Just Give The Old Guy A Chance To Talk

jco_richard-petty-motorsports43_1043.  I am 43.  Today I am 43 years old.  The geek in me wants to say that I am over 43 due to the leap year factor, but for sake of argument, we will just simplify this and say that today is the day.  Ready to start a new year with some new perspective.

The past year has brought a lot of change with it.  A year ago I was not the father of a college student.  I was seeing more transition in my job duties.  My son wasn’t sporting a beard.  Areas of life had less stress.  Areas of life had more stress!  People have come into and gone out of my life.  Relationships have grown stronger.  My thoughts have become heavier.  Then, to top it off, as I posted last week, I now have diabetes to consider.

Much has changed, and that is a good thing.  Change is a necessary part of life, and it is an integral part of a Relentless Life.  Without change, things grow stagnant, sour, weak, and irrelevant.  I don’t want that.  There are still things to do, things to see, things to experience and share.

I’ve been thinking a lot more lately about my life.  Specifically, about how my actions affect the future for myself and others.  Obviously I am experiencing some of what my passion for food has done to my body, and how I must make change in order to correct as much of that as I can, but there have been other actions that are having affects on me and those around me as well. Some of them need to be changed in some way or another if there is to be growth.  The FOCUS needs to shift if there is going to be growth.

Whether you are interested in them or not, here are some of my thoughts on things I would like to have a better grip on before I hit the “double 4”.

My Family – Things are changing in our home as our daughter leaves for college in the fall and our son is going to finish high school and has entered the work force before he leaves for college next year.  Tammi and I are going to be spending more time as we started – just the two of us.  There are going to be new ways I will need to adapt to the needs of my family in these new circumstances.  I want them to see that I love and care for them not in the way that is convenient for me, but in the way that they need it.

My Health – As of today I am down 32.5 pounds with a goal of another 34.5.  My blood pressure is dropping with the weight, and I am hoping to get off that medication by next year.  Praying to see the blood sugar straighten out with the changes in diet as well.  So odd that in the middle of feeling so good and healthy from losing weight I find I have a whole different problem, but like I said here, I think it is more of a spiritual issue than a a health issue.

My Friendships – The last year or so has bought me into closer relationships with a group of good and godly men.  I want to work harder at making those friendships grow deeper and stronger.  There are things I had done that I need to get back to doing, and there are thing I need to start doing that I never have done!  A good friend is not something to be ignored.

My Work – God has put a task before me, and I want to honor Him in that.  There is an aspect of worship to God in my work that I cannot ignore.  I need to remember that I am always serving Him in the things that I do, and hopefully that will make the rough times better.  I also will be more intentional about how I can provide for my family outside of my main job.

My Faith – Over the last year I have been more intentional about my time with God, and I don’t want that to change.  I need that time with Him to keep my heart right and my head clear.  The time I spend in God’s Word gives me purpose and courage to take hard steps in all aspects of life.  God gets the glory for what He is doing, and I get the joy of being able to have a front row seat in His plan.

grumpy-old-man-list-card-19I get a lot of ribbing from a buddy of mine about being old.  That’s OK.  I’m finally at an age where I am starting to see how my decisions can play out. I have enough life experience that before I do a stupid thing I get that feeling that I have been here before! Sometimes it even stops me from doing it!!!  I guess that is the benefit of age though, and I hope my mistakes, experiences, and thoughts are a help to someone else.

What are you going to do with your next trip around the sun?  Be Relentless in it.  Feel free to share this post and I would be happy to hear your comments either below or e-mail at myrelentlessgrowth@gmail.com!

 

 

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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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Where Are You Weary?

10-tenselonelyMen weary as much of not doing the things they want to do as of doing the things they do not want to do.

– Eric Hoffer

I read this quote about a month ago, and it has been flitting around in my mind ever since. (There is a lot of room in there, so it has pretty much had the run of the place.) Once you read it about four times (I had to do it slowly and out loud) and really think about what it is saying, I think you may spend some time mulling it over as well.  It is a powerful statement, and very accurate. But what does it mean in my life?

Weary is a word that I have had as an unfortunate companion in life the last 10 years or so. It was with me through a change in churches, a change in jobs, a change in finances, a change in friendships, and changes in my service in the church and to God. I have written before about how weariness has been persistently dogging me. This little quote has made me think about why that is.

As I look back over the last few years, I see a lot of weary times that I have endured. My wife has gone through them with me. Times when we are busy doing so many things, and we find too often that they are not things we even really wanted to do. That’s hard to face.  Especially when you had all the best intentions going into it. Sometimes you just need to finish the row before you can walk away, but it is foolish to start another one!

Another way to look at getting weary of doing the things that you don’t want to do is that sometimes we get involved in doing something without thinking about the cost of it. We go in without checking the water, thinking everything will be just fine. Then we end up treading water before we realize it, and we start feeling the damaging effects of sin in our lives, but we are now so deep we must fight our way out. It leaves us tired.

Doing things we don’t want to do will make us feel weary. That just makes sense! Energy put into an unwanted endeavor seems to take a double toll. The waste of time, resources, energy, or other opportunities is enough to make us want to avoid things we don’t want to do altogether. Makes sense, right?

The problem with that is that sometimes the thing we don’t want to do is the good and right thing to do. It may be the very thing God wants us to do, but we don’t like it so we don’t request His help in it, we don’t experience the joy of working on it with God, and we end up wasted, worn, and weary. By taking our focus off God and putting it on our feelings, we miss the joy of working with Him, and the energy of the Spirit working in us!  The Bible says:

“And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up.”

– Galatians 6:9

How many reapings have I missed because I gave up before the work was done? Sad to think about. God has things to give me, but I turned away because I thought they were too hard. I’m letting that sink in. How about you?

So what about becoming weary from not doing what we want to do? Is that really a thing? Yep. It sure is. Whether it is a desire to go back to school, teaching, learning to write, how to play an instrument, or starting a new career, we can grow weary of living a life of, “I wonder what would happen…” I know I have struggled with that.

Sometimes I think that is why I lost my old job. God just decided that I needed to get into another career where I could use some of the other gifts he had given me that were sitting stagnant. It was time to stretch, but I was afraid. It was time to grow, but I was “comfortable”. It would be too much to try something new.  The thing is, I was miserable!

I ran into my old boss yesterday, and as glad as I was to see him, I was reminded of how miserable I was in that job! The time away from home, the long hours behind the wheel, the lack of interaction with people. It was terrible! Why on earth would I hang on to that? I remember how tired I was of the job. I hated going to work in the morning, but I was unwilling to take a chance to do something else. I am so thankful God had a better idea.

Weariness is something we all face from time to time, but we need to evaluate why we feel that feeling. If it is a physical reason, then address it! Get more sleep, eat better, exercise! (All things I need to do!) You should see a change as better stuff coming in makes you feel better and gives you more energy.

If you’re not seeing a physical problem, then it is time to look within. I know for myself the main thing that affects my attitude is what I am concentrating on. When I am putting a focus on daily spending time with God, He changes the way I think. He changes the attitude I have. He changes my perspective in my situation. He changes my energy level. He changes me from a weary man to a man that sees a purpose.

There are a lot of books out there that are telling you to focus the power of the mind. Are they correct? I’d say in part that they are. The mind is a very powerful thing, but a mind focused on Christ and His redeeming power at work in your life? That is something that leads to you a Relentless Life. So, how about it? Are you weary? Are you looking for a solution? Are you willing to do what it takes? Get in the Word! The answers are there.

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“I’m In Hot Pursuit!”

rosco_2x11_33Every time I hear the word “pursuit”, as a child of the 80’s I am reminded of Sheriff Roscoe P. Coltrane. There were not a lot of things about Roscoe I would like to add to my life, but you have to admit, Roscoe never gave up a pursuit…

Continuing my study of Gideon, I am in chapter 8 of Judges and verse 4 is a challenge to my daily walk:

And Gideon came to the Jordan and crossed over, he and the 300 men who were with him, exhausted yet pursuing. (emphasis mine)

Gideon’s battle itself was not an overly difficult one, but when you look back in the story, it would appear that he has had a prolonged period of time without much sleep.  Gideon did a lot of work at night – taking down an idol, infiltrating a camp, and then his trumpet and light show that turned the enemy on themselves.  Follow all of that up with a pursuit of two fellas and their straggling soldiers, a confrontation with some of his cousins, and I am sure he was exhausted.

But he kept pursuing.  Why?

I think it is simply because the job wasn’t done.  God told him He would use Gideon to defeat the armies of Midian, and these two generals were still converting oxygen to CO2.  It was not time to rest.  And in the verses to follow, we will see that there was more to overcome.  I encourage you to read it for yourself and see how Gideon pressed on and took care of the job. Even when people denied him help, he did not let up.

Lately, I have been very tired.  I know God is blessing and there are a lot of really neat things going on – continuing to grow closer to my wife, the amazing number of kids from BBC at Lake Ann Camp this year, the relationship that has been getting stronger with my son, the time I have been spending in the Word, trying my hand at writing, working to be a godly husband, father, and friend.  I am so excited about it, as I am sure that Gideon was excited about the victory he had been promised.  I know that God is working.  I know that He is working on me.

I’m tired.

I’m tired, and I see other big things and opportunities ahead.  It scares me to think I am already tired!  To think that I could one day look back on this and think, “You only THOUGHT you were tired!”

I’m not going to let it stop me though.  There are things happening that I have been longing to see, just as Gideon wanted to see his people free.  The dreams I have had are fuel that allow me to keep going.  God is working, and I see it.  He is telling me that He is sufficient for me.  I know that there will be people along the way that will help me – you all are doing it already in your prayers.  I also know there will be people who can, but will not.  Not sure if I get to beat them with blackberry thorns… That might take a little more Bible Study to see if that is an option…

I talked with a friend last night who is in a pursuit of his own. He is stepping out of what many would call a great job, at a place he loves, where he is surrounded by friends and a great culture, to follow God in a different way. He has about 40 days and he will even need to be out of his home, and he doesn’t know where he is going yet! He has some ideas, some thoughts on what he is praying and hoping for, but he has nothing tangible at this point. As he was telling me all about it, HE COULD NOT STOP SMILING! He is relentlessly pursuing what God has put in his heart and he is thrilled, even in the face of the unknown. What an encouragement to me!

Keep pursuing!  We all get tired, but Gideon was not alone.  He had his trusted men with him as I do.  He had the words of God to stand on, as I do.  He was the man God wanted in the battle.  I believe that at least at this period of my life, I am where He wants me to be – Relentless in pursuit of the mission set before me.

Relentless Growth -> Grow Deep -> Grow Strong

 

 

 

Worthy of Your Calling

walking worthy of your calling_t_nvWhat is a “calling”?  I have heard the word “calling” used as a noun for most of my life, and while I understand the verb form as a way of communication (shouting or using a telephone), I have always struggled with the word.  I mean, I understand the dictionary definition, but I have never really understood it as a part of my life.  It has eluded me in practicality.

I know that a common description of it has been to call it a career.  Something that you do for a living is considered to be your calling.  Well, that may be well and good, but I am now going on 25 years in the workforce in three different full-time jobs, and I still don’t feel that I have a “career”.  I have a job that gives me a paycheck so I can support my family.  I really enjoy what I do most days of the week, but I don’t feel that I have a calling for what I do.  My work ethic is part of who I am, and that is what I bring to my job, but career? Nope.  It’s a great job, but not a calling.

In the last couple of year s I have wrestled with this idea a little more, and I think I am finally getting a better understanding of it, but the roots of a calling for me have little to do with the business world.  It has been through reading my Bible that I am starting to figure this out a little better.  As I continue through Ephesians I hit this verse today, and it is clearer to me now than in the past.

Therefore I, a prisoner for serving the Lord, beg you to lead a life worthy of your calling, for you have been called by God

– Ephesians 4:1

The first three chapters of Ephesians have been about telling me who I am in Christ, and now Paul is getting ready to take me on the next part of the journey:

Take your identity and use it in your life!

In a nutshell, that is a calling!  I have an identity in Christ, and the more I read and understand what that means as a child of God, a sinner redeemed, an adopted heir, a person able to call on the power of God, a person able to gain wisdom through God’s teaching in His Word, I realize that I am called to something more than just existing in His presence.  I am called to action!  I am called to share!  I am called not to repay what I have been given, because I never can, but to live a life that says I understand that I am blessed!

I am called to live my life in a way that shows people the power of the Christian life.  It’s not about avoiding troubles or heartaches.  It’s not about getting wealthy.  It’s not about following a bunch of rules I don’t understand.  It’s about a life that is relentlessly growing, thriving, and reproducing!

I’m not sure where this calling is going to take me.  I’m starting to see that all the aspects of my life play a part in this calling, but those parts are not the calling.  I’m a Christian before I am anything else, and that is where I find my calling to influence the various parts of my life and those in my life.

I probably don’t have a complete handle on this thing yet, but the picture is getting clearer by the day, and I have faith that as I stay close to God, study His Word, and interact with His people I will continue to grow in my understanding of it all.

What are you doing in your life that shows people who you are in Christ?

I hope something that I said might have been an encouragement to you, Dear Reader.  That is one of the reasons I do this.  Not because I have all of the answers, but because I want to encourage others to let God have control of your life.  Trust me; He’s better qualified than we are to run things!

In His Grip,

Tom

PS – I have been asked to hit on a topic that I have brushed over in the past in an upcoming blog.  I am in the early stages of it right now, and I would appreciate your prayers as I figure out what God would like me to say.  It will be a look into legalism and what it takes to transition to a life of truth and grace.

It will require me to pull back some curtains and look at some stuff that may be uncomfortable for me and maybe even some of you.  Please pray that God will give me wisdom in what to share, and that it will be something that will help people grow rather than tear people down.

That will be coming sometime by the end of the month.  Thanks again for your prayers.  It is encouraging to me to know that people are praying for me, and that God is using this to encourage others!

TT