Posted in Family, friends, gratitude, life, loving others, Military memories, prayer, priorities, Scripture, sovereignty of God, thankful, travel, Trials, USA, wisdom

Black Rock

You are my rock and my fortress.” Psalm 31:3

It was worth the wait.  My wife Judy and I decided to hit the road for a quick trip to Dayton, Ohio.  It all started when my son-in-law sent me a picture from the National Air Force Museum located in, wait for it, Dayton. Being an Air Force veteran, I had heard of it but had never taken the opportunity to go and see it.  When he sent me a couple of pictures…I knew it was time.  So, we loaded up and drove up and over and in about five hours we were there.

Let me just say it was worth every mile.  The museum is housed in four huge hanger type buildings and each hanger held a different era of air history.  The first was the period from the Wright brothers to World War I, the second was World War II, the third was the Korean and Cold Wars and finally the last was filled with Vietnam and the years following.  Literally hundreds of aircraft were on display, and I was in awe.  My favorite was World War II because, like so many, I admire what Tom Brokaw called “the Greatest Generation.” Their commitment and sacrifice were and still is amazing.  While war is never romantic, the sight of these brave men and women and their flying machines, stirred powerful emotions of a time gone by.

Well, after the museum, we did what everyone does…eat.  Using our GPS, we navigated our way to a large shopping area and saw a restaurant called “Black Rock.” We asked someone and they assured us it was very good, but they also said we probably couldn’t get in. We decided to try anyway.  Well, we could get in, but it was going take about 45 minutes. So, we added our names to the wait list and waited.  Sure enough, about 45 minutes later, the text came, and we were in.

The place was packed and loud so were excited to see what all the uproar was about.  Our server came to our table, and she explained what they are most famous for…a black rock.  Here’s the deal.  If you order steak, they bring it to your table…raw. They also bring a square chunk of black lava rock that is heated to—wait for it—755 degrees.  The raw meat is sizzling in the middle of the rock, and you get to cook your own steak.  You slice off a bite size piece of steak, lay it on the 755-degree rock in a puddle of melted garlic butter and in about 15 seconds for each side—you are ready to eat. It was awesome.

With a special creamy steak sauce for dipping, well, it really was just delicious.  I know and you know the rock idea is a hook, a crowd getter but it was more.  There was something special about slicing and cooking your meat on that super-heated rock.  While the food tasted so good—the experience was more—much more. I think my man genes were set to high as I sliced a chunk of raw meat and cooked it for my wife. I felt like the hunter, gatherers of old. I could almost hear the wolves howling in the distance.

Now trust me.  If they had brought that piece of meat already cooked, I would have said it was a pretty good steak, but the rock changed everything. The sound of sizzling meat changed everything. In other words, some things change everything and that was true that night, but it is truer every day, in every way, and everywhere—when that Rock is Jesus. Just like the rock changed the meal, the presence of the Rock of Ages in our lives makes all the difference in the world.

And get this—it had to be the rock.  A small charcoal fire, nope.  A propane gas burner, nope. An electric burner, nada. It was the rock, that 755-degree, meat sizzling, butter melting rock that changed it all. And I want you to know that it is the Rock of Ages that can burn away all the dross of sin that separates us from God.  If you are willing to let Him, He wants, He waits to forgive and give you a fresh start.  It is something that being good, that church, that religion just can’t do.  It is a singular act of God and His grace that makes the difference. It is what caused the writer of Psalms to pen, “You are my rock and my fortress.”

So, if you ever see a restaurant named, “Black Rock” whip in an experience the cooking power of a 755-degree piece of black lava rock.  And, if you find yourself down and out and out of luck, remember to look for the Rock of Ages.  He is waiting to forgive you and call you His own.  He is waiting to change your life forever.  He’s waiting to whisper, “I’ve got this.  Bro. Dewayne

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

Lights, Camera, Action!

Behold, how good and pleasant it is when brothers dwell in unity!” Psalm 133:1

Well, it happened again. Last fall I bumped into an incredible group of young men…our Middle School Baseball team.  These guys had played ball together for more than a few years and had developed into a baseball force to be reckoned with.  Well, apparently no one could reckon with them because they finished the season totally undefeated and as state champions.  It was a thrill to watch and experience. Their mantra was printed on the back of their uniforms for all to see and note.  It was two words and a single line.  Printed vertically, on top was the word “we” followed by a line and then one more word, the word “me.”  It translated “we over me.” They had chosen to not be a bunch of individuals but one team. Team mattered before any individual player.  That is how you win championships.

Well, indeed, it did happen again.  This time there was not a ball of any kind in sight…in fact, it had nothing to do with sports, per se.   And, no, there wasn’t a uniform or a shirt that said, “we over me” but regardless the truth was there as plain as the nose on your face.  What was, “it?” It was our high school’s production of Mary Poppins and while it was their production it was bigger than any one school or age group.  First, you need to know that our city is a small one and our school system is small compared to many.  But what I just witnessed was amazing. If there were state championships for the performing arts…well these students of all ages knocked it out of the park.

This was no small production—the cast probably numbered somewhere around fifty-five…plus a few more.  I’m not sure how many band members were in the pit, but I can tell you though unseen they were not unheard.  And then there were more hands and feet behind the scenes moving props, helping people fly (yes, I do mean fly) but wait, we are not done yet.  Those props, the incredible costumes, and a zillion other things just didn’t happen…it took a pretty large village to raise this production from dream to reality.

The bottom line is for two and a half hours I sat, fully engaged and amazed, as every single actor and actress, every single band member, every single person behind the scenes gave their all—and then some.  Two things were very obvious.  First, the quality of the production. Small town or not, smaller school or not, the quality was amazing, and I know that never comes cheap.  I just wonder how many hours were spent memorizing, practicing, and preparing? Like I said, “amazing.”

The second thing that was obvious was this wasn’t about a person or even a few people—it was about, team.  This was all about “we over me.”  I watched as this mass in force came together and put self aside for the good of the production…the whole cast.  Just like with the baseball team, it would have been easy for some to demand the spotlight, but no one did. It was a sight to behold and the arts department and all those who had a part deserved a “state championship” trophy.  Way to go, team.  Way to go.

When the last song was sung and the last bow taken, I knew I wanted to write about this.  Not only because they deserve it…and they surely do…but also because there is a very important lesson for all of us.  That lesson?  What do you suppose we could do as a group of people, as a church, as a community, as a nation if we could just lay aside our issues and decide to come together.  D.L. Moody was a pastor/teacher from decades ago and he posed the thought, “The world has yet to see what God could do with one man or woman totally surrendered to Him.” He went on to say, “I want to be that man.”

What could God do with a people that said yes to Him, who put aside the spotlight to stand in His light?  What could happen in the places we live if we decided one thing mattered…Him. Not one denomination but rather a radical faith in one God.  It was what our country was founded on and if it worked then…well, it just might work now. One of the guys who wrote in the Book of Psalms in the Jewish and Christian Bible said, “Behold, how good and pleasant it is when brothers dwell in unity!” Translated today it just might say, “Behold, how good and pleasant it is when we practice—we believe, “we over me.”

So, congratulations to an outstanding group of students and their parents and leaders.  You not only did a great job but perhaps the greatest thing you did was show what can happen when a group of people come together for the good of others. It’s no easy task but it is not impossible…it just needs a little help from someone bigger than us…and He’s got this.  Bro. Dewayne

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

Small Changes….Big Difference

Sell your possessions and give to those in need.” Luke 12:33

I could see them flashing a mile down the road. They were two senior adults—just two of the many special people I have met and known over the years.  These two folks had a special heart for giving and not just giving but giving so others could know the same God they did.  Though they gave generously the way others did they had a couple of other ways that were pretty special. And that is why it wasn’t uncommon to see them pulled off the road on a busy highway…flashers flashing.  I know it caused people to wonder.

On any given day, you could be driving down Highway 51 near Cobden, Illinois and see a nice, new Cadillac on the side of the road.  With their emergency flashers warning oncoming traffic of their presence, you might think that they were broke down and needed assistance but that wasn’t the case. They would be…picking up cans.  Yup…that’s right.  They would regularly, and I do mean regularly, go out on the highways and byways around Union County and gather cans to sell and recycle.  You might wonder why since usually folks’ pickup cans because they have a need. Some may have seen the Cadillac and thought them greedy but there was a different story in the making.  There was a need, but it wasn’t theirs…it was people all around the world who needed to hear about their Jesus.

You see, everything that these two collected when they sold their cans went to fund missions—telling people about Jesus. How about that?  They could, and did, write a check but this was their special way of giving.  Oh, but that wasn’t all.  Everywhere they went, they would be sure and keep their eyes…on the ground.  Yup, that’s right.  They were looking for change that people dropped and believe it or not…they found a lot.  Every year they would make a trip to California to see family.  They would stay for several weeks and would always come back with a story—and more money for missions.  It was not uncommon for them to find not a few dollars but more…a lot more.  And guess what?  Yup, that’s right…every dollar went to missions. They told me one time someone saw them either picking up cans or change in California and thinking they were needy…gave them twenty dollars. They explained, but the person insisted they keep the twenty—and share it around the world.

While their example can teach us many lessons there is one that deserves our attention today.  You see, they had learned that small things can add up to make a big difference. There is no telling how many thousands of dollars in cans and change they gathered to give away.  It was their special way, an unusual way, a unique way…to give. You see, small things can add up.  I read something the other day that was crazy.  Get ready.  The story said that the TSA, the folks that run security at the airports, find an amazing amount of change at the security checkpoints.  You know the drill; people have to empty their pockets to go through security and apparently a lot of folks drop their change on the floor or leave it in the bins and it all adds up. “How much?” you ask?  Well, in 2019 the TSA collected a whopping $900,000 in change. You read that right—$900,000. That is just crazy amazing.

In case you are wondering, theirs doesn’t go to missions but they do have to report to Congress how it is used.  Usually, it is something mundane like buying supplies.  How boring. While I am impressed by the amount, I am much more impressed by the heart and soul of two seniors who picked up cans and change to make a difference in the hearts and lives of people everywhere.  That, Grits family, is pretty noble and pretty amazing.

So, what can we do to make a difference in the lives of people?  Now this story happens to be about two Jesus people but making a difference isn’t limited to people who follow Jesus.  We all can make a difference.  Hey, why not find a way, even if it is small and simple, and start making an impact in your world?  Jesus told a guy in the New Testament part of the Bible who had a lot of stuff, “Sell your possessions and give to those in need.” Sounds like yard sale time to me!  Remember, the smallest thing can be made big in the hands of God. Need some ideas? Wondering how? Just ask and the God of Generosity will fill in the blanks.  He’s got this.  Bro. Dewayne

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

Z-Pack and the Man Cold

Always be joyful. Never stop praying.  Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus. 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

They call it a z-pack.  It is called that because nobody can pronounce azithromycin.  Whatever it is called it–it works.  You know the story.  You are humming along, life is good and then you throat feels a little scratchy, your nose is a little stuffy and before long you feel awful.

Now let me explain awful.  If you are a man that means it is pretty much terminal.  It is a matter of minutes before the end comes.  Someone call 911.  If you are a woman, it means that life just became a little more challenging but hey people are counting on you, so you will push through.

Man or woman–terminal or not–you will probably call and make an appointment to see the doctor.  He will determine, much to the man’s surprise, that it is not terminal.  It is an upper respiratory infection.  Then he may prescribe our friend azithromycin or a z-pack.

A z-pack is a course of five pills, often two are taken the first day and one per day for the next three.  If you are a man, you take the first two and go to bed.  If you are woman, and in in particular a mother, you take the first two and go on with life.  The good news everybody generally survives.

I find too often in life this happens to me on another level. I am humming along, and life is good.  The mild speed bumps and occasional potholes of life are navigated with little or no trouble.  But then it happens. The smallest of infractions and I find myself going off–losing it.  Something doesn’t go just according to plan, and I am seething.  I don’t get my way and so everyone better stay out of my way. I’’ve been infected.

No doctor is needed for this one.  It is called selfish-itis.  Let me say that again…selfish–itis.  Yup…for some reason it all becomes about me–or you.  While it’s caused by several things it often find’s it’s source in a little virus called “why me.”  I mean I understand why the neighbor deserves bad things; he is mean as a snake.  And my brother-in-law hasn’t worked for months.  Of course, then there is Cousin Eddie, never mind, we won’t even go there.

Well, the good news is there’s a z-pack for it and it is fast and effective.  Take three “pills” and before long you will be humming again.  The z-pack is found in 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 and consists of three powerful truths that will kick the “selfish-itis” bug in no time.  Here’s the z-pack. “Always be joyful. Never stop praying. Be thankful in all circumstances.” There you go–be joyful, pray always and be thankful.”  Bye-bye blues and hello cancel the 911 call. Three simple truths, three simple practices.

A while back I got ahold of a great definition for Biblical joy.  It is “a deep sense of inner well-being based on faith in God and trust in His sovereign will.”  Now that’s powerful. Boom.  It is what we close everyday with, “He’s got this.”  It’s true and He does.

Praying always is simply like breathing.  It becomes second nature and an essential part of life.  You don’t even need your knees to pray.  You don’t need to close your eyes–especially if you are driving.  It is a whisper to God as needed, when needed.  And it works.

The last one is gratitude.  It is learning to be thankful for the smallest detail in your life.  News flash–God is a God of the details.  That little deal you are concerned about is not little to Him.  He loves His kids and wants them to know He will be there.  Now that doesn’t mean you get every toy in the toy store.  It does mean that He will be there whenever, forever.

The last part of verse 18 is huge.  It says, “For this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus.”  He wants you to do this not for three days but every day.  He wants you to be fulfilled and at rest and these simple truths will put you on the right road.

So, men, put on your big boy socks and push on.  Ladies–remember we men struggle with the small things, so be sure and show a little mercy when we are terminal–or at least think we are.  God does and He does it not only for the men but for all of us.  He invites us to crawl up in His lap and rest in Him.  And listen close, He’s whispering, “I’ve got this.”  Bro. Dewayne

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

My Simple Life

So don’t worry about these things, saying, ‘What will we eat? What will we drink? What will we wear?’” Matthew 6:31

It was just simpler back then. I got up this morning with a little (or maybe a lot) of coffee, a spot of the Weather Channel, and some Jesus.  Then, I just sat and thought for a while.  On the television was a channel from YouTube that shows live camera feeds from all over the Northeast, and I was just amazed how much it looked like Europe…another time and another place. Then, I thought about my day.  I’m figuring out that each day is His day as He is the maker, the crafter of each one.  I’m also learning that since He owns everything that makes me a steward of the next 24 hours and the events and circumstances He has planned.

Mainly, there is a sermon to polish for Sunday and a funeral to craft for Saturday.  But mainly I’m just waiting to see what is on His mind and honestly, sometimes that is simple and sometimes it is complex.  Regardless, I know it is His plan and it is one that He has determined that will bring good into my life and hopefully some glory to Him.  With all that said, I have to admit there are times that I long for times when things were simpler as in less complex.  While that has happened and surely will happen again, when I was about eight, it was the norm.

When I was eight, I was concerned about very little.  Momma and Daddy were still healthy and every morning there was something for breakfast, something for lunch and something for supper.  There were delicacies like fried potato sandwiches and peanut butter and mayonnaise sandwiches and if we were short on peanut butter we would just go with the mayonnaise. After breakfast though I would head out to the yard and just do…something.  There were occasional chores like picking up the yard pulling weeds but generally the day was mine. I hadn’t figured the God part out yet.

Because toys, at least the kind you buy at a store, were in short supply, I would go into the junk room—a small room with its own outside entrance and filled with stuff—and see what caught my eye.  There was always something that with a little imagination could become a source of entertainment. First, and one of my favorites, was a piece of chain, usually about six feet long.  You see, our driveway wasn’t paved, that was something rich people had, so it was like a giant sand box.  I found out you could take that piece of chain and drag it behind you, and it became a train. I would watch as the sand flowed in and around the links of the chain leaving a perfect track in the rear.  A chain became a train—imagine that.

In certain times of the year, North Florida—well really the whole state, I guess—was inundated with “love bugs.” They were everywhere and would splat on windshields and clog radiators as cars zoomed down the highway.  They also seemed to love a parked car.  When I would go outside looking for that day’s adventure, they would be all over Daddy’s 1961, light blue, Plymouth station-wagon and whether they knew it or not—they were a target.  I would search the yard and drawers in the kitchen for rubber bands discarded from newspapers, string them together and go hunting.  Stretching them back, I would take aim and one by one pick them off of Daddy’s car.  This could go on for a long while.  I thought I was doing Daddy a favor but turns out the bug’s innards could eat a car’s paint right off. Oops.

While each day was different, each day was simple.  Each day was consistent…little to worry about and an opportunity for fun.  And while that kind of simplicity has long since passed there is another for today.  Today too can be a day with little to worry about and dare I say it, an opportunity for fun.  You see, if you are a Jesus follower, He really wants to take care of the worry part.  In fact, He just flat-out tells us not to worry because if God can take care of the birds…He can take care of us too.  How about that? And the fun part?  Well, that is up to us.  We simply need to learn, to remember what that means and how to do it.  My wife Judy tells me frequently that we need to learn how to celebrate, and she is right, but we also need to relearn how to just have fun.  It probably involves letting go and letting Him so our hands and hearts will be free to be free.

So, what are you worrying about today? What has you bound up like a too tight pair of shoes?  What are you going to do today that is fun?  Now don’t tell me you don’t have time (that is simply a matter of choice) or the money—chain and rubber bands are cheap—smile.  Today, be brave enough to do something different—to make a change. Let it go and let Him.  He’s got this. Bro. Dewayne

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

“Five Guys” Grace

In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace that He lavished on us with all wisdom and understanding.” Ephesians 1:7-8

It was a stroke of accidental brilliance and it all started in 1986. Jerry and Janie Murrell offered some advice to Jerry’s four younger brothers. They simply said, “Go to college or start a business.”  They decided on the business route and started a restaurant in Virginia called “Five Guys Burgers and Fries.”  And like they say, “The rest is history.”  Today there are 1,500 locations and 1,500 more on the drawing board.  Their sales pitch is “nothing but fresh beef and nothing but fries cooked in 100% peanut oil.  There are no freezers in the joint only coolers.”

Well, all that is nice but that is not what I like about Five Guys.  I mean they serve one mean burger, and their fries are the best of any national chain but that’s not what grabbed me.  So, here’s the deal. I walk in and order a small cheeseburger.  “What” you say?  Yup you heard right. The reason I order a small cheeseburger is because it is big…really big.  But it gets better.  The guy at the counter says, “What do you want on that cheeseburger?”  And here is when it gets really good.  I look up at the sign and there are probably 20 or 25 topping for the burger.  And get ready.  They are all free.

Did I just say “free?”  Yes sir, I did.  You can have everything from a tomato to a grilled mushroom and the hits just keep on coming.  No extra charge.  Amazing.  The best part is that it is genuinely good food.  Granted burgers and fries for most men are its own food group but you gotta love one loaded beyond words.  But wait, it is gonna get better.

The guy at the counter says, “You want fries with that burger?”  Hello? Do hens lay eggs? Do preachers eat fried chicken? Do southerners eat grits? “Yes, sir, I want fries” I answer.  So, I order a small fry. “What” you say? Yup you heard right.  The reason I order a small fry is man-food heaven.  So, as you watch, they fill a small cup full of fries.  Are you listening? They put the cup in the bag and then they get this scoop the size of a small shovel and dump a full load in the bag.  Wait. Then he gets another half scoop and dumps that in.  Can someone say, “Hallelujah!” Order a small and get a “boat load” for no extra charge.  Holy moley!

But wait…the guy is saying something else.  “Hey dude, do you want a shake with that?” Ok, by now I am drooling all over my shirt.  “Well sure” I respond.  He says, “What kind?”  I look at the sign and there it is.  Heaven.  It says, “milk shakes…all mix-ins are free.” “What?” I said.  “You mean I can have a chocolate, banana, strawberry, tutti-frutti, peanut, marshmallow milkshake with sprinkles on top.” “Yup” he said “all at no extra charge.”!  Excuse me while I wipe my mouth.

So what amazes me about Five Guys is, are you ready, their lavishness.  Their burgers, their fries, their milkshakes are all lavishly done.  They don’t give you a little of anything.  They pour it on, dump it on and then do it again.  Just like God and His grace.  Paul talks about it in Ephesians 1:7-8.  He says we have redemption though His death, the forgiveness of all our sins (someone say hallelujah) and all because of His grace that He lavished on us.  That means He pours it on, pours it on again and then just keeps pouring.  It is amazing grace because of the quality and the quantity.

I can just imagine stepping up to God’s counter and He says, “What do you need, son?” I like it when He calls me “son.” And I explain how this world is a hot mess, how I have made a mess of everything in my life and how I am sure I can’t fix it. Then I would tell Him I could sure use a little grace.  He would smile and say, “Son, I don’t do anything little, especially grace.”  And then He would begin to pour it on. To borrow from Luke 6:38 where Jesus speaks about giving, the Book says, good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap.” It’s true about giving but it is also true when we need grace.  It is what lavish looks like.

So as soon as you can go to “Five Guys.” Be sure and order small because you are going to get big.  Order all the toppings you want on your burger, all the mix-ins you want in your shake and let them take care of the fries.  You will leave amazed at their lavishness.  But all that just pales to God’s amazing grace.  Just walk up to the counter and tell Him what you need and get ready.  He is going to pour—no, He is gonna dump— grace all over you.  And, like grace, you are gonna be amazed.  That’s why we can just sit back and rest in Him.  With that kind of grace, you know He’s got this.  Bro. Dewayne

Posted in food, friends, Grace, gratitude, life, loving others, priorities, Scripture, Southern born, thankful, travel

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 must 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 downright 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 final 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, friends, Grace, gratitude, heaven, life, love, loving others, priorities, Scripture, thankful, Trials

Taking Care of Family

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

I know I didn’t know them…but I felt I did. As a pastor I occasionally receive a call from either a funeral home or a family that has experienced the loss of a loved one and they don’t have a pastor that can help them.  Well, that happened recently.  A mother had died and her sister, on behalf of the family, contacted me.  Could I help them?  I agreed but I had a request.  I try and make every service personal and special and since I didn’t know her or the family, I asked they provide some personal memories of their mom.  Graciously they did, and in so doing they painted a picture.

She and her husband were blessed with five children—a challenge and a blessing. As they sent the comments to the sister and then to me, it became painfully apparent that life had been financially hard.  Their mother had worked at a local manufacturing plant but was constantly being laid off.  When she was, she worked as a cook at one of the local restaurants.  It finally reached the point where the inconsistency of the one job made the other more attractive and she began working all the time at the restaurant.

She appreciated the consistency of the restaurant job, but it made for an even tighter budget at home.  I was moved by the comments of each one of her children.  They were so appreciative for a Momma that did everything possible to provide for them.  They spoke of gratitude for a roof over their heads, food for their stomach, and heat in the winter.  One spoke of the fact that regardless of the fact that Momma and the family were broke, somehow, someway, she made sure there were presents at Christmas and on their birthdays. That meant a lot to me.

At the service I rhetorically asked, “What does success mean?” It was one of those questions that I didn’t expect an answer…but I got one.  Quietly, one of her sons said, “Being comfortably full.” When he said that it moved me…it still moves me.  In a world where it seems everyone one has so much, in this family’s world abundance was a roof, some heat, food for their stomach and on a real good day, being comfortably full.

After hearing from her son, I went on to say that to me success is owning the things that money can’t buy…the things that don’t come from Walmart or some other store.  Success is five kids who at their Momma’s funeral talk about the sacrifices she made, the hard work she did to make sure they had a roof over their head, some heat, and food in their stomachs.  I then read a story paragraph that someone wrote about success.  It said, “What is success? Success is living well, laughing often, and loving much. Success is gaining the respect of those who know us best; finding and living our purpose and leaving our world better than we found it.” I finished that service in deep appreciation of a 72-year-old mother who did that and so much more.  She gave her five kids a home.

I’ve written several times that money was pretty thin when we were growing up, but I am sure we had more than this family and these kids.  I’ve written before how much I appreciated the fact that Momma and Daddy always made Christmas and birthdays happen.  It may have been courtesy of the local finance company, but it happened.  Now I am reminded that there were and are plenty of people where even that would not have been an option but somehow—they make it happen.

So, I’m just writing to say thank-you to someone I never knew—but felt I did.  I want to say thank-you to five grown up now kids who taught me to appreciate even more deeply what my Momma and Daddy did. They too made it happen whether it was a roof over our heads, or fuel oil in our kerosene tank or food on the table.  Let me encourage you to take the opportunity to thank the ones who made it happen in your life—whether it was years ago or yesterday.  Maybe take the time to whisper a prayer of gratitude for those in your family—or maybe even outside your family—that made it happen.

Maybe, just maybe, you can be one that helps make it happen.  Maybe you know someone who could use a little help.  Maybe God has given you a little more so you can share with those who have a little less. Proverbs 19:17 says, “If you help the poor, you are lending to the Lord—and He will repay you!” I like that.  When we share, we are being the hands and feet of Jesus and that is always a good thing.  You may be the one that your Dearest Daddy uses to whisper in someone else’s ear—someone who is struggling to make it happen.  And what is whispering? “I’ve got this.” Bro. Dewayne

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

Steak and Shake

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

We met when I was just a kid. A long time ago and in a galaxy far, far away (think Star Wars) one of my favorite things to do in the summer was to go and visit my sister and brother-in-law in Daytona Beach.  I lived in Jacksonville, and they were kind enough to invite me to spend a week with them.  Trust me…it was like a different world.  Our west Jacksonville neighborhood was half town and half country and the most exciting thing that ever happened was if there was a fire call, and we would chase the firetruck.  I’ll write more on that one day.

Now compare that with Daytona Beach.  Can someone say, “Night and day?”  Daytona Beach was a happening place and there was always something to do.  We would drive over to the beach, cruise the strip, and go out to eat.  One of my favorite places to go was Steak and Shake.  Back in the early and mid 60’s, it was not a new establishment, but it was still up and coming.  They were famous for their steak burgers, skinny fries, and milkshakes.  For a ten-year-old from the westside of Jacksonville, it was heaven.

Steak and Shake was different than most fast-food places.  There, you could go inside, be seated and be served, and through the years that is how it has remained.  When I grew up, it was only natural that Steak and Shake was one of my “go to” places to eat.  Oh, it wasn’t an every-week event, but we did go about once a month.  The routine was always the same.  Park, go inside and be seated, order, eat, and leave.  It worked well, but then something called COVID, and a broken economy changed things up.  First, and at most locations, you can now only go through the drive-thru.  But in now we have the new Steak and Shake.

Now at almost every location, when you walk in, there is not a hostess to seat you and no counter to order at.  Instead, there are several kiosks (computer touchscreens) and from there you can order your food.  Then…you just sit down…wherever you want.  Feel free to go up and get your drinks from the drink station and finally someone would bellow out your order number and you would walk up and get your food.  Boom—just like that burgers and fries were flying into hungry mouths washed down by delicious milkshakes.  It was new, it was different, and I loved it.

I am sure the shortage of workers is at least partially responsible for their new system, but it also shows that not all the changes are going to be bad.  At our church we are doing Wednesday nights totally different, and it is totally working.  We have a men’s group called “Man Time” (how creative is that); a women’s Bible study (well, not creative but it works) and then something called “The Big A Club” for the kids.  There are people everywhere.  And get this—men are coming to church on a Wednesday night! What?  And it all came about because of the pause that COVID caused.

Someone from ancient times (I’m not talking about 1950!) said the only thing constant is change and they were right.  Some of the changes are not good.  In fact, some of the cultural changes might be considered dangerous.  But we need to work to accept the good and temper the others.  It gives us a great opportunity to be the salt and light that Jesus talked to us about.  People all around us have lots of questions which should lead to lots of opportunities to talk about faith…and Jesus.

Romans 8:28 remains one of the most popular verses in the Bibles.  It says that for those who love God, He can bring good out of every situation.  We sure like to quote that, but I wonder if we are willing to trust it?  Hey, I’ve been writing three small words for almost three years and some of you have been here for that whole time— “He’s got this.”  So, as things morph around us, let’s be courageous enough to address the dangerous, but flexible enough to embrace the other.  It might not be easy but if He is in control and we trust Him…it’s gonna be fine.  And, can I say it one more time?  He’s got this.  Bro. Dewayne

Posted in Family, Grace, gratitude, life, loving others, prayer, Scripture, sovereignty of God, thankful, travel

Greener Pastures

For everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” Romans 10:13

He was standing right in the road.  A while back my wife Judy and I were on the road again…heading for middle Tennessee.  We like to travel a lot…it’s just something we enjoy.  We love to see what’s new and different and there is always something.  We were on our way to a waterfall, and we had to travel down a narrow winding road.  As we were zipping along, at the breakneck speed of 25 mph, we rounded a curve in the road and there he was.

He was a young calf, oh, I would guess about 250 pounds grown.  He was calmly eating some weedy grass along the shoulder of the road.  It wasn’t a deal because I was going so slow but if I had been traveling a little faster…well, he could have been ground beef.  Oh, and by the way, what do you call a cow with no legs? Ground beef.  Get it?  Well, I probably lost some readers with that one.  Anyway, I slowed down a bit more and gently swerved around the calf.  I told Judy we should have snapped a picture.

As we drove around the calf, I couldn’t help but notice a couple of things.  First, his name must have been Houdini because there was no gate and as far as I could tell, we couldn’t see a hole in the fence where my new friend could have escaped.  Second, as he contentedly munched on his weedy grass, on the other side of the fence was a great pasture just filled with nice, lush, green grass.  It was obviously where he had been before he did his Houdini thing and escaped.  Why in the world would he leave that for where he was is beyond me.  The only answer I could come up with is…the grass is always greener on the other side of the fence.

Well, we went on our way, and I told Judy when we came back let’s be sure and get his picture.  So, on the return trip as we neared the curve where he was before, we found an empty road.  Our friend had disappeared.  We traveled on a short distance and soon, off to our right, we found our calf.  Houdini had once again magically crossed the fence and this time was back in the greener pasture. How about that?  There were only two possible solutions.  One, he decided it was time to go home or two, in a moment of indecision he decided the grass was indeed greener on the other side of the fence…again.

Strangely, I can identify with the indecisive calf.  I mean, how many times have I changed my mind about this or that.  I know sometimes it takes me fifteen minutes to decide what toothpaste to buy or what to get on my hamburger.  I guess the bottom line is that we are a fickle bunch, aren’t we?  But I am so glad that God isn’t fickle.  I sometimes pray and tell God how glad I am that He has never changed His mind about allowing me into the family.  I mean I am sure I have given Him lots of reasons to do that but it never seems to faze Him.  I like that. A lot.

So, if you find yourself wondering back and forth in-between the pastures of life, just remember that when it comes to you and His love for you, well, God isn’t looking for greener pastures or different or better people for that matter. God loves people, all people, and anyone who wants to come and graze in His pasture is more than welcome.  The gate is always open to anyone who is willing to leave their old pasture and put their faith in His Son Jesus.  It’s that simple.  There’s a verse in the New Testament of the Bible that says anyone who is willing to ask can be forgiven and cross over to His ultimate green pasture.  So, how about you?  Ready to switch pastures?  He’s ready if you are.  You will find the gate open and Him showing you the way.  Trust me…He’s got this.  Bro. Dewayne