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

Joe

Teach us to number our days carefully so that we may develop wisdom in our hearts.” Psalm 90:12

“Hi.  My name is Joe.”  My wife Judy and I recently took a trip down to the Florida Keys and Key Colony in particular.  The place we stayed was called the Continental Inn.  It is a bit of old Florida with twenty or so studio condos combined with a small sand beach and a couple of tiki huts.  It is not very crowded, but this was Labor Weekend, and there were more folks there than usual.  Being a small place, it seems more like family than it does just a group of people on vacation.  It was there under one of the tiki huts that I met Joe.

Joe, his wife, and her sister and husband were down for a long weekend from Juniper, Florida.  It was the other couple’s anniversary, and they were there to celebrate.  They were sitting near us on the beach, and it wasn’t long before we struck up a conservation.  Day one was more like a “Hey, good to meet you and glad you are here.”  The next day, we were back on the beach and so were they and it was then that I really got to talk with Joe.

He started by introducing himself again.  And then as his story unfolded, I was fascinated.  First, I learned that Joe was a Korean War era veteran.  While he didn’t actually serve in the war, he did volunteer for service during that difficult time.  He chose the Army and proudly served his country.  Being a Korean War veteran could only mean he was up in his years…and he was.  If I remember right, he was about to turn 84.  Thanks for your service, Joe.

Joe used a large walking stick to get around.  He told me on day two, rather matter-of-factly, that he was legally blind.  That explained the stick.  Rather than a white cane he had this large walking stick that came from the Smokey Mountains.  I asked him how much he could see, and he explained that at about five feet away I was just a blob. You can imagine my surprise when he told me how he still drove a three-wheel bike around his neighborhood.  When I asked him how, he simply said he could see some of the sidewalk and most everyone knew him and kinda stayed out of his way.  A little blindness wasn’t going to stop him.  Way to go, Joe.

About then, Joe shared with me that he had stage four prostate cancer that had gone into his bones.  Almost casually, he said, “And of course, I am on chemo.”  What was amazing, was that he didn’t see his cancer as a roadblock or a big deal for that matter.  It was simply something that he dealt with—no whining, no complaining.  Nope, Joe wasn’t gonna let a little cancer stop him either.  You’re amazing, Joe.

All the time we chatted (almost like we were discussing the weather and not cancer and blindness) he was constantly smiling and explaining to me how much he loved life.  These speed bumps were just that—bumps on his highway of life.  He told me how much he loved people.  That is probably why he regularly volunteers at the Veteran’s Hospital, helping guys less fortunate than him.  Less.Fortunate.Than.Him.  I think it will be a long time before I forget Joe and his big smile, big heart, and great outlook.

There’s one more part of Joe’s story.  You see, Joe was a Jesus follower…in fact, all four in the group were.  What made Joe standout was his gratitude for each day that God gave him.  I couldn’t help but notice that his knees and elbows were covered with bandages and wounds.  I can only guess those came from the times his blindness got in the way and his stick couldn’t save him. After our hour conversation I noticed that not one time did he complain about his circumstances. He shared stories of his past with gratefulness and shared his present days with the gusto of healthy 45-year-old.  And he was confident of his future too…because he was confident in his relationship with the God who made him.

I know I talk about this verse a lot but that is because it means a lot to me.  The author, who happened to be Moses (you might remember him from the time the Red Sea parted), asked God to help us number our days so that we could have a heart of wisdom.  He was saying, “God help us to appreciate every day you give us.”  It was so very obvious that Joe did exactly that.  No, I don’t think he wasn’t the richest guy on the beach that day…unless you number richness not in dollars but in joy, and happiness and love. Joe bore the scars from many a fall, but he shined with the victories of never staying down.  I didn’t get around to asking but I bet Joe knew the secret to living out his faith in God.  What is that you ask?  It’s knowing and believing three small words…He’s got this.  Bro. Dewayne

Posted in food, Grace, gratitude, life, prayer, priorities, Scripture, thankful, Trials, wisdom

Sand Through an Hourglass

So be careful how you live. Don’t live like fools, but like those who are wise. Make the most of every opportunity in these evil days.” Ephesians 5:15-16

The thief has struck again.  Without anyone noticing a thief has been stealing from us all.  It happens every day and no one does anything to stop it because they can’t.  Slowly and almost without notice the thief takes from us.  Who is this thief?  It is time itself…the calendar.

The day of the year with the most daylight hours is around June 21st.  It is known as the summer equinox.  On that day the tilt of the earth allows the northern hemisphere to be closest to the sun allowing the maximum amount of daylight hours.  On June 21st sunrise occurs at 5:32 am in our town.  Fourteen hours and forty-six minutes later it sets at 8:19 pm.  From that time forward, slowly, and surely the amount of daylight hours began to recede.

You ask, “How much?”  Well, today the sun will rise at 6:35 am and will set at 7:00 pm.  If you do the math, you will discover that will give us 12 hours and 25 minutes of daylight.  Amazingly you will find that the thief has taken over two hours of daylight from us.  And each passing day he will take another few minutes.  Finally, someday in the near future, we will get up and wonder why it is still dark, or why the sun is setting so early.  The answer is the daylight thief. Like sand through an hourglass, he steals away the day.

I find all this pretty fascinating.  As the days and weeks march by, it reminds us that fall is coming.  Before long the leaves will be changing colors and falling to the ground.  Soon our thoughts will turn to cooler temperatures, beautiful mums, and Thanksgiving.  On December 21 the process will all reverse.  We will begin to gain back those precious minutes of daylight and it will remind us of the promise that spring is on its way.

The amazing part of all of this is how subtly it all happens. It is true of the calendar and the hours of daylight we experience, and it is true of so many small things in our lives.  We take in a few too many calories and before long we wonder why our clothes are tighter.  Humidity?  I mean they do call it the air you can wear.  We miss a few days of exercise and wonder why our energy level suddenly drops.  We miss a few days talking with our Dearest Father and wonder why He feels like a stranger. We miss our time with the Book and find ourselves bumbling our way through life. Sigh.  It is all too familiar and all too predictable.

The secret, I believe, is to be aware.  I have an Apple watch that tells me more than I need or want to know.  One of the things it tells me is the time of the sunrise and sunset.  A few days ago, the sun was setting at 7:45 pm and I knew that meant before long it would be setting at 7:00 pm.  Sure enough, it is.  Whether it is exercise or calories or prayer or reading the Book, if we pay attention, we will have fewer surprises and consequences.  I like what Moses said.  He wrote, “Teach us to number our days carefully so that we may develop wisdom in our hearts.”  You know, wisdom to watch what we eat and how much we exercise.  Wisdom to stop and talk to God and read His Book.  Yup…good, good advice.

Paul, one of the writers of the New Testament, put it another way.  He said we should make the most of everyday, not living as someone who is foolish but as someone who is wise.  He goes on to say we should do this because the days are evil—or full of difficulties and challenges.

The fact is we all get 1440 minutes a day—no more, no less. The hours of daylight may change, but time has been set for eternity.  1440 opportunities to make the most of life, to get it right.  And, because we are imperfect humans, we can use some of those minutes to talk to our Dearest Father about our warts and failures.  We can snuggle up close as He whispers assurances of love and forgiveness.  We can just rest and know…that He’s got this.  Bro. Dewayne

Posted in Family, Grace, gratitude, life, love, loving others, prayer, Scripture, thankful

Same Kind of Different As Me

Above all, clothe yourselves with love, which binds us all together in perfect harmony.” Colossians 3:14

Opposites attract.  I’ve heard that all my life and I think it is true…well, at least sorta.  I mean, take my wife Judy and me.  In a lot of ways, we are similar.  We both like to eat…though I prefer dessert and she prefers food.  We both love traveling and adventures. We both love Jesus.  We both love to serve people.  Oh, and we both love each other.  So, there you go…but wait, in some ways we are different.  We recently went on vacation.  She packed her bag and I packed mine.  Let me rephrase that.  She put…some would say dumped, clothes in her suitcase, sat on it, and closed it.  As for me, well, I neatly organized each item and even sorted them by the function and when they would be used. We are sometimes different.

You can see that difference with our phones too.  If you look at Judy’s phone you will see that the inbox of her email account has 28,246 emails…and I’m not kidding.  On the other hand, my inbox has about 10 emails in it.  In her case, it is a system for keeping and in my case, it is a system for filing.  Hers is “Welcome home and stay as long as you like” and mine is, “In you come and out you go.”  She invited the relatives to move in and I invite them to stay…for just a while.  And then there are the little red dots.

On the iPhone, when there is something that requires action, a little red dot appears on the screen.  The dot stays there until you do something about it.  Well, Miss Judy’s screen on her iPhone looks like it has a case of measles.  There is a red dot here, and here, and here, and here, and oh, here too.  Now on my iPhone, dots are not welcome.  When one appears I almost immediately stop what I am doing to find out what it wants me to do.  You know how when you are growing up and some people get acne, and some don’t?  Well, my phone is the one that doesn’t.

Now, all this is well and good and there really isn’t a right or a wrong…unless of course you can’t see the screen for all the dots.  No, the Bible makes it clear that each one of us is fearfully and wonderfully made.  Each one of us is a jewel…a masterpiece. Some like a full inbox and some like it empty.  Some are organized and some, well, are not quite as much. Smile.  But here is what we need to remember…especially in relationships…especially in marriage.  Someone once said that if both people in a marriage are exactly alike…well, one of them isn’t necessary.  In any relationship…and especially in marriage…diversity is a good thing…a needed thing.

But wait…it’s not just in marriage…it is true with the team at work.  It is true with the people you worship with.  It is even true with the team you play with.  Diversity adds depth.  Diversity adds richness.  When we start feeling comfortable to associate with those who are different from us; when we start embracing others, even though we don’t always agree, a strength develops, and we all become better for it.

Judy and I have been married now for 45 years and people frequently tell us how much they appreciate the example we set in our marriage.  Well, first, let’s be honest.  That is largely because I married up when I married Judy.  But beyond that, well, we have learned and are learning to appreciate our differences.  There was a bestselling book and later a movie about two men from backgrounds that could not have been more different.  And yet, over time, and with no small thanks to Jesus, they became friends.  The impossible became possible.  The book and later the movie were entitled, “The Same Kind of Different as Me.” Read the book, it will inspire you.

I think that means that in spite of the fact, that they were incredibly different, there was something that overpowered their differences and that was love.  They both discovered Jesus and that led them to share Christian love for each other. Paul, the guy who wrote a chunk of the New Testament said it like this, “Above all, clothe yourselves with love, which binds us all together in perfect harmony.” The common denominator of love strengthened their lives and their friendship.  It worked there and I can tell you it will work in whatever world you live in. We will become stronger and better when we learn to accept ourselves and others for who God made us. Need a little help?  No problem…He’s got that.  Bro. Dewayne 

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

The Power of Remembering

Then if My people who are called by My name will humble themselves and pray and seek My face and turn from their wicked ways, I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sins and restore their land.” 2 Chronicles 7:14

It was a beautiful Sunday morning in December 1941…of course, almost every day in Hawaii is a beautiful day.  The skies were blue, the breeze was gentle, and it was the one day when at least some of the sailors and soldiers could sleep in.  Then, at 7:55 am Hawaii time, a swarm of Japanese aircraft attacked without warning killing 2,403 military and civilians.  In a brief moment in time the United States was at war with Japan and was thrown into World War II. President Franklin Roosevelt famously called December 7th, “a day that will live in infamy.” The battle cry throughout the Pacific War was “Remember Pearl Harbor.”

Fast forward with me sixty years.  It was a beautiful Tuesday morning in September 2001.  The sky was a deep blue without a cloud in the sky and then it happened.  Without warning, at 8:06 am EDT, a hijacked airliner crashed into the North Tower of the World Trade Center. A short time later, at 9:03 am EDT, the South Tower was also struck.  Unbelievably, a third airliner crashed into the Pentagon at 9:37 am EDT, with a final airliner, most likely destined for Washington D.C., crashed into a Pennsylvania field at 10:03 am.  In all, these attacks killed 2,977 innocent people…more than the attack on Pearl Harbor.  The cry after September 11th or 9/11, was, “We will never forget.”

Though it is hard to believe, 20 years have come and gone since that horrific morning in September.  Most can remember exactly what they were doing that day as the events unfolded on national television.  In a brief moment in time, our world was changed forever.  As we observe what is now called, Patriot Day, we must renew our vow to never forget those tragic minutes and the days, weeks, months and years that followed.

I well remember how for a brief moment in time our country stood united. While it didn’t last long, only a couple of days, it showed us, it taught us, the power and beauty of unity.  But then, as always, finger pointing and blame throwing, ruled the day and unity slipped through our fingers like loosely held sand. And if we are not careful, time will further rob us of the reverence owed to so many and the honor for those who gave their lives trying to save others.  And that too would be a tragedy.

On this twentieth observance of 9/11, I hope you will join millions of others and make  sure we never forget.  Take time to pause and reflect and remember.  I know these are difficult days and in so many ways we are frustrated and filled with doubt and fear.  But remember two things.  First and foremost, the God who created all of this is greater than any circumstance that we may face.  He knows our past and is willing to forgive.  And, He knows the future and is willing to walk with us.  Don’t lose hope and don’t lose faith.  He is able and willing.

Let me also encourage you not to lose hope in America.  With all her warts and flaws she is still the best country in the world. Having visited a couple of dozen countries in Europe, Africa, and Asia, I can tell you there is no place like America.  Rare is the country where a people are free to worship and live like we do. In the New Testament book called the Gospel of John, many people decided to no longer follow Jesus.  He looked at His followers and said, “Will you leave me too?”  One of them spoke up and said, “Where would we go?  You alone have the words of life.”   That is so true and before we throw America under the bus, be sure you know the answer to the question, “Where would you go.”  There is no place like home and no place like America.

So let’s not forget.  Let’s show the world we are a people that remember so we can honor.  Let’s show the world that while we are not perfect, we do believe in our God and our country.  God made a promise to His people and it is one that we can claim for ourselves.  He said, “If My people, who are called by My name, will humble themselves and pray, and seek My face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, will forgive their sins and heal their land.”  It was true for them and it is true for any people willing to put God first.  To sum it all up, it simply means…He’s got this.  Bro. Dewayne

Posted in Family, fear, gratitude, life, prayer, Scripture, Southern born, sovereignty of God

Chicken Little

“I know that You can do anything, and no one can stop You.” Job 42:2

Poor Chicken Little.  He had it all wrong.  The story is told of a little chicken (aptly named Chicken Little) who was walking one day, and a bird dropped an acorn which hit him on the head.  Chicken Little assumed that the sky was falling and the world as he knew it was coming to an end.  He rushed to tell the king and along the way told others of the bad news. They in turn joined him in the quest to tell the king. The only problem was… the sky wasn’t falling.

When I was a kid, like so many of us, I wrestled with fear.  There was the standard fear of the dark.  When the lights went out, my heart rate went up.  My vivid imagination allowed for plenty of strange things to be seen in the darkness and sometimes even in the light.  I remember as a six or seven-year-old sitting in the bathtub and seeing “eyes” peering at me from inside the overflow drain.  “Maybe it is a snake” I thought.  “Perhaps it is a giant rat inside the drain.”  Regardless, for years I lived in fear until one day I got brave.  I took a flashlight into the bathroom and shined the light in the drain.  It turned out to be the tops of two brass screws inside the drain.

When I was a little older the fear thing still lingered.  With too many people and not enough house, I found myself sleeping in the dining room.  Mom and dad moved the table somewhere and put a twin bed there instead.  We lived in Florida and trust me it was HOT and it was HUMID and air conditioning was something that we DIDN’T have.  Each night I would crawl into bed, a fan in the window at least stirring the warm evening air. And each night the monsters would come out.  Of course, they weren’t real.  Of course, they didn’t exist. Right…but try telling that to a young boy with a vivid imagination.

I had to do something, and I did.  I would reach down and pull the sheet and bedspread over my head and lie still.  I don’t know if the idea was the sheet and bedspread would somehow protect me or if they would simply hide me.  But there I would lie hiding, sweating, and praying, that whatever hid in the darkness wouldn’t eat me.  I guess it worked because I’m still here today but boy was it HOT!

I guess I finally overcame most of my fears. I have to admit though, when Bubba the goose hisses at me in the park, it still makes my skin kinda tingle. To some degree fear is still a stalker in my life.  Instead of rats in a drain or monsters in the dark or bad guys in the house, it has become the uncertainty of these uncertain days.  And I know I am not alone.  Every time we turn on the news, we are told that the sky is indeed falling and that the end of world as we know it is coming.  As I waited for the morning weather forecast today, a story popped up on the screen about a new strain of the swine flu in China that could or would certainly be the next pandemic.  What? Excuse me?

I am a guy who gets to serve God and people as a pastor and there is one thing I know.  God is in charge, and He is bigger than any of it and all of it.  You may have heard of a guy named Job—and no he was not related to Steve Jobs, (smile).  His sky in fact did fall and he ended up losing everything.  Well, actually his “why don’t you give up and die” wife stuck around, but so did his faith in God.  In fact, in the midst of his hot mess, Job said this, “I know that You can do anything, and no one can stop You.” Score one for Job.  He believed that God was in charge, that God had a plan, and that nothing was going to happen on His watch unless He said so.

Now that is some real good, real comforting, real “you take that fear” news.  But you also need to know that sometimes that can be hard.  God’s plans don’t always mean I get what I want…in fact, often it means the opposite.  But hey, I was the guy who manufactured monsters in his head.  But it still means that God is good, that God is faithful, and that God can be trusted.  It does mean that He is watching out for my good and He is working to bring His glorious plan to pass.

A friend of mine recently suggested that perhaps it is time that we turn off the bad news.  I agree.  The broadcasters know that bad news “sells” and they are dishing it out by the buckets full.  Corrie ten Boom, a concentration camp survivor from World War II said, “If you look at the world, you will be distressed.  If you look within, you will be depressed.  But if you look at Christ you will be at rest.” What powerful and true words.  If you are not a God follower perhaps this sounds a little far-fetched.  Trust me…He is worth checking out. He is the real deal…not church…not religion…and certainly not the fear mongers. You can rest in Him…because He’s got this. Bro. Dewayne

Posted in Family, fear, Grace, gratitude, life, love, loving others, prayer, Scripture, thankful, Trials

Help, I’ve Fallen

Though he fall, he shall not be utterly cast down; for the Lord upholds him with His hand.” Psalm 37:23

It is a call I get all too often. I have the privilege of serving as a pastor.  That privilege includes being there when people are walking through a crisis. One thing about the pastorate is when I wake up each morning, whether I go to the office or not, I never know what the day will hold.  It is not at all uncommon for someone to call me.  Sometimes it is good news…the baby came…I got the job…we bought a house.  Sometimes, and frankly too often, it is difficult news.  It could be a child going down a difficult path, a job lost, a marriage violated or difficult news of an accident or health crisis.

Some of the most common health crises is when a senior adult takes a fall.  Life is ordinary and then suddenly, a loss of balance or a toe caught on a rug, results in a hard fall and we all know older bones can be very unforgiving.  I can’t tell you how many calls I have received about broken bones and broken bodies.  One of the most difficult situations is when the person fell and can’t get to a phone to call for help.  We have had several situations when someone would fall and have to lay in the floor for hours….long hours.

In one instance, a friend fell in her driveway, and no one found her till the next morning.  She was an amazingly resilient lady and after surgery recovered well, but that is not always the case.  One of the newer devices I really appreciate is a “call button” that a person wears and if they have an emergency, they can press a button and help is soon on the way.  I see the commercials on tv, and they show a woman in the kitchen in pain.  She presses the button and says, “Help! I’ve fallen and I can’t get up.”  Another scene shows a man down in the park and he presses the button and says, “Help! I’ve fallen in the park, and I can’t get up.”  The last one is someone down in the shower and they too can’t get up and are calling for help.

It is times like these that those simple rescue devices are so valuable.  There is no telling how many lives have been saved.  Of course, for them to work you must have one and you must wear one. And if you do…help is on the way.  It can’t reverse the circumstances, but it can change the outcome.  “Help! I’ve fallen and I can’t get up.”  It is true when we fall physically but the truth is we can fall in other ways…emotionally and spiritually just to name a couple…and we find we can’t get up.  And I want you to know that there is something better than a button to press…there is a God to call on.

I’ve long said that God often gets a bad rap.  Too often preachers and teachers present Him as a lightening tossing, fire breathing God who can’t wait to send down a little fire and brimstone on creation.  Well, God is holy, and God is just, but first and foremost He is a God of rescue and redemption.  He is a God of love.  The New Testament writer even tells us that He wants no one to perish but everyone to be rescued.  Now, that’s love.  Maybe you think you are beyond rescue…you’ve fallen too far.  No so.  His grace is deep, and it is wide.

One of my favorite Bible verses is Psalm 37:24. It says that even if I fall, I will not be utterly cast down. In other words…no matter how hard or how far I fall, I don’t have to stay down.  The reason?  It simply says that God will pick me up with His strong hand.  Either He will pick me up or grab me on the way down but either way it is not a knockout punch…His grace is sufficient.  If you are feeling down for the count, maybe it’s time to cry out, “Help! I’ve fallen and I can’t get up.”  You will find His strong hand right there to help you up.  He is just waiting for you to ask.  I like that.  Can He pull it off?  Without a doubt…He’s got this.  Bro. Dewayne

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

God’s Perspective

We love because He first loved us.” 1 John 4:19 (CSB)

They were all heading straight for disaster, and they didn’t have a clue.  So, I was walking on our local bike path the other day.  It was early morning but not so early that the sun wasn’t already hot.  It was going to be warm one—especially for this time of year.  As I was walking, I looked down and saw several, no many, earthworms on the bike trail. They were trying to make it across.

I know, you’re thinking, “Why did the earthworm cross the bike path?”  The answer is “I don’t know but it sure wasn’t going well.”  Some had already bit the bullet and others were in the struggle of their wormy lives.  Most were squirming…doing everything they could to make it to the other side.  The only thing is I could see what they could not.  They were a long way from home.

I can just imagine one of the worms with the gift of leadership shouting to his friends, “Keep going guys.  You can make it.  Just a little further.”  The trouble is he just didn’t have the whole picture…the view from above.  From his perspective the end was right over there.  From his perspective just a few more inches and they would be home free. Perspectives from ground level are often like that.  That is why we need someone with a better view.

One of the things I love about believing in God is knowing that He has a higher, better view. He can see things that you just can’t see at ground level.  And when He speaks…He speaks true encouragement because He knows what is around the bend or a few days down the road.  God is really good at helping His kids do life.  If only we would learn to listen.  If only…

See, I talked to some of the earthworms as I walked.  I would say things like, “It’s not looking good, partner.”  Or maybe, “Dude, you’re not gonna make it squirming like that.” Then, “Hey, why are you crossing the bike path anyway?”  I just had to ask. Well, no one listened and on they squirmed.  It was going to be hard day for most of them.

And, then, and this is the truth, I would sometimes stop and actually pitch one or two of them into the cool, wet grass.  It was a random thing I would do.  I would stop, pick one out, and chuck them to the side.  While not one of them said “thanks” it was enough for me to save him or her from the dreaded concrete desert. It just felt good to save a life—even if it was just an earthworm.  I just hope it wasn’t his cousin I put on a hook last week.

When I thought about this whole perspective and rescue thing I just naturally thought about God.  Along with His great perspective, He cares enough to rescue us.  He wants to rescue every person from an eternity without Him.  I mean He loves us so much…and He loved us before we even thought about loving Him.  The Bible says that we love Him because He first loved us.  He saw all our warts, all our imperfections, all our bad choices and chose to love us anyway.  He loved us before we even promised to try and do things right.  A promise, by the way, that we could never keep anyway.

Sometimes, I would pick an earthworm to save for no apparent reason.  I just picked one.  God said, “That will never do.” And do you know what, He loved the whole world…everybody…everyone.  Now we still have to choose to repent, choose to follow, choose to believe.  But when we do…well, the welcome sign is out.  Welcome home, son.  Welcome home, daughter. And this is the best part.  Should we wander back onto the concrete desert, He doesn’t say, “Good grief or good luck.”  No, He just reaches out, takes us by the hand and pulls us back into the cool, green grass called His presence.  You gotta love that.

Well, I don’t know if you will ever feel compelled to rescue an earthworm or not.  But the next time you see one on the sidewalk on a hot day, just remember the time He rescued you.  Remember the time He didn’t leave you out in the hot to become a crispy critter.  No, He reached down and picked you up.  Isn’t it great to have a God that cares? That you can rest in?  A Father that’s got this? Yup…I know it’s so. Bro. Dewayne

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

Waverly

When you go through deep waters, I will be with you.” Isaiah 43:2

It was only three hours away, but it was another world.  A short while ago a horrible and intensely powerful flash flood ravaged a small town in Western Tennessee. A small, benign creek traced its way through the center of town.  It is appropriately named, “Trace Creek.” Normally only a couple of feet deep, it gently winds for several miles surrounded by hills.  On a Saturday, a storm system set up shop right over that region and seventeen inches of rain fell in a short period of time. Disaster was coming.

As the rainwater funneled from the hills to the valley, Trace Creek became the collecting point and soon what was a benign creek became a killing flood.  The water rose not in hours but minutes—not in inches, but feet.  A railroad bed that was holding some of the torrent back gave way and a twenty-foot wall of water came down on the town.  As it did, death and destruction struck on what can be only described as “biblical proportions.” As the kid’s song from Sunday school says, the flood was deep, and the flood was wide.

In that short period of time cars became boats and houses were swept off their foundations.  Fences were laid over and trees and power poles were simply bowled over by the force of the water.  Sadly, over twenty people lost their lives and many, many more, were injured. I’m sure no one went to bed the night before dreaming of a flood, at least not of this proportion. It was a nightmare from nowhere.  In a couple or three hours it was over leaving behind a disaster zone that will take years to recover and rebuild.  Some, like the loss of life, will never be the same.

Our church had a personal touch with this small West Tennessee town as a couple of our families moved there last year.  While they were safe, many of their friends were not.  They quickly became important cogs in the wheels of rescue and recovery and that’s where we had an opportunity to help.  We had recently hosted our “Back to School” community event and because of COVID, the crowd had been smaller than in previous years and we had many school supply bags left over and several hundred pair of shoes.  We were disappointed, but suddenly something began to make sense.  It was an opportunity.

At the invitation of one of churches there, we loaded up the supplies and shoes and headed to West Tennessee.  When we arrived, the destruction was beyond description.  Our small Southern Illinois city had suffered an F-4 tornado in 2012 so we knew about disasters but this, this was beyond even what we had experienced.  Soon we were setup and giving away the supplies and shoes.  There were stories, there were tears, and there were thanks.  At the end of a hot day, we were the ones who were blessed.

As was the case for us in 2012, their town actually experienced another kind of flood…a flood of kindness, generosity, and love.  Hundreds, if not thousands, of people poured in to offer any help they could give.  Restaurants and stands were set up offering free food and supplies. Life necessities were given to anyone with a need.  It was amazing especially in a world of “me first”. It was obvious that is not always the case.  Love and generosity ruled the day.

Across the street from where we were working was a house that had been flooded with about four feet of water. As cleanup started, the owners had emptied all of their contents and piled them by the road.  I looked and in one of the discarded chairs was a large, white Bible. It didn’t seem right to see it discarded, so I went and asked the owners if I could get it and take it home.  They were grateful.  You see, it had been wet in the flood and couldn’t stay, but it’s present place, in the trash, was not a statement of their faith.  They just didn’t know what to do.  So, it is with me…a reminder of my day in that small West Tennessee town…a town called Waverly.

The story of the Bible, and that it was not discarded because of a lack of faith, was a blessing to me.  People in that disaster didn’t give up on God or each other for that matter.  They chose to still believe…in God, in their town, and in each other.  As I said it will take years, but Waverly will come back, and they will be stronger than before. Their situation reminds me of a verse in the Old Testament that says, “When you go through deep waters, I will be with you.”

You see, even in the midst of disaster, even when our circumstances don’t make a lick of sense, and these days that is often every day, well, He is still there.  Even when we go through the darkest valley we don’t have to fear because He is with us.  No matter how high the water or how hard the circumstances, listen, and you will hear the Whisperer whispering, “Rest in Me.  I’ve got this.”   Bro. Dewayne

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

No Trespassing

Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are My disciples.” John 13:35

It was kinda confusing.  A while back I was walking in our neighborhood.  It was early in the morning and the birds were singing, the sun was shining and as Mister Rogers would say, “It was a beautiful day in the neighborhood.”  As I was walking, I would look at the different houses and their yards.  I noticed that several, well actually more than several of the homes, had no trespassing signs in their yard or stuck on the house. One home had six or seven signs and about a half dozen security cameras.  I think they must have had something very important inside.

I’m not sure what the deal is but there probably is a valid reason. But being from the friendly side of the South, we generally didn’t stick “no trespassing” signs up.  More than likely, we would stick up a “hey, y’all come on in” sign.  Of course, that was several decades ago and maybe now they have some not so friendly signs up too.  At any rate this is America, and you can pretty much put up what you want as long as it isn’t too mean.  But this one house confused me.

As you probably can guess, they had a no trespassing sign.  But right next to the no trespassing sign, they had a big welcome sign.  It caused me to wonder which one was right.  I didn’t know if I was welcome to come up on the porch and sit, or I was going to get shot if I did.  I wasn’t sure so I kept right on walking, and I was real sure I didn’t want to find out. To be sure there are lots of times when we also seem to send a conflicting message.

Sometimes I see this in churches.  There will be a sign on the message board that says everyone welcome.  There might even be a parking spot in the parking lot that says, “reserved for guests.”  Sometimes they have people standing at the door to shake your hand when you come in.  But then I wonder, “do they really mean that or are they trying to act nice?”  I mean everyone expects churches to be friendly because Jesus was.  He liked everybody.  I heard a preacher say once that it was pretty amazing that people who were the least like Jesus, felt the most comfortable around Him.  It seemed they liked Him, and He liked them.

On the other hand, Jesus was always bumping heads with the religious elite.  Theoretically they should have been the most like Him, but they didn’t like Him and I’m not sure He was too fond of them.  Of course, Jesus was always trying to find the best in others but some of those guys in the New Testament were really mean.  I don’t think there was a welcome sign on their house for either Jesus or the ones He hung out with.

However, there was one group they really didn’t like and that was the tax collectors.  They worked for the Roman government, and they were seen as thieves and traitors.

Do you know what Jesus did?  Jesus invited one of them to be a part of His inner circle.  Can you even imagine that?  “Hey Matthew,” Jesus said, “why don’t you come and be a part of our group?”  I bet the religious guys about fainted and so did the rest of Jesus’ followers.  I can just hear them now, “Well, there goes the neighborhood.”  They might have been right, but Jesus was always more concerned for the neighbor than the neighborhood.  He really loved people.

When Jesus was explaining to those who followed Him how people would know that they were friends with Jesus, do you know what He said?  It wasn’t because they went to church on Sunday.  It wasn’t because they knew all the answers.  And it wasn’t even because they wore the right kind of clothes when they were hanging around Jesus.  Nope.  Jesus said that people would know that we were friends with Jesus because of the way they loved—and in particular… loved each other.  This is never a popular topic when I speak in church. The reason is it is a lot easier to dress right, talk right, and go to church, than to love someone—particularly someone who is not very lovable.  But that is what He said do.

There is a secret to loving others.  All we need to do is remember that when we were not lovable at all, Jesus chose to love us.  And if we will let that roll around in our heads and hearts a while, I think we will find that loving others is just a little bit easier.  The next time you are all worked up about something, maybe trying to love someone, just get up next to Jesus and sit awhile.  You won’t find a no trespassing sign there…just one that says “welcome.”  And you can just sit back and let Him handle whatever you’re stressed about…because He’s got this.  Bro. Dewayne

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

Nature’s Love Song

But as for me, I will sing about Your power. Each morning I will sing with joy about Your unfailing love. For You have been my refuge, a place of safety when I am in distress.” Psalm 59:16

After a long silence…they are singing. I stepped out into my backyard to finish my last cup of coffee…well, at least for a couple hours.  When I opened the door, my backyard, and apparently the backyards, and front yards, and side yards of my neighbors were all filled with hundreds, and who knows maybe thousands, of cicadas singing their song.  What is a cicada?  Well, it an insect, and quite honestly, an ugly insect that emerges late summer.  And if I’ve got it right…this bunch is special…special indeed.

So, when Facebook only existed at Harvard University and when the sitcom “Friends” aired its last episode, a newly hatched brood of cicada nymphs (babies) fell from the trees and burrowed into the dirt.  They stayed there snacking on the sap of rootlets and slowly growing…until now.  The cicadas that were singing that morning, again if I am correct, have been preparing for these days for 17 years and folks, to them it is time to party.

You’ve probably heard the song of the cicadas.  It can be loud and it can be annoying, unless of course you are a cicada.  You see, they are not just singing, they are singing a love song.  They are letting everyone know that they are up, they are out, and they are ready to prepare for the future.  They have just a few days to sing their love song, find someone to love, start a family and, uh, die. That is one reason they are singing with such gusto. They don’t worry about annoying their neighbors…they are just looking for love.

In a few days, our yards will be a lot quieter.  The party will be over, their love song will be silenced and buried in the ground will be millions and millions of nymphs waiting for their time to sing.  The beautiful thing about us is that we don’t have to wait 13 years, or 17 years or even one year to sing.  We have the opportunity to sing every day, and it is an opportunity we should embrace.  There is a Latin saying that says “Carpe diem.” Now don’t confuse that with the surgery you have when your wrist hurts.  That is carpal tunnel and has nothing to do with singing…unless it is the blues.

No, Carpe diem means that we are to seize the day…to make the most of every day.  It means that we are to sing our love song clearly and loudly.  “Love song” you ask?  Sure.  If we look around we have so much to sing about.  Breathing makes the list…so does seeing, hearing, and walking.  If you don’t think those things are worth singing about about…ask someone who can’t. Oh, and then there are people…people like family, like friends, like the guy who rides on the back of the trash truck and once a week hauls your garbage off.  Ever thank him? Ever include him in your love song, your life song?  If not, why not?  You see the more we are grateful, the more we realize how much we have to sing about.

I know for me when I walk out in the morning and see the sun rising and the moon fading, my mind immediately goes to Creator God, my Dearest Daddy, who thought us worthy of another day.  Oh sure, it’s not gonna be perfect, in fact, it might be difficult, but it is and should be something worth singing about.  A song writer in the Bible put it this way, “But as for me, I will sing about your power. Each morning I will sing with joy about your unfailing love. For you have been my refuge, a place of safety when I am in distress.” Well, put Mister Songwriter, well put.

So, tomorrow, step out and see who is singing in your world…and join them.  Dare to believe that you have a reason to sing…even if your world is less than you wished for. Stop, pause, and listen, and believe.  There is Someone who loves you dearly, Who wants to walk with you, Who believes in you and that is something no circumstance can steal away. So, sing and believe, “He’s got this.”  Bro. Dewayne