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

Tulip Bulbs

Let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up.” Hebrews 12:1b

It was one of the craziest things I have seen.  In my spare time or when I need to check out, I like to watch television…but not like you might think.  You see, a long time ago I kinda checked out on network television.  It finally got crazy enough that I decided I just didn’t need it.  I know there are some good shows out there but for me the craziness overshadowed them.  For years now, my viewing habits centered around house stuff, nature stuff, travel stuff, history stuff, and stuff-stuff or how this works or that works.

Anyway, was watching a travel show and this episode was on Holland.  On this show, they would fly all over the country and talk about what you were seeing. If you know anything about Holland you know they are famous for wooden shoes, windmills, canals and, wait for it, tulips.  So, they were flying over a tulip farm.  Imagine, if you can, this massive field of every color of tulip imaginable. It was truly beautiful.  I’m thinking how all the flowers will end up in the flower markets around Europe and how much joy they will bring to the people who bought them or received them.

And, then, it happened.  Are you ready? Probably not. The angle of the camera changes some and it shows a tractor, and it is not harvesting the flowers—it is cutting them down. Say what? Yup…if I’m lying, I’m dying.  The massive clipper thing was laying waste to zillions and zillions of flowers. And, in case you’re wondering, no one was coming along and picking them up.  They were laid—not to rest but to waste. What in the world is going on?  Well, here is deal.

This farm wasn’t in the flower business…it was in the bulb business.  In other words, they were not selling flowers, they were selling the bulbs that produced the flowers.  Their logic was simple—and even scientific.  The flowers would drain the bulb of nutrients and they discovered that if they cut the flowers, the bulbs would benefit directly. Bigger and healthier bulbs meant a better price and for them…a bigger profit. While I still don’t understand why they couldn’t find a way to save the flowers, I think I understand why they did what they did.  But what a waste.

The big truth here is really big.  How can this apply to our life journeys, our Jesus journey?  Well, the answer is this.  When we are willing to lay aside the good for something better, or the better for the best, it suddenly makes sense.  We all have things in our lives that may not be bad but the question to ask is, “Are they the best?” And remember—best is always better than better.

The author of Hebrews, which sounds like it belongs in the Old Testament instead of the New says, in Hebrews 12:1, “Let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up.” In other words, whatever causes us to not run our life race effectively, needs to be discarded—no matter how much it is liked—no matter how attractive it might be.  We may need to cut the optional to enhance or save the essential.  Worth it? Always.

Now when I first saw them cutting the flowers, it just seemed so illogical, and we might feel the same way when we started choosing best over better but remember this.  God knows what is best, He desires the best for us, and He will help us choose the best if we will but ask.  It’s just another of those times when He’s waiting to let you know, “I’ve got this.” Bro. Dewayne

Posted in Family, friends, Grace, gratitude, heaven, life, love, loving others, prayer, priorities, Scripture, Southern born, sovereignty of God, thankful, Trials, wisdom

Not Bad, Just Hard

I am the Way, the Truth and the Life.  No one comes to the Father, but by Me.” Jesus in John 14:6

It was Monday…and my brother died. It wasn’t a total surprise as we knew his health was deteriorating. He and his wife had been living in an assisted living facility for several years.  As he grew older, as often happens, his body began to wear out and finally Monday morning it just quit working.  He not only was my brother, but he was my oldest brother. He was seventeen years older than me and in so many ways he was more than just a brother…he was like a second father. To a large degree he helped mold me into who I am today…especially spiritually.  My brother was a believer, a Jesus follower and if I may say so…a pretty good one at that.  In fact, I can’t remember him ever not being a Jesus follower. 

He was the one who always made sure I had a ride to church.  He was one of those three-time-a-week goers, so I suppose that is why it has been a habit in my life too.  Over the years, he shared a lot of good advice with me…advice that has guided me along my journey. When I became a pastor, he offered me some Godly wisdom and for my birthday gifted me with a couple of foundational books.  At one of the churches I pastored, he felt led to lend a hand financially…something he did for more than a few years. He was like a father but he also was like the State Farm commercial that says, “just like a good neighbor, State Farm is there.” He was always there.  Oh, we lived in different parts of the country…but that didn’t matter.  That’s how some relationships are.

My brother wasn’t just my oldest brother…he was my last brother.  When he left town on Monday for a bigger and better place, I looked around and realized I was the last brother standing.  And that was another of those, “mortality moments.”  He was just shy of 86 when he left here and went there—there being heaven.  Eighty-six is a pretty good number, especially for men and especially for Taylor men. At first there were five of us Taylor men and three had already changed addresses—thankfully all in heaven.  So, that left the bookends—my oldest brother at one end and me, the youngest at the other. He lived a long, good life…not the richest guy, not the most popular guy, and not the most powerful guy. In the end those don’t matter anyway.  What matters is he was a Jesus guy. He made a difference. He made an impact. He left a legacy.

So, what happened that Monday morning when the last heartbeat came? Often our first thought is something bad happened.  Well, I guess you could say God, through His Word, helped me have a different view.  As I looked at all of this, death, life, and all that it entails, it seemed God said, “Dewayne, this isn’t bad…it’s just hard.”  It immediately became lodged not in my throat but in my heart.  Not.Bad.Just.Hard.  Now don’t misread this, because there is plenty of bad in the world but with God painted into the picture, His grace and mercy can change bad to just hard.

You see, when my brother’s heart stopped the other day, he gave up a broken world for one that is perfect. He gave up a broken body for one that is perfect. He gave up sickness, tears, and sadness for a place where none of that exists. No assisted living, no hospitals, no funeral homes—just a home like none we can ever imagine—at home with his Dearest Daddy.  See, it’s hard for us, sometimes really hard for us, however for him…no…he’s doing better than ever before. You might say that he is more alive than ever before.

My brother loved our family reunions and guess what? There is one coming that will outshine them all.  Because of my pastoral responsibilities and distance, I didn’t make too many of the reunions but this one coming up…I’ll be there.  Oh, it isn’t because I’m a preacher, or go to church, or belong to one denomination or another.  No, just like my brother, I’ll be there because I am a Jesus guy and He is the way to the reunion of all reunions.  Jesus said, “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life and no one comes to the Father but by Me.”  Yes, it is a narrow road but the grand part is everyone is invited to participate.  All you have to do is say, “Yes” to Jesus.

So, my brother died…well…actually His body died but not him.  I’ll see him again and that’s not bad. The separation is hard but there is a party coming…one for the ages.  You need to know that God wants you there also, and He made it possible for that to happen.  Jesus, faith, grace, and mercy.  Indeed, He’s got this. Bro. Dewayne

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

Their Best

Do to others whatever you would like them to do to you. This is the essence of all that is taught in the law and the prophets.” Matthew 7:12

It was our second trip to West Africa.  We were back on the dry sandy desert fringes of Niger doing a food distribution.  It was such a barren land made worse by an ongoing drought.  The people would do just about anything for food.  While we had prepared to feed many of the people, truthfully, we couldn’t feed them all.  So, families with the greatest need were chosen.  We would go to their villages the day before the food distribution and meet with them and do some registration work before the distribution.

It is hard to describe the poverty there.  Simply put, most of the people had nothing.  They had little food and little water but something amazing happened everywhere we went.  We would gather with the leaders and the people in their village.  We would give them a word of greeting and then they would greet us.  All of this, of course, was done with the help of interpreters.  After a while, we would complete the necessary paperwork and finalize details for them to come to main village the next day.  And then, it would be time to say goodbye for the day.

This was a repeat of the greeting we had done when we arrived.  They would graciously thank us for coming and we would graciously thank them for allowing us to come.  Then it happened…every time.  These incredibly poor people would present us with gifts.  Often it was some sort of leather craft decorated according to their customs and their people group.  It was such a gracious act of kindness and we always left feeling incredibly blessed.  They who had so little gave to us who had so much.

It was the last appointment of the day.  We drove and drove—it was more than several kilometers.  When we arrived at the site, we realized it wasn’t a village it was just a meeting place.  The people we were to meet were truly nomads.  Someone had set up a large tent made from skins and rugs to offer some shade from the searing Saharan Desert sun.  When we arrived, there was one or two people there but soon many more arrived and the area under the tent was filled with five white guys and a bunch of men whose skin was tough like leather and tanned a deep brown.  Then we really saw it.

In the middle of the tent and now surrounded by people sat a medium sized metal bowl.  In the bowl was what can only be described as dirty, brown water.  As I looked at the bowl you could see something swimming.  It was the larva from some sort of insect native to Niger. I assumed that perhaps this was for us to wash our hands though I was quite certain my hands were cleaner than the water in the bowl.  I would soon find out that the water wasn’t for washing.

Soon the greeting started.  We thanked them for letting us come and they thanked us for coming.  Then someone in their group made the presentation.  It wasn’t a brightly colored trinket…it was the gift of water.  And the brown water in the bowl wasn’t for washing hands soiled by the West African dust.  No, it was a portion of their precious drinking water. That brown water with larva swimming it in was what they drank every day, and they were offering something very precious to them—something they could ill afford to give.

Ordinarily, we would try and eat or drink what they offered, but our missionary knew, and we knew, that one drink of this water would make us very seriously ill.  So, through the interpreter our missionary explained that while we deeply appreciated their kindness and generosity, we could not partake in the water for that reason.  They certainly understood so the water remained throughout our visit. At the end we reversed the greeting process and climbed aboard our four-wheel drive for the long drive back to where we were staying.

The ride was quieter than normal.  Each one of us was clearly aware of what had just happened.  We all were pierced to our hearts over this act of immense generosity and the immense blessings that God had graciously poured on our lives.  Mission trips tend to do this to anyone who travels to a third world country.  There is always some kind of guilt over having so much while those you serve have so little.  But understanding God’s grace and humbly serving others at least helps.  But it always changes you.  It always marks your life.

In my mind’s eye I can clearly see the bowl of water all these years later.  I can still see the people coming through the gate after walking kilometers to get their food.  I can still see them trying to manage the heavy bags of rice and millet.  But something was missing.  Not one person complained about the lack of a vehicle to carry their load.  Each was just grateful to be able to eat that night.  And, yes, we were changed again.  I would like to think that a little of their gratitude rubbed off on us and that it still remains.  I know we will never forget those eleven or twelve days in Niger.

You don’t have to go to Africa, or Haiti, or Nicaragua, or London, or China, or Bulgaria, or the Philippines or wherever to serve.  Each of us are missionaries on a mission field and each of us can serve others…just like Jesus did.  One day He was sitting on a hillside teaching the people and He said, “Do to others whatever you would like them to do to you. This is the essence of all that is taught in the law and the prophets.” It really is that simple. It won’t get you to heaven…God’s grace and faith in what Jesus did on the cross does that. But it is an opportunity to be like Him…to love like Him.  It’s a tall order but don’t worry, you know that He’s got this too.  Bro. Dewayne 

Posted in fear, forgiveness, friends, Grace, gratitude, loving others, prayer, priorities, Scripture, thankful, Trials

The Last Part–the Best Part

Before the Passover Festival, Jesus knew that His hour had come to depart from this world to the Father. Having loved His own who were in the world, He loved them to the end.” John 31:1

Some of you might remember Paul Harvey.  He was a radio commentator for many years and was particularly famous for his “rest of the story” stories.  He would tell a somewhat familiar tale and then add a surprise ending to it and conclude with, “And now you know the rest of the story.”

You might remember an Old Testament story about Elisha. Elisha and his servant were surrounded by the bad guys and from the servant’s perspective, it wasn’t going to end well.  Elisha asked God to open the servant’s eyes so he could see what was going on.  God did and the servant saw that the hills were surrounded with heavenly warriors and chariots of fire.  Things got better…quick.

So, the bad guys came down upon the city and Elisha prayed that God would smite them with blindness and boom–He did.  It sounds almost comical, but Elisha basically tells them, “You guys are lost…let me lead you to where you need to be.”  He leads them smack dab into the middle of Samaria…the Israelites’ stronghold.  And that’s where the rest of the story gets amazing.

Elisha then prays for the bad guys’ eyes to be opened and just like that—they were.  They took one look around and realized they were in very deep weeds. The Israelite king saw an opportunity and said to Elisha, “Can I kill them, can I kill them?”  I love this.  Elisha said, “No, you can’t kill them…that’s not what you do to people who surrender.  What you can do is give them something to eat and drink and let them go.”  I’m sure the king’s jaw hit the ground.  The “let’s kill them” plan sure sounded better.

Well, he fed them and let them go. Guess what?  We’ll let the Bible tell the end of the story.  In 2 Kings 6:23 we read, “So the king prepared a great feast for them, and after they had finished eating and drinking, he sent them away, and they returned to their master. Then the bands from Aram stopped raiding Israel’s territory.” Did you get that?  The bad guys weren’t the bad guys anymore. A little kindness changed the whole story. How about that?

If the king had killed them, there would have been revenge. They would have attacked and then the king would have attacked and on and on it would have gone.  But instead, a simple act of kindness broke the domino effect.  Instead of war there was relief–and peace.  In days when sides are still being chosen and tempers still flare—when hate and division are the new headlines and bylines—when no one trusts anyone—we Christ followers can and should be different.  We should be givers more than takers.  We should be lovers and not haters.  We should be like Jesus.

The Bibles says in John 13:1 “Before the Passover Festival, Jesus knew that His hour had come to depart from this world to the Father. Having loved His own who were in the world, He loved them to the end.” Those “ones” He loved–included the guy who would betray Him to the crucifiers.  It included the one who would deny that he even knew Him.  How amazing is that? We can’t really do much about how people act, but we can do a lot about how we respond to them.  If the dominos are going to be interrupted, it will have to be us. The chain reaction is broken when we act like the One who chose not to retaliate but rather to redeem—to restore.

Some days it seems that a too short fuse has been lit and there is not time or hope to stop the future devastation. Let me challenge us today—during these crazy days that are getting crazier by the minute—to do the crazy thing and love, serve and care for others. Let me challenge us to be like Jesus.

How can we do that?  Well, first, as Jesus followers we are God’s kids and that is what He expects us to do. Jesus said we should be peacemakers—whether it is on the street, in the church, or at home.  Second—we can trust Him.  We can rest in Him because we know the end of the story—and it ends well—and no circumstance, no ploy of Hell can change that.  Third—remember, He’s got this—He really does.  Whether it is a resurgence of the virus or another revolting piece of news.  God is good, God is faithful, and God can be trusted.  Sounds like a no brainer to me.  Bro. Dewayne

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

Get a Job

The Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to work it and keep it.” Genesis 2:15

It was time to go to work. It may sound out of date…and maybe it is but I was counting the days till I turned 15.  Not because I was eligible for a learner’s permit, not because I was on the edge of moving on to high school but because, wait for it, I could get a work permit.  You see in Florida when you turned 15 you could get your social security number and get a work permit and…work.  I was ready and I had an in.

Sue Lovell was a neighbor who lived catty-corner from us at 6008 Carlton Road.  She lived in one of the nicer homes in the sub-division that had surrounded us, and we lived in our “used to be” army barracks.  I can remember Sue well.  She was a little different but at the same time very kind.  Well, she worked at this small restaurant called the Village Oven and she offered to try and get me a job if I wanted.  Well, I wanted and next thing I knew I was hired.

My job was not working on a computer or running a business and making life changing decisions. No, I started by serving people…sorta. Looking back, it probably was a little challenging especially for someone just getting their feet wet in the working world.  First, I was the busboy which meant it was my responsibility to clear all the tables. As soon as someone left, I rushed out and cleaned the table.  Second, I was the dishwasher which meant I scraped the plates and then loaded and ran the commercial dishwasher that was tucked out front under the counter.  Of course, I also unloaded the dishwasher and made sure there was a constant supply of plates, bowls, glasses, and silverware.  But wait there is more.

I was also head of the cleaning crew—which consisted of—me. After our customers left, I was to mop the restaurant floor and clean the bathrooms. Looking back, it seems that besides the cooking and waiting, I had my hands in just about everything.  There was always plenty to do…time passed quickly, and it taught me responsibility. I was beginning to get the feel of helping and serving others. The best part of the job, of course, was getting paid.  My hours varied from a few to a lot, and I made a whopping, jaw dropping seventy-five cents an hour. Since this was about 1969, I suppose that was a fair wage and that seventy-five cents went a long way.

I can remember my largest paycheck was around $23.  It must have been during the summer, and I worked somewhere over 30 hours.  I always felt a little rich when I got my check, but that week—I felt more than pretty rich—I felt like Mr. Rockefeller. There is a certain pride in a job done well and getting paid “certificates of appreciation” as Rabbi Daniel Lapin calls them.  Most of us call them dollars and they did make me feel appreciated.  I can’t remember exactly how long I worked at the Village Oven but I worked long enough to appreciate the value of bringing home a paycheck.  I worked long enough to spread my wings a little and fly the friendly skies of growing up.

I’m grateful to Sue Lovell for helping me get the job and I am grateful that my Momma and Daddy drove me the six or seven miles to work and picked me up…sometimes late at night.  I know now that often it is the small things that people do that should and do get stuck in our memories.  It is also the small things that can make a big difference later on.  My first job taught me about serving others, commitment, responsibilities, respect for my bosses, and teamwork at an early age. I can’t measure the entire value of that work experience, but I know I sure learned a lot about how the adult working world operated.

God gave us work even before sin came along.  He knew the value of a man, woman or young adult getting their hands dirty.  He knew the value of working and making a difference and while it may seem hard at the time, the benefits can last a lifetime.  Genesis, the first book in the Bible, says, “The Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to work it and keep it.” The God who made us knows what is best for us.  I’ve heard it said that we should bloom where we are planted, and I think that means caring for the garden around us too.  If you find yourself a little overwhelmed with this work thing or any other thing, just ask God and He will lend a hand…He’s got this.  Bro. Dewayne

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

Family Working Together

How delightfully good when brothers live together in harmony!” Psalm 133:1

I’m not sure how it happened…but it did.  I’ve said it several times, but we were not the richest family on the block…at least if the measurement was money in the bank.  I’m still amazed how my Daddy and Momma pulled off raising us and providing so richly for us.  And I mean that.  While we weren’t rich in terms of money, we were blessed with a good, solid, salt of the earth family. And we were blessed with two parents who were creative enough to make it all work.  And that is the keystone word…work.

Daddy was the kind of Daddy who got up and went to work…every day.  He would carpool out to Jacksonville Naval Air Station, put in a solid eight hours in a jet engine shop that didn’t have the luxury of air conditioning.  Keep in mind this is in North Florida…home of humidity and sweat.  After work, he would often come and work some more.  Daddy was a worker.  Momma was too.  She kept the Taylor ship shipshape…washing clothes, cleaning the house, cooking, and doing about a thousand other jobs.  While she was mainly a homemaker, she did occasionally take on outside work to help the budget.  Sometimes that was a traditional job—and sometimes it wasn’t.  This time it wasn’t.

I suppose she read it in the paper or heard it on the radio or saw it on television.  However, it happened, I just remember, it did.  The phone company was looking for people who would deliver phone books (remember them?) to all the people who had phones—and that was just about everyone. So, Momma signed us up—notice that us—and we soon found ourselves in the delivery business.  You need to know that not only did everyone have a phone and therefore they needed a phone book…there were a WHOLE lot of someone’s.  Oh, and when you have a big city with a lot of someone’s, you have a very fat, very heavy, phone book.

So, on day one of the big adventure, we went to the pick-up place and picked up a zillion phone books.  Our vehicle at that time wasn’t a pickup truck or even a station wagon.  Our car was six or seven year old Plymouth four-door sedan and we stuffed that poor car to the gills with phone books. The trunk was full, the back seat was full, the floorboard was full and even the front was full.  To this day I can remember that Plymouth squatting down in the back till it almost dragged the road.  So, with Momma at the wheel and us three little ones wedged in somewhere, we started delivering books.  Momma would start down a street, and we would jump out (or maybe fall out) of the car, grab an arm full of books and start dropping them at people’s homes.  Again, most people had a phone, but I am sure that some people who didn’t still got a book.  We soon figured out the sooner the books were gone, the sooner we could go home.  And sooner was definitely better than later.

It was crazy hard work and as best as I can remember the money went to help the family.  It was family helping family and that was a good thing.  It seems we did this more than one time but maybe not. But what I do know is I treasure that special memory that I have of Momma and us working together—adventuring together.  I am sure we looked like Ma Kettle and her kids but who cared?  I know we didn’t.  Sadly, stories like this one are slow disappearing.  Families working together and working it out together are giving way to lives too busy to be families.  It has been said that the family that prays together, stays together.  I also think it can be said that the family that works together, strains together, pulls together, “adventures” together…stays together too.

Way back in the book of Psalms, the Bible says, “How delightfully good when brothers live together in harmony!” I know that is speaking about people in general, but isn’t that what families are…ordinary people doing life together? I hope this encourages us in this busy world to be family and do life together…whether it is work or play…or worship.  And speaking of worship, there’s no better place to be family than at church.  And when you get there, listen carefully and you will hear His encouraging voice saying, “Don’t worry…I’ve got this.”

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

Snippet

But Jesus said, “Let the children come to Me. Don’t stop them! For the Kingdom of Heaven belongs to those who are like these children.” Matthew 19:14

It’s tucked away in the memories of my mind…a snippet in a sea of remembrances.  I’ve said it so many times by now that some might say it is overkill, but the bottom line is my Daddy and Momma went so far to make special days…special.  The king of the hill, of course, was Christmas but they also tried to make each birthday special. They couldn’t afford it but somehow, they did it. And one of those sacrifices is the center of the snippet.

It was probably 1959.  I was about five years old growing up in a world so different from today you would think that we moved to a different planet. It was a dozen days past Christmas, and it was my birthday. I’m sure there was cake, I’m sure there was a family celebration but what I remember most is the present.  I’m not sure how you decide what to get a five-year-old, but Daddy and Momma sure knocked it out of the park that year.

Since there were no K-Marts or Walmart’s, I can only imagine that Daddy and Momma went down to the local Western Auto to shop.  If you don’t remember they were a neighborhood store that was part appliance store, part general store and part household store.  They also had a selection of toys…especially at Christmas and maybe that is why they had what I got.  That year my parents bought me an ice cream truck.

Well, it really wasn’t a truck, and it really didn’t hold ice cream, but it was something special.  It had three wheels, like a trike, but behind the seat it had large metal box with decals that said, “ice cream.”  The handlebars had those plastic streamers on each end, the front wheel had a fender and of course, it had a bell.  I can remember driving and peddling down the road in front of our house.  There was little traffic so there was also little danger of getting run over.

For some reason I can remember about a quarter of mile down the road a man was building a small box house.  He was singlehandedly taking on this project, and I decided to peddle down there, and he was working away.  I “pulled up” and asked if he would like an ice cream and the reason I remember him, his house and that day was that rather than brush me off…he played along and if I remember correctly, almost every day I would peddle down the road to see my new customer and friend.  The ice cream was pretend, but his kindness was not.  Looking back at this snippet of a memory, it still makes me smile.

Hanging over the fireplace in my wife’s “keeping room” is a quote by Maya Angelou.  Something she said says so much.  She said, “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” And that is the very reason I remember this man taking time from building a house to talk and befriend a five-year-old boy.  I don’t remember his name, but I do remember his heart.

What about you?  What about us?  I wonder will we take the time to be kind…to treat someone with an extra measure of kindness and implant a “snippet” in their hearts? In those days when I was five, kids were supposed to be more seen than heard.  There seemed to be the adult world and the kid’s world and while there weren’t walls there were boundaries and this kind man chose to move beyond the boundary.  He made me feel…important.  He made me feel like I mattered.  Perhaps today, we should try to do the same.  Today, perhaps we should choose to be like…Jesus.

Jesus was famous for seeing the invisible people and touching the untouchable.  He even said one time, “Let the little children come to Me.”  He would have said to that little five-year-old boy with an ice cream truck, “Let Dewayne come to me.”  And I want you to know that no matter how invisible you feel, no matter how insignificant…you are not either to Jesus!  Tattoo that on your hearts…you matter, and you matter a lot to Him.  So, if life seems overwhelming, or maybe underwhelming, just remember you’ve got a friend in Jesus.  He’s got this.  Bro. Dewayne

Posted in Christmas, Family, friends, gratitude, life, love, loving others, priorities, Scripture, sovereignty of God, thankful, wisdom

Time…Our Treasure

Lord, You have been our refuge in every generation. Before the mountains were born,

before You gave birth to the earth and the world, from eternity to eternity, You are God.” Psalm 90:1-2

I glanced back in the rearview mirror and watched it disappear, just like that Christmas came and went.  It never ceases to amaze me how quickly time passes.  At one time there was a saying that said, “You are slower than Christmas.”  Well, at least for me that simply is not true anymore.  It seems like yesterday that we were talking about another new year, another new month, or another new week and now it is time to start it all over again.  In a very few days we will be celebrating January 1st and the start of another New Year. Amazing.

As you know Christmas fell on Sunday this year. For most folks the day of the week Christmas arrives is not that big of a deal.  However, for us preacher-teacher types it certainly is a big deal.  It is a definite shift to go from ho, ho, ho and opening presents to “Holy is the Lord.” It is almost like shifting a car from forward to reverse.  Christmas on Sunday normally occurs every six or seven years but guess what? Because of the way Leap Year falls next time, it will be eleven years before we celebrate Christmas on a Sunday again.  Eleven years.  For me, that means I will be knocking on eighty—loudly.  For some of you, it means your seven-year-old son or daughter will be knocking on 18. Is that crazy or what?

The crazier part of all of this is that those eleven years…if we get to see all of them…will pass so very quickly.  It is such a good reminder that we need to savor each day the Savior gives us.  We need to remember how precious every minute, hour, day, month, and year are.  The Bible has a lot to say about time and how we handle it. First, Moses tells us in Psalm 90, “Teach us to number our days carefully so that we may develop wisdom in our hearts.” That is such good counsel.  Like a cook carefully measures the ingredients in whatever they are preparing, so we need to carefully measure the value of each day. And when we do, if we do, we will discover the wisdom of the God of the ages.

Another great scripture is found in the New Testament of the Christian Bible.  Paul was writing to a group of Jesus people in Ephesus.  He said to them, “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.”  Make the most or squeeze everything you can out of each day.  There are two things we need to remember about days. First, they all belong to the Lord…we are just managers and second, each day is a gift from Him.  No matter how difficult or how easy—each day is a present from Him to His children.  So, we should handle it with care and use it wisely.

Two of the things I love about God is His is generosity and wisdom.  He gives and guides and then helps us to make the most of every day…every gift.  As we look forward to our next installment of time—no matter how much or little we get to experience—always remember that there is One who is standing close just waiting to help us.  No matter what—He’s got this.  Bro. Dewayne

Posted in Christmas, Family, friends, Grace, gratitude, Holidays, life, love, loving others, prayer, priorities, Scripture, Southern born, sovereignty of God, thankful, Trials, wisdom

It’s a Downtown Christmas

I pray that you, being rooted and firmly established in love, may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the length and width, height and depth of God’s love.” Ephesians 3:17b-18

This was one time paying a bill was fun.  My life as a kid was good.  While we didn’t have everything, we had plenty and we had each other.  A few weeks out from Christmas (believe it or not, we actually celebrated Thanksgiving before jumping into Christmas) we would get all the Christmas decorations down from the attic and decorate the house. I told you about the special Santa that used to hang on our chimney and believe it or not I was able to find one exactly like it and it now hangs in my office.  He keeps an eye on me all through the year to make sure I am behaving.

One of my favorite memories was the times when we had to go to downtown Jacksonville to pay our utility bills.  I suppose it was the electric bill because we had a pump in the backyard for our water and we didn’t use gas.  At any rate, with a tight budget, we would have to take the bill down to the electric company and drop it off the night before it was due. Christmas or not, off we would go to downtown.  But during the Christmas season…it was special indeed.  Here’s why!

Back in the day, all the department stores would decorate their windows with all things Christmas.  There would be figures whose arms and legs would move, reindeer that lifted their heads as if to fly, boys and girls skating on a make believe lake and on and on the list would go. It was certainly a magical thing to see and experience.  In its own small way, it made Christmas, Christmas.

Now here’s the good part.  Truth be known, if it wasn’t for the tight budget that forced us to make time to go downtown to pay the bill—we probably would have missed that beautiful part of our Christmas memories.  I know that often this is not by accident but rather by design.  You see God is always working, sometimes out front and sometimes in the background, but He is always working and yes, He does work in strange ways.  And often, what seems like a difficulty can be His way of bringing something good to light.  If we are willing to be patient, then time after time we will see His Divine handiwork.

I think one of the best things will be when we finally get to heaven and see that it is full of surprises.  We will know all the things God saved us from that we never saw happening and all the things He arranged that we skipped over and counted as consequence.  And as much as we think we know, I believe we are going to be astounded by the depth and width of His great love for us.

Paul, the guy who wrote a big chunk of the New Testament said it best when he wrote, “I pray that you, being rooted and firmly established in love, may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the length and width, height and depth of God’s love.”  And honestly, that is one prayer we may not see answered because His love is so vast. So today, why not keep a special look out for all the ways God especially works in your life. Some will cause you to be filled with gratitude and others, well, they might make you grateful that indeed, “He’s got this.” Bro. Dewayne

Posted in Christmas, Family, friends, Grace, gratitude, Holidays, life, love, priorities, Scripture, Southern born, thankful, wisdom

On the Other Side of the Wall

Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.” James 1:17

The walls were thin…real thin.  The house I was raised in was a converted World War II barracks that had been moved from wherever to the corner of Wheat and Carlton Roads. It was a two-bedroom, one bath house with more people than bedrooms.  We were normally scattered about in the house to sleep but not on Christmas Eve.  That night, the three little ones, as we were known, were all put in one bedroom and in one bed.  That night was a night of wonders enhanced by the sounds coming through the thin walls.

We were put to bed early in those early days because Santa Claus was coming to town. We reluctantly surrendered and tried to go to sleep.  We made every excuse possible to peek and see what was happening on the other side of the thin wall.  We even resorted to telling white lies about having to use the restroom but all to no avail.  We were Christmas Eve prisoners while Santa came on the other side of the thin wall.

What we couldn’t see…we could hear.  There were voices, there was laughter and occasionally there was the sound of a toy…a present…being tested. I remember one time my sister had asked for a chord organ and imagine the thrill when through the thin wall came the sound of music.  Well, it took a while but eventually we would drift off to sleep with visions of Christmas morning dancing in our heads.  Each Christmas, we were startled awake by the sound of an old .410 shotgun being fired.  Like horses at the starting gate, we knew it was off to the races. With the final permission, we flung open the door and walked into a wonder land of wonderful things.

Each Christmas morning there around the room would be at least some of the things we had asked Santa for.  We were far, very far, from rich but somehow Santa would bring at least some of the things we had asked for along with others we had not even thought of.  It was an amazing and wonder filled morning.  Even as I write, as my mind races back to those times, I smile.  I smile because of the gifts, those we asked for and those more than we could have imagined, but I also because now I know the sacrifice that made all that possible.  Oh, how blessed I was…we were.

Each Christmas I knew we probably wouldn’t get everything we asked for, but I knew we would be amazed at what filled the room.  It seemed someone had mined our minds and dug up treasures galore.  I truly treasure those memories and today…I treasure the same thing but not just on Christmas morning.  Each day I am amazed how another Father, my heavenly Father, fills my life with gifts.  Each day He blesses and each day He shows His love in practical ways. Sometimes it is the answer to a prayer, sometimes it is just His attention to the small details of life and sometimes it is just His love, His presence. And sometimes, it is Him walking with me through some challenging circumstance…some difficulty…expected or not.

I have learned that He is a God who can be trusted.  And even though I don’t always get the exact answer to a prayed prayer, I know this. He never gets it wrong.  Sometimes that means things I thought of, but it always includes things He thought of.  Just like Christmas morning while I didn’t always know what was going to be on the other side of the thin wall, I knew it was going to be good.  Why? Because it was all planned by someone who loved me dearly.

James, the half-brother of Jesus said, “Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.” That teaches us that God is the giver of good and perfect things and that His nature and character about giving never changes.  What we must do is trust that “Father knows best.” I’m sure I asked for some crazy things growing up and I’m also sure my parents were wise enough not to grant every wish or request.  We can know the same about God.  So be brave enough not to allow disappointment to be a part of your God vocabulary because He is for you and not against you.  He is so much wiser and more able than we are.  We can rest assured that no matter what it looks like, “He’s got this.”  Bro. Dewayne