Saturday, July 12, 2014


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

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, this is one of two poems I've ever written. (the other one was a few years back when another friend died). I've posted this before here, but today is the 6th anniversary of my buddy Jason's Homecoming at the ripe old age of 33. I started this in July 2008 in a room at M.D. Anderson's ICU when I heard that the time of Jason's departure was at hand; finished it the next day when I heard he had gone on the glory.  (I was undergoing a cycle of high-dose immunotherapy for my metastatic melanoma then.)

Stephanie had her Dad read this at Jason's funeral. I'll likely never receive a higher honor this side of glory. (We did make it back for his funeral, btw).  A quick testimony about Steph: On the morning of Jason's funeral, this 33-year-old sudden widow & sudden single Mother of three texted me to ask how Lisa & I were doing.  I'm still in awe.

Six years after his homegoing, I agree all the more with these sentiments captured when I heard of Jason's passing. Don't read this for quality of 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 in July 2008. And today....

As was the case last year, I do not focus on how he died. I choose to focus instead on how he lived.
In one of my favorite movie scenes (from "The Last Samurai"), the emperor says to the Samurai's friend, "Tell me how he died."  The friend replies, "I will tell you how he lived."  Exactly.

Please pray for Jason's beloved Stephanie and for his treasured children Anna Lea, Jon Brent, and Ally.  (All are doing well, but could probably use a prayer today.  Stephanie married a great guy, John, a couple of years ago, and he is doing a simply remarkable job of being a Dad to Anna Lea, Jon Brent, and Ally.)  Also, please pray today for Jason's parents, Jon Mark & Peggy; I can't begin to contemplate the journey they've been on since Jason's AML diagnosis, treatment, and passing.  In addition, pray for Jason's brother Brad, who has taken that same journey.  My brother & I have caught glimpses of where Brad has been during our cancer journeys...

And finally, would you treasure this day and treasure those in your life who make the days lighter and more pleasant? 

And would you live a life that is pleasing to God, in light of eternity?

Jason...bro...I cherish your friendship and your life. Thanks for leaving such a large wake in your 33 short years, and for making all of us in it long all the more for that glorious, eternal "what's up?" from you in the land where there will be no more goodbyes forever.

I love you, buddy.  Rock on.

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.

Monday, July 07, 2014

Searching for Barnabas

This post is aimed mostly at guys, for a couple of reasons.  First, it seems to me that you ladies are much more automatic at what I'm writing about.  Second, it also seems to me that we guys are much more prone to run off the rails and cause much devastation in our lives & the lives of those around us.  With that said, whatever the girl version of "Barnabas" is, you ladies should perhaps adapt this to her.

So very many of us are searching for Barnabas.  And what's sad is that we may not even realize that we're searching for Barnabas until we crash & wonder where he's been.

In recent years, I've watched two guys I considered VERY close friends crash & burn morally.  Both left behind angry & hurt wives and crushed & wounded sons.  A good many years back, a pastor--a pastor!--crashed & burned morally, shortly after he resigned his pastorate.

From what I know, all three of these guys were & are Christians.  All three have had significant impacts for the Kingdom of God.  And there is no doubt that all three have had a significant impact on me personally, in multiple ways.  Before their respective crashes, they impacted my life & faith through teaching & example & fellowship.  So please read my emphatic statement: I am SO thankful for all three of these guys and for the providential ways their paths crossed mine and for their impact on my life & faith & marriage & parenthood.  And tragically, as a result of their respective crashes, they have impacted my life & faith by counter-example.  I've been reminded of some boundaries to enforce & some behaviors & thought processes to guard vigorously & intentionally. 

Also, from what I know, none of these guys really had found Barnabas.  So many of us guys haven't yet.  In all three cases, it's possible or perhaps even likely that I should have been Barnabas to them and I wasn't.

(If you're wondering, I've seen all of them since their episodes & thanked all of them for being my friend & for impacting me. I still have fairly regular contact with one of the three, despite geographical distance. And only God knows how much grace I personally have needed over the years from Him but also from friends & family!  You won't hear arrogance & condemnation from me.  As my Mother used to say, "There, but for grace, go I."  Neither will you hear "oh well, boys will be boys" excuses by me.  In fact, those two ideas--condemnation & excusing--are part of the main point of this.)

So, who's this Barnabas we need to be searching for?

Joseph, who was also called by the apostles Barnabas (which means son of encouragement)...
Acts 4:36

"Son of Encouragement."  Dr. Howard Hendricks--a long-time seminary professor whose faith became sight just last year, & who I wrote about back then--used to say to guys that we all need three guys in our lives.  We need a Paul, a Barnabas, & a Timothy.  Paul--a more mature guy who's building into us; Timothy--a younger guy whose life we're building into...and Barnabas--an encourager. 

According to Prof, this Barnabas would be our co-laborer.  "Someone who loves us dearly, but who is not impressed by us."  Our Barnabas will genuinely encourage us, while at the same time holding us accountable.  He will--with our permission--speak truth into our lives.  One guy I know quit smoking because his Barnabas looked at him one time & said, "That's a really stupid habit that you need to quit.  I love you & so does your family, and we want you around a long time."  A simple example, but if that particular Barnabas didn't love the guy, he wouldn't have spoken that truth to him in love.  And if he were impressed by him, he wouldn't have spoken it to him at all!

Guys, have you found Barnabas?  If not, with all the love I can muster, put that at the top of your list of things to work on.

Before I describe some Barnabases in my life, a VERY important reminder: "Son of Encouragement" does NOT equal "Enabler"!  Again, loves you but is not impressed by you.  He has your best at heart, & thus will occasionally speak hard truth into your life.  Barnabas will not let you off the hook with weak excuses.

With that, let me tell you about a few sons of encouragement I know.  I won't name them, but I'll describe them.  Hopefully, doing so will show the importance of Barnabas and also will show how easy it is to be in Barnabas' orbit.

One guy regularly asks me--and a number of other guys--when our last date with our wife was.  If we stammer, he'll smile, pat us on the back, & tell us he'll ask again next week, and will expect a different answer.  Countless guys--me included--need reminding that right after our faith in Jesus Christ, our wife comes next.  Before church.  Before work.  Before kids.  Before sports & other entertainment.

Another guy once confessed a deep struggle to me, saying "I know you'll pray for me & keep this just between us.  I also know you'll hold me accountable to deal with it."  What a high honor, to be invited into the depths of another man's soul like that!  By the way, in the years since, I've asked him about the issue a few times.  (Again, he asked me to ask him.)  By the grace of God, his prayer--and mine--for himself on this issue has been answered affirmatively.  After he has shared victories with me, he always says, "Thanks for asking!  I love you, Brother."

This other Barnabas I know connected the dots between some work issues I was dealing with and my near-total slackness in my Christian life.  He told me pretty directly to stop being a perfectionist, stop being passive about my faith, and get on with life.  Then he prayed for me, and promised to continue to doing so.  I'm pretty confident that he has prayed for me pretty regularly for 25+ years now, despite us not living in the same city or state for over two decades.

Another guy showed me the value of time away from work with just my wife & kids.  He was selected for a position of honor that a number of guys in my community would love to have.  To the shock of most, he declined, saying that he had committed to travel with his wife & kids, which was a higher priority to him.  He was told, "You may not have this opportunity again, you know..."  He said, "Yeah, I know.  But I know my boys will never be this age again.  I appreciate the offer, but No."  He & I laughed about this, & then he looked at me & asked when the last time I had taken a vacation with Lisa & James & Anne.  When I stammered a bit, he smiled.  I got the point.

One more: there's another guy who shaped some boundaries for me early in my married life.  There were unsavory & totally untrue rumors circulating about me.  I was furious & ready to do violence to the perpetrator of the gossip.  Thankfully, I sought my friend's counsel.  He said two things: (1) "Nobody who knows you believes these; I don't and neither does anyone else who has contact with you & Lisa."  (2) "Here are a couple of things you might consider in the future to avoid such rumors even getting started..."  And he suggested some hard boundaries that I have tried to stick to in the years since.  As expected by him, my marriage which was already good has become great as I have tried to actively & intentionally honor Lisa in my heart, my words, and in actions I take intentionally and actions I avoid equally intentionally.  PLEASE do not hear me boasting here!  Rather, read that "As expected by him" sentence as evidence of the grace of God poured out first & foremost via a trusted brother.  Barnabas.

And Barnabas and Saul returned from Jerusalem when they had completed their service, bringing with them John, whose other name was Mark.
Acts 12:25

As others much wiser than I have noted, there's a significant and growing absence of men finishing well these days.  We have short-changed our wives and our children.  We have left women to fulfill leadership roles in the home and in the church.  We are fairly well absent, far too often under the guise of "Well, I'm working hard making money."  I'd really love to tell you that I'm innocent of these things; I'm not.  But hopefully, by the grace of God and through the encouragement of multiple Barnabases in my life--sons of encouragement--I'm much closer to "innocent" than I used to be.

Thanks guys.  I'm a better man, husband, father, professor, and follower of Christ because of you.  Please don't let up, gents.  I have a ways to go yet; so do you.  Please pray that we all hit the finish line running strong in the faith.  Let's lean into the tape and finish well!  May God bless each of you sons of encouragement.  Thanks for "bringing me with you" on our life & faith journeys.

May we all find Barnabas.  May we all BE Barnabas.