Category: Marble Falls (page 1 of 4)

Double Knot

Our middle daughter is already on her second marriage.
Valerie has been married twice but never widowed or divorced.
It took two weddings in the middle of this global pandemic to successfully tie her knot with David. And Friday’s wedding was a spectacular event.

Carrie-Anne and I are both grateful and humbled by the numbers of long-time friends who traveled great distances to be with our family on this special night. Dan and Jennifer and Meredith made the drive up from Marble Falls and Mike brought LeeAnn (and those Virdell granddaughters!) to make those awesome cakes. David and Shanna and Delaney, John and Suzanne, and Lance from the Legacy Church. Jason and Tiersa, Chris and Liz, Kevin and Anita, and Brian and Terry from our days together in Mesquite. All the familiar faces from our Central church family. And our family and relatives from Austin and Dallas and East Texas and Oklahoma City.  All these good people who have poured themselves into our lives for so many years. What a blessing from God to be together for this special weekend.

Thank you to everyone who joined us for this celebration of David and Valerie. Thank you for your love and your friendship. Thank you for all the times we’ve prayed together, eaten together, laughed and cried together, and moved boxes out of each other’s attics. Thank you for what you mean to our daughters and our family. We are so blessed by our God because of you.

Peace,

Allan

First Best Friends

Valerie and Jordan were born six weeks apart in the winter of 1997.  We were living in Marble Falls while Jordan’s parents, Billy and Shannon Whiteley, were living fourteen miles north of us in Burnet. But we were members together at the Marble Falls Church of Christ and really great friends. Even after we parted ways — we’ve moved seven times since then and they’ve moved twice — we’ve always stayed close. We’re the kind of friends who can only see each other two or three times a year, even less since we moved to Amarillo, and still just pick right up where we left off.

So, Jordan’s in town this weekend with the UIL Latin Competitions which are being held at Amarillo High School. She nailed her solo yesterday and is competing in the Latin quiz this afternoon. And we were so blessed to pick her up at noon today and spend a couple of hours with her at Blue Sky, introducing her to the cheeseburger that changes lives. How great to get caught up.

She and Valerie were each other’s first best friends. The picture on top is from 2002 when they were five-years-old and playing with Beanie Babies and singing Veggie Tales songs. The picture on the bottom is from today, thirteen years later, at Blue Sky. Jordan’s heading to the University of Arkansas at the end of this summer and Valerie’s enrolling at West Texas A&M. I don’t think we’ve seen Jordan or her parents in over four years. But today, we picked up right where we left off.

Thanks for letting us horn in on your weekend, Jordan. Thanks for clarifying the correct usage of “ratchet” and “salty.” And thanks for your sweet friendship with our daughter.

Peace,

Allan

Ordained by the Community of Christ

Larry Lemmons of channel 7, the ABC affiliate here in Amarillo, produced a nice piece on the “4 Amarillo” churches that aired on Christmas night. You can view the three minute video by clicking here.

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Worshiping with the Legacy church last Sunday got me to thinking all this week about my ordination as a proclaimer of God’s Word. Yeah, I believe with all my heart that our God has been preparing me my whole life to preach the gospel. Yes, I went to seminary and studied Greek. And, of course, I do feel ordained by the Lord to do what I’m doing. But I don’t think those things alone give anyone the right to preach. I’m beginning to understand more and more that the community of faith must ordain its preacher in order for the relationship between proclaimer and listener, preacher and congregation, to work.

So, who ordained me? The elders hired me and prayed over me. But how does a preacher really become ordained to minister with a particular church family? It has become clear to me this week, especially since seeing all those wonderful people at Legacy and visiting with all those dear friends. It’s both a one time event and a lifetime progression. It’s both formal and relational.

At Legacy, Tom ordained me when he asked me to baptize his daughter Sarah. She was the first person I baptized at Legacy. I asked him why he wanted me to do it and he replied, “She needs to be baptized by the preacher; and you’re our preacher.” A similar thing happened with Brooklyn, who greeted me this past Sunday with happy tears in her eyes. Don ordained me when, after a particularly tough sermon in which I challenged a couple of long-held practices of ours, he told me, “Allan, you are my friend, you’re my brother, and you’re my preacher!” Louise ordained me from her wheelchair when she promised me, “I pray for you every single morning.” And I believed her. Jim and Elvera ordained me when they asked me to marry them. This widow and widower had more than 90 years of marriage experience between them when they asked me to preside over their wedding. Dan ordained me when he walked in to my office one day and asked if I could help him with some specific spiritual questions he had. He’s older than me, been a Christian much longer than me, but he said he needed my wisdom. Paul and Jean ordained me when their son was killed in that car accident. Alene ordained me when she asked me to do Bob’s funeral.

I think ordination is both positional and relational — it must be both. Tom didn’t really know me when he asked me to baptize Sarah, but he trusted it was the right thing to do because I was the preacher. Louise didn’t really know me at the time, but she vowed to pray for me every day. Don and I had disagreed about several things during my first couple of years at Legacy, but when he called me his preacher, it was a sign of love and respect that had taken some time. Brooklyn’s ordination of me was in relationship. So was Jim and Elvera’s. Paul and Jean’s was through a shared experience of tragedy. Alene’s affirmation and trust was forged in hours of prayer together.

It’s both. I think the congregation has to say — collectively and individually — this is my preacher, given to us by God, and we’re going to support him and love him and trust him because he’s been placed here with us by Christ. In the same way, the preacher must make the same commitments: these are my people, my church family, given to me by God, and I’m going to support and love and trust these people because Christ has brought us together for his purposes. It’s both formal and relational.

It’s been very helpful to me this week to recognize the many ways I’ve been ordained. Here at Central, Eldrena anointed me with oil one hour before I preached my first sermon here. John Todd and Kami ordained me by bringing us dinner and providing a microwave for our apartment the first night we spent in Amarillo. Lanny ordained me by asking me to perform Judy’s funeral. Nick and Sara ordained me by asking me to do their wedding. Jim and Becky ordained me through some tough conversation and prayer in their kitchen. Wesley ordained me by reflecting on our sermons with emails and cards. Every week I’m ordained by these faithful Christians at Central in living rooms and hospital wards, at lunch and in my study, through phone calls and emails.

And I could keep going. All the dozens of people throughout my childhood and teenage years who told me how wonderful my prayer or my sermonette or my devo talk or my communion meditation or my song leading was, even when it really wasn’t very good at all. The Room 208 class in Mesquite. Kevin’s pushing me to leave radio and pursue preaching and putting his money where his mouth was. Jason and Dan encouraging me through that stressful transition. Donna Steward asking me to baptize her gardener, my first. Lee Ann Clark asking me to do her mother’s funeral, my first. God himself ordaining me by thrusting me into pastoral situations whether I was ready or not: praying over an unconscious Berrilyn Daniel at that WinterFest, moving David Griffin out of that horrible situation in south Marble Falls.

Play with the semantics all you want: God ordains and the congregation affirms, the elders ordain and the church family confirms, whatever. But I know now that it’s both a one time event and a lifetime progression. It’s both formal and relational. And a preacher in God’s Church couldn’t do the job with it being any other way.

Peace,

Allan

Saving a Seat for Paul

Going into our shepherds meeting this past Wednesday, I wasn’t really sure who would be praying with me at 8:00 Sunday morning. I assumed I would invite all of our shepherds and ministers to join me in the chapel early Sunday morning so we could pray together for the day and that several of them would commit to showing up.

That’s always been my habit.

Since my earliest days as a minister in Marble Falls, 8:00 on Sunday morning has been a sacred time for me. Jim Gardner and Jimmy Mitchell and I prayed together in Jim’s office at 8:00 every Sunday. Jim would have his Red Bull, Jimmy would have his Muscle Milk (gross!) and I’d be working on my second or third Diet Dr Pepper. And we would pray together. For one another. For God’s Church. For the day.

It continued at Legacy. First, with the worship leaders, Howard and Gordon, during my transition months between Austin Grad and moving to NRH. On my first official day there, every single one of the shepherds showed up. Then after that, six or seven guys committed to praying with me in the church library every Sunday morning. That lasted a few months. And then it began to dwindle. Four guys. Then three. Two for a while. And then there was one.

Paul Brightwell.

Every single Sunday morning. 8:00. Paul would walk into my study. “What’s going on?” And we would shake hands, small talk while we strolled into the library, and then pray. Every single Sunday morning. 8:00. Paul and me. For four years. Praying.

We prayed together for the people at Legacy. We prayed in anticipation of the events of the day. We asked God to bless our assembly, to be present in every interaction among his people, to encourage those who were looking for a word of grace and to convict those who needed a push. We asked God to work on us, to change us more into the image of his Son. We prayed our thanksgivings and our laments together. We prayed through the health problems of Paul’s parents and, eventually, through the death of Paul’s dad. We prayed together through my struggles and triumphs as Legacy’s preacher, all the ups and downs of life in congregational ministry. Paul knew when I was nervous or worried about that day’s message. And we prayed about it. He knew instinctively when I was really excited about what God was going to say through me that day. And we praised God for it. We prayed about our kids and our wives. We thanked God for our friendship.

Sometimes we prayed for ten minutes; sometimes we were in there together for nearly an hour. Sometimes I’d be running around like crazy — updating some sermon slides on the S Drive, re-printing some Small Groups Church study guides, moving some chairs around in a classroom — and Paul would find me. “Stop!” he would say. “Stop! Let’s pray.” And I’d drop whatever I was doing, wherever we happened to be, we’d put our arms around each other, and Paul would pray for God to calm me down, to get me focused, and to use me to his eternal glory in the next couple of hours.

I’m going to need a Paul Brightwell here at Central.

So, Wednesday night, heading into our elders meeting, I’m ready to invite the shepherds and ministers to pray with me at 8:00 Sunday morning. But everything got away from me. Man, when Tim decides the meeting’s over, it’s over! Boom! We went from the middle of a fairly important discussion to a beautiful conclusion with assigned action items to our closing prayer before I even knew what was happening. And the meeting was over. I hadn’t offered my invitation for Sunday morning prayer. I figured I would just have to send out an email the next day. I’m not going to pray alone at 8:00 Sunday morning.

So I got in my truck. Pulled out onto 14th Street on my way home and checked my phone. Two missed calls. From Paul Brightwell. One voice mail. “Call me.”

I’ve only talked to Paul once since we moved. So I called.

“Hey,” he says. “What are you doing at 8:00 Sunday morning?”

“I’m going to be praying in the Central chapel,” I answered him. “It’s Central’s original worship center, a stunning 82-year-old chapel that’s right next to my office here. I’ll be praying in there, hopefully, with a bunch of our shepherds and ministers.”

And Paul says, “Save me a seat.”

He and Andrea are coming up Saturday night. Paul wants to pray with me on my first official day at Central. At 8:00 Sunday morning.

And I am humbled. And I’m typing through tears even now, at 9:00 Friday morning, thinking about it. I praise God for the people he’s put in my life, people like Paul Brightwell, who have given themselves to encouraging me in my ministry. To praying for me and with me. To paying attention to me and lifting me up when I’m down and bringing me down a few notches when I get too high. For knowing me. And caring.

Thank you, God, for Paul Brightwell.

And, thank you, Paul.

Our Sunday mornings together in prayer have, more times than you know, gotten me through the day. You have always said the exact right thing to me at the exact right time. I believe that God pushed you directly into my path to speak through you to me, to help me do what God has called me to do. Those Sunday mornings with you are precious to me. Thank you for allowing our Father to use you in that way. Thank you for the selfless way you gave yourself to God, to me, and to our church on those Sunday mornings.

God will give me a Sunday morning prayer partner here at Central. He knows how badly I need it. It may happen this month or it may take a while. I have no idea who it’s going to be; but God’s going to make sure I’m not praying alone on Sundays. This Sunday, I’ll be in a group of elders and ministers, these church leaders who are going to become some of my very best friends. There may be twenty of us in that chapel day after tomorrow.

But I’m saving a seat for Paul.

Peace,

Allan

Super Bowl, Ben, and the Bone

I must draw your attention to an excellent Washington Post column written by Fort Worth native Sally Jenkins. It’s about the Super Bowl in Arlington. She mentions the plans to set the attendance record and the fiasco with the seats and the obscene prices of parking spots and nachos. But it’s not just about that. Her article is so much bigger and better than that. She claims that this Super Bowl at Jerry’s Place was, for her, the tipping point. This was the last straw. This was absurdity beyond belief. Beginning with the stadium itself:

It’s the cleanest, safest, nicest stadium anyone has ever visited. It is also the most extravagant and economically stratified. It cost double what Jerry Jones said it would, and taxpayers financed about a quarter of it, yet its innermost marble interiors are totally inaccessible to the average fan.

Jenkins cites the four Navy F-18s that flew over the stadium at the end of the National Anthem — over the domed stadium. At a taxpayer cost of $450,000. She observes that the state of Texas spent $31-million to host the football game while, at the same time, desperately making historic cuts in public education. Five thousand fans paid $200 each to stand in the rain in the parking lot! It’s just too much:

In the end, this Super Bowl taught me a lesson: Luxury can be debasing.

I’m telling you, it’s an excellent article. You can read the whole thing by clicking here.

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I’m leaving Sunday afternoon for Searcy, Arkansas to spend a couple of nights with my brother and his family. The ocassion? A full day on Monday with New Testament scholar and theologican Ben Witherington III. (Carley claims that’s a made up name.)

Witherington has written more than 40 books, including an excellent commentary on Revelation that we used as a textbook at Austin Grad. I had the great pleasure two years ago of attending three of his lectures on Revelation at the Austin Grad Sermon Seminar. He paints beautiful pictures with his words. He speaks big. Very big. Grand. He’s an orator of the highest class. A brilliant  and complex man who might even break out into song in the middle of a speech to illustrate a point. And now Harding’s College of Bible and Religion is bringing him in to lecture on the topic of Christian ethics. Witherington’s just written an 1,800 page, two volume book, The Indelible Image, about the relationship between theology and ethics in the New Testament. Three seminars, a Q&A, and a roundtable discussion await us on Monday. I’m hoping Dr. Keith Stanglin is able to get me a seat at the private dinner with Ben before the final session.

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Texas Longhorns offensive coordinator Emory Bellard drew it up on a napkin while he and Darrell Royal were having breakfast in an Austin diner in the summer of 1968. A brand new formation that included three running backs, a running quarterback, and offered them up to four or five options on every play. He called it the Wishbone. And it revolutionized football.

Royal used the wishbone to win the national championship in 1969. Bellard used it as a head coach at Texas A&M and Mississippi State. He beat Bear Bryant’s Crimson Tide with it and won a few conference titles, too. Won three state championships coaching high school ball, too.

After football, Bellard retired with his wife to a life of golf and fishing in Marble Falls. I met him in 1992. He was our backup color analyst  for the Mustangs high school football games on KHLB Radio. I worked two games with him in the booth. He was also the backup PA guy. When Dick Barkley, the legendary feed store owner, couldn’t make it, they called Emory. I had Emory on my talk show in Marble Falls several times to talk Longhorns and Aggies. He knew everything. All the history. Shoot, he WAS the history! He knew everybody — not because he called people and kept up with them, but because everybody called him and kept up with him. Extremely gracious.

Many times I called him to get some insight into a news story. When Chan Gailey was hired as the Cowboys coach in ’98, it was Emory who gave me the scoop first and then hooked me up with one of Gailey’s old high school girlfriends from Americus, Georgia. She, in turn, faxed me several pictures of Gailey from their high school year book and articles he had written at that time for the high school paper.

Helpful. Humble. Very “aw, shucks” about his place in football legend and lore. Generous and giving. What a great guy.

He died yesterday at 83. A great man. I was always proud to say I knew him. God bless his sweet wife, Susan.

Peace,

Allan

Marvelous Falls

Who knew the Cowboys season would be over before the Rangers’? How many points would the Giants have scored if they hadn’t had five turnovers? How long until Wade reminds us that, “Hey, it’s not like we haven’t won a single game!” I think a lockout/strike is the best thing Jerry Wayne can hope for. He may be trying to figure out how to make it happen today.

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We spent right at 24 hours in Marble Falls this past weekend, helping the church family there celebrate their 65th anniversary and homecoming and grand opening of their brand new church building. And for most of those 24 hours, I was an emotional wreck. I was really surprised by my own reactions to being in that place with those people. It caught me off guard.

Carrie-Anne and I spent seven years in this place with these people when I was the News and Sports Director at KHLB from 1991-98. We went to football games together. We had babies together. We sang at funerals together. We rang in new years, we visited hospitals, we coached T-ball, we fished and fixed cars and worshiped God together. We survived a tornado together. Whitney and Valerie were both born into that church family. I was a deacon and led worship with that group of Christians. We prayed with the Clarks. We laughed with the Futrells. We painted Cathy Chrismon’s house. We roofed Dan’s houses. We went Christmas caroling. We taught VBS. Donna Preston helped us buy our first home on Hackberry Drive. From Bessie Ruth.

And when we left in 1998 for the greener pastures of sports talk radio on WHBQ in Memphis, Buck Burdett told me we’d be back.

I swore we wouldn’t.

But in 2005, needing a place to live and work while I received my Master’s Degree at Austin Grad, I called up Don Graves. And they welcomed us back with open arms. It wasn’t so much that they hired me part-time as it was they agreed to help support us as I studied. We moved right into Kyle and Marti’s rent house. And right back into that church family.

I was youth minister for a stretch. Worship leader. Preacher. Interim preacher. Bible class teacher. Men’s minister. Involvement minister. And I learned. And learned. And learned. I worked alongside Jim Gardner as he became the new preacher there. I watched Jimmy Mitchell pour his heart and soul into our kids. I sat at the feet of Jim Dobbs and benefitted greatly from his wisdom and experience and encouragement and love. During those 22 months, I learned as much in and with the Marble Falls church as I did at Austin Grad.

And now here we were again on Sunday. Back in Marble Falls. Back with these people who have shaped us and loved us and supported us and taken care of us.

I forget how much I really love them until I’m right in the big middle of them.

I’ve never hugged and been hugged so much in all my life as I was Sunday. The hugs just kept coming and coming and coming. Carrie-Anne and I truly felt loved. And appreciated. And valued. We felt like we really belonged. It felt — in a weird way that part of me hates to admit — like home.

How do you make it through “It Is Well With My Soul” in the middle of all that?

We love our church family in Marble Falls. And we pray for all of you God’s richest blessings of grace and peace.

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I’ll try to spend the next couple of posts getting caught up on a variety of things. Again, thanks for your patience with the blog. It’s been a weird past couple of weeks. I still don’t have this thing totally where I want it. But we’re getting there.

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Where were you when the Rangers won the pennant? We were in our living room, watching history unfold together as a family. The microfiber couches were cold since we’d all been standing since the beginning of the eighth inning. I couldn’t hardly concentrate during the ninth, I was so completely distracted by the losers behind home plate who were holding up that huge Texas flag — upside-down! I kept thinking surely somebody would notice and tell them to turn it right-side-up. I was upset that we would be watching the highlights of the last out for the rest of our lives and the Texas flag in the background was going to be upside-down. I was beside myself with the joy of anticipating the perfect poetic justice of Alex Rodriguez making that last out. What could possibly be better than A-Fraud swinging and missing to push the Rangers (it’s just him and 24 kids, remember?) into the World Series? How delicious! And then he actually struck out looking! Even better! Absolutely, wonderfully, deliriously better!

We exchanged high fives and hugs. Steve Fleming called Whitney to offer his congratulations. We grinned as the trophy was presented to Wash and Nolan and JD. We nodded with approval as Josh Hamilton collected the MVP award and, instead of talking about himself, talked about his teammates.

Then Whitney and Carley and I piled in the car to head out to Academy to get our official Rangers World Series T-shirts. We stood in line for just over an hour with hundreds and hundreds of other long-suffering Rangers fans who just couldn’t believe what was happening. It still didn’t seem real to any of us. We cheered and chanted as the line snaked through the parking lot and around the building. Horns were honked. We saw the Flemings and Brightwells and Drakes and even Wayne Steele. The girls saw a couple of their friends and teachers from school. Are the Rangers really in the World Series? They must be. That’s what my T-shirt says.

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Saturday morning, Valerie and I left at 7:00 for the All-Region Middle School Choir auditions in Arlington. 7:00 Saturday night we got the email notifying us that she had made it! God has given Val a beautiful soprano voice and a desire to use it to his glory. And we couldn’t be happier or more proud.

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Leaving town Saturday afternoon on the way to Marble Falls, we drove through the tornado on Loop 820. I knew something was weird. The sky looked ominous and there was an unusual amount of debris flying through the air. But it wasn’t until traffic stopped and we eventually crawled up to the twisted exit signs that we realized it was more severe than just a thunderstorm. We got past the jam, turned on the radio, and listened to Brad Barton talk about the tornado that was moving through Richland Hills and into Euless. Good gravy, we had driven right through it! Jennifer Gambill, our children’s minister who lives just four or five streets away, was just unpiling the mattresses and emerging from her closet when I called. Everything was fine.

There were clear skies yesterday afternoon when the high winds split a tree on Holiday Lane and pushed it on top of our van as I was driving to Richland High School to pick up Whitney. Carley was in the front seat with me.  I was driving about 30 m.p.h., in the right lane, when I commented to Carley about how crazy windy it was. And just a second or two later, the tree blew over right on top of us. She screamed. I reached out to brace her. It was so loud. I thought her window had shattered. It was so weird. And unexpected. Who has a tree fall on top of their car while they’re driving?!? The window wasn’t broken. But the car is scratched up from the headlights to the rear window. And Carley’s heartbeat just now got back down to normal.

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Finally, Carley’s elementary choir marched and performed in last night’s Richland High School Homecoming parade. We saw Lisa Clifton in the Chick-Fil-A truck with the cows. The creepy female Rebel mascot with the empty eyes. Several friends from church and school. And a bunch of homemade signs that declared allegiance to Richland High AND a nod to the Texas Rangers. It’s cool when the football team is giving the claw to the parade-watchers.

Peace,

Allan

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