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.