Posted in Family, fear, friends, Grace, gratitude, life, Scripture, thankful, travel, Trials

Don’t Miss the Adventure

For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but one of power, love, and sound judgment.” 2 Timothy 1:7

It was one great adventure!  Every year, except for covid year, our youth pastor takes a group of people to canoe on the Jack’s Fork River in Southern Missouri. Last year, people were signing up in the foyer after services and something very strange happened.  I spoke.  Well, that was not strange since I often say too much.  But what I said was definitely strange.  I looked at my wife and said, “We should do this.” Of course, she fainted and required CPR, but after reviving her, she signed us up. Now I like adventures, a lot, but I am not a fan of cold water, make that very cold water, canoes, and falling out of a canoe and trying to get back in. The potential for all of that was part of this adventure. But it was too late. We were going.

It is funny how things can grow in your mind.  The more I thought about this the more I was certain this was not going to have a good outcome.  I began to say, half in jest and half believing it, that I was going to die.  I wasn’t sure if the cause of my demise was going to be drowning or heart attack from the cold water, but I was going to die.  As the days passed heading toward the day of the great adventure, the dread became more and more real.

Now, I need to be honest. My fear had nothing to do with the water, cold or not. My greatest fear was embarrassment.  I just knew, given the wobbly nature of a canoe, that we would end up in the water. I was cool with that…no pun intended. The problem was the spectacle of me trying to crawl back into the boat.  I could just imagine my slightly (well, perhaps more than slightly) pudgy body struggling to go over the side and back into the boat.  And, by the way, it was not an unfounded fear.

You see, years ago, at another event at another church, I was on the back of a jet ski with a friend of driving.  We were zipping along and then, all of a sudden, he was zipping, and I wasn’t.  I slid right off the back of that jet ski and right into the water.  Well, he circled back around, and I spent the next two hours (ok, a slight exaggeration there) trying to crawl back onto the jet ski.  And, yes, people were watching and yes, people were laughing, and I was dying…not from drowning but from embarrassment.

Well, here I am years later, and that scar still has all the makings of a fresh wound.  Whenever a situation like that comes around, fear creeps in and I want to run in the opposite direction.  Fear does that, you know.  Fear will cause us to miss a lot of great opportunities, a lot of great adventures, and the crazy part is that the thing we fear often doesn’t materialize or at least isn’t nearly as bad as we thought.  But such is the way of fear.

So, we went and guess what?  We didn’t lose it.  Though several folks ended up in the water, somehow, Judy and I didn’t.  It was probably my well experienced (not) and expert (not) command of the canoe.  Actually, it was no small measure of grace.  Oh, and by the way, while the current did make recovering some of the boats difficult, it wasn’t from the depth of the water.  In most places the water was only a couple of feet deep.  In other words, if we had dumped, I probably could have stepped right back in the boat.  Hmmm…how about that.

If you find yourself facing the unknown or maybe the possibility of reliving a part of your difficult past, don’t assume the same outcome.  And, better than that, remember that the thing we fear is usually not the monster we think it is.  And, better than that, there is a loving Father, who wants to walk with you no matter what.  I love the verse in the Bible that teaches me, that reminds me, that fear doesn’t come from God…it comes from the devil.  The enemy knows fear paralyzes…he knows it causes pain, and he knows he can control us through our fear. But regardless of all that, one thing I do know is that no matter what my fear, my God is bigger than my enemy and because of that I can rest assured that “He’s got this.”  Bro. Dewayne

Posted in Family, friends, gratitude, life, Southern born

Looking Forward

Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and reaching forward to what is ahead…” Philippians 3:13

There’s a reason it is smaller.  I like cars.  I love cars. From my first car, a worn out, rusted out, 1962 Rambler, to what I drive today…cars have held a special place in my life.  That old Rambler may have been akin to the “Ramblin’ wreck from Georgia Tech” but it was mine…a gift from my oldest sister and her husband. I was 16 or 17 and I thought I was on top of the world.  Through the years I have had many different cars.  Some were new (oh, how I love that smell) and more were used, but each one was my baby.  I try and take care of both of our family vehicles, but mine always gets the best care. Don’t even think about eating in it. Grandkids are required to take a bath before getting in it.  Even Judy requires a permission slip to drive it.

As different as these cars have been, there are a few things that they have in common.  They all had an engine.  The Rambler had a straight line six with a rod knocking but hey, it ran…for a while.  My first new car was a 1973 Volkswagen Super Beetle.  It had an engine too…but in the back.  Trust me that was revolutionary in those days.  Then there was the 1985 Oldsmobile Cutlass Cruiser.  It had an engine—a diesel.  I didn’t know a thing about diesels.  Imagine my surprise when I looked for the spark plugs and found out it didn’t have any! Speaking of diesels, Judy and I both drive Volkswagens these days, both diesels and both get about 42 miles per gallon.  You might say I’m returning to my roots.

Oh, and all those cars had tires, four of them.  They had seats—most had seating for five, but some had more.  Our mini vans could seat seven and that Cutlass Cruiser could seat eight. All had heating and most had air conditioning. Like I said, they had a lot of things in common.  And they all had a mirror.  They had one or two sideview mirrors and then there was one that hung in the middle of the windshield.  It allowed me to see what was behind, and as you know that is important. But there is one more thing that they had in common. They all had a windshield.

In the real old days, cars didn’t have windshields.  You wore goggles and just picked the bugs out of your teeth.  But somewhere along the way someone figured out that there had to be a better way and the windshield was born.  The windshield allows you to see where you are going and what is coming at you.  It is big because it is important.  Have you ever thought about this—the thing that allows you to see the future is a whole lot bigger than the thing that allows you to see the past?  Hmmm. I bet that is no accident. No one can deny the fact that we need to look behind, it’s just that looking forward is more important and that is why it is so big.

So, here’s the question.  As you are “driving” along life’s road, which is bigger, your windshield or your rearview mirror?  I know many folks spend more time looking back than looking forward and that can lead to a hair-raising ride.  You see the rearview mirror in your car is not designed to be the primary place you look.  It is designed for an occasional glance.  Well, that is true in life.  The rearview mirror in our life is there, it is designed, to glance back.  We savor the good times and smile as we remember them.  We wince at some of the more unwise decisions but remember the lessons we learned.  Yup…it is profitable until it is all that we look at.

Living with our eyes glued to the rearview mirror of life is a dangerous thing.  If we live staring at all the past good days, we will soon become discontent with the present.  If we live staring at all the past failures and flops, we will soon become discouraged and depressed. It’s just what happens when we stare at the past and ignore the present and future. Paul, in the Bible, gives us some great advice.  He admitted that while he hadn’t figured it all out, he had learned one thing.  He said we should leave the past in the past and reach out for the future. And trust me…that is really, good advice.

A guy named Brian Simmons said, “The time before us is not one of gloom and doom; it will be instead the best and most adventurous time of our lives. The best for God’s people lies not in the past, buried in Scripture somewhere. It’s yet to come. Let’s not allow fear to defeat us.” Right on Brian, right on.  Remember, don’t fear the future just because it is unknown.  You see, there is a God who knows the future and in fact, in a way we can’t understand…He’s already there. So, settle back, rest in Him and enjoy the drive. Go ahead…set the cruise…He’s got this.  Bro. Dewayne

Posted in Family, fear, gratitude, life, prayer, priorities, Scripture, Trials

First It Was…Then It Wasn’t

I focus on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead.” Philippians 3:13

Twenty-two years ago, we moved to Harrisburg.  More specifically we moved to 217 West Poplar Street.  The house had been vacant for several years and we had a lot of work to do—inside and out.  Our lawn, or perhaps yard would be a better word, was a collection of weeds.  Except for one clump of daylilies, there was nothing—just a healthy crop of weeds and crabgrass. Now some would see that as a problem…an overwhelming one at that.  But what they would see as a problem—my wife, Judy, saw as an opportunity.  Just like an artist with a blank canvas, she went to work.

First you need to know that Judy has a green thumb—figuratively speaking. She has the amazing ability to plan and plant flowers and make gardens.  So, soon after we moved in, she set about turning the house into a home and the yard into a tapestry of flower beds. Before long, there were flower gardens filled many beautiful blooms.  Things were definitely looking up.

That year, I believe in the fall, we planted a pink dogwood tree.  Well, it might be better described as a pink dogwood twig. Now you might know that dogwood trees are just a little finicky.  You have to cuddle and nurture them, or they will take their ball and go home.  Well, we took good care of the little dogwood tree, and it grew.  I can remember after about three years it finally bloomed! It continued to grow and before long it was a real tree.  Judy and I were so proud.

After fifteen good years, our pride and joy started looking a little sick.  There were fewer leaves and the leaves it had were just not healthy.  I had a hunch that our dogwood tree was “checking out” and sure enough that spring it gave up the ghost. Apparently, an insect called a bore decided to bore into our tree.  Why?  Well, I guess he was just bored. Sorry, I couldn’t resist.  After it was apparent that the tree was dead, I remember saying to Judy that I just couldn’t imagine the front yard without it.

Well, even after it died, I let it stand for several months (hoping for a resurrection?) but finally decided to take it down. I had long ago given away my he-man chainsaw, so armed with my lobbers and—get ready—my saws-all, I tackled the tree.  Limb by limb, slowly the tree came down. It was a sad moment but soon after I was done, we looked and both of us commented how much better it looked without the dead tree there.  Did you catch that?  I couldn’t imagine it gone and then I couldn’t imagine it there!  What was the difference? Life and death.

You see, alive the tree was an asset—it added to our yard.  In the spring it had beautiful blooms and, in the fall, it had red leaves and berries. Once it died, well, it was a liability. I’m not sure why I left it standing as long as I did but truthfully it was better gone. Looking back, I began to wonder how many things in our life that were once an asset have now become a liability? The truth is times change, we change and sometimes we need to be willing to let go.  I know in view of 2020; it was very hard to let go of 2019. We held on to that old normalcy with a death grip. But no matter how hard we grasped, it slipped like beach sand through our fingers.

So, is there something that was good for back then but is pulling you down now?  Is it time to let go of an old friendship? An old habit? An old addiction? The truth is if we think about it, all of us have something that we need to be willing to let go of—and no, your spouse and kids don’t count! Smile. Our friend Paul, one of the main writers of the New Testament part of the Bible said he was going to let go of the past and reach for the future. Now that is good advice. As we journey in life let’s learn and perhaps honor the past but be ready and willing to embrace the future.  Sound a little frightening?  Don’t worry you don’t need to face it alone.  He’s got this. Bro. Dewayne

Posted in Family, fear, forgiveness, Grace, gratitude, life, loving others, Scripture, sovereignty of God, Trials

Freedom Day

When the Lord brought back the captivity of Zion, we were like those who dream. Then our mouth was filled with laughter, and our tongue with singing.” Psalm 126:1-2a

I woke up and realized it wasn’t a dream.  I remember last year the rumor was confirmed.  Our school system was shutting down for two weeks as a preventive measure against COVID -19.  Our church leadership met and decided to show support for the community we would also dismiss services for the next two weeks.  Little did we know that eventually we would be shut down for ten weeks.  Those ten weeks seemed like eternity and included Easter and Mother’s Day.  It seemed we were locked down and locked up…and it would never end.

Soon, mandated by the state government, nonessential stores were ordered to close.  Restaurants were ordered to close.  Soon shelves in grocery stores were bare of some items and a roll of toilet paper was like gold.  In the early days, our area was virtually unscathed by the virus but the reality of a new normal was very real.  Schools were closed for a long period and something called “on-line learning” became an everyday, everywhere, deal.  It seemed we were forced and destined for not only a new normalcy but a very different one.

Soon masks were the big topic…and divider.  Whether they should be required or not divided families, friends, neighbors, and churches.  At first it was something that was mandated, but not really enforced however soon it was.  While stores used to have signs that said, “No shoes and shirt…no service” it became, “No mask, no entry.”  Something that was very foreign (no pun intended) to us because an everyday topic.  Many were confused, angry, and discouraged. Would this thing ever end?  Would things ever be the way they were?  A few nodded yes, but most shook their head no. Like a sour love story, we might learn to comply, but we would never love it.

This spring, a year after it started, things began to change…a new wind was blowing and it was bringing hope.  States began easing or removing restrictions, the virus began retreating and the promise of life without “Thou Must or Thou Can’t” advanced…flooding in like desert rain on the drylands. And then last Friday, June 11, in one of the most restrictive states in the nation, freedom day came.  Last Friday, Illinois finally became an open state—and it was like a dream come true.  On a much smaller scale, it was like the children of Israel finally leaving Egypt. They were free and yes, we are free.

Like the children of Israel, we too will now face some choices.  Are we going to hold onto the fear of last year or let it go? Are we going to let what divided us still do so? Are we going to hold onto grudges and remain a divided people?  The choice is ours. We can let the past lay in the past, learning what we need to learn, or we can run forward embracing what lies ahead.  I hope we will run forward.  I hope we will remember and understand that God was faithful, is faithful and will be faithful, no matter what next week or next year holds.  The future is in His hands…and that is a good thing.

So, last Friday, I told my wife Judy that it was Freedom Day…a reason and a cause to celebrate.  I will not seek division, I will not be a part of the past, I am running forward, and I hope you will join me.  The book of Psalms, found in the Jewish and Christian scriptures says, “When the Lord brought back the captivity of Zion, we were like those who dream. Then our mouth was filled with laughter, and our tongue with singing. They said among the nations, “The Lord has done great things for them.” The Lord has done great things for us, and we are glad.

We.Are.Glad.  Be sure today and do three things.  First, if you are a Jesus follower…be sure and thank Him for guiding us and bringing us out of this past year or so.  Second, celebrate what He has done.  Throw a party of sorts.  We’ve waited for it…now celebrate it.  Third, remember.  Remember those who suffered and lost during the COVID time.  For many, those sixteen months or more, are very painful…share and feel their pain and remember that in some parts of the world, bondage continues.  And while you are remembering, remember this.  In March of 2020 I wrote the first blog for Grits and I closed it with the words, “He’s got this.” Well, He did, He does, and He will.  Bro. Dewayne