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:

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! ). 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.

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!