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The Ticket

Denis Waitley missed his plane by a few minutes. And it changed his life. On May 29, 1979 Waitley sprinted to his gate to catch the Los Angeles bound American flight 191. He got there and they had closed the jetway. He begged and pleaded to no avail. Irritated, he marched to customer service counters to register his irritation. While standing there, the loudspeaker crackled with tragedy. Flight 191 had crashed shortly after takeoff. Investigators discovered the left engine came off of the wing which caused the plane to roll. It flipped over and the crash claimed all 271 on board. It was the deadliest accident in aviation history. Waitley stopped his complaining, realizing how close he had come to death. It would change his life. He saved the unused ticket and mounted it on his office wall. It would remind him of each day he lived beyond that moment. We ignore our lives, thinking we have others. We are wrong. Each day is fragile. James heard the boasting of future events which seemed so certain. He reminds us: “yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes. Instead you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that.”” (James 4:14–15) Days come and go. That means every day we draw breath is a gift of God. Do you treat God’s precious gift with a shrug? Denis Waitley had his difficult days. All it took was a glance at the unused ticket hanging on the way to remind him that every day is a gift. Do you see today as God’s gift to you? -Robert G. Taylor-  

By |2021-03-01T10:59:26-06:00March 1st, 2021|Blog|

Meaningless

Victor Frankl witnessed the worst of humanity. After surviving a Nazi concentration camp, he wrote about what suffering taught him about living. He lived as the consumer society was arriving at full speed. He watched people do whatever their hearts desired to give them pleasure. Some ate large amounts. Others spent on trinkets. He commented on this pursuit of pleasure: Let us imagine a man who has been sentenced to death and, a few hours before his execution, has been told he is free to decide on the menu for his last meal. The guard comes into his cell and asks him what he wants to eat, offers him all kinds of delicacies; but the man rejects all his suggestions. He thinks to himself that it is quite irrelevant whether he stuffs good food into the stomach of his organism or not, as in a few hours it will be a corpse. And even the feelings of pleasure that could still be felt in the organism's cerebral ganglia seem pointless in view of the fact that in two hours they will be destroyed forever. But the whole of life stands in the face of death, and if this man had been right, then our whole lives would also be meaningless, were we only to strive for pleasure and nothing else—preferably the most pleasure and the highest degree of pleasure possible. Pleasure in itself cannot give our existence meaning; thus, the lack of pleasure cannot take away meaning from life, which now seems obvious to us. It is not new, only rediscovered truth. Solomon conducted a grand experiment on life. He dove into unlimited pleasure. "I said in my heart, "Come now, I will test you with pleasure; enjoy yourself." But behold, this also was vanity. I said of laughter, "It is mad," and of pleasure, "What use is it?" (Ecclesiastes 2:1–2). After searching and sifting, he arrived at a conclusion. "The end of the matter; all has been heard. Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man." (Ecclesiastes 12:13) Society can get us caught in the whirlpool of things and events that provide a cotton candy life. It tastes good and then is gone. Life contains more than our goods, our feelings, and our excitement. Unless built on something lasting, it crumbles. The word Solomon used was "meaningless." Investigate your life. Is it worth anything lasting? -Robert G. Taylor-  

By |2021-02-23T09:09:40-06:00February 23rd, 2021|Blog|

The Question

Tony Campolo posed a question all should answer. While teaching at the University of Pennsylvania, he asked a sleepy student, “Young man, how long have you lived?” The boy quickly spit out his age. “No, no, no. That’s how long your heart has pumped blood. That’s not how long you lived,” replied Campolo. He then told of a time as a 4th-grade student in 1944. He went to the Empire State Building on a school field trip. The elevator took him to the observation deck of the then tallest building in the world. It overlooked all that he could see. He stood still. Reflecting on that moment, he told the students, “In one mystical, magical moment I took in the city. If I live a million years, that moment will still be part of my consciousness, because I was fully alive when I lived it.” He returned to the student. “Now, let me ask you again. How long have you lived?” The student hung his head and said, “When you say it that way, maybe an hour, maybe a minute, maybe two minutes.” We send so much time focused on a Facebook post or the worries of the day. We are distracted. The wise man said: Let your eyes look straight ahead; fix your gaze directly before you. Give careful thought to the paths for your feet and be steadfast in all your ways. Do not turn to the right or the left; keep your foot from evil. (Proverbs 4:25-27) When we focus on living to please the Lord, we find out when live as we never have before. It is that day that you start living. Now, how long have you lived? -Robert G. Taylor-  

By |2021-02-19T16:08:49-06:00February 15th, 2021|Blog|

Sunflowers

Scott Thompson's family has farmed the Wisconsin soil for over 70 years. He usually plants strawberries. Then, in the fall, he grows raspberries and pumpkins. This year, his crop looked different. He planted joy. You can't plant joy, but you can plant sunflowers. Thompson planted 22 acres of sunflowers. Thompson Strawberry Farm attracted families who picnic, wander fields of florals, and take home a dozen sunflowers. Thompson said, "We just did it ... and we just kept building. As the season went on, the pandemic never went anywhere ... and we thought people might be looking for something to do, and what a great way to social distance and ... smile, basically." Those sunflowers did something for people. He said, "One of the things that's so cool about this is everyone is so happy. We get all these comments on Facebook, or if I'm out in the field, everybody is like, 'Thanks for doing this,' (and) 'This is what I needed.' People are so happy to be out there and have a place to go." Here is a man who knows how to sow joy. He lifts the spirits of others, gives them a different picture of their world. Don't we all need to enjoy that kind of picture rather than the bickering, long lines, and death counts? We need some joy. The question is not what you need. It is what do you need to do in your life to sow enough joy to lift the spirits of others. So, what do you plan to plant in your acre of the world today? -Robert G. Taylor-  

By |2021-02-11T07:28:16-06:00February 8th, 2021|Blog|

Pandemic Positives

Abraham Walker moved from Virginia to New Orleans to give his children a sense of “normal.” Walker’s brother had been murdered. He did not want his children’s lives colored with the loss of friends and family as “normal.” Once he settled, he visited a community Facebook page. He decided to ask, “What are some positive things that have happened to you because of COVID-19?” Here’s what came back: I have been having the BEST time with my 4-year-old. I never thought of myself as a good mother, but this isolation has brought us so close together. I successfully grew a tomato. We have a swing set in our yard now. Before COVID, I just got up late, ran around in a panic, usually in a bad mood or at least sad, endured a road rage-filled commute, and arrived at the office late. ... Now I wake up and think, “Oh, I woke up again” and then I go out to my balcony amidst the pine trees and the chirping birds and rising sun. Walker concluded that, After challenging times, there will always be “afterward.” It’s easy, after almost a year of pandemic, to see the worst. The virus touched, affected, and stretched all. None would choose what has happened. But can you see the good in it? You have to choose that perspective. As Paul languished in prison, halted by the Roman justice system. His life’s plans ended. Yet, he took a new view. He saw the positive amid the prison. “Now I want you to know, brothers and sisters, that what has happened to me has actually served to advance the gospel. As a result, it has become clear throughout the whole palace guard and to everyone else that I am in chains for Christ. And because of my chains, most of the brothers and sisters have become confident in the Lord and dare all the more to proclaim the gospel without fear.” (Philippians 1:12–14) All experience life, but not all see it the same. Paul saw beyond shackles and had freedom. He saw the good that happened. So, what do you see? What are your pandemic positives? -Robert G. Taylor-  

By |2021-02-11T07:27:46-06:00February 1st, 2021|Blog|

Translation

How do you translate the Bible? When Emily McGowin taught high school English, she assigned her 9th-graders to translate the Beatitudes in their own words. They rendered the verses in which Jesus blesses the “unblessable.” What some of them wrote speaks to how they see the world. Blessed are drug addicts and felons, people who try everything but still buckle under the pressure of their past lives and can never get back on their feet, for even they belong in the Kingdom of God. Blessed are the orphans and foster children of the world because they are exactly who God wants in his Kingdom. Blessed are the homeless because the Kingdom of God belongs to them too. One came from a child who was removed from a home due abuse by a parent. He wrote: Blessed are the abusers who take out their anger on the weak, for even they can repent and receive the Kingdom of God. While they are not the Beatitudes, they speak of how you translate the Bible into something alive in your own life. It’s not about words but the friction that scripture creates in your own soul. While some see church as “respectable,” that translation may twist into something different. Listen to what Jesus did. “When Jesus reached the spot, he looked up and said to him, “Zacchaeus, come down immediately. I must stay at your house today.” So he came down at once and welcomed him gladly. All the people saw this and began to mutter, “He has gone to be the guest of a sinner.” (Luke 19:5–7) The translation of the crowd did not exactly match the gospel of which Jesus spoke. To bring people to Jesus, our translation of the mission must match what Jesus’ intentions are. How well do you translate Jesus in your life and thinking? -Robert G. Taylor-  

By |2021-01-25T12:04:42-06:00January 25th, 2021|Blog|

Happy?

America has all the conditions to improve the happiness of its inhabitants. In 2019, the average household income was higher than ever. Homes are larger than ever, with an average house almost 1000 square feet over the previous average. More people have easy access to the internet than ever. Then, what’s the problem? We are not happier. A survey started in 1988 to measure people’s mood shows dissatisfaction with life has continued its 32-year rise. It is no wonder. We pursue things that we can measure, but that doesn’t matter. We want to be technologically savvy, wealthier, and more mobile. But it only covers a gnawing sense of emptiness. Jesus met a man who demanded a referee in a family estate squabble. He demanded Jesus tell his brother to split the family fortune with him. Jesus refused. Instead, he gave the man a first-grade lesson in life. “Then he said to them, “Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; life does not consist in an abundance of possessions.” (Luke 12:15) When we attempt to use earthly goods to plug spiritual holes, the void remains.  It is not about the money, but the purpose of life. When it is anything other than pleasing the God who created us, we find ourselves thirsty. What are you chasing? And…are you happy? -Robert G. Taylor-  

By |2021-01-18T13:24:33-06:00January 18th, 2021|Blog|

Ashamed of Weakness

Years ago, I knew a man who was healthy and vibrant at age 50. He had a sailboat and loved hunting. As a builder, he was a craftsman. Then, he had a stroke. It left one side of his body, unable to function. As I spoke, tears came to his eyes. He was a strong man reduced to a wheelchair. Ian Corbin of the Harvard Medical School has interviewed people like my friend. He observed: Post-stroke isolation is one more symptom, badly compounding the damage done by stroke itself ... Studies show that stroke patients’ networks tend to contract in the wake of a stroke. Why? The causes are not perfectly clear, but we can say this: Too often in America, we are ashamed of being weak, vulnerable, dependent. We tend to hide our shame. We stay away. We isolate ourselves, rather than show our weakness. It is the human condition to show strength. Yet, in a paradox, Christianity turns it upside down. Paul wrote to the Corinthians about a thorn. No one knows to what it referred, but it was a source of suffering. Paul, as any of us would, wanted it removed. Prayer after prayer failed. Instead, he heard God’s message loud and clear. “But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.” (2 Corinthians 12:9) Boasting in weakness is not normal. It takes greater faith and reliance on the Lord to elevate what we cannot do. Instead, it points to a Lord that makes weakness strength. Strokes can be devastating. What is worse is the hubris we are powerful on our own. Learn to say, in all things, “when I am weak, He is strong." -Robert G. Taylor-        

By |2021-01-11T10:46:50-06:00January 11th, 2021|Blog|

A Child’s Art

Sally Lloyd-Jones overheard a comment at New York’s famed Museum of Modern Art that spoke volumes. While viewing a painting by Rothko (an abstract painter from the 20th century) the voice said, “My child could do that!” There’s a central truth to that. Picasso observed, “It took me four years to paint like Raphael, but a lifetime to paint like a child.” Lloyd-Jones goes on to say: The power of a child’s art is defined by what they can’t do--by their lack. They know they can’t do it. And as a result, their art is not about showing off skill or expertise. It’s coming from somewhere else. It’s all heart ... A child is physically not able to master [pencil or paints]. They struggle to depict things--and every line has heart ... The power of the art of a child comes not from their ability or their strength. It comes from their weakness, their not being able, their vulnerability. Jesus knew that grownup self-reliance clashes with his kingdom. It is not the one who knows and has it all together. Instead, Jesus said mature faith is childlike faith. “He called a little child to him and placed the child among them. And he said: “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 18:2–3) Can we trust like a child and love like a child? Can we turn loose of worries and let the Father care for them? All the childlike traits reflect the deepest faith. A parent loves a child’s art. God loves a childlike faith. -Robert G. Taylor-          

By |2021-01-04T08:14:22-06:00January 4th, 2021|Blog|

The Weed

In 1876, Japan brought a lush vine to America as part of Philadelphia’s ornamental plant exhibit. It looked like the perfect solution to the soil erosion sweeping the nation during the Great Depression. It was planted in the south and never stopped growing. It was kudzu. It has roots that run up to 20 feet and grow 16 inches every day. Each plant will grow 100 feet per year. People have actually seen it grow. The only way to rid yourself of the plant is to kill the very root of it. Hollywood once wanted to make a horror movie about the vine. They called Dr. Jack Tinga, a leading authority on the kudzu, at the University of Georgia to serve as a technical advisor. He wanted no part of it. He told them, before hanging up, “It’s no joking matter. If you come across kudzu, simply drop it and run.” Some things create that much trouble in life. Jesus knew what they were. He used a similar illustration to describe one such weed affecting the lives of far too many people. “The seed that fell among thorns stands for those who hear, but as they go on their way they are choked by life’s worries, riches and pleasures, and they do not mature.” (Luke 8:14) What kills many spiritual lives is the pressure to keep up with their friends and present a false front of affluence. The treadmill plows worry into hearts and weaken the capacity to respond to God’s word. What have you planted in your heart? Is it a weed that saps your spiritual vitality? Take a hard look at what you allow to grow in your life. It may be choking you to death. -Robert G. Taylor-    

By |2020-12-07T20:27:14-06:00December 7th, 2020|Blog|
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