Category Archives: Family

Plowing the Corners In Soddy

Old VHS Tapes

Just the other day I came across a couple of old VHS tapes in my study. You do know what they are, don’t you?

The ink on the labels was so faded that I couldn’t tell what had been recorded on them. So, I took them back to the house and popped them into the old player to see what little bit of history had been archived.

To my surprise, one of the VHS tapes contained the recording of my father’s funeral back in 1991! It was a little disturbing at first, but I decided to watch some of it, especially since I didn’t remember much about what was said that day.

One of the men whom I had invited to speak was Evangelist John Mitchell, a former pastor of ours and a man who knew my dad well. During his short sermon in honor of my father, he gave an illustration that eloquently described him.

The Illustration

When describing my father, Bro. John Mitchell put it this way:

“What was Terry Baker’s real aspirations? I mean, what did he really want out of life? Well, Terry was satisfied, as few people are, with just doing little things for Jesus.

I heard the story one time of a fellow who had a couple thousand acres that he farmed, and he had these big John Deere tractors with 24-ft harrows. In other words, with one swoop with that tractor they would plow a 24-foot strip…it would take no time to get those big, huge fields done.

But there was only one problem: those fields were so big, when it turned around, it couldn’t catch the corners, and the corners were always left…and they had to get somebody to come in and do those corners because the ground was just as fertile and grew just as much in the corners as it did out in the middle.

It seemed like to me, knowing Terry 20 years, that he was satisfied in just doing the corners. He never did look for big stuff. He never was, all the time I knew him, disappointed in doing the little things for the Lord Jesus Christ. He felt like, as I do, it was just as important as that fellow out there with the big John Deere tractor…

Terry didn’t aspire to be somebody great with his name in the papers. He just wanted to do whatever he could for the Lord Jesus Christ. I would to God we had more Terry Bakers who had that type of attitude.”

In other words, my dad was content plowing the corners, for that was important, too.

My Corner

So, if my dad was here today (and I wish he was), I think he would be proud of me. Today is the 2nd anniversary of when I became pastor of a small corner in the big field of Hamilton County, Tennessee: South Soddy Baptist Church.

While others have been tasked by the Owner of the field to drive the big plows, He has entrusted me with this little spot – because the harvest is that important.

When I was younger I had aspirations of plowing larger plots of land, but that was when I thought it was MY field…my ministry, not God’s. But now that I’ve matured and learned to be more like my late father, a humble man of God, there is joy and contentment in doing the bidding of the One who called me to the work…

…even in the corners.

Photo credit: Haley Baker (visit SouthSoddyBaptist.org)

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Filed under Christian Maturity, Church, Family, Megachurch, ministry, Preaching

How Do You Pronounce This Word?

Grand

The word in question is a compound word. The first part of this compound word is a word that means big, large, awesome, piano, and showoff… I think.

Let me check….

Grand
    adjective

  1. a  :Having more importance than others
    b  :Having higher rank than others bearing the same general designation
  2. a  :Inclusive. Comprehensive
    b  :Definitive, Incontrovertible
  3. :Chief, Principle
  4. :Large and striking in size, scope, extent, or conception
  5. a  :Lavish, Sumptuous
    b  :Marked by a regal form and dignity
    c  :Fine or imposing in appearance or impression
    d  :Lofty, Sublime
  6. a  :Pretending to social superiority :supercilious
    b  :Intended to impress
  7.  :Very good :wonderful

Yep, pretty much what I thought.

Not An Animal Foot

Some people pronounce the second part of this compound word in the same way they would pronounce the foot of an animal with toes and claws. They would say it like “paw.” Therein lies the controversy.

The actual spelling of the word is pa, and it could be pronounced “pah,” like in pot, ‘possum, or “Pa! Half pint just punched Nelly in the face!”

Personally, probably because of the geographic area in which I was reared, I prefer the “paw” pronunciation, but not the spelling.

Compounded

When you put the two words together what you have is something that sounds like “the most important, impressive, wonderful animal foot,” but the way you should spell it is…

GRANDPA.

How would you pronounce it?

Details to follow. IF you’re interested, that is.

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Filed under Family, Parenting

Things to Do In 2019: Strengthen My Marriage

Let thy fountain be blessed: and rejoice with the wife of thy youth. – Proverbs 5:18

I’ve been doing a lot of weddings lately. As a matter of fact, I probably did 20 in the last two months.

One of the things I explain to the couples before they exchange rings and say their vows is how over time, if they will endure, their marriage will become more precious than the day they say “I do.”

This June my wife and I will celebrate 25 years of marriage, and believe me, we’ve experienced our share of fiery trials.

I ask the couples I marry to look at their rings and consider why the “precious metal” is precious. I ask them to consider what those rings went through in order to be shaped into the works of art they’re about to wear. Fire, forging, testing, shaping, more heat, and a lot of polishing: it was all part of what made the rings beautiful.

So why is it that so many men will throw away something as precious as a marriage tried by fire and forged in the furnaces of life for a temporary, plastic, fragile, and ultra-common shallow relationship?

Let thy fountain be blessed: and rejoice with the wife of thy youth. … And why wilt thou, my son, be ravished with a strange woman, and embrace the bosom of a stranger? – Proverbs 5:18, 20 

The fact is that we men (and women, too) tend to forget the value of what we actually have and get tempted by the shiny newness of what we don’t have.

Worse, we forget that the God before whose eyes we said our vows never took his gaze off of us. We have no excuses.

For a man’s ways are before the LORD’s eyes, and he considers all his paths. A wicked man’s iniquities will trap him; he will become tangled in the ropes of his own sin. – Proverbs 5:21-22 CSB

Satan hates families. Satan hates anything that mirrors the faithful love of the Lover of our souls, the Groom of the Bride – the Church. Therefore, he loves nothing better than destroying (and redefining) marriages.

For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and shall be joined unto his wife, and they two shall be one flesh. This is a great mystery: but I speak concerning Christ and the church. Nevertheless let every one of you in particular so love his wife even as himself; and the wife see that she reverence her husband. – Ephesians 5:31-33

This year, instead of taking my wife for granted, I want to spend time strengthening my marriage. I want to remind the wife of my youth that she’s more precious to me now than ever.

One reason is because my “ways are before the Lord’s eyes.”

Another reason is because the world is watching, especially my own children, and I want them to see in me a reflection of the faithful love of my Savior.

But there’s one more reason I want to strengthen my marriage… Valerie deserves it.

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Filed under Defending Traditional Marriage, Defining Marriage, Family, Relationships and Family, Struggles and Trials

Displaying Masculinity With Photos

Since it is a topic of hot debate these days, I figured I would keep the boat floating in the stream a little while longer and write a little more about the subject of masculinity.

Except today I’m going to do it from a laptop in the passenger seat behind my wife while she’s driving – it’s a long trip.

And I’m going to do with with pictures – like the one I just took of my computer before I typed this sentence 🙂

By the way, as of this moment, after nearly 10 years of blogging, I’m only at 49% of my memory limit with WordPress, so I’m not worried about the amount of photos in this post.

Anyway, I was thinking about masculinity and how it’s displayed, and that’s when I decided to search back through my phone’s photos. I thought it would be interesting to post some pictures from my life and share what I though was “masculine” or “manly” about them.

Some of these photos might fit a stereotype you don’t like. Some may make you scratch your head. But if I was to tell a young boy what it means to be a man, and if I could show him through some of my own pictures, this is what I would say.

And please understand, I’m not trying to make this all about me… I’m just making observations.

A real man is one who makes a commitment to one woman for life and remains faithful, treasures her, and makes her laugh.

Real men don’t shame their mothers; they make them proud. This is me with my mother and late grandmother who died last year. It’s called honor.

A real man is humble enough to wear a tie he doesn’t like because his wife and daughters do.

Fun. A real man has fun with his kids. He makes memories for their sake, not just his. This was during the last total solar eclipse. Awesome!

 

I love my girls. I’m proud of my girls. Both this picture and the next one are of me with my girls when I escorted them to a purity ball in Hopkinsville, KY. I know what some people think about promoting purity (abstinence), but I really don’t care – I’m a dad.

Masculine men let their daughters know they are loved, no matter what. Even if they disappoint me, I will still love them. But a real man – a masculine man – will be his daughters’ hero, protector, and defender of their honor. And no joke, their lives are more precious to me than any boy who’d hurt them. Be warned, guys – and that’s not hyperbole.

On the day that this picture was taken, we dropped Katie (the one on the right) off at college. When I got back home and walked by her empty bedroom, I cried like a baby for 30 minutes. Real men can cry when there’s a reason to cry, and that was one of them.

Nearly 6 years ago I finally earned my Master’s degree. This is my wife, all three daughters, me, and Mr. Monkey (he was an honorary graduate). I’ve still got a lot of room to improve, but a real man is one who finishes what he starts; he makes a commitment and follows through. I started college in 1986…I finally got my B.A. in 2011, my M.Min. in 2013. I’m still working on my D.Min., but I’ll get there.

This is a Ford flat head V-8. I think the essence of manhood is being able to work on something, to fix things. In my opinion, every man ought to rebuild an old engine at least one time in his life.

And speaking of working on cars, every man should teach his kids how to take care of things on their own. He should teach them how to be responsible and not always have to depend on others to fix their problems. Here I am teaching Haley how to change out a windshield wiper motor on her Acura.

You can be a real man and remain calm, cool, and collected when teaching your children how to drive. A masculine man doesn’t have to lose his cool.

There are cowards and criminals who use guns. But here in America, a masculine man isn’t afraid to teach his daughters how to shoot, even a Colt .357 Magnum revolver. My girls prefer a man who likes the smell of gunpowder and has wrists at least as strong as theirs 😉 2nd Amendment all the way in this house.

 

Real men, masculine men, admit their fears, but then they do what needs to be done – like getting on a roof to tar leaking shingles.

 

I think a good sign of masculinity is being able to handle big machinery. An added sign of masculinity is being able to teach others how to handle big machinery without getting killed or killing others. This is me at the bus garage one summer while training new drivers.

Not the best picture, but this is me in uniform as a chaplain for the Hamilton County Sheriff’s Office. My definition of a real man, a real leader, a masculine man, includes being a servant. This is a voluntary role, but a needed one. Those who put their lives on the line for us need people to have their backs, too.

Masculinity is not devoid of humility and meekness. This was during a VBS when I agreed to let kids who won a contest treat me like an ice cream sundae. The cherry on the top was a literal cherry on the top.

Masculine men don’t avoid going to the doctor when they need to, but they don’t act like babies, either. Real men – masculine men – keep a “stiff upper lip” and do their best to keep others encouraged, even when they might be scared themselves.

This is me in Zimbabwe with Mr. Monkey. Real men, masculine men, aren’t too proud to get down in the dirt to put a smile on a child’s face.

Real men, masculine men, treat all of God’s creatures with respect and care. This is Nugget and me (Nugget went missing a couple of years ago and I still miss him). He always looked forward to going out on Saturdays for coffee and a treat from Hardee’s or McDonald’s.

Real men should at least try to grow a beard at least once. It’s a right that none should deny, even to non-Calvinists. But being masculine doesn’t mean you should let small woodland creatures take up residence on your face.

It takes a real man to get into a cold lake to baptize somebody. Of course, it takes a real man to be willing to be dunked in the cold water, too! But on a different note, in many places getting baptized in public can cost you everything. Therefore, this wasn’t as big a deal for me and this brother as it is for others. Good to keep things in perspective.

Katie and I recorded a video on Facebook Live. We played “Leaning On the Everlasting Arms.” I don’t know what’s exactly masculine or manly about this, but standing in a public park playing hymns takes nerve these days.

This was from Jan. 16 of this year…from when I took the stage with Katie for her final song of her senior recital. All I can say is that I must have done something right to have been asked by my daughter to step on stage during a formal recital at a university and play guitar for her. A real man doesn’t make his kids ashamed of him but earns their respect.

Masculinity demands that a man take charge and kill the bugs. The women folk shouldn’t have to. That includes carpenter bees trying to destroy the house. The face of a warrior.

Masculine men aren’t afraid to have friends, especially the kind who keep him accountable – iron sharpens iron. This is me with two of my blogger brothers, James Neff and Wally Fry. Real men. True friends.

Real masculinity will exhibit some form of competitiveness. It’s just in a man’s nature to be the warrior, the fighter, the competitor. We need fewer men who hand out participation trophies and more men who compete to win – or at least root for a team that wants to. Go Braves!

This is from when Building 429 stopped by a local Cracker Barrel and I legalistically misjudged them (I wrote a post about it). This is Katie posing with them after I admitted my sinful error and asked for their forgiveness. Real men, masculine men, aren’t afraid to admit when they’ve done wrong.

This photo was taken of me when I prayed on the steps of Emmanuel A.M.E. Church in Charleston, SC, after the deadly shooting. Real men shouldn’t be afraid to pray in public, especially in places where reconciliation is desperately needed.

 

Lastly, here I am in front of the church where I am Pastor. Genuine masculinity demands that a man be bold, courageous, and unafraid to speak the truth, even when the truth is hard to hear. Jesus was our greatest example of manhood, but there was also Paul, John the Baptist, and a host of others. Their brand of masculinity is what I’m striving for.

I’m just glad I had a dad that taught me what it meant to be a man. He was a consistent, loving, meek, humble, trustworthy, honorable, hard-working, self-sacrificing, faithful husband and man of God.

That’s about all I’ve got to say. Hope you’ve enjoyed the pictures.

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Filed under Christian Living, Culture Wars, current events, Family, General Observations, Life Lessons, Marriage, Parenting, politics, Preaching, Relationships and Family, Witnessing

Things to Do In 2019: Don’t take time for granted

“Man is like to vanity: his days are as a shadow that passeth away” (Psalm 144:4)

Every hour that passes, ever second of every minute, is another moment in time we will never get back. Our time here on Earth is so short, so fleeting, that we are compared by the Psalmist worthless self-perceptions and the nothingness that is shadow.

When I was young, Christmas morning was always 10 years away. Monday morning meant that I’d have to wait a lifetime until Saturday-morning cartoons. High school graduation was a moment that didn’t come soon enough.

Now that I’m much, much older (although I still watch Bugs Bunny), I have children that are adults, bills that come far too frequently, and calendars that fly by faster than a starving bat after a June bug.

Years ago I spent a couple of hours talking with a young man about his soul. I shared verse after verse, gave reason after reason, but he would not give his heart to Jesus. I’ll never forget how he agreed with everything I said, yet said, “Not tonight…maybe later.”

No more than a week later, after going to the hospital for a headache, he died of spinal meningitis. As far as I know, he went into eternity without God.

We don’t know how much time we have left. We don’t know how much time our loved ones have left.

One thing I’ve learned is that no matter how old you get, and no matter how old your friends and loved ones get, whenever some one you love dies it’s always too soon; you always wish you had more time.

We should never take the future for granted, like it’s going to be here for us. Actually, it will be here, but someday we will not.

Use every moment wisely. Cherish every moment. We only have so many.

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Filed under Family, Life/Death, the future

Memories from My Sister’s Visit (2018)

Some of you may know I have a sister, but other of you may not. Her name is Rebecca Lee Gomes, and she lives in Germany (married to a German, Carlos).

Two months ago she came to visit after being gone from the States for 7 years. Fortunately in one way, unfortunately in others, while she was here, my mother suffered a severely broken leg. That limited what we were able to do because a couple of weeks were spent in hospitals.

Also, while Becky was here, one of our aunts passed away.

Nevertheless, we did get to see some things and do some things, including visit the Ark Encounter, the Creation Museum, the Air Force Museum, and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame (because we used to have a band, you know), all while taking my wife and our mom to the Cleveland Clinic in Ohio.

Just after Becky left I pulled together some photos and video made while she was here and created a little video on iMovie. Then I posted the video on YouTube for here to have it.

You may not get all the hidden humor, and you may not know all the faces, but you can watch the video, too, and get a little glimpse into our lives.

I’m gonna miss her.

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Filed under America, Christmas, Family, places, Relationships and Family, Thanksgiving

It Will Be OK

I was lying in bed last night, setting the alarm on my iPhone, when it occurred to me that I have not been writing on my blogs very much lately.

Just a few minutes ago I thought it would be a good idea to at least go back to the archives and find something interesting or entertaining to repost, you know, just to keep the activity going.

But then I read a post from Wally Fry. He’s going through some tough stuff right now with a job loss and the impending death of this beloved father-in-law due to brain cancer.

Life can be hard. Devastating, to be honest.

But, even though what I’m about to say may not sound comforting on the surface, it’s a foundational truth that can help through times like this – times like a lot of us are going through right now: Others have been down this road before us, and they say, “It will be OK.”

What I know is that we live in a world that is broken by sin. One day it will be made new. One day all the answers we are looking for will finally be answered. On that day we will finally be able to understand what our finite brains are incapable of understanding, now.

One day the redeemed in Christ will stand in the presence of Holiness and look back on what God was doing through all these trials and say with utter amazement, “WOW!”

Until then, this is the day that the Lord has made; I will rejoice and be glad in it. It’s a choice I will make – by faith – that the One who created the day is with me in the day and will never leave me nor forsake me to its uncertainties and fears. I am not alone in the furnace. I’m not alone in the boat that seems to be sinking. I’m not alone in the field with not enough provision to feed the thousands.

And if you know Christ, neither are you.

It will be OK.

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Filed under Faith, Family, Life Lessons, Life/Death, Struggles and Trials