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

Backyard Cars

But Peter said, “I don’t have silver or gold, but what I do have, I give you: In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, get up and walk!” Acts 3:6

Sometimes it seemed like a parking lot.  We have all seen it, but I experienced it.  As I have often said, there were certain benefits to growing up urban county.  We weren’t country like horses and cows, but we were country like room to run, places to play and cars in the backyard.  What?  Yup. I know we have all seen yards where there are old cars hanging around the yard.  I know each time I drive to Paducah down Route 145 in Southern Illinois I pass a house with an old Capri parked in the yard…permanently.  Over the years that I have seen it, weeds and green algae have slowly grown over it.  I’m not sure about the story behind the old Capri, but it is there year after year.

Over the years I lived at 6008 Carlton Road, we had several cars parked in our backyard.  When my granddaddy Taylor died, we inherited his old Pontiac Sedan.  I’m not sure what year it was but it was old…probably the late forties if I were to guess.  I know at least for a while it was a runner, but later on it became a sitter.  Regardless, it was a great place to play and hide in a good game of hide and seek.  This past week I was converting some old family movies to digital so we could watch them again.  There is one simply titled, Alston and Leslie Taylor and their children – 1960’s.  In the middle of the video there was my daddy, and he was working on the old Pontiac.  It was good to see him again.  It reminded me what a good man he was.

I have a feeling that there was a reason that he was working on granddaddy’s Pontiac.  You see I remember that our main driver, a 1957 Plymouth, blew an engine so it was parked under the tree in the backyard.  So, I think Daddy may have been working on the Pontiac so we would have something that would get us from here to there.  The Plymouth sat there for quite a while.  Motors were expensive and it would be a while before Mama and Daddy could scrape the money together to buy a rebuilt one.  I know they eventually did, but until then it was the old Pontiac.

And then there was the Sunbeam.  My brother Lee bought a car from somebody and it was quite unusual.  It was a British made car and it almost had that James Bond allure about it.  I was trying to think how to describe it and simply put, it was cool.  Well, it was cool until it quit running.  You see, certain cars, and especially British ones, are hard to work on and expensive to repair.  Well, somewhere along the road (no pun intended) it died.  Rather than bury it, we just parked it the backyard where it became one of the original storage sheds.  We slowly stuffed it to the gills with—stuff.

Well, eventually the Plymouth got fixed, the Pontiac got hauled off and the Sunbeam went somewhere, and our backyard looked a little less like a small junkyard and more like a garden.  Daddy had a love for growing roses and I have to admit they looked a lot better than the old cars that adorned our yard for a season.  Thinking back, I wonder what people thought about the old World War II barracks turned house with a car or two parked in the backyard.  I wonder if they, like me, like you, were tempted to judge the people that lived there?

I wonder if they ever pondered why the house needed painting most of the time or why there were old junk cars sitting in the yard?  I wonder if they thought the people who lived there were lazy or unkept.  Well, in the case of 6008 Carlton Road they would have been wrong on both cases.  My Daddy was a hard worker making sure the folks under his care had food and clothes.  He worked until his heart said no, and even then he found a job as a security guard.  Mama worked hard taking care of us.  She poured her life into our lives and made sure there was supper on the table and clean clothes to wear.  I would suppose they both were too busy pulling it all together to worry what people thought.

I know this.  When I drive south to Paducah and pass that old house with the overgrown Capri in the front yard, it won’t be thoughts of judgement that pass through my mind. Instead, I will remember two people who worked hard to make life possible for my me, and my brothers and sisters.  And then I will remember that until I have walked in someone’s shoes, I have no business looking down on anyone.  Most folks don’t wake up some morning and just decide to have their world go south.  Sometimes it just happens.  But what I do know is that Jesus, the Man a lot of us have committed to follow, wouldn’t cast a rock, rather He would lend a hand. 

One day a couple of Jesus followers were going to church and they passed by a man who couldn’t walk.  The guy was begging and that was the honorable thing to do given there was no security net for help in those days.  He looked up and the two Jesus guys looked down.  They said, “You know, we don’t have any money, but we do have an answer.  And right there, right then, they reached down and in the name of Jesus they healed the guy.  He got up, did a little dance and they all went to church together. How about that?  So, who can you help today?  What house have you driven by so many times before but perhaps today you need to stop? I know in a world of risks, that can be hard but hey, I know Someone who will help make it happen.  His name is Jesus and He’s got this.  Bro. Dewayne 

Posted in Family, gratitude, life, priorities, Southern born, thankful, travel, wisdom

Free Money

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

It was like free money.  Ah, those were the good old days.  When I was nine or ten years old, we used to go and visit our grandparents who lived in Gainesville, Florida.  It was always an adventure to go to their house.  While they weren’t necessarily rich, they were richer than we were. They had a fireplace which to me was an adventure all by itself.  I remember one time, without permission, (oops), I went in the living room where the fireplace was.  I had some newspaper and matches and decided that I was going to start a fire.  There were several problems with that plan, but the big one was the draft in the chimney was closed.  When I lit the papers, all the smoke began pouring into the living room and I didn’t have a clue on how to stop it. I’m not sure how that all turned out, but that is probably because I have mentally blocked the consequences.

Also, I remember they had an old garage behind the house and it was just filled with stuff.  It was dark and dank and my imagination would race as I thought about what could be lurking in the recesses and corners.  I can only wish I had some of those old treasures today.  Beyond the garage was a large backyard that was really one big flower garden.  There were several flower beds with daylilies, camellia bushes, and amaryllis.  And then, beyond the backyard…was free money.

Imagine small city side streets with shallow ditches lining each side of the road.  Imagine vines and low bushes almost overcoming the ditches and then imagine free money up and down the streets.  You see, back in those days, cokes came in glass coke bottles and if you found a coke bottle you could take it to the store where they would give you two cents per bottle. On top of that you did your part to stop littering.   Now keep in mind down south any soft drink was a coke. Someone might ask you, “Do you want a coke?” If you said yes, and who wouldn’t, they would respond with “what kind?” It might be a root beer, an orange or grape Nehi or something else.  Whatever kind—the bottles all brought two cents each.

I would walk the streets around my grandparent’s house collecting bottles.  On a good day I might find ten bottles which put twenty cents in my pocket. Now wait…don’t think that isn’t much because also in those days there was something called penny candy.  Yup, it was a penny for each piece and there were a whole bunch to choose from.  You could fill a small bag with twenty cents, which I did almost every time. You can probably understand why going to Gainesville was one of my favorite trips.  I loved my grandparents, but I loved finding those bottles too.  And the store…it was right across the street.

Times have certainly changed and getting a deposit for a coke bottle is all but gone.  I was reading my water bottle label the other day and discovered if you lived in Oregon it was worth a whole dime.  Shoot that thang!  I sometimes wonder if we need to do a better job of teaching our kids or grandkids the value of earning a little money? Whether it was finding bottles or mowing yards for $2.00 it taught me lessons about working to get what you want.  Too often kids grow up without learning the value of work or money for that matter.  I’m pretty sure one of the best gifts we can give our kids is teaching them the value of working for something.  Looking back, I’m thankful my Daddy and Mama gave me that opportunity.

The Book of Proverbs is a whole book in the Jewish and Christian Bibles dedicated to wisdom.  Well, one of the proverbs in that Book says that people who don’t work want much but get little, but those who work hard will prosper. There’s a lot of truth in those few words. We often see work as a curse but in many ways, it is a gift…a great teacher. However, there is one area that I am glad work doesn’t play a part and that is as the way to heaven.  In that case all the work in the world will leave you far short. But the good news is that God offers forgiveness and heaven as a gift to anyone who is willing to believe.  What I could never earn, He freely provides. How about that!

I don’t necessarily long for the old days, but I am grateful for the days I’ve lived.  Each season of life has had its ups and downs…its values and lessons.  I still clearly remember the sheer joy of finding those two cent bottles.  Times change and the way lessons are learned may change but through the years, the faithfulness of my Dearest Daddy has never changed.  He has always been there and no matter what tomorrow brings.  He’s got this.  Bro. Dewayne

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

S & H Green Stamps

Now all glory to God, who is able, through His mighty power at work within us, to accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or think.” Ephesians 3:20

I guess it was the bonus thing.  Take a country boy from the far-out suburbs of North Florida and a trip anywhere was a treat.  When times were lean, Daddy and Mama would pay our electric bill downtown at the electric company.  It wasn’t unusual for us to wait to the last day or so and we would have to take it down to the drop box.  The office was located downtown on the St. John’s River and we would make an adventure out of the trip.  We would park and make the payment and then play along the Riverwalk. It is one of those great memories.

So, anytime Mama or Daddy said, “Let go” we were all in.  That was especially true when Mama would head to the grocery store.  Daddy was paid on every other Friday.  On payday when he got home from work, they would deposit his check and go buy groceries. While we started with eight kids, by the time I was eight or so several had gotten married but that still made for a lot of groceries to buy.  Mama would usually shop at Food Fair.  For one thing they had good prices but there was a bonus.  Food Fair gave out S&H Green Stamps.

It was kinda like the card that some stores today use to offer discounts on food and gas but different.  When you got to the checkout, the person would hand ring all the groceries (no scanners in those days!) and total everything up.  Then she had this special little machine and based on what Mama spent that week, she would mash the appropriate buttons and this little machine would spit out all these little “green stamps.” So, along with your receipt you left the store with a handful of stamps.

At the store, near the front, you would find these little stamp collecting books. Each page would hold, oh let’s say, twenty stamps.  So, we (Mama would often let us lick the stamps and stick them in the book) would put the stamps in the book and then put the books in a safe place like the china cabinet.  Week after week, and especially on payday we would stick and save, stick and save.  Finally, after a while, we would have several books of stamps and it was redemption time.

Along with the little books for the stamps, there were catalogs filled with stuff that you could redeem with the stamps.  There were all kinds of small appliances, toasters, and the like, as well as other things for the house.  And, if I remember right, there were even a few toys in there also.  When redemption time came we would look and shop and see what we could buy with our S&H Green Stamps.  Rarely, but sometimes, Mama would even let us have the stamps and we could go shopping for something we wanted. It was like a mini-Christmas in April, or August or whenever.

It was a pretty good marketing ploy if you think about it.  The fact that they gave away “green stamps” enticed us to shop there.  It really was a bonus and it really worked. It is always special when you get more than you expect—and that is something that I really like about God. Although I went to church all my life, I was twenty-one when I finally got it in my head that I didn’t have to please God to go to heaven.  I finally understood that you go to heaven not based on what you do but on what Jesus did when He died on a Roman cross and rose again.  Trust and believe in Him and, well, it is redemption day. You get your ticket punched for heaven but there is more.  There is a bonus.

You see, not only does God make you eligible for heaven by forgiving everything you’ve ever done wrong but there is something else.  There are S&H Green Stamps—an unexpected bonus. I mean, I’m glad for heaven but to know that my Father up in heaven cares for me and walks with me every day—now that’s a bonus. When times are hard, He is there.  When I need a friend, He is there. When I mess up, He is there…ready to love and forgive. He.Is.Always.There. Paul, the guy who penned a bunch of the New Testament said it this way, “Now all glory to God, who is able, through his mighty power at work within us, to accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or think.” Yup…well said Paul.

You know, sometimes the future can be pretty scary.  A lot of us…most of us…discovered that in 2020.  If there was anything that was certain it was that the future was uncertain.  It was so assuring to know that what I didn’t know…He did. That when I went where I hadn’t gone before…His footprints were already in the sand. And, what I couldn’t handle…He could and He did. Throughout this past year, each time I wrote,  I’ve tried to close my story with the words, “He’s got this.” And do you know what?  He really does and that my friend…is a bonus.  Bro. Dewayne

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

A Morning Nightmare

He comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort others. When they are troubled, we will be able to give them the same comfort God has given us.” 2 Corinthians 1:4

It was the thing that nightmares are made of.  I wasn’t there for this, but trust me I have lived it over and over again with my wife, Judy. Let me tell you the story.  When she was four or five years old, her father and mother went to work and so she had a babysitter that lived close by. It was a regular routine. Simple.  Simple and routine till one day it wasn’t.

On the first day of school, the babysitter and her friend were taking the kids to school. The kids were entering first grade, there was no kindergarten. After they had dropped the kids off, it was back to her house again.  If you’ve ever been to Valdosta, Georgia you need to know multiple times at multiple locations train tracks would cross the roads and highways.  Just a few miles from the grade school was a pulpwood plant and often trains would drop off logs to be made into paper.  On that particular morning, after leaving the school, the car approached this train crossing.  In the early 60’s, many of the crossings didn’t have lights or gates and this was one of those.  As the car approached the crossing, that’s when it happened.

It was not unusual for trains to just stop short of the crossing and sit there.  As the car approached the crossing there was a train and the young lady who was driving assumed it was just waiting as they often did.  Unfortunately, she was wrong.  As the car neared the crossing and proceeded onto the tracks, she realized that the train was in fact moving—slowly—but moving.  In a panic she thought she was pressing the gas pedal, when in fact she pressed the brake—stopping the car dead on the track. As if in slow motion, the train hit the car and slowly, methodically pushed it down the tracks.  Even at such a slow speed, it took a while for the train to stop. The damage was extensive.

The collision was not without consequences and injuries.  The lady in the front passenger seat where the train hit received two broken arms.  The girl behind the passenger seat had a broken leg.  The driver literally had a nervous breakdown.  Thankfully, four-year-old Judy was only knocked to the floorboard where she tried her best to hold on to the “hump.”  While everyone was taken to the hospital, gratefully the injuries, though serious, were not life threatening. As often is the case in situations like this, not all the injuries were physical.

When I met Judy in 1974, she was sixteen and full of fun and life.  Because she lived on the other side of most of the tracks, we would often have to cross them.  While never in a dangerous way, if I heard a training coming, I would speed up to make it across the crossing.  I still remember the fear that came across her face.  Each time it happened, she was reliving what happened.  The accident still deeply affected her emotionally. Even if there was a crossing guard with lights, she would tense up, even though I was slowing down to a stop.  What happened that morning 12 years earlier left lifelong scars.

At first I didn’t really understand and thought perhaps, just perhaps, she was overreacting.  But it didn’t take years, or months or even more than a couple of weeks, for me to realize that for her…this was a big deal.  I also quickly realized that I owed it to her, this young woman I loved, to be very careful around train tracks.  It didn’t scare me one bit, but it did scare the one I loved, the one I cared for.

So, can I ask you a question?  Is there someone in your life, in your world that you care about that might need a bit of special consideration? Is there someone who has a life experience that has left them scarred or wounded?  Divorce? Tragedy? Abuse? Death? Illness? Prejudice? You see, in our very imperfect world, you don’t have to travel far to find the wounded and the broken.  And what isn’t a big deal to you, might be a tsunami of emotions and difficult memories for someone else.  And honestly, we need to be sensitive.  We need to care. Jesus did that so well.  The Bible tells how God cares and comforts us in our trouble so we can care and comfort those we meet in our daily walkabout life.

So, if you bump into someone’s world and they seem to act differently in a certain situation, why not precede with caution?  Why not be the one that brings comfort and understanding to their fractured moment? You could be the one that finally brings healing and peace in their world.  Judy is much better now.  But if there is an unguarded crossing and a train whistle in the distance, you can bet I still slow down and check the situation out.  Judy, well, she knows this guy loves her enough to do exactly that. And, by the way, there is a Dearest Daddy who loves His kids even more than that.  And no matter how your world is scarred or rocked…rest assured, He’s got this.  Bro. Dewayne

Posted in Family, fear, forgiveness, Grace, gratitude, life, loving others, prayer, Southern born, wisdom

Miracles and Concubines

Then Abraham fell on his face and laughed and said to himself, “Shall a child be born to a man who is a hundred years old? Shall Sarah, who is ninety years old, bear a child?” Genesis 17:17

I quit just a little too soon.  I think there must have been this line in heaven where all the babies wait to be assigned dads, moms, skills, and bodies in heaven.  I can just imagine me standing there waiting.  I am watching as all the boy babies make it to the front and they are soon on their way with these bodies that are destined to be tall and muscular.  They make the jump to earth and their new homes just waiting to grow up and become the next Babe Ruth or Michael Jordan.  I can also imagine my turn at the front of the line and Saint Peter saying something about sports and I miss understood and thought he said something about ketchup, and I said, “Sure, I’ll take a squirt.” Anyway, I arrived on earth a little shorter than average and not a sports bone in my body.  I should have listened closer.

All this became pretty apparent when it came to choosing teams.  Whether it was kickball, volleyball, basketball, dodgeball, or baseball, when the teams were chosen I was near the end of the line. As far as school sports, well, there were hundreds of kids in the schools I attended and trust me no one ever offered me a contract.  The only place I had a measure of success was, of course, at church.  I managed to make the church softball team though it was the “B” team. We did play tackle football after our Bible study time on Wednesday nights and there I made a name for myself. One of our teachers was named Eddie and he was, well, one large man and no one could tackle him, so they called him “Big Eddie.”  While I wasn’t nearly that large, I was harder to tackle so I gained the name “Little Eddie.”  Hey, when you are nameless in the world of sports, you will take anything.

My only foray into “professional sports” was Little League baseball when I was about 9 or 10.  I don’t remember if I actually made the team, or if everyone made the team.  Regardless, we were called the Gators and we, or rather they, were pretty good.  Again, I had absolutely no talents in baseball, so I was assigned to right field on the rare occasions that I got to play.  I was the kid who prayed a lot during the games.  It wasn’t that I was particularly spiritual—it was emotional survival.  First, I would pray that they wouldn’t play me and then, if they did, I would pray that no one would hit the ball to right field.  It didn’t work. Invariably someone would and well, it wasn’t good.

Then, of course, there was the batting thing.  Did you know that there are players who actually say they can see the stitches on the ball as it comes toward them?  Did you know there are players who actually know when and how to swing?  Can you guess I wasn’t one of those players?  Nope, the pitcher would pitch, and I would wonder where the ball was. That wasn’t pretty either.  So, the sad (you are feeling sorry for me by now, aren’t you) bottom line is that one day I just refused to go to practice.  I made it through about three quarters of the season and I just gave it up—I quit.

Well, guess what?  It turns out that even without me, the Gators ended up winning the championship.  Yup, they sure did.  I remember, the coach came by my house one evening and he was carrying a trophy.  He said that the team had won it all and even though I hadn’t finished the season, he wanted me to have a trophy.  I probably mumbled something about quitting because I was hit by a semi-truck and thanked him for bringing the trophy by.  The truth was there was no excuse—I just quit. And the other truth is because of that, the trophy meant absolutely, the grand total of—nothing.  I didn’t earn it and I didn’t deserve it.  Not because I wasn’t good, but because I didn’t finish.

I really don’t have a lot of regrets life but that is a small one I do own.  I’m ok with not being tall and gifted in sports, but I’m really not ok with being a quitter.  Not then—not now. If I would have waited, I could have been a champion, but I didn’t wait it out.  You know there was a guy in the Bible who had the same issue.  God had promised him a son, an heir.  The only problem was he and his wife were old—really old.  In fact, when God told him he was going to have a son, this guy fell on his face and laughed and said, “Shall a child be born to a man who is a hundred years old? Shall Sarah, who is ninety years old, bear a child?”

Instead of believing God, he decided to do things his way or really Sarah’s way. Since she couldn’t conceive, they opted for a concubine rather than wait on the miracle.  What a bad idea.  He and the concubine did have a son, but it wasn’t the son God had promised.  It really didn’t go well…and sadly it still isn’t going well.  Much of the conflict in that part of the world stems from this one man.  Oh, the consequences.

Oh, and by the way, guess what?  When they were both older than dirt, Sarah, his wife, did in fact conceive and the promised son was born.  God came through after all—surprise, surprise.  If only they had finished the season…if only they had waited, how different things would have been.  The good news is that God kept His word and blessed Abraham beyond his wildest dreams. You see even though Abraham quit believing, God never quit believing in him…and He won’t quit believing in you either.  I like that…actually, I love that.  Regardless of what you are waiting on, just hang on…just be patient, just wait and see what God has in mind. He’s never late and He’s never early, He’s right on time because He’s got this. Bro. Dewayne

Posted in Family, Grace, gratitude, life, Military memories, priorities, Scripture, Southern born, sovereignty of God, thankful

A Grits Love Story

Then the Lord God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper who is just right for him.” Genesis 2:18

It happened just like that. I love grits…a lot.  I know some of you have no idea what grits are and have never tried them.  If you are from the North, I understand. If you are from the South, well, that’s just inexcusable. The problem with grits is that people want to mess with them by adding things like sugar and milk. Listen…you don’t mess with Texas and you don’t mess with grits. When you add those two things to grits it changes their DNA and whatever it becomes it is no longer grits.  It may be the same consistency, but sugar and milk robs grits of their heart and soul.

There are things you can add to grits.  The first three things on the list are salt, pepper and butter.  Grits were meant to be seasoned so don’t think a sprinkle of this, or a dash of that will get the job done.  You need to grab the that salt shaker and get serious and do the same thing with the pepper.  Someone will say that salt is bad for your blood pressure.  Well, some things are worth the sacrifice.  The other things that bring grits to life are bacon, cheese and amazingly, shrimp. I’m telling you…grits are not the breakfast of champions…grits are the champion of breakfast.  If you learn to eat them right…you will never go back and the only question you will ask is, “Why did it take me so long?

I should have asked that question sooner in another season of my life. It was late summer of 1974 and  I was coming out of a relationship that had gone on way too long. It was just time for it to end and it did.  I was in the Air Force and trust me an Air Force base nine miles from town in South Georgia can be a lonely place.  Imagine a bowl of grits without the salt, pepper, and butter and that was me. And then on a Wednesday night I decided to go to a local church.  Now I had done church all of my life, but walking into a strange church, by myself, on a Wednesday night, was not in my comfort zone.  But this bowl of grits needed some seasoning. So, I went hoping I would meet someone who might add some seasoning to my life.  And, just like that, it happened.

That night, I walked in the side door of the church and there was a small group of young ladies standing by the piano.  One, and only one, caught my eye.  Her name was Judy Allen and that night was the beginning of a love story that has now stretched into a 45 year adventure of life and love.  I guess she was a little too young and maybe I was a little too old, but it was a different time and the bottom line…we fell in love.  That Georgia peach stole my heart and has never given it back.  I never thought of it this way, but I guess grits and peaches go together after all.

Through the decades and years, we have journeyed together…sometimes across town and sometimes across the world.  We built a legacy together that includes our three daughters, their husbands, and our grandkids…all eight of them. We first served our country together as an Air Force family and then served our God as a team—side by side in four different churches over 39 years. At each stop, I was the grits, and she was the seasoning.  She was and is a gifted servant in her own right, but she was also the salt, pepper, and butter that made me a better bowl of grits, a better man…a better pastor. I fully understand what God meant when He said in Genesis, “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper who is just right for him.” Well, thank you God for that one.

Grits (what I write not the ones you eat) is just one more example of her seasoning me—encouraging me.  She had been nudging me for years to write and I simply wouldn’t listen.  And then COVID came along and on a whim, I wrote a very short story and posted it and almost a year later my fingers are still mashing keys.  What you may not know is that Judy once again was there to season my frail attempts.  She developed the blog and the Facebook page, and she proofs my words then designs the graphics.  She adds flavor to Grits—and our life and our ministry.

So, on purpose and without apology, let me tell her and you, just how much I love her and how grateful I am for the seasonings she has brought to my life.  There are two things I know.  First, I can’t imagine what life would have been if I hadn’t gone to church that night.  See, you oughta go to church!  But second, I can’t imagine what life would have been if this particular someone, by God’s amazing grace, hadn’t walked with me all these years. It seemed she always knew just how much salt, how much pepper and how much butter to add to this ole bowl of grits…and I love her for it.

So, there you go.  It’s a grits love story.  If you’ve tried grits (the ones you eat…not the ones you’re reading) and didn’t like them…you probably just didn’t have them seasoned right.  You might want to give them another try. And if you have someone in your life that, honestly, just feels a little bland, like grits without the good stuff, don’t give up on them.  Go ahead and be the seasoning in their life. You might be amazed, just like I was, how a little salt, a little pepper, and some butter can make a bowl of ground corn taste amazingly good. Oh, and then, don’t forget to also thank God because He’s the One who made it all possible anyway.  I’ve learned, and I am still learning, “He’s got this.” Bro. Dewayne

Posted in Family, forgiveness, Grace, gratitude, life, loving others, prayer, Scripture, Southern born, wisdom

Dinner on the Grounds

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

There’s lunch and then there is dinner on the grounds.  Church and I were a good fit from the get go.  The schools I attended were always pretty large and it was easy to get lost in the crowd.  The bottom line seemed to be you had to be either really good, or really bad to get recognized.  If you were really good at sports, for example, then a lot of people knew your name.  If you were really bad at life, well people knew your name, but it was the wrong people.  You might remember the categories in your yearbook that named people to be the most likely to do something.  Some were just destined not to be remembered. That was probably me.

I was one of those guys who just wandered around in the gray social midst at school, but not so at church.  The churches I attended were like the three bears and their beds. One was too big, one was too small, and one was just right.  They were big enough to have fun, and learn a little about Jesus, and yet not too big.  I managed to be accepted by my peers and even the adults thought I was pretty cool. So church was a good fit but that isn’t the main reason why I liked it.  I was grateful for the social acceptability and I even appreciated the Bible stories and learning about Jesus, but I was in it for…the food.

You see, several times a year we would have meals at church. There were two things that you could count on.  First, they were always potlucks.  Now, in case you don’t know what a potluck dinner is, first, where have you been?  No seriously, a potluck is when everyone brings something for dinner.  It is one of the greatest inventions in the food world.  Imagine the world’s best buffet—meats, casseroles, vegetables, breads, starches, and the motherlode of all motherlodes—dessert. I can still remember there being tables—as in more than one—of nothing but desserts.  It was like food heaven. By the way, we still do this every once in a while at our church so if you ever hear of this happening, even if you don’t like God, you need to come to church that Sunday.  One word says it all—cowabunga! If you need more than one word—here’s three “shoot that thing.”

The second thing that was just cool was in the old days, churches would build permanent tables outside to hold all this food.  Often, they would have a tin roof over them.  You could line up on both sides and let her rip.  We always had those big plates, and you were obligated to fill them up.  Then, you would just go find yourself a place in the grass and sit down and eat…and eat…and eat.  It truly was one of my favorite times at church.  The food and the fellowship (being with all the people) was just amazing.  We have a ministry at our church where if a member of a family dies, we provide lunch for them on the day of the funeral. It is like a mini potluck and our ladies do such a wonderful job.  I’ve already asked them if I can have my dinner before I go, so I can enjoy the meal.  I’m still working on that one.

You see, there are lots of reasons to attend church and like I said in my early years food was a good reason.  I have another reason now too. I’m the pastor.  It’s kinda expected that I attend. But here’s the truth.  I don’t go now for the food…I go because I want to go. Yup…I don’t have to go to church, I get to go to church.  It is so good because some of the people I love the most are there.  And guess what? Some of the people that are a little harder to love are there too, but that doesn’t matter because we have one thing in common—we all are pretty fond of God.

But wait it gets better.  Guess what?  He is really fond us.  He loved and still loves everyone so much that He sent His Son to earth—we call that Christmas.  He also loved and loves everyone so much that He allowed Him to die on a Roman cross—we call that Good Friday.  It was bad for Him that day, but it was good for us because that day He paid the price for all the things all of us have done that offend His Father.  But wait…that isn’t the end.  After three days, He came back to life—we call that Easter, and it is a documented fact that it happened.  Pretty amazing.

Well, I am grateful for all the good food and other things that happen at church.  But I am really grateful for God, my Dearest Daddy, loving me that much and remember, He loves you that much too.  If you want to know more, I hope you will get a copy of His Book the Bible—it’s been a best seller for centuries—really.  If 2020 taught me anything, it’s that it is a great idea to have God on your side.  It’s just good to know that He is there and will be there no matter what.  No, He isn’t Santa Claus just waiting to give you everything on your list.  No, He isn’t a Genie just waiting for you to rub His lamp.  He is God, He is real, and He wants to make a difference in your world.  Why not give Him a try?  You’ll find that no matter what you face, He will face it with you. I’ve learned that every day, no matter what, “He’s got this.” Bro. Dewayne

Posted in Family, fear, Grace, gratitude, life, Southern born, Trials

Cross Country

Don’t you know that the runners in a stadium all race, but only one receives the prize? Run in such a way to win the prize.” 1 Corinthians 9:24

They called it a physical fitness test.  I called it Hades.  It happened every nine weeks.  That was the length of the grading period at the high school I attended.  Every male who attended Nathan Bedford Forest High School and was breathing was required to take a physical fitness test at the end of the grading period.  It involved several things…pushups, pull-ups and my personal favorite, throwing up.  What was ironic about this, is for all the time before the test we didn’t train for it. We might play softball or volleyball or some other team sport, but we didn’t train for “the test.”  We also played something called battle ball where we gathered in the gym and played a sadistic form of dodge ball. There was a guy named Johnny who had abnormally long arms and could hurl the ball at incredible speeds.  The last thing on earth you wanted was to be the last victim on one side and Johnny on the other.  It wasn’t pretty.

Anyway, we were not prepared but that didn’t seem to matter.  We had to take “the test.”  The worst part of this Gladiator style arena of horror was the cross-country run.  Let me see if I can set the stage.  Imagine you are in North Florida and it is late May.  The temperatures regularly climb into the lower and upper nineties. The humidity is at ninety percent or higher.  Remember they call Florida the Sunshine State and that is for a reason…the sun is beating down unmercifully.  And, by luck of the draw, you have P.E. right after lunch. The day before, the coach announces that we would be running “cross country” tomorrow.  It was too late to train…it was too late for anything but a few prayers.

In an attempt not to throw-up, you eat a light lunch and then report to P.E.  You pray to stumble and break your leg on the way to class, but that prayer goes unanswered.  You change clothes and anxiously meet outside.  They call the roll and then give the command to report to the starting line.  What lies ahead is two and a half miles of running in the heat of a hot, late Spring day. Like “sheep led to the slaughter” you line up waiting for the whistle.  Soon, too soon, it blows and off you go.

Now you really need to understand that cross country for those who have trained for it is a challenging, but somewhat enjoyable sport.  I’ve even heard reports of a runner’s high.  I never experienced that, but I did experience a runner’s low.  It happened about a hundred yards into the course when I realized that I was going to die—or wish I could.  I can still remember the course to this day.  It was two and a half times around the perimeter of the school property.  If you ever wonder what eternity is like, talk to me…I ran it.  Actually, to say I ran might be a stretch. I sorta ran it.  Not soon enough and it was over. As you cross the finish line you hear people saying, “Don’t run toward the light…don’t run toward the light.” After about 15 minutes your heart rates goes below 600 and you can breathe again.  I hated that test.  A lot.

I never really understood the point of asking someone to do something but not preparing them for it.  We ran that distance and more in basic training in the Air Force but we slowly prepared for it.  Again, it was challenging but doable because of the training. I think this is not just a lesson about running, but about life.  I’ve heard that life is a race and unless you are incredibly unfortunate, it is not a sprint, but rather a marathon.  If you are going to succeed in life then you need to prepare, you need to train and pace yourself.  Fail in that and you might well fail in everything you attempt.

Paul, a man from the Bible, wrote a letter to a bunch of Jesus followers in Corinth.  They had their own set of games and there were prizes to be won.  It was an open deal so anyone could sign up, but if you were wise, you trained first and you ran with commitment.  In that letter to the church at Corinth he says, “Don’t you know that the runners in a stadium all race, but only one receives the prize? Run in such a way to win the prize.” In other words…train like you want to win and run like you want to win and guess what?  You just might do it.  Regardless, you can finish the race knowing you gave it your very, best shot.

I went through three years of high school and had four nine-week periods per year.  If my math is right that equates to sixteen times that I had to line up to get ready to throw-up.  Guess how many times I trained?  That would be zero.  Sixteen times I knew it was coming and sixteen times I thought the next time would be different.  Hey, plant corn and you’re gonna get corn.  Every.Single.Time.  So why not start today to run for the gold—to live like no one else?  Why not start today to make the best of everyday and when race day comes…you’ll be ready.  There’s a great Coach who will help you train and run.  His name is Jesus, and He is on your side.  He’ll even run beside you…all the way, shouting words of encouragement.  Listen as He shouts, “You’ve got this, Dewayne.” “How?” I ask?  “Because I’ve got it for you,” He responds.  I like that.  Bro. Dewayne

Posted in Family, fear, forgiveness, Grace, gratitude, life, Southern born, thankful, wisdom

The “Switchings”

No discipline seems enjoyable at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.”  Hebrews 12:11

I guess I just got bored.  When I was growing up in North Florida it was just easy to get bored.  It was a different time.  There was no internet, no satellite or cable television, and no electronic games.  Then, you have to add to that there just weren’t a lot of toys to play with.  While Daddy and Mama loaded us up at Christmas, by summer a lot of them had suffered from rough play. So, you had to get a little creative!  And that’s when I got into trouble.

One of my favorite things was to make rubber band guns.  It was really quite easy.  They were building houses across the street from where we lived (slowly our place in the country was becoming suburban). Like at any construction site there were lots of wedge shaped sticks sticking out of the ground.  I later learned they were surveyor sticks.  Oops. Anyway, they had lots and I needed one, every once in a while, so I would, uh, borrow one…or two.  Well, Mama took the local newspaper so we got a paper every day and it came wrapped with a rubber band.  You simply collect a few rubber bands (they were discarded in the yard), drive a nail in your stick and tada…you had a rubber band gun.  See…creative.

Well, that was bound to get old, so I came up with another idea.  In North Florida, the soil (at least where we lived) was very sandy.  I discovered that if you take a water hose and start forcing it against the sandy soil it will act like a drill.  As the water forced the sand away, the hose would slowly sink into the sand.  Well, it was fun. Before I knew it, the hose was a foot in the ground, then it was two, and then it was three and it was just about then I wondered how I would get it out.  So, I gave it a tug.  It didn’t budge.  I gave it a pull—nope, it didn’t give an inch.  I was in trouble.

What happened next is lost to time and history, but one of two things happened.  Number one.  I left the hose stuck in the ground.  Daddy came home and wanted to water his rose bushes.  He found the hose stuck in the ground, asked me and I told the truth, and I was sent to the bamboo bushes to get my own instrument of correction.  Think a thin bamboo switch.  It was effective…every time.  Number two.  I realized that the hose was stuck in the ground and I realized that Daddy would be coming home soon, and he would water his rose bushes.  So, I went in the house and got a knife and cut off the hose.  The end result was the same. He asked, I told, bamboo switch. By the way…another sign that times have changed.  I looked up switch and was told it turned electricity off and on and was an electronic game that kids play.  Mine was neither.

You know, I really didn’t intend to mess up the construction site across from my house and I really didn’t mean to get my Daddy’s hose stuck in the sand.  The truth was I was just naive.  But there is another truth.  My being naive didn’t change the fact that I shouldn’t have done what I did and in the case of my Daddy’s hose—it didn’t change the consequences.  You might be asking, “Did your Daddy really give you a “switching?”  And the answer is yes.  You might ask, “Do you think you deserved the “switching?”  The answer is yes.  Finally, you might ask, “Did you learn anything from the “switching?” And the answer is yes.

You see, I never, ever again, turned on the water and let the water hose get stuck in the ground.  I don’t believe I was ever even tempted to let the water hose get stuck in the ground. You see, the “switching” was not an act of anger or meanness, it was an act of love.  Daddy was teaching me about right and wrong and I am grateful for that.  Daddy had several ways to discipline and they were generally fair and not too harsh.  And I believe they worked because I’ve never been arrested or spent a night in jail—yet. I wrote recently about being a compliant person…and I am, but part of that might be because my Daddy (and Mama) cared enough to help me learn.

I never really bought into the thought that the “switching” hurt my Daddy more than me because I know it hurt pretty bad.  But I do know he didn’t enjoy it.  My Heavenly Father doesn’t enjoy it either and He loves me even more than my earthly Daddy. God’s Book, the Bible, says that no discipline seems enjoyable at the time, but painful. Well, that is the truth. But is also says that later on it yields a kind of fruit—the kind that teaches us right from wrong.  And that is profitable.

So, the lessons for today?  Don’t pull up surveyor sticks and don’t stick your Daddy’s hose in the dirt and above all…remember that your Father up in heaven loves you. In fact, He loves you enough to allow hard things in your life to help you learn right from wrong…to make better decisions with fewer consequences and regrets.  And don’t worry…He is loving and patient.  He never over reacts but rather responds in just the right way.  And as always, He’s got even this.

Bro. Dewayne

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

My Cussing Summer

So now there is no condemnation for those who belong to Christ Jesus.” Romans 8:1

It was the summer of my rebellion.  I know, some people are born compliant and some are born a little on the rebellious side.  I was born compliant.  I have always been a rule keeper—well, at least most of the time.  I suppose that is why I took to religion so well.  You see religion is all about keeping the rules.  The idea is if you keep enough of the rules then people will like you and most importantly, God will like you.  And sure enough, it worked—well, at least part one worked.  In my younger years, most of the adults thought I was a good boy.  Church? Got it.  Drinking? Not a drop.  Drugs?  Nope. I can hear them saying it now, “That Dewayne is such a nice boy.”  And, I suppose outwardly I looked pretty good, but pretty good won’t get you to heaven.

You see the second part of the religion mantra is that you can make God happy by performing—by keeping the rules.  That one is 100% false.  There is no one, except Jesus, that was good enough to go to heaven.  Yet it seems so many church people say they believe that rules won’t get you to heaven, but act as if they will. They carefully do this and that and boy, if you happened to be one of the ones who didn’t keep the rules, you were tried, convicted and sentenced.  That’s why I had to keep my cussing summer quiet.

I think maybe all the rule keeping must have finally got to me.  The bottom line is during the summer between my junior and senior years of high school—I started cussing.  I had a job at an apartment complex down the road from our house and I worked with the son of the head maintenance man.  He was not a Jesus person and he did like to cuss.  So, one day, I just started cussing too.  I had heard enough cuss words at school to know most of them, so I didn’t have to have any lessons…though I did have to work on my voice inflections.

It was a very tricky time in my life because I had to turn the cussing on at 8:00 am and I had to be sure and turn it off at 5:00pm.  That’s what you have to do when you are living a double life.  Under no circumstances did I want to spoil my good boy image at church or with my Mama and Daddy. I do remember one time I let a small one slip and Mama looked at me with eyes that said, “Where did that come from?” Of course, I didn’t, I couldn’t let her know that her baby son was a cusser.

And, as quickly as it came, it passed.  At the end of the summer, I had to go back to school and therefore had to quit my job.  All I know is that the cussing stopped and my rule keeping world got a little easier.  I managed to please a lot of people, but I knew I was far from pleasing God.  It would be several more years before I finally figured out that rule keeping didn’t work and religion didn’t either.  When I was 21, I finally found grace and boy was that a game changer.  Honestly, it is taking me a long time to shake the deep roots of rule keeping and religion.  I’m still working on it.

You might ask, “How do you know if you are under the influence of religion and rule keeping?”  Well, its two main indicators are self-condemnation and a tendency to judge others.  Rule keepers are acutely aware when they or others around them break a rule.  Rule keepers (and religious people) like to point out other people’s sins and faults because it makes them feel better about themselves.  If they can make you feel bad, then it makes them feel better.  It’s a pretty twisted world.

God’s way is so much better than religion and rules.  Did you know His Book, the Bible, actually says that when someone believes in Jesus and becomes one of His followers that there is no condemnation—none—nada?  I mean when the prosecuting attorney and the judge both acquit you—the trial is over.  I’m slowly learning just how valuable that is.  There is an audience of One that Jesus followers have to live for and that is God…their Heavenly Father…their Abba Father…their Dearest Daddy.  I love what Toby Mac (a contemporary Christian singer) said, “I gave God a million reasons not to love me.  Not one of them changed His mind.”  I like that!

Well, I’m glad my cussing summer is ancient history.  I still look back at those two or three months and wonder what in the world was I was thinking?  The truth is…I probably wasn’t.  But now, by grace, that, and all my other failures, warts and sins are forgiven…all because of Jesus.  I’m so grateful for that. If you have never discovered grace and forgiveness, especially God’s kind, I hope you will check it out.  Don’t get confused with religion and rule keeping like I did.  God’s got something far, far, better than that.  Think you’ve messed up too much to be forgiven?  Nope…don’t give it a second thought.  Trust me…He’s got this.