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.