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, Grace, gratitude, life, loving others, Scripture, thankful, Trials

Play Ball

Then Jesus said, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.” Matthew 11:28

It almost seems humorous now…and in some twisted sense of reality…I guess it was. I couldn’t believe my eyes.  One of the earthquakes from the corona virus was the total disruption of sports.  I’m not a big sports guy but I do have my favorites.  I really enjoy college football and I remember being shocked that several conferences did not play in the fall of 2020.  I remember telling several folks that I’m not sure you can even have fall without college football. I found out that we could.

I was surely surprised when March Madness went by the wayside that year. Once again, I like college ball because for the most part it is sports at its purest.  I knew things were pretty serious when they cancelled this spring classic. We all said there is always next year…and there was but some just refused to wait. Enter professional sports. It seems from where I sit that so many of the professional sports are about money and not about the love of whatever game they are playing.

When professional sports started trying to come back, I was amused to what extent the leagues went to get it going.  There was the NBA (National Basketball Association) bubble thing in Orlando—and I’m really not sure what that was about, the NHL (National Hockey League) and their attempt to have a kinda, sorta, season and playoffs.  NASCAR (I’m not sure what all that stands for, but I do like what they stand for) did a little better.  Finally, and then, there is the MLB or Major League Baseball.  That year they played a 60-game season and then some kind of playoff system crowned with a sorta, kinda world series.

I remember one MLB game that year at my son-in-law’s house. I remember one of the teams was the Philadelphia Phillies and the game was being played in their park.  Here’s where it gets interesting.  First, as we watched this game, they had filled the entire lower level of the stadium with cardboard fan look-a-likes. If I remember this correctly people paid to have their picture sitting in these seats.  It gets better.

So, there were the lower stands stuffed to the gills with fake people and then to complete the “ruse” they piped in fake crowd noise to go along with the fake people.  I’m sure I wasn’t the only person going, “what?”  I’m not sure what the purpose of all that was but one thing is certain—it was not real. I am sure that was perfectly fine in those crazy times.  In fact, now that I think about it, it was probably perfectly normal for those crazy times.

The mask thing is finally and mostly in the rearview mirror…or is it? I mean the paper and cloth masks much fewer but what about another kind…the kind people wear when they are uncomfortable with who they are or what people might think of them? What about the kind people where when they feel the need to hide behind something or pretend to be something they are not?  Like an actor on a stage, they simply are playing a part.  I get that because people can be harsh and judgmental. But let me share something that just might help.  There is a God who loves you unconditionally and He is waiting for you to come and join His family.  Once He becomes your Father, no amount of failure, no amount of sin can separate you from Him.  It gets better.

Not only will He love you unconditionally, but He is also comfortable with the way He made you.  You don’t need to pretend; you don’t need to disguise—you can be you.  And when you mess up, ask and He will forgive you. When you are lonely, He will always be there. When you are afraid, He will be your Mighty Warrior and when you need to be real—you can be.  He will be your BFF—your best friend forever—literally.  So, weary one, come to Jesus.  He tells us that if we come to Him, He will give us rest.  And when we are facing the giants of our past, our todays or our tomorrows—He is big enough.  After all, He’s got this. Bro. Dewayne

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

“We Over Me”

Don’t be selfish; don’t try to impress others. Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourselves.” Philippians 2:3

Ok…let’s be honest.  I am not a huge fan of sports.  It all started on the playground when I was always, and I do mean always, the last kid picked.  I discovered I had zero kickball skills.  Later, about 4th grade, my Momma (and I guess Daddy) signed me up for little league baseball.  It was there and then I discovered that the problem wasn’t just kickball, it was anything to doing with a ball…or anything else that might be called a sport.  Fortunately, for me my junior high and high schools were massive so unlike some schools where if you didn’t play sports everyone noticed…for me I just blended in with the masses. There was the yearbook thing but who reads that anyway?

When my kids came along God was merciful and gave me three daughters…and while one cheered and one played a little basketball that was the extent of our involvement with sports.   If they had been boys and more sports minded, well, I’m not sure what I could have taught them. I do enjoy watching sports…especially college football.  I am a fan of Notre Dame which is kinda odd given the fact that I am a Baptist preacher, and they are a Catholic School.  But I love the tradition and I love it when they win which this year, well, they are struggling a little.

I wrote all of that to say this—today I went to my third baseball game in like five days.  There are a couple of reasons—the first one  is a no brainer—my oldest grandson is a sports player and he loves baseball.  He was playing so I made it a point to go.  The second one is similar but different.  Our Middle School team was finishing up their season and today they played their first playoff game.  Nine of these young players are tied to our church and I went as their pastor and friend.  Today they won 16 to 1.  That probably tells you something.

These young men have been playing together for years.  Starting in their elementary years through now they grew together—as friends—as a team.  A chunk of the team are eighth graders and frankly—this is their year.  So here is the impossibly incredible part.  As of today, they are 24 and 0.  That’s right, they have won twenty-four straight games and all you have to do is watch them to see that is not an accident.  It is a product of relationship, skills, and team mentality.  Let me tell you a little more.

When I got to the game today, I noticed that on the back of their jerseys it said, WE ME.  So, imagine in large letters the word WE and beneath that is a line and then under the line is the word ME.  Well, not being the sharpest tack in the pack, I asked someone what it meant.  They said, now wait for it, it’s gonna be good, “You know we is more important than me.  We comes before me.”  Well, let me just tell you that was a wow moment for me.  I don’t know who came up with that but they should get some kind of award.  WE over ME.  Love it.

Like I said there is a reason why these guys are where they are, but a piece of the puzzle is that team comes before the individual…you come before me.  It isn’t about one person…it is about every person.  Someone said that there is no “I” in “team” and that is so true.  Now, imagine if the “we before me” thing was applied to our part of our world.  Marriage? Family? Church? Job? Club? If your mind is whirling with the possibilities—you got it.

Paul, the one in the Bible, had a version of this too.  He wrote in Philippians 2:3, “Don’t be selfish; don’t try to impress others. Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourselves.” Boom…there you go.  We over me just works every time.  Of course, we Jesus people could also, should also say, “HE over ME” with Jesus being the “He.”  Yup that works too.

Well, I am very proud of our Middle School baseball team.  Way to go guys.  They have a few more playoff games coming but hey, I’m thinking State.  Regardless…they are all winners, and I am thankful for them and the men who coach and lead them. I’m not sure if God picks sides in sports but He might and He would say, “Don’t worry…I’ve got this.”  Bro. Dewayne

Posted in Family, fear, forgiveness, Grace, gratitude, life, loving others, prayer, Southern born, wisdom

Miracles and Concubines

Then Abraham fell on his face and laughed and said to himself, “Shall a child be born to a man who is a hundred years old? Shall Sarah, who is ninety years old, bear a child?” Genesis 17:17

I quit just a little too soon.  I think there must have been this line in heaven where all the babies wait to be assigned dads, moms, skills, and bodies in heaven.  I can just imagine me standing there waiting.  I am watching as all the boy babies make it to the front and they are soon on their way with these bodies that are destined to be tall and muscular.  They make the jump to earth and their new homes just waiting to grow up and become the next Babe Ruth or Michael Jordan.  I can also imagine my turn at the front of the line and Saint Peter saying something about sports and I miss understood and thought he said something about ketchup, and I said, “Sure, I’ll take a squirt.” Anyway, I arrived on earth a little shorter than average and not a sports bone in my body.  I should have listened closer.

All this became pretty apparent when it came to choosing teams.  Whether it was kickball, volleyball, basketball, dodgeball, or baseball, when the teams were chosen I was near the end of the line. As far as school sports, well, there were hundreds of kids in the schools I attended and trust me no one ever offered me a contract.  The only place I had a measure of success was, of course, at church.  I managed to make the church softball team though it was the “B” team. We did play tackle football after our Bible study time on Wednesday nights and there I made a name for myself. One of our teachers was named Eddie and he was, well, one large man and no one could tackle him, so they called him “Big Eddie.”  While I wasn’t nearly that large, I was harder to tackle so I gained the name “Little Eddie.”  Hey, when you are nameless in the world of sports, you will take anything.

My only foray into “professional sports” was Little League baseball when I was about 9 or 10.  I don’t remember if I actually made the team, or if everyone made the team.  Regardless, we were called the Gators and we, or rather they, were pretty good.  Again, I had absolutely no talents in baseball, so I was assigned to right field on the rare occasions that I got to play.  I was the kid who prayed a lot during the games.  It wasn’t that I was particularly spiritual—it was emotional survival.  First, I would pray that they wouldn’t play me and then, if they did, I would pray that no one would hit the ball to right field.  It didn’t work. Invariably someone would and well, it wasn’t good.

Then, of course, there was the batting thing.  Did you know that there are players who actually say they can see the stitches on the ball as it comes toward them?  Did you know there are players who actually know when and how to swing?  Can you guess I wasn’t one of those players?  Nope, the pitcher would pitch, and I would wonder where the ball was. That wasn’t pretty either.  So, the sad (you are feeling sorry for me by now, aren’t you) bottom line is that one day I just refused to go to practice.  I made it through about three quarters of the season and I just gave it up—I quit.

Well, guess what?  It turns out that even without me, the Gators ended up winning the championship.  Yup, they sure did.  I remember, the coach came by my house one evening and he was carrying a trophy.  He said that the team had won it all and even though I hadn’t finished the season, he wanted me to have a trophy.  I probably mumbled something about quitting because I was hit by a semi-truck and thanked him for bringing the trophy by.  The truth was there was no excuse—I just quit. And the other truth is because of that, the trophy meant absolutely, the grand total of—nothing.  I didn’t earn it and I didn’t deserve it.  Not because I wasn’t good, but because I didn’t finish.

I really don’t have a lot of regrets life but that is a small one I do own.  I’m ok with not being tall and gifted in sports, but I’m really not ok with being a quitter.  Not then—not now. If I would have waited, I could have been a champion, but I didn’t wait it out.  You know there was a guy in the Bible who had the same issue.  God had promised him a son, an heir.  The only problem was he and his wife were old—really old.  In fact, when God told him he was going to have a son, this guy fell on his face and laughed and said, “Shall a child be born to a man who is a hundred years old? Shall Sarah, who is ninety years old, bear a child?”

Instead of believing God, he decided to do things his way or really Sarah’s way. Since she couldn’t conceive, they opted for a concubine rather than wait on the miracle.  What a bad idea.  He and the concubine did have a son, but it wasn’t the son God had promised.  It really didn’t go well…and sadly it still isn’t going well.  Much of the conflict in that part of the world stems from this one man.  Oh, the consequences.

Oh, and by the way, guess what?  When they were both older than dirt, Sarah, his wife, did in fact conceive and the promised son was born.  God came through after all—surprise, surprise.  If only they had finished the season…if only they had waited, how different things would have been.  The good news is that God kept His word and blessed Abraham beyond his wildest dreams. You see even though Abraham quit believing, God never quit believing in him…and He won’t quit believing in you either.  I like that…actually, I love that.  Regardless of what you are waiting on, just hang on…just be patient, just wait and see what God has in mind. He’s never late and He’s never early, He’s right on time because He’s got this. Bro. Dewayne