Posted in Family, fear, food, friends, gratitude, Holidays, life, loving others, Military memories, priorities, Scripture, Southern born, thankful, Thanksgiving, travel, Trials

A Thanksgiving to Remember

But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and reaching forward to what is ahead…” Philippians 3:13

It was a Thanksgiving to remember.  Throughout the years, Thanksgiving has been a big deal in our family.  Growing up it was a time when Momma would buy a huge turkey and cook it all night in the roaster oven that set by the stove for such an occasion.  It was a time when pies were baked, ambrosia was made, and giblet gravy simmered on the stove.  It was a time for two kinds of dressing—cornbread and cornbread with oysters. I’m not sure where that came from, but it was pretty popular.  Then, of course, it was a time when most everyone would come home, and we would feast on good food and fellowship with family.

When I graduated from high school and enlisted in the Air Force things had to change.  My first duty station was about 15 miles from the Canadian border in a town called Minot—Minot, North Dakota.  I arrived there in October, and it was already too cold for a Florida boy.  The holidays were looming ahead, and it looked like Thanksgiving was going to be a solo flight.  But then something happened.  Somehow, remember this is long before cellphones, my brother Jimmy, who lived in Amarillo, Texas, called and invited me to his house for Thanksgiving.

Again, somehow, someway, it happened.  My base pay of $320 per month didn’t allow for plane tickets so it meant a trip to the credit union to see if I could get a loan. They granted it and I bought the ticket, got my leave approved and had someone haul me to the airport. So, like the song says, over the river and through the woods, I was on my way, not to grandmother’s house but my brother’s.  I can remember flying down to Amarillo on that two engine, piston driven, plane feeling excited and afraid all at the same time.  What in the world was I doing?

Soon enough, I was on the ground and there was my big brother and a couple of his kids waiting for me.  The best I can remember he worked, maybe managed, a ranch of sorts.  It seemed we drove a long way out into the Texas countryside before finally arriving at his house.  The next day was Thanksgiving and it was so much like the one at home.  We ate well and enjoyed good family fellowship.  The thing that was so different was that in the past I was treated as the baby of the family—which I was.  But that day—I was his peer.  I was a man.

As much as I enjoyed Thanksgiving Day, the next couple of days were also awesome.  We went jackrabbit hunting.  It was cold with snow covering the ground, and we would jolt and bounce through the fields in his old Willis Jeep.  Back at the house we drank hot coffee as he would spin tales about his time in the Air Force.  Jimmy was always bigger than life and he was that day too.  We also put up the Christmas tree while I was there.  One of his favorite Christmas albums was Charlie Pride’s “Christmas in My Hometown.” We played it over and over again while I was there.  To this day it is still one of my favorites.

Soon it was time for me to head back to the far north.  We headed back to the airport and soon those piston engines were shaking and vibrating the old plane again as I flew back to Minot.  I’ve had many good Thanksgivings over the years but that one stands out for me.  It was a time when my brother made sure I wasn’t alone at a time when too many were.  That was back in 1972 so a lot of water has flowed beneath the bridge.  I’m decades older and he is now in heaven.  But I am left with the memories…memories that still refresh my soul and make me smile.

To be honest, there are other Thanksgivings that were not so easy…times when another brother and his family were not on speaking terms with the family, times when Daddy was sick and times when the family went separate ways. But I have grown to realize that each of us have a choice.  We can choose to remember and relish the good times, or we can remember and dwell on the hard times.  The choice is ours.  Paul, the guy who wrote about two-thirds of the New Testament in the Bible had plenty of hard memories.  He was a pretty bad guy before he met Jesus.  After Jesus, he began to write some new stories in his life, and he made the decision to leave the past in the past.  We should too.

I know holidays can be hard because of the past, or maybe the present. Let me encourage you to choose to remember the good and let go of the rest.  It’s not easy but it is possible—with a little help from God.  I know these days He’s getting a lot of bad press, but trust me, if you don’t know Him you should get acquainted.  He loves you more than you know, and He wants to help you do life here.  He can even help with those difficult memories.

One of the things that is a staple of mine in life is to eat and nap. Today, Lord willing, I will eat a very good meal, and I will take a very nice nap.  Try it—you’ll like it.  Also today, I’m going to take a nap of sorts with my best friend Jesus. I’m going to pull aside, rest and just chat about all the ways He has blessed me.  It might take a while because I’m pretty blessed—and so are you.  We also will probably talk about some of the hard things going on now. He won’t judge me—He will just love me. You know that Thanksgiving so many years ago my brother treated me as his peer. Today Jesus treats me as a friend—a friend closer than a brother.  A friend that can handle my past and my future.  A friend I can trust. That’s why, He’s got this. Bro. Dewayne

Posted in Family, friends, Grace, gratitude, life, priorities, Scripture, Southern born, thankful, Trials

Don’t Forget!

Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead, I press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us.” Philippians 3:13b-14 

I forgot the most important thing.  It was the fall of 1976.  My wife Judy and I were newlyweds and life was good.  Oh, and for the record…smile…here we are 46 years later, and life is well…good. I got a call from my oldest brother Reggie who asked if I wanted to go squirrel hunting and could I find a place for us to go. I told him sure and a good friend who had a good place to go squirrel hunting said sure too. So, we picked a Saturday and set a time. 

Since the really good place was east of Valdosta where Judy and I lived and since he lived in Jacksonville, we agreed to meet at the hunting place.  So, I left early and he, having to drive even further, left earlier and at the appointed hour, we both arrived. I love it when a plan comes together. The sun was just about to say good morning when we got out of our cars.  It turns out squirrels are early risers so the best time for hunting is early, and we were early.  I love it when a plan comes together. 

After a “good morning” and “how are you doing”, we both went to our cars to get our weapons.  I recently learned from a friend that guns are not called guns they are either firearms or weapons.  The Navy does the same thing with boats and ships.  Anyway, as I got to my car and popped the trunk, I reached in to get my gun, weapon or firearm and…wait for it…it wasn’t there.  At first, I thought in the dim light of dim I just wasn’t seeing it so I prodded and poked around and guess what?  The hunter had forgotten the most important thing…his gun, weapon or firearm. 

I was so embarrassed.  My brother was one of those African safari kind of hunters.  He had his hunting vest, his gun, weapon or firearm, a knife and on and on.  He looked the part and there I stood with no gun, weapon, or firearm.  I didn’t even have a knife.  So, I told him apparently in the rush to be on time I had left the most important thing behind.  We groaned, we moaned and then we laughed.  After all, it was funny.  So, with two hunters and one gun, weapon or firearm, off we went into the woods.  And all morning, I followed quietly behind my brother as he shot squirrels and I watched. 

You might be wondering exactly how does a guy who is going hunting forget the tool of the trade…the gun, weapon or firearm.  Well, the best I can figure the answer probably has to do with priorities.  You see, I can only imagine that I was running a little late that morning and at the moment being on time (which for the record is important) caused me to rush and leave my gun, weapon or firearm behind.  In other words, the important took the place of the most important…the urgent overrode the most urgent. And, I have the feeling, it happens way too often. 

All of us have things that are important and most of us have a most important thing.  Paul, the guy who wrote a bunch of the New Testament said that there was one thing he did.  In other words, this one is important, and do you know what it was?  Forgetting the past and looking to the future.  Now that is a good one.  You see, he knew he had a past worth forgetting and a future worth grabbing ahold of and that was what made it important. 

So, what is it in your life that you need to bump up to the top?  Chances are it can’t be bought at a store or rented from Rent One.  Chances are it involves those that you love the most and the ones who love you most.  Don’t wait to figure this one out.  Time is ticking by and there is not a minute to lose.  If you find yourself at a loss, well, there is someone just waiting to help. He is really good at lending clarity for our priorities if we ask. To some He is just God but to others He is Dearest Daddy.  Regardless, He loves you and is waiting to help you.  No doubt about it…He’s got this.  Bro. Dewayne 

Posted in Family, Father's Day, Grace, gratitude, life

Daddy

Honor your father and your mother, so that you may live long in the land the Lord your God is giving you.” Exodus 20:12

He didn’t wear a cape or an iron suit but he was a hero to me.  A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away I was born.  It all happened on January 6, 1954 in Orange Park, Florida.  I was number eight in a family of eight. This can’t be confirmed but I think it went something like this.  My daddy was somewhat of a perfectionist and he and my mom had tried seven times to have the perfect child.  He went to my mom and said, “Well, honey, I know we have tried seven times to pull off this perfect child thing and I say we give it one more shot.  I really think eight is going to be our lucky number.”  So, ta-da here I am…living proof that persistence pays off.

My daddy was 42 years old when I was born.  He had plenty of experience at the Father thing and you know, I think he did a great job.  I don’t recall a lot of special events in my early and later childhood but that isn’t because they didn’t happen.  I can remember family camping trips to the beach as well as all night fishing trips to the same.  I can remember family vacations to see relatives in all the hot vacation spots like New Jersey and Texas.  I can remember trips to Silver Springs, Six Gun Territory and Doctor’s Inlet which was a great place to go for a lake swim.  But there are also several memories with just dad and me.

When I was about six, daddy took me fishing on Cedar Creek.  It was just me and him.  At this age, I wasn’t very good at fishing or paying attention.  Truth be known I had a hard time staying focused on anything for very long.  Anyway, the fish were biting that day but I had a hard time watching the bobber.  Over and again, daddy would ask, “Dewayne, where’s your bobber?”  I would look and it was gone.  We lost a lot of good worms that day.

Later, when I was about ten, daddy took me hunting.  The big deal was that he allowed me to take my BB gun.  I wasn’t allowed to carry a real gun; you will see why in a moment.  So, we were walking through the woods and I was about four feet behind dad.  Silent as a F5 tornado, I crept through the woods.  I was too noisy but dad was way patient.   And then, well, I shot him in the back.  Now wait, don’t panic.  It was only a BB gun and he did have his heavy hunting jacket on.  I had my finger on the trigger (oops) and every so slowly and without even realizing it, increased the pressure.  Just like that it went off and got dad square in the back. Bummer.

Do you know what?  He didn’t holler and in fact he didn’t say a single word.  He just looked over his shoulder and gave me that “I’m glad that wasn’t a 12 gauge” look.  I appreciated that and have never forgotten the fact that he could have made me feel “less than” but didn’t.  I’m sure we had a talk about gun safety and it must have worked out  because I never shot him again.

My two favorite memories of him don’t involve a fishing pole or a gun.  They involve God.  Honestly, daddy didn’t go to church a bunch but I know he was a Christian because of the way he lived. Two events, two memories are burned into my mind and heart.  The first is a time when we were having prayer time together as a family.  Some people call it family altar…at the time I probably called it too long.  I remember it was time to pray so we all got down on our knees around the room.  I got a little bored so I peeked and there across the room was my daddy, on his knees, talking to God.  It made a big impression on my young heart.

Later, when I was about 17 I caught daddy praying again.  I came home from a date late one night and there sitting at the kitchen table was my daddy—praying.  With his hands clasped together he was talking to God.  I don’t know what prompted the late night prayer meeting but I know it again made a big impression on me as a young man. And that is the point.  My daddy made an impression on me that impacted so many areas of my life.  Integrity, work ethic, caring and providing for your family and being a man were all part of the core curriculum.

I didn’t get to keep my daddy too much longer.  When I was in high school he had a massive heart attack.  He lived a couple of more years but when he was just 62 and I was 20, God decided to take him home.  Suddenly, on a Sunday morning he went to heaven.  It was hard and is hard to this day.  He never got to meet my wife, children or any of his eight great grandchildren. He never got see much of my career in the Air Force or hear me preach a sermon.  I hope in heaven they keep tabs on us down here and I hope I’ve made my hero proud.

Well, now that we are all sad and weepy let me throw this in.  Whether you are young or older, take the time this Father’s Day, and every day, to tell your dad (and mom) how much you appreciate them.  One of God’s big commands is that we honor our parents and when we do—we honor Him.  There’s no better way to do that than to tell them and show them that you love them. I know things don’t always work out with dads and if that is the case with you I am so sorry.  My dad wasn’t perfect…none are but his love outweighed his warts. If you are a Jesus follower, I hope you can extend some grace…just like God did to you.  And always remember, you have a Heavenly Father who is perfect, who always gets it right. He’s always waiting for you to crawl up in His lap and take a rest.  And the icing on the cake is He is stronger than a super hero…and because of that, He’s got this.