Posted in Family, life, priorities, Scripture, wisdom

Out of Alignment

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

What’s next?  It’s a question that I find myself asking just about everyday as I prepare to write and share with you a short story with a big truth.  As I was sharing yesterday at church, to introduce the message I used an illustration.  After I had written Monday’s story, Judy told me, “when you told that story in the sermon I said to myself, that is tomorrow’s story.”  Well, my wife is rarely wrong so here we go a day late, but hopefully not a dollar short.

A couple of years ago we bought a “new to us” car.  It was a 2014 Volkswagen Jetta.  I drove all the way up near St. Louis to look at their lot full of Jetta cars.  Volkswagen had gotten in trouble about emissions and recalled all their diesel cars.  It took them a couple of years to get them fixed and rerelease them to the market.  Judy and I decided to dive into the diesel market and get one.

So, off I went to St. Louis.  When I arrived, I saw dozens and dozens of VW Jettas.  However, the problem was most of them were in pretty rough shape.  Apparently as the owners turned them in, they decided to treat them like an unloved dog.  Even after they cleaned them up it was pretty apparent they had lived a hard-knock life.  So with my trusty salesman by my side, I went from car to car to car—with no luck.  I’m pretty particular about cars and these were not making the cut.

Finally, after checking almost every car in my price range, we found one that was not as perfect as I wanted, but it was the best one available.  I drove it and liked it and before long it was ours.  Driving it home I noticed that the VW emblem on the steering wheel was not pointing straight up.  Hmmmm.  But trying to control my perfectionism I chose to ignore it—for a while.

So, even though it was “Judy’s car”, it had to go.  I asked my super mechanic, Chris, if we could pull the steering wheel and straighten it up.  He said, “You don’t have a steering wheel problem, you have a front end problem. You need a front end alignment.”  Well, what about that. I had noticed the car was not wanting to stay straight on the highway but I didn’t think too much about it.  I should have.

After we got the front end aligned and sure enough there is was—the VW emblem was straight up and down.  Yay—I said. Problem solved…and it was.  However, the problem was, I had waited too late.  Then, I was looking at my front tires and realized that the outside tread was virtually gone…outta there. My choice to ignore and live with a problem ended up costing me nearly $500.00 dollars for new tires.  Bummer.  Big bummer. Oftentimes procrastination can be very expensive.

Life can be like a car out of alignment. It got me thinking, what in our lives might be a little misaligned, out of balance?  What habit, what misplaced priority, what sins are we hiding, ignoring, or choosing to not take care of? I know, it seems easier not to worry about it, but truth be known, the longer we wait the more it costs. The longer we wait the bigger the consequences and the greater the regrets.  It has been said that if you aim for the moon and are less than one degree off you will end up somewhere, but it won’t be the moon…it might be Mars.

Solomon, one of the smartest guys in Bible, said it best. He said that we should learn to trust in the Lord with everything we’ve got, and don’t try to figure it out on our own. He goes on to say that in all our ways check with Him and He will make our paths straight. Make. Our. Paths. Straight.  In other words, if the steering wheel on our life is crooked, He can give us the realignment that we need.  He can make our lives straight.

Well, I don’t know about you but I think I will save the $500.00 next time and head to the alignment place as soon as I notice something’s going wrong.  I think I’m gonna do the same thing with life.  When my “VW emblem” is a little crooked or I find myself pulling away from the One who loves me most—I’m gonna head to the Master mechanic and let Him check me out.  I can trust Him.  The Creator always knows the creation best.  I’ll rest in the waiting room while He works.  I know He’s got this.

Posted in Family, food, gratitude, life, Scripture, wisdom

Judy’s “S” Words

So it is sin to know to do good and yet not do it.” James 4:17

I said the “S” word.  Oh, no—not that one.  You see we have some pretty strict standards with language in our house.  My wife, Judy, taught our children, and me, that there are certain words we just don’t say.  One is “shut-up.”  That is just too rude.  I remember a couple of years back when she was teaching ReFit. She was using a pop song called, “Shut-up and Dance with Me.”  Oh my—I had a fit.  I tried to explain to her how that was against our standards. She gently, well, somewhat gently, explained to me that it was a love song and the words were spoken in that context.  “Oh.” I said, I was always kind of cut and dried.

But that is not the word that came out of my mouth the other day.  It was the other “S” word that is banned from our family.  So, I had just finished my morning walk.  I went 3.6 miles at an average pace of 13.20 minutes per mile.  Most folks would tell you for walking that is a pretty fast pace.  I got back to the house and I was drenched with sweat…hot and tired.  But there was this kinda feeling of satisfaction at the same time. And then I got to thinking.

You see five or six times a week I do this exercise thing and it is good thing to do.  It is the right thing to do.  It’s the kinda thing that you tell your doctor you are doing and they pat you on the head and say how well you are doing. I even have a healthy breakfast—lots of protein and very little carbs or fat.  I feel another pat on the head coming on.  And then it happens.  Someone brings donuts to the office and those sweet round things whisper my name.  Sometimes it is cookies and they whisper a little louder.  Through the day the whispers get louder and louder and by the time evening coming I am eating anything and everything with sugar in it.  And that’s when I said it.

Sitting outside, drenched in sweat, proud of exercising, I said it, “Dewayne, you’re stupid (that’s the other “S” word).  You work so hard to exercise and then turn around and make a series of unwise and unhealthy decisions.  And it occurs to me that those bad decisions totally negate the good ones of the morning.  In other words, I am shooting myself in the foot.  At best I am breaking even for the day. I think I am learning the good doesn’t outweigh (no pun intended) the bad.  I need to cut back, perhaps way back, on the sweet stuff to really gain the benefit of the exercise.

We do the exact same thing with our spiritual disciplines.  Do we understand that even if we get up in the morning and have a time with God—even if we read His Word, read a couple of devotional thoughts and even pray, the unwise decisions we make during the rest of the day rob us of our victory?  We need to learn to do the good and at the same time stop the bad.  We need to carefully weigh each decision we make.  Often, I visit our pantry and will find myself trying different things just to satisfy that itch I have.  In the process I consume a bunch of empty, non-satisfying calories.  I end the day wondering why and how that happened. I then start the next day with a commitment to do better.

I think the secret must be to constantly remember through the day the cost of making unwise decisions—whether they be calories or sins.  And then in the case of the pantry, turn out the light and walk out—empty handed.  It may be difficult at that moment but the win is about two minutes later when you realize you made a right decision.  And that’s another secret—make one wise decision and then wait to make the next one.  Before long—you wait—and things will begin to change.

There’s a verse tucked away in the Book that James the half-brother of Jesus wrote in the Bible.  It says that when we know to do good and then choose not to do it—well, that becomes a sin.  And if we see it though that lens it starts to make sense.  Now most of my nighttime grazing for sweets occurs when Judy isn’t around.  It’s just easier to make unwise choices when the one who loves me most isn’t there.  The idea is to stay out of the kitchen when she isn’t around.

It’s the same with our Dearest Father.  If we can get it into our heads that He is always there to help us make wise choices—well, we will make wiser choices.  He wants us to sin less because when we do—we bring glory to His name and we are happier.  So, the next time you’re tempted to make a bad or unwise decision, look around and He will be there for you.  Just turn out the light and walk out empty-handed.  Just put your hand in His.  Just lay it to rest.  He’s got this.

Posted in Family, Grace, gratitude, life, Military memories, Scripture, thankful

This Day

“This is the day the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.” Psalm 118:24

June 12th is a special day in my life.  I graduated from high school on June 8, 1972.  I am amazed that 48 years have passed beneath the bridge of my life.  Time seems to travel so quickly.  As a child it was a gentle stream and now as a mature (that is in years and not necessarily actions) adult it seems a raging torrent.  So 48 years ago I was member of the largest graduating in the state of Florida for that year…714 seniors from one high School.  Trust me…it was easy to be a small fish in that big pond.  By Monday all that was in the rearview mirror.

On Monday, June 12, 1972, I raised my right hand and swore to protect and defend the constitution of the United States and to obey the orders of those appointed in rank above me.  I was eighteen, naive, had never been away from home and wondering what in the world I had gotten myself into.  If I remember that day correctly we took the oath, had last minute medical exams, and filled out a mountain of paperwork. They took us to Morrison’s Cafeteria for a last meal of sorts and then on to the airport for the flight to Lackland Air Force Base.  Intentionally we arrived at about 2:00 am…something they still do today.  We were given a couple of hours of sleep before beginning the great journey of becoming airmen.

The privilege of serving my country for the next twelve years marks that day as one of the great days of my life. The training I received there impacted the rest of my life. The skills I received in my advance training and then in my career prepared me for something far greater then I could imagine. Little did I know on June 12, 1972, what God had planned for me.  Saddle up your horses boys…this is the great adventure.

After twelve years in the Air Force it became apparent that the winds of change were blowing in my life.  I so loved the Air Force—it was my niche, my calling.  Starting in 1980 there were these whispers from Abba Father, my dearest daddy, that He wanted to do something more.  It was a whisper from Him to jump into the unknown. It was a whisper to trust Him at a level that I had never before experienced.  He was calling and it was undeniable.

The details are still vivid in my mind but time doesn’t allow the whole story to be told.  On February 14, 1982, I went forward in a morning worship service and told God I would do whatever He wanted.  Four short months later I found myself still in the service but in His service pastoring a small church close to our home.  Those days were crazy days.  Over the course of a few months the deal was sealed.  He whispered that He wanted me to give myself completely to Him.  He no longer wanted share me with the Air Force.  With that, Judy and I, along with our two very young daughters, prepared to jump big.

That leads to our second June 12th.  On that date in 1983, on a hot Sunday afternoon, I sat before a large ordaining council and a larger crowd.  That day, June 12, 1983, I was ordained, set apart, to serve Him.  My fondest memory of that day came after the council had asked all their questions.  They had been graceful to me and I was grateful.  The chairman of the council told the moderator that he had no more questions.  The moderator then asked if anyone else had an questions. I only thought I was done.

An elderly pastor, slowly stood to his feet and said, “Young man, the Bible says that the husband is the head of the home.  It also says that a pastor is to rule his house well.  Are you going to rule your house well?” And he sat down. If there was ever a time that I needed for God gave me the right words to say it was probably then.  With all the intentional fortitude I could muster I said, “Yes sir…if Judy will let me.” The room erupted and I got ordained.

And here I sit thirty-eight years later so grateful for a God who believed in me and hundreds of people who were patient and loved me. I have seen wheelbarrows full of grace from the God of the universe and His people.  If you ever wonder why I am grace heavy in my teaching it is because I have needed it so much and I have experienced it so much. I am blessed. Game. Set. Match. The Bible says that this day, this very one, is a day that the Lord has made.  We get to choose how we are going to live it and how we will remember it. Well I am so grateful for two days in June, both the 12th.  They are markers for this incredible journey called life. How about you?  Do you have some special days that God moved, that God spoke, that God just showed off?  Let me encourage you to celebrate them…and Him.  He is such a good Abba Father to do less is unimaginable.  So go ahead, relive the times, relive the days when He showed up, when you rested in Him, when you just knew “He’s got this.” Then you can be the whisperer and softly say, “Thank you, Father.”

Posted in food, life, Scripture, Southern born

Stupid Watermelon

For I am conscious of my rebellion, and my sin is always before me. Against You—You alone—I have sinned and done this evil in your sight.” Psalm 51:3-4

I should have just stayed home.  You probably don’t know there is such a thing as a stupid watermelon but if you live long enough you will surely run into one.  In my case it happened just a couple of weeks ago at our local grocery store.  Before I begin the story you need to know that I am one of those slightly older people who has “old people’s skin.”  In case you don’t know “old people’s skin” happens as a person ages.  The result is skin that bruises and wounds easily.  Let me just say, “It ain’t fun.” It goes like this.

You are opening the storm door with one of those automatic closing things.  The wind catches the door, banging into your arm.  Congratulations…you are the proud owner of a new bruise.  You are carrying a pile of limbs to the rubbish pile and one shifts in your hands and against, or rather into, your arm.  You win again.  You are going up the stairs…yes, I said up the stairs, and your foot catches on the riser and you fall against the wall.  Double congratulations…you win a bruise and cut.  Sigh.

And it is always the hand you use the most.  In my case I am left-handed so my left arm continually looks like I play major league football or have wrestled with a full-grown lion.  Either way…its’ not pretty.  And mark my word, just about the time you get it healed up…bam…you start all over again. That, dear friends, is where the stupid watermelon comes along.

I don’t do grocery stores.  I definitely do food…I just don’t do grocery shopping.  Well, one evening I was feeling pretty jovial and decided to go to the grocery store with my wife Judy.  We enter the store and get one of those cute (on no…I said cute again) mini baskets and off we go.  We are heading back to the bakery so I am in a particularly good mood.  I can already taste the greasy, fried dough.  Then…it happens.  There is a sign that says, “Watermelons – $3.99.”  Judy loves watermelons.

We pause and begin to study the watermelons.  She thumps them.  She pats them. She caresses them.  After several minutes the winner is chosen.  “I want this one” she declares.  Her galant, strong prince, hoists the winning melon out of the bin of losers and prepares to put it in the buggy.  Because we have a mini-buggy, I decided to put it in the bottom rather than the top.  That is where things got ugly.

I bend over and prepare to slide the watermelon into the too small bottom portion of the buggy. Just at the time of releasing the melon and removing my hand—it slips. As it falls into the too small bottom portion it rolls on my hand and catches my finger between the basket and watermelon. “Ouch,” I said.  When I was able to maneuver my finger from between the basket and melon—I saw it.  Not a bruise…oh no…but a nice ¾ inch skin laceration.  It was bleeding. Badly. Profusely.  It was then the true nature of the melon escaped my lips, “Stupid watermelon.”  No wonder they were on sale for $3.99.

It seems at least they could have put a sign up that read, “Stupid Watermelons – $3.99.”

Well, I quickly became obsessed over the true nature of the evil watermelon.  “Hey Judy, do you have a tourniquet to stop the bleeding from the stupid watermelon?” “Honey, do you want some cheese to go with the stupid watermelon?” On and on it went and the watermelon and I became mortal enemies.  And the coup-de-grace?  Not only was it stupid…it wasn’t even sweet.  Sigh.

But no, I had to find out the hard way.  About then Judy said something like, “Well, it really wasn’t the watermelon…it was the buggy.” I began to protest but I think she said something like, “And you know it happened because it slipped out of your hand.”  By that I assumed she meant the one that was cut and bleeding.  Somehow it didn’t make my hand feel any better and two weeks later I still have some healing to do.  But…she was right.

It wasn’t the watermelon, it wasn’t the buggy it wasn’t even me.  It was just one of those things that happen.  I just needed to blame something because my hand hurt and 746 people were going to ask, “What happened to your hand?”  Blaming it on a stupid watermelon just seemed easier.  The truth is, it is easier to blame than it is to own.  It has been that way since the beginning of time.  In the garden, Adam blamed Eve and God for the hot mess they were in after they chose to sin.  Eve, of course, blamed the serpent and the serpent, well, he just smiled. Whether it is broken skin or a broken heart; whether it is someone’s fault or not; whether you own part of the skirmish or all of it—why not take a moment and own it. Press the pause button, calm down and then just eat the watermelon.  That way, you will get the last laugh.  Then, tell God about it, all about it and take a rest in Him.  He’s got that and this.