Posted in fear, forgiveness, Grace, gratitude, life, loving others, missions, prayer, priorities, Scripture, thankful, travel, Trials, wisdom

Perseverance

Trust in the Lord with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding. Seek His will in all you do, and He will show you which path to take.” Proverbs 3:5-6

Perseverance…don’t quit.  In my inventory of weaknesses is something that I wish wasn’t.  I would like to tell you that I have the perseverance of a thoroughbred race horse bolting from the gate with only one goal—to finish and to finish first.  And while I am not a quitter, I do sometimes, “peter out.”  Merriam Webster defines that as “to gradually become smaller, weaker, or less before stopping or ending”.

During 2020 there were too many times when I just wasn’t sure I was going to finish well—or finish at all.  But that wasn’t always a bad thing because it caused me to look inwardly and upward—to my Dearest Daddy.

During those times when I wasn’t sure of much of anything, it was then that I found myself turning to the One who was sure.  When my steps were unsure, I found myself tracking with the One whose steps were rock solid and sure.  I think 2020 taught me something of hanging in there—to persevere—to keep going.  While I was out west this past May I saw it over and over again.  First, it was a wild flower blooming in what can only be called dust.  The roots had somehow dug deep and found the water of life.  I saw it in a small tree as it grew from a crevice in a large rock.  It made no sense but somehow that tree decided there was a way to grow in an impossible place.

I saw it too from another small tree growing from a large rock in the middle of a lake.  There was no soil to be found and yet it grew…it persevered.  It decided that it would survive, it would thrive, even though the odds were totally against success.  You see, the Bible is filled with stories of men and women who trusted God against all odds.  A shepherd boy becomes a king, another “has-been” shepherd leads a million or so people to a new land—the promised land.  A band of eleven men from various walks of life chose to follow a young rabbi (who happened to be the Son of God) and the message they shared changed the world.

All of these folks failed at one time or another, but they didn’t quit.  They chose to persevere.  If you wonder how America has lasted for these 245 years, there are two reasons.  The hand of God and the perseverance of ordinary men and women who gave what they had for a cause they believed in. A.Cause.They.Believed.In.

We have survived one of the greatest challenges we have faced in our lifetime—the pandemic of 2020. However, I am sure the greater enemy wasn’t the pandemic, but rather the division that swept our land like a wildfire. Someone wiser than you or me once said that a house divided against itself cannot stand—Jesus said that before Lincoln did.

William Carey, a great missionary, once said, “The future is as bright as the promises of God” and I believe that is true today.  But we need to learn from the founding fathers, from the men who stormed Normandy or trudged through the jungles of Vietnam or froze on the hills of Korea.  We have to learn again to trust the hand of God.  The Bible says that we should trust God with everything we have and turn away from the tendency to trust ourselves.  If we do that…He will guide us…He will direct us.  We also need to learn the lesson of that small tree growing from that giant rock.  We will not quit, we will persevere—we will find life in the most unlikely of places.  Trust God and don’t quit.  That sounds like a plan.

With the pandemic largely in the rearview mirror, it seems to some degree we have been given a second chance.  I hope we will take advantage of this gift God has given us.  I hope we will learn the power of perseverance and the power of four simple words, “Love God…Love People.”  I may not know what tomorrow holds but I do know the One who holds tomorrow and that is good enough for me.  I am certain no matter what, that as always, “He’s got this.”

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

June 12th

Give thanks to the LORD, for He is good; for His steadfast love endures forever!” 1 Chronicles 16:34 (ESV)

I wonder if one day is really enough.  It was in 1863 when President Lincoln decided that we needed to have a defined day of Thanksgiving.  So, the final Thursday in November was so designated.  Later, on October 31, 1939, and strictly for business reasons, Franklin Roosevelt redesignated it as the next to last Thursday in November and since then that has been the day we celebrate Thanksgiving.  But wait, it isn’t November, and in fact, it is nowhere near November, so what gives?

Well, what gives is June 12th.  You see, I graduated from high school on June 8, 1972 and the following Monday, June 12th, I left for basic training in the United States Air Force.  It wasn’t a matter of strategic planning but rather a slight misunderstanding.  A friend suggested we join together under what was called, “The Buddy Plan.”  Two guys could join together, go through basic together and then be assigned together for their first assignment.  Well, we agreed, I signed up and he didn’t.  But here’s the deal.  I am absolutely certain that God sovereignly planned that for my good and His glory.

It turned out the Air Force was a good move for me.  It taught me dozens if not hundreds of life disciplines that have served me well all of my life.  God used the Air Force to position me to meet my wife Judy and then to teach us how to pick up and move when an authority said too.  For us, and between the Air Force and God, that included a year in Georgia, three years in Germany, six years in Missouri and finally 35 years in Illinois.  We learned to go when and where we were told, and we learned to trust.  It also helped us forge a strong marriage that has seen us through 45 years of adventures.

It turned out that God was also using the Air Force to prepare me for the real purpose of my life—our lives together—the pastorate.  Strangely, but really not, it was also on another June 12th, this one in 1983, that I was ordained into the gospel ministry.  And because God has a great sense of humor, I found myself pastoring a church with, well to be blunt, no training whatsoever.  I well remember I was filling in at a church when they asked me to be their pastor. I told them I didn’t know how to do that.  They replied, “Don’t worry, we will teach you.” And do you know what?  They did.

The game changer was the fact I was trained as an administrative specialist in the Air Force and when God spoke to my heart with a new set of “orders,” I was prepared.  Twelve years of administration were like twelve years of on-the-job training for the pastorate.  I learned to write, research, organize and manage an office.  When I stepped out of the Air Force and into a church office, I was strangely at home.  Of course, nothing could prepare me for what has sometimes been a wild ride of pastoring a church.  It has been a journey, a glorious, “you’ve got to be kidding me,” ride.

As I glance in the rearview mirror of my life, I am overwhelmed with the incredible goodness of God and that has led me to this conclusion—one day is not enough.  We need Thanksgiving but even more we need to celebrate, “Thanks-living.”  As you can probably guess, Thanks-living is understanding the importance of living a life that celebrates the goodness of God every day.  Someone said that there are two ways to live life—nothing is a miracle or everything is a miracle.  I’ll take the latter.  Also, I think the heart of those brief words speak to being grateful too.  Everywhere, everyday there is something to be grateful for.

So, tomorrow, is a special day for me and Judy.  Even though she wasn’t there for the first June 12th, she was there for the second and every one since.  She has been my best friend, my ministry partner and my cohort in our many adventures. I thank God for her, our family, and the countless folks we have met along the way.  The Bible tells us to, “Give thanks to the LORD, for He is good; for His steadfast love endures forever!” I think that is a pretty awesome idea.  I don’t know what the years ahead hold, but if it is anything like the past, it’s gonna be a great ride and of course, no matter what, He’s got this.  Bro. Dewayne

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

Sleepy Lions

Stay alert! Watch out for your great enemy, the devil. He prowls around like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour.” 1 Peter 5:8

We found him sleeping in the grass.  Sound asleep.  A while back I had the privilege of going to Uganda and visiting with Watoto ministries.  The trip allowed me to see the incredible work of Watoto up front and personal.  They work with orphaned babies and children as well as single mothers.  They raise the kids to become Christian leaders and help the mothers provide for their families.

Part of the trip involved us going to Northern Uganda to see the work there. It also gave us the opportunity to take a one-day safari.  A safari gives you the opportunity to see animals in the wild.  You are on their turf and their terms.  We saw a large variety of animals but there was one we all wanted to see.  The lion.  It is like the holy grail of safaris–to see the “king of the jungle.”

Our guide that day just happened to be one of park rangers, so he had access to areas others did not.  So off we went.  Before long there was a report of a lion sleeping in a tree.  We went cross country and before long, bam, there was a lion…sound asleep.  Well, it was pretty incredible–asleep or not. We snapped about a hundred pictures of our sleeping friend and moved on.

We drove for about 30 minutes and another report came of a group of lions about 50 yards off the road.  Our guide, the ranger, told the driver to drive though the ditch and he did.  Sure enough, there were the lions.  There were about five or six of these magnificent beasts–all sound asleep.  What is up with lions and sleeping?

Well, it turns out that lions sleep 20 hours a day.  They hunt, eat and sleep.  That’s about it. Our driver gets to within five or six feet of the sleeping feline.  Our guide shouts, the driver honks the horn and nothing.  And then he does something totally unexpected.  He throws water on the lion.

What? Excuse me? Well, the king of the jungle, who turned out to be a queen, sits up, yawns and looks at us.  Hmmm…this lion thing is not what it is cracked up to be.  You would be tempted to think that every lion was like this lion.  That would be a mistake.

You see, there are some nasty lions out there and they would like to invite you to lunch. Lions are vicious predators and will eat you. I’ve watched enough National Geographic shows to know that not all lions are created equal.  I also know this.  Not all lions live in Africa.  In fact, there is one who lives close–very close.  He doesn’t have a mane or a tail, but he does have an appetite.  His name isn’t Mufasa or Simba. It is Satan.

The Bible, in 1 Peter 5:8, says this, “Stay alert! Watch out for your great enemy, the devil. He prowls around like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour.” On the safari we stayed alert looking for a lion. In this case we need to stay alert because the lion is looking for us.  And guess what?  He’s looking for lunch.

Peter said Satan is like a roaring lion.  If you’ve studied lions a bit, you know that a lion doesn’t roar when its stalking prey.  A lion roars for two different reasons.  One, he is declaring his dominance.  He is claiming his territory. This is mine.  He also roars to invite others to join his pride. The devil does both.

Satan is always roaring saying “this is mine and that is mine” but nothing is truly his. Nothing. It belongs to a much larger, much stronger Lion–the Lion of Judea. Satan is a liar–remember that. He wouldn’t know the truth if it stared him in the face. No pun intended.

He is also looking for others to join his pride.  He is looking for people who are discouraged and disheartened with life and with God and inviting them to join him.  Joining him is a big mistake. He is a loser, and he knows it.  That is why he is roaring so loudly.  His time is limited and he wants to take as many with him as he can.

Now if you are a believer, Satan can’t steal your salvation, but he can steal your peace, your character, your witness, your family, your integrity–well the list goes on and on.  That is why Peter said, “Stand firm against him, and be strong in your faith.” Peter knew from experience just how good Satan is at taking what is not rightfully his.

Jesus said in John 10:10 “The thief comes to steal, kill and destroy.”  That’s the enemy but Jesus isn’t done speaking. He goes on to say, “I have come to give you life and life more abundantly.”  He is saying, “if you trust Me, the Lion of Judah, you can rest in Me. I’m never asleep and I’m never out-gunned. I’ve got this.” And, He does. Bro. Dewayne

Posted in Family, Grace, gratitude, life, prayer, priorities, Scripture, sovereignty of God, thankful

Herbert

The Lord directs the steps of the Godly. He delights in every detail of their lives.” Psalm 37:23

It stands tall.  When we moved to 217 West Poplar Street our yard was a blank slate.  The house had sat empty for more than a few years and while someone made sure the grass was cut, no one cared if it was beautiful.  When my wife Judy came…all that began to change.  Somewhere along her journey she acquired what can only be described as a green thumb. She has a way with plants that causes them to grow…to succeed.  What was once a blank slate is now a garden, lush and green, with many kinds of plants, trees, and flowers.

Her style, though planned, is not one that is starchy or stiff.  The flowers and plants are allowed to grow freely…to multiply.  While there are times when pruning has to be done and digging has to occur, largely they are allowed to “bloom where they are planted.”  The best example of that is Herbert the tree.  I need to tell you that I just named the tree Herbert.  I thought it might add more human interest to the story.  Anyway, several years ago, a maple tree began to grow in one of our flower beds.  Now, honestly, that usually doesn’t end well for the tree.  But this one, well, somehow the story turned out differently.

Herbert started growing too close to the fence in our front yard.  I can say with certainty that he was probably cut down a couple of times and each time he came back.  So finally, somehow, we decided to let him grow—and he did.  Time gets away from us all and it may be longer than I think, but I think Herbert is now about five years old.  He has grown from a little maple sapling into a 25-30 foot tall tree.  He was planted by nature, but it was our decision to let him grow…to bloom where he was planted.  I’m glad we did.

Herbert is now big enough to provide some shade in our front yard and he also adds depth and dimension to our yard and now, for the first time, when I rake leaves in the fall, at least some of them are mine and not my neighbor’s.  Somehow that is satisfying. A friend says I should have cut Herbert down a long time ago…you know, wrong place. But I told him that we were going to give him a chance.  While the place nature put him isn’t the best, he is a constant reminder to us to grow, to flourish, wherever God plants us.

Our life has been a series of great adventures.  While some folks choose to grow in the same community all of their lives and maybe live in the same house…well, ours has been different.  It really wasn’t us making the call…I believe it was a sovereign God working and planning what He thought best for us.  Our path isn’t your path, but it was the one that God chose for us.  One of the writers of the Jewish hymnbook in what we call the Old Testament said, “The Lord directs the steps of the Godly. He delights in every detail of their lives.”  In other words, life, and especially the life of someone who follows Jesus, isn’t a series of accidents and circumstances but rather the handiwork of a Master Gardener. And for those Jesus followers, well that Master Gardener just happens to be their Dearest Daddy.

So, when you drive by our house on Poplar Street take a look at Herbert.  He lives by the alley and by the fence on the East side of our front yard.  Notice that he is closer to the fence than he should be but also remember that he is simply, “blooming where he was planted.”  It seems to be working out well for Herbert and guess what?  It seems to work out well for us humans too. Regardless of where you’ve been planted and regardless of the soil—just keep trusting the Master Gardner…He’s got this.  Bro. Dewayne

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

Heroes

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

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 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 pretty frequently.  It must have been during one of our forays that we came to it—Luxembourg American Cemetery.  It was one of the most hollowed 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, 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 super hero 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.  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

Posted in Family, fear, Grace, gratitude, life, prayer, Scripture, Trials

Murphy’s Law

 Catch the foxes for us, the little foxes that spoil the vineyards, for our vineyards are in blossom.” Song of Solomon 2:15

 Hi Grits family.  Hey, Judy and I are out of pocket for the next two days, so we are giving you the opportunity to revisit some of our favorites.  So, God bless, enjoy and we will see you soon.

Good ole Murphy.  You have probably heard about a thing called Murphy’s Law.  The bottom line is that if something can go wrong…it probably will. I have been a strong believer in Murphy’s Law for a long time.  In fact, I bet if I checked ancestry.com this Murphy fella is somehow related to me.  Now I know if you are one of those optimistic folks you are not a believer.  You probably don’t believe in Big Foot either.  Well, hey, I’m a believer.  Let me give you a couple of examples.

I have a 100 foot water hose that we use to water plants, wash the car, all kind of things.   When I am done with the hose and it is time to roll it back up, there is a 90% probably that the hose will catch on something—a flower pot, a rock, a crack in the sideway, or even an ant. When it catches, it kinks and I will have to walk out and unkink it.  And…there is 67.5 % chance that it will kink again.  There you go…Murphy’s Law.

Are you up for one more?  So, let’s say I am installing a light fixture in the bedroom and I have to screw three screws in to hold it. There is a 94.75 percent chance that I will drop at least one of the screws from atop the six foot ladder, that it will roll 7.5 feet over toward the wall and that it will drop into the heating or air conditioning vent.  AND there is a 100% chance that I will not have a replacement screw AND a 84% chance that no one in town will either.  See, it is Murphy’s Law—undeniable, irrefutable, you gotta believe it, proof.

Now the good thing about Murphy’s Law is that most of the things it involves won’t kill you or even cause serious injury …but it will definitely drive you crazy.  I’ve lived long enough to come to the conclusion that it isn’t the major disasters in life that steal our joy, rob us of peace, or make us want to move to Montana.  No, it is the little things.  One of my favorite verses is tucked away in one of those Bible books we never read—the Song of Solomon.  Trust me—don’t read it to your kids before bedtime—or maybe anytime.

Well, right in the middle of the book is this jewel, “Catch the foxes for us, the little foxes that spoil the vineyards, for our vineyards are in blossom.” The author, who is a guy named Solomon, is saying he is not worried about a herd of elephants stomping and ruining his grapevines.  Nope.  He realized the danger is from those pesky little foxes that come along and eat the harvest one grape at a time.  One.grape.at.a.time.

In these crazy days that have become some kind of new normal there are some elephants out there.  The reality is that the corona virus can be very dangerous. There is a pretty small chance that I will get it.  There is an even smaller chance that it will kill me.  But there is just about a 100% chance that it and all its circumstances have and will  mess with me. And that’s the problem—worrying about things that mess with me, things I can’t change, and the Rolaids stock goes right through the roof.  Those stinking, pesky little foxes. We should be wary of the elephants, but let’s not give too much time and energy to the little foxes.

The foxes can and will mess with us.  If we allow them they can cause us to be frustrated and even angry.  They can mess with our peace, our joy, our relationships and even our sleep.  But the truth is our God is greater than any elephant or any fox. All we have to do us trust Him—to lean into Him.  The writer of Proverbs says it this way, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and don’t lean into your own understanding.  In all your ways, acknowledge Him and He will make your paths straight.”  There you go…trust and acknowledge and He will straighten this mess out.

So, the next time the hose kinks or the screw disappears just remember Murphy is at work.  The choice of what we do when he visits is ours.  I think we should just probably introduce him to our Friend Jesus.  We should let him know there isn’t room for he and Jesus in our circle of friends.  Someone has to go and Murphy—it is you.  So long Murphy.  I’m gonna go rest in Jesus.  He’s got this.  Bro. Dewayne

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

It Was Hard

For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is going to be revealed to us.”  Romans 8:18

And then I remembered…it was hard.  I was looking for a picture to use in one of my Grit’s stories and that caused me to go back…to reminisce…to remember.  It was 2007 and I was part of a vision trip to Niger, West Africa to check out the possibilities of our church ministering in that West Africa country.  It involved an incredibly long flight which included a 12-hour layover in Casablanca, Morocco.  This was new territory for all four team members and trust me it was an adventure.  Perhaps my favorite, and most eye-opening part, was when I asked a coffee shop owner if he took dollars.  His only response was a shrug of the shoulders that seemed to say, “What is a dollar?”  Apparently, I had found a place that didn’t think America was the center of the universe.

Later that day, we continued our journey to Niger and arrived near midnight and I was sure we had somehow been diverted and landed on the moon.  The landscape, the sounds, the sights, the smells and the culture were so different…and that was just the beginning. Though I had spent three years in Europe and made a journey to the Eastern European country of Bulgaria, nothing prepared me for this.  Even though we were in the capital city of Niamey there was still extreme property and many dirt roads.  Amazing.  But that was nothing compared to “the bush.”

We were more than just on the edge of the vast, almost endless Sahara desert where the scrub bushes and sand seemed to go on forever.  With the exception of our own faces, everyone there bore the signs of desert life.  Faces were weathered and worn by the desert winds and feet were toughened by the grinding of the sand.  And yet, the people were amazingly content.  Things such as family and friendship seemed to matter more than anything western culture provided.  It was eye opening.

We were in the bush for several days and every day was an adventure and every day we learned more and more about this harsh, yet beautiful place at the edge of the Sahara with all its challenges and opportunities.  We slept out in the desert air, we took bucket baths because there was no running water, we lived by flashlights because there was no electricity, and we ate new and strange foods…very strange.  I learned that millet was not on my favorite food list and I also learned that this southern boy could, with difficulty, go without bread.

Well, we more than survived and would return a half dozen times or so to this different part of the world before the political climate closed that door and we had to move on to another part of West Africa. That was another adventure and another story. But as I looked at those pictures and went back…reminisced…remembered, I realized, at least for me, that was a difficult trip.  For one who was used to so many creature comforts, it was hard. I also looked at some pictures from another trip to the bush a couple of years later and looked into the eyes of weary westerners—tired from a long day’s ministry, loving and helping people and remembered…it was hard.

But here’s the deal.  It was worth it…in fact, it was more than worth it.  Those trips, those days, were some of the most memorable days we have spent on the African continent. During those days I made friendships with people and learned from them.  They left their fingerprints on my life and heart and I am different today.  I hope that I too left good fingerprints on their lives—good impressions of Someone much greater than me.  We told Bible stories during those days and for many that was something new—something they had never heard, Someone, they had never known.  I still remember how some were bewildered and some intrigued.  Yes, it was worth all the hard and only eternity will tell the final impact.

Worth.The.Hard.  That is not only true for trips to West Africa or other difficult places, it is true of life.  You see, everyone’s journey is different, and everyone’s journey will include easy and it will include hard—and both are beneficial.  The easy refreshes us like a desert oasis and the hard teaches us like a strenuous workout at the gym.  If and when, we learn we need both, life takes on a different and better meaning.  We stop holding on only to the easy and learn to embrace the hard and we are better.

Paul, a guy in the Bible who knew a lot about easy and hard said, “For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is going to be revealed to us.”  Paul learned to appreciate both sides of the coin—the refreshment of easier days and the challenge of difficult ones.  How about you?  Can you imagine a better outcome when the harshness of life brings profit instead of loss?  I know it is a challenge and a lesson that I am still learning.  But there is one lesson that is at the top of my to-do list—to remember and believe, “He’s got this.”  Bro. Dewayne

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

Lifeline

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Unkept-the Look

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Posted in Family, forgiveness, Grace, life, prayer, thankful, Trials

Skunked

Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me.” Psalm 51:10

The little stinker was not welcome.  A couple of days ago we went down to visit our daughter and son-in-law down by Kentucky Lake.  We really went to see the grandkids, but we won’t tell them that.  The place where they live is just beautiful.  Close to the lake and surrounded by beautiful woods, it is the kind of place drinking a cup of coffee in the morning was made for.  Of course, this time of the year, everything is lush and green.  Gone is the bareness of winter as the time for things to sleep was replaced by a time of new life.

Because they are in a forested area there is plenty of wildlife around.  It is not uncommon to see deer feeding down by the tree line and birds of every sort.  Up the road a piece is a herd of Bison, a few horses, and cattle.  They have a couple of dogs too, which adds to the mix.  Oh, and then, there was the unwelcome guest.  Two or three days before our arrival, my son-in-law spotted a skunk in the backyard.  They were hoping that he was just passing through, but apparently, he kinda likes the place.  Even when they don’t see him, they know he is around by the pungent odor that he carries with him.

Their two dogs, Rupp and Callie, seem to have a real affection for the skunk. They can’t wait to run down to the woods to try and find their new friend.  Despite all efforts, they keep running and looking and one day, well, its gonna happen.  Saturday morning during our visit, there was a “close encounter of the skunk kind.”  Rupp is the much more obedient of the two dogs.  He will generally come when he is called and while he and the skunk are pals, they are not on a first name basis.  Callie on the other hand has gone over the edge.  That morning, Callie took off and either met the skunk or came close because she came back wearing some of his perfume. It wasn’t a direct hit, but there was an aroma.

She came in the house and ran into the master suite and soon it wasn’t “sweet” any longer. What she apparently loved to roll in was, uh, not so pleasant to us.  In fact, both occupants of the bedroom were up and outta there.  Now personally, Callie didn’t smell that bad to me.  Either my smeller wasn’t as sensitive (no COVID, thank you) or I quickly got used to it, but regardless it wasn’t a big deal.  Well, Callie ended up banned from the yard forever (except on a leash) and they ran her through the equivalent of a dog carwash.  She did smell a lot better. Hey, no harm, no foul.

That evening, after driving back home, I put on the same pajama shirt that I had worn that morning and proceeded to study my sermon.  As I sat at my desk, I noticed a faint but familiar odor—it was the offensive perfume.  Apparently, there was an odor after all and later when my nose was more awake, it became evident. I changed shirts and threw that one in the wash.  Hopefully by the time we visit again, Mr. Skunk will be history.

You know I was surprised to smell the odor on my shirt that evening.  That morning I didn’t smell a thing, but that night it was clearly obvious.  What was the difference?  I think there was enough odor in the air at my daughter’s house that my shirt simply smelled like everything else.  I grew too accustomed to the odor.  The offensive smell became “normal.”  I have a feeling that may happen more often than we realize.  It has nothing to do with skunks, but everything to do with our “skunky” or sinful actions.

If we are not careful, we become too accustomed to our harsh words, or our negative mindset, or our unkind actions.  And, because they are part of our “normal” we never even know it.  But remember this…those around us know it and Someone even more important knows it—God.  The best way to fix the problem is to live in such a way, that that kind of “normal” is never normal.  Just like a fresh environment revealed the odor in my shirt, we should allow our environment to be so pure that anything stinky will become readily apparent.

One time, King David of Old Testament fame, got more than a little “skunky” and spent most of the rest of his life trying to get rid of the stench.  He prayed a lot during those days and one of his prayers went like this, “Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me.” That’s a good prayer for sure.  And, by God’s grace, he was made clean.  In fact, he was known as a “man after God’s own heart.”  So, when you get “skunked” just take it to the Father and rest assured that He can handle anything and everything.  He’s got this—even our stinky sin.  Bro. Dewayne

*A special thank you to Ellie Grace, (granddaughter) for making today’s graphic-great job Ellie!