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

One Thing I Know

And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to His purpose for them.” Romans 8:28

Momma always knew best.  I was blessed to have a good Momma and Daddy.  They were everyday people but in so many ways they were anything but every day.  Willing to take on the task of raising eight children, they gave up a lot for us.  Daddy worked hard as a jet engine mechanic and Momma mostly stayed home and took care of us.  Momma was always there when we needed her.  I remember one time I was sick with a stomach virus.  It was the middle of the night and Momma sat down in an old wooden rocker we had and then invited me up into her lap.  There she gently held me.  It didn’t do much to ease my unhappy stomach, but it sure made my heart feel better.

Momma had her own brand of medicine.  As best as I can remember, Momma was a big believer in “family herd immunity.”  In case you are not familiar with that, it is where a certain illness is almost intentionally shared with members of the family, especially siblings. I guess Momma thought it was best to get it all over with at one time.  And it seemed to work.  I remember one of my sisters came down with the measles.  Rather than isolate her from my sister and I, Momma just put us all together in the double bed in the spare bedroom and waited.  Sure enough, we all promptly got the measles and we also all got well about the same time.  I’m not sure modern medicine would approve, but that’s ok.  It worked for us, and Momma was always there to help us get better.

However, Momma didn’t always use herd immunity.  When I was about nine, there was a pretty serious flu outbreak in our north Florida city.  I really don’t remember too much about it.  I also don’t remember if I became a patient or not.  But there is one thing I do remember—I knew what we had in our family wasn’t good and I felt I needed to do something—so I did.  I found a piece of paper and a pencil, and I made a sign warning other people to stay away.  The sign said something like this, “Warning.  We have the FLEW.  Don’t come in.” Even if my spelling wasn’t the best, it still got the message out.

When I was in the second grade, Momma’s brand of herd immunity took on a different look.  My sister Kathy was not feeling well so Momma took her to the doctor, and I tagged along.  Dr. Smothers was our ears, nose, and throat doctor.  He checked my sister out and it was determined that she had tonsillitis.  That was something a lot of kids back then seemed to get. Well, Dr. Smothers suggested to Momma that perhaps it was time for my sister to get her tonsils out.  Again, back then that was the standard treatment.  So, Momma agreed and then said to Dr. Smothers, “Why don’t we take Dewayne’s out too?”  Hmmmm.  Herd immunity strikes again. So, the doctor says, “Well, Dewayne, what do you say?  Would you like to get your tonsils out too?”  Now I had no clue what in the world he was talking about.  But I think he said something about all the ice cream you wanted, and I was in.  A few days later I found myself in the hospital with my sister and the world’s worst sore throat.  I’m still not sure if that ice cream was worth it!

I’m sure there are many more stories about Momma’s medical skills and judgement, but they have slipped from my memories.  But let me tell you one thing that hasn’t slipped away, that is the concrete knowledge that my Momma loved me.  Whether it was the measles, the flu, or getting rid of some pesky tonsils, Momma always did what she thought was best for us.  Some people probably wouldn’t agree with her medical practices, but I know everything she did was for our good.  For my good.

And do you know what?  I think that is just another way my Momma was like God.  You see, God is constantly working in my life for my good and His glory.  I mean He is working out His purposes but at the center, at the core of it all is—my good.  The Bible verse that is so poplar is so true.  It goes like this, “all things work together for good, for those who love God, the ones who are called according to His purpose.”  Like I have said so many times that doesn’t mean that everything is good, but that God can bring good from all things.  I know Momma loved me a lot but even her love must pale to the love that God has for me—for us.

Now I am certain if you asked me in the middle of encounter with measles, that truth might have been a little clouded.  If you asked me after the surgery to remove my tonsils, well, I probably would have doubted it.  But in the long run, looking back—well, my Momma loved me and did her best to show that love.  So, today if you bump into a hot mess—today if things go south and it is hard…maybe real hard—just remember how much God loves you.  You can take it to the bank—it is a sure bet.  When life leaves you hurting worse than a bad stomachache, you just crawl up in His lap and let His strong arms ease the pain away.  Then, just nod off and take a nap.  You can safely do that because, “He’s got this.”  Bro. Dewayne

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

I Hated Him (part 2)

But when [Peter] saw the strength of the wind, he was afraid, and beginning to sink he cried out, “Lord, save me!” Immediately Jesus reached out his hand, caught hold of him.” Matthew 14:29-31

His name was Richard Jackson…and I hated him.  Of course, if you read the story from July 13, you already knew that.  He was a bully and for some reason he chose me to push around.  It was the eighth grade and Richard Jackson was bigger than every other eighth grader.  He was probably bigger than half of the Marine Corp.  Anyway, I was his target.

He and his lackey Mark Williams announced one day that they would be riding my bus to my stop and would then proceed to “beat me up.”  It was a long day waiting to get beat up, and they did board the bus, they did get off at my stop and sure enough, egged on by Richard Jackson, Mark Williams started the fight.  He popped me in the mouth and knocked me down.  I did my best to fight back but it was clear my best was not going to get the job done that day.  I wish I could tell you how I taught him a lesson but that would be fiction.  He was on top; I was on the bottom, and I was losing.

This is the part of the story that is very hard for me to write because every guy that ever reads this is going to write me off as a loser.  All I can say is before you do…you weren’t there.  Well, here goes.  My older sister was on the bus that day and while she was smaller than Richard Jackson, she was bigger than me and bigger than Mark Williams. So, she, well, she rescued me.  She pulled Mark Williams off me and proceeded to tell him to “leave my brother alone.”

Well, that broke the fight up and we started the long walk to our house which was about a third of a mile away.  Behind us, Richard Jackson and his lackey chided us and threatened us.  It was the longest third of a mile I ever walked and with every slicing word and insult from Richard Jackson, I felt smaller and smaller.  When we arrived at our driveway, my Momma just happened to be standing in the yard and when she heard and saw what was going on she made sure Richard Jackson and his lackey understood that they had better leave her son alone.

Now this is hard.  First, I knew I needed their help but to be rescued by, first my sister, and then my Momma destroyed any self-dignity I had…which honestly wasn’t much. But at the same time without them, well, it would have been even uglier.  You see, the truth is sometimes we just need help.  Actually, the truth is we need help almost every day. We are not built to stand or fight alone.  That is true for life and its ugly circumstances, and it is true when we fight the spiritual battles in life.

Even if you don’t believe in God, you must admit there is plenty of evil in this world and at the end of the day that will point you to a very real devil. And just like Richard Jackson, he wants more than anything to destroy you or at least make you feel like you’ve been destroyed.  Like it or not…we all need a rescue and the good news there is a rescuer, and His name is Jesus.  God took on Satan a long time ago and it was a no contest.  Read the Bible and you will see in the end—God wins and if we choose to follow Him—we win too.

In this world, with all its craziness, I know it seems that evil is going to win.  I bet that day when Jesus was nailed to a Roman cross and died…Satan assumed the war was over and He had bested God.  Well, three days later proved a different reality.  No, he didn’t win the war and he didn’t win the battle.  He played right into God’s hands.  So, while I was embarrassed that day, I was also grateful for the rescue. You may think you don’t need rescuing; you don’t need God but trust me…without Him…well, hard just got harder.

Why not ask Him to rescue you today? When Peter was about to drown one day, he called out…and Jesus was there. Why not finally admit this thing called life and eternity is a battle we can’t win on our own? Why not give God a shot at being the rescuer you need?  If you do, if you will, you will never have to fight the bullies of life alone again.  You will always have…not a sister…not a Momma…but a Mighty Warrior by your side.  And, when the bullies of life walk up, you can be assured that He will whisper, “Don’t worry…I’ve got this.”  Bro. Dewayne

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

Open Hands, Open Hearts

If you help the poor, you are lending to the Lord—and He will repay you!” Proverbs 19:17

It was part generosity and part tradition.  When I was growing up, Sunday meant going to church. My Momma would always make sure I had taken a bath, combed my hair, brushed my teeth (I think), had clean clothes, and had an offering.  There was something about going to church and taking an offering.  It almost seemed like either God would be mad if I didn’t or the people at church would think we were poor or something…which we might have been.

Now the offering wasn’t a whole lot, but it was more than the widow lady in the Bible gave.  Her offering was less than a penny, but it was really everything she had.  Momma gave me a quarter most times but sometimes it was a dime and on rare occasions it was a dollar.  Trust me, that was a rarity.  Anyway, I finally figured out that it wasn’t the amount that mattered anyway.  What mattered was that Momma thought it was important and it mattered that I didn’t pocket the quarter.  Jesus said something about it was more blessed to give than to receive and I’m sure Momma knew that.  So anyway, I gave the quarter.

I read a story the other day about a little girl who went to church just like me.  Her Momma gave her a dime and a nickel. The little girl asked, “Which one am I supposed to give?” and her Momma told her she could decide.  Well, when she came home from church, her Momma asked her which one she gave, and she said she had given the nickel.  When asked why she gave the nickel instead of the dime she said, “Well, the preacher said that God loves people who give cheerfully, and I was a lot happier when I gave the nickel and kept the dime.”  Smile.

I know that I am still a work in progress.  God started the project way back in 1975 and He’s still working today.  I’ve heard it said that His work isn’t done until He takes us home to live with Him.  I believe that is true.  One of the areas that He is working on with me is generosity.  They say that if you want to carve a duck from a block of wood you just cut off everything that doesn’t look like a duck. Well, that is what God does with us except He’s not making ducks. He is making Jesus followers. And one thing I know for sure is that Jesus was always generous.  He was so generous He gave His life away on a wooden cross to pay for everyone’s sin.  Now that is generosity.  Now that is love.

My point isn’t that you ought to give to the church.  The point is we should all learn to be generous to others.  A generous life is a happy life, and a generous heart is a happy heart.  In the Old Testament part of the Bible in the Book of Proverbs it says, “If you help the poor, you are lending to the Lord—and He will repay you!”  You know, I believe that is true.  I’m also sure that the repayment may not be dollars and cents but rather a deep sense of peace and joy in our lives—and that is better—that is priceless.  Remember this—God is more than willing to help you be like Jesus, but it all starts when we believe what He did and what He said. He died and came back to life and promised to forgive anyone who asked.  Need a little help with that?  Well, don’t worry, He’s got that too.

Bro. Dewayne

Posted in Family, fear, forgiveness, friends, Grace, gratitude, life, love, prayer, Scripture, Southern born, thankful, Trials

Rescue and Redemption

The Lord is close to the brokenhearted; He rescues those whose spirits are crushed.” (Psalm 34:18)

Tears streamed down my face as I raced after the car.  So many childhood memories are lost through the fog of time.  Depending on the memory…that can be good or bad.  A tragedy, a broken heart, a traumatic event, are all best left in the fog.  Others, though, need to be remembered.  And then, there are those that are both and this story is one of those.

It all started one day in elementary school.  It had to be the third grade.  The teacher had given us an assignment and to emphasize the importance, she said that if we came to school the next day without it…there would be consequences.  I don’t know what those were, but it probably involved a trip to see the principal or being fed to the sharks.  At any rate, it worked.  I was terrified.

Well, somehow, some way, it happened.  I got on the bus, got to school, and got to class.  Shortly after we said the pledge to the flag, sang our patriotic song for the day and then recited the Lord’s Prayer (yes, we really did that), she called for the assignment. Just about then, the Lord’s Prayer took on a new meaning.  I was genuinely scared…to death.  Well, in a moment of grace, she allowed this repentant sinner to go to the office and call my Momma and Momma came to the rescue. We agreed that I would meet her in the circular drive…where the buses dropped us off each morning. Since it was going to be a few minutes, I went back to class.

A little later, the teacher let me go and meet Momma.  I got to the drive just in time to see the back of our car leaving the driveway.  Either I was later, or she was early—either way I was in deep trouble. So, I did what any insecure, deep weeds third grader did back in the early sixties—I burst into tears and started chasing the car.  As they drove off, I remember running as fast as I could, crying out, “Momma, Momma.” Somehow, some way the brake lights came on and the car pulled over.  It turned out my brother was driving, and Momma was in the front passenger seat.

When I got to the car, Momma opened the door and I fell into her waiting arms.  Now this may seem a little dramatic and traumatic to some of you but then you didn’t have Mrs. Wilson for a third-grade teacher. There was not a sermon about how I shouldn’t have forgotten the paper—though that would have been appropriate. There was not a chastening—though I deserved that too.  There was only compassion for a young boy who thought for sure his world was about to end.  There was only love.

Well, first it turned out, she had already dropped the assignment off at the office.  Second, right or wrong, I just couldn’t go back to class, and I asked if I could just go home—and she agreed.  Apparently at the moment it was the right thing to do. Honestly, I was a mess and embarrassed that I was a mess.  The story ends with another chance.  The office must have sent the assignment to Mrs. Wilson and the next morning when I got to class everything was ok.  She extended some grace and I believe I learned a lesson about rescue and redemption.  It was a lesson that I would see played out over the years for the rest of my life…not by a teacher or my Momma—but by my Dearest Daddy.

You see, God is in the rescue and redemption business. Did you know that?  He is always looking for a lost cause to redeem and rescue and that’s all of us since we all have messed up. And the amazing part, He never grows tired of it.  I think it must be His incredible love for us. When I decided to become a Jesus follower, I didn’t become perfect…no one does. I still managed to “forget my homework”…again and again.  But each time He was there with a bucket full of grace and love. That’s just what He does.  Oh, and I don’t ever have to chase after Him for He is always chasing me.

So, today, if your day or your life is going south like a fast freight train, just remember this.  There is a God, He does love you and He wants to redeem and rescue you.  He’s chasing you to do exactly that.  No matter what it is, just know and believe, “He’s got this.” Bro. Dewayne

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

Spilt Milk

I tell you that on the day of judgment people will have to account for every careless word they speak. For by your words you will be acquitted, and by your words you will be condemned.” Matthew 12:36-37

It gets real hot in North Florida.  When I write these stories I always try and remember things that happened in my youth that were either funny or difficult or both. Sometimes though they are just hilarious.  When I was about eight years old, my Momma and Daddy were always looking for ways to save a little money.  I didn’t know if we were rich or poor and I don’t suppose it mattered. Sometimes it was more obvious but most times it was just life.

I’m not sure how we got started but we began to buy our milk from a family that lived about a mile from where we lived.  It wasn’t really a dairy farm it was more like three or four cows. We would go over twice a week and buy a couple of gallons in big half-gallon glass jugs.  And let me tell you…this wasn’t the pasteurized stuff we drink today.  It was straight from the cow.  And one more thing, it was NOT 2%, or 1% or skim milk.  No sir, this stuff came fully loaded with milk fat.  It was good.  We had an old ice cream churn, the kind you had to crank and that milk made the best ice cream you ever tasted.  It was always a special day when we went and got milk.  And then one day it wasn’t.

We were still driving that old 1957 Plymouth and it was time to get milk.  I think Momma was driving and one of my sisters was in the front seat and the other in the back with me.  Those were the days before seat belts and rules about kids not sitting in the front seat.  In fact in those days the dashboard was made out of metal.  Anyway, we got to the home where they sold the milk. Momma paid the lady and I was supposed to carry the milk to the car and carefully put it on the floorboard in the backseat.  It was a good plan…almost.

The milk jugs had little handles on the top near the neck of the jug.  I picked up the jugs, one in each hand and headed to the car.  I put the jugs down on the ground and opened the back door.  Then I turned around and picked up one of the jugs and set it on the floorboard.  Then I turned around to get the second jug and put it next to the other.  You know, next is a nice word.  It means close too.  Well, I swung that ole jug through the door and well, you might say I got it just a little too close to the other one.  There was a sound of glass hitting glass and one of the jugs busted wide open and that nice fresh milk spilled all over the carpeted (remember that) floorboard.  Bummer.

Momma came over and of course was upset about the wasted milk.  I was too, but you know what they say, “There’s no use crying over spilt milk.” That is true but things were going to get worse before they got better.  I suppose we bought another half-gallon of milk and headed for the house.  Once there I did my best to clean up the spilt milk. The problem was first there was carpet and then, like they did back then, there was a thick pad underneath the carpet.  You could do what you wanted to, but there was no way all that milk was coming out of that carpet and pad.

Remember I told you that it gets real hot in North Florida.  Well, by the next morning there was a strange odor in the whole car and it just got worse and worse.  By the end of the first day the smell of sour milk made it just about impossible to sit in the car.  We already had the windows down because there was no air conditioning but even that didn’t stop the odor.  It made it better but when Momma or Daddy hit a stop light, Katie bar the door…it stunk. So for days and days our 1957 Plymouth smelled horrible. I’m pretty sure I was not winning any popularity contests for about the next two weeks. That smell lasted a long after the accident…oh boy did we hate it.

Have you ever broken a jug of milk in your car before?  Well, probably not, but let me ask you this.  “Have you ever done something wrong, something that hurt someone, something that broke someone’s heart?”  You probably know that is really what this story is about.  You see when we get all fired up and make some bad choices with big regrets it doesn’t just go away…oh not…it lingers and lingers and lingers.  And you know and I know sometimes the scar just stays forever.  I know we shouldn’t cry over spilt milk but maybe we should shed a few tears over broken hearts, hearts that we have broken.

I sure wish I had been more careful that day.  I know I was just a kid but I was old enough to be careful.  My careless behavior caused a big stink and it was a stink we all had to endure.  I think we should be more careful with our actions and our words each day.  If we would it might save a few hearts and a few big stinks.  The Bible says that we will have to give an account for every word and every action that we say or do.  Do you know what?  If I would have asked, my big sister would have helped me that day…so would Momma but I thought I could handle it.  We think that way in life too.  Why not ask for a little help from your Heavenly Father before the milk gets spilt?  He is always ready to help you carry your milk. Two things are certain…you can count on Him and always, He’s got this. Bro. Dewayne

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

Sunrise and Sunset

It will soon be time for me to leave this life. I have fought a good fight. I have finished the work I was to do. I have kept the faith.” 2 Timothy 4:6-7

It was a warm North Florida Sunday morning that would change everything.  I was raised in Jacksonville, Florida and was fortunate to live in one place and one house all of my growing up years.  Our house was a converted World War II army barracks with a couple of rooms added on.  I’m not sure who moved it there, or who added what, but it was home…my home. I lived there till I graduated from high school and joined the Air Force. My Daddy had some heart issues while I was still in high school and unfortunately, they went from bad to worse.  This was before all the miraculous medicines and surgeries that we have now. So, times were hard for him…and us.

In the summer of 1974, somehow it came about that we, the family, would get together and paint the house.  It was a wooden structure, and time and weather had taken a toll on the outside.  The old wood siding looked pretty rough, and as I remember it, Daddy said he wanted to have the house painted before he died.  Now that is my memory, and it may not be entirely accurate but something like that is how we ended up painting the house in mid-July.  Several, if not all, the brothers were on hand as we scraped and painted the house.  I don’t know if my sisters were painters or not, but I wouldn’t be surprised if they were.

As darkness crept up on us on Saturday, July 13th, the house was just about painted.  We worked until nearly dark and finally, it was done.  It looked amazingly better and Daddy and the rest of us were proud of our hard work.  Daddy did little, if any, of the painting because of his health.  But there was something he did do.  Several of the wooden windows needed the panes reglazed, so he was working on those.  We had a wash-room built onto the house and he was working on that window when darkness fell Saturday evening.

The next morning, Sunday, July 14th, Momma when in to check on Daddy in the bedroom they shared. That was when she found that sometime early in the morning, he slipped from us. I clearly remember the chaos of those moments as we called the ambulance and tried to perform CPR, but it was too late.  Daddy was gone. All of a sudden, those last days of working and painting together became so important, so special.  We had pulled together and given Daddy one of his desires.  It is almost like he was waiting for the job to be done so he could go home.

Later that day, as we were trying to figure everything out, someone found that window he had been working on the night before.  It was laying on two sawhorses with a rag and his tools still in place.  As it turned out, it was the last work he did on this earth.  Someone snapped a picture but as far as I know it has been lost to time, but in my mind I can see it as clearly as if I was standing there.  Daddy’s work on this earth was over and yet he lives on.  He lives on in heaven and he lives on in our hearts.  The freshly painted old World War II barracks was a reminder of our love and respect for the man we called Daddy.

All of that was 47 years ago today.  It is hard to imagine that so much time has passed since he passed from this world into a better world…a world where bad hearts have no place and where time doesn’t matter.  One day, because of God’s good grace, I will see my Daddy again.  My Momma joined him in heaven just four short years later…both were just 62 years old.  But when I get there, when we get there, all that won’t matter because God is going to make it all right…all new.

I supposed the whole purpose of this Grits is just to allow me to relive a good memory of a good man.  I suppose it is just to help me make sure that his memory lives on here, as he lives on there.  And I suppose the big truth for this Grits is that we should live each day to the fullest and do whatever it is we should do.  It might be painting a house, or glazing a window, or it just might be showing someone that you love them.  We don’t know what day will be our last day, so we should live each one to the fullest. Then, we can say something like Paul said when he wrote, “It will soon be time for me to leave this life. I have fought a good fight. I have finished the work I was to do. I have kept the faith.” And my friend, that is a legacy worth leaving.

Losing my daddy at twenty years old was hard, very hard. Then mama was gone, just four short years later, which left me feeling they were both gone too soon.  For some of you, that hardness is yet to come.  But from the voice of experience, let me say, you don’t have to walk it alone.  When you are drowning in the sea of sorrow and confusion, He will not leave you to bear it alone. He wants to walk with you, carry you, and whisper as only He can, “I’ve got this.” And He does. Bro. Dewayne