Category: College Basketball (Page 1 of 2)

Does It Feel Wet Outside?

Scattershooting while wondering whatever happened to Ralph Strangis…

All our church ministers and staff, all the Opportunity Tribe kids, and the Mission Agape folks just spent an hour or so enjoying the eclipse together. We chewed Eclipse brand gum, ate lots of Oreos (Ryan concocted some far-fetched eclipse connection), and generally cracked eclipse jokes, made fun of each other, and laughed the whole time. Kim brought out her mystical Mayan stone, Pam produced an impressive array of shadow-casting kitchen utensils and disco balls, and Jim asked several times when it was appropriate to leave an eclipse party and not seem rude. J.E. wanted us to change into our Nikes and track suits (at times, it did look like we were all waiting to be lifted away), we all overplayed the darkness and cool down factor, and at one point Dan asked if it felt “wet” outside. I must have heard and/or overheard fourteen explanations of refraction and at least that many descriptions of how this eclipse is or is not similar to what we experienced back in October.

Some of us were disappointed that the dogs didn’t speak in tongues and no birds dive-bombed the parking lot. Turns out the animals don’t really freak out as much as the humans.


The NCAA men’s basketball tournament concludes tonight, but Carrie-Anne clinched our family bracket Saturday when UConn took down Alabama to advance to the Final. As soon as the clock hit 0:00 on that game, C-A sent her little victory bitmoji through our family text, much to almost everyone’s delight. If UConn wins tonight, Whitney will finish in second place. If it’s Purdue, then Valerie’s husband David takes the silver. I need Purdue to win just so I won’t come in last. My March Sadness began weeks ago.

As for our office bracket here at GCR, if UConn wins, Tim and Cory will finish 1-2. If Purdue wins the title, Kristin takes our office contest and J.E. comes in second.


We have turned MidWeek into MixWeek at GCR by combining all our Wednesday night kids programs, youth worship, and adult classes into one big “Running the Race” series. We kicked it off last Wednesday with GCR Olympics, featuring a massive Rock-Paper-Scissors tournament and an egg-throwing contest. The young people led our church in worship–we sang their songs their way– and then we spent 30-minutes or so mixing it up together with the games.

The idea this past Wednesday was to partner up with someone at least 20 years older or 20 years younger and compete against other similar pairs. By the end of the Rock-Paper-Scissors tournament, we had half the church on one side of the gym and the other half on the other side, all cheering for their representative in the final match. Same deal with the egg-toss. Then we gave out medals and ate popsicles together.








This week, the young people will again lead us in worship, and then we’re going to spend 30-minutes or so in some formative Christian practices. We’ll have nine or ten prayer stations and Scripture stations in and around the Worship Center–some ancient practices and some brand new ways to engage God together in Word and Prayer.

The overarching goal is to intentionally put our children in front of our older adults and for our older adults to pour into our children so we can all learn what God wants us to learn from each other. We are putting ourselves in situations with our church’s children so God can teach us what we need to learn and change in us what needs to be changed to become more like them. And more like him.


I’m not going to write anything about the Rangers. Not yet. Out of the gate, they look like they’re going to be an even better team than they were last year. But I don’t want to jinx anything. For now, I’m putting all my energies into the Stars and their promising Stanley Cup pursuits. Lankford can keep hitting 100-mile-per-hour lasers off his bat, the Rangers can keep averaging seven runs per game, and Bochy can keep whispering into his bullpen. I’m not going to say anything about it yet. Go Stars.


Over the Christmas break, I bought a two-dollar Whoopee cushion with the four-million tickets we collected during a family trip to Cinergy. Now Whitney is pressing the cushion every time a player misses a free throw during the NCAA tournament. Every game. Every miss. “Pppphhhhrrrrrppphhhh!!” It makes me giggle. It makes Whitney laugh so hard she can’t breathe. It wears Carrie-Anne plumb out.




Scattershooting on Opening Day

Scattershooting while wondering whatever happened to Hank Blalock.

Today is Opening Day! And for the first time in the history of baseball, the Texas Rangers are the defending World Series Champions! It still feels weird and wonderful to write that sentence. Now, how do we do this? What does Opening Day look like when you’re the World Series Champs? For starters, the game begins at 6:35pm instead of the 3:00pm first pitch that was announced when the season schedules were released, and it’s being broadcast on ESPN for the national prime time audience. Usually, I’m taking off work right after lunch on Opening Day to watch the season’s first game. So, that’s a new wrinkle.

Plus, there’s the additional matter of raising the World Series Championship banner at Globe Life Field. That happens at 6:00pm and ESPN’s Baseball Tonight is covering all the ceremonies live. It’s all wonderful and glorious and beautiful in a million ways.

But it’s also complicated.

Today is Maundy Thursday, the day God’s people traditionally gather to remember our Lord’s last supper the night he was betrayed. This is the worship event in which we share the meal with other Christians and remember our Lord’s commands on that evening to love one another just as he loves us. The 4Midland churches are meeting at First Presbyterian tonight, all four of our congregations–GCR, First Baptist, First Methodist, and First Pres–to sing and pray and celebrate communion together.

My plan is to set the DVR to record all the Rangers’ banner-raising festivities and the opener against the Cubs. We’ll start the game once we get home at about 8:00pm. That puts us behind the live action by about an hour and a half, which means it will be almost impossible to flip to the March Madness during commercials. I blame the commissioner of baseball. Or Satan. We were all going to be worshiping tonight with our brothers and sisters at First Pres. It’s baseball that scheduled Opening Day on top of it.

We’re all suffering.


Speaking of March Madness, my bracket is not doing well. I lost Baylor as a Final Four team on Sunday and I’m struggling. I said in this space last week that I would not be counting Carley’s dog’s entry into our family pool. Well, I am counting him as a full participant now, just so I don’t finish in last place. Val and Whitney are neck and neck for the lead heading into the Sweet 16. As for the church office pool, I’m right in the middle of things, almost as close to last place as I am to first. Jadyn is leading the pack right now, with Tim right on her heels.


Carrie-Anne and I spent last night with our GCR Youth Group, planning the summer, playing some crazy party games, worshiping and praying together, and meeting our awesome summer interns Avery and Chloe. When it was over, everybody gathered outside to check out the brand new church vans! We’ve been needingĀ  **ahem** more reliable transportation for a while now, and these new super-tall, super-wide, 15-passenger vans do fit the bill. I don’t know if the vans will spur anyone to sign up for mission trips or camps but, according to the reactions last night, it’s not going to hurt.


Back to the Rangers, they have now joined the 18 other MLB teams with corporate sponsorship patches on their uniform sleeves. I do hate this. It’s so bush-league, so cheesy. Energy Transfer’s logo is on all six of the Rangers jerseys for all 162 of their games, plus playoffs. Energy Transfer? Yes, according to reports, the Dallas-based energy infrastructure company. It doesn’t get more corporate than that. I understand that Energy Transfer was founded by Rangers owner Ray Davis back in the ’90s, but if you’re the Texas Rangers and you’re going to wear a company’s logo on your sleeve, shouldn’t it be a recognized and beloved state brand? Did they even ask Dr Pepper or Whataburger? What’s wrong with 7-11? Dairy Queen feels perfect. I do hate this.


The Rangers have whiffed big even before they faced a single Chicago pitcher. I do not understand why they let Jordan Montgomery sign with the D-Backs in free agency. It’s a one-year, $25-million deal with Arizona when he claimed he wanted to stay in Arlington. You can’t ever lose with a one-year contract. How did the Rangers not get this done?

I cannot wait to watch Evan Carter and Wyatt Langford playing together in the same Rangers outfield. Carter is technically a rookie, since he wasn’t called up until after Labor Day last season. So it’s possible–dare I say likely–that Carter and Langford finish 1-2 for MLB Rookie of the Year. Carter, Langford, and Adolis Garcia give Texas the best outfield in the majors. Tons of range, power hitting, and cannons attached to their shoulders.

Nasty Nate Eovaldi on the hill. Bruce Bochy in the dugout. A World Series championship banner flying above the stadium. The Texas Rangers begin their defense of their World Series title tonight. Let’s run it back, boys! Let’s repeat!

Let’s Go Rangers!
Clap! Clap! Clap! Clap! Clap!


An Unending Love

I came across this poem about three weeks ago and have read it out loud and talked to the Lord about it several times since then. It’s written by Rabbi Rami Shapiro and has been a source of deep blessing for me lately. I hope it will be for you, too.

We are loved by an unending love.

We are embraced by arms that find us even when we are hidden from ourselves.
We are touched by fingers that soothe us even when we are too proud for soothing.
We are counseled by voices that guide us even when we are too embittered to hear.

We are loved by an unending love.

We are supported by hands that uplift us even in the midst of a fall.
We are urged on by eyes that meet us even when we are too weak for meeting.

We are loved by an unending love.

Embraced, touched, soothed, and counseled,
ours are the arms, the fingers, the voices;
ours are the hands, the eyes, the smiles.

We are loved by an unending love.


March Madness begins today and that means keeping up with the seven brackets in our annual family contest. Seven. Not eight. Carley entered a bracket for their dog that selected every school with a canine/wolf mascot, but I’m not keeping up with it. I’ve got Houston, Baylor, Creighton, and UConn in the Final Four with Cougar High beating the Huskies for the national title. I’m fine with losing to Collin or David. I could even get over it if Whitney scores better than me. But if I lose to the dog, I’ll never fill out another bracket again.



Servants FOR the Church

I have completed my March Madness bracket in preparation for the most glorious two-and-a-half weeks in sports. I’ve got NC State upsetting Baylor in the second round and Penn State doing the same thing to A&M. I’ve got Texas losing to Houston in the Midwest Regional Final and TCU going all the way to the West Regional Final and losing to UConn. I’m picking Arizona and Duke to join Houston and UConn in the Final Four with Cougar High beating Zona for the championship. Those are my picks. And I am less confident in them as I have ever been.


As we prepare to select additional shepherds at our church at GCR, let’s discuss some of our expectations as church members. Deep inside our bones, all of us are free-enterprise, open-market, individualistic consumers. All of us drink deeply from the wells of retail and marketing. The customer is always right. Satisfaction guaranteed or your money back. 30 days free trial. Sometimes, if we’re not careful, we sell Christianity or the Church by trying to make it low cost and high value. We have to continuously guard against those cultural tendencies.

We can also treat our elders as if they are “goods and services” we’re owed as faithful church members.

I do believe our shepherds should be a front line support for our families and our marriages. They should be present during times of illness and death. I think all that is in the job description. But is that the ultimate end of eldering? Is the goal for a shepherd to provide encouragement and comfort to the members? When the elders get to heaven, will Jesus’ first question be, “Did you provide enough emotional support for my sheep?” I think that question will be on his list, but I don’t think it’ll be in the top ten.

If we’re not careful, the care and support of an elder could become another of the consumer goods to which church members feel entitled. We might read our elders through consumer eyes. And consumers either get what they want or they go shopping elsewhere.

Shepherding is not a free counseling service that provides comfort in the hospitals and prayers at the funerals. Shepherding is a mentoring program designed to call every member of the church into Christ-like living. Elders are to teach and model and lead others toward more selfless service, submission, sacrifice, and, yes, even suffering. And that’s a lot harder than just being a comfort during times of trial.

Sometimes we get the idea that the church owes me counseling and comforting and the top guys showing up to anoint me with oil and pray with my family whenever I call. Or my friend’s family. Or the funeral of somebody who sat on the west side. Sometimes it’s not the natural result of loving relationships and community in Christ, it’s an entitlement, something bought and demanded. So, the elders, instead of being viewed as our spiritual leaders who call us and lead us to faithful service, are seen as our servants to sacrifice and serve for us so we don’t have to.

When a visit or a prayer by an elder becomes something that’s demanded by people who wouldn’t go to the funeral of that elder’s mother, we’ve turned Christianity into a commodity instead of a community. We’ve completely forgotten we are members of this faith community to learn to become like Christ, not to have our egos stroked or our consumer demands met.

So, yes, it is right and necessary that our shepherds visit the hospitals and attend the funerals. But only if the members see that as an example to be followed, not as a service to be expected or demanded.

True shepherding is leading God’s people to do what the elders do. To be visited and served by church members trained by their elders to visit and serve on their own would be the sign of a deeply healthy congregation – a richly blessed body shaped in the image of our Lord.



A Pleasant Good Night

I’m always nervous when a Church of Christ school makes the NCAA basketball tournament. I’m afraid they’ll think they’re the only ones going. Plus, we have historically avoided any kind of dance at all, especially big dances. But ACU was ready last night and pulled off the biggest win in school history, knocking off the third-seeded Texas Longhorns 53-52.

Joe Pleasant sunk two free throws with one second left in the game and then intercepted the Horns’ desperation pass to seal the biggest upset so far in this tournament. Pleasant is a 59% free-throw shooter, but he calmly stepped to the line and swished both shots to cap an incredible wire-to-wire display of tenacity and grit.

It’s the ACU defense that wins their games. They contest every pass, they fight for every loose ball, they take tough charges, and rotate madly to keep opposing offenses frantically scrambling for some kind of order. Texas suffered 23-turnovers last night, they never got on track, and ACU took 27 more shots than the Horns. Now the Wildcats are headed to the second round.

And there was a lot of purple in the worship center this morning at Central.




Congratulations Sherri Coale!

Sherri Coale, the legendary women’s basketball coach at the University of Oklahoma, has announced her retirement after an incredible 25-year run. Coale is the story today. But the point of this post is to direct your attention to me and to my admittedly loose connection to this rock star of a hoops coach.

Sherri Coale was Sherri Buben when we were in college together at Oklahoma Christian University. She played point guard for the nationally ranked Lady Eagles basketball team, winning Sooner Athletic Conference championships and competing for NAIA regional and national titles. She was a relentless competitor, a fiery defender, a fearless driver of the lane, and she saw absolutely everything on the court. She was a leader in every aspect of the word.

Sherri was two years ahead of me in school. By the time I became Sports Director at KOCC and began handling the play-by-play for OC sports, I was a sophomore and Sherri was a senior. We didn’t know each other very well at all. But I was on the sidelines and voiced the call for every single dribble, drive, and shot of Sherri’s spectacular senior season. In this picture of Sherri that OC likes to use, you can see me in the background on the left at center court. That’s little 20-year-old Allan calling OC basketball at the Eagles Nest. Sherri looks like she’s about to steal an in-bounds pass or take a charge. I look like I’m about to miss it.

Sherri had coached Norman High School to a couple of 6A state championships when OU came calling. The Sooners women’s basketball team had been famously abolished six years earlier for a lack of wins, a lack of players, and a lack of any real interest. She took the gig as an incredible underdog and quickly rose to the pinnacle of the sport, guiding OU to the national championship game in 2002. All told, Sherri recruited, promoted, and coached OU to 19 national tournament appearances, three Final Fours, six Big XII regular season championships, and four conference tournament titles. She and her long-time OC teammate, friend, and assistant coach Jan Ross coached 14 WNBA draft picks at OU, including six first-rounders. And Sherri was inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame in 2016.

It was a thrill for me to run into Sherri once or twice a year while I was Sports Director at KRLD in Dallas. Back then the Big XII women’s tournament was held at Reunion Arena and I would make it a point to attend at least a couple of their games. It was cool to walk across the floor and greet Sherri and Jan while their team was warming up. Again, we don’t know each other very well at all. But we had the OC connection and we both were genuinely pleased with the other’s career successes.

Congratulations, Sherri. I’m very happy for you and proud of all you’ve accomplished. You’ve positively impacted each of the hundreds of young ladies you’ve coached and the countless numbers of others who watch you from afar. You are to be commended for the positive Christ-like influence you have on everyone you meet. I don’t know what’s next for you, but your spirited grit and determination make anything possible.



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