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

A Thanksgiving to Remember

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Posted in Family, Grace, gratitude, life, prayer, priorities, Scripture, thankful, wisdom

A Tale of Two Candles

As for me, my life has already been poured out as an offering to God.” 2 Timothy 4:6a

They were only two candles…but they had a story to tell.  My job is talking.  Well, maybe, hopefully, it is more than that…it is teaching and sometimes preaching.  You remember preaching, don’t you?  That is that thing your parents did to you a lot when you were fifteen going on sixteen.  Well, when I am talking, or teaching, or preaching, it is important that I try to hold the people’s attention and get truth across in a way that is easy to understand.  Jesus did that and I am definitely partial to Him and how He did things.

Recently, when I was teaching, I was talking about the fact that each of us has one life, and it is important we figure out how we want to spend it. Paul, the one in the Bible, said it like this, “As for me, my life has already been poured out as an offering to God.” He was simply saying the one life he had was one he wanted to spend pleasing God.  At our church we like to say we want to spend our lives loving God and loving people.  Pretty simple, isn’t it?  To illustrate the point, I told a story about two candles.  The story is true, but I don’t have to worry about changing the names because the two candles didn’t have one.  It goes like this.

Several years ago, like five or six, my wife Judy and I bought a wall sconce.  It had a place for a candle to sit so we bought a beautiful candle which was yellow and a golden color.  The sides of the candle were carved with long, flowing ridges.  I hung the sconce and then put the candle in its new home.  And there it sat for the next five years…looking nice but never fulfilling its one purpose…to provide light.  Over the years it accumulated a thin layer of dust and the colors slowly faded.  Well, recently, we painted the room where the candle lived and when I took it and the sconce down…for the first time in a long time I took a close look and promptly tossed it in the trash.  It’s life was done and not once did it find its purpose.

Enter candle number two. It was a Saturday morning in late September and fall was in the air.  I was in my home office writing, and I finally opened the door to go downstairs.  Immediately I smelled the aroma of one of our favorite candles.  It is called Leaves and comes from Bath and Body.  Judy and I both love this candle.  I knew at once she had lit one down in the kitchen and the scent of fall had slowly made its way all the way upstairs to where I was standing.  In an instant I felt as if the seasons had changed and it was time to celebrate.

I went downstairs and sure enough there in the kitchen was the three-wick candle burning…allowing itself to be consumed.  And, in that process, two things happened.  First, the candle was fulfilling its destiny.  There would be no life spent on a shelf somewhere for this candle.  Soon, it would be gone…consumed by flame and purpose.  Second, the aroma that the candle gave as it was consumed left a longing and satisfying scent through the house.  For a while, even when the candle was no longer burning, the scent of its purpose filled the room and the house.  Soon, the glass container that held the candle will be empty and discarded but the candle won’t be there…it will have been consumed…with purpose.

I love this story because it challenges me to ask the question, “What candle do I want to be?  Do I want to be the one that stayed safely on the wall slowing dying a purposeless death or be the one that allowed itself to be consumed with purpose…the one that left a sweet aroma even after its own demise? Well, for me at this moment the answer is simple.  I want to live a life of purpose—loving God, and loving people.  I want my memory to bring a sweet aroma into the lives of those who knew me and a smile on the face of my Dearest Daddy.  I hope to hear, I want to hear, “Well done” from the One who made me.

Like Paul, the one in the Bible, I know I haven’t arrived…I still fumble the ball a lot, but that same Dearest Daddy waits to pick me up when I stumble.  I like that too, a lot.  And I’m learning that a lot of the people I bump into are graceful and understanding too.  So, if you’ve found that you are stuck somewhere on a wall, slowing fading and becoming dusty, why not come on down and fulfill your purpose…to live, to love God and people.  You will find it’s a great way to live. Oh, and don’t be afraid of failing.  We all have the confident assurance that no matter what, “He’s got this.”  Bro. Dewayne

Posted in Family, friends, gratitude, life, love, loving others, prayer, priorities, Scripture, travel

Enjoy the Journey

Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!” Philippians 4:4

It just depends.  Last year, my wife Judy and I returned from a trip out west.  It was a trip that would involve flying and driving.  It was also a trip with one purpose…to get away, to relax, and to enjoy.  It is not uncommon for us to take a trip and encounter some less than perfect weather.  We have learned to say, “Oh well, at least we’re still away.” Away…that’s a good thing.  You see, the purpose of a journey can often determine the success of the journey.  Set your sights too high and too narrow and you will often find frustration and stress.

Let me explain.  The first leg of our journey was simple…get to Colorado as quickly as possible.  Because that was the goal…we flew.  Also, because that was the goal every delay caused me to have a stressful moment.  Long check-in, stress.  Long security, frustration.  Flight delay, double both.  You see, the point was to get there…not to enjoy the journey.  When I was much younger, just the thought of getting to fly was exciting.  I would always ask for the window seat so I could watch the world go by.  The joy was the journey, but now, alas, it is just a means to get somewhere, and the wonder and joy have slipped away.

Leg two of the journey was different.  It was a hybrid of experiences. Renting a new and different car to drive, driving in a new part of the world, and going at a pace that better enabled us to enjoy it. Usually. But honestly, there was still a battle to be fought…an alligator to be wrestled to the earth.  I had to determine if the destination was the goal…or was it the journey?  I mean I know that there is always a destination but if that becomes obsessive, the joy quickly slips away.  It was my call—enjoy the journey or race to the destination.

You see, if I am racing to the destination, then put me on an interstate highway where the roads are wide, and the speed limit is high.  Out in Wyoming, the speed limit on the interstate was 80 mph…Katie bar the door.  Oh, and those long, straight two-lane roads—yup, 75 mph.  That fit my destination minded mindset just fine, thank you.  But then there were the times that we were in the Rocky Mountains on a curvy, mountain road just driving.  There really wasn’t a place we had to be—we were just driving and that changed everything.  If there was a slower driver in front…that was fine. We would just sit back and enjoy the scenery as it slid by the windows.  The journey was the destination and joy was the result.

But here is what I discovered.  As soon as there was a “gotta be there” destination and mindset then that same road and that same slow driver became a stress point.  The only thing that changed was the pressure to get there.  That same scenery was an ignored blur as the only thing that mattered was looking for a passing zone so I could get there—wherever there happened to be.  The end of the day often told the story—tired and stressed or refreshed and blessed—the way I traveled seemed to make all the difference.

There will always be a destination to get to and there will always be slower drivers and unexpected obstacles to keep us from getting there, but joy in the journey changes everything.  Jesus knew that His destination was a Roman cross, but He never let the that stop Him from enjoying the day and loving those around Him.  He loved the joy of the journey.  I can just imagine Him smiling as He changed the life of a leper or blessed a small child…all joy in the journey.  Paul, one of the guys who wrote a large part of the New Testament, said, “Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!”  In other words, have joy in the journey…no matter what that journey looks like.  He did that really well.

So, when you find yourself on a winding, two-lane road, enjoy the journey.  Take a moment to watch the beauty around you slide by the windows.  See what God has allowed to come into your world that day and the destination will come soon enough.  And when you find yourself backed into a rushed corner, there’s a couple of things you can do.  First, plan a little better when you can and then use that extra time to talk to the Father about that day or maybe relax in Him because, “He’s got this.”  Bro. Dewayne

Posted in Family, forgiveness, Grace, gratitude, life, love, prayer, Scripture, thankful

Call the Plumber

For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast.” Ephesians 2:8-9

I knew it, I just knew it.  A while back, my wife told me that she had dropped her special eye liner down the drain in our bathroom.  It was the kind that was encased in a holder like a pencil and one day the eye thingy just slid right out.  Now, I’m not sure what an eye liner even does but I know it was important to her.  And, since it was important to her, it was important to me.

With my limited, and I do mean limited, knowledge of plumbing and drains, I did know that there is a thing called a trap on a drain.  It is designed to catch things and keep them from going wherever the water goes…the place of no return.  I also knew checking the trap was not a big deal.  You unscrew a couple of things and when you are done you screw it back on.  No deal, right? Uh, well, usually.

Well, I took it off and dumped it out.  There was some really, ugly stuff in there but none of it had to do with eyes.  So after cleaning it out I screwed it back on and checked to make sure everything was nice and dry.  It wasn’t.  One of the joints was leaking.  I took it apart 3,291 times and 3,291 times it leaked.  I finally called it quits and asked my real plumber son-in-law to swing by and check it out.  The diagnosis was simple.

The problem was a cheaply made part from China that was apparently, barely staying together before the eye-liner thing.  The answer was to buy a new part, screw it on and bam—you are back in business.  So, I go to store number one and buy the part the guy says I need.  I bring it home, take it apart, wrong part.  Bummer.  So, I went to another store and bought another part that the guy said I needed.  I brought it home, I took it apart and indeed, it was the WRONG part.

If nothing else, I am persistent.  I went to a third store where the nice guy behind the counter sold me a whole bag of parts at a very good price.  “Yay!” I said.  I went home, opened my big bag of parts, and discovered indeed that it would fix a problem, for someone, somewhere—but not my problem.  They didn’t fit either.  I gave up and went on vacation.

Sometimes a trip to Florida with family will give renewed clarity and determination.  When I got home, I decided if I just tried harder, if I just adjusted and twisted enough, I could make one of all those parts work.  Well, I got on the floor, dumped all the parts on the floor and took it all part again and…failed.  Miserably.  In fact, instead of one leak I now had two.  By now I was certain of two things.  I was not a plumber, and I was very glad God called me to be a preacher.

Well, I decided to give it one more try. This time I took the old broken parts with me to the store. Store one and two were closed, but store three was open.  I walked in and the nice guy said, “Can I help you?”  I told him I honestly wasn’t sure.  I gave him the short story of how I now owned a small plumbing supply business, and I needed this part—and I showed him the dirty, slimy old part.  He reached down and pulled a bag full of parts off the shelf and together we looked.  There, inside the bag, was the part I needed.  He saw it, I saw it.  Things were looking up.

I bought the bag of parts and took them home.  I managed to rig the other leak with some electrical tape—hey it worked—and then I put on the new part, the right part.  It took exactly one minute to screw on the right part and ta-da—it didn’t leak.  Success. Victory.  I was one happy shade-tree plumber.  Of course, I now own two bags full of parts that I don’t need—yet—and probably spent enough to pay a plumber to fix it but it was done, and I was the hero!  I’m going down today to apply for my plumber’s card.

I bet you are wondering what today’s big truth is about.  We could talk about frustration. We could talk about determination.  We could talk about some other word that ends with “ion.”  But the big truth is this.  I kept trying to put the wrong part in the right place and no matter how hard I tried—it just wasn’t going to fit.  It was like trying to put a square peg in a round hole—it wasn’t gonna happen. 

Of course, we do this all the time in life with God.  How many times do we have an issue or a problem and we are sure we can cram something into that place that doesn’t fit and be happy?  How many new cars, houses and televisions have been bought trying to scratch an itch that only God can scratch?  Sometimes we just know if we “get religion” or start going to church, or start this or stop that, everything will be ok.  Our life, our marriages, our fears will all be better or disappear.  Those may be good things, but they are not THE thing.

The thing is a personal relationship with Jesus. You may have heard how He came to bring light into a dark world—including your dark world.  You may have even heard how He came to set things right between you and God—in fact, make it possible for you to call God Father.  It’s all true and it’s all right there in the Book.  Paul, one of the guys who wrote a chunk of the New Testament, said “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast.” That just means we are saved by believing and not doing.  It’s really quite amazing.

So, if you have a plumbing problem…save yourself some time and frustration and call your son-in-law the plumber.  If he isn’t one, hire one.  But if your life is a leaky mess, call on Jesus.  No matter the problem, no matter how big the problem—He is the fixer.  He can take care of it and you.  Why?  Because He loves you—a lot.  You can rest in Him when life wears you down.  You can turn to Him when life gets crazy because…He’s got this.  Bro. Dewayne

Posted in Family, Grace, gratitude, life, prayer, Scripture, sovereignty of God, thankful, Trials, wisdom

Right Tool… Right Job

For I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength.” Philippians 4:13

They’re in the garage…waiting.  Ok, let’s be totally honest.  I am, uh, not very handy when it comes to power tools.  It’s not that I don’t use them, and it’s not that I can’t use them, I just don’t use them as effectively as others.  I know when I work with the guys at church on some project, generally speaking, they won’t let me use the power tools.  It’s an act of protection—for me and for them.  Now, with all that said, I do have a pretty good collection of power tools.  And, when I do need them, they are there and if I am careful and patient, I can usually get the job done.

I have a set of tools all made by Ryobi.  The idea is that you have all these different tools, but they are all powered by the same battery or power source.  Several companies do this but I chose Ryobi mainly because they were cheaper than most of the other “he-man” professional brands.  I have, and this is the short list, a couple of drills, an impact driver, a saws-all, a circular saw, a light, a grinder, two string trimmers, two blowers (one small and one big) and a partridge and a pear tree.  Just checking to see if you were still there. Now all these tools use the same battery—the same power source which means I can switch the battery between them all.  It is cool and it is convenient.

Several of these tools, like the drills, blowers, and string trimmers, I use pretty frequently. Some, though, I rarely use—but here is the deal.  I may not use them often, but when I need one, they are so valuable.  I had a piece of metal sticking up in my back yard from an old house that once stood there.  This metal was a pain in the neck.  I would forget and hit it with my lawnmower and bump it with the string trimmer.  No matter what I did, I couldn’t get rid of it.  Then one day I bought a grinder to add to my tool collection.  I took that dude in the backyard and eight years of frustration disappeared in a matter of seconds.  The difference? Right tool for the job.

While all these tools do different things, like I said, they all have the same battery.  I have learned one thing.  The tools without the battery are totally useless.  They might look impressive as you look into my big green Ryobi tool bag, but take away the power and they are just space stealers on a shelf.  However, put in the battery and bam—they become powerful and useful.

I suppose you are already connecting the dots here.  You probably have already figured out that all of us are different, and all of us have different skill sets, but all of us also need a power source to be what we were created to be.  Some might consider that to be a positive attitude or a strong work ethic, and while those are good things…they are not the thing.  From where I sit, the One who made me, who designed me is the source of strength in my life.  He makes all the skill sets come alive.  Paul, one of the writers of the New Testament said it right when he wrote, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”  At least for me, when I plug Jesus into life, into a situation, all of a sudden, there is power to do—to overcome.

Now, don’t make the mistake of confusing church and religion for Jesus.  In and of themselves I guess they are fine, but they are anemic substitutes for the real deal. Jesus is the power source that can change lives and He is just waiting to change yours.  Why not jump on the web and do a little research? Oh, sure you will find some who will think this God stuff is just a crutch to give hopeless people something to hope in.  But you are also going to find a big bunch of incredible people who believe just the opposite.  Hey, give it a shot.  I know after this crazy past year, as well as a zillion other tough situations, He is the real deal, and I’ve never found anything that He can’t handle.  Take it to the bank…He’s got this.  Bro. Dewayne

Posted in Family, food, life, loving others, Scripture, Trials

I Finally Won!

Pay careful attention to your own work, for then you will get the satisfaction of a job well done, and you won’t need to compare yourself to anyone else. For we are each responsible for our own conduct.” Galatians 6:4-5

Deep inside I was kinda, sorta…glad.  Several years ago, I was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes.  Now, it was one of those good news, bad news things.  The bad news of course was that I had the stinking thing.  The good news was that compared to some folks and their struggle with it…well, I was pretty, blessed.  With medicine and by watching what I eat, it was quickly under control.  Of course, the only problem was the “watching what I eat” thing. It was a matter of definition.  To me watching what I ate meant as my fork hit my plate, I watched carefully to make sure nothing fell off. Trust me…it had very little to do with being healthy.  Of course, to my wife Judy, watching what I ate meant…watching what I ate. Watch your carbs, eat your greens, portion control and…well, you get the idea.

I have always been one of the guys who wrestled with food stuff. Because of that, weight and things like diabetes are a pretty constant struggle.  Judy, on the other hand, hasn’t had much of a weight struggle at all.  It seems she can eat carbs till the cows come home and it just doesn’t seem to impact her.  It just didn’t seem fair.  And then, if that wasn’t enough, she also seems to be better at things than me.  She sins less, she reads her Bible more, and I bet St. Peter in heaven even gives her rave reviews on her prayers.  She’s no Mother Teresa, but I think most of the time she must be a first cousin or something.

Well, I finally found something that I can beat her in…and I’m enjoying it way too much. Smile.  So earlier this year Judy was preparing for her annual checkup with the doctor (she beats me at that, too) and so she had the doctor order a panel of blood tests to prepare for the visit.  All of us, including the doctor, were very surprised to learn that she was diabetic.  It is most certainly a gene thing…though she does like her bread.  At any rate, her sugar level was much higher than mine and her A1C…well, I smoked her.  So, when she was diagnosed, I thought it would be a great time to get serious with my own demon and before long I was regularly waxing her.  I loved it—I love it.

I was never so glad to stick my finger.  “Good morning, honey.” “Did you sleep well, honey?”  “Did you check your sugar yet, honey?”  “It was what, honey?  Oh my…that’s too bad. Mine was…” I just love it.  Now I am sure somewhere in the Bible it says that being glad your wife has diabetes is a sin.  In fact, I’m not glad she is diabetic…I’m just glad to beat her at something.  I mean, on the rare occasion that I get to be right and she is wrong, it is like one of those Christmas mornings when you get everything you wanted.

While I enjoy my little diabetic victory, and I think Judy at least tolerates it, we all really must be careful when we start comparing ourselves to others.  Comparatitis (yup, made that one up) can be very damaging and maybe even dangerous.  If you are the one always struggling, it can leave you feeling less than and if you are always on the winning side it can lead to a bad case of pride. Regardless, it is something that we have to keep an eye on.  It probably isn’t surprising, but this isn’t a new deal at all.  It has been around since the beginning of time.  I mean it was comparatitis that caused Cain to take out Abel.  Bummer.

Paul, the guy from the New Testament, gives some great advice.  He says, “Pay careful attention to your own work, for then you will get the satisfaction of a job well done, and you won’t need to compare yourself to anyone else. For we are each responsible for our own conduct.”  Boom…right on Paul.  When I watch what I eat (that’s a win) and when I see good results (that’s a win), I don’t need for someone else to fail for me to feel good. How about that?  Well, truth be known, it is a struggle to not compare ourselves with others, but I just happen to know someone who can help.  God loves to help struggling pilgrims and He wants to help us.  Just ask, and you will find Him ready, willing, and able to walk with you along your journey.  He loves us regardless of what the meter says and no matter what, “He’s got this.”  Bro. Dewayne