Category: Golf Course Road Church (Page 1 of 5)

Congrats to Kristin

Kristin Rampton held off her challengers with last night’s Georgia win over Alabama to take first place in the inaugural GCR Bowl Challenge. Kristin is one of only three of us on the GCR church staff who, back nearly a month ago, picked the Dawgs to win the college football national championship (Crystal and J.E. are the other two) and it was crucial to her victory. Kristin correctly chose the winner in 20 of the 34 games we picked overall, and finished strong with seven wins in the final nine games.

I was glad to see Brandon here at the church building this morning. He and I were texting throughout last night’s game – he’s a hard core ‘Bama fan and I’m for whoever is on the opposite sideline of Nick Saban. Late in the third quarter and early in the fourth, when Georgia really started rolling, I stopped texting Brandon because I didn’t want to jinx it. When I went back to my phone at the end of the game, Brandon had turned off his notifications. I’m happy to report that he’s okay. And all the doors at his house remain firmly on their hinges.

Kristin gets her lunch and her dessert free at next week’s monthly staff lunch. We’re also buying lunch for the last place finisher, but I’ll let him or her divulge his or her identity.



It’s a Big Church and That’s OK

January is a time when we’re more likely to interact with new people in our church building: more visitors and guests, more of our community, more people who’ve just moved to our city, more folks looking for a church home.

When you’re in a bigger church, those visitors and guests don’t always stick out. It’s not always obvious. It’s easy to mistake that person you don’t know or that person you’ve never seen before as a visitor when, in reality, that person is a 15-year member. It’s embarrassing to ask an unfamiliar face if they’re visiting and they inform us they’ve been coming to GCR longer than we have. It’s awkward. So, we’re paralyzed and we don’t do anything. When we’re unsure, we play it safe and don’t do anything at all. And we wind up with a dozen visitors at Abuelo’s saying, “That’s not a very friendly church.”

Now, long time GCR members don’t help when we become offended if another member doesn’t know our name. The way to respond to another member who mistakes you for a visitor is not, “I’ve been going to GCR for 27-years! How long have you been here?”

If we’re going to be a welcoming church in the name and manner of Jesus, we’ve got to first get over ourselves. This is a big church, and that’s okay. You can’t be embarrassed about not knowing someone’s name. And you can’t be offended if somebody doesn’t remember yours. GCR is not a 150-member church. It’s a big church, and that’s okay.

In fact, let’s just make that something we say to each other when we find ourselves in that awkward position of mistaking a member for a visitor. Both people in the awkward situation need to look at each other with love in their eyes and patience in their hearts and say, “It’s a big church, and that’s okay.”

We want to be a friendly and welcoming church this January, this whole year. And it will take this kind of intentionality to pull it off.



Candles, Carols, and… Snow!

Christmas Eve in Midland this year means clear skies, sunshine, and a forecasted high temperature in the mid 80s. And snow!

It’s become a GCR tradition to provide man-made synthetic¬† snow to add to the atmosphere surrounding our Christmas Eve service. Brandon and Tim have been putting everything together this week and made a bucketful of the white stuff for us to sample. It’s room temperature, it won’t stick or make snowballs, but it does look and feel like snow. Add it to the brass quartet in the courtyard and the carriage rides around the building, and it makes for a really special setting for a really special evening.

I’m personally excited for this Christmas Eve service. We always had one while I was preaching at Legacy, but we didn’t do it the ten years we were at Central. I’ve missed it. The candles, the Christmas hymns, the Advent wreath, the little kids, the special videos and communion meal, seeing everybody’s families and meeting new folks – all in celebration of the coming into this world of the light of Christ, the eternal light that gives life to all people!

If you’re anywhere in West Texas on Friday, I invite you to join us for this special Christmas Eve blessing at Golf Course Road Church. You can play in the snow and enjoy the family-friendly activities outdoors beginning at 3pm and then come inside for the worship service that starts at 4pm. And when you leave, be sure to take one of the free books we’re giving away to every family who attends.

By the way, we made the decision on Monday to switch from serving hot chocolate to serving a cold punch. Good call.

Merry Christmas!


Fifth Candle – CHRIST

This is the liturgy we’re using during our Christmas Eve service at GCR this Friday when we light the final candle of the Advent wreath. The candlelight service begins at 4:00 Friday afternoon.

Today we light the center candle of Advent, the candle that symbolizes the coming into this world of Jesus Christ.
This candle is white, to represent purity and the light that now shines into the darkness.
Jesus is born. Jesus has come. Jesus is God with us.
Jesus is our eternal hope. Our surpassing peace. Our everlasting joy. And the unequaled source of all love.
Christ reigns at the center of God’s salvation history. And he reigns at the center of our redeemed lives and of this community of faith.

Colossians 1:12-14



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.



Richly Blest by Willie Goudeau

You can’t be the preacher at Golf Course Road and not know Willie Goudeau. Willie is THAT guy here at GCR and, frankly, in Midland. He’ll be 100 years old next month. He’s been at Golf Course Road for almost that long. He’s a shepherd. A Bible class teacher. A small groups leader. His name comes up around here at least once a week. He’s the legend.

My first week in Midland I was introduced to Willie via a video that’s come to be called the Lawnmower Man video. It’s the true story of how Willie won over his gruff, hard-hearted neighbor by mowing his lawn every week while he was recovering from surgery and a broken leg. The video reveals Willie’s kind heart and his sacrificial nature, his desire to consider the needs of others more important than his own, his generosity and love. I watched it twice. It moved me to tears both times. I was told about Willie’s son, Eugene, who was killed by a drunk driver and how Willie publicly forgave the driver and appealed to the judge in the criminal case for leniency and grace. He studied the Bible with his son’s killer and prayed for him fervently. Dozens of times I’ve been told about Willie’s signature line, “Richly blest.” That’s what he says about himself. That’s how he answers any inquiry regarding his well being. The line inspired a song written by Ken Young. Most people around here use the phrase quite often. Not everybody knows it comes from Willie.

For the past three months I’ve been regularly getting asked, “Have you met Willie Goudeau?” Because everybody at GCR knows Willie Goudeau. Everybody here has been blessed by Willie Goudeau. Encouraged by Willie Goudeau. Everybody has a Willie Goudeau story. And now, finally, I do, too.

I was honored last week to spend a little over half an hour with Willie at his home on Bristol Court where he has lived since 1973. I was privileged to be joined by Tod Brown, Kyle McGraw, and Gary and Gaye Glasscock, all of whom have known Willie for decades and have their own wonderful Willie Goudeau stories. Tod tells me Willie has been his biggest cheerleader his whole life. Kyle interviewed Willie a few years ago for Ken Young’s two hour documentary appropriately titled “Richly Blest.” Gary and Willie taught a Bible class together. Everybody’s deeply connected to Willie Goudeau.

From the moment I walked in the door and shook his hand, he knew exactly who I was and seemed genuinely delighted to meet me. He told me he watches me preach online every single Sunday. He quoted my own words to me from a couple of recent sermons. And he very graciously said many kind things about me that just aren’t very true.

We talked together about GCR and the good people at this great church. He reminisced a bit about the Browns and the McGraws and the Glasscocks and their families. He offered me some advice about loving people and serving others. He told me he was ready to meet the Lord in person and then to get things ready for us. I told him I could officially be the preacher at GCR now that I have met him and have received his blessing. He said I was blessing him, he wasn’t blessing me. He said I didn’t need his blessing. He said he knew that I was listening to God and following Christ when we came to Midland to worship and serve with Golf Course Road.

Willie is a saint. He has an incredibly warm and sweet spirit that reflects the glory of our God. He is gracious and kind. His impulse is to encourage and he does it easily and naturally. And it’s obvious that he has a tight relationship with the Lord. He and God are close. They are friends. They know each other intimately. Being in Willie’s living room is like being in the presence of Jesus. Not because Willie is Jesus – he’s not. But because it’s so clear that Jesus lives in Willie.

I thank God for Willie Goudeau and the Christian impact he has had and continues to have on this congregation of God’s people. I feel official now. Of course, I’ve met Willie Goudeau! And. Wait for it. Here comes the line. I am richly blest.



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