Blessed at Central

Allan's Journey, Central Church Family, Preaching No Comments »

CentralPreachersI don’t know all my sins and shortcomings. I don’t know all the many ways I’m sure I fail as a proclaimer of God’s Word. I’m not aware of every single way I most surely disappoint the people in our church. I don’t know all the variety of things I do and say that are just not enough, things that could be done and said much better by a better person, a guy with more talent, a person better equipped.

But I do know a lot of those things. I am well aware that I fail often, that I disappoint plenty, and that my efforts are usually not enough.

When I’m alone with God in this beautiful 90-year-old chapel at Central, I become acutely aware of my own unworthiness to be in a leadership role with this great and faithful church. Who am I? What am I doing here? I feel incredibly blessed just to be in the middle of these wonderful saints. I feel so privileged that God would let me be a member of this church family. But he’s made me the preacher! What a joke!

Who am I to pray in the presence of this godly group of shepherds? Who am I to lead this incredibly talented and dedicated company of ministers? How can I further inspire this gathering of Christ-minded disciples who for years have been serving and ministering with power and grace throughout this city and around the world?

I have no business being the preacher with these people at this place.

It’s hilarious!

CentralWorshipCenter1980sOur Lord proves to me over and over every day that his grace is sufficient. He reminds me every week that his strength is made perfect in our weakness. He continually shows me that he arranges the parts of the body exactly the way he wants them. And he makes it work here at Central.

Thank you, Father, for moving me to Amarillo to be blessed by this faithful body of your children. Thank you, God, for the difficult challenges and the easy lay-ups, for the incredibly high mountains and the devastating valleys, for both the really good times to keep me encouraged and the really tough times to keep me humble. I need all of that. And I need to experience it with a generous, gracious, patient, forgiving, loving community of Christians.

I ask myself often how in the world I ever wound up at Central. And then I fall to my knees in humble gratitude and praise.

Peace,

Allan

Delta Dominates OC Chapel

Allan's Journey, Delta Gamma Sigma, Valerie No Comments »

DeltaGammaSigmaChapel

It’s always an honor to speak in Hardeman Auditorium on the campus of Oklahoma Christian University. I consider the opportunities to speak at OC’s chapel a rich blessing and, yes, a delicious irony. Yesterday was especially nice as two Delta brothers, one from long ago and one current Bull, joined me on the stage to bookend my fifteen minutes.

DeltaChapelJeffMacJeff McMillon, a good friend with whom I’ve boxed-stepped in Spring Sing and snow-skied on Spring Break and a favorite Bible teacher now at OC, opened up the program with an inspirational welcome to the students. He followed that by introducing me, shouting out to my daughter Valerie, and then praying over me before I shared my thoughts on Christian love as the proof and expression of God’s nature in us. Then Morgan Wilson, a preaching major in Delta — not long ago that would have been oxymoronic; it’s still a little weird — led a beautiful closing prayer.

By the way, speaking in front of hundreds of teenagers is not my idea of a great time. I love hanging out with young people, but not preaching to them. I’m not good at it. In a Sunday morning church setting, the people in the pews will always laugh at your jokes. They’re trying to be nice, they’re trying to encourage the speaker. Teenagers? They don’t care. I learn a little bit every time I do it. I need to structure my message a little differently. You can’t build up to a climactic point; you have to start right out of the gate with something provocative and unexpected. Tell the joke later, I was told, not at the beginning. So, I’m learning.

It was a fabulous quick trip to OKC and back. I got to spend some really good quality time with my precious daughter, my wonderful sister and brother-in-law, and my super stud senior basketball star nephew, Asa. I got to eat at Ted’s, which, on its own, is worth any trip to OKC. I got to eat a greasy burger at The Garage with Dillon and Colton, a couple of great young men and Delta brothers from Legacy. I got to hang out with Chris Adair, who does more for Delta and Delta alumni than anyone before or since. And I got to tell Jeff McMillon how I praise God almost every day for people like him who are loving and teaching Valerie, helping her connect with the OC community, and inspiring her to live her life to the fullest for our Lord and for others.

Peace,

Allan

It Was Only a Matter of Time

Allan's Journey, Carrie-Anne, Valerie No Comments »

seniordiscountWe ate at the Town Crier here in Abilene last night, a traditional stop in our rotation of local eating joints for us every year while attending the ACU Summit. But it wasn’t until I was sorting through my receipts this morning when I noticed that, for the very first time ever in my short life, I was given a Senior Discount. She didn’t ask. She apparently just punched it in. First time ever. Humiliating. Depressing. The only explanation is that the Town Crier must give the senior discount to those 40-years-old and over.

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Our daughter Valerie is posting pictures of her friends and herself attending last week’s Delta-Theta Luau at Oklahoma Christian University. I reminded her that we have a picture of her mom and me at the same Delta-Theta Luau back in 1989. That’s kinda cool, huh? Weird. Seeing the two pictures side-by-side kinda got up in my feels. And I realize maybe the senior discount thing isn’t so far-fetched.

deltathetaluauselfiedeltathetaluau

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markmclemore3The Rangers’ magic number is 3.

Peace,

Allan

The Sunday Sermon is Brutal

Allan's Journey, Preaching 2 Comments »

preachingbibleI want to share something with you today that’s very personal. This is not sad, it’s not disturbing, this doesn’t depress me in the least. Don’t mis-read or mis-interpret today’s post. This is a reality I’m only just now recognizing in the past two or three years, and I want to simply acknowledge it.

I’m sharing this for two reasons: One, I want all preachers who read this post to fully understand that they are not alone and, two, I want everybody else who reads this post to have a better understanding of something really weird and quirky about their pulpit guy.

The Sunday sermon is brutal.

The weekly homily consumes me every waking moment of my every day. I think about it all the time. Mowing the yard. Eating dinner with the family. Watching a baseball game. During a meeting. When I get up in the morning and when I close my eyes at night, I’m thinking about the sermon. Maybe I need to arrange the points differently. Should I leave out that illustration? Should both of those passages be used or just one of them? Is this truly what the Scripture says or am I making this up? Does this encourage anybody? Do I need a better example? Should I use that person’s name in this story or not? Does the end connect to the beginning? Are they going to hear what I want them to hear? One more word study. Look up one more cross reference. One more prayer begging God to reveal himself to me one more time. It truly consumes me. I can be having a conversation with you, face to face, about your family or your job or the Rangers or the fact that my house is on fire and burning to the ground, and I’ve still got the sermon in the back of my mind: Is there something in 2 Thessalonians about God’s providence? The sermon is this thing that hangs over me, following me, always with me, always there.

The sermon is never finished. It’s 10:00 Friday morning and the sermon for this Sunday is finished. But it’s really not. I’ll be obsessing over it all day today, at several points during the Amarillo – Tascosa game tonight, and all day tomorrow. I’ll be second guessing some key components of the sermon during Bible class Sunday. It’s brutal.

And when the sermon is finally delivered…

I’m almost always disappointed.

I’m telling you, it’s brutal.

It rarely turns out as good as it was supposed to. It hardly ever lives up to what it should. There’s a tremendous sense of relief, but a more pronounced feeling of let-down. It sounded so grand in my head, it felt so inspirational in my prayers, it meant so much to me when I read it from the Bible, but it didn’t come out of my mouth that way.

The words of the 4th century preacher Augustine, who lived with this same agony week after week, resonate in my soul: “I am saddened that my tongue cannot live up to my heart.”

Every Sunday.

Now that I’ve actually written this down, it looks and sounds depressing. But, really, it’s not. It’s just a weird reality for me and, I’m guessing, all preachers except maybe Rick Atchley. To be consumed by and obsessed with something all week long and never have it turn out just right is the reality of this calling.

But so is the beauty of God’s grace.

I experience God’s grace in my preaching nearly every Sunday. This is also a reality of the calling: that through my inadequacies and shortcomings and full-on failures, our sovereign Lord is doing eternal work. He shows it to me every week. He is at work when his Word is being proclaimed. He is doing salvation and reconciliation and sanctification when his Gospel is being preached. He affirms that to me almost every single week in very real and encouraging ways. And I’m so grateful. Most preachers do understand this. I suppose it’s the best reason most of us keep doing the chore.

That gives real meaning and purpose to the terror of the weekly sermon, but it doesn’t alter the terrible cycle for the preacher. So, when your preacher doesn’t seem fully engaged, maybe a bit distant, not totally there, give him a break — he’s thinking about the sermon. And on Sunday afternoon and evening when he’s a bit quieter than normal or even withdrawn, cut him some slack — the sermon wasn’t as good as it should have been.

Peace,

Allan

Throwback Thursday

Allan's Journey, Carrie-Anne, Marriage No Comments »

Wedding

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Throwback Thursday is probably just a Facebook thing or something, I don’t know. I’m probably not even doing it right. But while putting the finishing touches on this Sunday’s sermon about the purpose of marriage and getting the PowerPoint ready, I happened upon this picture of two good looking kids.

Two clueless kids.

Two kids who had no idea what was in front of them, had no way of dealing with some of the trials that would come, but who were very much in love and committed to sharing all the joys and sorrows together.

Carrie-Anne, I can very easily look back at this 26-year-old picture and see how God has been working in you to make you more holy, more blameless, more Christ-like in a thousand ways. The work he started in you, he is bringing to completion. It’s beautiful. It’s glorious. And I am honored by our Lord and by you to be in the middle of it with you. Thank you for letting me share your transformation, your salvation, with you. And thank you for committing to my own transformation, too. You make me better, babe, in a thousand ways.

I love you,

Allan

Ode to Big Town Mall

Allan's Journey, Stanglin Family, Texas Rangers No Comments »

It’s been announced today that they’re putting Harriet Tubman on the twenty dollar bill. I would have put Beltre on it, but whatever.

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In other news, FedEx has announced they are building a 334,000 square foot regional distribution center on the site of the old Big Town Mall. That means it’s probably too late to return that birthday shirt my grandmother bought at Montgomery Ward.

When it opened in 1959, Big Town Mall was the first and only indoor shopping center in the whole state of Texas. Located right where I-30 and Highway 80 intersect, where southeast Dallas meets Mesquite, it was a marvel in its time and a staple of my childhood and growing up years. Big Town was where I first visited Santa Claus. Driving home with the family from our grandparents’ house in Fort Worth, the iconic Big Town water tower was the landmark sign that we were almost home. I remember my aunt LouAnn telling me stories about teenagers climbing that tower to steal the red lights off the top. I can’t remember if it was her or some other source that told me a teenager had committed suicide by climbing the Big Town water tower and jumping off. Maybe just an urban legend. And there was the huge super slide we all raced down on top of old feed sacks. I remember a rumor, too, that a rattlesnake had once crawled out of one of those sacks, biting a kid and killing him. Again, probably just an urban legend. When I gave friends directions to my house I always started with “Take the Big Town exit.”

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Big Town Mall had the wide polished floors and walkways that led to and from the staples of the retail world at that time: Woolworth, Montgomery Ward, J. C. Penny, and Sanger Brothers (before Sanger-Harris). There were lots of huge potted plants and a big fountain. There was a movie theater, a bowling alley, and an arcade. I remember being intrigued by the arcade but never being allowed to go in. I remember the mall was air-conditioned!

It officially closed sometime in the early 2000s, just a couple of years after my grandmother died. In 2005, the government used the Big Town mall to house refugees from Hurricane Katrina. And then they demolished the whole thing in 2006. It’s gone. It has been for ten years. The sign is still there. I think the water tower is, too. It’s still Big Town Boulevard that runs from the highway south until it becomes Prairie Creek Lane. The memories are still there, too. And I might still have probably somewhere a hideous, too-small, too bright, too-colorful, too-puffy sweater from the ’80s with the Montgomery Ward tags still attached. Oh, well. She only paid $3.49 for it anyway.

Peace,

Allan