Cheap Easter candy

Easter has come and gone. And- as with all holidays- the retail stores have marked down the Easter-themed decorations and associated seasonal items.

The biggest surprise for the Carver kids has been the discounting of the celebrated Easter candy. Chocolate bunnies, brightly colored jelly beans and marshmallow peeps are now 75% off their original price. Just over a week ago the aisles of the local stores were filled with colorful packages. Now the remains of the holiday treats are contained in a couple of bins near the check out counter.

Cheap candy. Valued one day, forgotten the next.

But to be honest, I’m often guilty of cheapening the sacrifice of Jesus and diminishing the blessing of His resurrection.

He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed.  I Peter 2:24

Easter Sunday is filled with great sermons about the fulfilled promise of salvation. We should be careful that we don’t limit this celebration to a few special occasions.

So the Jews said to him, “What sign do you show us for doing these things?” Jesus answered them, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.” The Jews then said, “It has taken forty-six years to build this temple, and will you raise it up in three days?” But he was speaking about the temple of his body. When therefore he was raised from the dead, his disciples remembered that he had said this, and they believed the Scripture and the word that Jesus had spoken.  John 2:18-22

While the Easter holiday has passed, the significance of Christ’s death and resurrection is something that we should appreciate every day.

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead,to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you,who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.  I Peter 1:3-5

Pray for me to be more diligent in my study of the life of Jesus and His powerful teachings.

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

reprinted from April 2015

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When the room is spinning

I’ve been struggling with a bout of vertigo the past two weeks. My head spins if I make a sudden movement to the left or right. It’s even worse if I get up and down quickly.

I lose my balance easily too. It’s frustrating.

We aren’t sure what’s causing it. My doctor is hopeful that a round of strong antibiotics will help.

The only peace I have is to keep my eyes fixed straight ahead. If I stay focused on what’s directly ahead of me- I can keep my balance.

I guess that’s great advice for life, too.

Let your eyes look directly forward, and your gaze be straight before you. Proverbs 4:25

I tend to get into trouble when I take my eyes off Jesus. It’s easy to do. Worries at work consume me at times. Or family issues distract me from my study of the Bible or prayer time.

Worse yet, sin can separate me from my walk with Christ. I’m too easily distracted by temptation or pride and forget the source of true strength and wisdom.

Do not turn to the right nor to the left; Turn your foot from evil. Proverbs 4:27

This week I am praying for better focus. I want to be free from the distractions of life that burden me and keep me from truly walking with Jesus.

And please pray for some relief from this vertigo. It’s dampened my spirit.

Let me know how I may pray for you.

God bless.

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Unexpectedly seeing Jesus

I was preparing to leave campus for home tonight when I saw a small sign posted on a bulletin board…”Open Bible Study; Thursday evenings at 7pm; room 215.”

I don’t know why, but it surprised me. Surprised by the sign. Surprised that I saw the announcement among a host of other flyers.

I walked to room 215 to see what was going on. And there they were…four students huddled over their Bibles talking about the quest for perfection through Jesus Christ.

We run into Jesus in unexpected places.

The Samaritan woman ran into Jesus unexpectedly in John chapter 4. In a period of pain and shame, He gave her a thirst for “living water.”

In John chapter 8, an adulterous woman received grace from Jesus.

Zacchaeus was considered a cheat and a sinner…a tax collector…yet Jesus called to him and invited himself into Zacchaeus’ home. We see this in Luke chapter 19.

Where have you last seen Jesus unexpectedly? Was it in a random act of kindness from a stranger? Perhaps it was an encouraging note from an old friend.

This week my prayer is to continue to seek Jesus everyday. And to illustrate the love and compassion of Jesus in my own, public walk.

“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

Please let me know how to pray for you.

God bless.

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Graduation: 10 things I wish I’d known 20 years ago

IMG_7650.jpgI 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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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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Stuff

How much is enough?

And he said to them, “Take nothing for your journey, no staff, nor bag, nor bread, nor money; and do not have two tunics. And whatever house you enter, stay there, and from there depart. Luke‬ ‭9:3-4‬

My family has lived in our new house for 15 months. We’ve finally placed pictures on the walls and figured out what furniture goes in which room. It feels like our “home” now.

Hollianne and I had a revelation over the weekend. While we downsized our possessions when we moved across the state, we’ve somehow- in just over fifteen months- started accumulating more “stuff.” Our attic is filling up. The closet in our basement is crowded. Our pantry is packed…and we are thinking about doubling its size.

Some of the happiest people I know are those with very little in terms of worldly possessions. Missionaries who have dedicated their lives to living with (and serving) the poor. People who have committed to living in rural, impoverished areas to improve conditions there….or social workers who are fighting poverty and crime in urban areas.

Its time to refocus. Our purpose has nothing to do with finding comfort through worldly possessions.

We are not called to be comfortable.

We need to invest in relationships. Good, nurturing relationships that spread the love of Jesus.

“But godliness with contentment is great gain, for we brought nothing into the world, and we cannot take anything out of the world. But if we have food and clothing, with these we will be content. But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation, into a snare, into many senseless and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction.” 1 Timothy 6:6-9‬

My prayer for this weekend is to focus on what I truly need- rather than what I want. I need a renewed attitude toward sharing the hope of Jesus and His message of forgiveness and love. This is what will bring contentment.

Please let me know how I can pray for you.

God bless.

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Listening

My job requires that I work with college students. And I love it.

I find that the best way to connect with our students is to go where they gather. I see many students in meetings around campus, but to really understand them…to really hear them…I need to interact with them outside my office.

I often eat lunch in the campus cafeteria. I attend their athletic events and intramural games. My wife and I invite them into our home for dinner.

I even ride horses with them (talk about getting out of your comfort zone…).

When you go to students in informal settings, they tend to talk more. They share more. You just have to be there.

If you abide in me, and my words in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. John 15:7

How often do we think about this in our relationship with our Heavenly Father? We have complete access. He’s always there…exactly where we are…willing to listen.

Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours. Mark 11:24

God desires a close relationship with us. He longs to hear our fears and our hopes.

Call to me and I will answer you, and tell you great and hidden things that you have not known. Jeremiah 33:3

He is our comfort and our hope.

My prayer this week is to become more diligent in my prayer life. I need to be more intentional in accessing God through prayer. I know he longs to listen.

I know He’s always there for me.

Please let me know how to pray for you.

God bless.

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