Category Archives: places

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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Filed under America, community, current events, Guest Posts, places

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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2017, Here I Come!

My Short List

You knew it would come sooner or later, right? Well, this morning I wanted to throw together a short list of things I’d like to do in 2017. Don’t call them “resolutions,” just things I want to do or accomplish.

  • Read through my Bible more than once. Part of that will consist of reading through many of the books in a single sitting.
  • Finish reading some books I started last year… and the years before.
  • Pray “evening, morning, and at noon.”
  • Take my wife to Ruth’s Chris for the first time (maybe for her 50th birthday in February?). But that will depend on whether or not I find another job.
  • Lose some weight.
  • Build a bed frame for my daughter, Haley.
  • Change the brakes on every dadgum vehicle we own 😦 At least we have transportation, true? Well, as long as we can keep up the payment, that is.
  • Bring honor and praise to Jesus. The last thing I want to do is be an embarrassment to His name.

Some Video

Now, just to finish out this first post of the year, I want to leave you with some video moments from my trip to Zimbabwe last year (August). That was truly the highlight of my year, and I do appreciate all of your help getting there.

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Filed under Christian Living, Countries, Future, Monday Monkey, places, the future

Perfect Timing for a Late Post

A Little Late

As many of you may know, I have another blog called ProverbialThough.com. If you are unaware of it, I hope before today is over you will check it out.

proverbial thought pictureAnyway, I was one of several who would regularly write devotional commentary on proverbs in the book of Proverbs. Looking at a list each one of us would select passages which we would be responsible for addressing, then write and post it at the appropriate time. Unfortunately, because I was also in seminary at the time, I was often overwhelmed and sometimes missed a verse (rarely, but it happened). Proverbs 22:14 was one of those verses, however.

I was supposed to have written a post for Proverbs 22:14 in July of 2013! Better late than never, right?

Perfect Timing

Now, even though the post for Proverbs 22:14 was just written, it couldn’t have been written at a better time. You see, the whole idea behind the writing of Proverbial Thought was to look at the wisdom of each proverb and apply personal application based on how we as the writers had seen the wisdom played out in real life. And because each one of the writers came from different walks of life and different parts of the world, there was a more diverse pool of experience to draw from.

The reason this post was timely is because had I written it back in 2013 I would have had no idea what a real pit meant for killing looked like. I don’t know what I would have used from my experience to try to relate the truth of this particular passage, but I certainly would not have been able to compare it to an actual place in Africa.

So, just like so many other things in life, it was no coincidence that I did not write a post for Proverbs 22:14 until now – God knew what was best.

Check It Out

So, why not click on the link below and go check out this brand new post – 3 years late – on Proverbial Thought? And while you are there make sure you subscribe and leave a comment or two.

Oh, and share it 🙂

Click here to read “Sleeping In the Pit”

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I Saw and Perceived. Will You?

θεωρέω

The word is theōreō (θεωρέω), and it is translated as “saw” and “perceive” in two different verses in the book of Acts.

Now while Paul waited for them at Athens, his spirit was stirred in him, when he saw [G2334] the city wholly given to idolatry. … Then Paul stood in the midst of Mars’ hill, and said, [Ye] men of Athens, I perceive [G2334] that in all things ye are too superstitious. – Acts 17:16, 22 KJV

The Apostle Paul had not only been a spectator, but had discerned and considered the idolatrous condition of the city of Athens, and it broke his heart. That led him to take action.

Pray for Us

When I was in Zimbabwe I was able to see for myself what was going on. I was able to discern the painful conditions under which the people live. But even more, my heart was broken and convicted, for here was people who had a determination to survive, no mater what. Here was a body of Christians who were determined to share the gospel on one hand, and work for better conditions with the other.

Today more protesters concerned with unemployment (over 80%) and government corruption went to the streets, court approval in hand, yet were arrested by police. The people live in poverty because of leader who will not listen to the people of his country, and they are growing weary.

But what did I hear from the people I met? “Pray for us,” they would beg. “Pray for peace, for a peaceful election, and a change for good.” They want better relations with Western countries, not North Korea or Russia. They don’t want a coup, but fair and honest elections. But things are getting very tense, so they beg for us to pray.

Real People

It’s one thing to read about it in the news, but something totally different when you know the people involved. I went there…I met them…I lived and ate with them… The people of Zimbabwe are real people, a people of whom many love God and want Zimbabwe to be a Christian light on the continent of Africa.

I saw. I perceived. Now, will you take just a moment and look a little closer? Would you please intercede for this nation and our fellow believers caught in the middle of such turmoil?

All they want us to do is see them, and pray.

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Anthony’s Appetite (Zimbabwe Edition)

My Appetite

Several years ago I started writing posts about food, but I haven’t done any for a long while. The “Anthony’s Appetite” segments were meant to give me a reason to play an amateur food critic in hopes of getting free meals 😉 Well, I never got any free meals, but I did get to eat some interesting dishes.

*Speaking of several years, I just learned from WordPress that today is my 7th anniversary for blogging! Cool, huh?

Anyway, I will eat a lot of things at least once. I’m not as brave as Andrew Zimmern, but I am adventurous for an American. Therefore, it’s a little easier for me to travel to new places and eat food I’ve never seen before. My wife, on the other hand, would die of starvation.

Zimba-food

The average food I ate in Zimbabwe was chicken. This was the main staple meat. However, the main food of Zimbabwe is a thing called sadza.

One day I was the guest for lunch with a high-ranking professor at the Chinhoyi University of Technology (CUT). That day he took me to one of the small hotels that the university had acquired for its hospitality program. There, right in the open, food was prepared in an iron wok over an open fire and served buffet-style. Beef tips, fish, “vegetable,” and sadza was on the menu.

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What is sadza? Well, think of grits, only ground finer, then the consistency of heavy mashed potatoes. It’s made from corn meal, is designed to be eaten with your hands, and has the taste of grits with no salt or butter.

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Speaking of open fire, most all the food I ate in Zimbabwe was prepared by some lady in a mud hut. If it wasn’t made in a mud hut, it was made in an open area, but in every case there was a fire. And speaking of fire, I was terribly impressed with the way the folk in Zimbabwe were able to cook with such little wood! Where we in America would need to fill a fireplace, these people could cook a whole meal over three little limbs!

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The Taste Test

One night we decided to try a Zimbabwe version of a truck stop diner. Frankly, it wasn’t that bad. The only thing that stretched me was one of the little foods I was told people drive for miles to get – to eat with their sadza. It was called dried Matemba (kapenta).

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You know, Google it if you’d like, but whatever this fish was…I only ate one. One of these chewy little critters tasted like concentrated fish  – the kind of taste you try to cover up because it “tastes like fish” – and river water (river water around here tastes like fish). I about gagged. I can’t imagine eating a whole meal of these things.

Pizza Heaven

Our number one most frequently visited eating establishment of the trip was a little pizza place in Chinhoyi called Pizza Inn. Actually, it’s a combo type of place with a Chicken Inn, also (“with the flavor you’ve loved since 1987!”).

I’ve eaten a lot of pizza, but let me be very honest…Pizza Inn makes some seriously good pizza! And let me tell ya, Peri Peri Chicken pizza is da’ bomb!! Yessir! The pizza in the picture below was from the last night we ate there. It was four different types of pizza in one. AND, on Tuesday nights you could get two for the price of one!

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Every night after our individual revival service meetings, the three of us preachers and our driver, Agayi, would stop in for pizza. For crying out loud, a loaded medium was only six dollars! And that could literally feed two people! Good stuff.

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The other things was that Pizza Inn was the only place open that late (after 8 pm), and it was consistently clean.

But I Did a Bad Thing

Now, before I end this I must tell you about the worst thing I did while in Zimbabwe (except when I filmed myself in an area in the capital – who knew doing so was punishable by death?)…. I turned away some food.

Yes, I know it. How could I, right? One of the worst things you can do in a foreign country is offend your host by saying, “I’m sorry, but if I eat any more of this I’ll puke on your pretty table.” Well, that’s not exactly what I said, but it was close.

Most of the time when we think of dessert we never think of questionable contents, only sweet stuff. I mean, there’s usually nothing gross in dessert to offend the Western palate, right? Well, this time I ran into a culinary brick wall, one I could not get through or go around – I had to say “NO!”

What was it? What made it so hard to eat? How about I just show it to you and list the ingredients.

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The above dish didn’t look toooo unappetizing, especially since I recognized sliced bananas. And since I’d been to the Luck’s Bean factory and eaten desserts prepared with beans (like pinto bean pie which tasted like pecan pie), I was ready to give this food a try, even if I’d never thought of banana and bean going together.

But then the rest of the ingredients had a hard time going down my throat – in combination with the bananas and beans: Onions, leeks, yogurt, and a thousand island-like dressing.

One spoonful was all I could handle.

Fellowship, Not Food

But really, it’s not about the food – it’s about the fellowship…something of which we’re in short supply in the States.

Sitting around at lunch or dinner – or even around a table in a pizza joint – would be nothing much to write about had it not been for the great people we ate with. Our hosts and friends in Zimbabwe treated us like family, even royalty. It really didn’t matter what food was served, the fellowship with these dear brothers and sisters in Christ was the sweetest parts of every meal.

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If nothing else, anything is better than airline food!

 

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Going to Africa!

Thanks!

zimbabwe mapI give praise to the Lord for all of your prayers and financial support! As of last week all the needed funds for my mission trip to Zimbabwe had come in. What a blessing! What an answer to prayer!

Yes, I needed between $2,500-$2,700 in a relatively short amount of time – right during the time when I my income was greatly reduced  – and you folks stepped up to the bat and hit a home run!

I can’t wait to send out “thank you” notes to all that I can.

Stress

Now, I have to admit that all is not fun and games, however. Even though I have received all the need funds to make the trip, I am still having to pinch pennies as I purchase the necessary items to take with me – and the luggage in which to carry it.

It has been a long time since I’ve flown, and back then things weren’t so strict. Also, back then I didn’t worry about taking all the stuff I’m having to take this time. Even more stressful has been the challenge of determining what size of suitcase and carry-on to buy. Believe it or not, I had to borrow a measuring tape from a store clerk so that I could make sure what I bought was under 62 inches, and still I was so confused I didn’t even get anything.

Buying luggage is worse than shoe shopping!

And there’s more… It’s less than a week from my departure and I’ve still got to find enough clothes, change the starter on my daughter’s car, paint, clean house (and garage), try to get registered for my next round of seminary (pursuing an M.Div.), prepare for Sunday’s sermons, do some visiting, drive a bus for a field trip, schedule guest posts on this blog, and do a LOT of praying!

It’ll Be OK

You know, the Lord has brought me thus far, why should I worry? I could really use a few more dollars to finish up getting a few supplies, but God will provide. I don’t yet understand all the luggage stuff, but I’ll get it sooner or later. Somehow I’ll get a good portion of my to-do list done before I leave – I hope.

I believe God has something great in store for me. I don’t know what it is, but it will be what’s needed and what’s best. My prayer is that it will include a safe trip to Zimbabwe and back to the States, back home. I also pray it will include personal revival, along with stories of many in Chinhoyi coming to Christ.

But whatever happens, God is in control, and it’ll be OK. Just keep praying for me, would you? And prayers for my family would be appreciated, too!

Thanks!

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