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.

Posted in Family, food, gratitude, life, priorities, Scripture, thankful

Blueberry Crumble and More

I heard a loud shout from the throne, saying, “Look, God’s home is now among His people! He will live with them, and they will be His people. God Himself will be with them. He will wipe every tear from their eyes, and there will be no more death or sorrow or crying or pain. All these things are gone forever.” Revelation 21:3-4

I love dessert.  My journey with dessert goes back to my earliest memories.  Whether it was a biscuit with cane syrup and butter or a cake or pie from mama’s oven—I loved dessert.  Sometimes when there was nothing else, I would grab a teaspoon from the drawer and shovel in a teaspoon of sugar.  Hey, when it’s all you have—it’s all that you have.

Two dessert memories spring from my earlier years.  I remember my mama having to have surgery when I was about 10 years old.  Two things happened during that time that were monumental.  First, dad took care of us.  Daddy was a bring-home-the-bacon kind of guy and mom took care of the kids and the house. Well, with her in the hospital and daddy not cooking much—things were a bit different in the kitchen.  I remember one night we were coming home from the hospital and daddy stopped at a place called Milligan’s Burgers and I had my first taste of a fast-food hamburger.  It was kinda like a Krystal Burger and it was a big deal.

Something else that happened during mama’s hospital stay showed her love for me and solidified my love for desserts.  During her stay, the “three-little-ones” and my daddy made our nightly visit to the hospital.  We walked into her room and there she was in her hospital bed with the tray thing (much like today) beside her bed.  She said, “Dewayne, I saved you something from my supper.”  There on her tray in a small bowl was a serving of “blueberry crunch.” It was like a small blueberry, crunch top pie and it was delicious.  To this day I never eat anything blueberry with a crunch top without thinking about my mama’s love.

Years later, my oldest brother and I were visiting another brother out in Texas.  It was a man-trip that included driving all night, camping in the mountains, and eating.  When we got back from the mountain part, we had a last supper of sorts, and his wife made cherry cheesecake.  Well, I thought I had died and gone to heaven and ate a whole lot more than I should have.  After supper we hit the road for the long drive back to Florida and before long, I wished I could die and go to heaven.  All that cherry cheesecake started rolling around in my belly and we had to make more than one stop—and it wasn’t for gas.

Yup…dessert and I go way back. When we go visit someone for supper, I always enjoy the food and fellowship, but I also always hold back a little room for dessert.  I know the best is yet to come.  The story is told of a woman who wanted to be buried with a spoon in her casket.  When asked why, she said, “Well, when I go to someone’s house for supper, the hostess will lean down and say, “Be sure and keep your spoon.”  I always smile when that happens because I know that means that there is dessert and the best is yet to come.”  I like that.

In this crazy, upside down world of the never-ending story of COVID, racial injustice, violence and what’s sure to be a crazy election time, we probably should all carry a spoon in our pocket.  You ask, “Why should we do that?”  Well, it would remind us that this crazy world is not the end.  It would remind us that for every person who is Christ follower, who can call God Dearest Father, there is more—much more.  That beyond this life is eternal life—that the best is surely yet to come.

I am so grateful for the life that God has given me.  Like a delicious meal filled with good old Southern comfort food, I enjoy each day…mostly.  Honestly though, life is filled too with warts, bumps and more than a few bruises.  But it seems like at the table of this banquet called life, I can hear the Whisperer lean over and say, “Be sure and keep your spoon.”  When that happens, I know He is reminding me that the best is yet come.  As good as life is here, it is going to be a million times better there.  The Bible speaks of heaven as a place of no sickness, no pain, no sorrow, no separation and no more death.  It is like dessert on steroids.  I. Can’t. Wait.

Well, I know I need to keep my love affair with desserts in check.  Both my doctor and my wife Judy remind me of that.  But each time I get to indulge, you can take it to the bank that I’m gonna remember that there is more than this hot mess coming and it is going to be good.  You know, sometimes when Judy is cooking I go in and sneak a taste.  I love to sneak a bite of cookie dough when she isn’t looking.  It’s just a sample of the finished product.  Take time today to crawl up with Jesus and take a rest.  It will just be a taste of what is coming in eternity…just enough to keep you wanting as you wait.  And then, remember this…that the Master Maker of dessert—God—has all this under control.  Yup…He’s got this.