18 Years to Prep for Battle – Happy B-Day, Zach!

The birthday blog has become tradition here at Tanner Manor, so here is my letter to my son on his 18th Birthday.  A fine, young man he has grown to be, and Relentless in his pursuit of God and life.

Today I met in the woods again with Zach, my Dad, and my friends Ray and Joe.  These important men in my life all had words of encouragement and affirmation for Zach, and when I was done, I presented him with a gift.  I did this two years ago, and it was time to do it again. We need to recognize moments like these in the lives of our children.  Milestones are  important, and they need to hear from their parents just how proud they are of them.   I have been both waiting for and dreading this day since day 1, and it is here.  I know they will always need me, but still…

Zach,

18 years ago today, you entered this world. You were quiet. Too quiet. I immediately thought that the son I had waited for was gone before he had the chance to live. I remember the fear in my heart, what was wrong?  Why is he so quiet?  What’s going on?  Is he ok?  C,mon, son! Fight!

After what seemed to me to be an eternity, you finally began to stir and then you found your lungs.  I was the Dad of a healthy baby boy, and I could not have been happier.  I had a daughter and now a son.  Our family was complete, and it was all smooth sailing from that point on…

Not exactly. It didn’t take much time for me to figure out just how little I knew about being a husband and dad.  I was getting by alright with the occasional bump or hiccup, but there was a lot of stuff that I just didn’t have the answers to, and truth told, I still feel that way sometimes!

Over the years there have been a few things I have done that I know were good moves, and one of the biggest was doing the men’s group and the Authentic Manhood studies.  That study showed me a lot about myself, and the importance of trying to teach those principles to you.  They showed me that there are battles that will take place in life that I would need to fight for you, but also I would need to teach you to fight for yourself.

There have been good and hard times on this journey.  I want you to know that I own the responsibility for the majority of those hard times as I have been growing and changing and making mistakes along the way.  One of the most important things I have wanted you to learn is that we are not perfect, and our decisions have consequences and impact on those around us both for good and for bad.  No man is really an island.

During this journey of your life, I have been trying, along with the help of your Mom, to give you the tools you need to thrive as a man.  Lessons, examples, books, mentors, and stories from my life are just a few of the ways I have done that.  I have always said that the experiences of others are the best teachers because you can learn the lesson without personal pain or loss.  We have shared victory and defeat on that front, but we have continued to learn and grow – me as a Dad and you as a son.

Two years ago we took some time with some friends and had a celebration of you at the age of 16.  Men God has brought into your life shared with you some of their own insights and wisdom as they encouraged you to continue to grow in God and as a man.  It was a good time.

That was when I presented you with your shield carrying the family name on it.  The shield represented the period of life you were entering where there would be attacks that would come to you as Satan desired to tear you down and destroy your reputation.  You would see trials and struggles that would strain relationships, and, unfortunately, see some fall away.  The battles would be real, and you would need to learn to defend not only who you are, but what you believe.

Through the last two years, I have seen you grow in your ability to stand strong in trial.  You have become more resolute in your faith, and you have served as an example to others as well.  I have enjoyed watching you grow and have been very proud of you.  You have been tested, and some of those battles have appropriately hardened you – tempered you for bigger challenges to come.

Now you are 18.  You will be leaving the house this fall for college, and you will be stepping out into the world as a man.  My time for instruction, while not completely finished, is undergoing a change to an advisory role. I will be there when you need me, but the day is coming that I might not be a part of your daily life.  This will be a hard adjustment for me, and in some ways for you, too.

For the last 18 years, it has been my responsibility as your Dad to stand and fight for you, to be the one who stood guard over your heart and to fight anything of this world or any other who would dare come for my son.  As your Dad, that was my job, and as hard as it was sometimes, it has been one of the most rewarding jobs I have ever had.

Along with that job has been the charge to teach you the things you need to know about life, how to defend yourself against the attacks Satan will be certain to throw against you, and how to fight for those you care about, as well.  I have done my best to do so, and in spite of my shortcomings and failures along the way, I believe that you have learned much of what you need to know, and I want to commemorate this moment as well.

So, today, I give you this sword as a picture of my belief in you and the man you have become.  It signifies that I believe that you are equipped to do battle against Satan and his influences.  The sword means that you are no longer simply one who defends, but now you are carrying the battle with you as you walk with Christ.

You will now step into the lives of those you see struggling and offer aid to them. You will not just endure, but you will overcome.  You will be a warrior for Christ in all aspects of your life and give Him the glory in the victories that God gives to you.

Stay in the Word.  There is nothing you can do that will give you more than that for the battles you will face.  God’s truth will guide you in the hard choices, and will comfort you in your moments of doubt and pain.  Stay close to God and allow Him to guide you.  He knows your heart and your needs even better than I.

For the last 18 years, you and I have been preparing for this day.  I love you as my son, but also as a man of God, and a warrior for His kingdom  You have made me proud in so many ways, and I know that God is going to continue to do great things with you and through you as you strive to walk with Him.

I’m always here  for you when you need me.  I got your back and am always willing to fight at your side.

I love you, Zach!

– Dad

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My Son – A Graduate. Time Flies…

imageThis past weekend my son received his high school diploma.  13 years of school have come to a close, and we could not be more proud of his efforts.  Over the past 13 years, we have exposed him to three different education models, and he excelled in all of them.  The last two years he has been dual-enrolled in college at Cedarville University via on-line courses, and has done an amazing job there as well.  He will walk on campus as a sophomore this fall.

There are so many events in our lives that we want to remember.  Milestones exist so we can look back and see where we have been and how far we have come, and I have learned that those moments need to be recognized.  We need them as confirmation in our lives that we are moving forward – achieving goals.

I have been blessed to be in a small men’s group where I learned the importance of taking the time to recognize these moments and commemorate them with a tribute.  When we take the time to write something down from our hearts and give it to someone, it creates a lasting impression.  Those encouraging words will endure long past the moment and will be a touchpoint we can go back to when we are feeling the weight of the world.

Sitting on my desk is a framed copy of a letter I received from my mentor for my 40th birthday.  Aside from the words of encouragement I have receive from my Dad, it is probably the most prized collection of words I have received from any man on earth.  It has made an impression on my life because of the relationship that we have.  Men need to hear words like that and be reminded that they are doing good things – the right things.

So, it is with example from Lou that I put together this letter to my son on his graduation day.  I read it to him at the graduation ceremony, and there will be a framed copy of it for him to take to college this fall so he will be able to see that his Dad believes in him, is proud of him, and prays for him.

I hope that reading this will give you an encouragement to recognize those milestones with your family and close friends.  It may seem like it is only a letter as you write it, but I can tell you that when the relationship is there, the impact of a letter like this will last for years.  Take the time to do it.  It’s worth the effort.

Zachary,

I’ve wanted a son as long as I can remember, and I wanted that son to be just like me.  When you came into my life, I thought I was getting that gift, but your Mom and I got more than that.  We received a son that was a unique blend of the two of us.  Your physical and personality traits seem to morph and shift back and forth so often, but there is no doubt that you are ours.

One of the things I have learned as your Dad is that as much as I wanted a son to be like me, I am thankful that you are an individual, and I have been learning, albeit sometimes slower than either of us would like, to appreciate you as that individual.  You often hear that you are “just like your Dad”, but you and I know that there are a number of differences that make you an “individual”.

Your Mom and I are so proud of the young man you have become.  Our goal as parents has been to equip you to take on the trials of adulthood, to stand as a man of God in a world that needs men who know how to stand.  You have had opportunities to learn and grow in your faith, and have had to learn to lean on God during those times, and I am happy to see how you have developed.

You have made us very proud in your dedication to your studies, your love and devotion to your family and friends, and your desire to squeeze the fun out of life.  You are a thinker, a processor and yet still manage to be spontaneous.  A nice blend that has kept us on our toes.

Our dream is that you will be that man mentioned in Micah.  We have seen the beginnings of that man as you seek to do what is right, show God’s mercy and grace to those you relate with, and maintain a humility in your relationship with God.  We pray for those attributes to continue to grow as you enter the college campus this fall and begin the next steps toward what God will have you to do.

We have offered many prayers for you over the years, and today I want to offer this one more written by General Douglas MacArthur.  It is titled “A Father’s Prayer”, and I cannot think of words that would make it any more my prayer for you as your Dad.  Your Mom and I love you very much and will always be here for you when you need us.

“Build me a son, O Lord, who will be strong enough to know when he is weak, and brave enough to face himself when he is afraid; one who will be proud and unbending in honest defeat, and humble and gentle in victory.

Build me a son whose wishbone will not be where his backbone should be; a son who will know Thee—and that to know himself is the foundation stone of knowledge. Lead him I pray, not in the path of ease and comfort, but under the stress and spur of difficulties and challenge. Here let him learn to stand up in the storm; here let him learn compassion for those who fail.

Build me a son whose heart will be clear, whose goal will be high; a son who will master himself before he seeks to master other men; one who will learn to laugh, yet never forget how to weep; one who will reach into the future, yet never forget the past.

And after all these things are his, add, I pray, enough of a sense of humor, so that he may always be serious, yet never take himself too seriously. Give him humility, so that he may always remember the simplicity of true greatness, the open mind of true wisdom, the meekness of true strength.

Then, I, his father, will dare to whisper, ‘I have not lived in vain.’”

—GENERAL DOUGLAS MACARTHUR, “A FATHER’S PRAYER”

Be Relentless in your parenting. Build into the hearts of your kids and share with them how you feel about them.  They need it, and coincidentally, so do you!

Halfway to 88? Happy B-Day to Me!

Wow.  I am 44 today.  Think back to when you were a teenager.  What is that “oldest age” you ever really pictured yourself as?  Do you remember?  It seems like I do, and it was right about here.  44 years old… (I don’t see that as any type of foreshadowing about what this next year holds, just kind of funny that it popped into my head this morning.)

This last year has been a crazy one, and it looks like I am poised to do it all over again.  Time to give a quick little breakdown about what has happened, what is happening, and how I hope I Relentlessly respond to it.  I like to share since I tend to stay more accountable to some of this stuff when people know about it.

Health – Well, as far as the diabetes goes, I am doing better than great.  My doctor actually stopped me in the hall the other day after my bloodwork hit his desk and gave me a hug.  If you knew my doctor, you would be amazed!   I have kept a normal blood sugar since my diagnosis, have stepped my meds down, and kept my weight down.  I also am showing great numbers in the cholesterol and triglycerides.  Probably the healthiest I have been in 20 years in that regard.

New challenge.  Just found out I have two herniated cervical discs.  Not sure what the treatment will be yet as I am waiting to get in to see the specialist.  Pain is terrible, and I feel basically useless.  Hard to enjoy the above success when I feel this way, but I am pressing on.  My son asked me the other day what the lesson God has for me in this, and I have been thinking about that a lot since He asked.  I still don’t have a solid answer, but I am wondering about something.

I have often wondered if I am modeling a life of dependency on God for my family and friends to see.  I have other friends who I look to and think that they are so dependent on God, and I wish I could be that way too.  Maybe I am starting to model it because my son is asking me what I learn from the trials I face.  He has heard me talk about how God used diabetes to remove food from the throne of my heart.  He has heard that I don’t always need to know why, but I need to trust that God will show what I need to see when I need to see it.

So, Zach, maybe the lesson in this is that God is telling me that while I have not arrived, I am definitely in the process of Relentless Growth in this.  He chose to give me a blessing in the knowledge that you are seeing me try to live a life of dependence.  There may be more to come, but I will take this in humble praise to Him for the moment.

Fatherhood – I am finishing up my last year of what I term as “active parenting”. My role as protector and guide is shifting into advisor and counselor/consultant as Zach will join Jessica at college this fall.  I am so proud of my kids and I know God is going to do great things in their lives.  It is definitely a bittersweet feeling to watch them at this stage and know just how much different things will be at Tanner Manor this fall.

My challenge is to be present, but not controlling.  Available, but not underfoot.  I have often found this balance difficult and tend to pull back rather than be a hassle to the kids (unless I feel they need a good hassling!).  Praying that God gives me the wisdom and insight to be there for them while they are at school.

Husbandhood – Tammi and I have had some amazing discussions this past year, and I hope she agrees that we have grown much closer as a result of them.  Seeing Jessica go to school last year and experiencing that change in our family dynamic has definitely turned me more toward watching Tammi. I see how I have taken advantage of her sometimes in how she always handles things for our family.  I need to be more present for her, attentive to her needs.  Actually think about what could be wrong and what I can do about it rather than just ask her all the time. (She will like that one!)

We are soon going to be just the two of us again, and that is going to mean a little more freedom, but also a little more responsibility.  She will still need to talk about her feelings, thoughts, and dreams, and I will be the only one there.  I will need to shift some of how I tend to love my wife in order to meet that need.  We have talked about it some, and we know we have always done these new things together.  We have been parenting actively for the last two decades, but we only had a little over two years before that as a couple, so this is still a somewhat unexplored realm for us.  It is kind of exciting to think I will be able to have her to myself again though! (Sorry kids, Mom was here first!)

Friendships – It has been a strange year in this regard.  The extensive change that has taken place has pulled us from being as close to some as we once were, but has brought us into new friendships with others.  I think I had set some unrealistic goals in trying to “fast track” some things that needed more time, and that left me feeling discouraged a few times.  This year I want to just be more present in those moments that come before me.  Take the time to identify what God might want me to be in that moment rather than just looking at how I want things to be or what I can get out of it.

My Walk – I started something new a little before my birthday last year.  Every day I post a verse of the day with an image and my thought for personal application.  It has helped me keep the thought alive in my mind every day since I do it before my feet hit the floor.  Over the last year I have gone through Proverbs a couple times, the book of Psalms, and am now going through James.  You can follow those by “Liking” my Relentless Growth Facebook Page.

This next year I would like to find time to expand my time of study and start spending more time in areas that I really need to grow.  I want to be realistic in that though.  For now, maybe the verse a day and writing here a little more often might be the best thing.  Something to pray about for sure.

Priorities – It has been a year of shifting and reassessing for us in many aspects.  Work, family, church, friends, service, and the list goes on.  So many things have shifted and will continue to shift as we enter another year of major change as “empty nesters”.  Praying that God will give me wisdom, grace and insight necessary to lead my wife well with a servant leadership that build into her as we face the challenges together.

I hope I don’t bore you with a long post like this that is basically about me.  I’ll admit that the biggest reason for this post is to take a minute to actually write down and think about what has happened and how I am going to respond to it over the next year.  I need that for me because it helps “reset” the panel.  I can look at everything that has happened. See a little bit better in hindsight and hopefully that gives me insight and if things REALLY work out some foresight!

Let’s face it. Life is Relentless.  It will never stop coming at us.  If we want to get anything of quality out of it, we need to be Relentless in our pursuit of God and in our growth for His glory.  Relentless Growth.  We all need it.

365 days to be 44.  Let’s do this!

A Kick in the Pants

Today I read a great blog post by a friend of mine named Danny Ray.  He is a loving husband and dad, a good friend to many, an award-winning, amazing magician, an inspiring speaker, and most important, a brother in Christ.  You can see more about Danny Ray and his ministry here at his website, and you can read the blog post here.

In reading his post today, he gives tribute to one of my closest friends, Joe Castaneda of Overboard Ministries for the blog posts that he writes.  He tells how a series of posts Joe had written were impacting people Joe didn’t even know about.  I won’t steal the story. I want you to go read it, and I want you to check out Joe’s blog here.

At the end of the article I got thinking about my little posts I put up.  I get all of the tracking data that says I have a loyal readership that amounts to grand numbers daily. (I am currently averaging an entire 3 people per day this month!)  I also have a Facebook Page where I post a daily verse, image, and thought that gets a few more hits, but still has modest numbers averaging into the double digits consistently. (Yes, as a result I often go out in sunglasses with a hat pulled low to keep the paparazzi at bay.)

I admit I sometimes fall prey to the pride that pulls at me in wishing that I was reaching more people.  Why aren’t more people reading?  I do work on these things!  Am I wasting my time?  What am I doing wrong?

I’m not saying I am perfect, but maybe I’m not doing anything wrong.  Maybe I am just sometimes not doing it for the right reason. The purpose of writing for me is not to gain a huge following.  I just want to share what God is doing in my life and hopefully inspire someone out there to get more interested in making God a bigger part of their lives too!  It’s not about me.  It’s about God.

I’m currently reading  great book by Paul Tripp called The Quest for More. In it, Paul talks about how we miss out on the MORE of serving God and His kingdom when we are focused on building up our own reputation.  He tells it a lot better than I do, but that is it in a nutshell. (Still, go get and read the book.  You won’t be disappointed!)

I have not been writing much here lately. I admit that a big reason has been that I have felt nobody is interested and it isn’t worth my time.  Read Danny’s post and you will see why that is exactly the wrong thing I should be thinking.  I am purposing to get more regular in posting here.  I might not write long posts, but just a thought a couple times a week would be something.

Thanks, Danny, for the kick in the pants.  I want to be Relentless in my pursuit of God and His kingdom.  I want people to be directed to Him through any means necessary, and if I get to play a part in it, that is all for God’s glory.  Thanks for being a “drive-by accountability partner” today.  You had words I needed to hear.

I owe you a $1 next time I see you!