Noah and kids 1Our son Noah (17) spent 9 days in Haiti last month with a group from our church helping at an orphanage (Our older son, Nathan, went there 2 years ago.)  Some of these children became orphans after the 2010 earthquake (see my blog on Aftershock).  Here is the first half of the letter he sent to people who supported him.  I hope you are as moved as I was.

I wanted thank you so much for your prayer and support for my trip to Haiti. God protected us, and my team enjoyed safety and health. It was an amazing experience that changed my life and reached out to the lives of 68 orphaned children. Without you, this would not have been possible.  Thank you.

As soon as we arrived, I was hit by two things: heat and poverty. People crowded us at the airport asking to help us carry our bags, looking for whatever work they could find. After a ride in a Haitian style bus called a Tap-tap on roads with crazy driving, we arrived at the compound. We arrived before dinner and had time to unpack, unwind, and talk to the missionary who ran the orphanages, Greg Barshaw.

The next day we visited the disabled orphanage. The kids were very interested in my watch; they crowded around and wanted to push the buttons. They were content with the simple things, just standing there pushing a button, hearing a beep, and seeing a number change. I wish I could be as happy as these children over a little thing like that. After playing with the kids for a few minutes, Greg told us to gather around one orphan in a wheel chair. He looked barely responsive, and had a large cast around one leg. Greg said his name was Daniel, and he suffered from cerebral palsy. But as if being a poor orphaned child with a disability wasn’t enough, Daniel broke his femur when a therapist was trying to stretch it out. They operated on him without pain medicine and set the bone. I looked at Daniel and thought of the all the pain and loss, and wondered how it could be worth it. How could it be worth it to pull through all that pain to live in a wheel chair, unable to speak, unable to control your own body? Most of the group moved on to entertain other kids, but I stayed with Daniel and wrestled with this question.

One of our leaders, Andrew, began to hold his hand. After a little while, Daniel smiled. He was happy. In his horrible condition, he was happy, holding Andrew’s hand. In that moment, I knew why God put me in Haiti.



If you are into trash talking, you may want to check out my recently published article,

” ‘I Will Strike You down and Cut off Your Head’ (1 Samuel 17:42) Trash Talking, Derogatory Rhetoric, and Psychological Warfare in Ancient Israel.”

It just appeared in a collection of essays entitled,

Warfare, Ritual, and Symbol in Biblical and Modern Contexts, edited by Brad Kelle, Frank Ames and Jacob Wright, from SBL (June, 2014)

Who trash talks in the Bible?  David, Goliath, Elijah, Jezebel, Jehu, the Rabshakeh, and even Yahweh himself.  David is the one who promises to “cut off” the head of his opponent Goliath from the title.

So, is it OK, or even good to trash talk?  Do you trash talk?  Should we trash talk today?  

I also have a series of nine blogs about OT trash talking (click here).

I begin with Shakespeare’s Henry V, then move quickly to John Cleese’s French knight in The Holy Grail (how often do you encounter Monty Python in academic works?) before working through examples in literature of the ancient Near East and the Bible.

I really like some of the section titles,

1) Introduction
2) Insults, Boasts and Predictions
3) Trash-Talk Research
4) Bulls and Birds, Falcons and Foxes: Trash Talking in the ANE
5) Flailing Flesh and Smoldering Stumps: Trash Talking in the Hebrew Bible
6) Canine Consumption: Elijah, Jezebel, Jehu, and Others
7) Eating Dung and Drinking Urine: The Rabshaheh, Hezekiah, and YHWH
8) Lions, Bears, and Dogs: David and the Philistine
9) Biomorphic and Zoomorphic, Scatological and Theological

I first gave an earlier draft of this in Oxford in July 2008, but many of the scholars weren’t familiar with the term “trash talking”, instead they spoke of “sledging” which is apparently what taunt speech is often called in cricket.

Other contributors to the volume include the three editors, as well as,
Saul M. Olyan
Nathaniel B Levtow
Thomas Römer
Kelly J. Murphy
Deborah O’Daniel Cantrell
Rüdiger Schmitt
Mark S. Smith
Susan Niditch
Jason A. Riley
T. M. Lemos

Where else do we find trash talking in the Bible?

monkey-hand-over-mouthI couldn’t talk for three hours. My wife forbade me. And I always do what she says.

Habakkuk, Paul, YHWH and Jesus all think it’s good to be silent.  Do you?

Read my post reflecting on silence on Biblical’s blog: The Sound of Silence.

Most of the decisions we make in life we don’t need help with—which shirt to wear to work today (I wear Garanimals), whether to keep reading this blog (yes), which film to watch (we just saw X-Men; two thumbs up).

We need help with the big decisions.

Who to marry?  When to change jobs?  Which house to buy?  When to take over another company? (I may not ever face that choice)

As a Christian, I pray about these types of decisions, but I still need help.  And most of you, like me, have probably regretted some bad choices.

If you would like to increase the quality of your decisions, and reduce the number of bad ones, you should read this book.

Decisive: How to Make Better Choices in Life and Work by Chip and Dan Heath.  The only negative thing to say about the book is that the title is not particularly engaging or clever.  Fortunately for the Heath brothers, they already have a huge national audience due to the success of their first book together, Made to Stick: Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die (which I’d also recommend for all teachers, pastors, marketers, and anyone trying to get a message out so that it “sticks”).   They are both academics, Chip is a Biz school prof at Stanford and Dan is a fellow at Duke’s Center for Social Entrepreneurship, but they can write to a popular audience (hence the huge book sales).

Decisive begins by describing the “Four Villains of Decision Making.”  See if you can figure out one of villains from this quote.

Who the hell wants to hear actors talk? – Harry Warner of Warner Bros. Studios, 1927

Decisive is filled with interesting stories about tough choices faced by real people: doctors, children, teachers, parents, professors, politicians, spouses, CEO’s, etc.  It’s an easy read.

(I didn’t not receive a copy of the book from Crown, but was given one by my mother-in-law.  I assume it wasn’t because she thought I made a bad choice for a spouse.  I know I didn’t.)

You’ll learn about some bad decisions. 

-After dominating the photography industry for decades, how did a bad process lead Eastman-Kodak to file for bankruptcy?
-How can one avoid the type of mistake that led Decca Records in 1962 to say “No” to signing a contract to one of the biggest bands in Rock history (“Four-piece groups with guitars, particularly, are finished”)?
-How did Henry Kissinger manipulate Richard Nixon into making a policy decision involving Europe?

You’ll learn about some good processes. 

-How does a Catholic priest helps parishioners figure what God wants?
-How did Intel decide to move from memory to processors?
-How did Shane decide whether to buy the $1000 Pioneer or the $700 Sony stereo?

I know what you’re thinking, should I get this book, or not?  I’ll remove one of your options, leaving you only one (which the Heath brothers don’t recommend), buy the book.  You won’t regret it.

Church of Holy Sepulcher Vid from David Lamb on Vimeo.

Tomorrow (May 25, 2014) at about noon ET in the US, the leaders of the Roman Catholic Church and the Eastern Orthodox church will meet in Jerusalem.  Pope Francis of Rome and Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople will meet at the Church of the Holy Sepulcher.  Professor David of Hatfield wasn’t invited, but I did visit the church two months ago.  For an eighteen second video of the outside of the church click above (ignore my sarcastic commentary).

The Church of the Holy Sepulcher is the supposed site of Jesus’ death and burial, the site is also called Golgatha (Matt. 27:33; Mark 15:22; John 19:17), or Calvary (based on Calvariae the Latin for skull).  This particular site was chosen three hundred years after Jesus’ death while Helena, the mother of the Roman Emperor Constantine, was on a pilgrimage to Jerusalem.  She became aware of a pagan temple devoted to Venus and Jupiter that was built in 135 AD at the site supposedly to discourage Christians who had been worshiping there.  Graves were found which were assumed to belong to Jesus and Joseph of Arimathea.  People who doubt this site was the actual location of Jesus’ death and burial point out that the location would need to be outside the city wall, not in the center of town.  It’s hard to say definitively either way, but if you’re interested in reading more, click here.

While it’s very possible Jesus died at that very spot, it was still hard for me to connect to it spiritually.  Part of the reason for my lack of connection was the uncertain nature of a decision about a precise location 300 years after the event occurred. But the main thing that made it hard was the crowds.  My guess is that the crowds may be bigger tomorrow for the Pope and the Patriarch.

I visited the church with a group from BTS on March 25, 2014 and we tried to get to the crucifixion location, up the narrow stairs, but the crowds were outrageous.  We stood and waited, and waited, and waited, slowly pushing forward. Then suddenly an older Russian lady cut in front of us, pushed us back and informed us that she was trying to keep her group together.  I’m thinking, “Yes, but you joined the mob after we did.”  I got mad, indignant really, that her group was going to get to be at the right and left side of Jesus in his glory before I was (Mark 10:35-45?).

Something about the situation just didn’t seem right.  People pushing and shoving to get near the place that Jesus died for my sins.  The next day we visited another possible burial site, and that was a different story which I’ll talk about in the next blog.  I never made it to the burial spot for Jesus, the crowds were too big and we didn’t have enough time.

I wonder if Francis and Bartholomew will have the same problem tomorrow.

The two leaders are commemorating the 50th anniversary (1964) of a meeting in Jerusalem between Pope Paul VI and Patriarch Athenagoras, which was the first time a pope and patriarch had met since the 15th century.  Odds-makers think this time Francis and Bartholomew will hug, more likely at least than a hug between me and that old Russian lady.

We’ll just have to wait and see about those hugs.

The split between the two churches occurred in 1054 over the filioque, Latin for “and the son” an expression that the Western church added to the Nicene Creed without consulting the Eastern church.  (Twenty years ago I wrote a paper on the filioque for my Systematic Theology class, but I won’t make you read it.)

kidnappednigeriangirls-1On April 14, 2014 more than 200 schoolgirls in NE Nigeria were kidnapped by the terrorist group Boko Haram.

Today at our BTS faculty meeting we prayed over a list of some of the names we received from the Church of the Brethren, since many of the girls are from families associated with the Church of the Brethren in Nigeria.

While politicians discuss ransoms and prisoner exchanges, whether it is ever acceptable to negotiate with terrorists, or whether the US should send troops on the ground to another sovereign nation, we can pray.  I assume, many of you are doing so already, but if not pray with me.

God, comfort Comfort Amos and her friends. 
Show grace to Grace Paul and her friends.  
Christ, be with Christiana Bitrus and their friends. 
Lord, we want to rejoice with Rejoice Sanki and her friends.

I spent the summer of 1985 in Bauchi state northern Nigeria not far from Borno State (NE corner of Nigeria) where the village of Chibok is located, where these girls are from.  Ironically, the nickname of Borno State is “Home of Peace.”

God, bring peace to the Home of Peace.  
God, comfort Comfort Amos and her friends.  

If you’d like to read more about the injustice that is happening to females in the world, check out these two books.


Half the Sky, by Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn, is a bestseller that not only tells incredible stories of oppressed women and girls but also offers a hopeful vision–how empowerment and education of women will lead to progress and development.

Half the Church, by Carolyn Custis James, speaks to what God is already doing, and what the church could be doing to embrace God’s vision for women throughout the globe.  

Garden of Gethsemane and DaveI was speaking at the InterVarsity group at the University of Maryland on God Behaving Badly a few weeks ago, and I got to the end where I talk about Jesus praying in the Garden of Gethsemane (Mark 14:32; Matt. 26:32) and I couldn’t resist the temptation.

“The Garden of Gethsemane, I was just there just a few weeks ago.”  It was too good to pass up.  (No, this image isn’t a selfie, my arms not quite that long.)

On a first day in Israel, we started out on the top of the Mount of Olives, looking over Jerusalem.  As we walked down the Mount of Olives toward the city of Jerusalem, we passed through the Garden of Gethsemane.  It would be foolish to assume that the garden hadn’t changed much since Jesus’ day, but it was great to imagine what it must have been like 2000 years ago.  Apparently some of the world’s oldest known olive trees are located there, approximately a thousand years old.

While it’s impossible to say exactly where Jesus prayed the night before he died, the Roman Catholic, Greek and Russian Orthodox churches all disagree (slightly) about the garden’s location on the slope of the Mount of Olives, but let’s hope we can agree on a few things about what happened in Gethsemane.

And they went to a place called Gethsemane. And he said to his disciples, “Sit here while I pray.” 33 And he took with him Peter and James and John, and began to be greatly distressed and troubled. 34 And he said to them, “My soul is very sorrowful, even to death. Remain here and watch.” 35 And going a little farther, he fell on the ground and prayed that, if it were possible, the hour might pass from him. 36 And he said, “Abba, Father, all things are possible for you. Remove this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will.” 37 And he came and found them sleeping, and he said to Peter, “Simon, are you asleep? Could you not watch one hour? 38 Watch and pray that you may not enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.” 39 And again he went away and prayed, saying the same words. 40 And again he came and found them sleeping, for their eyes were very heavy, and they did not know what to answer him. 41 And he came the third time and said to them, “Are you still sleeping and taking your rest? It is enough; the hour has come. The Son of Man is betrayed into the hands of sinners. 42 Rise, let us be going; see, my betrayer is at hand.” Mark 14:32-42

First, notice that even Jesus’ disciples fell asleep while praying, actually three times (Mark 14:37, 40, 41).  No, I don’t think that’s something to emulate, but it’s still good to point out.  (Although, when I visited Gethsemane, I stayed awake. So, I’ve got that over the disciples.)  Also, if you doze while praying, expect Jesus somehow to wake you up and harass you.  How does Jesus wake you up when you’re supposed to be praying?

Second, Jesus was brutally honest.  He first tells the three disciples that he’s depressed—sorrowful to the point of death.  I hope I would do the same to my framily (according to commercials that’s what we’re suppose to call our friends and family), but I doubt it.  Then Jesus asks his father to remove the cup that he knows he’s supposed to drink.  How honest are you with your friends and with your God?

Third, Jesus prays the same thing three times.  Jesus prays the same thing three times.  Jesus prays the same thing three times.  Do you ever repeat your prayers?

Garden Gethsemane


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