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

Yes and No

Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.” James 1:17

2020 was a year to remember or maybe, to forget. Years from now, when I think of that particular year, I will remember it as the “Year of No”. You see, to me it seemed every time I turned around someone was telling me no. I couldn’t do this and I couldn’t do that.  Included in that batch of “noes” were trips to conferences and vacations. I remember a particular task I just didn’t want to do.  I had put it off for several weeks.  It wasn’t that I was procrastinating–I was just hoping.  Maybe something would change.  Maybe what appeared to be a new normalcy was a bad dream and I would wake up, stretch and yawn, make a cup of coffee and get ready to go.  Instead…I cancelled the reservation.  As it turned out I wouldn’t be needing a rental car for a week in California.  Not now.

You see, my wife Judy and I love to travel—to take adventures. Last spring our adventure was a rerun of sorts.  Catch the train to Chicago, spend the night there and enjoy the Chicago skyline, wake up and board the train for California.  For two days America would fly by our windows–farmlands, plains, mountains. Once in California we would see some of the most incredible scenery you could imagine.  It was going to be a great trip and then the pandemic and its buddies said, “no.”

Actually, that was just one of several “noes”  We were going to a pastor’s retreat in North Carolina to get recharged.  No. We were going to the Southern Baptist Convention–something we do every year. No.  I had a doctor’s appointment in Paducah.  I’m not usually a fan of doctor appointments–you know, “Step right here on the scale.”  You know the drill.  But I was excited—at least I was going somewhere, anywhere.  No. No. No. No.

In the midst of the flurry of “noes” something happened.  Judy reminded me of a song by Michelle Williams, “Say Yes,” that we had enjoyed many times before .  It had slipped from my playlist.  Maybe it shouldn’t have.  The words go something like this, “When Jesus say yes, nobody can say no. When Jesus say yes, nobody can say no. When Jesus say yes, nobody can say no. When Jesus say yes, nobody can say no.”

The song continues, “I’m not worried ’bout a thing, ’cause, I know You are guiding me. Where You lead me, Lord, I will go. I have no fear ‘cause, I know Who’s in control. There’s no limit to what You can do ’cause it all belongs to You–Yes, it all belongs to You. You’re Almighty and all powerful and it all belongs to You. Yes, it all belongs to You. When Jesus say yes, nobody can say no.”

Ok, it rocked me good—in fact, it changed my outlook.  It helped me see, again, that life is filled with yes and “noes.”  You know, that’s just life.  Trips get cancelled, schools get closed, schedules get train wrecked (no pun intended), and kids drive parents crazy, and parents drive kids crazy.  Circumstances seem to drown us, and life sometimes just scares us.  And then, if we are Jesus followers, we simply pause and remember,“When Jesus say yes, nobody can say no.”

Well, here we are a year later and while there is still an occasional “no,” the truth is, “yes” is coming back in vogue. We can go and eat at most restaurants. We can plan vacations–at least in most parts of America. We can ride the train or take a plane. We are even talking about a mission trip to Africa sometime this summer. “When Jesus say yes, nobody can say no.”

I hope I am wise enough to learn from all of this.  “Learn what” you ask?  That God is running this show.  He says “yes” and He says “no.”  He opens and closes doors.  And you need to know something.  He doesn’t seek nor need my permission or approval–or yours.  After all, get ready, He is God and well, we are not.  Now all that would be scary except for one thing.

James 1:17 says, “Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.” Our Father is not a “bad news, I’m gonna deprive you just because I can” God.  Nope.  He is an “I love you and I’m going to watch over you” God.  And what are we supposed to do? Just listen as He whispers, “Trust me.” In a month or so, Judy and I are heading to Colorado and the Badlands of South Dakota.  Eventually, we will probably make it to California.  If not, well, I bet He’s got one whale of a better idea.  Regardless, I’m learning to rest in Him.  After all, “He’s got this.”  Bro. Dewayne

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

Tripped Up by Life

When He saw the crowds, He had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.” Matthew 9:36

Well, it’s a week later.  If you are a regular Grits reader you might remember that a week ago, I wrote about my grand adventure as I hiked a local trail called, “Indian Point.”  It is an incredible trail and a hike that I will remember for quite a while.  Whenever I do something for the first time it kinda hangs in my memory.  For instance, this time I remember the first quarter or third of a mile up the hill that the trail was more roots than dirt.  I remember after a while there were several short trails leading to some large rock outcrops.  I took a detour down one and stood amazed as I surveyed the valley below.  I also remember what happened next.

Next was my boot caught a root. In a split second I tripped and landed flat on my face.  I told you last week that I fell very hard and it hurt. I haven’t changed my mind. I banged up my left arm and side and well, let’s just say all week the pain just kept right on coming.  Finally, on Saturday, almost a week later, I could cough and bend over without my side not so gently reminding me of the fall.  My arm, on the other hand, is still plenty sore and I am sporting a really, ugly bruise.  It isn’t one of those wimp bruises either.  It covers most of my elbow and upper forearm and is a nice purple and yellow color.  It’s the kinda bruise when people see it, they say “ouch.”

This past Sunday I returned to Indian Point.  My wife Judy was back from her journey to the “Southland” and I wanted to share the trail with her.  I narrated the way along the trail and finally we came to the place where I fell. Right in the middle of the trail was the root…the only one, but then it only takes one. I told her, “This is where it happened.” I think maybe she then had a better understanding of my fall and a new appreciation for the bruise that I am still sporting. Perhaps, that experience made my experience better because it became her experience too. I know this is true because right there she gave me a sermon about hiking alone and being careful.

So, do you know someone that is pretty bruised up over life?  Has someone shown you their “bruise” recently?  No, I’m not talking about the kind that comes from tripping over a root, but the kind that comes from tripping over something in life.  An unkind word. An unnecessarily sharp criticism. A sarcastic zinger.  The loss of a friend or a job or a marriage?  You see, there are a lot of bruised folks around us, and it is important that we stop long enough to feel their hurt and pain.  Jesus did that so well.  It didn’t matter what, it seemed He always had the time to hurt with someone.

Whether it was a leper, a woman with a bad reputation, or a tax collector hated and disowned by everyone, He always took the time to stop, take a look at their bruised life, and hurt with them. One time He came ashore from a boat ride across the lake and there was a gaggle of people bruised and banged up by their broken world.  The Bible tells us that He saw them and then He had compassion on them.  He.Saw.Them.  In other words, He saw their bruises and then loved them.

So, if you bump into me this week, no pun intended, ask and I will show you my bruised arm.  It should be good for at least five or six more days.  We can laugh together because of the story, but at the same time it will be a good reminder for both of us to be like Jesus and share another’s hurt and pain.  Oh, and be sure and watch out for those roots…remember it only takes one.  But if you do fall, I know someone who can pick you up.  And if you listen carefully, you will hear Him whisper, “Don’t worry…I’ve got this.”   Bro. Dewayne

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

Greener Pastures

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

He was standing in the road.  A while back my wife Judy and I were on the road again…this time in middle Tennessee.  We like to travel a lot…it’s just something we enjoy.  We love to see what’s new and different and there is always something.  We were on our way to a waterfall and we had to travel down a narrow winding road.  As we were zipping along, at the breakneck speed of 25 mph, we rounded a curve in the road and there he was.

He was a young calf, oh, I would guess about 250 pounds grown.  He was calmly eating some weedy grass along the shoulder of the road.  It wasn’t a deal because I was going so slow but if I had been traveling a little faster…well, he could have been ground beef.  Oh, and by the way, what do you call a cow with no legs? Ground beef.  Get it?  Well, I probably lost some readers with that one.  Anyway, I slowed down a bit more and gently swerved around the calf.  I told Judy we should have snapped a picture.

As we drove around the calf, I couldn’t help but notice a couple of things.  First, his name must have been Houdini because there was no gate and as far as I could tell, we couldn’t see a hole in the fence where my new friend could have escaped.  Second, as he contentedly munched on his weedy grass, on the other side of the fence was a great pasture just filled with nice, lush, green grass.  It was obviously where he had been before he did his Houdini thing and escaped.  Why in the world would he leave that for where he was is beyond me.  The only answer I could come up with is…the grass is always greener on the other side of the fence.

Well, we went on our way and I told Judy when we came back let’s be sure and get his picture.  So, on the return trip as we neared the curve where he was before, we found an empty road.  Our friend had disappeared.  We traveled on a short distance and soon, off to our right, we found our calf.  Houdini had once again magically crossed the fence and this time was back in the greener pasture. How about that?  There were only two possible solutions.  One, he decided it was time to go home or two, in a moment of indecision he decided the grass was indeed greener on the other side of the fence…again.

Strangely, I can identify with the indecisive calf.  I mean, how many times have I changed my mind about this or that? I know sometimes it takes me fifteen minutes to decided what toothpaste to buy or what to get on my hamburger.  I guess the bottom line is that we are a fickle bunch, aren’t we?  But I am so glad that God isn’t fickle.  I was praying this morning and telling God how glad I am that He has never changed His mind about allowing me into the family.  I mean I am sure I have given Him lots of reasons to change His mind, but it never seems to faze Him.  I like that. A lot.

So, if you find yourself wondering back and forth in-between the pastures of life, just remember that when it comes to you and His love for you, well, God isn’t looking for greener pastures or different or better people for that matter. God loves people, all people, and anyone who wants to come and graze in His pasture is more than welcome.  The gate is always open to anyone who is willing to leave their old pasture and put their faith in His Son Jesus.  It’s that simple.  There’s a verse in the New Testament of the Bible that says anyone who is willing to ask can be forgiven and cross over to His ultimate green pasture.  So, how about you?  Ready to switch pastures?  He’s ready if you are.  You will find the gate open and Him showing you the way.  Trust me…He’s got this.  Bro. Dewayne

Posted in Grace, life, loving others, Scripture, Southern born, wisdom

Steel Gladiators

“Finishing is better than starting. Patience is better than pride.” Ecclesiastes 7:8

We were opposite each other—two fire breathing chariots just waiting.  Well, that isn’t exactly how it happened but maybe it was.  My wife Judy and I were returning from a trip to Kentucky where grits and a southern draw are standard issue.  We were back in our town of Harrisburg, and were going to swing by the church to check a couple of things for an event that evening.  We were giving away some food boxes and wanted to make sure we were set to go.  To get there we had to cross a pretty busy intersection.  I pulled up and that’s when I saw him sitting there.  He was anxiously waiting for a break in the steady steam of cars.  Even from that distance I could see his darting eyes as his sweaty palms gripped his steering wheel.

I pulled up on the opposite side of the road headed in the opposite direction. We were two men, to gladiators of automobiles, about to pass side by side. I knew he was there first so he had the right a way…that was never in debate.  I also knew there would be only a quick window to cross the road.  There was no blinker on my opponent’s car—we would pass quickly like two ships in the night.  I knew, too, that there was a chance that he would not follow the rules.  Blinker or not, he might turn across my lane. Try as I might, I couldn’t read his mind or his intentions. 

Suddenly there was a break in the traffic, my left foot moved from brake to accelerator and I was sure the same was happening in the car opposite me.  Like I said…two ships in the night…side by side in opposite directions. No deal. No challenge. And, then, yes, it happened.

Instead of going straight as his no blinker indicated he cut across in front of me and turned.  I had fallen for the oldest trick in the book.  It was the old “I’m really going to turn but I’m not going to tell you” trick!  Well, I quickly hit my brakes as he quickly turned in from of my chariot.  I confess. I gave him the two hands in the air, “Dude, what are you doing?” gesture and he responded with the two hands in the air, “Dude, I had the right of way” gesture. It was all over in a moment of time.  Two gladiators of steel on two totally different wave lengths of communication that left both of us wondering. First, him wondering why I was upset when he clearly had the right of way and second, me wondering why he didn’t let me know he was going to turn in front of me. Hey…blinker equals turn. No blinker equals no turn. Dude.

Are you confused by now?  Are you wondering what this is all about? Does any of it really matter? Probably the answer to all three of those questions is, wait for it, no.  But it does show how easily it is to miscommunicate our intentions and it also shows just how easy it is for moments of waiting to escalate to moments of tension.  And, amazingly, it doesn’t have to involve two gladiators of steel waiting at an intersection. It can easily be the one you are married to, or the ones you gave birth to, or the ones that you work with or, my favorite, the ones you sit next to in worship at church.

But, the answer is always the same.  Keep your foot on the brake till you know clearly what the other person’s intention is.  Just wait, be patient, and most likely you will come out looking a little bit more like Jesus and the more gallant in the exchange. The writer of Ecclesiastes says, “Finishing is better than starting. Patience is better than pride.” Hmmm…that’s really good. We usually have more time than we think and we all know the pleasure of letting someone go first. They smile and think, “What a nice person.”  And most times, that beats beating someone across an intersection, or to a place in line or to a parking spot.

Ok, you gladiators of steel, all right you Walmart line cutters, it’s time to keep our foot on the brake and our hearts in our chest.  Let’s determine that nothing is more important than for a Jesus follower to act like Jesus—at the intersection, in the line, at home or at church.  Feeling challenged about now?  I know, me too, that’s why it is so important to remember, “He’s got this.” So, ladies and gentlemen…start your engines. Bro. Dewayne

Posted in life, Scripture, thankful, travel, wisdom

Falling for Indian Point

“The steps of a good man are ordered by the Lord, and He delights in his way. Though he fall, he shall not be utterly cast down; for the Lord upholds him with His hand.” Psalm 37:23-24

 I fell and I fell hard.  It was Sunday afternoon.  I had the opportunity to speak a couple of times at the church where I pastor and it was, as always, one of the things I just enjoy.  I love sharing and watching truth come alive in people.  It was a great day to be at church too because every Sunday someone new comes back from the COVID blip.  It is like Christmas morning and a family reunion all rolled into one.  After church there was lunch with a couple of friends and family and then…wait for it…the nap.

There is something about a Sunday afternoon nap that is almost sacred.  After speaking and eating, napping is just a natural.  Well, after all the essentials were done, I decided to…take a hike.  My wife Judy was down south visiting family so I had some time to myself.  I really enjoy hiking with her but second best is just taking a hike.  It was a beautiful day and Judy and I had talked several times about trying a trail called Indian Point.  That was my destination. So after a short drive,  I arrived and was glad to find it wasn’t too crowded

So, I hopped out of the car and off I went.  I forgot my hiking stick in the trunk until I was about ten minutes in and I would regret that a little later but hey.  The first part of the trail was like a nice walk in the woods.  There were plenty of rocks and roots to avoid but not enough to distract from the beauty around me.  I slowly ascended and soon, off to my right, I began noticing spurs off the trail that led to various lookouts.  They were amazing.  Atop large rock formations, the valley below spread out like a beautiful quilt in various shades of green.  God impressed me…again.

Soon I was back on the trail, still amazed and still climbing up.  Before long, I could see what had to be the trail’s name sake…Indian Point.  It was a large rock outcropping many, many yards wide and it just invited you to come and see.  So, I stepped up the pace in anticipation of what was coming.  I should have been a little more careful.  On my way to the point, I suddenly had an unexpected experience.  As I was walking and as I was looking ahead, my boot caught a small root knob and, well, it wasn’t pretty.

I’m not sure if my hiking stick would have saved me or not but since it was back in the car that didn’t matter.  I stumbled for one step and then just fell. There was no time to break the fall, no time to put my hand out—I fell and I fell hard.  I landed on my left side and frankly for the first few seconds I was just stunned.  And then, in a moment of brilliance, I said, out loud, “That hurt.” And it did.  In my pride, I was immediately glad that no one was around to see my descent and painful crash landing.

I slowly, ever so slowly, stood up and accessed the damages.  First, thankfully, it involved no blood but it did include a large knot on my left forearm, a banged-up knee and a rib cage that said, “Ouch.”  Ok, so, I proceeded to the lookout, determined not to let what had happened rob me of the moment—and it didn’t.  I continued on the trail and what lay before me was just amazing.  The incredible rock bluffs, caves and flowering trees were amazing.  I was blown away. God was obviously showing off when He made this part of Southern Illinois.

So, I made it back to the car and, yes, there were definitely some sore body parts.  A few minutes later, I had to cough and I quickly found out just how sore my ribcage was.  When I got home, I found out I couldn’t even bend over to get my boots off.  The good news is that after taking too much Ibuprofen, I could.  And for all of you who are worrying, by Monday morning things were better.  My arm and ribs are still stinking sore but other than that—I’m ok.  Oh, and for the record, I wouldn’t have missed the hike for anything.  I can’t wait to take Judy with me.

My big take away wasn’t the fact that I fell, or that I was going too fast, or that I should have been paying closer attention—though all those are valid.  My big take away—and don’t miss this—was how something so small could cause me to fall so hard.  The root knob was probably two inches high but it was all that was needed to bring me down. For all my trails in my future, at least as long as I remember how bad this hurt, I will probably be a little more careful.  I know I was a bit sloppy in my walking but it’s hard to look down when things above are so beautiful. There’s a lot of truth in that one!

My Dearest Daddy, of course, knew all about all of this and you might want to debate His goodness.  If He is so good why this and why that but you would be missing the point.  The fact is…I walked away.  The fact is…this morning, I can move.  The fact is…I was able to enjoy the rest of the hike.  The fact is…He is a good, good Father.  One of my favorite Bible verses says that He directs my steps and even if I do fall, He is there to pick me up.  I like that…a lot and He was there to pick me up.  And, He will be there to pick you up.

So, if you have some time and enjoy hiking, take a hike on Indian Point trail in Southern Illinois and be prepared to be impressed. Watch for the rocks and the roots and don’t get too much in a hurry.  You might take a tumble and you might miss something spectacular.  And don’t be afraid because whether it is a trail or day at the office, or no matter what, “He’s got this.”  Bro. Dewayne

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

Steak and Shake

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

We met when I was just a kid. A long time ago and in a galaxy far, far away (think Star Wars) one of my favorite things to do in the summer was to go and visit my sister and brother-in-law in Daytona Beach.  I lived in Jacksonville and they were kind enough to invite me to spend a week with them.  Trust me…it was like a different world.  Our west Jacksonville neighborhood was half town and half country and the most exciting thing that ever happened was if and when there was a fire call, and we would chase the firetruck.  I’ll write more on that one day.

Now compare that with Daytona Beach.  Can someone say, “Night and day?”  Daytona Beach was a happening place and there was always something to do.  We would drive over to the beach, cruise the strip, and go out to eat.  One of my favorite places to go was Steak and Shake.  Back in the early and mid 60’s, it was not a new establishment, but it was still up and coming.  They were famous for their steak burgers, skinny fries, and milkshakes.  For a ten year old from the westside of Jacksonville, it was heaven.

Steak and Shake was different than most fast-food places.  There, you could actually go inside, be seated and be served, and through the years that is how it has remained.  When I grew up, it was only natural that Steak and Shake was one of my “go to” places to eat.  Oh, it wasn’t an every-week event, but we did go about once a month.  The routine was always the same.  Park, go inside and be seated, order, eat, and leave.  It worked well, but then something called COVID changed things up.  First, and at most locations, you can now only go through the drive-thru.  But in Cookeville, Tennessee we stumbled upon the future—the new Steak and Shake.

At this location, which I am sure will be true for all the rest too, when you walk in, there is not a hostess to seat you and no counter to order at.  Instead, there are several kiosks (computer touch-screens) and from there you can order your food.  Then…you just sit down…wherever you want.  Feel free to go up and get your drinks from the drink station (remember, this wasn’t in Illinois) and finally someone would bellow out your order number and you would walk up and get your food.  Boom—just like that burgers and fries were flying into hungry mouths washed down by delicious milkshakes.  It was new, it was different and I loved it.

I am sure that the COVID mess that we all have disdained is at least partly responsible for their new system, but it also shows that not all the changes are going to be bad.  At our church we are doing Wednesday nights totally different, and it is totally working.  We have a men’s group called “Man Time” (how creative is that); a women’s Bible study (well, not creative but it works) and then something called “The Big A Club” for the kids.  There are people everywhere.  And get this—men are coming to church on a Wednesday night! What?  And it all came about because of the pause that COVID caused.

Someone from ancient times (I’m not talking about 1950!) said the only thing constant is change and they were right.  Some of the changes are not good.  In fact, some of the cultural changes might be considered dangerous.  But we need to work to accept the good and temper the others.  It gives us a great opportunity to be the salt and light that Jesus talked to us about.  People all around us have lots of questions which should lead to lots of opportunities to talk about faith…and Jesus.

Romans 8:28 remains one of the most popular verses in the Bibles.  It says that for those who love God, He can bring good out of every situation.  We sure like to quote that, but I wonder if we are willing to trust it?  Hey, I’ve been writing three small words for a year and some of you have been here for that whole time—“He’s got this.”  So, as things morph around us, let’s be courageous enough to address the dangerous, but flexible enough to embrace the other.  It might not be easy but if He is in control and we trust Him…it’s gonna be fine.  And, can I say it one more time?  He’s got this.  Bro. Dewayne

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

Believing Again

I am sure of this, that He who started a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.” Philippians 1:6

What do you know? There is light at the end of the tunnel.  This morning it happened again.  I got up about 5:15 am (I put the “am” there for those of you who might not be aware that it does happen twice a day) and it was dark.  It was dark yesterday and it will be dark tomorrow but somewhere down the road, it will not be.  There is light at the end of the tunnel.  Though my day started in the dark today, it didn’t stay that way either. After a while, actually quite a while, the black turned to gray, and slowly the gray turned to light.  Yes, there is light at the end of the tunnel.

The past 365 days or so may have caused us to doubt that the light at the end of the tunnel would ever come.  When each day seems the same as the one before, we tend to think all days will be like that. We come to expect the same and even if the same is a good same—well, it gets old.  Live in a place where every day is sunny and dry, and you soon start to long for rain.  Live in a place where rain is abundant and clouds the norm, and you soon long for sun.  It’s just the nature of the beast.

But, what if?  What if we could learn to live in anticipation?  What if we could learn to be content with today and anticipate the wonder, the unknown of tomorrow?  That was the monster of this last year, wasn’t it?  We just didn’t know what tomorrow would look like—what the future would look like.   And, honestly, it scared most of us to death.  For many, it was a deal breaker with our faith.  Simply put, at minimum our faith took a hit and at worst there was a faith funeral.  That was then, but this is now.  Now we can see the light at the end of the tunnel and there is hope.

I’m still pretty sure that the post COVID world and the new cultural landscape—well,  things will be different.  Some of them, most of them, we may not like.  It may seem like a too long walk on a soft-sanded beach where each step is like quicksand or shifting sands.  So what are we to do?  Well, maybe, just maybe we should have a repairing—a faith repairing or perhaps a resurrection—a faith resurrection. You see, there is nothing like uncertain times or new times to cause us to return to faith.  It’s a paradox really—often the thing that weakens or slays our faith is the very same thing that will cause it to be strong or come to life again.

After the children of Israel had left Egypt, they woke up one morning to find the whole Egyptian army hot in pursuit.  It looked like game over—it looked like slavery all over again.  But.Then.God.  Let those three words soak in.  But then God acted again on their behalf and split a sea wide-open and invited the people to trust Him and walk over on dry ground.  They took Him up on the offer and they were saved—and the Egyptians, well, they should have paid closer attention at swim lessons.

It’s still true.  God is good, God is faithful, and God can be trusted.  It’s true in the brilliant sunlight and it is true in the dark of night.  The One who we trusted in the beginning is the One who is worth our trust as dawn begins.  Paul, the Jesus hater turned Jesus follower, said there was never the slightest doubt in his mind that the God who started this great work in you—in us—would keep at it and bring it to a flourishing finish. How great is that?

So, I know Easter is in the rearview mirror but maybe today would just be a great day to have a resurrection—a faith resurrection.  Maybe today is the day you just start believing again or maybe, just start believing more.  God hasn’t changed—He never does.  The One who was faithful before is faithful now.  No matter what—and you know it—He’s got this.  Bro. Dewayne

Posted in Grace, gratitude, love, prayer, Scripture, thankful, Trials, wisdom

Trust

Though they stumble, they will never fall, for the LORD holds them by the hand.” Psalm 37:23

It seems so easy…but it just not. In the Disney movie Aladdin, the central figure named Aladdin (bet you saw that one coming) and the beautiful young princess are in a difficult situation.  Options are limited because the bad guys are just about to win the day–grab her and jail him.  He reaches out his hand, looks her in the eyes and says, “Do you trust me?”

Well, you’ve probably seen the movie a dozen times, but the bottom line is she does, they escape, and eventually live happily ever after.  But not before one more precarious situation, one more extended hand and one more time the all-important question asked, “Do you trust me?”  She does.  She extends her hand and well, you know.

Times like these times help us begin to understand just how difficult it might have been for these two fictitious characters.  To not trust meant certain disaster. To trust meant risk.  It’s a hard call–well especially in the movie because Aladdin wasn’t some dashing, super strong, super-hero but a, gulp, “street rat,” a nobody, from the wrong side of town.

But what about us–what about our plot–our uncertainty.  Well, there is an extended hand and there is that all important question, “Do you trust me?”  But that’s where things change.  The hand extended to us doesn’t belong to a “street rat” but rather to the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords.  It belongs to the One who speaks and a billion stars begin to twinkle. And the one on the receiving end?  Oh, that would be us–the one He calls son, daughter, child of mine.

I love Psalm 37:24. Speaking of God and us, it says, “Though they [that would be us] stumble, they will never fall, for the LORD holds them by the hand.” Never fall, never perish, never. Let that soak in.  The word picture is that of a person—perhaps a small child or maybe a frail senior adult—who has lost their footing and consequently is on their way down to certain pain and suffering.  Then, at the last minute, the hand reaches down and takes hold, and they are saved.

That has to be what caused the prophet Habakkuk 3:17-18 to say, “Though the fig tree should not blossom, nor fruit be on the vines, the produce of the olive fails and the fields yield no food, the flock be cut off from the fold and there be no herd in the stalls, 18.  yet I will rejoice in the LORD; I will take joy in the God of my salvation.”

It’s not a hard call really.  I mean He’s all powerful and loves us like no prince has ever loved his princess…cares for us more than any husband his bride.  He has a perfect track record. Never fails…no, not once. Regardless of how scary the days were or may become, He is bigger, He is stronger, and He can be trusted. So, listen carefully today. Tune out or turn down the volume of a screeching world and you will probably hear a soft whisper saying, “Do you trust me?”  And look with Spirit eyes and you might even see a hand extended.  You don’t even need to try and take hold for He’s got you and yes, He’s got this.  Bro. Dewayne

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

Learning to Speak Love

Remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how He Himself said, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’” Acts 20:35b

It was, well, amazing.  I like to receive presents.  I love to receive presents.  Some guy wrote a book about the five love languages and basically, he said that everyone has at least one love language.  If you want to “ring someone’s bell” or “top off their love tank”, you do it by speaking their love language.  Well, my two primary love languages are gifts and words of affirmation.  Every time one of you leaves a kind comment about Grits, the nozzle goes in my love tank and fills it up.  How about that?

Well, my other love language is this gift thing.  When someone gives me something, it just rings my bell.  Several years ago, a friend visited Gettysburg and brought me back a set of coasters.  It was totally unexpected, and it just rang my bell.  He probably thought, “What’s the deal, dude?  It is only a set of coasters.” But no, it was more.  It said, “I thought of you.”  And, several years later it still brings a smile to my face.  We have a couple of good friends that like to travel and they often bring me a souvenir of their travels and it is always blesses me. Boom—a full love tank.

Well, something happened recently that was pretty awesome.  We have a family who is part of our church family and they are just a special group of people.  It is hard to put a finger on it but words like authentic and caring come to mind.  Well, a couple of weeks ago after our morning service, the mom in this family came up to me and was just beaming—and I mean beaming with joy and excitement. Her entire countenance said, “Something good had happened.”  I wasn’t sure what it was, but I couldn’t wait to hear what it was.  I was in for a surprise.

Here is what tumbled out of her mouth.  “We bought you something and I couldn’t wait to tell you.  I know I was supposed to wait but I just couldn’t.  I saw this on Facebook and said, “We have to buy this for Bro. Dewayne.”  She bubbled and bubbled, and I was in awe.  The gift was the “Fingerprint” of God.  It was a print in the shape of a fingerprint and the fingerprint was made from a scripture from each book in the Bible.  It sounded amazing and when it came in and they gave it to me, it was.  It will soon have a home in my church office, and it will have a story…this story.

You see, the gift really was amazing, but the unseen gift was equally so.  What was the unseen gift?  It was their—her—unbridled, unlimited joy and enthusiasm in not “getting” a gift but “giving” one.  Her joy in giving this special print to me, her friend, and her pastor, touched me and taught me.  It touched me that this special family made a sacrifice and bought me this gift.  It taught me that just like Jesus said, “It is more blessed to give than to receive.”  I have heard that verse for many, many years and have seen it on display at different levels.  But this time…this act of love taught me what it really means.

I have to wonder if this is what it is like when a person comes to follow Jesus for the first time.  I mean the Bible says God throws a party. The Bible says that all heaven breaks loose when someone comes home.  I can just imagine the smile on Jesus’ face when a person He loves and died for finally gets it and trusts Him.  I bet it looks at least something like the face of this family and especially my friend who shared the news with me, “We bought you something.”  We want to..wait for it…not get, but give.  Amazing.

Though I love to travel and try and go to Africa once a year, I have always struggled with learning a new language.  But I wonder if that might need to change?  Maybe today, maybe this week, maybe I, maybe you, need to learn a new language.  No, I’m not talking Swahili—I’m talking about someone’s love language.  Someone in your world, your spouse, your kids, your neighbor ,or maybe someone else.  Learn what tops their love tank and do it.

The guy who wrote the book says the love languages are gifts, words of affirmation, acts of service, physical touch, and quality time. Why not learn and practice someone’s love language today?  If you are like me and struggle with learning (I can barely speak English), just ask the Father for a little help.  He will be more than glad to help you.  He loves it when His kids can speak love.  Yup…He’s got that too.  Bro. Dewayne

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

Mona Lisa

For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things He planned for us long ago.” Ephesians 2:10

I wonder if he really knew it? I’m talking about Leonardo de Vinci.  He was the painter of the infinitely famous “Mona Lisa.”  It has been called “the best known, the most visited, the most written about, the most sung about, the most parodied work of art in the world.” Now by any standard that is a masterpiece.  It was finished around 1517 and is likely the portrait of Lisa Gherardini.  Its name “Mona Lisa” would translate to Ma’am Lisa.  I’m glad her name was Lisa or else we would have Mona Hazel or Mona Gertrude. Nice names but, well, you know.

But did he know it?  I wonder if de Vinci realized what a powerful masterpiece he had created?  Did he know the way he captured her smile, or the light would captivate the world? I suppose that in his lifetime the painting was appreciated but did it make it to rock star status?  But there really is a bigger question.  Did she know it?

Did Mona Lisa know that the portrait of herself was a masterpiece destined to be the most valuable painting in the world?  Did she know that her slightest of smiles would capture the hearts of men and appreciation of women?  Did she ever look in her mirror and see herself for what she was, a masterpiece?

Can I ask you a question?  What do you see when you glance in the mirror?  Do you know that the someone staring back at you is as valuable as the Mona Lisa? Do you know that even though you are not famous in the neighborhood, you are famous in the halls of heaven?  It’s true.

Ephesians 2:10 is one of my absolute favorites.  It seems to pop up over and again in Grits.  It says,  “For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things He planned for us long ago.” You see an artist far more talented, far more substantial than Leonardo de Vinci created you.  He carefully applied stroke after stroke and then stood back, looked at His work, and declared you a masterpiece.  Declared you, yes you, a masterpiece.

Don’t ever doubt this. You are what God declares you to be.  Don’t let a glance in the mirror, don’t let a harsh comment from a friend or critic, don’t let an act of unkindness steal that away.  You are a masterpiece.  Don’t let your crazy circumstances, your empty portfolio, the nameless brand of your clothing, or your street address, steal that away.  You are a masterpiece.

In our bathroom, we have two small tiles with a few words on them.  They are small in size, but the words are massive.  Here is what they say, “It is not who you are that holds you back, but who you think you are not.”  There is real truth and freedom in those words.  So, if you are haunted by the thoughtless words of someone in your life and you are living that lie…today is freedom day.  Today is name change day.  You are not an accident, a mistake, or junk.  You are a masterpiece. God says so.

As we move on after a fabulous Easter Sunday, remember this.  Each time you worship, Easter or not—in church or not, you are praising Someone who thought so highly of you that He died for you.  He.Died.For.You. And then, like whip cream and cherry on a sundae He adds a description, “masterpiece.”

God bless you today.  The weather guy said it is going to be a beautiful day.  It’s gonna be a great day for a masterpiece like you to step outside and enjoy what the Master Creator has made–just for you.  Enjoy this day and rest in Him.  No matter what…He’s got this.  Bro. Dewayne