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

Forty-Five Years Ago

And you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” John 8:32

It was forty-five years ago today.  My life has always been steeped in church, God, and stuff.  I think my older brother had something to do with that.  Dad tended to be a CEO attender—you know—Christmas and Easter only.  But even with that said there were other ways that he clearly showed that he and God were on good speaking terms.  Two of my favorite memories are of him praying.  One time he was down on his knees leading us as a family in prayer.  He never stood taller.  The other happened when I came home late from a date and found him talking to our Dearest Father, hands clasped and head bowed.

Now, mama was more faithful at church except when she hit a bump or two. She liked to attend and she would take us with her.  No questions asked.  She sang, she led one of the girl’s classes, and she too was on good terms with Jesus.  But there were a couple of times when her heart got hurt and she would sit out for a little while.  It was then my oldest brother would take over the taxiing job and make sure I got to church.  To this day I am grateful that he did that.  Because of him habitually taking me, there has never been a time when I didn’t go to church.  That was good but what happened forty-five years ago was far better.

Right out of high school I joined the Air Force and ended up stationed in Valdosta, Georgia at Moody Air Force Base.  Since church was such a regular part of my calendar I made it a point to go—a lot.  One Wednesday night I decided to go to one of the local churches.  So I got there, opened the side door and right across the room was Judy Allen.  She was beautiful and right there and then I decided I liked that church—a lot.

I started attending regularly for two reasons.  It was what I was used to doing and Judy was there.  We started dating right away and before too long we were engaged. She was probably too young and I was probably too old but, hey, that is sometimes the way of love.  Well, in June of 1975 she met someone else—another guy.  Fortunately for me it was Jesus.  She, like me, was raised in church but she discovered that going to church and knowing Jesus were two entirely different things.  Jesus waltzed into her life and she was like a new person—an even better person—better than I deserved for sure.

Well, a few months went by and at church one morning, October 26 to be exact, I bumped into the same Man she had met.  Unexpectedly the pastor told a story about a man who had gone to church all his life and then realized he had never met Jesus.  You might say he was religious, but not a Jesus follower.  When I heard about him, I realized that was me—I was the same way—way too religious and way short on knowing Jesus as my best friend. That morning in Valdosta, Georgia at about 10:45 in the morning I met Jesus and my life changed forever.  Jesus didn’t make me perfect that day but He sure made me forgiven.  He put me on a new road and well, it has been amazing.

So, for forty-five years I have walked with Jesus and here I sit today, a pastor for thirty-eight  of those years and writing stories.  And Judy, well, in June of 1976, we decided to walk together and we just never stopped.  Me, Judy, and Jesus—it has been quite the journey. For the past forty-five years, every year, I have celebrated two birthdays.  The first is January 6, the day I was physically born.  But I also celebrate October 26, the day I met Jesus and was spiritually born.

Every time I write a story I love to put a big truth in it about God.  Well this story is a bit different—this time the story is Jesus and what He did for me and wants to do for you.  Remember, don’t make the mistake I did—confusing religion and church with Jesus.  They are not the same—He is a lot better.  He said that we could know the truth and the truth would set us free.  Well, the truth is He loves you, no matter what, more than you can imagine.  The truth is, He wants you to trust Him, to rest in Him.  The truth is He’s got this.  Trust me, I know.

Posted in Family, forgiveness, Grace, life, loving others, prayer, Scripture, wisdom

Got Squirrels?

I am able to do all things through Him who strengthens me.” Philippians 4:13

I just can’t seem to win. It seems we have a continuing wildlife saga in our backyard. I know I have told you about the difficult time I have been having trying to feed the birds in our backyard.  You see my friends the birds left when the food ran out.  It kinda hurt my feelings.  Well, I apologized and went and bought some food and a couple of new feeders and they are slowly coming back! Boy, are they fair weather friends!  But that isn’t the only problem.

I also have squirrel issues.  With winter coming on they are visiting the back yard, the side yard, and every other part of the yard—frequently.  They eat Judy’s flower bulbs, they dig holes everywhere burying nuts for the winter, and then for fun they eat the bird food.  That wouldn’t be a big deal but they want to eat all the bird food—every expensive morsel.  Now there are a couple of options here.  On the one hand we can use some friendly means to dissuade them from visiting—you know, perhaps a 12 gauge shotgun.  The other is to embrace them—remember the Bible says “if you enemy is hungry…feed them.”

Now if the truth were known, I think sometimes (like when they eat her tulip bulbs) Judy would lean toward the 12 gauge…I’m not sure if the intent would be to scare them off or make squirrel stew.  Somehow, though, that just doesn’t seem like the right option. It’s not that I am not that merciful–it’s just that they are so cotton-picking cute and you have to admire their persistence. So, I was prepared to at least help them coexist with us.  And then they ate my bird feeder—literally.

As I said I went to a local store and bought a new finch feeder—the kind that is supposed to discourage anything but a finch from feeding there.  Well, the designers hadn’t taken into account these squirrels.  In one day, they chewed it up, spit it out and consumed the bird food.  I decided it had to be a design flaw so I took it back to the store to see if they would give me a new one—they laughed.

So, why not use the 12 gauge and save the money? Well, first I live in the city limits and they frown on discharging a firearm.  But the truth is they are God’s creation and they have those big brown eyes…the ones that make them look so pitiful…you know, hungry and everything.  As you know, we’ve been learning to “love thy neighborhood” and I suppose that could include squirrels.  We’ve also been learning about how we should “be merciful just like God is merciful.” Do you remember why? “Because He forgives the ungrateful and wicked.” I am certain these squirrels fit both categories.

So, I am working through this.  Tracking with Romans 12, I’m going down the “love thy enemy” checklist. Feeding—check!  Water—Check! Merciful—check! Forgiving—check!  I believe before long the squirrels and I will be best buds.  In fact, maybe this is just practice for loving others who, like the squirrels, are a bit difficult. You see, the scripture isn’t talking about squirrels anyway; it is talking about our family, our friends, our neighbors—and yes, our enemies.  Let me clue you in—loving them is sometimes a whole lot tougher than loving that cute little squirrel.

But do you know what?  We can do it.  Remember that verse in the Bible we all love…the one that says we can do anything with God’s help? Well, it’s time we move from memorizing it and begin applying it.  With His help we can love and care for the most difficult of those who live around us and impact our lives. And do you know what else?  We are never more like Jesus than when we are kind and loving to those who deserve it the least.  I know…I know, we think we are the most like Jesus when we don our Sunday best and head to church.  The truth is we are most like Jesus when we act like Jesus. And, when we truly act like Jesus, all the people around us take notice. They stop “eating our lunch” and begin wanting what we have…Him. Amazing. So, got squirrels?  Just give in and go to the store and buy some corn.  They will still eat your bird food but maybe, just maybe, they’ll be so full of corn they will eat less of the bird food. Got some folks tough to love?  Apply the Word, invite God into the situation and get ready for some work (on your part) and perhaps a miracle (on His part).  Hey, none of us are perfect.  We all have our warts and we all have our weak spots.  Just remember how God goes to great lengths to show you His love every day. He will never grow weary of loving us.  Never has, never will.  When you get all worked up over an overeating squirrel or an unkind or difficult neighbor—just take a break and rest in Him.  He’s got this.

Posted in Family, fear, Grace, gratitude, life, loving others, prayer, priorities, Scripture, thankful, wisdom

Robbed by Mr. Urgency

For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.”  John 3:16

I was robbed.  This is one of those stories I really don’t want to write but I believe at the same time it’s gonna help someone…besides me.  I have been writing stories five days a week now since March.  It has been an incredible journey.  I’ve said this before, but it all started on a whim.  The COVID hot mess was just gaining steam and I felt led to write a story to encourage some folks.  I am not a Facebook person but that was the only avenue I had.  So, I wrote it and posted it on my page.  Amazingly, more than several dozen people read it and most wrote a comment. Those comments were what stirred me on to keep writing.  I decided to answer every comment.

Like utility poles whisking by on a fast moving train, the days went by.  I would write, many of you would write and I would read and write back.  It was so encouraging. It was like a drink of spring water on a hot day.  And then it happened.  In the rush to write, I forgot to take the time to read.  I got busier, and busier and it seemed all I had time to do was write and then write some more.  I would occasionally grab a comment here or there but that was about all I could manage. I had run smack-dab into Mr. Urgent. Judy would help out and read a couple to me, but the bottom line is I let the urgency of the moment rob me of that drink of cold water.  I felt like I had failed you…but just as importantly, I had failed myself.  You see, I was needing what you were saying…desperately.

A week or so ago I determined to go back a week to read what you all had said.  I was gonna do better.  So, I did.  I read, I wrote, and I was encouraged.  But then, thanks to Mr. Urgent I found myself so far behind that I said, “There’s no use trying.”  The good news, and boy do I need some, the good news, is that those precious jewels are safely stored on Facebook and soon I will journey back and read your notes of encouragement and I will be refreshed.  I will smile and I will remember why I do what I do.

As I am writing this, I realize that for me, and perhaps many of you, this isn’t the only time this has happened.  There is something else that Mr. Urgent can keep us from reading, something else that is of even greater importance—God’s Word.  I don’t know your background, but even if it doesn’t include a lot of God, this Book is nothing short of incredible.  Written over several millennia by about 40 authors, this Book is God’s love letter to us.  It is as multifaceted as the most brilliant diamond.  It is amazing.

What I find so impressive is that when you open it at the front and till you close it at the back, it has one theme—that God so loved this broken and imperfect world that He gave His only Son that anybody—let that soak in—anybody that believes in Him can have eternal life.  It really is amazing and it really is true.  As you journey through it you find stories of imperfect people loved and rescued by this infinitely powerful God.  And honestly, the story doesn’t always end like we would want.  But it always ends with one undeniable truth:  God is good, God is faithful, and God can be trusted.

Thank you for reading and writing those encouraging comments.  I may be slow getting there but I hope none of them will be wasted.  And also, watch out for Mr. Urgent. His “tyranny of the urgent” can and will keep you from what really matters. Whether it is time with family or time in God’s Word, he will rob you and leave you beside the road of life wondering what happened.  Be sure and take time, make time to read His amazing story.  Been awhile since you’ve read? Start with the stories about Jesus found in Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John.  I am sure you will be impressed and intrigued.  And shortly, you will discover that this God is the God you can trust—you can lean into—you can rest in.  And yes, you will soon discover that no matter what…He’s got this.

Posted in Family, fear, Grace, gratitude, life, loving others, missions, prayer, Scripture, thankful, wisdom

Unclean, But not Unloved

If you love me, obey my commandments.” John 14:15

Well, it is finally over and I am glad.  I recently discovered this COVID thing is a pain in the neck.  I didn’t have it and I guess a metaphorical pain in the neck is not one of the official symptoms. What I did get to discover is what happens when it gets close.  I also discovered that when COVID comes knocking it’s gonna mess with your normal—like it or not.

A little over a couple of weeks ago, one of our church staff members tested positive for the virus.  When that was reported to the health department it messed with my normal—our normal.  First, because our entire staff had been in a room with the positive case, we all were placed on quarantine.  Like it or not, stomp your foot if you want—we were locked up for two weeks.  Fortunately, no one else got it and today the office at church will be back open. Yay.  Second, because there were several other cases spread across the church family, most not related in any way, we had to go to remote worship for a couple of weeks.  This Wednesday and Sunday we should be back on campus.  Yay.

If you haven’t experienced the quarantine thing…count your blessings.  You might ask, “Dewayne, what was it like?”  Well, I guess it depends on your perspective.  I know it was personally frustrating.  I found myself telling whoever would listen that I didn’t have time to be quarantined.  Of course, being the creative guy that I am, I found a few ways to work around it while not being around people but that is my secret.  Smile.

I think I came away with a better understanding of the impact this has on the lives of people—and not just those who test positive.  The isolation and the stigma reminded me of what  lepers must have gone though in the Bible.  They had to live apart from everyone one else and should they encounter someone they had to holler out, “Unclean, unclean.”  Well, I didn’t encounter anyone so I didn’t do much hollering, but I did wonder when I saw someone from a distance, “What if they knew I was on lock up?  Would they would treat me differently?”  And I decided that they would. I also decided it would hurt my heart.

I wonder how many people we encounter in our walk about world who have been beaten up and scarred by the world who feel the same way?  Do our stares and our intentional avoidance cause them to hurt?  I bet it does.  You know, our eyes and body language sometimes speak louder than our words.  I love the fact that Jesus never avoided the broken ones around Him.  If they had leprosy, He would love them and touch them.  If they were outcast by society because they were prostitutes or tax collectors, He would love them and touch them. If they were Romans soldiers who nailed people to crosses—even Him to His—He would love them and touch them if He could.  I like that…a lot.

COVID gets all the attention now and I guess that’s to be expected.  There’s a lot of positive cases going around.  Businesses are hurting, families are stressing, and people are filled with fear.  What should we do? What can we do?  Well, if you are a Jesus follower, the answer is do what He would do.  Touch them and love them. I know you can’t always physically touch them, but you can reach out with the compassion and love of Jesus. It is amazing how a kind word or gesture can bring comfort, assurance and acceptance.

Like I said, the quarantine for our staff is over and it has been a learning experience.  What is not over is the virus.  What is not over is the brokenness in our world—however big or small that world may be.  What is not over is the need for Jesus people to be like Jesus. He said that if we really love Him, we should keep His commands.  And there are two that are at the top of His list—love God and love people.  One of the best ways to show our love for God is to show His love for those He created.  All of them.  Social status, skin color, or whatever label we tend to put on them just doesn’t matter.  So, when you bump into someone today, either from a distance or up close, be sure and love them like Jesus and leave the details to God.  You can rest in this one essential, nonnegotiable fact:  He’s got this.

Posted in Family, gratitude, life, prayer, sovereignty of God, travel, wisdom

Construction Zone Ahead

For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” Jeremiah 29:11

It was a long time ago, but I remember it well.  Way back, before I knew anything about Harrisburg or Dorrisville Baptist Church, I made a trip to this small town in Southeastern Illinois.  I was pastoring in Cobden, a smaller town by far.  A person associated with our church there was having some mental health issues that required admission to a clinic.  Somehow, they ended up at the center located at the Harrisburg Medical Center.

I wanted to go over and visit them but had no clue how to get there.  This was a time, gulp, before GPS, so I had to rely on directions and an old fashioned map.  I made it to Marion and got off Interstate 57 and followed the road sign pointing to Harrisburg.  Before long, I found myself on a long and winding road (wait… isn’t there a song that goes like that?).  It was the kind of two-lane road that you got to play like a race car driver on.  There were plenty of curves and practically no passing lanes.  I remember coming upon a gigantic crane…I mean HUGE…that was abandoned by one of the coal mines.

Well, the long and winding road was about 24 or 25 miles but because I was blessed to get behind several slow, like really slow, drivers, it seemed like forever.  In fact, when I got to Harrisburg, I had to stop to get a haircut.  You ask, “Well, why didn’t you get one in Cobden?”  The answer is “I didn’t need one then.” Smile.  Anyway (I have to be careful not to get distracted.) I made my visit and then reversed the route.  I remember thinking how isolated Harrisburg was.  I mean you had to be going there to get there. I kinda reminded me of the wagon trains and the Oregon Trail.

Now, fast-forward years…I’m not sure how many…but lots.  My daughter Jennifer was going to try out for the Illinois Baptist State Association All-State Choir and her audition was at Dorrisville Baptist Church in Harrisburg.  When I heard that, I mentally blocked off two days for the trip (ok, I’m being facetious). But I still remember that long and winding road.  Now, imagine my surprise when we exited off the interstate again and followed the signs for Harrisburg and there before us was a four-lane divided highway.  No winding road, no 45 mph speed zones, no no-passing zones—just smooth sailing.  What a change.  What a blessing.  What took the better part of an hour now took 25 minutes.

Obviously, barring a road building fairy, a long and complicated construction project had taken place and replaced the two-lane, long and winding road with a modern highway.  I’m sure it involved multiple construction zones.  I’m sure it involved inconvenience.  I’m sure it involved frustration—though I’m not sure what could have been more frustrating that the original two-laner.  But I bet it all was worth it when the new highway opened and the miles flew by.  It had to be game changer.  Yup, the construction zones had to be worth it.

Well, I was praying this morning and something like this came out of my mouth, “Lord, help me to be patient in the construction zones of my life.”  I paused when I said it because it really grabbed my heart.  The construction zones of my life.  Hmmm.  You see, it made me realize that I am like a construction project and it can be frustrating.  But God is in charge of the project and He does have a plan that He is working out in my life. I know I use this a lot in my writing but it just too good.  Jeremiah 29:11 says, “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”  One day, someday, it will be worth it.  It might be years down the road, or it might even be heaven, but I will see the big picture and I will know that no matter how painful or costly, it was worth it. It.Was.Worth.It.

There’s an old song (my apologies to my younger readers) that says, “It will be worth it all, when we see Jesus. One look at His dear face all sorrows will erase.”  I believe that. So, as you tootle down life’s road and you hit one of those stinking construction zones—hold on and throttle back.  It could be that God is working in one of His mysterious ways.  It might be to bring you into His family or it might be He is just trying to make you a little bit more like Jesus.  One thing I know for sure…it won’t be wasted.  God doesn’t waste time and He doesn’t waste suffering. I like that. If you find yourself in stopped traffic on this road called life, just hit the pause button and breathe deeply.  Then repeat this as many times as you need to, “I choose to rest in Him.  He’s got this.”  There you go.  Now, don’t you feel better already? 

Signpost photo by Markus Spiske on Unsplash

Posted in Family, gratitude, life, prayer, Scripture, thankful

Grade-A Prime Day

I pray that from His glorious, unlimited resources He will empower you with inner strength through His Spirit. Then Christ will make His home in your hearts as you trust in Him. Your roots will grow down into God’s love and keep you strong.” Ephesians 3:16-17

It was a one-of-a-kind day.  If we graded days like meat it would have been USDA Grade-A Prime.  This Grade-A day actually started the night before. I sat on the porch and watched the moon rise, picture framed by Jupiter and Saturn.  Just a few minutes later a magnificent falling star streaked across the sky. We had some smooth jazz music playing but turned it off in favor of the symphony of nature sounds that were playing.  Crickets, tree frogs, cicadas, and a hoot owl all played their song in perfect harmony.

Then came morning. I love fall.  The cooler air and the absence of the “air-you-can-wear” makes me a happy camper. On the morning of this USDA Grade-A Prime day, it all came together.  The sun slowly turned night to day as it pulled back the curtain of darkness and allowed the light to come out and play. We had a great time at church, followed by a lunch of good old Kentucky Fried Chicken with all the fixins’s—mashed potatoes and gravy, baked beans, cole slaw and biscuits.  For dessert I had a nice Sunday afternoon nap.  It was a great day.

After getting up from my Sunday slumber we decided to go gatoring. What is gatoring?  Well, first I made it up.  Second, it is taking a ride through the woods in a John Deere Gator.  It is a two or four wheel drive vehicle that allows you to go most everywhere without getting stuck. So, off we went.  The first thing we noticed was the trees seemed to be changing colors right before our eyes.  Peeks of yellow and red could be found on every tree.  The trail was covered with leaves that had already fallen from their lofty heights.

As we pressed on we saw squirrels scurrying in the forest bottoms.  The ground was covered with hickory nuts and they were busy gathering them to get ready for winter.  We stopped at one spot along the trail to watch a wild turkey.  I don’t know if the fact that Thanksgiving is getting close or not but she took off pretty quickly. I mean it wasn’t like Judy started mixing up dressing or anything.

The prettiest colors came from an unlikely source.  Poison Ivy.  The forest floor was literally covered with it.  Almost every tree had more than one vine growing up its side.  The leaves, normally a rather ordinary color of green, were busting with colors of red and yellow.  Judy and I both wondered how something that could cause so much discomfort on your skin could bring so much wonder to the eyes. Amazing indeed.

We came to a large lake and stopped for a moment.  I said to Judy, “All we need now is for an eagle to swoop down and grab a fish from the lake.”  Just moments after the words left my lips two adult eagles in all their glory—-heads hooded in white as were their tail feathers and a large massive body and wingspan—launched from a nearby tree.  They didn’t grab a fish as they glided over the lake but they didn’t need too—I was already impressed beyond words.

As they glided over the water away from us and out of sight, we moved on and too soon we were back at the house.  I looked at Judy and said for what seemed like the 10th time.  “Judy, what an incredible day.”  And what made it so incredible wasn’t all that we had seen—oh, no,  it was the incredible Creator behind it all.  Every smallest detail was made by Him and that day, well, it seemed it was all just for us.

I know I say it a lot but let me say it again.  In this crazy, upside-down world where the tiniest of germs cause the greatest fear, where injustice has divided our nation and  where the word “indivisible” in our pledge almost seems out of place—in this world—there is still hope.  It is not a time to give up—it is a time to press on.  It is not a time to quake in fear, it is a time to stand in faith—not faith in ourselves but faith in Him who made it all.

The Bible encourages us to trust in the One who rules it all.  It tells us to rest in the fact that the Son of God who died for the sins of the whole world wants to make His home with us and in us. How amazing is that.  But the best part is that it tells us to sink our roots deep into His love.  You see a root draws up whatever it is tapped into—in this case—that is the love of God.  And you know…that is exactly what we and the world need—His love.  So the next time a Grade-A Prime Day shows up—enjoy it, rest in it because He made it with you in mind.  As His child you need to know He is real partial to you so rest in Him.  Oh, and never forget, He’s got this.

Posted in Family, fear, forgiveness, Grace, gratitude, life, loving others, prayer, Scripture, thankful, wisdom

Facing Down Mortality

Jesus told Martha, “I am the resurrection and the life. Anyone who believes in Me will live, even after dying. Everyone who lives in Me and believes in Me will never ever die. Do you believe this?” John 11:25-26

I look and see my mortality.  Now don’t think for a moment this is one of those “Debbie Downer” stories.  In fact, in a way, it might be the best news you will hear all day, all week, well, for always.  So, I am sixty-six years old.  I know, I can’t believe it either. And all around me are signs that I am mortal.  Remember that—all of us are mortal. I have been at my present position as a pastor for 20 years.  I came to the church I serve in 2000 when I was 46 years old.  I must have dozed off because just like that 20 years of life have ticked off the calendar.  My children are married, I have eight grandchildren and Judy and I have now been married 44 years.  And the best part?  It has been, and is, a great ride.

But then I did the math.  When, and if, the next 20 years tick off the clock called life, I will be 86 years old.  I find that astounding.  We Taylor boys don’t have a real good track record when it comes to longevity.  Three of my four brothers, all older than me, have already moved to heaven.  Our clock is ticking and we don’t know when the last tick will come.  It is a sobering thought.  But stay with me.

I live my life by the calendar.  I speak to my church every Wednesday and every Sunday. It seems I no more finish one message before it is time to deliver the next.  The weeks fly by.  Every first of the month I speak on the radio on a local program called “The Baptist Hour.”  My tag line is, “Can you believe another month has come and gone?” And the answer each month is, “No, I really can’t.” I remember on the first of February, after a speedy January, I made a joke about it being Christmas before we know it.  Well, next week is the first of October and Christmas is indeed just around the corner. Time flies by.  It is a sobering thought.  But stay with me.

Part of “The Baptist Hour” is the reading of the funeral arrangements of those who recently died.  Invariably there are several, often more than a few.  I’m learning that too often the names being read belong to people my age or younger.  Recently an acquaintance in our small town suddenly died—a massive heart attack.  He was younger than me.  That really caused me to stop and ponder.  It was a sobering thought.  But stay with me.

Here’s what I am learning.  Time is relative.  We are eternal beings made and destined to spend forever somewhere.  That destination doesn’t depend on good or bad, church or no church, religion or not.  Does that surprise you?  You see, heaven isn’t for good people and hell isn’t for bad people. No, where we spend eternity is about forgiveness of sin and that forgiveness is a free gift from God to anyone…anyone…who asks.  I believe faith in Jesus is the only way to heaven. I know that sounds narrow but when you consider that God invites everyone to the party—well, it is really pretty broad. We read in the Bible that the payment for sin is death and radically Jesus came for one purpose—to willingly die and pay that price.

So, if we are eternal beings and if we place our trust, our faith in this one of a kind, God-man named Jesus, that means that when we die we can spend eternity in this place called heaven.  When Jesus said that if anyone would believe in Him they would never die—that’s what He meant. And then He closes with that all important question, “Do you believe this?”

With Jesus in the equation, death isn’t the end, it is a beginning.  That might sound wacky to you.  However, before you chuck it out I challenge you to check it out.  Get a copy of the Bible and read the four different accounts or stories about Jesus—Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. You might find yourself intrigued and amazed.

I read a true story yesterday about a man’s perception of his mortality. This guy happened to be a minister and he went to the doctor and got some sobering news.  He was terminally ill with no chance of recovery. The doctor told him he had about a year to live.  He left the doctor’s office and went to one of his favorite spots—you know, to kinda take it in. Now, allow me to let the man tell his story. “I looked at the river in which I rejoice, and I looked at the stately trees that are always God’s own poetry to my soul. And I said, ‘I may not see you many more times, but mountain, I shall be alive when you are gone; and river, I shall be alive when you cease running toward the sea.’”

Wow…what wonderfully strong words.  If this whole God story is true, and I honestly believe it is, then people who trust that Jesus is the path to God and heaven, will outlive the mountains and the rivers. We may change addresses but we will live forever.  I know this is probably a different kind of story than we usually share together, but I hope it will make us think about what happens next. For myself and so many others, it makes all the sense in the world—and beyond.  I’m grateful for the eternal part but I also love the part of the story that says He is with me now—COVID mess and all.  I can rest in Him and trust in Him because, He’s got this.

Posted in Family, Grace, life, prayer, priorities, Scripture, wisdom

Alexa….STOP THE MUSIC!

But Martha was distracted with much serving. And she went up to him and said, “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Tell her then to help me.” But the Lord answered her, “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things, but one thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her.” Luke 10:40-42

I am so easily distracted.  I mean if there is more than one thing going on at a time I flounder.  One of the great miracles of modern time is that when I am on stage speaking, I walk, talk and breathe all at the same time.  Probably more of a miracle is the fact that I have not fallen off the stage—yet. I’m sure there is a syndrome or something for people like me—I think they spell it “man” or “men,” if it is plural.

I try to have a quiet time each morning.  A quiet time is when you set apart some time to read the Bible and pray.  It is a great way to begin or end the day.  The name is very appropriate.  For me, it must be quiet.  Sometimes I like to change things up, and in the process get too many things going on—which usually means more than one.  It’s like going through a buffet line. We have to be careful not to get too much on our plate.  Well, sometimes that happens to me in my quiet time. Let me explain.

First, I do my quiet time thing on my iPad.  I use the YouVersion app and it is just incredible.  If you own a smartphone or a tablet of some sort you can download the app from the Apple or Android store for free.  It has all kinds of devotions and reading plans as well as a zillion translations of the Bible.  Even if you speak Swahili, they can fix you up.  No kidding.  One of the totally cool features of the app is that it will read the Bible to you. Amazing.

Well, the other day, I was about to start my quiet time and decided I would try some soft music. I asked Alexa, who lives with Judy and me, to play some music. I said, “Alexa please play Christian instrumental music on Pandora.”  As always, she was so kind and said she would be glad to do that.  In a few seconds beautiful music was wafting through the air in my office.  Then I opened my YouVersion app and began to read.  I was able to pull that off pretty well, but I really had to concentrate on the words on the page and not the words of the songs that were playing.  Just to be as clear as mud, the words weren’t really playing—they were just playing in my head. I told you, I get easily distracted.

Well, scripture is a part of most every devotion in YouVersion so after I had read the devotion, I mashed the button that started the app reading to me.  That’s when things went south.  The beautiful music is wafting through the air and now this guy was reading God’s word to me and the two collided in my brain.  I found I couldn’t focus on either one.  The same thing happens when I am watching the news and Judy comes in and starts chatting.  It is an audio disaster.  And then, as if it couldn’t, it got worse.

In my home office I have several clocks and one of them plays the beautiful Westminster chimes. Well, while my brain was struggling with the music and the guy reading to me—the clock went off. It was the top of the hour and it began playing its melody.  And what would normally be one of my favorites sounds, all of a sudden pushed me over the edge.  If a quiet time is supposed to make you more spiritual…it, or rather I, failed.  As the music is wafting, the guy is reading, and the clock is dinging—I lost it.

With all that going on, I shouted, yes shouted, at my friend Alexa, “Alexa, STOP THE MUSIC!” Oh my, did I feel bad.  She did and at about the same time the clock stopped dinging and the guy stopped reading.  Suddenly…there were only the sounds of silence and the Whisperer whispering, “Dewayne, it’s ok.  Don’t let all this stuff that doesn’t matter get to you.  Just listen for Me and to Me and everything else will fall into place.”  That’s it.  That was the message for the quiet time that day.  I told my Father I was sorry for getting all frustrated and, as always, He gently whispered words of forgiveness.

In the Bible a woman named Martha got all frustrated and distracted too and Jesus told her the same thing.  He told her not what she wanted to hear but what she needed to hear. He told her that she was all worked up over nothing.  I guess it’s good to know that I’m not the only one who gets distracted and frustrated. Did I mention annoyed? Jesus invited Martha to come have a seat with Him and rest and it’s the same invitation He gives us.  I like that.  And do you know what? No matter the mess, it’s just good to know that He’s got this.

Posted in Family, Grace, gratitude, life, prayer, Scripture, thankful, travel, wisdom

Wonderful Night – Night of Wonders

The heavens proclaim the glory of God. The skies display His craftsmanship. Day after day they continue to speak; night after night they make Him known. They speak without a sound or word; their voice is never heard.” Psalm 19:1-3

It was a wonderful, wonder filled night.  It was Friday night and it was beautiful.  After a day of cool temperatures and clear skies the sun bowed out and night moved in.  My wife and I decided to build a fire out on our patio and just enjoy the evening.  So using my incredible fire building skills, which included opening one of those wax logs and lighting it, we soon were enjoying its warmth. It was perfect. As the smoke rose into the crystal clear sky it caused me to pause and be amazed.  I agreed with God. After He was done with creation, He said it was very good.  He was right.

The slowly rising smoke caused me to look to the skies.  As darkness settled in, slowly, ever so slowly, the stars came out for their evening performance.  That was good too.  And then I noticed what we see and rarely stop to ponder.  Streaking across the sky was a jetliner.  By now it was only visible because of its flashing navigation lights.  Here’s what is so amazing.  That cylinder tube with wings was flying at about 30,000 feet…that’s almost six miles up in the sky.  It weighed in at approximately 175,000 pounds and was carrying dozens of people.  Pause.  A man-made object, weighing 87.5 TONS is effortlessly moving through the sky at a speed of right around 500 miles per hour.  That is amazing.

Now you may be one of those folks who believe that we humans showed up from a glob of jelly laying on a beach somewhere but personally, I don’t have that much faith.  I believe that there is a Creator God and He made us…fearfully and wonderfully…He made us.  How else do you explain 87.5 tons zipping through the air?  You could cite the law of aerodynamics but even that law was figured out and applied by God’s most wonderful creation.  But it gets better.

A little later I told Judy that it would be very cool if the space station flew over.  Now this modern marvel flies out in space—that’s why it is called the “space” station.  Get ready to be amazed.  It flies 240 miles above the earth at a speed of 17,136 miles an hour.  It weighs in at 925,000 pounds.  Currently there are three people on board, an American and two Russians and they have been on board for 165 days.  Can someone say, “amazing?”

Well, my neighbor happened to come home and we were chatting.  He looks up and says, “Oh, there goes a satellite.” I got up and looked and it wasn’t a satellite…it was the space station and it was amazing.  I have seen it several times but each time I am just amazed.  I’m amazed not at what man built as much as the God who created man and gave him the intellect and ability to create and build.  Once again…God and I agreed…it was very good.

The night crept on and I look up again and noticed one very bright star in the Southern sky accompanied by a little sister just to its left.  I asked Judy, “I wonder what star that is?”  So, we got on our handy iPhones and looked it up.  It turns out that they were not stars at all but two of the planets that circle our sun…Jupiter and Saturn.  Jupiter was the star of the show by far—pun intended.  Here’s what is really amazing.

The light that I saw coming from Jupiter that night had travelled 43 minutes through space to get to earth.  That may not seem too impressive until you consider the speed of light is 186,000 miles per SECOND. How’s that for a wow? You see, as wonderful as jetliners and space stations are…they pale to what God did all by himself.  I just had to agree with God again…it is very good.

But Jupiter is just one small planet in our small solar system, that is a small part in our relatively small galaxy called the Milky Way.  And beyond our little galaxy there are millions and millions of galaxies.  What we see with our naked eye is just a fraction of all that is out there.  And all of it exists for one reason and one reason only.  The Bible tells us that the heavens are there to declare the glory of God.  All of those stars, solar systems, and galaxies are there to sing the praises of our incredible God.  And He is worth every note and million, zillion more besides.

Tonight, if the skies are clear, go out and take a peek.  You might see a jetliner streaking across the sky and maybe even the space station, but what you certainly will see is God’s choir singing the praises of their creator.  Maybe you should join them in a chorus or two.  Oh, and be sure and sing what should be your favorite God song.  It goes something like this, “I can rest in the arms of my Dearest Daddy for He holds me secure.  I can go to sleep tonight knowing He has this…because He does.”  Amen. 


Photo credit: Austin Kennedy, the Shawnee National Forest, September 29. 2020

Posted in Family, gratitude, life, prayer, Scripture, Southern born, thankful, wisdom

Bang, Bang

Wait on the Lord; be of good courage, and He shall strengthen your heart; wait, I say, on the Lord!” Psalm 27:14

I waited and waited and it seemed like it would never come. People say that good things come to those who wait.  I’ve heard that a lot but I’m not sure I believe it.  In fact, I’m not even sure I know what it means.  But one thing is sure…I know what it means to wait…especially if it involves the government and a by-pass.

When I came to Harrisburg in 2000, we bought a house on West Poplar Street. Now back in those days that was THE main drag.   Every car and truck going East and West through Harrisburg had to travel down Poplar Street.  When we looked at the house we were told that a by-pass was on the planning board and would be done within five years.  Well, that sounded pretty good, so we bought the house and waited…and waited…and waited.  As it turned out it was a little longer than five years.  In fact—it was almost twelve.

Now in our 20th year at 217, I am grateful, very grateful, that the by-pass finally came. I know some folks weren’t sure we even needed one and some went another way so they are indifferent.  You might ask, “What’s the big deal about the by-pass?  Well if you have ever lived on West Poplar Street…you would know.

You see, Mr. Bob, my neighbor back in the days before the by-pass, told me that he counted in one day, and 60 semi-trucks went by his house in one hour–that is one per minute.  In those days there were probably more coal trucks, but believe me there were  still plenty of trucks.  You kinda wondered where in the world they were all going.

Now check this out…for the first seven years…count them 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7 years or 2,555 days, there was a hole in the road right before my house. Every time a semi-truck went by it would hit that hole with a resounding “BANG.”  Allowing for 60 trucks an hour and 12 driving hours in a day that equates to 1,839,600 bangs. Remember how people say if you live by a railroad track long enough you stop hearing the whistle?  Trust me…that does not apply to bangs.

Now do you understand why I was so excited about the bypass?  Oh, and did I mention waiting two or three minutes just to get out of my driveway?  So, we waited and finally in 2012, the bypass opened and traffic was drastically reduced. Oh, and gravy on the mashed potatoes…they even fixed the hole.

I guess it is true, good things come to those who wait.  But waiting is hard.  There was a lady in the gospels who was sick for twelve long years…about the same time I waited for the by-pass.  She had been to doctor after doctor and the only thing that left her was all her money.  Then she met Jesus and He changed everything. She was overwhelmed with gratitude.

I supposed that is the one good thing about waiting. When, and if, what you are waiting on comes to pass, you are usually pretty grateful.  She was, I am, and you would be too.  The psalmist writes, “Wait on the Lord; be of good courage, and He shall strengthen your heart; wait, I say, on the Lord!” (Psalm 27:14)

Down in the South we say, “a watched pot never boils.” Well that isn’t true…it will boil, but it sure seems to take longer. So, if there is something in your life and you are praying and you are waiting, be patient.  Wait on the Lord and who knows, your “by-pass” may come too.  All this COVID hot mess has definitely stuck around longer than I ever thought. I still believe, though, that it hasn’t come to stay…it has come to pass.

I think this afternoon I will go sit in my quieter front yard and take a rest with the God who made all of this.  He even had a big hand in the by-pass! After that, I’ll just remind myself that no matter what…He’s got this.