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

The Art of Letting Go

5-19-19 Sunday Slides.008

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.”

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.

When Christmas is a Challenge

26114107_10204280294844961_3814914844198375237_nWho knew?

Last Christmas was our last one with Marty.  Marty loved Christmas.

I remember the best gift I ever got for Marty was a poster when he was either first married or engaged, don’t remember which, but it was a poster that said “All I Ever Needed to Know I Learned from Star Trek.”  He was a big Trek fan.

One year, me and Kristen, Marty and Penny, and Mary Anne and Kevin played “secret Santa.”  Not the most fun with just 6 folks, but still fun.  Marty had drawn my name.  He didn’t get me a book, or gift card, or something for the office.  No – my brother bought me a Japanese Maple tree for my back yard.  Only Marty would think of something like that.

My worst Christmas was also my brother’s fault – because he got married on December 22.  In Florida.  Far, far away from my traditional Christmas celebration.  At the time, I was miserable.  But we’ve all looked back on that trip with lots of laughter (because the only thing that went right was the marriage!!).

Hold the ones you love close tonight.

What’s Your Faith Story?

We all have a faith story.  Some of your faith stories may be more elaborate, and some of them may be pretty vanilla.  But your faith story consists of more than just the day you became a Christian.

Someone taught you.  Someone showed you.  Someone helped you.

And your faith story may just help someone see Jesus.

One of the easiest ways to be a disciple is to live out your faith daily.

What is keeping you from sharing your story of faith?

Garbage In – Garbage Out: The One Where We Cut the Cable

Sometimes, you just have to make a change.  So we made one – and while not a big deal for some, it’s a pretty dig deal for us.  We cut the cable cord.

More and more folks are cutting the cord.  Most people seem to be doing it in the name of saving money.  I’ll admit, that was part of the reason we did it.  We were paying $160 for Frontier’s cable and internet package.  We’ll now be paying about $60 for just the internet.

We had hundreds of channels at our fingertips, but we routinely found ourselves asking, “Is there anything on TV tonight?”

We simply weren’t using it.

But then there’s the other part of it – most of what is on television is nothing but garbage.  We have a few things we would routinely watch, and probably still will continue to watch – but it was time to say goodbye.

I did purchase a 3 month “prepaid” package of DirectvNow – which I can access on my phone, ipad, computer, or through my Apple TV or Amazon Firestick – but honestly, I only did that so I could get a free 4K Apple TV.  3 months of prepaid was $100, and I got a free Apple TV worth $180, and I can cancel at no charge right after that 3 month period.  Which leads me to another point –

All the new streaming services, you can cancel without contract.  Come and go as you please.  Pay for what you want and nothing more.  There are versions of just about anything and everything you could ever want out there – and I by no means am endorsing one over the other.

The only thing I will definitely make sure of is when college football rolls around, I’ll have access to all the ESPNs and SEC Network.

I’ve been a subscriber of DirecTV, Dish, Comcast, Charter, CenturyNet, Spectrum, and Frontier – and honestly, I mostly just watch network television and ESPN, along with the occasional TLC/HGTV/DIY networks.  When Josie was younger, we frequently would watch Nick Jr. and Disney Jr., but now that she’s older, we don’t.

Really, when I think about it, we spend a lot of our TV time watching the old “Little House on the Prairie” episodes we bought on DVD for our daughter.  Those were just great.

So, if you’re thinking of cutting the cord, tell me about it.  Already have?  What has worked great for you?

Build Project #6: A Coffee Table (But I Don’t Drink Coffee…)

It’s been a few weeks since I’ve updated my woodworking projects.  There’s been so much going on, but I finally got around to wrapping up my 6th project of the year.  I’ve finally finished the coffee table for our formal living room.

This project took longer for a few reasons – time constraints, evening meetings, and the table was challenging.  In the end, it turned out pretty good in my opinion.

This table was built by 1x4s and a sheet of 1/2 inch plywood.  I also used a whole lot of wood glue! (not all of this wood was for the table…)  This project was my first entry into the world of using dado blades, which look a lot more intimidating than they are.  I also used a strap clamp, and made some pretty wicked miter joints.

Lots of wood that I bought at a nearby big box home center.

I started off by making the legs.  This consisted of cutting them to length, and gluing them together.  I then cut a bevel into them to put an nice looking angle to the legs.

Gluing up the boards – since I don’t have a lot of clamps, I had to do two sets of legs together with my longer clamps.

Two other sets of legs being glued up.

All 4 legs glued up and ready to be shaped.

I ran the legs through the table saw at an angle to create an awesome looking bevel shape.

After that, I broke out my new dado blades.  Dado blades help cut wide rabbets and dadoes much quicker than a regular saw blade.  I used the dado blades here to cut a decorative top to the leg.  Later on these will be where the frame goes.

Dado blades made quick work of the next step, and aren’t that difficult to figure out. The stack I have is thicker, but don’t fit in the throat insert for my table saw. I need to make my own to use the whole stack.

The result of the use of the dado blades.

More of the shaping from the dado blades.

 

Next, I cut the frame pieces.  The plans I was using called for just a simple frame, but I wrapped them to have a mitered edge, which makes the table look more symmetrical.  This part took me quite a bit of time, because I messed up one of the cuts, but I finally figured it out and got it put together.

Putting the side frame pieces on to the legs.

A dry run of the frame pieces. Cute daughter tax paid in this picture!

Adding a decorative wrap around the frame pieces. These pieces had mitered corners.

Check out the miters! In truth the inside frame pieces and the outside frame pieces weren’t necessary. But I messed up on the inside ones, and covered them up with the outside boards. Worked out well!

Closer shot of the frame pieces. You’ll also see the shorter frame pieces connecting the spots cut out by the dados.

The bottom of the table, completely assembled.

Heading into the final phase, I had to do the table top.  In essence, it’s a large picture frame with a sheet of 1/2″ birch plywood as the “picture.”  I cut a large rabbet, and then added a shadow line to it, which is a neat feature that adds some depth to the piece.

Using the strap clamp was not easy.  I had a lot of frustration with it.  But it did work well.

The frame for the top. I did a dry run with the strap clamp before I glued it up.

On all of the miter frame pieces, I cut a large rabbet for the table top to sit down in, and then the smaller rabbet is called a shadow line.

The frame glued up.

Trimming up the plywood for the insert. The tape is to minimize chipping.

Using my Jawhorse for the cut.

After putting some support pieces on the bottom frame, I flipped the table top upside down, lined everything up, and put the table together.

Using the support pieces, I screwed the top onto the bottom while the table was flipped upside down.

The plywood has been glued and screwed.

The process of gluing in the table top.

I finished the piece by using Danish Oil.  I put down a coat of natural wood color, and then put two coats of dark walnut color.  After letting that thoroughly dry for about 3 days, I applied a spray polyurethane, about 4 coats of it.

Finally putting coats of the Danish Oil finish on to the table.

I’m really proud of this piece.  I had a lot of struggles with it.  I think it looks really good inside our living room area.

The family loves the new table!

Once again, I’d like to thank Steve Ramsey for doing such a great job teaching on his Weekend Woodworker course.  I would have never had the ability to do this without his teaching.

 

My 40th Trip Around the Sun – Thoughts on the First 39 Years of My Life

Tonight is my last night to be in my thirties.

For some of you, you’re probably thinking “Oh shut up, I’d love to be turning 40.”  For others of you, you’re saying “Geez – 40?  You’re ancient!”

I’ve done a whole lot in my 39 trips around the sun.

  1. I was born.
  2. I’ve been to Honduras, Nicaragua, Belize, Canada, England, Scotland, France, Germany, Belgium, Amsterdam, China, Japan, Jordan, and Israel.
  3. I’ve lived a lot of places: Lebanon, TN; Henderson, TN; Houston, TX; Ashland City, TN; Memphis, TN (technically I lived in Olive Branch, MS too); Guntersville, AL; back to Houston, TX; back to Nashville, TN; and now in Tampa, FL.
  4. I’ve owned a 97 Pontiac Sunfire, a 2002 Ford Taurus, a 98 Ford Explorer 2 door Sport, a 2001 Honda Accord, a 2004 Honda Pilot, and now a 2006 Honda Civic.
  5. I’ve been a telemarketer, a camp counselor, an intramural referee, a chapel checker, a pizza maker at Pizza Hut, construction worker, bible teacher, speech teacher, choral director, theater director, head volleyball coach, assistant girl’s basketball coach, campus minister, youth minister, associate minister, worship minister, and preacher
  6. I’ve been married for 14 of those trips around the sun.
  7. I’ve been a father for 9.
  8. I’ve paid off all of debt except for my mortgage.
  9. I’ve struggled with anxiety and very low self esteem.
  10. I’ve played rhythm guitar, bass guitar, and drums in a band.
  11. I’ve been in 14 plays, musicals, etc.  I was one of the lead roles in about half of those.
  12. I’ve only owned my own dog for about 3 years – Chloe, our little black pug.  I really hope to own another dog one day.
  13. I only ever attended a Christian school.  Friendship Christian and Freed Hardeman.  I also taught in a Christian school – Westbury Christian.
  14. I’ve never had a cup of coffee.
  15. I’ve never had a sip of alcohol.
  16. I’ve never smoked.
  17. I’ve never seen Terminator, Die Hard, or The Godfather.
  18. I’ve driven a bus from Tennessee to Canada and back.  It was a 26 passenger bus.
  19. I’ve been on television at least 4 times that I know of.
  20. I’ve seen the Great Wall of China.
  21. I landed in Tokyo the day the great tsunami hit Japan on my way to China.
  22. I’ve seen Les Miserables in London 3 times.
  23. I’ve never tasted lobster.
  24. I’ve been bald since I was 18.
  25. I’m afraid of aliens.
  26. I can’t sleep without a fan.
  27. I once bench pressed 225 lbs.
  28. When I was about 5 years old, I sang “You’re Never Fully Dressed Without a Smile” as loud as I could while showering the bathhouse at a campground.
  29. My family called me “Motormouth” when I was a child, because I never stopped talking.  I’m being punished for that now because my daughter does the exact same thing!
  30. I asked a White House security guard while on a tour if there was an underground bunker for the president to hide in like on the show “24.”  He was not amused.
  31. I have been bullied as a child and also as an adult.
  32. I have a really hard time saying the word “rural.”
  33. I have preached from the same pulpit that Alexander Campbell once preached from.
  34. I’ve watched “The Office” from beginning to end probably at least 9 times.
  35. I took a selfie with Kirk Herbstreit.
  36. I’ve made more than my fair share of mistakes
  37. I’ve prayed at least a million prayers
  38. I’ve found that surrounding myself with positive people makes life a lot better
  39. I have hottest wife in the entire world.

What will 40 bring?  Who knows?  All I know is, in the words of Conrad Birdie, “I’ve got a lot of living to do.”

For all of those who have been an influential part of my life up until this point – thank you.  Bring it on 40!

Taking Your Life Back From Social Media

 

You’re driving in your car, and you pull up to a stop light.  You have time to kill, about 30 seconds or so.  Instead of just taking a moment to breathe, reflect, or better yet – pay attention to traffic, you decide to pull out your phone and check Facebook.  Before you know it, cars are moving, the light has changed to green, and the guy behind you is laying on the horn for you to go.

Listen – I love Facebook.  Why?  I live in Florida with my wife and daughter, while the rest of my family lives in Middle Tennessee and North Alabama.  It is a simple, easy, and fun way to send pictures and update each other on life and activities.  However, recently, I’ve noticed that social media is starting to take more and more of a stranglehold on my time.

Ephesians 5:15-16 says “Be very careful then, how you live — not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity.”  Time is a treasure we’ve been given by God, and I dare say He didn’t plan on us spending our days glued to a screen staring at social media.

Recent studies done by various time management groups show that as of March 2017, adults ages 18 and over spend 2 hours and 51 minutes on their smart phones every day.  Now, if you’re doing business, that’s one thing – but most aren’t.  In fact, 1 hour and 56 minutes of that time is spent on various social media outlets.  Broken down –

  • 40 Minutes on Youtube
  • 35 Minutes on Facebook
  • 25 Minutes on Snapchat
  • 15 Minutes on Instagram
  • 1 minute on Twitter

Now, your mileage may be coming from different sources, but reality is – this is a problem.  Over a lifetime this equals upwards of 5 years and 4 months spent on social media.

Do you want to know what I think are the real dangers with things like Facebook, and other social media outlets? It never ends.  When you read a book, eventually, there’s a final chapter, a final page. When you watch a show, or a movie, it ends. But log into social media and start scrolling — and there is no end.

Recently, I rediscovered something that is very useful in social media usage – and it’s called “Social Fixer.”  If you’re using your desktop/laptop to scroll through Facebook, I highly suggest you download this today.  It will take back your time, while still allowing you to scroll through and enjoy.  In essence, it gives you control of Facebook.

For example, in the top left corner of your facebook page, you can set your stories from “Top Stories” to “Most Recent.”  But did you know that Facebook will automatically reset it to Top Stories after a while?  Why?  Because if you have it set on Most Recent, it doesn’t keep popping up as much new material for you.  And you know what that would do?  It would cause you to stop scrolling.

Social Fixer – along with having some really cool filters, fixes it so it maintains that “Most Recent” setting, along with a lot of other great things.

  • It can remove the ads that are on Facebook.
  • It can filter out posts – such as political posts, posts with certain words, etc.
  • You have the ability to “check off” that you’ve read a post, therefore keeping it from popping up again.
  • You can set how many posts it will show you, to keep it from going into an infinite loop of regurgitating things.

For example, look at this screen shot.  This shows how it hides ads, how I’ve read a post and it minimizes the post, how I’ve hidden something I don’t ever want to see again, but most importantly – it shows how it has stopped loading stories for me.  This is a GREAT tool on how to limit your time on Facebook.

Social Fixer will allow you to check off stories you’ve read, will hide ads, will filter content, and will keep you from mind-numbingly reading the same things over and over again.

I’ve seen people “quit” Facebook.  I don’t think that’s a great idea.  Facebook, Instagram, Twitter – these are all great tools if used the right way.

Psalm 90:10 tells us that are days are numbered – 70, maybe 80 years – they quickly pass.  And in verse 12 it tells us to number our days aright that we may gain a heart of wisdom.

Use social media, but use it the right way.  If you need to delete it off your phone – DO SO!  If you find yourself spending countless hours scrolling through something that simply doesn’t matter in the long run, get rid of it.  If you get upset over what your friends are posting – don’t look at it.  Unfollow people if necessary – or simply learn to appreciate other people’s opinions no matter how different they are from yours.

But at the end of your life, don’t look back and say “I should have spent less time scrolling and more time _________________.”

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