Posted in Family, friends, Grace, gratitude, Integrity, life, loving others, prayer, Scripture, Southern born, Trials

Be A Barney

For instance, there was Joseph, the one the apostles nicknamed Barnabas (which means “Son of Encouragement”).” Acts 4:36

It happened driving down the road at 55 miles per hour.  When I was growing up, there was one man outside my family that I respected so much…one that garnered my admiration. It was my pastor.  His name was James Branch.  I happened to be an insider at his house because his son was one of my best friends. It didn’t matter when or where—I always saw him as a man I could trust and more than once he was there for my family.  When my Daddy died early one Sunday morning, he was at my house.  I can still remember him on the back porch in his white shirt minus the black tie he wore, consoling my Momma.  She was so upset and began to hyperventilate. Bro. Branch, with his hand on her shoulder, softly spoke words of comfort and peace. There can be no doubt he played a big role in how I would later serve as a pastor.

That might be why it stung so much.  I received an email a while back from a national organization. It revealed the results of Gallup’s national survey on American’s perception of the honesty and ethical standards of different professions.  Not surprising, 89% of Americans gave nurses high or very-high standards.  Doctors stood at 77% followed by pharmacists at 71%.  Well, I certainly can’t argue with that.  These dedicated folks have surely shown their colors during the COVID-19 pandemic.  Hats off to our schoolteachers too who scored 75% and our men and women in blue who scored 52%—the only other profession about which a majority of Americans say have high or very high ethics and honesty.

The article went on to say that clergy or ministers came in at 39% when it came to honesty—right between judges and nursing home operators.  While senior adults as a group ranked pastors higher (51%), the younger generation (ages 18-34) rated pastors only at 24 percent.  To put it in perspective, in 1985, pastors received a 67% rating.  When I think of my pastor in 1974 who stood on the back porch with my grieving family, I have to wonder, “what happened?”  Why is it that so many think so lowly of clergy? Some of the reasoning, I believe, is a cultural shift—while too much, might, just might, be the truth. It seems we can only go a few weeks without some named pastor being in the news for some breach of trust.  I just don’t know.

When I read this news, I grieved. After all, pastors, above all other Jesus followers, should be, must be, people of integrity.  We should set the example.  Granted, we are not perfect—in fact far from it.  Like the old saying goes, “Christians, including pastors, aren’t perfect, we are just forgiven.”  I like that.  This is why what happened that day driving 55 miles per hour meant so much.  My phone rang.

I looked at the caller ID and saw it was a young man who is a member at the church I pastor.  Honestly, I wondered why he was calling.  While we speak often at church, he is not on my speed dial and I’m sure I am not on his.  I answered the phone and exchanged greetings and said, “Hey, what can I do for you?”  What happened next was not what I could do for him, but what he did for me.  I won’t get it all right, but the bottom line is he said, “I know you have a really hard job right now with all that is going on.  I want you to know as one of the younger generation, I think you are doing a good job.” He shared how he and another of our young guys were talking the other night—sharing the same thing.  It made my day and I told him so.

It turned out that he was driving in the same direction as I was and had passed me and just felt prompted to make that call.  I’m so glad he did.  It is one of those times I just wonder if the Whisperer whispered in his ear and said, “Call Dewayne.  He needs a good word about now.”  And thankfully he did.  So, let me encourage you to be an encourager.  We all know people who just need a word to help keep them going.  There was a guy in the Bible whose name was Barnabas, which literally means “encourager.”  I’m assuming he was such a positive force in the lives of others, someone said, “We’ll just call you Barney…and it stuck”.

So, to my Barney that Friday morning, thanks.  Thanks for listening to the Lord and thanks for encouraging a guy who happens to be a lot older than you and who happens to be a pastor.  And keep it up.  There are a lot of empty cups out there that need filling. I love the fact that my Dearest Daddy believes in me.  I’m still amazed how much Judy believes in me.  But when someone outside that circle cares and believes…that is special.  Let’s join Jesus and be the light in someone’s day.  Encourage everyone you know and assure them that everything is going to be great. Why? Because “He’s got this.” Bro. Dewayne

Posted in forgiveness, friends, Grace, life, loving others, prayer, Scripture, Trials

That Love Your Neighbor Thing

You have heard the law that says, ‘Love your neighbor’ and hate your enemy. But I say, love your enemies! Pray for those who persecute you! In that way, you will be acting as true children of your Father in heaven.” Matthew 5:43-45

“You’re nothing but a little Hitler.”  The life of a pastor is always interesting.  You really never know what is going to come your way.  I’ve been doing this pastor thing for 40 years now and I know two things.  First, generally speaking, the sun will come up tomorrow.  There is no guarantee, but it has a pretty good track record.  Second, you (pastor or not) are going to step in someone’s mess today.

Her name was Karen. Her mother attended our church and she and her two boys would occasionally visit.  I decided one day to go by and just let her know that we enjoyed having her visit.  I mean it sounded like a good thing, it sounded like the right thing.  What could possibly go wrong, right?  Well, I pulled into her driveway and went up to the door.  I did my gentle, nonthreatening knock and she came to the door.  I gave the standard, “Hi Cindy, I just wanted to come by and let you know we are so glad you are visiting with us” spill.  It was pleasant…it was sincere.

I don’t remember everything she said that day.  It could be “pastoral amnesia.”  That is a defense mechanism that pastors must use to guard their hearts when someone decides it is their spiritual gift to break them. It might be PTSS (Pastor Traumatic Stress Syndrome) where the event was so traumatic that you block it out.  Anyway…she cut loose and the two things I do remember included something about me running a cult and brain washing people.  The last thing I remember was when she said, in all seriousness, “You are nothing but a little Hitler.”

Well, that hurt—a lot.  It hurt so much that 30 years later I can still hear her voice, still feel her words, and still wish I had never knocked on that door.  Not too long ago I was asked to do her stepfather’s funeral and when I saw her all the hurt came flooding back. The anger was long gone but the scar ran deep. There is an old saying that is a lie.  It says, “Sticks and stone may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.”  Really?  I wonder who came up with that one.  They must have been deaf and blind.  Words are an incredibly powerful tool or weapon—depending on the sender.

I am still amazed at the emotional energy that chance encounter had for me that day.  But it wasn’t chance…it was somehow prescribed by my Dearest Daddy to help me grow to be more like Jesus.  He knew (and He was right) that there would be many more awkward moments in the days ahead and I needed to learn about how to handle them…like Jesus.  One morning, I listened to a devotional by one of my favorite writers, Bob Goff.  He was talking about loving your enemies…or maybe folks who act like your enemies. He quoted Jesus and here’s what Jesus said, “You have heard the law that says, ‘Love your neighbor’ and hate your enemy. But I say, love your enemies! Pray for those who persecute you! In that way, you will be acting as true children of your Father in heaven.”

Wow…that is way powerful.  Bob’s day job is being a lawyer. He told a story about a witch doctor in Uganda that he took to trial.  This witch doctor believed in child sacrifice and practiced it.  No one before had had the courage to take on these bad guys.  Well, Bob did, and he won.  Later, he decided to go visit this guy on death row.  The former witch doctor, who had become a Christ follower, told Bob that he forgave him.  That confused Bob because the other guy was the bad guy.  But what is important is the former witch doctor was extending grace because he wanted to be like Jesus…like his Father.  How about that?

This two year and running mess has been a breeding ground for more than germs…it has been a breeding ground for division, unkindness, judging, and hurting.  I know it and you know. And, unfortunately, God’s kids have not been exempt.  This world is watching and seeing and wondering if this God thing is real or a hoax.  One way we can show them that Jesus is the real deal is by loving one another.  Just because the evening news is filled with hate and bitterness doesn’t mean it should infect our Jesus world.  Remember He said that the world would know we are Christians by our love…not our dogmatism.

I put something on the church sign a while back. It said, Jesus First. Before. Everything. Else. Period.  I believe that.  He is more important than COVID, masks, politics, and everything else.  He is first and when we allow Him to be first…we all do better.  Our world does better. Our marriages do better. Our churches do better.

Our challenge, as we continue this journey called life, if you are a Jesus follower, is to make sure you are following closely.  Mimic His every Word and every step.  And if you are not yet a follower, I hope you soon will be.  I know sometimes we Jesus followers don’t get it right—but trust me He never gets it wrong.  You can rest in Him.  He’s got this. Bro. Dewayne

Posted in Family, forgiveness, Grace, gratitude, life, loving others, Military memories, prayer, priorities, Scripture, travel, Trials, wisdom

Lifeline

The Lord is good, a stronghold in the day of trouble; and He knows those who trust in Him.” Nahum 1:7

Nahum 1:7. It was in the Bible and it was his verse.  Church has always been a part of my culture.  From the time I was born it seems I always found my way to a building with a steeple on top. That also means I bumped into several pastors and preachers too.  Each one left a fingerprint on my life and because of that each one made a difference.  Speaking of different…each one was.  Different gifts, talents, and personalities, but each one made an impact.  I am grateful.

When my wife Judy and I moved to Germany in 1977 for a stint overseas with the Air Force, we were fortunate to have a church not too far from where we lived and the base where I worked.  It wasn’t long before we were part of that family.  In fact, it wasn’t long before we were good friends with the pastor and his wife.  He was a young pastor, had an infectious smile and a great personality and we hit it off right from the start.  We were about five or six years different in our ages, so he was kinda like a big brother only he wasn’t very big…but his heart was.

One of the things (literally) that I liked about hanging with Steve (not his real name) was he had a new shiny, red Volkswagen sports car.  It was great on curves and it was plenty fast and since Germany had lots of curves and often no speed limit on the autobahn…well, it was fun.  I guess in some ways we were like a couple of teenagers.

Steve also was a Godly guy.  He really tried to live his faith out. One of the things that he shared with me was his “life verse.”  In case you don’t know what that is, it is a verse from that Bible that jumps off the page at you and gets stuck in your mind and heart. So, Steve’s verse came from one of those books in the Old Testament that no one can find.  It is called the Book of Nahum and his verse came from chapter one, and verse seven.  It goes like this, “The Lord is good, a stronghold in the day of trouble; and He knows those who trust in Him.”

It is the kind of verse that you gotta love.  It is the kind of verse that can be a lifeline when the sea of life gets rough.  It isn’t that the verse has any magic powers, it’s just that it contains a boatload of truth.  God is good, and it isn’t that He just does good, He is good.  He is like a place you can run to when things go south, and He remembers my name, your name, our names.  Those are great truths when the sun is shining in life and really, great truths when the storm clouds roll in…just like it did for Steve one day.

Without warning, he learned that his marriage was over, there was another guy.  It was just one of those crazy things that happen, and it broke his heart and our hearts.  The bottom line, he decided it was best to head back to the states and in a short while…he was gone.  I never saw him again but if by chance he reads this someday, I hope he knows there were some things that stuck with me…like his life verse.  No, his verse didn’t become mine, but it stuck.  God is good, God is a refuge, God knows my name.

How about you?  Do you have a verse that jumped off the page one day and into your heart and life?  Mine for a real long time has been Proverbs 3:5-6 but for the last several years it has had some real competition with Psalm 37:23-24.  Check them out…they are both awesome scriptures.  That is one thing about the Bible.  Even if you’ve never taken the leap of faith to believe, and I hope you will, you will find it an incredible Book of wisdom and knowledge and who knows, if you try it, it might just leap right into your life.  God is good, God is a refuge, God knows my name.  It was good back in 1977, it is good today, and when I launch from here to there, it will still be good. And no matter the circumstance, no matter the deal, it reminds me that, “He’s got this.”  Bro. Dewayne

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

Barney

For instance, there was Joseph, the one the apostles nicknamed Barnabas (which means “Son of Encouragement”).” Acts 4:36

It happened driving down the road at 55 miles per hour.  When I was growing up, there was one man outside my family that I respected so much…one that garnered my admiration. It was my pastor.  His name was James Branch.  I happened to be an insider at his house because his son was one of my best friends. It didn’t matter when or where—I always saw him as a man I could trust and more than once he was there for my family.  When my Daddy died early one Sunday morning, he was at my house.  I can still remember him on the back porch in his white shirt minus the black tie he wore, consoling my Mama.  She was so upset and began to hyperventilate. Bro. Branch, with his hand on her shoulder, spoke words of comfort and peace. There can be no doubt he played a big role in how I would later serve as a pastor.

That might be why it stung so much.  I received an email this week from a national organization. It revealed the results of Gallup’s national survey on American’s perception of the honesty and ethical standards of professions.  Not surprising, 89% of Americans gave nurses high or very-high standards.  Doctors stood at 77% followed by pharmacists at 71%.  Well, I certainly can’t argue with that.  These dedicated folks have surely shown their colors this past year during the COVID-19 pandemic.  Hats off to our school-teachers too, who scored 75% and our men and women in blue who scored 52%—the only other profession about which a majority of Americans say have high or very high ethics and honesty.

The article went on to say that clergy or ministers came in at 39% when it came to honesty—right between judges and nursing home operators.  While senior adults as a group ranked pastors higher (51%), the younger generation (ages 18-34) rated pastors only at 24 percent.  To put it in perspective, in 1985, pastors received a 67% rating.  When I think of my pastor in 1974 who stood on the back porch with my grieving family, I have to wonder, “what happened?”  Why is it that so many think so lowly of clergy? Some of the reasoning, I believe, is a cultural shift—while too much, might, just might, be the truth. It seems we can only go a few weeks without some named pastor being in the news for some breach of trust.  I just don’t know.

When I read this news, I grieved. After all, pastors, above all other Jesus followers, should be, must be, people of integrity.  We should set the example.  Granted, we are not perfect—in fact far from it.  Like the old saying goes, “Christians, including pastors, aren’t perfect, we are just forgiven.”  I like that.  This is why what happened that day driving 55 miles per hour meant so much.  My phone rang.

I looked at the caller ID and saw it was a young man who is a member at the church I pastor.  Honestly, I wondered why he was calling.  While we speak often at church, he is not on my speed dial and I’m sure I am not on his.  I answered the phone and exchanged greetings and said, “Hey, what can I do for you?”  What happened next was not what I could do for him, but what he did for me.  I won’t get it all right, but the bottom line is he said, “I know you have a really hard job right now with all that is going on.  I want you to know as one of the younger generation, I think you are doing a good job.” He shared how he and another of our young guys were talking the other night—sharing the same thing.  It made my day and I told him so.

It turned out that he was driving in the same direction as I and had passed me and just felt prompted to make that call.  I’m so glad he did.  It is one of those times I just wonder if the Whisperer whispered in his ear and said, “Call Dewayne.  He needs a good word about now.”  And thankfully he did.  So, let me encourage you to be an encourager.  We all know people who just need a word to help keep them going.  There was a guy in the Bible whose name was Barnabas, which literally means “encourager.”  I’m assuming he was such a positive force in the lives of others, someone said, “We’ll just call you Barney…and it stuck”.

So, to my Barney that Friday morning, thanks.  Thanks for listening to the Lord and thanks for encouraging a guy who happens to be a lot older than you and who happens to be a pastor.  And keep it up.  There are a lot of empty cups in our world that need filling. I love the fact that my Dearest Daddy believes in me.  I’m still amazed how much Judy believes in me.  But when someone outside that circle cares and believes…that is special.  Let’s join Jesus and be the light in someone’s day.  Encourage everyone you know and assure them that everything is going to be okay. Why? Because, “He’s got this.”