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

A Thanksgiving to Remember

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Unclean, But not Unloved

If you love me, obey my commandments.” John 14:15

Well, it is finally over and I am glad.  I recently discovered this COVID thing is a pain in the neck.  I didn’t have it and I guess a metaphorical pain in the neck is not one of the official symptoms. What I did get to discover is what happens when it gets close.  I also discovered that when COVID comes knocking it’s gonna mess with your normal—like it or not.

A little over a couple of weeks ago, one of our church staff members tested positive for the virus.  When that was reported to the health department it messed with my normal—our normal.  First, because our entire staff had been in a room with the positive case, we all were placed on quarantine.  Like it or not, stomp your foot if you want—we were locked up for two weeks.  Fortunately, no one else got it and today the office at church will be back open. Yay.  Second, because there were several other cases spread across the church family, most not related in any way, we had to go to remote worship for a couple of weeks.  This Wednesday and Sunday we should be back on campus.  Yay.

If you haven’t experienced the quarantine thing…count your blessings.  You might ask, “Dewayne, what was it like?”  Well, I guess it depends on your perspective.  I know it was personally frustrating.  I found myself telling whoever would listen that I didn’t have time to be quarantined.  Of course, being the creative guy that I am, I found a few ways to work around it while not being around people but that is my secret.  Smile.

I think I came away with a better understanding of the impact this has on the lives of people—and not just those who test positive.  The isolation and the stigma reminded me of what  lepers must have gone though in the Bible.  They had to live apart from everyone one else and should they encounter someone they had to holler out, “Unclean, unclean.”  Well, I didn’t encounter anyone so I didn’t do much hollering, but I did wonder when I saw someone from a distance, “What if they knew I was on lock up?  Would they would treat me differently?”  And I decided that they would. I also decided it would hurt my heart.

I wonder how many people we encounter in our walk about world who have been beaten up and scarred by the world who feel the same way?  Do our stares and our intentional avoidance cause them to hurt?  I bet it does.  You know, our eyes and body language sometimes speak louder than our words.  I love the fact that Jesus never avoided the broken ones around Him.  If they had leprosy, He would love them and touch them.  If they were outcast by society because they were prostitutes or tax collectors, He would love them and touch them. If they were Romans soldiers who nailed people to crosses—even Him to His—He would love them and touch them if He could.  I like that…a lot.

COVID gets all the attention now and I guess that’s to be expected.  There’s a lot of positive cases going around.  Businesses are hurting, families are stressing, and people are filled with fear.  What should we do? What can we do?  Well, if you are a Jesus follower, the answer is do what He would do.  Touch them and love them. I know you can’t always physically touch them, but you can reach out with the compassion and love of Jesus. It is amazing how a kind word or gesture can bring comfort, assurance and acceptance.

Like I said, the quarantine for our staff is over and it has been a learning experience.  What is not over is the virus.  What is not over is the brokenness in our world—however big or small that world may be.  What is not over is the need for Jesus people to be like Jesus. He said that if we really love Him, we should keep His commands.  And there are two that are at the top of His list—love God and love people.  One of the best ways to show our love for God is to show His love for those He created.  All of them.  Social status, skin color, or whatever label we tend to put on them just doesn’t matter.  So, when you bump into someone today, either from a distance or up close, be sure and love them like Jesus and leave the details to God.  You can rest in this one essential, nonnegotiable fact:  He’s got this.