Wednesday, December 21

Maybe I wasn't paying attention the last time Christmas fell on a Sunday (1994), but I don't remember the how churches handled it back then. This year, I know of congregations locally that are handling Christmas in a lot of different ways:

1) Some are having regular services as usual.

2) Some are reducing the number of services they have on Sunday, say from two services down to one.

3) Some churches are having Christmas Eve and Sunday morning services that will be identical. Others are having Christmas Eve and Sunday morning services that will be different.

4) More churches than I would have guessed are dismissing Sunday morning services all together. Some are small churches, but others are some of the largest congregations in America: Willow Creek Community Church, Southland Christian Church, Mars Hill, and Fellowship Bible Church of Little Rock among them. Many, I'm sure, will have a Christmas Eve service of some kind.

5) At least one church I know is dismissing their Sunday service but sending a DVD with a pre-recorded service on it for their families to use at home that morning. It includes time to take communion and instructions on how to go online to make a financial contribution to several different ministries.

6) And Fellowship Bible Church of NW Arkansas (one of the largest in our area with a weekend attendance of about 7,000) is actually adding two services. They will have three Saturday night services (rather than two) and four Sunday morning services (rather than three).

Any thoughts on these options?

I'm kind of glad I'm not having to make that call. In campus ministry, our last service was on Dec. 11 and our next one will be on Jan. 15!


From David P. Gushee's article, Our Missing Moral Compass, in the November issue of Christianity Today:

"If one labors in the vineyards of most sectors of American evangelical life, it does not take long before one notices that staggering moral sloppiness that frequently characterizes us. It's not just that Christians are sinners, too, and that we mess up like everyone else does. Of course that is true.

The problem goes deeper, to the way in which we have understood the very structure and meaning of the Christian experience. For many of us, Christianity is primarily a faith, that is, a body of beliefs to which we assent. Or it is primarily an experience, that is, a repertoire of inspiring, encouraging, or even ecstatic states entered into through worship and prayer. Or it is an event, that is, a one-time moment of conversion in which we 'walk the aisle,' profess our faith publicly, and join the church, guaranteeing ourselves a heavenly mansion when we die.

But it seems important to see Christianity in all its dimensions.... We are indeed morally sloppy, and I think it is because we have embraced truncated versions of the Christian faith that have trained us to be this way.... Christianity is more than an event, an experience, or a set of beliefs. It is a way of life characterized by moral seriousness and the quest for holiness."

Tuesday, December 20

Catching up with a few random thoughts along the way ...

I've never understood people who aren't excited about getting the mail every day. There are those strange individuals who can go days at a time and not check their mail. At our house, Gina and I fight over who gets to see the mail first! If I'm out of town, one of the things I always ask when I call home is, "Was there anything exciting in the mail?" This excitement doubles during this time of year as Christmas cards arrive from around the country. We love to read the Christmas letters and see what is happening in the lives of friends we haven't seen in years. We love to see the pictures of families and kids and feel old as former students build their own homes and raise their own families. I promise you - we "ooo" and "ahh" over every picture.

Of course, we have been doing this so long that some of these families are getting pretty grown up. Some of those involved with ConC years ago now have kids in college. Del and Rebecca have a son at the UofA and a daughter playing basketball at Harber High here in Springdale. Chip and Suzanne have a son at the Air Force Academy. This fall I watched Jim and Jo's son play high school football on the same team as Roger's two sons. Jan and PD's son is a basketball player at Harber and Phil and Leslie's daughter is a multi-sport star in Siloam Springs. We have got to watch Dwayne and Michelle's girls dance at a football game and compete in gymnastics. Even though some of these were in ConC 20 years ago or more, we still feel like we are a part of their lives.


Venus Flytrap turned 61 yesterday. That's hard for me to believe. Now - how many of you can tell me who Venus Flytrap is???


I have friends who have strong feelings about "postmodernism". Some feel that it is all hype and all the talk about it is wasted energy. Others feel that it is a very accurate description of the direction our world is heading. But I do know that the US is more and more a "post-Christian" society - a society that, for the most part, has heard the Gospel and largely rejected it.

In the November issue of Christianity Today, Philip Yancey has one of his typically thought-provoking pieces about this post-Christian world in which we live. In it, he writes this:

"Reflecting on our conversation, I remembered a remark by (C.S.) Lewis, who drew a distinction between communicating with a society that hears the gospel for the first time and one that has embraced it and then largely rejected it. A person must court a virgin differently than a divorc'ee, said Lewis. One welcomes the charming words; the other needs a demonstration of love to overcome inbuilt skepticism."

That resonates with how I see our world and, particularly, how I see the university campus. Most students I meet are not strangers to the gospel. They have heard it. They know who Jesus is. Most have spent a good portion of their lives going to church. But they have found Christianity lacking. Whether it be the hypocrisy of Christians or other issues, they have made a choice not to take it seriously.

What a world like this needs to see is authentic Christianity being lived out - the kind of Christianity that Jesus describes in the Parable of the Sheep and the Goats. Not just smooth words or slick presentations, but a demonstration of service, sacrifice, incarnational living, and practical love.


Along that line, I would encourage you to read an op/ed piece written by Nicholas Kristof in the Dec. 11 issue of the NY Times. It will challenge a lot of what is going on among Christians at this time of year. Some of you probably won't like it at all. Some will love it. But if you can avoid reading politics into it, it is very challenging. Unfortunately, you may have to pay to get to it. If so, let me know and I'll fill you in.


One thing I remember about the home that I grew up in was that we always received several newspapers. My dad loved them. We took the Ft. Scott Tribune, the Pittsburg Morning-Sun, two Kansas City papers (a morning paper and an evening paper), and the weekly Marmaton Valley paper. In fact, one of my earliest jobs was writing sports for the Ft. Scott Tribune and the Marmaton Valley paper. But that love of newspapers rubbed off on me. We get two papers at the house every day and, at one time, I took the NY Times here at home. But with the internet, I daily read portions of the KC Star, the Washington Post, the Dallas Morning News, USA Today, and the NY Times. Most are free, but I do "subscribe" to the NY Times to get more access to their paper.

Wednesday, December 7

It's Dead Day at the UofA. Classes ended for the semester yesterday. Final exams begin tomorrow.

Last night was our annual Candlelight Christmas service. Jake typically puts it together for us and he always does a great job. Last night was no exception: He and Trevor played guitars "unplugged", five students shared from the Christmas story, communion. Afterwards, at least 20 of us made our annual walk up to the square to see the Christmas lights. It was a very special time - a good way to end the semester. Of course, there was the year that our worship minister decided that we needed to do a "stomp" Christmas service, using trash cans, lids, etc. as musical (?) instruments ...


Dead Day also has its traditions. This morning we delivered Christmas presents to a day care that works with at-risk children from dysfunctional homes. We had 30-40 students combine to buy about $1000 worth of gifts for the 22 kids there. Over the past few years, we have also asked the fraternity next door to us to purchase gifts for the siblings of these kids. So they spend another $2000 for the 50 or so siblings.

This evening was our annual Guys' Dead Day at Monte Ne. Guys from ConC go to the Monte Ne Inn for an all-you-can-eat chicken dinner. Of course, there are the requisite "records" that go with this event. To set a Monte Ne record, one has to first eat a complete meal. The you can go for a record. Some records include:

Thomas Dougan - 14 pieces of chicken
Carl Wiltse - 1 shaker of salt and 1 shaker of pepper
Don Helt - 1 fly, 1 vomit
Lance Hall - 5 1/2 loaves of bread, 86 crackers

Tonight, Lance set his third Monte Ne record with a huge, heaping serving bowl of mashed potatoes.


Last weekend was the end of the high school football season. I got to spend most of Friday and Saturday in Little Rock with the Springdale team. On Friday, we took some of the seniors to play with kids at the Arkansas Children's Hospital. On Saturday night, they defeated West Memphis 54-20 to win the state title and finish the season 14-0. In between, there was a lot of good time with the team and the coaches - eating meals, watching football, and talking.

Currently, SHS is ranked #2 in the country in the poll Sports Illustrated posts and #5 in USA Today's poll. The teams ahead of them in both poll all have at least one more game to play, so it is possible for SHS to get to #1 in the SI poll and anywhere from #2-4 in USA Today.

And it keeps getting better: the SHS quarterback, Mitch Mustain, was named as the Gatorade National High School Player of the year. Mitch is a great QB, but I'm not even sure he was the best player on the team.

Finally, I came back from the game in LR with a black eye. One of the players has been harassing me about my age all season. So I told him that I didn't want to hurt him during the season, but that after the championship game, he and I would wrestle on the 50 yard line of War Memorial stadium. So we did. I pinned him in about 3 seconds, but his shoulder pads scraped my eye as I threw him to the ground.

Saturday, November 26

Saturday night and I'm resting up from the Thanksgiving holiday - scared to get close to a scale! We went to Ft. Scott for the holiday and had a great time there. We were at my Mom's on Thursday with my brother and his family and my grandmother. On Friday, we were at Gina's folks with her sisters and their families. We are blessed to have families that we enjoy being around (I know those who don't) and to have them close enough that we can get home for holidays (or other needs) without too much hassle. Other things that I'm thankful for ...
* A wonderful wife who makes me a better man
* Two great daughters who are smart, hard-working young women of great character and Christian commitment
* That leaves only fall one time a year (after spending today raking them up)
* A staff that I enjoy working with
* People who believe in ConC and what we do and sacrificially give and pray to make it possible
* The end of the semester is only eight class days away!
I'm watching a really good movie as I write this. It's called Lightening in a Bottle and it is basically a concert celebrating 100 years of the Blues. It features all the blues artists you may know (BB King, Buddy Guy, Mavis Staples) and many that you probably don't - as well as artists like John Fogarty, Bonnie Raitt, and Steven Tyler. It also talks a little about the history of the blues. The music and musicianship is incredible. If you are a music fan - whether or not you are a blues fan - you really should watch this movie!

Monday, November 21

Last week Jake, Kristin, Jen, and I went to Dallas for the Ivy Jungle Conference - a conference geared for those doing campus ministry. This was the tenth one and I have attended nine of them. They tend to be up and down quality-wise, and this year's was on the lower end. None of the plenary speakers were outstanding (not even Tony Evans, who seemed almost distracted as he spoke - which, with fire alarms going off was very possible). The workshops I attended were OK, but didn't really break any new ground.

But we had a good time together. We did come back to Arkansas with new nicknames. We ate at a restaurant that featured coasters with lists on them. One coaster had lists of "popular" male and female nicknames (I'm not sure with whom they were popular), so I had everyone choose a nickname for themselves (or we would choose one for them)! Jen chose "Duchess", Kristin chose "Lexi", Jake chose "T-Bone" (though we thought he would be a better "Scooter"), and I chose "Dozer." That will go along with my other nicknames - "Big Dawg" and "Chief". In fact, I have made it an office policy this year that everyone on staff has to call me "Chief." Jake stubbornly refuses to do so!


Today I went to Little Rock. While there, I had lunch with David McFatrich - a ConC student from years gone by. We had a great visit and he shared with me what God has been placing on his heart. After lunch, we ran by his house so I could see Sonya and their kids - especially the newest, Sammy, whom they brought home from China last month. I performed Dave and Sonya's wedding twelve years ago (the only wedding I have ever done in a mall). It is always such an encouragement to see what God continues to do in the lives of the students that have gone through ConC in the years gone by - to see their walk with the Lord, their families, their ministries.

Tuesday, November 15

Tonight was our 24th annual ConC Thanksgiving Banquet. Our first was in 1982 and consisted of a handful of students in the living room of our 900 square foot apartment. Tonight was basically a two hour feeding frenzy with well over 200 students taking part. We no longer try to do a program of any kind. Someone will say an opening prayer and then we have at it. Mostly, it is a great time for our kids and a great open door for new people. Students bring friends from their dorms, from their teams, from other countries for a good, home-cooked Thanksgiving dinner without a lot of "religious" stuff thrown at them. But relationships are begun and people get in the building and get to know who we are - that we aren't scary religious fanatics. Over the years, the Thanksgiving Banquet has been the first step for many, many students who became leaders in our ministry or later gave their lives to Christ. It is a lot of work and we will spend most of the day tomorrow cleaning, but it is also a highlight of the year.

Of course, none of it would be possible without the wonderful and generous and tireless work of the people of Oak Manor Christian Church here in Fayetteville. For the past 24 years, they have supplied and prepared all of the food for our banquet - the turkey and ham and potatoes and gravy and stuffing and corn and green beans and homemade bread and cakes and pies and more. It is quite an undertaking for a congregation of fifty people! But they love ConC and they love our students and they pull out the stops every year for us. Karen Hendrix organized it all, but everyone in the church pitches in to make it work. And thanks, too, to Andrew Lekwa and the folks at Butterball for donating enough turkey breasts to feed 250!

Monday, November 14

Catching up on some disconnected thoughts along the way...

One of the books I am currently reading is Reflecting The Glory by N.T. Wright. Wright is a very insightful theologian from Great Britain. In a recent chapter, he discussed the worship seen in chapters four and five of Revelation:

"The truth of this vision is that what goes on in the heavenly realm is the counterpart of the worship going on in the earthly realm.... Heaven and earth are not separate in the sense of heaven being solely in the future and earth in the present, or heaven being ten miles up in the air and earth being down here where we live. Heaven and earth are the two dimensions of God's whole reality.... These living creatures represent the world of creation as a whole, and that world of creation is also worshipping God. We are invited, then, to see in this glorious picture not just some human beings choosing to worship God, but the whole creation - the animals, the trees, the rivers, the sea, the sky - also worshipping by being truly themselves. When the penguins are sliding over the ice, when the trees are putting forth their green shoots in the spring, when clouds pass across the sky, they are being themselves to the glory of God.... The church, the people of God, understands that God is the creator, understands that as such he is a glorious God, full of extraordinary ideas and inventive imagination. We just have to think for two minutes about the world of creation and imagine the same God creating a giraffe and creating a strawberry, the same God creating a waterfall and creating the look of delight on a new-born baby's face. God is full of extraordinary riches, and while the rest of creation worships God by simply being as it is, human beings are designed to draw out the praises of creation and, by understanding, to express that praise to God, giving God intelligent worship."

There are a lot of wonderful insights in that passage, but what struck me is that worship of God is going on continually at many different levels. It is continually taking place before His throne in heaven. It is continually going on as creation is "truly being itself." It is going on world-wide by those of us who know what it means to be redeemed and forgiven and freed. And when we, who are able to give God both intelligent and emotional worship - "in spirit and in truth" - enter into worship, we are jumping in to what is continually going on. The worship of God doesn't start at 11:00 on Sunday morning or 7:30 on Tuesday night. And worship doesn't end when our service is over. Worship is going on continually and we can be a part of what creation and the angels - and other believers - are doing at any time and in any place.


Time for a monthly football update:

The Razorbacks finally won a game this weekend, beating Ole Miss in Oxford, 28-17. So we are not 3-5 over all and 1-5 in conference play. KT told me the other day that we lead the nation in true freshmen who have played this season, while there are only 4 or 5 seniors who see significant action. We have freshmen starting at QB and RB and on the defensive line and at linebacker. There is improvement happening. The main frustration on this fan's part is that the team was allowed to get to a point where it was necessary to play so many freshmen. It seems to me that a college team should always be junior and senior dominated. But maybe I'm unrealistic.

The Big Dawgs (my fantasy team) will be leading the league in scoring after this weekend. But we will still be only fourth in the league. I have too many under-achievers as running backs. I need to find some way to motivate them! Maybe we'll peak for the playoffs.

Finally, the SHS Bulldogs are 11-0 after winning their first playoff game 44-8. The have imposed the "mercy rule" (leading by at least 35 points) on every team they have played this season, including the number one teams from Louisiana and Oklahoma. In most cases they have reached that point before halftime. They are currently ranked number one in Arkansas and anywhere from number three to number nine in the country.


Last Saturday I traveled down to Conway, AR to be meet referee for an NCAA Div. III regional cross country meet. Refereeing a cross country meet is usually pretty uneventful, and this meet was no exception. The interesting part was doing a Div. III meet when I usually do Div. I meets. Div. I is the "big schools" - Arkansas, Texas, Kansas, Tennessee, etc. Div. III are those schools who don't offer athletic scholarships. Of the 30 teams at the meet, I had actually heard of about 10 of them! We had teams such as Mary Baldwin U. and Mary Washington U. and Eastern Mennonite U. and Christopher Newport College.


Today is my 47th birthday. It has been a nice, uneventful day. Gina and I and the girls went out to dinner last night. One of the things I have noticed today is the variety of ways that people have to wish you "Happy Birthday" anymore. I have received emails and e-cards and voicemails and verbal greetings and old-fashioned birthday cards. I have also had birthday greetings posted to my Facebook wall! That's a new one for me. If you're not familiar with Facebook, it is the most popular craze on college (and now high school) campuses right now. It is basically a social network that only those with a college email address can access. Ask your college-aged friends about it sometime.

Wednesday, November 9

I heard this report as I was scanning radio stations on my way home last night. Since I often "claim this rule" I thought I would share it with you. So this is courtesy of the John Tesh Show!

Do you use the "5-second rule"?
You know, if food falls on the floor and you pick it up within 5 seconds, it's safe to eat. Well, it really depends on the floor.

Here's what researchers at the University of Illinois found out:

The first person to implement the rule was Genghis Khan. But his standards were really low - as far as he was concerned, anything was safe to eat if you picked it up within 12 hours.

They also discovered that women are more likely than men to eat food that falls on the floor.

And cookies and candy are more likely to be picked up and eaten than a piece of broccoli.

So, they tested the "5-second rule" on various university floors. In elevators, libraries, cafeterias, and in front of the vending machines. And the floors were so bacteria-free, they tested them twice. They weren't sure whether the cleanliness was due to dry conditions, or an awesome custodial staff. But food dropped on those floors was safe to eat after 5 seconds. Then they tried the test again.... This time in a lab. They contaminated the floor with bacteria, and dropped cookies and gummy bears on it. In every case, bacteria was transferred to the food within 5 seconds or less.

So, what's the bottom line? Since you can't tell if your floor is bacteria-free, the basic rule of thumb is: If you drop it, toss it.

Tuesday, November 8

Credit goes to Mike Cope for pointing me towards this article by Tom Smith in Relevant magazine. Mike is a minister in Abilene, TX whose blog I read on a regular basis. Though I have met his brother and niece, I have never met Mike. But his blog is often insightful and thought-provoking.

Tom Smith's article starts like this:

I love experiments. A few years ago I wore my Jabez T-shirt in Colorado Springs. It said, "I prayed the prayer of Jabez for thirty days and the only thing I got was this lousy shirt." The reactions I got were truly amazing. Some people were furious while others thanked me.
A few weeks ago I embarked on another one of my ventures. The laboratory I chose was the local Christian bookstores in Johannesburg, South Africa. The experiment was really simple; I would browse the store in search of books on helping the poor and fighting AIDS. After I saw a million, "Here's how to use Jesus to make you more successful" titles, I would then ask the sales clerk or manager if they stock books about helping the hurting and helpless.
The first store's clerk looked confused when I asked the question, and the manager intervened and said, "If you find a book on the subject you should immediately buy it."
Two days later I took my science to a bookstore in another mall. I walked in with one of my seventeen year old friends, who happened to be someone who was on the receiving end of apartheid. I asked the clerk if they had books on poverty or AIDS. Nothing could have prepared me for the answer she gave me.
"No sir, this is a religious bookstore. I think you should try the secular bookstore around the corner." In utter shock I asked her if she didn't think that helping the poor or sick had anything to do with religion. I only got a blank stare. Now it's easy to harp on this poor girl but to tell you the truth, if you asked my the same question a few years ago, I probably would have had the same confused look, and I'm a pastor! I often wonder why I never made the link between my relationship with Christ and my responsibility towards the people who suffer and are poor.

To read the rest of the article, go here.

Friday, November 4

Most of our nation paid attention last week to the passing of Rosa Parks - a woman of courage and conviction who took a stand (or a seat) that helped to change our nation for the better. It seems that today's world lacks much of that kind of courage and conviction.
We celebrate those who are "brave" enough to jump out of planes or do other daring deeds, but we are lacking those who are willing to stand alone for the things that they believe in. I know of many athletes who are not scared to do back flips on a four-inch beam or fling themselves 19-feet in the air on the end of a fiberglass pole but who aren't willing to stand alone with their convictions. It is easier and safer to go along with the crowd, to compromise, to give-in.
I tried to emphasize to the SHS guys last week that real courage - the kind of courage that lasts a lifetime and makes a difference - is shown by standing for what is true and right and by not giving in to the crowd. Whether it be in regard to sexual purity, drinking, areas of religious conviction, etc., we need men and women of courage and conviction to influence our world for God and to leave a legacy of changed lives.
One of the saddest passages in the Bible is in John 12. As the enemies of Jesus gather to plan how they might kill him, John gives us this insight:
“Yet at the same time many even among the leaders believed in him. But because of the Pharisees they would not confess their faith for fear they would be put out of the synagogue; for they loved praise from men more than praise from God.” John 12:42-43
How often do we allow ourselves to sit in that same place?

Thursday, November 3

In the "It's About Time" department, it was announced today that Razorback track coach John McDonnell has been named to the USA Track and Field Hall of Fame. For those of you not familiar with Coach McDonnell, he is the most successful coach of any sport in NCAA history. His teams have won 41 NCAA national team championships. Dozens of his athletes have won national championships and competed in the Olympic games. He has proven himself to be a master of developing the under-developed and under-rated athlete. Many of his national champions and Olympians first came to Arkansas from other schools (where they struggled) or without scholarships. He has the ability to recruit the right kind of athletes and prepare them to perform at their best in the most important meets. He is also a very humble and personable man. For more on John and this award, check out this article.


A little over a year ago, I was sitting in the stands at the Springdale High football stadium, waiting for the Fayetteville/Springdale game to start. Sitting next to me was an older gentleman who, obviously, wasn't from the area. He had come from Kansas to watch his grandson in the band (and SHS has a great band), so he was quizzing me about the teams. As we chatted about the game and about Kansas, I somehow discovered that the gentleman next to me was Wes Santee. There probably weren't a handful of people in that stadium (or reading this blog) who knew Wes Santee. But I did. In the 1950's, he, John Landy, and Roger Bannister were literally racing to see who would be the first man to run a four minute mile. Growing up in Kansas, I was very familiar with the legendary Kansas Jayhawk distance runners - Glenn Cunningham, Wes Santee, Billy Mills, and Jim Ryun. So I was thrilled to be sitting with Wes Santee! A few weeks later, he sent me an autographed copy of The Perfect Mile - a book about those three runners and their efforts to run four minutes. (It really is a good book!)

Why do I mention that? Wes Santee is being inducted into the Track and Field Hall of Fame with Coach McDonnell.

Tuesday, November 1

We're teaching a series on "Spiritual Disciplines" at our Tuesday night meetings. For those not familiar with the phrase "spiritual disciplines," it basically refers to those things that we can do to put ourselves in a position for God to transform our lives. The most common ones are things like prayer, fasting, Bible reading and meditation, etc. (Of course, you can also do these things and never be changed at all. We have to approach them desiring and willing to be changed - expectantly desiring to encounter God in them.)
Most of the spiritual disciplines are diametrically opposed to way our world works and the way that most of us live much of the time. Tonight we talked about solitude and silence. The more I think about these, the more I think it they are foundational to really encountering God. As you read through the gospels, you see that they were a regular part of Jesus' life. God tells us in Psalm 46 to "be still and know that I am God."
And yet they are so foreign to our times. We live in a world full of words and noise and busy-ness and hurry. And we buy into it. The first thing that many of us do when we get in the car or walk in the house is turn on the radio or television. Silence makes us nervous. The idea of solitude frightens us. Yet we miss so much from not slowing down, quieting down, and listening to God.
"There is hardly ever a complete silence in our soul. God is whispering to us well-nigh incessantly. Whenever the sounds of the world die out in the soul, or sink low, when we hear these whisperings of God. He is always whispering to us, only we do not always hear, because of the noise, hurry, and distraction which life causes as it rushes on." Frederick Faber
Henri Nouwen calls solitude "the furnace of transformation."
What do we do about this? How do we find more time for silence and solitude?
Maybe the easiest way is in little, practical steps. Don't turn on the car radio. Don't turn on the television. Take advantage of the opportunities for "little solitudes" during the course of your day. Find a quiet place - a library, a park - where you can listen for the "incessant whispering" of God. Plan some solitude into your schedule on a regular basis - an afternoon a month, a couple of days a year.
I know I need more solitude and silence for my spiritual health and transformation. My guess is that so do many others. It goes against the norm of our culture. But it is what is needed for God's work in our lives.

Sunday, October 30

Saturday was a good day for me all the way around. First of all, it was Gina's birthday. We aren't really be "celebration" people - we don't do parties and such for our birthdays. So Saturday was pretty much like any other day for us, but we did get to spend it together (though it was a full day). We got to sleep in and go to a late breakfast at our favorite breakfast place - Susan's (eggs, bacon, and french toast). Then to a wedding at one of the parks in Fayetteville. Then to the gym, where Erin and Stacy were working at a gymnastics meet and a chance to see them and visit with some more friends, then to dinner (pizza and salad at Tim's) and then home. It was a good day together. And I am so blessed to have Gina in my life. She is so giving and so patient with my schedule and my flaws. And she's not getting older (well, OK, I guess she is getting older), but she is definitely getting better.


Yesterday's wedding was a fun one for a lot of reasons. I've known the couple since they were each freshmen at the University of Arkansas. It was held in a park on a beautifully sunny fall day in Arkansas. The park was full of current students and former students and others that I have known through ministry here. The service was relaxed and fun. When I asked the couple if they had a token of their love, Trevor pulled out a Pez dispenser and gave a piece of Pez candy to Laura and himself. (And then he got the ring.)

One of the blessings of the kind of ministry that I am in is that I get to do a lot of weddings. I have done them in parks and libraries and hospitals and jails. I have done them for high school classmates, jail inmates, former teachers, cousins and nieces, and lots of students and former students. There were probably four or five couples at the wedding yesterday whose weddings I had performed previously and at least one engaged couple whose wedding I'll perform next May. Most have been extremely joyous. One I even performed with my suit pants torn clear down the back! It's a joyous time to watch two people whom you know and love - and whose commitment to Christ and each other you know and admire - "leave their father and mother and cleave to their spouse and become one."

Friday, October 28

It dawned on my yesterday that Gina and I hit a small milestone this week. This week has been Parent-Teacher Conference week in the Springdale Schools. Of course, that makes for a long, hard week for Gina! But I realized on Thursday that this was the first year since 1988 that we haven't attended conferences as parents of a student!

We always made it a point to go to conferences (and most open houses) and meet all of the girls' teachers. It was never because there was a problem. Erin and Stacy are both great students and great girls. Every teacher spoke highly of them. But more than anything, it let both the girls and the teachers know that we were interested in what was going on in their lives. We wanted to know who was teaching them and what we could do to help. If the girls had a problem with a teacher (and that happens occasionally), we had at least some relationship with the teacher so that it was easier to approach them and find a solution.

They don't have parent-teacher conferences at the university. I guess that's OK. But maybe I should go around and find each of the girls' professors and schedule my own little conference with them ...

Tuesday, October 25

Tonight was our annual "Ask Mike Night" at Christ on Campus. I don't really remember how long we have been doing this, but it is always a lot of fun and stretching to me. And our students seem to enjoy it. The way it works is this:

1. Students are given blank 3x5 cards when they come in. They are asked to write down any questions they might have - on any subject. We get questions on everything from religion and the Bible to politics to relationships to things you wouldn't believe.

2. During the service, the cards are gathered, put into a basket, and mixed up.

3. When my turn comes, I pull questions out of the basket and answer them. I have to answer the questions in the order I draw them, I have to answer them right then, and my answer can't be longer than three minutes.

The questions this year included:

* What about people in other religions who have no access to Christianity? Are they lost?

* Should Christian married couples engage in sexual practices that are illegal in their state?

* Do you think most people who call themselves Christians in the US will go to heaven or hell?

* What did Jesus mean when he said he would leave the Holy Spirit as a counselor?

* How much free will does God give us?

* How do we distinguish God's voice from all of the other voices around us?

As you can tell, it is always challenging! It's my goal to work through these questions, and others, over the next few weeks (or months) on the "Ask Mike" part of this blog. And by clicking on "Ask Mike" anyone can send a question to me anonymously via email.

Monday, October 24

This afternoon I was sitting at the hospital, waiting with a family while their daughter (one of our former students) was undergoing surgery. As we sat there, I talked with Jenise's aunt, who expressed a conern that her son, a student at a university in another state, was enjoying too much of the party life.

After being on a university campus for over 23 years, I know all too well the number of students who fall prey to that. A recent survey on campus showed that half of the students here have done "binge drinking" (more than five drinks in a sitting) in the past month. Our 2:00 AM Grill on Friday nights often puts us in conversations with students who have been partying too hard.

Last night, we saw it again. As we were having our small group leaders' meeting (10:00 pm on Sunday nights), there was an accident across the street. The picture shows you what happened. When I asked the driver how he got his Jeep in that situation, he was too drunk or high to remember.

Friday, October 21

This is a great time of year to be living in Northwest Arkansas.

The temperatures are great. The highs are around 60 degrees and tonight, for the high school football game, it was in the low 50's/upper 40's. Ideal!

The leaves are starting to turn. I drove to Ft. Smith and back today and it was just a beautiful trip.
The Yankees aren't in the World Series.

If the Razorbacks were a good team, things really would be grand.

But it still has to be better than most any place else!

Thursday, October 20

From the files of fanatic fans. I mean, I always liked Larry Bird, but this is ridiculous:

OKLAHOMA CITY - A man got a prison term longer than prosecutors and defense attorneys had agreed to because of Larry Bird.

The lawyers reached a plea agreement Tuesday for a 30-year term for a man accused of shooting with an intent to kill and robbery. But Eric James Torpy wanted his prison term to match Bird's jersey number 33.

"He said if he was going down, he was going to go down in Larry Bird's jersey, " Oklahoma County District Judge Ray Elliott said Wednesday. "We accommodated his request and he was just as happy has he could be."

"I've never seen anything like this in 26 years in the courthouse. But, I know the DA is happy about it."

Tuesday, October 18

Some baseball-related musings ...

Wasn't last night's play-off game in Houston between the Cardinals and Astros great? I like both of these teams and really don't have a favorite in the series, so I was able to enjoy the shifts of fortune during the past part of the game. Lance Berkman's three-run homer in the bottom of the seventh to put the Astros up by two runs sent the stadium into pandemonium! And then Albert Pujols (the best hitter in baseball) hitting his own three-run blast in the top of the ninth to put the Cards back up by one run just sucked the air out of the Astro fans. One sports guy said it was like someone punched 50,000 people in the stomach all at the same time. It was a sweet finish.

How can anyone prefer the NBA over this???

I can never understand those who have no taste for baseball or find it boring. In baseball, every pitch is a brand new contest between the pitcher, batter, the manager positioning the fielders, and more. There is so much happening! And the play-offs are even better. Especially when the Yankees lose!

I will find it hard to root for the White Sox in the World Series. In my mind, I still see them in those baggy "slow pitch softball" uniforms they wore a couple of decades ago. Who could be a fan of theirs after that?


An update on my football teams ...

The ConC Waterdogs didn't make the UofA Intramural playoffs.

Mike's Big Dawgs (my fantasy football team) is sitting at 3-3 right now, though we are second in the league in scoring. We have suffered from inconsistent performances from our running backs (Corey Dillon and Jamal Lewis especially) and the total disappearance of Tony Gonzalez at tight end.

The Razorbacks are suffering through a hard season. They are currently 2-4 and 0-3 in conference play. They have wins over Missouri State and University of Louisianna at Monroe (not really too much to feel good about). They have lost to Vanderbilt, Alabama, and Auburn, as well as that 70-17 loss to Southern Cal. Our defense has improved, but still isn't very good and we don't have a passing attack at all. Needless to say, the natives are getting restless and there is much talk of coaching changes being needed. The bright side is that we have some outstanding young players, like sophomores Marcus Monk and Peyton Hillis and freshmen running backs Darren McFadden and Felix Jones. And most people seem to have Mitch Mustain penciled in as the starting QB for next year, even though he is still just a senior at Springdale High School.

Which brings me to SHS! They continue to be the bright spot on my personal football landscape. The now stand at 7-0 and are ranked #1 in the state and #9 nationally by USA Today and #4 nationally by Sports Illustrated. Mitch Mustain has completed 30 of 38 passes in the past two weeks for about 620 yards and 8 touchdowns, plus he ran for two more. And he's coming to Arkansas next year. Damian Williams could be their best player, however. He has just lifted his whole game to a new level this season. For the season, he has scored 15 touchdowns on just 50 touches of the ball (31 catches and 19 rushing attempts). He is averaging 104 yards receiving per game (on just 4.5 catches) and 11.9 yards per rushing attempt. He says he is going to Florida next year.

Sunday, October 16

Saturday was a day full of running. Not me running, of course, but other people running! I served as meet referee for the Chile Pepper Cross Country Festival in Fayetteville. It was an event with eight races, about 315 teams, and about 3,000 runners. The runners ran in age from under 10 in the Fun Run to at least 77 in the 10k race and the teams included junior high teams to the #1 ranked college team (the Razorbacks, of course). My job was to make sure the timers were doing their job (which wasn't hard since we used a computer system where each runner had a "chip" in their shoe that tracked their time) and to handle any inquiries (several inquiries, especially from runners who had lost their computer chip during the race - but we had a backup system) and protests (only one real protest and we handled it the best we could, though not to everyone's satisfaction). It was an enjoyable day, but a little too hot (low 80's) by the time the last races came around.

One of things that I enjoy about these kinds of events - and track and field, in general - is that, though there is a competitive element to it, much of the satisfaction comes from competing against yourself. One of my friends who ran in the Open 10k race finished in 135th place, but he was excited because he ran it a minute faster than last year. Another friend had a son running for his junior high team. He was a 7th-grader and finished in 236th place in the junior high division, yet both he and his dad were excited because he ran the distance two minutes faster than ever before.

I've had the privilege of officiating meets from grade school kids to the US Olympic Trials. Competitors of all ages can compete against themselves and get excited about a personal best. And, as an official, that always excites me, too.

Thursday, October 13

I saw a Seinfeld rerun recently that was pretty funny and also got me thinking. In the episode, Elaine was concerned about her permanent medical records and that doctors were indicating that she was a "difficult" patient. So she would try to see what was in the file, switch doctors, and more. But they always knew about her and wrote more notes in her permanent records. Finally, she recruited Kramer to act like a doctor and steal the file. It was a pretty funny episode.

The show got me thinking about my permanent records. Even when I was a kid in school, there was always the threat that if we misbehaved it would go in our "permanent record." I've always wondered what was in that closely-guarded folder. Or maybe I don't want to know! But now I have all kinds of permanent records. My doctor, eye doctor, and dentist all have permanent records on me. (Though I have to admit that my dental file probably full of dust and cobwebs since I never go.) When I need to borrow money to buy a car or a house, someone has to check my credit record. Annually, my car insurance company lets me know that they have been checking my driving record (which isn't necessarily a good thing).

Some folks think that God keeps a permanent record. Most religions believe that God keeps track of the good things we do and the bad things we do and compares them when we die. If the stack of good things is better than the bad things, then we are OK. If the stack of bad things is better than the good things, then we are in trouble. In fact, I think many who are Christians carry around this idea.

If that's the case, what does my permanent record with God look like? To be honest, not too good. There have been lots of failures. Lots of choices to disobey God. Lots of unkind words to others. Lots of selfish acts. In fact, God says this about my permanent record (and yours):

"There is no one righteous, not even one; there is no one who understands, no one who seeks God. All have turned away, they have together become worthless; there is no one who does good, not even one.... For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God."
Romans 3:10-12, 23

If I have a permanent record like that with God, I'm in trouble!

But the good news is that my permanent record with God is clean because of what Jesus as done for me. Here is an example of what God says:

"The LORD is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in love. He will not always accuse, nor will he harbor his anger forever; he does not treat us as our sins deserve or repay us according to our iniquities. For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his love for those who fear him; as far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us. As a father has compassion on his children, so the LORD has compassion on those who fear him." Psalm 103:8-13

"If you, O LORD, kept a record of sins, O Lord, who could stand? But with you there is forgiveness; therefore you are feared." Psalm 130:3-4

"God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God." II Corinthians 5:21

"When you were dead in your sins and in the uncircumcision of your sinful nature, God made you alive with Christ. He forgave us all our sins, having canceled the written code, with its regulations, that was against us and that stood opposed to us; he took it away, nailing it to the cross. And having disarmed the powers and authorities, he made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross." Colossians 2:13-15

"He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; by his wounds you have been healed." I Peter 2:24

"For Christ died for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God."
I Peter 3:18

The good news is that when we are in Christ, our permanent record of sin has been wiped clean and we stand before God forgiven and welcomed as his child. Sometimes Satan likes to remind us of what used to be on our record, but we need to remember (and remind the devil) that Jesus has wiped all of that clean. We are accepted and loved by God.

I love the story of a priest who was continually racked with guilt over some of the things he had done while in college. There was a woman in his church who claimed to have dreams in which Jesus would come and talk with her. The priest was skeptical, so to test her he told her to ask Jesus what sins the priest had committed while in college.

A few days later, the woman returned to tell the priest that she had another dream in which Jesus talked to her. At this news, the priest felt his palms beginning to sweat. He asked the woman, "Did you ask Jesus the question I asked you to ask him."

"Yes, I did" she replied. "I asked Jesus what sin you committed in college."

The priest swallowed hard. "What did Jesus say?"

The woman answered: "Jesus said, 'I don't remember.'"

The permanent record was gone. The slate was wiped clean.

The next time Satan tries to accuse you of those things that Jesus has forgiven, remember that. The next time you are tempted to define yourself by your failures rather than by who you are in Jesus, remember that story.

And the next time you pray or worship, let this truth motivate you.

Friday, October 7

This fall our staff is reading John Ortberg's book, The Life You've Always Wanted. It's a book on spiritual disciplines. It's not quite up to the standard of some of the "classics" on the topic, such as Foster's Celebration of Discipline or Willard's Spirit of the Disciplines, but it is a good, easy to read, and practical book on the topic.
This week we are reading the chapter on prayer. (Interesting parenthetical note: A couple of us have older editions of the book and the rest have a newer addition. Our older editions didn't have a chapter on prayer! How can you have a book on spiritual disciplines and not have a chapter of prayer??? I guess Ortberg caught the irony of that and included a chapter in later editions. They photocopied it for me.) Anyway ...

This week we are reading the chapter on prayer. Of all the spiritual disciplines, this is the one with which I seem to fight the hardest. It is much easier for me to spend time reading the Bible or memorizing Scripture than it is to give regular, focused time to prayer. A couple of things that Ortberg mentioned are giving me a lot to think about. (Maybe I should be writing this in the second-person, so it is about "us" and not about "me". That would make me sound better. Oh well, I've already started ...) Both are actually quotes from Dallas Willard:

"The idea that everything would happen exactly as it does regardless of whether we pray or not is a specter that haunts the minds of many who sincerely profess belief in God. It makes prayer psychologically impossible, replacing it with dead ritual at best."

Am I convinced that prayer actually changes things? If I am, then it follows that I would find it easier to be more actively engaged in it!

The second is that prayer is "talking with God about what we are doing together." Could it be that I often don't see life as something that God and I are doing together, but more as something that I do and, occasionally, let God be a part of? If I lived with the concept that life is something that God and I are doing together, then following Paul's command to "pray without ceasing" would be much easier.

Thomas Merton once wrote: "We do not want to be beginners. But let us be convinced of the fact that we will never be anything else but beginners all our life!"

The longer I'm a Christian, the more I can see the truth in that statement.

Monday, October 3

We have again made it through the noisest weekend of the year in Fayetteville. Last weekend was "Bikes, Blues, and Barbecue" - Fayetteville's annual motorcycle rally. According to reports, there were about 75,000 motorcycles and over 250,000 people in town for it.

And I think every motorcycle roared by six feet away from my office. Literally, I guess they did. My office is a sidewalk-width off of Dickson St., the site of the events. From about Wednesday through Saturday, you could hardly talk to others - let alone think - inside our offices.

But all the people and the bikes and the food is pretty interesting! It's quite a weekend.

And I really don't mind putting up with it once a year.


We also celebrated Stacy's 19th birthday this weekend. It's hard to believe that in a year, Gina and I will no longer have any children who are teenagers. Stacy's is an incredible young woman - bright, intelligent, beautiful, caring. I can't imagine any parents being more proud of their kids than Gina and I are of our girls.


Last week, at our campus ministers' prayer time, there were five or six of us. Among us, we have children who range in age from pre-schoolers to out of college and married. Some of those with younger children were wondering about how it was to raise children in a campus ministry setting. The consensus from those of us with older kids is that campus ministry can be a great place to raise kids! They can be exposed to people from around the world, have a whole "passle" of big brothers and sisters, get the chance to experience hands-on ministry with people they look up to, have a huge source of tutors to help with homework, and more! But the key is to work hard to not let work obligations crowd into family time and opportunities too much.

Monday, September 26

Last Saturday night, we had a "Thank You" dinner for some of the people and churches that make our ministry possible. For over 23 years now, we have had the pleasure of seeing God provide for this work through the generosity and faithfulness of his people. They are really the "unsung" heroes of what we do. Those who give to Christ on Campus do so simply out of their love for God, their love for college students, and their commitment to something bigger than themselves - the Kingdom of God. There is no personal "return" on their investment. They are not supporting programs of which they are a part or that provide personal benefits. But they believe in what we do and in its importance in the purposes of God. Those who support us come from south Florida to Seattle, WA. They are college professors and retirees on fixed incomes. They are teachers and engineers.

But they are all so special to us because of their faithfulness and generosity and encouragement.

Sometimes working in a faith-based ministry like this can be trying. Raising funds probably isn't anyone's idea of a good time. And there are periods when the money is tight and (sometimes) when paychecks don't come on schedule.

But then I think of the blessings of it all. The way that it builds your faith and dependence on God. The way it humbles you as others sacrifice for your work.

So thanks to all who make ConC possible through your prayers, encouragement, and support. It is no exaggeration to say that this ministry would not be here without you!

Thursday, September 22

Back in my high school days, about the best paying summer job that a boy could have was to haul hay. I and my friends would hire ourselves out to area farmers. We would drive through their hay fields on a big truck, loading it full of hay bales that weighed 75-100 lbs. each. We would then drive them to the barn and stack them there. Then we would return to the field for another load. We would typically haul about 1,000 bales a day. It was hard, hot work that involved long days.

Summer days in Kansas are hot and I would have a great "farmer's tan." It didn't take long to work up a sweat and for the itchy hay to start sticking to your skin. But the worst of it was when we were stacking the hay into the top of a hot tin barn on a hot summer afternoon. You would often be up on a stack of hay bales, close to the tin roof of the barn. There wasn't any air circulating. Your arms were scratched up from the hay, your skin was covered with dirt and hay, and you inhaled all that stuff as you worked. (You could blow some amazing things out of your nose when you got out of the barn!) It didn't take long until the only thing you wanted was a drink of water. A big drink of water! Just water! Cool water! Clear water! Water! Your thirst was incredible!

Have you even been thirsty like that? Or hungry like that? So thirsty or hungry that you couldn't get food or drink out of your mind? So hungry or thirsty that you didn't think you could make it another minute?

How often to I hunger for God like that? Do I ever get to the place where you want to know God so much that you can hardly stand it? For a life-style that honors him and models Christ? Or have I let other things dull my hunger for him? Have I let "junk food" - the things I see, hear, read, watch and the values that the world lives by - dull my hunger for God? God promises that if we hunger and thirst for him and for a life that honors him, we will be filled, satisfied, fulfilled.

Most of the time, the problems in our lives come from the fact that we hunger and thirst for the wrong things. Other time we try to satisfy our hunger and thirst by our own means, rather than hungering and thirsting for God and letting him fill our desires. I came across a verse in my time with God this morning that says God "satisfies your desires with good things." (Psalm 103:5) When we try to satisfy our desires our way, we often mess things up. When we hunger and thirst for God and trust him to take care of our desires, he satisfies them with good things.

"Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled."
Matthew 5:6

"As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, O God.
My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When can I go and meet with God?" Psalm 42:1-2

After my last post on rap music, I received a comment from Deepness 07. She said:
Listen to conscience rappers such as Talib Kweli, Common, Az, Kanye West, Nas (you'll be REALLY surprised!)
I confess that I over-generalized the rap genre and appreciate the information and the chance to check out some more positive artists. Thanks for correcting me!

Sunday, September 18

I'm not a devotee of much of the Christian music world. I rarely listen to Christian radio stations and probably couldn't tell the Newsboys from the Backstreet Boys by looking at them. My musical tastes tend to be pretty eclectic. If you were to come by my office, you could hear a variety of musical styles: classic rock, blues, jazz, country, or "oldies", as well as classical and worship music. This has gotten me into "trouble" with some students over the years who have felt that a man of my "position" shouldn't listen to anything that wasn't Christian, especially things like the Eagles or Lynard Skynard.

Recently, I spent some time listening to rap music (it's amazing what you can find on internet radio). I found that I could appreciate some aspects of the "genre"" - the "wordmanship" and rhythm. But I was blown away by a lot of the lyrics - the profanity, the violence, the sexual references. Some of the music I listen to contains references to the same things, but not to that extent and with that vulgarity.

But what probably troubled me most (especially as the father of two daughters) was the way that many (if not most) of the songs portrayed women as objects just there for the gratification of men. The songs didn't reference women as people, just as body parts. They promote a view that women are just here for men's sexual gratification.

I don't want the guys that date my girls to have that view. I don't want my girls to have that view.

And yet rap music is probably our country's most popular genre among teenagers who are forming their social and sexual values and views. And it isn't just popular among urban blacks. It is just as popular among suburban whites and every other demographic.

The music really troubled me. I couldn't tell you what "artists" I listened to, but the message they were proclaiming - and that many of our young people (including Christian young people) are listening to - is poisonous.

Friday, September 16

A couple of weeks ago, I wrote about the excitement of a football game day. I'm sure that many have been anxiously awaiting for me to give you an update on how my teams are doing. So here we go:

When last I left you, Springdale High School was about to begin their season against Evangel Christian of Shreveport, LA, who was ranked 18th in the nation. SHS won that game 35-7 and won their next game 46-3. In that game, our first team only played 2:28 minutes in the first half and only ran 14 plays. But they scored five touchdowns on those 14 plays. That bumped SHS to #1 in Arkansas and #14 in the country. Tonight they played Jenks, OK who was ranked #1 in Oklahoma and #23 in the country. SHS won 44-0. Man, they looked good.

The best parts, though, were 1) watching the 30 or so guys who take part in our Thursday night pasta dinner and Bible study perform so well and conduct themselves so well; and 2) having my college roommate and his son, Jim and Moses Miller, come over to the game. Of course, he ministers in Jenks, so they went home depressed!

The Razorbacks, however, aren't faring so well. Though they beat Missouri State (which they should have, since they are a lower division school), they lost to Vanderbilt last week. 28-24. Vanberbilt! They hadn't won a conference game on the road in five years. And tomorrow we play USC - the #1 ranked and two time defending national champions. It could be a long night.

On another note, Mike Big Dawg's (my fantasy football team) is off to an ignoble start - thanks to Brett Favre scoring negative points last weekend. And the ConC Waterdogs lost their first intramural flag football game 12-13 last week. But I'm sure that Coach Eric Johnson will get that team back on the right track so they can again make the playoffs and maybe win another university championship - and get me a t-shirt. They usually give me one for NOT playing, as that enhances their chances of victory dramatically!

Wednesday, September 14

For over 10 years now, I have been a part of something that is pretty rare. Each week during the school year, a group of us meet on Wednesday morning for a time of prayer and encouragement. The rare thing is that the members of the group are all men involved in campus ministry at the UofA. On most campuses, we would probably be "competitors". I know of campuses where you have to sign a doctrinal statement before others will pray with you. Here, we are brothers serving the same God, loving the same Jesus, committed to the same Scripture, and called to influence the same campus.

We could probably find a hundred different things that we disagree about. We come from all across the doctrinal spectrum. We don't do ministry the same way. We often focus on different target groups on campus (some work primarily with international students, others do a lot of ministry with fraternities and sororities, etc.). Some have large groups and some have small groups. Some are on the staff of local churches, others are paid by their denominations, most are raising their own support. We discuss campus issues and strategies for reaching students. But mostly we pray. We pray for each others' ministries, for each others' finances, for each others' families.

Because of schedules and emergencies, not everyone can make it every week. But they are always a part and step right back in whenever they can be there. Over the past ten years, the group has remained pretty stable. It is amazing how long some of us hang around! And if God ever calls me to another place of ministry, this group of men will be one of the things that I will miss the most and that will make it hard to leave. I doubt if any of them know that this site exists. But thank you: Lynn, Ronnie, Warren, Greg, Tom, Bart, Doug, Kevin, Clark, Sean, Tim, Ted, Steve, Jonathan, and Stephen.

Sunday, September 11

One of the problems that we, as Christians, often have is that we get focused on a single issue that makes it hard for us to see the wider spectrum of God's heart and God's will. Most of the issues we focus on are important issues and worthy of our attention, prayers, and efforts. But we often get so narrowly focused that we miss other issues that are important to God and, often, are important for us and those who follow us.

One of those issues is the environment and our stewardship of this planet. Now, I am far from being one who would be labeled an environmentalist or "tree-hugger" and I do believe that some fall into the trap of worshipping the creation rather than the Creator. But I also think that, for the most part, we as Christians have turned a blind eye to many environmental concerns for which we are now paying a price - or for which future generations will pay a price (if Jesus tarries). Just a couple of the issues are our dependence on fossil fuels (hence over $3.00 a gallon for gasoline) and the effects of global warming.

There are probably a lot of reasons why we haven't been concerned about these things. I would encourage you to read this article by Andy Crouch in Christianity Today. (I always enjoy Andy's columns. He usually gets me really thinking about issues that I often don't think about.) Also, just meditate on the passages below. God calls us to be stewards of his creation, and I don't think we have always been very good at that. I also find what Paul writes in Romans to be intriguing. Especially the part about creation, in its frustration, is eagerly awaiting for the "sons of God to be revealed." I wonder if creation is waiting for the children of God (us) to step up and take seriously the stewardship which God has entrusted us. That is why I get excited when Christian students take an interest in environmental sciences - in seriously pursuing the stewardship with which we have been entrusted.

Then God said, "Let us make man in our image, in our likeness, and let them rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air, over the livestock, over all the earth, and over all the creatures that move along the ground." So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. God blessed them and said to them, "Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air and over every living creature that moves on the ground."
Genesis 1:26-28
The LORD God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it.
Genesis 2:15
The creation waits in eager expectation for the sons of God to be revealed. For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the glorious freedom of the children of God. We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time.
Romans 8:19-22

Friday, September 9

First, it was telemarketers. Then email spam. Then pop-up ads. And now, BLOG SPAM! I have received at least five "spam" comments on my blog this week. They all follow the same basic format: "Great blog. Check out my site on (take your choice): betting, health supplements, real estate, buying airplanes, etc." Ugh!

Thursday, September 8

What caused Hurricane Katrina? You can get all kinds of responses to that question. Some are saying that it is God's judgment on New Orleans for its wickedness. Others think it is God's wrath on the US for being a part of forcing Jews out of the Gaza Strip. Still others think it is "Mother Nature" crying out that she is in pain because of global warming and our environmental policies.

There is something in us that wants an explanation, a reason for a disaster like this - just like we did for 9/11 and for the Asian tsunami.

But I want to be very cautious of speaking where God doesn't. I don't want to speculate on if God is punishing someone or what his motives might be. If God hasn't explicitly revealed to us what he is doing, then it is probably best that we keep quiet and concentrate on the things we do know for certain: We know that God calls us to respond with compassion, with generosity, and with sacrifice. We know that God calls us who have to share with those who have not.

I was reminded of this passage from Luke 13:1-5::

Now there were some present at that time who told Jesus about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mixed with their sacrifices. Jesus answered, "Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans because they suffered this way? I tell you, no! But unless you repent, you too will all perish. Or those eighteen who died when the tower in Siloam fell on them - do you think they were more guilty than all the others living in Jerusalem? I tell you, no! But unless you repent, you too will all perish."

Jesus doesn't give a reason for the tragedies mentioned. He just uses them as a reminder that we need to make sure our lives our in order.

Tuesday, September 6

The images of New Orleans have been before our eyes and on our minds for over a week now. So have the commentators and columnists who have given us their perspectives on the whole thing. And, of course, blogs are full of "insights" from the disaster. I wanted to share these thoughts from Mike Cope, a preacher in Abilene, TX whose blog I read on a regular basis:

"I am upset. At myself.

As I watched all those evacuees from inner-city New Orleans, I realized I had never seen them. I've seen Nola's. And Galatoire's. And Ralph & Kakoo's. And the Cafe du Monde. And Preservation Hall. And the Imax. And the Aquarium. But I somehow have managed in all those trips to avoid seeing the 28% of that great city who live below the poverty line.

My friend Larry James says that almost all American cities are the same way. The difference is that the people never get flushed out. So we just don't see them. We stay in our malls, theaters, restaurants, and stadiums in the better parts of town. And we complain about our taxes and about the sharing of funds for poorer school districts....I'm mad at me. All those trips to New Orleans and I didn't see these people who matter as much to God as my own sons.

I've been reading Luke 16:19-31 this past week, preparing to teach the university class at Highland. And I didn't like what I saw. Because it's hard to find what the rich man's sin is. He didn't hit Lazarus, didn't kick him out; didn't hurl insults at him.

He just ignored him. Lazarus wasn't even a blip on his radar screen.

There's something unique about this parable of Jesus: a person is named! I wonder if it's because Jesus wanted us to know that--in the world of the story--Lazarus is a person. He has a name. God knows him and cares deeply about him."

To me, that's pretty convicting and insightful stuff.

Monday, September 5

In doing some "research" for yesterday's sermon, I came across these two interesting websites. Who would have thought? Maybe there is still a sport I can go "pro" in afterall!
Site features all the professionals, the events, the records (check those out), and, of course, a store for IFOCE merchandise.
Sonya "The Black Widow" Thomas is the most dominant competitive eater at this time - man or woman. And all at 5'5" and 100 lbs!

Friday, September 2

"Congratulations, Joyce" and Football Eve

We received word this evening that Gina's sister, Joyce Cowen, has been named Teacher of the Year for the state of Kansas. Congratulations! She teaches at the middle school in Ft. Scott, KS. All three of the "Winter girls" are exceptional teachers and it is great to see them recognized for that.
Tomorrow the football seasons of my favorite college and high school teams begin. Even though it has been 29 years since my last football season, there is still something about a football stadium on game day that gets me excited. The crowds, the bands, the warm-ups, the game - I don't think there is an athletic atmosphere quite like a football game.
When we first moved to Fayetteville in 1982 and started ConC, we knew about three students. Shelley was from Fayetteville, Terri was from DeWitt, and Scott was from Kansas City. Scott was also on the Razorback football team and was VP of the campus FCA huddle. I began attending the FCA meetings with him, and that connection began a ten year ministry that I had with the Razorback athletic teams. When we moved to Fayetteville, I was only 23 and many of the guys that I worked with were about my same age. We had a 7:00 am Bible study in the athletic dorm that first year and some of my best friends in those days were football players. Scott, Jim, Trey, Kent, Chip, Jeff, Mark, and others. Over the next ten years, I had the chance to work with some exceptional Christian men who served and led with FCA. Eventually a new ministry was formed on campus that was aimed toward athletes. They were able to have several full-time staff members to work with the athletes, so I turned my focus to other areas. But the Razorbacks are still my team and they start their season tomorrow against Missouri State.
And that experience led me to the chance I have today to serve with the Springdale High School Bulldogs. During those FCA days, Rick Schaeffer served as the Sports Information Director at the UofA. He eventually left that position to work with FCA in NW Arkansas. As he thought about ministering to SHS, he remembered the work I did with the UofA FCA group. So he called and asked me to work with the Bulldog football team. This will be my fourth season. I will speak to the full team 6-8 times a year. And every Thursday night during the season, we have a pasta dinner and Bible study time. We had our first of the year last night with about 30 players there. Most who come to this are the seniors and the starters. It is a great time of sharing and prayer, of challenging and messing around.
The Bulldogs start their season tomorrow against Evangel Christian of Shreveport, LA. The game will be televised by Fox Sports. Springdale is ranked number 16 in the country by USA Today and Evangel is ranked number 18. It should be a great game. But Springdale has some pressure on them. Several of them will be playing college ball next year - and some on a national level (two have committed to Arkansas, two to Florida, and one to Notre Dame). The expectations around the state are so high right now that anything less than an undefeated season will be looked at as a failure by many. That's a tough position to be in with team's like Evangel, Jenks, and Ft. Smith Northside on the schedule.

Thursday, September 1

Anniversary 26

Today is our 26th wedding anniversary. That sounds kind of weird. I really don't think we're that old! But to be married for 26 years, to have too kids in college, to have been a part of each other's life for over 30 years. I guess we are getting old.

Gina and I didn't really think ahead when we got married. This is a terrible time of year for a teacher and a campus minister to try and celebrate anything! We are far too busy and far too tired. But that's ok. I'm blessed with a wife who understands those things and the ebb and flow of life in campus ministry. From the middle of August to the end of September, it is almost non-stop. Then I settle down into more consistent 50-55 hour weeks. We both spent the day at work and our evening feeding dinner and teaching about 30 members of the Springdale High School football team. We did go out to dinner last night to celebrate!

I finished up the final pre-marital counseling session for a couple who is getting married in October. I pray that their marriage will be even half as blessed and fulfilling and happy as ours has been for the past 26 years. God has been good to me and has blessed me with a wife far better than I deserve. I definitely married over my head!

"A wife of noble character is her husband's crown."
Proverbs 12:4

"Houses and wealth are inherited from parents, but a prudent wife is from the LORD."
Proverbs 19:14

"A wife of noble character who can find? She is worth far more than rubies."
Proverbs 31:10

Monday, August 29

2:00 AM Grill

The 2:00 AM Grill is good times. God has blessed us with a great location. You can't get to the Fayetteville "club district" from campus without going by our building! So we reach out to those who choose to "partake" in that entertainment. The bars close at 2:00 AM, so at about midnight we have a group that sets up a grill and serves hamburgers and hot dogs to anyone who wants them. We had at least a dozen folks from ConC working last Friday night - passing out food and talking to people.

It's a pretty non-threatening and lively environment. The goal is to show God's love in a practical way, to build bridges of friendships, and to pray for chances to talk about spiritual things. But the topic is not forced. We let God lead the conversation. And there are always conversations. People respond to the kindness and friendliness of our people as they share God's love. Success is measured more by conversations engaged in than hamburgers served. It's cool enough to keep even an old man like me up until 3:00 AM!

Another of the great things about the Grill is that it is totally a student organized and run ministry. They set up the grill, buy the food, organize the workers, and make it all happen. Good times.

Friday, August 26

Catching Up A Little ...

A very busy week since my last post. Here are some of the highlights:
Tonight is the last of our Welcome Week activities. We have had at least one event (and often more than one) every day since 8/17. We're either scheduling too much or I'm getting too old to keep up with it all! I just need to remember that God won't call me to do more than I can do with calmness of spirit. As you read through the Gospels, you never see Jesus in a hurry and he always had time for people. And he had thousands of people making demands on his time. A friend recently pointed out that one of my heroes in the faith (Roy Weece) was the same way. He is always in demand, but never in a hurry and always with time for people.
Welcome Week ends, but Follow-up Month begins. We have the names of over 300 new students who have indicated an interest in ConC. We want to get in touch with them! Unfortunately, the university has been less than helpful. For the past 23 years, they have helped us locate these students. So far this year, they have been unwilling to do that. They have also been slow in getting our posters up. We are still "working the channels" to get it done (and, after being here for 23 years, I have some channels), but we are also missing a key time for contacting students. Most students will set their habits in the first month of school - what their schedule will be like, what their circle of friends will be, where they will be involved. It is a key time. But God has it all under control. I'm learning to be a little less frustrated with those things that are out of my control.
We moved Stacy into the dorm on 8/18. She hasn't been home since then, so I'm guessing she likes it!
I'm working from Panera this morning - doing some sermon preparation and catching up on this. When I got in line for my bagel and coffee, I saw a "face from the past" right in front of me. Scott was at the very first meetings of ConC back in the fall of 1982. In fact, he was our very first president! At that time, he was a member of the Razorback football team. Now he is living and working in Springfield with a high school son of his own. I probably haven't seen Scott in almost 15 years. He asked if I was still schooling college guys in racquetball (of course, though I haven't played much lately). We caught up with one another and I filled him in on some of those he had been here with. It was a pleasant surprise!

Thursday, August 18

Welcome Week

Welcome Week has started. The residence halls opened for everyone today and we will have at least one activity every day for the next eight days. Some days there will be more than one. They will range from worship services to a karaoke night to a video game tournament. The goal of some of the activities is just to give new students a chance to get to know us through something they enjoy. The end purpose of the week is to help students get plugged in to our ministry so that God can work in their lives through his Word, through worship, through service, through prayer, and through others. So, though some of the activities may seem a little "odd", the goal is the same - to help students get to a place where they can encounter God and he can touch their lives.

But that all starts tomorrow. Tonight several of us gathered for a time of prayer. We prayed for a while at The Rockhouse. Then we divided up into four groups and "prayer walked" around campus. It was really a special time to prayer over the dorms, the classroom buildings, the dining halls, the fraternity and sorority houses, etc. - asking God to bless those who entered there and to make his presence known to them. It was sweet!
I also got to help Stacy move into Futrall Hall today. She's in the same dorm and on the same floor that Erin was four years ago. She is doing well from her surgery yesterday. Kristin, David, and Brio helped with the move - which was greatly appreciated! One of the upperclassmen (Ryan) in charge of moving new students in was himself a new student that I helped to moved in four years ago! I don't know that I have ever seen two students - male or female - that brought as much stuff to college as Ryan and Chris did their freshman year!
Two of my former interns brought me a new "I am the Big Dog" coffee mug yesterday. It is proudly sitting on my desk. Of course, this year's office policy is that everyone on staff has to call me "Chief." I think it has a nice ring to it!

Tuesday, August 16

Year Number Twenty-Four

After about three weeks, I'm back to posting on here again. It has been a crazy month that found me away from home for over three weeks. But now I'm back - and looking a new school year (year number 24 at the UofA) in the face! Last week we were at the National Student Conference in Evansville, IN. It is a great conference every year. One of the best parts is the chance to visit with friends who are doing campus ministry across the country. If you asked any one of them if they were ready for the semester to start, they would have told you "No!" After 23 years, I'm still that way every year. Some students moved in on Sunday and the dorms open for everyone on Thursday, but there is still that feeling that you're not quite ready for the invasion of over 16,000 students. Of spending six weeks tracking down and meeting incoming students interested in Christ on Campus. Of needing to grow by a third just to stay at the same size you were the year before. Or, as one of the speakers said last week, of wondering if anyone is actually going to show up! But we are here again. And we are as ready as we ever are. We have done what we can do to prepare. Now we pray and work and meet people and pray some more. Feel free to pray with us!


I read this verse today in my time with God:

"Humans are satisfied with whatever looks good; GOD probes for what is good."
Proverbs 16:2 (The Message)

I'm not sure of how accurately that translates the thought of the original Hebrew, but I love the thought. I think it is so true. We are quick to settle for appearance rather than substance; for what looks or feels good or true or right rather than what is truly good or true or right. I especially pray that the students we work with develop the maturity to discern what looks good from what truly is good. This applies to the way the use their time, the things they choose to get involved in, the careers they choose, and, especially, those with whom they get romantically involved. It is so easy for us to be distracted by looks or charisma or possessions or popularity and miss what is truly enduring - a person of character and integrity and compassion who is a God-seeker.

Saturday, July 23

Between Youthquake and Hidden Haven

I got home at about 10:30 on Friday night from a week in the Rockies with Youthquake, a camping experience with about 210 high schoolers and sponsors. It has probably been over 10 years since I have been to Colorado and I was amazed again at the "awesomeness" and beauty of the mountains. We camped at almost 11,000 feet, which made it even better! The best part, of course, was the people - especially the eleven men and women in my family group who had just graduated from high school. I appreciated their hearts for God, their openness, and the way they worked together and encouraged one another. Mark Baugher (from Ft. Scott) and Kristin helped my lead the family group. Thanks guys!


When I got back from Colorado, I found out that my friend, Ward Patterson, had passed away in Cincinnati. Ward was campus minister at Indiana University from 1974-1990. He also taught at Cincinnati Bible College & Seminary and Northern Kentucky University. Through the years, Ward was always an encouragement to me. He kept up with our ministry via newsletters and emails. He encouraged me to start the Journal of Campus Ministry, which I edited and published from 1994-2000. When writing a magazine article on "Gracious Living" a few years ago, he interviewed me (along with others). I was honored to be a part of that. I always stayed with Ward when I took classes at CBS. Staying at Ward's house was like staying at a museum. Ward was a life-long bachelor and a world-traveler. In the early 1960's he spent two or three years motorcycling across Australia, Asia, Northern Africa, and Europe. He paid his way by perfecting a method of doing "rubbings" of ancient inscriptions. He never stopped traveling. His house was full of "artifacts" from around the world, including a rickshaw in his living room! I'm not going to be able to make the service in Cincinnati on Wednesday, but I will be thinking of him and thanking God for bringing him into my life.


On a more cheery note, our friend, Becky Patterson, is recovering well from her almost 11 hour surgery on July 13. We were by her house tonight and she is looking great! And best of all, the pathology reports have all come back negative. She's cancer free! Thank you for your prayers on her behalf!


Tomorrow I'm off to Hidden Haven Christian Camp in Thayer, KS. I'll be speaking to a high school camp through Thursday night. Please keep that in your prayers. It will be fun - and hot! FYI, I attended this camp as a camper 32 years ago!