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

There’s No Place Like Home

A horse is prepared for the day of battle, but victory comes from the Lord.” Proverbs 21.31

Dorothy was right.  When I was a kid one of the highlights of the year was when the Wizard of Oz would show on television.  Normally I attended church on Sunday nights with my brother and his family. On that night, church took a back seat to Dorothy, the tornado, and those annoying munchkins.  I must admit I was partial to the part where the wicked witch got what was coming to her.  “I’m melting, I’m melting.” Too bad, wicked witch, too bad.

The whole thing started because Dorothy was driven by fear away from home.  Some mean old lady was going to do away with her dog and Dorothy goes on the run taking Toto with her.  The famous tornado shows up, she is knocked on the noggin and wakes up in Oz…or at least she thinks she does.  To make a long story short, in the end she misses home…a lot.  The good witch tells her the secret.  Just tap her ruby red slippers together and repeat, “There is no place like home.”  Next thing we know she is back in Kansas with all her family and friends, and she tells everyone, “There is indeed no place like home.”  End of story, have a nice day.  Thanks for reading.

No, wait…I’m just kidding.  That may be the end of that story, but it is just the beginning of this one.  You see there are more than a few similarities between Dorothy’s trip to Oz and our journey in and through all the difficult circumstances we find ourselves in.  Like she struggled, we find ourselves struggling too—financially, emotionally, and spiritually.  And like her, it is easy to become afraid—to wonder what the future just might hold. Do you sometimes feel that way?  I understand because I’ve been there.

For Dorothy it was as simple as tapping her shoes together and whispering a few words.  For some, maybe you, it just isn’t that easy.  The justifiable fear of uncertainty might have us feeling overwhelmed.  Like Dorothy you long for home—the time before all of this—but the circumstances that we live in has you in its jaws.  I stumbled onto a verse that just might help.  It is tucked away in Proverbs 21:31 and it says, “A horse is prepared for the day of battle, but victory comes from the Lord.”  Nice…very nice.

The author is saying a good soldier will train and prepare his horse for the battle.  That is the commonsense thing…the wise thing to do. But the author also knows a secret—and it is a big one.  Ultimately the victory does not come from a well-trained horse, but rather from an incredibly powerful God.  That is crucial in our journey of faith.  We need to never, ever forget that your future rest in the hands of a very power, very sovereign God.  You are literally sheltered in the arms of God.  So, be encouraged, be wise, but don’t be paralyzed.

By the way, General McArthur got it right too.  He was ordered from the Philippines and to Australia at the onslaught of World War II as the Japanese swept across the Pacific. He was forced to leave behind tens of thousands of troops…all about to be captured by a very fierce and merciless enemy.  As he left, he made a promise.  He boldly declared, “I shall return.”  At that point, he didn’t know exactly what that looked like, but he knew what it meant.  He was determined that his feet would once again walk on Philippine soil.  Well, it took almost four years, but he did indeed return and when he did, he changed the “shall” to “I have…I have returned.”  In the heat of the battle, he could be forced away, but nothing was going to keep him away forever.  Nothing.

As you journey through your Oz, I hope, like Dorothy, that your faith in God and the hope of returning home will be greater than your fear.  Can it happen? Should it happen.  Absolutely is the answer to both questions. After all, the victory doesn’t rest in you, it rests in the hands of the Whisperer.  Listen carefully for His soft voice and you might hear Him saying, “There’s no place like home.”  Go ahead.  He’s got this.  Bro. Dewayne

Posted in fear, friends, Grace, gratitude, life, loving others, missions, Scripture, sovereignty of God, thankful, travel, Trials

Stalled on Lake Victoria

Do not be afraid or discouraged, for the Lord will personally go ahead of you. He will be with you; He will neither fail you nor abandon you.” Deuteronomy 31:8

It was like something out of National Geographic. I was on a vision trip to Uganda several years ago and it was one adventure after another.  I was working with a missionary who had a ministry to the people living on the islands of Lake Victoria.  This massive lake is the second largest in the world and is more like an inland sea than a lake.  There are places that you can lose sight of the shoreline and you feel very much like you are out on the ocean.

Our vessel was anything but an ocean liner.  It was a handcrafted open vessel that was about twenty-five feet long and powered by a fire breathing dragon of a motor with a whopping ten horsepower.  We would tear across the lake at a heart stopping ten miles an hour. Ok, there really wasn’t a fire breathing dragon effect, nor were we tearing across the lake, but it was a great adventure!  Usually.

One day, after a long day of preaching and teaching, it was time to head back to our home island.  We were a little late leaving and night was coming soon, so it was imperative that we begin heading back.  Our boat was parked in a small, secluded harbor and from there we all loaded up.  There were only about six of us in the boat and the small engine started and off we went.  As soon as we left the harbor we were greeted by some rough water.  The waves were large enough to be “white caps” and I gave the missionary a glance but he assured me that these were not big waves. Well, beauty is in the eye of the beholder and so is wave size.  These were boat swallowing monsters.  And then, after a few minutes, it happened.

As the pilot guided the boat and tried to determine just how to navigate the large waves…the motor quit.  I mean, it just stopped.  Suddenly, at least in my eyes, things got a bit more interesting.  We could no longer navigate the waves, rather, we were at their mercy and no matter how hard the pilot pulled, the engine wouldn’t start.  About then I began a worship service of sorts, part music, part prayer and part personal eulogy. You know, “Friends we are gathered here to honor the life of…” Meanwhile the pilot is still pulling on the motor and I kept praying.

Finally, one of the guys in the boat named Joseph went to work on the motor.  Joseph is a young man that can do just about anything—from preaching to apparently fixing motors.  The shorter version of a long story is that He proceeded to take the carburetor apart and “blow it out.”  Now keep in mind we are still rocking like crazy…and I still am praying and preparing to die.  But I had planned my funeral just a little too soon.  Before long, Jospeh had the carburetor reassembled and back on the motor.  Three or four quick pulls later and we were back “on the road.”  The waves were still big (at least to me) but we were underway and eventually we arrived back at the other island.  Safe—if not too sound.

It really was one of those times that I wished I had paid more attention at swimming lessons because I wasn’t totally sure of the outcome.  But thankfully I did remember one thing. I remembered that whether I am rocking in a boat on the world’s second largest lake in East Africa or driving down the Interstate at 70 miles-per-hour surrounded by people looking at their cellphones or doing life in a tumultuous point in history, my Father, my Dearest Daddy, is in control.  Fate and circumstances are not calling the shots—He is. And if that isn’t enough, we have the promise that the Lord will personally go ahead of us. He will be with us; He will neither fail us, nor will He abandon us.

Now to be clear that doesn’t mean that everything is going to turn out exactly as I would like.  It doesn’t mean that I get to write the script and He has to follow it.  Quite the contrary, He is writing the script and He invites me to trust Him and to believe that ultimately the end of the story is for my good and His glory.  I’m learning that the story never ends here—it ends there.  For the person who decides to trust Him there is always a surprise ending and that is—the end is not the end.  We may change locations, but the story continues.  How about that?

So, I survived that day on the lake and now have returned many times…each time taking others with me including the one that I love most on this earth—my wife, Judy. I do so knowing, that while there are risks, ultimately the pilot of the boat doesn’t sit at the back but up in heaven and He’s got his eye on us and everything we do.  It’s true in East Africa and its true where you and I live.  We can say with certainty that if we belong to Him, we don’t have to worry because, “He’s got this.”  Bro. Dewayne

Posted in Family, forgiveness, Grace, gratitude, life, love, prayer, priorities, Scripture, thankful, Trials

Satisfied and Grateful

Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” First Thessalonians 5:18

It was the strangest thought but somehow it made sense.  The other morning, I was doing my walking thing.  It was a brisk morning with a strong wind and cloudy skies and just for fun…a light rain.  It was one of those mornings the treadmill probably made sense, but I didn’t listen.  I turned in a good time…not that I desired to go fast but I desired to get back to my car.

So, in an attempt to take my mind off the wind, rain, and cold, I was mulling around some ideas about a message series I am teaching at the church where I pastor.  It is called “Taking Care of Business” and carries the idea that as Jesus followers or as Jesus churches we are called to do and not just talk.  We are called not to just believe but to act. Our lives and the life of our church needs to show a spiritual profit or, like any other business” we will go out of business.  And that’s when it happened.

Here’s what came to my mind.  From out of the blue, or in this case gray, came, “Your neighbor’s wife will only look attractive to you when you are unhappy with yours.”  Now keep in mind the statement has nothing to do with my wife or my neighbor’s wife—it has to do with being content with what you have.  You see, in these crazy days, it is often easy for the grass on the other side of the fence to look enticing. Other things, including other gods, suddenly look better. It can be true in marriages but more importantly it is true in our faith.

We live in a world of constant flux and when that is true it can impact anything and everything.  We grow discontent and emotionally and spiritually disoriented.  We start looking for something, anything really, to make us feel better or good.  And too often we look in all the wrong places.  The contentment satisfier is, wait for it, Jesus. Never ever confuse that with anything else…including church.

If you want to be content, if you want to be happier, learn to be grateful for what you have instead of grumpy because of what you don’t.  Remember that the things that matter aren’t bought in a store they come from meaningful relationships.  They are born in delivery rooms and discovered on a hilltop as the sun goes down in a beautiful array of colors. They are the products of dreams and the anchor of our hope.  They are the “notes” from a loving God who says, “I love you” every single day.  You see the Bible guy Paul, and probably sitting in some difficult place said, “Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” I think He discovered that gratitude doesn’t depend on circumstances—it depends on perspective.  Hmmm.

So why not today, make a list and check it twice, of all the things God has allowed to come into your life.  Instead of longing for the girl next door (remember the analogy), why not cuddle up close to all that is already within your grasp.  Why not love, why not appreciate, why not listen for the whisper of the Whisperer as He tells you how special you are—just the way you are—and assures you that “He’s got this.”  Bro. Dewayne

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

No-See-Um

“Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.” Hebrews 13:8

I slapped my arm but didn’t see a thing.  About thirty years ago we were visiting in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan.  It was a beautiful area, and it was almost like being in another part of the world.  There were rich woodlands, new foods to enjoy and the crystal-clear water of Lake Michigan. It reminded me of some of the places I have visited in Europe.  With all its wonders there was one thing that I didn’t like…no-see-ums.

Most of us are familiar with the various biting pests we find flying and crawling around.  There is the bomber-size horsefly.  You can usually hear them coming…even before you see them coming and their bite is horrendous. Then there is the yellow fly and that pesky one that hovers around when you are sitting on the patio.  They seem particularly innocent and that’s when they get you.  And the king of biting insects is, of course, the mosquito.  Some people wonder why God created the mosquito.  I think it is one of the great mysteries of the universe.

While not too common around here, the no-see-um that I encountered in Michigan was a flat-out, no doubt about it, pain in the neck—or else wherever those chose it bite you.  They are very small…in fact…smaller than a flea.  Because of that you will feel the bite and go to swat at the culprit but see nothing to hit.  They are a neutral color and manage to just “blend in.”  Their bite is painful and can take hours or even days before a welt shows up on your skin.  Well, since I don’t make too many trips to the Upper Peninsula, it wasn’t too big a deal…until I found out they like South Florida.

When my wife Judy and I checked into the place we were staying in Fort Myers one of the first things we did was go and sit on the balcony that overlooked Estero Bay.  It was beautiful.  From our fourth-floor vantage point, we could see for miles and saw dolphins, manatees, fish, birds and even an alligator.  However, it wasn’t what we saw that soon grabbed our attention…it’s what we didn’t.  Soon, too soon, we were slapping and scratching but not seeing.  We soon realized that no-see-ums love South Florida as much as they loved the Upper Peninsula.

Well, we retreated inside until we could find something that would discourage them from making us lunch.  A day later we were eating at a local restaurant and there on the table was “No-See-Um” spray. It was all natural and Judy tried some and thankfully it worked.  Not all but most of the misery caused by these almost invisible, blood sucking, stinking, pain-in-the-neck (you can tell I’m a little bitter) insects was finally over. And, for the ones who managed to escape the spray, I learned to spot them and eliminate them.  And yes, there was pleasure in revenge.

No-see-um bites are painful and adding to the pain is the fact that you don’t see it coming.  I mean a horsefly is big enough to spot and sounds like a small helicopter coming in for a landing.  Even a pesky mosquito buzzes if it’s close to your ear.  But the no-see-um is a sneaky one at best.  And do you know what?  Some of the most irritating and painful things in life are too.  How many times have you been just having the best day and some circumstance comes along and changes everything?  The truth is it happens too often.  But there is good news.

While we sometimes can’t change our circumstances and sometimes all the wisdom in the world won’t change an outcome, there is hope.  And that hope is found in a relationship with a God who will not leave us or forsake us and is wiser, bigger, and stronger than anything we will face.  I know you hear that from me a lot but there is a reason…I believe it. I’ve been a Jesus follower for several decades and while there have been plenty of pesky and painful things along the way—He has been faithful—even when I wasn’t. I love what the writer of Hebrews said in the Bible, “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.” Period. Big or small, visible or not, there’s just comfort in knowing that no matter what, “He’s got this.”  Bro. Dewayne

Posted in Family, gratitude, Holidays, life, Scripture, Southern born, travel, wisdom

Bruiser

The one who walks with the wise will become wise, but a companion of fools will suffer harm.” Proverbs 13:20

I saw it coming.  I never saw it coming.  Both are true, and the truth is, it didn’t matter. So about a month ago now, two-thirds of the family (that would be two of my three daughters and their families) were able to jail break and go to Florida for a week.  The middle daughter had been going to the Palm Coast of Florida for the last several years and she suggested we give it a try. I was a reluctant participant.

You see, I was raised on the Northeast coast of Florida.  My growing up years consisted of regular trips to the beach.  Many years later I discovered the Gulf coast with its sugary white sands and clear blue-green waters and I was sold.  Because of this, I wasn’t overly excited when the plans for the East coast were drafted.  However, having done life being the only male in the house (there was my wife, three daughters, a girl dog, a girl cat or two and six female tropical fish.  Even the mice in the barn were girls.) I realized that resistance was futile.  So off to the East coast we went.

I was pleasantly surprised.  We were about an hour or so South of Jacksonville (where I was raised) in a nice condominium complex. We shared the place with our middle daughter and family and it was just perfect.  It overlooked the golf course with a great view of the ocean.  The grounds were well maintained and it had two very nice pools—one family and one for the adults who liked things a little quieter.  The normal vacation crowd was much smaller and that was good news given the COVID thing. The only problem was “they” were there.

“They” were waves.  Pretty big waves.  You see on the Gulf side you usually have little friendly waves.  The waves gently bump into you and seem to say, “Hi, we are glad you are here.”  The waves in the Atlantic are from the Southside of Chicago.  They are gangster waves. When we went to the beach they were waiting.  This is the part I remember from my growing up and from one or two vacations from earlier years.  You can hear them before you see them.  They are inviting you into the water—so they can bully you.

Anyway, we get to the beach and you know they didn’t look too intimidating.  I mean they weren’t gentle “hey, glad you are here waves” but they weren’t “terminator” waves either.  We set our stuff down on the beach and off we went into the water.  First, I tested the waves with a knee deep stand.  Not bad.  Then I went a little deeper.  Still not too bad but I could begin to feel them.  They wanted me.  They had my number.

I was out in waist deep water and realized the power of perception.  Those waves that didn’t seem so big from shore were all of a sudden larger—much larger.  I turned to talk to Judy who was close by and looked back just in time to see a large wave coming.  Fortunately, I was able to keep my footing and survived the onslaught.  I smiled.  My sunglasses were still on my face and my hat was still on my head.  I was an overcomer.  Who’s the man now?! That’s when “Bruiser” came.

“Bruiser” was epic, “Bruiser” had one goal in mind—take me down.  I saw him coming but it was too late.  “Bruiser” was well over my head and broke right on top of me.  One minute I was standing and the next minute I was in a washing machine of ocean water…in the spin cycle.  When I came to surface, of which I was very grateful, “Bruiser” had moved on.  My swim shirt was over my head, my hat was gone and my pride and body were a little bruised.  He had won. I had taken on the big boy and come up short.  Probably worse of all my Seattle hat, the one I had worn for several years was lost to the jaws of “Bruiser.”   He never had a chance.  May he rest in peace.

Well, one time in the spin cycle was enough for me that day. And somewhat gratefully I was glad to learn that others in the family had suffered similar fates. Even the son-in-laws got bowled over a time or two. Hats and sunglasses were lost but what was found was the joy of being with family.  We had a good time.

I did learn, or perhaps more accurately, relearn a lesson about the waves of the Atlantic.  They can be pretty powerful.  Usually there is a flag system that warns of particularly rough waves.  Our beach didn’t have that, but I later heard on the news there had been some big waves.  Oh well, hindsight is 20/20.  Sometimes they manage to sneak in but even when you see them coming, they can take you down.

Life is the same way.  A day at life’s beach can quickly turn into a spin cycle of ocean water.  We can get bowled over by circumstances, uncertainties, tragedies and pandemics. Even when we see them coming, they can be overwhelming.  After my encounter with “Bruiser” that day, I decided it was time to visit the pool—eventually all of us did.  The Bible says, “The one who walks with the wise will become wise, but a companion of fools will suffer harm.”  Translated another way that means there is a time to swim in the ocean and there is a time to head to the pool. Wisdom is knowing when to do what. Wisdom is also knowing that no matter what life throws at you, we can rest in the One who makes the waves because He’s got this. 

Posted in Family, fear, life, prayer, wisdom

A Word of Encouragement

And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.” Romans 8:28

The story is told of a Christian lady who had cancer.  Her pastor went to see, encourage and pray with her.  Towards the end of the visit, her pastor asked if he could pray with and for her.  Her response was, “yes, of course.”  That wasn’t surprising.  What happened next was.

When he asked how he should pray, her response was totally unexpected.  He assumed it would be for healing but instead she said, “Pastor, pray that I would not waste this suffering.”  Waste this suffering.

She was wise enough to know that the God she believed in was sovereign, was in control and was a kind, merciful and loving God.  She also knew that He was wise and that this had been allowed into her life for a purpose–His purpose.

God’s word says, “And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.” (Romans 8:28)

I admit I’m baffled by a lot of what is happening around me.  Just when I think I can’t be surprised…I am.  But I’m not baffled about God.  He is working in our circumstances to bring glory to His name and strengthen our faith.

So God has this.  He isn’t asking us to understand…He is only asking us to trust Him.  And believe me…He has a track record of always getting it right.  God bless you today…trust Him…He’s got this.