Our precious niece, Maryn, had their baby late last night in Memphis: a beautiful little girl named Joanna Madelyn. Joanna is the first-born grandchild in this generation of our family, making my sister, Rhonda, a grandmother right on time. Joanna looks like her mom so I’m assuming she’ll have a fabulous singing voice, an exquisite ability to play piano, a sharp and funny wit, and she’ll shoot about 80% from the field.
The initial photo and text I received from Rhonda merely said “8lbs 5oz.” I wondered if that was the weight of the massive bow on Joanna’s head!
Congratulations to Logan and Maryn! May you give thanks daily to God for Joanna and the joy and love she will bring to your home. May you earnestly seek our Lord as you raise her in the community of faith. And may our Lord protect her and bless her with his grace and peace.
As part of our “Meals with the Messiah” sermon series, we’re asking everybody at Central to take pictures of shared meals around the table in their houses and post it using #amarillocentral. I don’t know what Kevin is going to do with these, but you can bet it’ll be significant. We took this picture of our covenant group in our dining room last night somewhere in between the chili and soups and Paul Brown’s Frito salad. We were missing Dale and Karen – maybe Kevin can photoshop them in.
Due to COVID restrictions and our desire to try something completely different, we had planned an Ash Wednesday Drive-Thru event in our church parking lot. But on Ash Wednesday last week in Amarillo, it was four-degrees and there were nine inches of snow on the ground. So we postponed the event until last night when it was 50 degrees warmer and 100-percent drier.
As a church family last night we joined our Lord on his way to the cross. We participated with Jesus, we walked (drove) with our Christ as he willingly traveled to Jerusalem to suffer and die for the sins of all humanity. It was a come-and-go event with four different stops or stations to remember and reflect on Christ’s baptism, his triumphal entry into the Holy City, the supper he shared with his followers on that last night, and his crucifixion. We read the biblical texts and prayed focused prayers at each stop. We had meaningful conversations.
Last night we remembered that, while he was in the water, God publicly declared his eternal love for Jesus. In the same way, our heavenly Father acknowledges us as his precious children and commissions us for service in his Kingdom. We looked each other in the eyes last night and said, “You are loved by God and he is well pleased with you.”
We waved palm branches outside our car windows and shouted “Hosannah!” as we drove our vehicles over other palm branches and robes and coats. That’s where our people did some double-takes. “You want me to drive OVER the robes?” We discussed the differences between the way Jesus rules and the way worldly kings rule. We told each other, “God saves you.”
We shared the communion meal together last night. We thanked God for meeting our deepest needs in Jesus. We thanked God for washing away our sins in the blood of Christ.
And then we parked our cars facing the floodlit cross Leon Wood and Tom Grant had built and erected in front of our ancient chapel. Our shepherds met each car with words of blessing and prayers for peace. Holy moments. Sacred conversations. Nobody was in a hurry. Blessings were being given and received. God’s Spirit was comforting and transforming all of us. As the cars departed the event, our elders painted a gray cross on the window of each driver and passenger, reminding us that we are human – we are made of dust and to dust we will return – and that we need God and each other. The ash-colored crosses on our car windows acknowledged that the once-for-all sacrifice of Jesus far surpasses in glory the burnt offerings made by the priests.
That’s the essence of the Gospel. God created us out of his great love, we have sinned and fallen short of his glory, we are in desperate need of forgiveness and salvation, he forgives us and restores us through Christ Jesus our Lord.
I am so grateful for our ministers and shepherds, for our church staff, and every member of this wonderful Central congregation. We have found creative ways to remain connected over the past year and we have seen our Lord at work in everything and everybody around us. May our faithful God continue to bless us during the days and weeks leading up to Easter Sunday. May we remember. May we walk with Christ. And may his will be done in and through this church and our city just as it is in heaven.
Today is Sanctity of Human Life Sunday in which disciples of Christ in this country publicly reaffirm our commitment to showing love, respect, and grace to every single human being. We proclaim the truth that every human life is created by our God in the image of our God and is deeply loved and cherished by our God. Every color, every gender, every race, every age; born and unborn, rich and poor, physically fit and physically challenged, mentally and emotionally stable and mentally and emotionally troubled — all human life is created and loved by the author of life, the Almighty Father of Heaven and Earth.
This is also a day when Central celebrates our Gospel partnership with HopeChoice and the beautiful and powerful work they do in our Amarillo community in the name and manner of Jesus.
In the mostly lousy year of 2020, 591 young pregnant women walked through the doors at HopeChoice thinking about abortion. Of those 591 young ladies, 580 changed their minds and decided on life for their babies. More than a hundred of those women made some kind of decision for our Lord Jesus Christ.
That good work has not slowed down during the pandemic. And we are so honored and blessed by God to be a part of it.
You haven’t lived until you’ve watched classic Christmas shows at a drive-in theater while it’s snowing. And it’s especially cool when the giant screen is on a tractor trailer and the theater is the church parking lot!
The outside temperature was right at freezing while it was snowing and sleeting all afternoon and into the evening. But that didn’t keep a whole bunch of us from showing up for the barbecue dinner and the frigid double feature here at Central. In fact, watching the shows through the snow added a great deal of novelty and excitement to the already special event.
All of us were treated to barbecue sandwiches from Fat Boys before we settled into our parking spaces, tuned our radios to 100.3-FM, and set our cars’ heaters on “medium.” We flashed our lights and honked our horns with glee when “A Charlie Brown Christmas” began — the little round-headed kid was more depressed than I remembered. We delighted during the intermission when Santa Claus and his helpers arrived with gourmet popcorn and candy bars for all the cars. And we quoted the lines and sang along with the songs during the main feature, the 1964 Claymation classic, “Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer.”
“Silver and Gold.” “Holly, Jolly Christmas.” Yukon Cornelius and the weird licking of his pickax. The Island of Misfit Toys with the Charlie-in-the-Box and the over-the-top dramatic psycho doll. And why were Santa and Donner and the head elf so grouchy? Clearly, all those elves were the first anti-dentites. And Santa had to be fat in order to be happy — Mrs. Claus knew it! There’s a lot going on there.
Everybody stayed in their cars and waved and honked at proper distances. Everybody seemed to have a really great time. And most everybody waited until this morning to clean the popcorn and potato chips up out of their vehicles.
We’re doing it again in two weeks, on December 16. I don’t know what we’re going to watch yet, but I’m rooting for the 1970 Claymation “Santa Claus is Comin’ to Town.” I just want to say “Burgermeister, Meisterburger” from the pulpit.
Scattershooting while wondering whatever happened to Julio Franco…
The sign has arrived and it’s finally becoming a reality: Amarillo will have a Chuy’s restaurant and it will open in mid-January! For two years we’ve been teased with rumors of land purchases and permits, remodeling and renovations, strategy revisions and pandemic delays. I had just about given up hope when the truck and trailer rolled into town carrying that big beautiful sign! If everything can continue now on schedule, move over Abuelo’s! In less than three months, it’s all chicken enchiladas with the Boom Boom sauce and that green chili rice!
My great friend, college roommate, Delta brother, and roofing partner Mike Osburn is running for re-election as an Oklahoma State Representative from the district that includes our old Edmond stompin’ grounds. His new TV ad features his wonderful wife, Holly, and their three kids, and it’s terrific.
Following their 5th loss of the season on Sunday, the Dallas Cowboys made big news yesterday by signing a backup punter to the practice squad. Yes, you read that correctly. Special teams director John Fassell says they signed Hunter Niswander as insurance, in case of an injury to Chris Jones or Greg the Leg. That’s right. Not a defensive back or linebacker, not an offensive lineman. This team now has two punters. With their turnover ratio at -13, do they even need one?
In his one-and-a-half quarters of relief for the concussed Andy Dalton, Cowboys quarterback Ben DiNucci suffered more sacks against Washington Sunday than completed passes. His line after the game was that, coming out of James Madison University, he’s never really seen pass rushers like Chase Young. Oops.
If I’m being generous — very, very, very generous — I can’t see the Cowboys finishing this season at anything better than 5-11. If they split with every team in this atrocious division and if they split their games against Minnesota and the Bengals (a big IF), they’ll finish with a Dave Campo record. And Jerry Wayne will say they’re just one offensive lineman and one defensive playmaker away. Or punter.
We’re celebrating another fabulous Missions Sunday here at Central. After sharing the communion meal together with our 14 local and foreign missions partners, our church family gave $335,296 towards our missions efforts in 2021! That’s a lot of money for one church our size to give in one day! And it’s still coming in! Praise the Lord! I’m so blessed by our God to belong to a church that puts God’s mission to others at the front and center of our existence and then puts it money there, too. This is such a deep part of who we are as a congregation. This is the way we express our faith in God and experience the abundance of his blessings. And this is one of the most significant ways we’re all connected.
Bill Parcells famously declared, “You are what your record says you are.” With that in mind, here is a list of the teams in the NFL who have not won a divisional playoff game in at least 25 years:
This is the worst of the worst in the NFL, the teams that have gone the longest at being the most irrelevant. This is the company the Cowboys have been keeping since 1995. The Cowboys are not one player or one coach away. The Cowboys are the Bengals and the Lions and the Dolphins.
At least it can be said that we are watching history with this current version of the Cowboys. Only three teams in the history of the NFL have given up more than the 218 points Dallas has given up in its first six games. The last time it happened was in 1961. Statistically speaking, we are watching the worst defense in the NFL in my lifetime! Arizona averaged almost seven-and-a-half yards per play last night!
But it’s not just the defense. Eighty-four of those 218 points given up this year have come off Dallas turnovers. The Cowboys committed four more in last night’s debacle against the Cardinals, two on fumbles by the highest paid running back in NFL history on back-to-back possessions. Andy Dalton looked lost. And the Cowboys may as well have set up five chairs on the line the way the Cards defense was running through to the backfield.
On this day in 1950, Thomas Earl Petty was born in Gainesville, Florida. At the age of 26, with his band of mostly childhood friends, The Heartbreakers, he released their self-titled debut album and I had a rock-and-roll companion I could grow old with. In his memory, check out this promotional video of a little-known deep cut from that first album, “Anything That’s Rock ‘n’ Roll.”
I love the rebellious teenage angst lyrics in that song. This is the young Tom Petty, but anybody could see he was already a genius at turning a phrase and writing a really good lyric:
“Your mama don’t like it when you run around with me / but we got to hip your mama that you got to live free.”
While we’re at it, here are my favorite lines from the other nine songs on that first Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers album.
“I can’t stop thinkin’ about how I dig rockin’ around with you.”
“There is no sense in pretending / your eyes give you away / something inside you is feeling like I do / we’ve said all there is to say.”
“Said it’s so good, said it’s unreal / might not last, but it’s no big deal.”
“Well, the moon sank as the wind blew / and the street lights slowly died.”
“A roar turned into whispers.”
“You never said you had no number two / I need to know about it if you do / If two is one, I might as well be three / it’s good to see you think so much of me.”
“You got ruby lipstick, rose petal rouge / dime store jewelry, cheap perfume.”
“White light cut a scar in the sky / thin line of silver / the night was all clouded with dreams / wind made me shiver.”
“Well, she was an American girl, raised on promises / she couldn’t help but thinkin’ that there was a little more to life somewhere else / after all it was a great big world / with lots of places to run to / and if she had to die tryin’, she had one little promise she was gonna keep.”
Great Cities Missions has released a really wonderful video that highlights the missionaries, church planters, and congregations they equip and support all over Latin America and in Spanish-speaking churches in the U.S. The video is hosted by Grant Boone of CBS Sports, a great friend of GCM, and it really captures the passion of Kelley and Brian and Chris and all our great partners in this extraordinary Gospel organization. Junior and Patricia Lira are featured at the beginning, Byron and Sandra Cana are seen passing out food and resources in Bogota, Max Lucado makes an appearance at the end, and our own Leon Wood’s surprise cameo steals the whole thing! Watch the video; you’ll be encouraged and inspired.
At Central, we are incredibly honored and blessed to be founding partners with Great Cities Missions for almost 50 years. And we love celebrating our friendships during Missions Month and giving the glory and praise to our God.