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

Guarding the Flame

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Cruising with the Captain

The Lord is my shepherd; I have all that I need.” Psalm 23:1

Her name was Radiance of the Sea. Several years ago, I did something that I didn’t think I would ever do…take a cruise.  The thought of being on a boat, a ship, a vessel with several thousand people that I didn’t even know was anything but enticing. I could only imagine me threading my way through crowds of people with four words continuously coming from my mouth! Excuse me. Pardon me. No, from the safety of the shore it just didn’t sound like something I wanted to do.  And then, somehow, someway, we did it.  And then we did it again and now we did it again.

A week or so ago, we drove down to New Orleans and boarded the Radiance of the Sea.  As cruise ships go, she wasn’t the biggest, she wasn’t the newest.  Now that I think about it, though, she might have been like the bed in the story of the three bears…just right. If you have never cruised, let me share with you about our experience.  So, you buy your ticket, and you board the boat.  From the moment you step on, they attempt to make each person feel important, valuable.  They try to make sure your every need is met. It is like a small city that you call home for a few days or so.

The purpose of the ship is to take you and bring you back home.  That involves sailing over some deep waters—like, 8,500 feet deep. But even knowing that, you feel safe…every precaution has been made to keep you safe.  As every cruiser knows, it really is about the food. I mean three meals a day with snacks in-between and while it might not always taste like your momma’s cooking…it is pretty close. And the variety is incredible…allowing you to try new things…different things.  It makes it all interesting.  But there is more.

If you get sick, there is a doctor and several nurses. If you get bored, there is a cruise director who acts like he has had way too much coffee.  There are all kinds of venues, or places, to listen to all kinds of music.  That is one of our favorites.  Oh, and there is someone who comes in to make our bed and clean our room…not once like a hotel but several times each day. There are noisy places if that is your thing and there are quiet places if that is your thing.  And then, there are a couple of stops along the way for you to get off and see a new part of the world.

Now that is just a sampling, but I think you get the picture.  And guess what?  There is a captain up on the bridge (that’s what you call the place where they steer the boat) and he always knows where we are going and when we will get there. I don’t have to worry about a thing. Not.A.Thing. And that is why this whole experience, on a smaller scale, reminds me of my Father in heaven.  Every need met. Ever watching and caring. Ever leading us to…home.

One of the most beautiful songs in the Hebrew hymnbook is what we call the 23rd Psalm and the first verse, the first few words, describe the Great Captain’s care for us as we cruise here…and into eternity.  Are you ready?  Here is it.  “The Lord is my Shepherd…I shall not want.”  Don’t run past that.  When we become part of the family of God by faith in Jesus, God is our Captain and He takes responsibility for us.  Responsibility.For.Us.  We don’t need to worry, we don’t need to fret because He is in control and His storeroom of supplies never, never, runs out.  How about that?

So, why not just think about today, tomorrow and the next and then think about the fact that you don’t have to worry because the Captain of your life has everything under control.  Now to be fair and truthful, we did have one day that was rough due to some high winds.  But never, ever did we feel in danger.  And you will have some rough weather in life too, but you don’t have to worry because the Captain knows the way, knows the storm.  You can have meal, have a rest and lay your head down on your pillow knowing that “He’s got this.”  Bro. Dewayne

Posted in Family, friends, Grace, gratitude, life, priorities, Scripture, thankful

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

Hi Grits Family! Hey, my wife Judy and I are going to be “out of pocket” aka “not available” to write this week—on another great adventure.  We decided to send out some of our past stories.  I hope you enjoy the ones we selected and look forward to some “fresh Grits” next week. God bless.  Bro. Dewayne

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 our car 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 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, friends, gratitude, life, prayer, priorities, Scripture, Southern born, Trials, USA

Momma and Politics

Everyone born of God overcomes the world. This is the victory that has overcome the world, even our faith. Who is it that overcomes the world? Only he who believes that Jesus is the Son of God.” 1 John 5:4-5

He was running for county commissioner.  A long time ago when I was about ten years old, I had my first and only encounter with political campaigns.  Somehow, and I have no idea how, my Momma got involved with the campaign to elect a guy named Bill Basford as county commissioner.  And, when Mom jumped in—she jumped in all the way.  That meant a couple of things.

First, and totally embarrassing, was this thing they put on our car.  We were pretty much not rich, in fact, I’m sure we weren’t even middle class.  We drove a 1957 Plymouth and let’s just say 1957 was a long way in the rearview mirror.  Anyway, back in those days if a person was running for office, they had these triangle shaped signs that people strapped to the top of their cars.  Now if it had been a little triangle that wouldn’t have been nearly as embarrassing, but this thing belonged on the sands of Egypt with the rest of the Pyramids.  It was HUGE.  It loudly proclaimed, “BILL BASFORD FOR COUNTY COMMISSIONER.” We would drive around and advertise for Bill.

That wasn’t all.  We also had to go door to door asking people to vote for Bill.  We covered our neighborhood like the plague of locusts that cleaned out Egypt.  I am certain people saw us coming and quickly closed their blinds and pretended they weren’t home.  It turns out that was just practice for when I became a preacher.  By the way…I know you are in there.  We also had a big supply of bumper stickers which we would gladly stick on your car.  When you’re ten, you like to stick things on things, so I liked that part—a lot.

Well, election day came, and Momma waited for the big news.  Either by television or by telephone we got the word that Bill had won, and they invited Momma to come downtown to the headquarters to celebrate. Like Ma and Pa Kettle we (as in Daddy, Momma, my two sisters and I) got in the 1957 Plymouth and off we went.  I only remember a couple of things about the celebration.  There was loud music, there was free food and there was a bar.  My daddy went over, and I saw him get something to drink and I don’t think it was sweet tea.  The reason I remember that is because if Daddy wasn’t a teetotaler, Momma was.

So that was it.  Momma was excited because her guy won.  She didn’t get a political appointment or anything, but we did have a bunch of bumper stickers leftover to stick on things.  But the best part of all was that our guy won.  Winning is always a good feeling.  Everyone wants to be on the winning side. Every contest has winners and losers.  Like the song says, “Some gotta win, some gotta lose.  Good time Charlie’s got the blues. Well, your name might not be Charlie, but maybe you’ve got the blues.  And I’m not talking about any election results.

If the truth be known, life can be pretty blue, can’t it?  And sometimes, it is because we lose…our health, our job, our family, our house, well, lots of things.  But I want to tell you something that is really important.  There is Someone who never loses, and His name is Jesus.  If it was an election…He would win every time. If it was a game…He would win every time.  If it was a war…He would win every time. If it was a debate…yup, He would win every time.  Do you want to know the best part?  Keep reading.

Remember how mama got invited to the big celebration downtown?  Well, if we are willing to place our faith and trust in Jesus and follow Him, two amazing things happen.  First, because He wins, we win.  In a way, when Bill Basford won—Momma won.  And when we choose to follow Jesus, because He wins—we win too.  The Bible says, “Everyone born of God overcomes the world. This is the victory that has overcome the world, even our faith. Who is it that overcomes the world? Only he who believes that Jesus is the Son of God.”  Then, the party starts.  Sometimes people think heaven is going to be one long boring church service.  Nothing could be further from the truth.  It is going to a celebration like no other…like a party without end.  And while we won’t be the center of attention—that’s Jesus’ place—we will be guests of honor.  How about that?

I don’t really know how things turned out for Bill Basford, but I suppose he was a good commissioner.  I also know it made my Momma feel pretty special to be a part of his campaign.  She felt included—we felt included.  We may have driven an old 1957 Plymouth but on that night with Bill’s name on the top, it felt like a Cadillac.  Jesus invites you to be a part of His campaign team too.  He’s not running for anything—He is already King of Kings. But there’s one thing for sure, He loves to invite people to come along for the ride.  He hopes, and so do I, that you will join Him.  When this campaign is over, we are going to celebrate Him forever.  Until then, He’s got this.  Bro. Dewayne

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

Short Stories…Big Truths

Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in Me, even if he dies, will live.” John 11:25

Short stories with big truths.  It all started on a Saturday morning.  We were a few months into writing stories on Facebook, and then decided to take the next step and build a website where our stories could be more easily accessed.  Many of our friends were suggesting compiling the stories into a book.  Well, that dream hasn’t happened and may not.  But the website did.  We decided to call it Grits with Grace.  Grits spoke of our Southern heritage and grace of the most powerful thing we have ever experienced.  Next came the tag line, “Short Stories with Big Truths.” Judy staged the picture in our backyard and, well, you probably know the rest.

Short stories with big truths.  Hmmm. That came home this morning as I was walking.  Sometimes, maybe once a week, I take my walk through our local cemetery.  It is rather large and if I make a couple of laps around the outside coupled with a shorter one, I end up with about two miles.  As I have written before, I love this walk because of all the life stories you can find on the headstones.  I take the same route each time…I am a creature of habit.  What I saw this morning I had seen many times before but this morning it spoke to me.

His name was Keith.  I could give you the last name but for privacy I won’t.  He was born on July 3, 1956, just a couple of years before me.  In other words, I was two and a half years old that day when he started his life journey.  It was the next date that always catches my attention. It was the date that he died.  Keith drew his last breath on May 31, 1964, at the too young age of 7 years, 10 months and 29 days. I don’t know the cause of his untimely death…only that it was a too short story.  Was it car accident, a bike accident?  Did he fall while playing?  Perhaps it was one of too many childhood illnesses.  Even polio could be a possibility.  Well, like I said we don’t know.  The only thing we know is that something unexpectedly stepped in and stole his years away.

Short stories.  The cemetery is full of headstones that speak of short stories.  Walk a while and you will see that truth played out and that is why I am writing this story.  You see, Keith is a reminder to me, as are all the headstones are, of a big truth.  The number of our days are a closely guarded secret of the One who created us.  He, and only He, knows when we will step into eternity.  Death is certainly no respecter of race, color, creed, or economic status.  Death doesn’t care about age.  We only know that one day it will come but don’t let that deflate you or scare you because Jesus took care of death two thousand years ago when He resurrected that first Easter morning.

I’m sure Keith didn’t know he was going to have such a short story, but I hope he knew the One that could make a difference.  I hope he knew Jesus.  I hope you know Jesus.  When Jesus is entered into any equation, well, it changes everything but especially death.  With Jesus death is not the end but the beginning and no matter how many years we live here—the life on the other side is so much more…so much longer.  Keith teaches us that some stories are short, very short and some stories are long, very long.  Jesus teaches us that it isn’t the length of the story that matters, it is what we do with Him.  He is what matters…not church, not religion, not religious stuff—just Jesus.

I really like what Jesus said in John 11:25—one of the books in the Bible that tells the story of Jesus.  It says, “Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in Me, even if he dies, will live.” The her is a woman named Martha and her brother had just died with a too short story.  Jesus is just letting her know that death doesn’t have to call the shots because He does.  Short stories…those will always be with us but so will big truths—like the one that says, “I’ve got this” because He does.  Bro. Dewayne

Posted in Family, food, forgiveness, Grace, loving others, priorities

Pot Roast and Traditions

“Jesus replied, “And why do you, by your traditions, violate the direct commandments of God?” Matthew 15:3

It is a tale that I could identify with. The story is told of a young girl who was watching her mother prepare Sunday’s lunch. She watched as her mother carefully cut the pot roast in two before placing it in the pan. This intrigued her so she asked her mother why she did this. Her answer was simple and direct, “Because my mother did.” She wasn’t quite satisfied with the answer so her mother told her to go and ask grandma. And she did. Grandma gave her the same answer, “Because my mother did.” Well, the little girl decided to ask her great grandmother why she cut her roast in two. So, the next time she was at the nursing home visiting, she asked. Without missing a beat she said, “Well, honey, my pot was too small.”

Isn’t it funny how something done for a particular reason can be passed on and on. Isn’t it strange how we do something and long after the reason for doing it is gone…we keep right on doing it? I know because I’ve got a “thing” in my world. You, way back in 1985, my wife Judy and I purchased a Oldsmobile Cutlass Cruiser. It quickly became one of our favorite cars. It had the woodgrain trim down the side and seating for eight. It also had something else…it had a digital dash. Now keep in mind that was pretty high tech for 1985. Well, it had a little glitch.

That little glitch really was big one…the gas gauge was just not accurate. It often said you had more gas than you did. Well, one day, it got me…I ran out of fuel. After a lift to a station and returning with a borrowed gas can of gas, I was soon back on the road again…sing it Willie. And, that day, a new habit was born. Every time I bought fuel I would fill the tank and reset the trip odometer so I would know how far I could go. I never trusted the gauge again. So I would fill up with gas and reset the trip odometer…over and over again.

Well, one day it was time for the Oldsmobile Cruiser to cruise on and we got another car. New car, new gas gauge…no need to reset the trip odometer, right? Maybe not but the same old habit remained…always fill the tank and always reset the trip odometer. Now the gauge in the new car worked perfectly but the old habit remained. And guess what? It remains today. Here’s the deal. Thirty-seven years have come and gone and every time I buy fuel—I press reset. And if Judy happens to buy fuel instead of me, and she forgets to hit reset, I explain to her she needed to do it. And, she gives me the, “why” look and I just tell her because it’s just what we do. You might say I cut the roast in half because I always have.

So, is there something in your life that you are clinging to just because you have always done it that way? Of course it might be something that is totally harmless but sometimes…sometimes it isn’t. Sometimes it can lead to an angry exchange because someone didn’t keep the habit…the tradition. Sometimes relationships can be damaged. I’ve seen this so many times in churches. A tradition is messed with and World War III breaks out. The bottom line is there are habits, there are things, there are traditions that are noteworthy and good but we shouldn’t let them break friendships, relationships and hearts. Honestly, we may not need to cut the roast in two after all.

In the Bible back in the days of Jesus, the religious leaders added all kind of rules and traditions to their daily lives. The crazy part is they gave the traditions the same weight as the Law of God and trust me that was not a good idea. In fact, it wasn’t a good idea then and it sure isn’t now either. Jesus, talking to the temple leaders, said, “And why do you, by your traditions, violate the direct commandments of God?” Now that’s a good question.

I hope this will remind us that there are more important things to do than cutting your roast in half. In other words, there are hills worth dying on and others that should be let go. And most important, don’t let opinions and traditions drive a wedge between you and another person. It just isn’t worth it. A broken heart or relationship is far too high of a price to pay. If you ever need some advice about this, just ask your Heavenly Father. He will tell you that people matter more than pride, or traditions or habits. And if you have already made a mess with this, don’t worry, He can help with the cleanup…He’s got this. Bro. Dewayne

Posted in Family, fear, forgiveness, Grace, life, loving others, Scripture, Southern born, thankful, Trials

Time to Stop

He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?” Micah 6:8

I’m not sure when it started but I do know when it ended.  It was probably just part of growing up boy and part of growing up country, but the bottom line is looking back I wish it wasn’t part of my boyhood.  Somewhere along my growing journey, probably when I was six or seven, I had access to a BB gun.  Then, just a little later I had my own.  I’m sure I would pluck cans and shoot at paper targets.  While my Daddy wasn’t a big hunter, we did shoot our share of squirrels and rabbits and that might have been where it started.

One day, and I don’t remember the day, I grew tired of plucking cans and decided to go “bird hunting.”  Our yard had three large oak trees and several large cedar trees so there were plenty of birds around.  It’s funny but I never thought about shooting something as innocent as a bird but one day I did. I don’t remember the first time, but I do remember the many times.  I would walk quietly around my yard, listening for the chirp of a bird, look through the leaves and branches and find my target.  I would aim, I would pull the trigger and too often the bird would fall.

I can still remember going over and picking up the now lifeless bird and walking across the road to dispose of the body by tossing it into the woods that stood there.  I want you to know as I write this it still causes me grief…not because I shot a bird but because I senselessly took the life of a living thing. Sometimes I would feel a bit of remorse, but it only lasted until the next time I felt the need to stalk and hunt again. And it wasn’t just birds.  We had a healthy herd of toads around our house too and occasionally they too would fall victim to my deadly aim.  But it wasn’t so much the toads…it was the birds.

This went on for quite a while.  The boredom, the stalking and the shooting followed by temporary remorse…until the next time.  Then it happened and I can remember it to this day. We had a cedar tree on one of the corners of our house.  It was large and went all the way to the ground.  As I approached the tree and peered into and under the tree there on the ground, happily hunting bugs, was a brown thrasher.  It was larger than a sparrow, so the thrill of the hunt was intensified. I saw him but he never saw me.  I took aim and in a moment of time he was on his side in the dirt. But this time…it was different.

The BB had not instantly killed him…rather he lay on the ground…mortally wounded and still breathing.  It was only for about thirty seconds, but it was almost like we locked eyes and I watched as he died and…that was it.  As far as I know I never shot another bird.  As I watched his life ebb away, I saw this little hobby as what it was…senseless fun at the expense of another’s life. Yes, I can still see that brown thrasher and it still causes me grief.

What was different that day was that I saw the grim reality of my actions…a reality so harsh it caused me to stop.  It.Caused.Me.To.Stop. The truth is in our everyday walk about lives we are confronted with difficult and often painful situations.  No, they don’t involve a bird, they don’t involve a BB gun, but they can be just as painful and cause just as much harm.  Sometimes it is a senseless action and sometimes it is a senseless word, but the result is a wounded heart followed by a lifelong scar. And unlike my hunt ending experience with a brown thrasher, for some reason these encounters often go on and on.

Like what happened when I stared death in the face…we need to see what our words and actions can do to the innocents, or maybe not so innocents, in our lives.  We need to pause and think before we speak or act…before we leave another scar.  I usually write from a Jesus perspective, and I guess I am now, but really, this goes beyond that to this—be kind and love one another.  Kindness and love are not always easy, but they are always right—and especially for us who follow Jesus.  Wherever and whenever…we, of all people, should set the example of the One we follow.  Tall order? Need help? Don’t fret…your Father is waiting to help. He’s got this. Bro. Dewayne 

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

Are You Thirsty?

If anyone is thirsty, let him come to Me, and drink. The one who believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, will have streams of living water flow from deep within him.” John 7:37b-38

“There she blows.”  I was raised in the far-out suburbs of Jacksonville, Florida.  We were country people but somehow, we got lumped in with the city.  What happened was the powers to be decided to consolidate the county and the city so when you entered Duval County you also entered Jacksonville.  By the way, that made Jacksonville the largest city in the United States with 840 square miles.  I’m not sure why they did it, but it either had to do with more tax dollars or the Guinness Book of World Records.

So, like I said we were country folks.  That meant a lot of room to run but few utilities.  We did have electricity, but we were not connected to the city water or sewage system because there wasn’t any.  So, we had a septic tank (and trust me I could write some stories about that) and a well to get our water.  Since we lived in Florida the water table was high. I’m guessing you only had to drill 20 or 30 feet to hit water.  So, sitting right in the middle of our back yard was this well and pump.  It had (and I’m guessing) a 20-gallon tank and mounted on top of the tank was the pump part.  It consisted of a motor and a “housing thingy” with an impeller in it that would draw the water up.

It really worked well…unless one of two things happened…one, the power went out or two, the pump lost its prime.  If the water in the housing thingy drained out, then the impeller couldn’t pull the water up.  The solution was usually simple.  A person would have to go out to the pump, unscrew a plug from the top of the housing thingy, and slowly pour water in.  To this day I can remember taking my hand and forming a small funnel over the hole and pouring the water in.  The ole pump would whine, and the impeller would swish the water around and make a kind of groaning noise.  Sometimes one pitcher would do the job and sometimes it was several.  Eventually, though, the sound would begin to change, and you knew something was about to happen.

Water was on the way.  As the impeller created suction, it would pull the water up out of the ground and when the air lost, and the water won…Katie bar the door!  Suddenly water would come spewing out of that hole like a Texas oil well.  Water went everywhere.  It made you want to holler, “There she blows.” If it was summertime it was refreshing.  If it was winter, it was cold…North Florida cold.  Then you had to fight your way to the pump, find the plug and somehow, someway, get that thing threaded back in the hole.  When you did, if you did, the water would then go into the tank instead of out the hole and you were back in business.

Now, remember I mentioned that “a person” had to go out and do this.  Yeah, well, that was me.  I don’t remember my sisters getting tagged for this job.  Somehow it never was a girl job although sometimes it was a Momma job.  Of course, Mommas must do all kinds of things.  That’s what makes them special.  To this day I can hear my Momma hollering, “Dewayne, the pump needs priming.”  Sometimes I would pretend I didn’t hear her but that was risky business because you could end up in trouble.

I can also remember the thrill of when the pump caught the prime and water shot up into the air.  Somehow it made me feel just a bit like a man and more than that, a man helping take care of the family.  It was a good feeling.  You don’t hear too much about priming the pump and things like that now. Technology has gotten better and not as many people have above ground pumps.  But do you know what?  I think sometimes we lose our prime…not in our pump…but in life.  We make noise, and our impeller spins around in our housing thingy (that would be our hearts) but that’s it.  We just can’t do what we were designed to do when we lose our prime. And, like the pump in my backyard, the only way to get the prime back is to pour some water in.

Jesus talked a lot about being the living water, the water of life.  One time He told the people that if anyone was all dried up because of the hardness of life, they could come to Him and drink.  He called it “streams of living water.”  He even said the kind of water He would give would spew in their lives just like that old pump in the backyard spewed water in the air.  And when it did, it meant that there was water to drink, water to wash, water to water the roses and water to live.

Maybe today you feel kinda dried up inside.  Maybe this whole life mess, financial mess, and a bunch of other messes just have you feeling messed up—a bit like the Sahara Desert.  If so, why don’t you try some of Jesus’ living water?  Don’t drink the water of religion because that’s just sand…so is just doing better…so is keeping rules and starting this and stopping that.  What Jesus offers is the real deal…like a cold drink of well water on a hot day.  Why not sit in the shadow of His grace and love and rest a while? After all, He’s got this.  Bro. Dewayne

Posted in Family, forgiveness, friends, Grace, life, loving others, prayer, Scripture, Trials

Speak No Evil

Then Jesus stood up again and said to the woman, “Where are your accusers? Didn’t even one of them condemn you?” “No, Lord,” she said. And Jesus said, “Neither do I. Go and sin no more.” John 8:10-11

It’s gonna happen…it just should not happen there.  Life is filled with bumps and bruises.  They’re gonna happen like it or not but sometimes they are made worse by the timing and location.  A flat tire is never fun but take that same flat tire and let it happen on a rainy Monday on the way to an interview for a new job and it is just worse.  Your car breaking down is just a bad deal but when it happens out in the middle of nowhere and with no cellphone service…well, your day just went south.

I once experienced something that well, it just shouldn’t have happened but where it happened and how it happened just made it worse.  It was a Sunday morning in South Georgia and like any other Sunday morning I was in church.  I went to church for several reasons…like it was the right thing to do, I thought it might make God happy and usually I enjoyed it.  On this particular day…well, let’s just say I had that proverbial flat tire on a rainy Monday out in the middle of nowhere.  The story goes like this.

Ever since I was a kid I liked to sing, and people said they enjoyed it.  So, I was occasionally asked to sing at church.  On this particular Sunday morning I was asked to sing.  Now there is something you need to know before we go any further.  You see, the church I attended was strict with certain things and one of those things was that guys should not have hair over their ears.  That was a big no, no.  And believe it or not, even though I was in the Air Force I had found a way to have hair over my ears.  It involved “Dippity-do” but that’s another story.

Well, that Sunday was my time to sing.  I went to the stage and did the very best I could to sing for Jesus.  With my “hair over my ears” waving in the wind I went up and I came down.  I was glad to sing but was also glad it was over.  Well, it wasn’t.  Because that Sunday we had a special speaker.  And because of what happened, I remember him very, very, well.  He stepped behind the pulpit, and I got the surprise of my young life.  I was surprised because what he said was like a dagger in my heart.  Here’s what he said.

With his deep and authoritative voice, in front of the entire church, he said, “Young man, if I had hair like yours, I would be ashamed to stand up and sing for Jesus.”  I was shocked.  I was hurt.  I was mortally embarrassed.  Not because of my hair, not because I had caused Jesus to frown (which I didn’t) but because this man who represented God had put me on trial, judged me, and sentenced me.  Honestly, it’s a miracle I didn’t walk out and keep right on walking.

Like I said, things like this happen but they should never, ever happen in church.  We wonder why people don’t want to come to church and unfortunately too often it is things like this.  You see, church should be a safe place…a loving place.  Church should be a place not for perfect people (because there aren’t any) but for forgiven people.  Church should be a grace place and not a place to judge and throw rocks.  Church should be a place where people see Jesus everywhere…in the lives of everyone.

I love the fact that the people who flocked to Jesus were the most broken in the community.  They liked Him and He loved them. He was perfectly comfortable with sitting down with the worse sinner in town and having lunch.  Trust me, that drove the religious people crazy.  They said some very nasty things about Jesus because of that but the truth is…Jesus came to rescue the lost, the broken…people like me and you.

Well, the good news is I survived that Sunday morning, but it left a scar that remains to this day. My wife reminded me that my pastor came up afterwards and apologized.  I’m glad he did.  We need to have the courage to speak up when a wrong occurs…Jesus would. I can never get enough of the story in the Bible about the woman taken in adultery.  The rock throwers wanted to kill her but instead Jesus loved and forgave her.  I like that. A lot.  So, if you find yourself wounded by a rock chucker just remember Jesus loves you…even if someone else doesn’t.  And remember, no matter what, “He’s got this.” Bro. Dewayne

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

Facing Down Mortality

Hi Grits Family! Hey, my wife Judy and I are going to be “out of pocket” aka “not available” to write for the next couple of weeks.  During that time, we decided to send out some of our past stories.  I hope you enjoy the ones we selected and look forward to some “fresh Grits” in a couple of weeks. God bless.  Bro. Dewayne

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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