Skipping Thanksgiving

We’re skipping Thanksgiving this year.

The stores in my hometown are already filled with Christmas decorations. Holiday wreaths adorn neighborhoods mailboxes and doors. Social media is filled with photos of friends displaying their Christmas trees. Holiday music is on the radio.

I’m not sure why. Thanksgiving is an important season of reflection and gratitude. A time to pause with family and friends. A time to count our blessings.

But we’re barreling right past it toward Christmas. A missed opportunity to celebrate all that we are thankful for in our lives.

It’s not surprising, actually.

How often do I stop during the day to reflect on the blessings in my life?

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

God has richly blessed me with a great family, incredible friends, my health and a job that I love. I’m so blessed.

Yet I don’t pause and say “thanks” nearly enough.

I skip thanksgiving every day, if I’m not careful.

Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change. James 1:17

My prayer this week is to pause more often…to stop and thank God for the blessings in my life. My family. My health. My friends.

And especially, Jesus Christ.

I don’t want to skip thanksgiving ever again.

And please let me know how to pray for you.

God bless you.

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Will you hold my baby?

I was recently traveling on a crowded flight on a work trip. My row was full, but fortunately I had an aisle seat.

Just across the aisle was a woman traveling alone with a toddler and a newborn. She had her hands full….literally. The infant was crying and the toddler was all over the seats, floor and aisle. The mother looked exhausted.

The toddler and I struck up a series of short conversations while we waited for takeoff. She asked lots of questions.:

What’s your name?

Where are you from?

Where are you going?

What are you reading?

Do have babies at home?

I enjoyed our interactions, and it seemed to keep the toddler occupied (and give her mom a break).

Shortly into the flight, the toddler announced that she needed to go to the bathroom. Her mom said that the baby had just gone to sleep, and asked if she (the toddler) could wait until the plane landed.

The kid couldn’t wait. It was an emergency. She needed to go NOW.

Frazzled, the mom looked across the aisle at me and said:

“I hate to ask you this, but can you please hold my baby while I take my daughter to the bathroom?”

She looked sad and anxious. I’m sure that she had weighed her options and determined that her best solution was to ask a stranger to hold her sleeping baby while she assisted her toddler.

“Of course,” I replied. She reluctantly placed her baby into my arms. I held her sleeping child for about 5 minutes until the family returned to their seats.

“Thank you,” the mom said with tears in her eyes.

I sat back and processed what had just happened. This woman trusted a stranger to hold her precious baby so she could help another child. She was out of options and had to throw her trust into me.

Trusting your baby to a stranger.

Have you ever felt so desperate that you didn’t know where to turn?

Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and trust not in your own understanding. Proverbs 3:5

Our faith is tested daily. We have health obstacles, work issues and family troubles. Sometimes challenges in my life are so complex that I can’t see an answer.

But I have to remember to let go and ask God for guidance.

This week my prayer is to not rely on my own wisdom, but to ask God for solutions and inspiration to address life’s challenges.

It is better to take refuge in the Lord than to trust in man. Psalm 118:8

Please 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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No returns allowed

I remember the first gift I ever really wanted.

I was eight years old. It was an Earl Campbell football from the Western Auto store. I was a Houston Oilers fan and Earl was (and still is) my hero.

Santa came that Christmas morning and to my great disappointment- he brought a Tony Dorsett football. There had been an apparent mix up at the North Pole and I’d been given a football embossed with the name of the star running back of the rival Dallas Cowboys.

Fortunately, Santa made it right a day later.

As I’ve grown older, my thoughts about gifts have changed. Trips with Hollianne are cherished gifts, as were the births of our three children. I consider each time I see my parents as a gift.

I know a man who received a kidney transplant from his brother. I’ve read of another who received a heart from a complete stranger. Precious gifts indeed.

But the greatest gift we will ever receive came centuries ago.

This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. 1 John 4:10

This was the ultimate act of love. Jesus died on the cross for the forgiveness of our sins.

Jesus died for the Jews and Gentiles.

The Republicans, the Democrats and the independents.

The wealthy and the poor.

He died for you and me.

He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world. I John 2:2

During my prayer time over the weekend I’m going to specifically focus on the sacrifice of Jesus and His willingness to die for you and me.

It’s the greatest gift ever.

Please let me know how I may pray for you.

God bless.

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You Get What You Don’t Pay For

Hollianne and I have a coffee problem.  It’s a bit of an addiction.  We love a good cup of coffee.  She and I sip on it all day long.

And I hate to admit it, but we’ve spent lots of money over the years on coffee makers for our home.  Machines that grind fresh coffee beans.  Coffee makers that allow you to make speciality drinks.  Machines that have more advanced settings than we’ll ever use.

And you know what? We’re always disappointed.  No matter how much we spend on coffee makers, eventually something goes bad. The heating element doesn’t work. The water reservoir doesn’t drain properly. The grounds drain into the coffee pot. 

A couple of months ago, Hollianne brought home a $19 coffee machine from Wal Mart. It was a basic Mr. Coffee brand- probably marketed toward college students. There are no special features…just a plain old coffee maker that you would expect to see in any number of hotel chains across the country.

And it’s perfect. The coffee is hot. Grounds don’t seep into the pot. It’s easy to use…and the flavor is incredible.

A wonderful product at a bargain price.

As believers, we have been given THE perfect gift…a gift that Jesus purchased for us.

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

We cannot purchase the gift of eternal life. It was given to us by Jesus. 

For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. Ephesians 2:8-9

A gift that we cannot buy…a beautiful promise of hope and peace. 

And unlike expensive coffee makers, Jesus will never let us down.

My prayer this week is that I’ll focus on the simplicity of the scriptures- and that I’ll reflect daily on the sacrifice of Jesus. 

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

God bless you. 

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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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When Your New Housemate is Rude…

We’ve got a new housemate.

It’s of the four-legged variety.  We’ve recently adopted a rescue dog.  His name is Mack.

Mack was abandoned by his prior owners.  He’s still a puppy…only 18 months old, but already over 100 pounds.  Mack is going to be a big one.

Despite being orphaned, Mack is a loving guy.  He’s loyal and playful.  He loves to be with our kids and follows Hollianne around the house and yard like a house cat.  He and I love early morning runs around town.  He’s been a great addition to our family.

Well, almost.

Mack does have a flaw.  He’s a drooler.  And by drool…I mean an epic drooler.

It’s especially bad after he eats…or after exercise.  Bless his heart.  And to relieve the annoying presence of this substance, Mack will whip his head back and forth- and sling the drool all over trees, shrubs, furniture and…yep…humans.

It’s been a tough adjustment.

We’ve almost got the perfect pet.  Good-tempered, loves people, enjoys exercise, loyal and protective.  But a drooler.  It’s tough to overlook.

Surely there is not a righteous man on earth who does good and never sins. Ecclesiastes 7:20

Isn’t Mack like all of us?

We’ve all got imperfections to our character.  For some of us, we are well aware of these flaws- and know what we need to do for improvement.

Perhaps we have a temper.  Maybe it’s jealousy.  Still others struggle with pride or lust.  Or maybe it’s a strained relationship that we are unwilling to address…or forgive.

There are other flaws that we can’t do much about.  Perhaps it’s a physical limitation or an illness.

You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.  Matthew 5:48

God is perfect- and he made us “perfect” through the sacrifice of His son Jesus.  He also calls for us to strive for perfection- despite our flaws.

God calls us to work on those imperfections that we can address.  And we are also called to examine the good in others- and be willing to accept the things that we- or they- cannot change.

Even if it requires living with a little drool.

My prayer is to have the awareness and wisdom to work on my flaws this week.

And let me know how to pray for you.

God bless you.

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