Wednesday, March 27, 2024

Hosanna! - Songs of Adoration in the Easter Story

The disciples went and did as Jesus had instructed them. They brought the donkey and the colt and placed their cloaks on them for Jesus to sit on. A very large crowd spread their cloaks on the road, while others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road. The crowds that went ahead of him and those that followed shouted,

“Hosanna to the Son of David!”

“Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!”

“Hosanna in the highest heaven!”

Mathew 21:6-9 (NIV) 

Step into the vibrant scene of Jesus' triumphant entry into Jerusalem, where the atmosphere bustles with excitement and anticipation. The crowds press in, waving palm branches and laying down their cloaks as Jesus rides in on a donkey. Amidst the throng, the air echoes with the fervent cries of "Hosanna," a word poignant with meaning and emotion. It's more than just a jubilant shout. It's a profound declaration of praise and surrender, encapsulating the hopes and dreams of the people as they welcome their long-awaited Messiah.

Understanding "Hosanna" as Praise:

The cry of "Hosanna" reverberates through the Easter narrative, carrying centuries of longing and anticipation among God’s Chosen People. Derived from the Hebrew "hoshia na," meaning "save us, we pray," these titles of praise began as a plea for deliverance. Yet, as Jesus entered Jerusalem, the crowds infused new meanings – an adoration for the One they believed would bring salvation. This shift reflects the evolution of faith itself, from a cry of desperation to a song of triumph.

In our lives today, "Hosanna" serves as a reminder to lift our voices in praise, even during life's hardest challenges. Just as the crowds hailed Jesus as their Messiah, as Christians, we also acknowledge His sovereignty and goodness. Therefore, we offer Him our heartfelt worship and reverence. Through songs and prayers of thanksgiving, we align our hearts with His purposes and declare His Lordship over every aspect of our lives.

The Vitality of "Hosanna" in Easter:

As Easter approaches, the cry of "Hosanna" takes on added importance. It becomes a symbol of Jesus' ultimate triumph over sin and death, as He rides into Jerusalem to fulfill God's redemptive plan. His sacrificial death and glorious resurrection pave the way for our salvation, offering us the promise of new life in Him. This Easter, let us join in the chorus of "Hosanna," exalting Jesus as our Savior and King, who reigns victorious over death through the resurrection.

In interactions with others, we can share the joy of Easter by proclaiming the good news of Jesus' resurrection and inviting others to experience His love and grace. Through acts of kindness and expressions of compassion, we can embody the transformative power of "Hosanna" in our communities, bringing light and hope to those in need. Thus, we can be the hands and feet of Jesus in these expressed acts of sacrifice!

Surrendering in Praise:

The cry of "Hosanna" underscores the profound connection between praise and surrender. As the crowds welcomed Jesus with decrees of amazement, they laid down their cloaks and palm branches before Him, symbolizing their willingness to surrender all to His Namesake. In a similar manner, we are called to surrender our lives to Jesus, trusting in His unfailing love and grace to guide us.

In our daily walk with Christ, let us surrender all to Him, trusting in His unfailing love and grace to guide us through life's many uncertainties. Through prayer and meditation on God's Word, we can cultivate a spirit of surrender, laying our hopes, fears, and dreams at the feet of Jesus. In doing so, we find true freedom and peace, knowing that He is faithful to fulfill His promises and lead us into an abundant life now here on Earth and in heaven’s future place.

Eternal Joy Through "Hosanna":

As we embrace the truth of Jesus' victory over sin and death, we are filled with a deep and abiding joy that cannot be shaken by the trials of life. This joy becomes a beacon of hope to those around us, shining brightly in a world darkened by despair and uncertainty.

As we meditate on the profound meaning of "Hosanna" this Easter season, may our lives be a living testament to His redeeming love. Easter then becomes a time of renewed commitment to worship and surrender, as we exalt Jesus as the one who saves and reigns forevermore. In Him, we will find true fulfillment, eternal joy, and everlasting hope.

We can embody the spirit of "Hosanna" by starting each day with a prayer of gratitude and praise, acknowledging God's goodness and faithfulness. As families, we can create intentional moments of worship and praise together, whether through reading Scripture, singing hymns, or sharing testimonies of God's faithfulness. We can model surrender and humility in our interactions with one another, practicing forgiveness, grace, and compassion, just as Jesus demonstrated on the cross. Additionally, we can extend the joy of Easter to our communities by serving others in visible ways, such as reaching out to our neighbors in need.

Happy Easter to everyone who reads this blog entry! I pray that you soon experience the hope and joy of shouting “Hosanna” in your own lives.

You can view many sources of my own personal joy in these pictures of my family this Easter season.

(Annabelle and Jace laugh hysterically about sharing each other’s food. We are still working on teaching them to share toys.)

(Jace poses for a picture with the Easter bunny at a local church egg hunt.) 

(Annabelle and Jace love to pretend-wrestle with their parents. Each child is starting to get heavier.)

(Jace enjoys taking pictures with Chilly Bear, the mascot for the Knoxville Ice Bears hockey team.)

#daddydestinations #daddy #dad #blog #family #DaddiesAndDaughters #destinations #memories #story #narrative #inspiration #JamesCartee #Hosanna #HappyEaster #Easter #GoodFriday #PalmSunday #risen #resurrection #goodness #lifelessons

Note: Many of these pictures are often taken on a cell phone. Therefore, their quality is lacking compared to my real DSLR model cameras.

Thursday, February 15, 2024

Cultivating Positivity in a World of Negativity: Gratitude with a Family Touch

Much of the constant media and professional landscape breeds and even advertises negativity. Some news outlets thrive on bad news, rather than celebrating inspirational stories and triumphs. Politics is a prime illustration of dim-witted criticism and unproductive messages of deprecation. This continual barraging of never-ending cynicism can take a toll on viewers. Therefore, a cure can prevail amidst these virulent chains of antagonistic prejudice and discourteousness. The answer for opposition to these forces incorporates a formidable antidote – the constant practice of gratitude.

The Authority of Positivity:

The idea of happiness is fleeting when one experiences strong emotions, which sometimes include both positive and negative feelings. At the peak of a mountain, one naturally feels exuberant about life. In the valley, one naturally feels deprived of joy and pleasantness. As human beings, the ups and downs of memorable experiences come to us all. Positivity is a mindset that drives the transformation of heart and will. If proactive through an intentional commendatory mindset, mental health thrives. Professional work, even if just to pay bills, seems less daunting and perhaps even less boring.

Recently, the burdens of life have felt somewhat draining for me. I realized these negative feelings emerging. So, I decided to take a break. On what could have been a busy day of tasks accomplished (being busy to feel good about being busy), I ventured to Corryton, Tennessee. This town is about thirty minutes from Knoxville, which is where my family and I currently live. I ate breakfast at a local establishment called The Backwoods Restaurant. In this small edifice, there were four tables and a window heater built into the wall. However, the meal and the price were excellent! Like the title, in the middle of the country, it was a backwoods experience.

After breakfast, I took a hike to the summit of House Mountain, a natural preserve that stands as the highest point in Knox County. I must admit the five-mile hike was rather difficult, but the views were breathtaking. More specifically, the one-mile trek up the mountain to reach the peak was very strenuous. I kept wondering when I might see flatter trails to catch my breath. The uphill climb finally plateaued into another trail that spanned about two miles on the top of the mountain. There were vistas all around from atop the plateau trail, making this part of the hike worth the rigor to reach the peak. Without my usual checklist in front of me, I felt some clarity being able to sit in the natural silence, admiring these views. On a few occasions during my trek, I took about ten minutes to sit down, be still, and rest my mind.  

Amidst a chaotic routine, it was refreshing to take this much-needed midday break without having to stare at a screen. Unlike some, binge-watching Netflix or another television program does not always feel relaxing to me. Clearing my head in nature provides a momentary release. I prayed, exercised, and summited a mountain in the half-day spent in Corryton.     

These breaks and moments of thankfulness function as anchors to a positive mentality. I would encourage you to take a break and refresh if it has been a while since you did so.

The Role of Family in Positivity:  

My wife, Lisa, and my children, Annabelle and Jace, serve as my pillars of support, especially on hard days. Plus, if I focus my attention on my family or someone else, acts of affirmation for the sake of enhancing another person’s life empower positivity. My family’s presence, love, and shared experiences fill my heart in ways the surrounding world cannot.

For instance, for a full day, Lisa and I recently took the kids to Sevierville, Tennessee, near the Smoky Mountains. For lunch, we ate pizza at the Gatlinburg Brewing Company. Of course, a couple of beers or ciders, whichever you prefer, certainly seem to mellow any rising stressors about life’s many responsibilities. The restaurant was a vibrant environment that welcomed families with young children. After our delicious lunch cuisine, we took the kids to a medium-sized flea market to shop for some inexpensive toys (something small for the kids to enjoy).

Jace acquired a white teddy bear with a Coca-Cola theme and apparel. Annabelle picked some inexpensive squishy animals and slime that lasted about a day before being thrown away. It was these simple pleasures that made the day enjoyable. After our flea market excursion, we hiked two miles at Seven Islands State Birding Park. There is a rather long bridge in the park that leads to some short trails on an island in the middle of the French Broad River. The mountains and sunset shined in the background of spectacular scenery and cool weather. I am still savoring the contentment of these hours spent together. Annabelle and Jace thoroughly enjoy running through nature parks of this kind. They seem to savor any activity that involves the outdoors.

Visiting Sevierville and the surrounding sites was an intentional act to do something we enjoy together. Nature again provided an outlet away from computer work, tablet apps, phone calls, and watching Paw Patrol (Annabelle’s favorite show) on the television. Again, appreciation for the still moments in nature with family becomes touchpoints for experienced and expressed gratitude.  

A New Gratitude Ritual:

Lisa and I have placed a plastic jar near the kitchen table with small pieces of paper. Sporadically, we will write reminders of blessings and sources of gratitude on these slips of paper. Six months down the road, we will read and review these reminders of good moments as a family together. This simple idea reinforces the good things in our shared lives. It takes attention away from the negative to thrive in thoughts of positive things. In my internal process of thinking, thoughts of consistent positivity often lead to more thoughts of consistent positivity. Thus, my mood feels elevated in a healthy mindset with an intentional focus on evident blessings, rather than what sometimes feels like daily burdens.

Word of Caution in A Call of Action:

I would caution you to be mindful of the people you are around and the media outlets you watch. Sometimes, negative messaging only represents senseless topics for the sake of ratings and maybe even shaming people to feel bad for no necessary reason.

(This is a picture of the Backwoods Restaurant in Corryton, Tennessee.)

(This picture is inside the Backwoods Restaurant.)

(House Mountain provides some brilliant vistas of the surrounding mountains and countryside.)

(At Seven Islands State Birding Park, the kids marveled at the width of the French Broad River while crossing the bridge.) 

(During our hiking portion of the trek at Seven Islands, I carried Jace in what Annabelle calls "the elephant carrier.")

(The sunset gleamed on the French Broad River at Seven Islands.)

(Jace enjoys the ride of someone carrying him through the state park.)

(Annabelle snuggles close to Mommy in a photo op as the night air gets cooler.)

#daddydestinations #daddy #dad #blog #family # gratitude #positivity #nature #hiking #mountains #timeinnature #adventures #destinations #memories #story #inspiration #goodness #faith #legacy #travel #JamesCartee #JamesLCarteeIII

Saturday, January 6, 2024

The Anti-Villain Poem – My Own Worst Enemy…

Randy Johnson is a famed baseball player who pitched for twenty-two years in Major League Baseball. In 2001, Johnson played for the Arizona Diamondbacks who won the World Series. The champions of the World Series must win four games out of a seven-game series to claim a title. Johnson won three of the four games that year against the New York Yankees. Johnson also led the league in strikeouts for nine seasons. I have long admired Johnson for his many professional accomplishments.

Johnson once expressed the following testimonial – “When I was younger and inexperienced, I was a very animated pitcher. I pitched with a lot of adrenaline. I was my own worst enemy when things weren’t going well.”

This quote resonates with me because I often feel the same way as Johnson. The only person who typically stands in my way is the person I see in the mirror every morning. I wrote this poem recently on December 29, 2023 to express these sentiments. I am my own worst enemy, or I am my own best friend. When I think too much about everything, negative thoughts about myself and my future tend to flood my mind. This original poem, The Anti-Villain, reminds me to be kind to myself and live in the present moment. Instead of focusing on myself, I should focus on the needs of my children and spouse. I desire to take the attention off myself in living out this mentality.  

Going into 2024, this poem illustrates a purpose to accept redemption through belief in Jesus Christ. I am the anti-villain in the race of my own thoughts. I seek to step out of my own way and see today as the obvious blessing it is. In my spiritual heart, I yearn to treasure and remember moments with my children, Annabelle and Jace. The annoyances of future responsibilities can wait, so that I allow my family to absorb my full, undivided attention. Most times, the anti-villain mentality is a waste of energy anyway. I much rather concentrate on today and what is happening right now. Therefore, I will not miss the many blessings present today in front of my eyes. Read this poem carefully and seriously contemplate the wisdom of these poetic words.  

The Anti-Villain

I play the worst enemy

When I look in my mirror.

I stir the struggle.

All agree looking inside

Outside out playing in.

Depression works third shift.

The frenzy frantically

Plays the lunacy of fruitlessly

Starting a new mutiny

Rooting for the anti-villain.


I play the anti-villain

In my own psyche

When I cheer for forces

Within my control.

The hero fails to capture

The good in fantasy

When I know the culprit.

It’s me so tragically.


The fable prevents amnesty

So apathetically

Without keen strategy.

Tired of the scheming

I see the rearview mirror

Tranquilly and gallantly

Yet still thankfully.

I grow older and wiser

To grab the baptistry

Without increasing atrophy.


I play the anti-villain

In my own psyche

When I cheer for forces

Within my control.

The hero fails to capture

The good in fantasy

When I know the culprit.

It’s me so tragically.


The past is not me.

The present is me.

The future becomes me.

I stare directly

Into the magnifying

Glass of this mystery

To realize grace exist

So patiently and kindly.

Why have I not realized

It’s me?


I play the anti-villain

In my own psyche

When I cheer for forces

Within my control.

The hero fails to capture

The good in fantasy

When I know the culprit.

It’s me so tragically.


I no longer pull

For the anti-villain.

I drink my Papst

In this Blue Ribbon

To let go a long sigh.

This marks the last time

Life loses meaning

I’m weaning

Off that voice demeaning

To embrace my redeeming.


I was the problem.

It’s no longer me

Because it’s me

I appreciate and see.


- 12/29/23 –

*Please enjoy the following pictures of my family in recent good times we experienced and shared, including some holiday scenes.

(We sometimes have a little trouble getting Annabelle to smile for a family picture.)

(On the other hand, Jace smiles in several pictures. He is a happy baby!)

(Lisa and I attended a Christmas party in Knoxville, where we proudly represented holiday lyrics from the Taylor Swift song, Lover.)

(Jace enjoys interactions with our wooden Christmas moose and tree.)

(Jace often hugs the moose during these interactions.)

(Jace sat on Santa’s lap at our favorite local Chick-Fil-A restaurant.)

(CeeCee, also known as my mother, blessed all of us with Santa bags filled with thoughtful gifts.)

(JayJay, also known as my father, fully decorates his house like a Hallmark commercial. It is quite extravagant!)

(CeeCee and my family posed for this Christmas tree photo at the FrankTown Festival of Lights, located at the Ag Center in Franklin, Tennessee. Annabelle stood outside the group. At least, she looked at the camera this time.) 

(Our friend, Michaela, hugged Jace during a cordial visit. We thankfully see Michaela fairly often.) 

(JayJay has a toy train set around the Christmas tree that Annabelle and Jace love to watch in wonder.) 

#daddydestinations #daddy #dad #blog #family #poetry #TheAnti-Villain #Villain #RandyJohnson #Baseball #Pitcher #ArizonaDiamondbacks #adventures #blessings #FamilyLife #HappyNewYears #NewYears2024 #memories #story #inspiration #JamesCartee #lessons #InspirationalQuotes #Christmas #NewYears #Resolution