Leftovers…

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If your house is like mine, you’ve got a refrigerator full of leftovers.  Thanksgiving day has come and gone.  We’ve acknowledged our blessings over three big meals with a fun mixture of family and friends.  With each celebration, however, we seem to have picked up more food to bring home.  Turkey, dressing, cheese-filled casseroles and a sweet array of pies and cakes line our refrigerator shelves.

Leftovers are good, but after a day or two of reheating turkey and dressing- our house is ready for something new.  Something different.

For you have been born again, not of perishable seed, but of imperishable, through the living and enduring word of God. 1 Peter 1:23

Ever felt like a leftover?  We sprint hard toward a new opportunity, only to find ourselves disappointed by others…disillusioned about our experience.  Instead of renewal, we often feel tired and defeated.  Left behind.

We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.  Romans 6:4

Our faith can give us hope, however.  We have an opportunity through Jesus to be born again…to experience a continual newness in our lives.

For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.  Jeremiah 29:11

Take comfort in the renewal that offered through our relationship with Jesus.  We don’t ever need to feel left behind.  We have a Father that beckons us to walk with Him daily.

God bless.

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Turkey, travel and turmoil…a Thanksgiving tale

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Last year’s Thanksgiving holiday was one of our most memorable ever.  We had planned to leave Knoxville late Wednesday afternoon in order to join our extended family in Memphis.  Hollianne and I had signed up to run in the Turkey Day 5k in Germantown.  We were all ready for three days of relaxed family time.  Then life happened.

Carson, our daughter, woke up at 2 am with a stomach virus.  After getting her back into bed and resting (somewhat) comfortably, the virus hit me.  Like a hammer.  Carson and I were both in bad shape…and certainly in no condition to travel over to West Tennessee.  The decision was made that we would all stay home.

Hollianne had made an adjustment, however.  After we cancelled our trip she made an unplanned run to the supermarket and bought a small turkey.  She cobbled together some side items and created a small, intimate Thanksgiving celebration for just the five of us.  Carson and I had sufficiently recovered enough to eat a (light) Thanksgiving meal.  While we missed the larger celebration, we did have a family gathering after all.  Hollianne made the best of a bad situation.

While last’ years experience wasn’t ideal, the illness did give me ample time to reflect on my blessings.  I have many reasons to smile, but I’ve come to the conclusion that every gift in my life can be narrowed down to one simple act.  And that’s the redemption, forgiveness and hope that Jesus gave all of us on the cross.

God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. — 2 Corinthians 5:21

Who deserves such a gift?  Not me.  Jesus came to earth to die for all of our sins.  He bore all our guilt, transgressions and shame on Calvary’s cross that day.  And while I don’t deserve it, I appreciate it.

Be sure to take some time tomorrow to reflect on your many blessings.  I just hope it doesn’t take a stomach bug to force you to do it…

God bless- and let me know if I can pray for you.

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Noise…

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I don’t know about you, but I love the stillness of the early morning.

I live with a group of sound sleepers, so mornings are often a time when I can read, pray and meditate.  To me- there’s nothing quite like a cup of hot coffee, a silent house and a good book or study to read.  I might study for my Sunday school class or catch up on a chapter or two from my Friday morning men’s study…but it’s my time to be still.  And quiet.

If one gives an answer before he hears, it is his folly and shame.    Proverbs 18:13

We need quiet time.  We are constantly barraged with words…e-mail, text messages, memos and junk mail.  We pass our time watching television, listening to talk radio and plugged into iTunes.  We are barraged by complaining co-workers.  Our children are shouting. Words fill our heads.  We long for peace, but can’t seem to get away from a constant array of unwanted and unwelcome messages.  Noise doesn’t allow us to think.

But his delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law he meditates day and night. Psalm 1:2

Quiet time allows us to focus on listening to God.  It allows us to read and meditate on His word- and focus on practical application for our lives.

The wise of heart will receive commandments, but a babbling fool will come to ruin.    Proverbs 10:8

Try to find a special place in your home or office that can serve as a personal retreat.  And I pray that you find some time to be quiet this holiday season.  Our God deserves it.

God bless you.

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Darkness followed by sunrise

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It’s not been an easy week.  Britton, our nine year old, has a friend that lost his mother to a long battle with cancer.  It was a difficult situation to explain to our young child.

Several good friends have experienced a loss these past few days.  Some were expected, while others were sudden and quite unexpected deaths.  Regardless of the situation, death is difficult to handle.  We experience a wild range of emotions.  Shock. Sadness. Anger. Loneliness.  We can barely reconcile our own sad thoughts, much less help others manage their grieving.

But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body, by the power that enables him even to subject all things to himself.  Philippians 3:20-21

But there is one sure thing we can know about death.  Death is followed by a new life.  We can be assured that Jesus died for us, so that we may have a hope for eternal life.  Death is a product of the flesh…of the earth.  Death is temporary for those who have faith and believe.

For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.  John 3:16

Jesus paid a sacrifice for us, as He committed himself to die the cross.  What a precious gift.  We are undeserving of this great act of grace and forgiveness.  I’ll never be able to fully understand the magnitude of this gift- but I am thankful for it.

And the dust returns to the earth as it was, and the spirit returns to God who gave it.   Ecclesiastes 12:7

Death is temporary.  Life with our Heavenly Father is forever.

O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?  1 Corinthians 15:55

Remember those in prayer who have lost loved ones recently.  The holidays can be difficult for all of us, but especially those dealing with a loss.  Let’s commit to reaching out to those in need this season.  Call them.  Invite them to your home.  Take them to dinner.  Be with them.

Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.  Galatians 6:2

They’ll need it.  God commands it.

God bless you.

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The Drive to 55…a political approach to prayer

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I’m a proud Tennessean.  I love everything about our great state…from the beautiful mountains in East Tennessee to the cotton fields over in the west.

Recently our Governor announced a tremendous initiative called the Drive to 55.  It’s a plan to get 55% of our state’s population equipped with a college degree or advanced certificate by the year 2025.  The goal is ambitious and forward-thinking.  Let’s educate more Tennesseans and – and more importantly- make an investment in the future of our state and our children.  I’m happy to be working in a field that can assist the Governor’s efforts.

I’d like to take this in another direction for those of us who are believers.  What if we developed a Drive to 55 plan for our prayer lives?  What if we dedicated 55 minutes each week to focused, targeted prayer?  Think about it…that’s approximately 8 minutes a day.  It’s less than 1/6 of an hour.

And when you pray, do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do, for they think that they will be heard for their many words.  Matthew 6:7

There are many of you that are already participating in a regular, scheduled prayer routine.  8 minutes might be just a fraction of what you are currently dedicating to prayer.  But many of us aren’t intentional about our prayer time, even though we have been instructed to utilize prayer.

Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working.  James 5:16

There are many ways to focus your prayer time, but I want to suggest two simple steps.  First, create a record.  Keep a 3×5 note card with you at all times.  Put it in your wallet, coat pocket or your purse.  On one side of the card write “Thanksgiving” across the top.  All through the day be sure to record all the things that you are thankful for on this side of the card.  Your family.  Your job.  Your health.  Your relationship with Jesus.  Anything that comes to mind, write it down.

Continue steadfastly in prayer, being watchful in it with thanksgiving.  Colossians 4:12

Write “Requests” on the other side of the card.  Use this side to collect the thoughts, ideas and requests you would like to take to the Lord in prayer.  How many times a day does someone ask us to pray for them…or for a family member?  Write it down.  See someone struggling at work or at school?  Write it down.  It will ensure that you never forget an item that needs prayer.

And I tell you, ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you.  Luke 11:9

The second step is to select a quiet time to reflect on your prayer list.  It might be early in the morning- or in the evening.  It doesn’t matter…just make it a consistent, regular and planned effort.

Get going.  You’ve dedicated 8 minutes of time to pray- so silence your cell phone and turn off the television and radio.  Focus.  Clear your head and work your way through your prayer card.  Thank God for those blessings that have come into your life.  Pray for the blessings that you’ve witnessed in others.  Be thankful for Jesus and His sacrifice for you.

Then flip the card over and offer your requests to God.  Don’t just read this list…pray over it.  Give yourself some time to meditate on each item.  At the end of your prayer list- don’t immediately jump into your normal routine.  Take a few extra moments to reflect on what you’ve just completed.  Listen to see what God might be placing on your heart.  You might be inspired to keep on praying.

Date your card, and then put it away for safekeeping.  Keep them handy so you can review them from time to time.

Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.  Philippians 4:6

My challenge to you is this:  Let’s all participate in the Drive to 55 prayer journey for four weeks.  This will get us through Thanksgiving (my favorite holiday) and into the Christmas season.  8 minutes of directed prayer every day…for at least 55 minutes a week.  I think that you’ll see a difference in your prayer life…and in your relationship with God.  Maybe this will start a prayer habit in your life…a new routine.  The whole purpose is to be intentional about our prayer time.  We need it.

Send me suggestions for creating a good prayer routine that you’ve found useful.  I’ll compile them and share them at the end of our month of prayer.

I love you all.  God bless…and let me know what I can put on my prayer card for you today.

Keith

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Driving solo

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Our daughter, Carson, received her drivers license last week.  This was a milestone moment, similar to her first steps, the first day of kindergarten and beginning high school.

While Hollianne and I were anxious, Carson was confident.  She had studied and prepared for a year- completing a driver’s safety course, taking quizes on the basic mechanical functions of automobiles and dutifully driving Hollianne and me around Knoxville with her learner’s permit.

All that work was complete last Monday as she took the wheel for her first unassisted drive to school.  Only she wasn’t driving solo- she had months of preparation and new knowledge in her head to assist with her safe passage.

Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.  Hebrews 13:8

I’ve learned a great deal from Carson throughout this process.  Just like her preparation for driving, I can equip myself with knowledge that can help me navigate life’s difficult moments.

Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.  Joshua 1:9

We don’t have to walk through life solo.  God is with us.  We have been given His inspired word- and what a blessing to have full access to all the lessons and instruction contained in the Bible.

But he answered, “It is written, “‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.’”  Matthew 4:4

Everything we need to cope with hardships, learning about forgiveness and handling difficult situations is contained in those pages.

Reading.  Study.  Meditating on God’s word.  It’s an active process….an intentional pursuit.

Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.  Psalm 119:105

We never have to drive through life alone.

God bless you- and let me know if I can pray for you.

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Hymns in the subway

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I spent a lot of time on New York City subways this week.  My son, JT, and I criss-crossed the city to watch Hollianne run a marathon on Sunday.  It was cold, so most everyone on the subway was bundled up and from head to toe- and silent.  I had internally surmised that not many people talk to one another on the subways.  They ride in silence throughout NYC’s five boroughs, quietly awaiting their destination.

JT noticed it.  After a couple of days he remarked that most of the subway riders looked lonely and sad.  While some people crave life in large, metropolitan areas, I would struggle with the impersonal, anonymous grind of daily life in the big city.  I would feel lost.

Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.  Isaiah 41:10

I had a bit of a revelation on Sunday.  We were leaving our train, and somewhere from the depths of the subway tunnel a familiar tune emerged.  It was “Standing on the Promises” being played on a saxophone.  This was one of my grandmother’s favorite hymns, so I picked up on it immediately.  I walked toward the sound and saw a solitary street performer playing this sacred hymn.

When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you; when you walk through fire you shall not be burned, and the flame shall not consume you.  Isaiah 43:2

Standing on the promises of God.  From the dark portals of the subway arose a sweet reminder that we have no need for despair.  No need to feel alone.  No need to feel helpless.  We have the promise of hope and salvation from our Father- a promise that will not fail.

But the very hairs of your head are all numbered.  Matthew 10:30

While it can be easy for us to feel helpless and lost, we are valued.  The very hairs of our head are numbered.  God knows everything about us…and we need to be grateful for His great love.

Standing on the promises.  In a subway tunnel.  What a blessing.

Have a wonderful weekend.  God bless.

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