Posted in Grace, gratitude, life, loving others, missions, prayer, priorities, Scripture, sovereignty of God, thankful, travel, 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. 

Posted in Family, fear, forgiveness, Grace, gratitude, life, priorities, Scripture, thankful, Trials

I’m All Shook Up

The prudent see danger and take refuge, but the simple keep going and suffer for it.” Proverbs 27:12

I grabbed it and couldn’t let go.  I’ve said it before but growing up, times were pretty hard.  My Daddy worked very hard to provide a good home for us and we always had plenty of good food.  Sure, sometimes there was more “loaf than meat” but hey it was still good.  One of my favorite food memories from when I was nine or ten was a fried potato sandwich.  When there wasn’t any meat for sandwiches, Mama would slice some potatoes and fry them up.  We would slap those things between two pieces of bread with some mayo and instant heaven.  I mean who doesn’t like home fries anyway?

We lived in an old World War II barracks that had been converted into a two bedroom house with a breezeway that led to a closed in garage that served as a third bedroom.  We also had two acres of land which was great for playing but not so great for mowing.  We didn’t have a riding mower until I was in my teens so the two acres had to be mowed by hand. To get it done we had an old push mower.  Just trust me that was a lot to mow with a push mower.  Anyway, this mower had two unique qualities.  First, it didn’t have a throttle.  It had one speed—wide open.  It was one of those deals where you wrapped a rope around the top and gave it a yank.  If you said your prayers and held your tongue just right—it would crank.  And like I said, when it started…it started.

The other quirk with our lawnmower was that it didn’t have a kill switch either.  There were two ways to turn it off.  First, you could take a screwdriver and ground the spark plug to a metal part on the mower.  The second was a lot more risky.  You could attempt to pull the spark plug wire off the spark plug.  Now, keep in mind I was pretty young and didn’t understand all the dynamics of a spark plug, the coil and touching the wrong thing at the wrong time.  I was a setup for a shocking experience.

So one day…you can see it coming can’t you? Well, one day, I was done mowing and the lawnmower was running wide open.  I had to kill the beast—slay the dragon if you will.  I was a good piece from the shed and didn’t have a screw driver so that left only option 2—pulling off the spark plug wire.  Running wide open, shaking like a hula dance (that would be me and not the lawnmower) I reached down and grabbed a hold.  I still don’t know if I grabbed the wrong part or if the current came though the brittle insulation on the wire but it got me.

I’m not sure if I can describe the sensation that I experienced. I can vividly remember two things.  My  whole arm shaking and the fact that I couldn’t get loose.  I’m sure I’ve never experienced anything quite like it.  Like the Ray Stevens song about the Mississippi Squirrel, I was sure “something had a hold of me.”  I don’t know how I got loose.  It may have been mercy from above or pure desperation but I did get loose. The lawnmower was still running and my arm was still shaking.  If you ever see this strange twitch in my left arm—well, it still hasn’t got over the sensation.

I’m supposing I got a LONG screwdriver and killed the engine and I am also sure I never, and I mean never, went out again without it again.  You only need to grab the wrong thing one time and you will never do it again.  I know that is true with quirky old lawnmowers but I also know it is true with bad decisions.  I suppose everyone of us has a bad decision somewhere in our past—and I am not talking about spicy pizza as a midnight snack.

There are certain things, and a lot of times they are lawbreakers, that you shouldn’t do once much less twice.  If we would just hit the pause button and think about it we could eliminate a lot of our regrets and consequences.  Do I really want to do that? Do I really want to keep that date? Is that a call I really want to make? Is that a relationship I really want to maintain?  Think about it.  I have never done this before but I just need to use that verse we wrote about recently.  It is from Proverbs (which is like wise sayings) and it tells us the prudent (or wise) person will see danger and take refuge.  The simple (inexperienced) person will see the danger and keep right on going.

Let me tell you.  I grabbed that wire once and once was enough.  The only thing that would have been better was if I would have walked to the shed and got the screwdriver. It wasn’t that far.  But, I thought I would be the exception.  I thought I could pull it off…no pun intended…and I was wrong. I.Was.Wrong.  I don’t know if there is anything in your life right now that is a bad idea or maybe you’re making plans.  Take some advice from a former “wire grabber.”  Don’t.  Just do the right thing and you won’t regret it.  Oh, and if you don’t, there is a God who loves and cares for you.  And if you ask, He will help.  He’s got this. 

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

Holy Moley

The prudent see danger and take refuge, but the simple keep going and suffer for it.” Proverbs 27:12

This is the kind of story I don’t like writing.  Since some of you know me and some of you don’t, I’ll start by saying that I have issues.  Yup…and more than one.  With that said, this story is about my health issues.  All my life I have had this battle with my weight.  Although people say I wear it well, I pack more baggage than I need to carry on this trip called life. Consequently,  most of the time I am either on the way up…or on the way down.  That’s just the way it is.  And honestly, it is all about—sugar.

You see, I love snacks, and in particular, I love sweet snacks.  Now I’m not talking about candy though I’m not saying I would turn down a Butterfinger.  No, I like baked stuff and I am an equal opportunities eater.  Pies, cakes, donuts, cookies, brownies, cinnamon rolls—if it is baked and sweet—count me in.  To help counter the calories, I do try and exercise—at least some.  In fact, at the beginning of last year, 2020, I managed to walk a couple of miles a day, five and six times a week for months.  Yay for me…but then something happened.  However and whatever the cause, sometime late fall I quit and when I quit—it happened.  The flat-out truth is I started gaining girth like a snowball going downhill.

Well, I did what any self-respecting foodaholic does—I just quit getting on the scale and, oh yes, I quit checking my blood sugar too.  Did I mention that I am a diabetic? Did you also know that donuts, cake, pie, cookies, and brownies don’t go with diabetes? But don’t worry, I’m not a really severe diabetic. That’s another way you quit doing the right thing.  You simply justify your behavior. A guy said this week that justifying is “just a lying.’” Ouch.

I was a recipe, no pun intended, for disaster.  I could tell I wasn’t doing well.  I could feel my body saying, “Excuse me.”  After binge eating on whatever was sweet one Sunday, I got on the scale on Monday.  Holy moly.  I also checked my blood sugar on Monday. Holy moly the second time.  Good grief.  I was so frustrated with myself.  I didn’t even have to ask, how did it happen?  I knew…all too well.

Here’s the deal.  You know those red lights and crossing guards at railroad crossings?  Do you know the consequences when you ignore them?  Well, I ignored the lights and the crossing guard and the easiest way to do that was just quit—quit weighing and quit sticking your finger.  Anybody can tell you the truth of this. To start down the wrong path just STOP doing the things that help you be accountable.  Maybe, your AA meetings.  Maybe your exercise.  Maybe going to church.  Maybe reading your Bible.  Well, the list goes on and on.

I stumbled on a really, good verse in the book of Proverbs this week.  It says a wise person will see danger and take cover.  A foolish (or inexperienced) person will see the same danger and keep right on going.  That’s a good verse. No, that’s a great verse. What about you, what is it in your life right now that you can see the red lights flashing and the crossing guard down?  More importantly, what are going to do with it.  Trust me…it is really important.  You see that decision will determine your regrets and consequences.  Remember that “holy moly” moment I wrote about—yup, that’s the deal.

The answer is simple.  Stop saying tomorrow and start today.  There’s a saying I just love—when you are tempted to stop, just remember why you started.  I know I’m only two weeks in but here’s the results so far.  By returning to my exercise and eating healthy and breaking up with my beloved carbs and sweets, I have dropped over 13 pounds and my sugar…normal.  I am grateful that my body still responds to doing the right things.  And for me it is relatively easy…at least with these two things.  But trust me there are other things that are a daily battle.

The good news is I have someone who stays by my side…as the Bible says, a friend closer than a brother.  Who would that be?  My Dearest Daddy.  He is for me and never against me.  He has things planned for me that are too good to miss. I know this COVID has messed with our spiritual stuff pretty badly.  But I hope you will make the decision, today, to “get back on the scale.”  Your Heavenly Father will be there to help.  He’s got this.

Posted in Family, forgiveness, Grace, life, loving others, missions, prayer, priorities, Scripture, thankful, travel, wisdom

Zone of Fire

And the tongue is a fire, a world of iniquity.” James 1:6a

It was over in a flash.  Well, most everyone has heard of Johnny Cash and most everyone has heard his number one hit, “Ring of Fire.”  Well, Johnny had his ring and I had my “zone of fire.” Twenty-five or so years ago my brother decided he would come up and visit with my wife and I.  It was a big deal because he is from the deep south and well, for him to cross the Mason-Dixon Line was pretty much a miracle.  When we were making plans, he mentioned that he wanted to go pheasant hunting.  Well, I checked into it and found that there was a “bird farm” about an hour from where we lived.

A “bird farm” is a business that owes a ton of land and then raises birds to be released into the wild for the purpose of hunting.  When the day came, we drove up to the bird farm.  When we got there, it was me, him and a couple of other guys, we checked in and the guy said that we would have a dog hunt with us.  That was strange since we didn’t pay for one but hey, ok.  We headed out with the dog and the guide. The way this works is you form a line, straight across, and about fifteen to twenty feet apart.  Then the dog works the area in front of you as you move forward.  If the dog goes on point (which means he found a bird) then the guide scares up the bird and someone, or a lot of someones, shoot.  So we hunted, and hunted and hunted. The bottom line? I was pretty sure there wasn’t a bird within a hundred miles of that place.  The dog never went on point.

From there things went downhill.  The owner came and said that he had accidentally given us the dog and we had to give him up…so we did.  That meant we were totally on our own.  We would walk through the weeds saying, “Here birdie, birdie.”  Ok, not really but we did walk through the field just trying to scare up a bird.  It was beginning to look like a continuation of the time with the dog when it happened.  As we walked through the field, and with no warning, we scared up a bird.  It was a beautiful male pheasant and he just exploded off the ground about thirty feet in front of me and slightly to my right.

I can’t tell you how fast this all happened.  He leapt into the air, I raised my bird gun and fired.  It really was over in a flash and it was a perfect shot.  Just like that the bird was down and everyone was excited.  I had shot pheasant once or twice before but honestly it was a great shot…all except one thing.  Not once, not for a millisecond did I think about my “zone of fire.” Basically, the zone of fire is the predetermined area where it is safe for you to fire your weapon.  It obviously includes where there aren’t any people.  Now, it all worked out just fine.  I was within my zone of fire, but it was not because I intentionally did it—it was just luck.

While I don’t personally believe in luck, I do believe in a God who takes care of us…even when we are just a little—careless.  Truth be known, if that bird was a little closer to the line of guys I could have wounded one of my friends and that would have been unbelievably tragic.  When you have a weapon, you need to be sharp, you need to be focused, and you need to be careful.  You must be always be aware of your zone of fire.

That truth doesn’t just apply to weapons, you know.  We need to apply it anytime we are with people.  You see, we carry a lethal weapon with us all the time.  That would be our mouth.  And if we are not careful, a situation may come up, and before even thinking, boom…someone is wounded or hurt.  And the crazy part? It can happen in a flash just like pheasant exploding off the ground in front of me.  In a moment of time, we can fire from the mouth that will leave a lasting, and sometimes permanent scar, on the heart of someone around us.  We just need to be careful.

James, the half-brother of Jesus said that the tongue is a fire, a world of iniquity. We all know the stories of the wildfires in the west—the grave property damage and the tragic loss of life.  And James says in the same way the tongue can cause that kind of damage in the lives of people.  What can we do to prevent that?  The same thing when we are using our weapons around others.  We need to be sharp, we need to be focused, and we need to be careful.  Now, I have a friend who is a weapons expert and a great hunter. If he had been there that day, he would have given us a safety briefing which would have included our “zone of fire.”

We have an expert with our tongues too.  He is our Dearest Daddy and because He made us, He knows the destructive power of the tongue and can help us control it. As we walk through each day, He will be by our side and He will guide us and help us.  He will whisper the guidance we need to be safe and not hurt others.  He is a guide that can be trusted and depended on.  After all, He’s got this. 

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

Shoeless Service

But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return, and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, for He is kind to the ungrateful and the evil.” Luke 6:35

It was a dark and stormy night.  Well, it really wasn’t but I’ve always wanted to begin a story that way.  But for one man it was, and this is his story.  Years ago, my son-in-law, Blake, and daughter, Sarah, were talking a walk on Church Street—a road that runs about a block behind where we live.  It is just one of the many side streets in town but that night it was something more.  As they walked, they noticed a man coming toward them.  He was obviously having a tough time—like I said, it was a dark and stormy night—at least for this lonely man.

His head was low as he shuffled his feet and pushed his bike.  As he got closer, when some people would have crossed to the other side of the street, Blake and Sarah took the time to greet the man.  His eyes told the story.  He was an Army veteran who had fallen on hard times.  He told how he had been refused treatment at the Veteran’s Center. He shared how memories of a band of brothers who would have stood with him were fading fast.  His uniform that night was dirty and tattered, but his shoes told the story.

Blake, looked down, and while there were shoes on his soiled feet, not much of what used to be remained.  The shoes he had on were way too small but that didn’t matter for much of the toes were blown open.  He told a little more of his story and each word made it clear that it wasn’t just a stormy day for this veteran…it was days, weeks, months, and years.  It would have been easy for the young couple to listen and mumble some semblance of a “I’m sorry” or maybe a “God bless you.”  But they didn’t—more specifically Blake didn’t.

As Blake was looking down at his feet—he saw his own.  His feet were shod in one of his favorite pair of tennis shoes—in nearly new condition.  And then something amazing, something very Jesus like, happened. Without a word, he reached down and began to untie his shoes.  Then he slipped his shoes off and handed them to the tired, banged up veteran.  I’m not sure what he said—maybe nothing.  But perhaps the gift said it all.  Perhaps the gift said better than any words could, “I care.  I feel your pain.”

So, after the exchange they went their separate ways.  He continued down the block and they finished their walk.  I believe that both the tattered veteran and the young couple left different that night.  Perhaps the man’s day was not quite as stormy as it was before his encounter with love.  Perhaps he didn’t feel quite as hopeless—quite as alone.  I know Blake and Sarah were changed.  When they got back to our house after their walk, they shared their story.  It wasn’t, a “hey, look what I did” but rather a “look what God did” kind of moment.  We cried. Jesus encounters will do that to you.

As we take our walks in this thing called life, there will always be multiple opportunities to do the right thing, the extraordinary thing, the uncommon thing.  Sometimes they will be disguised but often, they are in plain sight.  A struggling single mom, a senior adult trying to manage one too many bags, a challenged adult or child who needs a smile and the list goes on and on.  Jesus, the God-man, did plenty of amazing, brazen things during His life here.  The part we know the most about only lasted just over 1,000 days. And in those days, He impacted His known world and in the days since then the entire world.

There used to be a saying that was tossed around in our everyday Jesus walk lives.  It simply said, “W.W.J.D.” or “What would Jesus do?”  It has long since been cast aside now but the truth of those four letters or four words still ring with power.  What.Would.Jesus.Do? One thing is for sure.  It would include a multitude of acts of kindness to the most unlikely of candidates and it would be done in the name of love. Jesus said, “Love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return, and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, for He is kind to the ungrateful and the evil.”  What powerful words.  What life changing words.  The thought of doing this is counter-cultural and it might stretch you a bit but don’t worry— “He’s got this.”

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

My Blurry World

Rather, clothe yourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ, and do not think about how to gratify the desires of the flesh.” Romans 13:14

One day it became obvious.  We all know about DNA and how we pick things up from our ancestors.  Whether it is hair (or lack of it) from an uncle or our leaning toward a certain body build, the ones who have gone before have left their fingerprints all over us. However, sometimes, it doesn’t work that way.  My Daddy and Mama both wore glasses and yet somehow, I ended up with pretty good vision.  I can remember in my younger years I could spot something in the distance that others would miss.  It was better than 20/20.

Then one day I noticed something.  While I don’t remember the exact day, I do remember the thing that called my attention to it.  One day, I looked down at my watch and realized that it was a bit fuzzy.  Hmmmm.  So, I moved my arm around a bit and soon everything was back in focus.  There….problem solved.  This went on for a while and though it was a slight inconvenience it wasn’t a deal.  Yet.

I was about 40 when this “slight inconvenience” began but I don’t think I fully understood that it was a beginning.  As the years went by, I began playing the trombone. You know, to get my eyes to adjust I would have to move my watch, or the book or whatever, in and out to gain focus.  That worked…until one day my arms just weren’t long enough.  My eye doctor told me what I already knew—it was time for readers.

Readers are these glasses you wear when your arms are too short. You don’t wear them all the time, you simply put them on when you need to look at something close up.  So, every morning, I wake up—or at least that’s the plan. And, because my regular vision is good, I still have the ability to see around the room and far off.  But when I sit down and want to read my Bible or my iPad it instantly becomes apparent—I need my readers.  I quickly remember that it is a blurry world without them—at least my close-up world is. So, I slip them on and boom—I can see—clearly.

The key is remembering where your glasses are.  I have multiple pairs in my home office,  I have two on my desk and one by my chair when I read.  I know that they are essential—to see close-up.  I know some people struggle with the far-off thing and I might too one day but for now…readers are my friends…readers are my essentials.  Nobody wants to live in a blurry world, especially when the world is so blurry you can’t make heads or tails of anything.

I’m a Jesus follower and because of that I know there is a pretty promising future out there.  I’m sure He has my future in His hands though I’m not sure what that always looks like.  I am learning just to hang on and trust.  I do know ultimately because of my faith in Him (and certainly not because I deserve it) I will spend my forever with Him in a place called Heaven. I don’t know where you land with that but, hey, it is most definitely worth checking out.  Grab a copy of the Bible and read it for yourself.  It’s been around a really long time with no revisions so it’s something that can be trusted.

But that is then. What about the here and what about the now?  Well, just like I really need a little help reading up close, I need more than a little help to do life—up close and personal. And that is one of my favorite things about following Jesus.  He doesn’t wait for a time way off in the future to be there for me.  He is here now.  Sometimes it is from the Bible, sometimes it is in my every day walkabout life, and sometimes it seems like a still small voice but He is there to help me in my otherwise blurry life. Over and again, I see His handiwork—I call them love notes—as He helps me journey.  I’m learning the more I look—the more I see.  The more I see—the more I want to look.

It took me awhile but now it is a natural reflex for me to put my glasses on. When I pick up a book, glasses on. When I’m reading the instruction manual, glasses on.  When I’m setting the thermostat, glasses on.  I’m also learning to put on Jesus the same way.  Difficult decision…Jesus on.  Wisdom to make it through the day…Jesus on.  Need help forgiving or being kind…Jesus on.  Paul, one of the writers in the New Testament, says that we should make it a point to put on Jesus, but he doesn’t stop there. He says that we should not even crack the door open for things that are contrary to the Word. He knows nothing blurs our world like going crossways with God. And here’s the amazing part…it really works.  Just like my glasses give me clarity, so does Jesus.  He makes life make sense.  And I have the confident assurance that because He can see clearly…He always knows the answer.  And because He does, He’s got this. 

Posted in Christmas, Family, Grace, gratitude, Holidays, life, loving others, priorities, Scripture, thankful, travel, wisdom

The Rest of the Story

When it is in your power, don’t withhold good from the one to whom it belongs.” Proverbs 3:27

And now you know the rest of the story.  You might remember that line from Paul Harvey who used to tell some incredible stories from real life.  He would tell the part that was known and then tell the part of the story that was not.  He would always end with, “And now you know the rest of the story.”  Well, today I want to tell you the rest of the story.

In the days right before last Christmas, I wrote a Grits story about my storied Christmas childhood.  It was almost magical.  Each year it seemed that Mama and Daddy pulled it all together, and that always meant sacrifice, and gave us a Christmas beyond our dreams.  I cannot recall one Christmas that wasn’t incredible.  I’ve heard stories from the generation that endured the Great Depression and they would speak of no Christmas or maybe just an apple or orange.  My Daddy and Mama were part of that generation and I wonder if that is why they were so generous to us?

Well, in that story I talked about my Daddy’s old 410 shotgun.  Every Christmas morning, long before sunrise, he or one of my older brothers would go on the back porch or the breezeway and shoot the old 410.  It was like firing the pistol at a horse race.  We knew it was time to race into the room to see what Santa had brought.  I mentioned in the story that I wasn’t sure who had the gun—this priceless family heirloom.  I knew it was somewhere but where?

While I had four brothers, five including me, there are only two of us left.  We are the bookends—he the oldest (soon to be 84) and me the youngest (a long way from 84).  Christmas night I received a message from my brother.  He wrote that he had read my story about Daddy’s old 410 and that I had mentioned that I didn’t know what had happened to it.  He shared with me that he had the gun.  Shortly after our Daddy died in 1974 it came into his possession and he had it ever since.  What he wrote next made the Christmas of 2020 one for the books.

My brother said, “Dewayne, I want you to have Daddy’s old 410.” 

My brother said, “Dewayne, I want you to have Daddy’s old 410.” I couldn’t believe it, so I read it again and I had indeed read the message correctly.  Tears instantly began streaming down my cheek as I shared the text with my wife, Judy. He said he had already talked to his son who was helping with his affairs and let him know his desire to pass it to me.  Well, Judy and I had already made plans to go to Cookeville, Tennessee right after Christmas so I told her that we needed to head to Jacksonville when we were done there so I could go and pick up the gun…and we did.

We drove hundreds of miles and a whole lot of hours to go get “the old 410.”  I couldn’t see the brother who had blessed me due to COVID, as he and his wife life in an assisted living home. I did get to sit and visit with his son who is only six years younger than me.  The gun (not a gun but THE gun) and that visit made every mile and every hour worthwhile.  If I am still alive when my brother passes, I will probably have the opportunity to share at his service.  I already am extremely thankful for him—his fingerprints are all over my life.  But that day I will share this story and how his thoughtfulness made the Christmas of 2020 one I will never forget.

The old 410 sits right to my left as I write this.  I showed it to my oldest grandson and his dad.  We always spend Christmas Eve night with them.  I smiled from ear to ear when my son-in-law leaned over and said, “Papa, you will have to bring the old 410 to our house next year so we can shoot it off Christmas morning.”  That sounds like a grand idea and if the Lord is willing that is exactly what we will do.

The Bible says that we shouldn’t withhold good from a person when it is within our power to grant it.  I am so grateful my brother didn’t wait.  He could have.  He could have passed it to someone else, but instead he chose his baby brother who just happened to write a story.  Me, my Daddy, my uncle and each of my brothers have hunted with this gun—it is a beautiful piece of our family legacy. It is now one of my most cherished possessions.

So, let’s watch for opportunities to bless someone when it is within our power.  I know Jesus was really good at that and if we are Jesus followers, well, we should follow His lead.  I wonder if the Whisperer whispered in my brother’s ear and he just listened.  I wouldn’t be surprised—he and Jesus are pretty tight.  And when it is our turn to be kind, well, don’t worry. He will whisper to you too, and rest assured He will give you the wisdom and ability you need.  He’s got this.

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

Blindside

So whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets.” Matthew 7:12

I was blindsided.  It was time for a haircut. Now that is a relative statement—you know like relatively speaking.  I had five brothers and only two of us are left.  All the brothers had hair—lots of hair. No receding hairlines, no clogged drains in the shower, no nothing but lots of hair.  And then there is me.  While my daddy had a receding hairline he never lost his hair.  Well, that was them and that was him but it sure isn’t me.  It started with a receding hairline, then it became a thinning receding hairline and then it became a full blown retreat.  I now have a really, long forehead.  I don’t know if it is still in full retreat or if we are holding our own.  The jury is still out. So, I’m trying to say that a haircut for me is a relative statement. I am grateful that getting a haircut still doesn’t mean getting a solitary hair cut, but I do remember the days when there were more than a few.

Now, I keep my hair short for two reasons.  First, I have grayish white hair and I found it doesn’t look quite as white if I keep it shorter.  Second, and I can only guess, it is a carryover from my days with my Daddy and in the military.  For the first 18 years of my life my Daddy made sure I kept my hair short (even though it was the late sixties and early seventies).  After him, it was twelve years in the Air Force, and they made sure it was short. Well, after 30 years of short hair I figured, why change now?  So, the bottom line is about once a month I go see my hair cutter person.  Even after a month, my hair is sparse and less than an inch long.

So, I was in the chair and she was clipping and buzzing along.  She has cut my hair for the last 15 or so years so she knows the landscape pretty well.  Well, she said, “Dewayne did you hit your head or something?”  I assured her I hadn’t, but she was sure something had happened.  Well, my wife Judy had gotten me a pair of virtual reality goggles for Christmas.  I had used them the night before and the straps fitted pretty tightly around my head, so I assured her that was what she was seeing.  Then she said, “Well, let me show you.”

Before I knew it, there was a mirror in my hand, and she turned me around so I was looking in the mirror.  I could see something I had never seen—the back of my head.  Oh.My.Goodness.  You see, I naturally assumed that my…oh, how I hate to use the word…baldness stopped on top of my head.  I also assumed that I had the mane of Samson in the back.  I was wrong.  There in the mirror I got to see what everyone else saw all the time.  While it wasn’t totally hairless let’s just saw it was pretty thin.  You might say it was wavy—you know, the hairs there had plenty of space to wave at one another.

Well, I gasped and bless her heart, she did her best to assure me it wasn’t that bad—the average person looking wouldn’t even notice.  She said you would have to look real close to see it.  She was so nice, but I had the strangest feeling she was not telling the whole truth.  And in that moment I realized that my days of teasing people with a halo at the back of their head were probably over.  I had reached a new level of membership in the hair club—or perhaps more appropriately, the “no hair club.” What struck me as funny was I had no idea.  I really was blindsided.  I couldn’t see what any other person walking behind me could see.  To make matters worse, let’s just say that I’m not the tallest guy in the neighborhood. That means everyone taller than me, which is probably 90% of the adult population, had a great view of my impending hair doom.

Well, that started the wheels turning in my mind.  I wondered just how many other things are there about me that I am totally blind to?  How many times did my impatience at the grocery store show?  How many times did my glaring eyes betray my true feeling when some nice “little, old lady” pulled out in traffic in front of me?  How many times was my sarcasm not as veiled as I thought?  Oh my!

So, I think I might have learned something valuable at the hair cutting place that day.  It wasn’t that I should get a hand mirror so I can see the back of my head.  No, it was the fact that I should, we should, be aware that people are always deserving of our courtesy, our kindness, our compassion.  If we are Jesus people, especially if we are Jesus people, we should make a conscious decision to be authentically nice. The golden rule, which is found in the Bible, says “So whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets.” Truth is it is not always easy to be kind, but it is always right.  And when it seems especially hard, don’t panic.  God is good at being kind so you can rest assured that He will help you. After all, “He’s got this.”

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

Jesus Road

There is no distinction between Jew and Greek, because the same Lord of all richly blesses all who call on Him. For everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” Romans 10:12-13

It seemed like a waste of time.  I was part of a mission’s medical team and we were ministering in Uganda.  We were working with a ministry that helped orphans and due to war, aids and poverty—there were many to help.  After ministering at the orphanage, we went out to local villages and bush to reach more of the people.  Medical care, though extremely inexpensive, was out of the reach of most of the people.  That alone clearly speaks of their poverty.  It was such an opportunity to help others.

Before we started the clinic, I would have the opportunity to speak to the people.  I would explain that there was a Man named Jesus who was like no other man.  He would go from village to village helping people—often healing them of their diseases.  I would explain that He did it because He loved them.  Then, I would tell the people that we were followers of that Man and just as He wanted to help people—we wanted to help them.  I explained that the medicine and the doctors were there at no charge to them because someone else had paid the price.  And naturally, that led to me sharing how God was offering them a way for their spiritual brokenness to be forgiven.

Some of the people in the village had heard of this Man—many had not.  Some were Muslims and some followed whatever local religion they were familiar with.  Before they saw the doctors, we had the privilege of sharing with them more about this man Jesus.  We would ask them if they wanted to leave whatever “god” road they were on and walk the Jesus Road.  While it seems simplistic here, there it made perfect sense.  There was no pressure just an opportunity to believe.  Whether they said yes or no, the medicine, the help, was theirs for free.  That’s what Jesus would do.

It had been a long day and we had seen well over a hundred patients—maybe two hundred.  Many had said yes to the question about the Jesus Road, but some simply said no. As the day wore on, our spirits were still willing, but our bodies were growing tired.  Finally, there was just one man left and it was my turn to share with him.  He was tall and dressed in the traditional Muslin clothing.  I could tell that he was elderly, but I was surprised to learn that he was 81 years old.  Now, honestly, the chances of a Muslin man that old choosing to change roads was slim to none.  It seemed like an exercise in futility.

I shared a Bible story with him and was surprised that he paid close attention.  At the end of the story, which spoke of a person choosing to walk the Jesus Road, through the interpreter, I asked him, “Would you like to follow this Jesus Road?”  Much to my utter surprise, he responded, “Yes, I would.”  I was certain he just didn’t understand my question, so I rephrased it and his response was the same. Amazing.  Finally, I said, “Do you understand that walking the Jesus Road requires you to leave the road you are on?”  I said, “You cannot walk two roads…only one.” His response was, “I choose the Jesus Road.”

We bowed our heads and he prayed telling Creator God that he was a sinner, but he believed that Jesus had died to pay for his sins.  He said that he was willing to leave all other roads and follow only Jesus.  And just like that, this dear old man, became a Jesus follower. Did he fully understand all the theology that was involved?  Probably not, but he did know that God loved him, that he was a sinner and Jesus would forgive him and that was enough.  What seemed like a waste of time, an exercise of futility, turned into the most amazing moment of the trip.  That day that man became a child of God.

This story never grows old—and neither does the old, old story about Jesus being born, living, dying, being buried, and coming back to life in three days—never to die again. It is a factual, amazing story.  I am always amazed that we know more about this carpenter from a small village in the middle of nowhere than we do of all the Roman emperors.  Do you know the reason?  Jesus is the real deal.  How about that?

You might be surprised to learn that Jesus wasn’t a big fan of religion. In fact, neither is God.  I always think of religion as man’s attempt to reach God while Jesus was God’s way to reach us.  A relationship with God is not about church, being good, or keeping rules.  It is about God’s love and our faith in what Jesus did.  It is simple, it is powerful, and it is true.

If you want a witness, you can go to Uganda and find my 81-year-old friend, but truthfully, he probably isn’t there.  By now, he has most likely followed the Jesus Road straight into heaven.  That’s where it ultimately ends.  And as much as I love the fact that the road leads there, I am also so glad that there is room for two to walk side by side—Jesus and me, Jesus and you, Jesus and us.  And as we walk, I know that I can face whatever the road holds because, “He’s got this.”  Bro. Dewayne

Posted in Family, forgiveness, Grace, gratitude, life, New Year, prayer, priorities, Scripture, thankful

Watch the Small Print

Throw all your anxiety onto Him, because He cares about you.” — 1 Peter 5:7

Just pay a separate fee.  I’m a fan of the infomercials on television that you see all the time.  No, I’m not interested in the products and I don’t like the way they interrupt my viewing times. I like them because they are funny.  As you watch them, it is as if they had just discovered the fountain of youth. It is always something that they think I just can’t live without.  And, it is like they are my new very best friend.  They like me so much they are offering a deal that I just can refuse.

Sometimes it is a garden hose that expands like crazy when connected or shrinks up like a snake when it is isn’t.  Or maybe it is some miracle herbal supplement that is guaranteed to make me lose weight, or gain weight, or grow hair, or remove hair from where you don’t want it.  Regardless—they all carry a money back guarantee.  If you don’t like it…just send it back—minus shipping and handling and your firstborn.

My favorites are the ones that offer you two for the supposed price of one. That’s right folks because we like you so much, we are going to send you two of these amazing products—just let us know—and, of course, pay a separate fee. Wait. What?  If I am paying a separate fee isn’t that like walking into a donut shop and asking for two donuts and paying for both?  Or maybe going into Best Buy and them saying we are not going to sell you one television today, but two. All you have to do is pay a separate fee. I think that is called two for the price of two.

Then of course there is the small print.  On most screens there are like fifteen lines of extremely small print.  We are going to send you a two-week supply of this amazing product that will cause you to grow six inches overnight—and it is free.  What you can’t read is the small print that says if you don’t cancel in five minutes and speak fluent Swahili then the deal is off.  I remember we were driving back from somewhere on a trip listening to a radio show that I trusted.  They were offering a two-week supply of this amazing herbal deal that would help me lose weight.  Well, I needed to lose weight and there was no risk, right?  Well, a month later I was fighting a $69.99 charge on my credit card.  Oh, the small print.

I saw a commercial today for those amazing HD Tactical Sunglasses on television.  They made them sound like they would cause the blind to see. Well, I bought some at a local store and they didn’t exactly live up to all the hype.  In fact, they were so dark I couldn’t see anything—in HD, SD or any other D. They are in the car waiting for a return trip to the store.  The bottom line is if it sounds too good to be true…it probably is.  And it seems the more the hype—the greater the chance that it is full of hot air and not so true promises…except one.

The exception to this rule is one you won’t find on television.  That one exception is God. Here’s the deal.  He never makes a promise He won’t keep and He’s not big on the small print.  He lays it all out and there is no separate fee.  In fact, His gift of love and forgiveness comes prepaid—no shipping and no handling. I need to be honest and tell you that sometimes folks speaking for God like to make promises on His dime and then God gets the bad rap.  But there’s an answer for that too.  Just get a copy of His Word and check it out for yourself.  Like I said…He lays it out and it is a deal you just shouldn’t pass up.

As we begin this New Year, here’s some great advice.  First, record your favorite shows on the DVR and watch them later when you can fast forward through the commercials.  You can save yourself a chunk of time and if you are tempted by those outrageous claims in the commercials, you might save a few bucks too. Second, tune in to God.  He’s good, He’s faithful and He can be trusted.  Notice, by the way, that I didn’t say religion—I said God.  He has a great “no extra fee” offer.  He says, “Throw all your anxiety onto me, because I care about you.” And do you know what?  He really does.  There is nothing that He and you are going to face that He can’t handle.  Rest assured, “He’s got this.”