Thursday, December 28

Christmas this year has left me reminiscing "nostalgically" about the different ways the season has changed in my life over the years.

When I was young (pre-college and pre-marriage), Christmas was an "extended-family" affair. As I remember it (and I admit that it has been quite a few years ago now), Christmas morning was at our house. But there were a lot of family gatherings: at my great-grandparents on the Armstrong side (with the sticky popcorn balls and the scary pictures of dead ancestors on the second floor) and at grandparents on both sides of the family. The Armstrong side was smaller (just ten of us, with the occasional visit from the Palmers or Aunt Sharon's family) and more sedate. The Huber side was larger, with more cousins who were a little more rambunctious.

When Gina and I were first married, Christmas really got out of hand for a while. We had at least seven Christmas celebrations (not counting our own). And since all of our family lived within 30 miles of each other, we were expected to try and hit all of them. It was rough on the babies (and, hence, on us) some years.

Over the past several years, Christmas has fallen in to a more comfortable flow. Typically, we attend the Christmas Eve candlelight service at our home church in Ft. Scott, KS. Christmas morning is at Gina's folks - a big breakfast with eggs, bacon, biscuits, and gravy - with her sisters and their families. Then presents and lunch. Most often we will then head in to my Mom's for Christmas with her and my brother and his family and my grandmother. Our traditional Christmas dinner is deep-fried shrimp (and chicken strips for those crazy people who don't like shrimp). Then presents. For many years, it also included the "grandkids" trying to figure out a way to catch Santa delivering the Christmas stockings. They never succeeded, though Stacy claims to have seen him in 1993. That was our last Christmas with my Dad. It's hard to believe that it has been 13 years.

But this Christmas was different. For the first time in 50 years, Gina wasn't with her parents on Christmas. For the first time in 48 years, I wasn't with my mom. Because of Stacy's recent surgery, we decided to stay in Springdale. We missed being with brothers and sisters and nieces and nephews. We missed being with our parents.

But, in my mind, it was also a special Christmas. For the first time, it was just our family. We had the big, traditional Christmas breakfast - eggs, bacon, biscuits, and gravy. We opened presents. We took naps. We watched movies. We played dominoes. And it was good.

Who knows when it will happen again. Things are in transition. We don't know for sure where Erin will be next year or what her work schedule will be like. Stacy will be graduating from college in a couple of years. Changes are coming.

And though it took Stacy's surgery to make it happen, and though we missed being with our extended family, God did bless us with, for the first time, a very special Christmas at our house.

Tuesday, December 12

It has been a couple of weeks since I've posted. They have been a busy couple of weeks with several things to mention, but tonight is a night to say good-bye to a couple of men who touched the lives of many people - including mine.

On Dec. 1, Josh Lantz died doing something he loved to do - canoeing. If you would have asked me which of the 18,000 students at the UofA would be out in a canoe on a rain-swelled river on a 20 degree day, I would have said Josh Lantz. He loved to be outside: mountain biking, ultimate, running, hiking, on the river. On that day, his love for those things out-weighed his good sense. When his canoe tipped, Josh was unable to get out of the water. When they found his body about three hours later, it had a peaceful smile.

In almost 25 years of working with college students, I don't know that I have ever know anyone quite like Josh. He definitely walked to a different drummer, but you didn't have to be around him very long before you realized that drummer was Jesus. Josh was passionate about Christ - he loved to worship, he loved to pray, he loved to study God's Word. You could see it as he played guitar and mandolin (most often barefoot) in our worship band. Josh was passionate about people. When you talked with Josh, you had his total attention. He wanted to know all about you. He had a way of making everyone who met him think that they were one of his best friends. There was no pretense - just complete sincerity. He was full of hugs and always ready to pray with you. And because of Josh's passion for God and for people, he was passionate about making a difference in people's lives - especially those who were in need. The last trip he took with Christ on Campus was to Indianapolis for the National Missionary Convention because that was where he was heading. His plan was to use his civil engineering degree to build water wells for impoverished people.

As I sat in Josh's memorial service last Wednesday, a passage of Scripture came to my mind. As I was thinking about it, Josh's pastor began to speak about the very things I was thinking. The passage is John 13, where John says that Jesus knew where he came from, who he was, and where he was going. Because of that, he was free from any need to prove his superiority or fight for position - he was free to demonstrate his love by washing his disciples' feet. I don't know that I have ever been around anyone who was more comfortable with who he was and more sure about the direction of his life than Josh Lantz. Because of that, he didn't feel a need to impress. He was able to squeeze the most out of everything that he did. He was just free to be passionate about the things that were important to him - God and people and serving both.

A week before Josh died, we had talked about him being one of our "young guns" - one of the freshmen and sophomore men who were going to lead ConC over the next few years. He was excited about that. I'm going to miss that chance to serve with him, to walk with him as he walked to the beat of Jesus. Josh was 19.


On Monday, Seth Wilson went to be with our Lord. Seth was 92. Seth's legacy is too long to go into here. Let it suffice for now to say that he was Ozark Christian College for most all of its existence, serving as a professor, academic dean, and guiding force for decades. He was also the professor that I took more hours from than any other. His influence on my life - and the lives of hundreds of others - was huge. His love for God and his Word looked different than Josh's did, but was just as passionate and life-consuming.

I went to college with many who were too intimidated to take classes with Seth. Seth was a demanding teacher. Role call was taken each day and the expected response was not "here" but the number of hours that you had spent preparing for that class session. The expected response was two hours. I took most of my Life of Christ courses from Seth. Each day (Tuesday-Friday) we would take a different section of the Gospels. As class began, he would call on a student who was expected to stand and recite the passage from memory. And when finals came around, it was even worse. Seth's finals were essay finals and we were given a four-hour time slot to take each final. With Seth, you expected to be in that final for all four hours. If you finished the test he had prepared, he would have another for you to do! On the other hand, if you wrote all four hours on the first question, that was OK. He just figured you knew that much about the other questions. His classes could be intimidating and rigorous and life-changing.

From Seth I learned a passion for God's Word and the necessity of spending time with it, meditating on it, and seeking the Truth that was there. I learned that when it comes to the things of God, he deserves the best we have to offer.

Wednesday, November 22

Over the past few years, the attitudes between our culture and Christians has changed. There are so many areas now where the mood has become confrontational. And it works both ways. There are areas where Christians have been the confrontational ones - calling for boycotts, protesting, and putting together political movements to do battle in a war against secularism. Christianity Today recently ran an article about some Christian "political operatives" in Ohio and DC. The language of these Christians (many of whom are ministers) was couched in terms of a holy war and enemies and conquest. You can read the article here. But in areas such as abortion and gay marriage, many Christians have been pretty confrontational (and sometimes insanely so) for quite some time. I'm not really comfortable with that approach. I don't know that it does much to demonstrate that the Kingdom of God operates on a different set of values and attitudes than the world.

But the other "side" is stepping up its attack and some of the loudest voices are those in the scientific community. Time Magazine's cover story a couple of weeks ago was entitled, "God vs. Science." The NY Times ran a disturbing article this week that detailed a recent conference called "Beyond Belief: Science, Religion, Reason, and Survival." The article quoted many of our nation's "elite" scientists calling for an end to religion. One man equated religious education for children with brain-washing and child abuse. It seemed that the desire of most taking part in the conference was to quit being patient with religion and religious people and to go on the offensive to squelch religious thought and faith. (You may have to register with the NY Times to read the article, but registration is free and, I think, worth it.)

As one who has worked on a university campus for almost 25 years, that would be a troubling direction. For the most part, even non-religious professors have not been antagonistic towards Christians on most university campuses. But if this attitude changes and professors become more confrontational, it would make life even more difficult for Christian students.

I have always believed that Christian faith and science go hand-in-hand. My conviction has been that all Truth ultimately finds it source in God and that we as people of faith don't have to fear honest scientific inquiry. I believe that when we study any of the natural sciences we are studying the creative and ordered mind of God as our world reflects his work, nature, and character. But it seems to becoming increasingly clear that the non-Christian scientific community may not be open to that perspective.

I had caught a "clue" to this over the past couple of months. We have been doing a series of talks on Tuesday nights that are geared to help Christian students to think "Christianly" about their society and the issues facing it. We have talked about affluence and justice, about Truth and what it means to really be Pro-life. And, since evolution and creationism and Intelligent Design have been such hot topics, I wanted to talk about "origins." But I didn't want to talk about it. Even I'm a little skeptical of someone without a background in the natural sciences talking "authoritatively" about these issues.

So I attempted to find a Christian professor at the UofA to address these issues. I know that we have Christian professors in the natural sciences. But I couldn't find anyone willing to do it. I contacted the Christian Faculty Fellowship. No one was willing to step up. That was discouraging! I don't know the reason for the lack of willingness, but it could be fear of taking too vocal a stand as a member of the UofA faculty. I don't know that is the reason, but it is possible.

Fortunately, I was able to find a biology professor at John Brown University who is going to come and talk with our students next Tuesday. My hope is not so much that he can answer all the questions regarding evolution, creation, and Intelligent Design but that he can help us think "Christianly" about the issues. And that he can demonstrate to my students that it is possible to pursue the natural sciences and be committed to Christ and his Word.


In other news:

Missouri State University in Springfield, MO recently settled a lawsuit. It seems that a professor gave his students the assignment of writing letters to the state legislature in favor of homosexual adoption. One student, Emily Brooker, declined to do so on religious grounds. So the professor punished her for it - filing a grievance, moving to withhold her degree, and placing her before a board of inquiry. Emily filed suit and MSU backed down. The grievance has been removed from her "permanent record" and the professor has been relieved of administrative duties and suspended from teaching for a while. You can read the story here.

In another example of how dumb our world can be, schools are beginning to ban tag. You know - tag. The highly dangerous game we used to play on the playground. I mean, they have already all but removed dodge ball from the school grounds (although the classic movie, Dodge Ball, did create a resurgence for the game). What's next? Tetherball? Kickball? Dean Johnson of the Christian Science Monitor has a good column about this development.


Lastly, if my last post's suggestion of a Banana Cover as a Christmas gift didn't meet all of your holiday shopping needs, you might try this: the Air-Guitar T-shirt. Maybe just the thing for the aspiring musician or karaoke star on your list!

Monday, November 13

Moses was back on campus last week. "Moses" is the what folks at the UofA call Gary Bowman - a preacher who comes to campus. (I know that he also preaches at Oklahoma State, but I think they call him something different there.)

Moses is like most of the itinerant preachers that come to college campuses, except that he is from the area and is here on a regular basis. The modus operandi is to create a stir, create some controversy, draw a crowd. The message is one of generalization, stereo-type, and condemnation. If you're in a sorority, you're a whore. If you're a cheerleader, you're a whore. If you're a girl and wear shorts, you're a whore. If you're male, you're a whoremonger. If you're Democrat, you're going to hell. If you're one of the Christian groups on campus, you're a fraud. If you are him, you've ceased to sin.

Last week he was more volatile than normal, judging and attacking. College students love to try and argue with him - though he doesn't give them much of a chance and just eggs them on all the more. Last week, one student who even arrested for disorderly conduct for bringing out his own bullhorn.

I have met Gary a few times and I definitely am not in a position to know his motives. But I have often wondered about his methods. I'm not sure that his methods or his message really serve to point people to Christ. They seem to draw a lot of controversy. A lot of argument. A lot of anger. A lot of shouting.

"Don't have anything to do with foolish and stupid arguments, because you know they produce quarrels. And the Lord's servant must not quarrel; instead, he must be kind to everyone, able to teach, not resentful. Those who oppose him he must gently instruct, in the hope that God will grant them repentance leading them to a knowledge of the truth, and that they will come to their senses and escape from the trap of the devil, who has taken them captive to do his will." II Timothy 2:23-26

"But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect." I Peter 3:15


Some interesting things I've recently read online:

This article from Relevant Magazine addresses something I've talked about before - Christians who are cheap and poor customers in restaurants. I've always felt that Christians should be the best tippers!

Here is Stylus magazine's list of the 50 greatest "live" albums of all time.

In Cambodia, an entire midget fighting team of 42 (a team of midgets who fight, not a team who fights midgets) took on a lion. (I'm not making this up). The lion won. You can read about it here.

And, since the Christmas season is quickly approaching, here are a couple of things you might find interesting. First, reviews of some new Christmas albums. And then, something you might consider as a gift - a banana guard.

Thursday, November 9

Last week was a good week. It's just too bad that I've just now had time to blog about it!

* Our daughter, Erin, passed her Nursing Board Exam and is now a licensed RN! Next step, finding a job.

* We have hired Jim Miller to be our campus minister at the University of Arkansas, Ft. Smith. Jim has been a friend of ours for almost 30 years: one of my college roommates, a groomsman in our wedding, and I was best man in his. Many of you will remember that Jim's wife, Cheryl, passed away in September. He is ready to get back in ministry and excited about campus ministry. He has spent the last three weekends with us and has had a chance to see a lot of different facets of it - from the inner-city trip (see below) to the 2:00AM Grill to our worship services to mentoring students and more. We are excited to have him in Ft. Smith (he'll start at the first of January). I believe that he will do great in campus ministry - he has the personality and giftings for it - and it will take a load off of me. I've been down there one or two days a week for most of this semester.

* We sent a group of about 36 down to Dallas for a weekend of ministry in the inner-city. They had a great (and safe) trip. These kinds of trips begin to open the eyes of our students to the needs in our world and the reality that they can help do something about them. Case in point: Erin (see above) wants to work as an RN in an inner-city hospital or clinic.

* Through a strange set of circumstances, I have been in contact with a couple of high school classmates - guys that I probably haven't seen or heard from in 20 years! It seems that one of them sits in the desk right behind one of our alumni in Dallas.

* ESPN Game Day will be here in Fayetteville on Saturday for the Arkansas-Tennessee game. They are saying that this may be the hardest ticket to get in the history of Razorback football. And I have one! Thanks, Brian!

Wednesday, November 1

Last weekend we celebrated Gina's 50th birthday. It was a great weekend. First, her teacher friends decorated her room on Friday with ducks and gave her a plethora (I don't get to use that word very often) of duck cards and gifts. (I would post a picture of her in her duck hat, glasses, necklace, and watch but I would be in so much trouble.) Then, on Saturday night, we had a surprise dinner party for her with about 35 folks - family, church friends, school friends, college students, family friends. It was a wonderful evening. I think her 50th birthday celebration was special - even with her older sisters' harassing her all week.

And she deserves all the attention and appreciation. She is a such a great mother to our daughters, wife to me, teacher to her students, and friend to so many. She gives and gives.

And she's still a hot little mama!


We've been doing a series on Tuesdays at ConC to try and help students to think "Christianly" about our culture and the issues of our day. We've talked about such things as justice, affluence, sexuality, etc. This week the topic was "What does it mean to be pro-life?"

For most of us, we think of "pro-life" in terms of one issue - abortion. But a consistent "ethic of life" should influence our thinking about life at all points. Every life is valuable because each of us have been created in the image of God. Each person is intrinsically valuable because of that and not because of what they can produce or contribute. When you begin to apply that value of life consistently across the board, it applies to so many issues: poverty, capital punishment, war, euthanasia, stem cell research, living wages, health care, and more. Unfortunately, many politicians who are "pro-life" never get beyond abortion and fail to address the broader implications of a consistent pro-life ethic. And many of us who are Christians are the same. It seems that, historically, those of us who are conservative in our faith have been the slowest to address life-ethic issues.

Trying to think through these issues with our students has been a stretching experience. It makes me look at the current political issues and races differently.


Speaking of pro-life, here are a couple of interesting articles.

The first if from ABC News regarding a court case in Virginia. The second is from The Times (of London) regarding some technological advances and some of the reactions to them.


"People do not drift toward holiness. Apart from grace-driven effort, people do not gravitate toward godliness, prayer, obedience to Scripture, faith, and delight in the Lord. We drift toward compromise and call it tolerance; we drift toward disobedience and call it freedom; we drift toward superstition and call it faith. We cherish the indiscipline of lost self-control and call it relaxation; we slouch toward prayerlessness and delude ourselves into thinking we have escaped legalism; we slide toward godlessness and convince ourselves we have been liberated."
D.A. Carson

Tuesday, October 24

Some earlier link problems have been corrected. Sorry about the inconvenience.


Tonight was our annual "Ask Mike Night" at Christ on Campus. We have been doing this for fifteen years or more - setting aside a night when students can anonymously ask any questions they want. It is always fun and interesting. I think that tonight was the first time I have received a question about aliens (from outer space, not other countries).

I always end the night with two feelings. The first is second-guessing my answers, or at least wishing I had another chance at the question. I don't think I would change the answer, but I often wish I had said it better or included something I didn't. By "rule" I only have three minutes after I read the question to complete the answer. Tonight, especially, I felt that many of my answers were too "rambling". The second feeling is always a deep sense of inadequacy. There are so many things I don't know and my wisdom is so shallow that I'm afraid that I don't do the Lord or my students much of a service in my answers.

There are always more questions than there is time to answer them. There have been many years when "Ask Mike Night" carried on to two, or even three, nights. But with access to this forum, I will address the questions I didn't get to on here. I'll try to do a question or two a week. But not tonight.


If you watching the second game of the World Series on Sunday, or have been exposed to any sports news since then, you probably know about Kenny Rogers, the Detroit pitcher on Sunday, and the brown spot on his hand. He claimed it was dirt, but photographic evidence shows that it has been there on more than one occasion. The common thought is that it wasn't dirt, but pine tar or some other sticky substance that let him get a better grip on the ball.

In other words, he cheated.

The real question was why didn't Tony LaRussa, the St. Louis manager, pursue the issue more fervently? Most seem to think that some of his pitchers cheat, too, and so he didn't want to make too big of an issue of it.


Here is a link to an article in Christianity Today about how Christians in Lebanon are responding to the conflict there and reaching out to help their Muslim neighbors in need. In an area of the world so full of hatred and violence, it is a joy to see Christians who are practicing their faith in a very real and practical way.


"The Gospel message says: 'You don't live in a mechanistic world ruled by necessity; you don't live in a random world ruled by chance; you live in a world ruled by the God of Exodus and Easter. He will do things in you that neither you nor your friends would have supposed possible.'"
Eugene Peterson

"God's Word is designed to make us Christians, not scientists, and to lead us to eternal life in Jesus Christ. It was not God's intention to reveal in Scripture what human beings could discover by their own investigations and experiments."
John Stott


See what the New York Times calls "the greatest web site of all time."

If that link doesn't work, you can go straight to the website here.


Columnist Bob Herbert of the New York Times wrote a piece on the misogyny of our culture. He sees the attacks in Bailey, CO and PA as hates crimes against women that raised very little outrage across our country. He then demonstrates how our culture tolerates a negative attitude towards women. It's thought-provoking and troubling. And it is a clear demonstration of how little a truly Christian worldview has permeated our "Christian nation."


And, finally, on a lighter note, WebMD has an article entitled, "Coffee: The New Health Food?" Good news for many of us!

Wednesday, October 18

Maybe you saw this in the news:

"Mark Downs, a little league baseball coach, was convicted by a jury in Pennsylvania for asking one of his players to harm a teammate. Downs offered to pay one of his players $25 if he'd bean an autistic player in the head with a baseball to prevent him from being able to play, which is just what happened."

The district attorney said, "This is a serious breach of sportsmanlike conduct."


The incident made me think of Bob Bennett's song, "A Song About Baseball." If you can track it down somewhere, it is well worth a listen. It's a great song about a father's unconditional love and a great parable of God's unconditional love.


On a larger, but in my mind, a less tragic, scale, I'm sure most of you have seen clips of the Miami University-Florida International brawl last Saturday. It seems to me that Miami has failed to step up and deal seriously with the issues in their football program. This is the third similar incident in that last seven games for Miami. Though several players received one game suspensions (which happen to come again winless Duke), neither the players nor the team is going to suffer greatly. At least Florida International took the incident seriously enough to dismiss some players from their team. And I didn't notice any of them clubbing people with their helmets or stomping on them with their cleats as Miami players did.

As often seems to be the case - winning (and the financial return) mean more than character and integrity.

Larry Coker has got to go as the Miami coach. The Hurricane are out of control.


Probably the most influential theologian of the last century is John Stott. Christianity Today recently published an interview with him. Some excerpts:

"I believe that these so-called secular people are engaged in a quest for at least three things. The first is transcendence. It's interesting in a so-called secular culture how many people are looking for something beyond. I find that a great challenge to the quality of our Christian worship. Does it offer people what they are instinctively looking for, which is transcendence, the reality of God?

The second is significance. Almost everybody is looking for his or her own personal identity. Who am I, where do I come from, where am I going to, what is it all about? That is a challenge to the quality of our Christian teaching. We need to teach people who they are. They don't know who they are. We do. They are human beings made in the image of God, although that image has been defaced.

And third is their quest for community. Everywhere, people are looking for community, for relationships of love. This is a challenge to our fellowship. I'm very fond of 1 John 4:12: 'No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God abides in us, and his love is perfected in us.' The invisibility of God is a great problem to people. The question is how has God solved the problem of his own invisibility? First, Christ has made the invisible God visible. That's John's Gospel 1:18: 'No one has ever seen God; the only God, who is at the Father's side, he has made him known.'

People say that's wonderful, but it was 2,000 years ago. So in 1 John 4:12, he begins with exactly the same formula, nobody has ever seen God. But here John goes on, 'If we love one another, God abides in us.' The same invisible God who once made himself visible in Jesus now makes himself visible in the Christian community, if we love one another. And all the verbal proclamation of the gospel is of little value unless it is made by a community of love.

These three things about our humanity are on our side in our evangelism, because people are looking for the very things we have to offer them."

"I believe that evangelism is specially through the local church, through the community, rather than through the individual. That the church should be an alternative society, a visible sign of the kingdom. And the tragedy is that our local churches often don't seem to manifest community."

You can read the full interview here.


Some of our students have started a Peace and Justice Group that meets to talk and pray about worldwide justice issues, as well as areas of conflict. One of the resources they have used is this map from Project Ploughshares. The map will show you where armed conflict is taking place, as well as break down the issues, etc. Just click on the labels.


As many who read this know, one of my hobbies is officiating track and field. I have been able to travel from coast to coast and to officiate some of the greatest athletes in the world.

But no one succeeds without help from others along the way. Two who helped me in the realm of track and field were Ed and "D" Wells. I met Ed and "D" in 2000 when Arkansas built its indoor track facility and we started hosting more championship meets. They were long time officials who had the chance to work the ultimate event - 1996 Olympic Games. They took me under their wings, taught me a lot about officiating, and got me into several meets in Mississippi, Missouri, Kentucky, Alabama, etc. that helped to build my resume' and get to know other officials and coaches.

Ed passed away on Sunday in Clearwater, FL.

Monday, October 9

I haven't had a chance to post since the horrifying events of the last week in Pennsylvania - the murders of the young Amish girls. What a testimony that community gave as to the counter-cultural nature of a life lived by the values of Christ. And it wasn't their rejection of modern conveniences that spoke so loudly, but their willingness to demonstrate compassion, grace, and forgiveness to the family of the murderer. Most of our cultural cries "an eye for an eye" but they demonstrated mercy and compassion. And the world noticed. They talked about their love and their values.

That is the kind of difference that brings glory to God. It isn't our rantings and ravings. It isn't our efforts to exert political or economic power. It will be lives that are lived by the values of Jesus, while clinging to the Truth of Jesus, that will be noticed. The world will notice compassion. It will notice mercy. It will notice grace. It will notice forgiveness.

I thank God for the faithfulness of that Amish community. They have allowed the world to see a different, deeper side of Christianity - one that is beyond the megachurches and printing presses. They have demonstrated a Christianity that takes God's Word seriously, that applies it to the affairs of man (regardless of how tragic or senseless), and that applies it with love and compassion - not with heavy-handed dogma or self-righteous rants. I firmly believe that this kind of witness will do far more to soften the hearts of those who are cynical about Christianity than our fine arguments.


In light of their model, I read an interesting remark in the latest issue of Christianity Today. Sociologist Brad Wilcox noted that the highest rate of domestic violence in America today is among nominal Christians - those men who wear the name of Christian but rarely darken a church door. They also have a very high divorce rate.

What a contrast between those who just wear the name of Christian without any regard for what that means in their lives and values and those who have learned to incorporate the Word of God into the deepest parts of their lives.


Here is an interesting column by Terry Mattingly on The New Campus Rebels.


Here is Christianity Today's list of the 50 books that have most shaped the ways we think, witness, worship, and live. Many of them I've read, but my "want to read" list just went up!


And, finally, to help with your Christmas shopping, check out the new items offered in the Neiman Marcus catalogue. Included are such things as a 500 horsepower BMW ($139.000), a backyard water park ($100,000), a trip into outer space ($1.76 million), membership in a Tuscan wine estate ($3.8 million). Of course, if those things are out of your price range, you can go for the hand-crafter Italian pet shelter ($7,000, but it does include a leather recliner).


A few true confessions:
I like the "Man Law" beer commercials
I like the Vonage commercials - "One smart decision among a lifetime of stupid ones"
After all of these years, I still enjoy most of SNL

Friday, September 29

My "baby" daughter turns 20 today. That starts to make me feel "older."

Happy Birthday, Stacy!


These words were in the passage I read today from Isaiah. I thought of my friend Jim and his kids as I read them - but all who are going through difficult times:

But Zion said, "The LORD has forsaken me; my Lord has forgotten me."

"Can a woman forget her nursing child,
that she should have no compassion on the son of her womb?

Even these may forget, yet I will not forget you.
Behold, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands."

Isaiah 49:15-16


I'm entering this post at Panera here in Fayetteville. It's a great place to drink some coffee, eat a bagel, read, and study. I try to spend a couple of hours here on Friday mornings. But it is also Bible study central! I got here before 7:00 am today and there were at least three small group Bible studies going on around the restaurant!

One other funny note: Apparently Panera's web filtering system is pretty sensitive. It always blocks Jen's blog, saying it has "adult/mature content." I haven't ever found such things on her blog, but it is fun to give her a hard time about it.


Last night's dance: A review of the Rumba. We needed that as we had forgotten a couple of the turns.


If you enjoy classical music, the Philadelphia Orchestra is offering a free download of Beethoven's Fifth Symphony. You can find it here.


Check out this list of "Top Ten Web Tools for College Students."


A track and field note: I wrote a couple of weeks ago about Tyson Gay's great summer - he ran the third fastest 200 meters (19.68) in history and is the fastest in history over 100 and 200 meters. In fact, over the summer he kind of blew by Wallace Spearman, his former teammate here at Arkansas and the American record holder for 200 meters indoors. Wallace's dad ran at Arkansas and he grew up here in Fayetteville. This summer, Wallace has run well but didn't improve much from the previous year. But a couple of week's ago, he won the World Athletic Championships with a 19.88 in the 200 meters - a personal best. But this weekend, Wallace ran 19.65 in South Korea, moving him back past Tyson and into third place all time. Apparently, Wallace has had some minor injuries all season and he is finally healthy.

So now two of the top four 200 meter times in history are held by former Razorbacks and three of the top four times have been run this year - Tyson Gay's 19.68, Wallace Spearman's 19.65, and Xavier Carter's 19.63. Of those guy's, Tyson is the old man at 24. Wallace and Xavier are just 20 or 21. Fun times are ahead!


This is Bikes, Blues, and BBQ weekend in Fayetteville. That means an estimated 400,000 bikers will hit town and all of them will ride their motorcycles three feet from my office. It will be so loud, you can hardly talk. It's a good time for normal people to get out of town, so Gina and I are going to Ft. Scott for a day or so.

Sunday, September 24

This is my 25th year of working with college students at the University of Arkansas. Though it doesn't feel like a long time, when you see it in writing it sure looks like a long time!

The truth is that there are a lot of people in college ministry who stay in it for a long time. There are others serving on this campus who have been here longer than I have and probably at least a half dozen who have been here for 15 years or more. I have friends around the country who have been at it much longer than I have.

There are a lot of reasons I have been here so long:

* Rather than moving every four or five years like many ministers, my congregation graduates and moves. I get to stay!

* I have always had the privilege of working with very patient and understanding people - both in my Board of Directors and in those who have worked with me on staff.

* College ministry allows most of us to work in line with our passions and gifts and avoids much of the "bureaucracy" found in the church.

But one of the things that has made ministry here easier and more enjoyable is that there is a camaraderie among those who do ministry at the UofA. For a dozen years or more, the leaders of a dozen or so ministries have met on Wednesday mornings to pray together. We pray for our ministries and our families and our finances and our students and our campus. We help each other through difficult times of ministry and through struggles with children, the loss of spouses, and physical frailties.

Whereas many communities - and many campuses - have an air of competition between churches and religious groups, these ministries at the UofA have a sense of cooperation and partnership. We lift each other up to students. We don't try to recruit students who are plugged in at other ministries. We try to find ways to work together to advance the cause of Christ and exalt God on our campus. You would find a lot of differences between us in theology and practice. And, if we let ourselves, I know that we could get into some pretty heated discussions. Though we don't always agree, we do share certain things in common: a commitment to Jesus Christ as God Incarnate and the only Savior of the world, a commitment to God's Word as authoritative and our standard for faith and living, and a commitment to seeing the Gospel proclaimed and students won and equipped.

I know that this type of fellowship isn't common. And I do believe that it is part of the reason that ministers stay at the UofA. I know that it is part of the reason that I have been here for almost 25 years.

That and I don't think that anyone else would have me!


My fantasy football team stinks.


Last week's dance: Swing. Or, more precisely, East Coast (as opposed to West Coast - but don't ask me the difference) Jitterbug (as opposed to what else, I don't know) Swing.


My daughter, Erin, is in Hawaii for eight days. The family of a friend of hers is on vacation there and they had an extra ticket. So she gets a basically free eight-day Hawaiian vacation. Pretty cool!


For those who are movie fans, check out Entertainment Weekly's list of the 25 most controversial movies in history. I've only seen four of them.


Read about two churches in Texas that are being sued because they practiced church discipline by revealing that members were involved in affairs.


Did you see the Time magazine cover story a couple of weeks ago entitled "Does God Want You to Be Rich?" It looks at some of the prosperity preaching that is going on and the response of other Christian leaders to it. It is a good piece.

Sunday, September 17

Cheryl Miller "took her first breath of heaven's air" (as Jim put it) on Friday morning after a six month battle with cancer. Gina and I went to her memorial service this evening in Langley, OK. It was a good time of celebration, with Jim leading a time of worship (with his son and son-in-law accompanying) and sharing with those gathered. They will do the same thing again on Saturday in Effingham, IL where they ministered for over 10 years.


On Saturday we had a Board of Directors meeting for Christ on Campus. That is notable because we only have two a year, so they are usually pretty long affairs (three hours). But they are also notable because our Board is such an enjoyable group of men and women to work with. They are people who love the Lord, love Christ on Campus, love college students, and who are patient with me. They aren't looking at how they can control the ministry (as some boards seem to do) but they are looking for ways to help us minister more effectively. Almost half of our Board are former ConC students, which makes the situation even more enjoyable. I always leave our Board meetings encouraged. I just hope everyone else does, as well!

However, this Board meeting did have some sadness to it. After 24 years of service, Harv Coon stepped down. Harv has been a part of Christ on Campus as long as I have. For over 20 years, he was chairman of our Board. He has been a mentor to me in many ways. His wisdom and vision will be greatly missed.


Last week's ballroom dance: the Tango (American, not Argentine).


From the "Isn't That Obvious" category, a San Francisco neuropsychiatrist says there are real differences between the brains of men and women and the sooner we understand that, the better! I don't know how much she spent on her research, but my guess that a marriage license would have been cheaper and proven the same point! You can see the article here.


A Los Angeles Times story talks about a Christian retailers convention and the ways that Christians can come up with to take advantage of the "silliness" (instead of other words I would prefer to use) of the Christian community. Some of the items that you can purchase:

  • Christian perfume, which is supposed to give you an opportunity to witness when someone asks you fragrance you are wearing
  • Follow the Son flip-flops which will leave the message "Follow Jesus" in the sand as you walk by
  • Gospel Golf Balls (made by Top-Flite) are golf balls with Bible verses on them. I guess they would probably make me feel better about the number of balls I lose in a round. I would just be doing more witnessing.
  • Of course, there are all kinds of Christian candy, Christian dolls, Christian t-shirts and caps, Christian keychains ....

To me, it all seems to trivialize the Gospel in some way.

Monday, September 11

September 11.

People more articulate than I am have been talking and writing about this day all day. I'm not sure that there is anything that I can add to the discussion.

But I guess I'll try.

There are a few days that stick in my mind:

  • Even though I was in kindergarten, I can remember watching John Kennedy's funeral procession on television.
  • I was in a grad school class at the UofA when the space shuttle blew up in 1986.
  • I was at Mom and Dad's house on Washington street to see Doug Flutie's "Hail Mary" pass that won him the Heisman Trophy and to see George Brett go ballistic in the "Pine Tar Incident."
  • I was at home on a Saturday morning, getting ready to go to Susan's for breakfast, when another space shuttle blew up on re-entry
  • I was at home eating breakfast on Tuesday, September 1, 2001.

That whole day was spent with the office TV on, staff and students coming in and out, watching in disbelief.

That night our service was given to trying to process what happened, to try to gain perspective, to pray.

And none of us approach life the same way that we did five years and a day ago. Our world has changed. It is more cynical. More suspicious.

It's hard to believe that those young men thought that they were honoring God by causing so much suffering.

But then, there is a long history in Christendom of men who did unspeakable things in the name of God, as well.

What do you remember from September 11, 2001?


Track and Field Trivia Question: Who is the fastest sprinter (including both the 100 and 200 meter dashes) of all time?


Many will find this amusing (and if you actually saw it happening - you would probably find it hilarious), but Gina and I have a new hobby: Ballroom Dancing. We have started taking group lessons on Thursday nights. The lessons are only an hour long and we get introduced to a new dance each week. Last week was our first one and we had a great time learning the Rhumba!

See what happens with go over the hill over middle-age and your kids are in the process of emptying the nest.


Of the four guys who played for our SHS high school team last year and signed with Arkansas, two were starting by the second game of the year and another has had considerable playing time. The fourth is red-shirting.


USA Today has an interesting article on religious beliefs in today's edition. Among the things they report:

  • Americans hold at least four different views of what God is like.
  • About 92% of Americans believe in a God of some kind.
  • Almost 90% of Americans have some time of religious affiliation.


Answer to the trivia question: Former Razorback Tyson Gay. Unless you are a hard-core track and field fan who has kept up with this summer's European season, I'm sure you would have been hard-pressed to guess that. With his 9.84 100 meter time and his 19.68 200 meter time, he has moved past Justin Gatlin (with or without drugs), Carl Lewis, Asafa Powell - everyone!

Tyson is a very quiet, polite 24-year-old who still lives and trains here in Fayetteville.

Fayetteville has been known as the home of great distance runners for a quarter of a century. And it still is. But maybe the two greatest sprinters in the world also live and train here - Tyson Gay and Veronica Campbell (winner of two gold and one bronze medal at the last Olympic Games). And that doesn't even include Wallace Spearman, Aaron Armstrong, and Omar Brown.

Friday, September 1

For twenty-seven years, I have basked in the knowledge of God's goodness to me. Twenty-seven years ago today, he gave me a wife who has been a joy, a source of strength and wisdom, and my best friend.

Today was our 27th wedding anniversary. Twenty-seven years. That kind of makes us sound old! But they have gone by so quickly. God certainly blessed me in allowing me to out-marry myself. Gina is so patient with me - with my schedule, with me travel, with my moods and shortcomings.

And, as a friend said a few days ago, she is still a hot little mama!

Tonight we celebrated by going to eat at one of our favorite steak places - Doe's Eat Place down on Dickson Street in Fayetteville. Since we had at least an hour and a half wait to get in to the restaurant, we spent some time walking up and down Dickson. It was the first time Gina had been on Dickson the night before a big football game. With USC in town for a game tomorrow and a pep rally going on tonight, Dickson Street was packed with people from all over the country, bands were playing at clubs up and down the street, people were calling the Hogs, and it was definitely a carnival atmosphere.

If the Razorbacks pull off the improbably and beat USC tomorrow night, Dickson Street will be uncontrollable.


Spending the evening with Gina and celebrating our anniversary made me hurt all the more for Jim and Cheryl Miller. Jim and I were roommates in college and spent a year traveling around the country in a college music group. Gina and I drove to Indiana in December of 1978 so that I could be best man in their wedding. Two days later we were engaged.

It appears that Cheryl is in the final stages of cancer and will be meeting Jesus face-to-face very soon. Jim has faithfully kept a blog since the cancer was discovered last spring. His patience and tenderness and God-centered attitude has been such a huge blessing to those of us who have kept up with the blog.

Gina and I are going to run over to Tulsa on Sunday and Monday to spend some time with them.


The latest issue of Christianity Today features some articles on Dallas Willard - the philosophy professor at the University of Southern California who has also been one of the most influential Christian writers of the past 25 years in the area of spiritual growth and formation. Willard says that the intersection of his philosophical and devotional work can be found in the simple question: Who are you going to become?

That struck me as being so profound. We are all becoming something. We don't stay the same. We are constantly moving from some place to another place as people. We are becoming something. We are becoming better people. We are becoming closer to God. We are becoming wiser. Or we are becoming less of these things. The magazine went on to include this quote from Willard:

"The general human failing is to want what is right and important, but at the same time not to commit to the kind of life that will produce the action we know to be right and the condition we want to enjoy. This is the feature of human character that explains why the road to hell is paved with good intentions."

We say that we want the right things - the best things - but we aren't willing to do the things that will produce that result. That seems to be the story of my life. Whether it be spiritual formation or loosing weight or other noble goals, too often I'm unwilling to take the actions needed to produce the desired results. Am I really willing to do what is needed to become what I want to become? To become what God wants me to become?

And even at the age of 47, I am still becoming.


ESPN just played the top three defensive plays in KC Royals history. Two things struck me:

1) Bo Jackson was awesome! I had forgotten what an incredible athlete he was.
2) I miss the Royals actually being good.


From the "What Was He Thinking" department: Click here to read about the evangelist who died trying to follow Jesus' example - of walking on water!


Derek Webb, former lead singer of Caedman's Call, is giving away his new album free to those who want to download it. Click here to do that.


It's almost midnight. Time to get ready to head back to Dickson Street for the 2:00am Grill. It should be a busy night!

Saturday, August 19

The semester is upon us. Residence Halls opened earlier this week (it is politically "uncorrect" to call them dorms). Classes start on Monday. Our first Sunday service is tomorrow. There are probably a hundred things that still need doing (including finishing tomorrow's sermon). Ahh... the start of a new year! You would think that after 24 of these things I wouldn't always feel so rushed and unprepared. But it seems to be a common phenomenon among campus ministers. All of my colleagues are feeling the same way.

Doing student ministry is a different animal than working in a church. Very rarely do you find a church where your leadership leaves town for three months and comes back at the same time as 16,000 other people. Very rarely at a church do you have that many people move into town at about the same time - including about 4,000 brand new residents!

So every year at sit at this point and wonder: "Will anyone actually show up?" We've sent emails and notes. We've put up flyers and ads in the campus newspaper and ads on Facebook and "chalked the walks." But when things start this week, will anyone show up besides our staff and families and the students who are playing in the band, etc.? They always do, but you always wonder. Maybe one day they won't. I hope tomorrow is not that day!


Our newest staff members started this week. Austin Brown will be taking Jake's place. He started on Tuesday. Austin is from NW Missouri and has been involved in campus ministries there as a student, Board member, and volunteer leader. His wife, Amy, was also involved in campus ministry as a student and part-time women's minister. They also have a 4-month old daughter named Olivia. Austin will start off leading our worship teams, doing tech stuff, getting to know students and building relationships. His responsibilities will expand as time goes on.

Samantha Smith will be serving as an intern this year. Sam graduated from the UofA last May and has been a part of ConC for the past couple of years. She loves our ministry and is exploring what God has in mind for her future.

We are very glad to have them both here!


As those who have read this blog over the past year know, for the past four years I have volunteered with the Fellowship of Christian Athletes at Springdale High School. Specifically, I worked with the football team. This year, four of the guys who were in my group over the past three years are playing for the Razorbacks. Three of them will probably contribute quite a bit this year as freshmen. The other most likely will redshirt. Of course, of the four only one has returned any of my emails this summer. Not a good sign ...


This year I'm not going to be working with the Springdale football team. With transitions taking place in the Springdale schools and transitions taking place on our staff and with our ministry, it seemed like a good time to step back from that. But it does look like I may end up leading a weekly Bible study for coaches at Harber High School - the new school in Springdale.


One of the big items of discussion over the past couple of years - and especially this summer - has been the DaVinci Code. Part of its premise is that Jesus was married to Mary Magdalene and they had children. Now, a woman in LA claims to have traced her genealogy back to that union. Here is a USA Today story about it. Of course, she has signed a huge book deal.


My fantasy baseball leagues are winding down. I'm in the middle of both leagues so it's not been a great season. But then again, I am ahead of the Burners. Our fantasy football league will start up soon. Fox News ran a story that said employers lose 1.1 billion dollars a year in lost productivity from employees messing with their fantasy league teams at work. Of course, the article also said that it would probably be even more costly to damage morale by banning them!


A note to Mom: I received your email saying you liked the blog because you imagined I was writing just to you. The fact is that I could be! Who knows if anyone else ever reads this thing?

Wednesday, August 9

Jake, Jen, and Jonah Tolbert took off for Illinois yesterday. For those of you who don't know the Tolberts, Jake was my associate here at the UofA for at least the past seven years (I can never keep the years straight). Jake came down from Eastern Illinois University to do an internship with us and wound up staying around. Over the years, Jake covered a lot of areas for us: small groups, mission trips, facilities, technology, drama and video, and more. He was a great asset to this ministry and will be greatly missed.


In the "not a big surprise" category, a recent study published in Pediatrics concluded that teens who listen to music with a heavy sexual content tend to become sexually active at an earlier age than those who don't. An Associated Press article by Lindsey Tanner shows that the number almost doubles. And if you don't think that much of today's pop, rock, rap, and hip-hop music doesn't have a heavy sexual content, you haven't been listening.


From an ABCNEWS article: "Eighty-three percent of Americans identify themselves as Christians. Most of the rest, 13 percent, have no religion. That leaves just 4 percent as adherents of all non-Christian religions combined — Jews, Muslims, Buddhists and a smattering of individual mentions."

Sunday, August 6

Return from a blogging sabbatical ...

I looked today and realized that it has been over four months since I posted to this site. It doesn't seem that long.

I don't remember why I stopped. I doubt that there was a specific reason. But I find that, as a minister, people seem to expect you to always have something new or inspiring or challenging or deep to say. Also, I fall into the temptation of thinking that I always have to say something! The expectations aren't always conducive to living out James 1:19 - "Be quick to hear, slow to speak, and slow to become angry." We are often speaking more and listening less.

So much of this summer has been a break from speaking - whether through the spoken word or the written word. I did speak at several churches that support our ministry (or should!), but I only taught twice at ConC this summer (thanks to Jake and Jeff).

So I've been "saving up." I'll catch you up on personal and family info. But I also want this site to be a place that gets its readers to maybe think about new things, or things from a different perspective. Some you won't agree with (some I won't agree with), but hopefully I will get you to think about your faith and view of the world a little bit.


Christianity Today recently published a list of "proverbs" from around the world. Here are some interesting ones:

"The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The second best time is today." Chinese Proverb

"Tell me who's your friend, and I'll tell you who you are." Russian Proverb

"Wherever the heart is, the feet don't hesitate to go." Togo Proverb

"A good laugh and a long sleep are the best cures in the doctor's book." Irish Proverb

"If you can talk, you can sing; if you can walk, you can dance." African Proverb

"Worry often gives a small thing a big shadow." Swedish Proverb

"Man plans; God laughs." Yiddish Proverb

Wednesday, March 29

Tuesday at ConC, students shared testimonies about their Spring Break ministry trips. I've told you about our trip to Panama City Beach. But we also sent a group to Orangefield, TX to do some hurricane recovery work. They traveled with a group from the Prairie Grove Christian Church. The Prairie Grove church got in contact with a church in Orangefield who guided them to a young family (mom, dad, and 2-year-old son) whose home was destroyed by Hurricane Rita. So the Prairie Grove church raised $20,000 and took a group of adults, teens, and ConC staff and students to build a house (or at least start the process) over Spring Break. They poured the foundation, put up the walls (which were framed here in Arkansas), put on the roof, added doors and windows, and put up part of the siding.

Everyone who went has talked of how meaningful the trip was - of the chemistry of the group and the joy of building the house for the family. A local TV station came out and did a story on the group. As they interviewed the wife, she said something along the lines of "the hurricane was really a blessing in disguise. We are getting a better house than we had before. And if you ask my son where the house came from, he will tell you that Jesus gave it to us."

What a great testimony - the house that Jesus gave to them. What a great ministry - to be able to give a family a house in the name of Jesus.

The young family aren't members of the church in Orangefield. They don't go to church anywhere, yet. But they were in church last Sunday. The gift and service given to them in the name of Jesus probably did more to move them toward Christ than ten years worth of sermons.


The trip to Orangefield was put together by Keith Bostian. Keith is the music minister at the Prairie Grove Christian Church. He is also on the Board of Christ on Campus. And he and his wife, Elise, were in ConC when they were at the UofA.

Monday, March 27

Spring Break 2006 is now history. For the second year in a row, I took a group of students to Panama City Beach, FL as part of about 200 Christian students who were there for a week of beach evangelism. For the week, we were involved in four main activities:

Street Teams - Small groups of students who walked the "strip", talking to Spring Breakers and telling them about the van rides and pancake breakfast. Street teams worked from 8:30 pm until 2:00 am.

Van Rides - Free van rides for those who called in and requested them. The vans would take students anywhere in PCB they wanted to go - a hotel, a club, etc. On the van were Christian students who would strike up conversations with Spring Breakers and look for open doors to share about Christ. The vans ran from 8:30 pm until 2:00 am (or later). Over five nights, about 3,000 Spring Breakers were given van rides. Often, street and van teams would switch off half way through the night.

Prayer Room - During this 8:30 pm until 2:00 am period, there were always about 50 students assigned to pray for the street teams, vans, the Spring Breakers riding the vans (the prayer room was updated on every van load of students), and for requests phoned in by the vans and street teams. There were usually two shifts a night.

Pancake Breakfast - Every morning, we served a free pancake breakfast on the strip for Spring Breakers. Often, appointments were made on the vans for further discussions at the pancake breakfasts. The breakfasts ran from 10:00 am until 1:00 pm. Over four days, we served about 5,000 people.

It was a long and tiring week. A lot of late nights for an old man! But it is a great experience for our students. I don't know of any better "lab" experience in prayer and personal evangelism.

Students are stretched in prayer - They learn not only about extended prayer (few have attempted to pray for over two and a half hours at one time), but about specific, intercessory prayer.

Students are stretched in evangelism - They begin to learn how to see the doors God opens to spiritual conversations, they begin to learn how to articulate their faith and Christian experience, and they begin to see where they are weak and need to grow.

Students are stretched about the reality of sin - Walking the streets of PCB during Spring Break exposes you to a lot of things: Public drunkenness, drug use, vulgarity, lewdness, and more. Often, young people have an idealized view of spring break trips to such places as PCB.

I'm still catching up on sleep and rest. But the Beach Reach trip is worth the effort and short nights. Below is another short essay I wrote about the experience.


Last week, a group of us from ConC spent our Spring Break at Panama City Beach, FL. Now, for many, that sounds like an ideal place to spend Spring Break! But I'm not sure about that. I'm always amazed at the things that happen in a place like Panama City Beach. It is like the city suspends most of the laws for a few weeks every March. The public drunkenness, the under-age drinking, the sexual activity, the drug use, the drunken driving, the "flashing" - on and on it goes.

So what were we doing there? Trying to share God's love and God's Word with those who were there to party. We served pancakes (to almost 5,000 people) and gave free van rides until after 2:00 am every morning (to almost 3,000 people). But the service was given to show God's love practically and to point people to him and to talk to them about his love for them. It was exciting and frustrating and tiring.

In the midst of it all, I was reminded of this phrase from Paul's writings. In writing to Timothy about how to deal with Christians who were wealthy, Paul says the purpose is:

" that they may take hold of the life that is truly life." I Timothy 6:19

Life that is truly life. The Spring-breakers in Panama City Beach thought they were chasing life, that they were really living. But that way of life is really death, really separation from God. Our goal was to point them back to the life that is truly life.

So are you living the life that is truly life? Are you living the life God designed you to live - in relationship to him, in harmony with him and his will? Are you pursuing those things that the world around us says is "really living" but in the end just leave scars in your life and alienation from God?

In C.S. Lewis' The Screwtape Letters, an older demon tells his younger apprentice to convince mankind that "real life" is the "stream of immediate sense experiences." That is what the folks partying in Panama City Beach were focusing on - immediate sense experiences. They tried to convince themselves that it was "real life."

But it's not.

Real life is one that is lived as the one who created us designed it. One that is lived in relationship with him. One that is lived in obedience to him.


The NCAA Tournament has been an exciting one. My bracket is shot to pieces. I had Duke, UConn, Nova, and Kansas going to the Final Four. None are there. But you can't help but cheer for George Mason. And the SEC has two teams playing in the Final Four, which always makes the conference look better.


I'll have two fantasy baseball teams going again this summer. One plays in a league with some former students, some campus minister friends, and a friend from high school. We did a live, online draft on Sunday. I must have been watching too much of the George Mason/Connecticut game! After the draft was over and I took a look at what I had done, I hadn't done too well. My other league had their draft over Spring Break, so Yahoo drafted for me. That teams looks much better. Oh well. It's a long season. I can put a team together.


The Major League Baseball season is right around the corner. Though there is one game played on Sunday, I still consider Monday (13 games) as Opening Day. I think it should be a national holiday.

Maybe it will be for me.

Thursday, March 16

The Big Dance may start today, but The Tournament started yesterday.

The Tournament is the NAIA National Championship Tournament. Though most of the country will be watching the NCAA Tournament, there are a few of us who will always look on the NAIA with more affection.

What's the difference between the two? Here are a few things:

* The NCAA is the National Collegiate Athletic Association. The NAIA is the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics.

* The NCAA Tournament involves 65 teams, lasts for three weeks, and has a major network TV contract. The NAIA Tournament involves 32 teams, lasts five days, and most people have never heard of it.

* The NCAA Tournament takes place at sites all around the country. The NAIA Tournament takes place in Kansas City. Originally it was at Municipal Auditorium. Then it moved to Kemper Arena. For a while, it went to Tulsa. But now it is back home - Municipal Auditorium.

* Most of the schools in the NCAA Tournament are large and at least fairly-well known. The schools in the NAIA are small, often religiously-affiliated, and even more often anonymous: Olivet Nazarene (IL), Vanguard (CA), Lee (TN), Campbellsville (KY), Spring Hill (AL), Voorhees (SC), Trevecca Nazarene (TN), Lambuth (TN), Lindsey Wilson (KY), Southern Polytechnic (GA).

* You have heard of the top four seeds in the NCAA: Duke, Connecticut, Villanova, Memphis. The top four seeds in the NAIA: Mountain State (WV), LSU-Shreveport, Robert Morris (IL), Carroll (MT).

So why the attachment to the NAIA Tournament? Because it is a family tradition. From the time my brother and I were in grade school, Dad would take us out of school to head to KC for a day of the NAIA Tournament. And a day at the NAIA was a long day. Eight games in one day. The first one would tip-off at about 9:00 am and the last one at about 10:00 pm. There was maybe 15 minutes between games. We would pack lunches and settle in for a full day of small college basketball.

As we got older, we would always take friends along. I received two emails in the last two weeks from my two best friends in high school - both mentioning the NAIA and memories from there. Allen's peanut butter and bologna sandwiches. Stepping off the distance around the top of Kemper Arena. Sitting in the stands and speculating what you would do if you were stuck on top of the huge scoreboard that hung from the ceiling in the middle of the arena.

Though most players at the NAIA will never make the NBA, there were always some memorable ones. Hall-of-Famers such as Willis Reed, Earl "The Pearl" Monroe, and Nate "Tiny" Archibald played there. I remember watching Dennis Rodman play when he was still high-scoring and non-tatooed or pierced. I talked with him after his game - a very polite young man. I also remember the guy who was 7'6" - and never played a minute.

It has probably been almost 20 years since I've been to the NAIA. But the memories of the time with Dad and Dave and our friends are still strong.

Maybe I'll go back again sometime.

Monday, March 13

It's hard to believe that it has been twelve years since my Dad passed away.

He had been diagnosed with a brain tumor in April of 1993. He did pretty well through the rest of that year, through Christmas. But after the first of the year, he became bedfast. We put a hospital bed in the living room there on Wall Street. He gradually became unresponsive, but we sat with him and talked to him. I would spend a few days a week in Ft. Scott, helping Mom and sitting up with Dad - watching college basketball and old TV shows through the night (and eating Cocoa Krispies). On Friday afternoon, March 11, 1994, Mom and I were sitting next to his bed. We were just chatting when we noticed that he had stopped breathing.

Twelve years.
Sometimes it seems like just yesterday.
Sometimes it seems like a lifetime ago.
Erin and Stacy were just ten and seven.

Late last night I watched the video that the funeral home gave us when he died. Six or seven minutes of pictures of Dad and his life. It had been a while since I had watched it.

But I think about him every day.

Thursday, March 9

Sometimes we (read that "I") live in such an insular world - everything revolves us and what we are doing and our joys and our inconveniences and our plans and our "hardships." We act as though God's sole function is to make sure that we - sitting here in the prosperous USA and living a life that 98% of the world can only dream of - are happy and fulfilled and comfortable. Maybe that is just a personal problem of mine, but I don't think so. I've worked around college students and Christian people for a lot of years now. I know that this is a common malady. Even in our faith, we can become so "me" and "we" centered. Now, there are times when we break out of that for a little while. The tsunami in SE Asia a year ago. The hurricanes along the Gulf Coast last fall. But it doesn't take too long for us to fall back into our self-centered, ego-centric routines.

God did that again this week with an article I read about the stuff going on in Uganda and the Sudan. I'm not going to go into all the details here, but it is enough to make you sick to your stomach and your heart hurt. Here are a couple of links for you to check out:

The Invisible Children

Deliver Us From Kony

I also want to let you know - as people who have expressed a commitment to consider important the things that are important to God - to consider these passages:

Who is like you, O LORD? You rescue the poor from those too strong for them, the poor and needy from those who rob them. Psalm 35:10

Evil men do not understand justice, but those who seek the LORD understand it fully. Proverbs 28:5

The righteous care about justice for the poor, but the wicked have no such concern. Proverbs 29:7

Why, O LORD, do you stand far off? Why do you hide yourself in times of trouble? In his arrogance the wicked man hunts down the weak, who are caught in the schemes he devises. He boasts of the cravings of his heart; he blesses the greedy and reviles the LORD. In his pride the wicked does not seek him; in all his thoughts there is no room for God.... His mouth is full of curses and lies and threats; trouble and evil are under his tongue. He lies in wait near the villages; from ambush he murders the innocent, watching in secret for his victims. He lies in wait like a lion in cover; he lies in wait to catch the helpless; he catches the helpless and drags them off in his net. His victims are crushed, they collapse; they fall under his strength. He says to himself, "God has forgotten; he covers his face and never sees." Arise, LORD! Lift up your hand, O God. Do not forget the helpless. Why does the wicked man revile God? Why does he say to himself, "He won't call me to account"? But you, O God, do see trouble and grief; you consider it to take it in hand. The victim commits himself to you; you are the helper of the fatherless. Break the arm of the wicked and evil man; call him to account for his wickedness that would not be found out. The LORD is King for ever and ever; the nations will perish from his land. You hear, O LORD, the desire of the afflicted; you encourage them, and you listen to their cry, defending the fatherless and the oppressed, in order that man, who is of the earth, may terrify no more. Psalm 10:1-4, 12-18

The King will reply, "I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.... I tell you the truth, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me." Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life. Matthew 25:40, 45-46

Why do I share these things with you? Because I want us to see beyond ourselves and our immediate context. I want us to see beyond the UofA and the USA. I want us to care about the things that God cares about. I want our hearts to hurt by the same things that cause God’s heart to hurt.


Gordon Parks died on Tuesday. He was 93.

I don't know how many reading this blog will actually know who Gordon Parks is. But I would guess that he was the most famous person to be born or raised in my hometown of Ft. Scott, KS.

Here is part of the article from the NY Times:

"Gordon Parks, the photographer, filmmaker, writer and composer who used his prodigious, largely self-taught talents to chronicle the African-American experience and to retell his own personal history, died yesterday at his home in Manhattan. He was 93....

Gordon Parks was the first African-American to work as a staff photographer for Life magazine and the first black artist to produce and direct a major Hollywood film, 'The Learning Tree,' in 1969. He developed a large following as a photographer for Life for more than 20 years, and by the time he was 50 he ranked among the most influential image makers of the postwar years. In the 1960's he began to write memoirs, novels, poems and screenplays, which led him to directing films.... In 1970 he helped found Essence magazine and was its editorial director from 1970 to 1973....

Gordon Roger Alexander Buchanan Parks was born on Nov. 30, 1912, in Fort Scott, Kan. He was the youngest of 15 children born to a tenant farmer, Andrew Jackson Parks, and the former Sarah Ross. Although mired in poverty and threatened by segregation and the violence it engendered, the family was bound by Sarah Parks's strong conviction that dignity and hard work could overcome bigotry.

Young Gordon's security ended when his mother died. He was sent to St. Paul, Minn., to live with the family of an older sister. But the arrangement lasted only a few weeks; during a quarrel, Mr. Parks's brother-in-law threw him out of the house. Mr. Parks learned to survive on the streets, using his untutored musical gifts to find work as a piano player in a brothel and later as the singer for a big band. He attended high school in St. Paul but never graduated."

Over the past several years, Parks had been back to Ft. Scott several times and there are things around time that honor him and what he accomplished. My earliest memory of him was when he was in Ft. Scott filming "The Learning Tree" during my elementary school years.

You might want to read his memoir, "The Learning Tree," or see the film.

I wonder if I can rent it somewhere?


The NCAA Indoor Track and Field Championships are here in Fayetteville this weekend. I always love this meet - the nation's best college athletes in an almost "three-ring circus" kind of environment. The Razorbacks are ranked #1 in the country and are looking for their 42nd team championship.

I'll be running the high jump events this weekend (there will be four of them). I'm also in charge of the about 135 certified officials who will be working the meet. A championship meet takes a lot of people! So the rest of this day will be filled with meetings with the NCAA Committee and various officials. I'll be at the track at about 7:00 tomorrow morning and the competition will start.

Tuesday, March 7

Philip said, "Lord, show us the Father and that will be enough for us."

Jesus answered: "Don't you know me, Philip, even after I have been among you such a long time? Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, 'Show us the Father'? Don't you believe that I am in the Father, and that the Father is in me? The words I say to you are not just my own. Rather, it is the Father, living in me, who is doing his work. Believe me when I say that I am in the Father and the Father is in me; or at least believe on the evidence of the miracles themselves. I tell you the truth, anyone who has faith in me will do what I have been doing. He will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father. And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Son may bring glory to the Father. You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it."

John 14:8-14

Some thoughts from British theologian N.T. Wright:

"God longs to express himself fully through Jesus and through Jesus' people. Jesus wants to do fully all that he has been sent to do, working to the glory of God. He wants us to do and be all that we are intended to do and be. The only way we will accomplish that is through constant prayer. We must pray for the work of God in us and through us, pray for the glory of God to be seen in us and through us, pray for the love of God to shine in us and through us.

Reading this whole paragraph - verses 8 to 14 - we arrive at a frightening conclusion. Jesus announces at the beginning of the paragraph that whoever has seen him has seen the Father, and he gives us the evidence of the work that the Father has been doing through him. At the end of the paragraph he says that those who follow him and believe in him will do all these works and greater works still, in answer to prayer, so that the Father may be glorified. Our conclusion must be that the church should be working in such a way that, when challenged, we could point to it as proof of what God is doing. Even writing that feels and sounds almost blasphemous, which only goes to show how far short we are from this ideal."

N.T. Wright, Reflecting the Glory, p. 116-117

"He will do even greater things than these" - those words seem so far from my experience, with what I see in God's people in 21st century USA. What is there about my life, about my ministry, about the community of Jesus-followers across the US, that gives evidence of God at work in us and through us - that gives evidence of the power of God in acts that are greater than those of Jesus (I can't even wrap my mind around that - but the promise is right there on the page - in red letters!) - that results in the glory of God?