Posted in Family, friends, gratitude, life, prayer, priorities, Scripture, Southern born, Trials, USA

Momma and Politics

Everyone born of God overcomes the world. This is the victory that has overcome the world, even our faith. Who is it that overcomes the world? Only he who believes that Jesus is the Son of God.” 1 John 5:4-5

He was running for county commissioner.  A long time ago when I was about ten years old, I had my first and only encounter with political campaigns.  Somehow, and I have no idea how, my Momma got involved with the campaign to elect a guy named Bill Basford as county commissioner.  And, when Mom jumped in—she jumped in all the way.  That meant a couple of things.

First, and totally embarrassing, was this thing they put on our car.  We were pretty much not rich, in fact, I’m sure we weren’t even middle class.  We drove a 1957 Plymouth and let’s just say 1957 was a long way in the rearview mirror.  Anyway, back in those days if a person was running for office, they had these triangle shaped signs that people strapped to the top of their cars.  Now if it had been a little triangle that wouldn’t have been nearly as embarrassing, but this thing belonged on the sands of Egypt with the rest of the Pyramids.  It was HUGE.  It loudly proclaimed, “BILL BASFORD FOR COUNTY COMMISSIONER.” We would drive around and advertise for Bill.

That wasn’t all.  We also had to go door to door asking people to vote for Bill.  We covered our neighborhood like the plague of locusts that cleaned out Egypt.  I am certain people saw us coming and quickly closed their blinds and pretended they weren’t home.  It turns out that was just practice for when I became a preacher.  By the way…I know you are in there.  We also had a big supply of bumper stickers which we would gladly stick on your car.  When you’re ten, you like to stick things on things, so I liked that part—a lot.

Well, election day came, and Momma waited for the big news.  Either by television or by telephone we got the word that Bill had won, and they invited Momma to come downtown to the headquarters to celebrate. Like Ma and Pa Kettle we (as in Daddy, Momma, my two sisters and I) got in the 1957 Plymouth and off we went.  I only remember a couple of things about the celebration.  There was loud music, there was free food and there was a bar.  My daddy went over, and I saw him get something to drink and I don’t think it was sweet tea.  The reason I remember that is because if Daddy wasn’t a teetotaler, Momma was.

So that was it.  Momma was excited because her guy won.  She didn’t get a political appointment or anything, but we did have a bunch of bumper stickers leftover to stick on things.  But the best part of all was that our guy won.  Winning is always a good feeling.  Everyone wants to be on the winning side. Every contest has winners and losers.  Like the song says, “Some gotta win, some gotta lose.  Good time Charlie’s got the blues. Well, your name might not be Charlie, but maybe you’ve got the blues.  And I’m not talking about any election results.

If the truth be known, life can be pretty blue, can’t it?  And sometimes, it is because we lose…our health, our job, our family, our house, well, lots of things.  But I want to tell you something that is really important.  There is Someone who never loses, and His name is Jesus.  If it was an election…He would win every time. If it was a game…He would win every time.  If it was a war…He would win every time. If it was a debate…yup, He would win every time.  Do you want to know the best part?  Keep reading.

Remember how mama got invited to the big celebration downtown?  Well, if we are willing to place our faith and trust in Jesus and follow Him, two amazing things happen.  First, because He wins, we win.  In a way, when Bill Basford won—Momma won.  And when we choose to follow Jesus, because He wins—we win too.  The Bible says, “Everyone born of God overcomes the world. This is the victory that has overcome the world, even our faith. Who is it that overcomes the world? Only he who believes that Jesus is the Son of God.”  Then, the party starts.  Sometimes people think heaven is going to be one long boring church service.  Nothing could be further from the truth.  It is going to a celebration like no other…like a party without end.  And while we won’t be the center of attention—that’s Jesus’ place—we will be guests of honor.  How about that?

I don’t really know how things turned out for Bill Basford, but I suppose he was a good commissioner.  I also know it made my Momma feel pretty special to be a part of his campaign.  She felt included—we felt included.  We may have driven an old 1957 Plymouth but on that night with Bill’s name on the top, it felt like a Cadillac.  Jesus invites you to be a part of His campaign team too.  He’s not running for anything—He is already King of Kings. But there’s one thing for sure, He loves to invite people to come along for the ride.  He hopes, and so do I, that you will join Him.  When this campaign is over, we are going to celebrate Him forever.  Until then, He’s got this.  Bro. Dewayne

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

Short Stories…Big Truths

Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in Me, even if he dies, will live.” John 11:25

Short stories with big truths.  It all started on a Saturday morning.  We were a few months into writing stories on Facebook, and then decided to take the next step and build a website where our stories could be more easily accessed.  Many of our friends were suggesting compiling the stories into a book.  Well, that dream hasn’t happened and may not.  But the website did.  We decided to call it Grits with Grace.  Grits spoke of our Southern heritage and grace of the most powerful thing we have ever experienced.  Next came the tag line, “Short Stories with Big Truths.” Judy staged the picture in our backyard and, well, you probably know the rest.

Short stories with big truths.  Hmmm. That came home this morning as I was walking.  Sometimes, maybe once a week, I take my walk through our local cemetery.  It is rather large and if I make a couple of laps around the outside coupled with a shorter one, I end up with about two miles.  As I have written before, I love this walk because of all the life stories you can find on the headstones.  I take the same route each time…I am a creature of habit.  What I saw this morning I had seen many times before but this morning it spoke to me.

His name was Keith.  I could give you the last name but for privacy I won’t.  He was born on July 3, 1956, just a couple of years before me.  In other words, I was two and a half years old that day when he started his life journey.  It was the next date that always catches my attention. It was the date that he died.  Keith drew his last breath on May 31, 1964, at the too young age of 7 years, 10 months and 29 days. I don’t know the cause of his untimely death…only that it was a too short story.  Was it car accident, a bike accident?  Did he fall while playing?  Perhaps it was one of too many childhood illnesses.  Even polio could be a possibility.  Well, like I said we don’t know.  The only thing we know is that something unexpectedly stepped in and stole his years away.

Short stories.  The cemetery is full of headstones that speak of short stories.  Walk a while and you will see that truth played out and that is why I am writing this story.  You see, Keith is a reminder to me, as are all the headstones are, of a big truth.  The number of our days are a closely guarded secret of the One who created us.  He, and only He, knows when we will step into eternity.  Death is certainly no respecter of race, color, creed, or economic status.  Death doesn’t care about age.  We only know that one day it will come but don’t let that deflate you or scare you because Jesus took care of death two thousand years ago when He resurrected that first Easter morning.

I’m sure Keith didn’t know he was going to have such a short story, but I hope he knew the One that could make a difference.  I hope he knew Jesus.  I hope you know Jesus.  When Jesus is entered into any equation, well, it changes everything but especially death.  With Jesus death is not the end but the beginning and no matter how many years we live here—the life on the other side is so much more…so much longer.  Keith teaches us that some stories are short, very short and some stories are long, very long.  Jesus teaches us that it isn’t the length of the story that matters, it is what we do with Him.  He is what matters…not church, not religion, not religious stuff—just Jesus.

I really like what Jesus said in John 11:25—one of the books in the Bible that tells the story of Jesus.  It says, “Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in Me, even if he dies, will live.” The her is a woman named Martha and her brother had just died with a too short story.  Jesus is just letting her know that death doesn’t have to call the shots because He does.  Short stories…those will always be with us but so will big truths—like the one that says, “I’ve got this” because He does.  Bro. Dewayne

Posted in Family, life, loving others, prayer, priorities, Scripture, travel, Trials

Life’s Puzzles

Even before they call, I will answer; while they are still speaking, I will hear.” Isaiah 65:24

It seems we have a new piece of furniture.  Awhile back we made a trip to northern Indiana to visit the Indiana Dunes National Park.  While we were there, we went to the park welcome center to get our “park passport” stamped, gather some info, and of course visit the gift shop.  While we were walking around the shop, my wife Judy picked up a puzzle.  Since we don’t do puzzles and since at least half of this team doesn’t even like puzzles I was somewhat surprised. Then I concluded that she was probably buying it for our Airbnb.

This puzzle wasn’t one of those for the faint of heart.  It was a 1,000-piece monster.  I smiled at the thought of guests going crazy trying to figure it out.  “Have fun,” I said to myself.  “Good luck,” I said to myself.  And then it happened.  As we got in the car the puzzle came up and Judy made the big reveal.  The puzzle wasn’t for the Airbnb…it was for…us.  I quickly explained that I didn’t do puzzles, didn’t like puzzles, and especially didn’t like puzzles with more than 10 pieces.  “No matter,” she said, “I’ll do it.”

After we got home, and not many days later, the puzzle made its appearance.  At first it found its way to the dining room table.  As she spread the 1,000-piece monster out on the table, it was quickly apparent that we needed a better solution.  So, we went down to our basement brought up our card table.  Soon, she had the table up, the pieces spread out and we were the proud owners of a new piece of furniture—a puzzle table.  Well, for the first few days she would occasionally wander over and mess with the puzzle.  There was delight when a piece was found that fit another and then something happened.  The delight slowly began to wane as the next connecting piece became harder to find.

Now, sitting in our living room, is a puzzle table that doesn’t hold much hope of completion.  I think Judy even said maybe she should have started with something less challenging.  I mentioned that Christmas is right around the corner and the table is sitting where the tree will go. I suspect that while the table will go back to the basement soon…the puzzle will find its way to the Airbnb awaiting its next victim.

That puzzle reminds me of life.  Sitting on the shelf in a store it seemed so benign.  Perhaps a challenge but certainly not something that is not conquerable but then the boxed is opened, the pieces spread out and it becomes something we can’t quite handle.  With puzzles you can just put it back in the box—no harm—no foul.  But with life…well, that is a different story.  You can’t just put away—our life journey, our life circumstances, our life challenges—seek a solution, an answer, a completion.  And we are often left scratching our heads.

And that is where God comes in.  Talk to people who love puzzles, and they all have their ideas, plans and strategies…but what works for one may not work for another.  But with God what works with Him always works for us.  His wisdom, His strategy is never wrong and better than that…He is willing to help us put it all together.  He gently makes suggestions and whispers solutions. Sometimes He even guides our hands to the right answer for a question that demands an answer.  That’s just what He does.  Always helping, always loving, always there.

If you have a puzzle that has you stumped, you might consider putting it in your Airbnb.  If you don’t have one of those, try having a yard sale or using it as a repurposed Christmas gift…to someone you don’t particularly like.  Smile.  But if we are talking life, turn to the One who knows the answers to all the puzzles but remember…it is a matter of trusting and sometimes…waiting.  I like a promise tucked away in Isaiah 65:24—in the Old Testament part of the Bible. It says, “Even before they call, I will answer; while they are still speaking, I will hear.” I like that.  I can just see Him saying, “You might try that piece right over there.”  I listen and sure enough…it fits.  And of course…sometimes He might just whisper, “Don’t worry…I’ve got this.”  Bro. Dewayne

Posted in Family, friends, gratitude, life, loving others, Military memories, priorities, Scripture, thankful, travel, Trials

Mr. Fix It

See then that you walk circumspectly, not as fools but as wise, redeeming the time, because the days are evil.” Ephesians 5:16-17

Call me Mr. Fix It.  I love to fix things and I love to be the hero.  No matter what the problem, no matter near or far, no matter what.  Back when Blake and Sarah were living in Savanah, Georgia courtesy of the United States Army, she let us know her vacuum had a broken belt.  Well, instantly my hero genes kicked in.  It didn’t matter that she was eleven hours away…it only mattered that my baby girl had a problem, and she asked her Mr. Fix It dad to solve the problem. First a couple of side notes. Blake, her husband, is an able Mr. Fix It guy in his own right.

Second, Sarah asked me to go by our Walmart and get a replacement belt.  I assumed that she assumed that was the problem.  So, by now you may be asking, “Oh, they don’t have Walmart’s in Georgia?”  Well, actually they do, but somehow it made sense for us to go get one and take it to Georgia.  Maybe they are just better here. Well, shoot that thang!  I happened to remember that we had a vacuum like hers (or maybe we had given the vacuum to her) and I had a spare belt laying around.  Cha-Ching!  Thank you, sir, and keep the change.

We get to Georgia and the day after our arrival the time to fix the vacuum was at hand. First, I dislodged the screws from the top and bottom and removed the cover.  It was then I had the first ah-ha moment. There naked before the world was a 100% not broken belt. So, I said to Sarah, “Hey girl, the belt isn’t broken.”  It was then that Sarah said, “Well, it wouldn’t work.” All of a sudden, the great victory of finding a spare belt rapidly deflated.  You see, as an amateur Mrs. Fix It, she had misdiagnosed the problem.  I plugged in the vacuum and, of course, it fired right up.  Then Sarah said the real problem was that it wasn’t picking up the dirt. And that’s when it got interesting.

Assisted by my son-in-law Blake, I began a close examination of the vacuum.  It soon became apparent that it was clogged up. Now if you are not familiar with clogged vacuums there are at least three classes of clogs.  There is the “partial clog”, the “hmmm, this is serious” clog, and then there is the “clog of Biblical proportions”. Since there was absolutely no suction, we knew this was definitely not a “partial clog”.  We soon discovered we had the “mother of all clogs”.  Upon examination we found, and I’m not kidding, three golf balls, two match box cars, and six inches of impacted debris.  I was sure we had found the problem.

Well, my assistant and I carefully removed the trio of golf balls and the two match box cars. Finally, we began to dig, pull, tug and poke at the six inches of debris. Three days later (ok, not really but it seemed that long) the hose was finally clear.  At that point, we emptied the debris catcher thing, cleaned the filter, plugged it in, and it fired right up.  The results were incredible! In fact, before we could stop it, it sucked the carpet off the floor and a small section of the sub-flooring.  (Ok, that part just isn’t true, but I needed to beef up the story.)

Soon we were high-fiving and celebrating the ultimate vacuum cleaner rescue.  Mr. Fix It and his able assistant saved the day. Now believe it or not there is moral to this story—besides the obvious one that says don’t suck up three golf balls and two match box cars with your house vacuum cleaner. The moral is this–when something is wrong don’t automatically assume you know the answer.  Sarah just assumed the belt was broken and it wasn’t.  And, even with a house full of boys, never in her wildest imagination, could she believe that her vacuum had consumed three golf balls and a couple of cars. I could just see the boys having such a good time with their new game of “sucking up” golf balls and match box cars…like “how many can we get in there?” Boys.

And what is true in vacuum repairs can also be true in our lives.  When things just aren’t clicking in your life, look closely because it may not be what you think. Ephesians 5:15-16 says, “See then that you walk circumspectly, not as fools but as wise, redeeming the time, because the days are evil.” In other words, we need to watch where we vacuum—what we pick up, and where we step. Being wise is knowing what to do and then doing it. Remember the old saying, “A ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure?”  Well, trust me it, is so true.

Remember, when life goes south, take your time as you figure out the problem.  Too often we want to treat the symptoms and don’t want to address the real problem.  All the belts in the world weren’t going to get our vacuum going because what seemed like the logical answer was not the problem at all.  If you are a Jesus follower, ask Him and He will point you in the right direction. Life can get pretty clogged up, but don’t let the frustrations get to you. I bet Blake and I took a rest after fixing the problem and maybe you need to take a rest too…in Him.  After all, He’s got this. Bro. Dewayne

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

Guess Who Moved?

Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever.” Hebrews 13:8

It was a late October morning that I noticed it again.  Sometimes I like to go and sit on our patio early in the morning.  Sometimes I beat the sunup and sometimes it beats me.  On this particular morning, it was just peeking over the horizon.  From where I sat, it was perfectly centered between two houses that sit east of my house.  As always, it did a great job as it brought warmth to the earth and light to a new day.  It is well.  It is well indeed. The sunrise always reminds me that all of this is God’s.  Each new day is His day.  He is the owner, and I am but a steward.

Now fast forward about two or three weeks.  I was out again on the patio…just a bit later than the other time and then I noticed it.  The sunrise had moved considerably south.  Now, instead of between the two houses, the sun was way on the other side.  It was then that I thought it…and maybe said it, “My the sun has sure moved further south.”  I even called my wife over and pointed out this fact to her.  How amazing.  How incorrect.

You see, in fact, the sun hadn’t moved at all.  If you remember from your school days, we all learned that the earth is not the center of the universe…the sun is.  So, in fact, the sun had not moved but rather the earth had changed its “tilt.”  As the earth’s northern hemisphere tilts further from the sun, cooler temperatures come and fall becomes winter. The daylight of the days grow shorter and the sunrise and sunset slowly but surely shift.  But the thing to remember is that the sun doesn’t change…we do.

Well, turns out the sun has a lot in common with the Son and the Father…and the Holy Spirit for that matter.  You see, God is steadfast, immovable and the times when it seems like He is further away…well guess what?  He isn’t the one who moves.  It is us.  There is an old story about an elderly couple that was riding in their older pickup truck.  The woman said to her husband who was driving, “Do you remember when we used to sit side-by-side when we would ride together.?  The old gentleman behind the wheel, gently reminded her, “Wonder who moved?”  Who.Moved.

You see, the truth is if we feel further from God than we used to it is us and not Him who has moved. He says in His Word that He will never leave or forsake us. He is like the North Star…the one thing we can count on in these uncertain times and in this uncertain world.  He is dependable, trustworthy, and rock solid.  Today, if you are feeling abandoned…you are not.  Today, if you were feeling alone…you are not.  Today if you feel like no one cares…you are wrong.  There is someone and while some simply call Him God…I like to call Him my Dearest Daddy…because that is what He is. Abba Father.

So today, take a moment and notice all the moveable things—sunrises and sunsets, the leaves as the wind blows through the tree, a falling star that burns in the atmosphere or circumstances that change around us.  And then, think about this.  It is one of those amazing verses in the Bible that is nice and short…easy to believe and easy to memorize. It says, “Jesus Christ, the same yesterday, today and forever.” Dependable. trustworthy. Rock solid.  And, because He is all of that and so much more, we can rest in the calm assurance that, “He’s got this.”  Bro. Dewayne

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

We Need Rain

Delight yourself in the Lord, and He will give you the desires of your heart.” Psalm 37:4

It was drier than two-month-old bread.  We are so dry here in Southern Illinois.  Word on the street is that we are in a severe drought.  But there is another word on the street—it is supposed to rain tonight.  It reminds me of another time and another rain. It’s been several years now, but the story is as fresh as today’s bread.  We were on our second trip to Niger, West Africa.  We would fly forever and finally arrive in the capital city of Niamey.  There were two things that were always the same.  It was always very late at night, and we were always totally exhausted.  After a day getting acclimated, we would load up and drive all day on one of the few paved roads in the entire country.

Niger is a sub-Saharan country in West Africa.  It was on the edge of the Saharan Desert—hot, dry, and dusty.  Our journey would take us to a small city in the middle of nowhere.  We would stay with a family there who were kind and filled with hospitality.  As is customary, we would settle in and then go see the “chief” of the village.  We would meet, greet, and thank him for allowing us to come and stay in the village.  On this particular trip we were distributing food to several dozen families in the area.  Because of the extreme dryness, food was always in short supply and because of a few years of drought—it was life-threatening.

As we met with the chief, we told him we were servants of the Creator God and asked him if there was anything that we could pray for.  Without hesitation, he said, “I want you to pray for rain. It hasn’t rained here in a very long time, and we are desperate.  We have prayed but no rain has come.”  We prayed there and then and told him we would pray more—even asking people in America to pray.  And we did, both.

What happened next is the things of legends—except it is not a legend—it is truth.  After immediately contacting some of our folks back in America and praying ourselves…again…we went to sleep.  Sometime in the middle of the night, the wind began to blow, and the temperature began to fall.  Soon, there was the sound of a distant thunder.  Then, as we stood in our doorway and watched, a heavy rain began to fall.  David, one of our team members, was soon out dancing in the rain.  All of us were dancing in our hearts.

We would later learn that our friends in America, watching the radar online, saw a storm develop from nothing and move across our area.  As we danced in Africa—they were dancing in America.  That very night, right at three inches of rain fell in that village on the edge of the desert.  It was unbelievable.  It rained for several hours and fell so hard that several walls, made of mud, straw, and manure, collapsed.  A couple of storage buildings lost walls too.  When light finally came, literally, small lakes of water were everywhere.  We would be using the four-wheel drive feature on our trucks for several days.

I can’t remember if the chief came to us or summoned us to go to him, but that day we had another conversation.  He thanked us for praying and said that our God did what their god did not do.  He was grateful for us coming to the village and invited us to stay as long we wanted—and to return as often as we wanted.  Such are the wonders and miracles of the one true God.  This would not be the last or only miracle we would witness in West Africa.  It is amazing what God can and will do if the primary focus is to glorify His name.  I sometimes wonder if the people there still speak of the night of the rain.  I know we do.

There is an intriguing scripture in the Psalms—a collection of Hebrew hymns in the Jewish and Christian Bibles.  It is found in Psalm 37:4. It says that if we are willing to delight ourselves in God, He will give us the desires of our heart.  At first that sounds like a “rub the bottle and a genie pops out” story.  Trust me…it is not.  You see the first part is key—when we delight ourselves in God—then our desires align with His desires and when that happens—miracles do too.

This year, let me encourage you in a couple of areas.  First, if you haven’t thought much about Creator God—Jehovah God—in a while—why not revisit Him?  I believe you will come to the same conclusion I did years ago.  He is amazing.  And then, as we journey through this these challenging days, let’s commit to making His desires, our desires.  Let’s get on the same page with Him and watch, in wonder, what He can and will do.  It may not be exactly what we want but it will be what is exactly right.  He doesn’t make mistakes.  Wrapped up in all of this is that powerful truth we end each story with.  It is good news for this day and every day.  We can have the confident assurance that, “He’s got this” and He does.  Bro. Dewayne

Posted in Family, friends, gratitude, life, love, priorities, Scripture, thankful

Boom! Problem Solved

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 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, food, forgiveness, Grace, loving others, priorities

Pot Roast and Traditions

“Jesus replied, “And why do you, by your traditions, violate the direct commandments of God?” Matthew 15:3

It is a tale that I could identify with. The story is told of a young girl who was watching her mother prepare Sunday’s lunch. She watched as her mother carefully cut the pot roast in two before placing it in the pan. This intrigued her so she asked her mother why she did this. Her answer was simple and direct, “Because my mother did.” She wasn’t quite satisfied with the answer so her mother told her to go and ask grandma. And she did. Grandma gave her the same answer, “Because my mother did.” Well, the little girl decided to ask her great grandmother why she cut her roast in two. So, the next time she was at the nursing home visiting, she asked. Without missing a beat she said, “Well, honey, my pot was too small.”

Isn’t it funny how something done for a particular reason can be passed on and on. Isn’t it strange how we do something and long after the reason for doing it is gone…we keep right on doing it? I know because I’ve got a “thing” in my world. You, way back in 1985, my wife Judy and I purchased a Oldsmobile Cutlass Cruiser. It quickly became one of our favorite cars. It had the woodgrain trim down the side and seating for eight. It also had something else…it had a digital dash. Now keep in mind that was pretty high tech for 1985. Well, it had a little glitch.

That little glitch really was big one…the gas gauge was just not accurate. It often said you had more gas than you did. Well, one day, it got me…I ran out of fuel. After a lift to a station and returning with a borrowed gas can of gas, I was soon back on the road again…sing it Willie. And, that day, a new habit was born. Every time I bought fuel I would fill the tank and reset the trip odometer so I would know how far I could go. I never trusted the gauge again. So I would fill up with gas and reset the trip odometer…over and over again.

Well, one day it was time for the Oldsmobile Cruiser to cruise on and we got another car. New car, new gas gauge…no need to reset the trip odometer, right? Maybe not but the same old habit remained…always fill the tank and always reset the trip odometer. Now the gauge in the new car worked perfectly but the old habit remained. And guess what? It remains today. Here’s the deal. Thirty-seven years have come and gone and every time I buy fuel—I press reset. And if Judy happens to buy fuel instead of me, and she forgets to hit reset, I explain to her she needed to do it. And, she gives me the, “why” look and I just tell her because it’s just what we do. You might say I cut the roast in half because I always have.

So, is there something in your life that you are clinging to just because you have always done it that way? Of course it might be something that is totally harmless but sometimes…sometimes it isn’t. Sometimes it can lead to an angry exchange because someone didn’t keep the habit…the tradition. Sometimes relationships can be damaged. I’ve seen this so many times in churches. A tradition is messed with and World War III breaks out. The bottom line is there are habits, there are things, there are traditions that are noteworthy and good but we shouldn’t let them break friendships, relationships and hearts. Honestly, we may not need to cut the roast in two after all.

In the Bible back in the days of Jesus, the religious leaders added all kind of rules and traditions to their daily lives. The crazy part is they gave the traditions the same weight as the Law of God and trust me that was not a good idea. In fact, it wasn’t a good idea then and it sure isn’t now either. Jesus, talking to the temple leaders, said, “And why do you, by your traditions, violate the direct commandments of God?” Now that’s a good question.

I hope this will remind us that there are more important things to do than cutting your roast in half. In other words, there are hills worth dying on and others that should be let go. And most important, don’t let opinions and traditions drive a wedge between you and another person. It just isn’t worth it. A broken heart or relationship is far too high of a price to pay. If you ever need some advice about this, just ask your Heavenly Father. He will tell you that people matter more than pride, or traditions or habits. And if you have already made a mess with this, don’t worry, He can help with the cleanup…He’s got this. Bro. Dewayne

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

But the Seat is Empty

He Himself has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” Hebrews 13:5b

Well, that didn’t take long.  I decided to do something that is unusual for me.  I had registered my wife Judy and I for a pastor’s conference.  I was thinking one day and said to myself, “Maybe it would be good for me to just get away by myself.” Well, I talked it over with Judy and she agreed.  Of course, the fact that she was leaving right after the conference for a mission trip to Puerto Rico probably figured in.  So, the decision was made…I would go, she would stay. Where to go and when to stay and where to eat and when to eat would be my call. It was a good plan.

The day came.  We had great services at church, and I had a sandwich for lunch and a quick nap before I hit the road.  With a hug and a kiss, I was off on the great adventure.  I had the satellite radio playing hits from the 60’s, the cruise was set for the speed limit, and I passed the time just enjoying the beautiful day and the slowly changing color of the trees.  And then…it began to happen. It started when I caught myself causally glancing over at the passenger seat. Normally it would have held my favorite person in the whole world.  It sat empty.  No deal…but it was a thought.  I would occasionally put my hand in the seat as if feeling to see if she was there.  She wasn’t.

After several hours, I arrived at my hotel for the night.  I had chosen well.  It was very reasonable and very nice.  I opened the door and marveled at the room.  I wanted to share the moment with her, but she wasn’t there.  I called and let her know I was there safely and then planned supper.  There was no doubt where I was going.  Fazoli’s. They had their pizza baked spaghetti back on the menu and I had been wanting to go…so I did.  This was a place Judy probably wouldn’t have chosen but tonight it was my call and honestly…it was very good. That was followed with a visit to a creamery called, “The Lazy Cow.” I picked the place and the flavor.  “Not bad,” I said to no one as a went back to my room.

The room was still nice, but it was quiet…too quiet.  I called Judy and told her about supper and the ice cream, but it wasn’t the same as experiencing it with her.  After a while we said good night and we both went to bed in different beds, different rooms, and different states.  The next morning, she said she didn’t sleep too well, and I told her the same. I told her some plans I had made, and she shared hers.  After a couple of minutes, we said goodbye.  And that is when it hit me.

It was nice picking what music I wanted to listen to as I drove.  It was nice stopping when I wanted to stop. It was nice choosing to go to Fazoli’s and later getting ice cream. All that was nice, but she wasn’t there and that made it all less nice. Oh, it is still a good plan, and I will enjoy my time away.  I’m sure the teaching is going to be great and all that, but it will be different.  It might, it probably will be less than if she was there.  Think about that.  Think about something else.

Do we ever think or maybe even act on what life would be like without God? We muse how grand it might be without the rules, to make our own choices and decisions and not have to worry about what He might think. I know for some of you that may be everyday but for a chunk of us that is far stretch and yet too often we live that very same way. We include God when it is convenient and leave Him at home when it isn’t. I’ve already discovered that while this week will be good for me…it is not something I want to do all the time.

The bottom line is Judy is just too much a part of my life…and that is how we need to make it with God.  We need to make Him so much a part of our lives, that when we look around and realize we left Him (He will never leave us) that we are wise enough to go back and join Him.  Lord willing this Thursday, I’ll be back home…and home is a good place.  God said He will never leave us or let us go and there is a lot of comfort in that.  There’s also a lot of comfort in knowing that even when we take a trip and fail to invite Him, He’s still there…He’s still got this. Bro. Dewayne

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

Don’t Wait

Then Jesus told him, “Hurry and do what you’re going to do.” John 13:27

Who would have known? Sometimes a change of plans can be bigger than we think.  As you might remember through several Grits stories, my wife Judy and I have made a couple of trips down to Ft. Myers and Marathon Key, Florida.  We had a great time.  We landed in Ft. Myers, rented a Mustang convertible, and then drove to the Keys.  After several days, we drove back to Ft. Myers and stayed at a really nice place called, “Lover’s Key.”  It overlooked a beautiful large bay and was just a few blocks from the beach.  We ate some incredible seafood at a couple of incredible restaurants.  Well, the bottom line is we had such a good time we knew we had to visit again.

This year, early in the year, we laid plans to do just that…visit again. We originally set the time for around Labor Day weekend but later, because of the crowds, changed it to September 8-17. We booked a few days at Marathon Key, a few days at Lover’s Key, and the Mustang…well, that wasn’t going to happen.  Prices for rental cars, Mustang or not, had just about tripled.  Oh well, we could at least roll down the window.  We were excited…anticipating a repeat of last year.  And then…things went crazy with the airlines and the economy, and we knew we would have to cancel…and we did.

What we didn’t know, what we couldn’t know was a powerful hurricane named Ian was going to sweep into the Gulf of Mexico and literally destroy Ft. Myers.  Just eleven days after our planned dates, Ft. Myers as we knew it was gone.  The wonderful restaurants, the beautiful beaches at Ft. Myers and Sanibel Island—all gone.  The truth is it will eventually recover but it will be years and years and years and still yet there will be scars. And here’s what I now wonder.

What if, what if we had known that this beautiful place was going to be swept away would we have made a greater effort to go?  If we had just known that the time we had planned might be the last time…would we have made a greater effort?  Honesty, would money, would price have mattered?  And the answer is—no. I honestly believe we would have made every effort to visit.  Knowing it was going to be perhaps the last time would have changed our effort and the value of the visit.  But alas, it is too late.

Like I said, it will eventually open back for people like me to visit but the scars of that terrible day in September will linger long after the last road is rebuilt.  And that made me think.  What is there in our lives that we are putting off? What is it in our lives that we think, we figure, we can do later?  What thing are we waiting to say, waiting to do, thinking, believing there will be enough time?  And you know what I know—we don’t know if there will be time or not.  That means, perhaps, just perhaps, we need to say and do what needs to be said and done—now not later.  We shouldn’t and perhaps can’t wait because things can and do change and later might be too late.

I call it my favorite “taken out of context” scripture.  It involves Jesus and Judas.  Jesus knows what Judas is about to do so He tells him, “Hurry and do what you are going to do.”  That whatever is his betrayal of Jesus to the authorities.  Like I said it is terribly taken out of context but still there are those glaring words…hurry and do whatever you are going to do. Judy and I have been talking a lot about our next chapter in life.  We are both getting older, and we keep asking each other…and God, “What’s next?”  Well, we are not privy to all of that, but we do have today…we do have now.  The bottom line is we need to do what we can do now and say what we want to say now for tomorrow may not come.

Do quickly. Don’t wait. Don’t procrastinate. Don’t wish you would have…rather be glad that you did.  Remember, grateful that you did is always so much better than regret.  I’m hoping writing this will spark wisdom in my life. While we don’t know about tomorrow, fortunately we do know Someone who does.  To some He is just God but to some of us He is known as Dearest Daddy and we know and believe that He knows our tomorrows. We also know and believe that “He’s got this.”  Bro. Dewayne