OT in Big D

Our oldest daughter, the precious blue-eyed angel, turned 31 on Saturday (YIKES!) and we celebrated by attending the Dallas Stars game at American Airlines Center. It was supposed to be a surprise but she ruined it about three weeks ago, Whitney was snooping where she shouldn’t have been and discovered something she wasn’t supposed to know. To her everlasting credit, she quickly confessed. But then she spent the next 20 days worrying about which Stars socks she was going to wear to the game.

We got to Dallas Friday evening, early enough to spend some quality time with our youngest daughter Carley and our son-in-law Collin. Mexican food at Christina’s in Lewisville hit the spot and a Saturday birthday brunch at First Watch was exactly what we needed to get us through to the pizza we were planning to eat during first intermission.

It was our first time to see the recently installed Dirk Nowitzki statue outside the AAC. Magnificent. Loyalty never fades away. Perfect.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We splurged for really good seats at the top of the lower level, near the face off circle on the visitors side. Four young men from Canada sitting behind us had flown in Friday from Ontario to watch their Edmonton Oilers. Beauty, eh? The rest of us in our section were Stars fans and we were reminded again why there is nothing in all of sports like NHL hockey. The first period was eerily quiet as 20,000 people almost silently watch the two teams size each other up. The whole crowd is locked in. Nobody moves. Everybody’s eyes are on the ice. The anticipation is building. It’s really remarkable. Then the explosion of six goals scored in the wild second period had us on that roller coaster. Dallas up 1-0, then gives up the equalizer in about 40-seconds. Dallas down 2-1 and then ties it up on a power play goal. It’s 3-3 heading to the final period. Dallas killed off a crazy five-on-three power play late in the third, and it felt like Game Seven of the Conference Finals. The whole place was going nuts, you couldn’t hear yourself think. The Stars hit the post twice on shots at the other end, and wound up going to overtime. Less than 30-seconds into the extra frame, Wyatt Johnston got out of position and was whistled on a very tickey-tack hooking penalty. Edmonton went on the power play and, seven seconds later, it was over. Edmonton won it 4-3.

Hockey is the only sport that gives you a true sudden death overtime. And it always feels like death when you’re on the losing end. It’s so sudden. That arena instantly went from a million decibels to zero. In a flash. The whole thing is a three-hour heart attack.

I blamed Whitney for choosing the wrong socks.

Peace,

Allan

We Are Going to Die

A meme was going around this week having a little fun at the weird juxtaposition of Ash Wednesday and Valentine’s Day. It was a red and pink Valentine’s Day card covered in pretty hearts that said, “We are going to die.” Yes, we are. That’s what Ash Wednesday is all about, to remind us of our own mortality, our own fallen and broken nature, that we are going to die someday and we cannot truly live without the salvation of a righteous relationship with Christ Jesus. Ash Wednesday is not something we Church of Christers typically observe. But this year we began the traditional season of Lent with more than 900 of our brothers and sisters from our three partner churches, by hosting the 4Midland Ash Wednesday service at GCR.

And it was glorious.

We combined the worship teams and choirs from all four churches and sang nearly a dozen songs together. We confessed our sins and listened to our Lord’s words of forgiveness and assurance. We prayed. We sat in silence. And then we sang some more. Pastors and shepherds from all four churches applied ashes from ten stations down front. And I think we sang the whole time.

It was glorious.

We Baptists and CofCers have very little experience with Ash Wednesday–we’re still mostly just sticking our toes in the water at this point and feeling this thing out. Darin Wood opened the evening by holding up the order of service and announcing to the Baptists in the room, “This is a liturgy.” Even the Methodists and Presbyterians seemed a little uneasy receiving ashes in a CofC worship center with no stained glass or kneeling benches. Thank goodness for Steve Brooks who provided the ashes for our service–I wouldn’t even know where to begin! But there was love. So much love. The unity and love was thick in there last night. The smiles and the warmth. The hugs and hospitality. It was evident on every face and felt in every interaction. There was a sweet spirit in the room before, during, and after the event.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I was honored to share the ash-imposing duties (ash imposer? ash applier? there’s got to be a better term for that, but if Steve Schorr doesn’t even know what to call it, maybe there’s not) with our GCR Youth Minister J.E. Bundy and our Children’s Minister Kristin Rampton. However, I realized about four minutes into the ashes part that I was standing too close to Kristin. One of the great joys of applying ashes–there are many!–is in the interactions I have with little kids. Last night I would notice small children in the line, our GCR children, and smile at the thought of blessing them with the ashes and the words of Scripture. But they were all going to Kristin!

 

 

 

 

 

I am thankful for Deeann Camp who came down the aisle to me with their two-week-old daughter Clara. Two-weeks-old! It was her first time in church since having the baby, the first time the baby had been to church, the first time I had seen her. How humbling it is, how provocative and eye-opening, to apply a tiny little cross to that itty-bitty brand-new forehead and look that infant baby in the eyes and tell her that someday she will return to the dust from which she is made. I’m guessing that was a powerful moment for Deeann. I hope it was. It was for me.

Methodist ashes, a Baptist-style choir, Church of Christ songs, and Presbyterian prayers.

And it was glorious.

I am so grateful to God to be at a church that sees all Christians as God’s children and our brothers and sisters in Christ and is actively breaking down the walls between denominations. I am so thankful to be the preacher at a church like this. I am grateful to the Lord for the wonderful team of ministers and elders at GCR who believe so much in the Gospel work of unity and labor so hard to pull it off. I am thankful for my friendships with Steve Schorr, Darin Wood, and Steve Brooks. I am thankful for the vision we share of a more united Body of Christ. We took this picture just to prove that not every single time we get together is for cheeseburgers.

God bless our four churches during this important season of Lent. God bless our brothers and sisters in Christ at First Methodist, First Baptist, and First Presbyterian. And may our worship and service partnership together be an undeniable witness to the power of Christ’s love to tear down every barrier between us and God and between us and one another.

Peace,

Allan

Ash Wednesday in Midland

We are hosting the 4Midland Ash Wednesday service at GCR tonight. At 6;30 this evening, nearly a thousand Christians from First Baptist, First Methodist, First Presbyterian, and GCR CofC will come together in our newly remodeled worship center to begin the ancient Christian practice of Lent. Ash Wednesday is a bit out of our comfort zone for Church of Christers, but we’ve asked our congregation for more than two years now to participate in this solemn worship assembly with other Christians and just see what God will do.

This is how we live the great Story. This is how Christians, for centuries, have always prepared for Holy Week and Easter, for the death, burial, and resurrection of our Lord Jesus. This 40-day period of prayer and fasting moves our bodies and our hearts into closer communion with Christ and with one another. And it begins with Ash Wednesday.

The ashes placed on our foreheads remind us that we are human and broken, that we are going to die, and we need Jesus to live. That’s why, when they are applying the ashes, pastors will sometimes say, “From dust you were created and to dust you shall return.” Imposed on us in the form of a cross, the ashes also remind us of our sin, our need for redemption, and the truth of forgiveness and restoration in Christ. That’s why pastors will sometimes say, “Repent and believe the Good News!”

We cannot appreciate God’s infinite mercy if we do not realize we need mercy. We cannot understand salvation apart from a recognition of our need to be saved. If our sin is not removed from us, we are forever separated from God. Ashes remind us of this need.

Wearing ashes on our foreheads also acknowledges the sacrifice of Christ Jesus, who substituted his own death for the “burnt offerings” made by the priests to atone for the sins of God’s people.

Four different churches representing four different denominations coming together to participate in these ancient Christians practices is also a powerful witness to our community. We demonstrate the truth that Jesus died on the cross and was raised to eternal life in order to tear down all the barriers between us and God and between us and one another. When we come together in each other’s buildings, when we combine our worship teams and choirs, when we join hands in prayer and recite the ancient creeds, we are declaring that we belong to a Kingdom that is eternally bigger than our churches and that our King really is the Prince of Peace.

If you’re in the Midland area, I invite you to join us at GCR Church tonight at 6:30. If you’re not in West Texas, I urge you to find an Ash Wednesday service somewhere to attend this afternoon or this evening. Give yourself to it. Immerse yourself in the songs and prayers. Participate in the confession and repentance. Soak into your soul the blessed words of assurance. Allow a minister to look you in the eyes while applying a cross made of ashes to your forehead. Let him or her intercede for the Lord on your behalf. Hear the words, “From dust you were created and to dust you shall return.” Hear the words, “Repent and believe the Good News!” Let those words change you. Let the worship move you closer to the Lord. Give the whole thing to God and just see what he might do.

Peace,

Allan

Out of the Ashes

Two Sundays ago at GCR, we gave our pains and sufferings to God. It was a congregational exercise halfway through our “Everything New” sermon series from the book of Ruth. We wrote down the names of the people and things we’ve lost. We wrote down the trials and the heartaches. All the junk, all the stuff that’s cluttering up our hearts and souls. Things that have happened to us. Things we’ve done. The burdens that keep us awake at night and hang over us all day. We wrote it all down on note cards, sealed it up in envelopes, and walked down to the front and gave it to God.

The next morning, all our ministers and church staff prayed over those envelopes. And then we really gave them all to God. We put all those sealed envelopes into the fire. One at a time. It took a while. One by one. All the pain and suffering. All the loss. All the burdens. We gave it to our God–a literal burnt offering. All the stuff our people are dealing with right now. All the pain of their current circumstances. All the suffering they’ve been forced to endure. We gave it to the Lord.

The loneliness. Sickness. Depression. Tough situations. We prayed as the envelopes were literally lifted up to God.

Father, we release our pain and our loss to you. We won’t let these things define us or paralyze us or keep us from what you want to do in our lives. We release the pain and the loss of our situations to you. Take these, Father, and use them to move us into your “everything new,”

Later that afternoon, we collected the ashes from the fire. Then our sister in Christ, Cassie Bundy took them. And did something beautiful and new.

When we give our circumstances to the Lord, when we give him our sorrows and pain and suffering, they don’t always go away. Most of the time, they become a part of who you are. They don’t just disappear. But it’s in those things and through those things that God creates something new. He doesn’t destroy it; he walks in it and through it with you.

Our God walks through your darkness to bring forth his light, he walks through death to give us life, he walks in the pain and the tears to bring you fullness and joy. He works in the soil and ashes of your circumstances to do something beautiful and eternal and new.

“Praise be to the Lord, who this day has not left you!” Ruth 4:14

Peace,

Allan

Super Bowl Scattershooting

Scattershooting while wondering whatever happened to Mike Zimmer.
Wait. Nevermind.

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About yesterday’s Super Bowl. Did you see all those Chiefs field goals? They matter. Extra points. They matter. Would somebody please tell Dan Campbell.

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These are my favorite Super Bowl commercials I have watched several times again today, in the order in which they made me laugh out loud: Reece’s Peanut Butter Caramel Cups, particularly the guy on the left slamming his head into that pot of beans or chili or whatever that is; Ben Affleck and Matt Damon’s Dunkin Donuts spot with Tom Brady; Aubrey Plaza’s Mountain Dew commercial, specifically where she’s having a blast both winning and losing; and the couch potato commercial for Pluto TV–that one’s funny in a really creepy way. Also, I did not see the little dog hula-hooping in the Reece’s commercial until like my sixth viewing.

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Thank goodness the Super Bowl is not on CBS every year. Does America really want to listen to Tony Romo tell us what he would do during a critical drive, trailing by one score, in the last two minutes of a half? We saw what he would do. We watched it for ten years.

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Name a quarterback playing right now you’d rather have guiding your team, down one score, with one possession left, over Patrick Mahomes. You can’t. Good grief, that guy. In the clutch, with the clock ticking and the game on the line, Mahomes just straight-up delivers. That last drive to set up the game-tying field goal at the end of regulation and that championship winning drive in overtime were both perfect. Perfect. Unstoppable. Travis Kelce caught nine balls for 93-yards, including three huge third down catches on those two drives. The Kansas City defense was unbelievable in limiting the Niners. And their kicker could split the uprights from 70 yards away. Mahomes is the rightful MVP. And the Chiefs are now America’s Team. They beat both number-one seeds during the run that ended with yesterday’s title. They’ve got big personalities at the skill spots and down-to-earth guys in the trenches. They’ve got a Hall of Fame coach. They’ve got America’s biggest pop music hero hosting movie stars and high-end celebrities in the million-dollar suites, cheering them on. And they win and win and win. The Chiefs are America’s Team.

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Following our annual GCR Daddy-Daughter Dance Friday, there were two-and-a-half boxes of Little Debbie Unicorn Cakes left over. Unicorn Cakes? I had never heard of Unicorn Cakes until Ashlee messaged us Sunday morning that we were free to take any leftover cookies, brownies, or other desserts home with us for our various Super Bowl parties. Unicorn Cakes? Sparkling strawberry? Some kind of gooey purple icing stuff in the middle? White icing and sprinkles? Yes, please! Today there are one-and-a-half boxes left.

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The World Series Champion Texas Rangers pitchers and catchers report to Spring Training in Surprise, Arizona this Wednesday February 14. Day after tomorrow. I know it’s also Ash Wednesday. And Valentine’s Day. But it’s also the first official day of the defense of the Rangers’ World Series Championship! I’ve never typed those words before. Ever.

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I want to write something a little more reflective on the “He Gets Us” Super Bowl commercial featuring the foot washing scenes. I’ll try to get to that tomorrow. Have you seen it? Here it is. Stay tuned…

Peace,

Allan

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