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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Sand

Spring Break family photo

Our family has spent time on the Gulf Coast of Florida this week.  It’s been a wonderful experience- filled with sunshine, warm temperatures and relaxing activities on the beach.

One of the most amazing sights has been the creativity of our fellow beach visitors.  We’ve seen amazing sand sculptures.  Castles, sharks, mermaids, elaborate starfish…even complete cities made out of beach sand.  The time and effort placed into this beach art was phenomenal.

It was equally disappointing for our boys, however, to see the sand artwork gone each morning.  Impressive and beautiful projects were simply washed away by the tide overnight.

And everyone who hears these words of mine and does not do them will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand.  Matthew 7:26

As beautiful and ascetically pleasing as the beach can be, sand structures are no match against wind and water.  They are fragile and delicate against the forces of nature.

Aren’t many of our own earthly pursuits similar to the sand structure?  If I could just drive that new truck….if I could achieve that promotion at work…if I could just live in that neighborhood…if I could just get my kids into that school.

Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth.  Colossians 3:2

These pursuits are made of sand.  They quickly wither and evaporate.  They are temporary.  I need to focus instead on the pursuit of character.  In the book of Galatians, Paul wrote of another set of traits that we should consider:

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.  Galatians 5:22-23

I have to concentrate on those traits that develop Christian character.  Traits that will help me prevail against difficult times.

Let’s commit to two tasks this week.  First, let’s read and meditate on Galatians 5.  Second, please pray for for us to recognize and commit to developing traits with eternal value.  We should do this for one another.

God bless you.  Let me know if I can pray for you.

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Not so easy like Sunday morning…Daylight Savings Time.

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I’ve dreaded this day for the past month…when we “spring forward” and lose that precious hour of sleep.  My kids are cranky and my head hurts during the transition.  But this is short-sighted, as the spring season represents some of the best examples of God’s sovereign majesty.

This is one of my favorite pictures.  It represents three generations of my family doing one of our favorite springtime activities…fishing on Kentucky Lake.  My dad (Big Keith) took me as a child, and he and I have passed along a love of fishing to my children.

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It’s not just catching fish.  It’s the act of fishing.  You have the beautiful waters of Kentucky Lake.  There are incredible trees that that surround our portion of the Big Sandy River.  The dogwoods and redbuds are exploding with color.  There are sounds…water slapping the side of our boat, fishing line whistling in the wind, and the soft cries of hawks and other birds in the air.  Winter’s bitter temperatures can no longer mute the enthusiasm of the birds and the splendor of the trees.

On the glorious splendor of your majesty, and on your wondrous works, I will meditate.  Psalm 145:5

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Fishing represents a calming, pleasant experience for me.  Not lost in this satisfying experience are God’s fingerprints on everything.

You are the Lord, you alone. You have made heaven, the heaven of heavens, with all their host, the earth and all that is on it, the seas and all that is in them; and you preserve all of them; and the host of heaven worships you.  Nehemiah 9:6

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Springtime symbolizes renewal.  And the ultimate renewal comes from an experience with Jesus.

But ask the beasts, and they will teach you; the birds of the heavens, and they will tell you; or the bushes of the earth, and they will teach you; and the fish of the sea will declare to you. Who among all these does not know that the hand of the Lord has done this? In his hand is the life of every living thing and the breath of all mankind.  Job 12:7-10

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May you take this day to experience the sights and sounds of the coming spring- and also to thank our God for the renewal He offers every day through His son Jesus.

God bless you.

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