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 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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Mug shot 

Our daughter, Carson, is a beautiful young woman…inside and out.

If I can brag a little- she recently won a special senior superlative at her high school…”Most Likely to Brighten Your Day.”

But something interesting happened to her recently.  Carson went to a Walgreens to get a passport photo taken.  She looked at the camera and gave a big, natural smile.  Upon seeing this, the photographer told her that she wasn’t allowed to smile for passport photos.  He explained that foreign authorities felt that international travel was a serious activity- and smiles and frivolity weren’t allowed on the passport photo.

So she didn’t smile.  And as you can see from the photo- it came out like a mug shot.  

Carson later learned learned that the photographer was playing a joke on her.  There’s no rule about having a serious look on your face for the passport photo.  But there it was- the completed work showed my daughter without her trademark glow and radiant smile.

It appears that she isn’t so happy at all.

Doesn’t this happen to all of us?  We can sometimes get labeled by our failures…and a single action at a given point of time can linger with us for a long time.  It may be a failed marriage.  It could be a bad situation at work that has stayed with us for far too long.  A single instance can make a long-lasting impression.

But we are never labeled for our failures with God.

If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. I John 1:9

God is faithful.  He forgives.  His love cleanses us from past mistakes.  We don’t have to worry about the failures.  We have forgiveness.

This week I’m praying about the “mug shots” in my past.  I want to move beyond my mistakes, learn from them and become a more complete being in Jesus Christ.

And 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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Separation Anxiety

2017 brought a new job to the Carver household.  And it’s ushered in lots of change too.

My schedule is a bit hectic, as there are many new places to visit with many new people to meet.

It’s been exciting, but it has me traveling away from the family quite a bit. It’s required an adjustment, as Hollianne is trying  to juggle a full schedule with three active kids. 

We are all doing our part to make the best of the transition.

Well….one of us is struggling more than the rest.  Our youngest, Britton, is the most resistant to change.  It’s been hard on him.

One night he told me that his biggest fear is that our relationship would change…that he and I wouldn’t be as close as we are right now. 

His statement hit me right in the heart.  My little guy was worried about our relationship- and that less time together might change the way I feel about him.

But I assured him that a new job- or my limited time at home during the daytime- wouldn’t impact my love for him.  In fact, I pledged to work harder to make sure that we made the most of our time together. 

He’s experiencing what we’ve all felt at some point in our lives.  We have thoughts that some life event can put distance between us and someone we love.  Maybe it’s not time or distance- but hardship or a broken relationship. 

This world is filled with hurt and doubt, but there’s hope for the believer. 

For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons,[a] neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.  Romans 8:38-39

What a promise that is! 

Nothing can separate us from the love of God. Nothing.  There’s an unconditional love that is present regardless of our sinful actions and ways.  We are imperfect- and God loves us anyway.

Earthly relationships change. Eternal ones don’t.  We can rest assured that God will never leave us. 

So we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him. I John 4:16

Please pray for me to be the best husband and father that I can possibly be this year. And let me know how I can 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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