Tag Archives: Family

It’s Been 25 Years!

Dearly Beloved,

We are gathered here, today, to celebrate on this world-famous blog the twenty-fifth anniversary of the union of Anthony Baker and Valerie Riddle. 

That’s right, it’s been 25 years today!

Unfortunately, nothing fantastic has been planned (couldn’t be afforded), but the simple fact that a couple staying together for twenty five years, especially these days, is fantastic beyond measure!

So, to my wife, Valerie, I look forward to many, many more years with you…years even more wonderful than before. I can’t imagine what the next 25 years would be like without you.

With Valerie and me in this picture are my late grandparents, Lee Roy and Lorene Cagle.

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Filed under Marriage, Relationships and Family

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

Introducing Emma

The “Mug” Post

I know that some of you may have short-term memory, but many of you may remember a post I published back in January entitled, “How Do You Pronounce This Word?

What was the word? Grandpa.

All I did was show a picture of a coffee mug, then promise that more details would follow.

Well, now is the time to share the details that I promised earlier.

But first…

Meet My Granddaughter!

Emma Louise Westbrook!

On Friday the 24th of this month (May), I officially became a grandpa – Emma’s adoption became final. The above picture was taken at the courthouse, and it’s obvious she’s intelligent enough to understand everything that was happening.

Who wouldn’t smile at the thought of being the granddaughter of a grandpa who can sing, draw, color, play with blocks, imitate Grover from Sesame Street, and generally be a kid at the drop of a hat?

Adoption Conversation

I have to admit, I look forward to the day, someday in the future, when the whole subject of adoption can lead to an “adoption conversation.”

There are five times in the Bible where “adoption” is mentioned. One of those times is in the well-known verse below:

For ye have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear; but ye have received the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father. – Romans 8:15

It will be great to one day have a conversation with her about salvation, and from an aspect that few of us understand as much as she will – because she’s that intelligent 🙂

We will talk about how that just like her mom and dad, her Father in heaven said, “I’ll do whatever it takes to make her mine.” And maybe – because she’s a smart one – she’ll enlighten me to some deeper aspects of a truth that applies equally to me.

I’m so happy that Josh and Alicia were able to have their dream come true to expand their family. We were already so proud of them, but now we are even more proud of how they are becoming the best parents they can be.

My prayer for them is that they also think of the “adoption conversation” and remember that they, more than anyone else in the world, will be able to mirror the love of the Father in their parenting. By their example they can lay the groundwork for a personal introduction to the One who wants to adopt us all into His Family.

Now that you know her, expect more in the future – I’m a grandpa, you know. 

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Filed under Family, Love of God, Parenting

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

The Mother’s Day Song (There’s None Better)

Learn It, Love It

Honestly, I’ve written some fairly decent songs over the years, but one of my favorites (at least in the month of May) is “The Mother’s Day Song.”

Therefore, I want you to listen to this song again.

Seriously. It’s a tradition.

Learn it, love it, and then share it with your own mother or mother-like substitute. You could, I suppose, sing it to yourself while imagining Carly Simon somewhere near saying, “I bet you think this song is about you.” And you wouldn’t be vain, either! You’re a mother! You deserve it!

(Note: If you did not catch the humor in the above Carly Simon reference, you’re probably too young to be a mother…or you didn’t click on the above link, duh!)

Read Them, Love Them

Now, it’s not because I’m being lazy, it just that some previous Mother’s Day posts were pretty good ones, so why try to top it this year? Below is a link to one.

(As a bonus, scroll through the comments and you’ll get to see me play and sing it live.)

“If I Were a Mother”

However, if you haven’t read what I wrote about my mother and grandmothers on ProverbialThought.com, check out this link.

“Honoring Mothers”

My mother is still with us, but my grandmother (Lorene Cagle, seen below on the right) passed away this year. She was the last of my grandparents.

So, appreciate your mother on Mother’s Day, everyone! Sing the song!

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Filed under music, Parenting, Relationships and Family

How Do You Pronounce This Word?

Grand

The word in question is a compound word. The first part of this compound word is a word that means big, large, awesome, piano, and showoff… I think.

Let me check….

Grand
    adjective

  1. a  :Having more importance than others
    b  :Having higher rank than others bearing the same general designation
  2. a  :Inclusive. Comprehensive
    b  :Definitive, Incontrovertible
  3. :Chief, Principle
  4. :Large and striking in size, scope, extent, or conception
  5. a  :Lavish, Sumptuous
    b  :Marked by a regal form and dignity
    c  :Fine or imposing in appearance or impression
    d  :Lofty, Sublime
  6. a  :Pretending to social superiority :supercilious
    b  :Intended to impress
  7.  :Very good :wonderful

Yep, pretty much what I thought.

Not An Animal Foot

Some people pronounce the second part of this compound word in the same way they would pronounce the foot of an animal with toes and claws. They would say it like “paw.” Therein lies the controversy.

The actual spelling of the word is pa, and it could be pronounced “pah,” like in pot, ‘possum, or “Pa! Half pint just punched Nelly in the face!”

Personally, probably because of the geographic area in which I was reared, I prefer the “paw” pronunciation, but not the spelling.

Compounded

When you put the two words together what you have is something that sounds like “the most important, impressive, wonderful animal foot,” but the way you should spell it is…

GRANDPA.

How would you pronounce it?

Details to follow. IF you’re interested, that is.

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Filed under Family, Parenting

Displaying Masculinity With Photos

Since it is a topic of hot debate these days, I figured I would keep the boat floating in the stream a little while longer and write a little more about the subject of masculinity.

Except today I’m going to do it from a laptop in the passenger seat behind my wife while she’s driving – it’s a long trip.

And I’m going to do with with pictures – like the one I just took of my computer before I typed this sentence 🙂

By the way, as of this moment, after nearly 10 years of blogging, I’m only at 49% of my memory limit with WordPress, so I’m not worried about the amount of photos in this post.

Anyway, I was thinking about masculinity and how it’s displayed, and that’s when I decided to search back through my phone’s photos. I thought it would be interesting to post some pictures from my life and share what I though was “masculine” or “manly” about them.

Some of these photos might fit a stereotype you don’t like. Some may make you scratch your head. But if I was to tell a young boy what it means to be a man, and if I could show him through some of my own pictures, this is what I would say.

And please understand, I’m not trying to make this all about me… I’m just making observations.

A real man is one who makes a commitment to one woman for life and remains faithful, treasures her, and makes her laugh.

Real men don’t shame their mothers; they make them proud. This is me with my mother and late grandmother who died last year. It’s called honor.

A real man is humble enough to wear a tie he doesn’t like because his wife and daughters do.

Fun. A real man has fun with his kids. He makes memories for their sake, not just his. This was during the last total solar eclipse. Awesome!

 

I love my girls. I’m proud of my girls. Both this picture and the next one are of me with my girls when I escorted them to a purity ball in Hopkinsville, KY. I know what some people think about promoting purity (abstinence), but I really don’t care – I’m a dad.

Masculine men let their daughters know they are loved, no matter what. Even if they disappoint me, I will still love them. But a real man – a masculine man – will be his daughters’ hero, protector, and defender of their honor. And no joke, their lives are more precious to me than any boy who’d hurt them. Be warned, guys – and that’s not hyperbole.

On the day that this picture was taken, we dropped Katie (the one on the right) off at college. When I got back home and walked by her empty bedroom, I cried like a baby for 30 minutes. Real men can cry when there’s a reason to cry, and that was one of them.

Nearly 6 years ago I finally earned my Master’s degree. This is my wife, all three daughters, me, and Mr. Monkey (he was an honorary graduate). I’ve still got a lot of room to improve, but a real man is one who finishes what he starts; he makes a commitment and follows through. I started college in 1986…I finally got my B.A. in 2011, my M.Min. in 2013. I’m still working on my D.Min., but I’ll get there.

This is a Ford flat head V-8. I think the essence of manhood is being able to work on something, to fix things. In my opinion, every man ought to rebuild an old engine at least one time in his life.

And speaking of working on cars, every man should teach his kids how to take care of things on their own. He should teach them how to be responsible and not always have to depend on others to fix their problems. Here I am teaching Haley how to change out a windshield wiper motor on her Acura.

You can be a real man and remain calm, cool, and collected when teaching your children how to drive. A masculine man doesn’t have to lose his cool.

There are cowards and criminals who use guns. But here in America, a masculine man isn’t afraid to teach his daughters how to shoot, even a Colt .357 Magnum revolver. My girls prefer a man who likes the smell of gunpowder and has wrists at least as strong as theirs 😉 2nd Amendment all the way in this house.

 

Real men, masculine men, admit their fears, but then they do what needs to be done – like getting on a roof to tar leaking shingles.

 

I think a good sign of masculinity is being able to handle big machinery. An added sign of masculinity is being able to teach others how to handle big machinery without getting killed or killing others. This is me at the bus garage one summer while training new drivers.

Not the best picture, but this is me in uniform as a chaplain for the Hamilton County Sheriff’s Office. My definition of a real man, a real leader, a masculine man, includes being a servant. This is a voluntary role, but a needed one. Those who put their lives on the line for us need people to have their backs, too.

Masculinity is not devoid of humility and meekness. This was during a VBS when I agreed to let kids who won a contest treat me like an ice cream sundae. The cherry on the top was a literal cherry on the top.

Masculine men don’t avoid going to the doctor when they need to, but they don’t act like babies, either. Real men – masculine men – keep a “stiff upper lip” and do their best to keep others encouraged, even when they might be scared themselves.

This is me in Zimbabwe with Mr. Monkey. Real men, masculine men, aren’t too proud to get down in the dirt to put a smile on a child’s face.

Real men, masculine men, treat all of God’s creatures with respect and care. This is Nugget and me (Nugget went missing a couple of years ago and I still miss him). He always looked forward to going out on Saturdays for coffee and a treat from Hardee’s or McDonald’s.

Real men should at least try to grow a beard at least once. It’s a right that none should deny, even to non-Calvinists. But being masculine doesn’t mean you should let small woodland creatures take up residence on your face.

It takes a real man to get into a cold lake to baptize somebody. Of course, it takes a real man to be willing to be dunked in the cold water, too! But on a different note, in many places getting baptized in public can cost you everything. Therefore, this wasn’t as big a deal for me and this brother as it is for others. Good to keep things in perspective.

Katie and I recorded a video on Facebook Live. We played “Leaning On the Everlasting Arms.” I don’t know what’s exactly masculine or manly about this, but standing in a public park playing hymns takes nerve these days.

This was from Jan. 16 of this year…from when I took the stage with Katie for her final song of her senior recital. All I can say is that I must have done something right to have been asked by my daughter to step on stage during a formal recital at a university and play guitar for her. A real man doesn’t make his kids ashamed of him but earns their respect.

Masculinity demands that a man take charge and kill the bugs. The women folk shouldn’t have to. That includes carpenter bees trying to destroy the house. The face of a warrior.

Masculine men aren’t afraid to have friends, especially the kind who keep him accountable – iron sharpens iron. This is me with two of my blogger brothers, James Neff and Wally Fry. Real men. True friends.

Real masculinity will exhibit some form of competitiveness. It’s just in a man’s nature to be the warrior, the fighter, the competitor. We need fewer men who hand out participation trophies and more men who compete to win – or at least root for a team that wants to. Go Braves!

This is from when Building 429 stopped by a local Cracker Barrel and I legalistically misjudged them (I wrote a post about it). This is Katie posing with them after I admitted my sinful error and asked for their forgiveness. Real men, masculine men, aren’t afraid to admit when they’ve done wrong.

This photo was taken of me when I prayed on the steps of Emmanuel A.M.E. Church in Charleston, SC, after the deadly shooting. Real men shouldn’t be afraid to pray in public, especially in places where reconciliation is desperately needed.

 

Lastly, here I am in front of the church where I am Pastor. Genuine masculinity demands that a man be bold, courageous, and unafraid to speak the truth, even when the truth is hard to hear. Jesus was our greatest example of manhood, but there was also Paul, John the Baptist, and a host of others. Their brand of masculinity is what I’m striving for.

I’m just glad I had a dad that taught me what it meant to be a man. He was a consistent, loving, meek, humble, trustworthy, honorable, hard-working, self-sacrificing, faithful husband and man of God.

That’s about all I’ve got to say. Hope you’ve enjoyed the pictures.

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Filed under Christian Living, Culture Wars, current events, Family, General Observations, Life Lessons, Marriage, Parenting, politics, Preaching, Relationships and Family, Witnessing