Category: High School Football (Page 1 of 3)

Friday Night Lights For Real

Whitney and I took in the annual Rumble at Ratliff last night as the Odessa Permian Panthers battled Odessa High in the rain and the chill of a West Texas Friday night . It was the District 2-6A opener for both teams and the energy was high. This was our first trip to historic Ratliff Stadium, the home of Friday Night Lights, the place and the team Buzz Bissinger introduced to the whole world in 1990. And my oldest daughter and I were immersed in and impressed by the whole MOJO experience.

Little did we know that getting to the stadium 25-minutes before kickoff was too late. The line of cars – more trucks than cars, of course – was still backed up to the main road early in the second quarter. Whitney and I made it to our seats, on the 20-yard line about halfway up on the Permian side, in time to see the Panthers score a touchdown on their opening drive. And they just kept scoring. A 98-yard touchdown drive. A 75-yard touchdown drive. The boys ran a lap around the field after every score, bearing massive flags with the Permian “P.” The final flag in the line, the MOJO flag, declared itself to be “The 7th Flag Over Texas.” It was electric.

Ratliff Stadium is bigger and nicer than Bivins Stadium in Amarillo where we watched the Sandies play for ten years. The video boards are like HD TVs in both end zones, the live shots and the replays crystal clear. I shouldn’t have been surprised. The stadium is really great. Lot of history here. Really cool just pulling into the parking lot and seeing the stadium facade just like it looks in all those establishing shots and cutaways in the Billy Bob Thornton movie.

Permian has a serious defense and a ton of speed on both sides of the ball. The Panthers racked up 361 yards rushing and shut the Bronchos out on defense – the only OHS score came on a 90-yard kickoff return. Permian controlled last night’s contest from the opening whistle to the final knee and improved to a perfect 6-0 with the 38-7 victory. Next up, the Panthers host Midland Legacy’s Rebels.

How do we get tickets? And how early do we need to get there?

Hook ‘Em,


The Peace of God

“The peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” ~Philippians 4:7

Shalom. Peace. It’s the perfect state of harmony and communion between God and man, between men and women, throughout all creation. It was promised to the patriarchs. The psalmists wrote about it. The prophets foretold the deliverance of this ultimate peace in the Messiah. For centuries, every generation of God’s people longed for that peace. They sang about it. They preached about it. They looked for it. They waited for it.

That peace of God, that perfect shalom, has come to God’s people in Christ Jesus!

Now that Jesus has won the great victory at the cross, now that he’s defeated death and sin and Satan, now that he’s been raised and exalted by the Father, now that he reigns in all glory and power from his heavenly throne, we possess the peace of God.

Paul says Jesus himself is our peace. He tells the Ephesians that Christ has destroyed the barriers, he’s abolished the wall of hostility. Jesus has forever eliminated the things that separated men and women from God, the things that divided us against each other. All those things are nailed to the cross! Dead! Gone! Obliterated!

“He came and preached peace to you who were far away and peace to those who were near. For through him we both have access to the Father by one Spirit.” ~Ephesians 2:17-18

May we dwell in the joy of the Lord. And may the peace of Christ rule in our hearts.


The high school football season begins tonight with our Amarillo Sandies hosting Palo Duro at Bivins Stadium. And, as always, the Stanglins are all in. As is our tradition around here, we attended the pep rally this morning to cheer the team, to celebrate with the Seniors (including Valerie), to boo the Freshmen (including Carley), to be proud of Blakelee (cheerleader) and Boyd (drum line), and to welcome the new season with the rest of our community. We’ll tailgate tonight with our normal crew and live and die with every snap of another Sandies campaign.

It feels a little bit strange kicking off the season on a Thursday night instead of a Friday. Going to work and school again tomorrow after a late night football game isn’t anybody’s idea of fun. But this is what happens when you share a football stadium with the other high schools in town. And I’m still not totally sure about this new 6A classification. It doesn’t sound right.

But at 7:30 this evening under a blue-gray cloudy sky in Amarillo, the drum line will march, the cheerleaders will yell, the coaches will inspire, the referees will blow their whistles, and the Sandies will launch their 116th football season. And all will be right in the world.

Blow, Sand, Blow!


Around the Table: Part 7

Sports Illustrated’s Andy Staples has written an excellent article on Baylor football coach Art Briles that centers on Briles’ time as a high school football coach in west Texas and in the Texas panhandle. Briles developed his spread offense in response to a quarter-finals playoff loss to Panhandle’s Panthers back in 1984. Staples’ account of that game includes a vivid description of what high school football was like before the days of overtime. Back when tie games were decided by penetrations and first downs, it wasn’t uncommon for teams to play for the penetration instead of the touchdown. It’s a very entertaining read that references lots of our regional towns and teams, including Canadian’s outstanding coach who was a star running back for Panhandle in that 1984 win. You can get to the article by clicking here.


In addition, David Moore has written a nice column in the Dallas Morning News regarding the Cowboys’ chances at a playoff spot. You figure the Cowboys have to win three in a row to make the postseason. And this team hasn’t had a three game winning streak since 2010. I don’t know how the worst defense in the NFL and the statistically worst defense in franchise history is going to stop the Packers this week, regardless of whether Aaron Rodgers suits up for Green Bay. Josh McCown, Chicago’s back-up QB, looked like Jim McMahon Monday night. David’s article is here.


I would like to make the case in this space today that every single time the term “break bread” is used in the New Testament Scriptures, it’s referring to what we call today the Lord’s Supper. The phrase is never used to describe a common meal; it always represents or points to the Lord’s Meal. To illustrate this, we have to use a little Greek. Not a lot; just a little.

Klasas is the Greek word for “break” we find in our New Testaments. It’s the common word for “break.” There isn’t another word for it. It means “to break” like you would break your leg, break a toy, or break your mom’s favorite picture frame. Artos is the Greek word for “bread.” In both the common language and in our New Testaments, this word can have two meanings. The main meaning is simply a piece of common bread or a loaf of common bread. The secondary meaning is “food” or “a meal.” To “eat bread” in many places in Scripture is to eat food generally. The prodigal son in Luke 15:17 says his father’s hired men have “food” (artos) to spare. Jesus’ disciples are criticized in Matthew 15:2 for not washing their hands before they eat. Period. The NIV leaves out “bread” (artos). The Greek text says “…before they eat bread.” The same thing happens in Mark 3:20 when the disciples are so crowded in the house they are “not even able to eat.” Most English translations leave it at that: “eat.” The Greek says “…not even able to eat bread.” But the scholars understand that a full meal is meant by the context. There are a few other places in the New Testament in which “bread” means a meal. The last one I’ll mention is in 1 Thessalonians 3:8 where Paul claims not to have eaten “anyone’s food without paying for it.” The word translated “food” is artos. Bread.

You might think that the term “breaking bread” would be a fairly common term in ancient times, that it would refer, as it does in today’s English, to eating a common meal. When I say we’re going to the Bentleys’ house to break bread, you and I both know we’re having some kind of barbecue and fresh vegetables, peach tea, and a fancy dessert. Hasn’t it always been that way?


According to the Thesaurus Linguae Graecae (TLG) database, a record of every single written word in the Greek language from the very earliest writings dating to about 1400 BC through the year 1453 AD, no one in history ever used the term “breaking bread” before the New Testament. For fourteen centuries — every novel, every song, every poem, every play, every government document, every worship order, every instruction manual, every word of every thing ever penned in that language — nobody ever combined “klasas artos” or “arton klao” (breaking bread) until Paul and the apostles. They were the very, very first. After the New Testament time, the phrase is only found in the writings of the early church fathers, always in reference to the Lord’s Supper.

“Breaking bread” is not a common Greek phrase. It’s not an every day term. It doesn’t mean “have a meal.” It means “share a meal with Jesus.”

The term is used for the first time ever in the Greek language in the New Testament. We find it there eighteen times:

At the feeding of the 5,000 in Matthew 14:19, Mark 6:41, and Luke 9:16
At the feeding of the 4,000 in Matthew 15:36, Mark 8:6, and Mark 8:19
At the last supper in Matthew 26:26, Mark 14:22, and Luke 22:19
At the Emmaus Supper in Luke 24: 30 and 24:35
In Luke’s account of the first days of the Church in Acts 2:42 and 2:46
In Troas on the first day of the week in Acts 20:7 and 20:11
On a ship at sea in the middle of a storm in Acts 27:35
In Paul’s Lord’s Supper discussions in 1 Corinthians 10:16 and 11:24

In every case, this is Jesus eating and drinking at table with his disciples. The term is always used to describe the Messiah sharing a meal with his followers. This is the worship language of the early Church. Just like “born of water and the spirit” means “baptism” and just like “separate and apart” means it’s time to pass the collection trays, “breaking bread” means “Lord’s Meal.” It didn’t need any further explanation. Just like the sports page today doesn’t take the time or the space to explain what “touchdown” means in a story about the football game, the writers of the New Testament used “breaking bread” and all the hearers and readers knew what was meant.

Luke makes it easy to follow the thread:

When he feeds the multitudes, Jesus takes bread, blesses it, breaks the bread, and then gives it to his disciples (Luke 9:16).
At the Passover meal on that last night, Jesus takes bread, gives thanks, breaks the bread, and then gives it to his followers (Luke 22:19)
At the resurrection dinner in Emmaus, Jesus takes bread, blesses it, breaks the bread, and then gives it to the disciples (Luke 24:30)

“Jesus was made known to them,” Luke writes, “in the breaking of the bread” (Luke 24:35)

We shouldn’t be surprised to find the first church continuing the faithful practice of their Lord:

The disciples continued in the breaking of the bread (Acts 2:42)
The disciples broke bread daily in their homes (Acts 2:46)
The disciples gathered to break bread (Acts 20:7)

Knowing that the term “breaking bread” is an exclusively Christian term and refers only and always to Christ’s presence at the table where he eats and drinks with his disciples has some interesting ramifications. But I’m out of time and space today. Let’s continue the discussion tomorrow.



Luv Ya Bum!

I was thirteen years old on Thanksgiving Day 1979 when the Cowboys hosted the Houston Oilers at Texas Stadium. Being in different conferences, the two teams rarely played each other; being very, very successful football teams from the same very, very football crazy state made those uncommon occasions when they did match up really special. Dallas was coming off two straight Super Bowl appearances — they beat the Broncos for the 1977 title and lost to the Steelers the following season in Super Bowl XIII — and Houston was well on its way to its second straight AFC Championship Game. And on this day, with my grandmother’s turkey and dressing and no-cook strawberry pie churning in my gut, Earl Campbell ran all over the Cowboys and won the game 34-20.

This was before cable TV and the internet, before hour-long post-game shows. It wasn’t until the ten-o’clock news on channel 8 that night that I saw it with my own eyes and heard it with my own ears. Bum Phillips, the boot-wearing, ten-gallon-hat-wearing, tobacco-chewing, straight-shooting coach of the Oilers had looked right into the cameras after the game and declared, “I’d rather be Texas’ team than America’s team any day!”

I knew immediately that he had said a very clever thing. I also knew, deep in my heart of hearts, that he was right.

It was hard not to like those Luv Ya Blue! Oilers of the late ’70s. The faces of the franchise, the Tyler Rose and the coach called “Bum,” were Texas icons. Earl Campbell was an east Texas kid who had won the Heisman Trophy with the Longhorns in Austin and Bum was a Texas high school and college coaching legend. He has assisted Bear Bryant at Texas A&M and Bill Yeoman at Houston and Hayden Fry at SMU. Before that, he had actually been the head coach for our Amarillo High School Sandies, for three seasons from 1959-1961. It was during his time here in the panhandle that he came up with his defensive numbering system that is used by all coaches and fans at all levels of football from Pee Wee to the NFL. When a defense is described as a 3-4 or a 4-3, you’re using Bum Phillips’ original terminology. He invented the 3-4 defense and introduced it to Bear Bryant during the Junction Boys days. And he brought it to the San Diego Chargers when he made the move to the pros in 1967. All real football people in Texas knew about Bum Phillips. And with Phillips calling the plays and Campbell making highlight reel runs in his tear-away jerseys, the Oilers won a bunch of football games. And a whole bunch of fans.

They packed the Astrodome, waving their Columbia blue and white pom-poms, screaming and cheering wildly from the opening kickoff to the final gun. They were crazy, these Oilers fans, in stark contrast to the cheese and wine crowd at most Cowboys games. Their quarterback, Dan Pastorini, was a gun-slingin’ guy with long hair, who wasn’t afraid of getting into a scuffle with reporters or fans in a random parking lot. Elvin Bethea was a relentless sack-happy monster of a man. Billy “White Shoes” Johnson flaunted NFL convention with every outlandish touchdown celebration. Kenny Burrough. Ray Childress. This was a fun team to watch.

And it all started with their colorful coach who, quite honestly, was more cowboy than the coach of the Cowboys.

Bum Phillips is better known for his catchy quotes than for almost anything else. He once famously said of Dolphins coach Don Shula, “He can take his’n and beat your’n and then take your’n and beat his’n.” His fatalistic line about coaching rings true: “There are only two kinds of football coaches: them’s that’s been fired and them’s that’s gonna be fired.” When asked about Earl Campbell’s inability to finish a one-mile run at training camp, the coach replied, “When it’s first down and a mile, I won’t give it to him.”

Along with the line about being “Texas’ team,” the other Bum Phillips line I remember seeing and hearing the day it happened was, again, on the channel 8 news the day after the Steelers beat Houston in the 1979 conference championship game. A frenzied crowd had greeted the team on its return from Pittsburgh at a celebration / pep rally that had been planned at the Astrodome, win or lose. It was standing room only. Nearly a hundred thousand people with their Luv Ya Blue! signs stomping their feet and cheering their team that had come a couple of plays short of their first ever Super Bowl. Bum Phillips took the stage, leaned in to the microphone, and said, “Last year we knocked on the door, this year we beat on the door, next year we’re going to kick the #@!%&* in!”

And, yeah, I was hooked. I’ve always loved those old Houston Oilers who never quite got it done, but had a whole lot of fun trying.

Bum Phillips died over the weekend at 90-years-old at his ranch in Goliad. Under-appreciated for the innovations he brought to the game, maybe a bit caricatured by his over-sized hats and personality to match. I’ll say about Bum Phillips what he once said about Earl Campbell: “I don’t know if he’s in a class by himself; but I know when the class meets, it don’t take long to call roll.”



Singing as Discipline: Part Two

Finally, the opening night of the Texas high school football season! Fight songs and Frito-Pie, pep rallies and pom-poms, booster club cookouts and homemade signs, game programs filled with local ads wishing the kids luck and hot chocolate in the Thermos, shoe polish on the car windows and new paint on the bleachers, touchdowns and tackles, clapping for the other school’s band, great catches and dramatic picks, momentum, crossing your fingers before the 34-yard field goal, and “why don’t we throw (or run or blitz or stunt or screen or fake or trap or zone) more?” Amarillo High’s Golden Sandies open up at home tonight against Odessa. We’ll be tailgating with some of our best friends in the Bivins Stadium parking lot at 7:00 and in our seats on the 30-yard line in plenty of time for the 8:00 kickoff.

“Blow, Sand, Blow!”


I shared with you last time the first half of an interesting article by Sean Palmer regarding our corporate singing when we gather as God’s saved people. His question — and it’s a good one — is “what would church look like if we re-framed corporate singing as a spiritual discipline?” You can click here to read the article in its entirety.

To re-cap the first part of his article upon which we reflected in the last post, our corporate singing is viewed by many of us as an individual pursuit. It’s funny because we can’t do corporate singing by ourselves. It has to be done together, as a group. But we think and act like we want all the songs picked out and sung just for us. We enjoy, celebrate, bemoan, criticize, and judge our worship assemblies based mainly on what we personally like. And that’s wrong, wrong, wrong, for a whole long list of reasons.

Allow me to give you today Palmer’s second half of the article with my own comments sprinkled in. These are five things he believes would change in our churches, five things that would result for all of us, he thinks, if we were to view our singing together as a spiritual discipline.

1. We wouldn’t expect immediate results. No faithful practitioner of spiritual disciplines expects to walk in, practice a discipline for an hour, and leave humming a tune and tapping their toes. In the realm of spiritual practices, we know that a blessing is found in the practice itself. You could practice contemplative prayer for years without any tangible outcome, uplifting feeling, or goosebumps. But you come to love and enjoy practicing the presence of God.

Randy Harris says his second great fear about practicing contemplative prayer is “What if something happens?” His number one greatest fear about contemplative prayer is “What if nothing happens?” The point of a spiritual discipline is to enter the practice in complete submission to God, giving yourself entirely to him, and inviting him to do with you exactly what he wants. It’s to be present to God, present with God, available to be used by God as he wishes. Isn’t it enough — isn’t it everything! — to bask joyfully in the glory that is communion with Christ and his saints? I’m singing with God’s people in the holy presence of God, for cryin’ out loud! Does it matter that it’s not my favorite song? This “audience of one” idea is not good for our worship theology. God is not an audience in our worship. We’re not performing anything for God. He’s not sitting back on his heavenly throne just soaking up our praise and prayers. Our God is active in our worship. He is moving us and changing us and blessing us and speaking to us and growing us together in our worship. Maybe I won’t see it or feel it at the moments. Maybe it’ll take months or years. But it’s enough to just sing with my brothers and sisters in the knowledge that I’m being transformed.

2. We could sing on behalf of others. There are songs I hate, like “Amazing Grace.” I’ve never liked it. But I know “Amazing Grace” is tremendously meaningful for others. A friend recently shared with me the place of the song “Amazing Grace” in the recovery movement. The song means a great deal for members of AA and other recovery groups. Those folks are in my church. As a spiritual discipline, I can sing that song — though I despise it — on their behalf. I sing, therefore, not because it’s efficacious for me, but for those around me.

To me, this is the most powerful and practical and understandable of Palmer’s five reasons. This is the logic I have used for years when I speak or write about the evils of personal preference tainting our holy worship of God. The really unfortunate thing here is that he uses the words “hate” and “despise” to describe his own feelings about the classic hymn “Amazing Grace.” How can you be a Christian and not like “Amazing Grace?” Seriously.

We’ll know that Christ is being formed in us when we can joyfully sing other people’s songs. Maybe a younger person doesn’t care for “How Great Thou Art.” It’s too slow and the language is weird. But that younger person realizes how much that song means to all the older people in the room. He loves these older brothers and sisters. They are his Christian family. And this song really moves them. It reminds them of faithful friends, of long gone relatives, or of sweet moments in other locations. They absolutely love this song. It’s one of their favorites. So, the younger person sings it with all of his heart, soul, and strength. He sings this song he doesn’t really like for the sake of all the people in the room who totally love it. He sings it at the top of his lungs with gusto and enthusiasm, because he knows it brings so much joy to so many other people around him. He’s blessing them. In the same ways, an older person may not be really fond of “Mighty to Save.” It’s too long and the tempo is weird. But that older person realizes how much that song means to all the younger people in the room. She loves those younger brothers and sisters. They are her Christian family. And this song really moves them. It reminds them of the summer camp or the youth retreat, of a mission trip or some other really transformative event in their lives. They absolutely love this song. It’s one of their favorites. So, the older person sings it with all of her heart, soul, and strength. She sings this song she doesn’t really like for the sake of all the people in the room who totally love it. She sings it at the top of her lungs with gusto and enthusiasm, because she knows it brings so much joy to so many other people around her. She’s blessing them.

Serving other people, meeting the needs of others, considering them more important than you, is very Christ-like. It’s extremely Christ-like. In fact, it’s the very essence of who Jesus is. Our King came to this earth not to be served, but to serve. I wonder why we can’t come to a worship assembly for 75-minutes with the same attitude.

3. We could be less manipulative. I hate to be the one to tell you, but many worship experiences are designed to manipulate your feelings. That’s not all bad. Church leaders should want you to do something at the end of a service, and music is frequently used to disarm congregants toward that end. Anecdotally, Christian Rich Mullins was approached by a fan. The fan said, “I was really moved during that song going into the third verse. I felt the Spirit.” Mullins responded, “That wasn’t the Spirit; that was when the kick-drum came in.” Perhaps as a spiritual practice, all of us would be more open to simply allowing God to move in our midst rather than modulating up the last chorus, jumping around, turning up the volume, and hosts of other tricks we invent to gin up the congregation.

It’s a weird cycle for worship leaders and preachers and those charged with planning worship assemblies.And a trap. Most of us, by nature, are people-pleasers. We enjoy the pats on the back and the words of affirmation and appreciation for our hard work and our wonderfully executed sermons and song-leading. And we can be overly focused at times on getting things to feel and move just right. I’m guilty of this. I’m one of the worst. More energy! More volume! More drama! More interaction and participation! More, more, more! In moments of serious personal reflection, I sometimes wonder if our God is saying less, less, less.

4. We could hear the God of the desert. Perhaps God doesn’t want us to sing the songs we love. Might it be possible that some of us have come to praise our worship and worship our praise when the call of God is for us to go into the desert, to experience emptiness in an area of life on which we have come to overly depend? If so, could all of the church-hopping and in-fighting over music over the last twenty years been our avoidance of entering the space in which God wants to lead us? Could it be possible that one of the reasons we’re not experiencing greater engagement with God is because we have abandoned his voice and chosen a tune we like? We must never forget, before Jesus begins his life of impact, he goes into the desert.

To treat singing in a worship assembly as a spiritual discipline would be to faithfully sing the songs that are given to us at that time. It would be to ask God to lead us where he wants us to go in our singing. It would be submitting to his voice and his will in our worship. I try to personally find the voice of God in every word that is said to me by a brother or sister in Christ. I believe God speaks to us through other faithful people. He communicates with us and teaches us this way. So, even if I’m being hollered at by a church member who wants to wring my neck (hasn’t happened in a while; whew!), I try to assume there’s some truth to what he is saying to me. Somewhere in his criticism is a nugget of something I really need to hear and pay attention to. Shouldn’t we also view our corporate singing the same way? Somehow, as I sing this song I don’t really like, God is speaking to me. Somewhere in this lousy song with the simple notes and shallow lyrics is a bit of eternal truth about our holy Creator. Shouldn’t I sing that song with the intention of listening for that? Shouldn’t the assumption always be that God is doing something here?

5. We could actually praise God. We have to ask ourselves serious questions about the nature of who we worship when we walk out of common worship upset with God-directed music and lyrics, regardless of whether or not the praise team was “singing our tune.” If corporate singing were a spiritual discipline, God would be at the center of it. And in God’s presence, humankind has always simply bowed.



In Line with Kingdom Priorities

I won’t use those self check-out counters at Wal-Mart or Home Depot. I’d rather stand in line for ten minutes and talk to a real person at the register and even real people in line with me than swipe a card and punch a few buttons and have no human interaction with anybody. My kids say it’s because I’m old. I tell them, no, it’s more important to interact with people than to be in such a hurry.

I can’t show God’s love and grace to a machine. I can’t smile at a machine or talk to a machine (I suppose I could, but I’d probably get arrested). If a machine miscalculates my change or forgets to give me a receipt, my attempts at a Christ-like patient and pleasant attitude will have no impact on a machine. I can’t talk to a machine about the pictures of its grandchildren on its apron. A machine will never ask me about my empty tomb T-shirt or where I go to church.

Our time and technology — calendars, clocks, computers — are increasingly robbing us of more and more human interaction. This frantically hurried culture is chipping away at Scripture’s contention that we are not a collection of individuals but, rather, a Body with each member belonging to all the others.

We invest our lives in one another. We commit ourselves to one another. It happens at weddings and funerals. It happens at ballgames and graduations and potlucks.

“Share with God’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality… Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn.” ~Romans 12:13-15

I can’t rejoice with you unless I know what you’re rejoicing about. I can’t mourn with you unless I know why you’re mourning. That’s where the time investment and the sharing come in. That’s where loving human interaction with one another should take the priority over our busy schedules.

Today, make that phone call you’ve been putting off. Tonight, reconnect with that family member or neighbor you’ve been too busy to visit. And ask the cashier about her grandkids.









Congratulations to Central’s own Ellie Cornett and Logan Brittain! Man, we’ve got some really talented kids at this place! Ellie just won the Class 2A State Cross Country Championship as a member of the Bushland High School Lady Falcons. It’s the first ever state title for Bushland. And Ellie’s got a great shot at repeating next year as a Senior. And Logan has just made it official, signing with the University of Texas Longhorns as a Class 4A High Jump Champion from Randall High. As a Senior this year,┬áLogan also stars as a wide receiver and defensive back with the Raiders playoffs-bound football team and as the starting point guard for Randall’s basketball team. Congratulations to these great kids and their wonderful families. We’re very proud of these two.



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