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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When You Lose It All

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The basement in our new home flooded this week.

We had terrible storms on Saturday.  Our power was out for a little over 18 hours…and it created a problem.

Our basement has a pump that automatically kicks on when water levels rise in the ground.  It keeps our home nice and dry…when the electricity is working.

You guessed it.  The power was off and the rainwater slowly seeped into our basement overnight.

We lost everything down there.  Furniture, appliances, carpet and drywall were all casualties.  To make matters worse- we were using the basement as temporary storage as we set up our new home.  We had family photos, files and other precious items stored on the floor.

Now they are all wet.

It was sobering to see what damage the water can do.  Photos and letters from loved ones are gone.  Notes and art projects from the kids were ruined.

Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world—the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride in possessions—is not from the Father but is from the world. And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever. I John 2: 15-17

This was a great reminder for me.  I have taken too much pride in “stuff.”

As we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal. 2 Corinthians 4:18

Material goods bring us comfort, but they don’t last.

The important things are unseen.  It’s all about investment.  Investment in our walk with Jesus.  Investment in our family, friends and neighbors.

And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.  Matthew 22:37-39

It’s pretty simple:  Love Jesus and love your neighbors.

Everything else will just get wet.

Pray for me as I try to focus less on “stuff”.  And let me know how to pray for you.

God bless.

 

 

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Graduation: 10 things I wish I’d known 20 years ago

I had the honor of speaking at a commencement ceremony at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville last week.  It was an exciting afternoon- with happy graduates, proud family members and smiles everywhere.

As I began preparing my remarks, I realized that it was the 20th anniversary of my graduation from UT.  It was an exciting time.  I had just accepted my first “real” job on a college campus, I was about to marry Hollianne, and we were preparing to move to Ohio to begin our lives as a married couple.

Looking back, I realized how much I’ve learned in those twenty years.  I decided to share ten of these life lessons with the graduates.

10 things I wish I’d known 20 years ago:

10) Every decision you make in life impacts someone else.  Think about the implications of every choice you make.  One who is wise is cautious and turns away from evil, but a fool is reckless and careless.  Proverbs 14:16

9)  The job isn’t ever just about you.  The opportunity to have your job is a privilege.  Treat your coworkers with care…as equals.  Success is earned by working together as a team.  Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their toil. For if they fall, one will lift up his fellow. But woe to him who is alone when he falls and has not another to lift him up! Again, if two lie together, they keep warm, but how can one keep warm alone? And though a man might prevail against one who is alone, two will withstand him—a threefold cord is not quickly broken.  Ecclesiastes 4:9-12

8)  When it comes to “being in the know”, those who talk a lot usually aren’t in the know.  Idle talk is useless in the workplace.  Be a part of the solution…not a part of the problem.  Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.  Ephesians 4:29

7)  Take tasks off your boss’ desk.  Leadership is a lonely activity.  Those that we serve in the workplace have numerous demands on their time, and they need to find people that they can trust.  Become someone worthy of that trust.  And if anyone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles.  Matthew 5:41

6)  No task is too small for you.  Humility is a wonderful thing.  For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.  Luke 14:11

5)  You are replaceable.  No single person is essential to the success of a business.  You will never be bigger than the organization you serve.  When pride comes, then comes disgrace, but with the humble is wisdom.  Proverbs 11:2

4)  Everybody has a first name.  All people have worth.  All people deserve our respect.  It is essential that we know those people around us who are investing in the success of our organization.  Get to know their interests, their joys and their pain.  Invest in them.  Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves.  Philippians 2:3

3)  Whatever task you are asked to do, do it with all your heartWhatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men…  Colossians 3:23

2)  Dinner with your family is important. We are all busy.  We will never complete our to-do lists at the office.  But it is essential that we invest in those that we love…and that love us.  The work will always be there.  It’s important to build our relationships with those that bring us joy and renewal, too.  Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God.  1 John 4:7

1)  When you don’t know what to do, remember to do no harm until you do.  Find good, trusted mentors and seek their counsel.  Wisdom comes from careful reflection and life experience- so seek help from those you trust when faced with difficult decisions.  If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him.  James 1:5

Let’s pray for all the new graduates- high school and college- this week.  May they find success and peace during this period of transition, and may they glorify God in all that they do.

God bless you.

(reprinted from May 2015)


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When you bury your brother

I buried a brother yesterday.  His name was Chris.

He was just 41 years old.

Chris wasn’t my biological brother- but a spiritual one. 

He was a member of my small group Bible study over the past several years.  Each Friday, a small group of us gathered in our neighborhood.  We read the Bible, discussed the meaning of God’s word and prayed for one another.  We shared our successes, our failures and our fears. 

Chris started coming soon after his initial diagnosis. We often talked about his treatment schedule and his numerous trips to the doctor. We often prayed for his treatments and family.

Through it all, Chris was a rock.  He wanted to be a good example to his three sons…when life gets tough, you keep going. He kept his job and worked as much as he could.  He attended family events and games even when he didn’t feel like it.  Once, Chris got home from an extended stay in the hospital- and left for a week at Disneyworld with his family the next day.  Chris didn’t miss anything, even when cancer had knocked him down.  He just kept punching. He just kept living. 

Chris was an example of being fearless even when staring uncertainty and death in the face. He wasn’t afraid. 

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

For God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control. 2 Timothy 1:7

I sought the Lord, and he answered me and delivered me from all my fears. Psalm 34:4

What are you afraid of?  I’m afraid of failing. Failing my family…my wife, my kids. 

What’s it for you? Business? A relationship? Perhaps a fear of being exposed in some aspect of your life?

Chris taught me many lessons, but the biggest was how to face fear.  Even in the final days of his life, he had no fear. He was confident in his faith.  He had trust in his Heavenly Father. Chris was at peace- and it was incredible to witness. 

Please keep the family of Chris Williams in your prayers this week. Pray for his wonderful wife and three young sons. 

And pray that those touched by his life can honor Chris by emulating his courage and faith- even in the worst of circumstances. 

And as always, let me know how I may pray for you.

God bless.  

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Letters from home

img_1507We celebrated Valentine’s Day this past week.  My family did the normal things…preparing treats and cards for my son’s elementary school party, exchanging cards and- the best part- Hollianne’s baking.

My biggest surprise, however, came in the mail.

I arrived home after a long day at work and discovered a letter from my mom in the mailbox.  A hand-written letter that read:

“KS-  You have had my heart for 46+ years.  I think about you everyday and pray for you.  I appreciate your friendship and am so very thankful and blessed that you are my son.  God has been/is so good to us.  I love you- Mom”

I shouldn’t have been surprised.  Mom has told me that she loved me almost every day of my life.

But there’s something special about the written word that made this communication extra special.

I’ve got a family of writers.  I’ve got notes from mom tucked away from numerous periods of my life.

My dad is a letter-writer too.  He’s sent me letters for high school and college graduations, before my wedding day and to celebrate milestones in my marriage and career.  I cherish all of these.

We are called to encourage.

Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing. I Thessalonians 5:11

Jesus was the ultimate encourager.  He lifted those who were hurting.  He provided hope for the lost.

And He still does today.

You never know when an encouraging word- or note- can lift the burden of another.  Just like my momma did on Valentine’s Day.

My prayer this weekend will focus on being more of an encourager.  Please pray for me to be more aware of how I can lift the burden of another.

And let me know how I can pray for you.

God bless.

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When your ear bursts…

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I ruptured my eardrum last month.

My travel schedule had been hectic- with numerous airline flights and several long drives over a 10 day period.  My sinuses and the crazy schedule had taken their toll on my physical health.  I was run down and tired.

And then it happened. I sneezed during a plane flight and it felt like my ear had exploded.  I doubled over in pain and tried to regain my balance- as dizziness and nausea overtook me.

The next several weeks were filled with numerous visits to the doctor, rounds of antibiotics and forced rest.  I struggled with balance issues and pain in my ear for an entire week.

Looking back- I could have taken care of this situation before it got so out of hand. I should have paid attention to my condition as it began to worsen and address the symptoms.

But I just kept pushing.

The wisdom of the prudent is to discern his way, but the folly of fools is deceiving. Proverbs 14:8

I often find myself pushing forward without taking time to examine what’s going on around me.  The stress of work or the worries of life can keep me distracted.

My prayer life suffers and my Bible study is hindered.  Other thoughts and activities dominate my mind and keep my from focusing on my walk with Jesus.

And then I experience a “rupturing” event that brings me to my knees.  I realize that I’ve not been spending enough time developing my faith and my relationship with Christ. 

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

My prayer this week is to have better awareness of my walk with Jesus. I want to anticipate when I’m not focused or dedicated enough to prayer and study. 

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

God bless.

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