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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Angriest in the nation

Tennessee just received a dishonorable distinction….it was found to be the “angriest state in the country.”

This announcement came as a result of a recent study which looked at crime statistics,  instances of elder abuse and the number of registered hate groups in all fifty states.  In this instance, being #1 wasn’t a good thing.

How do you combat this sort of thing?  What’s the opposite of anger?

As Christians, I think it should be “honor.”

What does it mean to be honorable?  I’ll suggest three strategies.

Preparation. Participation. Politeness.

Therefore, if anyone cleanses himself from what is dishonorable, he will be a vessel for honorable use, set apart as holy, useful to the master of the house, ready for every good work. 2 Timothy 2:21

Preparation:  People of honor seek the truth. They are life-long learners and are constantly reading, reflecting on what they’ve discovered and testing their ideas on others.  Honorable people constantly prepare.

Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good. Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor. Do not be slothful in zeal, be fervent in spirit, serve the Lord. Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer. Contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show hospitality. Romans 12:9-13

Participation: By participation, I am suggesting that we must engage with others.  Honorable people value relationships. They seek to interact with others and share their ideas.  They also learn about the values and beliefs of others.  Relationships are paramount above all else.

Pray for us, for we are sure that we have a clear conscience, desiring to act honorably in all things. Hebrews 13:18

Politeness: I’m not talking about being meek, timid or retreating.  I’m talking about respect.  People of honor respect others, even if their values and beliefs are different.

This week my prayer is to become less “angry” and more “honorable.” And maybe- just maybe- Tennessee can become a little less angry…one person and one action at a time.

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

God bless.

 

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Dehydration

I got diagnosed with dehydration this week.

I had been knocked down over the weekend with a stomach virus. The illness left, but I still didn’t feel right.  My head hurt.  My back ached. I was fatigued and had no appetite.

All I wanted to do was sleep.

A trip to the doctor showed that I had become dehydrated.  The virus had created a water deficit, and my symptoms were an indication that I needed to properly fuel my body.

It’s taken a few days, but I’m starting to feel normal again.

Have you ever been spiritually dehydrated?

I had an incredible men’s group that met each Friday when we lived in Knoxville.  We studied the Bible.  We prayed. We talked.  It was a safe place to learn, to stretch your comfort zone and be held accountable.

My family moved to a new city in 2017.  I lost my men’s group.

I didn’t realize it at first, but I missed the study. The discussion. The preparation. A group of men that held me accountable.

I was dehydrated.

As iron sharpens iron, and one man sharpens another. Proverbs 27:17

I have recently started a men’s group out of my home.  We get together every Friday at 6am to study the Bible, pray and lift each other up.

This weekly gathering has reenergized my spirit. It’s sparked more exploration of the Bible.

I hadn’t realized how bad I needed that focus and accountability. Spiritual hydration.

My prayer this week is to continue to seek more opportunities to engage my faith with others at church, at work and in the community.

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

God bless.

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It’s Hard to Hate your Neighbor

IMG_2390It’s been a rough morning for the news.

The top three stories in our rural corner of West Tennessee included the school shooting in Florida, a riot and fight that broke out on a cruise ship and a local gun store that was robbed over the weekend.

Not a banner news day for human behavior, for sure.

I’m not trying to get political here.  I don’t want to use this blog to promote any big, national agenda.

But I do think that I have a reminder that might help all of us.  It’s three simple words.

Love your neighbor.

This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. John 15:12

We live in an interesting time.  As a country, we are becoming more isolated.

A recent New York Times article told that since the 1980’s, the number of adults that report being lonely had doubled…from 20 to 40%.  Another recent study showed that nearly 1/3 of Americans did not know their neighbors on their street or in their apartment building.  There have been several studies about declining church memberships across our country.

We’re ordering groceries online and shopping alone on Amazon at midnight.  These technology advances aren’t bad things in themselves…but they have impacted the way that we communicate with one another- and have seriously diminished our country’s opportunities for face-to-face interaction.

We just don’t know our neighbors anymore.  And in my opinion- that’s a problem.

You shall not take vengeance or bear a grudge against the sons of your own people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself: I am the Lord. Leviticus 19:18

Isolation can bring fear.  It can also make it much easier to make generalizations and value judgements on a particular group of people.  Instead, we need to engage.  Christianity is a contact sport.  We need to get to know our neighbors.  Not just those people who live around you, but those people in your office or at church.  Those people you walk by each day at work, in the coffee shop or at the gym.

Get to know their likes, their pain and their hopes and fears. Share your thoughts with them.

Host a dinner party. Invite someone for a walk or a hike. Start a book club…or a once-a-week prayer session over lunch. Rake your neighbor’s leaves.

Be vulnerable.  Be transparent.  Be yourself.  Who knows? You may find that you may have more in common with your neighbors than you think.

It’s awfully hard to hate those that you know.

And you might even change the next series of news headlines.  One person at a time.

My prayer today is to look for ways to engage my neighbors.  One cup of coffee and one act of kindness at a time.

Please let me know how I may pray for you.

God bless.

Carson Hollianne

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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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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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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Tough love


It’s been a mixed bag of experiences for our family this week.  

On one hand- we’ve been on vacation. It’s been a great trip for us, as my recent work schedule and the kids’ activities have propelled our family in opposite directions.  We’ve had an incredible opportunity to spend lots of time together- making new memories and laughing about old ones. 

Conversely- our trip has come during a time of great sadness across our country. This week’s headlines have been filled with violence and sorrow. Innocent lives have been lost and nerves are frayed. 

It’s hard for me to understand. I can’t imagine how hard it is for my children to process.

“Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.” ‭‭1 John‬ ‭4:11‬ ‭

I guess the best response as parents is to continue to teach love. 

“This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.” John‬ ‭15:12‬ ‭

Love is the greatest command. Along with this command comes honor and respect for others. 

“Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor.”‭‭ Romans‬ ‭12:10‬ ‭

“Now concerning brotherly love you have no need for anyone to write to you, for you yourselves have been taught by God to love one another,…” ‭‭1 Thessalonians‬ ‭4:9‬ ‭

So who is our brother?  It’s our neighbor. It’s the person living in a different neighborhood across town. It’s the teller in the supermarket line. It’s the person that doesn’t dress like us or talk like we do. It’s the people in our lives that have hurt us and caused us pain. 

Our neighbors are everywhere. 

Everyone has value. Every person has worth. And just as Jesus loves us, we are called to love others. 

It’s hard sometimes, but it’s our responsibility. And it’s our responsibility to teach love and honor to our children. 

“And this is his commandment, that we believe in the name of his Son Jesus Christ and love one another, just as he has commanded us.” ‭‭1 John‬ ‭3:23‬ ‭‬‬

Let’s look for ways this week to get to know our neighbors…and engage with different people in new and meaningful ways. 

I need prayers for guidance on how to help my children process these tough events. Please let me know how I may pray for you. 

God bless. 

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