Posted in Family, fear, friends, Grace, gratitude, life, prayer, priorities, Scripture, wisdom

Guarding the Flame

Again, Jesus spoke to them, saying, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows Me will not walk in darkness but will have the light of life.” John 8:12

I watch it die every day. More than most guys I enjoy atmosphere…ambience matters…especially in my morning routine.  I have a home office and that is where I start my day every day when I am home.  The first thing I do is flood the office with light.  There is a switch on the wall that turns on the overhead lights and then I ask my friend Alexa to turn on “office” and she usually accommodates.  That turns on a light in one corner and a light on my desk.  Let there be light…and now there is. Check.

Next, I go over and put a K-cup in my Keurig and in just a minute or two I have a cup of coffee. Check.  Next to the coffee machine is a small table with a WoodWick candle on it.  It is one of those candles that crackles when you light it—sorta like when you pour milk on a bowl of Rice Krispies—snap, crackle, pop. I light the candle and settle into my chair where a remote control allows me to fire up my electric fireplace.  It is then, and only then, that I am ready to watch the weather and do my Jesus time. Check. Check. Check.

Well, sooner or later, I must leave, and I begin to undo what I did. Alexa is kind enough to turn off the lights and then I walk over to extinguish the candle.  There are two ways to do this, and I always choose what seems to be easiest.  I take the metal lid and plop it down on the jar and that is when it happens.  I watch the flame slowly die.  For the first few moments, the flame continues to burn but then it doesn’t. It grows weaker and smaller until it just dies.  Believe it or not, I always find it a bit sad because I know what is happening.  With the lid on, the flame slowly consumes the oxygen in the jar and when that is done…it is done. The flame cannot burn without oxygen and with the lid in place there soon isn’t any.

To me, each time it is a lesson about life.  We all know there are things where we need to live passionately, actively, and purposely.  They are things like hope, love, faith, and purpose.  When these are allowed to flourish there is a reason to get out of bed each morning and there is a reason to keep going.  Those big four are vital to us—to our lives.  If, and when, we allow those to starve in our lives, it is just a matter of time before life loses its zip, its purpose, its passion. It is just a matter of time before what once burned brightly is just a glowing ember of its former self or worse…just a warm wick.

How does that happen?  Well, I am sure there are multiple reasons, and they are different for each of us but so often somewhere there is a lid that plopped down on our life and just like the candle…the flame begins to die.  Soon, hope is replaced with despair, love is taken over with hurt and brokenness and fear quietly and effectively stills our faith and purpose, direction and drive fade away as we wonder why we even bother.  Familiar?  Too familiar? I know because there have been times when I have allowed the “lid of limits” to put out my flame.

Invariably, I have discovered but one way to keep the flame burning and that is a close and carefully guarded relationship with the One who made me.  The hope, love, and purpose that I find in life—driven by faith in Him—creates an environment that keeps the flame burning.  Even if you are wrestling with the whole God thing—I hope you will reconsider and ignite or reignite a relationship, a fellowship with Him.  Don’t settle for what culture says, what the guys at the office say…no, check Him out.  Begin by reading the most ancient and most trusted sacred writing there is—the Bible.  Try having a conversation with Him—it might be weird at first but so was your first conversation with your first boyfriend or girlfriend. All the oddness of it all is worth it if your flame once again begins to burn.

Each morning, I remove the lid and relight the candle and each day it responds with new life…new warmth…and a new dose of snap, crackle, pop.  Why not allow this Friend that I call my Dearest Daddy add light to your life?  Jesus said that He is the light of the world and anyone who chooses to follow Him will never walk in darkness.  It’s just His way of saying, “Trust me…I’ve got this.” Bro. Dewayne

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

Simply Nonstick

For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast.” Ephesians 2:8-9

Slip sliding away.  Now let’s be honest and let’s be clear.  I don’t have a clue about cooking, but I do know just a little about frying pans.  Back in the old days when it came to frying pans it was cast iron or nothing and cast iron had and has its place.  But some years ago, they started making frying pans that food stuff wouldn’t stick too.  Well about seven or eight years ago we bought a pricy set of pots that were supposed to be stick proof and I guess for the first few years they were.  Then, slowly, and as sure as a slug on a sidewalk, it stopped being non-stick.

Now my experience with frying pans is limited to frying, or maybe it is just cooking in a frying pan, eggbeaters for my breakfast and if you weren’t careful you ended up with a sticky mess.  Sometimes there was more egg left in the pan than there was on my plate.  Finally…my wife Judy said enough.  She went to the Walmart store and bought one of those pans you see advertised on television.  The ad said that “nothing would stick”. It showed eggs, burnt butter and cheese, you name it and with just a tilt of the pan—off it would go.  Turns out that was not exactly true. I told her she should take the thing back, but she said it was too late.

Well, out of frustration I decided to try something.  I sprayed the pan with some Pam…it’s like cooking oil in a spray can – I think. After spraying the pan, I poured some eggbeaters in and just like that – problem solved.  Those eggs—or eggbeaters—were sliding all over the pan just like the commercial.  It turns out all that the pan needed was a little help.  The bottom line is it is good to have a pan that doesn’t try and keep my eggs.

You know that made me think.  That pan and the spray stuff is a whole like God’s grace and our faith.  Imagine with me that the pan is the grace of God.  Grace simply means God’s unmerited favor.  Now imagine that the spray on stuff is like faith.  Faith is when we believe something that we can’t see, touch, or feel.  Put the two together and you have a combination that simply will not allow sin to stick and that is good news.  Just like the eggbeaters slid right out that pan, so sin is forgiven and won’t stick around to condemn us.  Grace and faith—what a wonderful combination.

Paul, the guy in the Bible who wrote a lot of the New Testament said this, “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast.” “By grace through faith,” put the two together and your sin just won’t stick to your account. Gone. Forgiven. Banished. And just like the eggs, or eggbeaters, have little or nothing to do with their time in the pan so when it comes to God’s forgiveness that is true too. All we do is believe…everything else is on God. Oh, and just like the commercial…no sin and I mean no sin, is going to stick—no matter how big or bad. His grace is sufficient for the job. You gotta love it.

So, if the next time you are frying something, and it sticks to the pan—just head to the store and get you one of those fancy new ones.  Oh, and don’t forget the Pam.  And the next time you get into deep weeds with your sin, just remember this story and step into God’s grace and your faith…it is a winning combo.  No matter how big the mess…His grace is enough. All you need to do is ask for His forgiveness and I can already tell you His reply—I’ve got this.”  Bro. Dewayne

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

A Lesson from the Beanfield

For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways and My thoughts than your thoughts.” Isaiah 55:9

It’s one of the strangest things I’ve seen.  The small town where I live is a diverse group of people with a diverse economy.  Not too many years ago there were many coal mines providing massive amounts of jobs to those living in and around our town of Harrisburg.  Also surrounding our town are fields and fields of crops…mostly soybeans and corn.  While the coal mines fell victim to the economy and the unfavorable political landscape, fortunately the farmers are still planting and plowing away.

Well, not too far from my house, there is a soybean field that each year it is planted teaches me a very valuable lesson.  As soybean fields go it is not that large, but it is still several dozen acres even though it is located in town.  But what makes this field so different?  Let me explain.  By this time of the year, the bean plants have all turned brown and the pods and beans are left standing to allow them time to dry out.  At the right time, the farmer will bring a combine in and in short order…the plants and beans will be history.  Well, at least most of the plants.

You see, at this particular field, there is a busy road that borders the field.  On that busy road there are two or three streetlights that are close enough to the field to illuminate the plants around that area all through the night.  Because of that, the plants receive some sort of light 24 hours a day. That sounds good, doesn’t it?  Well, my farmer friends tell me it isn’t. You would think more light equals more growing and more growing means more beans, but it just isn’t true with soybeans. You see, for the plants to sprout and produce beans they need a certain amount of darkness.  Without that darkness, you have large, green, lush plants but not a single bean.  Not one. Nada.

It can and would go unnoticed except for all the other plants in the field are brown and about to give up their harvest but the plants by the light are in stark contrast in two ways.  Their color…green and their lack of a coming harvest.  So, when the combine goes to that field, they will carefully avoid the green plants.  There is no sense harvesting plants with no beans.  They will be left standing as a testimony to a great truth.  Soybeans, and people for that matter, need a little darkness to become what they were meant to be. Think about that.

None of us like hard times, valley times, but the truth is…that is when we learn, that is when we become stronger and if you are a spiritual person…that is when our faith in God grows the most.  Being a Jesus follower, I’m inclined to believe that is at least one reason God allows some difficultly in our lives.  People sometimes want to know if God is so good why does He allow this or that.  Well, borrowing a line from the movie, “Rudy,” when he wanted to know why God hadn’t allowed him to make the Notre Dame football team, his priest said, “I know two things.  There is a God. I am not Him.” That’s pretty powerful if you ask me.

We all want to know why bad things happen, especially to good people…I get that.  I have a ton of questions personally, but I’m learning that in the times when I don’t get it…I don’t understand…I can still trust Him.  And honesty…that just isn’t hard.  As I look back over my life, I can see time and again how He stepped up for me…protected me…cared for me.  Those times make the other times bearable.  I like what Isaiah 55:9 says, “For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways and My thoughts than your thoughts.” Frankly, I like having a God so much bigger than me that I can’t figure Him out. There’s a calming assurance in that.

So, if you ever are driving through our farming country and you spot a brown field with green plants next to a streetlight, well, just remember this story and the lesson it taught us about soybeans and us. We need a little darkness to help us grow.  And don’t you worry, if you are one of God’s kids, your Dearest Daddy knows exactly what He is doing.  You can take it to the bank, or the grain bin, “He’s got this.”  Bro. Dewayne

Posted in Family, food, friends, Grace, gratitude, life, love, loving others, priorities, Scripture, Southern born, thankful

Makin’ Grits

I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.”  Jesus in John 10:10b

It was time for some grits.  Well, after two weeks on the road traveling and doing God stuff it was so good to be home.  Dorothy (the one from the Wizard of Oz) said it best…there is no place like home…and she was right.  Over the last two weeks we did different things and slept in different beds and ate a lot of different foods. In the coming days and weeks, I will be writing about some of our adventures. But after all of that…this morning…it was time for something familiar. It was time for grits.

When I woke up and had breakfast in this place called home, I wanted something that was normal…something that would remind me I was indeed home.  It shouldn’t surprise you that I turned to grits.  For me, if there is something that says home, it is grits.  Grits are more than a food.  Grits are part of my heritage.  Grits are wholesome.  Grits are…grits.  This morning’s grits started with a bowl of “cheater” grits cooked in the microwave.  Trust me…grits on the stove or grits in the microwave are still stinking good.  So, in the bowl went the grits, an amount of water that varies from day to day, a good shaking of salt and pepper, a small handful of bacon bits and finally, a wedge of Laughing Cow Light Swiss cheese.  Can someone say, “Hallelujah?”  Well, from the first bite till I scraped the bowl clean…it was heaven…it was good…it said, “Home.”

While I love grits, I also am honest enough to admit that just plain grits are well…plain.  But when you add the good stuff, well, all I can say is “Shoot that thing.”  The good stuff can make something plain…sing.  It is true with grits, and it is true with life.  You see, life can be just life but when you add the good stuff, life sings like a happy opera singer.  What makes life sing is different for each person but for me the list is short and sweet.  First, you add God to the mix and not just any god but Jehovah God…the One who made it all.  The trees, the flowers, the mountains, and the rivers are just a few of His works.  Look up and the stars and the planets all sing of His greatness. You know, Jesus once said that He had come to give us life and not only that but a life worth living…and I believe He did. Now don’t confuse God and religion.  God is always good and religion by itself is just like plain grits…tasteless.

Another thing that makes my life sing is family and friends.  You see, I don’t believe grits were made to be eaten plain.  Grits is the foundation just waiting for the good stuff.  We were never created to be loners on a desert island.  No, we were made for each other.  Again, each life is different, but each life should include others…the kind that enrich and fulfill us.  For some it is a big family and for others it might be a family of one.  It might be ten close friends or only one or two, but we all need others.  Why not invite someone into your world today?  I know for me that can sometimes be difficult, but it is worth the effort.

The third thing that we need to make our life sing is a trio of treats.  They are love, gratitude, and contentment.  Just like the cheese, bacon bits, and salt and pepper bring my bowl of grits to life, so do these three powerful life ingredients.  Love is as essential as the air that we breathe and gratitude, being thankful for all we have instead of grumpy about what we don’t, is too. Oh, and when we are grateful…we are usually content.  Throw all of this together and you have a life that sings…a life that is worth getting up to everyday.

You see, to have a full life, a life that is as sweet as the sweetest love song, doesn’t require titles, dollars, and stuff.  No…a life that sings is so much more than that.  All we must do is be willing to start.  This morning’s breakfast of grits wasn’t hard…I mean that is one thing that even I can prepare.  But it did require a start…it did require a beginning.  So, today, let’s take that first step.  Let’s pour in the bowl of our life a big dose of faith, love, gratitude, and contentment and then let’s sit down to the table of life and feast. Don’t know where or how to start? Why not ask God, the one many call, “Father?”  You will find Him there ready and willing to help. You can rest assured that, “He’s got this.”

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

Facing Down Mortality

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

Jesus told Martha, “I am the resurrection and the life. Anyone who believes in Me will live, even after dying. Everyone who lives in Me and believes in Me will never ever die. Do you believe this?” John 11:25-26

I look and see my mortality.  Now don’t think for a moment this is one of those “Debbie Downer” stories.  In fact, in a way, it might be the best news you will hear all day, all week, well, for always.  So, I am sixty-eight years old.  I know, I can’t believe it either. And all around me are signs that I am mortal.  Remember that—all of us are mortal. I have been at my present position as a pastor for 22 years.  I came to the church I serve in 2000 when I was 46 years old.  I must have dozed off because just like that, 22 years of life have ticked off the calendar.  My children are married, I have eight grandchildren and Judy and I have now been married 46 years.  And the best part?  It has been, and is, a great ride.

But then I did the math.  When, and if, the next 20 years tick off the clock called life, I will be 88 years old.  I find that astounding.  We Taylor boys don’t have a real good track record when it comes to longevity.  Three of my four brothers, all older than me, have already moved to heaven.  Our clock is ticking, and we don’t know when the last tick will come.  It is a sobering thought.  But stay with me.

I live my life by the calendar.  I speak to my church every Sunday and some Wednesdays. It seems I no more finish one message before it is time to deliver the next.  The weeks fly by.  Every first of the month I speak on the radio on a local program called “The Baptist Hour.”  My tag line is, “Can you believe another month has come and gone?” And the answer each month is, “No, I really can’t.” I remember on the first of February, after a speedy January, I made a joke about it being Christmas before we know it.  July is past which means over half of this new year is in the rearview mirror. Time flies by.  It is a sobering thought.  But stay with me.

Part of “The Baptist Hour” is the reading of the funeral arrangements of those who recently died.  Invariably there are several, often more than a few.  I’m learning that too often the names being read belong to people my age or younger.  Recently an acquaintance in our small town suddenly died—a massive heart attack.  He was younger than me.  That really caused me to stop and ponder.  It was a sobering thought.  But stay with me.

Here’s what I am learning.  Time is relative.  We are eternal beings made and destined to spend forever somewhere.  That destination doesn’t depend on good or bad, church or no church, religion or not.  Does that surprise you?  You see, heaven isn’t for good people and hell isn’t for bad people. No, where we spend eternity is about forgiveness of sin and that forgiveness is a free gift from God to anyone…anyone…who asks.  I believe faith in Jesus is the only way to heaven. I know that sounds narrow but when you consider that God invites everyone to the party—well, it is really pretty broad. We read in the Bible that the payment for sin is death and radically Jesus came for one purpose—to willingly die and pay that price.

So, if we are eternal beings and if we place our trust, our faith in this one of a kind, God-man named Jesus, that means that when we die we can spend eternity in this place called heaven.  When Jesus said that if anyone would believe in Him, they would never die—that’s what He meant. And then He closes with that all important question, “Do you believe this?”

With Jesus in the equation, death isn’t the end, it is a beginning.  That might sound wacky to you.  However, before you chuck it out, I challenge you to check it out.  Get a copy of the Bible and read the four different accounts or stories about Jesus—Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. You might find yourself intrigued and amazed.

I read a true story yesterday about a man’s perception of his morality. This guy happened to be a minister and he went to the doctor and got some sobering news.  He was terminally ill with no chance of recovery. The doctor told him he had about a year to live.  He left the doctor’s office and went to one of his favorite spots—you know, to kinda take it in. Now, allow me to let the man tell his story. “I looked at the river in which I rejoice, and I looked at the stately trees that are always God’s own poetry to my soul. And I said, ‘I may not see you many more times, but mountain, I shall be alive when you are gone; and river, I shall be alive when you cease running toward the sea.’”

Wow…what wonderfully strong words.  If this whole God story is true, and I honestly believe it is, then people who trust that Jesus is the path to God and heaven, will outlive the mountains and the rivers. We may change addresses, but we will live forever.  I know this is probably a different kind of story than we usually share together, but I hope it will make us think about what happens next. For myself and so many others, it makes all the sense in the world—and beyond.  I’m grateful for the eternal part but I also love the part of the story that says He is with me now—hot mess world and all.  I can rest in Him and trust in Him because, He’s got this.  Bro. Dewayne

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

What Shall We Do?

“You are from God, little children, and you have conquered them, because the One who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world.” 1 John 4:4

The last two years in too many ways was a monster—perhaps a cookie monster.  It seemed to take so many of the things that were precious to us and just consumed them.  One minute they were there and the next…they were gone.  Like Cookie Monster it crunched and munched its way through the calendar and our lives declaring, “Me like cookies.”

As both years progressed, we struggled, pushed, and pulled, but let’s not lose sight of what we learned.  We learned things about ourselves, and we learned things about God.  We stopped just reading about faith or listening to preachers tell us about it and we were given opportunities to taste it, to experience it.  Keep in mind that kind of learning can only happen in situations that we can’t handle.  It can only happen in darkness.  But it is then that we get to see the dawn coming.  We get to see what he saw.

The man woke up early…just as dark was turning to dawn.  He quietly stirred so as not to disturb his master, Elisha.  It was then that he heard them.  “Them” were masses of horses and warriors lining the surrounding hills. It wasn’t going to be a good day.

Day after day, we awoke to a world and the sounds of warriors and horses were louder and closer than the day before as COVID, politics and headlines stopped being something that was just happening on the national news. Slowly it inched its way nearer, first, in nearby counties and then even closer. Perhaps you felt the fear creeping into the pit of your stomach…again…and again.  You asked, “What can I do?”  Now the question is “How did we do?”

Our friend shakes his master out of a deep sleep.  The Word of God records it like this in 2 Kings 6:15 “When the servant of the man of God got up and went out early the next morning, an army with horses and chariots had surrounded the city. “Oh, my lord, what shall we do?” the servant asked. What.Shall.We.Do.

Did you ask that question in 2020? Last year? Recently? This morning?  Well, welcome to normal.  The best part is there is a great answer coming.  Elisha, in 2 Kings 6:16, says “Don’t be afraid,” the prophet answered. “Those who are with us are more than those who are with them.”

“Calm down, friend” Elisha said because the odds are on our side.  Well, the servant did the math and it looked like a zillion to two.  Hmmm.  So, do you find yourself doing the math and no matter how you rewrite the equation it doesn’t look good?

Well – get ready because something is about to change.  In verse 17 the Word says, “And Elisha prayed, “O LORD, open his eyes so he may see.” Then the LORD opened the servant’s eyes, and he looked and saw the hills full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha.”

And boom, just like that everything changed.  When he could see clearly it was clear that the odds were in their favor and the fear eased and the panic fled and well, it was gonna be a better day. 1 John 4:4 puts it this way, “You are from God, little children, and you have conquered them, because the One who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world.”

That was true then and it is true now.  Yes, we had enough stuff in recent days to cause the strongest knees to knock.  The enemy was and is great, but our God was and is greater. Yes, the carnage scars the landscape but the virus, the division, the economic and emotional disruption was and is no match for our God. He is bigger…by a lot.  Ask God to open your eyes so you can see what the odds really were and are–and feel the fear ease and the panic flee.  After all, “He’s got this.”  Bro. Dewayne

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

Singing before the Sunrise

For we walk by faith, not by sight.” 2 Corinthians 5:7

It happens every year…just about this time.  One of the amazing things about God’s creation is the preciseness of it all.  You can predict the time of the sunrise a hundred years from today within seconds.  The seasons come and go with precise assuredness, and it is not an accident.  Oh no, it is by intentional design.  The Creator God of it all is the God of details and He doesn’t miss one.  Just a couple of weeks ago here in Southern Illinois we were freezing and had a dose of snow, sleet, and ice.   Monday it was just over seventy degrees, the grass is greening, and the limbs of the trees are swelling with anticipation. They all know it is time.  Even a late snow won’t upset the apple cart.

I know sometimes we worry about some things and sometimes we worry about everything, but nature just doesn’t seem to have that problem.  Sometimes I long for that.  When things around me seem so confusing and threatening, when it seems that the new normal isn’t normal at all…I just have a tendency to worry.  But nature doesn’t miss a beat.  This morning, I got up at my somewhat usual 4:30 am (don’t ask me why) and began my day with a cup of coffee and a time with Jesus.  It works well.  The coffee wakes me up and my time with Jesus sets me up for a brand-new day. 

At 4:30 am the sun is still sleeping so the skies and the countryside are still dark…very dark.  But something happens every year…just about this time.  Somewhere in my yard, somewhere outside my window a songbird starts to sing.  I’m sure it is a different bird every year and it might even be a different bird every day but long before daylight, he or she decides to sing.  I find it very…refreshing.  Though it is dark, the songbird sings in anticipation of what is coming.  Somehow, they know that the darkness of night is just about over, and the sun is going to rise.  They seem to know that the darkness cannot last forever…it must give way to the power of light.

By faith, the songbird sings its celebration of Spring and of a new day.  And do you know what?  Sure enough, in about thirty or forty minutes, the dawn begins to break, and God honors their faith.  Day in and day out the songbird sings and day in and day out God is faithful.  I think there is a lesson there for us. Actually, there are two.  First, is the lesson of our faithfulness.  The songbird sings not because it sees the light but because it believes the light is coming.  Tucked away in a letter that Paul wrote to the church located in Corinth are these words, “For we walk by faith, not by sight.”  We.Walk.By.Faith.

The songbird sings by faith and God calls us to walk by faith.  Walking by faith believes that what God has said will come to pass.  And the second lesson?  It is the lesson of His faithfulness.  Our faithfulness is based on a faithful One.  We have all lived long enough to know that put your faith in the wrong thing and you’re toast.  But put your faith in the One who is faithful, and it is the most sane, most logical thing that you can do. In 2020 it was difficult to find sure footing.  Everywhere you stepped it was shifting sand and honestly, 2021 wasn’t much better. The one exception to that was God.  The God who was God in March of 2020 when we started this COVID mess is the same faithful God today, two years later.  He does not change. You can take that to the bank.

So tomorrow morning, even if it’s out of the range of my hearting, a songbird will begin to sing in the darkness.  It will be announcing, by faith, that a new day is coming—daylight is coming. And Lord willing, most of us will awaken from a night of rest.  For some it may be dark and for others quite light, but for all of us we have the opportunity to take our first steps in the new day.  I hope they will be steps of faith…faith in a Dearest Daddy who loves us enough to guide us, to help us and to lead us.  All we have to do is believe…in Him…in who He is and what He said.  He has never failed, you know.  It is totally foreign to Him.  He can and will come through…not matter what.  So, go ahead and peer out into the darkness as the songbird sings and know, “He’s got this.” Bro. Dewayne

Posted in Family, forgiveness, Grace, gratitude, life, love, loving others, prayer, priorities, Scripture, sovereignty of God, thankful, travel, Trials, wisdom

Ready…or Not

Preach the word; be ready in season and out of season.”
2 Timothy 4:2

“Do you think they would mind?” she asked.  It was very early in the morning on our last day at Key Colony.  I awoke from a good night’s sleep (I mean we were on vacation), made a cup of coffee, and headed down to the beach.  Sunrise was a good hour away, but the water and the air were both calm.  The only sound was the gentle lap of the waves against the sandy shore.  This is my time of the day.  God is in the labor room delivering another day for us to enjoy…and I love it.

After a while, the sky slowly turned gray, and you could see the beginning of the sunrise.  It was going to be a good one.  About that time, my wife Judy wandered out and sat down with me.  Just when you think something couldn’t get better…it does.  Judy seems to make anything better.  We chatted and sipped coffee enjoying the creation process.  After another few minutes, the sun peeked over the horizon and another day was born.  Good job, Father, and thank you.  Now that it was daylight, you could see that the water was not only calm…it was crystal clear.  It was then that Karen walked up.

We had talked with Karen and her boyfriend the night before.  We talked about life, faith, and God.  It was an opportunity for me to share some about how much God loved us.  Gary had a large tattoo on his left arm that said, “Faith.”  That gave an opportunity to talk about not only faith, but where that faith should be directed.  I shared it wasn’t enough just to have faith…you had to direct that faith in the right direction…right toward God.

When Karen walked up that morning, I noticed that she was carrying two small containers. I could tell that something was on her mind and that is when she asked the question.  She asked, “Do you think they would mind if I poured my son’s and husband’s ashes in the water?” I quickly assured her that I am sure they would not.  It turned out that her son had tragically died of an opioid overdose at the age of 22.  I didn’t get the details of her husband’s death but since she was in her early fifties, I assumed he too died young.  Then, it was my turn to ask a question.  I asked, “Would you like me to say a prayer?”  And, without hesitation, she answered yes.

Judy asked if Karen would like to have a picture taken and she agreed to that too. All three of us walked down into the water and slowly Karen opened the containers and poured the ashes into the water.  As they touched the water, it turned to a color very similar to wet cement but then just as quickly the color disappeared.  She said a few words, speaking to the souls she could no longer hold.  And then, I asked God for His peace to be on Karen.  I thanked Him for His love…even in hard times like this.  With an amen we were done. Almost.

Judy and I both gave Karen a hug…that was the only way we knew we could tell her we cared, and that God cared too.  As we left the water, Karen headed to Dunkin’ Donuts for a cup of coffee and Judy and I returned to our chairs by the beach.  We knew that we had kept a divine appointment.  I wish I could write and share how Karen and Gary both placed their faith in Jesus but that wasn’t the case…at least not that day.  But I do know we scattered seed in their lives.  I know we left fingerprints on their lives and heart and who knows what God will do with that.

When I woke up that morning, I didn’t know I was going to preside over a funeral standing in the Florida Straits.  Judy didn’t know she was going to act as a memory maker for Karen…but our Dearest Daddy did.  He knew…just as He always does.  We just need to be ready whenever He opens a door or a window and then simply walk where He leads.

Paul, the one who wrote a chunk of the New Testament, told a young preacher named Timothy one day, “Preach the word; be ready in season and out of season.”  When he said to preach…trust me, it was more than standing on a stage on any given Sunday…and it wasn’t just for preachers and teachers.  It was for all of us Jesus followers and it is for all places…planned…or not.  I learned a long time ago that the best sermons are often not preached on Sunday…rather, they are lived out over the course of the other six days. So, let’s be ready to be used.  It may be at the store, on the job or at the ballfields.  Just remember this.  When the time comes, He will be there to help and you can rest assured, “He’s got this.” Bro. Dewayne

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

This is the Day

If we are unfaithful, He remains faithful, for He cannot deny who He is.” 2 Timothy 2:13

It was Saturday morning.  I like Saturdays…especially early in the morning.  I usually get up somewhere between 4.30am and 5.00am.  There is no alarm and no reason…it is just something that I do and have done for years.  I immediately head to my trusty Keurig for a cup of inspiration and then watch a few minutes of the Weather Channel before heading over to the farm show.  I know, I am not a farmer but for some reason it is part of my Saturday routine.  They do have a weather report that is like the old fashion days…you know not a lot of fancy stuff just some weather maps and a few graphics. After that comes some time with God. I read, we talk and well, it’s just a great way to start any day but especially…Saturday.

So, this past Saturday, after the normal routines were done I decided to make another cup of coffee and take it outside. It was still early…you know that time when night is still lingering but it is definitely on the run. It’s a mixture of grays with just a hint of promise starting to peek in the East.  As I walked out onto our driveway, I looked to my left, to the East, and saw a bit of that promise.  From where I was standing, I could see the Christian Church that sits over on the next block.  They have those frosted, glass block windows that were all the rage in the 1940’s. One of those windows was capturing the first rays of that day’s sun…and it was beautiful.

Reflecting on the window and filling the whole window, was a radiant color that can only be described as brilliant orange.  It was that morning’s sun, just rising above the horizon, saying, “Good Morning.”  As I looked, a verse from the Old Testament part of the Jewish and Christian Bibles, came to my mind.  It says, “This is the day that the Lord has made…I will…that is, I choose…to rejoice and be glad in it.  And, honestly, given the reflection on the glass, that might not be too difficult.

Well, I wondered if I walked north to my front yard, could I see more of the impending sunrise. So, I started walking, carefully avoiding all the small rocks on the sidewalk, that could hurt my bare feet and spoil the moment.  When I got to the front yard, there was indeed a small glimpse and this time it was the Methodist Church’s turn to be a part of the show.  This church sits just down the street from our house.  It is a majestic, old building made of brick with large columns. It could easily be a church planted on a city square somewhere down south.

And there it was…the early morning sun.  Sandwiched between two massive columns, that same brilliant orange, pierced the gray…and it was beautiful. It was so beautiful, I spoke out loud the words that had earlier came to my mind.  “This is the day that the Lord has made…I will…that is, I choose…to rejoice and be glad in it.”  It was a declaration, but it also was a celebration.  I was celebrating the faithfulness of my Dearest Daddy who had blessed me with a brilliant taste of the new day.  It.Was.Good.

It was about then that I made a connection.  It was good and so is He.  I mean, I had no idea what the day was going to hold, but if He is good then I just believed that regardless of what came, He was going to bring good from it. There is another verse that says that in the Bible, but that morning, I owned it…I believed it…by faith.  I was deciding that, regardless of that day’s circumstances, they were not going to dictate my opinion of God.  Instead, my faith in the God Who caused the sun to rise would.

Another verse popped up on my radar and it was one that I had decided to use when I shared at church on Sunday.  It was written by Paul, a guy God used to write a chunk of the New Testament and he said, “If we are unfaithful, He remains faithful, for He cannot deny who He is.” Even when I am not faithful, even when I blow it—He will be faithful.  Why? It’s just who He is, and He cannot deny Who He is.

So, today, regardless of what comes, I hope you will remember that no matter what, God is going to be faithful.  You have His word on it.  It doesn’t mean the day is guaranteed to be perfect.  It doesn’t mean that there won’t be a bump or a tragedy.  It just means that no matter what…no.matter.what…He will be there, He will be faithful and, oh yes, He’s got this. Bro. Dewayne

Posted in gratitude, life, Scripture, thankful, travel

Stoneface

 “A person’s steps are established by the LORD, and He takes pleasure in his way.” Psalm 37:23

Stoneface.  Without context that could means several things.  Like when you are late for supper again…and your wife gives you the look–stone face. Or you have your eye on a parking spot and someone whips in front of you and you give the other driver the look–stone face.  Well here in Southern Illinois, it can also mean a rock formation that when viewed from the side looks like a man’s face.

During the COVID shutdown, Judy and I decided to take a hike and see this natural formation.  After work, we slipped on some comfortable shoes and drove out to the trailhead.  That is where the story begins.  Now this is going to be a two-part deal so be sure and tune in on tomorrow for part two.

So, at the trailhead, several things became apparent rather quickly.  One, the trail wasn’t maintained very well.  Well, actually it wasn’t maintained at all.  There were holes, rocks, roots, and a host of other hazards that made the hike not difficult but challenging.  Second, it was wet.  There were several places where water had found a way to puddle up (it didn’t practice social distancing) and the result was a mud obstacle course. I should have worn my boots. Third, at times the trail became difficult to follow.  Now at no point did it totally disappear but it was a little difficult to see.

Oh, and there was one more thing. Up. The trail went up. That shouldn’t have caught me by surprise since Stoneface was up and I was down.  But after a while it occurred to me that this was more up than I thought it should be.  The bottom line is this hike was not meeting my expectations and I might have gotten a little grumpy. Judy with her optimistic spirit was chatty all the way up.  “Oh look,” she said at a rock by the trail. “Oh look,” she said at a tree growing by the trail.  Like I said, I may have been a little grumpy.

After a while we got to the top of the bluff and the trail improved and so did my attitude.  I started noticing the rocks by the trail. Do you know what?  They were beautiful.  I started noticing the trees by the trail.  Each one was unique–hand crafted by a God much bigger than me.  Within a few minutes I too was quite chatty.  God had impressed me.

From the top of the bluff the rock formations were incredible and so was the view.  You could see the beautiful Southern Illinois landscape for miles and miles.  The handiwork of God was awesome.  As we were standing on top of the bluff I looked down and right there, slightly below us, was Stoneface. It was smaller than I expected but more detailed and obvious too.  About then it happened. I was glad to be there.

The rocks, roots and holes on the trail were far less significant.  The times when the trail seemed difficult to follow no longer mattered.  My chatty sweetie that seemed a little annoying on the way up seemed especially beautiful at the top. It was worth it. And just about then it hit me.

God’s plans for me–they’re not always smooth and paved.  They have their potholes and puddles.  They aren’t always downhill for He is often leading me uphill for a view from the top–to see His grandeur.  Psalm 37:23 says, “A person’s steps are established by the LORD, and He takes pleasure in his way.” That means that God directs my life and He is leading me in a way that is for my good and His glory.  Always.

Proverbs 3:5-6 says, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and don’t lean on your own understanding.  In all your ways, acknowledge Him and He will make your paths straight.”  2021–trust.  Illness–trust.  Personal loss–trust. Unemployment–trust. You get the idea.  The path may be a little challenging but the view from the top will be worth it.  Always. So, trust Him.  Rest in Him.  He’s got this.  Bro. Dewayne