Monday, December 12, 2011

A Christmas to remember

As you know, this has been a year of firsts in our home. Most importantly, our son Joshua was born on April 11th this year so this has been a year of the first smile, the first laugh, the first roll-over, the first tooth and now, his first Christmas. He's brought light into our home that I simply couldn't have imagined before he got here. It's funny. . . . we adopted Joshua, but I honestly don't know how on earth I could love him anymore if he were biologically mine. It's almost as if the Lord orchestrated things and people, placing him in just the right family at just the right time (ya think??!??!). Here's a sample of what I mean.
Not long ago, Julie, Josh and I were at Wal-Mart. Nothing unusual there! We were in the produce section with me pushing the cart, Josh seat in it and Julie gathering. A stranger walked up to Josh and I, looked Josh hard in the face then looked me hard in the face then back at Josh. Then Julie walked over and the stranger stared at Julie too (I know - kinda weird! But some strangers are stranger than others). With a loud voice the stranger said "He's got his daddy's eyes, but everything else is from his mom!" I just smiled and said "Yes, ma'am." We hear that all the time.
And now, his feet. For those keeping score, I wear a size 15 in most shoes, although I'm forced into a 16 in certain brands. They serve as a solid foundation for my height, but it's not a fact I brag about. Buying big shoes is a major hassle. I had hope for Josh, but apparently, it will be a vain hope. Julie bought Josh some 12-24 month socks recently. He's wearing them, but they are decidedly too small already. . . .and he's 8 mths old yesterday. What will he be wearing when he's 24 mths? I'm scared to think.
So what about this first Christmas for Josh? It's a Christmas where he'll learn of the love of Savior who came to earth that first Christmas night in Bethlehem. It's a Christmas where he'll come to know of the love of his parents for him even if he's too young to grasp it yet. It's a Christmas where he'll be spoiled by grandparents and aunts and uncles, some who have waited a long time for this day and hour (#my family!). It's Christmas where we'll begin teaching him about the Season of Advent and why it's important. And it's a Christmas where Jesus will be honored and celebrated - because of the great gift of love given for us - and our Josh.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

A Christmas like none other

We put up the Christmas tree last week, although it's not fully dressed. We put up the garland and the other Christmas-y things around the house. No biggie, right? Wrong. We didn't get to decorate last year since we were between places, living half in one house and half in another. Thus, no Christmas decorations which are a big deal for both Julie and myself. But this year, in our new home, we're going full bore for more reasons than that. As you well know, this is Josh's first Christmas. We're only at December 1 (almost) and it's already been better than I could've imagined. This Christmas really will be like none we've ever known.

Friday, October 28, 2011

An Ode to the Rangers

As I'm writing this, the Cardinals have just beaten my beloved Rangers. While I'm heart-sick about losing for the second consecutive year, after a lifetime of waiting to get to the Series, the pain of the moment won't overwhelm the perspective time will bring. Last year, we got horse-whipped in the Series. This year, we had it down to the last strike before the whole thing went to pot. Perhaps by writing about some happier times, I'll be able to temper my disappointment.

May 1974 - I had just turned 6 yrs old. My mom got tickets for our family to go to the old-school Arlington Stadium (that's it). I'd never seen such a site! They were playing the much-hated Yankees. We had great seats and I'll admit it - I was hooked. From then on, most every year my parents took me at (or near) my birthday to see the Rangers play. Year after year, spring training would come and, with high hopes, we'd eagerly look forward to getting to the playoffs - much less the World Series.

June 1976 - I was a Cub Scout. They took us to the game. We got autographs (Pat Corrales! Anybody remember him? I do and I still have that autograph). My mom collected box tops that year and got me an autographed (actually it's stamped) Rangers ball. I still have it. Come to house to see it.

May 1981 - I received some free tickets from someone and convinced my parents to take me and a buddy. We were in the upper deck at the old stadium. They were awful seats and they gave my mom a touch of vertigo, but were there, soaking in life as a Ranger fan.

Summer 1988 - I was in college at Dallas Baptist University. Working at the campus, a friend and I had no girlfriends and nothing promising to do so we went to nearly every home stand over the summer. Sat in the bleachers for $2. Smuggled drinks into the game in our pockets. Parked about 2 miles away to save parking fees. It was awesome! The team wasn't very good, but we had a blast every time. With great enthusiasm, we cheered our Rangers right until they were eliminated.

Summer 1991 - Things had changed for me in a lot of ways, but one constant was the Rangers. I was overwhelmed to have Nolan Ryan (NOLAN RYAN!) pitching for my team. I went to every game (that wasn't on Sunday) he pitched that year.

March 1994 - The "New" stadium opened for visitors. One of my childhood friends, David Ellis, and I went to see the not-yet-opened Ballpark in Arlington. We marched around the stadium for about 2 hours dreaming about games we would see there. And we did.

May 1994 - When the new stadium opened and my bday rolled around, we were there! We had horrid seats - the very top row in the upper deck behind home plate - but I didn't care. We were there and it was awesome.

1996 - Finally, the Rangers made the playoffs. I thought I would explode! Even though we got rolled by the Yankees, we at least got there! Same story in 1998 and 1999 - but we finally got there!

May 2000 - Julie and I got married on May 6, 2000. My bday is May 7. Good timing, no? When I got married, I feared my tradition of games on/around my bday might end. But I married well, my friends. Very well. We honeymooned in Boston. Imagine my surprise when she asked "Are the Red Sox in town - we can't go to Boston and not see a game at Fenway!" YAHTZEE! Thus, the tradition continues. The Rangers are our team, evidenced by the amount of Ranger junk we have around our home.

Oct 2010 - When the Rangers won the ALCS (against the Yankees!), we were at the Tomato Bowl, 12 of us sharing one set of headphones. We held our breath until the game was over and we'd won. Wow. Later that night, after everyone was gone and Julie was asleep, I actually cried. Crazy, I know. But a lifelong love affair with a team affects you deeply! Even though we lost, we had finally won a pennant!

April 2011 - Our son, Joshua, was born. One of his first outfits was a Rangers uniform. He was two days old when we first watched a Ranger game together. Our summer was spent tracking them and watching them win the division, the ALDS, the ALCS and play in the Series. Like me, I hope my son will grow up with them as his team, even if they never get back to the Series.

While my greatest love is for my Lord, my family and my church, the Rangers rank right up there. Some might say "Choose a different team - one with a chance to win!" Sorry, but the die is cast there. I am who the Lord has made me to be and part of that is Ranger Red and Blue. (True, I'm a big Cowboy fan but they've always done well (well, most always). And the Mavericks just won the NBA title. But my first love was always baseball.) I'm not a bandwagon guy, jumping in the with the "team of the day" who is doing well. Thanks just the same - I'll stick with my Rangers. You who have never loved a team like that - you'll never understand. But you'll never know the passion and joy that such can bring. So, until Spring Training and the start of a new year of hopes for the World Series, so long Rangers and thanks for the ride.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

An investment in the future

This week @ CBC, we're talking about Generosity. What that means and people who we known who are generous. It brought to mind one of the most generous men I've ever had the privilege to know.
When I graduated from Dallas Baptist University in 1990, I received a scholarship to attend Southwestern Seminary in Ft. Worth. (Truth be told, I was third in line to receive it. The only reason it came to me was the other two turned it down to pursue other options). The scholarship was awesome and a blessing beyond measure, but it only covered tuition. I still had to live, eat, buy my books and gas to get back and forth. Knowing my penchant for eating (a frequent habit of mine!), I found work through a friend at Sears, right down the street from Southwestern Seminary. Although the store has since closed due to a declining clientele and neighborhood, I learned much about generosity and investment in the future in my 5 years there. Most significantly, I learned how to be generous even when that's tough. I learned it through Mr. Greg Johnson. Technically, Greg was my boss. He never acted that way, however, and he most certainly never treated me that way. A lifer with Sears, he'd worked for more than 20 years in the Sears organization at a variety of stores and a variety of jobs. He'd seen it all! His experience was priceless! I learned much about taking care of people in the RIGHT way and treating people with kindness regardless as to circumstances. What I learned most, however, was generosity.
About three weeks after I started with Sears, I had my schedule set. I'd leave home around 7:15 AM, attend class until around 2 PM then work at the store till around 9:15 PM. While I could carry lunch and supper with me (and I did), I frequently didn't take enough to really get me along - thus I weighed the feather-weight poundage that I did when Julie married me! One night, Greg and I took an evening break together. Nothing unusual. He asked me to accompany him to the Mall Food Court. There were only a small handful of fast-food joints down there and I had no money, but I agreed to go and keep him company. Once down there, Greg bought what seemed like an enormous meal at Taco Bell. Unbeknownst to me, he was planning to eat only half. The other half he gave to me. After I resisted (my mom did teach me some manners), it became clear this was his plan all along. Blessed by the meal (but even more by the kindness), we went back to work.
The next night, he asked me to go again. I declined (out of sheer pride). I was no pauper. I wasn't a charity case. While not "rolling in it" I wasn't that broke - was I? The next night - the same thing. The next night, again. This went on for a week or more when one day Greg caught me after I had refused and told me this: "I can't do the things you can do, Darin. I can't preach, teach or learn like you can. But I can help you get a decent meal every now and then! I can help encourage you toward being the man I think I see in you." Shocked and a little overwhelmed, I didn't turn him down again. It wasn't every night, but it was more often than not. And there were times when he would show up with something he'd bought somewhere else. Many times he gave me the cash and told me to go get it. It never was much in the way of monetary value - maybe $3 at the most. But to a poor seminary student working part-time at Sears, that $3 might as well have been $3 million. It meant so very much to me not because I needed the money but because I learned a strong lesson in being generous. Now, nearly 20 years since I left that job, I can still remember the generosity showed by one who chose to show it - and in doing so, teaching a young preacher something only a series of Taco Bell suppers can teach. Generosity means giving of yourself first.

Monday, October 10, 2011

The craziest year of our lives

I've just reviewed my last blog post. I'll tell you the truth - I'm not in the least surprised by the date - March 28, 2011. Significance? That date is B.J. - before Joshua. He was born on April 11. I couldn't speak to that here since the case was pending and in the six months since then, we've been a little busy. A brief run-down for those who I don't get to see often.
March 9 - We got the call about a baby who needed a home. Although it wasn't settled, we were one of six couples being considered.
March 23 - We were officially approved as the adoptive couple for an unknown gender child.
April 8 - We were informed that the birthmom was to be induced on April 11 and we needed to be there.
April 10 - A Sunday. After the AM services, we told only a bare minimum of people and left to get our child. We went with an empty car seat, empty arms and expectant hearts. Truly, our lives were about to change.
April 11 - 11:25 AM - Joshua David Wood was born!
April 11 - 1:01 PM - We were allowed to see him for the first time.
April 11 - 4 PM - Joshua was brought to us and placed in our arms where he's been ever since.
April 22 - Good Friday - After all legal hurdles were cleared, we officially became Joshua's parents by judge's decree. We named him Joshua David. Joshua for the Biblical character (esp Joshua 1:9 and 24:15) and David for Julie's dad. We left for home immediately. On our way, we posted only a small vague blurb on Facebook, something we had avoided since we'd been gone so we didn't mess up the legal stuff involved in the adoption process. By the end of the day, we got more than 300 responses.
April 22 - 6 PM - We got home to find presents piled by the door and the house decorated with "It's a Boy!"
April 24 - Easter Sunday - We introduced Joshua via pictures to our CBC family. An emotional day to be sure.
May 4 - After realizing our current truck that I drive wouldn't hold Joshua's car seat, we bought a new-to-us truck that would. We would've waited had we known what was going to happen two days later!
May 6 - Our 11th anniversary - We received word that we sold our Frankston home. It had been on the market for 21 months!
May 9 - Mother's Day - Joshua's first Sunday in church.
May 23 - We put a contract on our Augusta Drive home.
June 17 - We closed on both houses and moved into our new home. MANY of our CBC family came to help and we're humbled by that.

Since then - Joshua is growing SO fast! Our house is becoming more and more like home. We're growing as a church and seeing God do some amazing things around us. I would've never believed what would transpire this year, even if it had been told to me in explicit detail. That's the beauty of a lifelong pursuit of Jesus - you never know what the next step will be. With humility we say, "Yes Lord - now tell me what's next."

Monday, March 28, 2011

A weekend to remember

Monday morning gives me a few minutes to consider the previous weekend - and if the rest of the year goes as wildly busy as the first three have gone by, it will be Christmas in about two weeks!

- Charniece's retirement service was awesome! It was a outstanding reminder of the power of long-term service. She has served the Lord so faithfully for so long here at CBC - her legacy here will be long-remembered. Thanks to Will Cumbee and the hospitality crew for making the event so special!

- The beginning of our Red-Letter Series got off with a bang! The message of grace and forgiveness we found in the mouth of Jesus in John 19 is a poignant reminder of God's calling on our lives to give forgiveness just as freely as we have received it. NOT easy. There are many who struggle with forgiveness throughout their lives - either giving it or receiving it. I hope you'll pray with me for them.

- Julie and I went out to dinner Friday night (HOT DATE!) at El Chico on the Loop in Tyler. We had a great waiter named Christian. Pray with me for his spiritual journey. When I asked about it, he didn't really have an answer - which usually means there's isn't a journey going on at all. Pray with me for opportunities like this one to share the hope we know in Christ!

- Our Easter schedule has gotten some attention. As has become our habit, we'll be doing two services that Sunday - one at 8:15 AM and the other at 10:45. The difference this year is that the two services WON'T be identical. The early service will be our usual service. The late service will be significantly different. We're calling it "The Well" after John 4 when Jesus encounters a woman seeking life and hope at the Well. As you plan your Easter celebration, plan accordingly!

- We're engaging in Servant Evangelism projects ALL OVER THE PLACE in Jville this Easter season. We've asked your Sunday School classes to coordinate that for us. Be looking for your chance to serve!

- I've never been more excited about Easter than I am this year! I can't wait to see what the Lord does in the lives of those who seek Him! I can't wait to see what happens with our two service model! I can't wait until our fasts are over and we can return to a full-bodied life! What do I mean? At the risk of messing up my fast, I'll share with you my fasts. I chose two things to fast from: (1) carbonated drinks. That one has been relatively easy. I know they're bad for me and they steal oxygen from my bloodstream, so I'll probably keep this one going even after Easter. The other one, not so much. (2) Desserts / Sweets - This seemed like such a good idea when I started! Mercifully, we're almost half-way home! I had no idea I was eating so much dessert until I stopped eating any! Only once have I gotten really weak. At a funeral luncheon two weeks ago, one of our deacons (who, in fairness, didn't know my choice of fasts) sat down next to me with two of the most heavenly looking desserts I've ever seen! I got weak in the knees and began a battle within myself about how much harm one little dessert would do. Literally, even now as I'm writing about it, my mouth is watering! Another deacon, who did know my fast, sat quietly as he watched what I would do. He didn't say a word and I didn't notice him - but I held in there - by fleeing the scene! Sometimes, that's your only choice! On Easter at lunch, stand back! I'll be eating my share of dessert - and yours as well!

Monday, February 28, 2011

Back in town

I'm back in my office this morning, following a quick trip to New Orleans / Baton Rouge for a conference and some R & R. It's not often I'll take a Sunday out in the middle of a series, but this conference was too good to pass up.
The Greer-Heard Conference, held at New Orleans Baptist Seminary, was entitled "Can we trust the Bible on the Historical Jesus?" Styled in a point-counterpoint format, this conversation was headlined by two eminent scholars: Dr. Craig Evans and Dr. Bart Ehrman. While you may not recognize their names, in our little scholarly world, they are straight-up ROCK STARS! One of them - Dr. Evans - believes the answer of the question to be yes. The other, Dr. Ehrman, believes the answer to be no. So why discuss it if we know their answers before we begin? Because this is a key question many are asking today. To understand the answer, however, we've first got to understand the question.
Can we "trust"? To trust means to rely on fully. While many will answer "yes" to the question as asked above, many of those same people fail to spend anytime reading the Bible. So my question then becomes do they really, REALLY trust it? If they really relied on it fully, it would be a much more integrated part of life.
"Historical Jesus" - The search for the "historical Jesus" is not the same as the search for the Jesus of faith or even the Jesus of the Gospels. What most scholars mean when they use that phrase is that they want a Jesus who meets modern historical standards of historical skepticism and science. They want hard-proof to affirm Jesus' claims. But the Bible isn't a book developed for historical science nor is it intended to be treated as such. While the Bible has no fear of such an investigation, the Gospels were written from a faith point of view and reflect that concept. Rather than demand that the Gospels measure up to my pre-ordained standards, I'm much more content to let the Gospels speak for themselves. Regardless of my opinions, the Gospels stand as a testament to the words of Jesus, his actions, his miracles, his passion, his death and resurrection. So can the Bible be trusted to tell me that? You BET!

Friday, February 25, 2011

Dining with Heretics

As you may have heard, I'm out of town this weekend. We've taken a weekend out to travel to southeastern Louisiana for two purposes. (1) To see Julie's side of the family who live in Baton Rouge. Her parents, her sister and her family - we're the only odd-balls who live somewhere else. (2) To dine with heretics - at least one of them. I'll be leaving Julie in Baton Rouge in just a little while to head down to New Orleans for the Greer-Heard Conference at New Orleans Seminary. The title for this year's conference is "Can we trust the Bible on the Historical Jesus?" You already know my answer - a resounding YES! But there will be at least one person at the conference who will say "no." I LOVE these conferences as they provide an opportunity to engage my brain in a different way than I normally do. It should be a fascinating discussion. Check back with me later in the weekend for a run-down on it.

In the meantime, for my CBC family, you'll be led this weekend by Rev. Kurt Powell, a longtime friend of mine. Kurt is currently service as a coach in the Frankston School system.

Please know of my deep love for serving this church!

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Sunday night reflections

Just home from church tonight but I'm far from tired even though I feel awful! (I hate sinus stuff! They've been draining all day!) I live for Sundays, but there are some that are bigger than others! This one counts as one of those!

- I was all set to close out the service this morning, when Anna Jacobson came down to tell us she had invited Christ to be her Lord! Nothing gives a pastor more joy than to see someone proclaim Christ as their Lord! That NEVER gets old! Rock on Anna! We'll baptize her soon!

- After worship this morning, Julie and I had lunch with Randall and Suzanne Cooper at Jalapeno Tree - once I found them! I had a couple of meetings after church so they told me to catch up with them there. The only problem was they didn't tell me where "there" was! Makes a body feel unwelcome! I finally did find them after I went to Chilis and then to Posados!

- Tonight's service was our vote on our Vision 33. Our Long Range Plan Committee has worked long and hard to prepare and present this plan. Our vote was 122-3 in favor of the plan! Some days are bigger than others and this one is among them!

- So now, our attention turns to the next step - we'll be back with you soon on the next step soon!

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Sunday night reflections

It's a few minutes after 8 PM on Sunday night. We just got home from church. Wow! What a day!

- Welcome Ray and Holly Rawlinson, CBC's newest members! Coming to us by bapism, Ray and Holly are awesome! They and their two small kids are joining us in our crazy and passionate pursuit of Christ!

- The second in our "Toxic" series - Toxic Words - was the message this AM. It's been surprising to me how strongly people have responded to this series! I've had people ask me several times this week about this series! Awesome! That means God is working in spite of my shortcomings. This next week will get people talking - Toxic Relationships.

- We ended the day with a round-table discussion of our Vision 33 proposal from our Long Range Planning Committee. It was an outstanding time of fellowship, questions and answers among our family! I opened our Q & A time with 1 John 3:1 - "Behold what manner of love the Father has given unto us that we might be called the children of God - and that's what we ARE!" - That which unites us is far greater than that which divides us! Pray for us as we take the next step!

- The Lord and I were talking yesterday as I got ready for this morning's service. As I prayed, I prayed for each of our CBC family with gratitude and passion. What an amazing church we have!

- So here's your assignment this week - in case you missed it this AM - write out a list of 100 positives about yourself. It's not anti-humble. Think of it as taking inventory of all that God has blessed you with!

- Thanks for letting us serve here with you! I've never had more fun doing anything else in my life!

Wednesday, February 09, 2011

The Bad Weather Blues

I'm sitting at home now - at 2 PM on Wednesday afternoon - when I normally would be finishing my preparations for Wednesday night and Sunday. For the second week in a row, we've been forced to cancel our Wednesday night services due to inclement weather. Bummer. I hate canceling! It makes feel like I'm giving up. But with all the moving parts of a CBC Wednesday, we were convinced it was the right call.

The best example I can offer to that end is this. When I walked out to my truck to go to my regular Wednesday lunch meeting, there was ice on every side of my pickup! The side mirrors were coated in ice and I had to YANK the door open to get in! The springs groaned under the cold load as I sat down! I'm not THAT heavy!

So for now, I'm sitting at home, with a fire in the fireplace, Julie seated just a few feet away and our dog sitting contentedly between us.