Thursday, November 27, 2008

Thankful for the Storms...

See that picture? *points up* That's taken from Mom's back yard, looking almost due south. The beaches of Ft. Walton Beach are faintly available past all of the boathouses on the Bay. See those nasty clouds rolling in? When that storm hit, it was hard to see anything. A very loud frog-strangler. Ugly and dangerous.

But here's the thing: the storm & those clouds did not change the breathtaking beauty of Ft. Walton Beach and of the view from Mom's back yard. It obscured the view & veiled the beauty for a season, but it didn' couldn't...change them.

That is what I'm thankful for this year most of all.

When a huge, nasty storm comes--like, say, stage 4 cancer--it seems that the core essence of the world and--dare I say it?--of God Himself have changed. Become malevolent. Gone away, even.

Ever feel like that? Well, I bring you good news: major life storms--like, say, stage 4 cancer--do not change God and His relationship with the world. With us. With me. Sure, His beauty and glory and grandeur and love and all may seem veiled...but they most assuredly are there.

I recently heard these words coming out of my mouth: "I'm so thankful for this year and for cancer..." In a flash, I thought I had gone nuts. In that same flash, I realized that I hadn't (well, not based on that anyway...; )...) I am grateful for this year, and even for cancer.

Look back at the photo. When storms like that come, don't they make you long for the view as you know it is? Don't they make the mental image of the view you know is there come more clearly into focus? And, oh my...don't they make you appreciate the sunny, storm-free days? That view from Mom's backyard is one of my favorite places on the planet. I'd love to have a dollar for every minute I've spent just sitting there out back and enjoying the vista and thinking. Storms like the one in the picture...or like stage 4 cancer...make me appreciate the view all the more.

I also heard these words coming out of my mouth recently: "I've never felt the presence of Jehovah Shammah--the Lord Who is Present--as I did in the room there in M.D. Anderson's ICU." So, yeah...I'm thankful for the blinding, dangerous, nasty storm of cancer. For because of it, I see the essence...the goodness...of my Lord more than ever before. (I'd have been delighted to have seen that goodness and experienced that tender presence through other means than cancer, surgery, & immunotherapy, of course...but I'm not a good enough writer to fully capture how much I treasure what the Lord taught me and showed me this past summer.)

I hope I'll never be the same again. Pray with me to that end, won't you?

Digging the storms,

p.s. - some other more tangible things I'm oh-so-grateful for this year: my wife. my children. my extended family. my friends. my absent friends & family who have experienced the ultimate healing. (J--save me a cup of coffee up there, will ya?), my church. the church (capital C...the entire Body of Christ). my job. my boss. my co-workers. my students (many of whom become my friends). the ability to read. technology that helps me reconnect with friends and make new ones. speaking opportunities that allow me to share some of the veiled goodness of my Lord...

p.p.s. - Some things & people for which I'm thankful that warrant their own list: my amazing Drs.:
Robbins (family practice...a friend & fellow church member besides being my primary care Dr.)
Bellare (oncology - H'burg...a friend for years before becoming my Dr.)
Morrow (cardiology - cousin & friend besides being my Dr.)
Homsi & Hwu (medical melanoma - M.D. Anderson)
Kim (medical thoracic - MDA; recommended & arranged VATS)
Mehran (thoracic surgery - MDA)
medical technology - VATS, ct scans, P.E.T. scans, needle biopsy (ok...that one's the most difficult to be thankful for...), bloodwork. IVs, immunotherapy,...

p.p.p.s. - My pilgrim name is Bartholomew Alden, which is a pretty cool name! ; ) What's yours?

Wednesday, November 26, 2008


A wife & daughter laugh @ their husband/Dad for his loud ringtone when his phone rings. Then he gets the last laugh when the caller is the daughter’s husband who has tried to call her 3 times. She didn’t know her phone was on silent…

The fish in the nearby tank recognize the guy who feeds them and swarm up to one side of the tank & to the top when he shows up to feed them. Not a small number of folks watch and smile. Then they just watch the fish swim around & eat after he leaves.

A 40-ish lady works through her Sudoku book.

A lady in her mid-20s makes necklaces & bracelets while waiting on her husband.

Two senior adult guys discuss their respective Navy service—one a career, the other a hitch—all prompted by one of the guys’ “Retired Navy” hat. The entire, wonderful conversation starts with “what year?” (meaning “what you did you retire)

The guy in the Navy hat chats with another senior adult guy of a different race. This other guy is wearing a “Tuskegee Airmen” shirt. The Navy hat guy offers his hand and says “I know several of the Airmen; let me shake your hand, sir.” (Aside: we’re constantly told that folks down here are still hard-core racists. Occurrences like the one describe here are not surprising to us natives; neither are they very well reported. Stereotypes die hard, I suppose…and can apparently still be used to justify column inches…)

A 60-ish grandma-looking lady knits. (aside: Is knitting a lost art? It sure seems so…)

These 2 little girls laugh & have a great time putting a puzzle together. They giggle, share jokes & snide comments, and fuss at each other’s puzzle-assembling skills. The younger of the 2 little girls is 18. The other one is her Mother. Both are dearly loved by and related to me.

All of these events happen in the CT Imaging waiting area of M.D. Anderson Cancer Center.

Every person here would rather be somewhere else. Everyone walking through the doors to get a CT scan is in some stage of cancer diagnosis/treatment. Everyone left in the waiting area loves someone who walks through those doors. There is a huge, largely-unmentioned fear in this room that we all try to deny in hopes that it will go away. But it never does so. Not completely, anyway.

The diversions noted above help…For a few moments, one’s thoughts are focused elsewhere than on medical test results. Or on the prognosis for the future. Or on memories from the last time. Or on the vivid reality of a loved one who is back behind those doors and all that the test results could entail.

Diversions. We all thank God for them in a place like this. And He graciously grants them...

Monday, November 24, 2008

Live from the CT Imaging waiting area @ M.D. Anderson...

Today's schedule:
10:30 - P.E.T. scan prep
11:00 - P.E.T. injection & localization (IV outlet insertion)
12:30 - P.E.T. scan
2:15 - Blood specimen collection
3:30 - Prep for CT scan
5:00 - CT scan of chest, abdomen, & pelvis
6:00 - chest xray
7:30 - serious gluttony at the first restaurant that strikes my ever-decreasing fancy.

(ok, that last one's not on my official MDA schedule...)

Wanna know what is not on my schedule today?
1. coffee
2. breakfast
3. lunch

Thus, some restaurant in the greater Houston metro area will regret not charging more for their food later today. *smile*

I've watched people eat today; I'm here to tell you, ladies & gents, that doesn't even come close to actually eating!

This is all disturbingly familiar & routine by now. Get IV put in; get nuclear waste injected into IV. Sleep for an hour. Go to P.E.T. scan room & get strapped on to the board. Go to sleep during scan. Wake self up repeatedly with snores. (not mine, of course...I'm not sure who else was snoring in that room, as I'm the only one I saw in the room. Curious...) Fantasize about eating & about drinking coffee. Ride up to CT Imaging. Get excited about being early; then realize that being early matters not very much. Remember how nasty the contrast solution is and get bummed about drinking 2 bottles of it (this is where I am right now...). Remember the 3rd method of delivering contrast solution besides drinking & IV and get REALLY bummed. Fantasize about eating. Remember that there's a Starbucks over in the other clinic and wonder what the largest cup they have is. Then wonder if they offer those cardboard things that allow one to carry multiple cups. Then realize this won't be fact, a lid for my coffees later will also probably not be necessary...Get chest xrays. Realize that rush hour here starts at about 4:30 and continues for the next 3-4 hours...Remember that nights like this one while awaiting hugely significant medical results are the ones where the clock seems to downshift into s-l-o-w mode, and sleep does not come easily...

On the plus side, (a) tonight's meal will be the greatest meal I've ever eaten; (b) tomorrow's coffee & the dozens of donuts & several kolaches will be the greatest breakfast I've ever eaten; (c) tomorrow only involves 1 appt., and I don't have to change clothes nor get stuck as part of it; (d) my beloved Lisa and our beloved daughter Anne are both here with me; (e) my God is still firmly sitting on His throne, presiding over the workings of the universe. And of M.D. Anderson. And of Mike Madaris.

Your prayers are welcome for
--correct & totally accurate test results...
--that show no trace of cancer
--peace for all 4 of us
--God to be glorified & magnified through this journey.
--safe travel back home tomorrow

Thanks much!

p.s. - is it bad that I'm already fantasizing about tomorrow's lunch & supper? *smile*

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Mike's Redneck Medical Dictionary

I know you’re wondering what the current dizzying array of medical terms these days mean; based on recent experience, I’m here to answer questions via the following guide. Without further ado, here’s “Mike’s Redneck Guide to Current Medical Terminology” v. 1.0. I’m hoping I never need to publish a version 2…

“CT Scan” – “CT” stands for “costs tons”

“P.E.T. Scan” – stands for “pretty expensive too” or “progressively [more] expensive test” (compared to C.T.); sometimes means “pretty expensive & toxic” because of the stuff that accompanies the P.E.T. scan.

(note: I’ll be having both of those next week on my return to M.D. Anderson for followup tests)

“Clinic” – from the Greek word that means “sounds innocuous enough, but we do some remarkable—and remarkably expensive—things in here now, some of which are quite painful”

“Contrast Solution” – “contrast solution” (consumed before some CT Scans) actually comes from a Swahili phrase that means “your dog that drinks toilet water wouldn’t drink this, but you have to”

“I.V.” – a re-casting of the Yiddish phrase “oy vay” which translates roughly as “Oh My!” or the redneck version “hey, check this out!”; this is stated when the person doing the sticking, well, misses what s/he’s aiming for and your elbow swells up like a water balloon

“M.R.I.” – stands for “man…really intense!”; especially accurate when describing an MRI of the brain. If you ever need one of these and you have any hint of claustrophobia, go ahead & ask for lots of sedation up front; you’ll need it.

“a little stick” – means “I’m gonna shove this large and sharp piece of PVC pipe into your skin, but don’t worry; it won’t hurt me a bit”

“needle biopsy” – describes a procedure in which a hollowed out metal baseball bat is sharpened on one end and stabbed into one’s body so that another, longer piece (known laughingly as “the needle”) can be inserted through the baseball bat to dig out large quantities of…tissue (yeah, that’s it…). The Dr. frequently says something like “Anesthesia? We don’t need no stinkin’ anesthesia…well, I don’t; you prolly wish I’d give you some just now…but you can’t have any because you have to be able to respond to commands while I’m turning your lungs inside out…”

“deductible” – a paradox; paying the deductible means that the billing agent can now add even more to your tab

“co-pay” – this is something to provide the underpaid check-in clerk with a quick giggle as s/he says to herself/himself: “this fool thinks this small payment will significantly affect his/her bill…I just hope I don’t snort-laugh when I turn away to photocopy something so I can chuckle…”

“UCC” – widely and erroneously believed to mean “usual and customary charges”; in fact, it stands for “you can’t see” which has the double entendre of “we not really telling you how much this costs,” combined with “you have no idea how to get from here to ‘paid in full’…”

“VATS” – “very astronomically & totally ‘spensive” or “vast anesthesia that [word meaning "this is very bad"]”; sometimes means “vast anesthesia two-week sickness” because that’s how long it takes to begin to recover & feel normal after the procedure.

“IL-2” – stands for “I laughed too” which is short for “I laughed too, when they told me this wouldn’t be so bad”; that sentence is spoken by an IL-2 survivor. Sometimes stands for “in {the} light too?” which is when the dosage is stopped; i.e., “is s/he about to croak? Well, then, better stop the dosage…”

“Labs” – “look at {the} blood sucker” or “L and blood stops” which means from the Latin “100 sticks & we’ll knock off the sticking process for a few hours…”

“ICU” – usually taken to mean “intensive care unit,” which is actually the result of a spelling error; the correct phrase is “expensive care unit.” Can also mean “I can’t [word meaning “go potty” that starts w/ a U]” which is said by the ICU patient when s/he realizes that it’s physically impossible to make it the 7-foot distance from the bed to the potty because of the dozens of wires, IVs, monitors & such that are apparently designed to prevent the patient from escaping. Or traversing the dangerous 7-foot journey from bed to potty.
ICU can also mean “I’m colicky tU” since anyone (Lisa) staying in the room with the ICU patient will get about as much rest as the mother of an infant with colic.

“Clear Liquid Diet” – prescribed to many ICU and IL-2 patients; the meaning is “might as well drink water, Hoss, because that’s about as much taste as you’ll find on this menu…”

“Discharge” – a misleading term that gives false hope along the lines of “you’re about to leave”; in fact, “discharge” means “tell your spouse to head on down stairs & pick up a copy of the Sunday paper along with a meal, because you’ll have plenty of time to read the entire paper from cover to cover—including want ads—before this process actually results in you leaving this room…”

“Anesthesia” – drug combinations administered for the purpose of sedating the patient right away for surgery; also has the (apparent) purpose of destroying his/her sleep patterns & normal body functions for the next 2-3 weeks.

“Recovery” – a warehouse-like facility in which patients who have just had surgery are placed like so many cases of Christmas cards awaiting the official beginning of the season.

“Automatic BP cuff” – a device attached to the patient’s room in ICU that is designed to keep the patient from ever entering R.E.M.-cycle sleep; the device is very effective at its purpose because about every 10 minutes, it squeezes the upper arm of the patient such that the only substance between the cuff and the bone is the patient’s skin and a few flattened blood vessels & arteries. Every ounce of muscle tissue & fat are squeezed up toward the patient’s shoulder and down toward the fingers. The patient should lie very still while this is going on, or else the BP cuff becomes angry & squeezes harder a second time. Also, there’s the risk of actually blowing the ends of the patient’s fingers off, but this is a very rare occurrence.

“Pulse Ox Monitor” – attached to one of the patient’s fingers for the purpose of rendering that particular finger, along with the hand whence it comes utterly un-useable.

I hope this clears up some of your questions about various medical terms. Now you can speak intelligently with your friends & loved ones about things medical.

You’re welcome for this clear explanation. *grins*


p.s. - if there are any additional medical terms you need clarified, hit me with a comment and I'll be happy to oblige. Much like the average alum of D1 football teams who watches a few games & thinks s/he's an expert at coaching, I am now an expert dicipherer of medical terms. There will be no charge for this additional clarification.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

A short one today.

Today is Jason Weathers' birthday. He would be 34. I miss him hard. But my thoughts & emotions today do not even compare to those of Stephanie. Nor to those of their children. Nor those of Jon Mark & Petty, Jason's wonderful parents. Nor to those of Brad, Jason's brother.

Would you please pray for Stephanie today? She told Lisa and me yesterday that she's just ready for her heart to not hurt physically.

And would you also pray for Anna Lea, Jon Brent, & Ally? And for Jon Mark & Peggy? And for Brad?

And finally, would you treasure this day and treasure those in your life who make the days lighter and more pleasant? And would you live a life that is pleasing to God, in light of eternity?

Those are all great birthday presents to my absent friend, Jason.

Jason...bro...I cherish your friendship and your life. Thanks for leaving such a large wake in your 33 short years, and for making all of us in it long all the more for that glorious, eternal "what's up?" from you in the land where there will be no more goodbyes forever.

I love you, buddy. Happy Birthday! Rock on.

p.s. - on a related note, did you see the recent news article that for the first time they have sequenced the complete genetic development of acute myeloid leukemia from beginning to end? A news article like that would hardly registered to me a couple of years ago, as I was absent the day they taught science in school, and the disease didn't really register. Now, just ahead of Jason's 1st birthday in eternity after passing from complications due to AML, it thrilled my soul, and sparked fairly some fairly serious prayers on behalf of the researchers working on a cure. Join me there too, won't you? Maybe one day in the not-too-distant future, an AML diagnosis will be easily and decisively treatable, and will not leave any more young widows and children wondering why...There, ladies & gents, is a prayer worthy of being prayed often...

p.p.s. - If you're not already reading it, here's Stephanie's blog (click the word "blog" there).

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

The Noble Idea

Once upon a time, this remarkable, forward-looking group of folks laid out an idea for a totally different kind of country with an unheard-of style of government. They were certainly not perfect men, and their noble idea has needed tweaking. They planned on that, setting up a government with foundational documents that had built-in means for changing things that needed changing.

"Government of the people..."

A friend from Iraq--that is, a native of Iraq--once told me that nobody in his country had begun to think at the level of those guys with their noble idea. He said that we Americans take voting and our overall form of government so very much for granted. He was right!

" the people..."

Think of what happened last Tuesday, leading up to next January. We the people went to the polls and, as a group of self-governing folks, decided who we wanted for our next President. Yesterday, he and the outgoing president met in our President's oval office to talk about policies and transitional things.

"...for the people..."

There were no tanks rolling in the streets. There was no gunfire. There will be none next January when the new guy takes office. Afterward, the old guy will head back to his ranch in the southern part of our country and live...with life-long protection paid for by the new government. This is unheard of in most of the world.

But it was not easily purchased.

"...shall not perish from the earth."

Starting with Lexington & Concord and going on to Valley Forge and forward, men (& later, women) have laid their lives on the line and have paid with their very lives to ensure that the noble idea would survive. A 2nd war with England...a bloody, 4-year war with ourselves...a war with Spain...the first "war to end all wars"...then the 2nd such war...Korea...Vietnam...Kuwait...Afghanistan...Iraq...

War--and its occasional necessity--are clear & present evidence of what the Reformers called the "depravity" of man. War is terrible. A gold star in a window and a flag in a triangle-shaped box and a nice letter from a commander...and a commander-in-chief...are no replacement for the life lost. Wounds, both visible & obvious and invisible & less obvious, last a lifetime.

But sometimes, in this fallen world, war becomes necessary. To protect one's land and people. To defend a helpless neighbor/ally. And to keep the noble idea secure.

In a few hours, it will once again be the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month. The hour and day on which the shooting stopped in the first world war in 1918. Veterans' Day. This is their day. One could argue that every act of freedom is really their day, but today is their official day. Know a veteran? Tell him or her thanks. Dislike policies of the Bush administration? Find a veteran and thank him/her for securing the noble idea that allows change. Excited about President-elect Obama? Thank a veteran. Talk is cheap, especially mine. But the title of "veteran" is very expensive. Life-threatening at times.

For they are the ones who joined the long line of men (and later, women) who stood in the cold at Valley Forge...who stood against the Brits at Horseshoe Bend...who stared across the fields of Gettysburg and didn't flinch...who fought through the Argonne Forest in France...who island-hopped in the Pacific and assaulted Hitler's Fortress Europe, both against all hope...who stood freezing at the Chosin Reservoir in Korea...who trudged through the Mekong Delta and the central highlands of Vietnam or flew over its skies...who destroyed Saddam's army in the deserts of Kuwait & Iraq...who know the sound of IEDs in Mosul and Kandahar, and the cry of the Taliban warriors in Pakistan. All to secure an idea. That all men are created and that government of the people, by the people, and for the people shall not perish from the earth.

Talk is cheap. Protest is easy. Want to find courage? Go talk to a veteran. Like my brother. Or his wife. Or my new step-Dad, Leo. Or my father-in-law. Or my friends Bob, Lance, Mr. Bob, and others. And I'd ask that you take a moment to remember those no longer with us. Dad. Grandpa Charlie. My forebears who fought in the Civil War. Those who fought in the War of 1812...and those who have paid the ultimate price, laying the most costly sacrifice on the altar of freedom.

Run up to the small country cemetary north of Hattiesburg and see the final resting place of Roy Wheat. Read about him in the post office on 40th. Threw himself on a powerful land mine just prior to its explosion in order to save his buddies in the field there in Vietnam. A friend of mine went to school with Roy. Says he was a shy, quiet, very nice young man. Most heroes are unlikely like that.

Today, thank God for such men and women. Pray for families left behind. Thank God for that which they fought and died for. Say thanks. Remember. And live lives that demonstrate the validity of the idea.

"If you are able, save for them a place inside of you
and save one backward glance when you are leaving for the places they can no longer go.
Be not ashamed to say you loved them, though you may or may not have always.

Take what they have taught you with their dying and keep it with your own.
And in that time when men decide and feel safe to call the war insane, take one moment to embrace those gentle heroes you left behind."
Major Michael Davis O'Donnell
1 January 1970Dak To, Vietnam
Listed as KIA February 7, 1978

(note: there are more recent posters, but I really like this one)

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

The Bride & the Bridegroom

She has fallen in love again. He has too.

Neither thought they ever would. Both have said the long goodbye as a spouse breathed their last. Pain very nearly too great to bear.

And sometimes blooms in the most unlikely of places. Among the most unlikely of people. As the groom said recently, God guides even the emotions, because neither of them would've imagined this! Love is risky, because it creates the possibilty of great pain and loss; both of them would say that it's worth it. Well worth it.

She is a servant. Always has been. A teacher. A librarian. A lover of words and books and education and children. A rock.

He is a gentleman. I 'spect he always has been, though I've not known him long. He is a warrior who flew fighter planes for the U.S. Air Force. 2 tours in Vietnam. He's a patriot. 40 years ago some protesters beat up some military recruiters on the campus where he went to college. His words to me: "That's not right! So I wrote the school off..." (Note: He's all in favor of free speech, having put his life on the line for it. He is not in favor of misplaced boorish punk idiocy disguised as free speech. Neither am I.) He's a man of integrity. Left his second career because of concerns that he was being pushed into unethical behavior.

Both of them have strong political views. Unlike the prevailing approach in America today though, they can express their views without anger and without mocking those who do not share their views. And they do not feel the need to express them nonstop. And further, they can be great friends with those of different political views, as opposed to the common American approach of hatred toward any--candidates or regular people--who disagree with one's political views. Mannerly civil discourse...what a concept! What a lost art...

They are great together, as couples in love should be. Looking to each other's needs. The bride has offended him a time or opening her own door. He says that a gentleman always opens the door for a lady. (memo to the rest of us: he's right!). They are very comfortable knowing that the other was married before and has children. He said to the bride's adult son: "Around me you don't ever have to worry about bringing up your Dad. I'm not him and am not trying to be him. I'll never take his place, so don't think you have to hide him from me. I know he was a great guy and that your Mother loved him greatly." He also said, "if either of our spouses were still alive, we wouldn't be together."

The easy thing for people their age to do is to move in together and dispense with the formalities. Neither of them could do that. The bride said she couldn't look at her grandchildren and do that. The groom said he wasn't raised that way, and that they would be married in a church in front of a minister, "the way it's supposed to be."

And so, in just a couple of hours, the bride and the groom will approach the altar in their church in Ft. Walton Beach, FL and stand before a minister in a private ceremony. In the few minutes after that, the Mom...will become Mrs. Leo Hicks! I am so very happy for her. For them. And I am very grateful to both for continuing to model class...and dignity...and patriotism (not the knee-jerk kind, but real, thoughtful patriotism that loves this country even while recognizing its flaws and seeking to improve them)...and love...and genuine Christian faith.

Pray with me for the newlyweds, won't you?

I love you, Mom & Leo!! Have a great trip!


Saturday, November 01, 2008

Ends & Beginnings

I had my final classes Thursday & Friday. This means final exams are Monday & Tuesday. (Note: I join my students in saying a great big "aargh!" to final exams. Of course, to me they're just a hassle; to students, they're just a smidge more pressure-packed...; ) )

Thus, I'm in one of the best parts of my job and one of the worst.

Best: I get to ship some students out of my orbit into other classes/the real world.
Worst: I have to ship some students out of my orbit into other classes/the real world.

(I'll explain...)

Among the many uber-cool things about being a professor, one of the more awesome, wonderful aspects of the gig is connection with and interaction with students. As one who is called to ministry, I don't have to search very far before ministry arrives in my job. And since WCU is a small school, I get to connect beyond "were you really in my class?" Conversations with students this term have covered marriage, dating, life after marriage, kids, money management, politics/philosophy, voting, civil rights, church, career, grad school, professional certifications, hunting, the wedding ceremony itself, music,....You can't buy that sort of impact opportunity! I love it. Also, I really enjoy shipping folks out hopefully knowing a bit of finance & economics, and watching careers unfold for them. Maybe even helping with a job here & there.

On the other hand, and not surprising from the paragraph above, I get bummed when a students are set free from my orbit. That means the conversations become less frequent, and the interaction slips away. The "friend" aspect of student-professor interaction becomes the only one, which is nice. However, at the same time, that aspect drifts away as they're not around so much. My Dad was emotional & didn't like to leave; that gene came to me in spades. So, I do not enjoy the "leaving" aspect of the end of a term. One of my classes consisted almost entirely of students that were taking their 3rd class from me (bless their hearts...). *best Ron White delivery* "We've met." It's my hope and expectation that I'll still be in touch w/ some of that group years from now.

Plus, the week after this coming one, I'll have to start learning a new batch of names. There's something I'm not good at, to my great shame. Once I learn them, they stick, but they don't seem to get into the hard drive too rapidly. (I'm thinking my brain is still running DOS in a Vista/Mac world...)

On the other hand, when those new classes arrive in my room, I'll have yet another opportunity to connect with a batch of (mostly!) bright, energetic young folks. I love the "new start" aspect of the professor gig. In a trimester schedule like ours, I get to experience that new start 4 times a year!

I LOVE my job! That call to ministry thing? It was operational when I was in vocational ministry with Campus Crusade. And it is operational now as an econ/finance professor. I get to connect with folks who are in the process of nailing down 3 fairly significant life decisions: (a) who I want to spend the rest of my life with, (b) what I'll do for a living, and (c) the values by which I'll live. (Other than that, age 18-24 is not that big of a deal...*rimshot*) I'm delighted to be a small part of that process. And I'm delighted that James Madaris has some good ones in his path up there in Oxford. And I'm already praying for Anne Madaris to sit under some great, godly mentors next year.

Professors get a bad rap frequently, though I admit that the rap is often well-deserved. However, in the midst of all of the negative stuff about professors, there are so very many who sense a genuine calling to the profession to teach and mentor and equip young folks. And who approach the job out of a Christian commitment and worldview.

Pray for your kids/grandkids/friends/nieces/nephews to encounter some of those. It could be life-changing (for the good).

I'll close with this: know why I went to grad school in the first place? Two different undergrad professors encouraged me to do so. Know why I stayed for a Ph.D.? A professor in my master's program encouraged me to do so. Randy Pausch in his excellent "last lecture" before he died of cancer spoke of the sheer joy of helping others fulfill their childhood dreams. There are not many jobs that enable that very often; being a professor is one such job.

OK, I'm off to edit my final exams for next week...

Proverbs 9:10