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."