Saturday, March 1, 2008

Prayer Blog - 3/1/2008, #3

CCS' mother passed away this weekend. She has taken this loss particularly hard. her only living relative is her sister, who has early-onset Alzheimer's. Please keep her whole family, especially CCS, in your prayers.

Prayer Blog - 3/1/2008, #2

My grandmother, MEHV, had a very difficult night last night due to pain in her feet. The pain is associated with her preexisting diabetes. She has suffered a great deal lately. Please pray that her pain subsides.

Prayer Blog - 3/1/2008

OMLM has been suffering from a heart condition. The upper portion of her heart has been acting erratically and she has been prescribed the blood thinner Ketoprofin. She has two treatment options, both of which have down sides. As a nurse, she is more aware of these than the average patient and her knowledge may hurt her as much as it helps. Please keep her and her family in your prayers as they decide the best treatment plan.

Friday, February 29, 2008

Bible Trivia - 2/29/2008

Question: What weapon did David use to kill Goliath?”

Answer: A sword. (I Samuel 17:48-51)

Comments: While David’s initial assault came with a slingshot, the death blow was taken with Goliath’s own sword.

Word of the Day - 2/29/2008


Provenance is the place or source of origin.

In the Gospel of John, one of the points of debate from onlookers as to whether or not Jesus was the Christ was his provenance. They asserted that the Messiah was to hail from Bethlehem, while they believed Jesus was born in Nazareth. (John 7:42) They were unaware of accounts of his birth in Bethlehem.

In Eckleburg's Eyes - 2/29/2008

Yesterday morning marked a legitimate milestone in my life. It was the first time that I lectured a college class. CBP generously allowed me to teach her New Testament class at Carson-Newman College. I taught the book of Acts to classes at the Henderson Humanities building at 8:00 am and 10:30 am. I had to leave Knoxville in the 5 o’clock hour to arrive for a pre-class meeting. Evidently, there is a five o’clock hour on the am side of time as well. Who knew?

CBP had warned me of the apathy of her students going into the lecture. I had My Carson-Newman bubble burst a bit. I went to seminary with several Carson-Newman graduates and they were all elite students. In contrast, one of the students I had yesterday actually asked CBP if the class was going to perform scenes on the day marked “Acts.” I am sure she was greatly disappointed. That’s okay. I have disappointed women before.

The classroom was straight out of the 1970s. I am pretty sure I had seen the exact same television they had mounted on their wall to set the 1968 scene at the outset of American Gangster over the weekend. I honestly did not know that those sets could be mounted. Needless to say there was no dry erase board, PowerPoint option, etc. I was not too displeased as this meant as I did not have to prepare those supplements.

I hope my performance was satisfactory. CBP said my notes mirrored hers fairly well. I only had one student fall asleep during my lecture. He was struggling with strep throat and it was an 8 am class. I was assured it was not me. Even amidst the glazed stares of indifferent students, teaching felt very natural. I am very grateful for the opportunity.

The night was spent at MoFos as JTH was scheduled for a solo shift. It did not work out that way as PAT, JBT, MPW, RAW, and I all showed up to visit him. We talked for hours while JTH’s beloved Lost in Translation played in the background for the umpteenth time. There were often more people behind the counter than in the store. Sadly, customer service was still atrocious.

Afterwards, JTH, PAT and I were joined by Couple X at the Applebees in Bearden for half-priced appetizers. Yes, again.

The day was long, with an early start and late finish, but it was fun. My flu-like symptoms mitigate daily. I personally blame Tennessee post player Ryan Childress for city’s epidemic as he was the first person I heard of having it.

Associated Baptist Press - 2/28/2008

Associated Baptist Press

February 28, 2008 (8-23)

Obama speech to denomination spurs IRS investigation of UCC
Let’s get organized: How should churches structure leader groups?
Abstinence compromise means AIDS relief bill back on track
Opinion: The deeper wellsprings of centrist evangelicalism

Obama speech to denomination spurs IRS investigation of UCC
By Robert Marus

WASHINGTON (ABP) -- A speech that Barack Obama made last year to his fellow Congregationalists has spurred an Internal Revenue Service investigation that threatens the tax-exempt status of an entire denomination.

Leaders of the Illinois senator’s United Church of Christ are fighting back, saying the IRS charges are baseless and “disturbing.”

In a letter dated Feb. 20 and received by church officials Feb. 25, IRS official Marsha Ramirez said “a reasonable belief exists” that the denomination violated federal law. Churches and other non-profit groups organized under Section 501(c)(3) of the federal tax code are barred from endorsing or opposing candidates and political parties.

The UCC is generally considered the nation’s most liberal large Protestant body. Obama has been an active member of Trinity United Church of Christ in Chicago for more than two decades. Trinity is the UCC’s largest congregation.

In the IRS letter, Ramirez said the agency’s concerns “are based on articles posted on several websites” that described Obama’s June 23 appearance at the UCC’s biennial General Synod meeting in Hartford, Conn. The senator -- by then an announced Democratic candidate for president -- spoke to about 10,000 church members, according to the denomination and news accounts.

But UCC officials said they took pains to ensure that the speech was not perceived as a campaign event or an endorsement of the candidate.

Obama was invited “as one of 60 diverse speakers representing the arts, media, academia, science, technology, business and government. Each was asked to reflect on the intersection of their faith and their respective vocations or fields of expertise,” a UCC news release said. It also said church officials invited Obama as a church member rather than in his capacity as a candidate and said they asked him to speak a year before he declared his intention to run for higher office.

“The United Church of Christ took great care to ensure that Sen. Obama’s appearance before the … General Synod met appropriate legal and moral standards,” UCC General Minister John Thomas said in the news release. “We are confident that the IRS investigation will confirm that no laws were violated.”

Prior to the speech, a church official told the crowd that the appearance was not intended to be a campaign event and that campaign-related material and other forms of electioneering would not be allowed inside the event venue.

The IRS letter claimed that “40 Obama volunteers staffed campaign tables outside” the Hartford Civic Center, where the event was held. But church officials said they barred any campaigning inside the venue.

Thomas said that, while he believes the investigation will ultimately acquit the denomination, he nonetheless is concerned about its effect.

“The very fact of” the investigation’s existence “is disturbing," Thomas said. “When the invitation to an elected public official to speak to the national meeting of his own church family is called into question, it has a chilling effect on every religious community that seeks to encourage politicians and church members to thoughtfully relate their personal faith to their public responsibilities.”

IRS officials do not discuss such investigations with the press because tax information is private. But several ministries and local congregations have been warned and investigated in recent years for electioneering.

The agency is currently investigating Southern Baptist pastor Wiley Drake for using church letterhead and a church-sponsored radio show to endorse Republican presidential candidate Mike Huckabee.

Last year, the IRS ended an investigation without any sanctions against All Saints’ Episcopal Church in Pasadena, Calif. It had been under investigation for a guest sermon its former rector had given just before the 2004 presidential election. In it, he strongly criticized the war in Iraq but said he believed that both President Bush and his Democratic opponent, Massachusetts Sen. John Kerry, were good Christians.

IRS officials contended that the sermon amounted to an endorsement of Kerry over Bush. The church contested the charge. In a September letter to the congregation announcing that it was ending its investigation without penalty, IRS officials said they continued to believe the church had illegally intervened in the election.

All Saints’ legal defense ended up costing more than $200,000, according to church leaders. Anticipating a similar financial burden for the UCC, Thomas sent an appeal Feb. 27 to church members asking them to donate to a special legal-defense fund.

“In order to adequately defend ourselves, as well as protect the broader principle of the freedom of religious communities to entertain questions of faith and public life, we will need to secure expert legal counsel, and the cost of this defense, we are told, could approach or exceed six figures," Thomas wrote. “This is troubling news.”


IRS letter to UCC officials

UCC news story responding to letter

Huckabee endorsement brings IRS investigation of Wiley Drake (2/14)

California church leaders question IRS investigation into war sermon (9/28/2007)

Let’s get organized: How should churches structure leader groups?
By Jennifer Harris

FRESNO, Calif. (ABP) -- Deserved or not, committees -- especially in Baptist life -- often conjure negative connotations.

The term is borrowed from government and corporate culture, says Don Simmons, owner of Creative Potential Consulting and Training, a management and training consulting company based in Fresno, Calif. And committees have a reputation for long, boring meetings that accomplish nothing and rarely “take a person’s giftedness and passion into account.”

A better option for churches wanting to organize their leadership structure is to form “ministry teams,” he said. While committees focus on tasks and agendas, ministry teams emphasize personal development and relationships: “Teams require a very human element -- trust -- that may not always be operable in committees.”

The team concept allows everyone to bring their ideas to the table, agreed Jim Dees, director of equipping ministries at Calvary Presbyterian Church in San Francisco, Calif. Instead of the top-down leadership of committees, teams give the freedom to brainstorm ideas, he said.

The personal element generally means teams have a longer life, too, as people often choose to serve longer when they have developed relationships.

“At First Baptist Church [in Jefferson City, Mo.], committees are nominated by the enlistment committee and then voted on by the church to serve mostly three-year terms,” said Jeanie McGowan, associate pastor of equipping at the church. “Teams are led by volunteer leaders, and they can enlist anyone they choose, and folks can serve for as long as they choose, making one-year commitments as they go along. You may serve on more than one ministry team, but we try not to have anyone serving on more than one committee at a time.”

At Calvary Presbyterian, mission teams are lay-driven. While a minister or member of the equipping team may come up with an idea, it is soon passed on to a member of the congregation.

Dees said the change to a team-based structure changed the church’s ministry.

“It changed our church culture. Teams have greatly impacted the mobilization of people,” he said. “We’ve seen an increased number of church members involved in ministry in the community.”

But team-building requires commitment to a clearly defined mission, Simmons added.

“While some committees may function as teams, in order to build and sustain teams, leadership must be intentional and driven by a definitive purpose,” he said. “Teams do not happen accidentally -- they are built with time, trust and tenacity.”

It took Calvary nearly two years to get the systems in place to start their equipping ministry, Dees said, and mission teams continue to evolve as new people get involved.

What’s more, committees cannot -- and should not -- be changed into teams overnight. Simmons recommends changing one team at a time.

“Start with the most obvious areas where teams may already exist, and then work to make them models for the rest of the church,” he said.

Youth or student ministries may be a good place to start. Churches also may have worship or mission teams already functioning that can act as models for other changes. Simmons emphasized that “a committee becomes a team through their behaviors, not just their language.”

The next step in building a team is practicing essential relationship functions. “Good teams eat together, drink together, play together and pray together -- usually in that order,” Simmons said.

One of the most joyful teams Simmons served on was designed to provide services for a large hospice facility.

“With deep respect for the patients, our team knew that it was important to sing, dance, laugh and joke with one another and with the hospice staff in the face of great pain,” Simmons said. “Our fun was contagious, and we were often asked to train other teams of volunteers about the need to ‘lighten up’ with one another, to encourage long-term service and to prevent burnout.”

The team’s laid-back nature wasn’t accidental, however. “The fun we had was evidence of our care for one another and was borne out of time with each other outside of our service time,” Simmons said. “We shared meals often and committed enough time to knowing each other to be authentic with our joy.”

Another step Simmons recommends is forming a team covenant. Covenants are designed by team members to give relational boundaries and guidelines on how the team will function.

“Some believe that developing a covenant is useless time consumption, and if the covenant is not authentic and practical for the ministry team, then it may become just that,” Simmons said. “If the covenant is developed and written by the team, for the team and used intentionally, then the covenant can be the guide-star for the team’s work.”

Simmons said there are six guidelines for developing a covenant that supports the work of a ministry team:

-- Write the covenant as a team. Use time in the first two team meetings to develop the covenant.

-- Keep the covenant focused on behaviors that are authentic and practical. Be sure to include areas such as attendance, punctuality, fun, contributions, conversations, confidentiality and documentation.

-- Review the covenant at each team meeting. Allow for revision if a covenant area is being ignored or bypassed regularly.

-- Discuss behaviors as a violation of the covenant, not as sin or personal disappointment.

-- Review and “re-covenant” each time a new member joins the team to ensure ownership is understood and valued by the entire team.

-- Write the covenant in everyday, authentic language. Even the Bible was written in the language of the ordinary person.

“A team covenant can make the difference between a cordial work group and a highly functioning team, if the process of developing the covenant is authentic and realistic,” Simmons said. “The time invested in covenant creation will greatly benefit the team in fluidity and performance.”

Ultimately, Simmons said, teams benefit the church because “people matter. The fun that we have with one another exhibits to people that we are not only willing to share the work and tasks but willing to share our very lives.”


Abstinence compromise means AIDS relief bill back on track

By Robert Marus

WASHINGTON (ABP) -- A bill that would more than triple the amount of money the United States spends combating the AIDS pandemic got a boost Feb. 27 with a compromise over abstinence-focused prevention efforts and abortion.

House leaders and White House officials agreed on language that will send the five-year renewal of the President’s Emergency Program for AIDS Relief, or PEPFAR, to that chamber’s floor for a vote.

Pro-choice lawmakers agreed to remove provisions from earlier drafts of the bill that would have allowed it to fund the anti-AIDS efforts of family-planning groups that also provide abortions. White House officials agreed to loosen the program’s requirement that a large portion of the funds be spent on abstinence-focused efforts at stopping the disease’s spread.

“While not perfect, this bill continues the principles of the bipartisan PEPFAR program passed five years ago,” said Tony Perkins, of the conservative Family Research Council, in a press release applauding the compromise. His group had objected to earlier versions of the bill.

“Twenty million innocent men, women and children, we must remember, have perished from HIV/AIDS -- 20 million,” said Rep. Howard Berman (D-Calif.), the acting chairman of the House Foreign Relations Committee, just before the panel voted to approve the bill. “Forty million around the globe are HIV-positive. Each and every day, another 6,000 people become infected with HIV. We have a moral imperative to act, and act decisively.”

The bill allocates $50 billion over the next five years to anti-AIDS programs around the world, particularly in Sub-Saharan Africa where the disease is rampant.

The original PEPFAR bill, passed in 2003, authorized $15 billion over five years. It is widely regarded as President Bush’s most broadly popular and successful foreign-policy initiative.

The renewal bill was named for the late Tom Lantos and Henry Hyde. Both men -- Lantos a Democrat and Hyde a Republican -- were former chairmen of the committee, and both died in the past year. Lantos and Hyde shepherded the original PEPFAR bill through Congress.

The bill is the “Tom Lantos and Henry J. Hyde United States Global Leadership Against HIV/AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria Reauthorization Act,” H.R. 5501.


Opinion: The deeper wellsprings of centrist evangelicalism

By David Gushee

(ABP) -- Discussion of the concept of an emerging evangelical center (or some other label for an alternative to the Christian Right) has taken off in recent months -- indeed, in recent weeks. Hardly a day goes by without some news article or opinion piece addressing the concept and its implications. Inevitably, these discussions of an emerging evangelical center are also evoking attacks, denunciations and misunderstandings. I guess that’s how you know you’re getting somewhere, when the attacks come.

In this column, I want to explore the deeper wellsprings of the concept to which several of us are now attaching the imperfect label “centrist evangelicalism.” These wellsprings are far more important than the label and certainly more important than the ideological categories of left, center and right. Not everyone would identify the wellsprings in the same way, but here are my top three:

-- A consistent pro-life ethic. Beginning in the 1980s, Catholic and some evangelical thinkers began writing and talking about a consistent pro-life ethic. The idea is that because every human being is made in the image of God and sacred in God’s sight, every human life is immeasurably valuable to God and must be treated as immeasurably valuable by the rest of us. This requires every possible effort to protect humans from premature death, to respect human dignity wherever it is threatened, and to so act as to advance human flourishing wherever possible. The responsibility for these efforts rests with all humans and extends to governmental actions and public policies.

What makes an ethic “consistently pro-life” is its commitment to view and to treat every human life this way -- “from womb to tomb,” as was often said. This requires concern and action in relation to every threat to human survival, every challenge to human dignity and every undermining of human dignity. It certainly requires efforts to reverse the social institutionalization of abortion. But it also requires efforts to reverse the social institutionalization of mass death in war, environmental degradation, AIDS and hunger. Passionate commitment to a wide range of “pro-life” concerns is precisely one characteristic of the evangelical center. It also brings centrist evangelicalism into close proximity with the best expressions of Catholic social teaching and opens the possibility of a powerfully centrist Catholic-evangelical alliance in American public life.

-- A kingdom ethic. In 2003, Glen Stassen and I published Kingdom Ethics: Following Jesus in Contemporary Context with Intervarsity Press. Our goal in writing the book was to base an entire approach to Christian ethics on a primary commitment to Jesus Christ. As we sought to write an academic ethics text “as if Jesus mattered” (our original title), we discovered the centrality of Jesus’ teaching about the kingdom, or reign, of God. Tracing Jesus’ kingdom teaching and ministry back to their Old Testament sources, we concluded that when Jesus celebrated the dawning of the kingdom in his own ministry, he meant specific things, such as: the coming of peace, justice, deliverance, healing and renewed community, all accompanied by joy and the vivid experience of God’s presence.

In unpacking Jesus’ life and teachings with reference to these seven categories, we ended up with a Jesus who offered a comprehensive pro-life, pro-justice, pro-poor, pro-community, pro-healing vision that amounts to the renewal of the entire human experience on this suffering planet. That indeed would be the reign of God, the healing of the world. We argued that Christians should be defined as Christ-followers who enjoy the amazing privilege of participating in the advance of God’s reign until Jesus returns. Christians do not work the kingdom into existence, and its fulfillment awaits Christ’s return. But nothing that we do that wins victories for God’s reign now is ever wasted, and every such victory is a sign of God’s grace and the reality of God’s reign.

It is not hard to see that passionate evangelical commitment to directly addressing a number of arenas of human suffering flows from such a kingdom ethic. I describe it as characteristic of the emerging evangelical center.

-- A Barmen ethic. A mark of centrist evangelicalism as I define it is a resolute commitment to the political independence of the church as it seeks to follow Jesus Christ her Lord. One source of this commitment is deep immersion in study of the Nazi era, agonized encounter with the Holocaust, and close attention to figures like Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Martin Niemoller and Karl Barth.

When the Confessing Church gathered in Barmen, Germany, in 1934 and issued its Barmen Declaration under the leadership of Karl Barth, participating members of the Protestant community in Germany said a collective “No” to the corruption of the church by Nazism and the Nazi regime. Their declaration was not perfect. But it was a stark statement of Christian resistance to a disastrous alien politic that was threatening the church’s soul and would soon very nearly destroy the Jews as a people.

It has seemed, to some of us at least, that one of the great dangers in recent evangelical Christian politics has been the cozy relationship between official church leaders and political parties and their leaders. The “church” has gained access at the expense of integrity and has gained worldly influence at the expense of missional clarity. Barmen stands for a Christ-following, biblically serious, theologically grounded church that knows how to resist the seductions of the powers and principalities of the world.

So, for those who are looking for a clearer definition of so-called “centrist evangelicalism,” here it is: Rooted in the Bible, centered in Jesus Christ, clear about the church’s unique mission, and pursuing God’s reign, centrist evangelicals are attempting to advance a consistent pro-life ethic into every reachable zone of human suffering.


-- David Gushee is distinguished university professor of Christian ethics at Mercer University.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

In Memory of Margaret S. Tully

Margaret S. Tully (April 29, 1914 - February 26, 2008)

My great aunt Margaret "Peg" Tully died on February 26. She was the last connection my mother had to her father. My cousin Nancy is taking the death especially hard as her mother died on her birthday. Please keep their family in your prayers.

Her online guestbook is located here.

Here is my Aunt Peg's obituary as it appeared in her local paper, The Palladium Times (Oswego, NY):

Margaret S. Tully, 93, a former resident of 4 Burkle St., Oswego, passed away Tuesday, Feb. 26, 2008, at St. Luke’s Health Services.

Born in Philadelphia, Pa., she was a daughter of the late William and Cecilia F. Nodell.
She received her master’s degree from SUNY Oswego.

Mrs. Tully was a physical education teacher in Oswego, Mexico and Fulton.

She was a member of the Oswego Players, a founding member of Girl Scouts of America and a leader of the Retired Teacher’s Association.

Surviving are two daughters, Jean (Churchill) Ward of Penfield and Nancy Coleman of Jersey City, NJ; three grandchildren; two great-grandchildren; and five nieces and nephews.

She was predeceased by her husband, William, in 1986.

Funeral services will be held 3 p.m. Friday at the Church of the Resurrection, Oswego.
Spring Burial will be in Riverside Cemetery.

Calling hours will be held 12 – 3 p.m. Friday at the Nelson Funeral Home, 11 W. Albany St., Oswego.

Online condolences may be made at

Bible Trivia - 2/28/2008

Question: What was the first name of Judas Iscariot’s father

Answer: Simon. (John 6:11).

Comments: Simon is one of the most common names in the New Testament. There are nine Simons total in the New Testament. The name was extremely popular in Jewish circles due to the prominence of Simon Maccabaeus (d. 135 BCE).

A similar phenomena occurred in Tennessee as many babies were named Peyton after Peyton Manning played football at the university.

Word of the Day - 2/28/2008


To make variegate is to make varied in appearance, as by adding different colors.

After being in the presence of the LORD while collecting the second set of Ten Commandments, Moses’ face became variegated, unbeknownst to him. (Exodus 34:29)

In Eckleburg's Eyes - 2/28/2008

I awoke yesterday to the sight of snow outside my house! Admittedly, the roads were completely clear, but it was still nice to see powder on the ground. While I clearly noticed the snow as I stopped to get a picture, I still proceeded to Shoney’s in shorts....

While at Shoney’s I saw TJW. He is a local actor and professor who has been in virtually every production I have ever been to. Knowing I was going to a play later that night, I asked him if he would be in it. He responded no, but that his wife would. So, I guess by the theology of two becoming one, TJW has still been in every local production I have seen.

I went to see “A Woman Called Truth” with my parents at the Cokesbury Center. It is a one act play by Sandra Fenichel Asher chronicling the life of Sojourner Truth (1797-1883). The play essentially depicts how the woman came to her name. She was born with the name Isabella and constantly changing her surname to reflect her various masters. When she was freed she gave herself the name “Soujourner” and the last name “Truth” to reflect her last master. Though abolition plays a prominent role in the play, the issues the play raises are quite relevant today.

The play was presented by “The WordPlayers”, a company of Christian Theatre Artists, with a cast of six. In fact, in successive scenes, Nathan Brown plays Truth’s brother Peter, her love interest Bob, and her child son, Pete. That my friends is called range.

Artece Lenneil Slay is delightful playing the title role. In one scene, Sojourner prays for a new master. I thought about how often we ask for less than God can provide. She does not think to pray for freedom, but rather a new master.

Now to Him who is able to do far more abundantly beyond all that we ask or think, according to the power that works within us, (Ephesians 3:20, NASB)

The play runs at various venues through March 31, and I highly recommend it.

Afterwards, my parents and I at the Chop House. This restaurant is filed under restaurants I do not eat at on my own budget... It was good to reacquaint with our waiter and old church friend, GF.

Never one to make a trip to Farragut without seeing KJW, I stopped by and watched her while her father made pasta. She sat in my lap and watched an episode of “Family Guy,” which is clearly age appropriate. She likes anything animated. Why?

I also got great news - after months of searching for jobs, DBN is returning to Knoxville. He will remain in Lexington through March and then return home. Welcome home, Mongo!

Finally, yesterday, marked the birthday of our old friend JS. Happy birthday.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

View from 315A

Last night, Tennessee lost to Vanderbilt, 72-69. It was the fourth consecutive time a #1 team entered Vanderbilt’s Memorial Gym only to lose. Vanderbilt is ranked fourteenth nationally. It was the first time both Tennessee played Vanderbilt in Nashville with both ranked since 1968. Vandy won then too.

The game could have gone bad early as UT was down 14 in the first half but battled back to make a game out of it. I thought UT played fairly well after such an emotional game on Saturday night.

Vanderbilt’s Shon Foster, an Usher clone, was phenomenal, scoring 32 points to lead Vanderbilt.

Tennessee’s next game is Sunday against Kentucky, who amazingly after losing to Gardner-Webb and San Diego early, controls its own destiny in the SEC East.

When the polls come out Monday, barring a miracle, UT will no longer be #1. It was nice while it lasted...

Bible Trivia - 2/27/2008

Question: What two women in the Bible had the name of Deborah?

Answer: A judge and Rebekah’s nurse. (Judges 4:4; Genesis 35:8).

Comments: The Bible's lesser known Deborah is given a seemingly random death announcement in Genesis 35:8. Scholars have presumed that she was carrying to Jacob the message that his beloved mother and her employer, Rebekah had died. Jacob, a mama’s boy, never saw his mother again after he defrauded his brother, Esau, out of his blessing.

When Jacob left her, Rebekah anticipated his being gone only a “few days” (Genesis 27:44) Thus, their story is very “Gilligan’s Island.”

Word of the Day - 2/27/2008


A brogue originally meant an Irish accent in the pronunciation of English, but has come to mean any strong regional accent.

In the Book of Judges (12:4-6), 42,000 Ephraimites were massacred when their brogue betrayed their origins. After the Ephraimites were routed by the Gileadite army they tried to retreat by fording the Jordan River at a checkpoint that was held by their enemy. The Gileadites, aware of their plan, asked each soldier who tried to cross if he was an Ephraimite. If the soldier said "no," he was then summoned to say the word “shibboleth” (which means "stream" in Hebrew). Gileadites pronounced the word "shibboleth," but Ephraimites said "sibboleth." Anyone who used a sibilant was executed on the spot.

Shibboleth has come to mean “a catchword or slogan used by members of a group but regarded by others as empty of real meaning b : a commonly held belief .” When English speakers first borrowed "shibboleth," they used it to mean "test phrase," but it has acquired other meanings since that time.

In Eckleburg's Eyes - 2/27/2008

On Tuesday night, we reconvened at RAW’s house, as is often the case when the Vols’ basketball team is on a road trip. Before the game, KLTW, KJW, and RAW ate Cruncheros. (I had already eaten.) One of KJW’s special talents is somehow managing to fill her stomach while also covering a surface area on the table, floor, and herself that I would have otherwise thought mathematically impossible given the relatively small amount food she is given.

MPW joined us and we all watched the game together. (Well, KLTW was studying and KJW was being KJW, but they were in the room anyway.) In our first game ever being ranked #1 in the nation, we lost. It was disappointing to say the least. My thoughts on the game are posted under a “View from 315A.”

More annoying than the Vols’ loss was the repeated airing of a Bowflex commercial featuring the “success story” of Brian Alvarez. You may have seen it as it has been airing since last April. The man could not be more obnoxious if he tried. He is the guy who actually boasts, “I gave all my fat clothes, to my fat friends.” I am sure they are still his “friends.” I hope his “fat friends” light his old “fat clothes” on fire on his thin front porch! Does using a Bowflex mean that as you lose weight, you begin treating people terribly? Dare I say that Chuck Norris would never have said this while advertising the Total Gym. Then again, Norris would never have had “fat clothes” to begin with.

Alvarez also adds, “My wife gives me that little wink every now and then." So, his wife is superficial too. Maybe the wink is her way of indicating that she regrets her decision to marry this man and he is too wrapped up in himself to know it. Wink, wink.

The authoritative Wrestling Observer newsletter has reported that this person is the wrestling journalist of the same name. He would make a great wrestling villain, or at least as a Ben Stiller Globo Gym associate in Dodgeball. He should learn from the wrestling world though - don’t use your real name!

So is this the worst ad ever for a self help product? (Maybe that’s his angle - to next appear in a personality improvement commercial.) In short, I would rather watch an ad for feminine hygiene products than this douchebag! (Pun intended.)

Why did I waste so much time ranting on a Bowflex commercial? I believe this is called transference - taking out my basketball frustrations on the obnoxious Bowflex man.

In any event, it was still fun just being together, even when we lose. No day is a bad day with KJW!

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Separated at Birth?

I do not mean to alienate my fellow UT fans, but did Usher just score 32 points to beat the Vols? Rap mogul Usher Raymond is on the right and Vanderbilt guard Shan Foster is on the left.

Associated Baptist Press - 2/26/2008

Associated Baptist Press

February 26, 2008 (8-22)

Broad U.S. religious marketplace spurs conversion, study suggests
New Texas exec elected, wants to help Baptists fulfill ‘kingdom assignment’
Arkansas college prof nominee for CBF moderator-elect post
Hardin-Simmons head Turner leaves for North Carolina post
British Baptist pastor to aid U.N. effort to end slavery
Opinion: Marriage in the marketplace

Broad U.S. religious marketplace spurs conversion, study suggests
By Robert Marus

WASHINGTON (ABP) -- A massive, groundbreaking new study of the American religious landscape shows that Protestants are losing their share of the nation’s population -- and that the nation’s broad religious diversity is paired with great religious dynamism.

The Pew Form on Religion and Public Life released the “American Religious Landscape Survey 2007” Feb. 25. The study -- the first in recent years to combine a huge sample size with in-depth questioning on Americans’ religious affiliations -- showed that 28 percent of adult respondents have left the faith of their childhood for another religious tradition or no religion at all. When those who have moved from one Protestant denomination to another are included, the figure leaps to 44 percent of adults.

“Everybody in this country is losing members, everybody is gaining members, even though …. There are some net winners and some net losers,” said Luis Lugo, director of the Pew Forum, in a conference call with reporters announcing the survey results. “It’s a very competitive marketplace, so if you rest on your laurels, you’re going to be history.”

The study involved in-depth questioning of more than 35,000 respondents throughout the continental United States. Among its most striking findings is that Protestants now comprise a slim majority -- 51 percent -- of U.S. adults. As recently as the 1980s, similar surveys showed that Protestants comprised nearly two-thirds of the population.

It also showed that the Roman Catholic Church, through immigration, has maintained the share of adults -- about 24 percent of the population -- that past studies have shown. However, Catholic numbers have been boosted by massive immigration by Latinos, the vast majority of whom are Catholic, in recent years. Native-born Catholics are converting to Protestantism, changing religions or leaving organized religion in significant numbers.

The study showed that evangelical Protestants, at 26 percent of the adult population, outnumber both their mainline Protestant and Catholic brothers and sisters.

Mainline Protestants, meanwhile, continue to lose their status as the closest thing to an established religious group that the United States has ever had. The study showed that Protestants affiliated with traditionally white, moderate-to-progressive denominations (such as the United Methodist Church and the American Baptist Churches USA) comprise only 18 percent of U.S. adults.

The decline in Protestantism owes to several factors, including conversion, immigration and declining birthrates, said John Green, a Pew Forum scholar and expert on evangelicals in America.

But the decline could mark the beginning of a profound change in American culture, he noted.

“So much of the values and institutions in American life came out of Protestantism, particularly mainline Protestantism,” Green said.

He also noted that the term “Protestant” in the United States covers such a dizzying array of denominational groups, independent congregations, doctrinal outlooks and political perspectives as to render it almost meaningless.

“Protestantism is not just losing influence as a whole, but it is losing influence because of its divisions internally,” he said.

Baptists -- including those the survey counted as evangelicals and those counted as mainline or in a separate category for historically African-American denominations -- have not been immune to the tendency of Americans to switch faiths.

While 21 percent of adults said they were raised Baptist, only 17 percent of the population are currently members of Baptist churches, the survey found. A full eight percent of those surveyed said they were raised Baptist but no longer identify as such.

Baptists fared better than Catholics, however. Approximately 32 percent of respondents who said they were raised Catholic have left for another faith or none at all.

The biggest gainers from the religious flux appear to be the ranks of the religiously unaffiliated. The survey found that more than 16 percent of adults are not affiliated with any particular faith or local congregation. Surveys in the past generally showed an unaffiliated figure of less than 10 percent.

However, the survey did not show an increase over similar polls in the percentage of the population who consider themselves atheist or agnostic. Only four percent of respondents said they believe that God doesn’t exist or that there may be a supreme being who does not intervene in human affairs. Another 12 percent said they have no religious affiliation in particular, but a majority of those said religion is important in their lives nonetheless.


Pew Forum ‘U.S. Religious Landscape Survey’ interactive website

New Texas exec elected, wants to help Baptists fulfill ‘kingdom assignment’
By Ken Camp

DALLAS (ABP) -- Commitment to a “kingdom assignment” -- namely, ensuring that every person in Texas has the opportunity to respond to Christ by Easter 2010 -- can help unite Texas Baptists, Randel Everett told the Baptist General Convention of Texas Executive Board just prior to his election as executive director.

The board voted 78-6 to elect Everett, pastor of First Baptist Church in Newport News, Va., as executive director at a Feb. 26 meeting in Dallas. He succeeds Charles Wade, who retired Jan. 31. Jan Daehnert is serving as interim executive director until Everett assumes the executive’s post in April.

Chairman Ken Hugghins of Huntsville, Texas, said the executive director search committee “came to unanimity” in recommending Everett after praying and listening to Texas Baptists.

Everett’s commitment to historic Baptist principles, effectiveness as a communicator, lack of political agenda, ability to build coalitions, cultural sensitivity, theological soundness, and passion for missions and evangelism led the committee to recommend him, Hugghins said.

“Randel Everett cares about Texas, and he cares about people worldwide,” he said. “He cares across ethnicities and across generations. He relates well to people.”

God has a “kingdom assignment” for Texas Baptists as they seek to share the gospel in an increasingly diverse context, Everett told the board.

“We no longer live in Acts 2,” when Peter was able to address an audience with a shared understanding about God’s acts in Israel’s history, Everett said. “We live in a pluralistic Acts 17 world,” he continued, comparing postmodern culture to the time when the Apostle Paul addressed a philosophically and theologically diverse crowd at Mars Hill.

Many non-Christians today remain unimpressed by rational, linear evidence or proof of the gospel, but they crave something spiritual beyond themselves, he added.

“They want authenticity,” he said. “They want hope.”

Everett, a native of Arkansas, challenged Texas Baptists to take risks and set high goals, casting off anything that weighs them down and encumbers them.

“If we are not operating in the arena where great failure is a possibility, we are not operating in the arena of faith,” he said.

Challenging Texas Baptists to discover and fulfill their “kingdom assignment,” he presented a two-year evangelistic goal.

“By Resurrection Sunday 2010, give every person living in Texas the opportunity to respond to Christ in his own language and context,” he urged.

Rather than categorizing and labeling people, Everett urged Texas Baptists to focus on Jesus.

“Some want to know if I’m an SBC guy or a CBF guy or a BWA guy. I hope you’ll come to the conclusion I’m a Jesus guy,” he said of questions regarding his affinity for the Southern Baptist Convention, Cooperative Baptist Fellowship and Baptist World Alliance.

Everett responded to questions from the board regarding:

-- Cooperation. Everett was asked if he would reach out to Christians from “the other state Baptist convention” -- the conservative Southern Baptists of Texas Convention.

Everett noted his involvement in a Scripture distribution campaign in Newport News, Va., that included both Baptist General Association of Virginia and Southern Baptist Conservatives of Virginia churches, as well as congregations of other denominations.

“I pray that we will work with anyone who shares our kingdom assignment,” he said.

-- Longevity. Pointing to legendary Dallas pastor George W. Truett as a “hero” and model, Everett said as a young pastor, he dreamed of serving one urban congregation 40 years. Instead, most of his pastorates have been relatively short in tenure.

“Almost every church I served was a church in crisis of some kind,” he noted. “That has been the kind of ministry to which it seems we have been called.”

But Everett said he believes the varied experiences as pastor of diverse churches and leader of an educational institution “makes sense” when seen as preparing him for the role of BGCT executive director.

“I hope to spend the rest of my vocational life with you,” he said.

-- Unity. A director asked how Everett would promote healing and unity in a climate of “disharmony” among BGCT-related churches. “I believe we are united around a common goal -- a simple, clear vision,” he said.

By uniting around a short-term goal -- such as a two-year evangelistic emphasis -- Texas Baptists can clarify their identity and begin to discover a longer-range vision, he stressed.

-- Diversity. Texas Baptists must demonstrate racial and ethnic diversity, both in terms of staffing and in the selection of people to responsible leadership positions, Everett said. “If we don’t, it will be at our own peril,” he said.

But Texas Baptists should recognize the opportunity to bridge racial and ethnic divisions as a privilege, not a burden, he stressed. “I thrive on diversity,” Everett said. “I see it as an expression of the mosaic of God’s love.”

Everett, 58, served nine years as president of the John Leland Center for Theological Studies in Arlington, Va. While he was at the helm, the center received accreditation from the Association of Theological Schools.

His last three years at the Leland Center overlapped the beginning of his pastorate in Newport News. He previously served five years at Columbia Baptist Church in Falls Church, Va., a 3,000-member congregation in suburban Washington, D.C.

Other previous pastorates were at First Baptist Church in Pensacola, Fla.; First Baptist Church in Benton, Ark.; Inglewood Baptist Church in Grand Prairie, Texas; and First Baptist Church in Gonzales, Texas. He also was assistant minister of missions at First Baptist Church in Dallas.

Everett was chairman of the Baptist World Alliance’s education and evangelism commission from 2000 to 2005 and has held other positions with the BWA.

He served on the BGCT Executive Board from 1978 to 1979. Other denominational leadership posts included president of the Arkansas Baptist State Convention Executive Board, moderator of Peninsula Baptist Association in Virginia, and trustee of Florida Baptist College.

Everett earned his doctoral and master’s degrees from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary and his bachelor’s degree from Ouachita Baptist University in Arkansas.

He and his wife, Sheila, have been married 35 years. They have two children and two grandsons.


Arkansas college prof nominee for CBF moderator-elect post

By Patricia Heys

ATLANTA (ABP) -- Hal Bass, a professor at Ouachita Baptist University, has been nominated for the position of moderator-elect for the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship, the group’s nominating committee has announced.

The panel has also recommended Joanne Carr of Georgia for CBF’s recorder position. Both officer nominees will be presented for a vote June 20 by attendees at the organization’s annual General Assembly, scheduled for Memphis, Tenn.

Bass, CBF’s current recorder, is a native of Corpus Christi, Texas. A graduate of Baylor University and Vanderbilt University, he teaches political science and is dean of the school of social sciences the Arkadelphia, Ark., school. Ouachita is the flagship institution of the Arkansas Baptist State Convention.

Bass is a member of the First Baptist Church of Arkadelphia and has served on CBF coordinating councils at the national and state level.

“I am honored and humbled to be presented with this opportunity for service on CBF’s behalf,” Bass said, adding that he looks forward to helping support congregations and individuals “seeking to embrace the world in Christ’s name.”

The moderator-elect’s chief responsibility is to preside in the moderator’s absence over the annual meeting and meetings of the CBF Coordinating Council. The moderator-elect then automatically succeeds the moderator at the conclusion of a one-year term.

North Carolina pastor Jack Glasglow is the current moderator-elect. He will assume the office of moderator on June 20 at the conclusion of the General Assembly.

Harriet Harral, the Fellowship’s current moderator, will assume the immediate past moderator position in June. The chief duty of the immediate past moderator is to chair the nominating committee.

Carr, the recorder nominee, retired as a director for the Augusta (Ga.) Veterans Administration Medical Center in 2005 and now serves as a consultant with Resource Services Incorporated, a Christian organization based in Dallas. A member of First Baptist Church of Augusta, Carr currently serves as a member of the Coordinating Council.


Hardin-Simmons head Turner leaves for North Carolina post

By ABP Staff

ABILENE, Texas (ABP) -- Craig Turner, the president of Texas Baptists’ Hardin-Simmons University, has resigned to become president of Catawba College, a private liberal-arts school in Salisbury, N.C.

His decision to resign was influenced by his family, Turner said.

“The two most important words in this transition are the names Payton and Madeline -- the names of my granddaughters,” Turner said, in a press release. “This position is an opportunity to be near family, and that’s been the critical factor in this decision.”

Turner joined the Baptist General Convention of Texas-related school 1992 and served as vice president for academic affairs until 1996. He then became executive vice president and chief academic officer until becoming chief operating officer in June 2000. He became the school’s 14th president in 2001.

He said he expects HSU trustees to move quickly to form a search committee to select a successor. And he said he faces significant challenges at Catawba. “Their endowment is in need of strengthening, and that’s something I know something about,” he said.

“I also think they need to look at some new programs. They are in the heart of the financial center of that part of the country, and they don’t have a finance major at the college. That’s something I can look at from the outside and say ‘gee whiz, with all the opportunities, this is something you need to look at. ’”


British Baptist pastor to aid U.N. effort to end slavery
By ABP Staff

WASHINGTON (ABP) -- British Baptist pastor Steve Chalke has been appointed as a special advisor to the United Nation’s Global Initiative to Fight Human Trafficking.

Chalke, chair of Stop the Traffic, a group of 1,000 organizations in 60 countries that work to stop the buying and selling of people, will work in the United Nation’s Office on Drugs and Crime to help foster community action against human trafficking.

The initiative, also known as U.N.GIFT, was launched in March 2007 and is managed in cooperation with the International Organization for Migration, the International Labor Organization, the U.N. Children’s Fund, the Office of the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights, and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe.

The author of more than 40 books, Chalke has long campaigned to end poverty through housing, healthcare and educational projects. He has also become a major advocate in the anti-trafficking campaign.

Paul Montacute, director of Baptist World Aid, the relief and development arm of the Baptist World Alliance, called Chalke “probably the UK’s best known Baptist pastor.”

According to a BWA press release, Chalke said that “the crime of people trafficking -- or, to put it in stark terms, modern slavery -- for sex, forced labor and even organ harvesting is one that shames us all.” His remarks came during the first international anti-human trafficking forum, held in February in Austria. The event, planned by U.N.GIFT, drew 1,200 delegates from the 192 member countries of the United Nations.

Human trafficking is “the world’s fastest growing crime” and is “a great evil” that needs to be defeated, Chalke said.

According to U.N. estimates, more than 2.5 million people are victims of human trafficking worldwide each year. The vast majority of them are under the age of 24. The trafficking industry generates an estimated $31 billion annually.


Opinion: Marriage in the marketplace
By Beth Newman

I don’t wish to be thought unperceptive, but apparently the world I had always known has ended without my being aware of it.

The occasion for this epiphany was a radio ad for car insurance. This commercial took the form of a little drama, a dialog between girlfriend and boyfriend. The joke turns on the girlfriend’s irritation with the boyfriend’s disregard of her needs -- generally, his refusal to propose marriage, and specifically with his ignorance of how she’s spent all the money she had saved on car insurance.

The jolt for me was that the details of this 60-second scenario make it clear that the two are living together. There’s even a snide comment about how his mother is treated when she comes to visit. It’s a sort of “pre-mother-in-law” joke.

What brought me up short is that this ad was not trying to sell clothes or cars or beer. It was pushing that sine qua non of middle-class respectability: insurance. And the producers felt no fear of offending that class with the assumption it had dramatized: living together before marriage.

How quickly and how completely the old bourgeois morality has collapsed.

What has all this to do with the church? In one sense, nothing, I suppose. When questions of sexual morality are raised, it is routinely and correctly pointed out that Scripture spends much more space on economic injustice than what used to be called the sins of the flesh. I would urge us to be careful, however, that we don’t abandon the Ozzie and Harriet values too quickly. (By the way, does anyone really remember who these two were?) After all, to quote another maxim from the bygone days, the personal is always political.

And while the church can no longer assume that either the marketplace or the middle class underwrites her sexual ethics, we ought to be very sure that we are not endorsing theirs.

I am very much afraid that we have already done so, and to a considerable extent. Exactly to the degree that we have embraced the language of choice, of privacy, of inclusion and so forth, we forget that for the Christian there is always a prior question: Do our actions build up the body of Christ or do they damage it? How we spend our money, how we express our sexuality, how we raise our children -- these are all, or ought to be, questions that are the concern of the whole church.

The biblical celebration of diversity is very much at odds with a secular understanding of all choices being equally good. Our dominant culture respects diversity because everyone supposedly has the right to make his or her own choices.

In Scripture, however, diversity enriches the church because diversity provides the variety of gifts securely proceeding from a foundation of common assumptions. Ephesians, for example, names this commonality as “one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all...” (4:5-6). Only after describing this common good does Paul then talk about the diverse gifts that God pours out on his people for the building up of the larger body.

It is well to remember that not all things are beneficial.

In fact, human marriage, we need also to remember, is but a pale enactment of Christ’s marriage to the church where, through Word and sacrament, we enter into communion with God. Marriage is a supreme sign of God’s love (as in the prophet Hosea) and of Christ’s self-giving to the church on behalf of the world. Reference to Hosea reminds us of human faithlessness and evasion, and of a divine love that will not let us go.

The Christian story has long considered marriage a “school for virtue,” where we learn that love is not a feeling or private choice, but an invitation to practice living in dependence upon Christ and his body.

It is strange to imagine that in the year of grace 2008, that the most counter-cultural statement that the church can make is to assert that marriage is really a necessity. But perhaps it is.


-- Beth Newman is professor of theology and ethics at Baptist Theological Seminary at Richmond.

By ABP Staff

In the Feb. 21 story titled “Pastor points to Muslims as source of Kenya violence; experts disagree,” please change the byline from Greg Warner to Ken Camp.

A Veiled Tell: Nil Soli - 2/26/2008

Employee of the Month(2006)

Last night, JTH and I watched Employee of the Month. The film stars Dane Cook and Jessica Simpson as Super Club employees. The movie’s premise is simple: Perennial slacker Zack Bradley (Cook) vies for the Employee of the Month award at a wholesale retail chain (based not so subtly on Sam’s) because he believes it will win him the affection of Amy (Simpson). Dax Shepard plays Cook’s foil, Vince Downey.

The film is enjoyable and I must admit this is the most attractive I have ever seen Simpson, largely because her appearance is stressed and she is given very few lines. The supporting cast is also very good. Even Andy Dick has a likable role.

While the film lags at points, there are some great lines. I was especially impressed with advice Zack’s grandmother gives him before his first date with Amy.

“Plant the seed of love. You know, when you get ready to kiss her, don’t, because you mustn’t rush things. Take it easy because the seed of love will blossom into something beautiful.”

The minister in me was saying, “Amen.” The grandmother’s sentiments echo a verse from the Song of Solomon series that Tommy Nelson stresses - “do not arouse or awaken my love Until she pleases." (Song of Solomon 2:7, NASB) Of course after Zack thanks her, she adds a second nugget - “And don’t forget to wash your balls!” Well, it started with some good Christian thinking anyway...

My favorite line from the film came during a scene in which Zack’s friend Russell (Harland Williams) laments his anonymity with management - “You're like the drummer of REO Speedwagon. No one knows who you are." Naturally, “Can’t Fight This Feeling” was playing in the background.

For the record, Alan Gratzer was the drummer for REO. Before this movie, I did not know the name of any member of REO. Movies are educational.

And in one final completely random thought - Harland Williams looks slightly like Central Baptist’s sound guru Don Taylor in the flat top years.

Current IMDB rating: 5.3/10. Chanalysis: 5/10

Bible Trivia - 2/26/2008

Question: What popular pop group of the sixties had a hit record "Turn! Turn! Turn!" based on Ecclesiastes chapter three?

Answer: The Byrds

Comments: The Byrds released "Turn! Turn! Turn! (To Everything There is a Season)" in October of 1965 and the tune eventually spent three weeks atop the pop charts in the United States, beginning on December 4.

Though the Byrds' rendition of the song is most famous, the song was written in 1952 by legendary folk artist Pete Seeger. The song's lyrics are taken almost verbatim from the King James Version of Ecclesiastes 3:1-8.

Nearly thirty years after its initial release, the song's popularity was rejuvenated by its inclusion on the soundtrack to the 1994 movie Forrest Gump. The song also holds the distinction of being the first song featured in the popular coming-of-age series "The Wonder Years" (1988-1993) after its theme.

Word of the Day - 2/26/2008


Argent is the metal silver, represented by the color white.

The first time argent is mentioned in the Bible is a summary statement concerning Abram’s (later Abraham) accruement of wealth. (Genesis 13:5).

Abraham’s ancestors Joseph (20 pieces, Genesis 37:28) and Jesus (30 pieces, Matthew 26:58) were both sold for argent.

In Eckleburg's Eyes - 2/26/2008

I spent the night at the inauguration of yet another church league basketball season. No, I did not play. I was there to support my friends CEH, JTH, and JCT in their debut as a team. I retired after last season for three reasons : 1. I may be the worst basketball player EVER (and I think I was getting worse) and as such it is not particularly fun for me; 2. I am less Christian on the court and perhaps my “way of escape” from this sin is retirement;, 3. My team won the league championship last year and I want to go out on top with all of the glory a slow break men’s championship brings.

The games were all competitive. The rules in the “slow break” league are that the ball cannot be passed over the half court line, but must instead be advanced by dribbling. The rationale is that this decelerates the game down for older, out of shape, or less experienced players. The last minute of the first half and two minutes of the second half are governed by traditional rules. Each time this mark arrived, the referee would inform the players that they could play “straight basketball.” Would that make the rest of the game “gay”? Don’t answer that.

As I watched the games, I felt so blessed as one of the benefits of never having been good at basketball as it is not as frustrating to no longer be good.

Afterwards, I talked to JTH about his game. He noted that he was surprised to discover how high scoring the final was after a low scoring first half. I attributed this to one player on the other team, whom JTH was guarding at times, putting on one of the finest exhibitions I have ever seen in the league, hitting numerous three-point shots in succession. JTH could not place which player single-handedly destroyed his team. It seems he only checks the score at the end of each half and tends to be oblivious otherwise. That explains so much - for instance, the fact that JTH was rarely tightly guarding the guy!

Most importantly, the league gave me a chance to reacquaint myself with some old friends. It was good to see league superstar DED fresh off an appearance on the Kiss Cam at the last Vols game! FHC and I caught up and he was as funny as ever. I had not seen BWM in years and he was so kind and made my day by seeming happy to see me. Thanks, guys.

Afterwards, JTH and I watched Employee of the Month, one of his favorite films. While this film clearly won no Oscars, it was fun. My review, as always, is posted under “A Veiled Tell - Nil Soli.”

Yesterday marked “Nature Boy” Ric Flair’s 59th birthday. Yes, he is still wrestling full-time. The only thing left to say is, “WHOOOOOOOO!!!”

I never thought Flair’s birthday would get upstaged but at 2:08 pm, Tennessee officially became the #1 men’s basketball team in the country for the first time in its ninety-nine year history. This fact alone fulfills the immortal words of Ice Cube, “It was a good day.”

Monday, February 25, 2008

Bible Trivia - 2/25/2008

Question: Who was the husband of Deborah?

Answer: Lapidoth. (Judges 4:4)

Comments: Deborah is the fourth and only female “judge” chronicled in the Book of Judges. Her story is told in chapters 4-5. She is introduced with two descriptors - as a “prophetess” and as “wife of Lapidoth.” Jewish interpreters have identified Lapidoth ("flames") with Barak ("lightning"). The Hebrew translated “wife of Lapidoth” could also be rendered “woman of fire,” indicating a fierce and independent personality. Feminists like this interpretation. I like to think of her as a fellow redhead myself. Given the format and placing of the epithet, the traditional "wife of Lapidoth" is the most likely interpretation.

Word of the Day - 2/25/2008


To palliate is to relieve or lessen without curing; mitigate; alleviate.

In the midst of his turmoil, Job laments that even sleep cannot palliate his troubles temporarily. (Job 7:13)

In Eckleburg's Eyes - 2/25/2008

The weekend was busy and as pleasant as can be expected under the circumstances. Many of our friends rallied behind PAT and tried to pick up the pieces in the wake of his breakup with WRK. A split does not only affect the people involved, but their community as well. Please keep all involved in this situation in your prayers.

I was able to function fairly well over the weekend despite having been ill. Fortunately, medication eliminated most of my symptoms. Unfortunately, it also drained my strength considerably.

On Friday, I had the honor of spending the day with PAT. He called in the afternoon to see if I would like to accompany him to McKay’s (bookstore). Was he new here? When we got to the store, he was incredibly impressed by my buying restraint. I did not tell him I had also been there the day before.

PAT received a tour of most of Knoxville as we talked. We visited JBT and JHT at MoFoS and brought KLTW dinner to Best Buy. Knowing that we would be with her husband later and knowing that PAT was going through a difficult time, KLTW offered we take him to a classy strip club. I am not sure if she was serious or not. (I rarely do on such matters.) PAT and I naturally abstained on principle while RAW declined based upon the fact that Knoxville does not have classy strip clubs. While I prefer mine and PAT’s rationale, I could not argue with RAW’s either.

In our travels, we discovered Knoxville now has a roundabout. As of Thursday morning (2/21), the intersection of Northshore Drive and Concord Road is governed by a roundabout. Evidently, there was not enough space for a traffic light at the intersection and a three-way stop did not move traffic efficiently at peak junctures. Unlike most roundabouts that I have encountered, this one has only one lane. While the jury is still out on its merits, there are some immediate advantages. The site may end up being a landmark like THE stoplight in Karns used to be. Further, it can be something else Farragut residents can be pretentious about - having the city’s only roundabout.

That night, PAT, RAW, and I were joined by AMTT and JCT to watch American Gangster and eat pizza at my home. PAT did not want to view a movie with excessive sentimentality. Mission accomplished. In fact, it had no sentimentality at all. My review is posted under “A Veiled Tell - Nil Soli.”

The only bad thing was that KJW was with her “Nana” so she was unavailable. PAT went out to Applebees while I called it a night. He did spend the night and we ate breakfast with my dad at Shoney’s in the morning. It was the first sleepover I have had in ages and I missed it!

On Saturday night, MPW, RAW, and I watched Tennessee beat #1 Memphis on RAW’s big screen. I can honestly say I have never seen MPW so happy. We watched the highlights and replays numerous times. It was funny as when KLTW returned and rehashed her day, we stopped her account any time the game footage was on despite having seen it repeatedly. We do love you, KLTW!

Again, the only negative was that KJW was still with “Nana” until nearly midnight! She had been to her cousin’s birthday party and having eaten sugar and played all day with only a twenty-minute nap as respite, she had passed out by the time she returned home. You know she is dead when the prospect of people being in the home does not excite her. She was still cute though.

On Sunday morning, WAM, PAT, MPW and I met at my house for Sunday School. We covered Matthew 5:13. Notes from Bible Studies will now eventually be on the main site.

Far more important than my notes, is WAM’s wackiest insight of the day: Barrack Obama’s campaign speeches are directly taken from American History X. I will let you be the judge.

Afterwards, JTH, WAM, KJW, MPW, RAW, and I ate at Soccer Taco. It has become our favorite Mexican restaurant since Monterrey closed down for failing health code requirements. Naturally, Soccer Taco is not quite as good as, well it meets health code requirements. Should we really impose American standards of cleanliness on Mexican restaurants?

More importantly, after two near misses, I finally got to see KJW. She was dressed like little pink riding hood. I brought her a book to teach her colors. Colors are difficult material as they are concepts rather than concrete items. I felt better about my own futility after her father tried to teach her that black and white were actually “values”, not colors. She clearly understood.

KJW was not a huge fan of her Quesadilla, but did enjoy her side of fries. With KJW, food not only provides sustenance, but an accessory to any ensemble.

After PAT returned to his home in Kennesaw, GA, JTH and I went to Wal-Mart that evening. There were two notable additions to Wal-Mart. First, and not surprisingly, t-shirts were already being sold with the game score from the previous night on it. I mainly mention this just as another way of referencing the fact that Tennessee won the big game.

Second, Wal-Mart now has a DVD section with their employee’s selections. There is a picture of the name of the employee accompanied by five choices. I actually like this idea as it gives personality to a huge corporation. I was especially impressed, by the picture of “Jean.” The picture sat atop all of the others, presumably due to her seniority, and a menacing scowl covered her face. I would hate to see her expression when thinking of the movies she did not like. And yes, Sling Blade was her top pick!

An exhausted JTH returned home while I spent the evening at RAW’s with KLTW, KJW, MPW, and RAW. After allowing KJW to watch some SpongeBob SquarePants, we ultimately watched Monty Python and the Holy Grail. Though this is typically not my brand of humor, it is undoubtedly a classic.

Thus, I did not watch the Oscars, but I will note my disappointment that Ellen Page did not win the Best Actress award for Juno. I admittedly had not seen any of the other four candidates, but I know for a fact that they are NOT Ellen Page!

As noted, it was a good weekend all things considered. Please keep PAT and company in yours prayers.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Prayer Blog - 2/24/2008

My great aunt, MST, appears to be approaching the end of her life. Like her brother (my grandfather) she suffers from Alzheimer's disease and has been in an assisted living facility for some time. Her daughter called on Friday to inform us that MST had forgotten how to swallow and that she was going to say goodbye. While the end of her suffering is a blessing, keep her family and friends in prayer.

View from 315A

Tennessee won the most hyped basketball game of the college basketball season and its school history, 66-62 at #1 Memphis. The game never had a margin of more than seven points. The atmosphere was unbelievable. Tickets were reportedly scalped for in excess of $1600 with celebrities like Peyton Manning and Priscilla Presley in attendance. It was only the fifth time in history that a game pitted the nation’s top two teams in an in-state rivalry.

The new additions from last year led both teams. Memphis freshman Derrick Rose carried the Tigers with 23 points, 5 rebounds, and 5 assists. Tennessee sophomore transfers Tyler Smith (16, 6) and J.P. Prince (13, 8) were also impressive, with Smith hitting what essentially prove to be the game winning bucket.

Prince, a 48% free throw shooter, iced the game hitting his free throws in a one-and-one opportunity in crunch time. He also had six consecutive points to evoke a Memphis timeout in one critical juncture. The Memphis native had been misnamed by coach John Calipari (“P.J.”)” during the week and taken grief from players.

Memphis had been 26-0 and had won 47 consecutive home games.

Presumably, Tennessee will now be the #1 team in the country when Monday’s polls are released.

The only thing left to say - I love Bruce Pearl!

Now, for an update on Tennessee football coach Phillip Fulmer: