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

Walking Together

Two are better than one because they have a good reward for their efforts. For if either falls, his companion can lift him up; but pity the one who falls without another to lift him up.” Ecclesiastes 4:9-10

“Love Will Keep Us Together.”  It is one of our songs from the 70’s and it has been a way of living for us.  We sleep in the same bedroom in the same bed.  We eat our meals together.  We go out and eat together.  We watch television…mostly together.  We travel together…doing vacations…together.  We are a together kind of couple.  The old saying goes, “the family that prays together, stays together” and I do believe there is truth in that statement. A nationally known speaker said that 80 percent of couples who pray together stay together.  Interesting…if nothing else.

Well, this week my wife Judy and I carried this together thing to a new level.  Tuesday of this week, after a week of being ill with traveler’s disease (there’s a Grits story on that), I began feeling a little puny.  As the day went on, I felt worse.  Of all days, it was Judy’s birthday, and she had a lunch party with several of her friends so we didn’t see each other till after I got home from work.  So, I walked in, and she was sitting at her desk. I think I spoke first and said I just wasn’t feeling good, and she responded with, “I don’t feel good either.”  We decided to postpone our birthday dinner plans and sat around each progressively feeling worse.

Being a COVID veteran, I had my suspicions but didn’t say much but the night and the next morning said it all.  We both tossed and turned, got hot and then cold, had headaches (her’s was mega) and body aches. I got up first and felt just miserable and then Judy came in.  Now Judy is one of those folks who rarely gets sick and rarely complains.  She came into my office and simply said, “I feel terrible. We need to go the doctor.”  Well, she took a home COVID test and it was a clear positive.  The long and short of it all, we both had COVID, and it was one more thing we did together.

I told her I was grateful she was sick with me.  Let me explain. First, because I didn’t have to walk this alone and, second, I knew she could identify with how I felt.  Her body hurt like mine.  When I had COVID over year ago she was sympathetic but this time she empathic.  What is the difference?  Think of it this way.  If a person on the shore sees a person struggling in water and throws them a life preserver…they are sympathetic. But when that same person jumps into the water and struggles with that person…they are empathetic.

Over the last forty-six years of marriage (we celebrate that on June 26th) we have had plenty to celebrate but it occurred to me that we sometimes miss reasons to “tip our glass.”  This might be one of those.  We walked the COVID valley together, caring for one another, helping one another.  We walked the dark road each shining light on the other’s path.  That is love and frankly, that is a little Jesus too. It probably is a great example of Proverbs 4:9-10, “Two are better than one because they have a good reward for their efforts. 10. For if either falls, his companion can lift him up; but pity the one who falls without another to lift him up.” It’s true in life, it’s true in marriage and it is true in COVID.

So, there you go.  It is wonderful to have a wife and a friend like Judy to walk with me, but did you know there is something even better?  You see my Dearest Daddy in heaven walks with me too.  Honestly, I felt so bad I couldn’t even think about praying but that is ok because the Bible teaches that the God’s Holy Spirit was praying on my behalf.  And, the Bible also says that Jesus is constantly interceding for us too.  Talk about a prayer team.  That might be why I just know that if I listened, I would hear the sweet whisperer whispering, “Don’t worry, son, We’ve got this!” Bro. Dewayne

Posted in fear, forgiveness, friends, gratitude, life, loving others, missions, Scripture, thankful, travel, Trials

Sleepy Lions

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Songbird Stubbornness

Don’t be misled—you cannot mock the justice of God. You will always harvest what you plant.” Galatians 6:7

Some people…some things are just slow learners.  A couple of weeks ago, my wife Judy was “grand-dog” sitting for our daughter Jennifer and tribe.  It was a great opportunity to sit back and relax and have some space.  She read, she walked, and she just did Judy stuff. I was back home going to work so it is possible there was just a little jealousy on my part.  It just sounded like she was just having more fun than I was.

Where the tribe lives there is plenty of country and plenty of wildlife.  Deer are frequent visitors to the backyard with an occasional skunk, raccoon, and possum.  Oh and every once in a while, Bigfoot stops by for short visit.  There was one rather intriguing friend who showed up every day and did the craziest thing.  You see, there was this beautiful bluebird that would spend a large portion of the morning and a chunk of the evening sitting the patio.  There was food there, water was also available, so it was a good gig.  But that wasn’t the crazy thing…this was.

This bluebird would fly into the glass of the bedroom window by the feeder. It wasn’t a mistake, it wasn’t bad navigation…it was intentional. He would take off, fly straight into the window, bounce off and then return to his perch.  He would then do it over and over again.  Fortunately, and apparently, he didn’t have time to build up a lot of speed so there was no damage to the window and little to him…though he certainly had to have a splitting headache.  And the truth is if you were to go to their house this morning that little bird would be doing the same thing today.

This obviously caused Judy and I to try and figure this all out and I think we finally did.  You see, the window has a film on it that can make the window somewhat like a mirror.  The best we can tell, in the reflection caused by the window, he saw what he thought was another male bluebird and that was just not going to cut it.  So, he decided to do something about it and flew over to “take care of business.”  How about that?

There are two lessons in this little story and if we learn them, we should all be grateful to the little bluebird.  First, don’t think that everyone or, in his case, everything is your enemy.  It’s too bad that our friend didn’t think to have the bird in the mirror over for lunch.  He would have quickly learned that what he thought was an enemy…was himself.  It has been said, and it certainly is true, that sometimes we are our own worst enemies. And, hey, when the enemy is a reality, go ahead and extend just a little grace. After all, you catch more flies with sugar than salt.

The second lesson is more personal and personally profitable.  Our friend never seemed to figure out that the bird in the window wasn’t real.  Over and over again, he banged into the window appearing not too smart and getting a whale of a headache in return.  You see, it just doesn’t make sense to keep doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.  Paul, one of the heavy weights who wrote a lot of the New Testament said, “God won’t be mocked.  Whatever a person sows, he will also reap.”  Paul was right.  If you want a different result…you must do something different.  God advice…good advice.

So, this week as you journey, if you find yourself tempted to fly into a window or a wall, hit the pause button.  Ask yourself if the collision is going to be worth it.  Ask yourself if this headache is worth a bigger one!  Oh, and just in case you find yourself doing something over and over again with the exact same result…maybe, just maybe, you should try sometime different. After all, if you want something besides corn, you gotta sow some different seed.  And if all else fails, well, you can always ask the Dearest Daddy of heaven for some advice.  I think you will find His way is always best.  You know, “He’s always got this.”  Bro. Dewayne

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

An Angel from Bowling Green

The steps of a good man are ordered by the Lord…and He delights in His way.” Psalm 37:23

Did you know that some angels come from Bowling Green, Kentucky?  Well, my wife Judy and I recently returned from vacation.  Now, I really like vacations.  We are blessed that God has provided the means for us to go and our church (I’m a pastor) provided the time.  And believe me…it was time.  We saved, planned, and decided a return trip to Punta Cana sounded like just the thing we needed.  We bought tickets, made the reservations, and like the old Willie Nelson song says, we were back on the road again. And…we were excited!

We decided to stay at a place where we had stayed several times before.  We figured with Covid and all of that it might be better to go to a place we were familiar with.  We had a great flight down and soon we are were in paradise….well, sorta.  Truthfully, it was somewhat apparent that Covid had taken the wind out of the sails of our familiar place. It just wasn’t the same.  But, like we always say…at least we were away. The Dominican is a great place, but you still must be careful…stay at the resort, eat at the resort and above all…don’t drink the water. Most of the time Judy and I are good rule keepers…and we were this time, too.

Then came Wednesday.  That day I could tell my appetite was a bit off, but it was no deal. At supper that night I ate very little and as we walked back to the room, I told Judy I just felt a bit sad.  Well, in a few minutes, I found out I wasn’t sad…I was sick.  In spite of all my precautions, I apparently had the dreaded “traveler’s disease.”  If you don’t know what it is…I’ll let you look it up, but it is enough to say it ain’t fun. Period.  Well for the next two days I pretty much stayed in the room and by Saturday, going home day, I wasn’t much better.  We boarded the bus for the airport and things went from bad to worse.

As we sat there, my stomach got more and more queasy, and I was pretty certain I was going to quickly be the most unpopular guy on the bus.  Meanwhile as I doing my best to “keep my cookies,” Judy was having a great conversation with the mother of a family sitting by us.  She was talking to them, and I was talking to myself, “Don’t lose it, don’t lose it.”  Soon we arrived at the airport, thankfully with stomach intact, and got into a very long line to check our luggage for the flight.  I tried but I just couldn’t stand there so I told Judy I was going to the restroom and try and sit-down.  She kindly handled the luggage and both backpacks and I went and collapsed.

I watched from a distance.  I was praying, “God, I sure need Your help, but I know I need to trust you…so Your will be done.” While I was praying there, Judy was praying in line. Soon, but not soon enough, Judy was almost at the counter and waved for me to come on over.  I did and when I got there, the friendly family “just happened to be” in front of her.  I was standing there, more miserable than ever, and the mother’s mother, mouthed the words, “Are you ok?” I simply said I was not, telling her my stomach was very upset.  And then…it happened. The mother said, “I have some Pepto Bismol in my luggage, would you like some”?  I responded with a very grateful “yes”.

So right there, though she was next in line, she laid her luggage (which was the size of Texas) on the floor, opened it up, dug around (she packed like Judy…smile) and quickly produced a small bottle of Pepto.  I quickly opened it up and took a swig.  Borne on the wings of prayer, within a few minutes, and I do mean a few minutes, I was much better.  No, I wasn’t normal, but I knew I wouldn’t be losing my cookies.  A dose or two later and I was much, much better. I was going to survive.  And all of that…because a caring Dearest Daddy heard the prayers of His kids.

Some would be tempted to say it was happenstance, some would say it was just a nice person being nice, but for those of us who know God, we know differently.  It makes me go back to that great verse in the Old Testament part of the Bible, “The steps of a good man are ordered by the Lord, and He delights in His way.”  You see this whole thing was all about God and not about me.  He took care of me…and it delighted Him to do so.  I love that.  So, while the vacation didn’t make the top ten…God did.  In fact, He is number one and the only One.  It just proves what we have learned together…He’s got this.  Bro. Dewayne

Posted in Father's Day, friends, Grace, life, love, loving others, Military memories, prayer, priorities, Scripture, Southern born, thankful, Trials

Thanks, Daddy…and Momma

Children, obey your parents because you belong to the Lord, for this is the right thing to do. “Honor your father and mother.” This is the first commandment with a promise.” Ephesians 6:1-2

This Sunday is Father’s Day, and it causes me to remember.  These days, I think it happens somewhere around a person’s 11th birthday. But back when I was a boy about to become a young man, it happened when I was 13 or 14.  When you are younger it seems you notice more of the things that Daddy and Momma’s do.  You appreciate the fact that that they do the ordinary things…the everyday things.

Things like washing clothes and cooking supper.  Things like ironing your shirts and cleaning the house.  Things like taking you fishing after a long day at work and teaching you the value of work.  Things like providing a place for you to sleep at night and knowing you were safe.  And, yes, things like showing you what two married people are supposed to look like…live like.

However, right before you take the leap into your teen years, something happens.  Suddenly enough is not enough.  Suddenly you know more—especially more than your parents.  Then you spend more than a few years not being appreciative, but rather telling them and anyone who would listen how hard things are “where I live.”  The fact that it was the sixties and seventies didn’t help.  It seemed that everyone around me was doing their own thing but all I could do was my Daddy’s thing.  Whatever he said, went, and that’s just the way it was. And yes, what Momma said went too.

When I was eighteen and stepped onto a plane to fly to basic training in the Air Force something began to click.  The things that Daddy taught me began to make sense.  All those “yes, sirs” and “yes, ma’am’s” that the Air Force required came easy for me because that’s the way I was raised.  When the call came to “get up, get up,” well that came easy too because I had a Daddy and a Momma who thought I didn’t need to lay in bed all day.  And going to work…second nature.  My Daddy demonstrated that year after year and by example taught me a strong work ethic.

Largely because of the times they said, “Because I said so” and set boundaries and enforced them, well, I’ve never woke up with a hangover, never spent a night (or an hour) in jail and have never been fired from a job. As I look back from my six and a half decades viewpoint (uh, plus three for good measure), I realize that my two incredible parents were right after all.  And I may, no I didn’t, appreciate it at the time but they saved me from a lot of regrets and consequences.

It is safe to say that time changes our viewpoint and as I sit here today mashing keys and writing, I realize just how blessed I have been.  My Daddy was quite the ordinary guy, but that is exactly what made him extraordinary.  He wasn’t perfect and gratefully he didn’t expect me to be either, but he did teach me respect for him and for others.  For 46 years I have respected the woman I am married to because he taught me to respect my Momma.  He (with a lot of help from God) helped me be the man I am today and for that I will be eternally grateful.

God chose to take my Daddy to heaven when I was only twenty years old…before he could meet my wife, my kids, and their kids.  I remember the summer Sunday morning we found him in bed. Sometime in the early, early morning he had slipped away from us and made the trek to heaven.  I’m glad I will see him again someday.  I’m not sure how all of this works but maybe, just maybe I will get to introduce him to my sweet wife and family.  What a day that will be for sure.

So, thanks Daddy, and Momma, for all you did for me…for the love and the sacrifices you made for me and the rest of the tribe.  And Grits family, remember to honor your father and mother, just like God says in His word.  It’s the first command with a promise and I promise you won’t regret it.  And, if you find that hard because of some very difficult memories and scars left from actions best not done, or words best not spoken, try and reach into God’s grace bucket and sling some around.  If you are a Jesus follower, your Dearest Daddy in heaven would like that and He’s even willing to help. As always, He’s got that…and this. Bro. Dewayne

Posted in Family, fear, forgiveness, friends, Grace, gratitude, Integrity, life, love, loving others, Scripture, Trials

Busted

He is so rich in kindness and grace that He purchased our freedom with the blood of His Son and forgave our sins.”  Ephesians 1:7

I got caught…plain and simple.  It was a long time ago, and I was just short of being a teenager, that I got caught.  My sister and brother-in-law lived in Daytona Beach and once a summer they would invite me down to spend a week with them.  I always thought it was pretty cool that they did that.  But apparently, it wasn’t cool enough.

You see, every day, they would have to head off to work.  They would leave early in the morning, and they would get home later in the afternoon but at different times.  My brother-in-law would get home first and then about an hour later my sister would arrive. It was kind of them to invite me and trust me with the house during the day.  There were only a few rules so it shouldn’t have been a big deal to follow them.  Of the rules, there was one that was at the top of the list.  It was, wait for it, don’t adjust the thermostat. It was hot, as it always was, in Florida in the middle of summer.  So, one day, I decided to break the rule.

I’m not sure what prompted my act of ingratitude and rebellion, but I turned the thermostat down, way down.  Then I sat back to enjoy the cool, cool air while the meter outside went round and round.  My plan, and it was a good one, was simply to turn the air back up in time for the temperature to adjust before anyone got home.  It was a good plan, but it wasn’t foolproof.  Sometime, oh about 1:00 in the afternoon, I decided to go outside.  So, with the air conditioner humming, I went outside and closed the door which promptly…locked.  Yes, friends, I was locked out of the house with the air conditioning

running.

Well, I stewed and fretted about what to do and the best I could come up with was to rush into the house as soon as my brother-in-law got home and turned the thermostat back up.  Surely it would work.  The fallacy was of course the temperature.  There is a big different between a house that is supposed to be 78 degrees and one that is 65…a big difference.  So, he came home, and I sneaked around and went to the thermostat and immediately turned it back up. Of course, it stopped running and it was then that I heard the voice of justice.

From the kitchen I heard these words, “Dewayne, did you mess with the thermostat?”  Well, I knew the answer and so did he.  I got caught red-handed.  Now, I don’t remember the conversation that followed, nor do I remember if there were any consequences.  But, let me tell you what I do remember. I remember the feelings of remorse that I had treated their kindness with disobedience.  I felt it then and believe it or not I feel it some today. I may have been a young preteen, but I was old enough to know better and my conscience let me know it.

What was true then is true today…and rightfully so.  Sometimes a guilty conscience is a more fitting punishment than anything else.  I had betrayed their trust and that, at least to me, was a big deal.  I only wish I had realized it before that little voice in my head persuaded me to adjust the thermostat.  It’s possible in some small way I felt what Eve felt that day in the garden.  The amazing thing is my sister and brother-in-law must have extended grace because it wasn’t the last time I was invited down.  Oh, and by the way, I never messed with the thermostat again—never.

We all break rules.  Some people break them more often than others, but we are all rule breakers and too often we break the ones God gave us in His Book.  He gave them for our good, but we are just rule breakers by nature.  The amazing part is He loves us so much that if we ask Him, He will extend grace not once or twice but over and over and over.  I know that from experience.

More than once I have “turned the thermostat” down and got caught.  But each time, when I asked, He met me with forgiveness and love. That is pretty amazing.  No matter what you have going on or what rule you have broken, why not try asking Him for some grace.  He loves you and He loves to forgive.  He is a just God, but He is a loving God too.  And no matter the deal, He can handle it.  His grace is enough.  He’s got this.  Bro. Dewayne

Posted in Family, fear, forgiveness, friends, Grace, life, loving others, Scripture, thankful, Trials

Grace and the Big Bang

Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those in Christ Jesus.” Romans 8:1

I had no idea.  I never saw it coming.  When I woke on that Wednesday morning, I had no idea that something as dramatic as an automobile accident was going to occur.  In fact, up to the point of impact everything was routine and then just like that, it changed. Now keep in my mind, in the world of accidents, mine was, well, minor.  No one was hurt and that was the most important thing.  But regardless, it was a big deal.  It was the kind of deal that leaves a person scarred and wiser.

That accident at that corner happened 16 years ago and yet to this day, I never approach it without thinking about that day.  I always, and I mean always, look both ways several times…just to be sure.  Yes, the big trees and bushy bushes that obscured my vision that day are long gone but the memories are not.  They are my constant companion next to me in the driver’s seat and they whisper…be careful.  That is not a bad thing as long as they are whispering and not shouting.

Perhaps there is an “accident” in your past that has left you a little scarred and a little wiser.  The important thing is to make sure it stays in the past, forgiven, and is only invited in your present to whisper a wise word or two.  The lessons of the past can help us not make the same mistake in our todays, but don’t let them own you.

Two more lessons came from that Wednesday “Closer Encounter of the Ouch Kind.” I learned that little things could take down big things.  The other driver was driving a much smaller car, a Honda Accord.”  I, on the other hand, was driving a Pontiac Grand Prix.  Logic would say that I would win the day but amazingly my car was totaled, and she was able to drive her car away from the scene.  How is that possible?  She was the one who delivered the punch and fate determined where.  She hit me right at the door post of the driver’s side door.  It was a critical area that bend the firewall and a bunch of other things that weren’t supposed to be bent.  Bottom line? It was a knock-out punch.

An important lesson was reenforced in my life that day.  Smaller things can cause massive damage to bigger things.  It is true with cars, but it is also true of things like reputations, character, and life.  It is important that we guard our heart and minds and keep the things that matter well-guarded and safe. Remember the words written by the wisest man ever to live, King Solomon.  He said we need to catch the little foxes that ruin the vines.  You see, ruined vines don’t produce grapes and a ruined character takes a long time to recover.

Oh, and there was one more very important lesson from that day.  The accident was my fault but there were some extenuating circumstances.  The big trees and bushy bushes really shouldn’t have been there and later they were removed.  But in my hand remained the ticket that said, “This was your fault.”  The police office apologized for having to write the ticket but it all still said, “It was your fault.” But then an amazing thing happened.  Someone heard about the accident and the ticket and extended…grace.  Though I was technically in the wrong, they also knew the circumstances and the ticket was dismissed and the fine removed. Grace.

Paul talked a lot about grace in the New Testament part of the Bible but perhaps he said it best in a letter he wrote to the Christians in Rome.  He said, “There is no condemnation for those in Christ Jesus.”  In other words, because of Jesus, the guilt and penalty for their sins, for our sins, can be removed. And it doesn’t happen because we earn it, it happens because He loves us. You see, if we will believe in who Jesus was and trust what He did…the charges and penalty can be removed.  We can be declared, “Not guilty.”  How about that?

You may or may not have an “oops” on your driving record, but we all have plenty of oops as we travel the highways of life.  It is good to know that there is Someone who has the power and the authority to extend grace—unmerited favor.  His name is Jesus, and He is waiting to help us.  No matter how obvious, no matter how big, you need to know, “He’s got this.” Bro. Dewayne

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

Skunked

Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me.” Psalm 51:10

The little stinker was not welcome.  A while back we went down to visit our daughter and son-in-law down by Kentucky Lake.  We really went to see the grandkids, but we won’t tell them that.  The place where they live is just beautiful.  Close to the lake and surrounded by beautiful woods, it is the kind of place drinking a cup of coffee in the morning was made for.  Of course, this time of the year, everything is lush and green.  Gone is the bareness of winter as the time for things to sleep was replaced by a time of new life.

Because they are in a forested area there is plenty of wildlife around.  It is not uncommon to see deer feeding down by the tree line and birds of every sort.  Up the road a piece is a herd of Bison, a few horses, and cattle.  They have a couple of dogs too, which adds to the mix.  Oh, and then there was the unwelcome guest.  Two or three days before our arrival, my son-in-law spotted a skunk in the backyard.  They were hoping that he was just passing through, but apparently, he kinda likes the place.  Even when they don’t see him, they know he is around by the pungent odor that he carries with him.

Their two dogs, Rupp and Callie, seem to have a real affection for the skunk. They can’t wait to run down to the woods to try and find their new friend.  Despite all efforts, they keep running and looking and one day, well, its gonna happen.  Saturday morning during our visit, there was a “close encounter of the skunk kind.”  Rupp is the much more obedient of the two dogs.  He will generally come when he is called and while he and the skunk are pals, they are not on a first name basis.  Callie on the other hand has gone over the edge.  That morning, Callie took off and either met the skunk or came close because she came back wearing some of his perfume.  It wasn’t a direct hit, but there was an aroma.

She came in the house and ran into the master suite and soon it wasn’t “sweet” any longer. What she apparently loved to roll in was, uh, not so pleasant to us.  In fact, both occupants of the bedroom were up and outta there.  Now personally, Callie didn’t smell that bad to me.  Either my smeller wasn’t as sensitive (no COVID, thank you) or I quickly got used to it, but regardless it wasn’t a big deal.  Well, Callie ended up banned from the yard forever (except on a leash) and Jen ran her through the equivalent of a dog carwash.  She did smell a lot better. Hey, no harm, no foul.

So that evening, after driving back home, I put on the same pajama shirt that I had worn that morning and proceeded to study my sermon.  As I sat at my desk, I noticed a faint but familiar odor—it was the offensive perfume.  Apparently, there was an odor after all and later when my nose was more awake, it became evident. I changed shirts and threw that one in the wash.  Hopefully by the time we visit again, Mr. Skunk will be history.

You know I was surprised to smell the odor on my shirt that evening.  That morning I didn’t smell a thing and that night it was clearly obvious.  What was the difference?  I think there was enough odor in the air at my daughter’s house that my shirt simply smelled like everything else.  I grew too accustomed to the odor.  The offensive smell became “normal.”  I have a feeling that may happen more often than we realize.  It has nothing to do with skunks, but everything to do with our “skunky” or sinful actions.

If we are not careful, we become too accustomed to our harsh words, or our negative mindset or our unkind actions.  And, because they are part of our “normal” we never ever know it.  But remember this…those around us know it and Someone even more important knows it—God.  The best way to fix the problem is to live in such a way, that that kind of “normal” is never normal.  Just like a fresh environment revealed the odor in my shirt, we should allow our environment to be so pure that anything stinky will become readily apparent.

One time King David of Old Testament fame got more than a little “skunky” and spent most of the rest of his life trying to get rid of the stench.  He prayed a lot during those days and one of his prayers went like this, “Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me.”  That’s a good prayer for sure.  And, by God’s grace, he was made clean.  In fact, he was known as a “man after God’s own heart.”  So, when you get “skunked” just take it to the Father and rest assured that He can handle anything and everything.  He’s got this—even our stinky sin.  Bro. Dewayne

Posted in Family, fear, friends, Grace, gratitude, life, prayer, priorities, Scripture, thankful, Trials

Faith and Shifting Sand

God is not a man, that He might lie, or a son of man, that He might change His mind.” Numbers  23:19a

Well, I just don’t understand it.  You know, there are somethings in this world that just don’t make sense.  You probably have noticed that we seem to be in the middle of some kind of financial crisis.  Inflation is inflating to the tune of eight or nine percent.  Can someone say ouch? And then there is this whole gas thing.  As I write this gas is about $5.30 per gallon.  Can someone say double ouch? It is hard to believe that just two years ago when we were doing the pandemic thing gas was about $1.52 and we said we just couldn’t believe it.  Well, go figure.  And the amazing part is that we are all driving as much as we did when it was cheaper.  Those guys with the big pickup trucks with big engines are still putting the pedal all the way down. It’s like gas is free.  What?

And then of course there is the shortage thing.  They are saying it has to do with supply and demand.  Well, if that is true somebody needs to start demanding more supplies.  Things that used to be so common, so easy to get, are outta here.  I’m telling you it just doesn’t make sense.  In a time of precedented happenings, life just seeming to be going on like before.  The restaurants are full, the store shelves are empty, and no one seems to be in a panic.  In fact, in at least one instance they seem to be celebrating. Yup…it’s true.

I’ve just about given up watching the news, but when I do they will sometimes show this scene from Wall Street.  It occurs at the end of the day, and it shows about fifteen or so people on this platform and it is their job to ring the bell calling for an end of the trading day.  So, the other day, when the stock market had fallen nearly 1,000 points there were people there and as they rang the bell, they were cheering like madmen (or women).  They were yipping and yelling like they had just won the lottery.   Big smiles and grins filled their faces.  It’s like they didn’t even know what had just happened.

Well, it turns out no matter what happens on any given day, these folks, and it is always different folks, get up there and do this madman (or woman) celebration.  I’ve concluded it has nothing to do with the market…they are just glad to ring the bell.  Maybe it is because the day and damage is done or maybe it is because they made a ton of money.  All I know is it sure is confusing.  It sends this crazy mixed-up message and I’m left scratching my head. Good or bad? Happy or sad? Who’s knows?

So what do you do in a world that often doesn’t make a lot of sense? That’s a fair question. To be honest, there are times these days when I don’t know exactly what to do or say.  I want to complain but that isn’t going to help.  I want to whine but that doesn’t change anything.  I want to get mad sometimes but, well, what good does that do?  I think the right thing is stay the course and to believe and trust…in God.  I mean even if you aren’t a God person maybe today would be a good day to give it a try!  Everything around us is shifting and sinking—maybe we should try something different.

I’ve been on my personal Jesus journey for more than a few decades.  I’ve seen the mountain tops and I’ve trudged through my share of valleys and the one constant has been God.  I don’t always understand but I have found that even when I don’t…He is faithful. The Bible, the oldest and most reliable of sacred writings, tells us that God is not a man, that He might lie, or a son of man, that He might change His mind. I know that might seem a bit extreme if you are not a believer and I get that.  But don’t these extreme times call for something extreme…like faith?

I’m not sure what the price of gas will be in a week. I’m not even sure there will be bread on the shelf, but I am sure that no matter what my Dearest Daddy in heaven will be the same…good, faithful and trustworthy.  I’m sure that no matter what, He will be there, the Whisperer whispering, “Don’t worry son, I’ve got this.” Bro. Dewayne

Posted in fear, friends, Grace, gratitude, life, loving others, Military memories, prayer, thankful, Trials, USA

The Longest Day

But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, will teach you all things and remind you of everything I have told you.” John 14:26

It was more than the title for a movie.  One by one they are slipping away.  Who?  That generation newsman and author Tom Brokaw called the greatest generation.  This generation was born and lived through the Great Depression.  Their words and testimonies fill pages and pages of books and blogs.  Words like, “we were poor but didn’t know it” or like “we had nothing but each other…and that was more than enough” ring of their wisdom and courage.

But it would seem that living and surviving the great depression was just a warmup for their finest hour…that would begin with the bombing of Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941. That day, the day that President Franklin Roosevelt said, “would live in infamy,” marked the start of our country’s direct involvement in World War II.  Before it was all over, almost four years later, America would see 1,076,245 causalities.  That number includes 291,557 combat dead, 113,842 who died from other causes and 670,840 wounded.

Last Memorial Day I heard a phrase I had heard before but this time it seemed to shout at me.  It simply said, “Freedom isn’t free.”  As I listened that day, I was freshly amazed at this generation of men and women, 16.7 million of them, who served during World War II. They marched off, self-forgotten, to strange lands and places and many of them would never come home.  Like I said, I was amazed.

Today, June 6th, 2022, is the 78th anniversary of what has been called, “The Longest Day.” It was the day that thousands of soldiers, airmen and sailors, with thousands of ships and planes invaded Normandy, France to begin the retaking of Europe from the grip of Nazi Germany and the Axis powers.  The courage of those men who stormed those beaches is legendary.  Imagine with me small boats, called Higgins boats, riding the waves towards Normandy with shells exploding all around.  Imagine with me seeing many, too many, of these boats literally disappearing after taking a direct hit from enemy shells. Imagine knowing that each of these boats carried several dozen men.  Sacrifice. Courage. Amazing.

There probably are not words that can describe that day.  Films like, “The Longest Day” and “Saving Private Ryan” have tried to tell the story but though their efforts are valiant they always fall short.  That day, 6,603 Americans were killed, missing, or wounded. Imagine again, as officers knocked on doors and telegrams arrived, “The Defense Department regrets to inform you…” Freedom truly isn’t free.  I know we know but I only hope we won’t forget.  Yet in most minds, this observance of “The Longest Day” won’t garner a passing thought.

When the children of Israel of Old Testament fame were crossing over into the Promised Land, they were told to take twelve stones from the middle of the Jordan River.  The sole purpose of these stones was to remind them of the miracle and the day.  That way when years later and their memories were foggy, they had the stones to remind them.  I’m not sure what stone of reminder we need but it might be as simple as a visit to the cemetery and taking the time to READ the markers and stones of those who served.  It might be as simple as taking your kids with you to show them and teach them about sacrifice and courage.  Unfortunately, it may not be taught any place else.

December 7, 1941. June 6, 1944. These are only two dates of many that are worthy of remembrance…but they are a start. Jesus knew we would need help remembering about the things of God.  That is why He said, “But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and remind you of everything I have told you.” And who knows, perhaps that same Holy Spirit will help us remember to be grateful for the sacrifice others have made on our behalf.  In fact, I’m sure He will help because that is what He does best…help. Like everything else, I’m sure, “He’s got this.” Bro. Dewayne