Posted in Family, Grace, gratitude, life, love, loving others, prayer, Scripture, thankful, Uncategorized

Open Hands, Open Hearts

If you help the poor, you are lending to the Lord—and He will repay you!” Proverbs 19:17

It was part generosity and part tradition.  When I was growing up, Sunday meant going to church. My Momma would always make sure I had taken a bath, combed my hair, brushed my teeth (I think), had clean clothes, and had an offering.  There was something about going to church and taking an offering.  It almost seemed like either God would be mad if I didn’t or the people at church would think we were poor or something…which we might have been.

Now the offering wasn’t a whole lot, but it was more than the widow lady in the Bible gave.  Her offering was less than a penny, but it was really everything she had.  Momma gave me a quarter most times but sometimes it was a dime and on rare occasions it was a dollar.  Trust me, that was a rarity.  Anyway, I finally figured out that it wasn’t the amount that mattered anyway.  What mattered was that Momma thought it was important and it mattered that I didn’t pocket the quarter.  Jesus said something about it was more blessed to give than to receive and I’m sure Momma knew that.  So anyway, I gave the quarter.

I read a story the other day about a little girl who went to church just like me.  Her Momma gave her a dime and a nickel. The little girl asked, “Which one am I supposed to give?” and her Momma told her she could decide.  Well, when she came home from church, her Momma asked her which one she gave, and she said she had given the nickel.  When asked why she gave the nickel instead of the dime she said, “Well, the preacher said that God loves people who give cheerfully, and I was a lot happier when I gave the nickel and kept the dime.”  Smile.

I know that I am still a work in progress.  God started the project way back in 1975 and He’s still working today.  I’ve heard it said that His work isn’t done until He takes us home to live with Him.  I believe that is true.  One of the areas that He is working on with me is generosity.  They say that if you want to carve a duck from a block of wood you just cut off everything that doesn’t look like a duck. Well, that is what God does with us except He’s not making ducks. He is making Jesus followers. And one thing I know for sure is that Jesus was always generous.  He was so generous He gave His life away on a wooden cross to pay for everyone’s sin.  Now that is generosity.  Now that is love.

My point isn’t that you ought to give to the church.  The point is we should all learn to be generous to others.  A generous life is a happy life, and a generous heart is a happy heart.  In the Old Testament part of the Bible in the Book of Proverbs it says, “If you help the poor, you are lending to the Lord—and He will repay you!”  You know, I believe that is true.  I’m also sure that the repayment may not be dollars and cents but rather a deep sense of peace and joy in our lives—and that is better—that is priceless.  Remember this—God is more than willing to help you be like Jesus, but it all starts when we believe what He did and what He said. He died and came back to life and promised to forgive anyone who asked.  Need a little help with that?  Well, don’t worry, He’s got that too.

Bro. Dewayne

Posted in Uncategorized

The Word

In the beginning the Word already existed. The Word was with God, and the Word was God.” John 1:1

It was bound to happen.  In my forty years of being a pastor I’ve managed to dodge the bullet on missing various things.  While I’ve had to miss several Sundays over the years, I never missed a wedding or a funeral.  Ironically, I almost got off to a really bad start. Yup, I almost missed my first wedding with a bout of the stomach flu.  With a bag in my pocket…we made it somehow.  I never missed a funeral…that is until now.  Last week came the type A flu…the kind that makes you think there are worse things than death…and I had to bow out.

It was hard.  It was the mother of a member of our church, a friend, and I was honored that he asked me to do her service.  Fortunately, I began preparing for the service several days before I got sick.  He had shared about his mother, and I wrote her life story.  With that done, I wrote the rest of the service.  I was sure I could do the service and that was a mistake.  So, the morning before the service that afternoon, I threw in the towel and asked one of our staff members to do the service and then texted my friend and called the funeral home.  I hated it but it was the right thing to do.

Suddenly, I was very grateful for the work I had done earlier that week.  I was able to give my work to our worship leader who would be filling in.  Now because of the short notice it was still a deal for him to step in, but the preparation and his willingness saved the day.  The bottom line was the service went great and the family was blessed.  The only problem was I felt like I had failed.  I know, I didn’t, but sometimes feeling trumps facts.  Know what I mean?

Well, I called the family later and told them I was so sorry and that I wished I could have been there for them.  They were very kind and understanding. After the phone call something came to my mind that changed my feelings of failure.  From nowhere, or maybe from God, came the words, “Dewayne, you weren’t there but your words were, and they made the difference.”  Instantly, I got it, I understood.  God’s plan for me this time was to be a part in a different yet important way.  God knew the flu was coming and He encouraged me to prepare and because of that preparation, the family was ministered too, and He got the glory.

“Even though I wasn’t there, my words, were.”  What a powerful thought.  It reminded me of how blessed we are to have the Word of God in our lives.  In so many parts of the world, people don’t have access to a copy of what we call the Bible.  In some places in the world, people treasure mere fragments of His Book.  Here in America, and other parts of the world, we can own multiple copies of this blessed Book.  No other book brings the comfort of His printed Word.  It is a confident assurance for no matter what we face.  There is a reason for that.  You see, the Bible is God’s revelation of Himself to us. It is unlike any other book.

As a matter of fact, speaking of Jesus, the Bible says, “In the beginning the Word already existed. The Word was with God, and the Word was God. He existed in the beginning with God.” Who is this “He?”  We find the answer a few verses later.  It says, “So the Word became human and made His home among us. He was full of unfailing love and faithfulness. And we have seen His glory, the glory of the Father’s one and only Son.” All that makes the Bible even more amazing.  When we read the Book, we are experiencing, we are walking, hand in hand, with God.  Wow.  Even though God is not physically here…His Word is and that makes the difference.

If you have never checked out the Bible, Christmas is a great time to start.  Discover it for yourself. Get a copy or get online and discover the power and presence of the Word of God.  It is filled with peace, comfort and promises.  And throughout all the pages you will find that special promise that means so much, “I’ve got this.” Bro. Dewayne 

Posted in Family, forgiveness, Grace, gratitude, life, love, prayer, Scripture, sovereignty of God, thankful, Trials, Uncategorized

Where’s Brett?

Jesus told him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one can come to the Father except through Me.”  John 14:6

It was a long time ago and, in a galaxy, far, far away or at least it seemed that way.  It was so long ago that the semi-local mall was still a mall with stores that were open.  Anyway, we were at Target to get a dining set for my daughter Jen and my almost son-in-law Matt as a shower gift.  When we found it, the box clearly said it was a “team lift” item.  Now what that means is that unless you are just dying to have a hernia, you need to have a person help you load the box. I wasn’t…so I did.

I followed the rules and called in the cavalry.  A young man with bigger muscles than me loaded the box while I watched—now that’s what I call teamwork.  So, with the box in the cart, off we went to the checkout area.  When we got there, I wisely asked for some help loading the box into my car.  The young man checking us out called for help and his supervisor came and took over the register while he loaded the box.  I think it must have been his lucky day.

In the process, Sarah, a co-worker, helped and teased how she was used to “helping” Brett out.  That seemed odd to me. “Why?” you ask?  Well, the reason is simple—his name tag said David.  So, I had to ask the obvious question. Speaking to the young man with muscles bigger than mine, I said, “So, why did Sarah call you Brett if your name is David?”  “Well,” he said, “my name is Brett, but I left my name tag at home so I’m wearing this one.”  Obviously, Target has a policy:  you must wear a name tag at work—even if it isn’t yours. That made me smile then and even now.

I thought it ironic that any name tag would do…as long as you wore one.  It seems that Target and the world have one more thing in common.  You see, Target said that any name tag will do, and the world says, “It doesn’t matter what you believe—as long as you believe.”  You know, it’s the old “all roads lead to Rome” theology. That saying comes from a time when there were very few roads, and at least in that part of the world, since Rome built them…they did indeed lead to Rome.  That worked then but it won’t work for heaven.

You see, unlike Rome, God is the only One who made the road that leads to heaven.  And that road leads right through faith in His Son Jesus Christ.  Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth and the life and no one can come to my Father except by Me.”  God, the Heaven road builder, laid the rules and the way.  Now you might not think that is fair except for this.  He invites everyone and anyone to travel the road.  No restrictions, no exceptions, no toll.

Remember this.  I suppose you can wear a name tag with the wrong name on it if you want—after all, the only consequence will probably be some confused people.  After all Brett wasn’t really David. But, when it comes to what you believe, the consequences are much, much greater.  You see, it really does matter what you believe—believe the wrong thing and you can end up eternally separated from God and that is a bad deal all the way around.  God loves each of us and longs for us to be able to call Him Dearest Father. 

In a confused, upside-down world, in a world where yes is no, and no is yes or right is wrong and wrong is right…well it is good to have a certainty we can lean on.  Not certain about the whole God thing?  Why not get a copy of the Bible and read it for yourself?  Even today it remains a best seller…for a reason.  In its pages you will find many great promises and among them is this.  No matter what…He’s got this.  Bro. Dewayne

Posted in Family, forgiveness, Grace, gratitude, life, love, prayer, priorities, Scripture, thankful, Trials, Uncategorized

What’s Your Worth?

“For God so loved the world that He gave His only Begotten Son that whosoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.” John 3:16

Well, this week was the week we got to pay the first installment on our property taxes. There is a first installment because there is a second installment and there is a second installment because tax are well, really steep. All this reminds me of something that came in the mail last year and it was from the tax guy—the assessor to be specific.

They told me they had driven by my house and they really liked it—a lot.  And, since they liked it so much, they thought it was worth a lot more than they had previously thought.  A whole lot more.  They blessed me with a reassessment and the grand prize was I got to pay more property taxes. Yay.  Well, not really but it did give me a great opportunity to learn about how much God loves me.  Here’s what happened.

If you have been here before you probably know my day job is being a pastor. It is something that I really enjoy.  My favorite thing is  sharing THE story but also sharing stories.  I love to take big truths and present them in a way that anyone can grasp them.  I think that is what Jesus did and I figure if He did it I should too.

So a while back I was sharing the story from the Bible how four guys take this paralyzed guy to see Jesus.  When they got there, the house was stuffed with people.  There was no way they were going to get in.  So they decided to take this guy up on the roof, dig a hole in the roof and then lower him right in front of Jesus.  It was crazy, it was  radical, and it was different, but they believed two things.  They believe that Jesus could heal their friend and that the friend was worth the effort.  We all could use friends like that.

They began to haul this guy up the ladder to the roof.  Can you even imagine how difficult and challenging that was?  I mean how do you keep a paralyzed guy from falling off his mat while climbing a ladder?  Well, somehow they pulled it off.  When they got to the top they began to remove the thatch first and then break apart the mud and tiles.  After they had made a hole big enough to get this guy through—they lowered him down and He landed right in front of Jesus. I bet there were more than one person who wondered what in the world was going on. I bet too some people were grumbling about tearing up a perfectly good roof to get some poor, paralyzed guy in front of Jesus. I mean if he had been some rich guy maybe but a nobody? And that’s what rung my bell.

You see to those four guys and to Jesus—this guy wasn’t a nobody—he was a somebody.  He was worth way more than a hole in the roof.  In fact, through the eyes of Jesus every soul if incredibly valuable—including yours.  And that’s when the reassessment thing came into focus. Remember, when the tax folks drove by my house they liked what they saw and they increased my assessment.  Their assessment really only means I get to pay more taxes.  It really doesn’t tell me what my house is really worth.

You see, I learned a while back that anything you or I own—our house, our car, is worth only what someone is willing to pay for it. That’s the bottom line.  So here’s the deal.  God drove by your soul, my soul and assigned a value to it—what it was worth to Him and what He was willing to pay to redeem it.  Do you know what that was?  Well, we find it in the Bible.  It says, “For God so loved the world that He gave His only Begotten Son that whosoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.  Get that—everlasting (as in eternal) life.  God’s assessment of our value to Him was the life of His very own Son.  He allowed His Son to die on a Roman cross because He counted us as somehow worth it.  He just loved us that much.

Well, the end of the story for the paralyzed guy was pretty amazing too.  Jesus first calls him Son—not worthless, not broken, but Son. Then He forgives the guy’s sin—not what he wanted but what he needed—and finally, He tells him to stand up, take his mat, and go home.  Three seemingly impossible things but with Jesus, as you can probably guess, nothing is really impossible when He shows up. The guy jumps up, takes his mat and leaves as the crowd is standing in disbelief.  They said they have never seen anything like that—and they hadn’t. The key thing is that the guy had to not only believe but also act on what he believed and each one of us must do the same.  We have to believe that Jesus is Who He says He is and can do what He says He can do.  When we believe that—we are forgiven and God becomes our Father.

Truth be known, I wasn’t too happy about my reassessment but I was glad it taught me a new way to look at how much God loves me…and you.  When we are down on ourselves, when all I can see are failures and warts, when I want to give up and quit, I remind myself that my Heavenly Father thinks I am worth a lot. You see, I’m also learning that His opinion is the only one that matters. So why not take a rest in Him today.  Because you know—He’s got this. Bro. Dewayne

Posted in missions, Uncategorized

I Can’t Hear You

“But Peter said, “I don’t have silver or gold, but what I do have, I give you: In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, get up and walk!” Acts 3:6 (CSB)

I can’t hear you.  A friend and I were standing on the shores of an island in Lake Victoria, Uganda, East Africa.  He was telling a Jesus story to a man and trying to determine if he knew Jesus.  While he was sharing another man walked up and began to listen.  At the end of the story, we asked a couple of questions.  The first man indicated that he knew this Jesus.  The other did not.  And he couldn’t hear.

Let me explain.  It wasn’t that he had a hearing problem.  His ears were working quite well.  It wasn’t that he couldn’t understand.  Our friend understood English and when we hit a bump our translator would jump in and help out.  But he couldn’t hear.  Then he explained the problem.  He said something like, “I can’t hear about this Jesus because my stomach is so hungry.”

Now hunger is not usually a big issue in Uganda.  While the food may not be the best nutritionally it is usually sufficient in quantity.  Our friend was one of the exceptions.  For whatever reason he hadn’t eaten that day or maybe the day before.  The growling of his stomach was blocking his heart from hearing the message.  We tried to explain that while we may hunger here, God had a place in heaven where no one would be hungry. I decided to tell him another story from the Bible.

I told him the story of Peter and John entering the temple.  You can read it in Acts 3:1-10. It goes something like this. There was a crippled man there who made a living begging.  When he saw Peter and John he thought they could help.  He looked up expectedly and perhaps even lifted his hand to receive a coin or two.  While his hand remained empty he got something more than a coin.  Peter said, “We don’t have silver or gold but what we do have we will give you.  In the name of Jesus of Nazareth rise up and walk.”

As Peter reached his hand down and the man reached up, his ankles received healing strength and he stood and walked into the temple.  I smugly smiled my preacher smile.  The perfect story.  The perfect truth. Eternal is better than temporary. Surely my friends would see it and everyone would go their way happy.  Only it didn’t happen.

I asked him “So what is better a few coins now or something that can change your life forever?”  I, of course, expected him to agree that the gift of eternal life is certainly more and better than a few coins or a quick meal.  His answer caught me totally off guard. He replied, “A few coins or some food.”  What?  I couldn’t believe what he was saying.  Surely he understood.  Surely I had made the story clear.

Then he said it.  “Heaven is good but I am hungry now. I need food now.”  Well, sadly, he wandered off.  Still hungry.  Still lost. My friend continued to share with the first man but my heart was heavy and my mind on the other man.  Suddenly, I saw him again standing a few yards away. It was then I heard the Whisperer whisper.  It was short and simple.  “Give him food” the Whisperer said.  I had totally forgotten that in my backpack I had some tuna, chips, crackers for my own lunch.  I dug several items from my bag, as did my friend.

I walked over to the man and said, “This isn’t much but I hope it will quieten your stomach so you can hear Jesus.” He quickly took the food and left. There’s no bow on the package, no happily ever after ending, no prayer to receive Jesus.  But I know two things. I know he knew we cared and I know he heard the truth and this time that had to be enough.  Maybe the seed would sprout later…only eternity will tell.

I learned a couple of things that day.  I learned that sometimes before we can share the Good News of the Gospel with a person we need to touch them in a real tangible way.  A casual God bless you and a pat on the back doesn’t do much for an anxious soul or a hungry stomach.  We must talk Jesus, we must share Jesus but we must be Jesus.  Someone said, “People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.”

In these crazy, troubling times people need more than a sermon—they need to know we care.  How do we do that?  That’s the second thing I learned.  We have to listen for the Whisperer.  We need to be sensitive to His gentle nudges. We have to still our own souls and hearts if we are to hear His gentle voice. These days call for new ways…different ways. So as you walk about life, keep your eyes open, your heart still and watch in wonder at what God can do through you.  You don’t have to be in Africa to be on mission.  That can happen, must happen right here, right now.  And in these days of fear and frustration people are more ready to hear about God than ever before.  What a privilege to be entrusted with God’s work.  Up for the challenge?  God believes so.  Remember, He’s really big on you.  So rest in Him.  He’s got this.

Posted in Uncategorized

Day Old Donuts

“Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” Matthew 11:28

The sign said it all. “Day old donuts…half price.”  In those five words there are two things I really like.  First, donuts.  Donuts and I go way back.  In fact, food and I go way back.  I’m a southern boy and there’s just something about food that puts a smile on my face.  Donuts, well, they make me smile big. The other thing that I really like is “half price.”  I love a good deal.  I remember one time I was at a store and it was after Christmas.  They had a gift set that had a razor, some shaving cream and a few extra blades.  They were marked down from $6.99 to .79 cents. I bought all they had—about twenty of them.  Too bad I used an electric razor.  But it was such a good deal.

So we have half-price donuts. Now we have a problem. “Day old.”  Because donuts don’t have any preservatives they go stale very quickly.  On day one a donut becomes not as fluffy—a little chewy.  By day two it becomes like a dried out kitchen sponge.  By day three you have yourself an oversized hockey puck.  What is a donut lover who loves good deals to do?  One word.  Microwave.

The microwave is an amazing invention…especially when it comes to donuts.  You see the microwave cooks from the inside out.  So when you put a day old donut in there it begins warming from the inside and any moisture turns to steam and the steam moisturizes the bread. Let me tell you that dude will fluff right up.

I mean this is amazing.  You can even throw a three day old donut in there and depending how hungry you are, pretty much make it edible.  I know because sometimes I wander through the church on Thursday and discover some leftovers from Sunday.  Yup.  Just chuck those things in the microwave and you’ve got yourself a semi-fresh donut. By the way, do not tell my wife Judy I’ve done this.

I wonder if David the shepherd had day old donuts and microwaves in mind when he wrote Psalm 23:3.  There we find, “He restores my soul.”  That’s just what the microwave does for the donut.  It warms it from the inside, moistening the dry, stale, bread making it soft and pliable again. In David’s way of thinking it wasn’t a microwave, it was green pastures and still waters.  If you could see it from a sheep’s perspective it would make perfect sense.

Imagine a sheep, hot, tired and hungry and the shepherd brings them to a lush green pasture and he eats his fill.  Then he waddles over to a crystal-clear brook, barely moving, and drinks till he can’t hold anymore.  That’s what David meant when He said God restored his soul.  A lot of folks wouldn’t take a chance on a day old donut.  A lot of folks would count it only worth giving to the dog or tossing in the trash.  They don’t understand the wonder of the microwave.  Do you know what? Sadly, people do people that way too.

Someone gets beat up by the world, worked over by doubt, fear and frustration and they get a little stale.  Some folks wouldn’t bother with them.  Some folks would avoid them.  But not God. He sees the broken, weary people around us and the garbage can is the furtherest from His mind.  Just like the microwave can work magic on a donut so God can work miracles in the lives of the most broken of people. And like the microwave—He does it from the inside out. Remember when Jesus said, “Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.”  Jesus does what nothing else, no one else, can do.  He can rescue, redeem, and make the broken whole and life fresh again.

So, let me suggest before you walk by the day old donuts at the market give them a try.  You might discover a tasty treat and a good deal.  And, before you walk by your neighbor or a stranger and you can tell they’ve been worked over by the world and circumstances, just remember what Jesus did for you.  Remember how He didn’t just see you how you were, He saw how you could be. Just a moment in time and He plumped you up with His amazing grace and kindness. Maybe you are the one who feels pretty stale about now. Maybe your heart is as hard as a week old donut.  Well, don’t crawl in a microwave but do crawl up in the lap of Jesus.  Let Him restore your soul.  Stay awhile.  Rest in Him.  He’s got this.

Posted in Uncategorized

Crime of the Century

“As Jesus went on from there, He saw a man named Matthew sitting at the toll booth, and he said to him, “Follow me,” and he got up and followed Him.” Matthew 9:9 (CSB)

It was the crime of the century.  Somewhere right around the time I was learning how to cut watermelon with a butcher knife, I was learning how to be a criminal.  I already had the regular sin thing down by then.  I could be be jealous, tell a lie, be angry, be envious and be selfish—yup I was a pretty good sinner.  But one day, one ordinary day, I became a thief.  I became the “Al Capone” of 6008 Carlton Road.

My mom was the Girls Auxiliary teacher at the church we attended.  It was a class that taught girls about God and missions.  As part of the class, they would bring their change to and put it in one of those small, metal world globes.  Mom, to keep it safe, brought the globe home and one day, one ordinary day, I decided to steal.

My plan was never to take all the money—that would be too obvious.  I wanted just enough to go to the store and buy a water gun.  So one day, she and my sisters left and I was in the house by myself.  I went and took the globe to our porch and with a butter knife I began to fish the money out of the globe.  Nickels, dimes and quarters fell to the floor.  When I got what I wanted I put the globe back and collected my booty. I don’t remember if I felt remorse at the moment but I did feel fear.  “What if?” I said.

So, later, Dad went to the store and I tagged along.  I went back to the toys and picked up my water gun and bought it.  Now those were the days when kids didn’t have money laying around so dad asked, “Where did you get the money to buy the water gun?”  I panicked but quickly and efficiently covered the crime with a lie.  “Oh, I found it.” I replied.  Found it indeed.

The only thing I remember from that point on is going back to the crime scene and making sure I had found all the coins that had fallen to the floor.  I didn’t find any but I did find something else.  More fear and a burden of guilt.  So I don’t know how the story ended.  I don’t remember confessing, I know I didn’t replace the money, and I know it still bothers me to this day.  I bet mom is going to have some questions when I get to heaven.  The cat is out of the bag.

So, along with being a regular sinner, I fell into stealing from God and lying to my dad—and probably my mom.  Thankfully, somewhere down the road, I also became forgiven. Its too long of a story to share here but when I was 21 I fell, I was plunged into grace.  I threw aside an unhealthy dose of religion and got a relationship with the God of the universe and beyond.  And do you know what?  That sin, and all my other sins, were forgiven, eradicated, erased, and thrown away. Amazing.

So, put your rocks down.  You might be wondering, “How can a professional criminal that stole from God be a christian—much less a preacher?” That is the wonder, mystery and power of God’s love.  You see, the worse sinner in the days of Jesus were tax collectors.  They were professional thieves who betrayed their friends and country men to the Romans.  Matthew was one of those. He was sitting at his collection table taking people for a ride.  Then it happened.

Jesus walks up to this most unlikely person and says, “Follow me.” The other followers’ jaws dropped, the Pharisees nearly threw-up and Matthew, well, he stood up, left it all behind and followed Jesus.  And, like they say, the rest is history.

I don’t know what your story is like—maybe you’re a lot better than me—maybe a lot worse.  Let me tell you what I know—God loves you and wants you in His family.  If you are willing to turn from your sin and follow Him, He will forgive your sins and give you a new past and a new future. You see God can handle all this stuff we are in.  Crazy days and crazy sin doesn’t faze Him.  He can handle your circumstances—and your sin, no matter how much you resemble Matthew or Al Capone.  Come to Him today, rest in Him today.  He’s got this.

Posted in Uncategorized

Why not Minot?

In the same way the Spirit also helps us in our weakness, because we do not know what to pray for as we should… Romans 8:26

Why not Minot? Freezin’s the reason!  So about three-fourths of the way through basic training in the Air Force you have the opportunity to fill out your dream sheet.  This is the Air Force’s way of saying, “Now we really don’t care what you think but if you want to, you can tell us where you would like to be assigned.”  No really, that’s true.  But it is also right…the needs of our country have to come first.  And, if for some odd reason the needs of the country lineup with your needs, you just might get what you put on your dream sheet.  Too bad I didn’t know that.

Our flight (the group of guys that you go through basic with) filled out our dream sheets together.  Of course everyone put down bases close to home, exotic areas like bases near the beach, or some other place that seemed exciting and interesting.  I remembered listing a couple of bases in Florida, Moody in South Georgia, Colorado, Germany and Alaska.

There were lines for twelve different dream locations and I still had one line left.  We were all feeling pretty jovial—you know, joking around.  So I said out loud, “Hey, I’ve got one spot left.” Someone, and surely he was related to the guy who suggested we join the Air Force together and backed out, said, “Put down Minot, North Dakota.”  HaHa, so I did.

I wished I hadn’t done that.  So I can just see the guys in the assignment section at headquarters.  They were giving the dream sheets the old “once over” and came across a guy crazy enough to put down Minot, North Dakota.  “Hey sarge,” “Here’s a crazy guy that wants to go to Minot.”  “Really?” The sarge asked.  “Yup, that what he put.”  So a couple of months later I found myself going to, you guessed it, Minot.

Minot is cold.  Minot is very cold.  Minot is very, very cold.  It is about sixteen miles from the Canadian border.  As the opening line said, “Why not Minot?” “Freezin’ is the reason.”  Did I mention that it is cold?  I arrived in late October and already the temperatures were near freezing.  This southern boy only had on a light sweater to fend off the below zero wind chill.  I knew when they gave me a heavy down filled parka, white arctic boots and gloves and one of those Russian looking Siberian hats I was in trouble.  Minot…who ever lists Minot?

I learned something that winter in Minot.  Be careful what you ask for…you just might get it. It happened in the headquarters assignment room but I am thankful it doesn’t happen in heaven.  You see, God loves us way too much to give us everything we ask for.  I have lived long enough to be thankful for unanswered prayers.  You see, prayer really isn’t about getting anyway. It’s about relationship.  It’s about trusting God and believing that He knows what is absolutely best for us.

Romans 8:26-27 is amazing.  It says, “In the same way the Spirit also helps us in our weakness, because we do not know what to pray for as we should, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us, with unspoken groanings. And He Who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because He intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.” That means He knows what to say when I don’t and He knows and prays in accordance to the will of God.

Translated that means, “no winters in Minot” or six dozen other bad choices or prayer requests. It means our prayer life becomes more real. It means no more feeling like we are talking and no one is listening.  It means prayer becomes  a real and powerful force for God’s purpose to be done.  And since His purpose is always right and best—it is a win, win. So, I know right now our dream sheet would be easy.  No more corona virus, no more kids out of school, no more stay at home or face masks, no more not worshiping together and no more, no mores.  I think that’s a fair prayer.  But just remember, He’s God and we are not.  God is good, God is faithful and God can be trusted.  Even if the answer doesn’t look like our answer, it is still the right and best one.  So, sit back, rest in Him.  He’s got this.

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Do You Believe?

Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in Me, even if he dies, will live.  Everyone who lives and believes in Me will never die. Do you believe this?” John 11:25-26

It was an ordinary day. Jesus was on the move traveling from one small village to another doing what He did–making a difference. As He was approaching Nain, a stop in the road, He ran into a funeral procession. We recognize funeral processions by the flashing lights on the hearse followed by cars with headlights on. He recognized it by the mourning–the funeral wail. The closer He got, the louder it got. It was the sound of broken hearts and lives.

In Luke 7:12, we get the details. It says, “Just as He neared the gate of the town, a dead man was being carried out. He was his mother’s only son, and she was a widow. A large crowd from the city was also with her.” What a tragedy. The cause isn’t listed nor does it matter. Death comes in many forms and is no respecter of persons. But it was her only son and he died too young. It gets worse.

Luke also shares that she was a widow. She is facing this dark time alone. There is no husband to share the grief–it is all hers. And when the grieving is over, she faces a very difficult world. No source of income, no safety net, no unemployment, no social security–nothing. It’s a bad deal from top to bottom. And then it happens.

Jesus sees the situation and orders the mourning column of brokenness to stop. Why? He has compassion on her. He knows her story before He is told and He tells her, “Don’t weep.” It could be an unkind statement akin to “hey, get over it” or “it will be better tomorrow.” Instead it was a statement of power–the kind of power that can change everything.

He walks over and touches the coffin–a big no, no in that culture but Jesus didn’t let rules stop Him from loving, from acting. He says, “Party’s over death…you’re done.” Ok, He really said, “young man, I tell you get up.” And boom–just like that he did. Now let me tell you when you are at a funeral and the dead person sits up and is alive, the funeral is over, and the party begins. Break out the fried chicken because death is done, and Jesus is King.

I love this story…I really do. I see it played out day, after day, after day. No-not exactly like this, but I, we, see God bringing spiritually dead people to life every day. And when that happens John 11:25-26 becomes a reality. There Jesus says, “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in Me, even if he dies, will live. Everyone who lives and believes in Me will never die. Do you believe this?” Wow what power–what assurance. But it all hinges on the last four words, “Do you believe this?” “Do we believe this?”

Ok, so these are difficult days. You might feel like the widow of Nain. It may feel like your world is imploding around you with all the safety nets gone. Well, there’s One that will never leave you and His name is Jesus. Oh, and knowing Him, is a game changer. The future that matters–the eternal one–is a guaranteed better day. In a word, it is heaven.

So, as we journey these uncharted waters together remember we never have to be alone–ever. Jesus wants us to experience His compassion and His salvation. And listen, when Jesus shows up things change. He is bigger than anything so rest in Him. He’s got this.

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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 (CSB)

I was probably nine years old when it happened.  If you look at my hands you can 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 my Uncle Hardy down near Chiefland, Florida.  He was my 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 of 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 Suwanee River.  It was an old Florida cabin with a tin roof and it was the things 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 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 Jone you don’t listen to your Dad 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 dad’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.  Dad 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, yes determined, to glean as much as I can from this 2020 year.  It’s ironic how 2020 means clarity and yet we have 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.  And that’s not all.  I know now my dad was a lot wiser than me. He had experience with knives and watermelon.  And my heavenly Father…He knows everything and do you know what?  He’s got this. Bro. Dewayne