On Burning Burberries and Babies

Waking to the News

I don’t advise it, but it’s something I do often … I wake up to the news.

Honestly, the first thing I should do before rolling out of bed in the morning is pray or read a verse of Scripture. Yet, because my phone is my alarm clock, and because there’s usually a message that pops up right after I turn off the alarm, I habitually (may addictively) take a quick look (just a peek) at what’s happened overnight or the big news story of the day.

This morning, besides the incessant drum of anti-Trump rhetoric and the usual “Russian collusion” vitriol, there was a story about a clothing retailer that burned $37 million of its own over-stocked inventory.

And the masses rose up in protest.

Burberry Burning

Image credit: Wikipedia

Now, if you do most of your shopping at “off-the-rack” stores like I do, especially when items are on clearance, you’ve probably never even heard of Burberry. Again, if you’re like me, it is highly unlikely you’ve paid 3,000 dollars for a coat, so Burberry’s products are probably not hanging in your closet.

So, if you are a commoner like me (or just refuse to spend a lot of money on designer clothing), what Burberry does with their overstocked inventory couldn’t matter less in my mind. However, when the news came out that the British fashion label incinerated $37 million dollars worth of their clothes rather than let it fall into the hands of discounters or the “grey market,” a true meltdown ensued.

Many cried, “Why couldn’t they just give the clothes to the poor?” Others, like Sheena Raza Faisal at the website “Jezebel” wrote: “Let me be clear—the label literally burned fashion and cosmetic products carrying the Burberry trademark, because capitalism is a nonsensical loop of wastefulness.” Oh, the horrors of making a profit. Most just saw the whole thing as a waste of good merchandise – $37 million dollars worth.

Determining Value

But what are we really talking about? Are we talking about the burning of clothing that could have been offered to employees of Burberry or given to the coatless poor, or are we just upset that we didn’t get a chance at snatching up something for free?

Think about it, there’s something more offensive when we hear of expensive things being destroyed as opposed to inexpensive things. If Ferrari or Porche disclosed that it was going to reduce its inventory by crushing fifty $200,000 cars a month, you and I would be sickened. But if Ford announced that it was going to do the same with fifty of its units, each of which worth no more than $30,000, we’d barely sniff out a complaint.

The reason Burberry can charge so much for its products (i.e., $1,350 per coat) is because of low volume, high demand, and brand exclusivity (the very thing anti-capitalists complain about but love to wear). The $37 million dollars worth of merchandise equates to around 20,000 coats.

Had the same 20,000 coats retailed for only $50 each (like what I’d buy), we’d only be talking around a million dollars worth of merchandise burned. Sad, but not newsworthy.

Incalculable Value

But what of the worth of a child? What of the worth of an unborn baby? What of the worth of a human being with full potential? Who can determine it?

Burberry’s clothing and makeup products are expensive because of limited quantity, high demand, and prestige. However, very little about these products differ from similar products produced by other companies – only the label.

On the other hand, every human life (inside or outside the womb) has intrinsic value. In other words, each of us – including the unborn – are valuable despite anything else. We are valuable because of Who designed us, Who created us, and Who already set the price for us on the cross of Calvary.

People are up in arms because around 20,000 coats (and makeup) were destroyed last year. Yet, last year in the U.S. alone, around 600,000 or more babies (estimated) were destroyed in the womb. At least that’s down from a million in 2011. Yay. Woohoo.

And what do the “Jezebel”-like folk think about all THAT waste?

They “Thank God for Abortion.” (Viewer discretion advised)

Too bad we can’t stop destroying babies and just burn more coats.

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Filed under Abortion, current events, politics

Mustard-Seed Faith and Moving Mountains

Just a word about faith and moving things…

Remember the verse where Jesus said if we had faith the size of a mustard seed – very small – we could move mountains from one place to another?

And Jesus said unto them, Because of your unbelief: for verily I say unto you, If ye have faith as a grain of mustard seed, ye shall say unto this mountain, Remove hence to yonder place; and it shall remove; and nothing shall be impossible unto you. – Matthew 17:20

But when we talk about moving mountains, remember movement can also be directional.

So often we want God to positionally relocate a mountain so that our forward path might be easier to navigate. In other words, we want God to move the mountain out of our way so that the journey might be less of a struggle.

But what if the mountain remains? What if, despite our faith, it’s part of God’s plan for our lives that the mountain stay right where it is – in our way? That happens more often than not, doesn’t it?

It’s when the mountain doesn’t move to “yonder place” we need to have faith Jesus won’t let us fall from the jagged cliffs as He pulls us, pushes us, and gives us the strength to climb, thereby moving the mountain – not away, but behind us.

For today, have a little mustard-seed faith…the kind that says to the most formidable cliff, “You will not stand in my way!”

If it’s the Lord’s will for the mountain to remain in place, He’ll make it possible to conquer it and move it to “yonder rearview mirror.”

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Would You Pray for Us?

I don’t want to go long with this post, but I need to ask for your prayer support. We are nothing short of desperate for your intercession.

Here are some specific ways you can pray:

  • Please pray for my family and myself, that the Lord will protect us, strengthen us, bind us together.
    • Pray that God will protect our marriage
    • Pray that we will be wise parents during these later years
    • Pray that our daughters (even though the youngest is now turning 18) will not suffer any more harm due to ministry, but will grow in their desire to serve Him
    • Pray that the Holy Spirit will strengthen me and encourage me in my role as husband, father, and spiritual leader
  • Please pray for the health issues my family is facing, specifically for my wife and my mother.
    • Pray for healing
    • Pray for clarity and provision with treatments
    • My mother’s back surgery
    • My wife’s myriad of health issues
    • Pray that the Lord will strengthen “the weak hands [and] steady the shaking knees!” (Isa. 35:3 CSB) Heck, just pray the whole chapter over me!
  • Please pray for provision through this very lean time.
    • Pray that my income will increase in order to not only pay the necessary bills but to allow me to pour into ministry needs
    • Pray that financial provision will come into our church in order to continue the work of reaching our community with the gospel (we have only enough funds to last through September, that’s all)
    • Pray that favor will be shown as I seek new clients (I work with Aflac)
    • Pray that God will burden the hearts of those in the position to give generously unto the work of a local ministry
  • Pray for our little church that it will become mighty through prayer and an outpouring of grace.
    • Pray that we (I and a couple others) will be able to reach the lost and unchurched with the good news of the love of Jesus
    • Pray that the Lord will send us workers, even just a few
    • Pray that God will receive glory through the revitalization of South Soddy Baptist Church
    • Pray that our new website (set to launch in a couple of weeks) will be successful in reaching new people, both here and abroad
    • Pray for clarity and vision as I do my best to shepherd this congregation, including my family
  • Pray that I (I can’t speak for anyone else), no matter what, will see that my Hope, like sung by Mercy Me, is not just in Jesus, but IS Jesus. He is why I do what I do. He is why I’m still here.

  • Help me to remember the words of Lauren Daigle’s powerful song, “Trust In You.”

Brethren, pray for us. – 1 Thessalonians 5:25

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Filed under Christian Unity, Church, ministry, Parenting, Prayer, Struggles and Trials

ICPC In Review (Video Included!)

This post is going to be packed full of media, so I hope you can view it on a good computer or smartphone…

Last Week

It has been a week since my last post and I’m chomping at the bit to talk about all that’s gone on. However, for the sake of time (it’s nearly midnight at the time of this writing, and I have to out of the house by 7 a.m.), I will stick to one subject – my trip to the annual training seminar with the International Conference of Police Chaplains (ICPC) in Lexington, KY.

Below is a photo of me and the three other chaplains from our Sheriff’s Office who attended this year’s annual training seminar (ATS).

Myself and Chaplains Rich Payne, Allen Lindon, and Sergio Freeman (who is also a Chaplain with the Air Force and the US Secret Service)

I really didn’t know what to expect when I agreed to go to the ICPC training last week. I had never attended anything like it, but it was being paid for by our Hamilton County Sheriff’s Office and was needed for our department to meet certain government credentialing standards, so who was I to say “No”?

What I experienced was an event that was informative, encouraging, and challenging. Even though I have been a police chaplain for 3 years, most of the courses I had to take for my “basic” level of credentialing contained a lot I’d never learned from experience.

What the ICPC does is provide education and instruction to those who want to be or are already chaplains to law enforcement officers and the victims they serve. Police departments cannot pick and choose the faith traditions of those who want to serve as chaplains, and this training is not meant to promote one particular faith, either. The courses of instruction are designed to help the police chaplain do his job, regardless of denomination or faith.

For that matter, as a law enforcement chaplain, it’s not my primary job to promote my faith while performing the duties of the position. However, where I am able, I want to share the light of Christ in a very, very dark world most people never see. I’m very thankful that I got to fellowship with a lot of chaplains last week who were solid Christians and devoted followers of Jesus Christ, even though not all were in my particular denomination.

Below is a list of the 12 mandatory courses I attended over the 5 days of the seminar:

  • Explanation of the basic courses

    Intro to Law Enforcement Chaplaincy

  • Death Notification
  • Stress Management
  • Ceremonies and Events
  • Law Enforcement Family
  • Ethics
  • Confidentiality and Legal Liability
  • Responding to a Crisis
  • Substance Abuse
  • Suicide
  • Officer Death and Injury
  • Sensitivity and Diversity

I also took another course on how First-Responder Chaplains (which is what police chaplains are) can be used during riot situations, along with attending a larger group session dealing with “implicit bias.”

They Came from Everywhere!

While I walked around the convention center during the conference, I thought it would be cool to collect pictures of department patches. The following photo collection is only a portion of the police (and fire) departments that were represented at this international event. Some chaplains that attended (like myself) didn’t have dress uniforms to wear, so the following photos only tell part of the story.

The Video

In order to give you a little more insight into my week, I made a little video and posted it on YouTube. I hope you will take the time to watch it.

But before you do, I need to clarify a couple of things.

First, as you watch the video clips of the memorial service, it may seem odd that people stood up when the pictures of canine officers were shown, but not when the people were shown. Well, what actually happened was that whenever the officers of a particular state were shown, the people there from that state would stand up and hold up their blue “candle.” However, when the fallen police dogs were shown, they were shown after officers from other countries were shown, so the American Flag came up instead of individual states. That’s why all Americans stood at the same time.

Second, I left a very disturbing statistic out of the video, and I want to share it here. New numbers were released to us as we were at the conference, and those numbers were heartbreaking and sobering: 4 times more police officers die of suicide than those who die in the line of duty.

Did you get that? Besides having the highest divorce rates, police officers take their own lives four times more often than those who die while performing their duty!

If there was no other reason to do what I do, that’s reason enough.

If you want to do something different, why not consider volunteering to be a Police Chaplain where you are? There are risks, but the rewards are well worth it – and those you serve will thank you. #ICPC4cops.org

Click here to visit ICPC’s website.

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Filed under America, community, ministry

ICPC Week In Lexington, KY

This week I’m not writing or posting very much, not even on ProverbialThought.com. The reason is that I am in Lexington, Kentucky, attending the 45th annual training seminar for the International Conference of Police Chaplains (ICPC).

The purpose of this week-long seminar is to provide valuable training for law enforcement chaplains, along with the opportunity to meet and develope friendships with fellow chaplains from across the nation and around the world.

This is the first one of these conferences I’ve attended, and after the second day my brain is a little tired – information overload, as we say. But I do appreciate Sheriff Jim Hammond and the Hamilton County Sheriff’s Office for making this trip possible.

Tomorrow afternoon there will be a memorial service honoring the fallen. Thursday night there will be a more formal banquet. In between all the classes and meetings we try to get some food, meet new friends, compare notes, and work in time to study for Sunday sermons (the last one is me, at least).

I will share more about this conference, some photos, and some things I’ve been learning in another post. But if you’d like, you can go to the following website to learn a little more about the ICPC, police chaplains, etc. There may even be some recent video now posted.

Go to www.icpc4cops.org

In the meantime, hug a cop and say a prayer for him or her and their families.

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Should Virtual Church Be A Thing?

I just want to do a quick survey by asking you guys a quick question.

What are your thoughts with regards to “virtual church”?

Try not to be overly-critical with your answers, if possible; I understand that there’s no real replacement for gathering together corporately in worship. However, can you see a place where a church’s website can not only meet the needs of a local context, but also be a means to minister to those either outside the community or otherwise incapable of attending services on site?

If you have suggestions on how it could be used in a positive way without necessarily devaluing the command to “forsake not the assembling of ourselves together,” please let me know.

Feel free to respond by leaving a comment.

Thanks 🙂

 

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Filed under Christian Unity, Church

More Than a Career, It’s a Means to a Calling

The following is from an article I published this evening on LinkedIn. I’m just now starting to take advantage of that social networking medium, so if you have any suggestions, let me know 🙂

Heads Up: I’m working on a new book, and this article is a hint of what’s to come.


Means to a Calling

How familiar is the term “bi-vocational” to you? If you are a member of a small church, or if you are a pastor of one, then you are very familiar with the term. However, judging by the uninformed comments on social media (those slamming ministers who ask for millions of dollars to buy new jets), it would seem that much of the public is unaware that the good majority of small-church pastors are bi-vocational – which means they have to work more than one job.

I am a bi-vocational pastor; I’ve been one my whole ministerial life. Even though I have a seminary degree, even receiving the Theology Award when I earned my Masters in Ministry, I still serve a church that cannot afford to compensate a full-time pastor. Unlike many assumptions, this is more of the norm these days, not the exception. Gone are the days when a young man entering ministry could expect to earn his primary living from the ministry. Now, even the most educated and qualified ministers leaving Bible schools and seminaries should also have a skill with which they can find a job to put food on the table and pay the rent.

In Acts 18:1-3 we read of the apostle Paul’s bi-vocational trade. Upon coming to the city of Corinth he met up with a husband-and-wife team named Priscilla and Aquila who “were of the same craft” and lived with them, for “they were tentmakers.” In a general sense, tentmaking was not what Paul was known for, nor was it his primary calling in life; he was an apostle to the Gentiles. However, even this great man chose (even though he could have expected otherwise) to keep up a skill which helped fund his personal ministry. After all, there weren’t many places where he could go preach where people took up large offerings to give him afterwards; in many cases all he got was a beating.

So, even though the ministerial climate in America is much different than what Paul endured, there is still a need for pastors and ministers to be able to support themselves when those they serve have little to offer in return. There is nothing wrong with a pastor earning his living from the ministry, and Paul says as much in 1 Corinthians 9:13 and 1 Timothy 5:17-18. However, church attendance is on a decline across the board and overall giving is not what it used to be; therefore most ministers must supplement their calling with other income. That is why I am writing this article: my job, my own version of “tentmaking,” is not a means to an end; it’s a means to a calling.

Over the forty-five years I have literally had…don’t be shocked…forty-two different jobs! Never mind, you can be shocked – that’s a lot. Now, many of those were part-time jobs that overlapped, but since my first job as a young, teenage preacher, I’ve done around forty different things in order to facilitate what God has called me to do. Granted, even though much of what I have done in the “secular” world has, in some ways, been ministry, none of what I’ve done…no label I’ve ever worn…no title I’ve ever had…has been the main thing I’ve desired to do. All I want to do is preach the gospel and be an under shepherd to the Great Shepherd’s sheep.

Today, and hopefully until the day when I can no longer work – or don’t have to – I am an agent with a great company, Aflac. For the ten previous years I drove a school bus and trained new bus drivers. Driving the school bus allowed me to be a positive influence on children and affect future generations, but Aflac will now give me the opportunity to be a servant of Christ by example and deed in the grown-up world of business and insurance. I will be able to help people protect themselves against financial hardship in the event of accidents and/or illnesses, help businesses take care of their employees and keep good talent while decreasing their tax burden, and most importantly keep food on the table as I serve the Lord’s people and the community in which we have been placed.

If you can introduce me to a business owner or decision maker, I would surely appreciate it! In doing so you will not only help my business to grow, but you will be helping me help others in more ways than you can know. With your help we can “make more tents,” but that won’t be all; the job is just a means to the calling. In reality, bi-vocational ministry is more than having a second job, it’s part of the calling, too.

 

Email me at Anthony_Baker@us.aflac.com for more information on how Aflac can help you 🙂

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Filed under ministry, Work