I Miss Tom Petty

Allan's Journey, Carley No Comments »

I had just turned thirteen-years-old in the fall of 1979 when I heard Tom Petty for the very first time. It was either “Refugee” or “Don’t Do Me Like That,” I’m not entirely sure. I know it was on The Zoo, 98FM in Dallas, and I know it was on my almost brand new stereo / turn-table / receiver with the smoky gray dust cover. But I don’t remember which song it was because the radio was rotating several cuts from Petty’s third studio album, “Damn the Torpedoes.” I wanted to buy the album. My parents wouldn’t allow it because of the profane title. So I bought all the singles. “Don’t Do Me Like That,” “Refugee,” “Here Comes My Girl,” and “Even the Losers.” All on 45s. I’ve still got ’em.

Van Halen and Aerosmith take me back to high school. It’s nostalgic. Listening to those two bands reminds me of all the stuff most people like to be reminded of: their carefree youth and all those firsts. I love listening to Van Halen and Aerosmith. But it’s only relevant to the 80s. It’s a little silly, actually.

Tom Petty, however, has been my constant musical companion from my junior high “Zoo Freak” days to right now on this sad first day without him. Tom Petty kept writing and recording the songs and the songs kept maturing along with me. His music kept speaking to me, reflecting me, giving voice to my heart and my thoughts in our current context. His songs never hearkened back to the good ol’ days. “Wildflowers” and “Learning to Fly” would never have contained songs like “Anything That’s Rock n Roll” or “Rockin’ Around (With You).” His past four or five albums have been packed with wistful and reflective songs, lyrics that speak to past regret, mistakes made, broken promises, a realistic (some might say cynical) view of the present, and a very hopeful look to the future.

These lines from “Anything That’s Rock n Roll,” from Petty’s first album:

“Some friends of mine and me stayed up all through the night / rockin’ pretty steady ’til the sky went light / didn’t go to bed, didn’t go to work / I picked up the telephone, told the boss he was a jerk / Your mama don’t like it when you run around with me / but we got to hip your mama that you got to live free / don’t need her, don’t need school / you don’t like your daddy and you don’t like rules…”

are a whole lot different from these lines from “All You Can Carry” on his last album:

“I saw a ghost by the road tonight / and then my mind ran away with me / I had a vision in the changing light / something saying that it’s time to leave / Take what you can, all you can carry / take what you can and leave the past behind / take what you can, all you can carry / take what you can and leave the past behind / we gotta run / There’s something moving in the dark outside / I gotta face it when it hits the light / no one can say I didn’t have your side / no one can say I left without a fight / Take what you can, all you can carry / take what you can and leave the past behind.”

Now, don’t get me wrong. Every one of his albums contains a whole lot of what every one of his albums contains. You’re going to find some rebellion and some hard rock guitar riffs. And, yeah, there’s plenty of cynicism or realism in those early records, too. The first lines of “American Girl” from their debut album in 1976 tell you right away that Tom Petty’s going to call ’em like he sees ’em.

But his latest works over the past quarter century have grown up with me. Or I’ve grown up with them. Both.

He always communicated a realistic look at the problems all around us. But he underscored most of his songs with hope. I wouldn’t carry this too far, but Petty’s work is like the Psalms in that sense. Here’s what’s going on in my life / the world / this country / my relationships that feels bad and wrong. But we all know there’s something better waiting for us around the corner.

His latest, and now last, studio album, 2014’s “Hypnotic Eye” is unapologetic when it comes to pointing out the problems with the power structures in the United States, the political corruption and polarization that’s dividing the country, the senseless violence, and the unfulfilled promises. Check out these lyrics from the album’s first offering, “American Dream Plan B”:

“My mama’s so sad / daddy’s just mad / ’cause I ain’t gonna have the chance he had / my success is anybody’s guess / but like a fool I’m bettin’ on happiness.”

“Burnt Out Town,” “Power Drunk,” and “Shadow People” are blistering declarations of the problems in today’s society. But mixed into the middle of all that are cuts like “Full Grown Boy,” “Sins of My Youth,” and “Fault Lines.”

“See these fault lines laid out like land mines / it’s hard to relax / a promise broken, the ground breaks open / love falls through the cracks / and I’ve got a few of my own / I’ve got a few of my own fault lines / running under my life.”

There’s baptismal imagery in “Red River” and so much self-reflection and regret — an acknowledgment of past mistakes and current weaknesses — in “Full Grown Boy” and “Fault Lines,” that it sounds like the heart of an honest man nearing the last laps of his race.

And he was.

Tom Petty had just completed his 40th anniversary tour with three shows at the Hollywood Bowl in L.A. and was telling reporters that he was done with long tours. He’s got a granddaughter now and he can’t be a good grandpa if he’s on the road all the time. He wanted to quit touring and start this last part of his life with his family and, especially, his granddaughter.

That stinks.

And I miss him already.

I always bought every Tom Petty album the moment it was released. I’ve got ’em all. And I’ve been listening to them back-to-back-to-back since last evening. When the news broke, I was on the Oklahoma Christian University campus in OKC for their annual lectures. My sister Rhonda had texted me the news, forwarding a text from her husband Geoff, because he knew I would want to know. As soon as I verified it, I called Carley.

That phone conversation did not go well. Carley shares my love for Tom Petty’s music. It’s her soundtrack, too. She and I saw him perform from really great floor seats at American Airlines Center for her 16th birthday two years ago. We were planning to see him together in Dallas and / or Oklahoma City every single time he played until the day he died.

The last lines Tom Petty sings on that last album come at the very end of the most brutally honest and brilliant song he ever recorded on the state of things in this country. The song is “Shadow People” and it’s tough. It’s about our political and social divisions. It’s about how nobody thinks anymore, nobody talks anymore — we just react. And we stockpile water and canned goods and guns. And everybody’s afraid. We’re all hiding our true selves behind our political positions. And you can’t tell who’s who because nobody seems interested in real conversation. But, in true Tom Petty fashion, he ends the song and the album and, now, his life catalogue by expressing and renewing our hope.

“Waiting for the sun to be straight overhead, ’til we ain’t got no shadow at all.”

Peace,

Allan

Happy 18th Birthday, Carley!

Carley No Comments »

There’s no argument. No loopholes. No way around it. When your youngest child turns 18, it says certain things about you that can’t be denied. And Carley Renae has done that today. She’s 18. A legal adult now in every state. She can vote. She can buy a lottery ticket. She can enlist in the army. She can get a tattoo or a nose-piercing without a parent’s permission (sigh). She can skydive, buy fireworks, and be called for jury duty. She can sue somebody.

And she can keep hanging out with her great friends, eating gourmet pizza at Palio’s, listening to Tom Petty and Aerosmith, watching 1980s movies, driving her little green car to Canyon and back, and eating grapes. She can keep drinking exotic waters, memorizing Seinfeld lines, making salsa, and taking 45-minute showers. And she can keep blessing our family and filling our house with her inexhaustible love, joy, and laughter.


 

We celebrated her 18th early, last night, with Palio’s pizza and an escape room experience at Amarillo Escape and Mystery with Kayla, Rebecca, Madison, Hannah, and Tatum. Then it was back to the house for Carley’s favorite cookie cake and Blue Bell, chips and dips, coconut tea, a few cards and gifts, and a living room screening of 10 Cloverfield.

Happy Birthday, Carley. We love you, girl. It’s an indescribable pleasure to watch you grow up in the grace and truth of our Lord, to see your servant heart reflect the love of Christ, and to listen to your dreams and plans for the future. We’re still a long way from college, a long way from having to make any big decisions, a long way from that next phase of your life. Don’t rush it. Don’t wish this current year away. I know you’re chomping at the bit to go conquer the universe, but this senior year of yours is special. Enjoy it. Live it. Love it.

If nothing else, try to slow this thing down for your old man.

Love you, Bear.

Dad

More Than Meets the Eye

Carley, Carrie-Anne, Faith, Hebrews No Comments »

For twenty straight years I’ve woken up my child or children on the first day of school with a loud, over-the-top, “extra” rendition of “School Bells.” At 6:05 this morning, in the pitch dark, I opened the door to Carley’s bedroom and laid into it one more time.

One last time.

Today is the first day of our youngest daughter’s senior year at Canyon High School. She’s got the ring, she’s had the senior yearbook picture taken, and now she’s starting class. Her senior year. Her last year.

For twenty years I’ve taken that first-day-of-school picture: new clothes, backpack, lunchbox, and three Wal-Mart bags full of crayons, paper, pens, and a box of Kleenex. Today? Carley might be wearing new clothes — I can’t tell. But there’s no backpack, no books, no supplies, and definitely no lunch box. She allowed me to take her picture with Carrie-Anne, who is starting her fifth year today as the Culinary Arts Director at Canyon High, and then took off in her little green car. Gone.

I don’t think “School Bells” is going to sound as good or be as irritating next year over the phone.

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We’re tired. We’re bored. You can see it in the way we look down when somebody’s asking for volunteers. You can see it in the way we straggle in to worship and complain about it when it’s over. We’re traveling more and playing more sports and assembling together with the Church less. The problem is just getting us to admit it. If we could admit it — we’re bored, we’re tired, we’ve lost our fire, we’re plateaued — then we could deal with it honestly and get some help. And maybe we’d understand that this spiritual fatigue is understandable.

It’s in the very nature of the kind of commitment we’ve all made. Following Jesus isn’t an inspiring baptism and then it’s done. It’s not a spectacular mission trip or a set of summer service projects or a two-year Ignite Initiative and then it’s over. Following Jesus is a grueling marathon. It takes great endurance. Continual focus.

It’s hard.

The people at work, the non-Christians at school, they all seem to be living pretty good lives. They seem fulfilled. They’ve got good families. They read the latest books on marriage and parenting and they seem to be doing well. They go to parties, they take weekend trips, they’re doing great. They have great attitudes and a real enthusiasm for life. Who are you to tell them they need Jesus to have a meaningful life? In fact, your life seems to be much more difficult since you took on Christ so long ago.

The problem is that we have so little to show for our hard work. Where are the results? Religious people always want visible, tangible results. Whether it’s burning a bull on a remote mountain altar or sliding into a pew at the local temple of positive thinking, people want a religion that pays off in ways we can see — bigger harvests, healthier bodies, more security, instant peace of mind. That’s the problem with the Christian faith. In this world of religious show-and-tell, in this world of “seeing is believing,” we don’t have much to show. Or see. All we’ve got is a cross that has to be picked up every day.

But hold on. Isn’t the Gospel about God’s great victory over sin and Satan and all the bad things that oppress human life? Isn’t the good news of the Christian faith about the resurrection triumph of eternal life over death? Yes, of course. But that victory is hidden right now. One day every eye will see that victory, it’ll be clear, it’ll be glorious. But not today. We don’t see it today.

“In putting everything under Christ Jesus, God left nothing that is not subject to him. Yet at present we do not see everything subject to him.” ~Hebrews 2:8

What we see is chaos and violence and disease. It’s everywhere in everybody around us. Abuse and brokenness and addiction and loneliness and loss. In our family. In my own life. All things are under Christ? I don’t see it.

The preacher of Hebrews knows this.

“Faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.” ~Hebrews 11:1

Everybody in that Faith Ring of Honor in Hebrews 11 is commended because they displayed great faith when they couldn’t see. They couldn’t see. Moses was looking ahead, he says. Noah acted on things not yet seen. All these people, the preacher says, only saw the promise from a distance. It’s hard to get excited about a faith where all the final results are hidden. No wonder so many of us would rather spend our Sundays watching football where at least we can see who’s winning.

There’s a gap. And it’s real. Everybody’s got it: this gap between faith and sight. We’re all there in this gap. Somewhere in that gap, I’ve got to have a conviction about God. I’ve got to believe that, yes, God is bringing all things to completion, even though I can’t always see it.

The victory of the Gospel cannot yet be seen. But it can be heard. The truth, today, can be heard.

“In the past God spoke to our forefathers through the prophets at many times and in various ways, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom he made the universe. The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful Word. After he had provided purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty in heaven.” ~Hebrews 1:1-3

The preacher calls this a “word of encouragement.” And it’s crystal clear from these opening lines that his spoken word is all about God’s spoken Word which is now made complete and fully known in the incarnate Word, Jesus, the Son of God. The Son of God is not a metaphor. It’s not a figure of speech. This Son of God is the heir of all things, he’s the one through whom God created the world, and he upholds us and everything we see and don’t see by his mighty Word of power.

“If you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts.” Hebrews 3:7
“See to it that you do not refuse him who speaks.” ~Hebrews 12:25
“He who has ears, let him hear!” ~Jesus

Peace,

Allan

Joy in the Lord

Carley, Carrie-Anne, Central Church Family, Faith, Giving, Ministry, Valerie, Whitney No Comments »

You don’t necessarily have to turn on the evening news. In fact, do people even turn on the evening news anymore? All you have to do is not have your head buried in the sand to know that there is a great deal of anxiety and worry in our society. The state of things right now can very easily drag you down and steal your joy. How is it that the Bible commands children of God and disciples of Christ Jesus to always rejoice?

Well, where are your eyes? What are you looking at? What or who are you listening to?

As followers of Jesus, we are very well aware of all the things God is doing in us and through us. We can always rejoice in the knowledge and experience of God working among us. And that’s always constant. That never changes. God is always at work. We see the evidence of his great work, we sense the working out of his redemption and reconciliation plans, we feel his hand at work in us and through us, saving and changing lives all around us. The Lord is always at work among us and that is always reason to rejoice.

I see it in the Central teenagers who stop by my office on the way to Chick-Fil-A for a free promotional sandwich. Ellie and Justin are pouring into those kids the same grace that God has shown them and the kids are eating it up. I see it in the 30 men from Canadian Church of Christ with whom I had the great honor of hanging out with in Angel Fire this weekend. God is on the move with these men — moving in them and through them — and they are on fire for God’s mission in this world. I hear it when Valerie, our middle daughter, calls me from Arlington to tell me she’s changing her major from childhood education to youth ministry. God’s Spirit is changing Valerie forcefully and beautifully into a dedicated servant of the Gospel. I sense it when Carley, our youngest daughter, shows up in all the pictures from the Sao Paulo mission trip — painting, laughing, serving children, worshiping, leading. She’s finding her gifts and settling into her place in the Kingdom.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I see it when my brothers and sisters at Central join forces to do good deeds for people in downtown Amarillo. We’re making gift bags for the staff and clients at CareNet and Gratitude House. We’re cleaning the carpets and painting the doors at PARC. We’re painting the storage shed and spreading new wood chips on the playground at Elwood Park. We’re giving away 200 books and reading the children at Bivins Elementary. We’re treating the ladies at Martha’s Home to a dinner out at a nice restaurant.

 

Our God is working in and through everything that’s going on around us. That knowledge and that experience gives us a stable and deep-rooted joy — an inner joy — that enables us to not only cope with disappointments, but to see things as they really are. In any and all circumstances God is always at work among his people. And that is always reason to rejoice.

Peace,

Allan

ZZ Top in Amarillo

Allan's Journey, Carley No Comments »

“We’ve been coming here to Amarillo for five decades! Same three guys! Same three chords!” ~Billy Gibbons, founder and lead singer and lead guitarist for that little ol’ band from Texas, about halfway through ZZ Top’s first set during Friday night’s concert at the Amarillo Civic Center Auditorium

One of the things I miss about living in Dallas is the live music concerts. Big bands just don’t swing through Amarillo. So we didn’t hesitate when it was announced three months ago that ZZ Top was extending their Tonnage Tour with a stop in the panhandle. Carley and I got our tickets quickly and she asked a couple of her friends on the Canyon High School golf team — Kayla and Makenna — to join us.


I’d seen ZZ Top three times prior: twice at Reunion Arena during my college years and again about ten years ago when they opened up for Aerosmith at Starplex. But this show was going to be extra special — I was going to share it with my youngest daughter and it was going to be in the tiny Civic Center Auditorium that only seats 2,300. I can’t believe they’re playing this tiny venue!

And, yeah, the whole experience was classic ZZ Top — a stripped-down stage, the bare-minimum on lights, simple chords, easy lyrics, understated choreography, fuzzy guitars, obligatory references to Amarillo and Texas… and super LOUD! What a blast! I reminded Carley and her friends that when ZZ Top’s biggest album came out — Eliminator, the album that put them on the mainstream map in 1983 with those catchy songs and tongue-in-cheek videos — I was a 17-year-old junior in high school. Just like them. And then we sang those hits together with Reverend Billy G, Dusty Hill, and Frank Beard in our little civic center auditorium. “Got Me Under Pressure.” “Sharp Dressed Man.” “Gimme All Your Lovin’.” How cool is it to pump your fist in the air with your daughter and shout together, “Go get yourself some CHEAP SUNGLASSES!!!” They also covered Jimi Hendrix’s “Foxy Lady” and surprised us with “16 Tons” and “Act Naturally,” featuring a guest steel guitar player whose name I didn’t get.


The girls got their t-shirts. I got to see one of my favorite bands again and didn’t have to drive six hours one way to do it. And I got to share it with Carley. That’s a pretty good night.

Peace,

Allan

Fear the Frog

Carley No Comments »

We spent one of Carley’s official college visit days today at TCU. I’m not certain why TCU is at the top of her list of choices for her higher education — she does have a lot of purple clothes. But we spent a good four to five hours there this morning touring the campus, listening to the spiel, taking pictures, visiting with recruiters, and buying a discounted Horned Frogs T-shirt.

I think she loves the history of TCU, the beautiful old buildings, the sprawling trees and colorful flowers that highlight the landscaping, and the uniqueness of the school mascot. I think having a football team in the Top 25 also adds to the allure. And being in a big city also seems to be a plus.


Either way, we met some nice people today and ate good Mexican food at Los Vaqueros on West Berry. Pretty good day.

Peace,

Allan