Posted in Family, Grace, gratitude, life, priorities, Scripture, thankful, wisdom

Tulip Bulbs

Let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up.” Hebrews 12:1b

It was one of the craziest things I have seen.  In my spare time or when I need to check out, I like to watch television…but not like you might think.  You see, a long time ago I kinda checked out on network television.  It finally got crazy enough that I decided I just didn’t need it.  I know there are some good shows out there but for me the craziness overshadowed them.  For years now, my viewing habits centered around house stuff, nature stuff, travel stuff, history stuff, and stuff-stuff or how this works or that works.

Anyway, was watching a travel show and this episode was on Holland.  On this show, they would fly all over the country and talk about what you were seeing. If you know anything about Holland you know they are famous for wooden shoes, windmills, canals and, wait for it, tulips.  So, they were flying over a tulip farm.  Imagine, if you can, this massive field of every color of tulip imaginable. It was truly beautiful.  I’m thinking how all the flowers will end up in the flower markets around Europe and how much joy they will bring to the people who bought them or received them.

And, then, it happened.  Are you ready? Probably not. The angle of the camera changes some and it shows a tractor, and it is not harvesting the flowers—it is cutting them down. Say what? Yup…if I’m lying, I’m dying.  The massive clipper thing was laying waste to zillions and zillions of flowers. And, in case you’re wondering, no one was coming along and picking them up.  They were laid—not to rest but to waste. What in the world is going on?  Well, here is deal.

This farm wasn’t in the flower business…it was in the bulb business.  In other words, they were not selling flowers, they were selling the bulbs that produced the flowers.  Their logic was simple—and even scientific.  The flowers would drain the bulb of nutrients and they discovered that if they cut the flowers, the bulbs would benefit directly. Bigger and healthier bulbs meant a better price and for them…a bigger profit. While I still don’t understand why they couldn’t find a way to save the flowers, I think I understand why they did what they did.  But what a waste.

The big truth here is really big.  How can this apply to our life journeys, our Jesus journey?  Well, the answer is this.  When we are willing to lay aside the good for something better, or the better for the best, it suddenly makes sense.  We all have things in our lives that may not be bad but the question to ask is, “Are they the best?” And remember—best is always better than better.

The author of Hebrews, which sounds like it belongs in the Old Testament instead of the New says, in Hebrews 12:1, “Let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up.” In other words, whatever causes us to not run our life race effectively, needs to be discarded—no matter how much it is liked—no matter how attractive it might be.  We may need to cut the optional to enhance or save the essential.  Worth it? Always.

Now when I first saw them cutting the flowers, it just seemed so illogical, and we might feel the same way when we started choosing best over better but remember this.  God knows what is best, He desires the best for us, and He will help us choose the best if we will but ask.  It’s just another of those times when He’s waiting to let you know, “I’ve got this.” Bro. Dewayne

Posted in Family, friends, Grace, gratitude, heaven, life, love, loving others, prayer, priorities, Scripture, Southern born, sovereignty of God, thankful, Trials, wisdom

Not Bad, Just Hard

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

It was Monday…and my brother died. It wasn’t a total surprise as we knew his health was deteriorating. He and his wife had been living in an assisted living facility for several years.  As he grew older, as often happens, his body began to wear out and finally Monday morning it just quit working.  He not only was my brother, but he was my oldest brother. He was seventeen years older than me and in so many ways he was more than just a brother…he was like a second father. To a large degree he helped mold me into who I am today…especially spiritually.  My brother was a believer, a Jesus follower and if I may say so…a pretty good one at that.  In fact, I can’t remember him ever not being a Jesus follower. 

He was the one who always made sure I had a ride to church.  He was one of those three-time-a-week goers, so I suppose that is why it has been a habit in my life too.  Over the years, he shared a lot of good advice with me…advice that has guided me along my journey. When I became a pastor, he offered me some Godly wisdom and for my birthday gifted me with a couple of foundational books.  At one of the churches I pastored, he felt led to lend a hand financially…something he did for more than a few years. He was like a father but he also was like the State Farm commercial that says, “just like a good neighbor, State Farm is there.” He was always there.  Oh, we lived in different parts of the country…but that didn’t matter.  That’s how some relationships are.

My brother wasn’t just my oldest brother…he was my last brother.  When he left town on Monday for a bigger and better place, I looked around and realized I was the last brother standing.  And that was another of those, “mortality moments.”  He was just shy of 86 when he left here and went there—there being heaven.  Eighty-six is a pretty good number, especially for men and especially for Taylor men. At first there were five of us Taylor men and three had already changed addresses—thankfully all in heaven.  So, that left the bookends—my oldest brother at one end and me, the youngest at the other. He lived a long, good life…not the richest guy, not the most popular guy, and not the most powerful guy. In the end those don’t matter anyway.  What matters is he was a Jesus guy. He made a difference. He made an impact. He left a legacy.

So, what happened that Monday morning when the last heartbeat came? Often our first thought is something bad happened.  Well, I guess you could say God, through His Word, helped me have a different view.  As I looked at all of this, death, life, and all that it entails, it seemed God said, “Dewayne, this isn’t bad…it’s just hard.”  It immediately became lodged not in my throat but in my heart.  Not.Bad.Just.Hard.  Now don’t misread this, because there is plenty of bad in the world but with God painted into the picture, His grace and mercy can change bad to just hard.

You see, when my brother’s heart stopped the other day, he gave up a broken world for one that is perfect. He gave up a broken body for one that is perfect. He gave up sickness, tears, and sadness for a place where none of that exists. No assisted living, no hospitals, no funeral homes—just a home like none we can ever imagine—at home with his Dearest Daddy.  See, it’s hard for us, sometimes really hard for us, however for him…no…he’s doing better than ever before. You might say that he is more alive than ever before.

My brother loved our family reunions and guess what? There is one coming that will outshine them all.  Because of my pastoral responsibilities and distance, I didn’t make too many of the reunions but this one coming up…I’ll be there.  Oh, it isn’t because I’m a preacher, or go to church, or belong to one denomination or another.  No, just like my brother, I’ll be there because I am a Jesus guy and He is the way to the reunion of all reunions.  Jesus said, “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life and no one comes to the Father but by Me.”  Yes, it is a narrow road but the grand part is everyone is invited to participate.  All you have to do is say, “Yes” to Jesus.

So, my brother died…well…actually His body died but not him.  I’ll see him again and that’s not bad. The separation is hard but there is a party coming…one for the ages.  You need to know that God wants you there also, and He made it possible for that to happen.  Jesus, faith, grace, and mercy.  Indeed, He’s got this. Bro. Dewayne

Posted in fear, forgiveness, friends, Grace, gratitude, life, missions, prayer, Scripture, travel, Trials, wisdom

Big Rivers, Hungry Crocs & Fat Hippos

But if you don’t do this, you will certainly sin against the Lord; be sure your sin will catch up with you.”  Numbers 32:23

How do things like this happen?  If you are older than three, you have probably already bumped into something that got bigger than you intended.  Whether you are a toddler reaching for the cookie jar or a teenager thinking no one will ever know or in a marriage pushing the limits…well, you’ve probably had that emptiness in your stomach when the cookie jar crashes, or dad says, “Son, we need to talk” or you come home to an empty house because word got around.  How does it happen?

Really the answer to that question is older than time and bigger than a short story with a big truth or, for that matter, a thick book full of truths but maybe we can at least cast a little light in the arena.  Judy and I have been to East Africa and the country of Uganda more than a few times.  We launch our trips to the islands of Lake Victoria from the small town of Jinga.  We enter town, with the lake on our right, and cross a small channel that leads to a decent size dam.  On the other side of the dam, and no more than fifty yards wide, is the origin of the mighty Nile River.

Now trust me, if you saw the Mighty Nile at this point you wouldn’t be too impressed.  It wanders through the Ugandan countryside on its way north before eventually emptying into the Mediterranean Sea.  The journey is somewhere over 4,100 miles and slowly the river grows and grows until it is almost two miles wide at some points.  Judy and I had the opportunity to take a ride on the Nile and besides being impressed by its size, I was more than impressed with the very large and very hungry, crocodiles that call the Nile home.  Oh, and did I mention the animal that causes more deaths in Africa than any other animal? It might not be what you think—the hippopotamus and there are lots of them in the Nile. Lots.

So, we begin with something that is relatively small that becomes large and we have something relatively benign that is dangerously filled with things that want to eat you or stomp you to death.  Either way—something little becomes big and dangerous.  And that, dear friend, is how things get out of control in our lives too.  It starts as something we think we can handle, something that almost, almost, seems safe and before long—we have a monster on our hands.  Let’s revisit the Nile.

If you were to start floating down the Nile in your little boat the first chunk of your journey would be easy.  But somewhere upstream (since the Nile flows north) there is something that will kill you—Murchison Falls.  The entire Nile River is funneled down into a rock channel that is only 23 feet wide before the water violently plummets 141 feet.  Go there and you are dead—no exceptions.  It’s the same results when we don’t pay attention to the tension that sometimes occurs in our lives.  When that tension is there…it is there for a reason.  Andy Stanley gives two good pieces of advice.  First, pay attention to the tension; and two, if something bothers you, let it bother you.  That’s good stuff.

So, the big truth today is we sometimes need to hit the pause button.  We also need to understand that we are not the exception to the rule…we can get hurt, we can create a disaster, and yes, someone will find out. Oh, by the way, do you really think it is a secret from God? The Old Testament gives us a sound warning—be sure your sins will find you out and often, when it does, well, its gonna leave a mark—a bruise—or worse.

As you journey today or tomorrow, you might want to listen for the Whisperer whispering His gentle words of warning.  Don’t ignore them…He knows truth and He knows consequences.  Our sin cost His Son His life.  However, if we ask, He will be there to help and to guide. No matter how big the crocs, or how fat the hippos, or how violent the falls—you can trust the fact that, “He’s got this.”    Bro. Dewayne

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

Their Best

Do to others whatever you would like them to do to you. This is the essence of all that is taught in the law and the prophets.” Matthew 7:12

It was our second trip to West Africa.  We were back on the dry sandy desert fringes of Niger doing a food distribution.  It was such a barren land made worse by an ongoing drought.  The people would do just about anything for food.  While we had prepared to feed many of the people, truthfully, we couldn’t feed them all.  So, families with the greatest need were chosen.  We would go to their villages the day before the food distribution and meet with them and do some registration work before the distribution.

It is hard to describe the poverty there.  Simply put, most of the people had nothing.  They had little food and little water but something amazing happened everywhere we went.  We would gather with the leaders and the people in their village.  We would give them a word of greeting and then they would greet us.  All of this, of course, was done with the help of interpreters.  After a while, we would complete the necessary paperwork and finalize details for them to come to main village the next day.  And then, it would be time to say goodbye for the day.

This was a repeat of the greeting we had done when we arrived.  They would graciously thank us for coming and we would graciously thank them for allowing us to come.  Then it happened…every time.  These incredibly poor people would present us with gifts.  Often it was some sort of leather craft decorated according to their customs and their people group.  It was such a gracious act of kindness and we always left feeling incredibly blessed.  They who had so little gave to us who had so much.

It was the last appointment of the day.  We drove and drove—it was more than several kilometers.  When we arrived at the site, we realized it wasn’t a village it was just a meeting place.  The people we were to meet were truly nomads.  Someone had set up a large tent made from skins and rugs to offer some shade from the searing Saharan Desert sun.  When we arrived, there was one or two people there but soon many more arrived and the area under the tent was filled with five white guys and a bunch of men whose skin was tough like leather and tanned a deep brown.  Then we really saw it.

In the middle of the tent and now surrounded by people sat a medium sized metal bowl.  In the bowl was what can only be described as dirty, brown water.  As I looked at the bowl you could see something swimming.  It was the larva from some sort of insect native to Niger. I assumed that perhaps this was for us to wash our hands though I was quite certain my hands were cleaner than the water in the bowl.  I would soon find out that the water wasn’t for washing.

Soon the greeting started.  We thanked them for letting us come and they thanked us for coming.  Then someone in their group made the presentation.  It wasn’t a brightly colored trinket…it was the gift of water.  And the brown water in the bowl wasn’t for washing hands soiled by the West African dust.  No, it was a portion of their precious drinking water. That brown water with larva swimming it in was what they drank every day, and they were offering something very precious to them—something they could ill afford to give.

Ordinarily, we would try and eat or drink what they offered, but our missionary knew, and we knew, that one drink of this water would make us very seriously ill.  So, through the interpreter our missionary explained that while we deeply appreciated their kindness and generosity, we could not partake in the water for that reason.  They certainly understood so the water remained throughout our visit. At the end we reversed the greeting process and climbed aboard our four-wheel drive for the long drive back to where we were staying.

The ride was quieter than normal.  Each one of us was clearly aware of what had just happened.  We all were pierced to our hearts over this act of immense generosity and the immense blessings that God had graciously poured on our lives.  Mission trips tend to do this to anyone who travels to a third world country.  There is always some kind of guilt over having so much while those you serve have so little.  But understanding God’s grace and humbly serving others at least helps.  But it always changes you.  It always marks your life.

In my mind’s eye I can clearly see the bowl of water all these years later.  I can still see the people coming through the gate after walking kilometers to get their food.  I can still see them trying to manage the heavy bags of rice and millet.  But something was missing.  Not one person complained about the lack of a vehicle to carry their load.  Each was just grateful to be able to eat that night.  And, yes, we were changed again.  I would like to think that a little of their gratitude rubbed off on us and that it still remains.  I know we will never forget those eleven or twelve days in Niger.

You don’t have to go to Africa, or Haiti, or Nicaragua, or London, or China, or Bulgaria, or the Philippines or wherever to serve.  Each of us are missionaries on a mission field and each of us can serve others…just like Jesus did.  One day He was sitting on a hillside teaching the people and He said, “Do to others whatever you would like them to do to you. This is the essence of all that is taught in the law and the prophets.” It really is that simple. It won’t get you to heaven…God’s grace and faith in what Jesus did on the cross does that. But it is an opportunity to be like Him…to love like Him.  It’s a tall order but don’t worry, you know that He’s got this too.  Bro. Dewayne 

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

Me and Fred

For you were called to this, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in His steps.” 2 Peter 2:21

The same kind of different as me. It was 1965…I was about eleven and he was probably 18.  I’m not sure how we bumped into one another.  As I remember it, I was out in the field that was part of property and he rolled up in his golf cart.  Well, hey, that was an ice breaker if there ever was one. He gave me a big smile, a friendly wave and said, “Hi.”  I could tell from that first hello that Fred had a speech issue and later it became apparent that he was one of God’s special creations…someone the world would call broken but God would call absolutely perfect.

Despite the age difference and his perfection and my lack of it, we seemed to hit it off. Almost immediately we were off on the first of many rides in his golf cart.  He loved it and I loved it and even though it wasn’t meant for off the road…that is exactly where we went. I assume his family bought him the golf cart to help him get around the neighborhood. I believe he lived in a subdivision, a gathering of the nicest homes in the neighborhood, at the end of the road I lived on. I don’t know if he was living there or visiting there but for the time I knew him…we were buds.

There are a lot of things that I have forgotten about that summer and early fall but there is one thing I remember—Fred loved baseball.  I’m pretty sure the team didn’t matter as long as it was baseball. He would carry around a portable transistor (that’s a throwback for my older readers) and we would listen to the games together.  It was September and time for the World Series, and we would sit in his golf cart like it was a front row seat right there in the stadium. Even now that memory makes me smile. In our simple world…all was well.

I think I began to learn something that summer and that lesson was about us—all of us.  In the world today we seem to search for things that cause us to focus on what divides us…what makes us different instead of what can draw us together.  I know it made no sense for Fred and I to be friends but his ultra-cool golf cart and his kind and outgoing personality overcame whatever differences there were.  He was the same kind of different as me.  That sentence is the title of a book and movie about two men who came from totally, and I mean totally, different backgrounds and yet managed to forge a friendship that would last for the rest of their lives.

You see, the truth is we can overcome our differences.  Our decision to allow skin color, language, social and economic differences, religion, or politics to divide us is a choice not a destiny.  This is especially true for Jesus’ people.  As followers we are choosing to align ourselves with Him and love others…regardless.  Really.  It is true.  It is in the Book…all over the Book and when decide to let the Book, and the Jesus of the Book, call the shots…well it is a game changer.

I’m thankful for that summer of 1965. If you know anything about that decade you know it was more than turbulent.  People were wondering if we as a nation would survive.  Well, by the grace of God, we did.  And guess what?  We can survive this mess today but if we do it will also be by the grace of God and Jesus people who decide to act like Jesus. Peter, the guy in the Bible who fell flat on his face and denied Jesus said, “For you were called to this, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in His steps.”  In other words, we are called to be like Him.  No matter how difficult that might sound to you, don’t forget that today and always—He’s got this.  Bro. Dewayne

Posted in Family, fear, friends, life, Scripture, thankful, Trials, wisdom

It Wasn’t Pretty

As a dog returns to its vomit, so a fool repeats his foolishness.” Proverbs 26:11

It just wasn’t pretty.  When we arrived in Cobden, Illinois in 1986 they provided a home for us.  The only problem was the church was “L” shaped and the house sat right in the middle of the “L.”  The reason that was a problem was whenever someone needed something, they knew right where to come.  We might as well have had a billboard in our front yard advertising where the preacher lived. Every person needing some gas or baby diapers knew right where to come. That was all fine except I do believe they watched to see when we were eating supper before they rang the doorbell.

Sometimes it was a church member needing in the building.  Early, oh, about 6:30 am, one Saturday morning my wife Judy and I were still snuggled down in our bed. About that time, we heard someone first pulling on the front door of the church and then hollering, “Where’s that preacher and why is the door locked?” Well, the preacher was still in bed, after all it was Saturday, it was just after daybreak, and the door was locked for that reason. It was just about that time when Judy said, “Dewayne, we need to move.” So, the church said OK, and we found an older Victorian home, made a ridiculously low offer (because that is all we could afford) and to everyone’s surprise they said yes. Holy moly.

We moved and began life as homeowners.  Homeowners meant that we were responsible for everything.  Things like yard stuff. Things like trimming trees.  Things like getting stuck in a tree while trimming it.  Yup, that’s right.  In our backyard was a large and old Redbud tree.  While it was still alive, it had seen better days.  In fact, there were several dead limbs up in the tree.  Mr. Homeowner, that’s me, decided to trim it up.  I didn’t have a ladder, so I found a bucket, or a stool, or something to stand on and managed to get up in the tree.  I sawed away with my handy pruning saw and soon I was ready to get back down. It was then that I discovered the laws of climbing a tree using a bucket or something.  It wasn’t pretty.

I decided it would be best to go down backwards facing the tree. It sounded like a sound idea.  It wasn’t.  With one foot in a crook of the tree, I gingerly lowered my other leg to the stool or bucket or whatever it was. And, as fate would have it, my foot landed not in the middle but on the edge of whatever it was and yes, it tipped over.  And what happened next still causes me to groan.  As the bucket or stool or whatever it was tipped over, I found myself with one leg caught in the tree and my other leg on the ground. In other words,…I was in trouble.  My foot with my leg attached was over my head and I was in pain.  For a gymnast…no problem.  For a ballerina, no problem.  For a slightly out of shape preacher, homeowner…big problem.

It was so bad I have managed to block out the details of the rescue.  I think it involved me hollering, Judy hearing and coming, and her somehow freeing my leg from the crook of the tree. I was grateful…boy, was I grateful. Like Jacob who left an encounter with God with a limp, I left the tree with a hip that holds grudges. To this day, whenever I raise my leg to do something, I am not so gently reminded of that day.  I did something to something, and it was a lifetime reminder to not use a bucket, or a stool, or some other something other than a ladder to climb into a tree.  I.Learned.

One thing that most living animals have is the ability to learn.  Bucks get to be big bucks by learning when and where to go and not go.  All the family dogs know who to beg for food from.  His name is Papa.  You get the idea.  So, assuming you don’t die from climbing a tree without the proper tools, at least you learn how not to do it…and that is valuable.  As we journey through life, God usually gives us a chance to learn.  The important thing is to…wait for it…learn.  Everyone makes mistakes but it is simply foolish to keep making the same ones over and over again. The author of Proverbs says it this way, “As a dog returns to its vomit, so a fool repeats his foolishness.” Sometimes the Bible just lays it out there, doesn’t it?

Well, that was a one-time experience.  I can’t say that is true for everything I’ve done, but it was true about that one thing.  There are some things in life that once is enough.  But what do you do if you find your leg hung in a tree above your head?  Well, you holler and pray.  If you are lucky someone might hear you.  The good news is that God will hear you and while I don’t know if and how the rescue might come, I do know He won’t laugh at you.  He will just whisper, “I’ve got this.” Bro. Dewayne

Posted in Family, fear, friends, gratitude, life, New Year, prayer, Scripture, sovereignty of God, thankful, Trials, wisdom

Happy New Year!

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 slowly walked to the edge, paused, and…”. Well, it was a long time ago but most of the picture remains intact.  I was about nine years old, and our church Sunday School decided to have a picnic.  We loaded up on a bus or two and drove to the lake.  It was a natural freshwater lake with a beach and a dock.  And speaking of docks…this was a big one.  It left the shore and went out about a mile…well, it seemed like a mile…remember I was only nine.  In fact, it probably went out about fifty yards or so.  Then it made a 90 degree right turn and went on for another fifty yards.  By any standard it was a long dock.

However, it was what was at the end of the dock that caused me to pause.  There, built into the dock was the “Tower of Terror.”  Now for those of you who are familiar with Disney World you know that is the name for one of their attractions.  You are taken inside a building and end up in the dark (mostly) and then without warning…the floor gives way and you are falling for what seems like forever.  Now all this is speculation and hearsay for me because trust me I would never, will never find out personally. No. Not. Nada.  But that day when I was nine, I faced my own “Tower of Terror.”

The tower at the lake that day was probably thirty or forty feet in the air.  You climbed a ladder attached to the tower and at the top was a good-sized platform.  This was where you could stand, look, and gather courage to walk to the edge and jump off.  Well, pushed by peer pressure and goaded by friends, I somehow found myself on the top and they were all saying one thing, “Jump!” Trust me, the last thing that I wanted to do was jump off that perfectly good tower.  I walked slowly to the edge and looked down.  The water seemed to be a zillion yards below me. There were only two options.  First, take the plunge or two, go back down the ladder.  With my heart pounding, with my peers all telling me to jump, I….

I honestly don’t remember what I did. I don’t know if I finally overcame my fear, swallowed my pride and jumped or swallowed my pride and slowly, with great humiliation, went back down the ladder.  Either one at the time felt unbearable and I know one thing even today…fear can paralyze you and fear can cause you to make some pretty crazy decisions.  Most of us personally know the truth in those words.

Well, today we find ourselves at the edge of another kind of platform…and for some, it might look like a “tower of terror.”  We are days and hours away from New Year’s Eve and honestly it can seem quite frightening…especially these days and with these circumstances. Considering all this, what should we do? What can we do?  Well, it seems logical to me that when I face something bigger than me, I need to find something or Someone bigger than the mountain, the obstacle that I am facing.  For me, hands down, that is God. 

There are two truths that I have found in God’s Word that really help me.  Maybe it will help you too.  First, is the sovereignty of God.  That simply means that God is in charge. I love the scripture that reminds me that every day is made by God…He is the owner and therefore the planner. It also means that He is in control…He.Is.In.Control. There is something peaceful in knowing that God is and if He is…well, worry shouldn’t rule us. But it gets better.

Not only does He make every day, but He also makes us an incredible promise.  If you are a Bible person you probably know this one.  In the book of Romans, Chapter 8, it says, “All things work together for the good of those who love God and who are called according to His purpose.”  Wow.  While that doesn’t mean that everything is good…we know that…it does mean that God can bring good from every circumstance.  What that also means is we have a promise from God that no matter how wonky 2023 may be, He can and will bring something good from it.  Now the truth of that should certainly bring some inner peace into the chaos of our lives. 

So, the bottom line is, “Happy New Year!” The God who makes the day makes the year and the God who makes the year manages the outcome.  Hey, sprinkling a little truth into a murky future can change a lot of things.  Now all of that isn’t a promise of easy but it is a promise of His faithfulness and that no matter what, “He’s got this.” Bro. Dewayne

Posted in Christmas, Family, friends, gratitude, Holidays, life, loving others, missions, prayer, Scripture, sovereignty of God, thankful, travel, wisdom

Figuring it Out

If you need wisdom, ask our generous God, and He will give it to you. He will not rebuke you for asking.” James 1:5

It was a close call, but grace stepped in.  Every year, our church sends a group of missionaries to help process Operation Christmas Child shoeboxes in Atlanta. “Atlanta,” you say?  “I didn’t know they needed missionaries in Atlanta?”  Well, missionaries, at least to some degree, are folks who take a good message or do a good deed to a needy place and trust me that is anywhere and everywhere.  But in this case, it was also an opportunity to be a part of something very big that would impact thousands and thousands of people with the joy of a gift in the shape of a shoebox filled with items of love and the joy of a gift in the shape of a cross and an empty tomb—the message of Jesus.

Well, last year I almost didn’t make it. I almost missed the boat.  The week of the trip, two families in our church lost loved ones and as pastor and friend, I was asked to do the services for their loved ones—two precious mothers.  As it turned out the services would be held almost immediately after my return from Atlanta. Add to that, each service would require more than a few hours of preparation.  I believe each funeral service should be crafted in prayer and made as personal as possible and that requires time.  So, I told Judy I just didn’t think I could make the trip.  It would just be easier if I stayed back and worked.  She wanted very much for me to go but also knew the importance of the task at hand.

After some discussion, the decision was made…she would go, and I would stay.  I had made this trip several times and I knew it was going to be meaningful but easier just sounded easier. But then she said something that caused me to re-evaluate.  It was something like, “Now, don’t be upset when I come back and tell you what a good time we had.”  It was a moment of clarity.  It caused me to remember the times before and that feeling of making a difference, the times of fellowship with the team, and at that moment, I knew I needed to go.  This time easier just wasn’t the best choice.

I began immediately to prepare the services and asked God to multiply the time that I had.  Then, Tuesday morning, the next day, with almost thirty others, I boarded the bus and headed to Atlanta…and it was an incredible trip. The journey, the destination, the work was all just incredible.  We got back in town Thursday evening, and I went straight back to working to finish the two funeral services. In my heart I knew I had made the right decision. The first service was Friday, and it was my privilege to stand before a group of people and share about a life well lived and a great God who loves us—a bunch.  The other service wasn’t till Sunday and, unknown to me, I would not be there for that one.  I would be at home with the flu.  Fortunately, the work for the service was done and someone else would use that work.  God knew all of this and used all of this.  Amazing.

Each day we are challenged to make decisions.  Sometimes they are obvious and sometimes they are not.  Sometimes the choice is between easy and hard.  Ask God for wisdom to make the right one.  Oh, you will miss it sometimes regardless, but I have learned that He has a way of honoring our hearts and intentions.  I just know that this time the easy thing was not the right thing…it was just easy.  I returned from Atlanta not depleted and tired but filled and refreshed.  Helping others has a way of doing that. And, God, well, He always does all things, well!

James, the half-brother of Jesus, says in the Book of the Bible that bears His name, “If you need wisdom, ask our generous God, and He will give it to you. He will not rebuke you for asking.” You gotta love that.  Need wisdom? Just ask.  Will He be upset because you “bothered” Him?  Absolutely not.  He is like a dearest daddy just waiting to help and the reason why He is like that is because that’s what He is—our Dearest Daddy.  So, as you journey life today and you come to those crossroads called decisions, no matter how simple or complex, just ask and He will be there for you.  Don’t worry, “He’s got this.” Bro. Dewayne

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

Time…Our Treasure

Lord, You have been our refuge in every generation. Before the mountains were born,

before You gave birth to the earth and the world, from eternity to eternity, You are God.” Psalm 90:1-2

I glanced back in the rearview mirror and watched it disappear, just like that Christmas came and went.  It never ceases to amaze me how quickly time passes.  At one time there was a saying that said, “You are slower than Christmas.”  Well, at least for me that simply is not true anymore.  It seems like yesterday that we were talking about another new year, another new month, or another new week and now it is time to start it all over again.  In a very few days we will be celebrating January 1st and the start of another New Year. Amazing.

As you know Christmas fell on Sunday this year. For most folks the day of the week Christmas arrives is not that big of a deal.  However, for us preacher-teacher types it certainly is a big deal.  It is a definite shift to go from ho, ho, ho and opening presents to “Holy is the Lord.” It is almost like shifting a car from forward to reverse.  Christmas on Sunday normally occurs every six or seven years but guess what? Because of the way Leap Year falls next time, it will be eleven years before we celebrate Christmas on a Sunday again.  Eleven years.  For me, that means I will be knocking on eighty—loudly.  For some of you, it means your seven-year-old son or daughter will be knocking on 18. Is that crazy or what?

The crazier part of all of this is that those eleven years…if we get to see all of them…will pass so very quickly.  It is such a good reminder that we need to savor each day the Savior gives us.  We need to remember how precious every minute, hour, day, month, and year are.  The Bible has a lot to say about time and how we handle it. First, Moses tells us in Psalm 90, “Teach us to number our days carefully so that we may develop wisdom in our hearts.” That is such good counsel.  Like a cook carefully measures the ingredients in whatever they are preparing, so we need to carefully measure the value of each day. And when we do, if we do, we will discover the wisdom of the God of the ages.

Another great scripture is found in the New Testament of the Christian Bible.  Paul was writing to a group of Jesus people in Ephesus.  He said to them, “So be careful how you live. Don’t live like fools, but like those who are wise. Make the most of every opportunity in these evil days.”  Make the most or squeeze everything you can out of each day.  There are two things we need to remember about days. First, they all belong to the Lord…we are just managers and second, each day is a gift from Him.  No matter how difficult or how easy—each day is a present from Him to His children.  So, we should handle it with care and use it wisely.

Two of the things I love about God is His is generosity and wisdom.  He gives and guides and then helps us to make the most of every day…every gift.  As we look forward to our next installment of time—no matter how much or little we get to experience—always remember that there is One who is standing close just waiting to help us.  No matter what—He’s got this.  Bro. Dewayne

Posted in Christmas, Family, friends, Grace, gratitude, Holidays, life, love, loving others, prayer, priorities, Scripture, Southern born, sovereignty of God, thankful, Trials, wisdom

It’s a Downtown Christmas

I pray that you, being rooted and firmly established in love, may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the length and width, height and depth of God’s love.” Ephesians 3:17b-18

This was one time paying a bill was fun.  My life as a kid was good.  While we didn’t have everything, we had plenty and we had each other.  A few weeks out from Christmas (believe it or not, we actually celebrated Thanksgiving before jumping into Christmas) we would get all the Christmas decorations down from the attic and decorate the house. I told you about the special Santa that used to hang on our chimney and believe it or not I was able to find one exactly like it and it now hangs in my office.  He keeps an eye on me all through the year to make sure I am behaving.

One of my favorite memories was the times when we had to go to downtown Jacksonville to pay our utility bills.  I suppose it was the electric bill because we had a pump in the backyard for our water and we didn’t use gas.  At any rate, with a tight budget, we would have to take the bill down to the electric company and drop it off the night before it was due. Christmas or not, off we would go to downtown.  But during the Christmas season…it was special indeed.  Here’s why!

Back in the day, all the department stores would decorate their windows with all things Christmas.  There would be figures whose arms and legs would move, reindeer that lifted their heads as if to fly, boys and girls skating on a make believe lake and on and on the list would go. It was certainly a magical thing to see and experience.  In its own small way, it made Christmas, Christmas.

Now here’s the good part.  Truth be known, if it wasn’t for the tight budget that forced us to make time to go downtown to pay the bill—we probably would have missed that beautiful part of our Christmas memories.  I know that often this is not by accident but rather by design.  You see God is always working, sometimes out front and sometimes in the background, but He is always working and yes, He does work in strange ways.  And often, what seems like a difficulty can be His way of bringing something good to light.  If we are willing to be patient, then time after time we will see His Divine handiwork.

I think one of the best things will be when we finally get to heaven and see that it is full of surprises.  We will know all the things God saved us from that we never saw happening and all the things He arranged that we skipped over and counted as consequence.  And as much as we think we know, I believe we are going to be astounded by the depth and width of His great love for us.

Paul, the guy who wrote a big chunk of the New Testament said it best when he wrote, “I pray that you, being rooted and firmly established in love, may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the length and width, height and depth of God’s love.”  And honestly, that is one prayer we may not see answered because His love is so vast. So today, why not keep a special look out for all the ways God especially works in your life. Some will cause you to be filled with gratitude and others, well, they might make you grateful that indeed, “He’s got this.” Bro. Dewayne