Tag Archives: Tennessee

“Real” Men of God

Genuine Articles

This past weekend I went with my wife to a retreat/conference for bivocational pastors and their wives. It was sponsored by the Tennessee Baptist Convention and was held in Pigeon Forge, TN.

Believe it or not, not all pastors fly jets, have mansions, drive new cars, or wear $1,000 suits. Most pastors drive used cars, live modestly, fly only when they have to, and get their suits only when they’re on sale.

Even though the pastors most people see on television have thousands of members in their churches, the average size of the typical congregation is only in the 80’s or less. The average pastor has to work a second job, does not have a secretary, and can’t afford a personal hair stylist.

The men I spent time with last weekend were the real deal: humble, hardworking, men of God. They were the real deal, the genuine article.

Genuine People

One thing that people tend to forget is that pastors are people, too. They have families, bills, and a list of their own issues. They have problems like the rest of everybody, it’s just that it’s hard to share them with the congregations they serve.

A lot of people accuse Christians of thinking we have it all together, but we don’t. As a matter of fact, what makes us better pastors is when God allows us to go through struggles and trials and all the associated pain in order for us to have first-hand knowledge of His grace.

On the first night of the conference I attended, in a breakout session for the men, one particular pastor poured his heart out about his wayward 19-year-old son. He wept as he said, “What I need is some hope.” It didn’t take long before this brother, this wounded spiritual warrior, was brought up to the front of the room. There, as he knelt beside a table, the rest of us wept with him, prayed with him, and encouraged him.

How did we encourage him? It’s because we were real people fighting some of the same battles, feeling some of the same hurts, and he knew he was not alone.

praying pastors

THESE are the REAL pastors. These are the real deal. These are NOT the men wanting your money; they’re the ones who’d give you their last dollar. These are the men who care for your souls. These are the real men of God you should get behind and support.

I am so thankful to the TBC and all those who made this minister’s and wives retreat possible. I’m also thankful for the grace of God. We are not alone, even when no one else will stand with us.

But when we do stand, and kneel, and weep, and rejoice with each other…oh, what a formidable force we are!


“Shepherd God’s flock among you, not overseeing out of compulsion but freely, according to God’s will; not for the money but eagerly; not lording it over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock. And when the chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the unfading crown of glory. “ – 1 Peter 5:2-4 HCSB


Filed under ministry, Parenting, Preaching, Southern Baptist, Struggles and Trials

Tennessee Taliban?

Yesterday, on Facebook, I read a post comparing conservatives in Tennessee to the Taliban. Yes, the Taliban.

Was it meant in jest? Was it simply sarcasm? Was it some form of sophisticated humor far above my intellectual capabilities? In any case, I did not find it humorous, but offensive. Let me quote to you what the author wrote, but just in case I’m missing something, I won’t name names – since the Taliban might get offended, and you know how that could go.

“Family Values is the Sharia Law of East Tennessee… [Rich and White] are the only two qualities required to hold office here in the Taliban region of East Tennessee.”

church ladyIt’s easy to come down hard on unloving, graceless, legalistic Christians (or at least those who claim to be) when they try to push their beliefs. I mean, if all you ever experience is the literal version of Dana Carvey‘s SNL character Church Lady, then that kind of self-righteous, churchy, hate mongering is easy to condemn.

But in reality, the ones my friend (yes, it’s a friend) were comparing to the Taliban are those who strongly believe abortion is wrong, that wine sales should be confined to the liquor store, and that one shouldn’t have to check his religion at the door when either voting or running for office. The Tennessee “church ladies” were even likened to Taliban because of their supposed hypocritical support for a less-than-godly candidate. But is the Taliban characterization fair? I don’t think so.

With the exception of the insane radical who has no clue what it means to follow Christ (yet claims to be a Christian), even the most conservative of conservatives, even the most severely Independent Fundamental Bapticostalite-type is nothing, NOTHING like the Taliban!

Give me a break!

For example, let’s compare reactions. Last week a Baptist church in my town was savagely vandalized. What did we do? We prayed that justice would be done, that the vandal would be caught, AND that our community could find a way to show him the love of Christ. What would the Taliban have done in the same situation? Well, as a clue, just last week a missionary friend informed us of a couple in his town that was burned alive after being accused of burning some pages from the Koran. The 26 year-old couple, parents of 4, were repeatedly thrown onto a fire as they pleaded their innocence. But hey, those Christians were taught a lesson, weren’t they?

Had the Christians in Lookout Valley, Tennessee, been the Taliban, we would have united after our morning prayers, then killed the teenager who destroyed the church. After that, like so often is the case with Muslim mobs, we would have looted, raped, and crucified anyone who looked like an atheist or liberal, then burned our own businesses – just to make a point.

But we didn’t, did we?

photo (32)

The Tennessee Taliban (illustrated by: A. Baker)

And what about that election? What about those dreadfully religious, abortion-regulating votes?

  • You mean those votes cast in a fair election after which no one was shot, beheaded, or blown up by a car bomb?
  • You mean the election to which women were allowed to drive themselves?
  • You mean that election we actually HAD?!

I guess the Tennessee Taliban never got the memo from headquarters. You know, the one that says, “Tyranny good…democracy bad.”

So, what’s my point? It does not further the quest for Christian unity and understanding when we intentionally use blatantly derogatory labels to demonize those with whom we disagree, especially when we agree on far more things than we don’t.

If my interpretation of the reason for using the “Taliban” term was flawed, then I sincerely apologize. I understand, as pointed out by my wife and children, I can blow things way out of context. But, if I was, as I suspect, lumped in with those who kill those with whom they find the least bit of variance, I’m hurt.

Labeling those who were only doing their civic duty, and had they lost would have only complained and whined, as the “Taliban” was an unfortunate use of words. But unlike the Taliban, we will forgive.

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Filed under Abortion, Alcohol, America, Christian Unity, Culture Wars, legalism

Thursday Thoughts

Today is January 2 (or 2 January, if you prefer), 2014. It is a cold, rainy day in Chattanooga, Tennessee, yet I have already been out and walked a mile and a half before my first cup of coffee. No resolutions – just doing what needs to be done.


Today is also Thursday…the day after Wednesday…the day before Friday…but I am not going to break out into a Rebecca Black song (although I know you want me to). No, I am going to keep my singing to myself; only my written voice will be heard.

Thursday is a day that is not quite the end of the week, but on the downhill slide from Wednesday, the middle of the week. Nothing much happens on Thursday, does it? Thursday feels like a “filler” used to make the week complete.

New Stuff

So, since it’s been a long while since I started any new series of posts, I figure why not make Thursday my random thought day? Why not make Thursday – that innocuous, boring, non-essential filler – the day when I speak my mind about whatever has been in the news that week and tick off a whole bunch of liberals? Sounds like fun, doesn’t it?

Why don’t we start with some random thoughts about family?

  • Carlos and Rebecca (my sister) Gomes

    Carlos and Rebecca (my sister) Gomes

    My sister (yes, I have a sister) lives in Germany and is married to a German. Therefore, I have a German brother-in-law, which is strange to think about in the light of the memory that I used to pretend to fight Germans while playing “army” as a child. I wonder what he thinks of George S. Patton?

  • One of my daughters is going to college (away from home) next year, and that leaves me in a perpetual bad mood.
  • All of my daughters like boys – which is good – but it makes my perpetually bad mood more dangerous, especially when they start talking about invitations and cake.

Here are some thoughts of mine regarding new laws that go into effect this week:

  • real light bulbDoing away with incandescent light bulbs is completely asinine.
  • Allowing boys and girls in California to choose which restrooms and locker rooms they wish to use is a recipe for sexual disaster and evidence that a perverted, sick, debauched spirit is behind an agenda to destroy the fabric of moral society. And if it is now law in California, don’t think it won’t be proposed in your own state.
  • A couple of states have now legalized the recreational use of marijuana. Now all the potheads can pack up and move from Tennessee! If we could only get Washington and Oregon to legalize crack cocaine and Meth, our whole drug-using community would head west!
  • I have not purchased Obamacare.


I am going to try to read more this year, and one book that I have already started and will finish before the end of next week is The Measure of Our Success: An Impassioned Plea to Pastors (by Shawn Lovejoy). My wife saw this book on the shelf in a discount store. It only cost $5, so if it is not all that great I won’t be out much. However, from what I have already read, the author makes some painful and convicting observations.

the measure of our successThe idea of the book is that we pastors need to quit gauging our success by anything or anyone other than what God has planned for our particular ministries. Here’s an intriguing quote from page 23: “I am more convinced than ever before that most churches are not supposed to be large.” What do you think about that?

Enough for Today

Well, I could keep going and going and going, but I am already up to 602 words, and hardly anyone will read a blog post this long unless they are stalkers, true fans, or looking for something incriminating.

Check back next Thursday, if not before, to see what’s on my mind (or driving me crazy). 

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Filed under blogging, current events, Defending Traditional Marriage, General Observations, Relationships and Family

Random Thoughts


I would like to thank all of you for your prayers and well-wishes. I don’t have any solid answers regarding my health, but I have appointments scheduled. Hopefully, we will find out whether or not the pain I am experiencing in my chest is heart related, or just lung or esophageal.  Come to find out, pain in one’s chest could come from a plethora (love that word) of sources. 

Whatever happens, may all the glory belong to the Lord.


The U.S. government has partially shut down. Yet, the sun still came up this morning, there is still oxygen in the air, birds are still singing, and the President is still receiving a pay check.

If you want to know my political opinions regarding this mess, just ask. Go ahead, ask. Ask me what I think about being forced by my government to buy something. Ask me what I think of my government taking away me freedom. Ask me what I think about politicians who will hold innocent people hostage for political gain, never minding the fact that we can’t afford whatever plan is chosen. Ask me what I think of a president who wants to “fundamentally change” the nation that so many risk their lives to come to for freedom and hope.

Go ahead, ask.


A story out of Nashville (Tennessee): “Fencing coach stops robbery in shopping center.”

This_is_Inigo_Montoya_by_Dranzer_DarlingI took fencing in college and loved every minute of it. Unfortunately for me, Princess Bride had not yet been made, so never once did I get to look at another student and say, “Hello, my name is Inigo Montoya. You killed my father…prepare to die.” Yet, when I took the class there were others who criticized me, saying, “When will you ever use a sword?”

Now I have an answer!


You may have seen the news story about a bunch of thug motorcyclist who beat up a man in New York. It seems that this gang of motorcyclists were being a bunch of punks and spooked an innocent husband and dad of a 2 yr-old girl, causing him to run over a guy to get away.

Video shows the gang of punks chasing his Range Rover through the streets of New York until they finally pin him in, crash through his window, and drag him to the street where he is severely beaten. All along, his wife and little girl are forced to watch.

People, when you feel like your life is threatened, a 4,000 lb. vehicle makes a perfect defensive weapon. If you are fool enough to attack someone with a 4,000 lb. weapon, you deserve to get what’s coming to you. But I couldn’t help but think of what could have happened had this scene been played out on any given street in the South.

  • Forget the Range Rover, have you seen what a monster truck can do?
  • Since swords are back in style, now, well…
  • Guns are legal, loved, and carried in the South. Go ahead and be a bunch of punks around a good ol’ boy, his woman, and his little baby…what you may find out is that somewhere in your family history your ancestors had target-like birthmarks on their foreheads, and for some reason you still have their DNA.
  • Demolition derbies are usually won by the vehicle with four wheels, not two, so keep that in mind.

Off to Drive

Well, it’s about that time. I have to go drive the school bus. Who knows what things I will hear? Like today, a kindergarten girl said: “I have a granny who is 99 years old. She is going to be 100 on her birthday, and then she can die.

Kids…aren’t they great?


Filed under current events

Life Lessons Revisited

A while back I did a series of posts entitled Life Lessons from the School Bus. Below is the first one I did in the series (Feb. 2011). I hope the moral of the post is an encouragement to someone.

Frankly, I would love to see some more snow.

Stormy Weather”

What one person calls terrible weather capable of ending life as we know it, may be just another work day to another.  This truth is never more obvious than to bus drivers.

Recently, we have had more snow in Tennessee than at any time I can personally remember. We have even used up all of our available “snow days.”  Yet, while we were closing schools for snow down here, schools up north were quite literally trucking along.

Looking out the windshield of my bus onto the lawn, you can see an inch or so of white stuff. Due to the lack of equipment and funds to regularly take care of the frozen precipitation (it’s not the norm down here, you know), just an inch, if it sticks to the roads, will shut down schools in a heartbeat. The mountainous and rural back roads off the main highways, where most kids live, usually are not salted or plowed. Typically, people around here just wait a day or so for the arctic terror to melt. Until then, driving is dangerous, so buses stay parked and empty.

On the other hand, my wife was in Chicago during the last blizzard. She sent me this picture of a school bus transporting children in weather that would have given a Tennessee school administrator heart failure.  What was the difference? They are used to it up there, and far more prepared. To people in Chicago, our worst weather is just another work day. But I wonder how they would deal with our heat, humidity, and lung-clogging pollen come August?

The Life Lesson

Problems will come in life that may seem small to some, but huge to others. The key is to never view another person’s problem as insignificant. What you may think is no big deal could be earth-shattering to someone else.

Learn to show grace and mercy to those who aren’t handling things as well as you. You may be the strength and encouragement they need to get through a tough time.

Who knows, a time may come when an unexpected storm will snow you in.

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Filed under General Observations, Life Lessons

Appetite for Comfort

Comfort Food, That Is

There are some things in life that we always go back to when nothing else seems to do. It’s called comfort food.

Comfort food is the stuff that you want to eat when you’re depressed, when you’ve lost a limb, or when you’re girlfriend informs you that all along she has been an alien from Jupiter, and now she wants your brain to take back to her daddy.

Comfort food brings back fond memories of childhood and the “good-old-days” (unless you were a starving refugee), when Mom could make you feel better with nothing more than a spoonful of lard and some corn meal.

Comfort Central

Here in the southern United States we have a custom: when somebody dies, we eat.

Whenever a loved one passes away, bites the dust, or essentially assumes room temperature for an indefinite period of time, we trot them off to a funeral home, and then bring in every kind of unhealthy food imaginable. We all know that when one is suffering a terrible loss, comfort food will help dull the pain. And if nothing else, it will help you get to where your loved one is a little quicker than a salad will.

A typical southern funeral home has a dining area. This is where the family and friends can go when they are tired of standing around in the viewing room. They instinctively know that in that room is food which will make them feel better.

Serious Comfort

Well, not long ago my only blood-related uncle went home to be with the Lord. His body was taken to a funeral home in a place called Whitwell (pronounced “Wutwool“), Tennessee. And it was there that the funeral home staff did something that it does for all their families – serve homemade pinto beans.

Now, don’t be fooled, folks. These are not your ordinary beans. These are about the best pinto beans you will ever put in your ever-loving mouth! Served with some homemade cornbread, these beans made me tear up (no joke) as I remembered my granny, my dad, and a much, MUCH simpler life down on the river.

What makes these pintos so special is that they were soaked for 24 hours in water, then slow-cooked the next day in a crock pot with several slices of thick bacon. Of course, there’s more to it than that, but there are secrets to keep.

A Holy Command

Why do we prepare such food for funerals? Seriously? For one thing, sometimes it is hard to find the right words to say when someone is hurting. That’s when people do what they can, and many times the only thing they can do is prepare good food. Hurting people need to be cared for, and this is one way to show it.

Comforting one another is also something we are commanded to do. 1Thessalonians 5:11 tells us to “comfort yourselves together, and edify one another.” And speaking of the hope of resurrection we have in Christ, the Apostle Paul said in the same letter, “comfort one another with these words” (1 Thess. 4:8).

But what happens when words are hard to find? Make a pot of seriously savory pinto beans and cornbread. Tears of heartache may turn into tears of culinary joy.


Filed under Food, Relationships and Family

The Worst Field Trip Guide

The Trip

Today I transported 80 kindergarteners on a field trip to a mountain forest. Do you have any idea how loud 80 excited 5-year-olds can get when confined in a 40ft.-long steel box on wheels?

Teacher Talk

Anyway, I couldn’t help overhear the advice school teachers were giving to the little crumb crunchers. One warned, “Don’t pick anything up from the ground; you won’t be able to keep it, anyway.” Another said, “Don’t bounce on the swinging bridge; just look over the side.”

However, the best piece of advice was clear enough: “Do NOT get off the trail!” But I spoke up and said, “‘Cause if you get off the trail, we might have to send the dogs after you.”

Who knew the little girl was afraid of dogs? I didn’t! Cry baby.

Bad Advice

So, that got me to thinking: what would be the worst advice to give 80 children before a trip into the woods?

  • Don’t worry about your lunch box, the forest is full of pretty berries.
  • As long as the animal is smaller than you, go ahead and pet it. It won’t mind.
  • Hey, bounce on the swinging bridge…it’s just like a trampoline.
  • Of course! Rules are meant to be broken.
  • Bears? What bears? This is Tennessee, kid. We don’t have bears. You’re thinking of Chicago.
  • I don’t care what your mom said, poison oak is a hoax. Don’t your parents have oak furniture? Does it make you itch? See, she lied.
  • Who can get closest to the edge?
  • Whatever you do, don’t stay on the trail. Trails are for babies.
  • Snakes are overrated, misunderstood jump ropes.

Best Advice

Fortunately, when it comes to the wilderness of life, there is One who always gives good advice. He teaches us to stay on the path that He has already walked. He warns us of things that can harm us. He can even tell the difference between good and bad fruit trees.

Psa 23:4 – Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou [art] with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me. Matt 4:19 – And he saith unto them, Follow me….

Here’s a link to my other blog, i4Daily. There’s a nice picture of the swinging bridge.


Filed under Christian Maturity, Life Lessons, Uncategorized