The Silver One

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

Twenty-Five years ago today, Carrie-Anne and I hopped on a tiny little plane at the Amarillo airport and flew to Las Vegas where we were married at 11:30 that evening by a J.P. in the basement of the Clark County courthouse. I remember standing in a fairly long line at the marriage license counter late that night and thinking it odd that there were so many people doing what we were doing. Then we noticed that we were the only two sober people in the building. Which was funny. And kinda sad.

I wonder how many of those people in the room with us that night ever have any regrets about getting married in Vegas on a Saturday near midnight?

Not me.

Carrie-Anne, I’ve always felt like it’s appropriate that we got married over the Thanksgiving weekend because I am so thankful to God you said ‘yes’ to me that day. And I’m eternally grateful that you keep saying ‘yes’ with every new day. With every new challenge. In every new phase. With every move, every heartache, every kid, every celebration, every setback, and every victory. You are such a constant and consistent presence of God in my life, a faithful reminder of how blessed by him I am.

Over the months and years, my love for you has grown deeper. It’s richer. It’s more significant. It’s more meaningful. More grateful. It’s stronger. Better. We’ve been through a whole lot together. Together. Together. Together. And I’m so glad.

Thank you, Carrie-Anne, for every hour of every day of every year for the past twenty-five. Even the sad hours. Even the tense moments. Even the tough stretches. I’m so thankful for every minute that you and I have been “one.”

I love you,

Allan

 

About Last Night

Allan's Journey, Central Church Family, Ephesians, Faith, Ministry, Preaching 1 Comment »

God has placed the Central Church of Christ in the middle of a terrible, terrible place. There is so much hurting, so much pain in the downtown Amarillo neighborhoods. There is so much poverty and violence, addiction and unemployment, physical sickness and depression. Brokenness. This is a tough place, a place that so obviously reminds us that while the Kingdom of God is coming, it hasn’t come yet. It hasn’t arrived yet in all of its promised glory and power. Every knee has not yet bowed, every tongue has not yet confessed that Jesus is Lord. Until that day, Satan roams and destroys. It’s especially evident on the streets around our church building.

We took to these streets again last night. As representatives of our King and his Kingdom, we spent three hours last night changing oil in people’s cars, washing their trucks, sorting and folding and paying for their laundry, delivering cookies and prayers. We hugged people and laughed, we prayed with people and cried. We met kids and grandkids, old men and women near the ends of their lives, and younger families who can’t seem to catch a break.

Four or five of us wound up ministering to a woman in a terribly desperate situation. She had been assaulted the night before and beaten to the point that she suffered a miscarriage and lost the baby she had been carrying for a couple of months. She had spent the night in the hospital. The man who beat her — the father of this child and the husband of another woman — had spent a few hours in jail. And when this woman showed up at the laundry-mat last night to do a couple of free loads of laundry, this man showed up, too. He was looking for her. And she was terrified. Afraid for her life. We drove her back and forth to her house a couple of times, had a long conversation with a couple of police officers who verified all the details of the horribly twisted story, prayed with this woman, bought her some minutes for her phone, and left her at the house of a friend. Ten minutes later the Central elders and ministers were earnestly praying for her in the Upper Room. This morning, I spent about fifteen minutes with her at Loaves and Fishes. She’s in there right now singing “Blessed Assurance” with Kevin and Roman, hugging Lena, and learning that God’s people really do love her and care about her.

And I’m not sure I know what to do with this.

Kevin and Lon and another group last night discovered and engaged a man who was living against the cinderblock wall on the west side of the car wash. This is all happening within two blocks of our church building. And I’m not sure I know what to do with it.

You know, we changed oil in almost 30 cars, we did about fifty loads of laundry, and delivered a hundred dozen cookies in this neighborhood last night. Now what? Oh, I’m struggling with this.

There’s a part of me that wonders if the Kingdom of God wouldn’t be better off if I vowed to never preach in a Sunday morning congregational setting ever again and spent all of my time instead talking about Jesus to people who don’t know him. I think I justify my existence as a preacher with passages like Ephesians 4 that tell me I’m encouraging and equipping and motivating God’s people to do these good works. And the Holy Spirit specifically gifts people to do that equipping and encouraging. I suppose I should be doing both. And I don’t  — not very well.

I can only think of one or two reasons why anybody outside the downtown area would be an active member here at Central. Why would you drive past other churches on the outskirts of town to come to Central? The building is old, the parking situation is awful, and the preaching isn’t nearly as good as it should be. Neither is the preacher. The only reason is that here at Central a person is continually confronted with the true brokenness of this world. An active member of the Central Church of Christ is forced to see and engage this planet in all of its trouble and sin. It’s impossible to ignore. We’re made to wrestle with a God who allows such terrible pain, we’re compelled to question a God who moves so slowly to fix things. We’re challenged and stretched. We’re made to look at life in new ways, to question our roles in what God really is doing with this messed up place. We have to sacrifice and serve, we’re humbled and forced to see our own shortcomings reflected in the sins of those around us. Oh, man, it’s hard.

But, it’s salvation, right?

I think maybe here at Central we’re becoming more like Jesus. Whether we want to or not, we’re becoming more like Christ as we sacrifice and serve, as our hearts are broken by the sin around us, as our souls cry out to God for justice and redemption, as we are deeply moved by the plight of others. So, yeah, at the laundry-mat and at Loaves and Fishes, at Ellwood Park and Bullard Auto and in Sneed Hall, we are becoming like Christ. That may be the only reason to be an active member at Central.

I would suggest that’s the only reason needed.

Lord, come quickly.

Allan

Don’t Be a Horse

Allan's Journey, Confession, Discipleship, Faith, Prayer, Promise No Comments »

“I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go;
I will counsel you and watch over you.
Do not be like the horse or the mule, which have no understanding
but must be controlled by bit and bridle or they will not come to you.”
~Psalm 32:9

I won’t be like the horse or the mule. Every day I will come to you, Lord. Every day I will sing to you. I will pray to you. I will listen to you. I will talk to you every day. I will look for you, God. I will obey you. I will submit to you. Lord, I will follow you. I will come to you.

God, in your mercies, give me the power to keep these promises to you.

Your undeserving and grateful servant,

Allan

Totally Distracted

Allan's Journey No Comments »

I’m wrapping up my first-ever week long sabbatical at Mike & Becky’s cabin in the mountains of Angel Fire, and I’m totally distracted by the snow. Completely. It has snowed a little bit every day, tiny little sporadic flakes here and there. But it hasn’t amounted to much; it’s been melted away each time in just a couple of hours. But I woke up this morning to a consistent snowfall. And it’s still coming down. Three-and-a-half inches and counting.

And it’s just absolutely beautiful. It’s so very, very pretty. The way the snow sticks to the knots on the Aspen trees. The way it blankets everything in such a clean and bright white. Just gorgeous. Breath-taking. What a blessing from God; what a reminder of his superior creativity, his incredible genius, and his love for great beauty. Very cool.

I know I shouldn’t even be writing about this, much less posting these pictures. My friends and family back in Amarillo are experiencing one of the worst weather weeks in recent memory. I hear the “snow” there was brown and came in sideways Tuesday and Wednesday. People there are still hacking up mud clots. Here in the mountains, the snow is white and fluffy. And it gently and quietly falls straight down.

Those of you who expressed concern about me being all alone in a cabin in the mountains for a whole week, rest easy. I’m good. Of course, I’m hearing the sounds of a little boy on a Big Wheel rolling up and down the tile floors in the hallway and I find myself typing the exact same sentence over and over again…

Peace,

Allan

Precious in the Sight of the Lord

Allan's Journey, Death, Ministry, Preaching, Teenagers 2 Comments »

“Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his saints.” ~Psalm 116:15

I know he didn’t tell me every week. It wasn’t even every month. Couldn’t have been. But it was frequent. It was many times over the course of my childhood and into my high school years. Jim Martin, the head elder (I know there’s no such thing) at my church in southeast Dallas, was emphatic when he told me. I remember him telling me while we were standing on the brown speckled industrial tile in the hallway down the classroom wing of the Pleasant Grove Church of Christ. He told me out in the church parking lot. He told me near the front of the auditorium right after worship services. I feel like he told me all the time. And he meant it.

“Allan, if you’ll go to preaching school, I’ll pay for your tuition.”

Of course, he was talking about the Sunset or Preston Road schools of preaching. At the time, I didn’t have much of an idea about money or how much that kind of an education might cost. I knew Sunset was in Lubbock, somewhere out in West Texas, a million miles from Big D. I had been to several graduations at Preston Road as our church financially supported students there every year. Those things, though, didn’t really matter. I didn’t want to be a preacher. I couldn’t imagine being a preacher. I wanted Brad Sham’s job doing radio play-by-play for the Cowboys.

Jim — sorry; he was always “Brother Martin” — was a giant in my home church. In my mind, he stood taller even than his six-foot-four frame. He was a Bible class teacher, a song leader, and an elder in our congregation. He was always standing in front of the church. Teaching. Leading us in worship. Leading us in prayer. Baptizing. Announcing important decisions. He was our home and auto insurance guy, a successful businessman with his own office on Buckner Boulevard. I never saw him without a coat and tie. In every setting, he carried himself in a deliberate and professional manner. For these and many other reasons I always looked up to Jim.

My sister, Rhonda, and I found some of his mannerisms… umm… humorous. He wore his pants almost a little too high; not quite “above the navel” as Matthew McConaughey’s character says in “Bernie,” but still a little too high. When he sat down on that little short pew on the stage in-between songs on Sunday mornings, his pants legs would rise up incredibly high. His cuffs would be almost at his knees. And, to our constant amazement, so did his socks! We always privately assumed his socks were somehow connected to his underwear. We could perfectly imitate the way he led singing, his right arm extended with barely any crook at all in the elbow and his middle finger on that right hand dipped slightly below the others. The way he paused a little too long between the first and second words of a lot of songs. “When….. …. …. I survey the wondrous cross.” For some reason, Jim pronounced “dollars” as “dah-lahs,” like he was from London or something. We imagined he mowed the lawn and changed the oil in his cars wearing his slacks and wing tips.

He and my dad were best friends. They sang together, taught Bible class together, and served together as shepherds at P-Grove. Jim and Polly Martin were at our house a lot when we were kids and we spent a lot of time at their place on Alhambra Street. On those rare occasions when we got to eat lunch at Wyatt’s Cafeteria after church, it seems the Martins were always there with us. Jim and my dad were equals in almost every sense of the term — including most of their quirkiest mannerisms — but Jim was older. My dad asked for and highly valued Jim’s opinions and insights. He talked about Jim a lot. He looked up to Jim. And that was huge for me. Jim always seemed very important to me. And, looking back, a big part of that is probably because I sensed my dad looking up to Jim, too.

When Brother Martin told me I could preach and that he would pay for my training, he was telling me two things:  One, that preaching the Word of God was really, really important — maybe even more important than selling insurance; and, two,  that he believed in me, he really believed in me.

Jim and Polly’s daughter, Becky, and her husband Glen were our youth ministers at the Pleasant Grove church when we didn’t have youth ministers. Glen hired me to work at his roofing company the summer before my sophomore year in high school. He taught me how to drive a stick shift. He taught me how not to cut ridge with a Skil saw. He taught me a lot of things. For a period of four or five years I spent more time at Glen and Becky’s house than I did my own. I bought my first car when I was sixteen: a long, white 1974 Monte Carlo with a burgundy Landau top. I paid for it with roofing money. Bought the insurance policy from Jim Martin with roofing money. When I was re-baptized over Thanksgiving break of my senior year in college, it was Jim Martin who buried me with Christ. And when I finally decided to leave sports radio to enter a full time congregational preaching ministry, I called my parents. And then I called Jim Martin. He expressed to me his great delight upon hearing that news. And he told me God was going to use me to expand his Kingdom.

Jim died Sunday evening at 85 years of age. He was surrounded by his family, forgiven by his Savior, and wrapped in the loving arms of his God.

My dad and I talked on the phone together about Jim late Sunday night. A number of us preachers in Texas and around the Southwest who have been personally blessed by Jim’s son, Jimmy Martin, have been exchanging emails and texts. Rhonda and I shared some really funny stories and a few tears together on the phone yesterday. Throughout our childhood, Jim and Polly Martin were always there helping and encouraging. During our most formative years, Glen and Becky were always there helping and encouraging. For the entire seven years of my preaching ministry, Jimmy Martin has been right by my side helping and encouraging. There has never been a time in my life — all 47 years — when Jim Martin and his children were not involved in supporting me and encouraging me.

I’ve written all this —- and I could very easily keep going — to say this: encourage the young people in your church. Tell them you believe in them. Tell them how talented they are, how blessed by God they are. Tell them all the dreams you have for them, all the great things you see for them. Help the kids in your church and encourage them. You have been ordained by God to play an important role in molding and shaping young preachers and ministers, future missionaries and teachers of the Gospel. One word of encouragement to a child can carry her or him for years. One sentence of blessing to a teenager can last maybe for a lifetime.

It’s been sixteen or seventeen years since I’ve been inside the Pleasant Grove church building. My siblings and I all left P-Grove as soon as we could. And so did most everybody else. Our parents retired and moved to East Texas in 2000. There’s not forty people left in that congregation today. But Jim and Polly stayed. Jim was still at that old church building three or four days a week, paying bills, putting the bulletin together, leading singing, and teaching class up until he fell and injured his back over Thanksgiving weekend. I thank God today for Jim Martin. And when we walk into that church building for Jim’s funeral later this week, it’ll be good. It’ll be precious.

Peace,

Allan

Gifted and Still Going

Allan's Journey, Central Church Family, Ministry 1 Comment »

One of the things we missed while hiking and climbing and walking all over the Painted Desert and Grand Canyon was the community cookout Central hosted at Ellwood Park. As part of our “Gifted to Go” summer series, Scott Flow grilled up the burgers and dogs while the rest of our congregation manned different booths around the park designed to serve our Plemons area neighbors. Todd and his crew repaired kids’ bicycles and skateboards; Brent and Duane sharpened lawnmower blades and changed oil in edgers; Leon built dozens of birdhouses with the neighborhood youngsters; Becky flew kites with the kids and untangled lots of string; Matthew organized water balloon volleyball matches, which were a huge hit; Tom and his volunteers took requests from our neighbors for small home repairs they’ll make over the coming weeks; and Adam led a powerful hour of prayer for our community in our historic chapel.

What a night!

According to all accounts, our neighbors were blessed and our God was praised. Those who live in the houses around our church building experienced God’s love and grace, they participated in his great blessings of joy, through the food and fun and gestures of kindness shared by our church family. Almost four hundred people showed up for the event, including Eboni Graham, the faith reporter for the Amarillo Globe-News. (You can read her front page story about the cookout and see a short video featuring Greg Dowell by clicking here.) And the message was fully received that the Central Church of Christ is compelled by the matchless grace of Jesus to love our neighbors. We are concerned about our community. We love the people around us. And we want to serve.

At the same time, our people experienced the true freedom that comes in using our own particular talents and abilities and passions to serve others in the name of Christ. What a joy to realize that we all have spiritual gifts! How liberating to recognize that all our gifts are different, yet, all equal in the eyes of God and in the holy results for his Kingdom. If we’ll just open our hearts to the great potential of doing what we’re good at and what we enjoy for the sake of others, we won’t need summer programs and organized activities. We’ll just naturally keep doing these things, planting seeds, doing good for others, spreading the Gospel of Peace, and our God will turn Amarillo upside down.

~~~~~~~~~~

A sad day for Dallas rock-and-roll radio. Jon Dillon, the long-time disc-jockey and personality at KZPS and original on-air member of the great 98 FM KZEW “The Zoo,” was let go by Clear Channel over the weekend. Another great loss for local radio as the giant communications companies continue to discard regional flavor for a homogenized formula sound. Jon Dillon’s a victim, yeah. But so is anything that any of us remember as local radio.

I was seven years old in the summer of 1973 when “The Zoo” hit the Dallas airways with its brand new album rock format. It was all rock-and-roll. And not just the hits. The Zoo played B-sides and deep cuts. And for an entire generation of people who grew up in Dallas, people who are today in their 40s and 50s, it was THE radio station.

As a pre-teen and teenager, I don’t remember ever NOT listening to The Zoo. I was introduced to Van Halen and Aerosmith on The Zoo. When I got my huge AM-FM stereo and turntable for Christmas right after my 11th birthday, one of the first things I did was slap a Zoo sticker right in the center of the smokey gray dust cover. The Zoo was cool. I listened to LaBella and Rody’s “Morning Zoo” from the moment I woke up every day until we walked out the door for school. And I would beg my dad to tune the car radio from KRLD to The Zoo, which he would do just as soon as Brad Sham’s daily “Cowboys Report” concluded. I fell asleep every night during those years listening to The Zoo. I was what they called back then a “Zoo Freak.”

LaBella and Rody were the funny, over-the-top, irreverent morning guys. My friend Todd Adkins and I cut school twice to attend the “Morning Zoo’s Breakfast Club” at Monopoly’s in North Dallas. We were too young to get into the club legally, so we’d wake up extra early and sneak in at about 5:30 while the roadies were setting up. I still have a couple of the “Breakfast Club” buttons here in my office. Somewhere in a box in my attic is a Mike Rhyner (he was the “Morning Zoo’s” sports guy) autographed picture that says “Nice Huey Lewis t-shirt!” in reference to my wardrobe that first day I met him. My old Zoo pin is prominently displayed in a shadow box in my home along with lots of other treasured items from my childhood.

Jon Dillon was the midday personality on The Zoo, part of the original on-air lineup in 1973, working at KZEW until it went off the air in 1989. His was the voice that went in and out of the Fleetwood Mac and Eagles songs I listened to while doing my homework. He was the one who told me how hot it was and that it was “a skosh” past 4:00 as I drove home from school. He gave me Two-fer Tuesdays with the Scorpions and the Rolling Stones and Elton John. In a day when radio wasn’t nearly as researched and formatted, when DJs themselves — not a corporate play list generated in New York or California — decided what records they would play, Jon Dillon would sometimes talk for several minutes between songs. He gave me the background stories to the lyrics and the bands. He knew the guitar players, he was hanging out with the lead singers. He knew Tom Petty and Randy Bachman and Don Henley and Ted Nugent. Listening to JD introduce a Z Z Top song (“that little ol’ band from Texas”) was a tremendous joy.

The Zoo was the soundtrack for my formative years. From the time I was seven until I graduated college, The Zoo dominated the Dallas airwaves and I never listened to anything else.

Once it disappeared in ’89 — Belo had sold the station and things got weird pretty fast — Jon Dillon hooked on at KZPS and spun classic rock there until this past Friday. For almost 24 more years, he played my Led Zeppelin and Bad Company and The Who on 92.5. When we’ve lived in DFW, I’ve listened to JD. When we’ve not lived in DFW, I’ve listened to him every single time we’ve visited. My kids have listened to Jon Dillon. Yes, it’s mostly nostalgic, I’m sure. But I’m saddened that he’s been let go. I’m not sure why they fired him. Clear Channel’s not saying and nobody’s heard from Jon Dillon yet. He’s 62 or 63 years old, I think. He probably talked too much between songs. He might have refused to do anything overly corporate and cheesy.

I’ve never met the guy; our radio paths never crossed. But I wish to salute him and thank him today. He is radio greatness, one of the very best and last of a dying breed and a fading era. I occasionally say “skosh” when I’m talking about time or distance. When I hear a Z Z Top song, it’s Jon Dillon’s baritone “how, how, how!” that resonates in my head. I’ve been listening to Jon Dillon my whole life. My deep love for local radio is directly tied to this cool cat. My deep lament for local radio also connects sadly. Thanks, JD.

Peace,

Allan