Wednesday, March 28, 2007

So that's what the Sears Tower looks like

Today, I'll join fellow Cumberlandites Baird Beers, Patrick Johnson, and Josh Andrews for a flight up to Chicago, Illinois for the National Criminal Trial Advocacy competition, sponsored by the American Bar Association.

This year's case is a murder that could be considered a self-defense case, a domestic violence case, a hate crime case, or even a business partner homicide. Needless to say, we've got our hands full with this one.

FEELING: Nervous
LISTENING TO: The giant air conditioner in the Samford library turn on, which sounds like a jet taking off

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Some Scripture cogent to recent events

With special thanks to my brother Mark Halling, some Scripture that I have been thinking about over the past couple of days:

Lamentations 3, after the destruction of Judah:
I cry out, "My splendor is gone! Everything I had hoped for from the Lord is lost!"

The thought of my suffering and homelessness is bitter beyond words. I will never forget this awful time, as I grieve over my loss.

Yet I still dare to hope when I remember this: "The unfailing love of the Lord never ends. By his mercies we have been kept from complete destruction. Great is his faithfulness; his mercies begin afresh each day."

I say to myself, "The Lord is my inheritance; therefore I will hope in him." He's all I have left.
And Psalm 143:
Come quickly, Lord, and answer me for my depression deepens. Don't turn away from me or I will die. Let me hear of your unfailing love in the morning, for I am trusting you. Show me where to walk, for I have come to you in prayer...

May your gracious Spirit lead me forward on a firm footing. For the glory of your name, O Lord, save me! In your righteousness, bring me out of this distress.
FEELING: Devastated
LISTENING TO: Nothing

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Men's SEC player -- and coach! -- of the year

And the honor goes to: Vanderbilt University's Derrick Byars for SEC Men's Player of the Year. But what's this, there's one more award: your 2006-07 SEC Coach of the Year is none other than Kevin Stallings, Vanderbilt's own!

Who would have seen that coming. But hey: "who ya with."

In other news, just in time for SEC Tournament and NCAA Madness time, I've been hooked on (thanks Austen) an alum-written blog about Vanderbilt Sports that has articles, frankly, better than either Vandymania.com or Vandysports.com.

It gets the Diezba Recommendation, so check it out: Vanderbilt Sports Line.

Oh, and since I haven't said something about it yet, how 'bout them Commodores (of the female variety) winning the 2007 SEC Women's Tournament Championship! Way to go, ladies. Now, if only LSU can knock off the Lady Vawls in the Big Dance, then we might have a chance at breaking into the Final Four.

FEELING: Ready for March Madness
LISTENING TO: iTunes

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Heresy or insight: you need more than just the Sinner's Prayer

There's a funny thing about Lent: it has a way of making people uncomfortable. It's hard to explain to people why (and how) you can give things up that you regularly do or enjoy. Or add on things that you don't normally do. And all for a specific period of, well, rather inconvenient time of the year. Why inconvenient? Two words: spring break (not to mention the fact that every so many years, my birthday happens to fall on Ash Wednesday).

The discipline of Lent always bring me back to the word, "disciple," and what it means to undertake to become Christ's disciple. I have, lately, been persuaded by experience that the classic formulation of salvation from my Baptist heritage, the Sinner's Prayer, is somewhat lacking when it comes to introducing a new believer to true, Christian discipleship.

The prayer, or some form of it, is used to guide potential believers into the arms of Jesus through admission of sin, belief in Christ's saving death and resurrection, and commitment to follow Him (notice the convenient ABCs of salvation).

The problem with the sinner's prayer, and one of the weaknesses of my Baptist tradition, is that once a person prays this prayer, often the only guidance available to them afterward is "read your Bible daily and attend a Bible-believing church." Certainly not bad advice, but my what broad strokes. What part of the Bible should I read? What exactly is a Bible-believing church? Is there anything I should do differently now? What should I do differently?

My readiness to question the Sinner's Prayer, and the simplistic call to salvation that usually accompanies it, was inspired by a recent column in Christianity Today. The author's poignant analysis of the problem in the "get saved and go serve God" mentality is that it overlooks the biggest challenge to any young believer.

The author said it best:
I suggest that we tend to confuse the beginning of the faith journey with its entirety. Yes, believe in Jesus—that's the first step. Yes, invite Jesus into your heart as your personal Savior. Then, empowered by God's grace, embark on the journey of discipleship, in which you seek to love God with every fiber of your being, to love your neighbor as yourself, to live out God's moral will, and to follow Jesus where he leads you, whatever the cost.
The most challenging part of the author's message was convicting to me. It is so easy to "share the Gospel" and then move on. But real Christian discipleship -- and thus, real Christian ministry -- is about more than easy platitudes and rote recitation of a formulaic conversion prayer:
Mediocrity and hypocrisy characterize the lives of many avowed Christians, at least in part because of our default answer to the salvation question. Anyone can, and most Americans do, "believe" in Jesus rather than some alternative savior. Anyone can, and many Americans sometimes do, say a prayer asking Jesus to save them. But not many embark on a life fully devoted to the love of God, the love of neighbor, the moral practice of God's will, and radical, costly discipleship.
FEELING: Challenged to pursue "radical, costly discipleship"
LISTENING TO: My roommates having dinner

Thursday, March 01, 2007

Pray for the people of Enterprise

Today was a deadly day in Alabama, as multiple tornadoes touched down in the Yellowhammer State.

More close-to-home for me and my fiancee Kat, a twister tore through Enterprise High School in Enterprise. That town, in lower Alabama (toward the middle of the State, and not too far from the Florida border), reminds me a lot of Rogersville (though its population is larger). And in 2003, on our way back from Panama City Beach, Katharyn and I stopped in Enterprise to take our picture with Enterprise's famous Boll Weevil Monument.

At Enterprise High, students were still in classes as a tornado moved through Coffee County. As the sirens wailed, students were evacuated from their classrooms into the gymnasium and the hallways. Most of the students were safe, despite the direct hit the school took from the storm. The gym, however, suffered heavy damage, and in one of the hallways, where students, teachers, and staff took cover, the roof collapsed.

Currently, local news is reporting, and the Alabama Emergency Management Agency has confirmed, that eight people have died, in the hallway-roof collapse at the high school. Some students are still trapped; and the community has been devastated.

Please pray for the families of those who have died, for those who are trapped, for the rescue workers and Alabama Guardsmen, and for the people of lower Alabama.

FEELING: Sad
LISTENING TO: The Fox 6 Storm Team