Posted in Family, friends, Grace, gratitude, life, love, loving others, missions, priorities, Scripture, thankful, travel

Small Changes….Big Difference

Sell your possessions and give to those in need.” Luke 12:33

I could see them flashing a mile down the road. They were two senior adults—just two of the many special people I have met and known over the years.  These two folks had a special heart for giving and not just giving but giving so others could know the same God they did.  Though they gave generously the way others did they had a couple of other ways that were pretty special. And that is why it wasn’t uncommon to see them pulled off the road on a busy highway…flashers flashing.  I know it caused people to wonder.

On any given day, you could be driving down Highway 51 near Cobden, Illinois and see a nice, new Cadillac on the side of the road.  With their emergency flashers warning oncoming traffic of their presence, you might think that they were broke down and needed assistance but that wasn’t the case. They would be…picking up cans.  Yup…that’s right.  They would regularly, and I do mean regularly, go out on the highways and byways around Union County and gather cans to sell and recycle.  You might wonder why since usually folks’ pickup cans because they have a need. Some may have seen the Cadillac and thought them greedy but there was a different story in the making.  There was a need, but it wasn’t theirs…it was people all around the world who needed to hear about their Jesus.

You see, everything that these two collected when they sold their cans went to fund missions—telling people about Jesus. How about that?  They could, and did, write a check but this was their special way of giving.  Oh, but that wasn’t all.  Everywhere they went, they would be sure and keep their eyes…on the ground.  Yup, that’s right.  They were looking for change that people dropped and believe it or not…they found a lot.  Every year they would make a trip to California to see family.  They would stay for several weeks and would always come back with a story—and more money for missions.  It was not uncommon for them to find not a few dollars but more…a lot more.  And guess what?  Yup, that’s right…every dollar went to missions. They told me one time someone saw them either picking up cans or change in California and thinking they were needy…gave them twenty dollars. They explained, but the person insisted they keep the twenty—and share it around the world.

While their example can teach us many lessons there is one that deserves our attention today.  You see, they had learned that small things can add up to make a big difference. There is no telling how many thousands of dollars in cans and change they gathered to give away.  It was their special way, an unusual way, a unique way…to give. You see, small things can add up.  I read something the other day that was crazy.  Get ready.  The story said that the TSA, the folks that run security at the airports, find an amazing amount of change at the security checkpoints.  You know the drill; people have to empty their pockets to go through security and apparently a lot of folks drop their change on the floor or leave it in the bins and it all adds up. “How much?” you ask?  Well, in 2019 the TSA collected a whopping $900,000 in change. You read that right—$900,000. That is just crazy amazing.

In case you are wondering, theirs doesn’t go to missions but they do have to report to Congress how it is used.  Usually, it is something mundane like buying supplies.  How boring. While I am impressed by the amount, I am much more impressed by the heart and soul of two seniors who picked up cans and change to make a difference in the hearts and lives of people everywhere.  That, Grits family, is pretty noble and pretty amazing.

So, what can we do to make a difference in the lives of people?  Now this story happens to be about two Jesus people but making a difference isn’t limited to people who follow Jesus.  We all can make a difference.  Hey, why not find a way, even if it is small and simple, and start making an impact in your world?  Jesus told a guy in the New Testament part of the Bible who had a lot of stuff, “Sell your possessions and give to those in need.” Sounds like yard sale time to me!  Remember, the smallest thing can be made big in the hands of God. Need some ideas? Wondering how? Just ask and the God of Generosity will fill in the blanks.  He’s got this.  Bro. Dewayne

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

Construction Zone Ahead

Hi Grits Family! Hey, my wife Judy and I are going to be “out of pocket” aka “not available” to write for the next couple of weeks.  During that time, we decided to send out some of our past stories.  I hope you enjoy the ones we selected and look forward to some “fresh Grits” in a couple of weeks. God bless.  Bro. Dewayne

For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” Jeremiah 29:11

It was a long time ago, but I remember it well.  Way back, before I knew anything about Harrisburg or Dorrisville Baptist Church, I made a trip to this small town in Southeastern Illinois.  I was pastoring in Cobden, a smaller town by far.  A person associated with our church there was having some mental health issues that required admission to a clinic.  Somehow, they ended up at the center located at the Harrisburg Medical Center.

I wanted to go over and visit them but had no clue how to get there.  This was a time, gulp, before GPS, so I had to rely on directions and an old-fashioned map.  I made it to Marion and got off Interstate 57 and followed the road sign pointing to Harrisburg.  Before long, I found myself on a long and winding road (wait… isn’t there a song that goes like that?).  It was the kind of two-lane road that you got to play like a race car driver on.  There were plenty of curves and practically no passing lanes.  I remember coming upon a gigantic crane…I mean HUGE…that was abandoned by one of the coal mines.

Well, the long and winding road was about 24 or 25 miles but because I was blessed to get behind several slow, like really slow, drivers, it seemed like forever.  In fact, when I got to Harrisburg, I had to stop to get a haircut.  You ask, “Well, why didn’t you get one in Cobden?”  The answer is “I didn’t need one then.” Smile.  Anyway (I have to be careful not to get distracted) I made my visit and then reversed the route.  I remember thinking how isolated Harrisburg was.  I mean you had to be going there to get there. I kinda reminded me of the wagon trains and the Oregon Trail.

Now, fast-forward years…I’m not sure how many…but lots.  My daughter Jennifer was going to try out for the Illinois Baptist State Association All-State Choir and her audition was at Dorrisville Baptist Church in Harrisburg.  When I heard that, I mentally blocked off two days for the trip (ok, I’m being facetious). But I still remember that long and winding road.  Now, imagine my surprise when we exited off the interstate again and followed the signs for Harrisburg and there before us was a four-lane divided highway.  No winding road, no 45 mph speed zones, no no-passing zones—just smooth sailing.  What a change.  What a blessing.  What took the better part of an hour now took 25 minutes.

Obviously, barring a road building fairy, a long and complicated construction project had taken place and replaced the two-lane, long, and winding road with a modern highway.  I’m sure it involved multiple construction zones.  I’m sure it involved inconvenience.  I’m sure it involved frustration—though I’m not sure what could have been more frustrating that the original two-lanes.  But I bet it all was worth it when the new highway opened, and the miles flew by.  It had to be game changer.  Yup, the construction zones had to be worth it.

Well, I was praying this morning and something like this came out of my mouth, “Lord, help me to be patient in the construction zones of my life.”  I paused when I said it because it really grabbed my heart.  The construction zones of my life.  Hmmm.  You see, it made me realize that I am like a construction project, and it can be frustrating.  But God is in charge of the project, and He does have a plan that He is working out in my life. I know I use this a lot in my writing but it just too good.  Jeremiah 29:11 says, “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”  One day, someday, it will be worth it.  It might be years down the road, or it might even be heaven, but I will see the big picture and I will know that no matter how painful or costly, it was worth it. It.Was.Worth.It.

There’s an old song (my apologies to my younger readers) that says, “It will be worth it all, when we see Jesus. One look at His dear face all sorrows will erase.”  I believe that. So, as you tootle down life’s road and you hit one of those stinking construction zones—hold on and throttle back.  It could be that God is working in one of His mysterious ways.  It might be to bring you into His family, or it might be He is just trying to make you a little bit more like Jesus.  One thing I know for sure…it won’t be wasted.  God doesn’t waste time and He doesn’t waste suffering. I like that. If you find yourself in stopped traffic on this road called life, just hit the pause button and breathe deeply.  Then repeat this as many times as you need to, “I choose to rest in Him.  He’s got this.”  There you go.  Now, don’t you feel better already?  Bro. Dewayne

* Signpost photo by Markus Spiske on Unsplash

Posted in Family, friends, Grace, gratitude, life, love, loving others, priorities, Scripture, thankful, wisdom

Les Was More *

When He went ashore, He saw a great crowd, and He had      compassion on them.” Mark 6:34a

*Photo credit: used by permission Keith Cotton,

Simply put…Les was more.  I had been the pastor of a church in the village of Cobden located in Southern Illinois.  When I went there in 1986, I didn’t know two things.  First, this would be my family’s home for the next fourteen years.  During that time our lives were bonded with the people of the church and the community in a way that I’m not sure I can describe.  Literally, we became family.  The memories and relationships of those days remain firmly stamped in our minds and hearts.  And, I guess, that is the second thing I didn’t know. So many of the people…young, old, rich and poor, single and married, in the church and out…were so very special.  And that leads us to Les.

Cobden had several iconic residents that lived in a local shelter care home.  Each one was special and each one was different.  But at the top of the heap was Les.  I officially met one day when he was walking by our church carrying his sickle.  He was old for his age and had more wrinkles than he should. Bent over, he would peer though his squinting eyes and occasionally have a conversation with himself…or maybe God.  Anyway, that day, I opened the office door and told Les hello and invited him to come to church.  He acknowledged me and asked if I happened to have any coffee.  Well, I did and invited him in to have a cup.  And that was the beginning.

From that day forward, almost every day, Les would show up at the office and ask, “You wouldn’t happen to have a cup of old, cold coffee, would you.”  I can still hear him today.  And usually, I could accommodate him.  It might be cold and sometimes it was old but to Les it didn’t matter one bit.  It wasn’t long before Les started coming to church.  Now you would be wrong to assume that Les was a slow thinker.  He was anything but that. No, he was just Les and I loved the way our people grew to love him…sickle and all.

One day, at the office, getting his cup of “old, cold, coffee,” he said to me, “I want to be baptized.”  Well, that surprised even me.  So, I gave him my full attention and explained that to be baptized you needed to believe that Jesus had died for your sins and believe that He was the Son of God. And that wasn’t all. I explained a person needed to be willing to follow Jesus…kinda making Him the new “boss” of their lives.  Well, without a moment’s hesitation, Les assured me he understood all of that.  So right there, right then, Les became a Jesus follower.

He then circled back to what had started the conversation…he wanted to be baptized.  I asked Les if he understood that to be baptized, he would have to go under the water…all the way under the water. I really wasn’t surprised when he said he did. Now Les was one of those fellows that with age and life had become pretty bent over.  To look out, Les had to look up.  So, I knew this baptism thing might be a bit of a challenge, but I also knew this was going to be special and it was.  So, in a couple of weeks, on a Sunday morning, I stood in the baptistry and took Les’ hand as he came down into the water.  I can’t remember but I may have called in reinforcements.  But, regardless, I smiled as he gently slipped beneath the waters and came up again.  And the church…well…it exploded in applause.

Years later, in fact nine years after I had left our friends and family in Cobden, I received a call from the local funeral home there letting me know Les had died.  They wanted to know if I would be willing to come back and do the funeral.  I assured them it would be an honor.  On that day we said goodbye to Les but really it was more of a “see you later.”  You see, Les, because of his commitment to follow Jesus had left the shelter care home in Cobden for a new home in heaven.  I also knew that he was no longer bent over by age and life…that he could now look out and not have to look up.  Now when he looked up it was to see the face of the Man who loved him and died for him.

As we journey through life, we need to realize that all around us are people like Les. Oh, not necessarily because they might live in shelter care, but more because they are just…special.  You see, God’s world is filled with special people…all we must do is learn to see them.  They might be a guy at the grocery store or the lady who brings the mail.  They might be our doctor or the guy on back of the truck that gets our trash.  Why not determine, starting today, to see people as God sees people?  Jesus did.  When He looked at people, and He did that a lot, He saw them as special and had compassion on them…loved them.  We all might need a little help in this department, but the good news is, our Dearest Father is just waiting to help.  Just ask…because you know, “He’s got this.”

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

An Angel Named Tom

Whatever is good and perfect is a gift coming down to us from God our Father, who created all the lights in the heavens.” James 1:17

It was the same story every night. When my family and I lived in Cobden we had the adventure of living in a 100-year-old Victorian home.  It really was an adventure.  It was partially restored and over the thirteen years we lived there, we changed and upgraded so many things.  It was kinda like the kid’s song, “The Song that Never Ends.”  So many of the things we did were low budget because, well, we had a low budget. Money was a little tight, but it seemed God always provided.

The house didn’t have air conditioning and sometimes that was a bit uncomfortable.  It did have one of those big attic fans…you know, the kind that can suck the sheets right off the bed. That provided a cool breeze through the windows on those comfortable, Southern Illinois, nights.  However, if you’ve ever lived in a place like Southern Illinois, you know that often the days and nights are anything but comfortable.  It is more like living in the Amazon basin in South America.  Two words described it: hot and humid. On those nights, there was no attic fan in the world that was going to help.

Eventually we got a used window air conditioner and put it in our bedroom.  Then we would make beds on the floor, and everyone would sleep in the same room until the nights became more bearable.  We sounded like the Walton’s as we all said goodnight to one another. This went on for several years until one day hope…and help…arrived.  Someone had a used central air conditioning unit that they sold to us on the cheap.  The only problem, the upstairs didn’t any duct work or vents…nada…zero.  And then God sent us a couple of heroes…or at least to us they were heroes.

A family in our church had a son who installed air conditioning.  His name was Tom.  He lived an hour away but, knowing our plight, he wanted to help.  He said he would come over after work (driving an hour) and install our air conditioning…including building the duct work we would need.  And, that’s not all, his dad Bill, who attended our church, joined the team. So, for the next couple of weeks, in the heat of summer, after working a long day, these two men came and climbed into our attic and worked and sweated.  Oh yes, I was there too but only as a nuisance, I’m sure.

After a couple of weeks of intense, hot labor, finally the day came to flip the switch. Wonderful, magically cool air began flowing softly through the new installed system.  What was normal for so many was heaven for us.  What had been a hot summer routine of pallets on the floor and life with the Waltons came to a close.  And, even now, as my fingers mash the keys on the keyboard, I am smiling.  I am just amazed how God provided this family and these friends to help us…without taking a dime. Two angels of mercy with the unlikely names of Tom and Bill.

Over the years, there have been other stories, other angels of mercy and I’ll write about them too one day.  The stories need to be told because they are stories of love—both the love of God and love of God lived out.  The stories need to be told because they remind us, all of us, to be grateful for the things God has provided through this great adventure called life.  James, the half-brother of Jesus said, “Whatever is good and perfect is a gift coming down to us from God our Father, who created all the lights in the heavens.” There is no doubt in my mind that is true…not just for me…but for you too.

It’s a bit tricky but be sure and look around for the everyday blessings that God sends your way…oh, and He does send them.  When you see them, remember them, write them down in your heart or in a journal.  Then, when leaner times come, they will remind you of the faithfulness of your Dearest Daddy. Also, they will also remind you that no matter what, you can know, you can believe that, “He’s got this.” Bro. Dewayne

Posted in Family, Grace, gratitude, life, love, loving others, Military memories, Scripture, Southern born, sovereignty of God, thankful, Thanksgiving, travel, Trials

The Rock

Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights.” James 1:17

The Rock.  If you talk to someone that has done “hard time” they will probably think you are talking about Alcatraz.  If you talk to someone who likes action movies, they will probably think you are talking about Dewayne “The Rock” Johnson.  But if you are talking to me or my wife Judy, then we will know you are talking about “the rock.”  It’s a long story.

Judy and I met and fell in love in short order.  I walked into her church one Wednesday night. I asked her out the next week and ever since then we have been a “we”.  We were together as much as possible—we wanted to be together as much as possible. Since my Daddy had passed away that summer, Mama decided to spend Thanksgiving with my brother Joe up in the mountains, and I was invited to come join them.  It was a deal because I really wanted to be with Judy, but I knew my place was with family and my Mama especially.  So, I went.  I told Judy I would miss her, and I would bring her something back from the mountains.

Now I’m known for doing crazy things—it’s just me. While in the mountains I tried to think of something to take to Judy.  It didn’t seem appropriate to take her a typical souvenir, so I got an idea.  I would take her part of the mountains. I went out and found a rock. It was about the size of a pumpkin roll…elongated and was even orange with white stripes. As Thanksgiving rocks go…it was a pretty, good one.  I washed it up and put it in the car.  Game. Set. Match.

I’m sure in the book of love etiquette there is a chapter on what to bring your love when you go to the mountains.  I am also sure if I had read that chapter a rock would not have made the cut.  But hey, I was inexperienced.  So, I get back to Valdosta where I was stationed in the Air Force and where Judy lived.  After the appropriate number of hugs and kisses I presented her with her gift.  She seemed thrilled and seemed to appreciate my thoughtfulness.  Please note the word seemed.

Time goes by.  We were married a while later and the rock made the trip from her parent’s house to our new apartment.  We later received orders to Germany and the rock made the trip with us.  When we came home from Germany and moved to our new duty assignment in Warrensburg, Missouri, the rock came with us. And on and on it went.  To the home we built in Warrensburg, to the little parsonage in LaMonte, where I had my first full-time pastorate, to Cobden, Illinois where we pastored for 14 years.  Finally, it came with us to Harrisburg. It was part of the family. It was more than a pet rock it was “the rock.”

About ten years ago, around 2010, somehow the topic of the rock came up. I was sharing how endeared I was to the rock—how important it was and then it happened.  Judy told me she never liked the rock.  She told me that she wasn’t thrilled all those years ago. She only pretended to be thrilled to make me happy.  The bottom line was the rock was just a rock.  Oh, the agony.  Oh, the pain. Oh the “you’ve got to be kidding me.”  Here I’ve been hauling this rock all over the world for nothing.  I knew I should have gotten her one of those Smoky Mountain snow globes!

Well, like a pet who’s forgotten how to be potty trained, the rock was moved to the yard. It was still special to me, so it now sits on the grave of one of my favorite pets.  Somehow that just seemed appropriate and if I were to move tomorrow—yes, the rock would go.  If nothing else, it is a monument on what not to bring the girl you love from the mountains.  I’m glad that God is better at gifts than I am.  It seems—no, it more than seems, that He always gets it right.

He talks a lot about gifts in His Book.  He loads us up day after day.  Every sunrise and sunset is a gift.  Every breath is a gift.  Every fall leaf that floats to the ground full of color is a gift.  We need to look and recognize all that He gives us.  James, one of Jesus’ half-brothers, wrote that every good gift, every perfect gift comes down from our Dearest Daddy.  He just loves to shower us with His best and He does it again and again.

Well, it was no accident that I brought a souvenir rock home that year, it was no accident it was orange with white stripes, and it was no accident that it is still with us. In fact, the word souvenir is from the French, meaning “a memento, keepsake, or a token of remembrance which a person acquires for the memories the owner associates with it.” How about that! Still, I guess it wasn’t the right gift for her on that day. Today though, it was the right motivation to remind us of this year, above all years, to be grateful for a God, a Heavenly Father who is oh so generous to His kids.  Why not sit down today and make a list of all the things God has provided and all the needs He met?  Take your time…enjoy the moment and when you are done…read the list to Him and say “Thank-you, Father.”  And then for all the things that are bigger than you or for the things that just look like rocks, gratefully give them all to Him because, as always, He’s got this.     Bro. Dewayne