Grateful for a good grade of grass

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I spent some time earlier this month at a conference in San Diego.  It was held on a beautiful resort just north of downtown.  The grounds were filled with acres upon acres of manicured gardens, flower beds and lakes.

One morning I was walking back to my room and noticed movement in a row of shrubs.  Thinking it was some sort of wild animal, I walked to the other side of the path…keeping my eye on the source of the commotion.  Suddenly, a human head popped out from under the bushes…and I realized it was only a gardner who was working on pruning the greenery.  He laughed- realizing that it must have been a strange sight!

I noticed that his shirt bore his name…Jerry.  I told him how much I was enjoying my stay at the resort- and commented that the grounds were beautiful.

After passing a few steps he called back out to me.

“Thank you, sir, for staying here this week.  Because of you- I have a job.”

Wow.

I was humbled by his gentle spirit…and his gratitude.  He was thankful for the ability to work and provide for his family.  What a blessing to hear this heart-felt comment from a total stranger.

This is the day that the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.  Psalm 118:24

What can you show gratitude for today?  Is it your job?  Your spouse?  Your health?

Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.  I Thessalonians 5:18

We have all received blessings from Jesus.  Let’s take some time this week to reflect on those gifts and offer thanks.

And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.  Colossians 3:17

I pray this week that I will focus on all the good in my life- and express my gratitude for those blessings.

And let me know how to pray for you.

God bless.

Count Your Blessings- Lyrics

 

 

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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 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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Disconnected 

I’m not even thinking about the holidays.

I’m winding down one job and transitioning to another. My new role is with the same university system, but it’s a different position in a different city.  I’m traveling the state’s highways and interstate this month.

A lot.

The days are filled with meeting new people and saying goodbye to others.  Packing up one office and opening another.

It’s left me feeling…well, disconnected.

This transition has preoccupied my every thought.  My prayer life has suffered.  I’m not as engaged with my wife and kids.  I’m certainly not as focused on my daily Bible study.  I haven’t spent time with friends.

I’m not much fun to be around either.

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

I realize that I’ve fallen into a trap.  I’m so preoccupied with all these changes that I forget about the ONE that helps us navigate life’s journey.  Jesus wants our focus to be on him.  He will help us realize our purpose…establish our plans.

Life on this earth is about constant change, but there is one absolute for the believer…

Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.  Hebrews 13:8

My prayer this week to to focus more on the aspects of life that REALLY matter…my faith, my family, my friends, my neighbors.  If my focus is on Jesus- then the other pieces of life’s puzzle will come together.

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

May God bless and keep you during this busy time of year.  Please let me know how I may specifically pray for you.

God bless.

 

 

 

 

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Homesick (or Home sick)

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I got sick on a business trip this week.

Simply put, I was hit by a nasty virus late Monday night and spent the bulk of the next twelve hours in a fetal position on a hotel bathroom.  Fever and chills soon followed.  I could only think about getting home.

The normal six hour drive took me over nine hours to complete.  It was a miserable way to tour the state- a stop at approximately every fifty miles.

My temporary contition was minor considering what others are currently experiencing.  I have friends who have serious conditions and are struggling daily to live.  But my illness was a great reminder to all of us who suffer.

He gives power to the faint, and to him who has no might he increases strength. Even youths shall faint and be weary, and young men shall fall exhausted; but they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint.  Isaiah 40:29-31

We all struggle at some point. Maybe it’s stress.  Sickness.  Depression.  Work struggles.  Family strife.

These conditions are a reminder of two things.

First, we have a God of comfort and peace.

Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.  Matthew 11:28-30

And that while our lives on earth seem important, there’s a better place that’s prepared for us.

For we know that if the tent that is our earthly home is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. 2 Corinthians 5:1

He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.   Revelation 21:4

Our suffering on this earth is temporary.  There’s a place of peace, joy and comfort in Heaven.  It’ll be the ultimate homecoming.

Please pray for me to fully heal from this stomach bug.  And let me know how I may pray for you.

God bless.

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Inconsistency

arrowwood 2016It’s still hot as blazes outside, but football is in the air.  The boys are practicing with their team.  Our daughter is working with the pep club on Friday nights to foster school spirit at the high school games.

It’s our favorite time of the year.

I recently caught an NFL preview on ESPN.  One of the commentators was discussing Cam Newton, the uber-talented quarterback of the Carolina Panthers.  Cam can beat you with his arm.  He can beat you with his legs.  He can beat you with his mind.  He’s a prototype quarterback.

Almost.

They went on to say that the only thing that’s disappointing about Newton is his inconsistency.  You never know which Cam will show up…good Cam (who is very good) or bad Cam (which makes big mistakes).

Those comments hit me in the heart.

What about my own consistency?

Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain.  I Corinthians 15:58

What would Jesus say about my everyday effort?  Do I work hard to further develop spiritual gifts?

I’m afraid that the commentator could say the same about me.  I need to be more consistent in my own daily walk with Christ.

What should my goal be?

And he answered, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself.”  Luke 10:27

Like Newton, I need to hit the field with purpose.  Reading the Bible.  Meditating on the words.  Praying for guidance.  Putting it to practice.

Please pray for me to be more consistent with my faith…and let me know how I may pray for you.

God bless.

 

 

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School’s out…

Easter 2015

Today marks the first day of the summer break in Knoxville.  Those of you with children know that their minds have been preoccupied with finals, end of year projects, celebrations and the anticipation of “no more school.”

Don’t you remember the feeling?  It was that great sense of freedom that we experienced on the last day of school each year.

At the Carver house, that freedom comes with responsibility.  Hollianne makes sure that chores are assigned and completed, books are read and minds stay active.  The educational process continues all summer long.

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

Our efforts to follow Jesus should never take a summer break.  We need to be intentional about our pursuit of Jesus.

The book of Matthew (Chapter 25) talks about a diligent, intentional work ethic.  A man entrusts his workers with a certain amount of wealth.  One is given five talents, another three talents and another is given one talent.  The first two men worked hard and proved to be good stewards of the talents, and the master rewards them accordingly.  The third man did nothing- as he simply hid his talent in the ground and waited for the master to return.  This third worker was reprimanded for his poor effort.

The parable has a universal meaning that we are entrusted with certain gifts and resources.  It’s our responsibility to be workers for God- always seeking to develop what the Lord has blessed us with.  All our work should be for the glorification of God and His love for us.  This is an active process.  It comes from reading His word, refection and prayer.

Do not labor for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give to you. For on him God the Father has set his seal. John 6:27

There’s no summer vacation from pursuing a life filled with Jesus.  It’s intentional and purposeful…with eternal rewards.

God bless your work this summer.  Please pray for my efforts to be a better man…and let me know how I may pray for you.

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