Tuesday, August 25, 2009

In 1977...

...I arrived on campus @ the U of FL as a freshman. Full of energy, cocky, and UTTERLY clueless. (note: not all freshmen are clueless...but I definitely was)

Despite my advanced age, I remember a few things about those first days on campus. (Well, I remember a LOT, but the statute of limitations may not be up on some things...plus, my Lord has promised to remember them no more, which works for me)

Dorm: The Broward Basement. Roomed w/ a HS classmate, Jim. Ironically, neither of us would graduate from UF...me because of total stupidity & lack of discipline; him because he pursued his dream & graduated from USC (the one in California!) Jim was a great roommate; I was a self-absorbed jerk as best I can recall. But nonetheless, we are still friends today!

The UF Housing office had an idea...a singularly bad idea, but an idea. They put our bunch of guys in the bottom floor (basement). All of the floors above us were populated by ladies. Our R.A. was also a lady. Who lived in a room upstairs. Yeah, as I say, a singularly bad idea...

Actually, aside from a large number of stupid-guy pranks, it worked out pretty well! We mostly got along w/ each other, and had a pretty durn good time along the way. And seemingly despite ourselves, many of us succeeded. One guy's a pretty big-time judge in south FL...one's a very successful businessman...Jim's a money manager living in SoCal...and one guy's a professor living in Hattiesburg (although that particular guy took quite a while to find his wings...)

Dorm life is a totally fascinating experience. I am VERY glad I did it...and am MUCH MORE glad that I don't do it any more! *smile*

I remember buying books. Civilization & Its Discontents by Sigmund Freud (which I still have & thought I was so cool & scholarly carrying it around)...The Wasteland ...(ditto) Didn't know then what a book-a-holic I'd be as an old guy... Actually, I'm just remembering that we had a "book BBQ" at the end of the term in which we burned our books outside on the grill just for the sheer joy of surviving that 1st time. (as I say, stupid-guy stuff...)

I remember some things about classes, although not much. (Mostly because I didn't go that much; see "no degree from UF'...and "stupid"...) I remember that one term, out of 6 teachers (incl labs), I had 5 who were not native English speakers, and the other one grew up in a bilingual home. Please note: that is *not* why my grades were so pitiful!

I remember that another HS classmate & I had calculus together that 1st term. 8:00, MWF. She was much more responsible (& scared!) than I, so she actually went to class. Then she'd come wake me up, we'd go grab bkfst in the dorm cafeteria, & I'd explain the concepts from the day as she'd ask. This was possible because I had the TOTALLY AWESOME HS calculus teacher, the great Lona Almond, who remains the greatest teacher I've ever had or known at any level. Thus, 1st term calculus was a breeze for me! (How ironic is that one of my better grades in a disaster of an academic year was in freshman calculus??)

I also remember that the total stoner we had for a teacher, covered the last 3 (out of 6!) chapters in the last week of the term. (literally!)

I remember fraternity rush. Open rush, or informal rush. I found myself becoming drawn throughout the week to this one house & bunch of guys. Lambda Chi Alpha. A shaper of me at the time. Socially (in ways that were not all good!), but also morally (mostly latently; would show up later).

I remember Gator football games. That 1st game, the Gators hosted--and tied--then powerhouse Pitt Panthers. After that, not so good. The team had 10 guys drafted...10! And they were something like 6-4-1. Football analyst Cris Collinsworth was a freshman QB on that team. (Yeah, I know...he played WR in the NFL for a number of years...) The great Wes Chandler was a senior that year. The Brantley brothers, one of whose son is Tebow's backup @ QB now. Linebacker Yancey Sutton...who was completely deaf...and who would knock your head off!

It was fun. I remember when West TX St. U came in & was up 14-7 before the Gators reeled off 70 consecutive points to win 77-14. Fun times. Of course, I also remember a couple of years later when Bama's 2nd consecutive Nat'l Champ team came down & thrashed the Gators 40-0. Five different QBs led the Tide to touchdown drives. Total domination.

I remember concerts. The Dregs on campus @ Halloween Ball. Awesome! Axe @ the Great Southern Music Hall many times. Best rock group nobody has heard of...I *loved* their version of "Sugar Pie, Honey Bunch"--picture a very heavy metal groove version of the old R&B hit. Blue Oyster Cult in town. Judas Priest in town. Kansas in Lakeland. Styx in Jacksonville. Molly Hatchet in Jacksonville. Steppenwolf.

I remember outdoor movies on the lawn. Monty Python's Holy Grail. Rocky Horror Picture Show...you know--all the classics...

I was one of 39,000 students on campus.

Now, Anne Madaris is a freshman @ MSU. She's one of something like 15,500 students. I'm praying that she has such a blast this year that it marks her & shapes her like my freshman year did for me. Only, I hope & pray that she doesn't experience the deep lows that I experienced...and that she doesn't have as much to regret about the freshman year as I do.


p.s. - early scouting reports suggest that she's having a BLAST while also being productive...TYL!

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Teaching As The Rain...

I love the anticipation the night before a new term begins.

What will my students be like? How will they respond to my teaching? Will they do the work I ask? Will I do the teaching they expect?

And significantly, what will the Lord do this term?

Just this morning, my pastor spoke on being missional where we are. I've tried to be that for some years now on the college campus, with some successes by the grace of God. And with some epic failures too, for which I need much forgiveness & would love some do-overs...

This term is a new one for me, for both of my children are beginning their terms in college too.

Here's my prayer that they both have a professor or three who professes Christ publicly, humbly, and faithfully. And that those professors impact my children both academically and spiritually.

And, of course, here's my prayer that my own testimonies given in my "first classes" this week will be empowered by & filled with the loving, wooing grace of God. And that my life & work & teaching this term lives up to my confession of Christ, such that I am truly a "missional" professor.

May my teaching drop as the rain, my speech distill as the dew, like gentle rain upon the tender grass, and like showers upon the herb. For I will proclaim the name of the Lord; ascribe greatness to our God!
Deuteronomy 32:2-3


p.s. - Be missional wherever our Lord has you this week too!

Saturday, August 15, 2009

The Watercolor Ponies Have Ridden Away...

"There are watercolor ponies on my refrigerator door
and the shape of something I don't really recognize
drawn by careful little fingers and put proudly on display
A reminder to us all of how time flies..."

So, as of today, my house is officially the place my kids come to visit. (And I have no words to tell you how very bizarre that sounds to me...)

It's no longer where they live. It's where they used to live.

"Seems an endless mound of laundry
And a stairway laced with toys
Gives a blow by blow reminder of the war
That we fight for their well-being...for their greater understanding
To impart a holy reverence for the Lord"

The nest is empty. We have liftoff.

Luckily, (a) there are many memories echoing around here...(b) I'm delighted about where my kids are...(c) wherever I am, they will always be welcome. And treasured...(d) they will have several more long stays here in the next couple of years.

"But, baby, what will we do when it comes back to me and you?
They look a little less like little boys every day...

Also, VERY fortunately, I'm married to my best friend. We were such for 3 years before we married & then for 4 before James arrived. I look forward to many years of hanging w/ mrs. bb. We still enjoy each other's company.

"And the vision can get so narrow
as you view through your tiny world
And little victories can go by with no applause
But in the greater evaluation as they fly from your nest of love
May they mount up with wings as eagles for His cause"

This is a seriously strange day @ casa beach bum. A *major* life era ends & another begins.

"Oh, the pleasure of watching the children growing
Is mixed with a bitter cup of knowing
The watercolor ponies will one day ride away"

And there they go...And there goes a very large piece of my heart with them...

p.s. - your prayers are MOST welcome for James & Anne. Thanks in advance!

p.p.s. - your prayers are also MOST welcome for James & Anne's parents. Thanks again!

p.p.p.s. - the lyrics (in bold) are from "Watercolor Ponies"a *superb* song by Wayne Watson

Monday, August 10, 2009

For the Love of the Game...

I *LOVE* football! Especially college football. To me, there's not much I can do that's more fun than sitting in a stadium w/ thousands of fans screaming & listening to the band & roaring @ 1st downs & picks & fumbles & TDs & such.

Dad was a Bama fan; Mom, a Bama grad. Papa--Mom's Daddy--was ordered by his Dr. to stop listening to Bama games on the radio for the sake of his heart. My 1st several football games involved the Crimson Tide, including the game that Coach Bryant called the best game he ever saw: a 1-point loss to Notre Dame in the Sugar Bowl. I was on campus for the last three years of the man's amazing 25-year run. Attended his funeral, even. So, yeah...I love "This...is...Alabama Football!"

In the last 20 years, I've watched a BUNCH of USM games, & plan to keep watching more. My plan is to see all of the home games this year, as I did last year. Several years back, James & I rolled up to Memphis to watch USM crush Pitt in the Liberty Bowl. Loved it! I had Ryan McKee & Tumbo Abanikanda in class a couple of summers ago. I've also had a bunch of other players through the years. Was in Tuscaloosa for Favre's miraculous off-the-bench W. And for some other USM Ws.

In recent years, I've watched a number of UM & MSU games in Oxford & Starkville. Saw the Rebs come mighty close to beating the Gators a couple of years ago. Saw Eli & co win some biggies. James & I went to the Cotton Bowl last January & watched the Rebs DESTROY the vaunted Tx Tech Red Raiders. Loved it! In Starkville, I watched Tim Couch throw for over 400 yards...and lose to the Dogs. Watched the Dogs beat my Tide. And lose to them. Both places are fun places to watch a game.

I've watched games from the pressboxes at Florida Field in Gainesville and at M.M. Roberts Stadium in Hattiesburg. I've watched in torrential rainstorms...and in 100+ degree heat...and in freezing cold weather. God help me, I absolutely love watching the game!

Which leads to the point of this post. (Finally!)

Are we really going to define our lives by which bunch of 18-22 year olds defeats the other bunch of 18-22 year olds on a given Saturday?

Will the outcome of a football game define our friendships?

Our mood for the entire next week?

Our love for--and hatred for--particular institutions of higher learning?

Our conversational content & edge?

Our witness to the world (if we are Christians)?


Make no mistake: I hope my guys go 12-0, win the SEC championship, and become the latest SEC team to win the national championship. (I do not predict this, but it'd be nice...and I *do* predict that the Tide will be mighty good this Fall) Also, know that I have, in fact, allowed the outcome of a football game to affect all of those things listed above, to my great shame.

But for crying out loud...a little perspective, please!! Regardless of the outcome of a particular football game, here are some things that are true:

--God is still on His throne

--Jesus is still coming back

--I am loved and redeemed by my Lord
("My chains are gone...I've been set free...my God my Savior's ransomed me. And like a flood, His mercy rains, unending love, Amazing Grace!")

--Lisa still loves me

--I still have two children who are absolute joys & treasures

--my degrees from the U. of Alabama are still intact

--as is my job that I love @ WCU

--God has blessed me with MANY wonderful friends who love in deed, & not just in word

--I'm still--incredibly--cancer-free at this moment

--The beaches of NW FL are still there in all of their majestic, breathtaking beauty

--ditto the Colorado Rockies

I have friends who are Ole Miss grads. MSU grads. USM grads. UF grads. Ohio State grads. LSU grads. Tx Tech grads. Even Auburn grads! Each of these are treasured friendships that have been indispensable to me this last year & a half particularly.

Here's my challenge as a new college football season approaches. Enjoy the stew out of the games. Cheer for your team. Agonize over the bad spots, turnovers, penalties,...But DO NOT let a football game's outcome define your existence...your friendships & the way you deal w/ those friends...your mood (Piglet when your team wins, Eeyore when yours loses)...your conversations...your prayer life...the way you sing at church (or not)... In other words, make it a goal this Fall to move beyond the typical "my team's great/your team sucks" approach to college football fan-dom.

I dare you to find something positive about the OTHER team & its coaches & its fans. For example...
Gator fans--are you aware that OU QB Sam Bradford is a very committed Christian who takes his faith seriously & is involved in ministry off the field just like your man Tebow?
OU fans, are you aware that UT QB Colt McCoy is outspoken about his Christian faith just like your man Sam is?
Fellow Bama fans, are you aware that Auburn has a center for sports ministry (don't know exact title) where sports chaplains are trained that was started by the hated former Auburn coach Tommy Tuberville?
USM & MSU fans, are you aware that Ole Miss coach Houston Nutt speaks of his faith & desire to impact others with it? (I've heard him do this with my own ears!)
Non-USM fans, are you aware that USM Coach Larry Fedora does the same & has been seen attending church at my church?
Michigan fans, are you aware that OSU LB James Laurinaitis is a deeply committed Christian who speaks often to student groups about it?
Bama-hating fans, are you aware that the late Paul "Bear" Bryant established a scholarship fund for children of Bama players that has fully funded the education of several hundred young men & women most of whom never set foot on a football field? And that the hated Bama coach Nick Saban has donated a very large pot of $$ to fund academic scholarships for non-football players?

Such stories are just a sample of one of the primary things that I love about college football.

My own church staff has USM grads/fans, Ole Miss grads/fans, MSU grads/fans, WCU grads, Ohio St. fans, U of TX fans, KY fans...and yet they are of one accord, by & large.

EVERY school has its share of...*searches for kind word*...idiot fans. Every single one. My challenge to us all is to not add to that number this Fall.

When's kickoff? I can't wait...

p.s. - Hold me to account on my points here, please!

Thursday, August 06, 2009

Dolphin's Lullaby

I sang this excellent song every night to her for a number of years. "Sing Doffin, Daddy..." (If you don't know Firefall, imagine a nice, soft, folk-rock sort of groove, light on the rock) Ironically, it became a favorite song of mine back when I was a miscreant frat boy @ the U. of FL. (note: It is absolutely NOT true that all frat boys are miscreants! But I was. I was one before I was a frat boy and after too. Note also that the Lord graciously & lovingly drew me back on course.) Back then, I actually used to imagine singing it to my yet unborn children a couple of years before I even met Lisa. I still remember looking out over Lake Alice across the street from the house, singing this song, & dreaming. (I sang other Firefall songs too, but this one got to me even then.)

Dolphin's Lullaby - Firefall
Close your weary eyes & drift away; It's alright
I'll be here until the break of day closes the night.
I will sing a lullaby they sang to me when I was just your size.
Just a simple moment, a melody, to close those sleepy eyes.

And then--fast forwarding through a lot--the dream was fulfilled when this little guy came along who looked--looks--a lot like me. After a move to Hattiesburg, this beautiful little girl came along who looked--looks--like her mother and my mother, odd as that seems (she also acts like me quite often, which is sad for her...). I was about 2 feet away from her when she drew her first breath.

Whoa...singing dolphins over the ocean
Where it's clear and it's green
Help the waves with your gentle motion
Rock this child to sleep...

I have no words to describe that moment when she arrived. There are no such words. But these come close: AWESOME...HOLY...OVERWHELMING...MAJESTIC...HUMBLING...My life hasn't been the same since Oct. 10, 1990, when I became the daddy of a daughter. Oh, how I have loved the journey! And how VERY much I wish for quite a number of "do-overs" both to repeat the joy and to perhaps get it right this time. *heavy sigh*

Close your weary eyes & drift away,
it's alright I'll be here until the break of day closes the night.
I won't let no bad dreams come and bother you;
just put your trust in me
Just a simple moment, a melody, so close your sleepy eyes

(note: I may be a word or two off on the second verse; couldn't find it on the web & thus was relying on my ever-more leaky memory)

She was a "feet gull" (sweet girl)...but my favorite is "Daddy's gull." I have goofed at that so very many times; some fairly big goofs. My hope & prayer is that those times the Lord mercifully let me get it right will be what she takes away with her into the rest of her life & not the goofs. If you're being all moved by what seems to be false modesty, well, let me tell you: it's not. I am very nearly consumed with regret as my nest empties this Fall. Oh that my children had seen a better, more loving, more together, more godly example in their Daddy!

Got a little girl (or little boy too, for that matter) at your house? Dads, lay down the bullcrap, bogus tough-guy machismo; play dolls with your daughter. Have tea parties with her. Kick a soccer ball around with her. Draw with her. Sing with her. Watch Disney movies. Make time with her a very high priority, right after time with your Lord and time with your wife. I tried to do this...and deeply regret not doing it more. There are very few guarantees in life. Here's one that's a certainty: You WILL (not might...will) regret not spending time with your babies while they're young & at the house. You will NEVER regret entering their world while you're welcome there & invited in.

Singing dolphins over the ocean
Where it's clear and it's green
Help the waves with your gentle motion
Rock this child to sleep...
Oh, you gotta rock-a-bye my baby, rock-a-bye my baby rock-a-bye...

Speaking of "taking away"...she moves out of my house this Saturday. To a dorm on the campus of Mississippi State University in Starkville, which is about three hours away from here. I couldn't possibly be more excited for her...and I don't know that I could possibly be more bummed out for me about 55 Clipper Road emptying of children this Fall. Don't mis-read this: I am deeply & passionately in love with Lisa, who is my best friend and my soulmate. She & I have already spoken of cups of coffee & walks & books read & sunsets watched & such when it's just us. But neither of us is looking forward to our kids being 3 & 4.5 hours away.

My dear friend & mentor Keith Seabourn said just this past Wednesday over coffee that the reason it's so hard to say goodbye is that we were not designed to do so. (Note: Keith's 3 grown kids, 2 with children of their own, live much farther than 3 or 4.5 hours away from Keith & Kay...which makes me a bit of a whiner, doesn't it?) I know I'm very poorly equipped to say goodbye. Especially to my son and my daughter as they go away from here. Please forgive my brutal language here, but goodbyes just suck. And one more thing: 18 years go by in a dang flash! (See earlier comments about spending time w/ your children; you'll turn around & they'll be rolling out of your house ready--or not--to take on the world...)

Watercolor Ponies - Wayne Watson
There are watercolour ponies on my refrigerater door
And the shape of something I don't really recognize
Drawn by careful little fingers and put proudly on display
A reminder to us all of how time flies

Those of you who are locals in H'burg, go ahead & plan on me cashing in a whole bunch of man-cards these next few days. I'll be OK. But not just right away. So, if y'all could just pat me on the back, give me a hug & not make me talk about it, that'd be great. Maybe next week I'll be able to talk without blubbering; can't really pull it off this week...

Seems an endless mound of laundry and a stairway laced with toys
Gives a blow by blow reminder of the war
That we fight for their well-being, for their greater understanding
To impart a holy reverance for the Lord

But, baby, what will we do when it comes back to me and you?
They look a little less like little boys every day
Oh, the pleasure of watching the children growing
Is mixed with a bitter cup
Of knowing the watercolour ponies will one day ride away

I heard Wayne Watson sing this live when James & Anne were very small. It made me cry then. Did so again just now as I read thru the lyrics & sang them to myself. "The pleasure of watching the children growing is mixed with the bitter cup of knowing the watercolor ponies will one day ride away..." Verily, Wayne--an amazing song writer--has never written truer words than these!

And the vision can get so narrow as you view through your tiny world
And little victories can go by with no applause
But in the greater evaluation, as they fly from your nest of love
May they mount up with wings as eagles for His cause

(repeat 1st verse)

Speaking of an amazing song writer who loves his kids deeply, I'll close with this from Steven Curtis Chapman. An absolutely AMAZING song. (Aside: One of his young daughters was tragically killed when she was run over in their driveway by an older sibling...mercifully, I cannot even imagine that...)

Cinderella - Steven Curtis Chapman
She spins and she sways to whatever song plays, without a care in the world
And I'm sitting here with the weight of the world on my shoulders
It's been a long day and there's still work to do
She's pulling at me saying "Dad, I need you; there's a ball at the castle and I've been invited
And I need to practice my dancing...Oh, please, Daddy, please?"

So I will dance with Cinderella while she is here in my arms
'Cause I know something the prince never knew
Oh, I will dance with Cinderella; I don't want to miss even one song
'Cause all too soon the clock will strike midnight
And she'll be gone...

She says he's a nice guy and I'd be impressed
She wants to know if I approve of the dress
She says, "Dad, the prom is just one week away,
And I need to practice my dancing...
Oh, please, Daddy, please?"

So I will dance with Cinderella while she is here in my arms
'Cause I know something the prince never knew
Oh, I will dance with Cinderella
I don't want to miss even one song
'Cause all too soon the clock will strike midnight
And she'll be gone...She will be gone

Well, she came home today with a ring on her hand
Just glowing and telling us all they had planned
She says, "Dad, the wedding's still six months away,
But I need to practice my dancing...
Oh, please, Daddy, please?"
So I will dance with Cinderella while she is here in my arms
'Cause I know something the prince never knew
Oh, I will dance with Cinderella; I don't want to miss even one song
'Cause all too soon the clock will strike midnight
And she'll be gone

Anne: no daughter has ever been loved more by a deeply flawed dad than you. I am so very proud of you, Doodlebug. Even through the tears, I am VERY excited for you as you begin this new life phase. You have so much more potential than I did at 18.5...or than I do at 50...I hope you have the greatest college experience of learning & deep, abiding friendship & fun & spiritual growth. You are & always will be deeply embedded in my heart...and therefore you will always be in my prayers.

Trust in the Lord with all your heart,
and do not lean on your own understanding.
In all your ways acknowledge him,
and he will make straight your paths.
Proverbs 3:5-6

With great love and a grateful, excited, & heavy heart all at once,

p.s. - don't forget that I need an "MSU Dad" shirt to proudly wear...*smile*