One less plate at the dinner table…

It’s a habit.

When Hollianne makes dinner at the Carver house, we set the table for five.

Carson’s departure for college this summer has changed that scenario. 

We were eating spaghetti before church on Wednesday night.  Without thinking- I set the table for our meal…and out of habit prepared five plates.

Only four of us were home. 

It was a sad reminder of our new reality. We miss Carson being there. 

We’ll see her this weekend. And for a few days our “home” will be complete- whole- again.

That joy reminds me of Luke 15.  This chapter has two parables of seeking something missing…and the thrill of finding it. My favorite is the story of the lost sheep.

‭So he told them this parable: “What man of you, having a hundred sheep, if he has lost one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the open country, and go after the one that is lost, until he finds it? And when he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders, rejoicing. And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and his neighbors, saying to them, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep that was lost.’ Just so, I tell you, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance.  Luke 15:3-7

I can’t begin to fathom how much Jesus loves you and me.  He loves us unconditionally and wants us to draw near to him. Even when we are stuck in sin- Jesus still seeks us. 

We can’t run away from this love. He will always desire for us to come back. 

We’ll have five plates around our table this weekend at the Carver house. Our hearts will be full.

And I’m so grateful that Jesus will always have a place at his table for you and me.

Please let me know how I may pray for you this week.

God bless you. 

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Forgotten treasure 

Hollianne and I scored a “big pick” many years ago.  

We found an 80 year old piece of furniture buried deep in an old barn in Greenfield, Tennessee.  It had probably been placed there decades ago.  And forgotten.

It was covered in dust and straw, but we could see the potential in it. A quick wipe with a wet cloth showed the deep, rich wood.  It would be perfect for our dining room.
But life got in the way.  Our family was  growing and our jobs got busy. We never got around to restoring that old piece of furniture. 

It sat in a corner.  Over the years it picked up lots of nicks and scratches from pets, indoor basketball games and tricycle crashes.  It was in plain sight, but we had forgotten it too.

We recently moved and finally decided to have it restored. It was delivered to our home yesterday. 


We couldn’t believe our eyes. The old wood shines with a new mahogany hue. The brass pulls and handles glow like a new penny. 

It reminded me of my own life.  Times I’ve felt forgotten and neglected. And it was a painful reminder of the times that I’ve neglected someone….or forgotten about their value.

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 4:6

We all have blemishes and imperfections.  We are forgotten…or we choose to neglect. 

But Jesus restores us and brings out the inner beauty.

The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance. 2 Peter 3:9
But God loves is anyway.  He loves us despite our faults and failings.  We are restored through his son Jesus. 

And those that we’ve neglected because they’ve hurt us? We need to remember that God loves them too.  

For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God’s righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins. Romans 3:23-25 

My prayer this week is to work on the pain associated from being forgotten.  And to also work on my attitude toward those I’ve neglected.  

And let me know how to pray for you.

God bless.

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Running away from your Bible

I’m a runner.

Well, ok…I like to think I’m a runner.  I’ve completed four marathons and a dozen or so half marathons.  But- my pace is slow, I’ve never won a race and my running form looks painful to the casual observer.

But still…I’m a runner.

I like the peace that comes from a clear head while running.  I love being outdoors and taking in nature.  I love the quietness of the minutes before daybreak.  I just love running.

There are many parallels between running and reading the Bible.

All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work.  2 Timothy 3:16-17

  1.  You don’t have to be very good at it to benefit from it.  Running is simple.  You just put one foot out in front of the other.  Walking becomes jogging- which becomes running.  After several months of training, the act of running becomes effortless.  The same is true with your Bible.  It’s God’s inspired word. You don’t need training to get started.  You just need to commit to reading, studying and praying over it.  A little bit of study leads you to want more.
  2. You don’t need a special place to do it.  In the past seven days alone, I’ve completed a three-mile run in a hotel parking lot, a four miler on a mountain trail and another run on an indoor treadmill.  Running is portable…you can do it anywhere.  It’s the same with Bible study.  You can study in the quiet of the morning or late at night.  You can listen to the Bible in your car between meetings.  You can download it on your phone and read it on your lunch hour.  It’s completely portable.
  3. The equipment is minimal.  In running, you just need a good pair of shoes to get started.  It’s the same with Bible study.  You don’t need anything but God’s word and a good notebook for observations and questions.  Just get going.
  4. It’s always better when you are training for something.  It’s true in running…if I have a race or an outdoor event to train for- I’m more motivated.  I have a goal.  The same holds true with Bible study.  If I’m teaching a class or participating in a study where I’m expected to be prepared- I work harder.  It’s good to have goals for your personal Bible study.
  5. You can enjoy it alone or with a group.  I love to run alone to clear my head, think about solutions to problems or to get in an uninterrupted prayer.  I also enjoy running with my family.  I’m blessed that we all get to race together- and enjoy training together.  When studying God’s word, it’s good to be alone sometimes to go at your own pace or study what’s truly interesting to you.  It’s also nice to have a group to discuss topics from the Bible…and to hold you accountable for study.

 

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Running legend Steve Prefontaine once said, “a race is a work of art that people can look at and be affected in as many ways as they’re capable of understanding.”

It’s the same as studying the Bible.  It’s a work of art.  If  you commit to it, God’s word will pour into you and make you a new creature…transformed. It will affect and change every aspect of your life.

My prayer this week is to be even more diligent in my study of God’s word.

Let me know how I may pray for you.

God bless.

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Homesick (or Home sick)

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I got sick on a business trip this week.

Simply put, I was hit by a nasty virus late Monday night and spent the bulk of the next twelve hours in a fetal position on a hotel bathroom.  Fever and chills soon followed.  I could only think about getting home.

The normal six hour drive took me over nine hours to complete.  It was a miserable way to tour the state- a stop at approximately every fifty miles.

My temporary contition was minor considering what others are currently experiencing.  I have friends who have serious conditions and are struggling daily to live.  But my illness was a great reminder to all of us who suffer.

He gives power to the faint, and to him who has no might he increases strength. Even youths shall faint and be weary, and young men shall fall exhausted; but they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint.  Isaiah 40:29-31

We all struggle at some point. Maybe it’s stress.  Sickness.  Depression.  Work struggles.  Family strife.

These conditions are a reminder of two things.

First, we have a God of comfort and peace.

Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.  Matthew 11:28-30

And that while our lives on earth seem important, there’s a better place that’s prepared for us.

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

He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.   Revelation 21:4

Our suffering on this earth is temporary.  There’s a place of peace, joy and comfort in Heaven.  It’ll be the ultimate homecoming.

Please pray for me to fully heal from this stomach bug.  And let me know how I may pray for you.

God bless.

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Standing in Nothing But Your Underwear

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I interviewed for a job last week.

The most daunting task on the entire schedule?  The candidates were assigned a topic for a 30 minute presentation.  All members of the university family were invited…students, faculty, staff, alumni and community members.   The auditorium would be filled with people.

The presentation would be fun.  What followed was the interesting part.  There would be an additional 90 minutes of a question and answer period.  Any audience member could come forward and ask questions of the candidates.  The comments did not have to relate directly to the presentation- but could focus on any aspect of the candidate’s career, background or thoughts on issues of the day.

I asked a few trusted mentors how to approach this portion of the interview.  They provided some advice, but basically told me that there was no real way to get ready.

One even remarked, “there will be a time during this process that you’ll feel so vulnerable and exposed…sort of like standing in public with nothing on but your underwear.”

He meant that when we subject ourselves to public scrutiny- there’s risk involved.  You might get asked a question or to comment on something that you normally wouldn’t discuss.  It’s the ultimate in transparency.

It wasn’t all that bad, as it turns out.

What if we approached our relationship with Jesus with the same view?

O Lord, you have searched me and known me! You know when I sit down and when I rise up; you discern my thoughts from afar. You search out my path and my lying down and are acquainted with all my ways. Even before a word is on my tongue, behold, O Lord, you know it altogether.  Psalm 139:1-4

Think about it.

Jesus knows everything about us. Every thought, every word, every action.

I rarely think about that.

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

Even though He knows all our flaws- He loves us anyway.

The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.  John 10:10

We have unconditional love and support from our Savior.  We need to let go of our fears and relentlessly pursue a relationship with Him.

He’ll never leave us feeling bare or exposed.

Please pray for me to seek the relationship with Jesus that He desires and deserves.

And let me know how to pray for you.

God bless.

 

 

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Fear

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“One of the greatest discoveries a man makes, one of his great surprises, is to find he can do what he was afraid he couldn’t do.” Henry Ford

My youngest son, Britton, faced his own fears this past month. It’s his first year of “big boy” football…full pads. 

His fifth grade group didn’t have enough players to make a team- so he was asked by his coach to join the seventh and eighth grade team. 

He worried about his ability to play with boys much bigger, stronger and faster…more experienced. But with the encouragement of his coach- he decided to try. 

It’s been four weeks and he’s loving it. His coach has eased him into the action and Britton is getting better with every practice. His confidence level has increased with every practice.

I can learn a lot from my 11 year old. 

Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us... Hebrews 12:1
We are called to cast aside all the obstacles that are keeping us from living lives of hope and honor. 

We need to run unincumbered toward Jesus. 

So, what’s holding you back?

Whatever it is…pride, envy, greed, addiction or fear…we need to pray for the strength-the endurance- to give it over to God. 

Please pray for me to face my own fears- fears that distract me from a closer walk with Jesus. 

And let me know how I may pray for you. 

God bless. 

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Award winners

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Last night I attended the awards dinner for the Tennessee Press Association.  The majority of Tennessee’s leaders from the news industry were present…from Memphis to Mountain City.

We celebrated excellence in media across Tennessee.  I presented awards for captivating photos, insightful editorials and quality writing.  It was a fun night.

What impressed me the most were the photos, articles and pieces that DIDN’T win.  It’s obvious that we have some talented media professionals in state- and unfortunately only the best of the best could be recognized as a “winner.”

Everyone enjoys being recognized for their work.  A life with Jesus gives us that opportunity.

Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ.  Colossians 3:23-24

You might teach, you might build, you might work in a service industry…but whatever our vocation- we are commanded to do our best.

And without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him.  Hebrews 11:6

And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up.  Galatians 6:9

The world may never recognize our service, but Jesus grants us an “inheritance as your reward.”  And that, my friends, is the ultimate prize.

Thank God.

Please pray for me to do my best for my workplace and my family everyday.  And let me know how I may pray for you.

God bless.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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