Posted in Christmas, Family, friends, gratitude, Holidays, life, loving others, Military memories, Scripture, thankful, travel

Memory Trees

You have turned my mourning into joyful dancing. You have taken away my clothes of mourning and clothed me with joy.” Psalm 30:11

Just a heads up. Christmas trees. They all have their own time to be setup. They all have their own design and style.  They all have their time when they are trashed or stowed.  There is a common denominator.  Those three things are determined by the creators, the admirers of the trees.  That is what makes every tree special. At our house, we do something just a bit different.  We have four trees that make a small, enchanted forest of sorts.  The tallest is about six foot and the smallest is about 30 inches.  It was an idea that I came up with several years ago and we love it.  They are decorated with a wide variety of ornaments and keepsakes from over the decades…and we love that too.

On one tree, we have a Styrofoam snowman’s head that was made by my sister when she was in the third grade…and trust me…that was a really, long time ago.  There is a glitter covered cross from when my wife Judy was in the fourth grade.  Of course, there are three “baby’s first Christmas” ornaments—one for each of our daughters.  There is a 3×5 index card with two buttons on it.  Written, by my oldest granddaughter when she was about 5 years old, is her name over one button and Papa written over the other.  It is priceless.  We were buddies…we are buddies. And on and on it goes…families, friends, and special memories all gathered in one place.

So, by now you are wondering, “Why are you writing about Christmas trees after Christmas has passed?”  It’s a bit of a story. When we were in Germany in 1979, we lived in base housing.  They were large, four-story apartment buildings, with three stairwells—all full of military families.  We were on the top floor, and we had one neighbor across the hall, and they had a phone in their home.  One year, near Easter, I needed to use the phone, so I knocked on the door and his wife came to the door.  I asked if I could use their phone and she was kind enough to say yes.

As I entered their apartment, I noticed one thing right away.  Sitting in their living room was their Christmas tree in all its splendor.  Now, keep in mind it was right before Easter.  I made my call and just had to ask the obvious question.  I politely said, “So why do you still have your Christmas tree up?”  And, without missing a beat, she said, “It makes me happy.”  I never forgot that simple answer and the great truth it taught me.  It.Makes.Me.Happy.

I love the fact that this sweet lady decided to keep her tree up…not based on popular opinion, not on what the masses did, or what was “normal.”  She decided based on what was good for her—for her mental health.  I didn’t think her odd at all—rather, I thought her strong and wise.  I wonder how many decisions we make every day that are not based on what may be good for us but based on what the Smith’s or Jones’ might think of us? I wonder how many things we wear, or eat, or watch, or do, that are based on the opinion of others?  I wonder how many of our faith decisions are based on the same.  Church—no church. Kindness—no kindness. Love—no love. Jesus—no Jesus. Hmmmm. I just wonder.

One year we decided to leave our trees up for several weeks after Christmas and it was ok.  They had transformed from Christmas trees to memory trees.  Maybe, perhaps we will do that again this year. So, if you drive by 217 you might see a small, enchanted forest in our front bay window.  It will be four trees starting at about six feet tall and going down to 30 inches.  If you could get close enough, you would see the trees covered with special ornaments—and almost everyone would represent a special memory or event.  And why will they be there?  Well, it might just be a reminder that we have so much to be thankful for.

If we do leave our trees up, or at least until we take them down, we will drink coffee and do our Jesus things like reading the Bible or praying and occasionally we will look up and be happy—happy for all the blessings that God has sent our way.  Someone writing about God in His Book said that God had turned their mourning into joyful dancing. He had taken away their clothes of mourning and clothed them with joy. I couldn’t agree more.  Even in these different days, these different months, and years, we will have happy moments.  We will pause and thank God that in the past He always showed up and today and all the today’s yet to come He will do it again. After all, He’s got this.  Bro. Dewayne

Posted in Family, food, friends, Grace, gratitude, life, love, loving others, Military memories, prayer, Scripture, Southern born, thankful, travel, USA

Home is Better

He will wipe every tear from their eyes, and there will be no more death or sorrow or crying or pain. All these things are gone forever.” And the One sitting on the throne said, “Look, I am making everything new!” Revelation 21:4-5

Who would have known?  In 1977, my wife and I packed up our stuff and moved to Germany.  It wasn’t a sudden urge we had—it was courtesy of the Air Force.  When we had been married about seven months, we received an assignment to move to Europe.  We were excited about moving there, but also realized Germany was 4,657 miles from everything that was familiar to us.  We were off on a great adventure, without cell phones or internet!

We loved it.  Our part of Germany was filled with history and beautiful landscapes.  Rich forests and small hills and mountains framed every view.  And honestly, it was a little like home.  While it was true that the local folks spoke a different language, there was enough English sprinkled around that we were able to get by.  We even learned a little (and I do mean a little) German to help.  We drove our cars on the right side of the road, just like home (unlike the Brits), we could drink the water just like home, we had stores kinda like home, and we even had a church…just like home.  But it wasn’t…home.

Throughout the three years we were there, we would celebrate when it came time for friends to “ship” back to the United States.  Our church even had a special song titled, “Goodbye, World, Goodbye” that we sang every time someone left to go back to the states.  They were bitter-sweet moments.  We would miss them, but we knew where they were going. They were going home.

There was one thing that we would do, every once in a while, to remind us of home.  It might seem strange, but it wasn’t to us.  Germany was a place of great food but once again…it wasn’t home.  I found out that not many Germans eat grits.  Imagine that. But they did share one thing that was purely American—McDonald’s.  Located downtown in a large city, not too far from where we lived, was a McDonald’s very much like ours back home. And when we could afford it, which wasn’t often, we would go and have a taste of home.  Each bite of the burgers and fries said, “Remember home.”  Each bite said, “This place is good but remember, it’s not home.”

Well, one day it was our turn to go…home.  It was our turn to hear, “Goodbye, World, Goodbye” and know it was for us.  It was our turn to leave there and go home and as soon as we were home, we knew instantly that while “there” was very good—it wasn’t home. Home was better.  Home was home.

Jesus followers need to remember that very important truth—Home is better—Home is home.  This world is good.  We enjoy life with friends and family, and there is a McDonald’s on every corner.  But what used to remind us of home now reminds us that we are not there…yet. Even with all its warts and imperfections, God has done a great job providing us a temporary location to live out our days, but remember, Home is going to be—better.  The Bible tells me that Heaven is a place where there is no more pain, suffering, sickness, or sorrow.  No hospitals, no nursing homes, and no funeral homes.  Simply put—the former things are gone, and everything will be new.  Home will be better.

I know I speak for Judy too when I say that our time in Germany was three of our favorite years together. I also know I speak for her when I say home was, and home is, better. Life here is good but one day, it will be my turn, your turn, to find out that Home is better.  When it came time to leave Germany and go home, the Air Force paid for our ticket and I am glad to let you know that our ticket to Home is paid for too—by God’s Son, Jesus Christ. All we must do is accept it and when we do—life here gets better and Home is thrown in. When we accept it, we find out that God loves to give us a “McDonald’s” or two, here and there, just to remind us of Home…to remind us that till we get there, He is with us and that at every turn, “He’s got this.”  Bro. Dewayne

Posted in Family, friends, Grace, gratitude, Holidays, life, love, loving others, Memorial Day, Military memories, prayer, Scripture, sovereignty of God, thankful, travel, Trials

Heroes

“Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends.”        John 15:13

There are some Grits’ stories that I just can’t let go of.  Today is Memorial Day…the day we honor all those who gave their lives for our freedom.  This special day is so close to my heart and so is this story. I hope you will enjoy it now and probably each Memorial Day in the years to come.  God bless you and God bless America.

Years later, it still tugs at my heart. I’m not sure how I found my way there, but I was grateful.  During my assignment with the Air Force in Sembach, Germany we had the opportunity to see so much.  From Hitler’s hideaway called “The Eagle’s Nest” in Berchtesgaden to the windmills of Holland to the Alps of Switzerland we were constantly amazed at what was all around us.  But nothing prepared me for Luxembourg.

We had some friends that we had known in our days at Moody Air Force Base in South Georgia.  They received orders to Germany several months before we did.  They were only a couple of hours from us, so we saw each other often.  It must have been during one of our forays that we came to it—Luxembourg American Cemetery.  It was one of the most hallowed sights I have ever seen.

There, in the cemetery, are 5,075 white Lasa marble crosses and stars of David.  Row after row of headstones that mark the final resting place of American heroes.  Each one made the ultimate sacrifice for us, for you and me, so that we can live in freedom.  General George Patton is buried there. Two Medal of Honor recipients are also buried there: David G. Turner and William D. McGee. Twenty-two sets of brothers lay buried side by side throughout the cemetery. Some, 371 in fact, were never found.  They are simply listed as missing in action.  102 are just unknown.

This place of honor was established on December 29, 1944.  Many of the soldiers died during the Battle of the Bulge…Hitler’s last push to turn the tide of the war in Germany’s favor.  It failed but it came at great cost to the Allied forces. It was a harsh winter and because of the urgency of the times many were sent to fight with little or no winter gear. The desperate Germans showed little mercy to those taken prisoner.  And, all this occurred just nine months, nine months, before the war ended.  So many had survived D-Day and countless days of combat only to make the ultimate sacrifice months before the grand reunion with family.

Heroes.  It is a word we throw around lightly these days.  In a world where everyone gets a trophy, we are in danger of losing the value of this incredible word.  Hero. Dictionary.com defines it as “a person noted for courageous acts.” Oxford says it is a person who is admired or idealized for courage. Webster defines it as an illustrious warrior or one who shows great courage.  Another place said it is a person who at great danger to themselves puts others first.

I went to Toys-R-Us one time and there they had several aisles of superhero stuff.  As I turned the corner a sign caught my eye.  It simply said, “Real Heroes.”  Along that aisle were the soldiers and sailor figures as well as police, firemen, and other emergency responders.  If I went to that aisle today it would have to include doctors, nurses, and other medical professionals.  Real heroes…real people putting others first at peril to themselves.

But there would be one missing.  Jesus Christ, the Hero of Heaven, who willingly, who bravely, gave Himself to a Roman cross that men, women, and children could be free. The cross was so horrible it was called the death of deaths.  It was so horrible it was illegal to crucify a Roman citizen.  And yet…He went.  Why?  He loved me. He loved you.

Amazingly it was not for some of us, but all of us. Skin color, economic station, language, nationality, capacity to be bad or good doesn’t matter.  The Bible simply says, “He came to seek and save that which was lost.”  It simply says, “Whoever calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”  It simply says He is not willing for any to perish but all to come home. Anyone—I like anyone. Anyone who acknowledges their need for a rescue will find one in Jesus. And this Hero not only does a meet and greet, He invites you to join His family and He walks with you throughout life.  How about that!

So when you hear the national anthem, place your hand over your heart as a salute to those who paid the price for our freedom.  When you see a veteran, thank them for his or her service and sacrifice.  When you walk through a cemetery with your kids, point out the graves of the men and women who served and tell them why they are so special.  And when you talk to the Hero of Heaven next time, thank Him for forgiving your sin.  Thank Him for always being there.  Thank Him for giving you a place to rest.  And, thank Him for having this….because He does.  Bro. Dewayne

Learn more about Luxembourg here: Luxembourg American Cemetery | American Battle Monuments Commission (abmc.gov)

Posted in Family, friends, Grace, gratitude, life, loving others, Military memories, prayer, Scripture, sovereignty of God, thankful

Little Jack Horner

Do not judge others, and you will not be judged.” Matthew 7:1

Little Jack Horner may have sat in a corner…but this time he didn’t. It was the late seventies, and we were living in Western Germany.  I was serving in the Air Force and my wife Judy and I were having the time of our lives.  We were still newlyweds and every day, and everything seemed to be an adventure.  Even church stuff.  God was and is a big part of our lives and that was true way back then too.  We were blessed to have a great church family in Germany, and you might say we were up to our eyes involved.  One of the things that we would do is go and visit people who came to church and visited us.

On one occasion a lady came to visit our church and we decided to return the favor.  Her name was Carol Horner and she served in the Army.  She was married but her husband didn’t do the church thing.  He had a thing…it just wasn’t church.  One Tuesday night we decided that we would go see Carol.  Virtually no one had a phone in Germany, and this was long before cell phones so when we went to see someone, it was usually…unannounced.  It’s funny but that sounds so strange today but back then it’s kind of what you did.

Carol and her stay-at-home husband lived on our base so that Tuesday we headed out to find their apartment.  The housing on base consisted of several large multi-floor buildings.  We found the building, which stairwell and away we went.  After climbing several flights of stairs, we found ourselves at Carol’s door.  We knocked.  Soon we could hear the sound of feet, so we at least knew someone was home.  Well, the door opened, a little, and there was the face of Carol.  We were bubbly and she was surprised…and, uh, a little apprehensive.

She knew who we were, we had met at church, and we told her we were just out visiting folks and would like to come in for a few minutes.  She hesitated, suggesting maybe it wasn’t a good time, but Mr. and Mrs. Bubbles, politely pressed the cause and after a minute or two Carol explained her hesitation.  It turns out that her husband Jack, was, uh, a nudist and actually, at that moment he was sitting in the living room…eating spaghetti and dressed only with a dinner napkin. I know you are thinking this couldn’t be true…but it was.  And, what happened next, is too.

We were persistent that night, maybe too persistent, and suggested maybe Jack would be willing to get dressed so we could visit.  She checked and he finally agreed to lay a dish towel across his lap. We went in to find, Jack, who definitely was not little, with a small dish towel on his lap, joyfully eating a plate full of spaghetti on a TV tray. Though he didn’t miss a beat…we might have.  Have you ever heard about the white elephant in the room?  Well, that night there was definitely a white elephant in the room.

We chatted, ok, we tried to chat with Carol as Jack smacked and slurped his spaghetti down.  It seems he did make one or two comments about his choice of clothing, or lack thereof, but other than that he ignored us as we tried to return the favor.  Well, we didn’t stay too long and soon it was time to call it a night.  We told Jack it was good to meet him and was grateful he didn’t stand up as we left.  Carol showed us to the door and there she told us that she was grateful that we came by.  I’m sure because of the circumstances she didn’t get a lot of company. We had a short prayer with her and said goodnight.

As I remember she became a regular attender at our church and no, Jack, never did.  I’m sure he couldn’t decide what to wear. Smile.  Two things were true about that night.  First, of all the visits Judy and I have made through the years, nothing ever came close to Jack Horner and his towel.  To this day, he occasionally comes up in our conversation when we have spaghetti.  Second, though, is something more important.  Somehow, some way, Judy and I got something right that night.  We managed not to judge Jack and to make Carol feel welcomed and appreciated.

Being humans, we don’t always get it right, do we?  But that night reminds me that people are just people and regardless of how crazy it might seem, we just need to leave the judging to the Judge and leave the stones on the ground where they belong. Jesus said that if we are wise enough not to judge we will find that people are less likely to judge us.  That’s good advice.  I don’t remember Judy and I gossiping about Jack.  I don’t believe there were harsh whispers as we descended the stairs but there probably were some smiles and giggles. You see, you just never know what you will find on a Tuesday night. As I think of Jack sitting in his chair that night, I am reminded of one thing. No matter what, “He’s got this.” Bro. Dewayne

Posted in Christmas, Family, gratitude, Holidays, life, love, Military memories, priorities, Southern born, travel

Care Packages

Thanks be to God for His inexpressible gift!” 2 Corinthians 9:1

You never knew when they were coming.  When God and the Air Force decided to send us to Germany—well, it was an exciting adventure that we just thoroughly enjoyed.  But there was a downside…we were a long way from home…a real long way.  We were there from 1977 to 1980, we were young, and we were newlyweds.  Back then there were no cell phones and a landline call to the States was hugely expensive, so that just didn’t happen.  There was no internet.  The world moved at the speed of ship or a plane if you were lucky. The only option was snail mail and well, that could take a while.

Sometimes during the year, our parents would send us a box through the mail.  We called them “care packages.”  The reason was that when one came it was clear that someone back in the United States loved us and cared—about us.  That was important because as much as we loved being there—there wasn’t home—or anywhere close to home.

There were two times a year that you could almost always count on a care package—that was somewhere around your birthday and then Christmas.  I can still feel the excitement as the days clicked by.  We didn’t know when, but we just knew that my Momma or Judy’s Momma would spend the money and equally as important take the time to say, “I love you.”  We would go to the Post Office every day, looking for the yellow slip in our mailbox that said, “You have a package.”  Instantly it was like Christmas Day.

We would open the box that day—that hour if possible.  There would be wrapped presents and those we would save till the special day.  But there would always be just stuff—candy, trinkets, small things that could only be gotten in America.  Sometimes there were home baked goodies and even if they were stale by then—they were still from home, and we gladly ate them.

The care packages were an important link to home for us.  Like I said, it told us that someone was thinking of us—that we had not been forgotten.  What we need to realize, especially this week, is that God is the greatest sender of care packages.  His ultimate gift, His Son, made the way so broken people like us could not only come into the presence of Holy God but that we could call Him Father.  The Jewish people could never understand that.  To them God was a far off, unapproachable Deity that they worshiped.  But for Jesus followers—well we know Him as Dearest Daddy and that is not a term of disrespect or looseness—it is a term of His love for us and our love for Him.

Even amid these difficult and confusing days, God has continued to send His care packages along the way.  The Bible tells us this day, and every day, is a day that He made.  He makes the air that we breathe. Everything…everything…that we eat, enjoy or own is a care package from Him.  Every sunrise and sunset, every perfectly different snowflake is a care package from Him.  And every single night that I lay my head down on my pillow in the peace He provides—well, that’s a care package too.

Now to be honest, sometimes we would get things in our care packages from home and wonder “what in the world were they thinking?” I’m sure Judy and I laughed at more than few.  But do you know what?  Those things were notes of love too.  And the things that God allows and sends our way that we don’t understand—well, each one in its own way is a care package.

Well, as you know, times change, and the Momma’s have moved to heaven many years ago so the days of care packages from home are gone for us.  However, the memories linger, and the love is still felt from those special care package memories. But the care packages from God never change—He still sends them—every day—sometimes every minute.  He just loves us so much.  I hope regardless of your circumstances that you will make the choice to trust Him and to wait expectantly for His care packages.  Keep looking, keep waiting, and watching because each one tells us, “He’s got this.”  Bro. Dewayne

Posted in Family, Grace, gratitude, life, love, loving others, Military memories, Scripture, Southern born, sovereignty of God, thankful, Thanksgiving, travel, Trials

The Rock

Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights.” James 1:17

The Rock.  If you talk to someone that has done “hard time” they will probably think you are talking about Alcatraz.  If you talk to someone who likes action movies, they will probably think you are talking about Dewayne “The Rock” Johnson.  But if you are talking to me or my wife Judy, then we will know you are talking about “the rock.”  It’s a long story.

Judy and I met and fell in love in short order.  I walked into her church one Wednesday night. I asked her out the next week and ever since then we have been a “we”.  We were together as much as possible—we wanted to be together as much as possible. Since my Daddy had passed away that summer, Mama decided to spend Thanksgiving with my brother Joe up in the mountains, and I was invited to come join them.  It was a deal because I really wanted to be with Judy, but I knew my place was with family and my Mama especially.  So, I went.  I told Judy I would miss her, and I would bring her something back from the mountains.

Now I’m known for doing crazy things—it’s just me. While in the mountains I tried to think of something to take to Judy.  It didn’t seem appropriate to take her a typical souvenir, so I got an idea.  I would take her part of the mountains. I went out and found a rock. It was about the size of a pumpkin roll…elongated and was even orange with white stripes. As Thanksgiving rocks go…it was a pretty, good one.  I washed it up and put it in the car.  Game. Set. Match.

I’m sure in the book of love etiquette there is a chapter on what to bring your love when you go to the mountains.  I am also sure if I had read that chapter a rock would not have made the cut.  But hey, I was inexperienced.  So, I get back to Valdosta where I was stationed in the Air Force and where Judy lived.  After the appropriate number of hugs and kisses I presented her with her gift.  She seemed thrilled and seemed to appreciate my thoughtfulness.  Please note the word seemed.

Time goes by.  We were married a while later and the rock made the trip from her parent’s house to our new apartment.  We later received orders to Germany and the rock made the trip with us.  When we came home from Germany and moved to our new duty assignment in Warrensburg, Missouri, the rock came with us. And on and on it went.  To the home we built in Warrensburg, to the little parsonage in LaMonte, where I had my first full-time pastorate, to Cobden, Illinois where we pastored for 14 years.  Finally, it came with us to Harrisburg. It was part of the family. It was more than a pet rock it was “the rock.”

About ten years ago, around 2010, somehow the topic of the rock came up. I was sharing how endeared I was to the rock—how important it was and then it happened.  Judy told me she never liked the rock.  She told me that she wasn’t thrilled all those years ago. She only pretended to be thrilled to make me happy.  The bottom line was the rock was just a rock.  Oh, the agony.  Oh, the pain. Oh the “you’ve got to be kidding me.”  Here I’ve been hauling this rock all over the world for nothing.  I knew I should have gotten her one of those Smoky Mountain snow globes!

Well, like a pet who’s forgotten how to be potty trained, the rock was moved to the yard. It was still special to me, so it now sits on the grave of one of my favorite pets.  Somehow that just seemed appropriate and if I were to move tomorrow—yes, the rock would go.  If nothing else, it is a monument on what not to bring the girl you love from the mountains.  I’m glad that God is better at gifts than I am.  It seems—no, it more than seems, that He always gets it right.

He talks a lot about gifts in His Book.  He loads us up day after day.  Every sunrise and sunset is a gift.  Every breath is a gift.  Every fall leaf that floats to the ground full of color is a gift.  We need to look and recognize all that He gives us.  James, one of Jesus’ half-brothers, wrote that every good gift, every perfect gift comes down from our Dearest Daddy.  He just loves to shower us with His best and He does it again and again.

Well, it was no accident that I brought a souvenir rock home that year, it was no accident it was orange with white stripes, and it was no accident that it is still with us. In fact, the word souvenir is from the French, meaning “a memento, keepsake, or a token of remembrance which a person acquires for the memories the owner associates with it.” How about that! Still, I guess it wasn’t the right gift for her on that day. Today though, it was the right motivation to remind us of this year, above all years, to be grateful for a God, a Heavenly Father who is oh so generous to His kids.  Why not sit down today and make a list of all the things God has provided and all the needs He met?  Take your time…enjoy the moment and when you are done…read the list to Him and say “Thank-you, Father.”  And then for all the things that are bigger than you or for the things that just look like rocks, gratefully give them all to Him because, as always, He’s got this.     Bro. Dewayne

Posted in Family, forgiveness, Grace, gratitude, life, love, loving others, Military memories, prayer, priorities, Scripture, thankful, travel, Trials, USA

Heroes

Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends.”        John 15:13

Years later, it still tugs at my heart. I’m not sure how I found my way there, but I was grateful.  During my assignment in Sembach, Germany we had the opportunity to see so much.  From Hitler’s hideaway called “The Eagle’s Nest” in Berchtesgaden to the windmills of Holland to the Alps of Switzerland we were constantly amazed at what was all around us.  But nothing prepared me for Luxembourg.

We had some friends that we had known in our days at Moody Air Force Base in South Georgia.  They received orders to Germany several months before we did.  They were only a couple of hours from us so we saw each other pretty frequently.  It must have been during one of our forays that we came to it—Luxembourg American Cemetery.  It was one of the most hollowed sights I have ever seen.

There, in the cemetery, are 5,075 white Lasa marble crosses and stars of David.  Row after row of headstones that mark the final resting place of American heroes.  Each one made the ultimate sacrifice for us, for you and me, that we can live in freedom.  General George Patton is buried there. Two Medal of Honor recipients are also buried there: David G. Turner and William D. McGee. Twenty-two sets of brothers lay buried side by side throughout the cemetery. Some, 371 in fact, were never found.  They are simply listed as missing in action.  102 are just unknown.

This place of honor was established on December 29, 1944.  Many of the soldiers died during the Battle of the Bulge…Hitler’s last push to turn the tide of the war in Germany’s favor.  It failed but it came at great cost to the Allied forces. It was a harsh winter and because of the urgency of the times many were sent to fight with little or no winter gear. The desperate Germans showed little mercy to those taken prisoner.  And, all this occurred just nine months, nine months, before the war ended.  So many had survived D-Day and countless days of combat only to make the ultimate sacrifice months before the grand reunion with family.

Heroes.  It is a word we throw around lightly these days.  In a world where everyone gets a trophy we are in danger of losing the value of this incredible word.  Hero. Dictionary.com defines it as “a person noted for courageous acts.” Oxford says it is a person who is admired or idealized for courage. Webster defines it as an illustrious warrior or one who shows great courage.  Another place said it is a person who at great danger to themselves puts others first.

I went to Toys-R-Us one time and there they had several aisles of super hero stuff.  As I turned the corner a sign caught my eye.  It simply said, “Real Heroes.”  Along that aisle were the soldiers and sailor figures as well as police, firemen, and other emergency responders.  If I went to that aisle today it would have to include doctors, nurses and other medical professionals.  Real heroes…real people putting others first at peril to themselves.

But there would be one missing.  Jesus Christ, the Hero of Heaven, who willingly, who bravely, gave Himself to a Roman cross that men, women and children could be free. The cross was so horrible it was called the death of deaths.  It was so horrible it was illegal to crucify a Roman citizen.  And yet…He went.  Why?  He loved me. He loved you.

Amazingly it was not for some of us but all of us. Skin color, economic station, language, nationality, capacity to be bad or good doesn’t matter.  The Bible simply says, “He came to seek and save that which was lost.”  It simply says, “Whoever calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”  It simply says He is not willing for any to perish but all to come home. Anyone—I like anyone. Anyone who acknowledges their need for a rescue will find one in Jesus. And this Hero not only does a meet and greet, He invites you to join His family.  How about that!

So when you hear the national anthem, place your hand over your heart as a salute to those who paid the price for our freedom.  When you see a veteran, thank them for his or her service and sacrifice.  When you walk through a cemetery with your kids, point out the graves of the men and women who served and tell them why they are so special.  And when you talk to the Hero of Heaven next time, thank Him for forgiving your sin.  Thank Him for always being there.  Thank Him for giving you a place to rest.  And, thank Him for having this….because He does.  Bro. Dewayne

Posted in Family, forgiveness, Grace, gratitude, life, loving others, Military memories, prayer, priorities, Scripture, travel, Trials, wisdom

Lifeline

The Lord is good, a stronghold in the day of trouble; and He knows those who trust in Him.” Nahum 1:7

Nahum 1:7. It was in the Bible and it was his verse.  Church has always been a part of my culture.  From the time I was born it seems I always found my way to a building with a steeple on top. That also means I bumped into several pastors and preachers too.  Each one left a fingerprint on my life and because of that each one made a difference.  Speaking of different…each one was.  Different gifts, talents, and personalities, but each one made an impact.  I am grateful.

When my wife Judy and I moved to Germany in 1977 for a stint overseas with the Air Force, we were fortunate to have a church not too far from where we lived and the base where I worked.  It wasn’t long before we were part of that family.  In fact, it wasn’t long before we were good friends with the pastor and his wife.  He was a young pastor, had an infectious smile and a great personality and we hit it off right from the start.  We were about five or six years different in our ages, so he was kinda like a big brother only he wasn’t very big…but his heart was.

One of the things (literally) that I liked about hanging with Steve (not his real name) was he had a new shiny, red Volkswagen sports car.  It was great on curves and it was plenty fast and since Germany had lots of curves and often no speed limit on the autobahn…well, it was fun.  I guess in some ways we were like a couple of teenagers.

Steve also was a Godly guy.  He really tried to live his faith out. One of the things that he shared with me was his “life verse.”  In case you don’t know what that is, it is a verse from that Bible that jumps off the page at you and gets stuck in your mind and heart. So, Steve’s verse came from one of those books in the Old Testament that no one can find.  It is called the Book of Nahum and his verse came from chapter one, and verse seven.  It goes like this, “The Lord is good, a stronghold in the day of trouble; and He knows those who trust in Him.”

It is the kind of verse that you gotta love.  It is the kind of verse that can be a lifeline when the sea of life gets rough.  It isn’t that the verse has any magic powers, it’s just that it contains a boatload of truth.  God is good, and it isn’t that He just does good, He is good.  He is like a place you can run to when things go south, and He remembers my name, your name, our names.  Those are great truths when the sun is shining in life and really, great truths when the storm clouds roll in…just like it did for Steve one day.

Without warning, he learned that his marriage was over, there was another guy.  It was just one of those crazy things that happen, and it broke his heart and our hearts.  The bottom line, he decided it was best to head back to the states and in a short while…he was gone.  I never saw him again but if by chance he reads this someday, I hope he knows there were some things that stuck with me…like his life verse.  No, his verse didn’t become mine, but it stuck.  God is good, God is a refuge, God knows my name.

How about you?  Do you have a verse that jumped off the page one day and into your heart and life?  Mine for a real long time has been Proverbs 3:5-6 but for the last several years it has had some real competition with Psalm 37:23-24.  Check them out…they are both awesome scriptures.  That is one thing about the Bible.  Even if you’ve never taken the leap of faith to believe, and I hope you will, you will find it an incredible Book of wisdom and knowledge and who knows, if you try it, it might just leap right into your life.  God is good, God is a refuge, God knows my name.  It was good back in 1977, it is good today, and when I launch from here to there, it will still be good. And no matter the circumstance, no matter the deal, it reminds me that, “He’s got this.”  Bro. Dewayne

Posted in Family, fear, Grace, gratitude, life, love, Military memories, priorities, Scripture, Southern born, sovereignty of God, thankful, travel, USA, wisdom

Home is Better

He will wipe every tear from their eyes, and there will be no more death or sorrow or crying or pain. All these things are gone forever.” And the one sitting on the throne said, “Look, I am making everything new!” Revelation 21:4-5

Who would have known?  In 1977, my wife and I packed up our stuff and moved to Germany.  It wasn’t a sudden urge we had—it was courtesy of the Air Force.  When we had been married about seven months, we received an assignment to move to Europe.  We were excited about moving there, but also realized Germany was 4,657 miles from everything that was familiar to us.  We were off on a great adventure, without cell phones or internet!

We loved it.  Our part of Germany was filled with history and beautiful landscapes.  Rich forests and small hills and mountains framed every view.  And honestly, it was a little like home.  While it was true that the local folks spoke a different language, there was enough English sprinkled around that we were able to get by.  We even learned a little (and I do mean a little) German to help.  We drove our cars on the right side of the road,  just like home (unlike the Brits), we could drink the water just like home, we had stores kinda like home, and we even had a church…just like home.  But it wasn’t…home.

Throughout the three years we were there, we would celebrate when it came time for friends to “ship” back to the United States.  Our church even had a special song titled, “Goodbye, World, Goodbye” that we sang every time someone left to go back to the states.  They were bitter-sweet moments.  We would miss them, but we knew where they were going. They were going home.

There was one thing that we would do, every once in a while, to remind us of home.  It might seem strange, but it wasn’t to us.  Germany was a place of great food but once again…it wasn’t home.  I found out that not many Germans eat grits.  Imagine that. But they did share one thing that was purely American—McDonald’s.  Located downtown in a large city, not too far from where we lived, was a McDonald’s very much like ours back home. And when we could afford it, which wasn’t often, we would go and have a taste of home.  Each bite of the burgers and fries said, “Remember home.”  Each bite said, “This place is good but remember, it’s not home.”

Well, one day it was our turn to go…home.  It was our turn to hear, “Goodbye, World, Goodbye” and know it was for us.  It was our turn to leave there and go home and as soon as we were home, we knew instantly that while “there” was very good—it wasn’t home. Home was better.  Home was home.

Jesus followers need to remember that very important truth—Home is better—Home is home.  This world is good.  We enjoy life with friends and family, and there is a McDonald’s on every corner.  But what used to remind us of home now reminds us that we are not there…yet. Even with all its warts and imperfections, God has done a great job providing us a temporary location to live out our days, but remember, Home is going to be—better.  The Bible tells me that Heaven is a place where there is no more pain, suffering, sickness or sorrow.  No hospitals, no nursing homes, and no funeral homes.  Simply put—the former things are gone, and everything will be new.  Home will be better.

I know I speak for Judy too when I say that our time in Germany was three of our favorite years together. I also know I speak for her when I say home was, and home is, better. Life here is good but one day, it will be my turn, your turn, to find out that Home is better.  When it came time to leave Germany and go home, the Air Force paid for our ticket and I am glad to let you know that our ticket to Home is paid for too—by God’s Son, Jesus Christ. All we have to do is accept it and when we do—life here gets better and Home is thrown in. When we accept it, we find out that God loves to give us a “McDonald’s” or two, here and there, just to remind us of Home…to remind us that till we get there, He is with us and that at every turn, “He’s got this.”  Bro. Dewayne

Posted in fear, Grace, Military memories, Scripture, travel, Trials

Losing Lift

 Oh, what a miserable person I am! Who will free me from this life that is dominated by sin and death? Thank God! The answer is in Jesus Christ our Lord.” Romans 7:24-25

It was something I thought I would never see.  From 1977 to 1980 my wife Judy and I were stationed with the Air Force in Germany.  I have said it so many times but it was a great time.  We were young, still newly married and had the opportunity to see and experience so much of Europe.  It was good duty too.  I was assigned to a small base and provided administrative support for one of the flying squadrons.  We flew the OV-10—a twin engine forward air control aircraft.  There weren’t many enlisted guys in the squadron and the pilots treated us like family.

Obviously safety, and in particular flight safety, was always a big deal.  I remember right before I left to come back to the States we were on a long streak of accident free flying.  The commander was also due to rotate back to the States in just a couple of weeks.  He said, “The best gift you guys can give me is to remain accident free.” A couple of days later, however, one of our planes crashed.

What I thought I would never see, and certainly didn’t want to see, was another crash.  One day, I was standing in my office talking to one of the pilots about who knows what.  I was looking out the window as we chatted and saw an aircraft, not one of ours but a F-4 fighter jet, literally falling out of the sky.  I blurted out to the pilot I was talking to, “That plane is going to crash.”  I remember his response to this day, “That’s not something to joke about.”  I wasn’t joking.  Less than half a mile from where we were this massive fighter aircraft did literally fall from the sky.  The pilot ejected but sadly did not survive.  It was devastating.  I can still see the explosion in my mind.

As it turns out the plane wasn’t trying to land and where he crashed had nothing to do with our base.  He was flying over the area, lost airworthiness, and went into what is called a flat spin.  When this happens, planes can lose their lift and they crash.  You see, to stay in the air, planes have to have the lift provided by forward movement and air moving in and around their wings.  When that doesn’t happen, planes fall from the sky.

It not only happens to planes…it happens to people…like me…like you.  At the beginning of this year, I did the healthy thing.  I began eating right, checking my sugar levels, and exercising five or six times a week. The results came quickly and were amazing.  After three months I had my blood checked and the results were what my physician called, “beautiful.”  Literally every critical number was in the normal range. It was amazing…it was awesome.  And then, I lost my lift.

The best I can tell my success began my downfall. After winning so big, I wasn’t sure what was next.  It was like the day after Christmas.  The win was in the bag and I lost my drive to keep on winning.  Over the last month or so I returned to my poor eating habits and slowly, or perhaps not so slowly, things began to change…for the worse.  The only win is that I am still exercising. Like I said, “When you lose your lift…you crash.”

I was thinking about this before I began writing this morning and decided I really should share my story.  Maybe I can help keep someone from crashing.  And, it really doesn’t have to be about health…it can be anything.  The bottom line is when we lose our momentum, our drive, our lift in any area of our lives—spiritually, emotionally or physically—we are in danger of crashing.  Marriages can go south, God can become a distant relative and we can become emotionally disconnected.  We need to be careful.

Paul, the guy who wrote a chunk of what we call the New Testament, knew about losing lift and I think he knew about crashing too.  He asked the question, “Oh, what a miserable person I am! Who will free me from this life that is dominated by sin and death?”  Can you identify with that question?  Honestly, I can.  But it is the answer that gives me hope.  It is the answer that can give you hope.  He writes, “Thank God! The answer is in Jesus Christ our Lord.”  Bam!  There you go.  The answer is our faith and trust in Jesus.

I’m glad he didn’t just say to try harder or maybe pull yourself up by your bootstraps.  I’m glad he confirmed what I know and what you might know.  The answer is Jesus.  He doesn’t just limit His help to obvious God stuff—He is there always and in every way. So, here’s the deal.  I’m not going to throw in the towel and I hope you won’t either.  I may fall a little further but I won’t stay down.  And, regardless, He loves me, when I get it right and when I don’t.  And no matter what, spiritually, emotionally, or physically He goes with He—never condemning and always encouraging.  I like that.  It’s good to know that, “He’s got this.”