Thursday, December 31, 2009

Some Goals for 2010...

(note: these are not in order of significance...they're pretty much in the order that my random mind captured them here)

--"Deliver the Baby" (in the great and painfully funny words of my family practice Dr. & friend Brett Robbins referring to the fact that I'm several inches too short for my weight...) It appears to be twins...*sigh*

--complete a 5k running (well, "running" needs to be defined very broadly there...and perhaps it'll even be a 10k...)

--read through the Bible using the chronological approach this time. (found >>here<<)

--eliminate a considerable portion of the crapola, er, stuff that's cluttering up my offices & my house

--re-institute a regular fast 1 day a week

--ramp up my reading program. I've started on 3 fascinating & substantial books, that will require concentrated reading time; all 3 authors use all of those big words & big ideas...*smile*

--ramp up my prayer life. It's there, but is not where it should be.

--re-discover the game of golf and try to get my score down to just two digits (of course, the (a) funding, and (b) time for this could be a challenge...but I'm gonna try)

--fish more (yet another sport that--like golf--I enjoy immensely and am not very good at...)

--have a "deck-raising," analogous to the old-school "barn-raising" (memo to all H'burg friends who have any building game...stay tuned! Remember, I have zero game in the area of building, except for driving nails as directed...)

--pass CFA level II exam in June (see "time to play golf hard to come by")

--go to Poland to speak at the Christian Professor Conference in August (I've been invited to do so, and am VERY excited about it!)

--significantly ramp up my teaching abilities in terms of Econ & Finance courses @ WCU; stop "doing the same things the same ol' way" while not tossing out the proverbial baby w/ the bath water...

--ditto, in terms of my Sunday School class @ TBC

--work harder at being an encourager to friends in ministry, whether it's their vocation or not

--make the latter half of year 25/first half of year 26 the best years of marriage yet; this will require considerble effort, as these last 25 have been great! But I still have a long way to go in terms of "love your wife as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her" (Ephesians 5)...

--work hard at being a better, more loving, more encouraging Daddy. I'm still trying to figure out how this works when one's 4.5 hours away & the other 3.5 hours away...

Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is.
Ephesians 5:15-17

Thanks for your prayers & friendship & encouragement! You are cherished greatly here @ Casa beach bum.

Happy New Year!!

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Join me, won't you?

Jesus said to the Jews who had believed in him, "if you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free."
John 8:31-32

Many a university has the latter part of this passage inscribed on buildings: "you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free." But there is a HUGELY significant "IF" at the beginning of the thought. "IF you abide in my word..." Other translations read "If you remain in my word..." Don't read the conclusion without the premise...don't focus on the "then" without the "if".

And thus, the challenge: Will you join me in faithfully & regularly reading the Bible this year?

I offer this with great humility as a fellow traveler who is flawed and imperfect. And who has experienced HUGE blessings from those times when I have faithfully & regularly read the Bible, including in 2009.

To make it easy, I commend to you >>this site<< . It has multiple options available.

The one I'm reading in 2010 is the "Chronological" plan that sets the books & chapters of the Bible in the order in which they occured. In 09, Lisa & I used the "One Year Tract Bible Reading Plan" at the link; that one takes you through the Old Testament once & the Psalms & Proverbs twice throughout the year. The site offers a brief description of the multiple choices there.

My challenge & encouragement to you is to make reading the Bible a priority in 2010!

The link above includes multiple options, and also includes the ability to add the plan to your Google calendar or to your Outlook, along with the ability to subscribe via RSS. You can get them emailed to you each day, and you can even listen to each day's readings. And of course, you can them online. In other words, the ESV site has utterly eliminated the vast majority of excuses.

Here's another plan that has readings from three different places a day.
This is the plan John Piper uses regularly. Through the whole Bible; only 25 days per month scheduled, which has built in catch-up or additional study time.
This site has 13 different reading plans.
This one has 5 different plans.
Here's one with 4 different plans, including a 2-year plan to read through the whole Bible.
This one goes from Genesis through Revelation in a year.
This one goes through the whole Bible in 2 years, alternating an Old Testament passage on one day with a New Testament passage the next.
And here is a 3-year plan with weekly readings, and a 3-year plan with daily readings.

Some words of encouragement & reminders, all of which are based on experience:

A huge temptation, especially as 2010 draws to a close & you find that you've been faithful.

If the enemy of souls can't make you cocky, he'll try to put you under the pile: "see, you knew you couldn't finish; why bother, you loser..." (etc.) Do NOT fall for this.

--If you're wondering if you're able to achieve whatever Bible reading goal you set for yourself, find an accountability partner.
Howard Hendricks says that the ideal accountability partner is someone who loves you but is not impressed by you. (great description!) Find someone who will hold your feet to the fire without slapping you around. Someone who--ideally--is sharing your Bible reading goal. And someone who loves you but is not impressed by you...

--Humbly ask the Lord to speak to you through His Word.
He will likely not do so every single morning...but it's a virtual lock that He will speak throughout the year.

--Get a notebook or journal & capture what He says.
I'm about to read back through my 09 journal rt now. Huge blessings from looking back & seeing what He has taught you.

I find great encouragement and challenge, along with some badly-needed reproof, correction, & training in Scripture. And a systematic approach helps me avoid proof-texting, wherein I select the verses I love that I know what they say & build my whole theology on those...thereby ignoring what theologians call "the whole counsel of God."

As I say, join me, won't you?

Looking forward to the journey,

Monday, December 28, 2009

This time last year...

...I was celebrating still being alive despite having stage IV metastatic melanoma in both lungs

...I was still recovering from my 2nd lung surgery just 3.5 months earlier

...I was still recalling the breath-taking cycles (literally!) of high-dose immunotherapy the previous summer

...I was recalling an absent friend whose leukemia took his life the previous summer

...I was wondering whether I was on the tail end of my journey through the hell that is cancer...and hoping that I was near the end

...I was looking toward one more lung surgery

Now a year has passed:

--I'm feeling great! (well, for an old guy...*smile*)

--Incredibly, I have been sent home three times in a row from M.D. Anderson with no additional surgery required

--My next visit is in February

--I've just purchased some new running shoes & plan to put them to good use this year. (note: "running" here needs to be broadly defined...)

I'm currently pondering my goals for the year...and feeling like the luckiest man on the face of the earth.

Most grateful,

Sunday, December 27, 2009

White Christmas - beach bum style

I'm dreamin' of a white Christmas
Just like the ones I used to know
Where the beaches glisten
And beach bums listen
to hear waves that evoke "Whoa!"

I'm dreamin' of a white Christmas
With every Christmas card I write
May your days be sand-filled and bright,
And may all your beach-es be white!

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Christmas 09

There's the one that says "First Christmas Together - 1984" & features an outline of a couple dancing.

And then there's the two "Baby's First Christmas" ornaments w/ pictures from 21 & 19 years ago.

And the building from "It's A Wonderful Life" that lights up.

Oh, and there's the white & black cat ornaments. For the previous 17 years, they both were here. Now the white one is gone.

And the bell from the lighted string that my Mom bought for us after her youngest grandson James ooh'd & aah'd over it @ the mall.

There's the "Mike" ornament that used to hang on Christmas trees in Ft. Walton Beach, FL. And the blue dove one that hung on trees in Silas, AL.

Of course, there's the crab ornament from Key West. And the "University of Mississippi School of Pharmacy" ornament that's new this year.

And the Lion King ornament featuring Simba on his Dad's back.

Across the room is a Santa Claus that dates back to roughly 1958. Purchased for an infant boy who never really liked it so much. His younger brother not yet born in 1958--a handsome fellow who blogs a bit now & then when not teaching Econ & Finance--came to love that Santa as dearly as a little boy can love anything. Of course, now that he's grown, that's abated. As far as you know.

Out front, are the poorly laid out Christmas lights. Think "Clark Grizwold minus the $$ & skill" and you're about right.

In the kitchen, of course, are the Christmas dishes that were purchased in Gatlinburg, TN with the last of the disposable $$ near the end of the honeymoon in June 1984.

Next to me is the giant coffee cup given by a former student. HS students give gifts to their teachers; college students not so much. Which I understand.

Near me on a shelf is a hand-carved wooden nativity purchsed in the amazing market located in central Krakow, Poland. Word is, that market has been in operation for over 800 years. I love that it has the traditional manger scene characters, plus a mountain farmer/shepherd on the side kneeling in adoration.

I love the stories behind the ornaments & decorations--and this is but a sample, I assure you. The history, and the instant triggering of vivid cherished memories. That's a big part of the magic of Christmas to me.

But more, I love the cherished memory that goes far deeper in my soul. Of great loss & seperation...and of promises...anticipation...and then their fulfillment in a child born to poor peasants in a backwoods wide-spot-in-the-road. And the restoration that child offers based on the gruesome end of his young earthly life on a hillside outside of town, not that far from where he was born.

Tonight, we'll go to the Christmas Eve service at church and cherish the friendship & celebration & worship & re-telling of the story that binds us together.

It is my prayer that 50 years from now, my grandchildren & great grandchildren will be remembering the stories capture in ornaments, decorations, & nativity scenes. Much more, though, I pray they will be celebrating the story of stories.

But you, OBethlehem Ephrathah, who are too little to be among the clans of Judah, from you shall come forth for Me One Who is to be ruler in Israel, whose coming forth is from old, from ancient days.
Micah 5:2

She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins. All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet: Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call his name 'Immanuel' (which means 'God with us')
Matthew 1:21-23

Jesus said to him, "I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me."
John 14:6

Merry Christmas, my friends!

Sunday, December 13, 2009

35 Years

I think I'll let others speak for me today.

Everything I Own - David Gates
You sheltered me from harm; Kept me warm, kept me warm
You gave my life to me; Set me free, Set me free
The finest years I ever knew were all the years I had with you

I would give anything I own
Give up me life, my heart, my home
I would give everything I own
just to have you back again.

You taught me how to love; What it's of, what it's of
You never said too much; but still you showed the way,
and I knew from watching you

Nobody else could ever know the part of me that can't let go.

I would give anything I own, give up me life, my heart, my home.
I would give everything I own just to have you back again

Is there someone you know; you're loving them so, but taking them all for granted?
You may lose them one day, someone takes them away,
and they don't hear the words you long to say

I would give anything I own, give up my life, my heart, my home.
I would give everything I own just to have you back again
Just to touch you once again.

Things I Wish I'd Said - Rodney Crowell
You lay there fighting for each breath while angels hovered round your bed
With open arms like God’s own smile they led you to the light

What a battle you have won and now your journey has begun
To the land where spirits fly and your soul will never die

So travel lightly in my heart. You and I will never part
Far beyond this world we see there’s a place for you and me
And I thank my lucky stars we had a chance to heal our scars
Now I don’t have to hang my head over things I wish I’d said

So here am I your only son; I’m thinking back on work we’ve done
You were strong and I was young; man we had our fights
And every thing I felt for you has been turned to something new
And this is love I feel today, it will never go away

And I thank the moon and stars we had a chance to heal our scars
Now I don’t have to hang my head over things I wish I’d said

I don’t have to hide my tears; I don’t have to drown my fears
And I don’t have to hang my head over things I wish I’d said
No I don’t have to live in dread over things I wish I’d said

(back to Mike: I actually wish this song were true...I do have to hang my head over things I wish I'd said. I hope he knew though; perhaps he did. Does.)

He didn't tell me how to live; he lived, and let me watch him do it.
~Clarence Budington Kelland

Some of you guys think you're a man because you've done something my dog can do...Siring a child does not make you a man...
~Tony Evans

Any man can be a father. It takes someone special to be a dad.
~Author Unknown

Sherman made the terrible discovery that men make about their fathers sooner or later... that the man before him was not an aging father but a boy, a boy much like himself, a boy who grew up and had a child of his own and, as best he could, out of a sense of duty and, perhaps love, adopted a role called Being a Father so that his child would have something mythical and infinitely important: a Protector, who would keep a lid on all the chaotic and catastrophic possibilities of life. ~Tom Wolfe, The Bonfire of the Vanities

The Gift - © Lea Gomez
I will never say goodbye to you my Father
'cause I know this is not the end for us to see each other.
You will only be going to a place where there’s no pain nor suffering.
I am happy for you, for you will be with God.
For now we need to go in separate ways.
I remember how your arms hold me and give me strength.
You were always there to listen, love, and defend me in everything.
You were my very best friend.
In my triumphs you were always proud.
I’m very grateful and proud to call you my dad.
Here deep inside my heart you’ll always be.
I would give up everything I have just to hug you one more time.
I remember the last time I held your hand and how you looked at me in the eyes.
If only I could turn back the time I would have never let you go.
I felt the world stop and my heart stop beating when they told me you were gone
How I wish I was only dreaming.
Just like the rain; tears fell down from my eyes;
I couldn’t speak for a while.
Thank you Dad….
For always understanding, listening , caring, and loving me for the rest of your life.
It’s difficult to let you go but I must…I must return the gift God gave me…
Till then;See you in Heaven…

Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his saints.
Psalm 116:15

If in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied.
1 Corinthians 15:19

For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive.
1 Corinthians 15:22

The last enemy to be destroyed is death.
1 Corinthians 15:26

So is it with the resurrection of the dead. What is sown is perishable; what is raised is imperishable. It is sown in dishonor; it is raised in glory. It is sown in weakness; it is raised in power. It is sown a natural body; it is raised a spiritual body.
1 Corinthians 15:42-44

Behold! I tell you a mystery. We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we shall be changed. For this perishable body must put on the imperishable, and this mortal body must put on immortality. When the perishable puts on the imperishable, and the mortal puts on immortality, then shall come to pass the saying that is written:
“Death is swallowed up in victory.”

“O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?”
The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law.

But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.
Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain.

1 Corinthians 15:51-58

Tuesday, December 08, 2009


(This post was started Tuesday, 12/8...and percolated on...and edited. So "today" in the post actually means "last Tuesday" This might be yet another post that cashes in some man-cards for me...and once again, I don't care!)

I'm a dog lover. Been one my whole life. We had one cat back when I was a kid. Briefly had a cat, that is. We were dog people. I am still one.
Having said that, I was deeply saddened earlier this week to say a permament goodbye to one of the world's great cats, "Maggie" Madaris. She was 17.5 years old, was part of our family for most of that time, and will be missed.

Today has been a day of clear mental images, memories from these past 17+ years. I still remember my little pre-schooler coming home from the USM Ctr for Child Dev'mt, looking up at me with his big beautiful eyes, and shyly saying, "um, Dad? Can we get a cat?" (oh, like you could've said no to those cute eyes...)

Maggie was actually a replacement cat. The initial baby kitten didn't last long...tragic choice to nibble on a power chord...But Maggie the replacement cat was a few months older & wiser when she arrived here.

She was painfully shy. Hid from us for the first number of days she was here. She was accidentally let outside by a houseguest the first couple of days she lived here, whereupon she instantly disappeared. But my wife and my son had faith that she would return (I didn't have that faith, frankly)...and after a day or two, we heard her under our deck. Lured her back inside. Whereupon she began to trust us.

She never liked company very much though. Would always hide under a couch when guests arrived. And re-appear immediately upon their departure.

She dearly loved us, even as we dearly loved her. Another clear mental image is 1.5-year-old Anne carrying her like a log...front legs over one of Anne's arms, back legs over the other. And Maggie just was her quiet self. With the occasional "get me out of here!" meow...

She had a very soft, gentle demeanor. And so help me, she came across as maternal. James & I used to go fishing in the canoe in the lake behind the house. Maggie would follow us to the lake and stand there sticking her paw into the water and just fussing at James & me. We could hear her all the way across the lake. (another abiding mental image)
Her demeanor was tested when a second kitten arrived a couple of years later. Molly (the black cat in the pictures) was smaller than Maggie, but much fiestier & more aggressive. Maggie was usually patient, but we did hear the occasional hiss followed by a swat...they became friends. Mostly.
And then Sam the very friendly puppy arrived, further testing Maggie's patience. They became friends too. Eventually. Sam learned to be very gentle & tender with Maggie, as this picture attests. The meanest I've heard Sam sound was the few times a rogue Tom cat would get after Maggie. He'd go tearing out of the house, growling & barking...presently, Maggie would come trotting in unharmed, with Sam following shortly thereafter.

Maggie loved the Christmas tree every year. She would climb up into it in her early years; in later years, she settled for the skirt around the tree base.

She loved to cuddle, albeit on her terms and on her schedule.
These last several months have been hard to watch & experience. I'll not elaborate. I prefer the other memories above.

So, earlier today she & I took the longest trip to the Vet that we've ever taken. I came back alone.

It was absolutely the right move, but dadburn was it hard.

I'm still a dog guy...but I will cherish the memory of a beautiful, gentle white cat who blessed our lives for a long time.

R.I.P., Maggie. We love you!


Tuesday, December 01, 2009

To An Absent Friend on World AIDS Day

(Update of a post from a few years back)

He was a tall, strapping, muscular guy who had worked in the offshore oil business.

He had a very nice high tenor singing voice, and loved to use it.

He loved to talk. And to laugh. He & Lisa & I did both rather frequently.

And he had HIV. Which became full-blown AIDS. Which took his life far too soon.

The means by which he contracted HIV is utterly irrelevant here. HIV can be transmitted/contracted in multiple ways, some sexual--homosexual and heterosexual--and some not.

It's World AIDS Day. Which always causes me to remember my friend, and to miss his company.

I met him at the church I attend. His was a faith that greatly. He confessed that he had not been faithful to live according to his faith. I assured him that I have my own batch of sins, which I submit is a much larger batch than his was. I 'spect you have your own batch too...we all do.

He taught me oh-so-much about love and grace. He gave both freely.

In one of our chats, he told me that he felt like a man without a country.

1. He said many in Christian circles who knew of his illness kept their distance from him because of his illness.

Now when the Pharisee who had invited him saw this, he said to himself, “If this man were a prophet, he would have known who and what sort of woman this is who is touching him, for she is a sinner.”
Luke 7:39

Shame on us!!

Then turning toward the woman he [Jesus] said to Simon, “Do you see this woman? I entered your house; you gave me no water for my feet, but she has wet my feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair. You gave me no kiss, but from the time I came in she has not ceased to kiss my feet. You did not anoint my head with oil, but she has anointed my feet with ointment. Therefore I tell you, her sins, which are many, are forgiven—for she loved much. But he who is forgiven little, loves little.” And he said to her, “Your sins are forgiven.” Then those who were at table with him began to say among themselves, “Who is this, who even forgives sins?” And he said to the woman, “Your faith has saved you; go in peace.”
Luke 7:44-50

2. My friend also said that when he went to the AIDS Support Group meetings, they kept their distance because of his Christian faith. Ironic, isn't it? One of the more marginalized groups in our society would further marginalize one of their own because of his religious beliefs.

"I left the church because I found so little grace there...I came back because I found none anywhere else."
Philip Yancey

So what will you do with World AIDS day?

Will you ignore it completely?

Will you wag your finger & speak of HIV/AIDS as God's curse on a lifestyle?

(If so, you need to ponder how you'd respond to the heart-broken parents of an infant in, say, Africa, who has been diagnosed with AIDS & explain to them God's curse on their tiny baby's lifestyle...)

Will you wag your finger at the church and at Christians for the above finger wagging?


Will you honor the memories of those you know who have suffered and died from this horrible disease by how you live your life?

Will you pray for and love and serve those who have the illness now?

(BTW, what's your stereotype of an HIV sufferer? I ask, because I have a HS acquaintance who is HIV positive. And a fitness machine. A lawyer who rides his bicycle all over the place competitively & who does triathlons & such. He regularly does stuff like high-speed 100-mile bike rides. A few summers ago, he was the first openly gay, HIV-positive person to do Race Across the West where he competed with the world's greatest endurance athletes. The race is from Ocean Side CA to Durango CO. That's 860 miles in 3 days! It's billed as the toughest part of the toughest race in the world ["Ride Across America"]. Jim, too has helped crash my own stereotypes...)

Will you pray for and give toward those who are spending their lives to eradicate this illness?

God have mercy on us. All of us. Those with HIV and those without it. Help us be thankful for the days and the health you give us, and help us love redemptively and NOT judge pre-emptively. And above all, I ask You to magnify Yourself today on World AIDS day through Your church and Your people. May we reflect Your grace and demonstrate it far and wide. Today, and always. In the name of Your Son Jesus, Who was tortured and killed unjustly, Whose death offers redemption and life, Amen.

Thanks, Cecil, for all that you taught me. See you later. Can't wait for that next hug, bro!