Monday, October 22

The following two items came through my inbox courtesy of the Ivy Jungle Network. They will give you a sense of today's university campus culture ...

Unchrisitan: A new study by the Barna group confirms what many have felt to be true - many young adults today are more skeptical resistant to Christianity than they were 10 years ago. The results are chronicled in the book, Unchristian, by Dave Kinneman of the Barna Group and Gabe Lyons of the Fermi Project.** The research concludes that Americans ages 16-29 are becoming increasingly disillusioned with Christianity. In fact, only 16% said they have a "favorable impression" of Christianity. Only 3% have a favorable view toward "evangelicals." The most common terms to describe Christians are judgmental (87%), hypocritical (85%), old fashioned (78%), and too involved in politics (75%). When asked about the positive attributes of Chrisitianity, the best impression was "Christianity teaches the same basic ideas as other religions (82%). Good values (76%) and friendly (71%) were two other positive descriptors. Only 55% said Christianity is a faith they respect. The most common perception about Christianity is that it is "anti-homosexual," a belief held by 91% of respondents. ( September 24, 2007)

Overburdened Counselors: As more students go to college and more arrive on campus with mental health problems, many of the nations on campus counseling centers are stretched thin. Some use off campus therapists and others have three week waiting lists to deal with the demand. Despite the attention of mental disorders brought on by the Virginia Tech shootings, some centers have continued to see their funding diminish. 92% of counseling directors say that the number or students with severe mental health issues has increased in recent years.. 63% say they are concerned over the increased demand for services by students, but without an increase in funding from schools. 37% of college students say they felt "so depressed it was difficult to function" in the past year. Clinical depression has increased dramatically on campus since 1990. Kansas State University says that 60% of students who seek mental health counseling are clinically depressed. (AP September 19, 2007)


Al Oerter, one of America's greatest track and field athletes of all time, passed away on Oct. 1. Oerter was the first athlete to win the same event in four consecutive Olympics, winning the discus in 1956, 1960, 1964, and 1968. Some "interesting" notes: he never won the US Olympic Trials, he never entered the Olympic games as the favorite or world's best thrower, and he set a new Olympic record with each gold medal. Oerter attended the University of Kansas and I can remember watching him throw when my family would go to the KU Relays. He was one of America's greatest competitors and greatest champions. In his later years, he founded "Art of the Olympians" which gave him and other Olympians a chance to demonstrate their artistic abilities.

Track trivia question: What other athlete later won the same event (not the discus) in four consecutive Olympic Games?


I posted the Human Tetris video from Youtube. I had a couple of guesses on how I used it in a sermon. Here is the rest of the story ...

This semester I'm preaching on The Greatest Commandment - Mark 12:28034. I used the video in the first sermon of the series. Often times we have the idea that, as a follower of Jesus, we have to fit in to some mold that others have made for us. We contort ourselves to meet expectations, obey rules, etc. But following Jesus basically comes down to this: Love the Lord your God with all of your heart, mind, soul, and strength and love your neighbor as yourself. Love God, Love Others. That is the grid by which we can direct our lives. Do our actions, our choices, our words, our values reflect these two values? Not just one, but both. In fact, all of Scripture are the details on how to do those two things: Love God, Love Others.

Monday, October 15

A week or so ago, Gina and I made a quick trip to Omaha to check out Erin's new home. Since she chose about the worst possible time to move to Omaha - a day before I left for Italy and during Gina's first few days of school - we hadn't had a chance to see where she was living and working. So we drove up after Gina got out of school on a Thursday (a six and a half hour drive), spent Friday with her, and came back early Saturday morning.

Now, you may be asking why my daughter would leave the wonderful world of NW Arkansas to move to Nebraska. That's a good question! One reason is that after living in NW Arkansas for 24 years, she wanted to try someplace else. The reason that place was Omaha can be summed up in two words: a boy.

Erin's got a nice apartment (meaning in good condition, roomy, and secure). Both she and Daisy (her dog) seemed glad to see us. I think that Daisy misses Arkansas more than Erin does. She spent the day showing us the hospital where she is working (she is an RN at the Nebraska Med Center), taking us shopping, and showing us the places she frequents - her church, the vet and groomer, the hair salon, the massage place, about a dozen coffee shops, etc. It was a good day and it was easy to see that she was excited about what she is doing. That night, Rick took us out for good Omaha steaks and then his parents and aunt came to the apartment for dessert.

It was a good visit. I'm proud of Erin and what she is doing and the woman she is. I just wish she was about six hours closer.

This link will take you to a video on Youtube that I used with a sermon a few weeks ago. I think it is great. But can you figure out what it has to do with following Christ and why I would use it in a sermon?

Wednesday, October 10

For those of you waiting for more on my Italy trip, there will be more coming. But I wanted to hit on a couple of other things first.


A few days ago, I traveled up to my home town - Ft. Scott, KS - to take part in the 30 year reunion of my high school graduating class. The great class of 1977! Thirty years. That sounds like a long time ago.

It was a great weekend. There was a good turnout for the reunion. Fifty-six of us were there - over a third of our class. And we enjoyed the usual activities: the annual Homecoming Chili Feed, watching the Tigers win their homecoming game on the very last play, visiting with friends after the game at a local restaurant, and lunch the next day at Chicken Annie's. (No trip home is complete without a stop at Chicken Annie's.) It was great to visit with people who have been friends all of my life - from kindergarten and before. Some of them I keep up with on a pretty regular basis, but others I haven't seen in 30 years. Steve Wulz (who beat me out for Senior Class President in 1976) was one of those. We actually got back in touch with one another a few months ago through a former student of mine who now works with Steve in Dallas. Steve did a great job of tracking people down, contacting them, and putting the weekend together. Thanks, Steve!

Here are a few basic observations:

We're old! Or, at least, some of them are! We are all getting close to 50 and there was a lot of gray hair (and some no hair). There were thicker glasses and thicker "middles" on most of us. And as many of us are grandparents as aren't.

Though most of us have fond memories of our high school years, that isn't true of everyone. For some, high school was a hard and painful time. One of our classmates refused to come to any reunion activities because it was a painful time for her and she had no interest in spending time with some of the people who made it that way. I'm sure I'm one of those who didn't always make high school pleasant for some.

None of us probably ended up where we imagined we would be when we graduated in 1977. But that is the way life does us. Most of life is "Plan B" - those things that happen to you when "Plan A" doesn't. Contentment often comes in learning how to let go of "Plan A" and make the most of "Plan B." A corollary of this is that, "Plan A" is often our plan - the one that we think we can control and make happen. "Plan B" is often the one that God uses to make us trust him more.

Most of the "rougher edges" of our teen years have worn off. We seem to be a kinder, gentler, and more accepting bunch. There was a lot of visiting among old friends who ran around together in high school, but there was also a lot of visiting among people who weren't particularly close during those years. The old barriers and cliques didn't matter. I didn't sense anyone trying to impress the others. And I like the people with whom I graduated. My one regret from the weekend is that there wasn't more time to visit and talk with people I haven't seen in years.

None of us have made it through life unscathed. We have experienced financial hardships and failed marriages. We have lost children and parents and spouses to death. We have been hurt and we have hurt others. That is probably one thing that leveled the field and that broke down the walls. There was a sense of not only our common history as classmates but of our common experiences of life. There wasn't a need to pretend that we were something we weren't.

Steve gave me the chance to say a few words at Chicken Annie's. (Actually he asked me to pray for our class, but I snuck a few comments in.) I reminded the class that Ft. Scott was still home and that, even 30 years later, we were still a part of each others' lives. We all carry a piece of those years - and the people with whom we spent them - around with us all the time. Our classmates are a part of the tapestry of our lives.

Monday, September 17

I mentioned in the last post that I was one of 14 US officials chosen to work the World Masters' Championships in Riccione, Italy. There were also about 12 officials from Great Britain, 3 from New Zealand, 2 from Puerto Rico, and 1 from Brazil. I didn't know before I arrived in Italy what I would be doing at the meet. Most of my officiating experience is in the vertical jumps and combined events, so I was anticipating working there. However, I discovered that I would be working in the "call room" or clerking area for this meet. (I'm sure that Tommy Free and his crew will get a kick out of that!) I have done a little bit of that, when forced to, at our home meets. But never at a meet with 9,000 athletes and in languages that I don't speak.

The Call Room is the place where each athlete comes before his or her event - whether track or field. We check credentials, bib numbers, spikes, put them in their heats, give them their hip numbers, and take them to the track or their venue at the appropriate time. It can be crazy at times and, with athletes from around the world speaking different languages and used to different systems (some of who are old enough to get easily confused), it was chaos most of the time. We got through it, though not without some stress and tension. Let's just say that Italian officials don't do things the same ways that officials from the US or Great Britain do them. Add the language barrier to that and some tension arose. Eventually things got better, but the Italians weren't quite as worried about rules or procedures:

1) Throws were measured from a variety of places through the meet - from the front of the mark, the back of the mark, the tail of the javelin, or even when the javelin stopped sliding.

2) Nary a clock could be found during the meet, so no timing was done.

3) Foreign officials were mostly used to retrieve implements or turn the numbers of the performance board, even though most were highly experienced and, among them, had officiated several Olympic Games, Olympic Trials, etc.

4) Officials didn't help with warm-ups in any event, including the throws. Usually, if there was an American or Brit on the crew, they would. Otherwise, the athletes had to retrieve their own implements, etc.

But for all the frustrations, it has been a good experience. I have learned a lot (including many things not to do) and had the chance to develop some good friendships.

Some of the highlights were athletes I met. In the next post, I'll tell you about a few of them. Above is a picture of our Call Room in action.

Thursday, September 13

After a hiatus of a few months, I'm back on the blog again. This is the second year in a row that I have taken a break from writing over the summer. During the school year, I usually preach twice a week, and often teach another time or two, and I guess I just get tired of "talking" so much. But now I'm back.

I'm writing this post from a track in Riccione, Italy. For those of you who don't know, I am one of 14 track and field officials from the US invited to work the World Master's Championships. This is the largest of the world championships, with almost 9,000 athletes from 96 countries ranging in age from 35-97. They compete in 5 year age divisions and 430 are from the US. The meet is actually held at three different stadiums in this area, with Riccione being the major one. The others are at Misano and San Giuvanne. This is my second international meet (the first actually outside the US) and it is a great honor to be here. The meet actually started on Sept. 4, but I have had trouble finding internet connections! But I'll write a little at a time so, if you're interested, you can read a little at a time.

Some of the athletes here have been very accomplished. There are many former Olympians who are still competing. In fact, Willie Banks, a former world record holder, is here. And there are others who were never stars but who love to complete. Since there aren't any entrance standards, whoever wants to enter (and pay their way to Italy) can compete!

The trip here was a long one - about 32 hours of travel on three flights, six trains, a taxi, and about 14 hours in terminals. Which was about two trains and four hours more than I anticipated. Lesson one: not all train stations are open all the time. I discovered that as my train zipped through where I wanted to get off at 1:15 am! The train finally stopped 45 minutes later. It took a while to find my way back.

The hotel we're at is nothing fancy, but the food is great. A big continental breakfast in the mornings and a huge buffet of pasta, seafood, beef, pork, etc. every night - with a half liter of wine per person for the wine drinkers. It sets a pretty high standard for our Arkansas meets!

I'll quit for now, but will try to post more later.

Tuesday, April 3

Follow-up on the CNN broadcast mentioned in the last post:

The Anderson Cooper 360 show on CNN is doing a three-part story this week on "What is a Christian?" It will be broadcast on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday nights at 9:00 pm central. A segment about Beachreach will be in the series, but I don't exactly when or on what night.

That's all I've got for you!

Monday, April 2

Happy Holiday!

What holiday, you might ask?

It's Opening Day! The first day of the 2007 Major League Baseball season! (Alright, there was one game last night, but I think of it as a kind of "Christmas Eve.")

I know this isn't really a holiday - but it should be. Schools should be closed. Businesses shut down. Everybody gets the day off to go to the ballpark or watch baseball on TV or listen to it on the radio. I got myself in the mood by watching "The Rookie" on Saturday night. Today, I'll listen to baseball games on the "radio" - one of the great and simple pleasures of life. It is relaxing and so "Rockwellian" - with a modern, technological twist. I subscribe to a MLB service where, for $15 a year, I can listen to any major league game, anywhere in the country, over the internet - and choose which team's broadcast I want to hear. I know that may sound a little over-the-top to some of you - but I think it's pretty cool. So the big choice today will be which games to listen to. I know that I will listen to at least part of the games in which I have pitchers starting (yes, I have two fantasy baseball teams), as well as the Royals broadcast.

Last night it dawned on me that I should have taken off work today and gone to KC for the Royals home-opener with the Red Sox. Allen, Michael, or Craig - if any of you read this - you are responsible to remind me of this next year!


Our Spring Break trips went well again this year. I went for the third year in a row to Panama City Beach, FL to do a week of outreach to college students who were there to party. It is a tiring week with a lot of late hours, but it is a great experience for our students and for me. It is a wonderful, hands-on "lab" in prayer and evangelism. Our students and staff were able to speak spiritual truth into the lives of students from all over the country and to see God use them to make a difference.

CNN will be airing a special report soon on college students and sex. As a part of it, there will be a segment on Spring Break in Panama City Beach. As they filmed that, they also spent time with those doing the same ministry we were and there is supposed to be a 5-6 minute segment on that. If I discover exactly when it will be on, I'll let you know.


A few weeks ago, Brittany Spears was making a "name" for herself by checking out of rehab, getting her head shaved, hitting bars, etc. During that period, she was the butt of jokes for every talk show host and comedian. Except one.

Craig Ferguson is the host of the Late, Late Show on CBS - on right after Letterman. One night a few weeks ago - in the midst of the Brittany mania - I caught his opening monologue and was really moved by it. Rather than using her as a source of humor, he chose to show her grace and mercy. He talked about his own struggles with alcoholism. It was funny and sad and moving. I emailed him, thanking him for it.

The monologue is now on YouTube. If you want to see it, here is the link.

Monday, February 5

A few random thoughts after a few weeks away from the blog ...

Gina and I were blessed to be given a trip to NYC last week. It was Gina's first trip there and I had only spent one day in NYC (and that was almost 30 years ago). We flew out on Thursday m
orning (the hardest part of the trip was the drive to the airport through the snow and ice but the non-stop flight to LaGuardia was great) and flew home on Saturday morning in time for a Christ on Campus Board meeting. (We got to LaGuardia about 30 minutes before the security gates opened.) But during our few hours in NYC we had a great time:

We ate lunch on Thursday with Rupert at the Hello Deli (of Letterman fame) and then took a stroll through the south end of Central Park.

Thursday night we attended a "Black-tie Optional" gala celebrating the 100th Millrose Games - America's oldest and most prestigious indoor track meet. It was a $1000 a plate affair in the Rainbow Room on the 65th floor of the Rockefeller Center. (The pictures are of the room and the view from there.) There were about 300 people - a "who's who" of track and field history, Olympic champions and world record holders. The Rainbow Room was the site of various fund-raising functions for such as John F. Kennedy and Ronald Reagan and you can eat there for about $250 a person.

Friday we went to Ground Zero and then to Times Square - where we did see The Naked Cowboy. I tried to get Gina to go give him a hug, but she wouldn't go for it. That night we attended the Millrose Games - the first track meet I have just watched as a spectator in almost 20 years. It was great to be in Madison Square Garden - as historic an arena as there is in the US - and the competition was good.

It was a great trip and we were greatly blessed by those who made it possible - especially Art Huff. We just needed more time. There was enough to do and see within six blocks of our hotel to keep us busy for a week of more: Times Square, Central Park, Broadway, Museum of Modern Art, etc.


I enjoyed the Super Bowl and was pleased the Colts won. I like Peyton Manning and Tony Dungy and was glad to see them win. I especially appreciated Dungy's words after the game - that even more significant to him than being one of the first two African-American coaches in the Super Bowl was to be one of two Christian coaches who were successful "doing it the Lord's way."

Here is another statement from Coach Dungy. This comes from Rubel Shelley:

"That there is 'life outside of football' may be a necessary reminder for some sports fans and couch potatoes now that Super Bowl XLI is over. Now that the Indianapolis Colts have the Lombardi Trophy in hand, some of them may be wondering what they will do until next season begins.

But the line is actually from Tony Dungy, the Colts' head coach. It wasn't spoken after last Sunday's water-logged victory over the Chicago Bears but just after his son James committed suicide 13 months ago.

In a speech he made shortly after that tragedy, Dungy talked about all three of his sons. He spoke first of his middle son, Eric, and said his competitive nature is so focused on athletics that 'it's almost a problem.' Then he turned to his youngest son, Jordan, whose rare congenital condition makes him insensitive to pain.

'That sounds like it's good at the beginning, but I promise you it's not,' said Coach Dungy. 'We've learned some hurts are really necessary for kids. Pain is necessary for kids to find out the difference between what's good and what's harmful.'

'Cookies are good,' the coach explained, 'but - in Jordan's mind - if they're good out on the plate, they're even better in the oven. He will go right in the oven when my wife's not looking, reach in, take the rack out, take the pan out, burn his hands - then eat the cookies and burn his tongue and never feel it.'

'Pain sometimes lets us know we have a condition that needs to be healed,' Dungy said. 'Pain inside sometimes lets us know that spiritually we're not quite right, and we need to be healed. And that God will send that healing agent right to the spot. Sometimes pain is the only way that will turn us kids back to the Father.'

Only then did Coach Dungy speak of his oldest son, James, who took his life three days before Christmas 2005. He spoke of his family's pain. He talked about lessons they were learning from it. He and his wife have since joined an organization dedicated to preventing teen suicide."


Regarding the commercials, I did like the Kevin Federline commercial and the "beard comb-over."


A couple of months ago I suggested the Banana Guard as a potential Christmas gift. Though I didn't get one for Christmas, I did purchase a couple. Pretty cool!


Here's an article about a "caffeinated-donut." I guess it would kill two birds with one stone and save time!


Some of you may want to check out Death Row Speaks - an anti-death penalty website that features poems, art, and other items from inmates on Death Row.

The death penalty is an area where my view has changed over the years. Though I do believe that government - as it operates within the purpose for which God designed it - may have the right to exercise capital punishment, I don't believe that it necessarily a good or wise practice for several reasons.