Category: Central Church Family (page 2 of 50)

The Scoop for Sunday

This is the video we put out today explaining the plan for reopening Central for public worship this coming Sunday May 31.

I would remind everyone that, regardless of when your church is opening, how they’re opening, and the ways they are leading the opening, everyone is doing the very best they can. This is all brand new to everybody. We’re all doing things we’ve never done before. And it’s not going to be perfect. We all know that going in: the plan is not going to please everybody.

Let’s all err on the side of protecting the vulnerable and loving our community. And let us draw near to God and to one another, in person, finally, with the humility and grace of our Lord Jesus.



A Covid-19 Lament

Our church Communications Director, Hannah McNeill, and I took our church family through a lament exercise on this week’s Central Podcast. We looked at lament from a biblical view point and then walked our congregation through writing a personal lament prayer. I believe lament is the biblical and historical way God’s people have always worked through suffering and injustice. Lament is a holy way to process what’s happening in the world and in our own worlds so as to be both honest with God and honoring of God. It’s a mostly neglected form of prayer that feels especially appropriate and helpful during this season of suffering and loss. You can listen to the podcast here, download the worksheet here, and learn how to write your own psalm of lament. This is the prayer I wrote and shared at the end of the podcast.

Father God, you are the Holy Creator of Heaven and Earth,
you are the giver and sustainer of life;
you are our protection and provision,
you are the healer of all diseases.
You, O God, give life to the dead and call things that are not
as though they are.

So, where are you right now?

How can you allow the older saints among us to suffer so —
those with already debilitating issues,
those with compromised immune systems,
those who already struggle with so much —
how can you allow them to suffer even more with the fears and the realities
of this new virus?

Why are you allowing the socio-economic minorities to bear the brunt of this new disease?
Why do the refugees in the camps,
the orphans in the homes,
and the homeless in the streets
carry the weight of this worldwide pandemic?
Why are the people who need their jobs and the income the most
the only ones losing their jobs and income during this crisis?

How long is this going to last?
Our sons’ graduations have been canceled,
our daughters’ weddings have been postponed,
and our church hasn’t worshiped together in the same room for nine weeks.
Lonely people are lonelier,
sick people are suffering by themselves,
dying people are being buried without songs.
How much longer, O Lord?

This disease is making the division in our country worse, not better.
Our politicians are more on the attack and less willing to compromise
for the sake of the people.
We don’t have any answers.
We don’t know what to do.
We can’t make any decisions. Nothing is stable.
We can’t make any plans. Nothing is certain.
Everything feels out of control and up in the air.
Why do you just stand there, God, and do nothing?

Lord, in your kindness, would you intervene?
God in heaven, would you please do something here on earth?

Heal us, loving Father.
Drive this virus away from your creation, powerful Healer, and give us a break.
Have mercy on us, O God.
Show us your compassion and grace and destroy this disease
that is causing so much heartache and pain.

It is hard to feel your presence, Lord.
It is hard to know that you care.
This doesn’t feel like love.
This doesn’t seem very fair.

Good people are suffering, Father.
Don’t you see them? Don’t you care?

But, God, you are Emmanuel; we know that you are always with us.
We know that you suffer with us and care deeply for every part
of your creation.
We know that you are near.
We know that you listen to our cries for rescue and that you hear
our prayers of petition.
And we know that you care.
You are faithful and good, Father.
You have answered our prayers in the past,
and we know you will answer our prayers today.

Our trust is in you, O Lord.
We see you at work in the middle of our discouragement and despair.
Our society is paying more attention to the vulnerable and the weak,
our culture is celebrating acts of sacrifice and service —
you are the One causing that.

Our hope is in you, O Lord.
You are keeping our church family together
and working in us and through us to bless others.
Orphans in Kenya are sheltered and safe,
students at Bivins Elementary have food,
Amarillo heart doctors have masks,
our city’s needy have meals and money —
you are the One behind that.

Our faith is in you, O Lord.
You have revealed yourself to us in our Savior Jesus Christ,
and our faith is in you.
You have provided everything we have ever needed
and you have promised to provide for us today and forever.

Praise the Lord.

Honk If You Love Jesus!

We are being forced to practice our communal faith as the digital Body of Christ. Right now, for the most part, we are a virtual Body of Christ. And that’s OK. We know in our heads we don’t have to be physically together to be Christians. Our songs are still getting through to God. Our prayers are still being heard. Unimpeded. We know we don’t have to be together in the same physical space to pray. The Bible tells us we don’t even have to say words to pray. Ministry is happening. Worship is happening. And our God is at work in and through all of it. He is loving us, drawing us closer to him, reminding us, encouraging us, challenging us, changing and shaping us more into his image.





We know all these things are happening. God’s holy presence is with us whether we are gathered together inside a church building on Sunday morning or hunkered down by ourselves in our homes. We know this. In our heads.

But in our hearts, something’s not right. It doesn’t feel right.





Christianity is a communal faith. We were created by God to be together. Physically. Incarnationally. Together. Occupying the same space, breathing the same air, sharing the same meal. Christianity is about breaking down the walls that separate us and uniting all people and all things together in Christ. Social distancing with its masks and gloves and six-feet of separation does not feel like church.





Last night we held our first parking lot worship service here at Central. As far as coming together in the same space as a church, this is about as good as we can manage right now. And it’s OK.







We all rolled down our windows, tuned our car radios to the designated FM frequency, sang very familiar songs together, heard very familiar Bible passages, and prayed very familiar prayers. Together. We saw each other’s faces and heard each other’s voices. We lifted our hands to the Lord in praise and toward one another in blessing. And it was sweet. Our oldest saints and our youngest kids and everybody in between honking our horns and flashing our lights. It was so sweet.





My family and I worshiped together inside the truck. To our immediate left, Suzanne Couch making jokes about me being a televangelist and Mary Merchant singing “It Is Well” through her oxygen tube. To our immediate right, John Todd and Kami Cornett, dealing with their own health issues and business worries, singing “Blessed Assurance,” and nodding affirmatively while listening to Hebrews 10. Directly behind us, Steve and Becky Nordyke, selfless servants of our Lord, great Bible class buddies, loyal covenant group partners, unbelievable sources of continuous encouragement, and priceless friends, smiling and singing and waving.






In my truck and on the stage and in a lot of the cars around us, people lost it while we raised our hands to each other singing “I Love You with the Love of the Lord.” When we began blessing each other in unison with the words from Romans 15:13 — “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit” — it broke down after about the fourth word. Lots of us got really emotional about hearing each other’s voices together like that. It’s been a while.




Our city is under attack by this virus right now. The CDC has set up shop at the fairgrounds and it feels like it’s going to get a little worse now before it gets better. We’re still targeting May 31 for a return to public, in-person worship assemblies at Central but, even then, not everybody will be able to participate. For several more weeks, we’re still going to be mostly a digital Body of Christ. A virtual congregation of God’s people. But we are always together in Christ. By God’s grace, we are always together in him.



Good Morning, Church!

This video is among the many things we’ve done in an attempt to keep our church connected and communicating during this Covid mess. We asked our church family to send these in, our worship minister, Kevin Schaffer, edited it into one nice piece, and we showed it at the beginning of our online service this past Sunday.

Light at the End of the Month

I was scheduled to wake up this morning in a hotel room in Los Angeles, California. The Cubs were playing the Dodgers last night at Chavez Ravine and Greg and I were supposed to be there. We were flying to LA for the game and then heading up the Pacific Coast Highway this morning to Malibu for fresh seafood and the annual Pepperdine Lectures. But… Covid.

This weekend when I turned my desk calendar over from April to May, the new page greeted me with a discouraging litany of crossed out programs and important events — some postponements, mostly cancellations.  May is always a busy month but, good grief, my May was packed.

Cubs and Dodgers. Pepperdine. Senior Sunday. 5th Grade Blessing. KU graduation. A week of family vacation leading up to our daughter Valerie’s wedding. The trip to Israel. But… Covid.

I’m hoping May 31 happens. That’s the Sunday morning we’re planning to reopen our Sunday morning worship assemblies here at Central. There will be plenty of restrictions and guidelines to follow that day. We’re asking those in the at-risk categories to stay home and those who come to wear masks and practice social distancing. These will be temporary arrangements during this transition phase of getting our church family back to whatever we remember as “normal.” But it’s going to be a very important day for all of us.

Of course, we’ve got to get there first.

Our city of Amarillo is right now one of the hottest spots in the country for community spread of the Covid-19 virus. The virus is concentrated in the meat-packing plants here and in nearby Moore County (Dumas) and it’s spreading. The numbers of positive cases keep going up and the anxiety here locally and regionally isn’t going down. Governor Abbott has ordered the re-opening of the state of Texas and Carrie-Anne and the girls and I have dined-in at both Rosa’s and Cheddar’s since Saturday. But most everybody is still very uneasy about things up here.

Governor Abbott and Vice-President Pence have sent what they’re calling a Federal Covid-19 Task Force to Amarillo. They’re setting up operations at the Tri-State Fairgounds today to increase our testing here and to work out some strategies for the packing plants. The increased testing means our numbers are going to go way up before the end of the week. The hospitalization rate will certainly go down, the number of critical-care beds and ventilators available might remain the same, but all the positive test results are going to upset a lot of people. It’s going to to get a little worse here before it gets better.

We’re doing what we can here as a church. Prayer parades and parking lot worship, Bible classes and covenant groups on Zoom, livestreamed Word & Prayer sessions and podcasts — we’re trying almost anything to keep our church family connected and communicating during this strange time. And it’s fine. It’s actually going pretty well.

But I’ve got Sunday May 31 circled in red on my calendar. I can’t wait to see everybody in person. I can’t wait to worship God together in the same room in person. In person. In person. It’ll be better than a Dodger Dog in LA.



No Nutritional Value

The Central Church podcast has taken a delicious turn with the latest episode breaking down a college basketball-style bracket of Little Debbie Snack Cakes. If you’ve ever wondered about the merits of Zebra Cakes and Oatmeal Cream Pies versus the qualities of Nutty Buddy Bars and Swiss Rolls, this is the 29-minute podcast for you.

Our Associate Minister, Greg Dowell, found the bracket somewhere on the internet — I have no idea who actually put these sixteen Little Debbie snacks together and seeded them the way they are. We passed the brackets out at our Parade of Prayer Wednesday and asked folks to fill them out in competition with others in their households or online with their friends, and then tune into the podcast for our hot takes on the snack cakes and the results. They could then score their brackets at home and compare them with others, make outrageous wagers — whatever.

During the podcast, Greg and I disagreed on the winners in a few of the key matchups. It was a collaborative bracket so we both had to compromise here and there to make it work. For the record, I would always choose Zebra Cakes over Oatmeal Cream Pies. I know the Oatmeal Cream Pies are an established American tradition, I know it’s a classic. And I do appreciate the Oatmeal Cream Pie’s contributions down through the years. But, to me, it’s like the Dallas Cowboys — it’s been 25 years already! Forget your heart, get past your nostalgia, what do you pick right now today? Zebra Cakes!

I would also go with the Christmas Trees over the Nutty Buddy Bars. I appreciate the versatility of the Nutty Buddy. It’s light, it’s just the right amount of peanut butter and chocolate, it’s got sustenance, it’ll maybe even substitute for a meal in a pinch — I get it. But for a guilty pleasure with red and green glitter on top, I’ll take the Christmas Tree cakes.

In my own personal bracket, those two calls lead to a Championship Matchup between Zebra Cakes and Swiss Rolls. That seems like an impossible choice to make, doesn’t it? How do you do this? The moist vanilla cake with the cream filling and white icing with thin chocolate stripes versus the moist chocolate cake with the cream filling and the perfectly thin layer of chocolate on the outside? The Swiss Rolls always leave those little strips of chocolate on the wax cardboard, a little bonus of delight that you can peel off with your fingers or scrape off with your teeth. The Zebra Cakes, though, contain more bites and they’re lighter. Fluffy, almost. Impossible!

That’s why Little Debbie invented the Zebra Cake Rolls. 

God bless America.




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