Wednesday, June 20, 2012

An Entrance Richly Provided

One of my heroes' faith became sight last night after a long, fruitful life that had a huge impact for the Kingdom.

Ralph Davis graduated from the college that is now known as William Carey University (where I am a professor) in 1949.  His beloved bride Cora Joyce is also an alumna of our school.  They answered an ancient call, and moved away from south MS.  FAR away.  Nigeria & Ghana as missionaries with the Foreign Mission Board of the Southern Baptist Convention.  (Now the International Mission Board)  They stayed there for 35 years before retiring back in Hattiesburg a couple of years before we moved here.

Mr. Ralph taught Sunday School, served as a deacon, and was a great encourager of many--including this new young college professor who joined their church.  He & Ms. Cora Joyce were so very friendly & warm & encouraging.  They never lost their passion for the Gospel nor for mission work nor for the Church.

One of the great experiences of my life was taking a group of college students over to their home one Sunday night when Lisa & I served in college Sunday School.  The Davises broke out the slides & pictures & artifacts from their time in Africa & started talking.  I watched some 20-year-old college students be totally captivated by some 60-something-year-old missionaries telling stories.  Of course, I was captivated too.

Peter wrote of the qualities the Christian life should entail.  (Peter didn't know Mr. Ralph, though he does now.)
For this very reason, make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness, and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love. For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they keep you from being ineffective or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. (2 Peter 1:5-8 ESV)

I can't think of a better summary of Ralph Davis as I knew him. 

Peter goes on to say this:
...if you practice these qualities you will never fall. For in this way there will be richly provided for you an entrance into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
(2 Peter 1:10-11 ESV)

I am absolutely confident that this is what happened Monday night.  Lisa said that if we'd been paying attention, we might have heard the heavenly rejoicing.  It's going to be so very much fun to meet people from Nigeria & Ghana in glory whose story starts "This couple from Mississippi came to our village..."

Please join me in praying for Cora Joyce, and their children & grandchildren as they say "see you later" to their husband, father, & grandfather.  And rejoice with me and with them that because of the truth of the Gospel Ralph & Cora Joyce lived & proclaimed that it really is "see you later" instead of "goodbye."

slightly paraphrased from A Parable of Immortaliy, by Henry Van Dyke 1852-1933
And just at the moment when someone at my side says,
'There he goes! ' ,
there are other eyes watching his coming,
and other voices ready to take up the glad shout :
'Here he comes!'

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Outlive Your Life!

I’ve lived 50% longer AS a father than I lived WITH my Father.

That, my friends, is an absolutely mind-blowing realization!

My little shorties are 23 & 21 now.  I’d love to think I did a decent job these last 23 & 21 years; however, my shortcomings as a Dad are many and manifest, and haunt me regularly.

Thus, my Daddying is yet another area of my life that drives me toward the Gospel.  Grace & forgiveness beyond measure!  As the song says, “Mercy there was great and grace was free…”  I’m so thankful; both of my children are far ahead of where I was at age 23 & 21.  (For that matter, they’re likely ahead of where I am now!)  That is amazing grace indeed, that God would raise up my children to be who they are, magnifying the crumbs of good that I scattered here & there as a Dad, while shattering the boulders of bad that I spread so freely.  I’m grateful that God raises our children so far beyond us!

My Dad left us 37 ½ years ago.  And there is not a day that goes by that I don’t miss him in so many ways that I can’t count them.  Throughout the day, these thoughts occur: “I wonder how Dad would handle this situation” and “I sure wish Dad were here; he’d LOVE hearing about this!” and “That’s a joke Dad would love!” (etc.)  Sometimes these thoughts make me smile & even laugh; sometimes they make me shed a tear for the 87-millionth time in 37.5 years; sometimes there’s just a longing so intense that it brings a physical ache.  A longing for one more hug…to feel the 5:00 shadow in that hug…to see that smile again…most of all, to hear him say “I’m proud of who you are as a man.”  Yeah, that’s a wound that won’t heal in this life.  I’m OK with it most of the time.  But then a birthday comes along…or an anniversary…an accomplishment…even a failure…December 14…a Madaris family reunion…Father's Day...and I’m reminded again of the wound.  And am driven again toward God's matchless, amazing, sustaining grace.

It’s been said many times by me, including in this space, but here it goes again: I got more “Daddying” in 15 ½ years I had with James E. Madaris, Sr. than many get in a lifetime.  I am SO grateful for Dad & for how he fathered Jim and me & for how he loved our Mother & for how he conducted his business & for how he lived his life.  There are very few situations that come along where the life & Daddying of James E. Madaris, Sr. does not affect me, his younger son.  Even today, 37 ½ years after his faith became sight.

Which means I am all too often reminded that I am but a pale shadow of the faith & wisdom that was Dad.  I’m taller, but I do not measure up.  I’m far more educated, but am nowhere close in wisdom.  I’ve been married 8 more years than he ever will be, but am still striving to become the husband he was.  I’ve been a Dad 6 years longer than he ever was, but am not in the same universe as he in nurturing a child & being an awesome Dad.  I have a better job by most measures and have done it longer, but am still struggling to be as good at mine as he was at his.  I don’t know the date of his conversion, but I’ve likely been a Christian approximately as long as he was while here on earth; and yet I’m striving to become the Christian man & contributing church member that he was.

You may know such a man.  Perhaps, like me, you were blessed to grow up in the home of such a man.  Be thankful that God raises up such men, who outlive their earthly lives by decades.  And—I beg you!—strive to be such a man (if you’re male) and to surround yourself with such men.  They’re fewer & farther between, but they’re around.  Don’t settle for “I’m not nearly as bad a Dad & man as _____, so I’m OK.”  Keep pressing on!  And as you do, know that the grace of God will enable you to be far more than you could ever ask or imagine…for which I am most grateful myself!

If you’re an unmarried lady—don’t settle for some gutless punk who views you as his servant, a concubine, and a life support system for some particular body parts he enjoys.  There are men worthy of honor and worthy of YOU out there!  Increasingly few, but they’re there.  Wait for one of those guys; tell the tough-guy-wanna-be pansies who think procreating = fathering to hit the road.

My prayer is that we as a society—and we as people—and especially those of us who ought to know better!—will stop conflating procreating with parenting.  There is a HUGE, incalculable difference.

Happy Father’s Day to all!  If your Dad is one worth celebrating, do so!  I sure will be.  If yours is not, be thankful that there are still those who are, and if you’re male strive to become one of those, and if you’re female, wait for one of those.

 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 71:18 ESV) 

Wednesday, June 06, 2012


68 years ago last night, a guy I know parachuted into northern France as part of what Gen. Eisenhower called "The Great Crusade."  He survived, fought, was captured, and released.  Nice guy; calm, pleasant,...One wouldn't know that he was among the toughest of the tough back in the day.
I've tried for many years, but simply cannot fathom the level of guts it took to step out of one of these 68 years ago and move ashore up onto & across that beach.

Allied Commander Dwight Eisenhower sent all the men a message as they headed across the Channel toward Hitler's "Fortress Europe."
See all the signatures on this copy? This is Sgt. Bob Slaughter's copy.  Sgt. Slaughter--age 19--was a squad leader in Company D of the 116th Infantry of the 29th Division on 6/6/44.  Thus, he was one of the first men ashore that day.  (I didn't have sense enough to come in out of the rain when I was 19, let alone lead mean ashore under heavy fire.)  On the boat the night before the attack, he passed his copy of Gen. Eisenhower's telegram around and got the guys in his unit to sign it.  One day later, by dusk on 6/6/44, half these men were no longer alive.  You should read this article about Sgt. Slaughter, written by his granddaughter.  Sgt. Slaughter recently passed away at 87 years old.

War is always hell.  And sometimes it is absolutely necessary.  When such times arise, I thank God for me like Bob Slaughter who have the guts & the will needed to put on a uniform & bear arms.

He shall judge between the nations,
and shall decide disputes for many peoples;
and they shall beat their swords into plowshares,
and their spears into pruning hooks;
nation shall not lift up sword against nation,
neither shall they learn war anymore.
Isaiah 2:4

Maranatha!  Come, Lord Jesus!  But until that grand & glorious Day, THANK YOU for those who put on uniforms, take up weapons, and go to war.  Especially today for those who did so on June 6, 1944.