Posted in Family, fear, forgiveness, friends, Grace, gratitude, life, loving others, prayer, Scripture, sovereignty of God, thankful, USA

December 7th

If a house is divided against itself, that house cannot stand.” Mark 3:25

“December 7th.  A day that will live in infinity.” Though it was before my time I know the story well. It was a beautiful morning in Pearl Harbor.  Those who weren’t painting the ships or swabbing the decks of the powerful U.S. Navy Pacific Fleet were home enjoying a round of golf or a tropical breakfast.  And then, at 7:55 in the morning local time, without warning or provocation, bombers, fighters and torpedo bombers of the Imperial Japanese Navy swept in.  They began to systematically destroy the American fleet and its supporting aircraft.  That morning thousands of sailors and civilians lost their lives and thousands more were wounded.  Over eleven hundred sailors died instantly when a single bomb hit the ammunition magazine on the battleship Arizona.

In an  hour and fifteen minutes the attack was over and the United States was drawn into a global war.  The nation had long been divided over what role the United States should take in the war that raged in Europe.  That was all settled when, after the attack, Japan declared war on America and Hitler as an ally of Japan did the same.  Like it or not, the United States was embroiled in a war that would last for almost four years and cost the lives of 407,316 Americans with another 671,278 wounded.  But by the grace of Almighty God, in the end, America and her Allies were victorious in defeating the tyranny of the fascist governments.

Thirty-eight percent of those who served were volunteers and sixty-one percent were drafted.  The average enlisted person was paid $71.00 per month while the average officer was paid $203.  Drafted or volunteer, officer or enlisted, they were all willing to put their lives on the line for the cause of freedom and the cause of defeating countries bent on oppressing those weaker than they.  Many valuable lessons were learned during that time—lessons that we must not forget.

First, is the power of unity.  Before the Pearl Harbor attack the nation was clearly divided over the war.  After the attack, the nation pulled together on a unified front to protect and defend—first the United States, and second, the millions of innocent people being oppressed by Germany, Japan, and Italy.  It is tragic that it took a Pearl Harbor to bring the nation together but if America had entered the war divided, the outcome would have been much different.  Today, we need to understand that it is time to come together again. Jesus said that a house divided against itself cannot stand.  Neither can families.  Neither can churches.  We must come together, or we will fall together.

Second, is the power of owning it.  As in any national tragedy, the event happens and almost immediately the finger pointing begins.  Pick the historical event and the pattern is sadly the name.  Political parties and even ordinary, everyday people will use a tragedy to promote their cause.  We have seen it on the national front.  We have seen it on the local front.  We have seen it in the churches.  It is not a time to point fingers, but rather a time to rise to help solve what is broken.  Eighty-one years ago today, December 7, America rose to the challenge.  I wonder if we will have the wisdom to do the same today.

Last, is the power of wisdom.  There is not much debate that storm clouds were gathering in the days leading up to December 7th.  Some would say that there was blatant evidence that an attack was coming.  Sadly, those warning signs were largely ignored, and the cost was horrendous.  Today, right now, there is something we need to remember.  There is one enemy, and it is not our neighbor, not our brother or sister in church, and not even the person who belongs to another political party.  The enemy is Satan, who wants nothing more than to destroy us. Jesus said, “The thief comes to steal, kill and destroy.”  It was true when He said it…it is true today.  The second part of that verse is filled with hope. Jesus said, “I have come that you might have life and have it more abundantly.”

You see, God is for us.  He is very aware of Satan’s tricks and schemes, and He wants us to be victorious over him.  That is what Christmas and Easter were all about.  God became flesh and lived among us and then ultimately and deliberately died on a Roman cross that all people, regardless of nationality, race, or economic station, could be forgiven and have eternal life.  With the wisdom of God, we don’t have to have a “spiritual” Pearl Harbor. With God’s help we can come together.  With God’s help we can be victorious.

You see, it’s not about religion.  It is about a relationship with the God who made it all. And with the relationship comes hope, comes peace, comes forgiveness, comes unity.  If we are wise enough to believe what God says, and act on what He teaches, our best days won’t be in the rearview mirror but rather ahead.  So, this Christmas season, let the Prince of Peace bring His peace into your world.  Rest in Him.  He’s got this.  Bro. Dewayne.

Posted in Scripture, life, Family, travel, thankful, gratitude, loving others, priorities, love, friends

Watch Your Step

Make the most of every opportunity in these evil days.”  Ephesians 5:16

There are certain times you just need to watch your step.  For example, there are at least two things to watch out for when you are walking through a cow pasture.  First, you need to make sure that it is fact a cow pasture and not a bull pasture.  If it is a bull pasture, you need to head to the nearest fence…immediately. Bulls are not cows, and most of the time the reason they call them bulls is because they are bullies.  The second thing you need to watch out for when walking through a cow pasture are cow patties.  You will just have to trust me on this one.

There are lots of other times and places you need to watch your step and one that I experienced was while hiking down by Bell Smith Springs.  My wife Judy and I have grown quite fond of hiking.  It is great exercise, and it is a great opportunity to get out and enjoy nature.  So, a while back we headed down to Bell Smith Springs to take on the Sentry Ridge Trail.  It is a three-mile loop trail that follows a ridge (no surprise there) and looks down on a small canyon with a creek.  It is just beautiful.  There is so much to see, you want to look and look. But that is also the problem.

You see, the trail, in more than several places, is quite rocky.  There are places when the trail is “paved” with large slabs of native stone.  In other places, though, it is as if someone had come along and strewn stones everywhere.  While they are mostly firmly embedded in the ground, they are still uneven.  The bottom line is watch where you are stepping, or one of three things is bound to happen.  One, you will twist your ankle.  Two, you will fall and bust something you don’t want busted.  Three, you will find yourself on the way down a long-wooded cliff or bluff.

Now for the pleasurable problem.  So, as we were hiking one of us believes in the destination.  In other words, the goal is to make it, to do it, to get it done.  The other one is in it for the journey.  They actually believe the journey is secondary to the destination.  Can you guess who is who in this scenario?  Yup.  I, as the man, the conqueror, believe that the primary purpose of this trip is to finish and put another notch in my “hiking” belt.  Judy, as the lady of the trail, wants to stop and take pictures of the trees—every tree; the rocks—every rock.  Her conversation is dotted with “Look, Dewayne…” and other phrases that conquerors don’t use, or necessarily want to hear.

Now, because I love her so much, I will try and look but there is a problem.  I have discovered that while you are looking around, you can’t be looking down and if you aren’t looking down you aren’t seeing rocks and if you aren’t seeing rocks, you are in trouble.  Whew.  Now that was one long sentence.  But do you get my point?  I suppose you could stop, and look around, but that is just not what conquerors do.  We conquerors conqueror and you can’t conqueror much standing still.

So, what is a conqueror to do?  Well, the truth is, we should stop (all you conquerors forgive me) and smell the roses.  Judy is in fact right.  The joy is in the journey.  The joy is pausing and seeing what there is to see…to enjoy what is there to enjoy.  Now that doesn’t mean I need a picture of every rock and tree, but I do need to see what my Dearest Daddy has made.  We need to learn to hit pause, every once in a while and then soon enough, hit play again.

What happens if you don’t?  Well, actually, two things.  You are going to miss the best part of the trip or maybe the day.  A while back there was a big, and I do mean big, full moon.  They said it was a “Wolf Moon.”  I’m not sure why it is called that besides the fact that the conqueror in me kinda wanted to stop and let out a howl.  Earlier that evening I was driving when Judy said those two words, “Dewayne, look…”. This time I got it right.  I stole a quick glance to my right and there it was…and it was magnificent.  I could have made some comment about I was driving but I discovered you can carefully sneak a look at the moon and drive too.  That is true on trails, and in many other sights and sounds.

Paul, the guy who wrote most of the New Testament in the Christian Bible said that we should take the time and redeem the time.  What he was saying is that we should make the most of the time we have.  But we need to realize that while that includes working and doing life…it should also include time to enjoy the journey.  I’m glad I’m married to someone who knows how to do that.  Does it drive me nuts sometimes?  Absolutely, but even that is part of the joy of the journey.  So, be careful and watch where you step but be sure and take a few minutes to enjoy life around you.  Think you can’t?  Sure, you can, with the Creator’s help! After all, He’s got this.  Bro. Dewayne

Posted in Christmas, Family, fear, forgiveness, gratitude, Holidays, life, love, loving others, Scripture, Southern born, thankful, Trials

Gifts and Lizards

Love keeps no record of wrongs.” 1 Corinthians 13:5b

It was a lizard but when you’re eight—it’s a dinosaur.  Growing up in North Florida, which is a somewhat, semi-tropical area, there were always all kinds of insects and reptiles to watch or capture.  One of these was a small lizard…a sort of dinosaur in miniature.  It seemed they were everywhere.  Sometimes they were brown and sometimes they were green but always they stirred my imagination and when that happened, they were always bigger and more vicious than they were in reality. But it is amazing what an eight-year-old mind can come up with when he has too much time on his hands. I know I captured more than a few…usually by grabbing them by their tail.  I was always amazed when their tail broke off and while he managed to scurry away, his tail remained…still wiggling.  I later learned that their tail would slowly grow back, and I guess I’m glad they did.

As I grew older, it seems the lizards got smaller and soon became a sense of novelty and nothing more. Gone was the fear of what they could do to me as I realized what I could do to them.  I’ve found out that not only applies to lizards but memories from days gone by. About the time I was chasing lizards and yet being a little fearful…something happened.  It was Christmas time and as the day approached, I knew I didn’t have anything to give to my Momma. Poking around the house, I discovered a plastic flower arrangement sitting in the corner of the breezeway that connected our house and a garage turned into a bedroom.  Partly out of desperation and party through the eyes of an eight-year-old, I decided I would wrap the well-worn and faded flowers and give them to my Momma for Christmas.  So, I put them in a box, wrapped it all up and put it under the tree.

Christmas morning came and as was tradition, we all gathered in the living room as the presents were handed out and I watched as Momma was handed the box and unwrapped it.  Probably speaking to no one in particular, I heard her say, “Well, these are just those old flowers from the porch.” I was devastated. I knew it wasn’t much but I was hoping that something ordinary would be magically transformed by Christmas.  Now, let’s be clear.  Momma wasn’t being mean or hurtful.  Her words that day were just a statement of fact, and she might probably was not aware I had heard them…but I had…and a scar was born.

For years and years, I carried those words in my heart…and with them came the rejection that only an insecure eight-year-old can feel.  A few words casually spoken left a wound that for years refused to heal.  Listen, I know my Momma and I know she loved me but sometimes the best of us can utter words that get stuck in our memories and like those lizards…seem to grow into monsters.  Probably all of us have them…probably all of us have said them…probably all of us regret saying them.

I can’t remember if I ever told Momma about that Christmas and those words, but I can tell you it is no longer a deal.  Yes, there is a small scar on my heart, but that scar reminds me of something important.  Scars are wounds that have healed.  As I grew older, I was able to let go of the hurt because I grew to understand that no matter what words she spoke that day, her actions over the years more than proved her love.  If nothing else, those words remind me that she wasn’t perfect…just like me, just like you and just like the last person who wounded us.

Remember this.   Christmas is about love and love is about forgiveness.  My favorite verse in 1 Corinthians 13 reminds me that “love keeps no record of wrongs.”  It turns out that love makes choices possible.  We get to choose what to do with the things that are tossed into our laps.  We get to choose what we do when someone else’s mess gets sloshed on us.  I’ve learned I can’t control others; I can’t always control the circumstances around me; but I can always control my response…and that is important.

So about sixty Christmas’s have come and gone.  Momma is long in heaven, and I am grateful that I can sit and click keys on my keyboard and smile at all the precious memories I treasure in my heart.  And some of those memories that used to be dragons are now simply little lizards.  In case you are wondering how that works…well once you’ve experienced God’s grace and His forgiveness…it is a no brainer.  After all, He’s got this. Bro. Dewayne

Posted in Christmas, Easter, Family, friends, Grace, gratitude, Holidays, life, love, loving others, priorities, Scripture, Southern born, thankful

Remembrance

Do this in Remembrance of Me.” Luke 22:19b

They hang on my wall…365…one above the other.  As I have grown older, I have found that certain memories are just…well…precious.  That seems to be especially true at this time of the year.  My memories growing up of Thanksgiving and Christmas always cause me to smile.  Two memories that I especially cherish involve two simple things that now are two of my most prized possessions.  The first was made possible by the generosity of my oldest brother.  A couple of years ago I wrote a story about a 410 shotgun that had belonged to our Daddy.  It was a family heirloom.  I didn’t who ended up with it, but it turned out it was my brother and he in an incredible act of generosity chose to pass it to me.

It now hangs on the wall in my home office, and it is fired only once a year. You see, Daddy or one of my brothers, used to fire the old 410 on Christmas morning as a sort of wakeup call for my two sisters and me.  So now, starting with last year, on Christmas morning, the old 410 once again comes to life and calls us to leave our beds and celebrate. Every day, I glance up at that old 410, and every day it reminds me of days gone by and I am overcome with gratitude.  I am thankful for a Daddy and Momma who loved me and a family that could gather with one another and celebrate.

The other thing that hangs on my wall…365…is a plastic Santa Claus face.  It has a LED bulb in it that allows it to burn 24 hours a day…and I remember…and I am grateful.  You see, when I was a boy, my family had a Santa face just like this one…just.like.this.one.  It hung up on our roof attached to our small chimney and it announced that Christmas time had come.  I’m sure it came from one of the local stores and probably cost just a few dollars. Well, that old Santa disappeared but I was able to find one on eBay and trust me it didn’t cost $4.50 but do you know what?  It was worth every dollar because every day it too reminds me of a Daddy and Momma who made sure, somehow, that we had a wonderful Christmas. It reminds me of a family that could and would gather with one another and celebrate.

So, those days are gone and all but one of my brothers are gone too, but guess what?  Those days and those loved ones live on in my memories and in my heart and those two things, an old 410 shotgun and a plastic Santa face from my boyhood days remind me to remember and be grateful.  I’ve said more than once if I could remember everything from my childhood, I would have enough Grits’ material to write forever. Smile.  I’ve discovered that things can sometimes help us remember and that is important because while some things probably need to slip away…many…perhaps most…need to live on.

Have you ever wondered why Jesus on the night before He died did something crazy like serve supper?  If you are familiar with that story, you know it was a pretty simple meal…bread and wine but the meaning was anything but simple.  The next day He was going to die on a Roman cross, and He wanted to make sure the guys who followed Him would never forget what it was about. He explained how the bread represented His body broken on that cross and how the wine represented His blood that was shed so that any of us…all of us…who chose to believe could have eternal life.  That’s why He said, “Do this in remembrance of Me.”  It was His way of saying we should always remember and never forget.

So, what is it in your life that helps you remember?  A simple, or elaborate, wedding ring? A watch? Family pictures? Whatever it is, it is there to remind us and cause us to be thankful.  Christmas this year falls on a Sunday and we are going to celebrate the Lord’s supper that day at our church. I know it is almost a month away, but I am already looking forward to it.  It is going to remind us once again what Christmas and Easter are all about—a God, a Father, a Dearest Daddy, who loves us so much He gave His Son to a stable, a broken world and a Roman cross. Be sure in the hustle and bustle of the holidays to take time to remember and reflect.  For me it is an old 410 shotgun, a plastic Santa and an old rugged cross and a heavenly Father who always reminds me, “I’ve got this.” Bro. Dewayne

Posted in Family, food, friends, Grace, gratitude, Holidays, life, loving others, prayer, Scripture, thankful, Thanksgiving

Leftovers and Ruts

Jesus replied, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to Me will never be hungry again. Whoever believes in Me will never be thirsty.” John 6:35

It’s Friday…turkey again. Well, the big day was a big deal and for most of us it circled around a big meal.  In many cases homes were filled with family and like planes in a landing pattern at the airport, they circled the feast wondering where to land. There were so many choices…it was like Golden Corral had moved into our kitchens.  So, we circled, we landed, and we ate. But there is one tradition that we can’t forget when it comes to Thanksgiving.  Invariably we prepare way too much and that can only mean one thing: leftovers. It is like the feast all over again…like a good ballgame going into overtime.

So, at least around the Taylor tribe there is always a round two.  Sometime after dessert and a nap, we groggily rise from the couch or bed and mosey into the kitchen.  There the plates are retrieved from the refrigerator or maybe just uncovered, and we do it again.  Oh, leftovers, life is sweet indeed.  After everyone has had their fill, again, anything that is left goes back to the refrigerator again.  And, like Lazarus in the Bible, don’t worry they will get resurrected again…and again.

Leftovers are a game a preference.  For some it is game over after the main event, for others there is a round two, a round three and who knows…a round four.  I know for my wife Judy and me the rule seems to be oh, about a week.  Recently she cooked a great dish of baked spaghetti, and it was awesome…not once, not twice but for five days we enjoyed it until the last serving make its way to the microwave.  Oh, and by the way, yup, it was still good, way good. But all good things must come to an end and so it is with leftovers.  Each kitchen master will make the decision when it is time to move from leftovers and makeovers (aka turkey born again) to something new and fresh.  That is a good thing…and in life that is a necessary thing.

As we do life it is often too easy to get stuck and be satisfied with the leftovers…with whatever.  Again, it works for food a few days but eventually what we enjoyed the first day or two can and will be toxic.  The fine line is to know when it is time for something else, something fresh, something new.  In the kitchen we call them leftovers but in life we call them ruts.  Ruts are when we simply do the same thing over and over again because they are easy, they are familiar, they are comfortable.  Well, ruts may be all of that and more, but ruts can be dangerous. Like leftovers left too long on the counter or too long in the refrigerator, ruts can lead to spoilage. Ruts can damage marriages, stifle careers and make relationships staler than two-week-old bread.  Most sadly, spiritual ruts can make God seem out of date, unnecessary, and eventually unwanted.

So, what is the answer to the leftover dilemma.  Well, perhaps we should follow the advice of the guy in the song, “The Gambler.”  We need to “know when to hold ‘em, know when to fold ‘em and know when to walk away.”  God never intended life and never intended our relationship with Him to be like five-day old turkey. In fact, He invites us to His table where there are no leftovers, only fresh bread and living water.  Jesus called Himself that for a reason. He was saying don’t settle for the old when you can have the new…don’t eat stale when you can have life and have it more abundantly.

So, enjoy the leftovers this Thanksgiving but be sure they don’t become permanent fare.  And, most importantly, don’t let your friendship and fellowship with your Dearest Daddy digress to leftovers—for He wants something new for you every day.  Need help with that? No problem, just ask. He’s got this.  Bro. Dewayne

Posted in Family, fear, food, friends, gratitude, Holidays, life, loving others, Military memories, priorities, Scripture, Southern born, thankful, Thanksgiving, travel, Trials

A Thanksgiving to Remember

But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and reaching forward to what is ahead…” Philippians 3:13

It was a Thanksgiving to remember.  Throughout the years, Thanksgiving has been a big deal in our family.  Growing up it was a time when Momma would buy a huge turkey and cook it all night in the roaster oven that set by the stove for such an occasion.  It was a time when pies were baked, ambrosia was made, and giblet gravy simmered on the stove.  It was a time for two kinds of dressing—cornbread and cornbread with oysters. I’m not sure where that came from, but it was pretty popular.  Then, of course, it was a time when most everyone would come home, and we would feast on good food and fellowship with family.

When I graduated from high school and enlisted in the Air Force things had to change.  My first duty station was about 15 miles from the Canadian border in a town called Minot—Minot, North Dakota.  I arrived there in October, and it was already too cold for a Florida boy.  The holidays were looming ahead, and it looked like Thanksgiving was going to be a solo flight.  But then something happened.  Somehow, remember this is long before cellphones, my brother Jimmy, who lived in Amarillo, Texas, called and invited me to his house for Thanksgiving.

Again, somehow, someway, it happened.  My base pay of $320 per month didn’t allow for plane tickets so it meant a trip to the credit union to see if I could get a loan. They granted it and I bought the ticket, got my leave approved and had someone haul me to the airport. So, like the song says, over the river and through the woods, I was on my way, not to grandmother’s house but my brother’s.  I can remember flying down to Amarillo on that two engine, piston driven, plane feeling excited and afraid all at the same time.  What in the world was I doing?

Soon enough, I was on the ground and there was my big brother and a couple of his kids waiting for me.  The best I can remember he worked, maybe managed, a ranch of sorts.  It seemed we drove a long way out into the Texas countryside before finally arriving at his house.  The next day was Thanksgiving and it was so much like the one at home.  We ate well and enjoyed good family fellowship.  The thing that was so different was that in the past I was treated as the baby of the family—which I was.  But that day—I was his peer.  I was a man.

As much as I enjoyed Thanksgiving Day, the next couple of days were also awesome.  We went jackrabbit hunting.  It was cold with snow covering the ground, and we would jolt and bounce through the fields in his old Willis Jeep.  Back at the house we drank hot coffee as he would spin tales about his time in the Air Force.  Jimmy was always bigger than life and he was that day too.  We also put up the Christmas tree while I was there.  One of his favorite Christmas albums was Charlie Pride’s “Christmas in My Hometown.” We played it over and over again while I was there.  To this day it is still one of my favorites.

Soon it was time for me to head back to the far north.  We headed back to the airport and soon those piston engines were shaking and vibrating the old plane again as I flew back to Minot.  I’ve had many good Thanksgivings over the years but that one stands out for me.  It was a time when my brother made sure I wasn’t alone at a time when too many were.  That was back in 1972 so a lot of water has flowed beneath the bridge.  I’m decades older and he is now in heaven.  But I am left with the memories…memories that still refresh my soul and make me smile.

To be honest, there are other Thanksgivings that were not so easy…times when another brother and his family were not on speaking terms with the family, times when Daddy was sick and times when the family went separate ways. But I have grown to realize that each of us have a choice.  We can choose to remember and relish the good times, or we can remember and dwell on the hard times.  The choice is ours.  Paul, the guy who wrote about two-thirds of the New Testament in the Bible had plenty of hard memories.  He was a pretty bad guy before he met Jesus.  After Jesus, he began to write some new stories in his life, and he made the decision to leave the past in the past.  We should too.

I know holidays can be hard because of the past, or maybe the present. Let me encourage you to choose to remember the good and let go of the rest.  It’s not easy but it is possible—with a little help from God.  I know these days He’s getting a lot of bad press, but trust me, if you don’t know Him you should get acquainted.  He loves you more than you know, and He wants to help you do life here.  He can even help with those difficult memories.

One of the things that is a staple of mine in life is to eat and nap. Today, Lord willing, I will eat a very good meal, and I will take a very nice nap.  Try it—you’ll like it.  Also today, I’m going to take a nap of sorts with my best friend Jesus. I’m going to pull aside, rest and just chat about all the ways He has blessed me.  It might take a while because I’m pretty blessed—and so are you.  We also will probably talk about some of the hard things going on now. He won’t judge me—He will just love me. You know that Thanksgiving so many years ago my brother treated me as his peer. Today Jesus treats me as a friend—a friend closer than a brother.  A friend that can handle my past and my future.  A friend I can trust. That’s why, He’s got this. Bro. Dewayne

Posted in Family, friends, gratitude, Holidays, life, love, loving others, prayer, thankful, Thanksgiving, travel

How Thoughtful

I thank my God in all my remembrance of you.” Philippians 1:3

It was a memorable Thanksgiving.  My wife Judy and I have a treasure chest full of good memories and stories.  That is one reason I like Grits so much.  It gives me the opportunity to remember and share just some of those treasures.  A lot of the memories and stories were written during our fourteen years at Cobden First Baptist.  During those years, we were slowly wedded into what can only be described as family.  Our children grew up there…and one, baby Sarah was born there.  We laughed together, we cried together and well, we did life together.

As our tenth anniversary approached, the church planned a big surprise.  They decided to raise the money for Judy and me to visit the Holy Land.  It was about a year later that the funds were in place, the plans were made, and the tickets bought.  We were to see Greece, Israel and Egypt.  We would visit many of the sites of ancient Greece, walk where Jesus walked and see where the Pharaohs lived and died. It was an incredible journey that we can never forget and there was something that happened after the trip that remains one of our most special memories.

You see, the way the trip was planned meant that we would be gone from our girls over Thanksgiving.  It was a hard call for us but once again the church made it easier.  One of the families agreed to move into our house while we were gone and ride herd over the three Taylor girls. So while we would miss Thanksgiving with them, they had Thanksgiving there with our good friends.  I can well remember Thanksgiving in Egypt.  Of course, there it was just another day. The only way you would have known it was Thanksgiving was that the American Embassy announced on the English-speaking channel that they would be closed that day.  We found it hard to believe that the rest of the world just went about their way as America celebrated the goodness of God.

Well, in a few days after that day, we were back home.  I remember we got back home at about 3:30 am and it was a Sunday.  We set the alarm and later I fumbled through some sort of message.  I am sure it was not one of my better ones but once the church was kind enough to act like it was.  Now for the surprise—now for a very special Thanksgiving memory.  Are you ready?  Well, we drove home after church, ready for a nap and wondering what we were going to eat for lunch.  We walked in the back door and into the kitchen and there, waiting for us, was a Thanksgiving dinner with all the trimmings.  As we walked into the dining room we found the table set with our finest china…just like it would have been had we been there for Thanksgiving Day.

Can you feel it? Can you imagine it?  I know for us it was one of those memories that will burn in our hearts and minds till the last heartbeat.  And, as you can guess, it wasn’t just the meal, it wasn’t just the table—it was the thoughtfulness of it all.  And that is the big truth I want you to remember. While this particular memory was so generous and amazing…it was the thoughtfulness of it all that writes it on our hearts in permanent ink.  You see, we all can make that impact…rich or poor…because thoughtfulness doesn’t have to be expensive…at least not in the sense of dollar bills and coins.  Thoughtfulness is something that the poorest or richest can do.

Paul writes in Philippians 1:3, “I thank my God in all my remembrance of you.” It’s special that he wrote that, but it is even more special when we realize this.  Not every memory of his time in Philippi was good…after all he got beat up and thrown in jail for doing nothing but helping a young girl. No…what caused him to write that was the thoughtfulness of his friends there.  More than once they were a friend when no one else would be.  I’ve pastored four churches in my forty-year pastoring journey and along the way we have met so many wonderful, thoughtful people. From Quarles…my first church, to Dorrisville, my present church, our hearts have been touched with thoughtful people.

This week, be sure and do what anyone can do but so many won’t remember to do…be thoughtful toward someone who needs a little lift, a little love, a little kindness. After all, our Dearest Father has been so thoughtful to us.  If you need a little guidance along the way, just remember that your thoughtful Father thought about that too. He’s got this. Bro. Dewayne

Posted in Family, friends, Grace, gratitude, life, loving others, priorities, Scripture, thankful, travel, Trials, wisdom

Be Still

“Be still, and know that I am God!” Psalm 46:10

It was a gentle reminder.  So last Sunday we were driving to church and heard a soft “ding.” A quick look at the dash told us why.  Our car has a built-in thermometer and when the temperature dips to 39 degrees, it sounds a soft chime to let us know that the temperature outside has reached a point where the roads might be slippery because of ice or snow. It is a great idea because sometimes we get too busy to be careful and then, well, it can lead to a mess.  I wish life sometimes had a little “ding” too…it might save me some oops.  Let me explain.

A week or so ago I had a schedule that was just jam packed.  I knew it was going to be busy. I knew it was going to be crazy but for some reason that didn’t stop me from eventually acting crazy.  It all started on Monday…well, make that Sunday.  Sunday for me is preach twice Sunday morning but this particular week we also had an evening service to prepare for a special event that was happening at our church…which was part of the crazy.  I spent the afternoon getting Grits ready for that week and the next…so, add in a little more crazy.  Now back to Monday.  Monday, I had the privilege of officiating at the funeral service for a church member who happened to be a good friend too.  Because of that it was especially emotionally draining for me.  I felt the loss…we all did.

I returned to the office that afternoon and finished out the day and woke up early on Tuesday to speak on “The Baptist Hour,” a radio program that we sponsor on the first of every month.  Then it was off to the office, preparing for the rest of the week.  In the late afternoon, we packed our bags to attend a state meeting two and a half hours away.  We arrived that night, slept and woke up to a twelve-hour day of conferences and meetings. It was just about then I should have been listening for the little warning chime because certainly it was going off.

Thursday morning began with more meetings before leaving for home. After driving for two and a half hours, we got back in time to serve at our outreach event.  I was one of the speakers and we got to the church at about 5:00 pm and got home about 10:30 pm.  Friday, the day I usually call my day off, was filled with more study and a return trip to the church for the event. Was that a “ding” I heard?   Then Sunday…well, it was Sunday, and our first service begins at 8 am.

Now all of that wasn’t written to whine about a crazy week…it was to warn you that, chime, or no chime, when things get crazy…be careful you don’t.  So, in the second service Sunday morning two things happened that were anything but usual.  First, two young men in our young group, two young men I like and respect, decided to have a conversation while I was speaking. When I say “conversation,” I don’t mean whispering…I mean speaking loudly—loud enough for me to hear from the stage.  Loud enough to distract me. Loud enough to mash my crazy button.  The second crazy thing was, I stopped sharing and publicly told them it was my turn to speak…not their’s. Was their behavior out of line? Yes.  Did they need to be corrected?  Maybe…but not publicly.  Trust me…that is something that I would certainly not normally do. In fact, I don’t think I have done so in forty years…at least not that I can remember, besides the Taylor girls.

Anyway, I fumbled through the rest of the message and as soon as I was done speaking, I went and apologized to them. And before I could get the words fully out, they apologized to me. They were wrong for talking and I was wrong in how I fixed it.  The good news is the devil didn’t win the day, but he could have.  Now the question is, “How did this happen?”  And the answer is, at least on my side, I had allowed my tank to reach empty and you can’t run on empty without consequences.  You can’t give and give without taking something in.  I was sure I could do it all and found out…I couldn’t.

So, like the chime in my car, I needed something to let me know it was time to restock, to replenish.  While God doesn’t give out chimes, He does give us His Spirit. I love a verse tucked away in Psalm 46:10. It says, “Be still and know I am God.” Be still…literally, “stop striving” and know that I am God. He wants to be our warning chime but to hear Him we must slow down and listen.

I shared a quote a couple of weeks ago, but didn’t personally apply it. It said, “Sometimes the most spiritual thing we can do is take a nap,” or maybe just get away. So, after church that Sunday, we did a little more crazy. We packed our bags and headed to New Orleans for a five day cruise. We were grateful for a time to physically, emotionally, mentally, and spiritually recover. This quiet time was a gift from God to us…a time to be still and know that He really is God.  I hope this story will help you stop before you reach the tipping point. But if you do, if we do, at least we know, no matter what, “He’s got this.”  Bro. Dewayne

Posted in Family, gratitude, life, loving others, Military memories, prayer, priorities, Scripture, thankful, USA, Veteran's Day

A Penny and a Nickel

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

This story has become my annual story for Veteran’s Day.  It was a wonderful day that day and it spoke deeply into my heart. Be sure and thank each veteran you encounter especially on this day…the day we honor them.

I had never noticed it before.  A couple of weeks ago my wife Judy and I visited the national battlefield at Dover, Tennessee.  I was so impressed.  Fort Donelson National Battlefield is a Civil War battle site sandwiched between the Cumberland and Tennessee Rivers.  The South had built two forts there for the purpose of controlling those two rivers.  It was a major supply line for the South.  Many of the original earthworks are still there.  You can imagine the Union and Southern soldiers huddling down rising only to fire at one another.

One spot on the tour showed where the big Southern guns were mounted.  In fact, many of them were still there.  There were three on one side and seven on the other.  The guns could hurl a 30-pound shell over a mile and were some of the deadliest weapons of the war.  At that spot, an American Bald Eagle was perched in a large oak tree right on the bluff.  It was as if he was watching over the sacredness of this hallowed ground.  Men—both Union and Southern, shed their blood on these grounds.  One side dying to preserve the Union and the other dying to tear it apart.  After more than a few minutes the eagle took his leave and so did we.

The car tour then took us out of the park and down the road a mile or so.  There we found more earthworks, more cannon and more ground stained with blood.  Leaving there we headed down the road to the National Cemetery established after the battle. The Union soldiers won the day, but the cost was high on both sides.  Judy and I parked the car and walked around the cemetery.  There were hundreds of graves…all men who had fought for the Union.  Sadly, the Confederate dead were dumped into mass graves and covered over.  They remain that way today.

At the cemetery, there were many graves from the Civil War era but since it is still an active military cemetery, warriors from virtually all the wars are buried there.  Judy and I saw graves from the World War I, World War 2, Korea, Vietnam, and the Gulf Wars.  We even saw one grave from what was called the Second Seminole War or the Florida War. Row upon row of graves, some older ones with only a last name and their assigned unit, lay silently giving testimony to their last full measure of devotion to their country.  There was one more thing.

We noticed that laying on top of many of the headstones there were coins.  They were mostly pennies with a sprinkling of silver coins also.  I didn’t really know what they meant but I had an idea, and I was right.  There is a tradition that honors men and women who served their country.  You mainly see it in national cemeteries but also at others scattered throughout our Land.  When you see a penny on top of the headstone of a veteran, it means that someone stopped and reflected on the soldier’s life and service. It is a form of remembrance.  And, when a family member returns to the grave, they have the assurance that someone remembered and honored their loved one’s sacrifice and service.

If there was a silver coin, and back in the old days a nickel in particular, it meant the person who stopped by had a special relationship with the fallen soldier.  They may have gone through basic training together or were assigned to the same unit.  There has always been a special bond with men and women who fought together…who perhaps died together.  It is a bond that lives on beyond death and those silver coins honored that bond.

The Bible is full of renowned, well known, verses but one that stands out is where Jesus said, “Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.”  That is what those silver coins were saying.  It was a silent testimony of loyalty one for another.  This band of brothers was willing to die for the other…and many did.  What an amazing story of love and commitment.

Today we honor the men and women of our great country who served or are actively serving in its armed forces.  For 244 years brave soldiers have put their lives on the line.  As the saying goes, “All who served gave some, but some gave all.”  We should be incredibly grateful for both.  As you journey through life today and you recognize a man or woman who was or is member of the armed forces, take the time to thank them for their service.  The freedoms we enjoy came at great cost whether it was the ultimate sacrifice or the daily sacrifice of hardship or separation from family.  Be sure and let them know you appreciate it.  It is just the right thing to do.  Oh, and don’t forget to thank the One who provides the ultimate freedom…Jesus Christ.  Because of Him, we can rest…because of Him we can have the peace of knowing…He’s got this.  Bro. Dewayne

Posted in Family, fear, friends, Grace, gratitude, life, loving others, prayer, Scripture, thankful, Trials

Zone of Fire

And the tongue is a fire, a world of iniquity.” James 1:6a

Hi Grits Family! Hey, my wife Judy and I are going to be “out of pocket” aka “not available” to write this week—on another great adventure.  We decided to send out some of our past stories.  I hope you enjoy the ones we selected and look forward to some “fresh Grits” next week. God bless.  Bro. Dewayne

It was over in a flash.  Well, almost everyone has heard of Johnny Cash and almost everyone has heard his number one hit, “Ring of Fire.”  Well, Johnny had his ring, and I had my “zone of fire.” Twenty-five or so years ago my brother decided he would come up and visit with my wife and me.  It was a big deal because he is from the deep South and well, for him to cross the Mason-Dixon Line was pretty much a miracle.  When we were making plans, he mentioned that he wanted to go pheasant hunting.  Well, I checked into it and found that there was a “bird farm” about an hour from where we lived.

A “bird farm” is a business that owes a ton of land and then raises birds to be released into the wild for the purpose of hunting.  When the day came, we drove up to the bird farm.  When we got there, it was me, him and a couple of other guys. We checked in and the guy said that we would have a dog hunt with us.  That was strange since we didn’t pay for one but hey, ok.  We headed out with the dog and the guide. The way this works is you form a line, straight across, and about fifteen to twenty feet apart.  Then the dog works the area in front of you as you move forward.  If the dog goes on point (which means he found a bird) then the guide scares up the bird and someone, or a lot of someone’s, shoot.  So, we hunted, and hunted and hunted. The bottom line? I was pretty sure there wasn’t a bird within a hundred miles of that place.  The dog never went on point.

From there things went downhill.  The owner came and said that he had accidentally given us the dog and we had to give him up…so we did.  That meant we were totally on our own.  We would walk through the fields saying, “Here birdie, birdie.”  Ok, not really but we did walk through the field just trying to scare up a bird.  It was beginning to look like a continuation of the time with the dog when it happened.  As we walked through the field, and with no warning, we scared up a bird.  It was a beautiful male pheasant and he just exploded off the ground about thirty feet in front of me and slightly to my right.

I can’t tell you how fast this all happened.  He leapt into the air, I raised my bird gun and fired.  It really was over in a flash, and it was a perfect shot.  Just like that the bird was down and everyone was excited.  I had shot pheasant once or twice before but honestly it was a great shot…all except one thing.  Not once, not for a millisecond did I think about my “zone of fire.” Basically, the zone of fire is the predetermined area where it is safe for you to fire your weapon.  It obviously includes where there aren’t any people.  Now, it all worked out just fine.  I was within my zone of fire, but it was not because I intentionally did it—it was just luck.

While I don’t personally believe in luck, I do believe in a God who takes care of us…even when we are just a little—careless.  Truth be known, if that bird was a little closer to the line of guys, I could have wounded one of my friends and that would have been unbelievably tragic.  When you have a weapon, you need to be sharp, you need to be focused, and you need to be careful.  You must always be aware of your zone of fire.

That truth doesn’t just apply to weapons, you know.  We need to apply it anytime we are with people.  You see, we carry a lethal weapon with us all the time.  That would be our mouth.  And if we are not careful, a situation may come up, and before even thinking, boom…someone is wounded or hurt.  And the crazy part? It can happen in a flash just like that pheasant exploding off the ground in front of me.  In a moment of time, we can fire words from our mouth that will leave a lasting, and sometimes permanent scar, on the heart of someone around us.  We just need to be careful.

James, the half-brother of Jesus said that the tongue is a fire, a world of iniquity. We all know the stories of the wildfires in the West—the grave property damage and the tragic loss of life.  And James says in the same way the tongue can cause that kind of damage in the lives of people.  What can we do to prevent that?  The same thing when we are using our weapons around others.  We need to be sharp; we need to be focused, and we need to be careful.  Now, I have a friend who is a weapons expert and a great hunter. If he had been there that day, he would have given us a safety briefing which would have included our “zone of fire.”

We have an expert with our tongues too.  He is our Dearest Daddy and because He made us, He knows the destructive power of the tongue and can help us control it. As we walk through each day, He will be by our side, and He will guide us and help us.  He will whisper the guidance we need to be safe and not hurt others.  He is a guide that can be trusted and depended on.  And because of that…He’s got this.  Bro. Dewayne