Monday, October 15

A Prayer for Today


Over the past few weeks, I have added some of the “Daily Offices” to my daily schedule. If you are not familiar with them, these are scheduled times of prayer throughout the day. They come out of a more liturgical and monastic tradition. The plan that I am using has four scheduled times each day: Morning, Midday, Vespers (evening), and Compline (before bed). Other plans will add more times during the day and through the night.


Though I don’t always get to all the “offices” each day, I am realizing benefits from the discipline. One is that they make me slow down and re-focus and they help me to live in more awareness of God’s presence and in an attitude of prayerfulness. Another benefit is that it is liturgical in nature and far different than the more “free flowing” prayer that I have practiced throughout my life. It stretches my ideas about prayer and meditation. Each office has specific prayers to be said (or sang or chanted) and specific Scriptures to be read. Most of these come straight from Scripture, but many of the prayers come out of the Anglican tradition and the Book of Common Prayer. Many of these prayers have been very meaningful and helpful.


I wanted to share this prayer that I came across a few days ago. It spoke very directly to the things that our ministry is trying to build into the lives of our staff and students.


Almighty God, our Heavenly Father, the privilege is ours to share in the loving, healing, reconciling mission of your Son Jesus Christ, our Lord, in this age and wherever we are.


Since without you we can do no good thing,

May your Spirit make us wise,

May your Spirit guide us,

May your Spirit renew us,

May your Spirit strengthen us;


So that we will be:

Strong in faith,

Discerning in proclamation,

Courageous in witness,

Persistent in good deeds.


This we ask through the name of the Father.

Wednesday, August 22

Thank You, Calvin Miller


I was saddened to re11457992-largead of the death of Calvin Miller, who passed away Sunday at the age of 75. I’m sure there are many who read this who aren’t familiar with Miller. Dr. Miller grew up in Enid, OK and served as a pastor in Nebraska for thirty years and a seminary professor for twenty years after that. But he was probably best known as the author of over forty books.


Calvin Miller was an amazingly talented man. He wrote everything from children’s books to poetry to fiction to books that are used as textbooks in seminaries. He was also an artist. And he was a very gifted preacher and teacher – funny and engaging and insightful and moving. Many of his books and sermons were formative in my development as a Christian and a minister.


But they were all from afar until I had the chance to spend some time with him a few years ago. I invited Calvin to speak at our annual campus ministers’ retreat in Indiana. When he arrived, I was not sure what to expect from him. We had some very good speakers and writers at the retreat who weren’t “people” people and didn’t personally engage with those at the retreat. But from the time I picked Miller up at the airport, I knew that he wasn’t like that. We spent time driving the hour back and forth from the airport. We went to dinner. I discovered that Calvin Miller was personable and engaging and interested in every person he met. For the next two or three years after the retreat in Indiana, I received Christmas cards from him that featured a print of one of his paintings.


While in seminary, Deron Spoo served as Dr. Miller’s research assistant. In his tribute to Miller, Spoo writes:


“How can one person possess the gifts necessary to communicate to children, convict adults, and creatively communicate mysticism? Calvin embodied the gifts of Seuss, Milton and Brother Lawrence. But Calvin was much more than the sum of these parts. Calvin was a Christ-follower first and foremost.”


Finally, some of Calvin Miller’s own words from his memoir, Life Is Mostly Edges:


The edge is a good address. It is a good place to remember our temporariness. It teaches us to spend our time wisely. So our last days can become our best days.


Life is good. So is God.


And life with God is full of glorious daybreaks. After all, it was God who gave me the courage to walk the edges of a life that was never mine!


You can read more about Calvin Miller here.

Tuesday, August 21

Beloit College Mindset List for the College Class of 2016


Each August since 1998, Beloit College in Wisconsin has released the Beloit College Mindset List, providing a look at the cultural touchstones that shape the lives of students entering college this fall. It is always interesting to see where the next generation of students are coming from – especially in contrast to where many of us in college ministry have come from.


Their Mindset List for the class of 2016 has just been released. Below are some of the highlights. You can check out at the complete list here.


What do you find most surprising or interesting on this list?




Most students entering college for the first time this fall were born in 1994. For these students, Kurt Cobain, Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, Richard Nixon and John Wayne Gacy have always been dead.



3. The Biblical sources of terms such as ‘‘forbidden fruit,’’ ‘'the writing on the wall,’’ ‘'good Samaritan,’’ and ‘‘the promised land’’ are unknown to most of them.


4. Michael Jackson’s family, not the Kennedys, constitutes ‘‘American royalty.’’


7. Robert De Niro is thought of as Greg Focker’s long-suffering father-in-law, not as Vito Corleone or Jimmy Conway.


8. Bill Clinton is a senior statesman of whose presidency they have little knowledge.


12. For most of their lives, maintaining relations between the U.S. and the rest of the world has been a woman’s job in the State Department.


14. There has always been football in Jacksonville but never in Los Angeles.


17. Benjamin Braddock, having given up both a career in plastics and a relationship with Mrs. Robinson, could be their grandfather.


18. Their folks have never gazed with pride on a new set of bound encyclopedias on the bookshelf.


21. A significant percentage of them will enter college already displaying some hearing loss.


30. There have always been blue M&Ms, but no tan ones.


40. A bit of the late Gene Roddenberry, creator of Star Trek, has always existed in space.


47. Before they buy an assigned textbook, they will check to see whether it’s available for rent or purchase as an e-book.


63. The Twilight Zone involves vampires, not Rod Serling.


70. Point-and-shoot cameras are soooooo last millennium.


73. Lou Gehrig’s record for most consecutive baseball games played has never stood in their lifetimes.

Wednesday, August 1

Olympic Track & Field–The Real Games, Part II


The Olympic track and field competition begins on Friday and I’m eager for it to get underway! NBC has promised unparalleled coverage of the Olympics. If your cable or satellite provider carries the NBC family of networks, you should be able to watch a live stream of any event or pull up an archived copy via your computer, tablet, or smartphone. I’ve “tested” it out on badminton and weightlifting on both my computer and iPad and it seemed to work. I hope that I can find the time to watch some of the track and field.


As promised, here are some more Olympic track and field stories to get you ready for the upcoming competition. If I discover more over the next few days, I will probably just post them on Facebook. So, if you aren’t friends with me on there, please hit me up!


From The Running Times, here is pre-Games quiz called “Olympics Believe It or Not.”


Of the 2,236 athletes entered in the Olympic track and field competition, 350 of the are former, current, or committed athletes at US colleges and universities. The SEC (including Missouri and Texas A&M) leads the list of conferences with 77 athletes. Southern California, Auburn, and Florida State lead the list of schools with twelve athletes each. Arkansas is next with eleven and has a list-leading five athletes who were members of their 2012 teams: Marek Niit, Raymond Higgs, Regina George, Ivanique Kemp, and Tina Sutej. None of these are competing for the US.


Though it is counter-intuitive, there has been years of debate on whether or not double-amputee Oscar Pistorius has an advantage over other runners because of his prosthetic legs. He is running in the 400 meters and on the 4x400 meter relay for South Africa in London. Here is Scientific American’s report on the issue. His is a pretty remarkable story, no matter what you think about the technology he uses to run.


The Wall Street Journal has an article called, “The Worst Way to Lose a Race.” It focuses on the 1,500 meters and brings back memories of some important Olympic races.


United States sprinters have been notorious at the last few major championship meets for not completing the 4x100 meter relays. Bad handoffs and dropped batons have seemed to be more common than medals. And it struck again at a recent warm-up meet for the US women’s team. Here is an article from the New York Times that looks at this in more detail.


Finally, here is another NYT’s article. This is on American marathoner Ryan Hall. It looks at the place that his faith plays in his running. It’s entitled “A Runner’s Belief: God is His Coach.”

Monday, July 30

Olympic Track & Field–The Real Games, Part I


We are through the first weekend of the Olympic Games. I thought the Opening Ceremonies were spectacular and I’ve had a chance to watch some swimming, gymnastics, cycling, team handball, badminton, rowing and beach volleyball. But, to me, the Olympics don’t really start until the track and field (or athletics for the non-Americans) begin. And that doesn’t happen until Friday. But to get you prepared, I have some interesting links to share with you about some of the people and storylines that are coming up. Here are a few of them. I will share some more on Wednesday. It will probably take you that long to get through this material!


First off, here is another list of good, bad, and bizarre events that used to be in the Olympic Games. Some of them sound kind of interesting!


In the “What Are They Doing Now?” category, here is a follow-up on four great Olympians from the past: Edwin Moses, Greg Louganis, Joan Benoit Samuelson, and Mark Spitz.


There is always so much that goes on behind the scenes that we are often not aware of. Here are some of those stories. For instance, here is an article from the Wall Street Journal about a friend of mine, David Katz, and all that goes in to making sure the Olympic marathon course is accurate. David is in London, serving as an IAAF Technical Official.


Then there seems to be a fear that the World’s Official Kilogram is losing weight. I’m not sure what that means, but it sounds serious and could affect everything from the weight of throwing implements to the weight of boxers and wrestlers. Or maybe not …


Here is a feature piece on a friend of ours from England, and the Chief Starter for the London Olympics, Alan Bell.


Here is a list of the longest held records in track and field.


Here is the Olympic track and field schedule.


Here is the entry list for every track and field event.


Here is Track & Field News’ preview of every track and field event.

Thursday, July 26

Olympic Games Countdown, Part II


The Opening Ceremony for the 2012 Olympic Games are tomorrow. Here are a few more items of interest to get you in the mood. Since the Olympic track and field competition will begin on August 3, next week I will have some track and field items.


Shoe Wars – Behind all the fun and excitement of the Olympics is business. But what is in the best interest of shoe and apparel companies is not always in the best interest of athletes. And these companies work hard to protect their turf. Here are a couple of interesting articles on the “shoe war” at the Olympic Trials and a “barefoot revolt” proposed by some athletes.


Incentives – Athletes who earn an Olympic medal are often given special incentives from their nations or sponsors. Here are some of the more interesting ones!


Olympic Sports – There are dozens of sports competed at the Olympic Games and every year new sports are added and other sports are dropped. Here are some of the more strange Olympic events that are no longer competed.


Five Epic US Wins – To get you ready for the games, here are five of America’s greatest Olympic victories.


And, finally, another touching video from Proctor & Gamble.


Monday, July 23

Olympic Games Countdown–Some Things to Whet Your Appetite


We’re just four days from the Opening Ceremony for the 2012 London Olympic Games. Like many, I always get excited about the Olympics. Yes, I realize that the whole process is rife with commercialization, profiteering, and hypocrisy. But there is something about the history of the Games, the huge international participation (there are 205 nations expected to participate), the pageantry, cheering for people representing your country, and seeing the emotions of the winners (and losers) that make the whole thing fascinating. 


Of course, the main attraction to me has always been the track and field competitions. That has become even more fun now that I have had the chance to get to know many of the athletes competing – for both the USA and other nations. When my daughters were young and competing in gymnastics, we were great fans of the Magnificent Seven. But I also watch a lot of sports that I never watch at any other time.


What sports do you most look forward to seeing during the Olympics?


I’ve been saving some Olympic-related links to share this week to help whet your appetite for the Games. I’m going to share a few today and a few more later in the week. Since the track and field competition doesn’t start until August 3, I will share some track and field links next week. I think they are all interesting. I hope you do, as well.


Olympic Events – From the Boston Globe, a list of all the events competed at the Olympics and a little bit about each one.


Remembering the First US Olympic Team – I bet you never thought about them.


Olympians Face Financial Hardships – We often don’t realize how much many athletes sacrifice to pursue their Olympic dream. Relatively few of them get wealthy representing our nation.


30 Greatest NCB Olympic Moments – Though this just represents Olympic achievements broadcast by NBC, it is interesting and you get to vote one which of the 30 are your top three. What did you choose? Mine were Rulon Gardner (later of Biggest Loser fame), Kerri Strug, and Derek Redmond.


The 20 Greatest American Olympians – There is a lot of room for debate on this list, but at least they included Al Oerter.


Olympians in Training – If you’ve never seen The Big Picture from the Boston Globe, you have missed some great photography. Here is a photo-essay on Olympic athletes from around the world. It may take a little while for it to load, but the pictures are worth the wait.


I always hate it when I fall for a marketers plan, but this ad from Proctor & Gamble is sure good. It makes me want to run out and buy some Tide right now!

Thursday, July 19

“New” Images From the Camera of Gordon Parks


To many who are my age and younger, the name of Gordon Parks is unfamiliar. And that is to their loss. Gordon Parks (who died in 2006 at the age of 93) was an African-American pioneer in many ways: the first to be a photographer for Life Magazine, the first to produce a major Hollywood film, a writer, a musician, and a participant in the Civil Rights struggles that our nation went through fifty years ago.

He was also born and raised (until his mother died when he was fifteen) in my hometown of Fort Scott, KS.

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Probably his most famous photograph, shot in 1942, is entitled “American Gothic: Washington, D.C.”

Parks came to mind this week when I saw an article in the New York Times that reported seventy never-before seen pictures of his had been discovered. They were from an assignment he had from Life Magazine in 1956 that depicted life in South for African-American families in the era of Jim Crew segregation. Though you might expect the photos to be provocative, they aren’t. But they are beautiful and moving in their simplicity, which makes them even more powerful. Here is another New York Times article on Parks from earlier this year.

If you are not familiar with Gordon Parks, take some time to get to know his life and his work. His work is incredible and his contributions to our nation are important. Your day will be richer for spending some time learning more about this man.

Below are a list of links that can give you more information.

Tuesday, July 17

Leadership Thoughts (and a Video) From Hoosiers, Part II

Last week I shared a leadership principle illustrated in the film, Hoosiers. That principle is the importance of commitment to the foundational truths and values of the organization you are leading and reinforcing them in a consistent and systematic way. As you do this, you build into your organization and your people the values and competencies that allow your purpose and vision to be fulfilled. But what you also do is broaden the base of those who believe in and are committed to that purpose, thus expanding the leaders and resources available to you.

I highlighted the coach of Hickory High School (played by Gene Hackman) and his commitment to the fundamental values he believed in even when they didn't produce immediate results or ingratiate him to the community. At a crisis point, when he was about to lose his job, the local basketball hero - Jimmy Chitwood - gave him his endorsement and joined the team. This final piece (as Jim Collins would say, "getting the right person on the bus") helped to turn the season. The right players are on the floor doing the fundamental things that achieved their purpose. The team began to win and they eventually found themselves in the state championship game - the smallest school to ever get there. The decisive moment of the game came with nineteen seconds left and the score tied. Hickory stole the ball and called a timeout to set up the game winning shot. The coach called a play that would use Jimmy as a decoy, but it is obvious from the body language of the players that they did not think his plan is the best one. When he asked what was wrong, Jimmy simply said, "I'll make the shot."

This is my favorite part of the movie. At this point, the coach did something he had not done throughout the film. He listened to his team and he scrapped his plan for theirs. And they won.

Here's the principle: as a leader, you have to be willing to listen to those on your "team". The players had proven themselves. They had bought into the system. They had built a foundation. They were solid on the fundamentals. They believed in the vision and purpose. And now the coach listened to them to get to the next level.

We need to do the same thing. When we have people around us who share our vision, believe in our purpose, and live out our foundational values we need to give them a voice in the direction of the organization. They often have fresh ideas and different perspectives that can sharpen our strategy and make the organization more effective. This does not mean we abdicate leadership. We just allow more people to share in that leadership and take ownership of the organization and its success. In our ministry to college students, those who begin to catch our vision and live out our foundational values have a great deal of input in the decisions we make as a group.

The principle applies to any area of leadership. A wise leader will listen to those who share the vision, believe in the purpose, and live out the foundational principles of the organization - whether it be a church, a business, a club, or a group of officials at a track meet.

I want to be involved in ventures that are too important to be left up to just my wisdom and experience. But I also want to make sure that those I listen to are ones who share the vision, believe in the purpose, and live out the foundational values of the organization.

Thursday, July 12

Leadership Thoughts (and a Video) From Hoosiers, Part I


There really aren’t many good movies about basketball. There are quite a few good imagesbaseball movies. And several good football movies. There are good track and field movies, auto racing movies, golf movies, and even rugby movies. But there is only one really good basketball movie – Hoosiers.


Not only is Hoosiers a great movie about basketball, it also contains some great principles for leaders of every type. In this post and the next one, I want to look at a couple of those principles.


The first is this: We need a firm and consistent commitment to the foundational principles that will allow us to accomplish our purpose or vision. Gene Hackman’s character in Hoosiers, the new coach at Hickory High School, stuck relentlessly to what he felt were the fundamental values of winning basketball. Conditioning. Passing. Defense. Even when their was dissent on his team, he stuck by his values. Even when immediate results weren’t evident and the team was losing, he stuck by his values. Even when there was dissatisfaction in the community and his job was in jeopardy, he stuck by his values. He was convinced that these foundational principles would produce the results desired if he continued to practice them. And, ultimately, they did. Successful coaches are really good about this. But often times other leaders are not, especially those in ministry.


This is a truth that I need to remember. There is a vision, a purpose, to which God has called us. And there are foundational values and practices that will allow us to accomplish that purpose. But these fundamentals rarely produce immediate results or overnight success. They are vital, but often not glamorous. They are things like the centrality of God’s Word, a focus on producing disciples and leaders, and investing in individuals. They are values like teaching students about intimacy with God, integrity of life, involvement in community, and influence in the world rather than just getting their bodies to a meeting. These things are like defense, passing, and conditioning to a basketball team rather than slam dunks and three-pointers. They are the foundations of continued success and accomplished purpose.


But it is easy to get distracted from them and to start looking for the next new thing. What will draw a crowd? What will make us look appealing? What will make our audience like us? What are the “successful” (meaning larger) groups doing? What tickles the ears? What appeals to the masses? What is easier? What is more immediately gratifying?


As leaders, we have to keep pointing back to the fundamentals, the foundational values that long term success is built upon. We have to be convinced that if we continue to practice these foundational things – specifically, methodically, and consistently – then we will fulfill the purpose to which we have been called.


What are the fundamental principles that are essential for success in your sphere of leadership? Are you practicing those things specifically, methodically, and consistently? Are you keeping your eyes on the vision and purpose to which you have been called and the foundational values that will get you there? Or have you allowed yourself and your organization to get distracted and off course?




As a “treat”, here is a very nice video called Hoosiers Revisited. After the next post, I’ll add a video that features players from the 1954 Milan, IN team that the movie was based on.

Sunday, July 8

Olympic Trials Recap

I wanted to make one final post regarding the 2012 Olympic Trials, which ended last Sunday. Once again, it was a great meet with so many outstanding performances that it is hard to choose the highlights. Last week, I hit some of them from the first four days of competition. Now that the dust has settled, here is what stands out to me from the 2012 Trials …

High Jump Crew – I again had the chance to serve as the chief high jump officia2012 Trials - HJ Crewl at this year’s Trials. I was blessed to have a great group of officials to work with in Eugene.  They demonstrated professionalism and a willingness to work together to give every athlete the opportunity to perform to the best of their abilities and pursue their dreams made each of our events run smoothly, even though we had to deal with rain at each one. They made my job an easy one.

Olympic Standards – I don’t remember near as much concern about the Olympic “A” standard as we had this year. At this year’s Trials, the “A” standard (or lack of it) was conspicuous. In each of the men’s and women’s high jumps, only four athletes entered the Trials with an Olympic “A” standard. And, in each case, one of those athletes didn’t make the finals. Which means that the three who had that standard were the only ones eligible to go to London unless someone new cleared the height on that day. Though we have plenty of qualifiers in the sprints and hurdles, that’s not the case in many events. There were multiple athletes who came through with clutch “A” performances at the Trials. If you look at the US team going to London, you will notice that we aren’t sending full squads in any of the race walks, either triple jump (only one qualifier for the women), the men’s hammer, or the decathlon. (You can see the squads, minus the relay pools, here. Because of standards, not all qualifiers finished in the top three. For example, in the men's javelin, neither the first or second place finisher at the Trials is going to London, but place 3-5. In the women's 10,000 meters, Trial finishers 1, 4, and 7 make up the Olympic team.) All this seems to point to a decreasing depth among track and field athletes in the US, even though track and field is the top participation sport for high school girls and number two for boys. We are losing more and more of our top athletes to other sports because the generate more recognition, more scholarships, and more lucrative careers.

Clutch Performances – One of the most exciting parts of the 2012 Trials were the clutch performances by so many of them to not only make the team, but achieve the needed standard. There are too many to mention, but time and time again – from the men’s 10,000 meters on the first day to the women’s long jump on the last day – athlete after athlete came up with the performance of their lives to punch their ticket to London.

Galen Rupp – F2012 Trials - Galen Rupprom his high school days, Rupp has been the great hope of American distance running. And he has lived up to that. I remember watching him at the 2009 NCAA Championships, stopping during the 5,000 meter final to put his shoe back on and then still decisively beating the rest of the field. At this year’s Trials, he won both the 5,000 and 10,000 meter races. In the 5,000, he beat Bernard Lagat (who finished second at last year’s World Championships) for the first time in thirteen races and broke Steve Prefontaine’s Olympic Trials record, which has stood since 1972.

Women’s High Jump – This year’s women’s high jump was special. First of all, there were great performances by both Chaunte Lowe and Brigetta Barrett. Both cleared 6’ 7”, which for Barrett was a two inch personal best. If they jump that way in London, both could vie for medals. Another reason was the excitement generated for the event. Much of that came from Chaunte, her “showmanship” and her efforts to involve the crowd. But all the athletes benefitted from it. 2012 Trials - Amy AcuffFinally, it was special because it featured the past, present, and future of the event. Chaunte and Brigetta are in their primes (or entering their primes). But there was also Amy Acuff, making her fifth Olympic team. She will be 37 by the time the London Games start. And then there was 15-year-old Gabby Williams. She was too young to participate in the USATF Junior Championships earlier this summer, so she came to the Trials. She finished fifth, jumping 6’ 2.25”. In doing so, she tied the 21-year-old national record for high school sophomores – a record owned by Amy Acuff.

Razorback Olympians – It is always exciting to see some of the Razorback athletes make the US Team. On this year’s US squad will be Tyson Gay, Wallace Spearmon, Jr., and Jeremy Scott. Of course, there will also be Razorbacks on other squads: Marek Niit (Estonia), Alistair Craig (Ireland), Raymond Higgs (Bahamas), Veronica Campbell-Brown (Jamaica), Regina George (Nigeria), and Tina Sutej (Slovenia). There are probably others that I’m missing.

Ashton Eaton – World Record in the Decathlon. Enough said.

The Dead Heat – We may never know the whole story and there are plenty of conspiracy theories.

2012 Trials - Nieto Rejoices
The Agony and the Ecstasy – The drama of the Trials are what make them so compelling. There is the ecstasy: Jamie Nieto winning the high jump after not getting to go four years ago because of no “A” standard, Dathan Ritzenheim placing third and hitting the standard in the men’s 10,000 after placing fourth a few weeks ago in the marathon Trials, Brittany Borman winning and PRing with an “A” standard in the javelin on her last throw, Lance Brooks doing the same thin2012 Trials - Bryan Clayg in the discus, Chelsea Hayes PRing by over a foot in the women’s long jump. The list could go on and on. But there is also the agony: Bryan Clay realizing his quest to be the first man to medal in the Decathlon in three Olympics had come to an end, Julia Lucas struggling down the stretch in the 5,000 meters only to lose the last spot by .04 seconds, and all the others who spent that last four years preparing for this chance only to see their dreams not come true.

Wednesday, June 27

Olympic Trials - First Half Recap

I have the honor of serving as an official at this summer's USA Track and Field Olympic Trials in Eugene, OR. This is the third Trial's that I have worked and it is always a privilege that I don't take lightly. It is an opportunity to help select our Olympic team. Also, there is no better meet in the US than the Olympic Trials and, if you are a track and field fan, you owe it to yourself to attend at least one. But I also don't take this lightly because there are a lot of very dedicated and qualified officials - many of them good friends of mine whom I respect as great officials - who don't get the chance to be here.

If you haven't been keeping up with the Trials, here are a few of the highlights from the first four days. The photos come from a variety of online sources, including the Oregonian and Track and Field News.

Places and Standards - I want to make a distinction that often confuses those don't work in track and field on a regular basis. The common understanding is that the athletes who finish in the top three places in an event will represent the US at the Olympics in London. But that is only true if they hold the necessary Olympic "A" qualifying mark in their event. In some cases, an athlete may finish in the top three but have to stay home. For instance, in the women's 10,000 meters, the athletes who finished first, fourth, and seventh here in Eugene will go to London. The second-place finisher does not have the "A" standard and the third-place finisher (who does have the "A" standard) will run the marathon instead of the 10,000 in London. The women who finished fourth and seventh are highest placers with the "A" standard.

Hammertime - The Trials actually began before the meet officially began with the hammer competitions. If you are not familiar with the hammer, it is a facsinating event. Think of a shot put at the end of a three foot wire cable and thrown over 2/3 the length of a football field. These were held the day before the meet actually started on the Nike campus in Beaverton, OR. The hope was that moving the event to its own separate time and place would generate more attention to the event (and open up more room in Eugene to park television trucks). Hammertime did draw a larger and more enthusiastic crowd than they probably would have in Eugene and the reports from officials and athletes all seem to be positive.

Rain - There really aren't many places better for a major track meet than Eugene, OR. The facilities are great and they draw large, enthusiastic, and knowledgeable crowds. But Oregon also gets rain, and that has been a major story line (especially in the pole vaults) through the first half of the Trials.

Ashton Easton - I love the Combined Events and appreciate the athletes that compete in them. There is a comradery among them that is rare in athletics at this high of a level. But they realize that their primary competition is them vs. the event. So they support and encourage one another in a way that is unique. And the main story of the Trials to this point as to be Ashton Eaton. On Saturday, the 24 year-old University of Oregon graduate broke the world decathlon record (held for the past eleven years by Romen Sebrle of the Czech Republic) by scoring 9,039 points in conditions that were often less than ideal. I also appreciated the acts of sportsmanship demonstrated by some of his competitors as Ashton approached the final event - the 1,500 run. Realizing that Ashton had the victory wrapped up but that he needed to run the 1,500 considerable faster than he had ever run it before to break the world record, the two best 1,500 runners among the decathletes - Joe Detmer and Curtis Beach - chose to run with Ashton, encouraging and "pushing" him. Then, as they neared the finish line, rather than racing ahead (which they could have easily done), they backed off and let Ashton cross the line first with the new world record. It was all a very moving display of sportsmanship by Joe and Curtis and a great display of athletic ability by Ashton. And he is still probably several years away from this athletic peak.

A Dead Heat - During women's 100 meter dash final on Saturday, the unthinkable happened. Two athletes - Allyson Felix and Jeneba Tarmoh - tied for third place (and the final spot of the Olympic Team). First of all, to have two athletes tie in a race to the 1/1000 of a second is very rare. But, in most cases, it wouldn't be a big deal. They would be listed as tied for third place and you would move on. But in this case, this also meant who would or wouldn't make the US Olympic Team. There is only room for one of them to go. And USA Track and Field had no procedure in place to break that tie, because this is more of an administrative issue (who makes the team) versus a competitive issue (who finished third, they both did). It took them a couple of days to figure out a tie-breaking solution and they won't actually break the tie until next weekend. The whole process left USATF open to some criticism along the way. By the way, you need to read this interview from Sports Illustrated with my friends Roger Jennings and Bob Podkaminer. It will explain the whole scenario in more detail and it is really interesting.

Come-backs, Young Guns, and the Women's Vault - Sunday found a lot of exciting competition in both track and field. On the track, Justin Gatlin and Tyson Gay finished one and two in the men's 100 meter dash. This was a comeback for both of them. Six years ago, Gatlin began a four-year suspension for using performance enhancing drugs. On Sunday, he won a US Championship, a spot in the London Olympics by running as fast (or faster) than he ever has. Tyson, who finished second, did it in just his fourth race back after having hip surgery and not running for almost a year. He should be in even better condition when the Olympics come around. In the men's long jump, "youngsters" Will Claye and Marquis Grissom battled back and forth with Claye grabbing the lead on his final jump only to see Grissom take it back on the very next jump. Both men are great pressure jumpers. Finally, Sunday also had the women's pole vault final. Three women with ties to the Razorbacks were entered. Katie Stripling Tannehill no-heighted while Janice Keppler tied for ninth and April Steiner Bennett (who make the 2008 Olympic team) tied for fifth.

Men's High Jump Final - Though we had officiated the decathlon high jump and the men's qualifying round earlier, our crew had its first final on Monday with the men. We again faced wet conditions, but our crew and the facility crew at Hayward Field did a great job of keeping water off of the apron so that the athlete's could jump without slipping. The wet conditions kept the athletes from jumping exceedingly high, but it was a very exciting competition won by 35 year-old Jamie Nieto. Jamie won the 2004 US Olympic Trials and went on to place fourth in the London Olympics. In 2008, Jamie finished tied for second at the Trials but did not have the necessary Olympic "A" standard (see above) and so he didn't get to go to Beijing. But this year, he has both the standard and the victory and will be going to London, along with Eric Kinyard (a great young jumper from Kansas State) and Jesse Williams, the defending world champion. Jesse actually finished fourth - but the third-place finished didn't have the "A" standard. And one final high jump note: all three members of our men's Olympic high jump squad are coached by Cliff Rovelto, head coach at Kansas State University.


Wednesday, May 16

Some Olympic Items to Whet Your Appetite


My tendency to over-commitment has shown itself over the past month and I apologize for not posting more regularly. Now that the school year is over, I hope to discipline myself to do some more regular writing.


I have been stockpiling articles and websites to share, so today I am going to point you towards several with an Olympic theme. We are less than three months away from the Games in London, so here are some things to whet your appetite …




The Guardian out of the UK is running a series called “50 Stunning Olympic Moments.” It is definitely worth your time to read what they are listed (they have listed 1-30 so far) and to keep up with the list.




"Below us on the cinder path were 11 wretched women, 5 of whom dropped out before the finish, while 5 collapsed after reaching the tape."


That was the story in the New York Evening Post after the women’s 800 meter race in the 1928 Olympics in Amsterdam. Because of that story, and other reports of the race, women were not allowed to run more than 200 meters until the 1960 Games. But were the reports from Amsterdam true? You can read the rest of the story here.




This article lists the writer’s favorite movies about the Olympics. As I started thinking about it, I found it hard to come up with many movies with an Olympic theme. My favorite Olympic movie is – by far – Chariots of Fire. My other top five (in no particular order) would be: Miracle, Cool Runnings, Prefontaine, and One Day in September.


What movies am I missing? What would be on your list?




The Bleacher Report has a couple of posts that are interesting. The first is “Five Athletes Who Will Disappoint” and the second is “Six Olympic Teasers for the Casual Track and Field Fan”.




The New York Times recently ran a nice feature on decathlete Ashton Eaton. He, along with 2008 Olympic Gold Medalist Bryan Clay and 2009 and 2011 World Champion Trey Hardee, give the US a chance at sweeping all three Olympic decathlon medals in 2012.

Friday, April 6

The UofA–A Spiritual Heritage Unlike Any Other


For golf fans, this week is Masters’ Week – the first of the four major golf events of 2012. And golf fans will recognize the tagline for the Masters’ broadcasts: “A tradition unlike any other.” And that is true. The beauty and history of the event makes it completely unique.


4.4.12I thought of that line this week in a totally different context. Last Wednesday was 4.4.12. Not just the date, but a campus-wide unified worship event. After four months of planning by students and staff from several different Christian organizations on our campus, over a thousand people gathered on a beautiful night in the Greek Theater. We were led in two hours of worship by a band of about fifteen folks from several different ministries. Throughout the night, students shared stories via video of how God had changed their lives while at the UofA. Money was given to help out the Samaritan Center, which provides food to hungry schoolchildren in Northwest Arkansas.


It was a great night. It was the result of lots of people following God’s leading and sacrificing their agendas for His glory. But it was also a night built upon a heritage of which very few of the students who gathered on 4.4.12 are aware – a heritage that began in the spring of 1996.


In 1996, religious life on the UofA campus was pretty much like it is every where else in the Bible Belt – lots of Christian groups each doing their own thing without any regard for the other groups on campus. Most of us didn’t know the other Christian staff on campus. To be honest, they were often viewed more as competitors than colleagues. Most of us were more focused on building our group than on the Kingdom of God as a whole.


But a group of students from a few of the ministries on campus began to pray together. They quietly recruited others to come and pray with them. And the group began to grow. There was no staff involvement. Just students who felt a calling from God to do something.


That prayer movement by students culminated in a couple of things.


photo (4)One was an event on April 1, 1996 called “Light on the Hill.” On a sunny Monday afternoon, between 2,000-3,000 folks gathered in the Greek Theater for a time of worship and prayer. And then that evening, a crowd of about twice that size gathered in Barnhill Arena for more worship and prayer. Both gatherings featured Bill Bright, the founder of Campus Crusade for Christ and one of the most influential Christian leaders of the last half of the 20th century. They also featured Twila Paris, a Christian singer and songwriter who lived in this area.


The other thing that began as a result of that student movement was a weekly prayer gathering of campus ministry staff. When Bill Bright arrived on campus for Light on the Hill, he called together many of the campus ministries at the UofA. He gave us two pieces of advice: First, stay out of the way of the students leading this prayer movement. If we tried to step in and lead it, we would just mess it up. And, second, start meeting together to pray in support of what our students were doing.


So we did that. And we have continued to do that ever since. For the past sixteen years, a group gathers each week during the school year to pray for one another, our families, our campus, our ministries, and our world. Depending on schedules, sometimes there will be a half dozen folks and sometimes there will be almost thirty. Gone is the sense of competition. In its place are hearts that desire to see God’s Kingdom expand through His work in all of our ministries. We don’t do things in the same ways and you wouldn’t have to look very far to find areas of theology in which we disagree. But we share common commitments to Jesus Christ, to making Him known, to the Word of God, and to one another.


These years of consistent prayer have built a unique spiritual atmosphere on our campus. There is a sense of unity. We rejoice with each other. And we weep with each other. Some of my best friends in Arkansas, and some of the people I most trust spiritually anywhere, are other campus ministers at the UofA. We’ve prayed for each other and our families and our ministries and our campus on a regular basis for almost two decades. That may be why we find such longevity among campus ministers at the University of Arkansas. Warren has been here almost thirty-five years. I’ve been here thirty. Lynn has been here over twenty-five. Ronnie over twenty. Kevin almost twenty.


There is a spiritual heritage at the University of Arkansas of which the administration is probably unaware. It began with a group of students back in 1996. It was the foundation on which the 4.4.12 event on Wednesday was built. And it, along with this current generation of students and campus ministry staff, will continue to make the UofA a unique place – a place where God moves, calls people to Himself, and raises up leaders from around the world who will seek first His Kingdom.

Wednesday, April 4

The Royals, Me, and God–Revisited.


Today is the REAL Opening Day of the Major League Baseball season. (Sorry, Jim, but I don’t think those two games in Japan last week between the Mariners and A’s should really count as the season openers.) Those who know me know that I believe this should be a national holiday. Businesses and schools should be closed. Everyone should attend a ballgame or watch one on TV! But, alas, that will not be.



For the past few years, three of my best friends from high school and I have tailgated and attended the Royals’ home opener. We’ve done this with hearts confident that this will be the year the Royals finally make it back to the playoffs! We’ve endured nasty weather and the embarrassing “Baked Bean Incident of 2011.” Unfortunately, a scheduling conflict will keep me from being there on April 13 this year.


There are so many things I love about the game of baseball …


* The pace of the game. There is no clock. The game will take as long as it will take, so relax and enjoy it!


* The intricacies of the game. Moving the outfield. Setting up pitches. Sacrifices. I could go on and on.


* The history of the game. In no other sport are the heroes of past years and their statistics and accomplishments so well known.


* The generational nature of the game. Parents taking their kids. (My girls had great times at Razorback baseball games when there was still grass we along the foul lines for blankets and room for them to roam. Now the Razorbacks are so popular, it’s all bleachers and luxury boxes.) Playing catch. “Eating for the cycle” (which my oldest daughter did last night at a college game in Omaha.)


So take some time today to watch a game today. Or maybe even better, listen to one on the radio or internet. I really believe it is the most enjoyable of the sports to listen to.


Below is a baseball-themed "re-post" from a few years ago. Sometimes I need to be reminded of this. Maybe you do, too.




I'm a Kansas City Royals fan. There. I admitted it. I have been since they played their first game in 1969. There really isn't much reason to be a Royals fan now-a-days. Especially in Arkansas. This is Cardinal country. It's easy to be a Cardinal fan. They spend a lot of money. Have a lot of good players. They win. They are easy to love.

But it's not easy to be a Royals fan. They haven't won anything since about 1985. They have lost 8 of their last 10 games. (They didn't lose tonight! But then, they had the night off.) They have more losses than any other major league team. I probably couldn't name five players on their roster. The Royals aren't an easy team to love.

But I'm a Royals fan. This summer I'll probably head to Kansas City and watch them play (and probably lose) a couple of games.

Sometimes I'm sure God thinks of me like the Royals. I'm not always easy to love. I can put on a good show sometimes. But you don't have to watch too long before my failures begin to show. I am often self-centered. I'm impatient. I'm not loving. Not pious. Not zealous. Distracted. The list could go on. I'm not an easy person to love. But God is a Mike Armstrong fan. He loves me in spite of my inconsistencies and failures and sin.

And he loves you, too. Sometimes it is easy to forget that. Sometimes we get distracted by our failures and forget that we are loved. Regardless of our test scores. Regardless of our "relationship status." Regardless of how we rate on the financial scale or the looks scale or whatever other scale people measure each other by.

"This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins."

I John 4:9-10

"For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord."

Romans 8:38-39


Back in 1982, a Christian singer named Bob Bennett released "A Song About Baseball." The song never mentions the name of Jesus. Never mentions the name of God. But it is all about his love for us "no matter how we play." It's a great song. I bought the CD just for this one song. Stop by my office sometime and I'll play it for you.

Monday, March 26

Walking While Black


Like many, the shooting of Trayvon Martin has had my attention and has raised a lot of questions. If you aren’t familiar with the case, its details, and the issues it raises, you need to take some time and familiarize yourself with it.


The purpose of this post isn’t to give my two cents on the shooting. (Though I think there needs to be a thorough investigation of the incident and the police’s procedures following it. And I do think that the Florida self-defense law probably needs to be re-visited.) I don’t have the training and I’m not in a position to address those issues with any kind of expertise.


But in response to what happened in Florida, Frances Cudjoe Waters, wrote an article entitled “Walking While Black”. What she wrote broke my heart. She starts off this way:


“I still remember the first time it happened.  I was dropping off my 17-year-old cousin at a friend’s house in the wealthy, white Massachusetts suburb in which I lived and where my father is still a professor. We knocked on the wrong door. Minutes later, I was pulled over by the police. Slight, young and scared, I was interrogated about my activities, whether I was delivering drugs and what I was up to.


I remembered. My parents had sat me down months before when I got my license.


It doesn’t matter that you’re female. It doesn’t matter that you’re an honors student. It doesn’t matter that you’ve never been in trouble a day in your life. It doesn’t matter that you are leaving to start attending Stanford this fall. When most of these police officers see you, all they will see is a young black girl and that can be dangerous. So, when you are harassed — and you will be — try to stay calm. Try not to be afraid, and call us as soon as you can.


A black teenager’s rite of passage.”


As I read her article, I started thinking of friends of mine from around the country. Good friends. More than I can attempt to name here. Men and women I trust and respect. Men and women of color.


And I wondered if this has been their experience. The experience of their children. My guess is that for many of them, it has been.


And that saddens me.  It saddens me that in 2012, in a nation built on the premise that “all men are created equal”, people still face prejudice, suspicion, and stereotyping based on the color of their skin. That they aren’t even given the chance to demonstrate the strength of their character because of the blindness of others.


If any of my friends, or others of color, read this: I ask for your forgiveness. Forgiveness on behalf of those of us in the majority that have failed to live and love as Christ commanded. And forgiveness personally if I have ever treated you in a way that reflected less than love and respect, that was less than what Jesus would have wanted.


“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”   John 13:34-35

Thursday, March 8

Dots and Lines

Dots and lines.

Of all the lessons and sermons I've shared with students over the past 30 years, more remember dots and lines more than anything else I've said.

Of course, like most things, this thought is not original with me. I heard Tommy Oakes talk about dots and lines at a National Student Conference almost 20 years ago.

Dots and lines are concepts from geometry. If I remember what Miss Tucker taught us back in 1974-75, they are defined something like this:

  • A dot (or point) is a zero dimensional figure. It is just a point on a plane. It doesn't go anywhere.
  • A line is a two-dimensional object that has no endpoints and continues on forever along a plane. It is formed of infinite points.

Life is made up of dots and lines. Things that are just here and now and things that go on forever. The key to life is to know the difference and invest in lines, not dots.

Jesus put it this way:

"Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also." Matthew 6:19-21

Most of what our culture (and the people in our lives) considers important are dots. Possessions. Financial security. Degrees. Grades. Houses. Cars. Championships. But if we pour our life into these things, we will be disappointed. Most students on our campus will be disappointed. They will get degrees and not get jobs or hate them when they do. They will succeed in the classroom and fail in their marriages. Their bank accounts will rise, but their children will fail. They will be popular this weekend but lonely in ten years.

Many are like Calvin, the kid in the comic strips a few years ago. One day at the table, Calvin told his mom, "I've decided to save all the snot I sneeze and donate it to hospitals for mucous transfusions."

We live in a world full of people who are investing their lives in things that are no more important and no more lasting than a jar full of snot.

Compare that to Jesus. He invested in people. He pursued his Father's priorities. Through acts of compassion, he demonstrated God's love to those in need. He sacrificed for the sake of advancing the Kingdom and purpose of God.

Our culture, friends, and family - and even our churches - fight against this. We are entrenched in investing in dots. We are emotionally attached to our dots. We have measured success and significance and security by dots for too long.

This is one of those areas where following Jesus goes against the real values of both our society and much of our religious culture.

What we choose to value, we will invest in. If we value dots, we will invest in dots. And the reward is now. It's temporary. And it is a waste of what God has given us.

If we value the line, in things that are eternal - people and the Kingdom of God - we will invest in the line. And that will be eternal.

The words that Jim Elliot wrote more than 50 years ago still ring true: “That man is no fool who gives up what he cannot keep to gain that which he cannot lose.”


Thursday, February 23

Thinking About Leadership: Harbaugh, Hedgehogs, Movies, and Young Leaders


Here are a few things I’ve read recently that have some great leadership information. If you’re a leader and are influencing younger leaders (and all of us lead in some realm, whether it be in a job, on a team, in our family, in our church or ministry), you will find some helpful insights among these stories. So read on …


Jim Harbaugh has proven himself to be a successful coach at both the NCAA and NFL level. I saw this story just today. I love the way that Tom Crean – his brother-in-law and head basketball coach at Indiana – summed it up:


"I think it goes to show why he's a very successful leader as a player and certainly now as a coach, because there's no job above him and there's no job beneath him and it's all about winning.”



I was pointed to this post on organizational culture that develops young leaders by my friend Tim Casteel’s blog. Tim is the Director of Cru on our campus and a great leader. If you are in campus ministry, you need to be reading his blog.


So the question is: is your organization giving young leaders a chance to flourish? Or are you stuck in an organizational culture that keeps them bound – and frustrated?



Jim Collins is one of the best business/organization/leadership writers of the past few years. In this post, Mark Howell does a great job of summarizing some of Collins’ main concepts. It will just take you a few minutes to read the post, but you should really spend several hours thinking through and implementing the ideas.



Finally, Tim Elmore came up with this list of the greatest leadership movies. If I had to choose my top few from this list, the would be (in no particular order):


The Last Castle


Remember the Titans

Dead Poet’s Society



Twelve Angry Men

Apollo 13


What are your favorite leadership movies? Why?

Tuesday, February 21

John Wayne vs. Jesus


One of my favorite John Wayne movies was his final one – The Shootist. In it he plays an aging gunman who is dying of cancer. In one scene, he’s asked how he came to kill so many men. In part of his response, he refers to a code he lived by:


“I won't be wronged. I won't be insulted. I won't be laid a-hand on. I don't do these things to other people, and I require the same from them.”


That’s the American way. The way of John Wayne. Clint Eastwood, Charles Bronson.


But it is not Christ’s way.


We’ve been teaching this semester on what life looks like when we live as citizens of the Kingdom of God. The more we study, the more we realize that this kind of life is counter-cultural to both our society and much of the religious (even Christian) world. This week’s passage included these verses:


“You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? And if you greet only your brothers, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” Matthew 5:43-48


The response of a follower of Christ is the complete opposite of John Wayne’s character. Our response to those who hurt or injure us – or who are different – should be noticeably different than the attitudes of those around us.


For most of us, however, this is all theoretical. We may have people who hurt our feelings or treat us unfairly. But we don’t face much persecution and would be hard-pressed to find someone we could call an enemy.


But as I mentioned in my last post, that is not the case everywhere. David B. Barrett, Todd M. Johnson, and Peter F. Crossing, in a 2009 report in the International Bulletin of Missionary Research (Vol. 33, No. 1: 32), estimated that approximately 176,000 Christians would be martyred from mid-2008 to mid-2009. Though there isn’t a way to verify those numbers, even if they were less than half right, there are thousands of Christians who are learning to apply these verses in a very real way.


In a recent issue of Newsweek, Ayaan Hirsi Ali, writes:


Since 2003 more than 900 Iraqi Christians (most of them Assyrians) have been killed by terrorist violence in Baghdad alone, and 70 churches have been burned, according to the Assyrian International News Agency (AINA). Thousands of Iraqi Christians have fled as a result of violence directed specifically at them, reducing the number of Christians in the country to fewer than half a million from just over a million before 2003. AINA understandably describes this as an “incipient genocide or ethnic cleansing of Assyrians in Iraq.”


Recently, Michael has started worshiping with us. He is a grad student from Baghdad. He is also a Christian. On Sunday, he shared with our gathering about his experience as a Christian in Iraq. About not being able to leave his home at night because of the possibility of attack. About his family having to leave their home and move to another city where it was safer for Christians. About friends who were killed when their church was attacked by insurgents.


But he also talked about walking in faith and not in fear. He talked about the choice to respond in love. To forgive. To reach out to their attackers. To let their light shine before men so that they could give glory to God.


And their Muslim neighbors noticed. They saw the counter-cultural way of Jesus.


“Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God's wrath, for it is written: ‘It is mine to avenge; I will repay,’ says the Lord. On the contrary: ‘If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.’ Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” Romans 12:9-21

Wednesday, February 8

Being Aware of a Global War


How easy it is for us in the US to slip into the comfort of the unaware. For the most part, our lives are comfortable and easy. We are indeed blessed – and not because of any special righteousness that we possess. Mostly, we enjoy these blessings because of where and to whom we were born and the sovereignty of God. Yes, we deal with our share of financial, physical, and personal struggles. And there are times when living as a Christian can be inconvenient. But for the most part, our lives are comfortable and easy and blissfully ignorant.


Rarely do we suffer as many in the world do. Few of us are starving. Few of us are homeless. And few of us ever suffer for being Christians. There may be some inconveniences on account of our faith. But not persecution.


But that is not the case in much of the world. The cover of this week’s Newsweek carries the banner: “The War on Christians.” In the issue is an article by Ayaan Hirsi Ali entitled “The Global War on Christians in the Muslim World.” After describing some of the persecution that Christians face in Muslim-majority countries, she says:


“It should be clear from this catalog of atrocities that anti-Christian violence is a major and underreported problem. No, the violence isn’t centrally planned or coordinated by some international Islamist agency. In that sense the global war on Christians isn’t a traditional war at all. It is, rather, a spontaneous expression of anti-Christian animus by Muslims that transcends cultures, regions, and ethnicities.”


What should be our response to this? I think it should involve at least two steps. The first is to respond as Jesus commands and not as our culture, or our human nature, would suggest. Jesus said:


“You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.”   Matthew 5:43-48


The second step is to pray for those who are facing this persecution. Pray for their safety. Pray that they will respond in a way that points their oppressors to Christ. In fact, I would encourage you to check out this website and take the challenge to pray regularly for those parts of our global Body who are suffering.


A third step would be to encourage your Senators and Congressional representatives to take this issue seriously and move the US government to speak up and act on behalf of those who are oppressed.

Wednesday, January 25

Thoughts on Thinking

The Winter 2012 issue of Leadership Journal included this quote from Jon Dyer:

"As we cultivate the skill of scanning screens, many of us find it more difficult to read a book word by word and line by line. We seem to cultivate either the skill of deep reading or the skill of scanning ... but it is difficult to to maintain both skills.

Google CEO Eric Schmidt publicly worried about the effect of this kind of reading - and about the impact of the internet as a whole: 'I worry that the level of interrupt, the sort of overwhelming rapidity of information - and especially stressful information - is in fact affecting cognition.

A good portion of the Christian life requires the ability to concentrate and focus on ideas over long periods of time. Spiritual depth requires the ability to pray for more than a few minutes, to read and memorize Scripture - not to search for it online, and to love God with our hearts and our minds. This means that we must be careful to cultivate and retain the skill of deeply reading and deeply contemplating the things of God, something the internet and digital technologies do not seem to foster."   Jon Dyer, From the Garden to the City: the Redeeming and Corrupting Power of Technology

l admit that I love technology. It can make life easier and more comfortable. And technology can provide a lot of entertainment. I also believe that my computer, iPhone, and iPad are useful tools professionally and even spiritually. 

But they are also distractions. 

Our first action in the morning or when we get home at night is to turn on the radio or television. Anything but silence. We get our news and form our political convictions based on fifteen second sound bites on a thirty minute newcast. Our authority becomes the "group think" of Wikipedia. 

Technology doesn't promote meditation. It doesn't encourage deep thought. It doesn't provide for contemplation. Technology specializes in the quick and the shallow. It often provides surface answers that masquerade as wisdom.

We don't read deeply.

We don't think deeply.

We are content with shallow. But I don't know that I've ever heard shallow used in a positive context - especially when it refers to people or thoughts or opinions or faith.

Years ago, Richard Foster wrote:

"Superficiality is the curse of our age. The doctrine of instant satisfaction is a primary spiritual problem. The desperate need today is not for a greater number of intelligent people, or gifted people, but for deep people.”   Richard Foster, The Celebration of Discipline

Centuries ago, David wrote:

Blessed is the one

who does not walk in step with the wicked

or stand in the way that sinners take

or sit in the company of mockers, but whose delight is in the law of the Lord,

and who meditates on his law day and night. That person is like a tree planted by streams of water,

which yields its fruit in season

and whose leaf does not wither—

whatever they do prospers. (Psalm 1:1-3 NIV)

Jesus told us:

"'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.' This is the first and greatest commandment." (Matthew 22:37, 38 NIV)

At the heart of our discipleship is to not just love God with our hearts and emotions, but with all of our mind and thought. One of the key factors for a life that is stable and productive and strong is meditation on the things of God and the Word of God.

But you are going to have to fight for that. It is not our natural bent. Our world will fight against it. Other people won't understand it. But it will be worth it. And we need people who read deeply, think deeply, and meditate deeply on the things of God and their application to the needs of our world and the Church.

Howard Hendricks once said, "The secret of concentration is elimination." So what will you eliminate so that you can concentrate? What will you do to make room in your life to read and think deeply?

One of the things I am going to try to do in 2012 to make room in my life is turn off the TV at 9:00. This will give me more time to read and write, helping me to go "Deeper" and "Wider". (Those are two of my words for 2012. You can read about them here.)

I don't always get it done. It is still a discipline I am learning. But it is one I need so that I can get out of the shallow waters and into the deeper and more enriching places.