Posted in Family, friends, gratitude, Holidays, life, priorities, Scripture, thankful, Thanksgiving, Trials

Black Friday Sale

Rest in God alone, my soul, for my hope comes from Him.” Psalm 62:5

We stumbled into Black Friday.  It was 1980.  We had just returned from a three-year tour in Germany while serving in the United States Air Force.  It is amazing how things can change in three short years.  We enjoyed our time in Germany immensely, but it was so good to get back to the greatest country in the world…the USA. We were being assigned to Whiteman Air Force Base in Knob Noster, Missouri.  No, I am not kidding.  We quickly settled into the new version of our old life.  See, you only thought “new normalcy” was something new!

We got back in the country in August and before we knew it, Thanksgiving was right around the corner.  I don’t remember anything about Thanksgiving Day, but I sure do remember the day after.  I was off on Friday and since Kansas City was only about 45 minutes away, we decided to drive into the city and go shopping.  It sounded like a great idea.  It probably was a great idea before we left for Germany in 1977, but things had changed.  It was a new normal but we were unaware of this phenomena.

We got up on Friday, ate and headed into the city.  Visions of good deals and the excitement of the Christmas season were dancing in our heads.  We picked our mall—there were several to choose from—and off we went.  As we drove down the highway and neared the exit and the mall, much to our surprise there was traffic everywhere.  The exit was jam packed and once we got into the parking lot, we realized it was stuffed to the gills.  We kept saying over and over again, “What in the world is going on?”

Well, I can’t remember if we gave up on that mall or not.  I don’t remember finding a parking spot, but I may have blocked it from my memory.  We tend to do that with nightmares!  Anyway, we headed to mall number two.  It was much larger, with a very, large parking lot and plus by now the initial rush was slowing down some.  After circling the area several times, we did manage to find a parking spot.  Hey, what if it was ten miles from the mall?  Smile.

We hiked to the mall and joined a sea of people as they weaved their way through the stores.  It was about that time we finally asked someone, “So what is the deal (no pun intended) with all the people?  Why is everyone here?”  It sounds almost humorous now, but we were sincerely in the dark.  The clerk looked at us like we had just returned from the moon or something and I guess in that instance, we had.  Apparently while we were in Germany this thing called “Black Friday” was either born or exploded.  We had walked into a feeding frenzy of holiday madness. Since that time, it has taken on a life of its own.  Stores that opened at crazy hours were now opening on Thanksgiving Day itself.  People would storm the doors and fight for the right to get a good deal.  But.Not.This.Year.

This year it is going to be different.  Because of this year’s new normalcy, many stores that were open on Thanksgiving last year will be closed.  Employees who in year’s past had to work will now have time with their families.  In the recent weeks leading up to Black Friday, stores have been offering, promising, Black Friday pricing for weeks and not for a day.  That might just save someone’s life.  Perhaps Friday morning will look more humane and not so much like the Allied troops storming the beaches at Normandy.

I know it is hard to find good things in bad days but maybe, just maybe, if we look hard enough, we might find that parts of the new normalcy will be a better normalcy.  It seemed from the beginning that part of the COVID thing was a forced Sabbath. God tells us in His Word to rest in Him alone because all our hope should come from Him. It was like He said, “Enough is enough of this madness we call life. Slow down, already.”  And, we did…we have.  Maybe we will rediscover the blessings all around us. Maybe we will rediscover the wonder of a little Baby born in a feeding trough to save the world from the madness of sin.  Maybe we will rediscover the value of family, of others, of generosity, of love.  I hope so.

After my initial baptism into the fires of Black Friday I have not been much of a fan.  I’ve never stood in line at the door, I’ve never fought someone for a deal, and I’ve never got up at 2:00 am to go shopping. But I have rushed through the holidays like a bull running the streets of Spain.  Maybe this year I will slow down.  Maybe you will too.  Sound challenging?  It is.  But pressing the pause button is not a bad idea…especially if it causes us to rest next to our Dearest Daddy.  And especially if it causes me to realize…He’s got this.  Bro. Dewayne

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

Buyer’s Remorse

From His abundance we have all received one gracious blessing after another.” John 1:16

I wish I hadn’t—but I did.  Buyer’s remorse.  The official definition is, “a feeling of regret experienced after making a purchase, typically one regarded as unnecessary or extravagant.” I guess most of us have experienced it at one time or another.  Sometimes it is a minor deal.  You buy something from Walmart, get home, think about it and decide you really didn’t need it.  So, thanks to Walmart’s generous return policy, you lay it aside and the next time you are at the store, you simply return it.  No harm, no foul.

Then sometimes it isn’t quite the easy.  You are at the grocery store and your “you need to watch your diet” wife is out of town. Smile.  So, as you wind your way through the various aisles of calorie rich delights, you find yourself on the cookie aisle. The packages are calling your name and you say, “Why not?” Because you can’t decide, you buy two and since your “you need to watch your diet” wife is not around, you eat both. As the last cookie of package number two slips past your lips, you realize you probably shouldn’t have bought two, or maybe even one, and you have a sense of remorse…diet remorse and buyer’s remorse.  Still, no big deal.  You wait 24 hours and don’t have a heart attack and hide the packages deep in the trash. No harm, no foul.

There are times when the fix is reclusive, and the consequences are bigger than an expanded waistline.  Twice, not once, I have bought new cars that I later regretted.  You know, you visit the lot, you see the car, you smell the car, you buy the car.  You feel important driving it and watch as people watch you driving it.  And then it happens.  A couple of payments down the road of too much debt and not enough payday, you get it.  Major, big time buyer’s remorse.  And this time, there is not a Walmart return policy, and the ouch is bigger than you ever imagined.  This time…well, it is certainly not “no harm, no foul.”

Yup, most of us have slipped on that banana peel.  The important thing is to learn.  Now, I have learned about the car thing…at least I think I have but the cookie thing…well, that is still a work in progress. Smile. And judging from the past, it might be a long, long road. You might be wondering, “Is there anyone who hasn’t experienced buyer’s remorse?”  The answer is yes and the who might surprise you.  That Who is God.

I’ve always been amazed with God.  He is so generous, so loving, and so kind.  He always goes the extra mile to show me that He is for me and not against me.  His patience with this slower learner causes me to wonder how He could not regret loving me.  But here is the deal…and don’t miss this.  God loved me enough to send His Son to a rugged, cruel cross to pay the payment for my sin. I didn’t deserve it and honestly no one does.  But it gets better.  He did that knowing that I wouldn’t always get it right. He did it knowing I would often get it wrong. But it gets better.

Here it is.  Not once in the past, no once today, not once tomorrow, not once for the zillion years of eternity yet to come will He ever have buyer’s remorse.  He made the deal and not once regretted making it. How is that even possible? How is that even conceivable?  Well, the answer is that God not only loves me, He also loves us. Perfectly. In other words, He loves us looking through the lens of His perfect Son.  Instead of seeing warts, He sees us whole and perfect.  Oh, not that we are, not that we ever will be…at least here.  No, it’s all because of His grace and His Son and His sacrifice for us.

So, today, be careful as you cruise the aisles of Walmart…and life.  You might want to avoid the cookie aisle and ice cream freezers of life…things that tend to lead to regret and consequences.  But by all means, be sure and linger in the grace aisle and take in the wonder of it all. As you look at all the packages of love and love notes from the One who loves you most, remember what John wrote, “From His abundance we have all received one gracious blessing after another.” And if you do happen to slip up, don’t worry.  He won’t change His mind about you.  After all, “He’s got this.” Bro. Dewayne

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

Special on Donuts

Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” Matthew 11:28

The sign said it all. “Day old donuts…half price.”  In those five words there are two things I really like.  First, donuts.  Donuts and I go way back.  In fact, food and I go way back.  I’m a southern boy and there’s just something about food that puts a smile on my face.  Donuts, well, they make me smile big. The other thing that I really like is “half price.”  I love a good deal.  I remember one time I was at a store, and it was after Christmas.  They had a gift set that had a razor, some shaving cream, and a few extra blades.  They were marked down from $6.99 to .79 cents. I bought all they had—about twenty of them.  Too bad I use an electric razor.  But it was such a good deal.

So, we have half-price donuts…but there is a problem. “Day old.”  Because donuts don’t have preservatives, they go stale real quickly.  By the afternoon of day one a donut becomes not as fluffy—a little chewy.  By day two it becomes like a dried-out kitchen sponge.  By day three you have yourself an oversized hockey puck.  What is a donut lover who loves good deals to do?  One word.  Microwave.

The microwave is an amazing invention…especially when it comes to donuts.  You see the microwave cooks from the inside out.  When you put a day old donut in there it begins warming from the inside and any moisture turns to steam and the steam moisturizes the bread. Let me tell you that dude will fluff right up.

I mean this is amazing.  You can even throw a three-day old donut in there and depending how hungry you are, pretty much make it edible.  I know because sometimes I wander through the church on Thursday and discover some leftovers from Sunday.  Yup.  Just chuck those things in the microwave and you’ve got yourself a semi-fresh donut. By the way, do not tell my wife Judy I’ve done this.

I wonder if David the shepherd had day old donuts and microwaves in mind when he wrote Psalm 23:3. There we find, “He restores my soul.”  That’s just what the microwave does for the donut.  It warms it from the inside, moistening the dry, stale, bread making it soft and pliable again. In David’s way of thinking it wasn’t a microwave, it was green pastures and still waters.  If you could see it from a sheep’s perspective, it makes perfect sense.

Imagine a sheep, hot, tired, and hungry and the shepherd brings them to a lush green pasture, and he eats his fill.  Then he waddles over to a crystal-clear brook, barely moving, and drinks till he can’t hold anymore.  That’s what David meant when he said God restored his soul.  A lot of folks wouldn’t take a chance on a day-old donut.  A lot of folks would count it only worth giving to the dog or tossing in the trash.  They don’t understand the wonder of the microwave.  Do you know what? Sadly, people do people that way too.

Someone gets beat up by the world, worked over by doubt, fear and frustration and they get a little stale.  Some folks wouldn’t bother with them.  Some folks would avoid them.  But not God. He sees the broken, weary people around us and the garbage can is the farthest thing from His mind.  Just like the microwave can work magic on a donut so God can work miracles in the lives of the most broken of people. And like the microwave—He does it from the inside out. It was Jesus who said, “Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.”  Jesus does what nothing else, no one else, can do.  He can rescue, redeem, and make the broken whole and life fresh again.

So, let me suggest before you walk by the day-old donuts at the market give them a try.  You might discover a tasty treat and a good deal.  And, before you walk by your neighbor or a stranger and you can tell they’ve been worked over by the world and circumstances, just remember what Jesus did for you.  Remember how He didn’t just see you how you were, He saw how you could be. Just a moment in time and He plumped you up with His amazing grace and kindness.

Maybe you are the one who feels stale about now. Maybe your heart is as hard as a week-old donut.  Well, don’t crawl in a microwave but do crawl up in the lap of Jesus.  Let Him restore your soul.  Stay awhile.  Rest in Him.  He’s got this.  Bro. Dewayne 

Posted in Family, Grace, gratitude, life, love, priorities, Scripture, thankful, travel

Sports Card Heaven

I love those who love Me, and those who seek Me diligently find Me.” Proverbs 8:17

Well, it sure wasn’t my thing.  Each November we take a short vacation with the Guest tribe.  Their tribe consists of my oldest daughter, Becca, her husband, Jonathan and three of my grandchildren, Faith, Hope, and Ethan.  It’s usually a three- or four-day trip to the Smoky Mountains but this year the tour guide, Becca, decided we would go to Branson, Missouri.  So, over the river and through the woods we went, and we all ended up in that Southwest Missouri vacation mecca.

The first day we went shopping before heading to the Sights and Sounds theater to see a production on the life of Jesus—more on that in another Grits. Shopping just isn’t my thing.  We got to the outdoor mall and the boys went one way and the girls went another.  I figured my chances were better with the guys.  I mean whatever they wanted to look at had to beat girl stuff.  Well, Jonathan and Ethan eat, sleep and breathe sports so naturally our shopping selections curved in that direction.  The first stop was a shop that specialized in hats and shirts for the various team sports.  We poked around for a while, liking this one and trashing another one—you know, the right team, wrong team thing.  Soon, it was time to move on.

So down the mall a way, there was another sports shop called, “On the Ball Sports.” This store sold a good variety of sports memorabilia.  It’s funny…neither store sold the tools of the trade but rather things that indicated what team or player you liked.  We entered “sports heaven” and it was soon apparent that this was not going to be a short visit.  We were there for the long haul, and it wasn’t what you might think that held us there.  It wasn’t jerseys or hats; it wasn’t pictures or mugs—it was sports cards. I’m not even sure of the official name but they had guys, or mostly guys, pictures on them and described who and when they played.

It turned out that I discovered my grandson Ethan was totally into sports cards.  This store had a very large selection and the young man working there was helpful and friendly.  We looked and looked and then we looked some more.  I discovered there might be, oh, a zillion cards for each player and based on their popularity and condition, they could be quite valuable.  The most expensive card we saw was worth $850 dollars.  I’m not sure why.  I asked a lot of questions and got lots of answers but quickly determined I should stay with my day job and try some other investments.

Well, two days later, ok, that is an exaggeration, about an hour and a half later, we walked out of the store.  While I had to take a couple of breaks from “card heaven” I did manage to stay there even though the Bass Pro Shop was next door.  You might ask, “Dewayne, why didn’t you just go next door.  Why did you stay in the card shop for so long if it wasn’t your thing?”  Well, the answer really is quite simple.  While it wasn’t my thing…it was my grandson’s thing, and I learned a long time ago that we should learn to love the things that those we love… love.  Did you track with that?

Well, it goes like this.  If you don’t like to shop but your wife does, you learn to love shopping.  And, on the other hand, ma’am if your husband loves to fish, you might want to give it a try. And here is the great part.  When you do that, you are showing love.  The whole tribe made jokes about my stint in “card heaven” for the rest of the trip.  It was fun and it kept the memory alive.  Into the days, weeks, and months, I’m sure we will occasionally remember our time together in “card heaven.”  Oh, and guess what Ethan is getting for Christmas.  I promise you it is something he loves.

What is true in our human world is also true in our spiritual world.  If you happen to be a Jesus follower, one of the surest ways to a close and personal relationship with Him is to learn to love the things that He loves.  And the amazing thing is the things He loves always makes life better and they never carry any regrets or consequences.  It is like following a guide who always knows the best fishing holes, the best golf courses, or the best places to hike.  It is always…good.

Solomon, one of the smartest guys to ever live, wrote about God. Writing for God, he said, “I love those who love Me, and those who seek Me diligently find Me.” Just like the time I spent leaning over the counter with my grandson, it is valuable to spend time with Him, leaning at the counter of life, asking questions, learning, and loving what He loves.  Yup, it is always…good.  And why not take it a step further and just believe and trust…even if you don’t understand, that, “He’s got this.”   Bro. Dewayne

Posted in Family, fear, forgiveness, Grace, gratitude, life, thankful

Sinning Starts Early

But if we confess our sins to Him, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all wickedness.”

I used to think I was a pretty good kid. As I have shared with you from my past, various memories come to life. Some are humorous, some are serious, some are painful, and some are, well, criminal. I still think the crime of the century was when I decided to rob the little world bank that my Mama brought home from church…for safekeeping. But there was at least one more thing that I did that proved for certain I was, and still am, a sinner.

I was probably eight years old.  While there wasn’t a Wal-Mart to be found, there were other stores that were the forerunners of today’s retail mega-giant.  Ours was called Atlantic Mills and it was the place to go for good deals on just about anything you could imagine.  I remember it well because that is where we bought our Easter outfits.  We would go either Friday or Saturday before Easter (depending on Daddy’s payday, of course) and the girls would get their patent leather shoes and frilly dresses and I would get a shirt and tie.  Even then it was quite the event.

Easter wasn’t the only time we went to Atlantic Mills.  We would occasionally go just to shop around.  Of course, at my young age, I equated shopping with buying. I still do.  Why go to a store if you are not going to buy something? That’s like going to a restaurant with no intention of eating.  What? Really? So, anyway, one time we went to Atlantic Mills and it was one of those times when we weren’t buying—we were looking.  Well, that just didn’t work for me, so I started begging Mama for a dollar.  Now, keep in mind, a dollar in 1962 was the equivalent of the entire economy of a third world country.

Mama said no. Period, nada, ain’t gonna happen.  Well, I kept begging. (I was pretty good at it. Give me enough time and I could wear anyone down.) Finally, out of shear desperation, she reached in her purse and pulled out—a quarter.  Was I grateful?  Of course not.  Even then a quarter just didn’t have a lot of buying power.  I finally gave up and took my quarter to look for a treasure.  Two things happened in the next few minutes. First, I started feeling guilty for hassling my Mama and decided I should spend the quarter to buy something for her.  Someone say, “Awww.”

The second thing was I really realized that besides candy, there wasn’t a lot in Atlantic Mills for a quarter. Well, I looked around and found a pretty scarf that I just knew my Mama would like.  The problem was it was something like $1.49.  At that point, my young sinner/criminal mind began cooking something up.  I wasn’t about to outright steal it.  That could get you hard time.  So, I decided that I would switch the price tags.  I looked around and found something for a quarter, found a place where no one could see me, and carefully removed that price tag and put it on the scarf.  There. Done deal.  No one would ever know the difference.  Oops.

I went to the checkout counter and found out two things.  First, did you know even then there was a code on the price tag indicating what department it came from.  I found out too late that they didn’t sell scarves in hardware.  Second, the checkout lady was not a newcomer to the checkout business and she quickly realized that this scarf was worth more than a quarter.  Bottom line—she nailed me.  She looked down at my frightened face and into my tearing eyes and said, “Did you switch this price tag?”  Well, I “spilled my guts” and I believe I even told her why.  She didn’t turn me in…she didn’t have too. Her words were punishment enough.  I walked away a mess with my quarter still in my hand. As far as I remember I didn’t buy anything that day and I guess I gave the quarter back to Mama. It was a total disaster.

Now, before you act as the States Attorney and put me on trial, the statute of limitations has expired on this.  And besides that, I was just doing what sinners do—sin. And since we are all sinners, all of us can probably identify with this sin thing. It didn’t matter that I was eight—I was old enough to know better.  I don’t know if I told Mama or not, but that didn’t matter because God knew and He is even more important than Mama. It is things like this, and a lot more, that make me a big fan of God.  The way He extends His grace to sinners like me is just amazing.  It is so amazing they wrote a song about it.

I well remember the guilt and shame I felt that day which probably means I did confess to God and probably to Mama too.  I’m sure both of them forgave me.  A guy named John, who was a BFF (best friend forever) of Jesus and who wrote some of the New Testament said that if we are willing to confess our sins, God is more than willing to forgive us.  That is good news. And the best part?  There are no limitations. His love and grace go longer and farther than the “Energizer bunny.” No matter what, if we come to Him in sincerity and repentance, He will sincerely forgive us.  He could handle my eight -year-old sins then and my sins today.  As always, He’s got this. Bro. Dewayne