Empty Nest Puppy Problem

My empty nest experience was a traumatic one, therefore we got a dog.

George is my puppy. He’s a chorkie.

George is not a yapper – he never barks at anything or anybody…

Unless, that is, they won’t play with him.

So, every night before we go to sleep, George is allowed in our bed for a little play time, the equivalent of a bedtime story, I suppose.

George has come to expect these bedtime play times, and when they get cut short, he AIN’T happy!

Have a great day!

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It’s What’s In the Bottle that Matters Most

Ole Doc Bell

Last month, as you may remember, I went to a Civil War reenactment nearby (you can read about that in this previous post, if you’d like). But the part where the soldiers get together and shoot at each other is only a small part of the experience.

Just like back in the old days, the soldiers (reenactors) usually camp out somewhere not too far from where the mock battles will take place. It’s there where you will find period reenactors living life like they did back in the 1860’s, and that includes people like Ole Doc Bell (I don’t know his real name, or if he is really a doctor).

The bottles in the above picture were meant to hold your choice of beverage. I thought is was a pretty cool idea. You’d get free refills in the bottle you purchased, and when it was all said and done – or drank – the keepsake would be a lot prettier than a plastic cup.

Regardless, whatever the bottle looked like, and regardless what the label said, it was all Doc Bell’s products on the inside: root beer, birch beer, lemonade, or cream soda.

Ole Kanye

That being said, I just want to make a loose connection to the bottles and say a quick word about Kanye West and his profession of faith.

I don’t know Kanye’s heart, only God does. However, his actions of late have boldly proclaimed the name of Jesus Christ to the world, while I know others who claim to be Christians that haven’t shared their faith in 20 years.

I listened to his album Jesus Is King. I was impressed with the lyrics, especially the ones in “Hands On.” There’s room to take issue with his lament over other believers making him feel unloved by doubting him – I mean, it was just a short while ago he claimed divinity for himself. Yet, when he said what he really needed right now was “hands on,” as in people praying for him, I totally agreed.

Kanye West is a different bottle all together. But what really matters is what’s inside. If that is the legitimate product, he could make a huge and lasting impact on many, many people.

And therein lies the danger: he’s a threat if he’s legit. Ask Paul.

All I can say is “hands on,” everybody. Hand’s on.

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Kids Spitting and Truth Telling

To be “clear,” sometimes the truth is “nasty.” The following is adapted from the last chapter of my book, Life Lessons from the School Bus. 

“Unexpected Truth”

Every once in a while a bus driver, or anyone for that matter, may find himself saying, “I didn’t see that one coming!” In other words, every once in a while something happens; somebody says something that you would have never imagined. Let me tell you about one of those “once in a while’s.”

Spitting Accusations

Kids are always doing stuff to each other to be aggravating. You have probably witnessed children throwing spit wads, taking items out of another’s book bag, or hiding a child’s shoe right before her stop. No? Well what about spitting on each other?

Oh, yes, children are well-accustomed to spitting on each other, especially boys. Now, they never admit to doing it; they usually blame it on the one kid with no salivary glands. But there was this one time when a boy on my bus accused a girl of spitting on him when she actually didn’t. How do I know that she didn’t? She showed me proof!

So, “Jack” hollered from the back of the bus, “Mr. Baker! ‘Jill’ spit on me!” Before I could rationally respond, another voice came from the back, the voice of the accused, crying, “No I didn’t – he’s lying!” Since I was in the process of driving and there was no place to pull over and deal with the situation, all I could do at the moment was respond with a simple request: “STOP SPITTING!”

A moment passed, then Jill came up to the seat behind me (which is dangerous and against the rules, by the way). “Mr. Baker,” she said in a tone laced with disgust, “I did not spit on Jack; he spit on himself after he spit on the seat.”

What?” I asked. “He’s spitting on the seat?! That’s gross!”  Incidentally, this is one of those times when I find it appropriate to ask: why do people of any age find enjoyment in recreational spitting? Why waist perfectly good saliva when there’s nothing necessarily nasty to expel from one’s mouth?

Anyway, a moment or two later, Jack came up to share his side of the story. “Mr. Baker, Jill did spit on me! See my shirt? See, this is her spit…she spit on me! See?”

I couldn’t argue with what I saw. There, as plain as the marks on a Dalmatian, were wet spots where something liquidy had collided with his shirt. Somebody had spit on him.

“Jill!” I yelled, “Why did you spit on Jack?” From the back of the bus came an insistent reply, “But I didn’t! He spit on himself just to get me in trouble!”

The Truth Comes Out

Where’s Solomon when you need him? Why can’t school buses be equipped with portable DNA equipment? How was I supposed to determine who spit on whom? How could I prove who needed to be punished with a stern warning and a verbal reprimand? The answer came in a way I never would have dreamed, but I will never forget.

“Mr. Baker…” Jill had made her way back up to the seat behind me, again while I was driving. “Jill, you need to sit down!” I told her.

“But Mr. Baker…” Let me just pause here to try to describe Jill’s way of saying my name. Jill spoke with a slightly non-emotional, matter-of-fact, drawn-out southern drawl. It sounded more like “Miiis-turr Buh-ayyy-kurr…”

“Mr. Baker, I didn’t spit on Jack; he spit on the seats and then on himself to make it look like I did it,” she said. “But I didn’t, and I can prove it.”

“Really,” I asked.

“Yessir,” Jill replied. “You see, Jack was eating green candy, and the spit on his shirt was green – mine is not…SEE!

At that point, just around my right shoulder, came the arm of a little girl. Attached to that arm was a palm, and in that palm was half an ounce of spit – yes, spit! It looked like a blob of clear silicone!

“It wasn’t me that spit, ‘cause my spit is clear, seeeee Mr. Baker?”

I couldn’t argue with her. She proved her point. There was the proof puddled in the palm of her hand, clear as day. I nearly threw up.

Life Lesson

We may not like it, but sometimes the truth is hard to stomach – and nothing like what we expected.

The simple fact is that truth isn’t always pleasant; more often it is nasty. No woman wants to hear the truth when she asks, “Does this dress make me look fat?”  No man wants to hear the truth when he asks, “How did I do with the laundry?” But sometimes the truth has to be told to make a difference. Unfortunately, to play off the words of Jack Nicholson in A Few Good Men, many can’t handle the truth.

For example, there is a saying that goes, “You shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.” Do you know where that saying came from? It comes from Jesus. He said, “If you continue in my word, then you are my disciples indeed; and you shall know the truth, and the truth shall set you free” (John 8:31-32). The part that is hard for many to stomach is the part where He says, “If you continue in my word…” In other words, in order to know the truth that will set one free, one must be a follower of Jesus Christ.

Some say that truth is relative, that it changes with the circumstances of life. Others have said that there is no truth, only perception (Gustave Flaubert). However, without truth there can be no lie, no wrong, and no remedy for the spit on some kid’s shirt, not to mention the darkness in our hearts. But when we follow Jesus, we can rest assured there is Truth to know, for He said in John 14:6, “I am the WAY, the TRUTH, and the LIFE…”

Route Suggestions

  • When faced with a tough situation, one that demands you make a wise decision, ask God for help. James 1:5 says, “If any man lack wisdom, let him ask of God…”
  • Don’t ask someone to tell you the truth about how you look, how well you’re doing your job, etc., unless you’re willing to hear the truth.
  • Don’t “kill the messenger.” If someone does try to tell the truth, don’t get angry when they say the dress makes you look fat. Just get angry because they weren’t sensitive enough to change the subject.
  • Read the book of John in the Bible. Make a list of the claims that Jesus made. Was He telling the truth? For the atheist or agnostic, that may be a truth too hard to handle, but it can set you free.

Oh, one more thing… When preparing to write this, I asked the girl in the story what she thought the moral should be. She said, “Sometimes the truth is nasty.”

Truth.

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Filed under book review, Faith, General Observations, Humor, Life Lessons, salvation

Riding Buddies

The road of life is much more fun and more bearable when you have a friend to ride with you.

Be a friend.

My granddaughter, Emma, and George.

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Great Is His Faithfulness, His Mercies, His Love

It is of the LORD’S mercies that we are not consumed, because his compassions fail not. They are new every morning: great is thy faithfulness. – Lamentations 3:22-23

I’m in my office, my study, finishing up my sermon for this coming Sunday, “Thankful for His Holiness,” and I have instrumental music playing in the background. The song that is playing right now is “Great Is Thy Faithfulness.”

Folks, because God is holy, all of His other attributes are sure! And because He is faithful, I can know that His mercies endure forever and His compassions, well, they fail not!

If it wasn’t for that, I’m very sure He would have changed His mind about me a long, long time ago.

But He is faithful and ever-loving! He is true to His promises! And every morning I’m awash in His mercies and goodness, whether I recognize it or not!

I don’t deserve to be loved like I am, but He loves me, anyway.

If you don’t know what it’s like to be loved, if every human on earth has left you, then may I just ask you to look to the Cross? “When I survey the wondrous cross on which the Prince of Glory died…” Oh, my friend, you are loved, you’ve just got to accept it.

So often we ask things like, “How could you love me?” You may think that about God. You may wonder, after all you’ve done, how could He love you?

If God was like other people, any other human, He’d probably give up on us, too. But here’s the thing, as He told Hosea (and you should read that story), “I am God, not man.”

God doesn’t simply love, as in what He does; He IS LOVE! It is His very nature! He defines what true love is! And if HE said He loves you, you can count on it. You can depend on it! You can rejoice over it! You can shout about it!

No! You and I don’t deserve it! Who wants a deserved love, anyway? You want a love that’s undeserved, unmerited, and not based on anything you could or can do!

Man, without Jesus I don’t know where I’d be right now, if not dead and in hell. I’ve just got to worship Him.

“I’ll never know how much it cost to see my sin upon the cross, but here I am to worship, here I am to bow down, here I am to say that You’re my God!” …that’s the music that was playing as I wrote the previous sentence.

Well, I guess I better get back to my study 🙂

As always, if you need to talk, I’m always available. If you would like to call someone who can introduce you to Christ and tell you more about His mercies and His love, call 1-800-NEED HIM.

God bless!
Anthony

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Observations from a Middle-Georgia Pastorate: Standing In the Gap

The Reenactment

Last week I got to see the reenactment of the occupation of Sandersville, Georgia. It was the 155th anniversary of the battle that left a few dead (not like the 10’s of thousands in other battles), a courthouse burned, and a citizenry who was thankful it didn’t turn out much worse.

In November of 1863, General William T. Sherman and the Union army marched into the Sandersville area, just 10 miles or so south of where I sit right now. A skirmish broke out between some of the advance Union cavalry and the Confederates under General Joseph Wheeler. This led to more fighting and a near-disastrous misunderstanding.

Below is a video I made of the reenactment in the Sandersville town square.

General Sherman (the “march to the sea” Sherman who’s tactics embodied the term “scorched earth”) thought it had been the citizens of the town who’d fired upon the Union troops, and he was furious. He didn’t know it was Confederate soldiers. Therefore, after entering the city, he intended to burn it to the ground.

That was when the Rev. James Anthony, a Methodist pastor, went to General Sherman to beg for the city to be spared.

Changed Feelings

Before I get back into the history of the battle and the main point I want to share, I must tell you about what I felt while videoing the reenactment.

If it had been 20 or 30 years ago, maybe even only 10, I would have watched this display of musketry and role playing as “totally cool!” I mean, you’re talking to a guy who “played army” all of his young years, up into his teens. Seeing all that action, especially that close, would have been awesome.

Yet, as I stood there on the curb letting my imagination get into the act, I was surprised by my sense of sorrow, of fear, and the tears that began swelling up in the bottom of my eyes. From the moment the two horsemen rode into town warning of the impending and unstoppable invasion, to the point where men and boys were point-blank shooting at each other right in front of me, my heart sank.

There was nothing “cool” about this at all; it was utterly sad.

So “country” even the Confederates eat here 🙂

After it was all over, a deacon from our church saw me and invited me to have some tea (sweet, of course) in the little buffet right behind where I had been standing. Sitting there in the restaurant, the surreal scene of muskets lining the walls and “wounded” Confederates eating fried chicken, we talked about what we had seen.

He had felt the same way I did.

He had been standing down around the corner (where the video ended), and he said that when they came around and started shooting at “our boys,” he couldn’t help but shed a tear. He said, “This really happened.”

Back to the Story

So, upon hearing that General Sherman was going to burn Sandersville, Rev. Anthony went to Sherman to beg for the town. He finally convinced him that it wasn’t the people who fired on the troops, but opposing forces that had already fled.

When Sherman heard that Rev. Anthony had also been kind to a wounded Union officer and kept him from being executed, he accepted the pastor’s request and spared all but the courthouse and other government buildings. Sandersville survived because of the brave actions of a pastor who put his own well-being on the line.

To the Point

There’s a lot more to the story of Rev. James Anthony and his conversation with General Sherman. You can read about it by simply Googling his name. But as I stood there in the city square and heard the reenactment of the conversation between Sherman and Anthony, I could not escape the similarity between the Reverend’s name and mine.

I couldn’t escape the following passage that has been a “life verse” of mine for decades:

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

If only more pastors would stand in the gap!

If faced with an invading army, would I have the courage to risk everything, stand face-to-face with the conquering General, and beg for the lives of my people as Rev. James Anthony did?

Do I not have that opportunity even now?

But on my knees?

It’s war, and it’s really happening. 

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Filed under America, Church, General Observations, Life/Death, Prayer, Struggles and Trials

To Be With Him…

I went to my “reader” with the intention to look for something to reblog on my site. Well, the first one I clicked on was this one by my friend IB. There was an immediate connection with my spirit.

You see, I’m trying to do a lot of things, maybe too much (according to a couple of deacons who want me to be careful and not burn myself out), and all of it NEEDS to be done. Yet, just this morning I was having coffee with a fellow preacher and I shared my self-diagnosed need to spend more time with the Lord in prayer…not in a legalistic way, but in a quality way.

In other words, I need to spend time with the One who has sent me, otherwise whatever I’m doing for Him will be nothing more than wood, hay, and stubble.

Thanks, IB, for the reminder – and confirmation.

See, there's this thing called biology...

I love this saying, “Jesus calls us to be with Him, not to work for Him.”

That bothers me, I have a bazillion objections already. Like, “faith without works is dead!” But there is stuff that needs to get done!  Nobody else is going to do it! What am I supposed to do, just sit here and do nothing?

Jesus calls us to be with Him. We people tend to be all about fixing stuff, doing stuff, producing stuff, as if we now get to show how much good work we do for the Lord, how invaluable we are. Chuckling here, and I shall spare you all the links, but those busy trying to prove how virtuous and good they are, are all over twitter and FB, and they’re downright ugly. Ugly, I tell ya!  U-g-l-y.

That’s because our own works are always based on scarcity and fear. I do…

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