Posted in Family, friends, Grace, gratitude, life, Scripture, thankful, Trials

Pay Attention

Can a man scoop a flame into his lap and not have his clothes catch on fire? Can he walk on hot coals and not blister his feet?” Proverbs 6:27-28

I should have been more careful.  I should have known better. I have a long history of cutting firewood and being around the woods.  For the better part of 17 or 18 years, wood was our primary, and sometimes only, source of heat.  It all started back in LaMonte, Missouri and continued when we moved to Cobden, Illinois…in fact, that is where it really became a part of our lives.  We lived in a large Victorian home and our heat was whatever was piled in the driveway.  So, with the help of a very good friend named Gerry, virtually every Saturday we would go and “cut wood.”

As the years went by, I learned a lot about safety in the woods.  I remember the first time I used a chain saw back in LaMonte.  The guys told me to be careful and never pull the saw toward you.  Yeah, well, one of the first things I did was pull the saw toward me (call me a slow learner) and nick my leg.  I learned about how to notch a tree, sharpen a chain and how to load and stack wood.  I learned a lot.  But one thing that I never paid much attention too was poison ivy.  While I never intentionally rolled in it, it seemed for the most part I was one of those lucky people who it didn’t affect.  Well, that all changed one day…not in the woods but in my backyard at 217.

It turns out, I guess, that I was indeed lucky but not in the way that I thought.  I was lucky that it never “got me” and somehow, someway, recently it did.  We were sitting around one day, and I was wearing shorts.  I noticed on my left leg several (five to be exact) small red dots.  I told Judy, “Look at these bites on my leg.”  They were in random places, and I thought that a mosquito or two had decided to have lunch.  Well, again, I was wrong.

In a very short time, it became evident I had somehow, someway, gotten into some poison ivy.  Those five small dots grew into narrow strips of angry, red, raised, skin and it was very apparent that what I thought couldn’t get me…did.  Now as outbreaks go, this one wasn’t very bad but for a guy who never had it, for a guy who thought it wouldn’t, couldn’t get him, it was bad enough. It itched, then itched some more, and then just for fun…itched some more.  Well, it took a while but finally all of this was a memory in the rearview mirror, and I was very, very glad.

The crazy thing is I really don’t know when or where it happened.  We have a little bit in our yard but even though I didn’t think I was allergic; I was also very careful.  I hadn’t been in the real woods, but one thing is for sure…I got too close somehow, somewhere. And, because of that I have some pretty unpleasant circumstances.  Maybe I wasn’t careful enough.  Maybe I thought it might get you but not me.  Maybe I didn’t look close enough in the flowerbeds around our yard.  All that really doesn’t matter I suppose.  What does matter is that it got me.  It.Got.Me.

Did you know that sin, those things that God and culture both warn us about, can and will get us?  Did you know that even though we think it will happen to someone else and not us…it can…it will?  Did you know that regardless of how “innocent” we think we might be…the consequences are the same?  Judy always told me about poison ivy.  Being a garden person, she told me, “Leaves of three…let it be.”  I clearly heard her but frankly, since it seemed I couldn’t get it, I just didn’t pay close attention.  Now, oh yes now, I know differently.  We would do well to treat sin the same way.

The Bible, in the Old Testament part, asks a very good question.  In the Book of Proverbs, it asks if a man can hug fire to his chest and not be burned?  Of course, the obvious answer is no, you can’t.  But it turns out the writer isn’t talking about fire…he is talking about sin.  Mess with sin and you are going to get burned and with the burn comes the consequences and with the consequences come misery.  It is true with poison ivy, and it is true with sin.

Well, the bottom line is regardless of my long history with not getting poison ivy, I now have a new history and trust me I am going to be even more careful around my three-leaf adversary.  Green and lush or not…it is not my friend…and neither is that thing we often run to…sin.  By the way, if you stumble into poison ivy there are a few things that can help with the itch.  And, if you stumble into sin, well, His grace is more than enough.  Just ask the Heavenly Father and He will be more than willing to help.  You might say, “He’s got this.”  Bro. Dewayne

Posted in Family, gratitude, life, priorities, Scripture, thankful, Trials, wisdom

Out of Alignment

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

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

Something told me I was a day late and 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 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 it was—the VW emblem was straight up and down.  Yay—I said. Problem solved…and it was.  However, the problem was that I had waited too late.  Then, a little later 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 balance. 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. Bro. Dewayne

Posted in Family, fear, forgiveness, Grace, life, love, loving others, Scripture, Southern born, thankful, Trials

It Was an Accident

Don’t be deceived: God is not mocked. For whatever a person sows he will also reap.” Galatians 6:7

I am sure the doctor just rolled his eyes.  When I was eleven or twelve, you know about sixth grade, my Daddy and Momma got me one of the coolest Christmas presents ever.  Most of you have seen the movie “A Christmas Story” about a kid who wanted a Red Ryder BB gun for Christmas. Well, this story isn’t like that, but it’s about something even better than a Red Ryder BB gun.  That year, wait for it, they got me a Daisy double-barrel BB gun.  It was designed after a real double-barrel shotgun.  It had two barrels (you probably figured that out), two triggers, and even broke in the middle to cock it. It was amazing.

I can remember going outside to shoot that gun…there was not another one like it in the whole neighborhood.  I wish I could tell you how well I took care of it…especially since, if you can find one now, they would sell for well over a thousand dollars.  But honestly, it was well used, and under cared for, and one day one of the barrels stopped working.  Well, I always enjoyed fixing things, so I just started taking things apart to work on it.  I figured out that the left barrel wasn’t working.  So, I took the “BB thingy” inside the barrel out, cleaned it really good, oiled it, and then stuck it back in.

After I put everything back together, I cocked the gun and pulled the trigger, but as far as I could tell it still wasn’t working.  I decided that I would put my finger over the bad barrel to see if I could feel any air coming out.  Now, I know that sounds like a really, bad idea, and it was.  I know it was not smart or safe.  I know it was just pure old dumb.  But, regardless, I did it.  I sure wish I hadn’t.

Well, things wouldn’t have been so bad because as it turns out the barrel wasn’t working.  The problem was that I had my finger over the wrong barrel and pulled the wrong trigger and as I squeezed that trigger, the gun fired, and a BB went right into my finger…clear to the bone.  Oh, and yes, that was a dumb idea, and yes, it did hurt…boy, did it hurt.

I put the gun down and ran into the house holding my throbbing and bleeding third finger on my right hand.  Momma didn’t have time to give me a lecture or even holler at me.  We headed straight to the emergency room.  After checking in we saw the doctor who when he heard the story gave me that, “what a really a dumb idea” look. After numbing things up, he proceeded to dig around with a medical tweezer until he found the BB, got ahold of it and pulled it out.  Shot or no shot—it hurt.  I got a nice bandage and the opportunity to make a story up on what happened.  I wasn’t about to tell the truth…that was way too embarrassing.

If you look on my right hand and at my ring finger you can still see to this day a nice little dimple where the BB went into my finger.  It is there to remind me not to stick my finger over the barrel of a BB gun…or any gun for that matter.  It is there to remind me that there are consequences when we choose dumb over smart, or wrong over right.  It reminds me of that part of the Bible that says the rules of God are always right…whatever you plant, you harvest.  Do dumb and you get dumb consequences…every time.

I hope this Grits will help me and you both to think before we act…you know, to think things through.  Fortunately, God is more than ready to help us make the right decisions if we are willing to ask.  Uh, I didn’t ask that day and when we just don’t get around to doing that…well, He is still there to help us deal with the consequences too.  I’m glad He’s not like the doctor, rolling His eyes at my mistakes.  No, He is too loving to do that.  In fact, if you listen, you will hear Him say, “Don’t worry, dumb or not, I’ve got this.”  Bro. Dewayne

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

Packing Extra Weight

Let us lay aside every hindrance and the sin that so easily ensnares us.”  Hebrews 12:1b

I thought it felt heavy. You might remember I told you a story about a group of friends from our church in Cobden, Illinois who took a trip up to Mount Leconte in North Carolina.  In that particular story I slipped on a slippery rock and earned the name, “Chief Wounded Cheek.”  Well, that wasn’t the only story from that trip.  There was a least one more.  You see, even though we were only staying one night, most of us still had a backpack full of stuff to tote up the mountain.

What do you carry up a mountain?  Well, I guess it all depends on the person.  I know one lady in our group had her husband carry just about everything but the kitchen sink.  I remember we laughed when we found out she was taking her curling iron.  It wasn’t that it was inappropriate it’s just that the top of the mountain didn’t have any electricity! In my case, I decided to leave the curling iron at home (smile) but did have a good selection of food.  I mean can you ever have too much food? I didn’t think so.

So finally, with our packs on our backs, we headed up the mountain.  The climb took us most of the day.  It was about five and a half miles and a lot of it was…up.  We went up and up and up and finally we made it.  The lodge was rustic, but the feeling of accomplishment made it all more than worthwhile.  Bob, our leader, said when we got there, they would give us some of the best hot chocolate in the world.  Well, they did but honestly, I think it was some of the best because we were pretty tired, pretty chilled, and pretty desperate. 

For supper he told us we would be having canned horse meat.  Remember there was no electricity and that meant no refrigeration.  As it turned out, it really wasn’t horse meat, but I do believe it was canned and for the record…it was pretty stinking good.  Pretty soon it was time for lights out…well, there really weren’t any lights because…well, you know why.  We slept well, got up and had breakfast and soon started our journey back down the mountain.

I threw my backpack on my back and started the journey down.  I remember being surprised how heavy my backpack felt.  Again, a lot of what I carried up was food and it  was no longer there…well, at least not in my backpack.  Anyway, we continued walking and after about an hour or so, it was time for a break.  I found a place to sit down, being careful of my “wounded cheek,” and opened by backpack for a quick snack.  And I found a surprise.

Yup, my backpack was heavy all right.  It turned out that some of the guys in the group had put several grapefruit size rocks inside.  They were just waiting for me to make the discovery and when I did, they laughed—we laughed until we couldn’t laugh anymore.  I love practical jokes regardless of what end of the stick I am on—giving or receiving. Well, needless to say the rocks came out and the pack was considerably lighter and we had a new story to tell along with my new “wounded cheek” name.

I learned a great lesson that day.  First and foremost—check your backpack—especially when you are traveling with a group of guys who love practical jokes.  I also learned that you should never carry extra weight up or down the mountain. Period. And in hindsight, that is true with hiking and that is true in life.  All of us have this tendency to carry extra weight around…and I’m not talking about around our waist.  I am talking about things that tend to weigh us down.  It might be a bad habit, or it could be the consequence of not starting a habit we should have, like exercise.  It might be misplaced priorities that steal time away from family.  Whatever it is, the truth is we need to chuck the unneeded and unnecessary.

Paul, one of the big writers of the Christian New Testament, said that we should lay aside every weight and the sin that slows us down.  Now that is good advice.  As we travel through this life, let’s get ready to go but let’s also be sure and check our backpacks.  We never know what might be in there and weighing us down.  If you need help figuring it all out, just ask the One who made it all.  You know, “He’s got this.” Bro. Dewayne

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

The “I Want You to Die” Tick

But put on the Lord Jesus Christ and make no provision for the flesh in regard to its lusts.” Romans 13:14

You know there are one or two things that are good about a really cold winter.  Number one is the fact that it kills all the bugs. As you remember, last winter wasn’t very cold. I’m not sure what you thought about last winter’s weather, but apparently the local tick population thought it was just fine.  Even around my house—and I live on the main drag in the small town of Harrisburg, Illinois—we have had to check every once in a while, to make sure we didn’t pick up any unwanted hitchhikers.

Last summer Judy and I went hiking in a wooded area.  The trail we were on was plenty wide, but I guess ticks are good jumpers. Later in the week, I was working at my desk at home, and I felt just a little itch on my leg.  You know, nothing major—just a “hi—I might need you to scratch me later” itch.  I ignored it.

After a bit, it developed into more.  It went from a “you might need to scratch me” to more of a “hey, now would be a good time to scratch me” itch.  So, I did—and when I did, I felt a small bump.  At first, I thought it was a small bite and whoever had done it had moved on to greener pastures.  I was wrong.  It was a dirty, rotten, no good, “I want you to die”… tick.  Oh, he wasn’t big—in fact he looked quite innocent. He was only the size of a writing pen head.  Well, I try to be a friendly guy—just not with ticks and especially not with one having dinner—and I’m the meal.  So, in my best interest, we departed company and I made sure he went to the tick afterlife. So long friend…adios. No prayer, no service…just “you’re out of here.”

So, I thought it was not big deal—but I guess big is relative.  You see, by the next day that little bite site had turned red and was about twice as big as before—and it was still itching—only more.  Now fortunately it was NOT the kind of dirty rotten, no good, “I want you to die” tick that gives you weird diseases. But even so, the spot where he bit me itched for several weeks.  Even a couple of months later while the itch is gone the scar remained.  It’s hard to imagine that one little tick can cause so much trouble.  Write that one down:  little things can have bigger consequences.

Yep, that’s right.  Some small habit, some little action or inaction, a few seconds of a wandering mind, a few misspoken, unkind words—can have large and lasting consequences. And the worst part is that it doesn’t just affect us—it can and does affect those around us. Don’t make the mistake of thinking that because it starts small it stays small. It rarely does.  It really isn’t practical to totally avoid the outdoors so there must be another way.  A good insect repellent is a good start.

A guy in the Bible named Paul wrote gives us some good advice on how to avoid pesky sins.  He said, “but put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh in regard to its lusts.”  Paul said the best way to avoid the aggravation and consequences of sin is to give yourself a good smattering of Jesus and then avoid sin wherever and whenever it is likely to jump on.  The truth is the more we read the Bible and apply it and the more we act like Jesus the less likely we will find ourselves infested with pesky, troublesome sin.  Trust me…life is just better.

Well, the site where the friendly little tick decided to visit is finally about gone but it was a journey to get here.  The bottom line is it would just be better to avoid it in the first place. The old saying an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure is so true.  That is true in avoiding ticks and it is also true in avoiding sin. One thing is for sure.  It is good to know that God is more than willing to help us know when there’s a pesky sin close by.  All we need to do is ask, and He will help.  Mark it down…we can rest assured with Him close by.  He’s got this.  Bro. Dewayne

Posted in Family, food, friends, Grace, gratitude, life, Scripture, thankful, Trials, wisdom

Cooking Class: Beans & Burns

Don’t be misled—you cannot mock the justice of God. You will always harvest what you plant.” Galatians 6:7

It was the best of times. It was the worst of times.  Oh wait–that opening line has already been taken. Well, it was just over twelve years ago now, but I well remember the night. Judy was out of town, and I was at the church.  We were sponsoring a dinner for the football team.  I wanted to help but, well, it didn’t go to well.  It is a known fact that I can’t be trusted with a power tool of any sorts.  It just doesn’t go well.  Apparently, you can add all things kitchen to that list.

I love being a fixer.  When one of my grandkid’s toys would break, they would bring it to Papa—their fixer.  I love being the hero. And I love to help. It’s in my DNA. WelI, that night I volunteered to help the head cooker person get a large pan of baked beans out of the convection oven at church.  It was in one of those pans made of formed aluminum.  When I volunteered, I could see the concern in the head cooker person’s eyes. For an expert this was no deal…for a preacher who wasn’t allowed to use power tools—it was Death Valley.

“Dewayne”, she said, watch the bottom of the pan—it can collapse if you aren’t careful.”  She went on, “You might want to put a sheet pan under it for support.” Well, Mister “I -Know-It-All” said, “No deal, I can handle it.” So, I reached up, I lifted it and in a moment of time…a moment that will live in infinity…the pan collapsed, and my lower left arm was baptized in a tsunami of scalding, hot baked beans.  The pain was instantaneous, and it was intense. Can someone say “ouch?”

Well, I immediately used my other hand to wipe some of the beans off (not too smart since I burned that hand too) and ran to the sink and started running water over it.  The bottom line is I ended up with second degree burns, a working knowledge of how not to take beans out of the oven and several other good life lessons added to my repertoire of knowledge. You might say I have “bean” educated.”

Perhaps the first lesson is this.  No matter how well you do something the wrong way, it probably isn’t going to work out for your benefit.  When King David and his crew were moving the ark in the Old Testament, they decided to use a cart instead of doing it God’s way.  The result was the oxen stumbled and a man reached out to steady the ark and was instantly struck dead by God.  Now don’t blame God—the rule was you don’t touch the ark.  Period.  But when you do something in a wrong way you open yourself up to a whole bunch of circumstances.

Second, listen to the experts.  The head cooker person I was helping was a professional cook.  She knew the danger–I didn’t.  I was a he-man, bean toting pastor–that is until “I spilt the beans” (pun intended!) I thought I could handle it—and I could not. I’m not sure why we wrestle this around but isn’t it funny how God, the ultimate expert, offers us advice–and we tend to ignore it.  And the pain that it causes can rival or exceed second degree burns. Listen to God.  He knows best.

Finally, get ready for the lasting effects of the consequences.  I burned my arm on a Tuesday and it took days, lots of days, to even begin to feel normal. Oh, and did I mention that I didn’t go to the doctor because I was going to tough it out? You see, pride is a bad deal.  I guess I was embarrassed enough, and I just didn’t want to explain to the doctor about how unwise I was.  So, I just dealt with it.  Fortunately, I did bump into him later and he saw the bandage, checked it out, asked the inevitable questions, and gave me some awesome medicine for burns. It did heal and left only minimal scarring to gently remind me to listen before I act. It taught me that whatever you sow…you reap. It taught me that—every bad choice we make carries some sort of consequences.  Choose wisely, my son, choose wisely.

So, twelve years later, there is still a twinge of regret over that fateful Tuesday night.   I still shake my head and wonder how in the world I could do something so, so, stupid. Every once in a while, when we are having a dinner at church, I will say, “Hey, head cooker person, do you remember…” and before I can finish the sentence, we both nod knowingly.  I was afraid I was going to swear off bake beans forever but that that didn’t happen, but I will never look at a pan of beans the same way.  And I will forever have a greater respect for an oven set to 350 degrees.

As you journey along and you are faced with decisions and crossroads and someone suggests maybe going this way or that or doing it this way or that—take a moment, pause, and listen to their advice—especially if it involves baked beans.  And if that voice is a gentle whisper from the Whisperer, definitely stop and listen.  He will probably be helping you avoid some needless pain or letting you know you can rest in Him.  He will be whispering, “I’ve got this.” Bro. Dewayne

Posted in Family, forgiveness, Grace, gratitude, life, prayer, Scripture, Trials, wisdom

Nice Landing…But

In those days there was no king in Israel; everyone did what was right in his own eyes.” Judges 21:25

What? Really? You’re kidding? Several years ago, something happened that made the national news and caused quite a stir for a particular airline. It seems that a Southwest Airlines flight was on its way to Branson, Missouri.  It was dark and for a lot of us even driving a car in the dark is a deal but that’s nothing for professional pilots.  Anyway, as they made their approach to the airport, they saw lights and a runway and performed a perfect landing–at the wrong airport.  How in the world did that happen?

Well, when asked, it turns out the pilots were a little confused.  They saw the lights and assumed that it was the Branson airport which of course, it wasn’t.  Now all that might seem somewhat forgivable…I mean everyone makes a mistake.  But one small factor makes forgiveness a little more difficult:  electronics.  Now I am not a pilot, but I do know that modern avionics do an amazing job helping the pilot fly the plane. My nephew and brother-on-law fly professionally, and they sometimes share with me about the amazing aircraft they fly.

There was a story on the news that expressed concern that the aircraft and all its electronics perhaps do too much of the flying of the aircraft. In the case of the mistaken airport, we can only presume that the avionics were doing their job and had the plane headed in the right direction.  At some point, the pilots took over, ignored all that the electronics were telling them and made a big and potentially disastrous mistake.  I can just hear their GPS saying, “Turn around when possible.”  Ok, that’s stretching it but the bottom line remains–the instruments were telling them the truth, but they did what they thought was right.  Oops.

We have such a terrible tendency to do the same.  God gave us His Word not as a bunch of do’s and don’ts but rather as a guidebook, a GPS, if you will, to get us through life.  It gives us good solid advice and points us in the way we should go.  If we choose to ignore it, well, we can metaphorically end up at the “wrong airport” or worse than that in a devastating fiery crash with equally disastrous consequences. Either because of circumstances or our stubborn pride, we sometimes just insist on doing what we think is right—even when we know better.

The Bible speaks of this in Judges 21:25 “In those days there was no king in Israel; everyone did what was right in his own eyes.” In other words, in the vacuum of leadership, the people did whatever they wanted.  Does that somehow sound familiar? Growing up in the sixties I thought we did a pretty good job of doing our own thing, but I do believe that culture today is showing us up. It’s not that we don’t know better.  It’s not that we don’t have something to guide us.  It’s not that we don’t have a king—no, there is a King–we just tend to ignore Him when it gets too uncomfortable or goes against our grain.

In the case of the Southwest pilots, they were very fortunate because the consequences were smaller than they could have been. They had to answer for their actions and I’m sure they either lost their jobs or were sent back to “driver’s education.”  But let’s be honest.  Sometimes what was true for them is also true for us.  We just get sloppy in our living and well, that leads down a path we just need to avoid.

A lot of the “rough air” and “pilot error” we experience in life can be avoided if we will take the time to read the Book, trust the Book, and apply the Book.  But even then, we won’t always get it right.  No one, including pilots, are perfect.  The good news is that when we fail and even when we crash there is grace.  The One who made us all is ready and willing to forgive us of all our errors and sins.  We just need to ask.  And if we will, and when we do, we can rest assured that, “He’s got this.”  Bro. Dewayne

Posted in life, Military memories, Scripture, thankful, Trials

Losing Your Grip

 “How can you think of saying to your friend, ‘Let me help you get rid of that speck in your eye,’ when you can’t see past the log in your own eye? 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 7:4-5

It was definitely an “I need coffee” wakeup. You know sometimes you bound out of bed like an overactive gazelle and sometimes you just sorta fall out of bed.  Well, today was somewhere in between.  I am an early riser but today was earlier than normal…4:00 am. It wasn’t an overactive brain but an overactive bladder.  “Wakeup sleepy head.  Time to rise and shine.”  Yeah.  Right. Sure.

I went into my man-cave to tell the Keurig coffee machine I needed help…fast.  As I was getting things ready, I looked on the floor and there was a small round thing.  I recognized it as one of the mementos I had on a wall displaying memories from my stint in the Air Force.  It was then I looked up.  There was a gaping hole in the display.  A large picture frame that had been the center piece for the display was missing.

So, I stumbled around, keep in mind this is still before coffee, and started finding things.  First, there was the picture frame…not on the wall where it belonged but on the floor.  Also laying on the floor and on my desk where several things that I had placed on top of the frame.  It was like an avalanche of memories had fallen off the wall. What in the world?

Well, here’s the deal.  I am (or used to be) a fan of Command Strips.  It’s a product that allows you to hang things. You simply put a sticky thing on something and then put another sticky thing on the wall, press them together and ta-da you are done.  Well, apparently make that almost done.  Or, maybe done for a while. Or, maybe done till it decides it is done.  Regardless…the picture isn’t on the wall.  Of course, there is that thing about cleaning the wall with alcohol before you stick it there.  Did I do that?  Hmmm.  Probably not…the wall didn’t look dirty to me.

Anyway, there are a couple of things that made me think about this whole falling off the wall thing.  First, I walked into the man-cave and noticed a little round medallion on the floor but didn’t see the gaping hole on the wall.  Isn’t it amazing how we sometimes notice the small things and miss the giant ones? That’s what Jesus was talking about when He said we walk around with a 2×4 in our eye while telling someone they need to take care of a speck of dust in their eye. How weird is that? Or maybe not.

And then there is this whole falling off the wall thing. You see, that picture had been hanging on the wall for well over a year. The two sticky things were stuck together like white on rice.  Then slowly over time they started to lose their grip.  Little by little the one stuck to the wall became loose and then one day…it just fell.  And when it did…it took several things with it.  I don’t think it woke up and said, “Well, today is the day I’m going to fall off the wall.” Nope…little by little gravity pulled and tugged until it won.

I’ve had some pretty good failures in my life.  And do you know what?  Very few of them where planned.  Most of them were just products of neglect.  Stopped getting on the scale. Stopped exercising for a few days…weeks.  Stopped having my time with God in the morning. Stopped telling my wife she hung the moon.  And then one day…you just fall off the wall.  You stop loving, stop believing, stop doing the next right thing. You suddenly find yourself in a hot mess.  And rarely does it affect just you.

So what do you do? Well, I find that the Bible is a really good resource for avoiding the landslides of life.  Jesus said in Matthew 26:41 “Watch and pray that you may not enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.” He says we should watch out.  Look for signs that you are losing your grip.  Beware of pattern changes, attitude changes.  Second, pray.  Yup, prayer is a big one…but maybe not like you think. Worry less about being on your knees and using big words and just tell God what is on your mind.  Then, get ready, trust Him with the answer…the solution. Last…be ready to acknowledge your own weakness.  It’s ok to acknowledge when our “want to” doesn’t measure up to our “gonna do” or our done.  That’s why we need God.  Big time.

I’m gonna put the picture back on the wall.  This time it won’t be with a sticky thing.  I’m gonna use a nice big screw.  That way, it can’t lose its grip…the screw will do the work. And I think I’m gonna try that with me and God.  I’m gonna stop trying to hold on to Him and let Him hold on to me.  I bet that is a better idea.  I bet I can rest in Him then.  After all, He’s got me…and He’s got this.

Posted in fear, forgiveness, gratitude, life, prayer, Scripture, thankful, travel, Trials

Big Foot, Lions, Tigers and Bears

 “You will have suffering in this world. Be courageous! I have conquered the world.” John 16:33b

If you remember from yesterday, Judy and I had climbed to the top of a bluff in Southern Illinois.  It was smack dab in the middle of the COVID hot mess and we needed a break, so we took a hike.  As we stood there, it was just beautiful. Tens of thousands of acres were bursting into spring and God was shouting, “Hey just like winter’s dreary brownness must give way to the new life of spring–this will pass.”  It was a good moment.  Before long, with night just over an hour away, it was time to go down from the bluff and head home.  Folks say there is no place like home–that is if you can find it.

Well, the magical phone app Judy was using is called, “All Trails.”  It really is quite cool. You start the app at the selected trailhead and using GPS it guides you through the woods.  The trail is shown right there on the screen–even ones that aren’t even there. And that, dear friends, is where the fun began.

So, according to our trusty app, Stoneface trail made a loop back to the car.  Now a loop is better because you don’t have to see the same scenery twice.  It’s all new.  We decided to take the loop.  At first the trail was pretty evident.  We came to a low split rail fence across the trail.  We thought it meant no horses on Stoneface.  What it really meant was if you go past this point you are going to die.  We went past that point.

We walked and hiked for a while and strangely that grumpy feeling started coming back again.  It may have had to do with the fact that I started to realize that the app was lying to us.  “Trail? What trail? I don’t know anything about a trail.” So, we reached the point where we had to go down the bluff.  Remember, there is no trail, there is no sign of a trail…only a friendly app that kept saying, “you’re on the trail.”

Now there are not words to describe this journey but I’m going to try.  We were walking, sliding, down a 90% embankment (ok maybe it was like 20%) and rocks covered with leaves are rolling like ball-bearings under our feet. We cross rivers (ok- creeks), change time zones, and go through small Grand Canyons.  I’m growing concerned.  “Hey Judy, we have less than an hour of daylight.” “No problem” she said.  “The app says we are on the trail,” she said.  I won’t tell you what I said.

On we went with our app spewing out lies about trails.  Then it happened.  I saw some movement out of the corner of my eye and there just forty yards away was Bigfoot–or the Abominable Snowman–I couldn’t tell for sure.  We were in deep weeds.  Then, I heard a duet being played by a banjo and guitar.  Yup–we were going to die.  On we marched–lions, tigers and bears frolicked all around us.  “Hey Judy,” I said.  “The app says…,” she said.

So, the app lied.  Period.  But there is one thing it didn’t lie about.  After about an hour or so, she said, “I see the car.”  I said, literally, “Thank you Lord.” Another ten minutes or so and I was hugging that glorious thing–no, not Judy, the car.  So, what is the moral of this strange and twisted trail–I mean, tale.  Trust.

While the app didn’t tell the truth about the trail, it did tell the truth about the one thing that mattered–the destination.  It led us to the car.  And, you know, I think the app kinda reminded me of God. First and emphatically, unlike the app, God never lies…we just stop believing and trusting Him.  We think He promises paved roads and smooth journeys and then we get mad when He doesn’t deliver.  Read this carefully–God never promised that.  In fact, Jesus said in John 16:33b “You will have suffering in this world. Be courageous! I have conquered the world.”

He told us the path would be rough.  He told us the trail would be difficult.  He didn’t promise storm free living, rather He promised He would never leave us–never abandon us, and He doesn’t.  Most importantly, He said we are going home, and we are.  If we confess our sins, trust in what Jesus did on the cross, turn from our sins and choose to follow Him–we are going home.  That is the gospel truth–literally.

So, there you go.  If you go to Stoneface…don’t take the loop.  If are feeling overwhelmed–trust Jesus.  If you are feeling like God didn’t keep His end of the deal…remember the truth…it’s not smooth sailing but He is leading us home.  No matter how big the waves of the storm, He is bigger.  So, rest in Him.  He’s got this.

Posted in Family, fear, forgiveness, Grace, gratitude, life, love, loving others, Scripture, Southern born, thankful, Trials

Anger Management 101

Be angry and do not sin. Don’t let the sun go down on your anger, and don’t give the devil an opportunity.” Ephesians 4:26

I think I have figured it out.  From the time I could remember my mom always told me, “Dewayne, I think you are going to be six feet tall when you grow up.”  I believe she based that on the fact that I kinda looked like my brother Joe and he was somewhere near that.  Anyway, I grew up with the expectation that I would, well, grow up.  Somewhere, something got lost in the translation.

The bottom line is for all of my life I have been slightly height challenged.  Now, it wasn’t as bad as it could have been, but it was apparent early on that mom had misjudged the gene pool.  Unless a miracle was on the horizon the height expectations needed to be lowered…a lot.  By the time I was in the eighth grade I was still about 5”6”.  I had managed to lose some of my roundness but I just came up short (pun intended) on the height deal. Too bad I wasn’t born a couple of thousand years ago. Back then, I would almost be tall.

When I was in the ninth grade, I was at the top of the pecking order grade wise. In Florida high school didn’t start till tenth grade so we ninth graders were the kings of the junior high campus…even if you were a tad short.  One day in class the teacher stepped out of the room.  A guy I knew, and he might have even been a friend, grabbed my pencil and said he was going to break it.  “Don’t do it, man” I said in my deepest, tallest voice.  He kept threatening to break it and I kept threatening to break him.  He broke it and I exploded.

Now before we go on you need to know I was a pretty compliant kid.  I am a conflict avoidance adult, and I was a conflict avoidance kid.  Something just snapped.  I flipped the table over on him, put him in a head hold and proceeded to teach him not to break my pencil.  Can someone said, “Stupid?”  Well, the teacher walks in, someone breaks up the fight and we get a free trip to the principal’s office.  Judgement was swift and right to the seat of the problem.  Two swats a day for five days administered by the athletic director.  He was not five-six.

So, for the next five days I was to report first thing in the morning to his office, bend over and grab my ankles and two hard swats.  Pow—pow.  Swift, powerful, and man did they hurt.  And they worked. I always left with a strong desire to join the Peace Corps. I never got into another fight.  Break my pencil?  Sure, go right ahead. I have a spare. I always wondered what sparked that outburst.  I think I know.  It was short man syndrome or SMS.

I found out that SMS is “an angry male of below average height who feels it necessary to act out in an attempt to gain respect and recognition from others and compensate for his short stature.” I’m pretty sure that is what happened that day.  I was wanting some respect and was willing to act stupid to get it. Did I mention two swats a day for five days?  So, that week, about day three and swat number six I got over my syndrome and a chunk of my anger.  I was just fine at 5’6”.  Fortunately, the Lord gave me a couple of more inches and I ended up at a respectable 5’8”.  However, I think I am back down to five-seven now.  You know, the Lord gives, and the Lord takes away.  Smile.

I really did learn a valuable lesson that day.  You should never, and I mean never, let your anger get the best of you.  Anger is not a sin when it is controlled and directed in the right direction.  Jesus got angry at the people who were abusing His Father’s house. The problem isn’t anger—the problem is control—or lack of it. Paul wrote about this when he said, “Be angry and do not sin. Don’t let the sun go down on your anger, and don’t give the devil an opportunity.” Keep your temper tame and don’t let it simmer over night.  It’s great for a pork butt but terrible for anger.  And every time we don’t, we give Satan the opportunity to win. And, when he wins…we lose.  Every time.

So, I’ve learned to be happy where I am. I think 5’8” or 5’7” is just about right. I’m still taller than Judy and she thinks I’m tall, or at least tallish, dark, and handsome.  Also, I’m learning not to lose it because I always lose when I do. And, I am learning to trust in Him.  If someone breaks my pencil, I’m learning to let God handle it.  It’s much better than visiting the coach every morning for five days.  There’s something else. I found out that when I’m not facing the coach in the morning, I rest better…especially in Him.  I fall to sleep knowing, “He’s got this.”  And He does.     Bro. Dewayne