Friday, March 25, 2011

Check Out the Library -- The Rest of the Story

Two years ago I wrote about how Alan, our oldest, was the architect working on remodeling the Oak Forest Library -- my library when I was a kid. Since he lives only blocks away from it, it is also my grandkids library. Well, the remodeling is complete and the building will have its grand reopening in mid-April. But last week the building received an American Institute of Architects 2011 Design Award. You can see pictures and hear his wife brag about him on her blog. Check it out.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Let the Earth Bring Forth Vegetation!

Diann lives in Houston, but works in Pleasanton, about 25 miles from Floresville. A regular meeting requires her to drive to Floresville on Mondays, so she's promised to check in on the garden when she gets a chance. This helps us absentee gardeners to have an idea what's going on.

She sent these photos last week. It looks like soil, sun, and seeds are all doing their part. I can't wait to return next week and check it out myself.

The corn is sprouting.


More Beans!

And Watermelons!

Sunday, March 20, 2011

The X-Garden

A friend of mine who gardens says he spends half his time trying to kill plants and the other half trying to get plants to grow.

On Thursday night Melinda and I cleared the Bermuda from 350 sq. ft. of ground in anticipation of the next stage in the experimental garden – fencing it in and laying down a drip irrigation system. I conferred with Mr. Cooper of Cooper’s Garden Place on Thursday and he showed me how to set up the system. He was out of sufficient materials, but picked them up on Friday and called me to come by and get them. I also made a trip by Tractor Supply Store to procure eight 4’x16’ cattle panels and sixteen T-posts for the fence. All we needed now was cheap labor, which arrived late on Friday night.

Saturday morning we shared some amazing breakfast tacos and then went to work. If we were to build another such fence, it would go much faster and would be a bit more elegant. But we learned as we went. We spent much time conferring, huddling, arguing, and fussing about how to get the fence good and square.

Melinda mastered the art of attaching the cattle panels to the T-posts using a nifty tool some bright (and probably rich) guy had invented. We sawed the end off one panel to form a gate and David and Jimmy attached it.

Meanwhile, Mike, who had already repaired baseboard in the house while we were fussing outside, was laying out the irrigation system, assisted by Debbie and Chris. When we connected it to the hose and tested it, it worked perfectly. We attached a timer to it, which I had to get up and turn on at 5:00 AM on Monday in order to set the cycle correctly. By Saturday afternoon the garden was set up. Mike, David, and I drove across the road to purchase some bales of hay from Herb to use for mulch around the plants as they came up. Hopefully this will conserve moisture and smother out some of the weeds.

I left Saturday night to fly to Dallas and to preach at FBC, McKinney (where I’m currently serving as Interim Pastor). The group, I was later told, was so wasted by the work, that they fell asleep early. On Sunday morning the guys watched while the ladies planted all manner of seeds in the rich soil: four kinds of watermelons, cantaloupes, a variety of squashes, carrots, peas, beans, and other good things. When we return in a couple of weeks, we hope to weed the plots and place the hay mulch around them.

We have no idea whether all this effort will pay off with actual produce, but that’s the experimental dimension of the X-Garden.

Spring Break 2011

Melinda and I returned to the farm on Friday for Spring Break and set about our tasks. She had a paper to work on for a couple of days and I picked up where I had left off painting at Christmas break. Sunday morning we sat in the den, drinking coffee and gazing out the front windows. A flock of turkeys crossed the driveway into the wheat field. We’ve not seen these birds before. The big tom following the flock stopped to puff his feathers and spread his tail as if posing for a photo. They meandered across the field to the fence line while we watched.

We visited First Baptist Church for the first time and enjoyed worshipping with that community of faith. We’ll do that as often as we able. Lunch was at Jack’s CafĂ© in town, and then we made a side trip the Lodi Cemetery, an overgrown Mexican graveyard next to the auto parts store on 10th Street. Burials there began in the late 1800s when Lodi was the county seat. One of the graves was marked as that of a Texas Ranger.

Sunday evening Melinda joined me in the painting. By Tuesday afternoon we’d painted three baths, the utility room, Grammy’s old sewing room, and the master bedroom. A group of guys from East End Glass showed up and removed and replaced the double-pane glass in twenty-one windows. For the first time in who knows when we could see clearly out all our windows. Everything was done. We packed our suitcases and drove the three hours back to Waco late that evening. Early Wednesday morning we drove two hours to Arlington for Clint Dobson’s funeral and, when that was done, six hours back to the farm.

We awoke Thursday morning to the sun rising though our now clear bedroom windows. A doe walked across the drive toward the wheat field, where we’d seen the turkeys earlier. While Melinda returned to her studies on Thursday, I cleaned up the painting mess and did some shopping around town to get ready for some outdoor projects we had planned: building a fence around our garden, laying down a drip irrigation system with a timer, and repairing a few baseboards in the house. At dusk a Great Horned Owl posed in a mesquite tree southwest of the house. (We found later one of his owl pellets on the roof under our big oak tree.)

Friday I mowed around the house, first with the walk behind mower, because Murray, the big, ancient lawn tractor refused to start. I told Melinda that we had kept him alive long enough. It would be time to replace him this season. He must have heard me, because when I tried again to start him (after mowing with the other machine for two hours), he cranked right up. So he helped me get finished just in time for our first guests to arrive.

David and Diann drove over from Pleasanton, about thirty miles away. We shared a cup of coffee and the remains of an Almond Joy Pie from the Texas Pie Company in Kyle that Melinda had picked up on the way to the farm earlier. We climbed in David’s Jeep and made the short drive over to Poth to Wiatrek’s Meat Market to pick up some steaks and bacon for the weekend. Having taken care of dessert, it was time for dinner. At my suggestion, we decided to try the Wildcat Grill and Saloon in McCoy, about 25 miles back toward Pleasanton. I’d read about the place in the Wilson County News some months earlier and it sounded good. We should have called first. It had been closed for a while. So we drove back to Floresville to dine at the Maverick Grill, a roadhouse on Hwy 181 outside of town.

Jimmy and Chris showed up before long. Then Mike and Pamm. Finally, Terry and Debbie. Friends formerly known as The Pizza Group, gathered for a weekend at the farm with lots of laughing, eating, and (as it turned out) working. More on the projects in the next post.

Friday, March 04, 2011


The world reeled under my feet yesterday when the phone call came. I was walking across the Baylor campus, on my way home to pick up a car and drive to dinner with our dean and a guest lecturer who had been on our campus all week. Rick Carpenter called, telling me he had just received news that Clint Dobson had been murdered in his office at Northpointe Baptist Church in Arlington.
My initial reaction was that he had his information wrong. What I’d just been told would not filter through my ears and into my brain. Clint was only 29. I’d seen him just two weeks ago in the seminary building at the Winter Pastors Conference. I had embraced him. We’d talked. We’d made plans to have lunch after church with our wives one Sunday soon now that I was serving as an interim pastor for a Dallas-area congregation. And I was being told he was gone.
I’ve known Clint since he was five years old. For six years or so he was my son’s best friend. Even as an adult, whenever I saw him he always asked about Taylor. Clint decided to pursue a calling into ministry while he was an undergraduate at Baylor. He began his seminary training at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary, but when Hurricane Katrina closed that school for a while, Clint came back to Waco and finished his work at Truett. He returned to UBC to do his internship with Jeff Waldo, serving in the Emerald Pointe Apartment ministries one summer.
He created friends and admirers wherever he went. He was tall, handsome, smart, enthusiastic, and inherently likeable. Professors who had him in class bragged on him, as if they had something to do with him. People who worked with him loved him. He was selected the outstanding student preacher his last year and preached in chapel. Clint served a small congregation while in seminary and then became pastor of Northpointe when he graduated. My last summer at UBC I invited him back to his home church to preach when I had to be out. He did an outstanding job. I was proud , as if I had something to do with him.
Last Sunday, I’m told, he preached on "The Testimony of the Martyrs," and his text was Acts 12 and 1 Peter 3:13-18. Then on Thursday he was senselessly murdered.
I have been interviewed by two Waco television reporters and two newspaper reporters today. Two of them asked me how I made sense of this. I don’t have a nail in my mind to hang this event on. I don’t have a way of making sense of it.
I decided some time ago that evil is irrational. To attempt to make sense of it is foolishness in my mind. It leads to saying things about God that don’t fit the Father revealed by Jesus Christ. This event was not God’s will. God states his will about murder in the Ten Commandments. It is not his will that anyone commit murder. To attempt to drive a nail to hang this on by saying, “This was God’s will,” sounds to me like foolishness.
I do believe that God’s sovereignty extends to such irrational events, however. I really do believe in the promise of Romans 8:28, that God works all things together for good to those who love him and who are called according to his purpose. By this I mean that the God who could take the worst, most irrational thing that human beings have ever done, nailing the Son of God to a cross, and sovereignly use that to reconcile the world to himself, is capable of sovereignly using any event to his purposes, I believe. Even the tragic, horrible event of yesterday. He did not stop it, but I do not believe he willed it. Apparently the freedom God gives human beings to choose and to act is something he takes seriously.
I take great hope in the promise of eternal life in Jesus Christ and I believe with all my heart that Clint shares Christ's victory over death. I hold Paul's words dear: "to live is Christ and to die is gain" (Phil. 1:21), and to depart and be with Christ is "far better" (1:23). But honestly, I feel robbed, pillaged, to have Clint taken out of my world. The church and the world are poorer for this senseless deed. Many in our seminary feel the same sense of loss. The people of Northpointe church certainly do. And his family most of all.
On Wednesday we will celebrate Clint’s life, mourn his death, and cling to God in the face of the senselessness of this act.
The words of Luther’s hymn have been on my mind all day:
Let goods and kindred go,
This mortal life also.
The body they may kill.
God’s truth abideth still.
His kingdom is forever.
John wrote of Christ's promise to those who offered their lives for him:
Then I heard a voice from heaven say,
"Write this: Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on."
"Yes," says the Spirit, "they will rest from their labor, for their deeds will follow them."
(Rev. 14:13)
So Clint's rest begins earlier than I would have imagined.
Well done, good and faithful servant.
Added 3/25/11 The Texas Baptist Standard published a nice article on Clint's life this week.
You may view Clint's memorial service at FBC, Arlington, TX here.