Category: Central Church Family (Page 1 of 53)

Hearing God in Holy Relationship

Hearing God happens in holy relationship. If you’re not in a close, personal, and dynamic relationship with God in Christ, you’re going to have trouble hearing his voice.

“The one who enters by the gate is the shepherd of his sheep… the sheep listen to his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he has brought out all his own, he goes on ahead of them, and his sheep follow him because they know his voice.” ~John 10:2-4

This whole passage in John 10:1-18 is about relationship. The sheep recognize the shepherd’s voice because he owns them; they belong to him. He calls his own sheep by name. That’s a big part of it – this belonging. But it’s much more about relationship. Notice that Jesus doesn’t use his voice to lead all the sheep; he speaks to his own. Jesus knows his sheep. His sheep belong to him. He calls them by name. They’re always together and they’re listening and they hear his voice and they follow.

“I know my sheep and my sheep know me – just as the Father knows me and I know the Father – and I lay down my life for the sheep.” ~John 10:14-15

The sheep who hear the shepherd’s voice are in a close, tight relationship with the shepherd. And it’s not just mutual – it’s comprehensive! It’s total! Jesus and his followers have an intimate relationship, the same relationship, he says, that Jesus has with God the Father. That’s staggering! That’s mind-blowing! Jesus is willing to die for you not just out of obedience to God, but also because of the close relationship he has with you. And in this mutual relationship, this committed and devoted relationship with Jesus, is where we hear his voice.

“The one who belongs to God hears what God says. The reason you do not hear is that you do not belong to God.” ~John 8:47

If you have a hearing problem, it might be that you have a relationship problem.


My dear friend Valerie Gooch was asked to preach Sunday at Messiah’s House Church in Amarillo and, by God’s grace and the power of the Holy Spirit who lives inside her, she knocked it out of the park.

Valerie is the founder and Executive Director of The Panhandle Adult Rebuilding Center, or PARC. It was her God-ordained vision to convert the old Route 66 strip club on 6th Street in Amarillo into a day center for those experiencing homelessness. And it is thriving today as a unique Christ-centered  sanctuary of love and grace where lives are being changed. Valerie was one of my biggest encouragers during our ten years at the Central Church in Amarillo – we were blessed to partner together in ministry in that downtown space and I was blessed by her pep talks and prayers for me. I still am. She encourages me a couple of times a week by her PARC email updates and with a text every few months when I seem to need it most.

You can watch her sermon here. It begins at the 56-minute mark.

The story about smelling marijuana made me laugh.

Valerie’s illustration about the eyeball and how wonderfully made we all are in the image of God and how we have to look for that in others, even when, especially when, it’s not always easy to see – I’m stealing that.

God doesn’t call us to fix people, he calls us to love people – I’m stealing that, too.

And the story about Reggie made me cry.

God bless Valerie and Royce and every person who walks through the doors at The PARC.

And Go Stars. Huge game tonight.



In Honor of Kim Scott

Kim Scott probably knows 500 preachers and each of them – all of them! – would have jumped at the chance to do his funeral. That I was the one to officiate that memorial service yesterday in Amarillo is one of the great honors of my life.

In some ways, it was a tough spot. I felt like I needed to tell a bunch of jokes. I felt like Kim would be disappointed if everybody wasn’t laughing the whole time. And you might say, “But it’s a funeral.” And I would say, “But it’s Kim!” The guy died in the church building during a Bible class on Wednesday night! He would want somebody to point out  the humor in that!

So we did. We covered the fact that Kim is right now probably bragging about dying in church on a Wednesday night and how that moves him to the front of the line to get into heaven. We covered the loud neckties and the outrageous family Christmas cards. We talked about Farm & Ranch Shows and Water Board meetings and LCU. We highlighted his sense of humor and his great joy. And I told some jokes. Straight out of Kim’s book.

Did you hear about the big truck that overturned on I-40? It was carrying peanut butter. Jars of peanut butter spilled out everywhere. But it went so well with the traffic jam.

What sound does a limping turkey make?
Wobble, wobble, wobble.

What do you call a cow who just had a baby?

I hear that membership in the Flat Earth Society is falling off.

People who identify as cake are really conscientious; they’re always running around saying, “You want a piece of me?”

I would love to write out all six pages of my eulogy to Kim Scott in this space. Instead, here’s a link to a video of the service. If you want to hear 650 people gut-laughing at a funeral, you might check this out.

On top of presiding over Kim’s funeral, it was a rich blessing to be back in Amarillo. It was great to see so many of the people we ministered with during our ten years there. I got to town early enough to stop by The PARC and hug Shelley’s neck and get caught up with Valerie and see the plans for their new building. I got gas at “my” Toot N Totem and visited with my longtime early morning friends Stacy and Gary and just missed Daniel, who I learned is Stacy’s new assistant manager. I found out the hard way that Burger Bar on Polk Street is now permanently closed so we had to move our lunch with Greg, Steve Nordyke, and the Coopers to the original Blue Sky on Western. (That Blue Sky has crispy fries, which we don’t have at the Blue Sky in Midland!) And I got to spend a couple of hours in that sacred Central church building.

Mixed emotions, man, I’m telling you. Tougher than I thought it would be. And much more of a deep-rooted joy than I anticipated. I thank God for that great church and the years we spent there with those wonderful disciples of Jesus.

And I praise the Lord for Kim Scott. Kim reflects our God’s glory in his kindness and generosity, his patience and grace, his love and great joy. I am a better man, a better follower of Jesus, because of my connection with Kim. I know God better, I see God better, because of Kim. I’m a little ticked off at him right now because he left without saying goodbye – that’s very unlike Kim. But I’m looking forward to seeing him soon. Sooner than I think. And I’ll see if he’ll let me cut in with him in line.


I made it home last night just in time to change clothes, grab C-A and Whitney, and make it out to the ballpark for the Midland RockHounds home opener. It was a beautiful night, the crowd was energetic, the nachos had a little extra cheese, and the RockHounds gave us a win over the Tulsa Drillers. They were down 3-0 in the first inning before they even got up to bat. But Midland exploded for six runs in the bottom of the seventh to win it 10-8 and maintain their first place position in the Texas League South.



Moist in Houston

It’s not the heat, it’s the humidity. It’s not two ministers walk into a Pappasito’s in Houston, it’s the awkward T-shirts they’re wearing.

Carrie-Anne had an oncology appointment at M.D. Anderson yesterday, a check-up at the halfway point of her chemotherapy treatments, and the highlight of our day was meeting up with our great friend Greg Dowell who’s in Houston this week being treated for his own cancer issues. Greg and I spent ten years together, side by side, ministering to and with the good people at Central Church of Christ in Amarillo and we miss him and his family terribly. He was diagnosed with colon cancer less than a month after Carrie-Anne received her diagnosis and, while our two situations are very different, the timelines have been very similar. Greg is scheduled for a pretty important surgery in Houston this Friday and it just worked out yesterday that we’re both in H-Town at the same time and spent three hours catching up with each other at Pappasito’s.

When I  say catching up, I mean we laughed hysterically for three hours. We mostly just laughed.

I can’t really explain the T-shirts – long story. I can’t really say what we’re laughing so hard about in this picture, either. I’ll just say that Greg Dowell is one of the great blessings and joys in my life. I thank God for our friendship. And I pray that our Lord heals him completely.

As for Carrie-Anne, the appointment yesterday went perfectly. The oncologist assured us that everything seems to be working well, all the counts and markers are where they are supposed to be, and everything’s still very much on schedule. She was surprised to see Carrie-Anne’s hair – all of it! And her fingernails – long and strong and healthy! Those cold caps and frozen gloves are working! After the doctor spent a half hour praising Carrie-Anne for her diet, for her diligence with the vitamins and the cold caps and the rest, for her dedication to doing every single thing they’re telling her to do, she told Carrie-Anne she wanted to take a picture of her and put her on a poster as the perfect example for how someone needs to tackle cancer. That’s when I said, “I just can’t get her to quit smoking!”

I wish you could have seen the doctor’s eyes.

And her face. She didn’t know what to say. Until Carrie-Anne assured her that I was joking. That was pretty funny.

Carrie-Anne and I continue to praise our God for the good people in our lives who are supporting her and loving us through this thing. Thank you so much for your prayers, your texts, your phone calls, your cards, your emails, your hugs, the food – all of it – an undeniable testimony to the way our Lord cares for his people through his people.



Holy Land Recap

It took fifteen years and a little peer pressure from her new friends in Midland, but my wife Carrie-Anne finally went with me to Israel and it was a blessing that defies description. Our youngest daughter, Carley, accompanied us along with 23 beautiful Christian friends from Midland, Amarillo, Henrietta, Fort Worth, California, and Hawai’i. What a thrill, personally, to share my love of the Holy Lands with Carrie-Anne and Carley, to show them the places that mean so much to me, to experience it in brand new ways through their eyes.







Carley endured the twelve-hour flight from JFK to Tel Aviv with earplugs, an eye mask, and an old Nike hoodie pulled together around her face. But once we arrived, she was all in. She would give our trusted guide Anton about 25-seconds at each site and then she’d be off with her camera, climbing the walls, going behind the ropes, breaking international laws. She never was as interested in what was happening as she was in what else might be happening. And her mood was a little too dependent on the kind of food that was available. So we were all much better off as a group when we found real Dr Pepper at that store in Jerusalem’s Christian Quarter (where else?) and that delicious Papa De Pizza. Carley marveled at Caesarea on the Sea, hiked the ancient Serpent Path to the top of Masada, took the obligatory picture with an IDF soldier, climbed all those steps to the top of the tell at Beth Sha’an, and ate a lot of Slim Jims. We laughed a lot. We watched a generational storm together on the Sea of Galilee. And she read the Christ hymn aloud while we worshiped on the banks of the Jordan River.







I was a little worried about Carrie-Anne. She doesn’t like to sweat. Which is to say, she doesn’t like to be outside when it’s 73-degrees or hotter. And her hair requires an abundance of preparation and maintenance. But she did it. And I love her for it. She floated the Dead Sea, waded through Hezekiah’s Tunnel, and tried falafel. Once. We sang “It Is Well”  together at St. Anne’s Church next to the Pools of Bethesda and wiped the tears from each other’s faces when we were through. She was disgusted by the garbage at the Tomb of the Patriarchs and enthralled by the view of Jerusalem from the Mount of Olives. And she helped keep me organized and calm.

Carrie-Anne reminds me how to worship. And how to relax. And how to love Jesus. She is my partner. She reminds me how to receive and give the Lord’s grace. And I praise God that we finally did this together.






Doug never let up in his enthusiasm for the water and for the climb. Penny made sure we stopped at every single restroom from Dan to Beersheba. Elaine from Hawai’i brought the Macadamia nuts. Dale made sure we didn’t lose anybody. We never even lost Andy, whose motto must be: a picture is worth a thousand words and ten more minutes of everybody’s time. Betsey took a licking and kept on ticking, twisting her ankle and banging her leg up at Dan, but trudging on with grit and determination. Shelley never got her hair wet. Never. Kyle kept reminding us of the Scriptures and the Story. Kara showed us the kind of guts it takes to climb the Snake Path to Masada. Joe and Sara inspired us with their obvious love for each other and the Lord. Gary kept us laughing. Hans became everybody’s favorite fellow-tourist, within about two minutes of meeting him. Martha brightened the bus and every site with her gracious smile. Nanette showed extreme patience while we kept mispronouncing her name. DeAnn rode that camel as well as Kyle rides a horse. Gaye broke her foot the day before we left, but that boot didn’t slow her down at all; it just added a degree of difficulty to all her costume changes.

And Elaine was Elaine. As always, my dear ministry partner wisely and faithfully handled the schedules, the hotels, the keys, the tips, the luggage, the communion meal, the meetings, the brochure, the reservations, the COVID protocols, the questions, and the preacher. For ten years Elaine was at my side in Amarillo, keeping me from blowing my leg off, reminding me of names and dates, bailing me out of trouble, managing my impulsive behavior, and deserving so much more credit than she ever received. I miss her terribly and appreciate her very much. It was so much fun going to Israel with her again.







More than a couple of times, Anton told us that no tour group does more than we do in ten days. Kyle counted up at least 41 different sites we explored together, from Dan and Caesarea Philippi to En Gedi and Jerusalem and Jericho and Nazareth. We prayed at the Western Wall, recited the Apostles’ Creed in the Jordan River, sang at the Garden of Gethsemane, and ate more than our share of ice cream and shwarma,






Every paragraph of Holy Scripture contains geography, landscape, architecture, people, food, customs, dress, animals, agriculture, and ritual that serve to communicate the history and fact of our God and his activity in our world. And now we’ve been immersed in it – physically, emotionally, spiritually. We’ve explored the sights, sounds, smells, and tastes first-hand. We’ve embraced the story of our Lord’s faithful love as it swells and deepens to penetrate our hearts and souls in brand new ways.

And I can’t wait to go back.

We’re doing it again in November 2024. We’ll start taking reservations in October 2023.



The Whole Blame Bunch

The whole covenant group from Amarillo came down to Midland this weekend to cheer on our own Evie Granado as she dominated at another regional gymnastics competition: three events, three gold medals. We’ve watched Evie, who remarkably turned ten-years-old last month, compete several times, and it’s always the same: three events, three gold medals. The next time we convene to support her at an event, we should all wear T-shirts that say “Three Events, Three Gold Medals.”

Evie is the one who brought us together this weekend, but our Lord is the one who originally put us together ten years ago. And I am so thankful to God. Those people in that picture up there are a rich, deep, eternal source of love and encouragement and support for Carrie-Anne and me and our family. We’ve been together through so much, mostly in each other’s homes, mostly on Sunday nights, but also for holidays, baseball trips, movies, kids’ and grandkids’ events, a couple of weddings, and a few dogs.

Those people up there? We’ve prayed the Psalms with those people. We’ve shared countless communion meals together. We’ve served breakfast and comforted strangers at the League House together. We have fasted together. We’ve done Maundy Thursday and Gifted to Go and Crocktoberfest and Bible class and Missions Month together. There are songs we sing in church that cause us to look at each other across the worship center. Yeah, these are those people for us. When our daughter Valerie got married two summers ago, she had these people escorted in like family, to sit right behind the parents and grandparents. Yeah. That’s who these people are.

We were so blessed by God to have them with us yesterday for worship at our new home at the Golf Course Road Church – two pews full of some of the greatest blessings in my life. I worshiped  God yesterday with Steve’s tenor in my ear and Dale’s resounding bass just to my left. When we dismissed the kids to children’s worship, Evie didn’t leave, but she did reach across three people to grab my hand and share our secret handshake we invented when she used to walk by our row on her way to kid’s worship at Central. They were all smiling as I began the sermon and I couldn’t make eye contact with any of them again until it was over. After church and during lunch, they affirmed how much they missed us at Central and, at the same time, how obvious it is that we belong now at GCR.

Oh, man, we miss this bunch. Those people up there are a huge part of our lives and a big reason our faith is so strong in the way our God works in and through his children.

We had decided to eat at Ray’s Italian Bistro after church. As I walked out of the building into a mostly empty church parking lot, I received a text from Carrie-Anne that they were already there and had ordered my iced tea. I got in my truck and started to pull away when I noticed  Steve and Becky just coming out of the church building. I thought for a second that maybe Steve was turning off the lights and locking the doors, something he would do if it looked like it needed to be done. No, Becky had met two visitors, talked with them for a while, made a couple of connections, and they told her they would be back next Sunday. That’s Steve and Becky. That’s these people we love so much.




Our great friends Dale and Karen made it out here to Midland Monday night and it just absolutely made our whole week! We spent six years together with the Coopers in our covenant group at the Central church and they have been a vital part of our family for even longer than that. Surrogate grandparents to our three daughters and an inexhaustible source of strength and encouragement for Carrie-Anne and me, Dale and Karen are two of the kindest and most generous people we’ve ever known.

We didn’t have much time – they were only here in town for a few hours – but we managed to eat a mountain of onion rings and fried catfish at Clear Spring and catch up on our kids, our churches, our jobs, and Dale’s recent retirement. We reminisced about those early covenant group meetings in which we cried and prayed together around our dining room table, serving breakfast and praying with the residents at League House on those monthly Saturday mornings, climbing up and down Masada together on our trips to Israel, building the arch for Valerie’s wedding, chicken-and-dog-and-house-sitting while they went on another rock-and-roll cruise, Dale’s over-the-top July 4th fireworks extravaganzas, and baseball. Lots of baseball. We stayed up talking and laughing Monday night as long as we could, until we started to fall asleep on the couches.

And we set plans to spend the weekend of March 4-6 together when our sticky buddy, Evie Granado, comes to West Texas to dominate everybody’s faces. Can’t wait.



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