The University of Tennessee

Who is your in your family?

I have a large family.  Two parents, a step-mom and a whole host of uncles, aunts and cousins.  Hollianne has given me an even larger family, with parents, brothers and sisters-in-law…along with seven nieces and nephews.  Maybe some of you are fortunate enough to still have one of your grandparents…or, better yet, perhaps some of you are lucky enough to HAVE grandchildren.

When I think of family, I often think of unity.  No…we don’t always agree on everything- but we do have have common roots.  Our lineage creates a special bond.  It brings us together.

This time of year is about a larger family- one that transcends genealogy or even ethnic orgin.

For as in one body we have many members, and the members do not all have the same function, so we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another.  Romans 12: 4-5

Jesus Christ came to this earth to be born as a child- just like the rest of us.  He lived the perfect life and then died on the Cross to forgive our sins.  A perfect gift for an imperfect world.

He is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world. 1 John 2:2

Humans are scattered all over the earth.  We have different cultures, different backgrounds and different talents.  We are all united, however, in Jesus Christ.  The same Jesus that died for you…died for me.  And He died for the people all over God’s earth.  This brings us together.  We are family.

Complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind.  Philipians 2:2

I appeal to you, brothers, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be united in the same mind and the same judgment. 1 Corinthians 1:10

We need to celebrate the birth of our Lord and Savior- and be grateful for the grace that unites us all.

There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.  Galatians 3:28

God bless you, my brothers and sisters.  Merry Christmas.


An insignificant life on Duncan Road


Insignificant, lonely and barren.

There is a solitary, scraggly spruce tree perched atop a knoll along the side of Duncan Road in Knoxville.  You would never notice it unless you were looking for it.  Its branches are odd lengths.  There are bare spots on all sides.  It is dwarfed by a series of massive evergreen trees around it.  It truly looks like the Charlie Brown Christmas tree from the classic cartoon special.

Charlie Brown tree

Yet for one month out of the year, this tree shines.  Literally.  Someone from a neighboring group of houses runs an extension cord across the field and illuminates the tree with lights.  And every night around sundown this scruffy tree becomes a beautiful beacon of light on a dark stretch of Knox County roadway.

In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.  Matthew 5:16

My family loves the tradition.  We look for it each night when coming home from work, church or a ball practice.  We talk about it all year long too.  “When will they turn on the Duncan Road Christmas Tree this year?”

For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. For the whole law is fulfilled in one word: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”  Galatians 5: 13-14

Aren’t we all a bit like this tree?  We often feel insignificant, unattractive and unloved.  We compare ourselves to others- only seeing the qualities that we wish we possessed.

The truth is that we are unique individuals.  And God has given us unique talents.  Talents that should be used to serve others and spread the love of Jesus all over the world.

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

God loves us for who we are, not for who we think we should be.  This holiday season let’s put aside our fears and doubts.  Let’s pray for the realization of our unique gifts…the gifts that God has given us to serve and make a difference in the lives of others.

And like that spruce tree on Duncan Road, let’s shine when given the opportunity.

God bless you.  Merry Christmas.



UT Martin graduation

I love going home to West Tennessee.

I had the pleasure of heading to UT Martin to assist with commencement earlier today.  One of the most satisfying moments while working in higher education is witnessing a graduation ceremony. There are lots of moments to celebrate in one’s life- and college graduation is one of the greatest.

My job was to welcome the graduates into the University of Tennessee family.  I congratulated them on their achievement and commended them for their perseverance.  Many had experienced some sort of hardship.  They had all encountered obstacles.  Some took a quick route to their degree…while others had to delay their journey due to illness, finances or other unforeseen struggle.  Their journey to the degree was irrelevant at this point, however.  They were graduating and moving on to a new set of experiences. I stood on that pine wood stage and witnessed these students enter a new chapter of their lives.  They were renewed.

So we do not lose heart.  Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day.  For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the hints that are seen but to the things that are unseen.  For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.  2 Corinthians 4:16

We have all struggled.  We’ve all encountered stress and strife.  But Jesus Christ offers us the opportunity for renewal every day.

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation.  The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. 2 Corinthians 5:17

In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace,…  Ephesians 1:7

What a blessing to have the promise of a fresh start through God’s love and unending grace.

Congratulations to all new graduates across our country this December…and thank God for the forgiveness and renewal offered every day through the blood of Jesus.

God bless you.  Let me know if I can pray for you.


The boss…


Hollianne’s dad died yesterday.  I don’t want to write much about his death, however.  I want to talk about his life and his incredible story.

Tommy Holmes was one of the finest men that I’ve ever known.  I recognized that he was something special the first time I met him…back in the Fall of 1992.  Hollianne had brought me home to Lexington, Tennessee to “meet the parents.”  My feelings of anxiety quickly turned to delight upon that first brief encounter with her father, Mr. Tommy.  He became my friend.

Born in 1939 in Henderson County, Tennessee, Mr. Tommy was a farmer, business owner and an incredible family man.  He served the city of Lexington in numerous ways as a public servant, but perhaps his hallmark traits were those of kindness, approachability, and humility.

Whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted.  Matthew 23:12

Mr. Tommy did not meet a stranger.  His unassuming, friendly nature made him someone that people naturally gravitated toward.  The lobby of the family business, Holmes Motor Company, was routinely a gathering place for retirees, fellow businessmen and friends of all ages.  It was there that I first heard his nickname, “the boss.”  There was irony in that name- as Mr. Tommy never asserted his position in the community, but was better known as a servant.  Tommy Holmes personified servant leadership.

Servant Leadership is a buzz phrase in literature focusing on contemporary leadership themes.  It is often overused.  What does it really mean?

1)  Servant leaders pursue their purpose with passion.  These folks know what needs to be done in their communities.  They accept the burden of leadership and charge toward making a difference.  Their involvement is for the greater good, not for personal fame or achievement. Mr. Tommy had many interests, but he was passionate about his family and his community.  He worked daily to improve the lives of his family, friends and fellow citizens of Henderson County.  He loved people- and worked to serve their needs every day.

2) Servant leaders get out of their comfort zones.  Servant leaders get out of their own personal comfort zones and take the more difficult path of leadership.  Mr. Tommy could have rested on his laurels as a successful business owner and a family man.  His job required long hours at Holmes Ford, and his farming duties often made those work days extend into the night.  But Mr. Tommy wanted more.  He got out of his comfort zone and worked hard at improving life in Lexington through community organizations such as the school board, Rotary, the Methodist Church, and the City Board of Alderman.  He realized that there were difficult decisions to be made in his local community- and Mr. Tommy stepped up to the challenge and helped make tough decisions.  He put the needs of others before himself.

3) Servant leaders give back the gift.  We have all been assisted by others.  Perhaps it was a parent, a relative, a classmate or a teacher….someone, somewhere has helped us out along life’s way.  Mr. Tommy gave back.  He realized that he had been blessed with great family and good mentors along the way, and he consistently tried to return the favor.  He was an encourager and a listener.  He was a friend that you could count on when times were hard.  He was the first person there to congratulate you for achieving success.  He was consistent….absolutely, unequivocally consistent.  And we all loved him for it.

Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will exalt you.  James 4:10

There won’t be a national news story on the life and death of Tommy Holmes.  But- for the thousands of people that were his customers, community friends and business colleagues- there will be lasting memories of his acts of kindness and humility.  And for his family, Mr. Tommy leaves a legacy of love and and an incredible example of servant leadership.  The life lessons of Tommy Holmes have touched generations to come…and I’m proud to have had the opportunity to witness it.

God bless you, Mr. Tommy.  I will never forget you.