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!

Friday, July 15

Heading Out

I'll be gone a lot over the next few weeks, so I don't know how often I'll be able to post. I'll be back in Fayetteville for good on August 11.

May God be gracious to us and bless us
and make his face shine upon us,
that your ways may be known on earth,
your salvation among all nations.
May the peoples praise you, O God;
may all the peoples praise you.
May the nations be glad and sing for joy,
for you rule the peoples justly
and guide the nations of the earth.
May the peoples praise you, O God;
may all the peoples praise you.
Then the land will yield its harvest,
and God, our God, will bless us.
God will bless us,
and all the ends of the earth will fear him.
Psalm 67

Tuesday, July 12

Summer ConC

This summer we are doing things a little differently that we do most summers. We are "test-driving" the new small group format that we want to use in the fall. It works on a four-week cycle:

Week One - A social time so that members can bring friends who aren't involved in the group. This summer it has been miniature golf one time and bowling the next.

Weeks Two and Four - A discussion-oriented Bible study. This summer we are studying I John.

Week Three - A group service project. Last month we did yard work for a couple of ladies who are unable to do it for themselves because of health reasons. Tonight we are taking flowers to the residents of a local nursing home. (OK, they aren't real flowers. But they still look pretty! The mother of a couple of our students knew that they local cemetery was about to gather and destroy all of the artificial flowers there. So she grabbed them and brought them all to us! So now we're making bouquets out of them and passing them on. But it is the thought that counts!)

Things have gone pretty well, so far. We'll see what happens tonight. College students are like Christians of all ages: We tend to think the "meat" of being a Christian is knowledge and study. Sometimes we don't think things like community and service are as important. Yet it was love and service that Jesus said would be the mark of his followers! (See John 13 and Matthew 25.)


Yesterday I pulled out some CD's filled with some of the Christian music we had back in the 70's - Andre' Crouch, The Imperials, and Sweet Comfort Band. These were "greatest hits" collections that I bought in recent years. I'm sure my originals were all in 8-tracks that are long gone! As I listened to them, the thought crossed my mind, "Man, these really aren't very good!" (Actually, SCB isn't too bad.) Maybe my taste has changed, but I'll take Chris Tomlin, David Crowder, Matt Redman, Waterdeep, etc. anytime!

Of course, Keith Green is still the king.


Please keep me in your prayers. I'll be speaking in camps/conferences in three different states over the next four weeks:

July 16-22 in Colorado
July 24-29 in Kansas
August 6-11 in Indiana

Friday, July 8

Rethinking Holiness

"But just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do; for it is written: 'Be holy, because I am holy.'"
I Peter 1:15-16

I've been working on some talks for a couple of weeks of high school camps that I have coming up. That preparation brought me back to this passage - one that I taught from last semester - and some thoughts that were generated by it.

Most often we tend to think of "holiness" and "purity" as exercises of denial - achieved by moving away from all the things that can "defile" us. The list of what those things are can vary from family to family, community to community, and religious group to religious group. Some of the things that have been included over the years are smoking, drinking, cussing, movies, dancing, kissing, petting, sex, playing cards, co-ed swimming, etc. (As we used to say in Kansas, "I don't smoke, drink, or chew - or go out with girls who do!" Now if you said that in parts of Arkansas, your social life would be seriously stunted!) By this measure, the person that is the "purist" or "most holy" is the one who refrains from the most items of defilement!

But as some students and I were discussing this passage a few months ago, it dawned on us that becoming holy is really less about what we quit doing and more about becoming like God! It is less about moving away from "defiling acts" and more about moving toward God. God is holy! He is the definition of holiness! He calls us to be holy, not so much that we quit doing things that make us dirty but that we might become more like him - because he is holy. So being holy and pure isn't really about not doing all the things that you kind of think you might really like to try as it is about becoming like the one whom you really want to imitate.

Therefore, the person who is most "pure" and "holy" isn't just the one who stays away from the most defiling things. The Pharisees of Jesus' time were masters of this, yet he blistered them for their lack of holiness. They missed the entire point that holiness was more about being like God. That includes saying "no" to sin, but it also means becoming compassionate, gentle, self-sacrificing, forgiving, generous, and more.

In truth, we need both of these aspects to be holy - to be like God. We need to strive for sinlessness, because our God is sinless. And we need to grow in our love and compassion and mercy, because our God is compassionate and loving and merciful and gracious. It is only when we combined these aspects will the idea of holiness have any attraction to the watching world around us. One of these without the other fails to give the whole picture of who God is and won't work in drawing a hurting (needing compassion) and sinful (needing mercy) world to him.

Donald Miller, in his book, Searching For God Knows What, puts it this way:

"Morality, then, if you think about it, is the way we imitate God. It is the way we imitate the ways of heaven here on earth."

I recently finished Miller's book. I thought the first half of the book was really good and thought provoking, especially as he talked about the things that motivate people in a world separated from God. I didn't think the second half of the book was as good as the first half.

I also finished The Teammates by David Halberstam. It is a short book about the careers, but mostly about the life-long friendship, of Ted Williams, Bobby Doerr, Johnny Pesky, and Dom DiMaggio - four men who played for the Boston Red Sox back in the 1940's. If you're a baseball fan, you'll enjoy it.

Currently I'm reading Red Moon Rising by Pete Grieg and Dave Roberts. It's the story behind the 24-7 prayer movement that is going on around the world. It is definitely stretching and we're talking about implementing some things from it this fall. Right now we're praying about 240 hours of prayer during September as a starting point. We'll keep you posted - but pray with us about that!

I'm also reading God's Politics by Jim Wallis, the editor of Sojourners Magazine. The sub-title says, "Why the Right Gets It Wrong and the Left Doesn't Get It." This is preparation for a workshop I'm teaching in Indiana in August.

Wednesday, July 6

Fourth of July ... and the Sunday before

I love the Fourth of July for a lot of reasons:

1) For our family, it has traditionally been a time for family and friends. During my younger days all of the cousins would go to our grandparents' house, ride our bikes or walk in the Hepler, KS Fourth of July parade, and watch the fireworks at the Hepler softball field. Now we have a cookout at our home for whomever is in town (there was about 20 of us this year) and then head off to watch a fireworks display (and it was the best Fayetteville fireworks display I have seen). All in all, it is a good, relaxing day with people you care for.

2) I also love my country. God has blessed us with the privilege of living in a nation with freedoms and luxuries that most of the world cannot even imagine. The freedom to worship, to speak, to gather, to dissent. And I'm proud of my country. No, I don't agree with all that has been done and I'm often concerned about the directions in which we are heading. But (to quote Lee Greenwood) I'm proud to be an American and I'm proud of my relatives and friends who have served (and are serving) in the service of our country all over the world. I love to sing the National Anthem and to say the Pledge of Allegiance. And, secretly, I even like some of those fiesty Toby Keith songs!

But ...

The one Sunday I most dread is the Sunday before the Fourth of July. Somehow, somewhere, many in America have made their patriotism a religious thing. Many churches around the nation make the Sunday before the Fourth "God and Country Sunday" - with the program full of patriotic songs and sermons and plays and the rest.

I'm just not comfortable with that. I don't go to church to sing praises to our nation or to pledge my allegiance to a flag or the republic for which it stands. I go to church to worship my God and commit my life to following Him - to worship and repent and listen to Him. Singing the praises of something else or using that time set aside for God to pledge my allegiance to another entity just feels almost idolatrous. At least it does to me.

Please understand that this is my own personal pet "peeve" - my own conviction. And I'm not judging anyone's motives in what they do. Others are able to handle this conflict more easily than I. I attended the church I grew up in last weekend. My brother preached and did a great job of talking about the liberty that we have in Christ. The congregation did sing the National Anthem and another patriotic song. I'm sure that no one noticed, but I just didn't sing those songs. I would gladly at another time. But not then and not there.

Here is
an article in Christianity Today that you might find interesting. I found myself resonating with much of it.

Tuesday, July 5

Catching Up

Much to my surprise, I had two people tell me over the weekend that they read this blog! Of course, it was my niece and my cousin, but it was still two people who really don't have to read it at all! So my apologies to Judy and Amanda - and others who have been waiting breathlessly - for my next posting. I'll be doing several in the next few days (I have a list of things to catch up on), but this one is just to give you a rundown over the past few weeks in my life.

When I last wrote, I was preparing to head to Sacramento for officiate the NCAA Outdoor Field & Track Championships. That trip was from June 7-12. I officiated the combined events at this meet - which means I worked the field events for the men's decathlon on the first two days (three events each day) and the field events for the women's heptathlon on the last two days (two events each day). I also got to work the women's pole vault final on Saturday. I'm primarily a "vertical jumps" guy, so that was fun. It was a good meet, the competition was great, the Sacramento weather is always beautiful, and the Razorbacks won national championship number 41. And, of course, I got to see a lot of friends from around the country. I roomed with "Little David" from Mississippi, flew out and back with Stanley from Lubbock, and was treated to a wonderful dinner at a fancy place called Biba's by Ray and Judy from Seattle.

After an all night flight home, Stacy and I went through orientation at the UofA on June 13-14. She's going to be in the Walton College of Business, so I got to learn a lot about that program. But the best part was just hanging out with her and going through the process. I'm excited about having her on campus next year!

Then a week later, June 22-27, I flew to LA for the US Field & Track Championship - the national championship for professionals and collegians. I was a head high jump official there and had the opportunity to work with other officials selected from around the nation. My crew was from Kentucky, New Jersey, Minnesota, and Nebraska. I had the chance to work the event as Matt Hemingway (former Razorback and good friend) won his first national title. And, again, the weather was beautiful. I also taught a workshop for about 40 officials that was very well received. But the trip was memorable for a couple of other events:

* Just as I was arriving at the track at about 4:45 pm on Wednesday, a coach from the University of Tulsa stopped me to tell me that an official had been hit in the head with a shot put. He was an older man (77) who had been hired to work during Wednesday's practice times before the real competition began on Thursday. Though he had officiated for years, he, basically, wasn't being attentive enough and leaned or stepped out into the "sector" and was hit with the 16-pound ball. He died later that evening. We also had two officials hit with the discus later in the week. This is a more dangerous hobby than I thought!

* On Saturday night, one of the local officials (Bob Seaman, former collegiate record holder in the mile for UCLA) invited us over to his home for a party. I was sitting at a table on the patio with two other men when another official came over to join us. I scooted over on to the bench that was at the table next to me to make room for her. But in a few minutes, I discovered that the bench wasn't a bench but a glass and wrought iron table. I discovered this when I went crashing through the glass table top! Though my shirt was cut, I wasn't hurt. But it was loud and definitely embarrassing! All the next day, people kept asking me, "Hey, Armstrong, are you still picking glass out of your a$$!" And now I need to send them a check for the table!