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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Everyday is a birthday

Last week I had the honor of celebrating a special birthday.  A close friend of mine became a “first time” dad…and I had the opportunity to visit his daughter soon after her arrival home.

Hollianne and I offered to deliver dinner.  Selfishly, the offer to provide food was just a means to an end…as we wanted to see their new baby!

She is perfect.  Big, beautiful eyes, smooth skin and delicate features.  Just perfect.

She’s a blessing, but she is blessed too.  She’s got an incredible mother and father that will provide for her physically, emotionally and spiritually.

For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb. Psalm 139:13

We have that same blessing.  We have a Father who designed us, loves us and wants what’s best for us.

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

Tomorrow is my birthday.  I’m officially closer to 50 than I am 40.  And when I look in the mirror, I don’t see smooth skin and any delicate features…but plenty of lines and battle scars.

But I have that same promise of a heavenly Father who cares for me.  And you do too.

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.  2 Corinthians 5:17

We all have the opportunity for renewal each and every day.  Thank God.

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

God bless.

 

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Skipping Thanksgiving

FullSizeRender[1]I think that we’ve skipped Thanksgiving this year.

If you’ve walked into a large retail store or shopping center since Labor Day, you’ll know what I’m talking about.

We’ve jumped from Halloween straight to Christmas.

Last year Americans spent $7.4 billion on Halloween.  That’s billion with a B.  Empty stores are rented and filled with Halloween costumes and decorations for two months following Labor Day.  It’s a big business.

And before Halloween is over, the Christmas push begins.  Holiday songs hit the radio airwaves and decorations take over as much as 25% of the space on retail shelves.

And somewhere sandwiched in-between is Thanksgiving…although you wouldn’t know it by the commercials, advertisements and store aisles.

Thanksgiving.  The holiday that’s traditionally been about friends, family and fellowship.

Thanksgiving is my favorite time of year- as I’ve been blessed in many ways.

Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change.  James 1:17

I’m grateful for Hollianne and my children.  My mom and dad are both still living and available for guidance and counsel.  We’ve been blessed with good health in 2015.  I have a fulfilling job and a supportive, loving group of friends and family.

Take a minute and do an inventory of the good things in your life.  We all face difficulty and strife, but there are blessings for all of us.

I urge us to a couple of things before the Thanksgiving holiday.  First, write down three things for which you are grateful.  Then take the time to write a note (or two) to those folks who have assisted in these blessings.  Maybe it’s your aunt or a former teacher.  Perhaps it’s an old friend.  Write them a short note and let them know how much they mean to you.  Thanksgiving is a time to express gratitude to others for helping you along the way.

Next, think about those who need a lift this time of year.  Maybe it’s your neighbor who was widowed last year.  Or perhaps it’s a single parent from your office…or seniors who are unable to leave their homes because of health reasons.  Reach out to them and provide some cheer.  Invite them to eat with your family on Thanksgiving day.  Or perhaps they just need a phone call of encouragement or a visit to provide dinner.  We can help by lightening a burden that they are carrying inside.

I pledge to do these things in the week leading up to Thanksgiving.  I hope that you’ll join me.  Perhaps we can provide a blessing to someone- just as we’ve been blessed.

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

Pray for me as a husband, father, son, friend and worker.  Help me be a blessing to someone this week.  And let me know how I may pray for you.

God bless you.  Happy Thanksgiving.

 

 

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No tricks, just treats

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Our kids love Halloween.

After a round of trick-or-treating several years ago, we returned to our house to greet Halloween guests on our porch.  JT- probably four years old at the time- enjoyed handing out candy to all the costumed characters that entered our yard.

One family stood out more than the others.  Three small children approached our porch and we noticed that they didn’t have costumes.  They weren’t dressed up at all.

The kids looked disheveled and dirty.  Their parents were in an older van with cardboard taped across broken side windows.

The kids politely thanked us for the candy and walked back to their van- driving off into the darkness.

JT asked why they didn’t have costumes.  I responded that perhaps they didn’t want to dress up for Halloween, or perhaps money was tight- and the costumes weren’t a priority for them.

It clearly bothered JT.  He wondered aloud if he could share his costume…or even last year’s.  It just wasn’t fair.

So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.  Genesis 1:27

Life isn’t always fair, but we should take solace that all of us are equal in the eyes of God.

For God shows no partiality.  Romans 2:11

God doesn’t care about the size of your paycheck.  He isn’t impressed with the car you drive or your job title.  God isn’t even concerned about your past.  He’s focused on you right now…and your potential for the future.

There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.  Galatians 3:28

It’s pretty simply for us.  There are only treats in a relationship with God…no tricks.

God bless.

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What’s rocking your boat?

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My family loves the water.

We are a boating, fishing and swimming family.  The water represents a place of peace.  Tranquility.

Sometimes.

Some of my scariest moments have come on the water.  I’ve witnessed tornados, lightening storms and a hurricane evacuation during my lifetime.

It reminds me of a storm that Jesus and his disciples encountered on the Sea of Galilee.

And behold, there arose a great storm on the sea, so that the boat was being swamped by the waves; but He was asleep.  And they went and woke Him, saying, “Save us, Lord; we are perishing.”  Matthew 8:24-25

The disciples were afraid.  Although they had just witnessed many miracles performed by Jesus, this storm had created anxiety and fear in them.

What rocks your boat?  Perhaps you are afraid of failure.  Maybe you are struggling with a broken relationship or a bad habit that you can’t seem to break.  Maybe it’s regret from the past.  I have my demons that rise up and interrupt my peace…storms that disrupt my life.

And He said to them, “Why are you afraid, O you of little faith?”  Then He rose and rebuked the winds and the sea, and there was a great calm.  And the men marveled, saying, “What sort of man is this, that even winds and sea obey Him?”  Matthew 8:26-27

When doubt creeps in and disrupts our peace, we need to return to the One who provides all comfort.

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

Whatever is robbing you of peace right now, I pray that you give it to Jesus.

Please pray for me.  And let me know how I may pray for you.

God bless.

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When your kid hurts

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My kid is hurting.

We’ve spent the better part of two years trying to diagnose and treat a sports injury for one of our children.  It’s been a frustrating 24 months…with one treatment followed by another in an effort to alleviate a painful, nagging condition.  We’ve driven to sports medicine clinics all across the state in an effort to find a solution.

We should count our blessings.  While it’s been frustrating, the condition is treatable.  There are many other children facing much more serious situations than what our family is experiencing.

You know the feeling.  Perhaps it wasn’t a sports injury for your child- but there are many “hurts.”  Maybe they’ve experienced disappointment or rejection from a difficult situation at school. Perhaps your adult child has lost a job or experienced stress with their family.  Regardless of the age or situation- it’s tough to see your kids struggle.

We want to protect our children- to shower them with love and take the hurt away.  This response is natural.

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

Just like we long to protect our children, God cares and wants what’s best for us- His children.

He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds.  Psalm 118:6

What then shall we say to these things?  If God is for us, who can be against us?  Romans 8:31

While on this earth we will always long for comfort.  What a blessing that this help is unlimited and available to all.

Please pray for me to be more aware of those who need to be comforted. And let me know how I may pray for you.  God bless you.

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School’s out…

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Today marks the first day of the summer break in Knoxville.  Those of you with children know that their minds have been preoccupied with finals, end of year projects, celebrations and the anticipation of “no more school.”

Don’t you remember the feeling?  It was that great sense of freedom that we experienced on the last day of school each year.

At the Carver house, that freedom comes with responsibility.  Hollianne makes sure that chores are assigned and completed, books are read and minds stay active.  The educational process continues all summer long.

Commit your work to the Lord, and your plans will be established.  Proverbs 16:3

Our efforts to follow Jesus should never take a summer break.  We need to be intentional about our pursuit of Jesus.

The book of Matthew (Chapter 25) talks about a diligent, intentional work ethic.  A man entrusts his workers with a certain amount of wealth.  One is given five talents, another three talents and another is given one talent.  The first two men worked hard and proved to be good stewards of the talents, and the master rewards them accordingly.  The third man did nothing- as he simply hid his talent in the ground and waited for the master to return.  This third worker was reprimanded for his poor effort.

The parable has a universal meaning that we are entrusted with certain gifts and resources.  It’s our responsibility to be workers for God- always seeking to develop what the Lord has blessed us with.  All our work should be for the glorification of God and His love for us.  This is an active process.  It comes from reading His word, refection and prayer.

Do not labor for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give to you. For on him God the Father has set his seal. John 6:27

There’s no summer vacation from pursuing a life filled with Jesus.  It’s intentional and purposeful…with eternal rewards.

God bless your work this summer.  Please pray for my efforts to be a better man…and let me know how I may pray for you.

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