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

Beyond Words

The heavens proclaim the glory of God. The skies display His craftsmanship. Day after day they continue to speak; night after night they make Him known. They speak without a sound or word; their voice is never heard.” Psalm 19:1-3

Though it was two years ago…I can still remember it. It was a wonderful, wonder filled night.  It was a Friday night, and it was beautiful.  After a day of cool temperatures and clear skies the sun bowed out and night moved in.  My wife Judy and I decided to build a fire out on our patio and just enjoy the evening.  Using my incredible fire building skills, which included opening one of those wax logs and lighting it, we soon were enjoying its light and warmth. It was perfect. As the smoke rose into the crystal-clear sky it caused me to pause and be amazed.  I agreed with God. After He was done with creation, He said it was very good.  He was right.

The slowly rising smoke caused me to look to the skies.  As darkness settled in, slowly, ever so slowly, the stars came out for their evening performance.  That was good too.  And then I noticed what we see and rarely stop to ponder.  Streaking across the sky was a jetliner.  By now it was only visible because of its flashing navigation lights.  Here’s what is so amazing.  That cylinder tube with wings was flying at about 30,000 feet…that’s almost six miles up in the sky.  It weighed in at approximately 175,000 pounds and was carrying dozens of people.  Pause.  A man-made object, weighing 87.5 TONS is effortlessly moving through the sky at a speed of right around 500 miles per hour.  That is amazing.

Now you may be one of those folks who believe that we humans showed up from a glob of jelly laying on a beach somewhere but personally, I don’t have that much faith.  I believe that there is a Creator God and He made us…fearfully and wonderfully.  How else do you explain 87.5 tons zipping through the air?  You could cite the law of aerodynamics but even that law was figured out and applied by God’s most wonderful creation.  But it gets better.

A little later I told Judy that it would be very cool if the space station flew over.  Now this modern marvel flies out in space—that’s why it is called the “space” station.  Get ready to be amazed.  It flies 240 miles above the earth at a speed of 17,136 miles an hour.  It weighs in at 925,000 pounds.  On that particular day there were three people on board, an American and two Russians and they had been on board for 165 days.  Can someone say, “amazing?”

Well, my neighbor happened to come home, and we were chatting.  He looks up and says, “Oh, there goes a satellite.” I got up and looked and it wasn’t a satellite…it was the space station, and it was amazing.  Though I have seen it several times each time I am just amazed.  I’m amazed not at what man built as much as the God who created man and gave him the intellect and ability to create and build.  Once again…God and I agreed…it was very good.

The night crept on, and I looked up again and noticed one very bright star in the southern sky accompanied by a little sister just to its left.  I asked Judy, “I wonder what star that is?”  So, we got on our handy iPhones and looked it up.  It turns out that they were not stars at all but two of the planets that circle our sun…Jupiter and Saturn.  Jupiter was the star of the show by far—pun intended.  Here’s what is really amazing.

The light that I saw coming from Jupiter that night had travelled 43 minutes through space to get to earth.  That may not seem too impressive until you consider the speed of light is 186,000 miles per SECOND. How’s that for a wow? You see, as wonderful as jetliners and space stations are…they pale to what God did all by Himself.  I just had to agree with God again…it is very good.

But Jupiter is just one small planet in our small solar system, that is a small part in our relatively small galaxy called the Milky Way.  And beyond our little galaxy there are millions and millions of galaxies.  What we see with our naked eye is just a fraction of all that is out there.  And all of it exists for one reason and one reason only.  The Bible tells us that the heavens are there to declare the glory of God.  All those stars, solar systems, and galaxies are there to sing the praises of our incredible God.  And He is worth every note and a million, zillion more besides.

Tonight, if the skies are clear, go out and take a peek.  You might see a jetliner streaking across the sky and maybe even the space station, but what you certainly will see is God’s choir singing the praises of their Creator.  Maybe you should join them in a chorus or two.  Oh, and be sure and sing what should be your favorite God song.  It goes something like this, “I can rest in the arms of my Dearest Daddy for He holds me secure.  I can go to sleep tonight knowing He has this…because He does.”  Amen.  Bro. Dewayne

Posted in Family, forgiveness, Grace, gratitude, life, Scripture, sovereignty of God, thankful, Trials

A Lesson from the Beanfield

For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways and My thoughts than your thoughts.” Isaiah 55:9

It’s one of the strangest things I’ve seen.  The small town where I live is a diverse group of people with a diverse economy.  Not too many years ago there were many coal mines providing massive amounts of jobs to those living in and around our town of Harrisburg.  Also surrounding our town are fields and fields of crops…mostly soybeans and corn.  While the coal mines fell victim to the economy and the unfavorable political landscape, fortunately the farmers are still planting and plowing away.

Well, not too far from my house, there is a soybean field that each year it is planted teaches me a very valuable lesson.  As soybean fields go it is not that large, but it is still several dozen acres even though it is located in town.  But what makes this field so different?  Let me explain.  By this time of the year, the bean plants have all turned brown and the pods and beans are left standing to allow them time to dry out.  At the right time, the farmer will bring a combine in and in short order…the plants and beans will be history.  Well, at least most of the plants.

You see, at this particular field, there is a busy road that borders the field.  On that busy road there are two or three streetlights that are close enough to the field to illuminate the plants around that area all through the night.  Because of that, the plants receive some sort of light 24 hours a day. That sounds good, doesn’t it?  Well, my farmer friends tell me it isn’t. You would think more light equals more growing and more growing means more beans, but it just isn’t true with soybeans. You see, for the plants to sprout and produce beans they need a certain amount of darkness.  Without that darkness, you have large, green, lush plants but not a single bean.  Not one. Nada.

It can and would go unnoticed except for all the other plants in the field are brown and about to give up their harvest but the plants by the light are in stark contrast in two ways.  Their color…green and their lack of a coming harvest.  So, when the combine goes to that field, they will carefully avoid the green plants.  There is no sense harvesting plants with no beans.  They will be left standing as a testimony to a great truth.  Soybeans, and people for that matter, need a little darkness to become what they were meant to be. Think about that.

None of us like hard times, valley times, but the truth is…that is when we learn, that is when we become stronger and if you are a spiritual person…that is when our faith in God grows the most.  Being a Jesus follower, I’m inclined to believe that is at least one reason God allows some difficultly in our lives.  People sometimes want to know if God is so good why does He allow this or that.  Well, borrowing a line from the movie, “Rudy,” when he wanted to know why God hadn’t allowed him to make the Notre Dame football team, his priest said, “I know two things.  There is a God. I am not Him.” That’s pretty powerful if you ask me.

We all want to know why bad things happen, especially to good people…I get that.  I have a ton of questions personally, but I’m learning that in the times when I don’t get it…I don’t understand…I can still trust Him.  And honesty…that just isn’t hard.  As I look back over my life, I can see time and again how He stepped up for me…protected me…cared for me.  Those times make the other times bearable.  I like what Isaiah 55:9 says, “For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways and My thoughts than your thoughts.” Frankly, I like having a God so much bigger than me that I can’t figure Him out. There’s a calming assurance in that.

So, if you ever are driving through our farming country and you spot a brown field with green plants next to a streetlight, well, just remember this story and the lesson it taught us about soybeans and us. We need a little darkness to help us grow.  And don’t you worry, if you are one of God’s kids, your Dearest Daddy knows exactly what He is doing.  You can take it to the bank, or the grain bin, “He’s got this.”  Bro. Dewayne

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

Rainy Days

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 just another love note. It seems this love note thing happens all the time.  A love note is when there is something, a crisis, a life bump or just something we need a little help with and well, Calvary shows up.  I always think it is God’s way of helping me out.  He knows and He cares.  It happened several weeks ago again.  First, it had been dry and overnight God turned on the faucet and sent several inches of rain.  We so needed it.  The farmers needed it, the gardeners needed and the people who find some twisted joy in mowing grass needed it.  And it came in abundance.

So God has blessed us with a really great home.  We like older homes and this one qualifies in anyone’s book.  Best we can tell the core of the house was built in 1898 with a couple of additions added by a couple of brothers after World War II.  The house is brick (part of the post-World War II renovation) and has some great 1940’s trim work inside.  Like I said, we are blessed.  But there is one thing I wish we didn’t have and that is a wet basement.  When it rains a lot quickly, we get water in our basement. Fortunately we have a good drain so it usually runs across the floor and into the drain and it is no more than an annoyance.  That is…until it is not.

Well, the morning of the big rain, Judy came and got me and told me we had a shallow swimming pool in the basement.  This produced a groan and a moan.  Before I even saw the Red Sea that had gathered in my basement I was thinking plumbers and dollar signs.  What if the drain pipe had collapsed? What if they had to dig up the yard? What if I had to sell my first born to pay for all of this?  It was the old “Lions, tigers and bears, oh my” reaction which is pretty typical for me when I hear there is a small sea in my basement.

So, I followed her down and sure enough there was about three or four feet (just kidding) of water in my basement.  I told her I would call the plumber after a while and see what needed to be done.  Then…I had a thought.  I decided I would go over to the drain and see if the problem was there.  So I put on my scuba gear and got my shark repellant and headed over to the drain. There is a strainer over the drain and the first thing I did was remove that.  When I looked it was indeed pretty clogged up and when I removed it the water did begin to drain…some.

It was time for phase two.  I stuck my finger down into the drain hole and immediately a giant anaconda grabbed my finger…no just kidding.  What I did find was a piece of wire that had either got under or through the cover or broken off of something in the drain and it was covered with slimy stuff.  I pulled that out and bam…the water started draining faster…fast enough to make that little tornado thing that happens when water is draining good. Soon, the water was gone and I was smiling again.

I was thanking God, and Judy, my wife, was thanking God because we both knew that He had acted on our behalf.  You see, our default reaction these days is no matter how routine, no matter how everyday—we are learning to thank God and give Him the glory.  And do you know what?  We do it because we believe it.  We just believe that from the smallest to the biggest it is God acting on our behalf.  We just refuse to believe things are circumstance and happenstance. We believe in a God who is into the details. Now all that doesn’t mean that things always turn up roses.  No, we have our share of dandelions too, but we are learning to thank God for those too because He can and does turn dandelions into daisies.

A verse I quote a lot and that holds a lot of value in my world is found in a letter Paul wrote to the Romans about 2,000 years ago.  It was true then and it is true now.  It says that God can cause good to come out of any circumstances…for those who trust and believe in Him.  It doesn’t mean that He snaps His finger, and everything is good but that He can bring good from everything.  So, as you bump along life’s path and you have a flat tire on a rainy Monday or a basement full of water, just remember, no matter the outcome…God loves you and cares about you.  Before you call the plumber, talk to Him.  You may still have to call the plumber, but you can have the assurance that, “He’s got this.”  Oh, and by the way, if my house is up for sale and you are thinking about buying it…forget what I about the basement. Smile. Bro. Dewayne

Posted in fear, friends, gratitude, life, Scripture, sovereignty of God, Trials

When Bad News Meets Good News

See how very much our Father loves us, for He calls us His children, and that is what we are!” 1 John 3:1

Some things were just better in the old days…like the weather report.  Back when the local weather was sponsored by one of the local oil brands and the weatherman wore a service station (that is a gas place where they pumped your gas, checked your oil and cleaned your windshield) uniform, things were so much simpler.  He would get his magic marker out and draw some symbols on his paper map and forecast the weather. It was easy.  If it was going to be hot…he would say it was going to be hot.  If it was going to be cold…he would say it was going to be cold.  If it was going to rain…he just laid it out in simple terms.  Yup…those were the days.

It kinda reminds me of my visit to a gift shop in the Smokey Mountains.  They had what they called a “Hillbilly Weather Station.”  It was a rock attached to a string.  It also had a card that went with it that said if the rock was hot, it was hot. If the rock was cold, it was cold. If the rock is wet, it was raining and finally, if the rock was swinging on the string, it was windy.  My simple sense of humor likes that even now.  But today, they have to give us a lot more information and most the time I am grateful, except for this.

This is this.  Instead of simply saying it is going to be hot they must go a step further and give us what they call the “feel like temperature.”  In other words, if the temperature is going to be 90 degrees and there happens to be a bunch of humidity in the air, well, they let us know it is going to feel like 100 degrees and we are going to be extra miserable. And, if it is cold and there is a wind, well, just to make sure we know how miserable we really are, we have wind chill. Now I know their intent is good, but I just wish they wouldn’t go the extra mile in defining and describing my misery.

If that isn’t enough, the news folks seem to feel like they must top the weather folks.  They scrap up every bit of bad, discouraging, and disgusting news they can find and then read it to us with passion and glee.  It is almost like they want to say, “You only thought things were bad…just listen to this”.  And “this” is always about the awfulness of our broken world.  Yup, I think the weather and news people are in cahoots with one another to make sure we are miserable.

Well, if that isn’t enough, then there are some folks that we bump into in our world and it seems they just can’t wait to slosh their negativity on someone else.  Like Eeyore in the Winnie the Pooh stories, theirs is a “woe is me” world.  Eeyore once said, “I wish I could say yes…but I can’t.”  Well, the truth is we can.  In a world where some choices are limited, the choice of how we act and think is all ours.  We get to choose to be what stories our “newscast” is going to cast and what report our “weather reporter” is going to report.

One of the reasons I love God is that He is a positive thinker.  His book, the Bible, is a reality check but it is also a book of good news.  In fact, when describing the story of how much God loves us and how He sent His son into this broken world to pay the price for our sin…it is called “the” Good News or Gospel.  And if you allow that Good News to be your good news—well it changes everything.  So, if you need a change, if you need some Good News, why not try the Bible.  It will tell you the truth, but that truth includes God’s incredible love for me and for you.

In a part of the Bible called the New Testament, John, one of Jesus’ closest followers wrote, “See how very much our Father loves us, for He calls us His children, and that is what we are!” Wow…the God who made it all loves us enough to call us His own.  Now that is worth hearing about and the place to go to hear it is His Word.  So, when you are feeling down and things look hopeless, why not look up…to the God who wants to be your Dearest Daddy.  Imagine a world of Good News…with Someone who is waiting to whisper to you, “Don’t worry.  I’ve got this.”  Bro. Dewayne

Posted in Family, friends, Grace, gratitude, Scripture, sovereignty of God, thankful, Trials

Be You!

God saw all that He had made, and it was very good indeed. Evening came and then morning: the sixth day.” Genesis 1:31

It was a profound statement.  It was1967 and I was in junior high.  In Jacksonville that meant grades 7-9 and it meant a whole different world from elementary school.  For the first time we went to separate classes and got to choose some of our food at lunch in the cafeteria. I remember, for a dime, you could buy a bowl of french fries. While they weren’t anything like McDonald’s, I do believe they were potatoes, and they were long and skinny.

It may have been the sixties, but there were rules. For the girls skirts and dresses had to be a certain length. For the guys your hair could only be so long and then there were the big three: shirt tucked in, wear a belt, and socks.  Break those and you and the principal had a date.  By the time I was in the ninth grade, things were relaxing some and that included the big three.  On Fridays, boys were allowed to untuck their shirts, not wear a belt, and not wear socks. Holy moly, what was the world coming to?  Looking back, the cool thing was to take the socks that you weren’t wearing and put them hanging out of your rear pant’s pocket.  Every Friday, my shirt was out, my belt stayed home, and my socks were flapping in the breeze.  Do you know why?  It was cool…and I wanted to be cool. I wanted to be in. I wanted to be accepted.

As you know, through the years the trends have changed, styles have come and gone, and so have the labels.  In high school Gold Toe socks were coveted and so were Gant shirts. We couldn’t afford either but when I joined the Air Force and could shop at the Base Exchange, they carried both and both became part of my world.  I was cool. I was in. I was accepted. Some things never change, and this is one of those.  There was always something that someone was wearing that if you had it, you just knew you would feel cool…accepted…part of the “in” crowd.  When I came to my current church, it was shirts with ponies and shoes named “Crocs.” Whatever the newest label, and there was always one, peer pressure and the desire to be cool, accepted, and in, pushed and pulled.  It seemed I always wanted to be what someone else was.

Thankfully, some of that has changed.  Ponies and crocs aren’t really that cool anymore, and I’m starting to realize that a label doesn’t define who I am.  I.Am.Me. In fact, my four favorite shirts are from Walmart and cost a grand total of $9.88 each. There’s nothing on the pocket—they are just plain shirts which is cool, because I define them…they don’t define me.

I read something this morning that was just profound.  Here it is. Are you ready?  “Each person was born an original; no one should die a copy.” Wow.  It goes like this.  Somewhere in heaven, God came up with a design plan for me.  He wrote the design and then declared it an original and just right. In fact, in Genesis 1:31, the Bible says, “God saw all that He had made, and it was very good indeed.” And do you know what?  That includes me and that includes you. There is not another me or you, anywhere, and that was intentional. I don’t need to be you and you don’t need to be me. We just need to be who God made us. Sure, fashion labels are fine, and I’m even sure there is a perfect weight and height, but those don’t dictate who we are…God does.

In the years that God gives me, I hope I will remember this.  When the clock stops ticking, the heart stops beating, and you are having a chicken dinner somewhere in my honor, I hope someone will be able to say, “That Dewayne, he was an original. God broke the mold when He made him.”  I don’t want to die a copy…I want to die an original.

Given my bent to be a people pleaser and desire to be cool, accepted and in, I’m sure that will be a challenge. Gratefully, my Dearest Daddy will be with me along the way to remind me that I am a custom-made job, and you are too.  And, if I am wise enough to ask and listen, He will help me be me.  Oh, and if I struggle, and I will, and you will too, just listen as He reassures us that, “He’s got this.” Bro. Dewayne

Posted in Family, friends, gratitude, life, loving others, missions, Scripture, sovereignty of God, thankful, travel

Same Words, Different Melody

When He saw the crowds, He had compassion on them.”  Matthew 9:36a

It was familiar but not.  One of the highlights of our recent trip to England was the opportunity to experience so many things that were similar to life in America but at the same time different.  After all, we all spoke English, but our English and the English the Brits spoke was just a little different.  More on that in another story.  We both drive cars but on different sides of the road.  They drive on the left (who knows why) and we drive on the right because…we are right.  We like (love) ice in our drinks, and when we ask for ice, they look at you like, “What?” Crisps are potato chips and flats are apartments.  Like I said..we both speak English but not quite the same.

Another thing I enjoyed while there was attending worship.  I am a Christian who happens to be a Baptist.  The church I attended there was Baptist too and while it was the same, it was different.  They didn’t have offering plates…they used these little bag things with a pole attached.  It was like a fish net but was made a cloth instead of netting.  One of the things we really loved…and wished we could import…was the fellowship time at the end of the service.  After the last prayer, instead of rushing out the door to the nearest restaurant or appointment, everyone, gathered at the back of the worship hall and just visited.  There were some light refreshments but mostly people just talked.  How novel.

One thing that was a little different was the songs that they sang.  While some were familiar there were several that were totally new to us.  So, I was glad when the song person said we were going to sing, “When I Survey the Wondrous Cross.”  That is a wondrous (pun intended) song and one of the older hymns that I enjoy singing.  As the instruments, a piano, flute, and guitar began to plan the introduction…something wasn’t quite right…not familiar.  And soon, very soon, I realized that while I knew the words, I certainly wasn’t familiar with the melody. How about that?  Same song, same words, different melody.

So, I jumped right in and worked my way through the unfamiliar melody motivated by the beautiful familiar words.  And even with the different melody, the words carried me into worship.  And just about then it hit me.  In life, church or no church, we can come together and do life.  We may walk or dance to a different tune but still can be carried by the same message.  Wouldn’t it be a better world if we realized that we are all created by the same God and the things that make us different are not a weakness but a strength?  Wouldn’t it be a better world if we were not driven apart by skin color, or our heart language or the social economic station we are in life?  Let me tell you. It.Would.Be.Better.

Of the thousand things that I love about Jesus, one of the best is that He loves people.  Period.  When He lived here, He just saw people as people.  Some might have been more broken than others, but He loved them all the same.  One time a bunch of people met Him on the shore as He got out of a boat.  I’m sure there were all kinds of people there that day but all He saw was people and the Bible just says He had compassion on them.  He loved them.

If you are a Jesus follower, or even if you are not, why not follow the example of this lowly man from an obscure part of the world.  Why not set out today to see people as people…and love them regardless.  Even if they look different, speak different, believe differently or, gulp, vote differently than you…why not just love them?  If you happen to be a Jesus person, well, I’m sure that is something that would make Him smile…and if not well…He probably would smile anyway.  Accepting people as people isn’t easy but with a little help from the One who made us…anything is possible.  In other words, He’s got this.  Bro. Dewayne

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

Miracles

For nothing will be impossible with God.” Luke 1:37

Well, there are miracles and then there are miracles.  One of the great adventures that Judy and I have been privileged to be a part of are church mission trips.  Specifically, mission trips to Africa.  For the past 15 or 16 years, our church has been an active participant in mission adventures.  At least once a year we try and send a team to Africa.  We started in Niger and then had to move a little south to the country of Mali.  We were privileged to serve there for several years.

I can’t explain how incredible it is to go on a mission adventure.  I also can’t really explain the draw that so many feel to this place called Africa. Where this story begins was a pretty difficult place.  We would stay in the bush often sleeping on the ground in tents.  The temperature would hover over 100 degrees.  I have one picture that showed a thermometer with a reading 125 degrees.  The food, well, let’s just say it wasn’t McDonald’s.  So, what is it that causes people to step way out of their comfort zones just to serve others.  This story is part of that answer.

We were on a medical trip in Mali and the days were long and fruit was plentiful.  We had a full team including two medical doctors and several nurses.  They would treat the physically broken and we would try and share the truth of God’s love to the spiritually broken.  We would tell stories of Jesus and how He would go and help people.  We then would simply explain that we wanted to be like Him and help others.  We explained that people who knew Jesus in America had bought and paid for the medicine that they were receiving.  It was free to them because someone else paid the price.  It was always a great lead into the gospel stories because Jesus did the same for us.

Well, it was the end of a long day.  Most of us had wandered back to camp and were sitting around and chatting about the day’s activities.  Suddenly someone ran into the camp and shouted that there was an emergency back at the clinic.  We all rushed back over and what we found was grim…very grim.  A little girl, about nine if I remember correctly, had been climbing a tree.  She was about twenty-five feet up in the air when she slipped and fell—landing directly on her face.  Her father had carried her on a Moto (a small motorcycle) about three or four miles.  She was semi-conscious and unresponsive.

Two things happened simultaneously.  First, the doctors when to work and the saints went to praying.  Her pupils were unresponsive and though she was breathing, her respirations were rapid and shallow.  About an hour later the doctors said it was probably only a matter of time, her brain injuries seemed very serious.  I slipped into my pastor mode and wondered what an African funeral was like.  The doctors took turns sitting with her through the night, and then took her to the nearest first aid station. This part is fuzzy, but it seems like at some point the father went ahead and took her back to her village.

The next day we went back to work with a somewhat heavy heart.  And then something happened…we heard that the little girl had woken up.  We then heard that she was speaking and walking around.  We then heard that she was responding and acting almost completely normal.  “What is this,” I wondered.  Again, if I remember correctly either that day or the next the father brought his little girl back to the doctors and there she stood.  A living, breathing, miracle.  It can be described as nothing else.  God had heard the prayers of His children and chosen to reach down from heaven and touch this little girl and give her back her life.  It.Was.A.Miracle.

Many of us have been to Africa many times and we have seen more than one miracle.  Sometimes it looked like this, sometimes it was God acting to avoid a terrible tragedy and sometimes it like a frog strangling rainstorm when it hadn’t rained for months and months.  But each time it was obvious that God was still God, and He can do what He wants, when He wants.  After all, He is God.  For the skeptics out there, who think that God doesn’t do the miracle thing—that it died out in the old days—well, that little girl would beg to differ with you.

Tucked away in the book of Luke, incidentally, written by a physician in Jesus’ day, are some words that say it all.  It says, “For nothing shall be impossible with God.” Nothing. Period. Seven words that can shake your world and this world. So, what is rocking your world today?  COVID still keeping you up at night? Wondering about tomorrow or the next meal?  Worried about our country?  Well, I don’t know what God has planned—after all I’m in sales and not management—smile. But I do know that nothing is too big for Him to handle.  Just like that little girl in Africa who discovered she could lay down and rest in Him—so can you.  After all,…He’s got this.  Bro. Dewayne

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

Facing Down Mortality

Hi Grits Family! Hey, my wife Judy and I are going to be “out of pocket” aka “not available” to write for the next couple of weeks.  During that time, we decided to send out some of our past stories.  I hope you enjoy the ones we selected and look forward to some “fresh Grits” in a couple of weeks. God bless.  Bro. Dewayne

Jesus told Martha, “I am the resurrection and the life. Anyone who believes in Me will live, even after dying. Everyone who lives in Me and believes in Me will never ever die. Do you believe this?” John 11:25-26

I look and see my mortality.  Now don’t think for a moment this is one of those “Debbie Downer” stories.  In fact, in a way, it might be the best news you will hear all day, all week, well, for always.  So, I am sixty-eight years old.  I know, I can’t believe it either. And all around me are signs that I am mortal.  Remember that—all of us are mortal. I have been at my present position as a pastor for 22 years.  I came to the church I serve in 2000 when I was 46 years old.  I must have dozed off because just like that, 22 years of life have ticked off the calendar.  My children are married, I have eight grandchildren and Judy and I have now been married 46 years.  And the best part?  It has been, and is, a great ride.

But then I did the math.  When, and if, the next 20 years tick off the clock called life, I will be 88 years old.  I find that astounding.  We Taylor boys don’t have a real good track record when it comes to longevity.  Three of my four brothers, all older than me, have already moved to heaven.  Our clock is ticking, and we don’t know when the last tick will come.  It is a sobering thought.  But stay with me.

I live my life by the calendar.  I speak to my church every Sunday and some Wednesdays. It seems I no more finish one message before it is time to deliver the next.  The weeks fly by.  Every first of the month I speak on the radio on a local program called “The Baptist Hour.”  My tag line is, “Can you believe another month has come and gone?” And the answer each month is, “No, I really can’t.” I remember on the first of February, after a speedy January, I made a joke about it being Christmas before we know it.  July is past which means over half of this new year is in the rearview mirror. Time flies by.  It is a sobering thought.  But stay with me.

Part of “The Baptist Hour” is the reading of the funeral arrangements of those who recently died.  Invariably there are several, often more than a few.  I’m learning that too often the names being read belong to people my age or younger.  Recently an acquaintance in our small town suddenly died—a massive heart attack.  He was younger than me.  That really caused me to stop and ponder.  It was a sobering thought.  But stay with me.

Here’s what I am learning.  Time is relative.  We are eternal beings made and destined to spend forever somewhere.  That destination doesn’t depend on good or bad, church or no church, religion or not.  Does that surprise you?  You see, heaven isn’t for good people and hell isn’t for bad people. No, where we spend eternity is about forgiveness of sin and that forgiveness is a free gift from God to anyone…anyone…who asks.  I believe faith in Jesus is the only way to heaven. I know that sounds narrow but when you consider that God invites everyone to the party—well, it is really pretty broad. We read in the Bible that the payment for sin is death and radically Jesus came for one purpose—to willingly die and pay that price.

So, if we are eternal beings and if we place our trust, our faith in this one of a kind, God-man named Jesus, that means that when we die we can spend eternity in this place called heaven.  When Jesus said that if anyone would believe in Him, they would never die—that’s what He meant. And then He closes with that all important question, “Do you believe this?”

With Jesus in the equation, death isn’t the end, it is a beginning.  That might sound wacky to you.  However, before you chuck it out, I challenge you to check it out.  Get a copy of the Bible and read the four different accounts or stories about Jesus—Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. You might find yourself intrigued and amazed.

I read a true story yesterday about a man’s perception of his morality. This guy happened to be a minister and he went to the doctor and got some sobering news.  He was terminally ill with no chance of recovery. The doctor told him he had about a year to live.  He left the doctor’s office and went to one of his favorite spots—you know, to kinda take it in. Now, allow me to let the man tell his story. “I looked at the river in which I rejoice, and I looked at the stately trees that are always God’s own poetry to my soul. And I said, ‘I may not see you many more times, but mountain, I shall be alive when you are gone; and river, I shall be alive when you cease running toward the sea.’”

Wow…what wonderfully strong words.  If this whole God story is true, and I honestly believe it is, then people who trust that Jesus is the path to God and heaven, will outlive the mountains and the rivers. We may change addresses, but we will live forever.  I know this is probably a different kind of story than we usually share together, but I hope it will make us think about what happens next. For myself and so many others, it makes all the sense in the world—and beyond.  I’m grateful for the eternal part but I also love the part of the story that says He is with me now—hot mess world and all.  I can rest in Him and trust in Him because, He’s got this.  Bro. Dewayne

Posted in Family, fear, friends, gratitude, life, loving others, Scripture, Southern born, sovereignty of God, thankful

Settled

Hi Grits Family! My wife Judy and I are going to be “out of pocket” aka “not available” to write for the next couple of weeks.  During that time, we decided to send out some of our past stories.  I hope you enjoy the ones we selected and look forward to some “fresh Grits” in a couple of weeks. God bless.  Bro. Dewayne

For you are saved by grace through faith, and this is not from yourselves; it is God’s gift—not from works, so that no one can boast.” Ephesians 2:8-9

Well, the issue is finally settled. It is really a difficult thing to be the baby of the family especially when it is obvious that after seven previous tries mom and dad finally got it right.  Yup…that was me.  Number eight in a litter of eight.  Sometimes, because I was the baby of eight, my other brothers and sisters got a little jealous.

One of the stories that I was raised with was the fact that I really wasn’t a natural born part of the family.  In fact, they told me that mama and daddy had found me in a ditch in the poor part of town and felt sorry for me and brought me home.  Now I understand how that story got started.  I mean I was so much cuter and smarter than my brothers and sisters it seemed pretty apparent that I was an outsider. Yup, they would rag on me big time, but it didn’t bother me. I knew I was special.

I grew up and the story about me being “found” kind of faded away. I knew it was all a joke, but every once in a while, it gives me pause.  Hmmm, what if, I wonder, could it be?  Naw…I was pretty sure; it was not true.  As time passed and technology grew, someone started a company that would allow you to check your DNA.  The results would tell you where you were from and where your ancestors lived.  One of my older brothers decided to spend the money and have his checked. The results were lack luster.

I always envisioned being related to William Wallace or some other great hero.  But when his results came in it turned out that we were 83% plain ole Englishmen.  Yup…right there in Northern Europe.  I guess my ancestors got mad at the king or queen and took a ship to America.  His results did show that we were 17% Scott Irish which meant there was about a one in five chance that I had an Irish brogue hidden somewhere in me. However, it wasn’t enough for me to go buy a kilt!

But then I thought, “Well, those are his results but are they, my results?”  I mean if the “we found you in a ditch story” was true then his story couldn’t be mine.  So, guess what?  For Father’s Day, Judy spent the money, and I was able to spit in a tube and send my DNA off in the mail.  It took several weeks but guess what?  Yup, you guessed it.  My results were exactly-the same as my brothers.  What that really means is that we had the same father and mother, and I was the best looking and smartest because mom and dad finally got it right.  Smile.

I’m just pulling your leg.  I knew I was part of the family, there is a whole lot of family resemblance in me.  I also knew that old story was just a joke, but I always enjoyed playing along.  It made me feel kinda…special.  As you have heard before…my brothers and sisters called me “precious”—mainly because I was.  Smile.  But I want you to know that you are special too.  We all are.  We are all wonderful creations of God.  Like someone said, “God doesn’t make junk.”

I was born into the Taylor clan by an act of God’s grace.  Period.  I could have been born anywhere or at any time, but by His grace I was born to Alston and Leslie back in 1954. That wasn’t the only time I experienced His grace.  I was born another time too, back on October 26, 1976.  That was the day I was born again and adopted into the family of God.  You see, each person who trusts Christ is in the family by a new birth (that’s where we get our spiritual DNA) but also by the power of adoption (that’s where we get all the rights and privileges of a full-grown son.). From the moment I believed in Jesus, I had all the rights of a person who has known Jesus for decades.  Amazing.

So, I’m a Taylor down to my core…my DNA proves it.  But I am also a “tailor-made” (I couldn’t resist) child of God.  Born again by His grace and adopted into the family as His son.  There is no higher privilege than that.  And it is an open invitation.  God invites each and every person into the family if they are willing to believe and trust in His Son.  It is all a matter of faith and His grace.  His Book says, “For you are saved by grace through faith, and this is not from yourselves; it is God’s gift—not from works, so that no one can boast.”

I know I use that verse often, but it just never grows old.  I am a child of God, and He is my Dearest Daddy. Not because of who I am, but because of His love for me and His amazing grace.  How about that?

If you should ever wonder who you really belong to, can I make a suggestion?  Why not settle the issue and become a child of His?  You will never wander or wonder again.  He’s just waiting for you to come to Him and rest.  He wants you to know He’s got this, for now and for all eternity.  Bro. Dewayne

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

Nothing is Impossible

Hi Grits Family! Hey, my wife Judy and I are going to be “out of pocket” aka “not available” to write for the next couple of weeks.  During that time, we decided to send out some of our past stories.  I hope you enjoy the ones we selected and look forward to some “fresh Grits” in a couple of weeks. God bless.  Bro. Dewayne

And Mary said to the angel, “How will this be, since I am a virgin?” And the angel answered her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be called holy—the Son of God. For nothing will be impossible with God.” Luke 1:34-35, 37

It was almost unbelievable.  My wife, Judy, runs an Airbnb.  Airbnb was founded in California by a couple of guys who needed to make some cash.  Since there was a shortage of places to stay in the city where they lived, they decided to rent a spare space they had as a nightly rental.  They threw an air mattress on the floor and ran an ad.  What happened next was just amazing.  The room was booked all the time and well, the rest is history.  Today it is a multi-billion-dollar corporation that works as a clearing house for people who have property they want to rent on a nightly basis.  One of those is us.

We had a two-bedroom apartment over our garage that was sitting empty.  Judy researched and worked hard, and now we have a business that is a supplement to our household income.  As a side benefit, we get to meet a lot of people from all over the United States and sometimes from overseas.  Judy loves to host people, so it is just a win all the way around.

As I said, we get to meet some pretty wonderful people.  One of our favorites bordered on almost incredible.  We’ve had lots of really good people stay with us and a lot of them are Christians.  But the first fall we were renting, we had a younger couple stay with us and they began to tell us a bit of their story.  I was chatting with the husband while Judy was chatting with the wife.  I thought I heard the word “grandfather” and the name “Kenneth Taylor.”  So, I pushed pause on my conversation with her husband and said, “Excuse me, did you say that Kenneth Taylor was your grandfather?”  And she replied, “Yes.”  We had read his children’s story books to our girls many times, so I had to know the story.

Kenneth Taylor was a regular walk around guy who loved Jesus—a lot.  He really wanted his children to know God like he did.  Sadly, there wasn’t a scripture translation available that they could understand.  Back in those days it was the King James Version (KJV) and it was written on a grade level way too high for kids.  He got the idea to paraphrase the Bible into a language that was easy to understand. He wanted his ten kids to understand God’s Word like he did. In 1954, he had to ride a commuter train about an hour each way to work in Chicago, so he came up with a plan to paraphrase the New Testament into modern English during his commute.

For seven years—seven years, he would put his Bible on the seat next to him and put a yellow tablet on his leg and he would literally read and then write—read and then write. He started with the gospels and went from there.  When he got finished, he called his new paraphrase, Living Letters and it was released in 1962.  Well, he quickly found out that the Christian world was not ready for that—they were still struggling with anything besides KJV. No one was interested in publishing Living Letters.  So, do you know what he did?

He and his wife took their limited savings and begin publishing Living Letters.  The Living Letters would later be called The Living Bible. Slowly, ever so slowly, he began selling this paraphrase of the Bible and then something happened.  The Billy Graham Association called and asked if they could publish a special edition to give away at their crusades.  They wanted something that they could give to new Christians when they became Jesus followers, and they thought the Living Bible would be just the thing. They ordered and purchased half a million copies. It was a huge success. Oh, and along the way he started a new publishing company.  If you follow Christian publishing, you just might recognize it—Tyndale House Publishing.  How amazing is that?

Just think—an ordinary, walk around guy who loved Jesus, decided to do something about something.  He was very intelligent, and way committed, but really, he was just an ordinary man who loved Jesus.  And the paraphrase of the Bible he created on a yellow tablet strapped to his leg has helped millions get to know Jesus or know Him better.  It wasn’t easy and it wasn’t fast, but he stuck with it and God used him in a big way.

So, what about you?  What niggle do you have?  What thing is there that God is maybe, just maybe, calling you, leading you, to do?  What ministry does He want you to lead or birth?  What way can you bring some light into this way too dark world?  One of the greatest miracles in the world involved a young Jewish girl who was maybe as young as 14 or 15 years old.  God chose her to give birth to His Son.  She was just an ordinary, walk around girl who said yes to God.  When she said, “How can this be since I’ve never been with a man?” God just said, “Hey, with Me anything is possible.”  Anything is possible.

I know, in our day, everything seems impossible.  We can’t seem to get anything right. But that’s only because we are excluding the One who can make it happen.  Remember what God said…with Me anything is possible.  When we choose to put God back in the mix of our lives, well, there’s just no telling what can happen.  Hey, I’m writing stories and having the time of my life.  I’ve always been too busy and God just sorta, kinda slowed the world down.  There you go.  I hope you will never forget Kenneth Taylor’s story and I hope you will never forget that God wants to use us to do something big for Him.  Don’t let the unknown scare you—it’s just a new adventure about to start.  You can rest in Him.  He’s got this.  Bro. Dewayne