Saturday, February 9, 2008

Prayer Blog - 2/9/2008

WML is looking for a job. He recently quit a job that did not deliver what was promised and causing much misery. He has an interview upcoming in Washington state. I pray that he finds a job that makes him prosper and happy.

View from 315A

Saturday marked on of the Tennessee basketball’s worst efforts of the season. After putting up 104 points on a competitive Florida team on Tuesday night, the Vols managed only 47 points at LSU, the team with the worst record in the conference. It was the second lowest point total in Bruce Pearl’s three years at UT. The LSU team has struggled so badly that they fired their coach yesterday. Amazingly, Tennessee still won the game, 47-45.

John Brady was fired Friday after eleven seasons and leading the Tigers to the Final Four in 2006. His replacement, at least temporarily, is Butch Pierre. Not only does Pierre have two first names, but they are a contradiction in terms between the hyper-masculine and the French. Even if LSU had been nationally ranked it would have been embarrassing losing to a man named Pierre. If nothing else, Pierre already leads the conference in forehead diameter, a much coveted crown. Bruce Pearl proved that he is still the best BP in the conference on Saturday.

JuJuan Smith was slowed significantly by the flu. Pearl acknowledged that Smith "had a 101-degree temperature and we gave him some medication before the game that brought it down a little bit," Vols coach Bruce Pearl said. "But he was quite ill." Ryan Childress missed last Saturday’s road trip due to flu so it is not unfair to conclude that he infected JuJuan. Now, not only is Childress not contributing on the court, but he is quite literally contagious. JuJuan still managed the game-winner, his only basket of the game.

Tennessee also shot only 26% from the foul line. That is not a typo.

Do the sleeves worn on one arm of the three Smiths and Crews have any function or are they totally decorative? SMA posits that the Vols are just representing that they are big Jeff Hardy fans.

Friday, February 8, 2008

A Veiled Tell: Nil Soli - 2/8/2008

The Great Gatsby (2000)

Over three days this week, I watched A&E’s 2000 TV version of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby. The fact that it took me three days to complete the viewing says a lot about the film.

It is not bad, but its low budget shows. It is benefitted by the beautiful Mira Sorvino as Daisy and the always likeable Paul Rudd, who plays Nick Carraway. Toby Stephens, playing the title role comes off awkward, particularly when forcing Gatsby’s classic vocative “Old sport.” In my opinion, an unsophisticated Gatsby does not work.

There have been four versions of Gatsby on film, only two available on DVD. The 1926 version has been lost to history and the 1949 edition is unavailable due to copyright disputes. Of the two available, I would recommend the 1974 version, starring Robert Redford. Both the 1974 and 2000 versions are far superior to the African-American adaptation, G (2002). Above all, I endorse the book.

Current IMDB rating: 5.5/10. Chanalysis: 4/10.

Prayer Blog - 2/8/2008

I learned yeterday of the death of Will Ridenour last June 11 in an automobile accident. Willie was one of JJG and KGG's childhood friends and was only 20 years old at the time of his death. I passed a memorial at the site of his accident yesterday, only two blocks from his home. Obviously, the family, is still struggling with his death as are his contemporaries in the neighborhood.

Bible Trivia - 2/8/2008

Question: Who said, "Come see a man which told me all things that ever I did?"

Answer: The woman Jesus met at the well (John 4:29)

Comments: The woman Jesus encounters at Jacob's well in Sychar has an interesting testimony. Her witness is found in John 4:29 - "Come, see a man who told me all the things that I have done; this is not the Christ, is it?" (NASB)

She herself is uncertain as to who Jesus is. All she can speak to is her own experience with him. She acknowledges her uncertainty, only posing the possibility that he might be the Christ. In the following verse, her comments are taken to heart as many are drawn to Jesus by her question. One does not have to have all of the answers to tell someone about Jesus. In fact, the woman at the well makes me wonder whether or not an honest question is just as effective.

Word of the Day - 2/8/2008


A scofflaw is a person who flouts the law, especially one who fails to pay fines owed.

Jesus was accused of being a scofflaw, with even suggesting he did not pay temple taxes. (Matthew 17:24)

In Eckleburg's Eyes - 2/8/2008

Yesterday morning, I led Bible Study at the BS (Bible Study) Arena, otherwise known as the Bride’s Room. MLM, CMU, and I studied Luke 4:40-41 and its parallel passages in Matthew and Mark. I learned a valuable lesson. If a member of your Bible Study has the same name as one of the books you are reading, have that person read the passage from the book they are named after. Otherwise a communication train wreck will ensue.

Notes from the study should be available on Sunday.

Afterwards, I ate with SMA, RLN, and BR at Silver Spoon. Yes, I picked the restaurant even though I had eaten there the previous night. RLN and BR arrived separately but had the same initial responses to both myself and SMA - “Your hair is getting long” and “Why are you here?” respectively. They have lived together far too long.

I spent the afternoon with KGG. We went to Smoothie King for her standard Caribbean Way, to Farragut for a visit with KLTW, and to hang out with JTH at MoFos. The most noteworthy aspect of our journey was that this was the first time she has driven my vehicle. She did a great job despite the first half of our driving being directly into the sun.

When Truett Gannon was pastor of Smoke Rise Baptist Church, he routinely let his youth drive his car the day they got their license. I did him one better by letting someone with a permit drive mine. Somewhere Truett is smiling.

While KGG was at Young Life, I spent the night with her parents, JCG and LBG. It was so good to see them. While I at UT, I often quoted JCG in philosophy papers, presently him as an expert - which he is. He has not lost his philosophical bent as we discussed among other topics whether or not God hates trailers. He asserted that God does because trailers are more frequently destroyed by acts of God than any other type of home. I countered that perhaps God loves them more as evidenced by giving them free rides. I suppose this will be one of the first questions I ask God when I get to heaven.

I always enjoy their company so much that I lose track of time. This time it was of great benefit because it was after ten o’clock. This meant I could join JTH at Applebees for half-priced appetizers. Any time I eat at the Spoon and Applebees in the same day, it has been a good day.

Thursday, February 7, 2008

Prayer Blog - 2/7/2008, #3

I have been asked to pray for BJM. He is under a great deal of stress with great responsibility. Grant him the strength and wisdom to fulfill his duties.

Prayer Blog - 2/7/2008, #2

BE continues to struggle with lung cancer. Pain in his thigh has been mitigated to an extent, but overall, his condition remains the same. Pray for reduced pain and possible healing.

Prayer Blog - 2/7/2008

CMU has signed plea agreements but his status remains uncertain. The process could end immediately or be prolonged significantly. He requests that regardless of the outcome, he grows closer to God.

View from 315A

Yesterday was National Signing Day. Tennessee football faired horribly according to most experts. In fact, ESPN featured Tennessee due to its disappointment. ranks us 36th nationally with zero five-star recruits. Scouts Inc. Graded us at a C and only ninth in a 12-team conference.

To make matters worse, rival Alabama ranked first nationally in some polls. On the surface, it appears the football program has taken another step backwards.

In the last decade, Tennessee has transposed athletic programs with Kentucky. Kentucky basketball has not really been Kentucky basketball since 1997 when Rick Pitino left, though they won the national championship the following year. Tennessee football has not really been Tennessee football since 1997, when Peyton Manning left, though we won the national championship the following year. Conversely, Kentucky’s football program has upgraded as has Tennessee’s basketball program.

On a more hopeful, Tennessee has had great recruiting classes in the recent past that evidently did not translate into blue chip players. Perhaps some of the signees this year will maturate into superstars. Well, I can hope anyway...

Bible Trivia - 2/7/2008

Question: Complete the following quotation of Jesus: "then shall two be in the field: the..."

Answer: "one shall be taken, and the other left." (Matthew 24:40)

Comments: Tim LaHaye's book series has contributed to the image of being "left behind" as part of common apocalyptic conjecture. The underlying presumption is that the pagan will be left to a turbulent world that the saint gratefully escapes from. This may not be the case. This passage begins with Jesus setting the context as "just like the days of Noah." Matthew 24:37) Baptist scholar George Beasley-Murray (1916-2000), who wrote an entire book on the little Apocalypse of Mark 13, contended that in the days of Noah, it was the righteous, not the sinner, who was left on the earth. (This also conveys a healthier attitude towards life on earth). Careful examination of the text reveals that nowhere in the text does Jesus claim which of the duo is left behind. It may very well be the saint. This would give an entirely new spin on the bumper sticker “In case of rapture this car will be unmanned."

Word of the Day - 2/7/2008


Alimentary is an adjective meaning “concerned with the function of nutrition; nutritive.”

At the outset of the Temptation, the devil's initial attempts to convince Jesus to use his divinity to supernaturally meet his alimentary needs. (Matthew 4:3)

In Eckleburg's Eyes - 2/7/2008

I spent yesterday back home in Newport. I drove through a monsoon to arrive in Newport to eat with my grandparents. It was all worthwhile and not just because my grandmother bore a striking resemblance to the Emperor in Star Wars in her rain cap.

We ate at the Cracker Barrel. Despite my typically healthy diet, I ate chicken and dumplings with sides of dumplings and dumplings. It is worth the blocked arteries for the great taste and to see my grandmother’s joy as I place the order.

We spent the day, at my request, discussing my enigmatic great uncle Ed, whom disowned my family and my father never even got to meet. It was very interesting.

It was the first time I had been to Newport since my grandparents had a ramp installed at their home. Pleasant Grove Baptist Church constructed the ramp for free, for which my family is very grateful. My grandmother now employs a walker full-time. It does not seem to bother her so I will not let it bother me.

On my way out of town, I stopped and visited with my old friend, DLB. She now manages a Goodwill. She must be doing well as I have never seen a Goodwill that busy and I am somewhat of a Goodwill connoisseur.

She seemed to know all of her regulars. I was especially interested in a toothless woman, who routinely buys nice wigs only to cut them up so that the lining shows, and then wear them about town. She was very cordial and for all I know who unique appearance was intentional.

I spent the night eating with my parents at Silver Spoon before heading to RAW’s to watch the Duke-North Carolina basketball game with RAW, MPW, KJW, and ever so briefly KLTW.

To be honest, I watched KJW more than the game, not that the game was unappealing. In a highlight, I was the recipient of a rapid fire kissing spree typically reserved for inanimate objects such as her Frannie Bear. Now that she is more mobile, she has added a repertoire of physical humor to her verbal staples. Among her newest phrases is “Ice Ice Baby.” She says it clear as day. I have no idea why her father would want her to, but it is very funny. Nineteen months into this and I still can’t believe how much I love a baby.

Oh, Duke won the game. The significance of this is that Tennessee has (in my opinion) an unlikely chance to move up in the polls next week. I’ll just say, “Go Vols!” and let you talk now...

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Associated Baptist Press - 2/6/2008

Associated Baptist Press

February 6, 2008 (8-16)


Deadly Super Tuesday storms devastate Union University
After Super Tuesday, parties, religious voters still divided

Deadly Super Tuesday storms
devastate Union University

By ABP staff

JACKSON, Tenn. (ABP) -- Baptist-affiliated Union University was one of the hardest-hit spots as deadly tornadoes raked the Mid-South Feb. 5 -- the same day as Mardi Gras celebrations and the “Super Tuesday” primary elections.

Among those killed was Fountaine Bayer, a member of First Church of Clinton, Ark. Her son and daughter-in-law, John and Brenda Bayer, are International Mission Board missionaries in Mexico. John's sister-in-law, Sharon Ann Bayer of Clinton, was injured in the storm and was in surgery Feb. 6 at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences hospital in Little Rock, Ark.

The Tennessee Baptist Convention-related school’s campus sustained extensive damage as an evening tornado tore across the north side of Jackson, Tenn. The city of about 65,000 is located midway between Memphis and Nashville.

The Jackson Sun reported Feb. 6 that emergency workers rescued 13 students trapped in a demolished dormitory complex.

Union spokesman Tim Ellsworth told the paper that 51 students were transported to the hospital. While nine students had serious injuries, none of the injuries were life-threatening, he said. In an interview posted Feb. 6 on the website of local television station WBBJ, Ellsworth said school officials had confirmed that all of the seriously injured students “are going to be fine.”

However, he added, the campus “really looks like a bomb went off here.” He told the Baptist and Reflector, the state convention’s newspaper, that the university community was still in a state of shock the morning after the storm -- but also a state of relief.

“It is incredible that no one has been killed,” he said.

Union’s two major residential complexes were mostly destroyed, and the roof was blown off one of the main academic buildings. That left the building flooded, according to Ellsworth.

Local churches, as well as several of Union’s peer institutions, have offered their resources to the stricken campus. Samford University, an Alabama Baptist school located in Birmingham, has set up a fund to assist with relief and rebuilding efforts. Officials at Rhodes College, a Presbyterian school in Memphis, Tenn., have offered their assistance. Rhodes President William Troutt had previously led Belmont University, a Tennessee Baptist school in Nashville.

Union University President David Dockery, in a Feb. 6 press conference, said the college received $2.6 million worth of damage from a tornado in 2002. The Feb. 5 storm was “15 times worse than that,” he said.

Ellsworth said classes have been canceled and will not resume before Feb. 18. “It will be a long time before the campus will be fully operational,” he said.

Storm victims off Union’s campus were not so fortunate. The same tornado killed two elderly residents in rural parts of Madison County, according to a Feb. 6 report in the Jackson paper.

And dozens of other tornadoes killed residents across the lower Mississippi Valley. As of midday Feb. 6, the Associated Press reported that 48 people had been confirmed dead in four states: 24 in Tennessee, 13 in Arkansas, seven in Kentucky and four in Alabama. The National Weather service received reports of 60 tornadoes in the region between the afternoon of Feb. 5 and the morning of Feb. 6.

That makes the event the deadliest tornado outbreak -- and one of the largest -- in more than 20 years. The death toll is even higher than the May 3, 1999, outbreak famous for a massive tornado that laid waste to large sections of Oklahoma City.

In Arkansas, the towns of Clinton and Atkins reportedly sustained direct hits from storms. Charlie Warren, editor of the Arkansas Baptist News, said Feb. 6 that he had not yet confirmed reports of the storms directly affecting any Arkansas Baptist congregations or institutions. The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reported that one storm destroyed a Baptist church in rural Pope County, but Warren said that congregation is not affiliated with the state convention.

He said Arkansas Baptist disaster-relief officials were meeting that morning to coordinate information and begin formulating a response.

Several presidential candidates, in delivering victory speeches after the largest day of presidential primaries in the nation’s history, asked supporters to pray for the storm’s victims. New York Sen. Hillary Clinton and former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee both have strong ties to Arkansas, one of the hardest-hit states. Clinton’s Democratic rival, Illinois Sen. Barack Obama, also asked supporters to pray for those affected by the bad weather.

President Bush took a moment during a brief Feb. 6 appearance at the Department of Agriculture to mention the storms’ toll and promise federal help. “Prayers can help, and so can the government,” Bush said. “I do want the people in those states to know that the American people stand with them.”


-- Compiled by Lonnie Wilkey of the Baptist and Reflector and Robert Marus of Associated Baptist Press. ABP will update this story as more information becomes available.

After Super Tuesday, parties,
religious voters still divided

By Robert Marus

WASHINGTON (ABP) -- About the only thing the Feb. 5 “Super Tuesday” primaries made clear is that religious voters are as conflicted as the general electorate over who the next president should be.

By the afternoon of Feb. 6, with results in from almost all of the states that held Republican and Democratic contests on the largest primary day in American history, neither party had a candidate with a prohibitive lead in delegates.

Moreover, according to exit-poll data, no GOP candidate had a clear advantage among self-described evangelical voters, and no Democrat had a clear advantage among those who attend religious services the most frequently.

The exit pollsters -- continuing a policy that some evangelicals have criticized -- did not ask Democratic voters if they consider themselves evangelical or born-again Christians.

Looking at nationwide poll numbers for Republican primary voters and caucus-goers, those who identified as evangelical or born again only very narrowly favored former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee over his rivals, Arizona Sen. John McCain and former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney.

Huckabee -- a Southern Baptist pastor before he entered secular politics -- got 34 percent of the evangelical vote. But Romney -- a Mormon who has reversed his previous moderate positions on abortion and gay rights -- got 31 percent. McCain -- who generally has a conservative voting record on social issues but has had an uneasy relationship with Religious Right leaders -- garnered 29 percent of evangelicals.

“The whole story on the Republican side from page one is the story of a fractured party that can’t figure out what it is anymore,” said Laura Olson, a Clemson University political-science professor and expert on religious conservatives. “I think all of these candidates … each one, you can say, is the candidate of a different [GOP] faction in a lot of ways.”

In comments posted on Christianity Today magazine’s Liveblog site, one of the nation’s foremost experts on evangelicals agreed. “The evangelical community does seem to be divided. The fact that Gov. Huckabee and McCain have done well among evangelicals suggests the evangelical community is open to a broader agenda than they have been in the past,” John Green, of the University of Akron and the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life, said. “One conclusion that one could draw is a lot [of] evangelicals are ready to move beyond President Bush. They’re ready to move on to a more moderate economic policy and a different foreign policy.”

Olson said the continued division in the Republican Party is partially the result of the growth and maturation of the politically active evangelical movement in the United States in the last decade.

“As a result of that, it’s a lot more difficult for any politician … to rally people who are in this case evangelical Protestants around any one candidate, cause or political party,” she suggested. “In a way, the Religious Right … to an extent, maybe, they’re a victim of their own success.”

Whether significant numbers of centrist or moderate evangelicals defect to a Democratic candidate remains to be seen. Olson, Green and other analysts have said that Illinois Sen. Barack Obama, in particular, may appeal to younger and more progressive Christians.

Obama -- a Congregationalist who has spoken about his adult conversion experience -- did not do as consistently well among frequent churchgoers as he has in previous primaries. New York Sen. Hillary Clinton -- a lifelong Methodist and active participant in secretive congressional Bible studies -- showed significant strength among Catholics, especially in heavily Hispanic states.

Clinton’s campaign liaison to religious groups, Burns Strider, sent an e-mail to reporters Feb. 6 pointing out an analysis by the website It noted Clinton’s strength among Catholic voters, including her overwhelming victory among Catholics in delegate-rich (and Latino-rich) California.

“A big part of Sen. Clinton's strength in California among Catholics was clearly her appeal to Latino Democrats, who constituted 25 percent of the voters in California,” the analysis said. “They favored Sen. Clinton by nearly [a] three-to-one [margin] over Sen. Obama, who performed more strongly among college-educated and wealthier Democrats. Sen. Obama did somewhat better among Latino voters in his home state of Illinois, beating Sen. Clinton 58 percent to 41 percent in exit polling. But despite winning Illinois [by a] two-to-one [margin], his polling among Catholics was a draw with Sen. Clinton there.”

The website also noted that Clinton beat Obama handily among Catholics in heavily Catholic Massachusetts, which helped her win the commonwealth even though its top three Democratic officeholders endorsed Obama.

“Broadly speaking, the two Democrats are finding that their candidacies appeal to both frequent church attenders of all faiths and also to those who attend less often,” it said. “But Senator Clinton's edge among older white women, who constitute an increasing percentage of church-attending Catholics, and among white men may be a big part of why she is winning the Catholic Democratic vote overall so far.”

On the Republican side, Huckabee surprised some pundits by winning a string of Southern states on the strength of their large evangelical GOP electorates. However, in states where evangelicals do not make up an overwhelming proportion of Republicans, evangelical voters tended to mirror the choices of their non-evangelical neighbors.

For instance, Huckabee came in third among evangelical Republican voters in McCain’s and Romney’s home states. He came in last among his fellow evangelicals in California, Connecticut, New York and New Jersey.

The apparent lack of focus among evangelicals may point to the disintegration of any particular evangelical identity, writer Madison Trammel pointed out on the Christianity Today blog.

“If evangelicals can't be counted on to vote together, are they worth targeting at all?” Trammel wrote. “If conservative, white, male evangelicals vote just like other conservative white males, does it matter that they're evangelicals? If urban, progressive evangelicals vote just like other urban liberals, does their religious affiliation need to be considered?

“Depending on how you look at it, the story of Election 2008 may be the maturing of the evangelical vote -- or the increasing irrelevance of it.”


Bible Trivia - 2/6/2008 #2

Question: Fill in each blank with one word: “Can the Ethipioan change his _____ or the leopard his _____?

Answer: Skin; spots (Jeremiah 13:23)

Comments: This is the origin of the axiom “a leopard cannot change its spots.” I am uncertain if the case of Michael Jackson refutes the first half of this verse...

Bible Trivia - 2/6/2008

Question: In what two ways was Sarah a relative to Abraham?

Answer: Wife and half-sister (Genesis 20:12)

Comments: Abraham married his half-sister, Sarah, a fact that does not come into play nine chapters until after the characters are introduced. Maybe the ancients realized that this little tidbit might sway the reader unfavorably against the protagonist. Clearly, the gene pool was different than the modern era and it would not have caused the genetic abnormalities that incest would today, but I am still somewhat disturbed by this. On the plus side, I relate more to Abraham as he was probably a redneck. He lived in the ancient equivalent of a mobile home (tent), his faith was “reckoned” to him as righteousness (Genesis 15:6), and he married a relative. As Jeff Foxworthy once said, “You might be a redneck if your family tree doesn’t fork.”

Word of the Day - 2/6/2008


Multifarious means having many different parts, elements, forms, etc.

Jesus, as a healer, was not a specialist. He healed multifarious diseases. (Mark 1:34)

In Eckleburg's Eyes - 2/6/2008

Last night, MPW & RAW were where we always are during UT home games - in section 315A, Row 20. Only five rows from the ceiling, I like to think of our tickets as the best seats in the house. The 9 o’clock game was featured on ESPN.

It was especially hot in the gym. I wonder if Bruce Pearl had the Arena heated to fatigue the Gators. One of our primary advantages is depth and an enervating pace tends to play to our advantage. Whether a heated gym was part of the game plan or not, depth did play a factor as UT erased a 13-point first half deficit to win by 22.

It was our 20th win of the season. Bruce has now won 20 games in each season he has coached. We also beat Florida at home for the third straight year which is impressive when considering that they won the national championship the last two years.

The game was enjoyable as usual and we got to see EBB and LS as a bonus.

The half time show was in my estimation, second best of the season. The magic act Quick Change, David and Dania, performed. Evidently, the duo rose to fame on America’s Got Talent. The act is a series of costume changes. It is more impressive than it sounds. Still, it was not as good as a geriatric chiropractor shooting three-pointers, but it held my attention.

I did also did something I did not think was possible. Somehow, in the shower I got water into both ears. I literally could not hear out of my left ear for the entire basketball game. Fortunately, my head did not explode as I feared it might.

Despite the Vols win and my impressive hydraulic ear feat, I felt I erred as I did not vote on Super Tuesday. I have never missed a November election, but I sometimes miss the preliminary elections. Then again, as Jay Leno once famously said, “If God had wanted us to vote, he would have given us candidates.”

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Associated Baptist Press - 2/5/2008

Associated Baptist Press

February 5, 2008 (8-15)


The security of the believer: Protecting churches from attack
Church security: What to do when under attack at church
Church security demands all hands on deck -- with firearms included?
New York court ruling advances gay marriage
CBF chaplain serves Marines at legendary Parris Island
Opinion: Layers of healing at the New Baptist Covenant

The security of the believer:
Protecting churches from attack

By Hannah Elliott

NEW YORK (ABP) -- One day after a shooter killed two sisters at Colorado’s New Life Church, Pastor Brady Boyd told reporters the church had become a target because of its size and its notoriety.

But the toll to the former church of Ted Haggard, the pastor accused of homosexual acts and drug abuse, could have been much worse, Boyd quickly added. The church security team quickly and effectively subdued the attacker, a 24-year-old man who ultimately was shot and killed in the attack.

“Because we took extra precautions, we saved a lot of lives yesterday,” Boyd said. “We have had a plan in place here for many years, before I ever came as senior pastor, for situations like this. And for a group of volunteers to be able to pull off an evacuation plan the way they did yesterday was supernatural and unbelievable.”

But what should an average church do to prepare for a violent crisis? What’s more, how should staff members prepare a congregation for the unthinkable without terrifying it in the process?

It’s helpful to recognize that simply articulating security plans doesn’t mean a church is dangerous any more than pointing out emergency exits on an airplane means it will crash. It just means precautions have been taken.

Experts say the first step to ensuring safety is deciding what kind of image a particular church wants to present and then acting on it. Richard Schaber, the risk-control manager for Church Mutual Insurance Company, says there are two basic ways to address security in a church -- like a shopping mall or like an airport.

Each method has its own irregularities. Shopping malls have lots of open space, allow for fluid motion of crowds, and have several points of entry and exits. For better or for worse, airports don’t.

“Unfortunately when we mostly look at [a church] like a shopping mall, it’s very difficult to secure. You’ve got people coming and going,” Schaber said. But using metal detectors at a single entrance “certainly has an impact on those attending and members. When you treat it like an airport and you’re wanding people [with a metal-detecing 'wand'], that doesn’t always go over very well.”

Ultimately, there’s no one right way to form the plan for a particular church, he said: “You’ve got to keep what the church wants in mind. How do they want to be seen?”

The essential thing is to make response plans tailored to a specific church, at specific times and in specific scenarios. That begins with forming a security team to identify potential threats. The team should include staff members, volunteers and church members with skills in the medical, military or law-enforcement fields.

Members should then brainstorm threatening scenarios, including events during weekend services, weekdays, nights, school hours and special events.

It’s important to remember that each church will have specific needs, experts say. Generic policies may not fit what a particular congregation is able or willing to implement, and misguided or unheeded policies can increase liability, said Phill Martin, deputy chief executive officer of the Texas-based National Association of Church Business Administration.

Churches need to establish clear security policies, but once size does not fit all, he stressed.

“Be careful what policies you put into place,” Martin warned, noting the “boilerplate” language of generic policies may not fit what a particular congregation is able or willing to implement. “If you have a policy and don’t follow it, it can increase your liability.”

Security policies should include a sunset clause that renders them void if they are not reviewed and ratified periodically. “A security policy should be reviewed every six months by somebody,” he suggested.

Three of the basic threats to churches are the presence of a weapon, the use of a weapon, and a hostage situation or barricaded gunman. After determining the vulnerability to and potential impact of a worst-case scenario, members should assign each other responsibilities that will minimize damage to people and property. Duties could include locking the building, checking classrooms, calling authorities, conducting head counts, administering first-aid and counseling victims.

A simple step toward mitigating the consequences of any security threat is to improve general building security, according to a newsletter from the Wisconsin-based Church Mutual. Keeping doors and windows locked, installing video cameras and adequate lighting, trimming bushes and changing locks annually can prevent a crisis before it starts.

Small churches that can’t afford or don’t need to hire professional security should reach an understanding with local police about what to do in a crisis. Networking with community schools or area churches also is valuable.

Once a team is formed and a safety plan established, church staff should inform the congregation so that panic doesn't overwhelm them if a gunman enters the building. A crime-prevention checklist from Brotherhood Mutual Insurance Company suggests using announcements during services to outline evacuation plans, show emergency exits and explain how children will be protected in the nursery. It also suggests posting emergency policies on walls, printing them in the church bulletin, posting them on websites and printing them in visitor packets.

Unfortunately, as worshipers at New Life Church know, the impact of a crisis doesn’t stop after danger is eliminated. A key responsibility of any safety team is to designate a spokesperson for media inquiries -- and depending on the nature of the crisis, it could be a huge task.

According to experts, church employees and members should direct all media questions to the designated person -- usually a pastor, business administrator or board chairman. A communication plan should be included in the overall security plan, they said. Pstors should neither seek nor hide from media coverage, and they should be ready to respond to media questions with more than a “no comment.”

“Your spokesperson needs to realize how the media coverage will affect the families and the victims,” Shaber wrote in a column for Church Mutual. “Above all, tell the truth.”

Boyd took the expert advice to heart -- and it paid off.

Hundreds of lives were saved because of the pre-determined plan, he told reporters. “We are grateful to God for giving us the wisdom to do that….”


-- This story is part of a three-part series on church security. Ken Camp contributed to this story.

Church security: What to do
when under attack at church

By Hannah Elliott

NEW YORK (ABP) -- Last December, worshipers at a Colorado church lost two members to a murderous gunman. In 2006, a man entered an Oregon church and threw fuel during a Sunday service, intending to set the building ablaze. And in 2005, a man opened fire in a Wisconsin church, killing seven people and wounding four others.

In this day and age, even elementary schools are better prepared to deal with violent attacks than churches, experts say, because church-goers think it won’t happen to them. But that false sense of security gives physical and psychological advantages to any would-be attacker.

There are two main reasons churches are attacked, according to Rick Schaber, risk control manager for Church Mutual Insurance Company in Merrill, Wis.

“First, worship centers are open to the public, so gaining access is extremely easy,” he said. “Second, people are passionate about their faith. When someone wants to take extreme action against their church, oftentimes it isn't difficult.”

Most risk experts say worshipers have five options when threatened by a shooter.

-- Escape. Experts say the first choice for anyone in a threatening situation is to escape. Churches should develop plans that determine how people will leave the building and where they will meet afterward -- keeping in mind worshipers with disabilities. Security teams should highlight escape routes and assign people to ensure everyone gets out.

In Colorado Springs, Colo., Pastor Brady Boyd lost two church members when a man with a gun entered his church. But the New Life Church security team quickly activated a crisis plan that helped people escape.

“People were ushered off the campus or taken to safe places,” Boyd said in a press conference the next day. “We had security details in each of those locations to keep people safe.”

-- Lock down. “Lockdowns are designed to be exercised when the threat is outside of the building or outside a specific room,” Schaber said. “It's designed to prohibit the person from entering an area.”

For example, a safety newsletter from Brotherhood Mutual Insurance Company noted, the killer on the Virginia Tech campus didn’t take the time to force his way through locked doors -- he looked instead for easy targets.

Ideally, all rooms on the church campus should have locks on them, and children’s areas should be secured by one entrance that teachers can quickly lock, protecting everyone inside.

-- Hide. If escape and lock-down are not possible, hiding under tables or chairs can reduce vertical targets for a potential killer, safety consultant John Nicoletti said in the Brotherhood Mutual letter.

-- Play dead. “This is one of the more difficult options. It requires people to have already been shot, and you have to really look dead,” Nicoletti said. But at times, it has been effective.

-- Confront the killer. Experts urge this tactic only as a last resort, since it is inherently risky. But resistance did stop a school shooting in Springfield, Ore., in 1998.

The question of whether church leaders or security guards should carry guns is a tricky one, Schaber admitted. Each religious organization must determine an answer for itself.

“There are risks involved” with having guns on the premises, he said. “Training is extremely important, as is the selection of the person given the responsibility of carrying a gun.

“There is a lot that can go wrong if you have armed security at a service and a threat, or perceived threat, occurs. However, that presence also might prevent a threat from ever happening.”

The bottom line? Don’t rely on instinct. Church attacks are a reality in the modern world, so it pays to prepare, Boyd said: “I don't think any of us grew up in churches where that was a reality, but today it is.”


-- This story is part of a three-part series on church security.

Church security demands all hands
on deck -- with firearms included?

By Ken Camp

FORT WORTH, Texas (ABP) -- Travis Avenue Baptist Church in Fort Worth, Texas, has long employed personnel to patrol its campus, escort women to cars after dark and ensure buildings are locked.

But after a security guard stopped a gunman who entered a Colorado church in December, leaders at Travis Avenue Baptist decided to take another look at how they provide security.

“We’re in transition,” said Russ Hibner, the church’s facilities manager.

In recent weeks, the church secured training for its courtesy-patrol officers to let them become certified non-commissioned security officers. As non-commissioned officers, they are trained how to handle emergencies and understand the scope of their authority, but they are not permitted to carry deadly weapons. For occasions when armed personnel are needed, the church hires off-duty police officers, Hibner explained.

“We have to weigh a lot of factors and seek a balance,” he said. “We want to provide a service for our members and guests without going overboard and making it an armed camp.”

Just by its presence, the courtesy patrol probably has deterred some criminal acts, Hibner noted. Personnel routinely patrol parking lots in vehicles with flashing lights, and on more than one occasion, small groups have “dispersed quickly” when the vehicles came into sight, he said.

And although the security officers do not carry guns, they do carry direct-connect radios that enable them to contact other staff or call 911. Ambulance service and police have responded promptly when summoned, Hibner said, and police cars often use the church’s parking lot as a gathering spot at night.

“We’ve very happy about that, and we tell them they can use our parking lot any time they want to,” he said.

In addition to the security officers and off-duty police, a parking committee helps provide additional parking-lot security during worship services, and the church instructs ushers and deacons how to handle minor disturbances during worship services.

All churches should do the same, said Phill Martin from the National Association of Church Business Administration.

“They [ushers] should be the first line of defense,” he said. “The day of ushers just handing out bulletins is long past. They need to be trained in what to watch for. They need to understand if something looks suspicious, it may be. A church should have procedures in place to help ushers know how to respond.”

In addition to training ushers, Church staff members should periodically ask a series of “what if” questions to prepare for a variety of security-related issues, Martin suggested.

“We highly recommend church staffs do scenario planning” to envision proper responses for various situations, he said.

At Green Acres Baptist Church in Tyler, Texas, armed off-duty police officers patrol the facility on Sundays and Wednesdays, but they aren’t necessarily the only people carrying weapons, according to Senior Associate Pastor Ken Warren.

Paid uniformed officers regulate traffic flow and security in parking lots, and they wait in the sanctuary while the offering is collected in order to escort ushers to the church’s safe.

Their presence is augmented by a significant number of law enforcement officers, who attend the church and will respond to emergencies as members of Green Acres’ security ministry team, Warren said.

“They are required to be armed even when they are off duty,” he said. “So, they may be sitting up in the choir or in the congregation, but they are alert and prepared to respond as needed at a moment’s notice.”


-- This story is part of a three-part series on church security.

New York court ruling
advances gay marriage

By Robert Marus

NEW YORK (ABP) -- Recent rulings in Oregon and New York have provided victories for supporters of same-sex unions and setbacks for gay-rights opponents.

A New York appellate panel ruled unanimously that, although the Empire State does not allow same-sex marriages, it must recognize such unions legally performed in other states.

In Oregon, meanwhile, gay couples can enter into legal domestic partnerships -- a federal judge allowed a law approving them to take effect despite petitions from opponents.

The New York ruling, delivered Feb. 1 by a five-judge panel of the state Supreme Court Appellate Division, overturned a lower court’s 2006 ruling. It said a state employee who married her lesbian partner in Canada must receive the same recognition as a heterosexual woman legally married in another jurisdiction.

“The Legislature may decide to prohibit the recognition of same-sex marriages solemnized abroad,” the court said. “Until it does so, however, such marriages are entitled to recognition in New York.”

The court depended on the state’s century-old practice of recognizing marriages performed elsewhere, even when such marriages could not have been performed in the state. For example, the court noted, the state recognizes close relatives married elsewhere, even though they would not have been eligible for a New York marriage license.

The state’s highest court -- the New York Court of Appeals -- ruled in 2006 that the state’s charter neither requires nor bans marriage rights for same-sex couples. The appeals panel cited the ruling in saying that, unless legislators move to ban it explicitly, same-sex marriage is not contrary to the state’s public policy. Therefore, under New York’s marriage-recognition doctrine, legal gay unions from other states and from abroad will remain legal for state purposes.

In Oregon, hundreds of same-sex couples filed into courthouses Feb. 4 to apply for legal domestic-partner status after United States District Judge Michael Mosman ruled that a new law allowing such partnerships should take effect.

The law -- approved last year by the Oregon Legislature -- was set to take effect Jan. 1. But Mosman stayed its implementation to look into allegations from anti-gay-rights groups that attempted to bring the law up for a statewide vote.

The petition drive to place the law on the November 2008 ballot fell only 96 votes short of the 55,179 it required. Supporters of the repeal -- including several Christian organizations -- said election officials had unfairly disqualified many signatures and there is not a consistent statewide standard for validating signatures.

But Mosman, after an inquiry into the subject, said the state’s standard for validating petition signatures is sufficiently consistent to allow the law to take effect.

Gay couples who register as domestic partners in Oregon will get similar state rights and responsibilities as married couples. With the law, Oregon joins nine other states and the District of Columbia in offering some form of legal recognition for same-sex couples. Massachusetts remains the only U.S. jurisdiction that offers gay couples full marriage rights.


Read more:

Oregon, New Hampshire latest states set to recognize gay relationships (5/4/2007)

Courts in New York, Georgia deal blows to gay-marriage backers (7/7/2007)

CBF chaplain serves Marines
at legendary Parris Island

By Carla Wynn Davis

ATLANTA (ABP) -- When Marines return from Iraq -- their faith often shaken by what they have seen there -- they need someone to listen, to understand and to help.

That’s where Arthur Wiggins comes in.

“We're helping [a particular Marine] cope with why his life was spared while his buddy's life was taken,” said Wiggins, a Navy chaplain supported by the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship. “It's a profound question.”

It’s also a common question for Wiggins, stationed at the famous Marine Corps Recruit Depot at Parris Island, S.C. He ministers to thousands of military recruits and the base's permanent staff, including many who have served in Iraq.

Wiggins became a Navy chaplain in 2004. After serving nearly two years in Cuba, he transferred to Parris Island in 2006. He will transfer again later this month -- this time to the USS George Bush in Norfolk, Va.

During the week, Wiggins teaches classes on core values, moral courage and ethics. He counsels both recruits and Marines, whether they're having difficulty with training or dealing with non-work issues.

While no two days on the base are the same for Wiggins, his message to recruits remains consistent: “If you know God, grow in God.” He leads Sunday chapel services, which many recruits attend. The message is anything but relaxed for a group of recruits who may soon deploy to Iraq.

“I, like many Christian ministers, preach a message of life and abundant life,” he said. “We don't forget that message, but the truth of the matter is, not everyone who goes over [to Iraq] will return. We do our best to spiritually prepare them for stresses of combat.”

Wiggins' message is more than a call to know Christ. It's a call for Marines to be spiritual leaders, knowing there won't always be chaplains around during a crisis on the battlefield. It's a call to take faith seriously by growing spiritually, he said.

Marines often seek Wiggins’ advice when making the difficult decision of whether someone is fit to continue on active duty.

“We assess whether recruits can handle being a Marine, and whether Marines can handle continued service,” he said. “We are dealing with people’s lives -- impressionable young men and women. And so while we are always concerned about the individual, we must base our recommendations on what is best for the Corps.”

Chaplaincy is a second career for Wiggins, who began his military service as a Marine Corps judge advocate general.

“I got to the point where going to court was drudgery,” he said. “I wanted to do the Lord’s work, and at church is where I found my joy.”


Opinion: Layers of healing
at the New Baptist Covenant

By David Gushee

(ABP) -- It is hard to describe the euphoria felt by most of us who attended the New Baptist Covenant meeting in Atlanta this past week. I would like to analyze that euphoria as reflecting layers of healing and maybe try to name at least a few of those layers.

The most obvious layer of healing was found in the joyful reunion of black and white Baptists, sprinkled richly with Asian, Hispanic, and other Baptist brothers and sisters as well.

We really did worship together, sing together, laugh together, clap together, marvel together, study together, and talk together. We really did find unity in Christ, after 160 years of institutional division, itself occurring against the broader backdrop of centuries of slavery, segregation, and racism. Black and white Baptists met together on terms of equality and unity. This is miracle enough for one meeting.

Another layer of healing had to do with gender. Women preached, women taught, women sang, women danced, women read Scripture, women prayed. Certainly the majority of plenary speakers were men, and the various Baptist bodies represented at this meeting reflect different views on the issue of gender. But the bottom line was that at this meeting the question of women’s leadership in Baptist life was not a question at all. Some might consider it heresy. I consider it healing.

There was healing in the institutional relationships between the various Baptist bodies. It remains relatively new for the major black Baptist groups to meet together, let alone for the various white Baptist groups to meet together, let alone for all these groups to meet together. That’s healing, or at least the beginning of healing.

A more subtle kind of healing was visible as various speakers, especially the white southern Baptists, reflected on their own conflicts with, and breaks from, the Southern Baptist Convention. A narrative voice prevailed here, rather than a didactic one, and this trend was most profoundly and unexpectedly exemplified in the impromptu reflections of Bill Clinton on his own history as a Baptist. As the former president told the story of his long sojourn as a Southern Baptist, and attempted to pinpoint the crux of the difference between the prevailing SBC vision and that of those who do not share it, he did so with sympathy and without rancor.

I wondered what our black Baptist brethren were thinking while Clinton was speaking and while other white speakers like John Grisham were reflecting on the conflicts within the white southern Baptist world. In a sense, the problems dividing the white southern Baptists are not their problems, not their history. And yet somehow just being in the presence of Christian people who have had such grievous wrongs of their own to forgive makes it easier to abandon anger and embrace love and humility ourselves. If black Baptists can forgive and move on after slavery, segregation, and cruel racism, surely white southern Baptists can do the same after our own grievances?

Another layer of healing has to do with claiming our identity as Baptists once again with a healthy measure of pride. Grisham spoke for many of us in reflecting on the embarrassment he has sometimes felt when pressed about his Baptist identity and commitment. Our “brand” has been damaged. But this meeting, which was simultaneously a private religious gathering and a public declaration of a renewed Baptist identity before a watching world, made me proud to be a Baptist again.

I want to suggest a final possible kind of healing, especially for white Baptists who identify as moderate or post-SBC. This is a healing in relation to our own traditional piety.

I have argued earlier in this column that there are signs of a kind of reaction-formation among some of us: Whatever the "SBC types” do, we will do the reverse. This is certainly not universal but I have witnessed it in many different settings. At its worst what emerges is a kind of stultifying cynicism about all passionate expressions of traditional Christian faith. Ultimately this is a path to a jaded secularism -- and empty churches.

It would be hard to remain a cynic if one truly entered into the spirit of the event just concluded in Atlanta. Here again white Baptists have so much to learn from Baptists of color, and perhaps we began learning it at the New Baptist Covenant. This combination is hard to beat: a vivid focus on Jesus Christ the incarnate Savior and Lord, theologically rich biblical preaching, gloriously passionate and skillful worship performance and participation, and a serious commitment to love and justice in both personal and public morality.

If that’s what it means to be Baptist, count me in. It’s certainly what it meant to be Baptist at the New Baptist Covenant meeting.


-- David Gushee is distinguished university professor of Christian ethics at Mercer University. His latest book is The Future of Faith in American Politics: The Public Witness of the Evangelical Center.

A Veiled Tell: Nil Soli - 2/5/2008

While in Birmingham, SMA and I watched the film The King of Kong: A Fistful of Quarters. It is a documentary of two men competing for the world championship of Donkey Kong. I am not making this up. In fact, the premise may be the least surreal thing of the film.

When the movie began, I honestly believed it was a mockumentary. The film’s portrayal of the incumbent champion, Billy Mitchell, must be seen to believed. His physical resemblance eerily resembles Martin Starr’s character in Knocked Up and his personality fits better into Waiting for Guffman than the real world. The movie brilliantly paints him to be the villain against Steve Wiebe’s hero. The film actually had me caring who would win the ridiculous title of Donkey Kong champion!

In addition, the film’s soundtrack uses such 80's songs as Joe Bean Esposito’s “You’re the Best” and Survivor’s “Eye of the Tiger” and a guy named “Mr. Awesome” uses the verb “chumpatize.” Need I say more.

The most grounded person in the film is Wiebe’s preteen daughter, Jillian. This is an actual except in which he attempts to explain his goal of getting into the Guiness Book of World Records.

  • Jillian Wiebe: I never knew that the Guinness World Record Book was so... I never knew it was so important.
  • Steve Wiebe: I guess a lot of people are... yeah, a lot of people read that book.
  • Jillian Wiebe: [while directly looking at Steve, her father] Some people sort of ruin their lives to be in there.

And a little child shall lead them...” (Isaiah 11:6)

Current IMDB rating: 8.5/10. Chanalysis: 8/10.

Bible Trivia - 2/5/2008

Question: Whose son died as soon as his wife stepped over her threshold?

Answer:: Jeroboam (1 Kings 14:17)

Comments: Israel’s king Jeroboam’s son becomes ill so he deploys his wife, incognito, to the prophet Ahijah, to foretell the child’s future. Ahijah had previously correctly predicted Jeroboam’s assent to the throne. Here, Ahijah correctly predicts not only that the child will die, but that Jeroboam’s monarchy will dissolve as well. In Genesis, Pharaoh’s baker, who had seen a favorable prediction from Joseph, sought him to receive a similar proclamation. Like Jeroboam, he also received news of a pending death - his own (Genesis 40:16). Despite the success of the prosperity gospel in today’s society, speaking for God does not always entail pleasant news.

Word of the Day - 2/5/2008


To excoriate it to denounce or berate severely; flay verbally.

Paul excoriated Peter for what he deemed hypocrisy in boycotting dining with Gentiles. (Galatians 2:11-21)

In Eckleburg's Eyes - 2/5/2008

Last night, I celebrated RAW and KLW's anniversary with them, KJW and JTH at MoFoS. Nothing says romantic, like hanging out with me. (They actually had their celebration earlier in the evening.)

We actually just missed a Jerry Springer moment (not that I would know). In a nail salon several doors down (I will say three doors down for the sake of argument), a brawl had erupted and made its way all over the parking lot. It seems a teenage interracial lesbian couple was at the salon, when one of the couple's mothers walked in and discovered her daughter's lifestyle. Evidently, she did not take the revelation well as the donnybrook made its way all through the lot. There were four squad cars in the parking lot when I arrived. It saddens me that part of me was disappointed to have missed the spectacle.

I was reflecting on my memories of their wedding (I was the official) and I recalled that I remember that day as the day that brought me my Joy Bag, the briefcase that accompanies me everywhere. I call it the Joy Bag because RAW's mother, Joy, gave me the bag, and well, it reminds me to always be joyful (I Thessalonians 5:16-17). That being said, insert your own Joy Bag joke here. I assure you, I heard them all last night.

The latest addition to KJW's vocabulary is "toot." Her father even went to the extreme lengths of emitting a "toot" to demonstrate her learning. That, my friends, is great parenting.

The only other news of the day is that preparations began for a trip to New York in April. Any suggestions on what play to view on Broadway?

The day also represented MLM's birthday. I hope I look half as good as he does at his age. Come to think of it, I hope I look half as good as he does on my next birthday...

Monday, February 4, 2008

View from 315A - 2/4/2008

I enjoyed last night's Super Bowl as much as any in recent memory. The game was great and I was amazed by the outcome. Any time a season ends with a Manning win or a Patriots loss, it has been a good season. Last night, we got both. SMA equated it to the Yankees losing to the Diamondbacks...or anyone else for that matter.

It was a story of redemption. The Giants lost more games in the first two weeks of the season than the Patriots did all year and yet they, not the Patriots are the world champions. All of the criticism that Eli Manning has incurred since his career began hopefully will subside some. Has anyone heard from Tiki Barber?

The word "upset" as it pertains to sports derived from a 1919 horse race in which a horse named Upset defeated the legendary Man o' War. Can an unforeseen failure at a crucial juncture be known as a "Patriot?" "Pulling a Brady?"

My only regret is that a Patriots loss means that the 1972 Dolphins still stand alone as the only undefeated team in NFL history. This would not be so bad except for the fact that Mercury Morris will continually be interviewed until the mark is shattered. For now, I will enjoy a Giant win rather than dwelling on the interminable Morris.

Prayer Blog - 2/4/2008 #3

MDR has an appointment 2/6/2008 to determine if his cancer is in remission. If not, 12 months of chemotherapy will ensue.

Prayer Blog - 2/4/2008 #2

KTH is experiencing severe pain in her knees. Replacement surgery has been scheduled for 4/10/2008.

Prayer Blog - 2/4/2008

CEH has experienced abdominal pain and has an MRI scheduled after initial tests were inconclusive.

Bible Trivia - 2/4/2008

Question: How old was Anna the prophetess when she died?

Answer: 84 years (Luke 2:36)

Comments: Perhaps the policy of not asking a woman her age was practiced even in the Biblical period. Only two women's ages are referenced in Scripture - Sarah's in Genesis 17:17 and Anna's in Luke 2:36. In Genesis, the age is documented to emphasize the miraculous nature of her pregnancy. Why do you think Anna's age is denoted in Luke?

Word of the Day - 2/4/2008


A fiat is an authoritative decree, sanction, or order.

Nebuchadnezzar, issued a fiat that everyone in the land bow and worship him. (Daniel 3:6)

In Eckleburg's Eyes - 2/4/2008

The trip to Birmingham was a rousing success. I got back to Knoxville this morning at about 2 am.

I arrived Friday night and we went to Calera for seafood and Hoover for shopping. Hoover is to Birmingham as Farragut is to Knoxville and where the MTV reality series "Two-A-Days" was filmed. The Fish Market is great. I have been to see SMA several times since he moved to The Ham, but I had not been there since before he lived there. The stuffed shrimp were as good as I had remembered.

The next morning we ate breakfast and then journeyed to the 144 miles to Starkville, MS, to watch our Vols play Mississippi State in basketball. On the road, we missed one turn and took a detour through the most pointless toll booth ever.

We did pass the birthplace of playwright Tennessee Williams. Who knew Tennessee Williams was born in Columbus, Mississippi? We theorize that he became a great writer because there is absolutely nothing within a 10-mile radius and wrote to break the monotony.

We spent the day in the aptly named, Starkville. There is little there. SMA’s sister is a Mississippi State alum so we enquired where to eat whilst in Starkville. She informed us that the best restaurant in Starkville was in Birmingham.

While the city’s tourist attractions are limited (and by that I mean nonexistent), the campus is beautiful. The game was held at the Humphrey Center, known as "The Hump." Their baseball complex is named the Palmeiro Center after alum Rafael Palmeiro. I think they should call it "the House That Steroids Built..."

We bought our tickets more than two hours before tip-off. We quickly learned from scalpers that the game was sold out. We found the lowest price we could at $60 apiece on a seat with a $22 face value. We assumed the fact that the arena was far smaller than Thompson-Boling and there is nothing else to do in Starkville accounted for the sell out. We later learned the game did not sell out. If you cannot trust a scalper, who can you trust? Stephen was still more upset about the $1.25 we spent on the toll road than getting railroaded for tickets.

The seats were very good. We sat directly in front of Tennessee post player Wayne Chism’s mother, Ernestine, and the rest of his family. She was a treat. From ironically berating the referee’s weight to instructing Lofton to shoot, she entertained us. Chism missed a crucial front end of a one-and-one and we thought how awful that would be to sit with her, but fortunately we redeemed ourselves.

Chism, from nearby Bolivar (TN), had a strong contingency at the game. One of his supporters wore a jersey he had autographed to "Pookie." This was funny as in commercials, Charles Barkley bumps Dwyane Wade from his Fave Five for referring to someone as Pookie. In all seriousness, it is easy to see how Chism grew into such a fine person with such a great support system.

The game was wonderful. It was one of the loudest stadiums I have been in. Voices carried and could be heard throughout the arena, which encouraged obnoxious behavior. Well, it had that affect anyway..

The game was hotly contested as MSU was nationally ranked with three starters from Tennessee, including former Tennessee signee Jamont Gordon (who scored 17). The game was closer than it should have been because of incessant fouls called on us and the Bulldogs hitting 7 of 8 three-pointers in the final six minutes. They actually cut a 64-47 deficit to just two points with 46 seconds remaining in the game and regaining possession with 34 seconds.

Our MVP might have been their PA announcer, who killed their momentum. At breaks, he would give a long list of announcements, evoking silence and deflating the crowd. No one responded to their cheerleaders. At one point, four older Tennessee fans cheered the MUS dance team as none of the locals were. It was great.

After the game, I had Tyler Smith sign my custom Smith t-shirt. He was more than cordial. I did not realize until afterwards that I asked a grown man to sign my breast. I am such a groupie...

Road games are so much fun. (Especially, when you win.) The amazing thing is the camaraderie. Tennessee fans, in the minority, bond quickly on the road. It saddens me as Christians should have this. We are always on the road, as heaven is our true home, and typically in a hostile environment. If Christians bonded like Vol fans, we would have a greater impact. What does it say when we let a game become a greater glue than Jesus?

After the game, we returned to Birmingham and stayed up to watch The King of Kong: A Fistful of Quarters, released on DVD last week. For my analysis see the "A Veiled Tell, No Soli" movie review.

The next day, we lounged around the house before watching the Super Bowl. I had contacted Will Willimon, one of the nation’s best preachers, to check his whereabouts this Sunday but he was out of town. So, I took a rare Sunday off.

After watching one of my favorite Super Bowls of all-time. I made the long journey back to Knoxville.