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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The God of Comfort: Words to Prepare Us for Hurricane Irma

In times where people are anxious and nervous about the oncoming events of the storm, people need comfort.

You usually hear sermons of comfort after something tragic has happened – usually, a death, at a funeral, – or after something horrible happens in the world.

But you know what?  I certainly can use comfort pretty much every day of my life, knowing that God is with me, and knowing that He is in control of all things.  Every day, one of us needs that reassurance.

 

Isaiah 66:13 offers an encouraging, comforting passage – where God says “As a mother comforts her child, so will I comfort you.”

This conjures up an image of a loving mother drawing her child near to her, wiping away tears and singing a soft lullaby.  God is saying that he is there for us in the same way.

In the New Testament, a word is used – the word is parakaleo – which means “called to the side of.”  God offers us comfort by calling us to walk beside Him, and He gives us the Holy Spirit to be with us.  He is with us always.

And who better to have by our side than one who is immovable, unshakeable, always constant, always there, never wavering?  Who better to have by our side who is described like this in Psalm 46:

God is our refuge and strength,
an ever-present help in trouble.
Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way
and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea,
though its waters roar and foam
and the mountains quake with their surging.
There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God,
the holy place where the Most High dwells.
God is within her, she will not fall;
God will help her at break of day.
Nations are in uproar, kingdoms fall;
he lifts his voice, the earth melts.
The Lord Almighty is with us;
the God of Jacob is our fortress.

God loves His children.  And we are His children.  God is great and wonderful, and most worthy of our praise – and regardless of what may come our way, God is in control.

As we face the storm, I am reminded of scriptures throughout where God stills and calms them.  Today, I pray for God not only to still and calm the oncoming storm, but I pray He will still and calm our spirit, our wandering minds, our fears.

In Acts 27, Paul finally sails for Rome, but along the way, they ran into a storm.  Acts 27:13 describes that it started as a gentle south wind, but before long, a wind of hurricane force called the northeaster came down from the island of Crete.  The ship was caught and they threw anchor for fear they would crash into the rocks.  The bible tells us for 3 days, they threw things overboard, and didn’t see the sun nor the stars.

In verse 22 – Paul gives us the men this message that I want to leave with you this morning:  “But now I urge you to keep courage, because not one of you will be lost; only the ship will be destroyed.”

After the storm, and a shipwreck, and even after being bit by a snake, he walked away and arrived at Rome.

Through this storm, I can’t promise you that things won’t be destroyed, but if they are – as Paul said – only the ship will be destroyed.  Our course is set to Heaven – and when we follow this great God of comfort, I promise you we will arrive.

Be safe everyone!

~Lane Widick

How to Build Your Own Floating Shelves

For the longest time, we’ve needed some shelves in our small bathroom.  Our Master Bathroom is one of those that has a small closet toilet room – and that’s where we needed shelves.

We had looked around for some shelves to add, but the walls have a funny angle to them.  Had we bought just some normal shelves from Target or Amazon, we would have had some practical shelving that just wouldn’t have looked all that good.

So I decided that I was going to have build some on my own.

I started off by buying a few supplies –

  • a couple of sheets of 1/4 inch Birch plywood sheets 2×4
  • 2 8-foot lengths of 2x2s

Some 2x2s and some 1/4″ birch plywood sheets.

To do this build, I simply needed a circular saw, some clamps, a drill, and some glue, screws, and I used some small panel nails since I don’t have a brad/finish nailer.

My simple tools of choice – Irwin clamps and a Black and Decker Cordless Circular Saw.

I wanted to use 2x4s, since I had some of those left over from the bed I built earlier, but the simple fact is that it would have made some giant shelves that wouldn’t have looked good in our small area.

After measuring the angle of the wall, I cut the plywood pieces.  I then clamped them together, and sanded the rough edges.  I used my handy Rockwell Jawhorse to hold them together.

Clamping and sanding the shelves.

After that, I assembled the 2x2s into the shape I needed.

Assembling the bracket for the shelf. I would have put these on the outside too, but the studs in the wall were on the outside.

It was time to assemble the shelf cover – I decided to put in some extra 2×2 pieces on the outside to help the structure/support of the shelf.

Using an extra piece of 2×2 to support the shelf. I forgot to take a picture of the front edge during assembly, but I used panel board nails and screws (on the underside).

It was now time to put the brackets into the bathroom.  You can see now the strange angle, and how a straight shelf would have looked awkward.

The brackets installed. Like I stated earlier, I would have put the brackets on the outside, but that’s the only place there was a stud to attach to the wall.

Now that the bracket is installed, the moment of truth was to see if the cover fit…and it did!  Now you can see the nails I used across the front.

Shelf cover installed, you can see the angle now.

You can see the panel board nails here.

Thoughts from the build:

I wish I had stuck to my 2x4s instead.  It would have offered more stability, however, they were just too large.  The shelves are not what we would call “Super Stable” but they are good enough for what we’re using them for – toilet paper…

Both shelves done. Hoping to finish them with a stain or paint soon. I will secure them to the brackets when we are done.

I’m very pleased with how they ended up looking.  Kristen is going to probably put some sort of finish on them at some point soon, just haven’t decided yet on a stain or a paint.

The Promise: It Begins

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A few years ago at the Summer Celebration at Lipscomb University, I was reminded of a story out of the Old Testament by one of the speakers there.  It was a story from Joshua 1, where Joshua reminds the Reubenites, the Gadites, and the half tribe of Manasseh that they had promised Moses a while back that they would fight for the children of Israel.

Some of you might be wondering – “Wait, I thought they WERE children of Israel – of course they would fight.”  Well, yes, but back in Numbers 32, they made a deal with Moses.  They had a lot of livestock, a lot of people, a lot of wealth, and as they got to the east side of the Jordan, they decided they wanted to stay there instead of entering into the Promised Land.

Of course, Moses wasn’t too thrilled with this, and he went on a moment where he ripped into them.  So they came up with a compromise.  They promised that if they could settle there, that when the time came to fight, they would send their fighting men in to fight.

Now, why is this such a big deal?  Well – they’re promising that they’re going to fight for a group of people they will never truly know.  They’re promising to fight for a land they know they won’t possess.  They’re promising to give their lives to ensure the future happens for the others.

And that’s what we need to do as well.

Now, in Numbers 32, we see an old passage that some of us may have known for a while – Moses tells the 3 tribes “Listen, this is great you’re promising this – but know this – if you don’t do it, your sin will find you out.”

What he’s stating is simple: Don’t promise something to God you don’t intend on doing.  Don’t make promises you don’t plan on keeping.

I think this offers us  two things:  First, a  wake up call – because it’s time for us to stand and fight for the next generation. It’s time for us to admit that it’s time to do something to make sure the next generation knows about Jesus.

But second, it is a blessed reminder – God takes his promises seriously. God doesn’t fall through on his promises, and He expects us not to also.  And what has God promised us?  Well in Hebrews 13:5, He promises that he will never leave us, never forsake us, and will always be with us.

I think it’s time for us to make a promise – that we want the church to be around for our children, and their children, and people who will give their lives to Christ that we don’t know and never will know.

And that promise starts with us.

5 Things You Should Take Time to Do (And Not Do) on Christmas Day in 2016

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Christmas.  From the first of October till a week into January, we spend our time looking at Christmas trees, lights, decorations, and listening to the festive (and sometimes depressing) music.  The day arrives, finally, and due to the fact that we’ve spent so much time hyping it up, sometimes it can be a let down.  So let’s talk about some things you can do this year to make sure this year’s Christmas is the best Christmas ever.

1. Remember the REASON for the SEASON.  Yes, it’s cliche.  But the reason why many gather together for Christmas is because of the birth of Christ.  No, I don’t believe Jesus was born on December 25.  But yes, I do believe it is a great time to talk about Jesus, because so many in the world are seeing nativity scenes, listening to hymns, and are in a joyful mood.  Why not jump on this great opportunity to grow closer to Jesus this year?

2. Go to a worship service, or at least participate in worship on Sunday, Christmas Day, December 25.  Full disclosure, i’m a preacher, and I want people to come to the building at our church and worship God with their church family EVERY Sunday.  I love the connections that are made.  There’s no greater way to celebrate Christmas than to celebrate the birth, the life, the death, and the resurrection of Jesus.

If you’re in the Tampa area, our congregation is moving our worship time to accommodate all the extra time you may need on Christmas morning to get out.  We understand that kids will want to play with their toys, you’ll want to try on your new outfits, and if you have family over, you’ll need an extra hour or so to get every one through the shower and feed them.  So we’ll move from 9am to 10:30am.  We also will not have classes, since we want to encourage togetherness with church family, and with with your family at home as well.

I also realize that sometimes, you may have a family member that refuses to go to church.  That’s okay – maybe instead of forcing them to go and making them feel guilty, you stay at home and spend some time in the Word of God, talking about Jesus. I have prepared a “Family Christmas Devotional Guide” for anyone in this situation.  Instead of making or forcing or guilting someone into going, stay at home with them and go over this with them.  While I think it is of the utmost importance to be in church every week for the encouragement and admonishment you give and receive, I think it is just as important to show Christ in any way possible to those who are either non – believers, or have left the church.

I’d love for you to 2016 CHRISTMAS FAMILY DEVOTIONAL GUIDE if you are in a situation like this, or if your family happens to be out of town snowed in at a cabin in the mountains.

3. Bless someone with a Random Act of Kindness.  Our family has a Christmas Elf that comes every year.  Her name is Chrissy (short for Christmas, which is what Josie named her many years ago).  Instead of causing mischief though, Chrissy has the tendency to encourage Josie to do kind things.  One year, she left notes for her to bake Christmas cookies and hand them to a few people, so her and Kristen made cookies and delivered them to the local fire station.  We also took them to a house down the street that had really cool Christmas lights, and we told them “You make our drive through the neighborhood so much more enjoyable.”

4. Do something completely selfless.  Last year, a group from church went to “Build-a-Bear” and each kid custom made a stuffed animal.  We then took all the kids over to a local hospital that one of our members works for, and took all the stuffed animals that the kids had just made, and gave them to the children’s section of the hospital.  Our kids knew what they were doing the whole time, and they took great pride in making things just right for the children they were going to get to bless.

5. Make a resolution not to fight or argue with anyone.  Listen, I get it, on holidays, your family gets together for the first time maybe in months (or years) and there’s a lot of excitement.  But sometimes, a discussion ends up turning toward a Facebook post you made a few weeks ago, or a cause you support, or a religious decision you or your church made that Uncle Ted doesn’t agree with.

Instead of bringing those things up, here’s another idea — DON’T!  I made the mistake of doing that not too long ago at a family gathering.  It led to a discussion, albeit civil, that could have either waited, or never been had at all.

Christmas day is not the day to bring up political, theological, or moral differences.  Instead spend the day encouraging, uplifting, and cheering people on in their life.  If someone in your family has made a poor choice in your mind, practice restraint, and if it’s really important to you to talk about it — give them a call later in the week.

So there you go – 5 great things to do (or not do) on Christmas day.  I pray that all of you will have a safe, happy Christmas and wonderful holiday season.

Crying Out for Help

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A few weeks ago, my family was dining out at the local mall food court.  I was enjoying a buffalo chicken sandwich, my wife was enjoying a salad from Chick Fil A, and my little gal was enjoying her usual chicken nuggets from Chick Fil A.

We were enjoying a conversation, talking about various things, when all of a sudden we heard a blood curdling scream.  We looked over, and we saw a little boy, probably around 3 years old, running around screaming for his mother.

Mommy!!!  Mommy!!!!

He weaved through all the food court tables, frantically searching for his mother.  He passed by us – I tried to get up to say something to him, but was moving so quickly looking for his mother.  Finally a lady was able to calm him down, grabbed his hand, and  they found the nearest mall worker, who radioed for security.

There was a moment of absolute chaos, followed by a buzz of insecurity from all who were witnessing the event.  It seemed as if everyone sat quiet for about 15 seconds, catching their breath.  At our table, we were on edge, shaken, and took a bit longer.

We took the opportunity to explain to Josie, if she ever got separated from us in a mall, how to find someone she could trust so we could find her.

It was a moment I hope I never have to experience again.

In the Psalms, we see another experience similar to this – in Psalm 130, David says:

Out of the depths I cry to you, Lord; 
Lord, hear my voice.
Let your ears be attentive
to my cry for mercy. 
If you, Lord, kept a record of sins,
Lord, who could stand? 
But with you there is forgiveness,
so that we can, with reverence, serve you. 
I wait for the Lord, my whole being waits,
and in his word I put my hope.
I wait for the Lord
    more than watchmen wait for the morning,
    more than watchmen wait for the morning.
Israel, put your hope in the Lord,
for with the Lord is unfailing love
and with him is full redemption. 
He himself will redeem Israel
from all their sins.

David lived with a tremendous burden of guilt.  He had committed adultery, and he continued in his sin by trying to cover it up.

David, much like the child wandering around screaming for his mother, cried out for his Father.  He felt as if God had left him, as if God was no longer around.  But in this situation, God had not left him, but rather, David had left God.

David’s heart was broken.  His mind was racing.  And from the depths of his soul, he cried out for God.  David was reminded in the moment to calm down, and that God is a God of forgiveness, so long as you seek it with all your heart.

And like the little boy was desperately seeking for his mother, and found a way through kind hearted people, David found the way back to God – through his redemptive grace and mercy.

When you find yourself lost and alone – and feel like no one is there for you, remember that God is there.

Was it a Gun or Terrorism to Blame?

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Now Abel kept flocks, and Cain worked the soil.  In the course of time Cain brought some of the fruits of the soil as an offering to the Lord.  And Abel also brought an offering—fat portions from some of the firstborn of his flock. The Lord looked with favor on Abel and his offering,  but on Cain and his offering he did not look with favor. So Cain was very angry, and his face was downcast.

Then the Lord said to Cain, “Why are you angry? Why is your face downcast?  If you do what is right, will you not be accepted? But if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must rule over it.”

Now Cain said to his brother Abel, “Let’s go out to the field.” While they were in the field, Cain attacked his brother Abel and killed him. Genesis 4:2-8

Senseless, isn’t it?  The first recorded act of murder was not in self defense.  It was not in battle.  It was simply out of anger, out of jealousy.  Cain killed his brother, Abel, because Abel’s offering was more pleasing to the Lord.

It’s interesting that God gives Cain a warning.  He looked into the heart of Cain.  He knew there was anger inside of him.  And he tells him “Sin is crouching at your door.”

This is a feeling that Cain probably had not just at this moment.  Not many people go straight from 0 to 60 like that.  The problem was that he let it stew, let it fester, and it became a problem – a major problem.  So much so, that God sees Cain and says “Hey, you need to chill out.  So your offering wasn’t great today.  You didn’t give it your best.  But you’ve got this.  Keep on trying, do the right thing, and it will be accepted.”

Just as God has done for thousands of years, He offered Cain a way out.  He warned, he guided, he gave instruction — but the anger inside Cain was too much.  And in act of nothing but pure hate, he murdered his brother.

And there you have it, the first recorded murder in history.

Just one chapter earlier, this would not have happened.  There was no sin in the world.  There was no anger, no violence, no jealousy, no greed.  It was a perfect world.  But the moment that Satan convinced Eve to eat of the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil, Satan gained a powerful edge, became the ruler of the world, and thrives on convincing man to hate man.  And it all began here, with Cain and Abel.

Sadly, even though God created this universe to be good, to be perfect, Satan was able to convince mankind to sin.  And because of that, Satan is considered to “rule the world.”  Ephesians 2:2 calls him the “prince of the power of the air.”  John 12:31 calls him the “ruler of this world.”

When we become Christians, we are no longer bound to this world.  We can choose to be, but Colossians 1:13 tells us that God has rescued us from the dominion of darkness.

But those who do not know God, are still ruled by the evil one.  I John 5:18, 19 tells us that if you are not born of God, you continue to sin, and that the world is under control of the evil one.

More than likely, a stone was the weapon of choice used by Cain when he murdered his brother.  We’re not sure, as the Scriptures do not tell us.  That’s not the important part.  It wasn’t the weapon that was used, it was the motive that God keyed in on during this passage.

God, instead, focused on the crime that was committed.  God provided justice for Abel by punishing Cain.  But God still wanted Cain to live, to survive, to have an opportunity to repent of what he had done.  And that’s what he did.

One of my best friends, and minister in Huntsville, AL – Jason Bybee – had this to say in his blog earlier this week.  You can read the post he wrote HERE.  But he reminds us that justice is for God to bring.  And that’s what we should pray for – that God would bring justice to those who caused harm like in the tragedy we saw in Orlando this past weekend.

You see, already, guns are being blamed for this violent act.  But guns are no more the problem than a stone in the fields when Cain murdered Abel.  The problem is that Satan rules the world.  And until the Lord returns and defeats Satan once and for all, Satan will continue to cause things like this to occur.

We should pray for the light of the Lord to cover all.  We should pray that God returns to take away evil forever and call us home to be with Him.  We should pray that God will hear the cry of his people, and ruin the acts of the radical terrorists that claim, cause, and thrive on acts of violence.

And we should pray that those who cause this violence will have a change of heart, that peace can be a part of their lives, because we are told by Jesus to pray for our enemies in Matthew 5:43-48.

Why did this act of terrorism occur this past weekend?  Same reason that Cain murdered his brother.  I John 3:12 tells us “Do not be like Cain, who belonged to the evil one and murdered his brother.  And why did he murder him?  Because his own actions were evil and his brother’s were righteous.”

May God destroy evil soon.

An Ode to Mothers – Our Source of Strength

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In 2 Timothy 1:1-7, Paul gives us insight into the source of strength that Timothy, a servant of God, has to do what he does.

Paul mentions it was Timothy’s grandmother, Lois, and his mother, Eunice, who inspired Timothy, who helped form his sincere faith, and lives on in him as he has become a servant and minister of the gospel.

We can’t ever underestimate the power of parents.  We can’t ever underestimate the role that parents play in our lives.  Whether it be negative or positive, your parents have made an impact on who you are.

Timothy happened to have two very strong women in his life that influenced him in a very positive way.

The Bible doesn’t say much about Timothy’s father.  This does not mean that Timothy’s father was a loser or a dead beat – but what we do know – Timothy’s faith was a result of the upbringing he had from his mother, and from his grandmother.  His father was a Greek, and it is implied in Acts 16 that he was not a believer.  Because of this, and because his mother was a Jew and a believer in Christ, she took on the responsibility of his Spiritual upbringing.

Mothers often are thrust into spiritual leadership roles, even though the Bible clearly asks the Fathers to do this.  However, there’s not always a father in the spiritual picture, is there?

I know there are mothers and fathers alike reading this today who feel they are doing this all alone, that you are the one that makes sure your children are at church, that you are the one that makes sure that the spiritual side of things is taken care of.  My heart goes out to those of you who fit this example.

But for those of you who are mothers doing this spiritual journey alone with your children – whether the father is no longer in the picture or the father just doesn’t care about church, or about God, or maybe just the father doesn’t see a need to be a part –  for whatever reason that the father is no longer in this spiritual picture, I want to commend you.  Please, know that you’re making a difference.  Know that you’re doing the right thing.  And know, that a faith like yours is the one who Paul calls out as being sincere, as genuine, and commendable.  

I was fortunate to have a father that loved his children, and took a very active, spiritual leadership role in the family.  But that doesn’t mean my mother didn’t do her part.

I was the baby, the last of 3 children, and my mamma means everything to me.  My earliest memories are of being with my mamma.  At night, I remember she would lay down on that old scratchy couch we had, and I’d immediately go over to her and ask if I could lay down with her.  We’d curl up on that scratchy couch together till I fell asleep.  I was, indeed, a mamma’s boy.  And there’s nothing wrong with that at all.

Mamma did everything she could to help the family.  She stayed at home with the kids as a homemaker until I was in 7th grade.  But you see, that was what she wanted to do — she wanted to be a full time mother.  And to prove that, she majored in home economics in college.  For those of you don’t understand what that means – it basically means she majored in wanting to be a full time mother.  Taking classes on cooking, sewing, and other things.

Today, there are great resources a mother can turn to, but social media conglomerates like Pinterest have nothing on the skills my mother possessed.

If you needed something sewn, mamma was the lady to do it.  I had many outfits that she sewed, some specifically for me, most specifically for my older brother, and I’m fairly confident that I may have worn an outfit or two that was sewn specifically for my sister, since my folks tried to make sure they were good stewards of what they had been blessed with.

She didn’t just sew our outfits, though.  I remember her sewing dresses, for weddings, for banquets, and for other various events.  She had a skill unlike any other when it came to sewing.

But that wasn’t her greatest talent – not by a long shot.  Her greatest skill was cooking.  She could take a refrigerator full of leftovers, and make you think she was cooking a brand new feast planned specifically for that day.

A few of her meals that I remember vividly, so much so that I can still taste them to this day, were items like her fried chicken, her made from scratch biscuits, and her homemade lasagna.

My favorite meals she cooked though were her Sunday lunches, and most often it was Roast Beef, with mashed taters and gravy, carrots, and maybe some of her sour dough bread.  This was a real treat, after having been at church for a few hours, coming home, and smelling the roast that had been slow cooking for several hours.

Of course there were a few items she made that I didn’t care for, such as her fried Salmon patties, but for the most part, I enjoyed what she made.

One of the things I admired most about my mamma as I was growing up, was how she truly loved my father.  You could tell she was smitten.  She walked side by side with him, supported him every step of the way, and helped in whatever way possible.

I never once heard her complain about lacking something.  She never complained about having to shop at the discount stores, or having to buy our bread from the day old bread store.  She never complained about him having to put in extra hours at the school, where often he had to attend sporting events, drive the bus, or a ton of other things he had to do.  She supported him through all of that.

This is a picture that is painted in Scripture.  In Ephesians 5:21, we are told to submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.  Specifically Paul goes on to lay some guidelines out for this to work best.

In verse 22, he tells the wives to submit to the husband as they do to the Lord, because the husband is the head of the wife, the family, as Jesus is the head of the church.  And as the church is to humbly submit to Jesus, so too should wives submit to their husbands in everything.

Men, husbands, sons, — understand something here.  This only works when you do what Paul tells you to do:  love your wives just like Jesus loves the church.  How much did Jesus love the church?  Well, he died for it.  

It goes on to say that we should present our wives, the mother of your children, as Jesus presents us, his sheep, to His Father in Heaven — Radiant.  Without stain or wrinkle.  Without blemish.  Holy.  In the same way Jesus does that for us, we as husbands are to do for our wives.

That’s why it worked with mom and dad.  My daddy loved mamma more than life itself.  He built her up.  He made her spotless.

Husbands, sons, fathers — we have a responsibility to help make the women in our lives great.  We have a responsibility to help them, to walk in hand in hand with them, to support them, and encourage them.

I would be missing a great opportunity here today if I didn’t mention Proverbs 31 – the famous “virtuous woman” chapter in the old testament.

However, I want to look at it a bit differently.  Recently, I read an article in a ministry journal that talked about mistakes made in a church service on Mother’s Day, and one of those was the misuse of scriptures such as Proverbs 31.

The article states that too often, we use Proverbs 31 as detailing what the ideal woman looks like in God’s eyes.  That being a wife, and being a mother, is the “blueprint for true biblical femininity.”

And while Proverbs 31 does talk about a great, virtuous woman – it does not mean a woman must be a wife or a mother to be the exemplary woman for God.  It’s simply not true.

The article then goes on to point you to a woman in Scripture that fits that description – a woman by the name of Ruth.  A woman who was by all practical purposes, not the Proverbs 31 lady.  For a large portion of her account in scripture, she is neither a wife nor a mother.

She is a hard worker, but she did not make clothes for her husband, because he had passed on. Her children did not rise up and call her blessed as it states at the end of the chapter, because she didn’t have any.  She didn’t spend her time shopping for fine linens, or keeping her house tidy, but instead, she spent time working hard, in the sun, in someone else’s field, and ate the remnants.  She was poor.

Yes, Ruth does go on to remarry, and to have a family of her own, but I love what Boaz, her eventual husband, says in Ruth 3:11 — he says “All the people of my town know that you are a woman of noble character.”  This is before she is married and before she is a mother.

The author stated that Ruth is identified as a woman of valor, not because of a check list from Proverbs 31, not by getting married, keeping a clean house, and producing children, but because she lived her life with bravery, wisdom, and strength.  So ladies, don’t feel like the only way to be a virtuous woman in the eyes of God is to look for a husband and have lots of kids.   There are many women in the Bible you can look to in order to find women of fine character.

In fact, I know there are people reading whose mothers have passed on.  I know it hurts.  I know its hard.  I know that physical relationship is gone.  You can no longer call them, text them, drop by and visit with them.  

But you need to know something — there are women you know who want to help fill that void.  There are women you probably know, some who never had children, some whose children have moved away, some whose children don’t ever call or visit, who would love to bring you into their fold.  To walk with you on this journey.  To be that mother figure to you.

I know, it’s not the same – but it’s not supposed to be the same.  No one can ever replace your mother, but you can allow someone to be motherly to you.

I love my mother – and I know that there is a very special woman in your family, whether now or in the past, whether by blood, by adoption, by inclusion, that you consider your mother.

I’m blessed not only with a mother in Nashville, TN, but I’m blessed with a wonderful wife who just happens to be an amazing mother as well.  I adore watching how my wife is so patient and loving with our little girl.  I’m confident my daughter is in great hands with my tremendous and talented wife as her mother.

Jesus had a very special mother as well — Jesus loved her dearly.  He even made sure that someone would take care of her after he had been crucified.  

But as much as Jesus loved his mother, he tells us something that we have to remember — in Matthew 12:46, Jesus is speaking to a crowd.

During this time, his mother, and his brothers, were waiting to talk to Jesus.  A person in the crowd came up to Jesus, and said “Hey, Jesus, your mom and your brother are over there and they’re waiting to talk to you.”

Jesus at this point looked at the person and said “Who is my mother and who are my brothers?”  He then pointed at his disciples and said “Here are my mother and my brothers.  Whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother.”

Jesus loved his physical family — but Jesus knew that the body of Christ was important as well.  And emphasized that we all need to follow the Father, God.

This isn’t the only time Jesus does something like this.  A few chapters earlier in Matthew 10:32, Jesus says that whoever acknowledges Him before men, he will acknowledge before his Father in Heaven.  Shortly after that, he emphasizes this by demonstrating how much more important it is that we love God, even over our own mothers and fathers.  He says in verse 37 “Anyone who loves his father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; anyone who loves his son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me; and anyone who does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me.”

In reality – as much as we love our mothers — we need to love God more.  And in reality – mothers, as much as you love your children, your family — you must love God more.

I’m convinced that a mother who loves God rejoices when her child loves God more than they love her.  A mother who loves God desires for her children to place God above her.

For those of you who just went to church today to honor your mother, know that what your mother wants more than anything is for you to know God, to love God, and to be HIS child.

Because that’s scripture.  That’s what Jesus wanted.  I am no longer a child of Elaine Widick of Lebanon, TN.  I am a child of God.  And I am now her brother instead.  And together we are co-heirs of what God has promised.

Ralph Arnold

in memory

I first met Ralph when I went to interview for the job of Associate and Worship Minister at the West University Church of Christ in Houston, TX.  I immediately knew he was going to be a guy I would love.

After my wife and I went down to interview, we had one more interview and visit scheduled to a church near Oklahoma City.  We were shocked when the Monday after we returned home, we had gotten an email from Ralph, offering us a job.

I told him about our other interview we had lined up.  He immediately emailed me a contract, laid some things out for me to consider, and then told me this (a direct quote from the email he sent me on February 19, 2009):

“We know your family will be a great addition to our West U Family and we look forward to your coming at the earliest possible date.  We would be grateful for your acceptance of our offer within the next day or two.  There is no need for you to visit the ‘other church’.”

Ralph was a man of few words, but when he spoke, you listened.  He had a wealth of knowledge, life experience, and taught me so very much.

One of the joys of being in ministry is that you get to work with lots of different people.  I can say this without any doubt – Ralph Arnold was the best Elder of the Lord’s Church I ever worked for.  He was patient, he was kind, he was encouraging, he was direct, but above all He love God and He loved the church.

Behind Ralph was one of the most supportive of all ladies.  Beverly, also known as “Miss Daisy,” was always there by Ralph’s side, encouraging, loving, and supporting just like him.  You’re a rock star, Miss Daisy.

Ralph fought a few battles over the past few years with illness, and he was finally granted His eternal reward the other day.  Ralph Arnold, the world needs more people like you.  I could always call you, email you, visit with you.  You steered and guided this young minister in the way he needed to go.  You taught me much.  Since I was so far away from my father while I was in Houston, I considered you my “Adopted dad.”

Not sure they have a Corelli’s Italian Restaurant in Heaven, but I’m sure you’ll be visiting. Thanks for the lunches and dinners, the visits at the office, the constant encouragement and positive thoughts.  Ralph – you will be missed.

(Update – from my wife, Kristen – on her favorite Ralph memory):

My favorite Ralph memory (other than our visits to eat Italian food at Corelli’s, of course) is when Lane was on a mission trip to China and while he was gone, our refrigerator broke. I was 16 hours away from any of our family and home alone with our 18 month old little girl. So, I called my “family” away from family: Ralph & Beverly. You stayed home to watch Josie for me and Ralph went with me to Home Depot to pick out and buy a new refrigerator. I know that neither of you thought much of it, but that act of kindness meant the world to me at a time when I felt alone and helpless.
He leaves behind a legacy of kindness, respect and a true example of what it means to love God and serve Him.
Praying for you and your family. I know you will miss him.

Twas Almost the End of Christmas…13 Years ago…

young love

13 years ago, on December 25, 2002, these two love birds got engaged.  Look how young we were!!

We were wrapping up spending time with my family.  The day was getting later and later.  I had plans, but they were going to happen at Kristen’s parent’s house in Hartselle, AL.

And we still had to do Christmas there.

We rushed out of my family’s house – Kristen not having a clue as to why we were rushing.  No one did.

We got to her parent’s house late, and I was anxious.  I couldn’t tell you one thing that anyone got that year.  Except for one thing I gave.

After “family” Christmas, Kristen and I went up to her room to exchange gifts alone.  With just a little bit of time before Christmas day was over, I got down on one knee and asked her the most important question I’ve ever asked anyone – “Kristen, will you marry me?”

If you’re wondering, she said yes.

She said yes.

To this day, it gives me chills…in a good way.  To know that this awesome lady, this God-fearing, beautiful, loving woman said yes, makes me feel like the luckiest man in the entire world.

Christmas has always been special, but since that night, it’s been even more special.

 

May God bless you all on this most special of days.