Posted in Family, friends, Grace, gratitude, heaven, life, love, loving others, prayer, priorities, Scripture, Southern born, sovereignty of God, thankful, Trials, wisdom

Not Bad, Just Hard

I am the Way, the Truth and the Life.  No one comes to the Father, but by Me.” Jesus in John 14:6

It was Monday…and my brother died. It wasn’t a total surprise as we knew his health was deteriorating. He and his wife had been living in an assisted living facility for several years.  As he grew older, as often happens, his body began to wear out and finally Monday morning it just quit working.  He not only was my brother, but he was my oldest brother. He was seventeen years older than me and in so many ways he was more than just a brother…he was like a second father. To a large degree he helped mold me into who I am today…especially spiritually.  My brother was a believer, a Jesus follower and if I may say so…a pretty good one at that.  In fact, I can’t remember him ever not being a Jesus follower. 

He was the one who always made sure I had a ride to church.  He was one of those three-time-a-week goers, so I suppose that is why it has been a habit in my life too.  Over the years, he shared a lot of good advice with me…advice that has guided me along my journey. When I became a pastor, he offered me some Godly wisdom and for my birthday gifted me with a couple of foundational books.  At one of the churches I pastored, he felt led to lend a hand financially…something he did for more than a few years. He was like a father but he also was like the State Farm commercial that says, “just like a good neighbor, State Farm is there.” He was always there.  Oh, we lived in different parts of the country…but that didn’t matter.  That’s how some relationships are.

My brother wasn’t just my oldest brother…he was my last brother.  When he left town on Monday for a bigger and better place, I looked around and realized I was the last brother standing.  And that was another of those, “mortality moments.”  He was just shy of 86 when he left here and went there—there being heaven.  Eighty-six is a pretty good number, especially for men and especially for Taylor men. At first there were five of us Taylor men and three had already changed addresses—thankfully all in heaven.  So, that left the bookends—my oldest brother at one end and me, the youngest at the other. He lived a long, good life…not the richest guy, not the most popular guy, and not the most powerful guy. In the end those don’t matter anyway.  What matters is he was a Jesus guy. He made a difference. He made an impact. He left a legacy.

So, what happened that Monday morning when the last heartbeat came? Often our first thought is something bad happened.  Well, I guess you could say God, through His Word, helped me have a different view.  As I looked at all of this, death, life, and all that it entails, it seemed God said, “Dewayne, this isn’t bad…it’s just hard.”  It immediately became lodged not in my throat but in my heart.  Not.Bad.Just.Hard.  Now don’t misread this, because there is plenty of bad in the world but with God painted into the picture, His grace and mercy can change bad to just hard.

You see, when my brother’s heart stopped the other day, he gave up a broken world for one that is perfect. He gave up a broken body for one that is perfect. He gave up sickness, tears, and sadness for a place where none of that exists. No assisted living, no hospitals, no funeral homes—just a home like none we can ever imagine—at home with his Dearest Daddy.  See, it’s hard for us, sometimes really hard for us, however for him…no…he’s doing better than ever before. You might say that he is more alive than ever before.

My brother loved our family reunions and guess what? There is one coming that will outshine them all.  Because of my pastoral responsibilities and distance, I didn’t make too many of the reunions but this one coming up…I’ll be there.  Oh, it isn’t because I’m a preacher, or go to church, or belong to one denomination or another.  No, just like my brother, I’ll be there because I am a Jesus guy and He is the way to the reunion of all reunions.  Jesus said, “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life and no one comes to the Father but by Me.”  Yes, it is a narrow road but the grand part is everyone is invited to participate.  All you have to do is say, “Yes” to Jesus.

So, my brother died…well…actually His body died but not him.  I’ll see him again and that’s not bad. The separation is hard but there is a party coming…one for the ages.  You need to know that God wants you there also, and He made it possible for that to happen.  Jesus, faith, grace, and mercy.  Indeed, He’s got this. Bro. Dewayne

Posted in Family, fear, friends, Grace, gratitude, heaven, life, loving others, prayer, Scripture, sovereignty of God, thankful, travel

Ready…..or Not

Preach the word; be ready in season and out of season.”

2 Timothy 4:2

Do you think they would mind,” she asked?  It was over a year ago but even now I savor the moment. It was very early in the morning on our last day at Key Colony.  I awoke from a good night’s sleep (I mean we were on vacation), made a cup of coffee, and headed down to the beach.  Sunrise was a good hour away, but the water and the air were both calm.  The only sound was the gentle lap of the waves against the sandy shore.  This is my time of the day.  God is in the labor room delivering another day for us to enjoy…and I love it.

After a while, the sky slowly turned gray, and you could see the beginning of the sunrise.  It was going to be a good one.  About that time, my wife Judy wandered out and sat down with me.  Just when you think something couldn’t get better…it does.  Judy seems to make anything better.  We chatted and sipped coffee enjoying the creation process.  After another few minutes, the sun peeked over the horizon and another day was born.  Good job, Father, and thank you.  Now that it was daylight, you could see that the water was not only calm…it was crystal clear.  It was then that Karen walked up.

We had talked with Karen and her boyfriend the night before.  We talked about life, faith, and God.  It was an opportunity for me to share some about how much God loved us.  Gary had a large tattoo on his left arm that said, “Faith.”  That gave an opportunity to talk about not only faith, but where that faith should be directed.  I shared it wasn’t enough just to have faith…you had to direct that faith in the right direction…right toward God.

When Karen walked up that morning, I noticed that she was carrying two small containers. I could tell that something was on her mind and that is when she asked the question.  She asked, “Do you think they would mind if I poured my son’s and husband’s ashes in the water?” I quickly assured her that I was sure they would not.  It turned out that her son had tragically died of an opioid overdose at the age of 22.  I didn’t get the details of her husband’s death but since she was in her early fifties, I assumed he too died young.  Then, it was my turn to ask a question.  I asked, “Would you like me to say a prayer?”  And, without hesitation, she answered yes.

Judy asked if Karen would like to have a picture taken and she agreed to that too. All three of us walked down into the water and slowly Karen opened the containers and poured the ashes into the water.  As they touched the water, it turned to a color very similar to wet cement but then just as quickly the color disappeared.  She said a few words, speaking to the souls she could no longer hold.  And then, I asked God for His peace to be on Karen.  I thanked Him for His love…even in hard times like this.  With an amen we were done. Almost.

Judy and I both gave Karen a hug…that was the only way we knew we could tell her we cared, and that God cared too.  As we left the water, Karen headed to Dunkin’ Donuts for a cup of coffee and Judy and I returned to our chairs by the beach.  We knew that we had kept a divine appointment.  I wish I could write and share how Karen and Gary both placed their faith in Jesus but that wasn’t the case…at least not that day.  But I do know we scattered seed in their lives.  I know we left fingerprints on their lives and heart and who knows what God will do with that.

When I woke up that morning, I didn’t know I was going to preside over a funeral standing in the Florida Straits.  Judy didn’t know she was going to act as a memory maker for Karen…but our Dearest Daddy did.  He knew…just as He always does.  We just need to be ready whenever He opens a door or a window and then simply walk where He leads.

Paul, the one who wrote a chunk of the New Testament, told a young preacher named Timothy one day, “Preach the word; be ready in season and out of season.”  When he said to preach…trust me, it was more than standing on a stage on any given Sunday…and it wasn’t just for preachers and teachers.  It was for all of us Jesus followers and it is for all places…planned…or not.  I learned a long time ago that the best sermons are often not preached on Sunday…rather, they are lived out over the course of the other six days. So, let’s be ready to be used.  It may be at the store, on the job or at the ballfields.  Just remember this.  When the time comes, He will be there to help and you can rest assured, “He’s got this.” Bro. Dewayne

Posted in Family, fear, friends, Grace, gratitude, life, love, loving others, prayer, priorities, Scripture, thankful, wisdom

Short Stories…Big Truths

Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in Me, even if he dies, will live.” John 11:25

Short stories with big truths.  It all started on a Saturday morning.  We were a few months into writing stories on Facebook, and then decided to take the next step and build a website where our stories could be more easily accessed.  Many of our friends were suggesting compiling the stories into a book.  Well, that dream hasn’t happened and may not.  But the website did.  We decided to call it Grits with Grace.  Grits spoke of our Southern heritage and grace of the most powerful thing we have ever experienced.  Next came the tag line, “Short Stories with Big Truths.” Judy staged the picture in our backyard and, well, you probably know the rest.

Short stories with big truths.  Hmmm. That came home this morning as I was walking.  Sometimes, maybe once a week, I take my walk through our local cemetery.  It is rather large and if I make a couple of laps around the outside coupled with a shorter one, I end up with about two miles.  As I have written before, I love this walk because of all the life stories you can find on the headstones.  I take the same route each time…I am a creature of habit.  What I saw this morning I had seen many times before but this morning it spoke to me.

His name was Keith.  I could give you the last name but for privacy I won’t.  He was born on July 3, 1956, just a couple of years before me.  In other words, I was two and a half years old that day when he started his life journey.  It was the next date that always catches my attention. It was the date that he died.  Keith drew his last breath on May 31, 1964, at the too young age of 7 years, 10 months and 29 days. I don’t know the cause of his untimely death…only that it was a too short story.  Was it car accident, a bike accident?  Did he fall while playing?  Perhaps it was one of too many childhood illnesses.  Even polio could be a possibility.  Well, like I said we don’t know.  The only thing we know is that something unexpectedly stepped in and stole his years away.

Short stories.  The cemetery is full of headstones that speak of short stories.  Walk a while and you will see that truth played out and that is why I am writing this story.  You see, Keith is a reminder to me, as are all the headstones are, of a big truth.  The number of our days are a closely guarded secret of the One who created us.  He, and only He, knows when we will step into eternity.  Death is certainly no respecter of race, color, creed, or economic status.  Death doesn’t care about age.  We only know that one day it will come but don’t let that deflate you or scare you because Jesus took care of death two thousand years ago when He resurrected that first Easter morning.

I’m sure Keith didn’t know he was going to have such a short story, but I hope he knew the One that could make a difference.  I hope he knew Jesus.  I hope you know Jesus.  When Jesus is entered into any equation, well, it changes everything but especially death.  With Jesus death is not the end but the beginning and no matter how many years we live here—the life on the other side is so much more…so much longer.  Keith teaches us that some stories are short, very short and some stories are long, very long.  Jesus teaches us that it isn’t the length of the story that matters, it is what we do with Him.  He is what matters…not church, not religion, not religious stuff—just Jesus.

I really like what Jesus said in John 11:25—one of the books in the Bible that tells the story of Jesus.  It says, “Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in Me, even if he dies, will live.” The her is a woman named Martha and her brother had just died with a too short story.  Jesus is just letting her know that death doesn’t have to call the shots because He does.  Short stories…those will always be with us but so will big truths—like the one that says, “I’ve got this” because He does.  Bro. Dewayne

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

Time to Stop

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Posted in Father's Day, friends, Grace, life, love, loving others, Military memories, prayer, priorities, Scripture, Southern born, thankful, Trials

Thanks, Daddy…and Momma

Children, obey your parents because you belong to the Lord, for this is the right thing to do. “Honor your father and mother.” This is the first commandment with a promise.” Ephesians 6:1-2

This Sunday is Father’s Day, and it causes me to remember.  These days, I think it happens somewhere around a person’s 11th birthday. But back when I was a boy about to become a young man, it happened when I was 13 or 14.  When you are younger it seems you notice more of the things that Daddy and Momma’s do.  You appreciate the fact that that they do the ordinary things…the everyday things.

Things like washing clothes and cooking supper.  Things like ironing your shirts and cleaning the house.  Things like taking you fishing after a long day at work and teaching you the value of work.  Things like providing a place for you to sleep at night and knowing you were safe.  And, yes, things like showing you what two married people are supposed to look like…live like.

However, right before you take the leap into your teen years, something happens.  Suddenly enough is not enough.  Suddenly you know more—especially more than your parents.  Then you spend more than a few years not being appreciative, but rather telling them and anyone who would listen how hard things are “where I live.”  The fact that it was the sixties and seventies didn’t help.  It seemed that everyone around me was doing their own thing but all I could do was my Daddy’s thing.  Whatever he said, went, and that’s just the way it was. And yes, what Momma said went too.

When I was eighteen and stepped onto a plane to fly to basic training in the Air Force something began to click.  The things that Daddy taught me began to make sense.  All those “yes, sirs” and “yes, ma’am’s” that the Air Force required came easy for me because that’s the way I was raised.  When the call came to “get up, get up,” well that came easy too because I had a Daddy and a Momma who thought I didn’t need to lay in bed all day.  And going to work…second nature.  My Daddy demonstrated that year after year and by example taught me a strong work ethic.

Largely because of the times they said, “Because I said so” and set boundaries and enforced them, well, I’ve never woke up with a hangover, never spent a night (or an hour) in jail and have never been fired from a job. As I look back from my six and a half decades viewpoint (uh, plus three for good measure), I realize that my two incredible parents were right after all.  And I may, no I didn’t, appreciate it at the time but they saved me from a lot of regrets and consequences.

It is safe to say that time changes our viewpoint and as I sit here today mashing keys and writing, I realize just how blessed I have been.  My Daddy was quite the ordinary guy, but that is exactly what made him extraordinary.  He wasn’t perfect and gratefully he didn’t expect me to be either, but he did teach me respect for him and for others.  For 46 years I have respected the woman I am married to because he taught me to respect my Momma.  He (with a lot of help from God) helped me be the man I am today and for that I will be eternally grateful.

God chose to take my Daddy to heaven when I was only twenty years old…before he could meet my wife, my kids, and their kids.  I remember the summer Sunday morning we found him in bed. Sometime in the early, early morning he had slipped away from us and made the trek to heaven.  I’m glad I will see him again someday.  I’m not sure how all of this works but maybe, just maybe I will get to introduce him to my sweet wife and family.  What a day that will be for sure.

So, thanks Daddy, and Momma, for all you did for me…for the love and the sacrifices you made for me and the rest of the tribe.  And Grits family, remember to honor your father and mother, just like God says in His word.  It’s the first command with a promise and I promise you won’t regret it.  And, if you find that hard because of some very difficult memories and scars left from actions best not done, or words best not spoken, try and reach into God’s grace bucket and sling some around.  If you are a Jesus follower, your Dearest Daddy in heaven would like that and He’s even willing to help. As always, He’s got that…and this. Bro. Dewayne

Posted in Family, friends, gratitude, Integrity, life, love, loving others, priorities, Scripture, Southern born, sovereignty of God, thankful, wisdom

Writing Every Day

Teach us to number our days carefully so that we may develop wisdom in our hearts. Numbers 90:12

It wouldn’t cut soft butter today but back then it was cutting edge. I’m a tech guy.  I loved the newest and greatest technology.  When a new something comes out, if I’m not careful, I am on my way to grab one.  Of course, the funny part is it usually ends up sitting around somewhere.  Even my iPhone is mad because of the hours it sits on the counter—unloved and unattended.  Frequently I have to apologize for not returning a call or not answering a text…not because I’m ignoring a person—I’m ignoring my phone.

This love affair with tech began when I was a kid. When it came time for Christmas, I would browse the Sears catalogue and dream of the cool gifts that might come my way. And somehow, Momma and Daddy, with a little help from Santa, would pull it off.  Of course, sometimes they surprised me.  It would have been Christmas of, oh, 1966 and I received something totally unexpected and totally cool. It was a small, battery powered, portable reel-to-reel tape recorder.  This was before eight-tracks, before cassettes…before anything.  The size of large book, it gave me the ability to record something and play that something back.

One time I took my recorder to my grandparent’s house in Gainesville, Florida.  My grandfather (there was no “Papa” with him) was talking with my Daddy and was even telling a joke.  I decided to start the recorder and record what they were saying. Sure enough it worked and later, I played the tape for everyone, and we all marveled at the ability for something so small to do that.  But here is the amazing part.  Somewhere in my stuff, is a small reel of tape and on that tape is my grandfather and my Daddy’s voices…probably one of the few recordings to exist.  Even though they are gone…their voices live on.

Their.Voices.Live.On.  Think about that for just a moment.  Both of these men who influenced me so much have long since passed away. But through technology their voices can still be heard.  Oh, I know it is not a big deal now but back then…it was so unusual and that makes the recording valuable.  They are, if you will, speaking from the grave.

In one of those moments of clarity, I recently realized that I too, one day, will speak from the grave.  My life, my actions, my priorities, my values, sermons I have preached, and stories I have written, will all be left behind and all will speak.  And I wonder…what will they say of me and what will they say of who I was?  When my great grandchildren hear the stories of their great Papa, will those stories be stories worthy to share? Will the words encourage them to live right and do right, or leave them scratching their head like a batter thrown a good curve ball on a hot Saturday afternoon? We should all hope to leave a story that is worth telling…one that brings some light and laughter into their world.

There is a verse I keep coming back to time and again.  Moses wrote it thousands of years ago and yet is as fresh as today’s news.  He asked God to help him number his days that he could gain a wise heart.  He wasn’t asking for his math to be accurate when he counted birthdays.  No, he was asking that he be wise enough to make the most, the very most, of every single day.

Legacy.  It is a great word, and we are all leaving one.  The only question is, “What kind will it be?” That is up to us.  Five days a week I write a story but in reality…I write one everyday…and so do you.  Let’s be sure to write one worth telling.  Fortunately, there is a publisher who is all about helping us and if we are Jesus followers, we call Him Dearest Daddy.  He is more than willing to help us write a best seller…after all, that’s just one more thing He does.  He’s got that too.  Bro. Dewayne

Posted in Christmas, Easter, Family, fear, forgiveness, friends, Grace, gratitude, life, love, prayer, Scripture, sovereignty of God, thankful, Trials, wisdom

Good Friday but Resurrection Sunday

He made the One who did not know sin to be sin for us, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God.” 2 Corinthians 5:21

One of my favorite holiday songs speaks of Christmas being “the most wonderful time of the year.”  I suppose in the eyes of most folks Christmas has become the ultimate “feel good” holiday.  It is jam packed with great music, great food, fun parties, and beautiful decorations.  Throw the birth of a cute little newborn in the mix and it seems like a slam dunk. All of that leads to idealistic dreams of what Christmas should be but, frankly, too often those dreams don’t measure up to reality.

If we could step back a couple of thousand years, we would see that same baby grown to be a man and it seems that the whole known world isn’t celebrating His birth but shouting for His death. While the song speaks of Christmas being that “wonderful time,” for a significant part of the world, this week—and especially this Sunday—is truly more than wonderful.  It is amazing. For this is the week that we celebrate the death, burial, and resurrection of our beloved Savior, Jesus Christ.

I’ve always thought it ironic that we call the day that Jesus died “Good Friday.”  I mean it is obvious that it wasn’t good day for Him.  A Roman crucifixion was so horrible that it was against the law to crucify a Roman citizen and it was called, “the death of deaths.” So why call it Good Friday? Well, for those of us who believe He is who He said He was, and He did what He said He could do, defeat death, well it’s a very big deal.

For starters, we believe His death that day was the sacrifice for our sins.  The Bible tells us that “without the shedding of blood is no remission {of sins}”—Hebrews 9:22.    We celebrate Good Friday because for each believer in Jesus it means the sin slate is wiped clean. Imagine having every wrong thing you ever did forgiven, blotted out, and you might begin to understand this important day.

Imagine this—it’s the greatest trade ever.  Jesus says I will take the rap for your sin and in exchange you can have my perfection. 2 Corinthians 5:21, one of the letters that make up the New Testament, puts it this way: “He made the One who did not know sin [that’s Jesus] to be sin for us, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God.” He took our wrongs so we could be made right.  Amazing.

Wait…it gets better. For those who walked with Him on this earth, that Friday appeared anything but good—to them it appeared to be the end.  Every hope of Him being their overcoming King ended with every blow of the hammer.  He died, they buried Him, but then came Resurrection Sunday.  If Friday was good than Sunday must be super.  For on that day Christ physically resurrected from the dead. The most authenticated, sacred writing in the world, the Bible, along with historical evidence, all comes to the same conclusion: He came back to life. He lives.

The physical resurrection of Christ proves His deity.  In other words, the proof of the pudding is in the tasting, and He proved He was and is the Son of God.  And it only gets better!  He defeated death and because He did, we have that same knowing hope.  His victory over death becomes ours.  It is an incredible story…one worth your own personal investigation.

Let me encourage you to check Him out.  There is plenty of bunk on the internet but there is also plenty of truth.  See why such a large chunk of the world population connects Jesus with God.  See what all the excitement is about.  And hey, maybe find a place you trust and experience the resurrection celebration somewhere in person this Easter Sunday. You will discover a God who loves you a ton and just waits to welcome you into His family. And when you’re in His family you can know two things.  First, you are His and He will never change His mind.  Second, well, no matter what you face, “He’s got this.” Bro. Dewayne

Posted in Family, friends, gratitude, life, loving others, priorities, Scripture, thankful, Trials, wisdom

What Time is It?

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-eight 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 22 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, 22 years of life have ticked off the calendar.  My children are married, I have eight grandchildren and Judy and I have now been married almost 46 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 88 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 clocks are 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 Sunday and some Wednesdays. 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, we just passed April 1st which means 25% of this new year is in the rearview mirror. 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 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 check 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 morality. 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—hot mess world and all.  I can rest in Him and trust in Him because, He’s got this.  Bro. Dewayne

Posted in Family, Grace, gratitude, Integrity, life, loving others, priorities, Scripture, thankful

The Estate Sale

If anyone builds on the foundation with gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay, or straw, each one’s work will become obvious.” 1 Corinthians 3:12-13

It appeared in my next-door neighbor’s yard.  It wasn’t unexpected…in fact it was quite the opposite. My wife Judy and I have lived here at 217 for just over 21 years.  In our immediate area we are the “old-timers” in the neighborhood.  When we moved in we were surrounded with older—significantly older—neighbors.  We enjoyed each one but slowly over time, time took its toll and they passed away.  Well, the neighborhood has changed some over the years and more change is coming.

The neighbor who owned the house next door to us is now gone too and they are doing what families often have to do and that is cleaning out the house and preparing it to be sold.  They lived in this house forever—decades and decades. And as is always the case, they accumulated a lot of stuff.  Having visited in their home several times, they had gathered many beautiful treasures along their journey.  Beautiful antiques of all sorts were scattered throughout the home. Some will be saved by family members, and some will be sold at an upcoming estate sale.

If you have ever lived in a house for a long time, you know how easy it is to accumulate stuff.  I know Judy and I often look around our home and marvel at the stuff we have—and need to clear out.  If we don’t, well, someday someone will.  Well, a truck came the other day and dropped off a monster dumpster at our neighbor’s house.  A day later came a crew of several men and women with one mission: to clear the clutter.  Their job was to begin going through the house and discarding the stuff that no one in their right mind would want.  It was a daunting task to say the least.  In a matter of hours that monstrous dumpster was filled and overflowing and there is more, much more, to go.

When it comes time for the sale, I want to go over and see if there is a small treasure that I can purchase to remember our neighbors by.  They were good folks.  I remember one time when I had just moved in, I was mowing my grass and my new neighbor, and I were chatting and I mentioned that it was the second time in a week I had to mow the grass.  He said, in all seriousness but not a drop of meanness, “Dewayne, you don’t have grass—you have weeds.”  I still smile today when I think of that exchange.

So, let me ask you a question.  What treasures and what clutter do we have in our lives.  Now, I’m not talking about our homes…I am talking about our everyday, journey through life, lives.  I know in my life there are things that I treasure—my faith, my family with all its crazy ups and downs, my character and reputation, my precious memories—well, you get the point.  Just like you, I have so many things that fill my life with joy and purpose.  They may not bring much at an estate sale, but they were extremely valuable to me.

But honestly, there is a lot of clutter too.  Often, they are part of the bumps and bruises that naturally occur in life.  There’s a broken heart here, a scarred memory there and too many unkind words—both spoken by me and received by me.  There are missed opportunities and unwise decisions and well, once again, you get the idea.  These all are things that need to go in a dumpster—not later in preparation for our “estate sale” but now.  You see, the more emotional and hurtful clutter we clear discard now the more room there will be for the treasures that matter.

One day Paul, the guy that wrote a chunk of the New Testament was talking about treasures and clutter.  He wrote that each life would consist of treasures—gold, silver and precious stones and clutter—wood, hay and stubble. Then he said that only the treasures will last.  I’m gonna go one step further and say that only the treasures should last.  The rest, the clutter, need to go into the dumpster—today.  In the movie, Frozen, the song encouraged us to, “let it go.” Well, I think today would be a good day, to let the clutter go and begin now to make more room for the things that matter the treasures.

Our lives go by so quickly, let’s not waste a minute.  Let’s be wise enough to make the most of every day so that when the estate sale of our life is held, we will need only a very small dumpster to hold the regrets.  Need a little help sorting through it all?  Well, I am sure that God would love to help you with that…after all, He’s got this.  Bro. Dewayne

Posted in Family, forgiveness, Grace, gratitude, life, priorities, Scripture, sovereignty of God, thankful, Trials, wisdom

He’s Got This

We know that all things work together for the good of those who love God, who are called according to his purpose.” Romans 8:28

I like love notes.  My wife Judy and I have been married for a long, long time.  Sometimes people ask how it is that we have stayed married to each other for forty-five years.  It could be that I am an incredible husband, but the truth is Judy is an incredible wife.  She is pretty patient with me when I mess up and well, that’s quite frequently. She also has a great servant’s heart.  She is constantly doing the small things that just say, “I love you.”  In that way she is a lot like God.

It always impresses me when God does something really big in my world.  It causes me to just stop and be amazed.  Our lives are filled with stories that show the handiwork of God.  Each one is a love note and each one bears His signature.  Whether it is getting though a particularly hard time or fulfilling a dream, He is always there.  The trick is learning to see it.

Back in 1981, Judy and I were living in Warrensburg, Missouri.  We were attending the First Baptist Church there and having the time of our lives.  God had blessed us with a wonderful group of friends, and we were serving in several ministries there. Two of those involved music.  We were teaching preschool choir (those songs still roll around in my head) and both of us were in the adult choir.  Our worship leader, Dan Tracy, was a great guy and great leader.  Every choir practice and performance were spiritually magical.

One of the things that Dan did was lead a choir tour every spring.  The church would rent a bus for the weekend and our choir would sing at several churches.  In the spring of 1981, Judy and I were brand new parents.  Our first daughter Rebecca had been born that January.  She was obviously too young to leave with a sitter so Judy and I agreed she would stay home, and I would go with the choir.  So, on a Thursday afternoon, she took me to church to leave with the choir.  We were all excited, but I kinda felt bad leaving Judy behind.

Finally, just about everyone was on the bus and it was time to go.  Someone, it may have been Dan, was locking the church door when he happened to hear the phone ringing. For some reason, he stopped and went back inside to answer it.  It really didn’t make a lot of since because it was after hours, and it was a larger church, so people called all the time.   Regardless, he answered the call.  It was for me.

Now before the story goes any further you need to understand that most of our family had no clue what state we lived in.  Most of them probably didn’t know where Missouri was on the map.  Certainly, no one knew we were attending First Baptist and certainly no one knew I was there late on a Thursday afternoon leaving on a choir tour.  Yet the call was for me.  It was Judy’s brother…her father had died suddenly of a heart attack, and we needed to go home immediately to Georgia.

Now pause just a moment and be amazed.  No one knew what church we were attending; it was after hours, and I was moments away from leaving for the tour and someone just happened to hear the phone and answer it. Amazing. It was obviously very hard news but to this day Judy and I both marvel at how our Father orchestrated this.  It was as if He said, “Judy, you have a difficult journey ahead of you but I am putting this together so you will know that I love you and I will walk with you.”  And yes, it was as if He signed it, “Love, Dearest Daddy.”

It was a difficult journey that left us both shocked and surprised. Judy’s daddy had just been with us for Rebecca’s birth and suddenly, he moved to heaven. But even in those sad, heartbroken moments, we knew God was not leaving us to walk through this hard time alone. We trusted that He would show us the way as we walked this new, unplanned path. And He never left us to walk alone.

How about you?  First, I hope you have made the decision to ask God to forgive your sins and be your Father.  It is the greatest and best decision ever. Again, it has nothing to do with religion or church.  It has everything to do with a relationship with the Creator of everything.  Second, if you have done that, I hope you will make it a habit to look and see the handiwork of your Father in everyday life.  He is constantly at work—in the good times and hard times.  He is at work when it is obvious and when it is not.

It is one of those verses that a lot of people throw around, but it is just packed with truth. It says, “We know that all things work together for the good of those who love God, who are called according to his purpose.”  Now, it doesn’t say that everything is good, but that God can bring good from all circumstances.  God in fact did get us safely through a twenty-three-hour drive to South Georgia with a six-week-old baby girl in the back seat.  God did show us His love through an amazing phone call. And the best part—He does it for each of His kids.  So, snuggle up and rest in Him.  He loves you and He’s got this.  Bro. Dewayne