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.