Friday, July 30, 2010

Avery Willis

Dr. Avery Willis went to be with Jesus a couple of days ago.

I never met the man. But in terms of impacting my life in gigantic & significant ways, Avery Willis is right up there very near the top of the list.

He captured some of his missionary experiences in discipling others years ago into a process he called "Masterlife." When Lisa & I took it, it was two reddish notebooks. Now, it's four thinner notebooks.

It is via his "Masterlife" that Avery Willis changed my life in HUGE ways, including changing my work, my prayerlife, my Bible study--which later became my Bible teaching--my family life, my church membership, my missions involvement,...really & truly, the entire trajectory of all that is Mike Madaris was radically transformed nearly 20 years ago via Masterlife. I will never be the same, and I am eternally grateful.

I still remember when my buddy Dr. Johnny Mayfield collared me outside of church about a year after we joined. "Me & Sandy are starting a small group up to work through Masterlife; you & Lisa need to be in it..." There wasn't really a question asked, which will not be surprising to all who know Doc. *smile* Important note: Johnny is a veterinarian. Not a minister. I'll come back to that.

And thus, there we were just a few weeks later sitting in a small room with several other couples, wondering what this "Masterlife" was all about. For me, it was the perfect storm: SUPERB discipleship material in the hands of a remarkable, passionate, gifted shepherd, with the Lord nudging & wooing my heart that it was time to stop playing church & time to start following Christ. James was just a baby, & Anne wasn't here yet.

So, Lisa & I spent a couple of hours a week in small group for the better part of a year. And I can't say this often enough--the entire course of my life changed during that time.

My prayer life changed...

A significant spiritual high point in my whole life was the part of Masterlife where we all spent three hours in prayer alone. An amazing experience! Plus, for the first time ever, I kept a prayer journal with specific requests over which I prayed regularly. Many of which I saw God answer. Prayer became so much more than "God bless us every one" or "I hope my team wins" or "thank you for this food, and wow, is she hot!" Prayer became an intimate experience of communicating with & listening to Him Who loved me & gave Himself up for me. And He *always* answers prayer; sometimes He says "yes"...sometimes He says "no"...sometimes he says "not yet"...Whatever the answer, I trust in His amazing grace & goodness & sovereignty.

My love of & understanding of the Bible changed...

We were required to memorize two verses of Scripture a week. I doubted I could do it; I was wrong. Well, I was right that I couldn't do it, but God enabled me to get it done. I learned how to read a passage inductively, taking it seriously and letting it speak for itself (what a concept, huh?). I learned that there's so much of Scripture that is crystal clear if we will but listen. I learned how to study in depth, and still VERY much enjoy studying a passage using only the Bible & cross references. (Commentaries are fine too, but try studying it on its own some time...) I came to greatly appreciate the unity of Scripture. One big story of God's pursuit of man...

The first time I ever shared my story on purpose was as part of Masterlife. The first time I ever shared the Gospel on purpose was as part of Masterlife. The first time I ever understood that I--a college professor in a business school of all things!--have a ministry via my job was as part of Masterlife. It was such a marvelous relevation that the elevation of the "sacred" at the expense of the "secular" (whatever those words mean) is not really part of what the Bible teaches us about our lives. My understanding of the sovereign providence of God was launched as part of Masterlife. I'm not a believer who's not quite spiritual enough to be a pastor & thus have to settle for being a professor...Rather, I am called by God to magnify His name via all of my life, including life on the college campus as a professor. (A favorite Bible stat: there's more in the words of Jesus in Scripture about practical money management & attitudes than there is about heaven & hell put together!) Remember the veterinarian? Yeah...He knows that he, too, has a ministry as part of his work; I can't tell you how many people have been encouraged, prayed for, challenged, blessed, and actually led to Christ because their dog or cat got sick. I do not have permission to be a slacker at work as long as I'm good w/ my church stuff; indeed, quite the opposite--I'm supposed to be excellent at work because I am a Christian. That's part & parcel of what it means to magnify the Lord in all of my life. (And way too often, I goof up at that particular part & parcel...)

All of those things are but part of the fruit of Dr. Avery Willis in the life of Mike Madaris. And I am but one of MANY who have been hugely impacted by Masterlife.

And he said to all, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.
Luke 9:23 - the first verse we memorized in Masterlife.

By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples.
John 15:8 - another we memorized.

Thank you, Dr. Willis, for living out the reality of those two verses. I can only imagine how your fruit looks from the perspective of eternity. I trust Lisa & I have been faithful stewards of the grace you taught us from a distance. Enter into the joy of our Lord! See you later. Thanks again!

In the Grip of His grace,

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Where y'at? (Short Update)

Here's where I am @ the moment on this recovery journey.

--all tubes & pain pumps & such are gone
--most bandages are gone (still some strips over the actual surgery incision)
--pain gets better, albeit slowly. Yesterday, I tried to ease off on the pain meds; went OK until the afternoon, @ which point I realized it wasn't time to ease off on the pain meds yet.
--appetite mostly back to normal; still eating a bit less, probably because I'm actually doing quite a bit less...
--ability to do stuff improves by the day (note: I'm *definitely* taking this one slowly!)
--breathing exercises getting better fairly quickly. (I have 2 breathing toys I have to play with, and I'm improving with both)
--all oxygen tanks & pumps will be picked up today; I haven't used them since Saturday night!
--I actually slept in a fairly normal position last night for the first time! Part of the night back in my actual bed (for the 1st time) & part on my couch, as my sleep pattern was a bit off
--speaking of sleep pattern, I'm awake more during the day & sleep longer at night. Pretty much back to normal there

Things that aren't quite right yet;
--my thermostat's adjusting ability - if I step outside for 10 seconds, I'll come back in sweating profusely, and will do so for a *long* time after. If memory serves, this will be the case for another day or two
--strength - still not able to lift much nor pull much
--driving - post-op orders show next week; hope so! (but see the next one...)
--use of pain meds - I'd like to be off of them, but that time is not here yet, & won't be for a while. Hopefully, I can get off the narcotic ones shortly & be left w/ Ibuprofen.

I am very excited about being chauffered down to my class Thursday night on our coast campus! (MBA class in which I pretty much just listen to student group presentations; not much standing nor actual lecturing required)

To my GREAT regret, I've had to cancel my trip to Poland in August. I was scheduled to speak at a professor conference. Sadly, the pain & meds & much slower than anticipated recovery have ruled out my going this time. I'm VERY unhappy about this, but really don't have any other choice.

All in all, recovery's going fairly well, given that it's only been 8 days since my chest was cracked open & part of some ribs were removed!

Thanks SO much for your continued prayers & friendship!

In His Glorious Grip,

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Things I'm Imagining @ the Moment...

...being able to compose an entire email without having to stop & take a short nap to rest in the middle of doing so

...being able to mow my lawn.
(James dreams of me being able to do this as well, since he's the man @ the moment...*smile*) Seriously, I'm not a huge digging-around-the-yard kind of guy--as my neighbors will attest!--but I dearly love the deeply-satisfying feeling of "taking dominion" that mowing the lawn provides..

...being able to drive again.
Maybe next week!

...being able to stand in front of a group & teach again.
(my students & my friends in my SS class may insert their own punch line here)

...being able to take the hills again
(fast-walking a hilly neighborhood nearby)

...being able to get on a cross-trainer & go for half an hour

...being able to ride a bicycle
Of course, this requires *owning* bicycle, which I don't. Soon, maybe..

...sleeping in a relaxed prone position

...doing so in my bed instead of sideways on the couch

...doing so without oxygen attached

...having no bandages or medical devices attached to me all day long
(The last device may come off today! Then the bandages later...)

...not having to carefully track multiple pain meds to keep from OD'ing

...standing under a long hot shower

...not having to use my incentive spirometer & my duck-call looking thing to do breathing exercises.

...washing my hair

...not having to keep this cute Teddy bear & an old wooden cane nearby in case of a sudden cough or a need to, well, get up

And mostly, just being pain free, with clean P.E.T. scans for years & decades to come!

Thanks for your prayers! Seeing progress, albeit at a *much* slower pace than I'd like...

Friday, July 23, 2010

A Quick Update (no, really!)

In contrast to my long Sunday night Starbucks-fueled post, this is a quick update of where we are in this process.

--A small melanoma tumor (approx 1.4 cm) was removed from the inside of one of my ribs Monday morning.
--This also required cutting off part of that rib. (An innocuous sounding sentence that carries MUCH wallop behind it!
--We were in an actual room by 6:30 p.m. Monday night, which is a record for us after surgery. Last time, it was 11 p.m. or so.
--Surprisingly, the chest tube came out Tuesday morning early.
--Felt rather good Tuesday morning, such that there was talk of releasing us Tuesday afternoon. Then the pain arrived as the anesthesia fully wore off...(see "cutting off part of that rib" only hurt pretty bad every time I breathed in or out, sat, lay down, stood up, or walked. Other than that, it wasn't so bad.
--The nurse agreed w/ us that we should stay the night, and I am *glad* we did! Wed. a.m. about 1:00 was ROUGH! Breathing was VERY shallow & VERY painful.
--But the HUGE good news is this got better once meds were adjusted. Two doses later, & I was like a new man. Able to both inhale and exhale, which are fairly important bodily functions...
--We rolled out Wed. afternoon around 2:00. Lisa had to drive all the way with me being basically in a pain-meds-induced DEEP sleep pretty much the whole way home. Got home around 11:30 (had to stop for me to walk more than, there's another post-anesthesia bodily function that we pretty much don't want to do that was required a time or two...*sigh*)
--Steady improvement since! Yesterday afternoon, I spiked a bit of a fever, but some mileposts were passed & it went away to stay, Lord willing.

Right now: (Friday, 7/23, 9:00 a.m.)
Still have full bandages over the chest tube hole & the actual incision. Also, I still have an antibiotic pump attached that feeds to the incision. Hence, the actual pump is worn around my waist like a belt. B.B. King said it best: "The thrill is gone..." *smile*

We're confident of two things: (1) I'm decisively on the mend, and (2) this post-surgery mending process will be longer and much more painful than the previous two were. I'm GREATLY reducing expectations about what I'll be accomplishing in these next 3-4 weeks...*sigh*

Still & all, it is quite amazing that I have this good of a medical prognosis, given that just 2 years ago, I was a stage IV metastatic melanoma patient! I attribute this to the grace of our sovereign Lord working through some amazingly gifted doctors & nurses in response to the prayers of a lot of folks. The whole cancer journey is very humbling, but to me the most humbling part is knowing that so many are praying for Lisa & me specifically. This includes people that I've never met. I'm not a good enough writer to capture the emotions that brings out, so let me just say THANKS!

BTW, Lisa, James & Anne are all three being amazing at bringing me stuff & helping me get around & such. E.g., I can't even lift the tea jug out of the fridge, nor lift this laptop on to my lap!

Thanks so much for your prayers & friendship. They mean SO much to us.

In His Grip,

Sunday, July 18, 2010

On what do you rest this trust of yours?

(Isaiah 36:4b)

(You better freshen up your coffee & get comfy...*smile*)

That was one of the verses preached this morning @ The Fellowship @ Cinco Ranch in Katy. (For info about the church we'd belong to if we lived anywhere near the area, click here:

Our friend Donna invited us to join her there at her church. An awesome time on multiple levels, and most demonstrative of God's gracious providence as we get ready for round 3 of surgery tomorrow morning.

So, we drove over to meet Donna for church. VERY inviting facilities & spirit there! We walked into the Life Center (where they worship), and the band fires up "Let It Rise". Gently for the first chorus, and then *rocking*...I *loved* it! Like good worship leaders do, they transported me to the throne of glory right away.

Let the glory of the Lord, rise among us
Let the glory of the Lord, rise among us
Let the praises of the King rise among us
Let it rise

Let the songs of the Lord, rise among us
Let the songs of the Lord, rise among us
Let the joy of the King, rise among us
Let it rise

Oh - oh - oh, let it rise

And let me tell...the glory & the praises & the songs & the joy of the King rose among us this morning! Well, I don't suppose I can speak for all, but they rose among me...*smile*

The senior pastor wasn't there this morning. He's out of town. WAY out of town. In Indonesia, being a blessing to missionaries who are required to work deeply undercover in an area with hundreds of thousands of Muslims, and virtually no Christians.

So, for the first time in my 50+ years of church attendance, I heard a message by a guy wearing an Indy 500 pit crew shirt. You see, this guy missed church on the week of the 500. He & some other guys from the church were @ the Indy 500. Doing evangelism & ministry among the pit crews and race fans. They distributed several thousand pieces of literature about Christianity & did some very cool ministry things.

Anyway, the Fellowship is working through Isaiah this year. The whole book. For the whole year (series title: "Ancient Future...A Year in the Book of Isaiah"). Today, he spoke on "Who You Gonna Trust" from Isaiah 36. His message points were on "Sowing the Seeds of Doubt" introduced by "as surely as I'm preaching to you about faith in a crisis of belief, there's another who will also preach a different message to you in the crisis. Here's what he'll say..."

"God doesn't really care what you do"
"You are weak" (exposition: yes we are...that's why we need a strong Jesus! We're weak, Jesus isn't!)
"God is against you" (cross reference: Romans 8:38-39)
"Godly counsel is not all that it's cracked up to be"
"Ignore God's direction! Trust what feels right! Follow your heart!" (great quote: I'm convinced that every serial killer is following his heart...")
"God can't or God won't" (one of Satan's most preached messages)

Summary point: "God will take care of all of my needs in the best possible way, keeping in mind that He's preparing me for eternity"

Another summary point: "I give my children everything they need...which is very different from giving them everything they *want*...Sometimes I withhold what they want, and other times I make them have things they don't want. If I, an imperfect earthly father do that because I love them & am preparing them for life, how much more our perfect, omniscient, omnipotent heavenly Father?" (Matthew 7:9-11)

A perfect message for me today, as I look at surgery & recovery one more time. His last summary point came from a guy they heard @ the Indy 500 chapel service. The guy was describing being @ the Super Bowl a couple of years ago when the Colts were there. "It struck me...everybody in this stadium knows that Tony Dungy stands for Christ. I wonder how many people know this of me?"

We sang this song too:

The precious blood of Jesus Christ redeems; Forgiven I’m alive, restored set free.
Your majesty resides inside of me. Forever I believe; forever I believe.
Arrested by your truth and righteousness,

your grace has overwhelmed my brokenness
convicted by your spirit, led by your word
your love will never fail
your love will never fail
‘Cause I know you gave the world your only Son for us to
know your name, to live within the savior's love

And He took my place, knowing he’d be crucified and you loved.. you loved, a people undeserving!

I wasn't all that uptight about tomorrow's surgery, but I am *much* less so after this morning's worship service & message @ the Fellowship. This is FAR different from saying I know how it will turn out, mind you! John Piper said it well in a message we listened to on the way out here: "1. God does remarkable, amazing things on behalf of those who love Him...2. But He doesn't always..."

(Hebrews 11: 33-39; Piper's text for that message) "...who through faith conquered kingdoms, enforced justice, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions, quenched the power of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, were made strong out of weakness, became mighty in war, put foreign armies to flight. Women received back their dead by resurrection.

(that's the cool part of this keep reading, and remember there is NO break between the part above and the part below.)

Some were tortured, refusing to accept release, so that they might rise again to a better life. Others suffered mocking and flogging, and even chains and imprisonment. They were stoned, they were sawn in two, they were killed with the sword. They went about in skins of sheep and goats, destitute, afflicted, mistreated—of whom the world was not worthy—wandering about in deserts and mountains, and in dens and caves of the earth.

Note that those in the latter part of this passage are mentioned as "commended through their faith". And yet, they did NOT get the earthly answers they hoped for to their prayers. So, again, I haven't a clue as to how & how long this cancer course will run for me.

But I'm QUITE confident that Jehovah Shammah, the Lord Who is Present (one of my very favorite names of God in Scripture!) will show Himself to be just that tomorrow in the operating room, and more, in the waiting room as my bride sits yet again waiting for her name to be called to meet with my surgeon.

And I am--and she is!--quite "sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord." (Romans 8:38-39)

That is my answer to Sennacherib's emmisary Rabshakeh's question for Judah in Isaiah 36 (see title of this entry above). The quantity of my faith? That only matters a little. The object of my faith? That matters GREATLY. Ultimately. Eternally. And He is present now and will be present tomorrow, and the day after, and next year, and a thousand years from now.

I'll wind you up w/ some lyrics I heard on the way to this Starbucks in which I sit:

"I Will Rise" - Chris Tomlin
There's a peace I've come to know, though my heart and flesh may fail
There's an anchor for my soul; I can say "It is well"

Jesus has overcome, and the grave is overwhelmed
The victory is won; He is risen from the dead

And I will rise when He calls my name
No more sorrow, no more pain
I will rise on eagles' wings
Before my God fall on my knees
And rise...I will rise

There's a day that's drawing near, when this darkness breaks to light
And the shadows disappear and my faith shall be my eyes

Jesus has overcome, and the grave is overwhelmed
The victory is won; He is risen from the dead

(repeat chorus)]

And I hear the voice of many angels sing,
"Worthy is the Lamb"
And I hear the cry of every longing heart,
"Worthy is the Lamb"

(repeat chorus)

THANK YOU so much for your prayers, my friends. We are so VERY humbled that so many are remembering us in prayer before the throne of our Lord. (I'm just glad none of the others sitting near me rt now know who the odd buy wiping tears is...*sheepish grin*) If you can keep praying just a bit more, we hope to soon be able to join you all as intercessory prayERS & not just as intercessory prayEES.

With a full, grateful heart that is trusting in a real God Who loves me & has redeemed me despite myself,

p.s. - Please remember Lisa in the waiting room. Mine is by FAR the easier of our roles tomorrow. I basically show up & get knocked out. She, on the other hand, has to wait for the door to open & to hear "Mrs. Madaris?"

p.p.s. - We also have TOTAL confidence in Dr. Mehran my surgeon, and in his team there @ MDA. I cannot imagine a better guy to entrust with my my rib cage!

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Some Challenges for This Fall

Once more into the breach...(MDA & surgery sched for this week & next)

The scars have *almost* become invisible. Therefore, the only logical thing is to create another one...*sigh*

Back to MDA for yet another surgery--the last one, Lord willing! If you've been following my updates, you know there's this one spot of uncertain biology. (meaning, they don't know what it is) It's been there all along, since my 1st surgery in July 08, and is still there. Very small (1.3 cm) and very slow growing, if it's growing at all. But it does light up the P.E.T. scan, medical guy there said he was not gonna be patient much longer, and the surgeon agreed when I saw him the next day.

Thus, this schedule:

Thurs. 7/15 - travel to Houston (in a *nice* ride, thanks to a generous friend!)
Friday 7/16 - pre-op mtg w/ anesthesia folks & w/ surgeon (no actual medical procedures today)
Sat./Sun.7/17 & 18 - eat lots of Tex-Mex & poke around Houston doing...well, whatever comes up on the calendar (in other words, chill massively this weekend!)
**Monday, 7/19** - surgery @ 0-dark-30 (my Surgeon likes to operate 1st thing, like @ 6:00 a.m....)

Probably a couple of days in hospital, & then home. We're predicting/hoping Wednesday. Dr. Mehran said a day or so; I'm thinking "or so" meaning out Wed.

He said I'd be good to go w/in a week in terms of activities. (Note to students in MBA 689: Lord willing, I *will* be in class Thursday, 7/22, although I'll have to be chauffer-driving down by one of the Madarians. Not supposed to drive for a week...which raises the question of who's gonna haul me down to The Depot for my fix of coffee & a muffin there? *laughing*)

A couple of notes:

--Pray for Lisa! She'll have to drive all the way back fr Houston w/ no help from me. My job will be, in the great words of my friend Jason to his spouse once upon a time, to "sit there & look pretty." (unfortunately, whereas Jason's spouse and mine can do this, I'm...much less equipped, let's say. *grin*)

--Quoting the surgeon, "whatever this spot is, it will be gone!" *loud raucous applause & whistles & vuvuzela noises...and that's just Lisa & me!*

--The spot's on my chest wall. More precisely, it's on my rib, which means he'll cut out a piece of rib. (Supply your own punchline here) Sounds painful to me, but what do I know? *sigh* On the *huge* plus side, it's not down in my lung like the other spots were; thus, it should be an easier procedure (acc. to Dr. Mehran) Basically, I'm hoping no chest tube this time, as having several feet of plastic tubing pulled thru one's chest wall on checkout isn't as much fun as it sounds...

--I *HATE* the effects of anesthesia on me! W/o doing into *too* much detail, one of the effects is that it only matters a very little what I order for bkfst the next day (let's just say, & leave it there)...Plus, my conversational skills will be *seriously* limited on the way back from Houston. Informed sources (Lisa) suggest that I'll go from lively, cogent conversation to deep sleep and back in a matter of seconds. I am about as un-pumped about the anesthesia as about the surgery itself.

The *strong* hope/prayer is that this leads to years of boring, un-lit, "nothing-to-see-here" P.E.T. scans after this surgery! Again, quoting the surgeon: "You have a very good biology of your disease" which means this could well be my last cancer-related surgical event for a while at least (well, other than the regular scans & sticks...). Which would be AWESOME!!

If you are a praying type, we welcome and GREATLY APPRECIATE your prayers!

My Bible reading took me to Isaiah 12 this morning:

You will say in that day:
“I will give thanks to you, O Lord,
for though you were angry with me,
your anger turned away,
that you might comfort me.

2 “Behold, God is my salvation;
I will trust, and will not be afraid;
for the Lord God is my strength and my song,
and he has become my salvation.”

3 With joy you will draw water from the wells of salvation. 4 And you will say in that day:

“Give thanks to the Lord,
call upon his name,
make known his deeds among the peoples,
proclaim that his name is exalted.

5 “Sing praises to the Lord, for he has done gloriously;
let this be made known in all the earth.
6 Shout, and sing for joy, O inhabitant of Zion,
for great in your midst is the Holy One of Israel.”

Yeah...those verses work pretty well at capturing my soul this week...

Thanks SO much for your thoughts & prayers, my friends! I'll keep you posted as best I'm able.

Drawing deeply from the well of His salvation & hoping His greatness in our midst shines forth in me,

Monday, July 12, 2010

2 years.

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

Although the death of beloved saints is often most-decidedly NOT precious in our sight...

I'm not a poet. But I definitely agree w/ John Piper who said (paraphrase) "there are some emotions so deep in the soul that they can only be captured with poetry." As best I can recall, what is re-posted below is one of two poems I've ever written. (The other one was a couple of years back when another friend died; in an ironic coincidence, my two friends are buried right near each other, just a few steps apart). If you've been reading this blog for over year, you've seen this before. Started it two years ago from a room at M.D. Anderson's ICU (where I was "enjoying" my first cycle of immunotherapy) when I heard that the time of Jason Weathers' departure was at hand; finished it the next day--July 12--when I heard his faith had become sight.

Jason's wife Stephanie had her Dad read this at Jason's funeral. I will likely never receive a higher honor this side of glory. (We did make it back for his funeral, btw) As I looked at Jason's lifeless body @ the funeral, I was struck with a couple of thoughts. First, the needed reminder that in the words of a friend, we're all living in rented apartment space that's steadily wearing out such that one day, we will be leaving our temporary living quarters. Second, "death, where is your sting? Grave, where is your victory? Thanks be to God, Who gives us the victory" and "He is not here, but he is risen..." It is that second one that I have seen on display in the amazing faith of Jason's beloved Stephanie these last couple of years. She has been such a wonderful encourager to Lisa & me in our own cancer journey. And to so very many others as well. Just yesterday, we were laughing about how some of Jason's musical tastes overlap with my own, but most assuredly NOT with Stephanie's...

Two years after his homegoing, I agree all the more with these sentiments captured when I heard of Jason's passing. And I still miss him hard! Next to me right now is the collection of CDs Jason had in his car. In another great honor, Steph has allowed me to roam through the collection. I've spent yesterday and early this morning smiling, chuckling, and remembering my buddy through the widely-varied music he loved. And treasuring many a conversation that started out "Mike, have you ever listened to ______? I think you'd like them...Stephanie does NOT like them at all..." *grin* And yet, as I've been looking through his music, there are multiple CDs that I picture him reaching for when Steph rode with him somewhere. I 'spect they were in his collection for that very purpose. Yesterday at church as I was in the booth being the powerpoint guy, I was reminded once again that I starting doing that as a way to hang out w/ Jason; thus, I think of him every Sunday morning when I take my seat behind the computer.

Don't read this for the literary value of the poem, for you'll surely be disappointed. Rather, read for the depth of the emotions I'm trying to capture. This comes close, but doesn't fully capture what I felt this time two years ago. And last year at this time...and this year at this time...

As was the case two years ago, I do not focus on how he died. I choose to focus instead on how he lived.

Please pray today for Jason's beloved Stephanie and for his treasured children Anna Lea, Jon Brent, and Ally.

Mike Madaris, 7/12/08, on the coronation of my buddy Jason Weathers

Giants still walk the land occasionally.
I know this, because I knew one.
Physically strong and imposing
But that’s not the topic here,
For, he was not fearsome
Unless you lined up opposite him
On a football field
Or tried to throw him into a pool against his will.
Those aside, He got along with everybody.
Literally, everybody, as far as I knew.
Calm of demeanor, yet loved to laugh.
Quiet in personality, yet loved hard rock.
Intelligent, but not desiring to flaunt that.
Private, yet the son of a very public man
And later, married into another very public family.
In the midst of all, he was a giant.

The courtship. She was the only one.
They met when her Dad took a job at the giant’s church.
And his Dad’s. And his Granddad’s.
The realizing came quickly to most.
These two were a match.
They realized it too.
The courtship lasted until they finished college.
And he remained a giant.
Always loving, yet always honoring.
Serving. Cherishing. As it was intended to be.
Both of them Role models. Giants.
Who else marries a giant, but another giant after all?

10 years of marriage. A move to FL.
3 children deeply treasured.
One looks like her mother, yet like Dad in temperament.
One looks like his Dad, yet tempered like his mother.
And one too young to answer these questions
Though she surely looks like her Dad.
Each nurtured. Treasured. Celebrated.
Giants are like that about their offspring.

A servant’s heart.
Toward his lady. Toward his children.
Toward his friends. Toward his Lord.
Church service involved the out of the way
The behind the scenes
The un-glamorous
The invisible.
Sometimes giants stay in the background.
Perhaps that is why so few of us believe in them any more.

The servant heart spilled over into career choice.
Especially poignant to me this week
As I have been greatly served and blessed by multiple nurses
As a patient, the best in that field are wired as servants.
Others-centered. Paycheck almost incidental.
Towering over the rest of us.

The dreadful disease with the nasty prognosis
The treatment nearly as nasty
Uncertainty. Doubt. Fear.
In this case, for others more than self
Beloved wife and treasured children.
Parents. Parents-in-law. Brother. Brother-in-law.
Not wanting to burden others with the battle he fought so well.
The larger men among us worry about us like that.

7 months of desperate fighting.
Interspersed with time spent with family and with lesser mortals.
Like me. At Starbucks. Still dreaming of an earthly future that would never be.
Then the end; rather, the beginning.
What, after all, is a last, horrendous week against 30+ years of a towering-above life?
Faith became sight.
Death & disease forever vanquished.
Ultimate Healing. No more illness, no more treatment, no more pain.
“Well Done, good and faithful servant.” The stuff of dreams.
Thankfully, not of legends.
Hopes and dreams realized.
Sin not only defeated, but now utterly removed.
As has been sung, "I can only imagine." He need not imagine any more.
This makes me smile through tears.
Victory won. Decisively. Forever.
It is well…it is well with his soul.
In that land, there are only giants. Now one more.
And this land seems all the more empty.

Rock on, Jason. See you there in the land of the eternal hello, where leukemia & melanoma are seen only through the eyes of grace-filled providence...and only then understood fully. You are still loved much and missed hard by many of us, Bro. Looking forward to that next cup of coffee & to you showing me around!