Category Archives: places

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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Filed under animals, blogging, community, Food, General Observations, places, writing

Resting and Reading

I’m not going to be posting much by way of original stuff this week – I don’t think (one never knows when he will be inspired). I’m spending my time with our daughter and son-in-law and our new granddaughter in Charleston, SC.

But aside from the visiting, I’m spending a lot of time in resting and reading. No TV. No amusement rides. Maybe a little time today at the gun range with my youngest, Haley, but mostly a lot of time reading and studying.

Reading: The Art & Craft of Biblical Preaching.

Studying: The Bible, specifically the book of Ephesians and John 3:16.

So, if you don’t hear much from me this week, understand that I’m retooling, refreshing, rearming, recharging in one of the most beautiful and historic cities in America.

And I’m sure there’ll be a bowl of shrimp and grits in my future 🙂

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Filed under Bible Study, blogging, Family, places, Preaching, Vacation

Viewing Home

There’s a place I used to go when I was younger, when I was in much better shape, and when my family still lived down by the river (but not in a van). It was a bluff overlooking the Tennessee River Gorge, right above where we lived.

Just the other day, as I walked out of the cardiologist’s office, I saw in the waiting room a photo on canvas, a photo of the very place I used to hike to as a kid. Emotions took my breath away.

I moved a chair out of my way and used my phone to take a picture – this picture – of the picture.

There it was, the view like no other in Tennessee, like few in the world. It was the view of my home from on top of that rocky outcrop that I’d gladly hike for a few hours to reach.

Oh, how I’d love to go there again, except this time with my wife and girls! I would love for them to share in the awe and grandeur of God’s perfect river view.

If you were to sit on the edge of the rock, to your left you would see the Tennessee River flow down from the direction of Chattanooga. Below your feet would be a hundred-foot drop to the tops of maple and oak trees. To your right would be (as you see here) the river on which we’d fish, ride in a boat, and watch the rains from every storm approach us like a white wall.

This was Cherokee country. This was moonshine country. This was the place where my great grandfather immigrated to after hobo-ing a train out of Rainbow City, Alabama. This is where my grandfather married a half-Cherokee woman and built a house out of rough-cut pine that he and his father cut at the saw mill. This is where my dad and my uncle would sneak across the river at night to take food to my grandpa Baker who was hiding out from the revenuers.

This was where my dad got his first and last whiskey still at the age of 14, but gave it up after the plum whiskey nearly killed him.

This is where we would later live after my dad met my mom, gave his heart to Jesus, and displayed what it really looked like to be changed by the Gospel.

This is where I learned to shoot, hunt, fish, and be proud of my “hillbilly” roots. It’s also where my cousin and I snuck what we thought were .22 cal. blanks out of my uncle’s gun cabinet and then proceed to shoot at each other across a field at night. Actually, I had the blanks, but Danny had the bullets.

I can say with all certainty, he missed.

This is where I would accept the call to preach at age 16.

This is the place I used to call home, but no longer. Even if I wanted to move back there, the millionaires have bought up much of what used to be my stomping grounds, at least what’s not now part of the Tennessee River Trust. I’d never be able to afford a place to build a campfire, much less a house, even if the old family property was available.

But that’s OK.

Sure, there’s a sentimental ache in my heart to stand on that bluff again, to look down on my old home. But the older I get, the more I have a longing to see someplace else, someplace where I’ll be welcome forever… A place I’ve been reading about in an old Book.

From what I’ve been told, well… the view there is spectacular! Even infinite!

And there’ll be no cardiologist waiting rooms, either.

 

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Filed under Family, General Observations, Life/Death, places, wisdom

“The Widow” – A Quick Review

I Binged

Since I have been, once again, staying at home and unable to work (for the time being), I actually found myself binge-watching a series on Amazon Prime.

I am not much of a TV watcher anymore, but every once in a while I get caught up in a series. When it comes to binge-watching a series, there’s only been a couple: “24” (seasons 3-5) and “Cobra Kai.” Believe me, I’m looking forward to the second season of “Cobra Kai” this month!

But just yesterday and today I spent 7 hours of my life watching a “The Widow” on Amazon Prime, and it left me emotionally drained.

Africa

I didn’t take the time to look to see where the filming actually took place, but “The Widow” was definitely filmed in Africa somewhere. After having been to Ethiopia, Zambia, and Zimbabwe, I could tell the scenery was legit, even inside the homes.

But what really drained me was the pain and suffering so rampant in places like the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Poverty is one thing, but hopelessness without Christ is totally different. And that’s all I could see throughout this series.

Sure, there was poverty, as in not having food and shelter and “stuff,” but the real poverty displayed throughout the series was the poverty of the soul. It was in every scene, every character, every plot twist.

People can complain all they want to about America and our president, but if there is ANYTHING that has made America “great,” it’s the undercurrent of a Judeo/Christian ethic that holds together the moral fabric of our society and is the foundation of our laws. Even at our worst, we are not like the Congo. At least here we have the concept that every individual has intrinsic value – not there.

The whole idea of child soldiers and all they go through is sickening.

The Widow

I don’t want to spoil it for you, so I won’t even try to explain this series. The best I can do is tell you that there is a woman who thinks her husband died in a plane crash in Africa, but later finds out he is not dead. She sets out on a mission to find him and find out why he hasn’t contacted her.

It’s complicated and takes a little while for the series to pick up speed. But what slows it down, the developing of characters, is necessary to fully realize the scope of what is to unfold.

There is an LGBT (lesbian) plot twist in an episode or two, one that I feel was totally unnecessary to the story and must have been added to appeal to that particular demographic. Other than that, there’s little by way of offensive subject matter, that is, except for the graphic nature of violence and despair.

If I do any more binge-watching, I hope I find something a little more uplifting. 

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Filed under Countries, General Observations, Movie review, places

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

Weddings, Weddings, Weddings!

Ringgold, Georgia

Did you know that Ringgold, GA is the “Wedding Capital of the South”? Well, it is, and that’s because hundreds and hundreds of couples get married there every year.

And where do many, if not most of them choose to tie the knot? The Ringgold Wedding Chapel. Go check out their website and read about its history, including some of the more famous names who’ve gotten married there (Dolly Parton and Carl Dean, George Jones and Tammy Wynette, Bob Harvey from Jefferson Airplane, etc.).

Anyway, I’ve been conducting weddings at the Ringgold Wedding Chapel for a few weeks, now. It’s been interesting, to say the least. 🙂

A Ministry

Some of you may think me crazy, or even a heretic, for agreeing to marry people in a wedding chapel. Believe me, I get it. There used to be a day when I wouldn’t do a wedding for anyone unless they first agreed to extended pre-marital counseling. Now, I marry people the same hour I meet them.

But why do I do it? You see, the people that come into the chapel to get married don’t just walk in and say, “Marry me!” No, they have to book the chapel and pay a fee, plus have all their paperwork in order. However, those that want to get married could just as easily go to a courthouse, but they don’t; they choose to be married by a minister.

If these couples are going to get married somewhere, no matter what, I figured why not seize the opportunity to present the Gospel to them through a ceremony that highlighted a biblical model of marriage? It’s not a perfect situation, but it’s a chance to plant a seed, if nothing else.

So, I wanted to share with you guys my wedding script. It’s what I read for each and every wedding, making adjustments as needed, sometimes adding more when appropriate. When the service is over, I give the couple the script I used (with their names written in the blanks) for a keepsake, Scripture references and all.

Wedding Ceremony

The Greeting

   Greetings, everyone! My name is Rev. Anthony Baker, and on behalf of __________________ and ________________, I would like to welcome you to this wonderful occasion.

   We are gathered together here, today, in the sight of God and all you witnesses, to join this man and this woman together in holy matrimony. It is holy because marriage was not invented in a court room or a judge’s chamber, but in ages past by God Himself. Therefore, it should not be taken lightly, but should be entered into reverently, advisedly, and in the fear of God.

   He is watching, and He will never forget the vows you two will be exchanging. And, not to leave anyone out, God also knows every one of you here as witnesses, and He will know whether or not you encourage and support this couple in the days and years to come.

   To Bride: ______________, are you willing to proceed with this ceremony? Answer: “I am.”

   To Groom: _______________, are you willing to proceed with this ceremony? Ans.: “I am.”

The Giving of the Bride (optional)

   Who gives this woman to be married to this man? Response: “I do,” “We do,” “Her mother and I do.”

Prayer

   Father in Heaven, Creator of all things, we thank you this day for your mercy and grace and for giving us the wonderful gift of marriage. Lord, please bless us with Your presence, bless the union of this bride and groom, and be glorified by all that is said and done today. In the matchless name of Jesus Christ we pray, Amen!

Statement of Marriage

   As I mentioned before, marriage was not created by men, nor was it ordained in a courtroom; marriage was created by God Himself. We know this from reading the second chapter of Genesis. There, God created Adam, then Eve, and brought her to the man. Adam then said of Eve, “This is now bone of my bone, flesh of my flesh.” Genesis 2:24 reads: “This is why a man shall leave his father and mother and bond with his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.”

   Marriage is the institution in which God ordains a man and a woman to come together in love, with undying commitment, as a testimony to others of God’s love for us.

   When times get hard, you don’t run away, throw in the towel, and say, “I quit!” Why? Because Jesus, as our example, said to His disciples, “I will never leave you” (Matthew 28:20; Hebrews 13:5). As a further example to us, even after all we did to Him, after all He went through, He still carried the cross – He gave His all.

   Marriage is more than a 50/50 relationship; it’s 100% both ways. But even when one of you doesn’t live up to the other’s expectations – it will happen  – true love carries the extra burden, forgives, shows mercy and grace. That is one reason why the apostle Paul tells us in the 5th chapter of his letter to the Ephesians, “Husbands, love your wives, just as also Christ loved the church and gave himself for her” (Eph. 5:25). The sacrificial love of Jesus was to be mirrored in the marriage relationship. To sum it up, Paul went on to say in verse 33: “…each one of you is to love his wife as himself, and the wife is to respect her husband.”

   _______________ and _______________, the greatest love of all, the truest love of all, is not a love that demands of each other, or expects of each other, but gives all that one has without any expectations. 1 John 4:10 (NLT) says, “This is real love–not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as a sacrifice to take away our sins.” Therefore, the greatest advice I can give is if you want a long-lasting, wonderful marriage, love each other more than yourself, for loving each other IS loving yourself.

The Vows

   _______________  and ______________, now that you understand something of the reason for marriage, are you ready now to confirm your commitment to each other, before God and these witnesses, by the saying of your vows?  Response: “We are.”

   Then please turn to each other and join hands.

   _______________ (groom), in taking ______________ to be your wife, do you so promise to honor, to love, and to cherish her in sickness as in health, in poverty as in wealth, in hardship as in blessing, until death alone shall part you?  Groom responds: “I do.”

   _______________ (bride), in taking ______________ to be your husband, do you so promise to honor, to love, and cherish him in sickness as in health, in poverty as in wealth, in hardship as in blessing, until death alone shall part you?  Bride responds: “I do.”

Do you have rings?

The Exchange of Rings

   You will now seal your vows “to honor, to love, and to cherish” by the giving and receiving of rings. I would like for you to look at your rings for just a moment. What you see is symbolic of two things. First, of course your rings are round. That symbolizes something that is never ending, a union that cannot be broken, and that is what your marriage should be.

   But secondly, I would like for you to think about the precious metal that these rings are made of. The metal is precious because it was hard to find and what it endured to become what you will wear. The metal in these rings went through a furnace, through testing, through times of purifying. Your marriage will also have times of trials and tribulation, times when you’ll be put through the fire. And when those times come, look at those rings you will be wearing and remember this: The longer you stay together, the more fires you endure, the more precious your marriage to each other will be.

  _______________ (groom), place the ring on ___________’s finger and repeat after me:

   Groom: “I, ________________, take you, ________________, to be my wedded wife to have and to hold, from this day forward, for better or for worse, for richer or for poorer, in sickness and in health, until death do us part. Joyfully and willingly, I commit myself to you and to you alone.”

   ________________(bride), place the ring on _____________’s finger and repeat after me:

   Bride: “I, ________________, take you, ________________, to be my wedded husband to have and to hold, from this day forward, for better or for worse, for richer or for poorer, in sickness and in health, until death do us part. Joyfully and willingly, I commit myself to you and to you alone.”

Prayer

   Gracious Father, we thank you for creating us in your image so that we might know You and what true love is. Through your power and blessing we ask You to enable these two to keep their vows and be renewed daily in their love and commitment to each other. In Jesus’ name we pray, Amen.

Unity Candle, Sand Ceremony (Optional)

The Pronouncement

   _______________ and ______________, we have witnessed the pledging of your love and commitment to each other, and the sealing of your vows by the exchanging of rings. Thereby, under the authority of God’s Word, and in accordance with the laws of the State of Georgia, it is my privilege to pronounce you husband and wife!

_____________ (groom), you may kiss your bride.

Introduction of Newlyweds:  I now present to you Mr. & Mrs. ______________________.

 

Officiated by: Rev. Anthony C. Baker, M.Min.

So, what do you think of my wedding script? Feel free to use it if you want.

What do you think of sharing the Gospel in this way?

Would you word anything differently?

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Filed under Defending Traditional Marriage, Defining Marriage, ministry, places, Struggles and Trials

Cold As Hell

Welcome Winter

If you live in other parts of the country or the world, you may not understand the mind of a Southerner. On the other hand, there’s probably no “may” to it.

Sweet tea in Mason jars. It’s a Southern thing.

You don’t understand why we like sweet tea, grits, cornbread, fried okra (if it’s done correctly), banjos, guns, God, and an occasional jab at the North (those *@!% Yankees). But that’s OK, we love you, anyway, as our typical hospitality demonstrates.

But when it comes to winter… You guys up north REALLY don’t get us. Seriously. Anytime we get excited about snow, you talk about how much you can’t stand it. You even make fun of how we shut down our lives when no more than a quarter of an inch falls on the streets.

You really, really don’t understand.

So, when yesterday morning was the coldest day of the year so far, and when this morning’s temps were all the way down in the high 20’s here in Chattanooga, you folk not from here don’t understand how a guy like me could be giddy over being able to break out a fleece-lined flannel shirt in order to go outside and see my breath as I walked over crunchy, frost-covered fallen leaves.

You see, it’s like this: When you’re accustomed to frying in high heat and swimming in humidity, actually experiencing cold weather in winter is refreshing. And, yes, we are dreaming (and hoping, praying, etc.) for a white Christmas.

Any Cold Is Bad

However, there are some Southerners who hate any kind of cold. Many of them are the poor and elderly who don’t have the ability to fight off the low temperatures. They suffer during this time.

But then there are others who moved to the South to escape the cold winters of the north; they feel betrayed when it gets cold down here.

Finally, there are those who can’t be happy no matter what. They want to complain about anything and everything, hot or cold. As a matter of fact, more often than not it’s that type of people you will hear repeat a familiar descriptor about the weather:

“It’s cold as hell outside!” 

Describing Hell

“Hell” is a word that is used in describing a whole host of things (or, a whole heck of a lot of things… see what I did there?). Things are big as, hot as, loud as, messed up as, weird as, and sorry as hell. But on what do they base their adjectives? How much do they really know about Hell in order to draw a similarity that makes any sense?

I mean, if I was to say, “That ant is as tiny as Mt. Everest,” would that even compute? No, because Mt. Everest isn’t tiny.

Then why say something is as cold as hell? I mean, we know from the Bible that Hell is hot, but how hot exactly is up for debate; therefor describing something as “hot as hell” is within the realm of possibility, at least.

But “cold as“? Really?

On the other hand, Hell is described as a place where the residents will, despite the wailing masses crying out for a single drop of water, be completely and utterly alone. They will reside in a place without love, without compassion, without the gentle touch of a caring hand, without a single, solitary voice ever saying, not even once in a billion years, “It will be OK.”

Does that make you shiver thinking about it? It does me.

Maybe Hell is “cold” after all. 

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Filed under America, General Observations, places, Weather