Posted in Family, friends, Grace, gratitude, life, love, loving others, priorities, sovereignty of God, thankful, travel, wisdom

The Captain and the Wind

Oh, Lord God! You Yourself made the heavens and earth by Your great power and with Your outstretched arm. Nothing is too difficult for You!” Jeremiah 32:17

It was the gift of a lifetime. It was 1997 and we were experiencing the gift of a lifetime—the trip of a lifetime. The church where we pastored had honored us with a massive trip to the Holy Land in celebration of our tenth anniversary as their pastor.  I’ve shared some of those incredible times once or twice before in Grits. Recently though I was reminded of a part of the trip that was a small part of a big story and teaches a powerful lesson about us and God.

After a quick visit to Greece and a long visit to the Holy Land, we found ourselves in the land of Pharaohs.  How incredible to stand where the children of Israel once slaved and worked.  How amazing to stand where Moses stood as he spoke for the great, “I AM,” and spoke the words on behalf of God, “Let My people go.”  The pyramids, the great sphinx, the museums, the history all were breathtaking and then there was—the Nile.

Though my wife Judy and I have now seen and been on the Nile several times…back then it was the first time…and there’s nothing like the first time.  As part of our trip, we took a day trip on this ancient and mighty river.  There were all kinds of vessels on the river that day from small to very large, from very old to newer and from those powered by sails and those powered by massive engines.

Ours was powered by diesel.  As we prepared to leave the port, the captain of the vessel fired up the engines and soon we were underway.  With the powerful engine, the vessel went in the direction and speed that the captain desired.  It was impressive but there was something else there on the river that was equally so.  All around us were boats not powered by gas or diesel but by the wind.  Silently and gracefully, they cut through the water…not as fast as others but somehow more impressive…more desirable.

What was it that was so attractive?  It was the fact that they did not depend on their own power—they depended on a power outside of themselves—bigger than themselves.  They moved at a pace and the whim of the wind. Oh, there was a human hand on the rudder and there was skill in the positioning of the sail but still it was the wind that moved the boat. And, unlike our vessel, the captain and crew never had to worry about breaking down or running out of fuel.  And somehow, that just seemed better…richer.

I read a devotion by a guy named Aussie Dave (you have to love that name) that pointed out this vast difference.  And I learned that it wasn’t about boats at all…it was about us…and our lives…and how we choose to live our lives.  Oh, we can motor along through life, seemingly controlling our fate, our direction, our speed, and all that might work, will work, until the engine breaks down or we run out of fuel. And, trust me, there will be a time in life when both will happen and it is just about then we will realize the value of trusting something bigger, Someone bigger, with our journey. That, of course, is Creator God—the One who created it all—including the wind.

If I’m guessing right, a lot of us wrestle with letting the Creator of the wind propel our vessels…our lives.  We simply want to be in charge…to determine the direction and details of our trip but remember this.  Along the shores of Nile were abandoned vessels…broken down and wore down and long abandoned. And while there may have been a few sailing vessels along that same shore, they were always a candidate to be rebuilt—to be redeemed and that too is the story of those who trust in a Captain that made it all. With this Captain…nothing is impossible.

Judy and I will never forget that journey or the people who made it possible. It was a generous and sacrificial gift given from our friend’s hearts.  We will also never forget the generous and sacrificial gift of our Dearest Daddy who makes life, our lives, so rich and purposeful and our eternity so…well, sometimes there just aren’t words.  I hope you have chosen God as your Captain and I hope you will pause even now and listen.  Even when the wind goes still and your progress so slow, listen carefully as the Whisperer whispers, “I’ve got this.”  Bro. Dewayne

Posted in Family, fear, friends, Grace, gratitude, life, love, prayer, Scripture, sovereignty of God, thankful, travel, Trials

Journey with Faith & Gratitude

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

It was good…and suddenly it wasn’t. Yup…it was my birthday…not the last one but the one before that.  I was on my way to Cracker Barrel to have breakfast with three of my friends…and one of them was buying. It was snowing and the roads were ok but not great. As we neared the restaurant my Apple Watch vibrated and I glanced down and saw three words, “Help, Help, Help.”  Now that will get your attention.  The message was from my oldest granddaughter and moments later was followed by another short message, “I have been in an accident.”  Then for a few minutes things went silent.  While we knew she was on her way to work we had no idea where she was.

The message was sent through our family chat group so soon messages were flying but her end was silent.  We were frightened…we were afraid. A free breakfast suddenly had lost every bit of its appeal.  Only one thing mattered and that was a young lady somewhere who was in trouble.  Well, soon she let us know that she had called 911 and the police and an ambulance were on the way. Through a location service on her phone, we learned where she was, off, literally off, Interstate 57.  Her dad immediately was on the way and after a long, few minutes, was there with her.   Here’s what happened.

She was driving on the Interstate and apparently hit a patch of black ice.  Though going straight, the back of the car began to fishtail, and she went off the side of the road and down a steep embankment.  The journey was well over 100 feet and the car missed several small trees and ended up in a ditch at the bottom.  The airbags deployed and that gave her a mild concussion.  Her left leg was also banged up but amazingly she was ok.  When we later saw the pictures of the path of the car, it was clear that something Divine had happened.  Someone bigger than her was in control that day.

One of the most revealing things in the photo was a large and deep concrete culvert. The truth is if she had been no more than 50 feet further down the road, she would have dove, front end first into this deep culvert and the story would have had a different ending.  God, and I do believe it was Him, that day and in that circumstance administered a large dose of grace that averted a tragic ending.  His ways are mysterious and why her and why then is known only to Him.

Things like this happen all the time with all kinds of different outcomes but one thing remains constant.  For those of us who believe in Him and follow Him it is a moment in the classroom of faith.  It’s one of those constant lessons in life and a school that we never really graduate from.  The Bible says we are to walk by faith, and it also says that without faith it is impossible to please God.  That day God shouted, “Trust me.”  But there is more.  We also learned a little more about gratitude.  You see, I can say that it never occurred to me to ask God, “Why did you allow this?”  No, rather, the only thing that I could say was thank You, not for the accident but watching over her through the accident.  And, honestly, it was because of the accident I discovered again His watch care. Had she arrived at work safety that day, well, I probably wouldn’t have given it a second thought.

Faith and gratitude…two very important cobblestones that we need to learn to navigate this journey called life.  And as we journey, there will be times when it is easy to believe and easy to rejoice and there will be times when it seems impossible.  But remember, He really is a good, good Father and in this broken, fragile world He is still God.  Why He averts somethings while allowing others I don’t have a clue, but I know He is worthy of my trust.  One of my favorite parts of the Bible assures me that He can, He does, bring good even out of bad situations and for that I am grateful. I am still enrolled in the school of faith and one of our class mottos are three incredibly powerful words, “He’s got this.”  And…He does.  Bro. Dewayne

Posted in Family, Grace, gratitude, life, prayer, thankful, travel, Trials, wisdom

The One in Control

Two are better than one because they have a good reward for their efforts.” Ecclesiastes 4:9

I soon discovered who was in control…and it wasn’t me. My adventure with my wife, Judy, down Jack’s Fork River in Southeast Missouri was a lesson in life. Jack’s Fork is a tributary to the Current River. The key word there is “current,” because there is one, both on Jack’s Fork and its big brother. At the launching place the current is hardly noticeable. It all seems so serene, so gentle, so docile. The reason for that is the fact at that particular point, the river is somewhat wide…at least compared to downstream. It seemed to be saying, “Come on in.  Trust me.” We have a saying for that “Liar, liar. Pants on fire.”

As Judy and I launched from the shore I was immediately impressed with how stable the canoe seemed to be. “This isn’t so hard,” I said. “This is going to be a breeze,” I said. “We’ve got this,” I said. I decided it would be good time to test my steering and guiding capabilities for the canoe. If you want to go to the left…you paddle on the right. “Paddle, right,” I said to Judy. The canoe went straight. I decided to try the other way, “Paddle, left,” I said to Judy. The canoe went straight. Hmmm. It kinda reminded me of my teenage kids. It kinda reminded me of me when God was saying one thing and I didn’t listen.

Well, I tried “Plan B” of the steering plan and that is when the guy or gal in the back drags the paddle in the water. If you want to go left ,you drag your paddle in the water on the left side and if you want to go right you do the opposite. Now this produced some results…I think. I say I think because sometimes it seemed to work and sometimes it didn’t and there was a reason. You see I might have been in the back trying to steer but really, it was the current that was the boss. And too soon that became apparent.

About ten minutes into the trip, the river narrowed a bit and took a turn to the left. The water went from gentle to a class 14 rapid…the kind you see on television when people are dying. Waves, 15 feet tall, threatened to swamp the boat. Ok, that might be a slight exaggeration, but the current was definitely faster and stronger, and we did lose four or five boats there. Somehow, Judy and I survived the challenge but trust me it had nothing to do with skill and a lot to do with grace.

But here’s the deal. No matter what I did, no matter how hard I tried, it seemed I wasn’t in control. The current took us where it wanted. The best I could manage was to manage to stay away from the hazards and stay somewhere in the middle of the swift water. It would pull us this way and push us that way and we were along for the ride. Even in smoother water it seemed we spent a lot of time going from side to side instead of down the river.

I think I know the problem…inexperience. I knew the basics, I knew some of the mechanics, but I just didn’t have the time in the saddle, if you get my drift, partner. Someone who had done this a lot wouldn’t have had the same issues Judy and I did. With experience, you learn to read the river and use the current to your advantage. And, equally important, you learn to work together as a team. By reading the river and working as a team, you overcome the obstacles and hazards and that increases your chances of arriving safely…and dry.

Speaking of dry…Judy and I did arrive dry. The only time we got wet was when we stopped for a rest and some snacks and then it was a welcome relief to get in the cold water. So, whether it is in marriage or family, at home or at church, or at work, perhaps we should learn to “read the river” and work with, and not against, one another. The wisest guy to ever live and the author of one of the books of wisdom in the Bible said it best, “Two are better than one because they have a good reward for their efforts.” The current may be strong but two might just be able to overcome it. It gets better.

You see, the same guy says in the same place, that a three strand cord is not easily broken. You see, often our best efforts are just not enough. Sometimes those currents can become raging rapids and sometimes it happens with little or no warning. Why not invite a third party along for the ride? Why not invite God along for the journey? I know that He has all the experience in the universe and beyond and the One who made river, knows the river better than we ever will. As you are navigating the river of life, take a moment and listen from the back of the boat. You will hear the Whisper say, “Hey, take a break. I’ve got this.” And do you know what? He does. Bro. Dewayne