Posted in Family, fear, friends, gratitude, life, prayer, Scripture, thankful, travel, Trials

Light at the End of the Tunnel

I have come as a light to shine in this dark world, so that all who put their trust in Me will no longer remain in the dark.” John 12:46

Hi Grits Family! Hey, my wife Judy and I are going to be “out of pocket” aka “not available” to write this week—on another great adventure.  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” next week. God bless.  Bro. Dewayne

There’s light at the end of the tunnel.  I have heard that saying all my life (well, at least a chunk of it).  But the truth is the light at the end of the tunnel just might not be enough.  You see, about 20 miles from where we live, there is a bike trail with a tunnel that is 543 feet long.  It’s located in beautiful Southern Illinois.  Oh, I know, I say beautiful and Illinois in the same sentence and all people can think of is flat corn fields and Chicago.  But tucked away in what we call the “real” Southern Illinois are many trails with beautiful hills and rock bluffs in the Shawnee National Forest.

Tunnel Hill Trail is a gem in our area and perhaps the highpoint of the trail is its tunnel. Our church has an annual bike ride that begins at the tunnel.  At its peak we would have over a hundred riders—big and little, young, and old. What makes it even better, the small town of Vienna (where we have our picnic) is only ten miles or so from the tunnel and that part of the trail is either flat or slightly downhill.  I told the church riders that, but I’m sure after riding it they thought I might have stretched the truth.  Well, maybe a little.  But the truth is—ten miles on a bike seat is still ten miles on a bike seat.

I have learned over the years to respect every foot of the tunnel there.   As you enter the tunnel, two things are apparent.  One, there is plenty of light. So, it is easy to assume that there will be plenty of light all the way through.  That would be a mistake.  Second, you might assume that since you can see the “light at the end of tunnel” that would be enough to get you through.  Uh, that would be a mistake too.  Let me describe it…though words really can’t do the job.  You must experience it.

Whether you are riding your bike or walking, as you enter the tunnel you really do think, “Oh this isn’t too bad.”  There is plenty of light and of course, you can clearly see the light at the end of the tunnel.  Slowly, very slowly, almost without noticing, the light fades away and suddenly, just shy of halfway, you find yourself in total, eerie, darkness.  What seemed so easy now seems increasingly difficult.  Even with the light at the end of tunnel, you can’t tell where you are going.  You think you are in the middle of the trail when in fact you can easily be heading straight for the walls.  Over the years, everyone who has ridden with our group has made it through the tunnel.  It’s just that some of them came out with a few bruises and scrapes…courtesy of “the walls.”

Well, after about a hundred feet, light slowly starts appearing around you and before long the light pouring in from the end of the tunnel envelopes you…and you are glad. I’ve even ridden in the tunnel with a flashlight, and it still seems difficult.  You see, light at the end of the tunnel or not, darkness is difficult.  You simply lose all sense of where you are.  That is true in tunnels…and it is true in life.  Too often we are faced with choices and decide that we can handle what our common sense tells us is a bad idea.  We enter the tunnel with plenty of light and assume we have escaped the blight of our choice.  Only later do we see what we couldn’t see—the consequences of our decision.  Only when we “hit the wall” do we understand the pain of our decision.  It is only after we emerge back into the light that we can see the wounds from the walls and realize the scars that we will bear.

Life will have its valleys and not all tunnels in life are caused by our misguided choices, but the good news is regardless—we can find help.  Imagine what it would be like to take sunlight with us into the valleys—into the tunnels of life. What if the deepest valley and the darkest tunnel could be lit as noon is on a sunny day.  Well, it can.  You see, there is a light that defies darkness and is brighter than the sun—in fact, it is the Son.  Two thousand years ago a Man was born that claimed…and proved…that He was the Son of God, and His name is Jesus.  Have you ever wondered why this simple carpenter from an obscure village in the Middle East commands center stage on the stage of history?  The reason why?  He is the real deal. The Bible describes Him as the Light of the world…and He is.  And when a person follows Him, he walks in His light.

Jesus said, “I have come as a light to shine in this dark world, so that all who put their trust in Me will no longer remain in the dark.” That is a claim, a promise, worth checking out.  When we were kids a lot of us were afraid of the dark. As adults most of us have outgrown that fear, but we still have reason to fear the phantoms of the dark…things that are bigger than us.  Jesus drives the darkness and phantoms away when we chose to follow Him.  He’s waiting right now to bring light into your life…your tunnels.  When we find ourselves in our darkest moment, you will hear the Whisperer whisper, “Fear not…I’ve got this.  And He does.  Bro. Dewayne

Posted in Family, forgiveness, Grace, love, Scripture

A Daddy’s Love

“And because we are His children, God has sent the Spirit of His Son into our hearts, prompting us to call out, “Abba, Father.” Galatians 4:6

I might have been just a little difficult when I was little.  I can remember when I was quite young that I wasn’t very quiet.  I also remember that I had a hard time standing still.  I used to rock side to side sometimes and I can remember Momma asking, telling me, to hold still.  I’m sure there is a name for it now but back then it was just kind of a weird normal. At any rate it might explain some of the things I did that got me into a hot mess.

I can remember the time that I stuck my daddy’s water hose in the ground and couldn’t get it out.  We lived in North Florida and the soil was very sandy.  I discovered if you turned the water on and pressed the end of the hose against the soil, it would kinda self-drill into the sand.  On a good day I could get the hose three or four feet into the ground.  That was the easy part.  The problem was getting it back out of the ground.  You see, the water and sand created a seal around the hose and no matter how hard I tried…it was stuck.  I suppose you can imagine how upset, maybe angry, my daddy was when he came home and tried to water his roses and his hose was stuck in the ground.  Hmmm…not good, not good at all.

Of course then there was the time I found some leftover firecrackers in the workroom we had attached to the back of the house.  I decided that I could make a rocket of sorts with the firecrackers and a can.  I went to the trash and found a tin can, poked a small hole in the bottom and then fed the fuse for one of the firecrackers through the hole.  Then, I dug a hole just the size of the can, put the can in the hole and lit the fuse and…ran.  The firecracker exploded as planned and that propelled the can up in the air probably twenty or thirty feet.  There was only one problem.  I had dug the hole for the can right next to the front of daddy’s car.  Well, what goes up must come down and that can came right down…and landed right on the hood of daddy’s car.  Since this was a long time ago, it was when cans were made a lot stronger than they are today and when that can hit the hood—it definitely left a mark…a dent in fact.  Hmmm…not good, not good at all.

The worst of them all was the time I shot my daddy in the back with my BB gun.  We were hunting squirrels and daddy had let me take my BB gun along.  I was walking along and violated one of the big rules of gun safety—actually two of them.  First, make sure your safety is one and two, keep your finger off the trigger.  Well, I apparently flunked gun safety because my safety was not on and I had my finger on the trigger.  I stumbled and shot daddy dead in the back.  Now calm down.  The good news is he had on a heavy hunting coat and the BB gun was pretty weak.  The bottom line is he hardly felt it but he did feel it enough to turn around and give me “the look.”  I’m sure I had to retake Gun Safety 101.  Hmmm…nor good, not good at all.

So you would think after these three things and probably a couple of dozen more I can’t remember, my daddy promptly disowned me or at least sent me off to reform school or the French Foreign Legion.  But the truth of the matter is…he didn’t.  Oh, I’m sure there was some sort of punishment but one thing was for sure.  He never stopped loving me…he never disowned me. No matter what…I was still his son and his love, a father’s love, never failed. I know for some of you that is hard to understand, because it just wasn’t that way with your daddy.

Let me share some good news with you.  No matter what kind of daddy you had growing up there is another Daddy in heaven who loves you no matter what.  In fact, the Bible says He is an Abba Father…or Dearest Daddy and He is just waiting for you to be a part of His family.  And that happens when you ask and when you believe—ask Him to forgive your sins and believe that His Son Jesus in fact died for your sins making that forgiveness possible.  Trust me…it is the greatest gift and the greatest decision you will ever make.  Why not ask Him today?  Why not let Him make you His.  I promise you won’t regret it.  If you are afraid you’ve messed up to bad…well, don’t you worry about that.  No matter what you have done you can be assured that, “He’s got this.” Bro. Dewayne

Posted in Grace, gratitude, life, missions, Scripture, sovereignty of God, travel

Don’t Drink the Water

“For His anger lasts only a moment, but His favor lasts a lifetime! Weeping may last through the night, but joy comes with the morning.” Psalm 30:5

It was my first real mission trip. In 2003, I was given the opportunity to go on a mission trip to Bulgaria. In case you don’t know what a mission trip is, it is when you go to a different part of the world and do Jesus stuff. It might be medical, it might be teaching, it might be giving food away or most anything else that Jesus might do. Bulgaria is up by the Black Sea and snack dab in the middle of the old Soviet block. It was a different world. Imagine stepping back in time to the late fifties or early sixties and that’s where we landed.

When we arrived, it was instant culture shock. The food was different, the language was different, the people were different…everything was different. And there was one big rule—don’t ever drink the water. I was a little nervous and a whole lot excited. Get ready, boys, this is the great adventure. We were given an assignment and my new friend Mike, and I were sent to work a couple of hours from the rest of the group. We were up by the Blue Danube River and not far from the North Sea. We would be working with the Roma people. These folks, also known as Gypsies, were the outcasts of their society…the poorest of the poor and broken.

When we arrived, we were shown a nice apartment where we would stay. It was very recently remodeled and look almost American. We began working right away and starting going to remote villages. Through an interpreter we would talk to folks, I would sing and then one, or both of us, would teach about Jesus. The people were so kind. I remember I was introduced to Turkish coffee for the first time in my life. As you might know with Turkish coffee, they simply dump the grounds in the pot and boil them. They poured me a cup and I took a slug. First response—I almost choked on the grounds. Second response—I didn’t know what to do with the grounds, so I chewed them. Yup…the best part of waking up is with coffee grounds in your cup.

Later in the week, and near the end of our time with the people, we were given the opportunity to do some preaching down on the city square. It was pretty awesome. I sang a song and then preached…and let me tell you I preached. They might not have understood everything I said, but they knew I was excited about it. After I finished it was hot and I was thirsty. A nice street vendor offered me some red Kool Aid. I was so grateful. He filled up a glass and I drank the whole cup in one swig. Man, it was so good, so fruity, and so made with the water… I was not supposed to drink. I never gave it a second thought…until later that night.

After we got back to the apartment, we had supper and went to bed. About 11:00 pm we heard this awful noise and it came from the bathroom. Well, it turns out, a majority of the new plaster ceiling in the bathroom had fallen—filling the sink, the toilet and the floor with plaster pieces. We quickly decided we could clean it up in the morning. There is a great verse in the Bible that says, “Weeping may last through the night, but joy comes in the morning.” Well, that verse took on new meaning for me that night.

About 2:00 am I was suddenly awakened by what can only described as the worse cramping and nausea I have ever felt. Remember the red Kool Aid? Well, it was revenge time. I quickly went to the bathroom only to rediscover the sink and toilet totally filled with fallen plaster. It wasn’t a pretty picture. I can only remember trying to clean out the sink and the toilet before the impending disaster hit. I barely made it. Long story short, I was a regular attender to the bathroom all night and into the next day. Sure enough, there was weeping thought the night and joy was scarce. The only “joy” in the morning was when the guys went to the local pharmacy and bought me a Depends. HaHa. Thanks guys.

Well, I was sick for the next day or so, but before we got on the plane for home, I was better. Someone let my wife Judy know that I was really sick and that she should look for the insurance policy. Ok, it wasn’t that bad, but I thought it was. I did learn a couple of really good lessons. One…when you do something that God wants you to do…it doesn’t mean that everything is going to be rosy. In fact, you may end up with a bouquet of weeds. But, I wouldn’t trade the experience for anything. Second…when the rule book says “don’t drink the water, DON’T drink the water. Write it on your hand, write it in your Bible, put duct tape over your mouth, but DON’T drink the water. And by the way, when God says don’t do something, there is also a reason why. He’s not being mean…He is being loving.

Well, we made it home and that trip led to many more…not to Bulgaria but rather to Africa. And guess what? We definitely couldn’t drink the water there either! Guess what again? I didn’t drink the water, because I remembered a lesson that I had learned a couple of years earlier. It just one way that God can take the worst things and teach us something good. Yay God. So, as we journey through these “Bulgarian” days and should we forget and “drink the water,” you will find a loving Heavenly Father who will walk you through the hardest times. He won’t walk out on you, ever. You will find that you can always rest in Him because He’s got this. Bro. Dewayne

Posted in Family, food, forgiveness, Grace, loving others, priorities

Pot Roast and Traditions

“Jesus replied, “And why do you, by your traditions, violate the direct commandments of God?” Matthew 15:3

It is a tale that I could identify with. The story is told of a young girl who was watching her mother prepare Sunday’s lunch. She watched as her mother carefully cut the pot roast in two before placing it in the pan. This intrigued her so she asked her mother why she did this. Her answer was simple and direct, “Because my mother did.” She wasn’t quite satisfied with the answer so her mother told her to go and ask grandma. And she did. Grandma gave her the same answer, “Because my mother did.” Well, the little girl decided to ask her great grandmother why she cut her roast in two. So, the next time she was at the nursing home visiting, she asked. Without missing a beat she said, “Well, honey, my pot was too small.”

Isn’t it funny how something done for a particular reason can be passed on and on. Isn’t it strange how we do something and long after the reason for doing it is gone…we keep right on doing it? I know because I’ve got a “thing” in my world. You, way back in 1985, my wife Judy and I purchased a Oldsmobile Cutlass Cruiser. It quickly became one of our favorite cars. It had the woodgrain trim down the side and seating for eight. It also had something else…it had a digital dash. Now keep in mind that was pretty high tech for 1985. Well, it had a little glitch.

That little glitch really was big one…the gas gauge was just not accurate. It often said you had more gas than you did. Well, one day, it got me…I ran out of fuel. After a lift to a station and returning with a borrowed gas can of gas, I was soon back on the road again…sing it Willie. And, that day, a new habit was born. Every time I bought fuel I would fill the tank and reset the trip odometer so I would know how far I could go. I never trusted the gauge again. So I would fill up with gas and reset the trip odometer…over and over again.

Well, one day it was time for the Oldsmobile Cruiser to cruise on and we got another car. New car, new gas gauge…no need to reset the trip odometer, right? Maybe not but the same old habit remained…always fill the tank and always reset the trip odometer. Now the gauge in the new car worked perfectly but the old habit remained. And guess what? It remains today. Here’s the deal. Thirty-seven years have come and gone and every time I buy fuel—I press reset. And if Judy happens to buy fuel instead of me, and she forgets to hit reset, I explain to her she needed to do it. And, she gives me the, “why” look and I just tell her because it’s just what we do. You might say I cut the roast in half because I always have.

So, is there something in your life that you are clinging to just because you have always done it that way? Of course it might be something that is totally harmless but sometimes…sometimes it isn’t. Sometimes it can lead to an angry exchange because someone didn’t keep the habit…the tradition. Sometimes relationships can be damaged. I’ve seen this so many times in churches. A tradition is messed with and World War III breaks out. The bottom line is there are habits, there are things, there are traditions that are noteworthy and good but we shouldn’t let them break friendships, relationships and hearts. Honestly, we may not need to cut the roast in two after all.

In the Bible back in the days of Jesus, the religious leaders added all kind of rules and traditions to their daily lives. The crazy part is they gave the traditions the same weight as the Law of God and trust me that was not a good idea. In fact, it wasn’t a good idea then and it sure isn’t now either. Jesus, talking to the temple leaders, said, “And why do you, by your traditions, violate the direct commandments of God?” Now that’s a good question.

I hope this will remind us that there are more important things to do than cutting your roast in half. In other words, there are hills worth dying on and others that should be let go. And most important, don’t let opinions and traditions drive a wedge between you and another person. It just isn’t worth it. A broken heart or relationship is far too high of a price to pay. If you ever need some advice about this, just ask your Heavenly Father. He will tell you that people matter more than pride, or traditions or habits. And if you have already made a mess with this, don’t worry, He can help with the cleanup…He’s got this. Bro. Dewayne

Posted in food, friends, Grace, life, Scripture, Trials, wisdom

Small Things…Big Consequences

“Catch the foxes for us—the little foxes that ruin the vineyards.” Song of Solomon 2:15

Recently, we had a couple of visitors at our home…and they were not welcome. We all have them at one time or another…I guess. One of the things about living in an older home is they seem to always find a way in. I am talking about the little brown furry ones…mice. This time of year it seems they want to come inside out of the cold. Who can blame them? Well, I can…and they visit at their own peril.

I don’t like them and my wife Judy really doesn’t like them. So when we found out they were visiting, we launched an all out war. We set two kinds of traps and used a glue board. Well, they laughed at the glue board and the fancy new traps we bought. But the old fashioned ones finally sent them to brown furry heaven. Did I feel bad? Nope, in fact I did my little happy dance.

The furry little visitors really liked to visit our pantry and in fact that is where they met their demise. We have since found a way to discourage their cousins from visiting by putting almost everything in plastic containers. But, it turns out that they had the last laugh. You see, I had purchased a variety pack of chips. They were small bags of, oh, six or seven kinds of snack foods. Well, as it turns out, the little furry brown visitors liked to chew a hole in the bag to see what was on the inside. As far as I could tell, they didn’t eat any, they just chewed a hole.

Well, I found this out the hard way. I selected a bag, opened it up and popped a chip in my waiting mouth. I was surprised to discover that it was stale. Hmmm. I looked and sure enough there was a whole about the size of a nickel in the bag. Bummer. So, I tossed that one in the trash and started going through the rest of the bags. Believe it or not, most of the bags had smallish holes. Well, because that meant the furry little visitors had nibbled on the bag and because that meant the chips were stale, all of them went in the trash. Being a rather frugal person…it kinda made me mad.

There were a couple of bags that survived and when I was packing for a recent trip to North Carolina, I decided to take some snacks. There was one bag of Fritos that had escaped the onslaught of the furry visitors and I figured something salty might taste good later on so I tossed them into my snack bag. Sure enough, one night at the hotel, I decided the time for something salty had come. I opened the bag, and with great anticipation tossed a couple of Fritos in my mouth. Well, guess what? Yup…they were stale.

Wait a minute. We had checked the bags…the violated ones had been tossed and only the survivors were kept. This was one of the survivors. So, I began to check the bag again and here is what I found. At the bottom of the bag, near the seam, was the tiniest, the smallest hole you could imagine. It was so small, I had to look twice. But guess what? It was enough for the seal to be broken and when the seal is broken…things go stale pretty quickly. Sure, the fresh by date was months down the road, but that assumed a little furry visitor didn’t poke a hole in the bag.

And that made me think. How could such a small hole make such a big difference? Of course the answer is…the seal was broken…the integrity of the bag was violated. And that made me think about us, about me and my life and my decisions. It made me realize that you don’t have to do something incredibly stupid to have things go south in your life. We are not surprised by some of the things we do…you know…eat a dozen donuts and gain a pound or two. But too often we think the little things don’t matter…but they do…oh, they do.

And all that leads up to one of my favorite verses from the Old Testament. It is found in the Song of Solomon, chapter two, verse 15, “Catch the foxes for us—the little foxes that ruin the vineyards.” Great verse. The author is saying it often it isn’t the elephants walking through our lives that get us…it is the little things that can make life go stale. So we have to be on alert. Remember little things can have big consequences. If you need some help, you might want to call an exterminator…but not the kind you think. You might want to ask the Creator…He is ready to help. As always, big or little, He’s got this too. Bro. Dewayne

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