Little Middle, Gray Hair, and Jake

Allan's Journey, Central Church Family, Texas, Valerie No Comments »

A quick hit from Arlington as we wrap up the final leg of our family vacation. We had a marvelous lunch today with Valerie and the sweet family who is housing her while she serves as a summer intern for the student ministry at Pleasant Ridge Church of Christ.

Our old friends, Mike and Traci Thatcher and their daughter Bella, actually signed up to keep Valerie this summer before anybody made the connection that she belonged to us. We ran around with the Thatchers for a while during our brief stay in Arlington while I was working at KRLD during the early 2000s. We were actually the first babysitter Bella ever had! Now she and Valerie are sharing living space and really forming a wonderful friendship. Carrie-Anne and I are so grateful and feel so very confident that when Val’s car won’t start or the youth minister announces to the church that he’s taken another job in Abilene, Mike and Traci are there to take care of our little middle. (I have no idea why Valerie insists on wearing that Kappa shirt in the photo up there; she was wearing it before she met Mike, so I can’t blame him.)

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While we’ve been away, John Mark Beilue, the highly respected columnist for the Amarillo Globe News, wrote a really nice story about Jake and Stevie Reeves’ hospital room wedding. You can click here to read his column. By the way, Jake is home now recovering from his surgery, learning how to manage his newly-diagnosed diabetes, and trying to tolerate diet root beer.

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My once-every-five-weeks faith column for the Amarillo paper was also published last Saturday. It’s about ear-hair and God’s promises in Isaiah. You have to read it to understand.

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And I’d love to recommend to you two books I’ve read during this ten-day vacation. They’re both excellent.

First, the largely untold and completely forgotten story about the world’s first-ever serial killer, in Austin, Texas during the mid-1880s. The book is titled The Midnight Assassin, written by Skip Hollandsworth, the famed editor of Texas Monthly magazine and the writer of the screenplay for the excellent movie “Bernie.” Skip did his research for almost two decades — and it shows. The book is a fascinating study of the events surrounding a dozen killings in the capitol city of mostly African-American servant girls. The murders were all extremely gruesome — one every couple of months — carried out in the middle of the night in the exact same way, and caused a panic throughout Austin that spread to all parts of the state from Gainesville to Galveston. The murderer was never caught. The mystery was never solved. And less than two years later, prostitutes were being killed in the middle of the night in London. Yes, Jack the Ripper! And, yes, most people at the time believed that Jack the Ripper and the Austin Assassin were the same guy! At the very least, most agreed that Jack the Ripper had been inspired by the Austin killer.

Hollandsworth produces hundreds of quotes and clippings from 130-year-old newspapers, police records, court documents, and journals that link the two. He also examines the question “Why do we know so much about Jack the Ripper but almost nothing about the Austin killer?” from every angle. And he pays very careful attention to the historic detail of every scene. These Austin murders were taking place during the construction of the capitol building, during the time when electric lights and telephones were transitioning from experimental to commonplace, during the construction of the very first dam on the Colorado River, and during the world expo in New Orleans when business leaders first began billing the wonders of our state with the slogan “Everything’s bigger in Texas.” The politics of all this was directly impacted by these murders that hung over the city and the state and had to be carefully managed. It’s so interesting. And, if you’re familiar at all with Austin, maybe you’ve wondered about those 130-year-old light towers that are scattered all over the city. Yep, they were erected in reaction to the midnight murders. If you’re a Texas history buff or a murder mystery fan, you absolutely cannot go wrong with this one.

And, Love Does by Bob Goff. I’d like to describe to you what it was like listening to Bob Goff’s 40-minute keynote address at the Pepperdine Lectures this past May. But it would be impossible. All I can accurately communicate in this space is that Goff loves God and he loves people. Passionately. Frantically. Maniacally. Hilariously. If you read his book, you’ll agree. If you read his book out loud, at double-speed, laughing at yourself after every fourth sentence, then you’ll have a better idea about his keynote.

Peace,

Allan

Valerie’s Home!

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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