Friday, January 27, 2012


My mother used to tell me about what it was like growing up on a tobacco farm. My grandfather was a tobacco farmer and often employed many of his family members and relative to work the tobacco during the summers. My mother was too young to working in the fields, so her job was to drive the tractor back and forth between the pack houses and the field while pulling the tobacco trailers. She did not know how to stop or start the tractor, so someone at the field had to get it moving in gear for her and then jump off. She would steer is to the pack houses several miles down the road where someone else would jump on the moving tractor and take it out of gear to stop it.

It was my mother who first taught me how to drive a car. My father would let us sit in his lap and steer while on the farm, but it was my mother who first put me behind the wheel and took me out on my own. Years before I was of legal age to get a permit, much less a drivers license, I was driving several miles down the road by myself hauling loads of firewood or a lawn mower to earn some spending money. Now that I have a son of my own, I can truly marvel at the trust and confidence my parent had in me at a very young age.

I think the stories my mother told me about driving the tractor on the farm, and my own experience of starting to drive at a young age says something about the quality of trust my parents and grandparent had in their children. It also shows the value they placed on working and providing for the family. They wanted their children to learn at a young age how to work and earn an honest living more than they cared about the hazards that were involved in doing so. Today, I think our culture places a greater emphasis on a child’s welfare than on developing his or her maturity level. In modern society we tell children not to play in the street, where as in the past, we taught children to get out of the way when a truck was coming.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

If I Die Young

A penny for my thoughts, oh no, I'll sell them for a dollar.

They're worth so much more after I', a goner.

And Maybe then you'll hear the words I been singin'

Funny when you're dead how people start listenin'

"If I Die Young" by The Band Perry

Friday morning I was seeing the the still body of a man who felt his story would be heard louder coming from the grave. The horror and impact that suicide has on us comes not from graphic scenes. Although is may be rare for the body to end it's earthly existence peacefully, it is not the sight of a lifeless corps that touches us deeply. It is the questions of what pain and miseries this mind must have endured to be driven to seek relief in an act that contradicts our deepest nature. Our bodies have adrenaline, reflexes, and a fear of danger that drives us to want to survive. So when we see someone who intentionally walks down the road that leads to obvious death, it impacts us in a powerfully strange way. It make me want to pause and listen to the last words that that person felt most important for me to know. Perhaps also, it is what they felt least able to be heard or understood on. And so hear the words of a man standing in death's doorway and calling back a final time to the land of the living. Ponder them and let them influence your every relationship. Remember them when you pass the stranger on the street or your best friend at church.

"This house used to be filled with so much laughter, music, and love. Now it is as empty and quiet as the grave. There is simply nothing left inside of it, just as there is nothing left inside of me. I cannot remember the last time I didn't feel alone anymore. I cannot remember the last time I have slept without a nightmare either. There are so many people who love me, but I hate myself so much that the balance is hopelessly askew. I have given everything I have to this life. I have learned many things, I have shared in timeless moments. . . Now that I have found myself back in this place alone, the ghosts of my past are my only company. The mind is a fragile thing, and I know that mine is unwell. I have asked for help. I have called out in every way I know how. I won't ever understand why it was all taken away from me. Perhaps there just isn't a reason, and that fills me with such pain. . . I was an honest man. I did the right thing whenever I could. I have spent my entire life living up to the expectations of others as best I could. I wish I'd been stronger, but my sadness is simply too much. I am exhausted and welcome the call of a never ending sleep. Please forgive me."

Monday, June 7, 2010

The Courtship

How does a single man end up courting? As a single person without anyone, finding that someone special seems daunting to say the least. If you talk to a couple about how they came together, every thing makes sense and it seems it was easy for them. Indeed, looking back on it now, it does seem like things fell into place almost naturally, but this is most defiantly not the case.

Whole books have been written on this subject and I don’t pretend to be an expert of any sort. I can however, tell my story. Every story is different because every story is specificity tailored by God for that individual. The miracle that occurs when you find someone that so perfectly complements you is never repeated twice in the same way. The fact that two people from completely different families and backgrounds could end up sharing their life together is indeed a testament of God at work every time it happens.

I think first something needs to be said about marriage. There are two very different views that most young men have of marriage. The one kind of guy is the steady, settled kind who wants nothing more out of life than to be comfortably content. He will openly admit that he wants a wife and will pursue girls in order to fulfill this goal. His verse is Proverbs 18:22, “He who finds a wife finds what is good and receives favor from the Lord.” This kind of guy can fall into the trap of trying to earn happiness and God’s favor by getting a wife.

The other kind of guy is the radicals I once was, who want to pursue God with his whole heart, mind, and body and therefore holds onto 1 Corinthians 7: “It is good for a man not to marry” and only if “they cannot control themselves, they should marry”. His view of marriage is that it is for weak men who cannot control their own desire and so this kind of guy will not pursue marriage, nor even admit he wants to be married. While on the surface, an undivided devotion to God seems admirable, at the root lies arrogance and an sinful ambition for his own greatness.

Somewhere in between these two extremes is what Kevin DeYoung calls “the plodding visionary”. That rare kind of person who is perfectly content with whatever meager life God has given him, yet stands ready and willing to dare great things or sacrifice everything for God’s glory.

I have this theory about guys. I think that either consciously or unconsciously, one of the ways men size each other up when they first meet, is to decide if he could beat the other guy in a brawl or whether the other guy would beat him. On that other hand, one of the ways a man sizes up a woman that he meets is to decide whether he could marry her or not. To prove my point, think about the way guys describe a girl – “she’s a cutie” verses describing a guy – “He’s strong-as-an-ox”.

So, every guy is always “checking out the girls”, whether he is willing to admit it or not. When I first meet Abigail Hinds, she fell into the long line of “no never” or “maybe someday”. There was no instant attraction or sparks. In fact, the only faded memory I can now recall is how much better a dancer she was than I.

The only point I can reach back to for a beginning, was at a friend’s wedding that both Abby and I attended. I did not speak to her at all during the wedding or reception and barely saw her the entire day. As everyone was leaving, I stopped to talk with the father of the bride. He mentioned that I needed to find me a wife and ask what I thought of the girl in the green dress. I told him I had not seen a girl in a green dress, but my curiosity was aroused. It was only later I remembered Abby was wearing a pale green dress. This was prehaphs the beginning of Abby moving into the “Why not?” category.

Throughout the summer I refused to admit to myself that Abby was growing on me. During the late summer, my sister and I took a vacation to Montana to visit old friends and I liked it out there so much, I decided to come back after New Years and work on their ranch for a while. Abby was still on my mind, but more as a “yeah, that would probably never happen” kind of thought and I refused to let it influence my decision to go back to Montana.

That fall, there was yet another wedding that Abby and I were both participating in. The “why not?” question was so burning in my mind by now that I decided to act on it. I watched her throughout the rehearsal dinner, wedding, and reception, but I could not think of anything proper to say to her. I did ask if she had been dancing lately while we were sitting at the same table during the dinner, but that was all. After the wedding, Abby stopped for a minute as she was leaving and ask me about a prank I had played on the groom. On the drive home after that, I realized that I had a growing interest in her any needed to do something about it.

I deliberated over it for another three weeks before deciding to act. During this time I went through Abby’s entire Facebook account and blog trying to learn as much as I could about her. I found her father on Facebook, and not knowing any other way of getting hold of him without raising undue suspicion, I sent him a friend request. Seeing as I had never met the man and he did not know I existed, he promptly deleted my friend request. I tried the same tactic with her brother and received the same results. I had wanted to be very formal in my request to “get to know” Abby, but seeing no other way for it, I send her father a Facebook message basically saying: “I don’t know you and you don’t know me, but I want to get to know your daughter”.

Thankfully, Mr. Hinds is a very generous man and actually agreed to meet with me. Wanting my family to remain unaware that anything was afoot, I took the truck and left the house early one morning to “go hunting”. Instead, I drove all the way to Raleigh to meet Mr. Hinds for breakfast. Of course I got there long before the scheduled time and sat on a bench in front of the restaurant until Mr. Hinds came. I introduced myself and shook his hand and we when in and ordered our food. We had a wonderful conversation. A summary what I had to say would be something to this affect: “Hi, I’m John Paul Taylor. I don’t have a job. I don’t have any money. I am living with my parents right now and I am leaving for Montana in a few months. Can I court your daughter?” Much to my surprise, he agreed that I could “get to know” Abby as long as I didn’t tip my hand that I had any special interest in her. I did not mention that up to this point I had seen Abby less than half a dozen times in my entire lifetime and knew almost nothing about her.

The following Saturday was a contra dance that Abby and her family attended. I repeatedly tried to get a dance with her without seeming overly interested in her, and was repeatedly cut off. Mr. Hinds, perhaps thinking I was not trying hard enough, came over and shook my hand as he passed a note that read “You can dance with her and even talk to her”. I finally did catch her for a dance and was a happy man.

C. J. Mahaney was speaking at Abby’s church on Sunday which gave me a convenient excuse to go. The following Monday I meet with Mr. and Mrs. Hinds at a restaurant to talk more. I left that evening convinced that it would not work out between me and Abby. There were too many obstacles and I was not at all prepared to be considering marriage. I was very discouraged and suddenly realized how much I had wanted to get married.

One thing that must be said here is you should never take for granted the power of a mother’s prayer. Unknown to me, Abby’s mother had been praying for Abby to find a husband and my mother was praying just as hard that I would find a wife. In spite of my best laid plans, God grabbed me by the scuff of the neck and turned my head in Abby’s direction and would soon do the same for Abby. While I could try to explain the small things about Abby that stood out and attracted my attention, taken as a whole, they cannot account for what was going on in my heart. God had put a desire there and made it unshakable.

The other thing that brought me too a courtship was Abby’s parents. I think most father’s would see it as their job to evaluate a potential suitor and determine if he meets a certain criteria in order to marry their daughter or not. Mr. Hinds on the other hand, saw his job as being to take me as I was and to whip me into shape and make me ready to marry, his daughter or anyone else’s. Mrs. Hinds took an active roles in not only creating opportunities for me to spend time around Abby, but providing helpful hints and suggestion along the way.

On November 22, 2009, Abby parent told her that I wanted to court her and she joyfully agreed.

Friday, October 23, 2009

The Busy Life

Ask me or anyone else on just about any given week how I have been and the answer will almost certainly include the word “busy”. It had not occurred to me, until it was pointed out recently, that we almost idolizes being busy. I am very guilty of this. I have an unnatural fear of not constantly doing something, almost as if my significance is somehow tied up in how productive I am. On the surface, this appears to be a very good thing; after all, no one likes an idle person. The problem is that a preoccupation in the task at hand can cause me to loose my bearings on what is really worth taking time for. I become obsessed in reaching a goal and valuable moments are allowed to slip by without due thought or enjoyment. I am not arguing for the opposite extreme, which would be a lazy sluggard, but for the equal balance that must be found in so many other areas of our life.

At the root of the matter is an enhanced awareness of being alive and a deeper thankfulness and appreciation of God. Taking the time to enjoy a good meal or a cup of coffee, noticing the sunrise and the beginning of each new day. More important than this awareness of sights, sounds, tastes and smells around us, is an awareness of the people. We were created to interact one with another. That is why high-tech supplements such as cell phone and social networking are so popularly. However, they remain enhancements and are not substitutes for real community and people getting together face to face. People are the only thing on this earth that will remain in eternal, and so sacrificing our busyness to take time for them is a worthwhile exchange.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

The Foolishness of Youth

It struck me recently that there are very few good things said in the Bible about the words and deed of your youth. Here are a few examples:

“For you write bitter things against me and make me inherit the iniquities of my youth” (Job 13:26)

“Remember not the sins of my youth or my transgressions; according to your steadfast love remember me, for the sake of your goodness, O Lord.” (Psalm 25:7)

“Rejoice, O young man, in your youth, and let your heart cheer you in the days of your youth. Walk in the ways of your heart and the sight of your eyes. But know that for all these things God will bring you into judgment. Remove vexation from your heart, and put away pain from your body, for youth and the dawn of life are vanity.” (Ecclesiastes 11:9-10)

It is good for a man that he bear the yoke in his youth. Let him sit alone in silence when it is laid on him; let him put his mouth in the dust— there may yet be hope” (Lamentations 3:27-29)

So many times I have felt like Jeremiah who said, “Ah, Lord God! Behold, I do not know how to speak, for I am only a youth.” (Jeremiah 1:6) The Lord answered him by saying, “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you. . .Do not say, ‘I am only a youth’; for to all to whom I send you, you shall go, and whatever I command you, you shall speak. Do not be afraid of them, for I am with you to deliver you.” (Jeremiah 1:5,7-8) Then also Paul writes to Timothy, “Let no one despise you for your youth, but set the believers an example in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith, in purity.” (I Timothy 4:12) Then later he say, “So flee youthful passions and pursue righteousness, faith, love, and peace, along with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart.” (II Timothy 2:22)

There is hope for me!

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Gun-control and the use of Deadly Force

Here is a post I have thought about, but avoided for several reason, the main one being that I had not fully settled all the “what if’s” in my own mind. This may seem strange since I serve overseas in a war zone, but I am going to give a stab at it now (no pun intended). It should be clear from the get go that I do not hold my views on the use of violence and deadly force as superior to any other person’s. I have friends that I respect and admire who hold views that range from pacifists all the way to the other end of the spectrum and everywhere in between.

Something I found very helpful when weighing this issue in my own mind was something John Piper pointed out about Christian suffering. Lamentations 3:22-23 say that “the steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.” God is faithful to give us the new mercies every morning for the day to come.

Looking at martyrs such as Jim Elliot, who chose to died rather that to us the rifle they had to defend himself and his companions, I can say with all truthfulness that I would not be able to endure something like that. However, God has promised that if He calls us to endure something, he will also give us the grace to endue it. The same can be said for any of the “what if” situation I might dream up. Right now, I may not know what the right response would be under certain circumstances, but I trust God would give me the grace and ability at such a time to act rightly.

I can say whole heartedly and without a shadow of a doubt that I believe in owning guns. Aside from recreational uses, part of being a man or woman is at times a call to defend. Sometime this can mean physically and at the cost of a life and it is therefore your responsibility to have the tools and skill to do so.

The waters become mudded when it comes to listing what is worth defending at the cost of another person’s life. I do not think I could justify defending my own life. For me to live is Christ and to die is gain. For the one threatening my life, to live is their only hope, for to die will be a certainty of hell.

I believe in capital punishment and in the police and military’s right to use deadly force. These citizens have taken an oath to uphold the law and are therefore God’s instruments of justice here on earth (Romans 13), though they may abuse this power. This is why I could justly kill an enemy while in the military.

I believe in the use of deadly force to protect innocent life. If someone else’s life was in certain danger and the only way to protect them was to kill their attacker, I would do so. It would be have to be a last resort and even then there are exceptions, perhaps the most obvious being abortion.

I believe in using deadly force to fight for a just cause. This is an extremely rare case, but I think that at times God brings a people to a “flash point” and that they are wrong not to act. Large scale examples of this would be the American Revolution and the Civil War. In these instances, people were united and motivated by just cause for the better of them all, instead of a just seeking personal fame, fortune, and power.

Friday, October 2, 2009


Community is a word with almost no meaning anymore. In an age of individualism, where we are out to pick ourselves up by our own bootstraps, there is no room for having a community. Indeed, when deciding on major issues such as our where we live and work, community is usually at the bottom of the list and if it is thought of at all, it is in relationship to a crime rate. Community has gone the way of the extended family in our country and we now live in neighborhoods, not communities. Anyone can be neighbors simple by proximity, but that does not make it a community. What is community and what should it look like? It is a sharing of personal property and time for a common good. It is taking serious interest in each other lives beyond curious prying. It is fellowshipping, sacrificing, sharing and living life to the fullest. It is all this and so much more. I am so thankful that I have had the grandest of opportunities to grow up in a real community, flawed and in the rough as it is. But I still wonder, what more there must be out there that we are missing out on in this gift of God to mankind we call a community.