Friday, April 11, 2008

Prayer Blog - 4/11/2008

We received great news last night! My cousins HANW and MLW are expecting their first child. The child will be due on or around HANW's December 11th birthday. We praise God for this news and ask for blessings and guidance over the next nine months.

As an aside, pray for my mother. The fact that her baby brother will be a grandfather before she has added to her fears that she may never become a grandmother. Actually, pray for me. No pressure...

Bible Trivia - 4/11/2008

Question: Complete the following quotation of Jesus: “Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and...”?

Answer: “I will give you rest.” (Matthew 11:28)

Comments: Like Jesus’ quotation from Matthew 11, the inscription on the Statue of Liberty also invites the downtrodden in. An inscription on a bronze plaque at the base of the statue reads:

Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed, to me:
I lift my lamp beside the golden door.

The lines are taken from an 1883 poem by Emma Lazarus (1848-1887) entitled "The New Colossus." The sonnet's words reflect the great hope with which immigrants traveled to America. The poem's lyric presents great opportunity while Jesus' words offer a great promise. Our hope should always be in Jesus, not in the world.

"Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest." (Matthew 11:28, NASB)

Word of the Day - 4/11/2008


Stentorian means very loud or powerful in sound: a stentorian voice.

The Israelites’ first military conquest in the Promised Land came when the stentorian shouts of the people and blasts from the priests’ trumpets signaled fall of the walls of Jericho. (Joshua 6)

So the people shouted, and priests blew the trumpets; and when the people heard the sound of the trumpet, the people shouted with a great shout and the wall fell down flat, so that the people went up into the city, every man straight ahead, and they took the city. (Johusa 6:20, NASB)

In Eckleburg's Eyes - 4/11/2008

Thursday marked my second day in the Big Apple and my first ever Broadway show.

In the morning, NTC snuck out to retrieve some authentic New York bagels. When she asked our preferences, my answer of “blueberry” was mocked for being “goy” - Gentile. I picked up a lot of Yiddish on this trip. She also served us lox, which is a form of salmon (the distinction between lox and "salmon" comes in the manner the meat is cured). Lox with cream cheese on a bagel is evidently a delicacy in these parts.

After breakfast, we watched a video of NTC’s grandson MG’s 2007 football highlights. To say he is impressive wold be an understatement. The video documents only the first six games of the season but in those games he rushed for 1139 yards and scored 17 touchdowns. The film also featured several sacks from his strong safety position as well as punt returns and completed passes. As noted in yesterday’s blog, MG has decided to give up football to pursue lacrosse. I am sure his coach was thrilled with that decision. If and when I receive his permission, I will post the video on the blog.

We then left NTC and her cat Nanu’s loft to drop our luggage the Parker Meridien in New York where we would be staying the next two nights. To get there, we again took the PATH and a taxi. It was quite the chore toting the luggage around. Our taxi driver’s name was Petit-Frere Emanuel. I thought that this was a rib, but evidently Petit-Frere (“Little Brother”) is a legitimate name in Haiti. No, I did not discover this by ridiculing the man, but rather by asking my cousin.

I must note that there are many signs warning that $350 fines could potentially be levied for those drivers who toot their horns. This is comical as one would think the entire city was a tunnel the way people blast their horns.

On the way in, we passed Radio City Music Hall. I would have liked to have seen a show there, but from April 10-12, comedian Katt Williams was booked and I was not overly interested in him. It would have almost worth attending to experience my parents' reactions to him. Almost.

After securing our bags, we ate lunch at the Carnegie Deli. We did pass nearby Carnegie Hall en route. The deli is known for oversized portions and waiters who engage in disparaging banter. While our waitress, an "old lady" named Monica ("like Lewisnki"), was not especially rude, the food was terrific.

The walls are adorned with hundreds of photos of stars and celebrities who are almost stars featuring signed endorsements. A corned beef and pastrami sandwich is named after Woody Allen. The deli served as a filming location for his 1984 film Broadway Danny Rose. The restaurant is also referenced in Adam Sandler’s moving holiday classic "The Chanukah Song."

I was told that the true test of any deli is its pastrami on rye with mustard. If this is the case, it past with flying colors. I split the massive dish with NTC and was pleased. I also sampled a Dr. Brown’s Cream Soda, one of my mother’s favorites. As good as the meal was, the dessert - a cheesecake with blueberry topping - was better. Cheesecake is identified with New York for a reason.

My father then departed for meetings, leaving NTC, DNV, abd I to peruse the city. We spent a lot of time on 5th Avenue. We passed many notable stores such as Macy’s and Saks Fifth Avenue. I was most interest in Tiffany & Co. as I am a huge Audrey Hepburn fan. She is linked with the jewelry store through her film Breakfast at Tiffany’s. A very cooperative salesman showed us where the film was shot and that Audrey Hepburn was one of only two people to wear the Tiffany Yellow Diamond. The other was Mrs. Sheldon Whitehouse at the 1957 Tiffany Ball held in Newport, Rhode Island. Unfortunately, the diamond is presently on tour.

While on 5th Avenue I also stopped in the NBA Store. I was allured by a life-size Lego display of Celtics star Kevin Garnett. RAW, I thought about you. If I had several hundred dollars of disposable cash, I might have bought it for you.

There were various people in Elmo costumes throughout the city. I have no idea why. They asked for donations if you took a picture with them. I did. Why? Being seen with Elmo gives me a great deal of street cred with KJW.

We spent the remainder of the afternoon at Rockefeller Center. I saw the ice skating rink, the Today Show, NBC Studios, where Letterman is taped, etc. We sat and chatted for a long time at Brasherie Ruhlmann. It is a café in the European style. NTC caught us up to date on tales of husbands past.

We then officially checked into the Parker-Meridien hotel. Our rooms, though unfortunately not on the same floor, both overlook Central Park. NTC left us to find our way to our restaurant and theater as she has a life (and had plans with a friend).

On the way to our restaurant, we went into a three-story Toys R Us. It was massive. Steven Spielberg donated a dinosaur from Jurassic Park. It is one of many impressive spectacles in the store. While there, we received a phone call from my cousin HANW. She is pregnant! We were very excited.

We then walked to Sardi’s Restaurant where we had reservations for 6 pm. Sardi’s is located the heart of New York's Theater District (adjacent to the theater we would be at later in the evening) and has been in operation for 82 years. It is most known for countless caricatures of the stars who have eaten there. NTC instructed me to order something basic as the restaurant is more known for its ambiance than cuisine. Still stuffed from lunch, I only ordered a tiramisu. It was good, but the steak I sampled from my father’s plate (I did ask) was average at best.

We then ironically had some time to kill in Times Square. I do not know if they archive it or not, but there is streaming video of the locale here At my request, we shopped at the Virgin Megastore. I had been to the branch in Hollywood last year and this store was far bigger. It had three floors, one of which was devoted entirely to DVDs. It is pretty much my vision of heaven. Believe it or not, I bought nothing for myself at the store.

We then went to the St. James Theater for our 8 o’clock play - Gypsy: A Musical Fable. The play stars Broadway legend Patti LuPone. Her name receives top billing even over the title. To view LuPone's climactic number "Rose's Turn" on YouTube click here.

This version of the play opened on March 27 but had a 22 performance run (July 9, 2007 - July 29, 2007) at City Center peviously. It originated in 1959 with music by Jule Styne, lyrics by Stephen Sondheim. The play originally starred Ethel Merman.

The feature is based upon the memoirs of Gypsy Rose Lee (1911-1970). Set during the vaudeville era, Gypsy features a stereotypical stage mother, Rose (LuPone), who travels the country with her two daughters and manager, Herbie who is in love with Rose. While daughters June and Louise wish their mother would wed Herbie, Rose continues to pursue dreams of stardom for her girls. When June deserts the act, Rose turns her attention to the shy, talentless Louise, whom she hopes to mold into a star. When the act is booked into a burlesque house by mistake, Louise is forced into the spotlight and world renowned stripper Gypsy Rose Lee is born.

The story was interesting and the play was beautifully performed as one might expect. The play “Wicked” which I saw last year at the Pantages Theatre in Los Angeles was on par with this Broadway show but is the only performance I have seen to match the scope of this production.

Some of the more interesting aspects of the stripper's tale occur after the play ends, such as her affair with noted Hollywood director Otto Preminger.

While I did not like LuPone’s character (I do not believe I was supposed to), I loved the play.

Tune in Monday for the conclusion of the Vinson family in New York.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Associated Baptist Press - 4/10/2008

Associated Baptist Press
April 10, 2008 (8-580)

BTSR budget shortfall leads to faculty lay-offs
Baptist clergy launch organization to minister to Caribbean ‘diaspora’
Samford scholarship program targets ministers-in-training
Detroit pastor to deliver 2008 Shurden lectures
Opinion: Is Jesus really our Lord?

BTSR budget shortfall leads to faculty lay-offs
By Robert Dilday

RICHMOND, Va. (ABP) – Faced with “worrisome” financial challenges, Baptist Theological Seminary at Richmond will downsize its faculty and staff, the school’s president announced April 8.

Four full-time professors and at least three administrative staff members will be let go in an effort to reduce costs, according to BTSR President Ron Crawford, who was elected to his position about a year ago. Though he did not release the names of the professors to be dismissed, Crawford said he has communicated with each one and that the school is offering severance packages that exceed a full year’s salary and full personnel benefits.

The 19-year old seminary is burdened with a $6 million debt and faces a significant deficit in its budget this year -- about $450,000 out of an overall budget of $3.6 million, Crawford said in a statement distributed to the school’s alumni and supporters.

“Our immediate fiscal challenge is related to the capital campaign that was completed last summer as I became BTSR’s president,” he said. “The campaign included the purchase of two buildings along with two unanticipated financial challenges: significant debt and a payroll that overreaches annual revenues.”

BTSR, which enrolls about 160 students, currently employs 15 full-time professors and about 16 administrative staff, including the president and dean of the faculty. About 14 visiting and adjunct faculty members also teach classes.

The school’s campus is adjacent to Union Theological Seminary, a Presbyterian institution, and the seminary owns buildings that once housed Union’s Presbyterian School of Christian Education.

At a March 17-18 meeting, BTSR’s board of trustees asked Crawford to devise a downsizing plan and present it at a called trustee meeting in late April. The president informed the seminary community of the developments at a March 28 meeting of faculty, staff and students.

“Once the downsizing is complete we will be left with a tenured faculty member in each of the disciplines we have traditionally covered, with the exception of one, where a visiting professor will be employed,” said Crawford. “With nine full-time faculty members, at least three visiting professors and other adjunct faculty members, we will continue to have a profoundly strong faculty.”

Crawford also said that the reduced faculty will have less impact on BTSR than it would on most seminaries. The school is part of the Richmond Theological Consortium, which includes Union Seminary and its School of Christian Education, as well as the school of theology at nearby Virginia Union University, a historically African-American Baptist institution. Students in the consortium’s schools may take courses at any of the institutions for no additional cost.

“On the administrative side, we are losing three and a half positions,” said Crawford, in separate e-mailed comments to an Associated Baptist Press reporter.“Our idea is to replace full-time support staff with part-time students. We’ll train the students on the business inner-workings of a nonprofit, church environment. It should be a win-win.”

Founded in 1989, BTSR was one of the first institutions established by moderates who began leaving the increasingly conservative Southern Baptist Convention in the 1980s and 90s. Though a number of other moderate seminaries and divinity schools have sprouted since then, many former Southern Baptists still retain passion for the first one, and Crawford is counting on that to get BTSR through the financial strain.

“I continue to say, ‘The future of BTSR is very bright, the short-term is worrisome,’” he noted. “BTSR will survive and, eventually, thrive. We fully anticipate going through a few very lean years. We will use the time to restructure and refocus our efforts on responding to the challenge of providing theological education in a 21st century world.”


Baptist clergy launch organization to minister to Caribbean ‘diaspora’
By ABP staff

NEW YORK (ABP) -- With a worship service March 30, a group of ministers officially launched a Baptist fellowship to minster to the Caribbean “diaspora” in English-speaking countries.

Caribbean Diaspora Baptist Clergy Association kicked off its life with a “celebrative service” at Grace Baptist Chapel in the New York City borough of the Bronx, according to the Baptist World Alliance.

The chapel is home to a congregation of mainly Caribbean immigrants. The service, a BWA statement said, was designed “to give recognition [to] an organization which has become a reality after a decade of discussion and deliberation.”

According to Alfred Johnson, a former Jamaica Baptist Union pastor who now serves in New Jersey, “Over the past 40 to 50 years, what started as a trickle has now become a steady stream of [Caribbean] immigrants into this country…. We were indeed strangers in a foreign land, living in exile from our home in the Caribbean, away from our Baptist fellowship.”

According to the BWA, the worldwide umbrella group for Baptists, such a fellowship has been discussed since at least 1993. After a mission conference in the Jamaican town of Ocho Rios in 2003, the Jamaica Baptist Union Mission Agency stated its intention “to participate in mission to Caribbean people in general and to Jamaicans in particular who are in the Diaspora (e.g. United Kingdom, USA and Canada).”

The clergy association was incorporated in 2006 and signed a partnership agreement with the Jamaica Baptist Union in April 2007 at the Bronx church to aid in “facilitating mission in both regions of the world,” meaning the Caribbean and North America.

In October, the clergy association, the Jamaican union, and the Caribbean Baptist Fellowship, one of six regional groups affiliated with the BWA, signed the Montego Bay Accord following a Jamaican missions conference in the resort town of the same name. Among other provisions, the accord includes the development of “meaningful ministries with cultural relevance,” while the parties agreed “to submit ourselves to periodic reviews, and to hold each other accountable under God.”

CDBCA draws membership mainly from Caribbean clergy living and working in the northeastern United States. U.S. immigration from the Caribbean over the last several decades has been concentrated in New York, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Maryland.

Last year, BWA installed Neville Callam, a former Jamaican pastor, as its general secretary. He is the first person of non-Anglo descent to direct the more-than-century-old alliance.

The Caribbean Diaspora Baptist Clergy Association’s president is Delroy Reid-Salmon, pastor of Grace Baptist Chapel.


Samford scholarship program targets ministers-in-training
By ABP staff

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (ABP) -- In what may be the first program of its kind, an Alabama Baptist school is targeting future ministers with undergraduate scholarships.

Samford University has created a pre-ministerial scholars program aimed at students who are called to full-time ministry in traditional, church-related positions. The Birmingham-based school announced the program April 10. In a press release, school officials said the institution plans to offer the scholarships to as many as 50 students over the next several academic years.

The merit-based grants will begin at about $11,000 a year per student, with the potential of increasing to $16,000 annually for scholars who meet certain academic criteria.

Samford recently admitted 16 high school seniors to the program for the fall semester of 2008. This group will represent the first freshmen to be awarded the scholarships, which are available to students of any denomination. A trial run of the program last year provided scholarships to eight undergraduates already enrolled at the school.

James Barnette, a religion professor who directs Samford’s ministerial-formation program, said scholarship recipients must meet certain academic standards as well as demonstrate a clear calling to, and giftedness for, traditional ministerial roles.

The students must feel called to such positions as senior pastor, associate pastor, other local-church staff minister, non-medical career missionary, hospital chaplain, campus minister, pastoral counselor or religion professor.

“Just as there are pre-med, pre-law and pre-pharmacy programs, Samford wants to develop a pre-ministerial program that will train up the most capable ministers of tomorrow,” Barnette said, according to the Samford release.

He also said that Samford is, as far as he knows, the first Baptist undergraduate institution to offer such scholarships to incoming freshmen.


Detroit pastor to deliver 2008 Shurden lectures
By ABP staff

WASHINGTON (ABP) -- One of America’s most renowned African-American preachers will deliver the third annual Shurden Lectures on Religious Liberty and the Separation of Church and State.

Charles Adams will give the speeches, which are scheduled for April 14-15 on the campus of Wake Forest University.

For nearly four decades, Adams has served as pastor of Hartford Memorial Baptist Church in Detroit. The 10,000-member congregation has been noted for its innovative ministries, credited by many with the economic revitalization of large parts of the poverty-addled city.

In addition to his pastoral duties, Adams serves as a professor of applied ethics and ministry at Harvard Divinity School, his alma mater.

He is also a longtime board member of the Baptist Joint Committee for Religious Liberty. The Washington-based watchdog organization sponsors the lecture series, which was endowed by, and named for, longtime Baptist leaders Walter and Kay Shurden of Macon, Ga.


Opinion: Is Jesus really our Lord?
By David Gushee

(ABP) -- The New Testament declares that Jesus Christ is Lord, that followers of Christ are those who live under his lordship now, and that one day Jesus will be acknowledged by all as Lord:

“Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” (Phil. 2:10-11).

Jesus taught that mere verbal confessions of his lordship are not enough; he wants to see us do God’s will, and this is the true test of whether he is our Lord:

“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven” (Matt. 7:21-22).

Jesus also taught that his authority extends to the whole cosmos and that therefore no arena of life can be exempted from obedience to his rule:

“All authority on heaven and earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you” (Matt.28:18-20).

The earliest pages of the New Testament teach that the lordship of Jesus Christ is deeply threatening to this world’s powers:

“’Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star in the east, and have come to worship him.’” When King Herod heard this he was disturbed, and all Jerusalem with him” (Matt. 2:2-3).

The last pages of the New Testament reflect on the price paid by those who affirmed that Jesus Christ alone is Lord amidst the hostile Roman Empire:

“They overcame him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony; they did not love their loves so much as to shrink from death” (Rev. 12:11).

Jesus Christ may be Lord of all, but woe be to those who suggest that this might have implications for how Christians spend their money, what they do with their bodies, how they vote, or how they think about the laws and policies of this nation.

Woe to those who suggest that being a Christian means more than just being a good middle-class American who finds time for church among his or her many other civic activities.

Woe to those who suggest that the policies of a beloved president or party might in some cases fall short of the moral standards taught in the pages of the Bible.

Woe to those who suggest that the United States is not God’s chosen nation and that even the behavior of our own beloved country must be tested by the criteria demanded by the lordship of Jesus Christ.

Woe to those who suggest that defending this nation is not the highest good for those who have pledged their lives to Jesus as Lord.

Woe to those who suggest that torture, humiliation, degradation, and indefinite detention of prisoners in the name of national security might have to be rejected by those who claim Jesus Christ as Lord.

I gave an interview yesterday for a film on the “German church struggle” of the 1930s. The questions involved reflecting on how so many German Christians did not see any contradiction between their loyalty to the Nazi party, or the Nazified German state, and their loyalty to Jesus Christ, their purported Lord. And I was asked to try to delineate what -- if anything -- set apart the resisters (like Karl Barth and Dietrich Bonhoeffer) from those who capitulated to Nazism.

The basic answer is that Barth and Bonhoeffer really meant it when they said that Jesus Christ is Lord, and they understood the radical implications of that claim. Christ’s lordship meant that the nation, the party, and the Fuhrer could not claim and did not deserve total lordship over any Christian’s life; that the Bible rather than any other authority must have supremacy; and that in situations of radical evil, Christians are called to offer an even more radical and unflinching witness to Christ’s lordship.

Baptists argued for decades over theories of inspiration while many churches were slowly dying the death of a thousand cultural assimilations. I think it is clear that we should have been arguing over whether we really mean it when we say at baptism that we are committing our lives to Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord.

I forecast that the days of cultural, Southern, Baptist Christianity are passing -- the days of just good regular American folks going to church because that’s what their mama and grandma did. Our churches will survive -- if they do -- not on cultural Christianity, but on people totally committed to the lordship of Christ.


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

Bible Trivia - 4/10/2008

Question: Which year is closest to the year of Jesus’ birth-4 BC, 1 BC, 0, 1 BC, or 4 AD?

Answer: 4 BC

Comments: The Anno Domini system attempted to calculate time from the birth of Jesus, but is assumed to be slightly off. It was developed by a monk named Dionysius Exiguus aka “Dennis the Little” in Rome in 525. It was not until the 8th century that the system began to be adopted in Western Europe. In 1422, Portugal became the last Western European country to adopt the Anno Domini system.

Scholars assume the system is slightly skewed based upon the fact that King Herod, featured prominently in Matthew's account of the magi and as such the birth of Jesus(Matthew 2), died in 4 BCE.

Word of the Day - 4/10/2008


To be prurient is having, inclined to have, or characterized by lascivious or lustful thoughts, desires, etc.

Job made a covenant with his eyes to avoid prurience.

"I have made a covenant with my eyes;/How then could I gaze at a virgin?
(Job 31:1, NASB)

Stephen Arterburn (b. 1953) features this passage in his book Every Man’s Battle: Winning the War on Sexual Temptation One Victory at a Time (pages 125-126).

In Eckleburg's Eyes - 4/10/2008

Wednesday marked the 100th Day of the year. I spent the day beginning my first family vacation in seventeen years. My father is the president elect of the National Kidney Foundation of East Tennessee and had a training session in New York. Somewhere along the line, this trip morphed into a family vacation.

I had not been to New York (my mother’s home state) since I was four years old and have few memories of that visit. This trip was actually well planned. I think my mother read the entire text of Fodor’s New York City 2008 in preparation. I also did a lot of research. My rule of the thumb is that if a trip is made by car, I improvise, but if flying is necessitated, then methodical planning is as well. I compiled the majority of the itinerary as my mother did most of the things she wanted to do in New York on her last visit with my father since she honestly believed she might never return.

I took planning so seriously that I even bought Sunscreen - Hawaiian Tropic Ozone. It has an SPF of 70. Their web site says that they make it in SPF 80. While I did not know SPF went that high, I am sure it will not be high enough for me. At least this time I cannot be blamed for negligence!

One thing I clearly did not plan was our departure time. My mother selected our flight as it was the lone direct flight from Knoxville to New York. This was great. Unfortunately, this flight also left town at 6:10 AM, meaning we needed to leave our home by 4:30. I woke up as planned - at 4:15. I figured I would give myself extra grooming time for such a significant trip.

Our flight met its schedule. The highlight though was that my mother alerted airport security. After taking off every piece of jewelry on her person, she still activated alarms. This meant she had to be frisked. Naturally, I saw this as a brilliant photo opportunity. It turns out that there was actually metallic material in her shirt. Eventually, the powers that be allowed her to board her flight. This is one of those incidents that could only happen to myself or my mother. My father attributed the incident to her evil alter ego "The Dot Master" having finally been discovered by someone other than SMA.

The flight went smoothly and we all managed to get a little (albeit very little) sleep. I had not seen sleep under worse conditions since I was in college and the 6'10" basketball star Charles Hathaway managed to contort himself into very small desks to sleep through religious studies classes.

Upon arriving at LaGuardia Airport, we began to make our way to Jersey City, New Jersey. The first day of the trip was spent in Jersey City in the 8th floor loft owned by my mother’s first cousin NTC. I have been told that this makes her my first cousin once removed.

The short distance to Jersey City actually took almost as long as our flight from Knoxville to New York. Before the day was out, I used every mode of transportation I had ever heard of. A taxi drove us from the airport to Manhattan. A Haitian driver named Lucas Jean administered cruel and unusual punishment on the long, slow ride across town. He played antiquated French music, which my mother loved. I read the Taxicab Rider Bill of Rights and knew he had violated #8 (“A noise free trip: no horn honking or radio;”). (I provided the link so that you would know I did not make the list up.) If he was not such a nice fellow I would report him! The taxi trip took us through Queens as well as several notable facilities including Shea Stadium.

From Manhattan we took the Port Authority Trans-Hudson Corporation (PATH), a version of the subway connecting New York and New Jersey. We then proceeded on foot to her loft. She has a beautiful view. One can actually see many New York monuments including the Statue of Liberty out her window. In fact, she watched the Twin Towers crumble from her perch as well.

I was thrilled to see NTC. I was to have seen her in December for my cousin’s wedding but her taxi driver wrecked on the way to the airport. (I think traveling mishaps are genetic.) She is one of my favorite people. Her home is like mine, as it is more library than residence. She has decorated with all sorts of cool artifacts from her travels. In short, she is a hip hip lady.

She generously cooked us brunch - a layered dish called strada, with pumpernickel bread direct from Russia, and a salad with homemade dressing. It was thoughtful and delicious. We actually ate on my great grandparents' dining table, the same table that my mother ate on child during visits.

We spent much of the afternoon discussing my family's intentionally mysterious past. She was privy to many legal documents and I discovered a great deal of my heritage - some of which I did not like. I finally received confirmation (in the form of a divorce certificate) that my grandfather’s father scandalously left his first wife and abandoned his son to marry the woman who would become my great grandmother.

One family mystery remains unclear. I am hoping for confirmation that I am related to Martin “Marty” Nodell (1915-2006). Nodell (my mother’s relatively rare maiden name) was born in 1915 in Philadelphia (where my great grandfather lived at the time) and Martin is a family name. Nodell created the comic book superhero Green Lantern in 1940 and as art director of the Leo Burnett Agency was also part of the creative team that developed the Pillsbury Doughboy in 1965. I suspect he may be my grandfather’s first cousin.

In more contemporary family news, NTC’s grandson MG negotiated his own lacrosse scholarship to Drexel University in Philadelphia. MG, who will turn 18 on April 21, is a junior midfielder for the Springfield Township (PA) High School Spartans, after transferring from Penn Charter last season. He has decided to retire from football after a stellar junior season as a half back/defensive back to concentrate on lacrosse. Despite his exploits in athletics, he is still known as “The Bunny” in family circles.

The theme of family heritage continued as we caught a taxi and then a ferry to visit the Ellis Island Immigration Museum. Ellis Island was the location where most immigrants first arrived in America from 1892-1924. It remained open until 1953. Restoration began in 1984 and its new function as a museum originated in 1990. It is located very close to the Statue of Liberty and tours to both are held in conjunction with one another.

We arrived and learned that we could watch a short play. Never one to pass up a play, we paid the extra $6 per person to view “Taking a Chance On America: Bela Lugosi’s Ellis Island Story.” It is a three-person half-hour sketch written by Aurorae Khoo which uses Bela Lugosi (1882-1956), a Hollwood legend, best remembered for his portrayal of Count Dracula, to depict how immigrants were processed through Ellis Island. It was cute and well worth the $6. The show just opened and will be playing seven times daily through October.

In a small world story, one of the actors is a veteran of Knoxville's Clarence Brown Theater. More amazing than this is that my father, typically oblivious to such things, was the one who recognized him.

The Museum itself was enlightening. The issues facing modern immigration were very similar to those at the turn of the twentieth-century. The immigrants had to prove their physical and mental health, that they had start up funds, and that they could be a productive member of society. I found it especially interesting that a 1917 statute required literacy at least in one’s native tongue. Each immigrant was required to read a forty word passage - from the Bible.

After taking another ferry back to New York and passing the Staten Island Ferry, we ate at the Grand Central Oyster Bar & Grill in Grand Central Station. It is a local staple, having been open since 1913, and one of the few restaurants recommended by both tourists and natives. All four of us enjoyed our meal immensely. I liked my jumbo coconut shrimp, but the scallops I sampled from my father’s entree were the best I have ever tasted.

Our server graciosuly rushed our order so that we could make the 7:30 tip off at Madison Square Garden, as the local New York Knicks faced the Charlotte Bobcats. The game featured two of professional basektball's worst teams, but I wanted to go to experience "The World's Most Famous Arena." None of us had been to the new Garden though my mother had attended many rodeos at its predecessor. You read that correctly. My mother and her father love the rodeo.

On Saturday night, the Bobcats lost at home to the Celtics despite the fact that Boston decided to rest its three most prominent players. Still, they entered the game with the better record of the two teams at 30-48.

On this night, the home team won 109-107. With only three games remaining, the win ensured that the Knicks (23-56) would not lose 60 games for the first time in team history. Honestly, it was forunate that both teams were so miserable, as otherwise we might not have been able to obtain tickets.

Overall, the experience was a bit of a let down. The intensity from the fans was nonexistent which was to be expected as the teams were vying for essentially nothing. The biggest crowd reaction of the night came when news of the New York Rangers 4-1 victory in the NHL Playoffs was updated. My dad did obtain some much needed sleep during the game.

It is also worth noting that the only celebrities in attendance were the cast of the Broadway show "Rent"", who did an admirable job singing the national anthem. Anthony Rapp (forever remembered by me for his role in Dazed in Confused) demonstrated his support for Barrack Obama. Who out there was thinking "I had been unsure as to who to vote for, but if Obama is endorsed by Anthony Rapp... "?

"Sopranos" actor Steve Schirripa (Bobby 'Bacala' Baccalieri) was also there as was Knicks commentator/Just For Men® spokesman Walt "Clyde"Frazier.

The walk back to the Subway station was difficult as we passed countless homeless people all along 31st. It was disheartening as there were too many people to help.

After a very long day, we all crashed upon returning to NTC's loft.

I will close by wishing my aunt JESN a great birthday. We thought of you.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Prayer Blog - 4/9/2008

Pray for safe travel for myself and my parents as we fly to and from New York (not on the same day). My mother gets especially apprehensive while flying.

We will be flying out this morning (4/9) on Delta Flight 5006 at 6:10 AM and theoretically landing at LaGuardia Airport at 8:14 am.

Our return trip will be on Delta Flight 5483 at 3:58 pm on Sunday (4/13) and we are slated to return to Knoxville at 6:23 pm.

If the plane goes down, fear not. I will see you in heaven.

Bible Trivia - 4/9/2008

Question: What are the first four words in the Bible?

Answer: In the beginning God. (Genesis 1:1).

Comments: The definite article is actually not in the Hebrew text. The opening word of the Bible, b'reishit (or Bereishit), lacks the accompanying article (“the”). [Note: Hebrew articles are attached to the nouns they modify.] Thus, the passage could accurately read “In beginning, God...” which accentuates God’s eternal nature.

The majority of translations render the first four words of the Bible with the traditional “In the beginning God.” (CEV, DARBY, ESV, KJV, NASB, NIV, NKJV, NLT, NRSV, RSV, YLT). The Message (“First this”) and the Jewish Publication Society (aka JPS) (“When God began to create heaven and Earth—“) reflect this Hebrew nuance.

Word of the Day - 4/9/2008


A pannier is a basket, especially a large one, for carrying goods, provisions, etc.

Soon after his conversion the Jews in Damascus plotted to kill Saul but he was able to escape as his disciples placed him in a pannier and lowered him through an opening in the wall. (Acts 9:25)

but his disciples took him by night and let him down through an opening in the wall, lowering him in a large basket. (Acts 9:25, NASB)

In Eckleburg's Eyes - 4/9/2008

I spent Tuesday night with KLTW, KJW, and RAW since I will not be seeing them for the rest of the week. No, I don’t think I will go into KJW withdrawal.

KLTW had her first day back at the hospital after a two week break between quarters. While she cooked, KJW and I helped RAW procure leaves to ignite his fire pit. KJW preferred to do her leaf hunting one leaf at a time.

Eventually, KJW ate at her portable table outside. She ate macaroni and cheese with a side of peas. KLTW almost served her corn instead of peas. This would have been ironic as the only two things I know that I am allergic to are macaroni and corn. I have no explanation as to what it is in mac & cheese that I am allergic to as I am bothered by neither cheese nor pasta, I can only tell you it affects me negatively.

On this night, I brought KJW the book Elmo’s Mother Goose and a Bobby Labonte #43 diecast car I acquired out a box of Honey Nut Cheerios. One of the added benefits of a baby is having a repository for items such as swag that comes out of cereal boxes.

KLTW filmed a video of KJW with her performing the staples of “Sumo,” “Guns” and “Karate.” If and when it appears on KLTW’s MySpace, I will let you know.

I was supposed to visit JTH at MoFoS for the last time, but he had incorrectly transcribed his schedule. That happens more often than you might think. His last day at MoFoS is Saturday (4/12). It is sad that I will miss “working” shifts with him.

I went home and watched the Lady Vols win their eighth national championship and second in a row over the Stanford Lady Cardinal 64-48. The Lady Vols avenged an early season overtime loss to Stanford (December 22). Coach Pat Summitt is now 8-7 in national championship games as the Vols become only the fourth team in history to repeat as champions.

The game featured last year’s player of the year (Candace Parker) against this year’s equivalent (Candice Wiggins). Anyone who has followed Summit at all knew the Lady Vols would not play as miserably as they did in the national semifinal game.

We will enjoy it while it lasts as Tennessee loses much of its roster. 5'2" senior Shannon Bobbit the shortest player in lady Vol history and as such my 4'11" mother’s all-time favorite player closed out her career with a great game, scoting 13 points.

Now that all NCAA Tournament games are done, I can report the typical abysmal results of my brackets. In my Yahoo Sports Pick ‘Em “Potty Trained & Potty Mouthed” Bracket, I finished 13th out of 25 entries. This is actually better than I usually do but most of the group struggled this year. I placed in the 24th percentile nationally. CAD won the bragging rights.

In my ESPN Tournament Challenge bracket, I finished sixth of 8th (one person signed up but did not fill out a bracket). I finished in the 17th percentile nationally. At least, I am consistent. SMA won this bracket.

I did receive one bit of bad news on Tuesday. I learned via snail mail that I had been fined $50 for allegedly running a red light at 3:03 pm at the corner of Merchants Drive and Clinton Highway on March 24th. I say allegedly but there is little doubt as they have a video evidence. I honestly cannot even tell you why I was there so I have no defense. At least I got a nice photograph of Chanana II in action. I also watched the video several times. Unfortunately, there is no option to post it on my blog. Do you think I should send the government a request?

In closing, I passed a sign on Lyons Bend that noted that Tennessee basketball commentator Bert Bertelkamp turned 50. I have no idea why I acknowledge this.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Associated Baptist Press - 4/8/2008

Associated Baptist Press
April 8, 2008

Romney claims no candidate should be faith's spokesman
Samford names business school after banker, supporter Brock

Romney claims no candidate should be faith's spokesman
By Ken Camp

COLLEGE STATION, Texas (ABP) -- People of faith who value religious liberty “have a friend and an ally in me,” but promoters of the “religion of secularism” who want to strip religious references from the public square do not, said former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, in a much-anticipated speech on his faith Dec. 6.

However, the GOP presidential contender and Mormon did not address some voters’ specific concerns about his membership in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Romney spoke to invited guests at the George H.W. Bush Presidential Library on the Texas A&M University campus in College Station. The venue is less than 100 miles from Houston, where John F. Kennedy spoke to Baptist ministers in 1960 to assure them his Roman Catholic faith would not unduly influence his decisions as president.

Romney alluded to Kennedy’s famous speech. “Almost 50 years ago, another candidate from Massachusetts explained that he was an American running for president -- not a Catholic running for president,” Romney said.

“Like him, I am an American running for president. I do not define my candidacy by my religion. A person should not be elected because of his faith, nor should he be rejected because of his faith.”

Like Kennedy, Romney asserted his belief in the institutional separation of church and state. He insisted he would not allow the LDS Church authority to exert influence over presidential decisions, and he would not put any church doctrine above presidential duties.

“If I am fortunate to become your president, I will serve no one religion, no one group, no one cause and no one interest. A president must serve only the common cause of the people of the United States,” he said.

However, Romney refused to disavow any of his Mormon beliefs, even though many evangelicals characterize the faith as a cult.

“I believe in my Mormon faith and I endeavor to live by it. My faith is the faith of my fathers. I will be true to them and to my beliefs,” he said. He added that if his personal beliefs damage his presidential hopes, “so be it.”

Noting that the Constitution allows no religious test for public office, Romney said, disavowing Mormonism would actually be proof that he isn’t qualified to be president. The American people rightly would question his character, he said, if he turned his back on his personal beliefs to advance his candidacy.

“Americans do not respect believers of convenience,” Romney declared.

He specifically affirmed his belief in Jesus Christ as “the Son of God and the savior of mankind,” but he declined to address the specific doctrines of Mormonism that distinguish it from mainstream Christianity.

“Each religion has its own unique doctrines and history. These are not bases for criticism but rather a test of our tolerance. Religious tolerance would be a shallow principle indeed if it were reserved only for faiths with which we agree,” he said.

“There are some who would have a presidential candidate describe and explain his church’s distinctive doctrines,” Romney continued. “To do so would enable the very religious test the founders prohibited in the Constitution. No candidate should become the spokesman for his faith. For, if he becomes president, he will need the prayers of the people of all faiths.”

Adherents of all major religions “share a common creed of moral convictions,” he said.

While Romney stressed that religious liberty is “fundamental to America’s greatness,” he affirmed public displays of civic piety such as references to God in the Pledge of Allegiance and on currency. He also expressed approval for religious holiday displays on public property, such as Nativity scenes at Christmas and menorahs at Hanukkah.

Romney also lauded American religious diversity. The United States benefits from a moral and philosophical heritage drawn from multiple sources -- “our nation’s symphony of faith,” he called it.

Nonetheless, he did claim that the nation’s founding principles stem from a specific religious heritage.

“Our greatness would not long endure without judges who respect the foundation of faith upon which our Constitution rests. I will take care to separate the affairs of government from any religion, but I will not separate us from ‘the God who gave us liberty,’” he said.

Some people have carried separation of church and state too far by seeking to have any reference to America’s religious heritage or its dependence on God removed from public life, Romney claimed.

“It is as if they are intent on establishing a new religion in America -- the religion of secularism. They are wrong,” he said.

“Freedom requires religion just as religion requires freedom. Freedom opens the windows of the soul so man can discover his most profound beliefs and commune with God. Freedom and religion endure together or perish alone.”


Samford names business school after banker, supporter Brock
By ABP staff

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (ABP) – One of the nation’s largest Baptist universities has named its business school after a local banker who is a longtime supporter.

Samford University has named its business school after Harry Brock, the retired chairman and chief executive of Compass Bancshares and Compass Bank of the South. Brock has served as a trustee of the Birmingham, Ala., Baptist school for 45 years.

“Samford has always been an inspirational part of my life, and this is my opportunity to give back to the school and help influence the lives of young people,” Brock said, according to a statement from the school. He joined his fellow trustees Dec. 4 in announcing the new name. “My desire and vision for the [Brock] School of Business is to be a little different and to find a niche that will help these young people fulfill their dreams.”

Brock, a member of Mountain Brook Baptist Church in Birmingham, was a pioneer in creating holding corporations operating banks in multiple states. His company operated multiple financial institutions in Alabama and Texas.

“The trustees and Mr. Brock have identified an enhanced entrepreneurship emphasis as a key focus for the school of business, and we plan to work on this immediately,” said William Stevens, Samford’s trustee chairman, according to the statement. “What Harry Brock did for banking, he is about to do for business education in Alabama and across the nation.”

Brock pledged to help the school build a $100 million endowment. That would place it among the top 25 accredited business schools nationwide in terms of dedicated investment funds.

Brock first became involved with Samford in the 1950s when he moved to Birmingham. He served on a committee that raised funds for the school’s current campus in the suburb of Homewood, Ala. He joined the board of trustees in 1962 and has served on it ever since, including a stint as the board’s chairman from 1986 to 1991.


Bible Trivia - 4/8/2008

Question: Which direction from Eden was the town of Nod?

Answer: East (Genesis 4:16)

Comments: It was from the Bible physical description of Cain's exile that Pulitzer Prize winning author John Steinbeck (1902-1968) found the title of his famous 1952 novel East of Eden, which was adapted into a film starring James Dean.

Then Cain went out from the presence of the LORD, and settled in the land of Nod, east of Eden. (Genesis 4:16)

The book ties its themes together with references and parallels with the biblical account of Cain and Abel (Genesis 4:1-16). Steinbeck's allusion to Cain and Abel is furthered by the naming of the Trask family as the first letters of the names of the brothers match throughout the generations (Charles and Adam, Cal and Aron).

Word of the Day - 4/8/2008


To bedizen is to dress or adorn in a showy, gaudy, or tasteless manner.

The governor’s soldiers bedizened Jesus in a robe and crown of thorns before crucifying him to mock his being the King of the Jews. (Matthew 27:27-29; Mark 15:17; Luke 23:11; John 19:2) Luke reports only the robe, omitting the thorny crown.

In Eckleburg's Eyes - 4/8/2008

I taught my Monday Bible Study on Luke 11:14-15 which Kurt Aland sensitively labeled “The Dumb Demoniac” in the Synopisis of the Four Gospels. At the end of Bible Study, I also received great news! Last week’s April Fool’s Literature Ministry prank was used by God for good. It seems the monthly ministry outing has been postponed a week until April 19th, leaving many usual participants unable to come. The short crew and longer interval between meetings meant that the workload would have been unmanageable had it not been in for the work of the “two elves.” The only negative is that the aforementioned elves have been enlisted into further service on the 19th as they showed proficiency in the ministry. It is good to know that God uses even my pranks.

In the afternoon, genealogy guru and subscriber AHJ visited the house with information regarding my mother’s paternal grandparents. Their history is shrouded in mystery as they immigrated illegally in the nineteenth century, falsifying government records and keeping their roots hidden even from their own children. The little information she was able to glean from census records was invaluable. She did so to pepare us for our visit to the Ellis Island Immigration Museum (where they entered the country) on Wednesday. Thanks, AHJ!

I spent Monday night at JTH’s last regular season basketball game. The playoffs begin next week. The game was a rare overtime thriller, with the extra period beginning with a 38-38 deadlock. The referees quickly set a 2:00 time limit with no respite for the teams as everyone wished to get out in time for the national championship game later in the night. Down by two points, JTH hit the game winning three-point basket from “his spot” in the corner with 37 seconds remaining to secure a 45-44 victory. In the midst of this highly competitive game, one of the referee’s was talking on his cell phone! Priceless. [This picture was actually taken in the second half of (at the time) a three-point game while the ball was in play.)]

JTH’s team ends the regular season with a 3-3 record after not winning a game all season in their last campaign. A postseason outing to Mr. Gattis is already in the works.

I was drafted to do the devotional seconds before delivering it and had few viable thoughts. This resulted in a ridiculous extemporaneous spiel on the following news blurb from Sunday:

With six games remaining, Los Angeles Lakers guard Kobe Bryant has a league-leading 15 technical fouls, which means that his next regular season technical will result in an automatic one-game suspension that could damage the team's standing...Bryant has held his tongue, walked the other way or used another, more confusing means to voice his frustrations to officials. "I just cuss them out really bad in Serbian," Bryant joked. (“Lakers' Bryant Is Cursing Refs in Foreign Tongues.” Washington Post, April 6, 2008)

No, I did not use the story to segue into the merits of speaking in tongues. I used the story to remind of Ephesians’ (4:29) warning not to cuss, but more specifically to speak of faith in terms people can understand and not “Christianese.” Remember I prefaced this by acknowledging how poor the devotional was.

After the game JTH and I picked up some groceries at Kroger and negotiated two $5 thick crusted pizzas from Little Caesar’s (of which I am very proud) before heading to the home of Mr. X to watch the National championship game.

En route, JTH informed me that his truck was not operating smoothly after eating with us at Gondolier on Thursday (4/3). After getting the automboile inspected he learned that while dining, someone attempted to steal his truck’s catalytic converter. Evidently this can be done by using a hacksaw to cut the tail pipe and removing the part. The item sells for over $100. Trucks and SUVs are especially susceptible to this scam as they are higher off of the ground. Maybe that is why our service was so slow as the workers were in cahoots. This may seem harsh but remember this is the same restaurant that I had my identity stolen at because servers were giving away credit card information. Maybe that’s why no one eats there anymore. So, warning never eat at the Gondolier at 138 West End Avenue in Farragut!

We then arrived at the home of Mr. X to watch the national championship game pitting the Memphis Tigers (the #2 overall seed) against the Kansas Jayhawks (#4). The game went exactly as we would have wanted. We hoped for one of two scenarios to occur. If Memphis won the game, then Tennessee would have administered their only loss of the season (February 23rd) and the Vols would have beaten the national champions head-to-head for the third consecutive year.

If Memphis lost, we were hoping it would be their ineptitude from the foul stripe as obnoxious coach John Calipari has downplayed its importance all year, especially after a narrow defeat of Mississippi State in the tournament’s second round. ("What, me worry?") We received the latter. Memphis missed four of its last five free throws in regulation, which allowed Kansas to advance the game into overtime. Kansas hit its last 14 attempts from the charity stripe to clinch a national championship. Memphis’ free throw shooting cost them their first national championship.

Still, the highlight of my day came in the form of a phone call. Shortly after JTH’s basketball game, KLTW called me from the parking lot of a grocery store. As they were leaving, KJW noticed they had parked adjacent to a Yellow Xterra. When she saw the SUV, she said, “Chan’s car.” Then the Xterra left as she watched and she pleaded, “Chan!” While I hate that the child felt slighted, it felt good to be acknowledged.

Monday, April 7, 2008

Prayer Blog - 4/7/2008

CPW was diagnosed with cancer today. Initial treatments will consist of a lumpectomy and radiation. Her husband died from cancer far too young in 2000.

Fortunately, a tumor found on her son-in-law ACH's ear has been determined to be benign. He will be undergoing a full body examination as a precautionary measure.

Please keep this great Christian family in your prayers.

Separated at Birth?

While watching the Tennessee-LSU basketball game, Mr. X noted that LSU star center Sylvia Fowles greatly resembles the title character from the 2002 movie Juwanna Mann (Miguel A. Núñez Jr.). The premise of the film is that a basketball star is banned from the NBA when his on-court antics go too far, so he poses as a woman and joins the NBA's women's counterpart, the WUBA. Ouch!

I feel the need to insert some disclaimer here, so I will note that Mr. X's comments do not necessarily reflect mine as (thankfully)I have never seen the film.