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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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Fishing with your boys

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My daughter graduates from high school on Saturday.

I’m amazed at how the time has flown by.  It seems like only yesterday that she was headed off to kindergarten- and now she’s just finished her final day of her senior year.

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And I’m proud of her.

She’s made great grades.  She’s made great decisions. She’s become a bright, mature young woman.

But she’s leaving our home.  And I have regrets.

I wish I’d spent more time with her.

Yes- we have traveled a lot.  There have been countless road trips for AAU basketball and club soccer tournaments.

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We’ve hiked the Rockies and the Smokies.  We’ve traveled to the east and west coasts.

But I wish we’d done more.  I wish we’d talked more.

It’s not too late.  Hollianne and I will find new ways to invest in her.  We’ll pour love, attention and prayer into her during college.  It’ll be different- but it’s critically important.

But now for those boys.

We’re left with two sons in our home.  In a flash, they’ll be finishing up middle and high school and headed out into the world as young adults.

I was reading a book this morning and it told of a parenting seminar where Dr. James Dobson was speaking.  The writer said that Dr. Dobson finished his speech with the following quote:

“God only gives us so many times to go fishing with our kids…so don’t miss a one of them.”

Wise words.

I need to be intentional about pouring attention into my boys.  The need love, attention and investment.  They need my time.

And I’ve got to do better.  There are things that they need to hear from me.  There are things that they need to see in me.  I’ve got to step up and stand in the gap.

You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. Deuteronomy 6: 5-7

Maybe you are in a similar situation.  Perhaps you have children at home…or grown children…and need to invest more time into that relationship.  Perhaps it’s a parent or a sibling- and you are looking for ways to spend more time with them.

My prayer is week is two-fold.  I will pray that Hollianne and I are creative with the ways to invest in Carson as she goes off to college.  And I pray that we are intentional about the ways we invest in our sons.  I don’t want to miss an opportunity to go fishing.

Let me know how I may pray for you.

God bless.

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Mug shot 

Our daughter, Carson, is a beautiful young woman…inside and out.

If I can brag a little- she recently won a special senior superlative at her high school…”Most Likely to Brighten Your Day.”

But something interesting happened to her recently.  Carson went to a Walgreens to get a passport photo taken.  She looked at the camera and gave a big, natural smile.  Upon seeing this, the photographer told her that she wasn’t allowed to smile for passport photos.  He explained that foreign authorities felt that international travel was a serious activity- and smiles and frivolity weren’t allowed on the passport photo.

So she didn’t smile.  And as you can see from the photo- it came out like a mug shot.  

Carson later learned learned that the photographer was playing a joke on her.  There’s no rule about having a serious look on your face for the passport photo.  But there it was- the completed work showed my daughter without her trademark glow and radiant smile.

It appears that she isn’t so happy at all.

Doesn’t this happen to all of us?  We can sometimes get labeled by our failures…and a single action at a given point of time can linger with us for a long time.  It may be a failed marriage.  It could be a bad situation at work that has stayed with us for far too long.  A single instance can make a long-lasting impression.

But we are never labeled for our failures with God.

If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. I John 1:9

God is faithful.  He forgives.  His love cleanses us from past mistakes.  We don’t have to worry about the failures.  We have forgiveness.

This week I’m praying about the “mug shots” in my past.  I want to move beyond my mistakes, learn from them and become a more complete being in Jesus Christ.

And let me know how I may pray for you.

God bless.

 

 

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New job and big transitions…

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I’m beginning a new job in January.

Oh, it’s not entirely new.  It’s with the same university I’ve been associated with for the past twenty years.

But it’s a different role in a different city.  It involves a move for my family and a new set of faces and increased responsibilities.

There will be lots to learn…with new names, duties, rituals and events that will occupy my day.  Hollianne and I will have to learn the names of a new set of teachers for our kids- and get them acclimated to a different social and educational environment.

New neighbors.  New house.  New everything.

Change is coming.

We are excited about the opportunity, but even the most adventurous souls get a little anxious when faced with so much uncertainty and change.

Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.”  Joshua 1:9

There’s one thing that does not change, however.  Our God is an ever-present comfort to us.

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

We have the promise of comfort and stability.  While our lives on this earth will change, the steadfast love and support of Jesus Christ never waivers.

Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.  Philippians 4:6-7

Please pray for me as I enter this new chapter of my life.  Pray for me to have a servant’s heart, open ears for listening, big shoulders for obstacles and clear eyes for vision.  And pray for my family to have a smooth transition into our new environment.

And as always, please let me know how to pray for you.

God bless.

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My daughter is gone

Carson HollianneMy daughter leaves tomorrow morning…for a month.

Carson is going out west to serve as a counselor for a YoungLife camp in the Colorado Rockies.

Carson is truly excited is the opportunity to work with the campers. They’ll come from all over the United States to experience life at a beautiful, rustic camp in the Rocky mountains.

And each night she’ll have her Bible open. Carson will read and study with the campers. She’ll pray with the guests.   She’ll get the opportunity to talk about Jesus Christ- and share the impact that He has made on her life. She’ll answer questions and have to defend her faith.

She’ll be a witness.

Let no one despise you for your youth, but set the believers as an example in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith, in purity.  1 Timothy 4:12

Carson isn’t letting her age be a factor in serving as a witness for Christ. In fact, she sees it as an opportunity to work with peers who haven’t had the opportunity to form a relationship with Jesus. And she’s excited about it.

She’s not perfect, but her brokenness inspires her to study, learn and witness more.

Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own.  Philippians 3:12

You can learn a lot from your kids.

I wish I had her courage.

I struggle with opportunities to share my faith with others- even when those opportunities are made clearly apparent. I need a child-like faith.

Please pray for Carson to be an effective vessel for Jesus this summer- and for me to have the courage to share my faith when given the opportunity.

And let me know how I may pray for you.

God bless.

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Decisions


Our youngest child, Britton, struggles with making decisions.

It’s not surprising, as B is the youngest of three kids in the Carver house.  His older sister and brother have been making decisions for B his entire life.  It’s like he’s got two dads and two moms.  Advice abounds for the little guy.

Truth be told, I struggle with decisions too.

I often know what needs to be done in my life, but I resist.  I make choices out of selfish desires, wants and convenience.

Fortunately, Jesus never flinched when faced with the biggest decision in history.

For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.  2 Corinthians 5:21

Jesus knew why he was sent to this earth.

Even as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.  Matthew 20:28

How often do we think about the magnitude of that decision?  Jesus died so that we might live.

Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.  Proverbs 3:5-6

My prayer this next week is to intentionally reflect the power of this one, unselfish decision- and to seek the counsel of Jesus for all the choices of my life.

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

Please let me know how I may pray for you.

(Kentucky Lake sunrise; March 16, 2016.  Big Sandy, TN)

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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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The world’s oldest profession

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And the Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to work it and keep it. Genesis 2:15

We live in a crowded suburb of Knoxville on a postage stamp-sized piece of property. It’s just big enough to allow our three active kids with a small place to get outside. For the past three years, however, our youngest son Britton has carved out spaces around the house to plant tomatoes, peppers and herbs.

He’s discovered that even simple plants aren’t easy to grow. There are rocks in our yard…even slabs of hidden concrete. The ground slopes dramatically and we have an abundant supply of weeds and insects.

Britton doesn’t complain. He finds creative spots to plant his vegetables each year. He’s successful despite the obstacles.

The original farmers had it easy. God provided fertile, rich soil and a steady supply of water. Fruit trees were everywhere. God granted Adam and Eve free reign to work this beautiful place with one exception- they were forbidden to eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil (Genesis 2:16 and 3:3).

We know the rest of the story. Adam and Eve were tempted by the snake, which convinced them to eat from the forbidden tree. Sin and strife entered the world as a result of their disobedience.

Farming became difficult.

Adam and Even had to leave the beautiful garden. God made the ground hard and filled with thorns and thistles. Sweat and toil would be necessary to work the fields and provide food.

I’m truly no different from Adam and Eve. I know what’s wrong and what’s right, yet I am tempted by the delights of this world and routinely fall short of His purpose for me. Like the original farmers, poor choices make my life more difficult than it has to be.

We have a Savior that loves us anyway- despite our bad decisions. It’s our responsibility to learn from the past and discipline ourselves through study and prayer to have a heart like Jesus.

I can learn a lesson or two from Britton’s garden. Obstacles and setbacks are everyday occurrences in this life, but we just have to keep working. The rewards are eternal.

Please pray for me. Let me know how I may pray for you. God bless.

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Daddies

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Some of my earliest memories involve my dad.  He was a really good high school coach in Crockett County.  I still remember sitting near him on the bench during hotly-contested basketball games…watching him plot plays, scheme defenses and berate referees. Those gyms were packed full of people- and dad’s bench seemed to be at the center of my small universe.

He taught me how to tie a lure, throw a spiral and change a car tire.  He showed me how to race go carts and went with me to buy an engagement ring for Hollianne.  I’m grateful that he’s now teaching my children some of those same lessons.

Sunday is the day we “officially” recognize our fathers.  I’m in a great place right now…as I can celebrate my relationship with dad, as well as experience a wonderful day with my kids.

For many people, however, Father’s Day can be painful.  Hollianne lost her father last Thanksgiving.  Mr. Tommy was a wonderful man…generous, loving and compassionate.

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His life and presence left a vault of good memories for his family, but his absence is painfully obvious this year.

Some of my friends never knew their father…or were abandoned as children.  This void can be a difficult one to fill.

We, however, have a heavenly Father that cares for us beyond imagination.

No one will be able to stand up against you all the days of your life.  As I was with Moses, so I will be with you; I will never leave you nor forsake you.  Joshua 1:5

No matter what life throws at us- stress, illness, or disappointment- we have a Father who will be with us.

Or which one of you, if his son asks him for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a serpent? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him! Matthew 7:9-11

God has a plan for our lives.  While we cannot know what will happen tomorrow, we can rest assured that our Father will face tomorrow with us.

God’s uncompromising love.  Just think of it as the best Father’s Day gift ever.

Pray for me this week.  Let me know how I may pray for you.  God bless.

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Numbers

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Numbers are important.  Just ask my kids.  Each season they lobby their caches to wear a specific number on their uniform. This means something to them.  It’s “their” number.

What’s so special about a particular number?  According to my kids- it makes them feel unique…distinctive.  Out of a crowd of kids on a basketball court, baseball diamond or soccer field- they take comfort in having their favorite number.  It’s the same number every game, every season.  It helps them stand out in a crowd.

Don’t we all worry about that?  We often times feel like we are lost in the masses.  Forgotten.  Just one of a multitude of people on this earth.  We long for personal attention, yet can feel alone even in crowded workplaces and busy streets.

Jesus longs to know us and wishes to have a personal relationship with each one of us.

Why, even the hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not; you are of more value than many sparrows.  Luke 12:7

Our lives are of essential interest to God.

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

We are not just a number.  We are so unique…so special to God that even the hairs of our head are numbered.  He knows everything about us and- despite our flaws- loves us anyway.

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

You are loved…no matter what number you wear.

God bless you and keep you.

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