Probably Time To Get This Wart Removed

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Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. – Philippians 4:6-7

We are currently on a much needed vacation in Florida, and I can honestly say that am completely chilled out! It has been a long time since I have been able to enjoy this much time away from work, and I have come face to face with the fact that I need to make sure I don’t wait this long again!

Before we left, my wife was telling me that it was so nice to be able to stop worrying and just relax after her last shift ended. I told her that I will not stop worrying until we are at the hotel. She asked why, and I said that is just the way I am. I worry about things. I know it is wrong, but I do it anyway. One could even argue that it is just the way God made me, but that would be an invalid argument.

When I read the verses above this week in my devotional time, I had a thought hit me right between the eyes. I have heard people say that worry is a sin because it takes God out of the picture, but it never really hit home the way it should. As I thought about worry the other day though, I realized something:

Worry is NOT a part of how God designed us!

Back in the Garden of Eden, God made a man and a woman and He gave them everything they needed. They had food to eat, a job to do, and fellowship with their Creator. Nothing existed to worry about. All needs were met, and everything was literally “perfect”.

You don’t read that Adam worried about finding a mate. You read that God saw it was not good for him to be alone. You do not read that Adam worried about irrigation for the Garden, you read that a mist came up from the ground. You do not read that Adam and Eve worried about friends, they had each other and God.

Then you read about the fall, and the worry starts immediately. Sin brought worry with it. Plain and simple. You could say that there was not a need for worry since it was perfect, but honestly, I believe that we were not designed for it.

Think about the adverse affects of worry on the body. Ulcers, hair loss, high blood pressure, stroke, heart attack, depression. These things should stand as proof that worry is not a good thing for our bodies. If worry was a good thing then our bodies would actually thrive from it, but they don’t. Worry slowly kills.

What is the antidote? Getting close to God. The closer we are to Him, the better we see His hands at work. The easier it is to see His love and comfort in the tempest. The easier it is to feel the protection of the one and only omnipotent God. Whom shall I fear? If I am where I should be, nobody and nothing!

This doesn’t mean that everything will always feel wonderful, but it is a promise that God will clear the worry, anxiety, and fear from our minds and replace it with peace, comfort, and confidence if we just draw near to Him and take our problems to Him first rather than trying to solve them ourselves.

There is an old hymn that echoes this facet of a Relentless life:

“Only trust Him, only trust Him,
Only trust Him now.
He will save you, He will save you,
He will save you now.”

Sounds too simple, but that is how God works. Just like our salvation comes from simply believing we are sinners with a need of God’s forgiveness and recognizing Him as Lord. God doesn’t want to confuse us in these important things.

How about you? First of all, do you want to avoid worry? Then I ask if you know God. If you don’t then that is the first step. After that, it is all about staying close enough to Him that your problems cannot be allowed to be seen as bigger than they really are.

Relentless Growth -> Grow Deep -> Grow Strong

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This Blog Is On Vacation

Just wanted to check in and let everyone know that I have not forgotten to write, I am just not writing this week. I think. As far as I know… Just having some family fun. It is much overdue, and we are having a blast. Take care, and I will be back!

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My Dog Clyde. What A Wise Dog.

DSC02920This is my dog Clyde.  I got him on November 15, 1994 from the Kalkaska Animal Shelter.  When I got him he was just a cute little guy with a very big stink.  When I got him home and cleaned him up I was very pleased with the little fuzz ball I had before me.  I distinctly remember the conversation I had with Tammi regarding naming him:

Tammi: What are we going to name him?

Me: (Holding him up and looking in his eyes) His name is Clyde.

Tammi: No. That’s not a good name for such a cute puppy!

Me: (Visions of Clint Eastwood and an orangutan riding around in a pickup flashing in my mind, “Right turn, Clyde.”) Yes.  His name is Clyde.  He will grow into his name and it will fit him well, as he will be my buddy.

Not sure if my wife realizes that I named our first pet after an orangutan, but she will soon!  He did grow into the name, and it really did fit him well.  He was a great dog, and in a lot of ways still reminds me of the orangutan.  Loyal, a great companion, a source of dismay and amusement.  He’s been gone for about 8 years now.  A good dog.  One of the best.  So, why am I writing to you about my old yeller dog?  Well, settle in and we’ll get there.

Let’s talk about hope for minute first.  Why do we hope?  What does hope feel like?  Why do we need it?  Is it really that valuable?  I think it is.  We hope because deep down we know our own limitations. We have an innate knowledge that we are not able to do all things.  We come up against challenges and struggles that bring us pain, hold us down, and we don’t know what to do about them, how we are going to get through them or why we are in them.  That is where hope comes in.

Hope gives us that little bit to do one more day.  It tells us we can handle it one more time.  It is that little push in the back of the mind that says, “I’m going to make it.”  So important when you feel you are at the end of your strength, abilities, understanding.  We recently lost an icon in Robin Williams.  At the end of it all, he had no more hope. I am not discounting the reality of depression as an illness.  It really is, and while medication can be used to combat it, at the end of the day the medication allows people to deal with their depression well enough that they can hang on to that all important thing.  Hope. Hope is a very powerful thing, and we need it for life, but we also need it for beyond.

So, back to Clyde.  He was a good dog that spent most of his time around the house, but like any animal that is allowed to run free (we live in a very rural area), he would wander out from time to time to see what he could see.  Sometimes he would come home with a treasure of some sort: a chunk of a dead deer, a dead bird, and unrecognizable piece of dead something, or just an overwhelming stench from the dead something he had found to roll around in.  It never mattered to him.  He had been out experiencing life, and he was happy.

One day, he came home with something different.  He had found a porcupine, and you guessed it, he had a muzzle full of quills.  Not a happy dog.  It was weird that when I first saw him he looked so ashamed of himself.  He was whining and definitely felt miserable.  He came to me, full of pain and his eyes were pleading for help.porcupine_668_600x450

So, we did the only thing you can do.  We went to the garage and got the pliers and I went to work on him.  I don’t remember how may quills we had to pull, but I do remember that near the end, he was losing his patience with the entire operation.  He never bit or growled at me, but he was whining louder and definitely was showing that he wanted to be anywhere but where he was.

What I remember the most though was his eyes.  He just kept looking at me with those big brown eyes.  I am not a person that looks at animals as human beings.  They are not humans.  I don’t believe they are capable of emotions in the way that humans are.  I say that, but at the same time, I can say that in his eyes there was a mixture of fear and pain that was combined with a love, trust, and resignation to the process.  It was like he knew that with every quill I pulled, as painful as it was; he was getting closer to feeling good again. As I talked to him and stroked his head, he trusted me in the process.

I recently finished a devotional series by Oswald Chambers on hope.  In that study he said something that reminded me of this moment with my old yeller dog.  He said,

“Have you ever had to do something to a pet dog in order to get it well, something that hurt it very much – pulled a thorn out of its foot, or washed a wound, or anything of that sort?  If so, you will remember the expression of dumb eloquence in the eyes of the dog as he looked at you; what you were doing hurt him tremendously and yet there seemed to speak from his eyes such a trust of you as if he would say, ‘I don’t in the least understand what you are doing, what you are doings hurts, but go on with it.’”  That is an apt illustration of “suffering according to the will of God.”

Clyde looked at me with eyes that were in pain and not understanding the why of the situation.  He knew he had done something that seemed right, then not so much, but the thing he had done wrong was gone, why was he still hurting?  All he really knew was who to turn to.

I’ve had trials in the last several years, and there have been times I have felt the same way.  Hurt from my actions, from the actions of others, and sometimes hurt that I couldn’t even understand where it was coming from.  I would try to take care of it myself, but that didn’t work, and eventually I would go to the One who could help me. God.

Sometimes those conversations went well, but other times I could not understand what He wanted me to do.  I would whine and I would thrash, but in the end, I knew that what I needed was in Him.  Staying close to Him was my way out.  Only by staying close to Him would I hear His calming words, be reassured by His people, have the sins in my life revealed and forgiven.  It wasn’t as fast as I wanted, but it always brought the result that I needed… HOPE!

The hope that I have as a result of my relationship with Christ is two-fold.

1.  I have a hope for life.

 “I would have despaired had I not believed that I would see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living.” – Psalm 27:13

This is that hope that Clyde demonstrated in me.  This is the hope that we experience from knowing God will be there for us.  We can trust His Word and the promises in it that tell us we will be okay.  This is talking about the struggles we face and how as we stay close to God we will see our perspective of things come closer to His and we can see His hand at work.  Sometimes we see it in hindsight, but He is always faithful to do His work.

2.  I have a hope for eternity.

“For God so loved the world, that He sent His only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life. – John 3:16

We need a hope that takes us past life too.  If all there is in life is what we see, then we are in dire straights indeed.  God sent His Son to help us reach an eternal destination where we can have our relationship with Him be what it was intended to be.  He sent His Son to die for us so we could have that hope.  Real Hope!  A Hope that is Relentless is the life of the Christian.  A Hope that rages against Satan’s lies that will pull us down and make us ineffective or feeling empty.

Do you have that Hope today?  I want that for you.  God wants that for you.  I don’t know how you can go through life without it.  I know you don’t want to go through eternity without it.

Relentless Living is being willing to do the hard thing when it hurts because you have the hope that God is doing something good through the pain.  That He sees farther than you see, and that His methods will work for your good.  Those promises are in His Word, and they are vital to the life of a believer.

If you want to know how to have that hope, I would love to talk to you about it.  There is nothing better than having that hope.

Thanks for reading.  Please share this on your social media with as many people as you like using the links below.  Comment below if you have questions. I would love to hear from you.

Relentless Growth -> Grow Deep -> Grow Strong

 

Pass The Ketchup. This Might Go Down Hard.

eating crowAs a rule, I really try to make it a point to never discuss anything about work on this blog.  I do that for a few reasons, but the main one is that I never want to say anything that might cast my employer, client, or co-workers in a bad light.  So, why am I going to break that rule?  Because in this story, there is only one person that really comes off looking bad, and since he is the one writing the story, I think we will be OK.

Wednesday I was trying to accomplish something with a person outside the organization, and I was having a very difficult time in getting anything done.  At one point in the conversation I began to feel as if I was being accused of not knowing what I was talking about (which I did) and that I was actually lying about it (which I was not).  Those of you that know me or have read some of my blogs, might recognize that these are two things that really bother me.  I have wrestled with them for years, and while I am getting better, I’m not where I want to be yet.

As the conversation continued, I began to feel myself getting angry. (Score a point for recognizing it!)  As I realized the anger was beginning to rise, I calmly requested that the person check their facts and they would see that I was correct in what I had said.  In fact, there are others that can corroborate the validity of my statement. (Score another point for being calm!)  At this point I politely requested that the person refrain from speaking to me in a manner that was condescending and accusatory. (Score another point for talking about my feelings as a path toward a reconciliation!)

We then carried on for a few moments in a civilized manner and progress started to be made as plans began to take shape.  I was pleased.  I had been heard.  I was right. I was recognized as telling the truth.  Then it happened…

“Well, since we are the subject matter experts, we will look into this to see where you made a mistake.  Once we figure that out and put together what you think you did, we will get back to you.”

*SNAP*  (All points fell off the board when that 30 megaton nuke hiding behind that little hangy-thingy in the back of my throat went off drowning out all other voices and laying waste not only to the conversation, but also any vestiges of cooperation that had been achieved.)

When I had finished my rant, I hung up the phone and sat back for them to make their little investigation knowing full well that they would find that I was correct.  Within a couple of hours I received a short and very direct e-mail stating that while the things I said were correct, it never should have been that way and there was something that had been wrong in the process in the past that needed to be rectified.  “We are looking into that and will let you know when we have come up with a solution.” Ha! Vindication!

Thursday morning when I woke up I could not stop thinking about the way I had acted the day before.  In my mind I realized I had been too hard on them.  Maybe I should have done things differently, but they were wrong and they refused to acknowledge it.  I had a duty to point it out! I came to work and needed to contact one of those people and received no response after a couple of attempts.  Later I did exchange an e-mail or two, but they were very short, direct, and cold.   I thought, “They’ll get over it.  It was their mistake. Not my problem.”

When I got home I sat down to have my daily Quiet Time in the Word.  I opened the book of Titus, where I have been reading and was faced with the following verse:

“Teach the older men to exercise self-control, to be worthy of respect, and to live wisely. They must have sound faith and be filled with love and patience.” – Titus 2:2

I was hit hard between the eyes with what I had done.  Nothing in the way that I had acted was controlled, worthy of respect, wise, filled with love or patient.  In a nutshell, I was a jerk.  I sat there staring at my Bible and began an argument with God.

“How can You show me this right now?  I was right, and they were acting out of their own interests in complete disregard for me and what I was trying to accomplish with them!  Why are You drawing my eye to this verse? There must be something in here that would better suit me for today!”

No.  This is the lesson for the day.

I walked away for a few minutes and did some other stuff in the house.  Refusing to even sit down and finish my journal entry.  Not because I didn’t want to confess it to God, but because I knew what else I had to do.  Something really hard.  Something I had seen my buddy Ray model for me earlier this year.  I love that guy, but in the moment I wished I had never met him so I would not have seen how God took him through a similar situation.  He had done the hard thing.

Eventually I returned to my desk, Bible, and journal.  I confessed my sin of anger and my lack of all those things that I should be showing in my life as a believer.

Then the really hard part.  I drafted a letter to the men that I had mistreated:

Mr. Jones and Mr. Smith,

As I have gone through my day today, I have felt badly about yesterday and how things took such a rough turn with Mr. Jones. It was a very frustrating time, and I did not come off well in that conversation. Thinking back, I can only imagine what you guys thought of me afterward, and deservedly so. Right or wrong, in that situation, I behaved wrong. Regardless of the subject matter at hand, who was correct or any of it, I was wrong in the way that I spoke to you in anger and with little to no respect.

Today when I got home from work, I sat down to do my daily Bible reading and I read this verse from the book of Titus:

“Teach the older men to exercise self-control, to be worthy of respect, and to live wisely. They must have strong faith and be filled with love and patience.”

Guys, I teach at my church. I lead a group of men in Bible study. I’m supposed to live out what I believe and teach. Not because it makes me look good, but because it is the right thing to do. Yesterday I didn’t do that. You can probably read back through the verse and tick off the things I botched up. I see it, and I am sorry.

I am asking your forgiveness for the way that I acted. I hope you can do that. I also ask that if I start to act out like that in the future, that you will remind me of this. Just say the word “Titus” either on the phone (then hang up on me) or in an e-mail. I will get the message. I will still do my job to the best of my ability, and there will be times that we will disagree, but I do not want to get angry and act that way. That is not who I aim to be.

Again, I am sorry, and I ask for your forgiveness.

Tom

I sent the letter off and while I was uneasy about how they would respond, and admittedly, I was nervous about sharing this part of my faith, I felt better as the night went on.  I knew I had done the right thing even when it meant sacrificing my “position” of being right.

This morning, I received responses from both of those men.  They were very gracious, and gave me the forgiveness I had requested.  It felt better than being right.  A lot better.  I’m not sure if in doing this a door to speaking to them more about Christ has been opened.  I do know that they saw the work of Christ in a life through it though.  I hope that will be a seed used in the future.eat crow

Relentless living is not about keeping score.  It is about staying close to God.  I messed it up.  No doubt about it.  the thing is, I was closer to Him now than I have been in the past when I have had similar outbursts, and I came face to face with it faster and through Christ I had the courage to do the hard thing.  Not just because it was right, but also because I had a friend show me the way to do it.  Thanks, Ray, for being Relentless in your growth as well.

So, I had to “eat crow”.  It wasn’t fun, and I know the result might not always be as good as it was this time, but it was the right thing to do. The hard thing to do.  The Relentless thing to do.

Relentless Growth -> Grow Deep -> Grow Strong