Posted in Family, forgiveness, Grace, gratitude, life, loving others, Military memories, prayer, priorities, Scripture, travel, Trials, wisdom

Lifeline

The Lord is good, a stronghold in the day of trouble; and He knows those who trust in Him.” Nahum 1:7

Nahum 1:7. It was in the Bible and it was his verse.  Church has always been a part of my culture.  From the time I was born it seems I always found my way to a building with a steeple on top. That also means I bumped into several pastors and preachers too.  Each one left a fingerprint on my life and because of that each one made a difference.  Speaking of different…each one was.  Different gifts, talents, and personalities, but each one made an impact.  I am grateful.

When my wife Judy and I moved to Germany in 1977 for a stint overseas with the Air Force, we were fortunate to have a church not too far from where we lived and the base where I worked.  It wasn’t long before we were part of that family.  In fact, it wasn’t long before we were good friends with the pastor and his wife.  He was a young pastor, had an infectious smile and a great personality and we hit it off right from the start.  We were about five or six years different in our ages, so he was kinda like a big brother only he wasn’t very big…but his heart was.

One of the things (literally) that I liked about hanging with Steve (not his real name) was he had a new shiny, red Volkswagen sports car.  It was great on curves and it was plenty fast and since Germany had lots of curves and often no speed limit on the autobahn…well, it was fun.  I guess in some ways we were like a couple of teenagers.

Steve also was a Godly guy.  He really tried to live his faith out. One of the things that he shared with me was his “life verse.”  In case you don’t know what that is, it is a verse from that Bible that jumps off the page at you and gets stuck in your mind and heart. So, Steve’s verse came from one of those books in the Old Testament that no one can find.  It is called the Book of Nahum and his verse came from chapter one, and verse seven.  It goes like this, “The Lord is good, a stronghold in the day of trouble; and He knows those who trust in Him.”

It is the kind of verse that you gotta love.  It is the kind of verse that can be a lifeline when the sea of life gets rough.  It isn’t that the verse has any magic powers, it’s just that it contains a boatload of truth.  God is good, and it isn’t that He just does good, He is good.  He is like a place you can run to when things go south, and He remembers my name, your name, our names.  Those are great truths when the sun is shining in life and really, great truths when the storm clouds roll in…just like it did for Steve one day.

Without warning, he learned that his marriage was over, there was another guy.  It was just one of those crazy things that happen, and it broke his heart and our hearts.  The bottom line, he decided it was best to head back to the states and in a short while…he was gone.  I never saw him again but if by chance he reads this someday, I hope he knows there were some things that stuck with me…like his life verse.  No, his verse didn’t become mine, but it stuck.  God is good, God is a refuge, God knows my name.

How about you?  Do you have a verse that jumped off the page one day and into your heart and life?  Mine for a real long time has been Proverbs 3:5-6 but for the last several years it has had some real competition with Psalm 37:23-24.  Check them out…they are both awesome scriptures.  That is one thing about the Bible.  Even if you’ve never taken the leap of faith to believe, and I hope you will, you will find it an incredible Book of wisdom and knowledge and who knows, if you try it, it might just leap right into your life.  God is good, God is a refuge, God knows my name.  It was good back in 1977, it is good today, and when I launch from here to there, it will still be good. And no matter the circumstance, no matter the deal, it reminds me that, “He’s got this.”  Bro. Dewayne

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

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 can 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 bent 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, fear, gratitude, life, Scripture, thankful, Trials

A Wrecked Wednesday

If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.” 1 John 1:8

It happened on a Wednesday afternoon back in 2005.  I had left work and ran home to do something. I am a creature of habit which means I do the same thing over and over again.  That includes the way I come and go to work.  For years I followed the same path and then one day I just changed and now for the last six years or so I have followed that path.  It’s just me and the way I am wired.

On that particular day I was doing my habit thing. I pulled out of the alley that borders my house and onto the street.  Within a block there is a stop sign and like I did every time, I stopped.  This intersection was more than a little tricky because of several trees and bushes that were planted right along the road.  We are talking big trees and bushy bushes…all planted …very, close to the road.  So, after I stopped and looked both ways, I edged out, stopped again, and did my best to peer through the bushy bushes and around the very, big trees.  I didn’t see anything (besides bushes and trees), so I pulled out.  Well, my best was not good enough.

As I pulled out, I pulled right into the path of a Honda Accord.  There was no time for an oops, no time to stop and restart, no time to do anything but brace for impact.  The Honda hit me on the driver’s side, right at the door post of my much larger Pontiac Grand Prix.  I had never had an accident before, and I still remember how impactful (no pun intended) it was.  Fortunately, the other driver was not hurt and besides a couple of sore spots neither was I.  The only thing hurt was my pride.  I had caused an accident.  I was a bad driver—or, at least, that’s how I felt.

Truthfully, that wasn’t true.  I wasn’t a bad driver, but the accident was still my fault.  Well, before long the police were there, and they did their police thing.  They asked questions and I explained how I had tried to look but just couldn’t see the car coming.  He said he certainly understood and in fact, a police officer had been involved in an accident at the same spot for the same reason.  All of that didn’t change the bottom line…it was my fault.  All the reasons and excuses weren’t going to change that. It.Was.My.Fault.

I wanted to blame the owner of the trees and bushes.  In fact, I did blame the owner of the trees and bushes. I even went to their house and explained about the trees and the bushes.  I wanted somehow to shift the blame from me to someone, to anyone. I learned that from my grandfather, a zillion times removed.  His name was Adam.  When he sinned he blamed Eve and God.  He may have sinned but “Hey,” he said, “it wasn’t my fault.”  He found out what I found out…the bottom line is the bottom line. It.Was.My.Fault. We need to own our sin.  John, the one in the Bible, said that if we don’t own our sin or if we say we have no sin, we are only deceiving ourselves.

Well, there were consequences. For my efforts I was given a ticket which tainted my almost perfect driving record. I say almost because way back in 1984, I was in a hurry going to a revival and was pulled over for speeding.  I explained to the officer I was a pastor and going to church (that was when I found out that was NOT the right thing to say.)  Anyway, the insurance company didn’t like my now further tainted record.

The one consolation was shortly after that day…the trees and bushes totally disappeared…the city took care of that.  Oh, and to this day, I avoid that intersection.  I still tense up when I cross there.  Now there is more to this story and I’ll write about that tomorrow.  But until then just know this.  God is good, God is faithful, and God can be trusted, and even when it is all our fault, well, we can know, “He’s got this.” Bro. Dewayne

Posted in Family, forgiveness, Grace, life, prayer, 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 couple of days ago 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 they ran her through the equivalent of a dog carwash.  She did smell a lot better. Hey, no harm, no foul.

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, but 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 even 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

*A special thank you to Ellie Grace, (granddaughter) for making today’s graphic-great job Ellie!

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

Remember

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Rocking on Lake Victoria

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Lost in the Desert

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Right Tool… Right Job

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Humpty Dumpty and Me

I am the Way, the Truth and the Life and no one comes to the Father but by Me.” John 14:6

Some things never change. As we were growing up, we all learned various nursery rhymes and fairy tales.  Some were funny, some serious, and some a little bizarre.  One of my favorites was Humpty Dumpty.   Why?  I think because his story could have easily been our story—after all, we’ve all fallen off a wall at one time or another. I love the story too because what didn’t happen for old Humpty Dumpty, can happen for us.

If there had been a headline that day it might have read something like this, “Local Egg Takes a Tumble.” The story would begin with, “Apparently a well-known and respected egg, Humpty Dumpty, decided to take a rest on top of a wall just outside of town. While sitting there he lost his balance, fell off the wall and was shattered into several pieces. Fortunately for Mr. Dumpty there were witnesses who immediately called 911. Paramedics, along with representatives from the local government, were quickly on the scene. It is reported that local clergy were also on scene, though they didn’t stay long. Unfortunately, no one was unable to put Mr. Dumpty back together again.”

What a sad tale! There he lay–his life in pieces–kinda like a lot of folks today. You would have thought the local citizenry, government, and churches would have been sympathetic but no. First, some questioned why an egg was on the wall in the first place. After all, given his rounded bottom he was certainly a high risk. Second, he was in a fragile state–in fact, he lived in a fragile state. Others blamed the builders of the wall. If the wall had only been six inches high, he wouldn’t have suffered such massive fractures. Others blamed the weather service because they didn’t put out a high wind warning that day for eggs on walls. And the church–well, they said a respectable egg should have been in church, for it was a Sunday.

Well on and on it went, and in the end–Mr. Dumpty was still broken. You know, some things never change. When sin entered the world Adam blamed God, (God because He gave Adam the woman & Eve because she gave him the fruit), Eve blamed the snake, and the snake? Well, he just smiled. It wasn’t a time for finger pointing then, nor is it now.  For all around us are Humpty Dumptys…broken lives in a broken world.

But then, along comes God. God made the very first promise of a Rescuer, a Redeemer, and a Savior way back in Genesis 3. One day the Redeemer would come and provide the cure for sin–His own death on a Roman cross–and then come back to life thus defeating death forever. And the snake well, he would be cast into a very hot fire for a very long time.

You see, I am so glad that God is more interested in redemption than blaming. He is still inviting people, all people to come home. Scared people, sick people, broken people, mean people, and nice people–all get the same invitation–come home. And the path is always the same. Jesus said in John 14:6 “I am the Way, the Truth and the Life and no one comes to the Father but by Me.” It’s not religion, it’s not good works, and it’s not winning by out-blaming the person next to you. It is grace.

The world could use a little good news don’t you think? So today why not share some? When you see the next scared person, the next broken person, the next difficult person (and it might be in the mirror), just assure them that God loves them and that regardless of their past they can come home. Tell them to rest in Him. Why? He’s got this. Bro. Dewayne

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

Too Much Spaghetti

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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