Saturday, June 20, 2009

He would be 82 if he were still here...

He would have just celebrated his 55th wedding anniversary.

He would’ve been a pa-in-law for over 25 years now.

A grandpa for 23 years.

I ‘spect he’d have retired from the daily operation of his business a while back. But I also ‘spect he’d be one of those guys John Piper writes of who never retired from serving others and from ministry in & through the church.

I wonder if he would still be so dashingly handsome as he was at 20. Or 35. Or 47. (Don’t know beyond that, for 47 is as old as he ever was.). Somehow, I think he probably would be.

I also wonder where his travel bug would’ve taken him by now. When he left this world, he was planning a trip to Australia. Man, would that have been a fun one…

I wonder if he would still be teaching the 3-year-old Sunday School class. Somehow, I think he probably would be.

Here are some things I am quite certain would be true were he still here...

He would still be a big Bama football fan, as he was all 47 years of his life. I’m pretty sure he’d have gone to the Sugar Bowl this past January, and despite the complete thrashing the Tide received, he’d still have worn his Crimson wear proudly. And would still be wearing it proudly now; his love of & support of his team never depended on a win-loss record (a concept that should be re-discovered in our day...)

Having that said, he would also be a Gator fan since his oldest grandchild will graduate from UF this August. And he would be an FSU fan since grandson #2 attended there. And he’d definitely be an Ole Miss fan since his 3rd grandson attends there. In fact, cancel the Sugar Bowl attendance; he might well have joined his younger son and youngest grandson in Dallas for the Cotton Bowl. He would’ve worn some sort of “Ole Miss Grandpa” shirt and/or hat, and would’ve been as pumped about how the game unfolded as his son & grandson were. And, he already be asking for some Miss State wear & tickets since grandchild #4—the older granddaughter—will be attending there this Fall. Oh, no doubt he’d still love the Tide, but because he would love his grandkids more, he’d wear the UM, UM, MSU, & FSU shirts proudly. (He’d also be a USM fan since his younger son taught there for a while, and a Miami fan since his older son graduated from there).

To him—and this lesson seems to be all-too-frequently lost these days (including in the community in which I live)—a relationship would be FAR more important than a college sports allegiance. He was the master of cheering for his team without denigrating yours, and without ridiculing your choice of team. Another concept that seems lost in our society--and in the community in which I live--these days.

Relatedly, he would be one of those grandpas that the grandkids adore and can’t seem to spend enough time around. They—the grandkids—would doubtless know the lyrics to several Hank Williams songs (Hank Sr., of course). They’d also know some silly jokes. And how to laugh...including how to laugh at themselves (a lost art, that). And how to love a woman. And how to catch & clean a fish. And how to be a friend. And they’d know that it’s very, very difficult to beat Grandpa at ping pong or pool or tennis. And they would absolutely know that whatever else came their way, there would always be this very funny, handsome, doting Grandpa who loved them very intensely.

I’m absolutely certain that he’d still love a good joke. And even a good practical joke. His people…our people…are like that. We love to laugh. Even at ourselves when we’re the object of the joke.

There is no doubt that his daughters-in-law would just love and cherish him. And he would just be crazy in love with both of them.

Instead, we’re all left just to imagine…and to wonder…and to ask the question that will not be answered this side of glory: WHY?

Today, if you see a smile on my face or see me chuckle at the most random time, know that I’m imagining…and wondering…and remembering that I got more excellent daddying in 15 ½ years than many get in a lifetime. You may even see a tear now & then. I’ll be OK.

To all men reading (& especially to the three grandsons): It absolutely is possible to be a masculine, manly man without becoming a boorish lout & punk toward ladies and other men. The only time in my 15 ½ years with him that I EVER saw him with a look of cold fury on his face was when this punk (a grown man, but still a punk) threatened and made nasty, evil comments toward a woman he loved. I will never have to wonder what it means to “love your wife as Christ loved the church and gave Himself up for her”, for I lived with an example of that for the first 15 ½ years of my life. Perhaps I’ll get it right one day myself.

To all women reading (& especially to the two granddaughters): There ARE still such men around. Men who will cherish you…and honor you…and love you sacrificially…who will wake up in the morning thinking about how to show you that love today…who will adore & lovingly lead your children…who will inspire dreams of greatness in your sons…and in your church…and in your city and country. There are sadly not many men like that around, but they’re still around.

Don’t settle for today’s punkish, loser-ish, cheap imitation of masculinity, nor for the wimpy retreat from it that is so popular in our culture. And by the way, this guy I’m describing would also have fit the “wow, he’s hot!” criteria as well. Again, there are such men who are the total package. Wait for one of those…the others aren’t worth the effort & hassle & heartache they will surely bring into your life.

Meanwhile, it’s Fathers’ Day. Once again, as I have for nearly 21 years now since becoming a father, I look into the mirror of my memories and ask how I’m doing at it. And once again, I am reminded that I fall WAAAAY short of his example, and more, of the biblical ideal of Scripture. And once again, I ask for—and receive—God’s forgiveness & mercy toward my own efforts, and His grace & power to start anew & to do better.

And I imagine Dad smiling at Jim and me & saying “I’m proud of you son.”

And I press on.

Happy Fathers’ Day! And thanks Dad. See you later. Mom, Jim & I sure have missed you these past 34 ½ years. Can’t wait for you to meet your daughters-in-law and your grandchildren. Oh, and there’s this great guy Mom married last Fall…you would be very pleased with him and how he cherishes Mom. You’ll love them all!

I will always love you & will continue to miss you hard until you show me your mansion & introduce me to some of the saints of the ages.


With grateful love,
Mike

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

64 years...just imagine! I've only been alive for 50, and only married for half of those.

Bob Mangum's faith became sight a couple of days ago.

The important stuff first: Please pray for Mr. Bob's wife--of 64 years!--Mrs. Lorene. And for their 2 daughters. And for their grandchildren, two of whom I know. And their great grandchildren.

Mr. Bob served in what became the U.S. Air Force toward the end of WW2. Then he came back to Hattiesburg near his home (Magee, MS), married his sweetie & worked in the local Hercules Chemical factory from which he retired some years back.

I knew him the last 20 years of his life. I knew him in multiple dimensions: a deacon & leader in my church...the father of a friend's wife...the grandfather of two great young adults that I watched grow up...the great husband of a great wife who loved her dearly (last time I saw him, he still had a twinkle in his eye, laughing with me about how well we married)...a guy I always enjoyed chatting with, who always asked about me and about my family. A role model in so many ways.

Mr. Bob was injured in an industrial accident some years back that damaged his eyesight. And yet, I never heard him complain. He was one of those guys who was just rock solid & steady. Every young man--and us not-so-young men!--need role models like him in our lives.

And now we are short one role model. I really fear for us...for our church, our community, our area, and our nation...when "the greatest generation" is but a memory.

Where will the role models come from?

Who will teach us by word and deed and lifestyle what it means to be a man?

Who will show us how to harness and control our masculinity?
(look around our society; basically, that's not being taught any more...and we are raising a generation of punks with a severely diminished grasp of "manhood")


Who will model how to love a woman "as Christ loved the church and gave Himself up for her"?

Who will show us how to disagree without being disagreeable?

Who will demonstrate that Christianity is so much more than reading books & quoting proper theological terms properly?

Who will teach by word and deed what it means to be a faithful church member?
(again, look around; we are raising a generation of Christian tourists & buffet-like consumers..."I'll go to Bible study here, worship there, preaching over there, small group over here" In other words, "I'm not going to commit to anything, because that might require service to others and sacrifice and consistency and inconvenience and [gasp!] tithing & sacrificial financial giving, and other things that are, you know, yucky & stuff"...)

Who will show us how to finish well, straining toward the finish line even through sickness and pain and difficulty? How to forget what lies behind and press forward to what lies ahead?

Who will live such that when he passes from our midst, his loss is felt painfully and widely?

I fear for us. God help us.

Thanks, Mr. Bob, for being my friend. Thanks for being genuinely interested in me and in my family. Thanks for the times we laughed together. Thanks for finishing well even through pain & illness. And thanks for your faithful service to our Lord and to your family and to our church and to our country and to our world.

Your life mattered greatly, and your passing leaves a gaping hole. Rest in peace, my friend. See you later.

Mike

p.s. - this passage--a favorite of mine--came to mind as I was pondering Mr. Bob's life & legacy:

Do not cast me off in the time of old age;
forsake me not when my strength is spent.
But I will hope continually
and will praise you yet more and more.
My mouth will tell of your righteous acts,
of your deeds of salvation all the day,
for their number is past my knowledge.
With the mighty deeds of the Lord God I will come;
I will remind them of your righteousness, yours alone.
O God, from my youth you have taught me,
and I still proclaim your wondrous deeds.
So even to old age and gray hairs, O God,
do not forsake me, until I proclaim your might to another generation,
your power to all those to come.
Psalm 71:9, 14-18

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Hope for the Hopeless

Three & a half years ago, I had my first appointment w/ Dr. Nagen Bellare. Dr. Bellare is an awesome oncologist here in Hattiesburg. I've known him for a number of years & never planned on seeing him professionally...alas... Neither he, nor Lisa, nor I knew that this was the first of many oncology appointments here and in Houston. Anyway, at that first appointment, Dr. Bellare said he wanted to share some Scripture with me as he does with all of his patients. This is what he shared.

Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.
Isaiah 41:10

But now thus says the Lord, he who created you, O Jacob, he who formed you, O Israel: “Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you; when you walk through fire you shall not be burned, and the flame shall not consume you. For I am the Lord your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior.
Isaiah 43:1b - 3a

I clung to those verses then. I have clung to them many times since then. I have clung to them almost daily this past year & a half, first through the fear & uncertainty of wondering and a bunch of tests & procedures, then through the desperate fear & uncertainty of knowing a diagnosis with its accompanying surgeries & immunotherapies & such. I clung to them when a great friend entered eternity last summer due to complications from his battle with leukemia.

I have also clung again in celebration, especially in my most recent visit w/ Dr. Mehran. (one more time: "there is no need to operate, Mr. Madaris. I'm cancelling your surgery. Go home & enjoy your summer..." I doubt I'll ever get tired of replaying that in my mind...*smile*)

Two songs recently showed up on my Pandora web radio station recently, both of which sort of reminded me of God's faithfulness. Freshen up your coffee & read these lyrics slowly...

Valley Song - Jars Of Clay
You have led me to the sadness
I have carried this pain
On a back bruised, nearly broken
I'm crying out to you

(Chorus) I will sing of Your mercy
That leads me through valleys of sorrow
To rivers of joy

When death like a Gypsy
Comes to steal what I love
I will still look to the heavens
I will still seek your face
But I fear you aren't listening
Because there are no words
Just the stillness and the hunger
For a faith that assures

Chorus x2

Alleluia, alleluia
Alleluia, alleluia
While we wait for rescue
With our eyes tightly shut
Face to the ground using our hands
To cover the fatal cut
And though the pain is an ocean
Tossing us around, around, around
You have calmed greater waters
Higher mountains have come down

Chorus
Yeah
Alleluia, alleluia
Alleluia, alleluia
Alleluia, alleluia alleluia, alleluia
Alleluia, alleluia alleluia, alleluia

Chorus (4 Xs)

Oh, Lord sing of Your mercy,
Mercy Your mercy

Cry Out to Jesus - Third Day
To everyone who's lost someone they love
Long before it was their time
You feel like the days you had were not enough
when you said goodbye

And to all of the people with burdens and pains
Keeping you back from your life
You believe that there's nothing and there is no one
Who can make it right

There is hope for the helpless
Rest for the weary
Love for the broken heart
There is grace and forgiveness
Mercy and healing
He'll meet you wherever you are
Cry out to Jesus, Cry out to Jesus

For the marriage that's struggling just to hang on
They lost all of their faith and love
They've done all they can to make it right again
Still it's not enough

For the ones who can't break the addictions and chains
You try to give up but you come back again
Just remember that you're not alone in your shame
And your suffering

There is hope for the helpless
Rest for the weary
Love for the broken heart
There is grace and forgiveness
Mercy and healing
He'll meet you wherever you are
Cry out to Jesus, Cry out to Jesus

When you're lonely (when you're lonely)
And it feels like the whole world is falling on you
You just reach out, you just cry out to Jesus
Cry to Jesus

To the widow who suffers from being alone
Wiping the tears from her eyes
For the children around the world without a home
Say a prayer tonight

There is hope for the helpless
Rest for the weary
Love for the broken heart
There is grace and forgiveness
Mercy and healing
He'll meet you wherever you are
Cry out to Jesus, Cry out to Jesus

(back to bb) Note that neither of the Scriptures and neither of the songs promise a particular outcome. In my case, Dr. Bellare didn't either (he emphasized that he could not guarantee an outcome). But the passages from Isaiah, like the two songs, promise something better than a particular situational outcome; they promise the presence of my Lord! That's all anyone can promise. And really...ultimately...that's all any of us need, though it's hard to see that in the dark of the valley.

Let me wind this up by asking you to please continue to pray for my friend Stephanie Weathers and her three children. That dreadful anniversary of the terrible outcome to their medical situation is looming in just a few short weeks--the first anniversary of Jason's entering glory. If you want to know what it looks like to magnify the name of our Lord in the midst of crushing grief...if you want to know the awful reality of losing a husband at 33 & being left with three young children...and if you want to have your socks blessed off by a remarkable lady whose life & words are an amazing testimony to the "hope for the hopeless" Third Day sings about, check out Steph's blog. These most recent two entries are incredible.

Go to
http://stephanieweathers.blogspot.com and prepare to be blessed.

Hoping I always cry out to Jesus, and OH-so-thankful for His presence,
bb

p.s. - wanna hear those two songs? Both are great both musically and lyrically. Here you go:
Valley Song
Cry Out to Jesus

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

SHAEF - embarking on the great crusade

(Note: this one looks long, but that's only because it includes a bunch of pictures. I promise I was brief in my words. Feel free to skip mine, but please don't skip theirs down at the bottom.)
I was going to post some pics of them back on 6/6/44. DDay. But I've decided you've seen those. So I'll show some of them as they are now. Some of these are better than others, but I'm posting them all so you can get a feel for the event @ the World War II Museum in New Orleans, last Saturday, June 6. The 65th anniversary of DDay. I went with my friend, Lance, who is a modern-day Army veteran himself.

This one--and the one below are part of the "Roll Call of the Greatest Generation" Saturday afternoon. The guys stood when their branch of the service was called out.
Marines. (I know this because we spoke w/ several of the guys in the red VFW caps standing. Plus, the lady w/ the white jacket w/ the Marine Corps emblem on it.)

Was trying to capture the guy on the second row from the back. Showed up in his full uniform. (see the beret; he's looking toward his right as he's sitting)



Note the salutes during the national anthem. Including the guy @ the bottom; he's not in uniform, but is wearing his hat with his unit & branch of service. I say, salute away, sir. You definitely earned the right to do so.



Lance planned better than I. He brought along his copy of Citizen Soldier by Stephen Ambrose, and had a number of the guys sign it. This guy is from Bay St. Louis, MS, and was quite a character. Very entertaining. Showed us pictures of their "shower" back then--2 guys naked pouring buckets of water over each other. Also showed pictures of the "latrine"...but I'll not describe that one. *smile*


As I say, a character and a talker.

In contrast, this guy was shy...seemed surprised that Lance wanted his autograph. The bottom bar across his bolo tie rt next to the book cover says "Anzio." Anzio was the DDay invasion of southern Europe.

The guy in the blue hat leaning over the chat is a veteran of Iwo Jima. Still a very solid guy in great shape. Seemed to know everybody in the building. Another guy saw him & asked "How the [heck] do you still fit into your uniform top?" Response: "I work out every day...don't you?" I love it. BTW, the red thing around his neck is their veteran ID tag. The guy in the wheelchair w/ his back to us is wearing his too. You can see it if you look closely.

This is the guy in the wheelchair w/ his back to us in the previous picture. A Marine veteran. He is no longer able to speak. But was most appreciative of being asked to sign Lance's book. He (the Marine) asked his buddy next to him to sign.

Another shot of the same guy, with what I took to be his daughter.

This is an "almost" picture. Look straight over the Nat'l Guardsman talking on his phone. There's a guy there who was wearing his complete WW2 U.S. Navy uniform. Very proudly, I might add. Again, I loved it.

This is Moira Ambrose. Recognize that name? She is the widow of writer/professor the late Stephen Ambrose who has done as much as anyone to capture the stories of these guys. He wrote Citizen Soldier, DDay, Band of Brothers (yeah...that one), Wild Blue, and others. She and Stephen were instrumental in creating the museum in New Orleans. It opened 9 years ago to great--and greatly deserved--fanfare. I highly recommend it next time you're near NOLA. Leave plenty of time...there's quite a lot to see.

I'm digging this guy's white shoes, his service hat, and--of course--his sweetie beside him.


Another recognition by service unit.





And again.



Mrs. Ambrose again (center of picture). Note the Higgins boat in the background. Eisenhower called these "the boats that won the war." Mr. Higgins' company built over 20,000 of them in just a couple of years. They were used in both the Alantic and Pacific theaters.

There was this guy in the Coast Guard who brought his young son. The son had a Coast Guard hat with the Coast Guard motto on the back: "Semper Paratus"...always ready. Both of them knew the vital role the Coast Guard played on 6/6/44.

There were these two guys in wheelchairs. Veterans of DDay. And the Battle of the Bulge. I wonder if such men have spent much of the last 65 years bored. My guess is that, instead, they've spent every day of the last 65 years grateful for little things. I'm quite certain that their manhood & toughness & "do I have what it takes" questions were answered decisively between 6 June 1944 and early February 1945 never to need to be questioned again.

One guy there jumped near St. Mere Eglise as a pathfinder, which means his were literally among the 1st boots to land in occupied Normandy in the wee hours of 6/6/44. Later, he jumped into Holland as part of Operation Market-Garden. I wonder which jump was more difficult psychologically. On the one hand, he knew (sort of) what to expect for the Market Garden jump. However, it is unclear to me whether that would make that 2nd jump easier or more difficult...

There were reenactors dressed in all the parts. Including one that I wish I had photographed: Rosie the Riveter. My imagination says that she was honoring a grandmother who was one of the many ladies who took up the manufacturing jobs vacated when so many guys enlisted.

There was another guy wearing a hat with the number of the landing craft he piloted on to the beach.

This telegram that was sent the night before was read. It was from a French guy, thanking the DDay veterans for having the guts to invade his homeland in June 6, 1944...and thanking them for--some weeks later--liberating the German prison camp where he'd been held for 44 months. He still remembered the specific platoon & battalion that liberated the camp where he was held. Said something to the effect that not a day goes by that he doesn't remember the Americans and thank God for them. (Aside: and thus my composure ended rather early in the day as this was read...)
And then there's my new WW2-vintage Army Air Corps recruiting poster. Bought it @ the museum in memory of this one particular AAC veteran. Dashingly handsome fellow who made ladies' hearts quiver all over Lowndes County, AL, including those in Braggs HS, class of 1945. Whereas I graduated HS & went to the beach, he graduated HS & went to basic training at some place in MS woods...name of Camp Shelby... Then to his first duty post: a place called Nagasaki where a terrible bomb had been dropped, leading to the surrender of the Japanese. After his hitch was up, he came home. Then when the Korean conflict broke out, he went again. After that, he came home to stay, married & fulfilled his dream of having kids. I'm son #2 of 2. He will always be my favorite WW2-era veteran. The poster will be displayed somewhere soon.

But I digress...he was not a DDay veteran.

This was the order of the day, 6/6/44:


SUPREME HEADQUARTERS ALLIED EXPEDITIONARY FORCE
6 June 1944
"Soldiers, Sailors, and Airmen of the Allied Expeditionary Force! You are about to embark upon the Great Crusade, toward which we have striven these many months. The eyes of the world are upon you. The hope and prayers of liberty-loving people everywhere march with you. In company with our brave Allies and brothers-in-arms on other Fronts, you will bring about the destruction of the German war machine, the elimination of Nazi tyranny over the oppressed peoples of Europe, and security for ourselves in a free world. Your task will not be an easy one. Your enemy is will trained, well equipped and battle-hardened. He will fight savagely. But this is the year 1944! Much has happened since the Nazi triumphs of 1940-41. The United Nations have inflicted upon the Germans great defeats, in open battle, man-to-man. Our air offensive has seriously reduced their strength in the air and their capacity to wage war on the ground. Our Home Fronts have given us an overwhelming superiority in weapons and munitions of war, and placed at our disposal great reserves of trained fighting men. The tide has turned! The free men of the world are marching together to Victory! I have full confidence in your courage, devotion to duty and skill in battle. We will accept nothing less than full Victory! Good luck! And let us beseech the blessing of Almighty God upon this great and noble undertaking."
Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower, Commanding.

Here's Sgt. Bob Slaughter's copy. Sgt. Slaughter went ashore on Omaha Beach as part of the 116th Infantry. While on their landing craft, he passed his copy around for the guys to sign. By nightfall, half of these guys were no longer available for service...

There was another message composed that morning by Gen. Eisenhower. One that--thankfully--was never used.

"Our landings in the Cherbourg-Havre area have failed to gain a satisfactory foothold and I have withdrawn the troops. My decision to attack at this time and place was based upon the best information available. The troop, the air [force] and the navy did all that bravery and devotion to duty could do. If any blame or fault attaches to the attempt, it is mine alone."

Consider: "all that bravery and devotion to duty could do..." To me, there's an excellent summary of the guys I met Saturday, even though that particular notice was never used. I'll add these words from the end of the book Band of Brothers: "Grandpa, were you a hero in the war?" "No, son, I wasn't...but I served in a company of heroes..."

And these from Stephen Ambrose's DDay:
"It's a wonderful thing to remember what those fellows years ago were fighting for and sacrificing for, what they did to preserve our way of life. Not to conquer any territory, not for any ambitions of our own. But to make sure that Hitler could not destroy freedom in the world. I think it's just over whelming. To think of the lives that were given for that principle, paying a terrible price on this beach alone, on that day, 2,000 casualties. But they did it so that the world could be free. It just shows what free men will do rather than be slaves."
Gen. Dwight Eisenhower at Omaha Beach 20 years after the invasion.

And these from the previous century:
When can their glory fade?
O the wild charge they made!
All the world wonder'd.
Honour the charge they made!
Alfred Tennyson

"I have gone through lots of tragedies since D-Day, but to me, D-Day will live with me till the day I die, and I'll take it to heaven with me. It was the longest, most miserable, horrible day that I or anyone else ever went through. I would not take a million dollars for my experiences, but I surely wouldn't want to go through that again for a million dollars."
Felix Branham, Private, K Company, 116th Infantry, Omaha Beach
(the regiment that took the heaviest casualties of all the Allied regiments on D-Day)

"The first night in France I spent in a ditch beside a hedgerow wrapped in a damp shelter-half and thoroughly exhausted. But I felt elated. It had been the greatest experience of my life. I was ten feet tall. No matter what happened, I had made it off the beach and reached the high ground. I was king of the hill at least in my mind, for a moment. My contribution to the heroic tradition of the United States Army might have been the smallest achievement in the history of courate, but at least for a time, I had walked in the company of very brave men."
John Ellery, 16th Regiment, 1st Division, Easy Red sector, Omaha Beach.

If you're wondering, I pretty much stood silent Saturday. I am not worthy to even speak in the presence of so many heroes and "very brave men." If I live a long time, I doubt I will ever again walk among so many selfless heroes who are "ten feet tall" still today. I'll echo Mr. Ellery's words: at least for a time last Saturday, I walked in the company of very brave men...

And they are leaving us way too fast. Soon, they will all be but a memory. And we as a nation will be all the poorer.

bb

Sometimes, it's hard to blog...




P.G.T. Beauregard "Beau" Madaris, ladies & gents...the pride of Oxord, MS...shutting down all productivity...
I was actually editing a blog entry about Saturday at this point in time. I'll try again when Beau's awake. *huge grin*
bb

Tuesday, June 02, 2009

As a lily among brambles, so is my love among the young women. Song 2:2

“Out on the road that lies before me now
There are some turns where I will spin
I only hope that you can hold me now
‘Till I can gain control again…”
Rodney Crowell

We are opposites in almost every dimension. Thus, we need each other. Badly. Blessedly. Gloriously

I love a crowd. “Me & my 200 buddies are gonna….” She prefers sitting on the couch with me or sitting over dinner & dessert with a couple of friends.

I love new things. OK, to the ADD level, I love new things. She finds joy in the same things.

I am wired toward open-ended, inconclusive dreams. She is wired toward completion. Practicality. Usefulness.

I love to be speaking in front of the crowd, and have zero administrative skills. She greatly prefers to be behind the scenes taking care of the details that make the big stuff happen.

I like being served. She prefers to serve.

My #1 love language is her #5. Her #1 is my #5.

My Kiersey temperament is ENTP. Hers is ISFJ. (note the total non-overlap of any of the letters…)

My spiritual gift is designed to be used in public & in front of people. Hers is for behind the scenes. If you’re wondering, the Church needs more people like her than like me. Far more…

She is cautious & thinks long & well before acting. I live all-too-frequently in the realm of “ready…FIRE!...aim..."

I'm pretty much a selfish oaf, left to my own devices. She is most decidedly not.
This opposite-ness is, I believe, a great strength in our marriage. Challenging, to be sure, but a great strength. At the risk of demeaning where I’m trying to go here, Rocky said it best: “we got gaps..She’s got gaps, I got gaps…and we fill in each other’s gaps.”

She wakes up in the morning thinking, “how can I help Mike, James, Anne, & my boss succeed?” What a treasure!

25 years ago today, she put this ring on my finger. I’d love to tell you that we never had any struggles or challenges. But any time you put two imperfect people in very close proximity, there will be…not might be, WILL BE challenges. I wouldn’t have it any other way. Once we fully realized the magnitude of the commitment we had made—which realization come gloriously early in our marriage, thankfully!—we got to work building a marriage. (for more on the magnitude of that commitment, see Genesis 2--the marriage relationship was created before the church, before government, and even before sin entered the world! Marriage is God's idea & His design.)

The following is NOT a clich├ęd, hackneyed statement: I am so much more in love with Lisa today than 25 years ago that it hardly bears comparison! Really, I am.

Years back, our friends Curt & Noel Hale sang a song that had this line: “Today, I’m marrying my best friend.” I did that. It was true on June 2, 1984, and it is so much more true on June 2, 2009. My wife is my best friend. My greatest encourager. My wisest sounding board. My partner. My co-laborer, to use Paul's phrase.

I cannot even imagine my life these past 25 years without her. There is no telling what a tragic folly I would have become. Scripture quotes God saying “It is not good for a man to be alone…” In my case, I should pencil in “especially you, Madaris!”

And the amazing thing is, in 1984, I wasn’t much of a catch. (well, except for my dashing, studly good looks, of course…*smile*) I’m not that much of a catch now, but I really wasn’t one then. (I know...be afraid of me back then...) And yet, here we are, celebrating 25 years.

I am hopelessly, helplessly, wonderfully, gloriously in love with Lisa Mixon Madaris. Whatever I have become professionally & personally is largely because of her. My speaking opportunities & teaching opportunities for the Kingdom? Because of her. Pretty much any service I have ever done for the Lord…because of her. Ph.D. in Financial Economics? Because of her. Dad with a slight clue? You got it. Church deacon & Sunday School teacher & ordained minister? Absolutely because of her. My hopes for the future? Yep. Because of her.

She has literally saved my life. She is the one who said 3.5 years ago, “I really wish you’d ask Brett {Robbins…my Dr.} to take a look at that place on your back…” Turns out, it was a rather large amelanotic melanoma. One Dr. said “these are usually diagnosed in an autopsy.” She has made numerous trips to Houston & M.D. Anderson at my side. In fact, she has had to drive for several those, since I was on the “physically unable to perform” list after a surgery or a treatment. She has swabbed my face at night during two cycles of high-dose IL-2 treatment during which my systems were not functioning. She has laid there in the room not sleeping much, listening to the beeps & hisses of the machinery that monitored me & kept me alive. She has spent two long, tense, lonely mornings in the surgery waiting room waiting to hear from Dr. Mehran. "In sickness and in health"...she's had plenty of the "in sickness" part of that vow.
And yet, her next complaint will be her first.

And her parenting…oh my! No child ever had a better mother. Just ask my two; they’ll tell you. Ask me: I'll tell you! She put her professional life on hold for a bunch of years to take on THE hardest job there is: full-time, stay-at-home Mom. And she did so with great joy. (aside: DO NOT EVER ask a young mother the foolish, idiotic question “do you work?” I’ll answer for all mothers everywhere: “YES, (you clueless moron)!! Very hard! But not outside the home…”)

This Fall, our nest will empty. Neither of us is thrilled about this, for we dearly love our children and treasure time spent with them. But she helps me be thrilled for our children as they begin to find their wings and their life calling. And, rest assured, we are excited about sitting around, reading, drinking coffee, going on the little side trips she’s been wanting to do, traveling, ministering, etc.

I find it VERY sad that so very few of my children’s friends come from intact homes with Mom & Dad. Illness & death happen, of course. That’s tragic. And sometimes--infrequently, but sometimes--very bad marriage mistakes are made on the front end, such that divorce becomes the best alternative. But what just chaps me off are the many who have tossed marriage vows aside for the sake of convenience of “finding myself” or “well, she’s just not as cute” or “we’ve drifted apart” or whatever. In short, I find laziness a very weak excuse.

In all seriousness, I offer this: If a relationally-challenged, arrested-adolescent hammerhead like myself can marry and stay married, you can too! I mean that most sincerely!

So, today, we celebrate our 25th anniversary. I'm told it's the silver anniversary. Here at 55 Clipper Road, it's the...well, coffee cup & flowers anniversary. Our money for buying things like silvery is fully invested in pharmacy school tuition and freshman dorm expense this year.

The celebration? Lisa's celebrating by battling our totally-incompetent driver's license office & then going to work. I'm celebrating by weedeating the yard, going to work, and then tonight--the piece de resistance--by teaching my first class meeting of Principles of Microeconomics @ WCU. (Note: we are gearing up for a beach escape in a couple of weeks.)

25 years of her holding me in the turns where I spun until I could gain control again...And being my very best friend on the planet.

Can't wait to see what the next 25 hold!

I love you, Lisa! Thanks for loving me!
Mike