Should I Miss What I Never Had?

Alright folks, I’m gonna get a little bit personal here.  Don’t worry, the kids can still read over your shoulder.  I’m just going to share a little story because I feel like when I share my struggles and publicly set a course out of them, I get a little better and grow a little more.  Accountability works like that.  So, here goes.

It is that time of year for the annual bonus to hit.  My wife and I had decided back in June or July that we were not going to set a whole lot of expectation on what that bonus may look like because it is money that we were not going to plan for until it was in hand.  We knew that we wanted to do something good with it (read “not stupid”), but we were determined that we would just welcome it as a gift and find a good way to steward that money.

Fast forward from July to early October.  The weather is finally starting to show signs of fall, and I start getting e-mails about the upcoming “Annual Incentive Program” and the wheels begin to turn.  We started having conversations about where we could best use the money.

We knew his would not be a windfall, by any stretch, but we  were building a plan on how to maximize the gift by doing things like vehicle repairs, home repairs, & a couple of other items that we really have been wanting to get taken care of, but the extra cash was never there.  I assure you that there was never a mention of a trip to Tahiti or a big screen TV.  We were living in the realm of practicality.

The more we talked about this money we had not yet seen, the more real it became.  We began to move from the hypothetical into the tangible.  Research was done on upcoming purchases to take care of some of these issues, online shopping carts were loaded and waiting for us to push that button the day the basket of hope landed in our checking account.  We were excited and expectant.

November 3 came.

Tammi gave me a call at work and said there was a deposit in the account.  Did I know what it was?  Surely it was not the bonus?  That number is WAY too small to be the bonus.  It was nothing like what we were looking for. So, I sent an e-mail off to ask what this little gift was that I was seeing in hopes that there had been some kind of mistake.  Certainly a digit had been forgotten.

Nope.  Just like the pig says:

A kick in the gut would have been preferable.  To see a number so much smaller than what we had expected was very hard.  I expected more.  I planned for more.  I felt that I deserved more.  I worked hard, and this is what I got?  Something is wrong. I have been slighted and I want this fixed.  My wife and I had plans and they have been pretty much decimated.

It was a rough day to get through.  A lot to process, and a lot of disappointment needed to be waded through.  After work (and some talk), supper (and some talk), and some Netflix with enough popcorn to strangle a mule, we went to bed to sleep on it.

I woke up this morning and the first thing that popped into my head was the word:

BONUS

Webster’s says bonus means: an amount of money added to wages on a seasonal basis, especially as a reward for good performance.

So there it is.  I worked all year, and I got a paycheck on-time every time for the work I did.  That is all I really have to count on.  Anything else is an add-on, and I need to be grateful for it.  I may believe that I have been slighted, but at the end of the day, I got what was coming to me all year, and this was just something extra. (A little something…)

Before anyone thinks that is all it took for me to push this aside and move on with nothing but happy thoughts, I can tell you that as soon as that popped into my head this morning it prompted about 30 minutes of debate inside my skull that ended with the “ticked off” me just walking away from the argument.

He tends to do that when he knows he is going to lose.

He’ll come back later and take the lump, but for now he is avoiding that by writing to all of you who choose to read about his feelings of indignation and mistreatment at the hands of the global entity that has done him wrong.  See?  Told you.  This isn’t over yet…

I know that I am going to get to the place where I will be alright.  Though the skies are gray today, I feel a little more brightness than I did yesterday afternoon when I walked out of work in the sunshine.  I know that God was not surprised by this, that He knew how I would react, and that He is waiting to see how I will process it and grow.

So… Grow already…

I know that this is a moment where God has allowed me to be placed in a spot where I can either hang on to something I never had and mourn the loss of it, or I can take solace in the things that I do have and have joy.  I know that I can wallow in self-pity and allow bitterness to take over my heart, or I can choose to step up and see what I can do to improve my work and know that by doing hard thing – moving past this – I am doing the right thing.  Trusting God and allowing His grace, peace, and comfort to reign in me.

If I want to live a Relentless Life, I really only have one choice.  I’m going to have to send that little sulker back to the table where he can take his medicine and do the right thing.  Let’s be realistic.  He can be pretty stubborn and it is probably going to take at least a couple of days.

I’m thankful for a God who loves me even when I don’t “get it” right away.  I’m thankful for a wife who believes in me even when I am not able to bring home as much bacon as we thought I would.  I’m thankful for a healthy family and two great kids in college.  I’m thankful for a good job that allows me to work in a place where I know God is using me.  I’m thankful for friends who pray for me.

I guess anything beyond those things is truly a bonus.

Thanks for reading.  Got some things to go do to start the journey.

 

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Next Book: Colossians

Yesterday was my last day in the book of 2 Peter for awhile. (I’ll come back to it, I don’t have it all perfected yet!)  Running through that book with #Vigilant as the running thought and theme brought a new focus to me in how I approached situations at home and at work.  So many times I think I am seeing things, but the truths Peter brought to light helped me look deeper.  No.  I have not reached perfection.  Far from it, but I have grown a little more, and that is the goal.

      So, as always, where to next?

I promote this page, poorly at times, as Relentless Growth, and that was born out of a study I did with my Mentor/Rabbi, Lou, and my best friend, Ray.  In that series, I learned a lot about who I am, but I learned a lot more about how God wants me to grow in Him.  The study is based on Colossians 2:7.  I’m going to add verse 6 to help with the context just a tad:

Therefore, as you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in him, rooted and built up in him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, abounding in thanksgiving. – Colossians 2:6-7

As I thought about that study, I am reminded how it brought me to the place where I finally realized my need for a daily walk with God.  It took some time to get the habit REALLY locked in, but the daily verse posts I do are a result of that time of learning and the hunger for God and His Word that came out of it. I have been thinking about that time spent with those men a lot lately.  I miss those times, and I would guess that all that thinking about those sessions woke up the desire to look into Colossians.

So, here we go!  I did a little more research on the book, and one of the best overviews I have found to whet my appetite for the book is from Chuck Swindoll.  You can read his take on Collosians here at his Insight for Living web site.  He gives an overview of all of the books in the Bible. Good stuff, and he is a far better writer than I!

Chuck’s overview talks about how well Paul described the sovereignty of Christ and the importance of recognizing His Deity.  Christ was not just a good man who did some neat things.  He is God!  He created the universe, spoke us into existence, came to earth to live as a man, and He died for our salvation. He rose again, and now sits at God’s right hand waiting for the moment He will return for His people and begin an eternal reign. WOW!

When you realize all of that, Colossians 2:6-7 is a natural response.  If Christ is our Lord, and we really recognize Him as Lord, we are faced with a choice of serving Him or not.  As Paul tells us in the very first verse of the book, he is a servant of God’s will, and that is what I am called to be as well.  Some days I do it well, and other days…

Relentless Growth is a reminder to me that in order to grow, I must first kneel.  I must take myself off the throne of my heart and put God there, where He deserves to be, as my Creator and Sustainer.  I must die to my desires and live in the grace, mercy, and new life Christ purchased for me. If I do that, then I will grow!  Kneel -> Grow.  Submit -> Grow. Serve -> Grow.

I can’t think of a better way to grow in Christ than to take what I learn from His Word and use it to serve others.  Whether I am posting a daily verse, doing life with my wife, helping a friend with a project, helping my employees at work, or talking with my kids, I am engaging in service to God that results in personal growth.

So, for the next several weeks, I will be making my way through Colossians as slowly as possible – digging as much truth out as I can in order to use it in service to God.  I will enjoy the time I spend learning and sharing.  I hope you enjoy it too.

you like what you read and see on the Relentless Growth Facebook Page, be sure to “Like” and “Share”.  Would love to hear your comments too!

#Serve&Grow

 

Tom

 

Beauty & Wonder Take Time To Form

Earlier this week my wife and I got away for a couple of nights to beautiful Mackinac Island.  The purpose of the trip was to finally celebrate our 23rd Anniversary which took place back in August.  By the time we finally left for the island, we had another reason to go.

I needed a break from things.

We all need a break from time to time.  Work pressure, things that need to get done around the house, personality conflicts, etc…  They all pull and drain us and we need to be able to get away from them and recharge.  After all, nothing good can come from being hammered all the time, right?

On our walk around the island, we made the trek up to Arch Rock.  For those who have never been to Mackinac Island, Arch Rock is a natural limestone formation caused by water run-off and crashing waves.  The limestone is porous and soft in comparison to other types of rock, and water is able to cut into it.  In the case of Arch Rock, the stone that fell away left the arch pictured below.

The rock has been a focal point of the island for almost 200 years, and was one of the reasons that much of the island was preserved as a state and then national park.  It has been revered by Native Americans as a spiritual portal, has been the backdrop for countless pictures, and the site of a number of proposals.  I have never been there and not observed at least a half dozen people climbing the stairs to take a picture!

You can read more about Arch Rock here if you are interested.

After returning to work and stepping back into a stressful situation, I wished I could go back to the island where peace seemed to reign.  I thought about Arch Rock, the beauty of it, and how that location was peaceful and majestic.

But it wasn’t always that way.  The rock has endured years of being battered by the environment.  It has weathered storms. It has been undermined.  It has cracked and pieces of it have fallen away.  All of this has happened over time, and that time has brought about what we now see.

The same types of things happen to me.  I get undermined.  I get beat up by what seem to be unrelenting forces.  Cracks form in me, and sometimes parts of me that I feel important end up falling away or are taken from me.  I feel hard, haggard, and like I will inevitably fall.

But that is not how I need to live.

Just like Arch Rock endured much in order to become one of the top selfie spots on Mackinac Island, I am enduring to become what God wants me to be.  The transition is hard, and there are times I want to get away from it, but at the end of the day, I know that God will complete His work in me, and despite what I see in the mirror in the morning, it will be a beautiful work.

Relentless Living requires me to remember that I am not on my timetable. Peter tells us:

But do not overlook this one fact, beloved, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. – 2 Peter 3:8

Time is not a barrier that God sees because to Him it is not something He needs to worry about.  Everything works out in His time for His pleasures and even if it takes a thousand years, He will see His plan come to fruition.  He has promised to do a good work in me, and He has promised to complete it!

I might feel battered, wet, worn, and falling apart, but God is not done.  He is working, and He uses His Word to both refine me and to encourage me in the process.

Hang in there.  Beauty takes time!

 

What Are You Looking At?

This is Sydney, our Australian Shepherd.  Technically she belongs to my daughter who has raised her from a puppy and has given her more love than a dog really should be allowed to have. Sydney has been trained in agility, obedience, and the impressive (yet scarcely called upon) ability to catch slices of banana spat from the mouth of her caretakers. (I personally do not get involved in this one.  Not judging.  Personal preference.)  Sydney is a joy to have, and we marvel at her intelligence and canine personality.  She gives us lots of things to talk and laugh about. (Or write about if the time and the will permit!)

This picture was taken at a recent weekend getaway to a family cottage we were blessed to use.  There are three large windows behind the couch that give a view of the road out front, several other cottages, and a hopeful glimpse of the lake beyond them.  While the road does not have a ton of activity on it, there is enough to catch her attention, and she can often be found either at the window like this or at the sliding door that provides a slightly different scene to monitor.

No matter which observation point she takes, Sydney stands #Vigilant, ready to report what she sees whether it is the kid down the road in his little electric jeep, Bailey, the chocolate Labrador’s meanderings, or the scurrying of a squirrel or a rabbit enjoying the neighborhood’s green grass.  Sydney is on point, doing what she was bred to do.  She keeps watch over those in her charge – us.

I have reached the end of my journey through the book of 1 Peter, and it is time to move on.  The last several weeks have brought a number of special things to my mind and I have enjoyed sharing Peter’s words of #Encouragement through my daily posts.  I have been #Encouraged through what I have read, and I pray that those of you who have joined me on the journey have been as well.

While on the aforementioned weekend getaway, I took my study Bible to decide where to go after finishing 1 Peter.  I didn’t want to just “soldier on” to the next book in the sequence, as I have enjoyed moving around in my readings.  I’d been thinking about going through an Old Testament book like Joshua or 1 Samuel, or maybe even tackling one of the prophets like Jeremiah or Ezekiel.  I wasn’t sure, but I was hoping that God would give me a nudge in the right direction.

I got up on the Sunday morning we were there to enjoy the quiet cottage and sounds of the breeze in the leaves of the apple tree outside to read my Bible, post my daily picture and thought, and peruse the notes in my study bible to see what I might find.  I usually do my daily reading on my phone, but that day I decided to look into 1 Peter in the hard copy as well and finished reading through to the end of the book.  I have to admit that even though I prefer electronic media most of the time now, there is something special about the rustle of those thin pages!

When I got to the end of 1 Peter, right there across the page was the heading information and outline for 2 Peter. (Funny how that works, isn’t it?)  At the top of the page beside the little synopsis of the book was a picture of a dog/wolf that was calling out a warning.  It caught my eye and I decided to read into the material there to see what it had to say.  By the time I had finished that I was already on my way to reading through the 3 chapters that make up the book of 2 Peter, and at the end of that I had made my decision – with more than an ample nudge from the Spirit.

2 Peter it is.

Peter pens this second letter as a warning to his readers.  He will soon be martyred and he takes this last opportunity to reach out to those he loves and those he hopes to help with the imperative message of being #Vigilant for things to come.  He wants to shout a warning of some things and inform them about others, and it all comes as a result of his years following Christ and serving Him in helping to start, grow, and care for the church.

Peter was a bold man, prone to putting his foot in his mouth from time to time and being impetuous in his behavior.  Probably the most transparent example of the Christian walk we have in the New Testament, he has always been a hero of mine as I struggle with many of the same tendencies he did.  Perhaps that is why I wanted to move on in a different direction rather than continuing to read his words.  He strikes too close to home!

After reading 2 Peter, I see three main things that Peter tells us to watch for:

Opportunities to Grow in Christ – In chapter 1, he shows us that as we work out our faith in our attitudes and actions, we will be presented in every circumstance to “level up” in our walk. (2 Peter 1:5-8) We will never fully “arrive”, and we need to be looking at how we handle things that take place around us and take an honest look at ourselves as well.  How do we do it?  Through the Truth of God’s Word, carefully prepared for us through the Holy Spirit working through the hands of man. (2 Peter 1:16-21)

Dangers to Growing Christians – Chapter 2 is full of warnings of things to watch out for. Whether false prophets, personal desires, or the influences of others, there is no shortage of things Satan will send against us to pull us from our walk in Christ. Our spiritual health is in jeopardy and under attack on every side, but God is there for us and He knows how to rescue us from any attack (2 Peter 2:9)

The Hope to Come – There is more to come than this earth, and Peter impresses on his readers that they need to be watching for it. It is not that we will miss it, because there will be no doubt when the Lord returns. What Peter is impressing upon us is that as we watch for the return of Christ, we will also be watching our actions as we prepare for His coming.  We will talk to those we know and love about Him.  We will share His goodness, and we will try to live a life that is not in slavery to sin.

I am looking forward to this next book for my personal time, and I also look forward to sharing a little of it.  What about you?  Are you spending time in God’s Word every day?  I hope you are.  If we are going to live our lives in Relentless devotion to God, we need that time.  It draws us close to Him for comfort and strength, but it also gives us insight into the events unfolding in the world around us.

Whether it is home, work, school, church, or wherever you may happen to be, we need to be watchful like Sydney.  We need to be on guard against dangers to ourselves and those we love.  We need to be ready with a defense, but also to rescue, comfort, or be a shield to someone under attack.  We need to be determined to hold our position as leaders, husbands, mothers, teachers, and friends.  In short, we need to be #Vigilant.

Vigilant – Keeping a careful watch for possible dangers or difficulties.

Keep your eyes open, everyone.  There is a lot going on out there.

Thanks for reading and following this page.  I appreciate your comments and feedback, and would love to hear from you.  Feel free to share with your friends and don’t forget to like the Facebook Page Relentless Growth for a short daily message to challenge and encourage you.

Like Time Stands Still…

In my garage I have a poster sized picture  that is approximately 24 years old.  It is a photo of a beautiful college girl sitting in the surf on the  Pensacola beach.  She is smiling at the camera and there is a sparkle in her eye.

The other day my wife asked me if I miss seeing that girl.  I told her that I still see her every morning when I leave for work, and every evening when I go to bed.  She still smiles at me that same way, and I still love the sparkle in her eye.

24 years may have passed (maybe 23, I know it is somewhere in there), but that young girl who became my wife is still the woman of my dreams.  Today is her birthday, and though years have passed, when I look at her, time has stood still.

I read once that a man should look at his wife and remember her as the love of his youth.  They say that keeps the passion and the fun of life alive and builds a marriage that stays vibrant and interesting.  I can’t say that is a bad idea, and on the surface, I think it makes sense, but I am afraid that way of thinking lacks a little something.

My wife and I will have been married for 23 years next month on August 20, 2017.  I have met many people who have been married longer than that, but I am also very aware that unfortunately once you hit the double decade mark, you are in a drastically dwindling crowd.  Being in that minority kind of allows me a position of authority in speaking on marital matters!

My wife is an amazing woman.  She is sweet, kind, and wonderful in so many ways.  She still smiles at me with that sparkle in her eye, and I can’t help but love that girl there.  She’s more though. So much more.

At times there is a tiredness in that eye as well.  There are pressures she feels that try to dim that sparkle and tug down the corners of that smile.  The surf that gave her so much joy is sometimes now a few baskets of laundry needing to be folded.  The sun on her face is replaced by a lamp at her desk as she works dutifully on helping her kids with their college schedules.  Time marches on, and if we focus on the march, we miss something.

I know years have passed, but that girl is still there.  I saw her at breakfast yesterday when we joked about a whisker I had growing out of a freckle on my cheek. She laughed and I saw all of the “stuff” of life roll off her for a moment.  There she was again.  My girl was right there.

I see her every day, even the days she doesn’t see herself.   I should probably tell her more that I am seeing her in the moment.  Maybe if I did, she would see that girl more too.

Well, today’s her birthday, and we have plans to go out as a family and have a good time.  I’m excited about it, and if all goes well, we will go to the beach.  Maybe I can get another pic of my girl sitting in the surf on a sunny day.  I don’t really need it though. She is right there in my mind each and every day.

Happy Birthday to the love of my life.  The woman I am still Relentlessly pursuing and working at loving her as Christ said I should.  Tammi, time may move on, and we are not immune to the effects of it, but for you, time has stood still.  You are so precious to me, and even more so when I can take that young girl, sitting in the surf and mix her with the woman still with me after 23 years of marriage.  I think it makes everything more powerful and real.

You are the love of my youth, my now not-so-very-much-of-my-youth-as-I-would-like, and the rest of my life as well.  You have made time stand still for me, and I love you for it.  I hope you have a very happy birthday

I love you! You are God’s best gift to me on earth!

Tom

 

#ENCOURAGE

We’ve all been there.  You look around and all you see is gray.  The sun can’t shine bright enough, you feel like you are under attack, there is no end in sight, and there is nobody there to help you. Yep. Been there and got the lousy t-shirt.

So, what do we do?  How do we get through?  Where will we find the strength to get out of bed, put on a smile and head out the door to meet a world that we feel is out to get us?  When will this feeling stop? What can we do for ourselves, and what can we do for those we love who feel this way?

#Encourage them.  #BeEncouraged yourself!

Webster’s defines the word “encourage” like this:

18 Years to Prep for Battle – Happy B-Day, Zach!

The birthday blog has become tradition here at Tanner Manor, so here is my letter to my son on his 18th Birthday.  A fine, young man he has grown to be, and Relentless in his pursuit of God and life.

Today I met in the woods again with Zach, my Dad, and my friends Ray and Joe.  These important men in my life all had words of encouragement and affirmation for Zach, and when I was done, I presented him with a gift.  I did this two years ago, and it was time to do it again. We need to recognize moments like these in the lives of our children.  Milestones are  important, and they need to hear from their parents just how proud they are of them.   I have been both waiting for and dreading this day since day 1, and it is here.  I know they will always need me, but still…

Zach,

18 years ago today, you entered this world. You were quiet. Too quiet. I immediately thought that the son I had waited for was gone before he had the chance to live. I remember the fear in my heart, what was wrong?  Why is he so quiet?  What’s going on?  Is he ok?  C,mon, son! Fight!

After what seemed to me to be an eternity, you finally began to stir and then you found your lungs.  I was the Dad of a healthy baby boy, and I could not have been happier.  I had a daughter and now a son.  Our family was complete, and it was all smooth sailing from that point on…

Not exactly. It didn’t take much time for me to figure out just how little I knew about being a husband and dad.  I was getting by alright with the occasional bump or hiccup, but there was a lot of stuff that I just didn’t have the answers to, and truth told, I still feel that way sometimes!

Over the years there have been a few things I have done that I know were good moves, and one of the biggest was doing the men’s group and the Authentic Manhood studies.  That study showed me a lot about myself, and the importance of trying to teach those principles to you.  They showed me that there are battles that will take place in life that I would need to fight for you, but also I would need to teach you to fight for yourself.

There have been good and hard times on this journey.  I want you to know that I own the responsibility for the majority of those hard times as I have been growing and changing and making mistakes along the way.  One of the most important things I have wanted you to learn is that we are not perfect, and our decisions have consequences and impact on those around us both for good and for bad.  No man is really an island.

During this journey of your life, I have been trying, along with the help of your Mom, to give you the tools you need to thrive as a man.  Lessons, examples, books, mentors, and stories from my life are just a few of the ways I have done that.  I have always said that the experiences of others are the best teachers because you can learn the lesson without personal pain or loss.  We have shared victory and defeat on that front, but we have continued to learn and grow – me as a Dad and you as a son.

Two years ago we took some time with some friends and had a celebration of you at the age of 16.  Men God has brought into your life shared with you some of their own insights and wisdom as they encouraged you to continue to grow in God and as a man.  It was a good time.

That was when I presented you with your shield carrying the family name on it.  The shield represented the period of life you were entering where there would be attacks that would come to you as Satan desired to tear you down and destroy your reputation.  You would see trials and struggles that would strain relationships, and, unfortunately, see some fall away.  The battles would be real, and you would need to learn to defend not only who you are, but what you believe.

Through the last two years, I have seen you grow in your ability to stand strong in trial.  You have become more resolute in your faith, and you have served as an example to others as well.  I have enjoyed watching you grow and have been very proud of you.  You have been tested, and some of those battles have appropriately hardened you – tempered you for bigger challenges to come.

Now you are 18.  You will be leaving the house this fall for college, and you will be stepping out into the world as a man.  My time for instruction, while not completely finished, is undergoing a change to an advisory role. I will be there when you need me, but the day is coming that I might not be a part of your daily life.  This will be a hard adjustment for me, and in some ways for you, too.

For the last 18 years, it has been my responsibility as your Dad to stand and fight for you, to be the one who stood guard over your heart and to fight anything of this world or any other who would dare come for my son.  As your Dad, that was my job, and as hard as it was sometimes, it has been one of the most rewarding jobs I have ever had.

Along with that job has been the charge to teach you the things you need to know about life, how to defend yourself against the attacks Satan will be certain to throw against you, and how to fight for those you care about, as well.  I have done my best to do so, and in spite of my shortcomings and failures along the way, I believe that you have learned much of what you need to know, and I want to commemorate this moment as well.

So, today, I give you this sword as a picture of my belief in you and the man you have become.  It signifies that I believe that you are equipped to do battle against Satan and his influences.  The sword means that you are no longer simply one who defends, but now you are carrying the battle with you as you walk with Christ.

You will now step into the lives of those you see struggling and offer aid to them. You will not just endure, but you will overcome.  You will be a warrior for Christ in all aspects of your life and give Him the glory in the victories that God gives to you.

Stay in the Word.  There is nothing you can do that will give you more than that for the battles you will face.  God’s truth will guide you in the hard choices, and will comfort you in your moments of doubt and pain.  Stay close to God and allow Him to guide you.  He knows your heart and your needs even better than I.

For the last 18 years, you and I have been preparing for this day.  I love you as my son, but also as a man of God, and a warrior for His kingdom  You have made me proud in so many ways, and I know that God is going to continue to do great things with you and through you as you strive to walk with Him.

I’m always here  for you when you need me.  I got your back and am always willing to fight at your side.

I love you, Zach!

– Dad

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!

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