Abandoned coffee

IMG_0716For Hollianne and me, one of life’s greatest joys is a hot cup of coffee before daybreak.

Our boys are coffee drinkers too.  Or- should I say- coffee pourers.

My boys are notorious for preparing a fresh cup of coffee, doctoring it up with their favorite sweetener…and then leaving it on the kitchen counter.  For hours.

They get out of bed with lots on their minds…last minute homework, packing duffle bags for football practice and getting ready for school.  Breakfast is almost an afterthought.

And so is their coffee.  Cups filled with cold coffee adorn our countertops each day.  Forgotten.

I have a parallel in my spiritual life. I’m great about reading my Bible each morning. Praying too. But the busyness of the day soon provides a big series of distractions.

Duties at work, home and in my personal life consume my mind and daily activities. My self-centered nature prevents me from reflecting on the words of God…and from praying throughout the day.

In short, I’m a reader and listener…but not always a “doer.”

But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks intently at his natural face in a mirror. For he looks at himself and goes away and at once forgets what he was like. But the one who looks into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and perseveres, being no hearer who forgets but a doer who acts, he will be blessed in his doing. James 1:22-25

I have this great gift- a daily, unlimited source of grace, hope and forgiveness.  Yet I leave this joy untapped.  A cold up of grace and hope that often goes unused throughout the day.

My prayer this week is to be more intentional of reflecting on God’s love. I want to drink of His love and mercy and let it impact my whole being…all day, every day.

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

God bless.

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Lost Sheep

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It’s been a wonderful July 4th holiday, as all of Hollianne’s family gathered in Atlanta for our annual family reunion.  Four siblings, their spouses, 10 nieces and nephews and Hollianne’s mother were in attendance for the celebration.

It’s a gathering that truly focuses on family.  We cook, eat, laugh and hug all weekend. I’m so grateful to be a part of this loving family.

This year’s event was a little different- and stressful. Our 15 year old daughter, Carson, had been away on a mission trip to inner-city New York and was set to fly in and join us.  Hurricane Arthur changed that plan- as it cancelled her flight and postponed her travel by 48 hours.  We couldn’t get her out of New York City for two whole days because of cancelled flights and booked planes.

While we were able to make adjustments for her and knew she would be safe, it was unsettling to Hollianne and me to have her so far away in a strange city.  What a beautiful reunion it was yesterday to finally get her in the same city.  We just felt better being able to have her in our presence….to be able to hug and talk to her in person.  We had a great reunion weekend, but there was an underlying uneasiness for us until we could get our child home.

Last night I reflected on the experience surrounding our daughter’s delayed plans.  While we were worried and anxious until Carson could join us, I just cannot fathom the depth and breadth of how much our heavenly Father is concerned for us.  He loves us beyond our own comprehension- and wants all of us to be with Him eternally.  Our earthly families are important, but as Christians we should realize that our broader, eternal family is the focus of our loving God- even with our flaws and imperfections.

Then Jesus told them this parable: “Suppose one of you has a hundred sheep and loses one of them. Doesn’t he leave the ninety-nine in the open country and go after the lost sheep until he finds it?  And when he finds it, he joyfully puts it on his shoulders  and goes home. Then he calls his friends and neighbors together and says, ‘Rejoice with me; I have found my lost sheep.’ I tell you that in the same way there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent.  Luke 15: 3-7

“What do you think? If a man owns a hundred sheep, and one of them wanders away, will he not leave the ninety-nine on the hills and go to look for the one that wandered off?  Matthew 18:12

We are loved, thank God.  Even with a world population of over 7 billion people, our Father cares for us INDIVIDUALLY…and loves us despite our actions and behaviors.  How comforting is it that God is concerned for us in a way that is unparalleled by any earthly relationship.

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

While Hollianne and I could not rest and relax until Carson returned to us, the Lord is infinitely more concerned with our souls and our eternal destination.  God is a loving God, even giving up His son to bear the pain of our sin so that we can live with Him forever.

Thank. God.

I hope that your July 4th holiday is filled with family, fun, food and laughter.  I also hope that you were able to reflect on the love that our heavenly Father has for us.

God bless you.

(Edited and reprinted from July 2014.)

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Adopt a Spot

One of my favorite running routes takes me through our downtown city park.  It’s a nice, shaded area with lots of room for families to play, eat and relax.

In one far corner rests a small flower bed. It’s an official “Adopt A Spot” location for the City of Martin. You’ve seen these places…different organizations and businesses adopt public areas and keep them clean and beautiful. I’ve seen hands working in this particular area on numerous occasions.  Planting, weeding, watering.  Multiple people pouring time, energy and care into one small spot.  The results are, well…amazing. It’s a vibrant bed of color because of the constant attention it receives.

What if we had our own “Adopt a Spot” approach to our daily lives?

Pick someone. A neighbor. A co worker. The widow down the street. The single mom or dad next door.

What if we poured our time, attention and genuine love into someone right beside us?

There’s brokenness all around us. Pain, suffering, despair. But what if we adopted a “spot” from our neighbors and showed some attention and love?

A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another. John 13: 34-35

This week my prayer will be to focus on a small need around me…and to have the courage to act and make a difference.

And please let me know how to pray for you.

God bless.

 

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Down and out

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I received an interesting birthday gift on Sunday…an injury to my back.

It was sudden and unexpected. I was running and lifting on Sunday morning, and was flat on my back just a day later.

As I laid in my bed on Monday, all I could think about was getting my mobility back…just to be able to walk again without pain.

What a difference 24 hours makes.

Isn’t life like that?

I was reading the story of Joseph this week. We know that Joseph was the favorite of his father, Jacob. This favored status made him the target of hatred from his brothers.

Jacob’s brothers conspired to kill him. They instead decided to throw him into a pit, and he was eventually sold into slavery and taken to Egypt.

You know the rest. The Lord granted Joseph great favor in Egypt, and he went from being a slave to the chief administrator of Egypt.

So Pharaoh said to Joseph, ‘Since God has made all this known to you, there is no one so discerning and wise as you. You shall be in charge of my palace, and all my people are to submit to your orders. Only with respect to the throne will I be greater than you.’ So Pharaoh said to Joseph, ‘I hereby put you in charge of the whole land of Egypt.’          Genesis 41:39-41

Joseph went from favored son…to fearing for his life…to slavery…to a position of high honor.

What a difference a few years can make in our lives.

We have a wonderful promise through Jesus. A promise that our realities today- however difficult our current circumstances may be- don’t completely define our future.

My prayer today is that I will look beyond my current condition and seek God’s will for my future. I want to see how my current situation can lead me to a better walk with Jesus.

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

God bless.

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Calling for Help

I need lots of help.  I realize this on a daily basis, as I struggle in my role as a husband, father and worker.  Feelings of self-doubt, loneliness and frustration can set in when confronted with life’s challenges.

Unfortunately, when faced with an obstacle, I often slip into a mode of self-reliance and forget about the promise that our Heavenly Father made to us throughout the Bible. A promise of help.

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

Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need. Hebrews 4:16

I was reminded of this yesterday, while reading Mark chapter 10, where a blind man made desperate call for help.

And they came to Jericho. And as he was leaving Jericho with his disciples and a great crowd, Bartimaeus, a blind beggar, the son of Timaeus, was sitting by the roadside. 47 And when he heard that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to cry out and say, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” 48 And many brebuked him, telling him to be silent. But he cried out all the more, “Son of David, have mercy on me!” 49 And Jesus stopped and said, “Call him.” And they called the blind man, saying to him, “Take heart. Get up; he is calling you.” 50 And throwing off his cloak, he sprang up and came to Jesus. 51 And Jesus said to him, “What do you want me to do for you?” And the blind man said to him, “Rabbi, let me recover my sight.” 52 And Jesus said to him, “Go your way; your faith has made you well.” And immediately he recovered his sight and followed him on the way. Mark 10: 47-52

The blind man was desperate, but had the faith and confidence to boldly cry for help- even as those around him told him to be silent.  Jesus heard his cry and answered his need.

My prayer today is to stop being so self-reliant. I am flawed and broken. I need the help of our ever-present Savior. A Savior that has promised to strengthen and help me…if I’ll just have faith in Him…and ask.

Please let me know how I may pray for you.

God bless.

 

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Mother’s Day is every day

How big is Mother’s Day?

Really big. A recent study reports that this year we’ll spend almost $20 billion on Mother’s Day gifts this year. That’s billion. With a “b”.

Moms are important. They gave us life and love us unconditionally. They give us incredible advice and comfort us when we hurt.

So strong is the love of our mother…the Bible even uses the relationship of a woman and a child to illustrate God’s love for us!

“Can a woman forget her nursing child, that she should have no compassion on the son of her womb? Even these may forget, yet I will not forget you.” Isaiah 49:15

As one whom his mother comforts, so I will comfort you; you shall be comforted in Jerusalem. Isaiah 66:13

Today we celebrate the women who have shaped and blessed our lives with their wisdom and love. Take some time to reach out to those who have poured love into you.

Also remember those who have recently lost incredible women in their lives.

My prayer this week is to honor my wife and my mother each and every day. They deserve it. God commands it.

And let me know how I may pray for you.

God bless.

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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 heart.  Whatever 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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