Category Archives: Struggles and Trials

Nine Years of Blogging

I Missed It

It is now September 5, and the only thing truly special about this day is that I’m writing this post while in a waiting room – a dreary one at that. My wife is having a scope done of her esophagus, and so I have nothing else to do but wait…I’ve already prayed, so I’ll write.

Anyway, I missed my WordPress anniversary on the 27th! 9 years ago last week I wrote my first blog post, and I still have those same Crocs! I have, however, retired them.

I Mused It

Looking back over the years, I’ve used this blog to share a lot of my thoughts about different things. Some of those things were current events which are no longer relevant, while others were topic of interest which will continue to be discussed – if not reposted.

But I’ve also used this blog to formulate my thoughts. I’ve used it as a test bed for my ideas, in the preparation of sermons, and as a way to hone my speech before it’s spoken.

Overall, blogging has probably helped me more than anyone else.

I Misused It

Right now I’m reading Dale Carnegie’s classic How to Win Friends and Influence People. If you haven’t read it, you should; the practical wisdom is invaluable.

In the first chapter Carnegie addresses the dangers of being critical of others and cites multiple examples. Towards the end of the chapter he says:

“If you and I want to stir up resentment tomorrow that may rankle across the decades and endure until death, just let us indulge in a little stinging criticism – no matter how certain we are that it is justified.”

Even though I’ve been convinced I was right, I may have been too critical of others at times, priding myself on the “stinging” part. Granted, much of that would have appeared while debating within the comment sections, but I’m sure I could have been more gracious at times. I apologize.

I’ll Make It

So, now that I’m into my tenth year of blogging, I look forward to writing even more about subjects that interest me and may interest others. In doing so, I hope that my transparency will not hurt my own reputation, but encourage others in their own walk of faith with grace.

Life is tough at times. Like I’ve mentioned before, I know full well the dangers of depression and an outlook that forgets Who is in control. Maybe more posts in the future will help others see and understand how good and faithful our God is. Maybe they’ll be less critical, less controversial, and more encouraging as the days get darker.

Sure, some things will have to be addressed or I’ll just explode – like how now that the mayor of Chicago and a black preacher at Aretha Franklin’s funeral said what needed to be said, but the culture is too far gone to accept it…and who’s fault is that? But, when all is said and done, the command of Philippians 4:8 must rule the day – we must think on those things.

In the end, Lord willing, I’ll make it safe and sound of mine to our 10th anniversary at The Recovering Legalist. If you’ll stick with me we’ll make it a celebration to remember!

Thank you for your friendships!

Anthony

PS, My wife is not yet out of surgery, and this waiting room is sadly depressing. No coffee!

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Filed under blogging, Faith, Future, grace, Struggles and Trials, writing

Phoenix Shmeonix, We Have a Pumpkin!

Mythical Birdie

Greek mythology tells of a bird that rises from its own ashes to live again. They call this kind of bird a pheonix.

Personally, I’ve never seen a pheonix, nor have I seen any bird rise up from the ashes of its own dead body – not even that turkey we burned to a crisp one year. I’ve seen some chicken go up in flames, but once the ashes were cleaned out of the grill, that was it.

So, when it comes to freshly-feathered foul flying from the fire, I’m kinda skeptical.

But when it comes to pumpkins, that’s a different story.

Mysterious Gourd

If I hadn’t seen it with my own eyes, I might have thought some muffaletta-munching Greek had been up to another one of his tall tells. Yet, there it was, right there, smack dab in the middle of our burn pit… a pumpkin!

You see, down in a field we have a place where we burn stuff like wood and brush, and the occasional box of paperwork that’s too sensitive too be trusted to a shredder. When not being used as document destroyer, the pit is perfect for cookouts and hanging out while listening to the crackling of the fire on a cool night.

What the fire pit is NOT used for is a garden. On top of that, the last time the fire pit was used, no produce was harmed and no seeds were sown. As a matter of fact the last thing that was torched was about a hundred pounds of sensitive files and a couple of trash bags filled with shredded bills.

So where on earth did the pumpkin come from? Charlie Brown?

Don’t Lose Hope

Here’s the thing: you never know what might unexpectedly spring up from the ashes. Even your wildest imagination may fail to prepare you for what might grow out of the remains of total decimation.

It might be nothing like anything that was burned, not even remotely, but it will have been planted by God and nourished by what you thought was worthless.

I literally don’t know where that pumpkin could have come from or how it managed to grow. However, later on, when I’m eating pumpkin pie, I’ll be thanking the Lord it was a gourd that rose from the ashes, and not a pheonix…

The last thing you want to eat is a regenerating hot wing! 

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Filed under Faith, Life/Death, Struggles and Trials

My Last Words?

Worthy Drafts?

This evening I was exploring the “draft” file to see if there was anything I could edit and post. I clicked on a few titles of unfinished works, but more often than not the posts were only titles, nothing else. Then I came upon the following draft written all the way back in March of 2011: “My Last Words.”

It was seven years ago, and I don’t even remember what kind of surgery I was about to have. All I know is that I did not die; I survived. Actually, I don’t even know if I had the surgery. I just can’t remember.

But reading the words of this post disturbed me. It almost sounds like what a suicide letter would sound like! So much regret! So much hopelessness! So much self-pity. So little victory!

Therefore, with even more transparency than I’m used to, I’m going to let you look into my past, into my mind and heart, right before believing the worst would happen. Then, I’m going to do something else…just in case.

My former last words…

I am going to have surgery tomorrow. I don’t know if I will survive. I have been having strong feelings that I won’t. I am scared, but not too much. I just pray that God takes care of my wife, Valerie, and the girls.

I have not lived much of a life. I have not been many places, or seen many things. My education has been limited and of little value. I wish that I could have studied and applied myself more early on, instead of doing fruitless things and chasing fruitless relationships.

I miss my dad, and long to see him again.

My wife could have done much better than me, for I have not provided for her, or my children, the way they deserve. She deserved a man who could take care of her emotionally and monetarily. I have done neither. I have failed her in many ways.

My children have not had the best dad, either. I have not intentionally been abusive, but I have hurt them many times with my words. They didn’t deserve that. I hope they will forgive me.

I hope that my girls will grow up to fear the Lord and live for Him, much like I have tried to do, but have failed. They have a hard life ahead of them, and without faith in God, there will be no hope.

I could say a lot more, but I hope that God will be glorified in my weakness. Maybe something I have said and done in my life will prove to have had some lasting value once I’m gone.  I pray my wife finds peace and is taken care of. I pray my daughters find godly men. – Written 3/3/2011

Like I said, I’m glad I didn’t die in that surgery, and I’m very happy those were NOT my last words! However, should something happen to me before the sun rises, allow me to write what I’d prefer to be my “last words.”

To all concerned…

Valerie, you have been the greatest gift God has given me apart from salvation. Without your love and unending support and faithfulness I would have never become the man I am today. Your joy and faith, despite innumerable ills and disappointments, have filled my life with a beauty that transcends the temporal. Your gentle eyes inspire me. Your laugh energizes me. Your love humbles me. Your very presence comforts me, especially in the night when you’re beside me. Despite what you think about yourself, you are a godly Proverbs 31 woman worthy of praise. You’re the ruby in the setting of my life.

Girls, I’m proud of all of you! Each of you are specially gifted and called by God to glorify Him in unique ways. Don’t compete with each other. Don’t ever be jealous of each other. Always love each other, despite your differences. Put God first in your lives, before relationships, family, career, money, or even yourselves. The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom – seek God and be wise! Never settle for a man who simply loves you; expect more! Find a man who loves Jesus first, then treasures you. You won’t regret it.

Mom, I love you. Becky, I love you, too. I wish we all could have spent more time together as a family down here. However, one day we will be reunited, along with daddy, and the dissappointments of the past will fade away along with the feelings of being apart.

God has been so good and gracious and merciful to me! If I have any regret, it’s that I haven’t praised Him enough. Hasn’t He been good? Yes, He has! All the time! Keep telling people about Jesus, even without me. Without Jesus what would we have? Without our hope in Christ there’d be no hope of seeing each other again, so thank Him in the congregation of unbelievers and believers alike! Let them know the reason for the hope that is within you.

If these truly end up being my last words, don’t weep for me too long. Rise up, look to the future with expectation and excitement! Joy comes in the morning!

Make my funeral one to remember. Have church! Worship! Sing! Shout! Get a man of God who can preach the infallible Word of God and let him loose! If the gospel isn’t preached with joy, passion, praise, and power at my funeral I’ll find out about it and personally ask God to disable evey game app on all your phones! If the Word isn’t preached over my casket you’ll never play word games again 😉

Finally, don’t forget to read your Bible, pray, move on with your life, know God still has a purpose for you, and become a better shot!

I hope these aren’t my last words, but if they are, I love you! See you in a little while!

My hope is built on nothing less than Jesus’ blood and righteousness… All other ground is sinking sand.”

 

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Filed under Life/Death, Relationships and Family, Struggles and Trials, worship

Mustard-Seed Faith and Moving Mountains

Just a word about faith and moving things…

Remember the verse where Jesus said if we had faith the size of a mustard seed – very small – we could move mountains from one place to another?

And Jesus said unto them, Because of your unbelief: for verily I say unto you, If ye have faith as a grain of mustard seed, ye shall say unto this mountain, Remove hence to yonder place; and it shall remove; and nothing shall be impossible unto you. – Matthew 17:20

But when we talk about moving mountains, remember movement can also be directional.

So often we want God to positionally relocate a mountain so that our forward path might be easier to navigate. In other words, we want God to move the mountain out of our way so that the journey might be less of a struggle.

But what if the mountain remains? What if, despite our faith, it’s part of God’s plan for our lives that the mountain stay right where it is – in our way? That happens more often than not, doesn’t it?

It’s when the mountain doesn’t move to “yonder place” we need to have faith Jesus won’t let us fall from the jagged cliffs as He pulls us, pushes us, and gives us the strength to climb, thereby moving the mountain – not away, but behind us.

For today, have a little mustard-seed faith…the kind that says to the most formidable cliff, “You will not stand in my way!”

If it’s the Lord’s will for the mountain to remain in place, He’ll make it possible to conquer it and move it to “yonder rearview mirror.”

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Would You Pray for Us?

I don’t want to go long with this post, but I need to ask for your prayer support. We are nothing short of desperate for your intercession.

Here are some specific ways you can pray:

  • Please pray for my family and myself, that the Lord will protect us, strengthen us, bind us together.
    • Pray that God will protect our marriage
    • Pray that we will be wise parents during these later years
    • Pray that our daughters (even though the youngest is now turning 18) will not suffer any more harm due to ministry, but will grow in their desire to serve Him
    • Pray that the Holy Spirit will strengthen me and encourage me in my role as husband, father, and spiritual leader
  • Please pray for the health issues my family is facing, specifically for my wife and my mother.
    • Pray for healing
    • Pray for clarity and provision with treatments
    • My mother’s back surgery
    • My wife’s myriad of health issues
    • Pray that the Lord will strengthen “the weak hands [and] steady the shaking knees!” (Isa. 35:3 CSB) Heck, just pray the whole chapter over me!
  • Please pray for provision through this very lean time.
    • Pray that my income will increase in order to not only pay the necessary bills but to allow me to pour into ministry needs
    • Pray that financial provision will come into our church in order to continue the work of reaching our community with the gospel (we have only enough funds to last through September, that’s all)
    • Pray that favor will be shown as I seek new clients (I work with Aflac)
    • Pray that God will burden the hearts of those in the position to give generously unto the work of a local ministry
  • Pray for our little church that it will become mighty through prayer and an outpouring of grace.
    • Pray that we (I and a couple others) will be able to reach the lost and unchurched with the good news of the love of Jesus
    • Pray that the Lord will send us workers, even just a few
    • Pray that God will receive glory through the revitalization of South Soddy Baptist Church
    • Pray that our new website (set to launch in a couple of weeks) will be successful in reaching new people, both here and abroad
    • Pray for clarity and vision as I do my best to shepherd this congregation, including my family
  • Pray that I (I can’t speak for anyone else), no matter what, will see that my Hope, like sung by Mercy Me, is not just in Jesus, but IS Jesus. He is why I do what I do. He is why I’m still here.

  • Help me to remember the words of Lauren Daigle’s powerful song, “Trust In You.”

Brethren, pray for us. – 1 Thessalonians 5:25

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Filed under Christian Unity, Church, ministry, Parenting, Prayer, Struggles and Trials

Different Metal, Different Furnace

Without a doubt, there is someone who needs to read this today. I know I did.

The refining pot is for silver and the furnace for gold, But the LORD tests the hearts. – Proverbs 17:3 NKJV

Gold or Silver

In case you were not aware, there is a difference between gold and silver (Well, duh!). Seriously, there is a difference between the two, and that fact should not be taken lightly. Gold is gold, and silver is silver. Obvious stuff, right?

Well, sometimes the obvious is profoundly important.

Gold is extremely valuable but is soft and pliable. Silver is not as valuable per ounce but is nevertheless a harder precious metal. Gold is highly sought after and coveted; silver is more common but is still critically important for a wide range of applications, everything from electronics to medicine.

How one refines gold, compared with silver, is not the same. What’s more, the temperatures of the refiner’s fire is hotter for one than the other.

What R You?

When I read Proverbs 17:3 yesterday during a Sunday School class I teach, something obvious proved to be very profound: depending on how God wants us to be used, each one’s trial by fire will vary in intensity, the heat of which will determine what metal we are made of.

gold furnace

Source: The Australian

Unlike gold and silver, we are human; our qualities and usefulness change. Some days we are made of gold, while other days we are silver, but most of the time it is hard to determine which. That’s when the Refiner turns up the heat.

There is a lot to refining gold and silver. Not only is there heat involved, but various acids, too. Therefore, it should come as no surprise when God not only allows us to endure intense pressure (heat), but permits the caustic, painful situations of life to eat away the impurities within us.

God is the refiner of hearts.

Iron Man

But, you know what? Gold and silver, while both rare and beautiful, will never make good axes, swords, cannons, I-beams for skyscrapers, or bridges across raging streams.

Sometimes there are jobs that can only be done with iron.

Don’t feel special? Don’t think of yourself as gold-like? That’s OK! You’re important, too! As a matter of fact, the melting point of iron is nearly double that of gold.

You may think what you are going through right now is far tougher than anything a “golden saint” might deserve. Don’t lose hope; the fires forging you are instilling a strength that may be needed to wage war against the Enemy, support the heavy loads of many, or bridge the gap between understanding and ignorance.

Don’t curse the furnace. Let the Refiner do His work.

 

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Filed under Christian Living, Christian Maturity, General Observations, Life Lessons, self-worth, Struggles and Trials

Our Worst Days

I am going to be honest with you, dear reader… I’m not writing this for you to read.

I’m writing for myself.

If you remember, way back in the day blogs were still called “web logs” and they were really nothing more than digital diaries. Some people still use blogs for that reason, and I believe that a lot of them are flat-out liars… Just keeping it real.

Maybe I’m a little/lot jealous of the ones who seem to have it all together. But again, they’re probably lying.

I don’t have it together, believe me. I’m not the perfect husband, dad, son, pastor, or anything. I really do have issues. Doesn’t everyone?

Well, maybe not you.

I’m just sitting here trying to type out my frustrations and get a grip. It’s been a bad day.

Now, even though I said I’m not writing this for anyone to read, there are some people out there who can relate to what I’m dealing with. They are the preachers and pastors who must get up on Sunday morning with the responsibility to encourage the believers, teach the Word, and appeal to the lost. Many of them know exactly what I’m talking about when I say, “I hate Saturday nights.”

There are three days that can be considered a pastor’s worst days: Saturday, Sunday, and Monday.

Sunday afternoons and evenings after church, along with Mondays, are usually the most depressing days of the weeks. It’s on Sundays that the pastor has so many expectations and hopes, then Monday is the day he considers another career. Sunday afternoons aren’t always that bad, but it’s usually in the evenings, after the final services (unless there’s only a morning service), that the pastor becomes his worst critic and often blames himself for the lack of attendance or the stone-faced parishioners who rarely smile, much less participate in heartfelt corporate praise.

On Sunday afternoons the pastor blames himself for everything.

Mondays are a little different. On Mondays the pastor has gotten a little past his self-guilt and has moved on to fighting the fight against becoming angry or bitter. It’s on Mondays that many pastors think about leaving their churches or ministry entirely. And if you want to know the cold, hard truth, it’s on Mondays when many pastors consider suicide – it happens.

You know, this might be uncomfortable to hear; but ministry places a lot of stress on a pastor (and his family). Try to put yourself into your pastor’s shoes (or his “glass house”) for a moment. Think of the stress he is under –

  • the stress to preach the Truth without compromise, but without offending somebody;
  • the stress to grow the church, but without taking the credit;
  • the stress to teach and preach quality sermons, but the lack of time to put into it;
  • the stress of balancing family responsibilities with church responsibilities;
  • the stress of finances;
  • the stress of seeing people walk away without ever explaining why;
  • the stress of trying to be human, but always being put on a pedestal;
  • etc., etc., etc.

Real pastors (not the ones on TV who beg for millions to buy new jets) are some of the most sensitive people you will ever meet, but they have to have thick skin (and wear the full armor of God). They love their people and want to see them on Sunday (and other days), but so often the people in the pews rarely think of how it affects the preacher when they decide to stay at home. Frankly, it’s discouraging.

Yet, we have to do what we are called to do, even if only 2 or 3 show up.

On Mondays many of us wake up asking ourselves the question: “Is this really what I’m supposed to be doing?” 

Then there is the night before the sermon. It’s the night when a pastor should already have his sermon prepared and his ducks in a row (especially if he’s an Aflac agent). It’s the night when he should be spending time with his family playing games, watching TV, or going to the park. However, Saturday night is usually the time when the average bi-vocational pastor is up until 1 or 2 a.m. trying to finish what he had little time to do during the week. It’s during those late hours that he’s all alone and able to think and pray…while trying not to feel too guilty for not having everything already done.

But unlike Sundays and Mondays, Saturdays are unique in that if there is going to be a spiritual attack, it’s usually going to be on that day. Aside from the tense couple of hours on Sunday mornings when everybody in the house is trying to get ready at the same time, Saturdays can see more go wrong in a short time than any other 24-hour period. If you think it’s only coincidence, you’ve never lived the ministry life.

On Saturdays the Enemy tries to defeat the minister before he has the chance to preach.

But I’m only defeated if I quit. So, I’m not quitting. I’m not giving up. I’m not backing down. I’m not giving in.

“I am doing a great work, so why should the work cease…?” – Nehemiah 6:3a

When people give up, even when it seems they’re the last one standing, a whole city could be in danger!

“And I sought for a man among them, that should make up the hedge, and stand in the gap before me for the land, that I should not destroy it: but I found none.” Ezekiel 22:30

It was my Savior, Jesus, who “for the joy that was set before him endured the cross” (Heb. 12:2), so what is my cross? Is it any heavier than His? And He endured it because of the “joy that was set before him,” or, in other words, what He knew was going to be the result. Like a woman in labor endures the pain of child birth so that she can hold her baby in her arms, so Jesus endured the pains of Calvary so that we could become the children of God.

Are not the pains of ministry – all that our worst days may bring – worth the joys set before us?

I’m not defeated, for we are more than conquerors through Him who loves us (Rom. 8:37).

Like I said in the beginning, I didn’t write this for you; I wrote it for myself.

I needed it.

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Filed under Church, ministry, Preaching, Struggles and Trials