Posted in Family, gratitude, life, loving others, Scripture, thankful, travel, USA, wisdom

Mountains or Monuments

Where there is no vision, the people perish.” Proverbs 29:18

It was on my bucket list.  I confess…I am a pretty big fan of America. I mean, even with all of its warts, and there are plenty, with all its flaws, surely a bucket full, it is the best place to call home.  Over the years I have visited over twenty-five countries—some in Europe, some in Asia and some in Africa.  Some were affluent, some were poor, and some were somewhere in between. All had something to offer but none could match this land I call home.  While some of my visits were brief, my wife Judy and I lived three years in Germany and the final word was…wait for it…home is better…there is and was no place like home.

I think the secret to learning to appreciate where you live is to learn to look for the good and not bad, the whole and not the broken.  The way we look at things can vastly change how we experience things.  A few days ago, I mentioned a quote from a movie that I had watched which, by the way, was based on a true story.  The guy said, “There are two ways to live—either nothing is a miracle, or everything is a miracle.” He opted for the latter and I think I will too.

Last year, we were out west on a trip with part of our tribe.  The main, but not only, destination was to see Mount Rushmore.  I’ve seen a chunk of America, but I hadn’t seen that…and yes, it was on my bucket list.  So, the day came. As we drove toward the monument, suddenly, around a curve we were face to face, if you will, with Washington, Roosevelt, Jefferson and Lincoln and it was amazing.  We parked the car and frankly, the closer we got, the more amazing it became.

This great tribute to America (no, it wasn’t just a tribute to four men) took over fourteen years to build.  As you keep in mind it was about ninety years ago, you begin to appreciate the vision, work, and skill that it took to turn a mountain into a monument.  I was amazed to learn that many of the workers, who often had 12 hours days, were paid about $14 dollars…a week.  Those were hard times, and they were grateful to have a job.  But for many…the job became a passion…a mission…a cause to believe in.

Somewhere along the journey, they stopped seeing a mountain and began to see presidents.  Somewhere along the journey they began to see what Gutzon Borglum saw. While the project wasn’t his idea (that belongs to a guy named Doane Robinson) he was the one that chose that mountain.  The quality of the stone led him there and, honestly, where others saw just a mountain, he saw presidents. He.Saw.Presidents.

So, perhaps, just perhaps, it does matter what we see around us.  Perhaps if we choose to see miracles…or like Borglum to see monuments where others see just a block of stone, perhaps we can help make this world a better place.  Perhaps our lives, regardless of our messy circumstances, will take on a deeper meaning and a deeper purpose.  Perhaps if we learn that it is not about us but about others…things will change…for the better.

One of the writers in the Old Testament part of the Bible said that when people don’t have a vision, when they choose to see desolation rather than miracles, well, they perish.  It is true individually and it is true corporately.  If we are going to see a better world, two things need to happen.  First, we need to learn not to just see a mountain but what that mountain can become.  Secondly, and this one is for God followers, we need to believe again that with God nothing is impossible.  As we stand on the edge of the new normalcy, with that stinking COVID in the rearview mirror, let’s choose to believe again.  And why stop there?  Why don’t we determine to see presidents where others see mountains and believe that “He’s got this.”  Bro. Dewayne

Posted in Family, friends, gratitude, Integrity, life, love, loving others, priorities, Scripture, Southern born, sovereignty of God, thankful, wisdom

Writing Every Day

Teach us to number our days carefully so that we may develop wisdom in our hearts. Numbers 90:12

It wouldn’t cut soft butter today but back then it was cutting edge. I’m a tech guy.  I loved the newest and greatest technology.  When a new something comes out, if I’m not careful, I am on my way to grab one.  Of course, the funny part is it usually ends up sitting around somewhere.  Even my iPhone is mad because of the hours it sits on the counter—unloved and unattended.  Frequently I have to apologize for not returning a call or not answering a text…not because I’m ignoring a person—I’m ignoring my phone.

This love affair with tech began when I was a kid. When it came time for Christmas, I would browse the Sears catalogue and dream of the cool gifts that might come my way. And somehow, Momma and Daddy, with a little help from Santa, would pull it off.  Of course, sometimes they surprised me.  It would have been Christmas of, oh, 1966 and I received something totally unexpected and totally cool. It was a small, battery powered, portable reel-to-reel tape recorder.  This was before eight-tracks, before cassettes…before anything.  The size of large book, it gave me the ability to record something and play that something back.

One time I took my recorder to my grandparent’s house in Gainesville, Florida.  My grandfather (there was no “Papa” with him) was talking with my Daddy and was even telling a joke.  I decided to start the recorder and record what they were saying. Sure enough it worked and later, I played the tape for everyone, and we all marveled at the ability for something so small to do that.  But here is the amazing part.  Somewhere in my stuff, is a small reel of tape and on that tape is my grandfather and my Daddy’s voices…probably one of the few recordings to exist.  Even though they are gone…their voices live on.

Their.Voices.Live.On.  Think about that for just a moment.  Both of these men who influenced me so much have long since passed away. But through technology their voices can still be heard.  Oh, I know it is not a big deal now but back then…it was so unusual and that makes the recording valuable.  They are, if you will, speaking from the grave.

In one of those moments of clarity, I recently realized that I too, one day, will speak from the grave.  My life, my actions, my priorities, my values, sermons I have preached, and stories I have written, will all be left behind and all will speak.  And I wonder…what will they say of me and what will they say of who I was?  When my great grandchildren hear the stories of their great Papa, will those stories be stories worthy to share? Will the words encourage them to live right and do right, or leave them scratching their head like a batter thrown a good curve ball on a hot Saturday afternoon? We should all hope to leave a story that is worth telling…one that brings some light and laughter into their world.

There is a verse I keep coming back to time and again.  Moses wrote it thousands of years ago and yet is as fresh as today’s news.  He asked God to help him number his days that he could gain a wise heart.  He wasn’t asking for his math to be accurate when he counted birthdays.  No, he was asking that he be wise enough to make the most, the very most, of every single day.

Legacy.  It is a great word, and we are all leaving one.  The only question is, “What kind will it be?” That is up to us.  Five days a week I write a story but in reality…I write one everyday…and so do you.  Let’s be sure to write one worth telling.  Fortunately, there is a publisher who is all about helping us and if we are Jesus followers, we call Him Dearest Daddy.  He is more than willing to help us write a best seller…after all, that’s just one more thing He does.  He’s got that too.  Bro. Dewayne

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

What Time Is It…Really?

Teach them Your Word, Your Word is truth.” John 17:17b

It was the 60’s and 70’s. The novel, “A Tale of Two Cities” starts with “it was the best of times, it was the worst of times” and that pretty well describes those two decades.  Out of those somewhat crazy times came some of the best music ever written—at least modern music.  I know that is true because people from all the other decades seem to come back to the 60’s and 70’s. Some, ok, maybe a lot of it, was kinda crazy but that is what made it so cool.  There was a song that was released by the group Chicago in 1969 called, “Does Anyone Really Know What Time It Is.”  It was a quirky song, in fact, that is how the guy who wrote it described it.

What is kinda funny is that it is a song that my wife Judy and I live daily.  If you read Grits, you might remember that I like clocks a lot. It all started a long time ago and is one hobby or obsession that has stuck with me through the years.  I am intrigued because of the design and engineering that went into each clock.  Some of my clocks are babies, only sixty or seventy years old.  Some though are well over a hundred.  Some were bought at a shop somewhere, one special one was built by a couple of friends and two were built by me…with a little help from my friends.

In today’s world, so many clocks are engineering marvels and keep time very accurately.  But some of the older ones tend to be a little less accurate.  So that is where our song comes in.  You see most rooms in my house have a clock or two or three and often they are the older mechanical types.  So, you go into the room and look over there and there is a clock.  It says it is, oh, let’s say 2:13 pm.  Then you look over there and there is another clock, and it says it is 2:20 pm. Then on the wall going up the stairs is another clock that declares it is 2:05 pm.  What?

Well, all of that is not a problem until you are about to leave, and you need to know if you are on time or late.  And trust me, more than once, Judy has said, “So what time is it, anyway?”  Well, I know my clocks pretty well and I know their habits as well.  I pretty much know who runs slow and who runs fast and who doesn’t run at all.  So I can usually tell her just about what time it really is.  It can be a bit confusing…but in a pretty good if not quirky way.

The bottom line is if I really need to know the time, I have three good choices.  First, my trusty Apple Watch.  It is very accurate and if it is strapped to my wrist…it is an obvious first choice. The second choice is my phone which is married to my Apple Watch.  The only problem is I’m not married to my phone which means it may or may not be close by.  The third choice is the kitchen stove.  It always tells the truth…but it still depends on me setting it correctly. And if the power goes off, well, you get the flashy thing until I get around to setting it.

I was thinking, which is always a dangerous thing, that where we go for truth is a lot like trying to find the correct time.  Similar to the question in the song you might ask, “Does anyone really know what truth is and what it is not?”  Well, the answer is…wait for it…the Bible.  For millennia this most ancient of sacred writings has stood the test of time.  It has made the best seller list forever and while there are many different translations and reading styles…there never has been a version 2.1.  Do you know why?  It is timeless, changeless and without error.  I know, I know you might think differently or maybe heard differently but let me encourage to check it out for yourself.  Do some honest research and you will probably come to the same conclusion that I did—it can be trusted because it is the real deal.  And trust me…these days we need the real deal.

When you find yourself running around and asking everyone you meet, “Hey, does anyone really know what’s true and what’s not?” I hope you will turn to the one source that is spot on, right on and always on target. Jesus said it best when He said, “Teach them Your Word, Your Word is truth.” I like that…plain, simple truth. And, when you have a question, when you are stumped, just ask the One who knows and always speaks the truth—God.  Oh, and don’t worry, He always has the answer because He is the answer.  In other words, “He’s got this.”  Bro. Dewayne

Posted in forgiveness, friends, Grace, gratitude, life, Military memories, priorities, Southern born, thankful, Trials, wisdom

Busted Again

Do not love the world [its ways, its principles] or the things in the world. For everything in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride in one’s possessions—is not from the Father but is from the world.” 1 John 2:15-16

You know, some folks are just slow learners.  My time in Minot was short—from October to April—but filled with memories.  The base was about 20 miles from town and only a couple of guys had cars. We would load up and drive into town at negative twenty degrees with all the windows down to play “freeze out.” We would see how long we could stand the cold.   The radio would be blaring John Denver’s “Take Me Home Country Roads.”  Hey, there wasn’t a lot to do—especially in Minot in the dead of winter.

So, as a southern boy, this cold weather stuff was all new to me.  Some things I just couldn’t get the hang of.  One of those was walking on ice.  Now I had been walking since I was about 18 months old.  The difference was up in Minot you must learn to walk on ice.  The winter of 1972-73 was a great opportunity to do so. I was able to go home for Christmas. I was dreaming of a green and not white Christmas.  Up until that time it had been cold, but we had very little snow.  That was kinda unusual—especially for Minot.

Well, while I was home for Christmas they had a whopper snow —and I’m not talking about Burger King.  Something like two feet of snow fell.  But what happened after the snow was chilling—literally.  It melted…all of it.  Somehow it got well above freezing for a week or so which melted the snow and then it happened.  The temperature plunged to below zero and stayed there.  Forever.

What was left behind were vast sheets of ice.  Everywhere you looked or walked there was ice.  I didn’t have a car which meant I had to walk to and from work.  So, I would put on my arctic parka, my arctic gloves, pull my arctic hood up and take a hike. I would walk one way going and another way coming.  Going to work was not a deal.  I managed to make it without falling…or at least not multiple times.  Going home?  Well, that’s a different story.

About halfway there I would have to walk around the corner of a building.  So, off I go.  I get to this corner and not paying attention, stepped onto a sheet of ice. Bam.  In two seconds flat—I was flat on my back.  Because of the parka nothing was damaged except my pride.  Score one for the ice.  Day two.  I’m walking home and come to the exact same spot.  I eye the ice and ever so carefully step on it and in two seconds flat I am flat on my back.  Bummer.  I crawl back upright, making sure no one is watching, and press on.

Day three. I get to the corner for the third time.  I know the ice is there.  In fact, we’ve become close friends.  I gingerly step on the ice…nothing happens.  As I take my second step and in two seconds -I am flat on my back.  Excuse me?  Is this Ground Hog Day or what?  Anyway, for the third time I crawl off the ice and head on back to the dorm.  By this time more than my pride was bruised.

I know what you are thinking. Why don’t you take a different path?  Why did you keep doing the same thing and expecting different results?  The answer is…I don’t have a clue.  Thought I could beat it? Thought it was closer? Thought if I fell enough, I would break the ice before it broke me?  I don’t know.  I was stubborn. I was a slow learner. I was doing the same thing and expecting different results.

Isn’t that what we do in life?  Don’t we journey along and come to a decision point and fall flat? Don’t we sometimes do it again on Day 2? Day 3?  You know, walking on ice is one thing.  However, flirting with disaster, the kind that has big regrets and bigger consequences, is another. God knows this and tells us not to fall in love with the world—its ways, its principles, its stuff.  Remember your momma saying, don’t date someone you don’t want to marry?  Same principle.  Flirt with the world, date the world and you’ll end up marrying the world.

John—the guy in the Bible—says in 1 John 2:16, “For everything in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride in one’s possessions—is not from the Father but is from the world.” When you say, “I do” with the world you end up with twins—regrets and consequences. Life is harder…a lot harder.  Harder than walking on ice.

So, I finally did take a different route. They say that three times is a charm.  It took me four, but I did learn.  On day four…I didn’t fall. I didn’t fall on day five either. In fact, I don’t remember falling again.  Why? I didn’t go that way. I chose a different route and that route, that path, had different consequences—better consequences.

They also say that three strikes and you are out.  True in baseball but fortunately it isn’t true with God. He keeps picking us up, dusting us off and helping us find the right path—one with less ice.  When I fell, I would quickly look to make sure no one was watching.  When we fall in life, we can rest assured Someone is watching…our Abba Father.  He’s got is His eye on us. So, be careful out there it can be icy but don’t worry, you aren’t alone.  He’s always there. Rest in Him knowing He will be there to pick you up.  After all, He’s got this. Bro. Dewayne

Posted in Easter, forgiveness, Grace, gratitude, life, love, Scripture, thankful, wisdom

One Ugly Cross

For the word of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but it is the power of God to us who are being saved.” 1 Corinthians 1:18

It’s an Easter tradition. Well, we are waving goodbye to Easter as it disappears in the rearview mirrors of our lives.  Before we let it get too far gone, I want to share something that happens every year at our church. It is the story of a cross.  I know all Christian churches have crosses, in fact, we have several.  But each Easter there is a special cross that sits at the entrance of our church.  And it has a story to tell.

Our church has two services on Sunday morning—one early and one later.  When people come to our early service on Easter morning, they are greeted by what can only be described as one ugly cross.  It is made of weathered 2×4’s and covered with…chicken wire.  I am sure more than one person sees that cross and wonders how the custodian could forget to store it before services started. What they wouldn’t know is something is going to happen to that old rugged cross…something that will make it beautiful.

Long ago, there was another old rugged cross and it too was ugly.  It was “repurposed” as criminal after criminal was hung from it.  Nails were driven through human flesh and blood was spilt.  Rome didn’t take kindly to those who rebelled against their stern and unfair system of “justice.”  Like the cross in our foyer, it didn’t need to be displayed…it needed to be hidden.  Then, one day, something different happened. Something different indeed.

So, what about the ugly cross at our church?  Well, you see during time in-between our two services a wonderful transformation takes place.  The ladies take dozens of beautiful flowers and completely cover the cross and piece by piece, bloom by bloom, that ugly old cross becomes beautiful.  And two thousand years ago, the same thing happened.

I know, the thought of Jesus, the Rose of Sharon, the perfect Lamb of God, nailed to a Roman cross, well, is anything but beautiful…until we remember.  We remember that He was held not by nails of iron but by love.  We remember that He was there not for His own sin but for ours.  He was there so that we could call His Father our Father and suddenly the beauty of His old, rugged cross takes on a new beauty.  It is a beautiful picture of love, sacrifice, and redemption.

Perhaps that is what led the hymn writer to write, “On a hill far away stood an old rugged cross—the emblem of suffering and shame. And I love that old cross where the dearest and best for a world of lost sinners was slain.” Perhaps the author was able to see past the blood and gore to a Savior’s blessed glory. Perhaps he saw what we should see…what we need to see. Paul saw it…that is why he wrote, “For the word of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but it is the power of God to us who are being saved.” No doubt.

Well, at the end of our second service, people stop and pose by the now beautiful cross and its beautiful blooms.  Its beauty reminds us that instead of an instrument of death, it was an instrument of redemption.  Its beauty shouts that He is no longer hanging on a cross, He is no longer tucked away in a borrowed tomb, no, He is alive…He lives.  Hallelujah…what a Savior…what a Redeemer…what a Rescuer.

Monday after Easter, our cross was stripped of its now dying flowers and it was stored away to be rediscovered next year.  But let’s make a point to never forget what the old, rugged cross is all about…redemption, rescue, and love.  Let’s gather each week, whether it is Sunday or another day, and celebrate an old cross and an empty tomb.  Because they are both empty, we have a reason to celebrate.  Need a little help with that? Don’t worry…He’s got that.  Bro. Dewayne

Posted in Family, fear, food, forgiveness, life, love, loving others, Scripture, Southern born, Trials, wisdom

Green Gold

Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” Romans 10:13

There it was…green gold.  Well, it isn’t news to hardly anyone but inflation is here and it is quite healthy.  I don’t go to the store, especially the grocery store, too often.  I suppose that helps feed (no pun intended) the sticker shock when I do.  I’ve lived way long enough to enjoy telling my grandchildren and those significantly younger than me about “the good old days.”  And if inflation is good for nothing else, it sure gives me more fodder for my “good old days” stories.

My wife Judy and I are both from the south and like many Southerners, we are fans of things southern, especially food.  Enter, stage right, watermelon.  Both of us are big fans of watermelon but my wife is president of the watermelon fan club.  The only thing I have never understood is her need to baptize her watermelon with salt.  It just doesn’t make sense.  Well, starting about this time of the year, it is not uncommon for her to go to the store and come home with a watermelon.  And then it happened.

She indeed got to the store, not looking for a watermelon but since the produce department is at the entrance, she wandered through.  And, there they sat…watermelons.  The store had a whole big bin of them…there for the taking.  And then she saw the price.  These small, round watermelons, from Mexico mind you, were there for the taking for…wait for it…just about ten dollars each. What? You’re kidding, right?  Nope.  And just in case you don’t live in a watermelon world, a year ago a high price would have been less than half that.

She sent a picture of the bin of green gold to the family group text, and we all groaned and moaned.  Later that night she also shared that four, count them, four ears of sweet corn were over four dollars…more than a dollar an ear.  And the hard news is if Judy loves watermelon…she craves sweet corn.  What in the world is going on?  And I thought people hoarding toilet tissue was weird.

You see, when I was a kid, watermelons had seeds and were the shape and size of the Goodyear blimp.  These monsters often weighed twenty or more pounds, were always sweet as honey and cost fifty cents.  Slowly, over time, they shrank and a really sweet one is like finding a needle in a haystack.  Corn, not too terribly long ago would set you back a couple of dollars for a dozen—not two ears. What in the world is going on?

Well, they say it is all about supply chain issues, the price of fuel, the state of world politics and Bigfoot.  Well, no one has mentioned Bigfoot yet, but I’m sure it figures in there somewhere.  Prices are in such a flux that sticker shock and the potential for higher prices tomorrow dominate too much of our time and energy.  If only there was something that hasn’t gone up.  There is.

I am glad to report that God has not raised His prices.  He still offers eternal life to anyone who believes for the grand total of…zero.  How is that possible? When He came up with the plan to let us become part of His family, He paid the entire bill—and what a bill it was.  It involved His Son being nailed to a cross and dying for the sins of the whole, entire, world. Every man, woman or child who believes and asks receives a clean bill (no pun intended) of spiritual health.   Every sin, no matter what, is forgiven.  It has been that way since the first Christmas and Easter, and it will stay that way.  He is not going to raise the rate.

You won’t find a better deal no matter how far and wide you look. Someone said heaven isn’t about doing…it is about done.  It is not about keeping a bunch of rules…it is about a relationship with the One who made us all. So, if you are shopping for some hope, if you are in the market for a new beginning, you need to start right there.  I bought in (no pun intended) a long time ago and it was the best decision of my life, and it will be the best decision of your life too.  Paul, the guy who wrote a chunk of the New Testament, wrote that anyone, a.n.y.o.n.e., who asks will be forgiven.  What a deal.

Well, I’m not sure what is going to happen with me and Judy and our watermelon habit.  I’m not sure what she will do about sweet corn gold either, but I do know this.  No matter what, my Father, the One who creates watermelons and sweet corn, has it covered.  He’s got this.  Bro. Dewayne

Posted in Easter, Family, forgiveness, Grace, gratitude, Holidays, life, love, prayer, Scripture, Southern born, thankful, wisdom

The Easter Suit

But God demonstrated His love for us in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” Romans 5:8

It’s just another one of those special memories.  It was spring in Jacksonville, Florida—number fifteen or so in my life journey.  Back in those days, Easter was a big deal, and so was what you wore.  We were raised in the tradition that Easter meant a new outfit…it is just what we did.  But just like Christmas beliefs and traditions sometimes change…so did this Easter tradition.  As we got older…the new outfits got fewer and fewer—but then—for some reason, it happened.  One year, when I was in my mid-teens, Momma and Daddy loaded me up in the car, drove across town to a men’s store for the sole purpose of buying me an Easter suit.

I’m not sure what prompted this or a hundred other sacrifices they made for us, but it happened.  The name of the store is lost to time, but it may have been Tatum’s—a store known for quality men’s clothing at a good price.  So, we arrived and went in and soon I was trying on suits.  They say some things never change and that is true.  Today when I shop for just about anything it isn’t the label that matters or even the style—price takes the day.  It is a matter of practicality and budget.  It is true today and it was true even then.  Remember, somethings don’t change.

Soon, with the help of our salesperson, we had settled on a subtle green tweed suit.  It was a very nice suit and it was on sale. I would later realize that might have been because it was a rather heavy wool material and there wasn’t a lot of demand for that in Florida.  Regardless, it was soon mine.  But Momma and Daddy weren’t done yet.  The salesman led us over to the shirt department and together we picked out a creamy yellow shirt that matched the suit perfectly.  But wait…there was more.  Next came a tie.  To this day I can remember this—my first tie—bought just for me.  It was a loosely woven linen striped tie of pastel colors.  Again, a perfect match for the new suit and shirt.

There was some tailoring to the done but by Easter I was set and dressed to the nines.  That morning, I assembled my new outfit and headed off to church.  I was so proud but for a special reason…one you have read in Grits before.  I was proud because of all my parents had done to make sure I had a new Easter suit. Why that year? I don’t know.  Maybe it was because I was stepping into manhood.  All I know is that year, and for several years that followed, the subtle green wool suit, which was too warm for Florida weather, owned a place in my closet. It was special and that was all that mattered. It was a suit of love…a suit of sacrifice.

Looking back their Easter sacrifice became even more special. You see that gift and sacrifice reminded me of the gift and sacrifice that God made for us that first Easter.  He gave His best, His only Son to a Roman cross so we could be forgiven and dressed in His righteousness.  And unlike my suit that was a little too warm for Florida…His gift was perfect…in more ways than one. A perfect sacrifice for an imperfect world filled with imperfect people. And why? Because of love.

Easter, Resurrection Sunday, is in the rearview mirror now but it would serve us well to remember that every time the sun rises, it reminds us of what happened that Sunday morning so long ago. It is no accident that Christians worship on Sunday…by design it is a celebration of the resurrection. I’m not sure how long I held onto that subtle green, too warm, suit but I have never forgotten the love that bought it for me.  And I’m sure I will never forget the love of a God who cared enough to give His very best so that we could call Him “Dearest Daddy.”

Paul, one of the writers of the New Testament wrote a letter to the Christians in Rome.  In it, he gave them an Easter suit of sorts, a reminder of God’s great love.  He wrote, “But God demonstrated His love for us in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.”  Imagine that—broken and unworthy—and yet He loved, and He gave.  As we journey this week, don’t leave the message of Easter behind.  He loves us, He cares for us, and He’s got this.  Bro. Dewayne

Posted in Christmas, Easter, Family, fear, forgiveness, friends, Grace, gratitude, life, love, prayer, Scripture, sovereignty of God, thankful, Trials, wisdom

Good Friday but Resurrection Sunday

He made the One who did not know sin to be sin for us, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God.” 2 Corinthians 5:21

One of my favorite holiday songs speaks of Christmas being “the most wonderful time of the year.”  I suppose in the eyes of most folks Christmas has become the ultimate “feel good” holiday.  It is jam packed with great music, great food, fun parties, and beautiful decorations.  Throw the birth of a cute little newborn in the mix and it seems like a slam dunk. All of that leads to idealistic dreams of what Christmas should be but, frankly, too often those dreams don’t measure up to reality.

If we could step back a couple of thousand years, we would see that same baby grown to be a man and it seems that the whole known world isn’t celebrating His birth but shouting for His death. While the song speaks of Christmas being that “wonderful time,” for a significant part of the world, this week—and especially this Sunday—is truly more than wonderful.  It is amazing. For this is the week that we celebrate the death, burial, and resurrection of our beloved Savior, Jesus Christ.

I’ve always thought it ironic that we call the day that Jesus died “Good Friday.”  I mean it is obvious that it wasn’t good day for Him.  A Roman crucifixion was so horrible that it was against the law to crucify a Roman citizen and it was called, “the death of deaths.” So why call it Good Friday? Well, for those of us who believe He is who He said He was, and He did what He said He could do, defeat death, well it’s a very big deal.

For starters, we believe His death that day was the sacrifice for our sins.  The Bible tells us that “without the shedding of blood is no remission {of sins}”—Hebrews 9:22.    We celebrate Good Friday because for each believer in Jesus it means the sin slate is wiped clean. Imagine having every wrong thing you ever did forgiven, blotted out, and you might begin to understand this important day.

Imagine this—it’s the greatest trade ever.  Jesus says I will take the rap for your sin and in exchange you can have my perfection. 2 Corinthians 5:21, one of the letters that make up the New Testament, puts it this way: “He made the One who did not know sin [that’s Jesus] to be sin for us, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God.” He took our wrongs so we could be made right.  Amazing.

Wait…it gets better. For those who walked with Him on this earth, that Friday appeared anything but good—to them it appeared to be the end.  Every hope of Him being their overcoming King ended with every blow of the hammer.  He died, they buried Him, but then came Resurrection Sunday.  If Friday was good than Sunday must be super.  For on that day Christ physically resurrected from the dead. The most authenticated, sacred writing in the world, the Bible, along with historical evidence, all comes to the same conclusion: He came back to life. He lives.

The physical resurrection of Christ proves His deity.  In other words, the proof of the pudding is in the tasting, and He proved He was and is the Son of God.  And it only gets better!  He defeated death and because He did, we have that same knowing hope.  His victory over death becomes ours.  It is an incredible story…one worth your own personal investigation.

Let me encourage you to check Him out.  There is plenty of bunk on the internet but there is also plenty of truth.  See why such a large chunk of the world population connects Jesus with God.  See what all the excitement is about.  And hey, maybe find a place you trust and experience the resurrection celebration somewhere in person this Easter Sunday. You will discover a God who loves you a ton and just waits to welcome you into His family. And when you’re in His family you can know two things.  First, you are His and He will never change His mind.  Second, well, no matter what you face, “He’s got this.” Bro. Dewayne

Posted in Family, food, friends, Grace, gratitude, life, Scripture, thankful, Trials, wisdom

Cooking Class: Beans & Burns

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

It was the best of times. It was the worst of times.  Oh wait–that opening line has already been taken. Well, it was just over twelve years ago now, but I well remember the night. Judy was out of town, and I was at the church.  We were sponsoring a dinner for the football team.  I wanted to help but, well, it didn’t go to well.  It is a known fact that I can’t be trusted with a power tool of any sorts.  It just doesn’t go well.  Apparently, you can add all things kitchen to that list.

I love being a fixer.  When one of my grandkid’s toys would break, they would bring it to Papa—their fixer.  I love being the hero. And I love to help. It’s in my DNA. WelI, that night I volunteered to help the head cooker person get a large pan of baked beans out of the convection oven at church.  It was in one of those pans made of formed aluminum.  When I volunteered, I could see the concern in the head cooker person’s eyes. For an expert this was no deal…for a preacher who wasn’t allowed to use power tools—it was Death Valley.

“Dewayne”, she said, watch the bottom of the pan—it can collapse if you aren’t careful.”  She went on, “You might want to put a sheet pan under it for support.” Well, Mister “I -Know-It-All” said, “No deal, I can handle it.” So, I reached up, I lifted it and in a moment of time…a moment that will live in infinity…the pan collapsed, and my lower left arm was baptized in a tsunami of scalding, hot baked beans.  The pain was instantaneous, and it was intense. Can someone say “ouch?”

Well, I immediately used my other hand to wipe some of the beans off (not too smart since I burned that hand too) and ran to the sink and started running water over it.  The bottom line is I ended up with second degree burns, a working knowledge of how not to take beans out of the oven and several other good life lessons added to my repertoire of knowledge. You might say I have “bean” educated.”

Perhaps the first lesson is this.  No matter how well you do something the wrong way, it probably isn’t going to work out for your benefit.  When King David and his crew were moving the ark in the Old Testament, they decided to use a cart instead of doing it God’s way.  The result was the oxen stumbled and a man reached out to steady the ark and was instantly struck dead by God.  Now don’t blame God—the rule was you don’t touch the ark.  Period.  But when you do something in a wrong way you open yourself up to a whole bunch of circumstances.

Second, listen to the experts.  The head cooker person I was helping was a professional cook.  She knew the danger–I didn’t.  I was a he-man, bean toting pastor–that is until “I spilt the beans” (pun intended!) I thought I could handle it—and I could not. I’m not sure why we wrestle this around but isn’t it funny how God, the ultimate expert, offers us advice–and we tend to ignore it.  And the pain that it causes can rival or exceed second degree burns. Listen to God.  He knows best.

Finally, get ready for the lasting effects of the consequences.  I burned my arm on a Tuesday and it took days, lots of days, to even begin to feel normal. Oh, and did I mention that I didn’t go to the doctor because I was going to tough it out? You see, pride is a bad deal.  I guess I was embarrassed enough, and I just didn’t want to explain to the doctor about how unwise I was.  So, I just dealt with it.  Fortunately, I did bump into him later and he saw the bandage, checked it out, asked the inevitable questions, and gave me some awesome medicine for burns. It did heal and left only minimal scarring to gently remind me to listen before I act. It taught me that whatever you sow…you reap. It taught me that—every bad choice we make carries some sort of consequences.  Choose wisely, my son, choose wisely.

So, twelve years later, there is still a twinge of regret over that fateful Tuesday night.   I still shake my head and wonder how in the world I could do something so, so, stupid. Every once in a while, when we are having a dinner at church, I will say, “Hey, head cooker person, do you remember…” and before I can finish the sentence, we both nod knowingly.  I was afraid I was going to swear off bake beans forever but that that didn’t happen, but I will never look at a pan of beans the same way.  And I will forever have a greater respect for an oven set to 350 degrees.

As you journey along and you are faced with decisions and crossroads and someone suggests maybe going this way or that or doing it this way or that—take a moment, pause, and listen to their advice—especially if it involves baked beans.  And if that voice is a gentle whisper from the Whisperer, definitely stop and listen.  He will probably be helping you avoid some needless pain or letting you know you can rest in Him.  He will be whispering, “I’ve got this.” Bro. Dewayne

Posted in Family, friends, gratitude, life, loving others, priorities, Scripture, thankful, Trials, wisdom

What Time is It?

Jesus told Martha, “I am the resurrection and the life. Anyone who believes in Me will live, even after dying. Everyone who lives in Me and believes in Me will never ever die. Do you believe this?” John 11:25-26

I look and see my mortality.  Now don’t think for a moment this is one of those “Debbie Downer” stories.  In fact, in a way, it might be the best news you will hear all day, all week, well, for always.  So, I am sixty-eight years old.  I know, I can’t believe it either. And all around me are signs that I am mortal.  Remember that—all of us are mortal. I have been at my present position as a pastor for 22 years.  I came to the church I serve in 2000 when I was 46 years old.  I must have dozed off because just like that, 22 years of life have ticked off the calendar.  My children are married, I have eight grandchildren and Judy and I have now been married almost 46 years.  And the best part?  It has been, and is, a great ride.

But then I did the math.  When, and if, the next 20 years tick off the clock called life, I will be 88 years old.  I find that astounding.  We Taylor boys don’t have a real good track record when it comes to longevity.  Three of my four brothers, all older than me, have already moved to heaven.  Our clocks are ticking, and we don’t know when the last tick will come.  It is a sobering thought.  But stay with me.

I live my life by the calendar.  I speak to my church every Sunday and some Wednesdays. It seems I no more finish one message before it is time to deliver the next.  The weeks fly by.  Every first of the month I speak on the radio on a local program called “The Baptist Hour.”  My tag line is, “Can you believe another month has come and gone?” And the answer each month is, “No, I really can’t.” I remember on the first of February, after a speedy January, I made a joke about it being Christmas before we know it.  Well, we just passed April 1st which means 25% of this new year is in the rearview mirror. Time flies by.  It is a sobering thought.  But stay with me.

Part of “The Baptist Hour” is the reading of the funeral arrangements of those who recently died.  Invariably there are several, often more than a few.  I’m learning that too often the names being read belong to people my age or younger.  Recently an acquaintance in our small town suddenly died—a massive heart attack.  He was younger than me.  That really caused me to stop and ponder.  It was a sobering thought.  But stay with me.

Here’s what I am learning.  Time is relative.  We are eternal beings made and destined to spend forever somewhere.  That destination doesn’t depend on good or bad, church or no church, religion or not.  Does that surprise you?  You see, heaven isn’t for good people and hell isn’t for bad people. No, where we spend eternity is about forgiveness of sin and that forgiveness is a free gift from God to anyone…anyone…who asks.  I believe faith in Jesus is the only way to heaven. I know that sounds narrow but when you consider that God invites everyone to the party—well, it is pretty broad. We read in the Bible that the payment for sin is death and radically Jesus came for one purpose—to willingly die and pay that price.

So, if we are eternal beings and if we place our trust, our faith in this one of a kind, God-man named Jesus, that means that when we die, we can spend eternity in this place called heaven.  When Jesus said that if anyone would believe in Him, they would never die—that’s what He meant. And then He closes with that all important question, “Do you believe this?”

With Jesus in the equation, death isn’t the end, it is a beginning.  That might sound wacky to you.  However, before you check it out, I challenge you to check it out.  Get a copy of the Bible and read the four different accounts or stories about Jesus—Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. You might find yourself intrigued and amazed.

I read a true story yesterday about a man’s perception of his morality. This guy happened to be a minister and he went to the doctor and got some sobering news.  He was terminally ill with no chance of recovery. The doctor told him he had about a year to live.  He left the doctor’s office and went to one of his favorite spots—you know, to kinda take it in. Now, allow me to let the man tell his story. “I looked at the river in which I rejoice, and I looked at the stately trees that are always God’s own poetry to my soul. And I said, ‘I may not see you many more times, but mountain, I shall be alive when you are gone; and river, I shall be alive when you cease running toward the sea.’”

Wow…what wonderfully strong words.  If this whole God story is true, and I honestly believe it is, then people who trust that Jesus is the path to God and heaven, will outlive the mountains and the rivers. We may change addresses, but we will live forever.  I know this is probably a different kind of story than we usually share together, but I hope it will make us think about what happens next. For myself and so many others, it makes all the sense in the world—and beyond.  I’m grateful for the eternal part but I also love the part of the story that says He is with me now—hot mess world and all.  I can rest in Him and trust in Him because, He’s got this.  Bro. Dewayne