Category Archives: Life Lessons

A Long 179 Hours (5 Years After the Fact)

It’s hard to believe, but it’s been 5 years since I finally finished my Masters in Ministry. The following was first published in January of 2013. On a side note, I also received the seminary’s Theology Award – yay me!

Woo Hoo!

Finally, at the end of this spring semester, I will be graduating seminary with an M.Min. It has been a long time coming, too. As a matter of fact, there are people who were born after I started college who already have doctorates and are practicing medicine!

Nevertheless, even though it is not a Doctorate of Divinity or a Doctorate of Philosophy, it is still an accomplishment. It is an accomplishment that has been brought about by the accumulation of 179 credit hours. If you add to that the hours I completed that were not accredited, I would have close to 225!

How Long?

But what does all that really mean? How long did it take to complete 179 hours? Seven and a half years? Far from it, my friends. Far from it.

The average college student, if he didn’t do anything else, could have completed all of the above hours of courses in 6 years. ¬†Add in the total amount I have taken and an average student could have done it all in 8 years, if not sooner. So, when you stop and look at how long it took me, well, let’s just say I am not average.

Here are a few points to put things in perspective…

  • 1971 Press ReleaseRegGas was less than $1 per gallon. The year after I graduated high school, a friend of mine and I took a 1971 Chrysler Imperial on a road trip from Tennessee to Florida. That car could only get 200 miles to a tank of gas, and we still had money to spend.
  • Cassette Tapes to Clouds. When I first started college I was so excited to get a Pioneer cassette deck for my 67 Mustang. Now, my iPhone can hold more music than I could have afforded to own in the 80’s.
  • Bag Phone to iPhone. The first cell phone I used was bolted to the floor of a truck and had a rotary dial, not buttons. The first cell phone I owned came in a bag with a battery four to five times the size of an iPhone. I couldn’t always afford to talk, but I would hold it up to my ear while driving (it was legal to do that back then), especially in the dark, just to show off.
  • Typewriters and Printers. Most people don’t remember typewriters, but I had to use them in high school. Later, after the advent of personal computers, I was able to snag a Tandy 1000. But do you remember those old printers that used paper that had to be guided on rollers? It would take 10 minutes to print a 10-page paper! Still, it was better than typing.
  • Textbooks to E-books. When I first started college an e-book was unheard of. Now textbooks are offered for iPads, Kindles, and phones. I still prefer something with paper, however.
  • Babies to Baby Makers. I have been going to college for so long that babies born when I started have already graduated college and started families! Those babies are now older than the age of girl I was dating in 1987!

It has been a long 179 hours, that’s for sure. Sorta reminds me of eternity. The big difference is that I’m actually looking forward to eternity ūüôā

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Filed under Future, General Observations, Life Lessons, wisdom

13+ Things I DON’T Want To Do In 2018

Based On a Sermon

Five years ago I preached a sermon to close out the year of 2012. The following 13 points were part of that sermon: what I did NOT want to do in 2013. I reposted the list last January for 2017.

Unfortunately,¬†numbers 10, 11, & 12 are the only ones I’ve not done; I failed on the rest.¬†Just goes to show you¬†why a preacher needs to preach to himself more often. Did I hear an “amen”?

But this is a new year, and all I can do is try again. The only difference is that for 2018 I’m going to take my 13 and raise me 5. Therefore, here are 13+ things I DON’T want to do in 2018.

I Don’t Want To…

1. Believe another politician.¬†Why did I ever? I won’t do it this year, that’s for sure. Even if he/she is telling the truth, how would I know? Let God be true, and every man a liar, especially those running for office (Romans 3:4).

2. Eat more in one sitting than the average family in Africa eats in a week. (Prov. 23:21; 21:17)

3. Lie, cheat, or steal, even when it’s socially acceptable. This is especially important during tax season, but there are many times we lie to each other, deprive each other, and take what isn’t ours. Have you ever told someone you were “fine” when you actually weren’t? You lied. Used two coupons instead of one, just because the cashier didn’t notice? You stole.

4. Be angry.¬† Anger rarely solves anything. Angry people are miserable and always finding fault. Angry people turn a leisurely drive into a demolition derby. “Be not hasty in thy spirit to be angry: for anger resteth in the bosom of fools” (Ecclesiastes 7:9).

5. Whine or complain. What do I have to complain about? Really?

6. Tell people how stupid they are.¬†I don’t understand why some people act the way they do, but I need to be a little more understanding of idiots, morons,¬†ignoramuses, and bone-headed nincompoops. They must answer to God, not me, for their actions (Rom 14).

7. Add another x to my large. I can’t afford any more clothing. Even now I must wear¬†Hawaiian¬†shirts year-round because nothing will stay tucked in. I mean, seriously! The last thing I need is to expand the “temple.” (1 Corinthians 6:19)

8. Lose another favorite sock.¬†I can’t figure out how it happens, but something has to be done.

9. Waste time.¬† Today I listened to my two girls play with a new¬†ukulele. They laughed and sang.¬† Soon they will be grown, and there will be no more music, games, or bedtime stories. “Man is like to vanity: his days are as a shadow that passeth away” (Psalm 144:4).

10. Get a divorce.¬† Many do it because the grass looks greener on the other side of the fence. They don’t realize the unnatural stuff has a nasty aftertaste. I want to stay with the woman God gave me. Who could be better than a gift from God? ¬†“Let thy fountain be blessed: and rejoice with the wife of thy youth” (Proverbs 5:18).

11. Give one more dollar to a guy on the street‚Ķ.without offering the gospel as a condition.¬†If he wants a dollar, then fine. I’ll give him $5 if he lets me tell him about Jesus.

12. Be on a reality TV show. So many people say, “Anthony, your family would make a great reality show.” I say, “Yes, I know.” However, it ain’t gonna happen. The world isn’t ready for it.

13. Forget to pray. I don’t pray enough. More is better. What I need is to follow David’s example and pray morning, noon, and evening (Psalm 55:17). I shudder to think how much I’ve given up by forgetting to spend time with God.

James 4:17¬† “Therefore to him that knoweth to do good, and doeth it not, to him it is sin.”

Nor do I want to…

14. Have another rotator cuff surgery.¬† Honestly, this has not been as bad as some people said it would be, but it’s bad enough. I seriously do NOT want to go through this again.

15. Preach another boring or routine sermon. Honestly, what excuse do we have to preach anything that’s not engaging, exciting, or exalting? How dull do we have to be – or how little do we really care – to deliver the life-changing Gospel in such a way that the hearer would yawn??

16. Assume the new blue toothbrush is mine. I don’t even want to talk about it.

17. Move again. We moved twice last year, and we not even done! If I have to move again, it’s going to have to wait till 2019, not a minute earlier.

18. Waste another God-given opportunity. I’m getting too old to waste any time (and I have less than I did 5 years ago). But aside from time, I don’t want to waste any opportunity God gives me to do anything, especially tell people about Him.

 

Look for “20 Things I Want To Be Perfectly Clear In 2020” two years from now.

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Filed under Christian Living, Defending Traditional Marriage, Divorce, Do not judge, Future, God, Life Lessons, Preaching, Relationships and Family, scary new year, the future, Uncategorized

It’s Going to Be a Good Year

Happy 2018!

It is the afternoon of the first day¬†of 2018, and I am looking forward to what’s ahead. I can only hope what lies ahead are things that will bring me happiness, but I can’t assume; some of the¬†things that bring us the most joy are not always the things that initially¬†brings us much happiness.

Nevertheless, I’m looking forward to being happy more often than not. I mean, even in the hard times and through seasons of disappointment, do we not have a choice? Can we not find a way to rejoice in the positive instead¬†of dwelling on the negative?

For example, when I left the surgeon’s office the other day after getting stitches out of my shoulder, one of the nurses spoke to me. As I passed by with my arm in a sling, probably a little pale from the stress of it all, he asked, “Are you doing OK?” I paused, looked back, and replied,

“You know, there are people in the world who have to use their toes to brush their teeth. I don’t have to do that, so I guess I’ll be OK – it could be worse.”

And that’s really it, isn’t? Most of the things we complain about are really nothing more than first-world problems. Most of our unfulfilled dreams and expectations could be traced back to desires that most of the world would find laughable, if not absurdly immoral. Most of you who are reading this could be much worse off than you are in every area of life, everything from finances to relationships, or from health issues to housing issues.

Heck, if you didn’t have to ride an hour on an unsafe, crowded bus in 90-degree weather, all just to get to a place where you could stand in line to get access to a computer and internet, then you are automatically better off than hundreds I saw do just that in Zimbabwe.

I have a Savior who loves me and wants to commune with me, even when I forget He’s there. I have a God who is there every morning before I wake, painting a one-of-kind sunrise just for me! I am able to witness and experience the incredible complexity of nature, all with senses designed to recognize them and give glory to their Creator! I am blessed!

So, this is going to be¬†a good year! I just know it! All it will take is recognizing what I have, as opposed to what I don’t have. I could even go a step further and recognize what I don’t have, as opposed to what I could be enduring.

This is the [YEAR] that the Lord has made; I will rejoice and be GLAD (i.e., happy) in it! – Psalm 118:24

Our newest game – a cashless “Monopoly.” Scary, really.

….even if in the first game of the year I play with my youngest daughter, Haley, she completely decimated¬†me and obtained complete control of everything. Good for her! ūüėČ

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Filed under Future, Life Lessons, Struggles and Trials, the future

Surgery Update: 12/28/17

Words

My last “surgery update” focused on one word: PAIN! So,¬†if I were to follow the same format for this post, instead of just one word, I would offer two: Less¬†PAIN!

However, because the pain levels are down, and I am getting more comfortable with “talk-to-text,” the word count of this update will be a little more. Nevertheless, I promise not to use any of “colorful” words both God and my wife have heard this past week.

Colorful words: The kind that unfortunately slip from my quivering lips when the dog barks in the middle of the night and I instinctively sit up with a start, jerking my stiff and immobile right arm, sending searingly-hot waves of pain shooting along the offended nerves in my shoulder in an attempt¬†to ask my brain, “What the blankety-blank were you thinking??!!”

How Am I Doing?

Yes, I am doing better than I was a week ago. Yesterday, I went to the doctor for my first follow-up visit and received good news. After getting the stitches on my shoulder and hand removed…

This pic shows only 2 of the 3 incisions and none of the bruising on my bicep.

Look at the new wedding band my youngest daughter gave me for Christmas ūüôā

I was told that I could do physical therapy at home for the next four weeks instead of having to pay for it. Yay! The goal will be for me to regain some mobility, then go to actual therapy for the next level of mobility and strength building.

The worst part of my recovery has not simply been the pain, but the inability to get any sleep, therefore forcing me to endure the pain beyond the medication’s ability to control it. The lack of sleep complicates the whole healing process.

I do not have to wear an arm brace/sling all the time, now – at least not around the house. That’s refreshing. And, speaking of refreshing, I can almost do everything by myself! It’s amazing how degrading this whole week has been.

Prayer Needs

Make no mistake about it, we still need your prayers. ¬†It is precisely at times like this that the Enemy loves to attack the people of God, tempting us with the same old question he asked Eve, ‚Äúhath God said?‚ÄĚ (Gen. 3:1).

Yes! He has! And I will trust in the Lord with all my heart (Prov. 3:5-6).

But we still need your fervent prayer.

Financial Needs

Folks, I don’t know how to put it any other way: we still need financial help.

For at least the next three months, I will not be able to work. If you could help support us in any way, all specified gifts sent either to our church (South Soddy Baptist) or the Hamilton County Baptist Association office would be tax-deductible.

Click HERE for a link with more detailed info on donating.

Of course, if you don’t care about tax deductions and would simply like to donate a few dollars, you can go to the right sidebar here on the main page and click the Paypal “donate” tab.

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Filed under Life Lessons, Struggles and Trials

Keeping Watch at Night

“And it came to pass that night, that the word of the LORD came unto Nathan…” (2 Samuel 7:4)

2:30 a.m.,etc.

Believe me, I am not one who enjoys getting out of bed before the sun does. If it were up to me, I would prefer stumbling to the coffee pot in daylight. But that’s not my life – I’m a school bus driver; 5 o’clock mornings have been my¬†norm¬†for the last 10 years.

But I am also a pastor. A “shepherd.” And because I am a shepherd of souls, sometimes I have to do like the shepherds of old, keep watch over my flock by night. That requires being on call all the time, including the dark times. And when I say “dark times,” I mean that literally and figuratively.

In the Christmas story, we read of shepherds “keeping watch over their flock by night” (Luke 2:8). Have you ever wondered why the shepherds stayed awake? Simple: because wolves and thieves work the night shift, too! Sometimes shepherding involves looking out for your sheep while they sleep. Often it is in the dark times that pastors and intercessors are needed most.

Because of my shoulder surgery, I have been woken up by pain nearly every hour every night this past week. A few of those times I decided to pray while awake, and that got me to thinking.

The Night

It was in the night that “the word of the LORD came unto Nathan.” What would have happened if Nathan had refused to wake up? What would have happened had he refused to listen, but instead said, “I have GOT to get some sleep?”

This morning, like a lot of recent mornings, the Lord placed a prayer on my heart long before any alarms were set to go off. He gave me a “vision in the night.” I could have griped, rolled over, looked at the clock, and asked, “Why now?” Instead, I sat up,¬†forced myself to thank God for the pain I’ve been enduring, and began to intercede for certain individuals and the ministry in which I’m involved.

What would have happened had Nathan decided to go back to sleep? We can only guess. What would have happened had I brushed away God’s nudging? Only God knows. But if history is any kind of teacher, disobedience in even the smallest of things can be catastrophic; going back to sleep might have fed a wolf.

Your Call

Just the other day I mentioned to my wife how that I didn’t want to miss what God was wanting to teach me through this painful recovery. When I told her about David, Nathan, and my inability to get more than an hour or two of sleep each night, immediately she replied, “Looks like you’ve found your lesson.” As she pointed out, since I can’t do much else right now, God is calling me to pray more – especially in the night.

Have you ever woken up at night with another person on your heart? When that happens, what do you do? You see, dark times come at all times, especially when it’s most inconvenient. As a matter of fact, the “darkness” may even be a difficult time in your life. It may be in the wee hours of your “night” that God chooses to speak.

God wouldn’t call in the middle of the night if it wasn’t important.

Don’t ignore Him.

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Filed under Christian Maturity, Christmas, Life Lessons, ministry, Preaching

“Thankful” On My Mind

I woke up this morning

With “thankful” on my mind.

I opened my eyes to a dimly-lit room,

But I could see – I wasn’t blind.

The iPhone that awoke me

Cycled one or twice

Again I hit the snooze alarm

But I could hear it – that was nice.

Never enough sleep is common,

And getting out of bed is hard.

But I had a bed to get out of.

I slept in a bed, not the yard.

Pain in my foot as it hit the floor.

My aching body walked out the door.

But at least I was walking on my own two feet,

Out of a house – with a door – pretty sweet!

I woke up this morning

And I could be complaining

But even if I was only complaining

I should be thankful – I woke up this morning.

I just had “thankful” on my mind.

– A. Baker

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Filed under grace, Life Lessons, Thanksgiving

It All Started With, “Let’s Go Get Breakfast!”

I have been accused of giving too many details and making my stories too long, so I will spare you many of the details and try to make this story short.  Nevertheless, just remember, leave out just one little detail, and instead of a cake, you get a brick.

But anyway…

It all started a couple of weeks ago when my wife woke me up with a smile and said, “Let’s go get breakfast!” ¬†It sounded like a good idea, as many good ideas do, but it was a Saturday morning, and there was little on our schedule (for a change), so I should’ve known something was about to go wrong.

The only thing we needed to do before heading out to a place that sold pancakes was to go into a room in the basement of our church building Рto a small room where we were storing some boxes of personal items during our move to the parsonage Р and retrieve one small file for my daughter. When we saw that the file was wet, we knew something was terribly wrong.

Just as soon as we started moving a few boxes around, we found out that the whole floor was soaking wet, and every box that was anywhere close to the floor was wet, too.  And not only was everything wet, but there was mold all over the boxes. Why did my wife get my hopes up? I was really looking forward to those pancakes.

Needless to say, the rest of that Saturday morning consisted of unpacking a room full of boxes, including separating all the items, and making sure nothing was ruined.  Unfortunately and tragically, there were some casualties. Pictures.

How it was that boxes full of of priceless and irreplaceable photographs ended up in the boxes closest to the wet floor, I will never know.  What I do know is that that afternoon we were forced to take a melancholy trip down memory lane.

At one point my wife wept like someone had died. One of the photographs that was nearly completely ruined was a one-of-a-kind of her mother and father. It was impossible for me to reassure her that everything would be OK, because I couldn’t; that was the only photograph of its kind.

They were also other items that were either ruined or nearly destroyed. Some of those were keepsakes that were created by our children when they were very young, and one item was a construction-paper-version of Noah’s Ark that our nephew made. ¬†But even though there were some tragic losses, most of the photographs were only wet and a little moldy around the edges. So, what we had to do at that point was rescue what we could ¬†before they dried and stuck together.

My wife and daughters and I began taking photographs out, one by one, laying them out to dry. ¬†The only ¬†place we had to do that was in another Sunday school room across the hallway. ¬†What started out as a family outing in search of breakfast, ended up being a family project: create the largest display of damp photographs in our family’s history.

Now, on a sidenote, I took some photos of all the photos, just like my daughter Katie did. But, as always, Katie cannot just take a picture, she has to create photographic art.

So, again, what started out as a quest for breakfast ended up being something else: a time to make memories out of memories.

If I wanted to take more time, I could list several lessons that could be learned from what happened that Saturday morning when breakfast was skipped and photos were saved. ¬†But there’s one lesson that should be pretty obvious from what happened that day, and the truth of it can be found in Proverbs 27, verse one:

Boast not thyself of tomorrow, for thou knowest not what a day may bring forth.”

Sometimes breakfast will have to wait.

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Filed under Future, General Observations, Life Lessons, Struggles and Trials