Monday, May 30

May 30, 2005

Just a few minutes left in Erin's 22nd birthday. We've had a good holiday and celebration: A late breakfast at Susan's and then I grilled inch and a half T-bones for dinner. Stacy baked a birthday cake. And Erin got new tires. I guess when you're 22, you stop getting fun things and get what you need! We had a good day.

But tonight I also had a reminder of what holiday this was - Memorial Day. Tonight, ABC's Nightline broadcast was devoted to Ted Koppel reading the names and showing the pictures of the over 900 servicemen and women who have died in Iraq and Afghanistan over the past year. I watched most of the broadcast - just names and pictures. Most of those who have died were no older than Erin.

It is so easy for us to hear the reports about the casualties in Iraq and Afghanistan and let them to in one ear and out the other. Nightline's broadcast helped to remind me that those names have faces and families. That those individuals are worthy of our respect and of being remembered - not just on Memorial Day, but on each day that we enjoy the freedoms that we have in the US. For most of us, Memorial Day is usually about hanging with the family, mowing the lawn, washing the cars. We should be thankful for reminders of those who have sacrificed for us - and of those who continue to sacrifice.

Monday, May 23

Graduation Weekend

Stacy's graduation weekend has come and gone. We had some family come down to take part in the festivities - my mom, Gina's folks, and my brother and his family. We all trekked up to Bud Walton Arena at the UofA for the ceremony. Now Stacy's an official high school graduate. The next stop is the UofA. I'm looking forward to having her up here with me and involved with ConC. It will be fun having both girls involved in the ministry for a year.

It's hard to believe that both of our girls are out of high school now. It seems like just last week that Dr. Rogers was trying to get Gina to hurry up and deliver Stacy so he wouldn't miss the kickoff of the Cowboy's Monday Night Football game against St. Louis. She was born at about 7:58 pm on Sept. 29, 1986 - and Dallas beat St. Louis 31-7. Everyone ended the night happy.

On Saturday night/Sunday morning, Gina and I helped with "Project Graduation" - an all-night party for the graduates at the Jones Center here in Springdale. They had the pool and ice skating rink open, as well as a whole collection of "inflatable", a casino, an electric bull, a band, a DJ, the game room, and food. Everyone won a door prize, ranging from Wal-Mart and restaurant coupons to laptop computers. We were there from 8:30 pm until almost 4:30 am. It was a long night! But it was fun to be there for Stacy's last high school event.

Our baby graduated and staying up all night about killed us. I was even too tired to go see Star Wars on Sunday. Yes, we are feeling old.

Tuesday, May 17

Running in the Right Way

Last weekend I had the opportunity to officiate the SEC Outdoor Track & Field Championships in Nashville, TN. It was a good weekend (with the usual thunderstorm) with good competition in the events I worked (high jumps and pole vaults). And, of course, the Razorbacks won another conference championship. But the weekend also had an unusual situation in it.

The NCAA has a rule called "The Honest Effort" rule. The rule says that if an athlete does not give an honest effort in an event in which he or she is entered, then he or she is disqualified from the rest of the meet. During the course of the SEC Meet last weekend, we had an "honest effort" ruling and minor controversy regarding an athlete's participation in the high jump.

The situation made me wonder what would happen if God had an "Honest Effort Rule." What if God, once you "entered the race", let you continue or disqualified you based upon your effort? What if your continuation was determined by how hard you worked at growing? At serving? At sharing your faith? At loving others? At sacrificing? What if all of those who didn't make an honest effort at living a life pleasing to God were disqualified from the race?

Would you be in or out?

I don't want to get into a discussion of eternal security or "once saved, always saved" here. You can check out the "Ask Mike" link on this blog later this week to see a more detailed discussion of that. What I want to do here is get you thinking about how you are living your life. What kind of effort are you putting into your Christian walk - into living a life that is honoring to God?

"Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize." I Corinthians 9:24
"Similarly, if anyone competes as an athlete, he does not receive the victor's crown unless he competes according to the rules." II Timothy 2:5

Saturday, May 14

Senior Assembly and Nashville

Yesterday morning was the Springdale High School Senior Assembly. It's kind of hard to believe that in a week my "baby" will be graduating from high school! Yesterday's assembly was a time for the seniors to reflect on their school careers through words and pictures (Stacy made a presentation about middle school) and then to receive scholarships and awards. The head counselor said that this graduating class has been offered about $8 million in scholarships. Stacy was recognized for her UofA scholarships, as well as received awards for straight A's through high school and for the work she did in putting together the CAP book (the book that lists all the classes the school offers, with a description of each). She's done a great job in school - and is a great young lady. We're very proud of her - of what she has done and of who she is.

It is kind of sad, however, that this is the last graduating class from Springdale as a town with only one high school. Next year the new high school will open and some Springdale kids will graduate from there. The new high school is needed (Stacy's class will probably have close to 800 in it), but it will definitely bring about a change in the community. One of the things that we have loved about Springdale is that, even though it is growing so fast and has one of the largest school districts in the state (with over 15,000 students), it is a community that has revolved around its churches and schools - and especially the SHS Bulldogs. All that will change to some degree.

After the assembly, Erin and I took off for Nashville, TN for the SEC Outdoor Track and Field Championships. For the past three years, Erin as gone to at least one meet with me. She is friends with athletes on both the men's and women's teams - and their parents. So she will hang out with them while I'm working. In fact, thanks to our old friend Josh Willoughby, we are staying at the same hotel as the Lady Razorbacks, so we ate breakfast with Paige and Dee Gee and others. We ate dinner last night with a couple of the men athletes, a Ladyback, and their parents. We haven't made it to the track yet. Guess I'll have to head that way soon. Hopefully the rain will hold off. I'm doing the high jump and vault this weekend.

Wednesday, May 11

Random Thoughts ...

Just a few random thoughts along the way ...

* Today was our semi-annual, end-of-the-semester, all-day staff meeting. We reserved a room in the Union and spent several hours (including lunch at Uncle Gaylord's) reviewing the past semester and making plans for the future. Though not everything went the way we had hoped it would this year, it was still a good time to reflect back on what God had done, the lives that were changed, the students who grew and stepped up into leadership and ministry. God is so good to let us have a part in what he is doing in the lives of these students. The meeting was also a good time of dreaming and planning for the future. We feel that God is leading us in some new and exciting directions. We just have to be faithful in listening to him and stepping through the doors he opens for us.

* I have a couple of "Ask Mike" questions that I will post soon - along with responses. I do want you to know that the questions you send come to me in an anonymous email, so I don't know who they come from. So if you have questions, feel free to ask and I'll do my best to give an answer that is concise and based on Scripture.

* I have three books I'm reading at the moment: Searching For God Knows What by Donald Miller, Red Moon Rising by Pete Greig and Dave Roberts, and The Teammates by David Halberstam. Here is a passage from Searching For God Knows What that is worth your consideration:

"To be honest, though, I don't know how much I like the idea of my spirituality being relational. I suppose I believe this is true, but the formulas seem much better than God because the formulas offer control; and God, well, He is like a person, and people, as we all know, are complicated. The trouble with people is they do not always do what you tell them to do. Try it with your kids or your spouse or strangers at the grocery store, and you will see what I mean. The formulas propose that if you do this and this and this, God will respond. When I was a kid I wanted a dolphin for the same reason.

I remember watching that television show I Dream of Jeannie when I was young, and I wondered at how great it would be to have a Jeannie of my own, complete with the sexy outfit, who could blink a grilled-cheese sandwich out of thin air, all the while cleaning my room and doing my homework. I realize, of course, that is very silly and there is no such thing as a genie that lives in a lamp, but it makes me wonder if secretly we don't wish God were a genie who could deliver a few wishes here and there. And that makes me wonder if what we really want from the formulas are the wishes, not God. It makes me wonder if what we really want is control, not a relationship.

Some would say formulas are how we interact with God, that going through motions and jumping through hoops are how a person acts out his spirituality. This method of interaction, however, seems odd to me, because if I want to hang out with my friend Tuck, I don't stomp my foot three times, turn around, and say his name over and over like a mantra, lighting candles and getting myself in a certain mood. I just call him. In this way, formulas presuppose God is more a computer or a circus monkey than an intelligent Being. I realize that sounds harsh, but it is true." pp. 12-13

* I have also reconsidered the online Bible discussion. Several have looked at the forum Jake set up for me, but I'm now thinking that it is more complicated that I want it to be. So what we are going to try (if there is interest in it) is more of an email Bible discussion. Soon (like, as soon as Jake can do it for me) there will be a like on this page where you can email me and let me know that you want to be a part of the email group.

* Typically, I don't do "Thoughts of the Week" during the summers. But with the blog, I'll be writing through the summer. So keep checking back!

Wednesday, May 4

Senior Night

Last night was our final Christ on Campus worship service for the 2004-2005 school year. As is our custom, we had a cookout on the lawn and "Senior Night" - a night where those who are graduating get a chance to share what God has done in their lives during their time at the UofA. It is always a special time as students talk about what they have learned and how they have grown and leave words of wisdom for those who are coming after them. There are a lot of laughs and memories, as well as a few tears. It could very well be both my favorite and least favorite night of the year. It is my favorite because we get to celebrate what God has done. It is my least favorite because it means saying good-bye to students who mean so much to me and who have contributed so much to my life.

Every year on Senior Night there is a recurring theme: The importance of community and relationships. As those who are graduating talk about what has made a difference in their lives, the comments almost always come back to the friendships they formed and the community of which they were a part. This community picked them up when they were discouraged and encouraged them when they failed. It stretched them to get out of their comfort zones and serve in sacrificial ways. It held them accountable and provided support when they felt alone. It was the primary method that God used to mold them and teach them and equip them.

I don't think I have ever had someone mention a sermon I have preached. Or a Bible study lesson that they took part in. Though those things are as important to spiritual health as the meals you eat are to physical health, they aren't (most often) the things that touch our lives in the deepest ways. Sometimes we who are "religious professionals" forget that. We forget that the things that most shape the lives of people are not the lessons taught or the facts given, but the relationships formed and the love shared.

"By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another." John 13:35
"As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another." Proverbs 27:17

Tuesday, May 3

Campus Ministry in Time Magazine

Here is a link to an article in the current issue of Time Magazine. It's about Christian students who are living out their faith on the University of Indiana campus. It is well written and really highlights the tensions faced by Christian students on the university campus and the determination of many of them to live as Christ desires and to influence their worlds. It also mentions the Christian Student Fellowship - a ministry with which some of my friends work. Check it out:,9171,1056294,00.html

Monday, May 2

The KC Royals, me, and God

I'm a Kansas City Royals fan. There. I admitted it. I have been since they played their first game in 1969. There really isn't much reason to be a Royals fan now-a-days. Especially in Arkansas. This is Cardinal country. It's easy to be a Cardinal fan. They spend a lot of money. Have a lot of good players. They win. They are easy to love.

But it's not easy to be a Royals fan. They haven't won anything since about 1985. They have lost 8 of their last 10 games. (They didn't lose tonight! But then, they had the night off.) They have more losses than any other major league team. I probably couldn't name five players on their roster. The Royals aren't an easy team to love.

But I'm a Royals fan. This summer I'll probably head to Kansas City and watch them play (and probably lose) a couple of games.

Sometimes I'm sure God thinks of me like the Royals. I'm not always easy to love. I can put on a good show sometimes. But you don't have to watch too long before my failures begin to show. I am often self-centered. I'm impatient. I'm not loving. Not pious. Not zealous. Distracted. The list could go on. I'm not an easy person to love. But God is a Mike Armstrong fan. He loves me in spite of my inconsistencies and failures and sin.

And he loves you, too. Sometimes it is easy to forget that. Sometimes we get distracted by our failures and forget that we are loved. Regardless of our test scores. Regardless of our "relationship status." Regardless of how we rate on the financial scale or the looks scale or whatever other scale people measure each other by.

"This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins."
I John 4:9-10

"For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord."
Romans 8:38-39

Back in 1982, a Christian singer named Bob Bennett released "A Song About Baseball." The song never mentions the name of Jesus. Never mentions the name of God. But it is all about his love for us "no matter how we play." It's a great song. I bought the CD just for this one song. Stop by my office sometime and I'll play it for you.