Posted in Family, friends, Grace, gratitude, life, loving others, priorities, Scripture, Southern born, thankful, wisdom

Money Tip

For the love of money is the root of all kinds of evil.” 1 Timothy 6:10

I never considered myself an entrepreneur but looking back…maybe I am.  Fortunately, I was raised by a Momma and Daddy who believed in a strong work ethic.  While they weren’t overbearing about it, I grew up knowing that I should get a job and go to work. It must have worked because over my 53 working years I have always managed to have a job and go to work.  I consider that quite a blessing. Looking back, I think my working career really started when I was about ten years old.

In the early sixties, we had an old lawn mower or two that had seen better days but my Daddy, ever the mechanic, managed to keep them running.  And then, he was willing to let me borrow the mower and go around the neighborhood offering to mow people’s yards. Today, that is big business but back then…not so much.  I would grab the lawn mower, the gas can and start going door to door.  My business plan was simple.

I would go to the door, knock, or ring the bell and wait for someone to answer.  When they did, I would simply say, “Hello.  Would you like your grass mowed for $2.00? Now, most of these yards were a pretty good size so even back then that seemed like a fair price to me…but guess what?  That $2.00 then is equal to $27.40 today.  What? Ok, I must admit I was surprised to learn that.  That might explain why more often than not, the answer to my question was a polite, “No.”  You see, it turns out that $2.00 was a sizable investment back in ’64.

But there were plenty of folks that said yes, and there were a few repeat customers.  The bottom line is it was enough to give me some spending money and, of course, keep the gas can filled.  At the end of the day there was always a trip to Jackson’s Minute Market that was down the street from my house.  There I would pull out one of the wadded-up dollar bills and trade part of it for a RC cola or Icee and a honey bun.  That would set me back a quarter.  The rest of my earnings stayed in my pocket or in a safe place back home just waiting for a trip to the Pic-N-Save or some other store.

Speaking of Pic-N-Save, that is one thing I wrestled with—saving.  If memory serves me right, I did a whole lot more spending than saving.  It seems I remember my Daddy saying something about that money, “burning a hole in my pocket.”  Well, he was right.  While money didn’t come easy for me in ’64 it sure went easy.  Me and my dollars were all about me.  I never thought about giving or sharing…only spending.

Well, I am glad to let you know I have learned a little more about money since those days.  First, I learned (well, actually I’m still learning) that Jesus was right…it is more blessed to give than to receive.  Me and Jesus (and my wife Judy) came to terms a long time ago about giving back a part of what He gives to me. I’m even learning that everything belongs to Him anyway, so it only seems right to give some back.  And that isn’t all.

I’m also learning about saving.  I’ve always said that I was a spender and not a saver but now I can honestly say that I’m a pretty good saver. In fact, sometimes it is hard for me to let go of those hard earned dollars.  That might explain why I don’t go to the grocery store too often.  Judy will send me looking for a can of beans.  When I get there, I find out that there are all kinds of beans, and some are cheaper than others.  So, it might take me a couple of days to decide which one to buy.  Hmmm…how about that?

Another thing that I have learned is that money isn’t good or bad…it is just money…a tool that we can use either wisely or foolishly. One of those verses in the Bible that is often misquoted says that money is the root of all evil.  Turns out that isn’t what the Bible says at all.  It says that the love of money is the root of all evil.  In other words, when we start worshiping money or when greed becomes a monster in our lives…we are in deep weeds, and the answer to all of that is—generosity.

So, it turns out what to do with money is one of those lifelong lessons.  I’m grateful the ten-year-old Dewayne was taught to work but I wish he had learned a lot earlier about giving, sharing, and saving. But the good news is that it is never too late to change.  One of the greatest joys in life is sharing with others.  I think it must be a Jesus thing because He always shared with those around Him.  If you need some help, why not ask the One who owns it all…and chooses to share with you.  Take it to the bank (pun intended) He’s got this. Bro. Dewayne 

Posted in Family, friends, gratitude, life, loving others, Scripture, sovereignty of God, thankful, Trials

The Sky Was Indeed Falling

Watch therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour.” Matthew 25:13

The clock was ticking…and I didn’t even know it.  Getting older is, well, interesting.  It certainly has its perks…like you mess up and people just give you that knowing nod, you know, the one that says, “We’re gonna give you a pass on that because you are old(er).”  Of course, sometimes they are not understanding, and they give you the “what for”.  One of the things that is just a bit difficult are the things that you lose.  You know sometimes you lose your mind, sometimes you lose your hair, sometimes you lose your teeth, sometimes you lose your vision and sometimes you lose your hearing.  Wait, what did you say?

Well, I can speak from personal experience on a couple of those things.  My hair is retreating and my hearing, in a least one ear, is well, less than.  One of favorite hearing tests is the fact that I can cover my “bad” ear and still hear our clock ticking at 25 feet.  If I cover my good ear…not matter how close I get…I can’t hear a thing.  One time I put my face up to the face of the clock and still couldn’t hear a thing.  But here’s what is strange—it’s not every sound, but only certain frequencies.  I can hear most voices (except my wife’s), most music, and most other sounds.  Of course, some things you just can’t hear—or see coming. That happened a couple of years ago.  A clock was ticking, and I had no idea.

My wife called me one Wednesday afternoon.  She sounded a bit frustrated—you know like that tone wives have when they ask their husbands to take the trash out for three days…well, it was kinda like that.  Just a little edgy.  But this had nothing to do with the trash.  Instead, she said, “Dewayne the ceiling in the middle bedroom has fallen.”  I said, “What?” She repeated what she said and yes, I had heard her right.  It turns out that over half of the plaster ceiling in the spare room was now laying on the bed and floor.  I said I was on my way! When I got home, I found out that she was not kidding or even exaggerating.  Water-soaked plaster and blown insulation covered the bed and the entire floor.  What a mess! How do you even begin to clean it up?

As it turns out…it was not a fluke. We have an air conditioning unit in our attic for the upstairs. When the company installed it, they build a small platform where the overflow pan would sit.  The pan was there in case the primary drain clogged. So, unknown to me, the main drain clogged, and the pan began to fill. The pan also had a drain but, in this case, it just wasn’t enough to handle the excess water. As it filled with water the platform slowly, ever so slowly, began to tilt.  As it tilted, the water in the pan spilled over the edge and onto the attic floor, seeping into the ceiling.  Slowly, surely, over a few days, and believe it or not, without a drip, the ceiling continued to absorb the water until it had enough… and the insulation and plaster fell…big time.

It was a sloppy, no fun, you’ve got to be kidding me, mess.  And then, of course, we had to repair the ceiling.  It took us a couple of hours to clean up the mess and a good friend helped me repair the ceiling. We also had someone come in and properly rebuild the platform so it would not give way again.  In two or three weeks the whole thing was a memory.  It was a learning experience for sure.

One lesson I learned, is to make a trip to the attic on a regular basis and make sure everything is working.  Pour some bleach in the drain to kill any algae and make sure the drain isn’t clogged. Two, understand that there are clocks ticking that we don’t hear…can’t hear and when the straw breaks the camel’s back—you’ve got yourself a dead camel.

Life is filled with surprises and with some, all the preparation and all the good intentions in the world, can’t help you avoid them.  But we can do what we can do.  It never occurred to me to ask God why He allowed that ceiling to fall.  I mean, I know He loves me and I’m sure on that day He wasn’t mad at me.  The bottom line is… I didn’t do my part.  My part was to make a trip to the attic every once in a while, and check things out.  His part was to help me not lose my cool during the mess.  And, amazingly, even though I didn’t do my thing…He did His.  He sent friends to help and now in the summer when the air is running, I make an occasional trip to the attic.

You know, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure—or several pounds of wet insulation and plaster. So, thank you Father for helping me grow in patience and shrink a little in frustration.  Thank you for being faithful and for always being there.  I know, “You’ve got this.”  Bro. Dewayne

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

Life on the Bench

For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways and My thoughts than your thoughts.” Isaiah 55:9

It’s hard to be on the bench when the team is on the field. I guess when they were giving out abilities for sports I was in the wrong line.  It just never was my strong suit. My first and only experience with little league ball didn’t happen till I was probably in the fourth grade.  I joined a team and clearly wasn’t going to be a starter.  When I did play it was right field.  Actually, it was about this time I began to learn about prayer.  As soon as I took the field, I would pray that the other team wouldn’t hit a ball in right field.  That didn’t work too well.  My other and more serious prayer meetings occurred at the plate. I didn’t pray to get on base…I prayed to survive.

So even though I felt safest on the bench, it wasn’t where I wanted to be.  I wanted to be a hero, a winner, and from where I sat the bench was for the guys who weren’t good enough.  It was there that I learned to hate the bench and I would spend the rest of my life relearning that sometimes the bench is where God teaches us our greatest lessons. In fact, I am learning that any place God puts you is the place to be.  The bench is not for losers or second-stringers, no, it is for people willing to trust that He knows best.

In 2018, I had a hard lesson to learn.  My wife Judy and I were leading a mission team to Uganda, East Africa.  We arrived in Africa and made it to the guest house.  My first night there, the night before we were to leave for the islands to work, I came down with the flu…the real flu.  The team had to go on without me and Judy stayed back to help care for me.  Boy, I didn’t like that, but later I did begin to understand it.  It turns out that God raised others to lead, and the team went on to do some great work.  While I hated not being there to lead, God had a better plan.  And, I think He just did it again.

This past weekend was our first Back to School Community Outreach since COVID or as it turned out…in the midst of COVID.  This event draws hundreds of people and as pastor, I was a key leader, and my wife was in charge of the event.  Tuesday, I started having some symptoms of what I thought was my annual sinus thing.  It wasn’t…it was COVID.  I was down and out for the count and Judy was quarantined.  Once again, God chose…God chose…to remove the two key leaders.  The reason? Well, I don’t have all the answers to that one, but I do know He had a plan, and He can be trusted.

If the past is any indicator, it was about giving other leaders a chance to lead and letting the church be the church even when certain people are not there.  It was a challenge. It was a test. It was an opportunity to trust the Lord.  Well, normally, I would have been stomping my feet about being on the bench…but not this time.  No, I’m slowly learning that God is better at being God than I am.  I am learning that He is smarter than me, more caring than me and never, ever, makes a mistake.  My only job is to trust Him and learn whatever He wants me to personally learn.

I didn’t chose this dance with Corena…my pet name for the COVID.  I didn’t ask her to dance…she just cut in and changed my immediate plans.  It happened in 2018 with the flu in Africa and most likely it will happen again sometime in the future. In the Old Testament part of the Bible, God says, “For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways and My thoughts than your thoughts.” My response can only be, “Yes, Lord.”

Fortunately my dance with Corena is almost history and hopefully I have learned all I need to learn from this time on the bench.  I’m sure it includes that no matter what—God is good, God is faithful, and God can be trusted.  Oh, and it also includes another dose of, “Don’t worry, son, I’ve got this.” Bro. Dewayne

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

I Just Couldn’t Resist

No discipline is enjoyable while it is happening—it’s painful! But afterward there will be a peaceful harvest of right living for those who are trained in this way.” (Hebrews 12:11)

I just couldn’t resist.  All of us have stories that we don’t necessarily remember but are passed down through the years.  Some are humorous, some are serious, and some are the things legends are made of.  Well, this one I believe qualifies as all three. 

When I was quite young, probably six or seven, life was pretty good.  We lived in a country setting that was rapidly becoming the suburbs of Jacksonville, Florida.  There was a subdivision being built right next to where we lived.  Some of the men who were working there would drive these cool wedge shape sticks in the ground at the corners of each lot.  They had numbers on them.  They were surveyor markers for the lots.  We thought they made great rubber band guns so we would help ourselves.  We had an endless supply of rubber bands because the newspaper came each day with one or two wrapped around it. We weren’t trying to be mischievous; we were just trying to have fun.  I bet it wasn’t fun for the guys who did the surveying.

Sometimes, our fun might become someone else’s pain.  And, this is where the story really begins.  Back in those days, going to the grocery store was the great adventure.  My dad got paid every other Friday.  Payday night we would load up in the car and go to buy groceries.  It seemed we would always buy the stuff to make sandwiches for supper when we got home which invariably included a gallon of chocolate milk.  It never saw the light of the next morning.

Well, one Friday night, we were at the grocery store and apparently, I had a rubber band left over from my adventures that day. I must have reached in my pocket and found the small piece of rubber and thought, “You know, we can have some fun with this.”  Well, I probably should have thought that through a little better, but when you are six or seven and mischievous by nature, anything is game.  I started looking for targets.

Down the aisle was a rather large woman.  And what happens next has been blocked from my memory but is stated as fact.  As we got closer to the woman, perhaps as she studied what brand of mayo to buy, I took the rubber band, placed it between my thumb and pointer finger, moved my hand, in close proximity to the intended target and let it fly.  I can only imagine what happened next.

First, I am certain she was shocked.  It must have felt like a killer bee had bit her but that wasn’t logical since she was in a store.  I’m thinking she probably spun around and looked only to see this smiling kid with a rubber band still in his hand.  To me it was all fun.  To her it was all pain.  Lesson one.  Don’t let your fun become someone else’s pain.

Second, I am certain my parents were devastated.  Since this would have been about 1960 or 61 there were not the social rules about child discipline that we have today.  Knowing my Daddy and Momma, there was probably swift and lethal retribution.  I can imagine one of them, perhaps both of them, making sure my bottom felt like her bottom.  No one would have called Children and Family Services.  They all would have said, “Let me help you with that.”

Third, I believe that this was when I began to really understand repentance.  Repentance means to turn around and go in a different direction.  If I could have gotten loose from Daddy that night, I would have definitely practiced repentance…I probably would still be running.  The other meaning of repentance is to have a change in attitude.  I am certain that happened.  If you were to ask me how many other times I decided to pop a strange lady with a rubber band in the grocery store that number would be zero.  Somehow the urge suddenly left me.  I had repented.

This is going to sound hokey, but it is memories like this that show how much my parents loved me.  They loved me enough to teach me right from wrong, respect for other people, a strong work ethic and to believe in God.  And they loved me enough to give me a swat or two when I needed it.  It all came together to help me grow, and live and love.

God is the same way.  My Daddy and Momma loved me very much, but God outshines even them.  He loves me and teaches me to do life with fewer oops and fewer consequences. I never carry rubber bands in my pocket just to avoid the temptation.  But He also loves me enough to discipline me when I need it. The author of Hebrews says it best.  He writes, “No discipline is enjoyable while it is happening—it’s painful! But afterward there will be a peaceful harvest of right living for those who are trained in this way.” Spot on.  He must have popped some lady too.

So, try and show some grace.  I shouldn’t have popped the lady and I haven’t popped any more.  Don’t judge my parents for taking care of the problem.  I am grateful for the way they raised me.  And don’t be mad at God if He disciplines you.  He is way too wise to make a mistake and way too loving to do the wrong thing.  He is our “Abba Father,” our Dearest Daddy so we can trust Him.  We can rest in Him.  Because…He’s got this. Bro. Dewayne

Posted in Family, fear, forgiveness, Grace, gratitude, life, Military memories, Scripture, Trials

Foot in Mouth Disease

Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.” Ephesians 4:29

I just shouldn’t have said it.  We all have said things that we wish we hadn’t.  I learned a lesson about that the hard way.  I had two bumps in Air Force basic training. One involved singing…you can check that one out on my blog www.gritswithgrace.com (https://gritswithgrace.com/2020/06/01/i-said-sing/). The other one also involved my mouth…I wonder if there is trend there?

In basic training guys were assigned to a flight (group) and each flight had a dorm chief.  He was someone, a peer of sorts, the flight chief selected from within or outside the flight.  Ours was selected from outside.  He had a weight issue so was put in a special group that helped men get down to a weight level that was acceptable.  That of course meant they had to stay longer in basic.  Well, our guy, whose name was Guy, was one of those guys.  Because of his longer tenure in basic he was named our dorm chief.

Now it could have been a little jealousy on my side, or it could have been that I was a little judgmental or maybe I had a momentary case of the “stupids”, but I said something to one of the guys about this guy.  The words are lost to time, but it was probably something like, “Who does this guy think he is? He’s not a leader…he is a loser.”  Well, anyway, something like that. I said it and forgot it assuming it just died away.  It did not.

So, apparently either that guy told another guy who told another guy who told the guy named Guy.  The guy named Guy told the guy named Sergeant Catchings who was the same guy that caught me singing.  Well, things were about to go south.  There was a lesson that needed to be taught and I was the object of that lesson.

Sergeant Catchings gathered the flight outside his office and leaving the door open sat down at his desk.  We all were like, “What’s this about?”  I quickly found out it was about me.  Soon a booming, “you’re in deep weeds son” voice said, “Airman Taylor, get in here.” I got up and went in the office and he instructed me to close the door.  I stood smartly at attention in front of the desk. Sergeant Catchings harshly invited me to take a seat.  There was no chair.

He had me place my hands flat on his desk and then squat by bending my knees till my arms were parallel with the top of his desk. Three things immediately came to my mind.  One, what in the world have I done? Two, this is very uncomfortable.  Three, I’m going to die.  Well in about one minute I found out that Dorm Chief Guy had told him I was mouthing off.  I had broken a cardinal rule…don’t mouth off about those in leadership above you.

Sergeant Catchings, jumped to his feet and began to lecture me about respect for leadership and how I should never, ever disrespect those put in authority over me.  Now don’t forget.  One, I still “sitting” in the invisible chair with my hands on his desk.  Two, the entire flight is outside the door.  And by now he is screaming at the top of his voice.  For added effect, he would occasionally walk over to the door and kick it or slap it making it sound like I was dying.  I was.

Finally, after about ten or so minutes he opens the door and says two words, “Get out.” Imagine 27 guys looking in the office and seeing me squatting with my hands on the desk.  I can’t move.  I am locked in place.  My muscles leg and arm muscles were frozen.  He said it again, LOUDER, “I said get out.”  So, I fell over and managed to crawl, yes, I said crawl, out of his office. I was in agony and the rest of guys were in shock and we all learned a lesson about gossip and respect for authority.

The lesson that day was very valuable. I wish I could tell you that I learned it so well I never had the “stupids” again but that wouldn’t be true.  But I can tell you this.  There is a reason the Bible talks so much about the tongue and the mouth. It isn’t a matter of finding a verse…it is a matter of choosing a verse.  We can start with a little nugget found in Proverbs 21:23, “Watch your tongue and keep your mouth shut,

and you will stay out of trouble.” I wish I had remembered that one before I uttered the words that prompted my visit to Sergeant Catchings office.

But the one that probably says it best is this, “Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.” Imagine how less complicated our lives, our families, our marriages would be if we mastered that one.  Imagine how our work lives and even our worship lives would change.  A pastor once said that if we knew we would have to personally apologize to every person we slandered or gossiped about, we probably would hit “pause” a lot more often.

Oh well, I’m sure glad we have a graceful God.  I have learned over the years to deeply value His patience with me and His mercy for me.  There have been too times I’ve had to go to my dearest Daddy and have a chat about “foot in mouth” disease.  I’m glad He graciously invited me to come sit close beside Him. He has always heard my confession and honored my repentance.  I find rest right there…next to Him. Because He’s got this.  Bro. Dewayne

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

Anger Management 101

Be angry and do not sin. Don’t let the sun go down on your anger, and don’t give the devil an opportunity.” Ephesians 4:26

I think I have figured it out.  From the time I could remember my mom always told me, “Dewayne, I think you are going to be six feet tall when you grow up.”  I believe she based that on the fact that I kinda looked like my brother Joe and he was somewhere near that.  Anyway, I grew up with the expectation that I would, well, grow up.  Somewhere, something got lost in the translation.

The bottom line is for all of my life I have been slightly height challenged.  Now, it wasn’t as bad as it could have been, but it was apparent early on that mom had misjudged the gene pool.  Unless a miracle was on the horizon the height expectations needed to be lowered…a lot.  By the time I was in the eighth grade I was still about 5”6”.  I had managed to lose some of my roundness but I just came up short (pun intended) on the height deal. Too bad I wasn’t born a couple of thousand years ago. Back then, I would almost be tall.

When I was in the ninth grade, I was at the top of the pecking order grade wise. In Florida high school didn’t start till tenth grade so we ninth graders were the kings of the junior high campus…even if you were a tad short.  One day in class the teacher stepped out of the room.  A guy I knew, and he might have even been a friend, grabbed my pencil and said he was going to break it.  “Don’t do it, man” I said in my deepest, tallest voice.  He kept threatening to break it and I kept threatening to break him.  He broke it and I exploded.

Now before we go on you need to know I was a pretty compliant kid.  I am a conflict avoidance adult, and I was a conflict avoidance kid.  Something just snapped.  I flipped the table over on him, put him in a head hold and proceeded to teach him not to break my pencil.  Can someone said, “Stupid?”  Well, the teacher walks in, someone breaks up the fight and we get a free trip to the principal’s office.  Judgement was swift and right to the seat of the problem.  Two swats a day for five days administered by the athletic director.  He was not five-six.

So, for the next five days I was to report first thing in the morning to his office, bend over and grab my ankles and two hard swats.  Pow—pow.  Swift, powerful, and man did they hurt.  And they worked. I always left with a strong desire to join the Peace Corps. I never got into another fight.  Break my pencil?  Sure, go right ahead. I have a spare. I always wondered what sparked that outburst.  I think I know.  It was short man syndrome or SMS.

I found out that SMS is “an angry male of below average height who feels it necessary to act out in an attempt to gain respect and recognition from others and compensate for his short stature.” I’m pretty sure that is what happened that day.  I was wanting some respect and was willing to act stupid to get it. Did I mention two swats a day for five days?  So, that week, about day three and swat number six I got over my syndrome and a chunk of my anger.  I was just fine at 5’6”.  Fortunately, the Lord gave me a couple of more inches and I ended up at a respectable 5’8”.  However, I think I am back down to five-seven now.  You know, the Lord gives, and the Lord takes away.  Smile.

I really did learn a valuable lesson that day.  You should never, and I mean never, let your anger get the best of you.  Anger is not a sin when it is controlled and directed in the right direction.  Jesus got angry at the people who were abusing His Father’s house. The problem isn’t anger—the problem is control—or lack of it. Paul wrote about this when he said, “Be angry and do not sin. Don’t let the sun go down on your anger, and don’t give the devil an opportunity.” Keep your temper tame and don’t let it simmer over night.  It’s great for a pork butt but terrible for anger.  And every time we don’t, we give Satan the opportunity to win. And, when he wins…we lose.  Every time.

So, I’ve learned to be happy where I am. I think 5’8” or 5’7” is just about right. I’m still taller than Judy and she thinks I’m tall, or at least tallish, dark, and handsome.  Also, I’m learning not to lose it because I always lose when I do. And, I am learning to trust in Him.  If someone breaks my pencil, I’m learning to let God handle it.  It’s much better than visiting the coach every morning for five days.  There’s something else. I found out that when I’m not facing the coach in the morning, I rest better…especially in Him.  I fall to sleep knowing, “He’s got this.”  And He does.     Bro. Dewayne

Posted in Family, Father's Day, Grace, gratitude, Holidays, life, love, loving others, Military memories, priorities, Scripture, Southern born, thankful, wisdom

Thanks, Daddy…and Momma

Children, obey your parents because you belong to the Lord, for this is the right thing to do. “Honor your father and mother.” This is the first commandment with a promise.” Ephesians 6:1-2

Yesterday was Father’s Day and it caused me to remember.  These days, I think it happens somewhere around a person’s 11th birthday. But back when I was a boy about to become a young man, it happened when I was 13 or 14.  When you are younger it seems you notice more of the things that Daddy and Momma’s do.  You appreciate the fact that that they do the ordinary things…the everyday things.

Things like washing clothes and cooking supper.  Things like ironing your shirts and cleaning the house.  Things like taking you fishing after a long day at work and teaching you the value of work.  Things like providing a place for you to sleep at night and knowing you were safe.  And, yes, things like showing you what two married people are supposed to look like…live like.

However, right before you take the leap into your teen years, something happens.  Suddenly enough is not enough.  Suddenly you know more—especially more than your parents.  Then you spend more than a few years not being appreciative, but rather telling them and anyone who would listen how hard things are “where I live.”  The fact that it was the sixties and seventies didn’t help.  It seemed that everyone around me was doing their own thing but all I could do was my Daddy’s thing.  Whatever he said, went, and that’s just the way it was. And yes, what Momma said went too.

When I was eighteen and stepped onto a plane to fly to basic training in the Air Force something began to click.  The things that Daddy taught me began to make sense.  All those “yes, sirs” and “yes, ma’am’s” that the Air Force required came easy for me because that’s the way I was raised.  When the call came to “get up, get up,” well that came easy too because I had a Daddy and a Momma who thought I didn’t need to lay in bed all day.  And going to work…second nature.  My Daddy demonstrated that year after year and by example taught me a strong work ethic.

Largely because of the times they said, “Because I said so” and set boundaries and enforced them, well, I’ve never woke up with a hangover, never spent a night (or an hour) in jail, and have never been fired from a job. As I look back from my six and a half decades view point (uh, plus two for good measure), I realize that my two incredible parents were right after all.  And I may, no I didn’t, appreciate it at the time but they saved me from a lot of regrets and consequences.

It is safe to say that time changes our viewpoint and as I sit here today mashing keys and writing, I realize just how blessed I have been.  My Daddy was quite the ordinary guy, but that is exactly what made him extraordinary.  He wasn’t perfect and gratefully he didn’t expect me to be either, but he did teach me respect for him and for others.  For 45 years I have respected the woman I am married to because he taught me to respect my Momma.  He (with a lot of help from God) helped me be the man I am today and for that I will be eternally grateful.

God chose to take my Daddy to heaven when I was only twenty years old…before he could meet my wife, my kids, and their kids.  I remember the summer Sunday morning we found him in bed. Sometime in the early, early morning he had slipped away from us and made the trek to heaven.  I’m glad I will see him again someday.  I’m not sure how all of this works but maybe, just maybe I will get to introduce him to my sweet wife and family.  What a day that will be for sure.

So, thanks Daddy, and Momma, for all you did for me…for the love and the sacrifices you made for me and the rest of the tribe.  And, Grits family, remember to honor your father and mother, just like God says in His word.  It’s the first command with a promise and I promise you won’t regret it.  And, if you find that hard because of some very difficult memories and scars left from actions best not done, or words best not spoken, try and reach into God’s grace bucket and sling some around.  If you are a Jesus follower, your Dearest Daddy in heaven would like that and He’s even willing to help. As always, He’s got that…and this. Bro. Dewayne

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

The “Switchings”

No discipline seems enjoyable at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.”  Hebrews 12:11

I guess I just got bored.  When I was growing up in North Florida it was just easy to get bored.  It was a different time.  There was no internet, no satellite or cable television, and no electronic games.  Then, you have to add to that there just weren’t a lot of toys to play with.  While Daddy and Mama loaded us up at Christmas, by summer a lot of them had suffered from rough play. So, you had to get a little creative!  And that’s when I got into trouble.

One of my favorite things was to make rubber band guns.  It was really quite easy.  They were building houses across the street from where we lived (slowly our place in the country was becoming suburban). Like at any construction site there were lots of wedge shaped sticks sticking out of the ground.  I later learned they were surveyor sticks.  Oops. Anyway, they had lots and I needed one, every once in a while, so I would, uh, borrow one…or two.  Well, Mama took the local newspaper so we got a paper every day and it came wrapped with a rubber band.  You simply collect a few rubber bands (they were discarded in the yard), drive a nail in your stick and tada…you had a rubber band gun.  See…creative.

Well, that was bound to get old, so I came up with another idea.  In North Florida, the soil (at least where we lived) was very sandy.  I discovered that if you take a water hose and start forcing it against the sandy soil it will act like a drill.  As the water forced the sand away, the hose would slowly sink into the sand.  Well, it was fun. Before I knew it, the hose was a foot in the ground, then it was two, and then it was three and it was just about then I wondered how I would get it out.  So, I gave it a tug.  It didn’t budge.  I gave it a pull—nope, it didn’t give an inch.  I was in trouble.

What happened next is lost to time and history, but one of two things happened.  Number one.  I left the hose stuck in the ground.  Daddy came home and wanted to water his rose bushes.  He found the hose stuck in the ground, asked me and I told the truth, and I was sent to the bamboo bushes to get my own instrument of correction.  Think a thin bamboo switch.  It was effective…every time.  Number two.  I realized that the hose was stuck in the ground and I realized that Daddy would be coming home soon, and he would water his rose bushes.  So, I went in the house and got a knife and cut off the hose.  The end result was the same. He asked, I told, bamboo switch. By the way…another sign that times have changed.  I looked up switch and was told it turned electricity off and on and was an electronic game that kids play.  Mine was neither.

You know, I really didn’t intend to mess up the construction site across from my house and I really didn’t mean to get my Daddy’s hose stuck in the sand.  The truth was I was just naive.  But there is another truth.  My being naive didn’t change the fact that I shouldn’t have done what I did and in the case of my Daddy’s hose—it didn’t change the consequences.  You might be asking, “Did your Daddy really give you a “switching?”  And the answer is yes.  You might ask, “Do you think you deserved the “switching?”  The answer is yes.  Finally, you might ask, “Did you learn anything from the “switching?” And the answer is yes.

You see, I never, ever again, turned on the water and let the water hose get stuck in the ground.  I don’t believe I was ever even tempted to let the water hose get stuck in the ground. You see, the “switching” was not an act of anger or meanness, it was an act of love.  Daddy was teaching me about right and wrong and I am grateful for that.  Daddy had several ways to discipline and they were generally fair and not too harsh.  And I believe they worked because I’ve never been arrested or spent a night in jail—yet. I wrote recently about being a compliant person…and I am, but part of that might be because my Daddy (and Mama) cared enough to help me learn.

I never really bought into the thought that the “switching” hurt my Daddy more than me because I know it hurt pretty bad.  But I do know he didn’t enjoy it.  My Heavenly Father doesn’t enjoy it either and He loves me even more than my earthly Daddy. God’s Book, the Bible, says that no discipline seems enjoyable at the time, but painful. Well, that is the truth. But is also says that later on it yields a kind of fruit—the kind that teaches us right from wrong.  And that is profitable.

So, the lessons for today?  Don’t pull up surveyor sticks and don’t stick your Daddy’s hose in the dirt and above all…remember that your Father up in heaven loves you. In fact, He loves you enough to allow hard things in your life to help you learn right from wrong…to make better decisions with fewer consequences and regrets.  And don’t worry…He is loving and patient.  He never over reacts but rather responds in just the right way.  And as always, He’s got even this.

Bro. Dewayne

Posted in Family, fear, forgiveness, Grace, gratitude, life, priorities, Scripture, thankful, Trials

I’m All Shook Up

The prudent see danger and take refuge, but the simple keep going and suffer for it.” Proverbs 27:12

I grabbed it and couldn’t let go.  I’ve said it before but growing up, times were pretty hard.  My Daddy worked very hard to provide a good home for us and we always had plenty of good food.  Sure, sometimes there was more “loaf than meat” but hey it was still good.  One of my favorite food memories from when I was nine or ten was a fried potato sandwich.  When there wasn’t any meat for sandwiches, Mama would slice some potatoes and fry them up.  We would slap those things between two pieces of bread with some mayo and instant heaven.  I mean who doesn’t like home fries anyway?

We lived in an old World War II barracks that had been converted into a two bedroom house with a breezeway that led to a closed in garage that served as a third bedroom.  We also had two acres of land which was great for playing but not so great for mowing.  We didn’t have a riding mower until I was in my teens so the two acres had to be mowed by hand. To get it done we had an old push mower.  Just trust me that was a lot to mow with a push mower.  Anyway, this mower had two unique qualities.  First, it didn’t have a throttle.  It had one speed—wide open.  It was one of those deals where you wrapped a rope around the top and gave it a yank.  If you said your prayers and held your tongue just right—it would crank.  And like I said, when it started…it started.

The other quirk with our lawnmower was that it didn’t have a kill switch either.  There were two ways to turn it off.  First, you could take a screwdriver and ground the spark plug to a metal part on the mower.  The second was a lot more risky.  You could attempt to pull the spark plug wire off the spark plug.  Now, keep in mind I was pretty young and didn’t understand all the dynamics of a spark plug, the coil and touching the wrong thing at the wrong time.  I was a setup for a shocking experience.

So one day…you can see it coming can’t you? Well, one day, I was done mowing and the lawnmower was running wide open.  I had to kill the beast—slay the dragon if you will.  I was a good piece from the shed and didn’t have a screw driver so that left only option 2—pulling off the spark plug wire.  Running wide open, shaking like a hula dance (that would be me and not the lawnmower) I reached down and grabbed a hold.  I still don’t know if I grabbed the wrong part or if the current came though the brittle insulation on the wire but it got me.

I’m not sure if I can describe the sensation that I experienced. I can vividly remember two things.  My  whole arm shaking and the fact that I couldn’t get loose.  I’m sure I’ve never experienced anything quite like it.  Like the Ray Stevens song about the Mississippi Squirrel, I was sure “something had a hold of me.”  I don’t know how I got loose.  It may have been mercy from above or pure desperation but I did get loose. The lawnmower was still running and my arm was still shaking.  If you ever see this strange twitch in my left arm—well, it still hasn’t got over the sensation.

I’m supposing I got a LONG screwdriver and killed the engine and I am also sure I never, and I mean never, went out again without it again.  You only need to grab the wrong thing one time and you will never do it again.  I know that is true with quirky old lawnmowers but I also know it is true with bad decisions.  I suppose everyone of us has a bad decision somewhere in our past—and I am not talking about spicy pizza as a midnight snack.

There are certain things, and a lot of times they are lawbreakers, that you shouldn’t do once much less twice.  If we would just hit the pause button and think about it we could eliminate a lot of our regrets and consequences.  Do I really want to do that? Do I really want to keep that date? Is that a call I really want to make? Is that a relationship I really want to maintain?  Think about it.  I have never done this before but I just need to use that verse we wrote about recently.  It is from Proverbs (which is like wise sayings) and it tells us the prudent (or wise) person will see danger and take refuge.  The simple (inexperienced) person will see the danger and keep right on going.

Let me tell you.  I grabbed that wire once and once was enough.  The only thing that would have been better was if I would have walked to the shed and got the screwdriver. It wasn’t that far.  But, I thought I would be the exception.  I thought I could pull it off…no pun intended…and I was wrong. I.Was.Wrong.  I don’t know if there is anything in your life right now that is a bad idea or maybe you’re making plans.  Take some advice from a former “wire grabber.”  Don’t.  Just do the right thing and you won’t regret it.  Oh, and if you don’t, there is a God who loves and cares for you.  And if you ask, He will help.  He’s got this. 

Posted in gratitude, life, loving others, missions, sovereignty of God, thankful, travel

Don’t Drink the Water

For His anger lasts only a moment, but His favor lasts a lifetime! Weeping may last through the night, but joy comes with the morning.” Psalm 30:5

It was my first real mission trip.  In 2003, I was given the opportunity to go on a mission trip to Bulgaria.  In case you don’t know what a mission trip is, it is when you go to a different part of the world and do Jesus stuff.  It might be medical, it might be teaching, it might be giving food away or most anything else that Jesus might do. Bulgaria is up by the Black Sea and snack dab in the middle of the old Soviet block.  It was a different world.  Imagine stepping back in time to the late fifties or early sixties and that’s where we landed.

When we arrived, it was instant culture shock.  The food was different, the language was different, the people were different…everything was different. And there was one big rule—don’t ever drink the water. I was a little nervous and a whole lot excited.  Get ready, boys, this is the great adventure.  We were given an assignment and my new friend Mike, and I were sent to work a couple of hours from the rest of the group. We were up by the Blue Danube River and not far from the North Sea. We would be working with the Roma people.  These folks, also known as Gypsies, were the outcasts of their society…the poorest of the poor and broken.

When we arrived, we were shown a nice apartment where we would stay.  It was very recently remodeled and look almost American. We began working right away and starting going to remote villages.  Through an interpreter we would talk to folks, I would sing and then one, or both of us, would teach about Jesus.  The people were so kind.  I remember I was introduced to Turkish coffee for the first time in my life. As you might know with Turkish coffee, they simply dump the grounds in the pot and boil them.  They poured me a cup and I took a slug.  First response—I almost choked on the grounds.  Second response—I didn’t know what to do with the grounds, so I chewed them.  Yup…the best part of waking up is with coffee grounds in your cup.

 Later in the week, and near the end of our time with the people, we were given the opportunity to do some preaching down on the city square.  It was pretty awesome.  I sang a song and then preached…and let me tell you I preached.  They might not have understood everything I said, but they knew I was excited about it.  After I finished it was hot and I was thirsty.  A nice street vendor offered me some red Kool Aid. I was so grateful.  He filled up a glass and I drank the whole cup in one swig.  Man, it was so good, so fruity, and so made with the water… I was not supposed to drink.  I never gave it a second thought…until later that night.

After we got back to the apartment, we had supper and went to bed.  About 11:00 pm we heard this awful noise and it came from the bathroom.  Well, it turns out, a majority of the new plaster ceiling in the bathroom had fallen—filling the sink, the toilet and the floor with plaster pieces.  We quickly decided we could clean it up in the morning.  There is a great verse in the Bible that says, “Weeping may last through the night, but joy comes in the morning.” Well, that verse took on new meaning for me that night.

About 2:00 am I was suddenly awakened by what can only described as the worse cramping and nausea I have ever felt.  Remember the red Kool Aid? Well, it was revenge time.  I quickly went to the bathroom only to rediscover the sink and toilet totally filled with fallen plaster.  It wasn’t a pretty picture.  I can only remember trying to clean out the sink and the toilet before the impending disaster hit.  I barely made it.  Long story short, I was a regular attender to the bathroom all night and into the next day.  Sure enough, there was weeping thought the night and joy was scarce.  The only “joy” in the morning was when the guys went to the local pharmacy and bought me a Depends.  HaHa. Thanks guys.

Well, I was sick for the next day or so, but before we got on the plane for home, I was better. Someone let my wife Judy know that I was really sick and that she should look for the insurance policy. Ok, it wasn’t that bad, but I thought it was.  I did learn a couple of really good lessons.  One…when you do something that God wants you to do…it doesn’t mean that everything is going to be rosy.  In fact, you may end up with a bouquet of weeds.  But, I wouldn’t trade the experience for anything.  Second…when the rule book says “don’t drink the water, DON’T drink the water.  Write it on your hand, write it in your Bible, put duct tape over your mouth, but DON’T drink the water.  And by the way, when God says don’t do something, there is also a reason why.  He’s not being mean…He is being loving.

Well, we made it home and that trip led to many more…not to Bulgaria but rather to Africa. And guess what?  We definitely couldn’t drink the water there either!  Guess what again?  I didn’t drink the water, because I remembered a lesson that I had learned a couple of years earlier. It just one way that God can take the worst things and teach us something good.  Yay God.  So, as we journey through these “Bulgarian” days and should we forget and “drink the water,” you will find a loving Heavenly Father who will walk you through the hardest times. He won’t walk out on you, ever. You will find that you can always rest in Him because He’s got this.