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!

Psalm 101 for 2017

Note to the reader:  If you have been following this blog, you may have noticed that I am not posting an image here every day here anymore.  I have decided to move daily image posts to my Relentless Growth Facebook page.  You can find that page, like, and follow here.  This page will be reserved for writing moving forward.  Hope to see you in the Facebook world!

wp-1483279541415.jpgOne of the routines I have right now is reading in Psalms every morning before my feet hit the floor.  I don’t do it to be spiritual or to impress anyone.  I do it because I need it!  Since disciplining myself in this way, I find I have a little more grace to extend and a more positive outlook on the hard days as I have a bit of God’s Word rattling around in my mostly empty skull.

Last week I hit on Psalm 101, and after a couple days of looking at it, reading it, and thinking about it, I began to wonder what David’s thoughts were when he wrote it.  I know he was led by the Spirit to write it, but I wonder what the prompt for it was.

Since we were closing in on the end of 2016 and the thoughts of the New Year, goals, plans and dreams were running through my mind, I began to wonder if this was a “New Year’s Resolution” list for David. Is it possible that this was his list of things that he wanted to work on for the upcoming year?

I mentioned in my last post that I would be sharing more about this chapter and how I wanted to use it for myself in 2017.  Stop and think about it.  This is not a bad list!

  1. I will sing of your love and justice, lord.  I will praise you with songs. – I want to praise God more this year. I want to tell people about His love for me and how He has made changes in this life of mine that He has paid for.
  2. I will be careful to live a blameless life—when will you come to help me? I will lead a life of integrity in my own home. – I want to live a life that doesn’t make people wonder if I am a fake Christian, just putting on a show.  I want people to just believe that God is real to me and that I am the same person in the workplace that I am at home or with my friends. I want to be careful to avoid the things that cause doubts.
  3. I will refuse to look at anything vile and vulgar. I hate all who deal crookedly; I will have nothing to do with them. – I want to protect my eyes from things that are evil. I want to be sure that I am engaging in honest actions with people and avoid anything that will pull me into evil thoughts or actions.
  4. I will reject perverse ideas and stay away from every evil. – I want to keep my thought life clean and focused on things that give God glory rather than things that give my flesh power.
  5. I will not tolerate people who slander their neighbors. I will not endure conceit and pride. – I want to not only avoid negative talking about others, but also I want to be a voice that speaks up against that behavior.  I want to both be humble and promote humility in others.
  6. I will search for faithful people to be my companions. Only those who are above reproach will be allowed to serve me.  – I want to surround myself with people I can trust for encouragement, correction, love, and joy.  I want to help people live and work with a strong moral code.
  7. I will not allow deceivers to serve in my house, and liars will not stay in my presence. – I want to bring truth to light in my surroundings. I want to use grace and mercy to uncover the deceptions that are around me and  bring a restoration to the circumstances and people involved.
  8. My daily task will be to ferret out the wicked and free the city of the lord from their grip. – I want to be on the lookout for evil every day.  Evil is not usually a person, but evil actions need to be addressed for what they are and they need to be stopped.  In all things, I want God to be glorified where His people work and live.

seo-checklistI don’t know if this was David’s list for a New Year, but I do see where I can take this list and use it as an outline for how I would like to act this year.  If I can even make a little progress on it in my life, that will be a good thing!  There is nothing wrong with a single step as long as it is in the right direction!

2017 is a fresh start.  I have made my plans for this year, and in total, they are pretty big plans!  I will need to be Relentless this year in order to accomplish them.  I will need to keep a strong Focus on the goals.  I will need to be Resilient as obstacles pop up and try to pull me off track.

What do you think?  Would love to hear from you.  Feel free to comment and share!

Happy New Year!

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2017 – New Year -> New Focus

902016 has been a wild year, and like many people, I am ready to see it go!  I have said in the past that by year’s end, the year just starts to feel like a shirt that needs to be changed. But this year…  Well, this year the shirt is soaked in kerosene and is on fire… and full of angry yellow jackets… It just needs to go away.

I know we are supposed to have the patience and intelligence to look at the moments of life and see the beauty in them, savor the time, and drink deeply of the experience, but there are times that we just want to grab the spiritual equivalent of a pop-tart and a capri-sun and just run somewhere we can hide.  This year has been one of those times.

We all have weathered a number of tragedies this year including deaths of friends, changes in finances, family changes, celebrity deaths, and probably the biggest trial of the year… an election.  Yeah, that one is not completely going away in 2017 either. Sorry. Keep praying!

Through all of it, I have been really trying to keep that word that I chose last year to be my compass as I dealt with all of it – FOCUS.  It has not always been easy, but it did the trick to pull me back a few times when I started to drift a bit and let the moment’s emotional charge take control of my thoughts and actions.  It was not easy, and now that the end of the year has come, I look back at it and say that it was a good word.  A timely word.

So, now it’s time for the word for 2017.  I’ve been giving a lot of thought over the past few days as to what that word might be, and as the feelings of the past year have been going through my mind as well, there is one word that has come to mind:

Resilient: capable of withstanding shock without permanent deformation or rupture; tending to recover from or adjust easily to misfortune or change; able to recoil or spring back into shape after bending, stretching, or being compressed; able to withstand or recover quickly from difficult conditions.

There have been many times over the past 12 months that I have been left feeling battered, bruised, and beaten.  The stresses and the demands of life, relationships, work, learning, and enduring have been tough!  Sometimes I think I barely escaped with my sanity intact! (Some may argue that there was no way I would be able to hang on to that one!)

I had times when my temper got the better of me. Times when I shut down and didn’t want to engage because I just felt too drained. There were times when I know that my energy level was sapped not by physical activity, but by mental and emotional exhaustion.  None of this is healthy, and it has taken me much of the year to figure out where some of it has come from.  A lack of Resilience.

resilienceSo, how do I get built up to be more Resilient?  How do I make sure that at the end of the day I have more of me left than I have day?  How do I make sure that I am able to provide what is needed to those I love or lead?  How do I come back from the hurts and the pains that will inevitably hit me as the year goes by?

  1. Start with the source of Resilience. – I can do all things through Him who strengthens me. – Philippians 4:13  Just ask Him for the power to do things.  He has more than enough!
  2. Stay humble – Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will exalt you. – James 4:10 When you start thinking you can go it alone, you will quickly come face to face with how short your road will be.
  3. Keep the focus on Christ and His kingdom – Looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.  Consider him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted. – Hebrews 12:2-3  As we look at Christ and His life, we see His ability to face challenges because His eye was on doing His Father’s work.  He was working for the kingdom!
  4. No matter what happens, remember God is on your side – Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go. – Joshua 1:9  When God is on your side you will win the war! Just keep fighting!
  5. Pray for Resilience – 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 your minds in Christ Jesus. – Philippians 4:6-7 Prayer is our best weapon when we are attacked and in pain. Crying out to God, sharing our struggle with Him and asking for His sustaining grace is key in bouncing back from a trial.
  6. Be content – I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. – Philippians 4:12  There are things that we need and things that we want.  Look at how God always comes through with your needs and ask Him to help you find His heart with your wants.
  7. Keep moving forward – We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; 9persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed;  – 2 Corinthians 4:8-9  If we stop moving, we start dying.  Have a Relentless attitude that will not settle for giving up.
  8. Give thanks in all situations – Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. – 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18  No matter how bad things may seem, there is someone out there in a worse situation than you are.  Thank God for the blessings you have here on earth, and for His promises beyond this life!
  9. Give God the glory – Though the fig tree should not blossom, nor fruit be on the vines, the produce of the olive fail and the fields yield no food, the flock be cut off from the fold and there be no herd in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the Lord; I will take joy in the God of my salvation. – Habakuk 3:17-18  We do have a part in the outcomes in our lives, but we get where we are going through God’s strength and grace.  We owe Him the glory!
  10. Remember that this is not the end – I believe that I shall look upon the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living!  Wait for the Lord;
    be strong, and let your heart take courage; wait for the Lord! – Psalm 27:13  This verse has been my anchor since April 2010.  God has shown repeatedly that I am on a journey, and I am so thankful I am with Him as I travel!

Trials?  Yep. They’re gonna keep coming.  Troubles? They will be there, and sometimes they will bring their friends Worry, Doubt, and Fear to the party.  It’s gonna happen, but it’s not the end.  We will see the goodness of God in the land of the living.  God will not let us down, and He will provide the strength we need to bounce back when we are drawing on Him.

I want this to be another Relentless year of growth.  I want to take the lessons I learned about being focused (even when I failed in them) and combine it with a Relentless intensity that takes the power God has promised to me in order to have that little extra something at the end of the day to make me a better husband, father, and friend.  While it would be nice to somehow avoid the hard times, I don’t want them to keep me captive and in a funk.

At the end of the day I want to stand up and say that I am blessed by God to stand in His strength because I never trusted my own.  I want that for you too!

So, how about it?  What does the next year look like for you?  what is your word?  What is your focus for growth?  Where do you see yourself as we approach 2018?  There is a lot of time between now and then to get moving in the right direction!  So, go get after it!

Would love to hear your thoughts and comments, and as always, I appreciate the shares and follows.  Thanks for reading!

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