For the Dads

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“There’s nothing I’ve learned from being a father that I couldn’t just as easily have figured out by setting all my money on fire.”


Little Middle, Gray Hair, and Jake

Allan's Journey, Central Church Family, Texas, Valerie No Comments »

A quick hit from Arlington as we wrap up the final leg of our family vacation. We had a marvelous lunch today with Valerie and the sweet family who is housing her while she serves as a summer intern for the student ministry at Pleasant Ridge Church of Christ.

Our old friends, Mike and Traci Thatcher and their daughter Bella, actually signed up to keep Valerie this summer before anybody made the connection that she belonged to us. We ran around with the Thatchers for a while during our brief stay in Arlington while I was working at KRLD during the early 2000s. We were actually the first babysitter Bella ever had! Now she and Valerie are sharing living space and really forming a wonderful friendship. Carrie-Anne and I are so grateful and feel so very confident that when Val’s car won’t start or the youth minister announces to the church that he’s taken another job in Abilene, Mike and Traci are there to take care of our little middle. (I have no idea why Valerie insists on wearing that Kappa shirt in the photo up there; she was wearing it before she met Mike, so I can’t blame him.)


While we’ve been away, John Mark Beilue, the highly respected columnist for the Amarillo Globe News, wrote a really nice story about Jake and Stevie Reeves’ hospital room wedding. You can click here to read his column. By the way, Jake is home now recovering from his surgery, learning how to manage his newly-diagnosed diabetes, and trying to tolerate diet root beer.


My once-every-five-weeks faith column for the Amarillo paper was also published last Saturday. It’s about ear-hair and God’s promises in Isaiah. You have to read it to understand.


And I’d love to recommend to you two books I’ve read during this ten-day vacation. They’re both excellent.

First, the largely untold and completely forgotten story about the world’s first-ever serial killer, in Austin, Texas during the mid-1880s. The book is titled The Midnight Assassin, written by Skip Hollandsworth, the famed editor of Texas Monthly magazine and the writer of the screenplay for the excellent movie “Bernie.” Skip did his research for almost two decades — and it shows. The book is a fascinating study of the events surrounding a dozen killings in the capitol city of mostly African-American servant girls. The murders were all extremely gruesome — one every couple of months — carried out in the middle of the night in the exact same way, and caused a panic throughout Austin that spread to all parts of the state from Gainesville to Galveston. The murderer was never caught. The mystery was never solved. And less than two years later, prostitutes were being killed in the middle of the night in London. Yes, Jack the Ripper! And, yes, most people at the time believed that Jack the Ripper and the Austin Assassin were the same guy! At the very least, most agreed that Jack the Ripper had been inspired by the Austin killer.

Hollandsworth produces hundreds of quotes and clippings from 130-year-old newspapers, police records, court documents, and journals that link the two. He also examines the question “Why do we know so much about Jack the Ripper but almost nothing about the Austin killer?” from every angle. And he pays very careful attention to the historic detail of every scene. These Austin murders were taking place during the construction of the capitol building, during the time when electric lights and telephones were transitioning from experimental to commonplace, during the construction of the very first dam on the Colorado River, and during the world expo in New Orleans when business leaders first began billing the wonders of our state with the slogan “Everything’s bigger in Texas.” The politics of all this was directly impacted by these murders that hung over the city and the state and had to be carefully managed. It’s so interesting. And, if you’re familiar at all with Austin, maybe you’ve wondered about those 130-year-old light towers that are scattered all over the city. Yep, they were erected in reaction to the midnight murders. If you’re a Texas history buff or a murder mystery fan, you absolutely cannot go wrong with this one.

And, Love Does by Bob Goff. I’d like to describe to you what it was like listening to Bob Goff’s 40-minute keynote address at the Pepperdine Lectures this past May. But it would be impossible. All I can accurately communicate in this space is that Goff loves God and he loves people. Passionately. Frantically. Maniacally. Hilariously. If you read his book, you’ll agree. If you read his book out loud, at double-speed, laughing at yourself after every fourth sentence, then you’ll have a better idea about his keynote.



Five States in One Day in One Van

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(As always, you can click on the pics to get the full size. This is not like subjecting you to a 200-picture slide show of our family vacation on the paneled walls of my living room — this is slightly less annoying.)

The family summer vacation is winding down with a long return trip from Orlando to Amarillo: ten days, five states, three thousand miles, in one very old minivan. We embark on the final leg today in our last set of clean clothes, unshaven, a little sunburned, and with sand still lodged in some questionable places. This was the first summer vacation in which not all of us were present — Valerie is working as a youth ministry intern at the Pleasant Ridge Church of Christ in Arlington this summer. So, yeah, that’s a little weird. Time is getting away from us. Quickly. Man, we’ve got to enjoy these family vacations.

But we did our typical every-four-years Orlando vacation. We caught “throwed rolls” at Lambert’s Café in Gulf Shores, Alabama and spent a wonderful day on the beach there together. We also caught a really strange rock band — Voodoo Gumbo — doing some interesting covers of the Stones, Poison, Michael Jackson, and Foreigner. We found a brand new Chuy’s in Orlando (Yes!) and worshiped with a wonderful group of Christ-followers at Celebration Community Church just four or five miles away from our condo.

And it rained. Every day in Orlando it rained. Sometimes it started at 5:00 in the afternoon, sometimes it started at noon. But every afternoon and evening it rained.

However, that didn’t dampen our spirits. Much. We stayed away from Disney and spent two very full days at the Universal theme parks. We rode the best roller coasters (Hulk, Dragon’s Challenge, Rockin’ Rockit, Mummy, Dr. Doom’s Fear Fall), walked around in amazement at the new Harry Potter addition, saw the cheesy Jimmy Fallon thing, waited in long lines, did two or three too many 3-D virtual rides, and ate a lot of very expensive fast food. We got wet and dried off, we took a lot of corny pictures, we ran the wrong way down moving sidewalks, and we had dinner at the world’s largest Hard Rock Café.

We ate Krusty Burgers and drank Buzz Cola at the Simpsons!

We also drove up to Cocoa Beach for a day and just spent another day hanging out at the condo.

Now we’re driving back home via a little weekend detour in Arlington with Carrie-Anne’s mom and a chance to enjoy a meal and an hour or two with Valerie.






I treasure these vacations with Carrie-Anne and our daughters. Fifty hours in the van with no data on the phones, all crammed in together, is just about the only time we have anymore to give each other our full undivided attention. When we find a good radio station we sing Tom Petty and the Eagles together. But in between those times, we talk. And laugh. We share memories from vacations past, we delight in seeing new things, we make plans for the future, and we dream a little together about what might be. We evaluate our current situations and we talk about possibilities and options for all of us. We smile broadly at the really great things that bless our lives and we look intently for the grace of God in the not-so-great things.

Valerie’s probably out for family vacations now. By this time next year Carley will be a high school graduate. Who knows what these will look like down the road? Who knows that maybe we haven’t already taken our last family vacation? Weird. It happened fast. I suppose we’ll still travel without kids, right? But singing “Texas, Our Texas!” as we cross the border back into the Lone Star State won’t be the same if it’s just Carrie-Anne and me.




Ooh-ooh, That Smell

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How do you get a bunch of five-year-olds to fifth graders to get the Word of God inside their hearts and their souls? How do they read the Bible in a way so that the Word becomes a part of who they are? How do you help them truly experience the sights, the smells, the tastes, the experience of being in a boat with Jesus on the Sea of Galilee? Well, you start with a bucket of sand, a pitcher of salt water, and a dead 14-inch trout.

It’s Vacation Bible School week here at Central and, as always, Mary and Sara and their crew are focused on interactive, hands-on, experiential learning. Greg is taking the kids through an escape room. Adam is leading the kids through different methods of prayer. Tanner and Ellie are playing soccer with the kids. Valerie Gooch, the director of Panhandle Adult Rebuilding Center, has brought Allison with her to tell our kids about serving the homeless. Benny Baraza, the fabulous principal at Bivins Elementary, is making fidget spinners with our kids. And I got to help our children learn to read the Bible using all five our senses, to truly get the text inside us.

The passage was Luke 5:1-11. Jesus teaching the crowds from Simon’s boat. Put yourself in the crowd. What are you hearing? What are the smells in the air? Is there sand in your shoes? Do you hear the constant rhythm of the waves? Jesus tells Simon to get out into the deep water and lower the nets. Put yourself in that boat. How rough are those nets on your hands? How slippery is the deck of that boat? What does a fish smell like and feel like? What do four thousand fish sound like when they’re flopping around on the bottom of the boat?

The kids were great and I had a blast. Thanks so much to Sara for locating and organizing my weird list of requested supplies. Thanks to Mary for working so hard to pull off another great VBS. And thanks to all the kids who gargled with salt water, got sand under their fingernails, suffered rope burn on their hands, got splinters from the oars, and smelled and touched that nasty fish.

And my apologies to the Sunday morning Bible class that regularly meets in Room 22. I’m afraid that smell is going to linger for a while.



A Wedding in Room 408

Central Church Family, Marriage 1 Comment »

I was honored to perform the short wedding ceremony today as Jake Reeves and Stevie Couch got married in his hospital room at Northwest Texas. Already a dozen people have asked me, “Is this a first for you?” And my answer is, “Yes, this is a first for me! The groom was wearing a Texas Aggies shirt!”

I was the emergency pinch hitter today. Stevie’s long-time preacher / family friend was in town to perform the wedding Saturday night. But Jake was in the ICU at Northwest, in the process of being diagnosed with Diabetic Ketoacidosis and being treated for life-threatening acid levels in his blood. The decision was made late last night to go ahead with the wedding today, in Jake’s room, right before a probable surgery to remove a couple of cysts that are exacerbating his problems. But the designated preacher was already back in Seminole. So I was very privileged to get the call late last night.

After the inevitable jokes and one-liners — Don’t they have a cure for cold feet in this hospital? — Chris gave Stevie to Jake and the two exchanged solemn and eternal vows in the presence of God and in the name of Christ Jesus. No, this isn’t how they wanted to get married, or where, or when — none of this was according to their long-time plans. The truth is, though, none of that matters to our Lord, who sanctifies their marriage to reflect his eternal glory. And it doesn’t matter to the parents of the bride and groom nor to Stevie’s sisters or any of the other witnesses who affirmed the marriage with their own vows to help nurture and protect this holy union at all costs. What matters is that they have promised to give themselves to each other and to give their relationship to God.

In one special way, the location for this quick wedding was fitting. Jake and Stevie, both paramedics, actually met for the first time at Northwest Texas Hospital. Now they’ve been married on the fourth floor and someday they might have a child on the third floor.

No cake for the groom today — it may be a long, long time before he gets any cake. But if you’re dropping by the hospital to visit the newlyweds, you might take him a diet root beer.



Ten Years Blogging

Allan's Journey 7 Comments »

Ten years ago today, on June 4, 2007, I wrote my very first ever blog post on this website that Kipi Ward, our children’s minister at Legacy, helped me set up. It was the morning after my first sermon as the full-time preaching minister at Legacy Church of Christ, my first full-time job in congregational ministry. I can only hope my sermon that day wasn’t as boring as the blog post the next morning. In that post I expressed my desires for this website: to encourage and exhort the members of our local congregation and the Kingdom of God abroad, to update readers with what’s happening in our family, and to serve as an outlet for the sports thoughts and opinions that back up in my brain.

That was ten years ago. And I’m happy to report that the Kingdom is advancing forcefully, the kids are growing up quickly, and the Cowboys are sinking further and further into the longest and worst irrelevance drought in franchise history.

Since that Monday morning in June 2007, I’ve written 1,676 posts, read 2,471 comments, experienced two significant site crashes, and changed churches once. In those early days I experimented with different pages for sermon outlines and bulletin articles, Lord’s Supper resources, and interactive discussions about football jersey numbers. For two years I maintained a KK&C Top-20 College Football poll with a panel of voters from all over the southwest. That was back when a blog generated lots of readers and lots of comments. Every now and then a real discussion would break out, a back-and-forth conversation with five or six different parties chiming in several times throughout the thread. Those days seem pretty much gone. Long-form blogging and discussions have given way to shorter posts and comments on Facebook and even shorter content on Twitter.

Several times over the past three or four years, I’ve thought about giving this up. But I can’t. I love to write. Writing helps me articulate what I’m trying to say. It allows me to see and hear what’s going on in my head. It serves as a reliable outlet. It’s cathartic in many ways. I hope it allows people in our congregation to get to know me a little better. And, yeah, I still believe that every now and then, our mighty God uses this blog to speak to somebody who really needs to hear his loving voice.

To celebrate ten years of blogging, I want to provide you with some links to what are some of my all-time favorite posts — ten categories for ten years. If you only choose to click on one of these links, make sure it’s the last one I mention, at the bottom of this post.

Personal – This blog is written by me, from my perspective, about things I’m interested in, so, yes, this whole enterprise is very personal. But some of the posts are more personal than others. Every now and then something will happen that causes me to reflect on me. The closing down of Big Town Mall in east Dallas County last year prompted this nostalgic post recounting my childhood memories there. Jim Martin’s funeral in December 2013 compelled me to write about his giant influence on me and my family with much appreciation. And a Dallas Morning News story in 2010 about American theologian Stanley Hauerwas being from Pleasant Grove was the occasion for a blog post about my own growing up in that southeast Dallas community. That post, “Can Anything Good Come Out of Pleasant Grove?” is still generating comments, the latest just last month. More people on the internet for more of the time using more sophisticated search engines means people show up on my blog for the most random reasons. People who come here looking for P-Grove always leave a comment. And, it doesn’t get any more personal than writing a post the day after I’m given a senior discount at an Abilene restaurant. She didn’t even ask!

Preaching – I’m a preacher. A lot of this blog is about preaching — the highs and lows, the hard work and the blessed honor, the weekly triumph and failure. I’m hopeful that the posts about preaching give readers some real insight into the twisted and tortured minds of God’s bold proclaimers. And I hope it gives other preachers who might read some comfort in knowing somebody else is going through the exact same things. For a sample of these kinds of posts, you might check out “Ordained by the Community of Christ” and/or “The Sunday Sermon is Brutal.” As you might guess, these could also easily be classified as personal.

Family – I’m a husband of 27-years to an amazing woman and a father to three spectacularly wonderful daughters. And this blog is testimony to how these four ladies bless my life. A reader here never knows if he’s going to encounter an article about Carrie-Anne disrupting a Third Day concert, a play-by-play account of my trip with Whitney to New York City, a personal letter to Valerie as she leaves home for college, or the account of Carley and I waking up at 4:00am to welcome the Blue Bell trucks back to Amarillo after the listeria thing. The girls don’t always appreciate that I write so often about them. They worry about the pictures I post. My hope is that my words about them and to them will mean more later.

Cowboys – It’s in the title. I write a lot about the pro football team in Dallas. 198 of my posts have mentioned something about the Cowboys. My mantra here is that if I can’t say anything critical and mean about the Cowboys I don’t say anything at all. But regular readers are aware that I do compliment the players and the team when they deserve it. The truth is I have a complicated love-hate relationship with my hometown team: I loved them from the date of my birth until the day Jerry Wayne fired Jimmy Johnson and I’ve hated them ever since. What kind of person must you be to fire your coach after he wins back-to-back Super Bowls? What kind of person must you be to hire Barry Switzer? Here’s a post that really illustrates the love-hate nature of my feelings: the day after Jerry released Terrell Owens. It’s interesting that I thought it might be the start of some kind of turnaround. It’s interesting that I thought maybe Jerry was realizing that winning is more important than making money and headlines, that his legacy would be determined by championships and not sponsorships. It’s disturbing that it was eight years ago! And I was wrong. I wrote this post a year-and-a-half ago on the 20th anniversary of the Cowboys’ last Super Bowl appearance. And I wrote this three months ago when Jerry was elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame on the basis of his sponsorships and money.

Lord’s Supper – The sacrament of the communion meal is a real topic of interest for me. I generally write about the multiple facets of the Lord’s Dinner that we typically neglect, the long and sordid history of the communion meal, and the need to re-imagine the way we celebrate the Eucharist in our worship assemblies. But three years ago I wrote this post about the, um…, extra “potent” grape juice we were all subjected to on a Sunday here at Central. It happens, right? Every now and then something gets messed up somewhere and the juice goes bad. And it was rank on this Sunday! You could smell it when the tray was still three pews away. And you could see it on the faces of every person in the worship center who took a sip. As soon as that service was over, one of our more clever teenagers texted me: “It was either the wine or the sermon, but one made me sleepy.” I received an email the next morning asking me if we needed to raise the traditional Church of Christ “age of accountability” to twenty-one.

Church of Christ – I am eternally grateful for the CofC tradition in which I was raised. I received the Christian faith in the Church of Christ and the Church of Christ has shaped me into the follower of Jesus I am today. I unapologetically laud the strengths of our movement: our unwavering commitment to Scripture, our weekly celebration of the Lord’s Dinner, our high view of baptism as the initiation rite into God’s Kingdom. But, as with all streams of the faith, ours also has some baggage. In 2012 Leroy Garrett wrote a short book called “What Must the Church of Christ Do To Be Saved?” in which he makes 20 suggestions for rescuing our movement from a future extinction. I engaged the book chapter-by-chapter for nearly a month: women’s roles, division, sectarianism, repentance, instrumental music, all of it. I started with this post “Confess That We Have Been Wrong” and went from there. It was a great exercise for me and it prompted important discussion among the readers. If you want to access all two dozen of these articles, search “Leroy Garrett” on this site and you’ll get the list.

Christian Unity – I believe in Christ’s prayer in John 17 for the unity of all his people; I believe that Jesus died on the cross to destroy the barriers that divide his people; I believe Christian unity is the best witness to the power of our Lord; and I believe it is God’s will that his Church work hard to come together. On May 23, 2013 Central’s elders and ministers met at Polk Street United Methodist Church with their elders and ministers and the elders and ministers from First Presbyterian and First Baptist. We prayed together for a couple of hours and began that night what would become “4 Amarillo.” I wrote this post in anticipation of that evening and this post the next morning, full of hope and enthusiasm for what God might be doing in and through our churches for the sake of the city. In the past four years, “4 Amarillo” has become a powerful force for God’s Kingdom here. I can’t tell you how privileged I feel, how blessed by God, to be in on this cooperative effort among our churches.

Christ and Culture – God’s will is that we become more like his Son, that we reflect more of his eternal glory in every part of our lives. From the beginning of time — every period of history, every era, every context, every part of the planet — God’s people have wrestled with how to be faithful in a culture that’s not. It ain’t easy. It’s swimming upstream with the wind in your face and ankle weights on your legs. But it’s our calling. This post about holy emails, written in 2010, asks questions about the nature of the emails we receive and the thought process we take or don’t take before we decided to mass forward them to others. I write about violence, cell phones, war, media, national politics, and language and try to offer reflective suggestions on how Christians are supposed to behave in ways that honor God and point to his risen Son.

Nationalism – Under the umbrella of the Christ and Culture category is the realm of nationalism: equating the Empire of the United States with the Kingdom of God, believing the two are inseparable, confusing our loyalties. The clearest and most recent example is with the current debate over the Johnson Amendment. I addressed that in this post just four months ago. For an older example, I would point you to these three posts I wrote just before the U.S. presidential election in 2008: Church As State, Holy Polis, and Church As State: A Little More. Take your time, read these in order, and pay attention to the compelling conversation in the comments, too. This little series is one of those blog discussions that just don’t seem to happen anymore.

Unexpected Random Greatness – The greatest post in the ten year history of this blog was written on February 6, 2008. That was the day after I accidentally killed Valerie’s birthday gerbil. The post is titled “R.I.P. Cookie” and it’s stinkin’ hilarious. It quotes from WKRP and includes a really funny line from a nine-year-old Carley. To this day, no other post on this site has generated as many comments. Those 35 comments include sadistic requests to knock off other people’s pets, a link to a Super Bowl ad that shows gerbils being shot out of a cannon into a brick wall, and a conciliatory rant that takes off on Allen Iverson’s famous “practice” speech. This is the gold standard of blog posts on this site. Do yourself a favor. Check it out right now.

I’m surprised that this blog, this on-line journal, this forum for sharing observations about our Father and our life with him, is already ten years old. Maybe this thing will go another ten years, maybe it won’t. Whether you’re a regular reader (Hi, mom!) or you got here accidentally because you were searching “Ted Nugent” (sorry!), thank you for reading. And, as I wrote in this space ten years ago, may our God’s will be done through this blog just as it is in heaven.