Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Basically, he's a freak of nature...

(A not-very-updated post from 2 years ago.  Do you know people who succeed remarkably at pretty much everything they do?  Don't you hate people like that?  *huge grin*  Happy Birthday to my brother Jim, in whose wake I am thrilled to have travelled for these ...*garbled* years!  Love you!)
He's a musician. One of the better ones I've ever run across. Can play most anything, but his specialties are keyboard & trombone. He also sings like the great Michael Franks and is a superb arranger & re-arranger of music.  Music degree from U. of Miami, one of the best music programs in the country.

He's a pilot. Flew sub chasers for the U.S. Navy for some years (during the bad old days when we & the USSR were aiming nukes @ each other...). Then flew various jets for United Airlines.

He's a project manager. Which means he helps talented, creative people stay on task for the good of the organization. My boss would wish he'd move here & help *me* stay on task, although I'm not so talented nor so creative...

He's a corporate executive.  (Which will surely draw a smile from those of us who recall dancing to his music back in the, er, social establishments of NW FL in the 80s, with him on keyboards & vocals dressed...NOT like a corporate executive, let's just say...)

He's a worship leader. He puts his substantial music gifts to work on Sundays as he helps others at his church enter into worship (in some very creative ways, I might add.)

He's an intellectual. One of the keenest intellects anywhere. Took a set of calculus courses in his electives...for his MUSIC PERFORMANCE degree...and made A's in all of them. An inveterate reader of serious writings. History...Philosophy...Political Science...Biography...Theology...Serious Fiction...

He's a loyal friend. To current friends. And to those from 30-40 years ago...

He's a husband & a father. Two biological sons (both now grown & married & productive, contributing members of society), & one adopted daughter (from Siberia!)

He's a minister. Specifically, a servant-minded Stephen minister. Has led that ministry in multiple churches.  Has ministered in prisons.  Joining him on one of those prison-ministry trips is on my bucket list.

He's a sinner by nature--like all the rest of us--who is gloriously redeemed, which redemption happened in his mid-30s.

He's awesome...

He's my brother Jim. And today's his birthday!

He's not quite two years older than I, which means (a) the bar was set very high for me following two grades behind him, and (b) doors opened for me simply because I was "Jim's little brother." I used to get tired of hearing " are you Jim's little brother?"  I used to be an idiot, in other words.  I'd say I got the looks, but I didn't even get those, compared to him... ;-{)}
Happy Birthday, Bro! I love you & am proud to be your little brother.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Teaching Some Examples

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.
Deuteronomy 32:2

So, another year starts tomorrow, officially.  (Note to those of you with real jobs: we teachers think in academic years; I'm well aware that this calendar year started 8 months ago.  Which, of course, was right in the middle of last year.  *grin*)

Actually, this new year started this past week, with department & university faculty meetings & syllabus deadlines & new employee orientation & student move-in & such.  But tomorrow morning at 0800, it's officially on in terms of classes & teaching & such.  (WCU's medical school students started a couple of weeks ago; everyone else starts tomorrow)

The verse above is one of my favorite verses on teaching in all of Scripture.  It's actually in a section called "The Song of Moses," in which Moses is reminding Israel of their history & of their transgressions.  I have it on a small poster right outside my office.  Every single time I read it, I'm reminded of those whose teaching " gentle rain upon the tender grass" that is Mike Madaris back in the day.  Which also reminds me that my own teaching can be harsh & unforgiving, or inspiring & encouraging.  My subjects--Finance & Economics--are already challenging; I don't have to become a jerk in order to make them so.  Of course, it is also quite possible to err in the other direction by being so generous in teaching & testing & grading that nobody is challenged at all, and therefore doesn't really learn anything.  That would be preparing my students for a world that doesn't exist!

Which leads to another of my favorite teaching passages: that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes. Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ...
Ephesians 4:14-15

I realize the context there is in specific reference to God's gracious giving of spiritual gifts for building up the church into spiritual maturity.  But I don't think I'm doing violence to the text by applying it to my teaching & grading.  My students need to know that in the classroom--as in life!--performance matters.  (Or should matter.) 

One of the great things that several professors at the University of Florida did for me is...give me Ds & Fs, which accurately reflected my performance in their classes.  They would've done me a great injustice to have given me As & Bs simply for registering for class & then showing up every now & then with no effort otherwise.  Certainly I didn't realize what a great thing they were doing for me at the time...but I'm thankful now that they gave me real grades that really reflected what I had(n't) done in class.  Balancing truth & love is not easy, and I rarely get it completely correct; but tomorrow presents another term for me to aim at getting it correct.

New beginnings always lead me back to one of my favorite verses about anything (not just teaching!) in the Bible:

Teach us to number our days
that we may get a heart of wisdom.
Psalm 90:12

Moses said that.  Psalm 90 in my Bible is titled "The Prayer of Moses, The Man of God."  Great title!  The whole of Psalm 90 is just incredible, btw.  And in context, this verse follows an awesome (in the true sense) discussion about the wrath of God, along with the brevity of human life.  Which, to me, adds "oomph" to the verse.  I asked a group of entering freshmen yesterday, "have you ever met a clueless old person?"  (Obvious answer: yes!)  Then I asked, "Do you want to wind up a clueless old person yourself?" (Obvious answer: no!)  So then, let's all be wise stewards of our days.  For truly, there are not very many of them, when all is said & done!

Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.
Romans 12:2

WCU's theme for the year is " the renewing of your mind."  Which is from Romans 12:2, another favorite verse of mine.  In context: Paul has just finished 11 chapters of some of the heaviest, deepest doctrinal discussion in the Bible.  Then, 12:1: "Therefore, do not be conformed to this world...but be transformed..."  followed by 5 chapters of unpacking what "Therefore" looks like in application.

I teach Finance & Economics, & not theology.  However, part of God's providential provision & leading in the lives of a batch of students for the next 10 weeks is that they sit under Dr. Madaris' teaching.  Thus, my teaching is part of God's plan for their lives.  Perhaps just to test their faith & discipline (*grin*)...or perhaps to show them they can handle difficult material after all...or perhaps to help them understand a bit of how the world works in reality.  Regardless, their goal is to have their minds transformed, and it is a GREAT honor to be part of that process!

Which leads to my last verse I'll quote:

Let no one despise you for your youth, but set the believers an example in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith, in purity...
1 Timothy 4:12

It's popular--mostly because it's so easy, and because us older people are so lazy--to take cheap shots at today's young folks.  I *STRONGLY* reject that whole line of thinking.  In fact, I personally take great hope in the future, precisely because I'm around some outstanding young men & women all the time.  This generation of college students wants to impact the world, and they are quite serious about it!  They want to end things like slavery (aside: there are more slaves in the world TODAY than EVER BEFORE...which begs the question, "How'd we baby boomers do @ ending slavery?" *nervous clearing of throat*), poverty, racism,...I love that about them.  They inspire me greatly in so many ways.  Plus, dadburn it, it's just a lot of fun to hang w/ college students!  (Sure, there are some who are, to be kind, not very inspiring...let's call them the "Mike-Madaris-in-college" students.  *smile*  But they stand out these days precisely because they're so listless.)

So, to all young students: hear the words of Paul to his young apprentice Timothy, who was approximately your age.  "Let no one despise you for your youth, but show yourself an example..."  People WILL despise you for your youth; show yourself an example anyway!  Hard?  You bet!  The world is full of crusty old people who have forgotten some things: (1) what it's like to be young, (2) what it's like to have hope & optimism, (3) **almost every single significant movement throughout history that has shaped & changed our world has been led mostly by young people**  So, go show yourself an example! 

But starting this week, "showing yourself an example' begins by coming to class.  *grin*

I love my job & can't wait to get into the new term.  Tomorrow night, Lisa & I will be at the WCU coffee shop on campus for something called "coffee talk."  As near as I can figure, we're discussing some things about life as a student @ WCU with a group of entering students.  And soon, we're hoping to re-boot our small group in our home of students from other countries to bat around things slightly more significant than how to calculate the present value of an annuity or the marginal cost of producing the 500,000th widget or what "CAMEL" means to a banker.  (hint: has nothing to do with the animal!)

I love my job.  It's a new year.  Let's get after it!


Wednesday, August 10, 2011

church goer jerks

Posted Sunday on Facebook by a friend who's a manager at a local restaurant:  (Note: this guy's an actual friend in person; not just a facebook acquaintance.)

Attention all my fellow church goers. Please stop coming to lunch directly after church and acting like jerks to restaurant employees. It makes it extremely hard for me to witness to them! It is very difficult to convince someone that Jesus loves them when you show them zero Christ like love!

I have very little to add.  (But I'll keep writing anyway...*smile*)

When we were newlyweds, Lisa worked in a restaurant.  I'll skip a bunch of stories to land on the sad conclusion: Nobody wanted to work Sunday lunch, despite the fact that Sunday lunch was the busiest time the restaurant had every week.  Why didn't people whose income depends on tips want to work on the busiest time of the week?  Two reasons: 1) the folks fresh out of church were typically quite rude, and 2) the folks fresh out of church were--by a long way--the worst tipping crowd all week.  And Jesus wept...

Ever wonder why it seems that people outside the church are increasingly hostile to the church?  Go back & re-read my friend's remarks above, along with the previous paragraph about Lisa's coworkers.

Which leads me to a few requests of my fellow churchgoers, in addition to my friend's post above:

(1) By all means, be about the business of proclaiming the excellencies of Christ & the majesty of the Gospel! 

(1a) Radical Idea: why not go way out of your way to smile & be nice & be helpful to your server & to the cashier & to the person seating you, even if something goes wrong with your order?  Especially if something goes wrong with your order even? 

(2) Do NOT leave a Gospel tract in lieu of a tip at a restaurant!  Don't ever do this, but especially not if you've spent the last hour whining & complaining & being obnoxious to your server. 
[Just in case anyone's wondering, I am VERY well aware that the Gospel is of infinitely greater value that a few bucks' tip.  But to an unchurched nonbeliever, leaving anything instead of a tip = cheap.  Ironically, flinging a Gospel tract at someone who's expecting some $$ can wind up damaging the cause of Christ rather than advancing it.] 

(3) Tip generously!! 
(Said the one whose wife was in the server biz years ago, and whose daughter is in that biz now)

Now your homework assignment: Go back to the top of this post & reread the part from my friend's facebook post; then let's all change the way we Christians are viewed (justifiably!) by those serving in the food service business, especially on Sundays.

In other words, let's connect the dots between what we sing & pray & hear in church and how we conduct ourselves out in public.

For the sake of the Gospel,

...practice and observe whatever they tell you—but not what they do. For they preach, but do not practice.
Matthew 23:3 (Jesus speaking in condemnation of the very religious priests of his day)

So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.
1 Corinthians 10:31 (Paul speaking; does "whatever you do" include "eating lunch out on Sundays"?)

Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.
Colossians 3:16-17  (Paul speaking.  Note the connection between worship/Bible study/etc. and "whatever you do."  If your service to & magnification of the Lord ends when you leave church Sunday morning, then with all the love I can muster, you have missed some very significant points about the whole thing!)