Pause

We’ve entered the busiest time of the year.

End of year deadlines at work. Holiday travel. Last-minute shopping. Receptions, events and special holiday programs.

It’s also a stressful time. A recent study suggests that 62% of people report elevated stress levels during the holidays. The main culprits? Family and financial pressures.

And during this time, we can also squeeze out time with Jesus. Yep. I’m guilty too.

I suggest that we all need a pause.

Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Matthew 11:28

Take your cares to Jesus…and He will give you relief and rest.

Pause for five minutes today. Intentionally take time to pray. Focus completely on your blessings and needs. Offer up your hopes, desires and fears. Jesus craves this time with us.

And He will provide relief.

My prayer this week is to pause each day and spend more time with our Lord and Savior.

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

God bless.

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Skipping Thanksgiving

We’re skipping Thanksgiving this year.

The stores in my hometown are already filled with Christmas decorations. Holiday wreaths adorn neighborhoods mailboxes and doors. Social media is filled with photos of friends displaying their Christmas trees. Holiday music is on the radio.

I’m not sure why. Thanksgiving is an important season of reflection and gratitude. A time to pause with family and friends. A time to count our blessings.

But we’re barreling right past it toward Christmas. A missed opportunity to celebrate all that we are thankful for in our lives.

It’s not surprising, actually.

How often do I stop during the day to reflect on the blessings in my life?

Praise the Lord! Oh give thanks to the Lord, for he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever! Psalm 106:1

God has richly blessed me with a great family, incredible friends, my health and a job that I love. I’m so blessed.

Yet I don’t pause and say “thanks” nearly enough.

I skip thanksgiving every day, if I’m not careful.

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

My prayer this week is to pause more often…to stop and thank God for the blessings in my life. My family. My health. My friends.

And especially, Jesus Christ.

I don’t want to skip thanksgiving ever again.

And please let me know how to pray for you.

God bless you.

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Tug of War

The college where I work really celebrates Homecoming in a big way. One of the student traditions is a huge tug of war competition called “Rope Pull.” Literally hundreds of people- including alumni- come out to watch student groups compete against one another.

As I watched this week, I couldn’t help but think about my own personal tug of war. The daily struggle between doing good or allowing my selfish desires to take control.

Pride. Selfishness. Anger. Resentment. Greed. All of these feelings cloud my thoughts and let the pull of sin take over. A losing battle of tug of war.

Fortunately, Jesus won the fight over sin. We may lose a battle, but Jesus has won the war.

No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the means of escape, that you may be able to endure it. 1 Corinthians 10:13

While our sinful nature can cause us to stumble and fall, we can be confident that God will always provide hope, escape and relief.

My prayer this week is to examine my heart for hidden sin and bad habits- and to have the courage to pray for strength to deal with it.

God loves the humble in spirit! Let’s recognize our struggles and resolve to do better.

Please let me know how I may pray for you.

God bless.

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Will you hold my baby?

I was recently traveling on a crowded flight on a work trip. My row was full, but fortunately I had an aisle seat.

Just across the aisle was a woman traveling alone with a toddler and a newborn. She had her hands full….literally. The infant was crying and the toddler was all over the seats, floor and aisle. The mother looked exhausted.

The toddler and I struck up a series of short conversations while we waited for takeoff. She asked lots of questions.:

What’s your name?

Where are you from?

Where are you going?

What are you reading?

Do have babies at home?

I enjoyed our interactions, and it seemed to keep the toddler occupied (and give her mom a break).

Shortly into the flight, the toddler announced that she needed to go to the bathroom. Her mom said that the baby had just gone to sleep, and asked if she (the toddler) could wait until the plane landed.

The kid couldn’t wait. It was an emergency. She needed to go NOW.

Frazzled, the mom looked across the aisle at me and said:

“I hate to ask you this, but can you please hold my baby while I take my daughter to the bathroom?”

She looked sad and anxious. I’m sure that she had weighed her options and determined that her best solution was to ask a stranger to hold her sleeping baby while she assisted her toddler.

“Of course,” I replied. She reluctantly placed her baby into my arms. I held her sleeping child for about 5 minutes until the family returned to their seats.

“Thank you,” the mom said with tears in her eyes.

I sat back and processed what had just happened. This woman trusted a stranger to hold her precious baby so she could help another child. She was out of options and had to throw her trust into me.

Trusting your baby to a stranger.

Have you ever felt so desperate that you didn’t know where to turn?

Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and trust not in your own understanding. Proverbs 3:5

Our faith is tested daily. We have health obstacles, work issues and family troubles. Sometimes challenges in my life are so complex that I can’t see an answer.

But I have to remember to let go and ask God for guidance.

This week my prayer is to not rely on my own wisdom, but to ask God for solutions and inspiration to address life’s challenges.

It is better to take refuge in the Lord than to trust in man. Psalm 118:8

Please let me know how I may pray for you.

God bless.

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Walking with the Father

I see an awesome sight most mornings.

My neighbor walks his son to our local elementary school everyday. I get watch them as I leave my house for work. They walk and talk for the three block journey to the school.

What a great experience it is for the dad…starting his day with his son.

And what an opportunity it is for the son, too. What protection and comfort he must feel! He’s starting the day with his #1 fan by his side!

For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened. What father among you, if his son asks for a fish, will instead of a fish give him a serpent; or if he asks for an egg will give him a scorpion? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the Heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him! Luke 11:10-13

I realize that I have that same opportunity. Our Heavenly Father is waiting for us…ready for us to come to Him for comfort, counsel and peace.

My prayer this week is to be more intentional about my time with God. I want to make more time each day to go to Him in prayer. To ask for advice. To seek comfort. To offer appreciation for the blessings in my life.

I want to experience the Father.

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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It doesn’t cost a thing to be kind

I was in the “20 items or less” lane at a busy grocery store last week. A few customers ahead of me was a young woman with two small kids. One was a crying infant. The other was a curious two-year old who wanted to be anywhere but in that store. I could tell that it had been a long day for the mom.

She was doing her best to empty her items on the checkout counter…balancing one child on her shoulder and verbally coaxing the other to stay close by. Suddenly, the customer immediately behind her snapped and said: “you’ve got 22 items.”

The mother responded with, “I’m sorry…what did you say?”

“I said, you’ve got 22 items in your cart. The sign clearly says 20 items or less,” she hissed.

The mother was truly embarrassed and crushed. “I’m so sorry. I didn’t know,” she replied.

It broke her spirit. I saw tears well up in that mother’s eyes as she hurriedly paid her bill and exited the store.

Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you. Ephesians 4:31-32

I was stunned with what I had witnessed. The angry words and a hateful tone lingered in the air for minutes after the incident.

I prayed for that mom and her two kids. I also prayed for the angry woman in line with us.

And it served as a powerful reminder to me.

Attitude is everything.

We cannot control what situations life throws at us, but we can control our response.

And kindness doesn’t cost a thing.

My prayer this week is to be more forgiving. I want to be more loving and compassionate. I want to be kind.

Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in your sight, O Lord, my rock and my redeemer. Psalm 19:14

Please let me know how to pray for you.

God bless.

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No returns allowed

I remember the first gift I ever really wanted.

I was eight years old. It was an Earl Campbell football from the Western Auto store. I was a Houston Oilers fan and Earl was (and still is) my hero.

Santa came that Christmas morning and to my great disappointment- he brought a Tony Dorsett football. There had been an apparent mix up at the North Pole and I’d been given a football embossed with the name of the star running back of the rival Dallas Cowboys.

Fortunately, Santa made it right a day later.

As I’ve grown older, my thoughts about gifts have changed. Trips with Hollianne are cherished gifts, as were the births of our three children. I consider each time I see my parents as a gift.

I know a man who received a kidney transplant from his brother. I’ve read of another who received a heart from a complete stranger. Precious gifts indeed.

But the greatest gift we will ever receive came centuries ago.

This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. 1 John 4:10

This was the ultimate act of love. Jesus died on the cross for the forgiveness of our sins.

Jesus died for the Jews and Gentiles.

The Republicans, the Democrats and the independents.

The wealthy and the poor.

He died for you and me.

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

During my prayer time over the weekend I’m going to specifically focus on the sacrifice of Jesus and His willingness to die for you and me.

It’s the greatest gift ever.

Please let me know how I may pray for you.

God bless.

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One less plate at the dinner table…

It’s a habit.

When Hollianne makes dinner at the Carver house, we set the table for five.

Carson’s departure for college this summer has changed that scenario. 

We were eating spaghetti before church on Wednesday night.  Without thinking- I set the table for our meal…and out of habit prepared five plates.

Only four of us were home. 

It was a sad reminder of our new reality. We miss Carson being there. 

We’ll see her this weekend. And for a few days our “home” will be complete- whole- again.

That joy reminds me of Luke 15.  This chapter has two parables of seeking something missing…and the thrill of finding it. My favorite is the story of the lost sheep.

‭So he told them this parable: “What man of you, having a hundred sheep, if he has lost one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the open country, and go after the one that is lost, until he finds it? And when he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders, rejoicing. And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and his neighbors, saying to them, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep that was lost.’ Just so, I tell you, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance.  Luke 15:3-7

I can’t begin to fathom how much Jesus loves you and me.  He loves us unconditionally and wants us to draw near to him. Even when we are stuck in sin- Jesus still seeks us. 

We can’t run away from this love. He will always desire for us to come back. 

We’ll have five plates around our table this weekend at the Carver house. Our hearts will be full.

And I’m so grateful that Jesus will always have a place at his table for you and me.

Please let me know how I may pray for you this week.

God bless you. 

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When You Lose It All

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The basement in our new home flooded this week.

We had terrible storms on Saturday.  Our power was out for a little over 18 hours…and it created a problem.

Our basement has a pump that automatically kicks on when water levels rise in the ground.  It keeps our home nice and dry…when the electricity is working.

You guessed it.  The power was off and the rainwater slowly seeped into our basement overnight.

We lost everything down there.  Furniture, appliances, carpet and drywall were all casualties.  To make matters worse- we were using the basement as temporary storage as we set up our new home.  We had family photos, files and other precious items stored on the floor.

Now they are all wet.

It was sobering to see what damage the water can do.  Photos and letters from loved ones are gone.  Notes and art projects from the kids were ruined.

Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world—the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride in possessions—is not from the Father but is from the world. And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever. I John 2: 15-17

This was a great reminder for me.  I have taken too much pride in “stuff.”

As we look not to the things 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 4:18

Material goods bring us comfort, but they don’t last.

The important things are unseen.  It’s all about investment.  Investment in our walk with Jesus.  Investment in our family, friends and neighbors.

And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.  Matthew 22:37-39

It’s pretty simple:  Love Jesus and love your neighbors.

Everything else will just get wet.

Pray for me as I try to focus less on “stuff”.  And let me know how to pray for you.

God bless.

 

 

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