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?”
Silence….
Mom – “Lane, he’s gone. He didn’t make it”
Silence….
 
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

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.

Family Focused February – A Discipleship Initiative for Your Home

Family Focused February

I recently announced another new discipleship initiative here at the Mayfair Church of Christ that I’d love for all of you who are reading to participate in as well.  We’re calling it simply “Family Focused February.”

The idea behind this month is simple – spend time teaching, admonishing, encouraging those you are closest to – your family.

Some simple ways to do this:

  • Family bible readings each night
  • Family prayer time
  • Visit someone in the hospital
  • Make a visit to encourage people in the nursing homes
  • Make some homemade cookies and take them to a neighbor
  • Cook a large home cooked meal and take it to the local fire station
  • Make a commitment to be in church every Sunday of the month
  • Make a pledge to reach out to one nearby neighbor you don’t know
  • Memorize scripture together
  • Perform some random acts of kindness for people you don’t know

The list goes on and on – and it’s not something that ends at the end of February.  Make this is a pattern in your family.

If you’re not married, or if you don’t have a family living with you – find some of your closest friends and make a commitment to do some of these things.  The goal is this: to grow in your relationships with each other as you grow closer to God.  Do all these things for HIS glory.

What ideas can you come up with?

Bottles of Blessings – How YOU Can Be Ready to Help Next Christmas

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Perhaps you’ve heard of churches that did an all out benevolent campaign to help others at Christmas by simply giving members of the church money from their budget, or from a wealthy benefactor, to give to those in need at Christmas.  This is a wonderful idea, and I’m so glad there are churches and people who are able to make this happen.

But it got me thinking – what if instead of me handing out someone else’s money, I handed out my own?

I believe with all of my heart that deep within every person is the desire to be benevolent to others.  The biggest hindrance to that almost always seems to be this: “I want to help, but I just don’t have enough extra in my budget to give and help others.

As part of the Mayfair Discipling initiative, I launched a program on Sunday simply called “Bottles of Blessings.”  The idea is simple – take this bottle, place it in a spot in your home where everyone sees it, and as you have spare change, dollar bills, etc., you place it in this bottle.  At the end of the year, tally it up, and use it to bless someone’s life.

Do you give your kids an allowance?  Give them their allowance in such a way where they can automatically put something in the bottle to bless someone at the end of the year, so they are a part of it.

I set a goal for our members – to save at least $100 for this cause.  They won’t be turning it in to anyone, there won’t be any checks and balances on it – it’s all between them and God.  But it’s always good to have a goal, right?

If you’re a member at Mayfair, we have a few bottles left at the front desk and by the auditorium doors.  If you’re just reading this and you won’t to participate – grab a mason jar or a cup at home, and put it somewhere with a sticker/label on it to remind you to participate.

But here’s the next step – start praying for someone to come into your life that you can help at Christmas in 2020.  Start praying that God will place someone in your life that needs the blessing you have to offer.  That way, when you hand them the blessing, you can tell them “I’ve been praying God would put you in my life so I could help someone.  Let me tell you about the mighty God I serve…”

Blessings to you all.

The Art of Letting Go

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Not too long ago, a small Japanese woman took the world by storm, all due to a book she had written “The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up.”

What is the art of tidying up?  In a nutshell, it’s de-cluttering your home and living a more minimal lifestyle.  It’s a way of organizing, sorting, cleaning, and discarding things in your home. 

She has very simple rules of “tidying” up. The most important one – Ask yourself if it sparks joy.

This idea has moved people to start cleaning out their closets, drawers, garages, attics – and getting rid of things in their lives that no longer spark joy.

However, Marie Kondo isn’t the first person to suggest we let go of things and move on.  In essence, she’s telling you what God has been trying to tell us for generations – and that is to let go.

I think there’s a vast spiritual connection here. If our body is the temple of the Lord, what kind of environment have we created for Him inside of us?

I think a lot of us may be good at keeping house, looking like we have it all together on the outside – but what about the inside? Is it full of clutter and mess?  Or is it a home that allows God to have space to work, create, and thrive inside of us?

The bible teaches us that if we want to be followers of Christ, that we have to repent, be baptized, and live our lives for Him. 

When we repent – we decide that we no longer want to live the way we are living in sin, and we are going to turn away from the lifestyle of the world.  Or, we’re going to get rid of things that clutter our lives.

When we are baptized – we start over, with a clean slate. We’ve allowed Jesus to cleanse us, to get rid of all the mess inside. It’s a new start.

Problem is – over a lifetime, we accumulate things we just aren’t sure we can get rid of.

When we did our own version of Marie Kondo’s Tidying Up, I found myself staring at 50+ items of clothing in my closet.  I pulled it all out and went through each item.  After I went through everything, I realized my “let go” pile was still awfully small

But why?  Why are we so hesitant to let go of things?  Maybe you spent a lot of money on something.  Maybe it holds sentimental value.  Maybe you just really like it.  Whatever the case may be, we have a hard time letting go.  We almost need someone to come in and say “It’s just stuff. It’s okay to let it go.”

We struggle the same way with the clutter in our lives.  This is where our relationship with God comes in.  We need HIS help to let go.  We need HIS help to come in and make us clean.  We can’t purge all the sin in our life without Him.

What ends up happening a lot of times when we de-clutter our homes, is that we get rid of some things, and then we end up going out and replacing all those things we just got rid of with more things

We do that with our spiritual lives as well.   We tend to go out and replace our sin with more sin.  But, with God’s help – we can keep this temple holy and clean.

Have you ever watched an episode of Hoarders on television?  This show often depicts a very serious psychological problem of people who cling to stuff for some reason or another.  And I’m not just talking about too many books for their shelves or too many clothes for their drawers.  They have so many possessions, they don’t have anywhere for them.  They end up stacking boxes on top of boxes, on top of trash, on top of clothes, and so on.

We look at these things with disgust – and we can’t imagine living in such filth, such disrepair, such chaos.


But I wonder,
if the Holy Spirit living inside of you could show you what your mind looks likewould it represent a heart that had been tidied up like a Marie Kondo home, or a spirit filled with possessions like an episode of Hoarders?

The bible tells us over and over again to take our burdens, our worries, our struggles, our sins – and place them at the feet of Jesus.  To allow Jesus to take control of this body, heart, soul, mind – and purify us as only He can.

Psalm 55:22 tells us to “Cast your burden on the Lord, and He will sustain you.”

Matthew 11:28 tells us to “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and he will give us rest.”

Isaiah 41:13 says “For I, the Lord your God, will hold your right hand, saying to you ‘Fear not, I will help you.”

I Peter 5:6-7 says “Humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time, casting all your care on Him, for He cares for you.”

Isaiah 46:4 says “Even to your old age, I am He, and even to gray hairs I will carry you! I have made, and I will bear; even I will carry and will deliver you.”

For some reason, we like to hold on to as much as we can, instead of letting our Almighty Creator bear our burdens for us.  We cram all of this junk into our hearts, we let it clutter our spirit, and before long, we can’t make sense of any of it.  But it’s time to let it go.

It’s time to start tidying up. It’s time to make room for Christ to work in your heart, instead of letting your fears, anxieties, worries, struggles, troubles – take up all the room and occupy a place in your head.

Here’s what you do.  Get into the routine of praying this prayer:  “Lord, anything that comes near me that can harm me, hurt me, cause anxiety, and the like – I’m just going to lay it at your feet and let you deal with it instead of bringing it into the house and letting it take up unnecessary space.”

How to Lose Weight Without Even Trying

 

Okay, so I’ll admit – that title is a “reel them in” type headline.  For years, I’ve looked for the solution.  Pills, shakes, fads, etc, and would you believe that NONE of them worked?

People put stickers on the arm, people spend thousands on specially formulated shakes, people spend even more on devices that make it all easy.  And the sad reality is that some truly believe that if they just pop a pill, put a sticker on their arm, or drink a special shake, that the weight will come off without any effort, and it will stay off forever.

I know, because I have been there, and bought the XXXL t-shirt.

When I got out of college and took my first job as a teacher and coach, I survived off eating Doritos and Totinos pizzas.  I ballooned up to some awful weight, and then discovered ephedrine.  It was in ALL the diet pills.  And you know what?  It worked, and it worked well.  At that time, I weighed around 265, and dropped down to 190, which was my high school weight.

But the more I read about ephedrine, the more I realized it was a simply awful pill.  So I stopped taking it.  And with that, all the weight slowly crept back on.  No, it wasn’t overnight, it took about the same amount of time it took for it to come off.  But it came back, and then some.

And for the past 17 years, I’ve tried to replicate that success with varying degrees – all without victory.  Arbonne, Advocare, drinking shakes, exercise only, the list goes on and on.  But nothing worked.  I even tried joining a very expensive weight loss support group, but found the support highly lacking, and they really just cared about getting my money.

Part of that was my attitude toward food.  I simply LOVE to eat.  Pizza? Yes.  Cheeseburgers? Yes.  Chicken tenders? Yes.  French Fries?  Yes please! Mexican food of all types?  OH YES!  I could down baskets of chips, then eat everything on my plate.

But you know what else I had?  Stomach and digestive issues.  I’d fill myself up, and feel awful, bloated, sick to my stomach.  Me and Mr. Toilet were best friends.  And I began to creep up and up in my weight.

It wasn’t just that either?  My confidence was completely shot.  My self esteem was at an all time low.  My mental clarity was non-existent.  And when I checked the scales and I had climbed up to 315 big ones – I wept at what I had become, and knew something had to be done.

So here’s what I did.  I started off with prayer.  WHAT?  Prayer can’t help you lose weight can it?  But here’s the catch – I didn’t pray for me to lose 100 pounds.  I prayed for my mindset to change.  I prayed for willpower to say no.  And I did this for a few weeks before I even started.

On August 7, I began my transformation.  After many weeks of prayer and prep, I decided to do the Keto based diet.  In essence, it is highly restrictive in the amount of carbs you can have, and dependent on healthy fats and protein to fill you up.  I had seen some lasting success in others who had done it, and from what I read, seemed like it was something I could do.

That Wednesday, I actually had a speaking engagement in Winterhaven, FL.  I was successful during the day, and left Tampa around 4pm to make it to the church in Winterhaven.  Typically when I speak somewhere, i’ll grab something to eat in the car on the way home.  So this was my first test.

I remember thinking – “Oh well, Lane.  You gave it your best shot, but it’s just not practical to stop eating fast food burgers and fries, because you’re just in the car too much and traveling too much.”  I drove for about 25 minutes fighting that conversation.  And then it hit me – this is what I had been praying for!  I change of heart.  Willpower.

I went home, and at 9pm or so, sat down to a Keto approved meal.  And the rest is history.

I’ve not cheated once since then.

At first, I was doing Keto and strict calorie counting.  As I have moved on, I have swapped calorie counting for full satiation.  I’m not going nuts on the calories, but I walk away feeling full.

If we do fast food – burger without a bun, no fries.  Steak places are easy, with broccoli, salad, and a big steak.  Chicken for days, so long as it’s not breaded.  Cheese and more cheese please.  I’ve eaten more salads, more cruciferous veggies, and more pieces of meat than I ever thought possible.

I also began doing intermittent fasting – a method of restrictive eating based on time.  My last meal is dinner, and I’ll not eat breakfast, with usually at least a 15 or 16 hour break of not eating until lunch.

All of these things have worked.  Since August of 2019, I am down from 315 pounds to a still not so great but much better 274 pounds.  41 pounds of weight loss.

But I don’t give the credit to keto or intermittent fasting.  I give the credit to God giving me the willpower that I prayed for and believed I would receive.

For those of you who know me well, or at least knew me well before I did this – I did NOT eat well at all.  Especially on my veggies.  But here’s a plate of food that I ate the other night, and I devoured it:

If you’re struggling with your weight – please, STOP looking for the easy fix.  And also PLEASE understand that this is your life you’re dealing with.  You have one body, and that’s it.  My goal weight now is 225.  Who knows?  Maybe I can even beat that.

But even if I don’t — I FEEL SO MUCH BETTER ALREADY!  No more bloat, no more stomach issues, and no more 30 minute trips to restroom.

I hope you find what you’re looking for.  Listen – will this end in demise or success?  I know what I want, but I also know it will only be as successful as the effort I put into it.  I hope you find your motivation, and I hope I maintain mine.

Family Improvement: Reading Through the New Testament (It’s Easy, and You Can Do It, Too! Free downloadable plan for you and your family!)

Widick Family Chronological Reading Plan vs 3

My wife decided this year was going to be the year we read through the entire New Testament as a family.

There’s a lot of reasons why a family says they can’t do that:

  • We don’t have time to do that
  • We can’t fit one more thing into our day
  • We can just do it on our own
  • I don’t know where to start
  • My kids will never buy into that
  • My spouse won’t want to do that

The list could go on for days, but there’s no real reason every family shouldn’t be reading the Bible daily.

So here’s why this is easy.

  • I took a list of the New Testament in chronological order, and from that, came up with a very simple daily reading list which you can get by clicking the following – Widick Family Chronological Reading Plan
  • This won’t take you more than 5-10 minutes of your time
  • It will pay off big time in the end, because a family that reads the bible together sticks together

I encourage you all to find a way to make this happen.  We have made it a goal that at 8:30 every night, we stop what we’re doing, and we go the day’s reading.  The reading is never more than a chapter or two, and doesn’t take very long to get through.

You don’t have to find time for questions and answers, just let the Word of God speak.

Whether you’re young or old, single or married, childless or a home full of children, I think it would do you a great bit of good to commit.

Moments to Remember

Josie's poem

My sweet daughter wrote this poem for my father this year for Christmas.  It was our first Christmas without Marty, but we’ve also said goodbye to other family members in the past.

We played Bingo at my aunt and uncle’s house with my grandmother’s old bingo set.  We reminisced about when we used to all gather around on Christmas day and play Trivial Pursuit, and how my other grandmother would just blurt out answers for the opposing team.

I told my wife the story of how one Christmas eve at the Widick house.  My mom’s parents would stay with us in their later years on Christmas eve.  My grandfather couldn’t walk without shuffling his feet.  He never picked them up, he just sort of scooted around like Tim Conway would do in his old man comedy sketches.

My parents gave them their bed downstairs, and one year – my grandmother kept yelling at the top of her lungs to my grandfather “Quit shuffling your feet!  You’re going to wake up the whole house!!”  All the while, we never heard his feet, but we certainly heard her!

People will come and go in your life.  Family members pass on.  But the memories of the holiday seasons past stay with us.