Posted in Family, fear, food, gratitude, life, prayer, priorities, Scripture, sovereignty of God, thankful, Trials, wisdom

Bare Shelves and a Faithful God

So don’t  worry, saying, What will we eat or What will we drink? or What will we wear? For the [those who don’t trust God] eagerly seek all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them.”  Matthew 6:31-32

One of the things (among at least two billion) that was weird about last year was the various shortages that we experienced. Some were expected and some were not. It really was a strange sensation to go to the store and find everyday things not there every day. It seemed like the land of plenty had become something else.

I’m not much for going grocery shopping and that is probably a real paradox. I really like food–we are great friends–just not buying and preparing it. I remember sometime last year Judy and I went to the park for a walk (good idea–walk with your wife…she cooks food) and then I agreed to go with her to Wal-Mart to get a few items.


So, we get to the store and there was in fact plenty of food there. For sure some items were sold out (toilet paper—remember that? Still have a supply stashed?) but others were plenteous. The cookie isle was hard hit but strangely the broccoli wasn’t. But the shocker was when I got to the bread isle it was empty…bare. For a southern boy who was raised to believe that bread is its own food group, well, that was a crisis of Biblical proportions.


It made me think about the children of Israel and their trips to the grocery store. For forty years they would walk outside the camp and there all around them were little mounds of manna. The Bible describes manna as small, round and sweet (Krispy Kreme’s?) and it was always there. Never a time did they go out when the store was open (it was closed for the Sabbath) and the shelf was bare.


God was teaching them—and us—something. They couldn’t hoard (can someone say toilet paper?) because God told them to go out every day and get one day’s supply. The only exception was the day before the Sabbath when they could get two. And every day they went and there were the “Krispy Kreme’s” all around and they would pick them up and God would say, “I am good, I am faithful and I can be trusted.”

Day after day, week after week, month after month–“I am good, I am faithful and I can be trusted.” Never a bare shelf, never a failure to deliver, never an oops. Can you imagine? If you are a Jesus follower I think we can and should. We may not have manna laying around today but we do have the faithfulness of that same God. He takes care of His kids. You can bank on it.


Jesus talked about this in the Bible when He said, “So don’t worry, saying, What will we eat? or What will we drink? or What will we wear? For [those who don’t trust God] eagerly seek all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them.” Let that soak in.  We don’t have to worry because we have a Dearest Daddy who loves us and cares for us.  Period.


So, as we reflect on last year, and look forward to the days to come, we can rest in the blessed assurance that God will be there. We need to remember every time there is a need met or a blessing given, to say, “Thank You, Father.” And slowly but surely, we will learn the valuable lesson of God’s faithfulness. God is good. God is faithful. God can be trusted. 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.”

Posted in Christmas, Family, fear, Grace, gratitude, Holidays, life, loving others, Military memories, Southern born, sovereignty of God, thankful, Trials, wisdom

Hard Christmas

Know therefore that the Lord your God is God; He is the faithful God, keeping His covenant of love to a thousand generations of those who love Him and keep His commands.” Deuteronomy 7:9

Not every Christmas is merry and bright.  I suppose if we live long enough all of us will experience a Christmas that is not so merry.  Life can be difficult and when those difficulties occur around the holidays, it can be difficult indeed.  I remember 1972 which was my first Christmas in the Air Force. I managed to get leave and fly home from Minot Air Force Base, North Dakota.  When I arrived home, the house was dark and empty.  There were no decorations, no tree.  My father had suffered yet another big heart attack and he was in the hospital recovering.  It was hard.

Another time that Christmas had a dark shadow was December 1978.  Judy and I were stationed in Sembach, Germany.  It was a great place to live and it seemed that every day was an adventure.  We were living off base in an apartment, a short drive from the base.  Just living in a German village was an adventure in itself. The heat did not come on until October 1 of each year, no matter how cold it was and the heat didn’t go off until May 1, no matter how warm it was. There was no air conditioning, which we didn’t need anyway. In one of our apartments, I especially remember the small two gallon hot water heater.  It called for a very quick shower.  Judy had long hair in those days and it was a race to get her and her hair washed before her two gallons of warm water were up.

We also didn’t have a phone.  Of course, cell phones were a long way in the future and land lines were very expensive.  In December of 1978 we were sound asleep when we heard a sharp knock on the door.  It must have been about 1:00 am in the morning.  I went to the door to find the officer of the day for my squadron.  He was there to let me know I had a call from the Red Cross and I needed to call them immediately. He followed me to the base and from my office I made the call.  The Red Cross made arrangements for me to call my brother and sister-in-law in Florida.  The message was short and to the point.  My sister-in-law Sonia said, “Dewayne, honey, if you want to see your Mama while she is still alive, you need to come home right away.”  I was shocked.  I had no idea that she was sick—especially not that sick.

Well, when you are thousands of miles from home across the Atlantic nothing happens quickly.  But as fast as the wheels could turn and with a lot of help from the Red Cross and the Air Force, Judy and I were able to catch a transport aircraft back to the States.  It landed at Dover Air Force Base on Sunday, December 3rd. My brother, who lived in New Jersey, was able to pick us up and together we drove south to Jacksonville. It was a long day’s journey and we got there Monday afternoon.  We went straight to the hospital and were able to see Mama for a few minutes. We then went to my brother’s house to get some rest.

That evening we gathered together, visited, and prayed.  We told God that whatever He wanted was ok.  If He chose to heal Mama of that cancer, that was great but if He chose to heal her by taking her home…that was ok too.  The next day He answered our prayer.  Mama went to heaven—less than 24 hours after we got there.  It was Tuesday, December 5th and she was 62 and I was only 24.  Well, we planned the service and celebrated her life and worshiped her God and our God.  We had some family business to take care of and when that was finished, so were we.  Judy and I had enough leave approved to stay for Christmas, but the truth was there was no reason to stay.  There was not a home place any more, so we decided to go back to our home—in Germany.  In a few days, we were back and celebrated Christmas knowing that it would never really be the same again.

I can’t tell you it wasn’t hard because it was.  I was grateful we had a couple of weeks before Christmas, but it was still the season.  It felt strange to leave a home that wasn’t home anymore. As much as we loved Germany, we realized when we got back to the States 18 months later, there would be no going home for Christmas.  And then God, via the Air Force, planted us in Missouri for a few years and then a whole lot of years in Illinois.  He also called me to pastor so that meant Christmas was here every year.  And do you know what?  That was ok because God gave us a new family to love and care for us.  That family was His people wherever He placed us to serve.

No, every Christmas is not merry and bright and we (who have some sense of normal this Christmas) need to remember those whose life is anything but normal this year.  It may be the loss of a loved one, it may be loss of health or a job, or it just may be this COVID-19 mess.  But like the Bible says, “Know therefore that the Lord your God is God; He is the faithful God, keeping His covenant of love to a thousand generations of those who love Him and keep His commands.”

So these days and especially in these days, we need to love one another.  And, just like that night in December when my brothers and sisters came together and told God whatever He wanted for Mama was ok…we need to come together and tell Him whatever the future looks like, we will trust Him with that, too.  I’m so grateful that He is faithful, that He is good, and that He can be trusted.  And because of that, He’s got this.

Posted in Family, fear, life, loving others, Scripture, sovereignty of God, thankful, travel, wisdom

Life from Ashes

The Lord Himself will fight for you. Just stay calm.” Exodus 14:14

It was a night that will not be forgotten.  For many years, my family has visited the Pigeon Forge, Tennessee, area for vacation. It has not been an every year deal but occasionally.  We love the trails and the mountains and, of course, all the places to eat.  In some ways it is like a county fair because fair food and rides are everywhere.  Several years ago we began joining my daughter and son-in-law with the grandkids in the fall…usually in November.  In a word, it is fun.

In 2016 something happened that changed that area forever.  A fire started by human hands near Chimney Tops on November 28th of that year quickly spread through the dry, tinder forests.  The results were catastrophic and have been cited as the worst natural disaster in Tennessee history.  Before it was all said and done, 14 people lost their lives, 2,460 buildings were destroyed, and 17,900 acres were burned.  We watched on the news as it happened but also saw from a distance some of the devastation years later when we visited.  There was safety in that, on television and from a distance, but what happens when the tragedy gets more personal?

This year we once again returned to the Gatlinburg area.  Rebecca, my daughter, always makes the reservation, and she did again this time.  As we were driving to the cabin, we passed through an area that had obviously been damaged by the wildfire.  Judy made the comment that according to the GPS we were not too far from our cabin.  We could look up on the ridge and see many cabins far above the valley floor.  What we could not see was a lot of trees.  Apparently, the fire had destroyed them.

As we made our turn on the road that would lead to our cabin, it soon became apparent that we would see the power of the fire from the night up close.  The higher we climbed, the more we saw.  There were trees scarred by the flames and only the foundations remaining where cabins worth hundreds of thousands of dollars had once stood.  Some cabins had been rebuilt, some were being rebuilt, and some, well, stood as silent witnesses of destruction.  It was harsh, it was sad, it was awakening.  Suddenly the memories of what I saw on the news four years ago came to life like the dry bones Ezekiel saw in the Bible.

After an almost two mile trip up the mountain, we came to our cabin.  There it stood, looking strangely new in one of Gatlinburg’s esteemed older rental areas.  It was indeed new because it, like almost every house in the area, had been destroyed by the fire that week.  In front of the house was a twenty foot section of tree that, while not alive, still sends a message.  Carved into the massive trunk were the words “Smoky Strong.”  I’m sure the tree was alive and well the night the fire swept the mountain, but even today it sends a message…we are not done.

All around the area were signs of destruction…of what used to be.  But wait…don’t miss this.  Also all around the area were signs of new life, of renewal, of rebirth.  New trees are replacing those lost, new homes are replacing the damaged, and foundations will one day bear a new building.  The pain and suffering of that night is being replaced by the hope of the future.  I think we all can learn a lesson from Gatlinburg.  It was about eight months ago that a fire of sorts began to sweep our nation.  Its name was COVID, and its flames were the flames of fear. The question is what will we do with this hot mess?  That is a question we have been asking for months.

I’m sure many have come to the conclusion that life will never be the same, and that is probably true.  But why do we have to assume that this also means it won’t be better?  Why do we have to assume that our best days are behind us?  I know this.  God is still God, and the last time I checked, He has not given up control to His enemy the Devil, or fear, or COVID.  Moses, speaking for God, said, “The Lord himself will fight for you. Just stay calm.” You see, He still reigns ,and as long as that is true then the best is yet to come. The.Best.Is.Yet.To.Come.

I’m sure the house that once stood here was beautiful in its own rights.  I never saw it, but I sit in its successor, and it is beautiful.  I stand on the deck and have a clear view of the mountains and the valley below—a view that may have been obscured by the trees of the old normalcy.  Perhaps the ability to see clearer is a gift.  Perhaps the ability to trust God deeper during these days is a gift from our Heavenly Father.  No, as I have said before, COVID is not good, but God can and will bring good from it.  For some of us, that means a deeper trust in Him. For some, it means a clearer view of what really matters in life.  For some, it will be the realization that it is good to have a Dearest Daddy we can rest in—knowing He’s got this. 

*Chimney Tops 2 Fire. Incident Management Team photo

Posted in Family, life, Scripture, travel, wisdom

Seeing Isn’t Always Believing

And he looked up and said, “I see men, but they look like trees, walking.” Mark 8:24

He was still there the next morning.  Recently a couple of really awesome friends allowed us to use their camper for a whole week.  It was a pastor appreciation thing and we sure appreciated it.  Now I need to tell you this wasn’t one of those camper campers—this was one of those fancy ones—the kind that moves you from camping to “glamping.”  They set it up for us in a beautiful campground in the Land Between the Lakes.  The leaves were falling, the weather was fallish, and we were two happy campers…no pun intended.

One evening I went out to find my car covered with a healthy crop of wet leaves.  With nothing important to do at the time, I begin picking the leaves off my car.   As I worked my way around the car, I found something unusual on the driver’s side rear door.  It was a small stick about three inches long and it was stuck on the side of the door.  I thought that was kind of odd, so I took a closer look.  What I saw was what appeared to be one of those insects that look like a stick.  It had a small head and several joints down its body. It was amazing.  I said, “Hey Judy, come look at this cool insect.  It looks just like a stick.”

Well, she came over and took a look and she said, “Are you sure that is an insect?”  I assured her that it was since I am an amateur entomologist.  Oh, in case you are wondering that is someone who studies insects.  I know because I looked it up.  So, me, the amateur entomologist, left this fine specimen of the insect world to spend the night on my car.  I really couldn’t believe she had questioned my judgment.  After all what does she know about entomology anyway?  Well, apparently a lot.

The next morning we were leaving. As I carried our stuff out to the car, I took the time to pick the remaining leaves off my car and guess what?  My stick friend was still there.  I told Judy, “Hey that stick insect is still on the car.  How cool is that?”  She gave me that “Are you sure it isn’t a stick” look and I gave her the “I know what I am talking about” look.  When you’ve been married a long time you do that. There was only one way to prove to her I knew what I was talking about.  It was time for the touch test.  I went over to the car and looked again at my friend.  Head.  Check. Body. Check.  Legs.  Well, real small looking legs, but check.  So, I gave it a poke.  It fell off the car.

Yup.  I hate to admit it, but it was a stick.  I had to do the hard thing but the right thing. I went in and told Judy, “Hey you know that stick insect?  It was a stick.”  How about that?  I tried to lightly brush it off but no, I got a full load of the “I told you so” looks.  The bottom line was, she was right.  She knew her sticks and I obviously didn’t know my insects.  I think it is kinda funny that something I thought was supposed to look like a stick really was.  No wonder it didn’t move all night.  I guess those weren’t legs after all.

I realized that morning that not everything that looks like a stick insect is in fact, a stick insect—it might just indeed be a stick.  And the more I wanted it to be a stick insect the more it looked like one.  But no amount of looking is going to change what something really is. You see, things are not always as they appear.  They say seeing is believing but sometimes that just isn’t so.  Our eyes can deceive us.  Our hearts can deceive us. Our minds can deceive us. Things can be deceiving.

There is a cool scripture about Jesus healing a guy who was blind.  Jesus touched his eyes and said, “What do you see?”  The man said, “I see men but they look like trees walking.”  Well, Jesus touched his eyes again and basically said, “What about now?”  And guess what?  He could see just fine.  Now obviously the man wasn’t seeing trees walking but that is what he thought he was seeing. Of course, he didn’t have much practice at seeing—yet. In a world where things are upside-down, we should take the time and carefully examine something before we buy into it.  If I had poked that stick sooner, I would have discovered the truth sooner.  Things are not always as they appear.

However, there is One we can trust who is always spot on and that is God.  He is the real deal and the lens that we view Him is His Word.  Don’t trust what people say about God—read it for yourself.  God gave us His Word to show Himself to us and then invites every person to read for themselves.  And how often do you get to talk to the Author while you read His book? That’s pretty cool.  And if you chose to read about Him, you will be amazed at what you find.  You won’t find a God that looks like a God.  You will find a God that is God and who can do what He says.  You will find a God who loves you—a lot.  You will find a God who is not afraid of our investigation of Him because He will stand any test.  So, go ahead.  Read up.  You will find the real deal.  A God that invites you to rest in Him.  A God who’s got this.

Posted in Family, gratitude, life, loving others, Scripture, sovereignty of God, thankful, wisdom

All That Glitters…

I know how to make do with little, and I know how to make do with a lot. In any and all circumstances I have learned the secret of being content.” Philippians 4:12a

I woke up to find my neighbor’s yard covered with gold.  I am an early riser.  Well, actually, I am a crazy, early riser.  Normally, my bladder and I decide it is about time to get up at around 4:30…am.  If you want to see what a quiet world looks like…try it at 4:30 in the morning.  These days the sun isn’t even up yet.  He won’t make his appearance for another couple of hours.  I usually get up, make some coffee in my magic Keurig machine, watch the weather, and have some God time. Predictable…just the way I like it.

Part of that routine is to take a peek out one of the windows to see if the sun is peeking above the horizon.  Naturally that means looking to the East.  Saturday morning I did exactly that.  As I looked out the window, I noticed that my neighbor’s yard was covered with gold.  I couldn’t believe it.  What made this even more unusual was the fact that my neighbor at the end of our alley had struck it rich too.  This was incredible.  And, if that wasn’t enough, when I was walking a few days earlier, one of my friend’s hit the jackpot.  Gold was everywhere.  Now you might think that I was jealous…but I wasn’t—not this time. You see, their yards had been “papered” as in with toilet paper. It wasn’t pretty.

Now you are wondering, “I’m just a bit confused.” You said their yards were covered with gold. That doesn’t sound like gold to me.”  Well, you’ve got a point there.  But let’s step back just a few months ago.  COVID was all the rage.  People were doing all kinds of strange things.  When you went to the grocery store there were certain things, things that you would expect, out of stock.   Hand sanitizer was a pipe dream.  Bleach wipes were the things of legend.  Certain food items were long gone from the shelves.  It was a shoppers nightmare.  But there was one thing that topped them all.  Toilet paper.

For whatever reason, and it still remains a mystery, people began to hoard toilet paper.  It was like gold.  People were selling it on e-bay for unbelievable prices.  There were even people on the side of the road hawking their rolls of gold for ten, even fifteen times the ordinary price.  The nightly news would show people coming out of stores with rolls of the stuff.  It. Was. Crazy. Then as people realized that this probably wasn’t Armageddon, two things happened.  The rolled gold was back in stock and the price plummeted.  People that had bought tons of this stuff as an investment of sorts were stuck holding the bag. Haha…the joke…or rolls…was on them.

Now here is what is amazing.  I wake up only to discover my neighbor’s yard is covered in the very same thing that six months ago was gold.  And listen, it wasn’t the cheap stuff.  Since they weren’t home, Judy and I went over and picked up the mess…I know neighbor of the year right?  But when we did, I realized this was “Charmin Plus” or something. If toilet paper was gold this would be 24 karat and yet there it was, lying out in the yard.  Well, I guess all that glitters isn’t gold after all.

If there is one thing to take home from all of this it is the fact that if you look around you will discover pockets of hope—pockets of normalcy.  Maybe, just maybe, all this will calm down and life will be somewhat like it was back in January.  A few bumps, a few hiccups but basically a world where things are in stock and you don’t have to mask up to go out. But until then, what should we do?

That’s a great question and here are a couple of answers.  First, don’t lose hope.  If I watch too much of the evening bad news, I find myself being convinced that life as we know it is over.  I just don’t believe that is the case.  One day, one way or the other, Mr. COVID is going to pack up and leave town.  One day it will be old news.  Until then, just keep trusting…in God. One of the writers of Psalms in the Bible…someone just like you and me…wrote, “Take delight in the Lord, and He will give you your heart’s desires.” What that means is if we are willing to delight in Him, suddenly the things we desire look a whole lot like His.  And when that happens—hope explodes!

The second thing is learn, or maybe relearn, the magic of contentment.  While our old way of doing life has taken a vacation somewhere, a chunk of it will be back.  Just like toilet paper made a comeback—so will normalcy.  Now, until that time, just sit back and be content. I like what Paul, a guy in the Bible, said, “I know how to make do with little, and I know how to make do with a lot. In any and all circumstances I have learned the secret of being content.”  What makes that incredibly valuable is that he wrote that sitting in a stinking Roman prison.  Amazing.

Well, all that glitters is indeed not gold, but all around us are golden nuggets from our Dearest Daddy.  He whispers to us that He’s still around and still in control.  Each sunrise and sunset, each new baby that bursts on the scene, each tree covered in color and glory shouts to us that we can rest in Him. Each new day is indeed a gift from Him and that is golden. Remember this…each day committed to trusting Him is a step in the right direction.  Go ahead…trust Him…He’s got this.

Posted in Family, fear, food, gratitude, life, Scripture, sovereignty of God, thankful, wisdom

God Is

So don’t worry, saying, ‘What will we eat?’ or ‘What will we drink?’ or ‘What will we wear?” Matthew 6:31

I am not much for going grocery shopping and that is probably a real paradox. I really like food–we are great friends–just not buying and preparing it. But the other night, Judy and I went to the park for a walk (good idea–walk with your wife…she cooks food) and then went to Wal-Mart to get a few items.

So, we get to the store and there was plenty of food there. For sure, some items were sold out (they had toilet paper) but others were plenteous. The cookie aisle was hard hit but strangely the broccoli wasn’t. So, when I got to the bread aisle it was empty…bare. For a southern boy, well, that was a little weird.

It made me think about the children of Israel and their trips to the grocery store. For forty years they would walk outside the camp and there all around them were little mounds of manna. It is described as small, round and sweet (Krispy Kreme’s?) and it was always there. Never a time did they go out when the store was open (it was closed for the Sabbath) and the shelf was bare.

God was teaching them something. They couldn’t hoard because God told them to go out every day and get one day’s supply. The only exception was the day before the Sabbath when they could get two. And every day they went and there were the “Krispy Kremes” all over the ground and they would pick them up and God was saying, “I am good, I am faithful and I can be trusted.”

Day after day, week after week, month after month–“I am good, I am faithful and I can be trusted.” Never a bare shelf, never a failure to deliver, never an oops. We may not have manna lying around today, but we do have the faithfulness of that same God. He takes care of His kids. You can bank on it.

Jesus said in Matthew 6:31-32 “So don’t worry, saying, ‘What will we eat?’ or ‘What will we drink?’ or ‘What will we wear?’ 32. For the Gentiles [those who don’t trust God] eagerly seek all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them.”

So, in these days–especially in these days–every time there is a need met or a blessing given, remember to say, “Thank you, Father.” And slowly but surely, we will learn the valuable lesson of God’s faithfulness. God is good. God is faithful. God can be trusted. He’s got this. Rest in Him today.

Posted in Family, gratitude, life, prayer, Scripture, thankful

Grade-A Prime Day

I pray that from His glorious, unlimited resources He will empower you with inner strength through His Spirit. Then Christ will make His home in your hearts as you trust in Him. Your roots will grow down into God’s love and keep you strong.” Ephesians 3:16-17

It was a one-of-a-kind day.  If we graded days like meat it would have been USDA Grade-A Prime.  This Grade-A day actually started the night before. I sat on the porch and watched the moon rise, picture framed by Jupiter and Saturn.  Just a few minutes later a magnificent falling star streaked across the sky. We had some smooth jazz music playing but turned it off in favor of the symphony of nature sounds that were playing.  Crickets, tree frogs, cicadas, and a hoot owl all played their song in perfect harmony.

Then came morning. I love fall.  The cooler air and the absence of the “air-you-can-wear” makes me a happy camper. On the morning of this USDA Grade-A Prime day, it all came together.  The sun slowly turned night to day as it pulled back the curtain of darkness and allowed the light to come out and play. We had a great time at church, followed by a lunch of good old Kentucky Fried Chicken with all the fixins’s—mashed potatoes and gravy, baked beans, cole slaw and biscuits.  For dessert I had a nice Sunday afternoon nap.  It was a great day.

After getting up from my Sunday slumber we decided to go gatoring. What is gatoring?  Well, first I made it up.  Second, it is taking a ride through the woods in a John Deere Gator.  It is a two or four wheel drive vehicle that allows you to go most everywhere without getting stuck. So, off we went.  The first thing we noticed was the trees seemed to be changing colors right before our eyes.  Peeks of yellow and red could be found on every tree.  The trail was covered with leaves that had already fallen from their lofty heights.

As we pressed on we saw squirrels scurrying in the forest bottoms.  The ground was covered with hickory nuts and they were busy gathering them to get ready for winter.  We stopped at one spot along the trail to watch a wild turkey.  I don’t know if the fact that Thanksgiving is getting close or not but she took off pretty quickly. I mean it wasn’t like Judy started mixing up dressing or anything.

The prettiest colors came from an unlikely source.  Poison Ivy.  The forest floor was literally covered with it.  Almost every tree had more than one vine growing up its side.  The leaves, normally a rather ordinary color of green, were busting with colors of red and yellow.  Judy and I both wondered how something that could cause so much discomfort on your skin could bring so much wonder to the eyes. Amazing indeed.

We came to a large lake and stopped for a moment.  I said to Judy, “All we need now is for an eagle to swoop down and grab a fish from the lake.”  Just moments after the words left my lips two adult eagles in all their glory—-heads hooded in white as were their tail feathers and a large massive body and wingspan—launched from a nearby tree.  They didn’t grab a fish as they glided over the lake but they didn’t need too—I was already impressed beyond words.

As they glided over the water away from us and out of sight, we moved on and too soon we were back at the house.  I looked at Judy and said for what seemed like the 10th time.  “Judy, what an incredible day.”  And what made it so incredible wasn’t all that we had seen—oh, no,  it was the incredible Creator behind it all.  Every smallest detail was made by Him and that day, well, it seemed it was all just for us.

I know I say it a lot but let me say it again.  In this crazy, upside-down world where the tiniest of germs cause the greatest fear, where injustice has divided our nation and  where the word “indivisible” in our pledge almost seems out of place—in this world—there is still hope.  It is not a time to give up—it is a time to press on.  It is not a time to quake in fear, it is a time to stand in faith—not faith in ourselves but faith in Him who made it all.

The Bible encourages us to trust in the One who rules it all.  It tells us to rest in the fact that the Son of God who died for the sins of the whole world wants to make His home with us and in us. How amazing is that.  But the best part is that it tells us to sink our roots deep into His love.  You see a root draws up whatever it is tapped into—in this case—that is the love of God.  And you know…that is exactly what we and the world need—His love.  So the next time a Grade-A Prime Day shows up—enjoy it, rest in it because He made it with you in mind.  As His child you need to know He is real partial to you so rest in Him.  Oh, and never forget, He’s got this.

Posted in Family, fear, gratitude, life, Scripture, Southern born, thankful, wisdom

Joy Comes in the Morning

Sing to the Lord, all you godly ones! Praise His holy name. For His anger lasts only a moment, but His favor lasts a lifetime! Weeping may last through the night, but joy comes with the morning.” Psalm 30:4-5

Day in and day out—they just sit there.  I work at a church and consequently at the church office.  It is good place to work and it’s always nice to work with good people.  I was sitting in the outer office and the administrative and ministerial staff were having our daily COVID discussion.  I made the comment that if I spoke 1,000 words in one day, at least 800 of them would involve COVID.  Sigh.

I was sitting in a chair and I noticed something that I see every day, but for some reason that time it made me stop and think.  Next to the chair, on a table in front of the window there are three pots.  The pots are amaryllis plants.  The plants have grown some long, green leaves but frankly they are, well, unattractive.  They don’t look healthy, they don’t look happy—they look like they are just existing.

You might be asking, “Why would anyone want a plant like that?”  Well, the answer is quite simple—when it blooms it is in a word, magnificent.  Though they come in several colors, the most common is red.  My daddy raised them in our southern yard and they were the talk of the neighborhood.  I remember he had one that was pure white…I believe it was quite rare.  Apparently someone really like it also, because they dug it up and stole it.  Daddy wasn’t very happy.

Now these plants we have in the office don’t bloom.  They were Christmas gifts to someone, and they bloomed then, but ever since—nothing, just green, saggy, sad leaves.  Now I’m not totally sure, but I believe there is a reason.  I’ve read that in order for them to bloom they need to hurt.  It goes like this.  First, you cut the stalk off.  Then a little later you stop watering the plant and the leaves die.  After that, it goes in a totally dark place for about eight weeks.  Finally, after the period of pain, you bring it back into the light and start watering it again and it will bloom again in all its glory.  Before the bloom, there has to be a period of pain.

I guess I didn’t realize that when our Creator made us, He could have had an amaryllis plant in mind.  You see, it is true that for us to become the beautiful creation God intends us to be—then some pain must come into our lives.  Oh, I know, we love the sunny days, but you and I both know without some rain—things would never grow—never bloom. It is also true that during the times in our lives when dryness occurs and darkness overcomes us that two beautiful things happen.

First, we learn to trust our God.  It is one of our natural bents that we tend to put God on the back burner when things are going well—especially when they are good for a long time.  I suppose this COVID mess has helped a lot of us to grow in our faith, our trust in God.  I heard it said once that while the view from the mountain top is beautiful, it is often barren.  It is in the valleys where the lush, green forests and meadows grow.  So true for us too.

Second, we develop character.  Those dark times, those difficult times, steel us and make us strong.  You see, character is what you are, what you do when no one else is watching.  That is true.  Take people off the stage of life and often the real person is nothing like the actor on public stage.  When we are going through those “valley of the shadow of death” times, it is there we have the opportunity to grow stronger. It is there when we prepare to once again bloom.  Remove the pain and we are like the amaryllis—a few sad, saggy leaves—never truly knowing the fullness and purpose of our God-called life. We need to remember what the Psalmist says, “weeping may last for the night…but joy comes in the morning.”

Well, I hope someone will have the courage to help our flowers bloom again.  As they are, they are just part of the landscape of the office but with a little help—they could take center stage.  I’m glad there is Someone who is willing to invest in us, who loves us enough to allow some dry times and painful times to help us grow and bloom.  This present time may well be one of those times.  Maybe we, maybe you, aren’t ready yet but perhaps one day, we will be able to say “thank-you” for all the difficult times in our lives that helped us to blossom.  Until then, let’s trust in the Master Gardner, let’s rest in Him…even if it means darkness.  Let’s choose to believe—have faith that He’s got this.

Posted in Family, gratitude, life, prayer, Scripture, Southern born, thankful, wisdom

Bang, Bang

Wait on the Lord; be of good courage, and He shall strengthen your heart; wait, I say, on the Lord!” Psalm 27:14

I waited and waited and it seemed like it would never come. People say that good things come to those who wait.  I’ve heard that a lot but I’m not sure I believe it.  In fact, I’m not even sure I know what it means.  But one thing is sure…I know what it means to wait…especially if it involves the government and a by-pass.

When I came to Harrisburg in 2000, we bought a house on West Poplar Street. Now back in those days that was THE main drag.   Every car and truck going East and West through Harrisburg had to travel down Poplar Street.  When we looked at the house we were told that a by-pass was on the planning board and would be done within five years.  Well, that sounded pretty good, so we bought the house and waited…and waited…and waited.  As it turned out it was a little longer than five years.  In fact—it was almost twelve.

Now in our 20th year at 217, I am grateful, very grateful, that the by-pass finally came. I know some folks weren’t sure we even needed one and some went another way so they are indifferent.  You might ask, “What’s the big deal about the by-pass?  Well if you have ever lived on West Poplar Street…you would know.

You see, Mr. Bob, my neighbor back in the days before the by-pass, told me that he counted in one day, and 60 semi-trucks went by his house in one hour–that is one per minute.  In those days there were probably more coal trucks, but believe me there were  still plenty of trucks.  You kinda wondered where in the world they were all going.

Now check this out…for the first seven years…count them 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7 years or 2,555 days, there was a hole in the road right before my house. Every time a semi-truck went by it would hit that hole with a resounding “BANG.”  Allowing for 60 trucks an hour and 12 driving hours in a day that equates to 1,839,600 bangs. Remember how people say if you live by a railroad track long enough you stop hearing the whistle?  Trust me…that does not apply to bangs.

Now do you understand why I was so excited about the bypass?  Oh, and did I mention waiting two or three minutes just to get out of my driveway?  So, we waited and finally in 2012, the bypass opened and traffic was drastically reduced. Oh, and gravy on the mashed potatoes…they even fixed the hole.

I guess it is true, good things come to those who wait.  But waiting is hard.  There was a lady in the gospels who was sick for twelve long years…about the same time I waited for the by-pass.  She had been to doctor after doctor and the only thing that left her was all her money.  Then she met Jesus and He changed everything. She was overwhelmed with gratitude.

I supposed that is the one good thing about waiting. When, and if, what you are waiting on comes to pass, you are usually pretty grateful.  She was, I am, and you would be too.  The psalmist writes, “Wait on the Lord; be of good courage, and He shall strengthen your heart; wait, I say, on the Lord!” (Psalm 27:14)

Down in the South we say, “a watched pot never boils.” Well that isn’t true…it will boil, but it sure seems to take longer. So, if there is something in your life and you are praying and you are waiting, be patient.  Wait on the Lord and who knows, your “by-pass” may come too.  All this COVID hot mess has definitely stuck around longer than I ever thought. I still believe, though, that it hasn’t come to stay…it has come to pass.

I think this afternoon I will go sit in my quieter front yard and take a rest with the God who made all of this.  He even had a big hand in the by-pass! After that, I’ll just remind myself that no matter what…He’s got this.