A Change is Gonna Come

You know how at the end of a season of your favorite show all the characters are usually pictured alone in a room staring off into space, or comforting each other after a big ordeal, or sharing a congratulatory hug right before the music changes and the next monster/bad guy comes into the picture?

MASH TV Cast, 1974

MASH TV Cast, 1974 / Source: Wikipedia

Whatever the ending, it’s usually not very conclusive.

I always have the  “whew, we made it through that” feeling, but never really know what’s coming next.

That is exactly how I feel at the end of this semester. Whew – I made it through my fourth semester at ETBU!

I taught some new classes and some that I had taught before. I met lots of new, great students. I moved into a new house on campus, and started as the new Faculty  in Residence for Ornelas Hall.

**Insert congratulatory hugs**

But there are lots of loose ends left untied…

**Insert music change**

funny-pictures-dramatic-cat-asks-where-the-sting-of-death-is by zebedee.zebedee
on FlickR

We still do not have a new President for ETBU, and Dr. Dub’s shoes are still just as daunting to fill.

We are losing one of the great staples in the ETBU community. A much-loved professor, Centennial Hall FIR, and personal mentor: Dr. Elijah Brown. God has led him to another great opportunity, but who will step in here?

What are we to do when the future seems unclear? I trust God, but still I worry/wonder.

Hebrews 13:8 seems especially helpful here:

Appreciate your pastoral leaders who gave you the Word of God. Take a good look at the way they live, and let their faithfulness instruct you, as well as their truthfulness. There should be a consistency that runs through us all. For Jesus doesn’t change—yesterday, today, tomorrow, he’s always totally himself.

The authorship of Hebrews is unknown, but many scholars think it was written by Paul.

Whoever it was most certainly wrote this letter to the Hebrew people, encouraging them to trust Christ, explaining who He can be for them, and showing how much better life can be with Him.

I’m not from Hebrew,  and I already trust Christ. But it is nice to be reminded how steadfast Jesus is – completely unchanging.

In our lives, change is inevitable. The end of a semester, the end of a season, the start of something new.

But God is always there, and He never changes. We even celebrate His birthday on the same day every year :)

Speaking of, I hope everyone has a wonderful Christmas! Thank you to all the readers of this blog. It has been fun sharing thoughts with you!

Even though the soundtrack to our little show may seem a little tense right now, we can all take comfort in God, and know that Jesus is taking care of us individually and as an ETBU family just like He always has.

Who knows? Maybe next season/semester, all plot lines will be settled!

Merry Christmas everyone, and have a great break!!
AML

What are you thankful for?

Ahhh Thanksgiving….

Photo Credit: dog.happy.art via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: dog.happy.art via Compfight cc

Many a blog post has been written about Thanksgiving not really being about the turkey, not about the food, and all about family! Not necessarily on this page, but you know what I mean.

So for this blog, I want to tell you about my Thanksgiving break assuming that you already know all of the above. Why beat a dead turkey, you know?

I am blessed to usually be able to spend Thanksgiving with my family. My parents and sister live in Nebraska, which is really far away from Texas, yet somehow we manage to meet up for this holiday!

Last year, they came to our house in Marshall. This year, we all met in New Orleans and had SO MUCH FUN!!

If you’ve been to NOLA at all, you know that all the food we had was awesome. And the shopping was great too!

But now that I’m reflecting on the trip, I can see that I also learned/was reminded to be thankful for a whole lot. And that’s what I’d like to share today.

1. I am thankful for the hospitality of the south.

As you can see, it was super cute, and really close to the French Quarter!

As you can see, it was super cute, and really close to the French Quarter!

We tried something new on this trip; instead of the six of us (both my parents, my husband and I, my sister and her husband) paying for 3 hotel rooms for 4 nights, we found a house to rent from AirBnB.com.

It was just really nice to be able to stay in a neighborhood and get the full experience of New Orleans :)

2 women own this house, and they left us all kinds of necessities like shampoo, soap, hair products, a hair dryer, etc.

Their hospitality was just amazing!

2. I am thankful for the rebirth of New Orleans since Katrina.

When Hurricane Katrina hit, I was living in Nebraska. I have a whole lot of family who live down here though, so I still felt some of the effects personally.

street

I have one uncle who lives in Kenner (about 30 minutes from New Orleans), and he and his wife had to evacuate and rebuild their home like so many others.

Seeing the city back to life on this trip made me so happy! There were lots of musicians, street performers, artists, and tourists back on the street like it used to be!

You can still tell that the storm had lasting effects on everything. Even some of the street art we saw was made out of reclaimed Katrina wood, or wood from the rebuilding of houses, etc.

The people have picked themselves up though, and I love that spirit!

3. I am thankful for my husband.

I am thankful for my husband every day, but he was especially wonderful on this trip. You see, he was crazy sick.

Coughing and snot-filled, he drove us to New Orleans and still managed to have a great time while we were there!

Admittedly, he couldn’t taste the beignets at Cafe du Monde on the first day (TRAGEDY!), but we went back the next day just for him :)

Photo Credit: nerdling via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: nerdling via Compfight cc

It was a real hardship!

So all in all, we had a great Thanksgiving!

I hope you had a great one too, and that you can remember what you’re thankful for!

AL

An Ironic Christmas Song

14 - Christmas Child

Photo Credit: murilocardoso via Compfight cc

Band Aid 30 is a 2014 charity music group featuring a range of top-selling British pop musicians including One Direction, Chris Martin of Coldplay and Bono of U2.  The group recently released a song entitled, “Do They Know It’s Christmas?”  This is an update of a 1984 song by the same title rewritten for the twenty-first century in general and the Ebola crisis in West Africa in particular.  They lyrics read in part:

It’s Christmas time – there’s no need to be afraid
At Christmas time – we let in light and banish shade
And in our world of plenty we can spread a smile of joy
Throw your arms around the world at Christmas time

But say a prayer, pray for the other ones
At Christmas time, it’s hard but while you’re having fun
There’s a world outside your window and it’s a world of dread and fear
Where a kiss of love can kill you
Where there’s death in every tear
And the Christmas bells that ring there are the clanging chimes of doom
Well tonight we’re reaching out and touching you

Bring peace and joy this Christmas to West Africa
A song of hope where there’s no hope tonight
Why is comfort to be feared, why is touch to be scared
How can they know it’s Christmas time at all

Admiringly, 100% of the proceeds of the song are being contributed to the ongoing Ebola crisis in West Africa which according to recently released numbers by the World Health Organization has sickened more than 16,000 people and killed almost 7,000.

Nonetheless the song has come under persistent criticism for a paternalistic approach and a music video that jarringly moves from Ebola-stricken patients in Africa to smiling celebrities in a first world context.

From a world Christianity perspective the song is certainly wrapped in irony given the increasingly secular nature of most western countries and the exploding Christian growth in many African nations.

I have just recently finished teaching a core section on world Christianity at East Texas Baptist University that along with other scholars such as Andrew Walls and Philip Jenkins postulated the following thesis:

The key Christian development of the 21st Century is the maturation of churches in Africa, Asia and Latin America and the emergence of African, Asian and Latin American Christians as the normative face of Christianity and the predominant proponents of Christianity.

Andrew Walls writes, “The majority of those who profess the Christian faith are now Africans, Asians, Latin Americans, and Pacific Islanders; and they substantially outnumber the professed Christians of Europe, the old Christendom, and its North American outcrop.”

Miriam Adeney describes:

At least eighty million Chinese in China name Jesus as Lord.  So do millions more Chinese outside the country.  In Africa four hundred million Africans praise Jesus.  There are fifteen times more Anglicans worshipping in Nigeria every Sunday than there in Britain.  There were more Free Methodists in the small countries of Rwanda and Burundi than there are in the United States.  There are forty-five million evangelicals in Brazil supporting 4,700 Brazilian missionaries.  In Latin America there are more Christians than in all of the United States and Europe.  The same is true in Africa, and again in Asia.  By 2025 there will be as many Pentecostals as there are Hindus, and twice as many Pentecostals as Buddhists.

It is estimated that by 2025 approximately 25% of the world’s Christians will be white Euro-Americans while a stunning 70% of all Christians will live in Africa, Asia and Latin America.  The case for Africa is particularly telling.

Douglas Jacobsen notes that never before in the history of the world has Christianity expanded so quickly in any region than it has over the last 100 years in the continent of Africa.  In 1900 there were 10 million Christians in Africa while today there are 400 million.  In terms of overall population Christianity expanded from approximately 10% of the population in 1900 to 46% of the entire population in Africa today.  50% of the countries in Sub-Saharan Africa already have majority Christian populations.  African Christians are increasingly sending African missionaries to Europe and North America in a process loosely known as missions in reverse.

Statistically, a more normative face of Christianity would be a West African female than would be a group of predominantly white British pop musicians asking, “Do they know it’s Christmas?”

This is especially true given the secularization around the Christmas holiday in Europe and North America and the growing embrace of a generic spirituality and materialistic celebration tempered with feel-good benevolence.

The biblical narrative calls for a far more radical reorientation of our lives around Immanuel, born in a manager, crucified on the cross, resurrected from the grave.   Seen from a world Christian perspective the question and focus of the song perhaps ought to be reversed: do we know that it is Christ-mas?

EMB

Past

In Summer 2009, after 6 years of marriage, my wife and I had our first summer “free” as a couple. Prior to that, every summer was some combination of moving, taking new jobs, and (mostly) doing graduate work. Ruthie approached me one evening about possibly going on a road trip, to which I was agreeable.

Now, those of you that know my wife professionally probably know what happened next. Within a few hours, we had a detailed day-by-day travel itinerary, reservations (when needed), a budget, places to stay for free with various family members, and planned activities for a 20-day road trip, all laid out graphically in a variety of calendars, charts, and maps. In other words, I was pretty much locked into taking this trip, which is OK, because it turned out to be one of greatest (if not the greatest) experiences of my life. Here was the approximated route (you might need to click on the picture to get the mileage details):

Week13 Trip Map

(Essentially, our only costs were for gas, because nearly every night of the trip we stayed either with one of Ruthie’s family members or in a tent in a state or national park.)

I often reference this trip in my courses because of the wide variety of experiences that I encountered; here are a few:

There was this big pothole we had to drive around in Arizona.

There was this big pothole we had to drive around in Arizona.

"I wish I were big."

“I wish I were big.”

One of the most surprising things on the trip was this AWESOME woodworking shop in the middle of an Oregon forest.

One of the most surprising things on the trip was this AWESOME woodworking shop in the middle of an Oregon forest.

My wife felt progressively sicker the longer we stayed at Yellowstone; turns out it probably wasn't the best place to take someone with a sulphate allergy (within an hour of leaving the park she felt nearly completely better).

My wife felt progressively sicker the longer we stayed at Yellowstone; turns out it probably wasn’t the best place to take someone with a sulphate allergy (within an hour of leaving the park she felt nearly completely better).

This trip had tremendous benefits to me individually and to my wife and I as a couple. I think about elements of this journey often, and I look forward to a time when we can do a similar, walking/exercise/adventure-heavy vacation with our children; I figure in about ten years.


In May 2013, as I was getting into my car to go to work, my key chain broke. This normally would not be all that significant of an event; trinkets like a mere key chain break all of the time.

However, this was personally significant for me. (I feel like this is the point that I should lay down on a couch to tell you the rest of this story.)

My sophomore year in high school, I was still felt very socially outcast, and while I tried to be kind and helpful to people, I rarely felt as if that affection was reciprocated. Now given, it probably was, but I was not as confident as I am (or feign) now so I probably just didn’t pick up on it.

So anyway, every year the women’s basketball team at Avinger would pick a “basketball beau” and the men’s team would pick a “basketball sweetheart”, and there was a little ceremony at a game and it was a kinda sweet deal. Basically, it was like a poor man’s homecoming king and queen, except based on “showing the most support for the basketball team of the opposite sex.” So, we get to the game in which this award is given, and shockingly, I received it. For one of the first times as a teenager, I felt genuine acceptance from a group of my peers. It also helped my confidence that it was girls that did the voting. ☺

As part of the award, I got a really nice key chain engraved “AHS BEAU”. For 16 years (fully half of my life) that was the key chain that I used for all of my keys; only my wife really ever realized it, and probably only then because a couple of years ago the mechanical latch that allowed you to separate its two key rings broke and I futilely tried to have it repaired.

Week13 Key ChainWell, on that day in May 2013, the key chain itself just broke, with the metal holding the ring itself simply falling off from wear. There was no going back. For the first 30 minutes or so of my day, I was really bummed out.

Then something interesting happened: I sat down to manipulate keys on the two “plain” key rings that were left, and I discovered that the keys now fit better. It turns out that over the previous several weeks my keys had been stabbing me in the leg, and I’d actually examined how I could lessen the number of keys themselves. While all of the keys were deemed essential and I continued on with things jabbing into my leg, I’d never once thought for a split second that removing the “AHS BEAU” keychain could ease my burden, but it did.

I was so blindly holding onto this little thing from the past that I was unable to realize that it was actually what was causing all of my pain.

1 Corinthians 13:11

“When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me”


Today’s blog is about the past.

Sometimes the past is full of triumphs, adventures, and great lessons that we can use to drive our future.

At the same time, sometimes the tiny things from our past that we cling to are the very things that are the source of our troubles. I see this each semester in students that cannot escape some element of their past experiences, and instead they are forever dragged down by things that can never be changed (short of building a time machine).

As professors and advisors, we must help our students identify those things from the past worth remembering and celebrating, while at the same time working to identify those things from the past that serve only to pull them down, restricting them from reaching God’s ultimate purposes for their lives.

WW

Ride the Storm

About this time every year, I start seeing more and more students with a perpetual scowl on their faces. Never mind that Thanksgiving Break is just around the corner – these students are STRESSED!

Photo Credit: Amy McTigue via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: Amy McTigue via Compfight cc

Maybe you feel like you’re drowning in a sea of homework and projects, or you just can barely see the light at the end of the tunnel.

Regardless, most students (and professors!) experience some tension about this time of the semester.

But if we are followers of Christ, and truly trust God, what is there to be worried about?

I’m talking to myself just as much as anyone right now… it is so easy to try and control everything and worry that it won’t work out.

Did I study hard enough for this test? Did I work hard enough on this report? Will they like it? Will people be disappointed in me? What should I do now? How am I going to fix this problem?….

Thankfully, God hasn’t left us alone to flounder under the pressure.

Check out Psalm 55:22-23 (MSG)

Pile your troubles on God’s shoulders—
    he’ll carry your load, he’ll help you out.
He’ll never let good people
    topple into ruin.
But you, God, will throw the others
    into a muddy bog,
Cut the lifespan of assassins
    and traitors in half.

And I trust in you.

Pretty cool, right?

I can’t say that I personally know many assassins, but it is comforting to know that God has a plan to cut their lifespans short!

There are lots of “Christian-ese” phrases that point to the fact that we already know we’re not supposed to worry, and that instead we should trust God:

  • Put your trust in the Lord
  • Let go, and let God
  • When God closes a door, He opens a window
  • God never gives us more than we can handle

You can probably think of some more yourself.

But when was the last time you said that to yourself in the middle of a freak-out? And even if you did, did it stop you from worrying?

This church sign points out that every Christian already knows we are supposed to trust God, but that doesn’t make it any easier.

Photo Credit: Joshua Daniel O. via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: Joshua Daniel O. via Compfight cc

So, I hope you can take some comfort in knowing that you’re not alone when you feel pressure.

Also, you’re not alone when you struggle to stop worrying and trust God.

You may feel alone if you’re fighting to do well in classes, but you don’t have to! Every ETBU professor would love to help a student in trouble. All you have to do is ask!

I read something online today that told the story of a one-fingered king. The king cursed God, blaming Him for the loss of a finger. What the king didn’t know what that God planned to save his life all along – He just used the lack of a finger to do it!

Photo Credit: tim caynes via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: tim caynes via Compfight cc

The point of that story, and my post, is that it’s important for us to remember that we don’t know God’s plan for our lives.

When it seems like stuff is going wrong and there’s no way out, it may be exactly there God wants you!

The best thing all of us can do is try and ride the storm, and keep trusting that God will work everything out like He wants it!

AL

Denominations in an Age of Globalization

In Wikinomics: How Mass Collaboration Changes Everything authors Don Tapscott and Anthony Williams write, “stability is dead.  The idea that you can invent a business that will never be disrupted by technology is over.”  Tapscott and Williams welcome us into an age of globalization, an age of disruption, an age of flux and fluidity, an age driven by an accelerating growth of technology, an age that is creating global platforms, global access points and global citizens.

Photo Credit: Lars Plougmann via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: Lars Plougmann via Compfight cc

We live in an age of globalization.  This reality really needs no introduction.  And in the age of globalization stability is dead.

This is as true for denominations as it is for churches, ministries and corporations.

This week I will be leading a group of students from East Texas Baptist University (ETBU) to the annual gathering of the Baptist General Convention of Texas as part of an ongoing effort to instill a vision of collaborative partnership.  While teaching at ETBU I consistently challenge our students to seek to develop the skills necessary to live, listen and lead as global leaders.  If it is true that we are living in an age of globalization it is essential our educational models and denominational platforms continue to adapt accordingly.  An age of globalization demands globalized denominations.

Towards this end three broad principles are applicable.

First, in an age of globalization denominations must pursue open structures and mass collaboration. 

In the twenty-first century, to return to Tapscott and Williams, “we must collaborate or perish – across borders, cultures, disciplines, and firms, and increasingly with masses of people at one time.”  This is an age of participation.  Millions of individuals connect with each other on Facebook; post pictures on Instagram; record and upload movies on YouTube; and tweet their vote for their favorite singing contestants.  Participation is driven by individuals who anticipate that they will be able to contribute their voice, their perspective, their talents and their passion.  Individuals are not only looking to talk to the many, they are looking to connect with the many in order to foster partnerships that identify issues, solve problems and contribute towards a better society.

In his book The World is Flat, Thomas Friedman notes, “while the dynamic force in Globalization 1.0 was countries globalizing and the dynamic force in Globalization 2.0 was companies globalizing, the dynamic force in Globalization 3.0 – the force that gives it its unique character – is the newfound power for individuals to collaborate and compete globally.”  The same might be said of churches.

What would it mean for a denomination to be based on an open structure?  An open structure might imply at least the following:

Ongoing Transparency and Information Exchange.  In an age when companies, churches and denominations have lost the ability to command absolute loyalty, one currency remains: trust.  The denominations that will be transformative in an age of globalization will be those that foster a sense of trust between the participants and the denomination and between the participants themselves.  This will require new levels of transparency and all the more so as denominations look to sell, lease or otherwise relocate traditional headquarters.

Very Low Barriers to Participation.  Individuals should be empowered to freely join in the conversation and freely contribute towards the fulfillment of common goals and objectives.  A low barrier of participation is different than low accountability.  A low barrier to participation allows early engagement in the design process.  As a simplistic example, perhaps denominations could use crowd sourcing models to determine break-out sessions and speakers for annual meetings.  An open structure is built around a model actively encouraging participation and interaction by as many individuals as possible.  This will inevitably cause a shift away from a model of centralized hierarchy to one that is more fluid and more genuinely shares control.  Every denomination must ask how to make their organization more of a platform for participation and innovation development?

Second, in an age of globalization denominations must lead through networks that are at all times local, regional and global.

Photo Credit: Melissa Marques via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: Melissa Marques via Compfight cc

Several years ago in an edition of Foreign Affairs, Anne-Marie Slaughter wrote, “In the twenty-first century, corporations, civic organizations, and government agencies will increasingly operate by collecting the best ideas from around the globe.  In such an environment, it is critical not only to stimulate domestic innovation but also to foster networks that can produce collaborative innovations across the globe.”  She continues, “In this century, global power will increasingly be defined by connections – who is connected to whom and for what purposes.”

Leadership in a globalized context requires the building and activation of networks and the reframing of needs, talents, ministry and opportunities into one that simultaneously embraces the local, regional and global.

This is all the more pressing given the increasingly urban reality of polyglots and multiculturalism.  Mass immigration is altering our communities and heightening the interconnectivity of the world.  A recent blog I wrote, for example, highlighted how a group of Eritrean refugee churches in Texas tendered a request that eventually lead to human rights documentation being submitted to multiple governments around the world and formal representation by a Cooperative Baptist Fellowship partner working on behalf of the Baptist World Alliance at the recent Universal Periodic Review of Eritrea by the United Nations in Geneva.  In an age of global networks fostering connections among and between ethnic churches must be seen as a denominational priority.

Denominations should also look to increasingly share information, resources and personnel.  This will likely result in more decentralized organizations and an increase in individual specialists who are employed and shared by several organizations.  One helpful model is the work of the North American Baptist Fellowship’s Disaster Relief Network.  Additional pan-denominational networks are needed.  Among Baptists perhaps no new network is needed as is the establishment of an international religious freedom network.

Third, in an age of globalization denominations must live prophetically. 

Denominations must view prophetic witness, especially in areas of social justice, as critical.  In this age of globalization denominations must ask again what it means to act justly, love mercy and to walk humbly with our God.

EMB

Reminders

A note for the email recipients of today’s blog: to get the full effect you will want to actually go to the website today, as there are several pictures.

Week12 ReminderBut first, some house cleaning. Waaay back in Week 6 of this semester (which published on October 3rd), I threw out a challenge; when discussing some stories Alan Huesing was telling me I wrote:

“The stories almost seemed fake; I half-expected him to tell me about how he rode a unicorn through Mordor on his way to blow up the Death Star. (Just thinking about that makes me giggle. The first person that Photoshops that image together and adds it to the comments gets at least $20 from me.)”

Well, to my surprise I was checking through my Facebook messages earlier this week and there was one un-checked message from October 6th that I had somehow missed; Facebook had filed it under “Other”. Here are its contents.

Awesome Photoshop? $20.  Hours of uncontrolled giggling? Priceless.

Awesome Photoshop? $20.
Hours of uncontrolled giggling? Priceless.

I am a man of my word. Although not posted in the comments of the blog, the $20 has been paid out in full. Good job, mystery artist.

Always Something There to Remind Me

I think it is important to remind yourself of different things. Pre-iPad, I would have sticky notes and ¼ pieces of paper everywhere on my desk and office, just to keep me on the right track. As busy as I am now, I was infinitely busier a couple of years ago, to the point that my office would sometimes look like that barn from A Beautiful Mind (note: I literally spent hours looking for a video of that scene…no luck; if you saw the movie you know what I mean).

With the iPad “Notes” app and now the “Reminders” app I use on my phone, I can keep organized with significantly less clutter. That said, I think beyond continuing to “Write it down so you don’t forget”, it is also important to keep around tangible reminders: of things that are important to you, of things that inspire you, of things that bring a smile to your face, of things that you love, of successes, and of losses.

I keep many things like this in my office:

Now, while these items do admittedly contribute to the clutter of my office, they are also all very important, as they do commemorate different points of my life.

However, keeping tangible reminders is exactly what the Israelites did when they crossed the Jordan and set up the 12 stones:

Each of you is to take up a stone on his shoulder, according to the number of the tribes of the Israelites, to serve as a sign among you. In the future, when your children ask you, ‘What do these stones mean?’ tell them that the flow of the Jordan was cut off before the ark of the covenant of the Lord. When it crossed the Jordan, the waters of the Jordan were cut off. These stones are to be a memorial to the people of Israel forever.

In the same way, we need to find tangible ways to remember what it important so that we can always maintain the most-Godly perspective possible.

WW

Where have all the voters gone?

What have you done this week? Taken some tests, wrote some papers, run it the Color Run? Impacted our country’s future?

It is no secret that the federal government may not have considered how busy the month of November is for college students when choosing an election day.

I know everyone is SUPER busy right now but that doesn’t mean you have an excuse to not vote!

On election day (which was 11/3 if you didn’t know), I was very saddened to find out how many of my students did not vote, and didn’t seem to think it was a big deal. Maybe you’re thinking that it’s too late for a “get out the vote” blog post, but I think it’s time to rally the troops and get people excited, ready, and prepared for the Presidential election in 2016!

You said you’re too busy, right? Maybe you need this much time to prep!

So, here are my top reasons why all ETBU students should vote and why politics matters to you:

  • You are at least 18, which means you’re old enough.
  • You are (probably) a Christian, and it’s your job to make sure God’s will is carried out as much as possible.
  • There were some vary diverse candidates elected a few days ago, so you have no excuse to think politics is just for old white guys.

Allow me to elaborate… Let’s start with reason 1: You are at least 18, which means you’re old enough

Lots of things happen when you turn 18 (or around there at least). You graduate high school, maybe you start college, men at eligible to be drafted, and everyone can vote!

Voting is really a pretty big plus about living in America right now. If you think back in history, we left England because we didn’t feel like our voices were being heard, and lots and lots of protesting was done to make sure that EVERYONE (no matter the race or the sex) can vote.

Don’t you feel like you owe it to all those people to take 15 minutes and have your opinion counted?

Reason 2 that ETBU students should vote: You are (probably) a Christian, and it’s your job to make sure God’s will is carried out as much as possible.

The word “vote” is no where to be found in the Bible. It was written 1000s of years ago – cut them some slack!

But that doesn’t mean that the idea of electing good Christian leaders and praying for them isn’t there.

Take Proverbs 28:12, which warns us of what happens when we have godless leadership:

12 When those who are right with God win, there is great honor, but when the sinful rule, men hide themselves.

If Christians sit back and don’t vote -for whatever reason- how can we expect to have God fearing people leading our country?

Finally, Reason 3 of why ETBU students should vote: There were some vary diverse candidates elected a few days ago, so you have no excuse to think politics is just for old white guys.

First of all, Joni Ernst was elected to the senate in Iowa on Tuesday. That’s a big deal because she’s the first female senator from Iowa, and she’s a veteran. That makes her also the first female veteran to be in senate!

Photo Credit: Gage Skidmore via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: Gage Skidmore via Compfight cc

 Also, Tim Scott is the first black senator to be elected in the entire South since Reconstruction ended in 1877!! He was elected in South Carolina on Tuesday.

There are a lot of other impressive firsts from this Midterm election, but I’ve saved my favorite for last:

http://www.washingtonpost.com/news/morning-mix/wp/2014/11/07/meet-saira-blair-18-soon-to-be-the-nations-youngest-lawmaker/

http://www.washingtonpost.com/news/morning-mix/wp/2014/11/07/meet-saira-blair-18-soon-to-be-the-nations-youngest-lawmaker/

 Most impressively, 18 year old college freshman Saira Blair was elected to the House of Representatives on Tuesday. She is either the same age or younger than almost every ETBU student! Are any of y’all thinking of running for Congress soon?

I need to provide a small disclaimer… I have not researched the views or plans for any of these candidates. They might not align with my own views, or yours, and they might not be Christians.

By writing this post, I don’t mean to show support (or not) for any of these candidates. All I’m saying is that there is a whole lot that college students can relate to in politics right now. It is important to be involved, stay informed, and have your vote counted.

Exciting things are happening! Don’t you want to be a part of it?

Voting in Texas really isn’t too difficult. To make sure you are prepared for the 2016 elections, follow these simple steps:

  1. Go here and register to vote! You will then get a Voter Registration Card in the mail.
  2. Grab your Drivers License or Passport for ID
  3. Go vote! Your polling place is listed on your Voter Registration Card, or you can find it online by entering your zip code on this website.

If you are attending school away from home, you will need to fill out an “absentee ballot” meaning you will send it in the mail before election day.

If you still have questions, check out the Helpful Hints on Voting Early by Mail from the votetexas.gov website.

I think that about covers it! Now you have NO REASON to not vote in the 2016 Presidential election! It’s God’s will after all…
AML

Eritrea: Twenty Years of Oppression

This past week students at East Texas Baptist University (ETBU) celebrated a night of praise and prayer on behalf of persecuted religious minorities worldwide and in particular sought to raise awareness about the plight of Christians in Eritrea.

Photo Credit: D-Stanley via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: D-Stanley via Compfight cc

76% of the world’s population, or 5.3 billion people, live in countries with high or very high restrictions on religion.

According to a 2014 Pew Forum report, “social hostilities involving religion [have]] reached a six-year peak.”

One of the worst oppressors of religious minorities in the world is Eritrea.  For more than two decades President Isaias Afwerki and the Popular Front for Democracy and Justice (PFDJ) have systematically committed flagrant abuses of human rights.  While violations remain pervasive, perhaps no community has suffered more thoroughly and completely than the numerous adherents of a variety of religious communities deemed unacceptable by the illiberal government.

The United States Commission on International Religious Freedom documented in its most recent report that Eritrea is currently holding 2,000 to 3,000 religious prisoners on religious grounds.

Individuals held in violation of freedom of religion are consistently denied rights of due process, access to legal counsel and even basic medical aid.  They are imprisoned alongside numerous others in deplorable conditions including overcrowded facilities with scarce food and potable water, underground bunkers and caves, and metal containers housed in the desert causing prisoners to “experience extremes of high and low temperatures.”  One former Barentu detainee described confinement in a room with dimensions approximately eight by ten feet, a low ceiling of six and a half feet and a temperature reaching near 120 degrees Fahrenheit.  Thirty-three individuals were simultaneously housed in this room.

Former detainees describe government utilization of a technique binding the hands and feet of individuals behind their back in a position known as “the helicopter.”  One Christian refugee recounted a harrowing experience of being fastened into “the helicopter” position for 136 hours in an effort to force faith repudiation.

Following field research conducted in June, this past semester the Freedom Center at ETBU has been promoting teaching, research and awareness about the situation of persecuted religious minorities in Eritrea.  Graduating senior Travis Nicks has transcribed sixteen firsthand accounts of the realities faced by evangelical believers, a Muslim dissident, and a former child soldier.

This new research further reveals a systematic violation of human rights including harsh imprisonment practices, burning of Bibles by the military and forced conscription of children.

One such testimony shared by a young female recounted how she was imprisoned for her belief in Jesus as a twelve year old girl:

The story of my imprisonment begins when some brothers were taken to jail because they were found praying together.  When I was twelve years old my family sent me to those brothers to take them some food and clothing.  The police asked me if I was a Christian and I said “yes,” and so they took me inside the jail as a twelve year old… We stayed there for less than two weeks until they transferred us to Wi’A underground prison near Massawa Port around the coastal area.  The coastal area is mostly desert and extremely hot – so hot in fact that the prisoners are held in underground cells…

For two months we stayed in this underground facility – I being only a twelve year old.  I was sick most of the time I was in jail, and they did not give me any medicine, but instead they said to me, “May your Lord give you your medicine.”  The other girls spent their time taking care of me as well as each other.  They were full of compassion and always they were crying for me and praying for me.  We could not see each other so whenever they would encircle me to pray they would have to feel everything out with their hands by a blind search.  If we separated it was difficult to find each other because it was so dark, but they spent their time praying for me and sharing the Bible with me for my encouragement.  After two months I was released from the jail, but I was forced into military training at the very same place which doubled as a military training center.

Another individual who was a freshman at a technical college shared:

They stoned us because we were always telling the good news of Jesus Christ, and for that reason the other students did not like us.  When the incident occurred there were about six or seven of us praying in the house, and when we went outside we were surprised to discover that a mob had gathered and were waiting for us in a nearby open field.  Most of the other students were Muslim and Orthodox followers, and they knew quite obviously that we were believers and they had no sympathy for us.  When I had discovered that we had been trapped I tried to run away but somebody struck me in the back of my head and I fell down unconscious.  I lay there from 7pm until 9pm bleeding seriously, and then after 1 A.M. I suddenly received strength from the Father.  I went to the school and found the secretary who happened to be a Christian sister and she redirected me to the nurse who stitched me up, although without any anesthetics.  I had just begun my first year of studies but due to the incident I was dismissed for one year.

The situation in Eritrea remains dire and calls for ongoing prayer, advocacy and partnership with efforts such as a one year commission of inquiry created by the Human Rights Council to “investigate all alleged violations of human rights in Eritrea.”

EMB

Diabeetus

During the Fall 2014 faculty training, Kelley Paul from our Academic Success Office was speaking and told this story about how because of her position she finds her kids often “playing college” and “enrolling their stuffed animals into classes”. With a laugh, I commented to the people at my table “That’s sad.”

Librarian Cynthia Peterson, also at our table, commented, “I played librarian when I was a little girl.”

Week11 Bumblebee_transformingAt that moment, I thought to myself, “Will, you are such a disappointment…when you were a kid you wanted to be a Transformer.”

And then as I looked down at myself, I realized something: I’m at least partially there (at least in terms of generally being a cyborg).

Given the tubing, I suppose I am more like Bane from the Batman comics than a cyborg...oh well, segue.

Given the tubing, I suppose I am more like Bane from the Batman comics than a cyborg…oh well, segue.

I am a Type I diabetic, and as I write this I am connected to an insulin pump via a thin plastic tube that is re-inserted into my eight-pack abs stomach fat every three days. The pump, which runs on a single AAA battery, is usually in my pocket, and the insulin transported from it through the tube into my body literally keeps me alive.

There is also a transmitter attached to my stomach which continuously and wirelessly reports estimated blood glucose levels (via a sensor that measures the glucose in my interstitial fluids, which is roughly on a 15-minute delay from the actual blood glucose readings). I also check my blood glucose levels 3 to 4 times daily via fingerstick on a meter which wirelessly reports those levels to my sensor to calibrate those interstitial readings.

And to think, it used to be complicated.

I have been using the pump for only 5 years. Before that, I was taking between 4 and 6 insulin injections each day, which would also lock me into a particular eating schedule for that day; for example, when I was on NPH insulin if I took my breakfast shot at 7am, I would have to eat a very specific amount of carbs for lunch at around 11:30am. If I ate too early, my blood sugar would go high, which repeated over time is linked to an increased likelihood of long-term complications. If I ate too late, my blood sugar would go low, which is a much more acute problem.

I’ve also only had the glucose transmitter for about 4 months. Before that, rather than checking my blood sugar 3 or 4 times per day I was checking 6 to 10 times per day, depending on activity levels. I had started losing some feeling in my fingertips due to the frequency of the pricks, and dropping down how often has already made a positive change in that sensitivity.

I was diagnosed with Type I diabetes only a couple of weeks after my 11th birthday in May 1992. I have COUNTLESS stories about how Type I diabetes has shaped my life since that time. As a reader though, I want you most of all to understand this: DO NOT feel sorry for me.

2 Corinthians 12: 7-10

7bTherefore, in order to keep me from becoming conceited, I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. 10 That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

More than possibly any other Earthly influence, this disease has shaped what is now 33-year-old Will Walker. It forced me into total adult self-responsibility at an early age (which carried over into all areas of my life, including academics), it started my true love of physical activity, it made me really good at quick mental math (figuring out dosages, etc.), it fostered my interest in the human body, and most importantly, it was the final impetus for my eternal salvation.

Quite literally, it made me who I am, and if I “hate” Type I diabetes, I hate me.

This line is from the Personal Statement of Faith document that I submitted as part of my job application at ETBU:

“Even my greatest bodily defect, Type-I diabetes, has been geared towards me living a life of eating well and being physically active. I regard teaching Kinesiology as God’s work; while doctors work to heal diseases, Kinesiologists strive to prevent them. I can think of no other way in which to better imitate the miracles of Jesus than to help His people be healthy and physically prosperous.”

(All of that said, I have pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me, many more than just three times, and now that I have learned all of these awesome life lessons from it, if at any point He wants to cure me that would be great.)

***Also, I added this video at the last second for Elizabeth Ponder.

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