Tuesday, November 09, 2010

A day on the tracks

I spent the day today roaming Cherokee County with the Jacksonville Leadership Institute, a group that was kind enough to allow my knucklehead to join them for the year as we explore the in's and outs of life in our area. Each time we meet (just once a month), we cover a specific genre or theme of life here. Last month, it was Education. Next month, it's politics in Austin. This month was History and Tourism. We visited the Rusk Heritage Center, the Rusk, Footbridge (547 ft in length!), the Texas State Railroad, the KOA Campground (what a view!), Cherokee Trace Drive-Thru Safari and Love's Lookout.
Without a doubt, the best part was the Texas State Railroad. Although I've never been a huge fan of trains, I, like most, are intrigued by them. Even more so today. We were given the "back-stage" tour of their shop where they work on the trains keeping them operational and rebuilding them back to their vintage glory. Since there's no instruction manual for their work, they make it up as the go along. What that spoke to me was that their work was more art than science. Talk about a giant jigsaw puzzle! I was amazed to see the bazillion parts lying on the racks, on the floor, on the shelves - and to think of these men as the ones who will piece them together to make all the trains run properly is astounding to my small mind. I can't imagine making that work. Hats off to those who run the trains! Visit there and enjoy it as well!

Wednesday, November 03, 2010

The Honorable James P Lankford and a passed bond

I've never been a political animal. It's not in my nature. Growing up, I was always told to leave politics and religion alone. I messed up the religion one, but I've kept the politics one intact.

Until now. For the first time in my life, I watched the election returns with a deeply vested interest for two reasons:
(1) The JISD bond election. As a member of the facilities committee, we spent hours this past summer working on the proposal that now finds life with the passing of that bond. It surprised me how emotional it was for me to see that it had passed. It's a HUGE step forward for our city and the children of Jacksonville.
(2) James, my dear brother in Christ for all of my adult life, was up for election as the US Congressional Representative for the 5th district in Oklahoma. It was riveting! To see the returns come back with James' lead seeming to increase each time we saw it was thrilling! Today, we wake up to a new world where James is no longer James. He's now The Honorable James, the gentleman from Oklahoma. Wow.

When James asked me in Sept 2008 what I would think about his running for public office, I didn't bat an eye. Although I was surprised, I wasn't shocked. The reality is God's been preparing him all of his life for this moment in time. We're just witnesses to it.

So what happens now? For starters, we're going to pray for James, Cindy and their daughters with a new fervency. We'll pray for Jeb Hensarling, our rep from our district. We'll pray for our nation and our leaders. We'll commit to serving the Lord with faithfulness right here in Jville for the sake of our city, our state and our nation.
One last thing it means: if you're a CBC member, I'm ditching you on the first Sunday of the new year. Julie and I are going to DC to see our man James sworn in with the new Congress!

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Weirdest game I've ever seen

Friday night, October 29 in Nacogdoches, I was witness to the weirdest game I've ever seen. We (Jacksonville) went down to Nacogdoches to play knowing that a win (or even a loss by less than 8 pts due to tiebreaker rules) guaranteed a return to the state football playoffs. A Nacogdoches win by less than 8 pts would give them a victory but eliminate them from the playoffs. Confusing? You should've been there in person. When was the last time you saw a team with a chance to win take a knee just to keep the game going? It happened. Or throwing a ball intentionally almost to the parking lot? Many of us who were there won't soon forget it. I won't bore you with the details. Instead, you can read a full account of the game here. Suffice it to say this: when the game ended after a national record 12 OTs, we'd played more than 5 hours (officially the game began at 7:30 PM and ended at 12:54 AM Saturday morning), seen almost 1,400 yds of offense, 18 touchdowns in overtime alone and enough strange sights to leave all of scratching our heads.
Here's my take:
(1) It was cold. My wise and discerning wife had encouraged me to take my "big" coat. I felt sort of funny about when my traveling mates teased me about it. But by the time we turned for home (we left for home about 1:05 AM), I had people offering me cash (!) for my coat!
(2) Anytime I have a coach stop me (I think it was in the 5th overtime but I'm not sure) and ask me if I've ever seen anything like this, you're at an unusual game.
(3) In speaking with people during the overtimes, I told someone that it was shame anyone had to lose this game. Major props to both teams, coaches, bands (they both stayed till the frigid end!) and schools.

Thanks for a night to remember.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Julie's Birthday

Today is my beloved Julie's birthday! It's a bummer that it falls on a Wednesday - a work day for me. I'll make it up to her tomorrow.

That's sort of been our method over the last ten years. I'll make it up to her later. My wife has the wisdom of Solomon and the patience of Job, especially when it comes to me. She has more "IOU's" for missed things due to church events, funerals, weddings, Sunday School class parties, fellowships, hospital calls, etc.., than I'll ever be able to repay. At least our vacations have been rather sheltered. Only once have we had a trip get interrupted. But it has happened - and she has ridden through it all with me.

Julie grew up as a pastor's daughter. (sidenote: Her parents are awesome! When I grow up, I hope I'm half the man her dad is.) But Julie knew the challenges of pastoring far better than I did and wanted no part of it for her own journey. Thus, when I asked Julie to marry me, I assured her that I was headed for a life of academics. After all, earning a PhD in New Testament - that means you're going to teach, right? Well, not every time. It was she who first knew the change in my calling and direction had come. Her insight into discerning the heart of God and my heart is unbelievable! So when we decided pastoring was where we were headed (after she had gone ahead and married me!), she didn't complain or bemoan her decision. She stood beside me with strength and dignity serving the Lord as my partner and companion in ministry.

I'm blessed to be married to Julie. She'll never know how much because there just aren't words for it. When you see her, tell her of your gratitude for her service to the Lord, our church and to her husband / pastor. She's the one who keeps him sane.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Sunday night reflections

So I'm home and it's Sunday night. Generally speaking, it's a good thing to not do any "heavy lifting" kind of stuff on Sunday night. My brain tends to be a little weak after a full day like we always seem to have on Sunday!
Tonight is a little different. Julie is at Super Summer on the campus of East Texas Baptist University. She's working at the camp this week, so I'm rolling with Dodger this week. It's a bummer, but it's just as well. The only night I have this week without something on it is Saturday. So I'm glad Julie's there. I'll deliver our students there tomorrow with Steve Edwards. Julie and I met at Super Summer 1993, so it's almost like we've come full-circle for her to go back.
- Welcome to Lauren LaFleur and Ellen Maxwell, CBC's newest members! We're thrilled you've joined us in this crazy journey!
- An awesome day of preparation for VBS. It's a good thing - we start VBS tomorrow morning! I'm pumped! Major props to Jamie McDonald and her awesome crew of volunteers. Our whole building looks like a wild west movie scene! Thanks for the hard work and vision for making this thing click!
- We're off and running with the new series "Life in HD - A walk through Philippians." Today's message was especially fun for me to prepare! I love digging deep into the word of God and finding nuggets to feed myself and then sharing them with you!
- Next week's talk - "A Life of Conviction!" - some things are more important than others! Living life in a manner worthy of walking with Christ changes more than what we do / don't do - It changes our lives!
- If you didn't pickup a copy of our Germany prayer calendar, you can find one in any of our foyers. Get this - 40 days from Thursday, we'll leave. . . to come HOME! It's less than 30 days till we leave! The trip is closer than you think! Pray for us as we prepare. Pray for receptive hearts. Pray for us to passionately (!) present the Gospel in a way that exalts Christ and draws people to Him.
- I love my job! I'm so in love with the Lord and our church that this hardly feels like work!

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Spirit of the law or letter of the law?

In what has become a regularity, we find a discussion about the spirit of competition and the letter of the law vs. the spirit of the law. In what has to be one of the most repulsive acts of partianship in recent memory, a young lady pole vaulting for her team finds herself in the midst of this debate. Rather than rehash it, go to the Sports Illustrated article and see it for yourself. Warning: I was less than enthused about one of the coaches involved. http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/2010/highschool/05/11/track.controversy/index.html?xid=shareFB
While no one disputes that the rules does indeed exist and that she was indeed outside the bonds of that rule, the spirit of the law should have been invoked. Did her jewelry grant her an unfair advantage? Did it interfere with competition? Was it the reason she was able to clear that pole vault bar? What is fair isn't always what is right.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

A tough day ahead

I'm in Corsicana, getting ready for Tory's funeral at 3 PM today. After the visitation last night, I came back to my hotel room alone (Julie's at a retreat in Glen Rose this weekend) and prayed. Thanks to each of you who have sent words of condolence to the family and for promising to pray today for all involved. Coming back to Corsicana got me to thinking about how the Lord has brought me along in my life.
Some of you may not know this, but here's a nugget of truth: I never planned to be a pastor. I was in youth ministry for about ten years when I felt like the Lord sent me to get a PhD and teach college level New Testament or Greek. I prepared myself accordingly, preparing myself with academics and academia. In the fall of 1999, when Memorial Baptist in Corsicana asked me to be their interim pastor while they sought a "real" pastor, I agreed - knowing it wasn't permanent. Julie and I were about to be married the following May (and after she had grown up in a pastor's home, marrying a pastor was the last thing she wanted!). I was a first year PhD student. They were offering to help me pay for the next semester - all the pieces seemed to fit together in a way that led me to believe (as I still do) that the Lord had brought this to bear.
But in February 2000, Julie and I went to lunch at a pizza place. I'll never forget it - she looked at me and said "The Lord has called you to pastor, hasn't He?" Of course, I denied it - she hadn't married me yet! And to be honest, I wasn't sure either. But by the end of March, it was clear. I was to pastor, at least for now. I had no idea that I would spend the next seven years serving the Lord at Memorial.
It's funny what you DON'T learn in seminary. I spent 3 years earning a Master's degree and another 7 earning my PhD, all at seminary, but the best training I got for this job did NOT come from there. It came from working at Sears. I was trained to work with people. They taught me conflict resolution and how to solve problems in the "real" world. I'm grateful for all of my training, be it at Sears or at seminary.
But there are still questions that can't be answered. Like why did the Lord allow a 13 yr old with a reasonably simple infection to die? Why didn't answer the many, many prayers? Why are their questions without answers. I don't know. And as the guy who people turn to in order to find these answers, that's the best answer I have. The timely-ness of an article in today's Tyler paper was refreshing. What do pastor's do and why do we have them? Here's the link:
http://tylerpaper.com/article/20100417/RELIGION/4170304

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Holy Moments

If you've read my FB status, you've seen that I've asked for prayers for 13 year old Tory Cantu. That's her with her mother, Robyn. They were members of Memorial Baptist Church in Corsicana, the church I pastored for 7.5 years. I've known them since 1999 when Tory was just a little snot-jockey. I baptized Tory in 2006. When Robyn's mother passed away in 2006, I did her funeral. On March 29th, Tory was diagnosed with a Urinary Tract infection. No biggie, right? They gave her some antibiotics and sent her on her way. Until it was a biggie. She went into convulsions that same day. They took her via Careflight to Children's Medical Center in Dallas. Since that time, Tory has been in a fight for her life. They've taken extraordinary measures to try to "right the ship" but things are not looking good. There's the background for our holy moment of the day.
When I got to my office this morning, there was a message to call Robyn. Many people believe pastors have no problems doing things like that, but we're as human as everyone else. What do you say to someone in that position? What possible word of comfort or counsel can I provide? Robyn was calling to ask if I would be willing to come and conduct Tory's funeral service when the time came. (I never get used to answering that question.) Here's the holy moment - I listened as Robyn expressed her heart about Tory and her great love for the Lord who gave her and would eventually take her home. I listened as she told of her great peace about the situation. "I know the Lord has her, Darin, and I know where she's going. When she does get home, she and her Grandmother will have a wonderful time!" Wow. I held it together until I got off the phone - then I wept like a school girl. If it were my daughter, could I have such faith? Do I trust the Lord with my deepest and most precious things like Robyn does? Can I find such peace when the world is crashing around me? I certainly hope so. Pray for Tory. Pray for Robyn. Pray for Ty, Tory's brother. Pray for Robyn's husband, Joe. Ask that the Lord of all healing, mercy and comfort show His power today in their lives.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

One of the challenges we face as Christians is the perception people have of us. Frequently, we're faced with overcoming people's preconceived notions about Jesus and what it means to be a believer before we can share our faith with them. What do people think about Christianity? Really? Four college guys decided to find out. They took a video camera and went across the US (in their first movie "One nation under God" - click here for that one) and most recently went to Europe with the same premise. They called their new movie "Beware of Christians." When you watch the trailer, I bet you'll understand why I thought it worth our time. They asked two simple questions - Do you know Jesus? What do you think of Christians? While it's not a joy to watch or hear the pained responses, we, as believers, would do well to listen. Here's the trailer below.

Wednesday, April 07, 2010

Update on the alcohol meeting

It's been a long while since I addressed this issue last and it's high time to revisit it. Yesterday, there was a meeting held at the Hong Kong Buffet on S. Jackson (Hwy 69) to discuss the upcoming alcohol referendum. Progress Jacksonville (the pro-alcohol group) was invited to speak as well as Family First Jacksonville (the pro-family group). It was intended to be a forum where the public could hear both sides of the story and perhaps make an informed decision. I hope it was a beneficial dialog. George Douglass, co-chairman of Progress Jacksonville, presented his case as did Matt Montgomery for Family First. (FULL DISCLOSURE - I'm a board member for Family First Jville). I've collected some of the articles and news stories about it. They are listed at the end.

Just for the record, let me say this is NOT a strictly moral or religious issue for me. If someone wants to have a beer with their mexican food or a glass of wine with their supper, that's between them and the Lord. I have no gripe there. The Bible speaks often of wine and beer and the only command it offers is not get drunk. No, this is not a strictly religious or moral issue for me. My opposition stems from my past.

I lived in Corsicana in 2004 when this same election was held there. We were assured there would be no cost - only benefit. Now, six years later and far wiser, we know better. While Corsicana is still a great place to live, alcohol sales have decidedly not helped. Yes, it's true that Corsicana's sales revenues increased 41% over the years since that election. But did you know, however, that Jacksonville's increased 39% over that same time period? Or Carthage (no alcohol) 44%? Or Mt. Pleasant (who just voted alcohol down) a whopping 66%?!!?!? (here's the link to check all these numbers and more! https://ourcpa.cpa.state.tx.us/allocation/HistSales.jsp ). Alcohol sales are NOT free money. It's not a model on which you can build the future of a city. If it were, why would ANY city turn it down? While it's true that in the last 7 years 245 cities in Texas have voted this in, there are many, such as Carthage, Mt. Pleasant and Lancaster, who turn it down, not because of the possible revenue, but because of the cost. For that reason (among others!), I implore you to vote NO on May 8th.

In closing, please help us keep this discussion in a kind and generous, Christlike format. The last think we need is to make enemies out of people who live here with us but disagree with us. I had the chance to meet with George Douglass and Mike McEwen before and after the meeting yesteday and would even go so far as to call them friends. Remember that Jesus said people would know we belong to Him because of our love for one another. He called us to love each other, even if we disagree. Pray with me to that end.

http://jacksonvilleprogress.com/local/x552033177/The-showdown

http://www.cbs19.tv/Global/story.asp?S=12265974

http://tylerpaper.com/article/20100407/NEWS01/4070360

http://www.thecherokeean.com/news/2010-04-07/Front_Page/Proponents_for_wet_dry_hold_lunch_forum.html

Tuesday, April 06, 2010

An ode to opening day

I've always loved Opening Day of baseball season. Not just because of baseball but the optimism that it seems to bring to me. The sense that summer isn't far away bringing with it evenings outside with a sweaty glass of kool-aid in my hand, swims in our neighbor's pool, the pleasure of longer days and excitement that comes with students getting out for the summer. I love opening day. There's a certain serendipity to life when Opening day falls on the day after Easter and on the same day as the end of the NCAA basketball season. Speaking of that, what a game between Duke and Butler! Wow! Normally, I would post the "One Shining Moment" video, but for some reason they let Jennifer Hudson do it and it messed up the song for me so no "Moment" video for my blog. Instead, I've chosen a video from yesterday. I could tell you about it, but it wouldn't do it justice. It's about 1 minute long. It's perhaps the best defensive play I've ever seen from a pitcher. Enjoy and celebrate the fact summer is not far away!

Monday, March 29, 2010

Passover has just begun

As I write to you, it's about 7:30 PM on Monday night. The significance of this is that's just about sundown meaning Passover has just begun. Passover always falls at this time of year, moving around slightly on our calendar due to the fact the Jewish calendar uses a lunar schedule as opposed to our solar schedule. See more on this following the description.
Passover is one of the highest days of holiness in the Jewish year. It was the one day of the year when the Jewish High Priest would enter the Holy of Holies where the Ark of the Covenant was placed. He would pour out blood from the spotless lamb onto the mercy seat (the top of the Ark) and thereby atone for the sins of the people from the past year. It was followed by a feast and it was a celebration that was one of the highlights akin to our Christmas celebrations. It's celebrated beginning at sundown tonight until sundown tomorrow (Tuesday).
So here's why this matters to us. When Christ came to Jerusalem (as described in Scripture - Matthew 21:1-17), he came the week of Passover. When Christ gave himself on the day we call Good Friday, he did so on the day of Passover. He himself was the spotless lamb and he himself was the sacrifice made to atone for the sins of all the people. Each step of the path Jesus took during Passion Week was inextricably tied to Scripture foretelling it. I hear you saying "so what?" The big deal is that it ties the Old Testament and the New Testament together - the fancy phrase is "consistent hermeneutic" - meaning the message between the Old Testament and the New Testament is the same. Now THAT'S a big deal! Happy Passover!

Thursday, March 25, 2010

An athiest takes a "liberal" Christian to task

The conversation in this video is between Unitarian "Minister" Marilyn Sewell and renowned atheist and author Christopher Hitchens. It's a poignant reminder of what we REALLY believe and what truly constitutes a personal relationship with Christ. This video SHOCKED me in how well Hitchens understands Christianity and how poorly Sewell does.

Friday, January 29, 2010

All things beautiful!

This morning, I'm at home. It's Friday and that usually means I'm off for a little R and R. The last couple of weeks have been a little on the crazy side, so I haven't taken my Fridays like I usually do. It's a great day to take time off - watching the rain fall and sitting with my dog while Julie exercises. Thus, here are some random thoughts.
- CBC is a great place to serve the Lord! I'm seriously pumped about this weekend! We've a 6th grade discipleship weekend beginning tonight. We've got the men's ministry "Beast Feast" tomorrow night. We've got a full slate of events coming up Sunday. More on that next. I've been here 5 mths now and I say this with full assurance - I've not enjoyed pastoring this much since I graduated with my PhD in 2006.
- Sunday is the beginning of a journey for our friends going on our Mission: Germany trip this July. For two hours following our morning worship service, we'll train our mission trippers in all things trip-like. From why we're going to Germany to German culture to even some German language study, we'll begin our march toward July's trip. If you're planning to go with us, meet us in the chapel immediately after worship Sunday morning - we're buying lunch!
- Sunday afternoon brings a meeting of "Family First Jacksonville" - a meeting of pastors and leaders to combat the coming alcohol referendum. Prohibition is not our goal (in my estimation, that only makes it the forbidden fruit that must be had!), but it is our goal is to prevent Jacksonville being overrun by the likes of Fat Dogs. Please pray for our meeting. While this meeting is not open to the public, the next one will be. Don't worry - you'll hear about it!
- Sunday night, we'll be going to the Smith Association Annual Meeting. I hope you'll join us - anyone interested can show up at the church at 4:15 PM and we'll take you with us in the church vans. We were allowed 12 messengers (the maximum allowed by the Association), but we can bring as many as we choose.
- A special word of gratitude to Coach Mel Socia, Coach Darvin Hooker, Coach Dolan, Coach Harrision and the 7th/8th grade Jax Middle School basketball teams. For the last several weeks, they've been kind enough to allow me to tag along and keep the books for them. The season is all but over for them but I'll not soon forget getting to hang out with them! Thanks!

Thursday, January 21, 2010

I TOLD YOU IT WAS A GREAT DEVICE!

When I got my iPhone a couple of years ago, I got teased mercilessly by some of you. You know who are. To that, I offer the story of Mr. Dan Woolley, a Compassion International worker who was making a film in Haiti when the earthquake came. He was trapped for 65 hours while needed medical attention. He aided himself and kept himself from going into shock - but how? By using his IPHONE! It has a medical first aid application that guided him in what to do. Click here for the full story. Wow. There are some good stories coming from Haiti. Take time to thank the Lord for them.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

A wonderful video!

Jonny Diaz did a song a couple of years ago that sums up this week's message wonderfully. I don't think I'll use it Sunday, but I might. One way or the other, here's the song.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Randomness

It's been awhile since we last spoke, so let me just be completely random for a moment.
- We're still living in our Frankston home, but more sure than ever that the Lord is going to sell it soon. We had a couple of "lookers" over the break - one rather serious - but no serious offers on it yet. I've got every confidence we're where the Lord wants us to be right now.
- I'm coaching a Little Dribblers under-14 team this year. We're the Hornets! Good kids! It's been a blast thus far. I think we won last week, but we had such a good time, it didn't really seem to matter.
- Julie and I got our passports over the break. Although we did have some excitement about it (we had to order an original copy of Julie's birth certificate), we're ready now!
- We leave Feb 24th for a scouting trip to Germany. Julie's never been to Europe and I've only been there once and even then I didn't leave the Paris Airport (I was on my way to Israel in 1990), so we're excited about going to share the mission work of the land of Martin Luther.
- Speaking of missions, we're headed to New Orleans March 20-27. I hope you'll pray for our work and pray for our team. We had a good group attend the meeting Sunday to receive information about it.
- One last bit of randomness - the "SOUP-er" Bowl is coming! Check back later in the week for more info!

What will CBC look like in 2020?

I've had some time this week to consider what our church will look like in 2020. Thinking that way made me reflect on the last decade, what's changed and what I've learned in my first 10 years as a pastor.
In 2000:
- I had no idea what a text message was.
- I had dial-up internet - and was proud to have it! DSL / high speed internet was just too expensive.
- Until May of that year, I was still a single guy with no concept of the joy of a loving, committed relationship with my wife.
- I had a beeper. Cell phones were too pricey.
- My email address (I only had one - now, I've got three) was with AOL.
- I had done exactly one wedding and one funeral.
- The church I pastored then had less than 75 people. They passionately taught me about loving the Lord and how to serve Him.
- I thought being in PhD work was the most important aspect of my life.
- I had no idea how to leverage a website, a Facebook account, a Twitter account and a blog for the sake of the Gospel.

Prompted by a fellow pastor's blog, I've thought about what this decade would like if I could write it out in advance.
- Our church would be a loving outpost for those who are lonely, broken and in need of people who take Jesus' commands to love each other seriously.
- Our mission efforts, in Jacksonville, Cherokee County, Texas, the US and around the world, would reflect our passion for seeing the lost saved!
- Although I don't know how to quantify it, my prayer is for many in J-ville to come to Christ - and us to baptize them into the Kingdom of God. Not so we'll have a larger church but that the name of the Lord might be glorified!
- Our church will be a point of discipleship for those actively growing in their faith!
- Our church will be a place for worshiping Christ for who He is, who He has been and who He will be! Furthermore, that worship won't be identified as "traditional" or "contemporary" but by "glorifying!"

I've never cared much for measuring success / failure based on attendance numbers or by the amount / lack of money. Those are temporary sign posts. What I want to see is God moving within CBC, changing lives, changing hearts and leading each of us to become the followers of Christ we're called to be. Using our skills, talents and gifts, we'll serve the Lord by serving Jacksonville for the cause of Christ! Can you tell I'm fired up about this new decade?!??! Here's to seeing the Lord move between now and 2020!