The Bible Project

The Bible Project banner

There’s a YouTube channel I’ve been following for a little while now called The Bible Project. It’s really great and manages to pack a great deal of content into small  (no more than 12 minute) chunks. Go check it out. You won’t be sorry!



My Wife’s Impending Surgery

The GoFundMe site is HERE! Thanks so much for praying, Sharing, and helping!

My wife, Rachel, needs a craniocervical fusion and Chiari decompression surgery.  Without this surgery, she experiences extreme pain and disability, and risks sudden death due to stroke, aneurysm, apnea, or as the result of any single whiplash injury.

Rachel’s skull slides back and forth out of place on her spine by 8 millimeters (a safe maximum is 1 mm), damaging her brainstem, arteries, and nerves.  Her cerebellum is blocking the flow of cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) at the base of her skull, dangerously increasing the pressure in her brain.  She has temporarily been put in a hard cervical collar to prevent further damage and alleviate symptoms, until surgery can be performed.

We need help raising money for her surgery and associated travel expenses.  The surgery is scheduled for June 20, 2017, at Doctors Community Hospital in Lanham, MD.

Rachel’s brain and spine issues are caused by a rare, genetic connective tissue disorder called hypermobile Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome (hEDS). Surgery is much more complicated and risky in the EDS population, and specialized knowledge is required to ensure a successful or even safe outcome. There are no EDS-knowledgeable surgeons in our home state of Alabama or even in neighboring states. Dr. Fraser Henderson is the expert in Rachel’s condition, and he is the surgeon we have chosen to trust with her life.

If you would like to know more, you can view a video of Dr. Henderson speaking about her condition (craniocervical instability), associated symptoms, and treatment here:

Dr. Henderson’s Lecture on CCI

About Rachel

Some of you know Rachel, but for those of you who do not, I’d like to tell you a little bit about her.  Rachel is a dedicated mother and wife. She loves her family deeply and fiercely. When she was still able, she took care of our home and two little boys, all while working as a tech support specialist from home. She was active in our church, giving of time, money, and herself.  She coordinated Vacation Bible School for the Dalraida church of Christ for many years. She often volunteered at the children’s school (Redland Elementary School in Wetumpka, AL), teaching art projects or decorating classroom doors.

In her work, Rachel seldom took a day off despite her suffering.  She could often be seen working mobile in doctors’ waiting rooms, even going so far as to take a work call while being put under sedation for a painful procedure.  As a talented artist, Rachel was a founding and active member of the South Alabama Fiber Enthusiasts (SAFE) Guild and a consistent participant in Montgomery’s Atrium art group. In this capacity, she not only made her own art, but encouraged and promoted the work of her friends in the local art community.

Portrait of Elaine, Rachel Sipper 2016

Since she was diagnosed, Rachel’s health has deteriorated significantly, robbing her of her ability to show her talents and be there for others. However, she still reaches out in any way she can through social media, supporting many who are going through similar pain and loss as a support group member and administrator. Rachel uses her mind and heart to help others in any way possible, continuing to show her beautiful love and compassion. Although Rachel hasn’t been able to draw or paint in some time, she has a website where you can see her most recent work:

Rachel’s Charcoal Portraits

Rachel has had a long road in fighting chronic illness.  It began about ten years ago, and in that time she has seen dozens of specialists and surgeons.  She has collected multiple diagnoses and endured treatment after treatment, experiencing countless prescriptions’ side effects and many painful procedures in an effort to treat an ever-growing cluster of symptoms that have encroached on her ability to live a normal life.  Between 2013 and 2014, Rachel had three separate surgeries in pursuit of head and neck pain relief alone.

Eventually, she put together the puzzle herself, discovering that she fit the profile of Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome to a T.  She requested a geneticist’s evaluation in 2015, and Dr. Descartes at UAB confirmed that she did indeed have hEDS.  By the summer of 2016, Rachel had become homebound and disabled, unable to participate in even the most basic life experiences.  She had to stop making art, because looking down at the paper caused blackouts and nausea.  Her world has now shrunk to the size of our bedroom; she can’t even tuck our children into bed at night, or wash her own hair without my assistance.  She leaves the house only to go to doctor’s appointments, and no longer drives at all.

The decade of doctors’ visits, treatments, and surgeries has cost our family tens of thousands of dollars.  Rachel lost her job when she lost the ability to drive.  Our high medical costs every month, combined with the loss of Rachel’s job, have caused us extreme financial hardship.  We are relying on family and friends to get her the medical help she needs now.

This upcoming brain and spine surgery is the most promising treatment we have found for Rachel’s symptoms.  It cannot take away her genetic condition, but it can relieve the worst of its symptoms for her.  By stabilizing her spine, decompressing her brainstem, and making room for her CSF to flow freely, Dr. Henderson hopes to restore a great deal of function to Rachel’s life and relieve the incredible pain she has to endure on a daily basis.

Cost Breakdown

We will need an estimated total of $13,516 to get Rachel the surgery she needs and stay in Washington, DC for two weeks.  We were hoping to raise about half of that amount here: $6,758.

Unbelievably, we reached that amount in less than one week of fundraising! Thank you all from the bottom of our hearts. Since we planned to keep the GoFundMe up for six weeks (up to the surgery date), we are now going to shoot for the full amount (plus the 8% that goes to GoFundMe). If we make it, we won’t have to go into debt borrowing that other half. Again, we are in awe and so very grateful for the generosity we’ve already been shown!

Below is the breakdown of our cost estimate, so you can see where all the money is intended to go.  The children will only be with us in the DC area for one week in order to reduce our costs, accompanied by Rachel’s parents since they cannot stay overnight in the hospital with us.

Medical: $10,266

Deposit for Dr. Henderson- $7,326
Estimated durable medical equipment cost- $2,100
Hospital Copays and Rx- $840

Travel: $3,250

Food & Kids’ Lodging- $2,170
Transportation & Incidentals- $1,080

Update: Since GoFundMe charges an 8% fee, we’ve adjusted our fundraising goal to $7,300 to absorb that charge.

A Note from Rachel

Hi everyone, and thank you so much for taking the time to get to know my story.  I understand that not everyone can donate.  Even a few dollars can really add up when many people come together, so please consider helping us out with any amount at all.  My dearest hope is to get back to any level of “normal” at all, one where I can participate fully in all the beautiful moments life has to offer.  I want to play with my children, go out on a date with my husband, participate in my community, and maybe even get back to my passion, making art.  I have a stack of canvases, a set of oil paints and brushes, and a brain full of ideas just waiting to be something amazing.  Please help me make it happen.  Love to you all.  -Rachel

Jesus Works Chapter One Jesus – A Man of Many Talents: Jesus the Man


Jesus Works

Chapter One

Jesus – A Man of Many Talents

Jesus the Man

When Jesus walked the Earth, he managed to know and see and do many things. In fact, he seemed to understand the full range of not only society, but the occupations of basically every person at every level of society. Among the numerous jobs Jesus talked about and performed were teacher, leader, fisherman, public relations, and, of course, carpenter. Jesus wasn’t just talented at all of these things, but a complete genius in every field! This has led many scholars, both secular and religious, to claim that Jesus probably had the highest IQ of any human who ever lived!  Jesus is and was truly The Master. We also must be mindful of our own vocations as we seek to work for Jesus in every area of our lives. David Hagenbuch, in his paper concerning Christian vocation, states “Vocation derives from the Latin verb vocare, to call, and from a biblical perspective, that caller is God. It is important to note that this calling applies to every area of one’s life, as there is no distinction between sacred and secular. An individual’s vocation may include, for instance, his or her role as parent, spouse, sibling, deacon, scout leader, softball player, and member. As such, a vocation is a unique, individualized calling, often not discovered easily, that requires specific talents, offers true enjoyment, and accomplishes something of value” (2008, p. 86).   In this introductory chapter of our study, let’s look at the various areas of Jesus’ work in and among humans and how we can learn more from Him within the framework of His infinite talent, knowledge, and wisdom.

Jesus the Man

The first thing we have to understand is Jesus as a physical person. Jesus was human. We all realize this, but what does that mean? There are several areas we could discuss that would help us define Jesus’ humanity, but the easiest way to see who he was as a man is to look in the mirror. Jesus was susceptible to all of the same things we are. He got sleepy and grumpy and even sneezy! Sickness and pain and frustration were as much a way of life for Jesus as it is for you and me. We’ll see more about all of these things in the next chapter. Jesus also had interests, knowledge, skills, and abilities. He was interested in people, places, and things. Jesus went through stages of intellectual, physical, emotional, and spiritual development. He grew and changed and became an adult. Of course, He is God as well, but we can’t let this take away from the important fact of His humanness. Overall, Jesus wasn’t just a man, but The Man; the pattern after which we all follow.

Hagenbuch, D. (2008). Marketing as a Christian Vocation: Called to Reconciliation, Christian Scholar’s Review. Christian Scholar’s Review, 1:38, pp. 83-96.

Strangers:A Review of Immigration in the Bible


Strangers:A Review of Immigration in the Bible

Since the expulsion of Adam and Eve from the Garden of Eden, there have been immigrants. In their case, God directed that Adam and Eve travel outside the land of their creation and into an unwelcoming land. Then as sin grew, Cain killed Abel and was expelled into the wilderness to wander. Noah and his family also sojourned upon the waters as God directed them and had to restart humanity. As you can see, the history of humanity is basically the story of immigration.

As the Patriarchal Dispensation continued, Abraham began his relationship with God by way of a command to become an immigrant. “By faith he (Abram/Abraham) went to live in the land of promise, as in a foreign land, living in tents with Isaac and Jacob, heirs with him of the same promise” Heb 11:9. And, of course, his son and grandson were sojourners as well. Joseph, though not by choice, became a stranger in Egypt. Then, his entire family (by choice) became sojourners/foreigners there with him.

'He's sending us to a culturally diverse place called 'Palestine.''

‘He’s sending us to a culturally diverse place called ‘Palestine.”

After the time of their sojourning, when their oppression was fully ripe (Ex 3:7) and the sin of the Canaanites was full expressed (Gen 15:16), God used Moses to lead them out, again as immigrants, and into the Promised Land, beginning the Mosaic Dispensation. In their wandering and after, God consistently reminds them of their status as immigrants/strangers saying, “You shall not oppress a sojourner. You know the heart of a sojourner, for you were sojourners in the land of Egypt” Ex 23:9. This same sentiment is stated over 200 times in the Old and New Testament, usually nested in verses that characterize immigrants/sojourners/strangers/foreigners as those who are typically poor and oppressed along with the poor, orphan/fatherless, prisoner, and widow.

This is seen clearly as humanity begins entry into the Christian Dispensation as Jesus teaches in Matthew 25:31-46:

31“When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on his glorious throne. 32Before him will be gathered all the nations, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. 33And he will place the sheep on his right, but the goats on the left. 34Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. 35For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, 36I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’ 37Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? 38And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? 39And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ 40And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers,f you did it to me.’

41“Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. 42For I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me no drink, 43I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not clothe me, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.’ 44Then they also will answer, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not minister to you?’ 45Then he will answer them, saying, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.’ 46And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.”

The word “stranger” in the Greek is “xenos”, the word from which we get our term “xenophobia”, a term that means the fear of foreigners/strangers. Clearly, Jesus is speaking in the same terms of one who is an immigrant/stranger/foreigner/sojourner as expressed throughout the Bible.

Based on this review of immigrants in the Word, how are we as Christians to care for those who are immigrants in our land? There seems to be a prevailing attitude of fear and unwelcoming toward those who are strangers in our country, but the Biblical account appears to call for another attitude entirely. Job said: “I was a father to the needy; I took up the case of the stranger.” Job 29:16. Moses penned in every book of the Pentateuch, multiple exhortations to care for those from outside the Israelite community. The remainder of the Old Testament is full of admonitions to help the foreigner. Jesus also pulls no punches in His command to take care of those who are poor, immigrants, and in prison in Matthew 25.

As Christians, we must also remember the spiritual side of immigration. The fact is, we are ALL immigrants as far as God sees us. “But God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” Rom 5:8. We were strangers, wandering in the wilderness of sin, completely hopeless, but God saw us and had compassion on us. He gave us and continues to give us everything. As a result, we are called to spiritually and physically remember God’s words through Moses “You know the heart of a sojourner, for you were sojourners” Ex 23:9 as well as the words of Jesus when He says, “Everyone to whom much was given, of him much will be required” Luke 12:48b.

“When a stranger sojourns with you in your land, you shall not do him wrong. You shall treat the stranger who sojourns with you as the native among you, and you shall love him as yourself, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt: I am the Lord your God.” Lev 19:33-34.


Jesus Works – New Audio Files

I haven’t posted on here in some time now. I’ve been very busy writing new lessons and directing some events with Childhaven and Mt Dora Children’s Home. I’ve been privileged to teach a class at Dalraida church of Christ titled Jesus Works. It’s a vocational class I wrote that basically shows how Jesus would do your job if he were you. Here is a link for the audio files. Enjoy!

Jesus Works Audio Files




Chapter 6 discusses The Whole Person


The issue of education and the “whole person” has been one of much interest for a long while. However, as education continues its mercurial change throughout culture and technological realms, the education of the whole person has become a new discussion. The following research looks at how education is changing and how the education of the whole person plays into these changes. First, nutrition and the whole person will be examined through the lens of the deep fried south. Next, individual talent and ability will be discussed. Finally, the maker movement in education and how it applies to the development of the whole person will be considered.

Nutrition as it concerns the great culture has been at the forefront of education for some time now. With obesity rates rocketing upward and the continuing burden to a changing health care environment, education in nutrition has been seen as one potential way to help ease some of the health, fiscal, and educational issues we face as a society and nation. This is specifically seen as a problem in the southeast and Alabama even more specifically. “The review of the literature suggests Alabama residents do lack adequate nutritional knowledge, but it would appear that even when they do have adequate nutritional knowledge, they often don’t change their behavior” (Norrell, 2013, p. 126). The fact that this is an issue in the south and specifically in Alabama, should give us at AU pause. While there is more education and more of a likelihood of a more healthful lifestyle in the Air Force, there are many temptations as well as other factors that could contribute to difficulties associated with the local food culture and environment. “The fact remains that residents of Alabama are very prone to being overweight and obese and there are many factors that contribute to this such as nutritional knowledge, genetics, physiology, mindfulness and physical activity” (Norrell, 2013, p. 130). These facts are areas of concern for many reasons, mostly because the prevailing environment and attitude toward nutrition and health in Alabama is still not positive. AU can learn from this and continue to ensure that Airmen have the knowledge and resources they need to be healthy and productive warriors.

“Language Arts had the opportunity to interview Sir Ken Robinson, internationally recognized scholar, speaker, and leader in the development of and commitment to the arts, creativity, innovation, and the potential of human resources. His TED talks (Technology, Entertainment, and Design: are estimated to have reached over 300 million people and have had profound impact in the world” (Language Arts, 2014, p. 157). In this interview, Robison speaks to Language Arts about how to develop individual talents and abilities, an integral part of education for the whole person. “My experience is that all people have talents, it’s just that many of those talents are undiscovered. I think if you don’t discover things you’re good at and things you love to do, then you never quite discover what you’re capable of or really who you are. I think that, increasingly, the mission of schools has to focus on the development of our individual talents and abilities, among all of the other things that we need to learn in common” (Language Arts, 2014, p. 159). This strategy allows those who may be traditionally weaker in some areas to use their innate talents to uphold or overcome these weaker areas and succeed where they once failed. Robinson goes on to say: “What I mean is the feeling of deep engagement and commitment to something that really inspires and interests you. You can tell when you’re doing something that you love to do because it gives you energy” (Language Arts, 2014, p. 159). Much of Robinson’s outlook toward teaching the whole person has to do with untapped potential. “My argument has been from the outset that everyone has natural creative capacities, but they have to be developed” (Language Arts, 2014, p. 162). Through the use of creativity and tapping into the creativity of others in the field of education, more discovery and success can be had.

            The “Maker Movement” has garnered quite a lot of attention lately. “This year at the first ever White House Maker Faire, President Obama declared, ‘I am calling on people across the country to join us in sparking creativity and encouraging invention in their communities’” (Halverson & Sheridan, 2014, p. 495). Maker culture, as it has become known to many, is all about new technologies, expert marketing, and strong word of mouth. It appear sot be a grass roots effort to introduce as much information and innovation as possible from a fringe culture into the American mainstream. The movement is characterized by nine key ideas: make, share, give, learn, tool up (i.e., secure necessary tools), play, participate, support, and change. “Just as progressive educators have been talking about for decades about learning as the creation of meaningful artifacts, artists and arts educators have long histories of supporting learning in the making across a variety of art forms and media” (Halverson & Sheridan, 2014, p. 499). The Maker Movement has been seen of late to be influencing education in some very interesting and exciting ways. “The trend of remaking learning spaces in higher education and informal learning settings has generated inevitable questions in the formal context” (Halverson & Sheridan, 2014, p. 499). The end game for the Maker Movement, then, is to enhance learning through the encouragement of creative conversation and production. This could be a huge advantage at AU and especially through AFIT as making really comes down to innovation and production that can move the Air Force and AU rapidly into the future as an institution of higher learning as well as an Air Force.


Halverson, E.R. & Sheridan, K.M. (2014). The Maker Movement in Education. Harvard Educational Review, 84 (4), 495-565.

Language Arts Staff (2014). Developing individual Talent and Abilities: An interview with Sir Ken Robinson. Language Arts, 92 (2), 157-162.