Beauty & Wonder Take Time To Form

Earlier this week my wife and I got away for a couple of nights to beautiful Mackinac Island.  The purpose of the trip was to finally celebrate our 23rd Anniversary which took place back in August.  By the time we finally left for the island, we had another reason to go.

I needed a break from things.

We all need a break from time to time.  Work pressure, things that need to get done around the house, personality conflicts, etc…  They all pull and drain us and we need to be able to get away from them and recharge.  After all, nothing good can come from being hammered all the time, right?

On our walk around the island, we made the trek up to Arch Rock.  For those who have never been to Mackinac Island, Arch Rock is a natural limestone formation caused by water run-off and crashing waves.  The limestone is porous and soft in comparison to other types of rock, and water is able to cut into it.  In the case of Arch Rock, the stone that fell away left the arch pictured below.

The rock has been a focal point of the island for almost 200 years, and was one of the reasons that much of the island was preserved as a state and then national park.  It has been revered by Native Americans as a spiritual portal, has been the backdrop for countless pictures, and the site of a number of proposals.  I have never been there and not observed at least a half dozen people climbing the stairs to take a picture!

You can read more about Arch Rock here if you are interested.

After returning to work and stepping back into a stressful situation, I wished I could go back to the island where peace seemed to reign.  I thought about Arch Rock, the beauty of it, and how that location was peaceful and majestic.

But it wasn’t always that way.  The rock has endured years of being battered by the environment.  It has weathered storms. It has been undermined.  It has cracked and pieces of it have fallen away.  All of this has happened over time, and that time has brought about what we now see.

The same types of things happen to me.  I get undermined.  I get beat up by what seem to be unrelenting forces.  Cracks form in me, and sometimes parts of me that I feel important end up falling away or are taken from me.  I feel hard, haggard, and like I will inevitably fall.

But that is not how I need to live.

Just like Arch Rock endured much in order to become one of the top selfie spots on Mackinac Island, I am enduring to become what God wants me to be.  The transition is hard, and there are times I want to get away from it, but at the end of the day, I know that God will complete His work in me, and despite what I see in the mirror in the morning, it will be a beautiful work.

Relentless Living requires me to remember that I am not on my timetable. Peter tells us:

But do not overlook this one fact, beloved, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. – 2 Peter 3:8

Time is not a barrier that God sees because to Him it is not something He needs to worry about.  Everything works out in His time for His pleasures and even if it takes a thousand years, He will see His plan come to fruition.  He has promised to do a good work in me, and He has promised to complete it!

I might feel battered, wet, worn, and falling apart, but God is not done.  He is working, and He uses His Word to both refine me and to encourage me in the process.

Hang in there.  Beauty takes time!



Two Decades! Happy Birthday, Jessica!!!

January 1997:

  • Fargo wins Best Film at the Critics Choice Awards
  • Pete Sampras wins the Australian Open
  • The Space Shuttle Atlantis returns home
  • Dennis Rodman kicks a camera man in the groin
  • The Packers and the Steelers were getting set to play in the Super Bowl (Please, not again. As I write this I can still pull for the Steelers and Falcons…)
  • 321491_4832527489535_88458044_nJessica Rachelle Tanner came into the world

January 23rd, after a long and tiring delivery (seriously, I was absolutely exhausted and Tammi was pretty tuckered out too! – I will pay for this…), Jessica made her presence known with a few grunts and then a well throated wail.  She was here and we knew our lives would never be quite the same.  We were parents.


14845_4832535569737_1004727741_nLooking back now, I was so proud of my wife and her ability to just know what to do.  She took to being a mom like it was the most natural thing in the world, but me?  Well I never dropped her on her head or anything, and I knew which end food went in (no doubts about which end it came out) but I remember thinking several times, “Who on earth decided that I have the maturity to raise a child into an adult that will offer some type of value to society!? Shouldn’t there be some type of screening?”

312424_4832536289755_358998531_nOver all, she was a pretty compliant little rascal.  She had her moments when she was handful, but she was a quick learner and was always willing to please.  We kept watching her and wondering, “Is she about to go nuts yet?”  I know what I was like, and I just kept thinking that eventually I was going to see behavior in her that would allow parents, teachers, Sunday School Superintendents, Little League Coaches, and almost every member of the ladies missionary committee to start with the comments.  You know the one in particular…

“Now he is getting the payback he deserves!”269250_4832546410008_2047369841_n

We waited.  She turned two and nothing.  We waited a little longer and she turned three. Nothing.  We waited a little longer and as 4, then 5, and then 6 passed by, we still saw nothing that led us to believe that we were in any trouble or that any was on the immediate horizon.

319800_4832619651839_1615562737_nSchool was going well, She loved to learn and play with friends.  She loved church and all of her friends.  She was good in just about any situation and we just kept waiting.

428156_4832566610513_1096762012_nThe double digits hit.  Then the teen years began and I thought that if it was ever going to happen, now would be the time, but nothing.  It was like she just didn’t have it in her to get into trouble like her old man did.  She even got along with her little brother!  Seriously!  Where did this kid come from!

10947232_910103895675869_4578714176413601194_nLet me be clear.  Jessica is not perfect.  She had plenty of times when she made bad choices and got herself into a bit of trouble.  There is no such thing as a perfect kid.  Also, Jessica was not a push-over.  She has a very stubborn streak in her that has been the foundation for a lot of things that have made her into who she is today.  Sometimes that stubborn streak made things a little challenging, but it never got to a point of considering a boarding school…

14374_10204988308685895_8072762211283183066_nI look back and wonder what did we do.  Tammi and I had talked extensively about how we wanted to raise our kids.  We discussed discipline, education, boundaries, how we would love on them, all kinds of stuff.  We did what we thought was right and we prayed that God would kinda push us into line where we might be slipping off the track.  We were consistent, but this was also our first attempt at things!

1524871_10204988312125981_6073152218507561151_nI realize that there was much more at work than us.  It was more than grandparents (although she has four fantastic ones). It was more than aunts, uncles, cousins, teachers, and even more than her little brother.  It was more than the books we gave her, the television shows she watched or the songs she sang.

It was God.

1531582_10202369106847486_1823399421_nJessica knew that she was our daughter, but she also knew she was a child of God, and she wanted to make Him happy.  She asked questions when she was little about how she should do things that make Jesus happy, and would talk about how Jesus made her happy.  She saw the animals that she loved as a way that God gave 69612_4832795136226_313258255_nsomething to her to enjoy. (I still think she really believes that all animals were put here for her enjoyment, but at least I have been able to make her understand that she is not responsible to house all of them!)

10931362_10204988326286335_7658708027850509645_nShe knew that she wanted to know God more, and as she got older, she began to do more about it.  She started to read her Bible almost every day. She began journaling.  She wrote out prayers. She talked with people about God.  She had an understanding that the real God, Creator of the universe, knew and loved her, and she wanted to know and love him too.

13925696_10207273181213396_854820111773209752_oI think that was the biggest reason the teen years have flown by.  We watched her grow into the young lady she is today, and we just keep being amazed at what she has become.  Again, not perfect.  Again, a touch stubborn at times. In the end, a young woman with a loving heart, a beautiful smile, and a desire to serve God.

13710545_10208928556869637_8601244820599326179_oTammi and I are so proud of our daughter.  We did what we could.  We gave it our best, and we are thankful for who she is today, but we know that her relationship with God is the lion share of what made her into who she is.  We are just very thankful hat Go allowed us to have a part in it.

12957503_10208158878748165_5934551320912919766_oToday, Jessica is 20.  Two decades have passed since I was told I had a little girl.  I will always be able to see her at that moment. I will always be able to recall that  feeling of excitement and fear all wrapped up together.  I will always ask that question, “What did I do to deserve this?”  I say it now too.

13934659_10210114881419583_3885674236626471502_nHappy Birthday, Jessica!  I’ve loved you from the first moment I set eyes on you, and I am very proud to be your Dad.  I know that like your old man, you sometimes feel inadequate – not up to the task.   You want to do things the right way the first time and you get frustrated when that doesn’t always happen.  You want to be more, to do more, and to never let anyone down.  I love those things about you.  They scare me sometimes too.

14021570_10209124877977542_8285539014382639705_nThey scare me because I know how the doubts can weigh on your mind. They drag you down and make you feel unworthy of good, unable to help, paralyzed.  I don’t want that for you.

As I said to you the other day, I want you to see yourself as I know you are.  I am able to stand on the outside and see the woman you are becoming.  You have not only potential to become something amazing, you are already potent in this moment as you are making a difference in the lives of those around you.  You are already being that amazing woman, and the day will come that you will recognize those strengths.  You are going to do great things as you lean on God and partner with him to help others even more.


I love you, squirt!  You have done a lot with your first two decades.  I can’t wait to recap the next two in 2037!

Love 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!


19 Reasons I Love My Daughter:

IMG_0648Well, another trip around the sun has taken place and here we are again.  January 23 has arrived and with it the celebration of Jessica’s birth.  This will be the fourth time I have done a birthday blog for my little girl, and I am not sure what I can say that I haven’t already said. Thankfully, not knowing what to say has never kept from saying something in the past, so here we go!

  1. She made me fall in love with her at first sight.  I didn’t want a daughter, and we didn’t know what was coming, but I was certainly not looking for a little girl!  You can imagine my surprise when I saw that slimy little girl for the first time and knew immediately I could not have been happier.
  2. She taught me the importance of discipline.  When you are responsible for shaping the personality and character of a small human, it behooves you to pay attention to what is going on.  As she grew and started to not “stay put” so much, we had to teach her proper behavior.  Teaching that to her opened my eyes to how God is always doing the same thing with me.
  3. She taught me the importance of consistency.  Whether it was a sleep schedule, feeding schedule, or a “no-no” rule, it was not long before we realized as parents of a little human that we needed to be consistent for her benefit and for our sanity.  One of the things that we look back on as being in the top 5 most important parenting things we did without always realizing we were doing it.
  4. She showed us that it’s okay to just stop and enjoy a moment.  I will never forget seeing her walking across the yard as the radio was on  (turned up to 11) in my garage blaring an advertisement for McDonalds or something like that.  She was heading toward a toy of hers and then the music started back up.  She stopped and just did that toddler “bouncing dance” (all parents know what I mean) for the entire song.  She started to try and walk away a couple times, but she just couldn’t stop the bounce until the music was gone.
  5. IMG_1253She showed me true appreciation for God’s creatures. To be honest, I am still learning on this one.  To me, animals were created so that I may eat them.  Therefore, I have a soft spot for cattle, pigs, chickens, deer, elk, buffalo, and whatever Gorton’s uses to make a fish stick.  Other than that, I like a dog to follow me around the yard.  Jessica loves anything with a pulse, and has always been so keenly interested in them.  We still look at her in amazement as she spouts off facts about animals but we are never surprised to see her go the rescue of any animal.
  6. She is an amazing friend.  Jess has always reached out to people and been willing to be a friend to them.  She especially looks for the one person that seems to have no friend. She draws them to her!  She shows interest in their lives and is a genuine friend to them.
  7. The girl knows how to work.  We have had horses for almost seven years now, and the other day we were commenting on how many times she has acted like she didn’t want to go out to “her boys” to feed them.  We think the number is around 2 – in seven years.  She is up early in the morning and late at night to take care of them, and she knows how to throw hay!
  8. She is content.  Jessica has never been one to walk around asking for things she knew she couldn’t have or pitching little fits if she didn’t get what she wanted.  It was almost like she thought if she had something it was better than nothing, and that was good enough.  I might be exaggerating little bit, but not by a lot!
  9. She has always been comfortable with herself.  She is not a person to “put on airs”.  She is who she is, and doesn’t change for someone just because that is how they might want her to be.  If she makes a change, it is because she has decided to do it.IMG_1095
  10. She does hard things.  Hard things are hard because they are hard, and Jess has been one the tis willing to take on a challenge.  Sometimes we tease her about a stubborn streak (no chance she got that from either parent), but more often than not it is because she has a tenacity about life and is willing to do what needs to be done – even when it is hard.
  11. She is still a girl.  Even though she loves pig wrestling, horse maintenance, and throwing hay bales, she still likes to put on a pretty dress and get all “girled up” from time to time.
  12. She’s a smart kid.  Jess has always done well in school.  There are times she has really had to attack a subject in order to do well, but she gives it her best.  She made the Dean’s list with a 4.0 in her first semester in college!
  13. She loves her family.  Maybe some of it is because we live in the sticks and she doesn’t have a lot of friends right inner neighborhood, but she actually seems to like being at home with us.  Yep.  A teenage daughter that has always been happy to spend time with her parents… Maybe unicorns exist after all!
  14. 995302_10202357674841693_1646407219_nShe liked Cricket Hunting with me when she was little.  It’s goofy, would probably take a ton of explaining, but we enjoyed it!
  15. Some of her more memorable quotes: “I AH-DOOUGH-A-BULL” “Wedgies.  They happen!” To her Grandpa Williams when she was still in diapers – “Grampa, I dotta yode.” (“I gotta load” meaning a full diaper.  I’m not saying her mother taught her that one, but there was only one other adult living in our house that could have taught her that, and surely it wasn’t him…)
  16. IMG_20150705_171623She is resilient.  One of the hardest signs we experienced with Jess was watching her deal with the pain that came out of her competing in High School Equestrian events.  She was hurt in many ways during that time, but she kept her gentle heart and attitude and was willing to forgive rather than hold on to hard feelings.  She has been a true example to me in that regard.
  17. She likes to pull my finger.  Yes, my wife just covered her eyes and shook her head in shame that I wrote that, but it is the truth.  It makes us laugh!
  18. IMG_0597Her brother is her best friend – and he likes that.  They have always been good buds, and even though they have the occasional spat, they truly love each other and miss each other.  Next year is going to be hard on both of them as she leaves for Cedarville.
  19. Jess truly wants to live her life in a way that glorifies God.  She reads her Bible, journals, prays, and genuinely looks to Him for guidance and strength for living.  She has been modeling a Relentless Life all through her teenage years.  While life has been hard from time to time, she has not lost sight of God, and has continued to draw close to Him.  It makes me very proud to see her grasping the importance of a relationship with her heavenly Father.75003_4832780735866_725842936_n

Jess, I love you, and I am proud to be your Dad.  You have been a joy since your first breath, and I stand in amazement as I continue to watch you grow in so many ways.  You are a blessing to me and Mom, and I thank God every day for entrusting us with a daughter like you.  Happy Birthday, Squirt!

Love you,


To My 16 Year-Old Son – Happy Birthday!

10947232_910103895675869_4578714176413601194_nZachary turns 16 today!  Since it has become a custom, here is the birthday blog post to this little homeboy that seems to be growing up into quite the young man.  Allow me to brag on my boy here for a little while.  If it seems to mushy for you, then feel free to go find a YouTube video of sword fighting cats or something.  I don’t mind at all.


I can’t believe you are already 16 years old.  The time has flown by, and while I have always been aware of how fast it moves, I can honestly say that this last year has been a bigger blur than usual!  There have always been certain “parts” of who you are that seem to develop more in a 12 month period than others, but the changes in you over the last 12 months have been astonishing in all aspects.

Physically – Dude, I can honestly say that I am starting to regret telling you that the day you can whip me you will have earned it.  You’re becoming a tank, and I am starting to feel the need to watch you out of the corner of my eye just in case you decide it is time to go for it!  I’ve always enjoyed wrestling with you and goofing off together like that, and I beam with pride when I hear people say things like, “I just saw your son. What have you been feeding him?”  Acorn & Tree. Chip & Block.  You have grown a lot over the past year, and I don’t see you being done just yet.

10301298_10204434300596039_4767409375357062929_nMentally – This past year of school has been impressive to say the least.  Your Mom and I are very proud of the work that you have done over the year in studies that are intended for an older student, but you have not only done well in your classes, you have OWNED them!  To see the way that you are grasping complex concepts as well as learning to write at a higher level has been a joy.  This next year as you start on college courses, we feel confident that you will continue to excel in what you do.  You have grown a lot over the past year, and I don’t see you being done just yet.

Emotionally – We’ve had some important conversations over the past year when it comes to handling emotions in a godly manner like a man should.  The conversation that we had just the other day meant more to me than you will probably ever know, and as a man I was impressed, but as a Dad I could not have been more proud of you.  Learning to handle our emotional responses is vital in our relationships, and you are learning it at a younger age than I did.  My hope is that by doing so, you will be in a better position to handle the hard things of life as they come across your path than I was. You have grown a lot over the past year, and I don’t see you being done just yet.11205523_10205739218578173_7479264338994749135_n

Relationally – I have seen you develop better and stronger friendships over the past year.  You are learning better how to be a friend to those in your peer groups, and sometimes that means calling them out!  I’ve seen you do that on a few occasions over the past year, and that is a testament to the man you are becoming.  Not because you told someone they were wrong, but because you came alongside someone and helped them see a damaging thing in their lives and helped them for their benefit, not for your ego.  You didn’t throw a judgement and walk away, you stayed with them to help them.  That’s a trait that honors God, and I am so proud to see that in you. You have grown a lot over the past year, and I don’t see you being done just yet.10730949_10205859982517196_4482399068858361253_n

Musically – Your guitar skills have taken a huge leap over the past year, and I thought you were really good then!  The passion that you have for your music shows when you play because it flows out of your heart.  I can’t wait to see what God is going to do with you as you continue to look at your music skills and how you can develop them more.  I know it is going to be big with you. You have grown a lot over the past year, and I don’t see you being done just yet.

Spiritually – Zach, since your birthday last year, you have a new relationship with Christ, and it is making a difference in you in ways that are impacting these other aspects of your life.  You have been in your Bible more, reading some better books for spiritual growth, journaling, and focusing on not only the act of playing of worship, but worshipping in your playing.  Over the last 12 months I challenged you to grow in your life spiritually, and I have been so thankful for what I have seen God doing in you as you accepted that challenge.   You have grown a lot over the past year, and I don’t see you being done just yet.

11150650_10206570837340696_2142947637021693128_nYou might have noticed a phrase repeated through this. (I hope so, I just said you were smart!)  I want you to know that I write that as a challenge.  I see so much potential in you to go farther and grow more, and while I am impressed with what the last year has been like, I believe that you are just getting going!  There are things that God is going to do with you as you keep yourself tender toward Him, and I know that He has plans for you that are beyond my imagination.  Are you open to it?

I want you to be Relentless in the growth process.  Growing is never done until you are dead.  I want you to never feel that you have arrived, but to have a hunger to keep pushing to be the best that you can be.  I’m proud of you, and I always will be.  I want you to be able to look back on your life one day and say,

“I’ve grown a lot over the past year, but I don’t see me being done just yet.”

I love you, son.  Happy Birthday!



“He Just Kept Going!”

11169918_10206751378810895_8385502505395207127_nThis past weekend was the 79th Annual National Trout Festival here in our little town.  I often joke that it is the time of year when everyone climbs out of their winter dens to show off their new tattoos (present company excluded).  It’s your typical display of small town flavor with parades, a carnival, flea market, and a lot of other stuff too.  I haven’t been to any of the festivities over the last few years due to scheduling conflicts, but this year I was able to make a long overdue appearance.

This year I got to experience a part of the Festival I had never seen before.  Every year, the Rotary Club of Kalkaska puts on a race called the Trout Run.  It is a 1 mile fun-run combined with a 5k and a 10k race for those people who feel a need to have their heart pound hard (I don’t understand such things).  This year my schedule was different, and for the first time as a Rotarian, I was able to be there at the race to help out.  I had a blast!  It was  fun seeing all the different people who came out to run for the fun of running!  We even had one guy who ran the 5k in waders!

It was a beautiful morning Saturday.  Clear skies and a good bit of sunshine made the 30 degree temperature during set-up feel tolerable.  By the time the first race race began we were looking at a balmy 40 and a lot of sun with just a bit of wind that would be in the racers face as they headed out, but would be a nice benefit on the way back.

After the 1 mile run was completed, everyone was ready to go on the 5k and 10k races.  They all lined up together for the start, we counted it down, and the siren went off for the start.  After that it was a lot of milling around for us non-racers, but it gave us the opportunity to talk to the crowd a bit and just enjoy a good morning of community fellowship as we caught up with old friends, met people from town,  or from as far away as Kentucky!10653394_10206499225830453_4074547252641429684_n

After the 5k runners had been coming in for awhile and the 10k runners had started showing up as well, we started hearing a bit of concern regarding one of our contestants.  The parents of a young runner, I heard someone say he was 5 years old, were starting to ask runners if they had seen their son on the course.  He had set out to run the 5k, and they thought he should be back by then.

After a few minutes, a report was given that he had been spotted on the course safe and sound – WELL PAST the 5k turnaround point.  He was running the 10k!  I can tell you that there were a lot of people waiting there at the finish line to cheer this young man on as he crossed with a smile on his face. (With no hint of jealousy in my voice I can tell you he wasn’t even really out of breath!)

After he had a chance to reunite with Mom and Dad and all the questions got answered we found out what had happened.  Apparently in the past, there has been a cone on the course to mark the turnaround point for the 5 and 10k runners, but this year the cones were not put out.  When he reached the turnaround for his race, as one person said, “He just kept going!”

11174764_10153334467509047_3988499782460960483_nWhen all the racers were in and the awards were given out, there was an extra award given to that little guy.  He was given a gold medal for being the first runner in his age group to finish a race he didn’t set out to run!  His parents were understandably proud.  Who wouldn’t be? As I thought about this kid who went the distance, I was reminded of a verse:

And if anyone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles.

– Matthew 5:41

I can assure you that if you saw me on that course, you can safely assume that someone forced me into it.  If I had to do it, I would do it, but I can tell you that I would not have done a single step more than I was forced to do.  Running is not a fun activity for me, and I would definitely consider that the least amount of effort required would be more than enough.

Some days I get that way in other aspects of life too.  I know that there is always room to do better.  There is always room to improve.  The thing is, it’s too easy to say, “I’m a good enough…

  • Husband – After all, I come home every night and I don’t fool around on my wife.  I tell her I love her.  Isn’t that enough?
  • Dad – I keep a roof over their heads.  I never beat them.  They have clothes to wear and food to eat.  I tell them I love them.  Isn’t that enough?
  • Employee – I show up for work.  I put in my time.  Everything is getting done that needs to be getting done.  Isn’t that enough?
  • Friend – I talk to my buddies from time to time.  I try not to take advantage of them.  I follow them on Facebook.  Isn’t that enough?
  • Christian – I go to church.  I read my Bible.  I put money in the offering plate.  Isn’t that enough?

By the standards of some people I know, these are all acceptable levels of performance in different areas.  They would look at results like this and be happy with them.  They did what was required of them.  They did “Enough.”  But is it really enough?  Is that the kind of memory you want to leave in the minds of others?

Imagine your funeral:

“We are gathered here today in this place to remember the life of (insert your name here).  He was an adequate man in most things.  Always managed to do the minimum that was required of him.  He is survived by his wife who says she will now be able to watch her television shows, but does admit that she will need to kill the occasional spider in the house.  His children say that they will appreciate the extra car left behind, but will miss having him put gas in it.  

Today he will be carried to his final resting place by 6 day laborers as his friends in attendance said that while it is good to see him off, he is not worth pulling a muscle.  His employer has sent this lovely vase of flowers this morning after realizing he had not been at work the last three days as his work was being taken care of by two of the people in his department and somebody finally realized he was gone when it was his turn to bring in the donuts and they weren’t there.”

That’s not what I want.  That is not a life that screams Relentless Growth!  Relentless living is the kind of living that just breezes right past the turn around and keeps going.  Now this little guys didn’t know he was about do a 10k, but he knew that there was a race to run, and that was what he was there to do!  I have a race to run too!  I’m  not sure what the half-way point is of my life either, but I know that I don’t want to live in a way that is looking for the turn around.  I want people to say, “He just kept going.”

How about you?  Are you living an “adequate life”?  Do you aspire for more?  If you are, here are a few things I would suggest you do to make a positive change:

  • Take a good, hard look at who you are.  If you want to be really bold, ask your spouse or siblings evaluate you honestly.  Get ready for the feedback and take it not as a criticism, but as a baseline to work against.
  • Find a mentor.  When you see a weakness in yourself, look for someone that is strong in that area and ask them for help to improve!  A good mentor will always love to share what they know.
  • Set a goal.  Make it small at first.  Taste a victory or two in an area.  If you like to eat entire pies at a sitting, set a goal for 3/4 of a pie.  Baby steps!
  • Accountability is key.  You need someone that can talk to you without dancing around the issues.  Someone that can say, “Tom, 3/4 of a pie is not a goal that is going to help you no matter how you try to rationalize it.”  Let them help you with your goals.
  • Talk to God about it.  Honestly, if you are going to try and make any lasting change in your life in an area that you are really struggling to grow in, you need help that is stronger than you.  You need to know God and allow Him to be the strength in your decisions.

We all have a race ahead of us.  We don’t know our half-way point, and we can’t see the finish line.  Do you want to be the guy that ran a little while and said, “Enough.”  or do you want to be that guy that just kept going?  Go big.  Be Relentless!





Golf, Pomegranates, & Ownership

Publication1Back in the Fall of 2000 I allowed myself to be taken somewhere to do something I swore I would never do.  I went golfing.  My brother-in-law talked me into going out for a round of golf just to have some fun.  As many of my friends know, I like a good joke, and I was pretty sure that for this day, the joke would be me.  I was fine with that.  I figured if nothing else, I would have the opportunity to make him lose a bunch of golfballs, so that was okay too – joke would be on him!

Well, two things happened that day that neither of us were expecting.  While we were both pretty sure I would lose, I think he was very surprised to only beat me by single digits.  The other big surprise was that I loved it.  I had a great time, and before I knew it, I was looking for clubs and a bag of my own.  Got in quite a few rounds before we had to close out that season.

When Spring came I bought a membership and was at the course as much as possible.  I started getting up early and hitting the course before the sun was up.  I figured if I could see the ball, I could hit it.  If I hit it, well then I just had to figure out which direction it went. (Lost a lot of balls those mornings)  I was able to get 9 holes in before going to work in the morning!

I was very aware of the fact that I did not want this new hobby to take time from my family.  That is why I golfed so early.  They didn’t even miss me!  Then I could golf on the weekend too without them feeling like they were missing out on my free time.  It worked pretty well.  Then I started to want to golf in the evenings too, but that was going to cut into my family time.  Here is where things started to go wrong.

I decided to take a couple of my afternoons and work shorter days so I could play 18 holes after work and still be home on time.  This was awesome!  I was getting in about 99 holes a week and my family didn’t feel neglected!  I was a master of time management! Or was I?

By late August I was starting my workdays by 7am after playing 9 holes, but was on the golf course by 1pm.  I worked a commission sales job at the time, so my hours were pretty flexible. Before long, it started to catch up with me.  Conditions in my stores started to suffer, and several little things began to pile up and show that I was not devoting the time I should be to my job.  Family was still feeling no real loss, but work was definitely feeling it.

Bad things always seem to eventually get found out, and this was no exception.  I narrowly escaped with my job, and for the next 9 years I fought with trying to keep the mistake of that summer from taking my livelihood.  Elephants and Zone Managers never forget…

Reading my Bible yesterday I was in Numbers 20.  The Israelites have started their new careers as wilderness wanderers, and the complaining has really ramped up.  God has told the people that their doubt is going to keep them out of the Promised Land, He squashed a major rebellion that resulted in thousands being killed, and He had to make sure that everyone understands that when Moses and Aaron talk, it is time of the people to be quiet.  But, they entered a particularly dry spot in the region and they started to complain again.

And the people quarreled with Moses and said, “Would that we had perished when our brothers perished before the Lord! Why have you brought the assembly of the Lord into this wilderness, that we should die here, both we and our cattle? And why have you made us come up out of Egypt to bring us to this evil place? It is no place for grain or figs or vines or pomegranates, and there is no water to drink.”    – Numbers 20:3-5

So, basically they are saying that it would have been better if God had killed them all when He squashed that rebellion.  Then they go on to blame Moses for not taking them into the Promised Land like he said he would when they left Egypt.  They even took it so far as to point out the very obvious lack of fresh produce!  They forgot that it was their disbelief in God’s ability to give them the Promised Land that put them EXACTLY where they were.  It had nothing at all to do with what Moses said or did.

When my golf game got the best of my work performance I could have blamed my family.  If I had been able to play 18-27 holes of golf every night  then I would have had more time to spend at work.  If work had paid me more and made my route small enough to sufficiently do my job in 30 hours then I could have golfed and still had time to spend with my family.  If my brother-in-law hadn’t asked me to go golfing in the first place… The thing is, it wasn’t the fault of anyone but me.  I messed up.

Today the culturally accepted way of doing things is to find someone you can blame for your current situation if it is bad.  You can give yourself credit if it is good, but you must have someone to blame if it is bad.  Well, I guess it isn’t exactly a new concept. The Israelites did it a long time ago, and Adam and Eve played the first recorded Blame Game in the Garden of Eden.  I guess it is how we just tend to default.

What we are missing is Ownership.  Being willing to stand up and say, “Yep!  That was me.  I’m the one that put in more time each week golfing than working.”  “I’m the one that didn’t believe God when we could have just walked right into the Promised Land.” “I’m the one that didn’t (fill in the blank for yourself).”  None of us want the blame, but there are times that we know exactly who should be taking it.  I find that I can identify those times most easily by analyzing just how hard I am trying to find someone else to blame the problem on!

As a believer, I live under grace.  As a Relentless believer, I am called to own my mess as I cling to grace.  Grace allows me to admit where I am wrong without fear of being cast away from God, but I am not exempt from the consequences of my wrong-doing, and I will not learn anything unless I own my mess!  That is key in spiritual growth!  Make mistakes, admit mistakes, ask forgiveness for mistakes, learn from mistakes and then go make a new mistake!  It is a process!  When you stop making them then you are done! (That won’t happen while you are alive, so just stick to the process.)

So, what mistakes have you made lately that you need to own?  I’ve recently watched somebody own one, and I was very impressed in how he handled it.  He sought forgiveness with humble spirit, and he received it.  Time will tell if a lesson was learned, but at least the first step was taken.  It was OWNED!

By the way,  I pretty much gave up golf after that.  I’ll still play, but I will probably never have a membership again.  It owned me.  Now I own it!


Core Value #5 – Discipline

DisciplineDiscipline is something I value. There are things in my life I am disciplined in, but as I have thought about this more I have come to the realization that this value is not always displayed in my actions. In other words, I need more discipline in my life.

What is discipline? My laptop gives me the following definitions: Punishment, Self-Control, Regulation, Subject, Punish, Instruction, Correction, Chastisement, Castigation, & Persuasion

I think we are all pretty familiar with the concept of discipline as a punishment. That doesn’t require a whole lot of discussion. Sometimes that discipline is delivered well, and sometimes, not so much. I told my kids I loved them too much to not discipline them, and in the moment they probably thought I was lying, but now that they are older they are starting to see what my wife and I were up to all along!

I’m going to speak more to some of the other aspects of discipline: Self-Control/ Regulation and Instruction/Persuasion. Discipline need not always have a negative feeling attached to it. We need to welcome discipline as a building block in our character.


When we subject ourselves to a discipline, we are opening our eyes to understanding it better. Not a surface level understanding, but a deep understanding. We are looking at this discipline to see how it works, what it needs to grow, how it can be harnessed or channeled in a particular direction.

For example, I might not understand it because I don’t really feel like putting an effort into learning it, but my daughter does something called Natural Horsemanship with her horses. I have picked up enough to make doing the few things that I need to do with the horses easier, but other than that, she is the expert in the house.

When she goes out and works with the horses – for hours at a time some days – she is not only teaching them things, but also she is learning how they respond to different touches, gestures, or sounds. She is then able to take what she has learned and use it to make them do what she wants them to do as if it was their own idea!   That allows her to ride better, to get them to do a trick, or any other number of things. Someday I might have more time to learn more because it really is an amazing discipline, and I have been able to see how it can be tied into working with people as well.


This is the one that gets hard. There are a lot of topics I can pick on here, and a lot of people too! For the sake of the blog, I will only pick on the one person I know that is already mad at me and has learned to live with that – myself. After all, we are talking about self-control!

I have had some things come up where I have had to come face to face with my lack of it. How can I write about how to tell people how to be disciplined when I am not? I am approaching this as a sanctification process. That’s not letting me off the hook, but it does allow for the reality of my sin nature to explain my failures while not letting it be an excuse for them. I am not perfect, but I am committed to improvement.

So, I cannot speak about a need for discipline in my life without talking about two things – time and diet.

Time – I get 24 hours in a day. When I look at any given weekday, by the time I take work and sleep out of the mix I have about 7 hours left over to play with. There are probably about another three hours that are used for things that I can’t really work with. So I have about 4 hours a day to do something intentional with. In that four hours I need to be a godly husband and dad, be involved with extended family and friends, find a little time to relax, and do some work around the house or in some form of education.

That’s not a lot of time to be deep and intentional in any of those areas. It’s pretty obvious why I feel like sometimes things are out of control or I am falling behind or out of touch.   I need to be more proactive here.

I am starting to think harder about what I watch on television. I have some shows I watch because I enjoy them, but I am finding lately that I watch most of my TV basically because I don’t feel like I have time to DO anything productive, so why try? It might be time to look at that list of shows and do some culling. Limit my time in front of that screen and do something more productive with my time.

Diet – Here is where things get really painful. I’ve made declarations in the past of how I am going to get in shape, lose weight, blah blah blah. Somehow, at the end of the day, here I remain – too much of me remains. Changes need to be made.

Recently my son gave up drinking pop. He has been fizz-free for over a month now, and he is making the right choices. This past weekend I was at camp, and I decided that I am going to go pop free at least for the time I was there, but I decided I may follow him on this. It’s a little thing in the grand scheme of what I need to do, but it is something.

Food continues to be a struggle for me because I love it.   Camp is not a good place to start saying “no” to food, but I am working on that. I am committing to making some real changes in how I look at food now that I am home. I need this discipline because it is going to have a negative effect on my health, and my ability to do things that God has put in my life if I don’t get some control.

Relentless Living requires discipline. I have listed my values as God, Family, Friends, Balance and Discipline. Discipline must be in place to make the others be as impactful as possible. Balance and Discipline go hand in hand, but Discipline is what makes balance possible.

I know I have some people out there who will hold me accountable on this. Some who have held me accountable in the past may have given up since they saw no real change. I hope they will come back and help me again. After all, it’s a process! I’ll give an update on my progress in these two areas in a couple weeks.


Core Value #1 – God

GodIn going through the process of determining my core values, I had a lot of things cross my mind.  There are so many thing that are out there vying of my attention, and many of them are really good things!  How am I supposed to settle down and figure out what the most important things in my life are going to be?  If only there was a place that could tell me how I should look at the different responsibilities, opportunities, and amusements that cross my path.


But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. – Matthew 6:33 (ESV)

Okay, so that clears that up!  Christ tells His followers that the most important thing they can look for in life is to find ways to grow closer to God and do work for His kingdom.  That is where things should start.  Anything else goes somewhere else.  (That’s kinda what “first” means – at least as I read it…)

So, what does it look like to seek the kingdom of God first?  This kingdom of God is not here.  It is something we are not going to see in our lifetime. (I will wait a second for that joke to settle in…that should be enough.)  The kingdom of God comes later, and right now we are in the middle of our now!  And righteousness?  Isn’t that what a lot of religious people claim to have when they are really just looking down on other people?  Frankly, no.  The kingdom and the righteousness of God we are supposed to be seeking are found in how we live our lives, and that probably means that something needs to change.  More than likely more than one thing!

1.  Start thinking differently.  – Our natural way of thinking is to seek first the kingdom of “insert your name here.”  I want what matters to me, and if all goes well, that might not bring you any harm or discomfort, but if it does, I can probably live with that.  After all, I got mine, right?  That would be fine, but that is the way of man, and that path will lead to an empty end. Instead we need to live as if we are standing before the face of God.  That is different thinking!

In thinking differently we start to look at the things in our lives that are taking the place of God.  They might be some good things like a nice house, a green lawn, a nice car,a wife and 2.3 kids.  It could be a college education, a football game with friends, or a family vacation.  All good things, but when they take the place of God as first in our lives, they become bad things.  The Bible has a name for that – IDOLS.  As I have borrowed from Mark Driscoll before, and yes, I think he understands this more than ever now, “When a good thing becomes a god thing, that’s a bad thing.”  Anything that takes the place of God is bad.  It’s not debatable.

When I think about some of the things I want to do, I need to stop and ask myself if doing it is going to keep me from or hurt my relationship with God.  If it does, then it is a bad thing.  When I want to say something to someone that I think they really need to hear, I need to ask myself if this is going to bring them closer to understanding their need for a relationship with God.  If it doesn’t, it could be a bad thing.  When I allow something to take up my time I need to ask myself if it is going to help myself or someone else know God and understand His Word better.  If it doesn’t, it might be a bad thing.

Not all things are bad things, but when they are running my life, they are not good things.  They have become little “g” gods that pull me from doing the things I should be doing as a follower of Christ, a husband, a father, a friend, an employee and so on.  I need to examine the things in my life that I think about and figure out how they impact kingdom work.  When I start thinking about the kingdom the next step comes in.

2. Start acting differently. – When I am looking at my actions with God in mind, I start to see changes that need to be made.  that requires me to make a decision.  Do I do the right thing, or do I decide to just do what I want?  The easy thing to do is to just keep going along.  You have a groove and you stay in it.  That is a guaranteed way to fail.  The thinking that got us where we were is not going to take us to a better place.  It is not going to take us to the kingdom, and it is not going to lead us toward righteous living.

Righteous living is just living in the presence of God and following His direction.  It is not perfection, and it is not judgement of others.  It is an honest assessment of the things that I am doing in light of the example of Christ, and giving them up in favor of acting more like Him!  I fail!  I mess up!  I sin!  I don’t get things right, but still I am in a Relentless pursuit of His righteousness.  I am looking at the way I treat people at work, the people I am friends with, the people I am not friends with!  What do my actions in front of them say about the God that I serve? Sometime they say what I want them to say, but other times…

coram“Coram Deo” means to stand before the face of God.  That’s what we are talking about here.  Living with a mindset that is in constant acknowledgment that we are living in the presence of God.  He sees everything, hears everything, and knows everything. This should not make us live in guilt, shame or fear, but it should encourage us to do well. To experience His grace as we extend it to others.  It should comfort when we are in pain or are scared.  It should strengthen when we feel weak.  God  is here!  Are we looking for Him?

I’d like to day that I have this down.  Nope.  Working on it though.  Relentless Growth means that you can look at your weaknesses in the presence of God and seek His help.  He carries us through the struggles, trials, and temptations.  God must be my number one value, because without Him, my attempts to do well in the other areas I value will be a pale comparison to what they can be through Him.

Thanks for reading.





Happy Birthday, Jessica! 18 Years! How Did This Happen?

321491_4832527489535_88458044_nJanuary 23, 1997.  Bill Clinton was in office, Toni Braxton was blazing her way up the charts, Ben Affleck’s career was going upward like a rocket, and Dennis Rodman kicked a camera man in the crotch on national TV.  So, it looks like nothing good happened that day, but that would be wrong.

On January 23rd, 1997, at Munson Medical Center in Traverse City, Michigan, a little girl was born. It was a miraculous thing.  I know.  I was there!  After a long wait, we would finally meet this new little person.  We had no idea whether it would be a boy or girl, and we were split right down the middle as to what we wanted to see!  Her mother wanted to see the little Jessica Rachelle she had been dreaming of and hoping for, but I was looking for the firstborn son!

734446_4832544049949_77824243_nAfter a very long night for both of us (still some debate exists over who was more uncomfortable as I had no epidural), we finally saw our baby, and Ohhhhhh baby was I surprised!  A girl?  Really?  What?  I wanted a boy! What am I going to do with a daughter?   18 years later I think back to the moment that question went through my head, and I remember the answer I had then that has served us well.  “I will love her.”

I know it sounds bad to read the thoughts that I remember having as I laid eyes on my first child for the first time, but I want you to know, dear reader, that the entire amount of time that it took me to experience this surprise, question, and answer was less than a second.  I was in love almost immediately.  And it has grown exponentially.

10454299_10204312675915498_5636787815453551781_nNow I am looking at a young woman getting ready to finish high school and step out into college.  I am seeing the first glimpses of her independence, and I am hit with how fast this has all taken place.  I look back at that little baby I held in my arms that night and it is almost unbelievable.  I am now the father of a legal adult.  The best thing is, I look at her, and I have confidence in her future, and that is a great feeling.  The thing to remember is that even though it feels like it has happened so fast, it did take work.

Let me be clear on something.  I don’t think it was all me.  It wasn’t all her mother either.  While we worked together to turn that baby girl into an intelligent young woman, we had a lot of help.  There were people that came alongside us as Jess grew.  Grandparents, aunts, uncles, teachers, friends, and mentors were all there to watch and speak into her life.  They all had a hand in it, but I still feel that the lion share of the credit goes to one thing.

Jessica’s relationship with God.

10734169_10204312670635366_653249402103316792_nTammi and I were recently talking about Jessica and how she has grown.  It is not a false humility when we say that she has grown to be a godly young woman not because of us, but in spite of us.  There are many things that we look back and say we could have done better in how we raised her.  Times we think that she, by today’s culture, should have rebelled or lashes out, but it never happened.  She always seemed to have a level of understanding that while we may have been messing up, we were doing the best we could, and she didn’t hold it against us.  She loved us through our mistakes, and didn’t develop any bitterness, just more love.

Over the last few years, Jessica has been spending real, focused, intentional time in her Bible and journaling.  Even before she started to journal, she would read her Bible and pray almost every day.  It started as a habit, but as habits are known to do, it has become a part of her life, and after spending about half of her life in God’s Word, there is no doubt that it has had an effect on her.  I believe that this is a huge factor in how she treats us as parents.  Her love for God spills over into her love for us, for her brother, for her family and friends.  She also has an amazing capacity to love those she sees around her who are hurting.

10636206_10204312672995425_1318616255457723525_nSo, How did it happen?  By the grace of God.  Every step of every day, God has had a vital role in this young lady’s life.  He put a love for her into Tammi before she was born, and changed my view of what a daughter could be in less than a second.  He prompted us through many decisions that we made for the good, and protected us through some that we made that were bad.  He made Himself real in her heart.  He gave her a desire to know Him better and to care for His people. And she embraced it.

That’s how it happened.  I’m so thankful that Tammi and I have been able to have a part in it.  We have been blessed.

Now, as I did last year, please sit back and allow me a moment with my daughter.


18 years old.  Amazing!  Not only that you are actually 18, but that is a word that comes to mind when I think about you.  You have grown into a young woman that has amazed me over and over, and I am confident that you will continue to do so.  Mom and I are so proud of you.

10552464_10203636611614313_975032218841949298_nI see so much of your Mom in you as you reach out to the hurting and offer them comfort and a smile.  I see her generosity in you as you share the things that matter most to you with anyone that shows an interest.  I see a learning heart that wants to know more and understand more about being the person God wants you to be.

I want to encourage you over this next year as you start spreading your wings a little wider.  There will be more demands as you start college in the fall and are (hopefully) holding down a job. Schedules will be tighter and the workload will be heavier. (You’re wondering where the encouragement is coming in, right?) Don’t let your schedule get to a point where you are making a choice whether or not to spend some time with God.  The encouragement comes in this – You don’t have time to not have time for God.  The time with Him will make everything possible.

Life has been slowly speeding up for you over the last couple years, and I can promise you that it is going to shift into another gear soon.  This is not to scare you.  It is exciting, and it is going to require that you are taking the time to keep God in front at all times.

1488044_10204972281685230_3080564931748114009_nYou are already ahead of me on this.  Keep going!  As you give time to God and spend that time reading His Word and journaling, opening your heart to the changing power of God, you will experience Relentless Growth.  You can’t avoid it!  God promises it!

I love you, and I am so proud of what you are doing in your life and where you feel God is going to take you.  Mom and I are excited to watch as you travel that road.

Happy Birthday, “Squirt”!  I love you!