Showing posts from August, 2009

More about Our Experience with "Socialized" Medicine

Some people talk about socialized health care systems as if they were the anti-Christ. Certainly, some countries' standards of living are not high enough to support decent health care for the entire populace. And I know there are plenty of horror stories about bad experiences in places like Canada & the UK where health care is under the government's control. I would argue, however, that there are plenty of horror stories here with our privatized system of health care. Are there not? I know plenty of horror stories of people who received bad care or substandard care or no care at all or who were bankrupted by medical bills. Pick your poison -- that's my opinion. We should feel lucky to live in a country that can afford good health care. Now we just have to decide how to pay for it.

While I don't personally care what kind of system we have in our country, I do care about people making informed decisions instead of ranting about things they know nothing about. Just bec…

My Dad & Race Relations

There was a great editorial in Sunday's Tennessean, the daily Nashville newspaper. It made note of my dad's role in improving race relations in his county in middle Tennessee. Perhaps it's only a minor thing, but the large Church of Christ where he preached for 30 years began 5 years ago to meet annually with the black congregations in the area. The editorial makes note of that along with comments about this year's upcoming gathering.

Here's a link to the article. I'm extremely proud of the legacy my dad will leave behind there in Lebanon, Tennessee.

Health Care Satire

I love this cartoon by Matt Bors. Saw it in Sunday's LA Times. Sorry if you don't appreciate it.

In this kind of public "debate," I think we gloss over our points of agreement in order to jump to the things we hate about each other. Sarcasm seems to be the typical weapon of the left. Anger the tool du jour of the right. The truth is, we all realize that everyone needs affordable health care. Who would argue with that?! The question is how we will reform the system and how transparent that process will be.Julie and I lived in Europe for the better part of a decade. People talk about how America doesn't want "socialized" medicine, as if that was somehow the Bogey man. But it wasn't really that bad. Like everywhere, you can end up with good doctors or bad doctors. If you have connections, you can always get better treatment. Isn't that how it already works in the US?One quick story. Once we were traveling in Germany southeast of Munich when Jericho …

Flag Controversy at a Christian University

It may not grow into a full-fledged controversy. Some voices, though, are trying their best to draw attention to changes in a university's opening ceremonies. Abilene Christian University began its 104th school year with an annual tradition that includes a parade of flags, a speech by the school president and music. I did my graduate work at ACU. Grad students were exempt from assemblies like this one, but I do have a vague memory of having attended a couple opening events in the coliseum.

Some people have taken offense at this year's program because of what was left out. For the first time in recent history, the ceremony did not end with the Battle Hymn of the Republic and also did not include the Pledge of Allegiance. Also, the US flag was only one of 50 national flags represented in the parade of flags. There was no super-sized US flag adorning the coliseum.
I have no insider information. I am not a confidant of anyone who helped plan this event. But I know that ACU aims to b…

Back to Work in Fresno

Life takes on the air of normalcy today. Jericho and Jacob are back in school. Our family's stream of out-of-town visitors and/or trips is over. We can settle into the routine of fall.

I'm eager to experience the excitement and blessing of fall here at the College Church. I sense that great things are happening. What's especially exciting is that this is not about any one person or any one thing. It's about the work of God's Spirit moving among His people. I don't know all that feeds into this season of blessing, but I sense it has something to do with the following:

> People praying without ceasing. We have some prayer warriors who are fervently praying behind the scenes. They pray for me, for our shepherds, for our staff, for our ministries, for our church, etc. These unseen prayers are the pillars and foundation of renewal.

> People shepherding one another. We have excellent elders who tend to the flock. But the gift of shepherding is spread among many ot…

Ted Waller (cont.), and Churches of Christ in Ohio

When my granddad Ted Waller began his preaching career in Ohio, he was part of a nationwide boom in starting and expanding Churches of Christ. History is sadly irrelevant to many people, but please humor me for a few posts as I share a bit of the past through my granddad's experience and through my own study.

You probably know that the "Church of Christ" was but one name for congregations associated with the Restoration Movement. Led by skilled preachers and writers like Alexander Campbell and Barton W. Stone, huge numbers of existing Christians left the "divisive practices of denominations" in the 1830s for the simple, New Testament teachings of these "restoration" churches. They chose simple, biblical names for their congregations such as "Christian Church" or "Church of Christ" or "Disciples of Christ." The growth of these churches across the rural, frontier areas was phenomenal. They were the largest religious group in…

What Does Christian Hope Look Like? (Part 4: A 90th Birthday Tribute to Ted Waller)

One of my greatest heroes of faith is Ted Waller, my grandfather. He turns 90 today. My mom's family has gathered here in Lebanon, Tennessee to celebrate.

In one sense, Ted Waller should never have been born. His mom & dad were on the verge of divorcing after two kids and several years of a failed relationship. But he was still born.

His childhood wasn't easy by our modern standards of comfort and safety, but he grew up with faith and a dream. When he met a young Christian woman from the West Virginia hills above the Ohio River, a dream began to take on flesh. After finishing a Bible degree at Abilene Christian College, he began to preach in the Ohio Valley, believing that the river towns would be economic and cultural magnets for their regions. He and my grandmother eventually settled down in the steel city of Canton, Ohio.

Ted Waller discovered God's grace well before many of his contemporaries. His personal experience and his passion for logic shaped his understanding …

Understanding Contemporary Campus Ministry

Campus ministry is undergoing dramatic changes.The young people of today view the world through different eyes than those of their parents.As ministers of the gospel, we seek to communicate timeless truths, but the methods we use must change as the needs and perceptions of people adjust to the world around them.The goal of campus ministry is the same as it was in the 1970s. Some the specific methods that were successful 30 years ago tend to fail today because the world has changed.

Churches everywhere are searching for a relevant foothold on today's college campus.Several things are becoming clear as we search for the right methods to connect God’s timeless story with young people today.
1. Today’s campus ministry seeks to transform, not just shelter, young people.“Training people to make godly choices” is a great definition for a major aspect of campus ministry.Sheltering people from the evil of today’s world is not our goal. It’s also impossible.A person needs little more than a p…

Public Discourse & Health Care

I'm frustrated by the lack of real discourse in our society. Instead of talking rationally with one another, our country seems possessed with shock-value politics. Are people really interested in a conversation about facts and concepts? Or do people just want to grind their axes? I seriously wonder.

One major cause of this polarization is people's unwillingness to listen to anyone other than their favorite political junkie. Try this experiment for a week. Choose a news source you never use: read the LA Times instead of the Fresno Bee or try Fox instead of MSNBC or listen to NPR instead of Rush. Just try it for one week. And actually listen. See what the perspectives and arguments are. At the end of the week, you are free to return to your old sources. But I'd be curious to know what you think.

As a general rule, people would do well to check out facts before you hit the "forward" button. One good source is a website maintained by the St. Petersburg Times. It won a …

South Ossetia: A Digression

I've been following the travel blog of a Czech journalist, Tomáš Poláček, as he hitchhikes his way through the Caucasus. He started in Odessa, Ukraine, and thumbed his way across the Crimean Peninsula. He experienced a region that most of us only know through the news. If we know anything about this region, it is only at a very cursory level. Most of us probably didn't even pay much attention to news coverage from here -- it all seems so distant, so foreign.

If you do pay close attention to world news, here are some places you should recognize:


All these regions (or city, in one case) have been in the headlines of world papers in recent years. The news has not been good.

Chechnya was the rebellious Russian province that Putin bombed into submission. The Chechens fought a guerrilla-warfare resistance, though peace seems to be settling on Chechnya and the capital city of Grozny in recent years.

Ingushetia is the neighboring province that has been the h…

How to Choose the Right University

How does one choose the right university for a son or daughter?Or more accurately, how do you help your son or daughter pick a good school?

For some of you, this question is passe.Perhaps your kids are long beyond college years.Other kids have no interest in pursuing a college degree.Or still others may be years away from sending their children to a university.
Allow me to share two success stories.
My wife Julie grew up in Austin, Texas.Her parents had both gone to AbileneChristian College (University).When she and her brother approached the end of high school, their father gave them an opportunity.He promised to pay for their undergraduate degrees, but there was a catch.They had to go to AbileneChristianUniversity. For both Julie and her brother, this proved to work out well.Their family had provided a strong and stable Christian home, and the choice of university built on this foundation.
My path was a bit different.During my junior year of high school, I decided that I would study eng…

Is There a Future for Campus Ministry in Our Region?

Healthy campus ministry seeks creative interaction between Christians and the university campus.Rather than removing students from their networks of friends and acquaintances, a vibrant ministry tries to transform lives from within the context of the university. The goal is not to extract collegians out of the campus but bring them into relationship with Christ and equip them to be campus missionaries.

Healthy campus ministry finds ways to stream across the bridges of existing relationships and networks.Certainly, Christian students need to involve themselves in church life. Yet their involvement in church should not disconnect them from the place they are needed most – the campus!Jesus said, “As you have sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world” (John 17:18).Campus ministry should provide students with tools to be salt and light to people who need Jesus on their campuses.

I am convinced that there is no perfect way to minister to college students.Every context is diff…

Campus Ministry in California

I find myself in a land that seems foreign on many counts. I have a twang that identifies me as someone from somewhere else. I don't own a show car. I don't wear sunglasses. My number of map-pins in California is relatively small on my US map compared to the size of the state. I have SO much to learn!

One thing does make me feel at home. (Well, there are actually many things. As an example, the College Church has made us feel like we belong!) I know campus ministry, and Churches of Christ in California have a beautiful heritage of ministry on college campuses. You can read about a legend of California campus ministry, Rick Rowland, at Campus Crosswalk. There used to be many thriving works on college campuses across this great state. Places like Santa Barbara, Chico, Davis, Fresno, and San Luis Obispo were home to churches that effectively brought Jesus into the lives of hundreds of young people. Where would the Church of Christ in California be today without those vibrant work…

Post-Conference Update

Doug Baker and I are sitting in the Phoenix airport, waiting for our delayed flight to Fresno. We're returning from a few days in Atlanta where we reminded ourselves what rain is like and figured out the difference between dry heat and muggy heat -- though Atlanta's temps were nowhere close to Fresno's temps.

We were in Atlanta for the 53rd annual National Campus Ministries Seminar. I have attended 9 straight seminars and have been on the organizing committee for the last several. It has been a blessing to work so closely with creative people to dream about reaching young people for Christ.

The seminar was one of the few things that kept me focused and motivated. When you're in the trenches of a front-line ministry like campus ministry, one can easily get discouraged and wish for a change of employment. Very few campus ministries are positioned to experience much real growth -- thanks to many factors that are often out of campus ministers' control. So it becomes impe…