Check Your Mirror

For the last few months I have been posting a daily photo on Instagram and on my Relentless Growth Facebook Page that contains a verse and a thought for the day.  Psalms is a book of praise, a songbook of sorts.  It is full of songs of praise and worship to God, encouragement for us, and insights into how we can praise God in the every day moments.  The lyrics in the book of Psalms are truly lyrics for living our lives in relationship with God as David did.

Posting a daily image with a verse and a thought has been really good for me.  Since so much of Psalms drew from David’s coping with adversity, it has been helpful for me in facing the challenges that come across my desk and life on a  daily basis.  I have been shown that I can praise God Relentlessly while I am still IN the trial.  That encouragement has been the source of power that has gotten me through some very hard days without doing or saying something that I would need to apologize for later!

I have also been encouraged by a number of people who have reached out to me over the past year or so of posting these images.  There have been times that I have not “felt” the desire to take the time to read in the morning, but I know that there are a few people who are checking in on me day to day, and that gives me a feeling of responsibility to keep going. It’s not that I have such wisdom to share, it’s all about sharing God’s life changing power at work in my life and the lives of others.

Let the one who is taught the word share all good things with the one who teaches. – Galatians 6:6 (ESV)

So, since I want to share the good things I am learning in hopes that it will help others, and since people are sharing with me as well, this last day in the book of Psalms makes it necessary for me to pick a new book of the Bible to go through.  After a lot of prayer and thinking, it has been made clear to me that the next book I will go through will be James.

The book of James is both one of my favorite books and one of the most convicting I have ever read.  James does a fantastic job of showing us the Truth of God and the example of  Christ as the standard to which we should compare ourselves.  It’s not about being better than the next guy in order to feel good about yourself. It is all about measuring yourself against Christ in an effort to be a bold, Relentless follower who lives for the Kingdom of God.

I don’t do a lot of mirror “selfies”, so enjoy this one!

To put it simply, the book of James is the biblical equivalent of looking in the mirror every morning to see what needs to be done.  When I get up in the morning and look in the mirror, I see a guy that needs some change! If I were to just walk out the door without making any changes then that would be pretty foolish! I need help!

So, I am going to go to James every morning now to see what I need to fix.  It will be my daily “mirror check” before I put feet on the floor so God can have the first shot at me and turn me in the direction He wants me to go.  My hope is that as I share what He is showing me, it might spark something in someone else too.  Maybe it can be a mirror check for all of us.

If I want to live a Relentless Life, I must be willing to take the time to not only look at what needs to change, but then to take the steps necessary to do it.  If I don’t take those steps, then I am a fool.  I don’t know  about you, but I don’t like to look like a fool.  I want to make the wise decisions that bring God glory as He shapes me into what He wants me to be.

So, starting tomorrow, those of you who are interested can meet me over at the Relentless Growth page for the daily #mirrorcheck.  I hope it will be encouraging to you.  I’m excited to see what God is going to show me about myself and where I need to make adjustments for Him!  Hope to see you there, and I would love to hear what God is doing in your life too!

Time To Slow Down So I Can Go Faster

As I sat down tonight to write, I saw the date of my last post here on my blog, and I was a bit surprised at how long it has been. 37 days!  I would ask if anyone missed me, but I might be afraid to hear the answer.  I guess we will see what happens when I drop this post!

slowdownThe last month and a half has been very busy.  In truth, 2017 has been busy!  It seems like almost every day I crawl into bed with that “Where have you been all day?” feeling.  Come on, I can’t be the only one!

The last three weeks have had work training me in Chicago twice and now I am away again to a company retreat and meeting.  It seems like this year all of the training was crammed into a very tight little window.  A lot of time away from work and home.

Tonight I sit in a hotel room alone.  Over the last month I have spent several nights in hotels, and for a few of them I was fortunate enough to have my wife and son with me, but tonight is not one of those nights.

I had my “social” time that we are encouraged to participate in so we can get to know each other and network to exchange ideas and best practices, but I am that guy who steps away from the crowd before things get “really fun” in order to go back to my room for something more productive.

With all of the training I have been to lately, I have been inundated with a boatload of information that has resulted in being motivated to get all kinds of action plans together in order to be a better manager and improve countless processes.  The amount of stuff I have before me makes me feel that old weight of performance-based anxiety settle in on my shoulders.  I don’t like that feeling…

Also with all the time I have been gone, I have felt the longing for time in my home and with my family.  To be apart from them is wearying to my bones, and with Jessica already away at school, I only have two of my three favorite people to be with in the evenings.  I want to give them my full attention, and that workload is something I have been struggling to put behind me when I walk in the house.  Not as successful on that front as I would like to be some evenings…

Also, on the outer edges of my mind has been this feeling of missing my time with my friend Ray doing a Bible study, sharing life, and kicking each other in the teeth when we need it.  We have both been experiencing an uptick in stress lately, and those times we get together to share and do a little life as men really helps us.  We did have a meeting a couple of weeks ago, but my travel has taken that off the table this week and last…

So, tonight when I got back to the room and got comfortable, I fired up the laptop to do what I usually do when I am alone in a hotel room.

I work.

Yep. Party guy am I…  I usually take these opportunities to settle in and get some of the stuff done that has been hanging over my head and catch up a little.  My family is not here for me to engage with, so I might as well take care of some of the stuff piling up at work to reduce some of the stress, right?  Isn’t that a mature thing to do?

Well, tonight I chose to write instead.

Writing is something I love to do.  It helps me clear some of the cobwebs from my mind and get some  thoughts in order.  My wife can tell you that I am one who thinks out loud, and dumping out my brain from time to time to see what might be stuck in the corners is a very good thing for me.  Writing helps me do that, but I have not been very good about it lately.

With everything going on, I had pretty much decided that I was probably going to say goodbye to this blog. Probably not forever, but for a time at least.  I just don’t have the time to build a readership and develop this thing into the ministry I hope it could be one day.  It takes time to write, and I just have not had the time to devote to doing it well.

That is part of the reason I started to post pictures to my Relentless Growth Facebook Page instead of here every day.  I thought I would just let this page fade away.  Nobody would probably miss it anyway.  If I can’t do it well, then why should I bother?  Might as well quit.

That thought went through my mind when I opened up WordPress tonight.  What was I doing?  Is this a good use of my time?  I could be working!  It’s not like that pile of stuff is going to go away on its own!  Then I remembered a pic I saw the other day:

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It became clear to me that this is a fight I need to stay in.  Not necessarily because there may be twos of threes of people who might read this and be encouraged.  Right now, it is because I need it.  I need this little break from my work thoughts so I can shake out those corners of my mind and set some things straight again.  I need it to because my priorities may be getting out of whack!

I need this time to slow down and examine some of the stuff I am working through in order to get the right perspective for moving forward again.  It’s like I learned in one of my classes last week:

“When I slow down, I go faster.”

I need the slow down to keep me from burning out.  I need the slow down to take me away from work.  I need the slow down to be a better husband, a better father, and a better follower of Christ.  Those are the things that matter the most to me on this earth.  They are so much more important than a budget, a  process, or an action plan.  They are the things that keep me centered.  The things that keep me FOCUSED.

This little break tonight is part of my Relentless Growth.  It was a nudge from God to hunker down for a second and let the battle rage around me, but not be in it for a little while.  Time to sit and think about what is important. Time to acknowledge the gifts He has given me and see where the priorities of my life need to be.  Time to see that this is a time that I hear Him speak into my heart as I write.

I’ve neglected this too much lately.  I need to do it more often, and I am going to start scheduling it into my week somewhere.  There must be time to do this because God doesn’t seem to want to take this desire to write away from me.  He apparently wants this door to remain open.

So, as for you, Dear Reader,  I guess I am back.  Not sure what the schedule is going to look like for posts, but I am going to be here again on a regular basis.  Not daily, but regularly.  If you feel like subjecting yourself to my thoughts more often, then come over to the Facebook page for Relentless Growth and “Like” it for a daily dose.

Before I log off tonight, I just want to take a minute and say thanks to those who do encourage me to write.  My wonderful wife, Tammi, is chief among them, and I know she sometimes feels she is keeping me from doing just that. (She is almost always right, but not on that one!) I appreciate your words, and I hope mine encourage you in some way as well.

So, goodnight all!  I will see you here again!  I think I might go read my book before bed!  Work will be there tomorrow!

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Why I Am No Longer A Regular On Facebook.

facebook-closed-march-15-2011A good defense is better than a good offense, but when someone is offended, no defense is sufficient.  There may be some exceptions to that last one, but from what I have been seeing on-line lately, there aren’t very many.  The offended are growing in number every day, and we still have nine months left before an election!  It’s only going to get worse before all sensitivity shifts because of the new players on the board.

Be it politics, sports, lifestyle choices, food choices, pictures, or language, there is always something for someone to be offended by, and there has never been a better avenue for polarizing opinions offending beliefs and hurting feelings than Facecrack.  Millions of people world-wide agree!  They must, or they wouldn’t spend so much time arguing about it there.

For the last few months I have been thinking that my time on Facebook is going to come to an end, and I think it happened today. I have stated as recently as last week that I am probably going to shuffle off for reasons of my own, and today it just became apparent to me that it is time.  I don’t know that anyone will really care if I am gone, or why I left, but I thought I would at least give my reasons so people won’t be offended by my not providing a reason. So, here they are in no particular order:

I get offended too. – When I read through some of the stuff I see written out there it makes me angry that people can actually think that way.  It make some want to set them straight and shake them out of their misbegotten ways.  If they blatantly attack me for my beliefs I want to lash out at them in return.  How dare they, right?  Right?  Anyone out there?  Am I the only one that feels this way?

I want to defend people. – Sometimes I see someone getting ganged up on by people who are offended by something that might have been said in a completely benign manner.  Poor guy could just be making a comment about something that just brought him a moment of joy, but here come the naysayers.  It crosses my mind that this guy can use a little help, and I like to help an underdog, so I should wade in and help him out, right? Right?  Am I the only one on this too?

I get misunderstood. – I gotta own a part in this.  I’m a weird guy sometimes, and I might say something that only a few people in my audience will understand, and I do that without thinking.  I’ve had a few Facecrack flare-ups from stuff just like that.  A simple joke in front of the wrong audience can be very offensive.  I’m not blaming the audience.  When I post without thinking about who I could offend, that is my fault.

It is getting harder to do the right thing. – Today I was ready to make a rebuttal that could have been hurtful.  I had it all written and just before I hit send, I realized I was doing this for the wrong reasons.  My goal was not to clarify anything, or to help someone see my side of things, I just wanted to take  minute and rub someone’s nose in something.  Just before I hit send, I heard the rabbi Lou asking me, “Is this being right or doing right?”  I deleted it instead.  It wasn’t easy, but I did it.

I don’t want to hurt people. – It seems that in today’s social networking, skin has gotten pretty thin.  Some of that might be due to the increased time people are spending in an environment that frankly, is toxic!  So much negativity exists on timelines and walls, and while it was intended to bring people together, it seems to drive people further apart.  I’ve been involved in a few of those little battles, and I have unintentionally hurt some people, and I want to avoid that in the future.

I want to be a positive person. – I gave up talk radio a few years ago because of how it always left me feeling like it was time for an argument.  So much doom and gloom, tragedy, muck-raking and mud-slinging takes place on talk radio, and Facecrack isn’t really much better. Actually it is worse.

I am just offended by how much Facecrack offends me. – I guess the main thing I want people to understand is the that I am not stepping out of Facecrack because I am offended by anyone.  It’s not the posts, it is the effect Facecrack has on me.  It’s not the people, it is the way it hurts relationships.  It’s not the time wasted, it is my desire to be a better steward with my time.  I’m not ignoring friends, I’m trying to avoid a lot of cross-posted negativity.

So, this is what I am planning to have as my Facecrack presence:

  • I will no longer be checking into Facecrack several times every day.  I will check in two nights per week.
  • I’ll still post my blog on Facecrack if anyone is still interested in reading it.  While comments to the blog can be done on the bottom of any of the posts, I know some will feel more comfortable commenting on the Facecrack feed, and that is the main reason I will be checking a couple days per week.
  • As far as social media goes, I will be on Instagram, and possibly Twitter.
  • I plan to write more, and about more things.  Maybe even start working on that book I want to put together.

I’ve seen people drop off Facecrack without telling anyone why, and since this idea started to form in my mind, I have been hoping that I would be able to share in a respectful way, the reasons I am pulling back.  I pray I have not offended anyone with this post, as I have thought a lot about what I wanted to say, and how I wanted it to be heard.  I hope that was clear in my words.

This has been a hard choice, but a choice to be Relentless in my pursuit of building and maintaining right relationships with God, my family, my friends, and everyone else.  I want to put the things that cause me to stumble away as I try to live a Relentless Life for God.  I hope to hear from you all from time to time.

In HIS Grip,

Tom

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Core Value #3 – Friends

FriendsAccording to Facebook, I have a couple hundred “friends.”  I don’t want to offend anyone by saying this, but in all honesty, most of us are what would more accurately be called “acquaintances.”  It’s not that I don’t like or appreciate everyone who reads my Facebook feed, it’s just that we are probably not truly as close as a real friend would be.  (I’ll let you all figure out where you are in that… If you reach out to me for a clear decision…well, be careful what you wish for!)

When I was a teenager I had a good number of people I would call friends, but after going to college, starting work, starting family, and buying a home, I found myself having a little less time for friends, and before long, that time turned out to be enough because I found myself pretty much having no friends!  Life just got hectic, and there was not time for hanging out and talking.  Most of what happened was a simple, “Hey!  How have you been?” when we would run into each other at the mall, the store, or that great annual Kalkaska attraction, the Trout Festival.

Before too long, I had developed a pretty thick skin regarding friends.  I had been burned by some, I probably had burned others myself, and the ability to let people in close to me had pretty much evaporated.  I decided that I only needed my wife and my kids, and I would be just fine.  I lived that way for about 10 years.  There were people I would enjoy hanging out with from time to time, but I kept them at arm’s length.  It felt safer that way.

Around 2010, I started attending a Men’s Group on how to be a better all around man for God.  In that group I met a guy that God had apparently been hanging on to for me, and we hit it off really well. It was almost like we had known each other for years, and conversation flowed freely and smoothly between us.  For the first time in my life, I believe I had found a true friend.

550627_10150946965344859_1322469398_nRay and I have spent a lot of time talking over the last few years.  We have laughed together and we have cried together.  We have challenged each other, and we have picked each other up.  We have shared weaknesses, sought accountability, and we have even had to lovingly encourage each other. (Read that as  “thump one another about the head and shoulders”)  It was a good friendship, and it has been a growing friendship.

A by-product of this friendship with Ray was a new awareness of the need that God had put into my heart to both have friends and to be a friend.  Before too long I started reaching out to some other guys to try and rebuild this ability to be a friend, and God blessed it.  God brought some other men into my life that became better than “acquaintances” to me, but I wasn’t sure if I would call them “friends” just yet.  I still felt a little untrusting, like I needed to hold my cards a little close to the chest and be careful.

Then back in early 2013, I met this guy named Joe Castaneda, and we started to get to know each other a little bit at a time.  We didn’t live in the same town, and only had real contact through Lake Ann Camp, but we developed an easy friendship that I enjoyed.  Joe worked at the camp at that time, and while I had not had the opportunity to hear him speak, I had heard a lot of good things.

So, last year I was at Lake Ann with a group of teens for Freezeout, and Joe was the speaker.  I was just sitting there, doing the crowd control thing, and not really thinking too much about “getting anything” from the message (sorry, Joe!), but I was paying attention.  About halfway through the message Joe hit on a point for the teens as he was talking about being a good friend.  He asked the question:

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I felt like I had been between the eyes with an ax handle. (I have been hit in the head with a shovel handle, so I can speak to the relative feeling this phrase describes, but that is another story…)  What was I doing for the men I called “Friend?”  Other than standing around the church talking to them it was pretty much nothing.  Joe then challenged us to do something to bless the friends in our lives spiritually.

Well, I sat there and thought about it, and decided that I would start something new.  I identified 5 men I would pray for on a daily basis, but I wanted to take it one step further.  These were men I wanted to get to know better, and to really pray for God to work in their lives and help them to grow.  So, I started praying, and Monday through Friday, I would send each of them a message, e-mail, or a phone call to let them know that I had been praying for them this week.

I’d like to say that I have not missed a day of praying or of contacting, but that wouldn’t be true.  I’m human, and I have not always done this as well as I should.  Some weeks I might be a bit short, like I am going through the motions.  But I haven’t stopped.  These guys are important to me.  God put them on my heart for a reason, and I am praying that He will bless them.

As I have prayed for them, I have seen our relationships grow.  We are busy, and schedules make it difficult to spend the time that we might want to spend talking about what is going on in our lives, but in praying for these guys I have been able to experience deeper, stronger friendships than I have ever had in my life.  They are not as important to me as God or my family, (nor should they be) but they are very important to me, and we are knit together through the time we spend together as well as through the God we all serve.

We are told in the Bible that we have a need for good friends:

Iron sharpens iron and one man sharpens another. – Proverbs 27:17

And though a man might prevail against one who is alone, two will withstand him—a threefold cord is not quickly broken. – Ecclesiastes 4:12

They are there to lift us up when we fall, to watch our backs in troubled times.  They are there to challenge us to bigger and better things.  We need friends!

I knew I needed them, but it wasn’t until I grasped the truth of this verse that I actually found out why I didn’t have any:

A man that hath friends must shew himself friendly -Proverbs 18:24a

It takes work on my part, and I had not been willing to do it.  I was too caught up in myself to make the effort to get involved with others.  It’s not that nobody wanted to be my friend, it was that I never wanted to really have one.  An honest look at my values 7 years ago would not have put “having friends” in the top 5.  Probably not even in the top 10.  I’m thankful that things have changed, and that through a closer relationship with God I have been shown just how important they are.

736877_10201194671819918_541274006_oRelentless Living requires us to put in the effort at making our relationships all that they can be.  Whether it is our relationship with God, with our family, or with our friends, if we want to get anything good out of them, we need to be willing to put aside ourselves and do what is necessary to grow in those relationships.  It’s a good thing!

I’m very thankful for the impact that Joe’s message has had on my life.  That message that Joe brought to the teens was exactly what God knew I needed.  I am so thankful of the impact that he has had on my kids through the camp ministry, and in my life as we have become good friends as well.  I’d appreciate prayers for him as well.  You can read more about what God is doing in his life and how he is responding to it by clicking here.

There is one Friend we need above all others, and that is Jesus Christ.  If you don’t know Him as your Savior, I can promise you that you will never know just how good these other relationships can be.  He makes them all the richer through the work that He did to save us from our sins.  If you want to know more, please message or e-mail me. I would love to share His story with you.

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As For Me…

 

10455157_10152594570874022_1317384162455803489_nI posted this picture the other day. It was a pic I shared from a Facebook page, and it got some attention from some of my friends. A few of them “liked” it, and some others mentioned it to me as I went through the rest of my week. There were a couple folks that seemed to not like it, and I got the idea they thought I might have been a little “preachy”.

When I saw the picture, my thought was simply that it was cool! I love the way that Rough Cut Men put these slides together, and I like to let my friends see them. A couple things happened that have made me think about that pic a little more though. I’d like to share if you have the time.

Today I was “confronted” or you could say “battered” or “assaulted” with some stuff on Facebook from a couple of friends that I know are believers. The content was not appropriate for public viewing, and was definitely not something that a Christian should be putting out there. It made me sad. I wasn’t angry. I was just saddened by the message and how it reflects back to a believer’s relationship with Christ.

I think back to the old quote,

Presentation1Before anyone gets upset, let me introduce myself. My name is Tom. I am a sinner. I was born a sinner. I will die a sinner. I try not to sin as much as I used to, but I still do it. I do wrong things, say wrong things, and I think wrong things. This is who I am, and as a result of that, I am not looking down my nose in judgment of anyone.

I am a sinner, but I am a redeemed sinner. That redemption does not keep me from sinning, but if I am living a life of Relentless Growth, then the redemption should make me more sensitive to the sin in my life, and more sensitive to the harm it has in other’s lives as well. Even more, it should make me see that engaging in wrong behavior is going to keep me from growing in Christ and could damage the work of the gospel because of my example.

So, why does this picture mean more to me now? Because we live in a very “social” world today. To many people we know, our identity is made up of Facebook posts, Twitter, tweets, and Instagram photos. In these bursts of communication through social media, we are showing what matters most to us, what is on our hearts and minds, what drives us, what we like, support, and identify with.

For some, that will be selfies, fluffy kittens, jokes, or food. Those things aren’t wrong, but are they your identity? What about the content that you like or share? Do we take notice of where we are getting things, and what they contain?

I know there are people who flee the world of social media because they see it as a cesspool of humanity. They are wrong. It isn’t a cesspool. It can be a dark room to be sure, but all a dark room needs is light.

I want my presence in social media to be one of light. My goal is to make people think with the words that I use and the things that I post. Not to make me look good, remember, I’m not! I just want to use these avenues as opportunities to help push back the dark a bit. It’s a battle worth fighting.

So, I guess I would like to make a request, a challenge, and announce a goal.

Request – if I say something in my posts either here or in any other form of social media that you feel would pull people from a Relentless pursuit of a relationship with Christ, CALL ME ON IT! Let me know somI can pull it down. I don’t want to be a stumbling block.

Challenge – Join me! Make today the day that you look at your media presence as an opportunity to serve God and push back the dark in a place that desperately needs it! You might lose a couple “friends” but your cousin’s English teacher’s nephew was probably not a close friend anyway, and you might even show some friends something worth seeing, a Relentless Life in Christ!

Goal – Here is where things might get rough. If I have something come across my wall that has that potential to pull me from Christ, and I know you are a believer, I will message you privately and ask you to consider it. Your call if you want to pull it down, but I want to at least ask you to consider it. I may be unpopular after that, but If I am a friend, I need to do it.

Presentation2I want to serve God. The picture is a modern version of this verse from Joshua.  At the end of his life, he laid down this challenge to the people of Israel.  A challenge that echoes through the centuries to us today:

Relentless Growth requires us to look at things with different eyes. We need to challenge the norms of society and we can do that by redeeming the things that others may use to tear people down. So, how about it? Who wants to join me?

Relentless Growth -> Grow Deep -> Grow Strong