Thursday, February 16, 2012

A Perfect Spiral

My cousin Bill has died.

He was a few years older than I.  Like me, his Dad died young. I'll miss him.  Like me, he loved family gatherings.

He made me laugh.  He talked sports with me, including our beloved Crimson Tide football team.  I remember watching the Sugar Bowl featuring Bama & Penn State in the late 70s at his Mother's house with him.  We hooted & hollered throughout, but especially when Rich Wingo & Barry Krauss stopped Penn State's Mike Guman on a 4th & 1 at the 1 to preserve a victory and another national championship.  He taught me to throw a perfect spiral (which I can still do!).  He taught me the proper way to catch a football ("Look it all the way into your hands...catch it away from your body...then tuck it away."  I can also still do that!)    He spent time with me when I was a kid.  Regrettably, I never duplicated any of his athletic skills.  (Well, except for throwing & catching a football...)  But we did play softball together when I was in high school.  I was competent; Bill was good!  I've not thought of that in years, until this afternoon.  As one of our cousins' daughter wrote this afternoon, "Bill, I hope you've met all the sports greats who have gone on before..." 

Bill leaves behind 3 grown children, & several grandchildren.  Also, a beloved sister, and a grieving Mother.  (He was crazy about both!)  And a bunch of us who will miss getting picked on by him and laughing with him at the family gatherings.

Like me, Bill knew failure in his life.  And like me, he knew redemptive grace and salvation that is found in Christ.  I know this because he & I spoke of it.

I was exercising right after I heard of Bill's passing. . I switched the ipod over to some of my favorite worship songs.  When Michael English & the Brooklyn Tabernacle Choir sang "I Bowed on My Knees & Cried 'Holy,'" I pictured Bill doing just that, on knees that are whole again for the first time in decades.  "As I entered the gates of that city, my loved ones all knew me well..."  I'm confident that's true.  I'm also quite saddened that, increasingly, there's a considerable number of Madaris loved ones there waiting on the rest of us.  And yet, I'm also looking forward very much to that family reunion in Glory.  The one that Bill is now part of.  I also remembered when he & I coincidentally had to step outside to shed a few tears at a family gathering some years ago when our Uncle led us in some hymns.  It was a tender & treasured moment, as he looked at me & said "sometimes it's hard to remember those who aren't here any more, isn't it?"  It is.  And I felt again that stirring that Caedmon's Call sings of: "There's a stirring deep within me; could it be my time has come when I'll meet my gracious Savior face to face when all is done?  I will rise up and bown down and lay my crown at His wounded feet..."

Bill, thanks, cuz.  See you later.  Roll Tide!

p.s. - Would you please pray for my beloved Aunt Margaret & her daughter Sandra & for Bill's children & grandchildren & nieces & nephews & cousins?  Two of my favorite names of God are "Jehovah Shammah" (the God Who is present) and "El Olam" (The everlasting God.)  Pray that God would manifest Himself in powerful ways these next few days, especially to Bill's immediate family, won't you?

p.p.s. - For the third time in recent weeks,
"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?'
...thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.

(1 Corinthians 15:54-57, excerpted)

Friday, February 10, 2012


(This one's been sitting in the draft folder for a few days now, fyi.)

Jim & I met in an adult Sunday School class.  Very quickly, I realized that his was an orbit worth spending time in, and I did so for the next few years.  Almost everyone who passed through Jim's orbit realized this.

"Steady"..."Dependable"..."Servant-minded"..."Faithful"...These are just some of the words I've heard used by folks who passed through that orbit.

Jim showed by quiet, steady example how to be a man.  How to love the Lord.  How to serve.  How to love a wife.  How to lovingly guide & mentor sons.  How to encourage fellow brothers.  How to enjoy the journey.  So, when I say "solid" I mean that Jim modeled what the Christian man's life should be.  He set the bar very high, and invited us all to join him just by how he lived.  Just now, writing that, I can see his smile that always was very close to outright laughter...I can hear his quiet voice saying "C'mon, now; I'm not all that..."  Genuinely solid men in the sense I'm using the word here do not have to tell us they're solid.

Unhappily for me, Jim & his family moved up to Birmingham with his job several years ago, thereby removing one of my role models from my line of sight.  But, you know how people's paths cross yours & after the paths diverge you still remember them very clearly & find yourself wondering how _______(Jim, in my case) would handle this?  Jim Gibson is one of those guys, and not just for me.  I still remember what an uproar it caused when he was selected to coach his son's baseball all-star team in our area, but said no.  His reason?  He & the family had scheduled some travelling for the summer, which he valued much more highly than a 10-year-old all-star season.  He & I laughed at the idiotic amazed reaction he got when he thanked the baseball authorities & said no.  I always loved his very healthy sense of perspective & priorities.

Last year, Jim was diagnosed with cancer.  He underwent radiation and chemo, and experienced a lot of intense pain.  And yet, there he is in a Christmas picture with the same smile/laugh combo, as if nothing was wrong.  They found out last week that the treatment regimen had not helped, and that the cancer had spread.  Thursday, they were told that he'd be able to go home for a few days while they sorted out what to do next. 

Friday, Jim went home.

Not to a house in Birmingham with his beloved Lesa.  To the Home we've all been seeking and have been promised in Scripture as followers of Christ.  The Home where cancer & death & pain & goodbyes are not present & never have been.  (Well, except for the one time as described in the first few verses of Philippians 2...)  They think it was a blood clot.

And thus, a wife of nearly 25 years is now a widow.  Three young men ages 24, 20, & 16, are suddenly missing the rock-solid presence & impact & example of an awesome Dad.  A church is now missing a marvelous servant.  And many of us are now missing an amazing guy who was a friend and a role model at the same time.  (Something very few of us ever pull off...)

There are a lot of gutless punks calling themselves "men" and "Dads" these days.  Our society needs precisely ZERO more of these.  We already have far too many males masquerading as men & Dads.

On the contrary, our society needs men.  Desperately needs men.  Men of honor & character.  Men who lead their wives while totally honoring & cherishing them, loving them as Christ loved the church & gave Himself up for her (Ephesians 5). Men who coach youth sports well without losing perspective on just how important the game's outcome is(n't).  Men who serve faithfully without demanding to be served and without keeping a ledger of what they are now owed in service.  Men who never stop being teachable.  Men who love their communities enough to actually seek to impact them for good.  Men who don't sit around & whine, but instead roll up their sleeves & get busy serving.  Men who, though highly competent & skilled, remain humble.  Men who live lives that make others long for what they have, and then are happy to tell them where it comes from (the Gospel). 

I know what such a guy looks like, because I knew Jim Gibson.  A bunch of us guys know what such a guy looks like because we knew Jim.

So now, as of late Friday night, this world is that much colder & unwelcoming, and America is that much more needy of real men.  One of the best went home Friday night.  By the grace of God & the cross of Christ, one day I'll go home too.  Perhaps I will be graciously invited forward to the V.I.P. section of Glory as a guest from my seat on the back row so that I can hear Jim's laugh & see that wonderful smile again. 

And tell him thanks.


p.s. - Who marries a towering guy like Jim but an equally-towering lady?  You should go here & read Lesa's blog entry titled "Healed."  (You're welcome for that blessing!)  Please join me in praying for Lesa, Austin, Caleb & Hunter, won't you?  Thanks.

p.p.s. - Here's a pic of Jim doing the NASCAR Experience right about when he was diagnosed with cancer.  See the smile?  That's how Jim looked most of the time, even when just having breakfast at Shoney's with lesser men like me.