In This Corner…

Kevin-Keigley-Buffet (1)But may all who search for You be filled with joy and gladness.  May those who love Your salvation repeatedly shout, “The Lord is great!”  As for me, I am poor and needy, but the Lord is thinking about me right now.  You are my helper and my savior. Do not delay, O my God.

–          Psalm 40:16-17

2013 is coming to a close.  It is that time of year when we sit down and take an inventory of how our year went and what we would like to think about for the coming year.  Sometimes we are happy with our results, and other times…

Well, overall, I have had a very good year.  Tammi and I are happier than we have ever been, and we just celebrated our 20th CHRISTmas as a married couple.  Amazing how time flies when you are having fun, and we are!  Our kids are doing well and we are proud to see how they are not only growing physically, but also spiritually.  It has been so awesome to see God stretch each of them through experiences this past year.

Well, there is one area that I want to focus on for this next year.  I am not positive, but I think I have managed (with some variation over the course of the year) to maintain my unhealthy weight.  I can tell you, it wasn’t always easy.  There were some very hard times where I had to get through serious indigestion, discomfort while tying my shoes, and sweating while eating.  Through it all, I managed to persevere and stay in the game.

Why is that?  I know that there have been a lot of times that I tried to talk myself out of some of the food choices I was making, but I turned a deaf ear to my own advice.  Well, maybe it wasn’t a deaf ear.  My wife says I chew very loudly, so maybe I just didn’t hear…

No, that wasn’t it.  I know the reason.  I love food.  Really. I love it! I think that at times it has gone too far, and I have made it my god.  I joke about that at times, but it really isn’t very funny.  Some days I have given food far more thought, attention, study, and adoration than I have given God.  Not  something I am proud of.

I don’t want to be cliché or anything, but I am really beginning a new focus in this area this year.  I will be going to see the doc in a few weeks, and I have a goal for that appointment.  After that, I have a goal in mind for my 41st B-Day in May and then another for September and one for year end.

Why?  Well, I want to be healthier, for one.  I’m 40, and I am much more aware of blood pressure and cholesterol than I was 10 years ago.  If I don’t pay attention to it I might not need to bother in another 10 years!  My health is important so I am available for my family, but it isn’t the most important reason.

The most important reason is that I want to be filled with God.  I want to be filled with His joy as it says in the verse above.  I am poor and needy in this area, and it really gives me strength to think that God is thinking about me as I work on this.  It won’t be easy.  It will be very hard at times.  I know I will need to work hard on this, and that I will sometimes fail.  As I sit here and write this I am surrounded by food at a family gathering.  I guess this is the first challenge.  There will be more.  Too many more.

I know that there will be those who will help me with accountability.  Some will not need to be asked, as they will read this as an invitation to get in my business from time to time.  I will need to ask a few others.  I feel good knowing that I have people who care enough to do it.

So, there is a Relentless Growth for 2014.  To remove my stomach from the throne of my life and put my Lord and Savior on it instead.  I will probably post a couple other goals over the next few days as well.  If I don’t write them down, then I am the only one checking up on me!

Be relentless!

In HIS Grip,

Tom

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I’ve Had My Phil…Moments

phil-robertson-238x300If you have been living under a rock for the last couple of years, you might not know who Phil Robertson is.  If you have been off planet for the last 10 days, you might not know what Phil Robertson said.  If you want to hang around for a few minutes, I would like to offer a thought or two on this.

I have had several “Phil” moments.  When I say a “Phil” moment, I don’t want to sound like I am putting him down.  I am talking about those times when I said something about something I believed in, and somebody got upset. Really upset.  Not burn my house down upset, but drag my name through the mud, tell all their friends, shoot me ugly looks kind of upset.

When I look back at those moments, I think about what I was thinking at the time the words left my mouth.  I’m ashamed to say that there have been times when the wrong motive was at work.  I’m very ashamed of some of those moments.  They might not be the majority, but still too many for comfort.

What I see most often when I look at those times is that I was not paying attention to the people that were about to hear the words that were going to fall off my tongue.  What would they do with those words?  Would they take them in and understand them, or were they looking for something to bludgeon me with?

“I was not paying attention to the people that were about to hear the words…”

The motive behind the words is important because that is where our decision is made to disrespect people, to hurt people, to tell people they anger us.  Our motive can be to merely share what we think, to invite a discussion, or to share information that we believe can help them, but our audience will determine what is heard if we are not careful.

I have angered friends and family with words that I thought were simple, straightforward, and necessary.  I have hurt people with words that I had thought would be beneficial to them.  I have pushed people away with words that I had intended to help bridge gaps.

The audience that hears our words is so important to the message we want to convey.  If you want someone to hear you exactly for what you mean, there must be a trust in place that you are going to be speaking in their best interest.  If they don’t trust you enough for that… it probably won’t be pretty.

I believe that Phil spoke from his heart not to condemn, but to share his belief in the Bible.  I believe he did not call out a group of people for the purpose of shaming them or angering them, it was just what came to mind at the time.

We as humans do not like to be reminded of our sins.  I know I don’t!  But I am a sinner.  I have done things that the Bible clearly outlines as sin.  That makes me a sinner.  Have I done them all? Nope. I don’t plan on it either!  The thing is that it only takes one to be a sinner.  That is what I believe to be true based on what I have read in the Bible.

Since I believe the Bible to be true, I do try to live my life a certain way.  There are times that the way I live my life does not “jive” with how another person wants to live their life.  Those are the moments where I need to be careful.  Those are the moments where the people misunderstand, get hurt, get angry.

“There are times that the way I live my life does not “jive” with how another person wants to live their life.”

I don’t want to hurt people with my words.  I want to try and reach people with the things I have to say.  I have been given so much by my God, and I want people to experience those gifts for themselves.  That is why I want to be aware of the people I speak to.  I want people to know that I am not in the business of judging.  I want people to know I care – even if I don’t agree with them.

I guess the one thing that this has brought up in my mind more than anything else is this:

When was the last time that I made a statement of my belief in the Bible and its truth that resulted in me being in hot water?

Been a long time.  Probably too long.  I am not saying that it is time for me to start looking for people that I can expose their sins in order to start a controversy.  That would be wrong, and I don’t think that was what Phil did.  I am just saying that I need to be more aware of the truth that is in me because of the belief I have in God’s Word, and look for the opportunity to share that truth.

That’s what Phil did.  He did not target, he did not chastise.  He spoke his belief in what the Bible has to say.  He did not attack, and he also expressed his desire to show God’s love to people.  The entire message was not heard by most.

Some heard hate.  Some heard a battle cry.  Some heard anger and judgment.  Some heard a call.  I think very few heard his heart.  Not because he didn’t speak it, but because people saw him as a man with an agenda.  I really think he was just a man, sitting down to share his thoughts.  He didn’t expect all that happened afterward.  It’s a shame that it all went the way it did.

Tolerance.  We hear the need for it all of the time.  We need to understand the meaning of it.  It means that I will not look down on your for your beliefs, but that does not mean that I need to change mine.  We might not agree, but we do not need to hate.  We do not need to be angry.  We do not need to tear down.  We just disagree.

Relentless growth requires coming to grips with what you believe and finding the way to defend that belief without attacking a person.  We, as Christians, are not here to judge.  We are sinners as well, and have no right pointing a finger.  Our job is in reflecting the light of Christ into lives, and you cannot do that with a pointed finger or a closed ear.

What are your thoughts?  I would love to hear them.  Please comment below.

In HIS Grip,

Tom

When the Floor Drops Out…

chapel rock lake michigan Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore 2About 10 years ago my family went on a trip to the UP to stay on Lake Muskellonge at the State Campground.  It was our first time dragging a camper that far, and we had a ton of fun.  While we were there, we drove down to Munising to do something we had wanted to do, but for the first time we were close enough to do it.  We took a trip on the Pictured Rocks boat tour.

Some of you might say, “So what? You rode a boat and looked at rocks.”  Yep.  We did.  But we got to see some amazing things on that rocky shoreline of Lake Superior.  There are a lot of really pretty cliffs, caves, waterfalls, and formations.  We were able to see the amazing beauty of God’s creation and the power that it holds as well.  We also got to see something else…  A tree!

chapel rock lake michigan Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore 7

Yes, dear Reader, I am going to talk to you about a tree again…

This tree has stuck in my mind since that trip, and while I was first in amazement at what I saw, now I am even more amazed at the lesson God has given me in that tree.

So, about this tree. This white pine stands alone on the top of Chapel Rock.  There is almost no topsoil on this rock, and no source of water.  There is absolutely no reason this tree should be alive.  Or is there?  If you look very closely in the pictures below, you will see what looks like a branch that reaches from chapel rock back to the mainland.  That branch is actually the root of the tree.

chapel rock lake michigan Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore 3

Back in the 1940’s there was a sandstone arch that bridged the gap between Chapel Rock and the mainland.  The arch finally fell due to the power of the rain, waves, and wind that battered it every winter.  When the arch fell, somehow, the root of that tree remained.  As time went on it thickened and hardened, and now is the lifeline for that tree.

As you can see, the tree is healthy and green, showing no signs of distress some 70+ years later.  How long will it stay?  Who can tell?  All I know is that 10 years ago I saw that tree and thought how neat it was that it had been just the right distance from the edge that it was not pulled off.  I thought how amazing it was that the tree had been able to get enough root in to survive.

Now, I see a symbol of not just a relentless desire to live, but to grow as well!

chapel rock lake michigan Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore 5

That tree is bigger now than it was 70 years ago.  In circumstances that seem impossible, it has not only held tough and refused to die, it has grown!  It might be separated from its life-giving food and water by empty space, but it has continued to do what it was made to do – GROW!

So, what makes that tree speak to me?  I think we are alike in a few different ways:

We both had a great start

I grew up in church and accepted Christ at a young age.  I started to put down my spiritual roots and grow.  There were times I felt all alone, but still knew that I was connected to God and things would be alright.

We both saw a huge disaster

My faith was seriously shaken in my teenage years through some things that happened in my church.  I saw things that I had thought to be solid, crumbling around me, and eventually I lost everything that I had known in my church life.  I lost friends, and I lost a lot of hope.  I was still connected to God, but it felt tenuous at best.

We both survived

As time went on, I began to see that the things I had depended on before were not what had been giving me what I needed to survive in the first place.  While the people and the familiar surroundings had been nice, they strength I needed for spiritual life was not in them, but in the person of God.

We both grew

As my focus turned more to that lifeline back to God, I began to look to His Word for leading and instruction in wisdom.  He spoke to me through His Word and gave me opportunities to do things that stretched me.  There were rough times, but there were a lot of good times too.  Times that I can look back on and see as pivotal moments in my faith journey.

chapel rock lake michigan Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore 1

I have adopted a picture of that tree not only as the header picture for this blog, but also as a reminder of the relentless life I want to live.  There are things in life that are hard, that hurt, things that seem insurmountable.  Without a strong tie to God, they would be.

I now see my relationship with God as being the most important thing to keep me on track in my life.  I have to be unyielding in my pursuit to know Him better and to be more like Him.

If I want to be strong, healthy, and growing, I need to be connected to God.  That connection cannot just be in order to live because that is short-changing the power that God wants to put to work in my life.

I might stand alone on a rock in the eyes of many, but my strength comes from my tie to God.

Be Relentless and Grow!

In His Grip,

Tom