Precious and Honored

Central Church Family, Death, Isaiah, Promise 1 Comment »

“Fear not, for I have redeemed you;
I have summoned you by name; you are mine.
When you pass through the waters, I will be with you;
and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you.
For I am the Lord, your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior.
Since you are precious and honored in my sight,
and because I love you,
do not be afraid, for I am with you.”
~Isaiah 43

Nola Havins finished her race earlier this afternoon. And she ran well. Very well.

A surprise of a brain hemorrhage took Nola down Sunday night a week ago. Nola and Derrell had just returned home from their small group where they and some of their oldest and dearest friends had been praying through Psalm 23. The dinner was great, the fellowship was sweet, and the time spent meditating and listening to the voice of God through the hearts of their friends had been inspirational. As soon as they got into the house, Nola bent down to pick a couple of towels off the laundry room floor. And that was it. Just like that. No warning. No signals or signs. No symptoms. No nothing. One minute Derrell and Nola are enjoying a really great end to a really wonderful day together like so many they’ve shared during their 57 years of marriage. And the next minute, Nola has left for the next life without even saying “bye.”

Whew! Tough pill to swallow. Very rough week. For everybody.

Derrell and Nola are like grandparents to our three girls. Valerie talks about her boyfriend with Nola. Carley hugs and high-fives Derrell and exchanges smart aleck comments with him. Whitney hugs them both like she’s known them for 20 years. Derrell and Nola are just those kinds of people. Nola is 76-years-old and defies you to add the word “former” to Rodeo Beauty Queen when you describe her. Just a strikingly gorgeous woman. Inside and out. Sweet as can be and just as healthy and active as anybody half her age. At Family Camp two years ago, there was Nola, strapped in to the zip line and ready to jump off the platform 45-feet in the air. Always encouraging Carrie-Anne and me. Taking us out for burgers at Buns Over Texas or catfish at that all-you-can-eat place in Umbarger. Always talking to our girls. And always loving each other with a  mutual affection and faithfulness that rubbed off on anybody who came near.

She goes down Sunday night and it’s a shock to everybody.

She’s in a coma for nine days, until 1:00 this afternoon and it’s just hard. Really hard. For everybody.

But Nola belongs to our God. She is his. He created her and he loves her. She is his daughter and he is her Father. And he is faithful to her, to bring her into his glorious face-to-face presence forever. We mourn today with Derrell and the kids and grandkids and everybody else in their super-huge, well-connected, and really fun family. We grieve. And we pledge to take care of Derrell; to love him and support him through very difficult times ahead. We vow today to remember in Nola the ways her gentleness and grace reflect the glory of our Lord. We encourage the family by reminding them of how much Nola touched our lives.

And we hug and kiss our husbands and wives tonight. We tell them how much we love them.

If there’s one thing Derrell has told me every single day — sometimes twice or three times a day — since that Sunday, he’s ordered me to tell Carrie-Anne how much I love her. “Promise me,” Derrell has said every day, “that tonight you’ll tell her. Because I didn’t get that chance with Nola.”

So, tonight, in honor of Derrell and Nola and their 57 years of marriage that truly reflected the glory of God and served as a powerful testimony to our Lord’s love for his people, tell your wife tonight how much you love her and how much she blesses your life. Tell your husband how much he means to you and how you can’t imagine living without him.

God bless all the Havins. And God receive sweet Nola into your faithful arms.



First Best Friends

Marble Falls, Valerie No Comments »

Valerie and Jordan were born six weeks apart in the winter of 1997.  We were living in Marble Falls while Jordan’s parents, Billy and Shannon Whiteley, were living fourteen miles north of us in Burnet. But we were members together at the Marble Falls Church of Christ and really great friends. Even after we parted ways — we’ve moved seven times since then and they’ve moved twice — we’ve always stayed close. We’re the kind of friends who can only see each other two or three times a year, even less since we moved to Amarillo, and still just pick right up where we left off.

So, Jordan’s in town this weekend with the UIL Latin Competitions which are being held at Amarillo High School. She nailed her solo yesterday and is competing in the Latin quiz this afternoon. And we were so blessed to pick her up at noon today and spend a couple of hours with her at Blue Sky, introducing her to the cheeseburger that changes lives. How great to get caught up.

She and Valerie were each other’s first best friends. The picture on top is from 2002 when they were five-years-old and playing with Beanie Babies and singing Veggie Tales songs. The picture on the bottom is from today, thirteen years later, at Blue Sky. Jordan’s heading to the University of Arkansas at the end of this summer and Valerie’s enrolling at West Texas A&M. I don’t think we’ve seen Jordan or her parents in over four years. But today, we picked up right where we left off.

Thanks for letting us horn in on your weekend, Jordan. Thanks for clarifying the correct usage of “ratchet” and “salty.” And thanks for your sweet friendship with our daughter.




Central Church Family No Comments »

A few of our members here at Central have asked for a copy of the benediction that was used at the end of our assembly this past Sunday. It was written by John Newton, the author of “Amazing Grace,” in 1779.

“May the Father’s boundless love, the grace of Christ our Savior, and the favor of the Holy Spirit rest upon you. May we abide in union with our Lord and with each other. And in this sweet communion. may we possess joys which earth cannot provide. Amen.”

Beyond Your Sin

Forgiveness, Grace, Matthew, Salvation No Comments »

“…your Father who sees what is done in secret…” ~Matthew 6:3, 6, 18

Remember the old church song about the All-Seeing Eye? It was creepy. It was scary, actually. I think it must have been written to keep church people from leaving during the invitation song. The All-Seeing Eye. And the song created this terrible picture of our God as this angry, arbitrary, ogre in the sky who just can’t wait to nail you. To grab you by the scruff of the neck and throw you out. Or destroy you.

Yes, our God sees everything. He sees all the good things you do. And, yeah, he definitely sees all the bad things you do. He sees your sin. He sees everything.

That means he not only sees your sin, he sees under your sin. He sees behind your sin. God sees above and below your sin. He sees beyond your sin to your pain. He sees the fear and the scars. God sees the hurts and the wounds that cause your sin. He knows.

God doesn’t just want you to stop sinning — yes, he definitely wants you to stop sinning — but he also wants to heal you. He wants to make you whole. He wants to get to the pain that drives you to those websites. He wants to fix the hurt that causes you to lie. God wants to cleanse the wounds that push you to anger or stealing, addiction or gossip. God loves you. And he wants to transform you. He wants to make you whole.



Confession at the Cross

Central Church Family, Confession, Forgiveness, Psalms, Repentance, Worship No Comments »

Beware of exploring the spiritual disciplines. Practicing the traditional disciplines will force you to confront your sins. I know this first hand. Silence before God or a prolonged meditation on a Psalm tends to bring out the honest truth of your relationship with the Father. Fair warning. There’s no hiding it when you’re in that place with our God.

Yesterday at Central, we explored a few of the historic spiritual disciplines together. We began with our middle school and high school students reciting a prayer of invocation written by Walter Brueggemann in 1996 and ended with a benediction penned by John Newton in 1779. We prayed the Lord’s Prayer together at the table and we observed two moments of silence around Psalm 32. And we confessed.

The inner life is about being in a place with God where he can work on you. And as we commit as a church family to pursuing a more holistic discipleship, which includes the traditional disciplines, confession just seemed like a good thing to do. If we’re going to be in that place with God, we’ve got to be up front with him about our sins. So we wrote down on pieces of paper the things that are wrong in our lives that need to be fixed by God, the attitudes of our hearts that need to be redeemed by God, and the situations in our lives that need to be given completely to him. And then we placed them on a large wooden cross at the front of our worship center.







The cross of Christ represents forgiveness and restoration and new life. It stands for a trust in God that he is bringing to completion that thing he has started in us. It reminds us that our Father has promised to make all things right — if things aren’t right in my life, it means that God’s not finished yet, he’s still working. So, after dwelling in Psalm 32 (“I acknowledged my sin to you and did not cover up my iniquity. I said, ‘I will confess my transgressions to the Lord’ – and you forgave the guilt of my sin.”) we brought our sins and our attitudes and our lives to the cross and left them there.

And they’re still in there.







I’ve walked in to our worship center twice already today to spend some time at that cross. I read the confessions, I see the lists of sins and attitudes that plague our people, and I can relate to a bunch of them. Reading the words on that cross today, praying for the people who wrote those words and placed them on the nails on the cross, brings to light sins and attitudes in my own life that I haven’t written down or even acknowledged yet that need to be forgiven and transformed by God.

I don’t ever want us to come into the worship center on a Sunday morning Just As I Am and leave an hour-and-a-half  later Just As I Was. Part of that corporate assembly experience is to be changed by God. Confession is good. Silence is good. Embracing a contemplative posture in the holy presence of God is good. You can’t hide anything when you get into that place with God. And it’s impossible to stay the same.



Knowledge of the Lord

Bible, Central Church Family, Colossians, Creation, Isaiah, Salvation No Comments »

“…asking God to fill you with the knowledge of his will through all spiritual wisdom and understanding.” ~Colossians 1:9

The Holy Scriptures are certainly a primary way we receive the gift of the knowledge of the Lord. We are shown through the Bible exactly what our God has done and is doing through our Lord Jesus Christ. It’s a beautiful story, a compelling drama that draws us into the action. It involves us, it inspires us, it moves us to join in. But some of us still view the Bible as something else. We see the Scriptures as a book of rules and laws that must be kept before an all-seeing and all-judging God. No, the Bible is something different. The Bible is the grand sweeping story of God and his faithful presence and activity with his people and his people’s faithful and sometimes not so faithful response. God created something beautiful and he is right now re-creating something beautiful. He’s restoring everything back to its original pre-sin condition. His will — what God is doing — this knowledge of the Lord, includes redemption for all of creation, including us.

What God is doing is a story. It’s a narrative. And this is how we’re going to explore it and experience it together at Central:

Genesis 1-2      Creation – Pattern of the

 Genesis 3-11      The Fall – Perished Kingdom

Gen. 12 – Malachi 4      Covenant – Promised Kingdom

Matt. 1 – John 21      Jesus – Present Kingdom

Acts – Rev. 20      Church – Proclaimed Kingdom

Revelation 21-22      New Creation – Perfected Kingdom

This more narrative view of Scripture helps us make more sense of things and brings more order to our own lives and experiences. We live today in the 5th ACT of the drama. So, more than restoring New Testament Christianity or going backwards to the times of Jesus or the days of the apostles, we’re called to move forward in the drama. We’re called to live it out, to play our roles and say our lines in ways that move the story forward toward its glorious conclusion.

Sometimes our biggest problems come when we place our lives and experiences in the wrong acts of the play. Leukemia belongs in ACT 2 of the play, not ACT 1. God did not create cancer; cancer is a result of living in a fallen world, broken by sin. Don’t let anybody tell you God gave you leukemia. The affair you’re having with that other man is not something God wants for you because your husband is a punk and God wants you to be happy. The adultery belongs in ACT 2 with sin, not in ACT 1 with the perfect things God created for us. Muslims are living today as if ACT 4 never happened; they’re still fighting the battles of ACT 3. A guy who is sleeping with his girlfriend before they are married because he’s a red-blooded American male and doesn’t really have a choice because nobody waits for marriage anymore needs to be reminded that we are living in ACT 5 of God’s story where our lives are a proclamation of the truth of Christ Jesus and his eternal Kingdom. Our lives are a testimony to the great change that was inaugurated when Jesus rose from the grave.

We need to know where we are. And we need to know what’s coming. We need to know that God is the author of the story and he has the last say. He writes the final word. And we need to see ourselves in the story and join it, live it, with everything we’ve got.

Isaiah says when the Kingdom is finally perfected, when God’s holy will has all been finally fulfilled, there will be righteousness and justice and peace because “the whole earth will be full of the knowledge of the Lord.”

Knowledge changes the whole world. And it changes us.


After 22 years of serving the Central family as a member of the church staff, Connie Green is retiring at the end of this month. Connie started out here as a teacher with Kid University in 1993, moved on to work with our singles and membership ministries, and for the past fifteen years has served as a valuable administrative assistant and faithful ministry partner to the preacher. Since we moved here three-and-a-half years ago, Connie has kept me out of trouble and one step ahead. She makes me look good. And that’s a tough assignment: I can be impulsive and last-second.

Connie, we all feel great appreciation and admiration for your selfless service to Central. I’m so glad that you and Jay are remaining here in Amarillo and at Central. We all wish you the very best of God’s richest blessings in this next phase of your lives together.