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

Locks

Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life.” Proverbs 4:23

Well, that didn’t do a lot of good.  My wife Judy and I recently attended a pastor’s conference at the Billy Graham Training Center in North Carolina.  It was so refreshing to get away and as always, we were treated like royalty.  The teaching, the facilities and the food were all top notch.  In these crazy days we are living it was like an oasis where we could pause and refill—to drink deeply from His well of living water.

So, too soon, it was time to head back home and because the conference was over in the middle of the day, it just made sense to stop about halfway and spend the night. Cookeville, Tennessee is just about the midway point, so we booked an Airbnb. It was a nice place and we unloaded and then went to get a bite to eat. In the meantime, it decided to rain.  Now let me explain this was one of those rains that could drown a fish.  It rained, rained hard and it rained a long time. I was about to check the price on gopher wood.  Anyway, when we got back to our home for the evening, I jumped out of the car and unlocked the door and Judy followed.

Well, it continued to rain and several times I went outside to see what was happening.  You could hear the rain from inside the apartment and you could just tell it was coming down in buckets.  Of course, there was the occasional lighting followed by a good, ole thunderclap.  Each time I went out I was careful to lock the door back.  You know, the neighborhood looked safe, but you can never tell.  Finally, it was time to head to bed and I checked the door and it was locked.  We were safe and sound.

Well, sometime in the night, I woke up to rollover and I thought I heard something.  Now don’t panic…it was nothing, but I thought it might be something.  And then, something occurred to me, a question really.  I asked myself, “Did you leave the key in the lock on the door?”  Well, that made me wonder…and for good reason.  So, in the middle of the night I got up and turned on the lights.  I looked on the counter and guess what?  The key was nowhere to be seen.  I had a sneaking suspicion I knew just where to find it.

I walked over to the door, unlocked the deadbolt, and opened the door and there for everyone and anyone to see and find…was the key.  Well, I obviously took it out of the lock and gratefully locked the door back, put the key on the counter and went back to bed.  After a short prayer thanking God for keeping us safe, I drifted back off to sleep…no harm and no foul.  But it did make me think.

You see the door had two locks…one on the doorknob and one a deadbolt.  Those together would certainly keep out any bad guys.  But with the key right there…well, those locks weren’t going to keep anyone out.  With the key in the lock, it was like hanging out a “Y’all come on in!” sign. As I mentioned, no one tried to come in, but I had rendered the locks useless by leaving the key there.

It made me wonder how often do we leave the keys in the locks that guard our heart, our mind, our character, our marriage, our anythings?  You see, God watched out for Judy and me that night and gratefully, He also watches out for us in life.  But as sure as an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, so it is better to remove the key and lock the lock.  Wouldn’t it have been crazy, though,  for me to leave the key in the lock because, after all, no one tried to come in…yet?  And just because nothing has gone amiss in our lives yet doesn’t mean that it can’t and it won’t.

The Bible tells us in the Book of Smart Living, aka Proverbs, to guard our hearts because out of it comes the wellspring of our lives. In other words, we need to lock the door of our hearts and put the key safely away. If you are wondering the best way to guard your heart, to lock the door to your heart, I believe the Bible is the answer.  It is just jam-packed with help from the One who made us.  And remember, the Bible isn’t just a book of rules…it is a book for living well. Like guardrails on a curvy road, it keeps us from big regrets and consequences.  Written on the pages and in between the lines is His calm assurance that we don’t have to worry because He is with us and yes, He’s got this.  Bro. Dewayne

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

Judy’s “S” Word

So, it is sin to know to do good and yet not do it.” James 4:17

I said the “S” word.  Oh, no—not that one.  You see we have some strict standards with language in our house.  My wife Judy taught our children, and me, that there are certain words we just don’t say.  One is “shut-up.”  That is just too rude.  I remember a couple of years back when she was teaching Refit, she was using a pop song called, “Shut-up and Dance with Me.”  Oh my—I had a fit.  I tried to explain to her how that was against our standards. She gently, well, somewhat gently, explained to me that it was a love song, and the words were spoken in that context.  “Oh.” I said. You see, I’ve always been kinda cut and dry.

But that is not the word that came out of my mouth on another day.  It was the other “S” word that is banned from our family.  So, I had just finished my morning walk.  I was zipping along pretty good…enough to work up a good sweat anyway.  I got back to the house, and I was drenched with sweat…hot and tired.  But there was this kinda feeling of satisfaction at the same time. And then I got to thinking.

You see I try to be at least somewhat healthy which means I try to exercise several times a week. I know it is a good thing to do.  I know it is the right thing to do.  It’s the kinda thing that you tell your doctor you are doing, and they pat you on the head and say how well you are doing. I even have a healthy breakfast—lots of protein and very little carbs or fat.  I feel another pat on the head coming on.  And then it happens.  Someone brings donuts to the office and those sweet round things whisper my name.  Sometimes it is cookies, and they whisper a little louder.  Throughout the day the whispers get louder and louder and by the time evening coming I am eating anything and everything with sugar in it.  And that’s when I said it.

Sitting outside, drenched in sweat, proud of exercising, I said it, “Dewayne, you’re stupid (that’s the other “S” word).  You work so hard to exercise and then turn around and make a series of unwise and unhealthy decisions.  And it occurs to me that those bad decisions totally negate the good ones made in the morning.  In other words, I am shooting myself in the foot.  At best I am breaking even for the day. I think I am learning the good doesn’t outweigh (no pun intended) the bad.  I need to cut back, perhaps way back, on the sweet stuff to really gain the benefit of the exercise.

We do the exact same thing with our spiritual disciplines.  Do we understand that even if we get up in the morning and have a time with God—even if we read His Word, read a couple of devotional thoughts, and even pray, the unwise decisions we make during the rest of the day rob us of our victory?  We need to learn to do the good and at the same time stop the bad.  We need to carefully weigh each decision we make.  Often, I visit our pantry and will find myself trying different things just to satisfy that itch I have.  In the process I consume a bunch of empty, non-satisfying calories.  I end the day wondering why and how that happened. I then start the next day with a commitment to do better.

I think the secret must be to constantly remember through the day the cost of making unwise decisions—whether they be calories or sins.  And then in the case of the pantry, turn out the light and walk out—empty handed.  It may be difficult at the moment, but the win is about two minutes later when you realize you made a right decision.  And that’s another secret—make one wise decision and then wait to make the next one.  Before long—you wait—and things will begin to change.

There’s a verse tucked away in the book that James the half-brother of Jesus wrote in the Bible.  It says that when we know to do good and then choose not to do it—well, that becomes a sin.  And if we see it through that lens it starts to make sense.  Now most of my nighttime grazing for sweets occurs when Judy isn’t around.  It’s just easier to make unwise choices when the one who loves me most isn’t there.  My best idea is to stay out of the kitchen when she isn’t around.

It’s the same with our Dearest Father. It’s much easier to do life when we stick close to Him in our heart, thoughts, and actions. If we can get it into our heads that He is always there to help us make wise choices—well, we will make wiser choices.  He wants us to sin less because when we do—we bring glory to His name, and we are happier.  So, the next time you’re tempted to make a bad or unwise decision, look around and He will be there for you.  Just turn out the light and walk out empty-handed.  Just put your hand in His.  Just lay it to rest.  He’s got this.  Bro. Dewayne

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

His Plan

 Don’t be like them, for your Father knows exactly what you need even before you ask Him!” Matthew 6:8

 I read it…and I just didn’t like it.  We live in a house with what seems like a lot of rooms.  I once heard Pastor Andy Stanley say that we know we are blessed because we even have rooms for our cars.  They are called garages.  I suppose my favorite room is the kitchen because that is where Judy cooks our delicious meals.  She is a very good cook, and I am a very good eater!  My second favorite room is my home office or, you could say my, “Man Cave.”

While it is true that it is where I do a lot of my studying and writing, its walls are full of memories.  On one wall is a display of my career in the Air Force.  There is a picture of my flight (think squad in the Army), as well as several awards and medals I received while in the service.  I also have a couple of items from World War II that I treasure.  Then there are five pellet and BB guns hanging over my desk.  Several bring childhood memories. On two walls are items from mission trips in Africa and Asia.  My two favorite things are a Tuareg sword that a friend in Niger gave me and a picture of me and another team member praying over a man who was demon possessed.

Rooms can be very special and for various reasons.  I was reading this week and by way of illustration a writer told a story of young boy who had a dream that he was in heaven.  Someone showed him a room filled with cars, boats and other toys but piled on the other side of the room were arms and legs and other body parts.  I know it sounds gruesome. When the boy asked his guide what it mean he was told that all of it were answers to prayers that people never prayed.  I guess it makes for a good story but honestly—I didn’t like it.

“Why” you ask?  Well, the idea that the God that loves me and cares for me, would let me walk around blind or crippled only because I didn’t ask just doesn’t work for me.  I mean He loved me enough to send His Son to die for me…for the whole world…and that God would allow His kids to be lame only because they didn’t ask just doesn’t work.  Oh, and then, Jesus said that He knows what we need even before we ask.  No, I think God is an opened handed, loving Father who cares for us.

Of course, I also believe that prayer is far more than a wish list.  I believe the scriptures teach about prayer being more about fellowship and an intimate relationship between God and His children.  Prayer isn’t about changing God’s mind or persuading Him to do this or that.  No, prayer is about changing us…to believe…to trust…to love the One who made us.  I know there are a lot of scriptures in the Bible about prayer, but we only get a clear picture when we put them together. Like a giant jigsaw puzzle comes to life when all the pieces are in place…so it is with prayer.

Well, I don’t think there will be those kind of rooms in heaven but if there were…I know one I do think would be there.  And that room would be a gallery of pictures of all the things our Dearest Daddy did for us that we never even knew about.  It would be a room filled with unnoticed miracles, love notes, and blessings and it would have to be a big room because He is a busy God…loving, blessing and caring…for each of us.

I’m grateful for the open-handed love of our great God.  If we will take the time to pause and look, we will see more and more of what He does for us every day.  My wife Judy and I are learning that so often the joy is in the journey, and do you know what?  I am learning that the power of prayer is in the intimacy, the relationship that can only come from time spend together with the One who made me…made us.  Oh, and when we are talking, and I’m sharing my concerns, I just know He is there listening and sometimes whispering…telling me not to worry because, “He’s got this.”  Bro. Dewayne

Posted in Family, forgiveness, Grace, gratitude, life, prayer, Scripture, Trials, wisdom

Nice Landing…But

In those days there was no king in Israel; everyone did what was right in his own eyes.” Judges 21:25

What? Really? You’re kidding? Several years ago, something happened that made the national news and caused quite a stir for a particular airline. It seems that a Southwest Airlines flight was on its way to Branson, Missouri.  It was dark and for a lot of us even driving a car in the dark is a deal but that’s nothing for professional pilots.  Anyway, as they made their approach to the airport, they saw lights and a runway and performed a perfect landing–at the wrong airport.  How in the world did that happen?

Well, when asked, it turns out the pilots were a little confused.  They saw the lights and assumed that it was the Branson airport which of course, it wasn’t.  Now all that might seem somewhat forgivable…I mean everyone makes a mistake.  But one small factor makes forgiveness a little more difficult:  electronics.  Now I am not a pilot, but I do know that modern avionics do an amazing job helping the pilot fly the plane. My nephew and brother-on-law fly professionally, and they sometimes share with me about the amazing aircraft they fly.

There was a story on the news that expressed concern that the aircraft and all its electronics perhaps do too much of the flying of the aircraft. In the case of the mistaken airport, we can only presume that the avionics were doing their job and had the plane headed in the right direction.  At some point, the pilots took over, ignored all that the electronics were telling them and made a big and potentially disastrous mistake.  I can just hear their GPS saying, “Turn around when possible.”  Ok, that’s stretching it but the bottom line remains–the instruments were telling them the truth, but they did what they thought was right.  Oops.

We have such a terrible tendency to do the same.  God gave us His Word not as a bunch of do’s and don’ts but rather as a guidebook, a GPS, if you will, to get us through life.  It gives us good solid advice and points us in the way we should go.  If we choose to ignore it, well, we can metaphorically end up at the “wrong airport” or worse than that in a devastating fiery crash with equally disastrous consequences. Either because of circumstances or our stubborn pride, we sometimes just insist on doing what we think is right—even when we know better.

The Bible speaks of this in Judges 21:25 “In those days there was no king in Israel; everyone did what was right in his own eyes.” In other words, in the vacuum of leadership, the people did whatever they wanted.  Does that somehow sound familiar? Growing up in the sixties I thought we did a pretty good job of doing our own thing, but I do believe that culture today is showing us up. It’s not that we don’t know better.  It’s not that we don’t have something to guide us.  It’s not that we don’t have a king—no, there is a King–we just tend to ignore Him when it gets too uncomfortable or goes against our grain.

In the case of the Southwest pilots, they were very fortunate because the consequences were smaller than they could have been. They had to answer for their actions and I’m sure they either lost their jobs or were sent back to “driver’s education.”  But let’s be honest.  Sometimes what was true for them is also true for us.  We just get sloppy in our living and well, that leads down a path we just need to avoid.

A lot of the “rough air” and “pilot error” we experience in life can be avoided if we will take the time to read the Book, trust the Book, and apply the Book.  But even then, we won’t always get it right.  No one, including pilots, are perfect.  The good news is that when we fail and even when we crash there is grace.  The One who made us all is ready and willing to forgive us of all our errors and sins.  We just need to ask.  And if we will, and when we do, we can rest assured that, “He’s got this.”  Bro. Dewayne

Posted in Family, forgiveness, Grace, gratitude, life, love, loving others, prayer, priorities, Scripture, thankful, wisdom

Unexpected Gratitude

For God so loved the world, that He gave His only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life.” John 3:16

I made a random turn…into the cemetery.  One evening my wife Judy and I were out on a mission.  One of our ladies had given us some homemade ice cream and we were returning the container.  Oh, in case you are wondering, it was way beyond delicious.  It was peach and it was just peachy.  I’ve already put in a request for strawberry next.  We returned the container and just kinda started driving randomly.  As we went down the street the entrance to the cemetery came up on the right—and I turned right in.

Slowly we started driving down the lanes and just as slowly I started reading some of the headstones there.  First, though, on the left was Harrisburg’s “Little Arlington.”  It was dusk and the lights were on, and I was so impressed with all the work that went into honoring those who had served their country. It represented sacrifice. For some the ultimate sacrifice…the kind of sacrifice that means you don’t get to come home from the war.  I love what is often said, “All gave some, but some gave all.” For that, I was moved, and I was grateful.

Just down the lane was a grave that caught my attention.  It was a young soldier who went to Korea to fight for his country in what has been called “the forgotten war.”  He was 27 years old when he died on some battlefield, some hill in a country for away.  He was fighting and ultimately died for the cause of freedom.  I was moved and I was grateful.

In several places, Judy and I would stop as we saw a headstone that was personal because we knew, we loved, the ones buried there.  Sometimes both of the names were etched there in the stone, and it symbolized two lives joined into one story.  And for both the story had concluded.  Sometimes though only one name had the start and finish dates. The other story was still being written and there was a heart longing for heaven and a long-awaited reunion.  One stone declared and celebrated 72 years of marriage.  So many of those story writers had touched our lives.  I was moved and I was grateful.

There were also stones of tragedy.  There stood the stone marking the grave of two brothers tragically killed one night by a drunk driver.  Several other stones showed lives cut short by a tragic accident.  Over there was the headstone of one of the victims from the 2012 tornado.  Everywhere were stories of people who touched the lives of others. One stone showed an American flag engraved in full color—the grave of a proud veteran.  One grave was that of a pastor and a veteran of World War II.  So many stories, so many lives, so many contributions.  I was moved and I was grateful.

As we continued around the lanes inside the hallowed grounds, we noticed there were places where whole families were buried together.  Generations of fathers and mothers, sons and daughters lay in eternal rest together.  The stones often bore nicknames and tag lines of the one who lay there.  On one grave was a tattered flag that said, “#1 Dad.” Some graves though were barely marked.  The only indication that someone lay there was a rock or a stone.  In another part of the cemetery were the pauper graves.  I have stood at some of those graves as we laid to rest someone that almost no one knew.  Once it was the funeral director and me.  No one else came. I was moved and I was grateful.

“Wait,” you say.  “How can you be grateful?”  Well, the reason is simple.  Whether it was a family plot of many generations or a solitary grave of a person when no one came—Jesus was still there.  He is the unseen attendee of every funeral.  For many He is there as Savior and Lord. For others He is there as the Sovereign Lord who wishes all to believe but knows not all will.  But He is there.  He is always there.  When we need Him, when we want Him and yes, even when we ignore Him.  I am moved and I am grateful.

When you get some time, take a slow drive through the cemetery.  It is anything but morbid…it is in fact one of the most meaningful things we can do.  You will be touched, you will be moved, and yes, somewhere along the way you will be grateful.  Let each headstone with a start and finish date be a reminder that for you there is still time.  Still time to make a difference, still time to mend a relationship, still time to finish well.  But most importantly…there is still time to believe and trust in Him.  The Book says that if anyone will call on His name…they will be saved—forgiven—rescued. No story is so bad that He can’t change the end.  Once again, I am moved and I am grateful.

Many see the cemetery and think death.  For those who truly understand grace and Jesus they know the cemetery isn’t about death it is about life.  You learned it in Sunday School but now hear it again…like the first time.  “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever (that is you and me) calls on His name will not perish but have everlasting life.”  So, trust in Him and rest in Him.  For He has all of this.  Bro. Dewayne

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

It’s Time to Remember

Lazy people want much but get little, but those who work hard will prosper.” Proverbs 13:4

I remember…in fact, I don’t think I can forget.  This past spring, I spend a long day working in the yard.  Generally speaking, I enjoy working in the yard…just not overwhelmed and all day. Let me just say that I am not as young as I used to be…and probably not as healthy as I ought to be. At any rate there was a job to be done so I jumped in. There were two things that needed to be done.

The first thing I did was to “deadhead.”  Now you may already know what that means but just in case, here you go.  In the fall, when all the green stuff dies it leaves this brown stuff.  The green stuff is pretty—the brown stuff is not.  You are supposed to cut the brown stuff in the fall, so it looks better all winter.  The other reason for cutting it in the fall is that you don’t have to do it in the spring.  Well, we were busy, we were lazy, we ignored it—it doesn’t matter—the bottom line was we had a bunch of deadheading to do.  Bummer. 

So that Saturday I deadheaded.  Here’s the lesson—don’t put off today what you need to do till tomorrow.  The problem or task may be even bigger, and it can even be more difficult.  And frankly, tomorrow may never come. Every person gets 1440 minutes a day and if we are wise, we will use them wisely. Proverbs 13:4 says, “Lazy people want much but get little, but those who work hard will prosper.” Ouch.  Thanks Solomon! So, in a week or two or three, there will be deadheading to do.  I need to remember last spring because this fall can make next spring—better.  Remember each day is a gift…work for the kingdom, love someone—but do it now.

Now the other thing I did that Saturday was rake leaves—didn’t do that either last fall—see paragraph two above.  But here’s the weird part.  With the exception of a medium size maple tree and several crepe myrtles, I don’t have any trees.  What?  I’m raking leaves and I don’t have any trees—what kind of deal is that?  Well, you see, my neighbors do.  I get to rake their leaves every year.  Now listen, I don’t mean just a few—I mean a lot.  Not fair?  Doesn’t matter—I still must deal with the leaves.

Lesson two is to remember that your “messy” will always end up in someone else’s life.  Just as those leaves blow my way—so our “messy” finds its way into the lives of those around us.  Remember that your sin is never just your sin.  Also, instead of being bitter about someone’s “messy,” do the Jesus thing and forgive.  After all, none of us are perfect and forgiveness just makes our life better.

So, I was tired—real tired—that spring Saturday but here it is fall again and I am faced with a decision.  Will I make the most of these days so those spring days will be a little easier or will I procrastinate and pay the price next spring?  I am hoping that I will be wise enough not to put off till tomorrow what needs to be done today.  I hope I will remember that if I am wise next spring can l be—better.  Oh, there was something good that came from that long Saturday, there was a good sense of accomplishment as I made up for last fall’s indiscretion.  Well, you know what they say, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” And that is true.  And you know they also say, “He’s got this” and that is definitely true.   Bro. Dewayne

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

He’s Got This

We know that all things work together for the good of those who love God, who are called according to his purpose.” Romans 8:28

I like love notes.  My wife Judy and I have been married for a long, long time.  Sometimes people ask how it is that we have stayed married to each other for forty-five years.  It could be that I am an incredible husband, but the truth is Judy is an incredible wife.  She is pretty patient with me when I mess up and well, that’s quite frequently. She also has a great servant’s heart.  She is constantly doing the small things that just say, “I love you.”  In that way she is a lot like God.

It always impresses me when God does something really big in my world.  It causes me to just stop and be amazed.  Our lives are filled with stories that show the handiwork of God.  Each one is a love note and each one bears His signature.  Whether it is getting though a particularly hard time or fulfilling a dream, He is always there.  The trick is learning to see it.

Back in 1981, Judy and I were living in Warrensburg, Missouri.  We were attending the First Baptist Church there and having the time of our lives.  God had blessed us with a wonderful group of friends, and we were serving in several ministries there. Two of those involved music.  We were teaching preschool choir (those songs still roll around in my head) and both of us were in the adult choir.  Our worship leader, Dan Tracy, was a great guy and great leader.  Every choir practice and performance were spiritually magical.

One of the things that Dan did was lead a choir tour every spring.  The church would rent a bus for the weekend and our choir would sing at several churches.  In the spring of 1981, Judy and I were brand new parents.  Our first daughter Rebecca had been born that January.  She was obviously too young to leave with a sitter so Judy and I agreed she would stay home, and I would go with the choir.  So, on a Thursday afternoon, she took me to church to leave with the choir.  We were all excited, but I kinda felt bad leaving Judy behind.

Finally, just about everyone was on the bus and it was time to go.  Someone, it may have been Dan, was locking the church door when he happened to hear the phone ringing. For some reason, he stopped and went back inside to answer it.  It really didn’t make a lot of since because it was after hours, and it was a larger church, so people called all the time.   Regardless, he answered the call.  It was for me.

Now before the story goes any further you need to understand that most of our family had no clue what state we lived in.  Most of them probably didn’t know where Missouri was on the map.  Certainly, no one knew we were attending First Baptist and certainly no one knew I was there late on a Thursday afternoon leaving on a choir tour.  Yet the call was for me.  It was Judy’s brother…her father had died suddenly of a heart attack, and we needed to go home immediately to Georgia.

Now pause just a moment and be amazed.  No one knew what church we were attending; it was after hours, and I was moments away from leaving for the tour and someone just happened to hear the phone and answer it. Amazing. It was obviously very hard news but to this day Judy and I both marvel at how our Father orchestrated this.  It was as if He said, “Judy, you have a difficult journey ahead of you but I am putting this together so you will know that I love you and I will walk with you.”  And yes, it was as if He signed it, “Love, Dearest Daddy.”

It was a difficult journey that left us both shocked and surprised. Judy’s daddy had just been with us for Rebecca’s birth and suddenly, he moved to heaven. But even in those sad, heartbroken moments, we knew God was not leaving us to walk through this hard time alone. We trusted that He would show us the way as we walked this new, unplanned path. And He never left us to walk alone.

How about you?  First, I hope you have made the decision to ask God to forgive your sins and be your Father.  It is the greatest and best decision ever. Again, it has nothing to do with religion or church.  It has everything to do with a relationship with the Creator of everything.  Second, if you have done that, I hope you will make it a habit to look and see the handiwork of your Father in everyday life.  He is constantly at work—in the good times and hard times.  He is at work when it is obvious and when it is not.

It is one of those verses that a lot of people throw around, but it is just packed with truth. It says, “We know that all things work together for the good of those who love God, who are called according to his purpose.”  Now, it doesn’t say that everything is good, but that God can bring good from all circumstances.  God in fact did get us safely through a twenty-three-hour drive to South Georgia with a six-week-old baby girl in the back seat.  God did show us His love through an amazing phone call. And the best part—He does it for each of His kids.  So, snuggle up and rest in Him.  He loves you and He’s got this.  Bro. Dewayne

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

No-See-Um

“Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.” Hebrews 13:8

I slapped my arm but didn’t see a thing.  About thirty years ago we were visiting in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan.  It was a beautiful area, and it was almost like being in another part of the world.  There were rich woodlands, new foods to enjoy and the crystal-clear water of Lake Michigan. It reminded me of some of the places I have visited in Europe.  With all its wonders there was one thing that I didn’t like…no-see-ums.

Most of us are familiar with the various biting pests we find flying and crawling around.  There is the bomber-size horsefly.  You can usually hear them coming…even before you see them coming and their bite is horrendous. Then there is the yellow fly and that pesky one that hovers around when you are sitting on the patio.  They seem particularly innocent and that’s when they get you.  And the king of biting insects is, of course, the mosquito.  Some people wonder why God created the mosquito.  I think it is one of the great mysteries of the universe.

While not too common around here, the no-see-um that I encountered in Michigan was a flat-out, no doubt about it, pain in the neck—or else wherever those chose it bite you.  They are very small…in fact…smaller than a flea.  Because of that you will feel the bite and go to swat at the culprit but see nothing to hit.  They are a neutral color and manage to just “blend in.”  Their bite is painful and can take hours or even days before a welt shows up on your skin.  Well, since I don’t make too many trips to the Upper Peninsula, it wasn’t too big a deal…until I found out they like South Florida.

When my wife Judy and I checked into the place we were staying in Fort Myers one of the first things we did was go and sit on the balcony that overlooked Estero Bay.  It was beautiful.  From our fourth-floor vantage point, we could see for miles and saw dolphins, manatees, fish, birds and even an alligator.  However, it wasn’t what we saw that soon grabbed our attention…it’s what we didn’t.  Soon, too soon, we were slapping and scratching but not seeing.  We soon realized that no-see-ums love South Florida as much as they loved the Upper Peninsula.

Well, we retreated inside until we could find something that would discourage them from making us lunch.  A day later we were eating at a local restaurant and there on the table was “No-See-Um” spray. It was all natural and Judy tried some and thankfully it worked.  Not all but most of the misery caused by these almost invisible, blood sucking, stinking, pain-in-the-neck (you can tell I’m a little bitter) insects was finally over. And, for the ones who managed to escape the spray, I learned to spot them and eliminate them.  And yes, there was pleasure in revenge.

No-see-um bites are painful and adding to the pain is the fact that you don’t see it coming.  I mean a horsefly is big enough to spot and sounds like a small helicopter coming in for a landing.  Even a pesky mosquito buzzes if it’s close to your ear.  But the no-see-um is a sneaky one at best.  And do you know what?  Some of the most irritating and painful things in life are too.  How many times have you been just having the best day and some circumstance comes along and changes everything?  The truth is it happens too often.  But there is good news.

While we sometimes can’t change our circumstances and sometimes all the wisdom in the world won’t change an outcome, there is hope.  And that hope is found in a relationship with a God who will not leave us or forsake us and is wiser, bigger, and stronger than anything we will face.  I know you hear that from me a lot but there is a reason…I believe it. I’ve been a Jesus follower for several decades and while there have been plenty of pesky and painful things along the way—He has been faithful—even when I wasn’t. I love what the writer of Hebrews said in the Bible, “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.” Period. Big or small, visible or not, there’s just comfort in knowing that no matter what, “He’s got this.”  Bro. Dewayne

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

Dangerous Currents

Here on earth, you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world.” John 16:33

For the first time in a long time, I was genuinely frightened, in fact, I was afraid.  One of the things we enjoyed about our getaway at Key Colony is the fact that we can snorkel right there.  At each end of the beach, two small jetties have been built.  They extend out into the water for about 75 feet and keep the waves from passing boats and storms from creating waves that might take away the sandy shore.  Fish like reefs and in a way that is what the jetties are—the underwater nooks and crannies make great places for the small fish to eat and hide.

While only a few of the fish have brilliant colors, there are literally hundreds of them.  It is fascinating to watch them as they swim in large spools or dart in and out of the rocks…looking for food and making sure they don’t become lunch themselves.  One morning, I was heading out for a swim with my mask to see what I could see.  A guy who had been spear fishing earlier said that if I would go out to the point on the west jetty, I would see some large angel fish.  So, without much thought, I headed out.  Maybe I should have thought.

You see, on the other side of the jetty is a large channel that went to the other side of the island.  It is a major thoroughfare for all the fishing boats going in and out so naturally the water was much choppier there.  I began to swim out making sure my breathing tube from my face mask stayed above the water.  As I swam, I looked for fish but really the water was too murky to see.  It was also too murky for me to realize that I couldn’t see the rocks in the jetty either.  I lifted my face out of the water and saw that I was being carried by the strong current out into the channel.  I was concerned.

I immediately turned around and began to swim back toward the jetty and the relative safety and calm it provided. I had my face in the water and through the murkiness could occasionally see the bottom.  What I saw wasn’t good.  As I took a stroke forward, I was being carried back more than I was moving forward.  I picked up the pace and intensified my efforts and slowly, too slowly, began to make some progress but swimming against the current was very difficult.  In a short period of time, I was gasping for breath through my breathing tube and my arms were very tired.  The outcome was in the balance.

Well, somehow, someway, I was able to keep going and after several minutes that seemed like several hours, I could feel the protective calm of the jetty as the current let go of me.  I was safe.  I was tired, and I was exhausted, but thankfully  I was safe.  When I could finally touch sand, I stood up and saw Judy coming.  I quickly waved her off.  I knew I didn’t want her to experience what I just did.  And not only did I not see the angel fish I felt like I could almost see the angels, “comin’ after me.”

I was amazed how strong that current was that wanted to pull me out into the channel.  If it had been obvious from the surface…if I had known, I wouldn’t have gone.  My friend who told me about the angel fish didn’t mention the current—either it wasn’t an issue earlier or he had fins that helped him fight the unseen force.  Regardless, I was once again grateful that God gave me the strength to overcome. Strength.To.Overcome.  There are many things about this whole God thing that make me glad that I am a believer and on that list is the ability to be an overcomer.

My friend Jesus said in His Word, the Bible, that we would have troubles in this world, and He told the truth, times two.  But He didn’t stop there.  He went on to say that we should “be of good cheer” because He had “overcome the world.”  In other words, we can face the storms of life and the currents that threaten to pull us out to sea, because He is there with us and for us.  We can be overcomers because He is an overcomer. I like that…a lot.

I will probably remember my encounter at the point of the jetty for a while…and I want to remember.  You might ask, “Why?”  Well, it was such a good reminder that as I do life, I need to pay attention, I need to be prepared, and I need to trust—not in a pair of flippers or better swimming skills.  No, it will remind me that there are dangerous waters in life to navigate and I need to trust in my Heavenly Father, my Dearest Daddy to help me through it all.  It’s just good to know that He is there and, no matter what, “He’s got this.”  Bro. Dewayne

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

Out of Alignment

Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not rely on your own understanding; in all your ways know Him, and He will make your paths straight.” Proverbs 3:5-6

Something told me I was a day late and a dollar short. A couple of years ago we bought a “new to us” car.  It was a 2014 Volkswagen Jetta.  I drove all the way up near St. Louis to look at their lot full of Jetta cars.  Volkswagen had gotten in trouble about emissions and recalled all their diesel cars.  It took them a couple of years to get them fixed and rerelease them to the market.  Judy and I decided to dive into the diesel market and get one.

So, off I went to St. Louis.  When I arrived, I saw dozens and dozens of VW Jettas.  However, the problem was most of them were in pretty, rough shape.  Apparently as the owners turned them in, they decided to treat them like an unloved dog.  Even after they cleaned them up it was pretty apparent they had lived a hard-knock life.  With my trusty salesman by my side, I went from car to car to car—with no luck.  I’m pretty particular about cars and these were not making the cut.

Finally, after checking almost every car in my price range, we found one that was not as perfect as I wanted but it was the best one available.  I drove it and liked it and before long it was ours.  Driving it home I noticed that the VW emblem on the steering wheel was not pointing straight up.  Hmmmm.  But trying to control my perfectionism I chose to ignore it—for a while.

So, even though it was “Judy’s car”, the crooked emblem had to go.  I asked my super mechanic, Chris, if we could pull the steering wheel and straighten it up.  He said, “You don’t have a steering wheel problem, you have a front-end problem. You need a front-end alignment.”  Well, what about that. I had noticed the car was not wanting to stay straight on the highway, but I didn’t think too much about it.  I should have.

A few days later we got the front end aligned and sure enough there it was—the VW emblem was straight up and down.  Yay—I said. Problem solved…and it was.  However, the problem was that I had waited too late.  I noticed a little later that my front tires tread on the outside was virtually gone…outta there. My choice to ignore and live with a problem ended up costing me nearly $500.00 for new tires.  Bummer.  Big bummer. Oftentimes, procrastination can be very expensive.

Life can be like a car out of balance. It got me thinking. What in our lives might be a little misaligned, out of balance?  What habit, what misplaced priority, what sins are we hiding, ignoring, or choosing to not take care of? I know, it seems easier not to worry about it, but truth be known, the longer we wait the more it costs. The longer we wait the bigger the consequences and the greater the regrets.  It has been said that if you aim for the moon and are less than one degree off you will end up somewhere, but it won’t be the moon…it might be Mars.

Solomon, one of the smartest guys in the Bible, said it best. He said that we should learn to trust in the Lord with everything we’ve got, and don’t try to figure it out on our own. He goes on to say that in all our ways check with Him and He will make our paths straight. Make.Our.Paths.Straight.  In other words, if the steering wheel of our life is crooked, He can give us the realignment that we need.  He can make our lives straight.

Well, I don’t know about you, but I think I will save the $500.00 next time and head to the alignment place as soon as I notice something’s going wrong.  I think I’m gonna do the same thing with life.  When my “VW emblem” is a little crooked or I find myself pulling away from the One who loves me most—I’m gonna head to the Master mechanic and let Him check me out.  I can trust Him.  The Creator always knows His creation best.  I’ll rest in the waiting room while He works.  I know He’s got this. Bro. Dewayne