What Are You Looking At?

This is Sydney, our Australian Shepherd.  Technically she belongs to my daughter who has raised her from a puppy and has given her more love than a dog really should be allowed to have. Sydney has been trained in agility, obedience, and the impressive (yet scarcely called upon) ability to catch slices of banana spat from the mouth of her caretakers. (I personally do not get involved in this one.  Not judging.  Personal preference.)  Sydney is a joy to have, and we marvel at her intelligence and canine personality.  She gives us lots of things to talk and laugh about. (Or write about if the time and the will permit!)

This picture was taken at a recent weekend getaway to a family cottage we were blessed to use.  There are three large windows behind the couch that give a view of the road out front, several other cottages, and a hopeful glimpse of the lake beyond them.  While the road does not have a ton of activity on it, there is enough to catch her attention, and she can often be found either at the window like this or at the sliding door that provides a slightly different scene to monitor.

No matter which observation point she takes, Sydney stands #Vigilant, ready to report what she sees whether it is the kid down the road in his little electric jeep, Bailey, the chocolate Labrador’s meanderings, or the scurrying of a squirrel or a rabbit enjoying the neighborhood’s green grass.  Sydney is on point, doing what she was bred to do.  She keeps watch over those in her charge – us.

I have reached the end of my journey through the book of 1 Peter, and it is time to move on.  The last several weeks have brought a number of special things to my mind and I have enjoyed sharing Peter’s words of #Encouragement through my daily posts.  I have been #Encouraged through what I have read, and I pray that those of you who have joined me on the journey have been as well.

While on the aforementioned weekend getaway, I took my study Bible to decide where to go after finishing 1 Peter.  I didn’t want to just “soldier on” to the next book in the sequence, as I have enjoyed moving around in my readings.  I’d been thinking about going through an Old Testament book like Joshua or 1 Samuel, or maybe even tackling one of the prophets like Jeremiah or Ezekiel.  I wasn’t sure, but I was hoping that God would give me a nudge in the right direction.

I got up on the Sunday morning we were there to enjoy the quiet cottage and sounds of the breeze in the leaves of the apple tree outside to read my Bible, post my daily picture and thought, and peruse the notes in my study bible to see what I might find.  I usually do my daily reading on my phone, but that day I decided to look into 1 Peter in the hard copy as well and finished reading through to the end of the book.  I have to admit that even though I prefer electronic media most of the time now, there is something special about the rustle of those thin pages!

When I got to the end of 1 Peter, right there across the page was the heading information and outline for 2 Peter. (Funny how that works, isn’t it?)  At the top of the page beside the little synopsis of the book was a picture of a dog/wolf that was calling out a warning.  It caught my eye and I decided to read into the material there to see what it had to say.  By the time I had finished that I was already on my way to reading through the 3 chapters that make up the book of 2 Peter, and at the end of that I had made my decision – with more than an ample nudge from the Spirit.

2 Peter it is.

Peter pens this second letter as a warning to his readers.  He will soon be martyred and he takes this last opportunity to reach out to those he loves and those he hopes to help with the imperative message of being #Vigilant for things to come.  He wants to shout a warning of some things and inform them about others, and it all comes as a result of his years following Christ and serving Him in helping to start, grow, and care for the church.

Peter was a bold man, prone to putting his foot in his mouth from time to time and being impetuous in his behavior.  Probably the most transparent example of the Christian walk we have in the New Testament, he has always been a hero of mine as I struggle with many of the same tendencies he did.  Perhaps that is why I wanted to move on in a different direction rather than continuing to read his words.  He strikes too close to home!

After reading 2 Peter, I see three main things that Peter tells us to watch for:

Opportunities to Grow in Christ – In chapter 1, he shows us that as we work out our faith in our attitudes and actions, we will be presented in every circumstance to “level up” in our walk. (2 Peter 1:5-8) We will never fully “arrive”, and we need to be looking at how we handle things that take place around us and take an honest look at ourselves as well.  How do we do it?  Through the Truth of God’s Word, carefully prepared for us through the Holy Spirit working through the hands of man. (2 Peter 1:16-21)

Dangers to Growing Christians – Chapter 2 is full of warnings of things to watch out for. Whether false prophets, personal desires, or the influences of others, there is no shortage of things Satan will send against us to pull us from our walk in Christ. Our spiritual health is in jeopardy and under attack on every side, but God is there for us and He knows how to rescue us from any attack (2 Peter 2:9)

The Hope to Come – There is more to come than this earth, and Peter impresses on his readers that they need to be watching for it. It is not that we will miss it, because there will be no doubt when the Lord returns. What Peter is impressing upon us is that as we watch for the return of Christ, we will also be watching our actions as we prepare for His coming.  We will talk to those we know and love about Him.  We will share His goodness, and we will try to live a life that is not in slavery to sin.

I am looking forward to this next book for my personal time, and I also look forward to sharing a little of it.  What about you?  Are you spending time in God’s Word every day?  I hope you are.  If we are going to live our lives in Relentless devotion to God, we need that time.  It draws us close to Him for comfort and strength, but it also gives us insight into the events unfolding in the world around us.

Whether it is home, work, school, church, or wherever you may happen to be, we need to be watchful like Sydney.  We need to be on guard against dangers to ourselves and those we love.  We need to be ready with a defense, but also to rescue, comfort, or be a shield to someone under attack.  We need to be determined to hold our position as leaders, husbands, mothers, teachers, and friends.  In short, we need to be #Vigilant.

Vigilant – Keeping a careful watch for possible dangers or difficulties.

Keep your eyes open, everyone.  There is a lot going on out there.

Thanks for reading and following this page.  I appreciate your comments and feedback, and would love to hear from you.  Feel free to share with your friends and don’t forget to like the Facebook Page Relentless Growth for a short daily message to challenge and encourage you.

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#ENCOURAGE

We’ve all been there.  You look around and all you see is gray.  The sun can’t shine bright enough, you feel like you are under attack, there is no end in sight, and there is nobody there to help you. Yep. Been there and got the lousy t-shirt.

So, what do we do?  How do we get through?  Where will we find the strength to get out of bed, put on a smile and head out the door to meet a world that we feel is out to get us?  When will this feeling stop? What can we do for ourselves, and what can we do for those we love who feel this way?

#Encourage them.  #BeEncouraged yourself!

Webster’s defines the word “encourage” like this:

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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No Excuses

there-are-no-excuses-4We have all been hearing the news of the Stanford rape victim and the lenient sentence passed down to the rapist.  Yesterday I read the young woman’s letter she had written to her attacker and I was hit with a few different thoughts and emotions.  I know I have not been here lately, and this is a pretty hard thing to come back from a hiatus with, but here we go…

  1.  I am impressed with this woman’s ability to so clearly articulate how she feels after this heinous act.  The way she described her emotional and mental state actually took me into her mind where I could feel the trauma she is experiencing.  I can never know what someone who has endured this has felt, but thanks to that letter, I have a much better idea of how deeply the wounds go into the mind and soul.
  2. I am full of respect for this woman for owning her part in this.  Careful.  No stone throwing… I did not say she should be blamed.  There is no excuse for what happened to her, but she admitted that allowing herself to get that drunk put her in a position for a bad thing to happen.  She could have made a better choice that evening, and she admitted that.  That takes character.
  3. I am cheering for the two young men who acted heroically by stepping in and stopping the act.  Truly Good Samaritans in their actions and bravery.  They must have a couple of very proud sets of parents today.  They saw evil and stepped in to do something about it.  Good job, men.  Good job.
  4. I am thankful that at the very minimum, and it was minimum, the attacker was convicted of the crime.  To the 12 jurors, I appreciate their ability to wade through all of the excuses and attempts to cast doubt and still come back with a decision that puts a mark on this man for what he has done that will stand for the rest of his life.  His victim has been marked, so should he.
  5. Beyond that, I have a range of thoughts and emotions I would rather not focus on in regards to the rapist, the passive father who made excuses for his son and tried to downplay his actions, the lawyer that worked so hard to humiliate a young woman who had already endured so much, and a judge who did not sentence a rapist with an appropriate punishment.  I am going to take the position that God will judge their actions.  I cannot change the past, and outrage simply for the purpose of being angry will accomplish nothing.

What we need to focus on is finding ways to make sure acts like this do not take place again.  Parents!  If you are going to count on school officials, government officials, and the ability of campus security to keep your children safe, then YOU ARE PART OF THE PROBLEM!  I am sorry, but this is not a problem that will be cured with programs and more parking lot lights.  This is a matter of the hearts of the kids that we are raising and the character we instill in them.  As a country, parents need to step up and insist on building character and integrity into their children.

We will never see a world without predators.  It is a broken world we live in and the effects of sin are far reaching, but we can fight against them.  The education we give to our kids in how to think past the moment in their choices is so important.  What are the consequences of this decision? Who could potentially be harmed if I do this?  What are the long term ramifications of this choice?  We focus so hard to get them to look both ways before walking across the street, but are we teaching them to pause and look both ways when given options on who to hang out with, what to drink, and what to eat?  Are we teaching them to weigh the possibilities of walking through a dark place alone rather than hanging out with a group of friends?

Again, we will never be able to stop all evil, but we can build into our kids wisdom, knowledge, understanding, and character that can guide them when we are not there.  Take the time, be Relentless in it!

To my daughter – You are beautiful, sweet and pure, and I want you to stay that way.  I want you to think about the places you go and the things that you do fro other viewpoints than your own.  I have tried to tell you as much as possible about how the mind of men works and where they are weak and potentially twisted.  I have tried to show you how to identify behaviors that you should avoid as well as indicators of character that you can trust.  I pray that you will make the right choices when given the opportunity, and I pray for your protection when the evil of the world crosses your path through no fault of your own.

To my son – You are a young man now.  You have been taught and have been showing you understand how to properly show women honor and respect.  You have been taught that while women are strong, and intelligent and capable of doing things on their own, God has charged men to be tender warriors for them.  Our job is not to hold them back and keep them captive “for their own good”, but it is our job to be men and stand up for what is right and protect their honor as those two young men did.  Women are not tools or toys, they are treasures and should be considered that way by all men.  You will have opportunities to choose, and I pray that you will make the right choice to show the same respect for them as Christ did in the Bible.  You will see men who will objectify them or hurt them and I pray that you will suit up and gear up for battle against that evil as one of God’s warriors.

Men, the battle is won in the preparation, and our home is the place it needs to start.  Show your wives how much you care for your children and their character.  Prepare your children, be involved.  Identify their battles. Teach them to recognize their enemies. Educate them on the weaknesses of evil. Coach them in how to fight evil. Cheer for them as they fight. Recognize their victories. Nurse their wounds. Encourage them for battle.

This world is not getting better.  We must be Relentless in developing children who can stand in it.

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