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

Lifeline

The Lord is good, a stronghold in the day of trouble; and He knows those who trust in Him.” Nahum 1:7

Nahum 1:7. It was in the Bible and it was his verse.  Church has always been a part of my culture.  From the time I was born it seems I always found my way to a building with a steeple on top. That also means I bumped into several pastors and preachers too.  Each one left a fingerprint on my life and because of that each one made a difference.  Speaking of different…each one was.  Different gifts, talents, and personalities, but each one made an impact.  I am grateful.

When my wife Judy and I moved to Germany in 1977 for a stint overseas with the Air Force, we were fortunate to have a church not too far from where we lived and the base where I worked.  It wasn’t long before we were part of that family.  In fact, it wasn’t long before we were good friends with the pastor and his wife.  He was a young pastor, had an infectious smile and a great personality and we hit it off right from the start.  We were about five or six years different in our ages, so he was kinda like a big brother only he wasn’t very big…but his heart was.

One of the things (literally) that I liked about hanging with Steve (not his real name) was he had a new shiny, red Volkswagen sports car.  It was great on curves and it was plenty fast and since Germany had lots of curves and often no speed limit on the autobahn…well, it was fun.  I guess in some ways we were like a couple of teenagers.

Steve also was a Godly guy.  He really tried to live his faith out. One of the things that he shared with me was his “life verse.”  In case you don’t know what that is, it is a verse from that Bible that jumps off the page at you and gets stuck in your mind and heart. So, Steve’s verse came from one of those books in the Old Testament that no one can find.  It is called the Book of Nahum and his verse came from chapter one, and verse seven.  It goes like this, “The Lord is good, a stronghold in the day of trouble; and He knows those who trust in Him.”

It is the kind of verse that you gotta love.  It is the kind of verse that can be a lifeline when the sea of life gets rough.  It isn’t that the verse has any magic powers, it’s just that it contains a boatload of truth.  God is good, and it isn’t that He just does good, He is good.  He is like a place you can run to when things go south, and He remembers my name, your name, our names.  Those are great truths when the sun is shining in life and really, great truths when the storm clouds roll in…just like it did for Steve one day.

Without warning, he learned that his marriage was over, there was another guy.  It was just one of those crazy things that happen, and it broke his heart and our hearts.  The bottom line, he decided it was best to head back to the states and in a short while…he was gone.  I never saw him again but if by chance he reads this someday, I hope he knows there were some things that stuck with me…like his life verse.  No, his verse didn’t become mine, but it stuck.  God is good, God is a refuge, God knows my name.

How about you?  Do you have a verse that jumped off the page one day and into your heart and life?  Mine for a real long time has been Proverbs 3:5-6 but for the last several years it has had some real competition with Psalm 37:23-24.  Check them out…they are both awesome scriptures.  That is one thing about the Bible.  Even if you’ve never taken the leap of faith to believe, and I hope you will, you will find it an incredible Book of wisdom and knowledge and who knows, if you try it, it might just leap right into your life.  God is good, God is a refuge, God knows my name.  It was good back in 1977, it is good today, and when I launch from here to there, it will still be good. And no matter the circumstance, no matter the deal, it reminds me that, “He’s got this.”  Bro. Dewayne

Posted in Family, gratitude, life, loving others, Military memories, prayer, Scripture, Southern born, thankful

Unkept-the Look

Guard your heart above all else, for it is the source of life.” Proverbs 4:23

It was unkept…but it was cool. Ok, let’s just lay it out there.  I am just a tad on the old school side.  I was a teenager in the late sixties and early seventies with a daddy who wasn’t fond of anything countercultural—and that included longer hair.  That was phase one.  Phase two was twelve years in the United States Air Force.  They and my Daddy would have gotten along really well- since they weren’t fond of anything countercultural either.  Phase three was being a Baptist pastor.  Back in the days, Baptists were pretty much not fond of anything countercultural either.  Suits and ties were the norm and facial hair was basically a no-no.  So, you can probably understand that I wrestle with some of the new fashion norms. It’s not that I don’t like them—it’s just that I don’t understand some of them.

As an example, part of my morning routine is having a time with God.  Part of that is watching a short video of someone speaking.  This morning it was a pretty successful young pastor from somewhere.  As the video began I noticed a couple of things.  First, his hair had the now fashionable “unkept” look.  It was like he got out of bed, ran his fingers through his hair and went to work.  Again, that’s cool.  Hang with me.  Second, he sported the wildly popular beard stubble look.  I mean, if you don’t have a stubble… you’re not ready to rumble.  He had a good stubble.  Hey, that’s cool.  I wish the Air Force had discovered that when I was in. Again, the cool “unkept” look.

Another fashion statement with the “unkept” look are jeans with holes in them.  They are crazy poplar.  When I was growing up jeans with holes were tossed out and people who wore them were poor.  Now, people pay big bucks to have jeans with holes.  Hey, just buy a regular pair and give them four years—bam—another cool “unkept” look.  And you save a few bucks.  Another “unkept” look that is popular with the “we don’t own an iron” crowd is the wrinkled look.  You just grab your shirt or whatever and throw it on and you are in. Again, totally cool—totally in.

I’ve even seen this in yards.  There are folks who have unkept yards because they just don’t like to mow grass or trim their yards but there is another group that simply loves that look.  To them unkept is “unkept—the cool kind.”  To some folks an “unkept” yard is all about nature.  I really liked that when I was young—my Daddy did not.  It just wasn’t his thing.

So, what’s up?  Well, through the years different things have come and gone.  It’s just the way culture works.  Things are fashionable for awhile and they move on.  I know there was a time I couldn’t imagine preaching without a tie.  I even said one time that I didn’t think I could preach without a tie.  Now days, I usually preach with an open collar.  Things change.  Right now “unkept” is cool and one day it probably won’t be and I’m good with it either way.  But wait.

While “unkept” is cool, fashion wise…it is not cool or healthy to like an “unkept” life.  You ask, “What is that?”  It is a life that is lived solely in the moment.  In the sixties it was the “if it feels good, do it” thing and each decade has had its version of that thought pattern.  But the bottom line is that when we live “unkept” lives there are usually consequences and regrets.  I said this morning to my wife Judy that “success is not accidental, it is intentional.”  That almost sounds deep.  I also think that God’s peace, and joy, and happiness, and a host of other things that make life worth living aren’t accidental either…they are intentional.

For me, as a Jesus follower, that intentionality involves checking in with God on a regular basis to see what He thinks about my day…my life.  For me it is a daily dose of His Book, the Bible. Trust me on this one…there is a reason why it remains one of the best-selling books of all time.  The truths and teachings of Jesus are found in the second part, the New Testament, and they were groundbreaking two thousand years ago and they still are today.

Ok, so I don’t know if I will ever do the “unkept” thing or not.  It took me a long time to figure out I could teach without a tie.  But I do know this. When it comes to life, a “kept” life is just better—fewer consequences—fewer regrets.  That is probably why the Book says, “Guard your heart above all else, for it is the source of life.” God really wants what is best for us…He loves us that much.  If you find yourself in an “unkept” mess, just remember that He is there waiting and no matter what it is, “He’s got this.”

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

Remember

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Posted in Family, Grace, gratitude, life, love, loving others, Mother's Day, priorities, Scripture, Southern born, thankful, wisdom

Mama and Her Day

Jesus also did many other things. If they were all written down, I suppose the whole world could not contain the books that would be written.” John 21:25

The older I get the more precious the memories become.  This Sunday homes across America will be observing Mother’s Day. While I always assumed that Hallmark or Russell Stover’s came up with the idea, apparently, I was wrong.  It turns out that Mother’s Day as we know it, began in the early 1900s. A woman named Anna Jarvis started a campaign for an official holiday honoring mothers in 1905, the year her own mother died. The first larger-scale celebration of the holiday was in 1908, when Jarvis held a public memorial for her mother in her hometown of Grafton, West Virginia.

Over the next few years, Jarvis pushed to have the holiday officially recognized as it was celebrated in more and more states across America. Finally, in 1914, President Woodrow Wilson signed a proclamation making Mother’s Day an official holiday, to take place the second Sunday of May. Well, whether it was Hallmark’s idea or Anna Jarvis, it certainly was a winner.  The bottom line is when God gave the childbearing and a chunk of childrearing to Eve instead of Adam, He did a good thing. If it had been left up to the guys, the population of the world would probably be 53 and without a mother’s love and influence…things just wouldn’t be the same.  Mothers are change makers.

Something that I have come to realize is that Mother’s Day is bigger than those who give physical birth to someone.  While that is so important, let’s not stop there.  It is even bigger than those who welcomed a child through adoption, and it exceeds those who foster children.  Mothering includes all the women who have poured their lives into the lives of others.  It could be a caring school teacher, a loving church member, or the neighbor down the street who cares.  Mother’s Day is a big deal and rightfully so.

And then of course, and guys this is for you, don’t forget to honor the mother of your children.  She deserves a prize for marrying and living with you.  I know in my life, as much as my Daddy played a role in raising me, Mama outshined him.  In so many ways, she was my hero.  I only wish I could have seen it more clearly then.  Time and again she was there to nurse, guide, prod, and yes- admonish me, on my journey to becoming a man.

I remember the time I was so sick, and she held me gently in her lap, in the middle of the night, till my fever broke or my tummy settled, and I could fall to sleep.  I remember the time that a couple of bullies from junior high were going to plummet me. I was outgunned and outnumbered until Mama stepped up and stepped in.  I remember in second grade I forgot an important assignment and Mrs. Webb had everyone convinced that they would stay in second grade forever it they didn’t turn it in.  Yup, it was Mama who stopped her world to save mine.

I remember when I had a new pair of jeans, a rare gift, and while I was horseback riding, I was shoved into a tree by the horse and ripped a huge hole in one leg.  Now days it would be fashionable—then it was an embarrassment.  Somehow, someway, she managed to fix it.  Oh, and I remember hundreds of suppers and dozens of pies and homemade fruitcake with grandma’s recipe.  And on and on it would go.  Everyday something said, “I love you.”  Oh, and for the record, just like your mama, my Mama wasn’t perfect, but she sure had a way of saying, “I love you.”  She raised eight kids and I got the privilege of being last and, though no one would admit it, her favorite.

The Bible says that if all the things that Jesus did were written down the whole world couldn’t hold the books.  Well, that would be an exaggeration for any mama, but I do know this.  If I could remember just half of all that my Mama did for me, for our family, well this story would be a whole lot longer.  Mama went to heaven when I was only 24 years old and she never met any of my children but hopefully as we trust Jesus, like she did, God will remedy that…one day.  Until then, I want to say, “Thank you, Mama” for always being there.  Thank you Judy, for being an incredible wife, mother to our children, and MaMa to our grandchildren.  And finally, to all you ladies who have poured your lives into the lives of others, thanks for making a difference.  Thanks for never giving up and always believing, “He’s got this.”  Bro. Dewayne

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

Rocking on Lake Victoria

Do not be afraid or discouraged, for the Lord will personally go ahead of you. He will be with you; He will neither fail you nor abandon you.” Deuteronomy 31:8

It was like something out of National Geographic. I was on a vision trip to Uganda several years ago and it was one adventure after another.  I was working with a missionary who had a ministry to the people living on the islands of Lake Victoria.  This massive lake is the second largest in the world and is more like an inland sea than a lake.  There are places that you can lose sight of the shoreline and you feel very much like you are out on the ocean.

Our vessel was anything but an ocean liner.  It was a handcrafted open vessel that was about twenty-five feet long and powered by a fire breathing dragon of a motor with a whopping ten horsepower.  We would tear across the lake at a heart stopping ten miles an hour. Ok, there really wasn’t a fire breathing dragon effect, nor were we tearing across the lake, but it was a great adventure!  Usually.

One day, after a long day of preaching and teaching, it was time to head back to our home island.  We were a little late leaving and night was coming soon, so it was imperative that we begin heading back.  Our boat was parked in a small, secluded harbor and from there we all loaded up.  There were only about six of us in the boat and the small engine started and off we went.  As soon as we left the harbor we were greeted by some rough water.  The waves were large enough to be “white caps” and I gave the missionary a glance but he assured me that these were not big waves. Well, beauty is in the eye of the beholder and so is wave size.  These were boat swallowing monsters.  And then, after a few minutes, it happened.

As the pilot guided the boat and tried to determine just how to navigate the large waves…the motor quit.  I mean, it just stopped.  Suddenly, at least in my eyes, things got a bit more interesting.  We could no longer navigate the waves, rather, we were at their mercy and no matter how hard the pilot pulled, the engine wouldn’t start.  About then I began a worship service of sorts, part music, part prayer and part personal eulogy. You know, “Friends we are gathered here to honor the life of…” Meanwhile the pilot is still pulling on the motor and I kept praying.

Finally, one of the guys in the boat named Joseph went to work on the motor.  Joseph is a young man that can do just about anything—from preaching to apparently fixing motors.  The shorter version of a long story is that He proceeded to take the carburetor apart and “blow it out.”  Now keep in mind we are still rocking like crazy…and I still am praying and preparing to die.  But I had planned my funeral just a little too soon.  Before long, Jospeh had the carburetor reassembled and back on the motor.  Three or four quick pulls later and we were back “on the road.”  The waves were still big (at least to me) but we were underway and eventually we arrived back at the other island.  Safe—if not too sound.

It really was one of those times that I wished I had paid more attention at swimming lessons because I wasn’t totally sure of the outcome.  But thankfully I did remember one thing. I remembered that whether I am rocking in a boat on the world’s second largest lake in East Africa or driving down the Interstate at 70 miles-per-hour surrounded by people looking at their cellphones or doing life in a tumultuous point in history, my Father, my Dearest Daddy, is in control.  Fate and circumstances are not calling the shots—He is. And if that isn’t enough, we have the promise that the Lord will personally go ahead of us. He will be with us; He will neither fail us, nor will He abandon us.

Now to be clear that doesn’t mean that everything is going to turn out exactly as I would like.  It doesn’t mean that I get to write the script and He has to follow it.  Quite the contrary, He is writing the script and He invites me to trust Him and to believe that ultimately the end of the story is for my good and His glory.  I’m learning that the story never ends here—it ends there.  For the person who decides to trust Him there is always a surprise ending and that is—the end is not the end.  We may change locations, but the story continues.  How about that?

So, I survived that day on the lake and now have returned many times…each time taking others with me including the one that I love most on this earth—my wife, Judy. I do so knowing, that while there are risks, ultimately the pilot of the boat doesn’t sit at the back but up in heaven and He’s got his eye on us and everything we do.  It’s true in East Africa and its true where you and I live.  We can say with certainty that if we belong to Him, we don’t have to worry because, “He’s got this.”  Bro. Dewayne

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

The Best Part

For God loved the world in this way: He gave His one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him will not perish but have eternal life.” John 3:16

I like it straight black—plus nothing, minus nothing.  Coffee has long been a part of my life.  It all started when I was growing up.  The name Taylor and the word coffee have gone together for a long, long time.  I can remember every day my Daddy would get home from work about 4:00 in the afternoon. He carpooled with three other men and just like clock work they would pull up and he would get out.  It was a certainty.  The other certainty was the coffee.  Mama would have a fresh pot percolating on the stove and perfectly timed to be ready when he got home.  She would meet him in the yard, and they would share the day and have a cup of coffee.

He didn’t just drink coffee then either.  It was not unusual for him to say, “Dewayne, go get me a cup of coffee.”  The please was implied and it seemed there was always a pot on the stove.  One time there wasn’t so I improvised.  I didn’t understand the in and outs of coffee making, so I just spooned in some coffee grounds in the cup and added some lukewarm water.  That day I learned how not to make coffee!  As I remember it, Daddy liked his coffee with sugar and cream and always drank it from one of those thick Victor coffee cups made after World War II.  It didn’t hold much but it was a good cup to drink from.

I can’t even remember not drinking coffee though I can remember Mama telling me about coffee stunting my growth.  Since I ended up on the shorter side, she must have been telling the truth.  And, like my Daddy, I drank mine with sugar and cream—lots of sugar and lots of cream.  Eventually I switched to a powered creamer called Cremora along with a hefty dose of artificial sweetener.  Somewhere along the road they said that Cremora was bad for you, so after much consternation I went to having my coffee with just the sweetener—three packs please.  It was so sweet it would make you pucker.

Well, you know how it goes.  They (whoever they are) then determined that the sweetener was bad for you, too.  I talked it over with the guys at work and one of them said, “If you will drink coffee black for three weeks, you’ll never drink it any other way.”  Well, I did and he was right.  Ever since then, I drink my coffee strong and straight black.  And the amazing part is for the first time I began to taste the coffee and not the stuff I added to it. It was just about then I began to understand the Folger’s commercial that said, “The best part of waking up is Folger’s in your cup.”  I take one exception to that though—it is always best to wake up—breathing.

I think if I learned anything from my coffee journey it was that sometimes more is just more.  It seems most of us are tempted to add something to whatever we are doing at the time.  Have a great recipe—we are tempted to add this or that.  Have a truck pretty tricked out?  Well, hey, why not add one more thing?  I know my office is stuffed to the gills with stuff from all over the world but sometimes, well, more is just more.  Instead of seeing things, you start seeing a wall full of stuff. I have a box on the floor in my church office.  It is full of things that I’ve decided can go home…the problem is it has been there for, uh, several weeks.

Now one thing we must be careful not to mess with is God’s grace.  It is fine just the way it is.  When you start messing with grace you end up with something that is not very “gracy and when something is not very “gracy” it loses it “graciness” and that is never a good thing.  I love the fact that God got it right from the start.  There has never been a grace 2.0 because version 1 was just exactly right.

When it comes to God stuff, it seems we want to make it harder and more complex than it really is.  That’s why I like John 3:16 that says, “For God loved the world in this way: He gave His one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him will not perish but have eternal life.” Boom…perfection.

Well, I think I’ll have a cup of straight black coffee a little later on and I think I’ll rewrite that Folger’s jingle to say, “The best part of waking up is Jesus in your cup.”  It doesn’t get any better than that. Just knowing Him makes it worthwhile…because always, “He’s got this.” Bro. Dewayne

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

Lost in the Desert

He counts the stars and calls them all by name.” Psalm 147:4

Don’t follow me. I’m lost.  That may sound like something a preacher should never write but at least one time in my life, that was the message.  It seems like I was probably ten years old and somehow Mama and Daddy bought me a new bike for my birthday.  When I was a little older, they gave me a brand new, bright and shiny ten speed but this one was different.  It was a single speed, traditional bike but it was new, and it was mine. I remember it having the little “streamy” things that kids used to put on their handlebars so they could wave in the breeze. I was so proud of that bike.

There was one other thing that set it apart.  Attached to the back of the seat was a little “tag” (you know, like a license plate but a lot smaller) and it said, “Don’t follow me. I’m lost.”  I don’t know if Mama and Daddy bought it and put it on the bike or if it came on it. However, since I was like most ten-year-old boys—it was probably appropriate.  Of course, at that time I had no idea that one day I would be a pastor and do my best to help people find the right path in their lives. We all know how imperfect preachers are but hopefully there is one thing that we can do and do right—show people how to follow Jesus.  After all, we all get lost, and we all need someone to point us in the right direction.

Several years ago we were in Niger, West Africa and we were in the Sahara Desert.  We were traveling from one small village in the middle of nowhere and going to another slightly larger village in the middle of nowhere.  Keep in mind this is West Africa and more often than not, you are going to end up on a road made of sand and only an occasional road sign.  Our missionary was driving a 4X4 and we were heading in the direction of Abalak—again a medium sized city in the middle of the desert.  We drove and drove and she was pretty sure we were going in the right direction but who knew.  After all…it was West Africa, and it was the desert, and signs, well, they were not.

We drove for several hours till we came to a place where we could see in the distance a couple of tents and a few camels standing around.  I remember there was a young lady sitting on a donkey who looked like she could pass for Mary on her way to Bethlehem but there also was a man. We opened our window and the missionary greeted him and he asked where we were going.  She said we were going to Abalak.  I remember his reply. In his local language he said, “Not this way, you’re not.” He also said that he had a cousin in Abalak.  Of course, in West Africa, in the middle of nowhere, it seemed everyone either knew or was related to everyone.  But he offered to guide us to Abalak if he could ride along.

Well, we readily agreed and off we went with a new friend pointing the way. Remember the song we sing at Thanksgiving about over the river and through the woods?  Well, it was just like that except it wasn’t Thanksgiving, there was no river and there were no woods but after several hours we did find ourselves in Abalak.  It turns out our new friend was just the person we needed.  We were lost and he pointed us in the right direction.

You know, sometimes in life we get lost too, don’t we?  I know more than once I have been lost. Don’t be shocked and don’t make me turn in my “man card,” but I’ve actually stopped and asked directions. Sometimes it worked and sometimes it didn’t.  It was always reassuring though when the store the person mentioned or the right color of house on the corner appeared.  It was always about then I knew we had been found and everything was going to be ok.

As we emerge from the pandemic and all of its craziness and if you are feeling a little lost, remember it is ok to ask directions.  It might be a trusted friend or someone you know from church, but it is ok to stop and ask for directions. I’ve found a Friend that always points me right where I need to go.  He never gets lost because He made the place and He is never wrong because, well, He’s just never wrong.

There is a place in the Bible where it says that He knows the total number of stars in the heavens, and He calls them all by name.  And I figure if He knows the stars…He probably knows the way I ought to go.  How about that?  So today, if you’re feeling a little lost, just ask Him.  He knows the way and He loves pointing people in the right direction and, as always, you can rest assured that “He’s got this.” Bro. Dewayne

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

Humpty Dumpty and Me

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

Some things never change. As we were growing up, we all learned various nursery rhymes and fairy tales.  Some were funny, some serious, and some a little bizarre.  One of my favorites was Humpty Dumpty.   Why?  I think because his story could have easily been our story—after all, we’ve all fallen off a wall at one time or another. I love the story too because what didn’t happen for old Humpty Dumpty, can happen for us.

If there had been a headline that day it might have read something like this, “Local Egg Takes a Tumble.” The story would begin with, “Apparently a well-known and respected egg, Humpty Dumpty, decided to take a rest on top of a wall just outside of town. While sitting there he lost his balance, fell off the wall and was shattered into several pieces. Fortunately for Mr. Dumpty there were witnesses who immediately called 911. Paramedics, along with representatives from the local government, were quickly on the scene. It is reported that local clergy were also on scene, though they didn’t stay long. Unfortunately, no one was unable to put Mr. Dumpty back together again.”

What a sad tale! There he lay–his life in pieces–kinda like a lot of folks today. You would have thought the local citizenry, government, and churches would have been sympathetic but no. First, some questioned why an egg was on the wall in the first place. After all, given his rounded bottom he was certainly a high risk. Second, he was in a fragile state–in fact, he lived in a fragile state. Others blamed the builders of the wall. If the wall had only been six inches high, he wouldn’t have suffered such massive fractures. Others blamed the weather service because they didn’t put out a high wind warning that day for eggs on walls. And the church–well, they said a respectable egg should have been in church, for it was a Sunday.

Well on and on it went, and in the end–Mr. Dumpty was still broken. You know, some things never change. When sin entered the world Adam blamed God, (God because He gave Adam the woman & Eve because she gave him the fruit), Eve blamed the snake, and the snake? Well, he just smiled. It wasn’t a time for finger pointing then, nor is it now.  For all around us are Humpty Dumptys…broken lives in a broken world.

But then, along comes God. God made the very first promise of a Rescuer, a Redeemer, and a Savior way back in Genesis 3. One day the Redeemer would come and provide the cure for sin–His own death on a Roman cross–and then come back to life thus defeating death forever. And the snake well, he would be cast into a very hot fire for a very long time.

You see, I am so glad that God is more interested in redemption than blaming. He is still inviting people, all people to come home. Scared people, sick people, broken people, mean people, and nice people–all get the same invitation–come home. And the path is always the same. Jesus said in John 14:6 “I am the Way, the Truth and the Life and no one comes to the Father but by Me.” It’s not religion, it’s not good works, and it’s not winning by out-blaming the person next to you. It is grace.

The world could use a little good news don’t you think? So today why not share some? When you see the next scared person, the next broken person, the next difficult person (and it might be in the mirror), just assure them that God loves them and that regardless of their past they can come home. Tell them to rest in Him. Why? He’s got this. Bro. Dewayne

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

Yes and No

Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.” James 1:17

2020 was a year to remember or maybe, to forget. Years from now, when I think of that particular year, I will remember it as the “Year of No”. You see, to me it seemed every time I turned around someone was telling me no. I couldn’t do this and I couldn’t do that.  Included in that batch of “noes” were trips to conferences and vacations. I remember a particular task I just didn’t want to do.  I had put it off for several weeks.  It wasn’t that I was procrastinating–I was just hoping.  Maybe something would change.  Maybe what appeared to be a new normalcy was a bad dream and I would wake up, stretch and yawn, make a cup of coffee and get ready to go.  Instead…I cancelled the reservation.  As it turned out I wouldn’t be needing a rental car for a week in California.  Not now.

You see, my wife Judy and I love to travel—to take adventures. Last spring our adventure was a rerun of sorts.  Catch the train to Chicago, spend the night there and enjoy the Chicago skyline, wake up and board the train for California.  For two days America would fly by our windows–farmlands, plains, mountains. Once in California we would see some of the most incredible scenery you could imagine.  It was going to be a great trip and then the pandemic and its buddies said, “no.”

Actually, that was just one of several “noes”  We were going to a pastor’s retreat in North Carolina to get recharged.  No. We were going to the Southern Baptist Convention–something we do every year. No.  I had a doctor’s appointment in Paducah.  I’m not usually a fan of doctor appointments–you know, “Step right here on the scale.”  You know the drill.  But I was excited—at least I was going somewhere, anywhere.  No. No. No. No.

In the midst of the flurry of “noes” something happened.  Judy reminded me of a song by Michelle Williams, “Say Yes,” that we had enjoyed many times before .  It had slipped from my playlist.  Maybe it shouldn’t have.  The words go something like this, “When Jesus say yes, nobody can say no. When Jesus say yes, nobody can say no. When Jesus say yes, nobody can say no. When Jesus say yes, nobody can say no.”

The song continues, “I’m not worried ’bout a thing, ’cause, I know You are guiding me. Where You lead me, Lord, I will go. I have no fear ‘cause, I know Who’s in control. There’s no limit to what You can do ’cause it all belongs to You–Yes, it all belongs to You. You’re Almighty and all powerful and it all belongs to You. Yes, it all belongs to You. When Jesus say yes, nobody can say no.”

Ok, it rocked me good—in fact, it changed my outlook.  It helped me see, again, that life is filled with yes and “noes.”  You know, that’s just life.  Trips get cancelled, schools get closed, schedules get train wrecked (no pun intended), and kids drive parents crazy, and parents drive kids crazy.  Circumstances seem to drown us, and life sometimes just scares us.  And then, if we are Jesus followers, we simply pause and remember,“When Jesus say yes, nobody can say no.”

Well, here we are a year later and while there is still an occasional “no,” the truth is, “yes” is coming back in vogue. We can go and eat at most restaurants. We can plan vacations–at least in most parts of America. We can ride the train or take a plane. We are even talking about a mission trip to Africa sometime this summer. “When Jesus say yes, nobody can say no.”

I hope I am wise enough to learn from all of this.  “Learn what” you ask?  That God is running this show.  He says “yes” and He says “no.”  He opens and closes doors.  And you need to know something.  He doesn’t seek nor need my permission or approval–or yours.  After all, get ready, He is God and well, we are not.  Now all that would be scary except for one thing.

James 1:17 says, “Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.” Our Father is not a “bad news, I’m gonna deprive you just because I can” God.  Nope.  He is an “I love you and I’m going to watch over you” God.  And what are we supposed to do? Just listen as He whispers, “Trust me.” In a month or so, Judy and I are heading to Colorado and the Badlands of South Dakota.  Eventually, we will probably make it to California.  If not, well, I bet He’s got one whale of a better idea.  Regardless, I’m learning to rest in Him.  After all, “He’s got this.”  Bro. Dewayne

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

Tripped Up by Life

When He saw the crowds, He had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.” Matthew 9:36

Well, it’s a week later.  If you are a regular Grits reader you might remember that a week ago, I wrote about my grand adventure as I hiked a local trail called, “Indian Point.”  It is an incredible trail and a hike that I will remember for quite a while.  Whenever I do something for the first time it kinda hangs in my memory.  For instance, this time I remember the first quarter or third of a mile up the hill that the trail was more roots than dirt.  I remember after a while there were several short trails leading to some large rock outcrops.  I took a detour down one and stood amazed as I surveyed the valley below.  I also remember what happened next.

Next was my boot caught a root. In a split second I tripped and landed flat on my face.  I told you last week that I fell very hard and it hurt. I haven’t changed my mind. I banged up my left arm and side and well, let’s just say all week the pain just kept right on coming.  Finally, on Saturday, almost a week later, I could cough and bend over without my side not so gently reminding me of the fall.  My arm, on the other hand, is still plenty sore and I am sporting a really, ugly bruise.  It isn’t one of those wimp bruises either.  It covers most of my elbow and upper forearm and is a nice purple and yellow color.  It’s the kinda bruise when people see it, they say “ouch.”

This past Sunday I returned to Indian Point.  My wife Judy was back from her journey to the “Southland” and I wanted to share the trail with her.  I narrated the way along the trail and finally we came to the place where I fell. Right in the middle of the trail was the root…the only one, but then it only takes one. I told her, “This is where it happened.” I think maybe she then had a better understanding of my fall and a new appreciation for the bruise that I am still sporting. Perhaps, that experience made my experience better because it became her experience too. I know this is true because right there she gave me a sermon about hiking alone and being careful.

So, do you know someone that is pretty bruised up over life?  Has someone shown you their “bruise” recently?  No, I’m not talking about the kind that comes from tripping over a root, but the kind that comes from tripping over something in life.  An unkind word. An unnecessarily sharp criticism. A sarcastic zinger.  The loss of a friend or a job or a marriage?  You see, there are a lot of bruised folks around us, and it is important that we stop long enough to feel their hurt and pain.  Jesus did that so well.  It didn’t matter what, it seemed He always had the time to hurt with someone.

Whether it was a leper, a woman with a bad reputation, or a tax collector hated and disowned by everyone, He always took the time to stop, take a look at their bruised life, and hurt with them. One time He came ashore from a boat ride across the lake and there was a gaggle of people bruised and banged up by their broken world.  The Bible tells us that He saw them and then He had compassion on them.  He.Saw.Them.  In other words, He saw their bruises and then loved them.

So, if you bump into me this week, no pun intended, ask and I will show you my bruised arm.  It should be good for at least five or six more days.  We can laugh together because of the story, but at the same time it will be a good reminder for both of us to be like Jesus and share another’s hurt and pain.  Oh, and be sure and watch out for those roots…remember it only takes one.  But if you do fall, I know someone who can pick you up.  And if you listen carefully, you will hear Him whisper, “Don’t worry…I’ve got this.”   Bro. Dewayne