Category Archives: places

Observations from a Middle-Georgia Pastorate: “Visitation”

This is the view from my windshield as I was leaving the home of a church member.

Honestly, I miss the internet speeds of Gig City (Chattanooga), but you can have the traffic and the hustle.

This is where I belong, now.

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Filed under America, Bethlehem Baptist Church, Church, community, ministry, nature, places

Countdown to Jamaica (15 days left)

As of this moment, alone in my quiet office, having just finished my preparations for Sunday morning’s sermon, I have only 15 days till I’ll be in Jamaica!

Yeah, for some of you that’s no big deal; you’ve probably been there multiple times. But for me, this is my first time going there, and I think I have a right to be excited. Don’t you think?

I will be flying out of Atlanta on the 20th, a Friday evening. Unfortunately, flying is the worst part – I have a love/hate relationship with it.

If you are curious, I will be preaching in a week of revival services at Leith Hall Baptist Church, along with ministering at several other locations throughout the week. Lord willing, I will also be speaking to the local police officers (please pray about that).

To my surprise I found a video on YouTube that shows the very street I will be traveling and the church in which I will be preaching! How cool is that?

I’m told this area of Jamaica is considered the poorest in the country. Those who do have jobs likely drive all the way to Kingston to work. For the rest, the unemployment rate is near 80%

Most of the children where I will be eat only one meal a day, and that’s their lunch at school.

As the days get closer, I’ll keep you guys updated.

Also, if you feel led to help support this trip, what I don’t use for personal items, food, fees, and all that junk, I will be leaving in the hands of those whom I can help. Simply click on the PayPal tab and designate what the funds are for.

 

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Prayers for Nashville

Tornadoes

Image result for nashville tornado

ABC News

Last night one of the most terrifying things in nature descended upon the capital of my home state of Tennessee. Destructive and deadly storms brought tornadoes right through Nashville, leaving (as of this writing) 9 people dead, possibly more. As of this moment, several of my friends have already checked in as “safe,” but a few more have not responded.

I hate tornadoes! I’ve been close to 4 or 5 and actually been in a hotel in Clarksville, TN when it was damaged by one that destroyed houses across the street. Tornadoes scare the crap out of me. I think that might be one reason why I experience feelings of panic or anxiety when I feel/hear a train (because the sound of a freight train is very similar). In a matter of seconds, everything can be gone.

I’m thankful to God that what came through Nashville last night was not as destructive as what destroyed so much of Georgia back in April of 2011. That storm, if you remember, killed nearly 300 people and decimated Ringgold, GA. But for Nashville, our prayers and thoughts are with them.

Thoughts and Prayers

What about those “thoughts and prayers”? What does that even mean?

As of late, many in the media have started to publically make fun of and shame those who say “our thoughts and prayers.” Some politicians have even been so bold (and arrogantly foolish) to stand up and declare that our prayers are worthless; we need action!

Granted, thoughts don’t do much other than say, “We’re thinking about you.” Unless that thinking leads to help in some tangible way, what good are the thoughts except to let the people who are suffering know that others know they are hurting?

And what about the prayers? First off, unless the Object of our prayers is capable of doing anything, they are actually of less value than “thoughts.” Keeping someone who is hurting on your mind might lead you to do something to alleviate the suffering. However, prayer is calling upon the aid of Another, or those whom He will send to address the need.

Yet, if the prayers are made by those whom God hears, then they are not worthless, but helpful and empowering. God moves on the backs of our prayers, and godly prayer has a tendency to become self-fulfilling (i.e., when we pray for workers to collect the harvest, we often become the workers). That’s one of the ways He works “mysteriously.”

So, my thoughts and prayers this morning concern Nashville.

Help me pray, would you?

  • Heavenly Father, nothing that happens in this world catches you by surprise – You know all things. There is nothing outside of your all-seeing, all-caring, all-judging eye. I am thankful you already know what has happened in Nashville, and even long before last night you were working in ways we will never comprehend.
  • Lord, comfort the ones who are mourning the loss of loved ones. Bring peace to them through the power of your Spirit.
  • Ease the pain of those who are wounded, and give the medical personnel added measures of endurance as they are pressed into longer shifts and greater stress.
  • Please protect those who are on the ground clearing debris, directing traffic, and protecting the most vulnerable.
  • Give a mighty voice to those who survived! Like so often is the case, send the reporters and news crews to the places where survivors give You the glory so the world may hear your name praised.
  • Jesus, as we know you have the power to calm storms, You also have the power to use storms. you know the hearts of the people of Nashville. Open their eyes to your mercy and grace.

Amen.

 

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Filed under community, General Observations, places, Struggles and Trials, Weather

What’s Up, Jamaica! Looking Forward to Meeting You!

Image result for jamaican flag

The Final Countdown

Today marks one month until I will be in Jamaica finding a “lucky egg” to kiss (that’s a Cool Runnings reference)! That’s right, next month I am going to Jamaica for bobsled training!

Not really… no bobsled training… but if there’s anybody with a lucky egg, then…

Image result for cool runnings lucky egg gifSeriously, I will be going to Jamaica next month to preach in revival services and minister in the community of Morant Bay. (I wonder if my friend David Welford has been there? Probably)

This will be my first trip to Jamaica and my first trip to any Caribbean location.

Prayers Needed

One thing you need to know is that this is not, for me, a “short-term mission trip.” I am not going to Jamaica to see the sites, hang out with the locals, get some cool pictures, and come back pretending I was Apostle Paul.

My intention is to encourage, embolden, and bless the Christians who will gather to hear the Word of God preached. They are the ones who will be doing the work of the Church long after the team I’m with will be gone. Therefore, I want to be sure to give them what they will need to prepare them for the future.

Now, I will be doing more than just preaching in church services; I will be doing other ministry while I am there, including visiting schools, hospitals, maybe a jail, and who knows what else. So, it will be busy, that’s for sure.

I know it’s not on the schedule, but I would really love to be able to speak as a chaplain to the local police. Please pray that opportunity will become available.

Blessed To G0!

I haven’t mentioned this until now, but I have been tremendously blessed to have my travel expenses covered! What a blessing and a relief! If for no other reason than that, I want this trip to be a resounding success.

But beyond the funds to get there and back, it takes money to cover personal expenses, such as baggage fees, clothing (that I don’t normally wear around here), small gifts for the local elders, transportation, food, and any unforeseen incidentals.

IF, and only if, you feel led to donate any amount to help cover the incidental expenses, you can click on the PayPal tab on my blog and give that way. Or, you can send your gift to the church address: Bethlehem Baptist Church, P.O. Box 85, Warthen, GA, 31094.

Let’s Meet!

Lastly, if you actually live in Jamaica and read this blog, I’d love to meet you in person next month! Again, I will be in Morant Bay, so let’s get together over a cup of Blue Mountain 🙂

God bless!

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Filed under Countries, ministry, places, Preaching

Bună ziua, Romania!

Romania

I have a very special place in my heart for Romania. So many memories.

If I could take you to a box full of pictures, I could tell you story after story about the cities I visited, the people I met, the food I enjoyed, the time I came close to dying after drinking the water, the relationships, the church services, and the fish soup I just couldn’t eat.

If we had a while, I’d tell you why “Este o zi bună pentru a muri” became a repeated phrase every time we got in a car. What does it mean? It’s a good day to die.

I’d love to tell you about an overnight ride through the foothills of the Transylvanian Alps in a sleeper car straight out of an Agatha Christie novel.

You’d get a chuckle if I told you the story of me telling a Russian girl of the Romanian tree-dwelling vaca while walking through a park.

You’d laugh at the story of what led to recording a beautiful Romanian girl play her guitar and sing in a pink-tiled bathroom.

You might even tear up at the stories of sharing the gospel and Bibles with people who had been crushed under the foot of a communist dictator. And, how would you react if I showed you a picture of the approximately 80 people that accepted Jesus Christ as their Savior in one meeting I preached in village outside of Alexandria?

You’d be fascinated with the flag I was given, a flag with a hole in the center, a tattered piece of cloth that was actually drug through the streets of Timisoara during the revolution of 1989, just 2 years before (30 years ago, now).

But that was then – this is now.

And Romania has internet, internet users, and people who read my blog once in a while.

I’d love to find out whatever happened to the 80 in that village.

Maybe they’re the one’s who visit this site! Wouldn’t that be great?

Mulțumesc, Romania!

 

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Sawubona, South Africa!

Sawubona is Zulu for “greetings” or “hello.”

I’ve never been to South Africa, but I was very close a few years ago when I was in Zimbabwe. As a matter of fact, while I was there I enjoyed two items that came from South Africa: a great mattress and Peri Peri hot sauce (which I love).

I know I have a few followers/subscribers in South Africa. Please know that I appreciate you and pray for you and your country.

If you are in South Africa reading this, leave a comment! We’d love to hear from you.

Hamba Kahle!

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Observations from a Middle-Georgia Pastorate: Church History and #50

The History Room

Does your young, newborn of a 20th century church have a history room? Probably not.

The last church I pastored was considered “historic,” but is was only founded in 1946, not even the 1800’s. It didn’t have a “history” room, only a file cabinet.

But this church (Bethlehem Baptist) was founded in 1791! Therefore, it has a “history room” where old church records are stored. And let me tell you, reading the minutes from a church business meeting held 230 years ago is a trip!

How Times Change!

One of the things that rarely gets discussed in modern churches is church discipline. I mean, it’s very rare that a church member gets called to the carpet for sinful behavior these days, much less barred from fellowship or excommunicated. Yet, spend some time in the history room here at BBC and you will find out that things were a LOT different 200 years ago.

I hereby submit, for your edification and entertainment, selected readings from the minutes of Bethlehem Baptist Church.

  • Jan. 1, 1791:  “Excommunicated Robert.” That’s it. Nothing else was recorded!
  • May 20, 1791:  “Restored James Spratley to full fellowship.” Well, at least something positive happened.
  • June 6, 1792:  “Church met in conference . . . Stephen Renfroe is brought on trial & gains fellowship. ‘The church still seems divided concerning a pastor & 12 of the members rise & declare themselves grieved with the calling of Benjamin Thompson as pastor. Confusion & death is like to take place.‘” Ummm, that doesn’t sound good!
  • Sept. 28, 1792: “Ch. met in conf. Nothing of note came before us. Love seems to abound.Let’s hope so!
  • April 27, 1793: “[Bethlehem Baptist Church] met in conference. No business presented. Br. Baker, his wife, & negro join us by letter. (Br. Baker later becomes Pastor) Nothing unfinished. Love abounds.” It’s about time, don’t you think?
  • March 14, 1794: “David Wilborn is censured by Sister Taylor for injustice in measuring corn.” Where did the love go?
  • June 14, 1804: “Took under consideration the conduct of James Blunt & it being made plain… Alexander Smith confessed to drinking too much. Sister Little complained that Br. James Taylor had run off a part of her land. Neal, Walker, & Edmund May (Mayo?) to reconcile matter.”
  • March 18, 1815: (One month after the War of 1812) “Friday before the 3rd Sunday in April set apart as a day of thanksgiving to God for the aversion of impending danger & the return of his mercy towards us as a nation in delivering us from Wars & bloodshed & restoring peace in our country.”
  • Jan. 15, 1820: “Br. Manning & Barber to cite Jeff & wife (colored) to attend next conference to answer for some charges alleged against him viz: dishonesty & preaching without leave of the Church. Sister Molly a woman of color, dismissed by letter. She formerly belonged to David McCard.” Seems a “negro” had been preaching without permission. He justified himself by saying he’d never been told not to. Then, two months later, the church met and decided, “As to Jeff’s preaching, the ch. thinks proper for him to lay down the practice of taking texts to advance doctrine from, but recommended him to use the gift in public of singing, prayer & exhortation.” Ah, yes! Those colored people sure knew how to sing, didn’t they?

Like I said, things sure have changed in the last 200+ years, haven’t they?

And then there was #50!

So, with all this history, my curiosity got the best of me: I wanted to know where I fell in the lineage of pastors. How many had there been, and what number was I? When I figured it out, there had been 49 men who served a total of 56 tenures here at Bethlehem (a few had been asked to serve a second or third time).

That made me the 50th man to be pastor! Or as one deacon called my last night, the “golden boy.”

Portraits of pastors (mine isn’t up, yet). But this is only 20. 30 more are missing.

Yep, I’m the 50th pastor serving in the 57th tenure … and the second Baker. But THIS “Br. Baker” ain’t got no slaves!

“Love abounds.” For real.

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Namaste, India!

It never fails to amaze me how this blog can be read by people around the world in places I may never be able to visit. Therefore, I want to start doing some shout-outs, some “hello’s” to my friends and readers in all these distant, far-off lands.

Today I want to say Hello (namaste) to all you guys in India! Howdy!

It is an honor that you would stop by and read my blog. Please leave a comment, if you would, and tell us about yourself 🙂

God bless you!

Anthony

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Observations from a Middle-Georgia Pastorate: Adventures In History, or “Break’n the Law”

Learning the History

One of the activities that occupies my time is learning the history of the area where I pastor. Believe me, there’s more than enough to keep one learning for a long, long time.

But learning local history is vitally important for getting to know the people one’s called to shepherd. And being that I’m not a local, not even close, I think it’s perfectly acceptable to go on some adventures in order to get a “lay of the land.”

That is why, after learning of the existence of an abandoned mental hospital, I had to learn more, and if possible, in person.

The Unofficial History

The place that I’m talking about is Central State Hospital, founded in 1842 as the  Georgia State Lunatic, Idiot, and Epileptic Asylum. At one time this was the largest mental hospital/asylum in the world, “serving” up to 13,000 people.

Central State has a long and sorted history with a mixed reputation for healing and horror. From what I have been told by locals (you know, the kind that sit around in the barber shop even when it’s not time for a trim), strange and unexplained things have happened since the “residents” of that place were “let loose.” And when you read the stories that hit the news in the years leading up to the hospital’s closing, you’ll understand.

This hospital was HUGE. We’re talking a self-supporting town! There were a couple of hundred buildings, including a power plant and a cemetery with 25,000 graves! And really, what more needs to be said?

Sadly, even though the hospital was founded as a place to help people, the help they offered for generations was nothing short of horrific. At one point there were 100 patients to every 1 doctor – and NO psychiatrists or psychologists! Common treatments of the confined, those who suffered from anything from depression to schizophrenia, were things like electro-shock, surgeries, and straight jackets.

What’s worse, parent’s in Georgia used to use this place as a threat to make their children behave. They would threaten their unruly children with, “I’ll send you to Milledgeville!” Horrifically, it was a threat with weight, for it’s been said that Central State Hospital was a place “where you sent people away to be forgotten.”

The Unofficial Tour

If you look up Central State Hospital on YouTube, you will inevitably find videos of people exploring the abandoned ruins of this facility. And what’s more, many of those are focused on the creepy and “haunted” aspects of the property. As a matter of fact, Central State is considered one of the most haunted places in America.

However, if you go to MY YouTube channel, what you will find is the video I’ve attached to this post. It is a video of what an unnamed friend and I saw when he offered to give me an unofficial tour.

The only thing is that what started off as a drive around the place ended up with me deciding to get out of the car for a closer look. And once we did that, and once I saw that there were no locks and no signs saying “KEEP OUT!”, I went in.

WARNING: Don’t do this!

“Break’n the Law”

After about an hour of walking around in an abandoned prison essentially meant to house handicapped and elderly prisoners until they died … and after several times of mimicking TV ghost hunters by calling to the unseen down black, unlit hallways, “Is anybody there?” … we retraced our steps and found our way out into the sunlight.

Before we made it to the car, a female security officer in a van came down a weedy, overgrown single-lane drive and rolled up beside us. “You are not allowed to be here…you need to leave now,” she said with all the seriousness of somebody being paid to guard Area 51. “Oh, OK. We were just looking around and about to leave,” we replied.

“Just so you know, we’re not giving warnings anymore – we’re just calling the police and they’re taking people like you to jail,” the security officer then informed us. But then she let us go with a warning.

Back in the car, my friend, also a preacher, asked, “Would your church had fired you if you’d gotten arrested?”

“Probably not,” I said. At least I hoped.

“We literally could have gone to jail,” my friend said. “Yeah, I guess you’re right,” I replied. “But it feels a little adventurous knowing we broke the law and got away with it.” I couldn’t help but remember MTV’s Beavis and Butthead from back in my younger, stupid years: they’d do something moronic, then act like would-be renegades while singing, “Break’n the law! Break’n the law!

This, however, was pastoral research.

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Music Flashback With Audio! The Album that Never Was

Nashville

Back in July of 2013, a year before Katie went to college for a music degree, we spent a couple of days sitting in front of microphones in a studio in Nashville.

My daughters and I, along with Daniel Ziegenmier and Steve Castlen, were creating what I believe could have been a surprise hit – Katie’s debut CD. But, alas, the finished product was not to be.

Below is the story, along with photos and music I just uploaded to YouTube (scroll down to listen to them).

Goat Farmer Records

goat farmer recordsBelieve it or not, Katie (the recent graduate from Bryan College) was picked up by Goat Farmer Records in Nashville, TN. Yes, Goat Farmer Records. GFR was an independent label focusing on alternative bluegrass and Americana, and we were the label’s first Christian artists!

Being that GFR was not Sony, Capital, or Sparrow Records, the recording budget was limited. We were not flown to Nashville, nor did we receive big bonuses and specially prepared food during sessions. No limo picked us up at the hotel, either. But, what we did receive was a warm welcome, a laid-back atmosphere, and the opportunity to have fun.

If nothing else, this poor preacher didn’t have to fork out $10K for studio time. Can I get an amen!?

Unfortunately, the Christian message and mission of Katie’s music developed an uncomfortable vibe, and the label’s owner and chief engineer (Joel Ziegenmier) thought it best to release Katie and not pursue finishing the project or promotion.

Future attempts at recording also proved unfruitful, so Katie never got to put out the CD that we thought would be a blessing.

Pictures

Everybody loves pictures, so here are a few images from our sessions.

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Mr. Monkey goes everywhere.

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Daniel on the cajon, Haley on the Uke, Katie on guitar, Joel setting up, and me on bass (out of view).

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It’s hard to explain.

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Katie likes the Neuman u87 (microphone).

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Steve Castlen on drums.

Unlike many other groups, we get to play our own instruments! No hired studio musicians to replace us – no sir! But of course, that means recording music takes longer and requires a lot of work. Amazingly, one can get tired while having fun.

The Present and Future

While Katie was in college for 5 1/2 years, she wasn’t able to focus on her own music much, even though it was partly her creativity and potential that earned her a music scholarship. Even though she has written a couple of songs in the last 5 years, most of her time was spent learning music, including operas in multiple languages.

Now that Katie and Haley are moved out and on their own, and now that Katie is done with college, my hope is that she will return to writing and recording, especially since her voice has matured and her musical knowledge has been expanded.

If you like what you hear in the links I’ve included below, please contact Katie and let her know. Encourage her to rekindle the gift that God has given her.

Bonus Picture

rockers

Mirror Image (1993). That’s me, my sister (Rebecca), Jody Gould, and Steve Castlen back in the day 🙂

The Album that Wasn’t

The following “studio roughs” were recorded at the now-defunct Goat Farmer Records in Nashville, TN. Even though the audio quality was good, no post-editing was ever completed, so the critical ear will hear a few mistakes.

Also, Katie was only 17 at the time of these recordings. Her vocal and music abilities have greatly improved over the last 6 years!

Don’t you think that last song would make a great video? Even a great commercial for a cute car?

If you are a record label, Katie’s available 🙂 

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