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

Dance With the One Who Brought You

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Posted in Family, fear, life, love, Scripture, thankful, Trials

The Snake and the Girls

Call upon Me in the day of trouble; I shall rescue you, and you will honor Me.” Psalm 50:15

The story you are about to read is true and it may scar you forever.  When our girls were young, about six and five, we lived in Cobden, Illinois.  We owned a large 100-year-old Victorian home which was located on the edge of town.  We had woods nearby and of course lots of flower beds.  The church where I pastored was wanting to hire a guy to lead worship and work with the youth.

His name was David, and his wife was Sue.  They came and stayed for the weekend, and we had them over for supper on Saturday night.  After we had eaten, we were sitting around and chatting.  It was getting close to bedtime, so we told the girls it was time for them to go upstairs and get ready for bed.  So, because they were perfect little girls (not), off they went while we continued to visit and chat.  It was just about then chaos broke out.

We heard what sounded like a herd of water buffalo coming down the stairs combined with the sound of a tornado siren going off.  I looked at Judy, she looked at me as we waited to see what the girls had cooked up.  All parents know that when kids are told to get ready for bed there is always a great conspiracy to not do it.  It has gone on for ages.  Sure enough, here they come, screaming at the top of their lungs, “Daddy, there’s a SNAKE in the bathroom!  There’s a SNAKE in the bathroom!”  Really, I mean give me a break. Is that the best that you have?

I try to believe my children, but this was just a little far-fetched. I started the usual parent stuff, “There’s no snake in the bathroom. You better get right upstairs and get ready for bed.”  There were probably a couple of mild threats that included something about the wrath of God but all to no avail.  They were sticking to their story.  So, off we went to find the nonexistent snake.  Whoever heard of such a thing?  Snake in the bathroom.  Right. Sure.

So, we all tramp upstairs, with David and Sue in tow, to see this mysterious serpent.  I went first not because I was bravest but because Judy made me.  I looked around and thankfully there was no snake.  Then the girls gave us one more small detail.  “It’s in the toilet, Daddy” they said.  Right. Sure.  I tentatively walked over and took a look.  No snake. Yay and then one of the girls said, “Look under the seat, Daddy.”  Well, by now I was sure this was a grand plan to avoid bedtime.  And then I lifted the seat.

There, neatly conformed to the shape of the bowl was indeed a snake.  Yes, he was only about 15 inches long but to me it looked like a giant anaconda and about that time they weren’t the only ones screaming.  I dropped the seat, and we all left the bathroom to formulate a plan of attack.  It involved a clothes hanger and a brave soul.  I was elected.  We got a clothes hanger and straightened it out.  The plan was to lift the lid, push the snake into the water and flush. The snake would be sucked down the drain. Crisis solved.  So, I tip-toed over to the toilet, lifted the lid and poked the snake.  It fell into the water, and I flushed.

I learned three things about snakes at that moment.  First, they are very buoyant.  Secondly, they swim really well. In an act of desperation, I even tried to hold the snake under the water with the clothes hanger.  Lesson number three.  They can hold their breath for a reall, long time.  There was only one thing left to do.  Call Bob, our friend and neighbor.  Bob was a biology teacher, so he knew about snakes. Bob liked snakes.  Bob wasn’t afraid of snakes.  And Bob lived right down the street. So we made the call and in a few minutes Bob came to the rescue.  He assured us that it was harmless, and he reached down and picked up the snake.  Bob was a little weird like that.

The girls went to bed and David and Sue went on to take the job at the church. At least they knew we obviously didn’t practice snake handling. For years…Rebecca rarely visited the bathroom without first checking under the seat. Judy and I learned to be a bit less suspicious of our girls’ bedtime antics. And Bob…well although he lives an hour away, I keep his number of speed-dial.  It always pays off to have a friend like Bob.

I keep God on speed dial too.  In all the craziness that night there was a lot of praying going on.  And like Bob, actually even better than Bob, God is always there. He doesn’t care if it something crazy like a snake in the toilet or a pandemic in the world…He can handle it. God tells us in the Bible that when we get in trouble, when we don’t know what to do, or when we simply don’t know the answer, give Him a holler and He will come to the rescue. You know, I’m glad for friends like Bob. I’m especially glad for a Friend like Jesus. He’s never surprised when I call…never too busy…never annoyed.  He just whispers, “No problem, Dewayne. Take it easy. You can rest in me. I’ve got this.”    Bro. Dewayne

Posted in Family, fear, forgiveness, Grace, life, Scripture, Southern born, Trials

Dumb…..Real Dumb

Don’t be deceived: God is not mocked. For whatever a person sows he will also reap.” Galatians 6:7

I’m sure the doctor just rolled his eyes.  When I was eleven or twelve, you know about sixth grade, my Daddy and Momma got me one of the coolest Christmas presents ever.  Most of you have seen the movie “A Christmas Story” about a kid who wanted a Red Ryder BB gun for Christmas. Well, this story isn’t like that, but it’s about something even better than a Red Ryder BB gun.  That year, wait for it, they got me a Daisy double-barrel BB gun.  It was designed after a real double-barrel shot gun.  It had two barrels (you probably figured that out), two triggers, and even broke in the middle to cock it. It was amazing.

I can remember going outside to shoot that gun…there was not another one like it in the whole neighborhood.  I wish I could tell you how well I took care of it…especially since, if you can find one now, they would sell for well over a thousand dollars.  But, honestly, it was well used, and under cared for, and one day one of the barrels stopped working.  Well, I always enjoyed fixing things so I just started taking things apart to work on it.  I figured out that the left barrel wasn’t working.  So, I took the “BB thingy” inside the barrel out, cleaned it real good, oiled it, and then stuck it back in.

After I put everything back together, I cocked the gun and pulled the trigger, but as far as I could tell it still wasn’t working.  I decided that I would put my finger over the bad barrel to see if I could feel any air coming out.  Now, I know that sounds like a really, bad idea, and it was.  I know it was not smart or safe.  I know it was just pure old dumb.  But, regardless, I did it.  I sure wish I hadn’t.

Well, things wouldn’t have been so bad because as it turns out the barrel wasn’t working.  The problem was that I had my finger over the wrong barrel and pulled the wrong trigger and as I squeezed that trigger, the gun fired, and a BB went right into my finger…clear to the bone.  Oh, and yes, that was a dumb idea, and yes, it did hurt…boy, did it hurt.

I put the gun down and ran into the house holding my throbbing and bleeding third finger on my right hand.  Momma didn’t have time to give me a lecture or even holler at me.  We headed right to the emergency room.  After checking in we saw the doctor who when he heard the story gave me that, “what a really a dumb idea” look. After numbing things up, he proceeded to dig around with a medical tweezer until he found the BB, got ahold of it and pulled it out.  Shot or no shot—it hurt.  I got a nice bandage and the opportunity to make a story up on what happened.  I wasn’t about to tell the truth…that was way too embarrassing.

If you look on my right hand and at my ring finger you can still see to this day a nice little dimple where the BB went into my finger.  It is there to remind me not to stick my finger over the barrel of a BB gun…or any gun for that matter.  It is there to remind me that there are consequences when we choose dumb over smart, or wrong over right.  It reminds me of that part of the Bible that says the rules of God are always right…whatever you plant, you harvest.  Do dumb and you get dumb consequences…every time.

I hope this Grits will help me and you both to think before we act…you know, to think things through.  Fortunately, God is more than ready to help us make the right decisions if we are willing to ask.  Uh, I didn’t ask that day and when we just don’t get around to doing that…well, He is still there to help us deal with the consequences too.  I’m glad He’s not like the doctor, rolling His eyes at my mistakes.  No, He is too loving to do that.  In fact, if you listen, you will hear Him say, “Don’t worry, dumb or not, I’ve got this.”  Bro. Dewayne

Posted in Family, fear, gratitude, life, love, prayer, Scripture, thankful, Trials

Tragedy, Triumph and Toughness

Where, death, is your victory? Where, death, is your sting?” 1 Corinthians 15:55

They may have feathers, but they are definitely a “band of brothers.”  The other day when I was walking in the park, I once again realized what a “band of brothers” the geese and ducks are in the park.  As I made my laps around the park pond, I couldn’t help but notice what was happening.  No, they were not a few like the Marines, and I have no clue if they were proud of anything besides the huge mess they make on the walking path, but they were quite the band.  Their slogan might be, “The Tragic, the Triumph, and the Tough.” Hmmm…that sounded better when I thought it up but hey, let’s see how it goes.

Monday of this week, I noticed in the geese and duck community there were signs of tragedy brought on by a duck couple’s poor choices.  Monday, they had decided to lay some eggs and they chose the worse place ever—just three feet off the walking path.  It was simply a hole in the ground with no protection, no anything.  It was an invitation to disaster.  Tuesday she was on the nest, and he was doing his daddy duck thing—waddling, strutting, and quacking.  By Wednesday, it was game over.  Lap one, they were gone, and one lone egg lay on the grass outside the nest.  Lap two, they were back, and the egg was gone.  Lap three they were walking around sadly quacking.  I don’t speak fluent duck, but it seemed they were asking, “What happened?” I told them…out loud… “Bad choice guys, bad choice.”  It was a tragedy.

But with the occasional tragedy comes moments of triumph.  About ten or eleven days ago, I found a bunch of feathers by the walking path…bummer…and it looked like another sad tale…and it was.  But then something happened.  A little further down the path, there were two small ducklings that had somehow survived the onslaught.  They were survivors…they were beating the odds.  Here’s the amazing part. They are still surviving.  When I walked a couple of days ago, they were still there…sticking together…a small “band of brothers.”  They were hanging around a couple of big ducks, but it was clear that they were on their own.  Way to go little ducks…keep on keeping on!  It was a moment of triumph.

And then there were the tough guys. They had survived being goslings and now they were big, they were bad, and they were tough.  The geese love to stand around on the walking path and, uh, well, you know.  It’s really quite messy.  That day, I was speeding along, and I soon realized the geese and I were on a collision path…either them or me were going to have to hit the grass and it wasn’t going to be me. So, I “parted the waters” and they all puffed their chest out and started hissing at me.  They hissed, I kept walking and they finally moved. We had played chicken (no pun intended) and I had won, but I had to admire their toughness. Like I said, “gutsy.”

Tragedy…Triumph…and Toughness. It seems life is life no matter what. We all know about tragedy…live long enough and it is going to mess with your life.  The difference is ducks and geese rarely see it coming and we often do. The difference is they have to face it alone, but we have a Someone who will walk with us through the hard times. That someone is Creator God.  He is always there and always willing to help. He can turn tragedy into triumph.  While there are plenty of epic failures in our paths, we can also know the joy of winning…of triumph. I remember when ABC Sports tag line was “the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat” and that is the way of life.  Sometimes we win and sometimes…well, we don’t.

I know it is natural for us, like our goose friends, to puff our chest out, and hiss and strut around trying to prove how tough we are. But truthfully, often we are not tough enough and that is when we need to lean on the One who is.  Our Dearest Daddy loves us so much that He sent His Son to take on our greatest enemy…death…and soundly thrash it.  No wonder Paul, one of the guys God used to pen a lot of the New Testament, said, “Who got the last word, oh, Death? Oh, Death, who’s afraid of you now?”  You gotta love Jesus’ toughness when it came to taking on sin and the grave.

Well, if you live in Harrisburg, Illinois or if your town has a park with a goose and duck “band of brothers” stop by and see what you can see…what you can learn.  And if you’ve never met the God who took on death and won…why not check Him out today.  You will discover a God who is strong enough to say, with confidence, “I’ve got this.”  Bro. Dewayne

Posted in Family, forgiveness, Grace, life, Scripture, thankful, Trials, wisdom

Between a Rock & a Hard Place

Now if any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God—who gives to all generously and ungrudgingly—and it will be given to him.” James 1:5

Dewayne, we have a problem.” It was Judy got my attention as I was going out to the garage to get something.  I think I know how it must have felt when the crew of Apollo 13 uttered those now famous words, “Houston…we have a problem.” I had started painting our upstairs bathroom. You need to know I am no Michelangelo, and this was not going to be a Mona Lisa. Into that melee came the news.  “We” have a problem.

I quickly explained to Judy that I didn’t have time for a problem.  My paint was drying and some of it was in the wrong place, like the floor.  She told me there was a cat trapped in her car.  Wait.  What?  Now the night before she had told me she saw a cat go in our garage and I should check before I closed it up for the night.  About 9.30, I went out and did the “here, ktty, kitty” thing, shined my flashlight around in the corners and such.  No cat. “Good.” I said.  Or not.

Now it turns out our homeless friend didn’t move on—he moved in.  The crazy part was that it took up residence in the engine compartment of her car.  Silly cat.  I was going to say, “Stupid cat” but I thought you might think me harsh.  So anyway, I left the drying paint in the bathroom to attempt a rescue.  It was about then that I discovered why it is so expensive to work on Volkswagen cars.  You open the hood to only discover that every square inch is stuffed with something.  And somewhere in all of that was the cat.  Silly cat.

A friend was there with Judy and all three of us looked and prodded, we called and cooed and saw nothing, we just heard the occasional meow of the cat. Judy volunteered to look if I jacked up the car to see if we could see underneath.  I did and she couldn’t.  It was time to call in the calvary.  I called my neighbor Jared, who manages a local tire place.  Surely, he would have an idea.  As we waited for him to arrive, we continued to prod and poke, coo and call.  In my sweetest voice I kept saying, “Hey silly cat, come here silly cat.”  I wanted to say stupid cat, but I was trying to be Christian about this whole deal.

Then it happened.  The cat, who turned out to be the cutest kitten south of Chicago wiggled out of its tight spot and ran to the corner of the garage.  We then moved from poking and prodding under the hood to poking and prodding in the corner filled with stuff we didn’t need.  Cute or not this kitten was about to mash my button. Not to bore you with details but four grown adults spent the next ten minutes chasing this cute little silly cat from one corner of the garage to the other.  From behind the washer and dryer to the corner of no return, we played hide and seek. Finally, the cute little kitten saw the light of day, ran through our friends hands and legs and out the door.  Game. Set. Match.

The cute little silly kitten was on the run and that was all that mattered.  Jared went back to work, the ladies went on with life, and I went upstairs to scape dried paint off the floor and I know I heard this kitten laughing from across the street.  So, what is up with all this?   Surely the kitten knew better.  Surely, he or she knew the danger of living under the hood of a car- but probably not.  To the cute little kitten, it was just a place to hide.

You see the kitten wasn’t silly, the kitten wasn’t stupid (well, not really stupid anyway). The kitten just lacked experience.  It was naive. It hadn’t lived long enough to understand the dangers of garage living.  And do you know what?  That is true of a lot of us. Solomon, the wisest guy to ever live, wrote in Proverbs, “I saw among the inexperienced, I noticed among the youths, a young man lacking sense.”  And the crazy part was that it had nothing to do with age.  We have all made some crazy decisions at one time or another. Too often we just throw common sense to the wind and well, we end up with a train wreck.

The good news is that God is in the train wreck avoidance business.  That’s what He led the half-brother of Jesus to write in James 1:5, “Now if any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God—who gives to all generously and ungrudgingly—and it will be given to him.” If we would do that one simple thing, we could avoid a lot of painful situations.  Just stop for a moment, ask God if this is the wise thing to do, and wait for an answer.  By the way, silence might be an answer, so don’t miss it.

Well, I hope our cute little kitten found a new place to live and hopefully it wasn’t in someone’s engine compartment.  And I hope we will learn to trust a wise, loving Father to give us the wisdom we need to live better lives with fewer regrets and better consequences.  You know He loves you, don’t you?  He wants you to come to Him and rest in the safety of His arms.  He wants you to know He has this.  And He does.  Bro. Dewayne

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

Sunrise and Sunset

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Posted in Family, food, forgiveness, Grace, gratitude, life, loving others, Scripture, Southern born, Trials

Scars and Souvenirs

We know that all things work together for the good of those who love God, who are called according to his purpose., I have engraved you on the palms of my hands…” Romans 8:28

I was probably nine years old when it happened.  If you look at my hands you will see several scars.  Over here is one from an “exacto” knife when I was putting together a car model.  Over there is one from a car accident.  I was riding with my brother-in-law and the car in front of him decided to stop and he decided not to.

There is one on my right thumb—its the one that has been there for the last 55 years.  We were visiting with my Uncle Hardy down near Chiefland, Florida.  He was mom’s brother and the city manager of that small central Florida town.  They had an annual Watermelon Festival that included all the melon you could eat and an opportunity to ride on the back of the city’s garbage truck in the parade.  That was a big deal.  I didn’t get out much.

There are two things that Uncle Hardy had that impacted my life. One was a hairline that didn’t include much hair.  Thanks Uncle Hardy.  The other was a fish camp on the Suwannee River.  It was an old Florida cabin with a tin roof, the kind legends are born from, at least for a nine-year-old.  We would take boat rides, swim in the river, and eat watermelon. And that’s where “a scar was born.”

We were eating watermelon and I picked up a large butcher knife to slice off the watermelon from the rind.  I didn’t have a lot of experience with butcher knives, but I was feeling a little like “Indiana Jones” so I picked it up.  Like I said, I didn’t have a lot of experience, so I began slicing the watermelon pulling the knife toward me and my little nine-year-old hand. My dad saw it and said, “Dewayne.  Be careful with the knife. Don’t pull it toward you—push it away”.

Well, when you are nine and know it all, and you’re feeling like Indiana Jones you don’t listen to your Daddy or common sense. So I kept right on slicing and then it happened.  I got a little too close to my hand and neatly sliced a half-moon cut in my thumb.  Well, so much for Indiana Jones.  There was the usual holler, a bit of tears, a daddy’s “I told you so,” a big bandage, a little embarrassment, and the makings of a scar.

It healed fine, leaving a scar and a gentle reminder.  When you are using a knife don’t pull it toward you…push it away.  Daddy was right.  There is only one scar on my hand from using a knife incorrectly. That is because every time I am tempted to do it wrong, the scar on my right thumb says don’t.  And now the scar has become a sort of souvenir. When I see it I don’t remember the pain, the tears or the embarrassment, I remember the lesson.

How about you?  Have any scars…visible or invisible?  When you see them or think about them, does your mind instantly go back to pain? Do you find yourself constantly living “it” all over again—the hurtful word, the unkind act, the feeling of being rejected or forgotten?  What if we “scar bearers” could remember the lesson instead of the pain? What if we could remember the promise instead of the pain?  Promise?  Yes, the one found in Romans 8:28 “We know that all things work together for the good of those who love God, who are called according to His purposes.” This is a “go to” promise for me because I have a lot of oops, bumps, bruises, and scars.  I’m learning, though, to look at all of that not for the pain they caused, but the good God brought from them.

I’m determined to learn to glean as much as I can from each day.  It’s something I picked up during 2020.  It’s ironic how 2020 means clarity and yet we had so little of it.  But we have a God who can see all things with perfect insight.  So instead of singing the blues, I’m gonna work at turning my scars into souvenirs.  And I’m gonna lay my head down tonight and rest in Him. But there’s more.  I know now my daddy was a lot wiser than I was. He had experience with knives and watermelon.  And my heavenly Father…well, He knows everything, and do you know what?  He’s got this. Bro. Dewayne

Posted in Grace, life, love, loving others, missions, Scripture, Trials

Easy Preaching…Hard Living

“Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles of any kind come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy.” James 1:2

It sounded so good when I said it.  So I am a pastor/teacher which means I get to tell people about the Bible and how they should do this and do that.  I really enjoy teaching and the truth is life is just better when we follow what the Bible says.  It really is so much more than a rule book.  It tells us all about God but it also gives us His guidelines for living. I have discovered that when I follow what it says, my life has fewer regrets and smaller consequences.  Trust me, it works.

The bottom line is talking is easier than doing. It is one thing to stand up before a bunch of people and teach something and quite another to do it.   We call it “easy preaching and hard living” and that is especially true when it comes to living, working and dealing with people. That is probably why the Bible talks a whole lot about loving people. Its pretty amazing but you can sum up a whole bunch of the Bible with four words…love God…love people. That may be only 17 letters but they are filled to the brim with impact.

I talked about loving your neighbor as yourself a couple of week ago.  Oh, man, did it go well.  I talked about loving people like Jesus loves us and how if we experienced love from Him we should be willing to share that same love.  Yup…it preached really good.  I know I left church ready to love the world. For example, imagine this.

Let’s pretend, you know, hypothetically speaking, there was a family that bought a house in a quiet, historic neighborhood.  Imagine that one of the residents welcomed the new neighbors and told them how glad they were to have them in the neighborhood. Then a day or two later the old neighbors began hearing a very loud, very large dog barking and realized it was coming from the direction of the new neighbors.  Apparently, they had a big dog who wasn’t happy and decided to let his displeasure be known…to the whole world.

Well, now imagine that one neighbor talked to another neighbor and it was decided that someone should talk to the new neighbor about the situation. So one of the neighbors went down and very kindly asked if they could maybe encourage their dog to not bark quite as loud or often.  The new neighbors were very understanding and said they would keep the dog inside more.  Wouldn’t that kind?  All the neighbors decided that these neighbors were gonna be easy to love.

Then, imagine that a cat just shows up in the other neighbor’s yard and it belonged to the new kids on the block. And, horror of horrors, it is looking for breakfast and on the menu is bird…the neighbor’s birds.  So, let’s pretend that old neighbor goes down and asks the new neighbors to please keep their precious kitty at home.  Well, they were nice but said the cat couldn’t stay inside because it wouldn’t use the litter box. Hmmmm…wouldn’t that be…shall we say…more difficult.

Then, and remember this is all hypothetical, the new neighbors decided one dog was not enough so they added two full grown German shepherds and another large “I’m not sure what it is” dog for a total of four.  Then imagine that these dogs are a tight knit group meaning when one barks they all bark…a lot.  So as a result, if all this were real, the nice, quiet historic neighborhood wouldn’t be quite as quiet as it was.  I bet the old neighbors would have to do a lot of learning about patiently, loving neighbors. They would probably realize that Jesus stuff can be quite challenging.

Well, of course, this is all just hypothetical but the truth is when Jesus walked the earth for those three years, it often wasn’t easy for Him either.  But regardless of who and what…He loved people and He told His followers that they were to do the same.  As Jesus followers we are not only to love when it is easy…we are to love period.  We are to love our neighbor…even those hypothetical ones with large dogs who like to bark…a lot.  We are to love our neighbor, even the hypothetical ones, who might have a cat that likes to eat birds…our birds. We are to love our neighbors…period.  No if’s, no and’s and no but’s.

James, the half-brother of Jesus told us that we should count it joy when we have trials. A preacher I know (that would be me) is going to say in an upcoming sermon that the orchard where patience and love grow is often difficult but the fruit is oh so sweet.  And that is the truth.  So, not hypothetically, I’m going to do my best to love my neighbor.  You see, we need to make sure that they know we love Jesus and because we love Jesus…we love them. Is it going to be challenging?  Absolutely but if I understand the Book correctly, we don’t have to go it alone.  He’s got this.

Posted in fear, forgiveness, gratitude, life, prayer, Scripture, thankful, travel, Trials

Big Foot, Lions, Tigers and Bears

 “You will have suffering in this world. Be courageous! I have conquered the world.” John 16:33b

If you remember from yesterday, Judy and I had climbed to the top of a bluff in Southern Illinois.  It was smack dab in the middle of the COVID hot mess and we needed a break, so we took a hike.  As we stood there, it was just beautiful. Tens of thousands of acres were bursting into spring and God was shouting, “Hey just like winter’s dreary brownness must give way to the new life of spring–this will pass.”  It was a good moment.  Before long, with night just over an hour away, it was time to go down from the bluff and head home.  Folks say there is no place like home–that is if you can find it.

Well, the magical phone app Judy was using is called, “All Trails.”  It really is quite cool. You start the app at the selected trailhead and using GPS it guides you through the woods.  The trail is shown right there on the screen–even ones that aren’t even there. And that, dear friends, is where the fun began.

So, according to our trusty app, Stoneface trail made a loop back to the car.  Now a loop is better because you don’t have to see the same scenery twice.  It’s all new.  We decided to take the loop.  At first the trail was pretty evident.  We came to a low split rail fence across the trail.  We thought it meant no horses on Stoneface.  What it really meant was if you go past this point you are going to die.  We went past that point.

We walked and hiked for a while and strangely that grumpy feeling started coming back again.  It may have had to do with the fact that I started to realize that the app was lying to us.  “Trail? What trail? I don’t know anything about a trail.” So, we reached the point where we had to go down the bluff.  Remember, there is no trail, there is no sign of a trail…only a friendly app that kept saying, “you’re on the trail.”

Now there are not words to describe this journey but I’m going to try.  We were walking, sliding, down a 90% embankment (ok maybe it was like 20%) and rocks covered with leaves are rolling like ball-bearings under our feet. We cross rivers (ok- creeks), change time zones, and go through small Grand Canyons.  I’m growing concerned.  “Hey Judy, we have less than an hour of daylight.” “No problem” she said.  “The app says we are on the trail,” she said.  I won’t tell you what I said.

On we went with our app spewing out lies about trails.  Then it happened.  I saw some movement out of the corner of my eye and there just forty yards away was Bigfoot–or the Abominable Snowman–I couldn’t tell for sure.  We were in deep weeds.  Then, I heard a duet being played by a banjo and guitar.  Yup–we were going to die.  On we marched–lions, tigers and bears frolicked all around us.  “Hey Judy,” I said.  “The app says…,” she said.

So, the app lied.  Period.  But there is one thing it didn’t lie about.  After about an hour or so, she said, “I see the car.”  I said, literally, “Thank you Lord.” Another ten minutes or so and I was hugging that glorious thing–no, not Judy, the car.  So, what is the moral of this strange and twisted trail–I mean, tale.  Trust.

While the app didn’t tell the truth about the trail, it did tell the truth about the one thing that mattered–the destination.  It led us to the car.  And, you know, I think the app kinda reminded me of God. First and emphatically, unlike the app, God never lies…we just stop believing and trusting Him.  We think He promises paved roads and smooth journeys and then we get mad when He doesn’t deliver.  Read this carefully–God never promised that.  In fact, Jesus said in John 16:33b “You will have suffering in this world. Be courageous! I have conquered the world.”

He told us the path would be rough.  He told us the trail would be difficult.  He didn’t promise storm free living, rather He promised He would never leave us–never abandon us, and He doesn’t.  Most importantly, He said we are going home, and we are.  If we confess our sins, trust in what Jesus did on the cross, turn from our sins and choose to follow Him–we are going home.  That is the gospel truth–literally.

So, there you go.  If you go to Stoneface…don’t take the loop.  If are feeling overwhelmed–trust Jesus.  If you are feeling like God didn’t keep His end of the deal…remember the truth…it’s not smooth sailing but He is leading us home.  No matter how big the waves of the storm, He is bigger.  So, rest in Him.  He’s got this.

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

“Puff Graham”

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

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

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

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

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

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