Saturday, July 19, 2008

Prayer Blog - 7/19/2008

My wonderful cousin HANW will be traveling to Louisville, Kentucky, tomorrow to audition for American Idol. Her father will accompany her on the trip. She plans on singing Bonnie Raitt’s 1991 hit “Something to Talk About” for the judges.

Pray for safe travel, that her audition goes well, and that she is pleased with the experience, whether or not she is selected or not.

Friday, July 18, 2008

WAM Quote of the Day - 7/18/2008

WAM attended a showing of The Dark Knight with my Bible Study this morning. We had had several minutes to talk while awaiting the arrival of MLM and CMU. This was more than enough time to produce a Quote of the Day. When I explained that MLM could not eat breakfast with us because he was catching up on work after being busy with a biking troupe, he heard "viking troupe." After being corrected he said:

"A viking troupe?...Then again, what's the difference?"

Other notable observations from WAM:

  • When I became concerned as my party had not arrived despite phoning ahead: "They don't drive like you, Chan...No one drives like you, Chan...Race car drivers use more caution driving down the street..." Thanks for that vote of confidence, WAM. For the record, he was correct.
  • On the poor portrayal of "The Riddler" in the last Batman movie series (by Jim Carrey in Batman Forver): "He's the Riddler. Advanced sudoku is supposed to be simple for him."
  • On a poster for the upcoming film Hamlet 2 (right): "If they want to make it like a real locker room there has to be at least one drawing of a penis." I have no idea.
  • WAM reading "Rock me sexy Jesus" deadpan from the poster was also priceless.

Bible Trivia - 7/18/2008

Question: Who was the father-in-law of Caiaphas?

Answer: Annas. (John 18:13)

Comments: Annas and Caiaphas both served as high priest at different times. Annas was the father-in-law of Caiaphas and had served as high priest first from 6-15 CE. He was deposed by Valerius Gratus shortly after the Roman governor took office. The governor appointed three more high priests over the next three years before finding Caiaphas to be cooperative in 18 CE. Caiaphas was still the high priest at the time of Jesus' trial and according to John 18, both Annas (verse 13) and Caiaphas (24) saw Jesus before his crucifixion.

and led Him to Annas first; for he was father-in-law of Caiaphas, who was high priest that year. (John 18:13, NASB)

Not only did Annas' son-in-law serve as high priest, but all five of his sons also eventually held the position.

Note: This painting, "Jesus Before Caiaphas", was done by Giotto di Bondone (1267-1337).

Word of the Day - 7/18/2008


The hallux is the first or innermost digit of the foot of humans and other primates or of the hind foot of other mammals; great toe; big toe.

After a victory over the Canaanites and the Perizzites at Bezek, the Israelites removed the halluces and thumbs of the losing king Adoni-Bezek. (Judges 1:1-10)

But Adoni-bezek fled; and they pursued him and caught him and cut off his thumbs and big toes. (Judges 1:6, NASB)

In Eckleburg's Eyes - 7/18/2008

I took advantage of KL being at a midnight showing of The Dark Knight in Nashville and spent Thursday night with her boyfriend MPW. It was completely platonic.

After MPW finished playing basketball at church, we ate at the food court in West Town Mall. It was a rare mall excursion for both of us. I ate at Sbarro while MPW ate at Petro’s (where I have never eaten). I am either really comfortable with MPW or have simply lost the will to live as I seldom eat spaghetti in public.

We discussed Jajuan Smith’s progress with the Dallas Mavericks team in the NBA’s Summer league. (He is averaging slightly less points than rival Shan Foster in half as many minutes.) MPW also challenged me to design my own Dodge Challenger. There is a contest on the manufacturer’s web site with one of the prizes being a new car. I am fairly certain that if I designed a car, even just the aesthetic aspects, that it would somehow malfunction and kill me.

After dinner, we hung out at MoFoS with JTH. This marked the fifth consecutive days JTH and I have seen each other and with plans for the next two days, there is no end in sight. I am not complaining.

In MoFoS news, the store has been given a facelift in only two days. Owner JBT’s arm, orginally thought to be broken, was actually only severely dislocated. You know you are having a bad week, when this is the best news of the week. Continue to keep him in your prayers.

I apologize for the lack of pictures, but I accidentally left the phone at home. It happens...

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Associated Baptist Press - 7/17/2008

Associated Baptist Press
July 17, 2008 · (08-72)

Greg Warner, Executive Editor
Robert Marus, News Editor/Washington Bureau Chief

In this issue
Baptist help valuable, recovery slow in Burma, China
Baylor students cycle to Alaska for suicide awareness
Lilly provides $1M grant for CBF 'ecosystem' initiative
Opinion: The path to discernment on homosexuality

Baptist help valuable, recovery slow in Burma, China
By Rachel Mehlhaff & Vicki Brown

FALLS CHURCH, Va. (ABP) -- Two months after Cyclone Nargis devastated Burma and a month after a major earthquake shattered much of China's Sichuan province, Baptist-led recovery efforts continue -- but conditions remain desperate in many places.

The situation is particularly dire in Burma, according to workers with Baptist World Aid. The organization is the relief and development arm of the Baptist World Alliance.

Since May 3, Rescue24, a search, rescue and relief effort by BWAid, has reported "huge unmet basic needs for the victims of the disaster" in Burma, which is also known as Myanmar.

"Many families are living under makeshift shelter ... made of clothes, branches of trees or even under debris," BWAid Rescue24 workers noted, in a 25-page report to the BWA.

The most urgent needs are food, drinking water, hygiene products, mental-health support, shelter and livelihood support, according to the report. Most of the water sources were destroyed or contaminated, and people have no means to store drinking water.

Getting aid into the disaster zones has been difficult -- due to the mountainous terrain of the affected region in China and the reported intransigence of the Myanmar government. Burmese authorities have confiscated some relief funds and have refused to provide travel visas for foreign aid workers, said David Harding, Disaster Response Coordinator for the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship.

But organizations such as the American Baptist Churches USA are finding ways around this problem. The ABC had affiliated workers in place in Burma before the storm. American Baptists are working in partnership with the Myanmar Baptist Convention. "We respond to their needs versus telling them what to do," said Lisa Rothenberger, ABC's world-relief officer, adding that the Myanmar convention is "very grateful and appreciative of our partnership."

CBF is also channeling relief efforts through its existing partnerships with Myanmar Baptists. "We are very pleased with the partnership that we have," Harding said. The goal is to empower the local churches in the country to meet the human needs. But much will be asked of Burmese Baptists as recovery effort drag on. Burma's rainy season, which began in May and lasts until November, is worsening living conditions for many cyclone survivors.

BWAid personnel continue to work closely with the Myanmar convention's Nargis Relief and Rehabilitation Central Committee. The convention daily sends food, potable water, clothing, mosquito nets and medicine to almost 100,000 survivors in the Irrawaddy River Delta, the region hit hardest by the storm.

Noting the number of Burmese left homeless and jobless by the cyclone, the convention's Women's Department plans to begin vocational training in some of the hardest-hit areas.

Baptist Global Relief, the Southern Baptist relief arm, continues efforts in the region as well. Like their international Baptist counterparts, they are working primarily through Burmese nationals via the Myanmar Christian Coalition for Cyclone Relief, a multi-denominational relief effort.

The coalition has developed a six-point plan for responding to the disaster. It includes reconstructing churches, providing food kits, repairing and replacing housing, providing family kits of essential items, providing school supplies and uniforms, and assisting farmers and business people to rebuild their livelihoods.

BGR has committed more than $1 million of its world-hunger and relief funds to Myanmar recovery. It has been hard, but the organization has "been able to release a number of projects and funds," said Jeff Palmer, the group's executive director.

But the needs remain immense. In Burma, casualty estimates vary widely, with figures ranging from 134,000 to near 1 million dead. Several million more are estimated to have suffered directly from the cyclone.

Many of those were Baptists. According to the Myanmar convention, more than 10,000 Burmese Baptists have been confirmed dead, and more than 94,000 were severely affected by Nargis.


Baylor students cycle to Alaska for suicide awareness
~By Lee Ann Marcel

WACO, Texas (ABP) -- As of July 15, five Baylor University students were nearing the end of a 4,500-mile bicycle journey from Texas to Alaska in an effort to raise awareness about the scourge of suicide in their age range.

Suicide is the third-leading cause of death of Americans between the ages of 15 to 24, behind homicides and accidents, according to the American Association of Suicidology.

Problem brought home

Those statistics came uncomfortably close to reality for Justin Brown, Steve Zimmerman, Andi Nakasone, Kyle Ferguson, and Nathan Lloyd.

Last November, the five students were shocked when a friend confessed that he had tried to suffocate himself. He told them he had attempted to fasten a plastic bag over his head to end it all.

"We looked at each other with our hearts beating in our chests -- life pulsing in our veins -- and wanting to give him the same feeling," Brown, co-founder of the Alive Campaign, wrote on the group's website. "In order to lighten up the mood, one of us said, 'You know, if you're going to kill yourself, you might as well do something crazy.'"

They joked about climbing Mount Everest or throwing a water balloon at the dean of the college. Then someone nonchalantly mentioned biking across country. "Something happened and the guys latched onto it," Brown said.

Attacking the issue

Rather than laughing off the unthinkable, the students attacked the issue head-on. The group vowed that they would start a group on Facebook, the popular social-networking website. When the site reached 250,000 friends, they vowed, they would do something outlandish to draw the public's attention to the epidemic plaguing America's youth.

The group started with 100 members at 8:20 p.m. Nov. 4, 2007. They hit the goal of 250,000 members at 7:15 p.m. on Nov. 17.

"We started seeing numbers shoot up, and we didn't know what to do. We thought we were going to do this next year, but when the money started coming in, we knew we had to do it this year," Brown said, in a telephone interview. "We weren't cyclists, we weren't in shape, but we were about to set forth on a journey. We prayed, 'If you [God] wanted us to do this, you [have] got to meet us halfway.'"

Thus, the Alive Campaign launched.

The students began to prepare for the grueling trip, cutting sodas from their diets and biking in a local park. "I was always that nagging person, telling them to be practicing," Brown said.

The team contacted alumni of the Texas Baptist school to ask for their participation. Several offered their homes as pit stops for sleep and rest along the route.

The trip and its purpose caught local and national media attention. On March 11, the campaign appeared on MTV's collegiate network. The students hosted the channel's music video show, "Dean's List," and spoke out against suicide.

Despite the exposure, though, they were having some trouble with fund-raising.

"It was two weeks before we were going to leave and we still didn't have enough money," Brown said. "But we decided that we still needed to do this. So we still planned on going, even if we didn't have the money."

But then two unexpected donors chipped in, including the Jed Foundation, the nation's leading organization working to prevent suicide and promote mental health among college students.

Life-changing trip

On May 15, four of the original students left Baylor's Waco, Texas, campus on a journey to help change attitudes about life and promote suicide prevention.

The group also recruited Baylor film student Alyson Erikson, who is filming a documentary about the trip. Although the team asked her to join only a month before they were scheduled to leave, Erikson felt the urgency to support the cause. She e-mailed her mother that "she was going to do this no matter what."

"She has been a great addition to the team. Before we were just four guys, but now girls are able to relate to her better than we could," Brown said.

The trip hasn't been easy. "Every day has a new challenge," Brown said, "So we take it one day at a time. If you keep looking to the end, it's easy to get overwhelmed."

The team gets on the road each day around 5 a.m. The students learned a lesson about the need for getting started in the wee hours near the beginning of the trip, in Abilene, Texas. That particular morning, they decided to sleep in a little later than normal.

"We ended up biking nine hours in record high temperature and strong winds," Brown said.

Their biggest challenge is staying healthy and hydrated each day because of the limited water supply they can carry, as well as their lack of an ability to carry nutritious food supplies. "The only food that was available was fast food, which isn't good," Brown said.

Because of the strenuous work, their knees have been their primary source of complaint. Fortunately, only one member has been hurt so far. Ferguson badly strained a muscle, forcing him to follow the rest of the team in a van until he recovered.

Other challenges include finding a place to do laundry and getting a sufficient cell-phone signal to contact parents.

"We call our moms every time we stop," Brown said. "Sometimes we have to get them to write our blogs for us because we can't get Internet reception."

Through aching knees and a few popped tires, the team is getting the hang of things.

"We are just learning along the way, doing things on the fly," Brown said. "It isn't recommended, but it's got us this far."

Education the key

"Early in the process of organizing Alive, the students as a group took it upon themselves to learn as much as they could about the topic of suicide in order to be better informed advocates for those who had no champion," noted Susan Matlock-Hetzel, a staff psychologist with the Baylor Counseling Center, in a statement. "As they increased their knowledge, where others would have been overwhelmed with the enormity of the issue, these young leaders only became more inspired to make a significant contribution in giving hope to the hopeless."

The students became QPR (which stands for "Question, Persuade and Refer") Certified Gatekeepers. The course teaches participants how to question a peer about suicidal thoughts, persuade them to stay alive, and how and where to refer them to professional help.

"It has been my honor to have been a small part of their journey thus far," Matlock-Hetzel added. "I have seen them courageously, yet fully aware of the enormity of the task, move forward with bringing attention to an issue that is crippling an entire generation. I have seen them embody leadership, honor and commitment with grace and humility."

On their trek, team members speak to various schools and churches to help open the eyes of students who suffer from suicidal thoughts.

"They open up their hearts to us. We have heard stories from 12- to 15-year-olds wanting to commit suicide. They share [with team members] the deepest things friends don't even know," Brown said.

"We are the richest country in the world, but studies have shown we are the saddest and most depressed," Brown wrote on the Alive Campaign Web site. "We are lonely with our riches, following the American dream. Go to school, get a job, get married, have kids and repeat. The illusion that our lives have limits causes our massive dependency on drugs, materialism and lusts. We are a society with nothing new to give. This trek, this adventure to Alaska, is to prove that humans don't have limits. You can do anything you set your mind to. Who says you need to go to college to be happy? Who made it the law that you need to be rich? He [their friend] was telling us that he had nothing to live for, so we gave him something to live for."


Lilly provides $1M grant for CBF 'ecosystem' initiative
By ABP staff

ATLANTA (ABP) -- The Cooperative Baptist Fellowship will create a leadership "ecosystem" during the next three years with a $1 million grant from the Lilly Endowment.

The ecosystem, as the grant describes it, will focus on two initiatives. One will be aimed at youth and college students, while the other will bring theological educators and pastors together in dialogue.

The program is aimed at helping young people discover their vocational calling. "Our focus all along has been to discover, develop and nurture leaders," said Terry Hamrick, CBF's coordinator of leadership development, in a press release. "This grant is strategic in that we will be able to call young people out, improve their theological education experience and create positive ministry experiences in the local church."

CBF will implement the new program with existing staff and partners, adding more than $300,000 of its funds to the grant. Plans call for the program to begin to take shape this fall.

"Lilly Endowment is very pleased that many institutions and leaders affiliated with the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship -- pastors and congregations, leaders of seminaries and colleges and many young people preparing to become pastors -- have been working together so closely to create an environment in which churches can flourish," said Craig Dykstra, the endowment's senior vice president for religion.

Called "Enhancing the Capacity of Missional Congregations to Serve as Agents of Vocational Discovery," the youth and college initiative includes four strategies. The initiative will create a youth-ministry network, establish a collegiate network and fund congregation-based internships for college students. It also will convene a summit for college and graduate students involved in summer ministry, such as CBF's Student.Go volunteers, Passport camp staff, interns for the Baptist Joint Committee for Religious Liberty and others.

The initiative to bring churches and theological educators together is called "Serving as a Catalyst for a New Community of Theological Schools and Congregations." Plans call for instituting a pastors and scholars studio that would bring together 20 professors and 20 pastors to improve the process of forming leaders.

The initiative also will create a supervised ministry network of faculty and staff from theological schools and pastors of churches hosting seminary students in internship-type ministry positions. In addition, it will establish a network for Baptist students in doctoral programs.

"We're trying to help supervised ministry go from being an 'Oh, no, I've got to have this to graduate' to helping students utilize the experience to better set their vocational direction," Hamrick said. "The new networks will be places for us to begin a conversation with colleges and universities to have a relationship. That is such an important time for vocational decisions."


Opinion: The path to discernment on homosexuality
By David Gushee

(ABP) -- I have sought to suggest in a handful of columns in recent months that a rethinking of the church's stance on homosexuality is needed.

Reading in the scholarly literature, one sees that some very fine Christian minds are at work on this issue. Moving well beyond old clichés and prejudices, these scholars, many of them quite conservative both methodologically and theologically, are wrestling with the idea that Christians may need to revise centuries-old teaching about homosexuality.

Some of these thinkers are concluding that in fact a revision is needed; others are not persuaded. It would be a significant ethical-doctrinal change, though such change is not unprecedented in Christian history (e.g., slavery, segregation, sexism, state killing in the name of Christ, etc.).

In reflecting and dialoguing about this issue, certain things have become clear to me.

It is clear that insofar as "Christianity" or "the church" is primarily associated in people's minds with rejection of homosexuals, as poll data shows, our mission as witnesses to the love of God in Jesus Christ has been badly damaged. There are very good missional reasons for Christian leaders to back off of public crusades against gay rights, whatever one may think about the merits of the particular issues under discussion. We must be known for what (who) we are for, not what (who) we are against.

Secondly, it is clear that an uneasy "don't ask, don't tell" ethos still pervades many (especially big city) churches when it comes to the homosexuals in our midst. Most Christians have little taste for outing and expelling folks who want to attend our churches that we think may be homosexual. Most homosexuals have little interest in provoking a confrontation and just want to attend a church that meets their needs. Nobody asks, so nobody has to tell. Sometimes situations will emerge in which "don't ask, don't tell" is not adequate. But the issue is sufficiently explosive that most ministers will do all that they can to avoid reaching that point.

It is clear that some Christian (and non-Christian) homosexuals, led by a cadre of committed activists (as happens with any movement for social change), will continue to ask the church to rethink its posture on this issue. Some are okay with baby steps and incremental change; others want much more, and want it now. Their strategies differ. Some focus on legal issues and others on the internal teaching of the church. Some appeal to basic values such as fairness and justice, others to our compassion for the suffering of homosexuals, especially young people driven by family and church into self-loathing. All are asking us to offer within our churches a choice for gays other than the closet, lifetime celibacy, change therapy, or finally rejection.

It is clear that our churches and their leaders are rarely prepared to offer a serious discussion of the theological, biblical, scientific and ethical issues that are at stake in the contemporary homosexuality debate. That's because we are not prepared to offer serious discussion of theological, biblical, scientific and ethical issues of any type. We are not ready, for example, to discuss the normative significance of male-female sexual complementarity, the relative importance of the various "ends" of sexual intercourse, or the stubborn persistence of creational sexual orientation diversity and how that relates to cultural patterns and norms.

It's very clear that most of our churches are not getting the intellectual and spiritual leadership they need from their pastors. The leaders don't lead the people in thinking theologically. And as for the Christian education program, let's just say that Sunday school often is a profound waste of time. Some of the dumbest and meanest things that anyone says about homosexuality-and a lot of other issues-are said in church. This is truly scandalous.

In discussions recently with a number of pastors, it has become clear to me that many of our churches are losing the will to fight the abandonment of basic Christian sexual morality among our people. Premarital sex among our youth is rampant. Cohabitation has become routine. Our marriages are collapsing at an epic rate. Multiple remarriages happen among us regularly and without reflection or resistance. Children get swept along as the detritus of our mix-and-match families. Ministers just try to be of some help amidst the chaos, while hanging on to their always fragile jobs.

A church that is in the process of abandoning basic tenets of Christian sexual morality has no credibility as a moral voice in culture. And, ironically, it has no credibility if it decides to abandon the church's traditional stance on homosexuality.

One can imagine a church in which the classic understanding of Christian sexual morality has survived and even flourished. Ministers teach that marriage remains normative and the only legitimate locus for sexual expression, and the people still believe it. Celibacy is understood to be both possible and expected for the unmarried, partly because it is understood that sex is not life's highest good. Faithfulness within marriage is strongly emphasized and rarely violated. Divorce is treated as a rare, tragic exception to the covenant of marriage, and not one in a hundred Christian marriages ends in divorce. Community life is strong and nurturing, contributing greatly to the emotional well being of everyone in the church, both single and married.

That kind of Christian community might one day be in a position to consider the pleas of homosexual believers that have formed families and seek inclusion into the community of those whose permanent, covenanted relationships receive the church's recognition and support. This kind of church might have the capacity to reflect on the idea that even though God's design for sexuality in creation was heterosexual, in our fallen world a tiny minority among us is, mysteriously, is just not wired that way, and needs some structure in which their relationships and families can be properly formed and sustained (if they are not called to the celibate path).

But in churches and denominations in which classic Christian sexual morality has officially or unofficially collapsed, the abandonment of ancient moral convictions related to homosexuality offers no positive way forward. It is just one more abandonment, one more surrender to culture, which makes it nearly impossible for more conservative churches (Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, charismatic/Pentecostal, black and Hispanic, evangelical Protestant) to even consider the possibility that the issue needs rethinking.

We need a careful, unhurried process of Christian discernment related to scriptural teachings, our theological understanding of homosexuality, and church practices in relation to homosexuals, undertaken by those who are committed unequivocally to every (other) dimension of the classic Christian sexual ethic -- in which sex belongs within marriage (lifetime, exclusive, covenant partnerships), marriage is for life, and the church is a disciplined countercultural community in which these norms are both taught and lived.

The question on the table would be whether Christian homosexuals who live according to these norms should be treated as faithful members of the Christian community.

Future columns will offer some discussion of the basic tenets of Christian sexual ethics, such as celibacy and lifetime marriage, and what must be done to preserve them before they are entirely washed out of church life by the waves of a sexually licentious culture. These are actually the most important issues in sexual ethics - not homosexuality - because they pertain mainly to the 98 percent of us who are heterosexuals and who, on the whole, are not doing well in this area at all.

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

There were errors in the 9th and 10th paragraphs of the July 10 ABP story, "Economy may affect churches in ways other than giving." Please replace them with the following paragraphs:

It also looked at whether church receipts were meeting pastors' expectations. Half of the respondents said church receipts were about what they expected. Twenty-three percent said they were more than expected and 24 percent said their congregation's income was not meeting expectations.

McConnell said the share of those not satisfied with their church's income is a normal percentage from what he has seen in surveys conducted in non-recession years.


Bible Trivia - 7/17/2008

Question: What pool had five porches in front of it?

Answer: Bethesda. (John 5:2)

Comments: The pool of Bethesda was a reservoir (Greek: kolumbethra, "a swimming bath" used only in the Gospel of John). The name Bethesda means "house of mercy." Eusebius (263-339) calls it "the sheep-pool." The locale is mentioned biblically only in John 5.

It is described as a spring-fed pool with five porches. A tradition is depicted in which the first invalid in the waters at the time they were mysteriously aroused would be healed. (John 5:2-4). It was at the Pool of Bethesda that Jesus healed a man who had been lame for 38 years.

Now there is in Jerusalem by the sheep gate a pool, which is called in Hebrew Bethesda, having five porticoes. (John 5:2, NASB)

The site of Bethesda is thought to have been discovered by Conrad Schick (1822- 1901) in the autumn of 1888 during repairs near St. Anne's Church in the Bezetha quarter of Jerusalem, not far from the Sheep's Gate and the Tower of Antonia. It is below the crypt of the ruined fourth-century church and has a five-arch portico with faded frescoes of the miracle of Christ's healing.

Prior to its discovery, critics had doubted the existence of this site. Some had attributed the five colonnades mentioned by John to be symbolic of the first five books of the Bible.

Word of the Day - 7/17/2008


A cincture is a belt or girdle.

Ahaziah's messengers detailed two characteristics of the man who intercepted them on their way to seek divination - he was hairy and he wore a cincture. Ahaziah knew instantly that they spoke of Elijah. (II Kings 1:1-8).

They answered him, " He was a hairy man with a leather girdle bound about his loins." And he said, "It is Elijah the Tishbite." (II Kings 1:8, NASB)

Note: This is the cover of the comic book Elijah: God's Fiery Prophet illustrated by Philip Williams.

In Eckleburg's Eyes - 7/17/2008

On Wednesday night, I went to church to hear a presentation by the Ride: Well bicycle team. The group is cycling across the country to raise awareness for the need for wells in Africa. They are staying at the church tonight before heading out tomorrow. Wednesday was a short day for the team as they had stayed in Wartburg, Tennessee, the previous night.

The group was introduced by MLM who in turn introduced the group’s leader, Drew Nelson (DN). DN explained that the group embarked on June 6 from California and have been biking ever since. The team is comprised of 18 members who represent 14 states. The tour will end when their front tires rest in the Atlantic Ocean in Delaware.

They are attempting to raise funds for the Blood:Water Mission. This group was started by the Christian band Jars of Clay after a visit to Africa in 2002 in which they were told of the great improvement additional water could make on the continent. DN reported that $1 could supply an African with water for a year and $3500 could supply a village with a well. The group’s goal of $150,000 has already been exceeded and donations presently sit at over $170,000.

DN introduced two team members who spoke. Greg Bargo (GCB) of Texas spoke first. He admitted that he originally joined the team for the challenge but has become aware of the needs of the people of Africa. He has been amazed at the genuine support of people throughout the country.

Next, Gregg Mwenda of Nairobi, Kenya, shared his experience from the perspective of a native African. He thanked everyone and claimed that Africa could rise from the ashes.

Donald Miller, author of Blue Like Jazz and other books, is part of the group and was in attendance. He did not speak. This was probably wise as the event did not become about him. Despite his presence, attendance was average and perhaps even down from previous weeks’ Wednesday night services.

The group distributed brochures. If interested, online donations can be made on their web site.

The presentation was very informative. I also got to see many of friends. I sat by the DAT family (including AMTT), MLM and also got to see JTH (for the fourth consecutive day), TAM, OMM, and the MBR family. MBR’s 13-month old daughter Chase began walking this week. She and sister were happy and adorable as uusal.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Prayer Blog - 7/16/2008

TAM and OMM have requested prayer for their granddaughter. She is presently enrolled in school in North Carolina after having been expelled in Tennessee. In their last visit, she exhibited great attitude improvement. They request that this improvement persists and that two upcoming visits (one from them and one with her father) go well.

Bible Trivia - 7/16/2008

Question: What term is used exclusively for the New Testament books Matthew, Mark and Luke?

Answer: Synoptics.

Comments: The first three gospels, Matthew, Mark and Luke, are known as the Synoptic gospels. The word "synoptic" is a compund of the Greek, συν (syn, "together") and όψις (opsis, "seeing"). They are so named as they see the story of Jesus very similarly.

The fourth canonical gospel, John, contains only eight percent of the synoptic material. (Kenneth Kramer, World Scriptures: An Introduction to Comparative Religions, 1986, p. 214)

Word of the Day - 7/16/2008


Aphotic means lightless; dark.

Genesis informs its readers that prior to God's illumination, the earth was aphotic.

The earth was formless and void, and darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was moving over the surface of the waters. (Genesis 1:2, NASB)

Note: This painting, "The Creation of Light", was painted by Gustave Doré (1832-1883).

In Eckleburg's Eyes - 7/16/2008

On Tuesday morning, I continued my training at the Hope Resource Center. This week’s accommodations were greatly upgraded from last week's. The cell sized counseling room I was held in the previous week was occupied, so I was placed in a much larger room with several couches, which I used liberally. I also learned my lesson from last week (amazingly) and ate at Shoney’s before beginning the epic presentation.

The VHS sessions resumed with Cyndi
(CRP) continuing to expound upon the “Seven Fundamentals” (I have titled the tape series the “Neverending Counseling Story”) . The terminology should tell you the theological framework with which I found myself in. This session spanned more than one day so CRP actually had a wardrobe change. She also used the expression “dissing Jesus”. It takes so little to please me these days...

Afterwards I debriefed at length with LEB. Next, I will shadow MLM in counseling sessions for several weeks and then I will begin my official tenure at the center. I am grateful to know the person I will be shadowing as this hopefully will diminish one leg of a triangle of awkwardness.

On Tuesday night, the Summer Breeze Bible Study continued at the home of WSJ. I had not been there in some time. As the session followed a lake fellowship on a beautiful day, we had our best attendance of the summer: 11 students and 5 adults (if you count me). We discussed the wisdom literature. I enlightened the group on incidents of biblical strip teasting, which even got RWW to perk up.

The event marked the return of Brice Solomon (BS). He is back in Tennessee after having served in Iraq. He told us of his journey to the middle east featuring stops in the midwest, Bangor (Maine), Germany, and Kuwait. He also caught us up to date with many of the problems of the area and the parts of the conversation I grasped were interesting. He is well and looks good. It was good to have him home.

After Bible Study, I picked up JTH and we went to Wal Mart and a movie. He informed me that JBT’s string of misfortune continues as he broke his arm playing basketball with GAB at our church earlier the day. The attendant could not find an emergency release form, so we are hoping JBT does not sue the church for liability. (Seriously, this has not been considered.)

We went to see the 9:45 showing of Forgetting Sarah Marshall at Carmike Cinemas Movies 7. The once $1 theater recently raised its prices to $4 for admission. In addition to the movie the viewer receives a voucher entitling her to a 32-ounce fountain drink and a popcorn as well. In fact, we actually went more because JTH was craving movie popcorn than a movie. He later lamented that it may have been the worst movie popcorn he had ever sampled.

We saw two people we knew of. UT basketball phenom Scotty Hopson with a beautiful girl half his size. Actually, that is an exaggeration as he is 6'6" and she was taller than 3'3".

Can some explain to me the new phenomenon of wearing a titled baseball cap with flat rim?

We were actually more pleased to see frequent MoFoS customer and Movies 7 ticket ripper Mark. And by frequent, I mean daily. He was pleased to see us and oversaw all of our movie needs. He did, however, refuse to rip our tickets.

JTH had seen the movie before and had been craving a repeat viewing. I had not previously seen the film. The movie was good if one can get past the superfluous full frontal male nudity from writer/star Jason Segel. If you into that sort of thing, you will really enjoy the movie. Though marketed as a romantic comedy, I did not find myself laughing out loud that much, but did genuinely appreciate the drama. Besides, co-stars Kristen Bell and Mila Kunis have never looked better.

Finally, on Tuesday I picked up tickets for The Dark Knight. My Bible Study will be attending a 10:30 am showing Friday at Carmike Wynnsong 16. If interested, feel free to come. A theological discussion of the film we held be held the following week.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Associated Baptist Press - 7/15/2008

Associated Baptist Press
July 15, 2008 · (08-71)

Greg Warner, Executive Editor
Robert Marus, News Editor/Washington Bureau Chief

In this issue
ABC-USA proposes changes to focus on mission, churches
Prosecutor asks international court to charge al-Bashir with genocide
In run-up to Beijing Olympics, China increasing persecution of Christians
Church observers ask: Where have all the good men gone?
Opinion: What the church can learn from tomatoes

ABC-USA proposes changes to focus on mission, churches
By Vicki Brown

VALLEY FORGE, Pa. (ABP) -- Leaders of the American Baptist Churches USA are proposing changes to the denomination's governing structure that aim to encourage greater missional empowerment and broader involvement of affiliated churches.

The ABC General Board considered the proposal during its June session, although details are still being worked out, according to ABC General Secretary Roy Medley. The proposal must be approved at the denomination's biennial meeting in 2009 before the changes are adopted.

The proposal reduces the size of the General Board from its current 109 members to 31. It also allows the entity's national and international mission boards to choose their members from outside the General Board.

Under its current structure, the General Board is composed of regional representatives, with each of the 33 ABC regions determining its own method for electing those delegates. Each mission board's trustees are drawn from the General Board's membership.

The new proposal would create a General Board of 18 regional representatives, the general secretary, the treasurer and the four denominational officers -- president, vice president, budget-review officer and past president.

The remaining seats would remain open for individuals possessing specific passions and skills the board needs.

"The mission boards will have a process to choose from among American Baptist churches the people with the skills they need and still retain geographic diversity," Medley explained.

The proposal calls for the General Board to be renamed the Board of General Ministries. Representatives from the regions would be chosen on a rotating basis. "Not every region would be represented but each would be guaranteed of representation within a cycle," he said. "No region would succeed itself as long as a region remained unrepresented."

"The Board of General Ministries would have the same purpose and goals as the General Board -- the overview and over-care of the denomination as a whole," Medley said.

The biennial meeting would become the ABC Mission Summit, with less focus on "public statements," he said, and more emphasis on education related to missional response. "We want to find ways ... to hear from our people" and the challenges their ministries face locally, nationally and internationally, he said.

If the proposal is adopted, a "Mission Table" meeting would be established to concentrate on those issues. "The Mission Table would meet after the Biennial and be a missional think-tank for the denomination," Medley said.

The Mission Table would include representatives from ABC's mission boards, seminaries, other affiliated agencies, local churches and ABC-USA staff. Members would consider how to assist local churches, how to coordinate and how to network around common concerns and issues, he added.

Mission Table members would end their session with recommendations and networking opportunities.

"We're still thinking this through," Medley said.

In addition, the proposal calls for gathering a central database of ABC individuals to collect names of potential leaders and board members. "We have not had a centralized system of holding on to names of people with leadership skills," he noted.

The General Board will accept proposals for amendments to the plan for 60 days and will be able to suggest modifications. The denomination's General Executive Committee will consider possible changes to the bylaws at its September meeting.


Prosecutor asks international court to charge al-Bashir with genocide
By Robert Marus

THE HAGUE, Netherlands (ABP) -- In what would become the world's first prosecution of a sitting head of state for crimes against humanity, the International Criminal Court's head prosecutor is asking that Sudan's leader be charged with genocide.

Luis Moreno-Ocampo, an Argentinian who serves as the Netherlands-based court's chief prosecuting attorney, asked a three-judge panel July 14 to indict President Omar al-Bashir for war crimes in Sudan's Darfur region.

The indictment request, which caps a three-year-long investigation, includes three counts of genocide, five counts of crimes against humanity and two counts of murder.

The evidence against the Sudanese leader "shows that al-Bashir masterminded and implemented a plan to destroy in substantial part the Fur, Masalit and Zaghawa groups [of Darfur], on account of their ethnicity," said a statement from the ICC. "Members of the three groups, historically influential in Darfur, were challenging the marginalization of the province; they engaged in a rebellion. Al-Bashir failed to defeat the armed movements, so he went after the people."

Since 2003, government-supported Arab militias in western Sudan have been driving members of black African tribes from their homes into refugee camps scattered across the region and in neighboring Chad. According to U.N. estimates, more than 1 million people have been displaced from their homes as a result, and untold thousands have died from violence at the hands of militias as well as disease and hunger resulting from being forced into refugee camps.

Sudanese leaders have responded little to international pressure and repeated calls from the United Nations and other organizations to restrain the Arab militias, known collectively as the Janjaweed.

Moreno-Ocampo's investigation began after the U.N. Security Council referred the situation to the International Criminal Court in 2005. The ICC, created by a 2002 treaty known as the Rome Statute, currently has 106 participating nations. However, Sudan has refused to sign on to the accord. ICC rules state that the body can only prosecute a crime in a nation that is not a party to the Rome Statute after a U.N. referral.

The United States has also refused to agree to the Rome Statute, fearing that its military or diplomatic personnel could face politically motivated charges in some nations around the world.

Many Christian groups, ranging across the U.S. ideological spectrum, have taken on the Darfur genocide as a cause. Although some conservative groups have opposed U.S. participation in the ICC, at least one conservative group commended the court's latest move July 14.

"We are grateful for Luis Moreno-Ocampo's courage and moral clarity. The world has treated the regime in Khartoum and the victims of its genocidal jihad with moral equivalence for too long," said Faith McDonell, director of religious-liberty programs for the Washington-based Institute on Religion and Democracy. "At last the ICC's chief prosecutor has, in no uncertain terms, laid the blame at the feet where it belongs."

But some have cautioned that the move -- likely to have little or no positive effect on the situation in Darfur -- could end up creating more problems.

"China expresses grave concern and misgivings about the International Criminal Court prosecutor's indictment of the Sudanese leader," said Liu Jianchao, spokesman for the Chinese foreign ministry, according to the British newspaper The Telegraph. "The ICC's actions must be beneficial to the stability of the Darfur region and the appropriate settlement of the issue, not the contrary."

China has been Sudan's chief international backer. While its leaders have claimed that they are pressuring al-Bashir to end the atrocities in Darfur, China has been the main obstacle to unified international efforts against the genocide.


In run-up to Beijing Olympics, China increasing persecution of Christians
By Rachel Mehlhaff

WASHINGTON (ABP) -- While China appears to be making some religious-liberty concessions on the eve of the Olympics, critics in the United States say Chinese persecution of Christians in the country is on the rise.

China is on the U.S. State Department's list of "Countries of Particular Concern" as one of the world's worst persecutors of religious freedom. American experts on religious-liberty conditions in China said that, in recent weeks, there has been a significant Chinese crackdown on many dissenting groups -- including Christians in churches not officially registered with or sanctioned by the government.

That, the China-watchers said, has resulted in many new arrests.

Chinese officials have also reportedly been cracking down on other dissenting groups, such as human-rights activists and Tibetan independence advocates.

Daniel Burton, staff writer at the China Aid Association, said Chinese officials kicked more missionaries out of the country last year than in all of the previous 59 years of communist control. The persecution is taking place, he said, under the internal government code name "Typhoon No. 5." Some of the missionaries ordered to leave had been there for 20 years.

"We are seeing an increase in persecution across the board," Burton said. "All foreigners [in China for the games] are going to be closely watched."

Burton's group, founded in 2002, keeps track of Chinese persecution of religious groups -- particularly Christians in China's thousands of unregistered churches.

In April 2007, the Chinese Ministry of Public Security issued a general nationwide order urging strict "background checks" on those who apply to participate in the Olympic Games. They banned 43 types of people in 11 categories, Burton said.

The categories focus on those the government considers "antagonistic elements," he noted. That includes "religious extremists and religious infiltrators."

Sarah Cook, an Asia researcher for the foreign-policy group Freedom House, said China's ruling Communist Party doesn't want to take chances that the games will become a platform for critics of Chinese policies. The recent increase in arrests of dissenting Christians and other groups is intended to reduce that risk, she said.

"It is much more subtle now," Cook said of the current tactics versus earlier waves of persecution. Officials simply go to offenders' doors individually, arrest them and take them away.

The offenders are sent to detention centers or labor camps. Cook said many average Chinese are not even aware that such crackdowns are taking place.

However, China is making some concessions to Christians on the eve of the games.

Olympic Edition Bibles, printed by the state-sanctioned China Christian Council and its sister organization, the Three Self Patriotic Movement, will be "Chinese-English bilingual and contain the four Gospels with the logos of the Beijing Olympic Games both in the cover and the back," according to an e-mail from Ou Enlin, of the International Relations department of the CCC/TSPM. The two organizations represent officially registered Chinese churches.

He said the addresses of state-sanctioned churches in Beijing will be listed on the last page of each of the Bibles. The Bibles will be available free of charge at the churches and in the athletes' housing quarters.

Despite such measures, Nina Shea, director of religious freedom at the Hudson Institute, believes the rest of the world's Christians need to speak out against Chinese persecution.

"I'm in favor of boycotting the opening ceremony to send a signal that China oppresses religious freedom," Shea said. She believes Americans should even boycott watching the opening on television.

"I think the Chinese want to do business as usual," she said.

But, she added, "They are very sensitive to criticism." Shea said she holds little hope that any international criticism would lead to changes in Chinese policy -- which officially bans non-sanctioned churches -- but that it would send a signal to officials that the rest of the international community is taking note of their activities.

China campaigned to host the Olympics in order to gain international prestige, Shea noted.

She believes Christians need to pray, but that they also need to do what they can as members of a democracy to communicate their concern to representatives in Congress.

She said Christians should signal to China that many Americans don't see China as a full member of the international community and won't until it guarantees religious and political freedom to its people. Only then, Shea said, will China live up to its full potential as a global power.

So far, President Bush and most other international leaders have shown indications that they plan to attend the opening ceremonies, despite the calls for boycott.

The United States Commission on International Religious Freedom, in a July 14 statement, urged Bush to take steps during his Chinese visit to draw attention to the nation's human-rights violations. The independent, bipartisan federal panel monitors religious-freedom conditions worldwide.

"The international community awarded China the 2008 summer games with the trust that Beijing would improve its protections of fundamental human rights, including the freedom of thought, conscience, and religion or belief," said Felice Gaer, USCIRF chair. "The commission concludes that China has not lived up to its promises and continues to engage in serious violations of religious freedom."


-- Robert Marus contributed to this story.

Church observers ask: Where have all the good men gone?
By Lee Ann Marcel

DALLAS (ABP) - It's not just your imagination. Men are disappearing from the church.

According to the Barna Research Group, there are 11 million to 13 million more American women who are born again than there are born-again men. While nine out of 10 senior pastors are men, a majority of regular church attendees are women.

Not only are women the majority of born-again American Christians, the Barna Group says, "women are the backbone of the Christian congregations in America."

Perhaps indicative of women's sense of spirituality, 41 percent of women said they have set specific spiritual goals that they hope to accomplish in the coming year or two. Only 29 percent of men have identified such spiritual goals.

"Women, more often than not, take the lead role in the spiritual life of the family," said George Barna, president of the research group. "Women typically emerge as the primary -- or only -- spiritual mentor and role model for family members. And that puts a tremendous burden on wives and mothers."

Pam Durso, associate executive director of the Baptist History and Heritage Society, agrees that women do play a major role in families as spiritual mentors. "One aspect of that is that mothers generally are the ones who do the scheduling of events and the planning of activities, including church attendance and church-related programs."

But that's nothing new, Durso argues. Historically women have dominated the membership of Baptist churches.

"Here is something to think about: Is 61 percent for female participation really a change for Baptists? Over the years, many Baptist churches have had a majority of female members," Durso said.

At First Baptist Church of America, in Providence, R.I. -- the premier Baptist congregation in the New World -- 59 percent of the members from 1730-1777 were women, Durso noted. From 1779-1799, that percentage dropped by only 1 percent to 58 percent.

"So perhaps the question is not where have all the men gone, but is instead where have men been all these years?" Durso said.

David Murrow, author of Why Men Hate Going to Church, believes the way churches market themselves affects the demographics of their memberships. According to Murrow's Church for Men website, a typical congregation draws an adult crowd that's 61 percent female and 39 percent male.

"It's widely believed, and rarely spoken of, that men feel church is something for women, children and grandparents," Murrow said. "If a man becomes involved [with a church], then he is less manly."

Murrow says this trend began during the Industrial Revolution in the 1840s. Harsh economic conditions drove men to seek jobs in mines, mills and factories. While men worked, families were left behind for longer periods of time. The only people to be found in congregations were women, children and older men. Women began to add socials like teas, quilting circles and potluck dinners.

"The able-bodied man all but disappeared from the church," Murrow said.

Murrow mentions on his web site,, that many who have grown up in the church don't recognize the "feminine spirituality." But to the masculine mind, it's obvious as the steps in front of the door.

"He may feel like Tom Sawyer in Aunt Polly's parlor. He must watch his language, mind his manners and be extra polite. It's hard for a man to be real in church because he must squeeze himself into this feminine religious mold," Murrow writes on the site.

The tendency of targeting women has grown with the increased popularity of contemporary worship, Murrow added.

Hymns used to be tuned into the masculine heart by alluding to God as a mighty fortress, Murrow noted. Songs such as "Onward Christian Soldiers" spurred men in their faith.

"But now worship sounds like a Top-40 love song," Murrow said. "They are wonderful and biblical, but it's not the sentiment that will rally a bunch of men."

Romantic music is a response to the market of single women, Murrow added. "They provide a Jesus image who wants to steal away with them ... which doesn't appeal to men."

"Are we going to allow the market to drive the church, or the Bible to drive the church?"

Murrow suggests that there's nothing wrong with the gospel, just the way Christians present it. "We just need to change the culture container that we are delivering it in and should be willing to follow the example of churches who succeed in reaching men," he said.

A leading example is Christ Church of the Valley in Phoenix, Ariz. The church markets to men through the events promoted, down to the colors and design of the building. The church even changes the range of the worship songs so men can feel comfortable singing.

"Everything we do when it comes to marketing is geared toward men in the 25-45 range ... an underserved demographic in the church market today," said Michael Gray, communications coordinator of Christ Church of the Valley.

The church offers activities like a motorcycle and sport groups. One of the groups is called The Edge. There men can rappel down cliffs, jump out of airplanes and bungee jump off bridges. The purpose is to cause men to take a step of faith and stretch their comfort zones. The ministry is a spiritually challenging group, not just physically challenging. While the group focuses on adventurous activities, their ultimate goal is to lead people into an adventure with Jesus Christ.

"The Edge helps get men plugged into the church and hanging out with other men, outside a church setting," Gray said. "It shows that we are men's men, and we don't just sit in shirt and tie on Sundays with our leather-bound Bible"

There is more than one way to present the gospel in a way that contemporary men will respond to, Murrow said. But it begins with the congregation understanding it must make an intentional effort to reach out to men.

"People have to realize it's a problem. They need to wake up and look [at] how magnetic Jesus was to men. We have a 70-to-80 percent failure to boys. I don't think that's [God's] will."


Opinion: What the church can learn from tomatoes
By Beth Newman

(ABP) -- On a recent Sunday, the gospel lesson in our church was Matthew's account of the parable of the sower and, more significantly, the different soils into which the seed is cast. A little reflection of the fate of the seeds has led me to the topic of tomatoes and the church.

"There's only two things that money can't buy," sings songsmith and guitar-maker Guy Clark, "and that's true love and homegrown tomatoes." I've always known this, at least on an intellectual level, but it has become intensely real since our move to Virginia.

For those of you who may not know it, tomatoes are something of an obsession in the eastern end of Hanover County, Va. There is active and energetic competition to produce the first ripe one each year, with appropriate publicity for the winner. The Tomato Festival hosted well over 40,000 visitors this year. There is even a proverbial expression of praise: "Sweeter than a Hanover tomato."

Of course, I can't give my word that everything claimed for the Hanover tomato is true, but there is one story about which I have direct, personal experience.

A few years ago, my husband took some tomato plants to some friends in Alabama (this was a local favorite, not available down there). Later that summer we visited the same friends, this time carrying the produce from our own garden. "I don't get it," our friend said. "It's the same tomato, but yours tastes better than ours." The only difference that we could think of was the dirt that they'd been grown in.

Returning to Matthew, remember that Jesus speaks of the importance of the soil into which the seed falls. It never ceases to amaze me when I hear some of my students, who are studying for the ministry, denigrate the church. The only thing more amazing is when pastors of churches do the same thing.

One typical comment, spoken, I fear, only half in jest, is: "Letting the church define your essence is the path to insanity." My only response is that if the church doesn't define your essence, what will? It might be the career one follows or the "lifestyle" one chooses to adopt. On a more crude level, it might be the nation of which one is a citizen or the color of one's skin. In any case, this much is true: You are being formed and defined by forces much more powerful than you. I don't mean exactly that biology is destiny, but the dirt you're grown in will determine your essence whether you like it or not.

A seed will die sitting in the hot sun. So, also, humans need some sort of soil. The parable is about what kind of soil. In Matthew's gospel, Jesus relates the soil to the Word: "But as for what was sown on good soil, this is the one who hears the word and understands it, who indeed bears fruit ..." (13:23). This is not the static word an individual reads off a page but the living Word we both hear and digest.

Augustine said about corporate worship, specifically the Lord's Supper: We do not so much digest it as this heavenly food digests us, giving us a share in resurrection life. The same can be said about the spoken Word. It nourishes and forms us to be Christ's body, to participate in the life of Christ.

True, the church is far from perfect. Anyone who has spent time with any particular body of believers is well aware of this. The church is full of sinners. And yet the miracle of God's grace is that the church is also the place we learn to name and confess our sins. It is where we learn to practice forgiveness. It is where we learn to receive and extend the grace of Christ to strangers, and even enemies.

"Being in Christ" means being in the church, the soil where God gives us together the grace to produce fruit for all peoples.


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

Prayer Blog - 7/15/2008, #2

A friend of WSJ's daughter recently had a child that has been diagnosed with Cystic Fibrosis (CF). CF is a hereditary disease that affects the exocrine (mucus) glands of the lungs, liver, pancreas, and intestines, causing progressive disability due to multisystem failure.

The child, Taylor Jack, is less than two months old. His twin sister was born without complications. His father stays with him during the morning and his mother during the evening.

Please pray for the child and his family during this difficult time.

Prayer Blog - 7/15/2008

Church member LG emabrked on a mission trip to Mexico in conjunction with Fellowship Evangelical Free Church today. Pray for her team's success and safe travel.

Bible Trivia - 7/15/2008

Question: What major construction job was a highlight of Hezekiah’s reign?

Answer: Water works (reservoirs, pipelines, etc.) (II Kings 20:20).

Comments: Hezekiah's tunnel was dug during under the orders of the king od Judah around 701 BCE. The biblical account of this landmark is detailed in II Kings 20:20 and II Chronicles 32:2-4, 30.

The tunnel was dug in bedrock for over half a kilometer, about 40 meters beneath Ophel in Jerusalem, between the Gihon spring and the pool of Shiloah or Siloam.

Now the rest of the acts of Hezekiah and all his might, and how he made the pool and the conduit and brought water into the city, are they not written in the Book of the Chronicles of the Kings of Judah? (II Kings 20:20, NASB)

Its purpose was to deny water to the Assyrian army under Sennacharib, that was expected to lay siege to Jerusalem and to provide a water source to Jerusalem during the siege. It is a winding tunnel 533m in length, and has approximately a 0.6% gradient, causing water to flow along its length from the spring to the pool. The tunnel was discovered by the American biblical archeologist Edward Robinson (1794-1863) in 1838.

Word of the Day - 7/15/2008


An incubus is a nightmare. The term originates from an imaginary demon or evil spirit supposed to descend upon sleeping persons, especially one fabled to have sexual intercourse with women during their sleep.

Daniel met Nebuchadnezzar because of his ability to intepret his incubus. (Daniel 2)

Now in the second year of the reign of Nebuchadnezzar, Nebuchadnezzar had dreams; and his spirit was troubled and his sleep left him. (Daniel 2:1, NASB)

Note: This is an image of the statue Nebuchadnezzar dreamt of in Daniel 2.

In Eckleburg's Eyes - 7/15/2008

On Monday night I aroused police suspicion. Again.

My evening was spent with JTH. I helped him work a shift at MoFoS. This entailed me running the register while JTH performed completely unnecessary tasks that demonstrated his OCD.

For those who read the prayer blog on Sunday night, the latest on JBT is that his wedding is still postponed indefinitely. He has been able to accrue refunds on all things wedding related except for his honeymoon cruise (which is understandable) and his yet-to-be taken wedding pictures (which is not). Since he and SCB are still together they may still take the cruise. The only snag is the awkwardness of being situated in the honeymoon suite.

After his shift, JTH and I ran some errands and inevitably also into some problems. You see, there was a picture I wanted. It was a sign at the First Baptist Church of Bluegrass. The sign reads, “A man is not educated who does not know the basic truths of the Bible” The grammatically incorrect sign has been displayed for several days and the irony of it essentially affirming its educational superiority amused me greatly.

I realize this picture is horrible but JTH and I did our best with my camera phone for several minutes and it need be posted. Unfortunately, these several minutes aroused police suspicion and an officer stopped to chat with us. He was actually quite friendly and I thankfully did not have to go into great detail as to why I wanted a picture of the sign.

JTH and I lamented how often we find ourselves in such situations. Some guys are chick magnets, JTH and I are cop magnets. I think this was God’s way of telling me not to make fun of churches...

I heard from SMA on the first day of a week long self imposed exile at a Quality Inn in Johnson City. He is removing distractions so that he can best prepare for the bar. He called as there is a sign outside of Freedom Hall advertising “Word Championship Wrestling” on August 2nd. He was wondering if he had somehow entered a time warp as that organization has been defunct for years. It is actually mislabeled as the event is part of the "WWE SmackDown/ECW presents SummerSlam Tour". If WCW was still in operation, this misnomer would have been a great coup for them but now it is just a sad reminder of their demise. Sorry, SMA.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Prayer Blog - 7/14/2008

SMA began his week in exile in Johnson City in preparation for the Bar examination at the end of the month. Pray that his study is fruitful and that he passes the test with flying colors.

Bible Trivia - 7/14/2008

Question: What did the Aramaic word "abba" mean?

Answer: Father. (Mark 14:36)

Comments: Abba is the English transliteration of an Aramaic word meaning "Father". Abba is left in the Aramaic three times in the New Testament, once from Jesus (Mark 14:36) and twice in tthe writings of Paul (Romans 8:15, Galatians 4:6) The word does not occur in either the Hebrew Old Testament or the Septuagint (LXX). Each time it is used it is in connection to prayer and followed by its Greek equivalent.

And He was saying, "Abba! Father! All things are possible for You; remove this cup from Me; yet not what I will, but what You will." (Mark 14:36, NASB)

Many have suggested that though the word essentially means father, that the term "abba" expresses a much deeper affection. The word "is the Aramaic diminutive for 'Father,' perhaps suggesting the overtones of the English word 'Daddy'" [The Expositor's Bible Commentary, volume 10, p. 473]. Joachim Jeremias (1900-1979) adds, "Abba was the address of a small child to his father" [The Lord's Prayer, p. 19]. In this interpratetion, "Abba" would equate with the modern English "papa".

The name of the Swedish band ABBA is unrelated. The band name is an acronym formed from the first letters of each of the group member's given name (Agnetha, Björn, Benny, Anni-Frid).

Word of the Day - 7/14/2008


Uxorial means of or pertaining to a wife; typical of or befitting a wife.

Proverbs 31:10-31 is an acrostic which presents uxorial virtues.

An excellent wife, who can find?
For her worth is far above jewels. (Proverbs 31:10, NASB)

Commenting on the difficult nature of these verses, Marsha Drake entitled a book "The Proverbs 31 Lady and Other Impossible Dreams".

In Eckleburg's Eyes - 7/14/2008

A week after most Americans traditionally have cookouts, my weekend revolved around hamburgers. I am okay with this.

On Saturday my parents and I visited Litton’s Market and Restaurant, home of the best hamburger in Knoxville. In its hiatus from June 30th-July 10th, much has changed. The tables plastered with advertisements older than myself have all been replaced by hunter green and red tables which match the walls. Only in booths in the former smoking section do the old tables remain.

One thing that has not changed is the wall accessories. We sat next to Edwin Eugene Litton’s underwear. Actually, these are the briefs he wore in 1944 when winning a swimming award. While this was a great accomplishment, the ancient briefs are still somewhat disturbing.

Two other important facets had not changed. We had to wait. For the record, the name we used on the list was “Von Erich”. Most importantly, the hamburgers are still superb.

As usual the tranquility of Friday and Saturday was replaced by chaotic moving from one appointment to another on Sunday.

On Sunday morning, Sunday School convened at RAW’s. I brought KJW a book and a Spider-Man ball. Unfortunately, Spider-Man is no longer simply “Man” but "Spider-Man" as she now knows other superheroes. She has also grown out of one of my other favorite bits. She used to call her aunt PWC’s dogs Annie, Bailey and Dog, but now she uses all their names Annine, Bailey, and Cooper. Growing up stinks!

The Sunday School class covered the first portion of Jesus’ High Priestly Prayer (John 17:1-5).

Sunday marked Mr. X’s birthday. JTH and I celebrated with a cookout with his family at 5 pm. His brother-in-law JAH cooked. I now refer to him as the Ultimate Male as he is proficient at all things masculine.

We shot a lot of basketball. We shot so long that even I got into a rhythm which should tell you something. No formal games were played though Ms. X demonstrated her patented backwards three-point shot which was impressive. Note: Unfortunately: Ms. X did not bring her dog Hemi. He stayed at her mother’s home.

On a lark, Mr. X added UT basketball players to his Facebook account. Thus far, Jordan Howell, Bobby Maze, J.P. Prince have accepted. He has been threatening his brother-in-law that he will bring his new “friends” over to defeat him. JAH responded simply that he would need them to beat him. As noted, JAH is proficient as all things masculine, including trash talking.

Mr. X's niece, Pyper, played with us. As seen in this picture, she recently got new glasses for the first time. Unfortunately, at her age she struggles to get the ball to the basket, so JTH extended his arms in front of his chest to give her a target. While this proved to be a good idea, we learned a valuable lesson about this concept. It works far better when standing than when sitting. With time and therapy, JTH should be able to have children.

For some unknown reason, I was not at all hungry so passed on the delicious hamburgers, but did eat a birthday cupcake. As only Mr. X would, he blew out the many candles by raising a fan.

JTH’s and my personal celebration with Mr. X will be held at the Uno Chicgao Grill in Maryville on Saturday night.

I went from Mr. X’s cookout to another cookout - this one held by my aunt to honor ALH’s wedding. I will be officiating the ceremony on August 23rd. Invitations to the party were actually distributed at the event they were already attending. That’s how we roll.

My aunt is a great cook but unfortunately I had yet to regain my appetite.

My cousins were full of news:

  • HANW will be heading to Louisville, Kentucky, next Sunday to audition for American Idol. Evidently 28 is the age limit and this is the last year she will be eligible. I was shocked to hear this as I had assumed 2006 winner Taylor Hicks was collecting social security.
  • HANW’s father will accompany her on the trip. She is allowed only one chaperone or else I would have gone. She will awake early on Monday and even with a wrist bracelet is not assured of audition time. She plans on singing Bonnie Raitt’s 1991 hit “Something to Talk About” for the judges.
  • As you can tell, I did a horrible job as a photographer (the above photo of the couple was actually my best effort), but fortunately, my cousin was there to pick up the slack. I would like to note that she was not relegated to a camera phone.
  • HANJ is still in Pensacola, Florida, though her husband has moved to San Antonio in conjunction with the Air Force. She will join him as soon as possible. My mother and I are debating a visit in Florida.
  • ACN is well, serving as a counselor at Camp Lenox in Lee, Massachusetts. Unfortunately, her computer is broken and is en route to Tennessee to be fixed. On the plus side, she keeps up with younger sister so that she can check her e-mail.
  • HLN is also well. She is house sitting often in Knoxville. As usual, we discussed The Beatles. I admitted that as a child that “Yellow Submarine” was a favorite song and she panned this as evidently The Beatles themselves appear only in the closing scene of the film, and their characters in the film were voiced by other actors.

After abstaining from two great hamburgers, I finally regained my appetite. On the way home I finally ate a hamburger...from Sonic.

As noted earlier in the week, Friday marked KGG’s 16th birthday. Congratulations KGG. I suspect I will be driving far less and not just because of gasoline prices...

One final observation, as many of you know I like it cold in my room, especially at night, I often leave a cup of ice water next to the couch where I sleep in the event I wake up thirsty. It is a sign my room is probably too cold when the ice does not melt over night...

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Prayer Blog - 7/13/1008

SCB informed JBT on Saturday (July 12th) that she was not ready to get married. They were to be married in Virginia on July 26th. They are still together at this time.

Please pray for them during this time. Pray that God give them the strength to get through this difficult time and that God's will be done regarding their future.

WAM Quote of the Day - 7/13/2008

WAM attended Sunday School this morning. The winner among many worthy candidates for Quote of the Day was:

"I saw the craziest thing on the internet..."

With most people, this would not be that abnormal, but the fact that all in the room were horrified at the prospects of what was to come made this priceless. If interested he had found a web site that featured a guy blowing up appliances in a microwave and then trying to return them to stores.

Note: For a change of pace, I had WAM take his own photo on this day. On the plus side, he discovered several interesting facets about my phone. On the other hand, he was distracted throughout class.