Category: Central Church Family (Page 1 of 53)

Holy Land Recap

It took fifteen years and a little peer pressure from her new friends in Midland, but my wife Carrie-Anne finally went with me to Israel and it was a blessing that defies description. Our youngest daughter, Carley, accompanied us along with 23 beautiful Christian friends from Midland, Amarillo, Henrietta, Fort Worth, California, and Hawai’i. What a thrill, personally, to share my love of the Holy Lands with Carrie-Anne and Carley, to show them the places that mean so much to me, to experience it in brand new ways through their eyes.







Carley endured the twelve-hour flight from JFK to Tel Aviv with earplugs, an eye mask, and an old Nike hoodie pulled together around her face. But once we arrived, she was all in. She would give our trusted guide Anton about 25-seconds at each site and then she’d be off with her camera, climbing the walls, going behind the ropes, breaking international laws. She never was as interested in what was happening as she was in what else might be happening. And her mood was a little too dependent on the kind of food that was available. So we were all much better off as a group when we found real Dr Pepper at that store in Jerusalem’s Christian Quarter (where else?) and that delicious Papa De Pizza. Carley marveled at Caesarea on the Sea, hiked the ancient Serpent Path to the top of Masada, took the obligatory picture with an IDF soldier, climbed all those steps to the top of the tell at Beth Sha’an, and ate a lot of Slim Jims. We laughed a lot. We watched a generational storm together on the Sea of Galilee. And she read the Christ hymn aloud while we worshiped on the banks of the Jordan River.







I was a little worried about Carrie-Anne. She doesn’t like to sweat. Which is to say, she doesn’t like to be outside when it’s 73-degrees or hotter. And her hair requires an abundance of preparation and maintenance. But she did it. And I love her for it. She floated the Dead Sea, waded through Hezekiah’s Tunnel, and tried falafel. Once. We sang “It Is Well”  together at St. Anne’s Church next to the Pools of Bethesda and wiped the tears from each other’s faces when we were through. She was disgusted by the garbage at the Tomb of the Patriarchs and enthralled by the view of Jerusalem from the Mount of Olives. And she helped keep me organized and calm.

Carrie-Anne reminds me how to worship. And how to relax. And how to love Jesus. She is my partner. She reminds me how to receive and give the Lord’s grace. And I praise God that we finally did this together.






Doug never let up in his enthusiasm for the water and for the climb. Penny made sure we stopped at every single restroom from Dan to Beersheba. Elaine from Hawai’i brought the Macadamia nuts. Dale made sure we didn’t lose anybody. We never even lost Andy, whose motto must be: a picture is worth a thousand words and ten more minutes of everybody’s time. Betsey took a licking and kept on ticking, twisting her ankle and banging her leg up at Dan, but trudging on with grit and determination. Shelley never got her hair wet. Never. Kyle kept reminding us of the Scriptures and the Story. Kara showed us the kind of guts it takes to climb the Snake Path to Masada. Joe and Sara inspired us with their obvious love for each other and the Lord. Gary kept us laughing. Hans became everybody’s favorite fellow-tourist, within about two minutes of meeting him. Martha brightened the bus and every site with her gracious smile. Nanette showed extreme patience while we kept mispronouncing her name. DeAnn rode that camel as well as Kyle rides a horse. Gaye broke her foot the day before we left, but that boot didn’t slow her down at all; it just added a degree of difficulty to all her costume changes.

And Elaine was Elaine. As always, my dear ministry partner wisely and faithfully handled the schedules, the hotels, the keys, the tips, the luggage, the communion meal, the meetings, the brochure, the reservations, the COVID protocols, the questions, and the preacher. For ten years Elaine was at my side in Amarillo, keeping me from blowing my leg off, reminding me of names and dates, bailing me out of trouble, managing my impulsive behavior, and deserving so much more credit than she ever received. I miss her terribly and appreciate her very much. It was so much fun going to Israel with her again.







More than a couple of times, Anton told us that no tour group does more than we do in ten days. Kyle counted up at least 41 different sites we explored together, from Dan and Caesarea Philippi to En Gedi and Jerusalem and Jericho and Nazareth. We prayed at the Western Wall, recited the Apostles’ Creed in the Jordan River, sang at the Garden of Gethsemane, and ate more than our share of ice cream and shwarma,






Every paragraph of Holy Scripture contains geography, landscape, architecture, people, food, customs, dress, animals, agriculture, and ritual that serve to communicate the history and fact of our God and his activity in our world. And now we’ve been immersed in it – physically, emotionally, spiritually. We’ve explored the sights, sounds, smells, and tastes first-hand. We’ve embraced the story of our Lord’s faithful love as it swells and deepens to penetrate our hearts and souls in brand new ways.

And I can’t wait to go back.

We’re doing it again in November 2024. We’ll start taking reservations in October 2023.



The Whole Blame Bunch

The whole covenant group from Amarillo came down to Midland this weekend to cheer on our own Evie Granado as she dominated at another regional gymnastics competition: three events, three gold medals. We’ve watched Evie, who remarkably turned ten-years-old last month, compete several times, and it’s always the same: three events, three gold medals. The next time we convene to support her at an event, we should all wear T-shirts that say “Three Events, Three Gold Medals.”

Evie is the one who brought us together this weekend, but our Lord is the one who originally put us together ten years ago. And I am so thankful to God. Those people in that picture up there are a rich, deep, eternal source of love and encouragement and support for Carrie-Anne and me and our family. We’ve been together through so much, mostly in each other’s homes, mostly on Sunday nights, but also for holidays, baseball trips, movies, kids’ and grandkids’ events, a couple of weddings, and a few dogs.

Those people up there? We’ve prayed the Psalms with those people. We’ve shared countless communion meals together. We’ve served breakfast and comforted strangers at the League House together. We have fasted together. We’ve done Maundy Thursday and Gifted to Go and Crocktoberfest and Bible class and Missions Month together. There are songs we sing in church that cause us to look at each other across the worship center. Yeah, these are those people for us. When our daughter Valerie got married two summers ago, she had these people escorted in like family, to sit right behind the parents and grandparents. Yeah. That’s who these people are.

We were so blessed by God to have them with us yesterday for worship at our new home at the Golf Course Road Church – two pews full of some of the greatest blessings in my life. I worshiped  God yesterday with Steve’s tenor in my ear and Dale’s resounding bass just to my left. When we dismissed the kids to children’s worship, Evie didn’t leave, but she did reach across three people to grab my hand and share our secret handshake we invented when she used to walk by our row on her way to kid’s worship at Central. They were all smiling as I began the sermon and I couldn’t make eye contact with any of them again until it was over. After church and during lunch, they affirmed how much they missed us at Central and, at the same time, how obvious it is that we belong now at GCR.

Oh, man, we miss this bunch. Those people up there are a huge part of our lives and a big reason our faith is so strong in the way our God works in and through his children.

We had decided to eat at Ray’s Italian Bistro after church. As I walked out of the building into a mostly empty church parking lot, I received a text from Carrie-Anne that they were already there and had ordered my iced tea. I got in my truck and started to pull away when I noticed  Steve and Becky just coming out of the church building. I thought for a second that maybe Steve was turning off the lights and locking the doors, something he would do if it looked like it needed to be done. No, Becky had met two visitors, talked with them for a while, made a couple of connections, and they told her they would be back next Sunday. That’s Steve and Becky. That’s these people we love so much.




Our great friends Dale and Karen made it out here to Midland Monday night and it just absolutely made our whole week! We spent six years together with the Coopers in our covenant group at the Central church and they have been a vital part of our family for even longer than that. Surrogate grandparents to our three daughters and an inexhaustible source of strength and encouragement for Carrie-Anne and me, Dale and Karen are two of the kindest and most generous people we’ve ever known.

We didn’t have much time – they were only here in town for a few hours – but we managed to eat a mountain of onion rings and fried catfish at Clear Spring and catch up on our kids, our churches, our jobs, and Dale’s recent retirement. We reminisced about those early covenant group meetings in which we cried and prayed together around our dining room table, serving breakfast and praying with the residents at League House on those monthly Saturday mornings, climbing up and down Masada together on our trips to Israel, building the arch for Valerie’s wedding, chicken-and-dog-and-house-sitting while they went on another rock-and-roll cruise, Dale’s over-the-top July 4th fireworks extravaganzas, and baseball. Lots of baseball. We stayed up talking and laughing Monday night as long as we could, until we started to fall asleep on the couches.

And we set plans to spend the weekend of March 4-6 together when our sticky buddy, Evie Granado, comes to West Texas to dominate everybody’s faces. Can’t wait.



With Evie in Lubbock

Our favorite gymnast was competing in Lubbock Friday night, so Carrie-Anne and I made the quick drive up to watch her completely annihilate the competition in three different events. Evie Granado is our sticky buddy from our time at the Central church in Amarillo and she absolutely dominates her age group and even those above her in every single category of tumbling and gymnastics. Friday it was tumbling, trampoline, and some kind of vault thing. Three events, three gold medals. That’s Evie.

It was so great to get caught up with Andrew and Stephanie while we cheered for their sweet daughter. Lonnie and Debra were also there, as expected. But Paul and Kristin Brown also showed up with their young son Michael, a very pleasant surprise and a reunion of half of our covenant group in Amarillo.

Keep your eye open for Evie. She’s a nine-year-old fourth grader and she rules. Carrie-Anne and I are making sure we stay on the Evie Granado train. Thank you to all the Granados for allowing us to intrude and root on your dynamo daughter and granddaughter.

Keep killin’ it, Evie. We’re looking forward to seeing you compete/dominate here in Midland in March!



Doing What Jesus Did

Five years ago I was privileged to spend ten days in Israel with Millie Burgett. It was a bucket list trip for Millie, a once in a lifetime deal. As a military wife, Millie had traveled all over the world. She had lived in England and Germany, in California and Hawaii; she had been to Italy and Pompeii. But she had never been to Israel and she just had to go. She wanted to walk where Jesus walked. She wanted to see what Jesus saw. I’ve got the notes I took during our pre-trip meetings. Millie said she wanted to experience what our Lord Jesus experienced.

So we celebrated Millie’s 80th birthday on a boat in the middle of the Sea of Galilee. We sang Happy Birthday together. And How Great Thou Art. And It Is Well.

We walked all over the Holy Lands together and this thin, frail 80-year-old woman never missed a step. She was all into this thing with everything she had. She was following in the footsteps of Jesus.

Millie wanted to be baptized in the Jordan River. Our plan was to worship on the banks of the Jordan on Sunday and enjoy a communion meal and picnic lunch. But Millie wanted to be baptized. We talked about it in the weeks leading up to the trip and even the night before in the hotel in Tiberias. “You’re a faithful, lifelong Christian. You’ve already been baptized. You don’t need to be baptized again. Why do you want to be baptized in the Jordan River?”

Millie said, “I want to do what Jesus did.”

And she did. Not just that Sunday morning in Israel. Every day in every way for 85 years, Millie did what Jesus did.

Millie was the troop leader every single year her three daughters were in Girl Scouts. She did all the campouts and took all the trips, starting the fires, setting up the tents, organizing the meetings, and selling the cookies. And making sure every single girl felt included and that she belonged.

Millie sewed almost everything her girls wore: dresses and skirts, blouses and shirts. She made prom dresses and wedding dresses, the fancier the better, not just for her daughters, but for anybody who needed a dress.

She made coffee every day, sometimes two or three times a day, so she’d always have a fresh cup to offer a neighbor who dropped in or a friend who stopped by.

If she found out you liked books, she’d buy you all the latest authors and read the same books you were reading so you could talk about them together. If she found out you were into the movies, she’d wipe out the five-dollar bin at WalMart and flood you with sacks of DVDs. Those kinds of gifts are intentional. They prove that she’s paying attention to you, that she really knows you and loves you and wants to connect with you.

When her son, Jeff, told a friend last week that his mom had died, this guy told Jeff that Millie always made him feel like part of their family. When I asked Jeff’s wife, Brenda, what it was like to have Millie as a mother-in-law, Brenda responded, “Mother in law? Millie became my mom.”

With Millie, it’s an intentional, unconditional love. Just like our Lord’s unconditional love. A love without limits. A boundless interest in the well-being of others ahead of her own. Just like Jesus. Just like our Lord who came to this earth to unite all people together into one universal family in him. Just like Jesus who lived and died to tear down the walls that separate us, Millie was willing and eager to do whatever it takes, to move heaven and earth, to bring everybody together.

You could really see it in the passion she developed for genealogy. All those family reunions in Floydada. All those relatives looking forward to seeing Millie’s charts and diagrams. Millie wants to point out all the connections. She wants everybody to know how we’re related.

She helps the Daughters of the American Revolution with their certifications. She’s calling courthouses, writing letters to lawmakers and libraries. She gets really excited about finding a new line, discovering some new connection that proves somebody else belongs.

When a new group of immigrants passes the test and receives their U.S. citizenship, Millie is there for the ceremony. She doesn’t know these people at all, but she’s there celebrating with them, encouraging them, making them feel welcome.

I feel so blessed to have spent those ten days in Israel with Millie. I witnessed her generosity and hospitality first hand. I experienced it, I received it from her gracious heart. She spent those ten days buying stuff for everybody. She bought gifts for everybody at almost every stop. She took in every moment of that trip. She soaked it in, she lived it. Walking where Jesus walked. Seeing what Jesus saw. We were talking together on the bus during one of those days when she told me that I could be her son for the rest of the trip. That’s classic Millie. Making sure I felt like I was part of her family, even on the other side of the world. Doing what Jesus did. All the time.

Millie Burgett passed from this life to the next on Wednesday. Loved and cherished by our God, forgiven and redeemed by the blood of Jesus, and filled to overflowing with the Holy Spirit of our Lord.

Her passing leaves a heavy void that we’re all going to feel for a long time. But she’s also left a lasting legacy: a brilliant and shining example of a life well-lived in connection with Christ and with all his people, all together in Millie’s family.

May we remember in Millie the ways her love and generosity and hospitality reflect the glory of our Lord. May we encourage Elaine and Jeff and their whole family by reminding them often how much Millie impacted our lives. May our gracious God bless Millie’s family with his divine comfort and peace. And may God receive his servant into this faithful arms.



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