Tag Archives: Ministry

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

A Last and a First: Closing One Ministry and Beginning Another

As many of you know, I am now the pastor of a church down in Warthen, Georgia. You probably also know that I used to pastor South Soddy Baptist in Soddy Daisy, Tennessee.

Well, I thought it might be of interest to some of you to listen to two different sermons – one from my last day at South Soddy, and the other from my first day at Bethlehem Baptist.

But the reason I am sharing both of these back-to-back is so that hopefully you will notice a similarity between them. What I hope you will notice, despite the sadness of one and the excitement of the other, is a common thread of hope and assurance that God is still at work and the work for us to do is not done.

God bless you all, and I hope to get back to writing very soon – there sure is a lot to talk about!

Click on the pictures below for links to sermons.

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Filed under baptist, Church, Do not judge, Life/Death, ministry, Preaching, worship

The More You Know…

It’s been a while…

It has been a couple of weeks or more since I last sat down to really hammer out anything original. Most of my posts have been re-posts or shares from other blogs. However, before I leave the McDonald’s where I’m using free WiFi, I feel I’ve got to get something off my chest.

For years I studied and studied, spending lots of money and time in Bible school, college, and seminary – and I’m still learning. And even after all of that, I feel so inadequate, so unlearned, because there’s so much I still don’t know. It’s really true what they say – the more you learn, the more you know there’s more to learn.

Yet, let’s be honest – or at least honest with myself – I’m no idiot. I have been taught by some great teachers and have attended some great schools. I’ve even learned one of the greatest skills one can possess – the ability to know how to learn. So, there’s hardly any excuse for me not to know what I need to know.

And that leads me to a sobering and chilling revelation that came to me yesterday…one that I knew, but need to be reminded of…

I am going to be held accountable for what I know and what I preach and teach.

Let a man so account of us, as of the ministers of Christ, and stewards of the mysteries of God. Moreover it is required in stewards, that a man be found faithful. – 1 Corinthians 4:1-2 

I am going to have to answer to God for the proper care and feeding of His flock. I am going to have to answer for each one that gets led astray when I’m not looking. I’m going to be held accountable for their undernourishment when I should have been able to lead them to green pastures.

I’m a qualified and experienced shepherd – I have no excuses.

One deacon said to me, “We are looking forward to benefiting from your expertise.” My expertise? Of course! It was like at that moment the Holy Spirit whispered into my ear: “You have what they need…Why else do you think I would have led you here?”

On my first night after my very first day in the office (not even unpacked), I got called to the church to meet with an individual who was having serious problems that were way over my head – but not beyond what the counsel of the Word could deal with! Right there, right out of the gate, God brought to my mind what I had learned and gleaned from past experience and a victory was had in this man’s life!

Some of this may seem elementary and obvious to you. I mean, what else does it mean to be a pastor than this? But what hit me last night was the fact that now, more than ever, much has been given to me – much more than I stopped to realize – and MUCH will be required.

Looking forward to hearing “Well done” has been taken to a whole new level. 

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Filed under ministry, Preaching

Memory Lane In a School Bus

I would encourage you to pick up a copy of my book Life Lessons from the School Bus. There you can find some of the stories posted earlier today, plus a lot more (really, there’s a lot more content).

However, being this is my last day as a school bus driver (going to pastor full-time in Georgia), I now want to share some of my favorite photos from my bus-driving years, including some from today. I only wish I’d thought to take more when I first started doing this back in 2001.

I know this will be as boring as a vacation slide show, but maybe you’ll find some of the pics amusing.

Listen to the song, first 😁The School Bus Man Can

The man. The Legend.

I first started driving for Durham in Chattanooga in August of ’07. However, I started driving a school bus in August of 2001 in Christian County, KY. I don’t have any pictures from those days.

One of my favorite pictures taken by my daughter, Katie. This should have been the cover of my book.

Driving at night in the rain can be dangerous, especially with all the reflections. Notice the reflection of the gas station all the way across the parking lot to my right – reflected in the window, NOT the mirror to my left!

I officially drove a total of 3 routes during my 10 years with Durham School Services. First, I drove 370 for two days. Then I drove 369 for a couple of years. Finally, I drove 374 until the time I had shoulder surgery and left. However, 374 went through 4 different bus models during that time. This one had a Mercedes engine.

Hey, it was St. Patrick’s Day! Give me a break!

The bus. The Legend.

There were times that I had plenty of time on field trips to study for a sermon. But that’s what it’s like when one is bi-vocational – you study when you can.

One day when my bus sprang a coolant leak. This was the view from the passenger’s seat of a BIG tow truck. At least it had air conditioning 🙂

Literally, this was the closest thing I ever came to an accident that was my fault. No damage, just stuck. I got complacent turning into my own driveway and wasn’t paying attention. The student doors were so close to the ground that they wouldn’t open.

The only way to get in and out of the bus was through the side emergency exit with a step stool! LOL

If you haven’t bought one, you should 🙂

Book signing at Barnes & Noble.

My book at Barnes & Noble – in the comedy section!

“Bobble Head” Phil rode with me for years. He usually sat facing the kids (which some didn’t like).

Phil stuck with me through thick and thin, even waving down traffic when I was broken down.

Former drivers Chris (370), Joseph (369), and me at McDonalds. We always stopped either their or Hardee’s for coffee and biscuits in between our morning routes.

The last day of school (I forget what year) we went to Cracker Barrel. Here is Chris (370), a driver from New Orleans, Jean (369), and myself…I should have tucked in my shirt.

Driving a bus in the snow in Tennessee is more rare than a total solar eclipse or hen’s teeth. But it actually happened to me at least twice in 10 years.

 

This is where I would pull the bus into the driveway of the parsonage of Riverside Baptist in order to wash it. That was my old Cadillac, “The Ride.”

On the first day we got nugget I took him for a ride on my bus – with kids on the bus (this was when I was driving 369).

Our little dog, Nugget, would love to run out and meet me in the mornings after parking my bus.

Stress relief 🙂

A view of the pond on Shanty Lake Road from inside my bus on the last day of school (the bus was stopped).

The very same view as above, but as the sun is coming up in January. God is a beautiful artist, isn’t He?

My final lineup at Lookout Valley Middle/High.

Looking down towards Lookout Valley and the Tennessee River from the Cummings Highway bridge – yes, a bridge.

I was giving myself a thumbs up, but the driver I was training nearly took me off the side of a mountain that very same day!

Hot day on the lot as a driver trainer. All day on the asphalt in between my own routes.

My last day (in December 2017) before shoulder surgery, and my last day officially working for Durham.

I took this picture when I was coloring with children of family members of the children killed in the Woodmore accident. Everyone in the room at Erlanger Hospital was waiting to hear if a particular boy survived – he didn’t. He was one of the 6 who died. I was there as a police chaplain that night, and the best thing I could find to do was distract the other children with coloring.

This was the first day I started driving a bus again – after nearly a year! I went to work with Chattanooga Bus Company and my former manager at Durham, Dominic D’Amico. I couldn’t decide if I was happy or not 😉

This was my bus I drove when I finally got back to work this last school year (after my heart attack) and had a route. I called this bus “Spinal Tap” because of the number “11,” but hardly anyone got the joke.

This was taken the first year I was a “park out” driver. I prayed over every seat and asked God to use me in some way to make a difference in the live of the children I transported. He did. At least 7 came to Christ over the years!

My last-ever pre-trip log sheet (nothing digital this time).

The last bus cockpit I’ll officially sit behind.

 

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Filed under Life Lessons

Random Advice for Preachers

The fact that I am still preaching after all these years is a miracle and a testament to God’s grace and mercy…grace in that He called me and continues to use me; mercy in that He hasn’t zapped me with lightning.

Therefore, before I do something totally stupid and end up being forced to take an early flaming chariot ride beyond the clouds, you might want to pay attention.

You may not be a preacher or a pastor, but if you are, or know someone who is, I want here are seven (7) random, unsolicited, out-of-the-blue words of advice. Take them for what they are worth while I am still around to offer them.

  1. Take the time to learn how to pronounce the names of ancient places and people before you stand up to read your text or selected Scripture. This even applies to extra-biblical names. Not only will you appear more intelligent, but you will avoid the risk of pronouncing something not meant to be uttered from the pulpit.
  2. Always make sure your wireless mic is turned off before you kneel at the altar to pray with someone. The congregation doesn’t need to hear someone confess something over the main speakers.
  3. For heaven’s sake, turn off your wireless mic BEFORE you make a last minute trip to the men’s room before the service or during the choir special.
  4. Never assume sugar plums are a safe illustration during a Christmas sermon when you have in your congregation elderly people who have a penchant to talk loud enough to be heard…and like to point out there were other “things” sugar was added to in order to make children latch on.
  5. Never confess from the pulpit that you are yourself and may never be “another Billy Graham.” Someone will ALWAYS say, “Amen!”
  6. Never use your wife in a sermon illustration unless you want to become an illustration for what not to do in a sermon.
  7. Never make ministry about success, wealth, health, the good life, or yourself; preach Christ crucified. You may come across as a fool to some, but the message of the cross is the power and wisdom of God to those who will believe (1 Cor. 1:23-31).

There’s more I could tell you, but what are your thoughts? Do you have any words of advice for up-and-coming preachers?

Gratuitous Cute Pet Photo

DSC_1212

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Filed under Preaching

So, you want to be a pastor?

With so much being posted on social media these days, even those in ministry have available to them a plethora of helps, lists, and general advice from experienced clergy folk.

Much of what is shared on Facebook and Twitter are written by the “pro’s” in ministry research like Thom S. Rainer, or long-time veterans of ministry like Joe McKeever. What rarely gets shared are articles and posts written by ordinary guys like me – probably because we aren’t professional authors or researchers.

Well, I want to share some helpful hints from an old-school, bi-vocational, small-church, in-the-trenches pastor with no access to research teams, only personal experience, and some common sense (but Logos software doesn’t hurt).

Hopefully, you will find the following 10 points helpful.

10 Words of Wisdom for Those Entering the Pastorate

  1. Get a biblical education. Seriously, it doesn’t matter if the school is only a rag-tag, non-accredited hole in the ground, get an education from someplace that will teach you how to study the Bible by making you study the Bible. Those who call a seminary a “cemetery” are nothing more than illiterate bigots who should be avoided – unless you want to show them how to get saved.
  2. Listen to your wife. I know, sometimes wives have actually been the reason men have left the ministry. However, a good, godly wife will offer you insight that no one else can. She really does have an intuition that sees what our eyes can’t. She is also going to be the only one in the church you can trust 100%
  3. Don’t think every sermon needs to be alliterated. Guys, not every sermon is best delivered with four points, all alliterated with a certain letter or phonetic sound. Sometimes the best way to outline your sermon is just go with the way the Scripture leads.
  4. Be a sheepdog. Do whatever it takes to arm yourself with the knowledge necessary to protect not only those in your church but your own family. Be prepared to fight – literally – for those you love. Always be on the lookout for wolves in sheep’s clothing, especially sexual predators. Believe me, I wish I’d prepared better.
  5. Draw your lines in the sand early on – the earlier the better. Don’t wait for church trouble to draw your lines in the sand. Don’t wait until you are in a struggle with disagreeing leadership before you say, “This is the way it’s going to be.” Start early by saying that…be the thermostat, not the thermometer.
  6. Learn to preach without notes. There’s going to come a time when you need to preach and you won’t have time to prepare an outline. There is going to come a time when you are asked to preach a funeral or a revival service, and all you will have is your Bible. Read it…learn it…know it…and be able to preach from it without a man-made crutch.
  7. Check your pride. The day you go up to the pulpit all cocky, that’s the day you will be an utter failure. Ascend to the “sacred desk” with your knees shaking under the weight of the seriousness of what you’re doing and you will come down humble, but confident God’s Word will not return void. As long as you are humble and dependent on God, that’s when even the most basic of sermons can shake the foundations of hell itself.
  8. Don’t grow too dependent on technology. Men, there may come a day when we don’t have the internet, iPads, microphones, and projection screens. At any moment you could lose one or all of those things, so learn to prepare and to preach like the great warriors of the past – because history has a tendency to repeat itself.
  9. Love your family more than your ministry. You’ve probably heard it said before, but it’s true; your family is your first and most important ministry, not the congregation you serve. Don’t lose your wife or kids for the sake of any church.
  10. Never stop studying and learning. Even if you go to Bible school and seminary, never think you’ve learned enough. Always be learning, reading, researching, and studying. If George Washington Carver could squeeze all he did out of the lowly peanut (to the glory of God), imagine how much you will be able to find if you keep digging deeper into the Holy Writ!

So, there you have it. Do you have some words of wisdom you’d like to share? Why not write them in the comment section below? I’m sure we all could benefit from our collective experiences.

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Filed under ministry, Preaching

A Heart Update (May 5, 2019)

I just wanted to share an update about my heart and other medical issues. 

As most of you who read this blog know, I had a heart attack a little over a month ago. That resulted in me receiving 2 stents and having to take a lot of medication – ugh!

Yesterday, I finished my first round of cardiac therapy – it wasn’t that bad, just a little trip to a nice gym where nice nurses and technicians treated me like an invalid and made me wear a heart monitor while I worked up a sweat.

I am scheduled to do therapy for two days a week, then up it to three. I may even get into shape when it’s all over!

Today I went to my cardiologist, endured a painful echo cardiogram, and, to be brief, got a good report. My heart is functioning just wonderful and there is no damage as a result of my heart incident. Hallelujah!

Now, as Paul Harvey would say, here’s the REST of the story…

I have a mass in my chest, just above my heart, close to the aorta. I will be having a PET scan sometime soon to find out if it is malignant. Regardless, because of the size and where it is, I am told it must be removed. If it is cancerous, it must be addressed sooner than later.

The only problem is that having any kind of surgery any time sooner than at least six months after a heart attack (and being on blood thinners) is a risky procedure and ill-advised. If I do have to have surgery soon, then it will require me having to be admitted to the hospital at least 5 days prior in order to be put on a drip to take me off of the Brilinta.

Nothing is easy anymore, is it?

But here’s the good news – yes, there is good news. The constant pain in my chest may be related to the mass in my chest, not my heart. Well, fact is, it’s NOT my heart! So, whatever the other thing is, once it’s removed, I will not keep having these pains that make me think my heart is hurting. That’s awesome!

Funny thing, though… the pain of the mass in my chest may have actually saved my life by getting me into the hospital to find out I was having a heart attack that I DIDN’T feel. On top of that, the heart attack may have opened the door to the early discovery of what could be cancer (hope not).

While I was in the waiting area waiting for the echo cardiogram to be done, I met an 85-year-old man named Hyman. To make a long story short, with the sweetest and calmest of temperament, he began to talk to me about life, his lack of worry, his marriage to his bride Rachael, and his life-changing faith in Jesus Christ. We had a wonderful discussion, which leads me to my final thought.

As I told the elderly saint in the waiting room, my wish is that people not necessarily pray for my healing, but for me to be a faithful witness of the love and grace of Jesus Christ while God allows me to endure whatever He has planned for me. Sure, I want to be healed, but I’d much prefer to be able to point people to Jesus.

As I told Hyman, sometimes, when the people in the hospital won’t go to church or seek after God, God sends the church to the hospital to be a witness for Him. When the hospital won’t go to church, He sends the Church to the hospital.

I appreciate your continued prayers… and pray for Rachael, Hyman’s wife. He really loves her. 

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Filed under Christian Maturity, Church, Faith, Life Lessons, ministry, Struggles and Trials