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

Together

I give you a new command: Love one another. Just as I have loved you, you are also to love one another. By this everyone will know that you are My disciples, if you love one another.” John 13:34-35

I’m not much of a sports fan.  Oh, I watch the Super Bowl and the World Series and occasionally I tune into the Master’s.  I am amazed by March Madness and pull for the Blues if they are in the Stanley Cup playoffs.  But when it comes to getting into the nitty-gritty of the sports world, well, not so much.  Even so, I do know one or two things that can make a team strong. While each team will have a wide variety of talents and skill levels, while every team will have players from different races and social stations, while every team will have all kinds of personalities, there is one thing they must have in common.  They must have a love, a passion, for the game.

I mean it just works.  Take my family, your family, for example.  In a world where fewer and fewer marriages stay intact, where relationships are fractured, where time is easy to schedule but difficult to find…someone, or several someone’s must have a passion for the family, not just for it to survive, but for it to thrive.  Passion and love will somehow carve time out of a busy day for one another.  Passion and love will find a way to put others at the front of the line.  Passion and love will share the burden of life and make it easier to bear.

Take your place at work, for example.  For many, work is just work. However, the bottom line is work gives you the opportunity to spend several, or more than several, hours with a group of people, day after day.  While it is great to be passionate about the job you do, doesn’t it also make sense to be passionate about the people you do it with?  I spoke at the funeral service of a person recently and one of the things that was said of her was that her co-workers were like a second family to her.  What about you?  How would that impact your desire to get up and go to work each day?

Take your church, for example.  If there is a place where we should be up to our eyeballs in relationships, it is where we worship.  One of the most powerful forces in culture is when a group of Jesus followers gather to worship and do life together.  One thing is certain—Jesus was and is a game changer. In fact, the way we do time is centered on His birth.  And, when, His followers get it right, they become an impactful force for good in our communities, towns, and even the world.

Whether in the church or not—we have to find common ground.  We somehow have to determine that in our small part of the world, what draws us together will be stronger than what would pull us apart.  That is what got this great experiment called America going in the first place.  It wasn’t that everyone agreed, but that they found common ground and they let that common ground be the glue that pulled the country together.

Each one of us needs to find that one thing that will help us pull it all together—whether that be family, business, church, or community.  I know for me that cohesion is all about being a Jesus follower. His ability to change lives and His teachings lived out in the lives of people are just game changers.  One of the things I love about people is the great diversity.  God made each one of us different and unique. We are all over the map—no pun intended.  But that diversity may well be a strength and not a weakness.  It only becomes a weakness if we allow it to pull us apart and not together.

We need each other and there is power and beauty in God’s creation. When we work together, we become a force to be reckoned with—and the enemy knows it.  So, as we emerge from the crazy time of COVID and division, let’s remember what is good about our communities, our towns, our country—and even this sometimes, upside-down world. Let’s remember the power of love and kindness. If you are a Jesus follower, let’s remember He said they will know us by our love…not our judgement.  And even if you aren’t a Jesus follower—well, that’s just good stuff.  We are stronger and better together and with a little help from the One who created all this—we can do it.  After all, He’s got this. Bro. Dewayne

Posted in Grace, gratitude, life, loving others, priorities, Scripture, thankful

Harmony

You call me ‘Teacher’ and ‘Lord,’ and you are right, because that’s what I am. And since I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you ought to wash each other’s feet. I have given you an example to follow. Do as I have done to you.”  John 13:13-14

They came to church one day.  I like church…most of the time anyway.  One of the things I like about church is that it is so inside down.  Like, if you go to a concert, the most expensive seats are right up front.  If you go to a ballgame, you pay extra to sit down where the action is.  That’s not true in church.  The high value seats are all the way at the back.  There might be 150 seats and only 50 people but most of the folks sit in the high-priced back seats.  I can’t blame them.  I’m usually the speaker at our church and I get pretty passionate sometimes.  I’ve been known to accidentally, uh, well, you know, spit.

The story is told of a young preacher who was excitedly telling the people that Jesus was coming back.  He said, “Jesus said, Behold, I am coming quickly.” He said it three times, each time just a little more enthusiastically.  When he said it the third time, he lost his balance and fell off the stage and right in an older lady’s lap. He was so embarrassed and apologized profusely.  She said, “That’s ok son, you warned me three times.” Well, anyway, I get the sitting in the back thing.

Now, not because I am the pastor, but my wife and I always like to sit near the front.  I do like to be where the action is and trust me…it is rarely crowded.  If you have COVID concerns, just sit near the front.  Well, one day, a couple came and visited our church and guess what?  They came right down and sat on the second row.  I was surprised and when I said hi to them, I told them how glad I was to have them…especially on the second row.

Well, church started and, in case you are not too familiar with church stuff, usually we sing a while and then the preacher (in this case that is me) would speak a longer while.  Make that a lot longer.  So, as we were singing, I could hear this voice singing behind me.  It was the lady who was visiting with her husband.  She had a nice voice, and she was singing harmony and it seemed she knew most of the songs.  Well, they just turned out to be real nice folks and the best part…they came back and sat week after week in the second row.  She kept singing and I could tell she really seemed to enjoy it.

After several weeks, after services, Judy and I were talking with them after church and I asked her, “I enjoy your singing.  Do you, or would you, like to sing a solo for us?” Without hesitation, she simply said, “No thank you.  I just enjoy singing harmony.” Singing.Harmony.  That struck me as pretty profound.  For many folks, getting the opportunity to sing in front of a pretty large crowd would be seen as an opportunity to perform.  But not for her, she was content to be one of the worshipers…just singing harmony.

There is an old southern gospel song by the Oak Ridge Boys that said, “Nobody wants to play rhythm guitar behind Jesus, everybody wants to be the lead singer in the band.” That song has stuck with me all through these many years.  It is a good reminder to make sure that I remember that when I stand on a stage and speak—Jesus is the star of the show and I am just a rhythm guitarist somewhere in the band.

You see, pride is a dangerous thing—especially in Jesus circles.  If anyone taught lessons on humility it was Him.  He is the guy who performed slave labor one night and washed the feet of everyone in the room.  And then, He said, “Now I’ve set an example for you.  You should do the same.”  I don’t think it was about washing feet.  I think it was about putting everyone at the front of whatever line you are in.  It means remembering that you are not the most important person is the room.

It may surprise you to know that church can be a real pride factory. You would think that it would be the opposite, but people will be people and sinners will be sinners…even forgiven ones…even in church.  So that is why my friend’s response was so, insightful.  She didn’t need to be on stage, in fact, she didn’t want to be on stage.  She was content to be singing harmony amidst all the worshipers on any given day. For sure, some people have to be on stage and that’s fine.  We just need to remember that we are there because of Him and for Him.  And if we forget…well, He has ways to remind us…like falling off the stage.  And when we do, if we do, well, it’s good to know that He’s got that, too.  Bro. Dewayne

Posted in Family, fear, forgiveness, Grace, gratitude, life, loving others, priorities, Southern born, thankful

Me, Mama, and Mrs. Crabtree

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

I went just a little too far.  When you are an overactive six-year-old, church can be quite difficult.  My pastor was one of my favorite people but when you’re an overactive six-year-old, preaching can be, well, a little boring.  I’ve always loved church music but when you’re an overactive six-year-old, well, the best singers just aren’t enough.  Mama tried to keep me busy.  Her favorite tool was to give me the bulletin and a pen or pencil and I would color in all the little circles.  You would be amazed how many different little circles there were each week.  Well, that would work for a while, but you know, when you are an overactive six-year-old, nothing is going to work for long.

Well, one particular Sunday, the circle thing didn’t even make it past the song service.  By the time they were passing the plates I was out of things to do.  The service was always very predictable.  There would be an opening song, the announcements, a couple of more songs, then the offering, a special music thing, and then the preaching.  After the pastor finished, we would have one more song and call it a day.  Of course, there were always a couple of prayers thrown in for good measure.  So, I knew it was just about time for the preacher to start preaching when I heard Mrs. Rosalyn Crabtree start singing.

Now let me tell you right now, Mrs. Crabtree could flat sing.  I don’t know if she had voice lessons or not, but she sounded like one of those opera singers.  When there was a solo in the choir it was usually Mrs. Crabtree who sang, and more often than not, she sang right before the preacher.  She and her husband Jake were two of my favorite people too.  They taught me in the youth department when I got older and we even had Rosalyn sing at our wedding when my wife and I were married.  They were great folks.

But this Sunday, well, it was just destiny that I was going to get in trouble.  I was bored by the time the offering was done, so I started poking Mama in the side.  She had her girdle on and it always amazed me just how tight that thing was.  Well, she finally had enough of the poking and said so in a way that I knew if I continued, it wasn’t going to be pretty.  But then Mrs. Crabtree started to sing.  Well, while she was singing, I decided to cover my ears with my hands. Why?  Well, I guess that is what overactive-six-year-olds do.  Well, when I took my hands down there was obviously a big sound difference.  So, I put them back up and then took them down.  I had discovered a new game.

I found out if I did this fast it made a “wa-wa” sound in my ears.  The faster my hands covered and uncovered my ears, the faster the “wa-wa.” I thought this was pretty grand entertainment. Mama didn’t think so. I stopped for a minute but decided it was worth the risk. It wasn’t.  Before I knew it, she and I were heading out the door. I had crossed the line and me and Mama had a little “come to Jesus” meeting.  And do you know what?  That urge to put my hands over my ears strangely disappeared and has never returned.  I guess you could say that Mama discovered a vaccine for that like the one for the COVID virus and it was highly effective. Very.highly.effective.

I am glad that I had a Mama who knew how and when to administer a little discipline…even if it meant taking me out smack dab in the middle of church.  And I am glad that we had a church where no one smirked, and no one said I shouldn’t be there.  We had a church where families and kids were more than welcome and I have tried to make sure that at the churches I pastor, the same is true today.  Rich or poor, black, white, or brown, young, or old—everybody is welcome.  I know that is the way it ought to be because that is the way that Jesus did it. I figure if that was the way He did it—we should do it too.

One time when Jesus was teaching, He looked at the people and had compassion on them because He saw them like a flock of sheep needing a shepherd. Compassion—love in action.  Compassion—love that says come on in, you are welcome here.  I like that.  You see, God is an inclusive God.  He even invites overactive six-year-olds like me and you into His presence.  And He’s always ready to help, always ready to love and always ready to say, “Don’t worry…I’ve got this.” Bro. Dewayne

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

Dinner on the Grounds

For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.” John 3:16

There’s lunch and then there is dinner on the grounds.  Church and I were a good fit from the get go.  The schools I attended were always pretty large and it was easy to get lost in the crowd.  The bottom line seemed to be you had to be either really good, or really bad to get recognized.  If you were really good at sports, for example, then a lot of people knew your name.  If you were really bad at life, well people knew your name, but it was the wrong people.  You might remember the categories in your yearbook that named people to be the most likely to do something.  Some were just destined not to be remembered. That was probably me.

I was one of those guys who just wandered around in the gray social midst at school, but not so at church.  The churches I attended were like the three bears and their beds. One was too big, one was too small, and one was just right.  They were big enough to have fun, and learn a little about Jesus, and yet not too big.  I managed to be accepted by my peers and even the adults thought I was pretty cool. So church was a good fit but that isn’t the main reason why I liked it.  I was grateful for the social acceptability and I even appreciated the Bible stories and learning about Jesus, but I was in it for…the food.

You see, several times a year we would have meals at church. There were two things that you could count on.  First, they were always potlucks.  Now, in case you don’t know what a potluck dinner is, first, where have you been?  No seriously, a potluck is when everyone brings something for dinner.  It is one of the greatest inventions in the food world.  Imagine the world’s best buffet—meats, casseroles, vegetables, breads, starches, and the motherlode of all motherlodes—dessert. I can still remember there being tables—as in more than one—of nothing but desserts.  It was like food heaven. By the way, we still do this every once in a while at our church so if you ever hear of this happening, even if you don’t like God, you need to come to church that Sunday.  One word says it all—cowabunga! If you need more than one word—here’s three “shoot that thing.”

The second thing that was just cool was in the old days, churches would build permanent tables outside to hold all this food.  Often, they would have a tin roof over them.  You could line up on both sides and let her rip.  We always had those big plates, and you were obligated to fill them up.  Then, you would just go find yourself a place in the grass and sit down and eat…and eat…and eat.  It truly was one of my favorite times at church.  The food and the fellowship (being with all the people) was just amazing.  We have a ministry at our church where if a member of a family dies, we provide lunch for them on the day of the funeral. It is like a mini potluck and our ladies do such a wonderful job.  I’ve already asked them if I can have my dinner before I go, so I can enjoy the meal.  I’m still working on that one.

You see, there are lots of reasons to attend church and like I said in my early years food was a good reason.  I have another reason now too. I’m the pastor.  It’s kinda expected that I attend. But here’s the truth.  I don’t go now for the food…I go because I want to go. Yup…I don’t have to go to church, I get to go to church.  It is so good because some of the people I love the most are there.  And guess what? Some of the people that are a little harder to love are there too, but that doesn’t matter because we have one thing in common—we all are pretty fond of God.

But wait it gets better.  Guess what?  He is really fond us.  He loved and still loves everyone so much that He sent His Son to earth—we call that Christmas.  He also loved and loves everyone so much that He allowed Him to die on a Roman cross—we call that Good Friday.  It was bad for Him that day, but it was good for us because that day He paid the price for all the things all of us have done that offend His Father.  But wait…that isn’t the end.  After three days, He came back to life—we call that Easter, and it is a documented fact that it happened.  Pretty amazing.

Well, I am grateful for all the good food and other things that happen at church.  But I am really grateful for God, my Dearest Daddy, loving me that much and remember, He loves you that much too.  If you want to know more, I hope you will get a copy of His Book the Bible—it’s been a best seller for centuries—really.  If 2020 taught me anything, it’s that it is a great idea to have God on your side.  It’s just good to know that He is there and will be there no matter what.  No, He isn’t Santa Claus just waiting to give you everything on your list.  No, He isn’t a Genie just waiting for you to rub His lamp.  He is God, He is real, and He wants to make a difference in your world.  Why not give Him a try?  You’ll find that no matter what you face, He will face it with you. I’ve learned that every day, no matter what, “He’s got this.” Bro. Dewayne

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

Anyone Seen Baby Sarah?

Train a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not turn from it.” Proverbs 22:6

It was one of the scariest times in our lives.  As a pastor and family, Sunday has always been a crazy time for the Taylors and one of the busiest days of the week. And, when things get busy, and crazy, well something strange, and perhaps scary, is bound to happen.  And one day it did.  I was pastoring at Cobden First Baptist and had been there for seven or eight years.  When we arrived we had two daughters and when we left we had three. Our third daughter, who was affectionally called by many, Baby Sarah, came along in 1989.  Fast forward about four years.  Before I go any further, please know that the statute of limitations has expired for child neglect.

Judy and I always drove separately to church.  We had two morning services and since I was the preacher, I got to go to both of them. We had two great services and while it wasn’t unusual to do something with one of the families after church, that day we just went home.  Judy got home before I did and I showed up a little later.  We started decompressing and getting ready for lunch when someone asked, “Where’s Sarah?”  I looked at Judy and Judy looked at me. I thought she had Baby Sarah and she thought I had Baby Sarah.  It quickly became apparent that no one had Baby Sarah.  Crisis on steroids.

We jumped in our car and literally raced over to the church.  No Baby Sarah.  One of our best friends lived almost across the street from the church. Their daughter was Sarah’s best friend.  Maybe she was there.  It was locked up.  No Baby Sarah. Needless to say we were in a panic. Someone told us they thought that our friends had gone out to eat at a restaurant that was several miles out of town.  We thought maybe they had taken Baby Sarah with them and forgot to tell us.  That wasn’t the case.  We lived halfway up a steep hill and as we were in the front yard, trying not to panic, we saw a small figure running towards our house. Her long blonde hair was flying in the wind and she looked exhausted. It was Baby Sarah coming home.

So, here’s what happened.  Our friends had some new kittens.  Maggie, Baby Sarah’s best friend, asked her to come see the kittens.  So they went to Maggie’s house, across the street from the church to see the new arrivals.  Maggie’s parents, not knowing Baby Sarah was with Maggie, hollered for Maggie to come down so they could go out and eat.  Baby Sarah stayed put.  After a few minutes she realized she was all alone in the house.  She somehow managed to get their door unlocked and opened and she started towards our house which was about a mile away.  Now Cobden was a small town, but getting to our house from the church involved going over a railroad crossing and a pretty busy road.  Baby Sarah managed to navigate all of that and find her way home.  Remember, she was only four or so.

Back to the story.  When we got to her she was beet red from the heat and barefoot because she left her shoes at Maggie’s.  Her toes were bleeding from the rough pavement.  Amazingly, other than that, she was fine.  It was quite the reunion and we were so grateful to have her back.  We learned a very valuable lesson that day—count the kids when you leave the house for church and more importantly, count the kids when you head back home.  The bottom line? It was just one of those things that can happen if a couple of details are missed.  In this case one of the details was Baby Sarah.

So, besides counting your kids, what is to be learned from this scary tale?  Well, it is obvious but it isn’t.  The big question is, “How did Baby Sarah know how to get home?”  How did she know how to safely navigate the railroad tracks and the busy street?  The answer is this.  In the course of everyday life, we had driven, but more  importantly walked that path many times.  Time after time, hand in hand, she had walked with her mother and sisters so that when she had to do it alone…she could…she did.  That wasn’t our intended lesson but it was a very valuable lesson indeed.

Moms and dads and others who have a role in molding and shaping others—remember this—we are teaching whether we know it or not.  Our everyday routines are being imprinted on young hearts and minds.  And someday, when you least expect it, those imprints will become very, very important.  The Bible talks about training up a child in the way they should be so that when they are older they will know the way.  That was true for Baby Sarah that day in a practical way.  But trust me, it is true every day in ways that we may not see coming.

Because Baby Sarah was prepared that day to walk a path by herself, this story has a good ending.  It is one of our favorite stories though it still causes us to shudder.  I believe there is another reason why Baby Sarah made it home that day.  I believe our Dearest Daddy was watching over her.  And the truth is that no matter what or how the story ends, I’m learning that I can trust Him and rest in Him.  I’m learning that even in life’s scariest moments—like the ones we are living in right now—we can know that He’s got this.  Always has…always will.

Posted in Family, forgiveness, Grace, gratitude, life, loving others, prayer, Scripture, Southern born, thankful

Forty-Five Years Ago

And you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” John 8:32

It was forty-five years ago today.  My life has always been steeped in church, God, and stuff.  I think my older brother had something to do with that.  Dad tended to be a CEO attender—you know—Christmas and Easter only.  But even with that said there were other ways that he clearly showed that he and God were on good speaking terms.  Two of my favorite memories are of him praying.  One time he was down on his knees leading us as a family in prayer.  He never stood taller.  The other happened when I came home late from a date and found him talking to our Dearest Father, hands clasped and head bowed.

Now, mama was more faithful at church except when she hit a bump or two. She liked to attend and she would take us with her.  No questions asked.  She sang, she led one of the girl’s classes, and she too was on good terms with Jesus.  But there were a couple of times when her heart got hurt and she would sit out for a little while.  It was then my oldest brother would take over the taxiing job and make sure I got to church.  To this day I am grateful that he did that.  Because of him habitually taking me, there has never been a time when I didn’t go to church.  That was good but what happened forty-five years ago was far better.

Right out of high school I joined the Air Force and ended up stationed in Valdosta, Georgia at Moody Air Force Base.  Since church was such a regular part of my calendar I made it a point to go—a lot.  One Wednesday night I decided to go to one of the local churches.  So I got there, opened the side door and right across the room was Judy Allen.  She was beautiful and right there and then I decided I liked that church—a lot.

I started attending regularly for two reasons.  It was what I was used to doing and Judy was there.  We started dating right away and before too long we were engaged. She was probably too young and I was probably too old but, hey, that is sometimes the way of love.  Well, in June of 1975 she met someone else—another guy.  Fortunately for me it was Jesus.  She, like me, was raised in church but she discovered that going to church and knowing Jesus were two entirely different things.  Jesus waltzed into her life and she was like a new person—an even better person—better than I deserved for sure.

Well, a few months went by and at church one morning, October 26 to be exact, I bumped into the same Man she had met.  Unexpectedly the pastor told a story about a man who had gone to church all his life and then realized he had never met Jesus.  You might say he was religious, but not a Jesus follower.  When I heard about him, I realized that was me—I was the same way—way too religious and way short on knowing Jesus as my best friend. That morning in Valdosta, Georgia at about 10:45 in the morning I met Jesus and my life changed forever.  Jesus didn’t make me perfect that day but He sure made me forgiven.  He put me on a new road and well, it has been amazing.

So, for forty-five years I have walked with Jesus and here I sit today, a pastor for thirty-eight  of those years and writing stories.  And Judy, well, in June of 1976, we decided to walk together and we just never stopped.  Me, Judy, and Jesus—it has been quite the journey. For the past forty-five years, every year, I have celebrated two birthdays.  The first is January 6, the day I was physically born.  But I also celebrate October 26, the day I met Jesus and was spiritually born.

Every time I write a story I love to put a big truth in it about God.  Well this story is a bit different—this time the story is Jesus and what He did for me and wants to do for you.  Remember, don’t make the mistake I did—confusing religion and church with Jesus.  They are not the same—He is a lot better.  He said that we could know the truth and the truth would set us free.  Well, the truth is He loves you, no matter what, more than you can imagine.  The truth is, He wants you to trust Him, to rest in Him.  The truth is He’s got this.  Trust me, I know.

Posted in Family, Grace, life, loving others, Scripture, sovereignty of God, wisdom

“This Is God”

Hypocrite! First get rid of the log in your own eye; then you will see well enough to deal with the speck in your friend’s eye.”  Matthew 7:5

I got to play God once…no really.  One evening, and it has to be at least 15 years ago I got to play God…or at least the voice of God.  It was one of those evenings when you didn’t need air conditioning. I was about 10:30 at night and I was lying in bed.  Next to the bed was a window and since it was such a nice evening it was open. It was so close that I could reach out and touch it.  Because we live basically downtown in our small town, night noises are common.  I hadn’t yet fallen asleep so I was just laying and listening to the night sounds.  Then I heard it.

The alley that runs right next to our property and our house is paved with oil and chip…a covering of small pieces of rock that gives a nice crunching sound when a car drives over.  It is not an uncommon sound unless it is late at night and the car stops right next to your house. As soon as the car stopped, I could hear the sound of giggles that can only belong to young, teenage girls.  I eased out of bed and knelt next to the open window.  From my second-floor window I had bird’s eye view of what was unfolding belong me.

Like the poem, The Night Before Christmas, I looked and “what to my wondering eyes did appear” but not one but two young teen girls gleefully covering my back yard in toilet paper. The young ladies attended the church where I pastor and one of their moms was driving the get-away car.  I smiled a slow smile just wondering what to do with this.  And then, it occurred to me.  Since I kinda work for God, why not speak for Him?  So, I did.

From the raised window, and in my best God voice, I said, “This is God.  What are you two girls doing?”  Oh my goodness…it was incredible.  In an instant, both girls went into total panic mode.  Paper rolls went flying, arms were flailing in the air and mom was racing the motor in the car.  In total choas, they both tried to get into the car at the same time.  It was priceless.  After several attempts they finally made it and off they went speeding down the alley.  I was rolling on the floor.

Well, if I remember right, that was a Saturday night and the next morning at church I said something like, “Good morning, ladies.  How are you today?”  Their response was a combination of eyes wide open, eyebrows raised and a mischievous smile.  I don’t remember saying anything more…except maybe in a sermon several weeks down the road.  I mean, who could pass up an opportunity like that?

I think it was ok that night to do a kind of “impersonation” of God.  My voice really isn’t deep enough, but I gave it my best shot.  Actually, impersonating God is a very common occurrence…too many of us do it all the time.  It usually isn’t a voice from a second story window but rather the voice of a judge speaking from the bench…pronouncing some sort of judgment on another poor soul.  It seems we get some kind of pleasure from judging others.  I think it might make us feel bigger, while making them feel smaller.

It’s certainly not a new thing.  The Bible is full of words and warnings about playing judge in place of God.  My favorite is when Jesus uses an illustration about some guy who has a big log sticking out of his eye.  That guys walks over to his buddy and says, “Hey dude…you need to get the splinter out of your eye.”  Jesus was certainly the master storyteller and in this case His point was clear.  Who are we to judge anybody when our faults are often bigger than theirs?  And besides that, aren’t we supposed to leave the judging to the Judge?  Uh, that would be a yes.

Well, if you are ever given the opportunity to use your God voice to scare a couple of young teens, aw, go for it.  It was a blast.  But the next time you are tempted to cast a stone or take a seat on the Judge’s seat…you might want to resist the urge.  The same Bible that talks about leaving the judging to the Judge talks about if you judge others…you might just find yourself being judged by your peers.  And some of them aren’t too kind.  And if you’ve been judged, tried, and convicted by one of those unlawful judges don’t worry about it.  There is only one Judge that matters, and He is on your side.  So, rest easy…He’s got this.

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

Faith and the Next Step

Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.” Hebrews 11:1 (NIV)

There’s hard…and there is really hard.  You know, sometimes faith is easy.  The way is clear, the path is obvious and you just do it.  Sometimes, it just isn’t that way.  Sometimes, all the time, faith requires…faith. So back in 2000, my family and I were living in Cobden where I was pastoring at Cobden First Baptist.  We had been there over 14 years and it was one of those pastor/church relationships that don’t happen too often.  We were in love with each other.  It wasn’t a job…it was family. And then the phone rang.

It was a call from Don Billman wanting to know if I would be interested in pastoring in Harrisburg at Dorrisville Baptist.  I had received calls like this before and the answer was always, “No thank you.  We are really happy here.”  This time, though, for some reason I said I would think about it—pray about it.  It was almost frightening but I could hear the Whisperer whispering and I was pretty sure He was calling us to step out on faith. I tried to dismiss it, I tried to ignore it, but He kept whispering until I finally knew that it was a choice to obey or disobey.

After several weeks we arranged a date to go and preach a message, meet the folks at Dorrisville and to see if we should join our lives together.  I had asked God for a pretty big favor.  If this was in fact His will would He give me a 100% vote.  Now in case you don’t know that was a pretty big deal, especially since we were talking about a couple of hundred people.  Well, we met each other and they voted.  It was 100%.  I was taken aback as I realized it was time to step out on faith.

Pastors usually leave churches in one of two ways: readily or reluctantly.  I was a reluctant prophet.  I knew going was the right thing, but it wasn’t the easy thing.  It was probably one of the HARDEST things I have ever done.  We were excited about Dorrisville, but I knew I was leaving family in the process.  Were there doubts? Yes.  Were there assurances?  Yes. And that is the point of this story.

A week or so after the vote and in the middle of the process of saying goodbye to Cobden, I was sitting outside of Target in Marion.  I remember it like it was yesterday.  I was having a talk with God that included two questions.  “God, is this really you?” “God, what have I done?”  There I sat with those two questions rolling around in my head.  And then they showed up.  It wasn’t two angels named Micheal or Gabriel but it was a couple of messengers from my Dearest Daddy.  Their names were Tom and Leanne.

Tom and Leanne were members at Dorrisville—my new family.  They walked up to the bench outside of Target and politely introduced themselves.  “Hi we are Tom and LeAnne. We are members at Dorrisville and when we saw you sitting here we just HAD to stop and tell you how glad we are that you are coming to Dorrisville.  We can’t wait for you to come.”  I can’t tell you the emotion of that moment.  It was a clear and confident assurance from the Whisperer.  From that moment on I knew I was right where God wanted me and that was what mattered.

So we finished saying goodbye to our Cobden family and said hello to our new family at Dorrisville.  On July 16, 2000 we had our first service there.  I wish I could tell you how marvelously I led and how confidently I took the field but the truth is this rookie fumbled the ball a few times.  But gratefully my new family was gracious and patient and suddenly here we are twenty years later.  It has been a wonderful journey for me of learning and growing, serving, and sharing.  Over the past two decades we have had so many times of celebration together.  We have learned grace together. Someday, one day, the Whisperer will whisper again but until that time I am having the time of my life.

So if you find yourself at the edge of a cliff and you are not sure what to do next.  If all the light is gone from your world and you are stuck…go ahead and take the next step.  As Patrick Overton wrote, “When you have come to the edge of all light that you know and are about to drop off into the darkness of the unknown, faith is knowing one of two things will happen: There will be something solid to stand on or you will be taught to fly.” Whether it is the uncertainly of the corona virus, the unrest of our Country or the upcoming elections this Fall…we can rest in Him…for He surely has this.

Posted in Family, Scripture

Larry, Barry, Harry, Terry, Ralph and Bubba

If the whole body were an eye, where would the hearing be? If the whole body were an ear, where would the sense of smell be? But as it is, God has arranged each one of the parts in the body just as he wanted.” (1 Corinthians 12:17-18)

Ok, I was just so confused that I needed to tell someone.  I know you must think I am goose crazy but yesterday morning was so weird in goose-land at the park or better, maybe it was something beautiful.  So, let’s just say the geese were very prolific this year.  There are lots, and I mean lots, of baby geese.  There are two kinds of geese in the park.  Almost all of them are the standard, brownish geese.  Then there are also four or five white snow geese.  Now trust me on this.  In the past the snow geese and the regular geese just didn’t like each other.  But something must have happened.

So let me tell you about yesterday.  First, there were several of the standard brownish geese families.  They were teaching the kids about swimming, eating, how to potty on the walking path…you know the standard things.  But then there was something else happening.  There were four white geese and they had like five babies and they were one big happy family. I’m sure there was a mom and a dad but there was also at least an aunt and an uncle.  They were all doing their family thing.  But hang on.

There was also a pair of the standard brownish geese and they had babies.  What was different was they had two brown babies and a baby that obviously came from the snow geese. No really.  I’m think they adopted one.  And you know what?  They treated him just like the rest.  But that wasn’t quite the end of the story either.  So, there was a pair of standard brownish geese and they had five brown babies.  They were so cute.  I think their names were probably like Larry, Barry, Harry, Terry and Ralph.  Anyway, there’s one more thing.

There was one of the big snow geese in the family mix.  He obviously had to be a distant, and I mean distant, relative.  But he was one tough dude.  The little babies were on the sidewalk and mom and dad were standing there.  Usually, when I would walk by a family, the dad would hiss at me and I would act afraid.  I wasn’t but I was hoping it made him feel better.  Anyway, mom and dad were like casual—no deal.

But then there was the snow goose named Bubba.  I mean when I got close he puffed his chest out, stretched his neck, glared at me and gave me his best manly hiss.  You know the kind those big cobra snakes do in India. The hair stood up on the back of my neck and on my arms and I kept moving.  I don’t know who Bubba was but he likes his family—brown or not—a lot.

You know, the more I thought about it… the more I thought it wasn’t weird at all.  I thought maybe that’s exactly how it is supposed to be.  The geese, regardless of their feather color, came together, formed a family and a community and were doing life.  Everyone seemed pretty happy to me.  Well, all except Bubba.  He had an attitude but I think even that was because he loved and cared for the others.

Someone once said it takes a village to raise a child.  It takes all kinds of people to make life work.  And do you know what?  It takes all kinds to make God’s family work too. If you go to church you know sometimes it can get just a little bumpy. Someone doesn’t like this or doesn’t like that.  Someone wears the wrong thing or not enough of the right thing.  Someone thinks things are too loud or too soft or too hot or too cold. Well, I think we need to take a lesson from the guys and gals at the park.

In the Bible Paul wrote that things would be pretty weird if a body was one giant ear or one giant eye.  If we were all the same we would just be in a hot mess.  It takes every part—ever person—being themselves and doing what God designed them to do.  And do you know what else it says?  It says in 1 Corinthians 12:18 “But as it is, God has arranged each one of the parts in the body just as He wanted.”  As.He.wanted.  That means that the person that you just love at church was put there by God.  And it also means the person who irritates you the most was put there too.  And perhaps they are there just for you. Of all God’s creations the church, His body, is one of His most beautiful.  A flower garden is made beautiful not in its sameness but in its variety. The body of Christ is made beautiful the very same way.  So, in these trying days, these crazy days, these days when it is so important that the church be the church, be sure and remember that the body is a bouquet of people and personalities selected and arranged by God himself.  We need the Bubbas and we need Larry, Barry, Harry, Terry and Ralph too.  We need the younger and we need the older.  We need each other.  Sound too difficult? Sound a little overwhelming?  Don’t worry about it.  God’s good at helping His rowdy, sometimes difficult kids grow.  So, take a rest in Him. He’s got this. Just ask Bubba.