Posted in fear, forgiveness, friends, Grace, gratitude, life, missions, prayer, Scripture, travel, Trials, wisdom

Big Rivers, Hungry Crocs & Fat Hippos

But if you don’t do this, you will certainly sin against the Lord; be sure your sin will catch up with you.”  Numbers 32:23

How do things like this happen?  If you are older than three, you have probably already bumped into something that got bigger than you intended.  Whether you are a toddler reaching for the cookie jar or a teenager thinking no one will ever know or in a marriage pushing the limits…well, you’ve probably had that emptiness in your stomach when the cookie jar crashes, or dad says, “Son, we need to talk” or you come home to an empty house because word got around.  How does it happen?

Really the answer to that question is older than time and bigger than a short story with a big truth or, for that matter, a thick book full of truths but maybe we can at least cast a little light in the arena.  Judy and I have been to East Africa and the country of Uganda more than a few times.  We launch our trips to the islands of Lake Victoria from the small town of Jinga.  We enter town, with the lake on our right, and cross a small channel that leads to a decent size dam.  On the other side of the dam, and no more than fifty yards wide, is the origin of the mighty Nile River.

Now trust me, if you saw the Mighty Nile at this point you wouldn’t be too impressed.  It wanders through the Ugandan countryside on its way north before eventually emptying into the Mediterranean Sea.  The journey is somewhere over 4,100 miles and slowly the river grows and grows until it is almost two miles wide at some points.  Judy and I had the opportunity to take a ride on the Nile and besides being impressed by its size, I was more than impressed with the very large and very hungry, crocodiles that call the Nile home.  Oh, and did I mention the animal that causes more deaths in Africa than any other animal? It might not be what you think—the hippopotamus and there are lots of them in the Nile. Lots.

So, we begin with something that is relatively small that becomes large and we have something relatively benign that is dangerously filled with things that want to eat you or stomp you to death.  Either way—something little becomes big and dangerous.  And that, dear friend, is how things get out of control in our lives too.  It starts as something we think we can handle, something that almost, almost, seems safe and before long—we have a monster on our hands.  Let’s revisit the Nile.

If you were to start floating down the Nile in your little boat the first chunk of your journey would be easy.  But somewhere upstream (since the Nile flows north) there is something that will kill you—Murchison Falls.  The entire Nile River is funneled down into a rock channel that is only 23 feet wide before the water violently plummets 141 feet.  Go there and you are dead—no exceptions.  It’s the same results when we don’t pay attention to the tension that sometimes occurs in our lives.  When that tension is there…it is there for a reason.  Andy Stanley gives two good pieces of advice.  First, pay attention to the tension; and two, if something bothers you, let it bother you.  That’s good stuff.

So, the big truth today is we sometimes need to hit the pause button.  We also need to understand that we are not the exception to the rule…we can get hurt, we can create a disaster, and yes, someone will find out. Oh, by the way, do you really think it is a secret from God? The Old Testament gives us a sound warning—be sure your sins will find you out and often, when it does, well, its gonna leave a mark—a bruise—or worse.

As you journey today or tomorrow, you might want to listen for the Whisperer whispering His gentle words of warning.  Don’t ignore them…He knows truth and He knows consequences.  Our sin cost His Son His life.  However, if we ask, He will be there to help and to guide. No matter how big the crocs, or how fat the hippos, or how violent the falls—you can trust the fact that, “He’s got this.”    Bro. Dewayne

Posted in Family, food, friends, gratitude, Halloween, life, love, loving others, prayer, Scripture, thankful, Trials

Trick and Treat

Jesus told him, “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.” John 14:6

Free Candy.  Holidays have always been special to me.  Of course, the king of the mountain is the one where we celebrate the birth of a King.  Of course, it took me awhile to get where I began to understand it wasn’t all about presents or a guy in a red suit, but I did eventually get a better understanding.  Oh, and then there is the one where the King that was born on Christmas defeats the big bad king—Death.  Well, and yes, it took me awhile to figure that one out too.  Turns out, it wasn’t about a bunny and free candy.  I’m slow but I usually, eventually, get there.

We could go and on…Memorial Day is not only about cookouts, but Independence Day is also about the price of freedom and not just fireworks, and finally, Thanksgiving is not just being about turkeys and pies.  There is nothing wrong with all of that—it’s just important that we remember what the main thing is—and camp there.  So, today, Halloween, what is that all about?  Well, when I was a kid, it was about one thing and one thing only—free candy.  We would dress up in whatever was handy—no bought costumes in those days—just hobos and pirates—grab the bag that momma had made us and hit the streets running.  We would go from house to house, from door to door, shouting those magic words, “Trick or Treat,” and stick our bag out and the candy came flying. Oh, and you better believe we said, “Thank you,” cause Momma taught us to.  Yup, in those days, things were just different.  There never was a trick…it wasn’t even an idle threat; it was just part of what we said.

I guess today all that has changed.  Today, Halloween has a bad rap.  The age of innocence is long gone.  Televisions and theaters are filled with horrible horror films and the whole holiday is now considered by most Jesus people to be a pagan sin feast…and maybe it is.  On the other hand, I think it is also Reformation Day…the day Martin Luther took a stand about God and grace.  But there is that one thing that has changed.  There is that one thing we have hung on to and that is those three words, “Trick or Treat.”  I’m glad those are still around because tucked away they hold some pretty big truths.

First, all this sin stuff started in the Garden of Eden when Satan tricked Eve into believing him and doubting God.  He was so convincing that she began to believe that God was holding out.  He was the good guy and God…He was selfish and wanted to keep everything for Himself.  Trick, trick trick.  But thankfully that is not the end of the story—for God had a treat for Satan’s trick.  God sent Truth into the world in the form of His Son Jesus.  Much later after the garden, when Jesus told us He was the Way, the Truth and the Life” He meant exactly that.  The truth is…He is Truth.  No tricks, no deception, no kidding…He is the antidote to the devil’s lie.  Believe the Truth and you live—believe the lie and die forever.  Wow.

But wait…there is more.  You see not only is there the trick and not only is there the Truth…there is that little connecting word, “or.”  You see, the word “or” makes sure we understand that there is a choice here.  We don’t have to be stuck with the lie and no, we don’t have to take the Truth…though we would be foolish not to do so.  There is free will. God offers eternal life to anyone, and Satan offers death to everyone.  God offers eternal life to anyone who will believe in Him and ask, and the enemy offers death to everyone else.  Listen, don’t be tricked by the trickster, the consequences of a wrong choice are just disastrous.

So, I hope in your part of the world you can let your kids load up on free candy.  I’m sure your dentist will be very happy.  Be careful and be safe and steer way clear of all the junk that is out there—and trust me—there is plenty.  Oh, and don’t forget the lesson from those three small words, “Trick or Treat.”  Remember that the trickster is a liar and offers spiritual death and the Treater is the Truth and offers eternal life.  Oh, and don’t forget three more important words, “He’s got this.”  Bro. Dewayne

Posted in Family, forgiveness, Grace, gratitude, life, Scripture, Southern born, wisdom

My Clock is a Liar

Hi Grits Family! Hey, my wife Judy and I are going to be “out of pocket” aka “not available” to write for the next couple of weeks.  During that time, we decided to send out some of our past stories.  I hope you enjoy the ones we selected and look forward to some “fresh Grits” in a couple of weeks. God bless.  Bro. Dewayne

You are of your father the devil, and you want to carry out your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he tells a lie, he speaks from his own nature, because he is a liar and the father of lies.” John 8:44

My clock lies to me.  Throughout my life I have had times when I collect things.  Once it was eagles.  To this day I love eagles but there was a time I would go to the mall or any store that might sell them and tell Judy, “I’m going to look for eagles.”  If I found one, I would buy it.  Not too long ago it was BB guns.  It started with a Red Ryder model (the one from the movie, “A Christmas Story”).  The next thing I knew I had nine BB guns and pistols.  Boom. Just like that. Over the years urges have come and gone but there is one that has kinda stuck with me.  Clocks.

A long time ago (and in a galaxy far, far away…you know, like the Star Wars movies) I started collecting clocks.  Unlike eagles and BB guns, this one can get rather pricy.  But it started rather innocently.  When Judy and I were stationed in Germany near the French border, we went to a flea market with a couple of good friends.  My friend spied a German wall clock laying on the ground, halfway in a mud puddle and ended up buying it.  The long story made short is that I ended up talking him out of it.  It was a swap kinda thing.  It is a bing-bam clock which means it strikes on the hour and half-hour.  It was pretty old then, and now, 42 years later, it is like me, a lot older.

It is a special clock because of the story and all the memories but it does have a problem.  It lies.  You see, over the years it has developed this nasty habit of saying one thing and doing another.  As I mentioned, it is designed to bing-bam on the half-hour and then on the hour it counts the time out.  If it is 4:00 then it will bing-bam four times.  You can hear it shouting out the time almost throughout the house.  It was nostalgic and handy.  And then it starting lying. It started innocently enough—at 1:00 it would sound two times instead of once.  It was predictable so I just lived with it.  Now, well now, it lies big time.  Randomly, and throughout the day it sounds the wrong time.

Well, adjusting the clock is quite easy…or at least it is supposed to be.  So, if it was showing 4:00 but counting five, I would simply stopped the clock and moved the hour hand to five.  I waited an hour to restart the clock—problem solved—or not.  I restarted old faithful and at 6:00 it sounded five.  So, I slid the hour hand to 5:00 and waited and sure enough it chimed six.  No matter what I did the clock lied.  It has stubbornly developed a very bad habit. Hmmmm.

Fortunately for the old clock, I like it a lot. Its value to me goes way beyond its value as a time teller—it is part of the family.  Because of that, I’m willing to tolerate its bad habit.  I don’t like it.  I don’t trust it. It is frustrating, but in this case, it is mostly harmless.  I simply have learned to believe it when I can read the dial but not when I can only hear it.  It’s a negotiated settlement. That works fine for clocks—but it is not fine for people.

When I was growing up telling the truth was a pretty big deal.  Now, I would be the last to tell you that I always did it.  I didn’t.  But the bottom line was if you did the crime—you did the time.  Lie and get caught (and invariably I did) and Alston and Leslie (that’s daddy and mama) made sure you received a refresher course on the importance of telling the truth. Whether it was a spanking or washing my mouth out with soap—I learned lying was a bad deal.

I think daddy and mama must have talked to Jesus about it because He thought it was a big deal too. One time, there was a group of religious leaders who had a problem speaking or even liking the truth.  Jesus cut loose on them and said, “You are just like your father the devil.  When he lies he is just speaking his natural language.  He is the father of lies and the truth is not in him.”  Wow—so if you ever wonder why lying made the big ten—now you know.

Today we live in a culture of convenience and whatever works for you—you kinda go with it.  If telling a lie makes things a little easier—just cut loose and worry about the consequences later. Its like the 60’s “if it feels good do it” on steroids.  Just know this.  No matter what culture says lying is a big deal—regardless if you are a preacher, a politician, or the guy next door.  God says it so it is a nonnegotiable for His followers. Oh, and even if you’re not a God follower you will still find life has fewer consequences and less regrets when you make the truth the standard.

As I finish this story, the old clock got it right.  An hour ago—it got it wrong.  Good grief…I just wish it would make up its mind to tell the truth.  Speaking of truth—here are two you can count on every time.  First…you can always trust and rest in creator God.  Second…He’s got this.  And that friend—is the truth.  Bro. Dewayne

Posted in Family, life, love, loving others, prayer, Scripture, thankful, Trials

Mirror, Mirror – Tell Me True

Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those in Christ Jesus.” Romans 8:1

I often avoid them like the plague.  Mirrors and I have a complex relationship.  While I enjoy mirrors in a room…I don’t enjoy me in the mirrors.  They say that mirrors have a way of making a room look larger and brighter.  But it is a whole different story when I stand before one.  You see, the mirror reminds me of just how imperfect I am.  I look and see all the ways I need to be better and find myself not really loving the man in the mirror.

Sometimes that is not the case.  A friend of mind owned a home in Florida, and he was kind enough to let my family and me vacation there in the summer.  It was a beautiful home with a pool and a hot tub, and we always felt so special when we stayed there.  But there was one more thing that I liked a lot.  You see, in the master bedroom, there was a free-standing mirror. It was taller than me…though that isn’t saying a lot…and for some reason it made me look…taller and thinner.  Yup, that’s the truth.  I would stand in front of that mirror, and it made me look like I had grew an inch or two and dropped a few pounds. Now that is my kind of mirror.

It didn’t matter that I really hadn’t lost any weight.  What mattered was that is how the mirror made me feel.  I felt better about the man in the mirror…or at least that mirror. While I regularly avoid mirrors even today, that was one mirror I intentionally sought out.  Now the bottom line is life is filled with mirrors. First and foremost is the one in our own mind.  That is the most critical mirror of all.  Given half a chance we will find ourselves standing and staring at the mirror of our mind and discovering all the warts and flaws of our life.  It is not a good mirror to gaze into.

There is another mirror and that is the mirror of public opinion.  We live in a world where people are far too free with their opinion of others.  Opinions are fine…everyone has one but for some reason when it comes to our opinion of others, often they are critical and painful.  Because of that, if we are not careful, we walk in a room just waiting for someone to roll the mirror out…waiting for a reminder just how imperfect we are.

Our enemy the devil is the best at using mirrors.  He whispers in our ear constantly reminding us of all our flaws and reminding us that it must be simply impossible for God to love us.  Who could love a person like us and sadly, we often stand there in front of his mirror and listen to his cutting remarks.  Unfortunately, we even believe what he says…even when we know it is not true.  But like the mirror in Florida, there is a mirror that we can always trust and that always guides us in truth.  It is the mirror of God’s Word.

You see, the Bible, the oldest and most trusted of all sacred writings is not a book of bondage but rather a book of freedom.  It is a love note from our Dearest Daddy in heaven and in it He reminds us just how much He loves us and just how keen He is on us.  From Genesis to the Revelation, He speaks words over us of love and affirmation.  Ever wonder just how fond He is of you?  Well, fond enough to send His Son to a Roman cross to pay the price for our mistakes and sins.  Amazing.

So, it seems like we need to make a choice.  Which mirror will we choose to stand before?  Will we allow our minds to fill us with self-condemnation?  Will we let the mirror of public opinion determine our self-worth and self-image?  Will we continue to allow Satan to whisper his lies into our hearts and minds?  Or will we choose the mirror of God’s Word?   There is a letter that Paul wrote to the Christians in Rome.  In that letter, he tells them, “There is no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus.”  In other words, to the ones who have chosen to believe and follow Jesus, all charges are dropped. While we still won’t be perfect…we will be perfectly forgiven.  How about that?

As you journey through life today, choose to believe the mirror of God’s Word.  Oh my, He is so proud to call you His child. He has never regretted allowing you to be a part of His family.  Go ahead, read His love note, the Bible, you will find it written there. And if you listen carefully, you will hear Him whispering…not accusations but words of love.  Oh, and you might hear Him letting you know that no matter what, “He’s got this.” Bro. Dewayne

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

The Owner’s Closet

Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. Point out anything in me that offends You and lead me along the path of everlasting life.” Psalm 139:23-24

It’s the one place.  My wife Judy is a really smart person and one day she proved that so clearly.  The place where we live has a two-bedroom apartment over the garage.  Off and on through the years, various members of the tribe have stayed there but finally it was just sitting empty.  Not only was it not earning its keep…it was costing us.  It has its own utilities so every month we wrote a check.  And then Judy had a great idea.  She researched and found out there was a pretty new company called Airbnb. It helps owners of properties rent them out as a short-term vacation type rental.  She wanted to give it a try…and she did.

On a shoestring budget and by watching several YouTube videos she turned that little apartment into a beautiful short-term rental.  I told her it wouldn’t work.  A couple of businessmen who attend our church told her it wouldn’t work.  After all, who comes to Harrisburg…a small town in Southern Illinois.  Well, we were all wrong and she was all right. Since 2016 when she opened for business, hundreds have stayed and instead of draining the check book, it now helps supplement our income.  Amazing.

People, book the place for a fee and we give them full access to the property.  They get the apartment, and trust me…it is very nice.  They also get to enjoy our beautiful garden (another Judy thing), the hot tub, and a nice patio area.  It is quite the deal if I say so myself.  Like I said…Judy had a really good idea. However, there is one place, one small room that the guests don’t have access to…the owner’s closet.

You see, in the hallway of the apartment, there is a small walk-in closet that we keep locked. No matter how much they pay, they can’t go in there. They can have everything else…but not that. No, nada, period.  Why?  Well…there are a couple of reasons but the main one is that it is filled with owner stuff.  It’s the storage closet where extra linens, cleaning supplies, mops, cleaning rags, decorations, things we don’t need and well, just things. If the guests were to see it, they definitely wouldn’t be impressed.  They might even say, “How can the rest of the place look so beautiful, and this look so…boring?”  And they would be right and that is why it is locked.

Every short-term rental that I have stayed in has an owner’s closet and I am sure none of them look as nice as the rental itself.  It’s just the nature of the beast.  But what about this?  What about our lives?  Do you have an owner’s closet in your life that no one, I mean no one, is welcome to open…to enter?  Your spouse? Nope. Your children? Nope. Your friends? Nope. Your parents? Nope.  God? Not even God.  Maybe especially not God. While the truth is all of us have that secret place, we need to know it can be a dangerous thing. When we are tempted to hide things, well, let’s just say bad things can grow in the dark.

Perhaps it is time we have the courage to unlock the door and let a little light in.  I know it can be difficult but as long as the door is locked, we won’t, we can’t change what’s inside. The best place to start is to invite God in.  If you are one of His kids, or especially if you aren’t, He won’t be surprised because He already knows everything.  In Psalm 139:23-24, a Book in the Jewish and Christian Bible, it says, “Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. Point out anything in me that offends You and lead me along the path of everlasting life.”

Now that is just some great advice. Remember this…if bad things grow in the dark…bad things die in the light. If we will just have the courage to unlock the door, open the door, and even flip on the light switch…well, healing can begin, and help will be on the way.  Why not take that giant step today?  As you reach out with the key and slip it into the lock and turn the knob on the door, just know this.  He is there with you, and He will help you all the way.  He’s got this.  Bro. Dewayne

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

What Time Is It…Really?

Teach them Your Word, Your Word is truth.” John 17:17b

It was the 60’s and 70’s. The novel, “A Tale of Two Cities” starts with “it was the best of times, it was the worst of times” and that pretty well describes those two decades.  Out of those somewhat crazy times came some of the best music ever written—at least modern music.  I know that is true because people from all the other decades seem to come back to the 60’s and 70’s. Some, ok, maybe a lot of it, was kinda crazy but that is what made it so cool.  There was a song that was released by the group Chicago in 1969 called, “Does Anyone Really Know What Time It Is.”  It was a quirky song, in fact, that is how the guy who wrote it described it.

What is kinda funny is that it is a song that my wife Judy and I live daily.  If you read Grits, you might remember that I like clocks a lot. It all started a long time ago and is one hobby or obsession that has stuck with me through the years.  I am intrigued because of the design and engineering that went into each clock.  Some of my clocks are babies, only sixty or seventy years old.  Some though are well over a hundred.  Some were bought at a shop somewhere, one special one was built by a couple of friends and two were built by me…with a little help from my friends.

In today’s world, so many clocks are engineering marvels and keep time very accurately.  But some of the older ones tend to be a little less accurate.  So that is where our song comes in.  You see most rooms in my house have a clock or two or three and often they are the older mechanical types.  So, you go into the room and look over there and there is a clock.  It says it is, oh, let’s say 2:13 pm.  Then you look over there and there is another clock, and it says it is 2:20 pm. Then on the wall going up the stairs is another clock that declares it is 2:05 pm.  What?

Well, all of that is not a problem until you are about to leave, and you need to know if you are on time or late.  And trust me, more than once, Judy has said, “So what time is it, anyway?”  Well, I know my clocks pretty well and I know their habits as well.  I pretty much know who runs slow and who runs fast and who doesn’t run at all.  So I can usually tell her just about what time it really is.  It can be a bit confusing…but in a pretty good if not quirky way.

The bottom line is if I really need to know the time, I have three good choices.  First, my trusty Apple Watch.  It is very accurate and if it is strapped to my wrist…it is an obvious first choice. The second choice is my phone which is married to my Apple Watch.  The only problem is I’m not married to my phone which means it may or may not be close by.  The third choice is the kitchen stove.  It always tells the truth…but it still depends on me setting it correctly. And if the power goes off, well, you get the flashy thing until I get around to setting it.

I was thinking, which is always a dangerous thing, that where we go for truth is a lot like trying to find the correct time.  Similar to the question in the song you might ask, “Does anyone really know what truth is and what it is not?”  Well, the answer is…wait for it…the Bible.  For millennia this most ancient of sacred writings has stood the test of time.  It has made the best seller list forever and while there are many different translations and reading styles…there never has been a version 2.1.  Do you know why?  It is timeless, changeless and without error.  I know, I know you might think differently or maybe heard differently but let me encourage to check it out for yourself.  Do some honest research and you will probably come to the same conclusion that I did—it can be trusted because it is the real deal.  And trust me…these days we need the real deal.

When you find yourself running around and asking everyone you meet, “Hey, does anyone really know what’s true and what’s not?” I hope you will turn to the one source that is spot on, right on and always on target. Jesus said it best when He said, “Teach them Your Word, Your Word is truth.” I like that…plain, simple truth. And, when you have a question, when you are stumped, just ask the One who knows and always speaks the truth—God.  Oh, and don’t worry, He always has the answer because He is the answer.  In other words, “He’s got this.”  Bro. Dewayne

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

Stinky Football & Me

Speak the truth, each one to his neighbor, because we are members of one another.” Ephesians 4:25b

She told me what I didn’t know.  If you read Grits even occasionally you know that I was born special…the baby of eight.  After seven tries Momma and Daddy got it right.  Yes, it is and was a burden to bear but someone had to do it.  I was so special my brothers and sisters called me “Precious” though I’m not sure it was a term of endearment or endangerment.  Of course, all of that is written in jest but the bottom line is…I was the baby of the family and that made me special.

Even us special people don’t always get it right.  In fact, truth be known, we might get it wrong more often than the rest.  Sometimes that is a result of being just a little spoiled and sometimes it is just not knowing and one night, I found that out.  My oldest brother Reggie and his wife Sonia played a big part in my growing up.  Reggie is like sixteen years my senior and of course Sonia almost as many.  In my growing up years they were one of the main reasons I managed to stay in church.  They were regular attenders and would swing by the house and make sure I had a ride to church.

Because church was such a big part of my social world, I went all the time.  All.The.Time.  We had church three times a week and I was there.  My favorite time to go to church, though, was Wednesday nights.  We had this cool group of guys, led by two really cool older guys, and we had a great time learning about Jesus and stuff.  But it was what happened after the Jesus time that topped it all—football.  Our church had a large field out back and we would get together and play every Wednesday night after our class.  And we played real football too…tackle.

Of course, this was North Florida and most times that meant it was hot so by the time we were done we were hot, sweaty, and well, stinky.  The only problem was I didn’t have a clue.  You see no one in the Taylor tribe had ever told me about the wonders of deodorant…Daddy didn’t, Momma didn’t, my sisters didn’t. So often, I was a stinky mess.  It was just about then that my sister-in-law Sonia came to the rescue.  I can remember it like it was yesterday.  We were done at church, we had played football and I was, well, you know.

Reggie and Sonia had a two door Pontiac Lemans. That night Sonia was holding the door open and the seat back so I could crawl into the backseat and that is when it happened.  When she got into the car and closed the door, she said, “Dewayne, has anyone ever told you about deodorant?” Well, I replied truthfully and replied, “No ma’am.” And, without explanation, she simply said, “Well, honey (everyone was “honey”), you need to wear some.”

Well, shoot that thing, no one ever told me about that.  I knew about taking a bath and I probably knew about slapping on some smell good stuff, but I sure didn’t know I stunk and that there was something to help with that. Well, that changed everything.  I guess I went home and found some deodorant and started wearing it.  It probably made me just a little more popular with my friends…especially the girls.  If she hadn’t told me the truth, I would probably be a single hermit living somewhere in the Appalachian Mountains or something.

You see, Sonia told me something I needed to know…and I’m glad she did.  It probably wasn’t easy…though she was always telling Reggie how to drive. Smile. But since she knew the truth would set me free from a stinky situation…she cared enough to speak up. So, do you know someone that needs to hear a truth…even if it is hard?  And, more importantly, are you willing to share that truth?

All of us have someone in our world that needs this but there is one thing that is key.  In order to earn the right to share truth we need to have a relationship, a trust, with the person.  Sonia’s hard truth did not offend me because I knew she loved me.  Her truth wasn’t to embarrass, but to help and that made all the difference in the world. That’s what Paul, the New Testament writer meant when he said, “Speak the truth, each one to his neighbor, because we are members of one another.” Sincere truth speaking isn’t judgmental…it is helpful.

If you know someone who needs a little truth, think about it and then carefully and tactfully share with them.  That is no guarantee that it will go well but at least you will know that you did your part. And if it does go wrong and you end up in bit of a storm, don’t worry, don’t be discouraged because, “He’s got this.” Bro. Dewayne

Posted in Family, food, forgiveness, Grace, life

Stupid Watermelon

For I am conscious of my rebellion, and my sin is always before me. Against you—you alone—I have sinned and done this evil in your sight.” Psalm 51:3-4

Hi Grits family- Judy and I are out of pocket for the next four days, so we are giving you the opportunity to revisit some of our favorites.  So, God bless, enjoy and we will see you soon.

I should have just stayed home.  You probably don’t know there is such a thing as a stupid watermelon but if you live long enough you will surely run into one.  In my case it happened just a couple of weeks ago at our local grocery store.  Before I begin the story you need to know that I am one of those slightly older people who has “old people’s skin.”  In case you don’t know “old people’s skin” happens as a person ages.  The result is skin that bruises and wounds easily.  Let me just say, “It ain’t fun.” It goes like this.

You are opening the storm door with one of those automatic closing things.  The wind catches the door, banging into your arm.  Congratulations…you are the proud owner of a new bruise.  You are carrying a pile of limbs to the rubbish pile and one shifts in your hands and against, or rather into, your arm.  You win again.  You are going up the stairs…yes, I said up the stairs, and your foot catches on the riser and you fall against the wall.  Double congratulations…you win a bruise and cut.  Sigh.

And it is always the hand you use the most.  In my case I am left handed so my left arm continually looks like I play major league football or have wrestled with a full-grown lion.  Either way…its’ not pretty.  And mark my word, just about the time you get it healed up…bam…you start all over again. That, dear friends, is where the stupid watermelon comes along.

I don’t do grocery stores.  I definitely do food…I just don’t do grocery shopping.  Well, one evening I was feeling pretty jovial and decided to go to the grocery store with my wife Judy.  We enter the store and get one of those cute (on no…I said cute again) mini baskets and off we go.  We are heading back to the bakery so I am in a particularly good mood.  I can already taste the greasy, fried dough.  Then…it happens.  There is a sign that says, “Watermelons – $3.99.”  Judy loves watermelons.

We pause and begin to study the watermelons.  She thumps them.  She pats them. She caresses them.  After several minutes the winner is chosen.  “I want this one” she declares.  Her galant, strong prince, hoists the winning melon out of the bin of losers and prepares to put it in the buggy.  Because we have a mini-buggy, I decided to put it in the bottom rather than the top.  That is where things got ugly.

I bend over and prepare to slide the watermelon into the too small bottom portion of the buggy. Just at the time of releasing the melon and removing my hand—it slips. As it falls into the too small bottom portion it rolls on my hand and catches my finger between the basket and watermelon. “Ouch,” I said.  When I was able to maneuver my finger from between the basket and melon—I saw it.  Not a bruise…oh no…but a nice ¾ inch skin laceration.  It was bleeding. Badly. Profusely.  It was then the true nature of the melon escaped my lips, “Stupid watermelon.”  No wonder they were on sale for $3.99. 

It seems at least they could have put a sign up that read, “Stupid Watermelons – $3.99.” 

Well, I quickly became obsessed over the true nature of the evil watermelon.  “Hey Judy, do you have a tourniquet to stop the bleeding from the stupid watermelon?” “Honey, do you want some cheese to go with the stupid watermelon?” On and on it went and the watermelon and I became mortal enemies.  And the coup-de-grace?  Not only was it stupid…it wasn’t even sweet.  Sigh.

But no, I had to find out the hard way.  About then Judy said something like, “Well, it really wasn’t the watermelon…it was the buggy.” I began to protest but I think she said something like, “And you know it happened because it slipped out of your hand.”  By that I assumed she meant the one that was cut and bleeding.  Somehow it didn’t make my hand feel any better and two weeks later I still have some healing to do.  But…she was right.

It wasn’t the watermelon, it wasn’t the buggy it wasn’t even me.  It was just one of those things that happen.  I just needed to blame something because my hand hurt and 746 people were going to ask, “What happened to your hand?”  Blaming it on a stupid watermelon just seemed easier.  The truth is, it is easier to blame than it is to own.  It has been that way since the beginning of time.  In the garden, Adam blamed Eve and God for the hot mess they were in after they chose to sin.  Eve, of course, blamed the serpent and the serpent, well, he just smiled.

Whether it is broken skin or a broken heart; whether it is someone’s fault or not; whether you own part of the skirmish or all of it—why not take a moment and own it. Press the pause button, calm down and then just eat the watermelon.  That way, you will get the last laugh.  Then, tell God about it, all about it and take a rest in Him.  He’s got that and this.  Bro. Dewayne

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, forgiveness, life, priorities, Scripture, travel, wisdom

My Clock is a Liar

You are of your father the devil, and you want to carry out your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he tells a lie, he speaks from his own nature, because he is a liar and the father of lies.” John 8:44

My clock lies to me.  Throughout my life I have had times when I collect things.  Once it was eagles.  To this day I love eagles but there was a time I would go to the mall or any store that might sell them and tell Judy, “I’m going to look for eagles.”  If I found one, I would buy it.  Not too long ago it was BB guns.  It started with a Red Ryder model (the one from the movie, “A Christmas Story”).  The next thing I knew I had nine BB guns and pistols.  Boom. Just like that. Over the years urges have come and gone but there is one that has kinda stuck with me.  Clocks.

A long time ago (and in a galaxy far, far away…you know, like the Star Wars movies) I started collecting clocks.  Unlike eagles and BB guns, this one can get rather pricy.  But it started rather innocently.  When Judy and I were stationed in Germany near the French border, we went to a flea market with a couple of good friends.  My friend spied a German wall clock laying on the ground, halfway in a mud puddle and ended up buying it.  The long story made short is that I ended up talking him out of it.  It was a swap kinda thing.  It is a bing-bam clock which means it strikes on the hour and half-hour.  It was pretty old then, and now, 42 years later, it is like me, a lot older.

It is a special clock because of the story and all the memories but it does have a problem.  It lies.  You see, over the years it has developed this nasty habit of saying one thing and doing another.  As I mentioned, it is designed to bing-bam on the half-hour and then on the hour it counts the time out.  If it is 4:00 then it will bing-bam four times.  You can hear it shouting out the time almost throughout the house.  It was nostalgic and handy.  And then it starting lying. It started innocently enough—at 1:00 it would sound two times instead of once.  It was predictable so I just lived with it.  Now, well now, it lies big time.  Randomly, and throughout the day it sounds the wrong time.

Well, adjusting the clock is quite easy…or at least it is supposed to be.  So, if it was showing 4:00 but counting five, I would simply stopped the clock and moved the hour hand to five.  I waited an hour to restart the clock—problem solved—or not.  I restarted old faithful and at 6:00 it sounded five.  So, I slid the hour hand to 5:00 and waited and sure enough it chimed six.  No matter what I did the clock lied.  It has stubbornly developed a very bad habit. Hmmmm.

Fortunately for the old clock, I like it a lot. Its value to me goes way beyond its value as a time teller—it is part of the family.  Because of that, I’m willing to tolerate its bad habit.  I don’t like it.  I don’t trust it. It is frustrating, but in this case, it is mostly harmless.  I simply have learned to believe it when I can read the dial but not when I can only hear it.  It’s a negotiated settlement. That works fine for clocks—but it is not fine for people.

When I was growing up telling the truth was a pretty big deal.  Now, I would be the last to tell you that I always did it.  I didn’t.  But the bottom line was if you did the crime—you did the time.  Lie and get caught (and invariably I did) and Alston and Leslie (that’s daddy and mama) made sure you received a refresher course on the importance of telling the truth. Whether it was a spanking or washing my mouth out with soap—I learned lying was a bad deal.

I think daddy and mama must have talked to Jesus about it, because He thought it was a big deal too. One time, there was a group of religious leaders who had a problem speaking or even liking the truth.  Jesus cut loose on them and said, “You are just like your father the devil.  When he lies he is just speaking his natural language.  He is the father of lies and the truth is not in him.”  Wow—so if you ever wonder why lying made the big ten—now you know.

Today we live in a culture of convenience and whatever works for you—you kinda go with it.  If telling a lie makes things a little easier—just cut loose and worry about the consequences later. Its like the 60’s “if it feels good do it” on steroids.  Just know this.  No matter what culture says lying is a big deal—regardless if you are a preacher, a politician, or the guy next door.  God says it so it is a nonnegotiable for His followers. Oh, and even if you’re not a God follower you will still find life has fewer consequences and less regrets when you make the truth the standard.

As I finish this story, the old clock got it right.  An hour ago—it got it wrong.  Good grief…I just wish it would make up its mind to tell the truth.  Speaking of truth—here are two you can count on every time.  First…you can always trust and rest in creator God.  Second…He’s got this.  And that friend—is the truth.