Posted in Family, friends, Grace, gratitude, Scripture, sovereignty of God, thankful, Trials

Be You!

God saw all that He had made, and it was very good indeed. Evening came and then morning: the sixth day.” Genesis 1:31

It was a profound statement.  It was1967 and I was in junior high.  In Jacksonville that meant grades 7-9 and it meant a whole different world from elementary school.  For the first time we went to separate classes and got to choose some of our food at lunch in the cafeteria. I remember, for a dime, you could buy a bowl of french fries. While they weren’t anything like McDonald’s, I do believe they were potatoes, and they were long and skinny.

It may have been the sixties, but there were rules. For the girls skirts and dresses had to be a certain length. For the guys your hair could only be so long and then there were the big three: shirt tucked in, wear a belt, and socks.  Break those and you and the principal had a date.  By the time I was in the ninth grade, things were relaxing some and that included the big three.  On Fridays, boys were allowed to untuck their shirts, not wear a belt, and not wear socks. Holy moly, what was the world coming to?  Looking back, the cool thing was to take the socks that you weren’t wearing and put them hanging out of your rear pant’s pocket.  Every Friday, my shirt was out, my belt stayed home, and my socks were flapping in the breeze.  Do you know why?  It was cool…and I wanted to be cool. I wanted to be in. I wanted to be accepted.

As you know, through the years the trends have changed, styles have come and gone, and so have the labels.  In high school Gold Toe socks were coveted and so were Gant shirts. We couldn’t afford either but when I joined the Air Force and could shop at the Base Exchange, they carried both and both became part of my world.  I was cool. I was in. I was accepted. Some things never change, and this is one of those.  There was always something that someone was wearing that if you had it, you just knew you would feel cool…accepted…part of the “in” crowd.  When I came to my current church, it was shirts with ponies and shoes named “Crocs.” Whatever the newest label, and there was always one, peer pressure and the desire to be cool, accepted, and in, pushed and pulled.  It seemed I always wanted to be what someone else was.

Thankfully, some of that has changed.  Ponies and crocs aren’t really that cool anymore, and I’m starting to realize that a label doesn’t define who I am.  I.Am.Me. In fact, my four favorite shirts are from Walmart and cost a grand total of $9.88 each. There’s nothing on the pocket—they are just plain shirts which is cool, because I define them…they don’t define me.

I read something this morning that was just profound.  Here it is. Are you ready?  “Each person was born an original; no one should die a copy.” Wow.  It goes like this.  Somewhere in heaven, God came up with a design plan for me.  He wrote the design and then declared it an original and just right. In fact, in Genesis 1:31, the Bible says, “God saw all that He had made, and it was very good indeed.” And do you know what?  That includes me and that includes you. There is not another me or you, anywhere, and that was intentional. I don’t need to be you and you don’t need to be me. We just need to be who God made us. Sure, fashion labels are fine, and I’m even sure there is a perfect weight and height, but those don’t dictate who we are…God does.

In the years that God gives me, I hope I will remember this.  When the clock stops ticking, the heart stops beating, and you are having a chicken dinner somewhere in my honor, I hope someone will be able to say, “That Dewayne, he was an original. God broke the mold when He made him.”  I don’t want to die a copy…I want to die an original.

Given my bent to be a people pleaser and desire to be cool, accepted and in, I’m sure that will be a challenge. Gratefully, my Dearest Daddy will be with me along the way to remind me that I am a custom-made job, and you are too.  And, if I am wise enough to ask and listen, He will help me be me.  Oh, and if I struggle, and I will, and you will too, just listen as He reassures us that, “He’s got this.” Bro. Dewayne

Posted in Family, fear, gratitude, life, prayer, priorities, Scripture, Trials

First It Was…Then It Wasn’t

I focus on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead.” Philippians 3:13

Twenty-two years ago, we moved to Harrisburg.  More specifically we moved to 217 West Poplar Street.  The house had been vacant for several years and we had a lot of work to do—inside and out.  Our lawn, or perhaps yard would be a better word, was a collection of weeds.  Except for one clump of daylilies, there was nothing—just a healthy crop of weeds and crabgrass. Now some would see that as a problem…an overwhelming one at that.  But what they would see as a problem—my wife, Judy, saw as an opportunity.  Just like an artist with a blank canvas, she went to work.

First you need to know that Judy has a green thumb—figuratively speaking. She has the amazing ability to plan and plant flowers and make gardens.  So, soon after we moved in, she set about turning the house into a home and the yard into a tapestry of flower beds. Before long, there were flower gardens filled many beautiful blooms.  Things were definitely looking up.

That year, I believe in the fall, we planted a pink dogwood tree.  Well, it might be better described as a pink dogwood twig. Now you might know that dogwood trees are just a little finicky.  You have to cuddle and nurture them, or they will take their ball and go home.  Well, we took good care of the little dogwood tree, and it grew.  I can remember after about three years it finally bloomed! It continued to grow and before long it was a real tree.  Judy and I were so proud.

After fifteen good years, our pride and joy started looking a little sick.  There were fewer leaves and the leaves it had were just not healthy.  I had a hunch that our dogwood tree was “checking out” and sure enough that spring it gave up the ghost. Apparently, an insect called a bore decided to bore into our tree.  Why?  Well, I guess he was just bored. Sorry, I couldn’t resist.  After it was apparent that the tree was dead, I remember saying to Judy that I just couldn’t imagine the front yard without it.

Well, even after it died, I let it stand for several months (hoping for a resurrection?) but finally decided to take it down. I had long ago given away my he-man chainsaw, so armed with my lobbers and—get ready—my saws-all, I tackled the tree.  Limb by limb, slowly the tree came down. It was a sad moment but soon after I was done, we looked and both of us commented how much better it looked without the dead tree there.  Did you catch that?  I couldn’t imagine it gone and then I couldn’t imagine it there!  What was the difference? Life and death.

You see, alive the tree was an asset—it added to our yard.  In the spring it had beautiful blooms and, in the fall, it had red leaves and berries. Once it died, well, it was a liability. I’m not sure why I left it standing as long as I did but truthfully it was better gone. Looking back, I began to wonder how many things in our life that were once an asset have now become a liability? The truth is times change, we change and sometimes we need to be willing to let go.  I know in view of 2020; it was very hard to let go of 2019. We held on to that old normalcy with a death grip. But no matter how hard we grasped, it slipped like beach sand through our fingers.

So, is there something that was good for back then but is pulling you down now?  Is it time to let go of an old friendship? An old habit? An old addiction? The truth is if we think about it, all of us have something that we need to be willing to let go of—and no, your spouse and kids don’t count! Smile. Our friend Paul, one of the main writers of the New Testament part of the Bible said he was going to let go of the past and reach for the future. Now that is good advice. As we journey in life let’s learn and perhaps honor the past but be ready and willing to embrace the future.  Sound a little frightening?  Don’t worry you don’t need to face it alone.  He’s got this. Bro. Dewayne

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

Just Like That

How sweet are Your words to my taste, sweeter than honey to my mouth!” Psalm 119:103

It happened just like that.  Oh, it must have been 30 or more years ago.  I was a young buck in my middle thirties.  Just like now…I liked ice cream…a lot.  So, one day I was reading the latest Reader’s Digest.  In it was an article about food and it happened to mention something.  It said that if you would put your ice cream in the microwave for about ten seconds, it would taste better and creamier.  Well, I said to myself, “If that will make my ice cream taste even better…sign me up.”  So I tried it and guess what? It worked.  The idea is that the microwave, which kinda works from the inside out, would melt the ice crystals in the ice cream thus making it more creamy.  Boom. I was a new devotee.  Just like that the way I enjoyed ice cream changed.  It is kinda odd when you are at someone’s house and you ask them to “nuke” your ice cream but, trust me, it is worth it.

Not quite as far back, I was having lunch with a friend of mine.  I explained to him when I woke up it seemed to take forever for me to really be awake.  Now, granted, I wake up early…really early.  It is not uncommon for me to crawl out of bed at 4.30 am so you might say, “Of course you’re still sleepy…go back to bed for goodness sake.”  Well, that just wasn’t going to work.  My body was sending me conflicting messages…it was done sleeping but I was still sleepy.  Well, he made a suggestion.  He said, “When you wake up and go to your man cave place, turn on every light in the room.”  He said that would send a clear message to my brain…it is time to open those peepers and start living.  Well, I tried it and boom…just like that…it worked.  So, now, every morning I wake up, head to my man cave place, turn on all the lights, and start my day…with a cup of coffee, of course. Amazing…just like that.

Not quite as far back, but still, oh, six or seven years ago, I was watching television and it was a food program.  I think it was the guy with spiky, blonde hair and the cool car.  He goes around and finds all these awesome places to eat.  Now that is a job I could get into. So this guy ended up in a hotdog place.  The discussion soon turned to what do you put on a hotdog when you eat one.  Well, this place thought putting ketchup on a hotdog was the same as the unpardonable sin and a class ten felony.  The hotdog guy said, “The only thing you can put on your dog is mustard. You may put ketchup on your hotdog but we won’t.”  Well, I had been a ketchup and mustard guy forever but I said “I need to try that…who knows?” So that very day I stopped putting ketchup on my hotdog and guess what?  They were right and just like that I changed and put only mustard on my dogs.  Period. None of that red stuff or that chopped up pickle stuff for that matter.  Just like that my dog life changed.

Looking back I am amazed how three bits of information changed three areas of my life—just like that.  And, for whatever reason, there was no going back.  I was all in.  Well, you know me, sometimes I like to think.  I wondered, “How many other areas of my life could or would be changed if I had some information that would influence me?  I think there might be a lot.  And I have a feeling I know just the source of that needed information—the Bible.  God’s Word is filled…from front to back…with truth and it covers so many important areas of life—much more important than hotdogs and ice cream.  So I wonder what would happen if we took His Word at His Word and read it and applied it.  What would happen?  I think we would be impressed and amazed. And the best part, the writer of Psalms said, “How sweet are your words to my taste, sweeter than honey to my mouth!”

So, the word for today is “nuke” your ice cream and drop the ketchup on your hotdog.  No, not really, it is bigger than that.  Why not spend some time in the Book of all Books and take what you read and let it change your life.  Who knows it might even make your ice cream taste better.  One thing for sure is that you will quickly figure out that life just goes better when you learn and believe that “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 Family, forgiveness, Grace, gratitude, life, loving others, Military memories, prayer, priorities, Scripture

Blindside

So whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets.” Matthew 7:12

I was blindsided.  It was time for a haircut. Now that is a relative statement—you know like relatively speaking.  I had five brothers and only two of us are left.  All the brothers had hair—lots of hair. No receding hairlines, no clogged drains in the shower, no nothing but lots of hair.  And then there is me.  While my daddy had a receding hairline he never lost his hair.  Well, that was them and that was him but it sure isn’t me.  It started with a receding hairline, then it became a thinning receding hairline and then it became a full blown retreat.  I now have a really, long forehead.  I don’t know if it is still in full retreat or if we are holding our own.  The jury is still out. So, I’m trying to say that a haircut for me is a relative statement. I am grateful that getting a haircut still doesn’t mean getting a solitary hair cut, but I do remember the days when there were more than a few.

Now, I keep my hair short for two reasons.  First, I have grayish white hair and I found it doesn’t look quite as white if I keep it shorter.  Second, and I can only guess, it is a carryover from my days with my Daddy and in the military.  For the first 18 years of my life my Daddy made sure I kept my hair short (even though it was the late sixties and early seventies).  After him, it was twelve years in the Air Force, and they made sure it was short. Well, after 30 years of short hair I figured, why change now?  So, the bottom line is about once a month I go see my hair cutter person.  Even after a month, my hair is sparse and less than an inch long.

So, I was in the chair and she was clipping and buzzing along.  She has cut my hair for the last 15 or so years so she knows the landscape pretty well.  Well, she said, “Dewayne did you hit your head or something?”  I assured her I hadn’t, but she was sure something had happened.  Well, my wife Judy had gotten me a pair of virtual reality goggles for Christmas.  I had used them the night before and the straps fitted pretty tightly around my head, so I assured her that was what she was seeing.  Then she said, “Well, let me show you.”

Before I knew it, there was a mirror in my hand, and she turned me around so I was looking in the mirror.  I could see something I had never seen—the back of my head.  Oh.My.Goodness.  You see, I naturally assumed that my…oh, how I hate to use the word…baldness stopped on top of my head.  I also assumed that I had the mane of Samson in the back.  I was wrong.  There in the mirror I got to see what everyone else saw all the time.  While it wasn’t totally hairless let’s just saw it was pretty thin.  You might say it was wavy—you know, the hairs there had plenty of space to wave at one another.

Well, I gasped and bless her heart, she did her best to assure me it wasn’t that bad—the average person looking wouldn’t even notice.  She said you would have to look real close to see it.  She was so nice, but I had the strangest feeling she was not telling the whole truth.  And in that moment I realized that my days of teasing people with a halo at the back of their head were probably over.  I had reached a new level of membership in the hair club—or perhaps more appropriately, the “no hair club.” What struck me as funny was I had no idea.  I really was blindsided.  I couldn’t see what any other person walking behind me could see.  To make matters worse, let’s just say that I’m not the tallest guy in the neighborhood. That means everyone taller than me, which is probably 90% of the adult population, had a great view of my impending hair doom.

Well, that started the wheels turning in my mind.  I wondered just how many other things are there about me that I am totally blind to?  How many times did my impatience at the grocery store show?  How many times did my glaring eyes betray my true feeling when some nice “little, old lady” pulled out in traffic in front of me?  How many times was my sarcasm not as veiled as I thought?  Oh my!

So, I think I might have learned something valuable at the hair cutting place that day.  It wasn’t that I should get a hand mirror so I can see the back of my head.  No, it was the fact that I should, we should, be aware that people are always deserving of our courtesy, our kindness, our compassion.  If we are Jesus people, especially if we are Jesus people, we should make a conscious decision to be authentically nice. The golden rule, which is found in the Bible, says “So whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets.” Truth is it is not always easy to be kind, but it is always right.  And when it seems especially hard, don’t panic.  God is good at being kind so you can rest assured that He will help you. After all, “He’s got this.”

Posted in Christmas, Family, gratitude, Holidays, life, loving others, priorities, Southern born, sovereignty of God, thankful, wisdom

Christmas Morning Wake-Up Call

Besides this you know the time, that the hour has come for you to wake from sleep. For salvation is nearer to us now than when we first believed.” Romans 13:11

We were the three little ones.  Mama and Daddy either by plan or accident ended up with a big family.  They had five reasonably close together and then took a break before finishing up the family with three more.  The three little ones consisted of two girls and one boy.  I was the boy and as the baby in the family, I was the best.  They called me “Precious”, because I was.  Smile.

The story isn’t about that, but I love stirring the pot.  The way it worked out at Christmas, the five older kids entered the world of nonbelievers long before we three.  I’m sure because one of my sister-in-laws said she changed my diapers.  But for the three little ones, Christmas was a magical world of believing and receiving.

On Christmas Eve night, we three were put into one bedroom.  The main part of the house only had two, so it seemed logical.  About 8:00 pm, Mama and Daddy would put us in the bedroom to “go to sleep” but of course that never happened.  We would lie in bed, whispering and giggling.  At some point, we would begin hearing strange noises coming from the living room.  I remember one year my sister asked for a “chord organ.” Imagine our excitement when, as we were “asleep,” we begin to hear musical sounds coming through the thin walls.  We couldn’t wait.  We would holler out and tell lies.  We would say, “We have to go to the bathroom.”  Of course, we didn’t, but we would do anything to “sneak a peek.”

Eventually, and it varied from year to year, we would doze off to sleep.  And yes, there were visions of sugar plums dancing in our head. I am sure we woke up several times throughout the night to check the clock and it was always too early.  But we would know when it was time to get up.  The “410” would tell us.  You see my Daddy owned an old single shot 410 shotgun and every year that became our alarm clock.  Daddy, or one of the old brothers, would open the backdoor of the breezeway, stick the gun out and let her go.  The window where we were sleeping was right beside that door, so we had no problem hearing old Bessie when the time came. And, trust me, when the gun went off, we were up and running.

The door would fly open and we would turn right into the living room and there would be a wonderland of toys and presents.  Our stockings would be stuffed to overflowing and we, well, we were amazed.  As we sifted through the piles of gifts and as the piles of used wrapping paper grew taller, it was heaven—at least to the three little ones.  I remember my sister-in-law, the same one that changed my diapers, took on the responsibility of going through all that paper to make sure some tiny, but important, part didn’t get accidentally thrown out.

The “410” became an heirloom in the family and I’m not sure who ended up with her. She had killed her fair share of squirrels but the most important thing, in my opinion, was that she let us know it was time for Christmas.  It was time to get up. I think that is one thing I have learned through this COVID-19 hot mess.  You might say it was a 410 of sorts.  When it started in-mass to impact us, it sent a message loud and clear that it was time for some changes.  It was time for new priorities.  It was time to make time for the things that matter, like family, and time to let go of a lot of stuff. It was time to make every day matter because for too many—there wouldn’t be another day.

Hopefully, and I think the jury is still out, it will be remembered as a time when a lot of people discovered or rediscovered God. A time that, for the first time, many could call Him Father.  Hopefully, and I also think the jury is still out, it will be remembered as a time that the church rediscovered what it was supposed to be and do.  Maybe it will be known as a time when the church stopped being a building at a certain address and became a people who still met in a building but then left to touch the lives of hurting people.  A “410” of sorts that heralded the Good News of God’s love.

The old “410” let us three little ones know it was time to wake up and the Bible says it is time for the church to do the same thing.  It says that we Jesus followers should know the time, that the hour has come for us to wake from sleep. The reason? Our salvation is nearer to us now then when we first believed. In other words—wake up sleepy head—it is Christmas morning—time to rise and shine.  Rise and shine—that sometimes is easier said than done but I have a suspicion that with His help—we can shine for Him—letting others know loud and clear that, “He’s got this.”

Posted in Family, gratitude, life, priorities, Scripture, sovereignty of God, thankful, travel, USA, wisdom

Black Friday

Rest in God alone, my soul, for my hope comes from Him.” Psalm 62:5

We stumbled into Black Friday.  It was 1980.  We had just returned from a three year tour in Germany while serving in the United States Air Force.  It is amazing how things can change in three short years.  We enjoyed our time in Germany immensely but it was so good to get back to the greatest country in the world…the USA. We were being assigned to Whiteman Air Force Base in Knob Noster, Missouri.  No, I am not kidding.  We quickly settled into the new version of our old life.  See, you only thought “new normalcy” was something new!

We got back in the country in August and before we knew it, Thanksgiving was right around the corner.  I don’t remember anything about Thanksgiving Day, but I sure do remember the day after.  I was off on Friday and since Kansas City was only about 45 minutes away, we decided to drive into the city and go shopping.  It sounded like a great idea.  It probably was a great idea before we left for Germany in 1977, but things had changed.  It was a new normal.

We got up on Friday, ate and headed into town.  Visions of good deals and the excitement of the Christmas season were dancing in our heads.  We picked our mall—there were several to choose from—and off we went.  As we drove down the highway and neared the exit and the mall, much to our surprise there was traffic everywhere.  The exit was jam packed and once we got into the parking lot we realized it was stuffed to the gills.  We kept saying over and over again, “What in the world is going on?”

Well, I can’t remember if we gave up on that mall or not.  I don’t remember finding a parking spot but I may have blocked it from my memory.  We tend to do that with nightmares!  Anyway, we headed to mall number two.  It was much larger, with a very, large parking lot and plus by now the initial rush was slowing down some.  After circling the area several times, we did manage to find a parking spot.  Hey, what if it was ten miles from the mall?  Smile.

We hiked to the mall and joined a sea of people as they weaved their way through the stores.  It was about that time we finally asked someone, “So what is the deal with all the people?  Why is everyone here?”  It sounds almost humorous now, but we were sincerely in the dark.  The clerk looked at us like we had just returned from the moon or something and I guess in that instance, we had.  Apparently while we were in Germany this thing called “Black Friday” was either born or exploded.  We had walked into a feeding frenzy of holiday madness. Since that time, it has taken on a life of its own.  Stores that opened at crazy hours were now opening on Thanksgiving Day itself.  People would storm the doors and fight for the right to get a good deal.  But.Not.This.Year.

This year it is going to be different.  Because of this year’s new normalcy, many stores that were open on Thanksgiving last year will be closed.  Employees who last year had to work will now have time with their families.  In the recent weeks leading up to Black Friday, stores have been offering, promising, Black Friday pricing for weeks and not for a day.  That might just save someone’s life.  Perhaps Friday morning will look more humane and not so much like the Allied troops storming the beaches at Normandy.

I know it is hard to find good things in bad days but maybe, just maybe, if we look hard enough, we might find that parts of the new normalcy will be a better normalcy.  It seemed from the beginning that part of this COVID thing was a forced Sabbath. God tells us in His Word to rest in Him alone because all our hope should come from Him. It was like He said, “Enough is enough of this madness we call life. Slow down, already.”  And, we have.  Maybe this holiday season we will rediscover the blessings all around us. Maybe we will rediscover the wonder of a little Baby born in a feeding trough to save the world from the madness of sin.  Maybe we will rediscover the value of family, of others, of generosity, of love.  I hope so.

After my initial baptism into the fires of Black Friday I have not been much of a fan.  I’ve never stood in line at the door, I’ve never fought someone for a deal, and I’ve never gotten up at 2:00 am to go shopping. But I have rushed through the holidays like a bull running the streets of Spain.  Maybe this year I will slow down.  Maybe you will too.  Sound challenging?  It is.  But pressing the pause button is not a bad idea…especially if it causes us to rest next to our Dearest Daddy.  And, especially if it causes me to realize…He’s got this.

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

Master of the Winds

For I am the Lord, I do not change…” Micah 3:6

The winds of change are blowing.  If we are totally truthful, they are howling like a category five hurricane. And trust me, that can be devastating.  I was watching the Weather Channel yesterday morning and they were doing a piece on Hurricane Michael that roared ashore two years ago as a “cat five” hurricane.  It struck the Florida panhandle with horrific results.  Mexico Beach was ground zero and to this day that community remains changed. All the preparation in the books could not have prepared them for what happened, but the bottom line is many more lives would have been lost if they hadn’t been ready.

I enjoy…smile…watching the price of gas change in Harrisburg. For some reason we are enjoying some of the lowest gas prices in the area.  But if you don’t like them…just wait…because they are going to change. Whether it be a nickel or a quarter, they go up and down.   By the way, to help you with the price changes, remember this.  In 2008, the gas in Harrisburg was $3.47 a gallon so we can all agree to be grateful that it has changed in a good way since then.

Now all this up and down stuff at the moment doesn’t bother me because it doesn’t affect me.  Why?  Well, I drive two diesel cars and at the moment those prices are nice and steady…just the way I prefer it. That might change tomorrow…but not today.

That’s one of my favorite things about God—He simply doesn’t change. With Him there’s no going up or down—ever… never.  He never had a beginning and will never have an end (despite what our liberal “friends” think) and throughout all that time, He has never changed.  Malachi 3:6 says, “For I am the Lord, I do not change; therefore you are not consumed, O sons of Jacob.”  That’s good news for the reason stated in the verse—He won’t change His mind about me or you. Pretty awesome.

Because of the COVID and the zillion opinions about it and the election, and the zillion opinions about that…our whole world is in a flux,  but God’s plan for redemption and how we spread His Word doesn’t change.  Someone said while methods may change, the message never does.  The Gospel, the Good News is still,  good news. He is going to fulfill His purpose regardless.  And in this crazy economy where things change in price all the time—His hasn’t changed.  His gift of eternal life that cost His Son His life, still costs us nothing. Nothing. He loved us that much. He loved you that much.

A million things are going to change today but there is One that will not—Jesus. The Bible says, “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever.” Period.  Someone said a real friend never changes and that is so true of Jesus Christ.  He is going to love me no matter what.  If I’m having a bad day—He still loves me.  If I fail in something today, He still loves me.  If I gain weight—yup…still loves me.  Like the song says, “His love never runs out on me.” He doesn’t avoid me—He seeks me out.  That is pretty amazing. Well, as you drive by the gas station today be sure and check the prices.  They have probably changed overnight.  But if you check the Book, you will find Him and His promises are the same. Last night before you went to bed it was true that you could rest in Him…and it is true this morning.  And do you know what else was true last night and still holds  this morning?  He’s still got this.  Always has, always will.  How about that?

Posted in forgiveness, Grace, gratitude, life, prayer, Scripture, thankful, wisdom

My “Sorry” Prayer Life

For godly grief produces a repentance that leads to salvation without regret, but worldly grief produces death.”  2 Corinthians 7:10

I have a sorry prayer life.  No really, I do.  I know that prayer is a very important part of life.  The Bible talks so much about it.  And honestly, it isn’t that it is terribly hard.  If you look and listen to what Jesus says about prayer, you will see how important – but how simple it is.  He gave us His now famous lesson on prayer which we call the Lord’s Prayer but it is better called the Disciples Prayer or the Model Prayer. The Model Prayer was not that long, contained no big, spiritual words, and it was straight to the point.

Now if all this is true, why do I struggle with prayer so much?  Why do you struggle with prayer so much?  Well, I can’t and shouldn’t speak for you but I can speak for me.  I have a “sorry” prayer life.  Now you might be sayings, “Dewayne don’t be so harsh on yourself.  It can’t be that bad.”  Well, actually I’m not using sorry as an adjective for my prayer life but rather as a way to tell you about two things that I throw in my prayer life that really shouldn’t be there.  What are they?

Here’s how it works, way too often I find myself telling God that I am sorry for this and sorry for that.  Now that really sounds good, doesn’t it?  Well, I can’t think of a single time where God told me to tell Him I was sorry for my sin.  Nope, I can’t think of once.  You know how it goes.  We tell God good morning and then begin to tell Him that we are sorry for this and sorry for that and of course, we are sorry for this and that.  And most likely the next morning, you find yourself telling Him you were sorry for the same things all over again.  There is a better way.

The better prayer is a prayer of repentance.  It is fine to let Him know you are sorry, but don’t stop there.  Let Him know that you intend to not do this or that again.  Repentance is a great Bible word that means to have a change in attitude and/or a change in direction.  When you repent you are telling God that you are changing your attitude toward that juicy sin.  You are going from liking to hating and from clinging to leaving.

Paul, one of the writers of the New Testament, said that godly grief produces a repentance that leads to salvation without regret, but worldly grief produces death. In other words repentance leads to life and being sorry leads to the death of your joy and peace. Oh, and by the way, be sure and ask Him for His power and strength to do that because you will surely need it.  This whole Jesus journey is all about Him anyway.  So be sorry, that can’t hurt, but do, do repent.  It’s a game changer.

Now the other part of my “sorry” prayer life goes like this.  I spend several minutes or longer telling God just how sorry I am.  No, not like what we’ve already talked about.  This kind of sorry is the kind that tells God how much of a failure I am, how I am worthless, how I have never succeeded and so I probably won’t succeed today either.  I am one sorry piece of creation.  Really? I hate to admit it but I’ve been known to do it.  It’s like telling God He is junk maker and not a masterpiece creator.  I’m speaking to me but you can join in.  It is time to believe what God says about us and not what the devil says.  Let’s not waste our prayer time telling God how messed up we are but rather thanking Him for making us a new creation.

I know, trust me I know, I (or we) are not perfect.  I know I (or we) fail too many times.  But those imperfections, those failures, do not determine who we are.  God determines who we are and when we put our faith in His Son we are precious in His sight and we are His trophies of grace.  Let’s not try and convince Him otherwise (as if we could) but rather let’s spend those precious moments in prayer thanking Him for all of His marvelous grace.

I think it is time we change our “sorry” prayer lives.  What about you?  Are you willing to leave the mess at the door and enter His grace room with repentance and gratitude for all He has done for you?  Are you willing to turn your “sorry” prayer life into a time of celebration of forgiveness and hope?  Well, I’m sure going to give it a whirl.  I know that when I do I’m going to find that rest I’ve been looking for.  And I’m going to get up and believe like He’s got it.  Because He does.