Posted tagged ‘heaven’

Funerals Bring out the Best in Us

March 17, 2017

Dr. Steven J. Callis

Being a pastor has afforded me many opportunities to preach or attend funerals over the years.  While these occasions provide some truly interesting stories, one common theme connecting them all is the goodness of the deceased remembered by family and friends.

In one instance where I had no personal connection with the deceased, I listened to the personal remarks of a couple of people and concluded that this person was truly a blessing to his family and church.  That’s when an elderly lady seated in front of me leaned over to her friend and “tried” to whisper, “Do you think they’re talking about another Bill Davis?”  Apparently, they thought that what we heard was too good to be true!

I recall only a handful of times when the obvious negative traits of the deceased were acknowledged.  Those speaking on behalf of the individuals were realistic and honest about the rough, sharp-edged, and even mean-spirited traits portrayed in these person’s lives.

These courageous friends and family dared to mention the ‘elephant in the room.’  Yet, their acknowledgment opened the door to also recognize some of the redeeming qualities in these individuals that may often have been overlooked by others or overshadowed by their own difficult personalities.

I was unacquainted with the deceased at the funeral I attended yesterday, but it was another of many instances where I sensed a missed blessing by not having the opportunity to know the deceased.  Though it was indicative that he persisted on having things done only his way, his love for family, friends, and church – along with an over-active sense of humor – endeared him to many people, and especially his teenage grandchildren, most of whom referred to him as ‘the greatest person they had ever known.’                 Our society has conditioned us toward suspicion, hesitant to give another person the benefit of the doubt.  We are quick to find fault and slow to look for the redeeming qualities in people.  We tend to make assumptions based on what we see (appearance) rather than what we could observe (character).

Further, we are swift to judge and unwilling to forget.  We are prone to allow a person’s single lapse in judgment or behavior to taint forever their image in our minds.  We typically are not big on mercy or second chances, which is part of our own unpalatable qualities.

The speakers at the funerals where the true colors of the deceased were stated unknowingly taught the listeners a lesson: look for and encourage the redeeming qualities of those present around us rather than waiting until they are no longer here to realize how their goodness impacts others.

I want to live my life in such a way that those who come in support of my family and to bid me farewell will readily remember the redemptive traits of behavior and attitude that, by God’s grace, I was enabled to portray.  The Bible teaches us to “do nothing out of selfish ambition or empty pride, but in humility to consider others more important than ourselves.”  That is what it means to live redemptively.



October 3, 2014

Dr. Steven Callis

Eight organizations are fielding a team in the playoffs, while 22 teams are home thinking of what might have been. Yes, it is post-season Major League Baseball.  Fans will pay anywhere from $30 to $450 to get through the gate for one of these games, and seats for a world series game start at around $400, if tickets can be found.

There is little doubt that the atmosphere of such an event is an awesome experience in itself.  The noise, the hype, the aromas, the fans, and the extremely small chance of catching a foul ball or home run ball for a souvenir.

My uncle took me to my very first MLB game when I was a young child.  He caught a foul ball from the bat of a Baltimore Orioles player and gave it to my brothers and me.  I was not old enough to realize how special – and rare – that was.  My guess is that it became an everyday backyard game ball, because it certainly is not mounted under glass on my shelf.

Something extraordinary happened in 1921 that changed, and enhanced, baseball fever.  For the first time in history, the World Series, featuring a “subway battle” between the New York Giants and the New York Yankees, was broadcast on radio under the voice of the famous Grantland Rice.  Then a 9-game series, the Giants defeated the Yankees 5 games to 3 games.

That event opened the door for students, decades later, to sneak “transistor” radios and earphones into the classroom at school to hear the broadcast.  Teachers easily detected their shenanigans, some of whom confiscated the radios, and others who graciously turned a blind eye (and asked for an occasional update!).

Nearly a century later, the stadium atmosphere still is exciting, but there is something to be said for relaxing in a recliner at home with a refrigerator full of concessions and the advantage of the rewind button on the remote and the ability to watch every game – even all of the playoff games – without missing a pitch.

I once attended a game at Turner Field where our seats were so far away from the infield that I literally could not see the baseball leave the pitcher’s hand or the hitter’s bat. I determined that day to either spend the money on decent seat location or stay home. However, especially if your ticket seats you close to the action, there really is nothing like being there.

Recent films have declared that “Heaven is For Real” and “God’s Not Dead.” You can see it on the big screen or on DVD, and you can read about it in books, but there is nothing like actually being there. The Bible offers a word picture of heaven and details on how to get there when that time comes in your life.  Take a look for yourself.  This is one time when being there is the only way to really experience it.

Daddy’s Home

June 14, 2014

Daddy’s Home!

By Steven J. Callis


I can still hear those words in my mom’s voice, “Wait until your daddy gets home.” She probably did not say it as often as I remember hearing it, but the words were real, spoken in two different contexts.

Sometimes I was being given a warning that the worst was yet to come concerning discipline for my misbehavior. I do remember being disciplined by my mom, but there were times when she delegated that duty to dad. Between you and me, that was my preference. I had tried mom’s patience until she had “had enough.” She was emotionally involved.

Dad, on the other hand, had been working all day and came home with his mind still on the job. Mom’s delegating put him in a somewhat awkward position, needing to implement the discipline, yet having no emotional connection to the offense. I would be hard pressed to call it the “wrath of dad.”

For much of my earlier grade school years, dad often traveled on business. On the day he was to return home from a trip, mom would remind my brothers and me, “Daddy’s coming home tonight. Wait until daddy gets home!” In this setting, these words were not stated as a threat, but as a promise.

For some reason, I do recall being allowed to stay up past my bedtime, eating ice cubes with mom and playing games until we heard the car in the driveway. Sometimes Daddy would bring home a surprise for his three boys, but not always. It did not matter, really. We were just glad to see him.

I loved my parents. I was blessed with a loving atmosphere at home, and my parents did all they could for their children. Mom taxied all of us to our designated ball fields and school buildings and church events. She offered plenty of TLC. Nevertheless, I seemed to have a closer bond with my dad. He was a very special man. His easy-going manner and the reassurance of his voice were such a comfort to me.

Well, it’s Father’s Day 2014, and Daddy’s home! In 1995, my Dad went “home” after only a one-year battle with cancer. I still miss him tremendously, but I do like the sound of how we say it. Some people call it the golden streets, or maybe the Promised Land, or the Pearly Gates, but I like “home.” The Bible refers to us as aliens in this world; strangers in a foreign land because heaven, not the world, is our home.

How I would cherish being with Dad today; maybe take him out for lunch and give him a dozen golf balls as an expression of my love and appreciation. Instead, I rest in the assurance that he is at home with his Father, his heavenly Father, enjoying this day to its fullest. It cannot get any better than that! Happy Father’s Day, Dad.

And the Band Played On

September 7, 2012

And the Band Played On

By Steven J. Callis

As a high school student, fall Friday nights were all about the game.  After a high protein supper, I would make my way to the locker room where the only noise involved trainers taping ankles, knees, wrists, and elbows, the rustling of shoulder pads and helmets, and occasional whispers among players and coaches.  After the game, the locker room was usually quite noisy in celebration.  I was fortunate to play on a team that won most of its games.

Years later, as a parent, fall Friday nights were all about halftime.  Yes, my wife and I were band parents.  I still watched the game with interest, but the whole night revolved around an 8-minute performance of marching intricacies and musical precision.

Anticipation began as the entire band marched in step to the beat of one lone drummer keeping time with a 4/4 rim shot.  With the players finally in place, one could hear the proverbial pin drop as the announcer inquired, “Drum majors, is you band ready?”  After a series of affirmative salutes, the crowd would erupt with shouts, screams, and applause; then the band played on as they marched their daily-rehearsed patterns.

The highest point of the show was when the band “played to the judges.”  Some people call it the “push,” or the “blow out.”  Immediately prior to that moment, the band plays with its back to the home crowd, and the music is low in volume.  Then, in an instant, the entire band wheels around to face the crowd, marching towards the sideline, and playing at maximum volume.  It is a chilling and thrilling moment that produces proud fans standing in grand reception with shouts of appreciation and pride.

Thinking back in comparison, I have noticed the similarities between the football team and the band.  Both begin the event in a hushed focus, and both end with an enthusiastic celebration.  Both work hard all week, all season, to perfect their performances.  Both play for the pride of the school.

Maybe, just maybe, these thoughts can also be a description of life itself.  We begin with a focus on the very breath of life, we spend years perfecting our performance, and for those who live in the hope of the Christian belief of heaven and eternal life, received by grace through faith, our earthly days end with a celebrative homegoing.   In the words of songwriter Bart Millard, and recorded by MercyMe, “I can only imagine what it will be like when I walk by Your side.  I can only imagine what my eyes will see when Your face is before me, I can only imagine.”