Friday, March 20, 2009

Word of the Day - 3/20/2009


Sapiential means containing, exhibiting, or affording wisdom; characterized by wisdom.

Proverbs asserts that having sapiential associates will produce wisdom.

He who walks with wise men will be wise,
But the companion of fools will suffer harm. (Proverbs 13:20, NASB)

In Eckleburg's Eyes - 3/20/2009, Part 3

News & Notes from Thursday, March 19th, 2009

-Thursday was the first day of the NCAA Basketball Tournament a.k.a. “March Madness”. This is one of my favorite days of the year. I was determined not to finish last in my pool this year as I do every year. I have lost in the past to people who have never actually watched a full basketball game. So I did my research.

-The research paid early dividends. At the end of the day, I had accurately picked 15 of 16 games. The only incorrect pick came in having faith in Mississippi State. Fear not. I am not overconfident. I realize that I tend to find ways to collapse in this event.

-The game I was most invested in on this day was not in the NCAA Tournament. I listened attentively to Bearden High School’s first round game at the Class 3-A State Basketball Tournament on the TSSAA web site. Bearden entered the game ranked first in the state and were heavy favorites to win the tournament. Unfortunately, they suffered an uncharacteristic fourth quarter collapse against unranked Clarksville Northeast (27-6), which was making its first ever appearance in the event. Blake Jenkins’ free throws with 5:33 remaining gave the Bulldogs an eleven-point lead (48-37). The Eagles then went on a 15-0 run and outscored Bearden 25-5 the rest of the game. Bearden lost 62-53.

-Bearden shot terribly. They shot only 36.2% from the floor, including a first quarter in which they scored only five points. Bearden was whistled for more fouls (28) than it had made field goals (17). Bearden was also an abysmal 15-of-31 from the foul line. It was a disappointing finale to the best season in school history (35-3). (Note: This photo is of Northeast’s Dermetrye Brown who led the Eagles with 22 points and nine rebounds).

-At 10:45, I met JTH and JDM at Applebees. We were also joined by three of JDM’s friends from Kroger: Jamie, Nathan , and another girl whose name escapes me. We sat in Caroline’s section which is a rarity. Her section had a view of the television.

-JDM had just returned from a four-day trip to Gatlinburg. He brought back a souvenir - a henna tattoo of a purple dolphin on his right forearm. It was the consequence of losing a go carting race to Jamie. She hustled him. It does, however, explain a recent Facebook Status Update: “my dolphin's name is Splash and he’s my boy!” (Note: This is a piece of art and not JDM’s actual henna tattoo.)

-There was also a Santa Claus convention in Gatlinburg while he was there. Why? I have no idea. This does explain why we saw a Santa Claus at the Apple Barn the day before. (See this “In Eckleburg’s Eyes” post for details. In the midst of all of the Santa Clauses, JDM saw a sign representing the Amalgamated Order of Real Bearded Santa Clauses. New career goal.

-JTH had just come from a shift at MoFoS. The store continues to make random personnel changes under the direction of JBT and the store manager. JBT fired JAD, the manager at Halls. We both feel this is a terrible move but no worse than the usual illogical decisions made at MoFoS. We just felt bad for JAD.

In Eckleburg's Eyes - 3/20/2009, Part 2

News & Notes from Wednesday, March 18th, 2009, Part 2

-JTH, ALK, and I spent Wednesday in Pigeon Forge. It is Spring Break in Knoxville and this was JTH’s only day off of work. We were to embark at 4 PM but JTH was late as usual. He had gone into work. I do not think JTH grasps the concept of a day off.

-As usual, we set out with absolutely no plans. Having worked at a daycare for so many years, there is little in Pigeon Forge that JTH has not done. He was our guide. In driving through Pigeon Forge I noticed one major oversight: How has no one started a wrestling themed business? It seems like a no-brainer.

-We amused ourselves on the way there by reading the new MoFoS Employee Handbook. No, JBT did not take the time to write his own document. He printed one offline. It was very humorous as much of the booklet did not correlate to the store. It was typical MoFoS.

-We decided to play miniature golf before dinner so we stopped at The Track: Family Recreation Center (located at 2575 Parkway, Pigeon Forge, TN). It was the first miniature golf course we saw. We later had a little buyer’s remorse as we did not remember that Pigeon Forge has more mini golf per capita than any city in the known world. We probably would have gone to the Ripley’s Old McDonald's Farm Mini-Golf course had we known it existed. Who wouldn’t want to hit a golf ball into the mouth of a three-eyed pig?

-We played the “Gator Creek” course. ALK hustled us. She told us she was not very good. Liar! She led through thirteen holes before JTH became very determined to defeat her. There was a little drama at the last hole but JTH wound up winning by three strokes, 55-52. It is worth mentioning that had we counted more than five strokes on hole three, ALK would have won. Handily.

-My final score, you ask? 62. In my defense, I had an additional obstacle. In addition to the wind, which threw all of our games off a little, my shorts kept falling down. It is a combination of weight loss and basketball shorts. (I’m okay with it.) It is far more difficult to putt while trying to keep your pants up. Also in my defense, I did not need more than five strokes for any hole and played very conservatively to keep this streak alive. Still, I admit that the kids behind us played better.

-We then drove to the Apple Barn Cider Mill & General Store. Not surprisingly, there was a wait. We sat in a gazebo and discussed plans for later in the evening. We perused brochures at the restaurant. There is actually a place called Parrot Mountain. I was shocked to learn that there was no option to shoot the birds. It seems like that would sell better in Pigeon Forge.

-We were seated on the restaurant's porch in swings. This is the first time we have eaten while seated in swings. JTH and ALK found that synchronized eating is far more difficult than you would think. We also learned an amazing fact about ALK on this night: she does not like apple butter! How is that possible? ALK’s dislike of apple butter meant there was more for JTH and I. I thought I liked apple butter until JTH ate it out of the ramican by itself!

-ALK also passed on the vegetable soup. Her explanation was that “I don’t like a lot of vegetables.” Both she and JTH ordered vegetable platters...

-Side story: While in the bathroom, JTH met a man who was bragging that he and his son were second generation Santa Clauses. I challenged him to smack the man and make a vague reference to Christmas 1987. He declined though we both thought it would be funny.

-We then planned on seeing a show. We considered Magic Beyond Belief. The fact that JTH had already been several times coupled with the $30 price tag deterred us. I then made a sacrifice for JTH. I agreed to consider going to The Comedy Barn.

-Based solely on their billboards, I am fundamentally opposed to The Comedy Barn. I took this photo while JTH investigated their pricing. You will note that they were offering a "relaxing foot massage" for a quarter. That should tell you the type of high class establishment we were dealing with. the show costs $25. The hotels in the area were advertising rooms for less than that. I was relieved when we opted to shop instead.

-At JTH's request, we went to an airbrush stand. JTH wanted a tacky souvenir. This would have done it. Had the people been able to draw us on the shirts, we would have bought one. Since they could not, again, it was not worth the money. We did consider investing in personalized headbands for $10 apiece for our church league basketball team. Again, $80 was not worth it. That was the theme of the night.

-Our next stop was the Z Buda Outlet Mall. ALK had mentioned that she had always wanted to go in Big Dogs. It is a clothing company and one of the most redneck places I have ever entered. I suspect that if you like Larry the Cable Guy, you will like this store.

-We embarrassed ALK by doing pull ups from the back of the stairs. When you embarrass someone at Big Dogs, it is time to leave. I was disappointed that the women’s brand was known as Lady Big Dog’s. I had a shorter name in mind...

-We then stopped by Shirt World (located at 2850 Parkway Store 12B). (Note: Do not read the store’s sign to fast.) It was owned by an Indian man (not Native American). We found that he was selling die-cast cars. We could not help but notice the similarities between he, JBT and MoFoS.

-Having had enough of Pigeon Forge, we returned to my house where we watched Definitely, Maybe on DVD. ALK wanted to see the movie. JTH and I had watched the film with JDM last June 25th. We liked the movie better the second time. For my initial review, see the June 26th, 2008 edition of “In Eckleburg’s Eyes”.

-Finally, it is worth noting that Attorney Stephen A. Burroughs has billboards in Pigeon Forge. This guy is everywhere.

In Eckleburg's Eyes - 3/20/2009, Part 1

News & Notes from Wednesday, March 18th, 2009, Part 1

-I spent Wednesday afternoon with KJW and RAW. As we were leaving their house to go lunch, KJW reprimanded her father, “Don’t say that word.” The word in question was “butt”. Naturally, RAW responded by repeatedly said the word.

-There was an also an excellent exchange between RAW and KJW when he referred to her as an “evil monkey” (a pet name). She responded, “I’m not an evil monkey.” He then asked, “What are you?” Her reply? “A scofflaw.” (RAW’s favorite word.) He was very proud.

-We took advantage of the beautiful day and took the scenic route to Lenoir City where we ate at Gerald’s Smokehouse. It was RAW’s first time there. He enjoyed the prime rib sandwich. He also enjoyed sneaking KJW’s fries. She did not mind. She interpreted it as her daddy “sharing”. It did not seem like a good day to correct her vocabulary. (Note: RAW styled KJW's hair. He wanted to put it in a ponytail but has yet to perfect this style.)

-RAW is well. Best Buy is slated for another corporate overhaul on April 6th and he is interested in seeing how this affects him, if at all. Our friend DBN is applying for the position of sales manager. Neither Knoxville store presently has a sales manager. That does not seem good. Please pray that DBN gets the position.

-After lunch we visited KLTW at the Fort Loudon Medical Center. I had never been there. The hospital is very nice. It should be. It is only four years old. Our visit was very brief as KLTW had work to do. KJW asked us where we were going. We told her we were going to take her home so that she could take a nap as aside from a brief rest in the car, she had not slept all day. Her response? “I’m not crying.”

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Associated Baptist Press - 3/19/2009

Associated Baptist Press
March 19, 2009 · (09-40)

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

In this issue
Groups oppose federal rule limiting books in prison chapels (406 words)
Baptists help hurting in aftermath of Alabama shooting spree (690 words)
Spankings of member's child earn Baptist pastor battery conviction (338 words)
Opinion: Global Baptists issue pledges at peace conference (675 words)

Groups oppose federal rule limiting books in prison chapels
By Bob Allen (406 words)

WASHINGTON (ABP) -- The Baptist Joint Committee for Religious Liberty is among several religious and civil-liberties groups objecting to proposed rules giving federal prisons more leeway to ban religious books that officials believe could incite violence or criminal behavior.

Two years ago, Congress passed a law that allows the Bureau of Prisons to restrict prison-library materials that "seek to incite, promote or otherwise suggest the commission of violence or criminal activity."

That was in response to an outcry over revelations that prison chaplains were purging from chapel libraries any materials not on a list of approved titles. Titles pulled from shelves included Code of Jewish Law by the medieval Jewish philosopher Maimonides and Rick Warren's The Purpose Driven Life.

Proposed changes to the prison bureau's regulations on religious beliefs and practices, however, would allow exclusion from chapel libraries materials that simply "could" incite, promote or suggest violence or crime.

Groups led by the American Civil Liberties Union said in public comments that broadening the standard from banning materials expressly intended to incite violence to banning anything that officials think might be disruptive "needlessly deprives prisoners of access to vital religious works."

They said such language could theoretically ban works including the Bible, because of Old Testament verses that call for sinners to be stoned, and Martin Luther King's Letter from Birmingham Jail, because it advocates disobeying unjust laws as a matter of civil disobedience.

The groups said the new regulations would violate the Second Chance Act, in which Congress clearly intended to limit prison-library censorship to a strict standard. The amended regulations also do not require prisons to notify prisoners when censorship occurs, which the complaint says violates due-process rights of both prisoners and publishers.

The regulations also are unclear about who is authorized to censor materials, raising the specter of those decisions being made by low-level administrators. The groups said new language should specify that any decisions about banning a book be made by senior officials in the Bureau of Prisons central office.

David Shapiro, staff attorney with the ACLU National Prison Project, said prison officials "need to follow the law, not engage in the business of banning religious material."

"Distributing and reading religious material is as protected under the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution as worshiping in churches or preaching from the pulpits," Shapiro said in a press release. "It is not the role of the government to dictate what is religiously acceptable."

Bob Allen is senior writer for Associated Baptist Press.

Baptists help the hurting in aftermath of Alabama shooting spree
By Grace Thornton (690 words)

SAMSON, Ala. (ABP) -- Baptists are reaching out in Samson, Ala., a normally sleepy town marred by violence March 10 when 28-year-old Michael McLendon allegedly went on a 10-victim killing spree before turning a gun on himself.

"For this small town to have that type of trauma, it's devastating and overwhelming for people," said Alisha Lewis, a counselor with Pathways Professional Counseling of the Alabama Baptist Children's Homes & Family Ministries.

Lewis said a tragedy like the shooting "hits even closer to home when you have a tight-knit community like this."

Lewis and her family live an hour away, but said Samson is like a second home to them. Her two kindergarten- and preschool-age daughters attend Samson Baptist Academy, where their father, Wade Lewis, is principal and minister of music at First Baptist Church.

In the hours and days after the shooting, Lewis made herself available to the community, offering counseling time to the local high school where one of the victims was a student and walking from local business to local business handing out her card.

She's talked with children, teens and adults who are carrying a lot of grief, fear and questions. "Here everybody knows everybody," she said. "They are really dealing hard with the killings. There are mixed emotions, anger and tears."

While there's not much physical evidence left of the shootings in the town of 2,000, where six of the 10 victims resided, Lewis said emotional scars will last for a long time.

"In terms of counseling, there will be a great need to follow up," she said. "Other people who are coming in to offer things now, it's so appreciated. But when they drive away, there will still be a lot of people who need help who are hurting."

When that happens, Lewis hopes they will pick up her Pathways card, see the Alabama Baptist Children's Homes logo and think, "I need to call this lady and get help."

That's the whole goal of the ministry, said Steve Sellers, church-relations manager for the chidren's homes. "Alabama Baptist Children's Homes responds to people in crises, whether that be a child or through Pathways," he said.

Sellers, along with ABCH Southeastern Regional Director Kim McGainey, also responded after the shootings, assisting First Baptist Church in Samson with a prayer service held March 11 for the broken community.

Wade Lewis led the crowd of about 300 in a "very worshipful, very moving song that brought peace to a lot of people," Sellers said. When an invitation was given at the end of the service, people flooded the altar.

Area pastors -- including First Baptist Pastor Sam Totten -- and counselors were there to minister to and talk with the people, too, and "just did an awesome job," Sellers said. He noted, "First Baptist Church, all the churches in the area and the [Geneva Baptist Association] director of missions responded in a tremendous way."

Other churches in the area, such as Ino Baptist Church in Kinston, Ala., held services and sought ways to minister to grieving families.

Brent Gay, pastor of Mount Pleasant Baptist Church in Samson, planned a prayer walk March 14 for people from his church and the Baptist College of Florida in nearby Graceville, Fla., to knock on doors and pray with the community. "We want to offer them a shoulder to cry on," said Gay, a senior at the college.

Lewis said it's a group effort that will continue. In the coming days, "We hope to keep helping hurting people to take care of themselves."

Police say McLendon, armed with an assault rifle, burned his mother's house down around her, shot his grandparents, aunt and uncle dead and then killed five more people, apparently at random, during a 24-mile shooting spree through the small towns of Kinston, Samson and Geneva, Ala. He then apparently killed himself at a factory where he used to work.

Alabama Gov. Bob Riley declared March 20, as a "Day of Prayer and Remembrance" for victims, families and South Alabama communities hurt by the deadly rampage.

The area is in the far southeast part of the state, near the Alabama-Florida border.

Grace Thornton is assistant editor of The Alabama Baptist, where this story originally appeared. Associated Baptist Press Senior Writer Bob Allen contributed to this story.

Spankings of member's child earn Baptist pastor battery conviction
By Bob Allen (338 words)

ELGIN, Ill. (ABP) -- A Chicago-area Baptist preacher avoided jail time after being found guilty of battery for spanking a girl he thought was lying about sexual abuse.

Daryl P. Bujak, 33, was sentenced to a year of supervision, 80 hours of community service and $350 in fines after his conviction of two counts of misdemeanor battery at a two-day bench trial that ended March 18. A judge cleared him of another charge of failing to report sexual abuse.

Police arrested Bujak in May 2006 for allegedly spanking a 12-year-old girl brought to him for counseling by parents who doubted her story that she was being sexually abused. Bujak, who also believed she was lying, is said to have beaten the girl with a piece of wooden molding hard enough to leave bruises and welts on her legs and buttocks.

According to media reports, Bujak, former pastor of First Missionary Baptist Church in Elgin, Ill., told Kane County Judge Allen Anderson he was "over his head" in trying to deal with allegations of sexual abuse.

During the trial the girl, now 16, testified that spankings were a regular part of weekly meetings with her pastor beginning in March 2005 after she gave her mother a note containing vague allegations of sexual abuse.

Police believed the girl's story, charging her stepfather, 33-year-old Matthew Resh, with five counts of predatory criminal sexual abuse on May 12, 2006. Resh, now 36, is awaiting trial on charges stemming from incidents alleged to have occurred between September 2003 and November 2005.

The judge rejected Bujak's claim that corporal punishment is not a crime if carried out with permission of the parents. But the magistrate also said it wasn't clear that the girl gave Bujak enough detail to put him in violation of a state law that requires clergy to report allegations of sexual abuse.

Bujak left First Missionary Baptist Church, described on its website as independent and "fundamental," in August 2008, but the reason reportedly had nothing to do with the battery case.

Bob Allen is senior writer for Associated Baptist Press.

Opinion: Global Baptists issue pledges at peace conference
By Ken Sehested (675 words)

(ABP) -- Gathering together from 59 different nations, representing many diverse communities throughout the world, more than 350 people came to Rome Feb. 9-14 to participate in the 2009 Global Baptist Peace Conference. We came together in the name of the God of peace, who in Christ is the foundation of justice and fulfillment of our peace, and whose Spirit invites us to be peacemakers in the world.

Our purpose was to teach and preach, learn and live -- the commitment to peace-building and justice-making that is at the heart of the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Together we shared in worship of the God who is our peace. There was joyous celebration, disturbing lament, and deep affirmation of our shared faith. Scripture was preached, and seeds were planted as a sign of our hope for peace.

Together we listened to stories of pain and violence, of tears and despair, of life and renewal, of harmony and hope. Amidst the recognition of the violence and brokenness that scars our world, testimony to the deeper power of God's redeeming and reconciling love was heard with joy.

Together we learned the practice of peacemaking. Rooted in theology and nurtured by the experience of participants from many different places and situations, food was shared for the continuing journey of conflict transformation..

In our meeting together we confessed and sought repentance for the part our own church communities have played in sustaining a culture of violence, and as God's forgiven people we celebrated our renewal for the task of peacemaking in the name of Christ.

Inspired by our work together and our witness to one another we made the following declarations, and call upon all our Baptist sisters and brothers to join us in the urgent gospel task of being justice-seekers and peacemakers in our world by making the same affirmations and commitments:

-- We affirm, as people of faith, our commitment to the role of the United Nations in resolving national and international disputes, and we oppose all acts of violence and aggression that ignore U.N. resolutions.

-- We affirm, as people of faith, our commitment to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and, believing that all are made in the image of God, urge that fundamental rights be respected and upheld by all peoples everywhere.

-- We recognize the reality of conflict between peoples of different faiths, and we commit to deepen mutual understanding and dialogue in a spirit of peace and goodwill.

-- We recognize the reality of ethnic and racial violence, and we commit to bring healing and reconciliation across the barriers of division.

-- We recognize the reality of poverty and oppression, and we commit to challenging the unjust social and economic structures that perpetuate inequality and destroy life.

-- We promise to seek God's kingdom, recognizing that this means caring for all those who are children and becoming as children ourselves.

-- We promise to seek God's kingdom, recognizing that this means rejecting the power structures of this world that hold the hidden seeds of conflict throughout the world.

-- We promise to seek God's kingdom, recognizing that this means opposing the particular forms of violence and discrimination that are inflicted upon women.

-- We will follow the way of peace through listening to the voices of the marginalized, including those who are refugees, asylum-seekers and migrants, and offering a welcome to those who are strangers in our midst.

-- We will follow the way of peace through our concern for the whole of creation, including the impact of climate change on our environment, and we will reject privatization that denies people access to basic needs, such as clean water.

In the midst of a world affected by violence, terror and division, let us stand together as those who have heard and answered the call of God, who wills justice and promises peace. Let us seek the joy of those who know the freedom that is found in Christ. Let us seek the hope that is the gift of the Spirit who unites us.

-- Ken Sehested is co-pastor at Circle of Mercy Congregation in Asheville, N.C.

Word of the Day - 3/19/2009


To canoodle is to caress, fondle, or pet amorously.

Abimelech discovered that Isaac and Rebekah were not brother and sister as they had claimed when he caught them canoodling.

It came about, when he had been there a long time, that Abimelech king of the Philistines looked out through a window, and saw, and behold, Isaac was caressing his wife Rebekah. (Genesis 26:8, NASB)

Note: This sketch of Isaac and Rebekah comes from the after workshop of Raphael Sanzio (1483-1520). It is owned by the Louvre.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Associated Baptist Press - 3/18/2009

Associated Baptist Press
March 18, 2009 · (09-39)

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

In this issue
Judge: Controversial home-school ruling hinged on mother's church (582 words)
Evangelical groups protest new religion law in Kyrgyz Republic (615 words)
Church arson investigation brings new charges against former pastor (320 words)
Opinion: Why I am a heretic (1,231 words)

Judge: Controversial home-school ruling hinged on mother's church
By Bob Allen (582 words)

RALEIGH, N.C. (ABP) -- A North Carolina judge, whose recent ruling that a home-schooling mother must send her three children to public school stirred national controversy, said in a written order March 17 that his decision was based largely on concern that the woman's church is a dangerous cult.

Controversy erupted after Wake County Judge Ned Mangum ruled in a divorce case March 6 that Venessa Mills of Raleigh, N.C., must stop home schooling her children and send them to public school.

A March 11 story on the conservative website quoted Mangum as saying the mother had done a good job at home schooling, but it is time for the children to have a "more well-rounded education" in public school.

The order outraged home-school advocates, who said it violated her parental rights.

A friend of the mother, and a home-schooling mother of four, started a website called Homeschool Injustice to urge supporters to pressure public officials to have Mangum removed from the case.

The story appeared in the Raleigh News & Observer, gained the attention of Focus on the Family's CitizenLink action center and earned a link in the March 13 Drudge Report.

The editor of the North Carolina Baptist newspaper weighed in March 12 with a blog saying the ruling "raises the warning hackles of home-schooling families the nation over."

"I am not one who sees the tentacles of government under every bed, but home schooling has been proven a solid, effective and character-building method of education for the past generation," wrote Biblical Recorder Editor Norman Jameson. Jameson said parents are the best judges of how to educate their children and described Mangum's order as "scary stuff."

In his written court order, however, the judge said the two parents disagree about the children's education, leaving it up to the court to decide what is in the best interest of the minors.

Mangum said Thomas and Venessa Mills were happily married for many years, but the relationship began to change in 2005 when she left the church they attended together to join the Sound Doctrine Church, a Washington state group that witnesses described in sworn affidavits as a "cult."

One witness, a former member of the Sound Doctrine Church, told the court the group is run by fear and manipulation and is not a healthy place for children to grow up.

An online tract for the Sound Doctrine Church says what most churches have is not love, but rather "a thin veneer of polished flattery and token socializing."

"In order for Jesus to give life to our Bible studies, we must allow him to drive nails into our hands and feet," wrote former Sound Doctrine pastor Timothy Williams. "We must permit our very hearts and lives to be taken. If you are not willing to allow this to happen concerning your understanding of the Bible -- indeed, in everything you think you understand -- then you will not enjoy the love at Sound Doctrine Church."

Robyn Williams, the blogger who worked to mobilize support for Venessa Mills, said the wording of the final order is "substantially different" from the judge's earlier verbal ruling and attempted to "destroy the character and credibility" of the mother.

"The whole order is blatantly intended to shift the focus away from the issues of justice regarding home schooling, financial support, and adultery -- and instead use 'shock and awe' tactics to pull attention into a mudslinging free-for-all against Venessa Mills' church and religious beliefs," Williams wrote.

Bob Allen is senior writer for Associated Baptist Press.

Evangelical groups protest new religion law in Kyrgyz Republic
By Bob Allen (615 words)

(ABP) -- Evangelical leaders in the Kyrgyz Republic are protesting a new religion law they say significantly restricts religious freedom in the officially secular country.

A new law, titled "On the Freedom of Worship and Religious Organizations," took effect Jan. 16. The measure's stated intent is to address concerns about terrorism and other illegal activity by groups posing as religious organizations.

The former Soviet republic's constitution provides for freedom of religion, and the government has largely avoided meddling in religious affairs since the Central Asian country -- formerly called Kyrgyzstan -- gained independence in 1991. In recent years, however, officials have begun to restrict radical Islamic groups considered to be threats to national security.

Evangelical leaders, however, say the law ostensibly aimed at curbing religious extremism goes too far in restricting legitimate religious freedom.

The Evangelical-Christian Churches of the Kyrgyz Republic released an open letter March 15 voicing concern about the new law. The coalition, which includes the Kyrgyz Union of Churches of Evangelical Christians-Baptists, said its members had repeatedly offered suggestions and proposals to government officials that were completely ignored in the new law.

The evangelical groups said the law infringes on religious liberty and contradicts the Kyrgyz Constitution. The leaders highlighted several concerns with the legislation. They include:

-- Its definition of rights and duties of local government to include ensuring "spiritual safety," a concept that evangelical leaders said is "too indistinct" and could open the door to excesses by local officials.

-- Its definition of a "sect" as a religious movement that separates from a confession for "reasons of dogma" in a way that "contradicts the interests of society." Evangelical leaders said the term "sect" has no place in a secular state and puts the government in the position of differentiating between legitimate and unacceptable doctrines.

-- Its ban on the involvement of children in religious organizations. Evangelical leaders said that is the same tactic used during Soviet times to forbid children of believing parents from attending church services, robbing children of religious freedom and denying parents the right to bring up their children according to their beliefs.

-- Its ban on "persistent activities directed at the conversion of believers from other faiths (proselytism)." Evangelical leaders said that flatly contradicts the Kyrgyz Constitution, which says the government will establish no state religion and that individual liberties include the right to change one's religion or belief.

-- Its increase from 10 to 200 the number of members that a religious body must have before it can be officially registered. Evangelical leaders said that, in the past, it was difficult even to ask 10 people to publicly state their creed, because it made them subject to difficulties. Increasing that figure, they said, will make it impossible for many Kyrgyz religious organizations to register and operate legally.

In its current form, evangelical leaders said the law will "cause tension and conflict in local situations," put the republic behind other nations in church-state relations and make it harder for religious organizations to gain or retain registration.

Bordering China in Central Asia, the Kyrgyz Republic is roughly the size of South Dakota. About 80 percent of its 5.3 million citizens are Muslim. Estimates of the Russian Orthodox population range from 11 percent to as low as 8 percent. A small Protestant population includes 48 registered Baptist churches, according to the United States State Department.

Islam is practiced widely in both urban and rural areas around the country, while Orthodoxy is predominantly practiced in Kyrgyz cities with larger ethnic Russian populations. Tensions exist in some rural areas between conservative Muslims and foreign Christian missionaries, as well as members of traditionally Muslim ethnic groups who convert to another religion.

Bob Allen is senior writer for Associated Baptist Press.

Church arson investigation brings new charges against former pastor
By Bob Allen (320 words)

BELTON, S.C. (ABP) -- A Southern Baptist pastor accused of setting fire to his own church March 8 now faces additional charges of breach of trust and filing a false police statement.

On March 13, sheriff's deputies in South Carolina charged Christopher Patrick Daniels, 40, with making a false report about vandalism at Blue Ridge Baptist Church in Belton, S.C., where he was pastor, the Anderson, S.C., Independent-Mail reported March 16.

The newspaper quoted deputies as saying that Daniels filed four incident reports with the Anderson County Sheriff's Office claiming gang-related vandalism at the church between Dec. 13 and Jan. 23.

Television station WYFF-4 in nearby Greenville, S.C. reported that investigators say the church was vandalized once by someone else in December before Daniels called in four more reports of vandalism, each time filing an insurance claim.

On March 12 the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division announced an additional charge against Daniels of breach of trust with fraudulent intent, a felony punishable by up to 10 years in prison. The arrest warrant said Daniels received more than $5,000 belonging to the church for his personal use between Jan. 6 and March 9 of this year.

The new charges are on top of a charge of second-degree arson, a crime that carries a sentence of up to 25 years.

Police arrested Daniels after he reported that he unlocked the church March 8 and found it filled with smoke. It was determined early that the fire was intentionally set after investigators found evidence they said pointed to Daniels.

As of March 16, Daniels was being held at the Anderson County Detention Center in lieu of bonds totaling $40,000, according to the Independent-Mail.

Blue Ridge Baptist Church, formerly known as Triangle Baptist Church, was reportedly Daniels' first congregation, and he had been there less than a year. The church, formed in 1900, is affiliated with the Southern Baptist and South Carolina Baptist conventions.

Bob Allen it is senior writer for Associated Baptist Press.

Opinion: Why I am a heretic
By Miguel De La Torre (1,231 words)

(ABP) -- Yes, I am a heretic -- but then, I'm getting ahead of myself.

As some of you might remember, I recently wrote what turned out to be the most controversial column in the history of Associated Baptist Press. It was based on one of the most difficult passages in the New Testament -- the Gospel story of Jesus calling a woman from another culture a "dog."

Yes, I know that Jesus and the Canaanite woman both probably had the same skin pigmentation. I used the modern label "woman of color" to describe the woman because the Jews of that time thought of themselves as superior to the Canaanites, much the same way some in the dominant culture look down at people of color in today's society.

Not only did it inspire what turned out to be -- by far -- the longest comment thread ever on ABP's site, but it also inspired quite a bit of conversation in the Baptist blogosphere. While, as an educator, there are few things I desire to do more than generate conversation, much of it, in this case, was bombastic.

I was accused, in the story's comment section alone, of "reprehensible" theology, of spouting "theologically dishonest trash," of dragging Jesus Christ into the gutter" and of being "a thorough-going pagan who has no relationship with Jesus." And that was just in the first six of 45 comments!

It was as if I was being called a "dog" (sorry - I couldn't resist the irony).

As I read everything people said about me, I did agree with one accusation I saw repeated several times: that I am a heretic. I am a heretic because I read Scripture for what it says, not what I want it to say. (Never thought being literal would get me into trouble with conservatives and fundamentalists -- go figure..) Scripture states, plainly, that Jesus called this woman a "dog."

Now, to be sure, mine was a "non-traditional" interpretation of this passage. Traditionally -- or, at least, in the 30 or 40 years since white American evangelicals have come to the consensus that racial and ethnic prejudice is sinful -- evangelicals have dispatched with the passage by saying Jesus was simply being sarcastic in calling the Canaanite woman a "dog."

I acknowledge that this is certainly a legitimate way to approach the text. But I don't think the way I approached the text is any less legitimate, nor does my approach take the text less seriously than the "traditional" interpretation. No matter how much we try to explain the passage away, a plain reading of it remains problematic.

And, if you actually read the column carefully, you'll notice I never said Jesus was a racist or a sinner. I simply raised the question. But at the very least, he was tempted, as he was in the desert and as he was in Gethsemane.

Many also thought I was being heretical by implying that Jesus learned something from the Canaanite woman's persistence in demanding aid from him. But do the Gospels themselves not tell us that the fully human Jesus, as he grew into his divinity, "increased in wisdom and stature and favor with God" (Luke 2:52)?

We Christian heretics struggle with Scripture and, if need be, reject passages that are in contradiction to the Gospel message. These are passages like the ones about smashing babies' heads against rocks (Ps. 137:9); today we call that "crimes against humanity." Or the ones with instructions on how to set up a harem (Lev. 18:18); my wife won't let me be that biblical. Or even the ones ordering God's people to put disrespectful teenagers to death (Lev. 20:9), although, as the father of two teenagers, I am often tempted to take this passage literally. Note: I'm using humor here.

So what do we do with biblical passages that seem to run counter to the Gospel message of salvation and liberation? We do what Jesus did.

In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus reinterprets the Hebrew Scriptures to bring them in line with the Gospel message, clearly telling his followers to reject those passages that bring subjugation or death to others. Specifically, Jesus said in Matthew: "You heard that it was said, 'An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.' But I say to you, do not resist evil, but whoever strikes you on your right cheek, turn to him the other (Matt. 5:38-39)." According to Jesus, the biblical mandate of Exodus 21:24, which literally calls for "an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth," had to be rejected by his followers. In short, Jesus is calling his disciples to renounce a segment of Scripture (a-HA! - this might help me deal with the book of Joshua).

We Christian heretics are those who are thrown to the lions because we refuse to place God and Caesar on the same level. The early martyrs of the faith were persecuted for being "atheists" who refused to believe in Caesar's religion. They recognize that they couldn't serve both God and mammon, for they would end up loving one and hating the other.

Likewise, today's Christian heretics prophesy against a Christianity that fails to challenge our privileged position, but rather justifies the American empire. (So how close is the American flag to the altar in your church?).

We Christian heretics believe the Word of God is inerrant; however, we believe the interpretations given by humans to God's Word are not. Whether they are conservative or liberal, American or liberationist, all interpretations fall short of the glory of God. And if you come across anyone who has Scripture or God all figured out, I suggest that you hold your wallet and soul tightly -- for you are at risk of losing one, if not both.

Just as the religious leaders of Jesus' time crucified him on the charge of blasphemy (Matt. 26:65), so would today's Pharisees crucify him again if given an opportunity. Why? Because they would not recognize him among the dogs he hangs out with, nor would he them (Matt. 7:21-23).

So, yes, I am unapologetically a Christian heretic.

Although I am no Christ, I follow his footsteps with all my heart and mind, using his own form of heresy as my model. Maybe this is how we discover our salvation, through a heresy that refuses to fuse and confuse the interpretations of the American empire with the Word of God.

Now you have to forgive me -- for I am, after all, an ordained Southern Baptist preacher who received his Southern Baptist Theological Seminary diploma from the hands of Bro. Al Mohler himself -- But altar calls are automatic with me. I know most of us have given our hearts to Jesus; now I ask if we are willing to walk down the aisle and give our minds to Jesus. This means that we are willing to read, to question, to wrestle, to struggle, and even to confess we don't have all the answers (and maybe not even some of the answers).

The good news is that Jesus is not afraid of our honest inquiry. He is also patient when we get it wrong (and we all do). The real question here today is if you are willing to be the sister or brother in Christ of a heretic dog like me?

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

Prayer Blog - 3/18/2009

Today, I had another conversation with Doug Smith, the chairman of the Pastoral Search Committee at Rutledge Baptist Church. I will meet with Smith and the entire search committee (comprised of four people) next Thursday night (March 26th) at 6:30 PM in Rutledge. Continue to keep this church and my potential involvement with it in your prayers.

WAM Quote of the Day - 3/18/2009

Tonight at 6:54 PM, I received the following text from WAM. Keep in mind, it was the first text I had received from him all day:

“A rainbow has 2 ends, wall street on one D.C. on the other. Too bad they both hate, loathe, and distrust the other IN PUBLIC and LOVE each other in PRIVATE.”: -&”

I will let this one speak for itself. I got nothing.

Note: This cartoon of WAM was created by

Word of the Day - 3/18/2009


Asthenia is the lack or loss of strength; weakness.

After Delilah had Samson's hair cut, Samson suffered complete asthenia.

She made him sleep on her knees, and called for a man and had him shave off the seven locks of his hair. Then she began to afflict him, and his strength left him. (Judges 16:19, NASB)

Note: This oil on wood of Samson being betrayed by Delilah was painted by Rembrandt Harmenszoon van Rijn (1606–1669).

In Eckleburg's Eyes - 3/18/2009

News & Notes from Monday-Tuesday, March 16th-17th, 2009

-On Monday afternoon, I got to chauffeur my cousin HANJ to the Tennessee Valley Eye Center and McGhee Tyson Airport. I was pleased as I had not gotten to see her much on her brief visit from Abilene. (This is photo was taken on front of my cousin’s home. My home looks very similar this week with countless workers in the neighborhood.)

-We had some time to kill before her flight, so I stopped at the Applebees by the airport. I learned that for the foreseeable future she will be living in Abilene or Rapid City as these are the only two places in the country that house B-1 Bombers, which her husband flies.

-On Monday night, JTH and I ate at the Cracker Barrel. I ordered my usual meal there - Chicken n Dumplins with sides of dumplins and dumplins. This may be the most unhealthy combination imaginable but I love it. We had an unbelievably good waitress named Brianna. She works Sunday-Tuesday. We assured her we would be back. (Note: This is the OCD version of this game.)

-When we checked out, we were pleased to see our old friend BC behind the counter. If you know BC, I know what you are thinking. She correctly processed our bill.

-We then returned to my house where we watched the WWE’s presentation of RAW. It had been a long time since either of us had watched wrestling but I had heard rumors that the Von Erich family would be announced as inductees to the WWE Hall of Fame. The show was being filmed in Texas and it seemed natural that the announcement would be made there. It was not. There has been speculation that the weekend death of former WWE performer Andrew “Test” Martin contributed to the delayed announcement.

-Despite the absence of the Von Erichs, we enjoyed talking together. We also got to see an old school jobber match. The jobber in question was Dolph Ziggler (pictured). note: A jobber is a wrestler whose primary function is losing to better-known wrestlers.

-Most importantly, on Monday I had my first interview with Rutledge Baptist Church. See this Prayer Blog post for details.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Word of the Day - 3/17/2009


To descry is to see (something unclear or distant) by looking carefully; discern; espy.

While Jesus' trial was being held, one of the servant girls of the high priest descried Peter as one of his associates as he sat in the courtyard.

and seeing Peter warming himself, she looked at him and said, "You also were with Jesus the Nazarene." (Mark 14:67, NASB)

Peter famously denied her identification.

Note: This on canvas of Peter denouncing Christ was painted by Rembrandt Harmenszoon van Rijn (1606-1669).

Monday, March 16, 2009

Associated Baptist Press - 3/16/2009

Associated Baptist Press
March 16, 2009 · (09-38)

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

In this issue
Widow of slain pastor says she isn't angry at accused killer (382 words)
Church gathers for worship week after pastor slain (640 words)
Slain Baptist pastor hailed as hero, martyr (729 words)
Gift of $2 million to fund new chapel on Central Seminary campus (409 words)

Widow of slain pastor says she isn't angry at accused killer
By Bob Allen (382 words)

MARYVILLE, Ill. (ABP) -- The widow of slain Baptist pastor Fred Winters says she harbors no anger toward her husband's alleged murderer.

"I do not have any hatred or even hard feelings toward him," Cindy Winters said March 16 on the CBS Early Show. "We have been praying for him."

She said one of the first things her daughter said after the attack was that she hoped the accused gunman, 27-year-old Terry Sedlacek, would somehow come to "love Jesus" because of the experience.

"We are not angry at all," Winters said.

She said she does not have any opinion about what should happen to Sedlacek in the legal system but she hopes that he "finds peace with God."

"I hope that he understands that God loves him in spite of his sin, and he can have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ."
Winters said she and her daughters are holding up well under the circumstances. "I think I'm a great example that prayer works," she said.

Winters said she did not know Sedlacek and had never seen him before, but now she would like to reach out to his parents.

"In some way we have been united through this crisis, and when they are ready I have a desire to meet them and let them know personally that I love them and in some way I feel their pain. I feel like we're united together in our pain."

"The way I was comforted by others, I have a desire to comfort them."

Winters said she is grateful that neither she nor either of her daughters was in the early service March 8 during the attack. She said she attends the second of the church's three regular morning worship services and had not yet left home. Her older daughter was at church, but helping out in the nursery.

"None of us, fortunately, were in the service to experience what happened, and I am so grateful to God for that," she said.

She also said she knows that coping with her loss is going to be a long process. "I know that the same way God got me through last Sunday, he's going to get me through the next week and he is going to get me through the next 10 years," she said.

Bob Allen is senior writer for Associated Baptist Press.

Church gathers for worship week after pastor slain
By Bob Allen (640 words)

MARYVILLE, Ill. (ABP) -- One of a select fraternity of pastors who has experienced a church shooting consoled and challenged an Illinois Baptist congregation one week after its popular pastor was fatally shot while preaching his Sunday sermon..

"You are the most prayed-for church in all of Christendom this morning," Al Meredith, pastor of Wedgwood Baptist Church in Fort Worth, Texas, told worshipers in one of three morning worship services March 15 at First Baptist Church in Maryville, Ill.

Meredith delivered the sermon from the pulpit where 45-year-old Pastor Fred Winters' life was cut short March 8, when Terry Joe Sedlacek, 27, of nearby Troy, Ill., killed Winters with a gunshot wound to the heart. No motive for the shooting has been revealed, but Sedlacek's family claims he is mentally ill.

Meredith's church suffered similar violence nearly a decade ago, when 47-year-old Larry Gene Ashbrook interrupted a youth prayer service with gunfire that killed seven and wounded seven others. Meredith warned the Illinois congregation it is "heading into uncharted waters" in dealing with the aftermath of the tragedy. He said the old hymn line, "every day with Jesus is sweeter than the day before" is "baloney."

"Every day with Jesus is not sweeter than the day before," he said. "Some days are evil days, and last Sunday was an evil day."
Still, he said, the message of the gospel is, "there is hope in this violent world."

"That's why the media are so eager to hear your story, because it's so unique," he said. "We live in a hopeless world."

Describing in detail events of Sept. 15, 1999, that turned Wedgwood Baptist Church into "a killing field for a hopeless madman," Meredith said one question asked during an initial press conference was if there is anywhere in society that is safe.

"Of course not," Meredith said. "We live in a hostile world. The only real place of safety is in the center of God's will." But even that, he said, does not guarantee against untimely death.

Another question Meredith said he received was, "where was God?" when the shooting took place.

"God is exactly were he was when his own dear son was cruelly tortured and murdered," he said. "He is a parent who knows what it's like to lose his only son."

Meredith said God is in control and gives Christians who struggle the ability to get through when they need it.

He also said there are members of his church who are still having counseling nearly 10 years after the tragedy. He warned the Maryville congregation to reach out for help and avoid the "phoniness" of claiming "victory in Jesus" and going it alone.
"Get help from the body of Christ," he advised. "We are still struggling."

Meredith said the Wedgwood tragedy gave him numerous opportunities to share a Christian witness through the mass media.

"God has given us hope and peace in the face of life's worst tragedies," he said. "God gives a peace that the world doesn't understand."

On the other hand, Meredith said, tragedy can cause doubt.
"Faith is not having no doubts," he said. "In fact, faith necessitates doubt."

It's one thing to believe in God when everything makes sense, he said. It's when "God pushes into the abyss where it doesn't make sense" that faith comes into play.

"You don't really have faith until you're pushed beyond your controls," Meredith said. "Most of you are control freaks, and you want to have all your ducks in a row, and last week your ducks all fell apart."

Meredith challenged the Maryville congregation "it is time to put up or shut up" about their faith.

"You are what you are under pressure," he said. "If you squeeze an orange, you don't get Dr Pepper.... When you're squeezed, what's on the inside is what comes out."

Bob Allen is senior writer for Associated Baptist Press.

Slain Baptist pastor hailed as hero, martyr
By Bob Allen (729 words)

MARYVILLE, Ill. (ABP) -- A fellow pastor and former church member hailed slain Baptist preacher Fred Winters as a "hero and a martyr" at a memorial service at First Baptist Church of Maryville, Ill., March 13.

"I believe with all my heart Pastor Fred died as a hero and a martyr," Tim Cowin, pastor of the The Rock Church in nearby St. Louis, said of his friend of more than 20 years, who was struck down by a gunman's bullet while preaching from the same pulpit March 8.

Without going into detail Cowin said, "Because Fred acted last Sunday, many lives were spared."

"A martyr is a person who is killed for his faith," Cowin said, adding that Winters "died the way he lived his life, in the midst of service to his King Jesus."

Cowin said a martyr is also someone whose death is a witness to the Christian faith.

Cowin said he does not know why God would allow his friend to die, but that already God was using the tragedy to "raise people to a higher level" of Christian witness.

Winters' widow, Cindy, said she met her future husband when she was 14. "We grew older together, but he never grew up," she said of the fun-loving pastor, husband and father.

She said Winters used to leave chocolate for her in her purse and at night would snuggle with her and ask how he could pray for her.

"He loved being a pastor," she told a packed sanctuary. "He had a pastor's heart. When you hurt, he hurt. When you were happy, he was happy."

"I never heard him once get sick of it," she said. "He loved you guys, and he would be proud of you."

She said Winters would be angry if people put too much attention on him. "The best way we can honor him is by honoring God," she said.

"Fred and I have been talking a lot about how God is on the verge of doing incredible things through this congregation," she said.

"Satan knew it, too, but nothing's changed."

"I refuse to let Satan win," she said. "He's not going to steal my joy. He's not going to steal my passion. I'm not going to hate, and I want to carry out the mission of this church."

"I'm not going to survive this thing," she said. "I'm going to become a better person because of this thing."

Fred Winters was born Dec. 4, 1963, in Kansas City, Mo., and felt the call to ministry while in high school. He and Cindy Lee Jackson were married in 1987. They have two daughters, Alysia, 13, and Cassidy, 11.

He graduated from Southwest Baptist University in 1985 and earned a master's degree from Wheaton Graduate School in 1987. He earned a master of divinity degree from Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in 1991 and went on to receive a doctor of ministry degree from Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.

Winters came to First Baptist Church in Maryville when the church consisted of just a few families. Today membership has grown to 1,400 and a weekly average of 1,200 people attend worship services. In 2007 Fred and Cindy Winters celebrated both 20 years of marriage and 20 years of service at First Baptist Church.

Adam Cruise, a former staff member at First Baptist Church in Maryville who now leads a church of his own, told mourners that his mentor would not want his death to result in discouragement or defeat. Rather he borrowed an illustration from a World War II story -- something that Winters often did -- to challenge the church to carry on its mission.

"Let the future generation of First Baptist Church, Maryville, look back on this generation and this moment and say this was our finest hour," he said.

Terry Sedlacek, the 27-year-old gunman charged with murder and aggravated battery in Winters' death, was released March 12 from the hospital where he was treated for self-inflicted stab wounds. When they searched his home in nearby Troy, Ill., police seized a planning calendar with March 8 marked "death day."

Cindy Winters read a message from her daughters at the memorial service saying "it was not death day for my daddy" but rather "the best day of his life."

"On Sunday my husband did not die," Winters said. "He just simply got a promotion."

Bob Allen is senior writer for Associated Baptist Press.

Gift of $2 million to fund chapel for new Central Seminary campus
By Robert Marus(409 words)

SHAWNEE, Kan. (ABP) -- Central Baptist Theological Seminary will be able to build a chapel on its new Shawnee, Kan., campus thanks to a $2 million gift from a prominent Baptist family foundation.

The John and Eula Mae Baugh Foundation of San Antonio pledged the money toward the seminary's $8 million "Cultivating Excellence" campaign, school officials announced March 12. The gift from the foundation -- which has provided support to several moderate and progressive Baptist organizations, including Associated Baptist Press -- brings total pledges in the campaign to $6.2 million.

It will fund Central's proposed Baugh-Marshall Chapel. The building's name follows Baugh Foundation practice in memorializing the charity's founders and honoring the president of the institution to which the building is donated, in this case Central President Molly Marshall.

"I am humbled by the generosity of the Baugh family," Marshall said, according to a school press release. "The prospect of having my name linked with theirs is a signal honor for me."

In a move designed to cut high maintenance costs, the 107-year-old seminary announced in 2006 that it would sell sell its historic campus in nearby Kansas City, Kan. It purchased and remodeled a former church facility in Kansas City's fast-growing southwestern suburbs, turning it into classroom, office and library space. The chapel will provide dedicated worship and meeting space on the Shawnee campus.

Other portions of the capital campaign include endowing faculty chairmanships, upgrading Central's library, providing housing for international students and visiting scholars and expanding the school's technological capabilities.

"With this pledge, every component of the campaign has received a pledge," said the seminary statement. "In the current financial climate it truly is an amazing gift and a wonderful affirmation of the mission of Central."

School officials indicated construction on the Baugh-Marshall Chapel would begin this summer or fall. Spokesperson Robin Sandbothe said March 16 that architectural renderings were not yet available for the building because "before this gift, we didn't know we'd get to begin building it so soon."

The seminary has, historically, been affiliated with the American Baptist Churches USA. While it remains so, Central describes itself as also being "in full support of the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship." The school has hosted increasing numbers of students from moderate Southern Baptist backgrounds in recent years as fundamentalists solidified control at the official Southern Baptist divinity schools, including Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Kansas City, Mo.

Central also includes students from approximately 20 other denominational backgrounds.

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

Prayer Blog - 3/16/2009, #2

Tonight I had my first interview with Doug Smith, the chairman of the Pastoral Search Committee at Rutledge Baptist Church. I really enjoyed our discussion and I will have a second meeting with the entire search committee next week. I learned that the church had been disbarred from its local Baptist Association for featuring women deacons. I really, really want this job. Please keep the church and my potential involvement with it in your prayers.

Prayer Blog - 3/16/2009

Tonight I talked to my maternal grandmother MEHV on the phone. She requested prayer as arthritis in her knees has severely slowed her already limited mobility. Please keep my grandmother in your prayers.

Separated at Birth?

Tonight JTH and I watched the WWE’s presentation of RAW as I had heard rumors that the Von Erich family would be announced as inductees to the WWE Hall of Fame. While the Von Erichs were not announced, WWE Hall of Famer Roddy Piper (left) did make an appearance. Both JTH and I felt that he currently resembles Michael J. Fox. Sadly, the physical effects of Parkinson’s Disease do not appear that much different than a career in professional wrestling.

Word of the Day - 3/16/2009


A cachet is an official seal, as on a letter or document.

Judah realizes that he is the father of his daughter-in-law Tamar's child when she presents his cachet. (Genesis 38)

He said, "What pledge shall I give you?" And she said, " Your seal and your cord, and your staff that is in your hand." So he gave them to her and went in to her, and she conceived by him. (Genesis 38:18, NASB)

Note: This oil on canvas of Judah and Tamar was painted by Emile-Jean-Horace Vernet (1789-1863) in 1840. It part of the Wallace Collection in London.

In Eckleburg's Eyes - 3/16/2009, Part 4

News & Notes from Sunday, March 15th, 2009

-I had one goal for Sunday: to not leave the house. Mission accomplished.

-Since I was not going anywhere, my friends came to me. JTH, ALK, and I watched the Tennessee basketball team play in the SEC championship game. The Vols had not won the SEC Tournament since 1979. They may never get a better chance to win it either. (Note: This is ALK's feet while wrestling with JTH. You will note the half-socks she is wearing.)

-Mississippi State defeated the Vols 64-61. It was the most frustrating Tennessee game I have seen and that says a lot this year. The Vols had two possessions in the final seconds in which they could take the lead. Not only did they not score, but turned the ball over before they took a shot. The only positive thing I can say about watching the game was that Verne Lundquist did not reference Tim Tebow, a feat I did not think was possible. If you don’t think Lundquist could not focus on Tebow during a UT-MSU basketball game, you have not heard Lundquist.

-While we watched the game downstairs, my mother held a baby shower for my cousin HANW upstairs. HANW is due on May 11th. The baby girl will be named Mikayla. Mikayla racked up on this day.

-It was good seeing all four of my cousins. HANJ flew in from Abilene, Texas, and ACN was home on spring break from UMass. Her flight from Atlanta the previous night had been cancelled and she was forced to miss her sister’s final big dance performance the night before. We have not yet forgiven Delta.

-After disbanding for the afternoon, JTH and ALK returned to my house where we watched the Comedy Central Roast of Larry the Cable Guy. While none of us is an especially big fan of Larry the Cable Guy we enjoyed the show, which we watch annually. It is ordinarily a guilty pleasure, but when Larry the Cable Guy is involved, it is a very guilty pleasure.

In Eckleburg's Eyes - 3/16/2009, Part 3

News & Notes from Saturday, March 14th, 2009

-I spent Saturday with my family. I ate breakfast with my parents at Shoney’s. I convinced my mother DLNV to go without makeup. She worried about her appearance throughout the meal. Yes, I reminded her that she was at Shoney’s. I also showed great restraint by not taking a picture for the blog.

-My parents and I went to the 2 PM performance of the Tennessee Children’s Dance Ensemble (TCDE) at the Clarence Brown Theatre. On the way, my mother needed to stop by both Food City and Kroger for a shower she was throwing the following day. I no longer ask questions like “Why exactly do we need to stop at two grocery stores?” That shows growth.

-This is the eight straight year we have gone to the TCDE watching the careers of my cousins ACN and HLN. As HLN graduates this year, it will be our last year. My cousin HANW is pregnant with a girl and we all suspect that we will be going to see Mikayala dance one day. (This is HLN pictured with the company’s two other seniors, Caroline Bibb and
Hannah Myers.)

-The venue was very different this year. Due to the Clarence Brown Theatre being smaller than in the past, the girls presented six shows in two days. They performed three times for local schools as well as three for the general public. I cannot imagine how exhausted they must have been. The group was clearly cutting costs as my dad and I were told that we could only get one program between us because we constituted a “group”. Really?

-Attendance was down due to it being the first weekend of Spring Break and the Tennessee basketball game tipping shortly after the show started. The big show was later in the night. As such, this was the first time we had seen the show without HLN’s family. We watched with ECD and MCVD, my aunt and uncle. Yes, I missed the first half of the semifinals of the SEC Tournament. If there was any doubt, I love my cousin.

-The show was good as usual. I thought the costumes were especially good this year and not just because my aunt is one of the primary seamstresses. I was disappointed that “The Limelight” was not on the bill. When I can name their routines, I have probably seen them one too many times...

-I did manage to get home in time to watch the second half of the Tennessee basketball game. The Vols beat Auburn 94-85 to advance to the finals of the conference tournament for the first time since 1991. I was especially pleased with Wayne Chism and not for his career-high 27 points and nine rebounds. I was happier that when asked his motivation for the game, he said that Auburn “ bogarted us the last time we played them.” Well played, sir.

In Eckleburg's Eyes - 3/16/2009, Part 2

News & Notes from Friday, March 13th, 2009, Part 2

-On Friday night, after briefly visiting JTH at MoFoS, KJW, MPW, RAW and I watched the Tennessee basketball team play its first game in the SEC Tournament. We watched the game at MPW’s condo. RAW and I arrived before MPW, who was running late after eating with KL and her parents. MPW invited us to shimmy the lock as he insisted it was weak. That seemed like a B & E charge waiting to happen so KJW, RAW, and I waited in his car.

-The Vols played Alabama, who had defeated them on Sunday in Knoxville. Naturally, the inconsistent Vols played great and won 86-62 in an impressive dunk fest. It was their largest SEC Tournament victory margin since 1949.

-KJW ate throughout the game. RAW would chew pretzels into shapes of letters and numbers and KJW correctly identified them all. I was impressed. Later, we gave her a Twizzler. We were wondering whether the candy was cherry or strawberry so we asked KJW what it tasted like. Her answer: “Red.” Fair enough.

-KJW was occupied most of the night, which allowed us to watch the game. Most of the night, she was busy positioning bags of shredded paper throughout the house. (MPW had shredded documents earlier in the week. I think he just wanted to use his paper shredder.) After KL arrived, KJW played with her on the computer. This produced the following dialogue:
KJW (pointing to snot she had deposited on KL’s computer chair): “Ooh look!”
KL: What is that?”
KJW: “A booger.”
KL: “Go get Matt to give you a tissue?”
KJW: “No thanks.”

-KJW also tried to pants KL at one point in the evening. I love that kid.

-Despite KJW’s usual preciousness, KLTW phoned in the story of the night. While working at Morristown-Hamblen hospital, a pregnant woman asked KLTW if an ultrasound could determine the sex of her baby. When KLTW learned the woman was 16-18 weeks pregnant, she informed the woman that at twenty weeks the baby’s sex could be more accurately determined. The woman then asked if the ultrasound could identify the race of the baby! For the record, no, an ultrasound cannot predict race.

-Finally, Friday, was the 31st birthday of my West High School bud JECL. Happy birthday, Elaine! I miss you.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Prayer Blog - 3/15/2009, #2

Tomorrow would have been my grandmother Mary Louise Jones Nodell's 95th birthday. It is the first time her birthday has passed since her death last May 3rd. Please pray for my family, especially my mother DLNV, tomorrow.

Prayer Blog - 3/15/2009

Tomorrow, my cousins will be traveling. Most of the family will be driving to Baltimore where my cousin HLN will be attending Goucher College. Meanwhile, my cousin HANJ flies back to her home in Abilene, Texas. Please pray for safe travel, that the family receives additional financial aid from Goucher, and that I remember to chauffeur HANJ to the airport.

Separated at Birth?

Does anyone else think that Connecticut Senator Joe Lieberman (left) resembles Conrad Bain (the dad from television’s Diff'rent Strokes)? (Note: Conrad Bain is the Caucasian male in the photo.)