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.