Category: Allan’s Journey (Page 1 of 26)

Blue Sky Midland. Day One.

Yesterday was opening day for the newest Blue Sky location, right here off Loop 250 and Midkiff Road in Midland. So, yes, Carrie-Anne and I were there for lunch. She ordered her usual sliders and crispy fries and I went with the cheeseburger all the way and fried jalapeno rings and it tasted exactly right. Which is to say, it tasted just like heaven. Oh, my.

The buns baked fresh daily right there in the restaurant, the fresh beef trucked in daily from Amarillo, the just-right amount of batter on those fries and rings – it was perfect. It tasted exactly like eating at the original Blue Sky that opened up on I-40 and Western in Amarillo in 1975 and just like the second location on Coulter. Vintage signs. Local ads embedded in the table tops (Hello, DeLaura Gammage). Wide open dining room with plenty of space. And, good grief, those burgers. Indescribable.

I’ve not eaten at the newer Blue Skys in Lubbock or Abilene. I’ve been afraid that branching out too much might water down the Blue Sky product and the experience. But I have no worries now. Friday’s first meal at the Midland Blue Sky was outstanding in every way. As were the Oreo and peppermint shakes made with real Blue Bell ice cream and hand spun with love.

The new Midland Blue Sky is exactly halfway between our house and the GCR church building. Five minutes from home, five minutes from work. Everything about our move to West Texas has now fallen perfectly into place.



The Night Before

It’s Saturday in Midland, Texas. But Sunday is coming. And not just any Sunday. Tomorrow is a special Sunday. A watershed Sunday. A pivotal Sunday for my preaching ministry and for Golf Course Road Church of Christ.

Tomorrow I will attempt to speak a Word from our God to several hundred people I don’t yet know. As their preacher. As the one they have ordained to speak to them, to encourage them, to challenge them, to instruct and correct them, to lead them and to love them. By God’s grace and by the mysterious work of his Holy Spirit, these people at this historically great church in West Texas have called me to join their community of faith and preach for them. Preach with them. I am honored to do so. And I’m nervous.

Tomorrow I join a long list of faithful men who’ve stood before this church and dared to preach the Word. Doug Parsons. Randy Fenter. Ronnie White. Mike Cope. Tod Brown. Many others. For a very long time, these people have been used to some of the very best preaching there is. It’s incredibly humbling to be a part of that now, to be inserted into this formidable line.

Carrie-Anne and I feel very much at peace with our move, very certain that our Lord has pushed us here and that he wants us in Midland with these people at this time for his very specific Gospel purposes. I am calm about tomorrow and prayerful that our God will speak through me the affirmation and encouragement I know he wants to give his children at GCR.

Tonight I feel very blessed by our God and incredibly honored by the church at GCR, these good people I don’t really know yet. I am confident that tomorrow is going to be a really good day and that my family and this church family are embarking on a long and fruitful partnership together.

May God bless us richly with his grace and peace. And may he bless his church at GCR. May our Lord do whatever he wants in and through us together and may we embrace it with imagination and vision and joy to his eternal glory and praise!




RIP Dusty Hill

We lost an iconic fixture of Texas music yesterday, a mainstay legend and master of our great state’s historic blues-infused rock and roll. Dusty Hill, the bearded bassist for ZZ Top, apparently died overnight at his home in Houston. He was 72. He had a broken hip. No one is saying what killed him. My gut tells me it probably had something to do with pain killers associated with the hip – that’s what took Tom Petty out four years ago – but that’s only my speculation. What I know for sure is that for 50 years Dusty Hill provided the low rumble beneath every ZZ Top song that made their music feel so gritty and dirty and real.

As lead guitarist Billy Gibbons said yesterday, Dusty Hill was the “monumental bottom to the Top.’

This is Texas Monthly’s story on Hill’s passing. This is from Rolling Stone magazine. And this the Fort Worth Star Telegram’s collection of tributes from the music world.

I’ve seen the self-proclaimed “little ol’ band from Texas” in concert at least eight or nine times, from the floor at Reunion Arena in the mid ’80s to their 50th Anniversary Show in Austin two summers ago. Carrie-Anne and I saw ZZ Top and Aerosmith at StarPlex in Dallas in 2009. Carley and I saw them in Amarillo in 2017. If you’ve lived in Texas your whole life – anywhere in Texas – odds are you’ve seen ZZ Top. They played all the time in cities and venues large and small.

I won second row floor seats to a ZZ Top show during the Afterburner tour by being the correct caller and singing the opening lines of “La Grange” on Q-102 in Dallas. Bo Roberts provided the “Hauw, Hauw, Hauw.” I bought a silver ZZ key chain just like the ones in those three “Eliminator” videos at that concert and kept it all the way through college. I wore that “Afterburner” concert T-shirt until it fell off of me in the late ’90s. But I bought a new one at the 50th anniversary show in Austin and I’m wearing it today.

The genius of Billy, Dusty, and drummer Frank Beard is the consistency: same three guys, same three chords. From the early ’70s to just a couple of months ago, you always got the exact same thing at a ZZ Top concert: a stripped-down stage, the bare minimum on lighting, simple chords, easy lyrics, understated choreography, fuzzy guitars, and lots of references to the greatness of the Lone Star State. ZZ Top shows are always super loud and super fun. I’ll never know how they got so much out of two guitars and a drum, but they always did. Those three also had a tongue-in-cheek, satirical, almost ironic sense of their own stardom, of their fans, and of the whole scene. The only subtle thing about a ZZ Top  concert is the way they poke fun at themselves and at us while they’re performing. That was always part of the joy of a ZZ Top show. Those 20-inch beards, the cheap sunglasses, spinning fuzzy guitars with the aid of a prop on their belt buckles – they knew it was absurd. Beautifully, wonderfully absurd.

Gibbons is being quoted today as wanting to fulfill Dusty Hill’s wishes that the show go on without him. But can it? ZZ Top was scheduled to play here in Midland in December with George Thorogood and we were planning to attend as a family. But Dusty Hill was ZZ Top’s center of gravity. I don’t think it’s ZZ Top without Dusty’s barrelling bass. His growling harmonies. His powerful presence. No offense to Frank Beard, but that’s just Billy Gibbons doing solo.



That Didn’t Take Long

The minute we left Amarillo, the Vermillion family realized they were losing a significant stream of steady revenue for their Blue Sky restaurants. And one of their most passionate advocates. So, they’re getting this one built as quickly as they can in Midland. I don’t know when this newest Blue Sky at Midkiff Road and Loop 250 will officially open, but the signs have gone up and we’re monitoring it closely.

Once this iconic Amarillo establishment opens up for business here, my whole world will again be at peace. I’m assuming they will make their buns on site every day and carefully build their burgers with the freshest beef and the perfect combination of vegetables just like they’ve done for years at 1-40 and Western. The hot ham and cheese sandwich will still be surprisingly excellent. The fried jalapenos and crispy french fries will perfectly complement the burger or the ham and cheese. And the hand-spun shakes will come with a massive pile of whipped cream on top.






By the way, this newest Blue Sky is situated exactly halfway between our new house here in Midland and our new church at GCR. The most perfect location anyone could have chosen. Thank you, Rex and E.A.! Now, hurry up and get this thing opened!



Thank You, Amarillo!

For a little over eight years, I’ve been blessed to write a monthly faith column for the Amarillo Globe News  – actually, it’s a little more than monthly; it’s every four weeks. Today’s column was my last word to the city of Amarillo, a big thank you and a reminder of how good we Christians have it in the Yellow City.

And. Of course. In the printed edition of today’s paper, my farewell column ran with my friend Gene Shelburne’s byline and mug shot instead of mine.

That sounds just about right.

Gene is already petitioning the paper to rerun the column, with an apology, in tomorrow’s edition in a “high exposure page position.” He’s very kind. We’d probably both be disappointed to learn how little this really matters. At any rate, the online version of the Globe News contains the column with my name and cheesy mug. You can read it by clicking here.



Dear Golf Course Road

I can’t adequately express to you the excitement we’re experiencing, nor the tremendous anticipation we’re feeling, for what our God has in store for us together. There’s no doubt in our minds that our Lord has brought us together at this time for very specific reasons. And we really can’t wait to join you in doing his work and his will together in Midland.

We’re so thankful for the faith and confidence you’ve placed in me and my family to represent our Lord and his church at Golf Course Road. That blessing and responsibility are not lost on us. We feel so honored by you and our God. It is sacred to us. We respect it. We cherish it. And we’re going to keep it.

Thank you so much for the warm welcome you’re already giving us. The texts and emails from our new family at GCR are such a source of strength and encouragement, a lot of them coming from people we haven’t even met yet. Even this morning, the offers of assistance and friendly ‘hellos’ keep coming in. We can feel the excitement out there all the way up here. And it gives us great hope while we dwell among the moving boxes and the sad goodbyes.

There’s a weird thing that happens to any preacher who makes a decision to leave one congregation and move to another. It happens the day after the announcement is made and everything’s official, and it continues for at least a couple of weeks. A little doubt. Some questions. Am I doing the right thing? Am I truly following God or something else? Is this going to be better? Or maybe not as good?

It’s funny. You can pray and talk and discern and be very holy with the Lord and your family and come to a godly decision, but something happens right after it’s official. Human nature, probably. In the hours and days right after the announcement, you’re overwhelmed by all the people you love so much. They call you, email you, text you, and come by your office to see you. You’re reminded of all the really great memories and wonderful men and women you’ve had the honor to serve. You’re surprised by some of the things God was doing through you that you didn’t even know about. It’s all really very good and it’s almost disorienting.

But our Father keeps reminding me through the calls, emails, and texts from Midland that he is the one moving us west and the way is already prepared. He’s way out in front of us on this. He is ready. The timing is his. GCR is prepared. The shepherds there are humble and honest men who have hearts for loving God’s people. GCR’s folks are committed to the congregation and to each other and to what God wants to do in Midland and beyond. I’m equipped and experienced, by his grace, to help make a Kingdom difference there. The fit is right. And his will is to do something magnificent in us and through us together. So, we’re going to roll up our sleeves and work really hard and love really well and have an absolute blast in the flood of his blessings!

We’re trying to get to Midland as fast as we can. Each trip out there, every person we’ve met, has been a great blessing to us. Your kindness and generosity is overwhelming. We’re so ready to meet more of you – all of you! – and start returning the favors. And we’re looking forward to many years of faithful service together at Golf Course Road.

“We are delighted to share with you not only the Gospel of God but our lives as well, because you are becoming so dear to us.” ~ 1 Thessalonians 2:8

Be assured that I am in constant conversation with our Lord about GCR and Midland and our new partnership together. Please be in fervent prayer for us as we prepare to join Golf Course Road Church of Christ. May our God bless us richly. And may his will be done at GCR and in Midland, Texas just as it is in heaven.

Your servant in the grace and truth of Jesus Christ,


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