Friday, August 27, 2010

A New Day at ACU

My weekend in Abilene was awesome. It kicked off with a bang. David and Karise Gililland and their adorable children picked me up at the airport (they drove in from Fort Worth so we could have a couple of hours together. Love them!) and we immediately went to Harold's BBQ Pit. It's a hole in the wall and easily the best BBQ in Abilene or just about anywhere. It's a landmark not to be missed in Abilene.

Harold's looks the same as it did more than 20 years ago. There's something comforting in that. Harold came out to greet people and I had David snap our photo...

David, Karise and I went up to the ACU campus to walk around. It had been a while since I had been there. Lots of changes, lots of building, lots of improvements. It was good to be back in Wildcat country.

After ACU, we dropped by Sam Thomas Elementary--named after my father. It was built the year after he died. Hard to believe it's been almost 20 years. They are the Thomas Texans. My kids have Thomas Texans t-shirts that they wear frequently in honor of "Poppy".

Cyndi is the new principal at Thomas Elementary this year. Cam Hurst retired last year (Cam and my dad were good friends). It was cool to meet Cyndi and get to tell her a little of the history. We made some plans to bring back the family for the 20th anniversary in a couple of years.

David and I posed outside the school. I love this Thomasville sign!

Saturday afternoon the Gilillands dropped me off at the Fishers. Craig (one of my college roommates whom you've read plenty about here over the years) and Beth Ann and their boys (Riley and Owen) were a sight for sore eyes. We all went to the ACU Inauguration dinner that night honoring Phil Schubert, the 11th President of ACU. (Phil was only one year ahead of me in school. Yeah...he's YOUNG!) I love this picture...Craig, Grant Boone and me. Grant is just being Grant.

One of my mom's best friends, Kaye Hawkins, was there so we had to snap a picture. Fish decided to pop in at the last minute.

Craig and Beth Ann Fisher, Tim and Angie Martin and I all had a blast catching up.

Sunday morning I led worship at Highland. It was Jonathan Storment's first Sunday to preach at Highland (their new senior minister). It was a weekend of firsts. Jonathan was incredible! After church we went to another Abilene staple...Casa Hererra...with Kyle and Camille Dickson and their kids. Kyle and I have been friends since we were about 4 years old. (down in the front corner you can see Owen giving us the "tickle fox" sign...see next picture for more info!)

Riley and Owen Fisher are both great kids. I always love getting to stay in their house or be around them. Years ago when Riley was little we made up this character called the "tickle fox". So every time I see them we have to reminisce about the tickle fox.

For the Inauguration prayer breakfast I put together a dream team of singers. These friends are people I've sung with over the years and all associated with ACU. It was a total blast getting to be with them all again. Pictured L-R are Jeff Nelson (music pastor at Oak Hills Church in San Antonio with Max Lucado), Jennifer Money Crisp (who I travelled and sang with while in college), Kellie Curtis Miller (we also travelled and sang together through college and did some recordings together with Covenant and Jeff), Kristin Ward (she and I were Sing Song hosts together), Amy Boone (who's been like family to me since 7th grade), Mark Perkins (killer voice and friend from Southern Hills), Stephen Bailey (college roommate, Sing Song host with me, and brother), George Pendergrass (of Acappella fame and a friend from Southern Hills), and me.

After the breakfast we went to ACU Opening Day Chapel and Inauguration ceremonies. The Parade of Flags (which Jeff Nelson instituted back in the 80s) is one of my very favorite traditions.

Phil was inaugurated and gave a wonderful speech kicking of ACU's 105th year.

For the Inauguration Breakfast which had about 400 people, we sang an old Steve Green song called "Find Us Faithful". (my boss, Gary, informed me that it wasn't THAT old...he sang on that project. I'm just sayin'. Love ya, Gary) The sound is low in the first couple of seconds on this clip. The back story is...during my part of the verse I was singing the lyrics... "May the clues that they discover and the memories they uncover..." Jeff stopped me to say that it sounded like I was singing "mammaries". Thankfully, I changed that. This is a family show.

As I mentioned, the parade of flags at opening day chapel has long been one of my favorite traditions. Flags from every country and state representing ACU students is announced. ACU does pomp and circumstance well. And...whenever I have talked about the parade of flags, I always imitate the announcer saying "ZIMBABWE!" I just so happened to get that part on video. Made me chuckle.

The orchestra and the Grand Choir did a piece that was just stirring. This clip cannot capture just how beautiful it was in the moment.

Bob Hunter led the school song...I only got a few minutes of it. But it will bring a tear to the eye of all you alums out there. Bob's voice may falter here and there but the man is a legend. ACU Vice President, former State Representative, and remember-er of every single person's name he's ever met. Incredible.

Thank you to ACU and Grant Boone for bringing me in and allowing me to be a part of a really wonderful experience. And...blessings to Phil and Jamie Schubert as they take up the reigns from Royce and Pam Money who have done an amazing job over the last 20 years. Here's to you, Phil! You're going to rock!

Friday, August 20, 2010

Texas Bound

Tomorrow I am flying to Texas. I'm leading worship at Highland Church in Abilene on Sunday and singing at the prayer breakfast event for the inauguration of the new ACU President on Monday morning. I am getting to stay with Craig and Beth Ann Fisher and will get to see lots of friends. I'm really looking forward to being there.

It's been MANY years since I was at an opening day chapel at ACU. There's a lot of pomp and circumstance on those days with the orchestra, the choir, the parade of flags, etc. It's always been one of my favorite experiences. US News recently named ACU the "top up-and-coming university in the western region" and "2nd for undergrad teaching." That's rockin'! Go wildcats!

Although my time in Abilene will be short, I hope to also get my fill of some BBQ and Mexican Food. But, ultimately, the best thing about the "Big Country" is the people. I'm looking forward to the smiles and hugs that await me there. It's good to go home.

Have a great weekend, everyone!

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Happy Birthday to Kevin

Kevin Penna, who married our dear cousin Kiki and is very much a part of our family, recently turned the big 4-0. GO, KEVIN! Kiki planned out this whole surprise party for him and I got to be the bait. Kevin and I sat down together at a restaurant where he began to tell me about what it felt like to turn 40, etc. I kept trying to stall ordering and finally had to just say--we're leaving. I made him wear a blindfold. He was not aware of this picture being snapped but when he heard the camera click he got all miffed. I love it!

Here are some pictures. Most of them are withOUT Kevin in them. He was so busy being the man of the hour! And...there was the small incident where he was thrown into the pool. But I had NOTHING to do with that.

We showed up at the party and everyone was there and waiting to yell. "SURPRISE!" All of Kevin's life group and other friends were present.

My good buddy, Eve, loves owls. She had an owl head band on. I seriously could not stop staring at it. It was freaking me out. I finally had to have a picture with the owl. :)

Jeff Berry and I grew up together in Abilene. Of course, Jeff is MUCH older than I. Much. jk. Love you, Jeffrey. Jeff has always been a big brother to me. He and his wife Anna and their lovely family moved here several years ago. Jeff is VP at a Christian Music record label. I miss his worship leading though. He's one of my all time favorites.

Amy Westerman, Sheryl and me

Kiki, Amy, Sheryl, Becca Daniel, Amanda Vickers

Geof and Amanda Vickers (we love them!)

Sheryl and I love the time we get with Josh and Kara Graves. It's to few and far between, but we're so glad they're here now!

Happy birthday, Kevin! We love you and pray that this new year in your life will bring only the best! (including baby Liam in a few short weeks!!)

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

12 Years

Happy Anniversary to my lovely wife! Sunday marked 12 years for us! She is such a gift in my life. I love you, Sheryl!

Monday, August 16, 2010

The Greatness of Our God

There is a song we learned at Fellowship that I've loved called "The Greatness of our God" written by Jeromy Diebler (from FFH and one of the worship leaders there). Some of the lyrics are:

Give me eyes to see more of who You are.
May what I behold still my anxious heart.
Take what I have known and break it all apart.
For You, my God, are greater still.

And no sky contains
No doubt restrains
All You are,
The greatness of our God!
I'll spend my life to know
But I'm far from close
To all You are
The Greatness of our God!

I taught that song at the retreat I did in Texas (Camp David). Those lyrics will always be tied to that very powerful weekend. And one way that God has transformed my life over the last 5-6 weeks since that retreat is through several friends He's placed into our lives at such a sweet moment in time. One of them is Robert Channing..."Chan" for short. Chan and Dee and their beautiful girls came and spent a weekend with us recently. It was such an incredible time. I wanted to share some pictures from our time together with you...

Ella and Katelyn

My mom with Katelyn

Our girls and Shelby

Maddie and Shelby

Chan and me

Sam and Katelyn. Sam loves these girls. I'm fine with an arranged marriage with either one of them for him! :)

Sweet friends

Family pic in our living room

I have seen the greatness of our God through the life and faith of my friend, Chan. God has deeply blessed me through him. God has blessed me through his sweet wife, Dee and their lovely children. Sheryl and I are richer for knowing them. This kind of friendship can only be born through a gift of God. God is pouring into our lives through the Channings. And, in the words of JT, it truly is "sweet to be loved" by them.

The Channings live in Searcy. We're praying that God brings them closer. Meanwhile, we rejoice in the sweet gift of friendship and provision from the Lord. I am a blessed man. Feeling that today. Thanks for allowing me to share, blog family!