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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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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Adopted

I want you to meet my new friend, Ben.

Ben is a nine-year old black Labrador Retriever.  He’s had a rough year.

His owner died two weeks ago.  He’s had cancerous cysts removed from his legs, which have left some debilitating nerve damage in his hindquarters.  Ben has gained a lot of weight and has developed arthritis in his front shoulders.

So when we met last week, the dog I encountered was overweight, limping and in incredibly poor health.  And depressed.  He really missed his owner and the family farm where he grew up.

Hollianne and I agreed to foster him, as Ben had no place to go.

We were prepared to deal with the health issues,  but Ben’s depression was the saddest part.  He wouldn’t look us in the face.  Ben simply wanted to sleep or just sit by the window and look outside.

Sound familiar?

Life is hard.  We face sickness and sadness.  Unexpected blows hit us at every turn.  People disappoint us.

But there’s one constant for the believer.

For in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith.  Galatians 3:26

God loves us.  He sent his son, Jesus, to provide salvation for the sinner and hope to the downtrodden.

For my father and mother have forsaken me, but the Lord will take me in.  Psalm 27:10

We have hope.

Ben’s demeanor has changed quite a bit over the past week.  He loves getting exercise with the kids.  Our veterinarian has prescribed some medicine to help with his physical ailments.  But best of all, there’s a renewed sparkle in his green eyes and a constant wag in his tail.  The personality is coming back quickly.

I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you.  John 14:18

When you are weary- remember the one who has promised hope for all of us.

Please pray for us as we try to care for Ben.

And let me know how to pray for you.

God bless.

 

 

 

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When you don’t have a prayer

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I’ve been struggling with my prayer life.

I think it’s fatigue.  Maybe it’s my schedule at work.  Perhaps it’s life events surrounding my friends and family that have brought me down.

Regardless, prayer hasn’t come easy lately.

I was reading C.S. Lewis this morning.  There’s a section from Mere Christianity that reads:

“An ordinary simple Christian kneels down to say his prayers.  He is trying to get into touch with God.  But if he is a Christian he knows that what is prompting him to pray is also God:  God, so to speak, inside him.  But he also knows that all his real knowledge of God comes through Christ, the Man who was God- that Christ is standing beside him, helping him to pray, praying for him.”

I’ve made prayer too hard.

I’ve been thinking that I have to be perfect in prayer.  I’ve pressed to think that God needs my heart and mind clear.

But the truth is- God already knows what I need.  He already knows my confusion and pain.

Like Lewis writes, it’s God that’s prompting me to hit my knees and pray.  He wants me humble and repentant.  He wants my effort- even if I don’t know exactly what to say.

Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words.  Romans 8:26

Let’s don’t wait until we’re “ready.”  God is there to receive our prayers…we just need to engage.

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

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

God bless.

 

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Extra Steps

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The Carvers have started taking extra steps each day.

Call it fitness or competition, but all of us have become increasingly aware of how much we walk.

We’ve all gotten activity trackers, and while some of us are more obsessive about the numbers than others- all of us are working hard to move more often each day.

We’re parking further away from buildings.  We’re taking the stairs at school and work.  The little things add up quickly.

I need to take extra steps in my spiritual life, too.

Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer.  Romans 12:12

I’m not constant in prayer.  I’m not even consistent.  Some days are filled with rushed prayers…quick words offered up as I drive to work, tuck the kids in bed or rush toward a deadline or meeting.

Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.  Psalm 119:105

God’s word is to be used to illuminate our daily walk.  A lamp.  Unfortunately, I don’t study the Bible as much as I should.  Work, activities and even family get in the way of my personal study.

Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.  1 John 4:11

It’s hard to love the unloveable.  I don’t often have the patience or desire to truly love those difficult people in my life.  And if I’m completely honest with myself, I know that I’m often perceived as the unloveable one…and need to be given grace.

I need to be diligent in my prayer life.  I need to be more disciplined in my personal Bible study.  And I need to be more forgiving of others- just as I need to seek forgiveness.

Pray that I work harder to make the extra steps in my spiritual life.  And let me know how I may pray for you.

God bless.

 

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1.98 GPA 

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I finished my first semester of college with a 1.98 GPA.

I was notified that if I didn’t pull my grades up, I would lose my academic scholarship.  I was completely embarrassed.

My poor academic performance had created self-doubt.  Could I even finish college?  For a day or two I toyed with the idea of dropping out.

Fortunately for me, someone intervened.  A senior vice president at the university, Don Carson, rescued me.  He learned about my poor grades and reached out to me.  Dr. Carson helped me formulate a plan to improve my study habits, got me involved on campus and even gave me a job in his office.  My grades improved dramatically.  His support gave me confidence and a new sense of direction- gifts that I’ll never be able to repay.

Have you ever felt like that?  Embarrassed, scared or not sure of what to do? 

Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.  Joshua 1:9

God has promised us all the support and guidance that we’ll ever need.

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

Whenever the trials and pressures of this world overwhelm us, we need to remember our God- who is faithful forever.

But you, O Lord, are a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness. Psalm 33:4

My prayer this week is to be grateful for God’s promise to protect me when I’m weak.

Let me know how I may pray for you.

God bless.

 

 

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Coaching lessons from a Blue Devil

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What are the qualities of a good coach?  We immediately think of people who can develop great game plans…or individuals who are flexible and can make quick adjustments during a game.

The horrible shooting tragedy that occurred in Chattanooga last week gave me a new perspective on coaching.

Our Governor, Bill Haslam, was visiting Erlanger hospital to visit the wounded from last week’s attack on the Navy reserve center.  The wife of one of the wounded soldiers stopped the Governor and informed him that her husband had always admired the Duke University basketball team- especially head coach Mike Krzyzewski.  A comforting message or word from the coach- she said- would mean so much to the critically-wounded soldier.

This set a plan in motion.  Within a couple of hours the story surrounding this soldier had reached Durham, NC and the head of the Duke basketball program- Coach K.  The coach’s travel schedule was hectic, but he created time to contact the soldier’s wife and others caring for the soldier at Erlanger hospital.

He also recorded a special message for the wounded soldier:

This is Coach. I have an important message for you.

You’re on a great team down there in Chattanooga, with all the doctors and the medical staff. But I need you to do your part. I need you to be strong.

The basketball season starts in the fall. We want you sitting courtside.

We want you ready to get into the game.

The young soldier heard the message late in the day.  It was a lift for all involved…the wounded, the family and the hospital staff.  Coach K took quick action.  He engaged.  He understood the situation.  He was empathetic and encouraging.

Sadly, the solider died the next morning.  Coach K’s contact and sincere encouragement, however, had been a real lift in the spirits for all involved- including the wounded serviceman.  He had made a difference.

We all have the ability to be a coach.  What other things do good coaches do?

Set Vision

Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths. Proverbs 3:5-6

Good coaches trust God to guide their plans.  They listen diligently for God’s instruction when leading others- and go confidently toward their goals.

Engage Others in the Process

By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers.  1 John 3:16

Coaching and leading are about relationships.  You can’t be an effective coach without engaging others.  We exist to help and serve.  We need to demonstrate to others that we care about their lives, hurts, fears and successes.

Develop the Talents of their Team Members

In all things I have shown you that by working hard in this way we must help the weak and remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how he himself said, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’” Acts 20:35

Good coaches recognize the gifts and weaknesses of their teams.  They constantly work to help individuals better- either on the court, in the office or at home.

Stay Calm

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

Good coaches keep calm when the world seems to be falling apart.  They are in touch with God’s ever-present sense of peace and wisdom…and they feed off of this strength.

All of us have the ability to coach.  It may be with our children, a neighbor or a family friend.  I pray that we all look for ways to engage and encourage this week.  Showing the love of Jesus to others is, after all, a contact sport.

God bless you.  Please let me know how I can pray for you- and remember the people impacted by the attacks in Chattanooga last week.

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