Chased by my past in Nashville

I went for run in Nashville today. It was just before daybreak- and it was really dark.

My hotel was near the Tennessee Titans stadium, so I thought I’d enjoy a run through downtown and across the bridge to the football complex.

I love that bridge. We’ve walked it dozens of times over the years to attend Titans games. It gives you a beautiful views of downtown Nashville and the Cumberland River.

And the view from the bridge this morning didn’t disappoint. Although it was pitch black, I could still see the lights of the downtown buildings and the channel lights outlining the river.

But I wasn’t alone.

Soon after entering the bridge I heard footsteps behind me. I turned to look and saw a dark, shadowy figure about 20 feet behind to my left.

I picked up my pace. I thought that I might be able to put some distance between the stranger and me.

But I couldn’t. The footsteps seemed to get closer and the figure appeared to be gaining ground.

My heart was racing. Was I being stalked? Was I being chased? I didn’t have my phone with me. My mind was racing with bad thoughts. I had to get away.

I finally reached the other end of the bridge and ran down the ramp to the stadium exit as fast as I could. I looked over my shoulder to see that nothing was behind me. Whatever was chasing me had stopped.

I ran for another 20 minutes to allow the sun to come up. Daybreak would give me the courage to again cross the bridge.

But in the daylight, everything became clear.

As I crossed the bridge I determined that the footsteps I had heard earlier were my own. The echo of my own steps bouncing off the bridge walls gave the impression of a second set of footsteps.

And the dark, shadowy figure? Trash cans. Large, slim industrial trash cans neatly spaced alongside my running route.

It was all in my head. The darkness veiled my view of reality.

Guilt from my past can do the same thing. It can distort my thoughts.

Sometimes my past haunts me. Even though I repent and change course, my sin follows me.

Past sin can make me feel as if I’m not worthy. Imperfect. Unforgiven.

But that’s not what God says.

I, I am the one who wipes out your transgressions for my own sake, and I will not remember your sins. Isaiah 43:25

Our sins are wiped away. With repentance, God will “not remember your sins.”

We need to accept God’s forgiveness. We need to quit looking back.

And we need to move forward with confidence.

The wicked flee when no one pursues, but the righteous are bold as a lion. Proverbs 28:1

Let’s run like the lions.

My prayer this week is to forgive myself of guilt and sin from the past- and look forward with hope and resolve to be better.

And let me know how I may pray for you.

God bless.

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Cracked

Hollianne and I were recently driving back from a dinner when a semi truck threw a rock into my windshield.

The impact created a crack that was less than an inch long.  It was just a little scratch.

The scratch quickly grew.  The damage now stretches across my entire windshield and has started to splinter off in a couple of new directions.  It’s now difficult to ignore the damage when driving the truck.

Isn’t that a lot like sin?

I sometimes let anger or pride overtake me in a weak moment.  It may not be expressed outwardly, but it’s there…just beneath the surface.  And while it might not dominate my day- it stays in my head and heart…and I can dwell on it.

If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.  1 John 1:8-10

Left unchecked, this sin can spread and grow into other aspects of my life.  It can leave me bitter, unfulfilled and angry.  It’s noticeable to others.

And he said, “What comes out of a person is what defiles him. For from within, out of the heart of man, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, coveting, wickedness, deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride, foolishness. All these evil things come from within, and they defile a person.”  Mark 7:20-23

My prayer this week is to recognize the sin in my life- and to have the courage to confront it before it overtakes me.

Please let me know how I may pray for you.

God bless.

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Uninvited dinner guest

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Hollianne and I love to entertain. We enjoy having people over for dinners, cookouts or even hosting groups of our kids’ friends and teammates for a swim or an outdoor movie.  

We’ve recently met our match, however. 

In the wooded 40 acre wooded expanse behind our home lives a raccoon. A large, hungry raccoon. This creature waits until the dark of night before climbing our iron fence and rummaging through our backyard.  He turns over small tables and crawls over our furniture looking for a dropped morsel of food or a misplaced snack. 

He’s strong too, as he routinely moves barriers we’ve created to secure our trash. Daybreak often brings a task of picking up the remnants of his midnight snack- which he leaves littered across the yard. 

The raccoon even terrorizes our dog, Sky.  Sky refuses to go in the backyard after the sun sets. 

  
I can relate to this phenomenon in my personal life. There are uninvited traits and character flaws that expose my weakneses every day. Jealousy. Anger. Pride. These and other undesirable traits hide beneath the surface- waiting for the opportune moment to come out and hurt relationships with friends, co-workers and loved ones. 

So whoever knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, for him it is sin.  James 4:17

I know these traits exist, yet it’s a struggle to confront them.

If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.  1 John 1:8-10

Fortunately, we have help. 

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

But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong. 2 Corinthians 12:9-10

I need to confront these traits and ask for help. I am weak, but He is strong. 

I can do all things through him who strengthens me.  Philippians 4:13

Please pray for me to have the courage to face those pieces of my nature that separate me from Jesus. Help me break down barriers that keep me from having good, meaningful relationships with others. 

And let me know how I may pray for you. 

God bless. 

Oh…and by the way…raccoons struggle to figure out the science behind a set of good bungee straps. Thank goodness. 

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Secrets

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Our youngest, Britton, loves a good secret.

Let me clarify that statement.  Britton (a.k.a. B) loves to tell a good secret!  If you have something in our house that needs to be kept under wraps…birthday gift, family surprise or a trip location…it’s best to not let the big guy know.  With B there are NO secrets.  If he knows something, he tells it.  If he’s feeling something, you can see it in his face.  He’s one of the most transparent people I know.

How many of us have secrets that we don’t reveal?

If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. 1 John 1:8

Hidden pieces of our character and our human nature that we don’t want others to see.  It might be anger, greed or jealousy.  I have them.  There are secret rooms in my heart that I need to address.

And he said, “What comes out of a person is what defiles him. For from within, out of the heart of man, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, coveting, wickedness, deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride, foolishness. All these evil things come from within, and they defile a person.”  Mark 7:20-23

We all need to realize that there are no secrets with God.  He knows our thoughts and every weakness.

Secrets can consume us and keep us from walking with Jesus.  The best way to deal with secrets is to shed light on our problems.  Confess our weaknesses and ask for help.

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

We have the ultimate Counselor.

Please pray for me to rid my heart of secrets.  And let me know if I may pray for you.

And don’t tell B what you’ve purchased anyone for their birthday.

God bless.

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Stuck on the sideline…

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The Carver family loves a good ballgame.  This week we’ve watched the kids play basketball and soccer.  Within the next month we’ll add in baseball into the mix…and see an increase in the number of basketball and soccer games.  Weekends are wild…as Hollianne and I divide and conquer the schedule to transport our kids all over East Tennessee (and beyond).  And we love it.

While none of our children will ever be accused of being the next sports prodigy, they have learned valuable life lessons from their involvement in sports.  Traits such as being active and making things happen.  The competition has taught them not be afraid of a challenge and being bold in pursuit of a goal.

As much as I admire these traits, I often find myself in a struggle to adhere to these principles in my spiritual life.

So whoever knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, for him it is sin. James 4:17

It’s one thing to have the spiritual maturity to recognize sin- but another thing to have the courage to do something about it.

Sin separates us from a relationship with Jesus. With sin there is fear that keeps us standing on the sidleine…out of the action…and keeps us from being spiritually effective.

I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect. Romans 12:1-2

God calls for us to be active.  Active in our stance for what is right and just.  Active in advancing the good news of Jesus while on this earth.

Pray for me to be bold when fear encourages me to stay on the sideline.  And let me know if I can pray for you.

God bless.

“Our days begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.”  Martin Luther King, Jr.

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Everything that’s old is, well….old again.

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I’m going to lose 15 pounds.  I will read more and be more attentive to Hollianne and the kids.  I will sleep more and be more forgiving.  It’s also just January 2 and I’m already struggling with each of these goals…

The new year represents a time to put aside old habits.  A time to set new goals and create change in our lives.  The slate is clean.

Unfortunately, this is only temporary.  2015 will be filled with life events and occurrences that will disappoint us.  People will still hurt our feelings, obstacles will arise and trouble will come.  We can change our personal outlook toward life on this earth, but it won’t stop others, illness or unforeseen circumstances from derailing our best-laid plans for the new year.

This world is flawed.  Sin and despair abound on this physical earth.  It’s what happens when you place a large number of broken people in a cramped, crowded space.

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.  1 John 2:16

Trouble and strife, however, can serve as great reminders that this world- as we currently know it- is only temporary.

Many are the plans in the mind of a man, but it is the purpose of the Lord that will stand.  Proverbs 19:21

We are fortunate to have a great hope.  A promise of better days.

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation.  The old is passed away; behold, the new has come.  2 Corinthians 5:17

Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life.  He does not come into judgement, but has passed from death to life.  John 5:24

Jesus has given us this great hope.  His death has redeemed us from the pain of this world- and extended an invitation for an eternal, perfect life in Heaven.

So, while 2015 may be filled with disappointment, take heart.  We just need to adjust our focus to goals that are eternal and everlasting.

For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.  Romans 6:23

God bless.  I love you.

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No better than Peter

It’s easy to think about how we might respond in a life or death situation…when you aren’t actually in one.

I sometimes think about Peter and his terrible situation as described in the book of Matthew:

“Then Jesus said to them, “You will all fall away because of me this night. For it is written, ‘I will strike the shepherd, and the sheep of the flock will be scattered.’ But after I am raised up, I will go before you to Galilee.” Peter answered him, “Though they all fall away because of you, I will never fall away.” Jesus said to him, “Truly, I tell you, this very night, before the rooster crows, you will deny me three times.” Peter said to him, “Even if I must die with you, I will not deny you!” And all the disciples said the same.”  Matthew 26:31-35

We know what happened next.  Peter – who walked alongside our Savior and witnessed His teaching and miracles- denied his relationship with Christ.

I’m no better than Peter.  In fact, I’m much worse.  Peter was fearful of his life.  I don’t have that excuse.

I am given ample opportunities each day to tell of my personal relationship with Jesus.  I often, however, fail in this regard.

So everyone who acknowledges me before men, I also will acknowledge before my Father who is in heaven.  Matthew 10:32

Being bold for the cause of Christ doesn’t always present itself like it did for Peter.  It often comes today in life’s small, quiet moments.  It happens in those times when we are faced with making an ethical choice…or a stand…when we think that no one might notice.

What am I afraid of?  Jesus died for our sins- and has promised to be our eternal advocate.  We should be bold in embracing our relationship with Christ.

I pray that I become more aware of my opportunities to tell the good news of Jesus- and that I have the courage to publicly acknowledge and embrace this relationship.

God bless.

 

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