Good Wednesday, everyone! I just wanted to give you a quick update and then get back to work.
In about a week or so I will be done with all the writing requirements needed to finish my DMin. Lord willing, I will graduate July 30th!
When I get all of this out of the way, my writing here and other places will start up again, even if slow at first.
In the meantime, as you know, my mother passed away in March, leaving my sister and I without both our parents. My sister flew in from Germany to be here when my our mom died, but COVID red tape kept her from getting here in time. That was very painful for all of us, but especially for her.
Once Rebecca arrived, besides the funeral and all that went along with a week of services in two different states, there was the arduous task of going through our mother’s belongings and deciding what to do with it all! She has literally been away from her husband and home for 3 months!
So, today is bittersweet. My sister is flying out of Atlanta, today. The past 3 months have been the best time I have ever had with her. We are closer now than we were when we were children, teens, or even when we played music in a band together. I am going to truly hate to see her leave, but I am happy that she will be able to get back home to her Carlos – I know he has missed her!
Do you know what’s next? For the very first time – ever – my wife and I will be alone! For some people, that’s a dream come true, and it sorta is for us, too. However, make no mistake, it won’t take long before the silence left after 29 years of laughter, tears, and all things “family” will be deafening.
Well, it won’t be long before we head out to the airport, stopping by a Cracker Barrel on the way (a last stop for American food). It won’t be long before we part ways for at least another year. It won’t be long until Valerie and I are by ourselves in a big house.
That all being said, I’m glad that sad departures won’t always be a thing. It won’t be that long until time will be no more and parting will be a thing long forgotten.
There’s not much I can say that I haven’t said before about how much I love and how much I am proud of all my daughters.
However, today is a particular milestone that I want to share.
25 years ago today was the first time I witnessed live birth. Oh, of course I’ve seen puppies being born, but seeing my daughter, Katie Marie Baker, come out of my wife, well, and I’m using a lot of commas, that was traumatic!
It was nothing like the movies. It was nothing like the Cosby show. It was nothing like anything I had ever experienced!
And it was like nothing I had ever experienced before.
Like Bill Gaither might say, “How sweet to hold a newborn baby and feel the pride and joy she gives!” Nothing can truly prepare a man for the feeling of holding his first baby girl in his arms.
This a view from Edwards Point, the mountain bluff above where I grew up and the pinnacle of every hiking trip I made as a kid.
This is the Tennessee River Gorge. Just across the river is Elder Mountain, where my grandfather hid from revenuers.
To the right is Prentice Cooper Game Reserve. The Cumberland Trail weaves its way through there, down from the top of the mountain, down across the creek, then up to where this scene depicts.
I grew up in the community of Suck Creek. Just out of view, just below the rock bluff, the creek would feed the river. Up until a hundred or so years ago, during hard rain the creek and the river would create a powerful whirlpool capable of pulling small boats under and stopping paddle wheelers.
It was only after a system of dams were built along the Tennessee River (operated by TVA), that the river was tamed enough for safe navigation.
This is also where my Cherokee ancestors on my paternal grandmother’s side resided. They were the ones who actually attacked the early settlers of Nashville when their boats were stuck in the “suck.”
The mountains and the river will always be in my blood. The peaceful drift of the water. The fresh air of old-growth forests. The legends and unforgettable scary bedtime stories from the old-timers.
Unfortunately, much has changed over the last decade. Much of where I spent my childhood and teen years are unrecognizable. Time has exacted a heavy toll from both progress and neglect. And where there was family land that outsiders feared to visit, now there’s million-dollar homes where outsiders moved to “preserve” the beauty.
Yet, I still remember. I still dream. I still imagine. That will never change. Time will only make the memories sweeter and the stories even better.
Today, the company wants to stop leaning so heavily into this traditional family structure. “Culture has evolved,” she tells Fast Company. “Kids want to be able to represent their own experiences. The way the brand currently exists—with the “Mr.” and “Mrs.”—is limiting when it comes to both gender identity and family structure.”
Have you ever wondered what it would take for the average person to lose his mind? Would it be a tragic loss or overwhelming circumstance that would break him? Torture? Deprivation?
What about the unceasing and incessant madness of the liberal Left and their determination to swab away all cultural norms from the deck of this sinking ship?
Mr. Potato Head and Mrs. Potato Head are cultural icons. They even walk and talk in the “Toy Story” movies! Yet, because of the desire to let 3-year-old brains shape the future, Hasbro wants to further confuse them with not only a plastic toy potato, but one that can’t even decide which potato potty to enter.
“Culture has evolved,” they say. Tell me, toy geniuses, what is there about evolving that includes the deconstruction of the structural fabric which has been the framework and bedrock of society?
Oh, I get it – it’s a money thing, right? We want to appeal to the little crumb crunchers whose mommies and baby daddies have either ditched their responsibilities and commitments or unstitched and re-stitched their baby-making parts. We want to enable – for the dollar, mind you – a whole new generation of gender-confused part-swappers because leaning too heavily on the current traditional family structure is not good for the brand.
I don’t know how far I am away from losing it, but one thing’s for sure: Hasbro has mashed potatoes for brains.
Hey, guys! Just taking a moment out from some sermon prep (gotta preach to the Pakistani church at 1 a.m.) to let you know what I think about my wife.
She is the BEST WIFE EVER!
How do I know this? How can I make such a bold and absolute claim?
Because it’s the truth.
You see, it’s obvious she the best wife ever because she loves me. Not only does she love me, but she has continued to love me since June of 1996! She has loved me, remained faithful to me, and only once or twice thought about having me committed.
That’s no joke.
Proverbs 18:22 – Whoso findeth a wife findeth a good thing, and obtaineth favour of the LORD.
I’m the “whoso.” I might have been a so-and-so many times over the years, but my wife stuck with me.
Yesterday was her birthday. Tomorrow is Valentine’s Day (for which she was named). Do you know what she did for me? She ordered a selection of 8 high-quality cigars! Why? For my health? NO. Just because she loves me.
By the way, don’t hate on my cigars… I only have one a year, or so. One would be more likely to get cancer from a chest X-ray.
Valerie loves me, and here’s the proof:
She cooks for me.
She takes care of the bills (because she’s an accountant)
She still laughs at my jokes.
She still thinks I am handsome.
She tells me she loves me, like ALL the time.
She takes care of me when I’m sick or injured.
She looks out for my best interests, even at the expense of her own.
She never talks bad about me, not even to her mother.
She takes notes when I preach and even thinks I should be on Blue Letter Bible! I don’t know where she gets that idea, though.
She makes sure I take my medicine.
She makes all my doctor appointments.
She not only washes and dries my clothes, but she folds my underwear and puts it away.
There’s a sparkle in her eye when she looks at me, especially when I come home.
She loves it when I sing, especially to her.
She loves to play games with me, even when I play to win.
When she makes me a peanut butter and jelly sandwich she takes the time to cut it in half.
She wishes she could be a better wife.
So, you ;may think you’ve got the best wife in the world, but I’ll support your right to be wrong.
Valerie, thank you for loving Jesus and for loving me. I love you, too.
There are times when I preach that I look back on what I said and wonder, “Did I do a good job? Did I mess that up? Did anyone get it?”
Other times I feel like a failure. That’s actually not as uncommon as you might think, for if a poll was taken of pastors and preachers I believe you’d find that the results would confirm most ministers feel that way a lot. I would say that there are three main reasons for that: 1) we are our worst critics; 2) we rarely see a response to our calls; and 3) spiritual attacks from the Enemy.
But then there are those times when it seems the Holy Spirit just takes control and you just become a mouthpiece. Last night (Wednesday) was one of those kind of nights. If nothing else, God poured over me a spirit of boldness and authority and I courageously spoke what needed to be said.
Therefore, I want to share a link to the church Facebook page where the study from last night was aired live. It has NOT been edited for time or content.
Last night was the last night of our study through the Baptist Faith and Message 2000, and the subject was Article XVIII The Family.
My main points were that if we as Southern Baptists are going to say this is what we believe, then we should act like it. Secondly, if we truly believe what we say, then we should draw a line in the sand and declare the hill on which we will fight and die. The reason being that what we say we believe is in direct contradiction to the prevailing cultural sentiment, even our own government.
Our forefathers gave their lives to maintain doctrinal purity. They stood on principle and God’s Word when others called for them to compromise, to comply, and to cower. You’d better believe that what we could be facing with the new administration in Washington could very well test our convictions like nothing we’ve ever seen in our lifetimes.
So, what to Southern Baptists say they believe about the family? What do I believe? Well, sit back and join us for a study through the last article in the Baptist Faith and Message 2000.
Last Tuesday I told you that my daughter Katie was getting married that night. Well, despite my advice to walk away while there was still time, my Katie Bug, Katie Marie Baker, became Katie Marie Pearson.
Don’t get me wrong, as I stood there alone with her behind the paper-thin walls of the tent, waiting for the moment I was to escort her out into the open for the world to see, I wasn’t expecting Katie to walk away. No, her heart and mind were made up, unchangeable, set “like a flint” to walk that aisle and say, “I do.”
And man! Did she ever!
I have a few pictures, but I don’t want to share them with the world. What I would rather do is wait until Katie is able to share the professional photos that were taken of the wedding and reception. The only exceptions will be those you see here.
However, I do want to share with you a couple of other things, namely Gus (that’s my new son-in-law’s name) and Katie’s vows . . . and a video which we’ll get to in a moment.
In my years of pastoral ministry, I’ve performed over 200 weddings. That being said, I have never heard wedding vows more biblical and gospel-centered than the ones Gus and Katie shared. I was blown away! There was hardly any need to say anything else but “Kiss your bride.”
Therefore, if you don’t mind, I would like to share with you my daughter and son-in-law’s vows.
Katie Marie, from just our first few weeks working at Chick-fil-A, I knew our friendship would be a great one. Whenever I was near you, I felt a spirit of joy radiating from you, and there was no doubt where that joy comes from. God has gifted you with a joyous and bubbly personality, and it is one that I wanted to be around often. Today, I stand in front of our family and friends who have chosen to be witnesses to observe the covenant relationship I am making with you and God in marriage. I promise to spend every day I have on this earth with you dedicated and honoring this covenant we have made to each other before God. I promise to protect you and to provide for you and to trust God to do so when I cannot. I promise to love you, Katie Marie, my bride, as Christ loves us, the church, his bride. I will love you selflessly and sacrificially, and as I grow closer to Christ, my love for you will grow stronger. As the head of our household I promise to honor you as my equal in our new life together, and treat you with understanding as we begin this new journey. When hard times come, I promise to strive to exude wisdom and to point us, in our struggles, to the one that holds everything in his hands. Whether a disagreement, a concern, a crisis, that health, or anything that breaks us down, I will take it to God in prayer and seek his guidance. I promise all of these things with the hope for a future that leads us both toward Christ. It is my goal in this marriage to lead you with wisdom in the path God sets before us, and as Christ showed us by example, the best leaders are those who know how to serve. As we take the next step in our journey, I think it would be appropriate to make a reference to where it all began, and say, “Katie Marie, it will forever be my pleasure to serve you.”
Gus, From the moment I first met you, I knew there was something in you that I wanted. You were so loving and kind and warm and welcoming to anyone, and I wanted that to be in my life every day. Today, I am standing next to you in front of all of these people so that I can enter into a covenant relationship with you and with God in marriage. I promise to uphold this covenant for all of the days and nights that I live on this earth with you. I promise to be your helper and give you my time, my energy, and my focus, even if it is limited. I promise to let you be the head of the household and submit to the authority that God has placed within you to be the priest of our home. In the moments of hurt and shattered expectations, I promise to strive in showing God’s wisdom in my actions and reactions with Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. And, in the times when I strive too little, I promise to seek forgiveness. I promise all of these things with a hope for a future that leads us both toward Christ. It is my goal in this marriage to be the second violin to your first, and to trust your lead wherever you feel the need to take me.
What more would make me happy? That both of them had great incomes, perfect health, huge houses in which my wife and I could take up a room when we get old?
Honestly, if they keep their vows – and I’m pretty sure they will – I wouldn’t ask for anything more than that.
But the story Jesus tells of the Prodigal is one that displays the wondrous love, mercy, compassion, and forgiveness of the Father. Yes, the story is really more about Him than the wayward, muddy, starving son.
When the young man reached his lowest point, there in a hog lot, starving and alone, he remembered the goodness of his father.
When he came to his senses, he said, “How many of my father’s hired workers have more than enough food, and here I am dying of hunger! I’ll get up, go to my father, and say to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and in your sight. I’m no longer worthy to be called your son. Make me like one of your hired workers.'” – Luke 15:17-19 CSB
Because he had already spent his inheritance (he thought), and since he had treated his own father like he was dead, there was no reason to expect a “Welcome home!” However, he knew his father’s slaves had it better than what he had – which was nothing and no one. He’d have to take his chances.
So, when the broken and filthy young man returns, the reception he receives is more than he could have ever hoped for. Already looking for him, the father spots his son on the horizon and runs to him! No doubt expecting the worst, the son falls on his face and attempts to make the case for indentured servitude. Maybe this would keep his father from killing him outright.
Humble, prostrate in the dirt, not even looking up to see the tears in his father’s eyes, he expects – or rather hopes for – the customary foot upon his neck, the accepted symbol of becoming a slave. But, instead…
…the feeling of a bristly beard upon his ear…
…an arm on his back…
…a rough palm cradling the other side of his head…
…and tear-drenched kisses?? Not the sole of a sandal? KISSES! Yes, kisses on his neck!
More joyful to receive his son back home than determined to reclaim his honor, the exuberant father drowns out the pitiful son’s pleas and cries out, “My son has come home!”
Instead of putting his foot on the boy’s neck, the father had humbled himself and descended to the place where his lowly child lay in the dirt. Instead of justice, He showed mercy.
And then Amazing Grace called out for a party!
God is the Father. You and I are the Prodigal. No matter how far we’ve drifted or run, He is still looking and waiting.
OH! Look! It’s my birthday! I am a whopping 53 years old today, and I’m excited! Why? I don’t know, but probably because I’m alive.
Yes, 53 years have passed since I was born in Chattanooga, TN. A whole lot of water has gone under the bridge since then.
But just last night, as we were heading home from Waffle House – that’s where we went for my pre-birthday dinner, I noted that, in reality, I didn’t do anything to be recognized for; my mother did all the work! She, of all people, should be celebrated!
It was long overdue, but I said, “I didn’t do anything on my own to be born; it was YOU who made the choice to have me … thank you.”
It was then that my wife said, “Then maybe we should not buy you a birthday present, but get your mom something!”
Ummm, nice, but it doesn’t work like that.
The OTHER Birthday
But then there was another birthday: the day I was born again. And the interesting thing about THAT day is that once again, similar to my earthly birth, the credit really belongs to a parent – my dad.
On a Wednesday night in September, 1973, I realized that I was a sinner in need of a Savior. Unfortunately, although I was convicted of my lostness, I didn’t know what to do about it. That’s when my daddy, my godly father, took notice and asked me what was wrong.
“I’m not saved…I’m going to hell!” I said.
“Do you want to talk about it?” he asked. I nodded.
Then, right in the middle of a song service at 34th Street Baptist Tabernacle, my dad I snuck off to a tiny Sunday school room with tiny tables and tiny chairs, and there he walked me through a classic “sinner’s prayer.”
I was gloriously and miraculously regenerated! I was born again! I was saved!
I can’t remember if I ever actually thanked him for that day, but because of that day I know I’ll get another chance.
Below is what is written in my dad’s tattered old Bible. My new-birth certificate 🙂