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

Braces Not Dentures

Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my concerns. See if there is any offensive way in me; lead me in the everlasting way.” Psalm 139:23-24

Dentures…not exactly what I meant to say.  So as a public speaker I have had plenty, and I do mean plenty, of misspeaks. Since I wasn’t sure misspeak was a word and given today’s story, I decided to check it.  Yup…it is a word and yup…it sure does fit.  A misspeak is when you fail to express yourself insufficiently, clearly, or accurately.  They probably invented that word just for me—or at least people like me.  My most famous misspeak will remain a guarded secret.  Even though it happened very publicly I would rather it not be shared again publicly until my funeral.

Misspeaks can be quite funny.  I had so many at a church I previously pastored that when it was time to move on, they came up with a book of “Dewayne-isms.” And fortunately for me most of mine have been funny…just like the one that prompted this story.  I was speaking about the fact that Jesus told His followers up front that a life that included following Him was going to be hard.  He put it like this, “In this world you will have trouble.  But be of good cheer because I have overcome the world.”  There you go…crystal clear.  Too often though you will hear Christian speakers making some pretty big promises on God’s behalf. It usually includes the fact that if we choose to follow Jesus…the rewards are enormous. It is about then that I list a few.  They usually include things like you will never get sick. You will always have a job and never lose said job.  Every promotion at that job is a guaranteed thing and on and on and on.

Right before I end the list, I always throw the kids in.  They will all be handsome and attractive, be superstar athletes and never, ever need braces.  Well, that is what I meant to say but instead of saying braces, I said dentures. So flying out of mouth came, “And your kids will never need dentures.” Ok, I know and you know that dentures is not even close to braces so where it came from…who knows?  But it took about one second for the crowd to catch it and have a good laugh.  Of course I corrected it right away and even added a bit to add to the unexpected humor. We all had a good laugh, and I can only imagine the next time braces or dentures come up in a conversation, someone just might say, “I remember when…”

Misspeaks—it is a love/hate relationship and as I said often quite funny…until it isn’t.  I suppose you, like me, have said things we wish we hadn’t.  It’s the kind of thing that happens when you say something and you instantly wish it hadn’t.  It’s the kind of thing that we call a slip of the tongue but then you wonder, “Where did that come from anyway?”  And these misspeaks can sometimes leave a scar—the size of Texas.  Jesus said one time that these kind of misspeaks come from the heart. He said, “It is out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks.”  He was saying that often our words reveal what is lurking in the heart.

Now these are not the funny things we say like dentures and braces, no, these are those unkind and hurtful things we say about people…even those and often those…close to us. Typical topics can include weight, appearance, fashion, cooking, housekeeping, oh, and the need for dentures…I mean braces.  You might be wondering, “How do I prevent these things from happening?”  Well, speaking of housecleaning, maybe we need to do some “heart-cleaning.”  The best way to keep the tongue under control is to keep our heart under control. There is a scripture in the Old Testament that says, “Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my concerns. See if there is any offensive way in me; lead me in the everlasting way.”

Boom…there you go.  We need to ask God to give us a day-by-day heart checkup and if He finds anything that doesn’t belong there…ask Him to take care of it.   Often that will include leading you down a different path…a better path…a right path.  One thing I have learned about God is that He really does want to help us do the right thing…including managing our hurtful misspeaks.  If you are like me and sometimes struggle with what you say, just ask and He will help you…every time…anytime.  He’s got this.  Bro. Dewayne

Posted in Family, fear, forgiveness, Grace, life, loving others, Scripture, Southern born, thankful, Trials

Time to Stop

He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?” Micah 6:8

I’m not sure when it started but I do know when it ended.  It was probably just part of growing up boy and part of growing up country, but the bottom line is looking back I wish it wasn’t part of my boyhood.  Somewhere along my growing journey, probably when I was six or seven, I had access to a BB gun.  Then, just a little later I had my own.  I’m sure I would pluck cans and shoot at paper targets.  While my Daddy wasn’t a big hunter, we did shoot our share of squirrels and rabbits and that might have been where it started.

One day, and I don’t remember the day, I grew tired of plucking cans and decided to go “bird hunting.”  Our yard had three large oak trees and several large cedar trees so there were plenty of birds around.  It’s funny but I never thought about shooting something as innocent as a bird but one day I did. I don’t remember the first time, but I do remember the many times.  I would walk quietly around my yard, listening for the chirp of a bird, look through the leaves and branches and find my target.  I would aim, I would pull the trigger and too often the bird would fall.

I can still remember going over and picking up the now lifeless bird and walking across the road to dispose of the body by tossing it into the woods that stood there.  I want you to know as I write this it still causes me grief…not because I shot a bird but because I senselessly took the life of a living thing. Sometimes I would feel a bit of remorse, but it only lasted until the next time I felt the need to stalk and hunt again. And it wasn’t just birds.  We had a healthy herd of toads around our house too and occasionally they too would fall victim to my deadly aim.  But it wasn’t so much the toads…it was the birds.

This went on for quite a while.  The boredom, the stalking and the shooting followed by temporary remorse…until the next time.  Then it happened and I can remember it to this day. We had a cedar tree on one of the corners of our house.  It was large and went all the way to the ground.  As I approached the tree and peered into and under the tree there on the ground, happily hunting bugs, was a brown thrasher.  It was larger than a sparrow, so the thrill of the hunt was intensified. I saw him but he never saw me.  I took aim and in a moment of time he was on his side in the dirt. But this time…it was different.

The BB had not instantly killed him…rather he lay on the ground…mortally wounded and still breathing.  It was only for about thirty seconds, but it was almost like we locked eyes and I watched as he died and…that was it.  As far as I know I never shot another bird.  As I watched his life ebb away, I saw this little hobby as what it was…senseless fun at the expense of another’s life. Yes, I can still see that brown thrasher and it still causes me grief.

What was different that day was that I saw the grim reality of my actions…a reality so harsh it caused me to stop.  It.Caused.Me.To.Stop. The truth is in our everyday walk about lives we are confronted with difficult and often painful situations.  No, they don’t involve a bird, they don’t involve a BB gun, but they can be just as painful and cause just as much harm.  Sometimes it is a senseless action and sometimes it is a senseless word, but the result is a wounded heart followed by a lifelong scar. And unlike my hunt ending experience with a brown thrasher, for some reason these encounters often go on and on.

Like what happened when I stared death in the face…we need to see what our words and actions can do to the innocents, or maybe not so innocents, in our lives.  We need to pause and think before we speak or act…before we leave another scar.  I usually write from a Jesus perspective, and I guess I am now, but really, this goes beyond that to this—be kind and love one another.  Kindness and love are not always easy, but they are always right—and especially for us who follow Jesus.  Wherever and whenever…we, of all people, should set the example of the One we follow.  Tall order? Need help? Don’t fret…your Father is waiting to help. He’s got this. Bro. Dewayne 

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

Speak No Evil

Then Jesus stood up again and said to the woman, “Where are your accusers? Didn’t even one of them condemn you?” “No, Lord,” she said. And Jesus said, “Neither do I. Go and sin no more.” John 8:10-11

It’s gonna happen…it just should not happen there.  Life is filled with bumps and bruises.  They’re gonna happen like it or not but sometimes they are made worse by the timing and location.  A flat tire is never fun but take that same flat tire and let it happen on a rainy Monday on the way to an interview for a new job and it is just worse.  Your car breaking down is just a bad deal but when it happens out in the middle of nowhere and with no cellphone service…well, your day just went south.

I once experienced something that well, it just shouldn’t have happened but where it happened and how it happened just made it worse.  It was a Sunday morning in South Georgia and like any other Sunday morning I was in church.  I went to church for several reasons…like it was the right thing to do, I thought it might make God happy and usually I enjoyed it.  On this particular day…well, let’s just say I had that proverbial flat tire on a rainy Monday out in the middle of nowhere.  The story goes like this.

Ever since I was a kid I liked to sing, and people said they enjoyed it.  So, I was occasionally asked to sing at church.  On this particular Sunday morning I was asked to sing.  Now there is something you need to know before we go any further.  You see, the church I attended was strict with certain things and one of those things was that guys should not have hair over their ears.  That was a big no, no.  And believe it or not, even though I was in the Air Force I had found a way to have hair over my ears.  It involved “Dippity-do” but that’s another story.

Well, that Sunday was my time to sing.  I went to the stage and did the very best I could to sing for Jesus.  With my “hair over my ears” waving in the wind I went up and I came down.  I was glad to sing but was also glad it was over.  Well, it wasn’t.  Because that Sunday we had a special speaker.  And because of what happened, I remember him very, very, well.  He stepped behind the pulpit, and I got the surprise of my young life.  I was surprised because what he said was like a dagger in my heart.  Here’s what he said.

With his deep and authoritative voice, in front of the entire church, he said, “Young man, if I had hair like yours, I would be ashamed to stand up and sing for Jesus.”  I was shocked.  I was hurt.  I was mortally embarrassed.  Not because of my hair, not because I had caused Jesus to frown (which I didn’t) but because this man who represented God had put me on trial, judged me, and sentenced me.  Honestly, it’s a miracle I didn’t walk out and keep right on walking.

Like I said, things like this happen but they should never, ever happen in church.  We wonder why people don’t want to come to church and unfortunately too often it is things like this.  You see, church should be a safe place…a loving place.  Church should be a place not for perfect people (because there aren’t any) but for forgiven people.  Church should be a grace place and not a place to judge and throw rocks.  Church should be a place where people see Jesus everywhere…in the lives of everyone.

I love the fact that the people who flocked to Jesus were the most broken in the community.  They liked Him and He loved them. He was perfectly comfortable with sitting down with the worse sinner in town and having lunch.  Trust me, that drove the religious people crazy.  They said some very nasty things about Jesus because of that but the truth is…Jesus came to rescue the lost, the broken…people like me and you.

Well, the good news is I survived that Sunday morning, but it left a scar that remains to this day. My wife reminded me that my pastor came up afterwards and apologized.  I’m glad he did.  We need to have the courage to speak up when a wrong occurs…Jesus would. I can never get enough of the story in the Bible about the woman taken in adultery.  The rock throwers wanted to kill her but instead Jesus loved and forgave her.  I like that. A lot.  So, if you find yourself wounded by a rock chucker just remember Jesus loves you…even if someone else doesn’t.  And remember, no matter what, “He’s got this.” Bro. Dewayne