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

God’s Perspective

We love because He first loved us.” 1 John 4:19 (CSB)

They were all heading straight for disaster, and they didn’t have a clue.  So, I was walking on our local bike path the other day.  It was early morning but not so early that the day wasn’t already warm. Worse than that—it was dry. As I was walking, I looked down and saw several, no many, earthworms on the bike trail. They were trying to make it across.

I know, you’re thinking, “Why did the earthworm cross the bike path?”  The answer is “I don’t know but it sure wasn’t going well.”  Some had already bit the bullet and others were in the struggle of their wormy lives.  Most were squirming…doing everything they could to make it to the other side.  The only thing is I could see what they could not.  They were a long way from home.

I can just imagine one of the worms with the gift of leadership shouting to his friends, “Keep going guys.  You can make it.  Just a little further.”  The trouble is he just didn’t have the whole picture…the view from above.  From his perspective the end was right over there.  From his perspective just a few more inches and they would be home free. Perspectives from ground level are often like that.  That is why we need someone with a better view.

One of the things I love about believing in God is knowing that He has a higher, better view. He can see things that you just can’t see at ground level.  And when He speaks…He speaks true encouragement because He knows what is around the bend or a few days down the road.  God is really good at helping His kids do life.  If only we would learn to listen.  If only…

See, I talked to some of the earthworms as I walked.  I would say things like, “It’s not looking good, partner.”  Or maybe, “Dude, you’re not gonna make it squirming like that.” Then, “Hey, why are you crossing the bike path anyway?”  I just had to ask. Well, no one listened and on they squirmed.  It was going to be a hard day for most of them.

And then, and this is the truth, I would sometimes stop and actually pitch one or two of them into the cool, wet grass.  It was a random thing I would do.  I would stop, pick one out, and chuck them to the side.  While not one of them said “thanks” it was enough for me to save him or her from the dreaded concrete desert. It just felt good to save a life—even if it was just an earthworm.  I just hope it wasn’t his cousin I put on a hook last week.

When I thought about this whole perspective and rescue thing I just naturally thought about God.  Along with His great perspective, He cares enough to rescue us.  He wants to rescue every person from an eternity without Him.  I mean He loves us so much…and He loved us before we even thought about loving Him.  The Bible says that we love Him because He first loved us.  He saw all our warts, all our imperfections, all our bad choices and chose to love us anyway.  He loved us before we even promised to try and do things right.  A promise, by the way, that we could never keep anyway.

Sometimes, I would pick an earthworm to save for no apparent reason.  I just picked one.  God said, “That will never do.” And do you know what, He loved the whole world…everybody…everyone.  Now we still must choose to repent, choose to follow, choose to believe.  But when we do…well, the welcome sign is out.  Welcome home, son.  Welcome home, daughter. And this is the best part.  Should we wander back onto the concrete desert, He doesn’t say, “Good grief or good luck.”  No, He just reaches out, takes us by the hand and pulls us back into the cool, green grass called His presence.  You gotta love that.

Well, I don’t know if you will ever feel compelled to rescue an earthworm or not.  But the next time you see one on the sidewalk on a hot day, just remember the time He rescued you.  Remember the time He didn’t leave you out in the heat to become a crispy critter.  No, He reached down and picked you up.  Isn’t it great to have a God that cares? That you can rest in.  A Father that’s got this? Yup…I know it’s so. Bro. Dewayne

Posted in Family, forgiveness, friends, Grace, gratitude, life, love, loving others, Mother's Day, prayer, Scripture, thankful, wisdom

Mother’s Day Redemption

Jesus told him, “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.” John 14:6

Redemption.  It’s one of my favorite words.  Yesterday, I shared a story about Mother’s Day and my feeble attempt to honor the mother of our children.  It was a story of good intentions with a not so good conclusion. It was a story that should have been about honoring but was really about muttering.  It was a story about what was instead of what could have been…should have been.  But, well, it turns out it wasn’t the end of the story.

So, without retelling the whole story (see “Mother’s Day—The Hard Way, May 9, 2023 on let’s just say I lost a blessing.  Judy asked for a simple Mother’s Day gift, and I fumbled the ball.  I did it but with some (ok, a lot) of muttering.  The day ended good with a great hike together and my receiving a reasonable measure of grace.  The next day, Becca, our oldest daughter suggested a trip to Pigeon Forge for a few days as recompense.  That seemed reasonable and doable and is in the planning stages.  But there’s more.

It is the time of year when ladies change their purses.  I know Judy has a dark red one that she uses in winter and a cute (did I just say “cute?”) one for spring.  Well, the cute one for spring had seen its last hurrah.  It had faded like an old leaf on the ground in late fall.  She told me she was looking for a replacement but couldn’t find “the one.”  It had to be a certain kind, it had to be the same color as last year’s, and it had to be a particular design.  She said, “I can’t find what I want.  I guess they just don’t make it.” What she was really saying was, “Here’s a chance for redemption, big boy.”

I jumped on it like “white on rice.”  I like a challenge and love redemption.  Now, I don’t know a thing about purses.  Most guys don’t do purses though some have a “man-bag.” This guy doesn’t do either.  But I do know about the promised land…Ebay.  So, I got my iPhone out, clicked on the icon and entered eBay land.  I tried several key searches. I quickly found out that whoever this Vera Bradley person is, she makes a lot of purses in a lot of designs and in lots of colors.  But I was determined…I was seeking redemption.

Well, Judy wanders in, sits down and together we continue the search.  By the time she got there, I was close.  I could smell it; I just couldn’t taste it.  And then it happened.  There it was. Vera Bradley, coral floral, cross-body purse. The right brand, the right color, and the right design. She wondered if it could be true.  She said she would believe it when she could see it, hold it, touch it.  The Saturday after Mother’s Day it came in the mail in all its glory. She saw it, she held it, she touched it. Game. Set. Match.

Her smile went from ear to ear and so did mine.  Her happiness was so evident and so was mine.  She couldn’t believe her prize was in her hands and her “prince” had brought home the bacon.  Oh, I was redeemed all right. The epic failure was gone…replaced by the laurels of “coral floral” victory! Then I said, “Wait…I’ve heard this story before.”  It is the story of God and me…of God and you.

You see, because of our sin, our failures, we were in a hot mess.  We were separated from God and there was no fixing it.  It was epic fail 101.  Then God made a way—the way for rescue, for restoration, for redemption.  And it’s not unlike my Mother’s Day story.  I searched for the one thing that would make redemption possible and found it. And we do the same.  We long for the one thing.  And it isn’t religion. It isn’t being good.  It isn’t stopping a bad habit or starting another.  It is grace.  It is forgiveness.  It is Jesus.

You see, Jesus is not a religion…we have enough of that already. As Jesus said, He is “the Way, the Truth, and the Life.”  His death and resurrection made it possible for anyone to come home to God.  He makes it possible for this epic failure to call God, “Father.” Paul, in Colossians 1:13-14, put it this way, “He has rescued us from the domain of darkness and transferred us into the kingdom of the Son He loves. In Him we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.”

Well, I’m glad the story didn’t end with part one.  I’m glad there was part two. I’m glad for redemption.  And your story never has to end with only a part one.  Whether it is coming home for the first time or coming back home another time, we will always find Him waiting with open arms and a warm embrace.

Guess what?  Last Monday I was ok…Judy still loved me.  She’s like that.  This Monday, well, she thinks I hung the moon. She’s like that too.  Today, God waits to welcome you home and guess what?  No, He doesn’t think you hung the moon…He did that.  But He does love you to the moon and back.  So, let go and let Him hold you.  Rest in Him.  He’s got this.  Bro. Dewayne

Posted in Family, fear, food, forgiveness, friends, Grace, gratitude, heaven, life, loving others, prayer, priorities, Scripture, thankful, Trials, wisdom

Like a Thief in the Night

But understand this: If the owner of the house had known at what time of night the thief was coming, he would have kept watch and would not have let his house be broken into. So you also must be ready.” Matthew 24:43-44a

It was a theft of Biblical proportions.  My wife Judy and I were visiting with a couple of friends, Jim and Kathy, who attend our church. Jim told us a story that just begged to be written about. Every year they travel down to Florida and do the snowbird thing for just a week or so.  I remember last year was one of those years that nothing seemed to go right.  As I remember they said it was cold, rainy, and well, pretty yucky.  This year promised to be a bit better.  The weather cooperated but then there was this problem with the neighbors.

Toward the end of the week, Jim made a trip to the local Publix and picked out two big, thick juicy steaks and they weren’t the cheap stuff either.  Well, anyway, it was getting supper time and Kathy stayed in the condo while he headed out to the grill to cook the steaks.  Now, I’ve tasted Jim’s steaks and he is one of those guys who “has the touch.” I can only imagine the anticipation as the steaks sizzled their way to perfection. Gently poking and prodding them (some would say coddling) he watched over them like a mother bird watches her nest.  Soon they were done to perfection.

Jim then gently took the steaks off the grill and then just as gently laid them on the waiting platter. He turned around, just for a moment, just for a few precious moments, to cover the grill. When he turned back around, he saw it—or rather them.  In those few, short moments, two raccoons who were apparently waiting in the bushes rushed over, grabbed the steaks, both of them, and took off.  All Jim saw were two raccoons, two wagging tails and his two steaks, his two precious steaks, hanging from their mouths.  He was in shock. He was outraged.  Worse than that…he was left with an empty plater.

Well, there wasn’t much he could do besides go back inside to face Kathy. So, Jim carried the empty platter back to the condo and tried to explain what had happened.  She couldn’t believe it, but being the kind person that she is, she was understanding. Her now growling tummy, who had been anticipating one of Jim’s juicy steaks, was not so understanding.  It seemed to say, “What else you got, bud?”

Well, the answer was another trip to Publix and chicken for supper.  I’m sure Jim likes chicken, Kathy probably likes chicken, I would imagine even the thieving raccoons like chicken but let’s be honest—chicken isn’t steak and certainly chicken is not a nice, thick, perfectly cooked steak. This whole story is enough to make a grown man cry and I think it did—while laughing so hard when Jim told me this tale of woe. 

So, who would have thought it?  Who would have thought that two raccoons could steal two steaks…right in the middle of a condo complex?  Who would have thought they could have pulled the heist off in just a few short seconds? It just proves that anything can happen…any time and when you least expect it.  You always must be ready.

Speaking of ready, are you?  The Bible talks about a time when Jesus, the same One who was born that first Christmas morning, the same One who performed all kinds of miracles, the same One who allowed Himself to be nailed to a Roman cross and die there and yes, the same One who came back to life three days later (that’s Easter, remember?), that same Jesus is going to come back to earth and take His followers back to heaven with Him.

Does that sound a little too strange to believe?  Well, if I’ve learned anything it is when a man can predict His own death and resurrection and then pull it off—well, you just must go with it. The Bible says that when Jesus comes back, and He will, He will come like a thief in the night—faster than two raccoons stealing two steaks right off the platter.  I’m sure if Jim had any idea, he would have been a little more cautious—a little more ready.  Maybe the story today has sparked your interest in this man called Jesus. Go ahead and Google Him and His story…after all, His story is history.  Got questions? Find a Jesus follower, and ask or better yet, ask Jesus’ Father.  How? That’s called prayer. You will find that He has all the answers—after all, He’s got this. Bro. Dewayne

Posted in Family, fear, friends, Grace, gratitude, life, Military memories, prayer, priorities, Scripture, Southern born, sovereignty of God, thankful, travel, Trials, wisdom

The Phone Call

Trust in the Lord with all your heart and don’t lean into your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him and He will make your paths straight.”  Proverbs 3:5-6

It was a phone call that was to change my life.  It was from my brother-in-law’s brother.  We were fringe friends, and he had an idea.  We were both seniors in high school and both really didn’t have plans for after graduation.  So, he says, “Hey Dewayne.  Why don’t we join the Air Force together?  They have the buddy plan.  We can attend basic training together and go to our first duty station together.  We can be buds.”  Well, I didn’t have any better ideas and I liked the idea of serving my country and I was always kinda adventurous so, “Why not?”  I went down and signed up singing, “Off we go into the wild blue yonder.”  We were set.  Or not.

After I went down to sign up, I called my brother-in-law’s brother and said, “Have you signed up yet?”  Silence.  He then told me that he had changed his mind.  We were no longer buds.  Well, regardless, I was going into the Air Force.  That much was decided. What wasn’t decided was what to do in the Air Force.  They have this test they give you to decide what best suits your talents and abilities.  I took the test. When the recruiter gave me the results he was smiling.

“Well, Dewayne, looks like you are strong in the administrative field.” “What?” I said.  “Administration.” he said. 

He tried to make it sound really important, but he was really saying I was going to be a secretary.  Now this was not cool.  My dad was a jet engine mechanic.  One brother had served in the Army and I’m not sure what he did but it wasn’t typing.  Another brother who joined the Air Force saved the world—or at least that’s what he told me.  My other brother joined the Coast Guard—saving lives and stuff. Me?  Well, I get to be a secretary.

So anyway, I kept my word and joined the Air Force.  I even realized that being a 702X0, (that is the official designation for an administrative specialist), was not too bad.  When guys were standing in the rain guarding planes I was in a nice, warm office.  There were always a few unkind jokes about 702X0 guys but when those guys wanted their leave papers processed, the joke was on them.  Yup, it was totally unexpected but it turned out the Air Force was right.  I was in my groove.

Now for the best part of the story.  Later I met my wife Judy and we decided to make the Air Force a career.  Secretary or not, she thought I was rather dashing even if I did type instead of fly a plane.  The days and years went by and then I heard a whisper—the God kind.  It said something about pastoring and preaching.  I told the Whisperer that I was gonna stay in the Air Force and we could talk later.  Another year passed and the Whisperer kept whispering and finally I said, “Yes.”  So, after twelve years I left the Air Force and walked from one office…and right into another.  Then it hit me like a ton of bricks.

I had been in school for twelve years.  I suddenly realized that God had been grooming me for the pastorate all along.  Can you imagine if I had done my thing and become a mechanic and then walked into the pastorate where working on jet engines didn’t help you write sermons?  Because of God’s sovereignty and wisdom, I left one office where I typed, wrote, researched, supervised, filed and zillion other things and walked right into another where almost all those skills were needed.  Can someone say, “Amazing?”

So here I am 40 years into my calling as a pastor sitting at a computer and writing.  It all happened because the Whisperer whispered and for once I had the common sense to figure out He was a lot smarter than I was.  Proverbs 3:5-6 has been a powerful force in my life, all my life.  It says, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and don’t lean into your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him and He will make your paths straight.”  I know from personal experience that is true.

I haven’t always gotten it right.  I haven’t always listened to the Whisperer, trusted Him totally or not leaned into my own understanding.  But when I did, I have always had better outcomes and fewer regrets.  And do you know what? Even in this crazy new world, even in today’s circumstances, He’s still got a plan.  This isn’t a world gone mad or to use my favorite word, “crazy.” This is a world under the watchful eye and caring heart of our God.  And He is crazy about us.  So, go ahead and surrender to Him—rest in Him.  He’s got this. Bro. Dewayne

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

Kitchen Wisdom

It was the duty of the trumpeters and singers to make themselves heard.” 2 Chronicles 5:13

They hang silently on the wall…shouting…with no one listening.  We have lived at 217 West Poplar Street for almost twenty-three years. Given I’m a Baptist pastor that is quite amazing since we preachers don’t usually stay in one place that long.  That might be why so many of us preachers are fond of Willie Nelson’s song, “On the Road Again.” You might wonder why we tend to move around, and the answer is three-fold. First, sometimes God says go, sometimes the people we serve say go and finally, sometimes we say go. There you go…no pun intended.

So, to live in one place for that many years means that we have hung around long enough to see our kids grow up and have kids, for sticks to become trees and flowers to not only bloom but multiply. As the years have gone by, we have painted the house, inside and out, a couple of times and redecorated more times than that.  Furniture has come and gone and so have a lot of decorator items.  You know how it is—tastes and styles change and of course we must occasionally keep up with the Jones.

Well, amidst all that change there are somethings that have hung around—and hung is a good word for it.  As an example, we papered the main part of our kitchen, and it is still there today—two decades later.  There are two reasons.  First, we like it and second, we definitely do not like stripping wallpaper, so every time we think about changing it—-we just think about stripping it.  Now hanging over the stove is something that we have had for a long time—in fact, it may have come with us from our previous home.

It is a three-dimensional wall plaque that, along with other things, has six words on it. I hadn’t really read it in a long time but this morning I happened to glance over at the stove and for the first time in a long time—well, I read it.  Here’s what it says, “Live well, Laugh often and Love much.” Now that is a great mantra to live by. And for the past couple of decades, it has hung in the same place, over the stove, shouting its grand advice and yet, for the most part, no one listened.

Regardless…it is great advice.  Think about it. Live well.  Stop and smell the roses. Learn to appreciate the people who fill your life—especially the ones we call family. Take the time to admire a sunrise and sunset—like it was the first one you ever saw.  Laugh often.  Rediscover the fine art of laughing at a corny joke or the crazy antics of your dog or one of your grandkids. Sometimes we just need to laugh till we cry.  Love much. Love the way you did when you first saw him or her.  Love homemade ice cream like you did the first time you tasted it.  Love God like the day He forgave you.

Someone said once, we need to learn to dance like no one is watching.  I like that—especially considering I can’t dance.  But for any of this to happen, we must learn to listen to the things that matter and yet are so easy to ignore.  Like the plaque over the stove.  Like the song the frogs sing after a spring rain.  Like the symphony the stars lift to the One who made it all.  Starting today, starting now, why not take time to read or perhaps just listen to all that is going on around us.  No, not the static, not the noise, but rather the music of life.  The words go something like this—live well, laugh often, and love much.

There’s an interesting verse tucked away in the Old Testament part of the Bible.  It says, “And it was the duty of the trumpeters and singers to make themselves heard.”  We learn that it was their job to be heard but it was the people’s job to listen…and respond. The music of life, laugher and love are all around us—we just need to listen. My Dearest Daddy sometimes, well a lot of the time, must remind me to slow way down and listen as His creation sings and as He whispers, “I’ve got this.” Bro. Dewayne

Posted in Family, friends, gratitude, life, loving others, Military memories, prayer, priorities, Scripture, sovereignty of God, thankful, travel, Trials, USA, wisdom

Black Rock

You are my rock and my fortress.” Psalm 31:3

It was worth the wait.  My wife Judy and I decided to hit the road for a quick trip to Dayton, Ohio.  It all started when my son-in-law sent me a picture from the National Air Force Museum located in, wait for it, Dayton. Being an Air Force veteran, I had heard of it but had never taken the opportunity to go and see it.  When he sent me a couple of pictures…I knew it was time.  So, we loaded up and drove up and over and in about five hours we were there.

Let me just say it was worth every mile.  The museum is housed in four huge hanger type buildings and each hanger held a different era of air history.  The first was the period from the Wright brothers to World War I, the second was World War II, the third was the Korean and Cold Wars and finally the last was filled with Vietnam and the years following.  Literally hundreds of aircraft were on display, and I was in awe.  My favorite was World War II because, like so many, I admire what Tom Brokaw called “the Greatest Generation.” Their commitment and sacrifice were and still is amazing.  While war is never romantic, the sight of these brave men and women and their flying machines, stirred powerful emotions of a time gone by.

Well, after the museum, we did what everyone does…eat.  Using our GPS, we navigated our way to a large shopping area and saw a restaurant called “Black Rock.” We asked someone and they assured us it was very good, but they also said we probably couldn’t get in. We decided to try anyway.  Well, we could get in, but it was going take about 45 minutes. So, we added our names to the wait list and waited.  Sure enough, about 45 minutes later, the text came, and we were in.

The place was packed and loud so were excited to see what all the uproar was about.  Our server came to our table, and she explained what they are most famous for…a black rock.  Here’s the deal.  If you order steak, they bring it to your table…raw. They also bring a square chunk of black lava rock that is heated to—wait for it—755 degrees.  The raw meat is sizzling in the middle of the rock, and you get to cook your own steak.  You slice off a bite size piece of steak, lay it on the 755-degree rock in a puddle of melted garlic butter and in about 15 seconds for each side—you are ready to eat. It was awesome.

With a special creamy steak sauce for dipping, well, it really was just delicious.  I know and you know the rock idea is a hook, a crowd getter but it was more.  There was something special about slicing and cooking your meat on that super-heated rock.  While the food tasted so good—the experience was more—much more. I think my man genes were set to high as I sliced a chunk of raw meat and cooked it for my wife. I felt like the hunter, gatherers of old. I could almost hear the wolves howling in the distance.

Now trust me.  If they had brought that piece of meat already cooked, I would have said it was a pretty good steak, but the rock changed everything. The sound of sizzling meat changed everything. In other words, some things change everything and that was true that night, but it is truer every day, in every way, and everywhere—when that Rock is Jesus. Just like the rock changed the meal, the presence of the Rock of Ages in our lives makes all the difference in the world.

And get this—it had to be the rock.  A small charcoal fire, nope.  A propane gas burner, nope. An electric burner, nada. It was the rock, that 755-degree, meat sizzling, butter melting rock that changed it all. And I want you to know that it is the Rock of Ages that can burn away all the dross of sin that separates us from God.  If you are willing to let Him, He wants, He waits to forgive and give you a fresh start.  It is something that being good, that church, that religion just can’t do.  It is a singular act of God and His grace that makes the difference. It is what caused the writer of Psalms to pen, “You are my rock and my fortress.”

So, if you ever see a restaurant named, “Black Rock” whip in an experience the cooking power of a 755-degree piece of black lava rock.  And, if you find yourself down and out and out of luck, remember to look for the Rock of Ages.  He is waiting to forgive you and call you His own.  He is waiting to change your life forever.  He’s waiting to whisper, “I’ve got this.  Bro. Dewayne

Posted in Family, life, priorities, Scripture, thankful, Trials, wisdom

Walking Away

“I am doing important work and cannot come down. Why should the work cease while I leave it and go down to you?” Four times they sent me the same proposal, and I gave them the same reply.” Nehemiah 3b-4

Well, it was definitely smarter than me.  We live in a world of smart devices. I remember years ago when phones were just getting smart, and I was all in up to my eyeballs.  Through the years, I have been amazed as device after device got smarter and smarter. Everything from locks to thermostats to televisions got smarter and smarter and smarter.  And then one day, they got smarter than me.

A while back I bought some smart plugs.  These little wonders allow me to control a device either from my smartphone or with my girlfriend Alexa.  I just tell her to turn on the lights and she does.  In my living room, I have several lights all plugged into a couple of these smart plugs.  All I have to do is say, “Alexa, turn on the living room lights” and just like that all the lights come on.  Want to turn them off?  No, problem.  Just tell Alexa and she will turn them off.  How great.  How smart.  How awesome.

Well, one day my smart world came crashing.  All the smart plugs became very not smart.  None of the lights would turn on and none would turn off.  After an hour or so I figured out I needed to restart my internet modem and bam…just like that…we were back in business…almost.  There was one plug that didn’t get the message. It said no, nada, ain’t gone happen.  Well, I figured if I messed with it long enough, I could persuade it to get on board.  I was wrong.

I messed with it and messed with it and then messed with it some more.  It wasn’t a matter of minutes but hours.  I finally gave up and went to bed, but I am not one to throw in the towel.  First thing in the morning, after coffee and Jesus, I started in again and it wasn’t long before all that Good News Jesus stuff had leaked out and I was one frustrated dude.  And just about that time it occurred to me to…just stop…and I did.

I picked up the tools and put them away and walked away.  It occurred me that nothing including a smart plug gone dumb or one that was smarter than me should have that much control over me.  And guess what.  That particular light still does not have a plug…at least not one that is smart.  I might give it another shot one day but that day was not yesterday, is not today and probably won’t be tomorrow.  It just isn’t that important. Let’s be honest…I like to win but there are times when walking away is better than fighting a battle that doesn’t matter.

Someone once told me to be sure and choose my battles carefully.  We need to learn to ask, “Is this a hill worth dying on?”  So often our pride keeps us in the fight long after the fight doesn’t matter—after the fight has long left us. So, when you find yourself beating your head against a wall or bumping into that same stubborn wall, ask yourself, “Does this really matter?” Now if it does you stay in there but if it doesn’t don’t let your pride keep you where you don’t belong.

You know, Jesus knew about “hills worth dying on.”  The one that held Him and His cross, Calvary, was so important nothing, and I do mean nothing, could keep Him from it.  At the same time, He knew when to walk away…to let it go. We should do the same. Nehemiah, one of the guys in the Old Testament, was on mission to rebuild the wall that surrounded his hometown Jerusalem. His enemies kept trying to distract him so he finally said, “I am doing important work and cannot come down. Why should the work cease while I leave it and go down to you?”  Isn’t that great? And four times they tried and four times he said no. He simply refused to leave what mattered for something that didn’t.

So, like the song Kenny Rogers made famous, “You need to know when to hold them, know when to fold them and know when to walk away.” It will not only make your life easier, but it just might also make it more purposeful.  Need a little help figuring out when to do what?  No problem, just ask the One who is never wrong.  He’s got this.  Bro. Dewayne

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

The Captain and the Wind

Oh, Lord God! You Yourself made the heavens and earth by Your great power and with Your outstretched arm. Nothing is too difficult for You!” Jeremiah 32:17

It was the gift of a lifetime. It was 1997 and we were experiencing the gift of a lifetime—the trip of a lifetime. The church where we pastored had honored us with a massive trip to the Holy Land in celebration of our tenth anniversary as their pastor.  I’ve shared some of those incredible times once or twice before in Grits. Recently though I was reminded of a part of the trip that was a small part of a big story and teaches a powerful lesson about us and God.

After a quick visit to Greece and a long visit to the Holy Land, we found ourselves in the land of Pharaohs.  How incredible to stand where the children of Israel once slaved and worked.  How amazing to stand where Moses stood as he spoke for the great, “I AM,” and spoke the words on behalf of God, “Let My people go.”  The pyramids, the great sphinx, the museums, the history all were breathtaking and then there was—the Nile.

Though my wife Judy and I have now seen and been on the Nile several times…back then it was the first time…and there’s nothing like the first time.  As part of our trip, we took a day trip on this ancient and mighty river.  There were all kinds of vessels on the river that day from small to very large, from very old to newer and from those powered by sails and those powered by massive engines.

Ours was powered by diesel.  As we prepared to leave the port, the captain of the vessel fired up the engines and soon we were underway.  With the powerful engine, the vessel went in the direction and speed that the captain desired.  It was impressive but there was something else there on the river that was equally so.  All around us were boats not powered by gas or diesel but by the wind.  Silently and gracefully, they cut through the water…not as fast as others but somehow more impressive…more desirable.

What was it that was so attractive?  It was the fact that they did not depend on their own power—they depended on a power outside of themselves—bigger than themselves.  They moved at a pace and the whim of the wind. Oh, there was a human hand on the rudder and there was skill in the positioning of the sail but still it was the wind that moved the boat. And, unlike our vessel, the captain and crew never had to worry about breaking down or running out of fuel.  And somehow, that just seemed better…richer.

I read a devotion by a guy named Aussie Dave (you have to love that name) that pointed out this vast difference.  And I learned that it wasn’t about boats at all…it was about us…and our lives…and how we choose to live our lives.  Oh, we can motor along through life, seemingly controlling our fate, our direction, our speed, and all that might work, will work, until the engine breaks down or we run out of fuel. And, trust me, there will be a time in life when both will happen and it is just about then we will realize the value of trusting something bigger, Someone bigger, with our journey. That, of course, is Creator God—the One who created it all—including the wind.

If I’m guessing right, a lot of us wrestle with letting the Creator of the wind propel our vessels…our lives.  We simply want to be in charge…to determine the direction and details of our trip but remember this.  Along the shores of Nile were abandoned vessels…broken down and wore down and long abandoned. And while there may have been a few sailing vessels along that same shore, they were always a candidate to be rebuilt—to be redeemed and that too is the story of those who trust in a Captain that made it all. With this Captain…nothing is impossible.

Judy and I will never forget that journey or the people who made it possible. It was a generous and sacrificial gift given from our friend’s hearts.  We will also never forget the generous and sacrificial gift of our Dearest Daddy who makes life, our lives, so rich and purposeful and our eternity so…well, sometimes there just aren’t words.  I hope you have chosen God as your Captain and I hope you will pause even now and listen.  Even when the wind goes still and your progress so slow, listen carefully as the Whisperer whispers, “I’ve got this.”  Bro. Dewayne

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