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

Sunrise and Sunset

It will soon be time for me to leave this life. I have fought a good fight. I have finished the work I was to do. I have kept the faith.” 2 Timothy 4:6-7

It was a warm North Florida Sunday morning that would change everything.  I was raised in Jacksonville, Florida and was fortunate to live in one place and one house all of my growing up years.  Our house was a converted World War II army barracks with a couple of rooms added on.  I’m not sure who moved it there, or who added what, but it was home…my home. I lived there till I graduated from high school and joined the Air Force. My Daddy had some heart issues while I was still in high school and unfortunately, they went from bad to worse.  This was before all the miraculous medicines and surgeries that we have now. So, times were hard for him…and us.

In the summer of 1974, somehow it came about that we, the family, would get together and paint the house.  It was a wooden structure, and time and weather had taken a toll on the outside.  The old wood siding looked pretty rough, and as I remember it, Daddy said he wanted to have the house painted before he died.  Now that is my memory, and it may not be entirely accurate but something like that is how we ended up painting the house in mid-July.  Several, if not all, the brothers were on hand as we scraped and painted the house.  I don’t know if my sisters were painters or not, but I wouldn’t be surprised if they were.

As darkness crept up on us on Saturday, July 13th, the house was just about painted.  We worked until nearly dark and finally, it was done.  It looked amazingly better and Daddy and the rest of us were proud of our hard work.  Daddy did little, if any, of the painting because of his health.  But there was something he did do.  Several of the wooden windows needed the panes reglazed, so he was working on those.  We had a wash-room built onto the house and he was working on that window when darkness fell Saturday evening.

The next morning, Sunday, July 14th, Momma when in to check on Daddy in the bedroom they shared. That was when she found that sometime early in the morning, he slipped from us. I clearly remember the chaos of those moments as we called the ambulance and tried to perform CPR, but it was too late.  Daddy was gone. All of a sudden, those last days of working and painting together became so important, so special.  We had pulled together and given Daddy one of his desires.  It is almost like he was waiting for the job to be done so he could go home.

Later that day, as we were trying to figure everything out, someone found that window he had been working on the night before.  It was laying on two sawhorses with a rag and his tools still in place.  As it turned out, it was the last work he did on this earth.  Someone snapped a picture but as far as I know it has been lost to time, but in my mind I can see it as clearly as if I was standing there.  Daddy’s work on this earth was over and yet he lives on.  He lives on in heaven and he lives on in our hearts.  The freshly painted old World War II barracks was a reminder of our love and respect for the man we called Daddy.

All of that was 47 years ago today.  It is hard to imagine that so much time has passed since he passed from this world into a better world…a world where bad hearts have no place and where time doesn’t matter.  One day, because of God’s good grace, I will see my Daddy again.  My Momma joined him in heaven just four short years later…both were just 62 years old.  But when I get there, when we get there, all that won’t matter because God is going to make it all right…all new.

I supposed the whole purpose of this Grits is just to allow me to relive a good memory of a good man.  I suppose it is just to help me make sure that his memory lives on here, as he lives on there.  And I suppose the big truth for this Grits is that we should live each day to the fullest and do whatever it is we should do.  It might be painting a house, or glazing a window, or it just might be showing someone that you love them.  We don’t know what day will be our last day, so we should live each one to the fullest. Then, we can say something like Paul said when he wrote, “It will soon be time for me to leave this life. I have fought a good fight. I have finished the work I was to do. I have kept the faith.” And my friend, that is a legacy worth leaving.

Losing my daddy at twenty years old was hard, very hard. Then mama was gone, just four short years later, which left me feeling they were both gone too soon.  For some of you, that hardness is yet to come.  But from the voice of experience, let me say, you don’t have to walk it alone.  When you are drowning in the sea of sorrow and confusion, He will not leave you to bear it alone. He wants to walk with you, carry you, and whisper as only He can, “I’ve got this.” And He does. Bro. Dewayne

Posted in food, gratitude, life, Military memories, priorities, Scripture, thankful, Veteran's Day

Cracker Barrel Moments

“He has shown you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God?” Micah 6:8

 It was an unexpected blessing. This morning my friend Jeremy gave me a call and asked if I wanted to go to Marion (a town about 25 miles from where we live) with him.  He needed some stuff from Sam’s so it just sounded like a good thing to do.  And do you know what? It was.  He swung by the house and off we went.  As we traveled we talked.  We have one of those “what’s said in the truck, stays in the truck” things so it is good to have a place where you can let your hair down (uh, if you’ve ever seen my hairline you know that is metaphorically speaking) and just be guys.

As we neared Marion, he took a turn down Main Street, which was a little odd for going to Sam’s, and before I knew it we were at Cracker Barrel.  That caught me off guard since I thought we were just doing the Sam’s thing. It turns out my bad ear failed to hear the part about, “I’ll buy your breakfast.”  So, hey, the trip went from good to really good. Let’s see…time away with a brother and free breakfast…yup…that works.  We were quickly seated in Cracker Barrel but that is when the quickly ended and it was also when I realized I might be having a couple of “Cracker Barrel moments.”

We waited awhile before a server came by.  He was kind and gracious and so were we.  He took our order and Jeremy and I began to talk.  We talked about this and we talked about that and then, because there was time, we talked about that again.  Finally, after oh, three days, our food came.  It really wasn’t too big of a deal because I was spending time with a friend, and I was studying for a sermon on patience and needed some practice.  But I did say to Jeremy, pointing at the food, “I was just about to have to work on my patience.”  He smiled and said, “Hey, you got some place to go?” Ah…Cracker Barrel moment number one. Enjoy the moment.  Truth was there was nothing I was going to do that was more important than just visiting with a friend.  Someone once said that one of the most spiritual things we can do is take a nap.  Number two on that list might be visiting with a Christian brother. Check.

Cracker Barrel moment number two happened a few minutes later.  After we were seated for a few minutes an older couple came in and sat down nearby.  Their server was there immediately.  I think I frowned. Their food came (before ours…I might have frowned) and then shortly after, our own breakfast feast arrived.  Judy was not around so I order the works.  Then it happened.  A young man walked in and was seated close to the older couple.  I watched as the young man went over to the older man, excused himself for interrupting, said something.  They shook hands and the young man returned to his table.

The older couple left first and then Jeremy and I stood to leave too.  I stopped at the table of the young man and asked, “I saw you go over and talk to that older man.  What was that about?”  I really already knew.  The young man said, “He was a veteran I was thanking him for his service.”  Yup…I was right.  The older gentleman had a ball cap on and it identified him as a veteran. I said, “Well, thank you for thanking him for his service.  That was very kind.”  I don’t know who his Momma was, but she sure did a good job raising him.

Two Cracker Barrel moments—two exact opposite lessons yet both valuable.  Live for the moment…whatever is next can probably wait and always, and I mean always, take the opportunity to do the right thing…like thanking a veteran.  I left Cracker Barrel a lot fuller that day…pun intended. We enjoyed a good meal, some great fellowship, and had a blessing thrown in for dessert.

Tucked away in one of those books of the Bible that we rarely read is a verse that says, “He has shown you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God?” I think my visit to Cracker Barrel hit on a couple of those.  None of us know which day will be our last day but it is good to know the One who does. Until that time we need our Cracker Barrel moments to remind us we are still learning and that “He’s got this.”

Posted in gratitude, Integrity, life, loving others, priorities, Scripture, sovereignty of God, thankful, Trials, wisdom

“Puff Graham”

If you are faithful in little things, you will be faithful in large ones. But if you are dishonest in little things, you won’t be honest with greater responsibilities.” Luke 16:10

“Puff Graham”.  Those two words changed our world.  Many of us have heard of and admired Billy Graham.  He was a country boy who later became one of the world’s most renowned preachers.  His passion and love for God and people drew millions of people to hear what he had to say.  His message was simple—God loves you and he made it clear that if a person was willing to ask, God would forgive them and give them a home with Him in heaven.

Many books and plenty of documentaries have been written and made about Dr. Graham but one fact that amazes me is little known.  It was 1949 and he was out in Los Angeles conducting a series of revival meetings.  The crowds were good and the results incredible and the meetings when on for several weeks. Slowly, though, the meetings seemed to be losing momentum and I’m sure it crossed Billy Graham’s mind if it was time to move on.  About that time something happened.

One evening, as he approached the tent where the meeting was being held, he was amazed to find the largest crowd ever.  He wondered what had happened.  Well, what had happened was a two-word directive from publisher William Randolph Hearst.  The directive simply said, “Puff Graham.”  The directive ordered all of Hearst’s vast media holdings to start promoting the young evangelist. Almost overnight, Billy Graham attained “celebrity” status.

I suppose it would have been tempting for Dr. Graham to use that to promote himself but no…he used it only to promote the One he loved.  It is interesting that according to Dr. Graham, he really had no relationship with Hearst.  There was no real reason for this to happen except for one…the providence and sovereignty of God.  I believe God honored Billy Graham for his character and integrity.  He knew He could trust the young evangelist with success.  You see, the truth of the matter is riches are harder to handle than poverty and success is harder to handle than failure.

If we want God to bless us more then we need to be ready and able to handle those blessings.  The One who made us knows if we are ready to be “puffed” or not.  Jesus said, “If you are faithful in little things, you will be faithful in large ones. But if you are dishonest in little things, you won’t be honest with greater responsibilities.”  The story is told of a young man applying for a job.  After the interview, he and the man doing the interview went to the cafe for lunch.  The young man was first in line and the other man watched as he got a pat of butter and slipped it under his napkin so he wouldn’t be charged for it.  Well, he wasn’t charged, nor did he get the job. “Puff Graham.” Two words that tell a big, big story.  Let’s be sure and be the kind of people that God can do whatever He wants in our lives.  Let’s live worthy of being “puffed” however that looks and whatever that means.  But let’s also be the kind of people who are willing to promote others.  Let’s look for opportunities to lift someone…even if it means not promoting ourselves.  One thing is certain.  We can trust God to do what is best for us and what is best for His Kingdom.  We can rest assured that, “He’s got this.” Bro. Dewayne

Posted in Family, gratitude, life, prayer, priorities, Scripture, Southern born, thankful, Trials, wisdom

Stinking Rock

The Lord God is my strength, and He has made my feet like hinds’ feet, and makes me walk on my high places.” Habakkuk 3:19

Ok…it just hurt. I grew up down South and there and especially then things were just a bit different.  Back in those days before Nintendo and Game Boys, we played…I mean we just played.  Even though we had television, and yes, it was black and white, it was rarely on…especially during the day.  When school was over for the day, we would go outside and run the neighborhood and…the woods.

We lived in a small country neighborhood that was surrounded by woods.  We played army, built forts, and played every game you could imagine.  We had a large Chinaberry tree in our backyard, and we would load our pockets with the small berries and then chase one another trying our best to “ping” someone with the berries. As you can imagine we ran…a lot. And the best running shoes then were no shoes at all.  We ran and played barefoot most of the time.  There were times of regret, like when we would stub our toe on a big old pine root, but most of the time we did just fine.  Of course, all that “barefoot-ness” toughened our feet up till the soles were leather tough.

Well, things change, and we all grew up and started wearing shoes.  With the shoes, we lost our toughness but not our love to occasionally go barefoot. There’s still just something about the feel of grass and soft sand on the bottom of your foot.  Yup…what good memories…that is until I stepped on a stupid rock. It all started when I went outside early in the morning, as in the sun was still yawning, to have a cup of coffee with Judy.  Of course, I wasn’t wearing shoes.  We have a paved driveway and patio so no deal…right? Not so fast.

I walked out to the patio, visited awhile, and then decided it was time to head back into the house to get ready for the day.  Our patio is a foot or so higher than our driveway and we have a small step there to make things easier.  So, I stepped down onto the step and then on down to the driveway.  Not thinking, nor thinking to look, right where I stepped was a nice, small rock.  Now this wasn’t the smooth stone kind of rock but the kind that you find in an unpaved alley.  Anyway, I stepped, and stepped hard and landed right on that stinking rock.  Ouch.

As things would happen, it was in the middle of my heel, and it just hurt.  I muttered something about stupid rocks, picked the rock up and chucked it back in the alley where it belonged.  It really was a “no harm, no foul” deal.  I mean, it wasn’t like it hurt all day and it wasn’t like I had to go to the doctor, but for those few moments…it just hurt and for those few moments…I was mad at the rock. Mad.At.The.Rock.

Wait…later I decided there was something wrong with that.  I am sure that rock didn’t wake up that morning (do rocks wakeup?) and decide to be in the exact wrong spot.  In fact, I am sure the rock had nothing to do with it at all. I am sure that I am the one who chose not to wear shoes that morning, who didn’t look to see if there was a rock in the way, and who wasted my emotional energy by getting mad at a rock.  It sounds like this one is on me.

The bottom line is when you do life, you will occasionally step on a rock, and it may cause some pain.  But like the Disney song says, maybe we should just, “let it go.” The Bible gives us some even greater counsel.  It says that we are to remember that God is our strength, and we should ask Him to guide our feet as sure as a mountain deer.  In other words…to help us watch where we step…whether it is off our patio or into a questionable decision.

Well, I know, and you know it wasn’t the rock’s fault that day and really, in the scope of things, it wasn’t mine either. It was just one of those things.  Oh, and this morning, I went out barefoot again but before I stepped off the patio, I looked and that means, I may have learned and that is always valuable.  So be sure and look before you step and remember, even if things don’t go exactly like you plan today…He’s still got this. Bro. Dewayne

Oh wait…I thought that was the end of the story, but it wasn’t.  So, the same day I wrote this, at lunch I went home to eat and kicked my shoes off.  As I was walking across the kitchen floor I stepped on a…get ready…rock.  Yup, right there in the kitchen.  I guess you just never know.

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

Lasting Words

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

It wouldn’t cut soft butter today but back then it was cutting edge. I’m a tech guy.  I loved the newest and greatest technology.  When a new something comes out, if I’m not careful, I am on my way to grab one.  Of course, the funny part is it usually ends up sitting around somewhere.  Even my newest iPhone is mad because of the hours it sits on the counter—unloved and unattended.  Frequently I have to apologize for not returning a call or not answering a text…not because I’m ignoring a person—I’m ignoring my phone.

This love affair with tech began when I was a kid. When it came time for Christmas, I would browse the Sears catalogue and dream of the cool gifts that might come my way. And somehow, Momma and Daddy, with a little help from Santa, would pull it off.  Of course, sometimes they surprised me.  It would have been Christmas of, oh, 1966 and I received something totally unexpected and totally cool. It was a small, battery powered, portable reel-to-reel tape recorder.  This was before eight-tracks, before cassettes…before anything.  The size of large book, it gave me the ability to record something and play that something back.

One time I took my recorder to my grandparent’s house in Gainesville, Florida.  My grandfather (there was no “Papa” with him) was talking with my Daddy and was even telling a joke.  I decided to start the recorder and record what they were saying. Sure enough it worked and later, I played the tape for everyone, and we all marveled at the ability for something so small to do that.  But here is the amazing part.  Somewhere in my stuff, is a small reel of tape and on that tape is my grandfather and my Daddy’s voices…probably one of the few recordings to exist.  Even though they are gone…their voices live on.

Their.Voices.Live.On.  Think about that for just a moment.  Both of these men who influenced me so much have long since passed away. But through technology their voices can still be heard.  Oh, I know it is not a big deal now, but back then…it was so unusual and that makes the recording valuable.  They are, if you will, speaking from the grave.

In one of those moments of clarity, I recently realized that I too, one day, will speak from the grave.  My life, my actions, my priorities, my values, sermons I have preached, and stories I have written, will all be left behind and all will speak.  And I wonder…what will they say of me and what will they say of who I was?  When my great grandchildren hear the stories of their great Papa, will those stories be stories worthy to share? Will the words encourage them to live right and do right, or leave them scratching their head like a batter thrown a good curve ball on a hot Saturday afternoon? We should all hope to leave a story that is worth telling…one that brings some light and laughter into their world.

There is a verse I keep coming back to time and again.  Moses wrote it thousands of years ago and yet it is as fresh as today’s news.  He asked God to help him number his days that he could gain a wise heart.  He wasn’t asking for his math to be accurate when he counted birthdays.  No, he was asking that he be wise enough to make the most, the very most, of every single day.

Legacy.  It is a great word, and we are all leaving one.  The only question is, “What kind will it be?” That is up to us.  Five days a week I write a story but in reality…I write one everyday…and so do you.  Let’s be sure to write one worth telling.  Fortunately, there is a publisher who is all about helping us and if we are Jesus followers, we call Him Dearest Daddy.  He is more than willing to help us write a best seller…after all, that’s just one more thing He does.  He’s got that too.  Bro. Dewayne

Posted in Family, Grace, gratitude, life, love, missions, prayer, priorities, Scripture, Southern born, sovereignty of God, thankful, Trials, wisdom

Laughter in the Rain

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

It was a rainy afternoon in South Georgia.  I had met this girl, this Georgia peach, a few weeks ago and I was stuck fast.  From the moment I laid eyes on her I wanted to get to know her more.  So I made a call, she said yes, we had a first date and well, the rest is history.  From that first date came a marriage of 45 years.  She was young and I was a little too old, but love has a way of overcoming those kind of things—especially with God in the mix.

So, we were about five or six weeks into our journey.  We had been to church, something we would do together virtually every week of every year of our togetherness. It was a cloudy afternoon and rain was in the forecast.  I’m not sure how, but it had to be her knowledge of the area, we decided to drive up and over to Reed Bingham State Park.  It was more something to do than an adventure, but it left a tattoo on our hearts that remains today.

As we drove over to the park, it began to rain…nothing hard just a gentle Southern rain…the kind that waters the grass and makes flowers grow.  Soon, we were at the park, and it was still raining.  We decided that a little rain wasn’t going to stop us, and we struck off on a walk down one of the wet sand packed roads.  It wasn’t long before we came upon some large puddles the size of a small pond.  They weren’t from that day’s shower but a frog strangler sometime before.  So we reached the point where we had to decide to turn back or go a little farther.  We decided to go farther. To keep her dry from the puddles, she climbed on my back as we walked.

A little while later the rain picked up and with her still hanging on, we turned around and headed back to the car. We were getting wet, but we were young and in the midst of young love, so we laughed, we enjoyed.  Too soon we were back in the car and ready to head home.  We had left the radio tuned to one of the popular stations and as I started the car, the radio came to life and one of the new hits began to play.  It was by Neil Sedaka, and was called, “Laughter in the Rain” and in that moment it became our song. And, to this moment, it remains our song.

Part of the words go, “Oh, I hear laughter in the rain, walking hand in hand with the one I love. Oh, how I love the rainy days and the happy way I feel inside.” What started as a song became our mantra—our way of doing life.  We decided we would walk together, sunshine or rain, and we would do so…hand in hand.  We also decided that we would love, not endure, the rain and the rainy days, that came our way. Oh, it isn’t always perfect, and she is better at it than me but slowly over the years we have learned the secret sauce of doing life is to walk hand in hand with each other and the “Rainmaker.”

Judy and I have been blessed with an incredible life. Over our four and a half decade, journey we have seen and experienced big chunks of the world, and have been blessed with three daughters and sons-in-law and eight grandchildren.  We have loved serving God together as a team, watching as He made a difference in the lives of others.  We don’t know how long the journey will go, but we are wanting to walk it together, hand in hand, loving the rainy days.

The Book that matters, the Bible, tells us that we should number our days that we can have a heart of wisdom.  It’s not talking about numerics, but rather to value and see the value in each day.  To know that rain or sunshine, each day is a gift from God…an opportunity to walk hand in hand together and with the “Rainmaker.”  We’ve come to know and believe that He alone is worthy of our faith and trust and that no matter how light or hard the rainy days are, well, He’s got this.  Bro. Dewayne

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

Thanks, Tim

Then Jesus said to him, “What you do, do quickly.” John 13:27b

And just like that, he was gone.  Most of you know I started writing Grits last year at the very beginning of the COVID hot mess.  I woke up one morning and just decided to share a story and just like that Grits was born.  Since then, it has been my privilege to share stories from my life and adventures with others—especially my wife Judy.  Over this past year so many of you have become members of the Grits family—faithfully reading and often sharing your thoughts and words of encouragement. It has been a great ride and I’m looking forward to sharing more as God gives me writer’s grace.

One of the most faithful members of the Grits family was a friend I knew through ministries at church. He helped in several different ways, and I learned to appreciate his heart.  He was a regular reader and every day he would comment on that day’s story and more than once his words encouraged me to keep tapping the keys on my computer.  He loved people, he loved God and he loved God’s creation.  If you saw Tim, you would see his love of nature…you might say he wore it.  He looked like a mountain man and had a mountain size heart to match. He was a bit different but that is what made him special.

Last Monday I wrote about Freedom Day…the date our state was finally declared open and largely free from the restrictions that had been in place during COVID.  Let me share part of what he shared that day. He wrote, “Another awesome message!! The key words to always remember are “He’s got this”! I do not intend to hold onto the fear of last year, I intend let it go! I am running forward!” He went on to share how during COVID he had learned an even deeper appreciation for the beautiful creation around him.  You might say he learned to look for the good and not the bad.

That was Monday.  Tuesday morning, Tim woke up with a terrible headache and his wife took him to the hospital.  The bottom line is Tim had a massive stroke and a couple of days later he went to be with the God he loved.  Just like that…he was gone.  Tim was only seventy years old…a good, wooly, mountain man, nature loving, people loving seventy.  And, I guess in his own way, he did exactly what he said he would do.  He let go of any fear and ran forward…right into the arms of Jesus.

I will certainly miss Tim and his contribution to the Grits family.  I am grateful for all he did to keep me pressing keys.  I’m also thankful for a lesson he brought home to me. It was something I knew but need to be reminded of again and again.  That lesson is this fact—we don’t know about tomorrow.  For some reason, I have been tossing around the thought that I will do this or that when I turn seventy but truthfully—seventy may never come.  Tim’s home-going is a vivid reminder that we should not wait—we should go—we should do.

It is a scripture totally out of context, but it is a good reminder.  When Judas was going to betray Jesus, the young Rabbi, Messiah said, “Whatever you are going to do…do quickly.” Like I said it is out of context, but it does remind us to do whatever we are going to do now.  Go ahead, take the next great adventure, tell someone that you love them, take a moment to be kind, encourage someone who is a bit down, dare to dream. It was just a couple days ago that I wrote how we don’t know what tomorrow holds but we do know who holds tomorrow. So let’s live life fully, completely, now—not later.  So, thanks Tim for all your good words and thank you for reminding all of us that not matter what, “He’s got this.” Bro. Dewayne

Posted in Family, Father's Day, Grace, gratitude, Holidays, life, love, loving others, Military memories, priorities, Scripture, Southern born, thankful, wisdom

Thanks, Daddy…and Momma

Children, obey your parents because you belong to the Lord, for this is the right thing to do. “Honor your father and mother.” This is the first commandment with a promise.” Ephesians 6:1-2

Yesterday was Father’s Day and it caused me to remember.  These days, I think it happens somewhere around a person’s 11th birthday. But back when I was a boy about to become a young man, it happened when I was 13 or 14.  When you are younger it seems you notice more of the things that Daddy and Momma’s do.  You appreciate the fact that that they do the ordinary things…the everyday things.

Things like washing clothes and cooking supper.  Things like ironing your shirts and cleaning the house.  Things like taking you fishing after a long day at work and teaching you the value of work.  Things like providing a place for you to sleep at night and knowing you were safe.  And, yes, things like showing you what two married people are supposed to look like…live like.

However, right before you take the leap into your teen years, something happens.  Suddenly enough is not enough.  Suddenly you know more—especially more than your parents.  Then you spend more than a few years not being appreciative, but rather telling them and anyone who would listen how hard things are “where I live.”  The fact that it was the sixties and seventies didn’t help.  It seemed that everyone around me was doing their own thing but all I could do was my Daddy’s thing.  Whatever he said, went, and that’s just the way it was. And yes, what Momma said went too.

When I was eighteen and stepped onto a plane to fly to basic training in the Air Force something began to click.  The things that Daddy taught me began to make sense.  All those “yes, sirs” and “yes, ma’am’s” that the Air Force required came easy for me because that’s the way I was raised.  When the call came to “get up, get up,” well that came easy too because I had a Daddy and a Momma who thought I didn’t need to lay in bed all day.  And going to work…second nature.  My Daddy demonstrated that year after year and by example taught me a strong work ethic.

Largely because of the times they said, “Because I said so” and set boundaries and enforced them, well, I’ve never woke up with a hangover, never spent a night (or an hour) in jail, and have never been fired from a job. As I look back from my six and a half decades view point (uh, plus two for good measure), I realize that my two incredible parents were right after all.  And I may, no I didn’t, appreciate it at the time but they saved me from a lot of regrets and consequences.

It is safe to say that time changes our viewpoint and as I sit here today mashing keys and writing, I realize just how blessed I have been.  My Daddy was quite the ordinary guy, but that is exactly what made him extraordinary.  He wasn’t perfect and gratefully he didn’t expect me to be either, but he did teach me respect for him and for others.  For 45 years I have respected the woman I am married to because he taught me to respect my Momma.  He (with a lot of help from God) helped me be the man I am today and for that I will be eternally grateful.

God chose to take my Daddy to heaven when I was only twenty years old…before he could meet my wife, my kids, and their kids.  I remember the summer Sunday morning we found him in bed. Sometime in the early, early morning he had slipped away from us and made the trek to heaven.  I’m glad I will see him again someday.  I’m not sure how all of this works but maybe, just maybe I will get to introduce him to my sweet wife and family.  What a day that will be for sure.

So, thanks Daddy, and Momma, for all you did for me…for the love and the sacrifices you made for me and the rest of the tribe.  And, Grits family, remember to honor your father and mother, just like God says in His word.  It’s the first command with a promise and I promise you won’t regret it.  And, if you find that hard because of some very difficult memories and scars left from actions best not done, or words best not spoken, try and reach into God’s grace bucket and sling some around.  If you are a Jesus follower, your Dearest Daddy in heaven would like that and He’s even willing to help. As always, He’s got that…and this. Bro. Dewayne

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

Perseverance

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Show a Little Gratitude

But one of them, seeing that he was healed, returned and, with a loud voice, gave glory to God. He fell facedown at His feet, thanking Him. And he was a Samaritan.” Luke 17:15-16

Circumstances can make for strange bed fellows. There was a group of guys who hung together–ten of them in fact. Truth be known in another world they would have never been friends. Nine of the guys were Jewish and one was a Samaritan. They lived on opposite sides of the tracks. The Jewish guys would have been raised to believe that the Samaritans were “less than” and the Samaritan would have been raised to believe that all Jews were “better than you” temple goers. Like oil and gas, they wouldn’t have mixed. Leprosy changed all that.

We are not told how, who knows, but they contracted leprosy or the walking death. Their lives were reduced to isolation and suspicion. If you’ve been to Walmart without a mask, you might know some of how they felt. They were forced to live away, far away, and proclaim their uncleanness to anyone they met. The fact that nine were Jews and one was a Samaritan just didn’t matter anymore.

Well, one day something happened. Luke 17:11-17 tells us Jesus was walking along and He heard this group hollering. They were saying, “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us.” We aren’t told how they knew of Jesus or why they believed He could change their lives. All we do know is that they somehow believed and hollered. And Jesus answered.

Over the distance he hollers back, “Go show yourselves to the priest.” There was not a pronouncement of healing. There was only a command to trust. They found themselves at the crossroads of reality and faith. They looked at their diseased bodies and weighed it against faith. A step toward the priest meant they believed. To stand where they were meant “nope.” Well, “hope” beat out “nope” and off they went.

As they took the first step–and the one after that–amazingly they were healed. You could hear the whooping and hollering across the wilderness. Man, were they happy. They were free and they were outta there. Fading in the dust was the Master who had set them free. But wait. One of them is coming back. It is the Samaritan–the unlikely one. He falls down at the feet of the freedom giver and gives Him thanks and praise. He was the unlikely one, and the only one, who gets it right.

Jesus wonders, “Weren’t there ten of these guys?” Weren’t nine of them good Jewish boys?” He was impressed that this “foreigner” came back to say thanks and I think he gets a second helping. Jesus says, “Go your way, your faith has healed you.” I think the Samaritan dude got healed of leprosy and a relationship with the Healer. He got more–way more.

I think there are two things we need to pack away from this story. First, the Jesus who became your BFF (that’s best friend forever) during this mess wants to be your BFF after the mess. The One who took care of your fears and anxieties during the storm wants to take care of them after the storm. He wants to be your Savior, your Redeemer, your Rescuer, not for a while but forever.

Linked to that is this idea of gratitude. When the nine were set free they left Jesus in the dust, “adios,” see you later. They were thankful for the moment but not the minutes following. The Samaritan, however, came back. He was determined not to forget what Jesus had done for him. He did the right thing, the wise thing, but probably not the popular thing.

What are you doing when “this” is all over? Are you gonna run as fast as you can to a life crammed with busy and stuff? Or are you going remember the One who stood by your side and spoke to your heart? As rumors circulate of life returning to normal, the noise of life will get louder and louder. Over the din, plan now not to forget the One who whispered, “Rest in Me” and “I’ve got this.” Bro. Dewayne