Category Archives: Reflections

Rosalynn Carter

In the summer of 1992 Dorothy and I attended the inaugural CBF General Assembly in Atlanta. It is always an amazing experience to gather with thousands of Baptists for two or three days of worship, workshops and conversations. It is like going to a giant family reunion, only without relatives. It was good to see so many of our friends in ministry from our seminary days and to hear the reports of the mission efforts at home and globally. At one point former President and Mrs. Jimmy Carter brought greetings to the assembly, for the Carter Center is in Atlanta. His famous smile lit up the convention center. It was announced that later President Carter would be signing copies of his newest book. Dorothy and I decided to purchase his book and get in line to meet him. 

The book is called, Turning Point: A Candidate, a State, and a Nation Come of Age. It tells the beginnings of how the peanut farmer got into local politics, which led to the governor’s mansion and then the White House.  The line we were in seemed to move easily and suddenly we were there. He looked up and smiled at us, we introduced ourselves and said a few words of gratitude, and were quickly ushered away. We wandered back to the exhibit halls and went into the large ballroom that had been converted into a Christian bookstore and gift shop. There were very few people in the bookstore. I went to the books, Dorothy to the gift area. At one point I looked up and realized Rosalynn Carter and another lady, probably secret service, were coming into the area.  I was still holding the newly-signed book, and I hesitantly approached her, asking if I might have her autograph also. She shook my hand and in her soft-spoken and gracious voice she said, of course. I quickly found Dorothy and showed her my treasure and took her to see where Mrs. Carter was looking over the books. 

With the passing of Rosalynn Carter this past weekend, I reflected on that memory and pulled out the book signed by both a president and his first lady. He was a Baptist Sunday School teacher, and she was the quiet helper behind the scenes. She advocated for mental health services and was ever faithful to the end. 

Keep healthy. Pray mightily. Enjoy your life today.  Live out your faith. And let’s experience the love and power of God together.

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Shattered Dreams

Like everyone from my generation, I remember where I was sixty years ago next week. This year it comes the day before Thanksgiving. As a charter member of the Baby Boomers, I was sitting in the school auditorium with a hundred or so classmates in our history class. Televisions were placed throughout the auditorium for a class with a public educational broadcast. As the TV host was talking about the violent nature of mankind, the camera focused on a model of a caveman with a club. Then the narrator stopped mid-sentence. The camera did not move. After a long pause he announced that a bulletin had just reported that the President had been shot. Immediately one of our teachers turned the channel to hear the report. We sat in disbelief. Finally the class bell rang and I went to last period, Latin. We talked about what was unfolding and waited together. Later the principal’s voice announced that President John F. Kennedy had died in an assassination in Dallas. Class ended and we all went home to a very surreal weekend. We wept through the night.

Like the generation before me who knew where they were when they heard about Pearl Harbor, or the generation after me of students watching with great expectancy the launch of the space shuttle Challenger carrying a school teacher into space, or this generation’s horror we call 9.11, we can close our eyes and still see the events unfold as if they were yesterday. This week I have been rummaging around in my memories of November 22, 1963. I have been reflecting on the unanswered questions of that day and the “what if’s” of shattered lives. Walter Cronkite, wiping his eyes with the telling of the news, mirrors our own grief in the retelling of these kind of events.

Now Thanksgiving Day is before us. The holiday season is already in full swing. For too many there is another empty chair at the table where once there was a loved one. We remember our own turning points of shattered dreams and anniversaries of pain that time really has not taken away. Dying is a part of living, but our stories do not stop with the tears. Living is hard on us, yet we are a people of hope and faith. We are loved with an everlasting love. No matter what has come, or what may come, God sees us through it!

Keep healthy. Pray mightily. Enjoy your life today.  Joy comes in the morning. And let’s experience the love and power of God together.

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America’s Princess Alice

America’s Princess charmed the world and alarmed her more famous father. She was so popular the press could not write enough stories. She was Teddy Roosevelt’s firstborn and 17 years old when he became president. “Princess Alice” led the largest diplomatic congressional delegation ever to southeast Asia in 1905. It was estimated more than a thousand people tried to get a glimpse of her on her wedding day in 1906. She married a much older congressman who became Speaker of the House a few years later. She dined with the kings and queens of Europe as if she was the head of the United States.  She was beautiful, scandalous, and bitter. She rose to the top of Washington D.C.’s high society, where she spent the rest of her life hosting dinner parties and wielding her power.  Alice Roosevelt Longworth famously said, “If you can’t say something good about someone, sit right here by me.” Gossip was her weapon of choice and she used it with fierceness. She delighted and decimated the most powerful until her death in 1980.

Gossip is still the weapon of choice for many. The old days of the newspaper Gossip Columnists have been replaced by the relentless quest on every form of media to find the dirt, the unfortunate phrase, and the hypocritical dealings of anyone, anywhere. Gossip is rooted in bitterness and anger. (I am treading lightly here, not wanting to over psychoanalyze.) Princess Alice lost her mother at 2-days-old. She was sent away to be raised by relatives. She returned “home” to a stepmother and the birth of other children. A brother was killed in WWI, her father died shortly after her brother. And the sadness of her life goes on and on. All of us have a bitter root of sin and pain lurking within us. Gossip is a way of rejoicing in others’ miseries. Gossip is a way to make other people pay for our own sins and disappointments. A bitter life, even with the trappings of success and influence, can lead to a habit of gossip, or other destructive addictions, to distract us from ourselves. There is a better way to live.

The bitter, or poisonous, root that is within us is the pain of unforgiven sin. The author of Hebrews 12:15 admonishes us to accept the grace of God’s merciful forgiveness; to confess our anger and pain to God for not fixing our life like we wanted it; and embrace the love of Jesus who has already paid for our sins with His death on the Cross. 

Keep healthy. Pray mightily. Enjoy your life today. Beware the bitter root. And let’s continue to experience the love and power of God together.

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Leon Russell’s High School Piano

A most unexpected event in my ministry occurred when I was asked to speak in the middle of a 2019 Leon Russell tribute concert where some of the great band members and recording artists from his earliest days performed together. I was asked to lead the dedication ceremony of the Will Rogers High School’s original 1938 Baldwin piano, refurbished by privately raised money from the high school’s community foundation. I am an enthusiastic supporter of public education, and a founding director of the WRHS Community Foundation. 

In my remarks that day I spoke of the possibilities of our public schools:

The guiding promise of public education is for every student, from any life circumstance, to learn—to learn from the wisdom of the ages and develop the full-rounded skills needed to build a better future for themselves and our world. We are still striving to live up to that ideal. Never underestimate the power of a student’s dream, or the reach of an inspired and fully-funded teacher. While many graduates of this school are worthy of this kind of honor, Claude Russell Bridges—Leon Russell, Class of ‘59—was chosen as an example of the power of educational dreams. As a boy exploring the fine arts, he discovered his passion. Overcoming his lifelong challenge of a form of cerebral palsy, and gaining world-wide recognition for his talents, Leon Russell entertained his classmates daily during the lunch hour on this very piano on this very stage… May this instrument be used in all its many ways to fan the flames of creativity; May it ignite inspiration, insight, and passion; May it be a symbol of self-discipline, perseverance and the reward of hard work; and, May it transform generations of students as they discover their future.

Christians bring salt and light into our schools as active parents and volunteers. Taking state education funds out of the public schools to promote religious and other private schools punishes our children and their teachers. In light of our discussions on Baptist principles of faith, the current push to fund a Roman Catholic Church Virtual School System for Oklahoma with public education monies not only violates the state constitution, but it also violates our religious freedom by favoring one faith over every other. If a church cannot raise enough money from its own faithful for its on-going projects without taxpayer assistance, it should reconsider the scope of its mission.

Keep healthy. Pray mightily. Enjoy your life today.  Stay free. And let’s experience the love and power of God together.

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Baptist Beginnings – 2023

What we know as the Baptist church has been at worship and ministry for over 400 years.   This past week I began a brief series on the fundamental teachings and in our afterward discussions it was felt appropriate that I present a brief overview of our founding as a distinct religious movement in 1609. With funds provided by a wealthy believer named Thomas Helwys (1550-1616?), pastor John Smyth (1554-1612)and other believers traveled to the Netherlands to seek out spiritual counsel. Out of their discussions a statement of beliefs was formulated, and the small band participated in a Believer’s Baptism ceremony. They quickly moved back to England and established a Baptist church. The earliest Baptist leaders, along with Roman Catholics, Separatists and Puritans, were severely persecuted as heretics and imprisoned by King James 1, of King James Bible fame. Thomas Helwys was sent to Newgate Prison in 1616, where he wrote a short book on religious persecution. He was never released from prison and may have been executed.

  The founding Baptists declared five core values: Biblical Authority—the Bible is the infallible word of God. Priesthood of all Believers (also known as Soul Competency)—people are free to act and live according to their own conscience before God. Each believer has full access to God without any human mediator. Believer’s Baptism—opposing infant baptism; baptism is to follow a person’s confession of sins and faith in Jesus Christ as the risen Lord. Church Autonomy—each congregation is to follow its own understanding of Scripture and God’s direction without coercion from other religious leaders or groups. Religious Liberty—the king (governmental authorities) should not direct the affairs of any religion, favor any particular religion, or tax people to support or punish any religious person or group. It is the right of every individual to worship God, or not, as his or her conscience allows. The theme of soul freedom permeates all that Baptists cherish. 

  My concern centers on the fading knowledge of Baptist history in our churches. When the core values of our traditions are forgotten, the name Baptist is hollowed out and creedalism and secularism fill the void. Pastoral authority replaces Biblical authority and soul competency. Conforming to the latest doctrinal mandates and marketing strategies edges out church autonomy. And believer’s baptism becomes an option for some or necessary to salvation for others.

Keep healthy. Pray mightily. Enjoy your life today. Examine your faith. And let’s experience the love and power of God together.

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Facing Armageddon

I stood with a few other Tulsa pastors in the parking lot of a monastery built in the 1200’s on Mt. Carmel at the traditional site where Elijah sought shelter after facing down the prophets of Baal (1 Kings 18-19.) The view from the mountain top was spectacular. Looking east we could see just below the horizon the silver ribbon of the Jordan River that separates Israel from the nation of Jordan. Below us were the rich valley farmlands—the valley of Jezreel and the region of Megiddo. Countless battles from biblical days onward have been fought in this region; the last was in September 1918 as part of World War 1. We walked uphill a few yards, crossed the road, and looked westward. There we could see between the mountain ridges the glimmering blues of the Mediterranean Sea. Israel is a very small nation. With the Hamas War in Israel growing more tense each day, some are asking, Is the long foretold final Battle of Armageddon about to take place? 

I have a few responses to that question. The Book of the Revelation of John chapters 19 and 20 reveals that battle and its aftermath. Armageddon is over before it begins. All the personifications of evil, literal and figurative, are defeated and cast into a fiery imprisonment for a thousand years followed by the Great White Throne Judgement. With this understanding, the battle of Armageddon is not ours to worry about. In my perspective of last days, a destruction of the modern nation/state of Israel would be a marker that we have entered a great tribulation period where all the redeemed people would experience severe persecution or physical death for our faith, until the final shout, “Come!” All of the redeemed of all the ages will be present at the Lord’s Second Coming.

Last Sunday morning I asked the congregation to read Jesus’ teachings on the signs of His coming found in Matthew chapters 24 and 25. His continued teaching is—be ready for the day of His return. Bring hope and comfort to those you love who are anxious about tomorrow and what the future may hold. Tell them of the good news of God’s salvation through Jesus’ death on the cross. Tell them that even death itself is not the end of life’s story, with Jesus as their Lord. And do not wait for a better time

Keep healthy. Pray mightily. Enjoy your life today. Be ready for the Lord. And let’s experience the love and power of God together.

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Dini Goes to Church

During this 50th church-a-versary month, I was asked to repost this infamous story. 

On September 7, 1979, I received an urgent phone call asking for my assistance. One of our church members at the time, Ty Frederick, was trying his hand at breeding cockatiels. I was very interested in his new hobby. He called me that evening to say that a new mother was rejecting her two hatchlings. He asked if I could come over and help him. We decided that I would take one and he would work with the other. I took the hatchling home and fed him with an eye dropper and kept him warm with a towel in a shoebox. After his feathers came out, I began to teach Dini to fly and to talk. One of his favorite sayings was, “He’s a good bird.”  Then, one fateful day in the spring of 1981, I brought him to church to show the children.

The world’s longest children’s sermon began during the morning service as usual. When I took the bird out of his cage to show how he was trained to talk and fly back to me… well, let’s just say he flew and flew and sang, all through the rest of church that morning. I thought it was poetic that Ty was singing a solo in worship when Dini decided to make it a duet. No one slept through church that day! We worked all afternoon to try and coax him back to his cage. He loved singing in church. Later, after the evening service, I climbed an extension ladder and lifted a long pole with an improvised crossbar up to his perch near the sanctuary’s cove lights. He got on the crossbar, then as I slowly inched the pole down, he jumped on my shoulder like he was supposed to have done 10 hours earlier!

I looked up the life expectancy of the cockatiel—they live about 20 years. According to Wikipedia, there was one bird confirmed to have lived 35 years. Dini was a noble pet that outlived several of our cats. For around eight of those years, he shared his cage with a female cockatiel we called DeeDee. We thought Dini would like the company and that they might even mate. He mostly tolerated her. She died unexpectedly one July. He did not seem to miss her. Dini died on May 7, 2011. He lived 31 years and 8 months with us, greeting us every day with songs and whistles and chatter. He was a very good bird.

  Keep healthy. Pray mightily. Enjoy your life today. Remember the good times. And let’s experience the love and power of God together.

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Thank You for It All

What an overwhelming and beautiful day Dorothy and I experienced last Sunday.  We could tell that there was a lot of thought and hard work put into celebrating our 50th Church-a-versary. We loved it all. During the morning service Rev. Jordan Stowe, pastor of Angus Baptist Church, Sand Springs, presented a beautiful plaque on behalf of the Tulsa Metro Baptist Network. He is their current President. My friend Dr. Steve Graham brought a very fitting message about our God who provides more than enough, loaves and fishes style, while we focus on the scarcity of the situation. The special music covered a full range from Bryan Enos singing a Mercy Me song and Vicky Speck singing How Great Thou Art a cappella. Carter Enos put his own ragtime style on When We All Get to Heaven during the offering. 

A full Willets Hall was decorated with pictures and memorabilia from the past 50 years of church life together. There were teams of helpers working everywhere, and I apologize if I overlook someone. The event was coordinated by Margaret VanHorn, with able assistance from Rita Snellgrove and Connie Conelly. There were fresh flowers, special napkins, and a corsage and boutonniere for us to wear. A retrospective video played in the background. Thank you to Donelle Enos and Dayna Avery and their children for gathering the pictures and Kevin Avery, for putting it all together. The meal of smoked brisket and the fixings was incredibly good. Thank you to the kitchen team: Russell Ford, Ben Shepard, Patty Hickman, Katy Cook and Jason Ford. John Snellgrove and Stephen Lovelace were the photographers at large. 

Bryan Enos served as the emcee of the program. Personal testimonies, cards, and gifts from past and current members were given. We wiped tears of sweet memories and laughter as we took in the personal reflections, and later as we opened the cards and gifts. Bill Ess presented us with a card which contained a very generous check from Braden Park Church. Bill also presented us with a beautiful crystal plaque engraved with individual appreciations for both Dorothy and me. 

While we were highlighted richly on Sunday, fifty years together is only possible because of a remarkable congregation. Thank you for being such a giving and loving people, for your prayers and your faithfulness, and for joining with us in this Kingdom work. Thank you for it all.

With deep gratitude and love,

Bro. Darryl and Dorothy

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Confirming the Call

As I continue to reflect on this 50-year-mark as minister here at Braden Park, I am thinking today about those first few months after we moved to Tulsa in response to a call from God and a call from the church. My assignment was to be assistant minister in charge of the education and youth ministries. I was also asked by Dr. Bob Willets, senior minister at the time, to preach either the morning or evening service each week to help him fully recover from a time of depression. We decided not to announce who would be preaching when, to keep from getting into a fixed routine. I was preaching through 1 Corinthians. One Sunday in November Dr. Bob was out of town. The next Sunday he returned to the pulpit and announced that he had accepted a call to pastor a church just outside of Washington D. C. His last day would be December 31. Dorothy and I were taken by surprise, and we had questions.

Those Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays were a flurry of church activities, family and friends visiting us, and celebrating our baby’s first Christmas. We were out of town that first week of January when the Music Director was asked to resign. Tensions were high and we received conflicting advice about how to proceed.  We made a quick trip to Ft. Worth to talk with our former pastor and other mentors. A Pulpit Committee was formed, and I agreed to become the interim pastor on condition I could have occasional guest preachers to give me some time for discernment. In late January I brought a “State of the Church” message which challenged the church to decide who they would become. In early March, I attended a most valuable conference in Dallas, that emphasized the power of personal management in church ministry. It clarified for me an understanding of myself and my call to service. It gave me tools to help lead others through conflict and to take personal responsibility for managing the programs of the church. Apparently, the Easter message I brought gave a sense of unity to the congregation, and soon afterward the pulpit committee asked me to consider becoming the pastor. Through that whole process I continued to sense a strong calling to lead this congregation. I officially became senior pastor on Mother’s Day 1974. I was where God had called me, and still am to this day. 

Keep healthy. Pray mightily. Enjoy your life today.  And let’s continue to experience the love and power of God together.

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Moving to Tulsa in 1973

It was nearly midnight on October 1. Dorothy and I felt a bit like Mary and Joseph after being turned away by all the old Route 66 motels on Tulsa’s 11th Street. Our baby was six weeks old. We had spent the whole day helping movers load the moving van and then we unexpectedly learned that they were going to drive overnight to Tulsa to unload the van first thing in the morning at our little duplex apartment at 14th and 73rd East Avenue. That’s when the scrambling began. We filled our trusty ’64 Rambler with the baby and the rest of our worldly goods and left Ft. Worth behind. But now it was midnight. We stopped at the Desert Hills Motel, where we had stayed before, but something called the Tulsa State Fair (not Tulsa County Fair, I learned) was in full swing less than a mile away, so every room was taken. We eventually found a room on the seventh floor of the downtown Holiday Inn. What a short night!

Very early the next morning we had to load everything back into the car and get across town to the new place. The moving van was already waiting. We spent the morning unloading and setting up the place. Eventually Dorothy said that we needed to go shopping right then. Why? We had this little baby, and our place had no washer, dryer or refrigerator, and there was something about babies and laundry and eating that needed tending to. So, on our move-in day in Tulsa—it was a Tuesday—we bought the appliances and had them delivered the next day. Wednesday night I was welcomed by Dr. Bob Willets and the church people to the evening prayer service. I delivered my first sermon as a minister of our church on the first Sunday morning of October 1973. The Scripture was taken from 1 Corinthians chapter 1. That day I began a verse-by-verse study of that book which lasted into the following February.

I am in a reflective mood about these 50 years together. Thank you for inviting us and allowing us into some of the most sacred moments of your family’s life. Thank you for welcoming us and giving us room to mature as a pastor and as a family. Thank you for loving us.  Thank you for ministering to us and helping us raise and teach our children, and their children, the holy things of God. You are loved, and Dorothy and I are so blessed and grateful.

Keep healthy. Pray mightily. Enjoy your life today.  And let’s continue to experience the love and power of God together.

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