Posted in Grace, gratitude, life, love, Scripture, thankful, wisdom

Mona Lisa

For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things He planned for us long ago.” Ephesians 2:10

I wonder if he really knew it? I’m talking about Leonardo de Vinci.  He was the painter of the infinitely famous “Mona Lisa.”  It has been called “the best known, the most visited, the most written about, the most sung about, the most parodied work of art in the world.” Now by any standard that is a masterpiece.  It was finished around 1517 and is likely the portrait of Lisa Gherardini.  Its name “Mona Lisa” would translate to Ma’am Lisa.  I’m glad her name was Lisa or else we would have Mona Hazel or Mona Gertrude. Nice names but, well, you know.

But did he know it?  I wonder if de Vinci realized what a powerful masterpiece he had created?  Did he know the way he captured her smile, or the light would captivate the world? I suppose that in his lifetime the painting was appreciated but did it make it to rock star status?  But there really is a bigger question.  Did she know it?

Did Mona Lisa know that the portrait of herself was a masterpiece destined to be the most valuable painting in the world?  Did she know that her slightest of smiles would capture the hearts of men and appreciation of women?  Did she ever look in her mirror and see herself for what she was, a masterpiece?

Can I ask you a question?  What do you see when you glance in the mirror?  Do you know that the someone staring back at you is as valuable as the Mona Lisa? Do you know that even though you are not famous in the neighborhood, you are famous in the halls of heaven?  It’s true.

Ephesians 2:10 is one of my absolute favorites.  It seems to pop up over and again in Grits.  It says,  “For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things He planned for us long ago.” You see an artist far more talented, far more substantial than Leonardo de Vinci created you.  He carefully applied stroke after stroke and then stood back, looked at His work, and declared you a masterpiece.  Declared you, yes you, a masterpiece.

Don’t ever doubt this. You are what God declares you to be.  Don’t let a glance in the mirror, don’t let a harsh comment from a friend or critic, don’t let an act of unkindness steal that away.  You are a masterpiece.  Don’t let your crazy circumstances, your empty portfolio, the nameless brand of your clothing, or your street address, steal that away.  You are a masterpiece.

In our bathroom, we have two small tiles with a few words on them.  They are small in size, but the words are massive.  Here is what they say, “It is not who you are that holds you back, but who you think you are not.”  There is real truth and freedom in those words.  So, if you are haunted by the thoughtless words of someone in your life and you are living that lie…today is freedom day.  Today is name change day.  You are not an accident, a mistake, or junk.  You are a masterpiece. God says so.

As we move on after a fabulous Easter Sunday, remember this.  Each time you worship, Easter or not—in church or not, you are praising Someone who thought so highly of you that He died for you.  He.Died.For.You. And then, like whip cream and cherry on a sundae He adds a description, “masterpiece.”

God bless you today.  The weather guy said it is going to be a beautiful day.  It’s gonna be a great day for a masterpiece like you to step outside and enjoy what the Master Creator has made–just for you.  Enjoy this day and rest in Him.  No matter what…He’s got this.  Bro. Dewayne

Posted in Family, food, forgiveness, Grace, gratitude, life, loving others, Scripture, Southern born, thankful, wisdom

Sharing

Don’t neglect to do what is good and to share, for God is pleased with such sacrifices.” Hebrews 13:16

My Mama taught me to share.  When there are a bunch of kids and other family members in a family you learn two contradicting lessons.  First, you need to share.  Often, especially when it comes to the good things on a dinner table, the demand usually exceeds supply.  You know, nine people and eight pieces of pie.  So, you cut the pieces smaller.  That is sharing.  The other lesson is you need to act fast.  We all know the adage that the early bird gets the worm or the one who eats his or her pie the fastest gets a shot at the last piece.  That is not sharing.

Sharing and putting others first are Jesus things.  He was the only guy who could go to any event and be the star of the show.  Be it a wedding, a funeral, or a banquet and bam…He was the most important person in the room.  But the funny thing is you never see that.  You always see Him at the back of the line.  The only time He was first in line was the line for the cross.  That was a very short line—in fact, it was only one deep and He was ready and willing to go because He loved us so much.

He was willing to share His righteousness too.  We didn’t have any of our own, so He gave us His.  The Bible says that our righteousness was like filthy rags, so He shared, in fact, He gave.  Its pretty amazing.  There are somethings we shouldn’t share like something told in private and maybe a cold.  But, as a general rule we should be people who love to share.  And that is where I need your help.

Over the last year lots of folks have been reading Grits.  Through our church email list, the Grits Facebook page, and through the gritswithgrace.com blog, people have been reading.  I want you know just how incredible I think that is.  My goal is to be an encourager and maybe even make you smile.  But most importantly, I want to share a big truth that helps us as we do life…together. 

So, that is where you come in. I am wondering if you would be willing to share Grits with those in your world? The guy who wrote Hebrews (great name for a coffee shop by the way) said that we should do good things and share because God is pleased with that.  That might even apply to Grits.  Sign up for the blog, share on Facebook, or share in an email, it’s all sharing a word of encouragement.

Something happened last week that I thought was so cool.  I was notified by email that someone had read one of the Grits’ stories and decided to start following the blog. That means every day they will get an email with that day’s story.  Sometimes, people just stumble onto the Grits blog, who knows how that happens? But what made this so special was this someone was a cabdriver in Southampton, England.  What? Yup. And I thought that was pretty cool. So, a special thanks to our friend there.

My wife Judy checked (the blog tracks locations) and we have had Grits’ readers from several countries and from a chunk of the states here in America.  And it usually happens because someone searches and finds a story, or someone shares it.  So, would you be willing to make it a daily habit to share your Grits?  It isn’t about just getting more readers but rather, it is about maybe encouraging someone who needs a lift on any given day.  Together we can be encouragers and hey, the more the merrier.

This last year has been a big challenge but I love the fact that God is bigger than any challenge we face.  I try and make that a regular theme as I write.  Life is pretty tough to go it alone and I believe that He is more than ready to walk with us.  So, thanks again for reading and thanks for sharing.  Oh, and by the way, for those of you who comment…thanks for that too.  I try and respond, and it is always an encouragement.  Well, outside night is turning to day, so it must be time to see what today holds.  One thing is sure…we can face it together with Him because as always, “He’s got this.”  Bro. Dewayne

Posted in Family, fear, forgiveness, Grace, gratitude, life, prayer, Scripture, Southern born, thankful, Trials, wisdom

My Cussing Summer

So now there is no condemnation for those who belong to Christ Jesus.” Romans 8:1

It was the summer of my rebellion.  I know, some people are born compliant and some are born a little on the rebellious side.  I was born compliant.  I have always been a rule keeper—well, at least most of the time.  I suppose that is why I took to religion so well.  You see religion is all about keeping the rules.  The idea is if you keep enough of the rules then people will like you and most importantly, God will like you.  And sure enough, it worked—well, at least part one worked.  In my younger years, most of the adults thought I was a good boy.  Church? Got it.  Drinking? Not a drop.  Drugs?  Nope. I can hear them saying it now, “That Dewayne is such a nice boy.”  And, I suppose outwardly I looked pretty good, but pretty good won’t get you to heaven.

You see the second part of the religion mantra is that you can make God happy by performing—by keeping the rules.  That one is 100% false.  There is no one, except Jesus, that was good enough to go to heaven.  Yet it seems so many church people say they believe that rules won’t get you to heaven, but act as if they will. They carefully do this and that and boy, if you happened to be one of the ones who didn’t keep the rules, you were tried, convicted and sentenced.  That’s why I had to keep my cussing summer quiet.

I think maybe all the rule keeping must have finally got to me.  The bottom line is during the summer between my junior and senior years of high school—I started cussing.  I had a job at an apartment complex down the road from our house and I worked with the son of the head maintenance man.  He was not a Jesus person and he did like to cuss.  So, one day, I just started cussing too.  I had heard enough cuss words at school to know most of them, so I didn’t have to have any lessons…though I did have to work on my voice inflections.

It was a very tricky time in my life because I had to turn the cussing on at 8:00 am and I had to be sure and turn it off at 5:00pm.  That’s what you have to do when you are living a double life.  Under no circumstances did I want to spoil my good boy image at church or with my Mama and Daddy. I do remember one time I let a small one slip and Mama looked at me with eyes that said, “Where did that come from?” Of course, I didn’t, I couldn’t let her know that her baby son was a cusser.

And, as quickly as it came, it passed.  At the end of the summer, I had to go back to school and therefore had to quit my job.  All I know is that the cussing stopped and my rule keeping world got a little easier.  I managed to please a lot of people, but I knew I was far from pleasing God.  It would be several more years before I finally figured out that rule keeping didn’t work and religion didn’t either.  When I was 21, I finally found grace and boy was that a game changer.  Honestly, it is taking me a long time to shake the deep roots of rule keeping and religion.  I’m still working on it.

You might ask, “How do you know if you are under the influence of religion and rule keeping?”  Well, its two main indicators are self-condemnation and a tendency to judge others.  Rule keepers are acutely aware when they or others around them break a rule.  Rule keepers (and religious people) like to point out other people’s sins and faults because it makes them feel better about themselves.  If they can make you feel bad, then it makes them feel better.  It’s a pretty twisted world.

God’s way is so much better than religion and rules.  Did you know His Book, the Bible, actually says that when someone believes in Jesus and becomes one of His followers that there is no condemnation—none—nada?  I mean when the prosecuting attorney and the judge both acquit you—the trial is over.  I’m slowly learning just how valuable that is.  There is an audience of One that Jesus followers have to live for and that is God…their Heavenly Father…their Abba Father…their Dearest Daddy.  I love what Toby Mac (a contemporary Christian singer) said, “I gave God a million reasons not to love me.  Not one of them changed His mind.”  I like that!

Well, I’m glad my cussing summer is ancient history.  I still look back at those two or three months and wonder what in the world was I was thinking?  The truth is…I probably wasn’t.  But now, by grace, that, and all my other failures, warts and sins are forgiven…all because of Jesus.  I’m so grateful for that. If you have never discovered grace and forgiveness, especially God’s kind, I hope you will check it out.  Don’t get confused with religion and rule keeping like I did.  God’s got something far, far, better than that.  Think you’ve messed up too much to be forgiven?  Nope…don’t give it a second thought.  Trust me…He’s got this.

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

Master of the Winds

For I am the Lord, I do not change…” Micah 3:6

The winds of change are blowing.  If we are totally truthful, they are howling like a category five hurricane. And trust me, that can be devastating.  I was watching the Weather Channel yesterday morning and they were doing a piece on Hurricane Michael that roared ashore two years ago as a “cat five” hurricane.  It struck the Florida panhandle with horrific results.  Mexico Beach was ground zero and to this day that community remains changed. All the preparation in the books could not have prepared them for what happened, but the bottom line is many more lives would have been lost if they hadn’t been ready.

I enjoy…smile…watching the price of gas change in Harrisburg. For some reason we are enjoying some of the lowest gas prices in the area.  But if you don’t like them…just wait…because they are going to change. Whether it be a nickel or a quarter, they go up and down.   By the way, to help you with the price changes, remember this.  In 2008, the gas in Harrisburg was $3.47 a gallon so we can all agree to be grateful that it has changed in a good way since then.

Now all this up and down stuff at the moment doesn’t bother me because it doesn’t affect me.  Why?  Well, I drive two diesel cars and at the moment those prices are nice and steady…just the way I prefer it. That might change tomorrow…but not today.

That’s one of my favorite things about God—He simply doesn’t change. With Him there’s no going up or down—ever… never.  He never had a beginning and will never have an end (despite what our liberal “friends” think) and throughout all that time, He has never changed.  Malachi 3:6 says, “For I am the Lord, I do not change; therefore you are not consumed, O sons of Jacob.”  That’s good news for the reason stated in the verse—He won’t change His mind about me or you. Pretty awesome.

Because of the COVID and the zillion opinions about it and the election, and the zillion opinions about that…our whole world is in a flux,  but God’s plan for redemption and how we spread His Word doesn’t change.  Someone said while methods may change, the message never does.  The Gospel, the Good News is still,  good news. He is going to fulfill His purpose regardless.  And in this crazy economy where things change in price all the time—His hasn’t changed.  His gift of eternal life that cost His Son His life, still costs us nothing. Nothing. He loved us that much. He loved you that much.

A million things are going to change today but there is One that will not—Jesus. The Bible says, “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever.” Period.  Someone said a real friend never changes and that is so true of Jesus Christ.  He is going to love me no matter what.  If I’m having a bad day—He still loves me.  If I fail in something today, He still loves me.  If I gain weight—yup…still loves me.  Like the song says, “His love never runs out on me.” He doesn’t avoid me—He seeks me out.  That is pretty amazing. Well, as you drive by the gas station today be sure and check the prices.  They have probably changed overnight.  But if you check the Book, you will find Him and His promises are the same. Last night before you went to bed it was true that you could rest in Him…and it is true this morning.  And do you know what else was true last night and still holds  this morning?  He’s still got this.  Always has, always will.  How about that?

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

Robbed by Mr. Urgency

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

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

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

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

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

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

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