Category Archives: community

How Polluted Is Your City?

As much as I hate to admit it, everything that Mark West says in this article about Chattanooga (my home town) is true. For example, he points out that Chattanooga was once considered the most polluted city in America – I remember those days when one couldn’t even see Lookout Mountain because of the brown smog that hung low over the city.

But it’s another kind of pollution that Mark describes in “Chattanooga: A Polluted City,” and that pollution is proving far more difficult to eradicate.

I love my city, and I’m happy to live here. I mean, seriously, Chattanooga is regularly listed as one of those beautiful places everyone one – especially the nature-loving folk – should visit at least once. In addition to the natural beauty, there’s the history, the southern culture, and the courteous people. Yet, a serious problem wafts through the streets, and it’s going to take a lot more than nice words and eco-friendly investments to solve.

Click on the above links and read my friend’s assessment of the situation. If you have any other suggestions, I’m sure he’ll be glad to hear. Just let him know I sent you ๐Ÿ˜‰

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Parsonage Update for July 21st

Greetings, everyone!

Below is a video I put together on Friday, July 21, at the parsonage where we will soon be moving – I hope.

As many of you already know, we are in a time of transition. The house we are in is being sold, and the house to which we are moving is being made livable (I could say “restored,” but that would be stretching it just a little).

A lot of work has been done, but a lot more needs to be done. The scary part is that I have no idea how it’s going to happen. As of right now there are not enough funds to do certain necessary repairs, the most expensive being roofing, windows, and something other than one wall-mounted window-unit air conditioner.

Yet, God is bigger than any of our problems. If He owns the cattle on a thousand hills; if He can raise up kingdoms; if He can speak to the storms and make the wind be still; if He can have a man catch a fish to pay his taxes; if He can part the sea one day, then walk on it another; if He can create time; if He can speak the world into existence; if He can save this old sinner and make me righteous in His sight; then He should be able to bring together what we need for some old block house in Soddy Daisy!

Can I get an “amen”?

Anyway, I’d appreciate your prayers for my family, our ministry, and this parsonage project.

(By the way, my special thanks goes out to all of you who’ve submitted guest posts to keep this blog active.)

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Remembering Our Brush With Terror in Chattanooga

Two years ago, today, a man drove around in his convertible Mustang and shot up my town. His goal was to kill as many servicemen as possible, so first he drove by the recruiting office on Lee Highway and unleashed a hail of bullets into the glass-fronted building. The “No Weapons” sticker applied to both serviceman and citizen alike, so no one was able to stop him before he drove off.

Photo credit: The Telegraph, UK

I stood here and wept as I took this picture. Note the green marks where spent shell casings lay.

The next place he went to was the Marine Corp/Navy Reserve training facility on Amnicola Highway, right between the community college so many of us have attended and the riverfront bike trails and pavilions so many of us have enjoyed. There the Muslim terrorists – for that is what he was, and that is what he intended on being – once again began firing on unarmed Marines and sailors with his high-powered semi-automatic rifle. At least one Marine had unofficially brought his personal sidearm with him that day and tried to stop the terrorist, but to no avail. Before long four Marines lay dead.

(Left to Right) Sgt. Carson Holmquist, Staff Sgt. David Wyatt, Gunnery Sgt. Thomas Sullivan, and Lance Clp. Squire K. Wells

A Navy sailor would later succumb to his wounds.

Petty Officer 2nd Class Randall Smith

 

The local police in Chattanooga sped to the location where the terrorist was committing murder and engaged him with their own weapons.

Bullets from the conflict left holes in buildings as far away as the Coca-Cola offices across the highway and not even in view of the firefight. But before long, the self-proclaimed jihadist lay dead, too.

But Chattanooga survived.

Within the hour my city was the focus of world-wide attention. Terrorism had come to the South, and it was worth noting. But what was also worth noting was the righteous indignation of our citizens, and the flickering flames that dared the enemy of freedom to fan us into a raging fire. We were shocked by what happened, but we were far from terrorized; we Tennesseans aren’t the type to retreat from a fight.

It wasn’t long before the first American flags started appearing at the two places where gunfire was exchanged.

In no time there were hundreds, and then there were thousands. Flags and mementos too numerable to count turned into defiant monuments to those who died protecting our freedom.

Tents were erected to shelter the thousands upon thousands of flags, letters, and memorabilia from the weather.

It wasn’t long before black, white, and every other color and faith united arm-in-arm as family, as Chattanoogans… as Americans.

In short, terror didn’t have it’s desired effect; it had the opposite.

……………………..

Skip forward two years and a few months after a presidential election. What happened to the unity?

Unfortunately, we are now divided more than ever. What the terrorist couldn’t do with his guns, politicians and the media, with weapons of jealousy, anger, lies, and hate, are succeeding. Unconquerable from without, we are being destroyed from within.

Chattanooga, are we still strong? Then let us come together once again as Americans, or else the “fallen five” will have fallen in vain.

#Noogastrong, #Chattanoogastrong

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An Official Goodbye to an Era

Time for a Change

As you know, I have been driving a school bus for a while. Much of that time was spent in an area where I used to live and pastor, Lookout Valley, TN (just in sight of Lookout Mountain).

For several years (actually, since 2009) I was what we call a “park out” driver. That means that I was able, because I had the space, and because of the closeness to the schools I served, to keep my bus at home. That was extremely convenient in that all I had to do to go to work was walk out my front door.

But now that I no longer pastor in Lookout Valley, nor do I live there, it is no longer convenient to drive a bus route in that area. It makes much more sense to drive a school bus route closer to where I will now be living (in that parsonage I recently showed you) 30 miles away.

Now, there are no guarantees I will be able to secure a route in the area to which I am moving – that is still a matter of prayer. However, as with the last route I had, the fact remains the same: I want to be a fixture in the community in which I pastor. If it’s God’s will, He will provide the route I need.

It happened before, you know.

If it be the Lord’s will, next school year (2017-2018) I will secure a route on a special needs bus (a small bus) that I can park in the new church’s parking lot. However, that remains to be seen. This summer I will be working as a driver trainer, but I will be keeping my eyes open for whatever opportunities are out there.

In the meantime, I thought I would share with you some photos that tell a little about the era that is passing, the era of Bus 374.

A History In Pictures

When I first started driving for Durham School Services in Hamilton County (the Chattanooga, TN area), I was a “sub” driver. In other words, I didn’t have my own route, a particular route with an assigned bus, that I drove every day. What I did the first couple of years was fill in and drive whatever route needed me, wherever that route happened to go.

As a matter of fact, when I started driving a school bus in Kentucky back in 2001, that is all I ever did – work as a substitute driver. Some of the experiences I had while doing that, especially the part including tennis balls, is detailed in my book. However, I unfortunately don’t have any pictures of my early days driving a bus – I wish I did.

My first route after being a sub-driver was bus 369. I drove the 369 route for a year or so, then went on to drive bus 374. If I’m not mistaken, bus 369 started out as a conventional-style bus (with a long nose) and later changed to a front-engine transit (flat front) …it might have been the other way around, but I can’t remember.

All total I had four different models of buses during my time as driver of #374. At one point I drove a 2007 Thomas transit. Later I drove a conventional-style (long nose) Thomas with a Mercedes engine (my favorite bus out of all of them). After that I went back to a Thomas transit, but a more modern 2011 model. Lastly, I finally ended up with a 2013 International transit with AIR CONDITIONING!

My first ride as bus 374. A front-engined transit with no air – and it could reach 120 degrees around the driver’s seat in August!

 

The conventional-style Thomas (with the cool Mercedes engine) parked behind the church, the place where I parked all the time during the week.

 

The next generation of #374. This pic shows an ultra-rare instance of when we in Tennessee actually had to pick up kids in the snow!

 

A side view of the final incarnation of #374, the unwashed, rear-engined (called a “pusher”) 2013 International. Notice the additional cargo bays underneath.

 

Over the years I’ve seen a lot of things while driving a bus (and some of that is also detailed in my book) But there are two places on 374’s route that I will miss seeing on a regular basis.

The first is a little pond and the view of it from a little hill on Shanty Lake Road. The view varied with the change of seasons and the angle of the sun. Incidentally, the children on my bus hated it whenever another driver drove instead of me – I was always better at going over that hill without scaring the kids ๐Ÿ˜‰

A view of the pond on Shanty Lake Road from inside my bus on the last day of school (the bus was stopped).

 

The very same view as above, but as the sun is coming up in January. God is a beautiful artist, isn’t He?

 

The other view that I will miss is the one seen driving back into Lookout Valley over Cummings Highway across the side of Lookout Mountain. I wrote about this in my book and six years ago in another blog,ย Ebs and Flowsย (you should check it out).

Looking down towards Lookout Valley and the Tennessee River from the Cummings Highway bridge – yes, a bridge.

 

Over the years I’ve also met a few adults while driving in Lookout Valley, not just a lot children (of all ages). There were a few teachers with which became friends, but it was the other bus drivers that helped make getting up in the morning a little easier.

Taken a couple of years ago, here we see Chris (370), Joseph (369), and me at McDonald’s.

 

Myself and Paul Mashburn (the contract driver of #49). Mr. Mashburn drove my wife on band trips in 1985! And she said he still looks the same!

 

The last day of school this year we went to Cracker Barrel. Here is Chris (370), a driver from New Orleans, Jean (369), and myself…I should have tucked in my shirt.

 

The following are just a couple of pictures I wanted to throw in for good measure. The first is me on a day when I wore a wig to keep my head warm – why wear a hat when you can be different?

The second picture is of our little dog, Nugget. Nugget went missing in August of last year, and we miss him terribly. This photo was taken on the day after we first got him. I was driving bus 369 at the time, and I didn’t want to leave him home alone, so I took him with me that day ๐Ÿ™‚

A wig can both keep you warm and give you attitude.

 

Baby Nugget on the school bus.

 

On the last day of school I pulled up in front of Lookout Valley Middle and High School, along with the other buses there to pick up what kids actually came that day (I had none). Only four or five buses were ever needed to service this small school, so the afternoon lineup became a traditional time to shoot the breeze for a few minutes before the doors burst open.

My final lineup at Lookout Valley Middle/High.

 

And as you may have seen from other blog posts of mine, Bobble Head Phil always rode on my dash (secured with double-sided tape) and stared at the kids behind me. One time a little girl said, “Mr. Baker, make him stop looking at me!” I replied, “Why? What are you doing?”

Phil has left the building (or bus, rather).

 

I don’t know what the future holds, but I know Who holds the future. God willing, Phil and I will drive another bus – a smaller bus – in the area closer to our new place of ministry. But for now, goodbye Lookout Valley and bus 374…we will always remember you.

In the meantime, keep me in your prayers – I’ve got new drivers to train!ย 

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A Baptist Being a Baptistย 

More than Boating and Fishing

Believe it or not, there are more things one can do at a lake than fish, go boating, or camp. Personally, I believe what I got to do today was more fun and more worthwhile than catching the biggest fish.

Jesus said if we would follow him He would make us “fishers of men.” So, instead of going to the lake to get fish, I got to go to the lake to put “fish” in it!

Here are some photos of the baptism we had at the lake next to our church in Soddy Daisy, TN. Since the little old church doesn’t have a baptistery of its own (why I don’t know), the big one out by the pier and boat ramp had to do ๐Ÿ˜‰

May I just add one thing? The water was absolutely cold! So, those of you with the nice, heated, indoor baptisteries, not to mention those nice rubber suits you guys get to wear to avoid getting wet – THIS WAS WAY MORE EXHILARATING!

Then Jesus said to them, “Follow Me, and I will make you become fishers of men.” – Mark 1:17 NKJV

Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: – Matthew 28:19

But when they believed Philip preaching the things concerning the kingdom of God, and the name of Jesus Christ, they were baptized, both men and women. – Acts 8:12

But when they believed Philip preaching the things concerning the kingdom of God, and the name of Jesus Christ, they were baptized, both men and women. … And as they went on [their] way, they came unto a certain water: and the eunuch said, See, [here is] water; what doth hinder me to be baptized? And Philip said, If thou believest with all thine heart, thou mayest. And he answered and said, I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God. And he commanded the chariot to stand still: and they went down both into the water, both Philip and the eunuch; and he baptized him. – Acts 8:12, 36-38

Just doing what Baptists do ๐Ÿ™‚

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Unliked, But Respected

A Bad Law

Not long ago a tragedy occured in my town of Chattanooga, a tragedy that was felt across the nation, even around the world. Back in November of last year (2016) a school bus transporting children from Woodmore Elementery School crashed, ultimately being nearly cut in half by a tree, resulting in many injuries and 6 deaths.

Almost immediately people familiar with the story, and especially the affected families and friends within the Woodmore community, began calling out for seat belts on school buses. Actually, it was at Erlanger Hospital, where many of the wounded children were taken, that I heard grieving parents scream in anger, “That bus driver was wearing a seat belt, and he’s still alive! Why did he get to wear a seat belt and my baby didn’t?!!” When I heard those words I knew what was coming.

It wasn’t long before Tennessee State House Representative JoAnne Favors (D) of the 29th District put forth a bill that would require all school buses in the state to have seatbelts. The argument was that if the children from Woodmore had been wearing seatbelts, many would not have been hurt, and some may not have died. “How many more children have to die,” they would ask, “until we make seatbelts manditory?”

The problem, however, was that the only ones arguing for requiring seatbelts on all school buses were those who never drove a school bus or had to deal with all that takes place on one. When bus drivers were given the opportunity over social media to express their opinion, the overwhelming consensus was that seatbelts on a school bus was a bad, bad idea.

I ย Had to Act

The bill calling for requiring seatbelts on buses began to work its way through committee after committee, and it began to appear there was no stopping it. As a school bus drive I desperately wanted to state my case in front of one of these committees in Nashville, but how could I? Every time they had a meeting where the public could voice their opinions, we bus drivers were actually on the job. About the only thing I could do was resort to social media.

Early on, way back in December of 2016, I posted to Facebook a short video giving reasons why the seatbelt bill would be a bad law. That video got a little response, but nothing came of it.

Then, on April 28, on WRCB (Channel 3) I saw David Karnes interview Rep. JoAnne Favors and the attorney for the Woodmore families, C. Mark Warren. What they said ticked me off so much I had to do something right then, so I went directly to Facebook Live and recorded the following rant ๐Ÿ˜‰

Click on the screen shot from my phone to watch the video.

The above Facebook Live video was quickly shared among the bus-driving community, and several suggested that I do more, even take off work and go to Nashville. The overwhelming proof that bus drivers do not want belts, and why, became evident in the thousands of views and hundreds of comments which continue to accumulate.

Taking It to the News Media

It is now the evening of May 5th, and David Karnes has yet to return my requests to counter Rep. Favors’ claims on his April 28th television program. Needless to say, especially with the urging of others, I made calls to other news stations in our area, expressing my belief that bus drivers were not getting a fair deal – we were not being able to share our side of this issue… and WE were the ones who were going to have to deal with the results of its implimentation!

At first I called the news room of WDEF (Channel 12). The gentleman I spoke with there assured me that nothing would come of Favor’s bill, so there was no need for me to share my thoughts. Well, then… la ti da.

Then, undeterred, I called WTVC (Channel 9). The lady I spoke with, unlike the gentleman at Channel 12, thought what I was saying sounded worth investigating. She told me that what I was saying was definitely interesting, and with the programming director listening in she informed me that a reporter would get back with me on Monday. She asked, “Would you have any problem talking on camera?”

“Heck, no!” I replied. “I’d be happy to talk on camera!” I mean, what kind of question was that? I then referred her to my Facebook page.

Monday came around, but no one called; I figured nothing would come of my call. Then on Tuesday morning, the very day on which another vote was to take place in another committee in Nashville, a reporter called me and set up an interview.

From around 10:30 to 11:30a.m. I sat in front of a TV camera and camera man, a reporter, and a program director. For a whole hour I was given the chance to respond to some very pointed questions and give my thoughts on the whole seatbelt issue.

The rest of the morning and afternoon, even until the evening, I felt sick. What worried me was the fact that I was a employee of the company that had been sued over the deaths and injuries resulting from the Woodmore crash. Going back to November of last year we had been instructed to avoid interviews with the media. But this was different, for I was acting as nothing more than a bus driver in Tennessee who was concerned about a possible bad law. I didn’t know how the news media would edit my interview, and all I could think of was how much trouble I could be in on Wednesday.

However, I wasn’t fired! The following video will show that the resulting editing was not only fair, but quite favorable to my position.

The Point of This Post

Wednesday morning I went in to work, not knowing what to expect. What I got were “high fives” and multiple joking requests for my autograph. After a few humorous requests I held up the sign-in sheet where all drivers are to sign their names each morning and said, “Now that I’m famous, all of these sign-in sheets will be worth money, so don’t throw them away.” Ha!

Then, as I was standing there, an older woman, a driver of a special needs school bus (a small bus), walked up to me and began to talk.

“Mr. Baker, I need to tell you something.”

“OK,” I said. Now, keep in mind I had never, not once, spoken with this woman ever before.

“This is me…” she pointed to herself, “…so this is me talking…”

“OK,” was my response, again.

“You know,” she began, “I have never really cared very much for you…”

What was I supposed to say? How was I supposed to respond? Like I said, I had never even spoken with this lady, so what had I done to offend her? Anyway, she continued…

“But I want you to know that I respect what you did…what you said on TV. What you did was courageous, and what you said on our behalf as drivers is very much appreciated.”

Well, now! I got smacked in the face and complimented all at the same time!

Then, in regard to my concern that the management of the company could fire me for being interviewed on television, she matter-of-factly assured me, “And if those people in the office have a problem with what you’ve done, then I will go down there with you and tell them to their face they can kiss your a**, and my a**, too!”

With raised eyebrows and a nod of my head all I could say in response was, “”Well, uh, thanks…I appreciate it.”

When a man’s ways please the LORD, he maketh even his enemies to be at peace with him. – Proverbs 16:7

All I could think about was how that when we stand up for what is right, even those who hate us may find some reason to respect us. That was the only way I could explain why this older woman who “never really cared much” for me would put her own “a**” on the line.

The Aftermath

Believe it or not, JoAnne Favors pulled the bill! CLICK HERE for the story.

Did my actions have anything to do with it? Honestly, I’d like to think so.

This afternoon, the lady who I mentioned earlier stopped by my car window as I was leaving work. She asked, “So, are you proud of yourself?”

“Well, to be honest,” I began, “I’d like to think I had a part in what happened.”

“I’m sure you did,” she said.

So, yeah, it feels good to have accomplished something…maybe. But it feels better to be respected,ย 

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Happy Earth Day 2017

Embracing Diversity

Let’s face it, I have a wide variety of people who follow this blog. They range from the ultra right-wing conservative branches of the political and religious spectrum, to the left-wing, tree-hugging,  tofu-eating, god-hating leftist trolls who do nothing all day but listen for billy goats to cross their pitiful bridges. Obviously, with that kind of readership, I’m going to offend somebody, no matter what I say.

Yet, I embrace this diversity! My arms are extended and waiting to offer hugs to anyone and everyone who would let me show love. I may not affirm your lifestyle, and I may disagree with what you believe, but at least I care about you.

That being said, I know someone is going to be offended by what I’m about to write. However, there’s always another day and another blog post that you can enjoy. As the climate fluctuates, so do the posts of this blog ๐Ÿ˜‰

Another Earth Day

A lot of melted glacial water has floated to the ocean since the first days of Earth Day celebrations. Predictions have come and gone, and yet the world is still flowing right along. A little warmer, maybe, but still here.

Early predictions from the first Earth Day in 1970 guaranteed that we would not be around until the year 2000. Some predictions had the world ending by 1985. Yet, here we are in 2017 and nothing much has really changed.

Do I believe that the earth might be a little warmer than it was in 1970? I guess it could be. I mean, I haven’t really been checking the temperature every day since I was three years old. But what I do know, is that we still have four seasons every year. Just like it’s always been, seasons change, and so will the epochs of nature.

If global warming is truly a thing, do I believe that man is contributing to it? No, I don’t. It has been warmer, then it got colder (they called it the ice age). Then, for some reason, long before man used coal and gasoline-powered engines to industrialize the world, things got warmer! Man had nothing to do with it!

A Proper Perspective 

What I do believe is that God created the heavens and the earth (Genesis 1:1). He created both the earth and day, and night, and time, and matter, and us. This is His world, not ours; but we are to be good stewards of what He has given us to manage.

I do not believe it is the Christian thing to do to waste resources, t0 pollute the environment, to run crazy with all of our self-pleasing pursuits at the risk of damaging creation. God cares about his creation, which is why one day He will remove the curse that is upon it because of sin. However, because creation belongs to the Creator, it is not the creation that we should be worshiping; we should be celebrating the One who made it.

If kept in the proper perspective, World Earth Day could be a good thing. On the other hand, if all it is meant to be is an anti-capitalist, anti-God, celebration of a deified planet, one where humans are taught to be the scourge of the earth, rather than the epitome of creation, you can keep it!

In reality, I sort of feel like paraphrasing the apostle Paul when he was writing to the church at Corinth: “But of the times and the seasons, brethren, ye have no need that I write unto you” (1 Thessalonians 5:1).

Just take care of what God has given you, praise God for it, and leave the season changing to him (Daniel 2:21).

PS, here’s a great article for today by reporter John Stossel. 

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