Posted in Family, food, friends, gratitude, life, loving others, priorities, Scripture, thankful, Trials

Welcome Home

Let us think of ways to motivate one another to acts of love and good works. And let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do, but encourage one another, especially now that the day of His return is drawing near.” Hebrews 10:24-25

That’s a wrap.  When a film crew is filming, and the job is complete they call it a wrap.  The filming is over, done, finito (that’s Italian for finished…impressive huh?) Well, while the Covid virus is going to be a part of our lives for the rest of our lives, apparently it is finito. With herd immunity and all the new medicines available, its power has been dramatically reduced.  If you ever saw the cartoon version of “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” you remember that the abominable snowman lost his bite then they pulled his teeth.  So now, it seems with Covid also.

I heard the other day that our President even announced that it was done and looking around I agree. The other night my wife, Judy, and I went out to eat and we chose Cracker Barrel.  Now believe it or not, this restaurant has been a pretty good judge of Covid’s impact.  Of course, there was a time during Covid when it was closed, there was a time when they spaced everyone out and there were no condiments on the tables.  There was a time when there were paper menus that were promptly trashed after someone touched them.  And, when you walked in there might be a couple of dozen people there. But now, it seems, things have changed.

As I said, Friday night, we visited the closest Cracker Barrel. When we pulled into the parking lot, it was just about full.  I told Judy, “I sure hope we don’t have to wait.” I hate waiting…especially waiting to eat.  We walked in and to my surprise there wasn’t a line.  The hostess asked how many, picked up a couple of menus and took us to our table.  Well, here you go.  The first dining room was totally full…something that I had not seen for two years.  There were condiments on the tables and people were talking, laughing, and eating.  The next dining room was about 70 percent full but that is where we found our table.  Our hostess gave us a couple of real menus and that is when I said it, “Judy, it is normal.” So, we enjoyed a great meal and well, it all just felt good.

Normalcy.  It does feel good, but the truth is somethings just aren’t.  I went to the hospital to visit some folks this week and they are still requiring masks…sorta.  The signs say you must be screened to enter but you don’t.  The signs say that even one, including patients, must wear a mask but none of patients did though most other people did.  A real strange outcome of all of this is the job market.  There apparently are more jobs than people who want to work. I saw a sign that said, “Now Hiring…Just Like Everyone Else.” And believe it or not, when some people take a job, they may only stay a few days or weeks.  How different…how strange.

I went to my hearing doctor this week and he asked me how church (he knows I am a pastor) was going and what percentage of people have come back.  I told him we were running about 80 or 85 percent of our pre-Covid numbers.  The truth is while Covid was doing its thing some folks just gave up on the church thing.  Now that’s doesn’t necessarily mean they gave up on God, they just came to the conclusion that church wasn’t that big of a deal.  I’m sure some people feel the same way about Cracker Barrel—pre-Covid they loved it but now they can do without it.  How different…how interesting.

As a preacher, pastor guy I’m hoping that more of those who stopping coming and some who never came will rediscover and discover the value of this part of normalcy.  I never gave up on Cracker Barrel because I love their breakfast and their meatloaf isn’t too bad either.  There are several things that your local church provides that are worth hanging on to.  Chief among them are friendships and fellowship, someone to walk with you and your family as you do life, studying the number one bestselling book, the Bible, and being together with other people who think God is still relevant…because He is.

So, welcome back to normal.  As you rediscover life, I hope you will enjoy a great meal somewhere familiar…maybe Cracker Barrel or better a local place that misses you.  And why not think about coming home to God’s house.  Truthfully, they need you and you need them. The church offers something that nothing, not hobbies, not sports, not anything else can provide. It offers hope…it offers Jesus.  Whoever wrote Hebrews said, “Let us think of ways to motivate one another to acts of love and good works. And let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do, but encourage one another, especially now that the day of His return is drawing near.” Now that’s some good advice.  I know, sometimes it is hard to come home but your Dearest Daddy is waiting and ready to help.  Don’t worry…He’s got this. Bro. Dewayne

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

Walking Together

Two are better than one because they have a good reward for their efforts. For if either falls, his companion can lift him up; but pity the one who falls without another to lift him up.” Ecclesiastes 4:9-10

“Love Will Keep Us Together.”  It is one of our songs from the 70’s and it has been a way of living for us.  We sleep in the same bedroom in the same bed.  We eat our meals together.  We go out and eat together.  We watch television…mostly together.  We travel together…doing vacations…together.  We are a together kind of couple.  The old saying goes, “the family that prays together, stays together” and I do believe there is truth in that statement. A nationally known speaker said that 80 percent of couples who pray together stay together.  Interesting…if nothing else.

Well, this week my wife Judy and I carried this together thing to a new level.  Tuesday of this week, after a week of being ill with traveler’s disease (there’s a Grits story on that), I began feeling a little puny.  As the day went on, I felt worse.  Of all days, it was Judy’s birthday, and she had a lunch party with several of her friends so we didn’t see each other till after I got home from work.  So, I walked in, and she was sitting at her desk. I think I spoke first and said I just wasn’t feeling good, and she responded with, “I don’t feel good either.”  We decided to postpone our birthday dinner plans and sat around each progressively feeling worse.

Being a COVID veteran, I had my suspicions but didn’t say much but the night and the next morning said it all.  We both tossed and turned, got hot and then cold, had headaches (her’s was mega) and body aches. I got up first and felt just miserable and then Judy came in.  Now Judy is one of those folks who rarely gets sick and rarely complains.  She came into my office and simply said, “I feel terrible. We need to go the doctor.”  Well, she took a home COVID test and it was a clear positive.  The long and short of it all, we both had COVID, and it was one more thing we did together.

I told her I was grateful she was sick with me.  Let me explain. First, because I didn’t have to walk this alone and, second, I knew she could identify with how I felt.  Her body hurt like mine.  When I had COVID over year ago she was sympathetic but this time she empathic.  What is the difference?  Think of it this way.  If a person on the shore sees a person struggling in water and throws them a life preserver…they are sympathetic. But when that same person jumps into the water and struggles with that person…they are empathetic.

Over the last forty-six years of marriage (we celebrate that on June 26th) we have had plenty to celebrate but it occurred to me that we sometimes miss reasons to “tip our glass.”  This might be one of those.  We walked the COVID valley together, caring for one another, helping one another.  We walked the dark road each shining light on the other’s path.  That is love and frankly, that is a little Jesus too. It probably is a great example of Proverbs 4:9-10, “Two are better than one because they have a good reward for their efforts. 10. For if either falls, his companion can lift him up; but pity the one who falls without another to lift him up.” It’s true in life, it’s true in marriage and it is true in COVID.

So, there you go.  It is wonderful to have a wife and a friend like Judy to walk with me, but did you know there is something even better?  You see my Dearest Daddy in heaven walks with me too.  Honestly, I felt so bad I couldn’t even think about praying but that is ok because the Bible teaches that the God’s Holy Spirit was praying on my behalf.  And, the Bible also says that Jesus is constantly interceding for us too.  Talk about a prayer team.  That might be why I just know that if I listened, I would hear the sweet whisperer whispering, “Don’t worry, son, We’ve got this!” Bro. Dewayne

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

Tomorrow

Therefore, we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.” 2 Corinthians 4:16-17

It seemed like it would never get better.  I must admit, there were times in 2020 and last year when I wondered would this mess ever get better.  I began to wonder, “What if this really was the new normal?” What if all the restrictions and changes were things we were going to have to get used to?  What if when someone said, “Just get over it,” that was the reality.  Well, at this juncture it seems that is not the case. I just heard on the national news from a national leader the words, “For most Americans it is time to put the mask away.”  There is indeed light at the end of the tunnel, and it is not a train about to run over us.

I’ve been reading a lot (well, at least a lot for me) about rethinking the way we think.  Both scripture and science prove that our brain, (not to mention our lives) respond to our thought process.  It is true. Our lives move in the direction of our strongest thoughts.  Or, as another person said, “where you stare you steer.”  It is possible and probably probable that we can and should take some advice from Annie.  Remember her?

Annie.  Her life was pretty hard…pretty dark.  A perky young redhead with an optimistic attitude in a pessimistic world.  Others mocked her and those charged to care for her emotionally abused her.  So, what was Annie’s response?  Well, it goes something like this.

“The sun will come out tomorrow. Bet your bottom dollar that tomorrow, there’ll be sun! Just thinking about tomorrow clears away the cobwebs, and the sorrow, till there’s none! When I’m stuck in a day that’s gray, and lonely, I just stick out my chin and grin, and say, “Oh the sun will come out tomorrow. So ya gotta hang on till tomorrow…come what may. Tomorrow! Tomorrow! I love ya tomorrow! You’re always a day away.”

Guess what?  The sun did come out.  She is rescued by Daddy Warbucks and her life is changed forever.  Are there still problems?  Yup.  Are there still bad guys lurking to hurt her–steal her away? Yup.  Does the story have a great ending?  Yup and three big lessons emerge.  One, the sun will come out.  Two.  Don’t mess with Daddy Warbucks. Three, don’t underestimate a nine-year-old redhead.

Sometimes it seems we are stuck in a day that’s gray, and lonely.  Doesn’t it sometimes seem like the last couple of years has been one too long gray and cloudy day? Doesn’t it seem like this is the new forever normal?  Well, it is not.  The sun is going to come out and in many ways it already has.

I still try and walk occasionally and these days, usually on the treadmill.  I climb on and at 3.5 mph work hard to go nowhere.  But sometimes, the temps are warm, and the sun is out and I walk outside and it is like a cool drink of water in a hot dry desert.  I mean I just explode in gratitude for a God who loved me enough to let the sun come out.

I read on the internet that the phrase, “And it came to pass…” appears 396 times in the Bible.  Each time it is saying that the current situation didn’t come to stay…it came to pass. No matter what…most likely, this isn’t the new normal…it is a set, a series of temporary circumstance. And if it is a new normal, well, His grace is sufficient. When it is all said and done, 2019 is in the past but that may not be such a bad thing.

In 2 Corinthians 4:16-18 Paul writes, “Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.” Right on Paul.  Right on.

So, remember this.  One, the sun will come out–guaranteed.  It may be here, or it may be there but the future for a child of God is filled with “Son-shine.”  Second, remember who our Father is.  He isn’t just rich like Daddy Warbucks–He owns it all and is in total control.  And no one…and I mean no one…messes with our Father.  Last, you may not be a perky young redhead like Annie, but don’t underestimate yourself.  You dear friend, if you have trusted Christ, are a prince or princess of the King.  Your home is heaven, and your Heavenly Father calls you His. Can someone say, “Son-shine?” The forecast says clouds but I’m feeling pretty “Son-ny.”  After all, He’s got this.  Bro. Dewayne

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

Unwanted Legacy

Do not be deceived: “Bad company corrupts good morals.”

1 Corinthians 15:33

It was an unwanted legacy.  My wife Judy and I have three adult daughters. It is a standing joke in our house that anything that is bad or negative (weight, cholesterol, heart issues, blood pressure, etc) always come from me…the dad.  The good stuff invariably is attributed to the mom.  Now there can be no doubt that our daughters get their good looks from her, but I think there might be a little prejudice about this other stuff.  I am sure it all can’t possibly come from me.  Or can it?  You see, sometimes I think that I might, accidentally, unintentionally pass on an unwanted legacy.  Let me give you an example.

So back in August of last year I went dancing with my worse girlfriend, Corena.  In case you don’t know that was my nickname for the COVID virus.  Yes, I had been vaccinated but regardless she asked if I wanted to dance and apparently, I said yes.  It wasn’t fun.  As COVID cases go, might wasn’t too bad but it was enough to make me glad when the dance was over. Fortunately, as far as I know, no one, including my wife, came down with it.  After a week or so, it was all over and in the rearview mirror.  No harm, no foul just a bump in the road of life.

Well, late this past fall I started feeling crummy again.  I checked in with my doctor and friend and he quickly diagnosed me with the flu—let’s nickname that “Flo”.  Now this wasn’t the stomach flu…this was the real deal.  I’m not sure if it was Type A or Type B but I do know it was the kind that made you want to die. It, like Corena, lasted long enough for me not to want to have it again and I was glad when she waltzed out of the room.

Well, it all started on a Friday evening. I developed a cough and just started crashing.  Unfortunately, three of my grandsons were spending the night and not knowing what the deal was…they just cuddled up with “Papa.” As the night went on it was apparent that I had something, but we just didn’t know what.  The next day they all loaded up and went home and I went to bed. At the time I didn’t know what I had but I hated that I might have infected them. My diagnosis didn’t arrive until Sunday and the bad news came on Monday.

Yup…my daughter called and two of the three had an unexpected, unwanted legacy.  It wasn’t high blood pressure, or cholesterol, or hair loss…it was the flu.  Fortunately, there weren’t any complications, but they sure felt lousy for several days.  I can remember Judy talking on her phone to our daughter with the speaker on and I could hear one of coughing and it just broke my heart.  Unexpected, unintentional, or not…I had infected, impacted them.  It was an unexpected, unwanted legacy.

Well, all that thankfully is in the rearview mirror but the whole deal left me with an important lesson.  Whether it is a health deal or some other sort of deal, we need to understand and realize that we are all impacting those around us.  And, often, it is the ones closest to us…the ones we love the most.  Of course, there are plenty of good legacies and for those we can and should be grateful and proud.  But there are others…actions and words that scar or habits that hurt…that we need to arrest so we can avoid passing them down and around.  Perhaps it would be a good idea to take our “legacy temperature” frequently. Perhaps we should ask and honestly answer the question, “Is there something that might be a story, a memory, a habit that might be an unwanted legacy?” If there is, we should take action to stop it or change it.  The good news is- rarely is it too late to stop before there is an unwanted impact or infection.

It’s probably not the best verse for this story but it sure rings true.  Paul, the one who wrote a bunch of the New Testament Bible said, “Do not be deceived: “Bad company corrupts good morals.” Usually, bad company is intentional, and unexpected and unwanted legacies are not…but the outcome can be same.  So, starting today, ask the hard questions and make sure what you are leaving behind is not only worth sharing but a story that would make others smile.  Need a little help?  I know just the one…my Dearest Daddy. He is always there, always willing to help.  He’s got this too. Bro. Dewayne

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

Life From Ashes

The Lord Himself will fight for you. Just stay calm.” Exodus 14:14

It was a night that will not be forgotten.  For many years, my family has visited the Pigeon Forge, Tennessee area for vacation. It has not been every year – but occasionally.  We love the trails and the mountains and, of course, all the places to eat.  In some ways it is like a county fair because fair food and rides are everywhere.  Several years ago, we began joining my daughter and son-in-law with the grandkids in the fall…usually in November.  In a word, it is fun.

In 2016 something happened that changed that area forever.  A fire started by human hands near Chimney Tops on November 28th of that year and quickly spread through the dry, tinder forests.  The results were catastrophic and have been cited as the worst natural disaster in Tennessee history.  Before it was all said and done, 14 people lost their lives, 2,460 buildings were destroyed, and 17,900 acres were burned.  We watched on the news as it happened but also saw from a distance some of the devastation years later when we visited.  There was safety in that, on television and from a distance, but what happens when the tragedy gets more personal?

A couple of years later we once again returned to the Gatlinburg area.  Rebecca, my daughter, always makes the reservation, and she did again this time.  As we were driving to the cabin, we passed through an area that had obviously been damaged by the wildfire.  Judy made the comment that according to the GPS we were not too far from our cabin.  We could look up on the ridge and see many cabins far above the valley floor.  What we did not see was a lot of trees.  Apparently, the fire had destroyed them.

As we made our turn on the road that would lead to our cabin, it soon became apparent that we would see the power of the fire from that night up close.  The higher we climbed, the more we saw.  There were trees scarred by the flames and only the foundations remaining where cabins worth hundreds of thousands of dollars had once stood.  Some cabins had been rebuilt, some were being rebuilt, and some, well, stood as silent witnesses of destruction.  It was harsh, it was sad, it was awakening.  Suddenly the memories of what I saw on the news four years ago came to life like the dry bones Jeremiah saw in the Bible.

After an almost two-mile trip up the mountain, we came to our cabin.  There it stood, looking strangely new in one of Gatlinburg’s esteemed older rental areas.  It was indeed new because it, like almost every house in the area, had been destroyed by the fire that night.  In front of the house was a twenty-foot section of tree that, while not alive, still sends a message.  Carved into the massive trunk were the words “Smoky Strong.”  I’m sure the tree was alive and well the night the fire swept the mountain, but even today it sends a message…we are not done.

All around the area were signs of destruction…of what used to be.  But wait…don’t miss this.  Also, all around the area were signs of new life, of renewal, of rebirth.  New trees are replacing those lost, new homes are replacing the damaged, and many foundations will one day bear a new building.  The pain and suffering of that night is being replaced by the hope of the future.  I think we all can learn a lesson from Gatlinburg.  Over the last couple of years, a fire of sorts has swept thru our nation.  It bore several names, names like COVID, disunity, racism, and its flames were the flames of fear and hatred. The question is what will we do with this hot mess?  That is a question we have been asking now for too many months.

I’m sure many have concluded that life will never be the same, and that is probably true.  But why do we have to assume that this also means it won’t be better?  Why do we have to assume that our best days are behind us?  I know this.  God is still God, and the last time I checked, He has not given up control to His enemy the Devil, or fear, or COVID.  Moses, speaking for God, said, “The Lord Himself will fight for you. Just stay calm.” You see, He still reigns, and as long as that is true then the best is yet to come. The.Best.Is.Yet.To.Come.

I’m sure the house that once stood there was beautiful in its own rights.  I never saw it, but I sat in its successor, and it was beautiful.  I stood on the deck and had a clear view of the mountains and the valley below—a view that may have been obscured by the trees of the old normalcy.  Perhaps the ability to see clearer is a gift.  Perhaps the ability to trust God deeper is a gift from our Heavenly Father.  No, as I have said before, COVID and all its side effects are not good, but God can and will bring good from it.  For some of us, that means a deeper trust in Him. For some, it means a clearer view of what really matters in life.  For some, it will be the realization that it is good to have a Dearest Daddy we can rest in—knowing He’s got this.  Bro. Dewayne

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

Dancing with Disaster, part 1

And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to His purpose for them.”  Romans 8:28

Houston…we have a problem.  Those famous words…or something like that were first uttered 50 years ago during the Apollo 13 mission.  They are used today whenever there is a problem that needs to be addressed.  As an example, my wife Judy was “glamping” down at the Land Between the Lakes last year.  She pulled out her tennis shoes one morning to realize not only did they not match…they were both for her left foot.  She texted me with a picture and the words, “Houston, we have a problem.”  I laughed, but fifty years ago there was no one laughing.

Apollo 13 was only the third trip to the moon—only the third—but amazingly in that short span of time public interest in the moon missions had dropped to virtually zero.  The launch was a minor story and the news conference from space wasn’t even carried by the networks.  We humans are a fickle bunch.  It is amazing how quickly the extraordinary becomes ordinary…the unbelievable garners a yawn.  That was not only true when we were shooting repeat trips to the moon but also when we worship the God who made the moon.  We yawn our way through everyday miracles because, well, they are every day.  And then something happens that shakes our world.

In the case of Apollo 13 the crew was asked to do a routine stirring of the oxygen tanks.  Certainly, no big deal.  The task fell to the rookie on the team, and he flipped the switch to stir the tanks and what happened next was anything but routine.  There was a massive explosion in a couple of the oxygen tanks which placed the crew’s life in grave danger.  The crew commander instantly snapped at the rookie, “What did you do?”  His first assumption was that it was the rookie’s fault.  It really was no one person’s fault.  There was some faulty wiring in the tank and whoever flipped the switch was going to have the same result—BOOM.

Our routine was certainly disrupted as this COVID and several other things rocked our world.  At the speed of space, craziness jumped from country to country—person to person.  Almost as quick, the finger pointing, and jabbing started and hasn’t even begun to slow down.  From presidents to pastors to everyday people, everyone is looking for someone to blame. The first performance of blaming began in the garden with a couple of rookie sinners, and it has never stopped.  I bet that grieves God—a lot.

Well, things were bleak for Apollo 13 as the explosion damaged the spacecraft to the point where they could possibly die.  This was a good news/bad news deal.  First the bad news—they were blown way off course and only a miracle would get them back on track. That happens in times like these.  Our whole world revolves around one thing—the COVID virus and its cousins.  Concern is a good thing—obsession is a dangerous thing. The only thing worth obsessing over is the One who can do something about it.

Now, the good news—when word began to spread of their catastrophe in space suddenly concern and interest spiked.  In a moment of time, driven by drama and danger, the national interest once again spiked. Spacemen were once again newsworthy. People were once again tuned in and hungry for a miracle—the crew’s survival. I wonder, I hope that there will be good news for us one day too.  I hope that news will be that we once again are focusing on the things that really matter!

There’s a lot more to this story that I would like to share with you tomorrow if you will tune back in.  They say that those who don’t learn from history are destined to repeat it.  I wonder how we will do with that…only time will tell.  It seems that these times are like quicksand—our vocabulary dominated by iffy words like fearful, uncertainty and bleakness.  That is why I am so glad that there is a God who is watching over and working for and through this.  Somehow, someway He is going to bring good from this.  If we let Him, He will make us stronger through this. If that is going to happen then we must let Him be God.  Sounds like a plan to me.  Let’s do the old two step—rest in Him—He’s got this.  See you tomorrow for part two.  Bro. Dewayne

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

He Was Right

Do nothing out of selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility consider others as more important than yourselves.” Philippians 2:3

How many of you remember the name Copernicus?  No, he’s not a guy we met at the golf course or at a conference we attended. Copernicus made an earth-shattering announcement in 1543 that changed our lives forever.  Do you know what it was?  He announced that our earth was not the center of the universe.

 You see, up until that time people thought the whole universe revolved around the earth–we were the center of it all. That big old fiery ball we call the sun woke up every day to circle the earth and all those stars and planets existed to move around us. The problem–it just wasn’t so.  Copernicus made the announcement and upset the apple cart.  His words were not well received in fact they got him into BIG trouble.  Trouble or not, it didn’t change the truth.

I still remember the time when I traveled to Africa for the first time.  I was surprised that virtually no one spoke English and when I went into a shop to get a cup of coffee and they didn’t know what a dollar was—I was flabbergasted.  Not speak English. Not recognize an America dollar.  It was just about then that I started to realize that the world does not revolve around me or us for that matter.

The latest wakeup call came during the COVID mess.  I watched as slowly but surely a “me mentality” seized our culture, our communities, our churches and yup, me.  What I wanted became more important that what you wanted. In a culture outside of God that kind of is the way it works.  But in God’s economy and culture…uh, it doesn’t.  Jesus made a big deal of it being about others. And somehow, at some way, we dropped the ball.  Fumbled. Threw an interception.

As I stood around observing this phenomenon, and my participation in it, God began speaking to me. At first it was a whisper, but I do believe He is speaking a bit louder these days.  In fact, and if you don’t mind me saying so, I believe shouting would be a better label. The message seems to be, “Hey this isn’t about you, or Joe or Doug or Ryan or Betty, well, you get the picture.  You see our culture tells us (or is it shouting too?) that it is about us—our way, our priorities, our rights—our everything.  You know, “have it your way” –“you deserve a break today” and that mentality has shifted right smack dab into the Christian community.  Somewhere, somehow, we have begun to believe the lie that all that matters is–me.  It may work for the world, but it doesn’t work, or shouldn’t work, for Jesus’ followers, at least not in God’s eyes.  Do you want to know why most churches are struggling to get people to come?  It’s because we have become consumer driven instead of “others” driven.  We are leaning toward being country clubs instead of hospitals. It is because we believe it is about us.

Paul, the guy who wrote more than half of the Bible’s New Testament said, “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility consider others as more important than yourselves.”  Wow.  In other words, the center of the universe is not me, not the earth but the God who created it all.  And what matters to Him needs to matter to us. What is that you say?  Others–not me but them–the ones who have never received and, to a large extent in other places in the world, never even heard of Jesus. We are supposed to be Gospel lighthouses or Gospel GPS’s pointing people to Him. If there has ever been a time when our world needs some Good News it is now.

Sometimes people say they’ve heard from God, and you give them a quizzical look like, “Sure.”  I reckon folks gave Copernicus that same quizzical look, but it didn’t change the facts.  It’s amazing to think that even though it was really about Jesus He never promoted it that way.  He acted as if it wasn’t.  He washed feet, touched people who were untouchable and oh, He died on a criminal’s cross.  How about that? Maybe it is time we take down the “Me Flag” and just love God and love people.  It is the most Jesus’ thing we can do.  Does that sound a little overwhelming?  I know what you mean, but you know what He says, “I’ve got this.”   Bro. Dewayne

Posted in Family, fear, gratitude, life, prayer, Scripture, Southern born, sovereignty of God

Chicken Little

“I know that You can do anything, and no one can stop You.” Job 42:2

Poor Chicken Little.  He had it all wrong.  The story is told of a little chicken (aptly named Chicken Little) who was walking one day, and a bird dropped an acorn which hit him on the head.  Chicken Little assumed that the sky was falling and the world as he knew it was coming to an end.  He rushed to tell the king and along the way told others of the bad news. They in turn joined him in the quest to tell the king. The only problem was… the sky wasn’t falling.

When I was a kid, like so many of us, I wrestled with fear.  There was the standard fear of the dark.  When the lights went out, my heart rate went up.  My vivid imagination allowed for plenty of strange things to be seen in the darkness and sometimes even in the light.  I remember as a six or seven-year-old sitting in the bathtub and seeing “eyes” peering at me from inside the overflow drain.  “Maybe it is a snake” I thought.  “Perhaps it is a giant rat inside the drain.”  Regardless, for years I lived in fear until one day I got brave.  I took a flashlight into the bathroom and shined the light in the drain.  It turned out to be the tops of two brass screws inside the drain.

When I was a little older the fear thing still lingered.  With too many people and not enough house, I found myself sleeping in the dining room.  Mom and dad moved the table somewhere and put a twin bed there instead.  We lived in Florida and trust me it was HOT and it was HUMID and air conditioning was something that we DIDN’T have.  Each night I would crawl into bed, a fan in the window at least stirring the warm evening air. And each night the monsters would come out.  Of course, they weren’t real.  Of course, they didn’t exist. Right…but try telling that to a young boy with a vivid imagination.

I had to do something, and I did.  I would reach down and pull the sheet and bedspread over my head and lie still.  I don’t know if the idea was the sheet and bedspread would somehow protect me or if they would simply hide me.  But there I would lie hiding, sweating, and praying, that whatever hid in the darkness wouldn’t eat me.  I guess it worked because I’m still here today but boy was it HOT!

I guess I finally overcame most of my fears. I have to admit though, when Bubba the goose hisses at me in the park, it still makes my skin kinda tingle. To some degree fear is still a stalker in my life.  Instead of rats in a drain or monsters in the dark or bad guys in the house, it has become the uncertainty of these uncertain days.  And I know I am not alone.  Every time we turn on the news, we are told that the sky is indeed falling and that the end of world as we know it is coming.  As I waited for the morning weather forecast today, a story popped up on the screen about a new strain of the swine flu in China that could or would certainly be the next pandemic.  What? Excuse me?

I am a guy who gets to serve God and people as a pastor and there is one thing I know.  God is in charge, and He is bigger than any of it and all of it.  You may have heard of a guy named Job—and no he was not related to Steve Jobs, (smile).  His sky in fact did fall and he ended up losing everything.  Well, actually his “why don’t you give up and die” wife stuck around, but so did his faith in God.  In fact, in the midst of his hot mess, Job said this, “I know that You can do anything, and no one can stop You.” Score one for Job.  He believed that God was in charge, that God had a plan, and that nothing was going to happen on His watch unless He said so.

Now that is some real good, real comforting, real “you take that fear” news.  But you also need to know that sometimes that can be hard.  God’s plans don’t always mean I get what I want…in fact, often it means the opposite.  But hey, I was the guy who manufactured monsters in his head.  But it still means that God is good, that God is faithful, and that God can be trusted.  It does mean that He is watching out for my good and He is working to bring His glorious plan to pass.

A friend of mine recently suggested that perhaps it is time that we turn off the bad news.  I agree.  The broadcasters know that bad news “sells” and they are dishing it out by the buckets full.  Corrie ten Boom, a concentration camp survivor from World War II said, “If you look at the world, you will be distressed.  If you look within, you will be depressed.  But if you look at Christ you will be at rest.” What powerful and true words.  If you are not a God follower perhaps this sounds a little far-fetched.  Trust me…He is worth checking out. He is the real deal…not church…not religion…and certainly not the fear mongers. You can rest in Him…because He’s got this. Bro. Dewayne

Posted in Family, Grace, gratitude, life, prayer, Scripture, sovereignty of God, thankful, Trials

So Long… Not Gonna Miss You

And it came to pass at the end of the four hundred and thirty years—on that very same day—it came to pass that all the armies of the Lord went out from the land of Egypt.” Exodus 12:41

She was waving goodbye…and I was glad. We all know there is a reason why the windshield is the largest window in a car.  It is very important that we can see clearly where we are heading…where we are going.  I also suppose that we understand that the side windows are also important…if not for navigation, at least for pleasure.  They allow us to look around as we journey.  The second largest window in the car is the rear window but without another important item…well, the rear window is rendered almost useless.

That important item is the rearview mirror.  It allows us, at a glance, to see what is behind us.  We get to see if another driver is impatiently following us…too closely. We can tell if they are too close by reading their expression.  If you can see their scowl, then you are right…they are too close.  Another thing the rearview mirror allows us to do is see what or if someone is chasing us.  Imagine with me that you are driving down the road doing, let’s say, 69 in a 55 mph zone or about 14 miles per hour over the speed limit.  That is probably enough to get you into trouble with whatever law enforcement is in the area.

As you top a hill or round a curve you see a police vehicle hiding or prominently sitting beside the road.  It doesn’t matter because, well, it is too late. You pass by their vehicle trying to decide whether to hit the brakes, knowing that your brake lights will be an admission of guilt, or maybe just coast.  Almost immediately, your rearview mirror becomes very important.  You want to know if they are coming…to see if they are chasing you. Gulp. Well, like the songs says, “Sometimes you win, sometimes you lose, big time Charlie’s got the blues.”

Of course, the other purpose of the rearview mirror is to see what you just left.  If it is family, you might look as they are waving goodbye.  Perhaps, it might be the other side of a big, and I mean big, traffic jam you just came through.  You look back and sigh or smile and are grateful it is behind you.  Boy, do I know about that one.  I also know the pleasure of looking in the rearview mirror of life as a less than pleasant situation slowly fades away.  My most recent pleasurable goodbye was as I watched Corena waving and fading away.  Oh, and if you don’t know who Corena is, check out gritswithgrace.com and search for her…trust me…she is there.

Whether it is a traffic jam or an illness or something else, it is always a good thing when something difficult finally fades away in the rearview mirror of life.  What you thought would never end…does…and you are grateful.  One of the most valuable life lessons we can learn is that things don’t come to stay…they come to pass.  Several times in the Bible, the writer will use the term, “And it came to pass” and it means that when the time was right, things moved on.  Someone once said, “My favorite verse in the Bible is, “And it came to pass…”

One source said that the Bible repeats that phrase 396 times. One of my favorites is Exodus 12:41. It says, “And it came to pass at the end of the four hundred and thirty years—on that very same day—it came to pass that all the armies of the Lord went out from the land of Egypt.”  Whew.  That is one long traffic jam.

“It came to pass.” I like that. While it may not be my favorite verse, I am very grateful that it is true…things don’t come to stay…they come to pass. That pesky traffic jam will soon fade.  That dance with Corena, “Sorry ma’am, the music has stopped.”  And here is just one more bit of really, good news.  When we choose to make Creator God our Father, well, we have the confident assurance that He will be there with us through the whole thing…even if that means stepping into heaven.  Regardless, take it to the bank, He’s got this.  Bro. Dewayne

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

He’s Writing a New Story

God, who began the good work within you, will continue His work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns.” Philippians 1:6

“Do you have a pencil?” he asked.  Realizing there were plenty of kinds of pencils he added, “You know, the old-fashioned kind?”  I’m not sure why he needed it, but I rummaged through my desk drawer and found one.  I think he needed one with lead on one end and an eraser on the other.  The kind where you use one end to write a story or make a mark and the other you use to remove your “oops.” Today we are more likely to use the delete key on a keyboard. Erasers were my friends. Delete keys are my new friend. It makes my oops disappear.  I have a lot of oops.

My delete key changes things.  As I look back over the last year, I am still amazed at the way things were shutdown.  I was even more amazed as I was forced to go to my calendar and delete things.  On my personal calendar and on the church calendar, one by one, meetings and events were deleted. It was difficult for me…it was difficult for us and in the midst of it all, I almost lost sight of the big picture…a picture so big only God could be holding the brush.

One day I found myself staring at the calendar like a blank canvas and I realized what had been planned didn’t matter anymore. But here is the really, good part. The space that was cleared left plenty of room–room for God to write a new story. A different story. A better story. Things like a new Wednesday program for our church was born.  In the white space created by that largely empty calendar, Grits was born. The bottom line is without God orchestrating the delete button, things that needed to change would have stayed the same. A new men’s, ladies, and children’s program would not have been born.  And a year’s worth of Grit’s stories would still be in my head and heart but not on the page. The thing I resisted led to the freedom to do it.

I’ve heard stories of different ways God used that hot mess to rewrite lives.  We saw what could happen if we started to freely, to openly, invite Him to use the delete button and rewrite the stories of our lives.  We discovered opportunities, adventures that suddenly filled the pages of our lives.  A walk to the park became a safari. Homemade pizza night became an edible art gallery. The dining room table was cleared, and we pulled out the family games that had stayed in the closet too long.

Cards were written, calls made, and stories shared.  Think about it. Remember how the kids’ faces lit up as they heard again how you met each other or how you met Jesus? Think of the new stories yet to be told as we look back when things were so hard, and we all learned how to trust God for help.  We saw faith leaping off the page of the Bible and right onto the pages of our lives. If we asked, we might hear our kids tell us “Mom, Dad that bad time was the best time because we got to be together.” How about that?

Yes, those really were challenging times.  Financially. Emotionally. Spiritually.  And honesty…they still are. But what if God is writing a new story that in the end is the stuff of legends?  What if in a few years these days are some of the best memories?  And it was all possible because we said, “Ok God–go ahead and use the delete key.  I’m trusting that Your story is better than my story. I’m trusting You.”

You see, God’s best use of the delete key is when He applies His grace to our sins, our mistakes, our misguided decisions, our oops.  New pasts and new futures are His specialties, and they are often written in crazy days like these.  So, go ahead, press that delete key. Rest in Him.  He’s got this.  Bro. Dewayne