Tag Archives: funerals

Thoughts On A Renewed Lease

I don’t want to dwell on the subject too much, but I’m still experiencing new insights and emotions stemming from my recent heart attack and surgery.

Today, I sat through the funeral service for the father of some childhood friends of ours. Thankfully, he was a follower of Christ, and his homegoing was more of a celebration than a time of mourning.

But it was when I walked up to the casket a little while ago that the cold reality of my own mortality chilled me. It’s one thing to say you know that death will come to us all, that one day we all will breath our last breath and meet God, but had it not been for a shift change and a doctor who did one more blood test, I would have been in a casket last week!

It is appointed unto man once to die, and after that the judgment (Hebrews 9:27). I could have been in the presence of God at this moment, but I’m not. I could have been lying there, stiff, cold, dressed in my best suit. I could have been dead, but I wasn’t.

Yet, it will happen, eventually.

You, me, all of us…it will happen.

But here’s the disturbing thing: no matter how much I’d like to boast to the contrary, I’m not ready, at least not nearly enough.

Sure, my salvation is secure; that’s not the issue. I will be clothed in the righteousness of Christ, and my works will have nothing to do with whether or not I will enter into the presence of my Father and King; by grace I am saved through faith.

But I wasn’t ready last week, and I’m barely more ready, today. What am I talking about?

I wasn’t living with the immediate expectation that at any moment my number would be called, that my appointment was near. Maybe this is why I did not have a real sense of urgency. I was living like tomorrow was a given.

But it’s not.

Some have asked, “I bet you feel like you’ve been given a new lease on life, don’t you?” Well, yeah! But it’s only a “lease,” and one day what I’ve been given must be returned.

Did you know there are penalties for returning a leased car in poor condition?

I guess what I’m trying to say is that I’ve been acting more like I own this ride, but in reality I should be cleaning out the cup holders and doing a little vacuuming.

I don’t know when my lease is up.

Do you?

(Expect more thoughts on this subject as reality continues to sink in.)

 

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Plowing the Corners In Soddy

Old VHS Tapes

Just the other day I came across a couple of old VHS tapes in my study. You do know what they are, don’t you?

The ink on the labels was so faded that I couldn’t tell what had been recorded on them. So, I took them back to the house and popped them into the old player to see what little bit of history had been archived.

To my surprise, one of the VHS tapes contained the recording of my father’s funeral back in 1991! It was a little disturbing at first, but I decided to watch some of it, especially since I didn’t remember much about what was said that day.

One of the men whom I had invited to speak was Evangelist John Mitchell, a former pastor of ours and a man who knew my dad well. During his short sermon in honor of my father, he gave an illustration that eloquently described him.

The Illustration

When describing my father, Bro. John Mitchell put it this way:

“What was Terry Baker’s real aspirations? I mean, what did he really want out of life? Well, Terry was satisfied, as few people are, with just doing little things for Jesus.

I heard the story one time of a fellow who had a couple thousand acres that he farmed, and he had these big John Deere tractors with 24-ft harrows. In other words, with one swoop with that tractor they would plow a 24-foot strip…it would take no time to get those big, huge fields done.

But there was only one problem: those fields were so big, when it turned around, it couldn’t catch the corners, and the corners were always left…and they had to get somebody to come in and do those corners because the ground was just as fertile and grew just as much in the corners as it did out in the middle.

It seemed like to me, knowing Terry 20 years, that he was satisfied in just doing the corners. He never did look for big stuff. He never was, all the time I knew him, disappointed in doing the little things for the Lord Jesus Christ. He felt like, as I do, it was just as important as that fellow out there with the big John Deere tractor…

Terry didn’t aspire to be somebody great with his name in the papers. He just wanted to do whatever he could for the Lord Jesus Christ. I would to God we had more Terry Bakers who had that type of attitude.”

In other words, my dad was content plowing the corners, for that was important, too.

My Corner

So, if my dad was here today (and I wish he was), I think he would be proud of me. Today is the 2nd anniversary of when I became pastor of a small corner in the big field of Hamilton County, Tennessee: South Soddy Baptist Church.

While others have been tasked by the Owner of the field to drive the big plows, He has entrusted me with this little spot – because the harvest is that important.

When I was younger I had aspirations of plowing larger plots of land, but that was when I thought it was MY field…my ministry, not God’s. But now that I’ve matured and learned to be more like my late father, a humble man of God, there is joy and contentment in doing the bidding of the One who called me to the work…

…even in the corners.

Photo credit: Haley Baker (visit SouthSoddyBaptist.org)

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When I Die, Will They Come?

If you’re looking for an inspirational blog post to start off your day, this one might not be for you. It’s dark and rainy as I write this, so don’t expect a lot of literary sunshine.

You see, I went to a funeral, yesterday, which is nothing new… I go to them all the time as a preacher and chaplain. Heck, it’s a common thing to go to more funerals as one gets older, and I’m certainly getting older. After a while everybody you know starts dying off.

But a common worry – yes, a worry – struck me as I sat in the funeral home chapel. It’s a low rumble of a fear that is noticeable only to me, but one that seems to be growing in intensity with every funeral I attend.

It’s the fear that no one will come to my funeral.

Take it however you want, but every time I go to a funeral and see empty seats in the chapel or church sanctuary, I wonder what it will be like when I die. Will I have affected the lives of enough people to warrant my life being memorialized or celebrated?

Don’t get me wrong; I’m not a King Herod who wishes people to mourn when I die. No, all I’m afraid of is that I will not have made a big enough difference to be missed.

A good name [is] better than precious ointment; and the day of death than the day of one’s birth. – Ecclesiastes 7:1

I’m not afraid of dying, per se; I’m afraid of dying having not done enough to be missed when I’m gone.

Do any of you ever feel this way?

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My Last Words?

Worthy Drafts?

This evening I was exploring the “draft” file to see if there was anything I could edit and post. I clicked on a few titles of unfinished works, but more often than not the posts were only titles, nothing else. Then I came upon the following draft written all the way back in March of 2011: “My Last Words.”

It was seven years ago, and I don’t even remember what kind of surgery I was about to have. All I know is that I did not die; I survived. Actually, I don’t even know if I had the surgery. I just can’t remember.

But reading the words of this post disturbed me. It almost sounds like what a suicide letter would sound like! So much regret! So much hopelessness! So much self-pity. So little victory!

Therefore, with even more transparency than I’m used to, I’m going to let you look into my past, into my mind and heart, right before believing the worst would happen. Then, I’m going to do something else…just in case.

My former last words…

I am going to have surgery tomorrow. I don’t know if I will survive. I have been having strong feelings that I won’t. I am scared, but not too much. I just pray that God takes care of my wife, Valerie, and the girls.

I have not lived much of a life. I have not been many places, or seen many things. My education has been limited and of little value. I wish that I could have studied and applied myself more early on, instead of doing fruitless things and chasing fruitless relationships.

I miss my dad, and long to see him again.

My wife could have done much better than me, for I have not provided for her, or my children, the way they deserve. She deserved a man who could take care of her emotionally and monetarily. I have done neither. I have failed her in many ways.

My children have not had the best dad, either. I have not intentionally been abusive, but I have hurt them many times with my words. They didn’t deserve that. I hope they will forgive me.

I hope that my girls will grow up to fear the Lord and live for Him, much like I have tried to do, but have failed. They have a hard life ahead of them, and without faith in God, there will be no hope.

I could say a lot more, but I hope that God will be glorified in my weakness. Maybe something I have said and done in my life will prove to have had some lasting value once I’m gone.  I pray my wife finds peace and is taken care of. I pray my daughters find godly men. – Written 3/3/2011

Like I said, I’m glad I didn’t die in that surgery, and I’m very happy those were NOT my last words! However, should something happen to me before the sun rises, allow me to write what I’d prefer to be my “last words.”

To all concerned…

Valerie, you have been the greatest gift God has given me apart from salvation. Without your love and unending support and faithfulness I would have never become the man I am today. Your joy and faith, despite innumerable ills and disappointments, have filled my life with a beauty that transcends the temporal. Your gentle eyes inspire me. Your laugh energizes me. Your love humbles me. Your very presence comforts me, especially in the night when you’re beside me. Despite what you think about yourself, you are a godly Proverbs 31 woman worthy of praise. You’re the ruby in the setting of my life.

Girls, I’m proud of all of you! Each of you are specially gifted and called by God to glorify Him in unique ways. Don’t compete with each other. Don’t ever be jealous of each other. Always love each other, despite your differences. Put God first in your lives, before relationships, family, career, money, or even yourselves. The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom – seek God and be wise! Never settle for a man who simply loves you; expect more! Find a man who loves Jesus first, then treasures you. You won’t regret it.

Mom, I love you. Becky, I love you, too. I wish we all could have spent more time together as a family down here. However, one day we will be reunited, along with daddy, and the dissappointments of the past will fade away along with the feelings of being apart.

God has been so good and gracious and merciful to me! If I have any regret, it’s that I haven’t praised Him enough. Hasn’t He been good? Yes, He has! All the time! Keep telling people about Jesus, even without me. Without Jesus what would we have? Without our hope in Christ there’d be no hope of seeing each other again, so thank Him in the congregation of unbelievers and believers alike! Let them know the reason for the hope that is within you.

If these truly end up being my last words, don’t weep for me too long. Rise up, look to the future with expectation and excitement! Joy comes in the morning!

Make my funeral one to remember. Have church! Worship! Sing! Shout! Get a man of God who can preach the infallible Word of God and let him loose! If the gospel isn’t preached with joy, passion, praise, and power at my funeral I’ll find out about it and personally ask God to disable evey game app on all your phones! If the Word isn’t preached over my casket you’ll never play word games again 😉

Finally, don’t forget to read your Bible, pray, move on with your life, know God still has a purpose for you, and become a better shot!

I hope these aren’t my last words, but if they are, I love you! See you in a little while!

My hope is built on nothing less than Jesus’ blood and righteousness… All other ground is sinking sand.”

 

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