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

Unexpected Gratitude

For God so loved the world, that He gave His only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life.” John 3:16

I made a random turn…into the cemetery.  One evening my wife Judy and I were out on a mission.  One of our ladies had given us some homemade ice cream and we were returning the container.  Oh, in case you are wondering, it was way beyond delicious.  It was peach and it was just peachy.  I’ve already put in a request for strawberry next.  We returned the container and just kinda started driving randomly.  As we went down the street the entrance to the cemetery came up on the right—and I turned right in.

Slowly we started driving down the lanes and just as slowly I started reading some of the headstones there.  First, though, on the left was Harrisburg’s “Little Arlington.”  It was dusk and the lights were on, and I was so impressed with all the work that went into honoring those who had served their country. It represented sacrifice. For some the ultimate sacrifice…the kind of sacrifice that means you don’t get to come home from the war.  I love what is often said, “All gave some, but some gave all.” For that, I was moved, and I was grateful.

Just down the lane was a grave that caught my attention.  It was a young soldier who went to Korea to fight for his country in what has been called “the forgotten war.”  He was 27 years old when he died on some battlefield, some hill in a country for away.  He was fighting and ultimately died for the cause of freedom.  I was moved and I was grateful.

In several places, Judy and I would stop as we saw a headstone that was personal because we knew, we loved, the ones buried there.  Sometimes both of the names were etched there in the stone, and it symbolized two lives joined into one story.  And for both the story had concluded.  Sometimes though only one name had the start and finish dates. The other story was still being written and there was a heart longing for heaven and a long-awaited reunion.  One stone declared and celebrated 72 years of marriage.  So many of those story writers had touched our lives.  I was moved and I was grateful.

There were also stones of tragedy.  There stood the stone marking the grave of two brothers tragically killed one night by a drunk driver.  Several other stones showed lives cut short by a tragic accident.  Over there was the headstone of one of the victims from the 2012 tornado.  Everywhere were stories of people who touched the lives of others. One stone showed an American flag engraved in full color—the grave of a proud veteran.  One grave was that of a pastor and a veteran of World War II.  So many stories, so many lives, so many contributions.  I was moved and I was grateful.

As we continued around the lanes inside the hallowed grounds, we noticed there were places where whole families were buried together.  Generations of fathers and mothers, sons and daughters lay in eternal rest together.  The stones often bore nicknames and tag lines of the one who lay there.  On one grave was a tattered flag that said, “#1 Dad.” Some graves though were barely marked.  The only indication that someone lay there was a rock or a stone.  In another part of the cemetery were the pauper graves.  I have stood at some of those graves as we laid to rest someone that almost no one knew.  Once it was the funeral director and me.  No one else came. I was moved and I was grateful.

“Wait,” you say.  “How can you be grateful?”  Well, the reason is simple.  Whether it was a family plot of many generations or a solitary grave of a person when no one came—Jesus was still there.  He is the unseen attendee of every funeral.  For many He is there as Savior and Lord. For others He is there as the Sovereign Lord who wishes all to believe but knows not all will.  But He is there.  He is always there.  When we need Him, when we want Him and yes, even when we ignore Him.  I am moved and I am grateful.

When you get some time, take a slow drive through the cemetery.  It is anything but morbid…it is in fact one of the most meaningful things we can do.  You will be touched, you will be moved, and yes, somewhere along the way you will be grateful.  Let each headstone with a start and finish date be a reminder that for you there is still time.  Still time to make a difference, still time to mend a relationship, still time to finish well.  But most importantly…there is still time to believe and trust in Him.  The Book says that if anyone will call on His name…they will be saved—forgiven—rescued. No story is so bad that He can’t change the end.  Once again, I am moved and I am grateful.

Many see the cemetery and think death.  For those who truly understand grace and Jesus they know the cemetery isn’t about death it is about life.  You learned it in Sunday School but now hear it again…like the first time.  “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever (that is you and me) calls on His name will not perish but have everlasting life.”  So, trust in Him and rest in Him.  For He has all of this.  Bro. Dewayne

Posted in Family, forgiveness, Grace, gratitude, Integrity, life, prayer, priorities, Scripture, Trials

Shock Factor

There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way to death.” Proverbs 14:12

I call it the “shock factor” and I am not a fan.  One of the things that I love about deep South Florida and the Keys is the water temperature.  I mean it is perfect.  When you wade into the water there is no gasping or shuddering.  There is no “shock factor.” On the other hand, I have been to the Florida panhandle many times, often in the dead of summer, and it always seems the water is cold. It probably isn’t but it sure seems that way.

Several years ago, we were down with the family.  We had a place on the beach and soon there was a clamor of “let’s go to the beach.” Well, I am not a fan of the beach, but I am a fan of my family so off we went. We got there and it was time to take the plunge.  So, I put my little toes in the water and was shocked at how cold the water seemed.  Holy moley…I thought this was the Gulf not the North Sea! Well, I inched a little more trying my best not to act like a girl—sorry ladies.  As I waded out, the water got higher and higher until finally it was time to go all in.  Yep, I finally just bent my legs, and the water came up to my neck.  Holy moley, for the second time!

Well, for about four or five minutes it was just cold—I swore I saw penguins walking on the beach.  Hot temperature or not…sun or not—it was cold. Then gradually I realized, it wasn’t cold anymore.  In fact after a bit, it actually felt pretty warm.  Had my body temperature changed?  Nope.  Had the water warmed up?  Nope.  Fact was I just acclimated to the water.  In other words, I just got used to the water and when I did, the shock factor was gone.  I found out you could even get out of the water for a couple of minutes and return without shouting, “holy moley!”

I find this whole hot/cold water thing kinda interesting.  You have probably heard about how a frog can be put into a pot of water.  As heat is applied to the pot the ole frog just sits there and until the water is boiling and he is cooked.  He doesn’t sense the temperature change because his body temp is controlled by his environment. And then I realized that is exactly how it is with us and sin.  The longer we stay in a certain sin–and the more often we visit there–the lower the shock factor.  In fact, it sounds crazy but it explains what is happening all around us today. It probably explains why so many “Christians” can live in sin and feel quite comfortable there. They have lost the “shock factor.”

When it comes to water temperature, God gives us the shock factor to physically warn our bodies that something is different–perhaps dangerous.  He does the same for us morally and spiritually. When we are walking down a path with big regrets and bigger consequences, He sometimes sends the “shock factor” to wake us up. That “Oh my, what am I doing?” thing is from God, and He is warning us to get out—fast. In the Old Testament part of the Bible, there is a verse in the book of Proverbs that says, “There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way to death.”  That is so true…just ask the frog.

So unlike Mister Frog, we can physically “feel the heat” but morally and spiritually we aren’t much different. We need to be wise enough to jump out while we can.  Many a good frog has waited to late…and so has many a person.  That uncomfortable feeling is there for a reason…jump while you can. Like a good lifeguard, God is waiting for us to call for help.  You can trust Him…He’s got this. Bro. Dewayne

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

Precious Memories

And we are confident that He hears us whenever we ask for anything that pleases Him.” 1 John 5:14

It’s a song we often sing at funerals…but it’s also a good song to live by.  The other day I was sitting around talking with some friends and we began sharing about some of our experiences.  Before long we discovered that our friend had been in the military and spent some time in Germany…just like my wife and I.  Before long, our sentences were punctuated with, “I remember…” and the room swelled with great times and great memories.  I know from where I sit there are some incredible times where God just blessed.  One of those times was my vision trip to work on the islands of Lake Victoria in Uganda.

This would be one mission trip that I would be taking all by myself.  There was not a team and Judy was unable to go.  It was me and God and I discovered that was good combination…a great combination.  I remember (there’s our word) that I had asked the church family to really pray for me while I was gone.  In fact, I gave them three specific things to pray for. First, I asked them to pray for my time in the boat.  Because we were ministering on the islands, we would spend several hours a day in a small (about 25 feet) open boat.  We would be cruising Lake Victoria, the second largest lake in the world.  In fact, it was like a small sea.  I sometimes have a tendency for motion sickness. Normally that is limited to going “round and round.”  However, when it comes to waves and boats it can be “game on.”

My second prayer request was for an effective interpreter. When you speak with an interpreter, you say a few sentences then you pause, and he interprets what you said. Well, during my previous trips to another part of Uganda when I was teaching and preaching, my interpreter was very good.  It was almost like he was an extension of me.   I knew having a good interpreter would greatly impact the effectiveness of the trip.  So I asked for prayer that God would send just the right man.

Finally, I asked my friends and family to pray that I wouldn’t wimp out.  Now hang on–I’m not a newbie in the world of mission trips, but it was my first solo journey.  There is a time to whine and a time not to whine. Is that in the book of Ecclesiastes? The bottom line is the time on any mission trip is too valuable to be a whiner. So, I needed to be flexible and remember this whole deal wasn’t about me but Him and them.  There is saying for people who go on mission trips.  It says, “Blessed are the flexible for they shall not break.”  Amen, Lord, Amen.

So, for those of you who wonder if God answers prayer, the answer is, “He does.”  When we pray for His will to be done and His purpose to be accomplished, hang on because those are prayers He loves to answer. To be direct and to the point—God answered the prayers of His kids clearly and specifically.  First—no motion sickness.  The lake was not calm–in fact one day we had whitecaps.  Still—without a pill or a patch—I was totally free from motion sickness.  That interpreter?  God answered that prayer with a local pastor who was better than any other person I have worked with.  He was so animated and led of the Lord—totally awesome.  Last, wimping out?  Well, those of you who know me best would probably have said, “Who is this guy?”  One time when it was 10:00 pm and our supper had still not yet appeared, I almost whined but was able to stifle it. God was just incredibly good, and I came home with a full heart and a vision of how we could begin a ministry to the people who lived on the islands of Lake Victoria.

It is important to remember that God is not a genie with a magic lamp.  God is not Santa Claus waiting to receive our wish list. God is not a vending machine where we put our quarter in and get what we want.  God is God.  And when we pray for His will to be done…amazing things can and do happen. John, one of Jesus’ closest disciples, said, “And we are confident that He hears us whenever we ask for anything that pleases Him.” That is not a statute of limitations but rather an invitation to join God in His work.  Let’s join God in a conversation…not just when you are in trouble…but rather every day.  You will find that He is waiting and willing to have a chat with you.  Oh, and don’t be surprised, when He responds, “Don’t worry, I’ve got that.” Bro. Dewayne

Posted in Family, forgiveness, Grace, gratitude, life, love, prayer, priorities, Scripture, thankful, Trials, Uncategorized

What’s Your Worth?

“For God so loved the world that He gave His only Begotten Son that whosoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.” John 3:16

Well, this week was the week we got to pay the first installment on our property taxes. There is a first installment because there is a second installment and there is a second installment because tax are well, really steep. All this reminds me of something that came in the mail last year and it was from the tax guy—the assessor to be specific.

They told me they had driven by my house and they really liked it—a lot.  And, since they liked it so much, they thought it was worth a lot more than they had previously thought.  A whole lot more.  They blessed me with a reassessment and the grand prize was I got to pay more property taxes. Yay.  Well, not really but it did give me a great opportunity to learn about how much God loves me.  Here’s what happened.

If you have been here before you probably know my day job is being a pastor. It is something that I really enjoy.  My favorite thing is  sharing THE story but also sharing stories.  I love to take big truths and present them in a way that anyone can grasp them.  I think that is what Jesus did and I figure if He did it I should too.

So a while back I was sharing the story from the Bible how four guys take this paralyzed guy to see Jesus.  When they got there, the house was stuffed with people.  There was no way they were going to get in.  So they decided to take this guy up on the roof, dig a hole in the roof and then lower him right in front of Jesus.  It was crazy, it was  radical, and it was different, but they believed two things.  They believe that Jesus could heal their friend and that the friend was worth the effort.  We all could use friends like that.

They began to haul this guy up the ladder to the roof.  Can you even imagine how difficult and challenging that was?  I mean how do you keep a paralyzed guy from falling off his mat while climbing a ladder?  Well, somehow they pulled it off.  When they got to the top they began to remove the thatch first and then break apart the mud and tiles.  After they had made a hole big enough to get this guy through—they lowered him down and He landed right in front of Jesus. I bet there were more than one person who wondered what in the world was going on. I bet too some people were grumbling about tearing up a perfectly good roof to get some poor, paralyzed guy in front of Jesus. I mean if he had been some rich guy maybe but a nobody? And that’s what rung my bell.

You see to those four guys and to Jesus—this guy wasn’t a nobody—he was a somebody.  He was worth way more than a hole in the roof.  In fact, through the eyes of Jesus every soul if incredibly valuable—including yours.  And that’s when the reassessment thing came into focus. Remember, when the tax folks drove by my house they liked what they saw and they increased my assessment.  Their assessment really only means I get to pay more taxes.  It really doesn’t tell me what my house is really worth.

You see, I learned a while back that anything you or I own—our house, our car, is worth only what someone is willing to pay for it. That’s the bottom line.  So here’s the deal.  God drove by your soul, my soul and assigned a value to it—what it was worth to Him and what He was willing to pay to redeem it.  Do you know what that was?  Well, we find it in the Bible.  It says, “For God so loved the world that He gave His only Begotten Son that whosoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.  Get that—everlasting (as in eternal) life.  God’s assessment of our value to Him was the life of His very own Son.  He allowed His Son to die on a Roman cross because He counted us as somehow worth it.  He just loved us that much.

Well, the end of the story for the paralyzed guy was pretty amazing too.  Jesus first calls him Son—not worthless, not broken, but Son. Then He forgives the guy’s sin—not what he wanted but what he needed—and finally, He tells him to stand up, take his mat, and go home.  Three seemingly impossible things but with Jesus, as you can probably guess, nothing is really impossible when He shows up. The guy jumps up, takes his mat and leaves as the crowd is standing in disbelief.  They said they have never seen anything like that—and they hadn’t. The key thing is that the guy had to not only believe but also act on what he believed and each one of us must do the same.  We have to believe that Jesus is Who He says He is and can do what He says He can do.  When we believe that—we are forgiven and God becomes our Father.

Truth be known, I wasn’t too happy about my reassessment but I was glad it taught me a new way to look at how much God loves me…and you.  When we are down on ourselves, when all I can see are failures and warts, when I want to give up and quit, I remind myself that my Heavenly Father thinks I am worth a lot. You see, I’m also learning that His opinion is the only one that matters. So why not take a rest in Him today.  Because you know—He’s got this. Bro. Dewayne

Posted in Family, forgiveness, Grace, life, love, priorities, Scripture, thankful, Trials, wisdom

It’s Time to Remember

Lazy people want much but get little, but those who work hard will prosper.” Proverbs 13:4

I remember…in fact, I don’t think I can forget.  This past spring, I spend a long day working in the yard.  Generally speaking, I enjoy working in the yard…just not overwhelmed and all day. Let me just say that I am not as young as I used to be…and probably not as healthy as I ought to be. At any rate there was a job to be done so I jumped in. There were two things that needed to be done.

The first thing I did was to “deadhead.”  Now you may already know what that means but just in case, here you go.  In the fall, when all the green stuff dies it leaves this brown stuff.  The green stuff is pretty—the brown stuff is not.  You are supposed to cut the brown stuff in the fall, so it looks better all winter.  The other reason for cutting it in the fall is that you don’t have to do it in the spring.  Well, we were busy, we were lazy, we ignored it—it doesn’t matter—the bottom line was we had a bunch of deadheading to do.  Bummer. 

So that Saturday I deadheaded.  Here’s the lesson—don’t put off today what you need to do till tomorrow.  The problem or task may be even bigger, and it can even be more difficult.  And frankly, tomorrow may never come. Every person gets 1440 minutes a day and if we are wise, we will use them wisely. Proverbs 13:4 says, “Lazy people want much but get little, but those who work hard will prosper.” Ouch.  Thanks Solomon! So, in a week or two or three, there will be deadheading to do.  I need to remember last spring because this fall can make next spring—better.  Remember each day is a gift…work for the kingdom, love someone—but do it now.

Now the other thing I did that Saturday was rake leaves—didn’t do that either last fall—see paragraph two above.  But here’s the weird part.  With the exception of a medium size maple tree and several crepe myrtles, I don’t have any trees.  What?  I’m raking leaves and I don’t have any trees—what kind of deal is that?  Well, you see, my neighbors do.  I get to rake their leaves every year.  Now listen, I don’t mean just a few—I mean a lot.  Not fair?  Doesn’t matter—I still must deal with the leaves.

Lesson two is to remember that your “messy” will always end up in someone else’s life.  Just as those leaves blow my way—so our “messy” finds its way into the lives of those around us.  Remember that your sin is never just your sin.  Also, instead of being bitter about someone’s “messy,” do the Jesus thing and forgive.  After all, none of us are perfect and forgiveness just makes our life better.

So, I was tired—real tired—that spring Saturday but here it is fall again and I am faced with a decision.  Will I make the most of these days so those spring days will be a little easier or will I procrastinate and pay the price next spring?  I am hoping that I will be wise enough not to put off till tomorrow what needs to be done today.  I hope I will remember that if I am wise next spring can l be—better.  Oh, there was something good that came from that long Saturday, there was a good sense of accomplishment as I made up for last fall’s indiscretion.  Well, you know what they say, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” And that is true.  And you know they also say, “He’s got this” and that is definitely true.   Bro. Dewayne

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

Sometimes More is Just More

Command those who are rich in this present age not to be haughty, nor to trust in uncertain riches but in the living God, who gives us richly all things to enjoy.” 1 Timothy 6:13

I like coffee…a lot.  Coffee has been a best friend of the Taylor tribe for as long as I can remember.  I grew up with my Daddy’s words, “Dewayne, get me a cup of coffee” ringing in my ears.  One of my favorite memories of my parents is Daddy coming home about 4:00 pm and Momma having a fresh pot of coffee waiting.  She would pour up two cups and they would sit under the tree in the back yard and visit and drink coffee.  Now I am one of those coffee drinkers who likes their coffee bold and strong.  Someone said drinking weak coffee is like drinking brown dishwater.  I agree.

Now this is one area that my wife Judy and I don’t quite agree on.  She likes her coffee, well, mild.  You might say I like man coffee and she likes lady coffee and that works because I am a man and she is a lady.  The only time that doesn’t work is when I am downstairs and the only coffee there is her lady coffee.  It is something called breakfast blend and it is pretty mild. So, when I am downstairs, what am I to do?  Well, I stumbled on the answer awhile back.  Less.

That’s right…less.  You see we have one of those Keurig coffeemakers.  I know, I know…you purest coffee drinkers out there are probably gagging, but it is a good compromise for flavor and a fast cup of coffee.  One of the features on the Keurig is that you can easily adjust the amount of water in the cup.  You can set it on anywhere from four to twelve ounces.  So, if the coffee is a little on the lady side, well, I just set it to use less water.  Less water equates to stronger coffee.  Boom…problem solved.

You see, when it comes to how big the cup of coffee, sometimes more water is just more.  The coffee may still look black (which is how I drink it) but the amount of water vastly affects the flavor.  More water equals less flavor.  And that is not only true in coffee (or tea I suppose…though I am not a hot tea drinker) it is true in life.  Sometimes we just think if we can pour in more of this or more of that we will be happier.  Often, we are not any happier…we are just a lot busier.  Often, we are not any happier…we are just further into debt.  Often, we are not any happier…we are just in greater need for a larger wardrobe.

Along with more is better (and often it is not) comes the thought that, “If I only had…” and in our “culture of much”, that is often thought and often believed.  Well, take it from someone who often looked for happiness at Best Buy or Target…it just isn’t so.  The thing that can make life worth living is not found in a store…it is found in the people we love most…that matter the most.  The thing that makes life worth living is not found in a store…it is found by looking to the Heavenly Father.  The fact is, He made all things for us to enjoy…yup, it’s in the Bible.  But keep in mind that He has given us nothing to worship.  That belongs to Him and Him alone.

Remember, you can adjust your coffee flavor in your Keurig with the amount of water you choose. If you like stronger coffee…more isn’t better…it’s just more.  And when it comes to life, learn to appreciate, to love those around you.  Take the time to enjoy them.  In that case more is not only more…it is abundant. And when you need to add some richness to life, you’ll find no better source than God.  He loves you so much and wants you to experience life to the fullest.  In fact, He said, “I have come that you might have the life that is truly life.”  And to help you along the way, He will be right there beside you, ready to help, ready to assure, ready to let you know, “He’s got this.” Bro. Dewayne

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

He’s Got This

We know that all things work together for the good of those who love God, who are called according to his purpose.” Romans 8:28

I like love notes.  My wife Judy and I have been married for a long, long time.  Sometimes people ask how it is that we have stayed married to each other for forty-five years.  It could be that I am an incredible husband, but the truth is Judy is an incredible wife.  She is pretty patient with me when I mess up and well, that’s quite frequently. She also has a great servant’s heart.  She is constantly doing the small things that just say, “I love you.”  In that way she is a lot like God.

It always impresses me when God does something really big in my world.  It causes me to just stop and be amazed.  Our lives are filled with stories that show the handiwork of God.  Each one is a love note and each one bears His signature.  Whether it is getting though a particularly hard time or fulfilling a dream, He is always there.  The trick is learning to see it.

Back in 1981, Judy and I were living in Warrensburg, Missouri.  We were attending the First Baptist Church there and having the time of our lives.  God had blessed us with a wonderful group of friends, and we were serving in several ministries there. Two of those involved music.  We were teaching preschool choir (those songs still roll around in my head) and both of us were in the adult choir.  Our worship leader, Dan Tracy, was a great guy and great leader.  Every choir practice and performance were spiritually magical.

One of the things that Dan did was lead a choir tour every spring.  The church would rent a bus for the weekend and our choir would sing at several churches.  In the spring of 1981, Judy and I were brand new parents.  Our first daughter Rebecca had been born that January.  She was obviously too young to leave with a sitter so Judy and I agreed she would stay home, and I would go with the choir.  So, on a Thursday afternoon, she took me to church to leave with the choir.  We were all excited, but I kinda felt bad leaving Judy behind.

Finally, just about everyone was on the bus and it was time to go.  Someone, it may have been Dan, was locking the church door when he happened to hear the phone ringing. For some reason, he stopped and went back inside to answer it.  It really didn’t make a lot of since because it was after hours, and it was a larger church, so people called all the time.   Regardless, he answered the call.  It was for me.

Now before the story goes any further you need to understand that most of our family had no clue what state we lived in.  Most of them probably didn’t know where Missouri was on the map.  Certainly, no one knew we were attending First Baptist and certainly no one knew I was there late on a Thursday afternoon leaving on a choir tour.  Yet the call was for me.  It was Judy’s brother…her father had died suddenly of a heart attack, and we needed to go home immediately to Georgia.

Now pause just a moment and be amazed.  No one knew what church we were attending; it was after hours, and I was moments away from leaving for the tour and someone just happened to hear the phone and answer it. Amazing. It was obviously very hard news but to this day Judy and I both marvel at how our Father orchestrated this.  It was as if He said, “Judy, you have a difficult journey ahead of you but I am putting this together so you will know that I love you and I will walk with you.”  And yes, it was as if He signed it, “Love, Dearest Daddy.”

It was a difficult journey that left us both shocked and surprised. Judy’s daddy had just been with us for Rebecca’s birth and suddenly, he moved to heaven. But even in those sad, heartbroken moments, we knew God was not leaving us to walk through this hard time alone. We trusted that He would show us the way as we walked this new, unplanned path. And He never left us to walk alone.

How about you?  First, I hope you have made the decision to ask God to forgive your sins and be your Father.  It is the greatest and best decision ever. Again, it has nothing to do with religion or church.  It has everything to do with a relationship with the Creator of everything.  Second, if you have done that, I hope you will make it a habit to look and see the handiwork of your Father in everyday life.  He is constantly at work—in the good times and hard times.  He is at work when it is obvious and when it is not.

It is one of those verses that a lot of people throw around, but it is just packed with truth. It says, “We know that all things work together for the good of those who love God, who are called according to his purpose.”  Now, it doesn’t say that everything is good, but that God can bring good from all circumstances.  God in fact did get us safely through a twenty-three-hour drive to South Georgia with a six-week-old baby girl in the back seat.  God did show us His love through an amazing phone call. And the best part—He does it for each of His kids.  So, snuggle up and rest in Him.  He loves you and He’s got this.  Bro. Dewayne

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

Giants Among Us

Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.” Ephesians 4:32

There are giants among us…we saw them. These giants were the massive redwoods of California, and they are the tallest and perhaps the largest trees on earth. They can grow up to 380 feet in height and up to 26 feet in diameter. Not only that, they can live up to 2,200 years. The giant redwoods are an evergreen tree only found in a narrow strip of coastal California and just north of the Oregon border.

The redwoods seem larger than life and that’s because they are. They are not the only giants around though.  There are the humankind, but I’m not talking about their height or weight. I am talking about heroes—people with big hearts and brave souls. These amazing people do the most amazing things. They lay their lives on the line for their country, they put on a badge and go into dangerous situations for a few dollars a week.  They charge into burning buildings when everyone else is trying to get out.

That is just a few for the list goes on and on.  There are also other kinds of giants—larger in life in the quest for excellence, to change the world or perhaps, to be like Jesus. These are some of the people I admire the most—true spiritual giants. Over a couple of years ago I met one.  I was amazed by her story.

It all started when we were invited over to a friend’s house for supper. When we arrived, we had the opportunity to meet her mother who lives with her. That is when I realized it probably wouldn’t be a normal evening. When her mom spoke to us you could tell she was struggling with her voice.  Before long, she explained and that was the beginning of an incredible story.

She explained in 1950 when she was 19 years old, she was diagnosed with polio.  If you know a little about those times, there was an epidemic of this terrible, dreaded disease.  It struck without warning and without rhythm and that was the case here. It left this dear saint partially paralyzed and affected her vocal cords.  I was enthralled with her story as she shared, they said she would never walk—but they were wrong.

Then she shared more and more of her story.  When she was born (and remember this is around 1930) there were twins and she weighed less than two pounds.  She was a fighter from the beginning and fight she did.  Later, when she was eleven, she basically was put out to fend for herself and she did.  She had a strong constitution and work ethic.  I was amazed.

She married and had three miscarriages before giving birth to her daughter.  She would end up having 21 surgeries for various reasons and lives with a colostomy.  She has been told that she has cancer though they really can’t pinpoint the source.  I know there are several things that I am leaving out but that is enough for you to get the picture.  Her life has been difficult from the get-go but that is not the main story.

The most amazing story is her faith.  Receiving Christ at a young age, her journey of faith has been strong and steady.  Like Job, her love for God only grew deeper and stronger.  She shared that evening how blessed she was that God had entrusted her with this suffering.  From her lips poured words of praise for her Savior. Then came stories of incredible generosity to those in need—both physically and spiritually.

Judy and I both left that night refreshed as if we had drunk deeply from a cool spring. We were blessed, encouraged, and challenged by a saint who had given more than she took.  She isn’t the only one.  Over my almost four decades of pastoring, I have bumped into so many spiritual heroes.  You had to bump into them because like most heroes, they don’t brag about their lives and stories.

When I left that night, I also left strengthened.  It is instances like this that solidify my own faith.  When I see and hear stories such as this one, it shouts to me, “God is real.”  It also does one more thing.  It causes me to examine the life story I am writing.  When people read my life, what does it say about me…and about the God I serve?

Each one of us are writing a story and during this hot mess called life, we all have special opportunities to write a saga.  The way we live, act, and speak will tell a tale.  Hopefully it will be one of grace and kindness.  Paul wrote in the Bible that we should be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.

That is a tall order, but God is in the business of filling tall orders.  Why not take a moment and ask your Heavenly Father for a little, or maybe a lot, of help?  Let Him know you’ve been treading water a lot these days and you could use a little rest.  Don’t worry—He is ready and willing to help.  He’s got this.  Bro. Dewayne

Posted in Family, forgiveness, gratitude, Integrity, life, love, loving others, priorities, Scripture, sovereignty of God, thankful

A Tale of Two Lawn Mowers

Our love should not be just words and talk; it must be true love, which shows itself in action.” 1 John 3:18

It was time to buy a mower.  Recently my son-in-law and daughter moved back into the area.  That meant that once again our family circle was close together again.  He had been in the Army and had been assigned twice eleven hours away (Savanah, Georgia and Lawton, Oklahoma) and once for a couple of years in Korea. Trust me…that was a lot more than eleven hours.  But happily, the tribe can finally get together occasionally.  They rented a house in Paducah, Kentucky…a house with a pretty good-sized yard.  However, since they lived “on post” at his last assignment, they didn’t have a lawnmower.  They thought about buying a goat (smile) but Judy and I offered to give them our mower and I would go and get another one.

My mower was my friend.  We had been together for about ten years, and it was still in great shape.  It was a solid brand; commercial grade mower and we made a great team.  Honestly, I really hated to part with it, but it felt good to be a little generous.  So, I began the search for a replacement. I researched and asked around to try and make a good decision.  A friend of mine used to own a small engine shop and dealership, so he was my go-to person.  His advice was to buy a good one with a dependable engine…like a Briggs and Stratton. So, after a long search I settled on a big name, expensive, brand…a Honda…with the hopes it would take me well into the future.

During my chase for a new mower, I discovered that in these COVID days, the semi-local big box store (or just about any store for that matter) didn’t carry much stock.  That meant I had to order it and the nice FedEx man would deliver it to my house.  After ordering, I waited several days for it to come and finally the day arrived.  FedEx usually leaves my packages at the front door and because this was going to be a big one, I left a nice big note on the front door that said, “Please leave package at back door.”  He apparently didn’t see the note and deposited the lawn mower on my front porch.

Well, upon examination I discovered that part of the handle had broken through the box and was sticking out.  I knew that couldn’t be good.  I opened the box and discovered that the handle was bent and one of the front wheels was too.  Bummer.  Well, to make a long story short that meant I had to haul the mower to the big box store (and it was not going to fit in my car) and reorder another one.  I told my grass to stop growing because of the delay and it said, “No.” Well, now I was in a pickle. I went to “Plan B.”

“Plan B” went like this. Another big box store had a lesser brand (but with the required good engine) and it was half the price.  Smile.  Then I discovered it was an additional ninety dollars off.  Big smile.  So, the very expensive damaged mower, which by the way was very poorly packaged, went back and the cheaper, lesser brand came to live with me.  Imagine my surprise when I opened the lesser brand and discovered the company (here in the USA, by the way) had built a wooden frame around the mower to protect it.  Not surprisingly…it was in perfect condition.  So, the expensive mower was left to bang around in its cardboard box and the lesser brand (that cost a whole lot less) came in a wood reenforced cardboard box.  Some things just don’t make sense.

Well, only time will tell the end of this story.  I used the new lesser brand the other day and it did very well.  Smile.  Regardless of its “lesser” name, I expect for the foreseeable future my grass will be shorter and that is what matters. In this case the quality of the packaging and the price trumped the better branded mower.  One package said, “We care about you and our product, and one said, “Oops and good luck.”

You see, the packaging, in this case was as important as the product.  It is true in lawn mowers, and it is true in life. It matters how people perceive who we are. If we want people to think a certain way about us…we must live that certain way. A guy named John who was a disciple of Jesus wrote and said, “Our love should not be just words and talk; it must be true love, which shows itself in action.” Yup…actions matter more than words…and never is that truer than in our Jesus walk.

It has been said people don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.  In a world that is way short on love and kindness, we need to put it right out there so there is no question that we care.  Our packaging really does matter. So, I’ll let you know how the mower thing plays out.  Regardless, I know this.  The lesser brand sent me, the consumer, a message—we care about you, and we care about our product.  God’s got a message for us too.  It simply says, “I’ve got this.”  Bro. Dewayne

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

Ready…or Not

Preach the word; be ready in season and out of season.”
2 Timothy 4:2

“Do you think they would mind?” she asked.  It was very early in the morning on our last day at Key Colony.  I awoke from a good night’s sleep (I mean we were on vacation), made a cup of coffee, and headed down to the beach.  Sunrise was a good hour away, but the water and the air were both calm.  The only sound was the gentle lap of the waves against the sandy shore.  This is my time of the day.  God is in the labor room delivering another day for us to enjoy…and I love it.

After a while, the sky slowly turned gray, and you could see the beginning of the sunrise.  It was going to be a good one.  About that time, my wife Judy wandered out and sat down with me.  Just when you think something couldn’t get better…it does.  Judy seems to make anything better.  We chatted and sipped coffee enjoying the creation process.  After another few minutes, the sun peeked over the horizon and another day was born.  Good job, Father, and thank you.  Now that it was daylight, you could see that the water was not only calm…it was crystal clear.  It was then that Karen walked up.

We had talked with Karen and her boyfriend the night before.  We talked about life, faith, and God.  It was an opportunity for me to share some about how much God loved us.  Gary had a large tattoo on his left arm that said, “Faith.”  That gave an opportunity to talk about not only faith, but where that faith should be directed.  I shared it wasn’t enough just to have faith…you had to direct that faith in the right direction…right toward God.

When Karen walked up that morning, I noticed that she was carrying two small containers. I could tell that something was on her mind and that is when she asked the question.  She asked, “Do you think they would mind if I poured my son’s and husband’s ashes in the water?” I quickly assured her that I am sure they would not.  It turned out that her son had tragically died of an opioid overdose at the age of 22.  I didn’t get the details of her husband’s death but since she was in her early fifties, I assumed he too died young.  Then, it was my turn to ask a question.  I asked, “Would you like me to say a prayer?”  And, without hesitation, she answered yes.

Judy asked if Karen would like to have a picture taken and she agreed to that too. All three of us walked down into the water and slowly Karen opened the containers and poured the ashes into the water.  As they touched the water, it turned to a color very similar to wet cement but then just as quickly the color disappeared.  She said a few words, speaking to the souls she could no longer hold.  And then, I asked God for His peace to be on Karen.  I thanked Him for His love…even in hard times like this.  With an amen we were done. Almost.

Judy and I both gave Karen a hug…that was the only way we knew we could tell her we cared, and that God cared too.  As we left the water, Karen headed to Dunkin’ Donuts for a cup of coffee and Judy and I returned to our chairs by the beach.  We knew that we had kept a divine appointment.  I wish I could write and share how Karen and Gary both placed their faith in Jesus but that wasn’t the case…at least not that day.  But I do know we scattered seed in their lives.  I know we left fingerprints on their lives and heart and who knows what God will do with that.

When I woke up that morning, I didn’t know I was going to preside over a funeral standing in the Florida Straits.  Judy didn’t know she was going to act as a memory maker for Karen…but our Dearest Daddy did.  He knew…just as He always does.  We just need to be ready whenever He opens a door or a window and then simply walk where He leads.

Paul, the one who wrote a chunk of the New Testament, told a young preacher named Timothy one day, “Preach the word; be ready in season and out of season.”  When he said to preach…trust me, it was more than standing on a stage on any given Sunday…and it wasn’t just for preachers and teachers.  It was for all of us Jesus followers and it is for all places…planned…or not.  I learned a long time ago that the best sermons are often not preached on Sunday…rather, they are lived out over the course of the other six days. So, let’s be ready to be used.  It may be at the store, on the job or at the ballfields.  Just remember this.  When the time comes, He will be there to help and you can rest assured, “He’s got this.” Bro. Dewayne