Racing under the lights

Bristol with B

I took my youngest son, Britton, to his first NASCAR race on Saturday night.  It was an awesome sight, as B and I watched the event with 160,000 other screaming spectators.

We started watching from the infield- up close and personal to the cars, drivers and their crews.  It looked like an overgrown bee hive, with dozens of brightly-colored team members swarming around each car. 

With the drop of the checkered flag the 43 cars started racing around the oval track at breakneck speed. The noise level of the cars and the capacity crowd was deafening. 

Britton asked a million dollar question:  “Dad- what if these stadium lights were to go out?  None of these cars have headlights.”

Thy word is a lamp unto my feet and a light unto my path. Psalm 119:105

Britton had asked a question that only someone with a clear, innocent mind of a child could ask. 

We had been close enough to the vehicles that he could tell that the headlights weren’t real. They were decals. If the lights of the stadium had gone out, the drivers, crew members and spectators would have been in grave danger. 

Isn’t life like this?  Our existence is a high-speed activity. We run from task to task without giving much thought to the meaning of what we are doing. We are simply racing around. When emergencies or troubles arise, we are ill-prepared to respond.

What about our headlights?

Again Jesus spoke to them, saying, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”  John 8:12

Jesus calls us to know him. We have an opportunity to be filled with the illuminating power of God’s word. 

Troubled?  

Casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you.  I Peter 5:7

Need hope?

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

Jesus is the light for the world. We are called to be filled with light (Matthew 5) and our only source for this is to seek Jesus. 

I struggle with just wearing a decal- when I need to be a light source. 

Pray for me to seek light each day. I need it. And please let me know how I may pray for you. 

God bless. 

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Orphans on an airplane

California 2015

The boys had no home.

I recently sat next to twin brothers on a flight originating from the west coast.  Their names were Eli and Jonathan.  They had just turned 12 years old.

I could tell that they were nervous about the flight.  They confessed this to me as I attempted to settle into my aisle seat.  They also mentioned that they were traveling by themselves.

Over the next hour I learned that Eli and Jonathan were flying to see their dad.  They had not seen them in over 10 years- since they were mere infants.  They had lived in various places over the course of their lives.  Grandparents, uncles, cousins, their birth mother and other relatives had provided temporary homes.  They had moved around frequently.

They had seen their mother engage in some bad decisions, and it was clear that they worried about her ability to manage relationships.

Their dad had been a distant figure in their lives…an occasional phone call from across the country.  Eli reached in his backpack and produced an old photograph of the brothers with their parents- probably taken when the boys were about a year old.  It was a well-worn picture, but it was obvious that it was precious to those boys.  It was the reminder of happier days for their small family.

Their father had called earlier in the year to see if they would like to spend the summer with him.  He had found a good job and was in a stable situation for the first time in years.  Eager to see him- the boys jumped at the chance to travel across the country to see what might be in store.  Eli told me that they had been praying about it.

Eli and Jonathan had hope.  Hope that a better, more stable life was available seven states away.  Hope that their dad would somehow be the missing link to a normal life.

Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer.  Romans 12:12

Eli and Jonathan had seen more hardship in their twelve years than most of us have seen in a lifetime.  Despite the trials, they had hope for better days.  Hope in a father.

We can learn a lesson from these twins.  Despite the pain and hardship of this world, we have hope through a Father that will never leave or forsake us.

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

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

I pray that Eli and Jonathan had a great summer.  I also pray that their dad can provide stability and a good home for them.  Most of all, I pray for their future…for today, tomorrow and next year.

Please pray for me in my role as a husband, father and son.  And please let me know how I may pray for you.

God bless you.

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Everybody is Undefeated in August…

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It’s an exciting time of year in the Carver household, as August brings the anticipation of a new football season. We talk about the returning players on our favorite teams.  We feel the excitement surrounding new additions to the rosters.  And we spend a great deal of time discussing our pre-season predictions.

This might be our year (we always say…)…with a little luck and some great coaching.

Sometimes things go wrong.  An injury sidelines a key player.  Turnovers and penalties stall drives.  A sudden big play turns a sure victory into a crushing loss.  Our teams hit adversity from unexpected places and our dreams of being undefeated slip away.

I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.  John 16:33

Football is a great analogy for my life.  My hopes and dreams are easily hurt with adversity.  Stress, illness and unexpected conflict can take away joy from my days- and derail my plans.

Pain happens.  Hurt is a reality.  But there is hope.

With God we shall do valiantly; it is he who will tread down our foes.  Psalm 108:13

Jesus has promised to be with us and provide strength when we are weak.

For the Lord your God is he who goes with you to fight for you against your enemies, to give you the victory.  Deuteronomy 20:4

We’ve got the One who overcame sin and death to bring salvation to the world in our corner.

So no mater what the day throws at you, take heart that creator of the universe is with you.  Jesus loves me, this I know.

Let me know how I can pray for you this week.  And please pray for me.

God bless.

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Uninvited dinner guest

angry-raccoon

Hollianne and I love to entertain. We enjoy having people over for dinners, cookouts or even hosting groups of our kids’ friends and teammates for a swim or an outdoor movie.  

We’ve recently met our match, however. 

In the wooded 40 acre wooded expanse behind our home lives a raccoon. A large, hungry raccoon. This creature waits until the dark of night before climbing our iron fence and rummaging through our backyard.  He turns over small tables and crawls over our furniture looking for a dropped morsel of food or a misplaced snack. 

He’s strong too, as he routinely moves barriers we’ve created to secure our trash. Daybreak often brings a task of picking up the remnants of his midnight snack- which he leaves littered across the yard. 

The raccoon even terrorizes our dog, Sky.  Sky refuses to go in the backyard after the sun sets. 

  
I can relate to this phenomenon in my personal life. There are uninvited traits and character flaws that expose my weakneses every day. Jealousy. Anger. Pride. These and other undesirable traits hide beneath the surface- waiting for the opportune moment to come out and hurt relationships with friends, co-workers and loved ones. 

So whoever knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, for him it is sin.  James 4:17

I know these traits exist, yet it’s a struggle to confront them.

If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.  1 John 1:8-10

Fortunately, we have help. 

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

But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong. 2 Corinthians 12:9-10

I need to confront these traits and ask for help. I am weak, but He is strong. 

I can do all things through him who strengthens me.  Philippians 4:13

Please pray for me to have the courage to face those pieces of my nature that separate me from Jesus. Help me break down barriers that keep me from having good, meaningful relationships with others. 

And let me know how I may pray for you. 

God bless. 

Oh…and by the way…raccoons struggle to figure out the science behind a set of good bungee straps. Thank goodness. 

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20 years of marriage…an anniversary by the numbers

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Hollianne and I have been married twenty years today. Much has changed since 1995…along the way we’ve had three children, owned four dogs, lived in seven homes in four cities and two states.

One thing has been constant during these two decades…Hollianne is the greatest blessing in my earthly life. There’s not been a day where we haven’t touched, talked or communicated. She’s my rock and my very best friend.

She’s also taught me many life lessons through our marriage. While I could fill the pages of a book- I’ll chose to focus on the five greatest principles that I’ve learned since meeting Hollianne over twenty years ago.

5)  Be selfless

Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.  Philippians 2:4

Let’s face it…we are selfish creatures.  It’s our very nature to look out for ourselves.  But marriage is about commitment- a bond between two people.  Hollianne has sacrificed over and over again for my career, our kids and the happiness of our home.  She’s constantly putting others before herself and has been an incredible example of selflessness for both me and our children.

4)  Forgiveness is a good thing

Bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. Colossians 3:13

Hollianne has shown me grace when I didn’t deserve it.  She’s been willing to forgive me when I’ve been selfish, demanding or just plain unlovable.  She’s taught me that it’s better to forgive (and forget) than to carry around the pain and burden of hurt in a relationship.

3)  Yesterday doesn’t define tomorrow

More than that, we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us. Romans 5:3-5

Marriages aren’t always perfect…because people aren’t perfect.  There are difficult times in any relationship.  Hollianne has shown me that there are lessons to be learned from any situation.  She uses the past as a “teacher” and moves forward with wisdom and discernment for situations that we’ll face in the future.

2)  Invest in your marriage everyday

Give, and it will be given to you. Good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap. For with the measure you use it will be measured back to you.  Luke 6:38

No matter what may be going on with our daily schedule, Hollianne makes me feel special.  It may be a note on my bedside table, a letter in my overnight bag or just a well-timed text.  She’s a busy mom, worker and community volunteer- but she always makes time to let me know that she cares.  I’m grateful for that.

1)  You never stop growing together

Iron sharpens iron, and one man sharpens another.  Proverbs 27:17

Marriage is a long-term commitment.  You both mature and grow in your relationship.  And, if you are lucky, you have a spouse that helps you in your spiritual growth.  Hollianne is that person for me.  She’s an absolute truth-teller and keeps me in line when I lose focus.  We learn and grow from each other.

I’ve learned a lot from Hollianne over the past 20 years.  May God continue to bless our marriage- and may I grow to be the man that she deserves.

Please pray for me- and let me know how I may pray for you.

God bless you.

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