An Adult in All 50 States

Valerie No Comments »

Today, our Little Middle, Valerie Nicole, turns 18, becoming a legal adult now in all fifty states. There are all kinds of interesting things one is allowed to do once turning eighteen. Valerie is now old enough to vote, to buy cigarettes, to play the state lottery, and to adopt a small child. She can rent her own apartment, get credit cards and open bank accounts without a parent, and join this country’s military. Today, Valerie can rent a Port-A-Potty (and put it in Greg’s front yard?), rent a car, and rent a power tool at Home Depot.

So far, none of that has happened yet today. She and three or four of her girlfriends are coming over here for C-A’s homemade pizza, going to a movie, celebrating at the Dessert Bar here in town, and then probably staying up way too late before finally crashing at our place.

Oh, Valerie, Valerie, Valerie.

I am very proud of you, sweetie. There are right at four months left in your last year of high school and, just like everything else, it’s going to happen before I’m quite ready for it or can take it all in. I’m so proud of the friend you are to others, the way you have grabbed this teaching / AmeriCorps thing and just excelled at it, the way you pushed through the auditions to make it to Sandie Revue, and the responsible ways you handle everything from the truck to your grades to your relationships to your walk with our God.

Thinking about how little time we’ve really got left to enjoy you on a daily basis around here gets all up in my feels. So, I’ll save the real mush for graduation. I hope you have a terrific time tonight and a wonderful birthday.

Keep swaggin’!

I love you,

Dad

Solitary Christian

Church, Jesus No Comments »

I love Jesus, but I can do without the Church. Jesus is Lord, but I follow him my own way, by myself. I’m a Christian, but I don’t need the Church. I don’t need to be part of a church to be a Christian.

Um… I’m not sure Christians have a choice.

The term “solitary Christian” is an oxymoron. Like Jumbo Shrimp. Rap Music. Military Intelligence. You can’t be “clearly confused,” you can’t fight a “civil war,” there are no “paid volunteers” or “open secrets.” And there’s no such thing as a “solitary Christian.”

Yes, there were times when our Lord went alone to the desert or up on a mountain to pray. But it’s much more typical in the Gospels for Jesus to be interacting with people. The eyewitnesses paint a portrait of Jesus consistently mixing with the multitudes, meeting strangers on the road, hanging out with friends and family. The most repeated picture is of Jesus eating and drinking with gusto in the homes of sinners and saints, with prostitutes and Pharisees, men and women, Jews and Gentiles. He was a people person.

Jesus was a supremely social, communal person. Whatever it was the Father called the Son to do, Jesus had no interest in doing it by himself. Just a casual glance at Jesus is enough to tell us today that we are living fully as God-created humans, not in our solitude and silence, not by ourselves, but in our connections and relationships with others. If we’re going to be Jesus-followers, then we have to be people people. You’re not really a Christian if you’re doing it by yourself.

Think about it: every time they asked Jesus, “What’s the single most important command?” he flatly refused. Instead, he always answered, “No, no, no. There’s not just one most important command; there are two: Love God with everything you’ve got AND love your neighbor as yourself.” Almost like one of those makes no sense without the other.

God in Christ is encountered, not in a solitary prayer in a closet, not in meditating on a mountain, or coming to the garden alone. In the Bible, Jesus mainly shows us God, reveals God to us, allows us to see God and experience God, at a dinner table, sharing good food and drink and conversation and hospitality with others.

We need God, yes. And we so desperately need one another.

Peace,

Allan

Snow Day!

Central Church Family, Stanglin Family No Comments »

Well, our biggest snowman ever actually became the biggest and creepiest snowman ever. I was mainly the muscle for the project while Carley provided the artistic inspiration and interesting touches. As big as it is and as much snow is packed into that thing, I’m afraid I’ll be mowing around it in May.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Carley and I finished him up late this afternoon following our sledding adventure with the Dowells and the Schaffers and all their kids at Medi-Park. Nobody slid all the way into the pond a la It’s a Wonderful Life (“Not my sore ear!”) And I only plowed over one four-year-old kid while we were there. There’s nothing quite like screaming completely out of control down a steep hill with fifty other persons all around you, some of them quite large in their 40s and 50s, some of them quite tiny little pre-Kingergardeners, and every size and age in between. We didn’t lose anybody out there today. When everybody makes it home, it’s a good day.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Peace,

Allan

Iola!

Stanglin Family No Comments »

I don’t think she was named for the long time news anchor at Channel 8 in Dallas. Until twenty-four hours ago, Iola Johnson was the only Iola I’ve known. But the winter storm that blew through here overnight dumped twelve inches of light, fluffy, beautifully wet snow on the Texas panhandle, canceling work and school for everybody in our family except Whitney. United Supermarkets doesn’t close for snow.

(This paragraph contains some theological humor. Very little theological humor.) The  light mist began at around lunch time yesterday, at which point Howard Griffin at First Presbyterian and Burt Palmer at Polk Street United Methodist informed us they were canceling all their Wednesday evening programming. At about 3:30, just as the rain was first starting to turn into snow, Howie Batson texted, “First Baptist is going ahead with our regularly scheduled classes and meetings tonight. The Methodists have always been too afraid of water.” Burt, of course, was quick with his reply: “If we were guaranteed it would only be a sprinkling, we would have stayed with our schedule!”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

No, it wasn’t a sprinkling. All of Amarillo was baptized in the white stuff. I think the entire panhandle, from Dalhart to Childress received at least eight inches. And today, as the last little bits of tiny flakes move through, there is absolutely no wind at all. None. It’s just as still as can be. Perfect for playing outside. I just finished shoveling our massive driveway so I can get out to the alley to take Whitney to work. Carley’s already out there building a snow-rabbit for some reason. Later we’ve promised to build the biggest snowman either one of us has ever seen. Maybe.

The pictures on this post are mainly for my dad. Mom, I’m sure you’ll have to print them off and hand them to him.

Peace,

Allan

It’s About Today

Bible, Ephesians, Jesus, John, Luke, Matthew, Preaching, Promise, Salvation No Comments »

“Today this Scripture is fulfilled.” ~Luke 4:21

The good news of the Gospel is not just helpful advice or even truthful statements. Scripture is all about what God is doing right now. Right here. Today. I think Jesus’ sermon in that synagogue in Nazareth really hits home when he says “Today! Today this Scripture is fulfilled!”

It’s one thing to say God will move. God will act. God will save. It’s quite another thing to say God is moving today! God is acting right now today! God is saving right here today!

Today!

That’s exciting. It’s immediate. It’s right now, in your face, all around you, in your space, and it demands a response. Look at it. God is speaking, he is doing, he is disrupting things, he is changing people, he is saving men and women, he is renewing the world! Today!

Do you read the Scriptures the way Jesus and his disciples read them? Do you look in the Bible for what God did back then or for what it says God is doing today? It’s all about today. Do you see his potential in your today? Do you feel his possibility in today? Do you know what he is doing in you and through you right now today?

Take a minute today and read a psalm or two out loud. Real loud. Pray a passage from Matthew 5-7 or John 17 or Ephesians 1-2 out loud. Real loud. Ask God to speak to you. Ask him to show you. Now praise him. Give him thanksgiving and honor. He is not distant or aloof. Our God is not uncaring or inactive, hesitant or restrained. He is gloriously at work right now today!

Peace,

Allan

The Midlife Church Crisis

Carley, Central Church Family, Church, Intergenerational No Comments »

I’ve read an article this past week in Christianity Today about the growing number of folks in their 50s and 60s who are leaving their churches. As faith communities focus increasingly more on programs for children and activities for the youth and targeting young families, older Christians around us are experiencing a midlife crisis of faith. But they’re not wrestling with their beliefs, they’re struggling with their role now in the body of Christ. Empty nesters are facing different challenges now: relationship shifts, loneliness, health issues, death. And they’re attending and participating less and less in the life of their churches because they’re feeling more and more like their particular place in life is being ignored.

The author of the short article, Michelle Van Loon, took an informal survey of 500 Christians about their church experiences as they had grown older. Almost half of the respondents said they had scaled back their involvement from what it had been a decade earlier. Those who had downshifted or left their churches cited several reasons: weariness with church politics, increased career demands, significant time devoted to caring for parents or grandchildren, health issues, and a sense that somehow they had outgrown their church.

“I’m tired of the same programs year after year,” one said. “I want deeper relationships with fewer people, more spiritual exercises like prayer and meditation than the canned studies our church offers.”

Now, here’s the part of the article that really spoke to me and confirmed for me a whole lot of what we’re doing here at Central:

“Anecdotally speaking, it seemed that those over 40 who discovered meaningful service, worship, and connections reported that their church was committed to intergenerational ministry rather than family-centered, child-focused programming. Though there is some overlap between the two ministry philosophies, the congregations that concentrate on families with children under 18 unintentionally marginalize those who don’t fit the profile. Churches with intergenerational ministry have invested in building connections between members of different ages and nurturing fruitfulness in every season of life.”

I am completely sold, and have been for a while, on fostering an intergenerational culture in our churches. From our Running the Race series a couple of summers ago to our Sticky Buddy initiatives today, we’re trying to do more and more of this here at Central. But it’s tough. It goes against our human nature; it certainly goes against the grain of our culture. It’s hard work trying to integrate our small groups. It’s not easy to get older people to outdoor family picnics and activities or to get our younger families and students to attend potlucks or game nights with our older crowd. It takes careful planning and a high commitment to the importance of intergenerational relationships to come up with new and better ways of getting our people together.

We’re trying to do it in our worship assemblies with more interactive time during the Lord’s meal, with more storytelling and sharing, with more prayer time together in the pews. Our student ministry is in its second year of discipleship “tracks” that pair our teens up with a couple of adults to explore knowledge, community, inner life, and mission avenues of spiritual growth together. Our current “Holy Sexuality” series is a carefully scheduled “congregational conversation” about everything from raising holy kids to identifying and working on sexuality issues in our own marriages to recovering from sexual abuse. Our purity ceremony is an event for the whole church family. Our second Sticky Buddy event is coming up next month.

Some of our ideas are better than others. Not everything we try wildly succeeds. But we believe that if we spend most of our “church time” only with our peers and people of our own age and stage of life, we’ll produce shallow, inwardly-focused Christians. Intergenerational churches willing to do the hard work that’s required, we think, will turn out Christians who understand sacrifice and service, who have a much broader view of the Kingdom of God and who’s in it, and who are appreciated and highly valued at every stage of life. We’re committed to it here at Central.

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The process of de-DFW’ing my children has not been slow and steady; it’s been rapid and sure. Valerie bought a pair of cowboy boots less than six months after our move to Amarillo. All the pre-sets in her truck are on country music stations, and have been for a while. All three of the girls prefer the locally owned restaurants and coffee shops instead of the national chains — The Palace and Texas Tea are the favorites — and they’ll defend them like they’re members of the family. They complain about a long travel distance to the other side of town (ten minutes) and they praise the big sky and the beautiful sunsets.

It was seriously hammered home to me this weekend just how “rural” we’ve all become when we spent more than three hours with Carley as she showed her rabbit at the Randall County Junior Livestock Show. Oliver, a six-month-old cinnamon breed who’s been living in a large cage in my garage since September, didn’t take first place. But both Carley and Ollie did us proud in their own understated ways. She didn’t drop Oliver while moving him from the carrier to the judge’s boxes in front of the crowd like a few of the participants did. And Ollie behaved himself very well for the awkward manipulations he had to endure and for the pictures afterward.

Yes, my youngest daughter is in FFA. No, I never would have imagined that four years ago. And, of course, I couldn’t be more proud of her and more grateful that we live with such wonderful people in Amarillo.

Peace,

Allan