Saturday, May 24, 2008

Prayer Blog - 5/24/2008, #2

My uncle ECD's mother MED of Newport had hernia surgery on Friday. She is presently convalescing at Baptist Hospital West in Knoxville. Pray for a speedy recovery.

Prayer Blog - 5/24/2008

JTH’s aunt, GTH began radiation treatments on Friday to treat thyroid cancer. She has other symptoms that remain undiagnosed. The prognosis on the cancer is good as it was caught early, but she will be under quarantine for some time. Keep her and her family in your prayers, especially her two teenage children.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Bible Trivia - 5/23/2008

Question: What does Rabboni mean?

Answer: Master. (John 20:16).

Comments: The exact translation of Rabboni is disputed, but most linguists see it as a derivation of Rabbi. Most interpreters assume that it was one of the few instances in which the spoken Aramaic is used in the New Testament. This is evidenced by John translating it for the reader - as teacher (didaskalos). The root, rabbi, does mean "my master" or "my teacher."

Rabbi was a relatively new term during Jesus' life. It developed around the time of a schism which arose between the schools of Hillel and Shammai. The first historical reference we have to the title referred to Gamaliel (Acts 5:34, Acts 22:3), around 30 CE.

"Rabboni" is seen as an elevated form, the greatest designation of all for Jewish teachers. Once the teacher had seen two generations of disciples he was referred to with this title, and also called by his own name so that he would not be forgotten. In his book Rabboni: The Story of Jesus, W. Phillip Keller (b. 1920) says, “This was the loftiest adulation she could confer upon him.”

Freemasons argue that the word is not a bastardization of Aramaic but rather a reference to a "master builder." Freemason Albert Pike (1809-1891) claimed that the term derives from the Hebrew, 'RB BNI': these two words mean the Master of the Builders, or the Master Builder (Albert Pike, The Book of the Words, modern edition, Kessinger Publishing Company, Montana, p. 107.) Given the internal translation in John 20:16, this is highly unlikely.

The title "Rabboni" is used only twice in the New Testament, each time in reference to Jesus. A blind man named Bartimaeus (Mark 10:51) and Mary Magdalene both use the title (John 20:16). Some argue that the word should be rendered "rabbouni." Edwyn Hoskyns (1884-1937), claimed that the similarly spelled word was used in works of the period as a name for God, and hence that Mary was professing that Jesus was divine. Again, given the gospel's own translation, the derivative of "rabbi" is the best interpretation.

Word of the Day - 5/23/2008


Pilose means hairy, covered with hair, especially soft hair; furry.

Esau had a pilose body, even at birth. (Genesis 25:25, 27:11, 27:23)

Now the first came forth red, all over like a hairy garment; and they named him Esau. (Genesis 25:25, NASB)

Note: This highly flattering image of Esau is from a 2001 quilt by Marilyn Belford entitled "For a Mess of Pottage".

In Eckleburg's Eyes - 5/23/2008

I had a great Thursday, spent mostly with my church family.

At 10 am, my Bible Study met as usual. Though we met for over an hour, we convened early as MLM received an SOS from Madisonville, Tennessee. TSC was on a trip when the van broke down. MLM left in another van to save the day. I suppose that is a valid excuse for walking out on a Bible Study...

We will be on hiatus next Thursday (May 29th) as MLM will be serving on yet another mission trip. When our summer schedule begins on Thursday June 5th, we will be viewing movies for theological discussion. Some will be viewed at the theater and others on video. There will also be brief devotionals to begin each session. If you are ever free on a summer Thursday, consider yourself invited. Don’t feel you need a theological background to attend. One movie already on the agenda is The Dark Knight, the lastest in the Batman series. Have I mention that I want to see that film?

After Bible Study, I met my friend and advisor HBT at Eva’s To Go in Franklin Square (located at 9700 Kingston Pike # 5) Eva’s is a frou-frou sandwich shop and the food is delicious. Its caramel cake is consistently voted among the best cakes in town. My mother was friends with the old owner (naturally, Eva) who sold the restaurant to Cindy Lay so that she could retire. The West Knoxville location opened on December 5th, 2006, and seems to be doing well. HBT is clearly comfortable with his masculinity. Not only did he select the locale, but he wore a pink shirt and ordered quiche. I must say he pulled it off. (I am comfortable with my masculinity too.)

HBT is doing well, though he still battles polycythemia. His daily regimen of chemotherapy (via pill) wears him down by 2:30, but it is working. His counts are now in the acceptable range of the 360s. When he began chemotherapy on April 5th, his count was 563! Though I do not entirely understand all of the medical terminology (read: not at all), I am glad he is improving.

HBT has many professional successes recently. In addition to teaching at Carson-Newman College, he has almost completed his commentary on the Book of Revelation, tentatively titled “The Control of History: Studies in the Book of Revelation.” The title is based upon a poem. The book is geared toward the pastor and layman and the parts I am familiar with are excellent. I will be reading chapters soon and providing feedback.

The only snag thus far is that HBT’s radically conservative publisher, Broadman & Holman (B&H), has rejected the book as it does not reflect Premillenial Dispensationalism. (Do not get me started on how this line of thought is against historical Baptist thought.) His contract with B&H precludes his working with another publisher until they first reject his manuscript. This is just another way the SBC engages in censorship as they will not even sell Smyth & Helwys books (another Baptist publisher) at their Lifeway bookstores. HBT next hopes to peddle the book to the respected Methodist publisher Abingdon Press. It will be yet another loss for the Baptists. I apologize for the rant. In any event, keep his work in your prayers. I will let you know when the book is released so that you can check it out.

I also learned that HBT's former student Keith Manuel published a dissertation on him at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary: "The Text-to-Sermon Relationship as Rhetorical Invention in the Theory and Practice of Harold T. Bryson". That is quite an accomplishment.

HBT is always encouraging and as usual, he made my day. Plus, he paid for my meal. Thanks, HBT!

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Associated Baptist Press - 5/22/2008

Associated Baptist Press
May 22, 2008 (8-53)

IRS clears United Church of Christ of wrongdoing in Obama speech
McCain rejects Hagee’s endorsement over televangelist’s Hitler comments
Texas court rules against seizure of polygamist sect’s children
Appeals court again overturns Virginia ‘partial-birth’ ban
BWA, Samaritan’s Purse make inroads to assist storm survivors
IMB regional director resigns over policy disagreements

IRS clears United Church of Christ of wrongdoing in Obama speech
By Robert Marus

WASHINGTON (ABP) -- Barack Obama’s denomination did nothing wrong in hearing a speech from the Democratic presidential candidate, the Internal Revenue Service has told officials of the United Church of Christ.

The denomination announced the move on its website May 21, releasing a May 13 IRS letter that cleared the church of violating the law for a speech the Illinois senator delivered at the UCC’s biennial General Synod last June. It closed an investigation that church officials first made public in February.

The letter said the UCC’s response to the investigation “established that the United Church of Christ had verbally communicated to those in attendance that Sen. Obama was there as a member of the church and not as a candidate for office, that the audience should not attempt to engage in any political activities, and that the church's legal counsel had advised Sen. Obama's campaign on the ground rules for the speech.”

Churches and other non-profit groups organized under Section 501(c)(3) of the federal tax code are barred from endorsing or opposing candidates and political parties. If they do so, they risk losing their tax-exempt status. The prohibition extends to activities that would appear to endorse a candidate, including allowing the politician to speak in his or her capacity as a candidate at a worship service or church meeting.

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

In February, UCC officials received a letter from Marsha Ramirez, an official in the regional IRS office in Cleveland, where the denomination is headquartered. The initial letter informed the UCC that it was under investigation for potential violations.

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

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

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

The exoneration letter, also signed by Ramirez, appeared to vindicate those claims. “Based on your response to the inquiry, we have determined that the activity about which we had concern did not constitute an intervention or participation in a political campaign … and that the United Church of Christ continues to qualify as an organization described in section 501(c)(3),” she wrote.

In their May 21 announcement, UCC officials hailed the letter as a “complete vindication.”

“We are pleased that the IRS reviewed the complaint quickly and determined, as we expected, that the church took every necessary precaution and proactive step to ensure that Sen. Obama’s appearance at General Synod was proper and legal,” said John Thomas, the denomination’s chief executive. “This is very good news.”

James Hutchins, a UCC member from suburban Cleveland who is a frequent critic of the denomination’s stances on secular politics via his blog (, said May 21 that he could live with the ruling. But he said he still contends that the denomination did break at least one IRS guideline for church-related campaigning, because it mentioned Obama’s candidacy in some of the promotional materials that led up to the speech.

“Clearly, from the IRS response to the UCC, these guidelines are not firm and it opens up the spectrum of accepted political activity that churches may participate in and still be compliant with the IRS,” he wrote, in a May 21 post.

However, he said, the exoneration made more sense than the agency’s recent clearing of Southern Baptist pastor and activist Wiley Drake. The IRS dropped its investigation of him -- announced shortly before the UCC inquiry -- even though he had endorsed then-GOP presidential candidate Mike Huckabee in a press release written on church letterhead and through comments on a radio show that Drake said was conducted under the auspices of his First Southern Baptist Church of Buena Park, Calif.

“The offenses identified by the UCC complaint to the IRS are arguably peripheral next to the complaint against Drake, but that doesn't mean that the UCC didn't walk into a gray area by identifying Obama as a presidential candidate in promoting his General Synod speech on the UCC web site,” Hutchins wrote.

“The only logical conclusion I can make is that the IRS is giving churches great latitude in their freedom of speech before threatening their tax-exempt status. That may be the more prudent approach. As long as they are consistent, I can live with it, although I think it should be clearly reflected in their guidelines.”


McCain rejects Hagee’s endorsement over televangelist’s Hitler comments
By ABP staff

(ABP) -- After months of pressure to reject the endorsement of conservative televangelist John Hagee, presumptive Republican presidential nominee John McCain finally did so May 22 after the preacher’s views on Hitler raised new controversy.

In a decade-old sermon, reported by the Huffington Post website, Hagee said Hitler was doing God’s will by forcing Jews to return to Israel, saying “the Nazis had operated on God's behalf to chase the Jews from Europe and shepherd them to Palestine.”

"Obviously, I find these remarks and others deeply offensive and indefensible, and I repudiate them," McCain told CNN in a statement. "I did not know of them before Reverend Hagee's endorsement, and I feel I must reject his endorsement as well."

McCain describes himself as a Baptist and attends North Phoenix Baptist Church when home in Arizona. He said Hagee is not a “spiritual advisor,” although some news reports and pundits had described him that way when the preacher’s controversial statements first became widely publicized.

McCain, who sought the San Antonio-based evangelist’s endorsement, had earlier expressed disagreement with some of Hagee’s other past comments on the Catholic Church. However, he did not reject the endorsement at the time. But the latest revelation about Hagee’s views on Hitler proved more than McCain could handle.

After the Arizona senator made his announcement May 22, Hagee withdrew his endorsement.

Hagee, an adamant Christian Zionist, also has said Hurricane Katrina was God’s judgment on New Orleans for allowing a gay-pride festival, and has cited the Inquisition and the Crusades as evidence of anti-Semitism within the Roman Catholic Church.

After his comments became controversial, Hagee apologized to Catholics in a letter to William Donohue, president of the Catholic League for Civil and Religious Rights. He wrote, "Out of a desire to advance a greater unity among Catholics and evangelicals in promoting the common good, I want to express my deep regret for any comments that Catholics have found hurtful."

He also quietly retracted his New Orleans statement, saying he should not have presumed to “know the mind of God concerning Hurricane Katrina.”


Texas court rules against seizure of polygamist sect’s children
By ABP staff

SAN ANGELO, Texas (ABP) -- The state of Texas had no right to remove more than 460 children from their polygamist parents, a state appeals court ruled May 22.

It was unclear if or when the children -- some held in Baptist children’s homes -- would be returned to their parents, who are members of the Fundamentalist Latter Day Saints, or FLDS, church. The sect is led by controversial polygamist Warren Jeffs, who is himself in jail on unrelated charges.

A district judge in April ruled in favor of the state of Texas, which seized the children during an April 4 police raid on the church’s 1,600-acre Yearning for Zion Ranch compound near Eldorado. Thirty-eight FLDS mothers filed suit against the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services to have their children returned.

A three-judge panel of the Texas 3rd District Court of Appeals ruled May 22 that the state failed to prove the children are in immediate danger: "Evidence that children raised in this particular environment may some day have their physical health and safety threatened is not evidence that the danger is imminent enough to warrant invoking the extreme measure of immediate removal prior to full litigation of the issue," the court’s majority wrote.

After the April 4 raid, several Baptist churches and agencies were among those asked by the state to help care for the children. Baptist Child and Family Services, an agency affiliated with the Baptist General Convention of Texas, was charged with coordinating care for hundreds of the children.

The appeals court instructed the lower court to vacate its ruling, but did give instructions for returning the children, according to several news reports. Attorneys for FLDS said they will seek the children’s immediate return. The state could appeal the case to the Texas Supreme Court.


Appeals court again overturns Virginia ‘partial-birth’ ban
By Robert Marus

RICHMOND, Va. (ABP) -- Despite a recent Supreme Court decision upholding a federal ban on a kind of late-term abortion procedure, a federal appeals court has again overturned a similar statewide ban in Virginia because it could limit far more abortions than intended.

A divided three-judge panel of the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, based in Richmond, Va., issued the ruling May 20. The judges said the Virginia law banning so-called “partial-birth” abortions was sufficiently different from the federal ban that the Supreme Court upheld last year’s Gonzales v. Carhart decision that it remained unconstitutional.

The Gonzales decision was the first time since legalizing abortion nationwide in 1973 that the Supreme Court has upheld a nationwide ban on a specific abortion procedure. The court had previously declared any restriction on abortion unconstitutional if it did not allow exceptions to preserve the mother’s life or health.

But in Gonzales, a narrow majority of justices said Congress had the right to ban the procedure -- which involves the partial delivery of a fetus, whose skull is then crushed and its contents evacuated to facilitate easier passage through the birth canal -- because of disagreement over whether it was ever medically necessary to protect a mother’s health.

The 4th Circuit had earlier declared the same Virginia law unconstitutional because of its lack of a health exception. But last year, the Supreme Court asked lower courts to review such decisions in light of the Gonzales ruling.

Nonetheless, in the latest ruling the appeals panel’s majority said the Virginia law differed from the federal one in one crucial area: It did not contain an exemption for physicians who don’t set out to perform the banned dilation-and-extraction procedure, but are forced to do so. Some such procedures result when the far more common -- and still lawful -- dilation-and-evacuation procedure fails. That method of abortion involves dismembering the fetus while still in the womb, then removing it in pieces.

Unlike the federal law, Judge Blane Michael wrote in the panel’s majority opinion, the Virginia ban penalized doctors who set out to perform a legal procedure, “but who nonetheless accidentally deliver the fetus to an anatomical landmark and who must perform a deliberate act that causes fetal demise in order to complete removal.”

Those landmarks are reached when the fetus’s “entire head” or his or her “trunk past the navel” has emerged from the mother’s body.

To ensure that they avoid criminal prosecution, Blane said, Virginia abortion providers would have to stop performing the most common second-trimester abortion procedure. The effect of that would be an unconstitutional curtailment of abortion rights across the commonwealth.

But, in a strongly worded dissent, Judge Paul Niemyer said that the majority was simply trying to ignore the Gonzales decision.

“The majority’s selective use of statutory language and its rationalizations represent nothing less than a strong judicial will to overturn what the Virginia Legislature has enacted for the benefit of Virginia’s citizens and what, in materially undistinguishable terms, the Supreme Court has upheld as constitutional.”

Virginia’s attorney general, reacting to the decision, indicated that he may ask for a re-hearing before the full complement of 4th Circuit judges, or may appeal the panel’s decision to the Supreme Court.

The appeals court’s decision is Richmond Medical Center v. Herring, No. 03-1821.


BWA, Samaritan’s Purse make inroads to assist storm survivors
By ABP staff

FALLS CHURCH, Va. (ABP) -- Baptist World Aid, the relief and development arm of the Baptist World Alliance, is working through six relief camps in cyclone-devastated Burma (also known as Myanmar), while a United States-based organization readies an airlift to earthquake-shocked China.

BWAid Rescue24, a search, rescue and relief effort, is working through the Myanmar Baptist Convention and one of its smaller entities, the Karen Baptist Convention, to minister to displaced individuals in camps near Yangon, Burma’s largest city and former capital.

The team reported that “the assistance is literally saving lives at this point, with situations of widespread diarrhea, and serious electricity and water shortages.”

With the total death toll at 134,000, team members noted the cyclone had devastated rice fields and agricultural animals, virtually wiping out future food sources.

Fishing, another major food source in the stricken Irrawaddy Delta region of Burma, also has been brought to a standstill.

The high death toll has hindered burial efforts. As a result, many bodies have been thrown into rivers. Locals are reluctant to fish in contaminated waters.

Baptists in Myanmar were among those hardest hit by Cyclone Nargis, which struck the country May 2-3. More than 10,000 Myanmar Baptists died, according to BWA, with some 94,000 additional members suffering property loss. Many church buildings were destroyed, and the convention’s headquarters in Yangon was badly damaged.

The Myanmar Baptist Convention organized a cyclone relief committee to assist with relief efforts.

Meanwhile, U.S.-based Samaritan’s Purse has chartered a plane to take supplies to Chengdu, China. That city is the largest in the Sichuan region, devastated by a 7.9 magnitude earthquake that struck May 12. As of May 22, according to official statistics, it had killed 51,151 people and injured 288,431. Nearly 30,000 remained missing.

The organization, founded by evangelist Billy Graham’s son, Franklin, plans to airlift 90 tons of supplies, including temporary shelter material and water filtration systems, from Charlotte, N.C., on Friday.

It already has sent 45 tons of supplies to Burma.

Contributions for Myanmar and China relief efforts can be made online at (Cooperative Baptist Fellowship); (American Baptist Churches, USA); (Baptist World Alliance); (Southern Baptist Convention); and (Samaritan’s Purse).


IMB regional director resigns over policy disagreements
By ABP staff

RICHMOND, Va. (ABP) -- A high-ranking Southern Baptist Convention International Mission Board employee resigned May 5 because he disagrees with policies governing missionary qualifications.

Rodney Hammer, IMB’s regional leader for Central and Eastern Europe, cited disagreement with policies disallowing missionary candidates because of disagreements about their mode of baptism or the fact that they practice a “private prayer language.”

In a personal letter to missionaries in his region, Hammer noted he also disagreed with the IMB’s “unnecessary, extra-biblical narrowing of parameters for Southern Baptist cooperation in the Great Commission they represent.” Former IMB trustee Wade Burleson of Oklahoma posted the letter on his blog.

In 2005, board trustees adopted policies that ruled out appointment of candidates who practice either speaking in tongues in public or as a private devotional act. They also determined that candidates must have been baptized in a Southern Baptist church or in a church of another denomination that practices believer’s baptism only by immersion, and without regenerative or sacramental connotations. The policies were revised in 2007 and called “guidelines.”

In his letter, Hammer affirmed the Baptist Faith and Message, the Southern Baptist Convention’s doctrinal statement. However, he added, board trustees should not exceed those doctrinal parameters.

According to an IMB press release, Hammer and his family began a stateside assignment on May 5, and they plan to be reassigned to a field assignment as missionaries after finishing their domestic service.

Hammer was appointed in 1990 as strategy coordinator for China with Cooperative Services International, the IMB’s former relief and development arm. He served in that position until 1996. Trustees named him leader for Central and Eastern Europe in 1999.

Before joining the IMB, he was a pastor and church staff member in Missouri. He earned degrees from Baylor University in Waco, Texas, and Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Kansas City, Mo.


Prayer Blog - 5/22/2008

Contemporary Christian music artist Steven Curtis Chapman lost his five year old daughter in a tragic accident on Wednesday (May 21st). Maria Sue Chapman was playing in her Franklin, Tennessee, driveway when her teenage brother inadvertantly struck her with the Toyota Land Cruiser he was driving. She was LifeFlighted to Vanderbilt Children's Hospital. Tennessee Highway Patrol spokeswoman Laura McPherson said several members of the Chapman family witnessed the accident.

Just hours before this close knit family was celebrating the engagement of the oldest daughter Emily Chapman, and were just hours away from a graduation party marking Caleb Chapman's completion of high school.

The child was the youngest in the family and one of three daughters adopted by Chapman and wife Mary Beth. The entire family was home at the time of the accident. Steven Curtis Chapman, 45, has won 51 Dove awards from the Gospel Music Association and five Grammys. Please keep this family in your prayers.

Bible Trivia - 5/22/2008

Question: What is the middle verse of the Old Testament?

Answer: II Chronicles 20:17.

Comments: There are 23,214 verses in the Old Testament. The middle verse is II Chronicles 20:17.

'You need not fight in this battle; station yourselves, stand and see the salvation of the LORD on your behalf, O Judah and Jerusalem ' Do not fear or be dismayed; tomorrow go out to face them, for the LORD is with you." (II Chronicles 20:17, NASB)

Word of the Day - 5/22/2008


Fallacious means containing a fallacy; logically unsound.

Though Paul affirms that where sin exists, grace abounds more (Romans 5:20), he deems the dovetailed notion that it would be wise to continue sin to mass produce grace to be fallacious. (Romans 6:1-2)

What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin so that grace may increase? May it never be! How shall we who died to sin still live in it? (Romans 6:1-2, NASB)

In Eckleburg's Eyes - 5/22/2008

I had an absolutely wonderful Wednesday, speaking at church and then relaxing with JTH and Mr. X’s family at their home.

I spoke at church in reference to the Gulfport Mission trip, April 28-May 1. I arrived just in time to sit with the DAT family and for a patented ALF (his real initials) prayer. His prayers are known for their length. In fact, in my younger and less reverent days, I famously timed one of his prayers with a stop watch. Now, I appreciate their sincerity. That being said, they are still really long.

MLM served as the emcee, TAM presented slides and a video, and then I spoke. All went well but MLM hopes that the church at large will one day have the opportunity to experience the presentation. The Wednesday night service was in its first week of summer reconfiguration due to schools now being out and programs presently on hiatus. As such, after the DAT family left, the next youngest person (after me) in the room was still collecting social security.

After church, JTH and I met up went to America’s Cuts where JTH had his already short hair trimmed down to next to nothing. The photo on the left was taken immediately before the trim and the photo on the right afterwards. Can you sense the vast difference?

His hairdresser is very nice. We discussed the fact that the customer ahead of JTH owned a Maine Coon. These are a breed of cat known for their ability to trill their meows (sounding like a chirp) and using their front paws extensively like a human. They are named for the state they were bred in. I had never heard of one before.

I must also note that earlier in the day I had my hair cut at Ross the Boss by JLH. When I mentioned that my last haircut was documented on the blog, JLH wanted her work chronicled as well too. Mission accomplished.

We then went to Mr. X’s for an evening with his family. We began by playing basketball with Mr. X’s brother-in-law, JAH. After shooting around, the goal was lowered for a dunking exhibition. Naturally, I was documenting the event with my camera phone which inspired Mr. X to have his girlfriend Ms. X to procure a digital camera for better quality. His “posterizing” of JTH will now serve as his screen saver and potentially as his Christmas card. That alone made this quite a productive night. (Note: This photo was clearly taken with my camera phone. I will not record the height of the goal when this picture was taken so as not to embarrass the parties involved.)

Mr. X’s sister, JMMH, graciously ordered the family pizza from Papa John’s. After briefly eating, the guys continued to play ball while I entertained Mr. X’s niece, PH. She was to complete her last day of kindergarten the following day. On this night, I counted how many times she could Skip-It and Hula Hoop. Then we played catch. Her uncle had gotten her a pink baseball mitt earlier in the day and we toss a ball standing approximately one foot apart. With time and experience, we are hoping for a greater distance in the future. With each event I noted that though she was good, her first cousin Cheyenne is better. (She is infinitely competitive with her cousin.) The joke never got old. To me.

I must note that Tuesday was Ms. X’s 22nd birthday. While the boys played, she watched her fabulous dog, Hemingway (“Hemi.”) The dog is so sweet. She got him after he had been abused. His malicious owners tied his legs together. Why would anyone do that? Though excessively bowlegged, he shows no ill effects and is very friendly.

We then went in the house and played Mr. X’s PlayStation 3. We first played Rock Band. Rock Band allows players to perform in virtual bands playing three different peripherals modeled after music instruments (guitar, drums, and a microphone). I played drums on Weezer’s “Say It Ain’t So” and Faith No More’s “Epic.” Though I have not picked up the sticks in some time (and never on Rock Band), I was graded at 85% on the “easy” setting for both pieces. I really think with a little work I would be able to handle the more difficult levels.

Two little known Chan facts: (1) I played drums in the school band from 4th to 8th grade. (2) I attended the same high school (for one year) with Weezer’s guitarist Brian Bell. His father Tom (TLB) is a geography professor at UT and his sister Leia (LSB) was in my grade and rezoned to West Hisgh with me. She is now a nationally recognized poster artist specializing in silk-screen prints of many modern rock groups. She has a web site here. Check out her art. It is really cool.

Afterwards we played Grand Theft Auto IV (GTA4). The game was released on April 29. The highly controversial and violent game is set in New York City. The only thing unrealistic about its depiction is the fact that the streets of the Big Apple are never uncrowded. I spent many minutes watching JTH and Mr. X attempt to generate a motorcycle on top of the Empire State Building and drive from its rooftop. This proved problematic as one first had to get on top of the Empire State Building. This took many, many tries. I personally consider it time well spent.

Around 11, we went to Applebees for half-priced appetizers and to watch the conclusion of Mr. X’s beloved Lakers’ 89-85 comeback victory over the Spurs in the first game the Western Conference Finals.

Any night where I both speak at church and play the vulgar GTA4 is a good evening.

In other Wednesday news, my next-door neighbors, the KMG family, opened The Carson (named for their youngest son) downtown. Had I not been at church, I would have attended the open house. The Carson, located at 713 S. Central Street, is a building that KMG remodeled into four condo units. He bought it in 2005 for $221,260. If you are in the market for a nice downtown pad, check it out. Congratulations to my great neighbors.

Finally, I must note that the wallpapering saga finally concluded. Finally!

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Prayer Blog - 5/21/2008

Tomorrow, WRK leaves for a trip touring Italy and Greece. Please pray for her safe travel.

Bible Trivia - 5/21/2008

Question: Zechariah took two staves naming one "Bands". What did he name the other?

Answer: Beauty. (Zechariah 11:7)

Comments: The NASB renders the names of Zechariah's staffs "Favor" and "Union" respectively.

"So I pastured the flock doomed to slaughter, hence the afflicted of the flock And I took for myself two staffs: the one I called Favor and the other I called Union; so I pastured the flock." (Zechariah 11:7, NASB)

Zechariah used the staffs as a sign act as he first cut "Favor" (v. 10) and then "Union" (v. 14). The breaking of "Favor" represented the symbolic breaking of Yahweh's covenant and the destruction of "Union" signified the broken union between Judah and Israel.

Note: This painting is "The Prophet Zechariah" by Michelangelo (1475-1564).

Word of the Day - 5/21/2008


To dissemble is to give a false or misleading appearance to; conceal the truth or real nature of: to put on the appearance of; feign.

David's wife Michal used a dummy to dissemble royal officials into thinking her husband David was in bed ill. (I Samuel 19:13) The chicanery was implemented because her father, king Saul, sought David in hopes of killing him.

Michal took the household idol and laid it on the bed, and put a quilt of goats' hair at its head, and covered it with clothes. (I Samuel 19:13, NASB)

In Eckleburg's Eyes - 5/21/2008

I had a very productive Tuesday but Sunday is approaching faster than I would want. It always does.

In the afternoon, I dropped by the church and saw JTH, MLM, JBT & GAB (who were playing basketball), and PRI & JMM. I mention this to let you know that I will indeed be giving a mission report on Wednesday night at 6 pm. My dear friend TAM, who participated in a trip prior to the one I was on, has editedt two hours of video into a fifteen minute presentation. If you are bored stop by the Fellowship Hall.

In remarkable news, I heard form my crew chief Kevin Welker (KEW) and he reported that the house we working on in Pass Christian, Mississippi, was completed on May 14, ahead of schedule. Praise God!

On Tuesday night, I ate at Silver Spoon with my parents. In big news, Ed, a prominent waiter, has decided to attend graduate school in music at UNC-Greensboro. If you have eaten at the restaurant in the last several years, you will know Ed as the opera singer who serenades his tables with arias. (I use that word to demonstrate that I have done a crossword puzzle in my day.) He has an apartment waiting wth only wisdom teeth standing between he and the next step in his education. We wish him the best of luck.

I then joined RAW and KJW at his house. RAW had just returned from playing basketball at the YMCA. His star teammate and former Vol basketball player Rashard Lee (RDL) is back from playing overseas for Geneve (Switzerland). He makes more money there than here and gets paid for playing basketball so he hopes to be back next season. I just hope it does not conflict with our rec league schedule like last year.

We watched the Celtics beat the Pistons 88-79 in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Finals with KJW. The Celtics won at home as they have in all nine home playoff game thus far. KJW actually asked to sit with us and watch the game. I was so proud. (Note: RAW dressed her in mismatched pajamas because we could not find a matching set. )

We also fed KJW a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. She did well for most of the night, but having not napped, she did become upset for no apparent reason. It may just be that she was being a woman...

On Tuesday, Jimmy Stewart would have celebrated his 100th birthday. TCM did a tribute showing his movies all day. I just felt it appropriate to honor this icon. I am a fan.

Finally, our wallpapering saga looks to be coming to an end. We have been assured that only one day remains. I actually do believe this as all of the wallpaper has been hung and only the mirrors and toilets need to be reinstalled. It looks good. Frankly, it ought to be...

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Associated Baptist Press - 5/20/2008

Associated Baptist Press
May 20, 2008 (8-52)

Baylor President John Lilley’s future in doubt after meeting
Wiley Drake cleared in IRS probe, but vows further endorsement
Baptists continue to respond as tolls rise in China, Myanmar
Prestonwood minister resigns after arrest in online sex sting
American Baptists launch fund to battle global food crisis
British Baptists to go to Jamaica with apology for slave trade

Baylor President John Lilley’s future in doubt after meeting
By Robert Marus

WACO, Texas (ABP) -- John Lilley may be the latest endangered leader at the world’s largest Baptist school, according to reports in the local newspaper.

The Waco Tribune-Herald reported May 17 that Baylor University leaders declined to discuss whether the school’s regents took a vote on Lilley’s fate during a board meeting the previous day. The paper reported earlier that, according to unidentified board sources, such a vote would be held.

Lilley came to Baylor in 2005 after the stormy 10-year tenure of Robert Sloan. Baylor officials hoped at the time that Lilley would help heal a rift that had developed under Sloan between the faculty and administration over ideological and educational issues. They also hoped Lilley could calm tensions between the independent Baylor Alumni Association and the regents.

But controversy over several recent denials of tenure to faculty members, despite the recommendations of their departments, and other issues has raised questions in recent weeks about Lilley’s fate.

The Tribune reported May 14 that the meeting would include a vote to fire Lilley. But the school issued a press release following the May 16 meeting that mentioned nothing about any such vote.

According to the newspaper, Lilley, Baylor Regents chairman Harold Cunningham and Vice President for Communications John Barry refused to say if the meeting had included a vote on Lilley’s fate, repeatedly noting that they would not comment on anything that happened in executive session.

Asked for further information by an Associated Baptist Press reporter May 19, Baylor spokesperson Lori Scott Fogleman reiterated other school officials' statements. "We can't talk about confidential executive session matters, but what I can tell you is that Dr. Lilley is Baylor's president," she said, noting that Lilley "has a full schedule of business he is attending to on behalf of the university" in the next few weeks.


Wiley Drake cleared in IRS probe, but vows further endorsement
By Robert Marus

WASHINGTON (ABP) -- Southern Baptist pastor-personality Wiley Drake did not violate tax law by using his church’s letterhead or his radio show to endorse Mike Huckabee, he announced May 18.

Drake, pastor of the 75-member First Southern Baptist Church in Buena Park, Calif., told church members and visitors that the government had cleared the congregation. An IRS letter that Drake provided to local media outlets said that, based on “all the facts and circumstances” of the endorsements, “the IRS has concluded that Buena Park First Southern Baptist Church did not engage in prohibited political campaign intervention in violation of the requirements of [Internal Revenue Code] Section 501(c)(3).”

Federal tax law prevents churches and similar tax-exempt organizations from endorsing candidates or parties in elections. If they do so, they risk losing their tax exemption altogether.

Drake -- who has announced his long-shot candidacy for the Southern Baptist Convention’s presidency this year -- said in February that he was under investigation for using his church letterhead and a radio show last year to endorse Huckabee for the Republican presidential nomination. Huckabee, the former Arkansas governor, is also a Southern Baptist minister.

“After very serious prayer and consideration, I announce today that I am going to personally endorse Mike Huckabee,” he said in the press release, which was e-mailed to media outlets and written on church letterhead. “I ask all of my Southern Baptist brothers and sisters to consider getting behind Mike and helping him all you can.”

He said he believes “God has chosen Mike for such an hour,” and that of all the candidates running for president, “Mike Huckabee will listen to God.”

Shortly after he released the written statement, Drake also endorsed Huckabee on an Internet-based radio show he broadcasts, often from the church’s property.

“Yes, I endorsed him personally and, yes, we use the First Southern Baptist Church,” Drake said on the show. “Everything we do is under the auspices of the church.”

But the IRS letter said that both endorsements were more properly understood as Drake’s individual endorsements rather than official church actions. The press release, it noted, was sent from Drake’s personal account and did not go out to church members. It listed his position as pastor “for identification purposes,” the letter said, and the endorsement was not “authorized or approved” by the church. In addition, it claimed, “no church resources were utilized in preparing or sending the e-mail.”

On the radio-show endorsement, the letter said the Wiley Drake Show is a separate legal entity from the church, and the church doesn’t “own, financially support, sponsor or have any legal rights” to the show. It said Drake uses his personal mobile phone to call the organization (Crusade Radio) through which the show is broadcast, and that he may do so while “at the church on his break” or when away from the church building.

In recent years, some religious conservatives have tried unsuccessfully to undo the tax laws that prevent churches from endorsing candidates or parties while retaining their tax-exempt status. Opponents of such efforts claim the prohibition actually upholds religious freedom by protecting houses of worship and denominational bodies from being used by candidates and parties.

A conservative Christian legal organization recently asked thousands of pastors to endorse candidates from the pulpit on Sept. 28. The Alliance Defense Fund -- which defended Drake against the IRS investigation -- hopes that one or more investigations or tax revocations launched by the event will lead to a federal case that would test the constitutionality of the law curtailing church political endorsements.

Drake did not respond to an Associated Baptist Press reporter’s request for confirmation by press time for this story, but according to the Orange County Register, he plans to participate in the organization’s protest against tax law.


Baptists continue to respond as tolls rise in China, Myanmar
By ABP staff

(ABP) -- Baptists continue to mobilize supplies and prayer in an effort to minister to victims of natural disasters in China and Myanmar.

Latest news reports May 19 indicated the death toll in China had risen to 34,000, with 220,000 injured, in the wake of the 7.9-magnitude earthquake that struck Sichuan province May 12.

Cyclone Nargis struck Myanmar (Burma) on May 3, killing at least 78,000 and leaving hundreds of thousands homeless. The country’s ruling military junta continues to resist most international assistance.

Franklin Graham, founder of the relief organization Samaritan’s Purse, was in China at the time the earthquake hit. His organization continues to collect supplies and plans to send them to the area by the end of the week.

Working with the China Association for International Friendly Contact, Samaritan’s Purse is sending rolls of plastic sheeting, water filtration units, hygiene packets, medical kits, blankets and other supplies.

Myanmar’s leaders continue to resist international assistance efforts. But as of May 19, some help had been accepted from the Baptist World Alliance and Samaritan’s Purse.

Graham’s organization was among the first non-government relief agencies allowed to send supplies to Myanmar. According to its website, one cargo-plane-load of supplies arrived from Thailand on May 14. Because of government restrictions, Samaritan’s Purse is working through local churches to get relief materials delivered.

Airlifted supplies include water purification kits, rolls of plastic for emergency shelters, emergency health kits, blankets, clothing and mosquito nets.

A Baptist World Alliance Rescue24 team was granted visas and has entered Myanmar. The team currently is stationed in Yangon, among the largest cities devastated by the cyclone. The team is working in five camps near the city, serving approximately 15,000 people.

According to news reports, the Asia Pacific Baptist Federation, a BWA affiliate, is organizing a meeting of national Baptist convention representatives and relief workers in Bangkok, Thailand, May 24 to discuss needs and ways in which to meet them.

BWA, through its relief arm, Baptist World Aid, expects to send a relief team to China by Thursday or Friday. According to the BWA website, volunteers from the United States -- North Carolina, Virginia and Texas -- and Singapore, Australia and Hungary are on standby to form additional teams. Members of Hungarian Baptist Aid are leading both teams.

According to a post on its website, the Southern Baptist Convention’s relief organization, Baptist Global Response, is hoping to have a team in China sometime during the week of May 19.

The organization sent five initial disaster-relief responders to Bangkok in the wake of the Myanmar storm.

American Baptists have given two $5,000 grants, one for each country, to assist with relief efforts.

Contributions for both countries can be made online at (CBF); (American Baptist Churches, USA); (Baptist World Alliance); (SBC Baptist Global Response).


Prestonwood minister resigns after arrest in online sex sting
By ABP staff

DALLAS (ABP) — An associate minister at a Dallas megachurch was arrested in Bryan, Texas, while trying to meet face to face with a “teen” he met online.

A minister to adults at Prestonwood Baptist Church, Joe Barron, 52, of Plano, a Dallas suburb, was arrested around noon May 15 and charged with solicitation of a minor, according to the City of Bryan Police Department. He has been released on $7,000 bond, the Dallas Morning News reported.

According to a police press release, Barron was caught as part of a police sting operation against online sexual predators. Barron had communicated with Bryan police officers for about two weeks, thinking he was chatting with a 13-year-old female. According to the report, the online chats were “sexually explicit in nature.”

On May 6, Barron arranged to meet the “girl” the following week in Bryan, about 200 miles south. Undercover police staked out the agreed upon location and arrested Barron when he arrived.

At the time of his arrest, “he said he was feeling guilt and shame and grief,” Sgt. Shane Bush, an officer with the department’s directed-deployment team, told news reporters.

Barron gave no indication in his online chats that he was a minister, Bryan police spokeswoman Lesley Malinak said.

Officers confiscated a web-cam and headset and condoms from Barron’s car. Bryan and Plano law enforcement took a desktop computer, two laptops and several computer disks and memory cards from the minister’s home.

According to the police report, Prestonwood Baptist cooperated by allowing officers access to Barron’s office computer.

Prestonwood pastor Jack Graham informed his congregation at a Saturday evening videotaped service that Barron had immediately resigned his position as minister to middle-aged married adults. One of 40 ministers, Barron had been on the church’s staff about 18 months.

“We are appalled and disgraced by this terrible action,” Graham said. “We have worked very, very hard to earn the trust of our congregation and our community…. We will continue to make it our highest priority … that our staff … will be of the highest character and calling.”

If convicted of the second-degree felony, Barron faces a possible 20-year prison sentence and a $10,000 fine.

Acting as a vice squad, the Bryan team has been in place since September 2006. They have made 12 arrests for online solicitation.

Accounts of sex abuse of minors and adults by Southern Baptist clergy have made national headlines in recent years, sparking widespread calls for reform -- so far unanswered.

The Journal of Pastoral Care reported in a 1993 survey that 14 percent of Southern Baptist senior pastors have engaged in “sexual behavior inappropriate for a minister.” Those statistics include sexual misconduct between adults. But 70 percent of reported sexual assaults involve minors, according to the victim-advocate group Darkness to Light, and an estimated 30 percent of child victims never report their abuse. Most abusers will have multiple victims, and serial abusers can have 40 to 400 in a lifetime.


American Baptists launch fund to battle global food crisis
By ABP staff

VALLEY FORGE, Penn. (ABP) -- American Baptist Churches USA has launched a fund drive to provide money to help ministry partners in poor areas deal with the rising costs of basic foodstuffs.

ABC International Ministries started the Global Crisis Food Fund with $100,000. The missions agency contributed $50,000 of its resources, and the other $50,000 came from One Great Hour of Sharing, an offering conducted by the ABC World Relief Office.

“Places around the world where hunger has been a big problem, have now seen it become a bigger problem as food prices have increased dramatically” Reid Trulson, ABC International Ministries executive director, said, according to the American Baptist News Service.

“Our fund is a response to our partners and other Christian organizations who are on the frontlines of helping to feed the hungry and homeless every day. We want to help them so they don't have to cut back on basic staples their people need for survival,” he continued.

Half of the money will be granted immediately to the Thailand Burma Border Consortium, to help cover the rising cost of rice. That is the primary staple food given to hundreds of thousands of displaced people living in refugee camps in the region.

“The most recent report I saw shows that the Thailand Burma Border Consortium supplies all the food in nine camps. [They] still need about $7 million to avoid having to severely cut the food ration,” Duane Binkley, a missionary who works with refugees in Thailand and in the United States said. Some cuts have been made already, he added.

The remaining $50,000 will be available for partners to apply for grants. U.S. partners may apply through American Baptist National Ministries.

A $5,000 grant has been approved for Jean Rabel, a region in Haiti, where missionaries Kihomi and Madubiga Nzunga serve. According to Nzunga, families are reportedly selling their children in hopes that they will be able to eat and survive wherever they are taken.

Partners in the Philippines and North Korea have also applied.

The food crisis is blamed on many factors, such as the rising cost of oil, which increases transportation costs; government subsidies that have increased food costs in some countries; natural disasters and other ongoing crises.


British Baptists to go to Jamaica with apology for slave trade
By ABP staff

DIDCOT, England (ABP) — A delegation of British Baptists is set to apologize, in person, to Jamaican Baptists for the trans-Atlantic slave trade.

During a May 22-29 stay, the delegation plans to meet with Jamaican Baptists and worship in their churches, as well as to see some of the locations tied to the history of the slave trade. Team members during two worship experiences with Jamaican Baptists May 25, the British representatives will apologize and present a plaque.

The trip follows the bicentennial commemoration of the passage of the 1807 act of the British Parliament that abolished that nation’s slave trade. Jamaica was a British colony where many slaves settled.

The Baptist Union of Great Britain instigated the trip after Baptist Union Council members passed a resolution of apology at their November session.

That decision was prompted, according to a release from the Baptist Union, by letters that appeared last year in the Baptist Times, a British Baptist newspaper. Several writers expressed disappointment that the British delegation failed to offer an apology, during last year’s Baptist World Alliance gathering in Ghana, to Ghanaian and other black Baptists. That nation, like other parts of West Africa, is where many of the slaves that British slave-traders sent to the New World originated.

Council members unanimously agreed to the resolution, which offers an “apology to God and to our brothers and sisters for all that has created and still perpetuates the hurt which originated from the horror of slavery.”

Members of the delegation to Jamaica include Baptist Union General Secretary Jonathan Edwards; Alistair Brown, director of the union’s missionary arm, BMS World Mission; Wale Hudson-Roberts, racial-justice coordinator for the union; and Pat White, a member of Brixton Baptist Church, who will represent the London Baptist Association and the British Baptist Black and Ethnic Minority Ministers’ Forum and churches.

“The decision to offer an apology for the trans-Atlantic slave trade was an historic moment for the Baptist Union Council,” Edwards said, in the release. “In the statement that was agreed at that meeting, it was clearly stated that this was just the start of a journey. Taking the apology to Jamaica in person seemed to many people a vital step on the journey, and it is my privilege to participate in it.”

Brown noted, “Going to Jamaica is very important for me. BMS worked in Jamaica among slaves and stood with them against slavery. But Baptists in Britain were slower than we should have been to take a decisive stand, and I’m very sorry about that. It matters now to stand shoulder to shoulder with Caribbean sisters and brothers, acknowledging failures and rejoicing in Christian fellowship.”

Jamaica Baptist Union General Secretary Karl Johnson is looking forward to meeting the delegation. “The Jamaica Baptist Union received the news of the apology made by our sisters and brothers in the Baptist family in the United Kingdom with openness, humility and appreciation,” he said.

“For years we have felt that such an action was necessary and have indeed encouraged them to consider [the] same. It therefore goes without saying that we are grateful to God that in God’s own time and in the lifetime of some who were part of the original request in 1994, it has come to pass.”

Another Baptist of African descent hailed the development. As members of the body of Christ, we treasure the solidarity we have in Christ and we know how to respond when fellow Christians admit to wrongdoing, if even by their forebears,” said Baptist World Alliance General Secretary Neville Callam, who is from Jamaica.

”We know the joy and the blessing of forgiveness. With this, true healing is possible and liberation becomes the common gain of everyone involved.”


Bible Trivia - 5/20/2008

Question: How does the book of Numbers get its name?

Answer: From a census of the Israelite people.

Comments: The book of Numbers actually takes its name from the Greek version of the Old Testament (Septuagint or LXX). The LXX version bears the title "Numeri," from the command given by God in Numbers 1:2-4 to number the children of Israel "from twenty years old and upward," (NASB), with the priestly tribe of Levi being exempted. Moses was to also to appoint heads over each tribe. The result of the numbering is that 603,550 Israelites were found to be fit for military service. (Numbers 1:46) In Jewish literature it is known as "Bemidbar" which means "in the wilderness." The Hebrew Bible develops titles from each book's first word in Hebrew.

Word of the Day - 5/20/2008


Sempiternal is an adjective meaning everlasting; eternal.

In the Gopel of Luke, a lawyer and a ruler both inquire of Jesus about the requirements for inheriting sempiternal life using almost the exact same phrasing (Luke 10:25; Luke 18:18).

And a lawyer stood up and put Him to the test, saying, "Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?" (Luke 10:25, NASB)

A ruler questioned Him, saying, "Good Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?" (Luke 18:18, NASB)

Jesus refers both to Old Testament law, but not to the same passages.

In Eckleburg's Eyes - 5/20/2008

I had a great Monday evening with JTH and his family.

I met JTH at the home of his friends CRF (aka CYKTGWHS) and TL (aka TLYKTGG). The house is situated in a subdivision that borders on being in Lenoir City if it is not already. It is nice but it reeks of canine. JTH is house sitting for their two dogs, Neko and Lincoln, while they are out of town. The dogs are brothers of the Belgian Shepherd Malinois variety. If you happen to be in charge of any upcoming spelling bees, "Malinois" would be a great word to choose as I am pretty sure Akeelah would even have difficulty with it.

After picking JTH up we met his parents as Sam & Andy’s, a local restaurant. On the way we had an interesting experience as the red light at the five-lane intersection of Kingston Pike and Concord Road was stuck. The lights were not blinking, they were stopped on one rotation. JTH did his part by calling 9-1-1. After his conversation ended, he noted how courteous they always are. Apparently, he has had to dial 9-1-1 three times!

Sam & Andy’s is another local staple, long having a location on the UT campus. Sam and Andy Captain first opened shop in Knoxville in 1946. The campus location closed on April 29, 1997, but they still have a Farragut shop. On this night, I had perhaps the best meatball sub I have ever tasted. I obviously recommend the place, just bring cash as they do not accept credit cards. Amazingly, I had cash on this trip, but it was unecessary as CEH paid for my meal. Thanks, Homer!

JTH’s parents eat there often as the food is good and simple and its building is close to their home. KTH joined us having completed her first back at work after knee replacement surgery. The preschool teacher returned just in time for the final week of the weekday program.

His mother was raving about a Christian novel called The Shack by William P. Young. The novel was self-published in May 2007 and became a USA Today bestseller, having sold over three-quarters of a million copies. If you are into Christian fiction, it is supposed to be good.

JTH and I then returned to his friends' house and watched two episodes of “Rob & Big” on DVD. I had never seen the program before. This is an MTV “reality” program which follows the life of skateboarder Rob Dyrdek and his best friend and bodyguard Chris “Big Black” Boykin. Created by the producers of “Jackass”, it has absolutely no plot. Naturally, JTH loves it. If nothing else, the expression "do work" is now in my vocabulary.

The original photos in this post were the first pictures taken with my new cell phone, Verizon’s LG VX8350 model. My only complaint is that I had to use the promotional photo of the phone as it cannot take a picture of itself. I guess nothing is perfect.

I will close with another update on the epic wallpapering experience at the Vinson home. One strip of paper was finally put up on Monday. One. The workers cleverly closed the doors at some point, giving the illusion that they were hard at work. My mother thought that they were all day in the house at night but they had been gone for some time, only leaving a pickup truck in the driveway. Thus, the papering continues...

Monday, May 19, 2008

Prayer Blog - 5/19/2008, #2

KM, daughter of CDM, checked out of a hospital yesterday. The child contracted pneumonia. Though she is well on her way, keep her in your thoughts and prayers.

Prayer Blog - 5/19/2008

LKW, always sweet, dropped by food at my home tonight as she wanted to do something to commemorate my grandmother's death. While at the house, she informed my mother and I that if flight prices reduce to their previous levels, she and her teenage daughter HS will make a mission trip with JPP to South Africa from July 3-15. Pray God's will be done and that if possible, they get to join the team.

Bible Trivia - 5/19/2008

Question: What is the name of the Muslim sacred site now located on the former site of Solomon's temple.

Answer: The Dome of the Rock.

Comments: The Dome of the Rock is located at the visual center of the Temple Mount. The second temple was destoyed during the Roman Siege of Jerusalem in 70 CE. Islam gained control of the land in 637 AD when Jerusalem was conquered by the Rashidun Caliphate army during the Islamic invasion of the Byzantine Empire. The Dome of the Rock was completed in 691, making it the oldest extant Islamic building in the world.

Word of the Day - 5/19/2008


Relucent means shining; bright.

Shortly after the feeding of the 5000 Jesus' face and clothes suddenly became relucent in what theologians have dubbed "The Transfiguration." (Matthew 17:2, Mark 9:3, Luke 9:29)

And He was transfigured before them; and His face shone like the sun, and His garments became as white as light. (Matthew 17:2, NASB)

In Eckleburg's Eyes - 5/19/2008

I spent the weekend celebrating SMA's graduation from the Cumberland School of Law. The celebration became an event that encompasseed three states!

The plan had me driving to Atlanta on Friday, to Birmingham on Saturday and back to Knoxville after the graduation later that night. If you think that is a logistical nightmare, SMA and WRK went from Knoxville to Birmingham on Thursday to procure his cap and gown, stayed in Oxford, Alabama, and then to Atlanta before taking the same route I did. This was done as SMA wanted to celebrate in Atlanta.

On Friday morning, I woke up bright and early and hit the road to Atlanta. If I had a dollar for every time I have made this trip, I could afford a car. I might even be able to afford gas for the trip. You see, what I’m trying to say is that gas prices are outrageous.

Naturally, I stopped in Chattanooga to break the trip up and peruse their McKay’s. I made a great discovery there. I was wearing my prized Fantastic Four shirt (bought at a thrift store) when the clerk asked me my superpower. After admitting that if I had one I would have more money, I then said I can find things cheap. Thus, “Bargain Man” was born.

Things were running smoothly until I got exit to 285 (Red Top Mountain Road; Cartersville). Then they slowed down. In fact, we practically stopped. Bumper to bumper driving en route to Atlanta is like a Brady Bunch revival. You know it’s going to happen, you just don’t know when. On this trip, it was just fourteen miles from my exit! I was so close I could practically walk it. Practically...

As I was ahead of schedule, I had been contemplating what I would do with my extra ten minutes. No worries. I was one hour late. I amused myself by reading the signs that surrounded me. The traffic signs were especially amusing: "Speeding Fines Doubled" and "Speed Limit: 50 MPH" were not a great concern and I was uncertain as to whether “Reduced Speed Ahead” was even possible. If you can take a clear photo from a camera phone, you need not worry about dangerous speeds.

I also read the ads on the highway and the cars. On one of the 18-wheeelers in front of me was an ad for Not just a truck, but a big truck. I refrained from calling a “How am I driving number?” (I have done that before.) File these under traffic jam tips for future reference if you travel to Atlanta.

In addition to this being typical of a Friday in the Atlanta area, a three-lane highway had been reduced to one lane for a three-mile stretch. That three miles took more than one hour to traverse.

My meeting with BKW in Kennesaw was greatly postponed. (Even on a smash and grab through Atlanta, I try to see BKW.) Fortunately, as a Kennesaw resident, he completely understood the situation. As always, it was great to see my seminary bud. After remembering what I hated about Atlanta (driving) I remembered the part I loved (friends). Th third of the Three Pulpiteers, MDC, was invited but unable to attend.

We finally met at The Varsity in Kennesaw. I had never eaten at the Atlanta staple before. Under BKW’s expert guidance, I tried the whole Varsity experience - hamburger, hot dog, fries, and a frosted orange. I typically only drink water except on Sundays, but I wanted the traditional Varsity drink. It is like a liquid orange sherbert.

Evidently, people do not flock to the place for the food, though I liked mine. It is a traditional local haunt which first opened in 1928. It is a throwback to another era and adult patrons are even known to don paper hats. The experience trumps the food.

BKW is a presently bi-vocational minister who works at Complete Printing. Both of his careers are going well. Over lunch BKW landed a prestigious account with the Atlanta Bread Company. They presently have 140 stores (primarily in the southeastern United States) with plans to expand. I was pleased to be present when the good news was delivered.

His ministry is also going well as Sunday (May 18th) marks the first time he will be leading the service at his church. He has been working extensively with children. He has challenged the children to deliver any question. Thus far, the jet propulsion of an F-415 is the only inquiry which has stumped him. He did well when an eleven-year old girl asked him why guys like girls’ butts so much. Better him than me.

He also recently consulted with his partner Keith’s daughter. Two of her friends died drowning on May 9. One cramped up in a lake and when his friend tried to save him, he was pulled under. For more details see "Prayer Blog - 5/15/2008". I learned, for future reference, that unless one is exceptionally strong or a great swimmer (I am neither), your best bet is to knock out the panicked swimmer and hope to revive her on land.

I delivered BKW’s Christmas gift. Yes, in May. (We have seen each other since then, I just always forget the gift.) He enjoyed is WC Vinson Minsitries t-shirt (which with so few left is certainly becoming a collector’s item) and the vintage (read old and used) Karate Kid action figures. It is his favorite film. It is not the last gift from Christmas leftover. LEJ, if you read this, you have one coming. We seminary grads struggle to connect.

As always, BKW shared pearls of wisdom on training regimens. He led me to and a guy who developed "everyday systems." This man admittedly has no medical training but has developed routines that involved sledgehammers so he cannot be all bad. How long do you think I would make it before injuring myself or breaking something?

I made a brief stop at the adjacent Town Center at Cobb Simon mall and then traveled to Abdullah the Butcher’s House of Ribs and Chinese Food (yes that is its real name). It is in the Ben Hill region of South Atlanta (near where LEJ’s parents married) and on the other side of Atlanta from Kennesaw.

I was to meet MJB and CST, who made the trip to Atlanta to attend the first leg of SMA’s graduation celebration. Unfortunately, they were delayed in the same traffic I had been in. I called them from the restaurant and they were still 40 miles away. They had hit it later in the day, which meant the delay was longer was longer. Their trip took 5 ½ hours. I waited in the restaurant for a bit and soaked in the ambiance.

Abdullah the Butcher naturally owns the place. He was a wrestler known especially for his bloody matches. He has cut his forehead so often that he can entertain fellow wrestler by rolling quarters through the divots in his scalp. Insanity or dedication to his craft? You be the judge. When eating at Abdullah’s one can view highlights from his matches, which I am sure someone in the world might find appetizing.

With the time to kill, I visited nearby Elizabeth Baptist Church, where my aforementioned friend MDC works. He was not there but I picked up this snazzy brochure and left a message for him. I would hate to be in the region and not try to connect.

Matters became incredibly complicated at this point as my cell phone officially died. Not as in a power outage, but as in dead. We booked this trip like WCW - on the fly. This meant that we had no concrete plans (I did not even know the hotel we were staying at) and no way to contact anyone. While picking up a disposable camera at a Walgreens I prayed. At that moment, my phone inexplicably resuscitated. I learned that my friends had no time to make it to South Atlanta and I was to meet SMA at our hotel. Nearly immediately thereafter my phone was dead for good - or in Princess Bride terms - had gone from “mostly dead” to “all dead.” Can you say, “God?”

With my new marching orders, I then drove back to downtown to the Westin Peachtree Plaza and checked my car with the valet. How did travelers function prior to the advent of the GPS? Why, I am old enough to remember the ancient days when all I had was a Mapquest printout at my disposal...

Standing 73 stories, Westin Peachtree Plaza is one of the tallest building in the Atlanta skyline. We are fairly certain we could see to Florida from our rooms. Though I had never stayed in the hotel, I had eaten at the Sun Dial restaurant, located on the top floor, in January 2003. Actually, LEJ was there. That is three LEJ references in one post! I never realized how many Atlanta associations I had with her.

I started in room 3417 but switched with SMA’s parents to room 4315. SMA’s mother BCA is troubled by acrophobia. I was happy to oblige as they were kind enough to pay for the rooms. I did find it amusing as I am not sure of the difference between 34 and 43 flights up. I am pretty sure if either of us plunged off the side, we would be "all dead" either way.

After checking the Xterra with the valet, I had an incredibly awkward check in. As I was staying only one night, I carried my change of clothes and brought no luggage. This coupled with my shorts and t-shirt made me incredibly conspicuous in the posh hotel. Many employees laughingly inundated me with offers of help carrying “my luggage” in accents reminiscent of Coming to America.

SMA met me and escorted me across the street to Pitty Pat’s Porch. Yes, it was my third consecutive restaurant. We met WRK, and SMA’s parents DA (literally no middle name; appropriately the lawyer’s father is "DA") and BCA. They had not eaten since breakfast, so we were there at 5 pm when it opened.

The restaurant is an Atlanta fixture, having been open since October 1967. It has a tasteful Gone With the Wind theme. The name comes from Scarlett O’Hara's aunt. When in Atlanta, Scarlett lodged with Aunt Pittypat, who prepared only her best recipes and provided great hospitality. Keeping with the antiquated southern theme, the menus are presented as fans. Drinks are served in stone water goblets that feel so cold they “could freeze the hand off an Eskimo.” (Note: Ric Flair quote.) All meals are served with bread, greens, and black eyes peas.

The restaurant serves typically Southern dishes in a plantation house atmosphere. I was the odd man out as I ordered “Rhett’s Mixed Grill” - “A combination of grilled filets of beef, pork, and chicken served on a bed of Southern rice pilaf and tasty zinfandel sauce.” Otherwise, both girls ate Aunt Pittypat’s Fried Chicken and both guys “the Plantation Combo” - ribs and chicken. SMA also sampled his first ever Mint Julep.

WRK ate a little over one piece of chicken. SMA, DA, and I teamed up all weekend to ridicule her eating habits. I chided her that KJW eats more than she and that she is the inverse of competitive eater Takeru Kobayashi. DA had the best remark in this regard. As I was lamenting that no celebrities ate with us on the trip as is custom when I eat with SMA and WRK, he corrected me that I was actually eating with SMA and WRK was “there.” Well played.

DA may have actually gotten the menu changed as well. His peach cobbler was (incorrectly) prepared cold. Our near deaf (literally, possessing a massive hearing aid) waiter said, “I’ll tell the manager and have that taken off the menu.” Though we are relatively certain he meant “bill,”we prefer to think of it as DA having the dessert eliminated from the restaurant.

The waiter then began blaming the Mexican cook at a volume only a deaf man can. Naturally one of the guests behind him, was Hispanic. At least it was not his table.

Overall, it was a good experience. We were all given complimentary mason jars (which the waiter referred to as an “ankle breaker”) emblazoned with the restaurant's logo as souvenirs.

Some news from dinner discussion:

  • On the national front, Ellen Degeneres announced she would be married to her lover Portia de Rossi as gay marriage has been legalized in California.
  • New Kids on the Block reunited on the Today Show earlier in the morning.
  • In Knoxville related news, DBN’s brother qualified for Jeopardy.
  • MWD broke break up her boyfriend Ben. The reason? She did not like his mom. This is not as outlandish a reason as "he texted like a friend", but it is close. SMA bluntly asked her “Is this permanent or are you just being stupid?” She leaned towards the latter. We are hoping anyway as we like the guy.

Over dinner, we heard from our friends MJB and CST. Instead of eating with us, they decided to tailgate at the stadium. So they cracked open two six packs, pulled out lawn chairs in front of CST's pickup and camped beneath the "1" sign in the blue parking section of the baseball stadium where we would be meeting them later. The only thing that would have improved this image wold have been were they wearing Tennessee attire. Represent, boys!

We then made our way to Turner Field where we saw the Oakland Athletics play the Atlanta Braves. Though Interleague games have been played since 1997, it was SMA's and my first interleague game.

At will call, we finally hooked up with MJB and CST. They are well. CST, however, was facing the potential loss of his job at Jewelry Television when he returned home on Monday. Earlier in the day, the Knoxville-based shopping organization had laid off 150 employees. CST was well aware that two from his department would also be relieved on Monday as downsizing continued. He found not knowing worse than either answer. He tried not to dwell on it. The company will pay one week severance for every year employed, so if he does lose his job, with 8½ years experience plus countless vacation hours accumulated, he will have ample time to seek employment. I hope he keeps it as he enjoys his job and is good at it. Please keep him in your prayers.

CST was still in good spirits (probably literally). In addition to his beer, his Coke Zero was mixed with Jim Beam. As you can see, MJB used the whiskey as ankle support. CST was pleased Coke Zero was on tap as it evidently is superior for mixing in drinks. Things I would never know without my friends...

Before the game began, SMA, WRK, and I visited the Braves Clubhouse Store where SMA bought a shirt. I was disappointed that they no longer carried Dale Murphy merchandise. Though he has not played there since 1990, when I was in school, they still stocked his jerseys. At least his retired #3 still hangs in the rafters.

We had good seats, situated down the third base line. The wather cooperated as well.

The game was close, with the Braves winning 3-2. The starting pitching match up pitted Dana Eveland (3-3, 3.23 ERA) against the Braves’ 22-year old right-handerJair Jurrjens (4-3, 3.10 ERA). Jurrjens got into trouble early but was aided by two Athletics getting thrown out at home plate in the same inning! Neither of the runs he gave up were earned because of his own error. This just does not seem right.

If CST loses his job he ought to work as a baseball scout. He called almost every at bat correctly. It was uncanny. My favorite part of the game was when the Atlanta fans started “the wave” while their own team was at bat. CST was livid at their stupidity as this would serve only to distract their own batter. On cue, as he was ranting, the rest of our group decided to participate in the wave...

My favorite CST joke of the night:

Question: What does Georgia football and a possum have in common?
Answer: They both lie down at home and get killed on the road.

The announced attendance was 31,004, though there were plenty of empty seats. You can tell the team is trying to spruce up the game for the fans. When did the Braves get cheerleaders? (I thought about WAM who cited their absence as one of baseball’s inferior attributes.) The cheerleaders are moderately attractive women who wear short shorts, jerseys and neither cheer nor dance. This may be the easiest job in America.

In addition, there were also many side games which all seemed to be rigged in favor of the contestant. We seriously questioned the integrity of these games. I was pleased the big screen acknowledged (M.C.) Hammer’s connection to the Athletics as a former Oakland bat boy. Though former A’s third baseman Carney Lansford was not mentioned officially, we acknowledged him in our conversation.

My only complaint was that future Hall of Fame inductee Frank Thomas did not play. Though he has been relegated to designated hitting duties, I hoped that he would at least pinch hit in the National League park. No such luck. We did get to see two Hall of Famers play - Chipper Jones and Tom Glavine who was called upon to bunt (and failed) in the seventh inning. I had seen them before but had never seen the Big Hurt. I did see him standing in the dugout.

I was hoping for a no-hitter, but both teams squelched that by the second inning. The Braves won the game in the bottom of the eighth inning when Mark Kotsay, a former Athletic, hit an RBI double to secure the game winning run. The game lasted 3:02.

It was WRK’s first game. She was the only rookie in our party. Her favorite part of the game? The music! She did admit that baseball is infinitely superior live than on television.

MJB got his funnel cake (finally, after the longest absence ever) and DA his bratwurst - both cravings and ballpark staples. We got to do the tomahawk chop. The home team won. All in all a good night.

This game was far more enjoyable than SMA’s and my recent baseball and Atlanta sporting past. The Dodgers-Marlins game we attended in Los Angeles last July 7, had a parent explaining every nuance of the game to his young children. The kids did not ask. He just wanted to show his knowledge. Our previous baseball trip was in 2006 saw us drive to Baltimore only to find that we had the game time wrong and that the game was already over. (Seriously, it was still a great visit.) It was also better than our last trip to Atlanta for a sporting event, as well, we were not in the eye of a tornado.

MJB and CST were elated when the game did not merit extra innings. After the game, they hit the road back to Knoxville as CST’s dog needed out in the morning. The dog is named Kenta, after Kenta Kobashi. SMA has plans on naming his dog Mitsuharu so that the dogs can feud. (Read: All-Japan Pro Wrestling reference. If you do not get it, do not feel bad. Feel bad for me because I did.) They also needed to be in Knoxville on Saturday night as they were hosting a bachelor Party for their friend JB.

I then returned to the hotel where I was glad to get some sleep.

I had no problem waking up in the morning as my bed was at eye level with the sun. I also now do not have to see Rock City as the hotel produces the same effect. I showered. This is important as showers are to hotels as brakes are to cars - they are the most different aspect of a familiar experience. I always feel like Mick “Crocodile” Dundee as I struggle to figure out the mechanics of each hotel shower. It was shortly thereafter that I discovered that I forgot my brush. So I styled my hair by hand. Note to self: Remember the brush next time.

Throughout the room, and even in the shower, were Weston Brain Body Fitness cards. This is an example. SMA and I were the only ones in our group to give the correct answer (four). Why they do this I do not know, but Iwill admit that we were all amused.

Our group all met in the lobby at 9 am. Before leaving, I went to the in-house Avenue’s Gift Shop where I bought KJW a Braves ball, the appropriate size and weight for bonking her. Unfortunately, they had no Atlanta rubber duckies.

We then hit the road to Birmingham for SMA’s 3 pm CST graduation. After brief delays due to weekend repaving, we stopped for breakfast at a Cracker Barrel in Austell, Georgia. I left my order with SMA and got gas. He thankfully got me the Sunrise Sampler and not the grits he had threatened. Where else can you get both a jawbreaker on a stick and a one pound Sugar Daddy? BCA sumamrized it well, “They have a whole lot of junk.”

We then drove to Birmingham. I followed SMA and BCA. I am glad WRK bought SMA a graduation monkey which rested in his window as I could differentiate it from other silver cars. It was especially important that I follow him as once again we had no plans when leaving and I had no cell phone in the event we split up. I thought about the problems of the Corinthian church and the following various leaders en route. (I have a one track mind.) With the exception intermittent left lane closings, the ride was smooth.

We were met in Birmingham by SMA’s uncle JRS and his two sons JS, 10, and SS, 8. We ate together at McAlister’s Deli in Homewood, Alabama. Our conversation centered around Star Wars. SMA even did his Watto impersonation, or part of it anyway. I learned of a meeting of a Jedi Church in Holyfield, Wales, last March interrupted by a drunken man who was so offended by the concept that he pillaged two people filming a light sabre battle while screaming "Darth Vader!" Seriously. The BBC has a video and news article here.

After lunch, we went to SMA’s graduation on the Samford University campus. We arrived exceedingly early. Seating was supposed to begin one hour before the event with limited capacity. As JRS astutely summarized - this was “over-hyped.” So, I kept SMA company with the soon-to-be graduates. I even convinced one official that I was graduating. I felt like “the Pretender.” My grandfather would have been so proud.

SMA made sure to cut his phone off we are certain DBN would have picked the time he was walking across the stage to call. Mongo, we thought about you! SMA and his colleagues actually entered to bag pipes.

The Honorable Lee H. Rosenthal, a United States District Judge, was the guest speaker. She had previously served on a committee with the school’s dean John L. Carroll. She facially resembled Bea Arthur and used legal jargon throughout her speech. Sadly, the din of children reverberated throughout. Her thesis was that only 1.3% of cases go to trial and charged the students to improve the law itself. She noted how difficult this has made it for trial lawyers, as most are now litigators. Settlements also reduce the communal involvement. The speech was sort of depressing and definitely not entertaining.

I found a similarity between law and theology students as she said when entering school their honest answer to legal questions was “I don’t know” and that it has since evolved into “It depends.” She also referenced so it was not all bad.

SMA dressed in a balck gown with purple hoods, indicating the law. SMA’s nephew JS actually gave me a new perspective on this as he referred to the gown alternately as a “cloak” and “costume.” I especially like cloak as a gown is so effeminate.

SMA was worried as his name came first alphabetically. While I looked at this as his graduating first in his class, he viewed it as a burden. He was greatly relieved when the class officers preceded him. I must note that he did graduate in the upper 60th% of his class of 146, which is more impressive considering he was not sold on law during much of his academic career.

SMA had wished me to wear a Sting shirt or "Whoo!" when he was announced but a speech advising to hold applause to the end, made this impossible. Plus, I did not want his perfectly behaved nephews to exhibit better manners than me.

I did get to meet SMA’s friend NMG. His other good friend, Haley, was not there as she graduates later due to spending a semester with a Grecian.

I may have found a new calling, or at least career goal - to one day be a macebearer. The job entails leading the procession and carrying a weapon. (I am not sure how pepper spray is involved.) I complimented William G. Ross on his fine work, saying, “Nice job macebearing...” SMA found this humorous as the man is a Harvard graduate.

By the way, the mace actually got its own seat on the stage!

On the way out of town, SMA, WRK, and I stopped at Hamburger Heaven and then hit the road home. This was the most sentimental SMA got as he admitted that he would miss the French fries. We were all proud of SMA though he was not overly impressed with the accomplishment.

I can summarize the trip in two words: driving and eating. Though I still want to eat, I never want to drive again even though it was a good trip. DA graciously paid for my hotel, game ticket, and two meals. I really appreciate it. I also feel it is the universe’s way of repaying me for never asking anyone to go to a graduation. (Hopefully, that will change.)

I arrived home around 10 and found my parents too had returned from Boston. We caught up and I went to bed.

The trip did force me to miss two functions in Knoxville. CMU housed a dinner party on Friday night and SQP celebrated his graduation from West High School on Saturday. Let it be known that I thought about both functions and missed you guys.

On Sunday morning, we held Sunday School at RAW’s house. We did the initial walkthrough of my text for my May 25th sermon on Matthew 6:24-34. It is said that one cannot preach a good sermon if there is no issue. That should not be a problem as my crew took serious issue with this passage. Be praying for this sermon on many levels as this is not my specialty.

KJW was there. I gave her a pair of Iron Man glasses from Burger King since she did not get to go to the movie with us the previous week. I also gave WAM a pair and we all tried them on. To see WAM in his, check the WAM Quote of the Day.

On Sunday night I returned to RAW’s where I watched KJW while he mowed the yard. She is the easiest child in the world - when SpongeBob SquarePants is on. KLTW was at work as the local Best Buy had a “heroes” promotion where they opened the stores after hours from 8-10 pm and sold one item at the employee discounted rate to police officers, nurses, etc. They plan on having a similar promotion for teachers soon. If I know in advance, I will post details.

RAW cooked pasta. It was delicious. KJW has to eat pasta topless as she gets it everywhere. I really hope she grows out of this.

RAW applied for a new position as a television calibrator. For details, see “Prayer Blog - 5/18/2008".

I returned home and found that my old phone was indeed declared dead by the powers that be at Verizon, but that it had been replaced by a new one. If you tried to call this weekend, I apologize. I honestly did not have a working phone.

I saved what you have been waiting for, for last - the continuation of Friday’s cliffhanger ending. Were the bathrooms wallpapered? No. Not only that, but there are now no toilets upstairs as the wallpaper person took them out. Why? We have no idea. My parents assumed the job would easily be completed by the time they returned. Once again, assumptions are proved false!