Category: Allan’s Journey (Page 2 of 28)

Honored in Edmond

When Brian Simmons contacted me about being honored with the 2022 distinguished alumni at Oklahoma Christian University, my first thought was that all the professors and administrators from the 1980s must be dead. When I was informed that, to the contrary, most all of my teachers and the school’s administrators from that era are very much alive and in favor of the recognition, I was rendered completely speechless.

Wow. What a great honor and blessing. It’s truly incredible on many levels. Overwhelming, really.

The ceremony was nice, of course. Our daughter Valerie and her husband David made the trip down from Tulsa to be with us. University President John deSteiguer said some really nice things about me. College roommate and great friend Mike Osburn was a fellow honoree, so that was cool. And Dr. Simmons gave me a tour of the KOCC studios.







I spent many, many late nights and long hours in those recording and broadcast studios of the campus radio station during my four years at Oklahoma Christian. Brian was a junior Mass Communications major and the radio station manager when I showed up as a freshman. I auditioned for Brian, trying out for the play-by-play position for the men’s and women’s basketball teams. He told me I had a lot to learn and that I could learn most of it by running the boards at the station during the game broadcasts. And he was right. I signed up for almost every single shift that fall of 1985, listening to Stuart Graham from all the various NAIA gyms all over the Sooner Athletic Conference and punching up the underwriting announcements and station breaks at the right time. I produced promotional spots and worked with Brian on intros and outros for the games. I soaked up everything I could from Stuart’s broadcasts – the seamless way he worked up-to-the minute statistics and players’ hometowns into his call, the detailed descriptions of the setting, the way he conveyed excitement without screaming. And when my sophomore year began, I not only had the play-by-play gig, Brian made me the Sports Director, too.


Dr. Simmons is now the chair of the Communications programs at OC and one of Valerie’s and Carley’s all-time favorite teachers, which is really cool. We were privileged to share dinner Friday with Brian and with one of our favorite Mass Comm professors from back in the day, Dr. Philip Patterson. They were both very kind and gracious to me over the weekend and I am thankful to God that he placed both of them in my life at the exact right time.

I must also mention here the annual Delta alumni breakfast which was held Saturday at the beautiful home of Al and Judy Branch. Ozzy was there. David Bates. Scott Williams. Brad Robison. Two Haworths. Two Egglestons. Ted Norton. Odell. All the founding members of our social service club from 1972. Adair, of course. And a whole bunch of younger and younger looking students. We covered it all: the Bush rally, Diet Skipper, pumpkins, Dave Butts and the possum, All-Sports glory, late-night carousings, OC security, float trips to Talequah, creative apartment renovations, summer roofing jobs, and a couple of notable arrests.

This marks the 50th year for my college social service club, Delta Gamma Sigma. The grand 50th anniversary blowout weekend is set for June 9-10, 2023. Which makes no sense. Which is somehow quite fitting. Adair and Bates unveiled the 50th anniversary logo at Saturday’s breakfast and Ozzy revealed the site of the summer bash.  I’m hoping to make it a three or four day deal so I can spend more time with these wonderful old friends. I’m also secretly pushing for the club to disband immediately following the June festivities. I mean, what’s the point now? When’s the last time this group won anything? End it at fifty and call it good!



You Wreck Me

Tom Petty was born on this date, October 20, 1950, in Gainesville, Florida. He is one of rock-and-roll’s greatest legends and one of this country’s greatest songwriters. No one can paint a more vivid portrait or tell a more captivating story in just a three-minute song than Tom Petty. His middle name is Earl.

Turn it up.

Two Years Gone

Two years ago today the news crawled across the bottom of my screen. I immediately called our youngest daughter Carley and listened to her voice mail message for about two seconds before she texted me: “I know. I’m in class.”

His stripes adorn my laptop. His poster I bought from the Mesquite Sound Warehouse when I was 16 hangs in my garage. And his music lives deep inside my soul.

Eddie Van Halen. Tough day.

Formed in Community

I was looking through my closet this week for a 56-year-old piece of paper I want to read to our church this Sunday when I came across the first Bible I ever owned. My parents gave it to me on my sixth birthday, almost fifty years ago. This is the Bible I had when I was a kid growing up in the Pleasant Grove Church of Christ in Dallas. I wrote a lot of notes in the margins of this Bible. Back then it was two Bible classes and three sermons per week – no children’s worship. We sat through all of it. And I looked up every Scripture and I wrote a lot of notes. You can read the notes in my Bible and tell how I was raised.

Next to Psalm 51 I wrote, “This is not original sin.” In a couple of places that describe the musical instruments in the tabernacle and the temple I wrote, “Doesn’t mean we can use them now.” Every single page of the New Testament in this Bible is highlighted, marked up, or underlined. There are also lots of handwritten notes.

“When we work God’s plan, God’s plan will work.”
“You can’t kill time without injuring eternity.”
“You can’t die in Christ unless you live in Christ.”
“A fellow wrapped up in himself makes a very small package.”

There’s a picture of Jesus washing the disciples’ feet and I’ve circled the Lord’s long blonde  hair. On the other side of the page is a picture of Jesus standing before Pilate. I’ve circled his long hair there, too, and written, “I Cor. 11:14 – God wouldn’t go against his own writings so Jesus must have had short hair.”

I don’t make fun of the notes in my first Bible. I’m not ashamed of them. Everything in this first Bible reminds me of growing up in that Pleasant Grove church and brings to mind really happy memories for me. This Bible reminds me that I was raised by people who loved me and taught me and cared about me and passed the Christian faith on to me.

This excellent reproduction of a Joe Malone sermon illustration, drawn when I was fourteen, reminds me of the sayings he would repeat on rotation at least every four or five sermons. Little ditties like, “Let one drop the sidewalk smirch, and it’s too wet to go to church.” I also remember the good-natured teasing he gave me when I wore that arrowhead necklace from Avon when I was eleven or twelve. I remember bugging him in his office during those summer days while my mom was working as the church secretary. I don’t remember him ever being annoyed.

I wrote, “Mike made me mess up” next to a really crooked underlining. That reminds me of my friend Mike Cunningham. His dad, Chuck. They hosted our youth devos. I traded a magic kit to Mike for his ELO “Time” album in 1981.

I remember Aaron Welch. He’s the guy who picked people to pass the Lord’s Supper trays. He always did it the same way. He’d come up to you before church started and say, “Old man, you wanna help us with the Lord’s Supper?” It didn’t matter that I was twelve. He thought it was funny to call Todd and Mike and me old men.

Jim Martin was one of our regular song leaders and I can still see him leading “Trust and Obey” as I walked down the aisle to be baptized when I was eleven. His middle finger was always oddly set a little lower than the rest of his hand.

Tillie Prosser was a high school music teacher who taught us boys how to lead singing in an upstairs classroom at 5:00 on Sunday afternoons. Her favorite song was “He Keeps Me Singing” and we all led it together at the start of every class. When we sing it today, I still hear Sister Prosser’s voice, counting the beats, reminding us to hold it out, “Jesus, Jesus, Jesus, sweetest name I know, two, three, four.”

Kayla Casebolt was the Sunday School teacher who had a giant sandbox in her room where she used little plastic people and animals to tell the stories.

Van and Laura Simpson drove us to youth rallies and Summer Youth Series.

Glen Burroughs taught our high school class and taught me how to drive a stick.

The first time I ever led a prayer during Sunday night church I had to stand on my tiptoes to reach the microphone. It was the closing prayer and I was extremely nervous. I must have been eleven or twelve. I couldn’t see anything over the massive podium. When it was over, Johnny Cobbler approached me in the long hallway from the worship center to the south parking lot doors. Johnny Cobbler was one of the cool teenagers. He had a car and I perceived him to be the alpha leader of the youth group. I was both obsessed with him and frightened of him. He laughed at me and said, “Did you lead the closing prayer? Somebody said you led the prayer, but I couldn’t see anybody up there!” And then he shook my hand and said, “It was a good prayer.” There must have been four dozen people who told me I led a good prayer that night. But I remember Johnny Cobbler.

I remember one Sunday night during my senior year of high school when I accidentally wore a Huey Lewis and the News t-shirt to serve the Lord’s Supper to the reprobates who had been providentially hindered that morning. One of the elders, Kenneth Lybrand, told me after church that it wasn’t right. I shouldn’t wear a shirt like that to serve the Lord’s Table. And I remember Elaine Titus overhearing Brother Lybrand and telling me a few minutes later that it was fine. She told me she could tell I was up there to serve the Lord and it didn’t matter what I was wearing. That meant so much to me. I also remember that Brother Lybrand is the one who gave my parents the money to adopt my little sister Sharon. I can’t tell you how much that means to me.

That church raised me. Those people shaped me. A lot of my ideas about God and Christ, a lot of my understandings about salvation and love, a lot of what I believe and some of what I push back against goes back to the Pleasant Grove Church of Christ. A lot of who I am in Christ today goes back to that community of faith at P-Grove that raised me and shaped me in Jesus.

You’ve got a lot of little kids in your church. I know you do. Lots of boys and girls between the ages of five and fifteen who will never forget the things you say to them. The attention you pay to them. The way you make them feel. The time you went out of your way to assure them they are an important part of your church family. Or those other times. Those other things you said.

They’re all paying attention this Sunday. And they remember.



An Evening with Lonesome George

Blues rocker George Thorogood brought his Destroyers to Midland last night on his “Good  To Be Bad: 45 Years of Rock” tour, and Carrie-Anne and I were sixth row, center stage for the show. It was an hour-and-a-half of Lonesome George’s greatest hits and most familiar songs and I was more than delighted to be there.

George Thorogood is not a mainstream classic rock icon – he  didn’t even sell out the 1,800-seat Wagner-Noel Performing Arts Center last night. But it’s hard to imagine rock and roll even existing without “Bad to the Bone” and “Move It On Over.” Especially “Bad to the Bone.” That opening guitar riff. The stuttering “ba-ba-ba-ba-ba-baaaad!” It’s one of those songs that feels eternal, like it’s always been there. And to be in the room with the man who wrote and recorded that song, the man who’s performed that song for more than four decades, a song that everybody in the entire world knows, is really some kind of experience.

The show opened with the house lights completely down, the whole room totally dark, except for a single purple light on the back wall of the stage. Then Barry McGuire’s classic protest song, “Eve of Destruction,” began blaring from the speakers. The whole thing from start to finish. That song was recorded in 1965 but, man, the lyrics could have been written this morning. It’s disturbing. “Violence flarin’, bullets loadin’; you’re old enough to kill, but not for votin’.””Handful of senators don’t pass legislation.” “Marches alone can’t bring integration.” “Hate your next door neighbor but don’t forget to say grace.” It’s unsettling. And real.

Then George strutted onto the stage and the world’s only five-man trio tore into “Rock Party” and it was on. Ninety minutes of hard-core bluesy-boogie rock and roll. “Who Do You Love?” “Night Time.” The cult-classic “House Rent Blues.” The aforementioned “Bad to the Bone” and “Move It On Over.” And two songs from my favorite George Thorogood album, “Maverick,” “Gear Jammer” and “I Drink Alone.”

That “Maverick” album was released over Christmas 1984-85, just a week before my last semester of high school. The Zoo, 98FM, the station we all listened to in Dallas, played that opening track, “Gear Jammer” like crazy that whole spring and summer of 1985. The guitar in that song is just blistering. Fast and frantic. The solo in the middle is borderline heavy metal. And I absolutely ate it up. I wore out that “Maverick” cassette tape in my ’74 Monte Carlo all through my last months of high school and up and down I-35 on my way to and from Oklahoma City during college. And to watch Lonesome George burn that song up last night was exhilarating for me.

It’s not quite as exhilarating for Carrie-Anne. She goes with me and sits respectfully through the whole thing; she’s a trooper. But it’s definitely not her bag. I think she’s amused at my enjoyment in watching a 73-year-old man play guitar and sing an old song. And that’s about it.

It is pretty interesting to watch these old rockers in concert. Some of them age really well. And others not so much. Guys like Tom Petty and ZZ Top’s Billy Gibbons and Bad Company’s Paul Rodgers understand their age and the age of their audience and they act appropriately. They don’t pretend like they’re in their 20s. Or that we are. They sing the songs we all love, show appreciation and grace, self-deprecate about their age and their past, and really connect with the fans. George Thorogood didn’t do as well in that category last night. He acted like he was forty years younger than he is. He was trying too hard to be cool and sexy. “I’m going to do everything I can to get arrested tonight!” It was strange. “I belong to AU! Alcoholics Unanimous!” Don’t say that, grandpa. It was a little uncomfortable at times. A pelvic thrust from a pudgy 73-year-old man who’s sweating and out of breath doesn’t work. At one point, George hollered, “Isn’t it great to be 17 again!” No. Wait. That’s weird.

I wish he would have performed another song or two off “Maverick” and maybe “You Talk Too Much,” but those would have been deep cuts. He could have played a slower, more overtly bluesie song like “The Sky is Cryin'” or “Woman with the Blues” but, again, those would have been deep cuts when last night was clearly all about the rock and roll hits. Overall, it was a tremendous show in an intimate venue and I’m so glad we went.

When the encore was complete and the band exited the stage, the “Star Spangled Banner” began blaring over the speakers. No lyrics, just the music, the familiar U.S. national anthem, a full orchestra recording, big sound. What? The whole song. Empty stage. The audience filing up the aisles and out the doors. While the national anthem played.

“Eve of Destruction.” “Star Spangled Banner.” The show in the middle.

This is the world we live in; be reminded that everything’s pretty awful. Here’s some diversionary fun; have a good time with your music and your friends. Now back to pledging allegiance to the mess. Put your hand over your heart and act like nothing’s happening, like nothing needs to change, like everything’s okay. Maybe? I don’t know. There was no explanation. That’s the thing with art. If it’s done well, it will provoke you to serious reflection and thought. Even at a frivolous rock and roll concert. Or you can ignore it, I guess.

I’m still thinking about it today. Trying to figure it out. Well done, George. Thanks for coming to Midland.



TC 14 Reunion in Midland

I was overjoyed to reunite today with a couple of running buddies from my two year Transforming Community experience in Chicago. I met Dana and Billie on the first evening of the first TC retreat because they introduced themselves as living in Texas and, you know, we Texans like to stick together. I was so blessed by God to spend those nine retreats over those two years with these two wonderful sisters – to worship with them, to pray with them, to eat with them, to process Ruth’s teachings with them, to laugh with them, and to hang out in the airport together as we nervously held our breath wondering if the snow would strand us in Chicago. As we boarded our plane to Amarillo and they boarded theirs to Midland, I always wondered what it would be like to live where they do in West Texas.

Well, it’s high winds, brown skies, and lunch at Murray’s Deli.

I’m grateful to God today for the chance to catch up with Dana and Billie and their families and the work they do today with the Transforming Community. I’m encouraged to hear how our Lord is presently at work in their lives.  And I’m so glad we finally hooked up for lunch together and very easily picked up right where we left off – talking about our mutual TC experiences and friends, praising God for what he has done and is about to do in this city, and praying his blessings on each other and our ministries.

Dana and Billie are longtime faithful members of First Methodist Church here in Midland. And now it’s on me to get with their pastor, Steve Brooks, before they do.



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