Saturday, December 27

Another Gem from Rick Reilly

One of my favorite sports columnists is Rick Reilly, formerly of Sports Illustrated and now of ESPN. Here is one of his latest columns. It's a great story of a coach, a team, and a town who looked beyond themselves and the score to what was best for their opponents - an athletic model of Matthew 7 and Philippians 2.

"So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets." Matthew 7:12

"Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others." Philippians 2:3-4

Tuesday, December 23

Christmas is upon us ....

This post has been delayed a few days because of blogger problems ...

The celebration of Christmas is often attacked from folks on both ends of the cultural spectrum - from those on the religious right who feel that it is too "secularized" and distracts from the real message of Christianity and from those on the liberal left who feel that the religious trappings of the season are inappropriate in our pluralistic culture. Here is a very good column by Michael Medved on the issue.

Have a very merry Christmas - regardless of what the Scrooges among us say.

To add to your Christmas season, here are a couple of Christmas-related links:

Many folks claim that their favorite Christmas movie is "A Christmas Story." I don't necessarily share that sentiment, but here are "Twelve Things You Might Not Know About 'A Christmas Story.'"

And here is my daughter's (Stacy) favorite Christmas song.

Tuesday, December 16

A couple of heroes and Christmas in June

I recently drove to Nashville, AR for the funeral of Ralph Posey. I came to know Ralph shortly after we moved to Arkansas in 1982 and he served on our Board of Directors for several years. Ralph was, to me, a great model of ministry and influence - especially in rural America. Through the years, Ralph preached in churches in Arkansas, Alabama, Louisiana, Georgia, Texas, and Wyoming. During many of those ministries, he also worked as a welder, truck driver, farmer, police officer, and more. In fact, the program at his funeral listed at least 20 other jobs he held while serving in churches. As I drove the four and a half hours home from his funeral, I thought a lot about that.

One of my frustrations with many who are entering "professional ministry" is that they are often more interested in a position than in a ministry. The ideal job is on staff at a large church where they can have a salary and benefits and a professional-development budget. They aren't necessarily looking for the place with the greatest need or greatest opportunity. They aren't interested in a ministry that might require sacrifice, raising support, or working a part-time job. As one who has raised support for over 26 years and often seeks to add staff or open new ministries, I run into this often.

Ralph Posey was called to the ministry, not to a position. If he served in a church that could provide his financial needs, that was great. But if it meant that he had to work as a welder in order to preach the gospel, that was great, too. Ministry was what he was called to, not a position. (That sounds a little bit like the Apostle Paul to me.) And the benefit was that working as a welder, logger, or police officer put him in contact with those who needed to see and hear the gospel most of all. An overflowing church of people gathered to celebrate his life was testimony to the effectiveness of God's work through him.

I don't mean to sound cynical. I just think that we all fall into the trap of wanting a Christianity and a ministry that is easy and convenient, of thinking that the call of God will always result in a position where every need is met. You don't have to read very far into the Bible to find that isn't true. I'm thankful for the thousands of unknown men and women like Ralph Posey, whose only desire to serve God wherever he calls them, regardless of the sacrifice and work that it might require.


Some other items of interest for you ...

Read about the researchers who have identified the bright star that appeared over Bethlehem 2,000 years ago. Are you ready to move Christmas to June?

Here is an article on some of the things that celebrities require in their contracts when they make appearances. All I want is a Diet Coke!

Finally, I love this story about US sprinter Shawn Crawford. Regardless of what Sports' Illustrated might say, he is my Sportsman of the Year.

Sunday, November 30

Another Engagement

Gina and I entered Thanksgiving Day tired. We were up late on Wednesday night, waiting on a phone call or a text message. It came at about 12:20 am on Thursday morning. Stacy was engaged to be married to Ryan Meier.

We knew that Ryan was going to propose that night. We just thought it would be closer to their 7:00 pm reservation at Bordino's than to midnight. But Ryan was (understandably) nervous and it took him a while to get the question out. But he did and she said yes. The date and details are yet to be set.

We are proud of both Stacy and Ryan. Stacy, our youngest, is 22. She's bright and sharp. A beautiful young woman who is committed to doing her best in whatever task she undertakes - her job, her schoolwork, Christ on Campus responsibilities, and more. Her commitment to the Lord is also evident in the values she lives by and her involvement in ministry and service. And we are happy about her engagement to Ryan. Gina has known Ryan's family for many years (she was his kindergarten teacher) and he has been involved with ConC during most of his college career. His love for Stacy is evident and he is tender and so attentive to her. His commitment to Christ is also clear. He got involved with our ministry even before he and Stacy started dating (though I have a suspicion that she was a factor in that) and has continued to grow and serve through his college career. Ryan will be accepting a job in Colorado Springs, where he and Stacy will be moving after their graduation next spring.

Both girls are now engaged and, most likely, will be married by the end of next summer. Our family will be heading for some major changes. And the changes are good. It is God's design that our daughters leave our home and cleave to their husbands, start their own homes, raise their own families. But the changes aren't always easy.

Today, Stacy and I went Christmas tree shopping. That is something that she and I have done together since she was a little girl. It has been part of our family Christmas tradition for many years. But today it was a little sad - at least for me - because it was probably the last time we will do it. By next Christmas (if the Lord wills) she will be a college graduate, a married woman, and living in Colorado. And I will be proud of her and happy for her. But I will miss shopping for Christmas trees with my little girl.

Tuesday, November 25

Examples of Character and a New Bible Drama

I pray that everyone will have a great Thanksgiving holiday - restful and delicious and full of appreciation for every good and perfect gift from the hand of God and those people in your life who help to make it rich and full and joyful.


I am always moved by stories of character and integrity. Here are a couple that have come to my attention lately:

Randy Cope is a newspaper man. I met him a few times when he published our local paper. His daughter attended a couple of camps that I spoke at and I often read his brother's blog. But Randy and his wife have developed a passion for those caught in the web of human trafficking. They have started a foundation - Touch a Life - that is working to free children in Cambodia, Vietnam, and Ghana. They are people with a passion who are making a difference in the world. Be sure and watch this video on the children of Lake Volta in Ghana.

When Kathy Cox (Georgia state schools superintendent) won the one-million dollar prize on TV's "Smarter Than a Fifth-Grader" (the only episode I have actually ever seen), she promised to donate the money to two schools for the deaf and one for the blind in Georgia. Little did she realize at the time that her husband's home-building business would fail in the midst of our nation's housing crisis. But rather than go back on her word and use her winnings for personal needs, she kept her word and gave the money to the schools. She and her husband have since filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy. You might be able to debate the wisdom of her decision, but you have to admire her willingness to keep her promise.


Finally, check out this play put on by the drama department at Northwestern College in Orange City, IA. It is based on the "terror texts" of the Bible - rape, cannibalism, bears eating children. I can see children's ministries across the country performing this over the next year!

Sunday, November 16

Birthday Weekend

This was the weekend of my fiftieth birthday.

50 years old. That has an "old" ring to it.

It's interesting how we picture ourselves. I tend to "see" myself still in my late 20's - though my body lets me know quite often that's not the case. Fifty is for old men and I don't see myself in that category. Maybe it's from working with college students for over 26 years. Maybe that has kept me "younger" and more immature than other men my age. And I don't think that is necessarily a bad thing!

50 sures puts me past middle-age - unless I plan on living to be over 100!

But it is also a natural point for reflection and evaluation. Most likely, over half of my life is past now. And over half of my time in ministry. Am I content with what it has been? How do I want to adjust its trajectory from this point forward? Though my physical strength is on the decline, I don't believe that has to be the case spiritually and personally and in ministry. I do believe that the my greatest years of service and ministry are ahead of me. And I am excited about them.


There have been a few celebrations over the past week. On T
uesday night, our students all wore black to our Encounter service. Since it was three days before my birthday, I didn't catch on until they started to sing "Happy Birthday" - I guess the mind starts to slip a little at my age. They also brought a coffin-shaped cake and some pictures of my face on the body of a hamster (that's another story).

On Friday, the Carter clan came over for dinner. We always have a great time playing with our god-children.

We spent Saturday and Sunday with our girls and their men in Kansas City. We ate and played at Dave & Buster's, played cards, watched the new James Bond flick, did a little shopping, and just hung out together.

And, of course, a birthday wouldn't be complete without presents:

* A new leather recliner
* A beautiful painting that Gina had commissioned featuring one of my favorite verses of Scripture - Ephesians 2:10 - and done by one of our alums, Lisa Miller. If a students has been around ConC very long, they have heard me talk about it at least once.

* The traditional box of Cap'n Crunch cereal

Monday, November 10

Interesting Trends on the University Campus

Here is some information about trends on the university campus - thanks to the Ivy Jungle Network's Campus Ministry Update for November.

And why should you care about these things? Because the American university is one of the most influential institutions in our world - training the generation of leaders in government, business, education, science, medicine, and more for countries all around the world. What happens on our university campuses now will influence the direction our world will take in the future.

So support your local campus ministry.


College Students and the Lockbox: Research by the Fuller Youth Institute shows that 70% of youth group graduates do not find college a place where professors and peers reject their faith outright. On the other hand, it also shows that students are not nearly as "spiritual" as we like to think. For the majority of students, college is a time where many personal and religious connections are stored in an identity "lockbox," tucked away for the collegiate years; unexamined and protected until reclaimed at a later time. This compartmentalization explains why so many youth group kids join the cultural mainstream of campus life, seemingly "walking away" from their faith. The report explains, "emerging adults seem to care more about fitting into society than about exploring who they might be." Certainly, there are some who engage their minds and look into the box. These are often both Christian and non-Christian students seeking to know more about and grow more deeply as people and in faith. The article encourages religious workers to pursue those who are looking into the box and help them grow. In addition, youth ministers would do well to help students prepare for a faith that grows and changes as they mature and encounter new ideas and people. This will help them continue to look into the box and press on in their walk with Christ. Read the article and interview with Tony Jones at's-implications-for-your-students/


More College Students: In 2008, more than 3.3 million high school students graduated from high school, the highest number ever. Graduates are expected to top 3.2 million for the next 8 years. Colleges are feeling the effect, with 75% saying that they have seen their number of applicants increase for the third year in a row. This is due to both more graduates, and the fact that 19% of students now submit 7 or more applications. However, colleges report a steady acceptance rate of 68% of all applicants nationwide. That rate has not changed much in twenty years. More than 2/3 of all applications are now received online. (A Scribe Newswire September 25, 2008)


Wi-Fi over Beer : Most students expect wireless internet access almost everywhere they go on campus. Nearly all say they check Facebook or send emails during class. When forced to choose, almost half (48%) say they would give up beer before they would give up wi-fi. (Inside Higher Ed October 8, 2008)


Now for something a little more lighthearted. Check out this video of Justin Timberlake's "Why I Love Sports" from the 2008 ESPY Awards. Yes, I know they were a long time ago. But I never watch the ESPY's. And this video is funny whenever you see it.

Wednesday, November 5

A Significant Moment in History

I didn't vote for Barak Obama. I wasn't excited about John McCain and I was disappointed by his selection of Sarah Palin as a running mate. But I couldn't bring myself to vote for Barak Obama. The radical positions he has taken on abortion were more than I could overcome.

But regardless of how I voted, I can't help but be struck by the significance of Barak Obama's election. Yesterday was an historic day, a significant day in the history of our nation. Please don't miss that, regardless of what you think of Mr. Obama or his politics. It was only 40 years ago that Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated in Memphis. An African-American president would have been unthinkable then or in several years following that. But today Barak Obama is our president-elect. His selection says much about how far we have come as a nation.

I don't want to miss that or the significance of his victory. Even if I didn't vote for him.

We have made great strides, but there are still so much to be done in the area of race relations. If you walk through the dining halls on campus, you can't help but be struck by the "voluntary segregation" that goes on. And "integration" is a concept that has failed to hit the Church in any significant way. Because of this, I believe we are missing out on a powerful witness to our world - that Jesus Christ really does change hearts and heal wounds and reconcile people.

In God's wonderful way of working things out, I will be preaching from Acts 10 this Sunday - Peter and Cornelius and the gospel's work in breaking down racial barriers (as well as talking about the big sheet of animals in the sky). God's "dream" for his people on earth is that we reflect the reality of heaven - where people of every tribe and nation and language gather before his throne to worship him.

We have been blessed to have more diversity than we have ever had in our ministry, particularly in our Sunday morning services - students from around the world, as well as of different ethnic backgrounds. But there is still much to be done.

Yesterday's election was a big step. But there are a lot of more steps that need to be taken. Both in our country and in the Church.

Monday, November 3

On Election Eve ...

Tomorrow our nation will select a new president (as well as decide on hundreds of other offices and issues). From all indications, the voter turnout will be huge. Arkansas has been doing early voting for the past two weeks that the numbers have been large. I probably should have voted early, but I didn't. So I will try to be there early in the morning.

The "Faith & Reason" page of USA Today posted an interesting question today: "How Christian must a candidate be?" The column reported on a debate between two Christians on the issue. One took the position that he wouldn't vote for anyone (from dogcatcher to president) who wasn't a conservative Christian. The other said that he would first look at a candidate's policy positions before looking at his personal religious faith. The article linked to a video of the debate. I didn't take time to watch it, but the question is an interesting one.

Character is a huge issue in politics. But what is the balance between convictions and competence? Between religious faith and "governing" experience? Between being able to quote the right answers to a religious test and being committed to Biblical values such as justice and a true "pro-life" platform that goes beyond just the issue of abortion? It seems to me that we, as Christians, have often been easily swayed by candidates who "speak our language" but don't truly hold to Biblical convictions. And that sometimes we, as Christians, don't have a very deep or broad understanding of the Biblical values that are truly important to God.

To be honest, neither of the year's presidential candidates gives me much confidence. But the good news is that my confidence rests in the one establishes presidents and nations. I hope yours
does, as well.

Wednesday, October 29

She just keeps getting better ...

Today is Gina's birthday - my amazing wife of almost 30 years. She is such a blessing to my life - a great helpmeet in every way and so patient and encouraging. She gets more beautiful as the years go by, and she's a cheap date! Tonight we going for her birthday dinner to Logan's for their "2 meals for $13.99" special. You can't beat that. I wish I had a picture of her in the duck costume that she wore for her kindergarten class last week, but this one will have to do.


Christmas items are out in the stores - days before Halloween. Check out the Advent Conspiracy and watch the video. This is something we should all be a part of. Thanks to my friend, Tammy Melchien, for pointing us in this direction.


Check out this ranking of the "Greatest Multi-Sport Pro Athletes of All Time." Do you agree with them? Who would you add? What would you change? I know that some such lists include Jesse Owens, but I guess he doesn't meet the criteria of "pro athlete" for this one. Believe it or not, but Jim Thorpe was before my time. But several of these weren't. And Bo Jackson was amazing!

Monday, October 27

Another Campus Shooting

We first heard bits of news about it last night on Facebook, but if you've seen the news today you know that there was a shooting on the campus of the University of Central Arkansas in Conway. Though Christ on Campus doesn't have a presence there, I have friends who are students on that campus. Please be praying for that campus community. This is the second college campus shooting in Arkansas this calendar year, the other being at UALR in February.

All of these - as well as shootings on other campuses around the country - always bring back the memories of August 28, 2000. On that day, the first day of classes for the fall semester, a troubled graduate student walked into the office of a professor, killing the professor and then himself.

There are usually discussions after such events on how to prevent them, but I don't know that such incidents are preventable in public places such as college campuses. They are reminders of the fallen world in which we live and the broken and scarred lives that are all around us. And they are reminders of how much our world needs the healing and peace-bringing touch of Jesus.


For some more encouraging news:

Read the story of Lolo Jones, America's best female hurdler

Read Andy Crouch's article on why he is hopeful about the future

Read this list of 100 skills every man should have. How many do you have?

Monday, October 20

Let Your Progress Be Evident ...

This weekend was the Chile Pepper Cross Country Festival in Fayetteville - 8 races with over 3,300 finishers ranging from junior high through university through the "old-timers." I have worked with this charity event for several years - serving on the Chile Pepper Board, as meet referee, and organizing officials. It is always a great event and over the past few years it has raised about $150,000 for high school cross country programs in this area. I also enjoy working with the local civic and business leaders who are involved.

One of the things that I love about cross country - and track and field - is that an athlete can leave an event and feel like a "winner" regardless of what place he or she finished. I talked to a friend who coaches a local high school team after their race. You would never have known that his team finished in 25th place, because he was so excited that each of his athletes had run a "PR" - a personal record. These are sports where records aren't only kept in competition with others, but in your own personal progress.

And I thought of Paul's instructions to Timothy:

"Take pains with these things; be absorbed in them, so that your progress will be evident to all." I Timothy 4:15

I'm so glad that Paul didn't say "that your perfection will be evident to all" because I would be a constant failure. But I can make progress spiritually and personally. I can become more disciplined, more compassionate, more discerning.

But am I? Even as I approach 50, is my progress evident to all? Can those who are around me see my becoming more like Christ? Can they see growth? Can they see progress?

Can those who are close to you see your progress?


I'm reading Mark Batterson's book, Wild Goose Chase. This is part of what I read this morning:

"If you're chasing the Wild Goose (Holy Spirit), you don't have to manufacture opportunities to minister. In fact, as I read the gospels, it seems to me that most of Jesus' ministry was unplanned....Spontaneity is an underappreciated dimension of spirituality. In fact, spiritual maturity has less to do with long-range visions than it does with moment-by-moment sensitivity to the promptings of the Holy Spirit. And it is our moment-by-moment sensitivity to the Holy Spirit that turns life into an everyday adventure." p. 57-58

Thursday, October 16

Longevity Brings Opportunity

One of the things that I have always loved about where God has placed me for over 26 years is the diverse groups of folks with whom I get to work. In our Sunday service on campus, we have students from several ethnic backgrounds and four continents. I get to have influence in the lives of athletes, scholars, actors, artists, musicians, and more - some of the most gifted and committed students that you could imagine. It keeps me enthused and eager to see what God has in store for me each day.

I'm especially excited this year about the various groups of men that I'm getting to work with:

* On Sunday nights, it is a Bible study for some Razorback athletes.
* On Wednesday mornings, it is an accountability group for men that range from their late 20's to their mid 40's.
* On Thursday at lunch, it is another group of men in the midst of their careers and raising families.
* On Friday mornings, it is a Bible study with some coaches at our local high school.
* Throughout the week there are mentoring times with some of our guys on campus.
* And I still hear from former students who are scattered around the country who are looking for some counsel or a listening ear.

There is so much in our culture (and in the church) that has worked to "feminize" men. It is a real source of joy to me to be able to help point men to what it means to be a man of God, a man after God's own heart. Hopefully along the way, I'm helping them to build a spiritual foundation, built on God's Word and perspective, upon which they can build their lives and homes.


From the world of Christian "weirdness" ...

What do you think about this: Professional Mystery Worshipers. I have had friends who were mystery shoppers, but not mystery worshipers. My concern would be the point of view the PMW would bring in with them - do they have any spiritual perspective?

In another example of Christianity following culture, be sure to pick up your copy of the DVD - Sunday School Musical.

And finally, a video that has become a worldwide, YouTube hit: Jesus is my Friend.

Wednesday, October 8

Baby News

Some good news regarding new babies ....

Many of you have been praying for Malachi Brown (and his parents - Austin & Amy) as Malachi has been in Kansas City at Children's Mercy Hospital. I'm glad to report that they are back home now and Malachi is doing well.

My niece, Anna Konefuls, had her first child on Sunday. Zofia Belle made my little brother a grandfather. That sounds old!

And in honor of these new babies and their parents, here are three great PSA's from the National Fatherhood Initiative:

Light Sabres

Monday, October 6

The Razing of a Small Town Church

My mom forwarded me this article regarding the demolition of the building that once was home to the Hepler Christian Church. Hepler, KS is the community where my parents grew up, where their parents and grandparents farmed. It is where they graduated from high school (my mom was the only girl among the seven graduates in the class of 1956 and dad graduated in 1958) before the high school was closed in 1960. Hepler is where so many of the memories of my childhood are based - being at my grandparents, playing with my cousins, "marching" in the Fourth of July parade, visiting the cemetery where so many of my relatives (most of whom I never knew) were buried.

And attending the Hepler Christian Church, which was founded (and the building built) in 1881. It was the church that my mom and dad grew up attending. It was where they were married by Miss Jean Minnich, the rare woman minister who served several small congregation in southeast Kansas back in the 1950's and 60's. I remember going to Sunday School in the old school house they had attached to the back of the building. I remember my grandfather leading the singing on Sunday mornings. I remember the string of student preachers from Ozark Bible College who would hone their skills on the patient folks in that congregation. Though I don't think I ever preached there, I sang a lot of duets and quartets there, as well as played my trumpet. I remember the ringing of the church bell and having to go to the outhouse outside the building when nature called. I remember the Christmas tree and popcorn balls and bags of candy at Christmas time. My aunt and uncle lived catty-cornered from the church, and another aunt and uncle lived in the house next to them.

But, outside of the cemetery, all of my family is gone from Hepler now. There are no schools, little business, and few people left in the town. Strangers will in one of my grandparents' house and the other grandparents' house has been torn down. Hepler Christian Church quit having services in 2001 because there just weren't the people left to pay the bills and keep up the building. And now it is gone, too.

Over the years that I have been doing campus ministry, and relying on churches and individuals for prayer and financial support, we have had a few of those who supported us shut down operations. And I can think of at least a couple more congregations that I know well that may very well follow suit before too long.

The reasons for such things are numerous. Sometimes it is like Hepler - a church in a small town that sees most of the young people leave and only the older folks remain and they slowly pass one to their glory. Sometimes it is because of the changing demographics of their area and the congregations inability (or unwillingness) to adapt to the changes. Sometimes it is because of sinful acts or sinful attitudes among those in the church.

But whatever the case, it is always sad. No matter how large the church, it was a major part of the lives of people - where they were married and buried, where friends gathered, and needs were met. And it was a sad day last month in Hepler when the bulldozer tore through the walls of a building that once was full of people who loved God and each other and that was home to a congregation that helped shape the life of a community.


With the release of Bill Maher's movie, Religulous, this article from the Wall Street Journal is very interesting. Studies show that irreligious people are more likely to be superstitious and believe in the paranormal and pseudoscience.

Wednesday, October 1

In many ways, this semester is busier than most I have had recently. I am teaching or leading several groups each week, but I enjoy the diversity of the groups and the people I'm working with in them. These groups include preaching on Sunday mornings, meeting with some Razorback athletes for a Bible study on Sunday nights, a student leaders' meeting on Tuesday for dinner, Tuesday night Encounter (an in-depth teaching time), a group of men on Wednesday morning (they are from their late twenties to mid-forties), our staff meeting on Thursday mornings, a co-ed Bible study on Thursday night, and a Bible study with the Springdale High School coaches on Friday morning. Plus I try to meet with a handful of students individually each week. It's a busy schedule but the people are so great they keep me energized.


Malachi Brown seems to be doing better. He is eating and they are taking him off of the anti-seizure medication. They have some more tests to do, but they hope to be home by the weekend. Check out Malachi's blog for more details.


The NCAA is sending folks to Fayetteville for a "site visit" in preparation for the 2009 Outdoor Track and Field Championships that the UofA will be hosting. I'm part of the meet management team, so I get to be in on the meetings on Thursday afternoon and Friday morning. It should be interesting.


The baseball playoffs have started. I love this time of year. I predict the Los Angeles Dodgers and the Tampa Bay Rays in the world series, with the Dodgers winning.


Here are lists of the 100 Largest Churches and 100 Fastest Growing Churches in America. I found the information interesting.


Finally, if you are on Facebook or Twitter be sure and add me to your lists.

Monday, September 29

God has blessed me far beyond what I have deserved through what he has given me in my family. Not only do I have a great wife who has patiently endured me for over 29 years, but he has blessed us with two wonderful daughters. We couldn't be more proud of either of them. They have done well in overcoming our imperfect parenting abilities.

Today is Stacy's 22nd birthday. She is living at home during this year, her last at the university. Gina and I enjoy having her back in the house (with her Yorkie, Ryley Dee). Stacy does well in school (a double major in business management and marketing), works a lot of hours during the week, and is actively involved with Christ on Campus, from worship services and Bible studies to the 2:00 AM Grill and Spring Break mission trips. Happy birthday, Stacy! Your mom and I love you more than you can realize.


Last weekend I went with some students to our annual Fall Retreat in sou
thern Missouri. We were there with about 200 college students from the region. It was a great weekend. The weather was beautiful and my friend, Tommy Oakes, did his usual great job in communicating God's Word to us. The highlight of the weekend was the decision of Kirstyn Day to be baptized into Christ on Saturday night. Sweet!


Austin and Amy Brown are now at Children's Mercy Hospital in KC with Malachi. They are doing some more tests there, so please keep them in your prayers. You can keep up with what is happening at Malachi's blog.


I'm sure all are aware of Paul Newman's death last Friday. In many ways, Newman seemed to be a model of what a star should be: Married to the same woman for over 50 years, created the "Newman's Own" brand (first with salad dressings and then other products) where all the profits went to charity, didn't seek the spotlight or media attention. And he was a gifted actor. At least three of his movies are in my "Top 25" or so - Cool Hand Luke, The String, and Butch CassidySundance Kid.

What was your favorite Paul Newman movie?


One last thing. Check out what has to be the greatest personal library in the world. I would love to spend a day - or a week or month - wandering around in there.
and the

Friday, September 26

I'm posting this on here because gmail says I have sent too many emails today ...

Austin Brown (who works with me) and his wife, Amy, had a little boy on Wednesday afternoon. Malachi Andrew weighed in at 9 lbs. and 11 oz. They had planned on going home from the hospital today, but Malachi had some seizures overnight. They are now on their way to Children's Mercy Hospital for some more extensive tests. Please keep them (and Olivia, who is 2) in your prayers.

Wednesday, September 24

Earlier this week, I attended a retreat down in SW Arkansas. I was a gathering of a few ministers from around the state, most of whom serve in churches that help support Christ on Campus. I have been attending these since the fall of 1982. It was a good couple of days with some lively discussion and a chance to visit with friends, some of whom I have known for over 25 years.

Though there are many ministers that are well known in our country, the men who were there aren't among them. They don't serve megachurches of several thousand. For the most part, they serve small churches in rural areas. They are part of their communities, loving the people among whom God has placed them. They perform their marriages and their funerals. They attend the junior high and high school football games. Most don't have youth ministers or music ministers. But they do their best to fill the roles that are needed and to live out the gospel in places like DeQueen and DeWitt and Dumas. And they faithfully do it without fanfare or notice or high salaries. And in their communities and corners of the state, they are far more influential and far more important than Rick Warren or Joel Osteen.


A couple of news items for you ...

Read about the postman in Germany who pulled a "Newman" (that's a Seinfeld reference) and didn't deliver over 20,000 pieces of mail.

Science proves that being a vegetarian or vegan causes your brain to shrink at a faster rate than those who eat meet. So go eat a burger!

Friday, September 19

Gina, Stacy, Ryan, and I had the opportunity to attend the UofA's tribute dinner for John McDonnell, the men's cross country and track and field coach who retired this past summer. About 800 folks gathered to honor him from around the country. It was a really good event. Several members of John's family came over from Ireland to be a part of it. There were a lot of the athletes he had coached over the past 36 years. Several "dignitaries" gave speeches. I was invited to give the invocation. Video presentations were made, including the preview of a documentary on John's life that will be finished by next summer. 

I've written about John's retirement in the past, so I won't rehash all that he has accomplished. But all the hoopla was well-deserved. I'm proud to call him a friend. Plus, anyone who still calls me "kid" at my age is OK with me.


I'm a big fan of the Ryder Cup, which is being played this week in Kentucky. If you're not a golf fan, you may not be familiar with it. It takes place every two years and is, basically, a team competition between 12 of America's best golfers against 12 of Europe's best golfers. Because it is a team competition and the format of play is different, it is always fun to watch. There is more emotion and a rowdier crowd than most golf events. I think that this would probably be one of the top two or three sporting events that I would most like to attend - up there with the Olympic Games and the Master's.


In case you need to be reminded, studies in Great Britain have demonstrated that sending text messages while you drive is dangerous. In fact, their studies show that texting while driving is more dangerous driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs. So stop doing it!


And finally, for those of you like Guitar Hero but would prefer more "wholesome" music on the game, Guitar Praise is now available. Same idea but with Christian music.

Monday, September 15

Last weekend was a good weekend all the way around ...

On Friday night we got to babysit the "Carter kids" and had a good time watching Cinderella with them.

Later Friday night (Saturday morning) we had our 2:00 AM Grill on Dickson Street. We had a pretty steady flow of folks and gave away quite a bit of food. I also had some good spiritual conversations with folks who came by. Now just pray that the seeds bring a harvest down the road

On Saturday we had a good group of students serve lunch at the Seven Hills Shelter.

Later that afternoon Gina and I went to see maybe the "chickiest" of all movies and then to dinner at Herman's (thanks to Thomas and Kimberly).

On Sunday we had a good day at church. I asked students to put down in writing how Christ had changed their lives and/or how they needed Christ to change their lives. It was great to read the testimonies and to begin praying for those changes to happen. Austin and the worship team are doing a great job with the music.

Of course, Ike blew threw on Saturday night/Sunday morning. There was no major damage done around here, but (as of this afternoon) we were still without cable, internet, or phone service at the house.


It has been a little while since I wrote about the Olympics or track and field, so here are three articles that I've come across recently that I thought were worth reading ...

The first is Doug Logan's blog. He is CEO of USA Track & Field, the governing body of the sport in the US. In this post he writes about the US performance at the Olympics and some of the changes that are on the horizon.

The second is an article about estimates done by some physicists on Usain Bolt's world record in the 100 meters. According to their figures, if he had run all the way through the race, he would have finished in 9.55 seconds. I'm not sure I trust their work ...

The third is an interview with Carl Lewis regarding this past Olympics and some of the performances there. As Carl can be, he is controversial.


Finally, another Youtube video for your enjoyment. I saw this on my friend Jennifer's Facebook
page. Now you know why Gina and I took dance lessons.

Wednesday, September 10

On a university campus, you can find some of the most intelligent people in the world, as well as those with the least common sense. A case in point ...

You may have read or heard about an initiative by some college presidents in the US to lower the national drinking age back to 18. Their theory is that alcohol abuse is a major problem among college students (which it is) because it is against the rules. If we make it legal, then it will lose its appeal and students won't drink as much. Therefore, less students will get drunk, drive drunk, or have alcohol related accidents.


As you can image, Mothers Against Drunk Driving and others groups are against such a proposal. And, to his credit, the UofA chancellor has refused to sign on. Studies show that since the drinking age was raised to 21, alcohol-related accidents and deaths have dropped significantly.

What needs to happen is more consistent enforcement of drinking laws on college campuses and college communities. Parents need to take the reality of alcohol abuse on most college campuses seriously. Both need to get past the "kids will be kids" mentality and deal with a major social problem with serious ramifications.

To further this thought, see below ...


I have a new book sitting on my desk called Guyland. You can get the idea of the book in this article from Newsweek.


I hope you have been aware of the sweeping persecution of Christians in India over the past few weeks. If not, this article will fill you in a little bit. Please be praying for them, their safety, and their witness.


And for those of you who enjoy the more "unusual" things I sometimes post ...

Read about the man in Great Britain who saw his father alive and on television, even though he had been cremated in 2003!

Increase your knowledge of physics by watching this rap video.

Monday, September 1

Today is Gina and my 29th anniversary.

God has been so good to me and blessed me beyond anything I can imagine or deserve. I was raised in a great family, have two wonderful daughters, a "job" that I love, and good people to work with. But the greatest blessing he has given me in this world is Gina.

I'm not too poetic, but I do want all to know how much she means to me and how fortunate I am to have her in my life.


We got to spend the weekend in Ft. Worth, TX. We went down for Thomas Wolfe and Kimberly Forman's wedding and stayed an extra day to celebrate our anniversary. The wedding and all the festivities were great and it is always an honor to be asked to serve in such an event.

Ft. Worth was nice, but not the most exciting city to spend time in. But one of the interesting things we did was attend church at If you're not familiar with Lifechurch, it is a multi-site church based out of Edmond, OK. They have twelve "campuses" around the country, each with its own worship band, children's programs, small groups, and ministers. But the messages from from their senior pastor - Craig Groeschel - (or another teaching pastor) via satellite simulcast or video.

The service we went to was good and everything was done in an hour. Groeschel recently spoke at Willow Creek Community Church's Leadership Summit and I had heard that his message was great. The message at the service on Sunday was a shortened version of that talk, so I was glad to hear it.

Multi-site churches seem to be the current "in" thing right now. And there are some groups that are doing them very well. I think the live worship is important and the local staff can meet the personal ministry needs. And if we are honest about it, many (if not most) of those in ministry have great hearts for people but may not be the most gifted communicators. This model allows a gifted communicator to teach in a variety of places and, with modern technology, you don't really notice that he isn't there!


Sarah Palin as John McCain's running mate. I can't decide if this is the biggest mistake in recent political history or a strange, genius decision. Right now, I'm thinking mistake. I don't doubt that she is bright and energetic and conservative. But her level of experience is so small - mayor of a town of 7,000 and governor of Alaska for two years. Plus, McCain admits that he had only met her one time before choosing her as his running mate. There goes any leverage John McCain may have had to make Barak Obama's experience an issue.

Saturday, August 23

Any time I'm asked about me favorite movies, the top two on the list are always High Noon, a classic Western with Gary Cooper and Grace Kelly, and Chariots of Fire, the story of Eric Liddell and Harold Abrahams in the 1924 Paris Olympics.

On today's Olympic broadcast, Mary Carillo did a really good piece on Eric Liddell that included interviews with his daughter and others who knew him. If you don't know the story, Liddell was the son of Scottish missionaries to China. He won an Olympic gold medal in the 400 meters (47.6 seconds) after refusing to compete in the 100 meters heats (his intended event) because they were held on a Sunday. Liddell later returned to China to serve as a missionary, where he died. In fact, there is a monument in his honor in China - a pretty amazing thing for a Scottish missionary. If you can find the video online, it would be worth your time to watch it.

The first Olympic gold medalist born in China? Eric Liddell.

Friday, August 22

Let me just offer my opinion that, regardless of the publicity that Michael Phelps received, Usain Bolt is the outstanding performer at the Beijing Olympics:

* Three events
* Three gold medals
* Three world records

I know that Phelps won eight gold medals and set several world records, but Bolt also did what had never been done and was more dominating in doing it. Plus, no one had got within .30 of a second of that 200 meter record since it was set in 1996.

Bolt is the champion.


Part of the sadness of the US failures in the men's sprints at the Olympics is that the two athletes in the midst of it all are former Razorbacks and men that I know. Both Tyson Gay and Wallace Spearmon are humble and personable individuals who represent Arkansas and the US well. It hurts to see the frustrations they have faced in the 100 meters, 200 meters, and 4x100 relay. Here is an article from NY Times on Wallace's disqualification.


One of the realities, and frustrations, of the current state of US athletics is the competitiveness (and often pettiness) of shoe and apparel companies. At the Olympic Trials, we couldn't wear our usual uniform. We had to wear new shirts with the Nike logo because they were sponsors (and we were in their home territory). Some of you will remember the fiasco of past Olympics where certain athletes would cover the logo's on their USA uniforms because they were paid by a competitor. The latest incident: Carl Lewis refused to make a comment on Usain Bolt's performance because Lewis is on contract with Nike and Bolt is sponsored by Puma.

************ has some free music downloads if you are interested. There are over 3,000 free songs, though most you won't have any interest in. But there are selections by Benny Goodman, Mahalia Jackson, and Billie Holliday!

Wednesday, August 20

Though we are moved by and celebrate those who accomplish so much at the Olympic Games - Michael Phelps, Nastia Liukin, Shawn Johnson, and the rest - I am also moved by those who work so hard but come up short:

* Alicia Sacramone of the US Women's Gymnastics team, who fell on her last two events of the team finals and then finished fourth in the vault final.

* Four years ago, in Athens, Matt Emmons was leading the pistol shooting competition when, on this last shot, he aimed and hit the wrong target. This year he was again leading going into his last shot. But instead of shooting at the wrong target, somehow his gun went off before the was finished aiming and he again lost.

* Sanya Richards in the track and field 400 meters, who has been the best runner in the world for the past four years and yet finished third.

* Lolo Jones, whom I have watched run many times when she was at LSU and has been the best 100 meter hurdler in the world this year. You may have heard her story on the broadcasts - growing up homeless and living in the basement of a church and then in foster homes. She had dominated the preliminary rounds at the Olympics and was leading the final until she hit the ninth of the ten hurdles and fell back to seventh place. How could you not feel for her when you saw the look of agony on her face as she knelt on the track.

* And, finally, our friend Wallace Spearmon. Born and raised in Fayetteville and the son of a former Razorback All-American. To finish third in the men's 200 meters and then have the medal taken from you must be worse than not winning one at all.

NBC could do a great segment on the heartbreak of the Olympics.


As big a star as Michael Phelps has been, in my mind (and maybe it's because I'm a track and field fan) Usain Bolt has been just as incredible. His easy wins in both the 100 and 200 meter dashes - both in world record times - were incredible. In the 200 meters, he broke a record that many thought wouldn't be broken for another 20 years (no one had gotten within .30 seconds of it) and beat the rest of the field by over a half a second. Most track athletes don't reach their prime until their late 20's. Bolt is just 21.


Even for all of the work that China has done, and for all the effort they have made to improve their image, the nature of China's totalitarian government still shows through. Of course, there was their move in the Opening Ceremonies to have a "cute" girl lip sync the song rather than have the "uglier" (and more talented) girl sing.

Here is an article from the New York Times on their move to "re-educate" two elderly women whose homes were taken to build the Olympic development.

For all of the difficulties our country faces, we are so blessed to have the freedoms that we enjoy and often take for granted.

Saturday, August 16

The track and field portion of the Olympics haven't started off too well for most of the Razorback participants:

  • Nicole Teeter dropped out of the 800 meters after just a few steps (illness/injury)
  • Deena Kastor dropped out of the marathon after just a few minutes (injury)
  • Tyson Gay didn't advance to the finals in the 100 meters
  • Allistair Cragg didn't advance out of the first round of the 1,500 meters (but he was using it as a warm-up for his main event - the 5,000 meters)
  • Amy Yoder Begley finished 26th in the 10,000 meters (though she wasn't expected to be a leader in the event)
  • The good news is that April Steiner-Bennett advanced to the finals in the pole vault


Did you see Usain Bolt of Jamaica run the men's 100 meters? His quarter-final win was pretty impressive: a 9.92 while he was jogging down the track, looking around. Then, in the finals (though it hasn't been shown on TV yet), he broke his own world record of 9.72 by running a 9.69. As a 6'5", 21 year old his potential in huge and his best distances are going to be the 200 and 400 meters.

OK, I just watched the 100 meter final. Now that was incredible! If he hadn't started celebrating with 15 or 20 meters to go, who knows how fast he would have run. Wow.


As one who works with college students, I found this editorial in the Wall Street Journal interesting. Any thoughts on it?

Thursday, August 14

A quick post with some Olympic ramblings ...

The Olympics have taken over the TV at the Armstrong house, which is fine. You can find us watching every night. Of course, the "real" Olympics start tomorrow with the beginning of the track and field competition. Though I've enjoyed watching those sports that I only watch every four years - swimming, volleyball, men's gymnastics, etc. - I'm ready for the "main event" to get started. Of course, my excitement about it has grown as I've had the chance to meet and work with more and more of the athletes who compete on that stage from a variety of countries. It will be fun to watch them.

One question that someone may have an answer to: what is the difference between swimming and track and field that allow an athlete like Michael Phelps to be able to set two world records within a couple of hours? One of the Razorback track coaches brought this question up but we didn't have a definitive answer. No track athlete could do the things he is doing. I don't think it is because they are less talented or aren't in as good of condition. There must be something in the nature of the sports. A track athlete couldn't run through 17 rounds of competition over 10 days and still be competitive. Tyson Gay pulled a hamstring on his sixth round at the Olympic Trials. Angelo Taylor qualified for the Olympics in the 400 meter hurdles, but 30 minutes later couldn't finish the 400 meter dash. I don't know if it is the way lactic acid is built up or dispersed, if it is the water, if it is the lack of "pounding", etc. Anyone have some wisdom on this?

One last Olympic issue before I quit. There has been some discussion on athletes from one country competing for another. There are US citizens competing for other countries in a number of sports, including track and field. These athletes didn't make the US team but found ways to compete for other nations - family heritage, playing professionally in other countries, etc. Are these athletes traitors to the US? Should they have said "no" to the chance to compete in the Olympics? One of these is a "friend" of mine. Jangy Addy was an All-American decathlete at Tennessee and is a great young man. He finished sixth at the US Trials, but because his parents were from Liberia he is able to compete for them. In fact, he carried the Liberian flag in the Opening Ceremonies.

On the other side of that coin are those athletes who weren't born in the US but not compete for the US as naturalized citizens. None of the three men running the 1500 meters for the US were born here (and there are some US born middle-distance guys who aren't too happy about that). Leo Manzano moved here with his family from Mexico when he was four. There wasn't much he could do about that. And Lopez Lomong was one of the "lost boys of Sudan" - orphaned and kidnapped, who finally found himself in a US foster home, then a US citizen, and now on the US Olympic team. That is a pretty sweet story. And then there is Bernard Lagat. Lagat won medals in the two previous Olympics for Kenya. Now he is a US citizen and running for the US. Let's just say there are a lot of cynical folks who wonder about his motivation for leaving home and coming here.

Here is an interesting editorial on the subject - just to get you thinking about it. Let me say, though, that I don't agree with the author in many of his points.

Saturday, August 9

August is here and the new school year is around the corner. As with most in campus ministry, we are busy preparing for the arrival of a few thousand new students and the return of those who are coming back. Final programming plans, publicity, social activities, etc. are all coming together. Preliminary plans for mission trips in the fall, spring, and summer are being made. And our staff is making regular trips to Northwest Arkansas Regional Airport to pick up newly arriving international students. It is a busy and exciting time and it will stay busy and hectic until at least the end of September. Then we will start thinking about slowing down a little.

Here is some interesting information regarding college students for you ...

The intro to an article from the New York Times:

"Many people associate property crime and other delinquent behaviors with low social status and a lack of education. But new research has identified a surprising risk factor for bad behavior — college. Men who attend college are more likely to commit property crimes during their college years than their non-college-attending peers, according to research to be presented at the annual meeting of the American Sociological Association in Boston this weekend."

Some other items from the Ivy Jungle Report:

Inconsistent Religion: Although the US is one of the most religious nations in the world, a survey by the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life shows many believe things which contradict their stated faith. 70% of those who claim religious affiliation believe multiple religions can lead to salvation and 68% believe in multiple interpretations of their own religion. 57% of self-identified evangelicals believe multiple religions can lead to salvation. 21% of self-identified atheists believe that some kind of God exists. 80% of respondents believe in moral standards of right and wrong, but only 29% claim their religious teachings help them determine those standards. A copy of the report can be read at ( June 23, 2008)

Emerging Adulthood: Sociologists have remarked that being 35 today is much like being 35 in previous generations: career, family, marriage are part of most lives. However, being 25 today has changed significantly. In 1970 only 21% of 25 year olds had never been married. In 2005, that was true of 60% of 25 year olds. When asked what marked entering "adulthood," 96% of young adults identified having a full-time job. Less than half said being married. Jeffery Arnett, author of Emerging Adulthood: The Winding Road from Late Teens through Twenties has remarked on the very amorphous definition of entering adulthood. For most it meant "accepting responsibility for the consequences of one's actions." Often, parents are discouraging their young adult children from getting married to soon. Rather they encourage establishing a career and finishing graduate school before taking such a "destabilizing" step. Young adulthoods often enter a path of serial monogamy, living with partner after partner before marriage. 65% of young adults cohabitated at least once prior to marriage. However, research shows that those living with a boyfriend or girlfriend live lives much more similar to singles than to married couples. (UnMarried, Still Children in Touchstone June 2008 p. 15-18)


I hope you got to see the Opening Ceremony for the Olympic Games. It was spectacular! Even better, I didn't get to watch it live, so I DVR'd it and watched the whole thing in a little more than an hour.

I am a big fan of the Olympics and I'll be posting thoughts and interesting things I find online about them. To get you started, here is one from the Washington Post about Olympic athletes and religious expression.

Tuesday, August 5

Odds and ends for your enlightenment ...

With the 2008 Olympic Games beginning on Friday, here are a couple of interesting web sites to get you prepared.

The first is Sports Illustrated's pictorial list of 24 track and field athletes to watch for at the games. Two of them are former Razorbacks.

The second is a series of short video interviews from the New York Times featuring eight gold medal winners from previous years from various sports. It is good.

And take time to watch Chariots of Fire over the next few days.


You have probably heard about "six degrees of separation" - or the theory that everyone in the world is separated by just six relationships from everyone else, or at least from Kevin Bacon. Now there is research that indicated that this might very well be true!


I have only heard from one who is interested in the "one hundred push up challenge" - and he had already started it. If you want to do it, let me know!

Tuesday, July 29

Gina and I have just returned home from a week in Omaha. It was a good trip with dual purposes: time with Erin and officiating the National Junior Olympic meet. During the day I would be at the track and Gina and Erin would hang out, shop, go to a movie, etc. On the two days Erin had to work, Gina worked on school stuff and other projects. Then, in the evenings, we would have time to spend together. We got to spend some time with Rick and spent an evening with his parents and aunt. The meet also had some special events planned that we were able to take part in - a dinner and evening at a local museum and a dinner and evening at the zoo. It was a good week all the way around.

Officiating the Junior Olympics (this is my second one) is a far different thing than the Olympic Trials. The Trials have a lot of down time with smaller fields, fewer competitions, more days, and more officials - 10 officials for 10 competitions over 8 days. The JO's had larger fields with 20 competitions over 6 days with 6 officials. Working with the 9-10 year olds is always fun - they are so attentive and so eager to compete. And there are some great efforts and great athletes. Many of this year's Olympians once competed in this meet. We had a 12-year-old girl set a national record in the high jump by going 5' 6 1/2". The previous record was held by Jacqueline Johnson, who will be competing in the heptathlon at the Olympics.

Check out this article and test your "Pole Vault IQ".

I found this website off another blog, so I'm gong to do the One Hundred Push-up Challenge. Want to join me?

Saturday, July 19

Final Trials Installment - And Another World Record

Saturday, July 5

There were two major (in my mind) happenings on this last Saturday of the Trials. The first was our last high jump event - the men's final. It had the promise to be a wide open event with several of the athletes having jumped over 7'6" this year. But when it came down to the competition, only one cleared 7'6 1/2" on this day - Jesse Williams. Jesse was a four-time NCAA champion at USC. Andra Manson and Jamie Nieto tied for second with jumps of 7'5 1/4". But, of course, it wasn't quite as simple as that.

As I've mentioned earlier, an athlete has to have the Olympic "A" standard (since Jan. 1, 2007) to make the team - not just finish in the top three. There were six athletes in the competition that had the "A" mark - 2.30 meters, or 7'6 1/2". And though Nieto had won the 2004 Olympic Trials and finished fourth at the Olympic Games in Athens, he wasn't one of them. When the competition ended, the six who had the mark had finished first, tied for second, tied for sixth, ninth, and eleventh. So we began to do a jump-off to determine the last spot on the Olympic Team. The jump-offs were purely administrative and didn't effect the placing. First, we had Manson and Nieto jump-off their tie for second in hopes that Nieto would get his "A" standard (which was where their jump-off started). Unfortunately, he didn't make the height and, in retrospect, it probably wouldn't have counted if he had since it was not part of the competition per se and just administrative. The next two athletes with the "A" standard were tied for sixth (Dusty Jonas and Scott Sellers), so they had a jump-off for the final Olympic spot. Dusty won the position. He has had a great season, with the world's leading jump at 7'8 3/4".

The other major happening of the day was Tyson Gay's crash in the 200 meter quarterfinals. You have probably seen it on TV. He had a leg cramp and went down hard. You could hear the entire stadium groan. Fortunately, he should be healthy in time for the Olympic Games and he has his spot secured in the 100 meters. But he won't be able to run the 200 (where he is the defending world champion and has the second fastest time in history) since he didn't finish in the top three at the Trials.

Sunday, July 6

Those of us on the high jump crew got to spend the last day of the 2008 Olympic Trials in the stands. It was a great final day of competition - and a good day for those with Razorback ties as three more made the Olympic Team.

The first was Christin Wurth Thomas in the 1500 meters. When I watched Christin run during her first two or three years at Arkansas, I had no idea that she would ever reached this point. But she has worked extremely hard and has improved so much as an athlete.

The second was Wallace Spearmon in the 200 meters. Man, I wish he would learn to run the first half of that race! He had to come from way behind to finish third and make the team.

The third was April Steiner Bennett in the pole vault. Before this, she was often more well-known for winning Fear Factor. But now she is an Olympian. Check out her website. There is a great clip from a Little Rock TV station on her and her job as a middle school PE teacher. You can also contribute to the fund to help her parents and husband make the trip to China.

In my last post, I mentioned that my home town of Ft. Scott, KS had recently set a couple of world records in the area of putting down rows of pennies - one for the fastest time to lay down one mile of pennies and another for the longest row of pennies (over 40 miles). I've had a couple of responses to that. Trevor, being Trevor, was motivated to get out is calculator and figure out how many pennies were needed for those efforts. John, however, was amused that I would brag about such things or a town that did them. But then, John lives in Cane Hill, AR - a town that makes Ft. Scott look like a metropolis!

It has also come to my attention that another record was set in Ft. Scott that weekend. A young man names Sean Durnal, age 17, ate five McDonald's quarter-pounders with cheese in less than three minutes.

What a town.

Friday, July 11

Olympic Trials (Part 4) and two world records in my home town!

Thursday, July 3

Something that you didn't notice if you watched the Track & Field Olympic Trials on TV was the amount of security that accompanies this meet. I also officiated the 2004 Trials, but the level of security in Eugene seemed even more intense that it was in Sacramento. Every night, the stadium and grounds were "swept" by bomb-sniffing dogs. Everyone who entered the stadium - fans, officials, and athletes - had to go through an airport-like security line with bag searches and metal-detectors. (Fortunately, we got to keep our shoes on!) Not only that, but in various places around the perimeter of the stadium were sniper nests! Security was intense.

One of the events on Thursday was the qualifying round of the women's pole vault. I mention it because it had three current or former Razorback athletes in it. In fact, there were at least four events during the Trials that had three athletes with Razorback ties - the women's pole vault, the men's 100 and 200 meter dashes, and the men's 1,500 meter run. There were at least 21 current or former Razorbacks (men and women) competing in the Trials. I don't know if anyone counted, but I doubt if there were many schools with that many representatives. When it was all said and done, there will be seven Razorbacks on the US Olympic Track and Field team (Tyson Gay, Wallace Spearmon, April Steiner, Nicole Teter, Christin Wurth Thomas, Amy Begley, and Deena Kastor) and at least two others representing other nations (Veronica Campbell Brown of Jamaica and Alistair Cragg of Ireland).

One of the upsets of the Trials occurred on this day as LaShawn Merritt defeated defending Olympic and two-time world champion Jeremy Wariner in the men's 400 meters.

Friday, July 4

One of the characters of US Track & Field - and one of the stars of the sport - is Breaux Greer - also known as "Hurricane" on American Gladiators. Breaux is by far our best javelin thrower and the only one we have who is really competitive on the international scene. But Breaux has had numerous surgeries on his knees and shoulder - the latest being rotator cuff surgery about six months ago. Because of that, Greer was unable to even make it out of the qualifying round this year.

Friday also was our first high jump final. The women's final went pretty much according to form with Chaunte Howard winning, Amy Acuff in second, and Sharon Day in third. Chaunte took last year off to have a baby and came back to win and make her second Olympic team. This will be Amy's fourth Olympics.

My home town of Ft. Scott, KS set two world records this week. One was for laying out a mile of pennies in the fastest time ever. The second was for laying out the longest row of pennies - over 40 miles worth! You can read the details here.

Tuesday, July 8

A break from the Trials and flying in a lawn chair ...

The US Olympic Track & Field Trials have eight days of competition with a two day break in the middle.

Tuesday, July 1
On Tuesday, the officials working the Trials loaded up in buses and went to the Pfeiffer Winery outside of Eugene. We were there as guests of the Men's and Women's Track Committees. The evening featured wine tasting and a very nice banquet, all underwritten by Nike. We also had a chance to meet the coaching staff of the Olympic teams.

In many ways, these have become the "Nike Trials." Nike, of course, is based close to Eugene and is a major financial supporter of USA Track and Field. But their presence was more obvious than normal and wasn't always appreciated by some. The conspiracy theorists felt that they had too much influence on some of the decisions on who got into the meet (see Adam Goucher). For us who were officials, we received Nike shoes to wear, as well as other clothing items. In fact, we weren't allowed to wear our usual uniform shirts because they didn't have a Nike logo. We were issued new shirts to wear, with the "Swoosh." That wasn't too well received.

Wednesday, July 2

On Wednesday, Bobby James (another official from Arkansas) and I spent the day driving up the Oregon coast. It's a beautiful drive - much like the coast of Central California - with lots of cliffs, sea lions, and some lighthouses. We also were able to see a whale when we stopped by the little town of Depoe Bay.

There are some who feel that the US way of picking their track and field Olympic Team - based on performances in this one meet - is not the best way. That maybe the team should be selected by a committee or by a series of meet set up over several months. Their thought is that one bad meet or one minor injury can keep your best athletes off of the team or that it causes athletes to peak for this meet rather than the Olympic games.

But I like the "do-or-die" nature of the Trials. Athletes have to peak at the right time and learn how to perform under pressure when it counts the most. There is no politics and no committee to complain about. You either perform or you don't. If you don't make the team, there is no one else to look to but yourself and your performance.

Here is a great article from the NY Times that deals with that.

A few months ago, I posted an article about a man from Oregon who attempted to fly to Idaho in a lawn chair that was carried along by about 150 helium balloons. He didn't make it.

BUT he recently attempted the feat again and this time succeeded. You can read about it here.

Monday, July 7

Olympic Trials, Part 3

Day Three - Sunday, June 29

There were a couple of highlights on this first Sunday of the Trials. The first was the men's pole vault. Though I am the chief high jump official at this met, I officiate about as much pole vault as I do high jump. So I always watch those events (as well as the combined events, which I do quite a bit as well) with special interest. The best vaulter in the world over the past couple of years has been Brad Walker. In fact, he set an American record of 19' 9 3/4" here in Eugene just a month or so ago. But he just finished third at the Trials. The real story was Jeff Hartwig, who finished second. Jeff (pictured) lives and trains in Jonesboro, AR and held the American record until Walker broke it. I have worked with Jeff (and Derek Miles, who won the event) several times over the past few years. One interesting thing about Jeff is that he collects and raises snakes. He has over 200 of them. And an amazing thing is that he is 40 years old and still vaulting over 19' and making the Olympic team.

The other highlight was the men's 100 meter dash final. When we left Tyson Gay, he had finished an eventful Saturday with almost failing to advance out of the preliminaries and then setting an American record of 9.77 seconds in the quarterfinals. The world record was set just a few weeks ago at 9.72 seconds by Ussain Bolt of Jamaica. Tyson responded on Sunday. When the gun went off, he left the field behind. Over 20,000 fans rose to their feet and gave an audible gasp when the time flashed on the scoreboard - 9.68 seconds! Unfortunately, there was too much wind so it didn't count as a world record. But it was the fastest time ever run in any conditions!

Our high jump crew ran the decathlon high jump on Sunday. I really enjoy combined event athletes (decathlon and heptathlon). They tend to be very laid back and very supportive of one another. It is more of a competition against themselves and the event rather than against one another.

Day Four - Monday, June 30

We began the "open" high jump events on June 30. About 24-26 athletes are allowed into each of the field events and they go through two rounds of competition. On this day, we had the women's qualifying. The 26 jumpers were divided into two groups who jumped simultaneously at the same heights. The competition continues until the field gets down to about 12 athletes and then we quit. Those 12 (plus ties) then come back a couple of days later for the final and we start the competition again. The event went smoothly and everyone who should have advanced did.

The decathlon also finished on Monday, with Bryan Clay (pictured) winning another national championship and finishing with the second highest total in US history. Clay isn't your typical decathlete. He is about 5'10" where most of the better ones in the world are 6'3" or 6'4". But he is a great thrower and works hard at all of the events. Trey Hardee finished second and Tom Pappas finishing third.

Lastly, the men's 800 meters was an exciting raise, especially in this atmosphere. It had a decidedly Oregon flair to it as it was won by Nick Symmonds (who went to an NCAA Div. III school out here) in his usual "come-from-behind" style. But right behind him was Andrew Wheating, a sophomore at Oregon who has come out of nowhere over the past couple of months to make the Olympic team. Then here were two men diving for the finish line and the third spot. It went to Christian Smith who went to Kansas State but now lives and trains in Eugene. Needless to say, the crowd went nuts at the end of the race.