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

Facing Down Mortality

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Night and Day

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

Two are better than one because they have a good reward for their efforts. For if either falls, his companion can lift him up; but pity the one who falls without another to lift him up.” Ecclesiastes 4:9-10

One man’s way of packing is another woman’s dump, stuff and close.  Judy and I have been married for 46 years.  In case you are wondering that is 552 months (give or take a few days) and 16,831 sunrises and sunsets.  It has been an incredible journey that has been marked by a few bumps and a whole lot of good times.  You might ask, “So what’s the secret?”  Well, I am sure there are several.  We both are Jesus followers though she is a lot better at it than I am.  We are both committed to our marriage—she would kill me if I even thought of leaving.  And, honesty, she is a really, classy lady. With that being said, I can tell you one reason that didn’t make the list.  We are alike.

Nope, ain’t gonna happen, you gotta be kidding me.”  In fact, we are pretty “unalike” in several ways.  She is definitely more optimistic.  In fact, she is so optimistic that for her it’s not a matter of the glass being half-full or empty—she doesn’t even need a glass.  Me, well, not so much.  I need to analyze and rationalize.  Judy thrives around people.  Put her a room of strangers and she is a like a pinball game going from person to person—sharing, chatting, and laughing.  Me, well, I head to the nearest wall and lean.  If I can find one person to talk with—I’m good.

On the other side of the coin, I am organized.  Go to my office, either at home or work, and you will find a neat and tidy desk.  A place for everything and everything it is place.  Go into Judy’s office and you might have a difficult time finding the desk.  I am generally a focused person.  If there is a task to do, I sit down and get it done.  If the house is on fire, that will have to wait until I am done.  Judy would probably not notice the house was on fire and if she did notice, she would immediately begin visiting with the firemen.

Now you probably need to know that Judy suggested this story.  We are leaving for vacation soon. Can someone say “YAY”? That foray will cause us to have to pack our luggage.  Now given what you know, here’s how it will go.  I will take my suitcase, lay everything out on the bed, carefully fold and sort each item, and then assign them a specific place in the luggage.  I will overpack because you never know what you might need.  When I get done the suitcase will look like a clothing file cabinet—neatly packed.

Judy, on the other hand, has a different technique.  She, too, will place her luggage either on the bed or floor. She too will probably overpack because you never know what you will need, however, that’s where the similarity ends.  She will then proceed to dump her clothes, shoes, etc., in the bag, on the bag, and anywhere near the bag.  Then she will begin to heap and pile the clothes in the hopes that the thing will close when she is done.  It’s a fifty-fifty chance.  She may call in reinforcements (me) if needed but that is always a last resort.

Like I said, in many ways we are not alike.  But, with that said, that is not a weakness, it is a strength. Where I am weak, she is strong and vice versa.  We have learned (and are still learning) that the power of a team lies in loving, sharing, working together and yes, forgiving.  Oh, and I also have learned the power of two incredibly powerful words, “Yes, dear.”  No, that would be “I’m sorry.” In Ecclesiastes 4:9-10 it says, “Two are better than one because they have a good reward for their efforts. For if either falls, his companion can lift him up; but pity the one who falls without another to lift him up.” You can take that to the bank.

There’s one more thing that is quite interesting. In our 16,831 days of marriage, we have shared 14,615 of those as a team working together in vocational ministry.  I am certain that without Judy, and all the ways we are different, we would not have seen all the amazing things God has done.  It is a story of love, grace, loyalty, and friendship.  Now before you gag yourself and throw up, know that we definitely don’t always get it right.  But there is one thing you can take it to the bank.  The Bible says that we are fearful and wonderfully [and let me add differently] made.  Someone once said if you and your spouse are alike then one of you isn’t necessary.  Hmmm.

So, there you go.  I hope today’s big truth, that it is more than ok to be different, will strengthen your resolve and commitment in your marriage. But I think it works at work, at church, and even with your neighbors.  And when the frustration begins to build, like the next time he or she doesn’t pack the way you do, remember this—hang tight because both of you will get to the same place in the end.  And if it gets really hard—just go and sit with your Dearest Father and rest.  He’ll whisper some things like “let it go—it doesn’t matter how they pack it just matters that you keep traveling together.” And you will say, “Oh yeah…that’s right.”  And He will remind you once again that, it’s ok because…He’s got this. Bro. Dewayne

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

Daddy’s Heart Attack

We know that all things work together for the good of those who love God, who are called according to His purpose.” Romans 8:28

Thanks, Dad…for the heart attack. It was back in 1976, June 26th to be specific, that I married Judy Allen.  She was a Georgia peach that was quite the catch.  I met her when I walked into a strange, new church on a Wednesday night. I entered the side door and boom—there she was.  Standing in a circle of ordinary young ladies, this young lady was anything but.  Then, there was a phone call, a date and well, here we are forty-six years…she is still quite the catch, we are still in love, and we are still grateful for a God who has a plan.

I was talking with Judy the other day and said, “What if we had never met?” I honestly cannot fathom my life without her…but what if?  It was really a strange set of circumstances that got us together.  I was in the Air Force and my Daddy had a pretty major heart attack while I was home on leave.  It sure changed our Christmas plans, but it also changed my life.  My Momma, and don’t ask me how since this was way before the internet and smart phones, found out through the Red Cross that the Air Force would sometimes grant a “humanitarian reassignment” to airmen to the base nearest their home.  The conditions were strict, and the odds were long, but we (Momma and I) decided we should give it a shot.

It required all kinds of statements from the doctors and a bunch of other stuff that I don’t even remember.  At the time I was stationed at Minot AFB in North Dakota and trust me that is a long way from home.  Anyway, we applied and then one day I received a call from Base Personnel letting me know that my request had been approved and I was being reassigned to Moody AFB in Valdosta, Georgia. Soon, it was so long Minot and hello Moody.  I arrived at my new base in April of 1973.  I would drive home every weekend (about two hours) to see family and friends and come back Sunday evening.

Gratefully, God allowed my Daddy to live till midsummer of the next year when He decided heaven was better than here.  Of course, his leaving changed everything. I think my Momma went to stay with one of my brothers or sisters for a while and suddenly there wasn’t as much reason to go home.  I was a regular church goer, but it really wasn’t my desire to go to church that Wednesday night as much as it was…boredom.  Valdosta wasn’t a big town and Moody wasn’t a big airbase, so I just needed something to do.  And, as they say, the rest is history.

Which leads to my opening line…Daddy’s heart attack.  If it hadn’t had been for that and my Momma’s persistence, well, I would have stayed in Minot and probably froze to death. Smile. I would have never met Judy, there would not have been our three precious daughters and hence no eight grandchildren.  And, honestly, I probably wouldn’t be pastoring and wouldn’t be writing this today.  But God is a God of infinite details and design.  He tells us in the Bible that every day of our lives is planned before a single one of them is lived.  I like that…a lot.

He also teaches us that for those who love Him and are called by Him, He can take anything and everything and bring good out of it.  No, not everything is good…not even close and that isn’t what He said.  He said He can bring good and in the case of my Daddy’s heart attack, my life path is part of that good.  Have you ever thought of life that way?  Can you think of a situation where God did that for you?  I bet you can. You see, God is good, God is faithful, and God can be trusted.

One day I will see my Daddy again…in heaven.  I’ll probably chat with him and ask if he ever thought about the good that God brought about because of his heart attack.  And then, well, I’ll tell him all about Judy (if she isn’t there yet) and his great grandkids.  It’s gonna be a great reunion.  Till then, I hope I remember to trust my heavenly Dearest Daddy each day, and know that no matter what, no matter how big…He’s got this.  Bro. Dewayne

Posted in Family, friends, Grace, gratitude, life, love, Scripture, thankful, Trials

Walking Together

Two are better than one because they have a good reward for their efforts. For if either falls, his companion can lift him up; but pity the one who falls without another to lift him up.” Ecclesiastes 4:9-10

“Love Will Keep Us Together.”  It is one of our songs from the 70’s and it has been a way of living for us.  We sleep in the same bedroom in the same bed.  We eat our meals together.  We go out and eat together.  We watch television…mostly together.  We travel together…doing vacations…together.  We are a together kind of couple.  The old saying goes, “the family that prays together, stays together” and I do believe there is truth in that statement. A nationally known speaker said that 80 percent of couples who pray together stay together.  Interesting…if nothing else.

Well, this week my wife Judy and I carried this together thing to a new level.  Tuesday of this week, after a week of being ill with traveler’s disease (there’s a Grits story on that), I began feeling a little puny.  As the day went on, I felt worse.  Of all days, it was Judy’s birthday, and she had a lunch party with several of her friends so we didn’t see each other till after I got home from work.  So, I walked in, and she was sitting at her desk. I think I spoke first and said I just wasn’t feeling good, and she responded with, “I don’t feel good either.”  We decided to postpone our birthday dinner plans and sat around each progressively feeling worse.

Being a COVID veteran, I had my suspicions but didn’t say much but the night and the next morning said it all.  We both tossed and turned, got hot and then cold, had headaches (her’s was mega) and body aches. I got up first and felt just miserable and then Judy came in.  Now Judy is one of those folks who rarely gets sick and rarely complains.  She came into my office and simply said, “I feel terrible. We need to go the doctor.”  Well, she took a home COVID test and it was a clear positive.  The long and short of it all, we both had COVID, and it was one more thing we did together.

I told her I was grateful she was sick with me.  Let me explain. First, because I didn’t have to walk this alone and, second, I knew she could identify with how I felt.  Her body hurt like mine.  When I had COVID over year ago she was sympathetic but this time she empathic.  What is the difference?  Think of it this way.  If a person on the shore sees a person struggling in water and throws them a life preserver…they are sympathetic. But when that same person jumps into the water and struggles with that person…they are empathetic.

Over the last forty-six years of marriage (we celebrate that on June 26th) we have had plenty to celebrate but it occurred to me that we sometimes miss reasons to “tip our glass.”  This might be one of those.  We walked the COVID valley together, caring for one another, helping one another.  We walked the dark road each shining light on the other’s path.  That is love and frankly, that is a little Jesus too. It probably is a great example of Proverbs 4:9-10, “Two are better than one because they have a good reward for their efforts. 10. For if either falls, his companion can lift him up; but pity the one who falls without another to lift him up.” It’s true in life, it’s true in marriage and it is true in COVID.

So, there you go.  It is wonderful to have a wife and a friend like Judy to walk with me, but did you know there is something even better?  You see my Dearest Daddy in heaven walks with me too.  Honestly, I felt so bad I couldn’t even think about praying but that is ok because the Bible teaches that the God’s Holy Spirit was praying on my behalf.  And, the Bible also says that Jesus is constantly interceding for us too.  Talk about a prayer team.  That might be why I just know that if I listened, I would hear the sweet whisperer whispering, “Don’t worry, son, We’ve got this!” Bro. Dewayne

Posted in Family, food, Grace, gratitude, life, love, loving others, priorities, Scripture, Southern born, thankful, travel

Southern Cuisine – the Real Deal

He says, “I am the Lord, and there is no other.” Isaiah 45:18b

I discovered the difference between the real deal and everything else.  My wife Judy and I traveled south to see family.  Since I am still working, she is usually our representative to our southern family.  She would make the circuit, sitting and talking and visiting, all of which is right up her alley.  But this time…things were different.  I decided it was time for me to make time to see family and I am so glad that I did.  I was reminded of the value of family and in the process rediscovered the value of good southern cooking. We stayed with two of my sisters and then with one of Judy’s nephew’s and his wife.  At each place, queens of southern delights strutted their stuff, but it all came together one beautiful Thursday evening.

First, in Valdosta where she is from and where a bunch of her family lives, there is a family of restaurants that are excellent for two reasons.  First, they are all buffets and second, they all specialize in southern cooking.  The buffet is a spread of everything southern…fried chicken, ribs (both fried and smoked), fish, pork chops, chicken gizzards and livers, pot roast and the list goes on and on.  Then comes the vegetables…field peas, lima beans, baby lima beans, black-eyed peas, collard and turnip greens, cream corn, grits and…well, you get the idea.  Judy and I enjoyed it so much we went twice.

Well, that was all good but then came Thursday night.  Her family decided to have a mini family reunion of sorts.  Now just like my family, her family is blessed with many queens of southern cuisine.  I admit I just couldn’t wait to taste what was going to be brought.  About thirty relatives showed up and each family brought several dishes. Now imagine with me.  Take the list above and double it and you have a fair idea of how much food was there.  Now, take what we had at the restaurant, which was really good, and give it a multiplication factor of at least two and maybe three and you begin to understand the Allen family feast.  It was beyond delicious—and not just a dish here or there but every dish.  I won’t even try to describe the deserts.  Wonderful southern food with a wonderful southern family and well, I sure was glad I didn’t miss it.

I did learn something through my southern food experience.  You see, I was very content with the restaurant version of southern heaven until I tasted the real deal and all of a sudden, I was reminded of the difference.  The real thing made in someone’s kitchen with loving hands and hearts made the restaurant version somewhat of a cheap imitation. Oh, it was good till I had the real thing and then there was no comparison. The real thing trumps anything else every time.

That truth is worth remembering.  There are a lot of imitations out there in the world and they will try and make you discontent with the real thing.  They will try and steal your heart out of a good marriage or make you discontent and leave relationships that have satisfied for years. Like so many of the commercials today, they wave their plastic happiness and try to convince you that their “something” is better.  Don’t believe it—the real deal is better than a plastic substitution no matter how good it looks.  And by the way, that is definitely true when it comes to religion and God.  Don’t ever be tempted to trade the practice of religion for a God who loves you so much He gave His Son to die for you. Like He said in His Book, “I am the Lord, there is no other.”

I am grateful for my trip south, and I am grateful for the opportunity to learn once again about the importance of what is real and what is second place.  Never be satisfied with something else when you can have what is real and never trade what is first for what is second.  It is always a bad deal.

So, if you are blessed to have some southern relatives and you visit with them, make sure to sit-down with them for supper.  Chances are you will discover your own spread of southern delights.  And remember to be content and grateful for the spread that God has set before you.  He is a good, good Father and, unlike religion, He loves you so, so much and no matter what, you know, “He’s got this.” Bro. Dewayne

Posted in Family, forgiveness, Grace, gratitude, life, Scripture, thankful, travel, Trials, wisdom

Locks

Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life.” Proverbs 4:23

Well, that didn’t do a lot of good.  My wife Judy and I recently attended a pastor’s conference at the Billy Graham Training Center in North Carolina.  It was so refreshing to get away and as always, we were treated like royalty.  The teaching, the facilities and the food were all top notch.  In these crazy days we are living it was like an oasis where we could pause and refill—to drink deeply from His well of living water.

So, too soon, it was time to head back home and because the conference was over in the middle of the day, it just made sense to stop about halfway and spend the night. Cookeville, Tennessee is just about the midway point, so we booked an Airbnb. It was a nice place and we unloaded and then went to get a bite to eat. In the meantime, it decided to rain.  Now let me explain this was one of those rains that could drown a fish.  It rained, rained hard and it rained a long time. I was about to check the price on gopher wood.  Anyway, when we got back to our home for the evening, I jumped out of the car and unlocked the door and Judy followed.

Well, it continued to rain and several times I went outside to see what was happening.  You could hear the rain from inside the apartment and you could just tell it was coming down in buckets.  Of course, there was the occasional lighting followed by a good, ole thunderclap.  Each time I went out I was careful to lock the door back.  You know, the neighborhood looked safe, but you can never tell.  Finally, it was time to head to bed and I checked the door and it was locked.  We were safe and sound.

Well, sometime in the night, I woke up to rollover and I thought I heard something.  Now don’t panic…it was nothing, but I thought it might be something.  And then, something occurred to me, a question really.  I asked myself, “Did you leave the key in the lock on the door?”  Well, that made me wonder…and for good reason.  So, in the middle of the night I got up and turned on the lights.  I looked on the counter and guess what?  The key was nowhere to be seen.  I had a sneaking suspicion I knew just where to find it.

I walked over to the door, unlocked the deadbolt, and opened the door and there for everyone and anyone to see and find…was the key.  Well, I obviously took it out of the lock and gratefully locked the door back, put the key on the counter and went back to bed.  After a short prayer thanking God for keeping us safe, I drifted back off to sleep…no harm and no foul.  But it did make me think.

You see the door had two locks…one on the doorknob and one a deadbolt.  Those together would certainly keep out any bad guys.  But with the key right there…well, those locks weren’t going to keep anyone out.  With the key in the lock, it was like hanging out a “Y’all come on in!” sign. As I mentioned, no one tried to come in, but I had rendered the locks useless by leaving the key there.

It made me wonder how often do we leave the keys in the locks that guard our heart, our mind, our character, our marriage, our anythings?  You see, God watched out for Judy and me that night and gratefully, He also watches out for us in life.  But as sure as an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, so it is better to remove the key and lock the lock.  Wouldn’t it have been crazy, though,  for me to leave the key in the lock because, after all, no one tried to come in…yet?  And just because nothing has gone amiss in our lives yet doesn’t mean that it can’t and it won’t.

The Bible tells us in the Book of Smart Living, aka Proverbs, to guard our hearts because out of it comes the wellspring of our lives. In other words, we need to lock the door of our hearts and put the key safely away. If you are wondering the best way to guard your heart, to lock the door to your heart, I believe the Bible is the answer.  It is just jam-packed with help from the One who made us.  And remember, the Bible isn’t just a book of rules…it is a book for living well. Like guardrails on a curvy road, it keeps us from big regrets and consequences.  Written on the pages and in between the lines is His calm assurance that we don’t have to worry because He is with us and yes, He’s got this.  Bro. Dewayne

Posted in Family, Grace, gratitude, life, love, loving others, prayer, Scripture, thankful

Same Kind of Different As Me

Above all, clothe yourselves with love, which binds us all together in perfect harmony.” Colossians 3:14

Opposites attract.  I’ve heard that all my life and I think it is true…well, at least sorta.  I mean, take my wife Judy and me.  In a lot of ways, we are similar.  We both like to eat…though I prefer dessert and she prefers food.  We both love traveling and adventures. We both love Jesus.  We both love to serve people.  Oh, and we both love each other.  So, there you go…but wait, in some ways we are different.  We recently went on vacation.  She packed her bag and I packed mine.  Let me rephrase that.  She put…some would say dumped, clothes in her suitcase, sat on it, and closed it.  As for me, well, I neatly organized each item and even sorted them by the function and when they would be used. We are sometimes different.

You can see that difference with our phones too.  If you look at Judy’s phone you will see that the inbox of her email account has 28,246 emails…and I’m not kidding.  On the other hand, my inbox has about 10 emails in it.  In her case, it is a system for keeping and in my case, it is a system for filing.  Hers is “Welcome home and stay as long as you like” and mine is, “In you come and out you go.”  She invited the relatives to move in and I invite them to stay…for just a while.  And then there are the little red dots.

On the iPhone, when there is something that requires action, a little red dot appears on the screen.  The dot stays there until you do something about it.  Well, Miss Judy’s screen on her iPhone looks like it has a case of measles.  There is a red dot here, and here, and here, and here, and oh, here too.  Now on my iPhone, dots are not welcome.  When one appears I almost immediately stop what I am doing to find out what it wants me to do.  You know how when you are growing up and some people get acne, and some don’t?  Well, my phone is the one that doesn’t.

Now, all this is well and good and there really isn’t a right or a wrong…unless of course you can’t see the screen for all the dots.  No, the Bible makes it clear that each one of us is fearfully and wonderfully made.  Each one of us is a jewel…a masterpiece. Some like a full inbox and some like it empty.  Some are organized and some, well, are not quite as much. Smile.  But here is what we need to remember…especially in relationships…especially in marriage.  Someone once said that if both people in a marriage are exactly alike…well, one of them isn’t necessary.  In any relationship…and especially in marriage…diversity is a good thing…a needed thing.

But wait…it’s not just in marriage…it is true with the team at work.  It is true with the people you worship with.  It is even true with the team you play with.  Diversity adds depth.  Diversity adds richness.  When we start feeling comfortable to associate with those who are different from us; when we start embracing others, even though we don’t always agree, a strength develops, and we all become better for it.

Judy and I have been married now for 45 years and people frequently tell us how much they appreciate the example we set in our marriage.  Well, first, let’s be honest.  That is largely because I married up when I married Judy.  But beyond that, well, we have learned and are learning to appreciate our differences.  There was a bestselling book and later a movie about two men from backgrounds that could not have been more different.  And yet, over time, and with no small thanks to Jesus, they became friends.  The impossible became possible.  The book and later the movie were entitled, “The Same Kind of Different as Me.” Read the book, it will inspire you.

I think that means that in spite of the fact, that they were incredibly different, there was something that overpowered their differences and that was love.  They both discovered Jesus and that led them to share Christian love for each other. Paul, the guy who wrote a chunk of the New Testament said it like this, “Above all, clothe yourselves with love, which binds us all together in perfect harmony.” The common denominator of love strengthened their lives and their friendship.  It worked there and I can tell you it will work in whatever world you live in. We will become stronger and better when we learn to accept ourselves and others for who God made us. Need a little help?  No problem…He’s got that.  Bro. Dewayne 

Posted in Family, Grace, gratitude, life, love, missions, prayer, priorities, Scripture, Southern born, sovereignty of God, thankful, Trials, wisdom

Laughter in the Rain

Teach us to number our days carefully so that we may develop wisdom in our hearts.”     Psalm 90:12

It was a rainy afternoon in South Georgia.  I had met this girl, this Georgia peach, a few weeks ago and I was stuck fast.  From the moment I laid eyes on her I wanted to get to know her more.  So I made a call, she said yes, we had a first date and well, the rest is history.  From that first date came a marriage of 45 years.  She was young and I was a little too old, but love has a way of overcoming those kind of things—especially with God in the mix.

So, we were about five or six weeks into our journey.  We had been to church, something we would do together virtually every week of every year of our togetherness. It was a cloudy afternoon and rain was in the forecast.  I’m not sure how, but it had to be her knowledge of the area, we decided to drive up and over to Reed Bingham State Park.  It was more something to do than an adventure, but it left a tattoo on our hearts that remains today.

As we drove over to the park, it began to rain…nothing hard just a gentle Southern rain…the kind that waters the grass and makes flowers grow.  Soon, we were at the park, and it was still raining.  We decided that a little rain wasn’t going to stop us, and we struck off on a walk down one of the wet sand packed roads.  It wasn’t long before we came upon some large puddles the size of a small pond.  They weren’t from that day’s shower but a frog strangler sometime before.  So we reached the point where we had to decide to turn back or go a little farther.  We decided to go farther. To keep her dry from the puddles, she climbed on my back as we walked.

A little while later the rain picked up and with her still hanging on, we turned around and headed back to the car. We were getting wet, but we were young and in the midst of young love, so we laughed, we enjoyed.  Too soon we were back in the car and ready to head home.  We had left the radio tuned to one of the popular stations and as I started the car, the radio came to life and one of the new hits began to play.  It was by Neil Sedaka, and was called, “Laughter in the Rain” and in that moment it became our song. And, to this moment, it remains our song.

Part of the words go, “Oh, I hear laughter in the rain, walking hand in hand with the one I love. Oh, how I love the rainy days and the happy way I feel inside.” What started as a song became our mantra—our way of doing life.  We decided we would walk together, sunshine or rain, and we would do so…hand in hand.  We also decided that we would love, not endure, the rain and the rainy days, that came our way. Oh, it isn’t always perfect, and she is better at it than me but slowly over the years we have learned the secret sauce of doing life is to walk hand in hand with each other and the “Rainmaker.”

Judy and I have been blessed with an incredible life. Over our four and a half decade, journey we have seen and experienced big chunks of the world, and have been blessed with three daughters and sons-in-law and eight grandchildren.  We have loved serving God together as a team, watching as He made a difference in the lives of others.  We don’t know how long the journey will go, but we are wanting to walk it together, hand in hand, loving the rainy days.

The Book that matters, the Bible, tells us that we should number our days that we can have a heart of wisdom.  It’s not talking about numerics, but rather to value and see the value in each day.  To know that rain or sunshine, each day is a gift from God…an opportunity to walk hand in hand together and with the “Rainmaker.”  We’ve come to know and believe that He alone is worthy of our faith and trust and that no matter how light or hard the rainy days are, well, He’s got this.  Bro. Dewayne

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

Stonehedge

For the Son of Man has come to seek and to save the lost.” Luke 19:10

 Hi Grits family.  Hey, Judy and I are out of pocket for the next three days, so we are giving you the opportunity to revisit some of our favorites.  So, God bless, enjoy and we will see you soon.

“For the Son of Man has come to seek and to save the lost.” Luke 19:10

Roy Smith Allen was a genuine, authentic, real-deal Southern good ole boy.  I met him on the road to falling in love with his daughter.  I can remember virtually every detail of meeting Judy but Roy, well, its like one minute he wasn’t there and the next he was.  I met Judy at her church on a Wednesday night.  I walked in the side door and she was standing with a group of five or six girls.  It was as if the others weren’t even there.  She stole the show…and my heart.

I found out that when I started dating Judy, I also started dating her family.  They were a crazy bunch of fun-loving people who turned every get together into a ruckus of stories and one-uppers.  Right in the middle of the craziness was Roy.  Well, for some reason, Roy took a shine to me.  Judy will tell you that both of her parents liked me more than her. That probably wasn’t true. But I guess they trusted me because truth be known she was a little too young and I was a little too old. But here we are forty-four years later so we must have met somewhere in the middle.

Roy was a hard core, church going, deacon. He worked for the county as the superintendent of roads and had been the assistant warden at the county work camp.  He had a gun…he carried a gun.  He told Judy and I upfront he didn’t believe in pre-marshall (translated premarital) sex.  We both agreed with that so the gun stayed in the holster which was a good thing.

About nine months after I started dating Judy, I asked her to marry me.  It happened to be on April Fool’s Day which was kinda funny.  But I was dead serious and happily she said yes.  So, by now Roy had become Pops to me.  So I knew I had to ask him if I could marry Judy.  After his first heart attack, his doctor suggested he begin a walking regimen. One evening I joined him walking around the track at the park and I said, “Pops, I would like to marry Judy.”  It wasn’t a question but it was a statement that needed a response and he gave one.  “No you don’t, boy.”  Pops called me “boy” a lot.  It wasn’t derogatory but more akin to him calling me “son.”

I persisted and said, “No really, I want to marry Judy.”  He stoically gave the same answer, “No you don’t, boy.”  Well, I can’t remember how many times we bantered back and forth but eventually I took it as a yes.  We were officially engaged…as soon as I could afford a ring.

Somewhere along the journey, her parents allowed me to stay in the spare bedroom at their house on weekends.  The base was about twenty-five miles away so it seemed to make some sense.  Pops liked to get up early and work hard and I became the “young buck” of his Saturday operations . He was building a shed about 20 miles out in the country and he saw in me some free labor.  So, he would come in the bedroom at about 4:30 am and declare, “Time to get up, boy.”  I would groggily roll out of bed.  We would head to the Gold Plate Restaurant for a hearty breakfast with hot, strong coffee and then head to the building site where I wished I hadn’t eaten quite so much.

Pops had acquired some huge, like 10×10 inch, used bridge timbers from the county.  While he supervised, I began digging holes and setting these monstrous beams.  Then, we (make that me) had the pleasure of trying to hoist them up to form the roof.  Well, it near-bout killed me.  We never finished the building and I am sure forty-four years later those timbers are probably still standing like some sort of South Georgia Stonehenge.

In the fall of 1975, at church one morning, I went from being a church goer to a Jesus follower.  That day I finally figured out that being religious was not the same as having a relationship with Jesus.  It was and is a big deal.  Everyone was really happy that I had made that commitment.  There were plenty of hugs and words of affirmation but none matched Pop’s.  He simply said, “I knew there was something wrong with you, boy.” It was apparent Pops wasn’t gifted in the affirmation department.  But that was Roy…that was Pops.  I was pretty sure he loved me and I know I loved him…especially since he didn’t shoot me.

So, about a year later, Judy and I were married and in spite of a bad heart he was there to walk her down the aisle.  When Judy and I were assigned to Germany, Pops flew there twice to see us.  When we were assigned to Missouri, here came Pops.  He came out to see our new daughter and his new granddaughter, Rebecca.  And then just six weeks later he was apparently working in his backyard there in South Georgia and sat down to rest.  Sometime during the break, Jesus came and took him home.  Pops was gone but the legend, the legacy lives on.

Roy Smith Allen had a lot of rough edges, a lot of warts, if you will.  But buried somewhere beneath the rough exterior was a good hearted man.  I’m sure he required a lot of God’s grace but don’t we all?  None us could make the cut for heaven based on our own merit.  We all are just like Pops…sinners in need of a graceful, loving God.  The Book says that Jesus came to seek and to save lost people.  People like Roy, people like me and people like you.  And if we are willing to be found, He is will to forgive us and invite us into His family.  In his backward way, that is what Pops did.  Every time he called me “boy” he was calling me “son.”  I like that.

So if you find yourself bumping along in life, rough around the edges, you might try what Pops tried.  It wasn’t church…it was Jesus.  I know it changed my life. It didn’t make me perfect but it did make me forgiven.  And the best part?  In this crazy, upside-down world, He is always there.  I can always go to Him, rest in Him.  I know, He’s got this.  Bro. Dewayne

Posted in Family, Grace, gratitude, life, Military memories, priorities, Scripture, Southern born, sovereignty of God, thankful

A Grits Love Story

Then the Lord God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper who is just right for him.” Genesis 2:18

It happened just like that. I love grits…a lot.  I know some of you have no idea what grits are and have never tried them.  If you are from the North, I understand. If you are from the South, well, that’s just inexcusable. The problem with grits is that people want to mess with them by adding things like sugar and milk. Listen…you don’t mess with Texas and you don’t mess with grits. When you add those two things to grits it changes their DNA and whatever it becomes it is no longer grits.  It may be the same consistency, but sugar and milk robs grits of their heart and soul.

There are things you can add to grits.  The first three things on the list are salt, pepper and butter.  Grits were meant to be seasoned so don’t think a sprinkle of this, or a dash of that will get the job done.  You need to grab the that salt shaker and get serious and do the same thing with the pepper.  Someone will say that salt is bad for your blood pressure.  Well, some things are worth the sacrifice.  The other things that bring grits to life are bacon, cheese and amazingly, shrimp. I’m telling you…grits are not the breakfast of champions…grits are the champion of breakfast.  If you learn to eat them right…you will never go back and the only question you will ask is, “Why did it take me so long?

I should have asked that question sooner in another season of my life. It was late summer of 1974 and  I was coming out of a relationship that had gone on way too long. It was just time for it to end and it did.  I was in the Air Force and trust me an Air Force base nine miles from town in South Georgia can be a lonely place.  Imagine a bowl of grits without the salt, pepper, and butter and that was me. And then on a Wednesday night I decided to go to a local church.  Now I had done church all of my life, but walking into a strange church, by myself, on a Wednesday night, was not in my comfort zone.  But this bowl of grits needed some seasoning. So, I went hoping I would meet someone who might add some seasoning to my life.  And, just like that, it happened.

That night, I walked in the side door of the church and there was a small group of young ladies standing by the piano.  One, and only one, caught my eye.  Her name was Judy Allen and that night was the beginning of a love story that has now stretched into a 45 year adventure of life and love.  I guess she was a little too young and maybe I was a little too old, but it was a different time and the bottom line…we fell in love.  That Georgia peach stole my heart and has never given it back.  I never thought of it this way, but I guess grits and peaches go together after all.

Through the decades and years, we have journeyed together…sometimes across town and sometimes across the world.  We built a legacy together that includes our three daughters, their husbands, and our grandkids…all eight of them. We first served our country together as an Air Force family and then served our God as a team—side by side in four different churches over 39 years. At each stop, I was the grits, and she was the seasoning.  She was and is a gifted servant in her own right, but she was also the salt, pepper, and butter that made me a better bowl of grits, a better man…a better pastor. I fully understand what God meant when He said in Genesis, “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper who is just right for him.” Well, thank you God for that one.

Grits (what I write not the ones you eat) is just one more example of her seasoning me—encouraging me.  She had been nudging me for years to write and I simply wouldn’t listen.  And then COVID came along and on a whim, I wrote a very short story and posted it and almost a year later my fingers are still mashing keys.  What you may not know is that Judy once again was there to season my frail attempts.  She developed the blog and the Facebook page, and she proofs my words then designs the graphics.  She adds flavor to Grits—and our life and our ministry.

So, on purpose and without apology, let me tell her and you, just how much I love her and how grateful I am for the seasonings she has brought to my life.  There are two things I know.  First, I can’t imagine what life would have been if I hadn’t gone to church that night.  See, you oughta go to church!  But second, I can’t imagine what life would have been if this particular someone, by God’s amazing grace, hadn’t walked with me all these years. It seemed she always knew just how much salt, how much pepper and how much butter to add to this ole bowl of grits…and I love her for it.

So, there you go.  It’s a grits love story.  If you’ve tried grits (the ones you eat…not the ones you’re reading) and didn’t like them…you probably just didn’t have them seasoned right.  You might want to give them another try. And if you have someone in your life that, honestly, just feels a little bland, like grits without the good stuff, don’t give up on them.  Go ahead and be the seasoning in their life. You might be amazed, just like I was, how a little salt, a little pepper, and some butter can make a bowl of ground corn taste amazingly good. Oh, and then, don’t forget to also thank God because He’s the One who made it all possible anyway.  I’ve learned, and I am still learning, “He’s got this.” Bro. Dewayne