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

Hula Hooping on the Wall at Applebee’s

Carrie-Anne, Central Church Family No Comments »

Becky McCasland ran up to me before church a couple of months ago. “We saw Carrie-Anne’s picture up at Applebee’s in Lubbock! Why is Carrie-Anne’s picture up at Applebee’s in Lubbock?!”

Whoa, whoa, whoa. Slow down. What??

It seems that Becky was eating with some friends at the Applebee’s on the loop in Lubbock when she strolled to the restroom and noticed a giant picture of a familiar gal hanging on the wall. Yes, that’s Carrie-Anne Stanglin, doing the hula hoop!

Again, what??

Becky showed me the picture on her phone. Sure enough, yes, that was Carrie-Anne. And I remember the picture well. Our youngest daughter, Carley, had a pool party at our house in North Richland Hills for her tenth birthday and, as part of the festivities, we held a hula hoop contest. Carrie-Anne won the hula hoop contest — she wins every hula hoop contest — and, yeah, I had taken a few pictures. This was back in September of 2009! This was in Fort Worth! I posted the picture on my blog along with a couple of other shots from the party. And that was it. Almost eight years ago.

How did that picture get blown up and framed and hung on the wall at the Applebee’s in Lubbock?

We finally got a chance to see the picture first-hand Thursday night, but we still don’t have any idea how it got there.

Bruce and Celia Tidmore took us to the Garth Brooks concert at the United Supermarkets Arena on the Texas Tech campus Thursday. (Don’t talk trash to me about seeing Garth Brooks; I was going for my wife!) We left Amarillo early so Bruce could buy something he needed at Cabella’s. And before we made it over to Chuy’s for dinner, we swung by the Applebee’s to see Carrie-Anne’s portrait. And, yes, there it was! Big as Dallas! Right there on the wall next to the restroom doors! My wife, in our backyard in North Richland Hills, doing the hula hoop, eight years ago!

We took a bunch of pictures of C-A and the picture and marveled all over again at the complete randomness of the experience. The waiters and waitresses we queried had no idea how the picture got there. The manager told us that the store had gone through a remodeling two years ago and all the staff had been asked to submit pictures of Lubbock scenes and Lubbock people to use as decorations for their walls. Yeah, we could see, the walls were covered with pictures of Texas Tech and Red Raiders sports teams and buildings, oil wells, the Buddy Holly statue, the Lubbock rodeo, and several other Lubbock landmarks. And then this random picture of my wife! It didn’t match up with any other picture in the place! The manager had no idea who submitted the pictures and how they were selected — two years ago he was waiting tables at the Amarillo Applebee’s.

We came up with all kinds of conspiracy theories as we dined on shrimp chili rellenos and chicka-chicka-boom-boom at Chuy’s. But we don’t have any definite answers. It’s a mystery.

Anything like that ever happened to you? How random is this? How would you even search on my blog for that picture? You have to find the post and then click on a link within the text to even get to it!

For at least the next couple of years, Carrie-Anne is hula hooping on the wall at Applebee’s in Lubbock. And nobody can tell us how or why.

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It’s Opening Day! Rangers and Tribe tonight at the Ballpark. Yu Darvish on the hill and — yuck — Joey Gallo at third. Opening Day! It should be a National Holiday. We treat it like one here at Central. Every year we wear our baseball jerseys and caps to work. Greg grills the dogs and brats, we eat Cracker Jack and peanuts, nachos and ice cream sandwiches. We open up and trade baseball cards. And we dream about future glory for our teams and lament the heartbreaking failures of the past. It’s Opening Day!

I’ve checked the standings. The Rangers are in first place.

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

First Day Pics

Carley, Carrie-Anne, Valerie No Comments »

Today’s the first day of school and I must join the rest of humanity in posting a few pictures of my children. Give me a break; you know you’ve already done it.

Valerie has transferred this year to Oklahoma Christian University: the home of the Eagles, the former home of Enterprise Square USA, and the place where Carrie-Anne and I met and fell in love. The whole family piled into a couple of cars Friday to deliver Valerie to Edmond, to her new dorm room at Tinius Hall, and to meet her new roommate, Aimee, who lives in Childress.

OCAimeeOCClosetOCTiniusHall119

It’s at once wonderful and strange when your daughter enrolls at your alma mater. Valerie’s Bible professor this semester is a Delta brother I went to school with at OC, Jeff McMillon, and her history professor is her uncle, my sister Rhonda’s husband Geoff. There are twice as many buildings and ten times as many trees on campus as there were thirty years ago. Goldie’s is gone and I can’t even find Johnnie’s or Pumps. But OC still feels like a wonderful community of smart and caring Christians who will support and encourage, teach and challenge, shape and guide our daughter.

As for Carley, today begins her Junior year at Canyon High School — she’s an upper classman! Still playing golf, still completely obsessed with her grades, still totally driven to be Valedictorian, still incredibly social and motivated to spend time with her friends and, yet, still unbelievably void of any desire to get out of bed before 11:00 am.

I sang the song at 6:15 this morning. She rolled over and groaned.

JuniorMirrorJunior

 

 

Carrie-Anne is beginning her third year as the culinary arts director for Canyon and Randall High Schools with three packed out classes. She has really grown that program into a regional powerhouse around here and they’re having to turn students away.

For Whitney and me, nothing much changes. We keep the same routine we’ve been managing all summer: getting up, going to work, and wondering why the Rangers can’t win a weekend series against a last place team.

Peace,

Allan

Jesus’ Judgment Will Be Final

Acts, Carrie-Anne, Hebrews, Jesus, Philippians, Resurrection, Texas Rangers No Comments »

“In the past God overlooked such ignorance, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent. For he has set a day when he will judge the world with justice by the man he has appointed. He has given proof of this to all people by raising him from the dead.” ~Acts 17:30-31

JesusGloryThe resurrection proves that Jesus is the promised Messiah, it vindicates him as God’s Holy Son, as God’s chosen agent in making all things right. Jesus is the one who creates order and restores what’s been destroyed. When the Son of God returns, the powers of this world will finally be overthrown by the power of God, that power that was so fully displayed at the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus.

Hebrews 9 says Christ Jesus will appear a second time, not to bear sin, but to bring salvation to those who are waiting for him. His first coming was in humility to bring redemption; his second coming will be in glory to bring God’s salvation purposes to their long-awaited and majestic consummation. Jesus is coming back to restore his people, to rule in righteousness, and to make all things right.

We’ve all been reminded over the past few weeks that this whole world is immersed in evil. This entire planet is motivated by selfishness and greed, this earth is captivated by violence and force.

It’s sickening, it’s unsettling, it’s scary, and terribly sad. It’s awful. But our Lord sees every bit of it. None of this goes unnoticed by our Lord. None of the madness, none of the sadness. Every single tear drop that’s shed and every single drop of blood that’s spilled will be answered for.

If our Lord were not angered by evil, if injustice and wrongdoing didn’t make him mad, what kind of God would he be? If he were just going to ignore evil or pretend like it didn’t matter, he wouldn’t be holy and righteous.

Philippians 3 tells us the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel, with the trumpet call of God. He has set a day. And that day is coming.

It might not be today. It might not be tomorrow. I don’t know when it’s going to be. But God is not going to tolerate sin forever. He won’t put up with violence and injustice and unfairness forever. God overlooked all kinds of ignorance in the past, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent. Wicked and evil organizations may have their way for a while. They may kill and cheat and steal for a time. And it may get worse before it gets better. But if they don’t repent, they will pay for every one of their sins.

The resurrection proves that Jesus is the Son of God. The day has been set when he will judge the world. And that judgment will be final.

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RedCrossCarrie-Anne is slowly — very, very, very, very slowly — recovering from her surgery last Wednesday. She’s still really sore, the pain medicine still keeps her somewhat nauseated and dizzy, and her face is still slightly discolored and puffy. But she’s eating more solid food now, she’s talking more, she’s actually walking around the house, and smiling.

Thank you so much to Debbie V., Donna G, Callie Lou, Karen Cooper, and Becky Nordyke for the fabulous meals you’ve delivered to our home. You are dear and cherished friends. And thank all of you for your faithful prayers for my darling wife.

Her follow up appointment is this Thursday afternoon. There’s a chance they remove the two splints from her nasal passages then. We’re hoping so. Her eyes may water for three days afterward, but getting those splints out would be a giant step toward some relief.

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RangersClassicEvery year this decade the Texas Rangers have been in contention, Jon Daniels has made a blockbuster deal or two at the trade deadline to significantly improve the team. Apparently the White Sox were asking too much for pitcher Chris Sale. So JD went out and added a ton of power to his batting order with Beltran and Lucroy, and shored up the bullpen with Jeffress. I would imagine Texas might score more than five runs per game from here on out. It’s possible.

Yes, they gave away a ton of young, talented, minor league pitchers in the deals with Milwaukee and New York, but they’re still just absolutely loaded. Profar and Gallo remain with Texas, Mazara is only 21 years old and Odor is only 22, and the farm system, even after yesterday, is still going to be rated in the top ten in all of baseball. According to Daniels, major league teams inquired about the tradeability of more than 30 Rangers minor leaguers over the past three weeks.

It seems the Rangers have positioned themselves now to capture their fourth division crown in the past seven years. And, if they’re in the same situation this time next season, it looks like they’ll have plenty of talent down on the farm to make the same kind of aggressive, headline-grabbing deals.

Let’s Go, Rangers!
Clap, Clap.
Clap, Clap, Clap.

Allan