Posted in Family, life, prayer, Scripture, sovereignty of God, thankful, travel, Trials

Paradox

Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not rely on your own understanding; in all your ways know Him, and He will make your paths straight.” Proverbs 3:5-6

It’s rather a paradox.  The story is told of two people who were married, and both happened to be doctors.  They were walking down the street together, holding hands, and someone saw them and said, “Oh look, a “pair of docs.” Smile.  I have a paradox of my own, but it has nothing to do with doctors.  You see, I love to travel.  My wife Judy and I genuinely look forward to traveling.  It is one of our “life candies.”

Now for the paradox.  To travel, you have to have somewhere to go.  Whether it is a plane, train, or automobile…you must go and going always involves opportunities for frustration.  Whether it is a canceled flight or train or a sudden traffic jam on the interstate, interruptions will and do come.  On one trip, we happened to be driving south on Interstate 24.  There was a stretch of road south of Paducah, Kentucky that the Department of Transportation had been working on for a long, long time.  The two south bound lanes have been reduced to one and that can spell slowdown.  But this time it didn’t.  Everyone managed to merge to one lane, and we were merrily heading south at a reduced but very respectable speed…until we weren’t.

Suddenly, I looked up and I could see lots and lots of brake lights.  So, I began to slow down and quickly found myself in a traffic jam.  Well, we managed to creep along at a blazing five or ten miles per hour.  I looked on the GPS and it confirmed there was an accident up ahead and that was the reason for the slowdown.  It also told me that the mess was somewhere between long but not the longest.  After a while the GPS told me that we were nearing the spot of the accident.  I was expecting the worse…police cars, ambulances, and destroyed vehicles, but that wasn’t what I found. Pulled off on the shoulder, as in not blocking any lanes, were three vehicles.  One had no damage and the other two had minor damage.  Apparently they were following too closely and someone hit the brakes and well, the rest is history.

There was no police presence, yet, there was no ambulance—in fact, everyone was standing around chatting and as soon as we passed the scene, it was over.  It was back to normal…zooming south again.  Two things quickly occurred to me. First, the choice of those two drivers to follow too closely sure caused a mess.  If one of them was in a hurry…well, they weren’t anymore.  Second, it seemed to me that while traffic needed to slow down, it didn’t need to almost come to a standstill.  It could have been curiosity or maybe a case of overreaction.  We do that well sometimes, don’t we? The bottom line is…it doesn’t matter…things happen. Period.

And therein lies the paradox.  Practically speaking, if we travel, we will have bumps and slowdowns.  It is just a part of life—the journey.  So, the trick is to do all that you can to avoid the bumps and slowdowns and don’t let them “eat your lunch” or keep you from doing the things you love.  You learn to accept them as part of the journey.  Now, I’m still learning this, but I have a feeling it is something worth exploring.  This goes somewhere beyond knowing the joy is in the journey which includes joy in the bumps and slowdowns.  It means somehow, (I’m still working on it), allowing those inconveniences to become part of the adventure.  I know that sounds crazy but at the same time it sounds…enticing.

I’m one of those crazy people who believe the Bible and believe what it teaches about life and God, and I am learning to believe that God has His hand on the wheel and throttle of life. He has a reason for cruising free and clear down the interstate of life and He has a reason for the bumps and slowdowns of life. It becomes a matter of being willing to trust Him for both.  A favorite proverb from the Book of Proverbs says, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not rely on your own understanding; in all your ways know Him, and He will make your paths straight.” Well, there you go.  Do life by trusting Him.

When I saw those brake lights the other day and had to slowdown…and even stop, it seems there was a whisper in my ear. It wasn’t shouting frustration or demanding an explanation. It was something I had heard before and needed to hear again.  It simply said, “Don’t worry, son, I’ve got this.” Bro. Dewayne

Posted in Family, food, friends, gratitude, life, Scripture, Southern born, thankful, Trials

Cooking Lesson

Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord, and whose hope is the Lord.” Jeremiah 17:7

It looked like a chocolate mud puddle…or worse. Well, I am a firm believer that God wires people in different ways. Some people are gifted in music, some in speaking; some are mechanically minded while others are whizzes at math.  It is no wonder why the Bible says that we are “fearfully and wonderfully made!”

Now if you are a regular Grits reader you know that I am a “foody.” I am blessed to have a wife who can cook very well. As a pastor at a church, one of my favorite things is when we decide to have a potluck. A potluck is when all the families bring a dish or two or three and we all share. At my church, a potluck doesn’t involve luck at all—you know it is going to be good.  I guess I appreciate good cooks so much because I am not one.  If cooking is a gift, I was in the wrong line when the gifts were distributed.  Let me explain.

One day I decided I wanted something sweet to eat.  I looked in the pantry and, in the refrigerator, but came up empty handed. I looked in the kitchen cabinets and found several boxed mixes.  There were two or three for cakes and one for brownies.  As my mind thought of sweet, gooey brownies–it was a done deal. I read the box and found I needed several ingredients–the mix–check; oil–check; water–check and two eggs–uh, no eggs.

I asked Judy what would happen if I skipped the eggs–she simply said, “It won’t work.”  She said something about a chemical reaction and the brownies being as flat as a pancake, but my mind had one thought–sweet, gooey brownies. I decided to press forward.  In fact, I even added more oil, more water, and some heavy whipping cream just for good measure.  After all, doesn’t more make everything better?  Who cares if it has nothing to do with brownies?

Well, I put them in the oven and set the timer for about twenty-five minutes.  Soon the timer was going off and I opened the door and peeked inside expecting a pan of delicious brownies.  What I found was anything but.  In fact, it resembled an oil slick…the kind you see when a tanker spills its cargo. It was some sort of goo—I guess a combination of pools of the oil, a black slime in the middle and a hard edge all around.  I guess that thing about the chemical reaction was right. Instead of ending up with a nice gooey brownie I ended up with a gooey mess.  It turned out that I wasted all those ingredients and twenty-five minutes of electricity.

So, what is the moral of the story?  Well, for one there is a reason why there is something called a recipe.  Someone smarter than me determined what it takes to make a delicious brownie and they were kind enough to share their wisdom.  If the recipe calls for eggs–it needs eggs.  I don’t know what the eggs do but I do know it does something important.  Someone on the internet suggested you could use Diet Coke instead of eggs.  I don’t know if that is true or not and I am not going to try and find out.  I’ve learned my lesson.  From now on Judy can cook the brownies and I will remain the eater in the family.

Oh, by the way, that following the recipe thing applies to God also.  You see, the greatest “cookbook” for a successful and purposeful life is the Bible. It is filled with recipe after recipe for a life that is truly worth living and it all starts with trusting and having faith in God.  In the Old Testament part of the Bible, a guy named Jeremiah said, “Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord, and whose hope is the Lord.” He knew what we need to know…God is reliable.

The Bible says that Jesus is the one essential ingredient to our salvation.  I don’t know if Diet Coke will replace eggs, but I do know nothing can replace Jesus. You can add all the good works you want; add all the church you want and get baptized till you wrinkle but without Jesus—it just won’t work.  It is He and He alone that makes salvation possible.  All our additions will only make a gooey mess out of salvation.  Add the key ingredient and you can’t miss!

Well, for all you brownie lovers out there I hope you learned from my disaster!  Just remember, those ingredients are listed and needed for a reason–it won’t work without them.  And for each of you who are looking for a full life—one with purpose and peace, don’t forget the key and that is Jesus. Go ahead, ask others, and ask Him.  You will find He is the real deal.  Need a hand in the kitchen of life? Give God a chance. I’ve found that He is always willing and always there. Even when your life looks like a chocolate mud puddle…or worse…you can have the assurance that “He’s got this.”  Bro. Dewayne

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

Quiet Time

Before daybreak the next morning, Jesus got up and went out to an isolated place to pray.” Mark 1:35

Something just wasn’t right.  You know you never know what you are going to get when you stay with someone.  From the bed to what’s for breakfast, well, it’s all up for grabs.  That is especially true when it comes time to shower.  I’ve learned you just have to be flexible.  Sharing the house with my wife, three daughters and a girl dog meant that things could get pretty girly.

Being a man, I use man soap.  It might be whatever was on sale, or it could even be Lava—that soap that grinds off the first layer of your skin.  One thing was for sure—it didn’t smell like a girl.  Then came all these women in our household along with the advent of body wash.  It wasn’t long before the Lava, he-man soap was replaced with something that smelled like roses or gardenias.  This really causes a problem when you walk into the office and smell like a garden.  The guys on staff kinda give you a strange look.

But here is the deal.  It didn’t stop with just the soap or even the shampoo.  It got down to the toothpaste.  Oh, it wasn’t that it tasted like flowers…it tasted like bubblegum.  A while back, Judy and I were spending the night with our daughter and son-in-law and their kids…a couple of our grandkids.  So, anyway, I survived the sweet smelling soap and shampoo only to discover that I was out of toothpaste.  I looked around and gratefully found a tube on the vanity.  I didn’t read the label past the part that said, “toothpaste.”

I squirted a glob on my he-man electric toothbrush and proceeded to give my teeth the once over.  About two seconds in the process I realized that this toothpaste tasted different.  You see, I am old-fashioned.  I believe that toothpaste should taste like peppermint on steroids.  You know, the kind that when you are done you know you don’t have bad breath.  And mouthwash? It’s gotta be the same.  I like to take a big swig of Listerine and swish it around for as long as I can stand it…about five-seconds.  Well, that day was not like any of that.

As I brushed, I realized this toothpaste was sweet and gooey.  It took me a moment before I could place the taste and then it hit me.  It was bubblegum.  Now, excuse me, but who ever heard of bubblegum toothpaste? What’s next, “Snickers?” I thought the whole point of this process was to clean your teeth not birth a desire to blow bubbles.  What is the world coming to? Well, anyway, there was no other option, so I finished up.  I went out into the kitchen still kinda wanting to pucker my lips to blow a bubble.  And besides that—something just didn’t feel right and then it hit me.  It just didn’t feel clean…and I told Judy so.  I knew I had brushed my teeth, but it didn’t feel like I had brushed my teeth.

You know, and this probably seems weird, but that is sometimes how I feel after another of my morning habits—my quiet time.  A quiet time is when you get by yourself, read God’s Book, the Bible, maybe read what someone else wrote about God and then talk to God.  It’s God time to get you ready to face the day.  I know it is a good idea because Jesus did it.  More than once in the Bible we are told He got up early and went out by Himself and prayed. I figure if it worked for Him, it would certainly work for me.

Now there are some days I know that what I read stuck and what I prayed got heard. Even though I couldn’t see God—I knew He was listening. But then there are the “bubblegum” days.  Days when I read and don’t remember and pray and feel like my prayers were just circling the ceiling fan. Oh I “brushed” but it just didn’t feel like it. Just like bubblegum toothpaste. Hmmm.

I know that if you want minty—well, you must get some minty toothpaste. All the sweet gooey toothpaste in the world just won’t get the job done.  And if I want to have a God time that is going to make a difference…it must be intentional.  Not just a habit but a special time with your Heavenly Father…the One who loves you no matter what—the One who patiently waits for you—for me…the One whose grace leaves us fresh and spiritually minty!  So, why not mark your calendar for a time tomorrow when you can meet with the One who loves you the most?  Take a moment to rest in Him and know that “He’s got this.” Bro. Dewayne

Posted in Family, food, forgiveness, Grace, gratitude, life, love, loving others, prayer, Scripture, thankful, wisdom

Seasoning for the Seasons

If the salt loses its flavor, how shall it be seasoned? It is then good for nothing but to be thrown out and trampled underfoot by men.” Matthew 5:13b

Man..that would have to be bland.  I was talking to someone the other day and they said something that caught my ear.  They said, “I don’t like salt.”  Wait. What?  I mean I’ve heard lots of people say that they don’t use salt.  The reason is usually a doctor or a spouse that has laid down the law.  It is usually medically driven, and you do without so you can keep on doing.  But this person said he didn’t like salt. That is just hard to imagine.

You all probably know that I love food…just about all kinds, all flavors, and all portions.  But food without seasoning just kinda takes away the whole point.  You know what Jesus said don’t you?  He said that salt that has lost it savor…its flavor…its ability to influence is worthless.  “Chuck it out on the sand pile,” he said.  Imagine grits with no salt, green beans with no salt (or fatback…oh my), mashed potatoes with no salt (wait that might even be a sin) and the list just goes on and on.  At least for me it becomes a gray world where eating becomes something you have to do instead of something you want to do…you crave to do.

I was listening to a short devotional video that sparked all this thinking about seasoning and salt.  The person said we should allow God’s Word to marinate our lives.  Let me explain.  I like chicken.  I really like fried chicken. I especially like fried chicken that has been dipped in a really good dry mixture of spices—how many does the Colonel use? Or maybe it is a wet batter just waiting to be plunged to a frying pan of hot grease.  Can someone say hallelujah?

Believe it or not there are other ways to eat chicken and one of the most popular is grilled chicken. I’m a fan of that too but especially when the chicken has been marinated in some sort of marinade.  You see, as the chicken takes a bath in whatever it is the flavor of the marinade slowly seeps into the chicken…changing it from just chicken to something that is just about heavenly.  Are you tracking with me?  So, the bottom line just seems to be the things that we season our food with changes the whole experience.  It is true with food…and it is true with life.

An unseasoned life can be pretty boring and at the same time a life seasoned with the wrong things can be pretty disastrous.  It is important that we allow the right things to influence us.  The wrong environments, the wrong company, the wrong media habits, and the wrong mindset can all set us up for a life that at the least is less than and at the most leaves us depressed, discouraged, and disillusioned.  Just like with food…the seasonings matter.  Colonel Sanders talks about his secret blend of seasoning and spices, but I don’t want this to be a secret.

You see, as I have journeyed through the kitchen of life (and trust me I have ended up in a few frying pans) I have discovered the secret to a well-seasoned life.  Are you ready?  It is a personal relationship with the God who created it all.  Now wait…don’t close the book yet.  Notice I didn’t say religion, I didn’t say church, I didn’t say doing this or doing that…I said a personal encounter with the God who loves me and you enough to give His Son to a Roman cross.  When you add that kind of love to your life…it’s gotta be good.  Smucker’s (they make jams and jelly) says this, “If it is Smucker’s it has to be good.”  I’ve had their stuff and it is pretty sweet…no pun intended.

Well, let me tell you, if it is God, contrary to what you have heard, it has got to be good.  Now I’m not talking about the version you see too often in the lives of people…I am talking about the version that you find in His book…the Bible.  So, if you are thinking about adding some seasoning to your life, let me encourage you to get a copy of the Bible and try reading about Jesus.  You might want to start in the Gospel (which means Good News) of John.  Using the index will make it easy to find.  What you will discover will change the flavor of your life.  If you are finding that things in your world are just a little or a lot bland—ask the Master Chef—He’s got this.  Bro. Dewayne

Posted in Grace, gratitude, life, missions, Scripture, sovereignty of God, travel

Don’t Drink the Water

“For His anger lasts only a moment, but His favor lasts a lifetime! Weeping may last through the night, but joy comes with the morning.” Psalm 30:5

It was my first real mission trip. In 2003, I was given the opportunity to go on a mission trip to Bulgaria. In case you don’t know what a mission trip is, it is when you go to a different part of the world and do Jesus stuff. It might be medical, it might be teaching, it might be giving food away or most anything else that Jesus might do. Bulgaria is up by the Black Sea and snack dab in the middle of the old Soviet block. It was a different world. Imagine stepping back in time to the late fifties or early sixties and that’s where we landed.

When we arrived, it was instant culture shock. The food was different, the language was different, the people were different…everything was different. And there was one big rule—don’t ever drink the water. I was a little nervous and a whole lot excited. Get ready, boys, this is the great adventure. We were given an assignment and my new friend Mike, and I were sent to work a couple of hours from the rest of the group. We were up by the Blue Danube River and not far from the North Sea. We would be working with the Roma people. These folks, also known as Gypsies, were the outcasts of their society…the poorest of the poor and broken.

When we arrived, we were shown a nice apartment where we would stay. It was very recently remodeled and look almost American. We began working right away and starting going to remote villages. Through an interpreter we would talk to folks, I would sing and then one, or both of us, would teach about Jesus. The people were so kind. I remember I was introduced to Turkish coffee for the first time in my life. As you might know with Turkish coffee, they simply dump the grounds in the pot and boil them. They poured me a cup and I took a slug. First response—I almost choked on the grounds. Second response—I didn’t know what to do with the grounds, so I chewed them. Yup…the best part of waking up is with coffee grounds in your cup.

Later in the week, and near the end of our time with the people, we were given the opportunity to do some preaching down on the city square. It was pretty awesome. I sang a song and then preached…and let me tell you I preached. They might not have understood everything I said, but they knew I was excited about it. After I finished it was hot and I was thirsty. A nice street vendor offered me some red Kool Aid. I was so grateful. He filled up a glass and I drank the whole cup in one swig. Man, it was so good, so fruity, and so made with the water… I was not supposed to drink. I never gave it a second thought…until later that night.

After we got back to the apartment, we had supper and went to bed. About 11:00 pm we heard this awful noise and it came from the bathroom. Well, it turns out, a majority of the new plaster ceiling in the bathroom had fallen—filling the sink, the toilet and the floor with plaster pieces. We quickly decided we could clean it up in the morning. There is a great verse in the Bible that says, “Weeping may last through the night, but joy comes in the morning.” Well, that verse took on new meaning for me that night.

About 2:00 am I was suddenly awakened by what can only described as the worse cramping and nausea I have ever felt. Remember the red Kool Aid? Well, it was revenge time. I quickly went to the bathroom only to rediscover the sink and toilet totally filled with fallen plaster. It wasn’t a pretty picture. I can only remember trying to clean out the sink and the toilet before the impending disaster hit. I barely made it. Long story short, I was a regular attender to the bathroom all night and into the next day. Sure enough, there was weeping thought the night and joy was scarce. The only “joy” in the morning was when the guys went to the local pharmacy and bought me a Depends. HaHa. Thanks guys.

Well, I was sick for the next day or so, but before we got on the plane for home, I was better. Someone let my wife Judy know that I was really sick and that she should look for the insurance policy. Ok, it wasn’t that bad, but I thought it was. I did learn a couple of really good lessons. One…when you do something that God wants you to do…it doesn’t mean that everything is going to be rosy. In fact, you may end up with a bouquet of weeds. But, I wouldn’t trade the experience for anything. Second…when the rule book says “don’t drink the water, DON’T drink the water. Write it on your hand, write it in your Bible, put duct tape over your mouth, but DON’T drink the water. And by the way, when God says don’t do something, there is also a reason why. He’s not being mean…He is being loving.

Well, we made it home and that trip led to many more…not to Bulgaria but rather to Africa. And guess what? We definitely couldn’t drink the water there either! Guess what again? I didn’t drink the water, because I remembered a lesson that I had learned a couple of years earlier. It just one way that God can take the worst things and teach us something good. Yay God. So, as we journey through these “Bulgarian” days and should we forget and “drink the water,” you will find a loving Heavenly Father who will walk you through the hardest times. He won’t walk out on you, ever. You will find that you can always rest in Him because He’s got this. Bro. Dewayne

Posted in Family, food, forgiveness, Grace, loving others, priorities

Pot Roast and Traditions

“Jesus replied, “And why do you, by your traditions, violate the direct commandments of God?” Matthew 15:3

It is a tale that I could identify with. The story is told of a young girl who was watching her mother prepare Sunday’s lunch. She watched as her mother carefully cut the pot roast in two before placing it in the pan. This intrigued her so she asked her mother why she did this. Her answer was simple and direct, “Because my mother did.” She wasn’t quite satisfied with the answer so her mother told her to go and ask grandma. And she did. Grandma gave her the same answer, “Because my mother did.” Well, the little girl decided to ask her great grandmother why she cut her roast in two. So, the next time she was at the nursing home visiting, she asked. Without missing a beat she said, “Well, honey, my pot was too small.”

Isn’t it funny how something done for a particular reason can be passed on and on. Isn’t it strange how we do something and long after the reason for doing it is gone…we keep right on doing it? I know because I’ve got a “thing” in my world. You, way back in 1985, my wife Judy and I purchased a Oldsmobile Cutlass Cruiser. It quickly became one of our favorite cars. It had the woodgrain trim down the side and seating for eight. It also had something else…it had a digital dash. Now keep in mind that was pretty high tech for 1985. Well, it had a little glitch.

That little glitch really was big one…the gas gauge was just not accurate. It often said you had more gas than you did. Well, one day, it got me…I ran out of fuel. After a lift to a station and returning with a borrowed gas can of gas, I was soon back on the road again…sing it Willie. And, that day, a new habit was born. Every time I bought fuel I would fill the tank and reset the trip odometer so I would know how far I could go. I never trusted the gauge again. So I would fill up with gas and reset the trip odometer…over and over again.

Well, one day it was time for the Oldsmobile Cruiser to cruise on and we got another car. New car, new gas gauge…no need to reset the trip odometer, right? Maybe not but the same old habit remained…always fill the tank and always reset the trip odometer. Now the gauge in the new car worked perfectly but the old habit remained. And guess what? It remains today. Here’s the deal. Thirty-seven years have come and gone and every time I buy fuel—I press reset. And if Judy happens to buy fuel instead of me, and she forgets to hit reset, I explain to her she needed to do it. And, she gives me the, “why” look and I just tell her because it’s just what we do. You might say I cut the roast in half because I always have.

So, is there something in your life that you are clinging to just because you have always done it that way? Of course it might be something that is totally harmless but sometimes…sometimes it isn’t. Sometimes it can lead to an angry exchange because someone didn’t keep the habit…the tradition. Sometimes relationships can be damaged. I’ve seen this so many times in churches. A tradition is messed with and World War III breaks out. The bottom line is there are habits, there are things, there are traditions that are noteworthy and good but we shouldn’t let them break friendships, relationships and hearts. Honestly, we may not need to cut the roast in two after all.

In the Bible back in the days of Jesus, the religious leaders added all kind of rules and traditions to their daily lives. The crazy part is they gave the traditions the same weight as the Law of God and trust me that was not a good idea. In fact, it wasn’t a good idea then and it sure isn’t now either. Jesus, talking to the temple leaders, said, “And why do you, by your traditions, violate the direct commandments of God?” Now that’s a good question.

I hope this will remind us that there are more important things to do than cutting your roast in half. In other words, there are hills worth dying on and others that should be let go. And most important, don’t let opinions and traditions drive a wedge between you and another person. It just isn’t worth it. A broken heart or relationship is far too high of a price to pay. If you ever need some advice about this, just ask your Heavenly Father. He will tell you that people matter more than pride, or traditions or habits. And if you have already made a mess with this, don’t worry, He can help with the cleanup…He’s got this. Bro. Dewayne

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

Welcome Home

Let us think of ways to motivate one another to acts of love and good works. And let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do, but encourage one another, especially now that the day of His return is drawing near.” Hebrews 10:24-25

That’s a wrap.  When a film crew is filming, and the job is complete they call it a wrap.  The filming is over, done, finito (that’s Italian for finished…impressive huh?) Well, while the Covid virus is going to be a part of our lives for the rest of our lives, apparently it is finito. With herd immunity and all the new medicines available, its power has been dramatically reduced.  If you ever saw the cartoon version of “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” you remember that the abominable snowman lost his bite then they pulled his teeth.  So now, it seems with Covid also.

I heard the other day that our President even announced that it was done and looking around I agree. The other night my wife, Judy, and I went out to eat and we chose Cracker Barrel.  Now believe it or not, this restaurant has been a pretty good judge of Covid’s impact.  Of course, there was a time during Covid when it was closed, there was a time when they spaced everyone out and there were no condiments on the tables.  There was a time when there were paper menus that were promptly trashed after someone touched them.  And, when you walked in there might be a couple of dozen people there. But now, it seems, things have changed.

As I said, Friday night, we visited the closest Cracker Barrel. When we pulled into the parking lot, it was just about full.  I told Judy, “I sure hope we don’t have to wait.” I hate waiting…especially waiting to eat.  We walked in and to my surprise there wasn’t a line.  The hostess asked how many, picked up a couple of menus and took us to our table.  Well, here you go.  The first dining room was totally full…something that I had not seen for two years.  There were condiments on the tables and people were talking, laughing, and eating.  The next dining room was about 70 percent full but that is where we found our table.  Our hostess gave us a couple of real menus and that is when I said it, “Judy, it is normal.” So, we enjoyed a great meal and well, it all just felt good.

Normalcy.  It does feel good, but the truth is somethings just aren’t.  I went to the hospital to visit some folks this week and they are still requiring masks…sorta.  The signs say you must be screened to enter but you don’t.  The signs say that even one, including patients, must wear a mask but none of patients did though most other people did.  A real strange outcome of all of this is the job market.  There apparently are more jobs than people who want to work. I saw a sign that said, “Now Hiring…Just Like Everyone Else.” And believe it or not, when some people take a job, they may only stay a few days or weeks.  How different…how strange.

I went to my hearing doctor this week and he asked me how church (he knows I am a pastor) was going and what percentage of people have come back.  I told him we were running about 80 or 85 percent of our pre-Covid numbers.  The truth is while Covid was doing its thing some folks just gave up on the church thing.  Now that’s doesn’t necessarily mean they gave up on God, they just came to the conclusion that church wasn’t that big of a deal.  I’m sure some people feel the same way about Cracker Barrel—pre-Covid they loved it but now they can do without it.  How different…how interesting.

As a preacher, pastor guy I’m hoping that more of those who stopping coming and some who never came will rediscover and discover the value of this part of normalcy.  I never gave up on Cracker Barrel because I love their breakfast and their meatloaf isn’t too bad either.  There are several things that your local church provides that are worth hanging on to.  Chief among them are friendships and fellowship, someone to walk with you and your family as you do life, studying the number one bestselling book, the Bible, and being together with other people who think God is still relevant…because He is.

So, welcome back to normal.  As you rediscover life, I hope you will enjoy a great meal somewhere familiar…maybe Cracker Barrel or better a local place that misses you.  And why not think about coming home to God’s house.  Truthfully, they need you and you need them. The church offers something that nothing, not hobbies, not sports, not anything else can provide. It offers hope…it offers Jesus.  Whoever wrote Hebrews said, “Let us think of ways to motivate one another to acts of love and good works. And let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do, but encourage one another, especially now that the day of His return is drawing near.” Now that’s some good advice.  I know, sometimes it is hard to come home but your Dearest Daddy is waiting and ready to help.  Don’t worry…He’s got this. Bro. Dewayne

Posted in fear, friends, gratitude, life, Scripture, sovereignty of God, Trials

When Bad News Meets Good News

See how very much our Father loves us, for He calls us His children, and that is what we are!” 1 John 3:1

Some things were just better in the old days…like the weather report.  Back when the local weather was sponsored by one of the local oil brands and the weatherman wore a service station (that is a gas place where they pumped your gas, checked your oil and cleaned your windshield) uniform, things were so much simpler.  He would get his magic marker out and draw some symbols on his paper map and forecast the weather. It was easy.  If it was going to be hot…he would say it was going to be hot.  If it was going to be cold…he would say it was going to be cold.  If it was going to rain…he just laid it out in simple terms.  Yup…those were the days.

It kinda reminds me of my visit to a gift shop in the Smokey Mountains.  They had what they called a “Hillbilly Weather Station.”  It was a rock attached to a string.  It also had a card that went with it that said if the rock was hot, it was hot. If the rock was cold, it was cold. If the rock is wet, it was raining and finally, if the rock was swinging on the string, it was windy.  My simple sense of humor likes that even now.  But today, they have to give us a lot more information and most the time I am grateful, except for this.

This is this.  Instead of simply saying it is going to be hot they must go a step further and give us what they call the “feel like temperature.”  In other words, if the temperature is going to be 90 degrees and there happens to be a bunch of humidity in the air, well, they let us know it is going to feel like 100 degrees and we are going to be extra miserable. And, if it is cold and there is a wind, well, just to make sure we know how miserable we really are, we have wind chill. Now I know their intent is good, but I just wish they wouldn’t go the extra mile in defining and describing my misery.

If that isn’t enough, the news folks seem to feel like they must top the weather folks.  They scrap up every bit of bad, discouraging, and disgusting news they can find and then read it to us with passion and glee.  It is almost like they want to say, “You only thought things were bad…just listen to this”.  And “this” is always about the awfulness of our broken world.  Yup, I think the weather and news people are in cahoots with one another to make sure we are miserable.

Well, if that isn’t enough, then there are some folks that we bump into in our world and it seems they just can’t wait to slosh their negativity on someone else.  Like Eeyore in the Winnie the Pooh stories, theirs is a “woe is me” world.  Eeyore once said, “I wish I could say yes…but I can’t.”  Well, the truth is we can.  In a world where some choices are limited, the choice of how we act and think is all ours.  We get to choose to be what stories our “newscast” is going to cast and what report our “weather reporter” is going to report.

One of the reasons I love God is that He is a positive thinker.  His book, the Bible, is a reality check but it is also a book of good news.  In fact, when describing the story of how much God loves us and how He sent His son into this broken world to pay the price for our sin…it is called “the” Good News or Gospel.  And if you allow that Good News to be your good news—well it changes everything.  So, if you need a change, if you need some Good News, why not try the Bible.  It will tell you the truth, but that truth includes God’s incredible love for me and for you.

In a part of the Bible called the New Testament, John, one of Jesus’ closest followers wrote, “See how very much our Father loves us, for He calls us His children, and that is what we are!” Wow…the God who made it all loves us enough to call us His own.  Now that is worth hearing about and the place to go to hear it is His Word.  So, when you are feeling down and things look hopeless, why not look up…to the God who wants to be your Dearest Daddy.  Imagine a world of Good News…with Someone who is waiting to whisper to you, “Don’t worry.  I’ve got this.”  Bro. Dewayne

Posted in Family, Grace, gratitude, life, loving others, missions, prayer, Scripture, travel, Trials

Don’t Move

Your word is a lamp to guide my feet and a light for my path.” Psalm 119:105

Sing it, Willie, sing it.  It was around noon on a Tuesday in July when I could once again hear Willie’s words rolling around in my ears.  Yup, we were “on the road again” and this time we were going on a really long and really big adventure.  My wife Judy and I, along with a couple of our friends, were going to England on a mission trip to love on some folks from Africa who now live in England.  Africa has long held a special place in our hearts, so we were really excited about serving those special folks.

You probably have already figured out that we couldn’t drive to England, and you probably also know that these days anything to do with airports and planes can be just a little chaotic.  Well, this time was no different.  We got checked in, they were kind enough to relieve us of our luggage and then it was time to go through security.  I’ve done this enough to know the ropes. I wear pants that don’t require a belt and shoes that don’t have laces.  I put everything possible in my backpack, so my pockets are all empty…just the way the security people like it.  Check, check, and check. Not only was I on the road again but I was ready to roll through security.

Soon it was my turn to go through the security thingy.  There are two kinds of machines that they use.  First is the metal detector thingy and then there is the body scan thingy.  I drew the body scan thingy.  So, you step into this booth thing, put your feet on the two yellow shoe spots on the floor, raise your hands above your head and wait.  The person causally says, “Don’t move” and this thing takes a picture of your whole body and makes sure you don’t have anything that you shouldn’t.  Well, my rolling through security was about to hit a snag.  And it all started with me trying to do the right thing.

As I stepped into the booth and raised my hands, I quickly glanced down and noticed one of my feet was not on the yellow spot. So, I slid my foot over.  Unfortunately, that was just about the time that she mashed the magic button and, well, I failed the test.  She asked me to step out and told me, “You moved.”  Well, I said, “Well, let’s just do it again.”  “Oh no,” she said, “anyone who moves get a special prize.  You get to have a full body search.  Please step over here.” Bewildered and wondering, I stepped over.

Soon, there was an officer, explaining and apologizing for what was about to happen.  There was no magic metal detecting wand, no, he had to check me out…carefully.  So, well, it wasn’t fun, it was embarrassing, and I learned an important lesson about those two words, “Don’t move.”  You see, in the end it didn’t matter that my intentions were good.  In the end it didn’t matter that I was trying to do the right thing.  The only thing that mattered is that I moved…I broke the rules and because of that there was a price to pay. Bummer.

Well, here is the deal.  That is true in airport security…trust me, I know.  But it is also true in life.  We often seem too think that the rules of life were meant for someone else.  Or often we just assume that we can get a “do over.”  Well, here is a news flash.  The rules of life apply to everyone…the rich and famous and the everyday Joe.  And very often, there is not a do over. There’s an old saying that says, “do the crime and you’ll do the time.” Well, I sure learned that applies to airport security. Smile.

One of the things I love to share is that when God gave us the Bible it wasn’t to hurt us…it was to help us.  It wasn’t a book to put us in shackles but rather a Book to set us free.  I know that when I pay attention to His Word, I have fewer regrets and smaller circumstances.  Trust me…it is true.  So, even if you aren’t a God person, you might want to check out the Bible.  It sure seems that life just goes better when we follow His rules and take His advice.

In the Bible it says that God’s word is like a lamp to guide our feet and a light for our path. If you’ve ever walked in a dark room or down a dark path, you know the value of a flashlight.  Starting today, why not let the Word of God be your flashlight?  Better yet why not invite God to be your guide? After all, He knows the way, has never made a mistake, and is just waiting to help you. He’s got this. Bro. Dewayne

Posted in Family, friends, Grace, gratitude, life, loving others, prayer, Scripture, thankful

Trash Day

See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are.” 1 John 3:1

So long trash.  Some years ago, my friend David introduced me to the Gmail calendar.  It was a game changer and life saver.  Back in the day most pastors carried a little pocket calendar wherever they went.  Unfortunately, it just wasn’t my thing.  And, invariably, someone would tell me something and I would not have a calendar, nor a piece of paper nor a pen or pencil.  I would really try to remember all this important stuff but well it just didn’t work.

Well, one day my friend David told me about the Gmail calendar.  I already had a smartphone, but I just hadn’t been introduced to the Gmail calendar app.  Then, one day, we met, and it was love at first sight.  With the Gmail calendar I can instantly add things to my calendar.  Joe is having surgery. Check. Personnel meeting Tuesday at 6pm. Check. Don’t forget Judy’s birthday.  Double check.  On and on the list goes and while the system isn’t perfect…it works so much better.  All that important stuff has a much better chance of not being forgotten. Thank you, Gmail and David.

Another cool feature of this calendar is that you can set a reminder for something every day, week, or month.  You can even schedule things next year.  One of the things that I have set up on my calendar is the reminder to carry the trash to the curb.  You see, our trash guy comes early Monday morning so we really need to set it out early…like the night before early.  Well, every Sunday evening I get a reminder to put the trash out. More than once that reminder has saved us from a week of too much stinky trash.

Speaking of trash…isn’t it amazing just how much trash we generate? I know for two people we seem to make a lot.  Several times a week I must take the trash out of the kitchen and to the big trash and then out to the curb on Sunday nights. Usually, of course, the trash is just trash. Potato chip bags, coke cans, plastic water bottles…you know…trash.  Of course, there is the stinky stuff too. Meat wrappers, old veggies, scraps…you know…stinky stuff.  It is never hard to throw any of that away…it has to go.

Sometimes, when we are cleaning out this or that, we toss out sorta-kinda, good stuff.  An old glass or two, a figurine with a chip or two, or maybe a slightly broken lamp…you know…semi-good stuff. It might be useful to someone but not to us so out it goes. As I cruise around town, I am amazed at the stuff people throw away.  They are often things people paid a lot of money and they are discarded…no longer wanted or needed.  Like I said, sometimes it is amazing.  You wonder, what caused the discard? Outta space. Taste changed.  Left over from the last move.

Well, I don’t always get it but there is one thing I do get, and I am grateful.  I am so glad that God doesn’t have a trash day.  And more than that…I am glad that He will never, ever throw me away like so much discarded trash.  You see, every one of His kids are valuable to Him.  He doesn’t just value the ones who always seem to get it right…He values all of them. More amazing than that is the fact He is just waiting to add to His family.  And, once you’re in…you’re in.  There is a cool verse in the Bible that says, “See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so, we are.” Wow. How awesome is that.

If you are a Jesus follower, a person who said, “yes” and asked and received God’s forgiveness by believing in His Son, you never have to worry about trash day.  He will not, and I repeat, will not, kick you to the curb.  How about that?  And if you haven’t made that decision yet, what are you waiting for?  God loves you and can’t wait for you to join the family.  You don’t need to get better, you just need to come and when you do…well, welcome home.

So, you might want to check out the Gmail calendar…it sure helped me.  And be sure and check out God…He loves you a lot and won’t let you go.  Oh, and as you do life, you will find Him always there for you just waiting to let you know that…He’s got this.  Bro. Dewayne