The Greatest Comfort

Thurston Howell III was a character played by Jim Backus on the wonderfully awkward and charming TV Sitcom known as Gilligan’s Island.  He was the head of Howell Industries, and he was a billionaire.  Over the course of the tv show, where 7 stranded castaways were stuck on a deserted island – we learn that he is one of the world’s wealthiest men, He owns oil wells, a movie studio, a battery company, is part of 2 yacht clubs, a Harvard graduate, and is a proud registered republican. He also owns homes in all 50 states, and also in Paris and Monaco.  

But despite all these possessions – where he claims to find comfort – he finds real comfort at night when he curls up beside his teddy bear, named Teddy.  

At first, he’s a little ashamed of it, but eventually, he even carries it around during the day with him, and allows others to use it as a source of security.  

Perhaps even more famous is a Teddy Bear that was featured rather prominently on an even more popular television sitcom – MASH.  It was on tv from 1972 until 1983. 

MASH was about doctors in the 4077th Mobile Army Surgical Hospital – located just a few miles from the front lines of the Korean War.  

One of the characters in the show was Walter O’Reilly – but most of you who have ever seen the show know him as Radar.  Radar was a fun and quirky guy  that got his nickname because of his incredible hearing as he always heard the medical helicopters before anyone else.

In the series, Radar is often seen with his Teddy Bear.  This teddy bear was a prominent fixture on the tv series – and when Radar finally is called back home when his uncle passes away – he leaves the Teddy bear on his bunk for those he’s leaving behind.

But perhaps the most famous of all security vices in the entertainment world belongs to a young boy named Linus in a comic strip known as Peanuts.

Linus always has his security blanket with him. While providing comfort is its main use – throughout the series his blanket is also used as a scarf, fly swatter, a kite, a parachute, a hammock, a slingshot, second base in a baseball game, and a Shepherd’s cloak in the famous Charlie Brown Christmas story.

Throughout the comic strip series, If you follow the story of Linus, you see that there are many people who try to convince Linus to get rid of his security blanket.

  • Lucy, his sister, hates it. Lucy tries to bury it, makes a kite out of it and loses it, and in one series, she tries to throw it in a trash burner and the blanket comes to life.
  • Rerun, his little brother, is embarrassed that his older brother is dependent on the blanket
  • Sally, Charlie Brown’s sister, who has a crush on Linus, starts out being okay with it, but finally tells him that she would like him better if he didn’t carry it.  She is known to yank it away from him saying no future husband of hers would carry a blanket.
  • Snoopy just is always trying to take the blanket from Linus

I would imagine most all of us in this room either have, or have sought out security in the form of a teddy bear, a doll, a blanket, a toy, or some other item.  It’s a pretty normal thing to do, and while most of us eventually grow out of it – we all continue to seek comfort in various ways.  

As Christians, we can turn to the Bible to find ultimate comfort, and a chapter we can come back to time and time again for that comfort is Psalm 23.

This is a passage that has stood the test of time, in all situations, providing comfort to so many.

Listen to the Word of the Lord from the King James Version:  

The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.

He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters.

He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.

Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.

Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over.

Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the Lord for ever.

I imagine that when most people read this psalm, they picture a young man, perhaps even an older shepherd boy – who after a long day of shepherding, reclines on the hillside and prepares a meal at sunset – and maybe even enjoys a tranquil view overlooking the Sea of Galilee while his sheep are grazing on the grass nearby.

In reality, this was written after he had become King, and was far removed from his shepherding career.  

After a normal childhood, and then being called by Samuel to take the place of King Saul – David had a lot of tumultuous and challenging times he had to deal with.  He was in need of comfort.

He was often going off to battle, fighting giants, running a kingdom, giving into temptation – but all the while trying to be the best example he could be for God, and I imagine this played quite a toll on David.

I like to imagine one night, David sat down to write these words as life was doling out struggle after struggle, and he decided to reminisce about all he had gone through.  And by the time he had thought about things – he came to the realization it was not his status as King, nor his possessions, nor his army that provided him with the most comfort – NO – it was God.

David turns to something that likens God to a childhood experience that offered him sweet comfort and memories: the time he spent as a Shepherd.

David, who spent so much time as a shepherd himself, now refers to God as HIS Shepherd, and in turn, he becomes the sheep.  

He puts his experience as a shepherd – all the protecting, herding, providing comfort and nourishment for the flock – all onto God – and he steps into the place of a sheep.  

He knows what great lengths he would go to in order to take care of the sheep that were entrusted to his care – and by putting himself into the position of the sheep, he is able to find comfort in a way he could find nowhere else.

What’s fascinating about this chapter to me is all the ways that God is spoken of – basically all of the OT names and descriptions for God are found right here in this chapter:

To start with, David tells of God’s intimacy by saying simply “The LORD is MY Shepherd.”  OR – Jehovah Roi/Raah/Rohi – which means “The Lord is My Shepherd.”  But David doesn’t just stop there.

God’s character is revealed in many ways in this chapter. As we begin this chapter – David states “The Lord is my Shepherd – I shall not want” and then goes on to say He brings him to green pastures and still waters.  Here we see David referring to the name of God as “Jehovah-Jireh,” the Lord will provide” (Gen. 22:14)

In a land where green pastures were not the most abundant, David knew that as a Shepherd, he had to help the sheep find where the grasses were plentiful.  

Talk to most anyone who has ever dealt with sheep, they will tell you that sheep much prefer still waters over running waters.  Not only are sheep skittish, but they also have a giant wool coat. Imagine falling into or being swept up in running water with a giant wool coat. There’s not a great chance they come out of that alive.  So sheep prefer still waters.  It’s just safer for them.  

A well fed and hydrated sheep loves to rest, just like us right?  Ever try to put a hungry baby to sleep?  It’s pretty much impossible right?  So when we see God as someone who provides these things for His sheep, it gives us peace. God is  “Jehovah Shalom” when David refers to the still waters and provision of nourishment, because he also provides peace. “Jehovah-Shalom” means “the Lord our peace” (Judg. 6:24).

Maybe today you need to find peace in other ways than just being well fed and hydrated.  Perhaps you need peace from the busyness of the world, the noise all around, the stress of life, the never ending political strife, the list goes on and on right?   I don’t know what your green pastures and still waters are today – but God can get you there.  

This could also be found later in verse 3, after we see that God can be a God who provides and a God who instills peace – we read that God restored David’s soul (restores my soul – vs 3) This is the name “Jehovah-Rapha,” which means “the Lord who heals or restores” (Ex. 15:26).

All throughout the Old Testament, we see the word “restore” over and over again.  That’s because God’s chosen people, the Israelites, chose to wander away time and time again, and God had to continuously find them and carry them back to the fold, just like a Shepherd does for his sheep when they wander away.

Restoration for us happens through repentance and forgiveness.  When we read this idea of restoring my soul in Psalm 23, it’s easy to think that this is an idea of emotional refreshing or renewal.  But that’s not really what David’s getting at.  What he’s really getting at is that David continuously wants to be following God, or as we see in verse 3, stay on the path of righteousness.  Here we see the name “Jehovah-Tsidkenu,” “the Lord is our righteousness” (Jer. 33:16)

Yes – we need times of emotional and spiritual renewal, where we need to be strengthened, where we need to find answers, where we need to be uplifted. But here David is painting God as a Shepherd who keeps us on the right paths.  David knows completely that sometimes, those paths of righteousness can be painful to get back to because sometimes God has to free us from the clutches of something we shouldn’t have gotten ourselves into – such as addiction, inappropriate relationships, and so on.

In verse 4, we see a shift from how David is speaking. Notice: “When I walk through the darkest of valleys, I will not be afraid for you are close beside me, your rod and your staff protect me and comfort me.”

He no longer refers to God as HE but now he talks to God as someone who is walking beside him instead of leading him through something.   He’s with him.  

When we think of a valley today – we often think of an area surrounded by beautiful hillsides, and is a flat area filled with meadows and grassy fields.  But for Shepherds in the Old Testament, a valley was a narrow, dark steep wall with sharp edges, which would be very difficult to escape if you fell and a challenge to navigate. 

Valleys here symbolize dark and difficult times in life.  And here we hear David say that even though he’s going through the valley of the shadow of death – he says “you are with me” and even goes on to say “I won’t be afraid of any evil, because You are with me” and “God’s staff and rod will protect me and comfort me.” Here we see the name of  — “Jehovah-Shammah,” “the Lord is here” or “The Lord is Present” (Ezek. 48:35)

We all go through these Valleys in our life. They can be triggered by illness, a serious accident, a violent storm like a tornado, difficulties in a relationship, war, times of low income and struggling to pay bills, loneliness, a death in the family – the list goes on right?  

But David wasn’t afraid.  He knew he wasn’t alone.  David knew that God was with Him.  Whatever struggles David was facing, or his nation was facing, David was not afraid.  After all, this is the same man who faced a giant with nothing but a stone and a sling because he knew God was with Him.  

As this verse continues – David says “You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies” and refers to the name of God “Jehovah-Nissi,” which means “the Lord is our banner” (Ex. 17:15)

This portion of Psalm 23 has always confused me because we simply don’t talk like this very often.  

What does it mean when it refers to God as “The Lord is our banner” – this goes back to Exodus 17:15 after an intense battle that Israel fights with the Amalekites.  At this time Israel would have been the underdog – a smaller army, inexperienced, with very few battle leaders.  They are a traveling people at the time, no home, no base, and they had all their women, children, herds, and possessions with them.  

But they also traveled with God, who surpassed any general, who surpassed any army, who surpassed any weapon, and they defeated the Amalekites. Moses built an altar after the victory and gave all glory to God saying Jehovah Nissi, or the Lord is my banner, or this is who we fight behind – Jehovah God.

Another thought about this idea of God preparing a table before our enemies that I’d like to touch on before we move on:

David says God’s table is prepared in front of our enemies.  This tells us that in this life that is still not completely what God wants for us, there are enemies out there, and we need to realize those enemies can be quite strong.

We need to acknowledge to ourselves and to others that being in Christ does NOT mean that the troubles, cares, pains, and dangers of this world are simply removed from us. We remain in the presence of our enemies.  But day by day, God prepares a table for us before them.  He will protect us if we so choose to sit down at this table.  


This passage in Psalm 23 resonates with us all – because as we are reminded in Isaiah 53:6 – We all, just like sheep, have gone astray.  We’ve all turned to our own way.

There’s a song we sing from time to time called “Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing” – and right there in the words of this hymn – we sing the phrase “Prone to wander, Lord I feel it, Prone to leave the God I love.”

We are, aren’t we?  We are prone to wander – wander from the green pastures, wander away from the still waters, wander away from the paths of righteousness He has laid out before us.  We are prone to wander away from the table he has prepared for us in front of our enemies – and we try to fight our battles completely on our own, or with the help of someone else instead.  

When Jesus came to the earth, He takes on this role as Shepherd – and he talks about it in John 10.  He says, starting in verse 11:

John 10:11-15 “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. The hired hand is not the shepherd and does not own the sheep. So when he sees the wolf coming, he abandons the sheep and runs away. Then the wolf attacks the flock and scatters it. The man runs away because he is a hired hand and cares nothing for the sheep. “I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me —  just as the Father knows me and I know the Father — and I lay down my life for the sheep. 

Just as David had God to turn to for comfort in times of pain, in times of peace, in times of struggle, in times of happiness – we too have God, and specifically we have Christ Jesus to turn to for comfort from this world.  Christ is our Shepherd.  And only in Christ can we find true comfort and peace.  

As David looked back on all the events of his life, he could see the faithfulness of his Shepherd. The Lord’s constant care filled him with great assurance and hope for the future. 

Back In Psalm 23:6 – David says “Surely your goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.”

The word “surely” is not referring to a probability but a certainty. In other words, David could face the rest of life boldly, with great confidence about his future.

Just as certain as David could say these words, we too can say them.  We know that “Surely” goodness and mercy follow us as well, because Jesus promised us that He will never forsake us, He will always be here for us.  

There’s one other name for God we see in Psalm 23:5 – where David says “you anoint my head with oil” (vs 5) —this is the name of God “Jehovah-M’Kaddesh,” which is “the Lord who sanctifies” (Lev. 20:8).

Today God still anoints our heads and sanctifies us in a different way – He sets us apart by the blood of His only begotten that we read about in John 3:16.  The Son of God, Jesus, came to the earth to live that perfect life and offer himself up as a sacrifice for all the sins we have and continue to struggle with.

And in the end – for those of us who obey Christ, who follow Him, who put His name over ours in baptism – for those of us who live our lives as sheep for Christ our Shepherd – Revelation 7:16-17 tells us what our reward will be:

Never again will they hunger; never again will they thirst. The sun will not beat down on them, nor any scorching heat. For the Lamb at the center of the throne will be their shepherd; He will lead them to springs of living water. And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.
– Revelation 7:16-17

The only thing better than still waters is living waters. That’s what Christ offers us today.

My 2021 Commitments Review: The One Where I Committed to Walking 500 Miles (And I would walk 500 more…)

Well, actually 601, but who’s counting?

To go along with my weight loss goal, I figured that eating a certain amount of calories was only going to be one part of reaching my health goals. I’m not really sure why I settled on 500 miles. There’s nothing special about that number. Nothing magical. It’s just a number that seemed really high, and at that time, rather unachievable.

I figured out that if I wanted to reach that goal, I would have to walk 1.37 miles a day. Of course, there would be no way I could do that every single day. We live in north Alabama, where from January till April it rains quite a bit, and it can get downright chilly. In fact, out of the first 31 days of 2021, I only was able to get outside and walk 11 of those days. I missed 20 of 31 days the first month of my commitment.

Not exactly the best way to start.

Part of the problem was I didn’t have any good cold weather gear. Solution – Amazon Basics and Costco Special sweatpants.

Another part of the problem with walking was shoes. To make it brief, I have a bit of a weird gait and my right foot has some major supination issues. My left foot is fine, but my right one gives me all sorts of fits. Years ago, I had gone to Fleet Feet here in Huntsville. It’s a place that measures your gait and uses diagnostic tools to see pressure points on your foot as you walk. I decided to go back and visit them.

First of all, let me commend Fleet Feet – the stores both in Jones Valley and in Madison. They are amazing and very patient. I went in knowing I’d have to spend quite a bit of money on a good pair of shoes if I was going to achieve this goal. I started out in a pair of New Balance support shoes. Fit well in the store, but when I got them on the road, they really hurt my feet. Fleet Feet has a great return policy, 60 days, no matter what. After about 2 weeks, I returned them, and tried a pair of Brooks Glycerin shoes. These shoes were AMAZING – the most comfortable shoes I’ve ever worn. The problem was the back of the shoe dug into the back of my ankle, to the point where I came home and the skin had been rubbed off. So…I returned those, got a different pait of New Balance.

After those also made my feet hurt after just 1 walk (in an obvious, this aint gonna work moment), I returned them as well. I ended up in a pair of ON Cloudflyer shoes. These worked rather well for me, for about 4 months, and then they just started to fall apart. I reached out to ON, since the Fleet Feet return time frame was over, and to their credit, ON warrantied the shoes and replaced them.

I really wish I had gone with the Hoka shoes. My understanding is that they are the best of the best. When the replaced ON Cloudflyers wear out, that’s probably what I’ll try next.

But back to walking – how did achieve this commitment? Let me tell you that first of all, I am not a morning person. So I did very few of my walks in the morning. I committed to walking right after dinner most nights. It was a time after dinner, after we had done the dishes and cleaned up from dinner, where the gals in my home are getting ready for the next day, so I figured it would be as good a time as any.

I also committed to doing at least 30 minutes every time I walked. I arrived at this number after buying an Apple Watch. The Apple Watch has activity rings you have to fill each day, and the default number for exercise minutes was 30. So in order to see that ring get completed every day, that was my goal, 30 minute walks. I got that Apple Watch around the first of March, and I saw a radical transformation in my commitment level at that point. It makes it so easy to keep up with distance, speed, calories burned, and more. I highly recommend them.

I averaged walking about 2.5-3.5 miles every time I went out. I could achieve this in about 40-45 minutes. I even got to where I was doing some mile jogging intervals, but jogging is not my goal. Running is not my goal. Walking and getting my heart healthier was my goal.

I spend the time listening to a couple of different things. I’ll listen to a chapter of the Bible, and then I’ll listen to a portion of an audiobook, and then I’ll listen to my favorite sports podcast, Outkick 360, based out of Nashville. On occasion, I would listen to select music, but honestly I walk better listening to the other.

I also got to where on Saturday mornings, if we weren’t too busy, I’d go for a 5 mile or more walk.

By the end of the year, I got to where if I hadn’t done my walk, I felt sluggish and tired.

Now listen – if I can do this, you can as well. Seriously. Walking was never really something I loved. In fact, I did everything in my power to not walk if I could. If I could drive, or ride, or avoid it, I would. But now I love walking and look forward to it most nights. It will change your life.

I encourage everyone to get out and move. By the way, I blew past 500 miles, and ended up at 601!!

My Weight Loss Journey – The Real Never Ending Story

My first “commitment” of 2021 was to lose weight. I know, I know, isn’t that the largest (no pun intended) New Year’s Resolution made each and every year? Specifically, I wanted to get to 250 pounds.

Back in the summer of 2019, after some very stress filled times, I found myself weighing in at 315 pounds. It hurt to do everything. I was never happy. I never had energy. I never cared about anything. I did my work, came home, and did everything I could to avoid losing weight. I was ashamed and embarassed.

Fast forward to about a year ago. I was coming off the Keto diet where I had done well, and had lost quite a bit of weight, but then quickly put all the weight back on through the holiday season. I got down to 267 pounds, but then back up to 287 pounds.

After consulting with my doctor, I agreed to do strict calorie counting. And through that, I have gotten down to 262 pounds. And if I’m being honest, the holiday food binge brought me up a little bit more.

So, I didn’t reach my goal. But I was committed to losing weight. And once I made that commitment, I was going to do it. So 250 will have to wait till next year, but I did successfully lose 25 pounds this. That’s about 2 pounds a month.

But what i’m more concerned about is the trend I’ve developed over the years. Way back on Tuesday, October 17, 2006, I wrote a blog post on a previous blog that I called “Watch out! The fat man’s coming!!”

If my calculations are correct, that’s roughly 16 years I have struggled to keep the weight off. My weight on that day was 266. My starting weight for the year of 2022, just under 266. I didn’t reach my goal, but got pretty close, so I’ll give myself 2 out of 5 stars for that commitment.

2021 – A Successful Year of Commitments

In 2021, I decided that I would no longer make New Year’s Resolutions. I have made countless resolutions, and can’t think of one that I have ever maintained. In fact, Up to 80-percent of those resolutions fail by the second week of February according to the U.S. News & World Report.

Instead, I chose to make commitments. That word just sounds better to me. It has a greater weight to it, and ultimately sounds more like a covenant I am making with myself.

Back in June/July, I posted a “Halfway” post detailing not only what my commitments were, but how I was doing with them. I figured now is a time to start telling everyone how the end of the year went as well. I plan on doing a series of posts to describe how I did with my commitments.

My commitments were as follows:

  1. Weigh under 250 lbs by the end of the year
  2. Read 25 books (keep list, reviews)
  3. Be happy
  4. Cumulative 500 miles by the end of the year
  5. Pray Daily
  6. Read Bible Daily
  7. Read Other book daily
  8. No more than two Diet DPs a day
  9. Drink a gallon of water a day

How did I do with these? Over the next few days, I hope to give you greater detail as to how I did with each of these. Let’s just say, overall I was pretty pleased with my follow through…on most of these.

Josie’s Journey – The Joy of the Lord


I am so proud of you. I always have been. There is a goodness and a purity and innocence in you that is life changing to those you are around. Ever since you were a small child, you have spread joy. Someone would come over to our house, and you’d try to give them one of your favorite dolls to take home because you wanted them to be happy. You’d wave and say hey to people you didn’t know with a big smile on your face. The overflow of your heart is joy.

But then – you decided to give your life to Jesus. As you stated to me and your mother – “I’m tired of having to listen to the voices of the world tell me what to do. I just want to listen to the voice of Jesus and follow Him.” That statement will forever resonate with me.

On the evening of September 26, you were baptized, immersed into Christ, and became a new creation. And with that, you discovered even more joy.

You find joy in all places. When things don’t go your way, instead of letting them get you down, you find a way to discover joy. And that joy – it’s contagious.

In a world where “contagious” is something we don’t want to talk about, it is completely okay to have contagious joy. Your laughter is pure. Your smile is full of joy and elation. I have never known a young lady to be so full of a desire to do the right thing.

Satan is going to do everything he can to squelch that spirit of Joy. He hates it when children of the Lord are happy.

But for you – the Joy of the Lord will be your strength.

Isaiah 35:10 says

"They will enter Zion with singing;
everlasting joy will crown their heads.
Gladness and joy will overtake them,
and sorrow and sighing will flee away."

May the Joy of the Lord always be with you. And may your joy bring others to Christ. It is one of your spiritual gifts. Now go and share that joy with others.



Bon Jovi probably has the best line using the word halfway. In his song “Livin’ on a Prayer” he tells of Tommy and Gina trying to make their love last. In the chorus – in a melodic scream he shouts:

“Woah, we’re halfway there
Woah, livin’ on a prayer
Take my hand, we’ll make it I swear
Woah, livin’ on a prayer”

Technically, July 2 is halfway through the year. Midway between two points in time on a calendar.

So here we sit, a little over halfway through the year. Let me just stop and ask – how are you doing?

At the beginning of 2021, I made 9 commitments, what some people call resolutions, to do every single day of the year culminating in a desired result by the end of 2021.

My commitments were as follows:

  1. Weigh under 250 lbs by the end of the year
  2. Read 25 books (keep list, reviews)
  3. Be happy
  4. Cumulative 500 miles by the end of the year
  5. Pray Daily
  6. Read Bible Daily
  7. Read Other book daily
  8. No more than two Diet DPs a day
  9. Drink a gallon of water a day

I have my reason for each of these. Let me take a moment and walk you through each of them, why I chose them, and how i’m doing on each one. I do this just to help hold me accountable.

Commitment – Weigh under 250 lbs by the end of the year

Why I chose this – Well, who doesn’t want to have a weight loss goal right? Before I moved to Huntsville, I weighed 315 pounds. Then, my brother passed away from a combination of heart problems, sleep apnea, poor health, and more than likely obesity. He had shed quite a few pounds before he died, but the effects of poor decisions took it’s toll on him. So I decided it was time to take it seriously.

I got down to 267 pounds doing strict keto. Then at Thanksgiving/Christmas, I dropped the Keto in exchange for holiday sweets and treats. I got back up to 287 pounds. For those of you who struggle with weight problems, you know it’s an ongoing battle that never goes away. So I made it a commitment for 2021. I was going to achieve a very reasonable 40 pound loss, in a matter of a year. My doctor helped me make a few changes, I went to eating 2200 calories a day, tracking everything on My Fitness Pal, and exercising (see below).

For my weight – i’m measuring in inches my waist, belly, chest, and neck, and then also pounds. I do this only once a month, usually around the 5th or 6th of the month.

How am I doing? I’m happy to say that as of the time of writing, it was time for my measurement day.

My measurements thus far:
– Neck – I’ve lost 1″
– Chest – I’ve lost 2.75″
– Belly – I’ve lost 3.5″
– Hips – I’ve lost 1.5″
– Weight – I’ve lost 19 lbs (since March 2). That puts me at 268, which is right at where I was before I put the weight back on. While 250 is the goal by the end of the year, the ultimate goal is under 225. For a guy that is 6’2″, I think that’s pretty okay.

Commitment: Read 25 books (keep list, reviews)

Why I chose this: I’ve always had a hard time finding good books to read, unless they were Calvin and Hobbes or Far Side comic strips. I wanted to challenge myself on reading some good books, providing reviews for them, and telling people when I’ve found a good one.

How am I doing? I started my 13th book yesterday. I’m right on pace.

Commitment: Be happy

Why I chose this: You know what? Sometimes, I need to choose to do this.

How am I doing? At the end of each day, I evaluate all I did and I write down something that either made me happy, something that I should have found happiness in, or I’ll be brutally honest and gripe about how I did not find happiness.

Commitment: Cumulative 500 miles by the end of the year

Why I chose this: I’ve never ever enjoyed running or walking or anything in between. I’ve had what you may call
“laziness” and I was sick and tired of it. Plus I knew if I was ever going to get to the 250 pounds, I’d have to exercise.

How am I doing? Just a few days past the halfway mark for the year, I hit 247 miles. I try to get at least 2 miles in 5 days a week. It was a bit harder through the winter.

Commitment: Pray Daily

Why I chose this: I found myself only praying corporate prayers at church, in classes, or at meal times. I was struggling in my prayer life.

How am I doing? I have kept a journal every day in 2021 of my prayer life. Some days it’s marked down as “Prayed on my walk tonight” and some days it’s a journal entry. I’ve made it every day but one.

Commitment: Read Bible Daily

Why I chose this: Here’s another confession. I’m not confident I’ve ever read the Bible completely all the way through. I’m pretty sure I’ve read most of it during my 43 years of church, bible classes in elementary school, high school, college, while teaching Bible, and then while doing ministry. But I’ve never made it a goal to read my bible daily.

How am I doing? Excellent. I’ve learned you don’t have to do marathon readings of Scripture. You don’t have to “read the Bible through in a year” for it to count. Nope – at least a chapter a day was my goal. Thus far, i’m nailing that one.

Commitment: Read Other book daily

Why I chose this: In order to hit my 25 books by the end of the year, I knew I’d have to read daily.

How am I doing? Excellent. I have successfully read every day this year something other than the Bible as well as read my Bible. Most days I aim for a chapter, but some days, it’s only a few pages. Either way, it’s something that is stimulating my mind.

Commitment: No more than two Diet Dr. Peppers a day

Why I chose this: I have a major addiction. One of the reasons I have never touched alcohol is because I know I’d be an alcoholic. I would drink daily. I know some of you may think that 2 Diet Dr. Peppers a day is still a lot. Well that depends on how you look at it.

How am I doing? Not very well. I’ll leave it at that. I still have a long way to go. Sadly, I’m often not even “halfway there.”

Commitment: Drink a gallon of water a day

Why I chose this: Initially, I chose this because I thought if I did this, i’d be less inclined to drink Diet Dr. Peppers. I was wrong.

How am I doing? Just okay. I do start every morning with 12-16 ounces of water before doing anything else. There are some days I hit about 30 ounces. But reaching 64 ounces daily has not happened but maybe a few times. Who has time to drink all that water when i’m busy drinking Diet Dr. Pepper?

Missing Marty

Today there is an extra lump of emotion in my throat. One year ago today, my mom called me late, late, late in the evening. I used to never leave my phone on, but for some reason when I went to bed that night, I did. We were in the process of moving from Tampa to Huntsville. Kristen and Josie had already moved to start school, and I was home alone.
The call was from my mother. Waking up from a deep sleep – I remember saying this:
Me – “Hello”
Mom – “Lane, are you there? Are you awake? Can you hear me okay?”
Me – “Hang on – mom? Is that you?
Mom – “Lane, are you listening?”
Me – (finally realizing this conversation is really happening, and i’m not dreaming) “Yes – yes – i’m awake, what’s going on? What happened?” (No good phone calls come at this hour)
I started going through my mind – what could have happened? Is it dad? Is he okay?
Mom – “Lane – it’s Marty, he’s had another heart attack.”
Me – (before reality set in) – “Oh now, is he okay?”
Mom – “Lane, he’s gone. He didn’t make it”
This moment will play in my head for the rest of my life. There I was alone, 12 hours away from the people who needed me most. I called my wife, weeping. All we could do was weep.
I came home two days later. Through some very helpful friends who helped expedite the funds to get a plane ticket home, I was able to be with family sooner rather than later.
My father hadn’t been able to talk to me yet. He was just too overwhelmed. My mother became a solid rock in that moment.
I got home, my brother-in-law picked me up at the airport. When we pulled in to the homestead in Lebanon, I walked up that familiar back sidewalk, into the backporch, into the house. My dad saw me, and we couldn’t speak. We both knew what we wanted to say, but we just couldn’t.
My brother, his son, was gone. And the worst part about it for both of us was that when Marty passed, he was alone. He had been out for an evening walk.
Marty – we miss you. Never has there been a more classic #7 on the Enneagram than my brother. (#7s are extroverted, optimistic, versatile, and spontaneous. Playful, high-spirited, and practical, they can also misapply their many talents, becoming over-extended, scattered, and undisciplined. They constantly seek new and exciting experiences.)
Never have I known a bigger goober than you. Being 8 years older than me, I looked up to you in a unique way. But I can honestly say I’ve never known anyone who didn’t like you. You brought a smile, even if it was awkward,. to everyone.
Marty, we’re doing our best without you – today has been hard.

One Year


One year ago, my life changed completely.

My family had traveled from Tampa, FL, where I served as the preaching minister for the Northwest Tampa Church of Christ, up to Lebanon, TN, my hometown.  We were there to celebrate the 50th wedding anniversary of my parents.  However, we had other plans for while we were “up north.”

One thing we were going to do was go on a family vacation to the Smoky Mountains.  I’ve never been good to take vacations.  To be honest, I’ve never really had good vacation time offered by my employer, and having to use vacation time to go see family since we lived so far away was difficult.  So it left me with few “vacation” days.  We were excited to get away.

While I was up here, I also visited with the Mayfair Church of Christ in Huntsville, AL.  They had decided to add a new staff position, and I had been recommended for the job.  I was conflicted.  I had been preaching for 9 years full time after serving as a youth, worship, and associate minister for the previous 11 years.  In the ministry world, reaching the level of “preaching” minister is one that a lot of people aim for, and once they get there, they rarely leave.

I entertained the idea of moving into a different position, considered my options, and decided it would be a good opportunity.  I came to visit Huntsville, and interviewed with the committee on June 27.  It was made up of a few elders, a minister, and some other members.

The interview went well, and on June 30, we met with all the elders after the committee recommended me for the job.  As I sat there amongst 13 shepherds, I knew this was the place I wanted to be.  They were so encouraging, so loving, so kind.  They had a big ship to steer, and had done so with humility and wisdom.  They had put together a staff of about 14 ministers that were amazingly skilled in their areas of service.

One year ago, my life changed completely.

Sadly, this meant leaving some dear friends in Tampa that we had grown to love over 5 years.  But it also meant packing up and moving 12 hours, and we didn’t have much time to do it.  Unfortunately, my wife and daughter’s Christian school had filed for bankruptcy and was closing it’s doors, but that also made the transition away from Citrus Park Christian easier.

My wife was also offered a job at Madison Academy doing what she loves, working with pre-school age children.  She was introduced to her assistant, Angel, and immediately fell in love with the school.

Right as my wife and daughter was about to leave, my daughter fell off a horse and snapped her arm in two, so on the day before they were headed up here, we instead had to visit the operating room.  She has since made a full recovery.

Who would have known what would happen over the course of a year?

My wife came on to Huntsville, my daughter had to stick around Tampa for an extra week with me to go for a follow up.  Once she was cleared, she came to Huntsville to start her new life.  Along with the challenges of a new school, she also had the challenges of being without the use of one of her arms for a while.

And then I got the horrible phone call that my brother had suffered a heart attack, and had passed away, just two weeks before I was to move to Huntsville at the beginning of October.

We lived with in-laws for a few months, which presented challenges, especially the hour long commute one way.

We finally found a wonderful home, got moved in and settled, celebrated our first Christmas.

Our president went through an unsuccessful impeachment hearing.

And then we had news reports of a new virus coming out of China.  We watched as all that unfolded, and as it spread to all parts of the world.  Students and teachers were sent home.  School was now done virtually.

Churches stopped meeting in their buildings, and transitioned to digital services only.

All of a sudden, we all had to learn the art of movie making in order to teach and preach.

And then, my father was told he needed open heart surgery, at the worst possible time, and went under the knife to have bypasses done.

Then, we saw civil unrest due to injustices towards our African American brothers and sisters.  Protests erupted, which unfortunately led to anarchy in a lot of places.

One year.  A lot can happen in one year.  It makes me wonder, what will this next year look like?

Will the virus go away?

Will the presidential election cause more protests and riots in a deeply divided nation?

Will the murder hornets come out to play?

If you had told me a year ago that all of the above would have happened, I never would have believed you.

So here it is a year after I was offered a job to come work at the greatest church i’ve ever had the opportunity to know.

I know God is still in control.

I know who holds tomorrow.

Yes, we’ve gone through challenges.  But guess what, there’s more on the horizon.  But there will also be victories.  We will get through all of this, one way or another.

As for us, we never plan on leaving Huntsville or Mayfair.

Who I Am in Christ – Healthy Thinking to Overcome Anxiety

The Bible tells us not to worry.

But come on, let’s face it – that’s really challenging, isn’t it?

On Sunday, Jason Bybee interviewed me as part of the sermon time, and he asked me to share about my struggle with anxiety, and what I did to help overcome it.  You can watch that whole sermon by clicking here and going to the 58:11 mark of the video.

During that time, we referenced a list of verses and statements that affirm “Who I Am In Christ.”  Those verses and statements are below.  Please use this however you see fit. Who I Am in Christ pdf

Saying Goodbye, and Being Amazed

This past September, my older brother Marty passed from this life.  His body was cremated, and after a few months of finding the perfect resting spot, we gathered together this past Saturday to bury his remains at the Cedar Grove cemetery in Lebanon, TN.

Marty loved to go tour cemeteries, and could often be found on free weekends driving all over Middle Tennessee to walk through historic burial grounds.  My parents were able to find a few cemetery plots in this historic cemetery in Lebanon, in one of the oldest sections, near an old Civil War general whose statue is in the middle of the Lebanon town square.  He would have loved it.

We had a beautiful, personal, simple ceremony with just our immediate family.  Everyone said some touching, and some lite-hearted remarks.  We cried, we laughed, and most importantly we had closure.

At the end of the little ceremony, Marty’s two daughters, his wife, my sister, and my daughter placed flowers on the spot where his ashes were buried.  Then his son, Nathaniel, took a $2 bill, and placed it with the flowers.  He said “Dad always told us to keep us a $2 bill with us so if something happened to us, we’d have the entry fee into Heaven.”  Sounds exactly like something Marty would have said.

Early Tuesday morning of this week, a massive tornado hit Middle Tennessee.  It hit first in the Nashville area, and stayed on the ground to Cookeville.  In between Nashville and Cookeville is Lebanon.  Along the path of the tornado was Cedar Grove cemetery.

Here are a few pictures of the damage:

Trees down at the gate where Marty was laid to rest.

Tree down in the cemetery.

Look at how the wind just snapped this old tree like a twig.

I just knew after I heard that the tornado ripped through that area, that the flowers, the $2 bill, and the sod placed on top of the burial site would be gone.  Mom and dad went out, as well as my sister and her husband, to go check it out on Wednesday.  And here’s what they found —

All the flowers were still in the exact same spot.

But here’s the most amazing thing – the $2 bill was still there:

The $2 bill Nathaniel placed in the flowers was still there after the tornado ripped through the cemetery.

I don’t think this was a “God-thing.”  I don’t believe it was divine intervention.  I just think it is absolutely amazing.  And here’s why – Marty was always a pretty chill dude.  He took after my Grandfather Smith in that regard.  If a tornado was headed straight toward Marty, I could see him saying “This is pretty cool.” and then just hanging out watching it.

I’m grateful for my brother’s life, his example, and now i’m grateful for this closure.  May you truly now rest in peace.  Miss you big brother.