Respect those folks

It’s the week of the Thanksgiving holiday. Like many of you, we’ll be hosting family and friends over a three day period. It’s a time for fellowship and food…and THE occasion where we are continually reminded to be thankful and aware of all our blessings.

I was reading in Proverbs a little earlier this morning. One passage struck me in the heart as I studied:

Gray hair is a crown of glory; it is gained in a righteous life.” Proverbs‬ ‭16:31‬

Gray hair is a crown. Gained in a righteous life.

This verse tells me two things. First, gray hair is a crown of glory…it symbolizes wisdom and discernment.

Next, gray hair is gained in a righteous life. It’s the result of life experience- and doing the right things for a long time.

This Thanksgiving holiday I will pray for a couple of things. I’ll pray that I take the time to observe and listen to those “gray” folks in my life. I’ll make an effort to watch their behavior and listen to their stories.

Next, I’ll try to realize that I’m starting to turn “gray” too. I’ll pray for more awareness that younger family members are watching for Christ’s example in me…and for me to share my failures and successes with them.

Experience is the greatest teacher.

Please pray for me to be more aware and awake this holiday season. And please let me know how to pray for you.

God bless.

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One extra hour

We experienced a time change earlier this month. Most of us enjoyed the extra hour of sleep that following Sunday morning!

What did you do with that extra hour?

In Acts 8 we read about how God used Philip with an Ethiopian leader who was traveling from Jerusalem to Gaza. The Ethiopian eunuch was reading from Isaiah, and Philip- prompted to intercede by the Holy Spirit- asked if he understood what was written in the scripture. The Ethiopian leader asked for help, and Philip engaged him in study.

Then Philip opened his mouth, and beginning with this Scripture he told him the good news about Jesus. And as they were going along the road they came to some water, and the eunuch said, “See, here is water! What prevents me from being baptized?”

And he commanded the chariot to stop, and they both went down into the water, Philip and the eunuch, and he baptized him.” Acts‬ ‭8:35-36, 38‬ ‭

It was a gentle nudge by the Holy Spirit that led Philip to engage someone…and the results brought another soul to Jesus.

It was unplanned and it didn’t take long.

I’m easily distracted during the holidays. There’s always something that’s keeping me from focusing on what’s truly important.

My prayer this week is to slow down and listen…listen to what the Spirit is whispering.

It may only take an hour.

Please let me know how I may pray for you. God bless and Happy Thanksgiving.

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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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So mad I could spit

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I got fighting mad last week.

Actually, I didn’t have good reason to be angry.  No one had wronged me.  Someone had, however, mistreated one of my friends.  Malicious, false statements were directed toward my buddy (let’s call him Stan)- and when the guilty party was approached about it- he lied about being involved.

The truth eventually came out, however, and the offender confessed to their slander and the lie to cover it up.

Truthful lips endure forever, but a lying tongue is but for a moment.  Proverbs 12:19

I was mad.  Angry.  I couldn’t believe this guy could have such a lack of respect toward Stan.

A couple of days after the incident, I had a long conversation with Stan.  I asked him how this would impact his relationship with this fellow.  His response caught me off guard.

“I’m going to forgive him.”

And he had.  As we talked, I could tell that Stan had a sense of peace about the situation.  Stan said that this fellow had experienced enough embarrassment from being caught in the lie- and that was punishment enough.

Stan had released any anger and animosity that he felt from the situation.

And whenever you stand praying, forgive, if you have anything against anyone, so that your Father also who is in heaven may forgive you your trespasses. Mark 11:25

Stan had chosen to forgive.  And if he could do that, I certainly should let go of my resentment too.

Be kind to one another, tenderharted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.  Ephesians 4:32

My prayer is to have a more forgiving heart- and to ask forgiveness from those I’ve hurt.

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

God bless.

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School’s out…

Easter 2015

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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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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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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