Central Church Family, Ministry No Comments »

Central Church of Christ was named Outstanding School Partner at last night’s Amarillo School District Partners in Education Banquet at the downtown civic center. Of the 26 nominees — churches, rotary clubs, foundations, etc., — Central was recognized as tops for our on-going partnership with Bivins Elementary.

Our children’s minister, Mary McNeill, accepted the award along with Connie Crawford and our daughter, Whitney. Those three are very familiar faces in the hallways of Bivins as they deliver Snack Pak 4 Kids every Thursday. I was more or less forced to join them on the stage last night for the picture. But I made it clear to everyone that these ladies do all the work; I just sit back and applaud.

I’m very proud of Central for what we do with Bivins. Seventy-three percent of the students there are classified as economically disadvantaged. A lot of these kids are in foster homes, domestic violence shelters, and other temporary living conditions. Our church has stepped in every year with thanksgiving dinners, an annual school supplies drive, and summer painting projects. But now our Ignite Initiative is providing Bivins with more than $20,000 worth of equipment and supplies for their music and P.E. departments, desks for special needs students, and updates for their computer lab. Central volunteers are starting to serve next week as crossing guards, lunchroom and playground buddies, and Bivins Bucks store cashiers.

We believe that our God in Christ Jesus is redeeming this whole world. He is actively restoring everything back to its Garden of Eden perfection. And we are honored to partner with our Lord in providing these 550 students and their families with the necessities they need to level the playing field as they make their way in this world. To serve this nearby school in the name and manner of Jesus is our great privilege. To lean into his glorious future and reclaim this part of our city for his glory is a blessing. To be recognized by A.I.S.D. is pretty cool, too.



Palm Sunday at Central

Central Church Family, Delta Gamma Sigma, Jesus, Psalms, Salvation, Valerie No Comments »

We celebrated Palm Sunday at Central with palm branches and prayers, songs of praise and times for reflection, the sacred meal and the Holy Word.

We attempted to capture the enthusiasm and expectation of that day when our Lord Jesus rode that donkey into the Holy City, surrounded on every side by throngs of cheering followers. The people of Israel were looking for a king. They were expecting a divine liberator, a deliverer sent by God to free them from the yoke of the Romans. They were praying for a Messiah who would save them and restore the throne of David back to Israel and establish the Kingdom of God right there in that land. The prophets had spoken about that day and it looked like for all the world that long-anticipated day had finally come.

Jesus is that promised Messiah! Jesus is our King sent by God, empowered by God to save us! All the signs are there! He’s healing people, he’s teaching the Law, he’s raising people from the dead, and feeding people in the desert! These are the signs the prophets told us about! God is saving us!

All this energy. All this excitement.

Our great-grandparents always told us about this day, and now it’s finally here! Our synagogue teachers have been reading to us about this day for generations, and now it’s come! We’ve been praying to God about this day for as long as we can remember and, praise God, he’s allowed us to live long enough to see it!

That’s us. That crowd of disciples, walking with Jesus on his way to the Holy City — that’s us.

Jesus is our King. We know Jesus is sent by God, he’s empowered by God’s Spirit — we know he IS God! And he is saving us.

And like those Israelites then, we long for the day when our King returns to completely and fully restore the Kingdom of God in our land — right here in Amarillo! We praise God for the salvation he delivers in our Messiah Jesus. The “hosannas” are on our lips today as we recognize that salvation for us and for the whole world.

May our God bless us during this Holy Week to faithfully remember and reflect on our Lord’s triumphal entry into Jerusalem and the events of those last days before his loving and history-changing sacrifice.

“Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!”



Valerie helped design a sweatshirt for the 21 female students at Oklahoma Christian University whose dads belonged to Delta Gamma Sigma. They’ve had an informal fellowship for most of the school year; now they have a formal sweatshirt. You’ll recognize Val on the far right in this picture. On the far left is Kenzie Minor, whose dad, Shawn, was a Delta freshman my senior year. The young lady in the middle is Savannah McMillon, whose dad, Jeff, was a great friend of mine, two years my senior, a Delta vice-president, and current OC Bible professor.

Good looking kids, huh? But then, again, everybody looks good in maroon and gold.



Ignite for Gratitude House

Central Church Family No Comments »

It was our tremendous honor as a ministry staff this morning to represent Central and present a $25,000 check to Gratitude House. As part of our two-year Ignite Initiative, we’re going into deeper partnership with five local organizations who are already doing great Gospel work in our immediate downtown Amarillo neighborhood. Gratitude House is a transitional-housing program for women coming out of addiction and/or abusive situations, providing apartments, counseling, social work assistance, education, and child-care.

These funds from Central will pay for the counseling so desperately needed by the thirty women at Gratitude House, including general counseling and chemical dependency counseling, for the rest of this calendar year. Where it’s appropriate, the money will also fund education and transportation for these ladies. As we’ve been telling our church, we’re not in this thing for a one-time handout — we really want to partner with our Lord and Gratitude House to change lives. We want to join in the work of positively shifting the trajectory for whole generations of men and women. Gratitude House walks side by side with the ladies and their kids as they make the move from substance abuse and addiction recovery programs to living on their own. And we are so privileged to be a part of it!

In addition to the money, Central is sending six mentors who will provide friendship and support for these women, a group of men to paint the newly-rebuilt porches on six or seven of the apartments, and another group to change out a dozen exterior light fixtures.

Diann Gilmore and Donna and the others at Gratitude House received us so gratefully this morning. Our time of prayer and mutual blessing together was beautiful. And she’s asked me to pass her thanksgiving on to everybody at Central. So, Central, consider yourselves thanked and appreciated and official co-laborers in the Kingdom with Gratitude House.


Never mind that the Rangers were blowing a 5-1 lead, giving up seven unanswered runs last night to lose their season opener during the first half of the NCAA Championship Game. North Carolina’s win over Gonzaga gave Mary the points she needed to leap past me into first place in our Central Staff office pool. Congratulations to Mary. Sort of. She gets the free lunch and a dessert at our next staff outing later this month. Tanner and Vickie tied for third. Mark finished dead last. Again. We stopped buying lunch for the last place finisher once Mark finished last three years in a row.



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.


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.



Ignite for Bivins Elementary

Central Church Family, Ministry No Comments »

Four weeks now into our Ignite Initiative here at Central and I am so proud of and so grateful for our church’s great generosity and faith in what our God is doing in us and through us for his Kingdom. The early response has been almost overwhelming — the Lord has blessed us with a ton of money up front! And that has allowed us to start immediately with our top priority ministry partnerships.

This week we are spending a little more than $20,000 to purchase some much needed equipment and supplies for Bivins Elementary School. We are providing twenty desks for special needs students, replacing worn out or missing equipment for the Music and P.E. departments, upgrading the school’s computer lab, and creating a “Maker Space” for interactive learning.

In addition, we’re looking for a few volunteers to commit to spending one or two hours per week at Bivins from now through the end of the school year in May. If you can help kids cross the street, open up a juice box, or supervise a game of freeze-tag, we need you.

That volunteer component is really the most important part of what we’re doing with Ignite. It’s much easier to write checks than to commit the time and energy necessary to do incarnational ministry — we need both. All five of these local ministry organizations are telling us they need people to be a Gospel presence for the people they’re serving. They need our members to be part of the fabric of their support. The kids at Bivins, those ladies at Martha’s home and Gratitude House, the families at CareNet, and the men and women at The PARC — most of them have never experienced the love and encouragement and support that you and I probably take for granted. That’s what they need the most.

This is exciting! Bivins Elementary is giving us access to their kids and families we’ve never had before. It may be unprecedented for a school to give a church this kind of leeway. It might be illegal! How fun is this?!?

If you want more details on what we’re doing together with Bivins Elementary, click here.

The idea is to change lives in the name and manner of Jesus, to make a deep and significant impact on the families all around us, to change the trajectory of generations of men and women in our city. If they think buying a glockenspiel will positively impact the children at Bivins, then we’re going to buy four! Two large and two small glockenspiels! Done!



Gone to Pot

Central Church Family 1 Comment »

Someone in our community discarded these three items next to our church dumpster. They placed them just like you see them here, organized in this neat little row, in plain view of everybody who parks on the south side of our building. Linda Purdy asked me if I was starting a new sermon series on First, Second, and Third John. Funny.