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)

Posted in Family, friends, gratitude, Holidays, Integrity, life, love, loving others, Memorial Day, Military memories, prayer, priorities, Scripture, thankful, USA

Memorial and More

Once you were alienated and hostile in your minds expressed in your evil actions. But now He has reconciled you by His physical body through His death, to present you holy, faultless, and blameless before Him.” Colossians 1:21-22

It was a moment I will probably never forget.  My wife and I love adventures.  We look for ways to do things on a limited budget and we’ve actually gotten pretty good at it.  A few years back we discovered we could take a train from Carbondale to Chicago, stay downtown at a nice hotel for a couple of nights and enjoy whatever was happening around us…all on a shoestring budget. We would usually go around Memorial Day or the Fourth of July.  It was pretty awesome.

Several years ago we went the week of the 4th.  We grabbed a very nice hotel room and managed to snag a room that literally faced the fireworks display.  It was awesome.  At Millennium Park they have these incredible free outdoor concerts.  Thousands of people from all walks of life gather on the large lawn to listen.  Because it is the 4th, they share a lot of patriotic music. They usually have a section where they honor the veterans by asking them to stand when the theme for their branch of the service is played.

I am a veteran.  I served in the United States Air Force for 12 years and it was one of the most rewarding experiences of my life. And that’s the problem.  You see, because it was so rewarding, I always felt awkward standing to be honored because I felt like I received so much more than I gave.  So that night, I knew that part of the concert was coming, and I was dreading it.  I knew that Judy would urge me to stand, I would say no, and she would give me the look.  Again.  But that night, for some reason, something changed.

It was time.  The stirring songs from each branch of the service began playing.  Soon, the Air Force theme was playing.  I looked at Judy and said, “I’m going to stand just for you.”  As I stood something happened.  First, I saw others standing that had served in the Air Force and I felt community…I stopped feeling apart and instead felt a part—a part of the family.  But what happened next was amazing.

There was a mother with a couple of young boys sitting about eight or ten feet from me.  The younger of her sons, probably seven or eight, looked at me and said this, “Mom, is he a hero?”  And I watched and listened as she said, “Yes.  He served our country so that we can be free.”  Then she turned to me and mouthed the words, “Thank you for serving.” Well, that was the highlight of the trip for me, and it was the day an unexplainable wall fell.

I am certain that I do not deserve the title hero.  The men and women with crosses over their graves in all the national cemeteries deserve that.  The warriors who came back from the various wars and conflicts bearing the physical and emotional scars of war deserve that.  But the one thing that I realized that night was that we should be thankful for our freedom.  We can and should honor each person who served for their willingness and sacrifice.

I’m still shy about standing at Veteran’s Day events.  I still feel awkward at concerts when veterans are asked to stand.  But it’s not because I’m ashamed to say I served. No, it is because I received more than I could ever give back.  I was privileged to wear the uniform of my country.  And that is pretty awesome.  But wait. There’s more.

As I write this story another one is stirring in my heart.  It flashed in my mind that this isn’t the only time, the only circumstance, that makes me feel this way.  It is also my faith in God.  That day when I followed Christ, I also received more than I could ever give back. That day I was welcomed into the family of a God who loved me enough to give His Son to a Roman cross.  Paul in the Bible tells us that we went from being alienated and hostile toward God to being able to call Him Father. Jesus caused my billion failures to disappear so He could present me faultless and blameless to His Father.

We all need heroes.  This Memorial Day would you take the time to remember those who bled and died that we could be free?  Would you take your kids to the cemetery for your community’s Memorial Day service?  I hope that you will.  But I also hope you will pause and thank the Hero of Heaven for sacrificing His life so that people like you and me can be truly free.  And finally, next time you have the opportunity to stand not as a hero but because of the One, stand proudly and thank Him.  Thank Him that you can rest in Him.  Thank you because He’s got this.  Bro. Dewayne

Posted in Family, friends, Grace, gratitude, Holidays, life, love, loving others, Memorial Day, Military memories, prayer, Scripture, thankful, USA

Thank You, Mr. Charles

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

It’s the way it ought to be.  Memorial Day a couple of years ago found my wife and I on the road again.  That’s a good thing.  2020, as we all know, was a year with most travel shut down for a chunk of the year.  It was almost refreshing to spend time again waiting in line as hundreds of other travelers rediscovered the freedom to travel this great land.  It was busy because the COVID threat was thankfully in retreat, but it was also Memorial Day weekend…the traditional start of summer.  Smile.

As we were waiting to board, the announcer person at the desk announced that the boarding process would be starting in just a few minutes.  She let us know that there was going to be a “pecking” order for boarding.  Those with special needs and little children were allowed to board first, followed by the people who were what they called “Sky Priority” and what I would call, “the blessed.”  That group included the “First Class” folks as well as those in business class.  They would all be followed by the normal people in the main cabin.  But there was one more group of people who received special treatment…and boy, did they deserve it.

Right behind the people with special needs and small children came this announcement, “Those individuals on active duty in the United States Armed Forces are invited to board now.”  Yup…that’s right.  Delta did it right.  They gave special honor to those serving their country and the reason was simple…they deserved it.  And they don’t do it just on Memorial Day weekend—they do it all the time—because they deserve it all the time.  Every day, but especially on Memorial Day, we have the opportunity to do what Delta does on every flight—honor those who are serving our country.  And we can take it one step farther—we can honor those who have served.  I know that is normally reserved for Veteran’s Day, but can we thank them enough for all they have done for all of us?

My wife stumbled upon a story on Facebook that struck especially close to home…literally.  We contacted them and received permission to share their post. It goes like this, “When Mr. Charles & Ms. Debbie, with C.D. Ives logging company, were working on clearing trees at a job site north of Naylor in Lanier County, Georgia, between GA Highway 135 & U.S. Highway 221, Mr. Charles noticed the A-10s from Moody Air Force Base would regularly fly over where he was clearing trees; sometimes they would get so close he could easily make out the pilot in the cockpit!”

“He figured since he could see them, maybe they’d be able to see a message letting them know his appreciation for what they do, using only what he had on hand at his job site: trees! Mr. Charles positioned them to spell out “THANKS USAF,” painting them in red, white, & blue paint so they stand out a little better.” The author went on to say, “Hopefully, the pilots have been able to catch a glimpse of this “Thank You” from Mr. Charles & Ms. Debbie as they fly over!”  (credit: 05.30.21 The Georgia Photography Fanatic, https://www.facebook.com/thegeorgiaphotographyfanatic)  I can only add, how appropriate and how thoughtful.

Like I said, it strikes close to home.  You see, Judy was raised right there in that South Georgia area and me, well, I spent four years stationed at Moody Air Force Base myself and yes, it was there that I met Judy and we began our life together.  I am grateful that Mr. Charles took it upon himself to honor those pilots at Moody and I hope they got the message.  But the question is this, “What can we do right now, today, to honor those who paid the ultimate price and for those who served or are serving?”

Well, there will be multiple opportunities.  Maybe your community will have a Memorial Day service or parade.  Why not attend?  Why not take your children and let them experience the honor afforded those who gave their life that we could be free?  Why not visit a local cemetery and look for graves that mark the deceased as a member of the armed forces?  Why not stop and say thanks to someone you know who served their country in one of the armed forces?  Why not thank God for your freedom and their sacrifice?  Why not make a point today to find a way to say, “Thank-you?”

One of the most powerful love verses in the Bible says, “Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.” The Book makes it clear that those who die for another or even those willing to die for others are worthy of our honor and respect.  So, let’s all enjoy the time with family and friends this Memorial Day.  Have a burger and a dog but make it a priority to remember what it is all about—honoring those who laid their life on the line that we could be free.  Remembering their sacrifice and remembering the awesome love and power of our great God will also help us remember that no matter what, “He’s got this.”  Bro. Dewayne

Posted in Family, friends, Grace, gratitude, life, Military memories, Scripture, sovereignty of God, thankful, Trials

Life from the Back Left

For the Lord sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart.” 1 Samuel 16:7b

I guess I got in the wrong line.  I don’t know if there are lines in heaven or not but if there are…I may have missed one or two.  If there is a line for being tall, missed it.  If there is a line for being skinny, missed that one too.  Oh, the line for hair, missed it again. Oh well, I am who I am and probably in a different world I would be alright with at least some of it.  But it seems we live in a world where we are constantly being reminded that we always come up…a little short (pun fully intended).

And speaking of short, the Air Force had this unusual way of reminding you that you weren’t tall.  Now, first, you need to know I really, really enjoyed my time in the Air Force. Once you made it past basic training, in many ways it was like working for any other first-class organization.  Now granted, we were still in the warrior business, but Basic Military Training wasn’t the real Air Force…thankfully.

You see, in Basic, we marched where we went.  I’m sure the Army and Marines do that all the time anyway but once we got out of Basic and tech school, we rediscovered the wonders of buses and cars.  But not so in Basic.  So, it went something like this.  The Drill Sergeant would holler “form up”.  Now we had done this enough that we would get into lines about seven across and seven deep.  The sergeant would then have us do a “right face” and would say, “If you are taller than the man in front of you, tap him on the right shoulder and move up.”  In other words, if you are tall, move up…if you’re short don’t.

Well, I simply waited for the inevitable tap on the right shoulder and sure enough…it came.  Then the sergeant would have us do a “left face” and we would do it all over again. The command came, “If you are taller than the man in front of you, tap him on the right shoulder and move up.” So, the end result was the tallest people were at the right front and the shortest people were in the left back.  Well, it seems I spent a lot of time in the back left.

I’m sure there is a reason for all of this.  It certainly must have looked more uniform, and I guess it probably looked more impressive.  I’m glad we didn’t apply this logic and formula to family photographs.  If we did, some of us would have never been seen.  I always wrestled with things like this because it seemed to make me feel kinda…small.  It sometimes seems that the world places great value on a man’s stature—the taller the better and it is true in so many arenas and places around the world.  But there is one place that it doesn’t matter one bit…and that is the place that matters the most.

You see, when it comes to God, He is not impressed even a little bit with our height, weight, or even how much hair we have.  In fact, He is the one who made us and since He doesn’t make mistakes, well, that means He got it right. When God was choosing the second king of Israel, the search committee naturally assumed the biggest and tallest would be selected.  Well, God said, “Nope.”  It turned out that there was a short, ruddy, teenage shepherd boy that, through God’s prospective, fit the bill perfectly. You see, God looks at the size of the heart and not the height.  He looks on the inside and not the outside.  I like that. A lot.

So, as you journey through life, and you are bugged because it seems you got in the wrong lines in heaven (and just to be clear…there really aren’t any lines) remember that God made you just way He wanted you.  When they were doing the selection process for that king, God said, “For the Lord sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart.”  Well, there you go. You won’t find any of that, “tapping the shoulder thing and moving up” in God’s family. We made us equal and loves us equally.  And if anyone tries to tell you differently, just remind them who’s calling the shots and remember that no matter what, “He’s got this.” Bro. Dewayne

Posted in forgiveness, friends, Grace, gratitude, life, Military memories, priorities, Southern born, thankful, Trials, wisdom

Busted Again

Do not love the world [its ways, its principles] or the things in the world. For everything in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride in one’s possessions—is not from the Father but is from the world.” 1 John 2:15-16

You know, some folks are just slow learners.  My time in Minot was short—from October to April—but filled with memories.  The base was about 20 miles from town and only a couple of guys had cars. We would load up and drive into town at negative twenty degrees with all the windows down to play “freeze out.” We would see how long we could stand the cold.   The radio would be blaring John Denver’s “Take Me Home Country Roads.”  Hey, there wasn’t a lot to do—especially in Minot in the dead of winter.

So, as a southern boy, this cold weather stuff was all new to me.  Some things I just couldn’t get the hang of.  One of those was walking on ice.  Now I had been walking since I was about 18 months old.  The difference was up in Minot you must learn to walk on ice.  The winter of 1972-73 was a great opportunity to do so. I was able to go home for Christmas. I was dreaming of a green and not white Christmas.  Up until that time it had been cold, but we had very little snow.  That was kinda unusual—especially for Minot.

Well, while I was home for Christmas they had a whopper snow —and I’m not talking about Burger King.  Something like two feet of snow fell.  But what happened after the snow was chilling—literally.  It melted…all of it.  Somehow it got well above freezing for a week or so which melted the snow and then it happened.  The temperature plunged to below zero and stayed there.  Forever.

What was left behind were vast sheets of ice.  Everywhere you looked or walked there was ice.  I didn’t have a car which meant I had to walk to and from work.  So, I would put on my arctic parka, my arctic gloves, pull my arctic hood up and take a hike. I would walk one way going and another way coming.  Going to work was not a deal.  I managed to make it without falling…or at least not multiple times.  Going home?  Well, that’s a different story.

About halfway there I would have to walk around the corner of a building.  So, off I go.  I get to this corner and not paying attention, stepped onto a sheet of ice. Bam.  In two seconds flat—I was flat on my back.  Because of the parka nothing was damaged except my pride.  Score one for the ice.  Day two.  I’m walking home and come to the exact same spot.  I eye the ice and ever so carefully step on it and in two seconds flat I am flat on my back.  Bummer.  I crawl back upright, making sure no one is watching, and press on.

Day three. I get to the corner for the third time.  I know the ice is there.  In fact, we’ve become close friends.  I gingerly step on the ice…nothing happens.  As I take my second step and in two seconds -I am flat on my back.  Excuse me?  Is this Ground Hog Day or what?  Anyway, for the third time I crawl off the ice and head on back to the dorm.  By this time more than my pride was bruised.

I know what you are thinking. Why don’t you take a different path?  Why did you keep doing the same thing and expecting different results?  The answer is…I don’t have a clue.  Thought I could beat it? Thought it was closer? Thought if I fell enough, I would break the ice before it broke me?  I don’t know.  I was stubborn. I was a slow learner. I was doing the same thing and expecting different results.

Isn’t that what we do in life?  Don’t we journey along and come to a decision point and fall flat? Don’t we sometimes do it again on Day 2? Day 3?  You know, walking on ice is one thing.  However, flirting with disaster, the kind that has big regrets and bigger consequences, is another. God knows this and tells us not to fall in love with the world—its ways, its principles, its stuff.  Remember your momma saying, don’t date someone you don’t want to marry?  Same principle.  Flirt with the world, date the world and you’ll end up marrying the world.

John—the guy in the Bible—says in 1 John 2:16, “For everything in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride in one’s possessions—is not from the Father but is from the world.” When you say, “I do” with the world you end up with twins—regrets and consequences. Life is harder…a lot harder.  Harder than walking on ice.

So, I finally did take a different route. They say that three times is a charm.  It took me four, but I did learn.  On day four…I didn’t fall. I didn’t fall on day five either. In fact, I don’t remember falling again.  Why? I didn’t go that way. I chose a different route and that route, that path, had different consequences—better consequences.

They also say that three strikes and you are out.  True in baseball but fortunately it isn’t true with God. He keeps picking us up, dusting us off and helping us find the right path—one with less ice.  When I fell, I would quickly look to make sure no one was watching.  When we fall in life, we can rest assured Someone is watching…our Abba Father.  He’s got is His eye on us. So, be careful out there it can be icy but don’t worry, you aren’t alone.  He’s always there. Rest in Him knowing He will be there to pick you up.  After all, He’s got this. Bro. Dewayne