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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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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Fishing with your boys

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My daughter graduates from high school on Saturday.

I’m amazed at how the time has flown by.  It seems like only yesterday that she was headed off to kindergarten- and now she’s just finished her final day of her senior year.

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And I’m proud of her.

She’s made great grades.  She’s made great decisions. She’s become a bright, mature young woman.

But she’s leaving our home.  And I have regrets.

I wish I’d spent more time with her.

Yes- we have traveled a lot.  There have been countless road trips for AAU basketball and club soccer tournaments.

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We’ve hiked the Rockies and the Smokies.  We’ve traveled to the east and west coasts.

But I wish we’d done more.  I wish we’d talked more.

It’s not too late.  Hollianne and I will find new ways to invest in her.  We’ll pour love, attention and prayer into her during college.  It’ll be different- but it’s critically important.

But now for those boys.

We’re left with two sons in our home.  In a flash, they’ll be finishing up middle and high school and headed out into the world as young adults.

I was reading a book this morning and it told of a parenting seminar where Dr. James Dobson was speaking.  The writer said that Dr. Dobson finished his speech with the following quote:

“God only gives us so many times to go fishing with our kids…so don’t miss a one of them.”

Wise words.

I need to be intentional about pouring attention into my boys.  The need love, attention and investment.  They need my time.

And I’ve got to do better.  There are things that they need to hear from me.  There are things that they need to see in me.  I’ve got to step up and stand in the gap.

You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. Deuteronomy 6: 5-7

Maybe you are in a similar situation.  Perhaps you have children at home…or grown children…and need to invest more time into that relationship.  Perhaps it’s a parent or a sibling- and you are looking for ways to spend more time with them.

My prayer is week is two-fold.  I will pray that Hollianne and I are creative with the ways to invest in Carson as she goes off to college.  And I pray that we are intentional about the ways we invest in our sons.  I don’t want to miss an opportunity to go fishing.

Let me know how I may pray for you.

God bless.

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When Your New Housemate is Rude…

We’ve got a new housemate.

It’s of the four-legged variety.  We’ve recently adopted a rescue dog.  His name is Mack.

Mack was abandoned by his prior owners.  He’s still a puppy…only 18 months old, but already over 100 pounds.  Mack is going to be a big one.

Despite being orphaned, Mack is a loving guy.  He’s loyal and playful.  He loves to be with our kids and follows Hollianne around the house and yard like a house cat.  He and I love early morning runs around town.  He’s been a great addition to our family.

Well, almost.

Mack does have a flaw.  He’s a drooler.  And by drool…I mean an epic drooler.

It’s especially bad after he eats…or after exercise.  Bless his heart.  And to relieve the annoying presence of this substance, Mack will whip his head back and forth- and sling the drool all over trees, shrubs, furniture and…yep…humans.

It’s been a tough adjustment.

We’ve almost got the perfect pet.  Good-tempered, loves people, enjoys exercise, loyal and protective.  But a drooler.  It’s tough to overlook.

Surely there is not a righteous man on earth who does good and never sins. Ecclesiastes 7:20

Isn’t Mack like all of us?

We’ve all got imperfections to our character.  For some of us, we are well aware of these flaws- and know what we need to do for improvement.

Perhaps we have a temper.  Maybe it’s jealousy.  Still others struggle with pride or lust.  Or maybe it’s a strained relationship that we are unwilling to address…or forgive.

There are other flaws that we can’t do much about.  Perhaps it’s a physical limitation or an illness.

You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.  Matthew 5:48

God is perfect- and he made us “perfect” through the sacrifice of His son Jesus.  He also calls for us to strive for perfection- despite our flaws.

God calls us to work on those imperfections that we can address.  And we are also called to examine the good in others- and be willing to accept the things that we- or they- cannot change.

Even if it requires living with a little drool.

My prayer is to have the awareness and wisdom to work on my flaws this week.

And let me know how to pray for you.

God bless you.

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Homeless in Nashville

I was early for a meeting in downtown Nashville last week, so I decided to take a stroll down a side street just south of our state’s Capitol.

It was a chilly day- and the brisk wind made it even colder.

Out of the corner of my eye I saw a man approach me.  “Pardon me,” he said in a meek voice.  I turned to face him.

“My friend has a bad cold,” he said. Would you mind buying him a cup of coffee to warm up his throat?”  I looked behind him to see another man propped up at the base of a building- layered in tattered, dirty blankets. 

I told him I would- and hurried across the street to a coffeehouse to buy a large, hot coffee. 

I returned to the two men and gave one of them the coffee.  He didn’t speak or make eye contact, but the other man said “thanks so much.”  He then turned back to his friend and helped him place the cup to his mouth. 

I walked away stunned.  It was a complete display of compassion and concern for another person.  

After leaving my meeting, I wondered about the two men.  It was about an hour before sunset, and I knew it would be getting even colder soon.  I decided to walk back down that street where I’d seen them earlier.

And there they were.  Sitting and talking. Smiling. Content for the moment.

I decided to buy them hot sandwiches, water and coffee.  They were grateful.  I asked them why they didn’t ask for more when I encountered them earlier.  The more verbal of the two answered, “I only ask for what I need at the moment.”

I thought about that all night.  What if I did that? What if I could truly separate my requests from God into needs versus wants?

Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. Matthew 7:7

And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus. Phillipians 4:19

I often craft my prayers as a wish-list.  I “want” comfort, peace, love and wisdom.  I want it all. 

Give us this day our daily bread… Matthew 6:11

But what do I really need?  I need help and comfort for today.  God will provide if I am faithful and believe.  He will take care of me.

My prayer today is to be satisfied with what I have- and to truly focus on my immediate needs and the concerns of those I love. 

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

God bless. 

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Running Away from Home


I’ve returned to the region where I was born and raised.  On a weekly basis, I’m seeing faces and visiting places that I’ve not seen in decades.

It all came full circle last Thursday.  I was set to talk to a group of high school seniors at a rural high school in northwest Tennessee.  As we pulled up to the school- I was overwhelmed with memories from over forty years ago.

My dad was a high school basketball and football coach in the area.  Some of my most vivid memories involve those games.  Sitting on the bench with the team.  Watching dad make coaching adjustments at halftime.  And the bus rides to the road games.  Yes- the lengthy rides on those long, yellow school buses to little towns all over West Tennessee.

And here we were….forty years later…pulling into a beautiful school that time had forgotten.  The football field, the tiny gym- even the shape of the oval parking lot- was all the same as when I was a child.

All at once I had returned to my roots.  It seemed that those forty years had gone by in an instant.  I thought about my parents, my relatives in the area and those great players on dad’s high school teams in the 1970’s.  It was a time of innocence for me.  Purity.

I’ve experienced quite a bit of “life” since then.  Disappointment, heartache and pain.  I’ve hurt others and done plenty that I regret.  Life’s much more complicated now.

But it doesn’t have to be.

“Yet even now,” declares the Lord, “return to me with all your heart, with fasting, with weeping, and with mourning; and rend your hearts and not your garments.” Return to the Lord your God, for he is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love; and he relents over disaster.”‭‭ Joel‬ ‭2:12-13‬

God invites us to come home- regardless of how long we have wondered.  We are to bring our sadness and pain to Him….just return to Him with all our heart.  He’s “gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love…”

Jesus has provided an avenue for a homecoming…and I’m grateful for this road home.

Please pray for me to become a more complete husband, father, son and worker as I transition back to this region.

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

God bless.

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