Posted in fear, forgiveness, Grace, gratitude, love, loving others, prayer, Scripture, sovereignty of God, thankful, Trials, wisdom

Dance With the One Who Brought You

But one of them, seeing that he was healed, returned and, with a loud voice, gave glory to God. He fell facedown at His feet, thanking Him. And he was a Samaritan.” Luke 17:15-16

Circumstances can make for strange bed fellows. There was a group of guys who hung together–ten of them in fact. Truth be known in another world they would have never been friends. Nine of the guys were Jewish and one was a Samaritan. They lived on opposite sides of the tracks. The Jewish guys would have been raised to believe that the Samaritans were “less than” and the Samaritan would have been raised to believe that all Jews were “better than you” temple goers. Like oil and gas, they wouldn’t have mixed. Leprosy changed all that.

We are not told how, who knows, but they contracted leprosy or the walking death. Their lives were reduced to isolation and suspicion. If you went to Walmart during COVID without a mask, you might know some of how they felt. They were forced to live away, far away, and proclaim their uncleanness to anyone they met. The fact that nine were Jews and one was a Samaritan just didn’t matter anymore.

Well, one day something happened. Luke 17:11-17 tells us Jesus was walking along and He heard this group hollering. They were saying, “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us.” We aren’t told of how they knew of Jesus or why they believed He could change their lives. All we do know is that they somehow believed and hollered. And Jesus answered.

Over the distance He hollers back, “Go show yourselves to the priest.” There was not a pronouncement of healing. There was only a command to trust. They found themselves at the crossroads of reality and faith. They looked at their diseased bodies and weighed it against faith. A step toward the priest meant they believed. To stand where they were meant “nope.” Well, “hope” beat out “nope” and off they went.

As they took the first step–and the one after that–amazingly they were healed. You could hear the whooping and hollering across the wilderness. Man, were they happy. They were free and they were outta there. Fading in the dust was the Master who had set them free. But wait. One of them is coming back. It is the Samaritan–the unlikely one. He falls down at the feet of the Freedom Giver and gives Him thanks and praise. The unlikely one, and the only one, who gets it right.

Jesus wonders, “Weren’t there ten of these guys?” Weren’t nine of them good Jewish boys?” He was impressed that this “foreigner” came back to say thanks and I think he gets a second helping. Jesus says “Go your way, your faith has healed you.” I think the Samaritan dude got healed of leprosy and a relationship with the healer. He got more–way more.

There are two things we need to pack away from this story. First, the Jesus who was your BFF (that’s best friend forever) during the messes of life wants to be your BFF every day. The One who takes care of your fears and anxieties during the storm wants to take care of them after the storm. He wants to be your Savior, your Redeemer, your Rescuer, not for a while but forever.

Linked to that is this idea of gratitude. When the nine were set free they left Jesus in the dust, “adios,” see you later. They were thankful for the moment but not the minutes following. The Samaritan, however, came back. He was determined not to forget what Jesus had done for him. The right thing, the wise thing, but probably not the popular thing.

The question is, what are you going to do when “this” (whatever that happens to be for you) is all over? Are you gonna run as fast as you can to a life crammed with stuff or are you going remember the One who stood by your side and spoke to your heart? Someone once said if Satan can’t get you to sin…he will keep you too busy. He knows that is just about as good.  You, I need to remember to “dance with the One who brought you.” Over the din of busyness, remember to not forget the One who whispered, “Rest in Me” and “I’ve got this.” Bro. Dewayne

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

Sunrise and Sunset

It will soon be time for me to leave this life. I have fought a good fight. I have finished the work I was to do. I have kept the faith.” 2 Timothy 4:6-7

It was a warm North Florida Sunday morning that would change everything.  I was raised in Jacksonville, Florida and was fortunate to live in one place and one house all of my growing up years.  Our house was a converted World War II army barracks with a couple of rooms added on.  I’m not sure who moved it there, or who added what, but it was home…my home. I lived there till I graduated from high school and joined the Air Force. My Daddy had some heart issues while I was still in high school and unfortunately, they went from bad to worse.  This was before all the miraculous medicines and surgeries that we have now. So, times were hard for him…and us.

In the summer of 1974, somehow it came about that we, the family, would get together and paint the house.  It was a wooden structure, and time and weather had taken a toll on the outside.  The old wood siding looked pretty rough, and as I remember it, Daddy said he wanted to have the house painted before he died.  Now that is my memory, and it may not be entirely accurate but something like that is how we ended up painting the house in mid-July.  Several, if not all, the brothers were on hand as we scraped and painted the house.  I don’t know if my sisters were painters or not, but I wouldn’t be surprised if they were.

As darkness crept up on us on Saturday, July 13th, the house was just about painted.  We worked until nearly dark and finally, it was done.  It looked amazingly better and Daddy and the rest of us were proud of our hard work.  Daddy did little, if any, of the painting because of his health.  But there was something he did do.  Several of the wooden windows needed the panes reglazed, so he was working on those.  We had a wash-room built onto the house and he was working on that window when darkness fell Saturday evening.

The next morning, Sunday, July 14th, Momma when in to check on Daddy in the bedroom they shared. That was when she found that sometime early in the morning, he slipped from us. I clearly remember the chaos of those moments as we called the ambulance and tried to perform CPR, but it was too late.  Daddy was gone. All of a sudden, those last days of working and painting together became so important, so special.  We had pulled together and given Daddy one of his desires.  It is almost like he was waiting for the job to be done so he could go home.

Later that day, as we were trying to figure everything out, someone found that window he had been working on the night before.  It was laying on two sawhorses with a rag and his tools still in place.  As it turned out, it was the last work he did on this earth.  Someone snapped a picture but as far as I know it has been lost to time, but in my mind I can see it as clearly as if I was standing there.  Daddy’s work on this earth was over and yet he lives on.  He lives on in heaven and he lives on in our hearts.  The freshly painted old World War II barracks was a reminder of our love and respect for the man we called Daddy.

All of that was 47 years ago today.  It is hard to imagine that so much time has passed since he passed from this world into a better world…a world where bad hearts have no place and where time doesn’t matter.  One day, because of God’s good grace, I will see my Daddy again.  My Momma joined him in heaven just four short years later…both were just 62 years old.  But when I get there, when we get there, all that won’t matter because God is going to make it all right…all new.

I supposed the whole purpose of this Grits is just to allow me to relive a good memory of a good man.  I suppose it is just to help me make sure that his memory lives on here, as he lives on there.  And I suppose the big truth for this Grits is that we should live each day to the fullest and do whatever it is we should do.  It might be painting a house, or glazing a window, or it just might be showing someone that you love them.  We don’t know what day will be our last day, so we should live each one to the fullest. Then, we can say something like Paul said when he wrote, “It will soon be time for me to leave this life. I have fought a good fight. I have finished the work I was to do. I have kept the faith.” And my friend, that is a legacy worth leaving.

Losing my daddy at twenty years old was hard, very hard. Then mama was gone, just four short years later, which left me feeling they were both gone too soon.  For some of you, that hardness is yet to come.  But from the voice of experience, let me say, you don’t have to walk it alone.  When you are drowning in the sea of sorrow and confusion, He will not leave you to bear it alone. He wants to walk with you, carry you, and whisper as only He can, “I’ve got this.” And He does. Bro. Dewayne

Posted in gratitude, Integrity, life, loving others, priorities, Scripture, sovereignty of God, thankful, Trials, wisdom

“Puff Graham”

If you are faithful in little things, you will be faithful in large ones. But if you are dishonest in little things, you won’t be honest with greater responsibilities.” Luke 16:10

“Puff Graham”.  Those two words changed our world.  Many of us have heard of and admired Billy Graham.  He was a country boy who later became one of the world’s most renowned preachers.  His passion and love for God and people drew millions of people to hear what he had to say.  His message was simple—God loves you and he made it clear that if a person was willing to ask, God would forgive them and give them a home with Him in heaven.

Many books and plenty of documentaries have been written and made about Dr. Graham but one fact that amazes me is little known.  It was 1949 and he was out in Los Angeles conducting a series of revival meetings.  The crowds were good and the results incredible and the meetings when on for several weeks. Slowly, though, the meetings seemed to be losing momentum and I’m sure it crossed Billy Graham’s mind if it was time to move on.  About that time something happened.

One evening, as he approached the tent where the meeting was being held, he was amazed to find the largest crowd ever.  He wondered what had happened.  Well, what had happened was a two-word directive from publisher William Randolph Hearst.  The directive simply said, “Puff Graham.”  The directive ordered all of Hearst’s vast media holdings to start promoting the young evangelist. Almost overnight, Billy Graham attained “celebrity” status.

I suppose it would have been tempting for Dr. Graham to use that to promote himself but no…he used it only to promote the One he loved.  It is interesting that according to Dr. Graham, he really had no relationship with Hearst.  There was no real reason for this to happen except for one…the providence and sovereignty of God.  I believe God honored Billy Graham for his character and integrity.  He knew He could trust the young evangelist with success.  You see, the truth of the matter is riches are harder to handle than poverty and success is harder to handle than failure.

If we want God to bless us more then we need to be ready and able to handle those blessings.  The One who made us knows if we are ready to be “puffed” or not.  Jesus said, “If you are faithful in little things, you will be faithful in large ones. But if you are dishonest in little things, you won’t be honest with greater responsibilities.”  The story is told of a young man applying for a job.  After the interview, he and the man doing the interview went to the cafe for lunch.  The young man was first in line and the other man watched as he got a pat of butter and slipped it under his napkin so he wouldn’t be charged for it.  Well, he wasn’t charged, nor did he get the job. “Puff Graham.” Two words that tell a big, big story.  Let’s be sure and be the kind of people that God can do whatever He wants in our lives.  Let’s live worthy of being “puffed” however that looks and whatever that means.  But let’s also be the kind of people who are willing to promote others.  Let’s look for opportunities to lift someone…even if it means not promoting ourselves.  One thing is certain.  We can trust God to do what is best for us and what is best for His Kingdom.  We can rest assured that, “He’s got this.” Bro. Dewayne

Posted in Family, gratitude, Holidays, July 4, life, love, loving others, Military memories, prayer, Scripture, Southern born, sovereignty of God, thankful, Trials, USA, wisdom

Freedom

Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord, the people He has chosen as His own inheritance.” Psalm 33:12

It was just over a year ago.  Amid the COVID craziness, Judy and I made a discovery. It was a Thursday night and we had gone to one of our favorite eating places in Marion…a town not far from where we live. We did our Sam’s Club thing and then decided to call it a night. So, we headed for 217 back in Harrisburg.  As we were driving down the highway, on a whim, we made a right turn at a familiar intersection.  We had driven by it so many times but this time we turned.

The sign said it went to Creal Springs, but I found out it went somewhere else—to something else.  We were cruising along just enjoying the ride when I thought I saw one of those “brown signs.”  These signs usually indicate a place of special interest.  As I went by, I thought I saw the words cemetery and Revolutionary War. I went down the road just aways and  told Judy I saw a sign for a cemetery…perhaps an old one.  I turned around.

Back down the road, there was indeed a sign. We pulled off the road and it said, “Ellis Family Cemetery and Revolutionary War gravesite.  I really couldn’t believe that it was true.  I mean, out East you would find those kind of gravesites everywhere, but here in Southern Illinois?  We decided we had to investigate.  It turned out there was no road just a driveway.  Well, after trying to decide if we were going to get shot for trespassing, we decided to give it a try.  As it turned out, the driveway went between two houses which led to a pasture.  Way at the back of the pasture we could see a small cemetery.  There wasn’t a road, but I could see where a car had gone before, so off we went.

When we got there, we found the gravesite of John Ellis.  He was born in 1754 and died in 1850.  He lived for 96 years, which is incredible, but even more amazing…he fought in the American Revolutionary War.  He had two monuments.  One was much newer, one much older.  The older one simply said, “For Military Merit” and someone had painted his name on it.  I was overwhelmed.  Here in Southern Illinois was the grave of a man, a hero, who fought for the birth of our country.

This man was there, on the battlefield, when a group of men and women declared our freedom from England.  This.man.was.there.  He put it all on the line for a cause greater than himself.  And for the last 245 years that is what freedom loving American heroes have done.  Through conflicts great and small they have served, they have bled, and many have died.  I value the saying, “All gave some, some gave all.” I value the sacrifice of all of these freedom fighters through the centuries and decades.  I also love what they fought for.

I know these are difficult times for our nation, but we have seen difficult times before. At his first inauguration on March 4, 1933, Franklin Roosevelt said this. “This is preeminently the time to speak the truth, the whole truth, frankly and boldly. Nor need we shrink from honestly facing conditions in our country today. This great Nation will endure as it has endured, will revive, and will prosper. So, first of all, let me assert my firm belief that the only thing we have to fear is fear itself—nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance.” Don’t rush past those words.  They are powerful and they are worth believing.

I believe in this country.  I believe that even with all its warts and imperfections it is still the best country in the world.  Having visited well over twenty other countries, I’ve seen the competition and America wins hands down.  I spent an Independence Day in basic training for the Air Force in 1972. Lights-out was about 8:00 pm and I was lying in my bunk when the fireworks starting going off.  I crept out of bed and went to the window and watched as the fireworks exploded in the Texas sky.  Two emotions came over me.  One, I missed family.  Somewhere in Florida they were celebrating freedom. The other though was more personal.  I was becoming an American airman serving my country.  I was one of her defenders and I was proud…proud to serve and proud to be an American.

So, please, don’t blow past Independence Day this Sunday and certainly don’t give up on America.  We have weathered many storms and we can weather these stormy days…if we do what we have done in the past and that is trust God.  It is no accident that we have fought and won, it is no accident that we have survived and even thrived for the past 245 years.  It was more than sacrifice, more than guts, more than determination…it was and is the grace of God.

The Book says, “Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord, the people He has chosen as His own inheritance.”  That is so true.  As a nation when we choose God, when we choose to make Him ours, we do better.  When we don’t, we don’t.  It is just that simple.  The second part of that verse is equally important. God is still inviting, calling people to be His.  Skin color doesn’t matter, economic status doesn’t matter, creed doesn’t matter.  He simply invites every man, woman, and child to be His.  The invitation is open, and the decision is personal…individual.

So, God bless America.  If you are a God follower, a God believer, why not start this Independence Day with a whispered prayer of thanks for this great country.  And then, pause, be still and listen for surely the Whisperer will whisper.  He may speak through His Word, He may speak through another person, or a beautiful sunrise or sunset.  Regardless, He will whisper, “You can rest in Me.  I’ve got this.” Bro. Dewayne

Posted in Family, Grace, gratitude, life, love, missions, prayer, priorities, Scripture, Southern born, sovereignty of God, thankful, Trials, wisdom

Laughter in the Rain

Teach us to number our days carefully so that we may develop wisdom in our hearts.”     Psalm 90:12

It was a rainy afternoon in South Georgia.  I had met this girl, this Georgia peach, a few weeks ago and I was stuck fast.  From the moment I laid eyes on her I wanted to get to know her more.  So I made a call, she said yes, we had a first date and well, the rest is history.  From that first date came a marriage of 45 years.  She was young and I was a little too old, but love has a way of overcoming those kind of things—especially with God in the mix.

So, we were about five or six weeks into our journey.  We had been to church, something we would do together virtually every week of every year of our togetherness. It was a cloudy afternoon and rain was in the forecast.  I’m not sure how, but it had to be her knowledge of the area, we decided to drive up and over to Reed Bingham State Park.  It was more something to do than an adventure, but it left a tattoo on our hearts that remains today.

As we drove over to the park, it began to rain…nothing hard just a gentle Southern rain…the kind that waters the grass and makes flowers grow.  Soon, we were at the park, and it was still raining.  We decided that a little rain wasn’t going to stop us, and we struck off on a walk down one of the wet sand packed roads.  It wasn’t long before we came upon some large puddles the size of a small pond.  They weren’t from that day’s shower but a frog strangler sometime before.  So we reached the point where we had to decide to turn back or go a little farther.  We decided to go farther. To keep her dry from the puddles, she climbed on my back as we walked.

A little while later the rain picked up and with her still hanging on, we turned around and headed back to the car. We were getting wet, but we were young and in the midst of young love, so we laughed, we enjoyed.  Too soon we were back in the car and ready to head home.  We had left the radio tuned to one of the popular stations and as I started the car, the radio came to life and one of the new hits began to play.  It was by Neil Sedaka, and was called, “Laughter in the Rain” and in that moment it became our song. And, to this moment, it remains our song.

Part of the words go, “Oh, I hear laughter in the rain, walking hand in hand with the one I love. Oh, how I love the rainy days and the happy way I feel inside.” What started as a song became our mantra—our way of doing life.  We decided we would walk together, sunshine or rain, and we would do so…hand in hand.  We also decided that we would love, not endure, the rain and the rainy days, that came our way. Oh, it isn’t always perfect, and she is better at it than me but slowly over the years we have learned the secret sauce of doing life is to walk hand in hand with each other and the “Rainmaker.”

Judy and I have been blessed with an incredible life. Over our four and a half decade, journey we have seen and experienced big chunks of the world, and have been blessed with three daughters and sons-in-law and eight grandchildren.  We have loved serving God together as a team, watching as He made a difference in the lives of others.  We don’t know how long the journey will go, but we are wanting to walk it together, hand in hand, loving the rainy days.

The Book that matters, the Bible, tells us that we should number our days that we can have a heart of wisdom.  It’s not talking about numerics, but rather to value and see the value in each day.  To know that rain or sunshine, each day is a gift from God…an opportunity to walk hand in hand together and with the “Rainmaker.”  We’ve come to know and believe that He alone is worthy of our faith and trust and that no matter how light or hard the rainy days are, well, He’s got this.  Bro. Dewayne

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

Thanks, Tim

Then Jesus said to him, “What you do, do quickly.” John 13:27b

And just like that, he was gone.  Most of you know I started writing Grits last year at the very beginning of the COVID hot mess.  I woke up one morning and just decided to share a story and just like that Grits was born.  Since then, it has been my privilege to share stories from my life and adventures with others—especially my wife Judy.  Over this past year so many of you have become members of the Grits family—faithfully reading and often sharing your thoughts and words of encouragement. It has been a great ride and I’m looking forward to sharing more as God gives me writer’s grace.

One of the most faithful members of the Grits family was a friend I knew through ministries at church. He helped in several different ways, and I learned to appreciate his heart.  He was a regular reader and every day he would comment on that day’s story and more than once his words encouraged me to keep tapping the keys on my computer.  He loved people, he loved God and he loved God’s creation.  If you saw Tim, you would see his love of nature…you might say he wore it.  He looked like a mountain man and had a mountain size heart to match. He was a bit different but that is what made him special.

Last Monday I wrote about Freedom Day…the date our state was finally declared open and largely free from the restrictions that had been in place during COVID.  Let me share part of what he shared that day. He wrote, “Another awesome message!! The key words to always remember are “He’s got this”! I do not intend to hold onto the fear of last year, I intend let it go! I am running forward!” He went on to share how during COVID he had learned an even deeper appreciation for the beautiful creation around him.  You might say he learned to look for the good and not the bad.

That was Monday.  Tuesday morning, Tim woke up with a terrible headache and his wife took him to the hospital.  The bottom line is Tim had a massive stroke and a couple of days later he went to be with the God he loved.  Just like that…he was gone.  Tim was only seventy years old…a good, wooly, mountain man, nature loving, people loving seventy.  And, I guess in his own way, he did exactly what he said he would do.  He let go of any fear and ran forward…right into the arms of Jesus.

I will certainly miss Tim and his contribution to the Grits family.  I am grateful for all he did to keep me pressing keys.  I’m also thankful for a lesson he brought home to me. It was something I knew but need to be reminded of again and again.  That lesson is this fact—we don’t know about tomorrow.  For some reason, I have been tossing around the thought that I will do this or that when I turn seventy but truthfully—seventy may never come.  Tim’s home-going is a vivid reminder that we should not wait—we should go—we should do.

It is a scripture totally out of context, but it is a good reminder.  When Judas was going to betray Jesus, the young Rabbi, Messiah said, “Whatever you are going to do…do quickly.” Like I said it is out of context, but it does remind us to do whatever we are going to do now.  Go ahead, take the next great adventure, tell someone that you love them, take a moment to be kind, encourage someone who is a bit down, dare to dream. It was just a couple days ago that I wrote how we don’t know what tomorrow holds but we do know who holds tomorrow. So let’s live life fully, completely, now—not later.  So, thanks Tim for all your good words and thank you for reminding all of us that not matter what, “He’s got this.” Bro. Dewayne

Posted in Family, fear, forgiveness, Grace, gratitude, life, loving others, Scripture, sovereignty of God, Trials

Freedom Day

When the Lord brought back the captivity of Zion, we were like those who dream. Then our mouth was filled with laughter, and our tongue with singing.” Psalm 126:1-2a

I woke up and realized it wasn’t a dream.  I remember last year the rumor was confirmed.  Our school system was shutting down for two weeks as a preventive measure against COVID -19.  Our church leadership met and decided to show support for the community we would also dismiss services for the next two weeks.  Little did we know that eventually we would be shut down for ten weeks.  Those ten weeks seemed like eternity and included Easter and Mother’s Day.  It seemed we were locked down and locked up…and it would never end.

Soon, mandated by the state government, nonessential stores were ordered to close.  Restaurants were ordered to close.  Soon shelves in grocery stores were bare of some items and a roll of toilet paper was like gold.  In the early days, our area was virtually unscathed by the virus but the reality of a new normal was very real.  Schools were closed for a long period and something called “on-line learning” became an everyday, everywhere, deal.  It seemed we were forced and destined for not only a new normalcy but a very different one.

Soon masks were the big topic…and divider.  Whether they should be required or not divided families, friends, neighbors, and churches.  At first it was something that was mandated, but not really enforced however soon it was.  While stores used to have signs that said, “No shoes and shirt…no service” it became, “No mask, no entry.”  Something that was very foreign (no pun intended) to us because an everyday topic.  Many were confused, angry, and discouraged. Would this thing ever end?  Would things ever be the way they were?  A few nodded yes, but most shook their head no. Like a sour love story, we might learn to comply, but we would never love it.

This spring, a year after it started, things began to change…a new wind was blowing and it was bringing hope.  States began easing or removing restrictions, the virus began retreating and the promise of life without “Thou Must or Thou Can’t” advanced…flooding in like desert rain on the drylands. And then last Friday, June 11, in one of the most restrictive states in the nation, freedom day came.  Last Friday, Illinois finally became an open state—and it was like a dream come true.  On a much smaller scale, it was like the children of Israel finally leaving Egypt. They were free and yes, we are free.

Like the children of Israel, we too will now face some choices.  Are we going to hold onto the fear of last year or let it go? Are we going to let what divided us still do so? Are we going to hold onto grudges and remain a divided people?  The choice is ours. We can let the past lay in the past, learning what we need to learn, or we can run forward embracing what lies ahead.  I hope we will run forward.  I hope we will remember and understand that God was faithful, is faithful and will be faithful, no matter what next week or next year holds.  The future is in His hands…and that is a good thing.

So, last Friday, I told my wife Judy that it was Freedom Day…a reason and a cause to celebrate.  I will not seek division, I will not be a part of the past, I am running forward, and I hope you will join me.  The book of Psalms, found in the Jewish and Christian scriptures says, “When the Lord brought back the captivity of Zion, we were like those who dream. Then our mouth was filled with laughter, and our tongue with singing. They said among the nations, “The Lord has done great things for them.” The Lord has done great things for us, and we are glad.

We.Are.Glad.  Be sure today and do three things.  First, if you are a Jesus follower…be sure and thank Him for guiding us and bringing us out of this past year or so.  Second, celebrate what He has done.  Throw a party of sorts.  We’ve waited for it…now celebrate it.  Third, remember.  Remember those who suffered and lost during the COVID time.  For many, those sixteen months or more, are very painful…share and feel their pain and remember that in some parts of the world, bondage continues.  And while you are remembering, remember this.  In March of 2020 I wrote the first blog for Grits and I closed it with the words, “He’s got this.” Well, He did, He does, and He will.  Bro. Dewayne

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

June 12th

Give thanks to the LORD, for He is good; for His steadfast love endures forever!” 1 Chronicles 16:34 (ESV)

I wonder if one day is really enough.  It was in 1863 when President Lincoln decided that we needed to have a defined day of Thanksgiving.  So, the final Thursday in November was so designated.  Later, on October 31, 1939, and strictly for business reasons, Franklin Roosevelt redesignated it as the next to last Thursday in November and since then that has been the day we celebrate Thanksgiving.  But wait, it isn’t November, and in fact, it is nowhere near November, so what gives?

Well, what gives is June 12th.  You see, I graduated from high school on June 8, 1972 and the following Monday, June 12th, I left for basic training in the United States Air Force.  It wasn’t a matter of strategic planning but rather a slight misunderstanding.  A friend suggested we join together under what was called, “The Buddy Plan.”  Two guys could join together, go through basic together and then be assigned together for their first assignment.  Well, we agreed, I signed up and he didn’t.  But here’s the deal.  I am absolutely certain that God sovereignly planned that for my good and His glory.

It turned out the Air Force was a good move for me.  It taught me dozens if not hundreds of life disciplines that have served me well all of my life.  God used the Air Force to position me to meet my wife Judy and then to teach us how to pick up and move when an authority said too.  For us, and between the Air Force and God, that included a year in Georgia, three years in Germany, six years in Missouri and finally 35 years in Illinois.  We learned to go when and where we were told, and we learned to trust.  It also helped us forge a strong marriage that has seen us through 45 years of adventures.

It turned out that God was also using the Air Force to prepare me for the real purpose of my life—our lives together—the pastorate.  Strangely, but really not, it was also on another June 12th, this one in 1983, that I was ordained into the gospel ministry.  And because God has a great sense of humor, I found myself pastoring a church with, well to be blunt, no training whatsoever.  I well remember I was filling in at a church when they asked me to be their pastor. I told them I didn’t know how to do that.  They replied, “Don’t worry, we will teach you.” And do you know what?  They did.

The game changer was the fact I was trained as an administrative specialist in the Air Force and when God spoke to my heart with a new set of “orders,” I was prepared.  Twelve years of administration were like twelve years of on-the-job training for the pastorate.  I learned to write, research, organize and manage an office.  When I stepped out of the Air Force and into a church office, I was strangely at home.  Of course, nothing could prepare me for what has sometimes been a wild ride of pastoring a church.  It has been a journey, a glorious, “you’ve got to be kidding me,” ride.

As I glance in the rearview mirror of my life, I am overwhelmed with the incredible goodness of God and that has led me to this conclusion—one day is not enough.  We need Thanksgiving but even more we need to celebrate, “Thanks-living.”  As you can probably guess, Thanks-living is understanding the importance of living a life that celebrates the goodness of God every day.  Someone said that there are two ways to live life—nothing is a miracle or everything is a miracle.  I’ll take the latter.  Also, I think the heart of those brief words speak to being grateful too.  Everywhere, everyday there is something to be grateful for.

So, tomorrow, is a special day for me and Judy.  Even though she wasn’t there for the first June 12th, she was there for the second and every one since.  She has been my best friend, my ministry partner and my cohort in our many adventures. I thank God for her, our family, and the countless folks we have met along the way.  The Bible tells us to, “Give thanks to the LORD, for He is good; for His steadfast love endures forever!” I think that is a pretty awesome idea.  I don’t know what the years ahead hold, but if it is anything like the past, it’s gonna be a great ride and of course, no matter what, He’s got this.  Bro. Dewayne

Posted in Family, fear, forgiveness, Grace, gratitude, life, loving others, missions, prayer, Scripture, sovereignty of God, thankful, travel, Trials, wisdom

Sleepy Lions

Stay alert! Watch out for your great enemy, the devil. He prowls around like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour.” 1 Peter 5:8

We found him sleeping in the grass.  Sound asleep.  A while back I had the privilege of going to Uganda and visiting with Watoto ministries.  The trip allowed me to see the incredible work of Watoto up front and personal.  They work with orphaned babies and children as well as single mothers.  They raise the kids to become Christian leaders and help the mothers provide for their families.

Part of the trip involved us going to Northern Uganda to see the work there. It also gave us the opportunity to take a one-day safari.  A safari gives you the opportunity to see animals in the wild.  You are on their turf and their terms.  We saw a large variety of animals but there was one we all wanted to see.  The lion.  It is like the holy grail of safaris–to see the “king of the jungle.”

Our guide that day just happened to be one of park rangers, so he had access to areas others did not.  So off we went.  Before long there was a report of a lion sleeping in a tree.  We went cross country and before long, bam, there was a lion…sound asleep.  Well, it was pretty incredible–asleep or not. We snapped about a hundred pictures of our sleeping friend and moved on.

We drove for about 30 minutes and another report came of a group of lions about 50 yards off the road.  Our guide, the ranger, told the driver to drive though the ditch and he did.  Sure enough, there were the lions.  There were about five or six of these magnificent beasts–all sound asleep.  What is up with lions and sleeping?

Well, it turns out that lions sleep 20 hours a day.  They hunt, eat and sleep.  That’s about it. Our driver gets to within five or six feet of the sleeping feline.  Our guide shouts, the driver honks the horn and nothing.  And then he does something totally unexpected.  He throws water on the lion.

What? Excuse me? Well, the king of the jungle, who turned out to be a queen, sits up, yawns and looks at us.  Hmmm…this lion thing is not what it is cracked up to be.  You would be tempted to think that every lion was like this lion.  That would be a mistake.

You see, there are some nasty lions out there and they would like to invite you to lunch. Lions are vicious predators and will eat you. I’ve watched enough National Geographic shows to know that not all lions are created equal.  I also know this.  Not all lions live in Africa.  In fact, there is one who lives close–very close.  He doesn’t have a mane or a tail, but he does have an appetite.  His name isn’t Mufasa or Simba. It is Satan.

The Bible, in 1 Peter 5:8, says this, “Stay alert! Watch out for your great enemy, the devil. He prowls around like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour.” On the safari we stayed alert looking for a lion. In this case we need to stay alert because the lion is looking for us.  And guess what?  He’s looking for lunch.

Peter said Satan is like a roaring lion.  If you’ve studied lions a bit, you know that a lion doesn’t roar when its stalking prey.  A lion roars for two different reasons.  One, he is declaring his dominance.  He is claiming his territory. This is mine.  He also roars to invite others to join his pride. The devil does both.

Satan is always roaring saying “this is mine and that is mine” but nothing is truly his. Nothing. It belongs to a much larger, much stronger Lion–the Lion of Judea. Satan is a liar–remember that. He wouldn’t know the truth if it stared him in the face. No pun intended.

He is also looking for others to join his pride.  He is looking for people who are discouraged and disheartened with life and with God and inviting them to join him.  Joining him is a big mistake. He is a loser, and he knows it.  That is why he is roaring so loudly.  His time is limited and he wants to take as many with him as he can.

Now if you are a believer, Satan can’t steal your salvation, but he can steal your peace, your character, your witness, your family, your integrity–well the list goes on and on.  That is why Peter said, “Stand firm against him, and be strong in your faith.” Peter knew from experience just how good Satan is at taking what is not rightfully his.

Jesus said in John 10:10 “The thief comes to steal, kill and destroy.”  That’s the enemy but Jesus isn’t done speaking. He goes on to say, “I have come to give you life and life more abundantly.”  He is saying, “if you trust Me, the Lion of Judah, you can rest in Me. I’m never asleep and I’m never out-gunned. I’ve got this.” And, He does. Bro. Dewayne

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

Herbert

The Lord directs the steps of the Godly. He delights in every detail of their lives.” Psalm 37:23

It stands tall.  When we moved to 217 West Poplar Street our yard was a blank slate.  The house had sat empty for more than a few years and while someone made sure the grass was cut, no one cared if it was beautiful.  When my wife Judy came…all that began to change.  Somewhere along her journey she acquired what can only be described as a green thumb. She has a way with plants that causes them to grow…to succeed.  What was once a blank slate is now a garden, lush and green, with many kinds of plants, trees, and flowers.

Her style, though planned, is not one that is starchy or stiff.  The flowers and plants are allowed to grow freely…to multiply.  While there are times when pruning has to be done and digging has to occur, largely they are allowed to “bloom where they are planted.”  The best example of that is Herbert the tree.  I need to tell you that I just named the tree Herbert.  I thought it might add more human interest to the story.  Anyway, several years ago, a maple tree began to grow in one of our flower beds.  Now, honestly, that usually doesn’t end well for the tree.  But this one, well, somehow the story turned out differently.

Herbert started growing too close to the fence in our front yard.  I can say with certainty that he was probably cut down a couple of times and each time he came back.  So finally, somehow, we decided to let him grow—and he did.  Time gets away from us all and it may be longer than I think, but I think Herbert is now about five years old.  He has grown from a little maple sapling into a 25-30 foot tall tree.  He was planted by nature, but it was our decision to let him grow…to bloom where he was planted.  I’m glad we did.

Herbert is now big enough to provide some shade in our front yard and he also adds depth and dimension to our yard and now, for the first time, when I rake leaves in the fall, at least some of them are mine and not my neighbor’s.  Somehow that is satisfying. A friend says I should have cut Herbert down a long time ago…you know, wrong place. But I told him that we were going to give him a chance.  While the place nature put him isn’t the best, he is a constant reminder to us to grow, to flourish, wherever God plants us.

Our life has been a series of great adventures.  While some folks choose to grow in the same community all of their lives and maybe live in the same house…well, ours has been different.  It really wasn’t us making the call…I believe it was a sovereign God working and planning what He thought best for us.  Our path isn’t your path, but it was the one that God chose for us.  One of the writers of the Jewish hymnbook in what we call the Old Testament said, “The Lord directs the steps of the Godly. He delights in every detail of their lives.”  In other words, life, and especially the life of someone who follows Jesus, isn’t a series of accidents and circumstances but rather the handiwork of a Master Gardener. And for those Jesus followers, well that Master Gardener just happens to be their Dearest Daddy.

So, when you drive by our house on Poplar Street take a look at Herbert.  He lives by the alley and by the fence on the East side of our front yard.  Notice that he is closer to the fence than he should be but also remember that he is simply, “blooming where he was planted.”  It seems to be working out well for Herbert and guess what?  It seems to work out well for us humans too. Regardless of where you’ve been planted and regardless of the soil—just keep trusting the Master Gardner…He’s got this.  Bro. Dewayne