Tuesday at ConC, students shared testimonies about their Spring Break ministry trips. I've told you about our trip to
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
Wednesday, March 29
Tuesday at ConC, students shared testimonies about their Spring Break ministry trips. I've told you about our trip to
Monday, March 27
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
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.
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
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 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
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.
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
God did that again this week with an article I read about the stuff going on in
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
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
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
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."
"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?
Sunday, March 5
Several years ago (fifteen or more) several of the Christian ministries at the UofA went together to sponsor a couple of student mission conferences. The first year we had Dr. Winter come and speak. The next year we had Don Richardson (missionary and author of such things as Peace Child, Eternity in Their Hearts, etc.). After that, some of those on our campus moved on and the conference died out. But those two years were good, with 200-300 in attendance the second year.
On Thursday, I attended a Q&A session with Dr. Winter. Below are a few things that he said (as best as I can paraphrase them) that I thought were pretty thought-provoking. You might not agree with him, but he will get you thinking!
"The Great Commission is about obedience to all that Jesus commanded. There is more to the gospel than just how to be saved.... We have made the gospel a 'gospel of salvation', but you don't find that in the Bible. The Bible talks about the 'gospel of the Kingdom' rather than a 'gospel of salvation'."
So is what we are preaching and teaching and sharing really the message Jesus sent us out to share or is it a message that has been shaped more by the religious culture of our day?
"The real question isn't how many missionaries we have, but how many know what they are doing. You could send half of the missionaries home and be better off."
Ouch. That could also be true of preachers, professors - and campus ministers.
"Worship is not how we come to know God; it is a result of knowing God.... The best way to get to know your Father is to go to work with him."
Thursday, March 2
The trip to Boston was great. The best part was spending time with a team that is working on planting campus ministries in that region. There is such potential for influence there. The Boston metro area has about 50 colleges and universities with over 250,000 students. Of those students, probably less than 1% are actively following Jesus. Some of the most prestigious and influential schools in the world are there: Harvard, MIT, Boston College, Boston University, Tufts, Northeastern, Brandeis. Yet most of the schools are private and do not have to let Christian groups have access. And most of them aren't too interested in extending that privilege - especially if you don't have a group already. So you have a Catch-22: it is hard to build a group if you're not on campus and you can't get on campus unless you have a group. So those working there are having to be creative in meeting students and forming an identity. And then there are the financial realities. Though most things cost about the same as they do here in Fayetteville (and gas was actually cheaper), housing is about four times as high.
So what did I do while I was there? Well, I spent some time visiting campuses, seeing some of the historical areas, and eating at Mike's Pastries. But mostly the time with the campus ministry team was spent dreaming and brainstorming and bouncing ideas around. Please continue to pray for Tim and Stephanie Hawkins and their family, as well as those on their team: Bobby, Nathan, and Kim.
The other part of the trip to Boston was officiating the US Track and Field Indoor Championships. This was the national championship meet for those who are professional. It was also used as the selection meet for the US team to the World Indoor Championships in Moscow. I worked the high jump on Saturday. Both the events went well. The men didn't jump anything too high (7' 4.5"), but it was a good competition with a lot of strategy involved. The guy who won (Adam Shunk, whom I've known for several years now) played that game the best. The women's field was small (only six) and Chaunte Howard won with a personal best of 6' 4.75". On Sunday, I worked at the finish line - moving athletes on and off of the track.
I did realize how spoiled we are here at the UofA. The arena for this national championship meet (kind of the Super Bowl of track and field) was only about half full and the crowd was very subdued. Not at all like the crowds we will have here next week for the NCAA national championship - with over 5,000 noisy folks. It is a great environment.
Two other items of note - kind of related to one another:
In the last few days, Don Knotts passed away. I'm a big fan of the Andy Griffith show - at least of its early episodes. Don Knotts - Barney Fife - was a major part of that. I never really watched him in much of anything else, but he made that show. In fact, once he left the show - and they moved to color - everything went downhill.
The other related item: Ron Howard ("Opie Cunningham") turned 52 yesterday. Now, who can tell me who called him "Opie Cunningham"?