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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I wish I’d never been born

I’ve got a childhood friend that’s going through a difficult time right now.

His pain is coming from all angles.  Things aren’t good with his wife.  His job is a source of stress.  He’s in a difficult relationship with his parents.  He’s also experiencing some health problems.

It’s mid-January, and he’s already saying that 2017 just isn’t going to be a good year.

“I’d be better off dead….or I wish I’d never been born,” he told me.

It reminded me of a passage I recently read from the book of Job:

“Why did I not die at birth, come out from the womb and expire?” Job‬ ‭3:11‬

You remember that story.

Job was a strong believer of God from the Old Testament. He had it all…family, wealth, relationships and influence.  And in an instant- he lost it all. Everything.

And he wished that he’d never been born.

Eventually Job’s wealth, relationships, health and family are restored.  He’s blessed more than ever before in the past.  In his pain, he’s found a new outlook and life.

It’s hard to do, isn’t it? 

Life can be overwhelming. Tragedy and trouble hit from all angles. It can wear us down and leave us downtrodden and hopeless. 

We can wish we had never been born.

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

We have a great promise…a promise from Jesus that our needs will be met.  It’s just not on our time- but in God’s time. 

We can never know how our struggles might be preparing us for the future- equipping us to help others…or how to better respond to adversity in the future.

We can use our experiences to be an example for others- and help them with their troubles. 

Please pray for my friend to recover from his pain.  And let me know how I may pray for you.

God bless. 

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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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Homeless outside Starbucks

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I’d seen him eating breakfast at Starbucks several times over the past couple of months.

I stop in for coffee each Saturday morning.  He is always sitting in the same corner nursing a cup of coffee and a muffin.

We spoke last Saturday morning- both acknowledging that we had noticed one another with each visit.

His name is John.

He’s my father’s age.  John has a big smile, a hearty laugh and an engaging disposition.

And he’s homeless.

We talked at length last Saturday.  He confessed that he’s been living in his car since 2011.

A series of life events have led him to this situation.  He makes enough money through his social security checks to pay for a membership to the YMCA (for showering) and to keep a Post Office box for mail.  He budgets the remainder of his income to pay for gas, toiletries, washing clothes and meager meals.

His splurge each week is a hot cup of coffee and breakfast muffin at Starbucks.

John has simply fallen through the cracks.  He’s not completely on the street, but he’s awfully close.  He’d love to have a regular job, but his age and health have made employment difficult to find.

Despite all of this, John has a positive outlook.

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

He has a vibrant faith.  He has hope for a home in Heaven.  He is optimistic for his future.

Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding.  Proverbs 3:5

Pray for John to stay strong and to be safe.  Pray for those trying to help him get back on his feet.

And let me know how I may pray for you.  God bless.

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Convenience store billionaires

IMG_6800I witnessed false hope in a convenience store two weeks ago.

A disheveled, elderly man was patiently standing in line to purchase lottery tickets.  I knew that Powerball tickets were selling in record numbers, as everyone was consumed with the lottery excitement.  Millions of Americans- just like this gentleman- bought tickets for a chance to win $1.5 billion- the largest prize ever in the history of the lottery.

In all honesty, his chances to win were slim.  Odds were 1 in 292.1 million that someone would pull the correct combination of numbers.  He had a better chance of being struck by lightening or bitten by a shark.

But he had hope.  He pulled out a crumpled mass of dollar bills and bought $100 worth of lottery tickets.  He told me that he and his wife scraped together all they could in an effort to become instant billionaires.

I wished him luck.

My heart sank as I watched him pull away in an old car with a shattered back window.

When I am afraid, I put my trust in you. In God, whose word I praise, in God I trust; I shall not be afraid. What can flesh do to me?  Psalm 56:3-4

I prayed for the elderly couple that afternoon.  I prayed that they would find peace from their financial struggles and security for their remaining years.

And I prayed that they could be filled with the hope that can only come through a relationship with Jesus.

I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.  John 10:11

There’s no luck or chance in our walk with Christ.  He’s here for us today and tomorrow.  We have that promise.

Please let me know how I may pray for you this weekend.  God bless.

 

 

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Are you bleeding?

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With three kids and a busy set of activities each week- someone is always coming home with a bump, scrape or cut of some sort. It may be caused by a fall or a skirmish on the field of play, but most of the time these accidents are unnoticed by our kids. Blood is a badge of honor from a hard-fought practice or game.

I was reading Matthew chapter 9 this week and recalled the story of a woman who had been bleeding for years.

Just then a woman who had been subject to bleeding for twelve years came up behind him and touched the edge of his cloak.  She said to herself, “If I only touch his cloak, I will be healed.”  Matthew 9:20-21

We don’t know much about this woman…only that she had been struggling with a physical ailment for some time. She had probably tried countless remedies over the course of her lifetime. We can guess that she was exhausted, tired and had given up hope.

Until Jesus.

She didn’t know exactly what to do or how to reach out to Jesus. She simply knew He was nearby. She drew close to Him and reached out to touch his clothing.

Jesus turned and saw her.  “Take heart, daughter,” he said, “your faith has healed you.”  And the woman was healed at that moment.  Matthew 9:22

What faith. What hope. What courage.

When we are faced with adversity we often don’t know what to do. But Jesus knows what we need. We just need to reach out with that same hope…that same faith…and believe that He will help make us clean again.  He knows what we need before we even ask.

Let me know how to pray for you this week. And please pray for me.

God bless.

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Orphans on an airplane

California 2015

The boys had no home.

I recently sat next to twin brothers on a flight originating from the west coast.  Their names were Eli and Jonathan.  They had just turned 12 years old.

I could tell that they were nervous about the flight.  They confessed this to me as I attempted to settle into my aisle seat.  They also mentioned that they were traveling by themselves.

Over the next hour I learned that Eli and Jonathan were flying to see their dad.  They had not seen them in over 10 years- since they were mere infants.  They had lived in various places over the course of their lives.  Grandparents, uncles, cousins, their birth mother and other relatives had provided temporary homes.  They had moved around frequently.

They had seen their mother engage in some bad decisions, and it was clear that they worried about her ability to manage relationships.

Their dad had been a distant figure in their lives…an occasional phone call from across the country.  Eli reached in his backpack and produced an old photograph of the brothers with their parents- probably taken when the boys were about a year old.  It was a well-worn picture, but it was obvious that it was precious to those boys.  It was the reminder of happier days for their small family.

Their father had called earlier in the year to see if they would like to spend the summer with him.  He had found a good job and was in a stable situation for the first time in years.  Eager to see him- the boys jumped at the chance to travel across the country to see what might be in store.  Eli told me that they had been praying about it.

Eli and Jonathan had hope.  Hope that a better, more stable life was available seven states away.  Hope that their dad would somehow be the missing link to a normal life.

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

Eli and Jonathan had seen more hardship in their twelve years than most of us have seen in a lifetime.  Despite the trials, they had hope for better days.  Hope in a father.

We can learn a lesson from these twins.  Despite the pain and hardship of this world, we have hope through a Father that will never leave or forsake us.

For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.  John 3:16

For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.  Jeremiah 29:11

I pray that Eli and Jonathan had a great summer.  I also pray that their dad can provide stability and a good home for them.  Most of all, I pray for their future…for today, tomorrow and next year.

Please pray for me in my role as a husband, father and son.  And please let me know how I may pray for you.

God bless you.

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