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

Not Bad, Just Hard

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

It was Monday…and my brother died. It wasn’t a total surprise as we knew his health was deteriorating. He and his wife had been living in an assisted living facility for several years.  As he grew older, as often happens, his body began to wear out and finally Monday morning it just quit working.  He not only was my brother, but he was my oldest brother. He was seventeen years older than me and in so many ways he was more than just a brother…he was like a second father. To a large degree he helped mold me into who I am today…especially spiritually.  My brother was a believer, a Jesus follower and if I may say so…a pretty good one at that.  In fact, I can’t remember him ever not being a Jesus follower. 

He was the one who always made sure I had a ride to church.  He was one of those three-time-a-week goers, so I suppose that is why it has been a habit in my life too.  Over the years, he shared a lot of good advice with me…advice that has guided me along my journey. When I became a pastor, he offered me some Godly wisdom and for my birthday gifted me with a couple of foundational books.  At one of the churches I pastored, he felt led to lend a hand financially…something he did for more than a few years. He was like a father but he also was like the State Farm commercial that says, “just like a good neighbor, State Farm is there.” He was always there.  Oh, we lived in different parts of the country…but that didn’t matter.  That’s how some relationships are.

My brother wasn’t just my oldest brother…he was my last brother.  When he left town on Monday for a bigger and better place, I looked around and realized I was the last brother standing.  And that was another of those, “mortality moments.”  He was just shy of 86 when he left here and went there—there being heaven.  Eighty-six is a pretty good number, especially for men and especially for Taylor men. At first there were five of us Taylor men and three had already changed addresses—thankfully all in heaven.  So, that left the bookends—my oldest brother at one end and me, the youngest at the other. He lived a long, good life…not the richest guy, not the most popular guy, and not the most powerful guy. In the end those don’t matter anyway.  What matters is he was a Jesus guy. He made a difference. He made an impact. He left a legacy.

So, what happened that Monday morning when the last heartbeat came? Often our first thought is something bad happened.  Well, I guess you could say God, through His Word, helped me have a different view.  As I looked at all of this, death, life, and all that it entails, it seemed God said, “Dewayne, this isn’t bad…it’s just hard.”  It immediately became lodged not in my throat but in my heart.  Not.Bad.Just.Hard.  Now don’t misread this, because there is plenty of bad in the world but with God painted into the picture, His grace and mercy can change bad to just hard.

You see, when my brother’s heart stopped the other day, he gave up a broken world for one that is perfect. He gave up a broken body for one that is perfect. He gave up sickness, tears, and sadness for a place where none of that exists. No assisted living, no hospitals, no funeral homes—just a home like none we can ever imagine—at home with his Dearest Daddy.  See, it’s hard for us, sometimes really hard for us, however for him…no…he’s doing better than ever before. You might say that he is more alive than ever before.

My brother loved our family reunions and guess what? There is one coming that will outshine them all.  Because of my pastoral responsibilities and distance, I didn’t make too many of the reunions but this one coming up…I’ll be there.  Oh, it isn’t because I’m a preacher, or go to church, or belong to one denomination or another.  No, just like my brother, I’ll be there because I am a Jesus guy and He is the way to the reunion of all reunions.  Jesus said, “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life and no one comes to the Father but by Me.”  Yes, it is a narrow road but the grand part is everyone is invited to participate.  All you have to do is say, “Yes” to Jesus.

So, my brother died…well…actually His body died but not him.  I’ll see him again and that’s not bad. The separation is hard but there is a party coming…one for the ages.  You need to know that God wants you there also, and He made it possible for that to happen.  Jesus, faith, grace, and mercy.  Indeed, He’s got this. Bro. Dewayne

Posted in Family, food, Grace, gratitude, life, love, loving others, missions, prayer, priorities, Scripture, sovereignty of God, thankful, travel, Trials, wisdom

Their Best

Do to others whatever you would like them to do to you. This is the essence of all that is taught in the law and the prophets.” Matthew 7:12

It was our second trip to West Africa.  We were back on the dry sandy desert fringes of Niger doing a food distribution.  It was such a barren land made worse by an ongoing drought.  The people would do just about anything for food.  While we had prepared to feed many of the people, truthfully, we couldn’t feed them all.  So, families with the greatest need were chosen.  We would go to their villages the day before the food distribution and meet with them and do some registration work before the distribution.

It is hard to describe the poverty there.  Simply put, most of the people had nothing.  They had little food and little water but something amazing happened everywhere we went.  We would gather with the leaders and the people in their village.  We would give them a word of greeting and then they would greet us.  All of this, of course, was done with the help of interpreters.  After a while, we would complete the necessary paperwork and finalize details for them to come to main village the next day.  And then, it would be time to say goodbye for the day.

This was a repeat of the greeting we had done when we arrived.  They would graciously thank us for coming and we would graciously thank them for allowing us to come.  Then it happened…every time.  These incredibly poor people would present us with gifts.  Often it was some sort of leather craft decorated according to their customs and their people group.  It was such a gracious act of kindness and we always left feeling incredibly blessed.  They who had so little gave to us who had so much.

It was the last appointment of the day.  We drove and drove—it was more than several kilometers.  When we arrived at the site, we realized it wasn’t a village it was just a meeting place.  The people we were to meet were truly nomads.  Someone had set up a large tent made from skins and rugs to offer some shade from the searing Saharan Desert sun.  When we arrived, there was one or two people there but soon many more arrived and the area under the tent was filled with five white guys and a bunch of men whose skin was tough like leather and tanned a deep brown.  Then we really saw it.

In the middle of the tent and now surrounded by people sat a medium sized metal bowl.  In the bowl was what can only be described as dirty, brown water.  As I looked at the bowl you could see something swimming.  It was the larva from some sort of insect native to Niger. I assumed that perhaps this was for us to wash our hands though I was quite certain my hands were cleaner than the water in the bowl.  I would soon find out that the water wasn’t for washing.

Soon the greeting started.  We thanked them for letting us come and they thanked us for coming.  Then someone in their group made the presentation.  It wasn’t a brightly colored trinket…it was the gift of water.  And the brown water in the bowl wasn’t for washing hands soiled by the West African dust.  No, it was a portion of their precious drinking water. That brown water with larva swimming it in was what they drank every day, and they were offering something very precious to them—something they could ill afford to give.

Ordinarily, we would try and eat or drink what they offered, but our missionary knew, and we knew, that one drink of this water would make us very seriously ill.  So, through the interpreter our missionary explained that while we deeply appreciated their kindness and generosity, we could not partake in the water for that reason.  They certainly understood so the water remained throughout our visit. At the end we reversed the greeting process and climbed aboard our four-wheel drive for the long drive back to where we were staying.

The ride was quieter than normal.  Each one of us was clearly aware of what had just happened.  We all were pierced to our hearts over this act of immense generosity and the immense blessings that God had graciously poured on our lives.  Mission trips tend to do this to anyone who travels to a third world country.  There is always some kind of guilt over having so much while those you serve have so little.  But understanding God’s grace and humbly serving others at least helps.  But it always changes you.  It always marks your life.

In my mind’s eye I can clearly see the bowl of water all these years later.  I can still see the people coming through the gate after walking kilometers to get their food.  I can still see them trying to manage the heavy bags of rice and millet.  But something was missing.  Not one person complained about the lack of a vehicle to carry their load.  Each was just grateful to be able to eat that night.  And, yes, we were changed again.  I would like to think that a little of their gratitude rubbed off on us and that it still remains.  I know we will never forget those eleven or twelve days in Niger.

You don’t have to go to Africa, or Haiti, or Nicaragua, or London, or China, or Bulgaria, or the Philippines or wherever to serve.  Each of us are missionaries on a mission field and each of us can serve others…just like Jesus did.  One day He was sitting on a hillside teaching the people and He said, “Do to others whatever you would like them to do to you. This is the essence of all that is taught in the law and the prophets.” It really is that simple. It won’t get you to heaven…God’s grace and faith in what Jesus did on the cross does that. But it is an opportunity to be like Him…to love like Him.  It’s a tall order but don’t worry, you know that He’s got this too.  Bro. Dewayne 

Posted in Family, fear, friends, Grace, gratitude, life, love, prayer, Scripture, sovereignty of God, thankful, travel, Trials

Journey with Faith & Gratitude

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

It was good…and suddenly it wasn’t. Yup…it was my birthday…not the last one but the one before that.  I was on my way to Cracker Barrel to have breakfast with three of my friends…and one of them was buying. It was snowing and the roads were ok but not great. As we neared the restaurant my Apple Watch vibrated and I glanced down and saw three words, “Help, Help, Help.”  Now that will get your attention.  The message was from my oldest granddaughter and moments later was followed by another short message, “I have been in an accident.”  Then for a few minutes things went silent.  While we knew she was on her way to work we had no idea where she was.

The message was sent through our family chat group so soon messages were flying but her end was silent.  We were frightened…we were afraid. A free breakfast suddenly had lost every bit of its appeal.  Only one thing mattered and that was a young lady somewhere who was in trouble.  Well, soon she let us know that she had called 911 and the police and an ambulance were on the way. Through a location service on her phone, we learned where she was, off, literally off, Interstate 57.  Her dad immediately was on the way and after a long, few minutes, was there with her.   Here’s what happened.

She was driving on the Interstate and apparently hit a patch of black ice.  Though going straight, the back of the car began to fishtail, and she went off the side of the road and down a steep embankment.  The journey was well over 100 feet and the car missed several small trees and ended up in a ditch at the bottom.  The airbags deployed and that gave her a mild concussion.  Her left leg was also banged up but amazingly she was ok.  When we later saw the pictures of the path of the car, it was clear that something Divine had happened.  Someone bigger than her was in control that day.

One of the most revealing things in the photo was a large and deep concrete culvert. The truth is if she had been no more than 50 feet further down the road, she would have dove, front end first into this deep culvert and the story would have had a different ending.  God, and I do believe it was Him, that day and in that circumstance administered a large dose of grace that averted a tragic ending.  His ways are mysterious and why her and why then is known only to Him.

Things like this happen all the time with all kinds of different outcomes but one thing remains constant.  For those of us who believe in Him and follow Him it is a moment in the classroom of faith.  It’s one of those constant lessons in life and a school that we never really graduate from.  The Bible says we are to walk by faith, and it also says that without faith it is impossible to please God.  That day God shouted, “Trust me.”  But there is more.  We also learned a little more about gratitude.  You see, I can say that it never occurred to me to ask God, “Why did you allow this?”  No, rather, the only thing that I could say was thank You, not for the accident but watching over her through the accident.  And, honestly, it was because of the accident I discovered again His watch care. Had she arrived at work safety that day, well, I probably wouldn’t have given it a second thought.

Faith and gratitude…two very important cobblestones that we need to learn to navigate this journey called life.  And as we journey, there will be times when it is easy to believe and easy to rejoice and there will be times when it seems impossible.  But remember, He really is a good, good Father and in this broken, fragile world He is still God.  Why He averts somethings while allowing others I don’t have a clue, but I know He is worthy of my trust.  One of my favorite parts of the Bible assures me that He can, He does, bring good even out of bad situations and for that I am grateful. I am still enrolled in the school of faith and one of our class mottos are three incredibly powerful words, “He’s got this.”  And…He does.  Bro. Dewayne

Posted in birthday, Family, friends, gratitude, life, loving others, Scripture, sovereignty of God, thankful, Trials

Our Longest Day

Let us not get tired of doing good, for we will reap at the proper time if we don’t give up.” Galatians 6:9

It was a long day.  I can’t tell you how many times I have said it.  My wife, Judy, often greets me at the end of the workday as I come home.  She will say, “How was your day today?”  And sometimes I will respond, “It was one long day.”  Then there are other times, often on a Friday or Saturday, when the day seems to stretch on forever.  I get so much done around the house and yard and at the end, I tell Judy, “What a great long day today.”  Often the circumstances of the day seem to dictate how the day will be remembered and perceived.

Perhaps you are familiar with the date, June 6th.  No?  What if I were to add the year 1944 to the equation?  Well, if you have studied your history, you probably made the connection with World War II and you might have even remembered that was the day of the Allied invasion of Normandy, France—the beginning of the end of that great conflict.  It was a massive undertaking, and the outcome was never a sure thing.  But at the end of the day, and with great cost, the Allies gained a foothold on the European continent.  Someone there that day called it, “the longest day.” And it was.

All of us have “longest days” and yes, I know that the last several years may have seemed like a secession of them.  Sometimes those “longest days” cause us to mourn, but sometimes they are a reason to celebrate. For my wife and me, January 24th was one of those.  You see, on that day, forty-two years ago this year, our first daughter was born, and it was a long and exciting day.

Late Thursday evening Judy started having some consistent labor pains and when they didn’t stop, we knew it was time to head to the hospital.  When we arrived, they decided to keep her, and the journey began in earnest.  Judy had decided to have Rebecca without much intervention from medicine, so it was a challenging process.  By the way, if it had been me, I would have had every drug available to modern man.  We all know if populating the world was left in the hands of men—it would be a very, small world.

At any rate, the hours began to pass.  As the clock ticked the seconds, minutes, and hours by, it soon became apparent that this was not going to be a sprint but rather a marathon. All day Friday, I (her faithful husband) stayed by her side, encouraging her each step of the way.  Well, okay, maybe there were a couple of exceptions.  A friend of mine brought me a huge burger and fries which I dutifully ate while Judy watched—no, make that glared.  What was I thinking?  Oh, that’s right…I wasn’t.

The hours continued to tick by and soon it was evening and while things were progressing, Rebecca was determined to delay her grand arrival. Finally, at about midnight, Dr. Dickerson, came in to check on Judy and announced it was about time. I had the television on and one of those ultra-low budget Japanese monster movies was on.  Before long, the doctor and I were enthralled with the movie. So, while Judy was groaning in labor, the doctor and I watched as Godzilla ate up the known world.

Finally, the movie was over, and Dr. Dickerson announced it was time to head to the delivery room.  Coincidence?  I was allowed to go in and not much later, Rebecca made her grand appearance.  The baby was crying, Judy was more than relieved and crying, and I was more than excited and crying.  As it turned out, Judy had endured 23 hours of labor before Rebecca was born.  Oh, and when she arrived, she weighed 8 lbs. 15.5 ounces. What a prize!

For years and every once-in-a-while—even today we still talk of our longest day.  Well, actually it was Judy’s longest day.  For me it was burgers, fries, and a cheesy monster movie. But for both of us it was a day we will never forget—the day God blessed us with our first daughter.  And before it was all said and done—He would bless us two more times with two more daughters and later with eight grandchildren.  That is incredible. And what’s more incredible?  The next day, the pastor asked me to speak on the radio and give my testimony for Baptist Men’s Day.  I’m sure that longest day was part of what I said that day and God used that to launch me—us— into the ministry of pastoring.

So, when you have your longest day, keep in mind a couple of thoughts.  First, every day is created by the Creator God.  His Word says tells us that this day, every day, is a gift that He created just for us.  How about that? And if we will allow God to direct our steps in that day, we will not only endure—we can thrive.  I know it seems sometimes that the finish line—the prize, is always just out of reach—but it will come if we keep on.

Paul was one of the writers in the New Testament and he knew a whole lot about long days.  He may not have known about the labor pains that produce babies, but he did know a lot about the kind of “labor pains” life can sometimes send our way. He said, “Let us not get tired of doing good, for we will reap at the proper time if we don’t give up.” The bottom-line is don’t give up—don’t quit.  And by the way, even if you are not a Jesus follower, that is still good advice.  The farmer gets the harvest if he keeps working the field.  The good news is that God is just waiting to help you through every day, including your longest day.  He is right there and mark it down, “He’s got this.”  Bro. Dewayne

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

Treasure or Trash

You must not covet your neighbor’s house. You must not covet your neighbor’s wife, male or female servant, ox or donkey, or anything else that belongs to your neighbor.” Exodus 20:17

I hardly could believe my eyes.  It was a bright, warm morning and I was on my way to school.  This particular day I decided to walk and since it wasn’t that far it wasn’t a big deal.  Our house had been enveloped by one of those newfangled suburban sub-divisions consisting of dozens and dozens of near alike houses.  The shortest way to school was to cut between two of those houses so…I did.

On the other side of my cut-through was a cul-de-sac—a street that ended in a circle—one way in and one way out.  As I emerged from my path and stepped onto the pavement—I saw it.  There, clearly in someone’s trash, was a blue ten-speed bicycle. It was about twenty yards from where I was and from there—it looked brand new.  My bike wasn’t that old but it only had three speeds and what was that compared to ten? I decided to do a “fly by” before I left the scene so I turned left and strutted over.  I didn’t touch it, I didn’t pick it up, I just took a quick look and determined one thing right then. If by some miracle this treasure was still there on my way home from school it was going home with me.

All the way to school I could think of nothing but that blue bike and the more I thought about it—the bigger and better it got.  My day dreams only continued to grow as I spent my day at school. I was dreaming about how great it would be to have a new ten-speed bike. I just couldn’t wait to clean it up, check the tires, and take off.  Well, as soon as school was over, I started trekking home and toward that blue bike. So, soon I was back in the neighborhood, back on that street and heading toward the cul-de-sac. As I neared the place where the bike was,  I looked, and it was gone.  No, just kidding, it was still there.

I immediately went over, picked up the bike and started toward home.  As I walked, I began to look and it was about then that reality set in.  You see, the fact was that the bike was not nearly new.  There were parts missing and parts broken.  The tires were flat, cables that were supposed to shift those ten speeds were either missing or a mess.  The bottom line was this.  It became quickly apparent that there was a reason why the blue bike was in the trash.  The reason?  It was trash.

You might be wondering how I was able to see one thing when the reality was totally different. You might be wondering how I could see treasure when in fact it was trash.  Well, the answer is really quite simple.  We all see what we want to see.  When I saw the blue ten-speed bike, my discontentment with what I had quickly grew.  What I had seemed to be so much less than what I saw—or thought I saw.  Only when I got what I thought I wanted did I realize it was so much less. So.Much.Less.

This is a big truth. Often what we don’t have, what we can’t have, what we shouldn’t have just naturally looks bigger and better than what we have. Sadly, we don’t realize it till we have thrown away the better for the bad.  It is true in careers, it is true in friendships, it is true in marriages and it is true in a hundred other situations. Stop and think how much regret and remorse we have to own because we chased something that we thought was better than what was in our hands.

Our world can easily become one of mirages and not reality so be careful what you chase.  Remember the grass is not always greener on the other side of the fence. It probably just appears that way because that is what we want to see—and believe. One of God’s big ten makes it clear—we shouldn’t covet.  Put another way—we should be satisfied with what we have. So, if you are walking down the road and see a blue bike in the trash, you might want to think it though carefully before you take it home. A second look, a pause, might save you a ton of regret. Need a second opinion, I know just where to go…my Dearest Daddy. He will know just what to do…He’s got this.  Bro. Dewayne

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

Me and Fred

For you were called to this, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in His steps.” 2 Peter 2:21

The same kind of different as me. It was 1965…I was about eleven and he was probably 18.  I’m not sure how we bumped into one another.  As I remember it, I was out in the field that was part of property and he rolled up in his golf cart.  Well, hey, that was an ice breaker if there ever was one. He gave me a big smile, a friendly wave and said, “Hi.”  I could tell from that first hello that Fred had a speech issue and later it became apparent that he was one of God’s special creations…someone the world would call broken but God would call absolutely perfect.

Despite the age difference and his perfection and my lack of it, we seemed to hit it off. Almost immediately we were off on the first of many rides in his golf cart.  He loved it and I loved it and even though it wasn’t meant for off the road…that is exactly where we went. I assume his family bought him the golf cart to help him get around the neighborhood. I believe he lived in a subdivision, a gathering of the nicest homes in the neighborhood, at the end of the road I lived on. I don’t know if he was living there or visiting there but for the time I knew him…we were buds.

There are a lot of things that I have forgotten about that summer and early fall but there is one thing I remember—Fred loved baseball.  I’m pretty sure the team didn’t matter as long as it was baseball. He would carry around a portable transistor (that’s a throwback for my older readers) and we would listen to the games together.  It was September and time for the World Series, and we would sit in his golf cart like it was a front row seat right there in the stadium. Even now that memory makes me smile. In our simple world…all was well.

I think I began to learn something that summer and that lesson was about us—all of us.  In the world today we seem to search for things that cause us to focus on what divides us…what makes us different instead of what can draw us together.  I know it made no sense for Fred and I to be friends but his ultra-cool golf cart and his kind and outgoing personality overcame whatever differences there were.  He was the same kind of different as me.  That sentence is the title of a book and movie about two men who came from totally, and I mean totally, different backgrounds and yet managed to forge a friendship that would last for the rest of their lives.

You see, the truth is we can overcome our differences.  Our decision to allow skin color, language, social and economic differences, religion, or politics to divide us is a choice not a destiny.  This is especially true for Jesus’ people.  As followers we are choosing to align ourselves with Him and love others…regardless.  Really.  It is true.  It is in the Book…all over the Book and when decide to let the Book, and the Jesus of the Book, call the shots…well it is a game changer.

I’m thankful for that summer of 1965. If you know anything about that decade you know it was more than turbulent.  People were wondering if we as a nation would survive.  Well, by the grace of God, we did.  And guess what?  We can survive this mess today but if we do it will also be by the grace of God and Jesus people who decide to act like Jesus. Peter, the guy in the Bible who fell flat on his face and denied Jesus said, “For you were called to this, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in His steps.”  In other words, we are called to be like Him.  No matter how difficult that might sound to you, don’t forget that today and always—He’s got this.  Bro. Dewayne

Posted in Family, fear, friends, Grace, gratitude, heaven, life, loving others, prayer, Scripture, sovereignty of God, thankful, travel

Ready…..or Not

Preach the word; be ready in season and out of season.”

2 Timothy 4:2

Do you think they would mind,” she asked?  It was over a year ago but even now I savor the moment. It was very early in the morning on our last day at Key Colony.  I awoke from a good night’s sleep (I mean we were on vacation), made a cup of coffee, and headed down to the beach.  Sunrise was a good hour away, but the water and the air were both calm.  The only sound was the gentle lap of the waves against the sandy shore.  This is my time of the day.  God is in the labor room delivering another day for us to enjoy…and I love it.

After a while, the sky slowly turned gray, and you could see the beginning of the sunrise.  It was going to be a good one.  About that time, my wife Judy wandered out and sat down with me.  Just when you think something couldn’t get better…it does.  Judy seems to make anything better.  We chatted and sipped coffee enjoying the creation process.  After another few minutes, the sun peeked over the horizon and another day was born.  Good job, Father, and thank you.  Now that it was daylight, you could see that the water was not only calm…it was crystal clear.  It was then that Karen walked up.

We had talked with Karen and her boyfriend the night before.  We talked about life, faith, and God.  It was an opportunity for me to share some about how much God loved us.  Gary had a large tattoo on his left arm that said, “Faith.”  That gave an opportunity to talk about not only faith, but where that faith should be directed.  I shared it wasn’t enough just to have faith…you had to direct that faith in the right direction…right toward God.

When Karen walked up that morning, I noticed that she was carrying two small containers. I could tell that something was on her mind and that is when she asked the question.  She asked, “Do you think they would mind if I poured my son’s and husband’s ashes in the water?” I quickly assured her that I was sure they would not.  It turned out that her son had tragically died of an opioid overdose at the age of 22.  I didn’t get the details of her husband’s death but since she was in her early fifties, I assumed he too died young.  Then, it was my turn to ask a question.  I asked, “Would you like me to say a prayer?”  And, without hesitation, she answered yes.

Judy asked if Karen would like to have a picture taken and she agreed to that too. All three of us walked down into the water and slowly Karen opened the containers and poured the ashes into the water.  As they touched the water, it turned to a color very similar to wet cement but then just as quickly the color disappeared.  She said a few words, speaking to the souls she could no longer hold.  And then, I asked God for His peace to be on Karen.  I thanked Him for His love…even in hard times like this.  With an amen we were done. Almost.

Judy and I both gave Karen a hug…that was the only way we knew we could tell her we cared, and that God cared too.  As we left the water, Karen headed to Dunkin’ Donuts for a cup of coffee and Judy and I returned to our chairs by the beach.  We knew that we had kept a divine appointment.  I wish I could write and share how Karen and Gary both placed their faith in Jesus but that wasn’t the case…at least not that day.  But I do know we scattered seed in their lives.  I know we left fingerprints on their lives and heart and who knows what God will do with that.

When I woke up that morning, I didn’t know I was going to preside over a funeral standing in the Florida Straits.  Judy didn’t know she was going to act as a memory maker for Karen…but our Dearest Daddy did.  He knew…just as He always does.  We just need to be ready whenever He opens a door or a window and then simply walk where He leads.

Paul, the one who wrote a chunk of the New Testament, told a young preacher named Timothy one day, “Preach the word; be ready in season and out of season.”  When he said to preach…trust me, it was more than standing on a stage on any given Sunday…and it wasn’t just for preachers and teachers.  It was for all of us Jesus followers and it is for all places…planned…or not.  I learned a long time ago that the best sermons are often not preached on Sunday…rather, they are lived out over the course of the other six days. So, let’s be ready to be used.  It may be at the store, on the job or at the ballfields.  Just remember this.  When the time comes, He will be there to help and you can rest assured, “He’s got this.” Bro. Dewayne

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

Biscuits, God, and You

Then Martha said to Jesus, “Lord, if You had been here, my brother wouldn’t have died. Yet even now I know that whatever You ask from God, God will give You.”  “Your brother will rise again,” Jesus told her.” John 11:21-23

Biscuits…hot, with butter and syrup.  There are certain foods that almost act like a time machine and one of them is a good, southern biscuit.  My Momma was a good cook, but her biscuits were like their own food group.  She would clear off the counter, get out the lard, flour and milk (and I guess a couple of other things), mixed them together in a bowl, plop out the mixture on the counter and roll it out with her ancient rolling pin.

If I remember right, she would grab a ball of the dough, flatten and shape it in her hand and then put it on the pan. Then, for whatever reason, she would take a finger or her thumb and put a little dimple in the top.  After a few minutes in the oven, out they came, heaven in a pan.  While still hot, we would add butter and just like that—a timeless, priceless southern delicacy. Need dessert? No problem, just add butter and syrup and you have southern dining at its best.

When we recently traveled south, we visited with two of my three sisters and both of them made…biscuits.  I’m not sure if it was Momma’s recipe or not but what I can tell you is that they were delicious. While both served real butter, not that fake stuff, one served them with orange marmalade. My, my they were good.  But wait…there is more.  We also visited with Judy’s brother and his wife Sandra also made biscuits.  I am sure somewhere down the line we must be related because the biscuit DNA was a perfect match. Awesome…pure awesome.

My oldest biscuit making sister recently sent me an article about prayer that just happened to mention biscuits and I knew I needed to share it here with all my grits and biscuit loving friends. 

The story goes like this. One Sunday morning at a small southern church, the new pastor called on one of his older deacons to lead in the opening prayer. The deacon stood up, bowed his head and said, ”Lord, I hate buttermilk.”


The pastor opened one eye and wondered where this was going. The deacon continued, “Lord, I hate lard.” Now the pastor was totally perplexed. The deacon continued, “Lord, I ain’t too crazy about plain flour. But after you mix ’em all together and bake ’em in a hot oven, I just love biscuits.”


“Lord, help us to realize when life gets hard, when things come up that we don’t like, whenever we don’t understand what You are doing, that we need to wait and see what You are making. After You get through mixing and baking, it’ll probably be something even better than biscuits. Amen.”

I just love that story and isn’t it so true? If we took the ingredients for biscuits, or most any other thing and tasted them individually, we probably wouldn’t eat much. But when mixed together…well good things happen.  We have a loving Heavenly Father, our Dearest Daddy, who can and will masterfully mix circumstances and events in our life.  Sometimes, perhaps often, by themselves they make no sense and leave us wondering what God is up to.  But, if we are willing to wait, if we are willing to trust, we will usually find that God had a surprise for us…better even than hot biscuits.  Now, I need to be fair and say that some of those surprises might be on the other side of the last heartbeat but regardless…He can be trusted.

So, the next time, you are enjoying a good homemade hot biscuit smothered in melted butter and perhaps a big baptism of syrup, remember that biscuit only happened when the biscuit maker put everything together.  And, when the circumstances of life don’t make sense, well, just hang on.  When the heavenly “Biscuit Maker” gets done, well, it will be worth it all, worth the wait.  Don’t you worry…He’s got this. Bro. Dewayne

Posted in Family, food, friends, Grace, gratitude, life, prayer, Scripture, sovereignty of God, thankful

Prayer and Animal Crackers

When you pray, don’t babble like the Gentiles, since they imagine they’ll be heard for their many words. Don’t be like them, because your Father knows the things you need before you ask Him.” Matthew 6:7-8

Prayers can be like a box of animal crackers. I suppose you remember way back when we could go to the store and buy a box of animal crackers.  They might still make them today but even if they do…they probably aren’t the same.  Back then, the colors on the outside of the box were so rich and vivid and of course there was a small piece of fabric that served as a handle.  You opened the box and I remember two things specifically.  First, the little cookies actually looked like animals and second, they were genuinely good. Of course, the box was full and consisted of more than a few different animals.

Well, if you think about it, that box of animal crackers is like some of the prayers I have heard in church.  When I was a kid I never figured out how you got to be selected to pray in church. I figured surely there was some sort of selection committee, but if there was they sure had a variety of tastes.  The prayers were as varied as the animals in the box of crackers.  Sometimes they were long…too long.  Those were the people that forgot the part in the Bible where Jesus said He didn’t care how many words were said in a prayer.  I remember a man that if he got the call to pray, you might as well kiss lunch goodbye.

I can remember another guy who I am sure sounded just like God.  His voice was deep and his cadence would be slow. So, I grew up believing that God when He talked, had this really deep voice with each word carefully spaced and pronounced in each sentence.  I’m not sure how effective he was as far as God hearing his prayer but it was impressive…at least to me.  Oh, and of course, some people I am certain made the cut because of the number of big words they knew. I can remember listening to their prayers and wondering what in the world they were saying.  I guess in the long run it didn’t matter because they weren’t talking to me anyway.

Yup, when I was growing up prayers were just like animal crackers and I guess in some ways they still are today. Usually, though, they are a little more generic.  There are certain words like “Heavenly Father” and “lead, guide and direct,” oh and “for our good and Your glory” that find their way into a lot of prayers. I know I’ve got my words too.  Today at church one of our students prayed and well, I liked it a lot.  It was simple, it was to the point and I believe it was from his heart.  Now that is a good prayer.

When I was a kid we had this prayer that we prayed at dinner.  It, too, was simple and to the point.  You’ve probably prayed it before yourself.  It went something like this, “God is great, God is good, let us thank Him for our food.”  Now some variations went on to say, “By His hands, we are fed. Give us Lord our daily bread.”  Whether it was the longer or the shorter…it was a good prayer.  God is indeed great.  We should not only acknowledge that, but we should believe and live that.  Oh, and indeed God is good. I always like it when I am reminded that not only does God do good…He is good…and every good thing comes down from Him.

And we mustn’t forget the last of the triplet—let us thank Him for our food.  Did you know that He not only gives us food to eat, He gives us everything else too?  The Bible tells us in Psalm 24:1 that everything belongs to the Lord…the stars, the earth and everything else on the earth. And it also reminds us that since He owns it all we should be grateful that He has decided to share with us.  So it only makes sense that we should remember to thank Him for our food and everything else.  I mean even the air that we breathe was made by Him and we should thank Him for that too.

So, the next time you are in church, you might remember this short story about animal crackers and prayer.  I hope you will remember that each prayer is different and that is more than ok. I hope you will remember that it isn’t how long or short, how big the words are or what the person’s voice sounds like that matters.  What matters is that our heart is focused on Him and whether we are praying or listening to be sure and give our all to Him for those sacred moments. After all, He is great God and He is good and always…He’s got this! Bro. Dewayne

Posted in birthday, Family, fear, friends, gratitude, heaven, life, Scripture, sovereignty of God, thankful, Trials

Happily Ever After

You saw me before I was born. Every day of my life was recorded in Your book. Every moment was laid out before a single day had passed.” Psalm139:16

Cinderella and happily ever after.  Most of us grew up knowing at least something of fairy tales.  When I was younger it was largely by reading books.  In those days, Mr. Disney was just getting started and there were few animated films but slowly things changed.  Over the years, what was once only printed on the pages of a book became alive on the screen before our eyes…and it was amazing.  For years there were the classics, Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty, Pinocchio, and Peter Pan to name just a few.  And the list has grown and grown.  When we watch them, we often want to be them. As the story plays out and ends with the dramatic “happily ever after” we sigh and long…if only.

Each fairy tale, every animated story begins with a “once upon a time…” It sets the stage for the story and then slowly, and almost invariably, the plot develops and oh so often there are plenty of bumps and bruises along the way.  There is usually a bad guy or guyette and they slosh their mess all over the screen, hurting and wounding.  And then, right when it seems that they are going to win…things turn around.  Good overcomes evil, the weak become strong and the impossible becomes…possible. Just about then the “happily ever after” music begins and we smile at the end, we savor the redemption, and we leave feeling good but knowing that story could never be our story.  Or can it?

You see, all our lives begin with a “once upon time…” All of us have a beginning.  In fact, today just happens to be my birthday and on this day, I think about my, “once upon a time.”  On that day a grand story began to be written.  A little boy with dreams about a big future. A teenager trying to figure out what life was all about.  A husband and later a father trying to figure that out—still trying to figure that out.  Twelve years in the service of his country and forty years in the service of his King. Mountains and valleys, wins and losses, victories, and defeats—fighting monsters and dragons and loving his fair maiden and their princesses. Whew…what a journey.

And honestly, there were times when I would ponder how all this would play out.  Having watched a whole lot of “redemption” movies where the end is always exactly how we would want it, I wondered, “What about this story?”  Perhaps you have done the same.  Perhaps you have wondered how your story will end.  Perhaps you have longed for a different story…a different prince or princess, a different role, something, anything different.  Well, I have some good news for you.  The Playwright for your story never makes a mistake and never gets it wrong.  He has been writing stories since before the beginning of time.  In fact, the Bible says that He wrote every scene of your life before there was a “once upon a time.”  In Psalm 139:16 it says, “You saw me before I was born. Every day of my life was recorded in Your book. Every moment was laid out before a single day had passed.” Wow…how about that?

But wait…it might just get better.  So, every story, including yours, can be like every fairy tale.  A beginning, a story filled with up and downs, bumps and bruises, toads, and princes.  But here’s the best part—every story can have a “happily ever after.”  No, really.  You see the same book and the same God who promises that every day, every scene in your story has been written and planned promises a “happily ever after.”  Oh, it is not always here, though sometimes it is.  It is in eternity.  When we are willing to put our faith and trust in the Prince of Peace and the King of Kings we have the promise of an eternity that is beyond our wildest dreams.  Believe what He did and choose to follow Him and heaven is the end of the story.

It is nice when the story, our story, plays out like we want and wish. It would be nice if every detail was just as we would have written it. Perhaps, but maybe not, because the One who writes the story, our story, is far wiser than us.  We probably won’t be able to understand or see that entirely till the end but, well, that is what faith is all about.  So, trust Him for the grand finale. It is going to be a wiz-bang finish.  And until then…enjoy the show…savoring the good scenes and trusting in the hard ones.  He’s got this.  Bro. Dewayne