Category Archives: Relationships and Family

Topics related to how we deal with the people God has placed in our lives.

Emma’s Birthday (and a guest post from a daughter)

Hey, folks! Check it out!

Today is my granddaughter Emma’s first birthday! Yay Emma!

But what I wanted to do for you (and her) is share what our daughter Alicia wrote on her Facebook page. I believe you will be blessed (and she won’t mind).

But let me tell you what, her first birthday party was the event of the year in Charleston, SC! I shudder to think what her Sweet 16 will be like!

But again, I hope you’re blessed with Alicia’s story.


One year ago today a beautiful baby girl was born into this world. Due to her prematurity she would be rushed to the NICU where she was cared for by amazing nurses and doctors. There she thrived with the love and nurture of strangers for ten days until we were chosen to be her parents. On January 16th, 2019 we got a call that flipped our world upside down and the journey it set us on has been amazing. We had waited so long to adopt that I was beginning to wonder if it would ever happen for us. I never should have doubted God because he taught me a huge (and expensive) lesson on patience and trust.

The day we met her there was a very special nurse that watched us from afar as we cried and held our little girl for the first time. She later came to us and told us that she had been rocking her earlier that evening and praying over her. You see, she did not know at that time that her birth mother had chosen adoption for her. All she knew was the circumstances of her birth and that she had not had any visitors for ten days. She later told us that the very day we came to meet Emma was the day she had been rocking and praying over her. She prayed for God to do something special in her life and to watch over her. To bring her love and a good home. Little did she know that God would provide just that the very same day! Not only did we cry seeing her that night, but this angel of a nurse said she cried too watching from afar as we met our daughter for the first time. Whew! That still makes me all wet eyed!

For seven weeks we went back and forth to the hospital every day to see our sweet girl. We fed her, cuddled her, bathed her and cherished our quiet time bonding with her. We were ecstatic to take her home the day after Valentines Day. We were nervous, but embraced parenthood. It has been about ten months since we brought her home. Ten blissful months. Yes, there was fighting, crying and exhaustion. We had a hard time adjusting to the roles of a working mom and a stay at home dad busy with school, but we did it. Somehow together we got through it and we wouldn’t have done it any other way. I wouldn’t trade those moments for anything in the world.. we finally have a baby girl!

She has grown to be so fun, loving and so very sweet. The way she gets excited when her daddy walks into the room warms my heart and the way she looks for me across the room when she is starting to get nervous makes me melt. This feeling must be motherhood and I love it! I thank God for choosing us to be her parents and for entrusting us with her life. Happy First Birthday sweet Emma Lou! We love you so very much and are so excited to share our life with you!!!

Image may contain: 3 people, including Alicia Westbrook, people smiling, people standing

Alicia, Emma, and Josh Westbrook. I’m proud of all three of them!

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Filed under Family, Guest Posts, Relationships and Family

Graduation 2019 and a Walk Through Musical Memory Lane

I haven’t been writing much, lately. It’s been pretty busy around here.

One thing that just happened was the graduation from college by my daughter Katie.

Katie’s first day at Bryan college was back in September of 2014 when we dropped her off at the dorms. I still remember getting back home, walking down the hall and looking into her freshly-painted, peach-colored, sparkly room, knowing those days were over. I cried a river as I leaned against her door frame.

The first picture was taken on that first day at Bryan. Here is myself, Haley (our youngest), and Katie, all sporting our brand new t-shirts to celebrate and remember the day.

Can you believe these are the same two girls?

Here is Katie with Dr. Stephen Livesay, the President of Bryan College.

Now, here’s the proud dad and mom with the graduate 🙂

So, Katie got a Bachelor of Science degree in Music Education and Vocal. She could always sing, and she can write some beautiful music. Let’s view some performance history on YouTube 🙂 See if you can tell how much she’s matured by the last one.

Here is a video of Katie back in November of 2011 (8 years ago). This was the first video of her singing I ever posted on YouTube.

Here is a video of Katie from December of 2012 singing an original, one of the first songs she ever wrote.

Here she is from before her college days in a high school talent show playing guitar (they won 1st place).

Now, the video is not the best quality, but here is Katie and I playing for her high school graduation banquet. Again, this is a song she wrote…and she’s playing the uke better than I played the bass.

This is her senior (college) recital in January of this year. I get to play with her at the very end – because I played for her when she first auditioned for a music scholarship…which she received 🙂

 

Which brings us to the last video – the one made tonight at a church in Soddy-Daisy, TN. Now that Katie is on her own, a college graduate, and living back in Chattanooga with her sister, Haley, I don’t get to perform with her anymore, nor hear her sing in church. So, it sure was a blessing to see this video of Katie doing a wonderful performance of “Breath of Heaven.

This is what loving the Lord, 6 years of college, a lot of prayer, and tons of perseverance will get you. I’m a blessed dad to have such beautiful and talented daughters.

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Filed under Christmas, Family, music, Parenting, Relationships and Family, worship

10 Easy Tips to Spark Up Your Love Life (Conservative Evangelical Edition)

I’m still pretty busy getting settled, so I’m still re-posting some older posts. Here is a good one 🙂

Your Requests

Lately I have been getting a lot of requests* from my readers and random people I meet on the street. They have been asking things like, “Hey, Anthony! Why don’t you write a blog post that deals with relationships and dating?”

There have also been multiple married couples** across the country come up to me and point-blank beg me to share my thoughts on marriage, keeping the love alive, etc. Probably 25 couples*** specifically asked, “Can you enumerate a list of actions we as couples can take to ‘spark’ things up, but in a Baptist way?”

So, what else can I do but give my readers what they ask for, right?

Therefore, as requested, here are approximately 10 easy tips to spark up your love life – if you are a conservative Evangelical or Baptist, of course.

10 Easy Tips to Spark Up Your Love Life

Men:

  1. Open the car door. I know, it may sound old fashioned, but the ladies really to like it when you open and hold the door to the car, especially when other people with bad marriages are looking. NOTE: Make sure you hold it open and watch your wife/fiance/date actually complete the task of getting all the way in before you turn your head and shut the door. Remember, it’s not your responsibility to notice the ooo-ing onlookers touched by your chivalry; that’s the female’s place…you don’t want to break her ankle.
  2. Buy her flowers. Christian girls adore God’s creation just as much as the nearest tree-hugging liberal. Therefore, don’t forget to buy your woman some flowers now and then. NOTE: Make sure beforehand if she is allergic to any particular specimen. Otherwise, make sure you have some anointing oil handy, along with someone who can demand that the spirit of asthma be gone.
  3. Choose the right restaurant. When your better half wants to go out to dinner, or when you suggest it, ask where she would like to eat. When she then says, “Oh, it doesn’t matter; wherever you want to go,” you softly say, “I think I would like to go to _______.” With what do you fill in the blank? The restaurant SHE likes, NOT where you would actually want to go.
  4. Tell her she looks beautiful. Married guys, right when you roll over in the morning and see your wife, tell her you love her AND “you look beautiful this morning!” No, she won’t believe you, but she will enjoy hearing it. Then, later in the day, say it again, right when she doesn’t expect it. NOTE: Don’t tell her she looks beautiful more than twice in the same day – she’ll know you’re up to something and the plan will backfire. Single guys, just tell her she’s “pretty” and save the rest for marriage.

Women:

  1. Tell your man you’re proud of him. In all seriousness, if there is anything a man wants, it is to be respected. Even if he’s been acting like an idiot and messing up everything he touches, let him know you are proud of him for trying. The last thing you want to live with is a bumbling idiot whose depressed, too.
  2. Brag on your husband. Don’t misunderstand, bragging on your husband is just the half of it. What you need to do to spark things up is brag on him to other women, and do it is such a way that he is not supposed to know what you said, but you “accidentally” let him find out. For example, send an email or text to your BFF saying something like, “God gave me the best husband any woman could ever dream of! I’m sorry your husband isn’t as wonderful as mine…#praying4u” Then, leave your computer on, or “accidentally” forward him a copy.
  3. Surprise him with tickets to a manly-man guy flick. Believe me, ladies, if you want to make your man feel special, accepted, loved, and adored, say to him, “Honey, guess what? I got us both tickets to go see Star Wars! Unless, of course, you’d like to go see The Day the World Was Saved by Blowing Up Stuff; I’d really like to see that, too.”
  4. Pick some flowers for him. First, you’d be amazed at how guys can be touched by something as sensitive and caring as you giving him flowers. But, keep this in mind – don’t buy them! Your man will be far less stressed if you don’t spend money on stupid stuff like flowers that are only going to die in a day or two, anyway. Pick the flowers and he will love them – and you!

TransGender & LGBT Folk:

NOTE: I can’t help you. However, see the United Methodist, Presbyterian (USA), Unitarian Church, Alliance of Baptists, and Ecumenical Catholic websites, to name a few, for further information. Or, just look for wherever the co-opted symbol of the rainbow is displayed.

For Couples (heterosexual, married, and not just living together):

  1. Pray together. Don’t just pray for each other; pray WITH each other.
  2. Go to church together. Don’t just go to church, however; sit with each other and worship together. NOTE: if you have children that seem to require the whole pew and it forces the both of you to separate and sit at either end, see my other post entitled “Spare the Rod, Spoil the Child.”
  3. 1 Corinthians 7:3-5. That’s all I’m going to say about that; you’ll need to look that up on your own.

BONUS: Spend the evening together at your local Lifeway Christian Book Store… oh, never mind… they closed all their stores. I guess you could pop some corn and sit in front of a computer and scroll through their website together.

Conclusion

The last bit of advice I can give is this: Put God first in your relationships and He will provide whatever you need to make it great and make it last.

 

* Not really.

**Again, not really. I’m joking.

***Ditto.

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Filed under baptist, Christian Living, Defending Traditional Marriage, Faith, Humor, Relationships and Family, wisdom

Re-Examining the Divorce Controversy

The following subject comes up periodically, requiring me to give a biblical explanation.  Therefore, for those who may not have done much study on it, let us consider the question of divorce and the pastorate.

My Story

I will never forget the phone call I got from a church in Rome, GA over 20 years ago. Someone on the other end of the line was part of a search committee looking for a new pastor.  They had gotten my resume and were impressed enough to give me a call.  Everything was going well until they asked a very pointed question, “Bro. Anthony, does your wife have a spouse that is still living?”  With an undeniable tone of frustration, I replied, “Yes, ME.”  

Unfortunately, this would not be the last time something like that happened.

What I encountered on the telephone that day was not unusual, nor unexpected, but it stung. You see, even though our (then) pastor told me marrying Valerie would “put the final nail in the coffin” of my ministry hopes, I chose to marry a woman who had been divorced – and there were consequences.

However, I was aware the scripture (1 Tim. 3:2) being used against me was lacking in exposition, and it was ultimately up to God whether or not I pastored a church.  So, after much study, I felt peace that what I was doing was right (but it didn’t hurt when the late Dr. Spiros Zodhiates gave us his approval).

But let me be clear about a few things…

wedding picture fourFirst,  I have never been divorced, so for me the whole argument of 1 Timothy 3:2 should be moot.  Second, my wife was left with no choice but to divorce; furthermore, it happened before she was a believer.  Third, my wife’s ex-husband remarried and divorced again before I even met her. By all accounts my wife was free to remarry, so both she and I were clear from any “adultery” issues.  

Also, I am “the husband of one wife,” and Scripture NEVER said a bishop “must be the husband of one wife who was the wife of only one husband, ever.” Just a minor observation.

So, what DOES the Bible say?

1 Timothy 3:2 says,  “A bishop then must be blameless, the husband of one wife...”  Also, verse 12 says, “Let the deacons be the husbands of one wife...”  The difficulty with these verses is not what is being said, but how it is interpreted.  

Is Paul telling Timothy that in order to be a pastor, deacon, or elder in a church, you must have only been married once?  Could it even be possible that Paul is saying that a man of God MUST have a wife, because being single would disqualify one from ministry?  These are things that have been debated for centuries.  

Some believe that a pastor, deacon, or elder should have never been divorced (or married to a divorcee) . Others believe that in order to be a proper leader, one must be married.  Still, many commentators believe that the proper rendering of the Greek is “one-woman man,” implying faithfulness and character over the number of wives.  

In reality, what the Bible says is one thing, but as William D. Mounce put it, “The Greek gives us a range of possibilities, but our theology is going to determine our interpretation.” 

I think there’s another way to look at it…

Take a look at 1 Timothy 3 and read through verse 12.  The best I can figure is that there are between 16 and 17 qualifications for the bishop, and between 6 and 8 for the deacons.  All of these are preceded with a literal or an implied “must be,” as in “must be blameless,” or a “must have.”  How does this affect the argument that an elder “must have” only been married once, never remarried, or never divorced?    

Think of any great man of God you know that has stood behind the pulpit and faithfully proclaimed the Word of God.  Has he always been blameless?  Has he always been on his best behavior?  Did he ever get drunk, covet, lose his patience, or curse his wife or children in anger?  Was he ever a novice, a beginner subject to pride? If so, then according to the logic of some, he should never be able to preach or lead in God’s church, for just as a man “must be the husband of one wife,” so he also must be “blameless, vigilant, sober, well-behaved, given to hospitality, patient, never greedy, and always in control of his house and children.”  

Do you see it?  If your interpretation leads you to believe that the bishop must have only had one wife – ever – then the same hermeneutic (the study of the principles of interpretation) should apply to the other “must be’s.”  

  • Must be the husband of one wife” = never divorced.  
  • Not a novice” = never been a beginner in the faith.

Doesn’t make sense, does it?

1 Timothy 3:1-12 is in the present infinitive tense (i.e., must be / dei einai).  The requirements listed are ones that describe a man of character and faithfulness, of sobriety and gravitas; not a beginner or one untried and unproven.  What I see is a list of requirements that may not have always been present in a man, but should be NOW, after God has done a verifiable work in his life.  In other words, the Bible says a bishop “must be,” not “must have always been,” or “must have never done.”  

Paul said, “and such were some of you:  but ye were washed, but ye are sanctified, but ye are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God.” – 1 Corinthians 6:11

Here’s my point…

I believe that there are plenty who are sitting back or hiding out because someone has convinced them that they are used up and un-usable.  For example, I can think of men right now who, for whatever reason, are divorced.  Yet, these men, now Christians, are sold-out, God-fearing, faithful, Spirit-filled fathers and husbands with proven testimonies and unimpeachable character.  Sadly, however, because of mistakes made when they were young, unsaved, and stupid, they cannot serve as deacons, much less as pastors.  

On the other hand, I can think of several pastors today who were once murderers, drug dealers, fornicators, extortioners, and abusers of mankind (do I need to explain that last one?). Yet, only because they don’t have “divorced” to add to the list of past sins, they are accepted and given full authority as leaders in the church. 

Sad.

It’s time the body of Christ re-examine this issue in the light of GRACE.

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Filed under baptist, Divorce, General Observations, Independent Baptist, legalism, Relationships and Family, Uncategorized

It’s Been 25 Years!

Dearly Beloved,

We are gathered here, today, to celebrate on this world-famous blog the twenty-fifth anniversary of the union of Anthony Baker and Valerie Riddle. 

That’s right, it’s been 25 years today!

Unfortunately, nothing fantastic has been planned (couldn’t be afforded), but the simple fact that a couple staying together for twenty five years, especially these days, is fantastic beyond measure!

So, to my wife, Valerie, I look forward to many, many more years with you…years even more wonderful than before. I can’t imagine what the next 25 years would be like without you.

With Valerie and me in this picture are my late grandparents, Lee Roy and Lorene Cagle.

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Filed under Marriage, Relationships and Family

Ten Ways to Fail As a Father

Happy Father’s Day!

There is a portrait of my family hanging in our living room with the following verse written below it.

And if it seem evil unto you to serve the LORD, choose you this day whom ye will serve; whether the gods which your fathers served that were on the other side of the flood, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land ye dwell: but as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD. – Joshua 24:15 KJV

There is a lot to be said about a father who will say such things. There’s a lot to be said about a father who won’t.

Tuff Stuff

I want to share with you a list I found in a sermon by a Wesleyan pastor, Bruce Howell. I don’t know if he came up with it or if he found it somewhere else. All I know is that it is convicting.

There will be a lot of people talking about how to be a better dad, but if you want to know how to fail, here are 10 sure-fire ways to screw up.

Ten Ways to Fail As a Father

1. Have fights in front of your children. Then when guests come, turn around and act affectionate toward one another.
2. Stifle your children’squestions by saying, “Don’t bother me now; I’m busy.”
3. Take no interest in your children’s friends. Let them run around with whomever they choose.
4. Never discipline your children; try to use psychology instead.
5. Nag them about their schoolwork; never compliment them on their achievements.
6. Demonstrate your love for them with material things. Give them everything their little hearts desire.
7. Never discuss the facts of life with them. Instead, let them learn about sex from their friends, public school, or pornographic literature.
8. Set a bad example so the children will not want to grow up to be like you.
9. Absolutely refuse to believe it if you are told that your children have done something wrong.
10. Let your children make their own choices in the matter of religion. Be careful not to influence them in any way.

Help us, Father God, to be more like you.

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Filed under Christian Living, Christian Maturity, Life Lessons, Parenting, Relationships and Family

“One Man’s Sunset; Another Man’s Dawn”

I wrote the following post in June 2011. On June 11, 1991, my father passed away. The following week was Father’s Day, and it was tough.

I repost this, again, in his memory.


Over a two-week period, just over 20 years ago, things started to get a little weird.

I can’t recall all of the moments that led up to me concluding something bad was going to happen, but a couple stand out above the rest.

The Revival Service

It was in June of 1991. The church that I attended was having a week-long series of meetings. My mother and father did not attend the same church as I did, but on the last night of the revival, which was a Friday, my dad came. The evangelist preached on heaven that night and said something that hit me like a brick. He said, “Heaven will never be real to you until there is someone there you want to go see.”

The Movie

In that very same week, my family went to see a movie. It was a new animated film called An American Tail: Fievel Goes West. In one particular scene, an old hound dog, the retiring sheriff, sat watching a sunset with the little mouse, Fievel. The legendary actor, Jimmy Stewart, speaking as Wylie Burp, said to Fievel,

“Just remember, Fievel – one man’s sunset is another man’s dawn. I don’t know what’s out there beyond those hills. But if you ride yonder… head up, eyes steady, heart open… I think one day you’ll find that you’re the hero you’ve been looking for.” – Wylie Burp

The moment he said, “one man’s sunset is another man’s dawn,” I felt a chill and a heaviness that took my breath. I knew my dawn was coming.

Sunset

Early on Monday morning, June 11, 1991, while working 3rd shift as a security guard in a high-security nuclear facility, my dad felt sick. He asked a cleaning person which bathroom was clean, then went in, took off his gun belt, bent over a sink, and died.

It had only been since Friday the 8th that I had heard that message about heaven. That Monday was when heaven became more real than I could have ever imagined. My dad, Terry L. Baker, went home to be with his Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. He surrendered his badge, took off his gun belt, and laid down – literally.

Dawn

As the sun rose over the horizon, I sped my Datsun 280Z toward the hospital. When I got there, I asked for my dad, but was led to a room where my mother was sitting. In a sobbing cry, she looked up to me and held out a little plastic bag containing my father’s personal items. She said, “This is all I have left…” That was the exact moment when I found out. That was the exact moment it became dawn.

It may have been my dawn, but it was one of the darkest moments in my life. My dad and I were terribly close. We worked together, played together, worshiped together, and preached together. In the week before my daddy died, I went up to him and told him that I really felt like something was going to happen. He told me that he would outlive my grandchildren. But in case he didn’t, I had to make sure of one thing – would I preach his funeral?

The Funeral

Some people could not understand how I did it, but I did preach my dad’s funeral. You see, I was 24, but I had accepted the call to preach when I was 16. My dad had been a pastor, a lay preacher for years. It may have been just guy talk at the time, but in a moment of male-bonding, my dad and I agreed that whoever died first, for whatever reason, the other would preach the funeral. That is why I asked my dad that question. I needed to be sure he was serious. His response was, “Of course. I wouldn’t have it any other way.” So I did.

My dad presided over a lot of funerals, and he even carried in his Bible a sermon that he used more often than not. The title of the sermon was “The Times I Need Him Most.” So, from his own Bible, from his own outline, I preached his funeral. And unlike I usually do today, I even gave an altar call. Believe it or not, right there to my left, beside the casket, a friend of the family came down to the altar and asked Jesus to come into his life. Never once had my dad led a person to the Lord when he preached a funeral sermon, but this time was different.

The Family Car

There will always be those who think the following is crazy; only coincidence: but God showed up in the limousine as we went to the graveyard. As soon as I got into the car, I asked the driver, who was a Christian friend, to turn the radio on. I wanted to hear some encouraging music. When he did, the DJ on WAY FM out of Nashville played a song by Wayne Watson, The Ultimate Healing. Right after that, the DJ came on the air and said, “I know we usually have songs pre-planned according to a particular format, but I just really feel led by God to play this next song – I don’t know why.”  The song was Where There is Faith, by 4Him. The second verse goes like this:

There’s a man across the sea
Never heard the sound of freedom ring
Only in his dreams
There’s a lady dressed in black
In a motorcade of Cadillacs
Daddy’s not coming back
Our hearts begin to fall
And our stability grows weak
But Jesus meets our needs if only we believe

CHORUS
Where there is faith
There is a voice calling, keep walking
You’re not alone in this world
Where there is faith
There is a peace like a child sleeping
Hope everlasting in He who is able to
Bear every burden, to heal every hurt in my heart
It is a wonderful, powerful place
Where there is faith

Today

Today I went to the grave where my father’s body is waiting for a trumpet to sound. I am comforted by the fact one day we will see each other again (1 Thessalonians 4:13-18). But in the meantime, I must carry on in the task that I have been called to do.

I went to the grave, and even though I know my dad is not there, I read Proverbs 4 aloud. What better words could have been said in remembrance of a committed, consistent, caring, God-fearing, humble father? They were words that I wanted to say out loud because they were being fulfilled.

“He taught me also, and said unto me, Let thine heart retain my words: keep my commandments, and live. Get wisdom, get understanding: forget [it] not; neither decline from the words of my mouth.” – Prov. 4:4-5

“Hear, O my son, and receive my sayings; and the years of thy life shall be many. I have taught thee in the way of wisdom; I have led thee in right paths. … Enter not into the path of the wicked, and go not in the way of evil men. … My son, attend to my words; incline thine ear unto my sayings. Let them not depart from thine eyes; keep them in the midst of thine heart. … Let thine eyes look right on, and let thine eyelids look straight before thee. Ponder the path of thy feet, and let all thy ways be established. Turn not to the right hand nor to the left: remove thy foot from evil.” – Proverbs 4:10-11, 14, 20-21, 25-27

Dad, I just want you to know that I am still in the fight. I haven’t given up. I wasn’t a fly-by-night wannabe, but a real man of God. My Sword is still sharp. My aim is still true. I even have some “arrows” in my quiver that you will meet one day.

Don’t worry, even though I know you won’t – I will keep pressing on and fighting the good fight, until the time of my own sunset. Then, when this life is over, I hope I can stand there beside you when Jesus says to you, “Well done.” You did good, Daddy. I’ll make you proud.

Your loving son,

Rev. Anthony C. Baker

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Filed under Future, Preaching, Relationships and Family, salvation, Uncategorized