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

Remember

I will remember the Lord’s works; yes, I will remember Your ancient wonders. I will reflect on all You have done and meditate on Your actions.” Psalm 77:11

I remember when. It is a line that is heard a lot in conversation.  A favorite time. A favorite trip. A favorite memory.  It seems the older we get, the more we use those three words. I remember when gas was 18 cents a gallon.  I remember when a Coke was 5 cents.  I remember when a Whopper was 49 cents.  I remember my first new car was $2,795.  I remember my friend bragging that he could boil water in a paper cup and I was introduced to the microwave.

Now would be a good time to tell you that I am not 102 years old.  In fact, I am, well never mind.  Let’s just say not that old.  The ability to remember is one of the gifts that God gave to us as humans.  I can remember when I met my wife Judy–boy, was she cute.  I can remember when our first daughter was born–boy, she was cute too–took after her mom.  First granddaughter–yup, cute too. I remember when.

We all have those great memories.  Unfortunately, we also all have those “not so great” memories.  Times when we made unwise decisions that resulted in Goliath size consequences in our lives.  They usually involved a split moment in time when “the want” outweighed “the wisdom” and we acted.  The results were scars, broken hearts, financial disasters, and regret.

So, what do you do with this memory thing?  We all can remember back before the COVID thing was a thing…when things were…normal. Want to go out and eat? Sure. Want to go shopping.  Sure.  Want to go on vacation? Sure.  Want to go to church?  Sure.  Then came that long stretch when things were anything but normal.  Gratefully, now, we are beginning to taste, at least, a variation of normal. But the question remains, “What do we do with yesterday? What do we do with the regrets? What do we do with yesterdays that leave us longing or weeping? What do we do with fear of the unknowns?”

Saul (aka Paul) had to deal with that.  He had a long history of regrets.  As a young man climbing up the corporate ladder, he made his living imprisoning people for believing in Jesus.  People who followed Jesus would quake when he walked into town.  It usually meant someone was going to jail.  Or worse.  He once stood by as a mob stoned a young man named Stephen.  He nodded his approval with each sickening thud as stone met flesh.

So, what happened?  He met Jesus and he was instantly and forever changed.  He went from Jesus hater to Jesus follower.  The only problem was people have long memories and he was a people.  Every look in the polished metal mirror reminded him. Every trip to a new town carried the dread that someone would say, “Hey, isn’t that the guy?”  Ever had that happen?  Ever dread that happening?  Well, Paul did too, and he gave us some mountain moving advice in Philippians 3:13a-14.

He wrote “This one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and reaching forward to what is ahead, I pursue as my goal the prize promised by God’s heavenly call in Christ Jesus.”  There you go.  He says “I am not going to let my past control my present or my future”.  Paul accepted one amazing deal.  Grace.  God had forgiven him of all his messes in the past and he finally made the decision to live in grace rather than regret.

So, as we continue our journey through these days of a new different, we can long for the old days, or we can live in gratitude and grace.  As memories of mistakes the size of Everest sneak their way into our present, we can sink or we can swim in His grace.  As we look in the mirror, we can see what might have been or believe what God says is. The author of Psalm 77 said, “I will remember the Lord’s works; yes, I will remember Your ancient wonders. I will reflect on all you have done and meditate on your actions.”

You need to know and believe that He’s pretty keen on you.  He’s not ashamed or afraid to call you His.  There is never a hint of regret for His decision to let you in the family.  Hey, believe that.  Rest in that. He’s got you. He’s got this.  Bro. Dewayne

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

Rocking on Lake Victoria

Do not be afraid or discouraged, for the Lord will personally go ahead of you. He will be with you; He will neither fail you nor abandon you.” Deuteronomy 31:8

It was like something out of National Geographic. I was on a vision trip to Uganda several years ago and it was one adventure after another.  I was working with a missionary who had a ministry to the people living on the islands of Lake Victoria.  This massive lake is the second largest in the world and is more like an inland sea than a lake.  There are places that you can lose sight of the shoreline and you feel very much like you are out on the ocean.

Our vessel was anything but an ocean liner.  It was a handcrafted open vessel that was about twenty-five feet long and powered by a fire breathing dragon of a motor with a whopping ten horsepower.  We would tear across the lake at a heart stopping ten miles an hour. Ok, there really wasn’t a fire breathing dragon effect, nor were we tearing across the lake, but it was a great adventure!  Usually.

One day, after a long day of preaching and teaching, it was time to head back to our home island.  We were a little late leaving and night was coming soon, so it was imperative that we begin heading back.  Our boat was parked in a small, secluded harbor and from there we all loaded up.  There were only about six of us in the boat and the small engine started and off we went.  As soon as we left the harbor we were greeted by some rough water.  The waves were large enough to be “white caps” and I gave the missionary a glance but he assured me that these were not big waves. Well, beauty is in the eye of the beholder and so is wave size.  These were boat swallowing monsters.  And then, after a few minutes, it happened.

As the pilot guided the boat and tried to determine just how to navigate the large waves…the motor quit.  I mean, it just stopped.  Suddenly, at least in my eyes, things got a bit more interesting.  We could no longer navigate the waves, rather, we were at their mercy and no matter how hard the pilot pulled, the engine wouldn’t start.  About then I began a worship service of sorts, part music, part prayer and part personal eulogy. You know, “Friends we are gathered here to honor the life of…” Meanwhile the pilot is still pulling on the motor and I kept praying.

Finally, one of the guys in the boat named Joseph went to work on the motor.  Joseph is a young man that can do just about anything—from preaching to apparently fixing motors.  The shorter version of a long story is that He proceeded to take the carburetor apart and “blow it out.”  Now keep in mind we are still rocking like crazy…and I still am praying and preparing to die.  But I had planned my funeral just a little too soon.  Before long, Jospeh had the carburetor reassembled and back on the motor.  Three or four quick pulls later and we were back “on the road.”  The waves were still big (at least to me) but we were underway and eventually we arrived back at the other island.  Safe—if not too sound.

It really was one of those times that I wished I had paid more attention at swimming lessons because I wasn’t totally sure of the outcome.  But thankfully I did remember one thing. I remembered that whether I am rocking in a boat on the world’s second largest lake in East Africa or driving down the Interstate at 70 miles-per-hour surrounded by people looking at their cellphones or doing life in a tumultuous point in history, my Father, my Dearest Daddy, is in control.  Fate and circumstances are not calling the shots—He is. And if that isn’t enough, we have the promise that the Lord will personally go ahead of us. He will be with us; He will neither fail us, nor will He abandon us.

Now to be clear that doesn’t mean that everything is going to turn out exactly as I would like.  It doesn’t mean that I get to write the script and He has to follow it.  Quite the contrary, He is writing the script and He invites me to trust Him and to believe that ultimately the end of the story is for my good and His glory.  I’m learning that the story never ends here—it ends there.  For the person who decides to trust Him there is always a surprise ending and that is—the end is not the end.  We may change locations, but the story continues.  How about that?

So, I survived that day on the lake and now have returned many times…each time taking others with me including the one that I love most on this earth—my wife, Judy. I do so knowing, that while there are risks, ultimately the pilot of the boat doesn’t sit at the back but up in heaven and He’s got his eye on us and everything we do.  It’s true in East Africa and its true where you and I live.  We can say with certainty that if we belong to Him, we don’t have to worry because, “He’s got this.”  Bro. Dewayne

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

Home is Better

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Lost in the Desert

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Right Tool… Right Job

For I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength.” Philippians 4:13

They’re in the garage…waiting.  Ok, let’s be totally honest.  I am, uh, not very handy when it comes to power tools.  It’s not that I don’t use them, and it’s not that I can’t use them, I just don’t use them as effectively as others.  I know when I work with the guys at church on some project, generally speaking, they won’t let me use the power tools.  It’s an act of protection—for me and for them.  Now, with all that said, I do have a pretty good collection of power tools.  And, when I do need them, they are there and if I am careful and patient, I can usually get the job done.

I have a set of tools all made by Ryobi.  The idea is that you have all these different tools, but they are all powered by the same battery or power source.  Several companies do this but I chose Ryobi mainly because they were cheaper than most of the other “he-man” professional brands.  I have, and this is the short list, a couple of drills, an impact driver, a saws-all, a circular saw, a light, a grinder, two string trimmers, two blowers (one small and one big) and a partridge and a pear tree.  Just checking to see if you were still there. Now all these tools use the same battery—the same power source which means I can switch the battery between them all.  It is cool and it is convenient.

Several of these tools, like the drills, blowers, and string trimmers, I use pretty frequently. Some, though, I rarely use—but here is the deal.  I may not use them often, but when I need one, they are so valuable.  I had a piece of metal sticking up in my back yard from an old house that once stood there.  This metal was a pain in the neck.  I would forget and hit it with my lawnmower and bump it with the string trimmer.  No matter what I did, I couldn’t get rid of it.  Then one day I bought a grinder to add to my tool collection.  I took that dude in the backyard and eight years of frustration disappeared in a matter of seconds.  The difference? Right tool for the job.

While all these tools do different things, like I said, they all have the same battery.  I have learned one thing.  The tools without the battery are totally useless.  They might look impressive as you look into my big green Ryobi tool bag, but take away the power and they are just space stealers on a shelf.  However, put in the battery and bam—they become powerful and useful.

I suppose you are already connecting the dots here.  You probably have already figured out that all of us are different, and all of us have different skill sets, but all of us also need a power source to be what we were created to be.  Some might consider that to be a positive attitude or a strong work ethic, and while those are good things…they are not the thing.  From where I sit, the One who made me, who designed me is the source of strength in my life.  He makes all the skill sets come alive.  Paul, one of the writers of the New Testament said it right when he wrote, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”  At least for me, when I plug Jesus into life, into a situation, all of a sudden, there is power to do—to overcome.

Now, don’t make the mistake of confusing church and religion for Jesus.  In and of themselves I guess they are fine, but they are anemic substitutes for the real deal. Jesus is the power source that can change lives and He is just waiting to change yours.  Why not jump on the web and do a little research? Oh, sure you will find some who will think this God stuff is just a crutch to give hopeless people something to hope in.  But you are also going to find a big bunch of incredible people who believe just the opposite.  Hey, give it a shot.  I know after this crazy past year, as well as a zillion other tough situations, He is the real deal, and I’ve never found anything that He can’t handle.  Take it to the bank…He’s got this.  Bro. Dewayne

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

Too Much Spaghetti

A cheerful heart is good medicine, but a broken spirit saps a person’s strength.” Proverbs 17:22

I cooked way too much spaghetti.  Well, I guess it is all official.  Things are back to normal.  You see, I am a pastor/teacher/preacher. That means I have the privilege of serving with a bunch of people in a church and have the opportunity to share truth from the Bible…often several times a week.  It is something that I truly enjoy. When I am sharing something and see the expression on someone’s face change, as if to say, “I get it,” well, it doesn’t get much better than that.

Pastoring is my second career.  I spend twelve years in the Air Force and just loved it and then God came up with another idea.  I separated from the Air Force and became a pastor.  That was 39 years ago.  Wow…that sounds like a long time but seems like yesterday. When I first starting preaching, my sermons were like 23 minutes long and sometimes that seemed like an eternity…for me and probably for them.  Over the years, things have gotten, well, longer.  Someone once said, “The longer you preach, the longer you preach.”  I believe I can testify to that.

So, before the COVID thing happened, I was generally speaking about 40-45 minutes. People were kind and most were even grateful for the message but there’s another old saying that says, “Never speak longer than the audience’s seat can bear.”  Well, let’s just same I probably reached and exceeded that limit.  So, because of COVID, for several months, the sermons were on Facebook Live and for that and a couple of other reasons I made a concerted effort to preach a little shorter…usually about 35 minutes.  I was so proud of myself…and then…well, yesterday happened.

Yesterday, I cooked too much spaghetti.  Now that is “code” that I simply prepared too much material.  Even before Sunday, I had cut about 20 percent of the material and I thought that would do it.  It didn’t.  The bottom line is that I preached, gulp, 45 minutes.  Oh my. I don’t think I chased too many rabbits—it was just too much spaghetti.  At the end of the service I told the folks that I appreciated their patience. They are such a gracious group of people.  I also smiled and told them that it was a great sign that things were definitely back to normal.

I always greet the people as they leave after the service and something happened that still has me smiling.  The mother of one of our members was in the service.  I know her and well, she is a friend and a very special lady.  Her husband passed away about a year ago and I was privileged to have a part in his service.  As she shook my hand, she shared that because of having to care for her husband and for health reasons she hadn’t been in church for several years.  Then she explained how each week she was sure to listen to our service, and me, on the radio.  I smiled and said how grateful I was.  And then she said, “You know, I sure enjoyed today but you know, at home, I can just turn the radio off when I am ready.”  I laughed, she laughed, and everyone who was standing in earshot did too. It was a precious moment, and it made my day.

This story isn’t about sermons, long or short, but rather it is about the fact that life is getting back…not to normal, but I believe something better than what it was.  I’ve said it so many times, it won’t be the same and in some ways that is not bad.  In fact, in some ways, it is just better.  I believe the COVID year has taught us to love God better and love people better.  I believe the COVID year has taught us to appreciate the small things in life that make life better.

This past Friday night, for the first time in a long time, I sat around a table with friends, as we shared a meal, but more than that—we laughed, a lot, and it was good.  So, this week my goal is to preach a little shorter and laugh a little more.  After all the Bible tells us that a cheerful heart is good medicine and I just tend to believe what it says. We can laugh, even in our hot mess world, because ultimately, we are certain of one thing—He’s got this.  Bro. Dewayne

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

Yes and No

Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.” James 1:17

2020 was a year to remember or maybe, to forget. Years from now, when I think of that particular year, I will remember it as the “Year of No”. You see, to me it seemed every time I turned around someone was telling me no. I couldn’t do this and I couldn’t do that.  Included in that batch of “noes” were trips to conferences and vacations. I remember a particular task I just didn’t want to do.  I had put it off for several weeks.  It wasn’t that I was procrastinating–I was just hoping.  Maybe something would change.  Maybe what appeared to be a new normalcy was a bad dream and I would wake up, stretch and yawn, make a cup of coffee and get ready to go.  Instead…I cancelled the reservation.  As it turned out I wouldn’t be needing a rental car for a week in California.  Not now.

You see, my wife Judy and I love to travel—to take adventures. Last spring our adventure was a rerun of sorts.  Catch the train to Chicago, spend the night there and enjoy the Chicago skyline, wake up and board the train for California.  For two days America would fly by our windows–farmlands, plains, mountains. Once in California we would see some of the most incredible scenery you could imagine.  It was going to be a great trip and then the pandemic and its buddies said, “no.”

Actually, that was just one of several “noes”  We were going to a pastor’s retreat in North Carolina to get recharged.  No. We were going to the Southern Baptist Convention–something we do every year. No.  I had a doctor’s appointment in Paducah.  I’m not usually a fan of doctor appointments–you know, “Step right here on the scale.”  You know the drill.  But I was excited—at least I was going somewhere, anywhere.  No. No. No. No.

In the midst of the flurry of “noes” something happened.  Judy reminded me of a song by Michelle Williams, “Say Yes,” that we had enjoyed many times before .  It had slipped from my playlist.  Maybe it shouldn’t have.  The words go something like this, “When Jesus say yes, nobody can say no. When Jesus say yes, nobody can say no. When Jesus say yes, nobody can say no. When Jesus say yes, nobody can say no.”

The song continues, “I’m not worried ’bout a thing, ’cause, I know You are guiding me. Where You lead me, Lord, I will go. I have no fear ‘cause, I know Who’s in control. There’s no limit to what You can do ’cause it all belongs to You–Yes, it all belongs to You. You’re Almighty and all powerful and it all belongs to You. Yes, it all belongs to You. When Jesus say yes, nobody can say no.”

Ok, it rocked me good—in fact, it changed my outlook.  It helped me see, again, that life is filled with yes and “noes.”  You know, that’s just life.  Trips get cancelled, schools get closed, schedules get train wrecked (no pun intended), and kids drive parents crazy, and parents drive kids crazy.  Circumstances seem to drown us, and life sometimes just scares us.  And then, if we are Jesus followers, we simply pause and remember,“When Jesus say yes, nobody can say no.”

Well, here we are a year later and while there is still an occasional “no,” the truth is, “yes” is coming back in vogue. We can go and eat at most restaurants. We can plan vacations–at least in most parts of America. We can ride the train or take a plane. We are even talking about a mission trip to Africa sometime this summer. “When Jesus say yes, nobody can say no.”

I hope I am wise enough to learn from all of this.  “Learn what” you ask?  That God is running this show.  He says “yes” and He says “no.”  He opens and closes doors.  And you need to know something.  He doesn’t seek nor need my permission or approval–or yours.  After all, get ready, He is God and well, we are not.  Now all that would be scary except for one thing.

James 1:17 says, “Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.” Our Father is not a “bad news, I’m gonna deprive you just because I can” God.  Nope.  He is an “I love you and I’m going to watch over you” God.  And what are we supposed to do? Just listen as He whispers, “Trust me.” In a month or so, Judy and I are heading to Colorado and the Badlands of South Dakota.  Eventually, we will probably make it to California.  If not, well, I bet He’s got one whale of a better idea.  Regardless, I’m learning to rest in Him.  After all, “He’s got this.”  Bro. Dewayne

Posted in Family, fear, life, Scripture, sovereignty of God, thankful

April Snow

For by Him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through Him and for Him. And He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together.” Colossians 1:16-17

Surprise, surprise, surprise.  Three of Gomer Pyle’s favorite words.  If you are old enough that name means something.  If you are not, well, your only comment would be, “Who would name their kid Gomer?”  Well, I guess Mr. and Mrs. Pyle did.  Gomer was a television character from the sixties who started in the Andy Griffith Show and then later had his own show called, “Gomer Pyle, U.S.M.C.”  That’s right…this most unlikely of candidates joins the Marines and proceeds to drive Sergeant Carter, his drill sergeant and boss, crazy. If you can find it somewhere, and you like just crazy comedy, it might be worth your time.

On both shows Gomer had this high pitch, country twangy voice that really fit his character.  But here’s the funny part…he actually had an incredibly rich baritone singing voice.  It was so unexpected…kinda like a beautiful song coming from a barnyard chicken.  He managed quite a career as an actor and as a singer.  Sometimes it is the unexpected that keeps life interesting.

So, last night, a Tuesday and a little past the middle of April, something happened that was really unexpected.  It snowed.  While the ground was warm enough that it didn’t stick, it snowed to beat the band. Now if this was Alaska it wouldn’t be a deal, but this is Southern Illinois.  Southern Illinois, as in, we are in full blown Spring.  Southern Illinois, as in, flowers blooming, trees budding and grass growing.  Just like Gomer’s rich baritone voice…this was totally unexpected. We had to haul plants into our garage and cover up what we could in hopes of saving them from the freeze.  We will see.

Although the weather folks had let us know a little ahead of time, that didn’t change the fact that this was unseasonable and unexpected.  To some degree it caught them and us off guard.  And, honestly, that is often the case in life.  Things come and go and sometimes we see them a mile down the road and sometimes, like Gomer, all we can say is “Surprise, surprise, surprise.”  I know our third child was a surprise…at least to us.  Of course, there was Someone who knew all about it.  Wondering who?

That “Who” would be God.  Have you ever thought about the fact that God never says, “Oops?”  How about this?  Have you ever thought about the fact that God has never, and will never say, “Sure didn’t see that one coming.”  Nope, with God there is never an oops and He is never surprised.  From the beginning of history here on planet earth until He decides to call it a day, nothing ever catches Him off guard.  Nothing.  I like that…a lot.  Things may catch us off guard but Him, …never. I like what Paul said in the New Testament.  He let us know that not only did God create all things, He is the One who holds it all together.  That means no matter how much it seems like the world is crumbling around us…it’s not…at least not without His permission.

I hope we are done with the “surprise” April snow storms and freezing temps.  For me, once was enough.  And while we are at it, I also hope we are done with the 2020’s of life and the pandemics.  I guess the truth is, only God knows.  However, that fact alone gives me peace.  The God who made it all knows all about it.  All I have to do is to remember to trust Him and believe that He will be there whenever whatever happens.  Even if it snows in July, I know beyond a shadow of a doubt, “He’s got this.”  Bro. Dewayne

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

Steak and Shake

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

We met when I was just a kid. A long time ago and in a galaxy far, far away (think Star Wars) one of my favorite things to do in the summer was to go and visit my sister and brother-in-law in Daytona Beach.  I lived in Jacksonville and they were kind enough to invite me to spend a week with them.  Trust me…it was like a different world.  Our west Jacksonville neighborhood was half town and half country and the most exciting thing that ever happened was if and when there was a fire call, and we would chase the firetruck.  I’ll write more on that one day.

Now compare that with Daytona Beach.  Can someone say, “Night and day?”  Daytona Beach was a happening place and there was always something to do.  We would drive over to the beach, cruise the strip, and go out to eat.  One of my favorite places to go was Steak and Shake.  Back in the early and mid 60’s, it was not a new establishment, but it was still up and coming.  They were famous for their steak burgers, skinny fries, and milkshakes.  For a ten year old from the westside of Jacksonville, it was heaven.

Steak and Shake was different than most fast-food places.  There, you could actually go inside, be seated and be served, and through the years that is how it has remained.  When I grew up, it was only natural that Steak and Shake was one of my “go to” places to eat.  Oh, it wasn’t an every-week event, but we did go about once a month.  The routine was always the same.  Park, go inside and be seated, order, eat, and leave.  It worked well, but then something called COVID changed things up.  First, and at most locations, you can now only go through the drive-thru.  But in Cookeville, Tennessee we stumbled upon the future—the new Steak and Shake.

At this location, which I am sure will be true for all the rest too, when you walk in, there is not a hostess to seat you and no counter to order at.  Instead, there are several kiosks (computer touch-screens) and from there you can order your food.  Then…you just sit down…wherever you want.  Feel free to go up and get your drinks from the drink station (remember, this wasn’t in Illinois) and finally someone would bellow out your order number and you would walk up and get your food.  Boom—just like that burgers and fries were flying into hungry mouths washed down by delicious milkshakes.  It was new, it was different and I loved it.

I am sure that the COVID mess that we all have disdained is at least partly responsible for their new system, but it also shows that not all the changes are going to be bad.  At our church we are doing Wednesday nights totally different, and it is totally working.  We have a men’s group called “Man Time” (how creative is that); a women’s Bible study (well, not creative but it works) and then something called “The Big A Club” for the kids.  There are people everywhere.  And get this—men are coming to church on a Wednesday night! What?  And it all came about because of the pause that COVID caused.

Someone from ancient times (I’m not talking about 1950!) said the only thing constant is change and they were right.  Some of the changes are not good.  In fact, some of the cultural changes might be considered dangerous.  But we need to work to accept the good and temper the others.  It gives us a great opportunity to be the salt and light that Jesus talked to us about.  People all around us have lots of questions which should lead to lots of opportunities to talk about faith…and Jesus.

Romans 8:28 remains one of the most popular verses in the Bibles.  It says that for those who love God, He can bring good out of every situation.  We sure like to quote that, but I wonder if we are willing to trust it?  Hey, I’ve been writing three small words for a year and some of you have been here for that whole time—“He’s got this.”  So, as things morph around us, let’s be courageous enough to address the dangerous, but flexible enough to embrace the other.  It might not be easy but if He is in control and we trust Him…it’s gonna be fine.  And, can I say it one more time?  He’s got this.  Bro. Dewayne

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

Amazing Grace

Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? And not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father. But even the hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not, therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows.” Matthew 10:29-30

It’s worth telling again.  We all have told a good joke that we relish telling again and again.  Or perhaps there a story that is just too good to tell only once.  Well, this is one of those stories.  Last year, in the early days of Grits, before the Grits Facebook page and before the website, I wrote a story about something that happened on a Friday. And trust me…it was pretty amazing.  You see, I’m one of those people who believe that God is always working.  And on that particular day, I think He looked down from heaven and decided I was going to need a little extra help.  It goes like this.

So, it was Friday and Judy tricked me into some really laborious yard work.  I kinda volunteered to rebuild a flower bed and ended up being drafted to build a sidewalk next to the flower bed.  It involved moving and setting 28 of those 16 by 16 concrete paving things and 15 of those blocks that you use to build a wall.  Well, several hours later we had a sidewalk and a small wall with a new flower bed.  It looks awesome.  She was tired…I was exhausted.

I showered up, sat on the couch for a while and then decided I needed to pick up the garage.  Our nightly vacation rental property is over our garage and due to a lack of storage space there were several containers of winter decorations from there that had taken up residence.  Either the car or the containers had to go.  I voted for the containers.

So, I pulled both cars out of the garages (yes garages…we have two…go figure.) In the smaller garage where my car is parked there is a storage shelf–an obvious new home for the stuff that Judy had put in the other garage.  Well, to make a long story shorter I started rearranging the shelf to make room for the stuff.  Finally, I began to move the heavy containers and I began to mutter.  It went like this, “I’m too tired to be messing with this stuff. I didn’t create the mess so why am I having to fix it.”  Honestly, I got just a little mad.

So, I finally got everything where it would now live but there were three winter doormats still on the floor.  I picked them up and carried them to the basement in our house.  I came out to finish and close up shop.  As I looked in my garage–there it was.  I had a tool rack mounted on the wall.  It held rakes, shovels, brooms, clippers…you name it. It was seven feet long and heavy. I hadn’t touched it but there it was on the garage floor–all of it. It didn’t fall down–it fell out–right where my car would have been if it had been in the garage.  Trust me it would have left more than a few small scratches.  We are talking “lions and tigers and bears–oh my.”

So, my first thought was what in the world happened? Well obviously, the wall anchors holding the rack had failed.  But my second thought–literally–was my car wasn’t in the garage for one reason–I had cleaned up Judy’s mess.  If I hadn’t done that–it would have been, well, never mind.  Now I drive a five-year-old vehicle by choice, but I have always tried to take care of our vehicles.  I figured if I am going to drive an older car it might as well look good.

So, I am amazed–not that I got the garage picked up; not that the thing with the tools fell off the wall, but that my Father carefully orchestrated a series of events to make sure my car wasn’t in the way.  “Dewayne, do you really think that God cares about such things?”  No…I don’t think…I know.  And that’s not all. I am certain that when I finally get to heaven, I am going to be amazed at the things He did that I didn’t even know about.

Now I know we continue to be frustrated and maybe even discouraged about the events that surround us. Just remember what Jesus said in Matthew 10:29-30 “Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? And not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father. But even the hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not, therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows.”

Fear not.  Hey, crazy world…fear not. Hey, uncertain future…fear not. Watch out new normalcy…fear not. High gas prices…fear not.  Remember, if you know Jesus then God knows you.  You call Him Dearest Father and He calls you His child. Trust me, you are of more value to Him than many sparrows. So, rest in Him.  He can move cars and mountains. He’s got this.  Bro. Dewayne