Everyday is a birthday

Last week I had the honor of celebrating a special birthday.  A close friend of mine became a “first time” dad…and I had the opportunity to visit his daughter soon after her arrival home.

Hollianne and I offered to deliver dinner.  Selfishly, the offer to provide food was just a means to an end…as we wanted to see their new baby!

She is perfect.  Big, beautiful eyes, smooth skin and delicate features.  Just perfect.

She’s a blessing, but she is blessed too.  She’s got an incredible mother and father that will provide for her physically, emotionally and spiritually.

For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb. Psalm 139:13

We have that same blessing.  We have a Father who designed us, loves us and wants what’s best for us.

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

Tomorrow is my birthday.  I’m officially closer to 50 than I am 40.  And when I look in the mirror, I don’t see smooth skin and any delicate features…but plenty of lines and battle scars.

But I have that same promise of a heavenly Father who cares for me.  And you do too.

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

We all have the opportunity for renewal each and every day.  Thank God.

Let me know how I can pray for you this week.

God bless.

 

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Skipping Thanksgiving

FullSizeRender[1]I think that we’ve skipped Thanksgiving this year.

If you’ve walked into a large retail store or shopping center since Labor Day, you’ll know what I’m talking about.

We’ve jumped from Halloween straight to Christmas.

Last year Americans spent $7.4 billion on Halloween.  That’s billion with a B.  Empty stores are rented and filled with Halloween costumes and decorations for two months following Labor Day.  It’s a big business.

And before Halloween is over, the Christmas push begins.  Holiday songs hit the radio airwaves and decorations take over as much as 25% of the space on retail shelves.

And somewhere sandwiched in-between is Thanksgiving…although you wouldn’t know it by the commercials, advertisements and store aisles.

Thanksgiving.  The holiday that’s traditionally been about friends, family and fellowship.

Thanksgiving is my favorite time of year- as I’ve been blessed in many ways.

Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change.  James 1:17

I’m grateful for Hollianne and my children.  My mom and dad are both still living and available for guidance and counsel.  We’ve been blessed with good health in 2015.  I have a fulfilling job and a supportive, loving group of friends and family.

Take a minute and do an inventory of the good things in your life.  We all face difficulty and strife, but there are blessings for all of us.

I urge us to a couple of things before the Thanksgiving holiday.  First, write down three things for which you are grateful.  Then take the time to write a note (or two) to those folks who have assisted in these blessings.  Maybe it’s your aunt or a former teacher.  Perhaps it’s an old friend.  Write them a short note and let them know how much they mean to you.  Thanksgiving is a time to express gratitude to others for helping you along the way.

Next, think about those who need a lift this time of year.  Maybe it’s your neighbor who was widowed last year.  Or perhaps it’s a single parent from your office…or seniors who are unable to leave their homes because of health reasons.  Reach out to them and provide some cheer.  Invite them to eat with your family on Thanksgiving day.  Or perhaps they just need a phone call of encouragement or a visit to provide dinner.  We can help by lightening a burden that they are carrying inside.

I pledge to do these things in the week leading up to Thanksgiving.  I hope that you’ll join me.  Perhaps we can provide a blessing to someone- just as we’ve been blessed.

Give, and it will be given to you.  Good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap.  For with the measure you use it will be measured back to you.  Luke 6:38

Pray for me as a husband, father, son, friend and worker.  Help me be a blessing to someone this week.  And let me know how I may pray for you.

God bless you.  Happy Thanksgiving.

 

 

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No tricks, just treats

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Our kids love Halloween.

After a round of trick-or-treating several years ago, we returned to our house to greet Halloween guests on our porch.  JT- probably four years old at the time- enjoyed handing out candy to all the costumed characters that entered our yard.

One family stood out more than the others.  Three small children approached our porch and we noticed that they didn’t have costumes.  They weren’t dressed up at all.

The kids looked disheveled and dirty.  Their parents were in an older van with cardboard taped across broken side windows.

The kids politely thanked us for the candy and walked back to their van- driving off into the darkness.

JT asked why they didn’t have costumes.  I responded that perhaps they didn’t want to dress up for Halloween, or perhaps money was tight- and the costumes weren’t a priority for them.

It clearly bothered JT.  He wondered aloud if he could share his costume…or even last year’s.  It just wasn’t fair.

So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.  Genesis 1:27

Life isn’t always fair, but we should take solace that all of us are equal in the eyes of God.

For God shows no partiality.  Romans 2:11

God doesn’t care about the size of your paycheck.  He isn’t impressed with the car you drive or your job title.  God isn’t even concerned about your past.  He’s focused on you right now…and your potential for the future.

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

It’s pretty simply for us.  There are only treats in a relationship with God…no tricks.

God bless.

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What’s rocking your boat?

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My family loves the water.

We are a boating, fishing and swimming family.  The water represents a place of peace.  Tranquility.

Sometimes.

Some of my scariest moments have come on the water.  I’ve witnessed tornados, lightening storms and a hurricane evacuation during my lifetime.

It reminds me of a storm that Jesus and his disciples encountered on the Sea of Galilee.

And behold, there arose a great storm on the sea, so that the boat was being swamped by the waves; but He was asleep.  And they went and woke Him, saying, “Save us, Lord; we are perishing.”  Matthew 8:24-25

The disciples were afraid.  Although they had just witnessed many miracles performed by Jesus, this storm had created anxiety and fear in them.

What rocks your boat?  Perhaps you are afraid of failure.  Maybe you are struggling with a broken relationship or a bad habit that you can’t seem to break.  Maybe it’s regret from the past.  I have my demons that rise up and interrupt my peace…storms that disrupt my life.

And He said to them, “Why are you afraid, O you of little faith?”  Then He rose and rebuked the winds and the sea, and there was a great calm.  And the men marveled, saying, “What sort of man is this, that even winds and sea obey Him?”  Matthew 8:26-27

When doubt creeps in and disrupts our peace, we need to return to the One who provides all comfort.

Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.  Philippians 4:6

Whatever is robbing you of peace right now, I pray that you give it to Jesus.

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

God bless.

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When your kid hurts

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My kid is hurting.

We’ve spent the better part of two years trying to diagnose and treat a sports injury for one of our children.  It’s been a frustrating 24 months…with one treatment followed by another in an effort to alleviate a painful, nagging condition.  We’ve driven to sports medicine clinics all across the state in an effort to find a solution.

We should count our blessings.  While it’s been frustrating, the condition is treatable.  There are many other children facing much more serious situations than what our family is experiencing.

You know the feeling.  Perhaps it wasn’t a sports injury for your child- but there are many “hurts.”  Maybe they’ve experienced disappointment or rejection from a difficult situation at school. Perhaps your adult child has lost a job or experienced stress with their family.  Regardless of the age or situation- it’s tough to see your kids struggle.

We want to protect our children- to shower them with love and take the hurt away.  This response is natural.

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

Just like we long to protect our children, God cares and wants what’s best for us- His children.

He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds.  Psalm 118:6

What then shall we say to these things?  If God is for us, who can be against us?  Romans 8:31

While on this earth we will always long for comfort.  What a blessing that this help is unlimited and available to all.

Please pray for me to be more aware of those who need to be comforted. And let me know how I may pray for you.  God bless you.

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School’s out…

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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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I’ve lost my son

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My son, JT, was gone.

Hollianne, the kids and I were living in a residence hall on the UT campus back in the winter of 2011.  We had just returned to Knoxville for my job, and we were living in Laurel Apartments until we could find a house.

It was a Sunday morning and Hollianne had gotten up early.  She peeked into the living room where JT had been sleeping on a couch.  He wasn’t there.  She looked in the spare bedroom in the apartment- thinking he had crawled into a bed with his siblings.  He wasn’t there either.

She then noticed that the door to the apartment was unlocked.  Panicked, Hollianne woke up the rest of the family and we began the search for our missing son.  We ran up and down the hallways of Laurel apartments- calling his name.  We asked the student worker at the front desk if she had seen JT…even called the campus police.  He was nowhere to be found.  We feared the worse…that he had wondered outside the building and into the Fort Sanders neighborhood during the darkness of the night.

Fortunately, a woman who was cleaning the study lounge emerged into the lobby and announced that there was a little boy asleep on the couch.  It was JT.  A review of the security cameras showed him leaving our apartment in the middle of the night and sleep-walking into the student lounge.  There he was- safe, unharmed, well-rested and lacking any recall of what had happened during the night.  It was the scariest 15 minutes of our lives.

Remember when Mary lost her son?  Luke chapter 2 tells about the scary situation when she and Joseph realized that they couldn’t find Jesus.  They had been visiting Jerusalem and Jesus decided to stay behind- without telling his parents.  They traveled back to Jerusalem and found Jesus teaching in the Temple…after a three-day frantic journey and search.

Mary also knew that she would eventually lose Jesus again to death.  John chapter 19 tells us that Jesus spoke to his mother, Mary, as he was dying on Calvary’s cruel Cross .  Can you imagine the suffering she felt watching Jesus endure such horrible physical and mental anguish?

When Jesus had received the sour wine, he said, “It is finished,” and he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.  John 19:30

But the story doesn’t end there for Jesus, for Mary…and for you and me.

John chapter 20 tells us about the stone that was rolled away from the entrance of the tomb.  And about the empty tomb…and about Jesus appearing to Mary Magdalene and the Disciples.  And of the incredible power that came to those that believed in Jesus…those that were committed to continuing His work to seek and save the lost.

If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit who dwells in you.  Romans 8:11

The story only starts with Mary losing Jesus.  His awful death was the beginning of a great new story of hope and love and faith.  He lost His physical life, defeated sin and death…and on the third day He arose.  He arose and granted the ultimate sacrifice…the forgiveness of my sins.  I could have been His lost son, but He has fulfilled a great promise to continue loving and caring for me.  And for every one of you, too.

He arose.  Thank God.

God bless you all.

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Who is calling you?

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I spend quite a bit of time each day on the phone.  It may not be a phone call, but it still involves communicating on this small black box that I carry with me all the time.  This device allows calls, texts and e-mails to flow back and forth all day long.  I’m constantly checking to see who is calling or contacting me.

I spent some time in the book of Mark this week.  Chapter 1 talks about a special call.  Simon Peter, Andrew, James and John were working on the Sea of Galilee.  These good people were fishermen- and they were working their nets and boats just like they did every day.

But something incredible happened.  Jesus spoke to from the shore and extended a simple invitation.

“Come, follow me,” Jesus said, “and I will make you fishers of men.”  At once they left their nets and followed him.  Mark 1:17-18

Did you read that?  These men left their jobs and homes to follow Jesus.  James and John even left their father, Zebedee, standing in the boat.  They just walked away from security and comfort to follow Jesus.  That’s compelling.  That’s powerful.  That’s faith.

The call heard by the first disciples was quite different that anything that you and I might experience.  We do know, however, that God still calls us.  We just need to listen.

How can you hear the call?

So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.  Romans 10:17

The call can come through careful study of the scripture.  The call can be heard through steadfast prayer.  The call can be felt through reflection and meditation on God’s word.  We’ve just got to be open to listening.

We have a special purpose that God intends for us to fulfill while on this earth.  I pray that we have the patience to listen for our call- and the courage to act and respond when we receive the message…just like the fishermen on Galilee.

God bless you.  Pray for me and please let me know how I may pray for you.

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Turkey, travel and turmoil…a Thanksgiving tale

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Last year’s Thanksgiving holiday was one of our most memorable ever.  We had planned to leave Knoxville late Wednesday afternoon in order to join our extended family in Memphis.  Hollianne and I had signed up to run in the Turkey Day 5k in Germantown.  We were all ready for three days of relaxed family time.  Then life happened.

Carson, our daughter, woke up at 2 am with a stomach virus.  After getting her back into bed and resting (somewhat) comfortably, the virus hit me.  Like a hammer.  Carson and I were both in bad shape…and certainly in no condition to travel over to West Tennessee.  The decision was made that we would all stay home.

Hollianne had made an adjustment, however.  After we cancelled our trip she made an unplanned run to the supermarket and bought a small turkey.  She cobbled together some side items and created a small, intimate Thanksgiving celebration for just the five of us.  Carson and I had sufficiently recovered enough to eat a (light) Thanksgiving meal.  While we missed the larger celebration, we did have a family gathering after all.  Hollianne made the best of a bad situation.

While last’ years experience wasn’t ideal, the illness did give me ample time to reflect on my blessings.  I have many reasons to smile, but I’ve come to the conclusion that every gift in my life can be narrowed down to one simple act.  And that’s the redemption, forgiveness and hope that Jesus gave all of us on the cross.

God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. — 2 Corinthians 5:21

Who deserves such a gift?  Not me.  Jesus came to earth to die for all of our sins.  He bore all our guilt, transgressions and shame on Calvary’s cross that day.  And while I don’t deserve it, I appreciate it.

Be sure to take some time tomorrow to reflect on your many blessings.  I just hope it doesn’t take a stomach bug to force you to do it…

God bless- and let me know if I can pray for you.

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Too big for your britches…

My grandmother had some great sayings.  One she used often was to not “get too big for your britches.”  She knew an awful lot about youngsters getting out of order, as she raised two strong-willed (but good-hearted) boys.  Getting too big for one’s britches had multiple meanings…an inflated ego, a bad attitude or a smart mouth.  It was intended to tell a younger generation that they weren’t quite “grown” yet.

Likewise, you who are younger, be subject to the elders. Clothe yourselves, all of you, with humility toward one another, for “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.” I Peter 5:5

This wise saying has stayed with me since youth.  We’ve all encountered those good folks who need the occasional, gentle attitude adjustment.  It might be pride – with just a touch of self-importance thrown in as well.

Do you see a man who is wise in his own eyes? There is more hope for a fool than for him. Proverbs 26:12

And sometimes (ok…maybe more often than I like to admit) I need those attitude adjustments myself.

I recently received a call from an old family friend.  He brought up an exchange from our recent past in which, in his words, I had been insensitive and dismissive.  In reflecting back on that time, I remember being in the midst of one of life’s busy, stressful periods.  Perhaps it was a lack of focus…or pride…but whatever the reason, I had gotten too big for my britches.  It was unintentional, but I had hurt his feelings.

All I could do was to humbly apologize and ask for forgiveness…and to thank them for being a good friend.

Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Philippians 2:3

I was grateful to have another chance with this friend.  It reminded me to be careful with words and attitude- as you never know how your response might impact another.

Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.  Ephesians 4:32

Thank goodness for forgiveness.  And, for people who remind us to wear proper-fitting britches.

God bless.

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