The following post originally appeared on my previous blog, "We've a Story to Tell to the Nations," on July 9, 2006.
THROUGH IT ALL
When you are a child, you don't realize how deeply special it is to have a few people in your life who love you unconditionally. Years later in adulthood, you look back into the windows of your youth and realize what a magnanimous gift were those few people.
This afternoon I heard that a dear woman of God went into Jesus' presence yesterday afternoon. Gloria Taylor is one of the wonderful people God brought in my life. She and her husband Steve were early mentors in my life during my childhood and youth.
Mom and Dad became friends with them in the 1960's at Edwards Road Baptist Church in Greenville, South Carolina. They maintained their friendship when my parents moved to North Carolina in the 1970's. When we returned to Greenville in 1980, my first memory of Wednesday nights there was eating supper with Steve and "Glo." That tradition continued for much of the next fifteen years. We shared life together over Wednesday night church suppers from 1980-1995. When the Taylors moved to Franklin, Tennessee, to be with their children and grandchildren, I remember my mother grieving a little. She told me once, "Except for vacations, I have eaten supper with Gloria every week for fifteen years!"
Steve and Gloria's impact on my life was phenomenal. As a youngster, I was deeply impressed by their love for the Lord, worship, their family, church, and the lost. Steve, a musical evangelist, beautifully played the trumpet. He traveled for years primarily with Angel Martinez, a famous SBC preacher-evangelist. One SBC preacher told me years ago that Steve Taylor probably visited more SBC churches doing revival meetings than any man alive next to Martinez. Steve received a beautiful white eagle award from the SBC's Evangelists Conference years ago for a lifetime of evangelistic service.
I fondly remember him playing and singing the songs "Through it All" and "He Touched Me," both popular in churches in the 1960's and 1970's. Steve's marvelous heart always shone through as he sang and played. I asked him to play for my ordination in 1998. He was so choked up he could hardly play that night.
The Taylors overflowed with love. I always felt welcomed and wanted in their presence. That says a lot for a man's recollection of his boyhood.
Many Sundays I remember hearing Steve's bellowing "Amen." Thank God for that. More than anything, they taught me to worship God. They loved the songs, praises, and singers of the Lord.
JESUS NEVER FAILS
Gloria loved the Christian music group TRUTH - popular from the '70's through the '90's. I remember sitting with Steve and Gloria twenty years ago at TRUTH Christmas Spectacular Concerts at the Hyatt Regency. Those were some of TRUTH's greatest days (when the 4Him quartet and other fabulous singers were a part of the ensemble), and they sang those unforgettable songs like Majesty, There is a Hope, A New Heart, and my favorite, Jesus Never Fails.
Gloria once heard one of her daughter-in-laws was in labor in Tennessee. She got in her car to drive to Nashville, and TRUTH's Gentle Hands came over the WLFJ radio station. Gloria said, "I knew everything was going to be ok!"
|Steve and Gloria with Roger Breland, the Director of TRUTH|
One lasting memory I have of attending concerts with them was at First Baptist Spartanburg, SC, when their choir performed Integrity Music's God with Us musical. When the music came out it was ground breaker, introducing the use of praise and worship banners, praise teams, and more praise choruses to many Southern Baptist churches. The praise team for that particular evening was none other than TRUTH. I remember Steve raising his hand and shouting, "Glory!" at a high and holy moment and watching Gloria jam to the music.
She was a model mother, raising four children with her husband on the road many weeks. Her grandchildren and many friends loved her. For many years during my childhood, my mom and I would visit the Taylors on Christmas Eve. When I was in high school and college, I used to love to stop by and visit the Taylors in their town home.
PASS ME NOT
Recently, one Wednesday afternoon, I suddenly felt prompted to write Gloria a long letter, thanking her for her influence in my life. It was one of those moments when I thought about delaying, and it was as if the Spirit of God said, "NO! Do this now or you will not have another opportunity."
I sat down immediately, poured out my memories in a letter and mailed it the next day. I was later told that one of her children read it to her when she was in her declining state. She would nod her head to many of the things I wrote.
This past Sunday morning I had not yet heard of her homegoing. In our first service I sang as a solo the hymn Pass Me Not O Gentle Savior. When I began singing, I thought, "This one is for you, Gloria."
On Saturday, as Gloria was near death, her son brought in a record player with a stack of Steve's old records. She spent her last day listening to her husband sing the praises of God. And then the angels of heaven came and transported her soul into the bosom of Jesus, the One she loved and worshiped.
As my mom said this weekend, Gloria is about to put on her dancing shoes in the presence of Jesus.