Caleb – A Whole-Hearted Man

caleb (1)Imagine with me for a moment.  It is a dry and dusty day on the border of the Promised Land.  40 days earlier, Moses sent 12 men to look at the land of Canaan to see what  was waiting for them there.  Tension is high as everyone keeps looking to the hills to see if they can see any sign of the scouting party.

Finally, there they are! As they draw closer to camp, you can see that they are carrying a huge cluster of grapes.  The fruit is so large it is being carried by two men!  As questions begin to fly, the men report that the story God had told them was true!  This truly is an amazing land that holds vast resources for all the people of Israel.

As excitement fills your heart, you see another man step forward waving his arms.  He begins to speak, and you are told that there are also giants there.  Formidable armies encamped in huge cities that you would never be able to overthrow.  There are enemies wherever you look.  Defeat fills your heart as you hear those words.  How can God do this to you after He promised this paradise?  Anger begins to rise.  Some of it is directed at God, some at Moses, some at these men.  Your doubts and fears are carried along with the rest of the people and soon the noise is palpable.

Wait, who is that?  Another person is stepping forward.  Is that Caleb?  He was one of the men that went to spy out the land.  He is waving his hands and getting people’s attention.  The crowd dies down and Caleb speaks,

“Let us go up at once and occupy it, for we are well able to overcome it.”

7599303_f520Caleb came from the tribe of Judah.  I have found a couple listed meanings of his name.  One meaning is “dog”, – not that flattering – but the other is “whole-hearted” or “all of the heart”.  As names in that culture usually carried great meaning in the  individual’s life, I have to wonder if the name “dog” might have had something to do with a tenacity that he showed as a very young boy.  Maybe when he set his teeth in something, he just would not let go.  I’m not sure, but if you continue to read about Caleb’s life (and we will, Dear Reader), you will see a Relentless determination in him.  He is definitely an “all-in” kind of guy.

Think about what he must have felt as he walked back into the camp with that big cluster of grapes.  The people were all looking at these 12 guys with excitement.  The Bible doesn’t say who spoke first when the scouting party returned. Caleb was the first speaker identified in Numbers 13:30, but I wonder if he and Joshua were the two carrying the grapes.  I wonder if Joshua spoke up with Caleb and told the people about all the good things that were there. What did Caleb think when another member of the scouting party gave the doom and gloom message?  “What are you doing?  Don’t you see you are going to scare them?  We don’t have anything to worry about because we are God’s people!”  Did he throw down the grapes and rush forward yelling for their silence?  All I know for sure is that when Caleb stepped up to speak, the people got quiet enough to hear him.

As we know, they didn’t listen for long.  The people turned on Moses, decided they would ask for a new leader, and it looks like Moses and Aaron appeared to be afraid for their lives as you read the beginning of chapter 14.  It says they fell to their faces in front of the congregation.  Things were looking pretty dicey, and then:

“And Joshua the son of Nun and Caleb the son of Jephunneh, who were among those who had spied out the land, tore their clothes and said to all the congregation of the people of Israel, “The land, which we passed through to spy it out, is an exceedingly good land. If the Lord delights in us, he will bring us into this land and give it to us, a land that flows with milk and honey. Only do not rebel against the Lord. And do not fear the people of the land, for they are bread for us. Their protection is removed from them, and the Lord is with us; do not fear them.” – Numbers 14:6-9 (ESV)

What boldness to step out like that!  These guys knew that God had the entire thing under control.  They knew that He would lead them and that they would have everything God had promised.  They didn’t hesitate to stand up.  They did and said the right thing.

So, as you would expect, the people decided to stone them.  I’ve had days like that…  Just as it looks like they are going to die, God Himself steps in to stop the people, and He is not happy.  God is ready to wipe out the whole bunch of them, Moses ends up begging for the lives of the people, and God lets them live. He punishes the people by telling them that because of their unbelief, everyone over the age of 20 will not see the Promised Land.  Instead, they will wander around the desert for the next 40 years until every last one of them dies.  Well, almost all of them.

 “But my servant Caleb, because he has a different spirit and has followed me fully, I will bring into the land into which he went, and his descendants shall possess it.” – Numbers 14:24

Caleb had a different spirit.  I think it was that Relentless tenacity of a pitbull that was whole-heartedly determined to follow God.  As God saw Caleb’s heart and actions, He rewarded him for the stand that he had taken for God.  Caleb may fade into the background a bit, but whenever we see him, he is still standing strong and giving it all. Eventually he did enter the Promised Land with Joshua.  He fought for God, and he claimed the promise of God for his family.  The best part is he did it with that same tenacity!

Caleb has been a hero of mine since I was a little guy.  As an adult I see the lessons in his life more clearly, and he has grown even more significant.  He showed a Relentless pursuit of the things God promised, and as he followed God, he was blessed with health and strength for the journey that took him even into his eighties.  I want to be that kind of man.  His name resonates in my heart as a man’s man.  Even more, as God’s man.  One day I would like God to say of me that I was a servant of His with a different spirit because I had followed Him fully.

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Frazzled

logo_frazzledI’m feeling it.  That pressure that sits right behind the eyeballs.  The pressure of knowing there is more to do than can be done, and that leaves you feeling paralyzed and unable to do anything.  Sleep is not the answer because once it happens, the dreams wake you up again.  You end up going through the day feeling like you are constantly trying to catch up as you see yourself falling farther behind.

Yep.  That’s where I am right now.  Call it what you want, stressed, frazzled, tired, deprived, or half crazy.  I just know that I have had a headache for the last five days, and have averaged about four hours of sleep for the last 4 nights.  I’m beat.  Feeling like I got little or nothing left.

So, I guess I only have one of two choices.  I can either continue to feel sorry for myself or I can give it to God.

Pity Party for One – The problem is, I know that having a pity party for one is not possible.  You just can’t feel sorry for yourself without affecting other people.  They will either fall into your funk, or they will get fed up with your funk!  Either way, you will end up dragging others down.  I know I have done that today, and I need to apologize to my kids this evening.  Tammi is gone tonight, so she avoided my party.  (At least today’s party…)  Tammi, I’m sorry for the last couple days!

Give It to God – Psalm 27:13 says – “I believe that I shall look upon the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living!”  I have looked at that as a prayer in the past, but what if it was a statement of war against Satan’s constant attacks at my joy?  Would I see a difference in my attitude?   Probably so.  I think that is going to be my “mantra” tomorrow.  (That should have some old Baptists cringing! Tom is chanting!)  I need to keep my head focused on looking for God’s goodness.  A Relentless view of God’s hand at work in my life and around me.  That should help with the joy problem!

Relentless living doesn’t mean you can’t have rough days, but it does mean that as you think them through, you can and will find your joy again.  It probably won’t be in the events around you, but it can always be found in God!

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Can I Have a Moment?

a-moment-in-timeWhat is a moment? Well, here are a few definitions to chew on:

  • Little while
  • Short time
  • A bit
  • Instant
  • Second, Split second, Minute, Hour
  • Point in time

What can happen in a moment?  Admittedly, sometimes nothing, but other times we see matters of importance, significance, consequence, note, weight, concern, and interest.  The world can, and has, changed in a moment.

Man has crossed the oceans, flown like birds, set foot on the moon, and built skyscrapers.  Man has harnessed the power of the atom, transplanted hearts, and has changed the courses of rivers.  We have also seen a beautiful September day change the way we look at our nation’s security.

Those things all happened in a moment.  We remember the moments, but we forget all the preparation that went into those moments that made them stick in our heads.  Why is that?  What is it about the preparation for a moment that leaves us feeling flat until the MOMENT occurs?  Is it because they are boring?  They don’t have that little flare of “Wow”?  Is it because they sometimes feel a little like failure?

In a word – Probably.

The thing is, those moments of preparation take us to the MOMENT!  In the goal to put a man on the moon, there were a lot of failures.  There were a lot of steps that in hindsight probably seemed pretty insignificant, but they were integral to the MOMENT. If they had not taken place, we would still be looking up in the sky at the moon and wondering if it were made of cheese!

The way we live our lives can feel the same way.  We might struggle for years to attain something with what seems like nothing more than a pathetic result, but if we have been Relentless in that struggle, we have probably had some progress.  We might not be where we want to be, but we are not where we were.  We have had little moments that are building up until such a point that they can be released into the MOMENT we are looking for.  Well, if we are looking for one.

passing-time-2-51854c91a8333_hiresI think back over my life, and if I were honest, I would have to tell you that for a large chunk of it I was not looking for a MOMENT.  I was just biding my time.  In hindsight I was comfortable to let life happen to me, and I saw surviving it as a pretty good goal to have.  Yeah, that’s living!  It’s not that I didn’t have little moments that were happening all around me, I was just not looking for a MOMENT, so the preparatory moments never got my attention.

I don’t want to live that way anymore.  I have my eyes on some MOMENTS now.  God has done a work and is showing me that He has plans to put a MOMENT or two in my life, and as I look forward to those MOMENTS, I am much more aware of the little moments that are happening around me every day.  I don’t know if I need them all, and I don’t know which one might be the one that takes a moment and turns it into a MOMENT, but I’m afraid if I don’t give those moments my attention then I might not get a chance to experience the MOMENT.

I want to be Relentless in my pursuit of God and my relationship with Him.  That mindset has been a fairly recent discovery when you consider that it only came about in the last 6 or 7 years of my life.  Realizing my need to be closer to God has created hundreds of moments where I have had an opportunity to draw closer to Him.  I’ve blown more than I care to think about, but I can look back and see that this desire has brought about change through the moments.  It has put me in new positions to see the next moment, and how it might all one day fit together.

I’m experiencing another one of those moments now.  Tammi and I have had a dream of one day running a retreat for pastors and missionaries.  We have talked about it a lot, but it has always been one of those MOMENTS that we hope will happen, but have not had any real opportunity to do anything about it. We have always considered it to be something that we would start on when we retire.

Well, that is changing.  I now have an opportunity to get involved with a small retreat center right here in Kalkaska where I can learn more about that step.  Through some relationships both new and old, we have been presented with a preparatory moment that will, Lord willing, lead to a MOMENT for us!  We are excited for the opportunity to learn things both spiritual and practical that will allow us to embrace the MOMENT when God decides it is time.

I look forward to sharing more as the moments unfold.  For now, I would just like to challenge you to look at life. Are you looking for a MOMENT or just trying to get through life.  I don’t think there is a due date that you have to start by either.  If you can still fog  mirror then you are still able to look. When you find what God is showing you that grabs your attention, the start looking around you for the moments that will prepare you for the MOMENT!  That is Relentless Living!

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Hands and Heart – Part 2

unnamedI guess when I posted the first part of this blog, most people would have rightly assumed that the second part would come next.  Sorry about that, but as a loyal reader, you are now being rewarded for your patience with me!

For those of you who are on Facebook, you have probably seen a few posts from your friends using the Timehop app.  Timehop is an app that accesses your Facebook and Twitter feeds to bring up the things that you posted on the present day in history.  It is a nice little window into what you may have been thinking about, sharing with others, or in the case of many, the pictures of what you ate.

A couple of days ago my Timehop hit on a post from 5 years ago.  It was a Facebook post where I mentioned a trip I had to take down to Big Rapids to meet with my District Manager and Zone Manager with Kellogg’s.  It was not a good meeting.  In that meeting I was cut apart, had my character questioned, and was told that I was not a good employee.  They had all kinds of papers and charts to show how their numbers proved it, but many of those numbers were twisted and out of context to the point that they were terribly untrue.  The problem was, I was not in the position to make the rules.  I left that meeting on probation.

On my drive home that day I remember battling feelings of depression, anger, doubt, and fear.  I needed this job.  It was a good job, and if I had been allowed to run it the way that my customers were asking me to do things, I could have been very successful at it for them, the company and for myself.  The problem was, I didn’t make the rules, and I was not honest enough with myself to admit that I felt miserable in that job.  By the time I got home I had closed my fist as tightly as possible around the false security of that job though.  I refused to let go.

I went to work with a renewed vigor and did whatever it took to meet the demands that had been placed on me.  They were unrealistic and required me to work as many as 16 hours a day at times.  I decided it was worth it though.  It was something I refused to let go of.  I put myself in a position where I was unwilling to look at anything other than what I wanted, and that was to hold that job.

Over the next several weeks I will probably share some more of how God took me through the process of His opening my hand.  It will be a bittersweet journey for me.  I don’t like to remember the pain, but I do enjoy looking back and seeing how God worked things out and brought me to a better place.

The journey taught me the importance of letting God have access to what is in my hands.  I could close them like a fist and keep things, or I could open them to His purposes and see what He wanted to do.  It sounds easier than it is.  I felt like after God opened my hands through losing that job I was pretty much all set.  When you have had your hands opened up like I did, you are reluctant to hold tight again any time soon.

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The problem was that I didn’t open up all the way.  I had a couple fingers that were still closed.  They couldn’t hold much, but in my heart I was still hanging onto things that I didn’t want God to have.  Some of them were just things I was unwilling to trust Him to handle.  Did I think He couldn’t? No.  I just wanted that feeling of control in an environment where I had almost none.  I had so much taken from me in a short period of time, and I had such a tenuous grip on the rest that I was living in fear.

I was blessed to have a supportive wife who built into me and was also an example for me as we went through that time.  Through her, I saw an openhanded example, and while it took me a lot longer to grasp it, I believe that she was the one that planted that seed.

I also had a mentor and some friends who showed me how they lived an openhanded life, and as I spent more time with them and in my Bible I began to come face to face with the fact that I was still living a selfish life.  I didn’t have as many things to be selfish about, but I was clinging to what I had left!   Funny to think that I was hanging on to things so hard even then.

Over the last year I have learned that the key to joy in the Christian life is in the simple phrase “Thy will be done.”  When I give myself  over to what God wants, open my hands to whatever He deems right to put there, allow Him to remove the things that should be gone, I will be a happier person.  It might be painful at times, but the result has always proven to be better for me.

Relentless Growth is living in the pursuit of a relationship with God. The way to do that is to approach Him with a humble, open spirit, willing to accept what He has for your life.  It is a willingness to ask God to give me the desires of my heart that are in line with what He wants for me.  A willingness to accept what might feel hard for a time in order to receive a blessing over time.

Relentless Living requires open hands and an open heart.  I know I still stumble in this, but I have some great people that help me in it, and God keeps showing me opportunities to grow.

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Support Systems: Men Need Them Too

Aaron-and-HurToday I read in my Bible the story of Israel fighting the nation of Amalek in Exodus 17.  The children of Israel had not been long out of the land of Egypt, and the journey was starting to feel a little rough on some of them.  They had been hungry and God provided Manna for them to eat, they were thirsty and God had Moses whack a rock so they could have water.  Moses has already had one talk with God about these people he was leading to Canaan, and frankly, Moses was ready to hand them over.  Now they were going to face a battle too!

In verses 8 and following we read about this battle.  The army of Amalek came out to fight.  We see no real reason other than Israel was walking through their land, and when about a million people walk through your yard, you feel like fighting.  So, Moses gives the battle plan to Joshua that he should go out and fight Amalek the next day.  Moses’ part in the battle will be to stand on the hillside and hold up the staff of God.

The next day, the battle began.  Joshua went to the valley with his army while Moses, his brother Aaron and Hur went to the top of a nearby hill where they could watch the battle below.  Whenever Moses held the staff up Israel would gain the upper hand in the battle, but when he dropped his hands, the battle would quickly go in favor of Amalek.  Moses was getting tired, and things were starting to look very bad for Israel.  Then, in verse 12 we read:

But Moses’ hands grew weary, so they took a stone and put it under him, and he sat on it, while Aaron and Hur held up his hands, one on one side, and the other on the other side. So his hands were steady until the going down of the sun.

– Exodus 17:12

At the end of the day, Israel prevailed over Amalek.  As I thought about this passage I began thinking about how this battle was won.  Obviously God brought about the victory, but to me it was the way that He did it, and the lessons I can take from this battle and how God’s men were used in it.

Nobody doubts that Moses was God’s guy.  He was the one with the special staff, the one that talked to Pharaoh, the one that was leading the people and the conduit God used whenever He spoke to His people, but this was a time that Moses needed help.  If he had not had help then it would have simply been a story of God sweeping in and just blasting the enemy.  I think God wants us to see the importance of the men that were in it with Moses.  He was not alone. Sometimes we need people to come alongside us to give us specific support.  Moses had that. He had men that showed three very important attributes we need in those we do life with.

A Warrior – Joshua was Moses’ guy when it came to battle, and eventually he became God’s guy to use to conquer the Promised Land.  He was the guy that could see the obstacle, but also had the gifts necessary to overcome them.  We need people like that in our lives too.  They need to take care to not take up a battle they should not, but we should have that person we can count on when things get really bad.  We need someone who will just look us in the eye and echo Val Kilmer’s Doc Holiday and say, “I’m your Huckleberry.”  (Go watch the movie Tombstone if you didn’t get that reference. Best line of the flick.)

A Comforter – Moses was tired and needed to sit down or the battle would be lost.  Aaron and Hur hauled up a rock and gave him a place to sit in order for the battle to continue.  We need to have a friend in our life that is there to offer that comfort we need from time to time when we are just flat wore out. Maybe finances are rough and they drop a bag of groceries off or take you out to eat.  Maybe they just show up with a pizza and watch movie with you.  They don’t do anything really big, but they are there when the battle is raging to do something that gives you just that little bit of “normal” needed to keep you in the fight.

An Encourager – Moses was ready to drop. his arms felt like lead, and he had nothing more to give.  I imagine he was in pain, but Aaron and Hur stepped in and said, “We’re here.  You have to finish this, we can’t do it for you, but we are here to see you through it. We’ve got ya.”  These are the guys that allow us to experience victory.  These are the guys that help us conquer addictions, depression, and so much more.  They know the battle is not theirs but they just refuse to walk away and let you flounder.  They want the win for you as much or more than you do!

God has blessed me with men like this in my life.  One of those men challenged me to invest in the spiritual lives of those I call friend.  You could say he called on me to fight for the friends that I have.  Another of those men is a grand encourager to me.  I would call him a cheerleader, but nobody wants to see those legs in a skirt!  He is always telling me that I can do it through God’s help and he draws my eyes back to His battle plan.  Some of the others are guys that always seem to know when I am feeling the weight of battle and they just wander by and let me know they care.  Not a big, flashy role, but vital for victory.

I hope I am doing the same for those guys.  In a Relentless life, we all have our own battles, but we share the struggles with each other and lift each other up.  We provide a rest for each other when we just need a chance to relax.  We are willing to gear up to fight when necessary.

So, how about you?  Are you in the battle now?  Do you know someone who is?  Start looking at who is there for you an dhow you can be there for them.  You’ll be glad you did.

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Happy Anniversary, Mom & Dad!

303936_10150265283331917_6162992_nOn a cold and snowy March 4 in the middle of a fantastic blizzard forty-three years ago today, my parents were married in the small country church I can still see out my kitchen window.  I guess it was quite the storm with people ending up stranded in town that had come from miles away to see them say their vows.

The promise they made to God and each other still holds strong today.  43 years, two sons, and four grandkids later, they are still as committed to each other as they were on that wintry day.

I’m very thankful for the parents I have and for their example of sticking together through the good times as well as the tough times.  I can say that I never had a single concern about whether they would be together as I grew up.  I was blessed, more than I knew, to be in a home where my parents made sure they took care of each other and made sure we knew how important that was.

A little over 22.5 years later I got married in that same church on a rainy August day.  In our 20 years together, I look at the example my parents set for me, and that helps me be the husband I need to be for my wife.  I am thankful.  More thankful than I can say that they have always been there.

Happy Anniversary, Mom & Dad!  I love you both!

Hands and Heart – Part 1

The Hand In Your HeartAt the end of my arms are these things called hands.  They are “handy” to say the least. (OK, that was bad, but if you know me, you know I like a good pun, and I really like a bad one!) Hands can be used to do anything from brain surgery to automotive repair to plunging a toilet.  They can wage war, build buildings, and comfort the sick.  Some are big, some small, but all of them have one thing in common – they are servants of the heart and mind and will reflect the attitude of the person that owns them.

I have been thinking a lot about hands lately, and how they can be a reflection of the heart.  I don’t think it is a coincidence that God made the human heart about the size of your hand when closed in a fist.  How we hold our hands can be a picture of the heart.  Take a minute and think about how your heart feels and put your hands in that position.  Are they closed in a fist? Open?  Are they trembling?  Limp? Are they clenched in anger or fear?

10 years ago I would tell you that my heart and hands were pretty hard and closed.  I didn’t really intend it to be that way, but my default was usually a fist.   A fist has its benefits:

  1. I could hold things tightly. – I didn’t want to lose the things that I had.  There were things that I had worked very hard to get, and at time I felt that I was having them taken from me.  That made me very fearful, and I would hang on with all I had to keep those things close.
  2. I could keep things away from me. – Ask anyone in law enforcement, and they will tell you that in some circumstances the way a person stands will tell you what they might be willing to do, and a closed fist is a sign to be very cautious.  I would let people be around me, but I know that I didn’t attract many either.   That “closed fist” aura was around me, and I was fine with that.
  3. I could fight at any time. – It doesn’t take long to make a fist, but I was already set to go.  I was willing to wade into a war at a moment’s notice.  If I felt the threat it was go time.  If I saw a cause I wanted in on, it was time to throw down.  It didn’t need to even be my problem, I was willing to make it my problem.  I wasn’t physically fighting, but my heart was a closed fist and ready to go to defend anything.

Slide3As time went on I began to see that this closed fist mentality also had some real problems too.  I had an opportunity to join a men’s group about 5 years ago, and as a result I learned that I had some changes to make.  Our leader saw some things in me that needed change, and as we reflected on them together, he helped me see some of the negatives of a closed fist way of living:

  1. I was pretty much alone. – Like I said, I did a good job of keeping things and people away from me.  I knew I had people that could hang out with me, but I didn’t really have anyone who knew me well.  I lived a life where I didn’t trust people or want them to get inside a certain level of friendship because it could cost me something.  They might want to get into my hand and take something from me.  I couldn’t let that happen.  It was “better” to be alone.
  2. I had alienated people. – My words, actions, and selfishness had driven some people away from me.  I needed to be heard, understood, and most importantly, I needed to be right.  To that end I would escalate simple differences in opinion to the point of pushing good people out of my life.
  3. I was unable to give. – My hands were so tightly closed around what I perceived to be mine that I was not able to even comprehend what it was like to have a generous heart.  I saw people enjoy giving gifts, or helping others and I just could not understand how they could do that.
  4. I was barely able to receive. – Make a fist and then have someone throw you an apple. Try to catch it with that hand.  I was so clamped down on life that I know I let opportunities pass me by because I was more concerned with what was in my hand than what better things might have been available.

I’m a child of God, and when God has a child that He wants to speak to, He will send gentle reminders from time to time in order to bring them around.  Looking back, I can see a lot of them that He sent my way, but I missed them at the time.  When a person is a closed fist, they tend to miss a lot of things – did you catch the apple?  Eventually, God may decide it is time to put His hands into the process.

When my kids were little, they would sometimes grab things that they were trying to shove into their mouths.  We would tell them to stop and try to take it from them, but they would squeeze their little fist as tightly as they could to hold onto that prized morsel of indeterminate and probably unsanitary nature. We would grab their little hands and pry their fingers apart to take it away.

God’s hands are bigger than mine.  Almost 5 years ago He used His big hands to pull my fist of a heart open.  My heart that was determined to do things my own way needed to be pried open as only God could have done it.  I lost my job, and that was the beginning of the release of a lot of things.  I lost my income, and in a lot of ways, I lost my identity.  I lost some pride, but that was a good thing!

I’m glad I no longer had a fist in my heart.  It was finally open, but I can tell you that it was broken.  I was dislocated in a lot of areas, and that was difficult to get past.  God had broken my closed-fisted heart in order to get me to see what I was and my need for Him to be in control.

Looking back, I am glad He did.  It set me on a journey, and that journey has brought me where I am today.  It led me to an understanding that the call of my life is to be Relentless in my pursuit of what God may have for me.  I can tell you today, that it is becoming clear.  God is making some changes in my life and that of my family as well.  We are very excited to see how things will play out as we continue to see His leading in our lives.  I look forward to telling  you more about it next week!

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