Posted in Easter, Family, forgiveness, Grace, gratitude, Holidays, life, love, prayer, Scripture, Southern born, thankful, wisdom

The Easter Suit

But God demonstrated His love for us in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” Romans 5:8

It’s just another one of those special memories.  It was spring in Jacksonville, Florida—number fifteen or so in my life journey.  Back in those days, Easter was a big deal, and so was what you wore.  We were raised in the tradition that Easter meant a new outfit…it is just what we did.  But just like Christmas beliefs and traditions sometimes change…so did this Easter tradition.  As we got older…the new outfits got fewer and fewer—but then—for some reason, it happened.  One year, when I was in my mid-teens, Momma and Daddy loaded me up in the car, drove across town to a men’s store for the sole purpose of buying me an Easter suit.

I’m not sure what prompted this or a hundred other sacrifices they made for us, but it happened.  The name of the store is lost to time, but it may have been Tatum’s—a store known for quality men’s clothing at a good price.  So, we arrived and went in and soon I was trying on suits.  They say some things never change and that is true.  Today when I shop for just about anything it isn’t the label that matters or even the style—price takes the day.  It is a matter of practicality and budget.  It is true today and it was true even then.  Remember, somethings don’t change.

Soon, with the help of our salesperson, we had settled on a subtle green tweed suit.  It was a very nice suit and it was on sale. I would later realize that might have been because it was a rather heavy wool material and there wasn’t a lot of demand for that in Florida.  Regardless, it was soon mine.  But Momma and Daddy weren’t done yet.  The salesman led us over to the shirt department and together we picked out a creamy yellow shirt that matched the suit perfectly.  But wait…there was more.  Next came a tie.  To this day I can remember this—my first tie—bought just for me.  It was a loosely woven linen striped tie of pastel colors.  Again, a perfect match for the new suit and shirt.

There was some tailoring to the done but by Easter I was set and dressed to the nines.  That morning, I assembled my new outfit and headed off to church.  I was so proud but for a special reason…one you have read in Grits before.  I was proud because of all my parents had done to make sure I had a new Easter suit. Why that year? I don’t know.  Maybe it was because I was stepping into manhood.  All I know is that year, and for several years that followed, the subtle green wool suit, which was too warm for Florida weather, owned a place in my closet. It was special and that was all that mattered. It was a suit of love…a suit of sacrifice.

Looking back their Easter sacrifice became even more special. You see that gift and sacrifice reminded me of the gift and sacrifice that God made for us that first Easter.  He gave His best, His only Son to a Roman cross so we could be forgiven and dressed in His righteousness.  And unlike my suit that was a little too warm for Florida…His gift was perfect…in more ways than one. A perfect sacrifice for an imperfect world filled with imperfect people. And why? Because of love.

Easter, Resurrection Sunday, is in the rearview mirror now but it would serve us well to remember that every time the sun rises, it reminds us of what happened that Sunday morning so long ago. It is no accident that Christians worship on Sunday…by design it is a celebration of the resurrection. I’m not sure how long I held onto that subtle green, too warm, suit but I have never forgotten the love that bought it for me.  And I’m sure I will never forget the love of a God who cared enough to give His very best so that we could call Him “Dearest Daddy.”

Paul, one of the writers of the New Testament wrote a letter to the Christians in Rome.  In it, he gave them an Easter suit of sorts, a reminder of God’s great love.  He wrote, “But God demonstrated His love for us in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.”  Imagine that—broken and unworthy—and yet He loved, and He gave.  As we journey this week, don’t leave the message of Easter behind.  He loves us, He cares for us, and He’s got this.  Bro. Dewayne

Posted in fear, forgiveness, gratitude, life, prayer, Scripture, thankful, travel, Trials

Big Foot, Lions, Tigers and Bears

 “You will have suffering in this world. Be courageous! I have conquered the world.” John 16:33b

If you remember from yesterday, Judy and I had climbed to the top of a bluff in Southern Illinois.  It was smack dab in the middle of the COVID hot mess and we needed a break, so we took a hike.  As we stood there, it was just beautiful. Tens of thousands of acres were bursting into spring and God was shouting, “Hey just like winter’s dreary brownness must give way to the new life of spring–this will pass.”  It was a good moment.  Before long, with night just over an hour away, it was time to go down from the bluff and head home.  Folks say there is no place like home–that is if you can find it.

Well, the magical phone app Judy was using is called, “All Trails.”  It really is quite cool. You start the app at the selected trailhead and using GPS it guides you through the woods.  The trail is shown right there on the screen–even ones that aren’t even there. And that, dear friends, is where the fun began.

So, according to our trusty app, Stoneface trail made a loop back to the car.  Now a loop is better because you don’t have to see the same scenery twice.  It’s all new.  We decided to take the loop.  At first the trail was pretty evident.  We came to a low split rail fence across the trail.  We thought it meant no horses on Stoneface.  What it really meant was if you go past this point you are going to die.  We went past that point.

We walked and hiked for a while and strangely that grumpy feeling started coming back again.  It may have had to do with the fact that I started to realize that the app was lying to us.  “Trail? What trail? I don’t know anything about a trail.” So, we reached the point where we had to go down the bluff.  Remember, there is no trail, there is no sign of a trail…only a friendly app that kept saying, “you’re on the trail.”

Now there are not words to describe this journey but I’m going to try.  We were walking, sliding, down a 90% embankment (ok maybe it was like 20%) and rocks covered with leaves are rolling like ball-bearings under our feet. We cross rivers (ok- creeks), change time zones, and go through small Grand Canyons.  I’m growing concerned.  “Hey Judy, we have less than an hour of daylight.” “No problem” she said.  “The app says we are on the trail,” she said.  I won’t tell you what I said.

On we went with our app spewing out lies about trails.  Then it happened.  I saw some movement out of the corner of my eye and there just forty yards away was Bigfoot–or the Abominable Snowman–I couldn’t tell for sure.  We were in deep weeds.  Then, I heard a duet being played by a banjo and guitar.  Yup–we were going to die.  On we marched–lions, tigers and bears frolicked all around us.  “Hey Judy,” I said.  “The app says…,” she said.

So, the app lied.  Period.  But there is one thing it didn’t lie about.  After about an hour or so, she said, “I see the car.”  I said, literally, “Thank you Lord.” Another ten minutes or so and I was hugging that glorious thing–no, not Judy, the car.  So, what is the moral of this strange and twisted trail–I mean, tale.  Trust.

While the app didn’t tell the truth about the trail, it did tell the truth about the one thing that mattered–the destination.  It led us to the car.  And, you know, I think the app kinda reminded me of God. First and emphatically, unlike the app, God never lies…we just stop believing and trusting Him.  We think He promises paved roads and smooth journeys and then we get mad when He doesn’t deliver.  Read this carefully–God never promised that.  In fact, Jesus said in John 16:33b “You will have suffering in this world. Be courageous! I have conquered the world.”

He told us the path would be rough.  He told us the trail would be difficult.  He didn’t promise storm free living, rather He promised He would never leave us–never abandon us, and He doesn’t.  Most importantly, He said we are going home, and we are.  If we confess our sins, trust in what Jesus did on the cross, turn from our sins and choose to follow Him–we are going home.  That is the gospel truth–literally.

So, there you go.  If you go to Stoneface…don’t take the loop.  If are feeling overwhelmed–trust Jesus.  If you are feeling like God didn’t keep His end of the deal…remember the truth…it’s not smooth sailing but He is leading us home.  No matter how big the waves of the storm, He is bigger.  So, rest in Him.  He’s got this.

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

Big Truths from a Hard Story

What is the price of two sparrows—one copper coin? But not a single sparrow can fall to the ground without your Father knowing it. And the very hairs on your head are all numbered. So don’t be afraid; you are more valuable to God than a whole flock of sparrows.”  Matthew 10:29-31

Well, not all stories end well…and this one didn’t.  Friday morning Judy left for Oklahoma to visit with Sarah, Blake and the boys.  Saturday morning I got up early as usual, had some time with God and then went for my morning exercise.  When I came back, by our backdoor, was a little baby squirrel.  Now I don’t know a thing about baby squirrels, so I can’t tell you how old he was.  I can tell you that something just didn’t seem right. He had all of his fur but you could tell he was not very strong and oddly, his head seemed just too big for his tiny body.

He was in the grass, but not far from the flower bed which is next to our backdoor.  He seemed to be eating grass but I suspect he was actually getting the water off the dew soaked grass.  He was moving pretty good but again, strangely, I’m not sure where he came from since there was not a squirrel nest to be seen.  I went on into the house and when I came back out he scurried into the flower bed. I put out some bird food for him to eat.  I knew he would like that because all of his big brothers do their best to empty our bird feeders.

Well, he made himself at home.  He was definitely eating some of the bird food and I believe having some of the water.  He soon made himself a place to sleep there in the flower bed.  I was hoping, just hoping that my little friend was a big enough fighter to pull this thing off.  I would check on him each day and give him food and water.  I was doing everything I could for him.  But today, when I came home from work, well he had died.  I wasn’t surprised because I really think something was wrong—something more than food or water could fix—something more than ending up at the wrong place at the wrong time.  So I wasn’t surprised, but I was genuinely sad.  I wanted him to live and I wanted to be his hero—his savior.  Neither happened.

Now I’m not sharing this so we can all have a Debbie downer day…not at all.  I’m learning that so many things have a story and can teach us big truths.  I think this is one of those times.  The first thing that came to mind was that sometimes we can do everything right—everything—and still not get the result that we want.  We can be the best husband, the best wife, the best parent, the best employee or the best owner and sometimes the story just doesn’t end well. It doesn’t mean we failed. It doesn’t mean we were somehow to blame. Sometimes, it is just part of this thing called life.  And while the story doesn’t always end well—we never have to face that difficult ending alone.  Our Dearest Daddy is always there.  The Whisperer is always close by and whispers the assurance of His love and His compassion.  No matter what—Jesus will still be there.

The other big truth from this is that God really does care about the smallest things.  If I told you that God knew today that this little creation died, would you believe me?  If I told you that even the smallest detail of your life never passes Him unnoticed, would you believe it?  If I told you He never grows weary of our worries and fears and unsettled hearts would you have the courage to believe?  Well you can, because Jesus said that not even a sparrow can fall to the earth unnoticed by the Father.  He even went on to say that if that is true, how much more do you think He cares about you? How. Much. More?

I know and you know that these are just puzzling times.  Everything seems so uncertain.  It seems as if we spend our days walking on quicksand—our feet unsteadily walking on shifting ground.  But don’t be shaken.  The God of the universe who cares when a little squirrel dies cares infinitely more about you.  Jesus knows and feels your hurts and pains…and He cares.

So all you tendered hearted readers, please forgive me for sharing a hard story.  I hope, though, that the big truths made it worth the read.  Why not take a moment and sit with the One who loves you so? Why not get close enough to hear His whispers of love and assurance.  I hope you will because when our hearts are heavy and a little frightened—we need to know that He’s got this.  And He does.