New Jobs & Old Friends

Carley, Stanglin Family, Valerie No Comments »

BigTexans2Valerie and Carley are now both working for the city of Amarillo’s most widely known tourist attraction: The Big Texan. Yes, the home of the 72-ounce steak that comes free of charge if you can eat it and all the appetizers and sides and dessert in one hour or less is employing our two youngest daughters. Valerie is serving, Carley is hosting, and they’re both keeping alive every Texas stereotype you can imagine for the hundreds of foreigners (anyone outside of Texas) who eat dinner and kill time in the giant gift shop. Carley is instructed to greet all guests with a hearty, “Howdy, y’all!” They wear cowboy boots and cowboy hats and serve up huge steaks and country sides and a lot of sweet tea. They are not yet toting guns or riding horses.

All three of our daughters are now hard-working, tax-paying, productive members of society. Yee-haw!


What a glorious weekend with two great and dear friends, Chris and Liz Moore. They rode their twin Harley Davidsons up here from Mesquite on Thursday and stayed with us through Sunday afternoon. They rode the Palo Duro Canyon, spray painted a heart on a car at muddy Cadillac Ranch, and spun a couple of times around Lake Merideth. We ate catfish together down in Umbarger, grilled fajitas, stayed up way too late, prayed together, and laughed and laughed and laughed.


When we moved to Dallas-Fort Worth in 1999, Chris and Liz just happened to be sitting at the end of the pew we chose at the Mesquite Church of Christ — for the record, yes, they were there first and had been there a long time. We walked in to church with an almost seven-year-old Whitney, a barely two-year-old Val, and six-weeks-old Carley in a car seat / carrier. We plopped down on that same row with the Moores and they immediately welcomed us with their generous hearts and joyful sense of humor. Somehow, we clicked. And we’ve been clicking with them for 17 years now and counting.

Chris and Liz, we love you and your sweet family. We’re so grateful for the time we were graced by God to spend together this past weekend. Let’s see each other again before Tulsa.



Ode to Big Town Mall

Allan's Journey, Stanglin Family, Texas Rangers No Comments »

It’s been announced today that they’re putting Harriet Tubman on the twenty dollar bill. I would have put Beltre on it, but whatever.











In other news, FedEx has announced they are building a 334,000 square foot regional distribution center on the site of the old Big Town Mall. That means it’s probably too late to return that birthday shirt my grandmother bought at Montgomery Ward.

When it opened in 1959, Big Town Mall was the first and only indoor shopping center in the whole state of Texas. Located right where I-30 and Highway 80 intersect, where southeast Dallas meets Mesquite, it was a marvel in its time and a staple of my childhood and growing up years. Big Town was where I first visited Santa Claus. Driving home with the family from our grandparents’ house in Fort Worth, the iconic Big Town water tower was the landmark sign that we were almost home. I remember my aunt LouAnn telling me stories about teenagers climbing that tower to steal the red lights off the top. I can’t remember if it was her or some other source that told me a teenager had committed suicide by climbing the Big Town water tower and jumping off. Maybe just an urban legend. And there was the huge super slide we all raced down on top of old feed sacks. I remember a rumor, too, that a rattlesnake had once crawled out of one of those sacks, biting a kid and killing him. Again, probably just an urban legend. When I gave friends directions to my house I always started with “Take the Big Town exit.”

Big Town Mall.jpg









Big Town Mall had the wide polished floors and walkways that led to and from the staples of the retail world at that time: Woolworth, Montgomery Ward, J. C. Penny, and Sanger Brothers (before Sanger-Harris). There were lots of huge potted plants and a big fountain. There was a movie theater, a bowling alley, and an arcade. I remember being intrigued by the arcade but never being allowed to go in. I remember the mall was air-conditioned!

It officially closed sometime in the early 2000s, just a couple of years after my grandmother died. In 2005, the government used the Big Town mall to house refugees from Hurricane Katrina. And then they demolished the whole thing in 2006. It’s gone. It has been for ten years. The sign is still there. I think the water tower is, too. It’s still Big Town Boulevard that runs from the highway south until it becomes Prairie Creek Lane. The memories are still there, too. And I might still have probably somewhere a hideous, too-small, too bright, too-colorful, too-puffy sweater from the ’80s with the Montgomery Ward tags still attached. Oh, well. She only paid $3.49 for it anyway.



Instrument of God’s Peace

Carley, Christ & Culture, Prayer, Stanglin Family No Comments »

Mom70We spent all weekend behind the Pine Curtain in Liberty City celebrating my mother’s 70th birthday. As our children get older and our schedules become less predictable, getting the entire family together is becoming more and more difficult. But it’s always worth it. Dad grilled burgers in the rain, we played football and Frisbee and board games, we ate a ton, laughed a lot, and worshiped together as a big family yesterday morning at the Chandler Street Church of Christ in Kilgore.

The highlight for Carley was probably getting to drive the Impala. My dad owns a fully restored 1960 Chevrolet Impala that belonged to my grandfather. It’s a beautiful turquoise head-turner: huge fins on the back, wide whitewall tires, rocket-style tail lights, wrap-around windshield, add-on AC, and plenty of chrome. The younger kids all wanted to go for a ride and, somehow, they returned to the house with Carley behind the wheel. I’m not sure how she talked her grandpa into letting her drive, but it was pretty cool.




I received an email from Jerry Taylor last week. Totally out of the blue. Completely unexpected. No context. No explanation. Just a couple of short sentences from a great man of God whom I respect and admire.

“One person has said about the current political season that this is a time of moral reckoning for every American citizen. It can better be said that this is a time of moral reckoning for every Christian in America.”

That was it. Nothing else. Short. Simple. Yet penetrating. And provocative.

ShoutingI wonder about those in the United States who declare themselves to be Christians and, at the same time, are personally and emotionally invested in the race for president. As the shouting grows louder, as the insults become more pointed, as the fear tactics reach ridiculous levels, how do Christians participate in the process without personally joining and even contributing to the rancor of the political campaigns? I’m sure it’s possible; I just wonder how. It seems to me it would be maddeningly difficult.

Is there even one political YouTube video you can recommend that only builds others up without tearing anybody down? Is there even one political email you can forward that only encourages people without insulting or disparaging others? If you put a candidate’s name on the back of your car, are you telling everybody that you agree with that candidate’s position on everything and that you stand by his or her tactics? It must be really difficult for a Christian to engage this thing and still hold true to our calling as ambassadors for Christ.

I’ve been thinking about the opening lines of an ancient prayer that’s been attributed to St. Francis. The prayer petitions God to empower the one praying to be an instrument in the world of God’s peace. The one praying is asking God to work through him to show the world a different way

Lord, make me an instrument of thy peace;
where there is hatred, let me sow love;
where there is injury, pardon;
where there is error, the truth;
where there is doubt, the faith;
where there is despair, hope;
where there is darkness, light;
and where there is sadness, joy.

I’m sure I’m not the only one who’s getting the forwarded videos and emails, who’s thrust into the conversations at meal times, who’s bombarded with the rhetoric while waiting in line at Wal-Mart or while I’m getting my oil changed. How do you answer that hateful email? How do you reply to the mean-spirited video? How do you respond to the insults that disparage entire groups of people?

What it requires is discipline. Diligence. A refusal to join the rage. A commitment to combat the evil with love and grace. A constant awareness. A continuing asking of the question: Am I acting as an instrument of God’s peace?

Christians have to be intentional about sowing love where there is hatred. We must carefully choose words that build up, never injure; we must speak to forgive, never to hurt. We have to look through the lens of Christian hope in the face of so much despair. We must be full of joy when so many around us are filled with hate. And it’s not going to happen accidentally. We have to do this on purpose.



Happy 180th!

Church, Stanglin Family, Texas No Comments »

TexasFlagDetailBetterOn March 2, 1836 — that’s 180 years ago today — fifty-nine courageous pioneers signed the Texas Declaration of Independence, forming forever the great Republic of Texas. I’d like to invite you to celebrate this Texas Independence Day with your favorite plate of barbecue or tacos, listen to your favorite Willie Nelson or ZZ Top album, and praise God you weren’t born in Arkansas or West Virginia or some other awful place like Oklahoma.

I’d also like to ask you a question: Do you know our state song? Do you know the title? Do you know the lyrics?

If you immediately answered “Texas, Our Texas,” give yourself a pat on the back. If you can sing the song with all the right words in the right order, then give yourself a standing ovation and use what’s left of your lunch hour to design and print an official-looking certificate to honor your achievement. Up until last weekend, I wouldn’t have thought that knowing and being able to sing on demand our official state song was any kind of special accomplishment for anyone born and raised in our great state. But a troubling article in the current Texas Monthly brought that assumption into serious doubt.

TexasOurTexasChristian Wallace has written an informative and highly entertaining piece on the colorful history of our state song. His premise is a provocative one: our state song is a terrible song. No one knows it, no one remembers it, and no one ever sings it. Our state is too great to have such an awful state song. While Wallace makes a decent argument, I was most struck by his initial evidentiary proof. He claims to have conducted many informal surveys among friends and neighbors, passersby and strangers, and the overwhelming majority of them are unable to name our state song. Nobody can sing it.

I was offended by the very notion. Why, we sang it regularly in elementary school choirs and special programs and learned it again in 7th grade Texas History class. It’s our song! While driving back and forth across the Red River for a variety of reasons during my teenage years, I never failed to turn the radio down so I could belt out “Texas, Our Texas” as I crossed the border. “All hail the mighty state! So wonderful, so great!” Didn’t everybody do this?

Apparently not. I’ve conducted my own informal surveys this week with friends and co-workers, cashiers and waiters and passersby. Nobody knows our state song. A lot of people guess “Yellow Rose of Texas.” One lady argued with me about “The Eyes of Texas.” Some folks wrinkled up their faces and said, “We have a state song?” It pains me to say that Wallace is on to something.

I highly recommend his article. You can get to it by clicking here.


KeithSermonSeminar2013Today is also my brother Keith’s birthday. He’s not 180. And I don’t think he has his own song. If he does, it might be “The Rover” from Led Zeppelin’s Physical Graffiti. If you wanted to celebrate his birthday, you might watch Naked Gun tonight, careful to skip past the scene on the ledge and to watch the balls and strikes scene at least twice.

Keith is an outstanding theological thinker, faithful follower of our Lord, and devoted servant of God’s Church. His article “Restorationism and Church History: Strange Bedfellows?” from the Christian Studies journal he edits is a classic work on the complicated relationship between Churches of Christ and the whole of pre-restoration church history. I highly recommend it, too. He takes head-on our Cambellite creed of “nothing not as old as the New Testament” and introduces us to the concept of “retrieval theology” that seems very helpful:

“This is not a call to re-create or ape the faith and practice of a specific time or place from the past; not every thought or practice in church history is equally good or relevant for us. It means learning from the wisdom of our ancestors and appropriating the best that it has to offer for the sake of the church today.”

You can get to it by clicking here: KeithStanglinRestorationism

Happy Birthday, Keith. I’m very proud of you and very honored to be your brother.



Ending Racism – Good Luck

Christ & Culture, Galatians, Revelation, Stanglin Family No Comments »

Mom&DadHappy Birthday to my dear mother, Beverly Ann Stanglin, who probably celebrated this morning with a free breakfast at Denny’s in Kilgore. Classy, dad!  She’s seventy today. Seventy. Mom, you’re officially, legally, undeniably old now. Seventy is old. That’s you. And you’re doing it very well. I love you.




Racism is alive and well in the United States and, sadly, throughout the entire world. No one can deny it. We have passed anti-racism legislation and outlawed racist practices. We have marched and preached, promised and reformed. We have boycotted, protested, and rioted. Yet racism is seemingly just as much a local and global problem right now as it was a hundred years ago, if not worse.

Obviously, racism has not been ended, nor will it be ended in our lifetimes. And that’s a terrible thing to believe. It’s a horrible thing to be true. But it probably shouldn’t lead to despair for followers of Jesus.

Racism, just like all sin, is the result of something good gone bad. Mark Galli, in a recent column for Christianity Today, reminds us that racism is an evil distortion of affection for loved ones. Affection for loved ones makes family pride possible. It allows us to feel and display pride in our community. And that’s healthy. But just like healthy sexual attraction is prone to turn into lust and healthy self-esteem might turn into pride, healthy loyalty to one’s own people can easily turn into racism.

Galli’s point is this: given our sinful nature and the fallen condition of the world, we will never get rid of racism in this age any more than we will get rid of lust or pride.


But just because we can’t completely wipe out racism doesn’t mean we have to give in to its nasty and sinful expressions. And isn’t this where God’s Church comes in?

Like with lust, our societies create social norms and laws to keep it in check. We expect men to refrain from making lewd comments to women and we prosecute employers who sexually exploit their employees. Christ’s Body can lead the way in similar fashion as it relates to racism. If we acknowledge the terrible reality, if we can admit that there’s no way human beings are ever going to eradicate sin, we can turn our eyes and our hopes toward the only One who can. We can confess honestly, we can forgive faithfully, and we can work together toward various gospel expressions of reconciliation.

It requires accountability. It takes patience and long-suffering, love and kindness, goodness, gentleness, and self control. These are the characteristics of the Spirit of our God who lives inside us. This isn’t about disposing of all tensions, it’s about creating space where people can commit to reconciliation and can treat each other with grace and mercy through the tensions.

It’s the only way.

In the meantime, we wait in hope together. We wait for the great day of true and eternal reconciliation between the races when that “great multitude… from every nation, tribe, people, and language” worships our God together.



Maryn & Logan

Stanglin Family 1 Comment »

Logan&MarynWeddingMy sister Rhonda’s daughter, Maryn, on Friday night became the first niece / cousin / grandchild of our next generation to get married. And I was especially honored to perform the ceremony. Maryn is one of these all-everything girls: super stud basketball player, super smart valedictorian of her senior class, super talented songwriter / singer / musician, super beautiful inside and out, and super committed to our God and his mission. Somehow, she met a guy at Harding who matches her talent for talent and heart for heart. She and Logan seem to just be made for each other. And their wedding outside Oklahoma City on New Year’s Night was a celebration of their love and a worship to the God who’s brought them together.

Needless to say, the whole Stanglin family was there to participate in the wedding, to celebrate Christmas, to ring in the New Year, and to commemorate Cassie’s (my other sister Sharon’s oldest daughter) birthday. Whew! It was a jam-packed three days, punctuated by the experience of a 4.2 magnitude earthquake early Friday morning that shook all of us out of our beds.

Logan&MarynFamilyPicBut the highlight was the wedding; that’s why we were all there. And of the twenty-or-so weddings I’ve officiated, this was by far the most special for me personally. The most emotional. And, yeah, the most nerve-wracking. There’s a lot of pressure there performing a wedding ceremony for a close family member. My voice maybe cracked three or four times during the half-hour ceremony. Before Maryn even made it down the aisle I realized I could not look at Rhonda sitting on the front pew to my right or at my own daughters sitting five of six rows back to my left. I couldn’t look Maryn in the eyes for the same reasons. Man! It was too much. So I mainly looked at Logan and at people in the crowd I didn’t know. That’s the only thing that got me through.

Logan and Maryn, thank you so much for honoring me by asking me to play such an important role in your wedding. It was a tremendous blessing to me, a great privilege that I’ll cherish always. You two make a beautiful couple. As we’ve discussed several times before, I’m most proud of the fact that you are both committed to Christian ministry and see yourselves as a ministry team brought together by God and ordained by God to bring glory to him. Logan&MarynReception

May the love of God guide your marriage and all your relationships. May the blessings of heaven crown your marriage with increasing joy and peace. And may your hearts and your lives be forever united by the grace of our Lord.