Palm Sunday at Central

Central Church Family, Delta Gamma Sigma, Jesus, Psalms, Salvation, Valerie No Comments »

We celebrated Palm Sunday at Central with palm branches and prayers, songs of praise and times for reflection, the sacred meal and the Holy Word.

We attempted to capture the enthusiasm and expectation of that day when our Lord Jesus rode that donkey into the Holy City, surrounded on every side by throngs of cheering followers. The people of Israel were looking for a king. They were expecting a divine liberator, a deliverer sent by God to free them from the yoke of the Romans. They were praying for a Messiah who would save them and restore the throne of David back to Israel and establish the Kingdom of God right there in that land. The prophets had spoken about that day and it looked like for all the world that long-anticipated day had finally come.

Jesus is that promised Messiah! Jesus is our King sent by God, empowered by God to save us! All the signs are there! He’s healing people, he’s teaching the Law, he’s raising people from the dead, and feeding people in the desert! These are the signs the prophets told us about! God is saving us!

All this energy. All this excitement.

Our great-grandparents always told us about this day, and now it’s finally here! Our synagogue teachers have been reading to us about this day for generations, and now it’s come! We’ve been praying to God about this day for as long as we can remember and, praise God, he’s allowed us to live long enough to see it!

That’s us. That crowd of disciples, walking with Jesus on his way to the Holy City — that’s us.

Jesus is our King. We know Jesus is sent by God, he’s empowered by God’s Spirit — we know he IS God! And he is saving us.

And like those Israelites then, we long for the day when our King returns to completely and fully restore the Kingdom of God in our land — right here in Amarillo! We praise God for the salvation he delivers in our Messiah Jesus. The “hosannas” are on our lips today as we recognize that salvation for us and for the whole world.

May our God bless us during this Holy Week to faithfully remember and reflect on our Lord’s triumphal entry into Jerusalem and the events of those last days before his loving and history-changing sacrifice.

“Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!”

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Valerie helped design a sweatshirt for the 21 female students at Oklahoma Christian University whose dads belonged to Delta Gamma Sigma. They’ve had an informal fellowship for most of the school year; now they have a formal sweatshirt. You’ll recognize Val on the far right in this picture. On the far left is Kenzie Minor, whose dad, Shawn, was a Delta freshman my senior year. The young lady in the middle is Savannah McMillon, whose dad, Jeff, was a great friend of mine, two years my senior, a Delta vice-president, and current OC Bible professor.

Good looking kids, huh? But then, again, everybody looks good in maroon and gold.

Peace,

Allan

A Bug’s Life

Valerie No Comments »

We just returned home from a great Spring Sing weekend at Oklahoma Christian University with Valerie. She and her sisters of Theta Theta Theta received fourth place honors for their portrayal of A Bug’s Life, marking Theta’s first recognition since 2003! Delta’s show was good, but not good enough to win, place, or show, continuing their unfortunate string of 20-years in a row without a Spring Sing trophy.

I guess Carrie-Anne and I were lucky to attend OC during Delta’s and Theta’s Spring Sing heydays. Delta won first place in the two years prior to my freshman year and placed three out of my four years as a participant. Theta also placed three of those four years, taking the first place trophy two of those years. It’s the end now of a long, long drought for the Doves and, hopefully, a return to their long-past glory. For Delta… man, I don’t know. This may take a while longer.

Val’s kicking with some former Legacy buddies at OC: Dillon, Bailee, Colton, and Trevor. I think I’ve got some old FaithBuilders pictures somewhere of these guys when they were fifth graders together. It’s so much fun to see these kids all doing so well.

We had a blast hanging with Val and my sister, Rhonda, and her family. It’s always good to see Chris Adair and to run into old Delta brothers like Jeff Hyatt and Scott Williamson. We had dinner at Ted’s Saturday with Dan & Jennifer Burdett and their girls. And I got to hear my old radio partner Randy Roper preach this morning at the Edmond Church of Christ where they gathered around Valerie and her college buddies who are taking off Saturday for a Spring Sing mission trip to McAllen, Texas for a congregational prayer of commission and blessing.

A dad couldn’t ask for a much better weekend. I feel very blessed by our God that he’s got our daughter in such a good place, surrounded by such good people, and on a very solid path of discipleship and sacrificial service in the name and manner of our Lord Jesus. Very happy. Very proud. Very grateful.

Peace,

Allan

Little Middle is 20!

Valerie 1 Comment »

BabyBlueYesterday she was collecting Beanie Babies and putting her dolls in timeout; today she’s a sophomore at Oklahoma Christian University, studying childhood development and planning to go into school administration.

Yesterday she was writing her name on the side of our mini-van with a nail; today she’s designing and painting the Spring Sing Poster for Theta Theta Theta.

Yesterday she was inquiring about the whereabouts of her sippy cup and declaring her desire for “mo’ milk” in a deep, throaty, heavily accented bass; today her beautiful alto voice leads our church in worship and jams to Red Dirt Country in her car.

BabyFloorYesterday she was sitting on the passenger side, in a car seat, riding to pre-school, staring out the window, and asking me why, if the world was round, the horizon was a straight line; today she’s even smarter and more curious, engaging her ministers and professors in significant conversations about God’s Church and systematic theology and politics and poverty.

Yesterday I drove her to her first babysitting job; today she’s getting ready to intern in the youth ministry at the Pleasant Ridge Church in Arlington.

Yesterday she would only eat cheese pizza and grilled cheese sandwiches; today… she still only eats cheese pizza and grilled cheese sandwiches.

Valerie Nicole, our “little middle,” is 20 years old today.

Senior4Happy Birthday, sweetie. I’m so incredibly proud of the hard work you’re doing at OC, the great community you’re a part of there, the tremendous responsibility you’re demonstrating in every area of your life, and your robust commitment to our Lord and to his exciting plans for you in his Kingdom. It cracks me up to hear you talk about Spring Sing practice and Delta guys. It thrills my heart to know of your place in the community of faith at the Edmond church. And your grades are looking pretty good, too.

You are an indescribable blessing to me, Val, and to everyone who knows you. Your compassion for others, your energy for the job at hand, your creativity, and your commitment to Christ all work beautifully together so that your potential is unlimited. I’m beside myself with anticipation over what you’re going to be doing next year and the year after and the year after that. I can’t wait.

Have a great day today. We’re all looking forward to seeing you this weekend.

I love you,

Dad

Delta Dominates OC Chapel

Allan's Journey, Delta Gamma Sigma, Valerie No Comments »

DeltaGammaSigmaChapel

It’s always an honor to speak in Hardeman Auditorium on the campus of Oklahoma Christian University. I consider the opportunities to speak at OC’s chapel a rich blessing and, yes, a delicious irony. Yesterday was especially nice as two Delta brothers, one from long ago and one current Bull, joined me on the stage to bookend my fifteen minutes.

DeltaChapelJeffMacJeff McMillon, a good friend with whom I’ve boxed-stepped in Spring Sing and snow-skied on Spring Break and a favorite Bible teacher now at OC, opened up the program with an inspirational welcome to the students. He followed that by introducing me, shouting out to my daughter Valerie, and then praying over me before I shared my thoughts on Christian love as the proof and expression of God’s nature in us. Then Morgan Wilson, a preaching major in Delta — not long ago that would have been oxymoronic; it’s still a little weird — led a beautiful closing prayer.

By the way, speaking in front of hundreds of teenagers is not my idea of a great time. I love hanging out with young people, but not preaching to them. I’m not good at it. In a Sunday morning church setting, the people in the pews will always laugh at your jokes. They’re trying to be nice, they’re trying to encourage the speaker. Teenagers? They don’t care. I learn a little bit every time I do it. I need to structure my message a little differently. You can’t build up to a climactic point; you have to start right out of the gate with something provocative and unexpected. Tell the joke later, I was told, not at the beginning. So, I’m learning.

It was a fabulous quick trip to OKC and back. I got to spend some really good quality time with my precious daughter, my wonderful sister and brother-in-law, and my super stud senior basketball star nephew, Asa. I got to eat at Ted’s, which, on its own, is worth any trip to OKC. I got to eat a greasy burger at The Garage with Dillon and Colton, a couple of great young men and Delta brothers from Legacy. I got to hang out with Chris Adair, who does more for Delta and Delta alumni than anyone before or since. And I got to tell Jeff McMillon how I praise God almost every day for people like him who are loving and teaching Valerie, helping her connect with the OC community, and inspiring her to live her life to the fullest for our Lord and for others.

Peace,

Allan

About Sister Butler

Central Church Family, Death, Faith, Valerie 2 Comments »

butlercolisseumWe buried Sister Butler on Saturday. I call her Sister Butler because we’re both old-school Church of Christ. Actually, that’s not entirely true. I call most people, even people younger than me, Brother and Sister because I’m old-school Church of Christ. Susan Butler is just the first and only one who’s ever said to me in response, “I really appreciate that you call me Sister Butler.” That’s all I need. Just give me a tiny bit of positive feedback like that and I’m a broken record.

I love Susan because she loves my daughter Valerie so much. She taught Valerie at Amarillo High School when Valerie was — how do I put this? — going through a rough stretch. There comes a time in every teenage girl’s life when she needs somebody other than her parents to affirm her beauty and her worth, to listen to her and sympathize, to talk to her, to challenge her, and to believe in her. I thank God that Mrs. Butler and Valerie crossed paths at Amarillo High. I praise him for helping my daughter through Susan in ways I’m just not equipped to help.

Susan sees teaching not as a job, but as a ministry, as a calling from our God to love kids. She’s the teacher who goes the extra mile, who has the extra conversation, who asks about her students’ lives outside of school. She tells her students she loves them, she tells them she’s proud of them. If you’re one of Mrs. Butler’s students, she challenges you to do more than you think you can; she really, really believes you can do it; that causes you to really believe you can do it; and that is really awesome.

butlerdinnerShe believes in high expectations and expresses them to her kids. She’s not shy about it. She knows how things are supposed to look and how people are supposed to behave: how a young lady is supposed to act, how a Christian is supposed to live, how a wife and mother fulfills her responsibilities. She prayed over her students and quoted Scripture to them. For Mrs. Butler, teaching is about love and relationships and giving herself to others.

She made Valerie fall in love with teaching and put her on the path to becoming a teacher. She kept Valerie after class to ask her how she was doing and to catch up on her whole life. She encouraged Valerie and motivated her to do her very best. She Valerie she was proud of her all the time. Constantly. She hugged Valerie. She loved Valerie. And she changed Valerie’s life.

I love Sister Butler for that.

And I love her because I feel like she was my own personal cheerleader. I’ve only known Susan for a little over five years, but I’ve never doubted for one moment that she loves me. I always felt like she was really proud of me. And I know she wanted me to succeed wildly.

Susan is just so encouraging. Every single word out of her mouth to me — every word! — was carefully selected and measured and spoken to build me up. After a three-minute conversation with Susan, I felt like I was one of the greatest preachers in the history of the world. And it always seemed like she sought me out with a phone call or a text or a “Hey, come here, I want to tell you something” at the very moments when I felt like I was one of the worst preachers in the history of the world.

“Allan, you are really communicating to this church.”
“Allan, that really spoke to me.”
“Allan, you really made me think about that passage yesterday.”
“Allan, God is really talking to me through you.”
“Allan, I prayed for you this morning.”

Is there anything else a preacher would ever want to hear from a member of his congregation? Susan Butler really lifted me up.

butlerzaneWhen she was diagnosed with lung cancer in the fall of 2013, the doctors gave her only two years to live. Two years? She’s not even 60! It was devastating. It was awful. She was just a year-and-a-half away from retiring, she had those grandbabies coming, the best part of her wonderful life was just beginning. It wasn’t fair. It was cruel.

And there were questions and fears and uncertainties, of course. But she never wavered in her faith in our God to protect her and to provide for her everything she needs. She never stopped encouraging others and loving people and considering the needs of others more important than her own.

It wasn’t two years, it was a little more than three because, well, Susan Butler is also a little stubborn. And when her loving husband Steve and their precious daughters delivered the news last week to Susan, she was good with it. It wasn’t a problem. She was fine. She was ready to die. She had fought valiantly and suffered faithfully and it was time. There wasn’t any anxiety about it — no fear, no questions. She was certain it was time and she was certain she was ready.

Tuesday night Sister Butler passed from this life to the next surrounded by her family, forgiven by her Lord, and wrapped in the loving arms of her God. Friday night the funeral home in Canyon was jam-packed with people, young and old, sharing stories of Susan’s loving spirit and encouraging nature. Saturday the chapel at Central was filled to capacity with her family, her church family, her fellow teachers, her former students, and about a million flower arrangements. The tributes to Susan’s life of sacrifice and service for the sake of others went well into the night. The glory and praise to God brought by her life continues through all eternity.

May God bless all the Butlers with his comfort and peace and, yes, his joy. May God receive sweet Susan into his faithful arms. And may God bless all of us with the strength and faith and confidence that he is able to keep what we’ve entrusted to him until that great day.

In honor of Sister Butler, why don’t you go out of your way to say something really nice to somebody today. Encourage somebody. Tell somebody how proud you are of what they’re doing. Tell somebody you believe in them. It would honor Susan and it would bring praise to her/our God.

Peace,

Allan

It Was Only a Matter of Time

Allan's Journey, Carrie-Anne, Valerie No Comments »

seniordiscountWe ate at the Town Crier here in Abilene last night, a traditional stop in our rotation of local eating joints for us every year while attending the ACU Summit. But it wasn’t until I was sorting through my receipts this morning when I noticed that, for the very first time ever in my short life, I was given a Senior Discount. She didn’t ask. She apparently just punched it in. First time ever. Humiliating. Depressing. The only explanation is that the Town Crier must give the senior discount to those 40-years-old and over.

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Our daughter Valerie is posting pictures of her friends and herself attending last week’s Delta-Theta Luau at Oklahoma Christian University. I reminded her that we have a picture of her mom and me at the same Delta-Theta Luau back in 1989. That’s kinda cool, huh? Weird. Seeing the two pictures side-by-side kinda got up in my feels. And I realize maybe the senior discount thing isn’t so far-fetched.

deltathetaluauselfiedeltathetaluau

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markmclemore3The Rangers’ magic number is 3.

Peace,

Allan