Posted in Christmas, Family, fear, forgiveness, gratitude, Holidays, life, love, loving others, Scripture, Southern born, thankful, Trials

Gifts and Lizards

Love keeps no record of wrongs.” 1 Corinthians 13:5b

It was a lizard but when you’re eight—it’s a dinosaur.  Growing up in North Florida, which is a somewhat, semi-tropical area, there were always all kinds of insects and reptiles to watch or capture.  One of these was a small lizard…a sort of dinosaur in miniature.  It seemed they were everywhere.  Sometimes they were brown and sometimes they were green but always they stirred my imagination and when that happened, they were always bigger and more vicious than they were in reality. But it is amazing what an eight-year-old mind can come up with when he has too much time on his hands. I know I captured more than a few…usually by grabbing them by their tail.  I was always amazed when their tail broke off and while he managed to scurry away, his tail remained…still wiggling.  I later learned that their tail would slowly grow back, and I guess I’m glad they did.

As I grew older, it seems the lizards got smaller and soon became a sense of novelty and nothing more. Gone was the fear of what they could do to me as I realized what I could do to them.  I’ve found out that not only applies to lizards but memories from days gone by. About the time I was chasing lizards and yet being a little fearful…something happened.  It was Christmas time and as the day approached, I knew I didn’t have anything to give to my Momma. Poking around the house, I discovered a plastic flower arrangement sitting in the corner of the breezeway that connected our house and a garage turned into a bedroom.  Partly out of desperation and party through the eyes of an eight-year-old, I decided I would wrap the well-worn and faded flowers and give them to my Momma for Christmas.  So, I put them in a box, wrapped it all up and put it under the tree.

Christmas morning came and as was tradition, we all gathered in the living room as the presents were handed out and I watched as Momma was handed the box and unwrapped it.  Probably speaking to no one in particular, I heard her say, “Well, these are just those old flowers from the porch.” I was devastated. I knew it wasn’t much but I was hoping that something ordinary would be magically transformed by Christmas.  Now, let’s be clear.  Momma wasn’t being mean or hurtful.  Her words that day were just a statement of fact, and she might probably was not aware I had heard them…but I had…and a scar was born.

For years and years, I carried those words in my heart…and with them came the rejection that only an insecure eight-year-old can feel.  A few words casually spoken left a wound that for years refused to heal.  Listen, I know my Momma and I know she loved me but sometimes the best of us can utter words that get stuck in our memories and like those lizards…seem to grow into monsters.  Probably all of us have them…probably all of us have said them…probably all of us regret saying them.

I can’t remember if I ever told Momma about that Christmas and those words, but I can tell you it is no longer a deal.  Yes, there is a small scar on my heart, but that scar reminds me of something important.  Scars are wounds that have healed.  As I grew older, I was able to let go of the hurt because I grew to understand that no matter what words she spoke that day, her actions over the years more than proved her love.  If nothing else, those words remind me that she wasn’t perfect…just like me, just like you and just like the last person who wounded us.

Remember this.   Christmas is about love and love is about forgiveness.  My favorite verse in 1 Corinthians 13 reminds me that “love keeps no record of wrongs.”  It turns out that love makes choices possible.  We get to choose what to do with the things that are tossed into our laps.  We get to choose what we do when someone else’s mess gets sloshed on us.  I’ve learned I can’t control others; I can’t always control the circumstances around me; but I can always control my response…and that is important.

So about sixty Christmas’s have come and gone.  Momma is long in heaven, and I am grateful that I can sit and click keys on my keyboard and smile at all the precious memories I treasure in my heart.  And some of those memories that used to be dragons are now simply little lizards.  In case you are wondering how that works…well once you’ve experienced God’s grace and His forgiveness…it is a no brainer.  After all, He’s got this. Bro. Dewayne

Posted in Scripture, life, Family, Southern born, thankful, fear, priorities, Trials

Watch Out

The prudent see danger and take refuge, but the simple keep going and suffer for it.” Proverbs 27:12

I grabbed it and couldn’t let go.  I’ve said it before but growing up, times were pretty lean.  My Daddy worked very hard to provide a good home for us and we always had plenty of good food.  Sure, sometimes there was more “loaf than meat” but hey it was still good.  One of my favorite food memories from when I was nine or ten was a fried potato sandwich.  When there wasn’t any meat for sandwiches, Mama would slice some potatoes and fry them up.  We would slap those things between two pieces of bread with some mayo and instant heaven.  I mean who doesn’t like home fries anyway?

We lived in an old-World War II barracks that had been converted into a two-bedroom house with a breezeway that led to a closed in garage that served as a third bedroom.  We also had two acres of land which was great for playing but not so great for mowing.  We didn’t have a riding mower until I was in my teens, so the two acres had to be mowed by hand. To get it done we had an old push mower.  Just trust me that was a lot to mow with a push mower.  Anyway, this mower had two unique qualities.  First, it didn’t have a throttle.  It had one speed—wide open.  It was one of those deals where you wrapped a rope around the top and gave it a yank.  If you said your prayers and held your tongue just right—it would crank.  And like I said, when it started…it started.

The other quirk with our lawnmower was that it didn’t have a kill switch either.  There were two ways to turn it off.  First, you could take a screwdriver and ground the spark plug to a metal part on the mower.  The second was a lot riskier.  You could attempt to pull the spark plug wire off the spark plug.  Now, keep in mind I was young and didn’t understand all the dynamics of a spark plug, the coil and touching the wrong thing at the wrong time.  It was a setup for a shocking experience.

So, one day…you can see it coming, can’t you? Well, one day, I was done mowing and the lawnmower was running wide open.  I had to kill the beast—slay the dragon if you will.  I was a good piece from the shed and didn’t have a screwdriver so that left only option 2—pulling off the spark plug wire.  Running wide open, shaking like a hula dance (that would be me and not the lawnmower) I reached down and grabbed a hold.  I still don’t know if I grabbed the wrong part or if the current came though the brittle insulation on the wire, but it got me.

I’m not sure if I can describe the sensation that I experienced. I can vividly remember two things.  My whole arm shaking and the fact that I couldn’t get loose.  I’m sure I’ve never experienced anything quite like it.  Like the Ray Stevens song about the Mississippi Squirrel, I was sure “something had a hold of me.”  I don’t know how I got loose.  It may have been mercy from above or pure desperation, but I did get loose. The lawnmower was still running, and my arm was still shaking.  If you ever see this strange twitch in my left arm—well, it still hasn’t got over the sensation.

I’m supposing I got a LONG screwdriver and killed the engine, and I am also sure I never, and I mean never, went out again without it.  You only need to grab the wrong thing one time and you will never do it again.  I know that is true with quirky old lawnmowers, but I also know it is true with bad decisions.  I suppose every one of us has a bad decision somewhere in our past—and I am not talking about spicy pizza as a midnight snack.

There are certain things, and a lot of times they are lawbreakers, that you shouldn’t do once much less twice.  If we would just hit the pause button and think about it we could eliminate a lot of our regrets and consequences.  Do I really want to do that? Do I really want to keep that date? Is that a call I really want to make? Is that a relationship I really want to maintain?  Think about it.  I have never done this before, but I just need to use that verse we wrote about recently.  It is from Proverbs (which are wise sayings) and it tells us the prudent (or wise) person will see danger and take refuge.  The simple (inexperienced) person will see the danger and keep right on going.

Let me tell you.  I grabbed that wire once and once was enough.  The only thing that would have been better was if I would have walked to the shed and got the screwdriver. It wasn’t that far.  But I thought I would be the exception.  I thought I could pull it off…no pun intended…and I was wrong. I.Was.Wrong.  I don’t know if there is anything in your life right now that is a bad idea or maybe you’re making plans.  Take some advice from a former “wire grabber.”  Don’t.  Just do the right thing and you won’t regret it.  Oh, and if you don’t, there is a God who loves and cares for you.  And if you ask, He will help.  He’s got this.  Bro. Dewayne

Posted in Christmas, Easter, Family, friends, Grace, gratitude, Holidays, life, love, loving others, priorities, Scripture, Southern born, thankful

Remembrance

Do this in Remembrance of Me.” Luke 22:19b

They hang on my wall…365…one above the other.  As I have grown older, I have found that certain memories are just…well…precious.  That seems to be especially true at this time of the year.  My memories growing up of Thanksgiving and Christmas always cause me to smile.  Two memories that I especially cherish involve two simple things that now are two of my most prized possessions.  The first was made possible by the generosity of my oldest brother.  A couple of years ago I wrote a story about a 410 shotgun that had belonged to our Daddy.  It was a family heirloom.  I didn’t who ended up with it, but it turned out it was my brother and he in an incredible act of generosity chose to pass it to me.

It now hangs on the wall in my home office, and it is fired only once a year. You see, Daddy or one of my brothers, used to fire the old 410 on Christmas morning as a sort of wakeup call for my two sisters and me.  So now, starting with last year, on Christmas morning, the old 410 once again comes to life and calls us to leave our beds and celebrate. Every day, I glance up at that old 410, and every day it reminds me of days gone by and I am overcome with gratitude.  I am thankful for a Daddy and Momma who loved me and a family that could gather with one another and celebrate.

The other thing that hangs on my wall…365…is a plastic Santa Claus face.  It has a LED bulb in it that allows it to burn 24 hours a day…and I remember…and I am grateful.  You see, when I was a boy, my family had a Santa face just like this one…just.like.this.one.  It hung up on our roof attached to our small chimney and it announced that Christmas time had come.  I’m sure it came from one of the local stores and probably cost just a few dollars. Well, that old Santa disappeared but I was able to find one on eBay and trust me it didn’t cost $4.50 but do you know what?  It was worth every dollar because every day it too reminds me of a Daddy and Momma who made sure, somehow, that we had a wonderful Christmas. It reminds me of a family that could and would gather with one another and celebrate.

So, those days are gone and all but one of my brothers are gone too, but guess what?  Those days and those loved ones live on in my memories and in my heart and those two things, an old 410 shotgun and a plastic Santa face from my boyhood days remind me to remember and be grateful.  I’ve said more than once if I could remember everything from my childhood, I would have enough Grits’ material to write forever. Smile.  I’ve discovered that things can sometimes help us remember and that is important because while some things probably need to slip away…many…perhaps most…need to live on.

Have you ever wondered why Jesus on the night before He died did something crazy like serve supper?  If you are familiar with that story, you know it was a pretty simple meal…bread and wine but the meaning was anything but simple.  The next day He was going to die on a Roman cross, and He wanted to make sure the guys who followed Him would never forget what it was about. He explained how the bread represented His body broken on that cross and how the wine represented His blood that was shed so that any of us…all of us…who chose to believe could have eternal life.  That’s why He said, “Do this in remembrance of Me.”  It was His way of saying we should always remember and never forget.

So, what is it in your life that helps you remember?  A simple, or elaborate, wedding ring? A watch? Family pictures? Whatever it is, it is there to remind us and cause us to be thankful.  Christmas this year falls on a Sunday and we are going to celebrate the Lord’s supper that day at our church. I know it is almost a month away, but I am already looking forward to it.  It is going to remind us once again what Christmas and Easter are all about—a God, a Father, a Dearest Daddy, who loves us so much He gave His Son to a stable, a broken world and a Roman cross. Be sure in the hustle and bustle of the holidays to take time to remember and reflect.  For me it is an old 410 shotgun, a plastic Santa and an old rugged cross and a heavenly Father who always reminds me, “I’ve got this.” Bro. Dewayne

Posted in Family, fear, food, friends, gratitude, Holidays, life, loving others, Military memories, priorities, Scripture, Southern born, thankful, Thanksgiving, travel, Trials

A Thanksgiving to Remember

But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and reaching forward to what is ahead…” Philippians 3:13

It was a Thanksgiving to remember.  Throughout the years, Thanksgiving has been a big deal in our family.  Growing up it was a time when Momma would buy a huge turkey and cook it all night in the roaster oven that set by the stove for such an occasion.  It was a time when pies were baked, ambrosia was made, and giblet gravy simmered on the stove.  It was a time for two kinds of dressing—cornbread and cornbread with oysters. I’m not sure where that came from, but it was pretty popular.  Then, of course, it was a time when most everyone would come home, and we would feast on good food and fellowship with family.

When I graduated from high school and enlisted in the Air Force things had to change.  My first duty station was about 15 miles from the Canadian border in a town called Minot—Minot, North Dakota.  I arrived there in October, and it was already too cold for a Florida boy.  The holidays were looming ahead, and it looked like Thanksgiving was going to be a solo flight.  But then something happened.  Somehow, remember this is long before cellphones, my brother Jimmy, who lived in Amarillo, Texas, called and invited me to his house for Thanksgiving.

Again, somehow, someway, it happened.  My base pay of $320 per month didn’t allow for plane tickets so it meant a trip to the credit union to see if I could get a loan. They granted it and I bought the ticket, got my leave approved and had someone haul me to the airport. So, like the song says, over the river and through the woods, I was on my way, not to grandmother’s house but my brother’s.  I can remember flying down to Amarillo on that two engine, piston driven, plane feeling excited and afraid all at the same time.  What in the world was I doing?

Soon enough, I was on the ground and there was my big brother and a couple of his kids waiting for me.  The best I can remember he worked, maybe managed, a ranch of sorts.  It seemed we drove a long way out into the Texas countryside before finally arriving at his house.  The next day was Thanksgiving and it was so much like the one at home.  We ate well and enjoyed good family fellowship.  The thing that was so different was that in the past I was treated as the baby of the family—which I was.  But that day—I was his peer.  I was a man.

As much as I enjoyed Thanksgiving Day, the next couple of days were also awesome.  We went jackrabbit hunting.  It was cold with snow covering the ground, and we would jolt and bounce through the fields in his old Willis Jeep.  Back at the house we drank hot coffee as he would spin tales about his time in the Air Force.  Jimmy was always bigger than life and he was that day too.  We also put up the Christmas tree while I was there.  One of his favorite Christmas albums was Charlie Pride’s “Christmas in My Hometown.” We played it over and over again while I was there.  To this day it is still one of my favorites.

Soon it was time for me to head back to the far north.  We headed back to the airport and soon those piston engines were shaking and vibrating the old plane again as I flew back to Minot.  I’ve had many good Thanksgivings over the years but that one stands out for me.  It was a time when my brother made sure I wasn’t alone at a time when too many were.  That was back in 1972 so a lot of water has flowed beneath the bridge.  I’m decades older and he is now in heaven.  But I am left with the memories…memories that still refresh my soul and make me smile.

To be honest, there are other Thanksgivings that were not so easy…times when another brother and his family were not on speaking terms with the family, times when Daddy was sick and times when the family went separate ways. But I have grown to realize that each of us have a choice.  We can choose to remember and relish the good times, or we can remember and dwell on the hard times.  The choice is ours.  Paul, the guy who wrote about two-thirds of the New Testament in the Bible had plenty of hard memories.  He was a pretty bad guy before he met Jesus.  After Jesus, he began to write some new stories in his life, and he made the decision to leave the past in the past.  We should too.

I know holidays can be hard because of the past, or maybe the present. Let me encourage you to choose to remember the good and let go of the rest.  It’s not easy but it is possible—with a little help from God.  I know these days He’s getting a lot of bad press, but trust me, if you don’t know Him you should get acquainted.  He loves you more than you know, and He wants to help you do life here.  He can even help with those difficult memories.

One of the things that is a staple of mine in life is to eat and nap. Today, Lord willing, I will eat a very good meal, and I will take a very nice nap.  Try it—you’ll like it.  Also today, I’m going to take a nap of sorts with my best friend Jesus. I’m going to pull aside, rest and just chat about all the ways He has blessed me.  It might take a while because I’m pretty blessed—and so are you.  We also will probably talk about some of the hard things going on now. He won’t judge me—He will just love me. You know that Thanksgiving so many years ago my brother treated me as his peer. Today Jesus treats me as a friend—a friend closer than a brother.  A friend that can handle my past and my future.  A friend I can trust. That’s why, He’s got this. Bro. Dewayne

Posted in Family, food, friends, Grace, gratitude, Holidays, life, prayer, priorities, Scripture, Southern born, sovereignty of God, thankful, Thanksgiving, travel, Trials

Worth Every Mile

Giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.” Ephesians 5:20

It was crazy but worth every mile.  For years my side of our Taylor tribe held a family reunion. It all started after the death of both of our parents and just seemed like the right thing to do.  Fortunately for all of us, we had some very committed and caring siblings that made sure it happened.  While the date bounced around, for a while we held it on Thanksgiving weekend.  I know for us that was a good time.  Being a pastor, each year was a more of a maybe than a definite yes or no, so we didn’t make every one…but every one we did make was, well, special.

I remember one year someone in the church family had died and I needed to stay and officiate at their service.  To me honoring life after a death is not an obligation but an honor so if I can I try to be there, both for the one who has slipped into eternity but especially for those left behind. That meant on the Wednesday before Thanksgiving that year, we had a service and rather than leave town on Tuesday, we stayed and held the service and left as soon as it was over…about noon as I remember.

Now everyone knows that Wednesday before Thanksgiving is the biggest, the busiest, the craziest travel day of the year and that year—the Taylor tribe from Illinois discovered that truth firsthand.  We had no more gotten on the interstate highway—less than an hour from our home— and we ran into heavy traffic.  That song about “over the river and through the woods” was more than just a song.  It seemed that everyone in the world, or at least the Midwest, was going to grandmother’s house and apparently, she lived down by Atlanta.

There was not a time that there wasn’t traffic and a couple of times there was just one of those standstills.  That is when, for no apparent reason, in the middle of nowhere traffic just stops. There was not an intersection, there was not an accident or a broken-down vehicle—it was like people just decided to press pause.  Now if you know anything about me, you know I don’t do traffic well but this time, well, I did better than average.  As the day pressed on, as the traffic got heavier, as day turned to night, as the clock ticked off the minutes and hours, as we got more and more tired…well, average disappeared.

By the time we were on outside of Atlanta on Interstate 20 heading west, it was about 1:30 am.  1:30 am…think about that. I can still remember the fact that the interstate, every lane, was packed with traffic…bumper to bumper…at 70 miles per hour.  I didn’t believe it then and as my fingers press the keys…I can’t believe it now.  Where in the world were all these people going at that time of the night…uh, make that morning?  Of course…they were going to grandmother’s house.

Well, we finally arrived at John Tanner State Park at about 2:30 am.  We were tired.  We were exhausted but all that didn’t matter.  We were there.  We opened the car doors and stumbled out of the car and into the lodge. Waiting for us was a was a beautiful moment of clarity.  There in the “living room” of the lodge was a big chunk of the Taylor tribe.  Instead of going to bed, they had waited up to greet us and it was at that moment it was worth it all.  Just then I had an epiphany…this, this was family. While they couldn’t drive the miles for us they could be there and greet us and simply say “we are glad you made the drive.”

Well, we all quickly went to bed and woke up a little later the next day.  The morning was spent preparing the feast and what a feast it was.  We told stories, we laughed, we shared and we ate…a lot.  And I knew beyond a shadow of a doubt it was worth every minute in the car and every mile in traffic.  Well, that was many years ago and the family reunions don’t occur that way anymore.  And, too many—and even one is too many—of our family have changed their address from this world to the next. And while I wish I had more of those memories, I am so grateful for each and every one that I have.

While this Thanksgiving will be different than those and for many, different even from last year, let’s strive to make this one worth remembering too.  Let’s remember the key word in the holiday—thanks.  Paul, the guy in the Bible, said, “Give thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.”  As always, he was spot on.  Like Bing Crosby sings in the movie, “Holiday Inn,” let’s remember we have plenty to be thankful for…because we do.  And, if you are struggling in the gratitude department, just take a look around and count your blessings and then remember that no matter what, “He’s got this.” Bro. Dewayne

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

Momma and Politics

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Posted in Family, fear, forgiveness, friends, Grace, gratitude, life, Military memories, prayer, Scripture, Southern born, thankful, Trials

No Excuse

The Spirit is the One who gives life. The flesh doesn’t help at all. The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and are life.”  John 6:63

“Breach your weapons, lay them on the ground and put your hands on your head.” Fifteen words I didn’t think I would ever hear.  As I’ve said before I was raised in Jacksonville, Florida.  We lived out in the country and would often go hunting not too far from my home. We would also go shooting.  What is shooting?  Well, that is when you go somewhere and just waste ammunition. There was an old dump about four miles from my house and that was a favorite place to go shoot.  There was an abundance of old bottles and cans there just waiting to give up the ghost.

When I was about nineteen, and in the Air Force, a couple of friends (who were in the Navy) decided to go shooting.  We got in our cars and went to the old dump and preceded to start what sounded like World War III.  We had rifles and shotguns, and we were blasting away.  Cans were flying and bottles were shattering and then without trying we all happened to empty our guns at the same time.  There was a moment of silence and then we heard it.

It was that static noise when someone mashes the button on a public address system before beginning to speak. It was then that we heard those fifteen words—which I still remember to this day even though it was 48 years ago, “Breach your weapons, lay them on the ground and put your hands on your head.”  Ok, two things almost happened at that moment.  I almost died and I almost lost bladder control.  I was scared to death.  I had only been pulled over by the police once and I had never been arrested.  I was certain that the Air Force would not like the fact that one of their ambassadors was arrested…especially on weapons charges.

So, you have to be wondering, “What in the world was going? Didn’t you know better?”  And the answer is “No.”  You see, Jacksonville and Duval County had merged into one making it the largest city in the United States.  That also meant that all the laws that applied to the city now applied to the county.  Well, since it was against the law to discharge a weapon in the city limits, which now included the old dump, we were in deep weeds. You can imagine we did some tall explaining to the police officer. I am sure it included an appropriate amount of praying, begging, and pleading. I imagine it also included the “we are serving our country” card too.

Well, somehow, we got off the hook. I’m sure I explained that I was raised in the area and had gone shooting there a lot.  I’m also sure I explained that we didn’t know about the law being changed.  I’m also sure he said ignorance of the law was no excuse and made sure we understood that it had better never happen again.  And do you know what?  It didn’t.  As far as my buddies and I were concerned, the old dump was safe and sound. At least this part of the Air Force and Navy was done.

I never forgot that lesson about ignorance of the law being no excuse. When I drive, and I am pretty much a rule follower, if I don’t know the speed limit, I settle at a speed that I know should be safely below what might be posted.  I found out one time (and I’ll write about that another time) that it costs to break the law.  And sometimes it can be pricey.  That is true for man’s law, but it is also true for God’s laws.

You see, at one time or another, we have all broken one or more and probably many of God’s laws.  We are just a rebellious bunch and there really is no excuse. We just sorta, kinda, like breaking laws. The Bible even says that. But here’s the deal—we forget one thing about laws.  Generally speaking, laws are there for a reason—our protection.  There is a reason why the speed limit isn’t 120 mph.  There is a reason why you should wear your seatbelt.  There is a reason why you shouldn’t jump from a cliff that says, “rocks below.”  They are all there to keep you within the guardrails of life.  I know, we think laws are there to make us miserable, and maybe that is true for the laws of man.  But when it comes to God—well, obeying His laws means less regrets and fewer consequences.  It means a better life.

Well, if you happen to be traveling through Duval County in Northeast Florida and you have the urge to go shooting…you might try a different county.  Unless they changed their mind, it is still against the law.  And if you find yourself being lured toward some moral disaster and away from what God says is right—breach your weapon, lay it on the ground and raise your hands in surrender.  Not to a policeman, but to the God who loves you enough to help you get through life—with less regrets and fewer consequences. It might seem hard but if you choose to rest in Him, you will find out that all things are possible.  Yup…He’s got that too. Bro. Dewayne

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

Time to Stop

He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?” Micah 6:8

I’m not sure when it started but I do know when it ended.  It was probably just part of growing up boy and part of growing up country, but the bottom line is looking back I wish it wasn’t part of my boyhood.  Somewhere along my growing journey, probably when I was six or seven, I had access to a BB gun.  Then, just a little later I had my own.  I’m sure I would pluck cans and shoot at paper targets.  While my Daddy wasn’t a big hunter, we did shoot our share of squirrels and rabbits and that might have been where it started.

One day, and I don’t remember the day, I grew tired of plucking cans and decided to go “bird hunting.”  Our yard had three large oak trees and several large cedar trees so there were plenty of birds around.  It’s funny but I never thought about shooting something as innocent as a bird but one day I did. I don’t remember the first time, but I do remember the many times.  I would walk quietly around my yard, listening for the chirp of a bird, look through the leaves and branches and find my target.  I would aim, I would pull the trigger and too often the bird would fall.

I can still remember going over and picking up the now lifeless bird and walking across the road to dispose of the body by tossing it into the woods that stood there.  I want you to know as I write this it still causes me grief…not because I shot a bird but because I senselessly took the life of a living thing. Sometimes I would feel a bit of remorse, but it only lasted until the next time I felt the need to stalk and hunt again. And it wasn’t just birds.  We had a healthy herd of toads around our house too and occasionally they too would fall victim to my deadly aim.  But it wasn’t so much the toads…it was the birds.

This went on for quite a while.  The boredom, the stalking and the shooting followed by temporary remorse…until the next time.  Then it happened and I can remember it to this day. We had a cedar tree on one of the corners of our house.  It was large and went all the way to the ground.  As I approached the tree and peered into and under the tree there on the ground, happily hunting bugs, was a brown thrasher.  It was larger than a sparrow, so the thrill of the hunt was intensified. I saw him but he never saw me.  I took aim and in a moment of time he was on his side in the dirt. But this time…it was different.

The BB had not instantly killed him…rather he lay on the ground…mortally wounded and still breathing.  It was only for about thirty seconds, but it was almost like we locked eyes and I watched as he died and…that was it.  As far as I know I never shot another bird.  As I watched his life ebb away, I saw this little hobby as what it was…senseless fun at the expense of another’s life. Yes, I can still see that brown thrasher and it still causes me grief.

What was different that day was that I saw the grim reality of my actions…a reality so harsh it caused me to stop.  It.Caused.Me.To.Stop. The truth is in our everyday walk about lives we are confronted with difficult and often painful situations.  No, they don’t involve a bird, they don’t involve a BB gun, but they can be just as painful and cause just as much harm.  Sometimes it is a senseless action and sometimes it is a senseless word, but the result is a wounded heart followed by a lifelong scar. And unlike my hunt ending experience with a brown thrasher, for some reason these encounters often go on and on.

Like what happened when I stared death in the face…we need to see what our words and actions can do to the innocents, or maybe not so innocents, in our lives.  We need to pause and think before we speak or act…before we leave another scar.  I usually write from a Jesus perspective, and I guess I am now, but really, this goes beyond that to this—be kind and love one another.  Kindness and love are not always easy, but they are always right—and especially for us who follow Jesus.  Wherever and whenever…we, of all people, should set the example of the One we follow.  Tall order? Need help? Don’t fret…your Father is waiting to help. He’s got this. Bro. Dewayne 

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

Are You Thirsty?

If anyone is thirsty, let him come to Me, and drink. The one who believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, will have streams of living water flow from deep within him.” John 7:37b-38

“There she blows.”  I was raised in the far-out suburbs of Jacksonville, Florida.  We were country people but somehow, we got lumped in with the city.  What happened was the powers to be decided to consolidate the county and the city so when you entered Duval County you also entered Jacksonville.  By the way, that made Jacksonville the largest city in the United States with 840 square miles.  I’m not sure why they did it, but it either had to do with more tax dollars or the Guinness Book of World Records.

So, like I said we were country folks.  That meant a lot of room to run but few utilities.  We did have electricity, but we were not connected to the city water or sewage system because there wasn’t any.  So, we had a septic tank (and trust me I could write some stories about that) and a well to get our water.  Since we lived in Florida the water table was high. I’m guessing you only had to drill 20 or 30 feet to hit water.  So, sitting right in the middle of our back yard was this well and pump.  It had (and I’m guessing) a 20-gallon tank and mounted on top of the tank was the pump part.  It consisted of a motor and a “housing thingy” with an impeller in it that would draw the water up.

It really worked well…unless one of two things happened…one, the power went out or two, the pump lost its prime.  If the water in the housing thingy drained out, then the impeller couldn’t pull the water up.  The solution was usually simple.  A person would have to go out to the pump, unscrew a plug from the top of the housing thingy, and slowly pour water in.  To this day I can remember taking my hand and forming a small funnel over the hole and pouring the water in.  The ole pump would whine, and the impeller would swish the water around and make a kind of groaning noise.  Sometimes one pitcher would do the job and sometimes it was several.  Eventually, though, the sound would begin to change, and you knew something was about to happen.

Water was on the way.  As the impeller created suction, it would pull the water up out of the ground and when the air lost, and the water won…Katie bar the door!  Suddenly water would come spewing out of that hole like a Texas oil well.  Water went everywhere.  It made you want to holler, “There she blows.” If it was summertime it was refreshing.  If it was winter, it was cold…North Florida cold.  Then you had to fight your way to the pump, find the plug and somehow, someway, get that thing threaded back in the hole.  When you did, if you did, the water would then go into the tank instead of out the hole and you were back in business.

Now, remember I mentioned that “a person” had to go out and do this.  Yeah, well, that was me.  I don’t remember my sisters getting tagged for this job.  Somehow it never was a girl job although sometimes it was a Momma job.  Of course, Mommas must do all kinds of things.  That’s what makes them special.  To this day I can hear my Momma hollering, “Dewayne, the pump needs priming.”  Sometimes I would pretend I didn’t hear her but that was risky business because you could end up in trouble.

I can also remember the thrill of when the pump caught the prime and water shot up into the air.  Somehow it made me feel just a bit like a man and more than that, a man helping take care of the family.  It was a good feeling.  You don’t hear too much about priming the pump and things like that now. Technology has gotten better and not as many people have above ground pumps.  But do you know what?  I think sometimes we lose our prime…not in our pump…but in life.  We make noise, and our impeller spins around in our housing thingy (that would be our hearts) but that’s it.  We just can’t do what we were designed to do when we lose our prime. And, like the pump in my backyard, the only way to get the prime back is to pour some water in.

Jesus talked a lot about being the living water, the water of life.  One time He told the people that if anyone was all dried up because of the hardness of life, they could come to Him and drink.  He called it “streams of living water.”  He even said the kind of water He would give would spew in their lives just like that old pump in the backyard spewed water in the air.  And when it did, it meant that there was water to drink, water to wash, water to water the roses and water to live.

Maybe today you feel kinda dried up inside.  Maybe this whole life mess, financial mess, and a bunch of other messes just have you feeling messed up—a bit like the Sahara Desert.  If so, why don’t you try some of Jesus’ living water?  Don’t drink the water of religion because that’s just sand…so is just doing better…so is keeping rules and starting this and stopping that.  What Jesus offers is the real deal…like a cold drink of well water on a hot day.  Why not sit in the shadow of His grace and love and rest a while? After all, He’s got this.  Bro. Dewayne

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

One Thing I Know

And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to His purpose for them.” Romans 8:28

Momma always knew best.  I was blessed to have a good Momma and Daddy.  They were everyday people but in so many ways they were anything but every day.  Willing to take on the task of raising eight children, they gave up a lot for us.  Daddy worked hard as a jet engine mechanic and Momma mostly stayed home and took care of us.  Momma was always there when we needed her.  I remember one time I was sick with a stomach virus.  It was the middle of the night and Momma sat down in an old wooden rocker we had and then invited me up into her lap.  There she gently held me.  It didn’t do much to ease my unhappy stomach, but it sure made my heart feel better.

Momma had her own brand of medicine.  As best as I can remember, Momma was a big believer in “family herd immunity.”  In case you are not familiar with that, it is where a certain illness is almost intentionally shared with members of the family, especially siblings. I guess Momma thought it was best to get it all over with at one time.  And it seemed to work.  I remember one of my sisters came down with the measles.  Rather than isolate her from my sister and I, Momma just put us all together in the double bed in the spare bedroom and waited.  Sure enough, we all promptly got the measles and we also all got well about the same time.  I’m not sure modern medicine would approve, but that’s ok.  It worked for us, and Momma was always there to help us get better.

However, Momma didn’t always use herd immunity.  When I was about nine, there was a pretty serious flu outbreak in our north Florida city.  I really don’t remember too much about it.  I also don’t remember if I became a patient or not.  But there is one thing I do remember—I knew what we had in our family wasn’t good and I felt I needed to do something—so I did.  I found a piece of paper and a pencil, and I made a sign warning other people to stay away.  The sign said something like this, “Warning.  We have the FLEW.  Don’t come in.” Even if my spelling wasn’t the best, it still got the message out.

When I was in the second grade, Momma’s brand of herd immunity took on a different look.  My sister Kathy was not feeling well so Momma took her to the doctor, and I tagged along.  Dr. Smothers was our ears, nose, and throat doctor.  He checked my sister out and it was determined that she had tonsillitis.  That was something a lot of kids back then seemed to get. Well, Dr. Smothers suggested to Momma that perhaps it was time for my sister to get her tonsils out.  Again, back then that was the standard treatment.  So, Momma agreed and then said to Dr. Smothers, “Why don’t we take Dewayne’s out too?”  Hmmmm.  Herd immunity strikes again. So, the doctor says, “Well, Dewayne, what do you say?  Would you like to get your tonsils out too?”  Now I had no clue what in the world he was talking about.  But I think he said something about all the ice cream you wanted, and I was in.  A few days later I found myself in the hospital with my sister and the world’s worst sore throat.  I’m still not sure if that ice cream was worth it!

I’m sure there are many more stories about Momma’s medical skills and judgement, but they have slipped from my memories.  But let me tell you one thing that hasn’t slipped away, that is the concrete knowledge that my Momma loved me.  Whether it was the measles, the flu, or getting rid of some pesky tonsils, Momma always did what she thought was best for us.  Some people probably wouldn’t agree with her medical practices, but I know everything she did was for our good.  For my good.

And do you know what?  I think that is just another way my Momma was like God.  You see, God is constantly working in my life for my good and His glory.  I mean He is working out His purposes but at the center, at the core of it all is—my good.  The Bible verse that is so poplar is so true.  It goes like this, “all things work together for good, for those who love God, the ones who are called according to His purpose.”  Like I have said so many times that doesn’t mean that everything is good, but that God can bring good from all things.  I know Momma loved me a lot but even her love must pale to the love that God has for me—for us.

Now I am certain if you asked me in the middle of encounter with measles, that truth might have been a little clouded.  If you asked me after the surgery to remove my tonsils, well, I probably would have doubted it.  But in the long run, looking back—well, my Momma loved me and did her best to show that love.  So, today if you bump into a hot mess—today if things go south and it is hard…maybe real hard—just remember how much God loves you.  You can take it to the bank—it is a sure bet.  When life leaves you hurting worse than a bad stomachache, you just crawl up in His lap and let His strong arms ease the pain away.  Then, just nod off and take a nap.  You can safely do that because, “He’s got this.”  Bro. Dewayne