Category: Legacy Church Family (Page 1 of 36)

Pray for Kharkiv

I know you are aware of the Russian invasion of Ukraine and the death and devastation unfolding on the streets and among the people of its cities. I know your heart is heavy. And I know you are in prayer. Me, too.

All war is sinful and tragic. All violence is decidedly against God’s will. The right thing to do today is to pray for God’s peace, to pray for the people on all sides of this unholy conflict, to ask God to intervene and stop the madness.

As you are doing that, would you please pray for some very specific people in Kharkiv whom Carrie-Anne and I love?

Back in 2010, my wife and I spent eleven days in Kharkiv, a fairly major eastern Ukrainian city about 20 miles from the Ukraine-Russia border. We were there to visit and encourage David and Olivia Nelson, a sweet missionary couple we were supporting from the Legacy Church. We love David and Olivia. We missed them terribly in Fort Worth and were very anxious to spend the time with them. What caught us off guard was how much and how quickly we grew to love the Ukrainians there.

I don’t know where any of these people are today. I don’t know anything about them or their families. But I am talking to our Lord about them today and I hope you will join me. I can’t get some of these people out of my head today. Or my heart.

I’m thinking about Andrei, a funny little guy who looks like Billy Crystal but who thinks and talks like he just stepped out of the Lincoln-Douglas debates. Super smart. Whoa. Andrei had only been baptized about seven months before we arrived and he was on fire for our Lord. He took off work one day to walk Carrie-Anne and me around Liberty Square and through some of the 500-year-old cathedrals. Andrei also drew blood when he beat my back with a ceremonial branch at a Ukrainian sauna. I think it was meant to honor me. Maybe.

I’m praying for Valerie and Julia. Valerie was my interpreter when I preached and taught during our time in Kharkiv. I remember having to wait on him while he came up with the Russian words for my American phrases like “wrapped around her finger” and “jump for joy.” He told me there is no Russian equivalent for “compels” as in “Christ’s love compels us.” A big red-headed dude who looked like he could suit up and play for your college alma mater right now. Very gentle and kind. He wanted to become a preacher. I have no idea if he did.

I’m thinking about Alexander, a dentist and oral surgeon. He told me in front of everybody that drinking diet soda was bad for my teeth. He spoke really good English except when he said the word “naked.” When we were reading Genesis 1 out loud he kept saying “nak’d,” just one syllable.

I’m praying for Yelena, David and Liv’s Russian language teacher. She taught Carrie-Anne and me the only Russian we know. We still say “lublu” sometimes, the Russian word for love. And Victoria, the elementary school teacher. Robert, the preacher at the Baptist church on the west side of town. Sergei, who once served hard time in a Ukrainian prison, preaching at a Christian church of about nine souls on the northeast side of Kharkiv.

I could write more about Vitali and Galina, Nikita, Masha, and Kevin.  I taught Kevin how to throw an American football with a spiral – I don’t think his real name was Kevin. I learned to tolerate chicken-flavored potato chips. I nearly threw up when David forced me to drink a glass of Kafir. We laughed when we learned the local beautification ordinance meant that everyone had to paint their houses and sheds the same color of gray. I could spend a whole post recounting our worship times together, listening to my Eastern European brothers and sisters sing “Nearer My God to Thee” and “Lamb of God” in Russian. About sharing the bread and the wine together at that tiny church building near Aptarski Lane and in the Nelsons’ living room.

We rode the subways where, today, people are huddling together and hiding from the tanks and the missiles. We hung out at the coffee shops that, today, are boarded up and abandoned. We shopped and laughed with the Nelsons’ neighbors at that massive downtown Kharkiv market that, today, is empty.

That was almost twelve years ago. I don’t know where any of these good people are today – if they are still living in Kharkiv, if they are safe, if they are scared, if they are okay. I am praying for them and their families today and for all the people of that great city where I witnessed first hand our God saving people and advancing his Kingdom.

You might be connected to Ukraine through Our House and the Gospel work done for so many years in Donetsk by Tony and Shanna Morrow. I know the Morrows came back to Abilene a few months ago. I found out today that Bill Hayes got out three weeks ago. But I don’t know anything about the community of teenage orphans they established there.

Maybe you’re connected to the people of Ukraine by Eastern European Missions. Maybe you’ve sent Russian and Ukraine language Bibles there.

Pray for the people of Ukraine today. Pray for our Christian brothers and sisters over there, six thousand miles away from Texas, and in so much danger and peril. Pray that the war would end, that all hostilities would cease, that all pain and death and demonstrations of power and force would disappear from that whole region. Pray that God’s will would be done in Ukraine and Moscow just as it is in heaven.

Do not put your trust in politicians or their positions, in armies or their weapons, in generals and secretaries or their strategies and plans. Put your trust and offer your prayers to the One Sovereign who alone can stop the senseless violence against innocent people.

“God is the King of all the earth;
sing to him a psalm of praise.
God reigns over the nations;
God is seated on his holy throne.’
~Psalm 47

Peace. Seriously. Peace.


Double Knot

Our middle daughter is already on her second marriage.
Valerie has been married twice but never widowed or divorced.
It took two weddings in the middle of this global pandemic to successfully tie her knot with David. And Friday’s wedding was a spectacular event.

Carrie-Anne and I are both grateful and humbled by the numbers of long-time friends who traveled great distances to be with our family on this special night. Dan and Jennifer and Meredith made the drive up from Marble Falls and Mike brought LeeAnn (and those Virdell granddaughters!) to make those awesome cakes. David and Shanna and Delaney, John and Suzanne, and Lance from the Legacy Church. Jason and Tiersa, Chris and Liz, Kevin and Anita, and Brian and Terry from our days together in Mesquite. All the familiar faces from our Central church family. And our family and relatives from Austin and Dallas and East Texas and Oklahoma City.  All these good people who have poured themselves into our lives for so many years. What a blessing from God to be together for this special weekend.

Thank you to everyone who joined us for this celebration of David and Valerie. Thank you for your love and your friendship. Thank you for all the times we’ve prayed together, eaten together, laughed and cried together, and moved boxes out of each other’s attics. Thank you for what you mean to our daughters and our family. We are so blessed by our God because of you.



Two in Oklahoma

Our youngest daughter, Carley, joined her middle sister, Valerie, at Oklahoma Christian University this weekend and we’re just hoping that campus is big enough for the both of them.

Moving a girl into a freshman dorm today is a whole lot different from when I moved into those OC dorms as a college freshman back in 1985. I had all my worldly possessions in the back seat of my ’74 Monte Carlo: a suitcase full of jeans and T-shirts, two pair of shoes, an electric typewriter, and a boom box. It seems I remember it taking about an hour to get unpacked and organized. With Carley, it was an almost ten hour ordeal that included unloading multiple storage totes, hanging lights, plugging in refrigerators, water dispensers, and coffee makers, raising beds to an ideal height, and setting up complicated shelving systems.

To their credit, she and her roommate, Hayleigh, did transform a drab cinder-block cube into a somewhat livable abode.

It was good to see some great old friends from our Legacy days moving in their kids, too: David and Shanna with their son Dawson, Ron and Stephanie with their daughter Brighton, and David and Krista with their daughter Maddie.

Emotionally, moving our youngest child into college was a little more difficult than I had imagined. Maybe I hadn’t thought about it much or hadn’t thought about it in the right ways. But it all kind of snuck up on me in the past week. Waving goodbye to Carley from the gas station parking lot — she heading east back to campus in her little Jeep and us heading west to Amarillo — was strange. If you’ve done it, you know. A weird mix of pride and concern, excitement and hesitation. It’s really weird not having another one coming up behind Carley. She’s our last one. This is it.

Carley and Valerie, we love you both. Give each other plenty of space, but be sure to take care of each other, too. May God bless you both with good grades, great friends and a wonderful semester.



Worlds Are Colliding, Jerry!

What a joy to welcome some of our very best friends from Legacy and their massive youth group into our student space here at Central for a quick sleep over on their way to a mission experience with an Indian reservation in Arizona. This was a busy weekend at the weigh station that is Central during the summer. Dozens of church youth groups crash at our place on their way to somewhere pretty. But it’s always special to welcome Legacy.

We stayed up there until midnight last night, getting caught up with everybody’s kids who, surprisingly, are growing up at the same rate as our kids. These tiny children who were in elementary and middle school when we left Legacy six years ago are now in high school and a few of them have graduated and are heading to places like Abilene and Santa Monica for college.

Carley came straight from a late shift at The Big Texan to meet us so she could hug Kate and verify that, yes, Dawson seems to be growing four inches taller every six months. I enjoyed so much showing off our 88-year-old chapel to Stephanie and David, getting the low-down on the basketball gang from Chris, marveling at how much these kids look like their parents, and wondering why we adults haven’t changed at all in the past six years but our children have.

After I made sure they knew how to get to the Donut Stop on Georgia Street and which exit to take to spray paint Cadillac Ranch on the way out of town, we left them blowing up their air mattresses and brushing their teeth. All fifty of them are coming back through Amarillo next Saturday to eat a late lunch at Blue Sky — Ron, that cheeseburger will change your life — and I’ll be there to meet them.

Yes, I’ll use any excuse to eat at Blue Sky. But, much more than that, I love hanging out with these great people. Being with Chris and Lori, Ron and Stephanie, Larry and Deanna, and David and Shanna reminds me of just how blessed I am by our God. They remind me that Legacy believed in me and took a chance on me before I believed in myself. They were so patient with me and kind; they encouraged me and worked with me while I learned and made mistakes. But these couples in particular never ceased to protect me. They had my back. They prayed for me. We worshiped and served together in small groups, we sorted T-shirts together, we set up and tore down Give Away Day together, we brainstormed and prayed together. And spent some really good times together at Texhoma.

God bless the Legacy Church of Christ and these wonderful families we love so much. God be with us til we meet again at that glorious place. Blue Sky next Saturday.



The Closing Prayer

Carter Karels was a cute little middle school kid in our youth group at Legacy when our family arrived in Northeast Tarrant County in 2007. He knew then he wanted to be a sportswriter. Now today, after a couple of key internships, a successful stint as the sports editor at Texas A&M’s Battalion, and a few medium-profile run-ins with SEC football coaches, Carter is a sports reporter for USA Today. His very first story, on the season-ending injury to the Dodgers’ top pitching prospect, can be found here. He’s also written a popular profile of Yankees star slugger Aaron Judge, which can be accessed here. Congratulations, Carter! I’m very proud of you, man. And I know your dad is probably impossible to live with now…


“May God himself, the God of Peace, sanctify you through and through. May your whole spirit, soul, and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. The One who calls you is faithful and he will do it.” ~1 Thessalonians 5:23-24

As a family formed by the future, it’s appropriate that Paul would end his letter to the Thessalonian church in Jason’s house by pointing them again to what is to come: the finished work of our God.

Sanctification, the continual process of being made holy, is both a gift from God and a goal. It is both experienced right now and still to be accomplished. Holiness is given to disciples of Jesus at the point of conversion, when we pass from death to life and become new creations in Christ. But it is also a goal that we strive to live out in our daily lives. This life of discipleship to our Lord is “between the times,” because he hasn’t finished yet what he began.

But he will.

During this short letter, Paul has talked a lot about himself and the church in Thessalonica. But his closing prayer reminds us that all of it is truly about our God. The last thing Paul wants on his hearers’ minds is our God, the One who has called us and saved us in Christ Jesus, the One who gives us his Spirit in power and holiness, and the One who will bring us into his Kingdom and glory when Jesus returns.

Paul wants to reassure us, he wants to remind us, that not only is God able to do all that he has promised, but because he is trustworthy and reliable, he will in fact do it. Our future rests entirely in the power and faithfulness of God. And that should inform and enable us to live lives of power and faithfulness ourselves as we wait for “the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.”



The Creed & Christian Formation

SkiTrip2016A group of ten college kids (nine from OC, 1 from ACU) showed up at our house Friday night and left with Valerie for a weekend ski trip to Angel Fire. Four of the young men grew up at the Legacy Church of Christ and were in the youth group when we were there from 2006 – 2011. Colten Pace is standing on Valerie’s right in the picture. Behind Colten and Val is Dillon Byrnes, the son of David and Shanna. We were in small group with the precious Byrnes family for three year and still count them as great friends. Hudson Enger is behind Dillon’s left shoulder and Trevor Jones is standing behind Dillon’s right shoulder. It was so great to see them now in such a different context. They’re college kids now, out on their own, growing and learning and experiencing life together in new ways. And so full of God’s joy. The other six kids — I have no idea who they are. I know a couple of them are in Delta and at least one of them is a Bible major. Good enough!


CrossElderLinkWe’re memorizing and reciting the ancient Apostles’ Creed as a church family here at Central because we believe it can help cultivate Christian formation. We believe God is in the business of changing us. He’s making us more and more into the image of his Son. That’s what God is doing in us. So church is more like school than a show. It’s more like boot camp than a country club. We’re all in and have committed to the difficult process of being changed. And we think the Apostles’ Creed will help facilitate that. To order your life around these timeless statements about God and Christ will shape a person.

If you believe that Jesus Christ will return to judge the living and the dead, that will have an impact on how you live. Think about that. He’s coming back to judge. What a great guard against sin. What a great tool for the counsel we give each other. What a great pause that gives us as we make decisions every day between right and wrong. It’ll affect the way we live.

If you believe in the forgiveness of sins, that’ll change the way you view yourself and it’ll affect how you act toward one another. We’ve all sinned this past week. All of us. In some way you haven’t loved the Lord. You said a mean thing to your spouse or a hurtful thing to your children. You’ve been dishonest with a co-worker or a friend. Maybe it’s a little sin you just can’t shake. Or maybe you’ve done something horribly out of character this week. We’ve all betrayed our Lord in some way this week. But if you believe in the forgiveness of sins, you don’t run away from the forgiver. You run to him. If we believe in the forgiveness of sins, then our church becomes a place of forgiveness and when you betray God you run to the church, not away from it.

And you will forgive others. Has anybody sinned against you this week? Has anybody lied to you or hurt you or let you down in some way this past week? Do you believe in the forgiveness of sins? It’ll change you.



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