Category Archives: community

Keep Silent and Hate Your Soul

“Whoso is partner with a thief hateth his own soul: he heareth cursing, and bewrayeth it not.” – Proverbs 29:24

Bewrayeth

When was the last time you used “bewrayeth” in a conversation? I don’t know if I have ever even seen it in a crossword puzzle. But before we go any further, let’s make sure we understand this old English word.

According to Strong’s Concordance,  the Hebrew נָגַד (nagad ) occurs 370 times in the King James Version. Besides “bewrayeth,” nagad is translated most often as “tell,” “declare,” and “shew.” Therefore, it is safe to conclude that “bewrayeth” carries with it the idea of making something known or telling it the way it is.

So, then, what does “bewrayeth’ have to do with partnering with a thief and hating one’s soul?

Partners

First, it must be understood that a partner in crime is just as guilty as his other partner in crime. The one driving the getaway car and the one laundering the money are just as guilty of bank robbery as the one who takes the bag of cash from the safe.

Are you a partner with a thief? Do you recoil at that question? Stop and consider that if you know of someone committing a crime, no matter how small, then you are just as guilty if you keep silent. For instance, do you know of a man who beats his wife and yet have never reported the abuse? If so, then you are enabling him to do his dirty work, which makes you his partner in crime.

Self-Haters

The hard thing to grasp is that when we try to stay out of something by remaining silent, we are not doing ourselves a favor. So many people will witness a wrong or learn of a crime, but keep silent in order to protect themselves. But even though one may stay out of the spotlight or courtroom, the one that “bewrayeth it not” hates his own soul.

What is a worse form of hate: to hate one’s body, or hate one’s soul? Which is worse, the fear of jail time or eternal damnation? Simply put, there are deeper consequences for “not getting involved” than for speaking out in the face of evil.

 

(The previous was adapted from a post I wrote on 1/01/14 for ProverbialThought.com entitled “When Silence is Self-Hate.”)

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Happy 8th to The Recovering Legalist

My heartfelt thanks goes out to all of you who read and follow my blog. You mean more to me than you know.

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Too Black?

Writer’s Wall

This morning, before I got out of bed, I told my wife, “I just want to write!” Last night I went to bed with thoughts I wanted to express, but were wondering which to tackle first. Writing, of course, is one of the most therapeutic exercises for relieving stress and clearing one’s mind, but some of what I want to write about face some barriers to my sensibilities.

“It’s not like I have writer’s block…” I said, as my wife looked at me with a look that implied indifference to my struggle – which is a common expression from those who don’t understand the need to pound a computer keyboard – “…it’s like I have ‘writer’s wall‘!”

Do any of you understand what I talking about? It’s like there are a ton of things worth discussing, but what will happen when I write about them? For example, I seriously want to write about the “F” word and its usage. Also, there’s all the curse words like “damn” and “go to hell” that need to be realistically addressed in the light of atheism. What do you think the reaction from my conservative readership would be? How could I set those up?

Another topic would be the definitions of “racism” and “racist.” Personally, I believe that without a biblical worldview and the Christian faith, the whole subject of racism is an ironic joke unwittingly perpetrated on a daily basis by millions upon millions. Yet, what would be the repercussions should I even approach that topic? Would I get banned from social media without even getting to make my point?

It’s not like I have nothing to write about; it’s just that there’s so much which poses a real challenge, even a danger, to put into print. Unfortunately, that only adds to unwanted stress.

Racist Coffee

So, as I was trying to decide if or what I would write about, I made the seemingly innocuous decision to make a Saturday-morning pot of coffee. If anything was going to get done this morning, besides the rest of the activities and chores which the rest of the day holds, a good cup of coffee made perfect sense.

Using a conventional Mr. Coffee drip coffee maker, I poured in the right amount of water, to begin with, and then placed in the filter to hold the grounds. For some unknown reason, possibly the result of criminal activity, I could not find my usual tool to measure out the appropriate amount of ground coffee to put in the filter; therefore, I selected a previously-unused measuring spoon from the counter drawer and put it to use.

A few minutes later – and not a minute too soon – the coffee maker beeped at me, signifying the coffee-making process had finished and my morning caffeine  was ready for consumption. Unfortunately, as soon as I poured the freshly-brewed coffee into my white ceramic mug, the blackness of the liquid signaled something went wrong. Obviously, the previously-unused measuring spoon resulted in me using too many coffee grounds for the amount of water in the pot.

The coffee was now too dark, too “black.”

Immediately…not like I had a chance to jokingly come up with it…immediately…just as soon as I looked down into my white cup with the “too black” coffee!…the thought came into my mind, “Great! All I wanted was a cup of coffee, and now I’m a racist.”

Folks, when you can’t even make a simple cup of coffee in the morning without the constant drumming of media messaging and labeling affecting completely unrelated actions, society…civilized society…is in big, big, trouble.

I looked at my coffee, then sat down to write. 

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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 😉

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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 😉

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, Ebs and Flows (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 🙂

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! 

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