Posted in Family, fear, forgiveness, Grace, life, love, loving others, Southern born, thankful

Just Say No

The woman was convinced. She saw that the tree was beautiful, and it’s fruit looked delicious, and she wanted the wisdom it would give her. So she took some of the fruit and ate it. Then she gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it, too.” Genesis 3:6

I remember it like it was yesterday…or a couple of weeks ago anyway.  I am the youngest of eight children.  Some call me the baby of the family…I know Momma and Daddy saved the best for last.  My brothers and sisters nicknamed me Precious.  I used to think it was because they were jealous, but I later learned they were just right.  And, because I was so precious, well I often was the target of pranks and other acts of terrorism.

The two sisters and I were called the three little ones.  That was because everybody else was several years older and therefore bigger.  The other two members of “the three little ones” were the main terrorists.  They loved to hold me down and tickle me mercilessly and then pull my ears till they were blood red. It’s because of them one of my ears sticks out further than the other. They were two tough cookies.

One time they pushed me out the door in my underwear and wouldn’t let me back in.  I banged and banged on the door all to no avail.  They, of course, will deny all of this but trust me, at the Judgement Seat all will be revealed, and they will surely be grateful for grace.

I have always had an affection for sweet things, and they even used that against me.  One day one of them came up and said, “Dewayne, do you want some candy?”  Well, my response was, “Well sure.”  It was in a small box and in my excitement, I didn’t take time to read the label.  Honestly, since I was only about eight, I probably wouldn’t have known the difference anyway.  So, I opened the box and found that it was filled with chocolates.  There were only three or four pieces in the box and before long…they were gone.

I did notice that they tasted a little different, but they were sweet,  and they were brown so hey, that was close enough for me.  I should have been suspicious that the terrorists were being so nice, but I always was a trusting soul.  Well, several hours passed and before long time wasn’t the only thing that was passing.  You see, my loving sisters had fed me a whole box of Ex-Lax.  They would deny it, you probably can’t believe it, but trust me I was there.  Oh, boy was I there.

Well, I learned a lot of lessons growing up and this is one of them.  You see, things are often not what they seem to be. I thought I was a getting a box of chocolates and instead I got a box of trouble.  It looked like chocolate, it even tasted somewhat like chocolate, but it wasn’t anything close.  Did you know that the Bible warns us how the Devil can disguise himself?  It says that he can disguise himself as an angel of light when in fact He is the angel of darkness.  Remember that…things are not always as they seem.

I learned too that not everyone who comes bearing gifts can be trusted.  I should have known better when they offered that box but my desire for chocolate overruled my common sense.  That is what got Adam and Eve in trouble in the garden. The story is found in Genesis, and it says, “The woman was convinced. She saw that the tree was beautiful, and its fruit looked delicious, and she wanted the wisdom it would give her. So, she took some of the fruit and ate it. Then she gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it, too.” And that is how I found myself eating Ex-Lax.

It’s a tricky world out there…terrorists are lurking everywhere and sometimes they might be related so be careful.  Be sure and use your good common sense if someone offers you a little box filled with chocolates.  You might be getting more than you bargained for.  Like I said, I probably wouldn’t have understood the label even if I had read it. But do you know what?  My Momma would have.  In fact, if I had gone to her this story would have been totally different.  But I didn’t.

As we journey through this upside-down world, don’t forget to go to your Dearest Daddy with your questions and mysteries.  He is always there, and He is always watching out for you.  You can trust Him. His box of chocolate is always the real deal.  So have a seat, open the box, and enjoy.  You can rest in Him.  He’s got this. 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, food, forgiveness, Grace, gratitude, life, loving others, Scripture, Southern born, thankful, Trials

Eating Your Words

The one who reveals secrets is a constant gossip; avoid someone with a big mouth.” Proverbs 20:19

The more I chewed the bigger it got.  I have lots of food memories from growing up.  First you need to remember that I was born in the South and folks from the South have a whole different way of eating.  And trust me…that means it was good…mostly.  I can remember fried chicken Sunday dinners with green beans and mashed potatoes…the kind that didn’t come from a box but from a real potato.  A lot of Sundays we had pot roast with those same yummy potatoes and green beans. And “dinner on the grounds” at church was a potluck straight from heaven.

My mama was the biscuit queen.  You can’t imagine how good they were hot out of the oven.  While we did occasionally have desert, we really didn’t need it.  We would just take one of mama’s biscuits, slather it with butter and then pour cane syrup all over it.  Shoot-that-thing! You don’t know good if you’ve never had homemade biscuits and cane syrup.  Now with all that said, there were a few things we had that were a bit—different.

I remember I decided to try something new with peanut butter. It could have been that we were out of jelly but anyway I got the mayonnaise out of the refrigerator, smeared it on some bread and then loaded on the peanut butter.  Bam…just like that a new delicacy was born.  That became one of my favorites for years.  One day, though, I had one and then got the stomach flu and well, we parted ways. No pun intended.

We didn’t have a whole lot of candy growing up and I’ve always had a sweet tooth.  Somewhere along the journey I discovered the sugar bowl.  Did you know you can get a teaspoon full of sugar and put it in your mouth and it tastes like a candy bar?  Well, it probably didn’t taste like a Snickers, but it was plenty sweet.  You know what they say, “Necessity is the mother of invention.”

School lunches were always an adventure.  There were deviled egg sandwiches (awesome), deviled egg sandwiches with potted meat mixed in (not so awesome), potted meat sandwiches without deviled eggs (yuk) and finally Vienna sausages (uh, well, somewhat good).  You just never knew what mom was going to put in the lunch bag.  My all-time favorite was and is pimento cheese.  And then there was—tripe.

Tripe wasn’t a lunch item, it was always for supper.  Some of you may not have discovered the wonder of tripe or even know what it is.  Well, for those of you who don’t know tripe is cow’s stomach.  Yup and let me just tell you it was an experience.  It always smelled great cooking but eating it was a real challenge.  Mama usually cut it up in pretty small pieces, but you still had to get a sharp knife to get it down to bite size.  Now tripe was…chewy.  In fact, tripe was very chewy.  Which is why it never made it into the lunch bag—it took two hours to eat one small piece.  You see, the more you chewed it, the bigger it got! 

I’ve heard it said that celery is one of those negative calorie foods…it actually takes more calories to chew it and digest it than are in the food itself.  I think tripe must be one of those also.  In fact, I am sure there is a tripe diet somewhere out there.  You take a bite, chew for two hours and bam…lose two pounds.  Good, ole, tripe.  The supper of champions.

Did you know that tripe and gossip are first cousins?  No really. You mutter a few words about your friend and before you know it, you have yourself a belly full of trouble. Those few hurtful words just get bigger and more hurtful each time they are repeated. Feelings get hurt, relationships are broken and talk about a belly ache…oh yeah.  While the Bible doesn’t say much about tripe it does say a lot about gossip.  One of my favorites is Proverbs 20:19, “The one who reveals secrets is a constant gossip; avoid someone with a big mouth.”  How’s that for being straight to the point?

One of the best ways to avoid gossip is to remember a couple of things.  If the person you are telling isn’t part of the problem…don’t say it. Also, if you wouldn’t say something to a person’s face you shouldn’t share it behind their back.  Now the problem is, most of us just love a good piece of juicy gossip.  The Bible says, “A gossip’s words are like choice food that goes down to one’s innermost being.” That might be true but I know one more thing about tripe.  If it gets stuck in your throat you are in deep weeds.  That choice piece of gossip can get stuck too, and can cause heart breaking consequences.

Well, I gave up tripe a long time ago.  I guess I had enough when I was a kid.  I wish I could say I have totally given up gossip the same way.  I have found out given half-a-chance I can find myself saying, “Hey, did you hear…” and that tripe-like-sin is right back in my mouth.  We just need to be careful to keep it out of our mouth.  The good news is Jesus is more than willing to help if you ask.  He can handle all kind of things whether it be a tough piece of tripe stuck in the wrong place or a juicy piece of gossip right on your lips.  Just ask Him.  He will help…cause He’s got …even this.  Bro. Dewayne

Posted in Family, forgiveness, Grace, gratitude, life, love, Scripture, Southern born, thankful

T-Minus 10 Seconds and Counting

A fool’s way is right in his own eyes, but whoever listens to counsel is wise.” Proverbs 12:15

It was summer, I was eight and bored.  When you are eight the last thing you want is to be bored. But the good part was since it was the 60’s it seemed I had no problem inventing ways to have fun and get into trouble.  Though it might be hard for some of our younger Grits readers to believe, back in those days there were only three channels on our black and white television, no internet, and no smart devices. It was a world where being creative was natural.  So, I got creative.

I lived in a world with few actual toys.  Oh sure, we had great Christmases and birthdays were nothing to sneeze at, but beyond that…it was slim pickings in the toy world.  But not to worry—all you had to do is look around and bam—-goodbye boredom.  For example, you go to the “junk drawer” and there you would find a collection of rubber bands from the daily newspaper.  String about ten of them together and you have a bug killer.  In those days, love bugs were everywhere in Florida.  They would take up roost on Daddy’s car and I would pick them off one by one.  Need something else?  Find a piece of chain and drag it through the sand—which was everywhere.  As you pulled it along, it became a train…leaving its track in the sand.  Then, if you really wanted something cool, you went back to the “junk drawer” and found the left over firecrackers from the 4th of July.  Here comes trouble.

I wanted to do something more than just blow something up so I decided to make a spacecraft.  In the early sixties that was all the rage.  The space race was well underway and the Russians were in the lead.  It was time to help NASA out.  I went to the trash and got a tin can.  I peeled off the label and then punched a hole in the end that still had a lid.  I then dug a small hole in the ground to make sure the full force of the firecracker went up and not out. I pulled the fuse up through the hole, put the can in the hole, open end down, firecracker up.  We were ready for launch.  No worry, NASA, help is on the way.

I lit the fuse and it quickly burned and allowed the firecracker to fall down inside the can where it promptly exploded.  It worked just like I expected.  A loud bang and the silver rocket soared into the sky.  While it didn’t make it into space, it did go about forty or fifty feet.  Well, as you know, what goes up…must come down…and it did.  It was then that I realized I probably should have gotten a little farther away from my Daddy’s car. As the can fell down to earth, it landed smack-dab in the middle of the hood of the car.  There was a bang and then, there was a moan.  Even from where I stood, I could see that there was going to be a dent…a very obvious and pronounced dent.

As it turned out my career with NASA was going to be short lived.  Well, I dreaded Daddy coming home and discovering my failed space attempt.  I knew there was going to be consequences but either Daddy once again extended grace (he did that a lot…probably because I got in trouble a lot) or maybe I have a short or selective memory.  Either way, the only thing I remember is I learned to launch my rockets further from the house and the car.  You see, there was nothing wrong with launching a rocket or two…the error was not more carefully figuring the details and consequences.

That was a lesson that I have never forgotten even though I may not have perfectly followed it.  Before you launch, before you act, before you speak, before you say yes or no…check the details and count the cost.  I bet Eve figured that out after her encounter with the serpent in the garden.  I bet David figured that out after his rooftop encounter with Bathsheba.  I bet Peter figured it out after his fireside chat with a young girl and his subsequent denial.  One of the writers in the Old Testament book of Proverbs said, “A fool’s way is right in his own eyes, but whoever listens to counsel is wise.” That might describe my adventure into rockets that summer day.  From my eight year old perspective, all systems were go.  I bet I would have had a different outcome if I would have checked with Momma first.  She probably would have suggested a better launching pad.

Well, no harm, no foul.  The car wore the dent for the whole time we owned it, but I did learn a good lesson—when you decide to launch—check the details and get some counsel.  As we journey today, that is still good advice.  Regardless of what comes along, think about it before you do it and there is a Heavenly Father who is so wise and is just waiting to help us navigate our world.  And when there is a misfire, a mishap…don’t worry, He will still be there and if you listen, you will probably hear those three comforting words, “I’ve got this.”  Bro. Dewayne

Posted in Family, fear, gratitude, life, prayer, Scripture, Southern born, sovereignty of God

Chicken Little

“I know that You can do anything, and no one can stop You.” Job 42:2

Poor Chicken Little.  He had it all wrong.  The story is told of a little chicken (aptly named Chicken Little) who was walking one day, and a bird dropped an acorn which hit him on the head.  Chicken Little assumed that the sky was falling and the world as he knew it was coming to an end.  He rushed to tell the king and along the way told others of the bad news. They in turn joined him in the quest to tell the king. The only problem was… the sky wasn’t falling.

When I was a kid, like so many of us, I wrestled with fear.  There was the standard fear of the dark.  When the lights went out, my heart rate went up.  My vivid imagination allowed for plenty of strange things to be seen in the darkness and sometimes even in the light.  I remember as a six or seven-year-old sitting in the bathtub and seeing “eyes” peering at me from inside the overflow drain.  “Maybe it is a snake” I thought.  “Perhaps it is a giant rat inside the drain.”  Regardless, for years I lived in fear until one day I got brave.  I took a flashlight into the bathroom and shined the light in the drain.  It turned out to be the tops of two brass screws inside the drain.

When I was a little older the fear thing still lingered.  With too many people and not enough house, I found myself sleeping in the dining room.  Mom and dad moved the table somewhere and put a twin bed there instead.  We lived in Florida and trust me it was HOT and it was HUMID and air conditioning was something that we DIDN’T have.  Each night I would crawl into bed, a fan in the window at least stirring the warm evening air. And each night the monsters would come out.  Of course, they weren’t real.  Of course, they didn’t exist. Right…but try telling that to a young boy with a vivid imagination.

I had to do something, and I did.  I would reach down and pull the sheet and bedspread over my head and lie still.  I don’t know if the idea was the sheet and bedspread would somehow protect me or if they would simply hide me.  But there I would lie hiding, sweating, and praying, that whatever hid in the darkness wouldn’t eat me.  I guess it worked because I’m still here today but boy was it HOT!

I guess I finally overcame most of my fears. I have to admit though, when Bubba the goose hisses at me in the park, it still makes my skin kinda tingle. To some degree fear is still a stalker in my life.  Instead of rats in a drain or monsters in the dark or bad guys in the house, it has become the uncertainty of these uncertain days.  And I know I am not alone.  Every time we turn on the news, we are told that the sky is indeed falling and that the end of world as we know it is coming.  As I waited for the morning weather forecast today, a story popped up on the screen about a new strain of the swine flu in China that could or would certainly be the next pandemic.  What? Excuse me?

I am a guy who gets to serve God and people as a pastor and there is one thing I know.  God is in charge, and He is bigger than any of it and all of it.  You may have heard of a guy named Job—and no he was not related to Steve Jobs, (smile).  His sky in fact did fall and he ended up losing everything.  Well, actually his “why don’t you give up and die” wife stuck around, but so did his faith in God.  In fact, in the midst of his hot mess, Job said this, “I know that You can do anything, and no one can stop You.” Score one for Job.  He believed that God was in charge, that God had a plan, and that nothing was going to happen on His watch unless He said so.

Now that is some real good, real comforting, real “you take that fear” news.  But you also need to know that sometimes that can be hard.  God’s plans don’t always mean I get what I want…in fact, often it means the opposite.  But hey, I was the guy who manufactured monsters in his head.  But it still means that God is good, that God is faithful, and that God can be trusted.  It does mean that He is watching out for my good and He is working to bring His glorious plan to pass.

A friend of mine recently suggested that perhaps it is time that we turn off the bad news.  I agree.  The broadcasters know that bad news “sells” and they are dishing it out by the buckets full.  Corrie ten Boom, a concentration camp survivor from World War II said, “If you look at the world, you will be distressed.  If you look within, you will be depressed.  But if you look at Christ you will be at rest.” What powerful and true words.  If you are not a God follower perhaps this sounds a little far-fetched.  Trust me…He is worth checking out. He is the real deal…not church…not religion…and certainly not the fear mongers. You can rest in Him…because He’s got this. Bro. Dewayne

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

Invincible

The Lord watches over the foolish; when I was helpless, He saved me.” Psalm 116:6

It was the day of my Daddy’s funeral. I was 20 years old, into my second year in the Air Force and I was pretty much convinced I was invincible.  When you are a young buck, independent and all that, it seems you are going to live forever…and I guess you think that those around you will too.  That Sunday in July 1974 changed all that.  That day my Daddy slipped away from us, and we were left to say goodbye.  So, I’m sure there were trips to the funeral home, conversations with the pastor, and details to be ironed out.  And then suddenly it was the day of the funeral.

For some reason I don’t remember much about the service.  I remember walking into the church and my then girlfriend telling me not to cry.  I guess big boys don’t cry after all.  I remember a church mostly filled and I remember we sang the old hymn, “In the Garden.”  Beyond that there is a void…an emptiness…until lunch.  Down south the answer to everything is food…and that is especially true when it comes to grieving.

We had dinner at the home place and there were plenty of people and plenty of food.  I was standing out in the backyard talking with a bunch of guys.  One of the neighborhood guys I grew up with had a new Honda 750 motorcycle.  Like I said…when you are 20 you think you are invincible or maybe since I had just come from my Daddy’s funeral, I needed to prove that I thought I was.  Regardless, he asked me if I wanted to take it for a ride.

Now a Honda 750 is a lot of motorcycle…especially for 1974.  I mounted my metal steed and headed for the road.  The roads were Wheat, Firestone, 118th St., and Ricker. They formed a very large block about a mile each way. If you took four right turns, you would end up back where you started.  At first, I went easy because my experience on motorcycles was just about like it was for horses…an occasional ride…very occasional. I made the first right onto Firestone and a mile later made my second right onto 118th.  I’m not sure what prompted it, but I decided to see how fast the Honda would go. So, I opened the throttle and quickly shifted through the gears.  I was going fast…too fast.

Before I knew it I was somewhere over 100 miles an hour on a one mile stretch of road on a machine I knew little about. I looked up and coming up very quickly was the stop sign where the road ended at Ricker Road.  I needed to stop so I began to downshift and hit the brakes and somehow, someway I managed to bring me and the Honda to a stop.  My heart was just about to jump out of my chest and all of a sudden, I didn’t feel very invincible. In fact, I felt quite the opposite.  Suddenly I realized that life can be very fragile.  I got back to the house in one piece.  I’m sure I shared the story with the guys and we probably all had a good laugh but one of us wasn’t laughing on the inside.

You see that day I came face to face not with my invincibility but rather my mortality. I realized that life was precious and was something to be valued and guarded. I’m still not sure what I was trying to prove that day or maybe it was some sort of weird ritual thing that boys do when their Daddy dies.  I know this.  If my Daddy had been there that day there would have been a very serious discussion about me, motorcycles, and safety.  But, fortunately, my Dearest Daddy was there to watch over me. And even though I was not acting responsibility or even rationally, He still cared, He still rescued me. The Psalmist writes in Psalm 116:6 “The Lord watches over the foolish; when I was helpless, He saved me.”

My earthly Daddy, after our talk, would have extended grace that day. My Heavenly Father extended grace too that day.  He watched over me, protected me, and gave me the opportunity to live and experience life.  Thanks, Father.  Over the decades of my life since that hot July day on the day of my Daddy’s funeral, I have experienced God’s grace over and over, again.  He has been there for me and from experience I can tell you for a fact that He does indeed, “have this.” Bro. Dewayne

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

Just Like Papa

And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds.” Hebrews 10:24

It is one of my favorite pictures.  It was several years ago when Blake and Sarah were stationed in Savanah, Georgia.  He served in the United States Army and they are one of thousands of families who made the sacrifice to go where they are sent and do what they are called to do.  Now, of all the places the Army can sent a family, Savanah was good duty.  Located in the Southeast corner of Georgia it is rich in heritage and about 25 miles from the beach.  Not bad.

Well, one day Judy suggested we should go down and see them.  Let’s see…family, grits (the food not the stories), history, and pralines (in case you don’t know they are a crisp or semi-crisp candy typically consisting of butter, brown sugar, and pecans. You need to try them.) Yup…sounds like a great idea.  We load up the van and off we go.  It’s about an eleven- hour drive and we broke it up into two days because we are not as young as we used to be and to us the journey is part of the adventure.

When we arrived in Savanah, there were the usual “big hellos” and “what’s happening?” Soon after greetings, the next two big questions were, “what are we going to eat” and “where do we want to go?” We decide to go to the historic downtown.  If you have never been to Savanah, it is hard to describe this special part of the city.  It is a series of parks, literally block after block, filled with trees, flowers, monuments, and fountains.  Oh, and there is a Five Guys Burgers and Fries nearby.  It can’t get any better. It’s like the Southern part of heaven.

After three or four blocks of strolling, I decide it is time to sit down.  I wander over to an empty park bench and sit a spell.  As I sometimes do, I lean back, locking my hands behind my head and just relax.  The birds are singing, the squirrels are playing, and life is good.  And then, it got better.  While I am sitting there doing my relaxing thing, my grandson Will, who was about four, comes over to the park bench and eyes his Papa. What he does next is recorded in a photograph and in my heart.

Will, with a bit of a struggle, climbs up and sits on the park bench.  He then gives me a look, raises his hands behind his head, locking his fingers.  He is being like his Papa. He is doing what he sees me doing. Judy, with the keen eye of a great photographer and grandmother, snaps the picture.  It was only when we got home that we saw the true beauty of the picture.  Today, a copy sits on my desk in my home-office, and it is indeed one of my treasures.

Will reminded me that there are always people watching and looking and often imitating us.  Sometimes they are family, sometimes they are fellow church members, sometimes neighbors, and sometimes even strangers.  But they are watching and looking to see what we are going to do, how we are going to react, and then they do what we do. That might be the reason when one of Jesus’ disciples deserted Him…they all did. It might be why when one shouted “crucify Him,” they all did.  This picture makes me pause and ask, “What are my kids, my grandkids, my friends, the yet to be friends around me, seeing when they see me?”  What do they see at the park, in Wal-Mart and yes, on Facebook.  Hmmm.

The guy who wrote Hebrews says that we should consider—we should weigh carefully “how we may spur one another on toward love and good works.”  In other words, the things we do and say should cause others to do good—and not evil. We are to be beacons of light shining out into a dark, rough, and dangerous sea.  I guess I really love that picture because of the innocence of it all.  But what if, what if, that same picture showed me being hateful or rude.  What brought me joy would, and should, instead bring tears.

Today is a new day.  I like new days.  New days say I get another chance.  Let’s use this day with the knowledge that people are watching and we get to show them the way to get it right—not wrong.  I know, it is a daunting task…but we have a great, big God pulling for us.  Just like I got to set an innocent example for Will, so Jesus has set a sterling example for us.  Just follow the Leader and you can’t go wrong.  So, climb up on the bench, sit a spell and rest.  He’s got this.  Bro. Dewayne

Posted in Family, fear, Grace, gratitude, life, love, prayer, Scripture, Southern born, thankful, Trials

Free to Be Me

God saw all that He had made, and it was very good indeed. Evening came and then morning: the sixth day.” Genesis 1:31

It was a profound statement.  It was1967 and I was in junior high.  In Jacksonville that meant grades 7-9 and it meant a whole different world from elementary school.  For the first time we went to separate classes and actually got to choose some of our food at lunch in the cafeteria. I remember, for a dime, you could actually buy a bowl of french fries. While they weren’t anything like McDonald’s, I do believe they were potatoes, and they were long and skinny.

It may have been the sixties, but there were rules. For the girls skirts and dresses had to be a certain length. For the guys your hair could only be so long and then there were the big three: shirt tucked in, wear a belt, and socks.  Break those and you and the principal had a date.  By the time I was in the ninth grade, things were relaxing some and that included the big three.  On Fridays, boys were allowed to untuck their shirts, not wear a belt, and not wear socks. Holy moly, what was the world coming to?  Looking back, the cool thing was to take the socks that you weren’t wearing and put them hanging out of your rear pant’s pocket.  Every Friday, my shirt was out, my belt stayed home, and my socks were flapping in the breeze.  Do you know why?  It was cool…and I wanted to be cool. I wanted to be in. I wanted to be accepted.

As you know, through the years the trends have changed, styles have come and gone, and so have the labels.  In high school Gold Toe socks were coveted and so were Gant shirts. We couldn’t afford either but when I joined the Air Force and could shop at the Base Exchange, they carried both and both became part of my world.  I was cool. I was in. I was accepted. Some things never change, and this is one of those.  There was always something that someone was wearing that if you had it, you just knew you would feel cool…accepted…part of the “in” crowd.  When I came to my current church, it was  shirts with ponies and shoes named “Crocs.” Whatever the newest label, and there was always one, peer pressure and the desire to be cool, accepted, and in, pushed and pulled.  It seemed I always wanted to be what someone else was.

Thankfully, some of that has changed.  Ponies and crocs aren’t really that cool anymore, and I’m starting to realize that a label doesn’t define who I am.  I.Am.Me. In fact, my four favorite shirts are from Walmart and cost a grand total of $9.88 each. There’s nothing on the pocket—they are just plain shirts which is pretty cool, because I define them…they don’t define me.

I read something this morning that was just profound.  Here it is. Are you ready?  “Each person was born an original; no one should die a copy.” Wow.  It goes like this.  Somewhere in heaven, God came up with a design plan for me.  He wrote the design and then declared it an original and just right. In fact, in Genesis 1:31, the Bible says, “God saw all that He had made, and it was very good indeed.” And do you know what?  That includes me and that includes you. There is not another me or you, anywhere, and that was intentional. I don’t need to be you and you don’t need to be me. We just need to be who God made us. Sure, fashion labels are fine, and I’m even sure there is a perfect weight and height, but those don’t dictate who we are…God does.

In the years that God gives me, I hope I will remember this.  When the clock stops ticking, the heart stops beating, and you are having a chicken dinner somewhere in my honor, I hope someone will be able to say, “That Dewayne, he was an original. God broke the mold when He made him.”  I don’t want to die a copy…I want to die an original.

Given my bent to be a people pleaser and desire to be cool, accepted and in, I’m sure that will be a challenge. Gratefully, my Dearest Daddy will be with me along the way to remind me that I am a custom-made job, and you are too.  And, if I am wise enough to ask and listen, He will help me be me.  Oh, and if I struggle, and I will, and you will too, just listen as He reassures us that, “He’s got this.” Bro. Dewayne

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

Chucking Rocks

When they kept on questioning Him, He straightened up and said to them, “If any one of you is without sin, let him be the first to throw a stone at her.” John 8:7

I should have listened.  I was a pretty good kid when I was young but let’s be honest.  Pretty good doesn’t mean perfect and pretty good doesn’t mean not mischievous.  I think it means I was somewhere close to normal.  The only thing is normal can still get you into trouble.

One day I was with the family and I’m pretty sure we were at a laundromat.  Apparently, the washing machine had broken down and we had to do the wash at the mat.  My daddy and I were out in the parking lot while mama was washing the clothes.  I was about nine and bored and that is not a good combination.  The parking lot was gravel and all those rocks just seemed to be saying, “Throw me.”  So, I obliged.

At first it was a little toss here and there but the more I threw, the more I wanted to throw.  First it was random, but then I started taking aim.  Several things were laying along the edge of the parking lot and they made great targets but then I got an idea.  If hitting a can was good, imagine hitting a moving target.  So, I started chucking the rocks in the direction of the road and at the cars passing by.  Bad idea.

Now, if you are going to chuck rocks at a car, every nine-year old rock chucker knows you don’t just chuck your rock with obvious intention.  You ease into it. Well, I started easing into it and before long, my rocks were landing dangerously close to cars going by.  My Daddy thought it was kinda accidental and it garnered a “Dewayne, be careful not to hit the cars.”  He hadn’t caught onto my real plan to “ping a hub cap.”  Anyway, I kept chucking so he upped the warning.

“Dewayne, listen, don’t throw rocks at the cars.” He had finally caught on and I should have quit while I was ahead.  I finally got close enough so that we entered “Final Jeopardy.” “Question—what happens if you hit a car? Answer—I’m gonna give you a spanking.”  Yeah, well, you can probably guess where this is going.  I chucked a rock and hit a car going by and it was “Final Jeopardy.”  Daddy got mad, the driver got mad, and I got in trouble.

Well, Daddy was able to talk to the driver and he promised him the “grapes of wrath” would fall when we got home.  As he drove off, Daddy explained about the “grapes of wrath.” Translated it meant I was gonna get a spanking when we got home, and it wasn’t gonna be a little one.  So, as soon as we pulled into our driveway, I ran into the house and hid under the dining room table.  Soon, I heard Daddy’s voice, “Where are you, Dewayne?”  I felt like Adam and Eve in the garden after they had chucked rocks at God and decided to sin.  God was looking for them and they were hiding too.

And that’s where things get fuzzy.  I don’t remember the spanking which means I probably got grace instead.  It probably means that Daddy and I had a long talk about chucking rocks at cars and how that was not a good thing to do.  It must have worked because I don’t think I ever chucked another rock at a car…at least one that was moving. That day I learned about obedience and how it has a whole lot less consequences than disobedience.  I also learned about grace.  Grace is when you deserve a spanking but instead you get a talking.  But I also learned about rock chucking. I learned that it was ok to chuck rocks at things like stumps and cans, but it is not ok to chuck rocks at things like cars. When you do there are consequences…big ones.

Now, there’s another kind of rock chucking that I’m still learning about and that is chucking rocks at people. I’m not talking about waylaying someone with a stone but rather waylaying them with our judgmental acts and words. It’s what we do when we see someone fail and we decide to make ourselves feel better by knocking them down.

Jesus ran into this when some religious people found a woman sinning big-time.  They dragged her into the middle of a crowd and wanted to stone her.  They asked Jesus what would He do?  He told them that the person that had never sinned should chuck the first rock.  Well, slowly they all walked away because they had all messed up. “Where are your accusers?” Jesus asked the woman.  She replied that they had left…and indeed they had.

The only ones left were her, the sinner, and Him, the One who had never sinned.  He could have chucked rocks but instead He loved her and forgave her.  She deserved the rocks, but He gave her grace.  I like that.  A lot.  So, He dismissed her a smile and a word of “now don’t go on sinning” and the rocks stayed on the ground…right where they belong.

I am so grateful for grace…and you should be too.  If we have experienced grace, we should extend some too. You see, rocks make great parking lots and driveways, but are terrible weapons. They need to stay in the quarry or on the ground.  My Daddy showed grace then and my Dearest Daddy shows it every day.  We should too.  It’s good to know though when we are hiding under the dining room table and He calls, we can come out and sit in His lap and learn about the consequences of sin but also the wonders of grace.  So, come on out from your hiding place. We can rest in Him because, “He’s got this.” Bro. Dewayne

Posted in Family, food, forgiveness, Grace, gratitude, life, prayer, Scripture, Southern born, sovereignty of God, thankful, Trials, wisdom

Kickapoo Joy Juice

Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights.” James 1:17

I guess I needed a little Kickapoo Joy Juice.  When I was a kid, I loved anything that was free.  It seemed back then marketers were always giving something away to try to lure consumers.  When I was about nine or ten and living in Jacksonville, one of the local radio stations, WAPE or “The Ape,” was giving away little orange styrofoam balls.  You would put the ball on your car antenna (which in those days was a metal stick about thirty inches long).  “The Ape” would have cars driving around and if they got behind you and announced your tag number on the radio, you received a prize.  It was amazing how many people had those balls on their antennas.  I think at one time we put two or three on there trying to increase our chances.

I also remember different companies giving away vinyl decals.  Countless times I would go the local “Minute Market” to see if they had anything.  One of my favorites was a soft drink that came out in 1965.  It was taken from the comic strip, Li’l Abner, and was called “Kickapoo Joy Juice.” It was similar to Mountain Dew and like Mountain Dew, had an extra kick of caffeine. I would go to the store and, if I had a dime, I would buy the drink but the real mission was to get the free decal to put somewhere in my room or on my notebook.  From the number of decals I had, you would have thought it was my favorite drink.

Recently, I bumped into another kind of Kickapoo.  During my dance with COVID, remember I nicknamed her Corena, my doctor and friend decided it would be good for me to try an infusion of special medicine.  It is given to folks that have a compromised immune system.  In my case because of my age and the fact that I am diabetic he thought it appropriate. So I went to the hospital, pulled out my wallet and got some Kickapoo Joy Juice.  And even that was an experience.

They asked me to wait in my car and they would come and get me.  Sure enough, after a few minutes, two people came out.  One was a nurse to make sure I felt like walking, I did, and the other was an escort, a bouncer of sorts, to “part the water.”  Her job was to either stop normal people when I came anywhere close, or to stop me from being too close to them.  I’m not sure if I felt important or felt like one of the lepers from the Bible.  Remember how they had to shout, “Unclean, unclean?”  Well, I’m pretty sure I know how they felt. But everyone was super kind and before long I was settled in to get my infusion of “Kickapoo.”

Well, it took almost an hour for the infusion and then I had to stick around for another hour just to make sure something weird didn’t happen.  It didn’t.  I went home and since I was in the middle of the storm, I really didn’t have a good day or night but about noon the next day, my fever broke, and I began to feel some better. I’m not at a hundred precent but each day is getting better and I am grateful. I.Am.Grateful.

Saturday night I was having supper with Judy, and she prayed the blessing for our food.  I thought she went a little over the top thanking God for this bump in our lives.  When she finished praying, I jokingly said, “Let’s not overdo the gratitude thing for this.”  I said it in jest, but really, it didn’t need to be said at all.  I don’t know all the good that is going to come out of my dance with Corena, but I know it will far outweigh the bad.

The same James, the half-brother of Jesus, that I quoted a couple of stories ago, said that every good and perfect gift comes down from the Father above.  Think about that. Every good and perfect gift comes down from a God who loves us more than we can imagine.  Just like my doctor and friend knew the cost would be high for my dose of Kickapoo Joy Juice, he also knew it would be of great benefit.  And my Abba Father,  sent His only Son to a broken world and a cruel cross for the same reason, except it was more than for our benefit.  It was so we could be redeemed…set free.  Amazing. He knew the price, which was higher than we could ever imagine, yet He did it.  Why?  He just loves us so.

Well, hopefully my dance with Corena continues to a swift end.  Thanks for the dance Corena, because you taught me to hurt with others.  And thank you Dearest Daddy for trusting me with the dance and for showing me once again that, “You’ve got this.” Bro. Dewayne