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

Dance With the One Who Brought You

But one of them, seeing that he was healed, returned and, with a loud voice, gave glory to God. He fell facedown at His feet, thanking Him. And he was a Samaritan.” Luke 17:15-16

Circumstances can make for strange bed fellows. There was a group of guys who hung together–ten of them in fact. Truth be known in another world they would have never been friends. Nine of the guys were Jewish and one was a Samaritan. They lived on opposite sides of the tracks. The Jewish guys would have been raised to believe that the Samaritans were “less than” and the Samaritan would have been raised to believe that all Jews were “better than you” temple goers. Like oil and gas, they wouldn’t have mixed. Leprosy changed all that.

We are not told how, who knows, but they contracted leprosy or the walking death. Their lives were reduced to isolation and suspicion. If you went to Walmart during COVID without a mask, you might know some of how they felt. They were forced to live away, far away, and proclaim their uncleanness to anyone they met. The fact that nine were Jews and one was a Samaritan just didn’t matter anymore.

Well, one day something happened. Luke 17:11-17 tells us Jesus was walking along and He heard this group hollering. They were saying, “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us.” We aren’t told of how they knew of Jesus or why they believed He could change their lives. All we do know is that they somehow believed and hollered. And Jesus answered.

Over the distance He hollers back, “Go show yourselves to the priest.” There was not a pronouncement of healing. There was only a command to trust. They found themselves at the crossroads of reality and faith. They looked at their diseased bodies and weighed it against faith. A step toward the priest meant they believed. To stand where they were meant “nope.” Well, “hope” beat out “nope” and off they went.

As they took the first step–and the one after that–amazingly they were healed. You could hear the whooping and hollering across the wilderness. Man, were they happy. They were free and they were outta there. Fading in the dust was the Master who had set them free. But wait. One of them is coming back. It is the Samaritan–the unlikely one. He falls down at the feet of the Freedom Giver and gives Him thanks and praise. The unlikely one, and the only one, who gets it right.

Jesus wonders, “Weren’t there ten of these guys?” Weren’t nine of them good Jewish boys?” He was impressed that this “foreigner” came back to say thanks and I think he gets a second helping. Jesus says “Go your way, your faith has healed you.” I think the Samaritan dude got healed of leprosy and a relationship with the healer. He got more–way more.

There are two things we need to pack away from this story. First, the Jesus who was your BFF (that’s best friend forever) during the messes of life wants to be your BFF every day. The One who takes care of your fears and anxieties during the storm wants to take care of them after the storm. He wants to be your Savior, your Redeemer, your Rescuer, not for a while but forever.

Linked to that is this idea of gratitude. When the nine were set free they left Jesus in the dust, “adios,” see you later. They were thankful for the moment but not the minutes following. The Samaritan, however, came back. He was determined not to forget what Jesus had done for him. The right thing, the wise thing, but probably not the popular thing.

The question is, what are you going to do when “this” (whatever that happens to be for you) is all over? Are you gonna run as fast as you can to a life crammed with stuff or are you going remember the One who stood by your side and spoke to your heart? Someone once said if Satan can’t get you to sin…he will keep you too busy. He knows that is just about as good.  You, I need to remember to “dance with the One who brought you.” Over the din of busyness, remember to not forget the One who whispered, “Rest in Me” and “I’ve got this.” Bro. Dewayne

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

Sunrise and Sunset

It will soon be time for me to leave this life. I have fought a good fight. I have finished the work I was to do. I have kept the faith.” 2 Timothy 4:6-7

It was a warm North Florida Sunday morning that would change everything.  I was raised in Jacksonville, Florida and was fortunate to live in one place and one house all of my growing up years.  Our house was a converted World War II army barracks with a couple of rooms added on.  I’m not sure who moved it there, or who added what, but it was home…my home. I lived there till I graduated from high school and joined the Air Force. My Daddy had some heart issues while I was still in high school and unfortunately, they went from bad to worse.  This was before all the miraculous medicines and surgeries that we have now. So, times were hard for him…and us.

In the summer of 1974, somehow it came about that we, the family, would get together and paint the house.  It was a wooden structure, and time and weather had taken a toll on the outside.  The old wood siding looked pretty rough, and as I remember it, Daddy said he wanted to have the house painted before he died.  Now that is my memory, and it may not be entirely accurate but something like that is how we ended up painting the house in mid-July.  Several, if not all, the brothers were on hand as we scraped and painted the house.  I don’t know if my sisters were painters or not, but I wouldn’t be surprised if they were.

As darkness crept up on us on Saturday, July 13th, the house was just about painted.  We worked until nearly dark and finally, it was done.  It looked amazingly better and Daddy and the rest of us were proud of our hard work.  Daddy did little, if any, of the painting because of his health.  But there was something he did do.  Several of the wooden windows needed the panes reglazed, so he was working on those.  We had a wash-room built onto the house and he was working on that window when darkness fell Saturday evening.

The next morning, Sunday, July 14th, Momma when in to check on Daddy in the bedroom they shared. That was when she found that sometime early in the morning, he slipped from us. I clearly remember the chaos of those moments as we called the ambulance and tried to perform CPR, but it was too late.  Daddy was gone. All of a sudden, those last days of working and painting together became so important, so special.  We had pulled together and given Daddy one of his desires.  It is almost like he was waiting for the job to be done so he could go home.

Later that day, as we were trying to figure everything out, someone found that window he had been working on the night before.  It was laying on two sawhorses with a rag and his tools still in place.  As it turned out, it was the last work he did on this earth.  Someone snapped a picture but as far as I know it has been lost to time, but in my mind I can see it as clearly as if I was standing there.  Daddy’s work on this earth was over and yet he lives on.  He lives on in heaven and he lives on in our hearts.  The freshly painted old World War II barracks was a reminder of our love and respect for the man we called Daddy.

All of that was 47 years ago today.  It is hard to imagine that so much time has passed since he passed from this world into a better world…a world where bad hearts have no place and where time doesn’t matter.  One day, because of God’s good grace, I will see my Daddy again.  My Momma joined him in heaven just four short years later…both were just 62 years old.  But when I get there, when we get there, all that won’t matter because God is going to make it all right…all new.

I supposed the whole purpose of this Grits is just to allow me to relive a good memory of a good man.  I suppose it is just to help me make sure that his memory lives on here, as he lives on there.  And I suppose the big truth for this Grits is that we should live each day to the fullest and do whatever it is we should do.  It might be painting a house, or glazing a window, or it just might be showing someone that you love them.  We don’t know what day will be our last day, so we should live each one to the fullest. Then, we can say something like Paul said when he wrote, “It will soon be time for me to leave this life. I have fought a good fight. I have finished the work I was to do. I have kept the faith.” And my friend, that is a legacy worth leaving.

Losing my daddy at twenty years old was hard, very hard. Then mama was gone, just four short years later, which left me feeling they were both gone too soon.  For some of you, that hardness is yet to come.  But from the voice of experience, let me say, you don’t have to walk it alone.  When you are drowning in the sea of sorrow and confusion, He will not leave you to bear it alone. He wants to walk with you, carry you, and whisper as only He can, “I’ve got this.” And He does. Bro. Dewayne

Posted in Family, food, forgiveness, Grace, gratitude, life, loving others, Scripture, Southern born, Trials

Scars and Souvenirs

We know that all things work together for the good of those who love God, who are called according to his purpose., I have engraved you on the palms of my hands…” Romans 8:28

I was probably nine years old when it happened.  If you look at my hands you will see several scars.  Over here is one from an “exacto” knife when I was putting together a car model.  Over there is one from a car accident.  I was riding with my brother-in-law and the car in front of him decided to stop and he decided not to.

There is one on my right thumb—its the one that has been there for the last 55 years.  We were visiting with my Uncle Hardy down near Chiefland, Florida.  He was mom’s brother and the city manager of that small central Florida town.  They had an annual Watermelon Festival that included all the melon you could eat and an opportunity to ride on the back of the city’s garbage truck in the parade.  That was a big deal.  I didn’t get out much.

There are two things that Uncle Hardy had that impacted my life. One was a hairline that didn’t include much hair.  Thanks Uncle Hardy.  The other was a fish camp on the Suwannee River.  It was an old Florida cabin with a tin roof, the kind legends are born from, at least for a nine-year-old.  We would take boat rides, swim in the river, and eat watermelon. And that’s where “a scar was born.”

We were eating watermelon and I picked up a large butcher knife to slice off the watermelon from the rind.  I didn’t have a lot of experience with butcher knives, but I was feeling a little like “Indiana Jones” so I picked it up.  Like I said, I didn’t have a lot of experience, so I began slicing the watermelon pulling the knife toward me and my little nine-year-old hand. My dad saw it and said, “Dewayne.  Be careful with the knife. Don’t pull it toward you—push it away”.

Well, when you are nine and know it all, and you’re feeling like Indiana Jones you don’t listen to your Daddy or common sense. So I kept right on slicing and then it happened.  I got a little too close to my hand and neatly sliced a half-moon cut in my thumb.  Well, so much for Indiana Jones.  There was the usual holler, a bit of tears, a daddy’s “I told you so,” a big bandage, a little embarrassment, and the makings of a scar.

It healed fine, leaving a scar and a gentle reminder.  When you are using a knife don’t pull it toward you…push it away.  Daddy was right.  There is only one scar on my hand from using a knife incorrectly. That is because every time I am tempted to do it wrong, the scar on my right thumb says don’t.  And now the scar has become a sort of souvenir. When I see it I don’t remember the pain, the tears or the embarrassment, I remember the lesson.

How about you?  Have any scars…visible or invisible?  When you see them or think about them, does your mind instantly go back to pain? Do you find yourself constantly living “it” all over again—the hurtful word, the unkind act, the feeling of being rejected or forgotten?  What if we “scar bearers” could remember the lesson instead of the pain? What if we could remember the promise instead of the pain?  Promise?  Yes, the one found in Romans 8:28 “We know that all things work together for the good of those who love God, who are called according to His purposes.” This is a “go to” promise for me because I have a lot of oops, bumps, bruises, and scars.  I’m learning, though, to look at all of that not for the pain they caused, but the good God brought from them.

I’m determined to learn to glean as much as I can from each day.  It’s something I picked up during 2020.  It’s ironic how 2020 means clarity and yet we had so little of it.  But we have a God who can see all things with perfect insight.  So instead of singing the blues, I’m gonna work at turning my scars into souvenirs.  And I’m gonna lay my head down tonight and rest in Him. But there’s more.  I know now my daddy was a lot wiser than I was. He had experience with knives and watermelon.  And my heavenly Father…well, He knows everything, and do you know what?  He’s got this. Bro. Dewayne

Posted in Grace, life, love, loving others, missions, Scripture, Trials

Easy Preaching…Hard Living

“Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles of any kind come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy.” James 1:2

It sounded so good when I said it.  So I am a pastor/teacher which means I get to tell people about the Bible and how they should do this and do that.  I really enjoy teaching and the truth is life is just better when we follow what the Bible says.  It really is so much more than a rule book.  It tells us all about God but it also gives us His guidelines for living. I have discovered that when I follow what it says, my life has fewer regrets and smaller consequences.  Trust me, it works.

The bottom line is talking is easier than doing. It is one thing to stand up before a bunch of people and teach something and quite another to do it.   We call it “easy preaching and hard living” and that is especially true when it comes to living, working and dealing with people. That is probably why the Bible talks a whole lot about loving people. Its pretty amazing but you can sum up a whole bunch of the Bible with four words…love God…love people. That may be only 17 letters but they are filled to the brim with impact.

I talked about loving your neighbor as yourself a couple of week ago.  Oh, man, did it go well.  I talked about loving people like Jesus loves us and how if we experienced love from Him we should be willing to share that same love.  Yup…it preached really good.  I know I left church ready to love the world. For example, imagine this.

Let’s pretend, you know, hypothetically speaking, there was a family that bought a house in a quiet, historic neighborhood.  Imagine that one of the residents welcomed the new neighbors and told them how glad they were to have them in the neighborhood. Then a day or two later the old neighbors began hearing a very loud, very large dog barking and realized it was coming from the direction of the new neighbors.  Apparently, they had a big dog who wasn’t happy and decided to let his displeasure be known…to the whole world.

Well, now imagine that one neighbor talked to another neighbor and it was decided that someone should talk to the new neighbor about the situation. So one of the neighbors went down and very kindly asked if they could maybe encourage their dog to not bark quite as loud or often.  The new neighbors were very understanding and said they would keep the dog inside more.  Wouldn’t that kind?  All the neighbors decided that these neighbors were gonna be easy to love.

Then, imagine that a cat just shows up in the other neighbor’s yard and it belonged to the new kids on the block. And, horror of horrors, it is looking for breakfast and on the menu is bird…the neighbor’s birds.  So, let’s pretend that old neighbor goes down and asks the new neighbors to please keep their precious kitty at home.  Well, they were nice but said the cat couldn’t stay inside because it wouldn’t use the litter box. Hmmmm…wouldn’t that be…shall we say…more difficult.

Then, and remember this is all hypothetical, the new neighbors decided one dog was not enough so they added two full grown German shepherds and another large “I’m not sure what it is” dog for a total of four.  Then imagine that these dogs are a tight knit group meaning when one barks they all bark…a lot.  So as a result, if all this were real, the nice, quiet historic neighborhood wouldn’t be quite as quiet as it was.  I bet the old neighbors would have to do a lot of learning about patiently, loving neighbors. They would probably realize that Jesus stuff can be quite challenging.

Well, of course, this is all just hypothetical but the truth is when Jesus walked the earth for those three years, it often wasn’t easy for Him either.  But regardless of who and what…He loved people and He told His followers that they were to do the same.  As Jesus followers we are not only to love when it is easy…we are to love period.  We are to love our neighbor…even those hypothetical ones with large dogs who like to bark…a lot.  We are to love our neighbor, even the hypothetical ones, who might have a cat that likes to eat birds…our birds. We are to love our neighbors…period.  No if’s, no and’s and no but’s.

James, the half-brother of Jesus told us that we should count it joy when we have trials. A preacher I know (that would be me) is going to say in an upcoming sermon that the orchard where patience and love grow is often difficult but the fruit is oh so sweet.  And that is the truth.  So, not hypothetically, I’m going to do my best to love my neighbor.  You see, we need to make sure that they know we love Jesus and because we love Jesus…we love them. Is it going to be challenging?  Absolutely but if I understand the Book correctly, we don’t have to go it alone.  He’s got this.

Posted in gratitude, Integrity, life, loving others, priorities, Scripture, sovereignty of God, thankful, Trials, wisdom

“Puff Graham”

If you are faithful in little things, you will be faithful in large ones. But if you are dishonest in little things, you won’t be honest with greater responsibilities.” Luke 16:10

“Puff Graham”.  Those two words changed our world.  Many of us have heard of and admired Billy Graham.  He was a country boy who later became one of the world’s most renowned preachers.  His passion and love for God and people drew millions of people to hear what he had to say.  His message was simple—God loves you and he made it clear that if a person was willing to ask, God would forgive them and give them a home with Him in heaven.

Many books and plenty of documentaries have been written and made about Dr. Graham but one fact that amazes me is little known.  It was 1949 and he was out in Los Angeles conducting a series of revival meetings.  The crowds were good and the results incredible and the meetings when on for several weeks. Slowly, though, the meetings seemed to be losing momentum and I’m sure it crossed Billy Graham’s mind if it was time to move on.  About that time something happened.

One evening, as he approached the tent where the meeting was being held, he was amazed to find the largest crowd ever.  He wondered what had happened.  Well, what had happened was a two-word directive from publisher William Randolph Hearst.  The directive simply said, “Puff Graham.”  The directive ordered all of Hearst’s vast media holdings to start promoting the young evangelist. Almost overnight, Billy Graham attained “celebrity” status.

I suppose it would have been tempting for Dr. Graham to use that to promote himself but no…he used it only to promote the One he loved.  It is interesting that according to Dr. Graham, he really had no relationship with Hearst.  There was no real reason for this to happen except for one…the providence and sovereignty of God.  I believe God honored Billy Graham for his character and integrity.  He knew He could trust the young evangelist with success.  You see, the truth of the matter is riches are harder to handle than poverty and success is harder to handle than failure.

If we want God to bless us more then we need to be ready and able to handle those blessings.  The One who made us knows if we are ready to be “puffed” or not.  Jesus said, “If you are faithful in little things, you will be faithful in large ones. But if you are dishonest in little things, you won’t be honest with greater responsibilities.”  The story is told of a young man applying for a job.  After the interview, he and the man doing the interview went to the cafe for lunch.  The young man was first in line and the other man watched as he got a pat of butter and slipped it under his napkin so he wouldn’t be charged for it.  Well, he wasn’t charged, nor did he get the job. “Puff Graham.” Two words that tell a big, big story.  Let’s be sure and be the kind of people that God can do whatever He wants in our lives.  Let’s live worthy of being “puffed” however that looks and whatever that means.  But let’s also be the kind of people who are willing to promote others.  Let’s look for opportunities to lift someone…even if it means not promoting ourselves.  One thing is certain.  We can trust God to do what is best for us and what is best for His Kingdom.  We can rest assured that, “He’s got this.” Bro. Dewayne

Posted in Family, gratitude, Holidays, July 4, life, love, loving others, Military memories, prayer, Scripture, Southern born, sovereignty of God, thankful, Trials, USA, wisdom

Freedom

Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord, the people He has chosen as His own inheritance.” Psalm 33:12

It was just over a year ago.  Amid the COVID craziness, Judy and I made a discovery. It was a Thursday night and we had gone to one of our favorite eating places in Marion…a town not far from where we live. We did our Sam’s Club thing and then decided to call it a night. So, we headed for 217 back in Harrisburg.  As we were driving down the highway, on a whim, we made a right turn at a familiar intersection.  We had driven by it so many times but this time we turned.

The sign said it went to Creal Springs, but I found out it went somewhere else—to something else.  We were cruising along just enjoying the ride when I thought I saw one of those “brown signs.”  These signs usually indicate a place of special interest.  As I went by, I thought I saw the words cemetery and Revolutionary War. I went down the road just aways and  told Judy I saw a sign for a cemetery…perhaps an old one.  I turned around.

Back down the road, there was indeed a sign. We pulled off the road and it said, “Ellis Family Cemetery and Revolutionary War gravesite.  I really couldn’t believe that it was true.  I mean, out East you would find those kind of gravesites everywhere, but here in Southern Illinois?  We decided we had to investigate.  It turned out there was no road just a driveway.  Well, after trying to decide if we were going to get shot for trespassing, we decided to give it a try.  As it turned out, the driveway went between two houses which led to a pasture.  Way at the back of the pasture we could see a small cemetery.  There wasn’t a road, but I could see where a car had gone before, so off we went.

When we got there, we found the gravesite of John Ellis.  He was born in 1754 and died in 1850.  He lived for 96 years, which is incredible, but even more amazing…he fought in the American Revolutionary War.  He had two monuments.  One was much newer, one much older.  The older one simply said, “For Military Merit” and someone had painted his name on it.  I was overwhelmed.  Here in Southern Illinois was the grave of a man, a hero, who fought for the birth of our country.

This man was there, on the battlefield, when a group of men and women declared our freedom from England.  This.man.was.there.  He put it all on the line for a cause greater than himself.  And for the last 245 years that is what freedom loving American heroes have done.  Through conflicts great and small they have served, they have bled, and many have died.  I value the saying, “All gave some, some gave all.” I value the sacrifice of all of these freedom fighters through the centuries and decades.  I also love what they fought for.

I know these are difficult times for our nation, but we have seen difficult times before. At his first inauguration on March 4, 1933, Franklin Roosevelt said this. “This is preeminently the time to speak the truth, the whole truth, frankly and boldly. Nor need we shrink from honestly facing conditions in our country today. This great Nation will endure as it has endured, will revive, and will prosper. So, first of all, let me assert my firm belief that the only thing we have to fear is fear itself—nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance.” Don’t rush past those words.  They are powerful and they are worth believing.

I believe in this country.  I believe that even with all its warts and imperfections it is still the best country in the world.  Having visited well over twenty other countries, I’ve seen the competition and America wins hands down.  I spent an Independence Day in basic training for the Air Force in 1972. Lights-out was about 8:00 pm and I was lying in my bunk when the fireworks starting going off.  I crept out of bed and went to the window and watched as the fireworks exploded in the Texas sky.  Two emotions came over me.  One, I missed family.  Somewhere in Florida they were celebrating freedom. The other though was more personal.  I was becoming an American airman serving my country.  I was one of her defenders and I was proud…proud to serve and proud to be an American.

So, please, don’t blow past Independence Day this Sunday and certainly don’t give up on America.  We have weathered many storms and we can weather these stormy days…if we do what we have done in the past and that is trust God.  It is no accident that we have fought and won, it is no accident that we have survived and even thrived for the past 245 years.  It was more than sacrifice, more than guts, more than determination…it was and is the grace of God.

The Book says, “Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord, the people He has chosen as His own inheritance.”  That is so true.  As a nation when we choose God, when we choose to make Him ours, we do better.  When we don’t, we don’t.  It is just that simple.  The second part of that verse is equally important. God is still inviting, calling people to be His.  Skin color doesn’t matter, economic status doesn’t matter, creed doesn’t matter.  He simply invites every man, woman, and child to be His.  The invitation is open, and the decision is personal…individual.

So, God bless America.  If you are a God follower, a God believer, why not start this Independence Day with a whispered prayer of thanks for this great country.  And then, pause, be still and listen for surely the Whisperer will whisper.  He may speak through His Word, He may speak through another person, or a beautiful sunrise or sunset.  Regardless, He will whisper, “You can rest in Me.  I’ve got this.” Bro. Dewayne

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

Lasting Words

Teach us to number our days carefully so that we may develop wisdom in our hearts. Numbers 90:12

It wouldn’t cut soft butter today but back then it was cutting edge. I’m a tech guy.  I loved the newest and greatest technology.  When a new something comes out, if I’m not careful, I am on my way to grab one.  Of course, the funny part is it usually ends up sitting around somewhere.  Even my newest iPhone is mad because of the hours it sits on the counter—unloved and unattended.  Frequently I have to apologize for not returning a call or not answering a text…not because I’m ignoring a person—I’m ignoring my phone.

This love affair with tech began when I was a kid. When it came time for Christmas, I would browse the Sears catalogue and dream of the cool gifts that might come my way. And somehow, Momma and Daddy, with a little help from Santa, would pull it off.  Of course, sometimes they surprised me.  It would have been Christmas of, oh, 1966 and I received something totally unexpected and totally cool. It was a small, battery powered, portable reel-to-reel tape recorder.  This was before eight-tracks, before cassettes…before anything.  The size of large book, it gave me the ability to record something and play that something back.

One time I took my recorder to my grandparent’s house in Gainesville, Florida.  My grandfather (there was no “Papa” with him) was talking with my Daddy and was even telling a joke.  I decided to start the recorder and record what they were saying. Sure enough it worked and later, I played the tape for everyone, and we all marveled at the ability for something so small to do that.  But here is the amazing part.  Somewhere in my stuff, is a small reel of tape and on that tape is my grandfather and my Daddy’s voices…probably one of the few recordings to exist.  Even though they are gone…their voices live on.

Their.Voices.Live.On.  Think about that for just a moment.  Both of these men who influenced me so much have long since passed away. But through technology their voices can still be heard.  Oh, I know it is not a big deal now, but back then…it was so unusual and that makes the recording valuable.  They are, if you will, speaking from the grave.

In one of those moments of clarity, I recently realized that I too, one day, will speak from the grave.  My life, my actions, my priorities, my values, sermons I have preached, and stories I have written, will all be left behind and all will speak.  And I wonder…what will they say of me and what will they say of who I was?  When my great grandchildren hear the stories of their great Papa, will those stories be stories worthy to share? Will the words encourage them to live right and do right, or leave them scratching their head like a batter thrown a good curve ball on a hot Saturday afternoon? We should all hope to leave a story that is worth telling…one that brings some light and laughter into their world.

There is a verse I keep coming back to time and again.  Moses wrote it thousands of years ago and yet it is as fresh as today’s news.  He asked God to help him number his days that he could gain a wise heart.  He wasn’t asking for his math to be accurate when he counted birthdays.  No, he was asking that he be wise enough to make the most, the very most, of every single day.

Legacy.  It is a great word, and we are all leaving one.  The only question is, “What kind will it be?” That is up to us.  Five days a week I write a story but in reality…I write one everyday…and so do you.  Let’s be sure to write one worth telling.  Fortunately, there is a publisher who is all about helping us and if we are Jesus followers, we call Him Dearest Daddy.  He is more than willing to help us write a best seller…after all, that’s just one more thing He does.  He’s got that too.  Bro. Dewayne

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

Poud and Pouder

I will also give him a white stone, and on the stone a new name is inscribed that no one knows except the one who receives it.” Revelation 2:17

What in the world is a “Poud?”  Last week I wrote a story about my wife Judy, and me. It was a special week with an anniversary and birthday to celebrate. And celebrate we did…but that’s another story. Anyway, in last week’s story I mentioned Judy’s nickname, and someone asked, “What is the story there?”  Well, I am glad you asked.  Admittedly, it is a rather unusual nickname. It goes something like this.  A long, long time ago, before I was around and when Judy was young,  one of her brothers stated calling her “Judy Poudy.”  Since she was the last of nine siblings, maybe they ran out of creativity? Anyway, I am assuming it was because it rhymed.  Sometime later, the family shortened the name and started calling her “Poud.”

As the years rolled by, she was “Poud” this and “Poud” that.  Well, finally, in the fulness of time (you know, like the Bible), I show up on the stage of her life.  After we began dating, I met her parents and then I got to meet the extended family. There probably aren’t enough letters in the alphabet or adjectives in the English language to describe this crazy bunch of South Georgians. Let it be enough to say that they believed in having fun and telling tall tales.  Oh, the things one learns from sitting around the table at family gatherings and just watching and listening! Get them in a room together and the tales would start and wrapped up in those tales would be the occasional “Poud” this and “Poud” that.

Well, that could be the end of the story, but it isn’t.  You see, this crazy bunch of South Georgians knew how to make a guy feel right at home and before long I was the object of several stories, some true and some not…. and some of those stories caused me to end up with my own nickname, “Pouder.”  Now I’ll leave it to your imagination how that came about, but the new couple in the Allen clan had a new name—“Poud” and “Pouder.”  Finally, after years of marriage, we decided to make it easier by simply calling each other “Poud.”  It goes something like this, “Hey Poud?”  And the other would simply reply with “Yes, Poud.”  It doesn’t matter much now, but when we get really old, it should at least be convenient.

It’s funny (no pun intended) how “Judy” became a “Judy Poudy” and together we became “Poud” and “Pouder.”  New relationships sometimes generate a new name and that is just what God does for us.  When we join His family, whatever we once were slips away and we become something new—one of His children…His son or daughter.

In the Bible, there was a woman who had an unclean issue of blood. Basically, that meant she wasn’t welcome anywhere…especially at church and because of her sickness she only knew the scorn and harshness of those around her.  But one day she met Jesus and He healed her and gave her a new name—daughter.  And when we meet Jesus…well, whatever the world and those around us used to called us, no matter how condemning, that all changes and He calls us His. I love that.

There is a scripture in the last Book in the Bible, the Revelation, and it says that one day God will give us a new name.  It says there, “I will also give him a white stone, and on the stone a new name is inscribed that no one knows except the one who receives it.”  I don’t know what all that means but I do know it will be special.  To be called His son is amazing enough but to know that He has a special name for me, for us…well, that is incredible.

I hope you have made the decision to be called His child.  It’s not just church, it’s certainly not religion—it is a relationship with Creator God.  And that unknown and special name…well, we will just have to wait and see what that is all about.  One thing is certain—it will be special and He’s got it reserved just for me and just for you.  Until then we will just have to wait and trust that…He’s got this. Bro. Dewayne

Posted in Family, fear, Grace, gratitude, life, loving others, prayer, priorities, Scripture, sovereignty of God, Trials, wisdom

Thanks, Tim

Then Jesus said to him, “What you do, do quickly.” John 13:27b

And just like that, he was gone.  Most of you know I started writing Grits last year at the very beginning of the COVID hot mess.  I woke up one morning and just decided to share a story and just like that Grits was born.  Since then, it has been my privilege to share stories from my life and adventures with others—especially my wife Judy.  Over this past year so many of you have become members of the Grits family—faithfully reading and often sharing your thoughts and words of encouragement. It has been a great ride and I’m looking forward to sharing more as God gives me writer’s grace.

One of the most faithful members of the Grits family was a friend I knew through ministries at church. He helped in several different ways, and I learned to appreciate his heart.  He was a regular reader and every day he would comment on that day’s story and more than once his words encouraged me to keep tapping the keys on my computer.  He loved people, he loved God and he loved God’s creation.  If you saw Tim, you would see his love of nature…you might say he wore it.  He looked like a mountain man and had a mountain size heart to match. He was a bit different but that is what made him special.

Last Monday I wrote about Freedom Day…the date our state was finally declared open and largely free from the restrictions that had been in place during COVID.  Let me share part of what he shared that day. He wrote, “Another awesome message!! The key words to always remember are “He’s got this”! I do not intend to hold onto the fear of last year, I intend let it go! I am running forward!” He went on to share how during COVID he had learned an even deeper appreciation for the beautiful creation around him.  You might say he learned to look for the good and not the bad.

That was Monday.  Tuesday morning, Tim woke up with a terrible headache and his wife took him to the hospital.  The bottom line is Tim had a massive stroke and a couple of days later he went to be with the God he loved.  Just like that…he was gone.  Tim was only seventy years old…a good, wooly, mountain man, nature loving, people loving seventy.  And, I guess in his own way, he did exactly what he said he would do.  He let go of any fear and ran forward…right into the arms of Jesus.

I will certainly miss Tim and his contribution to the Grits family.  I am grateful for all he did to keep me pressing keys.  I’m also thankful for a lesson he brought home to me. It was something I knew but need to be reminded of again and again.  That lesson is this fact—we don’t know about tomorrow.  For some reason, I have been tossing around the thought that I will do this or that when I turn seventy but truthfully—seventy may never come.  Tim’s home-going is a vivid reminder that we should not wait—we should go—we should do.

It is a scripture totally out of context, but it is a good reminder.  When Judas was going to betray Jesus, the young Rabbi, Messiah said, “Whatever you are going to do…do quickly.” Like I said it is out of context, but it does remind us to do whatever we are going to do now.  Go ahead, take the next great adventure, tell someone that you love them, take a moment to be kind, encourage someone who is a bit down, dare to dream. It was just a couple days ago that I wrote how we don’t know what tomorrow holds but we do know who holds tomorrow. So let’s live life fully, completely, now—not later.  So, thanks Tim for all your good words and thank you for reminding all of us that not matter what, “He’s got this.” Bro. Dewayne

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

Anger Management 101

Be angry and do not sin. Don’t let the sun go down on your anger, and don’t give the devil an opportunity.” Ephesians 4:26

I think I have figured it out.  From the time I could remember my mom always told me, “Dewayne, I think you are going to be six feet tall when you grow up.”  I believe she based that on the fact that I kinda looked like my brother Joe and he was somewhere near that.  Anyway, I grew up with the expectation that I would, well, grow up.  Somewhere, something got lost in the translation.

The bottom line is for all of my life I have been slightly height challenged.  Now, it wasn’t as bad as it could have been, but it was apparent early on that mom had misjudged the gene pool.  Unless a miracle was on the horizon the height expectations needed to be lowered…a lot.  By the time I was in the eighth grade I was still about 5”6”.  I had managed to lose some of my roundness but I just came up short (pun intended) on the height deal. Too bad I wasn’t born a couple of thousand years ago. Back then, I would almost be tall.

When I was in the ninth grade, I was at the top of the pecking order grade wise. In Florida high school didn’t start till tenth grade so we ninth graders were the kings of the junior high campus…even if you were a tad short.  One day in class the teacher stepped out of the room.  A guy I knew, and he might have even been a friend, grabbed my pencil and said he was going to break it.  “Don’t do it, man” I said in my deepest, tallest voice.  He kept threatening to break it and I kept threatening to break him.  He broke it and I exploded.

Now before we go on you need to know I was a pretty compliant kid.  I am a conflict avoidance adult, and I was a conflict avoidance kid.  Something just snapped.  I flipped the table over on him, put him in a head hold and proceeded to teach him not to break my pencil.  Can someone said, “Stupid?”  Well, the teacher walks in, someone breaks up the fight and we get a free trip to the principal’s office.  Judgement was swift and right to the seat of the problem.  Two swats a day for five days administered by the athletic director.  He was not five-six.

So, for the next five days I was to report first thing in the morning to his office, bend over and grab my ankles and two hard swats.  Pow—pow.  Swift, powerful, and man did they hurt.  And they worked. I always left with a strong desire to join the Peace Corps. I never got into another fight.  Break my pencil?  Sure, go right ahead. I have a spare. I always wondered what sparked that outburst.  I think I know.  It was short man syndrome or SMS.

I found out that SMS is “an angry male of below average height who feels it necessary to act out in an attempt to gain respect and recognition from others and compensate for his short stature.” I’m pretty sure that is what happened that day.  I was wanting some respect and was willing to act stupid to get it. Did I mention two swats a day for five days?  So, that week, about day three and swat number six I got over my syndrome and a chunk of my anger.  I was just fine at 5’6”.  Fortunately, the Lord gave me a couple of more inches and I ended up at a respectable 5’8”.  However, I think I am back down to five-seven now.  You know, the Lord gives, and the Lord takes away.  Smile.

I really did learn a valuable lesson that day.  You should never, and I mean never, let your anger get the best of you.  Anger is not a sin when it is controlled and directed in the right direction.  Jesus got angry at the people who were abusing His Father’s house. The problem isn’t anger—the problem is control—or lack of it. Paul wrote about this when he said, “Be angry and do not sin. Don’t let the sun go down on your anger, and don’t give the devil an opportunity.” Keep your temper tame and don’t let it simmer over night.  It’s great for a pork butt but terrible for anger.  And every time we don’t, we give Satan the opportunity to win. And, when he wins…we lose.  Every time.

So, I’ve learned to be happy where I am. I think 5’8” or 5’7” is just about right. I’m still taller than Judy and she thinks I’m tall, or at least tallish, dark, and handsome.  Also, I’m learning not to lose it because I always lose when I do. And, I am learning to trust in Him.  If someone breaks my pencil, I’m learning to let God handle it.  It’s much better than visiting the coach every morning for five days.  There’s something else. I found out that when I’m not facing the coach in the morning, I rest better…especially in Him.  I fall to sleep knowing, “He’s got this.”  And He does.     Bro. Dewayne