Not How It’s Supposed to Happen

Sep 23rd 2009

It was a bright and beautiful August day, when Tobin McAuley, his best friend, and their girlfriends rented a catamaran to go sailing off the coast of Mexico.   Nearly two miles off shore, Tobin’s buddy and the girls jumped into the warm water for a leisurely swim.  They were laughing and splashing…until suddenly Tobin’s friend began shouting for help.  Cramps had gripped his legs.  Quickly Tobin maneuvered the catamaran as close as he could to the swimmers.  The girls scrambled on board.  Tobin glanced around the boat for a life jacket, but there weren’t any, so he dove into the water to save his friend.  The problem was the girls didn’t know how to sail.  Frantically they tried to keep the catamaran near the guys, but the current pulled the craft away, faster than Tobin and his friend could swim toward it.  Pretty soon the boat had drifted out of sight — & 29 year old Tobin and his 30 year old friend were left behind to drown.

Not the way it’s supposed to happen is it?  Somebody goes off to war, we understand the risks.  We hear the word cancer and we know we may be facing the condition of dying.  But four young people enjoying themselves on a sailing jaunt should not start the day living their last moments of life.

This year the Dado family sent their 18 year old son to college.  Last Sunday he never made it home from a party Saturday night.  On Monday they found his body — accidental death, fell down a stairwell, head trauma.  That’s not how it’s supposed to happen is it.  I have a daughter at Penn State and another at Bethel University in MN.  We sent them to gain the experiences and education of a lifetime — for a lifetime.

I’ve been struggling with this one.  All sorts of thoughts.  Like…

– It was pretty amazing how the PSU students rallied together to try to find Joseph, but in my heart, I wish we could get students to rally to convince each other to drink a little less, to party a little less hard.

– I love Penn State.  The students who attend Calvary are one of the highlights of my week.  My daughter has gained great experiences and education at Penn State.  But my heart grieves when being the #1 party school is celebrated.  There is so much more to life & even more to PS.

– I’m grieving for the family.  My prayers are with them.  I cannot fathom their loss.  I did not know Joseph, but reading the reports he was a young man with good goals, great abilities, and many friends — and that tells me he had a good heart.  What will the world miss because Joseph will no longer be a part of it?

Last Sunday at Calvary — on the day that Joseph Dado died.  We talked about the fact that Creator God not only wants to give us life, He wants to create and shape our lives into a masterpiece of grace.  You are the creator’s passion.  (

      1. Listen to the Talk.
)  You are what God does.  That means that the loss of a single PSU student is the loss of a future masterpiece.  But it’s not only death that takes away life — I am convicted that any PSU student who misses God, misses some part of the masterpiece that their life could be… I can’t tell you how you much this burdens me.  Our lives need to be lived out introducing future masterpieces to the master-creator.  We cannot be a people who go to church, we must be a church that goes to people.  We must be a compelling example of Jesus to the Centre Region.

God has placed us upstream from the next generation of His Masterpieces.  He is looking for people who will get passionate about partnering with his purposes for them.  He is looking for people who will live their lives for others with an urgency of grace and the courage of compassion.  I am determined to be one of those people.  That’s how it’s supposed to happen.

My prayers are with Joseph’s family.  His friends.  And his generation.