Saturday, May 31, 2008

Prayer Blog - 5/31/2008

JBT’s mother is still gravely ill. Doctors have said that her imoprovement would be an act of God as both her heart and kidneys are failing. If they do improve, theye stimate would have two to three years to live. If they do not, she could die at any moment and likely within one year. She returns to Nashville on June 17 and the doctor has told her to expect a multiple day stay.

Friday, May 30, 2008

Bible Trivia - 5/30/2008

Question: What incident prompted tears from Jesus in the verse "Jesus wept."?

Answer: The death of Lazarus. (John 11:35)

Comments: John 11:35 is the shortest verse in the New Testament and in many translations the shortest verse in the Bible. Some translations (HCSB, NIV, NLT, NLV) render Job 3:2 as "He said". This is a translators' condensation of the Hebrew, which literally reads "And Job answered and said".

John 11:35 is translated the same in most English translations, comprised of only two words. The verse actually has three words in the original Greek as the definite article precedes Jesus' name. It was "the Jesus" who wept.

Jesus wept. (John 11:35, NASB)

Note: This statue of Jesus weeping was erected by St. Joseph's Catholic Church in Oklahoma City as a memorial dedicated to those who perished in the Oklahoma City bombing and their families. It was completed less than a year after the 1995 bombing. It is indicative of the many who take comfort in Jesus' ongoing compassion.

Word of the Day - 5/30/2008


A calix is a cup; chalice.

While praying in Gethsemane, Jesus prayed that that God would allow the calix to pass from him if it be His will. (Matthew 26:39; Mark 14:36; Luke 22:42) In the Old Testament, the cup is used as a metaphor for the judgment of God with its contents representing the wrath of God against the wicked. (Jeremiah 25:15; Isaiah 51:17; Psalm75:8).

And He went a little beyond them, and fell on His face and prayed, saying, "My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from Me; yet not as I will, but as You will." (Matthew 26:39, NASB)

In Eckleburg's Eyes - 5/30/2008

I had a pleasant Thursday but it started a bit unusually.

I had a very rude awakening. I walked into my office in my usual early morning attire - boxer shorts and my blanket draped around my shoulders. I like to think of it as my professional wrestling ensemble. I walked in and who should be there but my mother and SPP! They were working on invitations to a bridal shower and needed my computer as DLNV’s could not perform the task. DNV and computers team together about as effectively as oil and water.

After quickly dressing, I assisted on the project. I must say that D-Day involved less planning than these invitations. When I tell you that every available font was tested, I mean it. Though I had no photo of me in my wrestling ensemble, I did get a shot of the crack team.

DLNV more than made up for this incident later in the day. She called and informed me that my new Bible was ready at the Cedar Springs Christian Store. I had no idea my parents had ordered one. I tend to use my father’s black leather Bible at formal functions like weddings and funerals and they decided it was time I had my own. So they got me The NASB Minister’s Bible from Hendrickson Publishers. It even has my name on it. Thanks! (Note: The photo is of its box. The Bible itself is leather.)

Since I was near his house, I stopped by and saw SMA. The night before, he had created DBN on the Fire Pro Wrestling game under the name "Mighty Buzz Lemon" and that was clearly something I needed to see. His father JBN is also in the game as “The Meat Doctor.” This came from the realization that he had a doctorate and in some way he works with meat. We are also hoping JBN will act as Verne Lundquist in a sketch we have written regarding Verne's passion for Tim Tebow. Is it even possible to reference Lundquist without also including Tebow?

It is worth noting that we have yet to inform JBN of his involvement in either project.

SMA recently attempted to create a MySpace page for me where he would house the data for SAWW. Fortunately, MySpace would not let him. As many of you know, I do not have a MySpace account because I could not in good conscious advise a teenager to have one. So, if you see a MySpace account under my name, it is not me. I did feel like a celebrity having someone trying to create a fake account in my name though.

In other Thursday news, I left feedback on eBay for the first time since they have prohibited negative feedback. I had no cause to leave any but not having the option seems to be a terrible idea. As of May 19, eBay eliminated negative feedback. They announced in January that the change came after noticing an increase in the rate at which sellers left retaliatory negative feedback about buyers over the past four years. That would seem to mean that the negative feedback is necessary. There also now seems to be no quality control. Did I mention this is a terrible idea?

On the plus side, repeat feedback is now credited to one's rating so my rating spiked over night.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Bible Trivia - 5/29/2008

Question: According to church tradition, which apostle was crucified with his head downwards at his own request?

Answer: Peter.

Comments: Many sources claim that Peter was martyred in Rome around 64 as the Emperor Nero blamed the Great Fire of Rome on the Christians. Traditions originating in the apocryphal Acts of Peter claim that the Romans crucified Peter upside down at his request because he found himself unworthy to die in the same manner as Jesus.

I beseech you the executioners, crucify me thus, with the head downward and not otherwise: and the reason wherefore, I will tell unto them that hear. (Acts of Peter, XXXVII)

Note: The painting is "Crucifixion of St. Peter" by Caravaggio (1571-1610).

Word of the Day - 5/29/2008


A susurration is a soft murmur; whisper.

I Kings 19:11-12 informs that God chose not to speak to Elijah through boisterous natural calamities but through a susurration. The ESV ("low whisper"), NIV & NLT ("gentle whisper"), and The Message ("gentle and quiet whisper") all interpret the text as God speaking in a whisper. The CEV uses "gentle breeze" and the NASB features the similar "gentle blowing." The KJV, NKJV, RSV and Amplified Bible most famously read God speaking in a "still small voice."

The word"still" (the Hebrew demamah) can be translated as "silence." Thus, the NRSV may have the best tranlsation when it describes God as speaking via "sheer silence."

So He said, "Go forth and stand on the mountain before the LORD " And behold, the LORD was passing by! And a great and strong wind was rending the mountains and breaking in pieces the rocks before the LORD; but the LORD was not in the wind. And after the wind an earthquake, but the LORD was not in the earthquake. After the earthquake a fire, but the LORD was not in the fire; and after the fire a sound of a gentle blowing. (I Kings 19:11-12, NASB)

In Eckleburg's Eyes - 5/29/2008

I had a great Wednesday night spent with the JCG family. I engaged in one of the longest and most entertaining conversations in my recent memory. Unfortunately, most of it cannot be repeated.

I picked up KGG and her friend KR from the YMCA around 6. I have no idea why two fifteen year old girls find it necessary to workout five days a week, but I have conceded that this is a battle I will not win. Since KGG would be eligible for her license in 44 days, I tried to set a good bad driving example. (I promise I was only in the handicap space for a few nanoseconds.)

I had never met KR before, though I had heard much about her. Like KGG, she just completed her sophomore year at West High School (despite her yearbook claiming she was a junior). She is also dating KGG’s ex-boyfriend BEM (aka “Bam”). Impressively, she did not complain once about spending an evening with an old guy.

I took the girls to MoFoS. Amazingly, Men in Black creator Lowell Cunningham was at the store I referenced him on the blog. Actually, he is regular enough that his presence was not the least bit amazing. I asked him if we would sign the photo from the newspaper article, were we to frame it. He said he would consider it. My plans of naming a specific wing of the store after him were not addressed.

KGG selected Knocked Up (the R-rated version) and The Waitress. KR picked No Reservations and Over Her Dead Body. KGG and her mother both really enjoyed The Waitress. I was pleased that someone did...

After perusing the movie store, we went to Smoothie King. I must first vent that the Smoothie King’s drive through service is ridiculous. The intercom where one places their order is literally two feet from the window making it completely unnecessary. Further, there are also two windows, one on each side of the building. This also makes no sense. Sorry. I feel better now.

KGG is a smoothie connoisseur. She always gets a Carribean Way at Smoothie King and I was instructed to try her favorite “Sunny Day” at the Tropical Smoothie Café. When I follow orders, I will report back. Who names smoothies anyway?

I ordered the girls each large smoothies. I had no idea that this was irregular, expensive, or that the cups were 40 ounces. They required two hands to hold. Who drinks that much? On this night both of these girls did! I honestly do not think I have ever seen one bathroom receive that much use in one night.

We then drove back to KGG’s home where we spent the rest of the night conversing with her parents, JCG and LBG. We interrupted their pork dinner. Naturally, I took a photo of the interruption which was more rude than the intrusion itself.

The entire family is well. KGG got straight A’s, though the official transcript has yet to arrive. Not that we doubt her word. She and her boyfriend Jack have been dating for seven months. Not counting her fourth grade romance with BS, this is a record. Yes, those are the kid’s real initials.

We were soon joined by JTH. He often sees LBG as he picks up one of her special students from school. I will call the child “Nate” (because that is his real name). She teaches Nate at school and JTH has the child at daycare. They commiserated. In fact, LBG compared him to a villain in The Terminator...

JTH has a crush on LBG's co-worker, MB. She is a cute 27-year old who works with special needs children. There are more things I like about her in that one sentence than I have found out about CDM. Speaking of which, she is CDM no longer engaged. Ray Charles could have seen that coming.

The only downside to MB is that she is in a long-term relationship. The guy seems scared to pull the marriage trigger. This means there is still hope! (Read: Dumb and Dumber reference.)

JCG and JTH also have a special bond. This was most evident when they traded jokes. JTH supplied “What did one sagging titty say to the other? Perk up or people will think we’re nuts.” JCG responded with a story about a newly married old couple. The man asked his bride her opinion on sex. She said, “I like it infrequently.” He asked, “Is that one word or two?” It was a very touching moment.

JCG always educates me. I learned that the toothbrush must have been invented in Alabama or otherwise it would have been called the “teethbrush.” He also stumped us with a riddle - What is the one word that when an s is added to the end makes a plural word and when another s is supplied it reverts to a singular term? The answer: Prince.

We talked for hours as usual. I was amazed that the girls stayed and participated. They did text throughout. I do think this phenomenon will be one of those things unique to their specific generation. The next generation will find it dated when new technology replaces texting.

KGG dramatically helped my texting. First she reprogrammed the “word” function as the default and then taught me that if I hit the zero button when the phone spells the wrong word, it will move to an alternative word. It is like a whole new world was opened up.

It was strange hearing my little KGG discuss Family Guy and curse occasionally in front of her parents. The only people with gaping mouths were me and JTH. She also spoke of a hooker hunting (aka H2 or H2Ho) adventure with her dad. If any child services employees read this, they went to gawk, not to hire anyone.

After our evening with the JCG family, JTH and I joined Mr. X at Applebees. We watched the Celtics take a 3-2 lead over the Pistons with a 106-102 win in Game Five of the Eastern Conference Finals.

Mr. X is well. He has opted not to work for B & T Distributing as they were paying only $9.50/hour. Earlier in the day, he interviewed with Kroger and he will start at the high pay rate he was receiving when he left the company. With the prerequisite that he complete twenty hours of community service, he will also be reimbursed for his tuition. During the summer he will work construction with his brother-in-law and at Kroger and then in the school year will only work at Kroger. It sounds like a great plan.

We also ran into Donovan Daniels. He is a local wrestler who grew up in the trailer park with Mr. X. Actually, Mr. X used to mercilessly tease him. His real name is David, but the neighborhood kids brilliantly called him “Gay-vid.” It will take a lot of self-restraint not to use that the next time we go to the matches.

He was very cordial. In addition to wrestling, he also works at UPS for the great benefits. Just last week he has two teeth knocked out and paid only $17 to replace them!

He had just had a match in Pigeon Forge. He travels a circuit that has him in Pigeon Forge on Wednesdays and at the Green Acres Flea Market in Alcoa on Thursdays. There are also monthly shows in Lake City and Lenoir City, with occsiaional spot shows in Knoxville. We tried to get Mr. X to commit to going with us. JTH prefaced his statement with an apology, but said that you always leave feeling better about yourself after seeing the fans. I agreed and noted that they were people like CDM. It was a good night.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Associated Baptist Press - 5/28/2008

Associated Baptist Press
May 28, 2008 (8-55)

Furman faculty, students divided over Bush speech
Pass the Popcorn: Christians struggle to decide how best to engage culture
Pass the popcorn: Christians called to make culture; let God handle transformation
Pass the Popcorn Analysis: Engage culture without assuming it
Pass the Popcorn: Popular culture challenges Christians to ‘think outside the box’
Donor offers giving challenge at BTSR
Bluefield College board approves strategic plan
CBF worker reaches internationals at Mississippi State University

Furman faculty, students divided over Bush speech
By Robert Marus

GREENVILLE, S.C. (ABP) – Students, administrators, faculty and alumni of Furman University are in an uproar over a speech by President Bush, scheduled for the school’s May 31 commencement exercises in Greenville, S.C.

The controversy at the moderate school – located in one of the most conservative parts of one of the reddest states in the Union – has played out in local and national media. The spat has prompted arguments over censorship, academic freedom and respect for graduating seniors among students, faculty, administrators and alumni of the historic Baptist liberal-arts college.

“Under ordinary circumstances it would be an honor for Furman University to be visited by the president of the United States. However, these are not ordinary circumstances,” began a letter of objection that originated with the school’s faculty and was signed by more than 200 professors, administrators and students. It referred to the way that the Bush administration sold the Iraq war to the public as well as its treatment of terrorism suspects, handling of environmental and scientific issues and promotion of deficit spending.

“We are ashamed of these actions of this administration,” the letter continued. “The war in Iraq has cost the lives of over 4,000 brave and honorable U. S. military personnel, wounded more than 13,000 military personnel so severely that they are unable to return to duty, killed tens of thousands of innocent Iraqi civilians, will cost more than 2 trillion dollars, and has severely damaged our government's ethical and moral credibility at home and abroad. Because we love this country and the ideals it stands for, we accept our civic responsibility to speak out against these actions that violate American values.”

The letter was posted on the school’s official commencement-information website shortly after Furman officials announced that Bush was scheduled to speak. A group of conservative Furman students then drafted their own statement, gathering more than 500 signatures from current students as well as some faculty, administrators and alumni.

The response, orchestrated by Furman’s Conservative Students for a Better Tomorrow, quibbled with some of the faculty-organized group’s criticisms of the administration. But the bulk of the statement criticized what it described as a “publicity stunt” by the faculty.

“Count us among the disappointed and embarrassed -- disappointed at an administration that acquiesced to irresponsible faculty demands, and embarrassed by a faculty that sacrificed professionalism for publicity,” it said.

“Unfortunately, some professors seem intent on turning what should be a celebration of their students’ accomplishments into a forum to air their political differences with President Bush. ‘We object’ sounds open-minded and charmingly contrarian, but not when the ‘objection’ is entirely unrelated to the president’s commencement speech.”

The statement requested that administrators remove the faculty-led objection statement from the school’s website. If that request was denied, the conservative group said, it requested that its statement be posted alongside the objection.

Administrators refused to remove the original objection statement, but agreed to post the conservative group’s manifesto alongside it.

The response statement also objected to reports that some professors had asked administrators to be released from their contractual obligation to attend commencement exercises, and asked administrators not to grant such requests.

Administrators refused the student request, and issued a statement explaining their response to the conservative group’s demands.

“Furman will sustain its longstanding policy whereby individual faculty members must request permission from the dean of the Faculty to be excused from commencement. Those faculty members who have cited conscientious objection to the president's visit have been excused and, as always, all such requests have been treated with respect and confidentiality,” the administration statement said. “The intense discussion about the participation of the president of the United States in Furman's commencement reaffirms the university's foundational commitment to being a crossroads of competing ideas and perspectives.”

Bush has become one of the most unpopular presidents in modern history, with his approval ratings at or near the lowest levels for any president since polling firms began tracking such statistics.

According to the Greenville News, Bush’s appearance at Furman was the result of overtures to the White House by South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford, a Republican and Furman alumnus. Sanford’s office contacted Furman president David Shi, who had to gain the approval of the graduating class’s student leaders to change the school’s tradition of featuring only student speakers at commencement exercises. According to the News, none of the students objected – although not all class officers attended the meeting.

Bush has made only two other appearances at graduation exercises this year. On May 4, he addressed graduating seniors at a high school in Greensburg, Kan., which was virtually wiped off the map a year before by a powerful tornado. On May 28, he was scheduled to address graduating cadets at the U.S. Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, Colo.


Pass the Popcorn: Christians struggle to decide how best to engage culture
By Jennifer Harris

(ABP) -- If Christians don’t learn to engage the popular culture that surrounds them, they will drown in it, experts insist.

“Christians tend to hear the words ‘popular culture’ and react as if spitting something yucky from their mouths,” said David Dark, author of Everyday Apocalypse: The Sacred Revealed in Radiohead, the Simpsons and Other Pop Culture Icons and The Gospel According to America.

But popular simply means “of the people,” he said. “It is never something we exist objectively from. It’s like the air we breathe, the language we use. … If we’re thinking, ‘Now we’re going to engage pop culture,’ it’s too late. We’re already soaking in it.”

Jeffrey Overstreet, contributing editor for Seattle Pacific University’s Response magazine, freelance movie reviewer, and author of Through a Screen Darkly and Auralia’s Colors, agreed.

“We are born into a pop culture,” he said, describing that culture as the very temporary, disposable details of a particular time and place.

Overstreet didn’t always see the importance of connection to culture. He grew up in a family that encouraged him to avoid pop culture and “steer clear of anything that did not have a clear connection to church,” he said. Rock music was questionable, and theaters were “dens of sin, contaminated by culture.”

Under the guidance of teachers, he realized complete separation from culture wasn’t the model Christ set.

“He was to be found at the corner pub, surrounded by messed-up people,” he said. “He was there among them, but he was different. He was compassionate.

“The more I look at it, in order to have a meaningful influence on society, we need to live fully engaged lives. How do we do that without hearing the stories told [in the wider culture]? Without listening to the music played?”

If Christians aren’t engaged in culture, they will not change the world or have an impact on society, said Greg Fiebig, associate professor of communication and theater at Indiana Wesleyan University and former theater director at Southwest Baptist University in Bolivar, Mo. “We’re not going to do it. Period.”

He said Christians, especially in Christian academia, tend to live in a bubble. “People isolate themselves,” he said. “There is nothing wrong with isolating ourselves -- Jesus did -- but if we don’t know how to exist in the larger culture when we emerge, we have failed.”

Instead of hiding from culture, Christians can use it as a learning tool, Fiebig said.

“When I show someone a movie or present a show, I’m telling a story that needs to be told,” he said. “Jesus spoke of loving and caring for people where they were. The last thing he did was judge people. It is harder for us to judge when we are willing to listen to their story.”

Part of the learning experience is realizing that Christians don’t have a monopoly on the truth, Dark said.

“We are learners of Christianity,” he said. “It’s weird the way we talk, as if truth is something we have over other people. That’s no way to talk about faith, as if it is property. … When we view our faith as a bragging right or a secret password, I don’t know how we think others will be attracted to that.”

Instead, that type of view cuts Christians off from their neighbors, Overstreet said.

“We need to see and understand our neighbors,” he said. If Christians only pay attention to items of culture that affirm their own worldview, “we don’t understand what the world looks like to them.”

Christ went to the woman at the well and began asking her questions, he said. He didn’t simply bombard her with the gospel.

He added that people know when they are the subject of marketing campaigns. “So much of Christian art is just advertising for Jesus,” he said. “If we just keep shouting, we shouldn’t be surprised when people react like we are salesmen.”

He recalled driving under an overpass where someone had spray-painted in big letters, “Jesus is the answer.” Underneath, in a different color, another person had responded, “Yes, but what’s the question?”

Christians shouldn’t be handing out answers to questions that haven’t been asked, he said. Instead, pop culture can be used to kindle questions.

But engaging culture will, no doubt, lead to viewing, reading or listening to objectionable content.

“As a Christian, I believe it can be insightful to critique movies for what they might have to say about important aspects of our lives,” said David Thomas, associate professor of rhetoric emeritus at the University of Richmond and freelance writer for Christian Ethics Today.

“I’m less interested in whether a movie contains language that offends me, or has scenes that depict sex or violence, than I am in determining whether the stories and characters ring true, and in what the characters’ moral and ethical choices lead to.”

That’s not necessarily a widely held view among many believers. “Christians tend to believe that films have the power to single-handedly disrupt or uproot a person’s spiritual development if they contain corrupting elements,” said Chad Johnston, production assistant for Allen Press in Lawrence, Kan., and adjunct online instructor in communication and film at Drury University in Springfield, Mo.

“I do think people should be discerning about what they watch, but throwing out the baby with the bathwater -- and sometimes the bathtub -- is a flawed method of encountering and dealing with media.”

He compares watching films to meeting people. When meeting a person, it is easy to dismiss him or her due to a simple disagreement, but perhaps at the expense of a potential relationship or opportunity for growth, he said.

“It always surprises me that Christians will dismiss an ‘R’-rated film, yet read ‘R’-rated books in the Bible, like Judges,” he said.

“I tend to think that life is ‘R’-rated and should not be experienced without a Parent -- i.e., our heavenly Father. After all, how can we handle the tougher realities of life, being as fragile as we are? So I recommend that if you are hesitant to watch a particular film, you should ask yourself why, and perhaps do some research. If you are still uncomfortable with seeing it, or you simply feel it is bankrupt of any value spiritually, by all means avoid it.”

“To think of a human story as objectionable is not fair,” Dark observed. “If all we do is count bad words or feel offended, we are not relating to the world we are called to love or the world God so loved.”

But that does not mean anything goes, he emphasized.

“I wouldn’t say anyone needs to walk into dangerous places,” Overstreet said. “Each person needs to know their own strengths and weaknesses. But a lot of ‘R’-rated films are profound movies.”

The importance lies in knowing how to interpret films, which may be difficult for those who have never studied literature or other arts, Overstreet said.

Fiebig added that the American culture has lost a lot of ability for interpretation because of the tendency to be individualistic. “Movies are not meant to be seen in the privacy of your own home,” he said. “They should be communal, with time for discussion.”

Dark agreed that too much such privatization has occurred. Typically, he said, Christians will watch, listen or read, but pretend the stories aren’t important to them when they step into church. “We are not living out loud to one another,” he said.

When Christians view things in isolation, they often miss the redeeming value, he said. “When we live isolated lives, we often hold wrongly applied guilt, as if our enjoyment is somehow separate from our relationship with God.”

Thomas’ church tries to break through the isolation by offering courses in faith and culture. He worked with Doug Gebhard, a pastor in Rockingham, N.C., to design a liturgical film class that accompanied the seasons of Lent and Advent.

“The movies we chose had a Lenten or an Advent theme,” Gebhard said. “David explained rhetorical devices in the film -- plot, symbolism, etc. -- while I pointed out theological themes [like] suffering, sacrifice, redemption.”

Gebhard has led other classes that reached beyond film.

“I hoped to prod people of faith to look at movies, listen to music, read novels with a lens of faith,” he said. “What spiritual messages can you see in Star Wars? The Matrix? Ironman? Where is Christ found in Springsteen’s anthems? U2’s music?”

Johnston also partnered with a friend to lead a film class, called Sanctuary of the Cinema, at University Heights Baptist Church in Springfield, Mo., where he lived until last year.

“Our goal was to explore films through the interpretive lens of Christian spirituality -- to see the light of God in the light of the silver screen,” he said.

The class met in the upstairs college Sunday school class, which featured comfortable chairs and couches and a projector to watch films on a large screen.

Sanctuary of the Cinema was advertised at local college campuses, coffee shops and an independent movie theater. As a result, the class was a diverse group. “Some of them were churchgoers, and others were a bit leery about the whole thing being set in a church,” Johnston said.

The group watched independent, art and foreign films together, then discussed the film, using questions from a faith perspective to help guide discussion.

Despite differences among the class members, “we all bonded because of the beauty of cinema,” Johnston said. “I think it’s because cinema is capable of reminding us all of what we share, rather than how we differ. Narrative cinema tells the sorts of stories that are common to all of us, and we therefore feel like we have a share in what’s happening onscreen.”

And, ultimately, that viewing can lead to Christ. “I have come to see the silver screen as a window overlooking a theologically charged world,” Johnston said. “As I look through this window, I find that I am better able to understand who God is, who I am, and how I relate to God and others. It is not a substitute for the Bible, but rather a supplement to it.”

A starting place for finding films to use in discussion is the Arts and Faith websites’s Top 100 Spiritually Significant Films list, published at The list is compiled by voting members of the site, including Overstreet, and is updated each year. The website also features discussion groups on film, music, literature, visual art, theater and dance, and television and radio.

Fiebig helps lead a film festival at Indiana Weslyan. Last year, the first year of the festival, they decided to screen Hotel Rwanda, a film depicting the true story of Paul Resesabagina, a hotel manager who helped house over a thousand Tutsi refugees during the Rwandan genocide.

A student from Uganda who had lost family members during the struggle attended the screening. He began the discussion after the film by announcing he could not stay, due to the fresh emotions the film conjured, but he asked the other students to pray for Rwanda and Uganda.

“It was an amazing moment,” Fiebig said. “In a room full of college students, you could hear a pin drop. A Hollywood film became a worship service.”


Pass the popcorn: Christians called to make culture; let God handle transformation
By Ken Camp

(ABP) -- Andy Crouch feels uncomfortable when Christians talk about “transforming culture” or “making an impact on society.”

But he strongly believes churches should do far more to encourage Christians to make culture -- right where they live.

“I’m all for cultural transformation -- in fact, I believe it’s a very good phrase for what God seeks to do in every human culture. But transformation is surely out of the reach of any human being’s activity or agency. It really is something only God can do in any lasting and deep way,” said Crouch, an author and documentary filmmaker.

“People who study culture carefully always come away impressed by how much more culture has transformed and shaped us than we will ever transform or shape it. Still, beginning with our original creation and call in the Garden [of Eden], we human beings have always been culture makers. We cultivate and create in our specific cultural contexts, and in those local places we can do a lot of wonderful things. But transformation is not up to us; it’s up to God, which is actually tremendously freeing.”

Crouch, editorial director for the Christian Vision Project at Christianity Today International, has written a book on the subject. Culture Making: Recovering our Creative Calling is due for release by InterVarsity Press this summer.

When it comes to creativity, Christians have made their mark in literature of all kinds -- from popular fiction to acclaimed work such as Marilynne Robinson’s Pulitzer Prize-winning novel, Gilead, he said.

“Music is the other place where Christians have been successfully offering up innovative cultural goods for at least a generation now,” he added.

From American Idol contestants singing contemporary Christian music selections to classically trained musicians performing works by Christian composers such as John Tavener and James MacMillan, Christian influence permeates music, he noted.

“We’ve always been a people of the word, so it makes sense that there would be a strong Christian presence in literature. We value music in worship, so Christians have done well in that area,” Crouch said. “Where we have not been represented as much are in areas the church has either avoided or viewed with suspicion -- film, dance and the visual arts.”

In part, he sees the plethora of Christian musicians compared to the dearth of Christian graphic artists as a simple matter of supply and demand.

“With the decline of public arts and music education, the church has become the last significant reservoir of amateur expression in music. It’s the place where young musicians are given a chance to develop,” Crouch said.

While nearly all churches encourage musical involvement because it’s an essential part of worship, churches often fail to encourage other creative expressions because they are not viewed as useful, he added.

“Do we only value what the church needs?” he asked.

But some Christian groups have developed to nurture aspiring artists. The Act One program in Hollywood trains screenwriters and producers, Christians in the Visual Arts has entered its second generation, and programs like the New York Center for Arts and Media Studies trains young artists in Manhattan under the auspices of the Christian Council for Colleges and Universities, Crouch noted.

“The visual art world is stunningly insular and hostile to professions of faith, but Christians are doing serious, good work and will be better represented there in years to come,” he said. “It just takes time.”

Christians have made inroads into the movie industry but not much in television for one simple reason, Crouch noted -- market economics.

“One advantage movies have over television is they can be much more narrowly targeted, and they are driven by consumer demand without the intermediation of advertisers,” he said. “So, movies tend to be produced successfully for much tighter niches than TV -- and Christian consumers are certainly a large enough niche to be of interest to Hollywood.”

Crouch firmly rejects the idea Christians have to break through into high-impact major media markets in order to influence culture in a big way.

“I really resist the word ‘impact.’ Impact is high-energy and almost by definition short-lived. And human cultures are designed to resist impact -- to change only slowly and organically,” he said.

“I also resist the idea that we should let the world define for us what is big. Certainly, some Christians are called to live and work in major media markets or in various kinds of cultural epicenters…. But to seek to have an impact there is almost always not only to miss our Christian calling, but to distort our cultural calling as well.

“The great good news of God’s redemptive story is that we all can be part of it, in whatever location we are called to be. The question of where we are called to make culture is a matter of just that -- calling, not of strategy for cultural impact. And all of us are called to cultivate and create somewhere.”


Pass the Popcorn Analysis: Engage culture without assuming it
By Jay Smith

(ABP) -- I’ve got to be brutally honest; I’m not a Rob Bell fan, although many of my students are. He has two best-selling books: Velvet Elvis: Repainting the Christian Faith (2005) and Sex God: Exploring the Endless Connections between Sexuality and Spirituality (2007).

Additionally, he has completed three “teaching” tours, the most recent in 2007, where he visited America with his “The Gods Aren’t Angry” tour. Each tour was staged in a secular venue with theatrical lighting and the ever-hip, culturally relevant Bell at its center.

Although I disagree with much of Bell’s theology, this does not mean that I don’t appreciate what he is attempting: an engagement with culture. “Culture” is the matrix of human activity and structures that give life significance. In Christian theology, culture, like humankind, has experienced the Fall.

As sensationalist and provocative as his titles are, Bell is attempting to be relevant to “fallen” postmodern culture. Many young believers and spiritual seekers, feeling disenfranchised from the modern church, have flocked to Bell’s tours, podcasts and books. In Bell, they have found a kindred spirit -- someone who has experienced their disenchantment with the modern church, yet one who seems to have found a way to connect them to an authentic, relevant faith in God through Jesus Christ.

Regardless of what position you take on Rob Bell, he forces each of us to deal with the issue of culture and its relationship to our theology. This is an age-old struggle. It is the struggle of the Israelites with the Canaanites, Jesus and the various Jewish sects, as well Paul and the Greco-Roman culture of his day.

Theology and culture are locked in an eternal struggle until the end of days.

Interestingly, Christians can claim that the Bible lands on both sides of the debate. On one hand, Paul seems to encourage an engagement with contemporary culture in the form of his sermon on Mars Hill (Acts 17:22ff).

On the other hand, Paul states that we should not “conform” to the world in his letter to the Romans (Rom12:2).

But if it is an age-old struggle, why then has it erupted with such a vengeance today?

A simple explanation is that culture is changing at a faster pace than ever previously understood. Technology advanced at such a rapid pace in the 20th century that it outpaced our ability to understand its moral implications. So, culture becomes a swamp of ethical and theological questions amidst a global technological explosion.

Complicating this situation, it would also seem that some of the philosophical concepts that helped sustain our modern culture are being questioned today. Thus, although the scientific, technological and philosophical ideals of modernity have been a great benefit to us, these ideals simply aren’t enough to sustain us spiritually.

Consequently, we now live in a culture of difficult change where the very basis of modern Christianity is being questioned at every turn. How are we to proceed as faithful followers of Christ in such a chaotic cultural climate? How can our theology meet this challenge?

Let me suggest a two-fold answer: engagement, not assumption.

First, we must engage culture, which I believe to be the very heart of our Christian mission. This is the legacy of the Great Commission (Matt. 28:19-20) and the witness of Paul on Mars Hill (Acts 17). The church is the transformative agent of Christ’s love within culture through the direction of Scripture and the power of the Spirit (Luke 10:25-27).

Nevertheless, in this engagement, we do not assume or acquiesce to culture. Christ transforms it (Romans 12:2; 1 John 2:15).

As Christians, we have something unique to offer to our world -- the witness of Jesus. As Baptists, we affirm the centrality of Christ and the authority of Scripture as our sole rule of faith. That is the “what” of our assumption.

The Scriptures, as the book of the Spirit, then give guidance in regards to the “how” of our practice. What the Scriptures do not address directly will stand in tension with our engagement of culture.

A vigorous attempt to understand and engage culture, without surrendering to its secularizing philosophical tendencies would benefit the church well in the third millennium.

So Rob Bell and others of the emerging generation, you’ve thrown down the gauntlet to us all. Thank you.


-- Jay Smith is assistant professor in the School of Christian Studies at Howard Payne University in Brownwood, Texas.

Pass the Popcorn: Popular culture challenges Christians to ‘think outside the box’
By Leslie Adams

HOUSTON (ABP) -- It can be difficult to hear God’s word in today’s media-saturated culture of iPods, YouTube, satellite radio, and DirecTV with over 500 channels and on demand movies.

That’s the conclusion reached by two culture observers on the Houston Baptist University campus.

“We are shaped by popular culture far more than we think -- and not just the young people,” said Louis Markos, professor of English at Houston Baptist University and a C.S. Lewis scholar.

“Hollywood has taught us what love and marriage mean (or don’t mean), what things we should value and what things we should not value, and what it means to be successful. We are also more influenced than we think by the whole celebrity culture. Still, popular culture can be good when it presses Christians to think outside of the box and to identify those deeper longings that we all yearn for.”

Jon Suter, a professor who teaches American popular culture and science fiction as well as other literature courses in the graduate program at Houston Baptist University, also commented on the duality of popular culture.

“The popular culture contains much that is bad, even toxic,” Suter said, “but there is also much that is good and worthwhile.”

Suter and Markos agree it can be difficult for Christians to determine what is worth watching or listening to and what is not.

“The challenge for the modern Christian,” Suter said, “is that it is difficult to recognize which is which.” Good examples are out there, however. “I think one Christian writer and speaker who has done a fine job using popular culture to tell the sacred narrative of the Bible is John Eldridge,” Markos said.

So, is anything good coming up for the summer season?

“The most exciting film of the summer promises to be Prince Caspian,” Markos said, referring to the second film in a series dramatizing Lewis’s Chronicles of Narnia anthology. “I only hope it will be as faithful to the book as the film version of The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. If it is faithful, we will discover what it means to live in a post-Christian culture in which the old stories have been turned into mere myths.”

Markos hopes the character of Prince Caspian will become “a positive kind of pop icon for young people who yearn for a revival of true courage, beauty, and chivalry.”


-- Leslie Adams is director of marketing and communications at Houston Baptist University.

Donor offers giving challenge at BTSR
By ABP staff

RICHMOND, Va. (ABP) -- The Baptist Theological Seminary at Richmond could receive up to $1 million in new giving by the end of next April due to an anonymous donor’s challenge to churches, seminary officials have announced.

The donor -- apparently a seminary trustee -- will match designated gifts from churches given from May 1 this year through April 30, 2009. Gifts that qualify for matching funds include donations from churches that contributed last year above and beyond their previous giving as well as 100 percent of gifts from churches that did not donate to the seminary within the prior 12 months.

“Recognizing the high priority BTSR gives to local church ministry, a donor has provided an incentive to nurture the relationship between local congregations and the seminary,” said BTSR President Ron Crawford, according to a seminary press release. “We expect to grow the list of churches that directly support BTSR from 68 to well over 250. Gifts from local congregations will secure the future of BTSR.”

More than 600 churches currently support the seminary through budget giving to the Baptist General Association of Virginia. Several dozen congregations contribute directly to BTSR through designated gifts.

As of May 10, churches had given $25,000 in gifts eligible for matching funds.

Westover Baptist Church in Richmond is among financially supportive congregations that already has contributed a new $1,000 gift.

“Our school is suffering a financial crunch. We’ve tightened our belt, reduced expenses and balanced our budget. One of our trustees has made a generous offer,” noted Cecil Sherman, interim pastor at Westover and former coordinator of the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship.

BTSR graduate Donna Hopkins Britt led her congregation, Calvary Baptist Church in Roanoke, Va., to become a first-time contributor.

“This generous donor has challenged our church to consider the importance of theological education for Christianity’s future, and then to take a bold step toward that future by making its first donation to the school,” she said.


Bluefield College board approves strategic plan
By ABP staff

BLUEFIELD, Va. (ABP) -- Bluefield College will focus on academics, global service, expanded resources and partnerships as part of its new five-year strategic plan.

Trustees of the Virginia Baptist school approved the four-part plan at their April board session. The strategic plan stems from a newly adopted vision statement: "Bluefield College will be a nationally recognized Christ-centered liberal arts college, preparing innovative learners and transformational leaders to impact the world."

The plan includes four primary initiatives: to strengthen and expand academic offerings and to create a culture of mission- and service-learning; to help students understand and improve academic support for the impact of calling and giftedness on vocation, including developing student leadership skills; to enhance the college's resources; and to foster mutually beneficial partnerships between the college and its stakeholders.

At their spring session, trustees also approved plans for the construction of a new residence hall, the school's first on campus in nearly 30 years.


CBF worker reaches internationals at Mississippi State University
By Laurie Entrekin

STARKVILLE, Miss. (ABP) -- Diana Bridges is an avenue to God in Northern Mississippi for internationals like the Muslim woman who always asks Bridges to pray for her.

“God listens when you pray,” she told Bridges.

With a call to missions that began at age 13, Bridges has a heart for internationals. The Cooperative Baptist Fellowship commissioned her as a field worker in 2007, after she already had spent 10 years working with internationals through the Baptist Student Union at Mississippi State University, located in Starkville.

She also has been director of Crossroads International Friendship House, a ministry focusing on the needs of international families in Starkville for seven years.

Although a small university town of about 20,000, Starkville has an international population of close to 1,000 individuals. Mississippi State hosts more than 600 international students representing some 70 countries, including India, China and South Korea.

When internationals arrive in the United States, they often need help orienting to a strange new community and culture. Bridges has taught English classes at the university, led weekday ministries for family members, hosted Bible studies, helped parents get school-aged children involved in soccer or other after-school activities and accompanied women to doctor’s appointments.

“The heart of my work is building relationships in the international community, meeting the needs that I’m able to meet, sharing my faith as I share my life,” the Texas native said.

“Many of their needs decrease with time, but the need for friendship and a sense of community doesn’t. The level of trust that develops over time allows for the fullest sharing of the gospel.”

Last fall, Sun, a Chinese national, told a conversational English class, “You all have a God, and I would like one, too.”

Bridges invited Sun to join her Bible study, and soon Sun was attending church regularly with Bridges. During the Christmas season, Sun read the entire Bible. By spring, she had accepted Christ and was baptized on Palm Sunday.

“She then moved to another state,” Bridges said. “But the last time I heard from her, she was teaching Bible school in a Chinese language church.”

A partnership with World Neighbors Association, a local organization that provides opportunities for internationals to share their cultures with the community, has helped connect Bridges not only with internationals, but also with other denominations and groups that share her desire to build friendships across cultures.

The organization hosts Thanksgiving and Christmas events. Each spring, it also hosts the International Fiesta at Mississippi State. According to Bridges, it is the international community’s biggest event of the year, attracting more than 1,000 people.

Bridges encourages churches interested in reaching out to international populations to make contact with local colleges and universities. Many international students look for volunteer conversational partners, she said.

“Try to figure out what’s already going on first to avoid unnecessary duplication,” she noted. “Look on the university’s website for international activities and learn about the population before you start planning.”

Bridges dreams of growing a network of churches committed to intercultural ministry.

“We all need to take a look at the numbers,” she said. “There are large concentrations of international students in states where CBF has a sizeable presence. Texas, my home state, has the third-highest number of international students, and Florida is fifth at 31,000. These numbers don't include visiting scholars or family members, so the number is really much higher.

“If we want to raise a new generation of intercultural ministers, we don't need to go far. We just need to open our eyes.”


Bible Trivia - 5/28/2008

Question: What is described in the OT as tasting like honey wafers?

Answer: Manna. (Exodus 16:31)

Comments: Manna was the food God provided to the Israelites during their forty years of wandering in the wilderness. Its name is said to have originated in the question "What is it?" asked by the Israelites when they first saw it. (Exodus 16:15) Its modern equivalent might be "Whatchamacallit."

When the sons of Israel saw it, they said to one another, "What is it?" For they did not know what it was. And Moses said to them, "It is the bread which the LORD has given you to eat. (Exodus 16:15, NASB)

The German Egyptologist George Ebers (1837-1898) speculated that the name orginates with the Egyptian "mennu" ("food"). (Ebers, "Durch Gosen zum Sinai," p. 236). Many other scholars have identified manna with juice exuded by a variety of Tamarix gallica (Tamarix mannifera) when pricked by an insect (Coccus manniparus). The resulting product is known to the Arabs as mann es-sama ("gift of heaven" or "heavenly manna"). Although the Biblical description of manna fits part of this entity, it lacks some of its distinctive qualities.

Due to its ability to sustain in the wilderness, "manna" has come to mean "spiritual nourishment". This meaning is attested as early as 1382.

Word of the Day - 5/28/2008


To reconnoiter is to inspect, observe, or survey (the enemy, the enemy's strength or position, a region, etc.) in order to gain information for military purposes.

Moses dispatched twelve spies, one from each of the tribes of Israel, who reconnoitered the Promised Land. (Numbers 13:1-16)

In Eckleburg's Eyes - 5/28/2008

On Tuesday I ate two meals with SMA and tried a new restaurant.

I met SMA for lunch at Big Fatty’s Catering Kitchen Restaurant. We both ate the delicious blue plate special - chicken 'n dumplings.

We met immediately after his class in preparation for the bar examination. The class meets five days a week (excluding holidays) at the University of Tennessee College of Law and runs into July. Most of this week he will be viewing taped segments from Duke Law School’s renowned professor Erwin Chemerinsky. He was pleased that the notoriously liberal lawyer used a pro-Bush joke in his lecture:

Bill Clinton, Clarence Thomas, and George Bush competed in a spelling be. Bush won because he was the only one who knew “harass” was one word. (not "her ass", get it?)

I learn so much about the law just by osmosis with SMA. Before the end of his term, two of his own professors from Cumberland are slated to guest lecture as well. I got the impression he would prefer it if they sent in videos as well...

While eating, we ran into the church’s youth minister, TSC, and ZC. SMA has long said that he runs into TSC at least once a week. ZC has plans to attend seminary. He will make a great minister and I hope he can learn from my example what not to do.

On the drive home, I received a phone call from SMA informing me that "Gandhi (1868-1948) is a dumbass!" (Two quick notes: (1) “Dumbass” is not in the cell phone dictionary and (2) Both times “ass” was used in this post were me quoting SMA.) SMA’s call was in response to a bumper sticker that featured Gandhi’s famous quote on nonviolence, “An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth and the whole world would soon be blind and toothless.” Citing that since we would have a remaining eye, an eye for an eye would only mean less depth perception “unless India is a land of cyclops, which I would have heard about...” This is sound reasoning with the exception of the fact that the quote, and not SMA, accounts for multiple offenders. Even so, I think new bumper stickers are in order.

On Tuesday night, I joined SMA and CST at the Kalamata Café (located at 9405 S. Northshore Drive). Neither CST nor I had ever been before. It is a wonderful Japanese restaurant. You know it is good because Japanese people actually eat there. We were especially fortunate at Tuesday is half-priced salmon day.

I sampled teriyaki sushi as well as CST’s dipping sushi. Dipping sushi is fried. This particular specimen featured salmon, cream cheese, and roe (yes, I know they are fish eggs). It was the best sushi I have ever eaten. I must note that I ate mine more authentically than SMA and CST. They used their chopsticks! CST recently learned from a program on the Mojo network that Japanese natives do not eat Sushi with chopsticks, but instead partake with their fingers. I was the most native, though it was because of my ineptitude with the chopsticks.

I must also admit that their tomato basil soup was also the best I have ever eaten, even surpassing Silver Spoon’s version.

The conversation was scintillating as always. We discussed the new Guitar Hero Aerosmith game which will be released on June 29th and our hopes for the upcoming season of Tennessee basketball. We are especially hopeful that Steven Pearl morphs more into the Incredible Hulk this season. We suggest supplying him with a smaller jersey and perhaps even only strings holding the jersey on at the top. If anyone has connections at the university...

After dinner, we went to Best Buy and then Staples in search of a presentation mouse for CST's upcoming job interview. We actually drove from Best Buy to Staples, which is ridiculous considering they are adjacent to one another.

CST’s job interview is on June 3rd with Courthouse Retrieval Systems. He has already had one phone interview with the company. Should he get the new job he will be training real estate agents and vendors on how to use the software they have purchased. He is doing well, but has made some cutbacks that come with being unemployed. Sadly, these cutbacks have included ending his subscription to WWE 24/7.

In other news:

  • SMA and CST's 10-year class reunion from Bearden High School has been announced. They have no plans to attend.
  • Our friend JS is in the process of recruiting in his position as assistant basketball coach at Roane State. There is not much to do as the team red-shirted eight players last season. This may have contributed to their subpar record. He is trying to get one of his players into the Rocky Top League.
  • SMA and CST both gave positive reports of their Friday viewing of Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. As always, SMA attracted the theater’s strangest people. An African-American woman, who was otherwise completely courteous, shook, stomped, and screamed “Snakes!” each time the reptiles were on the screen. Before the movie, a young girl chose to sit directly by CST despite the fcat that the theater was completely empty. He described this as one of the creepiest moments of his life. He was just lucky RLN was not there or rumors of another CST spawn would be rampant.
  • MWD has reconciled with her boyfriend. The grievance against his mother must have been legitimate as he even acknowledged her behavior was inappropriate. They have agreed that in the future he will defend her. We are pleased with the reconciliation.
  • The local professional wresting operation has returned and is being run by a wrestler who goes by the name “Ercules.” His character is a homosexual with an E shaved into his chest hair. Hopefully his creativity in leading a promotion will be better than creating his own gimmick.

After our search for a presentation mouse, we returned to SMA’s house where SMA made CST a concoction known as a “piranha” and we played FirePro Wrestling. It is a wrestling video game and admittedly one of the nerdiest things this group of my friends participates in. SMA wanted to present his new Norwegian tag team. As usual, CST predicted the matches of SAWW better than the two “experts.”

We called it an early night as CST met a friend from Walland, TN. I have lived in Tennessee most of my life and have no idea where Walland is.

In other Tuesday news, a massive picture of Lowell Cunningham ("and Frank", evidently his dog) appeared in the Knoxville News-Sentinel. Lowell is the creator of Men in Black and a regular at MoFoS. We are planning to frame the shot and have him sign it. He is an interesting character and we know him more from his less mainstream interests... Frank has never been in the store.

Finally, I stopped by the Bent Corner used book store (6716 Papermill Drive) again. If you get a chance go by Papermill Plaza and check them out. I really want them to succeed. They have the best service of any business I have ever been to. The owner will soon be leaving for a month and his capable assistant Allison will be running the store. If you can, support this business.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Bible Trivia - 5/27/2008

Question: What 2 lands in the Bible are described as flowing with milk and honey?

Answer: Egypt and Canaan. (Exodus 3:8; Numbers 16:13)

Comments: The expression "flowing with milk and honey" has been diluted with over a millenia of English usage. "Flowing with milk and honey" was one of the first Bible expressions to make its way into the English language (circa 1000 CE). "Land of milk and honey" first appeared in Ælfric's rendering of Numbers 16:13 while "flowing with milk and honey" first appeared three centuries later in John Wycliffe (d. 1384)'s 1382 translation of Ezekiel 20:6. The phrase was evidently common in English speech by the time William Tyndale (pictured, 1494-1536) used it in translating Exodus 3:8, as he claimed never to have glanced at any other English version of the Bible before developing his own.

"So I have come down to deliver them from the power of the Egyptians, and to bring them up from that land to a good and spacious land, to a land flowing with milk and honey, to the place of the Canaanite and the Hittite and the Amorite and the Perizzite and the Hivite and the Jebusite." (Exodus 3:8, NASB)

Word of the Day - 5/27/2008


A buss is a kiss.

The first buss between a man and a woman in Scripture came when Jacob kissed Racel. (Genesis 29:11)

Then Jacob kissed Rachel, and lifted his voice and wept. (Genesis 29:11, NASB)

Note: This painting of Jacob and Rachel was created by Abel Pann (1883-1963), a Jewish painter and professor, famous for his Biblical art works.

In Eckleburg's Eyes - 5/27/2008

I had a relaxing Memorial Day. To be honest, our family has never really celebrated the holiday, though my father did take an extremely rare day off of work.

My day revolved around doing my initial walkthrough of Matthew 9:9-13 for a sermon at Southside Baptist Church in Newport on June 8. That church is my Waterloo as it represents my homiletical downfall. I have spoken there many times and always bomb. With that ringing endorsement, you are welcome to come. Just let me know and I can probably get you a ride.

On Monday night, I ate with my parents at Aubrey’s' Bearden location. The food is very good, though I do not eat there all that often. My parents, however, are regulars.

My father lamented the fact that they had spent much of the day seeking a lawn umbrella. After much searching, they went back to the place they started - Kohl’s - and bought the first one they looked at. That is fairly typical. Needless to say, my father would have preferred being at work. Then again, they could have done just about anything and my father would have chosen work instead.

While at the restaurant, my mother saw a woman who hosted a part she had recently attended. If you know my mother, you know that seeing someone she knows is a given. We also met the woman's husband, Jim Brown (JB, not the football player or even football commentator for that matter). He works for QualPro, Inc.. He seemed utterly shocked that my father had his company’s book - Breakthrough Business Results With MVT: A Fast, Cost-Free, "Secret Weapon" for Boosting Sales, Cutting Expenses, and Improving Any Business Process. He said that this was the first time he had ever randomly encountered someone familiar with the book. Given the title, this did not particularly surprise me...

Speaking of books, after dinner we went to nearby McKay’s and selected some books for KJW. I always enlist DLNV’s services in selecting books for KJW as she is an expert on children's literature. I would tell you what we bought, but KJW may read the blog and I do not want to ruin the surprise. Yes, I know she is two.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Prayer Blog - 5/26/2008

My parents ran into our church friends JSC and RPC at Kohl's today. She is recovering from dangerous brain surgery. A tumor was originally suspected. She is still feeble and did not leave her car. Please keep this great Christian family in your thoughts and prayers.

Bible Trivia - 5/26/2008

Question: Which prophetic book's final verse begins: "And he shall turn the heart of the fathers to the children and the hearts of the children to their fathers."?

Answer: Malachi. (Malachi 4:6)

Comments: Malachi 4:6 represents the last verse in the Christian Old Testament.

"He will restore the hearts of the fathers to their children and the hearts of the children to their fathers, so that I will not come and smite the land with a curse." (Malachi 4:6, NASB)

Malachi is not the final book in the Hebrew Old Testament, though it is the last of the twelve Minor Prophets in both canons. In the Jewish Tanakh, Chronicles (presented in one volume) is the last book.

Note: This rendering of "The Prophet Malachi" was created by Duccio di Buoninsegna from 1308-11.

Word of the Day - 5/26/2008


Equable means free from many changes or variations; uniform.

The book of Hebrews affirms that Jesus is an equable figure.

Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever. (Hebrews 13:8, NASB)

Out of context, this verse has been used as a truth statement affirming the timelessness of Christ and thereby ascribing to him divinity. Some even argue that "the same" is an allusion to Psalm 102:27, further adding to Jesus' presentation as a divine identity.

In context, the intent was not foremost to introduce a formal affirmation of Christ's deity. This would be abrupt given the verses that surround the statement. In the preceding verse (13:7), the reader is advised to "remember those who led you, who spoke the word of God to you; and considering the result of their conduct, imitate their faith." In the verse that follows (13:9) she is told to not be, "carried away by varied and strange teachings..."

In context, Hebrwws 13:8 is an appeal to refrain from seeking new teaching and not waiver in their faith. Just as Jesus Christ has always been the same, the reader is also to be equable.

In his commentary on Hebrews, William L. Lane (1931-1999), explains:

"Those who seek to find security in the novel strange teaching have forgotten that the salvation accomplished through Christ’s high priestly ministry is 'forever.' The intent of the acclamation in v 8 is to drive the men and women of the house church back to the foundational preaching received from their original leaders." (Lane, p. 530).

In Eckleburg's Eyes - 5/26/2008

I had a good, but very busy, Memorial day weekend - going to a play, preaching, celebrating two special birthdays, and seeing both sides of my extended family.

On Friday afternoon, SMA and I met for lunch at Colonel’s Deli. He is well. On Wednesday he began class in preparation for the bar exam on July 30-31. In the course of his studying, I learned the difference between theft and robbery. As I understand it, theft is the taking of an object while robbery is the taking of an object from a person. Good to know.

He was to meet CST later in the day to view Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. CST seems to be doing well with the loss of his job and the downsizing of Jewelry Television. If there is anything remotely wrong with him physically, it should be detected soon. This week he has seen a general practitioner, eye doctor, dentist, etc. He is getting all of his medical needs met before his insurance runs out. That is really smart.

At the restaurant, an event occurred that could only happen to me. An obnoxious representative from the health department named Melinda inspected the establishment. In the course of her nitpicking, we learned a great deal about the deli. It was first opened in 1982 and she was interested in whether or not the deep fryers had been replaced since then. I could not blame her for asking as I honestly assumed they had not but her shouting that this would “make or break” her report was totally unnecessary. The owner was able to get his rating raised from 81 to 83, but this is far lower than the place usually scores. We know all of this because she was so loud that she could be heard across the restaurant where we were sitting. I may call and complain. Who inspects health inspectors?

This greatly affected me and not just because it offended me that the sweet couple who own the joint was under attack. The poor owner was frazzled, and while trying to multitask, ran my credit card bill as $217.67. Placing that extra two in front of my bill was significant (I owed SMA a meal, hence the large tab). The food was good, but not that good. SMA and I thought about just accepting a couple hundred bags of potato chips as compensation or getting some form of golden ticket. We also thought about making it a down payment on the place, which would have me entering as patron and leaving as the owner. The fact that we would then be the ones dealing with the abrasive health inspector nixed this line of thinking.

After about a half an hour of calls, the owner learned how to reverse the charges. I hated to add to his troubles. I am convinced that if SMA had paid, this would not have happened.

On Friday night, my parents and I went to Westminster Presbyterian Church where I saw two of my neighbors perform in a production of "Once Upon A Mattress." EMJ (aka “Buz”, not a Chan nickname) stole scenes as the mute King Sextimus. His son (older than I) JMJ, played “Sir Studley.” I am relatively certain I will call him by his character’s name the rest of his life.

In 1994, the church, literally situated in my neighborhood, founded the Westminster Players, their own theater company. Each spring, they present their big annual production. They worked for two months to put this on and it was great. “Suggested donations” were $12 for adults and $5 for children. All proceeds went to the youth program’s 2009 budget.

I have been before. The first year I went (2002), I saw my undergraduate New Testament guru DLD in “Fiddler on the Roof.” He was good but I was really glad that I saw him act after I was in his class.

"Once Upon a Mattress" is a musical comedy that opened off-Broadway on May 11, 1959, and then moved to Broadway with Carol Burnett as lead. The play openly admits that it is adaptation of the Hans Christian Andersen (1805-1875) fairy tale “The Princess and the Pea.” The play was produced with permission from The Rodgers & Hammerstein Organization.

After the play, I rushed to Applebees to meet SCB, JTH, and JBT. In addition to conversation, we watched the Lakers beat the Spurs 101-71 to go up 2-0 in the Western Conference Finals.

GAB joined us later after all four of us simultaneously texted him. He was a little dejected as he had broken up with his girlfriend earlier in the day. He cited the reason as consistent fighting. He did note, “I just call her “Shamu” every now and then...she told me she doesn’t like it” He seemed honestly surprised. I must admit that said in GAB's endearing Filipino accent reminiscent of Fez on "That 70's show", it did not sound as bad as if someone else said it. The ironic thing is that the girl is not even that big.

I also learned of an incident as MoFoS earlier in the day. One of the infamous CDM’s ex-boyfriends made an unwanted appearance. (No word on whether this is the one she is engaged to.) She had Cole, a fellow employee, escort her out of the building. This inappropriate incident was the final straw and she was not scheduled for the next week. She lasted approximately a week at the easiest job in the world.

With their wedding just 64 days away, JBT and SCB have most of their work completed. Actually, JBT insists he is done, leaving the remaining chore of sending invitations to his fiancé. She has done most of the work, but some people have not given her their address. To say she is not pleased with this is quite understated. If hell freezes over and I get married, I think I will just send out invitations via e-mail. Actually, in lieu of gifts, I will include a link to my PayPal account.

Our usual waitress Megan was not there. So we had her sister Amy call her on vacation in Myrtle Beach. Signs we eat there way too much...

We long ago bonded with Megan. When she first met, SCB. she complimented her saying that she looked like she played sports. SCB replied, “Are you trying to say I look like a lesbian?” We have been friends ever since. For the record, SCB did play college basketball at Emory and Henry College.

On our way out JTH and I saw WC, a kid we used to have at the daycare. He will be entering his freshman year in high school. He is bald with a goatee and were he not with his father, we would not have recognized him. We are so old...

Saturday was RAW's 28th birthday. I visited him and delivered his gifts - a Lego Star Wars AT-AP Walker (Walker, get it?) a McFarlane Kevin Garnett action figure (not a doll) and I am Legend on DVD (I shrunk wrapped it myself) . It was all wrapped in a massive Elmo gift bag, partly because KJW will love it and partly because it was the only bag big enough to hold the Legos. The gift was a hit. How could it not be? Star Wars and Legos represent two of the best things EVER created. I will truly feel old on the day I can no longer shop for my friends in toy departments.

As part of his birthday present, I opted to use stock photos, not requiring him to pose for “one for the blog.” Note: KJW was still at her Nana’s from the previous night's sleepover. She never gets a reprieve from the camera.

RAW and KLTW celebrated his birthday the night before as she had to work on Saturday. They went to the movies and saw The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian. He was pleased with how closely the film followed the book. He would definitely know. They must have as they made a 256-paper paperback book into a 144-minute movie.

On Saturday night, my family celebrated my uncle REN's 55th birthday. He will officially hit the double nickel on Tuesday (May 27th). Fifteen family members and friends attended. We grilled hamburgers on his new grill, purchased the night before. My cousin, DJ, once the chef at the now defunct (and posh) Cha Cha’s Restaurant, handled the cooking. (Note: The restaurant went out of business after he moved, so he clearly had nothing to do with its demise.) The weather cooperated famously and you can tell from our centerpieces, the decor was glamorous.

It was a special night as all four of my cousins - HANW, HANJ, ACN, and HLN were in town for the celebration. All five of us had not been in the same place since HANJ’s wedding on December 30th.

In a family/friend update:

  • HANW is doing great. She was to sing at the church the following day, as usual. Two things of note in this photo. Both she and my next oldest cousin HANJ are wearing Madras shorts. Second, note how thin her chin is. She worked very hard for this effect.
  • HANJ came from Pensacola with her husband to be there. She is enjoying her first job as a nutritionist and has advanced as far as she can in Pensacola. Though it has been a good first job, she hopes for something more challenging in her next position. Her husband, DJ, received a promotion from the Air Force one month ahead of schedule. We are all very proud of him. He moves to San Antonio in October with his wife following in November. At that time, they will have a choice whether to live in Abilene, Texas, (Dyess Air Force Base) or Rapid City, South Dakota (Ellsworth Air Force Base). I cannot imagine picking South Dakota though she assures me it is nice.
  • DJ stills pays my youngest cousin for back rubs though a new arrangement has been reached. On his last visit, he paid a flat $20 for the entire trip of massages on request. She learned her lesson.
  • ACN is in for a month before returning to Massachusetts for her summer job at Camp Lenox on June 19th. She is still awaiting her grades from UMass. She has seven of them! She is assured of four A's but fears she earned her first C since her freshman year in high school. I am still hoping for a curve. She is also on the ballroom dance team though an ankle injury prevented her from competing this year. Her partner is a girl. Even after she explained it to me, I do not really understand the concept. I understand team and I understand ballroom dance but I do not grasp the concept of a ballroom dance team. This will not stop me from being proud and bragging on her. In this picture, she is eating a lettuce wrap. For this, she received grief from the entire family, including her sister the nutritionist. She was a great sport letting me take the picture while eating. In her shoes, I would have smacked me...
  • HLN is getting a ten-day reprieve from Tennessee Children’s Dance Ensemble before dancing six days a week the remainder of the summer. Though she still hates high school with a passion I reserve for Raven-Symoné, she made straight A’s. Presently, she is house sitting for a family in Farragut who own five poodles. Thus, the Noodle is watching poodles.
  • Our dear friends LRH & SLH attended. Their son ALH, who was unable to attend, will be married on August 23rd. A blimp will take aerial photos of the event, which will be almost like having their very own paparazzi. They plan to honeymoon in Italy.

It was great to see everyone. I always feel so blessed as I not only love my family, I like them.

Also on Saturday, LBT graduated from Berean Christian School. JTH was once a fixture in she and her sister’s lives. He reports that her graduation was two hours long. There are only 48 people in her class so I am not sure how that is possible unless every kid gave their testimony... I appreciated the invite. Congratulations to all who graduated on Saturday.

On Sunday morning, I drove to Newport to preached at Holy Trinity Evangelical Lutheran Church (located at 140 Lincoln Avenue). WAM, the official bodyguard of WC Vinson Ministries, road shotgun. He was announced in the service as my "friend and bodyguard." While this pleased him, he was disappointed that his name was not in the bulletin. This picture of WAM working the punching bag was taken later in the day at CAL’s house.

He is working on his bodyguard nickname. He said, “I’m like 47 (read: Hitman video game reference) except I have hair.” I told him this could be his official job description if he wished. He debated much of the day on his “codename.” He began with 94 (twice as good as 47), then went to 47X (he thought a letter sounded “cool”), then moved to 42 (the mystical number in The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy). When the trip ended, he was favoring "42X" though this could change. This went on all day. For further WAM insights, check the WAM Quote of the Day.

We arrived at the church in time for a celebration of the church’s two high school graduates - Matthew Winter and Earl “Dusty” Rhodes IV. Yes, I attended a graduation party for Dusty Rhodes. I asked the kid if he was a fan of his professional wrestling namesake and though he said yes I think he was just obliging the visiting minister. In the worship service they asked “all of the graduates” to stand. Both did.

Holy Trinity Evangelical Lutheran Church is the home church of CAL and several others I have known much of my life. It is a well-established church, having held its first worship service on October 25, 1942 and being officially recognized on June 20, 1943. The church was founded by the late C.A. Rhodes who saw a need for a Lutheran church in Newport.

This was my first gig at a Lutheran church. I think I have preached for just about every denomination known to man. More importantly, I actually worked with an acolyte for the first time. Her name was Sadie and she is finishing seventh grade this week. I was told that an acolyte is also known as a “worship assistant.” Who on earth would go by “worship assistant” if they could be called "acolyte?" I was pleased Sadie was referenced as the acolyte in the bulletin.

My "aunt" CTL conducted the service and I preached. I was actually hidden behind the pulpit much of the service. Yes, I took a photo from my perch. I considered preaching from there as "the voice of God." I am fairly confident my judgment not to was sound.

I preached on Matthew 6:24-34 in a sermon titled "Don't you fret." It had a solid socially relevant message but was not entertaining enough for my tastes. Fred Craddock preached at Mt. Hermon United Methodist Church in Powell on the same day and I honestly would have rather heard him than me.

En route to lunch, we stopped at my grandmother’s grave site. The headstone has yet to be put in though her plot is still fresh. Why are all the bodies buried facing east?

After the service, I met my family at the Holiday Inn for lunch. We even had reservations. Don’t be too jealous. I am truly blessed as my family always supports me when I preach back home. On this day my grandparents and my aunt MCVD joined myself. CAL sat with us. MCVD's husband, ECD, was ill and could not attend. It was interesting to introduce MCVD to WAM as his mother JLM lived on the same floor as she at Carson-Newman College and was in her wedding.

We then went to the Leibrock farm. CAL is living in her parent’s old home on their massive property. The house was built in the late 19th century. It was the home both she and her father grew up in. She now sleeps in the master bedroom that once was her parents. I asked her if it felt strange sleeping in the room she might have been conceived in. If it hadn’t before...

She has made some modifications. She recently had the bathrooms re-tiled. They look great. There are also new decorations, with Prince William adorning the refrigerator and a “Say No To Crack” poster in the living room. The living room in the back of the house that was too elegant for us to enter as children now houses her father’s pool table. He played ten games of pool every Saturday with his dad. WAM and I got in a game of eight-ball. He beat me by one ball, but we both played absolutely horrible. On the plus side, nothing was broken.

Though she had modernized the bathrooms, CAL still has an antiquated stove and radio in her living room. She jokes at how disappointed robbers will be upon entering her home.

We then ate homemade cake and ice cream at her parent’s house located elsewhere on the property. This is the view from their porch. They own all the land as far as the eye can see. It is one of my favorite places on earth.

Both of their children, my friends, are doing well, other than CAL arriving late to my sermon. She is working for her father's law firm and her family is defending the “good Christian woman” Janet Lee Compton, 52, who shot up Hilltop Baptist Church on March 5th. She is charged with two counts of attempted first-degree murder, possession of a weapon, reckless endangerment involving a deadly weapon, and evading arrest. She was arraigned on Monday, May 12th, in Cocke County Circuit Court. I obtained all of this data from news reports. The only things they told me regarding the case were correcting me that she “allegedly...” shot up a church and my "uncle" insists that the 75 congregants present were mistaken in what they saw.

We discussed another case that their partner WOS consulted on regarding the UT vet school being sued for the death of a horse worth several hundred thousand dollars. Its intestines became tied and since horses are biologically incapable of vomiting, surgery proved difficult. CAL said that she thought they were negligent as she used to convince students that one had to peel a carrot before feeding it to a horse or else its stomach would explode. She would often prank call the university with similar concerns. Is it any wonder we have always been so close?

My “uncle” WL told me that the moral of the story is that if you have an expensive animal make it a cow so that you can qualify for government subsidizing as farm land. He chose the right profession.

Her brother WML is doing well working for Microsoft in Seattle. He completes training Tuesday (May 27th). His eight-man team won a competition this week and was rewarded with complimentary headsets. He is loving working with qualified people excited about what they are doing. His parents are stopping over to see him later in the year en roue to an Alaskan cruise.

Though his cat Elliott made the trip to Seattle, he did leave his 92-pound black lab, Raven, with his sister. She and CAL's little black dachshund, Rip, have become fast friends. Rip is about a year old and full of energy. He has proved very helpful in catching moles. The only problem is that he has dug more holes than the moles themselves would have.

After returning to Knoxville, my parents took RAW, KJW, and I to Ye Olde Steakhouse to celebrate his birthday. The restaurant is almost unanimously recognized as having the best steaks in Knoxville and my prime rib lived up to that billing. It is located in South Knoxville, which means one can get a great steak without a rigid dress code. KJW did dress up in a pink dress for the occasion.

The good news is that KJW was perfectly behaved. That is also the bad news as the pressure to produce grandchildren for my mother increases daily.

We did have one incident at the restaurant. One of the drunken southern boys behind us fell over and landed right where KJW's high chair was. Fortunately, she was coloring in her daddy's lap when this occurred and was unphased by the incident. I mainly tell this story to display another photo of KJW.

Finally, I received some good news on Friday as I finally heard from Hope Resource Center. You may remember that I interviewed with the non-profit organization on March 3rd. LEB e-mailed with the news that I can begin training on June 4th. (LEB also has a blog that can be accessed here.) Please keep this ministry and my involvement in your prayers.