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.