Here's a look at the steep slope behind our house.  I hated mowing this.  The stairs were very long, narrow, and dangerous.  You can see now, we have added a terraced step down garden, and the new deck was added on to the old.

Extreme Home Renovation 2014 – Widick House Edition

This is a year of Renovation for the Widick Family.

At the church I work for, we are undergoing some major renovation in the auditorium.  New paint, new pews, new configuration – its all very exciting.  But its not quite as exciting for us as what’s going on at the Widick house.

Back at the beginning of the year, we had finally saved up enough money to begin a renovation in our backyard.  We live in a wonderful home, but the backyard, well – it wasn’t so great.  It backs up to the woods, has a steep slope, and the deck was tiny, barely being big enough to have all three of us on it at once.

Here are some before and after photos for you to enjoy:

 

Here's a look at the steep slope behind our house.  I hated mowing this.  The stairs were very long, narrow, and dangerous.  You can see now, we have added a terraced step down garden, and the new deck was added on to the old.

Here’s a look at the steep slope behind our house. I hated mowing this. The stairs were very long, narrow, and dangerous. You can see now, we have added a terraced step down garden, and the new deck was added on to the old.

 

Here's a look from the other side of the house.  You can see how steep the yard was.  Now, we have a little area leveled off (i'm going to turn that into a paver patio).  You can also see a swing for Josie, a porch swing for us.  I love how the stairs turned out!

Here’s a look from the other side of the house. You can see how steep the yard was. Now, we have a little area leveled off (i’m going to turn that into a paver patio). You can also see a swing for Josie, a porch swing for us. I love how the stairs turned out!

 

Here's how it looked before the renovation from the deck toward the south of the house.  Now, from the same place, you can see the addition.  (We will have to save to buy new deck furniture...)

Here’s how it looked before the renovation from the deck toward the south of the house. Now, from the same place, you can see the addition. (We will have to save to buy new deck furniture…)

 

The best part about the renovation is now, we can go from our driveway right onto the deck, and to the back door.  We could not do that before.  I'm on the driveway taking all these shots.

The best part about the renovation is now, we can go from our driveway right onto the deck, and to the back door. We could not do that before. I’m on the driveway taking all these shots.

 

Another look at the paver patio area (to be completed later).  One of the other things you'll notice here is that we had several trees and brush cleared out from the woods.  We can now play under the shade in the woods.

Another look at the paver patio area (to be completed later). One of the other things you’ll notice here is that we had several trees and brush cleared out from the woods. We can now play under the shade in the woods.

Safety in the Storm

nashville_rain_may2

On Thursday night, we had a major storm move through the area where we live.

At about 8pm, the Tornado Warning popped up while watching the weather report.  Kristen and I chatted a bit, and decided at one loud crack of thunder to go and get our little gal and bring her downstairs to our “safe place” – which ended up being our couch watching the weather.

Josie sat down on the couch, and we watched Ron Howes on News Channel 5 show us where the warnings and watches and storms were located.  We could hear the sirens blaring, the trees waving, the winds howling, and see the lightning flashes.

When Josie came downstairs, she was tense, nervous, apprehensive, worried….the list goes on and on.  We laid her down, put her blanket over her, let her cling to her baby doll, and then I sat down next to her.  We watched the radar, I explained what was going on, gave her a quick science lesson on weather, and then we waited.

She went from nervous to calm.  That is, until we told her that the warnings had passed, and we were going to take her back upstairs to go to bed.  She began to get nervous again – and that’s when I showed her the radar, and showed her that the worst part had passed, that from now on there would be some wind, and some rain, and some lightning, but the worst was behind us.

I looked at her and asked her – do you understand?  She nodded yes.  Then I asked her – do you trust me?  Again, she nodded yes, albeit not quite as enthusiastically.

I told her I’d be right here for her – and if she needed us to call out to us. Kristen got her flashlight, Josie got hers, and they marched off to bed.

Doesn’t that remind you of something?

Sin and death was prevalent.  The warnings came from the prophets.

Christ came and told us how to protect ourselves.

He conquered death.

The worst part passed – death was defeated.

He looked at us and said “I’m going back home now, but I’ll be right here to protect you.  If you need me, just call on me.”

What a mighty God we serve.

What Are you Leaving Behind?

Potters-Clay-Pic

Tomorrow at the Granny White Pike Church of Christ, my lesson will be on what we are leaving behind for future generations.  I will be using this poem at the end of my lesson – entitled “The Sculptor” – author unknown.

I took a piece of plastic clay
And idly fashioned it one day
And as my fingers pressed it still, 
It moved and yielded to my will

I came again when days were passed
The bit of clay was hard at last
The form I gave it, it still bore, 
But I could change the form no more.

I took a piece of living clay
And gently formed it day by day,
And molded with my power and art
A young child’s soft and yielding heart

I came again when years were gone
It was a man I looked upon;
He still that early impress wore
And I could change him nevermore.

 

Encouraging the Encourager

5421517469_d0d2997eec

(DISCLAIMER – this does not reflect my situation at my congregation of the Granny White Pike Church of Christ.  This is a response to some discouraging news I got this past weekend from a friend in ministry, who was let go from his job during this holiday season, in the middle of the school year, and doesn’t know what he’s going to do.  I felt called to write this today for those ministers going through a rough season in their lives, and for members in their church on how they can encourage.)

Discouragement.

All of us go through it at times.  Some, more than others.  I suppose when I was growing up, I always looked at our preacher (often times it was my dad) and thought he always had it together.  I never suspected anything was ever a problem.  I thought the Church was a safe haven.  I thought, to be real honest, that preachers were perfect.  It never crossed my mind they would get upset, get discouraged, or struggle at all, because it was there job to build others up.

I now know that is far from true.  Being a minister now, I can vouch that it is extremely easy to get discouraged.  My personal theme for the year is “Encourage One Another in 2014″

I’m part of a few mentor groups with other ministers.  Sure, I have my own struggles, but they are mostly of my own accord and worry.  I love my church family, and I feel loved and encouraged and supported.  However, the stories I hear from other guys in this line of work break my heart.

One guy was telling us about when he and his family were preaching in a small rural church.  The congregation provided a parsonage.  The minister and his family went away on vacation for a week, and when they returned to their home, all of their stuff had been boxed up and placed out on the porch and in the yard – with a note “The elders have decided that it is time to get a new minister.  Please see  Beth (the church secretary) to get your final paycheck.  Good luck in all you do.”

That was it – no “let’s have a meeting about your job” or face to face conversation stating why – just a gutless firing while the family was away.  You may think that’s not the norm, and for the most part you’d be right – however, there are things like this going on all around the nation in churches today.

This past weekend – a friend of mine was called into a meeting by the elders.  With no warning, with no prior meetings about his performance, with no “let’s talk about how you can do better” conversation, he was told to leave.  He’ll have to either weather the storm through the rest of the school year for his kids, or make the decision to move his kids in the middle of the second semester.

Ministers of all types have accepted their job knowing that with it comes certain struggles.  Some guys are one upset person away from losing their job.  Some guys are continually belittled.  Some guys, even though they give it their all, are never told an encouraging word.  And the result – fewer and fewer people are wanting to go into the field of ministry.  In fact, it seems like every week or so I see a friend of mine I know on social media who is getting out of the field.

I have many people here at the Granny White Pike Church of Christ who are encouragers.  People who come up to me after a lesson, and don’t just say “Great job” – but rather they talk about the lesson with me.  They share how “the point you made about” really touched them, or was something they really needed to hear.  I love these conversations.  They motivate me to continue.  I love getting emails and Facebook messages about how my lesson helped people.  It motivates me to better.

I have a group of elders here who show all of our ministers great support.  They provide for us, pray for us, share with us, take us to lunch, are there for us to share frustrations, are wise beyond others I know, and offer words of wisdom.  However, I know that not all ministers have the same luxury.

So this morning – let me share with you some of the things my members/leaders do to help encourage me that you can do for your own ministers:

Encourage your ministers – all of them.

- Support their projects.
- Pray for them.
- Attend their classes.
- Listen to their lessons.
- Write notes to them, thanking them for specific lessons.
- Pray for them.
- Take them to lunch.
- Volunteer to watch his children so he and his wife can go on a date night.
- Share what they talked about in church on social media.
- Pray for them.

In what ways do you encourage your ministers at your congregation?  What are some other ways we can let ministers know how much we appreciate their work?

At this time – I want to send a special shout to my great congregation, the Granny White Pike Church of Christ, for always doing such a great job of encouraging.  My prayer for other ministers is that their congregations will do the same.

Image from kalexanderson via flickr

Walk the Walk

walking-the-walk

Our text for Sunday morning at the Granny White Pike Church of Christ:

As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received.  Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. There is one bodyand one Spirit, just as you were called to one hope when you were called; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.                             Ephesians 4:1-6

As we begin 2014 – are you ready to walk the walk?  I hope you’ll join us Sunday morning as we consider how to take these steps.

Hello, My Name is Church

church-clip-art-11

Go read this article, and then come back to see my thoughts:

I believe that “church” in general often gets a beating when it doesn’t deserve it.  Yes, there are churches that do a poor job, that focus on themselves more than God and others.

Churches aren’t perfect, but we do worship a perfect Savior.  Recently at our congregation, we’ve had a young mother start bringing her child to worship.  The father is not against church, he just hasn’t found a reason or motivation to attend.  For some, the desire to be a part of a church family is strong, for others, it means nothing at all.

This year, if you’re not attending anywhere, make it a goal to attend a local congregation.  If you’re in the Nashville area, I invite you to attend the church I work with – the Granny White Pike Church of Christ.  Find a place, visit, and if its not a good fit, move on to a different place – but please, don’t give up on church, because Jesus hasn’t given up on you.

In the Beginning…

Happy-New-Year-2014-1-1Those words are uttered at the start of the Old Testament, and perhaps are three of the most significant words in our language as Christians.  There was, at least for us, a beginning.  Mankind entered into the world that God created.

Praise God!  He gave us life!  He gave us emotions!  He gave us a chance!

As we begin 2014, just like every new year, we can once again utter those words with sincerity and honesty – in the beginning.

In the beginning.  Its a new year.  What will you do with it?  Where will you let it take you?  How will you respond to circumstances that are less than desirable?  How will you make 2014 the best year you have ever lived?

Does God Love Me?

LoveofGod
Ever wonder how much God loves you?

When I married Kristen nearly 10 year ago, I wrote her a poem that was called “I Love You Because…”, and in it I try to list all the reasons why I love my beautiful bride.

When you love someone, there is a reason you love them.  When you love someone, there are things about them that cause you to have feelings for them. There are things that trigger that emotion, maybe at first its the way they look, or a friendship that develops, an attitude, but there is something that causes that initial attraction.

When you have a child, the “because” or “why” is a little different.  You love them because they’re your child.  You love them because they were given to you.  For some of you, you love them because you have to…

So I’ve been thinking about this over and over again – why does God love me?  If God were going to write me a poem and tell me why He loves me, you know what I think He’d say?  He’d simply say “I love you”.

Because you see, when God says He loves me, there is no because.  God just loves me.

John 3:16 states “For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him would not perish but have everlasting, eternal life.”

Romans 5:8 states “but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”

You see, God doesn’t love us BECAUSE we did anything, or because of who we are, He just loves us.

Today, live you day knowing that our God, the Supreme Creator of the Universe, the One who gave us life, the One who gave us emotions, friendships, family, the One who gave us HIS Only Begotten Son – loves us.

“How He Loves Me”

He is jealous for me,
Loves like a hurricane, I am a tree,
Bending beneath the weight of His wind and mercy.
When all of a sudden,
I am unaware of these afflictions eclipsed by glory,
And I realize just how beautiful You are,
And how great Your affections are for me.

And oh, how He loves us, oh,
Oh, how He loves us,
How He loves us all

And we are His portion and He is our prize,
Drawn to redemption by the grace in His eyes,
If his grace is an ocean, we’re all sinking.
And Heaven meets earth like an unforeseen kiss,
And my heart turns violently inside of my chest,
I don’t have time to maintain these regrets,
When I think about the way He loves me.

-How He Loves Me- Original Words by John Mark McMillan, rewritten by David Crowder

 

The One Where I Say “Be Positive”

Image

Okay, I’ll admit it.  Sometimes, I can be a debbie downer.  I can’t help it.

Part of it is in my blood.  My grandma was a rather negative gal.  But let’s face it, she grew up in the depression era, so I think she had permission.

My family and I moved back home to Nashville almost 2 years ago.  I’ve made great strides in my negative attitude.  One of the greatest things that helped was ceasing to watch the news.  I used to be a FoxNews junkie, and then I would flip over to CNN to see what they were saying, followed by checking their websites.  

All they would do is yell and fight and bicker – and I have to tell you, it rubs off on you.  I’d watch it while I was getting ready, and then I’d listen to it on my XM radio in the car.  When I wasn’t listening to that on the radio, I’d listen to ESPN news or talk – and again, on my afternoon drive home, I’d catch the PTI (Pardon the Interruption) crew, and that show is all about yelling at each other.

Its so easy for this attitude to rub off on you, and sadly enter all aspects of your life.  We get short tempered with our spouses, our children, our friends, our church family, our neighbors, the people driving next to us on the road – and before long its out of control!

So for those of you who have been affected by my negative attitude that creeps out every once in a while, I’m sorry.  Being around negativity is like being around someone who smokes – you may not be smoking, but you smell like it later on.  You may not be negative at the time, but chances are it’ll put you in a sour mood.

There’s really no excuse for me ever being negative.  I have a 

1.  Wonderful wife who still puts up with me
2.  A beautiful little girl who still loves to cuddle with her daddy
3.  Super awesome parents, family, and friends who would do anything for me
4.  The absolute best church family any Christian or Minister could ever ask for
5.  A spectacular home that is more than we ever could have imagined
6.  2 paid off vehicles that are in top notch running condition
7.  Health – me and my family have no major problems 
8.  More than enough food to eat every single day

Well, you get my drift.  I’ve been blessed, and instead of letting things get me down, I’m going to focus on the blessings in Christ that I have.

Next time you put something on Facebook – ask yourself, “Is this building others up?”  Such as political statements, money statements, “i’m raising my family better than you” comments, and so on and so forth.

Next time you have a conversation with someone, be positive.  If the other people in your conversation bring up gossip, negativity, or comments about how they are not satisfied with something going on at work, home, or church – try to change the subject to something more positive, or if that doesn’t work, dismiss yourself from the conversation.

Negativity is a poison, one that we all partake of, but one we need to fight against.  May God bless us all with a positive spirit and attitude…INCLUDING ME!!