Category Archives: places

Observations from a Middle-Georgia Pastorate: Where’s the Coffee?

Preparing Sunday lunch in Zimbabwe, not Georgia 🙂

Food

It doesn’t matter where in the world you go, food is a universal need, even here in the middle of Georgia. However, what people eat and drink when they are hungry can vary greatly between location and culture, and Georgia is no exception.

Consider the following observations…

In Romania:

When I was in Romania, I found out that ground pork wrapped in cabbage leaves (sarmale) was the national dish, and I enjoyed it. As a matter of fact, I can’t remember any food in Romania that I didn’t like.

…except that soup.

Once, when staying in an apartment, the host family made fish soup. When I looked into the bowl, several little fish glared back at me with glassy, broth-covered eyes. Considering that the fish had to have come from water that was heavily contaminated by industrial waste, I had to refuse it. Before I did, just to be sure I was doing the right thing in offending my hosts, I dipped a spoon into the broth and tasted it…I had a metallic taste in my mouth for a week after that.

At least there was coffee.

In Zimbabwe:

As opposed to Europe, food choices in Africa can be a little more adventurous, especially for an American. However, for the most part, the food I ate in Zimbabwe was pretty much the same as in the States. The only thing I was told NOT to eat was anything from the bush (i.e., monkey).

The reason for the similarity is that Zimbabwe’s food had a history of English influence, so finding familiar food was not a problem, just as long as you knew what to ask for. Don’t eat their “biscuits” with gravy, if you know what I mean.

The only thing I couldn’t stomach in Zimbabwe was a desert made of bananas, pinto beans, green onion, yogurt, and Thousand Island salad dressing. After one spoonful I was done. My American palate had met its match.

But, at least, there was coffee!

In Georgia:

Look, believe me, the food down here is great, and other than when they spring something new on me, like pineapple sandwiches, it’s pretty much like anywhere else in the South. However, I’ve come to learn that we have a completely different understanding of one key food group: Barbecue.

The best I can tell, once you’re exposed to raw kaolin (the clay mined from the ground), pine trees, and higher-than-average heat, what the rest of the South does with pork doesn’t matter. Somewhere in their rich, rich history, these folk evidently developed a subconscious hatred for the pig. They like to eat it, but first they must pulverize it then torture it with a light bath of BBQ-flavored vinegar.

But at least there’s coffee, right? Uh, well, sorta.

Beverages

Like with food, it doesn’t matter where you go – people have to drink. Of course, what they drink depends upon the quality of the water and whether or not the locals have an excess of potatoes.

But, regardless, everywhere I’ve been in the world, from North America to Europe to Africa, one drink has been there for me, waiting around every corner, offered at every function, even boiled in pots over an open fire …coffee.

That is, except in middle Georgia!

Seriously, in Romania I woke up to a big, cast-iron pot full of dark, fragrant, exceedingly rich coffee over an open fire. Yes, there was electricity where we were staying, but because there were more than a few of us, and since coffee was a must for breakfast, they broke out the pot, lit a fire, and poured in the grounds.

In Zimbabwe, coffee was offered everywhere I went, including homes that prepared their meals in a mud hut! Even in an Ethiopian airport, where few things were recognizable to a Westerner, there was a coffee shop serving that familiar, satisfying, nerve-calming, caffeinated friend.

But here? Coffee? What coffee?

No joke, I’ve been to multiple fellowships, dinners, meetings, you name it, and I can’t tell you one time – not once – where there was any coffee offered with the desserts! Where else, except maybe the Sahara, do you go to an important meeting and find only water and iced tea, but NO coffee?

I don’t understand it.

All I can figure is that the folk down here are so laid back, so calm, so chill, so full of the “peace of that passes all understanding,” that coffee isn’t needed. Sweet tea is the cure-all for everything.

Or, it could be that they learned other ways to cope with stress way back when Union blockades stopped the shipment of coffee to Confederate troops. I don’t know.

Either way, I’ll survive. I’m tough. I’ll even grow to enjoy the way they do their BBQ.

It’s not like I have to have coffee with every meal and meeting, right? It’s not like God commanded locally-grown Georgia pecan pie be accompanied by a cup of dark roast, right?

I may need your prayers.

 

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Filed under baptist, Church, community, Food, General Observations, Humor, ministry, places, Southern Baptist, Struggles and Trials

A Tree House Burns, Hearts Break

I am wiping the tears away from my eyes. 

This evening I found out that something iconic, something magnificent, a true testament to one man’s love for God was destroyed by fire.

The world’s largest tree house burned to the ground.

The news of it literally sucked the air out of my lungs.

https://abcnews.go.com/US/worlds-largest-tree-house-burns-ground/story?id=66467705

I went there seven years ago and made a video with my puppet, Mr. Monkey. I never thought I’d look back on that video with a broken heart, but that’s exactly what I’m doing today.

But as heartbroken as many of us are, I can’t imagine how heartbroken Mr. Horace Burgess is right now.

I pray God will give him a hug, because a God-sized hug is what he probably needs right now.

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Observations from a Middle-Georgia Pastorate: Dirt Roads

A portion of the unpaved southern half of the road where I live.

Georgia Red Clay

I’m sure you’ve either heard of it, or maybe you’ve even gotten your clothes stained by it, but Georgia is famous for “Georgia Red Clay.”

The reddish soil that covers much of the state of Georgia, along with areas in surrounding states, gets it’s color from iron oxide, the reddish-orange shades varying as much as any shade of red rust. It’s almost everywhere.

As a matter of fact, a good portion of the secondary roads in my area look just like the one above.

Georgia White Clay

On the other hand, especially around these parts (Washington County), there is another kind of clay: Kaolin.

4 oz. for $7 on Etsy!

As opposed to the common red clay, Kaolin (nicknamed “white gold” because of its color and its profitability) is mined, processed, and sold locally and around the world in various forms for use in products ranging from paper to lipstick. Actually, over 50% of it is used to give coated paper the “gloss” you might see in quality printer paper or magazines.

FYI, just click on the attached link and learn about one of the world’s largest producers of Kaolin located just 10 miles south of me in Sandersville, GA: Thiele Kaolin Company.

However, what I wanted to write about was not the types of clay that can be found in middle Georgia, but those red clay dirt roads…just like the one two houses down from me…right where the pavement ends.

It’s About the Dust

Two days ago, as I drove by one of these dirt roads, I sensed there was something profound…an important lesson…that I needed to learn then share. However, asking myself “What’s so spiritual about dirt roads?” over and over didn’t bring me any closer to a revelation. Then, as I was in the shower this morning, the truth of it all became clear (or clean, whichever):

It’s about the dust!

What do you get on your car after you travel down a paved road? Nothing. What do you get when you travel down a dirt road? Dust! It covers everything.

Think about it. You could drive a thousand miles down a nice, paved highway, and nobody would be any more the wiser of your long, hard journey. But travel down a dirt road and people will know you’ve been somewhere.

It’s About Serving

In a small, rural town like mine, the people have the tendency to care a little more about their neighbor. It’s not a firm and fast rule, but generally speaking, here you’re more likely to have someone lend you a helping hand than in the middle of a metropolis.

Yet, how do people know when you need a helping hand? How do people know you’ve traveled down a long, dirt road?

So often, in our “big cities,” we live such guarded, relationally-sanitized lives that we could be driven to near exhaustion and no one would be able to tell from the outside. In other words, our cars are clean.

But get down to a place where “everybody knows your business” and what do you find? A more openness about the road of life, a transparency that admits the road is dusty and dirty and has an affect on you.

Are bigger towns with the paved roads really all that better? Consider what the Dictionary of Biblical Imagery had to say about “streets” under the heading of  “A Window into the City’s Common Life”:

[The] street as a setting in the Bible represents what is commonly true of the mood, spirit and well-being of the city. Streets typically line the entirety of a city and serve as its reference points. Descriptions of what takes place “in the streets” therefore function as generalizations about what is going on in the city as a whole. – Leland Ryken et al., Dictionary of Biblical Imagery (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2000), 820.

If the streets of this middle-Georgia pastorate are any inclination, there’s a lot of opportunity to be like Jesus…to be a servant. At least down in these parts people are a little more willing to admit the need to have their feet … or their tires … washed.

So after he had washed their feet, and had taken his garments, and was set down again, he said unto them, Know ye what I have done to you? Ye call me Master and Lord: and ye say well; for [so] I am. If I then, [your] Lord and Master, have washed your feet; ye also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I have given you an example, that ye should do as I have done to you. Verily, verily, I say unto you, The servant is not greater than his lord; neither he that is sent greater than he that sent him. – John 13:12-16 

It’s easier to be a servant where the roads are dirt 🙂 

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Filed under America, Christianity, community, General Observations, Life Lessons, ministry, places

Anthony’s Appetite (Big Bob’s Bar-B-Q)

The following post was written a few years ago. But since I’ve recently been searching for good BBQ, I thought I’d repost this to lend some context. I know what I like 😉

Bar-B-Q

I may have known in the past, but I have forgotten what Bar-B-Q stands for. I don’t know why it is spelled that way, or why other people spell it BBQ. Some people spell it out as Barbecue, but it’s all the same – good eat’n!

If you don’t know what BBQ is, then you may not be from the South…or West…or East…or anywhere animals are smoked and cooked and eaten with coleslaw and banana pudding. One thing’s for sure, if you have never eaten BBQ, you may not be American.

Decatur, Alabama

Not long ago we went to Decatur, Alabama, which is just a few miles southwest of Huntsville, the place with space and rocket museum. Decatur is also the home of Cooks Pest Control.

Back in the mid-90’s I worked for Cooks in Chattanooga, but had to train in Decatur for a month. While at the home office’s training facility, we were encouraged to go to Big Bob’s Bar-B-Q. We were told it was required of us, in order to be good employees, to eat one of Big Bob’s stuffed baked potatoes. We did, and I never forgot it.

That is why when I visited Decatur this time with my family, it was imperative that we go back and eat another potato. You, the reader, needed to hear about it.

Big Spud

Let me tell you, if you want to eat the best Bar-B-Q in the world, Big Bob’s is out to convince you theirs is it. If nothing else, they have the awards and the big-time recognition to back up their claims. But whether or not their BBQ is the best, they have a serious stuffed potato.

This huge potato comes with your choice of pulled pork, beef brisket, or chicken. Under that is cheese, sour cream, butter, and a few other goodies. Believe me, it is a meal and a half. Just don’t eat it if you are on a carb-free diet.

Overall

I won’t say that Big Bob’s is the best BBQ in the world, but it is pretty dang good. And if you want a potato that will hold a quarter of a pig, then Big Bob’s is a place you need to try at least once. You won’t regret it.

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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