Posted in fear, forgiveness, Grace, gratitude, life, loving others, prayer, priorities, Scripture, sovereignty of God, Trials, wisdom

A Memorable Funeral

Be prepared, whether the time is favorable or not.” 2 Timothy 4:2

It was years ago and something that I will never forget.  I am a pastor and that often gives me the opportunity to help people at some of their hardest moments.  Over the last 38 years I have officiated at hundreds of funerals.  Some of them were tragic and some of them were celebrations of life.  Regardless…they were all difficult.  I believe that every service should be as personal as I can make it. I heard a story once of a pastor who was asked to do a service for a man he didn’t know well.  Unfortunately, he kept calling the gentleman by the wrong name.  Finally, in sheer desperation, his wife shouted out, “John, his name is John.” Gratefully, I have managed to avoid something like that thus far.  But there was one funeral I will never forget.

I said earlier that I am a preacher…a pastor.  Well, I happen to be a singing pastor.  You see, long before I started preaching, I was singing.  I’m certainly no Frank Sinatra, but I can carry a tune.  That led to opportunities to serve families in another way.  When the funeral home needed a vocalist, I would sometimes get a call.  One day…the call came.  I was to sing a couple of songs…one at the beginning and one midway through the service.  So, my time came…no pun intended…and I sang my first song and then the second.  An older pastor was speaking and he was really into the sermon.  As the vocalist, I was sitting in a side room where I couldn’t see him, but I could see the audience. And then…it happened.

As I said he was preaching hard, and all of a sudden two things happened in a split second.  First, a moment of silence.  It went from “Katie bar the door” to dead silence.  Then, in a moment of time, there was something that sounded like a clap of thunder—literally. And finally, there was the sound of chaos—-people screaming and crying.  It was a very frightening moment.  Immediately I stood up and looked into the room where the preacher was lying on the floor.  It seems as he was preaching, he suffered a massive heart attack, fell on top of the folding pulpit which then caused it to collapse. That was the clap of thunder.

The funeral home folks called 911 and they quickly arrived and carried him out.  I’m not sure if he passed right there on the floor or in the ambulance, but he didn’t make it.  When they had left with him, I wondered what in the world do you do now?  The funeral director came over and said, “Dewayne, can you finish the service?” I told him I could if he would get me a Bible.  The preacher’s Bible was still laying there so he picked it up and gave it to me and we finished the service.  It was one of the strangest things I have ever witnessed—especially at a funeral.  As a side note, in a day or so, the funeral home called and asked me to do the service for the pastor who had died, and it was my privilege to do so.

I would suppose that there are a lot of lessons that can be learned from this but the big one is—we need to be ready.  We need to be ready to step into any situation that might arise. There is a verse in the Bible that says we should be prepared whether the time is favorable or not.  That is good advice.  We never know when we will have an opportunity to make a difference in someone’s life.  I don’t know exactly how well I did finishing the funeral that day, but I hope I was able to bring some peace into a crazy chaotic moment.

There’s also another lesson—another truth—from this story.  We should be prepared to step into eternity.  When we think of death, we often think we will all live well and long, die easy, and go to heaven.  The truth is we just don’t know how long we will live, but we can all be prepared.  I like what a friend of mine said one time.  He said, “I’m prepared to go to heaven, I’m just not ready to go.”  He was just saying that he was prepared to go to heaven he just wasn’t ready to get on the next bus. I’m sure the pastor who was speaking that day was prepared, but he probably didn’t have any idea that he would board the bus right then.

The good news is that because of the Good News, we can all be prepared.  Because of what Jesus did on a Roman cross two thousand years ago, we can know that we are going to heaven.  It’s not about religion or church—it is about faith in Him dying and coming back to life three days later.  It is about believing that He was who He said He was, that He would do what He said He would do, and about repenting and trusting in Jesus as the Way to eternal life with God. If you haven’t made that commitment, I’m hoping you will. Google it and check it out—check Him out.  The Boy Scout motto is “Be Prepared” and I hope you are.  When it comes time for us to board the bus, we can have the confident assurance that He will be there.  He’s got this.  Bro. Dewayne

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.