Just Call Me “Stretch”

stretchStretching is a good thing. It allows muscles and joints to work better. It can alleviate pain, and improve mobility. It is a necessary thing for growth in other aspects of our lives. Think about your education, your relationships, and your work. Stretching is a good thing!

Unless you take it too far. Stretching can also tear things. Stretching without proper understanding of limitations and abilities can cause harm. Think about a time when you went out and stretched yourself and got hurt in a relationship, a work experience. Stretching without understanding can be a very bad thing.

Recently God has been stretching me in some new ways. Work has been a very stretchy experience, and at times I think it is not all good, but I can say that I am learning how to better adapt to that stress, and I have gotten better at saying an unpopular word, “No!” I can’t, nor should I, say it all the time, but I am getting a little bit better at it.

God has been stretching my leadership as well. Not only at work, but at home, church, and with my group of guys. It has been great to see so much change lately in those areas, and it seems like it is all happening at once, but I know that it is just the results of little change that has been happening for a while.

I think the area that God has been stretching the most lately has been in my willingness. Yes. I stopped at willingness. Not a willingness to do something in particular, but just in my ability to be willing. Ask my wife. She’ll tell you that I have been a very unwilling person in some pretty significant areas in my life. Just in the last year or so, I have been willing to let go of some things in order to have an open hand that can receive or grab on to something new.

Why is that? Well, I think a lot of it is a control issue that I am known for. I like to be in control and that is just pretty much all that needs to be said about it. If I am in control then I get to be the one that decides how, when, and where something should be done. The downside of that is that I don’t have anyone to blame if something goes south, but I still get to control the timetable so I can say I will get back to that.

But I have had a lot of things happen in the last 4-5 years that have been completely out of my control. (Or at least my illusion of control, but that is a whole ‘nuther topic!) Over this last half decade I have been at times thrust into a stretch that I had not intended. Ever did the splits on ice? That hurts! Those stretches have been difficult, but I am starting to understand that there was a value in them.

Jeremiah 29:11 says:

For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.

Those painful stretches I have had are actually a part of God’s plan for my life. They have made me over (in some capacity) to be a person that can handle a little more than the guy I used to be. I’m not Superman or anything, and you will not see me doing a Jean Claude VanDamme split in any sense of the image, but I am now a more willing man.

Why do I bring this up? What would be the purpose of telling you about stretching? Well, it looks like God might be asking me to stretch again. I’m not sure, and I am praying hard about it, but God has put something in my path that I need to think about, pray about, and do some digging into in order to see if it is something I need to just step around, or if He put it there for me to go over.

Going around is always easy, and it doesn’t require much of a stretch. Going over can be problematic as it is difficult, requires stretching and trust, and to top it off, I am afraid of heights! I tell my kids that the hard choice is usually the right choice, and that is true, but sometimes the right choice, teh wise choice,  is backing away and stepping around something that could hurt you.

I don’t know what choice will take place. There is a lot I need to know. It will take some investigating to see what God might have to say about it. One thing I do know is that I want to be that willing man that is Relentless is his pursuit of God, and is Relentless about being where God wants him to be. You see, going over or around is not the most important thing. Stretching me is a good thing if I am smack dab in the middle of the plan God has for me. Taking the hard route over or the easy route around makes no difference if I am not in God’s will.

So, pray for me and my wife as we are praying. We want to be, as our friends Joe and Traci say, “Extraordinary” people. (I call it Relentless, but the thoughts are pretty much the same) God is good, and I know He wants what is best for me as I grow in Him.

He wants the same for you too. If you would like to know more about how to know Him and begin your own journey of Relentless living, I would love to talk to you.

Relentless Growth -> Grow Deep -> Grow Strong

 

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Messages & Messengers

And we also thank God constantly for this, that when you received the Word of God, which you heard from us, you accepted it not as the word of men but as what it really is, the word of God, which is at work in you believers.

– 1 Thessalonians 2:13

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I’m acting as a County Conference Assistant this week at the 4-H Exploration Days at MSU. (Inward cringe at being held in Spartan world for three days). There are a lot of great programs here for the kids, and I am actually happy to be able to help our county office by being here to cover the guys.

I’m working with a group of young guys I barely know. It is interesting to see their different personalities, their maturity levels, and communication skills. One big thing I have noticed is that there is one that struggles with rules.

When the rules were given before we even arrived, he began questioning them. I admit that I was really struggling with how I would work with him. COULD I work with him?

I decided to try a new tack when we got here. I got all of the guys together and discussed the rules. The first thing I said is that I had no rules for them. That got everybody excited! I then reminded them that the county 4-H club had rules, and they needed to be followed. MSU has rules, and they need to be followed. I have no reason to give them rules. Well, I had one rule, and that was to not be obnoxious with me about the rules!

It’s hard when people assign their displeasure about something to the messenger. The poor guy delivering the message usually takes the heat when they don’t like what they hear. That was what I was getting from this kid before we got here, but once he had a better understanding of the situation, he could believe that I was not here to keep him down, but to give him guidance that would allow him to avoid a penalty that he would not like.

I appreciated it when he got it. I wonder if Paul felt the same way in this verse. I can almost here him saying, “They got it! The message comes from God! They understand that I am just a mouthpiece for Him!” I know it takes the pressure off me when I know that somebody “gets it” because then I am able to engage them differently since I don’t need to be worried about the other stuff.

I really like to blog, but lately I have not felt the joy of it. I’m not sure, but I think I might be giving some stuff too much thought. Not because I want to overanalyze things, but because I want to help people understand that a lot of what I talk about here is stuff I am getting from reading God’s Word. That stress to make sure I am not putting out false truths or giving my opinion as TRUTH has made it hard to keep going sometimes. I’m gonna be working on that. I want the joy of writing again.

Relentless Growth is not a comfortable life. It is a life of action, moving ever forward toward the goal. It is time for a recommitment toward that ideal in my life. I want to be a good example of what it means to follow Christ. I want to be a good husband, father, friend, and employee. If I am going to do that, I need to be more like Christ. Show His compassion, His love, His grace, and display more of His wisdom. Show so much of Him at work in my life that the people who read this blog or talk to me at work have no doubt where the message is coming from or what the motivation is behind them.

How about you? Are you ready to do the same? Let me know. I would love to pray for you as we grow together.

Relentless Growth -> Grow Deep -> Grow Strong

Valor: Sometimes Getting You To Step Up Requires A Push

468758345_640One of the stories from the Bible that I have always loved is the story of Gideon.  It is the ultimate story of God reaching down and taking a guy who appears to be the least likely of leaders and turning him into a warrior with the honor of leading the original 300.  I’ve heard and read the story a hundred times, but like so many times lately when I read God’s Word I am seeing something new.

The Call of Gideon

 Now the angel of the Lord came and sat under the terebinth at Ophrah, which belonged to Joash the Abiezrite, while his son Gideon was beating out wheat in the winepress to hide it from the Midianites. And the angel of the Lord appeared to him and said to him, “The Lord is with you, O mighty man of valor.” And Gideon said to him, “Please, sir, if the Lord is with us, why then has all this happened to us? And where are all his wonderful deeds that our fathers recounted to us, saying, ‘Did not the Lord bring us up from Egypt?’ But now the Lord has forsaken us and given us into the hand of Midian.” And the Lord turned to him and said, “Go in this might of yours and save Israel from the hand of Midian; do not I send you?” And he said to him, “Please, Lord, how can I save Israel? Behold, my clan is the weakest in Manasseh, and I am the least in my father’s house.” And the Lord said to him, “But I will be with you, and you shall strike the Midianites as one man.”

– Judges 6:11-16

Valor is defined as “boldness or determination in facing great danger, especially in battle.”  Not exactly the words you would think of using when describing a guy who is hiding in a winepress thrashing some wheat where he won’t be seen.  Nevertheless, that is what the angel of the Lord called him.  That just really stood out to me when I read it.  “Man of valor?”  Why would Gideon be described that way? I used to think it was God speaking through the angel with a little sarcastic tone in His voice. (We do tend to make God into our own image…)  As I thought about it more, I began to think more about the people involved here and what they were doing.

Gideon – Hiding from his enemies, but still working.  I don’t know if he was thrashing this grain for himself, his family, or for someone else, but in the middle of this oppression from the Midianites, he was still doing something rather than just sitting around and crying for help.

The Angel – Sent on a mission to deliver a message.  Was the angel of the Lord actually Christ?  Not sure. Doesn’t really matter for the sake of the account.  The angel was there to do as it had been told, speak truth to Gideon.

God – The Creator of all mankind, the Jehovah God of the Israelite nation.  All powerful, and all knowing.

The more I thought about it, I realized that when the angel spoke God’s words to Gideon, he was not speaking of the Gideon that stood before him.  He was speaking of the warrior inside him.  Even in the act of grinding out wheat in a secret place, he was acting with a determination to do something.  I believe God had been looking at the nation of Israel to find the one who would lead His people into battle, and Gideon was just the guy He was looking for.

When the angel spoke, Gideon’s fear and frustration came out.  “With us?  What do you mean God is with us?  Look around!  I’m scraping together a little wheat for bread, and who knows when I will get caught? I’ve heard all the stories of how great God is, but where is He now?  He is the one who put us in this mess with Midian.”  Bold words.  Possibly foolish words, but God saw the heart.  He could see the determination in Gideon, and He wanted to draw that out.

Telling Gideon to go fight Midian on his own was God’s way to help Gideon understand that not only did God know the abilities of Gideon, but He also wanted Gideon to know that He knew Gideon understood his own limitations.  “Fight on your own, Gideon, and you will fall, but I am not sending you out alone.  Go with ME, and the entire army of Midian will fall as if it was a single man.”

Time and again in God’s Word we see Him use the lowly, the weak, the unassuming to do great things.  God does this to bring the glory where it belongs – to Him!  That is what we are created to do, and when we surrender our desires and our fears to allow ourselves to be used by God, He will do great things with us.  It is our opportunity to join Him in His plan, His will, and sometimes, His miracles.  Sometimes He just needs to come along and give us a little push.

I believe God used Gideon because he was doing something.  It wasn’t a big thing, but it was something.  That heart, that attitude is what God is looking for.  He wants to see us determined. He wants to see us being Relentless about something.  If we are moving and wanting to be used, God will use us!

I’ve had some very hard times over the years that have shaken my faith.  At times I have wondered about God much like Gideon did.  I just wanted to find a place to curl up and give up.  It is just too hard.  I quit… I never could completely quit though.  Call it faith, stubbornness, habit, or whatever you want, but I kept trying to at least do something.  I wish I could always say that I had nothing but God’s glory in mind, but it was usually not much more than maintaining the status quo as much as possible.  Just keep on truckin’.

Whenever those moments would come, God would send someone along to say something though.  It would be just the right thing to spark that determination in me again.  The words would be there to give me hope, and in that hope I would dig into God and His Word, see His truth, His power, His promises, and I would be able to do something through Him that I could never accomplish on my own.

Valor is a word we don’t hear much anymore, but maybe we need to resurrect it.  A life of Relentless Growth should be a life of valor. I know it is what I want in my life, and I want it for my son and my brothers in Christ.  I’m not sure what God is going to do with me through the rest of my life, and there will be times that He will need to give me a push to get it rolling, but I hope that God will look on me as a man of valor.  I hope I can influence others to that as well.

Relentless Growth -> Grow Deep -> Grow Strong