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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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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Brackets

Last night I spent an hour filling out my NCAA tournament brackets. An hour.

I love this time of year. Colleges, their teams, their campuses, their alumni and their fans all dream about deep runs through the games. Upsets occur. Buzzer-beating shots decide outcomes. And Cinderella teams make unpredictable runs through the tourney.

I’m as guilty as anyone about getting excited about the games in the tournament. I’ll watch as many live games as I can, and listen to others on the radio and computer.

I get consumed. And last night- I jumped over the edge into full-fledged March Madness.

What if I put that much daily effort into my walk with Jesus?

Do not make idols or set up an image or a sacred stone for yourselves, and do not place a carved stone in your land to bow down before it. I am the Lord your God. Leviticus‬ ‭26:1‬ ‭

I get distracted too easily. I let daily challenges and fun diversions (like NCAA basketball) take my attention away from my pursuit of Christ.

I create idols. And I tend to focus on the temporary and fun rather than seeking the joy and fulfillment that comes from a close relationship with Jesus.

Jesus answered him, “If anyone loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him.” John 14:23

My prayer this week is to identify those things that keep me from focusing on Jesus. I want to eliminate the idols in my life that keep me from fully pursuing Christ.

The tournament will end later this month. God’s love for us is eternal.

Please let me know how I may pray for you.

God bless.

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Complainers

I was ambushed by a frustrated person this week, who was angry about a situation at work.

I listened for about ten minutes. At the end of their tirade, I was asked to “fix it.”

Fix it.

My response was to ask this person what solutions they had developed. What were the possible scenarios they had thought about to address their frustration?

“I thought that was your job…” was their response. “That’s why I came to you…so you can fix this.”

I suggested a couple of ways to address the issue, but neither option was acceptable to the person.

I asked them to take some time to reflect on possible solutions to their problem. If they couldn’t develop alternatives, I would need to move ahead with my own ideas on resolution.

I guess it’s a pet peeve of mine. If someone comes to me with a problem- they should at least bring a potential solution.

I’m such a hypocrite in my spiritual relationship with God, however. I realized this yesterday when I looked at my prayer journal.

I’m a complainer.

Oh….I realize that we are told to bring our concerns to God.

Casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you. I Peter 5:7

Cast your burden on the Lord, and he will sustain you; he will never permit the righteous to be moved. Psalm 55:22

But my prayer notes looked like a laundry list of situations that I wanted God to “fix.” Instead if asking for wisdom and discernment on how to deal with each problem- I just laid it at His feet.

I had also done a great job of casting my cares, but very little to reflect on the great things that God was creating in my life.

I was complaining, but not submitting.

I was pointing out the problems, but not focusing on the blessings.

Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. 1 Thessalonians 5:18

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

My prayer this week is to spend less time complaining to God. I want to first focus on all the blessings He has granted me and acknowledge all of the good that God is stirring in my life.

I also want to ask for wisdom when dealing with life’s problems.

Please let me know how I may 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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Hoping your kids forgive you

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Hollianne and I have been blessed with three beautiful children.  Our three have brought so much joy and laughter into our home- and lives.  They aren’t perfect, but neither are we.  These past 19 years as parents have been a wild, wonderful adventure.

Parenting is hard.  Really hard.  I’ve made enough mistakes to fill a volume of books.

We want guide them without being too overbearing.  We want them to develop without trying to make them something that they “aren’t.” We try to protect them without trying to hover. These are fine lines to walk.

I was talking to a mentor recently.  We were talking about raising kids- and the difficulty in being a dad.  He told me about times when he was younger when he had been tough on his children.  Perhaps they had disappointed or disobeyed him.  We talked about our tendency to “overcorrect” their behavior- over even overreact when we learn of their mistakes.  He had, however, grown from these experiences… and and he talked about the great relationships he enjoyed with his children as young adults.

It’s human nature…as we love our kids and want them to grow and mature into complete, responsible adults.  But we discussed how inappropriate, rash responses can hurt relationships.  The wrong response can build walls between you and your children. They may be afraid of how you’ll respond.  They might be unwilling to share their mistakes in the future.

I’m guilty.

I’ve spent quite a bit of time in the book of James this month.  Chapter 2 talks about passing judgement.  Two verses pricked my heart this week:

So speak and so act as those who are to be judged under the law of liberty.  For judgement is without mercy to one who has shown no mercy.  Mercy triumphs over judgement.”  James 2: 12-13

Mercy triumphs over judgement.

Four powerful words that apply to all aspects of our lives. But for this week- they have special meaning for my relationship with my children.

Children need discipline.  It needs, however, to be appropriate.  I want my kids to come to me when they’ve messed up or need advice.  I don’t want them to be afraid that I’ll pass undue judgement.  I’ve been in their shoes.  I’ve made their mistakes.

They need more mercy and less judgement.

My prayer this week is to seek wisdom and discernment as a parent. I want to be a more effective father.  I want to be a model for consistency.

They deserve it.

Let me know how I may pray for you.

God bless.

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