Posted in Family, friends, gratitude, Integrity, life, priorities, Scripture, Southern born, thankful

Nickels, Dimes, and Quarters

If you help the poor, you are lending to the Lord—and He will repay you!” Proverbs 19:17

It was part generosity and part tradition.  When I was growing up, Sunday meant going to church. My Momma would always make sure I had taken a bath, combed my hair, brushed my teeth (I think), had clean clothes, and had an offering.  There was something about going to church and taking an offering.  It almost seemed like either God would be mad if I didn’t or the people at church would think we were poor or something…which we might have been.

Now the offering wasn’t a whole lot, but it was more than the widow lady in the Bible gave.  Her offering was less than a penny, but it was really everything she had.  Momma gave me a quarter most times but sometimes it was a dime and on rare occasions it was a dollar.  Trust me, that was a rarity.  Anyway, I finally figured out that it wasn’t the amount that mattered anyway.  What mattered was that Momma thought it was important and it mattered that I didn’t pocket the quarter.  Jesus said something about it was more blessed to give than to receive and I’m sure Momma knew that.  So anyway, I gave the quarter.

I read a story the other day about a little girl who went to church just like me.  Her Momma gave her a dime and a nickel. The little girl asked, “Which one am I supposed to give?” and her Momma told her she could decide.  Well, when she came home from church, her Momma asked her which one she gave, and she said she had given the nickel.  When asked why she gave the nickel instead of the dime she said, “Well, the preacher said that God loves people who give cheerfully, and I was a lot happier when I gave the nickel and kept the dime.”  Smile.

I know that I am still a work in progress.  God started the project way back in 1975 and He’s still working today.  I’ve heard it said that His work isn’t done until He takes us home to live with Him.  I believe that is true.  One of the areas that He is working on with me is generosity.  They say that if you want to carve a duck from a block of wood you just cut off everything that doesn’t look like a duck. Well, that is what God does with us except He’s not making ducks. He is making Jesus followers. And one thing I know for sure is that Jesus was always generous.  He was so generous He gave His life away on a wooden cross to pay for everyone’s sin.  Now that is generosity.  Now that is love.

My point isn’t that you ought to give to the church.  The point is we should all learn to be generous to others.  A generous life is a happy life, and a generous heart is a happy heart.  In the Old Testament part of the Bible in the Book of Proverbs it says, “If you help the poor, you are lending to the Lord—and He will repay you!”  You know, I believe that is true.  I’m also sure that the repayment may not be dollars and cents but rather a deep sense of peace and joy in our lives—and that is better—that is priceless.  Remember this—God is more than willing to help you be like Jesus, but it all starts when we believe what He did and what He said. He died and came back to life and promised to forgive anyone who asked.  Need a little help with that?  Well, don’t worry, He’s got that too.

Bro. Dewayne

Posted in birthday, Christmas, Family, friends, gratitude, life, love, priorities, Scripture, Southern born, thankful, Trials

Keep What You Treasure

You don’t love me or each other as you did at first! Look how far you have fallen! Turn back to me and do the works you did at first.” Revelation 2:4-5

I was so excited…until I wasn’t.  Every new, store-bought toy was cause for big excitement at 6008 Carlton Road.  Like I’ve said before there were plenty of things laying around that a kid like me could turn into a toy. Sticks became guns and China berries became bullets.  In my eight-year-old world, a trip into the woods was as good as a trip to Africa.  But let’s be honest.  Nothing could quite beat a store-bought toy.

New toys usually showed up two times a year.  First, of course, was Christmas.  I would anxiously wait for the wish books to show up in the mail so I could start wishing.  Sometimes there were trips to the department stores downtown to window shop the trains and planes that were there on display. I remember letters to Santa, and to Momma and Daddy just in case he wasn’t available.  I would state my case and then wait for the big morning and though we never got everything we want—what we got was more than enough.

The other time that store bought toys came to 6008 was on our birthdays.  As I wrote those words, I am still amazed at how good my parents were to us…willing to do whatever it took to give us a Merry Christmas and a Happy Birthday.  I remember too that a lot of years there was a birthday party in the plans and that multiplied the gifts and the memories.  It was just all good.  In the days that followed Christmas and January 6 (my birthday and the original Christmas Day before some Pope changed it) I would play and play with those new toys…until I didn’t.

There always came a time when I got too rough and it broke, or I got bored as the newness wore off, or I just moved on to something else…but it always happened.  The thing I thought I couldn’t live without became a discarded memory.  One of my favorite Christmas toys was a Daisy double-barrel BB gun. I loved that gun and if I had taken care of it, today it would be very valuable.  Well, I didn’t.  I learned at my brother’s funeral that apparently his son and my nephew claimed it after I had discarded it.  Where it went from there is anybody’s guess.

The truth is we are a fickle bunch.  We soon enough grow tired of whatever is our current fancy and before long what was yesterday’s treasure is today’s trash.  Rarely do we care for things the way we should. While it is true of toys, unfortunately, it is also true of the more important things in life.  We give our word about something but find it only lasts while it is convenient.  We make vows to love someone “till death do us part” and too often rewrite the deal to read, “till I change my mind.”  We build our character and then trade it to save face.  We often sell the truth so we can buy a lie for the same reason—convenience or pride.

It is amazing how quick we grow tired of the toys, people, and values in our life.  We say we value this or that but as soon as this or that becomes difficult or inconvenient, well, what once mattered suddenly doesn’t anymore.  So, what should we do?  Good question.  I believe the root of the answer lies in remembering. Someone once said before you quit you need to remember why you started in the first place.  That’s good.  And before we discard, something or someone, we need to remember what caused us to make the commitment in the first place.

In the book of the Revelation, near the end of the Bible, Jesus spoke and said this, “You don’t love me or each other as you did at first! Look how far you have fallen! Turn back to me and do the works you did at first.” Those are powerful words…words that we should pay attention to.  If we do, perhaps, we will be slower to throw away, to walk away, or run away from the things that matter…what we used to value.  The really good news is that the God who created us never, ever grows tired of us.  We are as precious to Him as the first day we met Him.  He loves us so much and wants to help us.  In other words, as always, “He’s got this.”  Bro. Dewayne

Posted in Family, fear, friends, Grace, gratitude, life, love, loving others, Scripture, Southern born, thankful, Trials

My Simple Life

So don’t worry about these things, saying, ‘What will we eat? What will we drink? What will we wear?’” Matthew 6:31

It was just simpler back then. I got up this morning with a little (or maybe a lot) of coffee, a spot of the Weather Channel, and some Jesus.  Then, I just sat and thought for a while.  On the television was a channel from YouTube that shows live camera feeds from all over the Northeast, and I was just amazed how much it looked like Europe…another time and another place. Then, I thought about my day.  I’m figuring out that each day is His day as He is the maker, the crafter of each one.  I’m also learning that since He owns everything that makes me a steward of the next 24 hours and the events and circumstances He has planned.

Mainly, there is a sermon to polish for Sunday and a funeral to craft for Saturday.  But mainly I’m just waiting to see what is on His mind and honestly, sometimes that is simple and sometimes it is complex.  Regardless, I know it is His plan and it is one that He has determined that will bring good into my life and hopefully some glory to Him.  With all that said, I have to admit there are times that I long for times when things were simpler as in less complex.  While that has happened and surely will happen again, when I was about eight, it was the norm.

When I was eight, I was concerned about very little.  Momma and Daddy were still healthy and every morning there was something for breakfast, something for lunch and something for supper.  There were delicacies like fried potato sandwiches and peanut butter and mayonnaise sandwiches and if we were short on peanut butter we would just go with the mayonnaise. After breakfast though I would head out to the yard and just do…something.  There were occasional chores like picking up the yard pulling weeds but generally the day was mine. I hadn’t figured the God part out yet.

Because toys, at least the kind you buy at a store, were in short supply, I would go into the junk room—a small room with its own outside entrance and filled with stuff—and see what caught my eye.  There was always something that with a little imagination could become a source of entertainment. First, and one of my favorites, was a piece of chain, usually about six feet long.  You see, our driveway wasn’t paved, that was something rich people had, so it was like a giant sand box.  I found out you could take that piece of chain and drag it behind you, and it became a train. I would watch as the sand flowed in and around the links of the chain leaving a perfect track in the rear.  A chain became a train—imagine that.

In certain times of the year, North Florida—well really the whole state, I guess—was inundated with “love bugs.” They were everywhere and would splat on windshields and clog radiators as cars zoomed down the highway.  They also seemed to love a parked car.  When I would go outside looking for that day’s adventure, they would be all over Daddy’s 1961, light blue, Plymouth station-wagon and whether they knew it or not—they were a target.  I would search the yard and drawers in the kitchen for rubber bands discarded from newspapers, string them together and go hunting.  Stretching them back, I would take aim and one by one pick them off of Daddy’s car.  This could go on for a long while.  I thought I was doing Daddy a favor but turns out the bug’s innards could eat a car’s paint right off. Oops.

While each day was different, each day was simple.  Each day was consistent…little to worry about and an opportunity for fun.  And while that kind of simplicity has long since passed there is another for today.  Today too can be a day with little to worry about and dare I say it, an opportunity for fun.  You see, if you are a Jesus follower, He really wants to take care of the worry part.  In fact, He just flat-out tells us not to worry because if God can take care of the birds…He can take care of us too.  How about that? And the fun part?  Well, that is up to us.  We simply need to learn, to remember what that means and how to do it.  My wife Judy tells me frequently that we need to learn how to celebrate, and she is right, but we also need to relearn how to just have fun.  It probably involves letting go and letting Him so our hands and hearts will be free to be free.

So, what are you worrying about today? What has you bound up like a too tight pair of shoes?  What are you going to do today that is fun?  Now don’t tell me you don’t have time (that is simply a matter of choice) or the money—chain and rubber bands are cheap—smile.  Today, be brave enough to do something different—to make a change. Let it go and let Him.  He’s got this. Bro. Dewayne

Posted in food, friends, Grace, gratitude, life, loving others, priorities, Scripture, Southern born, thankful, travel

Sweet Tea

Indeed, we have all received grace upon grace from His fullness.” John 1:16

Sweet tea…oh yes, the drink of the south.  I was raised in the deep south and both food and drink were especially important.  To most southerners, including me, food was never just food, it was the great comforter—the billboard along the highway of life that said, “it’s gonna be ok.”  Growing up, whenever I was sad or happy or maybe a little blue, food was my friend.  And what is good food without something good to wash it down? And down south…that must be “sweet tea.”  For clarity sweet tea is not brownish, tan water with some sugar or sweetener thrown in.  No, sweet tea is brewed, a southern tradition and creation, and when it is done right, well, it’s downright heavenly.  When it is done wrong, you end up with sweet brown water.

Sweet tea is not like wine.  I’ve heard that wine needs time to age to become fine.  That is not true with southern sweet tea.  You see good, sweet tea has a short life span.  Some would say hours, but no true southerner would say days.  If sweet tea is done right, it turns to syrup overnight.  Leave a pitcher in the refrigerator till the next day and it becomes a whole different animal.  Good, sweet tea is meant to be drank in the moment.  You may well sip it, but don’t take too long.

I discovered another kind of sweet tea from another part of the world.  When the folks in West Africa drink their version of sweet tea, well, it is an event.  First, it is served hot and not cold. Second, it is strong…VERY strong.  They brew their tea in a very small pot, with a little water, a lot of tea and over a small coal fired burner.  When it comes to a strong boil, they add boatloads of sugar…and I am not kidding.  They scoop and scoop and scoop some more.  The final result is one of the strongest and sweetest things you can imagine.  Trust me, if you weren’t diabetic before you started, you will be by the time you finish. They say their tea is sweet like life and bitter like death.

The way they present their tea is also special.  The host will go to great lengths (no pun intended) to pour his or her tea from pot to cup or glass from great heights.  The distance a person can pour their tea and not miss the cup is almost a matter of national pride.  A famous one-liner is, “I can pour my tea from the back of a camel on a very windy day.”  It is a cultural thing…it is a people thing.  You see good, sweet tea does that.  It brings people together.  Whether it is a front porch in South Georgia, or a mat spread on the sands of the Sahara, tea…sweet tea, brings people together.

Today, in a time when there seems to be so much to pull us apart, maybe we all just need to sit down and have a good glass of sweet tea. For our friends in West Africa, it is just a necessity.  Go see someone and tea will be offered and, tea will be shared.  It builds relationships, it opens the door of communication.  Maybe that is one reason why my Momma and Daddy shared a cup of coffee every day when he came home from work.  Maybe that is the reason we should do the same.  Often when people talk instead of yelling, things change.  It is true in government, and it is true in church and it is true in homes.

I’m sure there are lots of reasons why things are so fragmented today and I’m also sure that a glass of sweet tea, no matter how good, won’t solve everything. However, I do know something that might.  That is a couple of teaspoons of grace.  Just like sugar tames the bitterness of the tea, so grace can tame a temper or temper a difficult situation.  Tempered steel is made stronger by the process of applying heat. In the same way, relationships and people are made stronger by applying grace. And we have grace to share because the Bible says that from His fullness, we have all received grace upon grace.

So, when’s the last time you just sat down with a friend, or an adversary for that matter, and had some good, sweet tea mixed with a little grace?  You might be surprised to learn that the gulf between the both of you is not as great as you think.  It is certainly not so wide that grace can’t span the gap and trust me, no, trust Him—there is always grace enough.  As always, He’s got this.  Bro. Dewayne

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

Corned Beef Hash

What father among you, if his son asks for a fish, will instead of a fish give him a serpent?” Luke 11:11

We were close friends from the start.  Although I was too young to remember, I think it must be true.  I think my very first word must have been…wait for it…”food”.  Then I think my first sentence was, “I’m hungry.”  I’m trying to say that food and I go way back and now I’m an expert on all things food.  Well, wait, maybe not all things.  You see I was raised on good, common food.  Our menu included things like meatloaf and egg salad sandwiches (aka Easter egg salad sandwiches).  There were some things that Momma cooked up, that to a kid, were kinda hard to swallow…no pun intended.  One of those things was tripe (aka cow’s stomach). We called it the “eternal meat” because it was like chewing rubber.  Take one big bite and two weeks later you swallowed.  Definitely-not my favorite.

However, one of the best things that Mama cooked was something called corned beef hash. For that she would cook up some potatoes and then add some corned beef.  I’m not sure why they call it corned beef but I don’t think it has anything to do with corn.  At any rate…it was one of my favorites…well, sorta.  You see, there was a trick to this corned beef thing and Momma knew it and…I knew it.

In the world of Momma’s corned beef there were really two kinds—and they were worlds apart.  First there was fried corned beef hash and then there was boiled corned beef hash.  The fried hash was just as it sounds.  Momma would first fry up some home fried potatoes.  These, friend, are what potatoes were made for…crispy on the outside and tender on the inside.  And if they happened to be fried in lard—well, that was even better.  Then, she would add the corned beef and well, it was pretty much heaven.  I always liked mine smothered in ketchup.  But sometimes she would trick me.  I would ask what was for supper and she would say, “corned beef hash” and for me that had to mean fried because that was the only way it was supposed to be.   It’s kinda like grits—salt, pepper and butter are the only way grits can be grits.

But then, she had an ace up her sleeve.  Sometimes, she made boiled corned beef hash.  That involved boiling and (in my opinion) wasting a pot full of potatoes.  She boiled them till they were almost like mush.  Then she would add the corned beef to the pot and that was it and let me tell you all the ketchup in the world couldn’t redeem what water had done to what was meant to be fried.  I’m still not sure why she fried most of the time but still boiled others.  All I know I was always disappointed because when it comes to corned beef hash—fried always topped boiled.

With some things one way always tops another and that’s how it is with corned beef hash. And never is that truer than when it comes to God and religion.  People today get confused.  You see, God is God and religion is mankind’s frail attempt to reach God.  Try as you like, the only way to know God is by knowing His Son Jesus.  And that’s really cool because His way is a sure deal and man’s way is a sure failure.  Chances are you know someone who was or is totally disappointed in religion and I suppose some folks would speak of their disappointment in God.  But when we understand who He is and what He wants to do for us—that disappointment fades.

Like I said I was always disappointed when Momma boiled something that was clearly meant to be fried. And I’ve been around the church world long enough to know that religion always disappoints but God never does.  I’m learning to trust Him and then believe Him even when that means things didn’t turn out the way I wanted or hoped.  His way is the better way.  If I don’t see it now…I will later.

One time Jesus was talking about prayer and said that a father would never give a snake to his son who asked for a piece of fish.  Nope…not gonna happen.  With God the fried things are always fried and even when we get boiled hash…well, we can trust that at the time, that is the best thing for us.  I like that sacred assurance just like I know, I know, that no matter what, “He’s got this.” Bro. Dewayne

Posted in Family, food, friends, gratitude, life, loving others, Scripture, Southern born, thankful, Trials

Steak and Shake

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

We met when I was just a kid. A long time ago and in a galaxy far, far away (think Star Wars) one of my favorite things to do in the summer was to go and visit my sister and brother-in-law in Daytona Beach.  I lived in Jacksonville, and they were kind enough to invite me to spend a week with them.  Trust me…it was like a different world.  Our west Jacksonville neighborhood was half town and half country and the most exciting thing that ever happened was if there was a fire call, and we would chase the firetruck.  I’ll write more on that one day.

Now compare that with Daytona Beach.  Can someone say, “Night and day?”  Daytona Beach was a happening place and there was always something to do.  We would drive over to the beach, cruise the strip, and go out to eat.  One of my favorite places to go was Steak and Shake.  Back in the early and mid 60’s, it was not a new establishment, but it was still up and coming.  They were famous for their steak burgers, skinny fries, and milkshakes.  For a ten-year-old from the westside of Jacksonville, it was heaven.

Steak and Shake was different than most fast-food places.  There, you could go inside, be seated and be served, and through the years that is how it has remained.  When I grew up, it was only natural that Steak and Shake was one of my “go to” places to eat.  Oh, it wasn’t an every-week event, but we did go about once a month.  The routine was always the same.  Park, go inside and be seated, order, eat, and leave.  It worked well, but then something called COVID, and a broken economy changed things up.  First, and at most locations, you can now only go through the drive-thru.  But in now we have the new Steak and Shake.

Now at almost every location, when you walk in, there is not a hostess to seat you and no counter to order at.  Instead, there are several kiosks (computer touchscreens) and from there you can order your food.  Then…you just sit down…wherever you want.  Feel free to go up and get your drinks from the drink station and finally someone would bellow out your order number and you would walk up and get your food.  Boom—just like that burgers and fries were flying into hungry mouths washed down by delicious milkshakes.  It was new, it was different, and I loved it.

I am sure the shortage of workers is at least partially responsible for their new system, but it also shows that not all the changes are going to be bad.  At our church we are doing Wednesday nights totally different, and it is totally working.  We have a men’s group called “Man Time” (how creative is that); a women’s Bible study (well, not creative but it works) and then something called “The Big A Club” for the kids.  There are people everywhere.  And get this—men are coming to church on a Wednesday night! What?  And it all came about because of the pause that COVID caused.

Someone from ancient times (I’m not talking about 1950!) said the only thing constant is change and they were right.  Some of the changes are not good.  In fact, some of the cultural changes might be considered dangerous.  But we need to work to accept the good and temper the others.  It gives us a great opportunity to be the salt and light that Jesus talked to us about.  People all around us have lots of questions which should lead to lots of opportunities to talk about faith…and Jesus.

Romans 8:28 remains one of the most popular verses in the Bibles.  It says that for those who love God, He can bring good out of every situation.  We sure like to quote that, but I wonder if we are willing to trust it?  Hey, I’ve been writing three small words for almost three years and some of you have been here for that whole time— “He’s got this.”  So, as things morph around us, let’s be courageous enough to address the dangerous, but flexible enough to embrace the other.  It might not be easy but if He is in control and we trust Him…it’s gonna be fine.  And, can I say it one more time?  He’s got this.  Bro. Dewayne

Posted in Family, fear, friends, Grace, gratitude, life, prayer, Southern born, thankful, travel, Trials

Snakes from Heaven

Whatever is good and perfect is a gift coming down to us from God our Father. James 1:17

Plop and there he was.  When we made our last trip to the land of collards and grits, aka South Georgia, we of course had to make the rounds visiting the relatives. Mostly they were on the Allen side. There is my wife Judy’s oldest sister, a couple of old brothers (oops, I meant to say older), a somewhat, younger sister and a host of nieces, nephews and a few Cousin Eddie’s.

Well, one day, we were out in the country visiting her oldest brother Smitty and his wife Marie.  A while back Smitty suffered a stroke and lost his ability to speak…well…he still talks up a storm and with passion, it’s just we can only understand a few words.  Regardless…we always enjoy the visits.  Smitty has always been quite the character and it would take more than a stroke to change that.  So, we visited, and visited, and then we visited some more.  Finally, it was time to move on to the next relative. When we stood to leave Marie said, “I’m gonna get this room cleaned out and y’all can stay with us next time.” The room was separate from the house with its own bathroom and entrance. I told her that sounded really good.

Before we could move on to the car and make the great escape, she said, “Well, let me show you this room.”  She and I made our way to the door and with her leading the way, she opened the door and I followed.  As she opened the door and walked through, I stepped into the doorway behind her, and just about then, a snake, yes-a real live snake, fell from the door-casing and landed not more than a foot from me.  As it hit the floor it made a nice plopping sound.  I made another kind of sound.

So, let me set this up, Marie is in the room, totally unaware of what has fallen right behind her, I am in the doorway fully aware of what has fallen right in front of me, and our new friend is looking at both of us with a real attitude.  The snake had my full attention, so I got Marie’s attention and as we watched he set about trying to bite us—striking at her and striking at me.  You’ve probably heard stories about how feisty a little chihuahua can be, well, this snake was part chihuahua. I realize he was only about twelve inches long, but for all intents and purposes, he was the size of an Amazon boa-constrictor. It was time for him to leave.

Marie, who is 100% South Georgia born and raised, went, and got a hoe and well, let’s just say Mr. Snake went to meet his maker.  If you like snakes, sorry.  But if you are like me and firmly believes that the only good snake is one that is not breathing…well, you understand.  So, what is the moral of this short story?  What is the big truth?  Well, I’m pretty sure for me it involves not being surprised at what can plop down right in front of you when you least expect it.  Things can change quickly.  The really, really big lesson is about gratitude.  You see, if Mr. Snake had waited just about five more seconds to plop…he would have plopped right on my head, fallen into my shirt and I would have died of a heart attack.

We could talk about why the snake fell in the first place, but I think I’ll spend my time thanking the good Lord for those five seconds.  You see, time after time as we journey through life, there are dozens of little blessings.  All we must do is look for them instead of staring at the circumstances.  James, the half-brother of Jesus and a man that I am sure did not like snakes said, “Whatever is good and perfect is a gift coming down to us from God our Father.”  Well, this gift indeed did come down and sure enough it was good because it taught me not to complain about falling snakes but rather to be thankful for where it landed—or didn’t land.  Now if it had landed on my head and slithered into my shirt, well I am sure my Dearest Daddy would still have said, “Don’t worry, son, I’ve got this.”  Bro. Dewayne

Posted in Family, friends, Grace, gratitude, life, love, loving others, 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 is no longer grits.  It may be the same consistency, but sugar and milk rob 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 saltshaker 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 46-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 kind 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, fear, forgiveness, Grace, gratitude, life, love, loving others, prayer, Scripture, Southern born, thankful, Trials

Crash! Grind! Bummer.

And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love.” Romans 8:38 (NLT)

It happened just like that.  I was new to the game…too new to the game.  I had had my driver’s license just a few weeks or at most a couple of months.  I can honestly say I wasn’t one of those cocky kid drivers, in fact I was probably scared to death. I had a job at a Food Fair a fair distance from where we lived at 6008 Carlton Road, and someone had to take me to work. Then my Daddy did it. He trusted me. One day he said that I could take the car and drive myself to work. They weren’t going anywhere, and it would save them from going and coming and coming and going.  I couldn’t believe it.

I remember the first time I carefully backed out of the driveway heading toward Ricker Road.  That day, and for several other days, things went well.  Again, I was careful, I didn’t break the rules and I wasn’t a speeder. Of course, our 1961 Plymouth station wagon wasn’t exactly a race car anyway.  There and back, I went, and all was well…until it wasn’t. One day, like several other days, I was going to drive to work.  Daddy car-pooled and wasn’t home yet.  I backed out of the driveway like every time before and headed for Ricker Road just like every time before…but it wasn’t like every time before.

Apparently, I had opened the back door on the driver’s seat to put something in the backseat and didn’t close the door all the way. As I pressed the gas pedal, the rear door swung open and that is when Mr. Inexperience took over. I heard the road noise, look over my shoulder and saw that the door was open. Well, instead of stopping and closing the door I tried to turn and reach over my shoulder to close the door.  When I turned and reached, I accidentally turned the wheel and, gulp, I ran right into—or actually over—one of our neighbors’ mailboxes. Crunch, grind, bummer.

I hit the brakes and sat there in total shock.  The mailbox was one of those that kinda sat on a little arm and that little arm had hit my windshield and cracked it.  It seems the mirror took a direct hit too. I was so afraid, and I didn’t know what to do…so I ran.  Yup, I was a hit and run driver, but I didn’t drive away…I ran away leaving the car running, my driver’s door open and the mailbox lying dead on the side of the road.

Since I hadn’t made it very far, our house was just a few dozen yards down the road, and I ran all the way. I ran into the kitchen and right into my Momma’s arms. She wanted to know what had happened and the best I could I explained it and then she asked where the car was and the best I could I explained that too. We went back to the car and brought it home and I’m sure Momma and I made a trip to the neighbor’s front door to explain what happened.

Let me tell you what didn’t happen.  Though I was certain it had—the world didn’t come to an end.  After a short while, Daddy came home, and I told him what had happened.  He wasn’t happy but he didn’t disown me…after all I was his son…before and after the accident.  I don’t believe there was any punishment either, but I am sure there was some instruction about how to close a door when the car is moving. “Stop. Close door.”  I also imagine there was some instruction about not leaving the scene of an accident.  And the neighbor…I simply don’t remember but I guess he didn’t press charges. Smile.

I’m sure my little accident cost my Daddy and Momma more than they could afford…even without repairing the mailbox.  I am sure it was money that could have been better used paying an electric bill or buying groceries for our “not too small” family.  But my best memory of all was the fact that Daddy and Momma loved me regardless and anyway.  Oh, I guess you could say it was because I was the baby of the family and their favorite (smile) but the truth is love ruled the day that day.

Looking back, I realize that was one of those times when my Daddy reminded me of my Dearest Daddy…my Heavenly Daddy. My Daddy could have extended wrath, but He extended grace and love—just like my Dearest Daddy…my Heavenly Daddy. I think I learned that day that my Daddy wasn’t someone to run from but to run to—just like my Dearest Daddy…my Heavenly Daddy. Paul, the one in the Bible, said that nothing can ever separate us from the One who loves us most.  How about that?  We have a Dearest Daddy…a Heavenly Daddy that is always there and always willing to whisper, “I’ve got that.”  Bro. Dewayne

Posted in Family, friends, Grace, gratitude, life, loving others, priorities, Southern born, thankful

Sharing Grits

Don’t neglect to do what is good and to share, for God is pleased with such sacrifices.” Hebrews 13:16

My Momma taught me to share.  When there are a bunch of kids and other family members in a family you learn two contradicting lessons.  First, you need to share.  Often, especially when it comes to the good things on a dinner table, the demand usually exceeds supply.  You know, nine people and eight pieces of pie.  So, you cut the pieces smaller.  That is sharing.  The other lesson is you need to act fast.  We all know the adage that the early bird gets the worm or the one who eats his or her pie the fastest gets a shot at the last piece.  That is not sharing.

Sharing and putting others first are Jesus things.  He was the only guy who could go to any event and be the star of the show.  Be it a wedding, a funeral, or a banquet and bam…He was the most important person in the room.  But the funny thing is you never see that.  You always see Him at the back of the line.  The only time He was first in line was the line for the cross.  That was a very short line—in fact, it was only one deep, and He was ready and willing to go because He loved us so much.

He was willing to share His righteousness too.  We didn’t have any of our own, so He gave us His.  The Bible says that our righteousness was like filthy rags, so He shared, in fact, He gave.  It’s pretty amazing.  There are some things we shouldn’t share like something told in private and maybe a cold.  But as a general rule we should be people who love to share.  And that is where I need your help.

Over the last couple of years lots of folks have been reading Grits.  Through our church email list, the Grits Facebook page, and through the blog, people have been reading.  I want you know just how incredible I think that is.  My goal is to be an encourager and maybe even make you smile.  But most importantly, I want to share a big truth that helps us as we do life…together. 

So, that is where you come in. I am wondering if you would be willing to share Grits with those in your world. The guy who wrote Hebrews (great name for a coffee shop by the way) said that we should do good things and share because God is pleased with that.  That might even apply to Grits.  Sign up for the blog at, share on Facebook, or share in an email, it’s all sharing a word of encouragement.

Something happened a while back that I thought was so cool.  I was notified by email that someone had read one of the Grits’ stories and decided to start following the blog. That means every day they will get an email with that day’s story.  Sometimes, people just stumble onto the Grits blog, who knows how that happens? But what made this so special was this someone was a cabdriver in Southampton, England.  What? Yup. And I thought that was cool. So, a special thanks to our friend there.

My wife Judy checked (the blog tracks locations) and we have had Grits’ readers from several countries and from a chunk of the states here in America.  And it usually happens because someone searches and finds a story, or someone shares it.  So, would you be willing to make it a daily habit to share your Grits?  It isn’t about just getting more readers but rather, it is about maybe encouraging someone who needs a lift on any given day.  Together we can be encouragers and hey, the more the merrier.

Each year is a challenge, but I love the fact that God is bigger than any challenge we face.  I try and make that a regular theme as I write.  Life is pretty tough to go it alone and I believe that He is more than ready to walk with us.  So, thanks again for reading and thanks for sharing.  Oh, and by the way, for those of you who comment…thanks for that too.  I try to read and respond, and it is always an encouragement.  Well, outside night is turning to day, so it must be time to see what this day holds.  One thing is sure…we can face it together with Him because as always, “He’s got this.”  Bro. Dewayne