came to seek and save that which was lost.”  It simply says, “Whoever calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”  It simply says He is not willing for any to perish but all to come home. Anyone—I like anyone. Anyone who acknowledges their need for a rescue will find one in Jesus. And this Hero not only does a meet and greet, He invites you to join His family.  How about that!

So when you hear the national anthem, place your hand over your heart as a salute to those who paid the price for our freedom.  When you see a veteran, thank them for his or her service and sacrifice.  When you walk through a cemetery with your kids, point out the graves of the men and women who served and tell them why they are so special.  And when you talk to the Hero of Heaven next time, thank Him for forgiving your sin.  Thank Him for always being there.  Thank Him for giving you a place to rest.  And, thank Him for having this….because He does.  Bro. Dewayne

Posted in Family, gratitude, life, love, loving others, Memorial Day, Military memories, Southern born, thankful, USA

Thank You, Mr. Charles

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

It’s the way it ought to be.  This Memorial Day weekend found my wife and I on the road again.  That’s a good thing.  Last year, as we all know, was a year with most travel shut down for a chunk of the year.  It was almost refreshing to spend time again waiting in line as hundreds of other travelers rediscovered the freedom to travel this great land.  It was busy because the COVID threat is thankfully in retreat, but it is also Memorial Day weekend…the traditional start of summer.  Smile.

As we were waiting to board, the announcer person at the desk announced that the boarding process would be starting in just a few minutes.  She let us know that there was going to be a “pecking” order for boarding.  Those with special needs and little children were allowed to board first, followed by the people who were what they called “Sky Priority” and what I would call, “the blessed.”  That group included the “First Class” folks as well as those in business class.  They would all be followed by the normal people in the main cabin.  But there was one more group of people who received special treatment…and boy, did they deserve it.

Right behind the people with special needs and small children came this announcement, “Those individuals on active duty in the United States Armed Forces are invited to board now.”  Yup…that’s right.  Delta did it right.  They gave special honor to those serving their country and the reason was simple…they deserved it.  And they don’t do it just on Memorial Day weekend—they do it all the time—because they deserve it all the time.  Every day, but especially today, we have the opportunity to do what Delta does on every flight—honor those who are serving our country.  And we can take it one step farther—we can honor those who have served.  I know that is normally reserved for Veteran’s Day, but can we thank them enough for all they have done for all of us?

My wife stumbled upon a story on Facebook that struck especially close to home…literally.  We contacted them and received permission to share their post. It goes like this, “When Mr. Charles & Ms. Debbie, with C.D. Ives logging company, were working on clearing trees at a job site north of Naylor in Lanier County, Georgia, between GA Highway 135 & U.S. Highway 221, Mr. Charles noticed the A-10s from Moody Air Force Base would regularly fly over where he was clearing trees; sometimes they would get so close he could easily make out the pilot in the cockpit!”

“He figured since he could see them, maybe they’d be able to see a message letting them know his appreciation for what they do, using only what he had on hand at his job site: trees! Mr. Charles positioned them to spell out “THANKS USAF,” painting them in red, white, & blue paint so they stand out a little better.” The author went on to say, “Hopefully, the pilots have been able to catch a glimpse of this “Thank You” from Mr. Charles & Ms. Debbie as they fly over!” 
(credit: 05.30.21 The Georgia Photography Fanatic, https://www.facebook.com/thegeorgiaphotographyfanatic

I can only add, how appropriate and how thoughtful.

Like I said, it strikes close to home.  You see, Judy was raised right there in that South Georgia area and me, well, I spent four years stationed at Moody Air Force Base myself and yes, it was there that I met Judy and we began our life together.  I am grateful that Mr. Charles took it upon himself to honor those pilots at Moody and I hope they got the message.  But the question is this, “What can we do right now, today, to honor those who paid the ultimate price and for those who served or are serving?”

Well, there will be multiple opportunities.  Maybe your community will have a Memorial Day service or parade today.  Why not attend?  Why not take your children and let them experience the honor afforded those who gave their life that we could be free?  Why not visit a local cemetery and look for graves that mark the deceased as a member of the armed forces?  Why not stop and say thanks to someone you know who served their country in one of the armed forces?  Why not thank God for your freedom and their sacrifice?  Why not make a point today to find a way to say, “Thank-you?”

One of the most powerful love verses in the Bible says, “Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.” The Book makes it clear that those who die for another or even those willing to die for others are worthy of our honor and respect.  So, let’s all enjoy the time with family and friends today.  Have a burger and a dog but make it a priority to remember what it is all about—honoring those who laid their life on the line that we could be free.  Remembering their sacrifice and remembering the awesome love and power of our great God will also help us remember that no matter what, “He’s got this.”  Bro. Dewayne

Posted in Family, fear, Grace, gratitude, life, love, loving others, Military memories, Scripture, thankful, wisdom

It’s A Dippity-Do Dah Day

 If we say, “We have fellowship with Him,” and yet we walk in darkness, we are lying and are not practicing the truth.”  1 John 1:6

 Hi Grits family.  Hey, Judy and I are out of pocket today, so we are giving you the opportunity to revisit some of our favorites.  So, God bless, enjoy and we will see you soon.

Dippity-do dah, dippy day, my oh my, what a wonderful day.  I joined the Air Force back in 1972 and in so many ways it was a different world.  At that time longer hair was still very much in vogue.  It seemed the only guys with shorter haircuts were either born in the 1920’s or in the military.  I was the latter.

It was also a different day in the way people viewed the military.  The country was coming out of the Vietnam era and sadly many saw veterans and the active military in a dark light.  I can well remember walking around town and getting the “one of those” looks.  While I was never ashamed of being in the military, in fact, I was proud to serve, I did want to be cool—part of the in-crowd and short hair just wasn’t in.  But you know the old saying, “Where there is a will, there is a way.”  Hello Dippity-do.

It’s funny, I don’t remember anyone else doing it nor do I remember how I started.  I found this hair stuff called, “Dippity-do.”  It was a gel-like product and depending on how much you applied, it would make your hair stay where you put it.  So I bought a jar and slowly I let the hair on the top of my head and sides grow out.  I would wakeup in the morning and put this stuff, in fact a lot of this stuff, on my hair.  I would comb it kinda on top of my head and toward the back.  The effect was—well, effective. The funny part is when this stuff dried out it made my hair as solid as a rock.  Of course, my mom always said I had a hard head.

I found that I could have the required white-wall around my ears and have all this hair glued down to the top of my head.  When I got off work, I would go take a shower, wash this stuff out and believe it or not have enough hair to totally cover my ears.  I looked like any other guy in the early 1970’s.  Even as I write this I’m saying, “What?”  But believe me it worked.  I looked like a military guy during the day and a regular off-the-street guy at night.  Looking back, it was weird.

Even stranger I worked in the command section of my squadron and to show how effective my ruse was, no one said anything.  It looked, and I guess was, regulation.  I remember one day walking in the local mall and coming straight toward me was my squadron commander, Major Hobbs.  We passed within five feet of each other and he didn’t even recognize me. Yup—G.I. Joe by day and a 70’s hipster at night. Looking back there probably was a word for it.  It was probably pretty hypocritical.

The word hypocrite means to “play the part” or to “wear the mask.”  It was used to describe actors in ancient Greece who were one thing on stage and another off the stage.  The one thing I remember is that I always felt a certain amount of fear while doing this.  There was always the “what if I get called in and don’t have time to plaster my hair down” thing.  What if my commander and my first sergeant saw me and did recognize me?  I knew they respected me and what would happen to that respect?  It’s the feeling you get when you are one thing one time and another thing later. 

Well, finally I figured it wasn’t worth it and I’ll tell you that story another time, but the bottom line is I went and got a regular haircut.  Two things happened almost immediately.  First, I felt free.  The fear of the wrong person seeing me at the wrong time was suddenly gone.  It was like a weight was taken off my shoulders.  The second thing that happened was I discovered that in spite of what the culture said, I was proud to be in the Air Force and that haircut identified me as part of a special family and team.  It wasn’t something to be ashamed of…it was something to be proud of.  And the best part, the girl I was dating, who I later married, thought I was even cuter.  Now for the funny part. I have been out of the military now for 36 years and I never, not even once, grew my hair out.  I decided I like shorter hair.  More than that…I decided I like being real.

So, what about you?  What is it in your life where you “wear the mask?”  What is it in your life where you have decided to pretend—to be something you aren’t?  While we find that in every aspect of life, sadly it’s also common in the Jesus follower world.  People say one thing and do another—people who act one way on Sunday and another the rest of week.  If I learned anything from my Dippity-do world is that authenticity beats a plastic mask every time.  

John, one of the guys who followed Jesus in the Bible, said it pretty well.  He said, “If we say, “We have fellowship with him,” and yet we walk in darkness, we are lying and are not practicing the truth.”  In other words, if we say we are one thing and really are another—we are just living a lie.  It is better to be real than fake.  It is better to be authentic than counterfeit.  I may have fooled my commander that day but I never fool God when I choose to be one thing in public and another in private.  But the one thing I love about God is that He never rejects me.  He is never ashamed to call me His child. I can always rest in Him and more than that, He can handle who I am—Dippity-do and all.  He’s got this.  Bro. Dewayne

Posted in Family, Grace, gratitude, life, love, priorities, Scripture, Southern born, sovereignty of God, thankful, Trials

Stonehedge

For the Son of Man has come to seek and to save the lost.” Luke 19:10

 Hi Grits family.  Hey, Judy and I are out of pocket for the next three days, so we are giving you the opportunity to revisit some of our favorites.  So, God bless, enjoy and we will see you soon.

“For the Son of Man has come to seek and to save the lost.” Luke 19:10

Roy Smith Allen was a genuine, authentic, real-deal Southern good ole boy.  I met him on the road to falling in love with his daughter.  I can remember virtually every detail of meeting Judy but Roy, well, its like one minute he wasn’t there and the next he was.  I met Judy at her church on a Wednesday night.  I walked in the side door and she was standing with a group of five or six girls.  It was as if the others weren’t even there.  She stole the show…and my heart.

I found out that when I started dating Judy, I also started dating her family.  They were a crazy bunch of fun-loving people who turned every get together into a ruckus of stories and one-uppers.  Right in the middle of the craziness was Roy.  Well, for some reason, Roy took a shine to me.  Judy will tell you that both of her parents liked me more than her. That probably wasn’t true. But I guess they trusted me because truth be known she was a little too young and I was a little too old. But here we are forty-four years later so we must have met somewhere in the middle.

Roy was a hard core, church going, deacon. He worked for the county as the superintendent of roads and had been the assistant warden at the county work camp.  He had a gun…he carried a gun.  He told Judy and I upfront he didn’t believe in pre-marshall (translated premarital) sex.  We both agreed with that so the gun stayed in the holster which was a good thing.

About nine months after I started dating Judy, I asked her to marry me.  It happened to be on April Fool’s Day which was kinda funny.  But I was dead serious and happily she said yes.  So, by now Roy had become Pops to me.  So I knew I had to ask him if I could marry Judy.  After his first heart attack, his doctor suggested he begin a walking regimen. One evening I joined him walking around the track at the park and I said, “Pops, I would like to marry Judy.”  It wasn’t a question but it was a statement that needed a response and he gave one.  “No you don’t, boy.”  Pops called me “boy” a lot.  It wasn’t derogatory but more akin to him calling me “son.”

I persisted and said, “No really, I want to marry Judy.”  He stoically gave the same answer, “No you don’t, boy.”  Well, I can’t remember how many times we bantered back and forth but eventually I took it as a yes.  We were officially engaged…as soon as I could afford a ring.

Somewhere along the journey, her parents allowed me to stay in the spare bedroom at their house on weekends.  The base was about twenty-five miles away so it seemed to make some sense.  Pops liked to get up early and work hard and I became the “young buck” of his Saturday operations . He was building a shed about 20 miles out in the country and he saw in me some free labor.  So, he would come in the bedroom at about 4:30 am and declare, “Time to get up, boy.”  I would groggily roll out of bed.  We would head to the Gold Plate Restaurant for a hearty breakfast with hot, strong coffee and then head to the building site where I wished I hadn’t eaten quite so much.

Pops had acquired some huge, like 10×10 inch, used bridge timbers from the county.  While he supervised, I began digging holes and setting these monstrous beams.  Then, we (make that me) had the pleasure of trying to hoist them up to form the roof.  Well, it near-bout killed me.  We never finished the building and I am sure forty-four years later those timbers are probably still standing like some sort of South Georgia Stonehenge.

In the fall of 1975, at church one morning, I went from being a church goer to a Jesus follower.  That day I finally figured out that being religious was not the same as having a relationship with Jesus.  It was and is a big deal.  Everyone was really happy that I had made that commitment.  There were plenty of hugs and words of affirmation but none matched Pop’s.  He simply said, “I knew there was something wrong with you, boy.” It was apparent Pops wasn’t gifted in the affirmation department.  But that was Roy…that was Pops.  I was pretty sure he loved me and I know I loved him…especially since he didn’t shoot me.

So, about a year later, Judy and I were married and in spite of a bad heart he was there to walk her down the aisle.  When Judy and I were assigned to Germany, Pops flew there twice to see us.  When we were assigned to Missouri, here came Pops.  He came out to see our new daughter and his new granddaughter, Rebecca.  And then just six weeks later he was apparently working in his backyard there in South Georgia and sat down to rest.  Sometime during the break, Jesus came and took him home.  Pops was gone but the legend, the legacy lives on.

Roy Smith Allen had a lot of rough edges, a lot of warts, if you will.  But buried somewhere beneath the rough exterior was a good hearted man.  I’m sure he required a lot of God’s grace but don’t we all?  None us could make the cut for heaven based on our own merit.  We all are just like Pops…sinners in need of a graceful, loving God.  The Book says that Jesus came to seek and to save lost people.  People like Roy, people like me and people like you.  And if we are willing to be found, He is will to forgive us and invite us into His family.  In his backward way, that is what Pops did.  Every time he called me “boy” he was calling me “son.”  I like that.

So if you find yourself bumping along in life, rough around the edges, you might try what Pops tried.  It wasn’t church…it was Jesus.  I know it changed my life. It didn’t make me perfect but it did make me forgiven.  And the best part?  In this crazy, upside-down world, He is always there.  I can always go to Him, rest in Him.  I know, He’s got this.  Bro. Dewayne

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

It Was Hard

For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is going to be revealed to us.”  Romans 8:18

And then I remembered…it was hard.  I was looking for a picture to use in one of my Grit’s stories and that caused me to go back…to reminisce…to remember.  It was 2007 and I was part of a vision trip to Niger, West Africa to check out the possibilities of our church ministering in that West Africa country.  It involved an incredibly long flight which included a 12-hour layover in Casablanca, Morocco.  This was new territory for all four team members and trust me it was an adventure.  Perhaps my favorite, and most eye-opening part, was when I asked a coffee shop owner if he took dollars.  His only response was a shrug of the shoulders that seemed to say, “What is a dollar?”  Apparently, I had found a place that didn’t think America was the center of the universe.

Later that day, we continued our journey to Niger and arrived near midnight and I was sure we had somehow been diverted and landed on the moon.  The landscape, the sounds, the sights, the smells and the culture were so different…and that was just the beginning. Though I had spent three years in Europe and made a journey to the Eastern European country of Bulgaria, nothing prepared me for this.  Even though we were in the capital city of Niamey there was still extreme property and many dirt roads.  Amazing.  But that was nothing compared to “the bush.”

We were more than just on the edge of the vast, almost endless Sahara desert where the scrub bushes and sand seemed to go on forever.  With the exception of our own faces, everyone there bore the signs of desert life.  Faces were weathered and worn by the desert winds and feet were toughened by the grinding of the sand.  And yet, the people were amazingly content.  Things such as family and friendship seemed to matter more than anything western culture provided.  It was eye opening.

We were in the bush for several days and every day was an adventure and every day we learned more and more about this harsh, yet beautiful place at the edge of the Sahara with all its challenges and opportunities.  We slept out in the desert air, we took bucket baths because there was no running water, we lived by flashlights because there was no electricity, and we ate new and strange foods…very strange.  I learned that millet was not on my favorite food list and I also learned that this southern boy could, with difficulty, go without bread.

Well, we more than survived and would return a half dozen times or so to this different part of the world before the political climate closed that door and we had to move on to another part of West Africa. That was another adventure and another story. But as I looked at those pictures and went back…reminisced…remembered, I realized, at least for me, that was a difficult trip.  For one who was used to so many creature comforts, it was hard. I also looked at some pictures from another trip to the bush a couple of years later and looked into the eyes of weary westerners—tired from a long day’s ministry, loving and helping people and remembered…it was hard.

But here’s the deal.  It was worth it…in fact, it was more than worth it.  Those trips, those days, were some of the most memorable days we have spent on the African continent. During those days I made friendships with people and learned from them.  They left their fingerprints on my life and heart and I am different today.  I hope that I too left good fingerprints on their lives—good impressions of Someone much greater than me.  We told Bible stories during those days and for many that was something new—something they had never heard, Someone, they had never known.  I still remember how some were bewildered and some intrigued.  Yes, it was worth all the hard and only eternity will tell the final impact.

Worth.The.Hard.  That is not only true for trips to West Africa or other difficult places, it is true of life.  You see, everyone’s journey is different, and everyone’s journey will include easy and it will include hard—and both are beneficial.  The easy refreshes us like a desert oasis and the hard teaches us like a strenuous workout at the gym.  If and when, we learn we need both, life takes on a different and better meaning.  We stop holding on only to the easy and learn to embrace the hard and we are better.

Paul, a guy in the Bible who knew a lot about easy and hard said, “For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is going to be revealed to us.”  Paul learned to appreciate both sides of the coin—the refreshment of easier days and the challenge of difficult ones.  How about you?  Can you imagine a better outcome when the harshness of life brings profit instead of loss?  I know it is a challenge and a lesson that I am still learning.  But there is one lesson that is at the top of my to-do list—to remember and believe, “He’s got this.”  Bro. Dewayne

Posted in Family, food, Grace, gratitude, life, love, loving others, missions, priorities, Scripture, Southern born, thankful, travel, wisdom

Sweet Tea

Indeed, we have all received grace upon grace from His fullness.” John 1:16

Sweet tea…oh yes, the drink of the south.  I was raised in the deep south and both food and drink were especially important.  To most southerners, including me, food was never just food, it was the great comforter—the billboard along the highway of life that said, “it’s gonna be ok.”  Growing up, whenever I was sad or happy or maybe a little blue—food was my friend.  And what is good food without something good to wash it down? And down south…that has to be “sweet tea.”  For clarity sweet tea is not brownish, tan water with some sugar or sweetener thrown in.  No, sweet tea is brewed, a southern tradition and creation, and when it is done right, well, it’s down right heavenly.  When it is done wrong, you end up with sweet brown water.

Sweet tea is not like wine.  I’ve heard that wine needs time to age to become fine.  That is not true with southern sweet tea.  You see good, sweet tea has a short life span.  Some would say hours, but no true southerner would say days.  If sweet tea is done right it turns to syrup overnight.  Leave a pitcher in the refrigerator till the next day and it becomes a whole different animal.  Good sweet tea is meant to be drank in the moment.  You may well sip it, but don’t take too long.

I discovered another kind of sweet tea from another part of the world.  When the folks in West Africa drink their version of sweet tea, well, it is an event.  First, it is served hot and not cold. Second, it is strong…VERY strong.  They brew their tea in a very small pot, with a little water, a lot of tea and over a small coal fired burner.  When it comes to a strong boil, they add boatloads of sugar…and I am not kidding.  They scoop and scoop and scoop some more.  The end result is one of the strongest and sweetest things you can imagine.  Trust me, if you weren’t diabetic before you started, you will be by the time you finish. They say their tea is sweet like life and bitter like death.

The way they present their tea is also special.  The host will go to great lengths (no pun intended) to pour his or her tea from pot to cup or glass from great heights.  The distance a person can pour their tea and not miss the cup is almost a matter of national pride.  A famous one-liner is, “I can pour my tea from the back of a camel on a very windy day.”  It is a cultural thing…it is a people thing.  You see good sweet tea does that.  It brings people together.  Whether it is a front porch in South Georgia, or a mat spread on the sands of the Sahara, tea…sweet tea, brings people together.

Today, in a time when there seems to be so much to pull us apart, maybe we all just need to sit down and have a good glass of sweet tea. For our friends in West Africa it is just a necessity.  Go see someone and tea will be offered and, tea will be shared.  It builds relationships, it opens the door of communication.  Maybe that is one reason why my Momma and Daddy shared a cup of coffee every day when he came home from work.  Maybe that is the reason we should do the same.  Often when people talk instead of yelling, things change.  It is true in government and it is true in church and it is true in homes.

I’m sure there are lots of reasons why things are so fragmented today and I’m also sure that a glass of sweet tea, no matter how good, won’t solve everything. However, I do know something that might.  That is a couple of teaspoons of grace.  Just like sugar tames the bitterness of the tea, so grace can tame a temper or temper a difficult situation.  Tempered steel is made stronger by the process of applying heat. In the same way, relationships and people are made stronger by applying grace. And we have grace to share because the Bible says that from His fullness, we have all received grace upon grace.

So, when’s the last time you just sat down with a friend, or an adversary for that matter, and had some good, sweet tea mixed with a little grace?  You might be surprised to learn that the gulf between the both of you is not as great as you think.  It is certainly not so wide that grace can’t span the gap and trust me, no, trust Him—there is always grace enough.  As always, He’s got this.  Bro. Dewayne

Posted in Family, Grace, gratitude, life, love, loving others, Scripture, Southern born, thankful, wisdom

Nickels, Dimes and Quarters

If you help the poor, you are lending to the Lord—and He will repay you!” Proverbs 19:17

It was part generosity and part tradition.  When I was growing up, Sunday meant going to church. My Momma would always make sure I had taken a bath, combed my hair, brushed my teeth (I think), had clean clothes, and had an offering.  There was something about going to church and taking an offering.  It almost seemed like either God would be mad if I didn’t or the people at church would think we were poor or something…which we might have been.

Now the offering wasn’t a whole lot, but it was more than the widow lady in the Bible gave.  Her offering was less than a penny, but it was really everything she had.  Momma gave me a quarter most times but sometimes it was a dime and on rare occasions it was a dollar.  Trust me, that was a rarity.  Anyway, I finally figured out that it wasn’t the amount that mattered anyway.  What mattered was that Momma thought it was important and it mattered that I didn’t pocket the quarter.  Jesus said something about it was more blessed to give than to receive and I’m sure Momma knew that.  So anyway, I gave the quarter.

I read a story the other day about a little girl who went to church just like me.  Her Momma gave her a dime and a nickel. The little girl asked, “Which one am I supposed to give?” and her Momma told her she could decide.  Well, when she came home from church, her Momma asked her which one she gave, and she said she had given the nickel.  When asked why she gave the nickel instead of the dime she said, “Well, the preacher said that God loves people who give cheerfully, and I was a lot happier when I gave the nickel and kept the dime.”  Smile.

I know that I am still a work in progress.  God started the project way back in 1975 and He’s still working today.  I’ve heard it said that His work isn’t done until He takes us home to live with Him.  I believe that is true.  One of the areas that He is working on with me is generosity.  They say that if you want to carve a duck from a block of wood you just cut off everything that doesn’t look like a duck. Well, that is what God does with us except He’s not making ducks. He is making Jesus followers. And one thing I know for sure is that Jesus was always generous.  He was so generous He gave His life away on a wooden cross to pay for everyone’s sin.  Now that is generosity.  Now that is love.

My point isn’t that you ought to give to the church.  The point is we should all learn to be generous to others.  A generous life is a happy life, and a generous heart is a happy heart.  In the Old Testament part of the Bible in the Book of Proverbs it says, “If you help the poor, you are lending to the Lord—and He will repay you!”  You know, I believe that is true.  I’m also sure that the repayment may not be dollars and cents but rather a deep sense of peace and joy in our lives—and that is better—that is priceless.  Remember this—God is more than willing to help you be like Jesus, but it all starts when we believe what He did and what He said. He died and came back to life and promised to forgive anyone who asked.  Need a little help with that?  Well, don’t worry, He’s got that too.

Bro. Dewayne

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

Remember

I will remember the Lord’s works; yes, I will remember Your ancient wonders. I will reflect on all You have done and meditate on Your actions.” Psalm 77:11

I remember when. It is a line that is heard a lot in conversation.  A favorite time. A favorite trip. A favorite memory.  It seems the older we get, the more we use those three words. I remember when gas was 18 cents a gallon.  I remember when a Coke was 5 cents.  I remember when a Whopper was 49 cents.  I remember my first new car was $2,795.  I remember my friend bragging that he could boil water in a paper cup and I was introduced to the microwave.

Now would be a good time to tell you that I am not 102 years old.  In fact, I am, well never mind.  Let’s just say not that old.  The ability to remember is one of the gifts that God gave to us as humans.  I can remember when I met my wife Judy–boy, was she cute.  I can remember when our first daughter was born–boy, she was cute too–took after her mom.  First granddaughter–yup, cute too. I remember when.

We all have those great memories.  Unfortunately, we also all have those “not so great” memories.  Times when we made unwise decisions that resulted in Goliath size consequences in our lives.  They usually involved a split moment in time when “the want” outweighed “the wisdom” and we acted.  The results were scars, broken hearts, financial disasters, and regret.

So, what do you do with this memory thing?  We all can remember back before the COVID thing was a thing…when things were…normal. Want to go out and eat? Sure. Want to go shopping.  Sure.  Want to go on vacation? Sure.  Want to go to church?  Sure.  Then came that long stretch when things were anything but normal.  Gratefully, now, we are beginning to taste, at least, a variation of normal. But the question remains, “What do we do with yesterday? What do we do with the regrets? What do we do with yesterdays that leave us longing or weeping? What do we do with fear of the unknowns?”

Saul (aka Paul) had to deal with that.  He had a long history of regrets.  As a young man climbing up the corporate ladder, he made his living imprisoning people for believing in Jesus.  People who followed Jesus would quake when he walked into town.  It usually meant someone was going to jail.  Or worse.  He once stood by as a mob stoned a young man named Stephen.  He nodded his approval with each sickening thud as stone met flesh.

So, what happened?  He met Jesus and he was instantly and forever changed.  He went from Jesus hater to Jesus follower.  The only problem was people have long memories and he was a people.  Every look in the polished metal mirror reminded him. Every trip to a new town carried the dread that someone would say, “Hey, isn’t that the guy?”  Ever had that happen?  Ever dread that happening?  Well, Paul did too, and he gave us some mountain moving advice in Philippians 3:13a-14.

He wrote “This one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and reaching forward to what is ahead, I pursue as my goal the prize promised by God’s heavenly call in Christ Jesus.”  There you go.  He says “I am not going to let my past control my present or my future”.  Paul accepted one amazing deal.  Grace.  God had forgiven him of all his messes in the past and he finally made the decision to live in grace rather than regret.

So, as we continue our journey through these days of a new different, we can long for the old days, or we can live in gratitude and grace.  As memories of mistakes the size of Everest sneak their way into our present, we can sink or we can swim in His grace.  As we look in the mirror, we can see what might have been or believe what God says is. The author of Psalm 77 said, “I will remember the Lord’s works; yes, I will remember Your ancient wonders. I will reflect on all you have done and meditate on your actions.”

You need to know and believe that He’s pretty keen on you.  He’s not ashamed or afraid to call you His.  There is never a hint of regret for His decision to let you in the family.  Hey, believe that.  Rest in that. He’s got you. He’s got this.  Bro. Dewayne