Looking Back

no-looking-back1We’ve all heard that hindsight is 20/20.  Choices and actions, once played out, dispense wisdom that would have proven useful at the time!  Even things planned with great care and thought can turn into major disasters when we leave some “minor” or “impossible” factor out of our thought process.

Case in point – the Titanic. In 1907 the White Star Line was watching their fleet begin to age, they began to plan for their next ships.  They wanted the new ships to be larger, faster, and more luxurious for their passengers. After a year of planning, the ship’s designs were approved.  After that, it was almost 4 years before the Titanic was ready to make her maiden journey across the Atlantic Ocean.  Deemed “unsinkable”, she was a testament to man’s ability to create wondrous things.

So much planning and work went into getting the Titanic from being an idea, to putting it on paper, and finally getting her into the water.  The result?  1500 people died.  In hindsight, a few things could have been done a little differently:

  • The number of lifeboats should not have been reduced
  • The crew should have been better trained in evacuation procedures as some of the boats were launched barely half full
  • Warnings about ice in the area were ignored
  • The ship ran at full-steam even though visual conditions were poor

1,500 people died in the icy waters of the North Atlantic, but if these things had been carried out, who knows how many might have lived?  Even if the iceberg had still been struck, any of those four things would likely have reduced the loss of life.

It’s easy to sit back and play Monday morning quarterback – especially with the mistakes that other people make, but how often do we sit down and do it with ourselves? It’s not fun to drag up our own mess and pick through it to find things we should have done better.  It brings feelings of guilt or shame, and none of us want that.  If we’re really lucky we might get that occasional treat and blame someone else though! Dig a little deeper and we will always see that the blame we put on others will most often still lead to a missed opportunity to make a better decision.

I don’t want to go through my life pretending that my mistakes didn’t happen, and I certainly don’t want to be one of those people that refuses to learn from them. It has been said that experience is the best teacher, but I can say that somebody else’s experience can be just as good if we are paying attention – and it hurts a lot less.

Relentless Living is taking the time to look into your past, see the things that you did, and pull the lessons from them.  Leave the guilt, the blame, and the shame in the past, but bring out the wisdom from the experience and use it for the things you currently face, store it away for the things you will face in the future.  Make right what needs to be made right and then get back to living!

I’ve been thinking a lot about what I want to do with this blog lately.  How often do I post?  How often should I post? Is anyone really interested in what I post?  How long should a post be? (I know I have given some long ones lately – sorry about that…)  I decided that I want to start doing something differently.

My new goal is to write something small once or twice a week that is a reflection on a mistake made, or a lesson learned.  I want to take the time to ask myself the questions, “What would I do differently if I could go back and do it over again?” or “What do I wish someone had told me about that before I messed up?”  It should be fun.  Then I will try for one post a week that is more like what I have been doing.

I don’t want to say that the tragedy of the Titanic was a good thing, but it did change how the shipping industry did things after that.  Lessons were learned, and behaviors changed.  That is what I am hoping to do here.  I want to change for the better, and I want that for anyone reading this too.  More importantly, God wants it for us!  That is why He sent His Son to die for us and gives us the Holy Spirit to reside in us.  He wants to help us sort through our decisions, both good and bad, and grow.

So, I hope to see you back here in a day or two!

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You Wanna Fight?

Risk-War-RoomAll my life I have been taught that it is important to pray.  I grew up in church, went to a Christian school, watched my parents and grandparents pray, and attended prayer meeting on Wednesday evenings where people would pray what I called “marathon” prayers.  While prayer has always been a part of my life, lately it has become something that is getting more of my attention, and I’m not alone.

With the recent success of the movie War Room, prayer has become a big topic.  It has been interesting to listen to people discussing their take on the movie and its message (whether they have actually seen it or not!), and while some people may not agree with its message, you have to admit that the viewing public is putting up their votes at the box office.  In its first four weekends, it debuted at #2, moved up to #1, dropped to #3 and finished this weekend at #6.  That’s a pretty respectable showing for a movie that talks about praying strategically to God, the Father of Jesus Christ in the name of the Holy Spirit – especially in our politically correct nation.

A couple of months ago I started to read a book by Cliff Graham called Cover Me that also hits extensively on prayer.  The book speaks specifically about the war that takes place in the spiritual realm around the life of a believer and how he can actually join the fight the right way.  The primary weapon he discusses is prayer and having a relationship with God.  As a believer, I know that God is there with me at all times, but do I really believe that I can speak to Him and that He hears me?  That’s a tough question to answer, and I wish I could say that more of my decisions reflect that belief, but sadly there is more evidence that I tend to do things my way.  I could go to Him for counsel, for wisdom, but I just open my mouth and insert both feet!

What would my life be like if I was more in tune with Christ?  What kind of difference would it make in my life?  My family? My workplace? My community? My church?  My Country?  A few weeks ago, a conversation took place in our home that centered around a verse:

“if my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land.” – 2 CHRONICLES 7:14 ESV

This was God speaking to Solomon at the dedication of the temple.  It was a moment of celebration for the people of Israel!  The temple finally stood in Jerusalem, and the Ark of the Covenant had a permanent home.  Everything looked good, but the first night after the celebration was over, God appeared to Solomon in a vision to talk to Him about what His presence in the temple meant, and His message starts out kind of dire.

12  the Lord appeared to Solomon in the night and said to him: “I have heard your prayer and have chosen this place for myself as a house of sacrifice. 13  When I shut up the heavens so that there is no rain, or command the locust to devour the land, or send pestilence among my people,” – 2 CHRONICLES 7:12-13

So, basically God is telling Solomon that He is there, right where the people wanted Him to be.  He is in the temple and everyone can find Him.  He goes on to say that when things go really really bad, (not IF, but WHEN) then they can come to Him with humble heart, pray and seek His face, and turn from their sin.  If they do all of that, then He will hear them and things will get better.  I have one question for you.  HOW SIMPLE IS THAT?

Today, we as Christians carry His name.  Are we truly praying as we should for the healing of our nation?  Are we praying for our families the way we should?”  Are we praying for our friends? Leaders? If we want to see change, that is what we should be doing!

As we go through life, things come at us that are difficult.  We end up getting beat up and bashed around by events at work, feelings that are hurt by family members, fears about what is happening in our country.  Disappointment comes in so many different shapes and sizes, and we are just not always able to stand up to it.  How many days do you crawl into bed and think, “I’m just glad I made it through the day.  Please, God, just make tomorrow be better than today”?  We get tired, and sometimes we don’t even realize why.  The truth is, we are tired because we have been fighting a battle and we don’t even realize it.

My friend Joe over at The Overboard Life wrote a blog last week regarding a real battle and the faith of a man named Barak.  You can read more about that right here.  The main thing I took from his post was this quote:

“…the more you know about God, the more you’ve walked with Him, the higher the measuring rod for your faith.”

That thought is very freeing when you really stop and think about it. We can’t have a strong faith without a strong relationship. It doesn’t matter how long we have known Him, what matters is how much we know Him! The best way to get to know someone, to experience a relationship with them, to experience the benefits of a relationship, is to TALK TO THEM!

A person that spends time talking to God in prayer will begin to see Him at work in different areas.  It is not that God wasn’t there and doing things, but we are blinded to it because we are not looking for Him in our situations.  We see what we are doing and how our attempts at things are influencing our surroundings, but that is not a complete picture of what God is doing.  His reality is bigger than the scope of our vision!  The reality of God and a relationship with Him will bolster your faith!

All of this stuff that I have been reading and thinking about came together last weekend after we watched War RoomI was brought face to face with the reality of my relationship with God.  I’m a believer, and I know Him, but how well do I know Him?  How much time have I spent getting to know Him through conversation?  Not much.  Not much at all.

Blending what I have seen in the movie and read in the book, I then look at the verse in 2 Chronicles again.  I am a Christian, called by His name.  Am I humble? Not really.  Am I seeking His face? Not like I should.  Am I taking steps to turn from sinful behaviors? Yes, but not as fast as I could be.  Why not?  Why am I not doing these things like I should if I am a believer?

Because I am not always willing to admit that I am in a war, a battle going on around me every day.  I believe that Satan wants me to rely on me.  He wants me to keep my eyes on the task at hand. He wants me to focus on what I can do in any given situation because if he can keep my eyes on what I can do, then I am going to go through my life completely unaware of what God can do.  Well, I have thought about it, and I’m not happy to live that way.

In the movie, we are encouraged to find a place that we can be free of distractions and have our time with God in prayer.  They used an empty closet.  My wife and I talked about our current closet deficiency, and we quickly came to the conclusion that this was not an option for us!  My garage is a distraction. My office is full of distractions.  But I am not going to settle for excuses.  I just need to try harder if I want to win.

So, for now, my war room will travel with me.  While reading Cover Me, I have begun writing in a journal that has been set aside as my “Battle Book.”  It is the place I process my thoughts on what I read, journal my quiet times, and set my goals and strategies for living a life that battles sin and brings God glory.  I’ve decided that while generals sit in big war rooms and create strategies against an enemy, the grunts on the ground are often scribbling on a map, a scrap of paper, or even in the dirt when they get a minute.  I will use my journal as my portable war room.

I’ve been doing it for a few days now, and it is starting to take shape.  I have a plan for my day to do battle over certain things, and it is making God much more visible to me.  Need an example?  Last night I prayed that God would bless the staff that I work with and give me opportunities to share grace and the gospel with them.  This morning I was blessed by a staff member that did something nice for me because she wanted to thank me for being a forgiving and caring manager.  Two hours later I had a very in-depth conversation with another person regarding faith and why I believe what I believe and why I don’t look down on her for what she believes like other Christians she knows.

Coincidence?  I don’t believe in them.  It is a war, and making a plan and seeking help in doing something that God wants me to do resulted in me being able to be a part of something God is doing.  It might sound like circular reasoning, but it’s not.  It’s simply God at work as He gently brings me into a position to join Him.  I have asked for and been given opportunities to show grace and live the Gospel in front of people as I share what He has done for me.

I know this post has been a long one, and I have probably sounded a little more “preachy” than I usually do, but I hope it has acted as an encouragement to you to be Relentless in your growth in Christ.  Relentless Living is best in relationship with God, and the best way to build that relationship is through talking to Him in prayer and reading His Word.

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People – Not Just A Magazine

Big-Group-of-PeopleI had a great conversation with a friend yesterday.  We sat together after church and just talked for awhile about the workplace and the dynamics of it.  We talked about some of the challenges we face in the culture of a workforce and how the structure of management impacts the environment.  It was a good talk.  It was a very good talk.

The culture of the workplace is made up from several factors: the work itself, the people doing the work, the history of the people doing the work, and the people tasked with managing the work and the workforce.  It requires a formula that takes the right amount of each of these and blends them together in hopes of creating a successful organization.  When the mix is right, things go well, when it is off, well, we can all tell a story about a place we worked that didn’t get it right.

I started my first “job” at the age of 11, so, I guess you can say I have 31+ years in the workforce now, and while I don’t think it makes me an expert, it does give me a right to speak with some knowledge on the subject.  In that time I have been self-employed, worked for a family business, a small business, a small corporation, a regional corporation, a national corporation, and a global corporation.  I have been the new guy, the veteran employee, the shift manager, the area manager, and a director.  I have worked by myself, with a group, managed a couple people, managed 20-30 people, and ran an entire store.  I have been paid by the hour, by the job, by commission, and by salary.  I have worked for great people and for people that I honestly would like to never see again.  I don’t really remember what it feels like to not work.

As my friend and I shared stories of top-down management and the ever-present dance of avoiding and assigning blame, I began to really think hard about what it was that made some of those managers great and some of them so “not-so-great”.  We have each experienced how “things roll downhill” and how sometimes the best thing you could say about your day is that you somehow managed to avoid the splatter when it all hit the air circulation apparatus.  As the day wore on and into today, I have not been able to get it out of my head.  

My friend asked me at one point why there does not seem to be a real focus in the Church (in general) on teaching men in leadership positions the importance of this kind of stuff.  We are taught to lead at home, how to lead our families, how to lead at church, and in other areas, but how do we lead in the workplace as godly Christian managers?  We are taught to be honest, to be focused, to be kind, to have goals, to pursue excellence, but how often do we really hear how to be a good, godly manager of people?

Looking back, I can see a lot of mistakes I made over the years, and I can tell you what the root problem was in each of them.  It is a common mistake among managers.  The mistake most of us make is when we start making the job or the goal the most important thing.  In that moment, we lose sight of the most important part of any business or organization – people.

I’ve been very fortunate to have access to some great leadership training through my work over the last few years, and I have also been blessed to have a great mentor and his wife that have poured their years of experience in to me as well.  In the combining of these two areas of education, I am starting to see how putting the focus on the people – in the right way – can bring about a better culture for working, and through that, a better result in the work.

About-People-2People are the most important thing in the workplace.  It is not the time schedule, the sales goal, the quota, or the records.  It is the people.  You can’t achieve any of those things without people, and usually the reason you are doing things in the first place is because at some point you are doing them for people.  Stop and think about that for a minute.  Every day at work you are doing something with people that results in doing something for people.  If you think about it like that, then you can’t help but notice that people are the common denominator!

People walk into our offices, not problems.  People need time from their managers, not orders.  People need to be heard, not surveyed.  People need to be cared for, not delegated to.  I’m preaching at myself a little here…

This isn’t a new concept.  Christ came to take care of the most important thing He had created – people.  He came to serve them and to be a sacrifice for them, and as His follower, I am called to do the same.  Christ gave of Himself to teach His people, to care for His people, and to protect His people.  Sometimes even from themselves.

I have a fine crew of people that “work for me.”  In truth, I have a group of people that serve the people in our community by working to keep their environment clean and safe.  They aren’t working for me.  They work for people.  My responsibility is to work for this crew and to care for them so they can do what they are there to do!  My job is to care about their home life, their dreams, their emotions.  To care about them!

Relentless Living is not something you just do at home and at church.  It is something you do every day, wherever you are, and when God places you in a position of leadership, you have a responsibility to lead as Christ led.  He was perfect in it, and we are not, but we have His example to learn from and follow.

Christ had a mission.  He came to settle our debt and to conquer death.  He could have done it without making disciples.  He could have done it without coming as a baby.  He could have done it without healing people.  He showed us that while the mission and the goal is important, it is done best by helping people along the way.

I’m going to be giving this more thought.  What can the Church do to better equip us as leaders and managers?  I’m not sure exactly what the answer is, but I know that it needs to revolve around people.  I guess we will see where God leads… I’m kind of excited about the trip!

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Why It Is Important to Keep A Woman In Her Place

Ok.  With a title like that, I will give everyone a moment to find their seats and make sure they have all the tools they need for getting through this blog post.  Let’s see, pitchforks? Check.  Torches? Check.  Rope? Check. Concrete galoshes? Check.  Ok.  Is everyone in their preferred seat on opposing sides of the room? Everyone ready to comment with venom if I don’t take your position?  Good.  Then let’s get down to it.

Over the last couple of days, I have been seeing a couple of pictures hit my social media feeds over and over gain.  I will not single anyone out and if you posted either of them, let me assure you, I am not picking on you or your situation.  In truth, as I have been seeing these two pictures, I have had one recurring thought, “My heart hurts for these people,”  Most of the time I have seen the pictures, I know that they are experiencing something difficult, and no matter how hard we try, our hurt “leaks” from time to time.  I get that.  I don’t judge it.  I just wish I could stop the pain.

So, here are the two pictures, and then I will say my piece.  Good, I see the fire is lit under the vat of oil.  This post will be a long one, but it should be boiling by the time I am done…

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Ok.  Anyone need to switch sides yet?  I’ll give you a minute to do so.  Ready?  Ok.  Let’s get back into this!  Both of these are wrong.  Pure and simple.  *scanning the crowd*  If everyone will keep your seat, I will take a few moments to explain.

The Plan

When God made man, He gave him something to do, gave him some instructions, and then put him to work.  It wasn’t very long at all before God looked at Adam and decided that he was lacking something.  He was not complete.  This isn’t saying God made a mistake.  It is the Creator looking at His most beloved creation and saying, “It’s just not done yet. He needs something more that will bring him that special thing he needs.”

So, he put Adam to sleep and took a rib from his side and made Eve, the first woman. Adam was understandably impressed and appreciative of this new development and responded appropriately by stating that the woman was flesh of his flesh and bone of his bone because she was part of himself – in this case, literally!  God did not create a new creature, he finished the creation by bringing woman out of man.

The Fall

Everything went south in chapter three of Genesis.  There are many who like to say that Eve messed up by eating the fruit.  I disagree.  I think this has been one of the principal errors in understanding the male and female relationship throughout history. Somewhere along the line, it was decided that woman messed up and man had to pay for it.  Ludicrous!  Absolutely ridiculous!  The Bible tells us that Adam was RIGHT THERE WITH HER the whole time the serpent was talking!  What in the world was happening that he did not step in and do something? he took a passive approach to the situation and did not help his helper.

A snake starts talking to his wife and tells her to break one of the two rules she and her husband were given by the God that they had the chance to walk with every day in the garden and Adam says nothing!  Men, this is where the Fall took place.  This is where man let woman down.  Period.  As a result of this sin, they are banished from the garden and this struggle between man and woman begins.  Some people think that God cursed woman at this point and put her in her place, but I believe He was just telling her what was going to happen.  Man would blame woman for his problems, and woman was going to suffer for it because he didn’t step up and do right when she needed him to do it.

The Result

We now live in a world where people are pretty polarized.  For centuries in most cultures, women have taken a back-seat role in all aspects.  Equal rights for women is still a pretty fresh concept in our history not only as a country, but as a planet!  It is a struggle for women to get the respect they deserve for being the people they are.  The atrocities that take place against women every single day are disgusting and should bring us to tears.  As a result, there are many women who hurt so deeply and have been put in a position that they may never trust a man again.  Whose fault is that?  Well, guys.  I won’t lie.  It is primarily the fault of man for getting that ball rolling.  Now we have small groups of women that are so angry that they just refuse to show respect any man.

I’m not going to take a Rush Limbaugh stand and speak rudely about women.  They don’t deserve it.  My view on feminism is simply this:  It never should have been considered as necessary.  It is the result of men not knowing how to keep a woman in her proper place. (Before anyone gets upset, please keep reading. I promise, it’s not as bad as it sounds.) Now she feels the weight of man and bristles at it, wants to get away from it, and prove that she never needed it or him in the first place.  Honestly, why wouldn’t she? So, how do we put her where she should be?

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I’m going to tell you how I think this can be fixed.  I have consulted with my wife of 21 years, and I know she agrees with me on it.  Neither she or I think I get it right every time, but we do agree that this is the way to get it done.  We go back to the original plan.

Man was not complete.  He needed help, and God gave him a helper out of himself.  Adam recognized that.  The problem was, he blew it, and we repeat his mistake. I repeat his mistake! However, I want to do better, and as I think about this, I believe God had a purpose in picking a rib as the part necessary to complete man.

  • A rib gives protection to the internal organs.  Important things that keep a man healthy!  Men tend to be a bit abrasive or hard on the outside, but underneath all of that, we are vulnerable.  Just like a rib protects vulnerable organs, my wife is God’s gift to me for protecting and helping me process the feelings I have that I hold inside.  She’s good at it!  Much better than I could ever be on my own.
  • A rib is sturdy, but flexible.  Ribs absorb things that would injure internal organs.  They don’t just snap.  There are too many times that I will do something foolish that brings trouble into our lives.  Where I would be more harsh and possible lash out, my wife is able to absorb it all, protect me from myself, and carry on.  The thing to remember is that when a rib receives a hard blow and is bruised, cracked, or broken, it can bring extreme discomfort until a healing takes place.

The same is true with me and my wife.  When she absorbs something bad (whether or not I am the cause), the pain will linger until a healing takes place.  Time heals things, but open, honest, loving communication works faster.  It is vital to the healing. It is up to ME to notice that my wife is voicing her discomfort, and not take it as nagging, but as a reminder that she is experiencing a pain that I possibly caused.  I need to take care of her to promote the healing in the relationship.  How smart would a person be to not take care of a rib that is hurting?  The same applies here.

  • A rib is at the side of a man.  You don’t see ribs protruding from the front or the back of a skull.  Why?  Because they don’t belong there!  If your skull was made up of bones like ribs you would really be at a disadvantage in life!  They aren’t under foot either.  They would not serve a purpose there. To function as they should, they should be at the side.

I believe God used the rib to remind man that the best place for woman is at his side.  If she is out in front of him, he is not able to be there for her the way he should. My wife is the most important person in my life, and I like to have her beside me so I can protect her.  That doesn’t mean she is weak.  It means she is precious to me.  I want her with me so I can take care of her when she needs to be cared for, and take the physical hit if necessary.

If my wife is behind me, I can’t see her, maybe I can’t even hear her.  She might see something that could cause me harm, but the distance and location make it difficult to communicate the danger.  I can’t see her, so my ability to be there for her if she needs me is also diminished.

God also didn’t plan for me to have my wife stepped on by me.  She is of value and should not be dismissed as the equivalent of a floor surface. She should be held close, in a place of honor.

I want my wife at my side.  I want her to feel loved, appreciated, and cared for.  Men, that’s what we are supposed to do!  She is not there to make our lives easier, but to make us complete.  To complete us in our weaker areas and shore us up, as we are supposed to do for them.  We are to be one flesh and one bone.  Yes, we have two minds, but they should be tuned toward the needs of the other – SELFLESSLY.  That is where the relationship can thrive.  When my wife is at my side I hear her counsel, I can protect her from danger, she can protect me from my own mistakes, we can grow as God intended.  That’s good for both of us, and that is why it is important to keep your wife where she belongs!

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This was a loooong time ago!

I’m not perfect, and my wife can tell you that!  I mess this up more than I want to admit, but it is my Relentless desire to honor God’s plan for how my wife and I should interact.  We do that by staying close, complimenting each other in our strengths and shielding each other in our weaknesses.

I’m not saying that 21 years of marriage gives me the authority to tell people how to live their marriages out, but I am certain that what we work towards in how we relate to each other works.  We have bumpy spots because we are human, but time and again, we have seen how sticking to the plan works and draws us closer.  As we work through things together and share our ideas and our hearts, we build into each other.  My wife is a brilliant woman, and gifted in so many ways, why wouldn’t I want her building into me?

10534681_10204206015501628_1184979595712247813_nSo, here at the end of this post, I hope my point is made.  We can joke about the differences in our gender, and many of those jokes are funny because they are true, but let’s remember that God’s plan was a symbiotic relationship where we each care for the other in the way that they need to be cared for.  It is sad how it all got messed up.

Ladies, no disrespect was intended or directed to you in this.  I hope that message came through clearly.  If it didn’t, blame me.  Just know that I am not perfect, I am in process, and when it comes to being the perfect husband, my wife can tell you that I am not here, but I am trying.  Sometimes VERY trying!

Men, if you can accept the challenge to be the man God created you to be, you might be surprised to see how God can work to bring you and your wife closer together.  So, what’s stopping you?

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