Posted in Family, food, friends, gratitude, life, loving others, priorities, Scripture, thankful, Trials

Welcome Home

Let us think of ways to motivate one another to acts of love and good works. And let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do, but encourage one another, especially now that the day of His return is drawing near.” Hebrews 10:24-25

That’s a wrap.  When a film crew is filming, and the job is complete they call it a wrap.  The filming is over, done, finito (that’s Italian for finished…impressive huh?) Well, while the Covid virus is going to be a part of our lives for the rest of our lives, apparently it is finito. With herd immunity and all the new medicines available, its power has been dramatically reduced.  If you ever saw the cartoon version of “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” you remember that the abominable snowman lost his bite then they pulled his teeth.  So now, it seems with Covid also.

I heard the other day that our President even announced that it was done and looking around I agree. The other night my wife, Judy, and I went out to eat and we chose Cracker Barrel.  Now believe it or not, this restaurant has been a pretty good judge of Covid’s impact.  Of course, there was a time during Covid when it was closed, there was a time when they spaced everyone out and there were no condiments on the tables.  There was a time when there were paper menus that were promptly trashed after someone touched them.  And, when you walked in there might be a couple of dozen people there. But now, it seems, things have changed.

As I said, Friday night, we visited the closest Cracker Barrel. When we pulled into the parking lot, it was just about full.  I told Judy, “I sure hope we don’t have to wait.” I hate waiting…especially waiting to eat.  We walked in and to my surprise there wasn’t a line.  The hostess asked how many, picked up a couple of menus and took us to our table.  Well, here you go.  The first dining room was totally full…something that I had not seen for two years.  There were condiments on the tables and people were talking, laughing, and eating.  The next dining room was about 70 percent full but that is where we found our table.  Our hostess gave us a couple of real menus and that is when I said it, “Judy, it is normal.” So, we enjoyed a great meal and well, it all just felt good.

Normalcy.  It does feel good, but the truth is somethings just aren’t.  I went to the hospital to visit some folks this week and they are still requiring masks…sorta.  The signs say you must be screened to enter but you don’t.  The signs say that even one, including patients, must wear a mask but none of patients did though most other people did.  A real strange outcome of all of this is the job market.  There apparently are more jobs than people who want to work. I saw a sign that said, “Now Hiring…Just Like Everyone Else.” And believe it or not, when some people take a job, they may only stay a few days or weeks.  How different…how strange.

I went to my hearing doctor this week and he asked me how church (he knows I am a pastor) was going and what percentage of people have come back.  I told him we were running about 80 or 85 percent of our pre-Covid numbers.  The truth is while Covid was doing its thing some folks just gave up on the church thing.  Now that’s doesn’t necessarily mean they gave up on God, they just came to the conclusion that church wasn’t that big of a deal.  I’m sure some people feel the same way about Cracker Barrel—pre-Covid they loved it but now they can do without it.  How different…how interesting.

As a preacher, pastor guy I’m hoping that more of those who stopping coming and some who never came will rediscover and discover the value of this part of normalcy.  I never gave up on Cracker Barrel because I love their breakfast and their meatloaf isn’t too bad either.  There are several things that your local church provides that are worth hanging on to.  Chief among them are friendships and fellowship, someone to walk with you and your family as you do life, studying the number one bestselling book, the Bible, and being together with other people who think God is still relevant…because He is.

So, welcome back to normal.  As you rediscover life, I hope you will enjoy a great meal somewhere familiar…maybe Cracker Barrel or better a local place that misses you.  And why not think about coming home to God’s house.  Truthfully, they need you and you need them. The church offers something that nothing, not hobbies, not sports, not anything else can provide. It offers hope…it offers Jesus.  Whoever wrote Hebrews said, “Let us think of ways to motivate one another to acts of love and good works. And let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do, but encourage one another, especially now that the day of His return is drawing near.” Now that’s some good advice.  I know, sometimes it is hard to come home but your Dearest Daddy is waiting and ready to help.  Don’t worry…He’s got this. Bro. Dewayne

Posted in Scripture, Grace, life, Family, thankful, loving others, priorities, friends

“We Over Me”

Don’t be selfish; don’t try to impress others. Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourselves.” Philippians 2:3

Ok…let’s be honest.  I am not a huge fan of sports.  It all started on the playground when I was always, and I do mean always, the last kid picked.  I discovered I had zero kickball skills.  Later, about 4th grade, my Momma (and I guess Daddy) signed me up for little league baseball.  It was there and then I discovered that the problem wasn’t just kickball, it was anything to doing with a ball…or anything else that might be called a sport.  Fortunately, for me my junior high and high schools were massive so unlike some schools where if you didn’t play sports everyone noticed…for me I just blended in with the masses. There was the yearbook thing but who reads that anyway?

When my kids came along God was merciful and gave me three daughters…and while one cheered and one played a little basketball that was the extent of our involvement with sports.   If they had been boys and more sports minded, well, I’m not sure what I could have taught them. I do enjoy watching sports…especially college football.  I am a fan of Notre Dame which is kinda odd given the fact that I am a Baptist preacher, and they are a Catholic School.  But I love the tradition and I love it when they win which this year, well, they are struggling a little.

I wrote all of that to say this—today I went to my third baseball game in like five days.  There are a couple of reasons—the first one  is a no brainer—my oldest grandson is a sports player and he loves baseball.  He was playing so I made it a point to go.  The second one is similar but different.  Our Middle School team was finishing up their season and today they played their first playoff game.  Nine of these young players are tied to our church and I went as their pastor and friend.  Today they won 16 to 1.  That probably tells you something.

These young men have been playing together for years.  Starting in their elementary years through now they grew together—as friends—as a team.  A chunk of the team are eighth graders and frankly—this is their year.  So here is the impossibly incredible part.  As of today, they are 24 and 0.  That’s right, they have won twenty-four straight games and all you have to do is watch them to see that is not an accident.  It is a product of relationship, skills, and team mentality.  Let me tell you a little more.

When I got to the game today, I noticed that on the back of their jerseys it said, WE ME.  So, imagine in large letters the word WE and beneath that is a line and then under the line is the word ME.  Well, not being the sharpest tack in the pack, I asked someone what it meant.  They said, now wait for it, it’s gonna be good, “You know we is more important than me.  We comes before me.”  Well, let me just tell you that was a wow moment for me.  I don’t know who came up with that but they should get some kind of award.  WE over ME.  Love it.

Like I said there is a reason why these guys are where they are, but a piece of the puzzle is that team comes before the individual…you come before me.  It isn’t about one person…it is about every person.  Someone said that there is no “I” in “team” and that is so true.  Now, imagine if the “we before me” thing was applied to our part of our world.  Marriage? Family? Church? Job? Club? If your mind is whirling with the possibilities—you got it.

Paul, the one in the Bible, had a version of this too.  He wrote in Philippians 2:3, “Don’t be selfish; don’t try to impress others. Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourselves.” Boom…there you go.  We over me just works every time.  Of course, we Jesus people could also, should also say, “HE over ME” with Jesus being the “He.”  Yup that works too.

Well, I am very proud of our Middle School baseball team.  Way to go guys.  They have a few more playoff games coming but hey, I’m thinking State.  Regardless…they are all winners, and I am thankful for them and the men who coach and lead them. I’m not sure if God picks sides in sports but He might and He would say, “Don’t worry…I’ve got this.”  Bro. Dewayne

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

One Thing I Know

And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to His purpose for them.” Romans 8:28

Momma always knew best.  I was blessed to have a good Momma and Daddy.  They were everyday people but in so many ways they were anything but every day.  Willing to take on the task of raising eight children, they gave up a lot for us.  Daddy worked hard as a jet engine mechanic and Momma mostly stayed home and took care of us.  Momma was always there when we needed her.  I remember one time I was sick with a stomach virus.  It was the middle of the night and Momma sat down in an old wooden rocker we had and then invited me up into her lap.  There she gently held me.  It didn’t do much to ease my unhappy stomach, but it sure made my heart feel better.

Momma had her own brand of medicine.  As best as I can remember, Momma was a big believer in “family herd immunity.”  In case you are not familiar with that, it is where a certain illness is almost intentionally shared with members of the family, especially siblings. I guess Momma thought it was best to get it all over with at one time.  And it seemed to work.  I remember one of my sisters came down with the measles.  Rather than isolate her from my sister and I, Momma just put us all together in the double bed in the spare bedroom and waited.  Sure enough, we all promptly got the measles and we also all got well about the same time.  I’m not sure modern medicine would approve, but that’s ok.  It worked for us, and Momma was always there to help us get better.

However, Momma didn’t always use herd immunity.  When I was about nine, there was a pretty serious flu outbreak in our north Florida city.  I really don’t remember too much about it.  I also don’t remember if I became a patient or not.  But there is one thing I do remember—I knew what we had in our family wasn’t good and I felt I needed to do something—so I did.  I found a piece of paper and a pencil, and I made a sign warning other people to stay away.  The sign said something like this, “Warning.  We have the FLEW.  Don’t come in.” Even if my spelling wasn’t the best, it still got the message out.

When I was in the second grade, Momma’s brand of herd immunity took on a different look.  My sister Kathy was not feeling well so Momma took her to the doctor, and I tagged along.  Dr. Smothers was our ears, nose, and throat doctor.  He checked my sister out and it was determined that she had tonsillitis.  That was something a lot of kids back then seemed to get. Well, Dr. Smothers suggested to Momma that perhaps it was time for my sister to get her tonsils out.  Again, back then that was the standard treatment.  So, Momma agreed and then said to Dr. Smothers, “Why don’t we take Dewayne’s out too?”  Hmmmm.  Herd immunity strikes again. So, the doctor says, “Well, Dewayne, what do you say?  Would you like to get your tonsils out too?”  Now I had no clue what in the world he was talking about.  But I think he said something about all the ice cream you wanted, and I was in.  A few days later I found myself in the hospital with my sister and the world’s worst sore throat.  I’m still not sure if that ice cream was worth it!

I’m sure there are many more stories about Momma’s medical skills and judgement, but they have slipped from my memories.  But let me tell you one thing that hasn’t slipped away, that is the concrete knowledge that my Momma loved me.  Whether it was the measles, the flu, or getting rid of some pesky tonsils, Momma always did what she thought was best for us.  Some people probably wouldn’t agree with her medical practices, but I know everything she did was for our good.  For my good.

And do you know what?  I think that is just another way my Momma was like God.  You see, God is constantly working in my life for my good and His glory.  I mean He is working out His purposes but at the center, at the core of it all is—my good.  The Bible verse that is so poplar is so true.  It goes like this, “all things work together for good, for those who love God, the ones who are called according to His purpose.”  Like I have said so many times that doesn’t mean that everything is good, but that God can bring good from all things.  I know Momma loved me a lot but even her love must pale to the love that God has for me—for us.

Now I am certain if you asked me in the middle of encounter with measles, that truth might have been a little clouded.  If you asked me after the surgery to remove my tonsils, well, I probably would have doubted it.  But in the long run, looking back—well, my Momma loved me and did her best to show that love.  So, today if you bump into a hot mess—today if things go south and it is hard…maybe real hard—just remember how much God loves you.  You can take it to the bank—it is a sure bet.  When life leaves you hurting worse than a bad stomachache, you just crawl up in His lap and let His strong arms ease the pain away.  Then, just nod off and take a nap.  You can safely do that because, “He’s got this.”  Bro. Dewayne

Posted in Family, friends, Grace, gratitude, life, love, loving others, priorities, Scripture, thankful, Trials

Show a Little Kindness Today

Be kind to each other, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God through Christ has forgiven you.” Colossians 4:32

I needed to go…and she was right. I served as pastor at Cobden First Baptist Church for fourteen years.  For the first couple of years, we had someone to do the bulletin but that was about it.  After the church grew, we decided to hire a secretary and that was when Lydia came on scene.  When we hired her, she told us that she didn’t have a lot of experience but was willing to learn. Well, my twelve years in the Air Force as an Administrative Specialist made me a pretty good teacher. Before long, Lydia was up and running and she became one of the best secretaries I have ever had.

What Lydia initially lacked in practical experience she more than made up in a heart to help.  When someone came into the office and needed an encouraging word…Lydia was there.  When someone was struggling with life…she was there.  On any given day you could count on her to bring a little sunlight into the office. There was a time, and I don’t remember why, my wife Judy and I were the ones needing that encouragement.  It was a church thing, perhaps an unhappy member, who knows, but we needed that little ray of sunshine.

I can remember it to this day. Judy and I were sitting on the front porch watching the traffic go by. Whatever was on our hearts and mind wasn’t devastating but apparently it was difficult.  I learned a long time ago something doesn’t have to be the end of the world to feel like it.  Well, it felt like it.  It was about 4:30 or 5:00 pm…right before supper time…when a car pulled into our driveway.  It was Lydia.  She had ordered a pizza, made the trip to a nearby town, and was now delivering it…unannounced and unexpected.  Oh, and by the way, it wasn’t just any pizza…it was from our favorite place.  That’s just what she did.

One year for Boss’s Day, she called an Air Force veteran who attended our church.  She knew, of course, that I was an Air Force veteran and she was looking for a pair of aviation sunglasses to give me as a gift. She was just checking to see if he knew where she might get a pair.  As it turned out, he had a pair, new in the box, stored away.  When it came Boss’s Day, she gave me the glasses.  When I opened them…I just couldn’t believe it!  First, it was the perfect gift.  Secondly, and she didn’t know this, nor did he, but there stamped on the box was the date of manufacture which happened to be the month and year I joined the Air Force.  How about that.

There was one more thing that Lydia did that made her special.  She gracefully spoke the truth.  Occasionally I would come into the office and be just a hair grumpy.  I know that is hard to believe (smile) but trust me, it is true.  She knew I needed a little help. Her solution?  Almost without fail she would say, “Bro. Dewayne, you need to go to the nursing home.”  It wasn’t a statement about my age or future she just knew that going to serve someone was a sure-fire fix.  And it always seemed to work.  I would go, I would come back and simply say, “Thank you.”

Judy and I are thankful for many things throughout the many years we served at Cobden.  But near the top of the list is a friend named Lydia.  She would be the first to tell you of her imperfections, but she loved people and she loved Jesus and that was always like a fresh wind. Judy and I will never forget her kindness and the example that she set.  Paul, one of the guys who wrote a big chunk of the New Testament said, “Be kind to each other, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God through Christ has forgiven you.”  Lydia got that right.

In today’s culture if you look around you will see signs telling us to be kind.  I think that is spot on and I also believe that Christians should be leading the way…just like a Jesus follower named Lydia.  Be kind when you can and guess what?  You always can.  Need a little help? Just ask God. He would be more than happy to point you in the right direction.  You might say, “He’s got this.” Bro. Dewayne

Posted in Family, friends, Grace, gratitude, life, loving others, priorities, Scripture, Southern born, thankful, wisdom

Money Tip

For the love of money is the root of all kinds of evil.” 1 Timothy 6:10

I never considered myself an entrepreneur but looking back…maybe I am.  Fortunately, I was raised by a Momma and Daddy who believed in a strong work ethic.  While they weren’t overbearing about it, I grew up knowing that I should get a job and go to work. It must have worked because over my 53 working years I have always managed to have a job and go to work.  I consider that quite a blessing. Looking back, I think my working career really started when I was about ten years old.

In the early sixties, we had an old lawn mower or two that had seen better days but my Daddy, ever the mechanic, managed to keep them running.  And then, he was willing to let me borrow the mower and go around the neighborhood offering to mow people’s yards. Today, that is big business but back then…not so much.  I would grab the lawn mower, the gas can and start going door to door.  My business plan was simple.

I would go to the door, knock, or ring the bell and wait for someone to answer.  When they did, I would simply say, “Hello.  Would you like your grass mowed for $2.00? Now, most of these yards were a pretty good size so even back then that seemed like a fair price to me…but guess what?  That $2.00 then is equal to $27.40 today.  What? Ok, I must admit I was surprised to learn that.  That might explain why more often than not, the answer to my question was a polite, “No.”  You see, it turns out that $2.00 was a sizable investment back in ’64.

But there were plenty of folks that said yes, and there were a few repeat customers.  The bottom line is it was enough to give me some spending money and, of course, keep the gas can filled.  At the end of the day there was always a trip to Jackson’s Minute Market that was down the street from my house.  There I would pull out one of the wadded-up dollar bills and trade part of it for a RC cola or Icee and a honey bun.  That would set me back a quarter.  The rest of my earnings stayed in my pocket or in a safe place back home just waiting for a trip to the Pic-N-Save or some other store.

Speaking of Pic-N-Save, that is one thing I wrestled with—saving.  If memory serves me right, I did a whole lot more spending than saving.  It seems I remember my Daddy saying something about that money, “burning a hole in my pocket.”  Well, he was right.  While money didn’t come easy for me in ’64 it sure went easy.  Me and my dollars were all about me.  I never thought about giving or sharing…only spending.

Well, I am glad to let you know I have learned a little more about money since those days.  First, I learned (well, actually I’m still learning) that Jesus was right…it is more blessed to give than to receive.  Me and Jesus (and my wife Judy) came to terms a long time ago about giving back a part of what He gives to me. I’m even learning that everything belongs to Him anyway, so it only seems right to give some back.  And that isn’t all.

I’m also learning about saving.  I’ve always said that I was a spender and not a saver but now I can honestly say that I’m a pretty good saver. In fact, sometimes it is hard for me to let go of those hard earned dollars.  That might explain why I don’t go to the grocery store too often.  Judy will send me looking for a can of beans.  When I get there, I find out that there are all kinds of beans, and some are cheaper than others.  So, it might take me a couple of days to decide which one to buy.  Hmmm…how about that?

Another thing that I have learned is that money isn’t good or bad…it is just money…a tool that we can use either wisely or foolishly. One of those verses in the Bible that is often misquoted says that money is the root of all evil.  Turns out that isn’t what the Bible says at all.  It says that the love of money is the root of all evil.  In other words, when we start worshiping money or when greed becomes a monster in our lives…we are in deep weeds, and the answer to all of that is—generosity.

So, it turns out what to do with money is one of those lifelong lessons.  I’m grateful the ten-year-old Dewayne was taught to work but I wish he had learned a lot earlier about giving, sharing, and saving. But the good news is that it is never too late to change.  One of the greatest joys in life is sharing with others.  I think it must be a Jesus thing because He always shared with those around Him.  If you need some help, why not ask the One who owns it all…and chooses to share with you.  Take it to the bank (pun intended) He’s got this. Bro. Dewayne 

Posted in forgiveness, Grace, gratitude, life, prayer, priorities, Scripture, thankful

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 must 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 You Version 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, a while back, 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 You Version app and began to read.  I was able to pull that off 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 You Version 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 favorite sounds, suddenly 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.  Bro. Dewayne

Posted in Family, food, friends, Grace, gratitude, life, love, loving others, priorities, Scripture, Southern born, thankful

Makin’ Grits

I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.”  Jesus in John 10:10b

It was time for some grits.  Well, after two weeks on the road traveling and doing God stuff it was so good to be home.  Dorothy (the one from the Wizard of Oz) said it best…there is no place like home…and she was right.  Over the last two weeks we did different things and slept in different beds and ate a lot of different foods. In the coming days and weeks, I will be writing about some of our adventures. But after all of that…this morning…it was time for something familiar. It was time for grits.

When I woke up and had breakfast in this place called home, I wanted something that was normal…something that would remind me I was indeed home.  It shouldn’t surprise you that I turned to grits.  For me, if there is something that says home, it is grits.  Grits are more than a food.  Grits are part of my heritage.  Grits are wholesome.  Grits are…grits.  This morning’s grits started with a bowl of “cheater” grits cooked in the microwave.  Trust me…grits on the stove or grits in the microwave are still stinking good.  So, in the bowl went the grits, an amount of water that varies from day to day, a good shaking of salt and pepper, a small handful of bacon bits and finally, a wedge of Laughing Cow Light Swiss cheese.  Can someone say, “Hallelujah?”  Well, from the first bite till I scraped the bowl clean…it was heaven…it was good…it said, “Home.”

While I love grits, I also am honest enough to admit that just plain grits are well…plain.  But when you add the good stuff, well, all I can say is “Shoot that thing.”  The good stuff can make something plain…sing.  It is true with grits, and it is true with life.  You see, life can be just life but when you add the good stuff, life sings like a happy opera singer.  What makes life sing is different for each person but for me the list is short and sweet.  First, you add God to the mix and not just any god but Jehovah God…the One who made it all.  The trees, the flowers, the mountains, and the rivers are just a few of His works.  Look up and the stars and the planets all sing of His greatness. You know, Jesus once said that He had come to give us life and not only that but a life worth living…and I believe He did. Now don’t confuse God and religion.  God is always good and religion by itself is just like plain grits…tasteless.

Another thing that makes my life sing is family and friends.  You see, I don’t believe grits were made to be eaten plain.  Grits is the foundation just waiting for the good stuff.  We were never created to be loners on a desert island.  No, we were made for each other.  Again, each life is different, but each life should include others…the kind that enrich and fulfill us.  For some it is a big family and for others it might be a family of one.  It might be ten close friends or only one or two, but we all need others.  Why not invite someone into your world today?  I know for me that can sometimes be difficult, but it is worth the effort.

The third thing that we need to make our life sing is a trio of treats.  They are love, gratitude, and contentment.  Just like the cheese, bacon bits, and salt and pepper bring my bowl of grits to life, so do these three powerful life ingredients.  Love is as essential as the air that we breathe and gratitude, being thankful for all we have instead of grumpy about what we don’t, is too. Oh, and when we are grateful…we are usually content.  Throw all of this together and you have a life that sings…a life that is worth getting up to everyday.

You see, to have a full life, a life that is as sweet as the sweetest love song, doesn’t require titles, dollars, and stuff.  No…a life that sings is so much more than that.  All we must do is be willing to start.  This morning’s breakfast of grits wasn’t hard…I mean that is one thing that even I can prepare.  But it did require a start…it did require a beginning.  So, today, let’s take that first step.  Let’s pour in the bowl of our life a big dose of faith, love, gratitude, and contentment and then let’s sit down to the table of life and feast. Don’t know where or how to start? Why not ask God, the one many call, “Father?”  You will find Him there ready and willing to help. You can rest assured that, “He’s got this.”

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

Facing Down Mortality

Hi Grits Family! Hey, my wife Judy and I are going to be “out of pocket” aka “not available” to write for the next couple of weeks.  During that time, we decided to send out some of our past stories.  I hope you enjoy the ones we selected and look forward to some “fresh Grits” in a couple of weeks. God bless.  Bro. Dewayne

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-eight 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 22 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, 22 years of life have ticked off the calendar.  My children are married, I have eight grandchildren and Judy and I have now been married 46 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 88 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 Sunday and some Wednesdays. 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.  July is past which means over half of this new year is in the rearview mirror. 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 morality. 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—hot mess world and all.  I can rest in Him and trust in Him because, He’s got this.  Bro. Dewayne

Posted in Family, gratitude, life, priorities, Scripture, thankful, Trials, wisdom

Out of Alignment

Hi Grits Family! Hey, my wife Judy and I are going to be “out of pocket” aka “not available” to write for the next couple of weeks.  During that time, we decided to send out some of our past stories.  I hope you enjoy the ones we selected and look forward to some “fresh Grits” in a couple of weeks. God bless.  Bro. Dewayne

Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not rely on your own understanding; in all your ways know Him, and He will make your paths straight.” Proverbs 3:5-6

Something told me I was a day late and a dollar short. A couple of years ago we bought a “new to us” car.  It was a 2014 Volkswagen Jetta.  I drove all the way up near St. Louis to look at their lot full of Jetta cars.  Volkswagen had gotten in trouble about emissions and recalled all their diesel cars.  It took them a couple of years to get them fixed and rerelease them to the market.  Judy and I decided to dive into the diesel market and get one.

So, off I went to St. Louis.  When I arrived, I saw dozens and dozens of VW Jettas.  However, the problem was most of them were in pretty rough shape.  Apparently as the owners turned them in, they decided to treat them like an unloved dog.  Even after they cleaned them up it was pretty apparent, they had lived a hard-knock life.  So, with my trusty salesman by my side, I went from car to car to car—with no luck.  I’m particular about cars and these were not making the cut.

Finally, after checking almost every car in my price range, we found one that was not as perfect as I wanted, but it was the best one available.  I drove it and liked it and before long it was ours.  Driving it home I noticed that the VW emblem on the steering wheel was not pointing straight up.  Hmmmm.  But trying to control my perfectionism I chose to ignore it—for a while.

So, even though it was “Judy’s car”, it had to go.  I asked my super mechanic, Chris, if we could pull the steering wheel and straighten it up.  He said, “You don’t have a steering wheel problem, you have a front-end problem. You need a front-end alignment.”  Well, what about that. I had noticed the car was not wanting to stay straight on the highway, but I didn’t think too much about it.  I should have.

After we got the front end aligned and sure enough there it was—the VW emblem was straight up and down.  Yay—I said. Problem solved…and it was.  However, the problem was that I had waited too late.  Then, a little later I was looking at my front tires and realized that the outside tread was virtually gone…outta there. My choice to ignore and live with a problem ended up costing me nearly $500.00 dollars for new tires.  Bummer.  Big bummer. Oftentimes, procrastination can be very expensive.

Life can be like a car out of balance. It got me thinking, what in our lives might be a little misaligned, out of balance?  What habit, what misplaced priority, what sins are we hiding, ignoring, or choosing to not take care of? I know, it seems easier not to worry about it, but truth be known, the longer we wait the more it costs. The longer we wait the bigger the consequences and the greater the regrets.  It has been said that if you aim for the moon and are less than one degree off you will end up somewhere, but it won’t be the moon…it might be Mars.

Solomon, one of the smartest guys in Bible, said it best. He said that we should learn to trust in the Lord with everything we’ve got, and don’t try to figure it out on our own. He goes on to say that in all our ways check with Him and He will make our paths straight. Make. Our. Paths. Straight.  In other words, if the steering wheel on our life is crooked, He can give us the realignment that we need.  He can make our lives straight.

Well, I don’t know about you, but I think I will save the $500.00 next time and head to the alignment place as soon as I notice something’s going wrong.  I think I’m gonna do the same thing with life.  When my “VW emblem” is a little crooked or I find myself pulling away from the One who loves me most—I’m gonna head to the Master mechanic and let Him check me out.  I can trust Him.  The Creator always knows the creation best.  I’ll rest in the waiting room while He works.  I know He’s got this. Bro. Dewayne

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

Nothing is Impossible

Hi Grits Family! Hey, my wife Judy and I are going to be “out of pocket” aka “not available” to write for the next couple of weeks.  During that time, we decided to send out some of our past stories.  I hope you enjoy the ones we selected and look forward to some “fresh Grits” in a couple of weeks. God bless.  Bro. Dewayne

And Mary said to the angel, “How will this be, since I am a virgin?” And the angel answered her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be called holy—the Son of God. For nothing will be impossible with God.” Luke 1:34-35, 37

It was almost unbelievable.  My wife, Judy, runs an Airbnb.  Airbnb was founded in California by a couple of guys who needed to make some cash.  Since there was a shortage of places to stay in the city where they lived, they decided to rent a spare space they had as a nightly rental.  They threw an air mattress on the floor and ran an ad.  What happened next was just amazing.  The room was booked all the time and well, the rest is history.  Today it is a multi-billion-dollar corporation that works as a clearing house for people who have property they want to rent on a nightly basis.  One of those is us.

We had a two-bedroom apartment over our garage that was sitting empty.  Judy researched and worked hard, and now we have a business that is a supplement to our household income.  As a side benefit, we get to meet a lot of people from all over the United States and sometimes from overseas.  Judy loves to host people, so it is just a win all the way around.

As I said, we get to meet some pretty wonderful people.  One of our favorites bordered on almost incredible.  We’ve had lots of really good people stay with us and a lot of them are Christians.  But the first fall we were renting, we had a younger couple stay with us and they began to tell us a bit of their story.  I was chatting with the husband while Judy was chatting with the wife.  I thought I heard the word “grandfather” and the name “Kenneth Taylor.”  So, I pushed pause on my conversation with her husband and said, “Excuse me, did you say that Kenneth Taylor was your grandfather?”  And she replied, “Yes.”  We had read his children’s story books to our girls many times, so I had to know the story.

Kenneth Taylor was a regular walk around guy who loved Jesus—a lot.  He really wanted his children to know God like he did.  Sadly, there wasn’t a scripture translation available that they could understand.  Back in those days it was the King James Version (KJV) and it was written on a grade level way too high for kids.  He got the idea to paraphrase the Bible into a language that was easy to understand. He wanted his ten kids to understand God’s Word like he did. In 1954, he had to ride a commuter train about an hour each way to work in Chicago, so he came up with a plan to paraphrase the New Testament into modern English during his commute.

For seven years—seven years, he would put his Bible on the seat next to him and put a yellow tablet on his leg and he would literally read and then write—read and then write. He started with the gospels and went from there.  When he got finished, he called his new paraphrase, Living Letters and it was released in 1962.  Well, he quickly found out that the Christian world was not ready for that—they were still struggling with anything besides KJV. No one was interested in publishing Living Letters.  So, do you know what he did?

He and his wife took their limited savings and begin publishing Living Letters.  The Living Letters would later be called The Living Bible. Slowly, ever so slowly, he began selling this paraphrase of the Bible and then something happened.  The Billy Graham Association called and asked if they could publish a special edition to give away at their crusades.  They wanted something that they could give to new Christians when they became Jesus followers, and they thought the Living Bible would be just the thing. They ordered and purchased half a million copies. It was a huge success. Oh, and along the way he started a new publishing company.  If you follow Christian publishing, you just might recognize it—Tyndale House Publishing.  How amazing is that?

Just think—an ordinary, walk around guy who loved Jesus, decided to do something about something.  He was very intelligent, and way committed, but really, he was just an ordinary man who loved Jesus.  And the paraphrase of the Bible he created on a yellow tablet strapped to his leg has helped millions get to know Jesus or know Him better.  It wasn’t easy and it wasn’t fast, but he stuck with it and God used him in a big way.

So, what about you?  What niggle do you have?  What thing is there that God is maybe, just maybe, calling you, leading you, to do?  What ministry does He want you to lead or birth?  What way can you bring some light into this way too dark world?  One of the greatest miracles in the world involved a young Jewish girl who was maybe as young as 14 or 15 years old.  God chose her to give birth to His Son.  She was just an ordinary, walk around girl who said yes to God.  When she said, “How can this be since I’ve never been with a man?” God just said, “Hey, with Me anything is possible.”  Anything is possible.

I know, in our day, everything seems impossible.  We can’t seem to get anything right. But that’s only because we are excluding the One who can make it happen.  Remember what God said…with Me anything is possible.  When we choose to put God back in the mix of our lives, well, there’s just no telling what can happen.  Hey, I’m writing stories and having the time of my life.  I’ve always been too busy and God just sorta, kinda slowed the world down.  There you go.  I hope you will never forget Kenneth Taylor’s story and I hope you will never forget that God wants to use us to do something big for Him.  Don’t let the unknown scare you—it’s just a new adventure about to start.  You can rest in Him.  He’s got this.  Bro. Dewayne