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

Songbird

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 snowed in with ten inches of snow.  Today it was just over sixty 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 see 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. The one exception to that was God.  The God who was God last March when we started this COVID mess is the same faithful God today, one year 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.  Whether it is this or that…He has both.  I like that.  Bro. Dewayne

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

God of the Details

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has passed away, and see, the new has come!” 2 Corinthians 5:17

It is just engrained in me.  If you are a Grits reader you might remember when I talked about my first car.  It was a 1961 Rambler painted (with a paint brush) a royal blue with a yellow stripe right down the middle.  Due to its former home, Daytona Beach, it had more Bondo body filler than metal and its floorboards had also fallen victim to the salty air and water.  But I was so grateful to have it.  It was part trade and part gift from my oldest sister, and I loved it.  I would regularly wash it and clean the inside. Since it was the seventies, I bought flowery seat covers to hide the worn-out seats.  The bottom line—it was my baby.  A little scarred, more than a little worn out—but she was mine.

From that very first one, I have always tried to take care of my cars.  A few were new and some were old, some were in good condition and others not so much. But each car received that same loving car.  They ranged from a 1971 pinto with a rod knocking (something the Rambler shared) to a new 1985 Oldsmobile Cutlass Cruiser with wood grain sides.  My wife Judy and I bought that one on a whim because of a deal they were having on interest rates. It was also “on sale” because it had a 4.3 liter diesel engine which was popular at the time.  I had no clue about diesel engines and was surprised to learn that they didn’t even have spark plugs. What? One time I was looking at buying a used pickup truck that had a huge lift kit on it.  It was almost a monster truck.  The guy let me keep it overnight and what did I do? You bet, I washed it and cleaned it out.  I wanted to see what it would look like…and then I didn’t even buy it.  Strange.

I have a knack for cleaning cars.  I can make most cars look pretty good.  It is amazing what a good wash job, some Windex, a strong vacuum and some Armor All can do. Give me a couple of hours and shazam—you have yourself a showroom classic.  Well, not really but it sounds good.  But they did always look better. Now somewhere beyond better is the next level and that is—a detailing.  In case you don’t know, when a car is detailed, the cleaner person should really pay attention to—get ready—the details.  Let me explain.

Recently, a friend gave me a gift certificate for my car to be detailed.  I was genuinely excited.  We have two cars and I had to choose which car got the beauty treatment.  Judy’s car won because, honestly, it needed it the worse.  After I dropped it off at the detailing place, about four hours later I received a call that it was done.  I couldn’t wait to pick it up—and I was not disappointed.  When I pulled up the detailer’s shop there she was and like Cinderella ready for the ball, Judy’s car was dazzling.

It had not only been washed but it was sporting a new wax job.  It glimmered in the noon day sun.  The tires and splash guard were all shiny black and the wheels sparkled like a person’s teeth after a whitening treatment.  I opened the door, and the entire interior was not only clean, but shining clean.  The floor mats were spotless. Yup—I was impressed.  I opened the trunk to find it spotless and the space where the lid meets the body—a perfect place for dirt and grim to hide—clean.  When I bought gas a couple of days later, I noticed that even the place where you put fuel in had been cleaned.  Like I said, a good detailer will pay attention to the details…and she did.

Her name was Jo, and she has been detailing cars for over 35 years, so she has a lot of experience.  She knows how to make a car look new.  Speaking of new, that is why I am keen on God.  He can take the most bruised and broken life and not make it look new—but make it new.  I was reading in the Bible just today something that Paul, one of the New Testament writers, said.  He writes, “If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has passed away, and see, the new has come!” You see God doesn’t do detailing…though He is definitely a God of the details…He just makes every person who puts their faith in His Son a brand-new creation.  I mean, imagine taking your car to get it detailed and picking it up four hours later only to find a brand-new car.  Wow and trust me, God’s work in the lives of people is an even bigger wow factor!

One time, a year or so ago, I hired a guy I didn’t know, to detail my car.  I paid him too much money, and let’s just say, I was very disappointed. He just didn’t do a good job. But after a 46-year journey with Jesus I can tell you that He never disappoints, and He never misses a single detail.  So, hats off to Jo and thanks to that special friend who gave me the gift certificate. And, remember, if you need your life made new, give Jesus a shout. His line is never busy, and you won’t get an answering machine.  He is online all the time and whatever the challenge, He’s up to it.  He’s got this. 

Bro. Dewayne

Posted in Family, forgiveness, gratitude, life, loving others, Scripture, wisdom

Scars

Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead. Philippians 3:13

Gnarled trees stood twisted and broken along the road.  Judy and I had to make a trip to Florida to participate in my Aunt’s funeral.  She was my Daddy’s baby sister and the last of that generation.  It was a long trip but worth the journey.  I saw it as a way to honor my father while also honoring my aunt.  Like every person her life had its ups and downs and bumps and bruises.  And  like every person, there were a few scars left along the road.

It was while traveling West in Florida that I began seeing the gnarled trees.  Mile after mile of trees that were either broken in two, forever bent over or simply lifeless, like dead men standing. I knew the area had been brushed by a recent storm or two but this damage was caused by something far worse—and not so recently.  Suddenly it occurred to me.  I had seen this before about two years ago.  It was the result of a storm, a terrible storm called Michael.

If you remember in 2018 a compact yet incredibly powerful storm came ashore at Mexico Beach, a small down on the Florida panhandle.  It was so devastating that it literally destroyed that small town and the path of the storm with its destruction moved well inland.  That is where we saw the scars.  When we were here a couple of months after the storm and miles and miles inland there was debris piled everywhere along the highway.  What wasn’t broken off or blown over looked like it had been given a perm—twisted and turned.  That was two years ago. 

The scars of that harsh and horrible day remain today and will remain for many years to come.  Only time is going to slow erase the damage as trees re-grow and underbrush hides what has fallen.  It looked devastating two years ago when I saw it and today, somehow, it looked even more so.  Sometimes the scars are almost as bad as the wounds.  Sometimes the memories are worse than what caused the pain.

Many of us have caused scars and most of us bear them.  Some are still healing while others, like the gnarled trees, will remain.  We are left to wonder what to do…how to heal.  The answer I believe lies with creator God.  It is He who can give us the strength to forgive and it is He who can lead us down the path to healing.  Like a good recipe, it will include a measure of grace, a measure of mercy, and a measure of choice.  Forgiveness is really never about the one who caused the scar rather it is about the one who was hurt. When we forgive we truly begin to heal.

Forgiveness also involves forgetting…but not the kind you are thinking.  This forgetting simply means that we choose to not allow the past to control our present.  We choose to let go, so we can be set free.  When we determine that the past won’t reach into our present…we find a freedom.  While the scar will remain, slowly but surely the pain eases and we are evently left whole.

This, of course, is a faith path.  We have to believe that God can and will heal us.  We have to believe that God can forgive us if we were the one who caused the scar.  We have to believe either way that His grace is sufficient and do you know what?  It is.  The scars I saw today along the highway spoke of a devastating storm but it also spoke of hope.  You see, at the base of the gnarled trees stood dozens and dozens of new growth trees.  One day, someday in the future, they will rise to overcome the past with its scars.  That is our hope.

As I stood before that group of people today and spoke of mistakes and regrets. I also spoke of forgiveness and grace which was and is a game changer.  No matter how difficult your past and no matter how uncertain your future, His grace will see you through.  I hope you will keep trusting Him day by day.  I hope you will look up for hope, look around to see that you aren’t by yourself and look down, yes down, but only to see the new life surrounding you.  Hey, you can trust Him, you can rest in Him because no matter how hard the wind blows or how long it howls…He’s got this. 

Posted in Uncategorized

Telling God No…

It was breaking news. “According to local sources a 5.8 magnitude earthquake rocked Southern Illinois yesterday, April 23, at approximately 2:49 pm. Authorities say it was the strongest earthquake to hit the area in decades. The epicenter of the strong quake was traced to Harrisburg, Illinois. In an unusual move, the Center for Seismic Activities was able to trace the center of the quake to 1300 South Feazel Street. More details will follow later.”

Later is now. It was me. I was sitting in one of the offices at Dorrisville Baptist Church solving all the world’s problems (and it was a long list) with two of my friends. In the midst of the conversation it came. My “Dick Tracy” Apple watch vibrated letting me know a message had arrived. It was from our Financial Secretary. She was watching the news.

Governor Pritizker had just announced he was extending the stay at home order until at least May 30th. I stomped my foot and the ground shook. That would mean for five more weeks we couldn’t meet as a church family in our building. It got worse. I then learned I would be required to wear a mask if I went out in public unless I was medically hindered. If stubbornness is a medical condition–I won’t be wearing a mask. Regardless, I stomped my foot and the ground shook.

Never in my wildest dreams could I foresee a time when our church campus would be closed for 10 (pull off your shoes cause you’re gonna need your fingers and toes to count them) weeks. Never. Never could I imagine a time when so many businesses would be closed, so many jobs would be temporarily or permanently lost. Never could I imagine such fear and devastation from an enemy so small I can’t see it. Never.

But God did. God saw it all coming. In fact, we can’t see the end of this and yet He sees it with crystal clarity. I’ve been writing now for weeks that He has “this.” And He does. He has allowed this brokenness in our broken world that will ultimately bring glory to His name and somehow–somehow–bring some sense of good for me–and you. No, no, no–this is not good. He just promised to bring good.

But I stomped my foot and I said “no.” Telling God “no” is never a good idea. I mean, He is God and I am not. He is smarter, wiser, bigger and better than any of us. He never, and I mean, never messes up. He never has an oops–never is caught by surprise. But I stomped my foot anyway. Why?

I stomped my foot out of frustration. I stomped my foot because I want normal. I stomped my foot because I didn’t trust…didn’t trust…didn’t trust God. I stomped my foot because I want my life back…now. You see it is one thing to say I trust the sovereignty of God in your life but quite another to trust it in mine. Isn’t that true for all of us? I don’t mind if God messes with your life as long as He doesn’t mess with mine?

Psalm 14:1 is a really powerful verse. It says, “The fool has said in his heart, “There is no God.” God is saying it is a foolish thing to deny His existence. Take a look around. This world is way too incredible to be an accident. It has “God” written all over it. But there is something else here you need to see.

In that same verse, the words “there is” are in italics. That means they are not in the original language. So, it could read, maybe should read, “The fool has said in his heart, “No God.” It is not only foolish to deny the existence of God it is a foolish to tell Him “no.”You see, He really is smarter, wiser, bigger and better than us. He really does love us–a lot. He really does care for us–a lot. He’s got a plan, a good plan, a perfect plan–I promise you. So, Dewayne, quit stomping and start trusting. Rest in Him. He’s got this. He really does.