Posted in Family, gratitude, life, loving others, Military memories, prayer, Scripture, Southern born, thankful

Unkept-the Look

Guard your heart above all else, for it is the source of life.” Proverbs 4:23

It was unkept…but it was cool. Ok, let’s just lay it out there.  I am just a tad on the old school side.  I was a teenager in the late sixties and early seventies with a daddy who wasn’t fond of anything countercultural—and that included longer hair.  That was phase one.  Phase two was twelve years in the United States Air Force.  They and my Daddy would have gotten along really well- since they weren’t fond of anything countercultural either.  Phase three was being a Baptist pastor.  Back in the days, Baptists were pretty much not fond of anything countercultural either.  Suits and ties were the norm and facial hair was basically a no-no.  So, you can probably understand that I wrestle with some of the new fashion norms. It’s not that I don’t like them—it’s just that I don’t understand some of them.

As an example, part of my morning routine is having a time with God.  Part of that is watching a short video of someone speaking.  This morning it was a pretty successful young pastor from somewhere.  As the video began I noticed a couple of things.  First, his hair had the now fashionable “unkept” look.  It was like he got out of bed, ran his fingers through his hair and went to work.  Again, that’s cool.  Hang with me.  Second, he sported the wildly popular beard stubble look.  I mean, if you don’t have a stubble… you’re not ready to rumble.  He had a good stubble.  Hey, that’s cool.  I wish the Air Force had discovered that when I was in. Again, the cool “unkept” look.

Another fashion statement with the “unkept” look are jeans with holes in them.  They are crazy poplar.  When I was growing up jeans with holes were tossed out and people who wore them were poor.  Now, people pay big bucks to have jeans with holes.  Hey, just buy a regular pair and give them four years—bam—another cool “unkept” look.  And you save a few bucks.  Another “unkept” look that is popular with the “we don’t own an iron” crowd is the wrinkled look.  You just grab your shirt or whatever and throw it on and you are in. Again, totally cool—totally in.

I’ve even seen this in yards.  There are folks who have unkept yards because they just don’t like to mow grass or trim their yards but there is another group that simply loves that look.  To them unkept is “unkept—the cool kind.”  To some folks an “unkept” yard is all about nature.  I really liked that when I was young—my Daddy did not.  It just wasn’t his thing.

So, what’s up?  Well, through the years different things have come and gone.  It’s just the way culture works.  Things are fashionable for awhile and they move on.  I know there was a time I couldn’t imagine preaching without a tie.  I even said one time that I didn’t think I could preach without a tie.  Now days, I usually preach with an open collar.  Things change.  Right now “unkept” is cool and one day it probably won’t be and I’m good with it either way.  But wait.

While “unkept” is cool, fashion wise…it is not cool or healthy to like an “unkept” life.  You ask, “What is that?”  It is a life that is lived solely in the moment.  In the sixties it was the “if it feels good, do it” thing and each decade has had its version of that thought pattern.  But the bottom line is that when we live “unkept” lives there are usually consequences and regrets.  I said this morning to my wife Judy that “success is not accidental, it is intentional.”  That almost sounds deep.  I also think that God’s peace, and joy, and happiness, and a host of other things that make life worth living aren’t accidental either…they are intentional.

For me, as a Jesus follower, that intentionality involves checking in with God on a regular basis to see what He thinks about my day…my life.  For me it is a daily dose of His Book, the Bible. Trust me on this one…there is a reason why it remains one of the best-selling books of all time.  The truths and teachings of Jesus are found in the second part, the New Testament, and they were groundbreaking two thousand years ago and they still are today.

Ok, so I don’t know if I will ever do the “unkept” thing or not.  It took me a long time to figure out I could teach without a tie.  But I do know this. When it comes to life, a “kept” life is just better—fewer consequences—fewer regrets.  That is probably why the Book says, “Guard your heart above all else, for it is the source of life.” God really wants what is best for us…He loves us that much.  If you find yourself in an “unkept” mess, just remember that He is there waiting and no matter what it is, “He’s got this.”

Posted in Family, Grace, gratitude, life, love, loving others, Mother's Day, priorities, Scripture, Southern born, thankful, wisdom

Mama and Her Day

Jesus also did many other things. If they were all written down, I suppose the whole world could not contain the books that would be written.” John 21:25

The older I get the more precious the memories become.  This Sunday homes across America will be observing Mother’s Day. While I always assumed that Hallmark or Russell Stover’s came up with the idea, apparently, I was wrong.  It turns out that Mother’s Day as we know it, began in the early 1900s. A woman named Anna Jarvis started a campaign for an official holiday honoring mothers in 1905, the year her own mother died. The first larger-scale celebration of the holiday was in 1908, when Jarvis held a public memorial for her mother in her hometown of Grafton, West Virginia.

Over the next few years, Jarvis pushed to have the holiday officially recognized as it was celebrated in more and more states across America. Finally, in 1914, President Woodrow Wilson signed a proclamation making Mother’s Day an official holiday, to take place the second Sunday of May. Well, whether it was Hallmark’s idea or Anna Jarvis, it certainly was a winner.  The bottom line is when God gave the childbearing and a chunk of childrearing to Eve instead of Adam, He did a good thing. If it had been left up to the guys, the population of the world would probably be 53 and without a mother’s love and influence…things just wouldn’t be the same.  Mothers are change makers.

Something that I have come to realize is that Mother’s Day is bigger than those who give physical birth to someone.  While that is so important, let’s not stop there.  It is even bigger than those who welcomed a child through adoption, and it exceeds those who foster children.  Mothering includes all the women who have poured their lives into the lives of others.  It could be a caring school teacher, a loving church member, or the neighbor down the street who cares.  Mother’s Day is a big deal and rightfully so.

And then of course, and guys this is for you, don’t forget to honor the mother of your children.  She deserves a prize for marrying and living with you.  I know in my life, as much as my Daddy played a role in raising me, Mama outshined him.  In so many ways, she was my hero.  I only wish I could have seen it more clearly then.  Time and again she was there to nurse, guide, prod, and yes- admonish me, on my journey to becoming a man.

I remember the time I was so sick, and she held me gently in her lap, in the middle of the night, till my fever broke or my tummy settled, and I could fall to sleep.  I remember the time that a couple of bullies from junior high were going to plummet me. I was outgunned and outnumbered until Mama stepped up and stepped in.  I remember in second grade I forgot an important assignment and Mrs. Webb had everyone convinced that they would stay in second grade forever it they didn’t turn it in.  Yup, it was Mama who stopped her world to save mine.

I remember when I had a new pair of jeans, a rare gift, and while I was horseback riding, I was shoved into a tree by the horse and ripped a huge hole in one leg.  Now days it would be fashionable—then it was an embarrassment.  Somehow, someway, she managed to fix it.  Oh, and I remember hundreds of suppers and dozens of pies and homemade fruitcake with grandma’s recipe.  And on and on it would go.  Everyday something said, “I love you.”  Oh, and for the record, just like your mama, my Mama wasn’t perfect, but she sure had a way of saying, “I love you.”  She raised eight kids and I got the privilege of being last and, though no one would admit it, her favorite.

The Bible says that if all the things that Jesus did were written down the whole world couldn’t hold the books.  Well, that would be an exaggeration for any mama, but I do know this.  If I could remember just half of all that my Mama did for me, for our family, well this story would be a whole lot longer.  Mama went to heaven when I was only 24 years old and she never met any of my children but hopefully as we trust Jesus, like she did, God will remedy that…one day.  Until then, I want to say, “Thank you, Mama” for always being there.  Thank you Judy, for being an incredible wife, mother to our children, and MaMa to our grandchildren.  And finally, to all you ladies who have poured your lives into the lives of others, thanks for making a difference.  Thanks for never giving up and always believing, “He’s got this.”  Bro. Dewayne

Posted in Family, fear, Grace, gratitude, life, love, Military memories, priorities, Scripture, Southern born, sovereignty of God, thankful, travel, USA, wisdom

Home is Better

He will wipe every tear from their eyes, and there will be no more death or sorrow or crying or pain. All these things are gone forever.” And the one sitting on the throne said, “Look, I am making everything new!” Revelation 21:4-5

Who would have known?  In 1977, my wife and I packed up our stuff and moved to Germany.  It wasn’t a sudden urge we had—it was courtesy of the Air Force.  When we had been married about seven months, we received an assignment to move to Europe.  We were excited about moving there, but also realized Germany was 4,657 miles from everything that was familiar to us.  We were off on a great adventure, without cell phones or internet!

We loved it.  Our part of Germany was filled with history and beautiful landscapes.  Rich forests and small hills and mountains framed every view.  And honestly, it was a little like home.  While it was true that the local folks spoke a different language, there was enough English sprinkled around that we were able to get by.  We even learned a little (and I do mean a little) German to help.  We drove our cars on the right side of the road,  just like home (unlike the Brits), we could drink the water just like home, we had stores kinda like home, and we even had a church…just like home.  But it wasn’t…home.

Throughout the three years we were there, we would celebrate when it came time for friends to “ship” back to the United States.  Our church even had a special song titled, “Goodbye, World, Goodbye” that we sang every time someone left to go back to the states.  They were bitter-sweet moments.  We would miss them, but we knew where they were going. They were going home.

There was one thing that we would do, every once in a while, to remind us of home.  It might seem strange, but it wasn’t to us.  Germany was a place of great food but once again…it wasn’t home.  I found out that not many Germans eat grits.  Imagine that. But they did share one thing that was purely American—McDonald’s.  Located downtown in a large city, not too far from where we lived, was a McDonald’s very much like ours back home. And when we could afford it, which wasn’t often, we would go and have a taste of home.  Each bite of the burgers and fries said, “Remember home.”  Each bite said, “This place is good but remember, it’s not home.”

Well, one day it was our turn to go…home.  It was our turn to hear, “Goodbye, World, Goodbye” and know it was for us.  It was our turn to leave there and go home and as soon as we were home, we knew instantly that while “there” was very good—it wasn’t home. Home was better.  Home was home.

Jesus followers need to remember that very important truth—Home is better—Home is home.  This world is good.  We enjoy life with friends and family, and there is a McDonald’s on every corner.  But what used to remind us of home now reminds us that we are not there…yet. Even with all its warts and imperfections, God has done a great job providing us a temporary location to live out our days, but remember, Home is going to be—better.  The Bible tells me that Heaven is a place where there is no more pain, suffering, sickness or sorrow.  No hospitals, no nursing homes, and no funeral homes.  Simply put—the former things are gone, and everything will be new.  Home will be better.

I know I speak for Judy too when I say that our time in Germany was three of our favorite years together. I also know I speak for her when I say home was, and home is, better. Life here is good but one day, it will be my turn, your turn, to find out that Home is better.  When it came time to leave Germany and go home, the Air Force paid for our ticket and I am glad to let you know that our ticket to Home is paid for too—by God’s Son, Jesus Christ. All we have to do is accept it and when we do—life here gets better and Home is thrown in. When we accept it, we find out that God loves to give us a “McDonald’s” or two, here and there, just to remind us of Home…to remind us that till we get there, He is with us and that at every turn, “He’s got this.”  Bro. Dewayne

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

The Best Part

For God loved the world in this way: He gave His one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him will not perish but have eternal life.” John 3:16

I like it straight black—plus nothing, minus nothing.  Coffee has long been a part of my life.  It all started when I was growing up.  The name Taylor and the word coffee have gone together for a long, long time.  I can remember every day my Daddy would get home from work about 4:00 in the afternoon. He carpooled with three other men and just like clock work they would pull up and he would get out.  It was a certainty.  The other certainty was the coffee.  Mama would have a fresh pot percolating on the stove and perfectly timed to be ready when he got home.  She would meet him in the yard, and they would share the day and have a cup of coffee.

He didn’t just drink coffee then either.  It was not unusual for him to say, “Dewayne, go get me a cup of coffee.”  The please was implied and it seemed there was always a pot on the stove.  One time there wasn’t so I improvised.  I didn’t understand the in and outs of coffee making, so I just spooned in some coffee grounds in the cup and added some lukewarm water.  That day I learned how not to make coffee!  As I remember it, Daddy liked his coffee with sugar and cream and always drank it from one of those thick Victor coffee cups made after World War II.  It didn’t hold much but it was a good cup to drink from.

I can’t even remember not drinking coffee though I can remember Mama telling me about coffee stunting my growth.  Since I ended up on the shorter side, she must have been telling the truth.  And, like my Daddy, I drank mine with sugar and cream—lots of sugar and lots of cream.  Eventually I switched to a powered creamer called Cremora along with a hefty dose of artificial sweetener.  Somewhere along the road they said that Cremora was bad for you, so after much consternation I went to having my coffee with just the sweetener—three packs please.  It was so sweet it would make you pucker.

Well, you know how it goes.  They (whoever they are) then determined that the sweetener was bad for you, too.  I talked it over with the guys at work and one of them said, “If you will drink coffee black for three weeks, you’ll never drink it any other way.”  Well, I did and he was right.  Ever since then, I drink my coffee strong and straight black.  And the amazing part is for the first time I began to taste the coffee and not the stuff I added to it. It was just about then I began to understand the Folger’s commercial that said, “The best part of waking up is Folger’s in your cup.”  I take one exception to that though—it is always best to wake up—breathing.

I think if I learned anything from my coffee journey it was that sometimes more is just more.  It seems most of us are tempted to add something to whatever we are doing at the time.  Have a great recipe—we are tempted to add this or that.  Have a truck pretty tricked out?  Well, hey, why not add one more thing?  I know my office is stuffed to the gills with stuff from all over the world but sometimes, well, more is just more.  Instead of seeing things, you start seeing a wall full of stuff. I have a box on the floor in my church office.  It is full of things that I’ve decided can go home…the problem is it has been there for, uh, several weeks.

Now one thing we must be careful not to mess with is God’s grace.  It is fine just the way it is.  When you start messing with grace you end up with something that is not very “gracy and when something is not very “gracy” it loses it “graciness” and that is never a good thing.  I love the fact that God got it right from the start.  There has never been a grace 2.0 because version 1 was just exactly right.

When it comes to God stuff, it seems we want to make it harder and more complex than it really is.  That’s why I like John 3:16 that says, “For God loved the world in this way: He gave His one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him will not perish but have eternal life.” Boom…perfection.

Well, I think I’ll have a cup of straight black coffee a little later on and I think I’ll rewrite that Folger’s jingle to say, “The best part of waking up is Jesus in your cup.”  It doesn’t get any better than that. Just knowing Him makes it worthwhile…because always, “He’s got this.” Bro. Dewayne

Posted in Family, forgiveness, gratitude, life, love, loving others, missions, Scripture, Southern born, sovereignty of God, thankful, travel, Trials

Lost in the Desert

He counts the stars and calls them all by name.” Psalm 147:4

Don’t follow me. I’m lost.  That may sound like something a preacher should never write but at least one time in my life, that was the message.  It seems like I was probably ten years old and somehow Mama and Daddy bought me a new bike for my birthday.  When I was a little older, they gave me a brand new, bright and shiny ten speed but this one was different.  It was a single speed, traditional bike but it was new, and it was mine. I remember it having the little “streamy” things that kids used to put on their handlebars so they could wave in the breeze. I was so proud of that bike.

There was one other thing that set it apart.  Attached to the back of the seat was a little “tag” (you know, like a license plate but a lot smaller) and it said, “Don’t follow me. I’m lost.”  I don’t know if Mama and Daddy bought it and put it on the bike or if it came on it. However, since I was like most ten-year-old boys—it was probably appropriate.  Of course, at that time I had no idea that one day I would be a pastor and do my best to help people find the right path in their lives. We all know how imperfect preachers are but hopefully there is one thing that we can do and do right—show people how to follow Jesus.  After all, we all get lost, and we all need someone to point us in the right direction.

Several years ago we were in Niger, West Africa and we were in the Sahara Desert.  We were traveling from one small village in the middle of nowhere and going to another slightly larger village in the middle of nowhere.  Keep in mind this is West Africa and more often than not, you are going to end up on a road made of sand and only an occasional road sign.  Our missionary was driving a 4X4 and we were heading in the direction of Abalak—again a medium sized city in the middle of the desert.  We drove and drove and she was pretty sure we were going in the right direction but who knew.  After all…it was West Africa, and it was the desert, and signs, well, they were not.

We drove for several hours till we came to a place where we could see in the distance a couple of tents and a few camels standing around.  I remember there was a young lady sitting on a donkey who looked like she could pass for Mary on her way to Bethlehem but there also was a man. We opened our window and the missionary greeted him and he asked where we were going.  She said we were going to Abalak.  I remember his reply. In his local language he said, “Not this way, you’re not.” He also said that he had a cousin in Abalak.  Of course, in West Africa, in the middle of nowhere, it seemed everyone either knew or was related to everyone.  But he offered to guide us to Abalak if he could ride along.

Well, we readily agreed and off we went with a new friend pointing the way. Remember the song we sing at Thanksgiving about over the river and through the woods?  Well, it was just like that except it wasn’t Thanksgiving, there was no river and there were no woods but after several hours we did find ourselves in Abalak.  It turns out our new friend was just the person we needed.  We were lost and he pointed us in the right direction.

You know, sometimes in life we get lost too, don’t we?  I know more than once I have been lost. Don’t be shocked and don’t make me turn in my “man card,” but I’ve actually stopped and asked directions. Sometimes it worked and sometimes it didn’t.  It was always reassuring though when the store the person mentioned or the right color of house on the corner appeared.  It was always about then I knew we had been found and everything was going to be ok.

As we emerge from the pandemic and all of its craziness and if you are feeling a little lost, remember it is ok to ask directions.  It might be a trusted friend or someone you know from church, but it is ok to stop and ask for directions. I’ve found a Friend that always points me right where I need to go.  He never gets lost because He made the place and He is never wrong because, well, He’s just never wrong.

There is a place in the Bible where it says that He knows the total number of stars in the heavens, and He calls them all by name.  And I figure if He knows the stars…He probably knows the way I ought to go.  How about that?  So today, if you’re feeling a little lost, just ask Him.  He knows the way and He loves pointing people in the right direction and, as always, you can rest assured that “He’s got this.” Bro. Dewayne

Posted in Family, food, life, Scripture, Southern born, wisdom

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 Mama 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.

But, 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 Mama knew it and…I knew it.

In the world of Mama’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.  Mama 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 is 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 Mama boiled something that was clearly meant to be fried. And I’ve been around 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, fear, Grace, gratitude, life, loving others, prayer, Scripture, Southern born, thankful, Trials, wisdom

Humpty Dumpty and Me

I am the Way, the Truth and the Life and no one comes to the Father but by Me.” John 14:6

Some things never change. As we were growing up, we all learned various nursery rhymes and fairy tales.  Some were funny, some serious, and some a little bizarre.  One of my favorites was Humpty Dumpty.   Why?  I think because his story could have easily been our story—after all, we’ve all fallen off a wall at one time or another. I love the story too because what didn’t happen for old Humpty Dumpty, can happen for us.

If there had been a headline that day it might have read something like this, “Local Egg Takes a Tumble.” The story would begin with, “Apparently a well-known and respected egg, Humpty Dumpty, decided to take a rest on top of a wall just outside of town. While sitting there he lost his balance, fell off the wall and was shattered into several pieces. Fortunately for Mr. Dumpty there were witnesses who immediately called 911. Paramedics, along with representatives from the local government, were quickly on the scene. It is reported that local clergy were also on scene, though they didn’t stay long. Unfortunately, no one was unable to put Mr. Dumpty back together again.”

What a sad tale! There he lay–his life in pieces–kinda like a lot of folks today. You would have thought the local citizenry, government, and churches would have been sympathetic but no. First, some questioned why an egg was on the wall in the first place. After all, given his rounded bottom he was certainly a high risk. Second, he was in a fragile state–in fact, he lived in a fragile state. Others blamed the builders of the wall. If the wall had only been six inches high, he wouldn’t have suffered such massive fractures. Others blamed the weather service because they didn’t put out a high wind warning that day for eggs on walls. And the church–well, they said a respectable egg should have been in church, for it was a Sunday.

Well on and on it went, and in the end–Mr. Dumpty was still broken. You know, some things never change. When sin entered the world Adam blamed God, (God because He gave Adam the woman & Eve because she gave him the fruit), Eve blamed the snake, and the snake? Well, he just smiled. It wasn’t a time for finger pointing then, nor is it now.  For all around us are Humpty Dumptys…broken lives in a broken world.

But then, along comes God. God made the very first promise of a Rescuer, a Redeemer, and a Savior way back in Genesis 3. One day the Redeemer would come and provide the cure for sin–His own death on a Roman cross–and then come back to life thus defeating death forever. And the snake well, he would be cast into a very hot fire for a very long time.

You see, I am so glad that God is more interested in redemption than blaming. He is still inviting people, all people to come home. Scared people, sick people, broken people, mean people, and nice people–all get the same invitation–come home. And the path is always the same. Jesus said in John 14:6 “I am the Way, the Truth and the Life and no one comes to the Father but by Me.” It’s not religion, it’s not good works, and it’s not winning by out-blaming the person next to you. It is grace.

The world could use a little good news don’t you think? So today why not share some? When you see the next scared person, the next broken person, the next difficult person (and it might be in the mirror), just assure them that God loves them and that regardless of their past they can come home. Tell them to rest in Him. Why? He’s got this. Bro. Dewayne

Posted in Grace, life, loving others, Scripture, Southern born, wisdom

Steel Gladiators

“Finishing is better than starting. Patience is better than pride.” Ecclesiastes 7:8

We were opposite each other—two fire breathing chariots just waiting.  Well, that isn’t exactly how it happened but maybe it was.  My wife Judy and I were returning from a trip to Kentucky where grits and a southern draw are standard issue.  We were back in our town of Harrisburg, and were going to swing by the church to check a couple of things for an event that evening.  We were giving away some food boxes and wanted to make sure we were set to go.  To get there we had to cross a pretty busy intersection.  I pulled up and that’s when I saw him sitting there.  He was anxiously waiting for a break in the steady steam of cars.  Even from that distance I could see his darting eyes as his sweaty palms gripped his steering wheel.

I pulled up on the opposite side of the road headed in the opposite direction. We were two men, to gladiators of automobiles, about to pass side by side. I knew he was there first so he had the right a way…that was never in debate.  I also knew there would be only a quick window to cross the road.  There was no blinker on my opponent’s car—we would pass quickly like two ships in the night.  I knew, too, that there was a chance that he would not follow the rules.  Blinker or not, he might turn across my lane. Try as I might, I couldn’t read his mind or his intentions. 

Suddenly there was a break in the traffic, my left foot moved from brake to accelerator and I was sure the same was happening in the car opposite me.  Like I said…two ships in the night…side by side in opposite directions. No deal. No challenge. And, then, yes, it happened.

Instead of going straight as his no blinker indicated he cut across in front of me and turned.  I had fallen for the oldest trick in the book.  It was the old “I’m really going to turn but I’m not going to tell you” trick!  Well, I quickly hit my brakes as he quickly turned in from of my chariot.  I confess. I gave him the two hands in the air, “Dude, what are you doing?” gesture and he responded with the two hands in the air, “Dude, I had the right of way” gesture. It was all over in a moment of time.  Two gladiators of steel on two totally different wave lengths of communication that left both of us wondering. First, him wondering why I was upset when he clearly had the right of way and second, me wondering why he didn’t let me know he was going to turn in front of me. Hey…blinker equals turn. No blinker equals no turn. Dude.

Are you confused by now?  Are you wondering what this is all about? Does any of it really matter? Probably the answer to all three of those questions is, wait for it, no.  But it does show how easily it is to miscommunicate our intentions and it also shows just how easy it is for moments of waiting to escalate to moments of tension.  And, amazingly, it doesn’t have to involve two gladiators of steel waiting at an intersection. It can easily be the one you are married to, or the ones you gave birth to, or the ones that you work with or, my favorite, the ones you sit next to in worship at church.

But, the answer is always the same.  Keep your foot on the brake till you know clearly what the other person’s intention is.  Just wait, be patient, and most likely you will come out looking a little bit more like Jesus and the more gallant in the exchange. The writer of Ecclesiastes says, “Finishing is better than starting. Patience is better than pride.” Hmmm…that’s really good. We usually have more time than we think and we all know the pleasure of letting someone go first. They smile and think, “What a nice person.”  And most times, that beats beating someone across an intersection, or to a place in line or to a parking spot.

Ok, you gladiators of steel, all right you Walmart line cutters, it’s time to keep our foot on the brake and our hearts in our chest.  Let’s determine that nothing is more important than for a Jesus follower to act like Jesus—at the intersection, in the line, at home or at church.  Feeling challenged about now?  I know, me too, that’s why it is so important to remember, “He’s got this.” So, ladies and gentlemen…start your engines. Bro. Dewayne

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

Sharing

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

My Mama 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.  Its pretty amazing.  There are somethings 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 year lots of folks have been reading Grits.  Through our church email list, the Grits Facebook page, and through the gritswithgrace.com 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, share on Facebook, or share in an email, it’s all sharing a word of encouragement.

Something happened last week 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 pretty 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.

This last year has been a big 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 and respond, and it is always an encouragement.  Well, outside night is turning to day, so it must be time to see what today holds.  One thing is sure…we can face it together with Him because as always, “He’s got this.”  Bro. Dewayne

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

Me, Mama, and Mrs. Crabtree

When He saw the crowds, He had compassion on them because they were confused and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.” Matthew 9:36

I went just a little too far.  When you are an overactive six-year-old, church can be quite difficult.  My pastor was one of my favorite people but when you’re an overactive six-year-old, preaching can be, well, a little boring.  I’ve always loved church music but when you’re an overactive six-year-old, well, the best singers just aren’t enough.  Mama tried to keep me busy.  Her favorite tool was to give me the bulletin and a pen or pencil and I would color in all the little circles.  You would be amazed how many different little circles there were each week.  Well, that would work for a while, but you know, when you are an overactive six-year-old, nothing is going to work for long.

Well, one particular Sunday, the circle thing didn’t even make it past the song service.  By the time they were passing the plates I was out of things to do.  The service was always very predictable.  There would be an opening song, the announcements, a couple of more songs, then the offering, a special music thing, and then the preaching.  After the pastor finished, we would have one more song and call it a day.  Of course, there were always a couple of prayers thrown in for good measure.  So, I knew it was just about time for the preacher to start preaching when I heard Mrs. Rosalyn Crabtree start singing.

Now let me tell you right now, Mrs. Crabtree could flat sing.  I don’t know if she had voice lessons or not, but she sounded like one of those opera singers.  When there was a solo in the choir it was usually Mrs. Crabtree who sang, and more often than not, she sang right before the preacher.  She and her husband Jake were two of my favorite people too.  They taught me in the youth department when I got older and we even had Rosalyn sing at our wedding when my wife and I were married.  They were great folks.

But this Sunday, well, it was just destiny that I was going to get in trouble.  I was bored by the time the offering was done, so I started poking Mama in the side.  She had her girdle on and it always amazed me just how tight that thing was.  Well, she finally had enough of the poking and said so in a way that I knew if I continued, it wasn’t going to be pretty.  But then Mrs. Crabtree started to sing.  Well, while she was singing, I decided to cover my ears with my hands. Why?  Well, I guess that is what overactive-six-year-olds do.  Well, when I took my hands down there was obviously a big sound difference.  So, I put them back up and then took them down.  I had discovered a new game.

I found out if I did this fast it made a “wa-wa” sound in my ears.  The faster my hands covered and uncovered my ears, the faster the “wa-wa.” I thought this was pretty grand entertainment. Mama didn’t think so. I stopped for a minute but decided it was worth the risk. It wasn’t.  Before I knew it, she and I were heading out the door. I had crossed the line and me and Mama had a little “come to Jesus” meeting.  And do you know what?  That urge to put my hands over my ears strangely disappeared and has never returned.  I guess you could say that Mama discovered a vaccine for that like the one for the COVID virus and it was highly effective. Very.highly.effective.

I am glad that I had a Mama who knew how and when to administer a little discipline…even if it meant taking me out smack dab in the middle of church.  And I am glad that we had a church where no one smirked, and no one said I shouldn’t be there.  We had a church where families and kids were more than welcome and I have tried to make sure that at the churches I pastor, the same is true today.  Rich or poor, black, white, or brown, young, or old—everybody is welcome.  I know that is the way it ought to be because that is the way that Jesus did it. I figure if that was the way He did it—we should do it too.

One time when Jesus was teaching, He looked at the people and had compassion on them because He saw them like a flock of sheep needing a shepherd. Compassion—love in action.  Compassion—love that says come on in, you are welcome here.  I like that.  You see, God is an inclusive God.  He even invites overactive six-year-olds like me and you into His presence.  And He’s always ready to help, always ready to love and always ready to say, “Don’t worry…I’ve got this.” Bro. Dewayne