Posted in Family, friends, Grace, gratitude, heaven, life, love, loving others, prayer, priorities, Scripture, Southern born, sovereignty of God, thankful, Trials, wisdom

Not Bad, Just Hard

I am the Way, the Truth and the Life.  No one comes to the Father, but by Me.” Jesus in John 14:6

It was Monday…and my brother died. It wasn’t a total surprise as we knew his health was deteriorating. He and his wife had been living in an assisted living facility for several years.  As he grew older, as often happens, his body began to wear out and finally Monday morning it just quit working.  He not only was my brother, but he was my oldest brother. He was seventeen years older than me and in so many ways he was more than just a brother…he was like a second father. To a large degree he helped mold me into who I am today…especially spiritually.  My brother was a believer, a Jesus follower and if I may say so…a pretty good one at that.  In fact, I can’t remember him ever not being a Jesus follower. 

He was the one who always made sure I had a ride to church.  He was one of those three-time-a-week goers, so I suppose that is why it has been a habit in my life too.  Over the years, he shared a lot of good advice with me…advice that has guided me along my journey. When I became a pastor, he offered me some Godly wisdom and for my birthday gifted me with a couple of foundational books.  At one of the churches I pastored, he felt led to lend a hand financially…something he did for more than a few years. He was like a father but he also was like the State Farm commercial that says, “just like a good neighbor, State Farm is there.” He was always there.  Oh, we lived in different parts of the country…but that didn’t matter.  That’s how some relationships are.

My brother wasn’t just my oldest brother…he was my last brother.  When he left town on Monday for a bigger and better place, I looked around and realized I was the last brother standing.  And that was another of those, “mortality moments.”  He was just shy of 86 when he left here and went there—there being heaven.  Eighty-six is a pretty good number, especially for men and especially for Taylor men. At first there were five of us Taylor men and three had already changed addresses—thankfully all in heaven.  So, that left the bookends—my oldest brother at one end and me, the youngest at the other. He lived a long, good life…not the richest guy, not the most popular guy, and not the most powerful guy. In the end those don’t matter anyway.  What matters is he was a Jesus guy. He made a difference. He made an impact. He left a legacy.

So, what happened that Monday morning when the last heartbeat came? Often our first thought is something bad happened.  Well, I guess you could say God, through His Word, helped me have a different view.  As I looked at all of this, death, life, and all that it entails, it seemed God said, “Dewayne, this isn’t bad…it’s just hard.”  It immediately became lodged not in my throat but in my heart.  Not.Bad.Just.Hard.  Now don’t misread this, because there is plenty of bad in the world but with God painted into the picture, His grace and mercy can change bad to just hard.

You see, when my brother’s heart stopped the other day, he gave up a broken world for one that is perfect. He gave up a broken body for one that is perfect. He gave up sickness, tears, and sadness for a place where none of that exists. No assisted living, no hospitals, no funeral homes—just a home like none we can ever imagine—at home with his Dearest Daddy.  See, it’s hard for us, sometimes really hard for us, however for him…no…he’s doing better than ever before. You might say that he is more alive than ever before.

My brother loved our family reunions and guess what? There is one coming that will outshine them all.  Because of my pastoral responsibilities and distance, I didn’t make too many of the reunions but this one coming up…I’ll be there.  Oh, it isn’t because I’m a preacher, or go to church, or belong to one denomination or another.  No, just like my brother, I’ll be there because I am a Jesus guy and He is the way to the reunion of all reunions.  Jesus said, “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life and no one comes to the Father but by Me.”  Yes, it is a narrow road but the grand part is everyone is invited to participate.  All you have to do is say, “Yes” to Jesus.

So, my brother died…well…actually His body died but not him.  I’ll see him again and that’s not bad. The separation is hard but there is a party coming…one for the ages.  You need to know that God wants you there also, and He made it possible for that to happen.  Jesus, faith, grace, and mercy.  Indeed, He’s got this. Bro. Dewayne

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

Their Best

Do to others whatever you would like them to do to you. This is the essence of all that is taught in the law and the prophets.” Matthew 7:12

It was our second trip to West Africa.  We were back on the dry sandy desert fringes of Niger doing a food distribution.  It was such a barren land made worse by an ongoing drought.  The people would do just about anything for food.  While we had prepared to feed many of the people, truthfully, we couldn’t feed them all.  So, families with the greatest need were chosen.  We would go to their villages the day before the food distribution and meet with them and do some registration work before the distribution.

It is hard to describe the poverty there.  Simply put, most of the people had nothing.  They had little food and little water but something amazing happened everywhere we went.  We would gather with the leaders and the people in their village.  We would give them a word of greeting and then they would greet us.  All of this, of course, was done with the help of interpreters.  After a while, we would complete the necessary paperwork and finalize details for them to come to main village the next day.  And then, it would be time to say goodbye for the day.

This was a repeat of the greeting we had done when we arrived.  They would graciously thank us for coming and we would graciously thank them for allowing us to come.  Then it happened…every time.  These incredibly poor people would present us with gifts.  Often it was some sort of leather craft decorated according to their customs and their people group.  It was such a gracious act of kindness and we always left feeling incredibly blessed.  They who had so little gave to us who had so much.

It was the last appointment of the day.  We drove and drove—it was more than several kilometers.  When we arrived at the site, we realized it wasn’t a village it was just a meeting place.  The people we were to meet were truly nomads.  Someone had set up a large tent made from skins and rugs to offer some shade from the searing Saharan Desert sun.  When we arrived, there was one or two people there but soon many more arrived and the area under the tent was filled with five white guys and a bunch of men whose skin was tough like leather and tanned a deep brown.  Then we really saw it.

In the middle of the tent and now surrounded by people sat a medium sized metal bowl.  In the bowl was what can only be described as dirty, brown water.  As I looked at the bowl you could see something swimming.  It was the larva from some sort of insect native to Niger. I assumed that perhaps this was for us to wash our hands though I was quite certain my hands were cleaner than the water in the bowl.  I would soon find out that the water wasn’t for washing.

Soon the greeting started.  We thanked them for letting us come and they thanked us for coming.  Then someone in their group made the presentation.  It wasn’t a brightly colored trinket…it was the gift of water.  And the brown water in the bowl wasn’t for washing hands soiled by the West African dust.  No, it was a portion of their precious drinking water. That brown water with larva swimming it in was what they drank every day, and they were offering something very precious to them—something they could ill afford to give.

Ordinarily, we would try and eat or drink what they offered, but our missionary knew, and we knew, that one drink of this water would make us very seriously ill.  So, through the interpreter our missionary explained that while we deeply appreciated their kindness and generosity, we could not partake in the water for that reason.  They certainly understood so the water remained throughout our visit. At the end we reversed the greeting process and climbed aboard our four-wheel drive for the long drive back to where we were staying.

The ride was quieter than normal.  Each one of us was clearly aware of what had just happened.  We all were pierced to our hearts over this act of immense generosity and the immense blessings that God had graciously poured on our lives.  Mission trips tend to do this to anyone who travels to a third world country.  There is always some kind of guilt over having so much while those you serve have so little.  But understanding God’s grace and humbly serving others at least helps.  But it always changes you.  It always marks your life.

In my mind’s eye I can clearly see the bowl of water all these years later.  I can still see the people coming through the gate after walking kilometers to get their food.  I can still see them trying to manage the heavy bags of rice and millet.  But something was missing.  Not one person complained about the lack of a vehicle to carry their load.  Each was just grateful to be able to eat that night.  And, yes, we were changed again.  I would like to think that a little of their gratitude rubbed off on us and that it still remains.  I know we will never forget those eleven or twelve days in Niger.

You don’t have to go to Africa, or Haiti, or Nicaragua, or London, or China, or Bulgaria, or the Philippines or wherever to serve.  Each of us are missionaries on a mission field and each of us can serve others…just like Jesus did.  One day He was sitting on a hillside teaching the people and He said, “Do to others whatever you would like them to do to you. This is the essence of all that is taught in the law and the prophets.” It really is that simple. It won’t get you to heaven…God’s grace and faith in what Jesus did on the cross does that. But it is an opportunity to be like Him…to love like Him.  It’s a tall order but don’t worry, you know that He’s got this too.  Bro. Dewayne 

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

Journey with Faith & Gratitude

We know that all things work together for the good of those who love God, who are called according to His purpose.” Romans 8:28

It was good…and suddenly it wasn’t. Yup…it was my birthday…not the last one but the one before that.  I was on my way to Cracker Barrel to have breakfast with three of my friends…and one of them was buying. It was snowing and the roads were ok but not great. As we neared the restaurant my Apple Watch vibrated and I glanced down and saw three words, “Help, Help, Help.”  Now that will get your attention.  The message was from my oldest granddaughter and moments later was followed by another short message, “I have been in an accident.”  Then for a few minutes things went silent.  While we knew she was on her way to work we had no idea where she was.

The message was sent through our family chat group so soon messages were flying but her end was silent.  We were frightened…we were afraid. A free breakfast suddenly had lost every bit of its appeal.  Only one thing mattered and that was a young lady somewhere who was in trouble.  Well, soon she let us know that she had called 911 and the police and an ambulance were on the way. Through a location service on her phone, we learned where she was, off, literally off, Interstate 57.  Her dad immediately was on the way and after a long, few minutes, was there with her.   Here’s what happened.

She was driving on the Interstate and apparently hit a patch of black ice.  Though going straight, the back of the car began to fishtail, and she went off the side of the road and down a steep embankment.  The journey was well over 100 feet and the car missed several small trees and ended up in a ditch at the bottom.  The airbags deployed and that gave her a mild concussion.  Her left leg was also banged up but amazingly she was ok.  When we later saw the pictures of the path of the car, it was clear that something Divine had happened.  Someone bigger than her was in control that day.

One of the most revealing things in the photo was a large and deep concrete culvert. The truth is if she had been no more than 50 feet further down the road, she would have dove, front end first into this deep culvert and the story would have had a different ending.  God, and I do believe it was Him, that day and in that circumstance administered a large dose of grace that averted a tragic ending.  His ways are mysterious and why her and why then is known only to Him.

Things like this happen all the time with all kinds of different outcomes but one thing remains constant.  For those of us who believe in Him and follow Him it is a moment in the classroom of faith.  It’s one of those constant lessons in life and a school that we never really graduate from.  The Bible says we are to walk by faith, and it also says that without faith it is impossible to please God.  That day God shouted, “Trust me.”  But there is more.  We also learned a little more about gratitude.  You see, I can say that it never occurred to me to ask God, “Why did you allow this?”  No, rather, the only thing that I could say was thank You, not for the accident but watching over her through the accident.  And, honestly, it was because of the accident I discovered again His watch care. Had she arrived at work safety that day, well, I probably wouldn’t have given it a second thought.

Faith and gratitude…two very important cobblestones that we need to learn to navigate this journey called life.  And as we journey, there will be times when it is easy to believe and easy to rejoice and there will be times when it seems impossible.  But remember, He really is a good, good Father and in this broken, fragile world He is still God.  Why He averts somethings while allowing others I don’t have a clue, but I know He is worthy of my trust.  One of my favorite parts of the Bible assures me that He can, He does, bring good even out of bad situations and for that I am grateful. I am still enrolled in the school of faith and one of our class mottos are three incredibly powerful words, “He’s got this.”  And…He does.  Bro. Dewayne

Posted in Family, friends, Grace, gratitude, life, love, loving others, Scripture, Southern born, sovereignty of God, thankful, Trials, wisdom

Me and Fred

For you were called to this, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in His steps.” 2 Peter 2:21

The same kind of different as me. It was 1965…I was about eleven and he was probably 18.  I’m not sure how we bumped into one another.  As I remember it, I was out in the field that was part of property and he rolled up in his golf cart.  Well, hey, that was an ice breaker if there ever was one. He gave me a big smile, a friendly wave and said, “Hi.”  I could tell from that first hello that Fred had a speech issue and later it became apparent that he was one of God’s special creations…someone the world would call broken but God would call absolutely perfect.

Despite the age difference and his perfection and my lack of it, we seemed to hit it off. Almost immediately we were off on the first of many rides in his golf cart.  He loved it and I loved it and even though it wasn’t meant for off the road…that is exactly where we went. I assume his family bought him the golf cart to help him get around the neighborhood. I believe he lived in a subdivision, a gathering of the nicest homes in the neighborhood, at the end of the road I lived on. I don’t know if he was living there or visiting there but for the time I knew him…we were buds.

There are a lot of things that I have forgotten about that summer and early fall but there is one thing I remember—Fred loved baseball.  I’m pretty sure the team didn’t matter as long as it was baseball. He would carry around a portable transistor (that’s a throwback for my older readers) and we would listen to the games together.  It was September and time for the World Series, and we would sit in his golf cart like it was a front row seat right there in the stadium. Even now that memory makes me smile. In our simple world…all was well.

I think I began to learn something that summer and that lesson was about us—all of us.  In the world today we seem to search for things that cause us to focus on what divides us…what makes us different instead of what can draw us together.  I know it made no sense for Fred and I to be friends but his ultra-cool golf cart and his kind and outgoing personality overcame whatever differences there were.  He was the same kind of different as me.  That sentence is the title of a book and movie about two men who came from totally, and I mean totally, different backgrounds and yet managed to forge a friendship that would last for the rest of their lives.

You see, the truth is we can overcome our differences.  Our decision to allow skin color, language, social and economic differences, religion, or politics to divide us is a choice not a destiny.  This is especially true for Jesus’ people.  As followers we are choosing to align ourselves with Him and love others…regardless.  Really.  It is true.  It is in the Book…all over the Book and when decide to let the Book, and the Jesus of the Book, call the shots…well it is a game changer.

I’m thankful for that summer of 1965. If you know anything about that decade you know it was more than turbulent.  People were wondering if we as a nation would survive.  Well, by the grace of God, we did.  And guess what?  We can survive this mess today but if we do it will also be by the grace of God and Jesus people who decide to act like Jesus. Peter, the guy in the Bible who fell flat on his face and denied Jesus said, “For you were called to this, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in His steps.”  In other words, we are called to be like Him.  No matter how difficult that might sound to you, don’t forget that today and always—He’s got this.  Bro. Dewayne

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

Family Working Together

How delightfully good when brothers live together in harmony!” Psalm 133:1

I’m not sure how it happened…but it did.  I’ve said it several times, but we were not the richest family on the block…at least if the measurement was money in the bank.  I’m still amazed how my Daddy and Momma pulled off raising us and providing so richly for us.  And I mean that.  While we weren’t rich in terms of money, we were blessed with a good, solid, salt of the earth family. And we were blessed with two parents who were creative enough to make it all work.  And that is the keystone word…work.

Daddy was the kind of Daddy who got up and went to work…every day.  He would carpool out to Jacksonville Naval Air Station, put in a solid eight hours in a jet engine shop that didn’t have the luxury of air conditioning.  Keep in mind this is in North Florida…home of humidity and sweat.  After work, he would often come and work some more.  Daddy was a worker.  Momma was too.  She kept the Taylor ship shipshape…washing clothes, cleaning the house, cooking, and doing about a thousand other jobs.  While she was mainly a homemaker, she did occasionally take on outside work to help the budget.  Sometimes that was a traditional job—and sometimes it wasn’t.  This time it wasn’t.

I suppose she read it in the paper or heard it on the radio or saw it on television.  However, it happened, I just remember, it did.  The phone company was looking for people who would deliver phone books (remember them?) to all the people who had phones—and that was just about everyone. So, Momma signed us up—notice that us—and we soon found ourselves in the delivery business.  You need to know that not only did everyone have a phone and therefore they needed a phone book…there were a WHOLE lot of someone’s.  Oh, and when you have a big city with a lot of someone’s, you have a very fat, very heavy, phone book.

So, on day one of the big adventure, we went to the pick-up place and picked up a zillion phone books.  Our vehicle at that time wasn’t a pickup truck or even a station wagon.  Our car was six or seven year old Plymouth four-door sedan and we stuffed that poor car to the gills with phone books. The trunk was full, the back seat was full, the floorboard was full and even the front was full.  To this day I can remember that Plymouth squatting down in the back till it almost dragged the road.  So, with Momma at the wheel and us three little ones wedged in somewhere, we started delivering books.  Momma would start down a street, and we would jump out (or maybe fall out) of the car, grab an arm full of books and start dropping them at people’s homes.  Again, most people had a phone, but I am sure that some people who didn’t still got a book.  We soon figured out the sooner the books were gone, the sooner we could go home.  And sooner was definitely better than later.

It was crazy hard work and as best as I can remember the money went to help the family.  It was family helping family and that was a good thing.  It seems we did this more than one time but maybe not. But what I do know is I treasure that special memory that I have of Momma and us working together—adventuring together.  I am sure we looked like Ma Kettle and her kids but who cared?  I know we didn’t.  Sadly, stories like this one are slow disappearing.  Families working together and working it out together are giving way to lives too busy to be families.  It has been said that the family that prays together, stays together.  I also think it can be said that the family that works together, strains together, pulls together, “adventures” together…stays together too.

Way back in the book of Psalms, the Bible says, “How delightfully good when brothers live together in harmony!” I know that is speaking about people in general, but isn’t that what families are…ordinary people doing life together? I hope this encourages us in this busy world to be family and do life together…whether it is work or play…or worship.  And speaking of worship, there’s no better place to be family than at church.  And when you get there, listen carefully and you will hear His encouraging voice saying, “Don’t worry…I’ve got this.”

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

Biscuits, God, and You

Then Martha said to Jesus, “Lord, if You had been here, my brother wouldn’t have died. Yet even now I know that whatever You ask from God, God will give You.”  “Your brother will rise again,” Jesus told her.” John 11:21-23

Biscuits…hot, with butter and syrup.  There are certain foods that almost act like a time machine and one of them is a good, southern biscuit.  My Momma was a good cook, but her biscuits were like their own food group.  She would clear off the counter, get out the lard, flour and milk (and I guess a couple of other things), mixed them together in a bowl, plop out the mixture on the counter and roll it out with her ancient rolling pin.

If I remember right, she would grab a ball of the dough, flatten and shape it in her hand and then put it on the pan. Then, for whatever reason, she would take a finger or her thumb and put a little dimple in the top.  After a few minutes in the oven, out they came, heaven in a pan.  While still hot, we would add butter and just like that—a timeless, priceless southern delicacy. Need dessert? No problem, just add butter and syrup and you have southern dining at its best.

When we recently traveled south, we visited with two of my three sisters and both of them made…biscuits.  I’m not sure if it was Momma’s recipe or not but what I can tell you is that they were delicious. While both served real butter, not that fake stuff, one served them with orange marmalade. My, my they were good.  But wait…there is more.  We also visited with Judy’s brother and his wife Sandra also made biscuits.  I am sure somewhere down the line we must be related because the biscuit DNA was a perfect match. Awesome…pure awesome.

My oldest biscuit making sister recently sent me an article about prayer that just happened to mention biscuits and I knew I needed to share it here with all my grits and biscuit loving friends. 

The story goes like this. One Sunday morning at a small southern church, the new pastor called on one of his older deacons to lead in the opening prayer. The deacon stood up, bowed his head and said, ”Lord, I hate buttermilk.”


The pastor opened one eye and wondered where this was going. The deacon continued, “Lord, I hate lard.” Now the pastor was totally perplexed. The deacon continued, “Lord, I ain’t too crazy about plain flour. But after you mix ’em all together and bake ’em in a hot oven, I just love biscuits.”


“Lord, help us to realize when life gets hard, when things come up that we don’t like, whenever we don’t understand what You are doing, that we need to wait and see what You are making. After You get through mixing and baking, it’ll probably be something even better than biscuits. Amen.”

I just love that story and isn’t it so true? If we took the ingredients for biscuits, or most any other thing and tasted them individually, we probably wouldn’t eat much. But when mixed together…well good things happen.  We have a loving Heavenly Father, our Dearest Daddy, who can and will masterfully mix circumstances and events in our life.  Sometimes, perhaps often, by themselves they make no sense and leave us wondering what God is up to.  But, if we are willing to wait, if we are willing to trust, we will usually find that God had a surprise for us…better even than hot biscuits.  Now, I need to be fair and say that some of those surprises might be on the other side of the last heartbeat but regardless…He can be trusted.

So, the next time, you are enjoying a good homemade hot biscuit smothered in melted butter and perhaps a big baptism of syrup, remember that biscuit only happened when the biscuit maker put everything together.  And, when the circumstances of life don’t make sense, well, just hang on.  When the heavenly “Biscuit Maker” gets done, well, it will be worth it all, worth the wait.  Don’t you worry…He’s got this. Bro. Dewayne

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

Snippet

But Jesus said, “Let the children come to Me. Don’t stop them! For the Kingdom of Heaven belongs to those who are like these children.” Matthew 19:14

It’s tucked away in the memories of my mind…a snippet in a sea of remembrances.  I’ve said it so many times by now that some might say it is overkill, but the bottom line is my Daddy and Momma went so far to make special days…special.  The king of the hill, of course, was Christmas but they also tried to make each birthday special. They couldn’t afford it but somehow, they did it. And one of those sacrifices is the center of the snippet.

It was probably 1959.  I was about five years old growing up in a world so different from today you would think that we moved to a different planet. It was a dozen days past Christmas, and it was my birthday. I’m sure there was cake, I’m sure there was a family celebration but what I remember most is the present.  I’m not sure how you decide what to get a five-year-old, but Daddy and Momma sure knocked it out of the park that year.

Since there were no K-Marts or Walmart’s, I can only imagine that Daddy and Momma went down to the local Western Auto to shop.  If you don’t remember they were a neighborhood store that was part appliance store, part general store and part household store.  They also had a selection of toys…especially at Christmas and maybe that is why they had what I got.  That year my parents bought me an ice cream truck.

Well, it really wasn’t a truck, and it really didn’t hold ice cream, but it was something special.  It had three wheels, like a trike, but behind the seat it had large metal box with decals that said, “ice cream.”  The handlebars had those plastic streamers on each end, the front wheel had a fender and of course, it had a bell.  I can remember driving and peddling down the road in front of our house.  There was little traffic so there was also little danger of getting run over.

For some reason I can remember about a quarter of mile down the road a man was building a small box house.  He was singlehandedly taking on this project, and I decided to peddle down there, and he was working away.  I “pulled up” and asked if he would like an ice cream and the reason I remember him, his house and that day was that rather than brush me off…he played along and if I remember correctly, almost every day I would peddle down the road to see my new customer and friend.  The ice cream was pretend, but his kindness was not.  Looking back at this snippet of a memory, it still makes me smile.

Hanging over the fireplace in my wife’s “keeping room” is a quote by Maya Angelou.  Something she said says so much.  She said, “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” And that is the very reason I remember this man taking time from building a house to talk and befriend a five-year-old boy.  I don’t remember his name, but I do remember his heart.

What about you?  What about us?  I wonder will we take the time to be kind…to treat someone with an extra measure of kindness and implant a “snippet” in their hearts? In those days when I was five, kids were supposed to be more seen than heard.  There seemed to be the adult world and the kid’s world and while there weren’t walls there were boundaries and this kind man chose to move beyond the boundary.  He made me feel…important.  He made me feel like I mattered.  Perhaps today, we should try to do the same.  Today, perhaps we should choose to be like…Jesus.

Jesus was famous for seeing the invisible people and touching the untouchable.  He even said one time, “Let the little children come to Me.”  He would have said to that little five-year-old boy with an ice cream truck, “Let Dewayne come to me.”  And I want you to know that no matter how invisible you feel, no matter how insignificant…you are not either to Jesus!  Tattoo that on your hearts…you matter, and you matter a lot to Him.  So, if life seems overwhelming, or maybe underwhelming, just remember you’ve got a friend in Jesus.  He’s got this.  Bro. Dewayne

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

She Just Wasn’t Herself

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

She just wasn’t herself. A year ago, we were in Panama City Beach on Florida’s Gulf coast for several days.  We were blessed to have a condo right on the beach and five stories up.  The sights and sounds of the Gulf were just amazing.  We have been here many times over the years, but this year was a little different.  You see, I was raised over on the East Coast of Florida where the Atlantic Ocean lives.  There the water is grey and is in constant motion from the waves as they make their way to shore.  Usually, the Gulf is just different.  Here the water usually has just a slight chop and it is not uncommon for it to be a bluish-green color.  In a word…it is beautiful.  All of that is especially true in the winter months.  While the water is too cold for me, I never grow tired of its beauty.  But this year…well, it was different.

From the get-go, the water was much more boisterous.  The waves were constant and large…especially for the Gulf.  The sounds of water tumbling toward the shore filled the air.  The red flag flapping on the pole said, “Stay out of the water” but not many needed a flag…especially not today.  Today the turbulent water said it all—stay clear…stay on shore.  And while the air temperature was a pleasant 72 degrees, the grey clouds, matching the color of the water, echoed that message.  The bottom line was the Gulf just wasn’t herself.  The old girl was stirred up about something.  What, I didn’t know, but she wasn’t herself.

The strange thing is that even though she was not herself, even though she was something totally different, the beauty was still there.  There was something about the waves and the grey water that was still beautiful.  Perhaps it was the power and majesty of nature and knowing that it was all there by Divine design.  Perhaps it was knowing that sometime in the future I would be back…and so would she.  I knew that those three or four days didn’t dictate her permanent nature…it was just a moment in time.

At that moment, it occurred to me that what is true with the Gulf is true with us.  You see, we all have our days.  We all have times when we are just not ourselves and instead of calm and peaceful, instead of a thing of beauty, we act the opposite—turbulent and troubled—more “beastful” than beautiful.  And, like the Gulf, we and perhaps not even they, can explain why they are struggling that day, week, month or perhaps year.  And probably, most likely, you don’t need to tell them…they know it.  You are on the shore looking in, but they are in the midst of the waves…struggling.  And hopefully, soon the time will pass, and the calm and color will return to their lives.

What do you do when you bump into someone who is acting like the turbulent Gulf?  I think we should do what God does for us…extend a little grace.  Grace is defined as unmerited favor and that is what He extends to us and encourages us to extend to them.  Grace receivers should always be grace extenders.  I like the way John, the one in the Bible, puts it.  He says, “For from His fullness we have all received, grace upon grace.” Jesus, so full of grace, went about splashing grace on everyone He met—including us.  And it just seems right that we should do the same.  First, understanding God’s gracefulness to us, be full and then splash it on everyone we bump into—especially the ones who need it the most.

Well, we eventually had to head home.  We left the Gulf and according to the forecast she would be turbulent for a few more days…but not forever.  Calmer days were ahead for her and for me and for you.  And that person that is struggling right now, go ahead and splash a little grace on them.  It just might be the thing that brings a return of calm and beauty to their lives.  And whether you find yourself in the turbulence or on the shore looking on, remember this.  No matter if you need grace or need to extend some, He will be there.  He’s got this. Bro. Dewayne

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

Braces Not Dentures

Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my concerns. See if there is any offensive way in me; lead me in the everlasting way.” Psalm 139:23-24

Dentures…not exactly what I meant to say.  So as a public speaker I have had plenty, and I do mean plenty, of misspeaks. Since I wasn’t sure misspeak was a word and given today’s story, I decided to check it.  Yup…it is a word and yup…it sure does fit.  A misspeak is when you fail to express yourself insufficiently, clearly, or accurately.  They probably invented that word just for me—or at least people like me.  My most famous misspeak will remain a guarded secret.  Even though it happened very publicly I would rather it not be shared again publicly until my funeral.

Misspeaks can be quite funny.  I had so many at a church I previously pastored that when it was time to move on, they came up with a book of “Dewayne-isms.” And fortunately for me most of mine have been funny…just like the one that prompted this story.  I was speaking about the fact that Jesus told His followers up front that a life that included following Him was going to be hard.  He put it like this, “In this world you will have trouble.  But be of good cheer because I have overcome the world.”  There you go…crystal clear.  Too often though you will hear Christian speakers making some pretty big promises on God’s behalf. It usually includes the fact that if we choose to follow Jesus…the rewards are enormous. It is about then that I list a few.  They usually include things like you will never get sick. You will always have a job and never lose said job.  Every promotion at that job is a guaranteed thing and on and on and on.

Right before I end the list, I always throw the kids in.  They will all be handsome and attractive, be superstar athletes and never, ever need braces.  Well, that is what I meant to say but instead of saying braces, I said dentures. So flying out of mouth came, “And your kids will never need dentures.” Ok, I know and you know that dentures is not even close to braces so where it came from…who knows?  But it took about one second for the crowd to catch it and have a good laugh.  Of course I corrected it right away and even added a bit to add to the unexpected humor. We all had a good laugh, and I can only imagine the next time braces or dentures come up in a conversation, someone just might say, “I remember when…”

Misspeaks—it is a love/hate relationship and as I said often quite funny…until it isn’t.  I suppose you, like me, have said things we wish we hadn’t.  It’s the kind of thing that happens when you say something and you instantly wish it hadn’t.  It’s the kind of thing that we call a slip of the tongue but then you wonder, “Where did that come from anyway?”  And these misspeaks can sometimes leave a scar—the size of Texas.  Jesus said one time that these kind of misspeaks come from the heart. He said, “It is out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks.”  He was saying that often our words reveal what is lurking in the heart.

Now these are not the funny things we say like dentures and braces, no, these are those unkind and hurtful things we say about people…even those and often those…close to us. Typical topics can include weight, appearance, fashion, cooking, housekeeping, oh, and the need for dentures…I mean braces.  You might be wondering, “How do I prevent these things from happening?”  Well, speaking of housecleaning, maybe we need to do some “heart-cleaning.”  The best way to keep the tongue under control is to keep our heart under control. There is a scripture in the Old Testament that says, “Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my concerns. See if there is any offensive way in me; lead me in the everlasting way.”

Boom…there you go.  We need to ask God to give us a day-by-day heart checkup and if He finds anything that doesn’t belong there…ask Him to take care of it.   Often that will include leading you down a different path…a better path…a right path.  One thing I have learned about God is that He really does want to help us do the right thing…including managing our hurtful misspeaks.  If you are like me and sometimes struggle with what you say, just ask and He will help you…every time…anytime.  He’s got this.  Bro. Dewayne

Posted in Christmas, Family, friends, gratitude, life, love, loving others, priorities, Scripture, sovereignty of God, thankful, wisdom

Time…Our Treasure

Lord, You have been our refuge in every generation. Before the mountains were born,

before You gave birth to the earth and the world, from eternity to eternity, You are God.” Psalm 90:1-2

I glanced back in the rearview mirror and watched it disappear, just like that Christmas came and went.  It never ceases to amaze me how quickly time passes.  At one time there was a saying that said, “You are slower than Christmas.”  Well, at least for me that simply is not true anymore.  It seems like yesterday that we were talking about another new year, another new month, or another new week and now it is time to start it all over again.  In a very few days we will be celebrating January 1st and the start of another New Year. Amazing.

As you know Christmas fell on Sunday this year. For most folks the day of the week Christmas arrives is not that big of a deal.  However, for us preacher-teacher types it certainly is a big deal.  It is a definite shift to go from ho, ho, ho and opening presents to “Holy is the Lord.” It is almost like shifting a car from forward to reverse.  Christmas on Sunday normally occurs every six or seven years but guess what? Because of the way Leap Year falls next time, it will be eleven years before we celebrate Christmas on a Sunday again.  Eleven years.  For me, that means I will be knocking on eighty—loudly.  For some of you, it means your seven-year-old son or daughter will be knocking on 18. Is that crazy or what?

The crazier part of all of this is that those eleven years…if we get to see all of them…will pass so very quickly.  It is such a good reminder that we need to savor each day the Savior gives us.  We need to remember how precious every minute, hour, day, month, and year are.  The Bible has a lot to say about time and how we handle it. First, Moses tells us in Psalm 90, “Teach us to number our days carefully so that we may develop wisdom in our hearts.” That is such good counsel.  Like a cook carefully measures the ingredients in whatever they are preparing, so we need to carefully measure the value of each day. And when we do, if we do, we will discover the wisdom of the God of the ages.

Another great scripture is found in the New Testament of the Christian Bible.  Paul was writing to a group of Jesus people in Ephesus.  He said to them, “So be careful how you live. Don’t live like fools, but like those who are wise. Make the most of every opportunity in these evil days.”  Make the most or squeeze everything you can out of each day.  There are two things we need to remember about days. First, they all belong to the Lord…we are just managers and second, each day is a gift from Him.  No matter how difficult or how easy—each day is a present from Him to His children.  So, we should handle it with care and use it wisely.

Two of the things I love about God is His is generosity and wisdom.  He gives and guides and then helps us to make the most of every day…every gift.  As we look forward to our next installment of time—no matter how much or little we get to experience—always remember that there is One who is standing close just waiting to help us.  No matter what—He’s got this.  Bro. Dewayne