Saturday, June 7, 2008

Prayer Blog - 6/7/2008

Last night I completed my two-day engagement at the "Giant Vacation Bible School" in conjunction with Knoxville Christian Center. Please keep these children in your prayers. Pray that a seed has been planted and especially pray that someone will follow us and water that seed. (I Corintihans 3:6)

Note: this picture is of a 12-year old named Ashlee Lundee. It takes her thirty minutes to get her hair like this so appreciate it!

Friday, June 6, 2008

Associated Baptist Press - 6/6/2008

Associated Baptist Press
June 6, 2008 (8-57)

IMB supporters release statement opposing missionary guidelines
Polygamist sect’s children sing, write poems to thank Baptists
Arkansas Baptist school falls short of World Series crown
Opinion: Obama's historic breakthrough

IMB supporters release statement opposing missionary guidelines
By Norman Jameson and Steve DeVane

RICHMOND, Va. (ABP) -- A group of current and former missionaries, former mission-board trustees and pastors is calling for the Southern Baptist Convention International Mission Board to reverse controversial guidelines for missionaries enacted in 2005.

The guidelines prohibit the appointment of any candidate who acknowledges using a "private prayer language," a practice IMB President Jerry Rankin has espoused. They also require candidates to be baptized in a Southern Baptist church, discounting even believer's baptism by immersion in another evangelical church.

"We express our concern over the restrictions that have been put in place in the form of additional 'guidelines' concerning a missionary candidate's private prayer life and baptism," said a statement from the group released June 2. There were initially 37 signatories to the statement. "Our conviction is that these guidelines stray far beyond the parameters set forth by our denominational confession of faith, the Baptist Faith and Message."

The statement said those restrictions amount to "intrusive scrutiny into the sanctity of the personal prayer closet" and "dictating to local churches what constitutes a legitimate Christian baptism."

The result of adopting the guidelines -- with no evidence they were needed -- was that "otherwise worthy candidates" for missionary service are unnecessarily rejected and "valuable, faithful IMB personnel" are leaving the field at a time when the overseas missions harvest is greater than ever, the statement said.

Allan Blume, the president of the North Carolina Baptist State Convention’s board and pastor of Mount Vernon Baptist Church in Boone, N.C., and his wife, Pam, are listed as contacts for the group. Pam Blume is a former IMB trustee.

Steve Hardy, associate pastor for missions at Calvary Baptist Church in Winston-Salem, N.C., and a member of the BSC Executive Committee, is also listed as a contact person. He is also a former IMB trustee.

Allan Blume said the guidelines go beyond the Baptist Faith and Message and are extra-biblical. They are keeping "dozens" of potential missionaries from applying for service and killing morale on the field, he said.

Blume said the restrictions initiated by IMB trustees in 2005 are distinct signs of "Landmarkism" -- a theological strain in Baptist life that firmly rejects ecumenism -- the in IMB trustee leadership. He also said the policies reverse the appropriate relationship between Southern Baptist churches and the agencies they support with their giving.

While IMB trustees say the candidate simply has to be baptized again, Blume said such a requirement "trivializes" baptism.

"We know of dozens" of candidates who would be required to undergo such a re-baptism, said Blume, who helped draft and distribute a news release and letter asking the IMB to reconsider the policies. "We know as many are not considering applying because of these guidelines.

Mount Vernon Baptist Church is among the top 50 churches nationally in giving to the SBC’s Lottie Moon Christmas Offering for Foreign Missions and one year led the nation in per-capita gifts. Current IMB trustee Donna Nealy is a member of Mount Vernon but has not participated in the discussion, adhering to a gag order that trustees imposed on themselves regarding disagreement with board policies.

"We are appealing as gently as we know how" for the IMB to reverse these guidelines, said Blume, whose church has sent a dozen missionaries through the agency, and who personally knows 100 other IMB personnel. The church frequently sends missions teams to work with international missionaries.

"Not one [missionary] has said these guidelines are inconsequential to a sinking morale on the field," Blume said.

While former IMB regional representative Rodney Hammer's recent resignation was one trigger for the petition by several dozen pastors and former IMB trustees, he is not the focus of the action and is not mentioned by name.

Blume emphasized, as do the documents, his support for the IMB and for the missionaries it supports.

Although Blume said he does not personally practice a private prayer language, he is concerned that by adopting and dictating policies that are extra-biblical and beyond the scope of the denomination’s doctrinal statement, the IMB has reversed its appropriate relationship to the churches. The IMB should adhere to the standards of the churches that send missionaries and not refuse candidates based on guidelines the churches did not adopt, he said.

The group said their opposition to the guidelines should not be read as a lack of support for IMB missionaries, staff or administration. They "commend the obedience and commitment to God's call of the more than 5,000 dedicated brothers and sisters who have been appointed, sent, and supported by Southern Baptists to carry the gospel to the ends of the earth" and declare that they "enthusiastically support our IMB missionaries through their praying, giving, and going."

The group calls on Southern Baptists to "hold the entities of the SBC accountable to the direction of the convention's churches, not the churches to the sentiments of their entities" and "strongly urge[s] Southern Baptists to seek the removal of these controversial and superfluous guidelines from use in the candidate approval process."

The group has created a website,, to "encourage appropriate principles and guidelines for missionary service through the International Mission Board of the SBC." The statement is posted there.

IMB spokespeople, contacted for a response to the statement June 5, were not immediately available.


Polygamist sect’s children sing, write poems to thank Baptists
By Craig Bird

GONZALES, Texas (ABP) -- Children seized from a polygamist sect’s compound and temporarily entrusted to a Texas Baptist child-care agency bid farewell to their former caretakers May 31 with poetry, song and strong emotion.

In anticipation of a court ruling that would allow them to return to their parents, 72 children from the Fundamentalist Latter Day Saints compound came up with an entire program to thank workers at the Baptist Child and Family Services Youth Ranch in Gonzales County, Texas. They had been in the organization’s care since the early days of April, when state authorities began taking children from the FLDS outpost.

The children lined up all the rocking chairs they could find on the Youth Ranch campus and asked the BCFS workers who had cared for them for weeks to be seated.

The aftermath left the BCFS staffers in tears.

A poem, written on a large piece of poster board and decorated with hand-drawn flowers began:

“Just a brief note, but sincere from the heart/We wanted to tell you, at least a small part/How much we appreciate your efforts at “boot camp”/To put up with and care for this motherless bunch.”

The poem’s conclusion read:

”So we’ll just close this little rhyme and say with great zest/’Thank You’ to everyone wearing the name/‘BCFS!’”

In-between, the children mentioned many of the organization’s workers by name and thanked them for specific actions. The children also gave out individual notes and performed songs they had composed for the occasion.

“They just overwhelmed us with all of this -- in a good way,” said Asennet Segura, the BCFS director of residential services. “It was so real. Most of them signed the back of the poster with the poem on it….”

That simple gesture by the FLDS children, Segura said, “showed real trust, since they are wary of signing anything.”

BCFS President Kevin Dinnin said the agency received “literally hundreds” of registered letters from FLDS parents back at the sect’s Yearning For Zion Ranch in Eldorado, Texas. The letters contained requests on how they wanted the care for their children structured -- regarding everything from medications to education. “We complied with all of those requests, except one -- that FLDS elders be allowed to conduct religious services,” he said. Dinnin noted that the request was denied not by BCFS officials, but by state authorities.

In so doing, BCFS was just following its own advice. Before the children were transferred from San Angelo -- a city near Eldorado where many of the children were first taken -- to group child-care facilities across the state, BCFS Chief Operating Officer Nanci Gibbons and BCFS Staff Psychologist Richard Brake wrote a “Model of Care” manual. It went everywhere the FLDS children did.

“Basically, we said child-care workers should not try to turn them into ‘little Americans,’ and that meant following the wishes of their parents and the tenets of their religion in every way possible,” she explained. “That meant, among other things, no Internet [access], no television, maintaining their regular dress” -- the sect’s adherents dress in simple, hand-made clothing reflecting the 19th-century origins of the group’s faith -- “and honoring their dietary choices.”

Brake, the staff psychologist, agreed. “We tried our best, and the staff and leaders did a great job in a difficult circumstance,” he said. “I think many staff were able to connect individually with some of the kids and probably broke down some stereotypes on both sides. We struck a good balance between learning as much as we could about them to best serve them and meet their needs, while also being aware of the many similarities between this situation and other children in [our] care, thus utilizing our skills and expertise.”

The agency, which is affiliated with the Baptist General Convention of Texas, also coordinated the statewide process of returning all of the 400-plus children to their FLDS caregivers, pursuant to the court order. “Originally, we were going to bus everyone back to San Angelo, but the FLDS attorneys were granted a request that parents be allowed to pick the children up, so we put that process together,” Dinnin said.

“Some people didn’t understand that BCFS’s role was just to care for the children when they were in need of care,” he said. “We didn’t play a role in the removal or any of the court hearings. We just took care of the children while the legal aspects were being sorted out. But when the children at the Youth Ranch expressed appreciation for how BCFS treated them, we knew the people who most needed to understand our hearts did just that.”

State authorities initially seized all of the children on the compound because of allegations that underage girls had been taken as wives by much older FLDS men. While evidence that many young girls had recently given birth surfaced, the Texas Supreme Court ruled May 29 that the state did not have sufficient reason to hold all of the children because of its suspicions about the sect’s religious practices. A lower court then ordered the children returned to their FLDS parents or caregivers.

Many in the Texas and national media have criticized the ruling, while others initially criticized the state for overreacting by taking custody of all the sect’s children.

But that wasn’t the topic of conversation as the FLDS children bid farewell to their BCFS caregivers. As one 13-year-old girl who was cared for there wrote, “Heavenly Father will bless those who bless his children.”

-- Craig Bird is director of news and information for Baptist Child and Family Services. Robert Marus contributed to this story.


Arkansas Baptist school falls short of World Series crown
By ABP staff

SAUGET, Ill. (ABP) -- An Arkansas Baptist college’s baseball team fell just barely short of claiming the NCAA Division II crown May 31.

The Ouachita Baptist University Tigers couldn’t overcome a five-run lead built up by the top-ranked Mount Olive College Trojans in the first inning of the final game. They outscored the North Carolina school 2-1 in the rest of the game, ending with a 6-2 loss.

Ouachita ended the season with a 51-16 record, marking the greatest number of wins in the program’s history. It was also head coach Scott Norwood’s last game with the Tigers. He is moving to the top coaching post at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock. Norwood, who has an overall record of 289-140, ended his four years at OBU with a 158-77 record.

“What a great run these kids have given me and themselves,” Norwood said, according to a Ouachita press release. “We are proud of them and proud of how far they came and what they’ve accomplished.”

In the final game, Mount Olive (58-6) took advantage of a Tiger error in the top of the first inning to grab its initial 5-0 lead. They added another run in the fifth inning.

The Tigers attempted a rally in the bottom of the eighth, scoring twice off Trojans starting pitcher Casey Hodges. OBU’s Blake Lockwood hit a double to center field to lead off the inning, scoring when Justin Pennell reached on an error. Pennell then scored on Jim Streicher’s double to center field. But it wasn’t enough to carry the day.

OBU senior pitcher Steve Smith was named the series’ most valuable player and to the All-Tournament Team. Ouachita players joining Smith in All-Tournament honors were Pennell, Streicher and Destan Makonnen.

GCS Ballpark in Sauget, Ill., home of the minor-league Gateway Grizzlies, hosted the series.


Opinion: Obama's historic breakthrough
By David Gushee

(ABP) -- The Democratic primaries are finally over, as Barack Obama has barely edged out Hillary Clinton for the nomination. This is an upset of epic proportions. It was unimaginable 18 months ago.

The Illinois senator’s victory over his colleague from New York represents a staggering change in American political life. It also has considerable implications for Christians and the life of the church.

For those of us who care about the journey of race relations in this country, Obama’s victory is one of the most significant events in American history. It has taken just one generation to go from legislation guaranteeing blacks the right to vote to a major party’s nomination of an African-American for the highest office in the land. We have gone from a nation that only 40 years ago overturned bans on mixed-race marriages to a nation that has nominated the child of such a marriage for the presidency of the United States.

Remember affirmative action? Obama’s victory marks a cathartic healing of that divisive debate because he won the nomination fair and square, playing by the same rules as his all-white competition. He built the best campaign organization, raised the most money, executed the most effective strategy, and then hung on for dear life as the race tightened near the end. Good education and considerable drive and ability gave Obama the tools he needed to compete on a level playing field. He did the rest.

Whatever one may think about their respective strengths and weaknesses, Obama’s victory over Clinton helps to avert the possibility of family dynasties coming to dominate American politics. Bush-Clinton-Bush-Clinton … this would have signaled a dangerous calcification in our politics and a loss of that cleansing dynamism characteristic of a nation where anyone with drive and talent can aspire to be whatever they want to be. Just as Bill Clinton came out of nowhere to become president in 1992, so did Barack Obama come out of nowhere in this election. This is just as it should be.

There is a logic of gradual inclusion that seems to unfold in American democracy. Martin Luther King pointed to it in 1963 when he said that it was time for America to live up to the promise of its creed, “all men are created equal.” The all-white, all-male founders of this nation unleashed a force for inclusion that even they could not anticipate.

Many of these same lessons have been learned related to Hillary Clinton’s candidacy. The great successes of her campaign mark the same kind of victory for women that Obama’s represents for people of color -- and that both represent for a more inclusive nation. She certainly had name-recognition advantages over Obama. But she also ran a formidable campaign and may yet one day become president of the United States. That great symbol of American power -- the White House -- may for the first time in our history be something other than the White Male House. Speaking as a white male, I think this is a very good thing.

Does this mean anything for the church? I think it does. I can’t help but contrast the victory of Barack Obama and the near-victory of Hillary Clinton with the absence of blacks and women from leadership in most historically white Baptist and/or evangelical churches. Our majority-white nation may elect a black man president, but how many majority-white churches would consider electing a black man as pastor -- or associate pastor?

Someone said to me recently that the church loses its credibility when the quality of its moral practice falls behind that of the broader culture. We fancy ourselves as the moral leaders of society, but so often are the most socially retrograde force in the nation. At a time when doors are being pried open to greater inclusiveness (and therefore greater social justice) and greater respect for the immeasurable worth of every human person, the church often lags behind.

Sometimes we are known for what and who we are against, as in crusades against basic homosexual rights. Other times we articulate a commitment to an inclusive vision, as on issues of race and gender, but make little actual progress in sharing power and leadership with people outside the white-guys club.

To the extent that the church continues to lag behind the culture in treating every human being as the sacred gift of God that they are, we ourselves will be left behind as an irrelevant vestige of a previous age.


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

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Prayer Blog - 6/6/2008

I received a text at 7:52 pm informing me that CST, laid off on May 19 by Jewelry Television has a new job. He begins June 23rd. Thank you to all who prayed for him during this time and pray that his new job goes well.

Bible Trivia - 6/6/2008

Question: What number appears most frequently in the book of Revelation?

Answer: Seven.

Comments: "Seven" or "seventh" appears in 37 different verses of the highly symbolic book of Revelation. The book itself is addressed to seven churches in Asia Minor (Revelation 1:4)

John to the seven churches that are in Asia: Grace to you and peace, from Him who is and who was and who is to come, and from the seven Spirits who are before His throne, (Revelation 1:4, NASB)

Note: This painting is Hans Memling (1430-1494)'s "St John Writing Revelation." It is hung in St John's in Bruges, Belgium.

Word of the Day - 6/6/2008


To winnow is to free (grain) from the lighter particles of chaff, dirt, etc., especially by throwing it into the air and allowing the wind or a forced current of air to blow away impurities.

John the Baptist metaphorically warned his listeners that God's winnowing fork was prepared and that the chaff would be burned with "unquenchable fire!" (Matthew 3:12; Luke 3:17)

"His winnowing fork is in His hand, and He will thoroughly clear His threshing floor; and He will gather His wheat into the barn, but He will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire." (Matthew 3:12, NASB)

In Eckleburg's Eyes - 6/6/2008

I had a great, but long Thursday, highlighted by working at a massive Vacation Bible School (VBS) held at Karns High School. The event was creatively marketed as “Giant Vacation Bible School.”

My Thursday Bible Study met as usual. We debriefed on the text I will preach on Sunday (Matthew 9:9-13). I was given clearance from the tower to proceed as planned. The most unique aspect of this study was that CMU is experimenting with an exercise program developed in Russia. Every fifteen minutes he does push ups and squats. I got tired just watching him. The program is designed to improve one’s max. Presently, he does 34 pushups every fifteen minutes. I wonder if this is where the “Russian Jumper”’s training originated. (To view the Russian Jumper on YouTube click here.)

We will begin the summer movie reviews on Monday as we attend the 1:50 pm showing of Ben Stein’s Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed at the Regal Downtown West Cinema 8. The film is a CMU pick as it follows Stein’s attempt to determine the merits of religious based Intelligent Design/Creationism. The group is meeting on Monday as MLM will be out of town on Thursday. Feel free to come.

I was enlisted to perform as an actor in next week’s VBS at our church on Thursday and Friday. The company is in desperate need of male thespians (as evidenced by my recruitment). MLM and JER, who will be filling the quota early in the week will be out of town the last two days. I will be playing the (starring) role of Jeremiah on Thursday in a presentation of the story of Baruch and Jeremiah (Jeremiah 36) and Friday I will be participating in pantomiming the parable of “The Good Samaritan” (Luke 10:25-37) This will be my first “formal” acting since my days in Newport, tapes of which are still circulating in underground circles. I was hoping to work with TJW, who is our church’s acting guru, but I will have the next best thing - acting with his talented wife, JLW. As long as I get to wear a bathrobe, I will be satisfied.

On Thursday night, I went to VBS with my neighbor, PTD. One of her daily exercises is walking the neighborhood and praying for the members of each household she passes. If she did nothing else, this would make her a great neighbor. She called on Wednesday to see if I could assist at her church’s VBS as they were experiencing a shortage of workers. An unpaid laborious Christian job? Of course I was in. I met her at her house and we drove to Karns where I would be supervising eighty twelve year olds. Some people might call this hell. I wouldn’t blame them if they did...

The “Giant Vacation Bible School” was hosted by Knoxville Christian Center (KCC), of which PTD has been a member for more than 20 years. The church and the VBS are the brainchild of pastor Barry Culberson (BRC). He left his church in Lexington, Kentucky, in 1980 to start the KCC. He grew up on a secluded mountain in Georgia and had an unpleasant home life. Were it not for someone recruiting him as a child to VBS, he would have never have heard about Jesus. As such he has a special place in his heart for children, especially those who are outside the realm of the traditional church setting. His brother Ronnie (RWC) directs the program.

Each Saturday, buses patrol areas in a ten-mile radius and enlist children to come to church. These same routes are used to recruit kids to VBS from East Knoxville. This year, nineteen buses (rented at $150 apiece a night) transport 1400-1700 kids from East Knoxville to Karns. They have held the function at Karns for three years having consistently outgrown previous locales. Younger children participate at the church’s facility while children ages 6-18 are instructed at the high school. Evidently the big draw is free pizza. Perhaps I should offer pizza to anyone attending my sermons...

When we arrived, I was anointed with a oil by a woman. This was new to me. Before the festivities began I was greeted by Dan(iel) Mills (DLM), 29, who admittedly did not want to be there. In fact, I do not know if I have ever seen one so openly opposed to a volunteer position. He has already secured a different job for the 2009 VBS. Naturally, I liked him.

The theme of this year’s VBS is “Sonworld Adventure Park 2008", naturally accompanied by hideous lime green t-shirts sold for $8 a pop. My working hypothesis is that VBS picks the most hideous colors imaginable as t-shirts can be obtained at a discounted rate in bulk. Any experts? The theme was not really used with these older children.

The event has had some serious behavioral issues in the past and police were stationed at the event. I was informed that there have been fewer fights to break up this year, though there was evidently some drama on the bus there on this night. The group had to be reminded that this was not “not VBS hookup.” as evidently there were some PDA issues on Monday. Thankfully, I experienced no such problems.

The event began in the auditorium, where the KHS drama department performs their plays. They had a band complete with smoke machine. I (inappropriately) laughed out loud when the young singer acknowledged the great crowd. They chattered throughout and paid little attention to the band. The event was emceed by youth pastor Justin Reeves. He attempted to quiet the crowd with this line - “I hope you have a good excuse for interrupting God at VBS when you get to heaven.” If that is God’s biggest complaint, I think they will be okay.

A video was shown from a group called “Larval Comics.” Then a dramatization of the song “When She Cries” (not the popular Restless Heart verison, but the Brett Nicole Christian song of the same name) was done by the youth drama. This really drew the audience in. The star was a kid named Trevor who plans to go to school to be a youth minister after schooling at Lipscomb or SWBTS.(I made no comment). He played the devil in the skit. It was very telling when many of the children asked teachers if he was playing a father or the devil.

We then led the kids through a corridor to the choral room where our class of twelve-year olds met. The speaker was a former cop and one of the other “table teachers” was an army ranger named Todd. Just when the kids thought they could not be any more intimidated, I showed up.

The teacher was a man named Tony Barnes (AMB). He resembled Kenny Chesney at least in size, race, and hair style. The father of two is a 1996 graduate of Karns and will turn 30 in a couple of weeks. I was so pleased when PTD described him as “so young.” Until two months ago, he worked for the KPD, where he had served for seven years. He now works for the feds in Oak Ridge shooting machine guns all day. His patrol was in East Knoxville and Mechanicsville. He knew many of the children from patrolling their neighborhoods. A local charity supplied him with candy and he distributed it to children in the area. He had given his dramatic testimony the previous night.

He was the perfect speaker for this group as he understood where the kids were coming from. The previous night he had grabbed their attention with the story of Maury Davis, an ex-con who is now a megachurch pastor in Nashville. One night he was hopped up on hallucinogens and murdered a woman. He received a life sentence and was converted in jail. Miraculously, he was released and now serves as pastor Cornerstone Church in Nashville.

On Wednesday night, a kid named John Cotner was saved at the event. AMB recognized the name. His father has John Louis Cotner III and known as “J-Cool”. He was second in command of the infamous Imperial Insane Vice Lords gang based in Walter P. Taylor Homes before being busted in 2002. A woman who witnessed another crime gave up his whereabouts in exchange for immunity as everyone knew the police were after him. AMB was so pleased his son had found Jesus.

AMB set out a challenge at the beginning of his lecture to keep the children’s attention. He established “life” as the word of the day. Volunteer Angela Montgomery (AM) then counted how many times he said the word in the course of his lecture. The child who correctly guessed the number received a $20 bill. While this certainly kept their attention, I feel it was also a little detrimental as their attention may have been misdirected. Hitchcock always put his cameos at the outset of his films so audiences would not be focused on finding him and miss his film. AM counted 24 occurrences and a child name Morgan left $20 richer. Not to criticize a fellow volunteer, but if AMB said “life” once, he said it one hundred times.

AMB’s text was Hebrews 12:1:

Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, (Hebrews 12:1, NASB)

He ran with the analogy of the runner. He had two children run a race indoors. (I have been in administration too long as I was worried about liability.) The two children tied. Then he placed his backpack on one of the children, Tabron Pittman (TP). He then listed potential sins and each time a sin was referenced he loaded the backpack with a a free weight. By the time he was done, Tabron had thirty pounds of baggage and when they reran the race, he lost handily. Interesting, the turn was what got him.

I must note that TP’s name was run of the mill for this event. One middle class white girl was named “Aviva” but had no idea what the name meant. My name tag read “Chan V.” One girl asked if my name was “Chanu” which would have been appropriate on the night. PTD simply thought I was Chan the Fifth...

AMB’s other visual was having his seven year-old son, Isaac, recite Psalm 1 to demonstrate that no one is too young to memorize scripture. He has done it since age five and received an ovation from the kids.

As AMB spoke, I had the very difficult job of preparing the snack - Pepsi and Famous Amos cookies. You will be pleased to know that I did not spill even one drop.

My old daycare student Heaven Leigh Woodall (HLW, yes, heaven-leigh) was in the class. For those involved in my Sunday School class, she is the child we paid to attend our church’s daycare. She has graduated from the daycare and now attends Bearden Middle School. This was her first year attending this particular VBS.

The night concluded by hauling hundred of kids into the gymnasium where many played basketball and generally chaos ensued while I guarded a puppet stand with my life. So in four hours I guarded a puppet stand and poured Pepsi. This is one of those ministries where presence is the objective. I can only hope that we plant seeds and that someone else will eventually water them (I Corinthians 3:6).

I arrived at RAW’s house around 10 pm, and caught most of the Celtics 98-88 victory over the Lakers in Game One of the NBA finals. I watched the game with JTH, KJW, MPW, and RAW. I was amazed to see MPW without KL (aka "Sunshine"). I refrained from singing Bill Withers’ classic “Ain’t No Sunshine When She’s Gone.” KLTW was with her classmates for a rare night out at Bailey’s Spots Grille.

When I arrived KJW informed that she was watching “KG.” Her father’s favorite player is Kevin Garnett. He has also taught her to say “Big Ticket” KG’s other moniker. She also knows where everyone works. She does get this confused look on her face when asked “Where does Chan work?”

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Prayer Blog - 6/5/2008, #2

DBN's mother-in-law is ill and his wife is spending the weekend with her mother. Keep she and DBN in your prayers.

Prayer Blog - 6/5/2008

Tonight I begin a two-night stint working at a Vacation Bible School in conjunction with the Knoxville Christian Center. Please keep this ministry and my involvement in your prayers.

Bible Trivia - 6/5/2008

Question: Which gospel records the incident of a naked young man running from soldiers at the time of Jesus' betrayal and arrest?

Answer: Mark. (Mark 14:51-52)

Comments: The Gospel of Mark is the only canonical gospel which includes the mysterious tidbit that a young man fled from the scene of Jesus' arrest.

A young man was following Him, wearing nothing but a linen sheet over his naked body; and they seized him. (Mark 14:51, NASB)

Some pose that the "young man" in question is the evangelist himself. In Word Meanings in the New Testament, Ralph H. Earle (1908-1995) comments, “This brief incident is found only in this Gospel. It might be Mark’s way of saying, ‘I was there.’ If the Last Supper took place in the home of John Mark’s mother (cf. Acts 12:12), Judas Iscariot may have returned there first to betray Jesus. We can then understand how John Mark would be roused, perhaps grab a sheet to cover his body, and rush to [Gethsemane] to warn Jesus.”

Note: This rendering of St. Mark was done by Donatello (1386-1466). Donatello's Saint Mark (1411-1413) is a marble statue that stands 7'9" in an exterior niche of the Orsanmichele church in Florence

Word of the Day - 6/5/2008


Flexuous means full of bends or curves; sinuous.

In her victory song, one of the ways Deborah describes the turmoil of the preceding era was that travelers took to flexuous paths. (Judges 5:6)

In the days of Shamgar the son of Anath,
In the days of Jael, the highways were deserted,
And travelers went by roundabout ways. (Judges 5:6, NASB)

Note: This painting of Deborah was done by Gustave Doré in 1865.

In Eckleburg's Eyes - 6/5/2008

On Wednesday I finally began my training at the Hope Resource Center.

The seminar was held at the organization’s campus location (at 823 Melrose Place, next to Gus’ Good Times Deli if any of you need free STD testing). I knew the general vicinity of Melrose, but it has been some time since I had been on that road. Unfortunately, there was construction on this particular road on this particular day and the workers inexplicably took down the street sign. So after circling the block a couple of times, I guessed it was my road that had no sign and forutnately saw the place. Fearing I might be late, I parked in a nearby lot. I am pretty sure this was illegal...

I soon saw a friendly face as MLM arrived at the same time I did. (If I arrived concurrently with MLM, I probably was late.) His daughter DM was working at the front desk as she volunteers on Wednesdays. She begins graduate school this fall. It was good to see familiar faces in a new environment.

The training was done in a relatively small room with a kitchen. Lunch was provided from Firehouse Subs. So we ate while discussing the many (highly appetizing) symptoms and consequences of STDs.

I quickly learned that this was simply an STD seminar and not counseling training . There were three women employees present and six male volunteers. I was the only trainee, but eveyone was patient with my learning curve.

A nurse practitioner named Marda Collings (MPC) led the proceedings. She was very informative. but I am pretty sure that she added the clause “and stuff” to every sentence she spoke. I was amazed how little I knew about STDs. In retrospect, I am not sure that is a bad thing.

During one portion of the session, MPC noted that if a patient continues smoking any substance while having genital warts, they might as well name their wart because it was going to be there forever. I noted that this would make for a great top ten list. Amazingly, everyone loved the idea. So, coming soon will be the Top Ten Names for your Genital Wart. If you have any suggestions, e-mail me at Be thankful I resisted the urge to illustrate this paragraph.)

The most interesting thing I learned there was that condoms made from animal skin exist. Naturally, being highly porous they are virtually worthless. If I had learned northing else, this was worth the trip to campus.

On Wednesday night, JTH and I visited Mr. X. We were told to delay our arrival as a limb fell in his driveway. We did not grasp the magnitude of the situation. It would be more accurate to say a small forest fell in their driveway. Fortunately it landed between two cars or it would have done some serious damage. The family was climbing the tree only a few short months ago, but woodpeckers have decimated the trees’ stability. Note the amount of derbis in the background.

After we assisted Mr. X and brother-in-law JAH clear the driveway, we all played a game of H-O-R-S-E. I was the impact player if you will, but not due to my skill. Naturally JTH won as he shot after me. This is a photo of his game-winning jump shot. Order of finish: 4. Mr. X (I am pretty sure he missed some shots to be kind to me); 3. WCV; 2. JAH, 1. JTH.

After the game, we went inside and watched the Will Ferrell comedy Semi-Pro. The premise is that Ferrell is Jackie Moon, the owner-coach-player-promoter of a fledgling basketball team called Flint Tropics in 1976. Yes, tropical Flint, Michigan. It was typical Ferrell with some scenes cracking us all up. If you like Will Ferrell, you will like the movie. If not, don’t bother. Within the next week, I will post a review under the heading “A Veiled Tell: Nil Soli.”

At the end of the movie, Ms. X and her dog Hemi joined us. She had severely dislocated her middle finger the day before working at a kennel. The cast on her finger made her constantly flip us off. She did not seem to mind...

Typically, we closed the evening with a meal at Applebees. Unfortunately, it was after 10 pm so we did not have the opportunity to use our new VIP cards.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Prayer Blog - 6/4/2008

HKWS had surgery today to correct complications from pregnancy. Be praying for a speedy recovery and her parents (HWW and LGW) who are watching the infant.

Bible Trivia - 6/4/2008

Question: How old was Jesus when he ran away from his parents to talk to the teachers of Jerusalem?

Answer: Twelve. (Luke 2:42)

Comments: The incident in which Jesus is found discussing the finer points of Scripture with the Jerusalem teachers is the only canonical incident of Jesus' life depicted from the time he was two until the time he hit 30. Some have jokingly cited this as proof that even Jesus had turbulent teen years.

And when He became twelve, they went up there according to the custom of the Feast; (Luke 2:42, NASB)

Word of the Day - 6/4/2008


A presidio is a garrisoned fort; military post.

Jonathan and his armorbearer attacked the Philistine garrison. (I Samuel 14:1) The seige proved succesful.

Now the day came that Jonathan, the son of Saul, said to the young man who was carrying his armor, "Come and let us cross over to the Philistines' garrison that is on the other side." But he did not tell his father. (I Samuel 14:1, NASB)

Note: This bronze sculpture entitled "Jonathan and The Armor Bearer" was sculpted by Tom White.

In Eckleburg's Eyes - 6/4/2008

Tuesday was a day of momentous milestones. JTH returned to MoFoS and KLTW administered her first BE.

JTH had previously retired from this job (one of many for him) on April 12th, but is now back in the fold. He did work a shift training CDM in the interim but since she did not work out (read: understatement) he did not accept payment.

In positive CDM news, her daughter KM accepted Jesus as her Lord and Savior on Monday (June 2nd). She was swinging on our church’s playground (she is in the summer program) and talked to Him. As much as I disapproved of CDM dating JTH, I liked her daughter. This is great news.

Lowell Cunningham (LC) made his customary MoFoS visit before I got there. He and JTH have developed a special (heterosexual) rapport. JTH learned that his feature article in the Knoxville News-Sentinel that has been referenced no less than three times in this blog was penned by one of his college friends. The dog (“Frank”) that is in the picture with him is the canine from the Men in Black movie. He told the paper to clearly indicate that the dog was not his. They did not. So there is the inside scoop. (Note: This picture is from the paper’s web site and not the previous one I scanned from my copy.)

LC likes JTH so much that he gave him some gum he acquired in Japan. JTH says it is good, but very strong. He has saved a piece for me which will serve as MoFoS memorabilia.

While I missed LC’s daily visit, I arrived just in time for special movie ticket taker Mark’s appearance. As usual, Mark spent a good deal of time around the counter. It felt good to be home. I really do think my stealth photography skills are improving...

I then went to see KLTW, KJW, and RAW. KLTW cooked us breakfast for supper. We had turkey bacon, scrambled eggs (mixed with cheese), grits, and Martha White cranberry orange muffins. The muffins are stellar. Note: This photo represents the food all four of us ate, not just my portion.

KJW’s grandfather has taught her to answer the question, “Who is your best friend?” with “Jesus.” She may not know who He is yet, but He knows her. Ordinarily, I would be jealous but I admit I lost out to the better man on this one. KJW has also learned to say “Amen” at the end of prayers.

KJW ate chocolate pudding to tide her over until her Uncle Chan arrived. This presented the (hopefully) rare opportunity to see what she would look like with a fu-manchu. I confess that this image was partially my fault. I threatened her with the patented Von Erich Iron Claw and she naturally screamed, “No, Chan!” Unfortunately, her mouth was full at the time and pudding dripped everywhere. I especially like this photo as it looks like she is giving me the thumbs up go ahead.

As noted in the opening paragraph, KLTW administered her first Barium Enema (BE) at Morristown-Hamblen Hospital hospital on Tuesday. Remember this is the procedure that finally won the heart of Kelly Kapowski for Zack Morris on “Saved By The Bell: The College Years” Actually, probably not as I may have been the only regular viewer of that program.

In other Tuesday “news”, I heard an ad on the radio. Evidently we have a lipo "doctor" in Knoxville named Dan Halen at HRC Medical Center. This cannot be his real name. Can it?

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Associated Baptist Press - 6/3/2008

Associated Baptist Press
June 3, 2008 (8-56)

Obama departure from Trinity garners concern, criticism
Sect’s children begin leaving Baptist caregiver’s custody
CBF General Assembly devotes prayer time to discerning way
Opinion: Politics and the power of the Cross

Obama departure from Trinity garners concern, criticism
By Robert Marus

WASHINGTON (ABP) -- Religious and political leaders are expressing both concern and criticism in the wake of Barack Obama’s recent break with the church that brought him to faith 20 years ago -- but has brought him headaches on the campaign trail more recently.

The Illinois senator and likely Democratic presidential nominee acknowledged May 31 that he had mailed a resignation letter to officials at Trinity United Church of Christ in Chicago. He and his wife, Michelle, were married there and have been active members of the congregation for two decades.

But continued controversy over the church -- re-ignited by a guest preacher’s May 25 sermon in which he mocked rival Hillary Clinton and seemed to imply that she was a racist -- forced Obama’s hand.

“It's clear that now that I'm a candidate for president, every time something is said in the church by anyone associated with Trinity, including guest pastors, the remarks will be imputed to me even if they totally conflict with my long-held views, statements and principles,” he said, in a statement announcing the resignation. “This was a pretty personal decision and I was not trying to make political theater out of it.”

Obama’s resignation came after months of controversies focusing on the church -- and primarily on its former pastor, Jeremiah Wright. Obama has acknowledged Wright as a spiritual mentor, and even named his autobiography, The Audacity of Hope, after one of Wright’s sermon titles.

But Obama was forced to distance himself from Wright in March, after several snippets from Wright’s sermons showed up on YouTube and were replayed repeatedly by cable-news programs. The sound bites contained rhetoric that some have interpreted as anti-American and anti-white, such as the declaration that God condemns America for its treatment of blacks as well as its foreign-policy mistakes. But many have defended Wright, saying that the comments were better understood in the context of the entire sermons in which they appeared and in the broader context of the African-American tradition of prophetic preaching that challenges the powers that be.

Then Obama was forced to denounce the minister more formally after an April 29 National Press Club appearance by Wright that was equal parts erudite speech, bitter tirade and theatrical performance.

The controversy over Obama’s ties to Trinity subsided until the Memorial Day weekend sermon by Michael Pfleger, the white pastor of a predominantly African-American Catholic church located near Trinity. In it, he mocked Clinton and claimed she was surprised by Obama’s success because of her white sense of entitlement.

Obama denounced the sermon and noted that Pfleger had resigned from a campaign advisory council months before. Pfleger also apologized for his homily. But it, like the Wright sermons before it, kindled a media firestorm nonetheless.

Explaining his decision to reporters during a campaign appearance in South Dakota May 31, Obama said that he and his wife had been talking about leaving the church since Wright’s National Press Club performance. He said they discussed it with Otis Moss III, Trinity’s new pastor, and decided that the separation was in the best interests of both his campaign and the church.

“We prayed on it and, you know, my interest has never been to try to politicize this or put the church in a position where is subject to the same rigors and demands of a presidential campaign,” he said. “My suspicion at that time … was that it was going to be very difficult to continue our membership there so long as I was running for president.”

Obama continued: “The recent episode with Father Pfleger I think just reinforced that view that we don't want to have to answer for everything that’s stated in a church. On the other hand, we also don't want a church subjected to the scrutiny that a presidential campaign legitimately undergoes. I mean, that’s … I don't want Rev. Moss to have to look over his shoulder and see that his sermon vets or if it’s potentially problematic for my campaign or will attract the fury of a cable program. And so, I have no idea how it will impact my presidential campaign. But I know it's the right thing to do for the church and for our family.”

But some political rivals suggested the decision to leave Trinity was clearly politically motivated.

“Early in the campaign, the Obama for President website was filled with glowing reports about the positive and close relationship that Sen. Obama enjoyed with his home church and the Rev. Jeremiah Wright. Once it became clear that Rev. Wright and the church were becoming a liability for Senator Obama, he resigned the church out of political expediency,” said Patrick Mahoney, of the Christian Defense Coalition, in a statement.

But several news reports indicated that Trinity members interviewed on their way to and from worship services June 1 were saddened, but not angered by their most famous member’s departure.

The church issued a statement wishing the Obamas -- and their two young daughters, who were baptized at Trinity -- well.

“Though we are saddened by the news, we understand that this is a personal decision. We will continue to lift them in prayer, and wish them the best as former members of our Trinity community,” the statement said. “As in the prayer of the Ephesians, the entire Trinity family asks that the nation entrust Barack, Michelle, Malia and Sasha to God's care and guidance, so that Christ may continue to dwell in their lives, in their hearts, and in their work. We ask now for God's peace to be with them.”

Obama, at the South Dakota news conference, rejected the suggestion that he had chosen Trinity out of political expediency and was now leaving it for the same reasons.

“There are a lot of big churches on the South Side of Chicago,” he said. “There are a whole bunch of churches that were better connected politically, so I reject that notion, which I think is a very cynical one, that I would join a church simply to maneuver politically.

He also said that, if political expediency were his motivation, he would have denounced Wright and left the church more than a year ago, when he made the formal announcement of his presidential bid. Then, a smaller controversy arose over Wright’s past statements and actions, and Obama disinvited Wright from giving the invocation at the announcement event.

Welton Gaddy, a Baptist minister who is president of the Interfaith Alliance, said all parties were to blame in the episode, which he views as a cautionary tale against politicizing churches or sanctifying politicians.

“No candidate for the presidency should ever have to resign from or join a particular house of worship in order to be a viable candidate for that high office,” Gaddy, who is also preaching pastor of Northminster Baptist Church in Monroe, La., said in a statement released after Obama’s announcement.. “To make such a decision for political reasons dishonors religion and disrespects the Constitution. This is a sad day in American politics and even sadder in American religion.

“Sen. Obama is at the center of the storm, but all who wed religion to partisan politics share responsibility for this tragic development.”


Sect’s children begin leaving Baptist caregiver’s custody
By ABP staff

DALLAS (ABP) -- After court rulings declaring that the state of Texas had insufficient cause to keep them from their parents, more than 400 children taken from a compound owned by the Fundamentalist Latter Day Saints began returning to their parents June 1.

The sect is led by imprisoned polygamist Warren Jeffs. In April, authorities seized the children from the FLDS Yearning for Zion Ranch in Eldorado, Texas, on suspicion of sexual abuse. But the Texas Supreme Court found that the authorities had not produced enough evidence to justify keeping all of the compound’s children in state custody.

State officials asked Baptist Child and Family Services (BCFS), an agency affiliated with the Baptist General Convention of Texas, to coordinate care for all of the children. In addition, several of the children were housed at BCFS facilities.

“There are no longer any FLDS children at the BCFS Youth Ranch,” according to a June 2 e-mail message from BCFS administrator Kevin Dinnin. He also said members of the agency’s incident-management team were in Austin, assisting Texas state authorities with the logistics of returning the children.


CBF General Assembly devotes prayer time to discerning way
By Vicki Brown

ATLANTA (ABP) – How does God want us to use our resources? Finding an answer to that and related questions will be a priority at the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship General Assembly this year.

Leaders will seek input from attendees at the event, set for June 19-20 at Cook Convention Center in Memphis, Tenn.

Using the theme, “Embrace the World: Building Bridges,” the meeting will include a “prayer and discernment experience” to help determine the 17-year-old organization’s future.

According to pre-assembly information, the prayer time will cap a year-long effort by CBF’s Coordinating Council, state and regional leaders, staff and others to determine the body's future focus.

Participants will receive instructions for the prayer time at the Thursday morning business session. An hour during the afternoon worship experience that day will be devoted to prayer in groups of approximately 30 individuals.

Following worship, small groups of 10-15 people will meet to pray over and respond to specific questions and potential priorities. The smaller groups will meet again prior to a Friday morning business session.

CBF leaders will use the feedback to develop priorities for the organization. Some of those initiatives will be presented Friday morning.

No other major business items are expected during the meeting.

In other General Assembly-related events, CBF will commission 17 new field personnel during a service June 18. The commissioning will be held at First Baptist Church of Memphis.

An hour-long focus on poverty is scheduled for June 19 to allow participants to share and discuss ideas and challenges for meeting worldwide needs. Although a free event, organizers request attendees to register ahead of time at the CBF website planning purposes.

The two-day event will also feature several workshops sessions on topics including missions, disaster relief, religious freedom and poverty.

Keynote speakers include Lauren Bethell, an American Baptist Churches USA ministry consultant based in Prague, Czech Republic. Bethell helps mentor and facilitate ministry among the world’s exploited women and children.

A leadership summit, a poverty-emphasis breakfast, a CBF AIDS Network luncheon and several other auxiliary events will be held in conjunction with the General Assembly.


Opinion: Politics and the power of the Cross
By Beth Newman

(ABP) -- Sen. Barack Obama’s recent resignation of his membership in Trinity United Church of Christ was probably inevitable, but it is a melancholy occasion nonetheless. Since I cannot know the likely Democratic presidential nominee’s heart, I don’t know whether this was a cynical political move or a heart-rending decision. But this much is obvious: in Sen. Obama’s opinion, his Chicago church home -- or at least his membership there -- had become a political liability.

The resignation is melancholy because it speaks so starkly of the division in our society not only among the races, the classes, and the political parties. It speaks of the price of power in our nation and of our convictions about where actual power is to be found. The affair illustrates for me the continual and forced relegation of faith to the sphere of the purely private.

As has been observed elsewhere, a great part of Sen. Obama’s appeal has been his seeming ability to overcome the divisions that have for so long characterized the political life of the United States. Not least among these divisions was the sacred/secular. Here was a Democrat who could speak convincingly not only of the importance of a generic faith, but of his specifically Christian faith. And he did so without the overtones of triumphalism or exclusivity that so often alienate those of the so-called “progressive” element of national life.

I think these words of faith were heard with such hope because Obama tied them not to the glittering generalities of the American civic religion, but to the actual life of a real congregation. It was at Trinity Church that he met Jesus, at Trinity that his marriage was celebrated, at Trinity that his children were baptized. That congregation formed his life.

And this is the congregation that he is willing to leave in order to gain the presidency.

I should say that I am not particularly troubled by the few minutes of “rantings” from the Rev. Jeremiah Wright -- Obama’s former pastor -- or by the few seconds of the same sort of things by Father Michael Pfleger, the Catholic priest who inflamed controversy over Trinity again over the Memorial Day weekend.

And further, I am quite willing to believe that the totality of the ministries of this congregation dwarf whatever offense is given by these YouTube moments. What bothers me is the implication that the real power to make a difference lies not in the church’s engagement with the world, but in the activity of a governmental office.

More than one “expert” called to offer insight on the recent pastor problems experienced both by Obama and his Republican rival, Arizona Sen. John McCain, has called for the complete relegation of religion to the private sphere (“Why won’t these preachers just shut up? Why don’t our politicians keep their religious opinions to themselves?”) so that we can get on with the serious business of electing our leaders. In other words, banish religion to the non-public sphere where it ceases to threaten or offend, and politics will be better off.

If the early followers of Christ, however, had understood religion as private and politics as the machinations of government in the public sphere, there would have been no conflict with the Roman Empire. The early church, however, refused to avail itself of the protection of the cultus privatus (private sect) status that it could have enjoyed under Roman law. They saw, rather, that Christianity entails a whole way of life -- one that encompasses both the so-called private and public spheres. Thus they described the body of Christ in political terms: “a holy nation”(I Peter 2:9), a citizenry (Ephesians 2:19) and the “Israel of God” (Galatians 6:16).

What we need to remember is that the gospel is offensive. Aside from whether the antics of certain preachers upset the world, the message of the gospel will upset many when faithfully preached. The wisdom of the Cross is foolishness to the world. If this cruciform folly is not embraced, “the Cross of Christ [will] be emptied of its power” (I Corinthians 1:17).

Sen. Obama says that he and his wife will choose a new church after the election. In other words, after the real work has been done. Such a decision makes quite clear where his hope for the future lies.

Hope in the power of the Cross, however, cannot be set aside or relegated to a private sphere. Rather, following the Cross empowers the body of Christ to overcome divisions in all areas of life and extend God’s love to all the nations.

Such hope might make Christians look foolish in the eyes of the world. Let’s hope so. It’ll be a sign that our lives, public and private, are more determined by the power of the Cross than other principalities and powers.


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

Prayer Blog - 6/3/2008, #2

Tomorrow (June 4th) at 11 am, I begin my training with the Hope Resource Center. Please keep this ministry and my involvement with it, in your prayers.

Prayer Blog - 6/3/2008

VLC, the mother of PCL and grandfather of MEL and MASL died on May 31st. The funeral service was tonight. Please keep this family in your prayers.

Here is his obituary as it appeared in the Knoxville News-Sentinel:

CASH, VERLON SANFORD - age 84 went peacefully to heaven on May 31, 2008, at Parkwest Medical Center, Knoxville, TN. He was a member of Central Baptist Church at Bearden, and a long time member of First Baptist Church, Memphis, TN. He retired from Memphis Funeral Home with over 40 Years of service to grieving families in the Mid-South area. He also served families with West Funeral Home, Weaverville, NC until moving to Knoxville in 1995. Verlon was an active Mason and Shriner over 60 years. He was a 50 year member of the Angerona Lodge, Memphis, Tn. (32 Degree) and the Al Chymia Shrine Temple, Memphis, TN. He was also a charter member of the Memphis Downtown Kiwanis Club, and the Mars Hill Shrine Club (Oasis Temple), NC. He also holds membership in the York Rite, Marshall, NC. WWII Veteran, serving mainly in General George Patton’s 3rd Army of fice. Verlon was a witness and reported for the 3rd Army and Stars and Stripes at the Dachau and Nuremberg, Germany war crimes trials. Survived by, wife of 59 years Amaryllis (Amy) Boals Cash; daughter Paula Cash Lemmond; grandchildren, Michelle E. Lemmond, and Michael A. Sanford Lemmond. A special thanks to, James Womack, and Ed Lemmond. Family will receive friends Tuesday, June 3, 2008 at Weaver Funeral Home from 5-7:30 pm with service to follow at 7:30 pm. Dr. Wendell Boertje of Central Baptist Church of Bearden officiating. Interment Wednesday June 4, 2008, 11:30 a. at Tennessee Veterans Cemetery with Rev. Ed Lemmond holding committal service. Memorials may be made to Central Baptist Church of Bearden “Imagine the Blessing”, your local Shrine Temple to benefit the Shrine Hospital for Children, or other Christian charities. You are invited to share your thoughts and memories of Verlon at his memorial website Weaver Funeral Home in charge of arrangements.

Bible Trivia - 6/3/2008

Question: Who was Barabbas?

Answer: He was the prisoner the crowd asked to be freed instead of Jesus. (Matthew 27:16-26)

Comments: All four canonical gospels (and the Gospel of Peter for that matter) state that the crowd at the crucifixion was given a choice of which prisoner to free - Barabbas, a murdering insurrectionist, or Jesus. In some texts, Barabbas is referred to as Jesus Barabbas which would imply that he was called by his surname to distinguish him from the other Jesus. This is reflected in the CEV, The Message, and NRSV's translation of Matthew 27:17. If this were the case the crowd is presented a choice of two Jesuses - the violent insurgency of Barabbas or the challenging gospel of Jesus. They chose the former. Which do you choose?

But the governor said to them, "Which of the two do you want me to release for you?" And they said, "Barabbas." (Matthew 27:21, NASB)

Word of the Day - 6/3/2008


Raddled is an adjective meaning worn-out and broken-down.

The Gibeonites donned raddled clothing to make Joshua believe they were from a "far country." (Joshua 9) The ploy worked and Joshua committed to a treaty with a people he was to destroy.

they also acted craftily and set out as envoys, and took worn-out sacks on their donkeys, and wineskins worn-out and torn and mended, and worn-out and patched sandals on their feet, and worn-out clothes on themselves; and all the bread of their provision was dry and had become crumbled. (Joshua 9:4-5, NASB)

Note: This painting is titled "The Trickery of the Gibeonites." It was painted by Joachim Beuckelaer in 1565. It is housed in the J. Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles.

In Eckleburg's Eyes - 6/3/2008

My Monday was spent on two inexplicably long adventures but in the process I visited two new (to me) businesses.

First, I went to McKay Used Books and CDs. I will be the first to admit that it is not that uncommon for me to spend an inordinate amount of time there. This time, however, it was for different reasons than my typical book obsession. SMA sent me with a large order to trade in after cleaning his home. Whenever he discards his old items, I take the items rejected by the higher paying Disc Exchange to McKay’s as SMA has no use for McKay’s credit. It is a good deal as I get a stipend and and a good deal on his unwanted credit.

On this day, the processing took nearly an hour and a half! In addition to the order being substantial, it was the first Monday since school has been out. With the additional time, I checked out sections of the store I usually do not. It was quite educational. I learned that Will Smith’s song “Just the Two Of Us” was also published as a children’s book.

I also investigated (read: stalked) a regular customer. This man shops almost every time I do and I am there a lot. He is conspicuous as he always wears the same shirt and he carries a scanner with which he scans every bar code in the store. I believe that he checks the price and then sells profitable books online. I can see no other reason for this but I could be wrong. Anyway, with a great deal of time to spare I entertained myself by trying to get a good picture of him. This represents my best effort. My stealth photography skills are not improving, I just had more takes at this “assignment.” I am not sure which is weirder - him scanning books daily or me taking pictures of him doing it. I am almost positive it is the latter.

SMA was pleased with his $98. I was given a substantial bonus for handling his stuff for an over and a half (His words, not mine.) For all of those who trade at McKay’s, effective June 1 (Sunday), all trade credit is now yellow, meaning that everything in the store is eligible to be bought with credit with no distinction made as to whether one submitted books or media. Desegregation at last!

I then picked SMA up from his class at the UT law school and we went for lunch. SMA had received great news earlier in the day. He was recognized as a merit scholar for his work in jurisprudence. This meant that he received the highest grade in that particular class. This is the second time he has done so as he also held that distinction in William G. Ross (aka "The Macebearer")’s professional responsibility class. He did lament that these two classes probably have less to do with the law than any others. Congratulations!

Unfortunately, his class was not entertaining. That is an understatement. The UT professor who lectured in person had him longing for the taped segments he had been subjected to during the previous week. He spent much of the class contemplating the etymology of “renege” and considering how much better his professor Brad Bishop will be when he teaches the class.

We then made our way to Chandler’s Deli. This was definitely my choice (I was honestly surprised that he consented to go) and not just because of the great name. I had heard great things about Chandler's and it recently received an award from the readers of the MetroPulse. Regarding its location, I knew only that it was on Magnolia Avenue. This proved problematic as Magnolia is quite a large street and with construction in the area and SMA sedated, we really had no idea how to get there. To say our route was convoluted doesn’t even scratch the surface.

Since we drove past it en route, we stopped by Three Rivers Market, “Knoxville’s Community Food Co-Op.” It has been open since 1981 and provides all of our city’s organic food needs. Despite it having been open most of my life, I had never been there. If you are familiar with Knoxville geography, you can probably tell how disjointed our trip was by this stop alone. And our driving had only just begun.

We drove a great deal down Knoxville’s crowded streets during lunch time and always seemed to end up at the same place. SMA, who was directing acknowledged, “I can get us to Fifth Avenue like nobody’s business.” Unfortunately, as noted, we were looking for Magnolia not Fifth.

Having been in the car seemingly forever, we received many calls en route. The comments by WRK, RLN, and CST were priceless. They all seemed to wonder whether or not we were procuring drugs. To our crew this is the land of Fifth Avenue Baptist Church, one-eyed hookers, and Clyde Barnard. (All of those are stories in and of themselves.)

We did finally find Chandler’s at 3101 E Magnolia Ave. It is located across the street from the Pizza Palace, Knoxville's only drive-in pizza restaurant. The sign outside proudly advertises “bonesucking b.b.q.”

Charles and Gwendolyn Chandler renovated an abandoned Taco Bell (complete with drive-up window) in May 2000. The building is now pastel pink. The Chandlers started contemplating a new career when Charles Chandler thought that he might lose his job as a maintenance mechanic with Martin Marietta during a time when the company had massive layoffs. Although he never lost his job, his wife lost hers. Gwendolyn Chandler was a machine operator at the Levi Strauss plant on Cherry Street until it closed in 1997. After Charles Chandler retired after 30 years, the couple devised the restaurant as it was a business they could operate together.

Chandler’s has a family atmosphere, with no smoking and no alcohol. The owners are clearly Christian. Gospel music from the family's collection plays on the restaurant's sound system, a large poster detailing the names of Jesus adorns a wall, and Matthew 3:17 is posted on their sign. This verse is God’s glowing approval of Jesus at his baptism:

and behold, a voice out of the heavens said, "This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well-pleased." (Matthew 3:17, NASB)

The food is served buffet style and there are plenty of options. We both ate pulled pork sandwiches, as that is clearly their main attraction. They also had fried chicken, rotisserie chicken, ribs, greens, mac and cheese, mashed potatoes, etc. They advertised chitterlings (aka chitlins aka pig intestines aka we did not eat them) and pigs feet as specials. The servings are ample and are served in a styrofoam to go box placed atop an orange tray.

I was most impressed by that fact that they actually had Kool-Aid on tap! It was the best cherry Kool-Aid I have ever had. Though I am typically a grape man and we would have appreciated more options, it was unique.

I liked it fairly well but SMA has been spoiled by the many great barbeque establishments in Birmingham. It was reasonably priced. In fact I am almost positive the gas cost entailed in our tangential route cost more than the food. (Note: The URL featured on the business card is defunct.)

Though the experience was good, SMA summarized the day well: “We have learned one thing today - we have no f’n idea where Magnolia is.” Touché.

Monday, June 2, 2008

Prayer Blog - 6/2/2008

WRK's summer employment with J Barkley in Roswell, Georgia, may not come to fruition. She learned before leaving for her trip that the company may not receive some jobs they had counted on when they hired her, leaving her position unnecessary. She does have a job in Knoxville should this occur, but she is hoping to go ahead as planned. May God's will be done in this matter.

Bible Trivia - 6/2/2008

Question: What was the name of the man forced to carry Jesus' cross?

Answer: Simon. (Matthew 27:32)

Comments: Simon (of Cyrene) was drafted to carry Jesus' cross when Jesus' body no longer could. (Matthew 27:32; Mark 15:21-22; Luke 23:26). In the Gospel of John, Jesus carries the cross himself, and there is no mention of a Simon. In the traditional 14-step celebration of the Stations of the Cross, Simon's enlistment is the fifth staton.

Note: This water color painting of Simon of Cyrene assisting Jesus was painted by Johann Friedrich Overbeck (1789-1869). It is owned by the Vatican Museums.

Word of the Day - 6/2/2008


Premonitory means giving premonition; serving to warn beforehand.

Pontius Pilate's unnamed wife had a premonitory dream advising her husband of Jesus' innocense (Matthew 27:19). The story appears only in the Gospel of Matthew.

While he was sitting on the judgment seat, his wife sent him a message, saying, "Have nothing to do with that righteous Man; for last night I suffered greatly in a dream because of Him." (Matthew 27:19, NASB)

In Eckleburg's Eyes - 6/2/2008

I spent my weekend encountering people associated with the law in one way or another. This was actually good as I was not charged with any crimes. That I know of.

On Friday morning, I received an unusual request from CAL, a lawyer in Newport. She wanted me to drive to Newport to marry a 21-year old man and 17-year old girl against the girl’s parents wishes. The girl is pregnant and the man is in the military and wanted her to receive his benefits. The situation proved to be volatile and CAL knew that I would not be particularly alarmed at the prospects of being shot at. So I put on a suit and tie and was ready for action but before I left the house, CAL called to let me know that someone in the courthouse had married the couple. I was a little relieved. I was not concerned about the potential danger but rather the ethical decision of marrying a couple I did not know. Though I would have requested to talk with them beforehand, it would not have been enough time to properly assess the situation and as such whether my responsibility to God would have been compromised. In any event, I missed out on my first emergency wedding and I donned a suit and tie for nothing!

I spent Friday afternoon with SMA, a soon-to-be lawyer. SMA’s bar preparation course is proceeding as planned. The course material has moved from contract law to evidence. Thursday and Friday’s video lectures were provided by Cornell University’s Faust Rossi (FFR). Insert your own deal with the devil joke here. I have not heard SMA comment on a professor’s voice this much since he was in the great David E. Linge’s undergraduate class.

SMA realized that his middle school classmate Joel Hanisek (JFH) is in his bar preparation class. JFH’s mother (DFH) taught with mine at Sequoyah Elementary School and as a child I often shopped at his father GFH’s baseball card store, Investibles. JFH is quite accomplished to say the least. He earned a Bachelor of Arts from Davidson College and a Master of Divinity from Yale Divinity School. JFH was selected to be the Presbyterian Church (USA) representative to the United Nations. The press release can be accessed here. This success could not have happened to a nicer family.

SMA and I ate lunch at Soccer Taco. It had been too long since our last visit but the Enchiladas World Cup was as good as I had remembered. We learned that though our favorite waitress, Josie, is still technically on the time sheet though she no longer works shifts. Though Caucasian, and fluent in both English and Spanish, she spoke in broken English at my request just so I would not feel cheated out of an authentic Mexican experience. Our waitress, Jessica, was also Caucasian but spoke perfect English. No one is perfect.

The restaurant’s televisions were divided between a rerun of Paraguay’s 1-0 victory over Uruguay from October 17th in a 2010 World Cup qualifying match on ESPN Deportes and the Scripps National Spelling Bee.

The 1994 winner (winning word: "antediluvian."), Ned Andrews (EGA), was actually in the class below SMA at the Webb School of Knoxville. His obnoxious behavior was even featured in an episode of “Cheap Seats!” He went on to earn a bachelor's degree from Yale University in 2003 and graduated from the University of Virginia School of Law (naturally, a lawyer) in 2006. He now lives in Danville, Virginia, where he serves as assistant commonwealth's attorney, the Virginia equivalent of assistant district attorney. He also holds the record for the most questions answered by a mob on the NBC game show "1 vs. 100" (49 from December 15, 2006-January 19, 2007). Of all of those accomplishments, I am by far more impressed by the appearance on “Cheap Seats.”

While at the restaurant, we were graced by the presence of JLT (aka “JTT”, CEH gave her the name when Jonathan Taylor Thomas was huge - we have known her for a really long time). She looks exactly the same (which is a good thing). She now works at the UT Law School. Her official title is "Advancement Assistant III." She was dining with her boyfriend Marco, who is very charming. They still play a lot of poker. She again agreed to watch The Burbs with me. We have been attempting to do so since 2000.

We then got SMA his allergy shots. He began getting them again on Wednesday after having had no problems for three years in Birmingham. What is in the air in Knoxville?

We than began a wild scavenger hunt as SMA needed to shop for an upcoming birthday. As usual, we ended up buying more for ourselves than the person we were shopping for. We started at Cat’s Music & DVDs. SMA had not been there in some time and our visit was exceedingly short. SMA summarized, “This place still sucks.” Now it is confirmed and I hopefully have spared you from a similar visit.

After striking out at Cat’s, we went to Borders. While there, SMA asked about the Border Rewards program. We both have our cards swiped frequently but never seem to get any benefits. Evidently, one gets $5 back for every $150 spent, but these vouchers expire and the user must get the points on line.

Our next stop was Target. It was there that we made the best purchase of the day. SMA bought a Lando Calrissian Mighty Muggs figurine. I think the teeth make the piece. Its tag notes that it is "made from 100% recycled awesome." I cannot argue that.

We then made a rare trip to West Town Mall. This was a true sacrifice. While there, we saw CEH who had gotten back from her mission to trip Asia only two days earlier. We also bumped into EBB. As usual, he was with a girl. This twenty-year old named Jenn was evidently not his girlfriend. He is still the Marketing/Broadcasting Director for Carson-Newman Athletics and has taught some broadcasting courses during the summers. He also updated us on several stories of interest:

  • He had been texting ADF all day and he plans on returning from Arizona and taking a graduate assistantship at Carson-Newman College. I honestly did not know he had left Knoxville.
  • His former roommate James Banks signed as undrafted free agent with the Cleveland Browns on April 29th. He had declared for the NFL draft on January 7th. As a junior at Carson-Newman last season, Banks caught 22 passes for 370 yards and six touchdowns in the Eagles' run-happy veer offense.. He was originally a Tennessee player but was dismissed from the team for repeated disciplinary offenses on December 10, 2004. In his final season with the Vols (2003), Banks led Tennessee receivers with 42 catches for 621 yards and six touchdowns.
  • EBB alleges that recent Tennessee basketball player JaJuan Smith has been banished from associating with the team at Bruce Pearl’s request. JaJuan evidently is a leading area drug dealer and under serious investigation by the TBI. EBB’s source is one of Smith’s former high school teammate in Athens. I hope this is not true. JaJuan is perhaps my all-time favorite Vol.

Our last stop of the day was at Game Haven. It was a good day of hunting.

SMA had me listen to a band called The Bird and the Bee. They are an indie (naturally) musical duo from Los Angeles. They have bee featured prominently on “Grey’s Anatomy”. I was pleased as they covered the Bee Gees’ “How Deep Is Your Love.” Is it just me or do Bee Gees songs sung by women sound very similar to Bee Gees' versions? If you are into indie music, check them out.

My favorite quote fo the day from SMA: “For starters, God did not need to make ugly people.” It is not as incriminating in context. He was lamenting the fact that we get distracted by appearance and miss the true beauty in people. It sure sounds better unqualified. Fear not WAM, you will be the only person who receives a Quote of the Day feature.

On Friday night, I met JTH, PAT (who was in town to film a wedding), and JBT at Applebees. GAB was out of town with his girlfriend, whom he has reconciled with. SCB was in Virginia for a bridal shower that JBT opted to miss. I cannot say that I blamed him.

We watched the Celtics clinch the Eastern Conference championship with a win 89-81 over the Pistons. Everyone at the table was pleased as we all wanted to see a Lakers-Celtics final.

We had one of our usual waitresses, Amy. She asked JTH, “Are you still with that girl everybody hates?” When we updated her on his situation, she replied, “It looks like they hated her for a reason.” I love Amy!

Amy also supplied us with cards that allow us to eat half-priced appetizers any time the store is open. Evidently, these have been distributed to regular guests for two weeks. This is awesome! Did I mention that I love Amy?

On Saturday, I ate with my parents at Silver Spoon. My mother wanted to sit outside. This proved problematic on two levels. First, it was unseasonably hot, but not unbearable. Second, there were ants all over our table. The restaurant moved us and closed the table for the day. Reasons I do not eat outside...

On Sunday morning, I convened Sunday School at Shoney’s. There are few combinations as pleasant as Bible Study and the breakfast bar. We did a walkthrough of Matthew 9:9-13, the text I will be preaching on next Sunday. For WAM’s brilliant yet outside of any box known to man interpretation, read the WAM Quote of the Day.

After “class”, WAM and I ventured to nearby Oak Ridge. Since Mr. K’s Used Books did not open until noon, we went to Wal-Mart first. The highlight was WAM selecting this Batman cowl and attempting to surmise whether or not it would fit his cat. I really hope no one associated with the ASPCA reads my blog.

I spent Sunday afternoon and evening with RAW and KJW. Whenever I go there, I discover new television networks. While we talked, we had the Boomerang network on in the background. It aired an episode of "The Batman" and a 1968 edition of the short-lived "Wacky Races." My favorite part was when Batman was in peril, KJW said “Oh no!” Don't worry. He evaded the danger.

KJW was not interested in either show, but suddenly aroused when we switched to the omnipresent SpongeBob SquarePants. We watched the show for the umpteenth time. Sadly, I had seen the episode before. (Note: KJW is that little and the television is that big.) I was thrilled that when she saw that I had brought her a board book (Christmas ABC by Alice Gold and Linda Clearwater), she requested we turn off the television and I read to her. Upstaging SpongeBob is rare.

When KLTW returned from work, I picked up food from Kroger. As you can tell, KJW enjoyed the meal. Some of it even made its way into her mouth. KLTW brought home her fundraiser for her program at South College. The donor scratches off a donation amount and then pledges the number that is on the tab. Donations range from to 0 to $2.50. Mine was 75¢. For doing this, I received a coupon sheet of eight coupons. The sheet’s header reads “Great Savings.” When KLTW inspected it, she categorized them as “sucky.” If you would like to make one of these sizable donations to South College and receive some "sucky" coupons, let me know. I will hook you up.

KJW is doing well. She has developed three unacceptable phrases - "go away", "stupid", and "shut up." We know she picked up shut up from staying around her aunt’s dogs but we are not sure of the origins of the other expressions. She is still incredibly sweet and well-behaved.

She is becoming quite the little lady. She asked that we put a bow in her hair. Less than a minute after we did, she wanted it off. Accessorizing. Rapid inexplicable changing of the mind. She has become a woman so fast...

She also suckered me into changing her diaper. Her father asked her to go to her bedroom and return with a wet nap and a diaper. First she came back with white shoes, then a massive bunny. Finally when she was asked, she said, “No I wanna play with toys.” After she accidentally trapped herself in her room (which was priceless), she returned with a diaper. I asked my usual question, “Do you want your uncle Chan to change your diaper?” She has been well-trained that the proper response is “No.” Not on this day. So I changed her diaper. I guess I suckered myself into it. At least this was during the episode of SpongeBob which meant that there would be less squirming than usual.

Her parents as also well. RAW’s tax return was not what he had hoped. Due to his low tax liability, he and KLTW received a $600 refund instead of the expected $1200. They also have yet to receive the $300 for KJW. This money shortage has caused RAW to take drastic measures regarding his beloved Trans-Am. He was going to use the money to fix the car, but now he has decided to attempt to change the gasket himself. The procedure itself is relatively easy, but getting to the engine in this particular vehicle is challenging and especially daunting without the proper tools. Pray that all goes well.

Though he did not get the promotion he applied for at Best Buy due to laziness on the part of management, he has been told he will receive a PDG. This is to assess what he needs to do for promotion. This will be the third of fourth time they have promised him this courtesy. The problem is that he is too valuable in his present role and management simply does not want to move him. His success seemingly has given him a dead end job. He and KLTW have even discussed threatening to quit, but with a wife a and baby, he cannot afford for his bluff to be called. Keep his job situation in your prayers as well.

The entire day went off without any significant tantrums. KJW did bump her head. She requested her Frannie Bear through her tears and she rubbed its ears as she cried. It evidently worked. Just before bed, KLTW put KJW’s hair into a Pebbles Flintstone style. It takes true beauty to pull this look off. In fact, this is actually KJW’s “beautiful face.” When this request is made, she tilts her head to the side and looks innocent. Looks can be deceiving.

In some professional updates, I received a letter from West Lonsdale Baptist Church acknowledging that they received my resume and would consider me when they seek a pastor. They claimed not to be seeking one presently. I have suspicions that the church no longer has the money to do pay two pastors and they really like their youth minister. Two things of note: 1. the letter was addressed to “Bro. Vinson.” 2. the deacon chairman who sent it (unsigned) was one of my high school coaches.

I also received a call regarding potentially filling the pulpit during the month of August at English Mountain Christian Church (located at 166 Epley Road in Newport). The man who usually fills the pulpit when the pastor is on vacation died recently. I would especially be interested as one of the church’s former pastors was Fred Craddock. Keep this opportunity in your prayers.

It also appears that I will be preached the “Classic” (Read: old audience) service at Central Baptist Church of Bearden sometime in July. I will let you know if and when this comes to fruition. Thanks for your support.