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

A Thanksgiving to Remember

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A Penny and a Nickel

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Posted in Family, friends, gratitude, life, loving others, Military memories, priorities, Scripture, thankful, travel, Trials

Mr. Fix It

See then that you walk circumspectly, not as fools but as wise, redeeming the time, because the days are evil.” Ephesians 5:16-17

Call me Mr. Fix It.  I love to fix things and I love to be the hero.  No matter what the problem, no matter near or far, no matter what.  Back when Blake and Sarah were living in Savanah, Georgia courtesy of the United States Army, she let us know her vacuum had a broken belt.  Well, instantly my hero genes kicked in.  It didn’t matter that she was eleven hours away…it only mattered that my baby girl had a problem, and she asked her Mr. Fix It dad to solve the problem. First a couple of side notes. Blake, her husband, is an able Mr. Fix It guy in his own right.

Second, Sarah asked me to go by our Walmart and get a replacement belt.  I assumed that she assumed that was the problem.  So, by now you may be asking, “Oh, they don’t have Walmart’s in Georgia?”  Well, actually they do, but somehow it made sense for us to go get one and take it to Georgia.  Maybe they are just better here. Well, shoot that thang!  I happened to remember that we had a vacuum like hers (or maybe we had given the vacuum to her) and I had a spare belt laying around.  Cha-Ching!  Thank you, sir, and keep the change.

We get to Georgia and the day after our arrival the time to fix the vacuum was at hand. First, I dislodged the screws from the top and bottom and removed the cover.  It was then I had the first ah-ha moment. There naked before the world was a 100% not broken belt. So, I said to Sarah, “Hey girl, the belt isn’t broken.”  It was then that Sarah said, “Well, it wouldn’t work.” All of a sudden, the great victory of finding a spare belt rapidly deflated.  You see, as an amateur Mrs. Fix It, she had misdiagnosed the problem.  I plugged in the vacuum and, of course, it fired right up.  Then Sarah said the real problem was that it wasn’t picking up the dirt. And that’s when it got interesting.

Assisted by my son-in-law Blake, I began a close examination of the vacuum.  It soon became apparent that it was clogged up. Now if you are not familiar with clogged vacuums there are at least three classes of clogs.  There is the “partial clog”, the “hmmm, this is serious” clog, and then there is the “clog of Biblical proportions”. Since there was absolutely no suction, we knew this was definitely not a “partial clog”.  We soon discovered we had the “mother of all clogs”.  Upon examination we found, and I’m not kidding, three golf balls, two match box cars, and six inches of impacted debris.  I was sure we had found the problem.

Well, my assistant and I carefully removed the trio of golf balls and the two match box cars. Finally, we began to dig, pull, tug and poke at the six inches of debris. Three days later (ok, not really but it seemed that long) the hose was finally clear.  At that point, we emptied the debris catcher thing, cleaned the filter, plugged it in, and it fired right up.  The results were incredible! In fact, before we could stop it, it sucked the carpet off the floor and a small section of the sub-flooring.  (Ok, that part just isn’t true, but I needed to beef up the story.)

Soon we were high-fiving and celebrating the ultimate vacuum cleaner rescue.  Mr. Fix It and his able assistant saved the day. Now believe it or not there is moral to this story—besides the obvious one that says don’t suck up three golf balls and two match box cars with your house vacuum cleaner. The moral is this–when something is wrong don’t automatically assume you know the answer.  Sarah just assumed the belt was broken and it wasn’t.  And, even with a house full of boys, never in her wildest imagination, could she believe that her vacuum had consumed three golf balls and a couple of cars. I could just see the boys having such a good time with their new game of “sucking up” golf balls and match box cars…like “how many can we get in there?” Boys.

And what is true in vacuum repairs can also be true in our lives.  When things just aren’t clicking in your life, look closely because it may not be what you think. Ephesians 5:15-16 says, “See then that you walk circumspectly, not as fools but as wise, redeeming the time, because the days are evil.” In other words, we need to watch where we vacuum—what we pick up, and where we step. Being wise is knowing what to do and then doing it. Remember the old saying, “A ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure?”  Well, trust me it, is so true.

Remember, when life goes south, take your time as you figure out the problem.  Too often we want to treat the symptoms and don’t want to address the real problem.  All the belts in the world weren’t going to get our vacuum going because what seemed like the logical answer was not the problem at all.  If you are a Jesus follower, ask Him and He will point you in the right direction. Life can get pretty clogged up, but don’t let the frustrations get to you. I bet Blake and I took a rest after fixing the problem and maybe you need to take a rest too…in Him.  After all, He’s got this. Bro. Dewayne

Posted in Family, fear, forgiveness, friends, Grace, gratitude, life, Military memories, prayer, Scripture, Southern born, thankful, Trials

No Excuse

The Spirit is the One who gives life. The flesh doesn’t help at all. The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and are life.”  John 6:63

“Breach your weapons, lay them on the ground and put your hands on your head.” Fifteen words I didn’t think I would ever hear.  As I’ve said before I was raised in Jacksonville, Florida.  We lived out in the country and would often go hunting not too far from my home. We would also go shooting.  What is shooting?  Well, that is when you go somewhere and just waste ammunition. There was an old dump about four miles from my house and that was a favorite place to go shoot.  There was an abundance of old bottles and cans there just waiting to give up the ghost.

When I was about nineteen, and in the Air Force, a couple of friends (who were in the Navy) decided to go shooting.  We got in our cars and went to the old dump and preceded to start what sounded like World War III.  We had rifles and shotguns, and we were blasting away.  Cans were flying and bottles were shattering and then without trying we all happened to empty our guns at the same time.  There was a moment of silence and then we heard it.

It was that static noise when someone mashes the button on a public address system before beginning to speak. It was then that we heard those fifteen words—which I still remember to this day even though it was 48 years ago, “Breach your weapons, lay them on the ground and put your hands on your head.”  Ok, two things almost happened at that moment.  I almost died and I almost lost bladder control.  I was scared to death.  I had only been pulled over by the police once and I had never been arrested.  I was certain that the Air Force would not like the fact that one of their ambassadors was arrested…especially on weapons charges.

So, you have to be wondering, “What in the world was going? Didn’t you know better?”  And the answer is “No.”  You see, Jacksonville and Duval County had merged into one making it the largest city in the United States.  That also meant that all the laws that applied to the city now applied to the county.  Well, since it was against the law to discharge a weapon in the city limits, which now included the old dump, we were in deep weeds. You can imagine we did some tall explaining to the police officer. I am sure it included an appropriate amount of praying, begging, and pleading. I imagine it also included the “we are serving our country” card too.

Well, somehow, we got off the hook. I’m sure I explained that I was raised in the area and had gone shooting there a lot.  I’m also sure I explained that we didn’t know about the law being changed.  I’m also sure he said ignorance of the law was no excuse and made sure we understood that it had better never happen again.  And do you know what?  It didn’t.  As far as my buddies and I were concerned, the old dump was safe and sound. At least this part of the Air Force and Navy was done.

I never forgot that lesson about ignorance of the law being no excuse. When I drive, and I am pretty much a rule follower, if I don’t know the speed limit, I settle at a speed that I know should be safely below what might be posted.  I found out one time (and I’ll write about that another time) that it costs to break the law.  And sometimes it can be pricey.  That is true for man’s law, but it is also true for God’s laws.

You see, at one time or another, we have all broken one or more and probably many of God’s laws.  We are just a rebellious bunch and there really is no excuse. We just sorta, kinda, like breaking laws. The Bible even says that. But here’s the deal—we forget one thing about laws.  Generally speaking, laws are there for a reason—our protection.  There is a reason why the speed limit isn’t 120 mph.  There is a reason why you should wear your seatbelt.  There is a reason why you shouldn’t jump from a cliff that says, “rocks below.”  They are all there to keep you within the guardrails of life.  I know, we think laws are there to make us miserable, and maybe that is true for the laws of man.  But when it comes to God—well, obeying His laws means less regrets and fewer consequences.  It means a better life.

Well, if you happen to be traveling through Duval County in Northeast Florida and you have the urge to go shooting…you might try a different county.  Unless they changed their mind, it is still against the law.  And if you find yourself being lured toward some moral disaster and away from what God says is right—breach your weapon, lay it on the ground and raise your hands in surrender.  Not to a policeman, but to the God who loves you enough to help you get through life—with less regrets and fewer consequences. It might seem hard but if you choose to rest in Him, you will find out that all things are possible.  Yup…He’s got that too. Bro. Dewayne

Posted in Family, friends, gratitude, July 4, life, loving others, Military memories, priorities, Scripture, Southern born, sovereignty of God, thankful, travel, USA

July 4. 1972

No one has greater love than this: to lay down his life for his friends.” John 15:13

It was fifty years ago today.  The summer of 1972 was unlike any other summer I had experienced.  I had joined the Air Force and spent the summer at “camp” with about forty new friends.  We shared one thing in common—we had taken an oath to “protect the constitution of the United States against all enemies…foreign and domestic.”  We had also committed to obeying the orders of those appointed over us and at this point…that was everyone else but us.  We were brand new, raw recruits who knew a lot about being a civilian and virtually nothing about being in the military.  But we didn’t have to worry…our drill sergeant was taking care of that.

I arrived at Lackland Air Force Base in the early morning hours of June 13th…early as in about 2:00 am.  This was intentional because the Air Force actually wanted you to be disorientated the first few days.  I think it was supposed to make us more cooperative.  Anyway, we quickly got into a routine sporting our new haircuts and green fatigue uniforms. They kept us going from before sunrise and put us to bed even before it was dark.  That was ok too because we were wore out.

This was my first time away from home, but the schedule didn’t allow for home sickness. But all that changed one night in July.  There wasn’t a lot of free time…whether it was a Tuesday, a Friday, or a Sunday…though they did allow time for church for anyone who wanted to go.  Most of us wanted to go…not because we loved God but for a couple of hours, we could forget the grind of basic.

Back then the Air Force didn’t observe holidays either.  Of course, the only one that occurred in my time in basic was—Independence Day.  As I remember, we definitely did NOT get the day off, but I do think we got to do some extra marching…I think it was supposed to be patriotic.  Anyway, it was soon time for lights out and then it happened. I was lying in my bunk; the skies had finally darkened, and I heard a familiar sound.  It was the sound of exploding fireworks.

I eased out of bed and knelt down in front of the window. From there, I watched the fireworks display for the base explode and light up the sky. And as I watched, a wave of homesickness washed over me.  I remembered all the times that we would go to downtown Jacksonville to the riverfront and watch the fireworks together as a family.  I remembered the times we would go to a small neighborhood grocery store and sneak into the backroom where they sold illegal fireworks and load up.  I remembered and as I did I knew that this was the first of many times that being a member of the military would mean separation…and sacrifice.

Before long the fireworks were over and I went back to my bunk and after too many minutes of loneliness, drifted off to sleep.  The next morning it was back to business as usual.  The summer of ’72 passed pretty quickly and before I knew it, I was done with basic and moved on to what was next…more training…and more new adventures. And what I discovered that night, kneeling at my window in basic, came true.  There were many more days and holidays when family was far away.  But also knew it was a small sacrifice to make to serve my country.

So today, be sure and remember those who are serving, who are sacrificing, that we can enjoy our freedoms.  Remember freedom is never free and we should be thankful for those willing to make ours possible.  Jesus said, “No one has greater love than this: to lay down his life for his friends.” That is so, so true. Look, we all know America is far from perfect, but she is still the best country on the planet—remember that today too. And if you are one of those separated from family to serve, thank you and know that the One who died for you, loves you and will never leave you.  No matter what you are facing today, He’s got this. Bro. Dewayne

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

Daddy’s Heart Attack

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

Thanks, Dad…for the heart attack. It was back in 1976, June 26th to be specific, that I married Judy Allen.  She was a Georgia peach that was quite the catch.  I met her when I walked into a strange, new church on a Wednesday night. I entered the side door and boom—there she was.  Standing in a circle of ordinary young ladies, this young lady was anything but.  Then, there was a phone call, a date and well, here we are forty-six years…she is still quite the catch, we are still in love, and we are still grateful for a God who has a plan.

I was talking with Judy the other day and said, “What if we had never met?” I honestly cannot fathom my life without her…but what if?  It was really a strange set of circumstances that got us together.  I was in the Air Force and my Daddy had a pretty major heart attack while I was home on leave.  It sure changed our Christmas plans, but it also changed my life.  My Momma, and don’t ask me how since this was way before the internet and smart phones, found out through the Red Cross that the Air Force would sometimes grant a “humanitarian reassignment” to airmen to the base nearest their home.  The conditions were strict, and the odds were long, but we (Momma and I) decided we should give it a shot.

It required all kinds of statements from the doctors and a bunch of other stuff that I don’t even remember.  At the time I was stationed at Minot AFB in North Dakota and trust me that is a long way from home.  Anyway, we applied and then one day I received a call from Base Personnel letting me know that my request had been approved and I was being reassigned to Moody AFB in Valdosta, Georgia. Soon, it was so long Minot and hello Moody.  I arrived at my new base in April of 1973.  I would drive home every weekend (about two hours) to see family and friends and come back Sunday evening.

Gratefully, God allowed my Daddy to live till midsummer of the next year when He decided heaven was better than here.  Of course, his leaving changed everything. I think my Momma went to stay with one of my brothers or sisters for a while and suddenly there wasn’t as much reason to go home.  I was a regular church goer, but it really wasn’t my desire to go to church that Wednesday night as much as it was…boredom.  Valdosta wasn’t a big town and Moody wasn’t a big airbase, so I just needed something to do.  And, as they say, the rest is history.

Which leads to my opening line…Daddy’s heart attack.  If it hadn’t had been for that and my Momma’s persistence, well, I would have stayed in Minot and probably froze to death. Smile. I would have never met Judy, there would not have been our three precious daughters and hence no eight grandchildren.  And, honestly, I probably wouldn’t be pastoring and wouldn’t be writing this today.  But God is a God of infinite details and design.  He tells us in the Bible that every day of our lives is planned before a single one of them is lived.  I like that…a lot.

He also teaches us that for those who love Him and are called by Him, He can take anything and everything and bring good out of it.  No, not everything is good…not even close and that isn’t what He said.  He said He can bring good and in the case of my Daddy’s heart attack, my life path is part of that good.  Have you ever thought of life that way?  Can you think of a situation where God did that for you?  I bet you can. You see, God is good, God is faithful, and God can be trusted.

One day I will see my Daddy again…in heaven.  I’ll probably chat with him and ask if he ever thought about the good that God brought about because of his heart attack.  And then, well, I’ll tell him all about Judy (if she isn’t there yet) and his great grandkids.  It’s gonna be a great reunion.  Till then, I hope I remember to trust my heavenly Dearest Daddy each day, and know that no matter what, no matter how big…He’s got this.  Bro. Dewayne

Posted in Father's Day, friends, Grace, life, love, loving others, Military memories, prayer, priorities, Scripture, Southern born, thankful, Trials

Thanks, Daddy…and Momma

Children, obey your parents because you belong to the Lord, for this is the right thing to do. “Honor your father and mother.” This is the first commandment with a promise.” Ephesians 6:1-2

This Sunday is Father’s Day, and it causes me to remember.  These days, I think it happens somewhere around a person’s 11th birthday. But back when I was a boy about to become a young man, it happened when I was 13 or 14.  When you are younger it seems you notice more of the things that Daddy and Momma’s do.  You appreciate the fact that that they do the ordinary things…the everyday things.

Things like washing clothes and cooking supper.  Things like ironing your shirts and cleaning the house.  Things like taking you fishing after a long day at work and teaching you the value of work.  Things like providing a place for you to sleep at night and knowing you were safe.  And, yes, things like showing you what two married people are supposed to look like…live like.

However, right before you take the leap into your teen years, something happens.  Suddenly enough is not enough.  Suddenly you know more—especially more than your parents.  Then you spend more than a few years not being appreciative, but rather telling them and anyone who would listen how hard things are “where I live.”  The fact that it was the sixties and seventies didn’t help.  It seemed that everyone around me was doing their own thing but all I could do was my Daddy’s thing.  Whatever he said, went, and that’s just the way it was. And yes, what Momma said went too.

When I was eighteen and stepped onto a plane to fly to basic training in the Air Force something began to click.  The things that Daddy taught me began to make sense.  All those “yes, sirs” and “yes, ma’am’s” that the Air Force required came easy for me because that’s the way I was raised.  When the call came to “get up, get up,” well that came easy too because I had a Daddy and a Momma who thought I didn’t need to lay in bed all day.  And going to work…second nature.  My Daddy demonstrated that year after year and by example taught me a strong work ethic.

Largely because of the times they said, “Because I said so” and set boundaries and enforced them, well, I’ve never woke up with a hangover, never spent a night (or an hour) in jail and have never been fired from a job. As I look back from my six and a half decades viewpoint (uh, plus three for good measure), I realize that my two incredible parents were right after all.  And I may, no I didn’t, appreciate it at the time but they saved me from a lot of regrets and consequences.

It is safe to say that time changes our viewpoint and as I sit here today mashing keys and writing, I realize just how blessed I have been.  My Daddy was quite the ordinary guy, but that is exactly what made him extraordinary.  He wasn’t perfect and gratefully he didn’t expect me to be either, but he did teach me respect for him and for others.  For 46 years I have respected the woman I am married to because he taught me to respect my Momma.  He (with a lot of help from God) helped me be the man I am today and for that I will be eternally grateful.

God chose to take my Daddy to heaven when I was only twenty years old…before he could meet my wife, my kids, and their kids.  I remember the summer Sunday morning we found him in bed. Sometime in the early, early morning he had slipped away from us and made the trek to heaven.  I’m glad I will see him again someday.  I’m not sure how all of this works but maybe, just maybe I will get to introduce him to my sweet wife and family.  What a day that will be for sure.

So, thanks Daddy, and Momma, for all you did for me…for the love and the sacrifices you made for me and the rest of the tribe.  And Grits family, remember to honor your father and mother, just like God says in His word.  It’s the first command with a promise and I promise you won’t regret it.  And, if you find that hard because of some very difficult memories and scars left from actions best not done, or words best not spoken, try and reach into God’s grace bucket and sling some around.  If you are a Jesus follower, your Dearest Daddy in heaven would like that and He’s even willing to help. As always, He’s got that…and this. Bro. Dewayne

Posted in Family, food, friends, Grace, gratitude, life, love, loving others, Military memories, prayer, Scripture, Southern born, thankful, travel, USA

Home is Better

He will wipe every tear from their eyes, and there will be no more death or sorrow or crying or pain. All these things are gone forever.” And the One sitting on the throne said, “Look, I am making everything new!” Revelation 21:4-5

Who would have known?  In 1977, my wife and I packed up our stuff and moved to Germany.  It wasn’t a sudden urge we had—it was courtesy of the Air Force.  When we had been married about seven months, we received an assignment to move to Europe.  We were excited about moving there, but also realized Germany was 4,657 miles from everything that was familiar to us.  We were off on a great adventure, without cell phones or internet!

We loved it.  Our part of Germany was filled with history and beautiful landscapes.  Rich forests and small hills and mountains framed every view.  And honestly, it was a little like home.  While it was true that the local folks spoke a different language, there was enough English sprinkled around that we were able to get by.  We even learned a little (and I do mean a little) German to help.  We drove our cars on the right side of the road, just like home (unlike the Brits), we could drink the water just like home, we had stores kinda like home, and we even had a church…just like home.  But it wasn’t…home.

Throughout the three years we were there, we would celebrate when it came time for friends to “ship” back to the United States.  Our church even had a special song titled, “Goodbye, World, Goodbye” that we sang every time someone left to go back to the states.  They were bitter-sweet moments.  We would miss them, but we knew where they were going. They were going home.

There was one thing that we would do, every once in a while, to remind us of home.  It might seem strange, but it wasn’t to us.  Germany was a place of great food but once again…it wasn’t home.  I found out that not many Germans eat grits.  Imagine that. But they did share one thing that was purely American—McDonald’s.  Located downtown in a large city, not too far from where we lived, was a McDonald’s very much like ours back home. And when we could afford it, which wasn’t often, we would go and have a taste of home.  Each bite of the burgers and fries said, “Remember home.”  Each bite said, “This place is good but remember, it’s not home.”

Well, one day it was our turn to go…home.  It was our turn to hear, “Goodbye, World, Goodbye” and know it was for us.  It was our turn to leave there and go home and as soon as we were home, we knew instantly that while “there” was very good—it wasn’t home. Home was better.  Home was home.

Jesus followers need to remember that very important truth—Home is better—Home is home.  This world is good.  We enjoy life with friends and family, and there is a McDonald’s on every corner.  But what used to remind us of home now reminds us that we are not there…yet. Even with all its warts and imperfections, God has done a great job providing us a temporary location to live out our days, but remember, Home is going to be—better.  The Bible tells me that Heaven is a place where there is no more pain, suffering, sickness, or sorrow.  No hospitals, no nursing homes, and no funeral homes.  Simply put—the former things are gone, and everything will be new.  Home will be better.

I know I speak for Judy too when I say that our time in Germany was three of our favorite years together. I also know I speak for her when I say home was, and home is, better. Life here is good but one day, it will be my turn, your turn, to find out that Home is better.  When it came time to leave Germany and go home, the Air Force paid for our ticket and I am glad to let you know that our ticket to Home is paid for too—by God’s Son, Jesus Christ. All we must do is accept it and when we do—life here gets better and Home is thrown in. When we accept it, we find out that God loves to give us a “McDonald’s” or two, here and there, just to remind us of Home…to remind us that till we get there, He is with us and that at every turn, “He’s got this.”  Bro. Dewayne

Posted in fear, friends, Grace, gratitude, life, loving others, Military memories, prayer, thankful, Trials, USA

The Longest Day

But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, will teach you all things and remind you of everything I have told you.” John 14:26

It was more than the title for a movie.  One by one they are slipping away.  Who?  That generation newsman and author Tom Brokaw called the greatest generation.  This generation was born and lived through the Great Depression.  Their words and testimonies fill pages and pages of books and blogs.  Words like, “we were poor but didn’t know it” or like “we had nothing but each other…and that was more than enough” ring of their wisdom and courage.

But it would seem that living and surviving the great depression was just a warmup for their finest hour…that would begin with the bombing of Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941. That day, the day that President Franklin Roosevelt said, “would live in infamy,” marked the start of our country’s direct involvement in World War II.  Before it was all over, almost four years later, America would see 1,076,245 causalities.  That number includes 291,557 combat dead, 113,842 who died from other causes and 670,840 wounded.

Last Memorial Day I heard a phrase I had heard before but this time it seemed to shout at me.  It simply said, “Freedom isn’t free.”  As I listened that day, I was freshly amazed at this generation of men and women, 16.7 million of them, who served during World War II. They marched off, self-forgotten, to strange lands and places and many of them would never come home.  Like I said, I was amazed.

Today, June 6th, 2022, is the 78th anniversary of what has been called, “The Longest Day.” It was the day that thousands of soldiers, airmen and sailors, with thousands of ships and planes invaded Normandy, France to begin the retaking of Europe from the grip of Nazi Germany and the Axis powers.  The courage of those men who stormed those beaches is legendary.  Imagine with me small boats, called Higgins boats, riding the waves towards Normandy with shells exploding all around.  Imagine with me seeing many, too many, of these boats literally disappearing after taking a direct hit from enemy shells. Imagine knowing that each of these boats carried several dozen men.  Sacrifice. Courage. Amazing.

There probably are not words that can describe that day.  Films like, “The Longest Day” and “Saving Private Ryan” have tried to tell the story but though their efforts are valiant they always fall short.  That day, 6,603 Americans were killed, missing, or wounded. Imagine again, as officers knocked on doors and telegrams arrived, “The Defense Department regrets to inform you…” Freedom truly isn’t free.  I know we know but I only hope we won’t forget.  Yet in most minds, this observance of “The Longest Day” won’t garner a passing thought.

When the children of Israel of Old Testament fame were crossing over into the Promised Land, they were told to take twelve stones from the middle of the Jordan River.  The sole purpose of these stones was to remind them of the miracle and the day.  That way when years later and their memories were foggy, they had the stones to remind them.  I’m not sure what stone of reminder we need but it might be as simple as a visit to the cemetery and taking the time to READ the markers and stones of those who served.  It might be as simple as taking your kids with you to show them and teach them about sacrifice and courage.  Unfortunately, it may not be taught any place else.

December 7, 1941. June 6, 1944. These are only two dates of many that are worthy of remembrance…but they are a start. Jesus knew we would need help remembering about the things of God.  That is why He said, “But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and remind you of everything I have told you.” And who knows, perhaps that same Holy Spirit will help us remember to be grateful for the sacrifice others have made on our behalf.  In fact, I’m sure He will help because that is what He does best…help. Like everything else, I’m sure, “He’s got this.” Bro. Dewayne

Posted in Family, friends, Grace, gratitude, Holidays, life, love, loving others, Memorial Day, Military memories, prayer, Scripture, sovereignty of God, thankful, travel, Trials

Heroes

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

There are some Grits’ stories that I just can’t let go of.  Today is Memorial Day…the day we honor all those who gave their lives for our freedom.  This special day is so close to my heart and so is this story. I hope you will enjoy it now and probably each Memorial Day in the years to come.  God bless you and God bless America.

Years later, it still tugs at my heart. I’m not sure how I found my way there, but I was grateful.  During my assignment with the Air Force in Sembach, Germany we had the opportunity to see so much.  From Hitler’s hideaway called “The Eagle’s Nest” in Berchtesgaden to the windmills of Holland to the Alps of Switzerland we were constantly amazed at what was all around us.  But nothing prepared me for Luxembourg.

We had some friends that we had known in our days at Moody Air Force Base in South Georgia.  They received orders to Germany several months before we did.  They were only a couple of hours from us, so we saw each other often.  It must have been during one of our forays that we came to it—Luxembourg American Cemetery.  It was one of the most hallowed sights I have ever seen.

There, in the cemetery, are 5,075 white Lasa marble crosses and stars of David.  Row after row of headstones that mark the final resting place of American heroes.  Each one made the ultimate sacrifice for us, for you and me, so that we can live in freedom.  General George Patton is buried there. Two Medal of Honor recipients are also buried there: David G. Turner and William D. McGee. Twenty-two sets of brothers lay buried side by side throughout the cemetery. Some, 371 in fact, were never found.  They are simply listed as missing in action.  102 are just unknown.

This place of honor was established on December 29, 1944.  Many of the soldiers died during the Battle of the Bulge…Hitler’s last push to turn the tide of the war in Germany’s favor.  It failed but it came at great cost to the Allied forces. It was a harsh winter and because of the urgency of the times many were sent to fight with little or no winter gear. The desperate Germans showed little mercy to those taken prisoner.  And, all this occurred just nine months, nine months, before the war ended.  So many had survived D-Day and countless days of combat only to make the ultimate sacrifice months before the grand reunion with family.

Heroes.  It is a word we throw around lightly these days.  In a world where everyone gets a trophy, we are in danger of losing the value of this incredible word.  Hero. Dictionary.com defines it as “a person noted for courageous acts.” Oxford says it is a person who is admired or idealized for courage. Webster defines it as an illustrious warrior or one who shows great courage.  Another place said it is a person who at great danger to themselves puts others first.

I went to Toys-R-Us one time and there they had several aisles of superhero stuff.  As I turned the corner a sign caught my eye.  It simply said, “Real Heroes.”  Along that aisle were the soldiers and sailor figures as well as police, firemen, and other emergency responders.  If I went to that aisle today it would have to include doctors, nurses, and other medical professionals.  Real heroes…real people putting others first at peril to themselves.

But there would be one missing.  Jesus Christ, the Hero of Heaven, who willingly, who bravely, gave Himself to a Roman cross that men, women, and children could be free. The cross was so horrible it was called the death of deaths.  It was so horrible it was illegal to crucify a Roman citizen.  And yet…He went.  Why?  He loved me. He loved you.

Amazingly it was not for some of us, but all of us. Skin color, economic station, language, nationality, capacity to be bad or good doesn’t matter.  The Bible simply says, “He came to seek and save that which was lost.”  It simply says, “Whoever calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”  It simply says He is not willing for any to perish but all to come home. Anyone—I like anyone. Anyone who acknowledges their need for a rescue will find one in Jesus. And this Hero not only does a meet and greet, He invites you to join His family and He walks with you throughout life.  How about that!

So when you hear the national anthem, place your hand over your heart as a salute to those who paid the price for our freedom.  When you see a veteran, thank them for his or her service and sacrifice.  When you walk through a cemetery with your kids, point out the graves of the men and women who served and tell them why they are so special.  And when you talk to the Hero of Heaven next time, thank Him for forgiving your sin.  Thank Him for always being there.  Thank Him for giving you a place to rest.  And, thank Him for having this….because He does.  Bro. Dewayne

Learn more about Luxembourg here: Luxembourg American Cemetery | American Battle Monuments Commission (abmc.gov)