Category Archives: community

Riding Buddies

The road of life is much more fun and more bearable when you have a friend to ride with you.

Be a friend.

My granddaughter, Emma, and George.

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Observations from a Middle-Georgia Pastorate: Where’s the Coffee?

Preparing Sunday lunch in Zimbabwe, not Georgia 🙂

Food

It doesn’t matter where in the world you go, food is a universal need, even here in the middle of Georgia. However, what people eat and drink when they are hungry can vary greatly between location and culture, and Georgia is no exception.

Consider the following observations…

In Romania:

When I was in Romania, I found out that ground pork wrapped in cabbage leaves (sarmale) was the national dish, and I enjoyed it. As a matter of fact, I can’t remember any food in Romania that I didn’t like.

…except that soup.

Once, when staying in an apartment, the host family made fish soup. When I looked into the bowl, several little fish glared back at me with glassy, broth-covered eyes. Considering that the fish had to have come from water that was heavily contaminated by industrial waste, I had to refuse it. Before I did, just to be sure I was doing the right thing in offending my hosts, I dipped a spoon into the broth and tasted it…I had a metallic taste in my mouth for a week after that.

At least there was coffee.

In Zimbabwe:

As opposed to Europe, food choices in Africa can be a little more adventurous, especially for an American. However, for the most part, the food I ate in Zimbabwe was pretty much the same as in the States. The only thing I was told NOT to eat was anything from the bush (i.e., monkey).

The reason for the similarity is that Zimbabwe’s food had a history of English influence, so finding familiar food was not a problem, just as long as you knew what to ask for. Don’t eat their “biscuits” with gravy, if you know what I mean.

The only thing I couldn’t stomach in Zimbabwe was a desert made of bananas, pinto beans, green onion, yogurt, and Thousand Island salad dressing. After one spoonful I was done. My American palate had met its match.

But, at least, there was coffee!

In Georgia:

Look, believe me, the food down here is great, and other than when they spring something new on me, like pineapple sandwiches, it’s pretty much like anywhere else in the South. However, I’ve come to learn that we have a completely different understanding of one key food group: Barbecue.

The best I can tell, once you’re exposed to raw kaolin (the clay mined from the ground), pine trees, and higher-than-average heat, what the rest of the South does with pork doesn’t matter. Somewhere in their rich, rich history, these folk evidently developed a subconscious hatred for the pig. They like to eat it, but first they must pulverize it then torture it with a light bath of BBQ-flavored vinegar.

But at least there’s coffee, right? Uh, well, sorta.

Beverages

Like with food, it doesn’t matter where you go – people have to drink. Of course, what they drink depends upon the quality of the water and whether or not the locals have an excess of potatoes.

But, regardless, everywhere I’ve been in the world, from North America to Europe to Africa, one drink has been there for me, waiting around every corner, offered at every function, even boiled in pots over an open fire …coffee.

That is, except in middle Georgia!

Seriously, in Romania I woke up to a big, cast-iron pot full of dark, fragrant, exceedingly rich coffee over an open fire. Yes, there was electricity where we were staying, but because there were more than a few of us, and since coffee was a must for breakfast, they broke out the pot, lit a fire, and poured in the grounds.

In Zimbabwe, coffee was offered everywhere I went, including homes that prepared their meals in a mud hut! Even in an Ethiopian airport, where few things were recognizable to a Westerner, there was a coffee shop serving that familiar, satisfying, nerve-calming, caffeinated friend.

But here? Coffee? What coffee?

No joke, I’ve been to multiple fellowships, dinners, meetings, you name it, and I can’t tell you one time – not once – where there was any coffee offered with the desserts! Where else, except maybe the Sahara, do you go to an important meeting and find only water and iced tea, but NO coffee?

I don’t understand it.

All I can figure is that the folk down here are so laid back, so calm, so chill, so full of the “peace of that passes all understanding,” that coffee isn’t needed. Sweet tea is the cure-all for everything.

Or, it could be that they learned other ways to cope with stress way back when Union blockades stopped the shipment of coffee to Confederate troops. I don’t know.

Either way, I’ll survive. I’m tough. I’ll even grow to enjoy the way they do their BBQ.

It’s not like I have to have coffee with every meal and meeting, right? It’s not like God commanded locally-grown Georgia pecan pie be accompanied by a cup of dark roast, right?

I may need your prayers.

 

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Filed under baptist, Church, community, Food, General Observations, Humor, ministry, places, Southern Baptist, Struggles and Trials

Observations from a Middle-Georgia Pastorate: Dirt Roads

A portion of the unpaved southern half of the road where I live.

Georgia Red Clay

I’m sure you’ve either heard of it, or maybe you’ve even gotten your clothes stained by it, but Georgia is famous for “Georgia Red Clay.”

The reddish soil that covers much of the state of Georgia, along with areas in surrounding states, gets it’s color from iron oxide, the reddish-orange shades varying as much as any shade of red rust. It’s almost everywhere.

As a matter of fact, a good portion of the secondary roads in my area look just like the one above.

Georgia White Clay

On the other hand, especially around these parts (Washington County), there is another kind of clay: Kaolin.

4 oz. for $7 on Etsy!

As opposed to the common red clay, Kaolin (nicknamed “white gold” because of its color and its profitability) is mined, processed, and sold locally and around the world in various forms for use in products ranging from paper to lipstick. Actually, over 50% of it is used to give coated paper the “gloss” you might see in quality printer paper or magazines.

FYI, just click on the attached link and learn about one of the world’s largest producers of Kaolin located just 10 miles south of me in Sandersville, GA: Thiele Kaolin Company.

However, what I wanted to write about was not the types of clay that can be found in middle Georgia, but those red clay dirt roads…just like the one two houses down from me…right where the pavement ends.

It’s About the Dust

Two days ago, as I drove by one of these dirt roads, I sensed there was something profound…an important lesson…that I needed to learn then share. However, asking myself “What’s so spiritual about dirt roads?” over and over didn’t bring me any closer to a revelation. Then, as I was in the shower this morning, the truth of it all became clear (or clean, whichever):

It’s about the dust!

What do you get on your car after you travel down a paved road? Nothing. What do you get when you travel down a dirt road? Dust! It covers everything.

Think about it. You could drive a thousand miles down a nice, paved highway, and nobody would be any more the wiser of your long, hard journey. But travel down a dirt road and people will know you’ve been somewhere.

It’s About Serving

In a small, rural town like mine, the people have the tendency to care a little more about their neighbor. It’s not a firm and fast rule, but generally speaking, here you’re more likely to have someone lend you a helping hand than in the middle of a metropolis.

Yet, how do people know when you need a helping hand? How do people know you’ve traveled down a long, dirt road?

So often, in our “big cities,” we live such guarded, relationally-sanitized lives that we could be driven to near exhaustion and no one would be able to tell from the outside. In other words, our cars are clean.

But get down to a place where “everybody knows your business” and what do you find? A more openness about the road of life, a transparency that admits the road is dusty and dirty and has an affect on you.

Are bigger towns with the paved roads really all that better? Consider what the Dictionary of Biblical Imagery had to say about “streets” under the heading of  “A Window into the City’s Common Life”:

[The] street as a setting in the Bible represents what is commonly true of the mood, spirit and well-being of the city. Streets typically line the entirety of a city and serve as its reference points. Descriptions of what takes place “in the streets” therefore function as generalizations about what is going on in the city as a whole. – Leland Ryken et al., Dictionary of Biblical Imagery (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2000), 820.

If the streets of this middle-Georgia pastorate are any inclination, there’s a lot of opportunity to be like Jesus…to be a servant. At least down in these parts people are a little more willing to admit the need to have their feet … or their tires … washed.

So after he had washed their feet, and had taken his garments, and was set down again, he said unto them, Know ye what I have done to you? Ye call me Master and Lord: and ye say well; for [so] I am. If I then, [your] Lord and Master, have washed your feet; ye also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I have given you an example, that ye should do as I have done to you. Verily, verily, I say unto you, The servant is not greater than his lord; neither he that is sent greater than he that sent him. – John 13:12-16 

It’s easier to be a servant where the roads are dirt 🙂 

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Filed under America, Christianity, community, General Observations, Life Lessons, ministry, places

A Final Sendoff from Chattanooga – by the Sheriff!

For the last three years, or so, I was honored to be able to serve the deputies and staff of the Hamilton County Sheriff’s Department (Chattanooga, TN) as a Police/Patrol Chaplain.

Now that I am living in middle Georgia, it’s pretty difficult to be a chaplain to police officers 250 miles away. Therefore, I had to resign, of course.

Well, as a final sendoff, I was asked if I could come back to Chattanooga to receive a special certificate of commendation from Sheriff Jim Hammond, along with a challenge coin, recognizing me for my service. Three years is not a long time to be recognized for, but possibly because of the nature of the position and the transitions within the department, a little more than a “thanks, see ya later” goodbye was in order.

So, there in the Command Staff conference room of the Hamilton County Courthouse – where every time the Sheriff gathers his top officers for weekly meetings and has a chaplain open in prayer, give a devotional, and close in prayer – Sheriff Hammond read aloud the commendation.

Many years ago my father volunteered to be a patrolman with the Hamilton County Sheriff’s Office and served with distinction. Later, after my family was rocked by sickening crime, and in the middle of the nationwide protests against police officers, I decided to do more than say “I support the men in blue;” I decided to get involved.

Now, as I settle in as a pastor in a different state, I hope to find a way to continue serving those who put their lives on the line for us every day, year after year. I hope to be able to continue serving in the capacity of a Police Chaplain here in Washington County, GA. Unfortunately, anything official will have to wait until after the election of a new sheriff to replace the one who recently took his life.

One more thing…

Terri and Allen Lindon, along with Sheriff Hammond and Allen’s father.

I wasn’t the only one who got a commendation last Tuesday morning. Pastor Allen Lindon was also honored for his 7 years of service as he stepped down from his duties as Chaplain.

Allen was not only a Chaplain, but he was a reserve deputy – meaning he was a sworn officer and did everything a normal deputy would do, including carry a weapon and make arrests. We really got to know each other when we shared a room for a week at the ICPC training in Louiville, KY. Allen was as  fired up and sold out as they came, loving what he did with a passion. He was never afraid to scrap it out with the roughest of characters, even if he was a volunteer wearing a cross.

Unfortunately, while working on some signage at his church property, Allen fell 20ft from a ladder and landed on his head. The damage was severe, the recovery has been rough, and after literally dying three times, it’s time to take a break from chasing criminals and focus simply on souls in Cleveland, TN.

I may have gotten a commendation from the Sheriff, but Pastor/Chaplain/Deputy Allen Lindon really deserved all the honor that day.

Godspeed, my brother!

Below is a video I made after attending the ICPC conference last year in Louisville. We all had a great time! I’m really going to miss these guys.

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Observations from a Middle-Georgia Pastorate: Listen to the Locals

“In the Middle Of…”

When I first traveled down to this part of Georgia, having no knowledge of what was around, I used a common term to describe the area. I told others it was “in the middle of nowhere.”

Since then, I have felt bad about saying that. First, unless Warthen was in the middle of nowhere – like some outpost in the middle of Antarctica – the term could be considered derogatory. Coming across as bigoted isn’t helpful.

Secondly, nowhere is actually nowhere; everywhere is somewhere because God is there. In reality, I’m right in the middle of where I’m supposed to be.

So, there’s that.

Listen to the Locals

But when it comes to getting around and finding what you need, the somewhere might not be “nowhere,” but finding anywhere when you’re there can prove difficult, if not leave you stranded with an empty gas tank and no filling station for miles. That is why before you start exploring, listen to the locals!

One of the first things that bothered me (and, I know, this is more of a first-world problem) was that there seemed to be no restaurants. My wife and I had pretty much resigned ourselves to the fact that there would be no nice place to go on a date. But what we came to find out was that if we were only willing to drive a few minutes, and if we were willing to trust our local guides, we would find exactly what we were looking for.

For example, last week a couple from our church invited us to join them for a movie and dinner. After the movie, they took us to a steak house. But if we had not trusted the suggestion of our new friends, we wouldn’t have even given the place a chance. I mean this place was the quintessential example of “hole in the wall.” It was literally a steak house.

In front of Tumpies, the “Best little steakhouse this side of Texas.” It’s not too far away in Dublin, GA. It was a house built in the 1880s, but now a great place to eat!

But the food was some of the best I have ever had – ever. It will be a destination when we host friends from out of town.

Another thing that bothered me was that I didn’t think there were any coffee shops around. Again, when I listened to the locals I found out about a great coffee place not far away from where I will be meeting a new preacher friend every week to talk shop.

So, no, my place in the middle of Georgia might not be Nashville, Chattanooga, Atlanta, or the like, but it has everything I thought I was going to miss and everything I need. I mean, come on, it’s got steak and coffee!

Been Where We’re Going

You know, the children of Israel, under the leadership of Joshua, were faced with a similar situation when they were about to cross over the Jordan River. In chapter 3, the Lord told Joshua to send the Levites and the Ark of the Covenant ahead of the people. The reason was pretty clear.

“But keep a distance of about a thousand yards between yourselves and the ark. Don’t go near it, so that you can see the way to go, for you haven’t traveled this way before.” – Joshua 3:4 (CSB)

If there is there anyone we should listen to, it’s the Lord. Do you realize there is not a place He has never walked? Do you know there is not a place, not a situation, not a wilderness, where He has not already worn the straight and narrow path?

Think how much time and effort I saved after listening to the locals who’ve lived in this little town for years and years! How much more would all of us benefit if we’d just trust the One who’s already been where we’re going?

If you can trust the locals, you can certainly trust the Lord – He knows where everything is.

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Filed under Christianity, Church, community, Faith, Food, God, ministry

Happy 10th to the Recovering Legalist

It’s My Anniversary!

Actually, it’s not MY anniversary, but it IS a special day for this blog, TheRecoveringLegalist.com!

That’s right, it’s been 10 whole years since I started my blogging adventure with WordPress (I was with Blogger for a few months), and I just want to say a big THANK YOU! to all of you!

This blog has played a huge part in my life, from giving me an outlet to express my feelings and thoughts, to introducing me to many wonderful and interesting (some only interesting) people. Some I have met in person, most I have not, but many have become life-long friends.

Influencers

When people on TV receive awards, they go on and on about the people to whom they are thankful, and they praise those who helped them be successful. I want to do something similar.

First and foremost, without question, I want to thank my Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, my Father in Heaven, and the Holy Spirit for not only giving me the talent to think and to write but also the reason for the hope that is within me. This blog, along with the ones it inspired (ProverbialThought.com and i4daily.wordpress.com) would be pointless if it wasn’t for the grace that lifted me up and set me on solid ground.

Next, I want to thank my wife and my girls for allowing me to write. Even though there were times when they got irritated when I spent too much time doing it (and they had every right), they still supported me and told me they were proud that I was making a difference in the world through this medium. Without their support, I would have given up a long time ago, and not just with this blog.

Last but not least, there are the numerous bloggers I’ve met over the years who have influenced me, encouraged me, prayed for me, and reaffirmed that the Christian blogging community is the next closest thing to family – nobody here gets an inheritance (that I know of). Then again, maybe it is a family.

I don’t know whatever happened to Heather Joy, but her early encouragement made a huge impact. Other folks like David Welford, Jessie Jeanine, Heather Mertens, Daniel Klem, Jessie Clemence, James Neff, Wally Fry, and Chris Jordan made lasting impacts. There are others, too. I wish I could remember them all.

The Posts

As most of you know, it’s always fun to look back at the stats to see what posts had the most views. Aside from the “pages” and stuff, below are the Top Ten from the last 10 years.

  1. Was John R. Rice a Heretic? 
  2. Just the Sound of BB’s
  3. What to Wear to Church
  4. The Brief Departure of a Friend
  5. Dinosaur Bones Found On the Moon
  6. Does Divorce Disqualify?
  7. Liberty or License?
  8. Work, Work, Work
  9. “Please, Lord, Help Me Get One More”
  10. Why Be a Legalist?

Proudest Moments

As I was compiling the above list, the question came to mind: What were your proudest moments over the last 10 years?

Honestly, I guess the proudest, or rather most honored I ever felt was when total strangers would walk up to me and ask, “Don’t you have a blog?” One time this happened when I was shopping at a Lifeway (can’t do that anymore) and a man told me he read my blog all the time – in another country! Sadly, I can’t remember where he said he ministered, but he was a missionary who’d come home to see family and recognized me!

Another time I was recognized was at a Subway. The guy behind me asked, “Are you that guy? The Recovering Legalist guy? The one with the blog?” I said, “Uh, well, yeah, I am.” He was so excited! He then told me how amazing it was to run into me at a Subway in his own town, and then he asked, “So are you just traveling, or something? What brings you here?” I answered, “Well, I just live down the road.”

Of course, how could I forget the day I was told I my blog was going to be featured on “Freshly Pressed“? THAT was neat!

What’s Next?

What will the next 10 years look like? I have the sneaking suspicion that I will slow down a little because of my new schedule and workload. However, what I hope is that the posts I do write will be more substantive and worth reading.

Many times I have written just to be writing, and I guess there is a time for that. But what I would like to develop is the reputation of posting such quality, Spirit-led work that whenever I do publish something you guys will not be tempted to pass over it. I want it to be worth your time.

Besides that, I want to set aside more time to read the stuff you guys write! I know I’ve missed a lot of blessings by writing more than I read.

One more thing. I’m going to set aside a specific time each week to pray for other Christian bloggers like many of you. Some of you may feel like what you are doing is making little difference, but you are wrong! If it’s of the Lord, even just one “click” could have an immeasurable impact on the lives of others.

God bless, and thank you for your following and friendship. It means more than you can know.

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Observations from a Middle-Georgia Pastorate: Food and Fur

It’s still a work in progress, but take a look at my new writing spot!

It’s not the most comfortable seating position (in relation to the keyboard), but I think I’ll get used to it… Oh, cool! I just lowered my chair and the keyboard’s in a better position! Sweet!

Anyway, it’s been a really long while since I sat down to write a brand new post, so here it goes!

Culture Shocks

Moving to a new city and a new culture brings with it a multitude of “shocks.” You’d think that a distance of 250 miles (201 as the crow flies) wouldn’t make that much of a difference, but you’d be wrong. Life in rural middle Georgia compared to metropolitan Chattanooga (Gig City) is totally different, and some adjustments are easier than others.

For instance, back in the Chattanooga area there are tons of restaurants, and not just the fast-food variety. There, for instance, you can find several very good barbecue restaurants, all within a few miles of each other. Yet, when my wife and I decided we wanted to find some barbecue down here, we had to drive 45 minutes to a place that was open only on Fridays and Saturdays, had outdoor bathrooms, had no air conditioning, and the floor was sawdust.

I asked a lady sitting quietly nearby, “So, tell me about this place.” With matter-of-fact tone and an attitude that gave me the impression she didn’t enjoy strangers asking stupid questions, she replied, “My daddy woke up one day and decided he wanted to sell barbecue, so he did.”

Hey, the food wasn’t bad, but even more, you didn’t have to worry about slipping and falling!

As we find other culinary establishments to visit, I’ll be sure to keep you updated. Should you come visit and get tired of my wife’s cooking, you’ll be better aware of your options.

Critter Shocks

We left not only our daughters behind when we moved away, but we left two little dogs we loved, too. However, even though I have no wagging tails to great me when I walk in the door; there are plenty of wagging tails on the outside.

Imagine waking up your first morning in a new house, sitting down on your front porch to enjoy the cool, misty air while you sip a cup of coffee and read your Bible. Then, imagine looking up to see two dogs trotting down the quiet two-lane road, one with a shoe hanging from its mouth by the strings. With only the sound of a few birds singing in the trees and the faint squeak of the antique glider you’re sitting on going back and forth, imagine saying to yourself – as I did, “Well, that’s different.”

Here in the equivalent of Mayberry, the dogs are happy, wander the neighborhood, enjoy being petted, and steal any shoe left overnight on a front porch. Literally, the very next morning this same dog came from the opposite direction with a different shoe … only this time she came into my yard and dropped it long enough lick my hand and roll on her back to greet me. A neighbor, out for a walk at the same time, hollered from the street, “She’s the community dog … she doesn’t belong to anybody, but she’s a good watchdog … her name is Dog.”

…There’s also the gnats.

Did you know there was such a thing as the “Gnat Belt”?

Well, we are in it!

Continued Observations

Honestly, there’s a lot more I’d like to tell you, but I don’t want to wear out my welcome. If I bore you now, you might not come back. How sad would that be?

I mean, I’ve left my hometown; I’d hate to lose you guys!

So, hug the ones you love, thank the Lord for His blessings, and be on the lookout for some more posts. What I’m learning I’ll certainly share with you 🙂

God bless!

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