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. 

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

Seasons Come and Seasons Go

For everything there is a season, a time for every activity under heaven.  A time to be born and a time to die. A time to plant and a time to harvest.” Ecclesiastes 3:1-2

Seasons come and seasons go.  Judy’s great nephew recently posted a picture on Facebook. It showed their son, maybe five years old, walking down his driveway.  On his back he carries a backpack that is just about as big as he is. He is heading to school—his first day of kindergarten. The first day of school is an event, even more so when it is kindergarten, especially for mom and dad. In the foreground of the picture, is a line of toys…I suppose some of his favorites.  The message was beautifully clear. As seasons change, as great adventures come along, as each new journey starts, sometimes you must leave what you love behind. It’s part of growing up—it’s part of life. I’m sure out of camera range was mom, and dad too, who watched through teary eyes.  Their little boy was growing up.  Seasons come and seasons go.

It happened a couple of weeks ago as fall silently arrived. Did you feel it? Did you sense it? Probably not.  For most it wasn’t even a blip on the calendar. There was no fanfare, no ticker-tape parade, no sounds trumpeting its arrival.  In many ways it was just a day on the calendar that most of us probably missed.  But not everyone missed it.  The trees took note.  Slowly and surely, their leaves began turning a beautiful yellow and red before drifting, floating to the ground.  The plants took note.  The shortening days began telling their leaves it was time to prepare for next spring by preparing for winter’s sleep.  And oh yes, the squirrels definitely knew it.  They began gathering their supply of acorns and pecans, tucking them away for the coming winter.  You see, fall is a time of transition…nature’s way of letting us know that another season is soon coming…Winter. And winter, like all the seasons, is something to celebrate—something to embrace.

For me the first day of fall was an event.  Every year I look forward to it. I told my wife that part of the mystery of fall is how something so beautiful prepares the way for a time of dormancy and sleep.  You might think of it as a time of things dying but you would be wrong.  No, it is a time of preparation and transition.  Remember…seasons come and seasons go. And in the beauty of fall we see the promise of spring, of new life.  It is that way for nature.  It is that way for us.  In the fall of our lives, things begin to change and it is God’s way of preparing us for new life, eternal life with Him. While we do have to walk through the winter of death, just on the other side is the eternal spring of heaven.  It is something to celebrate—something to embrace.

So, seasons come and go.  It is true in nature and it is true in life.  While the changing seasons sometimes bring challenges they also bring on exciting new adventures. Changing seasons on the calendar are something to celebrate—something to embrace.  It is God’s promise to us that something new is coming. The author of Ecclesiastes reminds us that for everything there is a season—a time for every purpose under heaven.  He’s telling us that seasons come and seasons go. There are times for living and dying, playing and harvesting, dancing and sitting still. Yes, it is something to celebrate—and something to embrace.

As we casually flip the pages of the calendar, as the clock keeps ticking, leading us toward new seasons and new adventures, don’t get stuck in the cold of winter. No, remember this—spring is on the other side.  Every day is a gift from God and is a gentle nudge from our Dearest Daddy that He is preparing new seasons and new adventures for us.  Like our first day of kindergarten, it might mean leaving behind some of the things we love, but we can rest in Him knowing that only the best comes from Him and He never, ever gets it wrong.  Never. Sleep well tonight knowing that He who creates the days, masters the same.  Rest knowing that 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, fear, Grace, gratitude, life, loving others, missions, prayer, Scripture, thankful, wisdom

Unclean, But not Unloved

If you love me, obey my commandments.” John 14:15

Well, it is finally over and I am glad.  I recently discovered this COVID thing is a pain in the neck.  I didn’t have it and I guess a metaphorical pain in the neck is not one of the official symptoms. What I did get to discover is what happens when it gets close.  I also discovered that when COVID comes knocking it’s gonna mess with your normal—like it or not.

A little over a couple of weeks ago, one of our church staff members tested positive for the virus.  When that was reported to the health department it messed with my normal—our normal.  First, because our entire staff had been in a room with the positive case, we all were placed on quarantine.  Like it or not, stomp your foot if you want—we were locked up for two weeks.  Fortunately, no one else got it and today the office at church will be back open. Yay.  Second, because there were several other cases spread across the church family, most not related in any way, we had to go to remote worship for a couple of weeks.  This Wednesday and Sunday we should be back on campus.  Yay.

If you haven’t experienced the quarantine thing…count your blessings.  You might ask, “Dewayne, what was it like?”  Well, I guess it depends on your perspective.  I know it was personally frustrating.  I found myself telling whoever would listen that I didn’t have time to be quarantined.  Of course, being the creative guy that I am, I found a few ways to work around it while not being around people but that is my secret.  Smile.

I think I came away with a better understanding of the impact this has on the lives of people—and not just those who test positive.  The isolation and the stigma reminded me of what  lepers must have gone though in the Bible.  They had to live apart from everyone one else and should they encounter someone they had to holler out, “Unclean, unclean.”  Well, I didn’t encounter anyone so I didn’t do much hollering, but I did wonder when I saw someone from a distance, “What if they knew I was on lock up?  Would they would treat me differently?”  And I decided that they would. I also decided it would hurt my heart.

I wonder how many people we encounter in our walk about world who have been beaten up and scarred by the world who feel the same way?  Do our stares and our intentional avoidance cause them to hurt?  I bet it does.  You know, our eyes and body language sometimes speak louder than our words.  I love the fact that Jesus never avoided the broken ones around Him.  If they had leprosy, He would love them and touch them.  If they were outcast by society because they were prostitutes or tax collectors, He would love them and touch them. If they were Romans soldiers who nailed people to crosses—even Him to His—He would love them and touch them if He could.  I like that…a lot.

COVID gets all the attention now and I guess that’s to be expected.  There’s a lot of positive cases going around.  Businesses are hurting, families are stressing, and people are filled with fear.  What should we do? What can we do?  Well, if you are a Jesus follower, the answer is do what He would do.  Touch them and love them. I know you can’t always physically touch them, but you can reach out with the compassion and love of Jesus. It is amazing how a kind word or gesture can bring comfort, assurance and acceptance.

Like I said, the quarantine for our staff is over and it has been a learning experience.  What is not over is the virus.  What is not over is the brokenness in our world—however big or small that world may be.  What is not over is the need for Jesus people to be like Jesus. He said that if we really love Him, we should keep His commands.  And there are two that are at the top of His list—love God and love people.  One of the best ways to show our love for God is to show His love for those He created.  All of them.  Social status, skin color, or whatever label we tend to put on them just doesn’t matter.  So, when you bump into someone today, either from a distance or up close, be sure and love them like Jesus and leave the details to God.  You can rest in this one essential, nonnegotiable fact:  He’s got this.

Posted in Family, food, gratitude, life, Scripture, wisdom

I’ve “Bean” Educated

Don’t be misled—you cannot mock the justice of God. You will always harvest what you plant.” Galatians 6:7

It was the best of times. It was the worst of times.  Oh wait–that opening line is already taken. Well, it was just over ten years ago now but I well remember the night. Judy was out of town and I was at the church.  We were sponsoring a dinner for the football team.  I wanted to help but, well, it didn’t go to well.  It is a known fact that I can’t be trusted with a power tool of any sorts.  It just doesn’t go well.  Apparently you can add kitchen appliances to that list.

I love being a fixer.  When one of my grandkid’s toys would break, they would bring it to Papa—they fixer.  I love being the hero. And, I love to help. It’s in my DNA. WelI, that night I volunteered to help the head cooker person get a large pan of baked beans out of the convection oven at church.  It was in one of those pans made out of formed aluminum.  When I volunteered, I could see the concern in the head cooker person’s eyes—for an expert this was no deal.  For a preacher who wasn’t allowed to use power tools—it was death valley.

“Dewayne”, she said, watch the bottom of the pan—it can collapse if you aren’t careful.”  She went on, “You might want to put a sheet pan under it for support.” Well, Mister “I -Know-It-All” said, “No deal, I can handle it.” So, I reached up, I lifted it and in a moment of time…a moment that will live in infinity…the pan collapsed and my lower left arm was baptized in a tsunami of scalding, hot baked beans.  The pain was instantaneous and it was intense. Can someone say “ouch?”

Well, I immediately used my other hand to wipe some of the beans off (not too smart since I burned that hand too) and ran to the sink and started running water over it.  The bottom line is I ended up with second degree burns, a working knowledge of how not to take beans out of the oven and several other good life lessons added to my repertoire of knowledge. You might say I have “bean” educated.”

Perhaps the first lesson is this.  No matter how well you do something the wrong way, it probably isn’t going to work out for your benefit.  When King David and his crew were moving the ark in the Old Testament, they decided to use a cart instead of doing it God’s way.  The result was the oxen stumbled and a man reached out to steady the ark and was instantly struck dead by God.  Now don’t blame God—the rule was you don’t touch the ark.  Period.  But when you do something in a wrong way you open yourself up to a whole bunch of circumstances.

Second, listen to the experts.  The head cooker person I was helping was a professional cook.  She knew the danger–I didn’t.  I was a he-man, bean toting pastor–that is until “I spilt the beans” (no pun intended!) I thought I could handle it—and I could not. I’m not sure why we wrestle this around but isn’t it funny how God, the ultimate expert, offers us advice–and we tend to ignore it.  And the pain that it causes can rival or exceed second degree burns. Listen to God.  He knows best.

Finally, get ready for the lasting effects of the consequences.  I burned my arm on a Tuesday and it took days, lots of days, to even begin to feel normal. Oh, and did I mention that I didn’t go to the doctor because I was going to tough it out? You see, pride is a bad deal.  I guess I was embarrassed enough and I just didn’t want to explain to the doctor about how unwise I was.  So, I just dealt with it.  Fortunately I did bump into him later and he saw the bandage, checked it out, asked the inevitable questions, and gave me some awesome medicine for burns. It did heal and left only minimal scarring to gently remind me to listen before I act. It taught me that whatever you sow…you reap. It taught me that—every bad choice we make carries some sort of consequences.  Choose wisely, my son, choose wisely.

So, ten years later, there is still a twinge of regret over that fateful Tuesday night.   I still shake my head and wonder how in the world I could do something so, so, stupid. Everyone once in a while when we are having a dinner at church, I will say, “Hey, head cooker person, do you remember…” and before I can finish the sentence we both nod knowingly.  I was afraid I was going to swear off bake beans forever but that that didn’t happen but I will never look at a pan of beans the same way.  And I will forever have a greater respect for a convention oven set on 350 degrees.

As you journey along and you are faced with decisions and crossroads and someone suggests maybe going this way or that or doing it this way or that—take a moment, pause and listen to their advice—especially if it involves baked beans.  And if that voice is a gentle whisper from the Whisper, definitely stop and listen.  He will probably be helping you avoid some needless pain or letting you know you can rest in Him.  He will be whispering, “I’ve got this.”

Posted in Family, fear, forgiveness, life, Scripture, Southern born, wisdom

“Curse God– And Die”

The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge; fools despise wisdom and discipline.” Proverbs 1:7

Rule number one—it is never a good time to curse God.  Tonight, as I sat out by a fire crackling in our outdoor fireplace, my neighbors were teaching their young son how to ride a bike.  He is a quite the young man and he did well.  Judy went over to help encourage him.  There were cheers and yells as he took off and rode maybe fifty yards or more before he “gently” crashed in the grass.  It all took me back almost sixty years.

I was about seven years old.  I’m thinking that I had already mastered the bike riding thing, though I can’t be certain.  For one reason or another, I decided I wanted to ride my brother’s 26 inch Schwinn bicycle.  Now, if in fact I had already learned to ride a bike and this was just a new challenge—then that’s pretty cool.  If I hadn’t mastered riding any bike—well, then this was a recipe for disaster.  The bike was obviously way too big for me, but I was determined.

We had a road that ran in front of our house and that was where I was going to attempt this daring feat.  Unlike my little neighbor next door, mom and dad weren’t there nor were any of my brothers and sisters.  It was just me—and God.  So, the best I could, I straddled the mammoth bicycle and promptly fell over.  I got just a little mad.  I tried it once again and this time the bike rolled forward a few feet and once again—it fell over—on me.  I got just a little madder.  By now I am muttering to myself.  I’m sure it included “stupid bike.”

The third or fourth try, by now I had lost count, resulted in just another in a series of crashes.  The frustration and anger finally boiled out.  I shook my fist at God and yelled something like, “God, why won’t you help me.”  What followed next is blurred in my memory, but I am pretty sure it came out something like, “God, I hate you.”  It was spoken—it was shouted—hurled at the God of the universe.  As far as I know it was the only time I ever cursed God.  Somehow, in my mind, all of this was God’s fault.  It didn’t matter that the bike was way too big for me or that I lacked the experience to ride such a large bike.  All that mattered was in my mind God had intentionally let me down—literally—at least four times.

It was about then that I heard a voice.  It wasn’t God, but that probably would have been appropriate since I had just major offended him.  It was a female voice.  At first I thought it might have been Mrs. Job.  If you remember the story she told her husband, “Why don’t you just curse God and die.”  But it wasn’t Mrs. Job.  No, it was Mrs. Taylor—Mrs. Alston Taylor to be exact and I was about to die. From behind the hedge that encircled our front yard came, “Dewayne Taylor, I heard that.  Don’t you ever talk to God like that again.”  When mama called you by your first and last name at the same time—you knew you were in trouble.  When she was talking about disrespecting God—you knew you were in double trouble—with her and with God.  I was in deep weeds.

Well, once again the end of the story fades from memory.  I am sure it didn’t involve me winning the war with the bike.  I am pretty sure that there was more than a verbal rebuke from mama.  I am certain that I learned a big lesson about God that day.  The lesson is that God demands and deserves our respect—whether we are seven or seventy.  The Bible teaches us “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge; fools despise wisdom and discipline.” The fear that the Bible talks about is not the kind of fear when you think God is about to zap you—even if you deserve it.  No, it is talking about respect. God is worthy of our respect—He is deserving of our respect. Period.

The verse goes on to say that a foolish person despises wisdom and discipline. Another verse I’ve grown fond of is Psalm 14:1. It says, “The fool says in his heart, “There is no God.”  I mean, I think it is pretty foolish to write God off, but there is something more here.  The words, “there is” were added by the English translators to make the verse flow a little smoother.  The verse in the Hebrew literally says, “The fool says in his heart, No, God.”  Whoa.  It is a bad idea to tell mama no, but it is really, a bad idea to tell God no.  We need to write that one down.

When I told Judy what I was going to write about today, she asked, “So what did God have to do with you and the bike?”  That’s a great question.  But you know and I know we blame God for just about everything we don’t like—including when we fall off a bike, even one we had no business trying to ride. So, let’s learn a big lesson from seven year old Dewayne.  One, don’t try something that is clearly a recipe for disaster. I mean trying new and adventurous things is awesome—but keep them in reason.  And, never, and I mean never—curse God—especially if your mama is anywhere around.  Just kidding.  That is never a good idea.  After my bike deal—maybe after your bike deal, when we are worn out and worn down, let’s pause and take a rest—in Him.  And then let’s stop muttering and start whispering, “He’s got this.” He always does—in His way and in His time.

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

Mama Knows Best

And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them.” Romans 8:28

Mama always knew best.  I was blessed to have a good mama and daddy.  They were everyday people but in so many ways they were anything but everyday.  Willing to take on the task of raising eight children, they gave up a lot for us.  Daddy worked hard as a jet engine mechanic and mama mostly stayed home and took care of us.  Mama was always there when we needed her.  I remember one time I was sick with some kind of stomach virus.  It was the middle of the night and mama sat down in an old wooden rocker we had and then invited me up into her lap.  There she gently held me.  It didn’t do much to ease my unhappy stomach but it sure made my heart feel better.

Mama had her own brand of medicine.  As best as I can remember, mama was a big believer in “family herd immunity.”  In case you are not familiar with that, it is where a certain illness is almost intentionally shared with members of the family, especially siblings. I guess mama thought it was best to get it all over with at one time.  And it seemed to work.  I remember one of my sisters came down with the measles.  Rather than isolate her from my sister and I, mama just put us all together in the double bed in the spare bedroom and waited.  Sure enough, we all promptly got the measles and we also all got well about the same time.  I’m not sure modern medicine would approve, but that’s ok.  It worked for us and mama was always there to help us get better.

However, mama didn’t always use herd immunity.  When I was about nine, there was a pretty serious flu outbreak in our north Florida city.  I really don’t remember too much about it.  I also don’t remember if I became a patient or not.  But there is one thing I do remember—I knew what we had in our family wasn’t good and I felt I needed to do something—so I did.  I found a piece of paper and a pencil and I made a sign warning others to stay away.  The sign said something like this, “Warning.  We have the FLEW.  Don’t come in.” Even if my spelling wasn’t the best, it still got the message out.

When I was in the second grade, mama’s brand of herd immunity took on a different look.  My sister Kathy was not feeling well so mama took her to the doctor and I tagged along.  Dr. Smothers was our Ears, Nose, and Throat doctor.  He checked my sister out and it was determined that she had tonsillitis.  That was something a lot of kids back then seemed to get. Well, Dr. Smothers suggested to mama that perhaps it was time for my sister to get her tonsils out.  Again, back then that was the standard treatment.  So, mama agreed and then said to Dr. Smothers, “Why don’t we take Dewayne’s out too?”  Hmmmm.  Herd immunity strikes again. So the doctor says, “Well, Dewayne, what do you say?  Would you like to get your tonsils out too?”  Now I had no clue what in the world he was talking about.  But I think he said something about all the ice cream you wanted and I was in.  So a few days later I found myself in the hospital with my sister and the world’s worst sore throat.  I’m still not sure if that ice cream was worth it!

I’m sure there are many more stories about mama’s medical skills and judgement but they have slipped from my memories.  But let me tell you one thing that hasn’t slipped away, that is the concrete knowledge that my mama loved me.  Whether it was the measles, the flu, or getting rid of some pesky tonsils, mama always did what she thought was best for us.  Some people probably wouldn’t agree with her medical practices but I know everything she did was for our good.  For my good.

And do you know what?  I think that is just another way my mama was like God.  You see, God is constantly working in my life for my good and His glory.  I mean He is working out His purposes but at the center, at the core of it all is—my good.  The Bible verse that is so poplar is so true.  It goes like this, “all things work together for good, for those who love God, the ones who are called according to His purpose.”  Like I have said so many times that doesn’t mean that every thing is good but that God can bring good from all things.  I know mama loved me a lot but even her love has to pale to the love that God has for me—for us.

Now I am certain if you asked me in the middle of encounter with measles, that truth might have been a little clouded.  If you asked me after the surgery to remove my tonsils, well, I probably would have doubted it.  But in the long run, looking back—well, my mama loved me and did her best to show that love.  So, today if you bump into a hot mess—today if things go south and it is hard…maybe real hard—just remember how much God loves you.  You can take it to the bank—it is a sure bet.  When life leaves you hurting worse than a bad stomach ache, you just crawl up in His lap and let His strong arms ease the pain away.  Then, just nod off and take a nap.  You can safely do that because, “He’s got this.”

Posted in Family, gratitude, life, loving others, Military memories, priorities, Scripture, thankful, travel, wisdom

“Firsts”

God is not a man, so He does not lie. He is not human, so He does not change His mind. Has He ever spoken and failed to act?  Has He ever promised and not carried it through?”  Numbers 23:19

Saddle up your horses, boys, this is the great adventure.  I was 23 and Judy was 19 when we got on a plane and headed to Germany to live for three years.  Of all our adventures this one was one of the most special because it was the first.  And speaking of firsts, it was a series of many firsts for us.  It was our first trip out of the United States.  As great as our three years in Germany were—it was great to finally come home.  You know they say that there is no place like home—and they are correct.

I am a gadget guy and Germany held a couple of great gadget firsts.  First, if you were in the service (USAF) and went overseas anywhere—you bought a BIG stereo.  I had speakers the size of end tables and a rack of equipment that would make any audiophile jealous.  Receiver, equalizer, cassette recorder/player, reel to reel player/recorder was just the short list of my stereo gadgetry and I was proud of every piece.   I remember coming up with different sale pitches to Judy on why I just had to have whatever was next.  I was pretty good at it too.

It was in Germany that I got my first digital watch.  One of the pilots in my squadron called me over one day and said, “Hey Sergeant Taylor, check this out.”  It was a silver Casio LED digital watch with buttons and a screen.  I was instantly enamored. “Where did you get it, sir?” was the question and the J.C. Penney catalog was the answer.  Three things happened.  First, I checked it out—$69.00 (and trust me that was a chuck of money); two, convince Judy I had to have it.  Last, order it and wait a three weeks for the order to be mailed to America and the watch to make the return trip.  Finally it came. That same watch is $4.99 today.  Imagine that.

It was also in Germany that I learned the wonder of the microwave and got my first one.  There was only one brand in those days—an Amana Radar Range.  This is how it happened.  A senior NCO who attended our church told me one day, “I can boil water in a paper cup.”  I said, “No you can’t” and He said “Yes, I can.”  That resulted in a trip to his house where he promptly  put a paper cup in this magic machine and proceeded to boil water in a paper cup.  Done deal.  Had to have one. Amazingly, I was in the Base Exchange (the store on base) and there it was—an Amana Radar Range on clearance no less—for $370.00 dollars. Three things happened.  I convinced Judy we could not live without this modern marvel.  Two, I put it on layaway (remember that?). Lastly, I waited six weeks for three paydays to scrape up enough money to bring it home.  Finally we did, but you know you can only boil so many cups of water before it loses its pizzazz.

There was one more first thing that we got in Germany and it had to go into layaway too.  Midway through our last year in Germany, we learned that Judy was expecting our first daughter.  This time the layaway was for nine months.  We left Germany in August of 1980 and Rebecca Dawn was born in Missouri on January 24, 1981.  Unlike the microwave, she kept us pretty amazed day in and day out.  We were so amazed that we decided to get another one and just 19 months after we got Rebecca out of layaway, Jennifer Lynne came along.  I have to say we decided to wait awhile to do that again but it wasn’t for lack of pizzazz.

The firsts didn’t stop in Germany either.  I can still remember the day we discovered something called Walmart.  We were fresh home from three years in Germany and were setting up our home in Warrensburg, Missouri.  We needed a trash can or something and went with what we were familiar with—TG&Y. It was a five and dime kind of story that we had in South Georgia.  Judy called it “Tator, Gator, and Yator.” Don’t ask me why, but it stuck.  So anyway, TG&Y didn’t have what we were looking for so I asked a clerk to be sure we weren’t missing it.  She confirmed they didn’t have it and suggested we try the Walmart down the road.  To this day, I remember my reply, “What’s a Walmart?”  Apparently while we were gone to Germany this new store started sweeping the Midwest and then the country. In 1980, Walmart 296 stores and today there are 11,501.  How amazing is that?

What makes life so interesting is that there is always one more first. Things change—the old moves to the rearview mirror as the next new thing appears in the windshield.  And do you know what?  I’m good with that.  But I am also glad that there are things that remain.  Tonight I saw another beautiful sunset personally painted by the God of the galaxies.  It was amazing.  Tonight, Judy once again confirmed that she liked me and loved me.  I thought that was pretty cool.  I told her she had way too much invested to start over.  She told me she didn’t want to anyway. Nice. But it doesn’t stop there.  In fact, that’s just the beginning.

You see,  the Bible says “God is not a man, so he does not lie. He is not human, so he does not change his mind. Has he ever spoken and failed to act? Has he ever promised and not carried it through?” The answer is No and No.  He is faithful…He can be trusted. I’m glad we have a God that doesn’t change nor change His mind.  He loves me and you today and He will love us tomorrow.  A zillion, billion years from today—He will still be loving me.  That’s good to know.  It’s good to know that tonight I will lay my head down on my pillow and rest—rest in knowing that I’m in His care.  I am not subject to circumstance, accident or happenstance.  He holds me, and He holds you—tight.  And tomorrow I’m going to wake up—either here or in an awesome place called heaven—my final first.  Either way, no matter what, He’s got this—and that is enough.

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, forgiveness, Grace, gratitude, life, loving others, prayer, Scripture, thankful, wisdom

Facing Down Mortality

Jesus told Martha, “I am the resurrection and the life. Anyone who believes in Me will live, even after dying. Everyone who lives in Me and believes in Me will never ever die. Do you believe this?” John 11:25-26

I look and see my mortality.  Now don’t think for a moment this is one of those “Debbie Downer” stories.  In fact, in a way, it might be the best news you will hear all day, all week, well, for always.  So, I am sixty-six years old.  I know, I can’t believe it either. And all around me are signs that I am mortal.  Remember that—all of us are mortal. I have been at my present position as a pastor for 20 years.  I came to the church I serve in 2000 when I was 46 years old.  I must have dozed off because just like that 20 years of life have ticked off the calendar.  My children are married, I have eight grandchildren and Judy and I have now been married 44 years.  And the best part?  It has been, and is, a great ride.

But then I did the math.  When, and if, the next 20 years tick off the clock called life, I will be 86 years old.  I find that astounding.  We Taylor boys don’t have a real good track record when it comes to longevity.  Three of my four brothers, all older than me, have already moved to heaven.  Our clock is ticking and we don’t know when the last tick will come.  It is a sobering thought.  But stay with me.

I live my life by the calendar.  I speak to my church every Wednesday and every Sunday. It seems I no more finish one message before it is time to deliver the next.  The weeks fly by.  Every first of the month I speak on the radio on a local program called “The Baptist Hour.”  My tag line is, “Can you believe another month has come and gone?” And the answer each month is, “No, I really can’t.” I remember on the first of February, after a speedy January, I made a joke about it being Christmas before we know it.  Well, next week is the first of October and Christmas is indeed just around the corner. Time flies by.  It is a sobering thought.  But stay with me.

Part of “The Baptist Hour” is the reading of the funeral arrangements of those who recently died.  Invariably there are several, often more than a few.  I’m learning that too often the names being read belong to people my age or younger.  Recently an acquaintance in our small town suddenly died—a massive heart attack.  He was younger than me.  That really caused me to stop and ponder.  It was a sobering thought.  But stay with me.

Here’s what I am learning.  Time is relative.  We are eternal beings made and destined to spend forever somewhere.  That destination doesn’t depend on good or bad, church or no church, religion or not.  Does that surprise you?  You see, heaven isn’t for good people and hell isn’t for bad people. No, where we spend eternity is about forgiveness of sin and that forgiveness is a free gift from God to anyone…anyone…who asks.  I believe faith in Jesus is the only way to heaven. I know that sounds narrow but when you consider that God invites everyone to the party—well, it is really pretty broad. We read in the Bible that the payment for sin is death and radically Jesus came for one purpose—to willingly die and pay that price.

So, if we are eternal beings and if we place our trust, our faith in this one of a kind, God-man named Jesus, that means that when we die we can spend eternity in this place called heaven.  When Jesus said that if anyone would believe in Him they would never die—that’s what He meant. And then He closes with that all important question, “Do you believe this?”

With Jesus in the equation, death isn’t the end, it is a beginning.  That might sound wacky to you.  However, before you chuck it out I challenge you to check it out.  Get a copy of the Bible and read the four different accounts or stories about Jesus—Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. You might find yourself intrigued and amazed.

I read a true story yesterday about a man’s perception of his mortality. This guy happened to be a minister and he went to the doctor and got some sobering news.  He was terminally ill with no chance of recovery. The doctor told him he had about a year to live.  He left the doctor’s office and went to one of his favorite spots—you know, to kinda take it in. Now, allow me to let the man tell his story. “I looked at the river in which I rejoice, and I looked at the stately trees that are always God’s own poetry to my soul. And I said, ‘I may not see you many more times, but mountain, I shall be alive when you are gone; and river, I shall be alive when you cease running toward the sea.’”

Wow…what wonderfully strong words.  If this whole God story is true, and I honestly believe it is, then people who trust that Jesus is the path to God and heaven, will outlive the mountains and the rivers. We may change addresses but we will live forever.  I know this is probably a different kind of story than we usually share together, but I hope it will make us think about what happens next. For myself and so many others, it makes all the sense in the world—and beyond.  I’m grateful for the eternal part but I also love the part of the story that says He is with me now—COVID mess and all.  I can rest in Him and trust in Him because, He’s got this.