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

Barney

For instance, there was Joseph, the one the apostles nicknamed Barnabas (which means “Son of Encouragement”).” Acts 4:36

It happened driving down the road at 55 miles per hour.  When I was growing up, there was one man outside my family that I respected so much…one that garnered my admiration. It was my pastor.  His name was James Branch.  I happened to be an insider at his house because his son was one of my best friends. It didn’t matter when or where—I always saw him as a man I could trust and more than once he was there for my family.  When my Daddy died early one Sunday morning, he was at my house.  I can still remember him on the back porch in his white shirt minus the black tie he wore, consoling my Mama.  She was so upset and began to hyperventilate. Bro. Branch, with his hand on her shoulder, spoke words of comfort and peace. There can be no doubt he played a big role in how I would later serve as a pastor.

That might be why it stung so much.  I received an email this week from a national organization. It revealed the results of Gallup’s national survey on American’s perception of the honesty and ethical standards of professions.  Not surprising, 89% of Americans gave nurses high or very-high standards.  Doctors stood at 77% followed by pharmacists at 71%.  Well, I certainly can’t argue with that.  These dedicated folks have surely shown their colors this past year during the COVID-19 pandemic.  Hats off to our school-teachers too, who scored 75% and our men and women in blue who scored 52%—the only other profession about which a majority of Americans say have high or very high ethics and honesty.

The article went on to say that clergy or ministers came in at 39% when it came to honesty—right between judges and nursing home operators.  While senior adults as a group ranked pastors higher (51%), the younger generation (ages 18-34) rated pastors only at 24 percent.  To put it in perspective, in 1985, pastors received a 67% rating.  When I think of my pastor in 1974 who stood on the back porch with my grieving family, I have to wonder, “what happened?”  Why is it that so many think so lowly of clergy? Some of the reasoning, I believe, is a cultural shift—while too much, might, just might, be the truth. It seems we can only go a few weeks without some named pastor being in the news for some breach of trust.  I just don’t know.

When I read this news, I grieved. After all, pastors, above all other Jesus followers, should be, must be, people of integrity.  We should set the example.  Granted, we are not perfect—in fact far from it.  Like the old saying goes, “Christians, including pastors, aren’t perfect, we are just forgiven.”  I like that.  This is why what happened that day driving 55 miles per hour meant so much.  My phone rang.

I looked at the caller ID and saw it was a young man who is a member at the church I pastor.  Honestly, I wondered why he was calling.  While we speak often at church, he is not on my speed dial and I’m sure I am not on his.  I answered the phone and exchanged greetings and said, “Hey, what can I do for you?”  What happened next was not what I could do for him, but what he did for me.  I won’t get it all right, but the bottom line is he said, “I know you have a really hard job right now with all that is going on.  I want you to know as one of the younger generation, I think you are doing a good job.” He shared how he and another of our young guys were talking the other night—sharing the same thing.  It made my day and I told him so.

It turned out that he was driving in the same direction as I and had passed me and just felt prompted to make that call.  I’m so glad he did.  It is one of those times I just wonder if the Whisperer whispered in his ear and said, “Call Dewayne.  He needs a good word about now.”  And thankfully he did.  So, let me encourage you to be an encourager.  We all know people who just need a word to help keep them going.  There was a guy in the Bible whose name was Barnabas, which literally means “encourager.”  I’m assuming he was such a positive force in the lives of others, someone said, “We’ll just call you Barney…and it stuck”.

So, to my Barney that Friday morning, thanks.  Thanks for listening to the Lord and thanks for encouraging a guy who happens to be a lot older than you and who happens to be a pastor.  And keep it up.  There are a lot of empty cups in our world that need filling. I love the fact that my Dearest Daddy believes in me.  I’m still amazed how much Judy believes in me.  But when someone outside that circle cares and believes…that is special.  Let’s join Jesus and be the light in someone’s day.  Encourage everyone you know and assure them that everything is going to be okay. Why? Because, “He’s got this.”

Posted in Family, fear, Grace, gratitude, life, loving others, prayer, priorities, Scripture, thankful, wisdom

Robbed by Mr. Urgency

For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.”  John 3:16

I was robbed.  This is one of those stories I really don’t want to write but I believe at the same time it’s gonna help someone…besides me.  I have been writing stories five days a week now since March.  It has been an incredible journey.  I’ve said this before, but it all started on a whim.  The COVID hot mess was just gaining steam and I felt led to write a story to encourage some folks.  I am not a Facebook person but that was the only avenue I had.  So, I wrote it and posted it on my page.  Amazingly, more than several dozen people read it and most wrote a comment. Those comments were what stirred me on to keep writing.  I decided to answer every comment.

Like utility poles whisking by on a fast moving train, the days went by.  I would write, many of you would write and I would read and write back.  It was so encouraging. It was like a drink of spring water on a hot day.  And then it happened.  In the rush to write, I forgot to take the time to read.  I got busier, and busier and it seemed all I had time to do was write and then write some more.  I would occasionally grab a comment here or there but that was about all I could manage. I had run smack-dab into Mr. Urgent. Judy would help out and read a couple to me, but the bottom line is I let the urgency of the moment rob me of that drink of cold water.  I felt like I had failed you…but just as importantly, I had failed myself.  You see, I was needing what you were saying…desperately.

A week or so ago I determined to go back a week to read what you all had said.  I was gonna do better.  So, I did.  I read, I wrote, and I was encouraged.  But then, thanks to Mr. Urgent I found myself so far behind that I said, “There’s no use trying.”  The good news, and boy do I need some, the good news, is that those precious jewels are safely stored on Facebook and soon I will journey back and read your notes of encouragement and I will be refreshed.  I will smile and I will remember why I do what I do.

As I am writing this, I realize that for me, and perhaps many of you, this isn’t the only time this has happened.  There is something else that Mr. Urgent can keep us from reading, something else that is of even greater importance—God’s Word.  I don’t know your background, but even if it doesn’t include a lot of God, this Book is nothing short of incredible.  Written over several millennia by about 40 authors, this Book is God’s love letter to us.  It is as multifaceted as the most brilliant diamond.  It is amazing.

What I find so impressive is that when you open it at the front and till you close it at the back, it has one theme—that God so loved this broken and imperfect world that He gave His only Son that anybody—let that soak in—anybody that believes in Him can have eternal life.  It really is amazing and it really is true.  As you journey through it you find stories of imperfect people loved and rescued by this infinitely powerful God.  And honestly, the story doesn’t always end like we would want.  But it always ends with one undeniable truth:  God is good, God is faithful, and God can be trusted.

Thank you for reading and writing those encouraging comments.  I may be slow getting there but I hope none of them will be wasted.  And also, watch out for Mr. Urgent. His “tyranny of the urgent” can and will keep you from what really matters. Whether it is time with family or time in God’s Word, he will rob you and leave you beside the road of life wondering what happened.  Be sure and take time, make time to read His amazing story.  Been awhile since you’ve read? Start with the stories about Jesus found in Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John.  I am sure you will be impressed and intrigued.  And shortly, you will discover that this God is the God you can trust—you can lean into—you can rest in.  And yes, you will soon discover that no matter what…He’s got this.