Listen Up!

This week was a short week at work. I enjoyed a long weekend with my wife to celebrate our 25th anniversary, and that landed me back in the office on Wednesday morning with a pretty hefty pile of things to catch up on and a pretty meeting-heavy day. The goal was survival! No time for taking time, and too much to do to spend time thinking about things.

Yeah. That was not going to work. When you are in a position of leadership in an organization, you need take time where it needs to be taken. If you don’t then things are going to get missed and it is going to hurt your team.

Not every conversation this week had significant weight, but there were several that were very important, and a couple of those seemed pretty unimportant at first listen. I won’t say that all of the conversations were fun, but they were significant in one way or another.

A couple of things to remember about conversations at work:

  • Your superiors want to know you are listening. Give them the attention they need to gain confidence that you are on top of the situations that concern them.
  • Your team wants to know you are listening. The concerns they have may not always be pivotal to the department mission or goals, but they are important to them. Make them feel valued.

One last thing. Work conversations have a time and place. At work! Take care not to bring too much home with you. You need a break from work, and your family might not need to hear about it either. When we bring work home, it makes them feel like they don’t matter as much as they should. Keep things in balance.

I’d like to say I have this under control, but let’s face it, we all have room to grow! Listening to those around us will give us those opportunities. Just listen!

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Goodbye 2018

Another lap around the sun has taken place and we find ourselves again staring at the fresh landscape of a new year.  Look at that!  Still in the package and everything!  I hope it is easier to open than 2018 was.  You just gotta hate that hard plastic shell…  Whoops. I digressed!

Over the last several years I have tried to take time over the dwindling days of the year to reflect a little bit and to cast a vision for myself for the coming year.  I don’t like “resolutions”, but I have tried to set goals, and some of them actually have been accomplished.  I’d like to think that a couple of them have even helped me be a better man, husband, and dad.  These reflective moments are good for us.  Hindsight is foundational for future endeavors.  I think I heard that from some semi-intelligent fella.

Hindsight is foundational for future endeavors. – Tom Tanner

I guess it is time to get to it.

2018 was a good year, but a challenging one as well.  Two kids in college full-time out of state, some vehicle issues that were more than just a little bit trying, some struggles on the professional front (admittedly partly of my own making), starting a new part-time job, and a more than a fair share of hectic schedule just to name a few.  As a result, I have been feeling pretty stretched and tired.  It is probably not that much different from the struggles you have faced.  We all have our own load to carry.

Over the last month or so, I have been really working on getting myself better organized.  I spend more time writing things down so I don’t forget them.  I find myself prioritizing my lists so I get the big things done all the time. I find myself scrutinizing the list to make sure that I am not only getting things done, but that I am getting the right things done in the right time frame.  I am doing a lot of writing!

I have developed my own little planner for the work week as well as a back-up planner for evenings and weekends.  They are not perfect, but they have been effective for me, and I think that I will need them even more as 2019 dawns on me tomorrow.

This is going to be another big year with a lot of challenges.  I have a daughter graduating from college, a son entering his senior year, and I am even going back to school to complete my degree!  We have a couple of trips planned, a vehicle issue on the horizon, and those are just the things I know about!  There could be a whole lot more by the time I sit down in 365 days to write the wrap-up for this year.

So, as is my custom, it is time to draw back the curtain to show the #wordoftheyear.  That word I will use as my reminder of where I need to keep my focus to keep moving in the direction I believe God is sending me.  So, without any further ado…

Schedule

Not exactly inspiring, is it?  Can’t say I felt a goosebump when I picked it.  Had some other options with a little more “panache” like “Determined”, “Purpose”, “Driven”, or even just taking a minimalist approach and going with “No!”  I could have chosen anything, but when it comes down to it, I really feel like this is vital for me in the coming year.  There is gong to be a lot on my plate, and I don’t mean food.

So, in my #Schedule, I will be adjusting the following items (and probably about 500 more I don’t know about yet) into my daily and weekly routines:

Time with God – I need this.  I managed over the past year to only miss one day of reading my Bible, but I would be lying if I said that I put a ton of effort into it.  Some days I was checking the box, but other days I was clinging to a life ring.  I want to make this year different by scheduling 10-15 minutes every day to reading a short passage and journaling what God is telling me.  Will I get a perfect year?  We will see!

Time with my wife – I need this.  God gave me an amazing woman that He knew I would need to be that perfect complement to my life.  We are individuals, but we are one.  I may have the job to lead our home, but I do it with her at my side.  We have faced some tough stuff together, and we are not done!  The kids are one step closer to taking their big steps, and I need to make sure I am giving her the quality time she deserves to keep us connected for our next chapter.

Time for friends – I need this.  The past year I have been more withdrawn, and I feel it.  I have pulled back from people, events, and other opportunities to engage with people.  I have done some of it because I have been busy and I know other people are busy too, so I don’t want to be a burden, but I do have to ask myself if that has at least sometimes been a clever excuse.  I need to reconnect with some of the guys in my life.

Time to learn – I need this.  I have been stepping back from reading a lot of fiction and have been trying to read books that actually helps me grow.  Don’t get me wrong. We have a need for entertainment too, and that is why we have Netflix!  Just kidding.  I am going to try to read at least one good book per month on personal development, leadership, spiritual growth, marriage, mentoring, etc.  Combining that with the materials for college, and you can see how I will need to have that scheduled appropriately to get it all in.

Time to work – I need this.  It is more than just paying the bills though.  I have a home that needs some repairs. I have the desire to go out to my woodshop and roll around in man-glitter.  I need to have things to do that make me feel like I have accomplished something.

Time to be still – I need this.  I know it sounds funny, but I will need to schedule time in to do nothing.  “Nothing” does not mean couch-surfing either.  Nothing means to just be still and let my mind dwell on God in prayer.  This needs to become a daily discipline for me.  It is more than just a devotional time.  This is probably the area I need to focus on most over the next year.

There are a lot of other things that will make the list on my schedule.  I pray that by the end of the year I will be able to look back and see where I had a good year because I took the time to schedule things.

What is your plan for 2019?  I’d love to hear it!  I hope your year will be one committed to #RelentlessGrowth.

Make It Right

I like home improvement shows on TV. If I had the time and money to do it, I would possibly become some type of groupie for the likes of Norm Abram, Tommy Silva, Chip Gaines, and my personal favorite, Mike Holmes. These guys are masters at what they do, and I would love to learn a few things from them.

What could I learn?

Norm – What a craftsman! The skills he has in making furniture and cabinets is nothing short of amazing. I loved watching him on the New Yankee Workshop on Saturday afternoons. His deft skill at transforming wood into beautiful creations always left me with my jaw hanging. I know that I can give some credit to the miracle of television, but seriously, did this guy ever make a single cut wrong? If so, I never saw it!

Tommy – I think this guy could build a house with a salad fork and a spaghetti noodle. Tommy has such an encyclopedic knowledge base when it comes to construction! I have watched him work with steel, concrete, wood, brick, metal, plumbing, and drywall, and he seems just as comfortable with one as he is with another. He never seems to get overwhelmed by a project. He just reaches into his bag of tricks and makes something amazing.

Chip – First of all, I have never seen anyone who looks like he enjoys what he does more than Chip. What a nut! Second, I see a guy who has taken what he loves and has turned it into a career that expands and diversifies, but still keeps him doing what he loves – making old things new.

Then there is Mike – Mike has had a few different shows on television now, but I first saw him when he was doing Holmes Makes It Right. On this show he would go into a house where someone had started a renovation on their home that had gone horrible wrong. (Usually through a shady, inexperienced contractor) He would spend the first half of the show listening to the homeowner tell their story, digging through the project to find all of the mistakes and pointing them out to the camera, and ripping all of the bad work out to get to a clean starting point where he would begin to “make it right.

When it comes to home improvement projects at my house, I do not do a lot of furniture building or major construction. I also am not planning on flipping my renovating it for a resale. I am more involved in little projects to make it a little more habitable or fixing something that has broken. I have learned things from all of these guys that have helped with the situations I encounter in my little projects.

One of the things I deal with on a regular basis is the fact that my house was not built by professionals. The old Manor was put together over 100 years ago, and on her best days, she has some issues that need to be addressed. On others… Well, we just remind ourselves that we do love living where we do, and how thankful we are for the ability to own a home!

Over the last 100 years, our house has seen a number of changes in wiring, siding, plumbing, additions, etc. Over 100 years, wood has rotted and been replace, concrete has cracked and been patched, foundations have settles, and walls have shifted. When putting shelves up, the joke is always, “Do you want it to look right or do you want it to be level?” Yep. It is just that bad sometimes.

I think it is for that reason that I like Mike Holmes so much. His specialty of taking what is wrong and making it right again intrigues me. I see things in my house that need to be set right, and some of them are just not possible in my skill set or financial situation, but I still want them to be right! So, I have become pretty good at “fudging” it.

“Fudging It” – The art of crafting a facade that will fool the eye into thinking that things are as they should be while covering the fact that things are actually anything but the way they should be. (See also: Religion, Rationalization, Fooling Yourself, Wasted Effort, Whitewashed Tomb…Get the idea?)

When I go into a project at my house, I look for materials that will cast my abilities in the best possible light. Lately I have been enjoying using distressed, salvaged lumber and leaving it unfinished and raw. This method covers up the occasional mis-measured board, or poorly beveled cut. It looks intentionally flawed, and therefore, acceptable! Yep. I like this.

It also makes me look like I am a better wood worker than I am. I am improving, but I have a long way to go. I am learning new things, trying new tools and methods, and I am seeing results, but it will take a lot of practice before I gain the skill of the icons mentioned above. I realize that my work, while not terrible, is not perfect. I make no bones about it. I’m not satisfied with what I can do. I want to be like Mike, Norm, Tommy, and Chip!

So, it will take study, trial and error, and a #RELENTLESS determination to keep disciplining myself in the methods until it becomes second nature to me. Who knows? Maybe I will be on HGTV one day! (Not likely, but we can all have a dream…)

I started reading through the book of Romans the other day. Paul does such a great job of expressing our need for God’s righteousness in our lives. He explains our situation in sin, the price required for our sin, and the payment of that sin by Christ. Because Christ was willing to lay down His life for us, His righteousness was given to us, and we are free from the penalty! This is the message of the Gospel!

I loved what Paul said in Chapter 1, verse 17:

This Good News tells us how God makes us right in his sight. This is accomplished from start to finish by faith. As the Scriptures say, “It is through faith that a righteous person has life.” – Romans 1:17 NLT

Mankind can be compared to my old house. There was a day where the walls were straight and the floors were level. There was a day when the wood was not rotten, and the roof had no leaks. It was new, and it was as it was intended to be.

When God put Adam and Eve in the garden, they were perfect, just as God intended them to be. After they made their decision to push aside that perfection in favor of a desire for self above God, the decaying power of sin began to take over their lives. They were perfect, but then they were dying and in need of intervention in order to have a relationship with God.

God, in His wisdom, grace, and mercy, provided a way to keep a relationship with Him, and extended it to all mankind. That way is His Son. The promise of a Savior was given to mankind and came to fruition in Jesus who lived a sinless life and died a sinner’s death so we could live forever.

That death “made us right” in His eyes. Our sins are no longer counted against us. Am I perfect? Nope. Not even close, but through Christ’s death, my leaky, rotted life is covered and strengthened by His righteousness. My flaws are still there and can be seen, but I don’t need to be ashamed by them. They are now a testimony of how God can take the damaged and make it whole again. God #makesusright.

The project that is my life will go on until I die. As I learn more about how God wants me to live, uncover more of the things in me that need to change, and give control of those areas to Him, I will be re-made into what He wanted me to be. It takes time, and it may look like nothing is happening at times, but He is working His master plan to make me whole.

If you want to experience that same renovation in your life, reach out to God. Admit your sin and need for Him. Lay what you have at His feet and ask Him to take control of it and to change you for His glory. Get yourself acquainted with His plan by reading His Word. Find some teachers who will help you learn how to discipline yourself and provide accountability.

I think one of the most important things you can do is to then take the big step to tell others how He is making you right. Share the struggles you have and praise Him for how He is giving you victory over sin, guilt, and shame. When we are willing students of God and put ourselves in His hand for transformation, we can be sure that He will #makeusright.

Setting Things Right Again

There are a number of things about me that are weird.  Stick around and I guarantee you will find one for yourself to laugh at.  There really is no limit.  Making new ones every day, but there are some golden oldies that have been around for a few decades.  Wanna hear one?  Here goes.

Sometime around the age of 7, I took it upon myself to do a little project, and I recruited my brother and the neighbor kids in this rampant display of ridiculousness.  Looking back, I even think this was weird, but I do remember it vividly as something that meant a lot to me even though I think everyone thought I was insane.

This is not the mower, but it captures much of what I remember in its stellar good looks!

My Dad had a little push mower.  Green in color with a white Briggs & Stratton motor on top.   The mower ran well, but looked rough. The handle, once chromed, was pitted with rust.  The deck was covered in layers of “grass juice”, dried clippings, and was scratched up from years of use.  The motor was covered in dust, oil, and again, “grass juice”.  

I can’t tell you why, but I remember that I looked at it one day and I decided that it needed to be cleaned up and put back in order.  So, in what can only be described as delegation gone wild, I got 3-4 other kids to join me in cleaning up this mower.  I don’t remember if bribes were involved or how exactly I talked them into it, but they showed up.

So, there we were, armed with a bunch of rags and whatever aerosol products I could scrounge up in the garage that might have some type of solvent properties, we gathered around a 20 inch push mower with the determination to make it shine like new.

I can’t recall how much time we put into the project, but I do remember needing to talk a couple people into coming back to the job and trying to help them capture my vision despite their comments of “waste of time”, “just going to get dirty again”, and “you’re crazy”.  Who knew I was in career training…

At the end of the project I remember standing up, by myself because I had finally been abandoned by my crew, and looking at the mower expecting to be filled with a sense of pride and accomplishment.  Before me sat the fruits of my labor and it was…

Still a scratched up, stained, rusted, and still fairly greasy mower.

There was not a lot of appreciable change to the mower’s appearance.  Yes, the “grass juice had been washed off, and the dried clippings and caked sand were no longer all over it, and there were even parts of the motor that showed the slightest glimmer of shine in the paint, but it still looked rough.  I was disappointed.  It felt like a waste of time with no discernible improvement.

Later that night, Dad asked me about the mess that I had left on the floor of the garage.  Piles of rags, empty spray cans of brake cleaner and WD-40, and the pile of dried clippings we had scraped out from under the mower deck gave evidence of my deeds.  I told him what I had done and said I would go clean up the mess.  I said it was a waste of time anyway.  He said something then that I have not forgotten.

“It might not look like you did a lot on the surface, but what you did do will make a difference.”

He then went on to tell me that in cleaning off the motor, it would run cooler which was better for the motor.  In cleaning the air filter I was protecting the engine from debris that could damage it.  In getting all of the grass clippings and junk scraped off the deck, I was removing stuff that trapped water and created rust so I was helping the deck last longer.

My restoration project did not turn out like I had hoped it would.  There was no obvious change, but it had made an impact for the future.  Because I was willing to take the time and put in the effort, the mower was going to run better and last longer.  It was, in some ways, a success.

I wonder if that was the catalyst that has given me an appreciation for making the old look new and the broken re-usable.  Since then I have been interested in auto restoration, home repair, and recently using reclaimed materials to build things.  It seems like I am always trying to figure out how i can take something broken and realize the value in it.

God saw the value in His broken people and provided a way for us to become new as well.  Through the redeeming death of His Son, we can experience life change and eternal life with God.  On the surface we might not seem that different, but changes are made, and if we submit to the process, those changes will multiply in us until they are seen by those around us.  There is no work that God does in the heart of man that does not yield a result for good.  Let me say that again,

There is no work that God does in the heart of man that does not yield a result for good.

I have reached the end of another book study in the Bible, and it is time to move on.  Colossians taught me a lot about how we are to #SERVEandGROW in life.  We serve God and we serve others.  That is how we grow.  It’s not a difficult formula.  Pretty much just those three steps.  So easy I can follow it!  I have enjoyed the study , and I hope that anyone who read along with me did too.

Now I am going to take a swing at something different.  I have pretty much stuck with books of poetry or doctrine, but now I want to do a book of history.  It will change some of how I post my thoughts, but I will try to keep with the same basic format of a post a day with a verse and a  thought.  Forgive me if the text gets a little small from time to time.

We will be going through the book of Ezra.  This is the story of the restoration of the temple in Jerusalem after the Jewish exile when Babylon took Israel captive.  The city and the temple were destroyed, the “choice” people were taken away, the walls were torn down, and only a few stragglers were left behind.  Jerusalem was in shambles.  A near wasteland.  

God wanted a #Restoration.

God began orchestrating what needed to happen to bring His people home, and He started with the #Restoration of the temple.  Later Nehemiah would follow and rebuild the wall and set the city back in order.

Ezra’s efforts might have seemed a little odd.  In rebuilding a city, would it not make more sense to build a wall first?  Many would agree, but God knew that there needed to be a more important change first.  His presence was needed.  The city would not be complete because the temple was rebuilt, but without the temple, the city might not have been built.  The restoration of Jerusalem needed God more then man.

#Restoration is needed in my life.  There are things I have let go, things I should have taken better care of physically, emotionally, spiritually, and relationally.  Steps need to be taken to scrape out the junk that might be keeping my life from running as God intended.  I may need to wipe away some stuff that lets me see things that need repair.  All in all, I am in need of God’s redeeming, restorative work.

As I read through Ezra, I will be looking for what God has to show me in that regard and sharing my findings as I go along.  I will post them on my Relentless Growth Facebook Page, and I hope you will follow along.  If you see something that speaks to you, let me know!  I would love to talk to you about it.

Relentless Growth requires us to not only keep driving forward, but to be willing to take time to #Restore things that need work.  We have relationships around us that need God’s hand in them.  We have things in our past that we need to learn to overcome and use for God’s glory.  In His hands, there is nothing that is not salvageable.  Give your heart and life to Him and see what He can do with it!

What Can (Should) I Say?

Arguments. Protests. Anger. Riots. Responses made well, and responses made too late.  To say that the news has been a little heated lately is a bit of an understatement.  It seems like no matter where I look, somebody is angry about something:

  • Monuments are being taken down because they are offending people who see them as a tribute to slavery
  • Protests are being held over the removal of the monuments because people believe that some people are better than others based on the color of their skin.
  • People are protesting the protests because they see the monuments as historical and not racist.
  • Police officers are being shot because they are wearing a blue uniform that some people feel represents an overuse of authority.
  • A recent post in my community had a young man stating that if a police officer chose a line of work where he gets shot at, that is his problem.
  • A neighboring city is hosting two replica ships built to look like Columbus’ Niña and Pinta, and protests are forming over the impact that Columbus had on Native Americans.
  • The menu also changed in the cafeteria at work.

The statements I made above are all true and are presented merely as a fact, and not as an argument or a statement of my position.  After all I have heard and read recently I have only one position that I would like to have heard:

We just need to stop talking for awhile.

I really would like the arguing to stop because while I have thoughts on these issues, it is simply too loud right now for anyone to hear what anyone else is saying.  There is a contingent of people out there right now that are enjoying the strife and just keep fanning the flames of anger that are consuming the nation.  It saddens me.

Some people have been hurt over some of these issues and have reason to feel upset and to speak up, and that is good, but there needs to be another step taken beyond speaking up, and it is not to speak louder.  Speaking has turned to shouting, and nothing is actually getting done past reactionary moves that are just causing more anger.

It is time to be silent.  We need a cease fire in the media.  Let’s stop taking shots at people, positions, and practices and instead focus on what is good that is happening around our nation.  Maybe we could rinse out our minds with some good news that makes people smile instead of wanting to tear something down or target someone:

  • An 84 year-old woman recently found her engagement ring she had lost several years earlier.  It had been lost in her garden and she pulled a carrot that had grown through the ring.
  • A school bus driver in Wisconsin crocheted toys for the 34 kids on her bus after a dare that she couldn’t make a crocheted figure inane shape they could think of for her. She did it!
  • A tourist in Alaska celebrating his birthday pulled a kayaker trapped in whitewater to safety.
  • The other day, someone in the cafeteria bought my breakfast for me.

See!  Good things are happening too!  We are just having  hard time seeing the good things because there is so much attention being focused on the bad things.  When you only look at the bad, then that is all you see.

Wow.  That was deeper than I had planned, but it draws to mind the old hymn, “Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus”:

“Turn your eyes upon Jesus. Look full on His wonderful face, and the things of earth will grow strangely dim in the light of His glory and grace.”

That message is very powerful.  When we focus on Jesus, His life, His message, and His teaching, we will begin to see the world differently.  We will not see sides we need to take in an argument.  Instead we will see people who are hurting themselves and others in bitterness and anger.  We will see lives in need of restoration.  We will see opportunities to speak with grace and mercy rather than anger and rhetoric.

I used to really like to argue.  It was a lot of fun to dig in and take a side and then argue the other to the ground.  I have distanced myself from speaking up on the issues at hand as much as I would like because I  don’t want to hurt people or drive wedges into relationships.  There are a lot of things I have thought that I could say, but I have realized that there are a lot of things I don’t need to say.

If I am going to be helpful to those around me, I need to listen more than I speak.  If my opinion is wanted, it will be asked for, and it is more likely to be heard if it is asked for!  So, I will be doing my best to stay silent, to not be pulled into the stream of argument, and to be available to those who are hurting and need a listening ear.

Right is right, and wrong is wrong, and while some of the things people are upset about are very real and worthy of it, others are simply the result of someone opposing something just because they feel that every opinion deserves a protest.  I’m not going to be in the protest business.

I want to be in the peacemaking business.

Happy Birthday, Jessica! I Have A 21 Year Old Daughter!

21 years old.  I have a daughter that is 21 years old.  Unbelievable.

How did this happen so fast?

Just the other day we walked into Munson Medical Center for a doctor visit.  We didn’t know we were going to be admitted.  We didn’t know that the next day we would have a little girl that would change our lives like she did.  We knew that things would be different, but seriously.  We had NOOOOOOO idea just how different!

That first look at all of that dark hair, the scrunched up face, the fists shaking in indignation for the trial she had just been through.  It was a little scary.  Not a “run and hide” thing, but a “Holy Cow!  Who thought I was ready for this?” kind of thing.  Seriously. I had to take a test to drive a car, but to be a father? Nothing!

I’d like to say that the fear wore off.  It didn’t.  It has shifted around, changed shape, color, and intensity over the years, but it has not gone away.  So many things out there to be concerned about when you are given a gift as precious as a child.  So many more when she is so crazy about animals!

Dog bites, cat scratches, kicks from horses.  The knowledge that anything that creeps slithers, walks, or crawls will be scooped up by a girl so fascinated with the creatures God has given us.  So much out there to worry about.  So amazing to see how she has learned the meaning of the phrase “dominion over creation” as God intended it.

Then there are the people issues.  She has been the champion of the underdog, often left sitting alone, carrying the weight of a hurting friend on her shoulders, or the pain of the abused in her heart.  While she has had a “safe” life, she still bears scars from careless words, misplaced trust, or selfish motives.  In all of it, she stays open to new people. Willing to open her heart again to those who need help.  Putting hands and feet to Jesus.

This is our first year celebrating her birthday from afar.  She is in college and we are at home.  Not an easy day, and the gray skies we see here at Tanner Manor echo our feelings as we wish we could be with her.  Both kids gone leaves the house feeling quiet.

However, this is not a post of gloom.  I am celebrating my daughter today.  I am the Dad of a 21 year old woman with a heart for God and people.  She is amazing in every sense of the word, and it has been a true blessing to have been chosen to be her Dad.

Jessica, I wish you the happiest of birthdays, and I want you to know that you will never be far from us as we always carry you in our hearts.  You and your brother have enriched our lives in so many ways, and we could not be more thankful.

You blazed so many trails in our lives, and while some of them had me shaking my head as we started the journey, it has been awesome to see what God has done in you and through you in the lives of those around you.  I am proud of you, I love you, and I can’t wait to see what God has planned for you.

Happy Birthday, Squirt!  You made me see how much a Dad could love a daughter.

Love you,

Dad

I Hope to Be Sober in 2018

So, I have a confession to make.  I have a problem.  I get better for awhile, but then I slip and I find myself right in the middle of it again.  I know I need help, and I know that I have friends and family that want to help me, but sometimes their help just drives me deeper into it.  I need to get sober, and I hope that this is the year.

Now, before we go any further, I am not struggling with any type of alcohol or drug addiction, and I am not mocking those who do.  My struggle is one of a different nature that while not physically damaging, can be just as destructive to the relationships I value.

Anger and a lack of self-control.

I have had a rough time with this since I was a teenager.  If I felt mistreated when I didn’t deserve it, I would get angry.  It would be even worse when I KNEW I was right.  It has been a part of me for years.  It ebbs and flows enough that I don’t think  that I am known as a hot head (I might be wrong about that), but I am sure that there are enough people out there who have had a peek into that part of me to know it is there.

This past week it rose up again.  I lost it and got pretty loud.  I realized it right away and made my apologies, but that doesn’t make anything go away.  I’m tired of those apologies.  I want something better for the people I do life with.

One of my favorite characters on television is from the show Blue Bloods.  Tom Selleck plays NYPD Police Commissioner Frank Reagan (Francis to his Dad).  Frank is a Marine.  He is the son of a cop who also was the Police Commissioner.  He has three sons who became cops, and a daughter who works as an assistant district attorney.  The family gets together for Sunday dinner every week, and while not perfect, they are always trying.

Week after week I watch Frank come face to face with some seemingly overwhelming obstacle and no discernible right answer.  Sometimes he is caught between two of his kids that want him to take their side in an argument.  Sometimes he is caught between his church and his work.  Sometimes it is the mayor or some publicity issue that is waging war against his personal convictions.

No matter what it is that comes up, by the end of almost every episode, we see that he is able to come to some type of resolution.  I know.  The magic of television would be VERY convenient if we could just sprinkle it over our own problems!

So, where was I going with this?  Oh, yeah.  One thing we rarely see happen is Frank “losing it.”  His voice gets a little high and he might wave his hands and arms a little as he expresses his frustration with the situation, but even when that happens, we always see the same move take place at that moment when you think he is about to REALLY tee off on someone.  I call it the Frank Reagan Scowl of Sober Deliberation. (FRSSD for short)

Rather than lose his temper, Frank pulls out the FRSSD.  On screen that usually leads to a soft fade, commercial break, or a quick switch to one of the other story lines that the episode is covering.  We don’t get to see how Frank wrestles the problem, and we don’t always get to see how much time the FRSSD needs to be employed before we get to the next step.

What we see is a man who is willing to confront his fears and his anger and hold them in check rather than lashing out.  We see a man who looks inside and examines the nuances of not only the situation, but also what his responses might be along with their consequences.  He doesn’t react when faced with these tough spots.  He thinks about how to face the situation in a manner allowing him to maintain his character and bring about the most equitable solution possible.

I don’t want to say that he is holding it all inside rather than spilling it all out.  He spills!  However, he only lets out what is necessary for those around him to reach an understanding that he is in turmoil over something, but not willing to lash out while he works on getting to the next face.  I call that one the Frank Reagan Face of Bold Resolve.   (FRFBR for short.)

When the FRFBR comes out, you know that the situation is now in hand.  Frank is getting ready to move ahead.  He knows there may be some consequences, but he has measured them and sees them as acceptable.  He knows that feelings may yet be hurt, but he has determined that it will not be done in a careless manner.  He builds his heart into his response.  He usually ends up giving a little more of himself in those situations and plants a seed for growth in the relationship that will help with future confrontations as well.

In 2 Timothy, Paul is speaking to his disciple, Timothy, and telling him how he should conduct himself in his role as a young pastor.  Paul knew full well the challenges Timothy would face. Churches are not easy places to live, and it is even harder if you hold a position of leadership.  One piece of advice he gave Timothy was this:

As for you, always be sober-minded, endure suffering, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry. – 2 Timothy 4:5

That sober-mindedness he refers to is that Frank Reagan-type of mind.  A mind that chooses not to rage at the injustices he sees around him, but to slap on that FRSSD and work on a solution that will allow him to fulfill his ministry as a pastor and reach souls for Christ.  He has a job to do, and losing his head will not get it done.  He needs to get to that FRFBR and move boldly forward for God in love for those he serves.

Peter also tells us that there is another need for taking the time to wear the FRSSD.  It is because there are bigger things at play than what we are facing. Just like there are layers to Frank’s problems and our problems, we have a bigger problem in the wings.

Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. – 1 Peter 5:8

Satan wants to get believers to “lose it. ”

If he can get us to “lose it”, he gets to see us hurt the reputation of Christ and His redeeming work.  People look at us and see our flaws, but not necessarily the work that God is doing in our lives as a whole.  They are just more likely to remember the guy who loses his temper.

If we allow ourselves to “lose it” too many times, we will develop the habit of lashing out and hurting people.  Over time that will cause people to pull away from us and also cause us to withdraw to avoid causing pain when we realize that is what we are doing.  Once you pull back too much you will find it hard to crawl out again.

So, with 2018 just around the bend. I have decided to make a greater effort at being that SOBER man that Paul and Peter admonish us to be.  I like to pick a word every year to focus on, and the year it is #SOBER.

I would love to end this next year looking back and not being able to remember when I had to apologize for losing my temper and saying rash or hurtful things.  I would like to be able to see where I put on the FRSSD and worked it out to get to the FRFBR without needing to hang my head in between.

I’m going to need to work at it, and I will need to put some reminders in place over the next year. (My wife and co-workers might start to think I have crush on Tom Selleck because of having his picture taped and tacked up in are different places!)  I’ll also need some accountability from my friends, family, and a few co-workers.  Tell me to get my “Frank Face” on instead of letting myself get loud.

I’m living a life that is imperfect.  I make mistakes, but I am not settling for living that way.  Relentless Growth is a determination to not live as I am, but to grow in Christ even when it is hard.  This is going to be hard.  I am attacking one of my deepest weaknesses in this.  What better place to ask for the unlimited strength of God!

I hope you have a great new year and that you find something you are going to focus on as well.  Feel free to comment and share this post with others.

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.

 

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!