Saturday, April 19, 2008

A Veiled Tell: Nil Soli - 4/19/2008

Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events (2004)

On Wednesday night, the RAW family and I watched Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events. The film was released in time for Christmas 2004 though I had not yet seen it.

Lemony Snicket (the unseen Jude Law) narrates the movements of three orphans after their parents are killed in a fire. Violet, Klaus and infant Sunny Baudelaire are all exceptionally intelligent children and each possesses a unique gift. They are an inventor, reader, and biter respectively. The three combine to form a collective “MacGyver.” Though Sunny does not actually speak, she is given many of the punch lines as her noises are translated via subtitle.

The trio is pitted against their first guardian, the evil thespian Count Olaf (Jim Carrey). He pursues the children in hopes of acquiring their vast inheritance. Though Carey dominated the film’s publicity, he does not overtake the film. Count Olaf fits Carey’s resume of outlandish characters. He plays Olaf as humorous and not dark and some of his lines (presumably ad-libbed) do not fit the film. ("I'll give him the old wax-on, wax-off.") Co-producer John Malkovich might have been better for the part.

Olaf’s acting troupe has many recognizable faces including Jennifer Coolidge (aka “Stifler's Mom”), Luis Guzm├ín, and late night personality Craig Ferguson.

The film is dark and almost instantly the viewer is subjected to the news of the first in a series of unfortunate events. The film presents Charles Dickens’ style quirky characters on a Tim Burton landscape. It is not surprising that Burton was once attached to direct this film. Under Burton’s direction, Johnny Depp was to play Count Olaf and Glenn Close was cast as Aunt Josephine. When Burton left the project, Johnny Depp bolted as well. Replacement director Brad Silberling replaced Close with Meryl Streep, feeling she better fir the role.

The film’s sets and costumes draw from a wide range of periods, giving it a timeless, fairy tale feel. It especially utilizes the vastly different Edwardian period and the 1950's. For the record, according to a letter the children receive at the end of the film, the Baudelaire Mansion, is located at 23 Prospero Place, Boston, Massachusetts.

The film is an adaptation of the 13-book series by Daniel Handler. The viewer need not be familiar with the books to appreciate the movie. Only eleven books had been completed at the time of the film’s release.

The movie condenses the first three books -"The Bad Beginning," "The Reptile Room," and "The Wide Window" - into one unit by sandwiching books two and three between the first novel. This gives the film a choppy episodic feel. The film also has countless allusions to other books in the series. The abridgement was necessary as the books are simply not long enough to merit a feature length film. Even so, this treatment has alienated some of the books’ loyal fan base.

The film has several positive themes such as the benefits of teamwork and the refusal to give up regardless of how dire the circumstances. Despite having children as the lead actors, this film is too dark for the small children, but is acceptable for most anyone else. There is almost no profanity and no sex.

On the negative, the payoff is weak and the plot is full of full of holes. Still, if you enjoy macabre fairy tales, there is a good chance you will like this film.

Current IMDB rating: 6.9/10. Chanalysis: 6/10.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Associated Baptist Press - 4/18/2008

Associated Baptist Press
April 18, 2008 (8-41)

Pope, in first visit to United States, praises freedom, dings secularism
Texas church, mired in controversy over gays in directory, loses pastor
ABP honors Texas convention, announces $100,000 challenge
Supreme Court decision means executions move forward
Opinion: Democrats and the abortion issue

Pope, in first visit to United States, praises freedom, dings secularism
By Robert Marus

WASHINGTON (ABP) -- In his first visit to the United States since ascending to the Throne of St. Peter, Pope Benedict XVI hailed America’s religious freedom and pluralism while simultaneously denouncing secularism’s influence.

The pontiff’s tour of the United States began officially April 16 with a sun-drenched ceremony on the South Lawn of the White House. With pomp normally reserved for heads of state, President Bush welcomed Benedict in front of more than 13,000 cheering guests.

“Here in America, you’ll find a nation that welcomes the role of faith in the public square,” Bush said to the beaming pontiff, who was also celebrating his 81st birthday. “When our founders declared our nation's independence, they rested their case on an appeal to ‘the laws of nature, and of nature’s God.’ We believe in religious liberty. We also believe that a love for freedom and a common moral law are written into every human heart, and that these constitute the firm foundation on which any successful free society must be built.”

Benedict responded with similar praise for America’s simultaneous religiosity and religious liberty.

“I come as a friend, a preacher of the gospel, and one with great respect for this vast pluralistic society,” the former German cardinal said, in Bavarian-accented English. “From the dawn of the republic, America's quest for freedom has been guided by the conviction that the principles governing political and social life are intimately linked to a moral order based on the dominion of God the Creator. The framers of this nation's founding documents drew upon this conviction when they proclaimed the self-evident truth that ‘all men are created equal’ and endowed with inalienable rights grounded in the ‘laws of nature, and of nature’s God.’”

Bush, in a nod to agreement between the two over such controversial issues as abortion rights, quoted words from the pope’s writings. “In a world where some treat life as something to be debased and discarded, we need your message that all human life is sacred, and that ‘each of us is willed, each of us is loved,’” Bush said, to applause from the invited audience, mainly comprised of Catholics.

But Benedict also alluded to differences with Bush on issues such as the Iraq war and the use of torture on terrorism suspects.

“America has traditionally shown herself generous in meeting immediate human needs, fostering development and offering relief to the victims of natural catastrophes. I am confident that this concern for the greater human family will continue to find expression in support for the patient efforts of international diplomacy to resolve conflicts and promote progress,” he said.

“In this way, coming generations will be able to live in a world where truth, freedom and justice can flourish -- a world where the God-given dignity and the rights of every man, woman and child are cherished, protected and effectively advanced.”

But the pontiff alluded to challenges faced by the United States -- and the Roman Catholic Church -- in a later speech to U.S. Catholic bishops as well as at an April 17 outdoor mass in Washington.

Benedict told an estimated 46,000 at the new Washington Nationals baseball stadium that the United States is at “a crossroads” that holds “great promise.” But he warned that, “at the same time, we see clear signs of a disturbing breakdown” in society’s foundations. He cautioned the cheering throngs against an “increasingly secular and materialistic culture” enveloping the nation’s youth.

On April 16, protesters scattered along Benedict’s motorcade route throughout Washington underlined the challenges he faces in leading the nation’s approximately 70 million Catholics. As the pope’s fans cheered during the White House ceremony, groups just across the street in Lafayette Park protested the Catholic hierarchy’s handling of the ongoing child-sexual-abuse scandal. They held up signs with slogans like: “Celibacy has failed!”

Elsewhere along the parade route from the White House to the Vatican Embassy and, later, to the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception, other groups of Catholics protested Vatican policies on an exclusively male priesthood and homosexuality.

Many progressive and liberal Catholics fear that Benedict will take the church in a retrograde direction. Prior to his elevation to the papacy, he was known as Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger and headed the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. He earned a reputation as a strict enforcer of theological and social orthodoxy, often reining in bishops and theologians who questioned official church teachings on a wide range of issues.

Benedict’s U.S. visit was his first since he succeeded the late John Paul II in 2005. His other scheduled activities included speaking to heads of Catholic colleges and universities in Washington April 17, an address to the United Nations and an ecumenical prayer service with other Christian clergy in New York April 18, and presiding over another outdoor mass at Yankee Stadium April 20.


Texas church, mired in controversy over gays in directory, loses pastor
By ABP staff

FORT WORTH, Texas (ABP) – Brett Younger, pastor of Broadway Baptist Church in Fort Worth, Texas, survived a vote to fire him last month but is leaving the church anyway – to become associate professor of preaching at Mercer University’s McAfee School of Theology in Atlanta.

The prominent Texas Baptist congregation has been embroiled for months in a public controversy over homosexuality and other issues.

The congregation approved a compromise Feb. 24 intended to end controversy over whether gay couples in the church should be pictured alongside other families in a new church directory. Some members objected to having those photos included, saying that would move from simply welcoming gay couples -- which Broadway has done quietly for years -- to actively affirming their homosexuality.

Although the membership approved the compromise – which eliminated family and individual photos – the controversy ballooned into a dispute over Younger’s overall leadership. A group of disgruntled Broadway members later submitted a petition to force a vote declaring the church’s pulpit vacant. Younger asked church leaders to schedule the vote, and members voted 499-237 against firing their pastor of nearly seven years.

The two-thirds favorable vote was not enough to quell the controversy, however. A significant number of members left the church and contributions are dangerously low, members reported.

McAfee announced Younger’s appointment April 17, effective July 1. He holds master’s and doctoral degrees from Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and has been an instructor or visiting professor at Southern Seminary, Midwestern Baptist Seminary, Manhattan Christian College, and McAfee. He has been a pastor in Texas, Kentucky, Indiana and Kansas.

“I am honored by the invitation to join the McAfee School of Theology and I’m delighted to join such an outstanding faculty,” Younger said in a news release. “I feel like the Spirit is leading me to this new ministry.

“I’m also sad at leaving Broadway, the church has taught me so much about following Christ, and it is one of my hopes in this new ministry I can teach young people to lead their congregations to be as faithful as Broadway has been.”

Broadway, founded in 1882, is one of the most prominent churches in the Dallas-Fort Worth area and in moderate Baptist life nationally. Prior to the 1980s, many students, professors and administrators at nearby Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary were active Broadway members. Among its previous pastors is Cecil Sherman, the founding coordinator of the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship. CBF’s current moderator, Harriet Harral, is a longtime Broadway member.


ABP honors Texas convention,announces $100,000 challenge
By Robert Marus

SAN ANTONIO (ABP) -- Directors of Associated Baptist Press honored the Baptist General Convention of Texas and announced a $100,000 matching-funds challenge from a Texas Baptist family during their semi-annual meeting, held April 14-15 in San Antonio.

“Every year, since almost the beginning, the Baptist General Convention of Texas has been an important part of ABP,” said Executive Editor Greg Warner at an April 14 banquet honoring the BGCT with the ABP Founders Award. The state convention has long been one of the major financial supporters of the independent Baptist news service.

In accepting the award, BGCT president Joy Fenner said the convention supports ABP as part of its wider mission of promoting religious freedom.

“Texas Baptists support ABP because we believe in the freedom of the press,” she said. “But freedom of the press is just one piece of the bigger picture of religious liberty…. [I]n a day when truth is handled so carelessly … it has reminded me that freedom does not give license to do anything or nothing. Instead, for the Christ-follower, it calls us to a standard far different than any court or convention could place upon us.”

Longtime Baptist leader Hardy Clemons, who currently serves as interim executive pastor at Trinity Baptist Church in San Antonio, said in a keynote address that such religious freedom is one of the reasons he’s still thankful and hopeful to be a Baptist.

“Baptists have stood for freedom; we have stood for liberty and justice for all. And sometimes we’ve talked the game a whole lot more than we’ve played the game,” he said. “But sometimes we’ve quit even talking the game of how important it is that religious freedom is one of the deepest values in biblical literature; it is one of the deepest values in the history of the Christian church.

“I’ve got a lot of hope for ABP and its mission …. It’s been a tough time to be Baptist, but it’s been a good time to be Baptist. And God is counting on us and our grandchildren’s children are counting on us to be people of freedom and people of integrity.”

Clemons has been prominent in moderate Baptist life and served lengthy pastorates at churches in Texas and South Carolina prior to retiring in 2005. His wife, Ardelle, was a longtime campus minister and a member of ABP’s founding board of directors when the service was established in 1990. They were surprised with an announcement at the banquet that longtime friends had named an ABP fund in their honor.

ABP board member Jimmy Nickell announced the establishment of the Hardy and Ardelle Clemons Endowment. Nickell and his wife, Kaye, have been friends of the Clemonses for decades and donated the seed money for the endowment. He and Warner said the goal for the fund is to attract other donations in the Clemonses’ honor, eventually growing large enough to endow an ABP staff position.

In addition, Warner announced a $100,000 matching-funds challenge from the Eula Mae and John Baugh Foundation. The foundation, which manages funds from a Texas family prominent in moderate Baptist philanthropy, has promised to match all individual donations to the news service, up to $100,000, until the end of 2008.

“No family in Baptist life is more committed to preserving Baptist freedoms than the Baugh family,” Warner said in a statement. “Now that family is challenging other Baptists to increase their commitment to freedom of the press, and we couldn’t be happier about that.”

John and Eula Mae Baugh’s granddaughter, Jackie Moore of San Antonio, serves as an ABP director and on the Baugh Foundation board.

The board also heard reports of a record year in ABP news production and the ongoing implementation of a strategic partnership with three other Baptist news organizations.

ABP produced 689 news stories in 2007 -- the most in the agency’s 17-year history, Warner noted in his report to the directors. He also highlighted the continuing implementation of a multimedia partnership, dubbed New Voice Media, with three historic statewide Baptist newspapers -- the Texas Baptist Standard, the Missouri Word & Way, and the Virginia Religious Herald. The agencies are already cooperating in the production of themed biweekly news-and-feature packages, and they plan to launch a joint New Voice Media website later this year.

In personnel actions, directors authorized the staff to move forward with replacing former assistant editor Hannah Elliott, who resigned in March to take a position with the Forbes news organization. They also approved a six-month contract extension with fundraising consultant Todd Heifner to direct ABP’s development work.

In other actions, the board gave final approval to a 2008 budget of $598,515, an increase over the previous year’s budget of $530,300. They also elected Virginia’s Jim White as a member of the board. White is editor of the Religious Herald and is appointed to the ABP board after nomination by the Baptist General Association of Virginia.

The directors’ next meeting is scheduled for Oct. 2-4 in Providence, R.I. It will coincide with an ABP-sponsored heritage tour of New England sites important in Baptist and American history, such as the First Baptist Church in America, founded by Roger Williams in Providence.


Supreme Court decision means executions move forward
By Robert Marus

WASHINGTON (ABP) -- The Supreme Court effectively enabled states to move forward with executions March 16, declaring constitutional a kind of lethal injection used in almost all of the nation’s 30-plus death chambers.

In its Baze v. Rees (No. 07-5439) decision, the court said a three-drug procedure that Kentucky uses to execute prisoners does not pose enough of a risk of unintentional pain or suffering to declare it a violation of the Constitution’s ban on “cruel and unusual punishments.”

In the widely splintered decision, the nine justices produced seven different opinions between them. While the court voted 7-2 to uphold Kentucky’s procedure, a plurality of only three justices fully supported the court’s official opinion.

“Simply because an execution method may result in pain, either by accident or as an inescapable consequence of death, does not establish the sort of 'objectively intolerable risk of harm' that qualifies as cruel and unusual” punishment, wrote Chief Justice John Roberts in the plurality opinion. It was joined in full only by Justice Samuel Alito and Justice Anthony Kennedy.

Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg and David Souter voted in the minority, saying they could not be certain that Kentucky had taken all necessary steps to prevent the unnecessary infliction of pain and suffering. “[I]f readily available measures can materially increase the likelihood that the protocol will cause no pain, a state fails to adhere to contemporary standards of decency if it declines to employ those measures,” Ginsburg wrote in a dissenting opinion joined by Souter.

Kentucky’s procedure -- a form of which is used by virtually every state that enforces the death penalty -- first involves a general anesthetic. Then a second drug paralyzes the prisoner to prevent convulsions. The final drug induces a heart attack. Two inmates from the state’s death row sued, contending the method poses a risk that the condemned will suffer, consciously and silently, after being injected with a drug that paralyzes them.

The plaintiffs were Ralph Baze, who was convicted of murdering two police officers who tried to serve warrants on him, and Thomas Bowling, who shot a young couple to death and injured their 2-year-old son in a traffic dispute.

Kentucky law bans the three-drug procedure for euthanizing animals, favoring a single dose of barbiturates that anesthetizes and induces death simultaneously. A group of veterinarians joined the inmates’ side in the case, arguing that what is considered inhumane for animals should not be used on humans.

But Roberts, Alito and Kennedy noted that there was no evidence in the Kentucky case that such an alternative would be better. And, the plurality said, a condemned inmate must show that any alternative is “feasible, readily implemented and in fact significantly reduces a substantial risk of severe pain.”

Justice John Paul Stevens , who voted to support the court’s judgment but not its reasoning, wrote a separate opinion declaring that, while respect for court precedent required him to uphold the Kentucky law, his three decades on the court had led him to conclude that capital punishment is itself unconstitutional.

“[C]urrent decisions by state legislatures, by the Congress of the United States, and by this court to retain the death penalty as a part of our law are the product of habit and inattention rather than an acceptable deliberative process that weighs the costs and risks of administering that penalty against its identifiable benefits, and rest in part on a faulty assumption about the retributive force of the death penalty,” wrote Stevens , the court’s longest-serving member.

He continued, “The time for a dispassionate, impartial comparison of the enormous costs that death-penalty litigation imposes on society with the benefits that it produces has surely arrived.”

Stevens co-authored the 1976 Supreme Court decision that allowed states to reinstitute capital punishment.


Opinion: Democrats and the abortion issue
By David Gushee

At a policy level, I was generally pleased with the answers of the candidates to the policy questions they were asked. They expressed commitment to domestic-poverty reduction, creation care, the abolition of torture, and efforts to combat AIDS. The fact that they were asked such questions in the context of a discussion of faith and values was itself important. It shows that the moral-values agenda is broadening and that faith motivates passionate concern for human suffering wherever it occurs. The Christian Right no longer has a monopoly on moral-values issues, and it is not only Republicans who can discuss their faith in the public arena.

I have argued in my book on faith and politics that the great majority of evangelicals (including the “evangelical center”) care deeply about abortion and that the default Democratic stance on abortion remains the key obstacle for many evangelicals in pulling the Democratic lever on election day. In reflecting on the answers that Senators Clinton and Obama offered on abortion, I am even more convinced that this is the case. Of the two, Senator Clinton did better on this issue. But neither candidate sent the kind of signals on the abortion issue that demonstrate to me that they really get how important this issue is at the level of principle for evangelical Christians.

Both Clinton and Obama were asked directly whether life begins at conception. Clinton said that the potential for life begins at conception, and Obama said that he had not resolved the issue of when life begins, while then moving on to speak in terms of “potential life.”

The problem with “potential life” language is that no one who wants a child and then discovers they have conceived one describes the entity as a potential life. “Honey, guess what, the doctor tells me I have a potential life growing inside me!” The “entity” is a baby in its very first stages unless we do not want it; then we seek euphemisms like “potential life.” Whenever we see euphemisms in use we can know that something morally dubious is going on. Torture is not “torture,” it is “enhanced interrogation.” Genocide is not “murder” it is “special treatment” or “ethnic cleansing.” And a developing human being in its first stages is not a “baby” but a “potential life.”

American law as it currently stands is based on a painfully transparent euphemizing of the status of unwanted developing human life. Perhaps Democratic candidates cannot say this. Perhaps they do not believe this. But they could say this:

“I recognize that many millions of Americans believe that a pregnant woman is carrying not just a potential life but an actual human being in its earliest stages of development. Many millions of other Americans do not believe this. But we live together in one national community, and we must respect the heartfelt convictions of one another, especially on matters of such gravity. And even those who believe that we are dealing with ‘potential life’ must acknowledge the great tragedy of abortion for everyone involved, and the great failure represented by a nation in which one out of five pregnancies ends in abortion. This makes it even more important that we craft public policies that reduce the number of abortions as much as we can.”

Here the now standard Democratic line about the various ways in which abortion can be reduced would have more resonance and integrity: abstinence-based sex education, age-appropriate and parentally controlled education about contraception, improved prenatal care, enhanced adoption services, greatly improved foster care, and every other ground-level effort required to protect the life of both the pregnant woman and the child she is carrying. The Democratic candidate could say:

“In light of the great social tensions created over the past 35 years by our unresolved national conflict over abortion, if elected I promise to initiate a comprehensive national effort to reduce the rate of abortions by 50 percent over the next four years—even if there is no change in the basic structure of the law created by the Roe v. Wade decision. Because abortion is at best a necessary evil, everyone benefits if we can reduce the need for it. Everybody ought to be able to get behind this effort to reduce abortion. Imagine fewer unwanted pregnancies; but then imagine also the pregnant teenager getting the support and counseling and health care she needs, the impoverished couple receiving the services they need to care for mother and child, the childless couple experiencing the joy of adoption, and of course the child herself or himself getting a chance to live out his or her life in a safe and loving family environment. Imagine a society no longer divided over the issue of abortion. I promise X billion dollars over the next four years to achieve this goal, and I declare abortion reduction one of my most important domestic priorities.”

Notice that no Republican or Democratic candidate has ever made an effort like this on abortion. Thirty-five years of pro-life efforts to overturn Roe v. Wade have never yielded gains like those promised by such an initiative. The presidential candidate who takes this path will not only improve the national conversation about abortion, make our country a better place, and save the lives of thousands of developing human beings, he or she might just win both the Catholic and the evangelical vote and therefore the election. If a moral argument won’t persuade, maybe an electoral one will?


-- David Gushee is distinguished university professor of Christian ethics at Mercer University. His latest book, The Future of Faith in American Politics: The Public Witness of the Evangelical Center, debuts Feb. 15.

Prayer Blog - 4/18/2008, #2

I learned that my old friend SDH filed for divorce recently. Unfortunately, I learned this from reading the newspaper. Please pray for her and the family during this time.

Here is the press release I read from Sports Illustrated:

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) -- The wife of Tennessee Titans All-Pro defensive tackle Albert Haynesworth has filed for divorce.

According to court documents filed Monday in Williamson County Chancery Court, Stephanie Haynesworth alleges irreconcilable differences and inappropriate marital conduct as the reason for the divorce.

She is asking for alimony and custody of the couple's two children plus Albert's oldest son, who she says she has cared for since 2004. The couple was married in October 2003.

"This is a really difficult time for our family, we hope that you will respect our privacy as we work through this difficult time and keep us in your prayers," Haynesworth said Tuesday in an e-mail through his agent, Chad Speck.

Prayer Blog - 4/18/2008

I received a text at 9:18 am informing me that my baby cousin HANW suffered a miscarriage. Evidently the baby ceased growing a week ago. Please keep my entire family in your prayers at this difficult time.

Bible Trivia - 4/18/2008

Question: What archaeological find, kept in the British Museum, depicts the exploits of Jehu?

Answer: The Blask Obelisk.

Comments: The significance of the Black Obelisk is that it features the earliest surviving picture of an Israelite - Jehu. The markings on the artifact describes how Jehu brought or sent his tribute to Shalmaneser III (reigned 858-824 BC) in or around 841 BCE. Jehu's 28-year reign as king of Israel is found in II Kings 9-10.

The archaeologist Sir Austen Henry Layard (1817-1894) discovered the black limestone obelisk in 1846 during his excavations of the site of Kalhu, the ancient Assyrian capital, in what is now northern Iraq.

Word of the Day - 4/18/2008


Axilla is the anatomical name for the armpit.

To more comfortably retrieve Jeremiah from a cistern, Ebed-melech providing the prophet with rags and worn-out clothes to cushion his axillae.

Then Ebed-melech the Ethiopian said to Jeremiah, "Now put these worn-out clothes and rags under your armpits under the ropes"; and Jeremiah did so. (Jeremiah 38:12, NASB

In Eckleburg's Eyes - 4/18/2008

I had yet another birthday celebration on Thursday. (I am not complaining.) SMA took me out to eat in his one day in town. He was heading to Nashville the following day to see The New Pornographers in concert at Mercy Lounge and Vanderbilt University's Rites of Spring music festival. While he will be seeing some great independent artists such as Feist and Spoon, I am most pleased that he will witness rapper Lil John live and in concert. Yes, SMA, the music afficionado, is seeing a man who has an album titled “Crunk Juice” and whose vocabulary may or may not reach double figures.

SMA gave me a “Colin Meloy Sings Sam Cooke” EP for my birthday. Meloy is the lead singer of one of my favorite bands, The Decemberists. This is the third in a series of cover EPs, following Meloy's renditions of Morrissey and Shirley Collins songs. The CD can only be obtained in concert. Last Thursday, he learned Meloy would be in Ashville the following day and went on a whim to the show. I wish the event had been a week earlier or later so that I could have gone with him.

We went to the Disc Exchange prior to eating. Saturday is National Record Store Day. Check your local record store as there will be special offers at most locations all day on Saturday. The Disc Exchange will feature live music from several artists as well as a showing of Juno.

We then went to Long’s Drug Store where we were joined by WRK. The last time I ate with them, we sat next to Built to Spill lead singer Doug Martsch. This time Tennessee basketball coach Bruce Pearl sat at the table next to ours with his son Matthew. We decided not to disturb his meal as virtually every other patron did. This took great restraint as I really wanted the inside scoop on whether Tyler Smith would be returning to school.

The meal was great. I ate a bacon and egg sandwich and a grilled cheese with tomato. I never knew one could put something on grilled cheese. The only negative was that slow service forced WRK to miss her history class. Fortunately SMA and I explained the Cold War to her over lunch. We covered most of the landmark Balboa-Drago battle and even volunteered to reenact Rocky IV as she had not seen it. She declined our generous offer.

On Thursday night, I went to watch JTH play in the semifinals of the slow break basketball league. His team was shorthanded as two of the members were at a rehearsal for Farragut High School’s production of “Beauty and the Beast” Even so, they led throughout, extending a 29-22 half-time lead to a 55-31 victory over the #1 seed in the tournament. JTH hit four 3-point buckets, uttering that he had misfired as he released the shots. The championship game will be played next Thursday night.

I sat with AMTT and AS. AMTT enlisted me to paint children’s faces at a function for Harmony Adoption Services next weekend. No, I have absolutely no experience painting faces or any known artistic ability. You would think all of those years as a pro wrestling fan would have led to some experimentation, but no. I figure I am better than the alternative - no one.

After the game, I went to RAW’s and watched yet another episode of SpongeBob SquarePants before heading to dinner. KJW spent the day playing at the YMCA while her daddy exercised. She did well with the other children, though when some got too close she admonished them - "No, Baby!" Since she was exhausted, she did not mind me using her as a pillow while she watched her program.

We decided to eat at Estelita's Mexican Restaurant (located at 120 West End Avenue). Though we had never been, we learned that the business has been open for five months. We quickly recognized many of the employees from our former favorite Mexican restaurant, the now defunct Monterrey.

This Mexican is much more upscale than Monterrey, but without excessively high prices. The food was very good and the service was better. We will be back.

In closing I want to acknowledge the April 17 birthdays of one of my all-time favorite professors PRJ and my high school friend JTP.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

A Veiled Tell: Nil Soli - 4/17/2008

Lars and the Real Girl (2007)

Upon the strong recommendation of MLM, I watched Lars and the Real Girl on Wednesday morning. The independent film was nominated for an Oscar for Best Original Screnplay. Even so, there is no way to describe its plot without sounding ridiculous despite the fact that the film is anything but.

27-year old Lars Lindstrom (played by Ryan Gosling) is a socially dysfunctional young man living in a small mid-western town. He lives in the remodeled garage next to his brother Gus (Paul Schneider) and pregnant, concerned sister-in-law, Karin (Emily Mortimer). Lars purchases a sex doll online and begins treating her as though she were his girlfriend. He introduces "Bianca" to his tightly-knit community and she is met with an unexpectedly heartwarming response. Bianca touches each member of the community differently.

Writer Nancy Oliver (TV’s “Six Feet Under”) got the idea while surfing the web and stumbling upon a web site offering lifelike dolls.

Ryan Gosling is brilliant, having the unenviable task of playing against the doll. To help him stay in character, the doll was treated like an actual person on set, as is done by the characters in the movie. She was dressed privately in her own trailer and was only present for scenes that she was in.

The film provides a unique look at mental illness. It has a highly positive view of human nature, depicting the community as genuinely wanting to help their neighbor. While this may be deemed unrealistic, the setting challenges the viewer to assess the possibilities for the mentally ill if they were in an idyllic environment.

I was especially interested in the church’s response in the film. When Lars’ minister, Reverend Bock (R.D. Reid), is confronted with the prospect of having the doll as a parishioner, he challenges his congregants to do what Jesus would do and be accepting. I think he chose wisely. Would I do the same?

Despite the risque premise of the film, there is no crude content. The movie has a powerful message about a community’s ability to nurture the socially challenged individual by treating her compassionately.

While the movie has a strong message and is undoubtedly unique, it is also very slow. Though classified as a comedy, and there are certainly some funny lines (“She loves kids!”), this is a drama. If you are in the frame of mind to watch a thought provoking drama, this film is terrific.

Current IMDB rating: 7.8/10. Chanalysis: 7/10.

Bible Trivia - 4/17/2008

Question: Against which city does Nahum mostly prophesy?

Answer: Nineveh.

Comments: Nahum, like Jonah before him, was a Minor Prophet who dealt with Nineveh. Nahum's text is far more harsh than that of Jonah.

Word of the Day - 4/17/2008


A pogrom is an organized massacre, especially of Jews. In fact, the word had Yiddish roots.

The Gospel According to Matthew is the only canonical gospel which mentions Herod’s pogrom of the Bethlehem babies. He had all male babies two years of age or under murdered in hopes of eliminating a potential rival to his throne. (Matthew 2:16-18)

In Eckleburg's Eyes - 4/17/2008

My week-long birthday celebration continued on Wednesday night as KLTW organized a social at her home. The night began with RAW and I supervising KJW as she wrote on the pavement with chalk. Soon, at KJW’s request, RAW and I also participated in the activity.

RAW and KJW drew airplanes (she loves them) while I composed a piece that KJW described as “Heart and ABC’s.” She cannot differentiate between alphabet letters but she knows that they are letters. Here, you get a rare glimpse of my art. I was pleased that my work was good enough that even a child could distinguish the figures. Unfortunately, the masterpiece will be lost to history as the canvas is routinely cleaned by rain.

Another milestone in KJW’s life was reached before dinner. She ate her first Fla-Vor-Ice. She loved her grape treat. It was difficult to contain my emotions at the sight of this coming of age moment.

When we were summoned in for dinner, it sounded as though KJW cursed her uncle. Of course, she did not. Words that KJW says that sound like cuss words: Sit, flag, truck, vacuum (“Vac”), pizza (“piss off”), etc. Yes, I made a list.

The group then ate. KL (aka "Sunshine"), KLTW, MPW, RAW and I had chicken dumplings. KLTW cooked my favorite meal. KJW ate a substitute as having only two molars limits carnivorous activity. KLTW also had another of my favorites, pecan pie, for dessert. As usual her cooking was delicious.

After dinner, RAW and I watched SpongeBob SquarePants (again) with KJW as the rest of the crew searched online for a place to stay in Charleston. KLTW’s summer break begins on June 16 and the group is planning on renting a house in Folly Beach for a week. KJW’s birthday is June 17 so we are hoping to celebrate on the beach. If this does not work out, we are thinking of taking our families to Charleston in September. We will not be denied a Charleston vacation!

I gave KJW a toy baseball that flashes upon force. I am pleased to report that we now know that she does not have epilepsy.

Afterwards, we watched Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events. Though the movie was released in 2004, I had not seen it. My thoughts are posted under “A Veiled Tell: Nil Soli.”

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Associated Baptist Press - 4/16/2008

Associated Baptist Press
April 15, 2008 (8-40)

Texas Baptist board report recommends budget cuts
Churches often borrow from business world
Best church, business leaders have some similar qualities
Missouri convention to appeal ruling in suit against agency

Texas Baptist board report recommends budget cuts
By Ken Camp

DALLAS (ABP) -- According to a Baptist General Convention of Texas report, the group’s anticipated 2008 income falls $5.3 million short of budget, requiring cutbacks in spending and staffing for the second time in as many years.

The report calls on the Executive Board to provide greater financial oversight -- particularly regarding the convention’s use of investment assets, which have dropped about $27 million in seven years.

“The BGCT has come to this point because we sought to sustain and even expand our ministry during a time of financial challenge. The desire to promote kingdom work exceeded the level of financial resources available at a prudent level,” said the report, compiled by board members Fred Roach and Elizabeth Hanna. “In the newly reorganized board, it became evident that the process review and oversight of the budget and financial condition of the convention was inadequate.”

The 2008 budget anticipated “higher levels of income than can reasonably be expected,” the report said.

In response to the anticipated budget shortfall, six convention positions have been eliminated in a cost-cutting measure. BGCT leaders also expect additional staff cuts in response to the report. However, they do not promise to be comparable to a large round of layoffs in 2007.

Roach served as chair of the BGCT Executive Board’s ad hoc subcommittee for review of investment spending and is chair of its finance subcommittee. Hanna is chair of the board’s administration support committee.

The budget called for an approximately 8.5 percent increase in Texas Cooperative Program giving -- about $3.4 million. Through March 31, actual receipts are running at just below 95 percent of budget and at 94 percent compared to last year’s giving.

“On the investment side, the BGCT projected use of about $6.8 million, which is $1.9 million beyond the level recommended by the Baptist Foundation of Texas for 2008,” the report states.

In response to the anticipated shortfall, staff will cut spending to 90 percent of budget. Full details of the necessary cuts have yet to be determined, BGCT Executive Director Randel Everett said. The convention staff’s leadership council, is in the process of deciding which specific budget items to reduce.

The Baptist Building already has shut down its outbound calling effort effective March 31, according to Gus Reyes, director of the BGCT congregational relationships team. Six BGCT Service Center positions were cut. Of those six, one employee left the BGCT for another ministry, two employees were reassigned and three were transferred to fill vacant positions.

Some other positions will need to be eliminated in order to reach the 90 percent budget level, Everett said, but not on the scale of the 2007 layoffs.

“It is always difficult when any person loses his or her job, and the leadership council is committed to a minimum reduction of personnel while at the same time identifying and sustaining the priorities of the BGCT -- especially the programs that relate directly to the support of the churches,” he said.

The report by Roach and Hannah notes a combination of factors contributing to the anticipated shortfall -- decreased Cooperative Program giving, a general economic downturn and a decline in investment assets.

In part, the report attributes the drop in BGCT investment assets -- close to $27 million in seven years, despite overall market growth during much of that period -- to unusually high use of those funds.

“In the six years prior to 2006, the BGCT had expenditures that averaged 7.1 percent on its investment assets, while investment earnings for this period averaged 2.6 percent,” the report states. “In the past two years, the average rate of expenditures was 13.4 percent (15.5 percent in 2006 and 11.2 percent in 2007), while investment income for the two years averaged 11.8 percent.

“The change in investment assets from Jan. 1, 2001, to Dec. 31, 2007, which was $27 million, means that we will receive less income in the future on these decreased assets. If investment assets were still at the 2001 level and if the 12.5 percent rate of return experienced in the past five years continued into the future, then there would be $3.4 million more available every year for use in BGCT missions and ministries. In other words, such a drawdown of assets negatively impacts our future by millions of dollars per year.

“It should be noted that these expenditure levels were pursued with the best intent of sustaining important ministries to and on behalf of Texas Baptist churches. There was a genuine hope that [budget] giving would rebound in order to continue these efforts. That hope, however, has not been realized, at least not to the level that would be required.”

The report also notes that in 2007 the Texas Legislature adopted new regulations regarding the prudent management of institutional funds.

“In short, the new regulations recognize that organizations go through periods of economic upswing and downturn. They set forth that to expend more than 7 percent of investment assets in any given year would be imprudent. This should be the benchmark by which the BGCT operates in the future,” the report states.

The Baptist Foundation of Texas, which manages the majority of BGCT investment funds, has recommended a regular distribution of about 5 percent of assets per year, the report says. Taking both the state regulations and foundation guidelines into consideration, “the BGCT should generally be expending between 5 percent and 7 percent of its investment assets during any given year,” report concludes.

-- Ferrell Foster contributed to this story.


Churches often borrow from business world
By Ken Camp

(ABP) -- Churches can learn from the business -- for better or for worse.

Some best practices in the corporate world translate well to the nonprofit sector, including churches, experts insist. And at the same time, churches can benefit by looking at some lessons failed businesses learned the hard way.

Baptists with expertise in both business and congregational life note several areas where churches can discover lessons worth learning:

-- Core values and mission: “Start with a core set of values -- an irreducible minimum of non-negotiable basics,” said Chris Stull, executive pastor at First Baptist Church in McKinney, Texas. “For churches, those core values are always biblical, and they are always straight from the heart of God.”

Stull, who earned a master of business administration degree from the University of Oklahoma, believes the business world has “helped churches get their arms around” the importance of using core values to determine mission and strategy.

Mitchell Neubert, who holds the Chavanne Chair of Christian ethics in business at Baylor University’s Hankamer School of Business, agreed; for-profit businesses have learned the importance of understanding their mission clearly, and churches should embrace that principle.

“That’s a critical idea that goes to the matter of core identity,” he said. “From its mission, the business or church makes decisions about where it invests its resources.”

A growing number of churches -- particularly congregations that have adopted the purpose-driven model espoused by author Rick Warren -- recognize the importance of being able to state their mission clearly, he noted.

The process of defining values and developing a mission statement can be a learning experience for congregations. Phill Martin, deputy chief executive officer of the National Association of Church Business Administration, noted churches benefit from the dialogue surrounding the adoption of a shared vision and by asking missional questions.

“The hard part is deciding what are the things that we could do well as a congregation but that we shouldn’t do because they are not central to our mission,” he said. “Saying ‘yes’ to some things also means saying ‘no’ to other things. The mission can become derailed if the church tries to do everything and goes off in every direction.”

-- Goals: A growing number of congregations recognize the value in adopting a statement of mission or vision. But many struggle with taking the next step in the business model -- adopting measurable goals related to that mission, said Neubert, who has been part of Evangelical Free Church and Baptist General Conference congregations in the past and currently attends Highland Baptist Church in Waco, Texas.

Granted, some of a church’s goals -- particularly related to the spiritual growth of its members -- may be difficult or even inappropriate to quantify, but he insists the discussion generated by setting goals can be beneficial in itself.

Neubert recommends churches regularly engage in these kinds of discussions, paying particular attention to how the Holy Spirit seems to be leading in affirming what is important or essential.

“People find it easier to direct their attention toward goals. It’s a mechanism to motivate and to measure how far we’ve progressed,” Neubert said.

He suggested that churches and nonprofit organizations can develop quantifiable goals by adapting the balanced-scorecard approach -- a strategic-planning and management system developed by Robert Kaplan of Harvard Business School and consultant David Norton -- to their mission.

The balanced-scoreboard approach challenges business leaders to look at their organizations from four perspectives: learning and growth, internal processes, the customer’s viewpoint and financial health.

Neubert, who has consulted with nonprofits and worked five years as a ministry director with Campus Crusade for Christ, believes the system can be successfully adapted to a church or other religious nonprofit.

For example, spiritual vitality may be one component, measured at least in part by the number of people involved in programs at the church, in missions projects and in community ministries, he noted.

Churches also can learn from business how to develop effective strategies to meet their goals, Martin added.

A growing number of churches are mirroring a trend in business away from long-range plans to shorter “seasons of decisions,” he noted.

“You don’t see many businesses with a 20-year strategy that are not radically evaluating their strategy every two or three years,” he said. “It’s OK to have a dream of what you want to see over 10 years, but a two-year or three-year strategy for a church seems more realistic.”

-- Accountability and integrity: “One of the issues that’s at the forefront right now is transparency in accounting and governance,” Martin said.

Whether it’s corporate scandals like Enron, financial collapse like the subprime-mortgage crisis or governmental investigations, such as Iowa Sen. Charles Grassley’s probe of several televangelists’ ministries to see if they are complying with tax laws, the demand for accountability grows ever higher, Martin noted.

“Churches are learning there is a high level of expectation that churches will be honest with their supporters -- with their shareholders, to put it in business terms,” he said.

When it comes to financial management, churches should not shy away from the same kinds of discussions that happen regularly in business -- topics such as costs versus benefits and return on investment, Stull said.

“Long-term, a church should not presume upon tomorrow,” he said, particularly when it comes to taking on inordinate amounts of debt.

Bob Bass, a retired general contractor and layman at Bon Air Baptist Church in Richmond, Va., believes churches benefit from many of the same basic financial practices that guide successful businesses.

“One of the most basic is to keep costs and expenses within income,” said Bass, who has been involved with his local association of churches and the Baptist General Association of Virginia.

“Our churches need to be honest about income expectations,” he said, noting the danger of church leaders sometimes interpreting prudent financial practices as lack of faith.

When churches encounter financial difficulties, they need to “work both sides of the problem,” finding ways to increase income and reduce costs, he noted.

Considering another aspect of integrity, Bass counseled churches to avoid promising more than they can fulfill.

“I see businesses that create artificial expectations in their advertisements, trying to dupe people into doing things they shouldn’t do,” he noted. “Churches should be honest, faithful and not make unsubstantiated claims.”

-- Structure: Churches should follow the common business practice of developing written policies and procedures -- but without becoming slaves to them, said Dennis Lambert, administrator at First Baptist Church in Washington, D.C.

In previous careers, Lambert has served as chief of staff to members of Congress and has worked in city management. He believes organizational structure, clearly defined expectations and explicit policies and procedures provide a vital framework for churches. “Flexibility is a wonderful quality, but it’s only positive if you have organization in place. Otherwise, flexibility only leads to chaos,” he said.

-- Motivation: Churches can learn from business how to motivate workers, paid or volunteer, Neubert observed. Obviously, business holds an advantage over churches in one respect. For-profits can entice workers to work harder by offering more money, and they can fire workers who don’t meet expectations.

But, Neubert insists, external motivators -- tangible rewards and threat of punishment -- generally just generate short-term results.

“In business, we are finding some of the best long-term results come from intrinsic motivation,” he said. “That includes giving people a sense of ownership, the opportunity to be creative and the chance to do tasks they find more interesting, challenging and exciting.”

Of all places, he noted, churches should excel at offering intrinsic motivation -- giving people an opportunity to do meaningful work that fits their spiritual gifts and God-given talents.

“As Christians, we recognize God has gifted people for different types of ministry. The challenge for leaders is to figure out where people fit,” he said.

-- Key differences: For all that can be learned from business, Martin advises congregations to remember fundamental differences exist between the for-profit sector and churches.

“Business is about making money. It’s about producing products or providing services,” he said. “For churches, ministry is the bottom line.… Ultimately, you can’t measure a church by the sum total of its assets.”

Craig Harwood, a human-resources director with Coca-Cola, leadership consultant and former bivocational pastor in New York, stressed the importance of context.

Some of the biggest “train wrecks” in congregational life occur when well-meaning lay leaders try to “help” the church by imposing business practices that do not fit the character and context of a specific congregation, said Harwood, a member of Roswell Street Baptist Church in Marietta, Ga.

Even valid business principles may be rejected if they are not translated into terms acceptable to a congregation, he added.

“There can be a backlash against applying business language in churches,” he said. Some members may see discussion of marketing or performance evaluation as too secular or as compromise with the world.

“Every principle needs to pass through the filter of Scripture,” he advised.

Neubert agreed that not all business practices can -- or should -- be transplanted into church life.

For instance, although he believes in the importance of setting goals, he added churches should guard against viewing the achievement of goals as their ultimate measure of success.

“In God’s economy, faithfulness is more important than results,” he said.


Best church, business leaders have some similar qualities
By Ken Camp

(ABP) -- The same leadership skills that make many of the best business leaders successful also can enable church leaders to fulfill their potential, some Christian business experts note.

“In both worlds, … leaders go first. Leaders set the culture,” said Craig Howard, a human-resources executive with Coca-Cola and former bivocational pastor.

Whether in the corporate world or in congregational life, the facilitative leadership model brings out the best in other people, said Howard, a layman at Roswell Street Baptist Church in Marietta, Ga., who has worked as a leadership consultant with churches and associations of churches.

“Facilitative leaders establish strategic direction and then let go of control of the vision,” Howard said. “It takes team-building skills and the ability to articulate a vision.”

A facilitative leader must be “comfortable enough in his leadership skin that he can let go of control,” he said.

When church workers -- paid or volunteer -- fail to find a good “fit” and end up performing below expectations, Christian leaders have the responsibility to model a redemptive leadership style that seeks the best for all parties involved, said Mitchell Neubert, who holds the Chavanne Chair of Christian ethics in business at Baylor University’s Hankamer School of Business.

“Clarity grows from two-way discussions where both parties come to know what is expected,” he said.

“Grace allows for growth and learning, and it means seeing if, over time, the fit improves. But if it doesn’t, then through loving, constructive dialogue, the leader may come to the point of saying, ‘We both realize this is not a good fit, but we want to support you in trying to find a different position, either here or somewhere else.’”

Neubert believes true servant leaders possess great strength of character.

“It takes a stronger constitution to be a servant leader than it does to give people orders,” he said.

While some iron-fisted CEOs who followed the hierarchical top-down style of management certainly have succeeded, Neubert believes a growing number of business leaders are beginning to recognize the value in the servant-leadership model.

For example, in Good to Great, Jim Collins identifies what he calls a “level-5 leader” as crediting other people for their success and possessing enough self-confidence so they can focus on helping other people in the organization succeed, he noted.

“It’s not the charismatic leader who says, ‘I have a great vision; follow me.’ Rather, it’s the strong servant leader who says, ‘We have a great mission,’” Neubert said. “The servant leader focuses on developing others and demonstrates a concern for other people’s growth.”

The best church leaders operate within the sphere of grace, faith and a surrendered life that does not seek to grasp power, said Chris Stull, executive pastor at First Baptist Church in McKinney, Texas.

“If grace is one of our core values, then leaders will give people a second chance -- and maybe sometimes a third chance -- to succeed,” Stull said. “The leader’s role is to teach, guide and attempt to restore.”

Business should be able to look to the church for models of successful leadership, said Stull, who holds a master of business administration degree from the University of Oklahoma.

“The best leaders ought to be at church because we have the benefit of biblical principles and the Holy Spirit guiding us,” he said. “The church should offer the greatest models of leadership.”


Missouri convention to appeal ruling in suit against agency
By Vicki Brown

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (ABP) -- The Missouri Baptist Convention has filed notice that it will appeal a judge’s ruling in its case against a formerly affiliated institution.

In a related ruling, Cole County Circuit Court Judge Richard Callahan on April 14 granted a stay in MBC litigation against four other entities until the appeal is complete.

Convention attorneys filed a notice of appeal with the Cole County Circuit Court on April 9 to contest Judge Richard Callahan’s March 4 ruling that Windermere Baptist Conference Center acted legally when it changed its articles of incorporation.

The appeal is the latest round in legal action the MBC took against Windermere. The convention sued the center as well as the Baptist Home retirement-home system, Missouri Baptist University, the Word & Way newspaper and the Missouri Baptist Foundation in an effort to force the entities to rescind changes they had made in their corporate charters. The Baptist Home changed its articles of incorporation in 2000 to elect its own trustees. The other four took the same action in 2001. The convention filed suit on Aug. 13, 2002.

The March 4 ruling centered on two main aspects of the convention’s contention —corporate membership and a contractual relationship with Windermere. The judge ruled the MBC is not a member of Windermere’s corporation and that no contract exists between the two entities.

“We feel confident that Judge Callahan’s well-reasoned and legally sound judgment of March 4 will be affirmed by the Court of Appeals,” noted Windermere lead attorney Jim Shoemake.

The court will send the notice to the Missouri Court of Appeals for the Western District, based in Kansas City. The legal file for the case must be given to the appeals court within 30 days. MBC attorneys must file their brief 60 days later.

Windermere will have 30 days in which to respond to the MBC appeal, and the convention will have an additional 15 days to reply. Most likely, the case will not be heard until sometime this fall.

The MBC plans to ask the appellate court to offer a ruling rather than to return the case to the circuit court.

In 2005, appellate judges sent the case back to Cole County after the MBC appealed Cole County Circuit Judge Thomas Brown’s dismissal of the legal action against the university.

In that decision, Brown ruled the MBC Executive Board and six individuals who filed the original lawsuit against the agencies did not have the legal right to do so. The appeals court overturned that decision. standing and upheld Brown’s decision regarding the six churches.

MBC attorneys filed the motion to stay, or delay, proceedings, except two motions, against the other four pending the appeal outcome.

In the convention’s original motion to stay, attorneys requested Judge Callahan proceed with a motion each against the Foundation and The Home.

The MBC contends the Foundation changed the nature of its corporate status under Missouri statutes without convention approval. The two sides argued that motion on Nov. 20, 2007, but the judge did not rule.

At the April 14 hearing, convention attorneys dropped the request to continue with the two motions. Lawyers for all parties agreed to stay all proceedings pending a decision by the Missouri Court of Appeals for the Western District. The case likely will be heard in the fall.

“There is a benefit to seeing what the court has to say about Windermere…. It’s a way of getting issues narrowed without spending a lot of time and money,” Missouri Baptist Foundation attorney Laurence Tucker said.


Bible Trivia - 4/16/2008

Question: After whose death did the government of the Israelites come under the authority of the judges?

Answer: Joshua. (Judges 1-2)

Comments: The book of Joshua goes to great lengths to show that Joshua did as Moses did. One thing Joshua failed to replicate from his mentor was preparing a successor. After his death, the nation went into disarray.

Word of the Day - 4/16/2008


To augur is to divine or predict, as from omens; prognosticate.

Jesus augured his own suffering in an attempt prepare his disciples for what lay ahead.

From that time Jesus began to show His disciples that He must go to Jerusalem, and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised up on the third day. (Matthew 16:21, NASB)

In Eckleburg's Eyes - 4/16/2008

I spent Tuesday night with JTH and his family as his mother recovered from knee replacement surgery.

Our initial assignment was to secure supper for CEH (aka “Homer”) as he hates hospital food. (Who doesn’t?) We first tried one of Homer’s favorites - the Original Freezo since we were in north Knoxville. They were not open though as they open and close the establishment on a whim.

We then went nearby Aladdin’s Time-Out Market & Deli (1428 N. Central Avenue). Before getting our food, I knew it would be good due to my keen powers of observation. First, there was a sign promoting Tennessee Mountain Wrestling by the front door. Second, there was a grabbie machine in the store. I surmized that a dump like this must serve good food! I was correct. My ribeye steak sandwich was superb and Homer liked his hoagie as well.

We then went to St. Mary’s Hospital. It is the most poorly mapped out hospital in human history. I have long said that it would be a great venue for hide and go seek with the rules being the person hiding had to give the seeker her room number. It would still be difficult.

I was, however, very reassured as I walked in the building. There was a statue of Jesus on the outside of the building and immediately upon entering the doors, the visitor is met by a picture of Peyton Manning & a nun. (He did ads locally for the hospital from 1999-2002.) If Jesus and Peyton Manning cannot help you, no one can.

After a mild detour, we found KTH in Room T318. The room was huge, with not only a bed for her, but Homer as well. He threatened to move her from her bed to the visitor bed as hers had a better view of the televison!

After much coercion, Homer shared his secret for creating the most lubricious wood floors I have ever experienced - Pledge. Yes, he waxes his hardwood floors with furniture polish. Brilliant!

KTH was in great spirits and health. Her last knee replacement surgery was a nightmare as she struggled on OxyContin. After this surgery, she was alert and happy. The surgery she had dreaded for so long had been a relative breeze.

KTH had been well supported throughout the day. Two nuns had prayed with her at different times and minister TSC from our church visited. It sounded like the beginning of joke - two nuns and a Baptist minister enter a room...

While there, we learned that the hospital is on its last legs. An outside company bought both St. Mary's and Baptist Hospital of East Tennessee and merged them on January 1. Baptist will be demolished first when a new $600 million downtown facility is completed. When it is open, St. Mary's too will fall. This process is to take three to five years. The nurses lamented that they would reapply for their positions in what amounts to requesting a transfer. This process made sense to no one. So what does one get when mixing a Baptist and Catholic? Evidently, Mercy as that is the name of new facility.

JTH’s brother CEH and his wife SDSH arrived with food for Homer as well. CEH plans on becoming a chef and begins classes at the Culinary Institute at the University of Tennessee in August. The institute is a 10-month intensive certificate program offered by the Department of Retail, Hospitality and Tourism Management of the College of Education, Health and Human Sciences. It opened in November. The program will run for ten months with classes on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 6-10.

The program has good leadership. The founding director is John Antun, assistant professor of hotel, restaurant and tourism management. He founded a similar program at the University of South Carolina. Antun is a certified executive chef with a doctorate in higher education administration and has spent more than 40 years in the hospitality industry. He opened and operated four successful restaurants in the New York metropolitan area. He and other local chefs are the instructors. The brochure can be viwed here.

It was a great visit. When we realized Dancing with the Stars was coming on, that was our cue to leave. I could not watch two days in a row. For the record, Priscilla Presley was voted off.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Prayer Blog - 4/15/2008

KTH had knree replacement surgery this morning at St. Mary's Hospital in Knoxville. The surgery requires arduous rehabilitation. Pray for a speedy recovery.

Bible Trivia - 4/15/2008

Question: What were the respective classes of the two men who passed by the victim in Jesus’ parable of the Good Samaritan?

Answer: A priest and a Levite (Luke 10:31-32)

Comments: The great Peter Rhea Jones noted that though both the priest and Levite pass the victim, there are subtle differences in their reactions in the Greek. Jones poses that the Levite may have drawn neaer and looked more carefully than the priest. (Jones, Studying the Parables, p. 302).

And by chance a priest was going down on that road, and when he saw him, he passed by on the other side. Likewise a Levite also, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. (Luke 10:31-32, NASB)

Word of the Day - 4/15/2008


Pyrexia means "fever."

Jesus cured Simon Peter’s mother-in-law’s pyrexia. (Matthew 8:13-15, Mark 1:29-31, Luke 4:37-39) The Greek word for fever (puretos) is the root of the English pyrexia. Four of the six times the word is used in the New Testament are in versions of this story.

Feminists often note that it is typical that immediately after Simon’s mother-in-law is healed, she is put to work serving a group of perfectly healthy men.

In Eckleburg's Eyes - 4/15/2008

I had a great first day back in Knoxville with my birthday celebration continuing.

In lieu of action Bible Study, MLM, CMU, and I ate at Silver Spoon and went to a movie. I selected both the locale and the entertainment. The meal was great and MLM graciously piked up the tab. They even brought me gifts. MLM selected a copy pf Kristin Hahn’s In Seach of Grace while CMU bought me a Leatherman 64010103K Micra Multitool. I may start a pool on how long it will take me to injure myself with the tool. I really hope it is when it is out of my pocket...

We learned that our waiter BR was also the drummer in a local reggae band called Fat Penguin. In addition to their home page, they have a MySpace page here. Is “fat penguin” redundant?

We then went to the 1:15 showing of Juno at Carmike Movies 7. The $1 (er, $1.50) theater has seen better days. One poor young man was selling and taking tickets as well as being the only person working the concession stand. Yes, they only had one employee on duty.

I picked Juno. I love the movie. (I will not review it as I have seen it before.) I have actually seen it twice in the theater. If you know me, that says a lot. It debuts on DVD on 4/15 and I highly recommend it. MLM loved it as well and we both thought it had a very “pro life” message whether it intends or not. My favorite line from the film:

"Someone is going to receive a precious blessing from Jesus in this garbage dump of a situation...." - Bren MacGuff

We then returned to the church and ate cake. CMU had baked a chocolate sponge cake that complied with the South Beach Diet. CMU could not partake as he is on phase 1 and the cake is only for those to phase 3. MLM and I ate some. We did not want to appear rude...

On Monday night, the playoffs began in the Slow Break basketball league. JTH’s team came out hot, scoring the game’s first eleven points. Unfortunately, they did not score much the rest of the half, but went to the half with a 16-8 edge. The action picked up in the second half and JTH’s team held on to win 43-36. This (very blurry) photo is of BAP hitting clutch free throws. The team is now in the Final Four of the league and will play in the semifinals on Thursday. Admittedly, there are only six teams in the league.

After the game, we went to JTH’s parents’ home to see his mother. She had her second knee replacement surgery scheduled for the following day. (The first surgery was on the other knee). We were to eat her homemade pork chops, but JTH’s dad CEH (aka "Homer") ate all but one, so we picked up carry out from Papa John’s.

Homer also waxed the living room floor. If you know him, he is OCD. I think he used the same formula Clark Griswold did in Christmas Vacation as we could have slid anywhere in the house at 100 MPH if we really tried. I love Homer!

I must truly love KTH as I watched Dancing With the Stars with her. I have nothing against the show, it is just not my thing.

KTH and I commiserated over JTH’s recent decision to renew his relationship with CDM. I could not conceal my disdain. I really did not try too hard. For the record, I told JTH we were gossiping about him. By God, if I say something about someone, I say it to their face.

Afterwards, JTH and I stopped by Borders. We called it a night as KTH must be at the hospital by 5:30 am.

It was a great first day back.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Prayer Blog - 4/14/2008

While visiting the church today, I learned that KRSK, daughter of CBCB minister GWS, gave birth to her first child on Saturday! She was a high school friend. The boy is healthy despite arriving 2½ weeks early. This is a praise. Please, pray for the continued welfare of this child.

I am especially happy because the baby shares my birthday.

Bible Trivia - 4/14/2008

Question: What kind of ointment or perfume did Mary use to anoint Jesus?

Answer: Spikenard. (Mark 14:3)

Comments: Spikenard is the root of an Indian plant, the Nardostachys jatamansi, of the family of Valeriance. It grows in the Himalayas of China, India and Nepal. As such, it would have been imported and valuable in Jesus' day.

Nard oil is used as a perfume, an incense, a sedative, and an herbal medicine said to fight insomnia, birth difficulties, and other minor ailments.

It is called by the Arabs sunbul Hindi, "the Indian spike." In the New Testament this word is rendered nardos pistikos. The meaning of the unusual Greek adjective (pistikos), used only in Mark 14:2 and John 12:2, is unknown. Some have speculated the word implies genuiness (from pistis). Others claim the word testifies to its liquidity (from pinein). Some have claimed it comes from the Latin pistakie which would imply it was produced from the pistachhio tree. Others still have said that it is simply a trade name. The most probable opinion is that the word pistikos designates the nard as genuine or faithfully prepared. This interpretation accentuates the generosity of the gift. (John R. Donahue, Sacra Pagina: Mark, p. 386).

Word of the Day - 4/14/2008


Sacerdotal is an adjective meaning "of priests; priestly."

As Zacharias was performing his sacerdotal duties, an angel appeared to him. (Luke 1:8-9)

Note: This painting of "The Angel Gabriel Appearing to Zacharias" is by William Blake (1757–1827) and is presently on display at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

In Eckleburg's Eyes - 4/14/2008

My family and I had a terrific weekend in New York. Throughout the trip, we had virtually no traveling glitches, and most importantly my family (i.e. my mother and I) did not kill each other.

On Friday my mother and I were left to our own devices for the first time without my father or our guide, NTC. We reserved tickets to the tour of Yankee Stadium and proceeded to the Bronx via the subway. While this sounds like a dangerous proposition, it went remarkably smoothly.

We arrived and found that Ticketmaster had inexplicably booked us for the 9 am tour despite the fact that we were calling at 10:30! An accommodating ticket booth salesman rescheduled us for the 1 pm viewing. This worked out great as it gave us time to eat and shop.

We first went into the Yankee Team Store, located just outside of Gate 4 I am a huge Lou Gehrig (1903-1941) fan and I purchased a replica jersey from the Cooperstown Collection to commemorate the trip. It was the only preplanned souvenir I bought. My only regret was that the jersey has Gehrig’s name on it. (The Yankees are one of three Major League teams who do not incorporate personal names on team uniforms.)

Upon the recommendation of the aforementioned ticket box employee, we ate lunch at Billy's Sports Bar and Restaurant (located at 856 River Avenue, Bronx). To my knowledge, the restaurant has no ties to former Yankee Billy Martin (1928-1989). It was your average sports bar, but my open face Reuben sandwich hit the spot.

We then had our tour of Yankee Stadium, the home of the 26-time World Champion New York Yankees. We would have attended a game but the team was in Kansas City and Boston while we were in New York. The tour was one of the highlights of our trip, entertaining even my mother who is not a baseball fan. Our exceptional veteran (Read: been at the stadium since dirt) tour guide took us to four areas of the stadium: Monument Park, the dugout, the clubhouse, and the press box.

Since 1932, the Yankees have honored their greatest with monuments and plaques at Yankee Stadium. Today these are situated in Monument Park, accessible via the Field Level staircase at Section 36, Monument Park opens when the gates open and closes 45 minutes prior to the start of the game, subject to capacity restrictions. The shrines are situated just outside of the playing field in the outfield. Naturally, I was most interested in Gehrig, a first baseman from 1923-39. On July 4, 1939 he became the first Major League Baseball player to have his uniform number retired. Dying of ALS, it was on that day that he famously proclaimed himself “The Luckiest Man on the Face of the Earth.” His plaque was dedicated on July 6, 1941 - one month after his death.

We then made our way to the dugout. My mother and I sat where many past and present Yankees have. The Yankees are one of few team to have protection in front of the dugout, not required by Major League Baseball. This was done after Don Zimmer was hit by a sharply hit foul ball batted by Yankee second baseman Chuck Knoblauch during the 1999 playoffs. The next game, Zimmer wore an army helmet with the word "ZIM" painted on the side and the Yankees logo stenciled on the front.

We then proceeded to the Yankee clubhouse. We were instructed ad nauseam not to take photographs inside the Yankees inner sanctum. Noteworthy was that Thurman Munson’s locker reamins as it was on August 2, 1979 - the day his self piloted plane crash killed him. Even after Septemeber callups, rookies will double up in a locker before using Munson's.

Also notwothy was that Mariano Rivera’s had the biggest locker. He will be the last player in MLB history to wear #42. The number was retired league wide on April 15, 1997 for Dodger Jackie Robinson (1919-1972)’s contribution to baseball. Rivera was wearing the number at the time and when he retires, so will the number.

We also learned the history of the Yankee jersey. The interlocking "NY" logo was originally designed for an award given to a New York City police officer for bravery by famed jeweler Tiffany & Co. It caught the eye of the Yankees and became their logo in 1913.

Our tour concluded in the press box. We were shown where “George Costanza”’s office would have been. (Read: “Seinfeld” reference.) The home press (and leftfielder Hideki Matsui’s local Japanese paper) sits in of three rows and the visiting media sits in the last row. Mom and I were visitors on this day.

We saw where p.a. announcer Bob Sheppard (b. 1910) sits. He has been with the team since 1951. Reggie Jackson referred to him as the “Voice of God.” Though he is presently out of commission due to a bronchial infection, Yankee captain Derek Jeter had his personal introduction recorded so his voice is still heard at every game.

The tour was fantastic. It is sad that this represents the final season at Yankee Stadium. The site will host this season's All-Star game (on July 15) for the last time.

The New Yankee Stadium is next door and is beautiful. It is being done by the same group that built Camden Yards in Baltimore. On this day, news that a construction worker and Red Sox fan imbedded a Red Sox t-shirt in the new walls in hopes of cursing the Yankees spread throughout the city. Yankee officials denied the reports.

After our tour, we returned to the subway and made our way to the Metropolitan Museum of Art. We were joined by our guide and cousin, NTC. She brought me a special birthday gift – my great grandfather William Nodell (1883-1953)’s medals from World War I. I was incredibly honored.

NTC is a member of the museum and guided us through. We viewed the ancient Egyptian exhibit and the examples from the Impressionist period. There was actually a fully reconstructed Egyptian tomb rebuilt from Egypt. It was impressive.

Museums we considered visiting: The Guggenheim Museum (unfortunately is was closed to renovation), the Museum of Modern Art, and the Museum of Sex (which would have been incredibly awkward).

We then took a taxi, passing among sites passed F.A.O. Schwarz and the Palaces where I had eaten with NTC on my first New York excursion at age four.

We then made our 6:30 pm reseverations at the Broadway Joe Steakhouse. We ate at the restaurant largely because we received vouchers with our theater tickets. It was also conveniently located near our play.

The restaurant has a long history. It was opened in 1949 by Joe Moreno during the Damon Runyan Era (“Guys & Dolls”). He dubbed his place "Broadway Joe" - because his name was Joe and he was on block away from Broadway. In 1953 looking for a typical New York restaurant, a film crew shooting the FBI Story with Jimmy Stewart, choose to feature "Broadway Joe." In 1970, New York Jets quarterback Joe Namath acquired the nickname "Broadway Joe" and frequented the restaurant and brought sports legends, as well as stars from Broadway shows to dine here. Over the years, the Broadway Joe Steakhouse has become a famous New York landmark.

The three-course meal (soup, steak, cheesecake) was adequate and the atmosphere was great. We happened to sit by tables of all Southerners. Our “neighbors” were from Georgia, Greensboro (NC) and amazingly Parrotsville (in my home county - Cocke County) Tennessee. Our waiter, David Schmidt – a local playwright – was also very cordial. It was a good experience.

We then walked to the Al Hirschfeld Theatre on Broadway to watch Curtains. I selected this play at the recommendation of LBG. As usual, she made a good choice.

“The Musical Comedy Whodunit” is a smash hit. It will close on June 29 after 511 performances and 26 previews. It was first previewed on February 27, 2007. It stars David Hyde Pierce, best known for his role as “Niles Crane” on the TV sitcom Frazier. Pierce was a surprise winner of the 2007 Tony Award for Best Lead Actor. Debra Monk is billed second and prvides countless zingers. Tenor Jason Daniely has an especially beautiful voice and his "I Miss the Music" is warming even in a comedy.

The play is set in Boston's Colonial Theater in 1959. Anna Louizos' set went to great lengths to recreate the venue with great authenticity.

The outset of the play is the opening night of the new, but fledgling, musical "Robbin' Hood." The plot ensues when the talent bereft leading lady is murdered during the curtain call, thus making the entire cast and crew suspects.

With this, Lt. Frank Cioffi (Pierce) enters to solve the murder. As a musical theater fanatic, he also decides to take it upon himself to solve the problems of the show. The hilarity ensues from there with the revelation of the killer being a mere afterthought.

The show was developed in the 1970s by the musical team of John Kander and Fred Ebb (who wrote “Chicago”) along with librettist Peter Stone as a backstage musical comedy about putting on a floundering musical. It was shelved for some thirty years, until the trio got working again. Stone died in 2003, following the second staged reading of the material. Afterwards, Rupert Holmes joined in, adding the murder mystery aspect to the story. Ebb died suddenly a year later, but Kander and Holmes pressed on with the show, which finally hit Broadway in 2007.

The show has many local references, including the opening after party at Sardis, the restaurant we ate at the previous night.

Though the cast is filled with “Frazier” alums, Pierce’s character is nothing like Niles. Edward Hibbert appeared in 29 episodes as “Gil Chesterton” and Debra Monk also appeared in an episode of “Frazier” on 9/23/2003.

Afterwards, Pierce appealed to the audience to buy special items. Proceeds would go Broadway Cares. For only $20, I bought a Pierce signed “death threat” that was used on stage during the show’s run!

It drizzled on our way walking back home, but it was an otherwise perfect day. We stopped at Gristedes, a local grocery store, where my mother spent nearly a half an hour selecting her next morning’s breakfast!

Friday was my favorite day in New York. Perhaps not coincidentally it was the only day of the five-day trek that I did not lug my suitcase around.

Saturday morning was our last in the city as we would be spending the remainder of the trip in my mother’s native Long Island. While my father completed his meetings, we spent the morning shopping for souvenirs. We found them at New York Gift (729 7th Avenue), The Gift Shop (833 7th Avenue), New York Attitude: Gifts & Souvenirs (843 7th Avenue), Phantom of Broadway (1607 Broadway) and Grand Slam New York (1557 Broadway). These were only the stores I actually purchased from!

Before checking out of Le Parker Meridien we ate at the hotel’s burger restaurant. It is well-known as one of the best burgers in NYC. It is hidden around a curtained corner with only a hidden neon burger sign hinting at its existence. The walls are covered with signatures of famous patrons. For instance, we sat at a booth directly in front of signatures from Menudo. More impressive than us sitting in the same spots as Yankee greats in the dugout, was reclining where Menudo had. I checked the five signatures and Ricky Martin was not among them. I assume this is a more recent incarnation. (Note: This picture is the hotel’s version of the “Don Not Disturb Sign.”)

After checking out, we walked across the street and acquired our rental car from Hertz. We were upgraded to a white Lincoln Town Car. Somewhere, O.J. Simpson was pleased.

Armed with “Lucy” (my father’s Garmin), we hit the Long Island Expressway to Oyster Bay. My mother’s family moved to Oyster Bay at age 10 when her father was hired as principal of Oyster Bay High School. The school board required principles to live in the city which where they worked.

Amazingly, many of my mother's neighbors lived in the same homes they did forty years ago when she lived there. Our first stop was an impromptu visit with 86-year old Nathalie Bernstein (NCB). Her house, which hd the only swimming pool on the street, served as headquarters for block parties when my mother lived there and her son George was very close with my uncle REN. She recognized my mother as soon as she opened the door. She is a wonderful Jewish lady who was hard at work preparing for Passover the following week. She showed me her Seder Plate and told me the Passover story. (Yes, she knew I was a minister.) It was a great visit.

We then stopped by my mother's house at 38 Adams Street. We also saw the telelphone booth at a Gulf station in which my mother often called my father (my grandfather would not allow her to use the home phone), the high school (where she went and my garndfather worked), First Presbyterian Church (where my mother attended) and Oyster Bay's shore. We stopped by the drug store where my mother spent countless hours. It is now a Carvel ice cream shop. While she was disappointed that the drug store no longer existed, she was pleased to have some of her favorite ice cream.

One store still in business was the Buckingham Variety Store (36 Audrey Avenue). This is one of the last of the 5 & 10's - although 5 & 10 cents does not go very far these days. It was honestly much like a Dollar Store. Amazingly, a saleslady showed us chemistry stencils whose price tag indicated they had been on the shelves since 1973! How does this place stay in business? If you ever need chemsitry stencils, you know where to look.

Before leaving Oyster Bay we visited the Sagamore Hill National Historic Site. This is the 22-room estate of President Teddy Roosevelt (1858-1919). While there I learned that the “teddy bear” is named for him. The teddy bear's story derives from a November 1902 hunting trip in Mississippi. After an unsuccessful day, the hunting party brought a small bear cub to the camp for the president to shoot. He refused because the animal did not have a chance to defend itself. From this anecdote, the "teddy bear" was born.

My mother also has a connection to Roosevelt. His daughter Ethel Roosevelt Derby (1891-1977) lived on her street. Though my other knew little of her, my uncle REN and his friend George would often finagle cookies and lemonade from her housekeeper. My mother became connected to her when she sought a penpal for the family that maintained her brothers' graves in France (they had died in WWII). My grandfather nominated my mother and her penpal Odile would eventually live with my mother for some time.

We then traveled to Farmingdale, also on Long Island. My mother lived there until she was ten while my grandfather served as history teacher, driver's education instructor, and guidance counselor.

Before arriving at our destination, we drove by Farmingdale United Methodist Church (where my mother attended) and Waldbaum’s, a grocery store. We checked into TownePlace Suites. The place has only been in operation two months. This was especially evident when the concierge had no idea how to get to the airport.

We then visited my mother’s home on Wall Street. (Yes, my mother was raised on Wall Street.) The homes are very cookie cutter and close together. This is because they were all designed by Bill Levitt (1907-1994), one of the most influential architects in history. He used assembly line techniques to mass produce standardized boxes depicted on TV shows like "Father Knows Best" and "Leave It to Beaver." While they are not especially unique, they provided affordable housing for soldiers returning from World War II, like my grandfather. 17,000 of these homes were built, originating in Levittown, New York, in 1947.

Amazingly, her next door neighbor still lives there in the same house! Edith Thomson (EBT), 86, still resides at 51 Wall Street, though her husband Dick died in 1993. EBT was my grandmother’s closest confidant and was privy to family secrets. She is still sharp as a tack and was able to fill in many of the gaps in my grandparents' history. She enunciates better than anyone I have ever met and I could have listened to her speak all day based upon both style and content.

We ate at the South Bay Diner in Lindenhurst as EBT was not impressed by any of the restaurants in Farmingdale. I had matzah ball soup (my first ever matzah ball) and roast.

We were joined by her son John Thomson (JAT) and his girlfriend Colleen Force (CAF). JAT is a guitarist who vocally resembles Eric Clapton. Colleen is a singer and mother of five who loves Edwin McCain like I love KJW. Her signature number is Van Morrison’s 1970 classic “Moondance.”

They are connected to a tropical rock band named the Young Rebel Goombas. A goomba has the ebonic equivalent of homeboy. JAT & CAF even provide vocals on their song “Sing-a-long.” They were heading to a concert later in the night, but I was pooped and chose to head to the hotel and sleep. They did supply me witha CD for my birthday. Thanks!

Speaking of which, as many of you know, Saturday marked my 30th birthday. I want to thank everyone who called, texted, e-mailed, etc. It honestly did not feel like my birthday, being away from home. It was a good one though and I have no negative feelings at all regarding the "big 3-0."

On Sunday, my father and I visited the Long Island National Cemetery in Farmingdale while my mother relaxed in the hotel. My great grandparents William and Cecelia Nodell are buried there in plots 1644b & a respectively. There was little new data on their tombstones, but it was nice to see their final resting place.

We then hit the Long Island Expressway back to LaGuardia Airport in Flushing. We ate at a Chilis Too inside the terminal before returning home. Our flight was on schedule and we touched down as plan, luggage in tact. It all came off without a hitch and we did not even kill each other. I must say, though I enjoyed the experience immensely, I was grateful to be home.

On Sunday night, KLTW, KJW, and RAW stopped by the house. I gave KJW her souvenirs – a rubber duck (I get her those on my trips), a miniature die-cast taxi (all yellow vehicles are “Chan’s car”), Stature of Liberty sunglasses and a Manhattan coloring book that came free with the purchase of the shades. Naturally, the free coloring book was her favorite. It was good to be home.