Heart Murmur

Yesterday, the doctor noticed that Alora had a slight heart murmur. We are not sure if it is serious or not. According to the Nemours Foundation, most murmers are not a cause for concern and do not affect a child's health, but there is also the possibilty that Alora could have a congenital heart defect. Whatever the case, we are trusting the Lord to take care of Alora. Would you please join us in praying for Alora and this situation? All of your prayers would be most appreciated. I will update everyone as soon as we have more information.



In a recent editorial for Relevent Magazine, Whiting Out Our Sins: Banned Books, Kristen McCarty writes the following:
There are children who grow up in happy homes, untouched by abuse or tragedy. They have both a mother and father who love them. They have enough to eat every night and have friends at school. Perhaps they've never been exposed to racism or poverty. I was one of those kids, and I'm so thankful to have had the childhood I did. But many of my friends and schoolmates did not. Lyndon B. Johnson once made the claim, “Books and ideas are the most effective weapons against intolerance and ignorance.” I know that in my own childhood and young adulthood, reading books...shaped and changed me. They gave me pictures of what other lives drastically different from my own looked like. They helped me to form empathy for the pain of others and tools for relating to those I had nothing in common with. It's sad and a little bit scary to think that if some people had their way, those books would never have been available to me to read in my school or neighborhood library.
After reading this editorial, I began to have a lot of questions in regard to censorship: When is censorship helpful? When is censorship harmful? Can we ever be truly consistent in regard to censorship? Although I have began to formulate answers to these questions, I still have a long way to go in my thoughts. Yet, one thing has become clear to me: Censorship comes from all sides. People want to censor the things that they disagree with, while calling for "no censorship" in regard to things they affirm.

Just to add to the discussion you may want to check out the
Banned Books Week, which is sponsored by American Library Association. The Banned Books Week "celebrates the freedom to choose or the freedom to express one’s opinion even if that opinion might be considered unorthodox or unpopular and stresses the importance of ensuring the availability of those unorthodox or unpopular viewpoints to all who wish to read them. After all, intellectual freedom can exist only where these two essential conditions are met."

So, what are your thoughts on censorship? Do you agree with the stance of the ALA regarding censorship? How should Christians respond to censorship issues involving tough issues such as pornography, etc? Let's join in on this conversation together. Post your thoughts in the comment section.


51 Churches

Sorry that it has been a while since I posted, but Amy, Alora, and I were visiting my family for most of last week, and I didn't feel like using my parents dial-up internet service. (It is horribly slow and frustrating.) Anyway, while eating at my Grandfather's house, I noticed a newspaper clipping on the refrigerator. The clipping was a "letter to the editor" from a man who was currently in a local jail. In the letter, the man explained that he was in jail because he had lost his job and was unable to pay child support. While he has been serving time, has been writing letters to different churches in order to ask them for prayer and advice. Yet, out of the 51 letters letters that he sent, only one pastor took the time to write him back. After thanking the pastor who responded to his letter, the man asked, "What has happened to our churches?" I believe the man has a very good question, though I am sure that many of the churches were unaware that the man tried to contact them. So, maybe the question should be "what has happened to pastors?" Although I realize that pastors can get very busy, this doesn't mean that they (or the churches) can ignore/neglect those who are seeking help.


World Christians

Although we (Christians living in America) can boast of having freedom to express our faith, I wonder how much we have become bound by the American version of Christianity that is prone to be self-centered, consummerist, nationalistic, shallow, and lazy? I am afraid that our American freedoms have lulled us into being unconcerned, complacent, compromising Christians. Very rarely do we experience the persecutions that many of our non-American sisters and brothers face on a daily basis, yet their faith seems bolder and stronger. I have to admit that I do not want to suffer, but maybe we need a little more suffering and persecution in America so that we will wake up from our comfortable slumber. I am afraid that we have come to expect that we each deserve peace and prosperity; rather, we must remember these words: "Dear friends, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal that has come on you to test you as though something stange were happening to you. But rejoice inasmuch as you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed" (1 Peter 4:12,13). Christ died for us. Many people die for Christ each day. Can we not at least live boldly for him? In his book Blue Like Jazz, Donald Miller confesses:
If I live what I believe, then I don't live very many noble things. My life
testifies that the first thing I believe is that I am the most important person
in the world. My life testifies to this because I care more about my food and
shelter and happiness than about anybody else.
Sadly, I think that most of us are self-centered. We care more about safety/shelter/etc. than we care about Christ.
Also, "American Christianity" has led too many people to take more pride in being American than being Christian. One of my favorite chapters from D.A. Carson's book, The Cross and Christian Ministry, is called "The Cross and the World Christian." In the chapter Carson writes:
[Christians] can be caught up in flag-waving nationalism that puts the interests of my nation or my class or my race or my tribe or my heritage above the demands of the kingdom of God. Instead of feeling that their most important citizenship is in heaven, and that they are just passing through down here on their way "home" to the heavenly Jerusalem (Heb. 12:22-23), they become embroiled with petty priorities that constitute an implicit denial of the lordship of Christ. What we need, then, are world Christians--not simply American Christians or British Christians or Kenyan Christians, but world Christians"
I pray that a day will come when we will no longer hail our loudest allegiance to America; rather, let us lay down our American "badges," and proclaim that our allegiance is to Christ and His kingdom!


Travis' Pictures of Alora

Travis and Abigail spent the day with Amy and I on Sunday. This is one of the pictures that Travis took of Alora. You can see a few more pictures here.


Patriotism vs. Nationalism

Over the past few days I have continued to think about the proper relationship between Christianity and County (see Allegiance). (Special thanks to Amy, Travis , and Abigail for their helpful insights regarding this subject). I believe that David Black's recent post regarding patriotism and nationalism (neo-patriotism) is very helpful. David writes the following:
True patriotism is love of country, not love of government. Neo-patriotism is mindless worship of the state.

True patriots refuse to honor government above God. Neo-patriots gladly deify government.

True patriots understand loyalty as adherence to the ideals upon which the country was founded. Neo-patriots believe in blind submission to the bureaucrats currently running it.

True patriots believe that eternal vigilance is necessary to keep politicians under check. Neo-patriots are willing to entrust their lives to politicians thinking this means loyalty to the ideals spelled out in the Constitution.

True patriots believe in the old Constitution heart and soul and abhor all but the most limited and narrowly defined forms of taxation because they believe their money belongs to them and that the federal government only needs enough funding to perform its few, narrowly defined, constitutional duties. Neo-patriots don’t mind sacrificing most of their earnings to unelected bureaucrats, nor do they mind relying on Washington for a host of taxpayer-funded benefits.

Neo-patriots think that if you criticize U.S. foreign policy or the country’s obsession with security you are “unpatriotic.” True patriots believe that the exercise of critical judgment is
absolutely necessary to any civilization that is to stand or forge ahead, and that it is both their right and duty to criticize their government. They concur with President Theodore Roosevelt: "Patriotism means to stand by the country. It does not mean to stand by the President or any other public official save exactly to the degree in which he himself stands by the country."

Some of you may also be interested in this article on civil religion.


A Discovery

A couple of days ago I was watching Everybody Loves Raymond, when Amy asked me to change Alora's diaper and get her ready for a bath. So, I changed her diaper, and then I came back into the living room so that I could watch the last few minutes of the show. Yet, during these few minutes Alora decided to crap again. Now, this would not have been a bad situation except I hadn't put a diaper on Alora. (I thought that there wasn't any need to put a diaper on her since she was about to have bath.) Well, after we discovered the "poopie diaster," we took Alora into the bathroom to clean her, but she kept kicking her legs and poop was flying around the bathroom. (And Tozer was trying to eat the poop.) It was hilarious! Anyway, here a few pictures for your viewing pleasure:

Drumroll please...

(Begin drumroll now) In case you can't tell what Amy is holding in the picture, it is a pregnancy test. And yes, a positive pregnancy test! As many of you are aware, Amy and I want to have a large family, and the Lord has chosen to bless us with another child. Please pray for Amy as she begins to carry our next child.

So, what gender do you think our baby will be? Why don't you make a prediction and give us a suggestion for a name. (Granted, we probably want use your name suggestion, but if we do...you'll win a bubblegum cigar.)

Amy's prediction: Boy, Isaiah Mitchell
Eric's prediction: Girl, Faith
Alora Grace's prediction: (mumbles and laughs)
Tozer's prediction: (stares blankly)



Each Sunday as I enter the church building, I am greeted by two flags that call for my allegiance. On the left side the American flag calls for me to say: "I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America, and to the Republic for which it stands. One nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all." On the right side the Christian flag calls for me to say: "I pledge allegiance to the Christian Flag and to the Savior for whose Kingdom it stands. One Savior, crucified, risen, and coming again with life and liberty to all who believe." Granted, I never outwardly/verbally pledge to these flags during the service; nevertheless, they call for my allegiance: Hail Caesar! Hail Christ! As I have reflected over these two "allegiances," a few questions have come to mind: Is it possible to pledge allegiance to both of these flags and remain faithful to both? Should the American flag even be present during our services? (I wonder if Chinese/Iranian/Egyptian/Japanese/Canadian/etc. worshippers have their national flags proudly displayed as they worship?) By now, some of you may be thinking, "He hates America," or "He is ungrateful," but this is not the case. I am thankful for the freedoms that I am granted here in America. Yet, does this mean I cannot be critical of America (or the Church in America)? Each of us must be ready and willing to evaluate our actions/beliefs. We must not allow anything/anyone to have priority (i.e. more allegiance) than Christ and His Kingdom. So, let me mention one of my concerns.

I am afraid that too many Christians (living in America) believe that serving America and serving Christ are one in the same. Although we are called to obey the government (Romans 13:1-7), this does not mean that we should give unswerving devotion to America. In a recent post, The Anabaptist and State Religion, Dave Black writes the following:

The tendency of American evangelicalism is to exalt the nation-state over Christ. And the tragic result is that Leviathan, intended to tame human nature, has itself become a predator. This is not to say that disciples of Jesus may not participate in government or in government-sanctioned lethal violence. I have never argued that governments lack legitimate authority to police internally or defend externally. Yet a primary Anabaptist concern is the disavowal of Constantinianism and the recovery of a biblical critique of the state. I confess that I find it extremely distressing that so many Christians give the state their blind, unqualified allegiance. That is nothing less than idolatry. Anabaptist history reminds us that the maintenance of religious liberty is a duty of the state. It also reminds us that Christianity can never be advanced by means of an alliance with the state. This means that the church, as a transcendent institution, should reject any alignment with political power and should seek to ensure that the state remains properly secular. (Emphasis added)

*Be sure to look out for an upcoming post titled "World Christians," in which I will continue my thoughts/concerns about America and Christianity*



(Begin sarcastic TV announcer voice) Has your dog recently been neutered? Has he been feeling like "half the dog he used to be?" Has his "self-esteem" been low? Don't you want him to be able to proudly lift his head again while he is playing with his friends? If so, then you should check out Neuticles! What are Neuticles? I am glad you asked! Neuticles are testicular implants that allow "your pet to retain his natural look, self esteem and aids in the trauma associated with neutering." Be sure to pick up a pair today! (End sarcastic TV announcer voice)

I own a dog. I buy him food and treats. But there is no way that I am going to spend $87 to $699 for a pair of Neuticles for my dog! (Oh, did I mention that you can also buy Neuticles for cats, horses, bulls, and people...okay, you can't buy them for people--yet.) Apparently, some people have too much money.


Pictures of Alora Grace

These are a few of Alora's most recent pictures. I'll be uploading and posting more family pictures in the next few days.

I amazed at how fast Alora is growing up! She is about 8 1/2 months old now. She's been crawing for about 3 weeks, and over the last week she has been standing on her own--well, with the support of her crib, shelves, or whatever else she can grab onto. Amy and I are so blessed to have such a wonderful daughter. For those of you who have not been able to meet Alora yet (Cecil), I can't wait until you get to meet her.

More Emerging Church resources

Recently, I found a great assessment of the EC at Scot McKnights blog. Be sure to read the following posts here:

1. What is the Emerging Church? Praxis
2. What is the Emerging Church? Protest
3. What is the Emerging Church? Postmodernity
4. What is the Emerging Church? Pro-Aplenty

TNIV Debate

I must admit that I am not very familar with the debate over gender-neutral translations such as the TVIV; therefore, I can not accurately make any conclusions/remarks at this time. But I do believe that we should seek to understand this debate. At this point let me offer a word of caution: as with any debate, we must listen to both sides of the debate. If we choose to draw all of our conclusions after only listening to those who are pro-TVIV (or vice versa), we run the risk of being misinformed (since both "sides" have biases and presuppositons). With that being said, I recently came across a Focus on the Family interview with Wayne Grudem (who is opposed to the TVIV). The mp3's are available for free here. Unfortunately, FOTF did not have anyone on the show that represented the other side of the debate. If you are interested in a reponse to Dr. Grudem, then you can find more information here. If you would like to add any insights into this discussion, I would appreciate your imput.

Bad Church Signs

Be sure to go to the Church Sign Generator website and check out the bad church signs. Although I laughed at many of the signs, I was also deeply saddened because most of the signs were unbiblical, shallow, and/or unloving. When churches use stupid signs like these, they only bring mockery to our faith! Here are a few examples from the website:

"AIDS cures sodomy"

"Go Bush Go, Praise the Lord, Pass the Ammo"

"Real Dads Git- Er Done For God"

"Wal-Mart is not the only saving place"

"You give God the credit, now give God the cash"


Banning Water

Recently, members of the Southern Baptist Convention (my denomination), refused to hand out water to hurricane victims because the donated water was distributed by Anheuser-Busch. Below, I have included part of the article, a response from the public relations associate from the Alabama State convention, and some of my initial thoughts:
Hurricane victims who wanted water had some difficulty finding it at a relief station in Clewiston Friday. The volunteer group running a supply center doesn't like the company that donated the water, so they decided not to give it to those in line for help.

Twenty-two pallets of the canned water, distributed free by beer company Anheuser-Busch, bears the company's label – and members of the Southern Baptist Convention refused to hand it out to those in need.

Resident lined up for miles to receive food and water at the distribution point. But the water was left on the sidelines by the Alabama-based group.

"The pastor didn't want to hand out the Budweiser cans to people and that's his prerogative and I back him 100-percent," said SBC volunteer John Cook.

The SBC felt it was inappropriate to give the donation out, and they weren't happy when NBC2 wanted to know why.

"Why do you want to make that the issue? That's not the issue. The issue is that we're here trying to help people," Cook said.

No one disagrees with that, but the Red Cross says Anheuser-Busch is also trying to help.

The water has been available all along, but the SBC volunteers set it aside and few people knew it was available.

Keith Hinson responded on Steve McCoy's blog with the following thoughts:
Volunteers working with the Alabama Baptist Disaster Relief Unit honored the request of the host pastor to set aside canned water with an Anheuser-Busch logo. At no time was anyone deprived of water. In fact, there was a huge surplus of bottled and canned water available at the Clewiston relief site. There was never any disruption in the supply of water being given out to members of the public who continued to receive food, water and other types of assistance from Alabama Baptist Disaster Relief workers. It is an absolute falsehood to suggest -- as many irresponsible bloggers have -- that the Baptist volunteers withheld the basic needs of life from Floridians impacted by the hurricane. Contrary to misinterpretations of news reports, no one was denied access to water.One may disagree with the strong stand that many Southern Baptists take against the consumption of alcohol. One may even regard such opposition to alcohol as offensive.But it's impossible to say truthfully that this conviction caused any inconvenience or shortage for victims of Hurricane Wilma. The facts are exactly the opposite.The fact is that virtually all of the Southern Baptist Disaster Relief volunteers serve selflessly -- taking time away from employment and family to minister in the name of Jesus Christ. Churches such as First Baptist Church, Clewiston, graciously serve as host sites -- providing a place where food, water and other necessities of life may be obtained by anyone in need -- without regard to religion or any other demographic consideration.
Although Mr. Hinson states that the Baptist did not withhold the "basic needs of life from Floridians impacted by the hurricane," a question still remains: would they have withheld the "banned water" if it was the only water available? I am currious to know how you would have handled this situation? Would you have participated in the ban or would you have passed out the water? I believe the volunteers actions relate directly to the SBC's strong "teetotal" stance on alcohol. While I agree that it may be wise to abstain from consumming alcohol in some situations, I do not think that we have any biblical rational for 1. totally banning the consumation of alcohol (Communion anyone?) or 2. refusing to pass out water from a beer company. According to an update on the NBC2 site, at least two of the SBC workers chose to pass out the water with Red Cross workers.