Posted in Family, food, friends, gratitude, life, loving others, priorities, Scripture, thankful, Trials

Welcome Home

Let us think of ways to motivate one another to acts of love and good works. And let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do, but encourage one another, especially now that the day of His return is drawing near.” Hebrews 10:24-25

That’s a wrap.  When a film crew is filming, and the job is complete they call it a wrap.  The filming is over, done, finito (that’s Italian for finished…impressive huh?) Well, while the Covid virus is going to be a part of our lives for the rest of our lives, apparently it is finito. With herd immunity and all the new medicines available, its power has been dramatically reduced.  If you ever saw the cartoon version of “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” you remember that the abominable snowman lost his bite then they pulled his teeth.  So now, it seems with Covid also.

I heard the other day that our President even announced that it was done and looking around I agree. The other night my wife, Judy, and I went out to eat and we chose Cracker Barrel.  Now believe it or not, this restaurant has been a pretty good judge of Covid’s impact.  Of course, there was a time during Covid when it was closed, there was a time when they spaced everyone out and there were no condiments on the tables.  There was a time when there were paper menus that were promptly trashed after someone touched them.  And, when you walked in there might be a couple of dozen people there. But now, it seems, things have changed.

As I said, Friday night, we visited the closest Cracker Barrel. When we pulled into the parking lot, it was just about full.  I told Judy, “I sure hope we don’t have to wait.” I hate waiting…especially waiting to eat.  We walked in and to my surprise there wasn’t a line.  The hostess asked how many, picked up a couple of menus and took us to our table.  Well, here you go.  The first dining room was totally full…something that I had not seen for two years.  There were condiments on the tables and people were talking, laughing, and eating.  The next dining room was about 70 percent full but that is where we found our table.  Our hostess gave us a couple of real menus and that is when I said it, “Judy, it is normal.” So, we enjoyed a great meal and well, it all just felt good.

Normalcy.  It does feel good, but the truth is somethings just aren’t.  I went to the hospital to visit some folks this week and they are still requiring masks…sorta.  The signs say you must be screened to enter but you don’t.  The signs say that even one, including patients, must wear a mask but none of patients did though most other people did.  A real strange outcome of all of this is the job market.  There apparently are more jobs than people who want to work. I saw a sign that said, “Now Hiring…Just Like Everyone Else.” And believe it or not, when some people take a job, they may only stay a few days or weeks.  How different…how strange.

I went to my hearing doctor this week and he asked me how church (he knows I am a pastor) was going and what percentage of people have come back.  I told him we were running about 80 or 85 percent of our pre-Covid numbers.  The truth is while Covid was doing its thing some folks just gave up on the church thing.  Now that’s doesn’t necessarily mean they gave up on God, they just came to the conclusion that church wasn’t that big of a deal.  I’m sure some people feel the same way about Cracker Barrel—pre-Covid they loved it but now they can do without it.  How different…how interesting.

As a preacher, pastor guy I’m hoping that more of those who stopping coming and some who never came will rediscover and discover the value of this part of normalcy.  I never gave up on Cracker Barrel because I love their breakfast and their meatloaf isn’t too bad either.  There are several things that your local church provides that are worth hanging on to.  Chief among them are friendships and fellowship, someone to walk with you and your family as you do life, studying the number one bestselling book, the Bible, and being together with other people who think God is still relevant…because He is.

So, welcome back to normal.  As you rediscover life, I hope you will enjoy a great meal somewhere familiar…maybe Cracker Barrel or better a local place that misses you.  And why not think about coming home to God’s house.  Truthfully, they need you and you need them. The church offers something that nothing, not hobbies, not sports, not anything else can provide. It offers hope…it offers Jesus.  Whoever wrote Hebrews said, “Let us think of ways to motivate one another to acts of love and good works. And let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do, but encourage one another, especially now that the day of His return is drawing near.” Now that’s some good advice.  I know, sometimes it is hard to come home but your Dearest Daddy is waiting and ready to help.  Don’t worry…He’s got this. Bro. Dewayne

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

One Thing I Know

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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, forgiveness, friends, Grace, life, loving others, prayer, Scripture, Trials

Speak No Evil

Then Jesus stood up again and said to the woman, “Where are your accusers? Didn’t even one of them condemn you?” “No, Lord,” she said. And Jesus said, “Neither do I. Go and sin no more.” John 8:10-11

It’s gonna happen…it just should not happen there.  Life is filled with bumps and bruises.  They’re gonna happen like it or not but sometimes they are made worse by the timing and location.  A flat tire is never fun but take that same flat tire and let it happen on a rainy Monday on the way to an interview for a new job and it is just worse.  Your car breaking down is just a bad deal but when it happens out in the middle of nowhere and with no cellphone service…well, your day just went south.

I once experienced something that well, it just shouldn’t have happened but where it happened and how it happened just made it worse.  It was a Sunday morning in South Georgia and like any other Sunday morning I was in church.  I went to church for several reasons…like it was the right thing to do, I thought it might make God happy and usually I enjoyed it.  On this particular day…well, let’s just say I had that proverbial flat tire on a rainy Monday out in the middle of nowhere.  The story goes like this.

Ever since I was a kid I liked to sing, and people said they enjoyed it.  So, I was occasionally asked to sing at church.  On this particular Sunday morning I was asked to sing.  Now there is something you need to know before we go any further.  You see, the church I attended was strict with certain things and one of those things was that guys should not have hair over their ears.  That was a big no, no.  And believe it or not, even though I was in the Air Force I had found a way to have hair over my ears.  It involved “Dippity-do” but that’s another story.

Well, that Sunday was my time to sing.  I went to the stage and did the very best I could to sing for Jesus.  With my “hair over my ears” waving in the wind I went up and I came down.  I was glad to sing but was also glad it was over.  Well, it wasn’t.  Because that Sunday we had a special speaker.  And because of what happened, I remember him very, very, well.  He stepped behind the pulpit, and I got the surprise of my young life.  I was surprised because what he said was like a dagger in my heart.  Here’s what he said.

With his deep and authoritative voice, in front of the entire church, he said, “Young man, if I had hair like yours, I would be ashamed to stand up and sing for Jesus.”  I was shocked.  I was hurt.  I was mortally embarrassed.  Not because of my hair, not because I had caused Jesus to frown (which I didn’t) but because this man who represented God had put me on trial, judged me, and sentenced me.  Honestly, it’s a miracle I didn’t walk out and keep right on walking.

Like I said, things like this happen but they should never, ever happen in church.  We wonder why people don’t want to come to church and unfortunately too often it is things like this.  You see, church should be a safe place…a loving place.  Church should be a place not for perfect people (because there aren’t any) but for forgiven people.  Church should be a grace place and not a place to judge and throw rocks.  Church should be a place where people see Jesus everywhere…in the lives of everyone.

I love the fact that the people who flocked to Jesus were the most broken in the community.  They liked Him and He loved them. He was perfectly comfortable with sitting down with the worse sinner in town and having lunch.  Trust me, that drove the religious people crazy.  They said some very nasty things about Jesus because of that but the truth is…Jesus came to rescue the lost, the broken…people like me and you.

Well, the good news is I survived that Sunday morning, but it left a scar that remains to this day. My wife reminded me that my pastor came up afterwards and apologized.  I’m glad he did.  We need to have the courage to speak up when a wrong occurs…Jesus would. I can never get enough of the story in the Bible about the woman taken in adultery.  The rock throwers wanted to kill her but instead Jesus loved and forgave her.  I like that. A lot.  So, if you find yourself wounded by a rock chucker just remember Jesus loves you…even if someone else doesn’t.  And remember, no matter what, “He’s got this.” Bro. Dewayne

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

Sandspurs from the Past

He has removed our sins as far from us as the east is from the west.” Psalm 103:12

It was a voice from my past—and it was singing the blues.  While we were in Southwest Florida on holiday, I tried to keep up with my morning routines.  That included, first and foremost, coffee.  After coffee and a look at the weather came God time.  After God time came Judy time.  After Judy time came—exercise time.  The problem with all these times is they all take time.  Before I knew it, the sun was up, the humidity was up, and the temperature was up.  Regardless, I had to get up and get going.

The first morning we were there I was still learning the lay of the land and wasn’t exactly sure where I should walk.  So, I headed toward the way in and out of our condo property.  This led to the highway and so I took a left and decided to walk on the edge of the road.  It was safe but it was miserable.  There was no shade and soon it was just plain hot—very hot— “why am I doing this” hot.  I was determined to go my 3.6 miles, but I began wondering if this was such a good idea.  After a little while longer I was sure it wasn’t.  But you know how men are—do or die and in this case, death might have been an upgrade.  Ok, I’m exaggerating.

In my misery, I met an old friend.  There was a point when I had to cross a bridge across a channel.  They had built a walkway but to get to the walkway you had to go behind a guardrail through the weeds.  Without breaking stride, I charged on and then I saw them.  Sandspurs.  These were old friends from my childhood.  They are a type of weed and have sharp, spine covered balls of pain at the ends of long stems.  They will grab anything that gets close and if that happens to be your skin…you are done.  If they don’t get you when they attach, they will get you when you try to detach them. Ugh.

Like I said, they were an old foe from my childhood.  When I was a kid, we would run barefoot all the time and without fail we would step on them. They would hurt…bad.  Well, this time, even though I tried to avoid them, they found their way onto my shoes and socks, but I didn’t find them till I got back from my walk.  As I was sitting by the pool trying to recover from a 145-heart rate and the 100-degree humidity, I found them. And, just like the old days, they made sure to give me a “stick and an ouch” as I tried to remove them.  Just.Like.The.Old.Days.  Though it was years ago, the whole sandspur scene was painfully fresh.

I find that sandspurs aren’t the only painful thing that love to bump into our present.  Often, too often, unpleasant memories and regrets, sneak back into our lives and cause us pain all over again.  Try as we may, sometimes, it seems they reattach themselves to us and we relive the whole hot mess again.  It could be a similar situation or maybe a repeat performance, but all the pain and remorse come flooding back.  I hate it, you hate it, but how do we avoid it?

Well, I tried to avoid the sandspurs on my walk.  I saw them, I knew they were there, but in my rush, my determination to exercise, I simply didn’t give them the wide berth they deserved.  I should have made it a higher priority. I realized that when I was trying to remove them.  When you sense or when you feel your ugly, painful past creeping into the present, do whatever it takes to change the scenario. Don’t allow yourself to relive the “sandspurs” of past failures. Trust me—they will attach themselves to your present with all their former pain.

There is one more thing that is even more important than that.  Should you find yourself reliving that regret, run straight into the arms of grace.  Remember and relive the forgiveness that came after the failure.  The Bible tells us that God casts our failures as far as the east is from the west.  I love that because it doesn’t say as far as the north is from the south. You see if you go north long enough you will find the south.  But not so with east from the west.  You can travel east forever and never find the west.  And that dear friend, is what God does with our failures and sin if we ask Him for forgiveness and help. It is gone—outta here and that is real good news.

Well, I couldn’t wait to show Judy my sandspurs, not because I liked them but because they reminded me of an important part of my past and the fact that I knew they were not going to be a permanent part of my future.  I may have bumped into them, but I wasn’t going to live with them. And that is a good thing. So, as you are speed walking through life, remember to give your painful past a wide berth and keep Jesus close by your side. You’ll find Him a mobile “rest stop,” there to make every step, every day survivable and “thrive-able.” And never forget, He’s got this.  Bro. Dewayne

Posted in Family, friends, Grace, gratitude, life, love, loving others, priorities, Scripture, thankful, Trials

Show a Little Kindness Today

Be kind to each other, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God through Christ has forgiven you.” Colossians 4:32

I needed to go…and she was right. I served as pastor at Cobden First Baptist Church for fourteen years.  For the first couple of years, we had someone to do the bulletin but that was about it.  After the church grew, we decided to hire a secretary and that was when Lydia came on scene.  When we hired her, she told us that she didn’t have a lot of experience but was willing to learn. Well, my twelve years in the Air Force as an Administrative Specialist made me a pretty good teacher. Before long, Lydia was up and running and she became one of the best secretaries I have ever had.

What Lydia initially lacked in practical experience she more than made up in a heart to help.  When someone came into the office and needed an encouraging word…Lydia was there.  When someone was struggling with life…she was there.  On any given day you could count on her to bring a little sunlight into the office. There was a time, and I don’t remember why, my wife Judy and I were the ones needing that encouragement.  It was a church thing, perhaps an unhappy member, who knows, but we needed that little ray of sunshine.

I can remember it to this day. Judy and I were sitting on the front porch watching the traffic go by. Whatever was on our hearts and mind wasn’t devastating but apparently it was difficult.  I learned a long time ago something doesn’t have to be the end of the world to feel like it.  Well, it felt like it.  It was about 4:30 or 5:00 pm…right before supper time…when a car pulled into our driveway.  It was Lydia.  She had ordered a pizza, made the trip to a nearby town, and was now delivering it…unannounced and unexpected.  Oh, and by the way, it wasn’t just any pizza…it was from our favorite place.  That’s just what she did.

One year for Boss’s Day, she called an Air Force veteran who attended our church.  She knew, of course, that I was an Air Force veteran and she was looking for a pair of aviation sunglasses to give me as a gift. She was just checking to see if he knew where she might get a pair.  As it turned out, he had a pair, new in the box, stored away.  When it came Boss’s Day, she gave me the glasses.  When I opened them…I just couldn’t believe it!  First, it was the perfect gift.  Secondly, and she didn’t know this, nor did he, but there stamped on the box was the date of manufacture which happened to be the month and year I joined the Air Force.  How about that.

There was one more thing that Lydia did that made her special.  She gracefully spoke the truth.  Occasionally I would come into the office and be just a hair grumpy.  I know that is hard to believe (smile) but trust me, it is true.  She knew I needed a little help. Her solution?  Almost without fail she would say, “Bro. Dewayne, you need to go to the nursing home.”  It wasn’t a statement about my age or future she just knew that going to serve someone was a sure-fire fix.  And it always seemed to work.  I would go, I would come back and simply say, “Thank you.”

Judy and I are thankful for many things throughout the many years we served at Cobden.  But near the top of the list is a friend named Lydia.  She would be the first to tell you of her imperfections, but she loved people and she loved Jesus and that was always like a fresh wind. Judy and I will never forget her kindness and the example that she set.  Paul, one of the guys who wrote a big chunk of the New Testament said, “Be kind to each other, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God through Christ has forgiven you.”  Lydia got that right.

In today’s culture if you look around you will see signs telling us to be kind.  I think that is spot on and I also believe that Christians should be leading the way…just like a Jesus follower named Lydia.  Be kind when you can and guess what?  You always can.  Need a little help? Just ask God. He would be more than happy to point you in the right direction.  You might say, “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 Family, forgiveness, Grace, gratitude, prayer, Scripture, thankful, Trials

Change My Heart

For godly grief produces a repentance that leads to salvation without regret, but worldly grief produces death.”  2 Corinthians 7:10

I have a sorry prayer life.  No really, I do.  I know that prayer is a very important part of life.  The Bible talks so much about it.  And honestly, it isn’t that it is terribly hard.  If you look and listen to what Jesus says about prayer, you will not only see how important – but how simple it is.  He gave us His now famous lesson on prayer which we call the Lord’s Prayer, but it is better called the Disciples Prayer or the Model Prayer. The Model Prayer was not that long, contained no big, spiritual words, and it was straight to the point.

Now if all this is true, why do I struggle with prayer so much?  Why do you struggle with prayer so much?  Well, I can’t and shouldn’t speak for you but I can speak for me.  I have a “sorry” prayer life.  Now you might be sayings, “Dewayne don’t be so harsh on yourself.  It can’t be that bad.”  Well, actually I’m not using sorry as an adjective for my prayer life but rather as a way to tell you about two things that I throw in my prayer life that really shouldn’t be there.  What are they?

Here’s how it works, way too often I find myself telling God that I am sorry for this and sorry for that.  Now that really sounds good, doesn’t it?  Well, I can’t think of a single time where God told me to tell Him I was sorry for my sin.  Nope, I can’t think of once.  You know how it goes.  We tell God good morning and then begin to tell Him that we are sorry for this and sorry for that and of course, we are sorry for this and that.  And most likely the next morning, you find yourself telling Him you were sorry for the same things all over again.  There is a better way.

The better prayer is a prayer of repentance.  It is fine to let Him know you are sorry, but don’t stop there.  Let Him know that you intend to not do this or that again.  Repentance is a great Bible word that means to have a change in attitude and/or a change in direction.  When you repent you are telling God that you are changing your attitude toward that juicy sin.  You are going from liking to hating and from clinging to leaving.

Paul, one of the writers of the New Testament, said that godly grief produces a repentance that leads to salvation without regret, but worldly grief produces death. In other words repentance leads to life and being sorry leads to the death of your joy and peace. Oh, and by the way, be sure and ask Him for His power and strength to do that because you will surely need it.  This whole Jesus journey is all about Him anyway.  So be sorry, that can’t hurt, but better, repent.  It’s a game changer.

Now the other part of my “sorry” prayer life goes like this.  I spend several minutes or longer telling God just how sorry I am.  No, not like what we’ve already talked about.  This kind of sorry is the kind that tells God how much of a failure I am, how I am worthless, how I have never succeeded and so I probably won’t succeed today either.  I am one sorry piece of creation.  Really? I hate to admit it but I’ve been known to do it.  It’s like telling God He is junk maker and not a masterpiece creator.  I’m speaking to me but you can join in.  It is time to believe what God says about us and not what the devil says.  Let’s not waste our prayer time telling God how messed up we are but rather thanking Him for making us a new creation.

I know, trust me I know, I (or we) are not perfect.  I know I (or we) fail too many times.  But those imperfections, those failures, do not determine who we are.  God determines who we are and when we put our faith in His Son we are precious in His sight and we are His trophies of grace.  Let’s not try and convince Him otherwise (as if we could) but rather let’s spend those precious moments in prayer thanking Him for all of His marvelous grace.

I think it is time we change our “sorry” prayer lives.  What about you?  Are you willing to leave the mess at the door and enter His grace room with repentance and gratitude for all He has done for you?  Are you willing to turn your “sorry” prayer life into a time of celebration of forgiveness and hope?  Well, I’m sure going to give it a whirl.  I know that when I do, I’m going to find that rest I’ve been looking for.  And I’m going to get up and believe like He’s got it.  Because He does.  Bro. Dewayne

Posted in Family, friends, gratitude, life, missions, prayer, Scripture, thankful, Trials

Choose to be Content

I’m just as happy with little as with much, with much as with little. I’ve found the recipe for being happy whether full or hungry, hands full or hands empty. Whatever I have, wherever I am, I can make it through anything in the One who makes me who I am.” Philippians 4:12-13

I was content…almost.  Contentment is one of the most elusive things.  One minute you are fat and happy and the next minute you are just fat.  Some small, insignificant thing happens that seems to change everything.  It probably has a lot to do with most of us living in the best country in the world—the United States.  We have more than we need and that is a problem, and that is the problem.  Andy Stanley, a pastor in Atlanta, talks about the fact that most of us have houses with multiple bedrooms and bathrooms and get ready, there is even a house for our car attached to the deal. Amazing.

We once went on a mission trip to the Philippines. We were there to repair some damage caused by an earthquake. Two things amazed me—how beautiful it was and how kind and polite the people were.  On a couple of levels, it did indeed seem like paradise.  You see the island we were on was a vacation destination for many.  It was simply beautiful.  The only problem was we didn’t get see it.  There simply wasn’t time for a lot of sightseeing because there was a mission to accomplish–a job to finish.

Now I know that probably sounds pretty noble–maybe even spiritual, but the truth is even on the mission field it is hard not to think about–ME.  The “resort” we stayed at really was quite nice–particularly when compared to let’s say sleeping in the sand in Mali, West Africa or on the ground in Uganda, East Africa.  I guess I should have been content–and I was–almost.

When we arrived at the resort, we were given our room assignment.  Judy and I were assigned a single unit.  I must admit I did have the best roommate.  We went to our room, and it was nice–small–but nice. There room to walk and have the luggage on the floor, but it was nice. We pushed the twin beds together and it was just like home–just smaller–a lot smaller.  So then we went to check out the other room assignments.

Well, their rooms were also quite nice.  Each person had two twins pushed together to make a double bed and the room was bigger–a lot bigger.  There was even room for their suitcases to be on the floor and still walk around the bed.  Suddenly, my room (well, our room) felt even smaller.  Suddenly, it didn’t seem quite–fair.

Now I was content until I saw how the rest fared.  I was content until I saw what big was like and then I wasn’t. Just like that I went from contentment to discontentment. I went from feeling blessed to feeling cheated—all in about two seconds flat. Isn’t it amazing how one minute you can be satisfied and the next you’re not?  There’s a word for that and I think it is close to sin. And the crazy part is it doesn’t just happen on a mission trip to the Philippines–it happens to a lot of folks on any given day.  We are content until we see how the other half lives. I think it is something like the grass is always greener somewhere else.

Paul said something quite amazing in Philippians 4:12 “I know both how to have a little, and I know how to have a lot.  In any and all circumstances I have learned the secret of being content—whether well fed or hungry, whether in abundance or in need. I am able to do all things through Him who strengthens me.” Oh, and by the way, when Paul wrote those words, he was sitting in a dark, dank, stinking Roman prison.  Ouch.

I think all of us need to learn Paul’s secret to joy–just be content!  The truth is most of us have it a lot better than 90% of the world! The truth is if we look around, we will find that our Heavenly Father has filled our world with “love notes” that simply yet profoundly say, “Just to say, I love you.”

Whether our world has a healthy dose of bumps or if the sun shines consistently, if it is corona crazy or as smooth as a lake at sunset, we have so many reasons to be thankful…to be content.  Why not take the time today to look around and be thankful for what you have rather than rattled about what you don’t?  After all, hasn’t the Giver proven Himself over and again?  Hasn’t He “shown off” time and again in His lavish grace and love.  Sure, He has.  So, settle back and take a rest.  After all, He’s got this.  Bro. Dewayne

Posted in Family, forgiveness, Grace, gratitude, life, loving others, prayer, Scripture, thankful, Trials

Rubbish

He does not punish us for all our sins; He does not deal harshly with us, as we deserve. For His unfailing love toward those who fear Him is as great as the height of the heavens above the earth. He has removed our sins as far from us as the east is from the west.” Psalm 103:10-12

It always amazes me.  At 217, like most homes, we have a trash can in several rooms in our house.  Of course, the main attraction is in the kitchen.  There we have a stainless steel, thirteen-gallon can.  It holds, oh, I’m guessing, about thirteen gallons of trash—bet you saw that one coming, didn’t you?  At any rate, it always surprises me just how fast that can will fill up.  It is only my wife Judy and me in the house and yet we manage to fill it up at least a couple of times a week.  The bottom line is we produce more trash than we think.

Now for part two.  In Judy’s home office, in my home office, in both bathrooms, and in at least one of the bedrooms we have additional trash cans.  Now these don’t fill up quite as fast but guess what?  They do fill up.  So occasionally one of us will make the rounds and gather all the trash from the other parts of the house.  Well, surprise again!  You would be amazed just how much trash we gather.  As we make the rounds, the bag we are carrying gets fuller and fuller and fuller.  And by the time we are done we have a very full and very heavy bag. How about that?!

All the trash, whether it is from the kitchen, or the rest of the rooms ends up in the monster size can outside. Once a week, the trash guys drive by the house, grab the can, and dump it into their truck and off it goes wherever trash goes that they collect.  All I know is I am grateful that someone takes care of all my rubbish (that’s a British word I learned while in England) so I don’t have to deal with it anymore.  How about that?!

You know it isn’t just physical rubbish that we must deal with in life. The truth is we do a pretty good job of producing life rubbish too.  There are words that should have never been spoken, thoughts that we should not have thought, actions that would have been better undone and that is just the short list. The Bible tells us that we all have done things that are wrong…that are offensive…both to others and to God. Too often we brush it off…excuse it away but the bumps, bruises, and scars on the lives of others don’t go away that easily.  And honestly, God just can’t brush it off either.  But there is hope…big time.

You see God made a way for all the rubbish of our lives to be forgiven.  In fact, He says in His book that all our rubbish can be taken not just to the dump, but as far as the east is from the west.  In another place He says they are dumped in the sea…never to be seen again.  You might wonder why God would do that for us.  The answer is one word…love.  God knows we are broken but He just loves to us too much to leave us that way.  That is why He sent His Son Jesus to die in our place on an old rugged cross.

Here’s more good news.  No matter what kind of rubbish you have accumulated, no matter if you think it is impossible for anyone to take care of your rubbish…God can…and God will.  All you must do is ask.  Now don’t confuse this with religion or starting this or stopping that.  This is all about His love for you and His amazing grace.  So why not take your rubbish to the curb…right now…today? You can, because “He’s got this.” Bro. Dewayne