Saturday, January 10, 2009

Prayer Blog - 1/10/2008

My friend JTL announced to his family today that he and his wife are expecting their first child. I would like it noted that I was actually the first person he told, yersterday morning at 10:53 am. I was told as he was informing me not available to go on a road trip planned for the day. I suppose this is a valid excuse. Congratulations, Jeff!

Keep this unborn child and its parents in your preayers.

Bible Trivia - 1/10/2009

Question: The title of what book in the Bible means the “preacher”?

Answer: Ecclesiastes.

Comments: Ecclesiastes takes its name from the Greek translation of the Hebrew title (קֹהֶלֶת, Qohelet). Qohelet is the title by which the booker's speaker identifies himself. The Hebrew, קהלת, is a participle related to the root קהל meaning "to gather." Scholars debate whether the description means the "one who gathers" or the "one among the gathering."

The word Qohelet has found several translations into English, including "The Preacher" in deference to Jerome (347-420)'s suggested Latin title concionator and Martin Luther (1483-1546)'s Der Prediger.

The words of the Preacher, the son of David, king in Jerusalem. (Ecclesiastes 1:1, NASB)

Qohelet also introduces himself as "son of David, and king in Jerusalem." This description could only fit Solomon.

Note: This image of Ecclesiastes was created by Phillip Ratner.

Friday, January 9, 2009

Associated Baptist Press - 1/9/2009

Associated Baptist Press
January 9, 2009 · (09-4)

David Wilkinson, Executive Director
Robert Marus, Managing Editor/Washington Bureau Chief
Bob Allen, Senior Writer

In this issue
UPDATE & CORRECTION: Warren's church says violence no excuse for divorce (765 words)
Robert Handy, Baptist historian, seminary professor, dies (437 words)
Opinion: Bush response to shoe-thrower a shameless act (677 words)

UPDATE & CORRECTION: Warren's church says violence no excuse for divorce
By Bob Allen (765 words)

(Editor's note: This story updates, replaces and corrects one issued Jan. 8, which incorrectly attributed the domestic-violence comments to Warren rather than Holladay. ABP regrets the error.)

LAKE FOREST, Calif. (ABP) -- Comments on the Saddleback Church website that the Bible does not permit a woman to divorce a physically abusive spouse have triggered concerns among advocates for victims of domestic violence.

The pastor of the Southern Baptist megachurch is Rick Warren, author of The Purpose Driven Life. Warren has been in the news of late as the surprise pick to deliver the invocation at President-elect Barack Obama's Jan. 20 inauguration.

Audio clips on a "Bible Questions & Answers" section of Saddleback's website feature a speaker who says the Bible condones divorce for only two reasons: adultery and abandonment.

The speaker is not identified on the page, but a spokesperson for Warren said it is Tom Holladay, teaching pastor at the church in Lake Forest, Calif.

"I wish there were a third [reason for divorce] in Scripture, having been involved as a pastor with situations of abuse," Holladay said. "There is something in me that wishes there were a Bible verse that says, 'If they abuse you in this-and-such kind of way, then you have a right to leave them.'"

Holladay said Saddleback's counseling ministry advises separation and counseling instead of divorce in abusive marriages, because it's the only path toward healing. "There's an abusive cycle that's been set up," he said. "Separation combined with counseling has been proven to provide healing in people's lives."

Holladay said there's nothing in the Bible that says a spouse must tolerate abuse. "There's nowhere in the Bible that says it's an attitude of submission to let somebody abuse you," he said. "That is not submission. So we recommend very strongly separation."

He defined what he meant by physical abuse.

"When I say physical abuse, I mean literally somebody is beating you regularly," he said. "I don't mean they grab you once. I mean they've made a habit of beating you regularly. You need to separate in that situation, because that's the only thing that's going to solve that."

Obama's invitation to Warren has been criticized from the left because of his opposition to gay marriage and from the right by Warren's fellow religious conservatives, who fear his prayer will convey approval of Obama's left-leaning social policies.

But Saddleback's published views on domestic violence are what recently caught the attention of Because It Matters, a blog by a lifelong Baptist and abuse survivor who uses the pseudonym Danni Moss to give anonymity to her children, family and former in-laws.

The commentary "expresses a distinct lack of understanding about the nature, heart and spiritual roots of abuse," Moss said.

"I think he believes he is doing right and doesn't realize his ignorance or how much he is hurting people, so this is offered without personal judgment," she added. "But I also believe categorically that it is dangerous."

A women's-rights blog named The New Agenda called the views "alarming," especially in light of recent statistics showing a 42 percent rise in reports of domestic violence from 2005 to 2007.

Attempts to reach Warren for his take on the controversy Jan. 8 were unsuccessful. Kristin Cole, a spokeswoman for Warren who works at A. Larry Ross Communications, confirmed the voice on the website is Holladay's, but said she does not know when it was recorded.

Holladay also fielded a question about whether a Christian spouse should remain in a "miserable" marriage.

"God sees you as one, and the Bible says they become one, and so the answer, the Bible answer, is yes," Holladay said.

"I often say to people when they're facing this decision, really, you're choosing your pain in this moment, because it's going to be painful either way," he said. "If you stay in the marriage there is the opportunity for reconciliation and for the loss of pain, but there is going to be short-term pain on the way there. There's no way to not have pain."

Holladay said there is an "immediate feeling of freedom" after a divorce -- but in the long run "there is lifelong pain in divorce."

"Does God expect me just to live with this pain?" he asked. "No, I think he expects us to ask him for wisdom to do the things that would cause the pain to begin to be solved. He says we're one and as Christians, as believers, the Bible says a husband is to sacrifice for his wife and the wife is to respect her husband."

"So if that's not happening," he said, "I think you have not only the right but also the responsibility to keep pushing for that, to not just settle for the pain."

Bob Allen is senior writer for Associated Baptist Press.

Robert Handy, Baptist historian, seminary professor, dies
By Robert Marus (437 words)

NEW YORK (ABP) -- Robert Handy, who studied under legendary Christian scholars like Paul Tillich before becoming a prominent Baptist historian in his own right, died at a retirement community in West Caldwell, N.J., Jan. 8. He was 90.

Handy was a professor of church history at Union Theological Seminary -- the ecumenical Protestant graduate school in New York -- from 1950 until 1986. During that time he taught generations of pastors, missionaries, chaplains and other ministers and published works on church history and American religion that scholars still consider standards in the field.

In a tribute to Handy's scholarship published after he retired, Altered Landscapes: Christianity in America 1935-1985, former students, colleagues and friends lauded the historian's career.

"Every one of them... knows his or her indebtedness to the lifelong scholarly career of Robert Handy," the book's editors wrote, praising "his strict adherence to the technical canons of historical inquiry, his sensitivity to the practical needs of Christian people, his signal labors on behalf of a sophisticated understanding of American church history, and his appreciation for the conceptual ties of history with many other disciplines."

He was particularly known for his work on church-state relations in the United States, and attempts by some U.S. Christians in the 19th century to impose their vision of a "Christian" America.

Handy was born Jan. 30, 1918, in Rockville, Conn. He graduated from Brown University in 1940 with a bachelor's degree in European history and earned a divinity degree from Colgate-Rochester Divinity School in 1943. He was ordained a Baptist minister that year.

While serving as pastor of an Illinois congregation, he began taking history classes at the University of Chicago Divinity School as a way of combining his interests in local-church ministry and history. After a stint as an Army chaplain, he returned to Chicago, where he earned his doctorate in 1949.

Union Seminary appointed him to a three-year contract the next year. He taught classes while assisting Tillich and another renowned Christian scholar, John McNeill, in research for their foundational works on church history.

"Little did I know that the three years would stretch into twelve times that number to the time of retirement," he later wrote.

Handy also authored the official history of Union Seminary in 1987 as part of the school's sesquicentennial celebration.

"We know that as a historian he loves the truth of history," the editors of the tribute to Handy's career wrote. "He loves as well the people who make history. Indeed, among those scholars whom we know, we know of none who better joins the love of truth to the truth of love."

Robert Marus is managing editor and Washington bureau chief for Associated Baptist Press.

Opinion: Bush response to shoe-thrower a shameless act
By Miguel De La Torre (677 words)

(ABP) -- By now we have all seen the endless media loops of the Iraqi journalist named Muntadhir al-Zaidi throwing his size 10 shoes at President Bush on Dec. 14. Al-Zaidi called Bush a "dog" and hurled his shoes at the president, who was holding a news conference with Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki.

Anyone vaguely familiar with Arab culture knows that showing the sole of your shoe to someone is the rudest offense that can be committed, and calling someone a "dog" is probably among the worst insults that can be given.

Since the incident, Al-Zaidi is being held by officials, charged with assault against a foreign head of state, which if convicted, could carry a 15-year prison term.

Many Americans seeing the video were outraged at the display of this shameless act. But what exactly is shameless? Was it the disrespect shown Bush as the representative of the American people, or the nation he symbolizes? Or is it that Muntadhir has such poor aim?

No -- I believe that what was truly shameful occurred minutes after the shoe toss. As we saw in the video, Al-Zaidi was wrestled to the ground by Iraqi security forces, repeatedly kicked, and rushed out of the room. Not surprisingly, he suffered injuries while being taken into custody.

While the president joked about the shoe size, he -- and those in the room -- could hear al-Zaidi screaming outside as he was continuously beaten. While the President shrugged off the incident, he -- and those in the room -- could still see the trail of blood on the carpet where al-Zaidi had been dragged out by security agents.

It is shameless, and deeply disturbing, that the president of the United States said nothing about the screams he could hear or the blood he could see. Could he not have asked for restraint? Could he have not whispered in the ear of the prime minister to please stop the torture?

It is entirely appropriate that the shoe-thrower face the consequences of his act of civil disobedience. After all, that is the purpose of civil disobedience. But for him -- or anyone, regardless of the act committed -- to be beaten and tortured while in custody is inhumane, immoral and uncivilized.

The beatings apparently did not cease at the time of arrest. Allegations have been made that Muntadhir has also been tortured during his detention. According to his older brother, Dargham, he suffered a broken right arm, broken ribs, an eye injury and internal bleeding. The torture has been so severe that his brother reported Muntadhir was willing to sign a blank sheet of paper and let his tormentors fill in whatever charges they wanted him to confess.

While Iraqi authorities dismiss these charges, they have yet to prove them false by producing a healthy Muntadhir. In addition, his family reports receiving many threatening phone calls.

So why couldn't Bush say that Muntadhir should be treated humanely and with full due process? That Americans do not believe in torture and beating those held in custody? That as a nation we stand for human rights and human dignity?

Because the real shameless act of the day is that in the final analysis, the United States has lost its ethical voice.

After Abu Ghraib, secret CIA prisons, Guantanamo Bay imprisonment without due process, waterboarding and torture as acceptable policy, how can we speak to the Arab world (or anyone else in the world, for that matter) with any moral authority?

Eight years of Bush leadership has contributed to a world where the shameless beating of prisoners is normative.

President-elect Obama faces an important policy decision when he takes office. Does he close down the base at Guantanamo Bay and repudiate all forms of torture, or does he maintain the status quo?

How he decides this issue will either signify a new path toward proper world behavior or will maintain and continue the despicable torture policies of the Bush administration.

With anticipation, we wait to see how much "change we can believe in" will occur.

-- Miguel De La Torre is associate professor of social ethics at the Iliff School of Theology in Denver.

Word of the Day - 1/9/2009


The diaspora is the scattering of the Jews to countries outside of Palestine after the Babylonian captivity.

In his farewell address, Moses prophesied the Diaspora.

"It shall come about that as the LORD delighted over you to prosper you, and multiply you, so the LORD will delight over you to make you perish and destroy you; and you will be torn from the land where you are entering to possess it. Moreover, the LORD will scatter you among all peoples, from one end of the earth to the other end of the earth; and there you shall serve other gods, wood and stone, which you or your fathers have not known. (Deuteronomy 28:63-64, NASB)

In Eckleburg's Eyes - 1/9/2009, Part 2

News & Notes from Thursday, January 8th, 2009

-On Thursday, I ate lunch at the Food Court in West Town Mall with JTH . I ate at the Cajun Café. Though the food is good, it is not Cajun and I am uncertain as to whether any business situated in a food court could be accurately labeled a café.

-On Thursday night, I visited JTH at MoFoS. He was working with the new employee, JK. JK was clearly new as when I entered he was completing a task that would fall under the umbrella of “customer service”. Rookie!

-While JK was working, JTH was playing Guitar Hero for long intervals. JTH plays one and only one song, Cheap Trick’s “Dream Police”. For whatever reason, it never gets him.

-While at the store, I learned that SH, a younger friend from church, had applied to work at MoFoS. I called her and got her permission to put myself down as a reference. Was that unethical?

-After his shift, JTH and I met JDM and ANS at the Bearden Applebees as TJK and JBT were at the Cedar Bluff branch. (JDM and JBT cannot mix.)

-Megan (MM), a server from the Cedar Bluff location, was at the bar with her boyfriend. I felt like I had gotten caught cheating. We wondered if she was calculating just how many times we eat at Applebees if we eat at other locations too...

-I entered Applebees wearing my prized Applebees Carside To Go t-shirt. The host thought I was messing with him when I told him that I did not work there but was just a fan. Come to think of it, I did sound pretty ridiculous. The staff's unfamiliarity with us was especially troubling when we were actually charged for beverages!

-I learned something new on this night. ANS, a longtime server at both Rafferty’s and Bonefish Grill, distinguished between a ramican and a bullet. The ramican is twice the size of a bullet.

-While dining, we watched Florida win the National Championship game 24-14 over Oklahoma. It was strange being in a room in Knoxville filled with people cheering for Florida. While our table was pulling for a fellow SEC school, the loud inebriated group that we were dining with let on that they had money on the game.

-ANS made a great observation regarding Oklahoma quarterback and Heisman trophy winner Sam Bradford: “I think he looks like a Jonas Brother.” I could not argue.

-JDM let us in on a long conversation from work regarding the (totally hypothetical) possibility of burning down Kroger. JDM was the only employee who had found a viable means of arson. We were all quite proud.

-We left immediately after the football game concluded as my threshold for obnoxious drunken revelry had long since elapsed.

In Eckleburg's Eyes - 1/9/2009, Part 1

News & Notes from Wednesday, January 7th, 2009

-On Wednesday afternoon, I went to UT for the first day of class. I arrived to find that parking all over campus had been cordoned off for the 9 pm basketball game. Not wanting to be late on the first day, I actually parked on the track! I made it to my class on time only to find that my class on that night had been cancelled...for the semester.

-RGB appeared to inform the class that the professor, MHZ, was suffering from a hip injury and forced to cancel all of her classes for the semester. She will spend the semester convalescing in Atlanta, where her husband works. I then agreed to take two classes from RGB this semester, essentially the only classes I could take. I will be in Adult Learning (EP 525) over four weekends and on Tuesday nights, I will be taking a course called Ethical Issues in Adult Education (EP 527).

-I then went to the UT Book & Supply Store to buy my books. I was surprised to that discover LRT, a friend from church, was working there. She told me that her sister MST had gotten into her first wreck the previous night. Thankfully, she was not injured. MST also recently lost her job at Moe’s Southwest Grill and is getting minimal playing time for Bearden High School’s basketball team. Keep Mo in your prayers.

-I returned home and got to see my uncle REN, who was returning my pickup truck, and my cousin, HLN. She will be dancing at halftime of the Lady Vols’ basketball game against Alabama on February 12th. If anyone wishes to join me, let me know.

-On Wednesday night, I returned to campus with MPW and RAW to watch the Tennessee basketball team play Gonzaga. Gonzaga is a team with a team with a recent history of good success and strange looking Caucasian stars. The Bulldogs had already beaten the Vols in Orlando on November 30th.

-Amazingly, we were early! We arrived at 8:42 pm. Even MPW, RAW, and I can make a 9 pm tip. We saw a lot of people we knew. We first ran into JTL and I met his father-in-law. When I complimented his daughter, JTL told me not to suck up, as “that’s my job”.

-We also saw, KLD, WJA and TYP, RHF (aka “Coors” aka “The Silver Bullet” aka “The only thing than can kill a werewolf - sorry very inside joke) from church. Just before entering, we also ran into BAP who was struggling to sell an extra set he had on the lower level. It was great to see so many acquaintances.

-For the first time all season, there was a big game atmosphere. Chris Lofton’s parents, Frank and Kathy, were in attendance as was Dane Bradshaw. How big was the game? For the first time all season my primary concern was not whether or not I would get free chicken.

-The halftime show, performances by the dance team and cheerleaders, did not reflect the big game atmosphere.

-In the second half, ALK visited us and wound up sitting with us throughout the entire second half. Her student seat was actually worse than ours on this night. How is that possible, you ask? The lower section of fans filled early and her upper level students seats were directly behind the goal.

-Despite the atmosphere, the unthinkable happened. For the first time since 2006, the Vols lost at home. Down two and on defense with the game all but over, Dane Bradshaw livened the crowd up and the Vols forced a turnover and bucket to send the game into overtime. The team payed poorly in the extra period and lost 89-79. To add insult to injury, prototypical Gonzaga star, floppy headed Matt Bouldin lit the Vols up for 26 points.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Associated Baptist Press - 1/8/2009

Associated Baptist Press
January 8, 2009 · (09-3)

David Wilkinson, Executive Director
Robert Marus, Managing Editor/Washington Bureau Chief
Bob Allen, Senior Writer

In this issue
Rick Warren says domestic violence is no excuse for divorce (794 words)
Baptist groups send aid to Gaza victims (667 words)
CBF worker's ministry provides refuge for teens in tough Miami neighborhood (689 words)
Opinion: Holy longings (793 words)

Rick Warren says domestic violence is no excuse for divorce
By Bob Allen (794 words)

LAKE FOREST, Calif. (ABP) -- Rick Warren, the Southern Baptist megachurch pastor chosen to offer the invocation at President-elect Barack Obama's Jan. 20 inauguration, says the Bible does not permit a woman to divorce a spouse who is abusing her.

In audio clips on his Saddleback Church website, the Purpose Driven Life author says the Bible condones divorce for only two reasons -- adultery and abandonment.

"I wish there were a third in Scripture, having been involved as a pastor with situations of abuse," Warren said. "There is something in me that wishes there were a Bible verse that says, 'If they abuse you in this-and-such kind of way, then you have a right to leave them.'"

Warren said his church's counseling ministry advises separation and counseling instead of divorce in abusive marriages, because it's the only path toward healing. "There's an abusive cycle that's been set up," he said. "Separation combined with counseling has been proven to provide healing in people's lives."

Warren said there's nothing in the Bible that says a spouse must tolerate abuse. "There's nowhere in the Bible that says it's an attitude of submission to let somebody abuse you," he said. "That is not submission. So we recommend very strongly separation."

He defined what he meant by physical abuse.

"When I say physical abuse, I mean literally somebody is beating you regularly," he said. "I don't mean they grab you once. I mean they've made a habit of beating you regularly. You need to separate in that situation, because that's the only thing that's going to solve that."

Obama's invitation to Warren has been criticized from the left because of his opposition to gay marriage and from the right for giving the president-elect credibility with religious conservatives.

But recently his views on domestic violence caught the attention of Because It Matters, a blog by a lifelong Baptist and abuse survivor who uses the pseudonym Danni Moss to give anonymity to her children, family and former in-laws.

Moss said Warren's commentary "expresses a distinct lack of understanding about the nature, heart and spiritual roots of abuse."

"I think he believes he is doing right and doesn't realize his ignorance or how much he is hurting people, so this is offered without personal judgment," she said. "But I also believe categorically that it is dangerous."

A women's-rights blog called The New Agenda called Warren's views "alarming," especially in light of recent statistics showing a 42 percent rise in reports of domestic violence from 2005 to 2007.

"Warren's views give abusive spouses one more tool to control their victims: the Bible," the blog said. The New Agenda said Warren's teaching "undermines the resolve of women who are debating ending an abusive marriage" and "omits mention of contacting the police, seeking medical attention or obtaining legal assistance to secure orders of protection for yourself and your children."

Warren said God does not hold people accountable if they were divorced before they became a believer in Christ.

"Of course not," he said. "You didn't know. He doesn't hold us accountable for what we don't know."

On the other hand, he continued: "Some of you were divorced after you became a believer, and as you look back on it now you say, 'I told myself it was for a right reason, but now I realize it was more my selfishness than anything else.' You have the maturity to admit that."

Warren also fielded a question about whether a Christian spouse should remain in a "miserable" marriage.

"God sees you as one, and the Bible says they become one, and so the answer, the Bible answer, is yes," Warren said.

"I often say to people when they're facing this decision, really, you're choosing your pain in this moment, because it's going to be painful either way," he said. "If you stay in the marriage there is the opportunity for reconciliation and for the loss of pain, but there is going to be short-term pain on the way there. There's no way to not have pain."

Warren said there is an "immediate feeling of freedom" after a divorce -- but in the long run, "there is lifelong pain in divorce."

"Does God expect me just to live with this pain?" he asked. "No, I think he expects us to ask him for wisdom to do the things that would cause the pain to begin to be solved. He says we're one and as Christians, as believers, the Bible says a husband is to sacrifice for his wife and the wife is to respect her husband."

"So if that's not happening," he said, "I think you have not only the right but also the responsibility to keep pushing for that, to not just settle for the pain."

Bob Allen is senior writer for Associated Baptist Press.

Baptist groups send aid to Gaza victims
By Bob Allen (667 words)

FALLS CHURCH, Va. (ABP) -- A three-member medical team from Hungarian Baptist Aid is in Egypt, helping both Palestinians and Israelis affected by the current Gaza crisis.

Baptist World Aid, the relief-and-development arm of the Baptist World Alliance, gave an initial grant of $10,000 for medical treatment of people who have fled the fighting, in its 13th day as of press time Jan. 8. Other planned relief projects include counseling and relief programs in the heavily bombed Israeli city of Sderot, said BWAid Director Paul Montacute.

The BWAid Rescue24 team, operated by Hungarian Baptist Aid, arrived in Cairo Dec. 31. The team expects to relocate to the Egyptian city of El Arish, about 25 miles from the Gaza border.

After receiving permission from Egyptian authorities Jan. 1, the team visited Palestinians recovering in Cairo's Nasser Hospital.
"I played on the street when suddenly bombs began to fall," said 13-year-old Attala Abid, who has a severely injured leg. He was one of 79 injured Palestinians who managed to get through the Egyptian-Palestinian border at Rafah as of Jan. 1.

The doctors, who are also qualified as anesthesiologists, took part in a skull operation. In addition to meeting medical needs of Palestinians, the group also is looking to give Israeli children opportunities to dwell in Hungary as guests of the organization.

Church World Service, a cooperative ministry of 35 Protestant, Orthodox and Anglican communions affiliated with the World Council of Churches, launched an emergency response including humanitarian relief, protection for refugees displaced by attacks and an appeal for donations from the United States.

The group also mobilized its Speak Out advocacy program to urge members of Congress to seek an immediate cease-fire, address the humanitarian situation and renew talks aimed at achieving a "durable peace" between Israel and Palestine.

Roy Medley, general secretary of American Baptist Churches USA, a Church World Service member, called on both sides in the conflict to "break this cycle of ongoing violence" and urged the United States "to join with other nations in a new mediating role in the search for a just and lasting peace in the area."

"The issues that continually roil this region are complex and they shall never be resolved through armed force," Medley said in a press statement. "The welfare of each is linked to the welfare of the other.... Only sustained diplomatic efforts which acknowledge the human rights of the other can provide the possibility of peace."

BMS World Mission -- British Baptists' global-missions arm -- gave $10,000 to local partner Bethlehem Bible College, which is caring for some students from Gaza who had to leave their homes due to difficulty even prior to the current humanitarian crisis.

Gordon McBain, BMS World Mission regional secretary for the Middle East and North Africa, described the situation in Gaza and the south of Israel as "dreadful" and called on Christians to pray for an end to the violence.

"I believe that as Christians there is much that we can do to help alleviate the suffering that has become an everyday event," he said.

Last year BMS World Mission formalized partnerships with Baptist groups in both Israel and Palestine. "These are groups who are trying to bring about change through peaceful methods rather than through bombs and tanks," McBain said. "Christians there are using the power of prayer, dialogue and social care to change things for the better."

Bader Mansour, secretary of the Association of Baptist Churches in Israel, said Palestinian Arab citizens of Israel want to show grief and solidarity with fellow Palestinians suffering in Gaza, while also abiding by the law. Most Israelis strongly support the attack on Gaza.

"It is very hard being an Arab in Israel these days with the polarization and the very different attitude of Arabs and Jews toward the war," Mansour said. "Please pray for the light of Christ to shine on the Palestinians and Israelis. Both need Christ badly."

Donations to the Gaza crisis relief effort may be made to the Baptist World Aid Emergency Response Fund.

Bob Allen is senior writer for Associated Baptist Press.

CBF worker's ministry provides refuge for teens in tough Miami neighborhood
By Carla Wynn Davis (689 words)

MIAMI (ABP) -- When the other youth are leaving Touching Miami with Love's ministry center, Kevin often lingers to talk with Christy Craddock, one of the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship's field personnel serving at this CBF-supported urban ministry.

Over several months they've talked about life and how painful it's been for this 12-year-old, whose mother died and whose father is in prison for killing her.

In an art class, Kevin drew a picture of a flower blooming from pieces of a broken heart. Craddock asked him what the picture meant. He said that even out of sadness and pain, something beautiful can grow.

In the Miami neighborhood of Overtown, one of the poorest areas in Florida, youth flock the Touching Miami with Love (TML) after-school program for its activities and to spend time with adults, such as Craddock, who care about them. It's a bright spot in lives surrounded by drugs, crime and violence. Many of the teens live in substandard housing and attend failing public schools with high dropout rates. Yet they come to TML for something different.

"I am seeing young people make choices to follow Christ," said Craddock, a native of Lexington, Ky. "They are choosing not to get caught up in the crime, violence, drug dealing, and promiscuity around them. Instead, they are choosing to open their hearts up to God and to allow God to mold their lives."

Teens aren't the only ones molded by this life-changing ministry. During a summer serving at TML in 2001, Craddock felt God calling her to ministry and social work. After earning degrees in both fields from Baylor University, including CBF partner Truett Theological Seminary, Craddock returned to TML in 2007 to serve through CBF in a two-year assignment.

As the ministry's director of youth programs, Craddock is able to live her call to work with at-risk urban youth.

"God has given me a heart to reach out to and care for teens struggling amid difficult circumstances," she said. "As I have built relationships with the youth over this past year, I am beginning to see several of the youth truly open up and share their lives with me."

Their stories reveal the challenges many Overtown teenagers face. Their family was robbed and needs help. Their family is homeless and living in a shelter. Drug dealers ask them to make deliveries.
Two girls recently came to Craddock with news that their friend had been shot and killed. She talked with them about the emotions of losing a friend, and at the end of the conversation they prayed.

"After the girls left my office, I thought to myself, 'This is why I moved to Miami,'" Craddock said. "'I moved here to be with young people as they deal with life's struggles. I don't have all the answers and I can't fix their problems. But, I can offer them love, encouragement, and I can share with them that there is a God who knows their struggles and who longs to heal their hurts.'"

As vital as the youth ministry is, it couldn't happen without support from CBF partner churches that sponsor the after-school program, special events, field trips and more. University Baptist Church in the Miami suburb of Coral Gables and Beaver Dam Baptist Church in Beaver Dam, Ky., have been significant supporters. But there's always need and room for more churches to become involved, whether it's mentoring youth or hosting special events or field trips.

"Our youth need adult role models who can pour into their lives," said Craddock.

Through CBF's Offering for Global Missions, TML receives funding for several staff members, including Craddock. Without financial gifts to the offering, which support many CBF field personnel, Craddock would be unable to live in Miami and serve among youth whose lives can be so significantly influenced through the presence of Christ.

"Without the funds from the Offering for Global Missions, I would not be able to spend my days working with youth in Overtown," Craddock said. "It is an honor for me to work with [these] young people. Even in the midst of sadness and despair, truly something beautiful can grow."

Carla Wynn Davis is a writer for CBF Communications.

Opinion: Holy longings
By David Gushee (793 words)

(ABP) -- For both professional and personal reasons, I am returning this year to an engagement with the best Christian theological reflection that I can find.

Professionally, I am attempting to seed the ground for the completion of a long-delayed book on the sacredness of human life. I also want to read with my students here at McAfee School of Theology in some of these great theological works.

Personally, I feel the need for a time of refreshment after three years spent mainly in bitter fights over Christian political engagement on such issues as climate change and human rights.

Inevitably, I will continue to be engaged with such issues and with the broader question of how America's Christian people ought to approach the public square. I have reasons for hope that -- at least on some issues many of us have been pursuing, such as the government's treatment of terror detainees -- positive change will soon be coming. While working toward these goals, though, I need to return to the sources of the faith that has motivated me to pursue them.

Here the personal and the professional converge. I believe that what Christians need right now more than anything else is not another day spent reading the newspaper, trolling the Web, or watching the latest political news. I think we need a deeper engagement with Scripture and with our ancient theological resources -- for only that kind of return to the sources can draw us nearer to God and prepare us to say a public word that is something other than merely ephemeral, reactive, ideological, or partisan.

To that end, I want to tell you about an extraordinary ancient-postmodern book that I am reading. It is A Theology of Public Life, by Christian theologian Charles Mathewes, a youngish scholar who teaches at the University of Virginia. It is a new day when an Augustinian scholar like Mathewes can do this kind of robustly orthodox and theological kind of work at a place like Virginia, long a deeply secular university.

Reading A Theology of Public Life is like drinking theology from a fire hydrant. It is so much more thirst-quenching than what passes for theological reflection in most Christian circles that it really ought to be named something different. Probably this space will find me revisiting this book every now and again reflecting on key insights.

Today I will linger just a bit over Mathewes' treatment of the concept of human longing.

Following Augustine's lead, Mathewes argues that human life involves a "pilgrimage of our affections" in which we learn how to cultivate the proper disposition toward God, others, self, and the world. Discerning what that disposition should look like involves a prior reading of reality, of the situation facing humans in the world.

Augustine argued that human beings are characterized by their desires, or longings. These longings are rooted in our "persistent lacks," says Mathewes -- those aspects of our being that always ache for a fulfillment beyond ourselves.

Augustine, of course, became famous for writing that this basic human restlessness could only be fulfilled in God. But even the extent of that fulfillment possible here in this broken world leaves us longing for a future consummation of all things in which at last we and all the world find wholeness and rest rather than fragments and failure and further longing. Only God can and will bring about that consummation.

The ancient Stoic philosophers, and certain others, have taught that the urgency and pain of unfulfilled longing is so intense that the better part of wisdom is to seek to self-cauterize all longing. But Augustine called for us to continue longing while cultivating patience, endurance, and watchful waiting as those longings remain mainly out of reach. He reminds Christians not to fall prey to idols, which are essentially ways humans come up with to try to satisfy or distract ourselves from our ultimate longings. He said that "the whole life of a good Christian is a holy longing."

This longing -- for God, God's reign, Christ's return, the triumph of good over evil -- keeps us from complacency or a premature sense of satisfaction with a self and world whose brokenness must never be accepted.

No human good or human achievement is ever complete, final or perfect. Every human person or project that we hope will meet our longings always comes up short. Recognition of these hard truths enables us not to deify any politician or party, or overload a spouse with impossible expectations, or think that another trip to the mall will finally bring us the happiness we seek. Such apparently esoteric theological insights are actually essential to a proper Christian posture to such this-worldly pursuits as marriage, business, and politics.

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

Prayer Blog - 1/8/2009

I have a meeting scheduled for 10:15 AM tomorrow at church with RWB in regards to my educational program. Please pray for this meeting.

Word of the Day - 1/8/2009


To Peculate is to steal or take dishonestly (money, especially public funds, or property entrusted to one's care); embezzle.

The gospel of John accuses Judas, who acted as the disciples' treasurer, of peculation. (John 12:6)

Now he said this, not because he was concerned about the poor, but because he was a thief, and as he had the money box, he used to pilfer what was put into it. (John 12:6, NASB)

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Associated Baptist Press - 1/7/2009

Associated Baptist Press
January 7, 2009 · (09-2)

David Wilkinson, Executive Director
Robert Marus, Managing Editor/Washington Bureau Chief
Bob Allen, Senior Writer

In this issue
Gaza Baptist Church caught in crossfire (543 words)
Renowned preacher, civil-rights leader Otis Moss retires (483 words)
Church adopts Hooters, both addopt Hurricane Ike victims (1,196 words)
Texas Tech kicker's rise to fame grounded in faith (1,036 words)
Editor's Note

Gaza Baptist Church caught in crossfire
By Bob Allen (543 words)

GAZA CITY, Palestine (ABP) -- Fighting between Israeli troops and Hamas militants has damaged a Baptist church in Gaza.

On Dec. 27, the Israeli Air Force launched a series of attacks on targets throughout Gaza retaliating against rocket and mortar fire against Israeli towns and villages by Hamas and other militant groups in Gaza.

According to media reports, windows at Gaza Baptist Church were shattered when an Israeli air strike on a nearby police station killed about 40 people. All church members were reported safe, as most people are too afraid to go outside their homes.

It isn't the first time for the only Protestant church in the Gaza Strip to be caught in the crossfire between battling forces. Palestinian police have twice seized the six-story building, which also includes public library and one of the area's few breast-cancer clinics, as a sniper post.

Hanna Massad, pastor of Gaza Baptist Church, described the plight of Palestinian Christians in a message at last year's New Baptist Covenant Celebration in Atlanta. "We live between two fires," he said. "The fire of the Israel occupation; the siege we live under," he said, severely restricts travel. Israel's refusal to grant a visa to Massad's wife once kept the couple separated for 10 months, even though authorities knew he was a pastor and a "man of peace."

"Also we experience the fire of the militant Muslim, who is not happy about what we do and who we are," Massad said.

Terrorists twice bombed the building of the Palestinian Bible Society, and last year militants kidnapped and executed the manager of the society's Christian bookstore.

Massad said most American Christians know that the state of Israel was established in 1948, but fewer are aware that when that happened 700,000 Palestinians, including 55,000 Christians, were made refugees.

Massad said his father's family lived the Gaza Strip all their lives, but lost property, even though they had the official documents to prove ownership.

"Because you experience the grace of God and love of God, you are able to forgive and move on," he said. "But if you didn't experience his grace, this is going to create bitterness and hatred in your heart. And this is why the fights between the Palestinians and the Jewish people are more intense and more and more difficult."

With 1.5 million residents, the Gaza Strip is one of world's most densely populated places, increasing the likelihood of collateral damage when fighting erupts.

Jan. 6, the 11th day of fighting that began eight days after a six-month truce between Israel and the militants expired, at least 30 people died in a strike near a United Nations school where hundreds of people sought refuge from fighting.

The New York Times said Palestinian medical officials estimate the death toll so far at more than 560, and the U.N. said about a quarter of those killed were civilians.

The U.S. State Department has called for a "durable and lasting cease-fire" in the conflict. President-elect Barack Obama, who has been criticized for not speaking out on the Gaza attacks, broke his silence Jan. 6, calling the loss of civilian lives "a source of deep concern" and vowing to "hit the ground running" on brokering Mideast peace when he takes office Jan. 20.

Bob Allen is senior writer for Associated Baptist Press.

Renowned preacher, civil-rights leader Otis Moss retires
By Bob Allen (483 words)

CLEVELAND (ABP) -- A hero of the Civil Rights Movement regarded as one of America's best African-American preachers has stepped down after 54 years as a pastor.

Otis Moss Jr., 73, preached his farewell sermon Dec. 29 to about 3,000 worshipers at Olivet Institutional Baptist Church in Cleveland. He led the congregation -- one of the city's largest and noted for its commitment to social justice and civil rights -- for 33 years.

A theologian, civic leader and sought-after public speaker, Moss served several churches in Georgia, including a stint as co-pastor with Martin Luther King Sr. at Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta, before moving to the Cleveland congregation in 1975.

As a young preacher in his native Georgia, Moss helped lead sit-ins at segregated lunch counters and fought for voting rights for blacks. He went to jail several times for participating in sit-ins and marches.

He marched with Martin Luther King Jr. in Selma, Ala., and Washington, and urged Jesse Jackson to run for president in 1983. Moss was co-chair of the National African American Religious Committee of Barack Obama's presidential campaign and is co-chair of an upcoming black-tie African American Church Inaugural Ball celebrating election of the nation's first black president Jan. 18.

Orphaned at 16, Moss attended Morehouse College in Atlanta, where he became one of the most respected student activists in the struggle for civil rights. He earned his bachelor's and master-of-divinity degrees from Morehouse, and later went on to serve his alma mater as a trustee.

Moss was a special guest of President Clinton to witness the signing of the peace treaty between Israel and Jordan. He saw Pope John Paul II in a 1979 visit on the White House lawn. He finished a doctorate from United Theological Seminary in 1990 and was twice named by Ebony magazine as one of America's top 15 black preachers.

Luminaries including Oprah Winfrey, Jesse Jackson and former congressman Louis Stokes were among 1,200 people at a December gala celebrating Moss' ministry. Obama sent a congratulatory letter telling Moss "you've left an indelible mark on all that you've touched," and "the Lord has used you mightily."

In 1997, Moss partnered with University Hospitals to open the Otis Moss Jr. Medical Center across the street from Olivet. Boasting a chapel, medical offices and seminar space, Moss called it one of his proudest accomplishments.

More than 3,000 packed Olivet for his farewell sermon, according to the Cleveland Plain Dealer. In the homily Moss said the best days lie ahead for the church, country and himself. "No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love Him," he read from I Corinthians 2:9.

Moss' son, Otis Moss III, is pastor of Obama's former church. He replaced Jeremiah Wright at Chicago's Trinity United Church of Christ, who retired after a long career there.

Wright became a household name during the presidential campaign, after controversy over the pastor and some of his public statements prompted candidate Obama to resign his membership in the congregation.

Bob Allen is senior writer for Associated Baptist Press.

Church adopts Hooters, both adopt Hurricane Ike victims
By George Henson (1,196 words)

HOUSTON (ABP) -- What could bring together the members of a Houston Baptist church and employees of a restaurant known as much for its buxom, midriff-baring waitresses as for its food?

God's love -- and sharing it with neighbors in need, including hurricane victims.

The openness of Rice Temple Baptist Church enabled the congregation to partner with a group of Hooters waitresses to meet the needs of the people of Oak Island, Texas, a Galveston Bay coastal community almost completely wiped out in September by Hurricane Ike. Oak Island Baptist Church is the only building on the island still in use.

The Houston church's connection to Hooters -- a restaurant chain whose signature is waitresses in skimpy orange shorts and tight tank tops -- goes back more than nine years to a time when Pastor Clint Reiff was serving the congregation as associate pastor.

"I met a waitress while we were both pumping gas at the Shell station. We started talking. She mentioned that she was exhausted after waiting tables, and it made it hard for her to come to church," Reiff recalled.

He gave her his business card and told her to call if she ever felt the need. Two days later, the restaurant's manager called to invite the church staff and their spouses to dinner.

When Reiff said he'd check with the pastor and get back with him, the manager responded, "We're just looking for answers like anyone else."

"I didn't know if he said it flippantly or not, but I said, 'We'll be there,'" Reiff said. "I'm not sure our pastor at the time really knew what he was saying 'yes' to, but he was supportive, and a few evenings later, we were there. As I recall, most of us sat with our heads down trying not to look up, but we survived that first meal," he said.

Reiff kept going back for meals, bringing his Bible along. The workers started talking to him about concerns in their lives, asking spiritual questions and giving him prayer requests. He accompanied one waitress to the hospital to wait while her father was in surgery.

The congregation became involved with the restaurant's staff as well. A group of Rice Temple women organized a baby shower for one of the waitresses.

Reiff admits he was a bit concerned at the beginning about how some church members might accept the ministry to the restaurant's employees, but they generally have demonstrated support.

"At the beginning, I tried to always take a gift, and my ladies who are 70 years old plus made so many cookies I couldn't begin to say how many. I had thought that they might have a problem with it, but that hasn't been the case. I don't know if they saw the waitresses as granddaughters, or if some of them thought, 'That was me 50 years ago, and I wished someone would have reached out to me,'" he said.

"As you get to know these girls, you realize: 'They are just like me. They're hoping to find their way. They are real people with real needs.'

"We've had a couple who have joined [the church], and several others have visited," he continued. "But most of them can't afford to live in this area. So, we try to steer them toward a church closer to where they live so that they have a greater chance of really plugging in."

Over the years, the church has found additional ways to develop the relationship. Rice Temple has been a sponsor of an annual Hooters golf tournament, giving away Bibles. They have also worked with the restaurant's employees on Habitat for Humanity building projects.

"My thought has always been to try to include non-Christians in ministerial work, because then they get to see the church doing something," Reiff said.

The waitresses have even joined with the congregation in walking through the neighborhood singing Christmas carols.

"You could tell they hadn't gone Christmas caroling before, because they all showed up in high heels," he recalled.

Heather Suggitt, the restaurant's marketing director for the greater Houston area, initiated the ministry to Oak Island residents. "She called me because she had heard of Oak Island and that the church was only building left standing. They wanted to go and feed the people there and take the kids bikes and toys for Christmas, and wanted me to contact the church to pave the way," Rieff said.

"I called the pastor on Oak Island, someone I didn't know at all, and said: 'I'm a pastor in Houston, and I'm going to ask you something weird. We have a Bible study with some waitresses in a Hooters restaurant and a long relationship with them, and they'd like to come to your church and feed the people of Oak Island,'" he recalled.

After checking with a few of his members, Oak Island Baptist Pastor Eddie Shauerberger said that would be fine.

So four days before Christmas, about 45 members of Rice Temple Baptist Church and the waitresses, managers and cooks from Hooters blessed the people of Oak Island.

More than 400 people were on hand to eat hamburgers and chicken wings, and volunteers dispersed more than $20,000 in gifts from the church and restaurant.

Hooters restaurants from as far away as Dallas and San Antonio held bake sales and toy drives to raise money for Oak Island. Many Houston-area businesses also donated goods and cash.

The day began with a worship service at Oak Island Baptist. After the meal that followed, teenagers received gift cards, the Houston non-profit Elves and More distributed 75 bicycles, and a new sound system was presented to the Oak Island church. The church lost its sound system when Galveston Bay flooded its building, along with the town's 250 homes. The people of Oak Island are living in tents and trailers until they are able to rebuild.

The project at Oak Island marks one more reason why Rieff is glad his congregation has reached out in ministry to the Hooters waitresses.

"I frankly feel that God would walk in there and sit down, maybe more quickly than he would in some of our churches," he said. "We are to take the gospel to the world, and that's the whole world -- not just the part of the world that works they way we think it should work."

Other Christians might want to consider looking around their communities to see who is being overlooked, he suggested.

"I'd really love for other churches to do this. I think of all the ladies in seminary and think, 'If they want a ministry, go to these places.' It takes longer for a guy [to develop a healthy rapport with the waitresses] because we're already suspect: Are we there because we care, or are we there just to look?" Reiff said.

He noted a remark by the Hooters marketing director regarding the outpouring of support for Oak Island.

"I could not believe everyone's generosity. It just really came from God," Suggitt said.

"If she can see that God can plan this, maybe she can start to see God has a plan for her own life," Reiff said.

George Henson is a staff writer for the Texas Baptist Standard.

Texas Tech kicker's rise to fame grounded in faith
By Kaitlin Chapman (1,036 words)

LUBBOCK, Texas (ABP) -- When 21-year-old Matt Williams transferred to Texas Tech University last August, he was just excited about making new friends and getting involved at First Baptist Church in Lubbock, where the school is located.

But after winning a kick-for-rent contest at the Tech football game against Massachusetts on Sept. 20, Williams' life changed, and he gained a spot on the Tech football team.

Williams, a former high-school kicker and soccer player who briefly played both sports for the NCAA Division II Tarleton State University, said that he was shocked to be chosen for the contest, but just tried to do his best while he was on the field.

"Going down there was just a big rush -- being in front of all those people," Williams said. "I was just praying and talking to God while I was on the field and the week prior to that. And afterwards, I was just praising him. I went out there and just kicked the ball and did what I knew how to do."

A football fanatic, Williams had dreams of walking onto the Tech football team during spring 2009. Those dreams were jump-started when football coach Mike Leach saw Williams' leg in operation.

Leach was impressed with the lay kicker's form and sent an equipment manager to bring Williams back for a visit.

"I had no idea I would get called back down on the field to talk to Mike Leach," Williams said. "When he called me down, I was scared, because I know he really doesn't like kickers since it has been a problem for Tech in the past. Going down there was a total shock. When he asked me to be on the team, I was like, 'Heck, yeah!' And I've had a blast."

Williams gained a spot on the team and started practicing by Sept. 23, but he had to decline the free rent from the contest to be eligible for play under NCAA football rules.

He played in his first game against Kansas on Oct. 25, scoring on all nine of his kicking attempts. The Red Raiders routed the then-No. 19 Jayhawks 63-21.

Even though Williams is now living his dream, he said joining the team mid-season was a culture shock and a challenge to his faith.

"On the football field, it is really hard," Williams said. "There are only a few guys that go to church and really show it. It's hard out there to have Christian ethics, but it's something that you can use for the good of the team."

To stay strong in his faith, Williams has befriended fellow believers and teammates Baron Batch and Brian Duncan. He is also involved with Paradigm, First Baptist's Thursday night worship event for college students, as well as the church's Acts Ministries men's Bible study.

Sam Law, Williams' Sunday school teacher at First Baptist, said the kicker's commitment to Christ has strengthened despite his new fame and busy schedule.

After most games played away from Lubbock, the team "lands at 2 o'clock in the morning. He's back in Sunday school that same morning," Law said.

"I got kids who live right there on campus and didn't even come to class that morning. He is just very faithful."

Law sees God's hand in Williams' new football opportunity and has used it to encourage other students to be expectant of opportunities God brings.

"It's been a unique semester," Law said. "Before the season started, [Williams] is up in the stands. But five games into the season, he's on the field kicking. It's remarkable. We've talked about it in class -- not just to focus on Matt but because you never know what God is going to do. You never know how God is going to use you."

Williams' strong faith is not a new occurrence, but began during his childhood while attending First Baptist Church in Weatherford, Texas.

"I was baptized when I was seven, but a lot of kids can say that," Williams said. "When [my relationship with Christ] really started was when I was 12 or 13 when I went to a revival. That is when I realized I needed to get more serious about everything."

Derek Dodson, Williams' former youth minister at his home church, said the athlete always was a quiet servant and committed to church activities like Bible studies and mission trips.

"Matt is a behind-the-scenes guy and not the type to be in the spotlight," Dodson said. "He always helped out and also had a big heart for missions."

Despite his quiet nature, people always knew where Williams stood in his faith.

"By the way he lived his life, you knew what he stood for. He didn't try to push his faith on anyone, but he lived his life in such a way that others saw his faith. He is a person of integrity and solid. I would like to have a dozen Matts in my group. He's just an all-around good kid."

Dodson, who has stayed in contact with Williams through his time in college, also sees growth in Williams' faith through the way he has handled his new fame.

Dodson said he can tell "he just wants to enjoy this as long as the Lord allows this blessing on his life. He is going to do what the Lord has placed before him as long as this opportunity is here. He just wants to follow the Lord and use this for his glory."

Williams hopes that he can use this new position on the football team and his example to lead others to a relationship with Christ.
"I hope that we can get to people," Williams said. "That's something hard to do because football guys are not usually known as Christian guys unless they are really outspoken about it. You want to slowly talk to them and see if they will end up coming to church with you or the Acts Ministries or another Bible study.

"I've also met a lot of new people, and with some people, we end up talking about what church I go to. Hopefully, that encourages them to end up going to church by showing that I go to church."

-- Kaitlin Chapman is a former intern for the Texas Baptist Standard and the Baptist General Convention of Texas.

Editor's Note

Monday's e-mailed issue of Associated Baptist Press was dated incorrectly in two different ways. The subject line of the e-mail indicated it was the January 4 issue, when it was, in fact, mailed Jan. 5. In addition, the header in the message body indicated that it was the "December 30, 2008" issue, when it should have been labeled "January 5, 2008."

However, the header did contain the correct volume and issue number (09-1) for the issue.

ABP regrets the errors.

Prayer Blog - 1/7/2009

Tonight, my class at UT was cancelled due to the professor, MHZ, sustaining a serious hip injury. She is at home in Atlanta where her husband works. Please keep MHZ's recovery in your prayers.

WAM Quote of the Day - 1/7/2009

Last night, I gave WAM his Christmas gifts. Among them was a Darth Vader Dashboard Driver. I received this image at 5:40 pm along with this message:

"Use the force Chan"

I think that was WAM's way of telling me that he liked the gift.

Word of the Day - 1/7/2009


To equivocate is to use ambiguous or unclear expressions, usually to avoid commitment or in order to mislead.

Herod I (or Herod the Great) equivocates to the Magi. He tells them that he wishes them to find the Bethlehem baby because he wishes to worship him when in reality he wishes to eliminate a perceived rival to his throne.

And he sent them to Bethlehem and said, "Go and search carefully for the Child; and when you have found Him, report to me, so that I too may come and worship Him." (Matthew 2:8, NASB)

Note: This painting of Herod and the Magi comes from the early fifteenth century.

In Eckleburg's Eyes - 1/7/2009, Part 2

News & Notes from Tuesday, January 6th, 2009

-On Tuesday morning, I worked a shift at Hope Resource Center (HRC). This photo is of the new greeter, Carla, who began training on this day. Though I was a little jealous that her training did not encompass the videos I was subjected to, I really liked her. She did, however, note that HRC smelled like a bed and breakfast she once worked at. I was pleased that I had no frame of reference on that one.

-After several no-shows the previous week, both of my clients made their appointments (though the first was 37 minutes late and I had to rush back to the facility after having left). Speaking of the previous week’s no shows, LEB wisely had me remove their names from the December 24th installment of “In Eckleburg’s Eyes”. On the plus side, someone actually found my blog!

-I wanted to document this roster of the HRC staff. In it, JLCN typed her name twice as both the job title and its holder. I thought this was awesome. This is an historic photo as when I pointed it out, she whited it out. I hope one day to be Chandler Vinson, who serves as the Chandler Vinson of some church.

-After my shift, I met KLTW and KJW at Fisher Tire Company where KLTW was to get her tires rotated. She had never been to the Bearden location (or knew it existed) and we were both impressed when she found it with no problems.

-KJW was very tired. She had just finished her first day of preschool at the Central Baptist Church of Bearden. She is in a class of younger two-year olds with among others, her friend Ainsley, the daughter of our good friend SRM. KJW did very well. She sang songs, painted snow, ate all of her lunch, and even took a nap with the rest of the children. She did not ask her mommy to stay when she was dropped off but was happy to see her when she picked her up. KLTW was so proud of her.

-After dropping off the car at Fisher, we ate at the Silver Spoon Café. When KLTW accidentally bumped KJW’s head getting her out of the car, KJW excused her saying, “It’s okay. It was an accident.” On this rainy day, KJW also consistently informed her mother that she needed an umbrella. We had a good chat over lunch while KJW mooched bread throughout the meal.

-Since we had not heard from Fisher when we finished eating, we went to the nearby West Town Mall. KJW loves the play area and we contemplated getting her a lunch box. She needed one for school and had been eying another child’s enviously. When we got to the mall, KJW excitedly ran ahead of us to the play area.

-After KJW had played for awhile, we stopped at the Disney Store, Hallmark, and I dropped into PacSun to see PCR. When KJW would see something she liked, she would note that she wanted it for Christmas. When we were in Build-A-Bear Workshop, KLTW promised her that we would return for her birthday (in June). From that point on, anything KJW wanted, she wanted for her birthday.

-KJW also begged to ride this car ride in the mall. When KLTW and I saw the car's painfully slow movement we felt we had been ripped off. Despite the fact that it lasted only a few seconds, KJW wanted off almost immediately after it started.

-After all of that time, KLTW did not get the tires rotated as Fisher insisted she need new ones and we never did buy KJW a lunch box!

-I spent Tuesday night with JTH and ALK. We stopped by McKay’s before eating at Aubrey’s. While at Aubrey’s we hid ALK’s purse when she went to the restroom. When she returned we had a great time teasing her. When I asked her what the item in question looked like, she replied, “It’s big. It’s’s a big brown thing.” Once she realized we were teasing her, I suggested she inspect JTH. She looked at him and informed, “It can’t fit in your pants! Now give it to me!” We did comply. Eventually.

-We then went to my house where we watched Tulsa defeat Ball State 45-13 in the GMAC Bowl on ESPN. Why did we watch this game? Primarily to see if the cameras showed Lady Vol Volleyball star Chloe Goldman(CDG) in the stands. Her boyfriend, Darius Hill, is Ball State’s tight end and she went to Mobile, Alabama, for the game. Sadly, they never gave CDG any much deserved air time.

In Eckleburg's Eyes - 1/7/2009, Part 1

News & Notes from Monday, January 5th, 2009

-On Monday night, I watched Eagle Eye on DVD with JTH and ALK at JTH’s home. JTH was recovering from a stomach virus and wanted to take it easy. Yes, I realize ALK and I probably should not have been around him...

-I found the action/thriller somewhat farcical at points but did enjoy it.

-Most importantly ALK had listened to the entire Hilary Duff CD (Metamorphosis) that JTH and I bought her over the weekend in Chattanooga. Naturally she loved it. The amazing thing about the CD is that music never becomes “So Yesterday”.

-Would you believe that ALK had never previously owned a Hilary Diff CD of any kind?

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Word of the Day - 1/6/2008


Timorous means full of fear; fearful.

Nebuchadnezzar had a dream which made him timorous. (Daniel 4:5). Daniel later interpreted the dream for him.

"I saw a dream and it made me fearful; and these fantasies as I lay on my bed and the visions in my mind kept alarming me." (Daniel 4:5, NASB)

Note: This cameo of Nebuchadnezzar is housed in Florence.

Monday, January 5, 2009

Prayer Blog - 1/5/2009

Tomorrow KJW has her first day of preschool at the Central Baptist Church of Bearden under the direction of Amy Gibson and Hazel Swanson, who have taught the class for nineteen years. She will be at the church from 9 am to 2 pm. Please keep her in your prayers as she adjusts to a new environment.

Word of the Day - 1/5/2009


Indurate means to make hard; harden, as rock, tissue, etc.: Cold indurates the soil.

Most translations read that God indurates Pharoah's heart in the Book of Exodus, explaining his obstinance in the face of Moses' pleas. (Exodus 4:21, 7:3, 7:13, 7:22, 8:15, 9:7, 9:12, 9:34, 9:35, 10:1, 10:20, 10:27, 11:10, 14:4, 14:8, 14:17) The Hebrew chazaq (often translated "harden") has as its primary meaning "to strengthen".

The LORD said to Moses, "When you go back to Egypt see that you perform before Pharaoh all the wonders which I have put in your power; but I will harden his heart so that he will not let the people go. (Exodus 4:21, NASB)

In Eckleburg's Eyes - 1/5/2009, Part 3

News & Notes from Sunday, January 4th, 2009

-I spent Sunday night with WAM. We finally exchanged Christmas gifts. He bought me a Vantec Rd Nst-D100Su Nexstar Hard Drive. His rationale was that I could upload a lot of my DVDs and attach the hard drive to the television. As always, WAM was very thoughtful. After exchanging gifts, we played the Wii. In the midst of playing, WAM uttered the WAM Quote of the Day.

-Afterwards, WAM and I ate at the nearby Applebees in Bearden. As she had been on Friday night, Lindsay was our waitress. We had a good time chatting. WAM proudly showed me his new phone. This photo of me was taken with it.

In Eckleburg's Eyes - 1/5/2009, Part 2

News & Notes from Saturday, January 3rd, 2009

-On Saturday, JTH and I traveled to Chattanooga to buy him boxer shorts. Yes, you read the correctly. He needed boxer shorts and the only brand he buys is Quiksilver. The closest business that sells them is Boardriders at the Hamilton Place mall in Chattanooga. In short, we drove 88 miles to get boxer shorts. (Do not ask the question of why he did not just order them online. That argument is futile.)

-Before hitting the road, we visited with JTH’s mother, KTH, who showed us her recently completed DAR papers and a scrapbook she has been working on featuring all her pets through the years. I was especially impressed when she described her show dog Sabrina. The dog once won an award called the “Winner’s Bitch”.

-After visiting with JTH’s mother, we hit the interstate and drove through a driving rain to Chattanooga.

-Since it represented the purpose of our trip, our first stop in Hamilton Place was to Boardriders. I chatted with the employees while JTH shopped. JTH found a discounted hoodie he thought PCR might like, so I had the employees model the clothes for PCR and sent this photo to him. They were pleased that they had made the sale. Amazingly, this was not the strangest request someone had made of them.

-The store's selection of boxer shorts was limited but I bought him two pairs for his birthday the following Sunday. I really hope buying another man boxers is the most effeminate thing I do this year.

-We then shopped the rest of the mall. The mall’s KB Toys was closing and everything in the store was on clearance. I could not resist buying a bingo cage. I play bingo so often...

-In the middle of the mall was this “Power Jump”. Kids were projected from the first floor over the railing of the second on a trampoline. I wondered why the mall closest to my house could not have this. I concluded that the fact that it has only one floor might be a contributing factor.

-After thoroughly perusing the mall, we ate at nearby restaurant called the Country Place Restaurant (located at 7320 Shallowford Road). It is a family owned and operated business that opened in 1976. It proudly notes that Reggie White once ate there. I figured it would be a good place to get chicken and dumplings. I learned that dish is available only on Thursdays. The advantage of eating there on Saturdays is that meals are accompanied by beef stew while it lasts. Unfortunately, on this day, it did not last.

-I asked the server what she recommended. Her glowing endorsement of the chicken fingers compelled me to order them. They were good but I was later disappointed when she told me they were the only thing on the menu she had tried! She liked them so much she could just not get away from them.

-Before leaving Chattanooga we stopped at McKay’s (it would have been sinful not to) and the adjacent America’s Thrift Stores (whose prices were excessive). This photo is of JTH ordering this wall of back issues of National Geographic at the America's Thrift Store. Can you say “OCD”?

-Throughout the day we caught bits and pieces of the Tennessee basketball game on 102.3 The Talk Monster!. The Vols lost to defending national champion Kansas 92-85 in Lawrence. Given the result, I was not too disappointed at missing the game.

-When we returned to Knoxville, we hung out with ALK. We picked up a pizza from Papa John’s. We spent the night watching the Colts lose in the NFL Playoffs (it was not a good day for my teams) and playing the Wii.

-ALK did present us with a mystery. The previous night she dreamt of a movie she had watched as a child. I searched for it under the descriptor “orphan” as ALK indicated. We searched for the film for minutes online. Eventually her cousin, whom she had called, was able to find the title online. The reason I couldn’t? The correct descriptor would have been “foster child.” Thanks, Bart!

-Oh, the movie was from 1995 and called Rent-A-Kid. How popular is it? It has yet to be released on DVD.

In Eckleburg's Eyes - 1/5/2009, Part 1

News & Notes from Friday, January 2nd, 2009

-I spent Friday afternoon with JTH. After eating a late lunch at Wishbone’s Famous Fingers & Wings, we headed to the church. There, I delivered LEJ’s Christmas gifts...from the last three years! It has been too long since you have seen someone when you do not remember what you got them. (Evidently it is harder to get off my Christmas list than a Baptist Sunday School roll.)

-While at church, we also caught up with JMM, GWS, and JMT. We then headed to an unbelievably crowded McKay’s (among the crowd was another church friend, JCP) before we headed our separate ways.

-On Friday night, my maternal family gathered at my house to celebrate the arrival of AT, my cousin ACN’s roommate at UMass. AT was visiting for five days. She came to my house straight from the airport. It marked her first trip to south so I provided her with some books on how to survive the south. (Note: This photo is of my cousins HANJ and HLN in their matching hoodies. You will note they are flashing the west side sign.)

-My mother cooked spaghetti for dinner. Unfortunately, due to the aforementioned late lunch I abstained. I had not had time to eat all day and just could not wait any longer. It was a shame as my mother’s spaghetti is excellent. Over dinner we came up with a great idea for Facebook. Not only list friends, but people you denied as friends.

-After dinner, we played the 25th Anniversary Edition of Trivial Pursuit. Since there were thirteen of us, we numbered off to make three teams. My team consisted of my uncle REN, AT, my mother DLNV, and my cousin HANW. If you are unfamiliar with the family, my team was stacked! DLNV and I may not know anything overly important, but trivia, we can handle. Not surprisingly we won. Handily. (Note: This photo is of my beautiful cousin HANJ attempting to read us questions. This process amused us all night.)

-I have to give credit where credit is due, the winning question was answered by AT. She knew that canaries were once regularly used in coal mines as an early warning system.

-After the family gathering, I headed to MoFoS to meet up with JTH before going to dinner. A friend of NHH’s had brought a dog in the store. The dog was actually very friendly and eventually its owner handed me its leash so I could play with him. It was still strange seeing an animal in the store.

-JTH and I then headed to Applebees in Bearden where we met JDM and ANS. We had a great waitress named Lindsay.

-While there we also exchanged Christmas gifts. JDM got JTH the apropos car vacuum. JTH was so happy. JDM got me Seasons 2-4 of La Femme Nikita. I laughed. He had purchased them in one of Best Buy’s sales in 2007 with the inteion of selling them . They had been sitting on his shelf ever since. I was instructed to get trade credit for them. That is a gift that truly keeps on giving.