Where are you from?

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“Where are you from?”  It’s a question often asked when people meet for the first time.  “Home” is one of the hallmarks of our identity.  It helps define us.

Hollianne and I have several places to call home.  We were both born in rural West Tennessee. We still have family there, so it’ll always be a special place for us.  On the other hand- all three of our children were born in Knoxville, so East Tennessee sure feels like home too.  And southeastern Ohio holds a special place in our hearts as well….as that’s the area we first lived as a married couple right out of graduate school.

Hollianne and I have lived many places over the past 20 years, but one thing is for certain:  if I’m with her- anywhere feels like home.

Isn’t that what “home” really is?  It’s where we feel safe and comfortable.  Where we feel refreshed and alive.  Home isn’t a building or structure, it’s more about the emotion.

As Christians, we have the promise of the ultimate place to call home.

For we know that if the tent that is our earthly home is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens.  2 Corinthians 5:1

God has granted us a pathway to reach an eternal home.

But, as it is written, “What no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man imagined, what God has prepared for those who love him”—  1 Corinthians 2:9

Heaven has been described as “paradise” (Luke 23) and a place of no pain, sorrow or sadness (Revelation 21).  Can you imagine that?  No tears in Heaven.  A place of eternal happiness.  The ultimate home place.

Let’s commit to preparing for a journey to our eternal home.  I’ll pray for you-  and I hope that you will pray for me too.

God bless.

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Prom night

Carson 2015 junior assembly

Carson is headed to the West High School Prom tonight.  It’s been a day of preparation…the dress, hair, nails and the flowers.  No detail has been overlooked by Carson or Hollianne.  It’s the latest of a series of milestones in Carson’s quickly-passing high school years.

She looks beautiful.

But let’s be honest.  I think that Carson looks great everyday.  She’s a kind, fun and confident young woman…and her attitude makes her beautiful even when wearing her basketball sweats or shorts and a t-shirt.  I’m a bit biased, of course.  But being around her just makes me feel good.  Carson shines from the inside.

Do not let your adorning be external—the braiding of hair and the putting on of gold jewelry, or the clothing you wear— but let your adorning be the hidden person of the heart with the imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which in God’s sight is very precious.  I Peter 3:3-4

Aren’t there people in your life who seem to radiate with positive energy?  It’s their inner beauty that draws us to them.

But the Lord said to Samuel, “Do not look on his appearance or on the height of his stature, because I have rejected him. For the Lord sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart.”  I Samuel 16:7

Our call is to develop the inside. Work on those qualities that can purify our heart and bring eternal rewards.

So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day.  Corinthians 4:16

I’m grateful for the inner beauty that surrounds me everyday.  It inspires me and makes me want to be a better person.

My prayer today will be for us to seek the inner goodness in those around us.  And pray for me to be a good father to Carson as she continues to march toward maturity.

She deserves it.

God bless you.

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Cheap Easter candy

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Easter has come and gone. And- as with all holidays- the retail stores have marked down the Easter-themed decorations and associated seasonal items.

The biggest surprise for the Carver kids has been the discounting of the celebrated Easter candy. Chocolate bunnies, brightly colored jelly beans and marshmallow peeps are now 75% off their original price. Just over a week ago the aisles of the local stores were filled with brightly-colored, sugar-filled packages. Now the remains of the holiday treats are contained in a couple of bins near the check out counter.

Cheap candy. Valued one day, forgotten the next.

But to be honest, I’m often guilty of cheapening the sacrifice of Jesus and diminishing the blessing of His resurrection.

He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed.  I Peter 2:24

Easter Sunday is filled with great sermons about the fulfilled promise of salvation. We should be careful that we don’t limit this celebration to a few special occasions.

So the Jews said to him, “What sign do you show us for doing these things?” Jesus answered them, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.” The Jews then said, “It has taken forty-six years to build this temple, and will you raise it up in three days?” But he was speaking about the temple of his body. When therefore he was raised from the dead, his disciples remembered that he had said this, and they believed the Scripture and the word that Jesus had spoken.  John 2:18-22

While the Easter holiday has passed, the significance of Christ’s death and resurrection is something that we should appreciate every day.

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.  I Peter 1:3-5

Pray for me to be more diligent in my study of the life of Jesus and His powerful teachings.  And please let me know how I may pray for you.  God bless.

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I’ve lost my son

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My son, JT, was gone.

Hollianne, the kids and I were living in a residence hall on the UT campus back in the winter of 2011.  We had just returned to Knoxville for my job, and we were living in Laurel Apartments until we could find a house.

It was a Sunday morning and Hollianne had gotten up early.  She peeked into the living room where JT had been sleeping on a couch.  He wasn’t there.  She looked in the spare bedroom in the apartment- thinking he had crawled into a bed with his siblings.  He wasn’t there either.

She then noticed that the door to the apartment was unlocked.  Panicked, Hollianne woke up the rest of the family and we began the search for our missing son.  We ran up and down the hallways of Laurel apartments- calling his name.  We asked the student worker at the front desk if she had seen JT…even called the campus police.  He was nowhere to be found.  We feared the worse…that he had wondered outside the building and into the Fort Sanders neighborhood during the darkness of the night.

Fortunately, a woman who was cleaning the study lounge emerged into the lobby and announced that there was a little boy asleep on the couch.  It was JT.  A review of the security cameras showed him leaving our apartment in the middle of the night and sleep-walking into the student lounge.  There he was- safe, unharmed, well-rested and lacking any recall of what had happened during the night.  It was the scariest 15 minutes of our lives.

Remember when Mary lost her son?  Luke chapter 2 tells about the scary situation when she and Joseph realized that they couldn’t find Jesus.  They had been visiting Jerusalem and Jesus decided to stay behind- without telling his parents.  They traveled back to Jerusalem and found Jesus teaching in the Temple…after a three-day frantic journey and search.

Mary also knew that she would eventually lose Jesus again to death.  John chapter 19 tells us that Jesus spoke to his mother, Mary, as he was dying on Calvary’s cruel Cross .  Can you imagine the suffering she felt watching Jesus endure such horrible physical and mental anguish?

When Jesus had received the sour wine, he said, “It is finished,” and he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.  John 19:30

But the story doesn’t end there for Jesus, for Mary…and for you and me.

John chapter 20 tells us about the stone that was rolled away from the entrance of the tomb.  And about the empty tomb…and about Jesus appearing to Mary Magdalene and the Disciples.  And of the incredible power that came to those that believed in Jesus…those that were committed to continuing His work to seek and save the lost.

If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit who dwells in you.  Romans 8:11

The story only starts with Mary losing Jesus.  His awful death was the beginning of a great new story of hope and love and faith.  He lost His physical life, defeated sin and death…and on the third day He arose.  He arose and granted the ultimate sacrifice…the forgiveness of my sins.  I could have been His lost son, but He has fulfilled a great promise to continue loving and caring for me.  And for every one of you, too.

He arose.  Thank God.

God bless you all.

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Afraid

Back to school

Several years ago one of my son’s favorite questions was:

“What are you afraid of?”

JT was thinking about the sorts of things that most kids fret over. Storms. Godzilla. Bigfoot. The dark space under your bed. I would assure him that he would outgrow these fears as he got older.

I wish that were completely true.

The truth is that maturity and age only present a new set of items to fear. Tornados and monsters in the closet are replaced by concerns about career, health and relationships.

There are at least three situations that make us afraid as adults.

  • Rejection
  • Fear of the unknown
  • Past experiences

Rejection is the scariest for me, as the fear of being embarrassed or viewed as incompetent can be paralyzing. Even the slightest chance of being rejected can keep us from acting on an opportunity.

The fear of the unknown is equally difficult to overcome, as it can keep us in the realm of “what if something bad happens” instead of the better state of “what can the possibilities be.”

And the pain of past experiences might be the worst of all. We’ve all experienced prior hurt and disappointment. Since experience is the greatest teacher- these hard lessons can be hard to overcome.

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 need help remembering that I have a big brother…a loving Father that can give me strength when I am stricken with fear and doubt.

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

Our futures are safe and secure. Our worries and cares can be offered up to a compassionate and loving God.

When I am afraid, I put my trust in you. In God, whose word I praise, in God I trust; I shall not be afraid. What can flesh do to me? Psalm 56:3-4

No matter the size of our fears, we need to remember that we’ve got an even bigger God.

Please pray for me to release my fears this week, and let me know how I may pray for you. God bless you.

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