For the Dads

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“There’s nothing I’ve learned from being a father that I couldn’t just as easily have figured out by setting all my money on fire.”


I’M KIDDING!!!!!

Five States in One Day in One Van

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(As always, you can click on the pics to get the full size. This is not like subjecting you to a 200-picture slide show of our family vacation on the paneled walls of my living room — this is slightly less annoying.)

The family summer vacation is winding down with a long return trip from Orlando to Amarillo: ten days, five states, three thousand miles, in one very old minivan. We embark on the final leg today in our last set of clean clothes, unshaven, a little sunburned, and with sand still lodged in some questionable places. This was the first summer vacation in which not all of us were present — Valerie is working as a youth ministry intern at the Pleasant Ridge Church of Christ in Arlington this summer. So, yeah, that’s a little weird. Time is getting away from us. Quickly. Man, we’ve got to enjoy these family vacations.


But we did our typical every-four-years Orlando vacation. We caught “throwed rolls” at Lambert’s Café in Gulf Shores, Alabama and spent a wonderful day on the beach there together. We also caught a really strange rock band — Voodoo Gumbo — doing some interesting covers of the Stones, Poison, Michael Jackson, and Foreigner. We found a brand new Chuy’s in Orlando (Yes!) and worshiped with a wonderful group of Christ-followers at Celebration Community Church just four or five miles away from our condo.


And it rained. Every day in Orlando it rained. Sometimes it started at 5:00 in the afternoon, sometimes it started at noon. But every afternoon and evening it rained.

However, that didn’t dampen our spirits. Much. We stayed away from Disney and spent two very full days at the Universal theme parks. We rode the best roller coasters (Hulk, Dragon’s Challenge, Rockin’ Rockit, Mummy, Dr. Doom’s Fear Fall), walked around in amazement at the new Harry Potter addition, saw the cheesy Jimmy Fallon thing, waited in long lines, did two or three too many 3-D virtual rides, and ate a lot of very expensive fast food. We got wet and dried off, we took a lot of corny pictures, we ran the wrong way down moving sidewalks, and we had dinner at the world’s largest Hard Rock Café.


We ate Krusty Burgers and drank Buzz Cola at the Simpsons!

We also drove up to Cocoa Beach for a day and just spent another day hanging out at the condo.

Now we’re driving back home via a little weekend detour in Arlington with Carrie-Anne’s mom and a chance to enjoy a meal and an hour or two with Valerie.


 

 

 

 

 

I treasure these vacations with Carrie-Anne and our daughters. Fifty hours in the van with no data on the phones, all crammed in together, is just about the only time we have anymore to give each other our full undivided attention. When we find a good radio station we sing Tom Petty and the Eagles together. But in between those times, we talk. And laugh. We share memories from vacations past, we delight in seeing new things, we make plans for the future, and we dream a little together about what might be. We evaluate our current situations and we talk about possibilities and options for all of us. We smile broadly at the really great things that bless our lives and we look intently for the grace of God in the not-so-great things.

Valerie’s probably out for family vacations now. By this time next year Carley will be a high school graduate. Who knows what these will look like down the road? Who knows that maybe we haven’t already taken our last family vacation? Weird. It happened fast. I suppose we’ll still travel without kids, right? But singing “Texas, Our Texas!” as we cross the border back into the Lone Star State won’t be the same if it’s just Carrie-Anne and me.

Speaker-phones!

Peace,

Allan

New Jobs & Old Friends

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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!

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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.

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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.

Peace,

Allan

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.

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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.”

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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.

Peace,

Allan

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.

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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.

Peace,

Allan

Happy 180th!

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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.

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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.

Peace,

Allan