Category: Allan’s Journey (Page 3 of 28)

Triple Shot Sunday

Three observations from a jam-packed Lord’s Day in Midland, Texas.

We are attempting to move our communion time at GCR in a direction that makes the Lord’s Meal more communal and less individualistic, more participatory and less observance, more sharing and less partaking. While the trays for the bread were being passed yesterday, we asked our church family to talk with one another in their seats about their favorite parts of the Christmas season. That seemed innocent enough. Non-threatening. Then when we passed the trays with the cups, we asked everyone to tie their favorite parts of Christmas to Jesus. How do those favorite things connect to Christ? How do those favorite things remind us of Jesus or honor Jesus or point to Jesus? That seemed a little more difficult.

Our youngest daughter, Carley, mentioned right out of the gate that her favorite parts of Christmas are family and food. When it came to connecting those things to Christ, I offered that Jesus came here to bring all people into his family, to create a holy family connected to one another in him. As for food? Carley didn’t hesitate to say, “The feast. Eating and drinking with Jesus as his table. Jesus ate with everybody. And so do we.”

Oh, that made my heart feel so good.

It was good to overhear Eddie and Carol having a similar conversation with their grandchildren in the pew behind us. It was encouraging to watch these conversations taking place all over the worship center. We’re trying to make the Lord’s Supper more of a true communion at GCR. Connecting our everyday lives and events – and the seasonal events, too – to Christ is another way to obey the command to eat and drink together in remembrance of him. And it’s more communal.


After yesterday’s win over WFT, the Cowboys have a three-game lead in the NFL’s worst division with four to play – a playoff berth is now a done deal. But how good do you feel about it?

Something’s wrong with Dak. Still. He threw two picks yesterday and Washington dropped at least two others. Prescott’s inexcusable pick six late in the game almost derailed the entire afternoon. He’s not reading zone coverages, he’s miscommunicating with his wide receivers, and he’s sailing balls over everybody’s heads.

Elliot ran for a grand total of 45 yards. The Cowboys offense only scored one touchdown, and that was a 41-yard drive after a turnover. Four Dallas drives ended with super short field goals of 35, 28, 37, and 29 yards. We call that playing between the 20s, bogging down in scoring territory.

This was against a six-win WFT that was completely decimated on both sides of the ball with injuries. This was after shipping their own sideline benches to FedEx Field to make sure the heated seats worked. This was after Mike McCarthy made a weird “guarantee” of victory to the media.

The Cowboys are going to win the NFC East and host a Wild Card playoff game. But does it matter? The way the team is playing right now, the way they’ve been playing for the past seven weeks, they can’t beat Arizona, Green Bay, Tampa Bay, or the Rams. They’re not even in that same universe. I guarantee it.


Last night, my new friend Gary and I took in 66.667% of ZZ Top at the Wagner-Noel here in Midland. Obviously, it’s not the same without Dusty Hill – we knew that going in. But, good night, it’s still pretty stinkin’ good.

We had great seats at this tiny, intimate venue – it only seats 1,800 – sixth row dead center. Longtime ZZ Top guitar tech Elwood Francis played bass and attempted some vocals and mostly stayed in the background while drummer Frank Beard and ZZ Top founder and front man Billy Gibbons did the heavy lifting. And, for all intents and purposes, it was a standard ZZ Top concert, very much like the seven or eight I’ve attended before.

They played all the hits, everything you would expect from a ZZ Top show, except maybe “Cheap Sunglasses.” They ran through everything from “Waitin’ for the Bus” and “La Grange” to “Gimme All Your Lovin'” and “Sharp Dressed Man” and all points in between. They went deep, way deep, with a B side from their very first album called “Brown Sugar.” They brought out the fuzzy guitars for “Legs.” They changed the words in “Head’s in Mississippi” and “Jesus Just Left Chicago” to reflect our locale in Midland. They covered “Sixteen Tons.” They engaged in their signature choreography, minor steps and subtle hand motions that Gibbons describes as “low energy, high impact.” They played for an hour-and-a-half with nothing but a three-minute break in the middle. In other words, they delivered.

And by “they,” I mean Billy Gibbons.








The Reverend Billy G is more than capable of carrying a show by himself. He is an icon of Texas music, a rock and roll ambassador for the Republic for more than 52 years. He’s a legendary Hall of Fame songwriter and guitar player. He plays a blistering electric guitar with incredible precision and dramatic flair. He has such fun doing it that everyone watching can’t help but have fun, too. He’s both traditionally conservative and wildly innovative at the same time. He puts on an amazing show. Every time.

But it’s not ZZ Top without Dusty Hill.

Gibbons paid appropriate tribute to Dusty at the beginning of the concert and he modified the lyrics to “Jesus Just Left Chicago” to include his partner’s name. But, man, it felt different. Dusty’s harmonies were gone. Elwood attempted to blend his voice with Gibbons’ during the songs from the Eliminator album and it was okay. But during most of the show, it was solo Gibbons. Which is fine. But it’s not ZZ Top. Hill’s harmonizing gave the group its depth. And Hill’s antics gave the group its energy. While Gibbons sings with a low gravely bass, Hill always sang with an excitable energy that was contagious. Much higher pitch. Almost frantic. I’ve always imagined it was Dusty who came up with their choreographed dance moves – it just seems like something he would do. ZZ Top has always been a two-man show, Dusty and Billy playing off each other, making each other better, singing together, laughing at each other, in perfect lockstep literally and figuratively for 52 years. Last night was a Billy Gibbons show with a backup band. Again, it wasn’t bad. In fact, it was really, really great. But it’s not ZZ Top.

I wondered how they were going to sing “Tush” without Dusty. It’s a signature ZZ Top song, one of their all-time biggest hits, and a concert staple. But it’s also one of the few on which Dusty sang the lead. How were they going to do this? Would they even try?

Turns out, the last song of the encore, the final number of the night, was a recording of Dusty’s voice as he sang “Tush” at his last ever concert last spring. They’ve singled out the vocals so they can play it alone, so Dusty can sing his favorite song with Billy’s guitar and Frank Beard’s drums. So we could all sing with Dusty Hill again just like we have for five decades.

At every show, Billy Gibbons always says ZZ Top is “the same three guys, same three chords.” Last night he said, “Three guys, three chords.” Close, yes. And good, of course. But not quite the same.



Blue Sky Midland. Day One.

Yesterday was opening day for the newest Blue Sky location, right here off Loop 250 and Midkiff Road in Midland. So, yes, Carrie-Anne and I were there for lunch. She ordered her usual sliders and crispy fries and I went with the cheeseburger all the way and fried jalapeno rings and it tasted exactly right. Which is to say, it tasted just like heaven. Oh, my.

The buns baked fresh daily right there in the restaurant, the fresh beef trucked in daily from Amarillo, the just-right amount of batter on those fries and rings – it was perfect. It tasted exactly like eating at the original Blue Sky that opened up on I-40 and Western in Amarillo in 1975 and just like the second location on Coulter. Vintage signs. Local ads embedded in the table tops (Hello, DeLaura Gammage). Wide open dining room with plenty of space. And, good grief, those burgers. Indescribable.

I’ve not eaten at the newer Blue Skys in Lubbock or Abilene. I’ve been afraid that branching out too much might water down the Blue Sky product and the experience. But I have no worries now. Friday’s first meal at the Midland Blue Sky was outstanding in every way. As were the Oreo and peppermint shakes made with real Blue Bell ice cream and hand spun with love.

The new Midland Blue Sky is exactly halfway between our house and the GCR church building. Five minutes from home, five minutes from work. Everything about our move to West Texas has now fallen perfectly into place.



The Night Before

It’s Saturday in Midland, Texas. But Sunday is coming. And not just any Sunday. Tomorrow is a special Sunday. A watershed Sunday. A pivotal Sunday for my preaching ministry and for Golf Course Road Church of Christ.

Tomorrow I will attempt to speak a Word from our God to several hundred people I don’t yet know. As their preacher. As the one they have ordained to speak to them, to encourage them, to challenge them, to instruct and correct them, to lead them and to love them. By God’s grace and by the mysterious work of his Holy Spirit, these people at this historically great church in West Texas have called me to join their community of faith and preach for them. Preach with them. I am honored to do so. And I’m nervous.

Tomorrow I join a long list of faithful men who’ve stood before this church and dared to preach the Word. Doug Parsons. Randy Fenter. Ronnie White. Mike Cope. Tod Brown. Many others. For a very long time, these people have been used to some of the very best preaching there is. It’s incredibly humbling to be a part of that now, to be inserted into this formidable line.

Carrie-Anne and I feel very much at peace with our move, very certain that our Lord has pushed us here and that he wants us in Midland with these people at this time for his very specific Gospel purposes. I am calm about tomorrow and prayerful that our God will speak through me the affirmation and encouragement I know he wants to give his children at GCR.

Tonight I feel very blessed by our God and incredibly honored by the church at GCR, these good people I don’t really know yet. I am confident that tomorrow is going to be a really good day and that my family and this church family are embarking on a long and fruitful partnership together.

May God bless us richly with his grace and peace. And may he bless his church at GCR. May our Lord do whatever he wants in and through us together and may we embrace it with imagination and vision and joy to his eternal glory and praise!




RIP Dusty Hill

We lost an iconic fixture of Texas music yesterday, a mainstay legend and master of our great state’s historic blues-infused rock and roll. Dusty Hill, the bearded bassist for ZZ Top, apparently died overnight at his home in Houston. He was 72. He had a broken hip. No one is saying what killed him. My gut tells me it probably had something to do with pain killers associated with the hip – that’s what took Tom Petty out four years ago – but that’s only my speculation. What I know for sure is that for 50 years Dusty Hill provided the low rumble beneath every ZZ Top song that made their music feel so gritty and dirty and real.

As lead guitarist Billy Gibbons said yesterday, Dusty Hill was the “monumental bottom to the Top.’

This is Texas Monthly’s story on Hill’s passing. This is from Rolling Stone magazine. And this the Fort Worth Star Telegram’s collection of tributes from the music world.

I’ve seen the self-proclaimed “little ol’ band from Texas” in concert at least eight or nine times, from the floor at Reunion Arena in the mid ’80s to their 50th Anniversary Show in Austin two summers ago. Carrie-Anne and I saw ZZ Top and Aerosmith at StarPlex in Dallas in 2009. Carley and I saw them in Amarillo in 2017. If you’ve lived in Texas your whole life – anywhere in Texas – odds are you’ve seen ZZ Top. They played all the time in cities and venues large and small.

I won second row floor seats to a ZZ Top show during the Afterburner tour by being the correct caller and singing the opening lines of “La Grange” on Q-102 in Dallas. Bo Roberts provided the “Hauw, Hauw, Hauw.” I bought a silver ZZ key chain just like the ones in those three “Eliminator” videos at that concert and kept it all the way through college. I wore that “Afterburner” concert T-shirt until it fell off of me in the late ’90s. But I bought a new one at the 50th anniversary show in Austin and I’m wearing it today.

The genius of Billy, Dusty, and drummer Frank Beard is the consistency: same three guys, same three chords. From the early ’70s to just a couple of months ago, you always got the exact same thing at a ZZ Top concert: a stripped-down stage, the bare minimum on lighting, simple chords, easy lyrics, understated choreography, fuzzy guitars, and lots of references to the greatness of the Lone Star State. ZZ Top shows are always super loud and super fun. I’ll never know how they got so much out of two guitars and a drum, but they always did. Those three also had a tongue-in-cheek, satirical, almost ironic sense of their own stardom, of their fans, and of the whole scene. The only subtle thing about a ZZ Top  concert is the way they poke fun at themselves and at us while they’re performing. That was always part of the joy of a ZZ Top show. Those 20-inch beards, the cheap sunglasses, spinning fuzzy guitars with the aid of a prop on their belt buckles – they knew it was absurd. Beautifully, wonderfully absurd.

Gibbons is being quoted today as wanting to fulfill Dusty Hill’s wishes that the show go on without him. But can it? ZZ Top was scheduled to play here in Midland in December with George Thorogood and we were planning to attend as a family. But Dusty Hill was ZZ Top’s center of gravity. I don’t think it’s ZZ Top without Dusty’s barrelling bass. His growling harmonies. His powerful presence. No offense to Frank Beard, but that’s just Billy Gibbons doing solo.



That Didn’t Take Long

The minute we left Amarillo, the Vermillion family realized they were losing a significant stream of steady revenue for their Blue Sky restaurants. And one of their most passionate advocates. So, they’re getting this one built as quickly as they can in Midland. I don’t know when this newest Blue Sky at Midkiff Road and Loop 250 will officially open, but the signs have gone up and we’re monitoring it closely.

Once this iconic Amarillo establishment opens up for business here, my whole world will again be at peace. I’m assuming they will make their buns on site every day and carefully build their burgers with the freshest beef and the perfect combination of vegetables just like they’ve done for years at 1-40 and Western. The hot ham and cheese sandwich will still be surprisingly excellent. The fried jalapenos and crispy french fries will perfectly complement the burger or the ham and cheese. And the hand-spun shakes will come with a massive pile of whipped cream on top.






By the way, this newest Blue Sky is situated exactly halfway between our new house here in Midland and our new church at GCR. The most perfect location anyone could have chosen. Thank you, Rex and E.A.! Now, hurry up and get this thing opened!



Thank You, Amarillo!

For a little over eight years, I’ve been blessed to write a monthly faith column for the Amarillo Globe News  – actually, it’s a little more than monthly; it’s every four weeks. Today’s column was my last word to the city of Amarillo, a big thank you and a reminder of how good we Christians have it in the Yellow City.

And. Of course. In the printed edition of today’s paper, my farewell column ran with my friend Gene Shelburne’s byline and mug shot instead of mine.

That sounds just about right.

Gene is already petitioning the paper to rerun the column, with an apology, in tomorrow’s edition in a “high exposure page position.” He’s very kind. We’d probably both be disappointed to learn how little this really matters. At any rate, the online version of the Globe News contains the column with my name and cheesy mug. You can read it by clicking here.



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