My Son – A Graduate. Time Flies…

imageThis past weekend my son received his high school diploma.  13 years of school have come to a close, and we could not be more proud of his efforts.  Over the past 13 years, we have exposed him to three different education models, and he excelled in all of them.  The last two years he has been dual-enrolled in college at Cedarville University via on-line courses, and has done an amazing job there as well.  He will walk on campus as a sophomore this fall.

There are so many events in our lives that we want to remember.  Milestones exist so we can look back and see where we have been and how far we have come, and I have learned that those moments need to be recognized.  We need them as confirmation in our lives that we are moving forward – achieving goals.

I have been blessed to be in a small men’s group where I learned the importance of taking the time to recognize these moments and commemorate them with a tribute.  When we take the time to write something down from our hearts and give it to someone, it creates a lasting impression.  Those encouraging words will endure long past the moment and will be a touchpoint we can go back to when we are feeling the weight of the world.

Sitting on my desk is a framed copy of a letter I received from my mentor for my 40th birthday.  Aside from the words of encouragement I have receive from my Dad, it is probably the most prized collection of words I have received from any man on earth.  It has made an impression on my life because of the relationship that we have.  Men need to hear words like that and be reminded that they are doing good things – the right things.

So, it is with example from Lou that I put together this letter to my son on his graduation day.  I read it to him at the graduation ceremony, and there will be a framed copy of it for him to take to college this fall so he will be able to see that his Dad believes in him, is proud of him, and prays for him.

I hope that reading this will give you an encouragement to recognize those milestones with your family and close friends.  It may seem like it is only a letter as you write it, but I can tell you that when the relationship is there, the impact of a letter like this will last for years.  Take the time to do it.  It’s worth the effort.

Zachary,

I’ve wanted a son as long as I can remember, and I wanted that son to be just like me.  When you came into my life, I thought I was getting that gift, but your Mom and I got more than that.  We received a son that was a unique blend of the two of us.  Your physical and personality traits seem to morph and shift back and forth so often, but there is no doubt that you are ours.

One of the things I have learned as your Dad is that as much as I wanted a son to be like me, I am thankful that you are an individual, and I have been learning, albeit sometimes slower than either of us would like, to appreciate you as that individual.  You often hear that you are “just like your Dad”, but you and I know that there are a number of differences that make you an “individual”.

Your Mom and I are so proud of the young man you have become.  Our goal as parents has been to equip you to take on the trials of adulthood, to stand as a man of God in a world that needs men who know how to stand.  You have had opportunities to learn and grow in your faith, and have had to learn to lean on God during those times, and I am happy to see how you have developed.

You have made us very proud in your dedication to your studies, your love and devotion to your family and friends, and your desire to squeeze the fun out of life.  You are a thinker, a processor and yet still manage to be spontaneous.  A nice blend that has kept us on our toes.

Our dream is that you will be that man mentioned in Micah.  We have seen the beginnings of that man as you seek to do what is right, show God’s mercy and grace to those you relate with, and maintain a humility in your relationship with God.  We pray for those attributes to continue to grow as you enter the college campus this fall and begin the next steps toward what God will have you to do.

We have offered many prayers for you over the years, and today I want to offer this one more written by General Douglas MacArthur.  It is titled “A Father’s Prayer”, and I cannot think of words that would make it any more my prayer for you as your Dad.  Your Mom and I love you very much and will always be here for you when you need us.

“Build me a son, O Lord, who will be strong enough to know when he is weak, and brave enough to face himself when he is afraid; one who will be proud and unbending in honest defeat, and humble and gentle in victory.

Build me a son whose wishbone will not be where his backbone should be; a son who will know Thee—and that to know himself is the foundation stone of knowledge. Lead him I pray, not in the path of ease and comfort, but under the stress and spur of difficulties and challenge. Here let him learn to stand up in the storm; here let him learn compassion for those who fail.

Build me a son whose heart will be clear, whose goal will be high; a son who will master himself before he seeks to master other men; one who will learn to laugh, yet never forget how to weep; one who will reach into the future, yet never forget the past.

And after all these things are his, add, I pray, enough of a sense of humor, so that he may always be serious, yet never take himself too seriously. Give him humility, so that he may always remember the simplicity of true greatness, the open mind of true wisdom, the meekness of true strength.

Then, I, his father, will dare to whisper, ‘I have not lived in vain.’”

—GENERAL DOUGLAS MACARTHUR, “A FATHER’S PRAYER”

Be Relentless in your parenting. Build into the hearts of your kids and share with them how you feel about them.  They need it, and coincidentally, so do you!

Halfway to 88? Happy B-Day to Me!

Wow.  I am 44 today.  Think back to when you were a teenager.  What is that “oldest age” you ever really pictured yourself as?  Do you remember?  It seems like I do, and it was right about here.  44 years old… (I don’t see that as any type of foreshadowing about what this next year holds, just kind of funny that it popped into my head this morning.)

This last year has been a crazy one, and it looks like I am poised to do it all over again.  Time to give a quick little breakdown about what has happened, what is happening, and how I hope I Relentlessly respond to it.  I like to share since I tend to stay more accountable to some of this stuff when people know about it.

Health – Well, as far as the diabetes goes, I am doing better than great.  My doctor actually stopped me in the hall the other day after my bloodwork hit his desk and gave me a hug.  If you knew my doctor, you would be amazed!   I have kept a normal blood sugar since my diagnosis, have stepped my meds down, and kept my weight down.  I also am showing great numbers in the cholesterol and triglycerides.  Probably the healthiest I have been in 20 years in that regard.

New challenge.  Just found out I have two herniated cervical discs.  Not sure what the treatment will be yet as I am waiting to get in to see the specialist.  Pain is terrible, and I feel basically useless.  Hard to enjoy the above success when I feel this way, but I am pressing on.  My son asked me the other day what the lesson God has for me in this, and I have been thinking about that a lot since He asked.  I still don’t have a solid answer, but I am wondering about something.

I have often wondered if I am modeling a life of dependency on God for my family and friends to see.  I have other friends who I look to and think that they are so dependent on God, and I wish I could be that way too.  Maybe I am starting to model it because my son is asking me what I learn from the trials I face.  He has heard me talk about how God used diabetes to remove food from the throne of my heart.  He has heard that I don’t always need to know why, but I need to trust that God will show what I need to see when I need to see it.

So, Zach, maybe the lesson in this is that God is telling me that while I have not arrived, I am definitely in the process of Relentless Growth in this.  He chose to give me a blessing in the knowledge that you are seeing me try to live a life of dependence.  There may be more to come, but I will take this in humble praise to Him for the moment.

Fatherhood – I am finishing up my last year of what I term as “active parenting”. My role as protector and guide is shifting into advisor and counselor/consultant as Zach will join Jessica at college this fall.  I am so proud of my kids and I know God is going to do great things in their lives.  It is definitely a bittersweet feeling to watch them at this stage and know just how much different things will be at Tanner Manor this fall.

My challenge is to be present, but not controlling.  Available, but not underfoot.  I have often found this balance difficult and tend to pull back rather than be a hassle to the kids (unless I feel they need a good hassling!).  Praying that God gives me the wisdom and insight to be there for them while they are at school.

Husbandhood – Tammi and I have had some amazing discussions this past year, and I hope she agrees that we have grown much closer as a result of them.  Seeing Jessica go to school last year and experiencing that change in our family dynamic has definitely turned me more toward watching Tammi. I see how I have taken advantage of her sometimes in how she always handles things for our family.  I need to be more present for her, attentive to her needs.  Actually think about what could be wrong and what I can do about it rather than just ask her all the time. (She will like that one!)

We are soon going to be just the two of us again, and that is going to mean a little more freedom, but also a little more responsibility.  She will still need to talk about her feelings, thoughts, and dreams, and I will be the only one there.  I will need to shift some of how I tend to love my wife in order to meet that need.  We have talked about it some, and we know we have always done these new things together.  We have been parenting actively for the last two decades, but we only had a little over two years before that as a couple, so this is still a somewhat unexplored realm for us.  It is kind of exciting to think I will be able to have her to myself again though! (Sorry kids, Mom was here first!)

Friendships – It has been a strange year in this regard.  The extensive change that has taken place has pulled us from being as close to some as we once were, but has brought us into new friendships with others.  I think I had set some unrealistic goals in trying to “fast track” some things that needed more time, and that left me feeling discouraged a few times.  This year I want to just be more present in those moments that come before me.  Take the time to identify what God might want me to be in that moment rather than just looking at how I want things to be or what I can get out of it.

My Walk – I started something new a little before my birthday last year.  Every day I post a verse of the day with an image and my thought for personal application.  It has helped me keep the thought alive in my mind every day since I do it before my feet hit the floor.  Over the last year I have gone through Proverbs a couple times, the book of Psalms, and am now going through James.  You can follow those by “Liking” my Relentless Growth Facebook Page.

This next year I would like to find time to expand my time of study and start spending more time in areas that I really need to grow.  I want to be realistic in that though.  For now, maybe the verse a day and writing here a little more often might be the best thing.  Something to pray about for sure.

Priorities – It has been a year of shifting and reassessing for us in many aspects.  Work, family, church, friends, service, and the list goes on.  So many things have shifted and will continue to shift as we enter another year of major change as “empty nesters”.  Praying that God will give me wisdom, grace and insight necessary to lead my wife well with a servant leadership that build into her as we face the challenges together.

I hope I don’t bore you with a long post like this that is basically about me.  I’ll admit that the biggest reason for this post is to take a minute to actually write down and think about what has happened and how I am going to respond to it over the next year.  I need that for me because it helps “reset” the panel.  I can look at everything that has happened. See a little bit better in hindsight and hopefully that gives me insight and if things REALLY work out some foresight!

Let’s face it. Life is Relentless.  It will never stop coming at us.  If we want to get anything of quality out of it, we need to be Relentless in our pursuit of God and in our growth for His glory.  Relentless Growth.  We all need it.

365 days to be 44.  Let’s do this!

A Kick in the Pants

Today I read a great blog post by a friend of mine named Danny Ray.  He is a loving husband and dad, a good friend to many, an award-winning, amazing magician, an inspiring speaker, and most important, a brother in Christ.  You can see more about Danny Ray and his ministry here at his website, and you can read the blog post here.

In reading his post today, he gives tribute to one of my closest friends, Joe Castaneda of Overboard Ministries for the blog posts that he writes.  He tells how a series of posts Joe had written were impacting people Joe didn’t even know about.  I won’t steal the story. I want you to go read it, and I want you to check out Joe’s blog here.

At the end of the article I got thinking about my little posts I put up.  I get all of the tracking data that says I have a loyal readership that amounts to grand numbers daily. (I am currently averaging an entire 3 people per day this month!)  I also have a Facebook Page where I post a daily verse, image, and thought that gets a few more hits, but still has modest numbers averaging into the double digits consistently. (Yes, as a result I often go out in sunglasses with a hat pulled low to keep the paparazzi at bay.)

I admit I sometimes fall prey to the pride that pulls at me in wishing that I was reaching more people.  Why aren’t more people reading?  I do work on these things!  Am I wasting my time?  What am I doing wrong?

I’m not saying I am perfect, but maybe I’m not doing anything wrong.  Maybe I am just sometimes not doing it for the right reason. The purpose of writing for me is not to gain a huge following.  I just want to share what God is doing in my life and hopefully inspire someone out there to get more interested in making God a bigger part of their lives too!  It’s not about me.  It’s about God.

I’m currently reading  great book by Paul Tripp called The Quest for More. In it, Paul talks about how we miss out on the MORE of serving God and His kingdom when we are focused on building up our own reputation.  He tells it a lot better than I do, but that is it in a nutshell. (Still, go get and read the book.  You won’t be disappointed!)

I have not been writing much here lately. I admit that a big reason has been that I have felt nobody is interested and it isn’t worth my time.  Read Danny’s post and you will see why that is exactly the wrong thing I should be thinking.  I am purposing to get more regular in posting here.  I might not write long posts, but just a thought a couple times a week would be something.

Thanks, Danny, for the kick in the pants.  I want to be Relentless in my pursuit of God and His kingdom.  I want people to be directed to Him through any means necessary, and if I get to play a part in it, that is all for God’s glory.  Thanks for being a “drive-by accountability partner” today.  You had words I needed to hear.

I owe you a $1 next time I see you!

Check Your Mirror

For the last few months I have been posting a daily photo on Instagram and on my Relentless Growth Facebook Page that contains a verse and a thought for the day.  Psalms is a book of praise, a songbook of sorts.  It is full of songs of praise and worship to God, encouragement for us, and insights into how we can praise God in the every day moments.  The lyrics in the book of Psalms are truly lyrics for living our lives in relationship with God as David did.

Posting a daily image with a verse and a thought has been really good for me.  Since so much of Psalms drew from David’s coping with adversity, it has been helpful for me in facing the challenges that come across my desk and life on a  daily basis.  I have been shown that I can praise God Relentlessly while I am still IN the trial.  That encouragement has been the source of power that has gotten me through some very hard days without doing or saying something that I would need to apologize for later!

I have also been encouraged by a number of people who have reached out to me over the past year or so of posting these images.  There have been times that I have not “felt” the desire to take the time to read in the morning, but I know that there are a few people who are checking in on me day to day, and that gives me a feeling of responsibility to keep going. It’s not that I have such wisdom to share, it’s all about sharing God’s life changing power at work in my life and the lives of others.

Let the one who is taught the word share all good things with the one who teaches. – Galatians 6:6 (ESV)

So, since I want to share the good things I am learning in hopes that it will help others, and since people are sharing with me as well, this last day in the book of Psalms makes it necessary for me to pick a new book of the Bible to go through.  After a lot of prayer and thinking, it has been made clear to me that the next book I will go through will be James.

The book of James is both one of my favorite books and one of the most convicting I have ever read.  James does a fantastic job of showing us the Truth of God and the example of  Christ as the standard to which we should compare ourselves.  It’s not about being better than the next guy in order to feel good about yourself. It is all about measuring yourself against Christ in an effort to be a bold, Relentless follower who lives for the Kingdom of God.

I don’t do a lot of mirror “selfies”, so enjoy this one!

To put it simply, the book of James is the biblical equivalent of looking in the mirror every morning to see what needs to be done.  When I get up in the morning and look in the mirror, I see a guy that needs some change! If I were to just walk out the door without making any changes then that would be pretty foolish! I need help!

So, I am going to go to James every morning now to see what I need to fix.  It will be my daily “mirror check” before I put feet on the floor so God can have the first shot at me and turn me in the direction He wants me to go.  My hope is that as I share what He is showing me, it might spark something in someone else too.  Maybe it can be a mirror check for all of us.

If I want to live a Relentless Life, I must be willing to take the time to not only look at what needs to change, but then to take the steps necessary to do it.  If I don’t take those steps, then I am a fool.  I don’t know  about you, but I don’t like to look like a fool.  I want to make the wise decisions that bring God glory as He shapes me into what He wants me to be.

So, starting tomorrow, those of you who are interested can meet me over at the Relentless Growth page for the daily #mirrorcheck.  I hope it will be encouraging to you.  I’m excited to see what God is going to show me about myself and where I need to make adjustments for Him!  Hope to see you there, and I would love to hear what God is doing in your life too!

Well, Isn’t That Fantastic…

Not too long ago, I asked my son if he had watched the reboot of the Fantastic Four yet.  Wish I could put into this post the trembling sound that accompanied his reply,

“N-n-n-ooo…”

As funny as it was to hear that fearful tone, it was trumped moments later when I pulled the movie out of our library and headed toward the DVD player:

“But I’ve been good!”

Thank you, Fox Studios.  The varied success of the X-Men movies aside, you have planted seeds of doubt and mistrust in the heart and mind of my son.

Well, I am not one who has ever allowed my kids to avoid something they don’t want when I think there might be a lesson in it for them, so of course the disc was fed into the machine and we sat down to enjoy the show.

If you are not familiar with the attempts from Marvel to make these characters into another version of the box-office juggernaut Avengers, then you might be in a good place.  Not being subjected to two of the Fantastic Four movies has probably left you with a little more confidence in Marvel.

The movie was a re-boot of the franchise, and it altered the story line quite a bit.  I grew up reading comics, and one of the biggest things I have had to come to grips with during this onslaught of super hero movies has been the constant use of the re-boot.  I have gotten better about it, and this movie proves the point I am going to try to make.

As the movie started, I told Zach to forget about the other two movies that were made and enter this experience with fresh eyes.  I wanted him to judge this movie on its own merit rather than comparing it to other movies whether they were good or bad.

At the end of the movie I asked him what he thought about it and he agreed that while it was not the best movie he has seen, it was not a bad movie.  It was a great transition into discussing expectations versus reality when it comes to communicating thoughts, and how something that seems to be great may not always translate to an audience we are trying to reach.  Since he is looking into marketing as a career, I think that is going to be a big part of his life moving forward.

Expectations are good things, but we when we expect something from a person, we need to be sure that they are capable of delivering on that expectation.  If they are not, then we need to change the expectation. Holding someone to an expectation they cannot achieve is wrong on our part – not theirs.

Relentless Growth requires us to look not just at how we view our expectations of others, but also at ourselves.  Do we set expectations that we cannot reach?  Sometimes we do.  It’s good to stretch, but there are things we cannot achieve on our own, and we are just as wrong to hold ourselves to those unrealistic expectations as we are to hold others to the impossible.

God has standards and expectations that we cannot reach our own.  There are gaps of holiness that we can’t get past, but He was willing to provide His Son to us in order to bridge those gaps and allow us access to Him.  He doesn’t ask us for more than we can do, but He does ask us to let Him do in us what we cannot do for ourselves.  We CAN have the expectation that the unfailing God will pull through and deliver on His Word.

So, get ready for Him to do Fantastic things! (Yeah. that was a groaner!)

Relentless Growth

 

 

Staying Mentally Hungry

Henry Ford was a man not only known for his ingenuity and manufacturing genius.  He was also known for his quotes.  Here are a few of my favorite “Fordisms”.

“Chop your own firewood.  It’ll warm you twice.”

“Failure is only the opportunity more intelligently to begin again.”

“My best friend is the one who brings out the best in me.”

“Thinking is the hardest work there is, which is probably the reason so few engage in it.”

I’m sure at least one of those strikes a chord with you as they do with me.  There is something about a good quote, and Ford had one more that I like that I am hoping I can change a bit and maybe leave it as my little mark on history.

“Whether you think you can, or you think you can’t–you’re right.”

I’d like to change it up and make it my own:

“If you think you can’t learn anything –you’re right.”

– Tom Tanner

(If you know of some famous person who has already said this and is getting a royalty or anything from its use, I beg you to forget you saw me use it and move along.  I am operating under the assumption that this was my idea!)

Recently I have been on a run of training for my position as a general manager.  Historically I have walked away from many of these training sessions feeling drained, depressed, discouraged, and basically just much more aware of what I don’t know without gaining any new applicable information.  It is hard when that next training period comes up and you know you are going to go and come home feeling behind from being gone, and more discouraged than when you left.

This last time, when signing up for this class, I remember thinking that this was waste of my time.  Maybe this time I should just push back and refuse to go since I have a mountain of projects I am involved in and the time away would just leave me feeling stressed when I returned.  I knew I needed to go, but the idea of it just left me irritated.

I looked over the course material and saw that this mandatory training had elements that I again was pretty sure I would not get much out of, but it also had a few that I have had exposure to in the past that had left me with a desire to know more.  The schedule was tight, and I was pretty sure that it would be done at break-neck speed, but I thought there was a chance.

Fast-forward to today. I got a lot out of it.  I decided before I left that I would be making a few choices to step out of my normal “student habits” and try to be 100% engaged in the class.  I thought that if this was going to be worth my time I was going to have to go all in to capitalize on the opportunity or it would just pass me by.

It worked.

I wouldn’t say that it was everything I would hope it would be.  I still cam ehome with a mountain of new stresses to greet me, and I didn’t learn all I had hoped, but I definitely learned.  The content got in my head, and I not only saw opportunities for application, I was able to come back and use most of what I HAD learned to immediately develop some new plans and practices that should make my job a little more productive and less stressful. (Praying pretty hard about that!)

So what was different?  Not a lot. I had one of the same teachers I have had in the past.  They were covering many of the same types of materials in the same high-speed way.  There was yet again too much stuff packed into too little time.  The material was so broad as to be largely difficult to apply to my specific circumstances.  What changed?

My attitude.

Almost every time I have gone to one of these things I have been pretty sure that I was not going to learn anything, and I have been correct every single time.  This time I made a change in my attitude and that made the difference.  I was able to focus more on forcing the material to serve me rather than being at the mercy of the process.  I was able to see what I needed and grab it rather than drown in the information dump of material that didn’t apply to me.

I came to learn.  That made the difference.  When we decide we have nothing to learn, then we are right.  Nothing will get past that wall of pride and self-righteous thinking.  We need to be humble in how we approach every opportunity in order to take away that nugget of information that we can apply to life moving forward.

We are never too old to learn.  I see the elderly every day at work, and those that I see still reading and trying new things are the ones that seem to have the best outlook on life.  I want to be that way.  I have not arrived. I have a long way to go!

Living a Relentless Life means that you know there are things that you don’t know, but you are not satisfied with it being that way.  It can’t be a matter of pride to be superior to those around you, but it certainly should be a matter of conviction to use what you can learn to help others.  After all, as believers we are here to serve as Christ did, and the more we know, the easier it is.

So, what are you doing today to learn?  Have you read a book?  Taken a class?  Have you taken something apart to see how it works?  Have you sat down with someone and just asked them about their life experiences?  There are opportunities around us every day where we can give learning a chance.  Go for it!  You’ll be glad you did!

Time To Slow Down So I Can Go Faster

As I sat down tonight to write, I saw the date of my last post here on my blog, and I was a bit surprised at how long it has been. 37 days!  I would ask if anyone missed me, but I might be afraid to hear the answer.  I guess we will see what happens when I drop this post!

slowdownThe last month and a half has been very busy.  In truth, 2017 has been busy!  It seems like almost every day I crawl into bed with that “Where have you been all day?” feeling.  Come on, I can’t be the only one!

The last three weeks have had work training me in Chicago twice and now I am away again to a company retreat and meeting.  It seems like this year all of the training was crammed into a very tight little window.  A lot of time away from work and home.

Tonight I sit in a hotel room alone.  Over the last month I have spent several nights in hotels, and for a few of them I was fortunate enough to have my wife and son with me, but tonight is not one of those nights.

I had my “social” time that we are encouraged to participate in so we can get to know each other and network to exchange ideas and best practices, but I am that guy who steps away from the crowd before things get “really fun” in order to go back to my room for something more productive.

With all of the training I have been to lately, I have been inundated with a boatload of information that has resulted in being motivated to get all kinds of action plans together in order to be a better manager and improve countless processes.  The amount of stuff I have before me makes me feel that old weight of performance-based anxiety settle in on my shoulders.  I don’t like that feeling…

Also with all the time I have been gone, I have felt the longing for time in my home and with my family.  To be apart from them is wearying to my bones, and with Jessica already away at school, I only have two of my three favorite people to be with in the evenings.  I want to give them my full attention, and that workload is something I have been struggling to put behind me when I walk in the house.  Not as successful on that front as I would like to be some evenings…

Also, on the outer edges of my mind has been this feeling of missing my time with my friend Ray doing a Bible study, sharing life, and kicking each other in the teeth when we need it.  We have both been experiencing an uptick in stress lately, and those times we get together to share and do a little life as men really helps us.  We did have a meeting a couple of weeks ago, but my travel has taken that off the table this week and last…

So, tonight when I got back to the room and got comfortable, I fired up the laptop to do what I usually do when I am alone in a hotel room.

I work.

Yep. Party guy am I…  I usually take these opportunities to settle in and get some of the stuff done that has been hanging over my head and catch up a little.  My family is not here for me to engage with, so I might as well take care of some of the stuff piling up at work to reduce some of the stress, right?  Isn’t that a mature thing to do?

Well, tonight I chose to write instead.

Writing is something I love to do.  It helps me clear some of the cobwebs from my mind and get some  thoughts in order.  My wife can tell you that I am one who thinks out loud, and dumping out my brain from time to time to see what might be stuck in the corners is a very good thing for me.  Writing helps me do that, but I have not been very good about it lately.

With everything going on, I had pretty much decided that I was probably going to say goodbye to this blog. Probably not forever, but for a time at least.  I just don’t have the time to build a readership and develop this thing into the ministry I hope it could be one day.  It takes time to write, and I just have not had the time to devote to doing it well.

That is part of the reason I started to post pictures to my Relentless Growth Facebook Page instead of here every day.  I thought I would just let this page fade away.  Nobody would probably miss it anyway.  If I can’t do it well, then why should I bother?  Might as well quit.

That thought went through my mind when I opened up WordPress tonight.  What was I doing?  Is this a good use of my time?  I could be working!  It’s not like that pile of stuff is going to go away on its own!  Then I remembered a pic I saw the other day:

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It became clear to me that this is a fight I need to stay in.  Not necessarily because there may be twos of threes of people who might read this and be encouraged.  Right now, it is because I need it.  I need this little break from my work thoughts so I can shake out those corners of my mind and set some things straight again.  I need it to because my priorities may be getting out of whack!

I need this time to slow down and examine some of the stuff I am working through in order to get the right perspective for moving forward again.  It’s like I learned in one of my classes last week:

“When I slow down, I go faster.”

I need the slow down to keep me from burning out.  I need the slow down to take me away from work.  I need the slow down to be a better husband, a better father, and a better follower of Christ.  Those are the things that matter the most to me on this earth.  They are so much more important than a budget, a  process, or an action plan.  They are the things that keep me centered.  The things that keep me FOCUSED.

This little break tonight is part of my Relentless Growth.  It was a nudge from God to hunker down for a second and let the battle rage around me, but not be in it for a little while.  Time to sit and think about what is important. Time to acknowledge the gifts He has given me and see where the priorities of my life need to be.  Time to see that this is a time that I hear Him speak into my heart as I write.

I’ve neglected this too much lately.  I need to do it more often, and I am going to start scheduling it into my week somewhere.  There must be time to do this because God doesn’t seem to want to take this desire to write away from me.  He apparently wants this door to remain open.

So, as for you, Dear Reader,  I guess I am back.  Not sure what the schedule is going to look like for posts, but I am going to be here again on a regular basis.  Not daily, but regularly.  If you feel like subjecting yourself to my thoughts more often, then come over to the Facebook page for Relentless Growth and “Like” it for a daily dose.

Before I log off tonight, I just want to take a minute and say thanks to those who do encourage me to write.  My wonderful wife, Tammi, is chief among them, and I know she sometimes feels she is keeping me from doing just that. (She is almost always right, but not on that one!) I appreciate your words, and I hope mine encourage you in some way as well.

So, goodnight all!  I will see you here again!  I think I might go read my book before bed!  Work will be there tomorrow!

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Two Decades! Happy Birthday, Jessica!!!

January 1997:

  • Fargo wins Best Film at the Critics Choice Awards
  • Pete Sampras wins the Australian Open
  • The Space Shuttle Atlantis returns home
  • Dennis Rodman kicks a camera man in the groin
  • The Packers and the Steelers were getting set to play in the Super Bowl (Please, not again. As I write this I can still pull for the Steelers and Falcons…)
  • 321491_4832527489535_88458044_nJessica Rachelle Tanner came into the world

January 23rd, after a long and tiring delivery (seriously, I was absolutely exhausted and Tammi was pretty tuckered out too! – I will pay for this…), Jessica made her presence known with a few grunts and then a well throated wail.  She was here and we knew our lives would never be quite the same.  We were parents.

Wow!

14845_4832535569737_1004727741_nLooking back now, I was so proud of my wife and her ability to just know what to do.  She took to being a mom like it was the most natural thing in the world, but me?  Well I never dropped her on her head or anything, and I knew which end food went in (no doubts about which end it came out) but I remember thinking several times, “Who on earth decided that I have the maturity to raise a child into an adult that will offer some type of value to society!? Shouldn’t there be some type of screening?”

312424_4832536289755_358998531_nOver all, she was a pretty compliant little rascal.  She had her moments when she was handful, but she was a quick learner and was always willing to please.  We kept watching her and wondering, “Is she about to go nuts yet?”  I know what I was like, and I just kept thinking that eventually I was going to see behavior in her that would allow parents, teachers, Sunday School Superintendents, Little League Coaches, and almost every member of the ladies missionary committee to start with the comments.  You know the one in particular…

“Now he is getting the payback he deserves!”269250_4832546410008_2047369841_n

We waited.  She turned two and nothing.  We waited a little longer and she turned three. Nothing.  We waited a little longer and as 4, then 5, and then 6 passed by, we still saw nothing that led us to believe that we were in any trouble or that any was on the immediate horizon.

319800_4832619651839_1615562737_nSchool was going well, She loved to learn and play with friends.  She loved church and all of her friends.  She was good in just about any situation and we just kept waiting.

428156_4832566610513_1096762012_nThe double digits hit.  Then the teen years began and I thought that if it was ever going to happen, now would be the time, but nothing.  It was like she just didn’t have it in her to get into trouble like her old man did.  She even got along with her little brother!  Seriously!  Where did this kid come from!

10947232_910103895675869_4578714176413601194_nLet me be clear.  Jessica is not perfect.  She had plenty of times when she made bad choices and got herself into a bit of trouble.  There is no such thing as a perfect kid.  Also, Jessica was not a push-over.  She has a very stubborn streak in her that has been the foundation for a lot of things that have made her into who she is today.  Sometimes that stubborn streak made things a little challenging, but it never got to a point of considering a boarding school…

14374_10204988308685895_8072762211283183066_nI look back and wonder what did we do.  Tammi and I had talked extensively about how we wanted to raise our kids.  We discussed discipline, education, boundaries, how we would love on them, all kinds of stuff.  We did what we thought was right and we prayed that God would kinda push us into line where we might be slipping off the track.  We were consistent, but this was also our first attempt at things!

1524871_10204988312125981_6073152218507561151_nI realize that there was much more at work than us.  It was more than grandparents (although she has four fantastic ones). It was more than aunts, uncles, cousins, teachers, and even more than her little brother.  It was more than the books we gave her, the television shows she watched or the songs she sang.

It was God.

1531582_10202369106847486_1823399421_nJessica knew that she was our daughter, but she also knew she was a child of God, and she wanted to make Him happy.  She asked questions when she was little about how she should do things that make Jesus happy, and would talk about how Jesus made her happy.  She saw the animals that she loved as a way that God gave 69612_4832795136226_313258255_nsomething to her to enjoy. (I still think she really believes that all animals were put here for her enjoyment, but at least I have been able to make her understand that she is not responsible to house all of them!)

10931362_10204988326286335_7658708027850509645_nShe knew that she wanted to know God more, and as she got older, she began to do more about it.  She started to read her Bible almost every day. She began journaling.  She wrote out prayers. She talked with people about God.  She had an understanding that the real God, Creator of the universe, knew and loved her, and she wanted to know and love him too.

13925696_10207273181213396_854820111773209752_oI think that was the biggest reason the teen years have flown by.  We watched her grow into the young lady she is today, and we just keep being amazed at what she has become.  Again, not perfect.  Again, a touch stubborn at times. In the end, a young woman with a loving heart, a beautiful smile, and a desire to serve God.

13710545_10208928556869637_8601244820599326179_oTammi and I are so proud of our daughter.  We did what we could.  We gave it our best, and we are thankful for who she is today, but we know that her relationship with God is the lion share of what made her into who she is.  We are just very thankful hat Go allowed us to have a part in it.

12957503_10208158878748165_5934551320912919766_oToday, Jessica is 20.  Two decades have passed since I was told I had a little girl.  I will always be able to see her at that moment. I will always be able to recall that  feeling of excitement and fear all wrapped up together.  I will always ask that question, “What did I do to deserve this?”  I say it now too.

13934659_10210114881419583_3885674236626471502_nHappy Birthday, Jessica!  I’ve loved you from the first moment I set eyes on you, and I am very proud to be your Dad.  I know that like your old man, you sometimes feel inadequate – not up to the task.   You want to do things the right way the first time and you get frustrated when that doesn’t always happen.  You want to be more, to do more, and to never let anyone down.  I love those things about you.  They scare me sometimes too.

14021570_10209124877977542_8285539014382639705_nThey scare me because I know how the doubts can weigh on your mind. They drag you down and make you feel unworthy of good, unable to help, paralyzed.  I don’t want that for you.

As I said to you the other day, I want you to see yourself as I know you are.  I am able to stand on the outside and see the woman you are becoming.  You have not only potential to become something amazing, you are already potent in this moment as you are making a difference in the lives of those around you.  You are already being that amazing woman, and the day will come that you will recognize those strengths.  You are going to do great things as you lean on God and partner with him to help others even more.

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I love you, squirt!  You have done a lot with your first two decades.  I can’t wait to recap the next two in 2037!

Love you,

Dad

Just A Quick Thought

inauguration2017good-2This week we watched a new President take the oath of office to the most powerful position in America, and arguably on earth.  There was no military coup, no killing of the outgoing ruler and his family, and no mass killings.  There were a number of prayers, speeches, and parties.  This is a good thing.

We also had riots and protests in the background.  People were upset about how things happened in the election, who ended up winning, and the things our President has done in the past.  A lot of hurt feelings are floating around out there.

Frankly, I get it.  People are not happy about a lot of things.  I get it.  People feel like they have been maligned, silenced, oppressed, and marginalized.  Yep. I get it.

Here’s the thing.  Breaking windows, burning police cars, starting fights, and holding up signs peppered with vulgarity doesn’t fix things.  It makes a mess, and makes the people who need to hear you end up marginalizing you even more because of your behavior.

I’m not saying that some of the people (SOME, not all) may not have a legitimate beef against someone or something.  They are allowed to have those feelings.  Nothing wrong with having them, and nothing wrong with a proper expression of them. The danger comes in when you give yourself over to those feelings.

Yoda warned us that the emotions were the path to the dark side of the Force.  When feelings become your barometer for what is right and wrong, then you will always end up oppressing someone else in the end.

Solomon said it this way:

Proverbs 16:32 (ESV)
Whoever is slow to anger is better than the mighty, and he who rules his spirit than he who takes a city.

At the end of the day, it comes down to self-control and putting aside the desire to be right in order to do right.  It is kind of a funny thing, but you can do wrong being right, but you can never be wrong when you do right.  Just one of those goofy things.  It just comes down to doing the right thing even when you don’t feel like it.

We have had a huge shift in our nation over the last 40-50 years where we are so driven by our feelings that we are not always able to see the difference between right and wrong anymore.  We have been told that having explosive reactions to events is an acceptable way of “venting” our feelings.

Sorry, but that is not how venting works.  Ask anyone who has worked around boilers!  A vent is a controlled release rather than an explosion.  One may make a bit of noise, but there is little to no damage, but the other can be catastrophic.

So, the question is, did we see venting or explosions this weekend?  Public opinion is split.  Just look at at the major news outlets and you can see just how strongly people feel about how their view and feelings are being addressed.  I have a better question though.

Did we do right?  Did we look to do good in the opportunities that presented ourselves?  Did we join in the arguing, the backbiting, the name calling, the marginalization of people and their ideas? (Yes, I am talking to both sides of the coin.)  Did we DO RIGHT?  Did we DO GOOD?

Alexis de Tocqueville said:

“America is great because she is good. If America ceases to be good, America will cease to be great.”

He also said:

“Liberty cannot be established without morality, nor morality without faith.”

We enjoy our liberty here in America.  We have freedom to express ourselves and enjoy so many freedoms the rest of the world looks at longingly.  However, we are at a point where things are getting dicey.  We need to get back to a sense of morality in America where we seek to do what is right.  If we don’t, things are just going to get worse.

To do that, we need to control ourselves.  Express ourselves rightly. Support the leadership we have and influence them to do better.  We have to have faith in each other to get things done and stop assuming that someone else is out to harm us in any activity or sound bite.

Ultimately, we need to have faith in God and His ability to change people and grow them to be better people.  A person who submits authority of their life over to God will always get a better return than running it themselves.  That requires a person to do what is right even when their feelings are telling them to be right.

I am not thinking of any individuals as I write this.  This is not a specific observation, but one that speaks to the pervasiveness of this issue in our society today.

If you are a person who has been hurt, maligned, marginalized, abused or oppressed, please know that the majority of people out there did not want for that to happen.  They don’t think it was right.  They don’t want you to suffer, and if you engage them, will likely listen to your heart and may even help you make the change you so desire.  I know God will.  He has been in that business for years. Relentlessly.

Gonna go pray for my country, its people and its leaders.  We all need it.

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Happy Birthday, Relentless Growth!

number-candles-perfect-for-any-cakeI started blogging 4 years ago today. The blog page has gone through a lot of changes since then even though you can’t see it here, but I hope the same cannot be said for me.  God has done a lot in my life over the last four years, and I am thankful that I have been able to experience that change and have had the opportunity to share some the story with you.

Click the link here to see how it all began, dig through the archives, feel free to share it with your friends, and let me know if there has been anything that has been a blessing to you.  We all like a little encouragement on our birthdays – even blogs!

Get out there and live a Relentless Life!

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