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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Sleep-deprived and fighting a three-headed monster

I had a sleepless night last week.

There were three tough scenarios playing out in my head. There was a work problem, a family concern and a situation that a friend was facing. I couldn’t clear my thoughts.

I was facing this three-headed monster and felt powerless to fight.

After much tossing and turning I got out of bed and tried to analyze these situations on paper.

But the problems looked even more daunting when written down- and I had no idea how to begin unpacking these complex thoughts.

I recalled some great words from the book of Romans that gave some comfort.

Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. Romans 8:26

We have a clear promise. God hears prayer. This verse lets us know that the Holy Spirit intercedes for us. Even when we don’t know how begin or focus our prayers, God knows our pain….our concern…our hurts.

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

Prayer is a mighty sword. It’s a protector. It’s a source of comfort. It’s available to us for defense against the concerns of the world.

And we don’t even have to know exactly what to say when we use it.

My prayer this week is to be more mindful of the care that God has for us…and to take my concerns to him immediately.

And please let me know how to 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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Disconnected 

I’m not even thinking about the holidays.

I’m winding down one job and transitioning to another. My new role is with the same university system, but it’s a different position in a different city.  I’m traveling the state’s highways and interstate this month.

A lot.

The days are filled with meeting new people and saying goodbye to others.  Packing up one office and opening another.

It’s left me feeling…well, disconnected.

This transition has preoccupied my every thought.  My prayer life has suffered.  I’m not as engaged with my wife and kids.  I’m certainly not as focused on my daily Bible study.  I haven’t spent time with friends.

I’m not much fun to be around either.

Commit your work to the Lord, and your plans will be established.  Proverbs 16:3

I realize that I’ve fallen into a trap.  I’m so preoccupied with all these changes that I forget about the ONE that helps us navigate life’s journey.  Jesus wants our focus to be on him.  He will help us realize our purpose…establish our plans.

Life on this earth is about constant change, but there is one absolute for the believer…

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

My prayer this week to to focus more on the aspects of life that REALLY matter…my faith, my family, my friends, my neighbors.  If my focus is on Jesus- then the other pieces of life’s puzzle will come together.

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

May God bless and keep you during this busy time of year.  Please let me know how I may specifically pray for you.

God bless.

 

 

 

 

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Working on your marriage on Labor Day

I was nursing a cup of coffee when my cell phone rang early on this Labor Day morning.

It was an old friend that I had not talked to in some time.  We caught up for a minute before he got to the true meaning of his phone call.

His marriage was in trouble.

I was stunned.

I probed a bit.  It seems that life had just placed one barrier after another between them.  His focus had been on his career.  Her focus had been on the kids.  She had suggested counseling some time back, but they found excuses to not get help.  It wasn’t one thing…it was a culmination of years of negligence to their relationship.

Now they were strangers living in the same house and they didn’t like each other anymore.  Resentment was living in both of their hearts- and both of them had become selfishly stubborn.

Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves.  Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.  Philippians 2:3-4

He thanked me for listening- and asked that I pray for him today.  I told him that I would pray for healing and reconciliation- and that they would be able to climb over any pride or misgivings they had about counseling.  I asked that he pray about it too.

Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.  Matthew 11:28

Marriage is work for all of us.  Our relationships need daily, continual attention.

We need to pray for and with our spouse on a daily basis.

Please pray for my friend on this Labor Day.  And let me know how to pray for you.

God bless marriages everywhere.

 

(*this post was published with permission)

 

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A visit from Big Hank

I was sitting in a hotel lobby in Memphis a couple of weeks ago.  I was anxiously awaiting for a meeting to start- thinking about what might transpire over the next hour.  This meeting had the opportunity to be unpleasant.

I decided to try and relax.  I prayed a lengthy prayer.  I then took out my Bible and read through 2 Corinthians.

I later walked around the perimeter of the large lobby to think about how I would open the meeting.  How I would convey bad news and a disappointing outcome.

I returned to my seat and decided to pray again.

Then I felt someone’s hand on my shoulder.

Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.  Philippians 2:4

Standing in front of me was a large man.  He introduced himself as Big Hank.

“Are you ok?”

I told him that I was doing fine…just preoccupied.

He explained that he had been watching me for the past 30 minutes.  Praying, meditating, reading and pacing.  Big Hank said that he could tell that something was bothering me- and he felt compelled to come over and pray with me.  I told him I would appreciate the prayer.

And pray he did.  Big Hank said a short prayer for me- for my comfort, peace and future.

And as quick as he appeared, he turned and walked across the lobby- and outside to the busy sidewalk.

But if anyone has the world’s goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God’s love abide in him?  1 John 3:17

Pray for me to have better awareness of the needs of others.  Help me to identify pain and hurt- and have the courage to engage and provide comfort.

And let me know how to pray for you.

God bless you, Big Hank- wherever you are.

 

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