Posted in fear, forgiveness, friends, Grace, gratitude, loving others, prayer, priorities, Scripture, thankful, Trials

The Last Part–the Best Part

Before the Passover Festival, Jesus knew that His hour had come to depart from this world to the Father. Having loved His own who were in the world, He loved them to the end.” John 31:1

Some of you might remember Paul Harvey.  He was a radio commentator for many years and was particularly famous for his “rest of the story” stories.  He would tell a somewhat familiar tale and then add a surprise ending to it and conclude with, “And now you know the rest of the story.”

You might remember an Old Testament story about Elisha. Elisha and his servant were surrounded by the bad guys and from the servant’s perspective, it wasn’t going to end well.  Elisha asked God to open the servant’s eyes so he could see what was going on.  God did and the servant saw that the hills were surrounded with heavenly warriors and chariots of fire.  Things got better…quick.

So, the bad guys came down upon the city and Elisha prayed that God would smite them with blindness and boom–He did.  It sounds almost comical, but Elisha basically tells them, “You guys are lost…let me lead you to where you need to be.”  He leads them smack dab into the middle of Samaria…the Israelites’ stronghold.  And that’s where the rest of the story gets amazing.

Elisha then prays for the bad guys’ eyes to be opened and just like that—they were.  They took one look around and realized they were in very deep weeds. The Israelite king saw an opportunity and said to Elisha, “Can I kill them, can I kill them?”  I love this.  Elisha said, “No, you can’t kill them…that’s not what you do to people who surrender.  What you can do is give them something to eat and drink and let them go.”  I’m sure the king’s jaw hit the ground.  The “let’s kill them” plan sure sounded better.

Well, he fed them and let them go. Guess what?  We’ll let the Bible tell the end of the story.  In 2 Kings 6:23 we read, “So the king prepared a great feast for them, and after they had finished eating and drinking, he sent them away, and they returned to their master. Then the bands from Aram stopped raiding Israel’s territory.” Did you get that?  The bad guys weren’t the bad guys anymore. A little kindness changed the whole story. How about that?

If the king had killed them, there would have been revenge. They would have attacked and then the king would have attacked and on and on it would have gone.  But instead, a simple act of kindness broke the domino effect.  Instead of war there was relief–and peace.  In days when sides are still being chosen and tempers still flare—when hate and division are the new headlines and bylines—when no one trusts anyone—we Christ followers can and should be different.  We should be givers more than takers.  We should be lovers and not haters.  We should be like Jesus.

The Bibles says in John 13:1 “Before the Passover Festival, Jesus knew that His hour had come to depart from this world to the Father. Having loved His own who were in the world, He loved them to the end.” Those “ones” He loved–included the guy who would betray Him to the crucifiers.  It included the one who would deny that he even knew Him.  How amazing is that? We can’t really do much about how people act, but we can do a lot about how we respond to them.  If the dominos are going to be interrupted, it will have to be us. The chain reaction is broken when we act like the One who chose not to retaliate but rather to redeem—to restore.

Some days it seems that a too short fuse has been lit and there is not time or hope to stop the future devastation. Let me challenge us today—during these crazy days that are getting crazier by the minute—to do the crazy thing and love, serve and care for others. Let me challenge us to be like Jesus.

How can we do that?  Well, first, as Jesus followers we are God’s kids and that is what He expects us to do. Jesus said we should be peacemakers—whether it is on the street, in the church, or at home.  Second—we can trust Him.  We can rest in Him because we know the end of the story—and it ends well—and no circumstance, no ploy of Hell can change that.  Third—remember, He’s got this—He really does.  Whether it is a resurgence of the virus or another revolting piece of news.  God is good, God is faithful, and God can be trusted.  Sounds like a no brainer to me.  Bro. Dewayne

Posted in Family, friends, Grace, gratitude, life, love, loving others, Scripture, Southern born, sovereignty of God, thankful, Trials, wisdom

Me and Fred

For you were called to this, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in His steps.” 2 Peter 2:21

The same kind of different as me. It was 1965…I was about eleven and he was probably 18.  I’m not sure how we bumped into one another.  As I remember it, I was out in the field that was part of property and he rolled up in his golf cart.  Well, hey, that was an ice breaker if there ever was one. He gave me a big smile, a friendly wave and said, “Hi.”  I could tell from that first hello that Fred had a speech issue and later it became apparent that he was one of God’s special creations…someone the world would call broken but God would call absolutely perfect.

Despite the age difference and his perfection and my lack of it, we seemed to hit it off. Almost immediately we were off on the first of many rides in his golf cart.  He loved it and I loved it and even though it wasn’t meant for off the road…that is exactly where we went. I assume his family bought him the golf cart to help him get around the neighborhood. I believe he lived in a subdivision, a gathering of the nicest homes in the neighborhood, at the end of the road I lived on. I don’t know if he was living there or visiting there but for the time I knew him…we were buds.

There are a lot of things that I have forgotten about that summer and early fall but there is one thing I remember—Fred loved baseball.  I’m pretty sure the team didn’t matter as long as it was baseball. He would carry around a portable transistor (that’s a throwback for my older readers) and we would listen to the games together.  It was September and time for the World Series, and we would sit in his golf cart like it was a front row seat right there in the stadium. Even now that memory makes me smile. In our simple world…all was well.

I think I began to learn something that summer and that lesson was about us—all of us.  In the world today we seem to search for things that cause us to focus on what divides us…what makes us different instead of what can draw us together.  I know it made no sense for Fred and I to be friends but his ultra-cool golf cart and his kind and outgoing personality overcame whatever differences there were.  He was the same kind of different as me.  That sentence is the title of a book and movie about two men who came from totally, and I mean totally, different backgrounds and yet managed to forge a friendship that would last for the rest of their lives.

You see, the truth is we can overcome our differences.  Our decision to allow skin color, language, social and economic differences, religion, or politics to divide us is a choice not a destiny.  This is especially true for Jesus’ people.  As followers we are choosing to align ourselves with Him and love others…regardless.  Really.  It is true.  It is in the Book…all over the Book and when decide to let the Book, and the Jesus of the Book, call the shots…well it is a game changer.

I’m thankful for that summer of 1965. If you know anything about that decade you know it was more than turbulent.  People were wondering if we as a nation would survive.  Well, by the grace of God, we did.  And guess what?  We can survive this mess today but if we do it will also be by the grace of God and Jesus people who decide to act like Jesus. Peter, the guy in the Bible who fell flat on his face and denied Jesus said, “For you were called to this, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in His steps.”  In other words, we are called to be like Him.  No matter how difficult that might sound to you, don’t forget that today and always—He’s got this.  Bro. Dewayne

Posted in Family, fear, forgiveness, friends, Grace, life, love, loving others, prayer, Scripture, Southern born

Got Squirrels

I am able to do all things through Him who strengthens me.” Philippians 4:13

I just can’t seem to win. It seemed we had a wildlife saga in our backyard. I know I have told you about the difficult time I had trying to feed the birds in our backyard.  You see my friends the birds left when the food ran out.  It kinda hurt my feelings.  Well, I apologized and went and bought some food and a couple of new feeders and they slowly came back! Boy, they are fair weather friends!  But that isn’t the only problem.

I also had squirrel issues.  With winter they visit by attic, the back yard, the side yard and every other part of the yard—frequently.  They eat Judy’s flower bulbs, they dig holes everywhere burying nuts for the winter and then if there is any in the feeders, they eat that too.  That wouldn’t be a big deal except they want to eat all the bird food—every expensive morsel.  Now there are a couple of options here.  On the one hand we can use some friendly means to dissuade them from visiting—you know, perhaps a 12-gauge shotgun.  The other is to embrace them—remember the Bible says, “if you enemy is hungry…feed them.”

Now if the truth were known, I think sometimes (like when they eat her tulip bulbs) Judy would lean toward the 12 gauge…I’m not sure if the intent would be to scare them off or make squirrel stew.  Somehow, though, that just doesn’t seem like the right option. It’s not that I am not that merciful–it’s just that they are so cotton-picking cute, and you have to admire their persistence. So, I was prepared to at least help them coexist with us.  And then one day, they ate my bird feeder—literally.

As I said I went to a local store and bought a new finch feeder—the kind that is supposed to discourage anything but a finch from feeding there.  Well, the designers hadn’t considered these squirrels.  In one day, they chewed it up, spit it out and consumed the bird food.  I decided it had to be a design flaw so I took it back to the store to see if they would give me a new one—they laughed.

So, why not use the 12 gauge and save the money? Well, first I live in the city limits, and they frown on discharging a firearm.  But the truth is they are God’s creation, and they have those big brown eyes…the ones that make them look so pitiful…you know, hungry and everything.  As you know, the Bible says we should “love our neighbor” and I suppose that could include squirrels.  We’ve also know we are to be “merciful just like God is merciful.” Do you remember why? “Because He forgives the ungrateful and wicked.” I am certain these squirrels fit both categories.

So, I am working through this.  Tracking with Romans 12, I’m going down the “love thy enemy” checklist. Feeding—check!  Water—Check! Merciful—check! Forgiving—check!  I believe before long the squirrels and I will be best buds.  In fact, maybe this is just practice for loving others who, like the squirrels, are a bit difficult. You see, the scripture isn’t talking about squirrels anyway; it is talking about our family, our friends, our neighbors—and yes, our enemies.  Let me clue you in—loving them is sometimes a whole lot tougher than loving that cute little squirrel.

But do you know what?  We can do it.  Remember that verse in the Bible we all love…the one that says we can do anything with God’s help? Well, it’s time we move from memorizing it and begin applying it.  With His help we can love and care for the most difficult of those who live around us and impact our lives. And do you know what else?  We are never more like Jesus than when we are kind and loving to those who deserve it the least.  I know…I know, we think we are the most like Jesus when we don our Sunday best and head to church.  The truth is we are most like Jesus when we act like Jesus. And, when we truly act like Jesus, all the people around us take notice. They stop “eating our lunch” and begin wanting what we have…Him. Amazing.

So, got squirrels?  Just give in and go to the store and buy some corn.  They will still eat your bird food but maybe, just maybe, they’ll be so full of corn they will eat less of the bird food. Got some folks tough to love?  Apply the Word, invite God into the situation and get ready for some work (on your part) and perhaps a miracle (on His part).  Hey, none of us are perfect.  We all have our warts, and we all have our weak spots.  Just remember how God goes to great lengths to show you His love every day. He will never grow weary of loving us.  Never has, never will.  When you get all worked up over an overeating squirrel or an unkind or difficult neighbor—just take a break and rest in Him.  He’s got this.  Bro. Dewayne

Posted in Family, forgiveness, friends, Grace, Integrity, life, love, loving others, Scripture, Southern born, thankful, Trials, wisdom

Your Slip is Showing

A good person produces good things from the treasury of a good heart, and an evil person produces evil things from the treasury of an evil heart. What you say flows from what is in your heart.” Luke 6:45

Pardon me, but your slip is showing.  Change is everywhere.  I can well remember my Momma getting dressed for church.  In those day she always wore a couple of extra “accessories.”  First, she was a big fan of what I guess was called a girdle.  As I remember, these things were designed to hold things in place around a lady’s waist.  I never saw Momma put one on, but I know she wore one.  How?  When we were sitting in church, I would get bored and start doing “things.”  Things are anything that helped me pass the time.  So, I would poke my Momma in the side, only to find that it was hard as a rock.  As impenetrable as the Great China Wall, there was something firming things up.  I suspect it was “the girdle.”

The other thing was something called a slip.  As best as I could tell it was worn under a lady’s dress to ensure that nothing was seen through.  Now I know more about this because my Momma always wanted to be sure her slip wasn’t showing.  It was important to have the slip shorter than your dress by a couple of inches.  Well, since she couldn’t see behind her (we didn’t have a full-length mirror), she would say, “Dewayne, is my slip showing?”  I would get behind her and give her the report.  I think in our early years of marriage, slips were still in vogue.  I’m pretty sure Judy asked me to give her the “slip” report too.

Nobody, and I mean nobody, wanted to get to church and have their slip showing.  How many times did we get somewhere public and there in front of us would be a lady with her slip showing? Momma would sadly shake her head and say, “Oh my, her slip is showing.  She should have had someone check.”  Well, some time ago slips went out of vogue and so also went the way of the slip report.  No slip…no report.  But the saying still lingers.

When you hear someone say, “Your slip is showing.” it means that something they intended, or perhaps should have intended, to be hidden is there for everyone to see. Well, here’s a news flash.  Someone needs to tell everyone that their “slip” is showing in social media.  Now I am not a social media person.  I use it to post Grits, to make a couple of church announcements and wish people happy birthday.  But beyond that, it just isn’t my thing.  But even with that limited exposure, and thanks to folks who sometimes tell me what they see, well, there are a lot of “slips” showing.

I’ve almost stopped being shocked at what people write on social media.  It seems people confuse the privacy of their journal with things like Facebook.  Things that should never be written or spoken spew on the pages like a bad case of the stomach flu.  Hurtful, painful words too often fill the screen of our devices.  I remember one time a lady who attended our church at the time wrote some very un-Jesus like words.  I asked her about it, and she said, “Well, I didn’t know the whole world would see them.” What? Duh?”

So, I think when we see someone being unkind and harsh in social media we should just say, “Pardon me, but your slip is showing.”  Now “showing your slip” with unkind words is never right.  You know your Momma taught you, “If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all.”  Well, Jesus gives us another perspective and warning.  He tells us that out of the abundance of the heart, the mouth speaks.  In other words, what comes out of our mouth is simply revealing what is in our hearts. And if hurtful, unkind, and sometimes untrue words flow from our mouths, or our fingers, according to Jesus, it is just revealing what is in our hearts.

I know, if you aren’t a Jesus follower that doesn’t make a lot of sense but hey, kindness is really in vogue these days even in the secular world.  It might be selective kindness, but it is there.  Now, if you are a Jesus follower, God gives us a word for this kind of practice.  It is called sin.  No matter the circumstances or the way we attempt to justify it, it is sin.  If you feel the need to express your displeasure with someone, why not try praying.  God is always up for an authentic prayer on behalf of someone and you also won’t be surprised to hear “your slip is showing.”

I happen to be one of those people who too often speaks without thinking but I am learning to hit the pause button.  They say the older you get the more you lose your filter. You say things…and write things…that are just not right, or kind or both.  Then, you end up telling God you are sorry and experiencing that regret thing.  Of course, you may not have any remorse…and that is the saddest of all.

So, what do you say?  Let’s start a “Pardon me, your slip is showing” campaign.  It is a gentle way of letting someone know that their communication, whether it be social media or spoken, shall we say, is embarrassing. They may not thank you now but maybe, just maybe, they will later.  And if you are like me and sometimes wrestle with putting your mouth in gear when you shouldn’t, ask God to help.  He will, trust me.  This is a big deal to Him.  The good news is that like everything, “He’s got this.” Bro. Dewayne

Posted in Family, Grace, gratitude, Integrity, life, love, loving others, priorities, Scripture, Southern born, sovereignty of God, thankful

Snippet

But Jesus said, “Let the children come to Me. Don’t stop them! For the Kingdom of Heaven belongs to those who are like these children.” Matthew 19:14

It’s tucked away in the memories of my mind…a snippet in a sea of remembrances.  I’ve said it so many times by now that some might say it is overkill, but the bottom line is my Daddy and Momma went so far to make special days…special.  The king of the hill, of course, was Christmas but they also tried to make each birthday special. They couldn’t afford it but somehow, they did it. And one of those sacrifices is the center of the snippet.

It was probably 1959.  I was about five years old growing up in a world so different from today you would think that we moved to a different planet. It was a dozen days past Christmas, and it was my birthday. I’m sure there was cake, I’m sure there was a family celebration but what I remember most is the present.  I’m not sure how you decide what to get a five-year-old but Daddy and Momma sure knocked it out of the park that year.

Since there were no K-Marts or Walmart’s, I can only imagine that Daddy and Momma went down to the local Western Auto to shop.  If you don’t remember they were a neighborhood store that was part appliance store, part general store and part household store.  They also had a selection of toys…especially at Christmas and maybe that is why they had what I got.  That year my parents bought me an ice cream truck.

Well, it really wasn’t a truck, and it really didn’t hold ice cream but it was something special.  It had three wheels, like a trike, but behind the seat it had large metal box with decals that said, “ice cream.”  The handlebars had those plastic streamers on each end, the front wheel had a fender and of course, it had a bell.  I can remember driving and peddling down the road in front of our house.  There was little traffic so there was also little danger of getting run over.

For some reason I can remember about a quarter of mile down the road a man was building a small box house.  He was singlehandedly taking on this project, and I decided to peddle down there and he was working away.  I “pulled up” and asked if he would like an ice cream and the reason I remember him, his house and that day was that rather than brush me off…he played along and if I remember correctly, almost every day I would peddle down the road to see my new customer and friend.  The ice cream was pretend, but his kindness was not.  Looking back at this snippet of a memory, it still makes me smile.

Hanging over the fireplace in my wife’s “keeping room” is a quote by Maya Angelou.  Something she said says so much.  She said, “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” And that is the very reason I remember this man taking time from building a house to talk and befriend a five year old boy.  I don’t remember his name, but I do remember his heart.

What about you?  What about us?  I wonder will we take the time to be kind…to treat someone with an extra measure of kindness and implant a “snippet” in their hearts? In those days when I was five, kids were supposed to be more seen than heard.  There seemed to be the adult world and the kid’s world and while there weren’t walls there were boundaries and this kind man chose to move beyond the boundary.  He made me feel…important.  He made me feel like I mattered.  Perhaps today, we should try to do the same.  Today, perhaps we should choose to be like…Jesus.

Jesus was famous for seeing the invisible people and touching the untouchable.  He even said one time, “Let the little children come to Me.”  He would have said to that little five-year-old boy with an ice cream truck, “Let Dewayne come to me.”  And I want you to know that no matter how invisible you feel, no matter how insignificant…you are not either to Jesus!  Tattoo that on your hearts…you matter, and you matter a lot to Him.  So, if life seems overwhelming, or maybe underwhelming, just remember you’ve got a friend in Jesus.  He’s got this.  Bro. Dewayne

Posted in Family, forgiveness, Grace, gratitude, life, love, loving others, Scripture, Trials

Blinders

So whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets.” Matthew 7:12

I was blindsided.  It was time for a haircut. Now that is a relative statement—you know like relatively speaking.  I had five brothers and only two of us are left.  All the brothers had hair—lots of hair. No receding hairlines, no clogged drains in the shower, no nothing but lots of hair.  And then there is me.  While my daddy had a receding hairline, he never lost his hair.  Well, that was them and that was him but it sure isn’t me.  It started with a receding hairline, then it became a thinning receding hairline and then it became a full-blown retreat.  I now have a really, long forehead.  I don’t know if it is still in full retreat or if we are holding our own.  The jury is still out. So, I’m trying to say that a haircut for me is a relative statement. I am grateful that getting a haircut still doesn’t mean getting a solitary hair cut, but I do remember the days when there were more than a few.

Now, I keep my hair short for two reasons.  First, I have grayish white hair and I found it doesn’t look quite as white if I keep it shorter.  Second, and I can only guess, it is a carryover from my days with my Daddy and in the military.  For the first 18 years of my life my Daddy made sure I kept my hair short (even though it was the late sixties and early seventies).  After him, it was twelve years in the Air Force, and they made sure it was short. Well, after 30 years of short hair I figured, why change now?  So, the bottom line is about once a month I go see my hair cutter person.  Even after a month, my hair is sparse and less than an inch long.

So, I was in the chair, and she was clipping and buzzing along.  She has cut my hair for the last 15 or so years so she knows the landscape well.  Well, she said, “Dewayne did you hit your head or something?”  I assured her I hadn’t, but she was sure something had happened.  Well, my wife Judy had gotten me a pair of virtual reality goggles for Christmas.  I had used them the night before and the straps fitted tightly around my head, so I assured her that was what she was seeing.  Then she said, “Well, let me show you.”

Before I knew it, there was a mirror in my hand, and she turned me around, so I was looking in the mirror.  I could see something I had never seen—the back of my head.  Oh.My.Goodness.  You see, I naturally assumed that my…oh, how I hate to use the word…baldness stopped at the front of my head.  I also assumed that I had the mane of Samson in the back.  I was wrong.  There in the mirror I got to see what everyone else saw all the time.  While it wasn’t totally a moon scape let’s just saw it was thin.  You might say it was wavy—you know, the hairs there had plenty of space to wave at one another.

Well, I gasped and bless her heart, she did her best to assure me it wasn’t that bad—the average person looking wouldn’t even notice.  She said you would have to look really close to see it.  She was so nice, but I had the strangest feeling she was not telling the whole truth.  And in that moment, I realized that my days of teasing people with a halo at the back of their head were probably over.  I had reached a new level of membership in the hair club—or perhaps more appropriately, the “no hair club.” What struck me as funny was I had no idea.  I really was blindsided.  I couldn’t see what any other person walking behind me could see.  To make matters worse, let’s just say that I’m not the tallest guy in the neighborhood. That means everyone taller than me, which is probably 90% of the adult population, had a great view of my impending hair doom.

Well, that started the wheels turning in my mind.  I wondered just how many other things are there about me that I am totally blind to?  How many times did my impatience at the grocery store show?  How many times did my glaring eyes betray my true feeling when some nice “little, old lady” pulled out in traffic in front of me?  How many times was my sarcasm not as veiled as I thought?  Oh my!

So, I think I might have learned something valuable at the hair cutting place that day.  It wasn’t that I should get a hand mirror so I can see the back of my head.  No, it was the fact that I should, we should, be aware that people are always deserving of our courtesy, our kindness, our compassion.  If we are Jesus people, especially if we are Jesus people, we should make a conscious decision to be authentically nice. The golden rule, which is found in the Bible, says “So whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets.” Truth is it is not always easy to be kind, but it is always right.  And when it seems especially hard, don’t panic.  God is good at being kind so you can rest assured that He will help you. After all, “He’s got this.”  Bro. Dewayne

Posted in Grace, life, loving others, Scripture, Southern born, wisdom

Steel Gladiators

“Finishing is better than starting. Patience is better than pride.” Ecclesiastes 7:8

We were opposite each other—two fire breathing chariots just waiting.  Well, that isn’t exactly how it happened but maybe it was.  My wife Judy and I were returning from a trip to Kentucky where grits and a southern draw are standard issue.  We were back in our town of Harrisburg, and were going to swing by the church to check a couple of things for an event that evening.  We were giving away some food boxes and wanted to make sure we were set to go.  To get there we had to cross a pretty busy intersection.  I pulled up and that’s when I saw him sitting there.  He was anxiously waiting for a break in the steady steam of cars.  Even from that distance I could see his darting eyes as his sweaty palms gripped his steering wheel.

I pulled up on the opposite side of the road headed in the opposite direction. We were two men, to gladiators of automobiles, about to pass side by side. I knew he was there first so he had the right a way…that was never in debate.  I also knew there would be only a quick window to cross the road.  There was no blinker on my opponent’s car—we would pass quickly like two ships in the night.  I knew, too, that there was a chance that he would not follow the rules.  Blinker or not, he might turn across my lane. Try as I might, I couldn’t read his mind or his intentions. 

Suddenly there was a break in the traffic, my left foot moved from brake to accelerator and I was sure the same was happening in the car opposite me.  Like I said…two ships in the night…side by side in opposite directions. No deal. No challenge. And, then, yes, it happened.

Instead of going straight as his no blinker indicated he cut across in front of me and turned.  I had fallen for the oldest trick in the book.  It was the old “I’m really going to turn but I’m not going to tell you” trick!  Well, I quickly hit my brakes as he quickly turned in from of my chariot.  I confess. I gave him the two hands in the air, “Dude, what are you doing?” gesture and he responded with the two hands in the air, “Dude, I had the right of way” gesture. It was all over in a moment of time.  Two gladiators of steel on two totally different wave lengths of communication that left both of us wondering. First, him wondering why I was upset when he clearly had the right of way and second, me wondering why he didn’t let me know he was going to turn in front of me. Hey…blinker equals turn. No blinker equals no turn. Dude.

Are you confused by now?  Are you wondering what this is all about? Does any of it really matter? Probably the answer to all three of those questions is, wait for it, no.  But it does show how easily it is to miscommunicate our intentions and it also shows just how easy it is for moments of waiting to escalate to moments of tension.  And, amazingly, it doesn’t have to involve two gladiators of steel waiting at an intersection. It can easily be the one you are married to, or the ones you gave birth to, or the ones that you work with or, my favorite, the ones you sit next to in worship at church.

But, the answer is always the same.  Keep your foot on the brake till you know clearly what the other person’s intention is.  Just wait, be patient, and most likely you will come out looking a little bit more like Jesus and the more gallant in the exchange. The writer of Ecclesiastes says, “Finishing is better than starting. Patience is better than pride.” Hmmm…that’s really good. We usually have more time than we think and we all know the pleasure of letting someone go first. They smile and think, “What a nice person.”  And most times, that beats beating someone across an intersection, or to a place in line or to a parking spot.

Ok, you gladiators of steel, all right you Walmart line cutters, it’s time to keep our foot on the brake and our hearts in our chest.  Let’s determine that nothing is more important than for a Jesus follower to act like Jesus—at the intersection, in the line, at home or at church.  Feeling challenged about now?  I know, me too, that’s why it is so important to remember, “He’s got this.” So, ladies and gentlemen…start your engines. Bro. Dewayne

Posted in fear, Grace, life, loving others

Broken Lives, Broken Hearts

 “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death I will fear no evil.  You are with me.” Psalm 23:4

 It was late afternoon.  My wife Judy and I live on one of the main streets that run through our small city.  We have a sidewalk and as you can imagine it is not unusual for all kinds of people to be walking by all the time. Sometimes there are families, loud and happy as they stroll and sometimes it just someone going somewhere.  But then sometimes it is a someone like yesterday.  Though not all the details were apparent…he wore chapter after chapter of his broken life story.

Life was hard…it was as clear as glass.  He was shuffling along pushing an empty shopping cart.  At first I thought he was an older man I see walking laps around our block.  He pushes a walker and is bound and determined not to let age stop him.  But this was not him.  This man was older but not that old and life had not been kind.  His clothes were wore and tattered.  He would take a few steps and then stop and look around and then take a few more.  He reminded me of someone I had seen at the park several months ago.

That particular day I was walking in the city park.  It wasn’t a casual walk but the exercising kind. That day was like a lot of spring days—the sun was shining, the birds were singing, the trees were doing their “leafing out” thing and it was a good day.  Then, I heard something…someone. 

I was alone in the park till then.  As I crossed the bridge on the North end of the park there was a man in his forties or fifties.  He was dressed normally—whatever that means—but that was where normalcy ended.  At first, I thought he had one of those things in his ear that enabled him to talk on his cell phone.  The closer I got the more I could see and hear.

He was angry.  He was shouting. He was cursing. Then he began to pick up rocks and throw them violently in one direction and then another.  I realized he was fighting a battle with someone I could not see but he could.  To him it was real–very real.  He felt threatened and hurt by an enemy only he could see.

That day I prayed.  I asked God to deliver him from the invisible demon that was haunting him.  I asked God for His peace to come upon this peace-less man.  Later I saw him leaving the park, less angry, less violent and no longer cursing. It seemed from where I was that a moment of calm had come to his storm wrecked mind.  I was grateful and told God so.

I have thought about that day several times and it came to my mind again yesterday when this man covered with brokenness walked by my house.  My verbalized thoughts were, “Oh, Lord, how hard his life must be. Help him…be with him” Soon, he had moved on and I was left alone with my own thoughts. You know, not all people with hard lives walk down streets pushing empty carts.  Some are the people you and I pass in Walmart, or maybe it is the neighbor next door or perhaps the person you sit next to in church on Sunday.

The truth is there are a lot of folks fighting and fearful of enemies–enemies that don’t have or need a face to wreck lives.  There’s still the COVID thing, the loss of a job or business, the fear of losing their marriage or someone they love, the fear that things will never be the same, the fear that this fear will own them–consume them.

My mind goes back to Psalm 23:4. David, chased by a crazed king consumed with jealousy, chased by too many memories of too many failures writes, “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death I will fear no evil.  You are with me.”  He was wise enough to know that as he walked through this valley it wasn’t filled with real monsters–only monster “wanna-be’s.”

You see, for him the valley became a roadway and not a residence.  Death, or things that cause death, because of his faith in a “bigger-than-anything” God, was reduced to a shadow.  Shadows can frighten but they can cause no real damage or harm.  How did that happen? Well, somewhere along the way David chose to believe his God and he found peace.  He said, “I don’t need to fear evil, no matter what it looks like, because You are with me.”  You.Are.With.Me.

Today as you journey, remember all around us are people who fight battles with enemies only they can see.  Be sure and swift not to judge but to pray.  That day in the park and I guess to some degree yesterday, I got it right but trust me I don’t always do that.  It’s then that I pray a different prayer–one for forgiveness.  And if you are fighting those invisible enemies today–just a word or two.  God loves you.  Rest in Him.  He’s got this.  Bro. Dewayne

Posted in Family, fear, Grace, gratitude, life, loving others, prayer, priorities, Scripture, Southern born, sovereignty of God, thankful, Trials, wisdom

A Morning Nightmare

He comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort others. When they are troubled, we will be able to give them the same comfort God has given us.” 2 Corinthians 1:4

It was the thing that nightmares are made of.  I wasn’t there for this, but trust me I have lived it over and over again with my wife, Judy. Let me tell you the story.  When she was four or five years old, her father and mother went to work and so she had a babysitter that lived close by. It was a regular routine. Simple.  Simple and routine till one day it wasn’t.

On the first day of school, the babysitter and her friend were taking the kids to school. The kids were entering first grade, there was no kindergarten. After they had dropped the kids off, it was back to her house again.  If you’ve ever been to Valdosta, Georgia you need to know multiple times at multiple locations train tracks would cross the roads and highways.  Just a few miles from the grade school was a pulpwood plant and often trains would drop off logs to be made into paper.  On that particular morning, after leaving the school, the car approached this train crossing.  In the early 60’s, many of the crossings didn’t have lights or gates and this was one of those.  As the car approached the crossing, that’s when it happened.

It was not unusual for trains to just stop short of the crossing and sit there.  As the car approached the crossing there was a train and the young lady who was driving assumed it was just waiting as they often did.  Unfortunately, she was wrong.  As the car neared the crossing and proceeded onto the tracks, she realized that the train was in fact moving—slowly—but moving.  In a panic she thought she was pressing the gas pedal, when in fact she pressed the brake—stopping the car dead on the track. As if in slow motion, the train hit the car and slowly, methodically pushed it down the tracks.  Even at such a slow speed, it took a while for the train to stop. The damage was extensive.

The collision was not without consequences and injuries.  The lady in the front passenger seat where the train hit received two broken arms.  The girl behind the passenger seat had a broken leg.  The driver literally had a nervous breakdown.  Thankfully, four-year-old Judy was only knocked to the floorboard where she tried her best to hold on to the “hump.”  While everyone was taken to the hospital, gratefully the injuries, though serious, were not life threatening. As often is the case in situations like this, not all the injuries were physical.

When I met Judy in 1974, she was sixteen and full of fun and life.  Because she lived on the other side of most of the tracks, we would often have to cross them.  While never in a dangerous way, if I heard a training coming, I would speed up to make it across the crossing.  I still remember the fear that came across her face.  Each time it happened, she was reliving what happened.  The accident still deeply affected her emotionally. Even if there was a crossing guard with lights, she would tense up, even though I was slowing down to a stop.  What happened that morning 12 years earlier left lifelong scars.

At first I didn’t really understand and thought perhaps, just perhaps, she was overreacting.  But it didn’t take years, or months or even more than a couple of weeks, for me to realize that for her…this was a big deal.  I also quickly realized that I owed it to her, this young woman I loved, to be very careful around train tracks.  It didn’t scare me one bit, but it did scare the one I loved, the one I cared for.

So, can I ask you a question?  Is there someone in your life, in your world that you care about that might need a bit of special consideration? Is there someone who has a life experience that has left them scarred or wounded?  Divorce? Tragedy? Abuse? Death? Illness? Prejudice? You see, in our very imperfect world, you don’t have to travel far to find the wounded and the broken.  And what isn’t a big deal to you, might be a tsunami of emotions and difficult memories for someone else.  And honestly, we need to be sensitive.  We need to care. Jesus did that so well.  The Bible tells how God cares and comforts us in our trouble so we can care and comfort those we meet in our daily walkabout life.

So, if you bump into someone’s world and they seem to act differently in a certain situation, why not precede with caution?  Why not be the one that brings comfort and understanding to their fractured moment? You could be the one that finally brings healing and peace in their world.  Judy is much better now.  But if there is an unguarded crossing and a train whistle in the distance, you can bet I still slow down and check the situation out.  Judy, well, she knows this guy loves her enough to do exactly that. And, by the way, there is a Dearest Daddy who loves His kids even more than that.  And no matter how your world is scarred or rocked…rest assured, He’s got this.  Bro. Dewayne

Posted in Family, forgiveness, Grace, life, loving others, Scripture, Trials, wisdom

Pardon Me, Your Slip is Showing

A good person produces good things from the treasury of a good heart, and an evil person produces evil things from the treasury of an evil heart. What you say flows from what is in your heart.” Luke 6:45

Pardon me, but your slip is showing.  Change is everywhere.  I can well remember my Mama getting dressed for church.  In those day she always wore a couple of extra “accessories.”  First, she was a big fan of what I guess was called girdles.  As I remember, these things were designed to hold things in place around a lady’s waist.  I never saw Mama put one on, but I know she wore one.  How?  When we were sitting in church, I would get bored and start doing “things.”  Things are anything to help pass the time.  So, I would poke my Mama in the side, only to find that it was hard as a rock.  As impenetrable as the Great Wall of China, there was something firming things up.  I suspect it was “the girdle.”

The other thing was something called a slip.  As best as I could tell it was worn under a lady’s dress to ensure that nothing was seen through.  Now I know more about this because my Mama always wanted to be sure her slip wasn’t showing.  It was important to have the slip shorter than your dress by a couple of inches.  Well, since she couldn’t see behind her (we didn’t have a full-length mirror), she would say, “Dewayne, is my slip showing?”  I would get behind her and give her the report.  I think in our early years of marriage, slips were still in vogue.  I’m pretty sure Judy asked me to give her the “slip” report too.

Nobody, and I mean nobody, wanted to get to church and have their slip showing.  How many times did we get somewhere public and there in front of us would be a lady with her slip showing, Mama would sadly shake her head and say, “Oh my, her slip is showing.  She should have someone check.”  Well, some time ago slips went out of vogue and so with it the way of the slip report.  No slip…no report.  But the saying still lingers.

When you hear someone say “your slip is showing” it means that something they intended, or perhaps should have intended, to be hidden is there for everyone to see. Well, here’s a news flash.  Someone needs to tell everyone that their “slip” is showing in social media.  Now I am not a Facebook person.  I use it to post Grits, to make a couple of church announcements and wish people happy birthday.  But beyond that, it just isn’t my thing.  But even with that limited exposure, and thanks to folks who sometimes tell me what they see, well, there are a lot of “slips” showing.

I’ve almost stopped being shocked at what people write on Facebook.  It seems people confuse the privacy of their journal with Facebook.  Things that should never be written or spoken spew on the pages like a bad case of the stomach flu.  Hurtful, painful words too often fill the screen of our devices.  I remember one time a lady who attended our church at the time wrote some very un-Jesus like words.  I asked her about it and she said, “Well, I didn’t know the whole world would see them.” “What? Uh?”

So, I think when we see someone being unkind and harsh in social media we should just say, “Pardon me, but your slip is showing.”  Now “showing your slip” with unkind words is never right.  You know your Mama taught you, “If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all.”  Well, Jesus gives us another perspective and warning.  He tells us that out of the abundance of the heart, the mouth speaks.  In other words, what comes out of our mouth is simply revealing what is in our hearts. And if hurtful, unkind, and sometimes untrue words flow from our mouths, or our fingers, according to Jesus, it is just revealing what is in our hearts.

I know, if you aren’t a Jesus follower that doesn’t make a lot of sense but hey, kindness is really in vogue these days even in the secular world.  It might be selective kindness, but it is there.  Now, if you are a Jesus follower, God gives us a word for this kind of word stomach flu.  It is called sin.  No matter the circumstances or the way we attempt to justify it, it is sin.  If you feel the need to express your displeasure with someone, why not try praying.  God is always up for an authentic prayer on behalf of someone and you also won’t be surprised to hear “your slip is showing.”

I happen to be one of those people who too often speak without thinking but I am learning to hit the pause button.  They say the older you get the more you lose your filter. You say things…and write things…that are just not right, or kind or both.  Then, you end up telling God you are sorry and experiencing that regret thing.  Of course, depending on your lack of filter, you may not have any remorse…and that is the worst thing of all.

So, what do you say?  Let’s start a “Pardon me, your slip is showing” campaign.  It is a gentle way of letting someone know that their communication is, shall we say, embarrassing. They may not thank you now but maybe, just maybe, they will later.  And if you are like me and sometimes wrestle with putting your mouth in gear when you shouldn’t, ask God to help.  He will, trust me.  This is a big deal to Him.  The good news is that like everything, “He’s got this.”