My Son – A Graduate. Time Flies…

imageThis past weekend my son received his high school diploma.  13 years of school have come to a close, and we could not be more proud of his efforts.  Over the past 13 years, we have exposed him to three different education models, and he excelled in all of them.  The last two years he has been dual-enrolled in college at Cedarville University via on-line courses, and has done an amazing job there as well.  He will walk on campus as a sophomore this fall.

There are so many events in our lives that we want to remember.  Milestones exist so we can look back and see where we have been and how far we have come, and I have learned that those moments need to be recognized.  We need them as confirmation in our lives that we are moving forward – achieving goals.

I have been blessed to be in a small men’s group where I learned the importance of taking the time to recognize these moments and commemorate them with a tribute.  When we take the time to write something down from our hearts and give it to someone, it creates a lasting impression.  Those encouraging words will endure long past the moment and will be a touchpoint we can go back to when we are feeling the weight of the world.

Sitting on my desk is a framed copy of a letter I received from my mentor for my 40th birthday.  Aside from the words of encouragement I have receive from my Dad, it is probably the most prized collection of words I have received from any man on earth.  It has made an impression on my life because of the relationship that we have.  Men need to hear words like that and be reminded that they are doing good things – the right things.

So, it is with example from Lou that I put together this letter to my son on his graduation day.  I read it to him at the graduation ceremony, and there will be a framed copy of it for him to take to college this fall so he will be able to see that his Dad believes in him, is proud of him, and prays for him.

I hope that reading this will give you an encouragement to recognize those milestones with your family and close friends.  It may seem like it is only a letter as you write it, but I can tell you that when the relationship is there, the impact of a letter like this will last for years.  Take the time to do it.  It’s worth the effort.

Zachary,

I’ve wanted a son as long as I can remember, and I wanted that son to be just like me.  When you came into my life, I thought I was getting that gift, but your Mom and I got more than that.  We received a son that was a unique blend of the two of us.  Your physical and personality traits seem to morph and shift back and forth so often, but there is no doubt that you are ours.

One of the things I have learned as your Dad is that as much as I wanted a son to be like me, I am thankful that you are an individual, and I have been learning, albeit sometimes slower than either of us would like, to appreciate you as that individual.  You often hear that you are “just like your Dad”, but you and I know that there are a number of differences that make you an “individual”.

Your Mom and I are so proud of the young man you have become.  Our goal as parents has been to equip you to take on the trials of adulthood, to stand as a man of God in a world that needs men who know how to stand.  You have had opportunities to learn and grow in your faith, and have had to learn to lean on God during those times, and I am happy to see how you have developed.

You have made us very proud in your dedication to your studies, your love and devotion to your family and friends, and your desire to squeeze the fun out of life.  You are a thinker, a processor and yet still manage to be spontaneous.  A nice blend that has kept us on our toes.

Our dream is that you will be that man mentioned in Micah.  We have seen the beginnings of that man as you seek to do what is right, show God’s mercy and grace to those you relate with, and maintain a humility in your relationship with God.  We pray for those attributes to continue to grow as you enter the college campus this fall and begin the next steps toward what God will have you to do.

We have offered many prayers for you over the years, and today I want to offer this one more written by General Douglas MacArthur.  It is titled “A Father’s Prayer”, and I cannot think of words that would make it any more my prayer for you as your Dad.  Your Mom and I love you very much and will always be here for you when you need us.

“Build me a son, O Lord, who will be strong enough to know when he is weak, and brave enough to face himself when he is afraid; one who will be proud and unbending in honest defeat, and humble and gentle in victory.

Build me a son whose wishbone will not be where his backbone should be; a son who will know Thee—and that to know himself is the foundation stone of knowledge. Lead him I pray, not in the path of ease and comfort, but under the stress and spur of difficulties and challenge. Here let him learn to stand up in the storm; here let him learn compassion for those who fail.

Build me a son whose heart will be clear, whose goal will be high; a son who will master himself before he seeks to master other men; one who will learn to laugh, yet never forget how to weep; one who will reach into the future, yet never forget the past.

And after all these things are his, add, I pray, enough of a sense of humor, so that he may always be serious, yet never take himself too seriously. Give him humility, so that he may always remember the simplicity of true greatness, the open mind of true wisdom, the meekness of true strength.

Then, I, his father, will dare to whisper, ‘I have not lived in vain.’”

—GENERAL DOUGLAS MACARTHUR, “A FATHER’S PRAYER”

Be Relentless in your parenting. Build into the hearts of your kids and share with them how you feel about them.  They need it, and coincidentally, so do you!

Time To Start Over

2016 Calender on the red cubes

Well, another year has reached its end.  Tonight, I, along with everyone else in the world, will tip my hat to the year of 2015 and welcome in the new year of 2016.  It’s been a big year in a lot of ways for us here at Tanner Manor.  We have laughed, cried, stood in disbelief, and sighed in relief.  We made new friends and said goodbye to some old ones too.  We watched travesties and tragedies unfold in the news, but we saw people rise to stand for what is right in the middle of those tragedies as well.

We are at that time of year when I feel an urge to start over.  The year feels like a shirt I have been wearing just a little too long and I am ready for something fresh.  So, it’s time to look at what I am doing, what I want to do, and how do I get there!  While I say I’m a simple man (please don’t read that as simpleton), I have many different aspects of life to think about when it comes time for change.  Trust me, you aren’t any different.  Our categories may not all be the same, but you have at least as many as I do.

So, here are a few things that I want to work on this year.  I’ve pretty much been an open book on this blog over the last three years, so if you want to be a voyeur, this is your chance!

Me As a Believer – This year has been a good year for growth for me.  I’ve had challenges, faced them, had some good and bad outcomes, but I’ve learned something from all of them.  I have spent more time in God’s Word this year than I ever have, but when I add that up, I honestly have not been as close to Him as I would have liked.  Reading my Bible, journaling, and praying are drawing me closer to Him, but in the last few weeks I have come face to face with the fact that I still try to do too much on my own.  I need to be fiercely dependent on Him in all aspects of my life.  God’s will and direction need to be my first thought in anything I do or say.  Big goal.  A Relentless goal.

Me As a Husband – This year Tammi and I have had some really good conversations about fears, plans, situations, and how to endure.  We are approaching some major life change this next year as our daughter will be leaving the house for college in the fall.  We are bracing for that, and while there is an aspect of my life that can simply address that as a parent, I need to be ready to address it as a husband as well.  My wife will need me in new ways.  I will need to be listening to her and listening for new things and how I can meet her needs as a  husband.  I will continue to love her, support her, and grow closer to her, especially as our lives are changing and in a  blink we will be just the two of us again.

Me As a Father – Like I said, Jessica will be leaving soon, and Zach is hot on her heels.  I only have a short time left with my kids in my home, and just like every day for the last almost 19 years, I don’t know what I need to know for the next thing until it happens.  God has blessed me with two great kids, and I pray that as they continue grow they will understand just how seriously I took the job of being a Dad.  I might not have gotten everything right, but I’m not done trying either!  This final stage of “parenting in the home” is confusing for all of us as we try to give freedom to them while protecting them from trouble and guiding them to do the right thing.  Prayer time for my kids and their future is growing and becoming a greater comfort.  What better thing can I do than to ask God to carry them?

Me As a Friend – This year I have been working harder at being a friend.  It takes work for a guy like me, but the dividends are priceless.  I’ve had chances to weep with friends, laugh with friends, see my friends pour into my family, and times to just be together.  God never intended for us to live our lives as individuals.  Our first and greatest relationship is with Him, and He has given us His Son as our example, our brother, and our friend.  We should be taking that example and identifying people in our lives that we can grow with.  My goal this year is to deepen and strengthen the friendships I have and to continue to look for other men I can call friend as well.

Me As … Well, Me! – This year I have been much more aware of my health – and the lack of it.  Knee problems have plagued me for most of my adult life, and this year they have become harder to ignore.  It is requiring some changes in my lifestyle.  I’m not going to sit here and list out my goals for losing weight or eating healthy.  Let’s face it, nobody wants to read those because everyone knows that those goals are usually shot by March.  My goal this year is to be more conscious of my opportunities to make a better choice for my health (after tonight’s party – lots of good food tonight).  I want to take the opportunity to take the stairs, walk down the block, or skip the second helping.  That is the goal.  If more happens than that, then fantastic!  I just want a healthier me when I sit down to write at the end of 2016.

Me As a Writer – Like I said, this is the completion of my third year of writing this blog.  I’ve also had opportunities to do some writing for our church.  I love writing, but I don’t take the time to do it as often as I would like.  The goal for this past year was a post per week.  I fell a little short of that, but I had some of the highest numbers of readers/views this year as well.  I have been humbled by the number of people that have read my “stuff”.  Some of them even come back!  This year, the goal will be to blog at least once each week, but additionally, to write for 15 minutes at least 5 days per week.  I want to focus on developing this skill and figuring out how to best use it for God.

Me As an Employee – It’s been an interesting year at work.  I have been encouraged in how so many long-term projects have turned out, how relationships and trust are growing, and how lessons are being learned.  This next year has some larger projects ahead that will require a lot of preparation and thought.  My prayer and goal for work is that I will be more focused while there.  The focus cannot be singular.  The organization is complex, and so are the challenges.  I need to have a focus that is broad, but can be sharpened when necessary to deal with things.  I wan too work this year on developing some other staff as well.  Their development is necessary in order for me to be able to let some things go in order to do my job better.  This is going to be fun!

It doesn’t really make a difference if you want to look at a new year as new opportunities. Those opportunities are coming whether you want them or not!  Relentless Living is living in a way that prepares for what it can, plans for what may happen, and adjusts to what comes, all while clinging to God for His insight, direction, and leadership.  He knows what every tomorrow will bring, and through His grace I can face 2016 with my head up and my shoulders back, because together, We’ve got this!

Have a Relentless New Year!

TT

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I Had a Gibbs Slap From God Today

dFKwd9WI love watching NCIS.  Jethro Gibbs is just about the coolest guy to ever be on television, and one of the coolest things he does?  The Gibbs Slap.  I know.  You could watch it all day long.

If you are one of the few people who have not watched NCIS, let me fill you in.  Gibbs is a no-nonsense kind of guy that doesn’t put up with childish, self-serving, foolish behavior.  Often he will settle it with a look, but sometimes, he chooses to apply a little more force to it and give a little whack on the back of the head to wake a person up to their foolishness.

God did that to me today.

A few days ago I decided to start reading in the book of Galatians for my devotions.  I had never studied it specifically on my own before, so I thought it would be a good choice.  I did it for a couple of days, but after my quiet time last night I decided that I might need to look for another book.

You see, my study Bible gives a theme for each book of the Bible, and for Galatians it said that it was about being a Christian in the workplace.  Well, that’s not bad, but I have a rule that I have been bending a bit lately.  I try not to blog here about work, and often I blog about things I am learning about my life through my quiet times.  Soooo, the potential existed for me to be blogging a lot about work if I kept this up.

The main reason I don’t like to blog about work is that I am concerned that I might say something that could have a detrimental effect on my job/employment.  NOT a good thing.  Also, I don’t want to say anything that puts my employer in a bad light.  So, when I take those rules of mine and put them up against a potential course of study that will put me on a collision course with those rules, I did the only sensible thing.  I backed out.  Decided I would look to another book.  The whole Bible is good, so I can’t go wrong with another book.

So, I picked another one and went to bed intending to start on it today.  Didn’t sleep very well last night.  Kept thinking about the Bible study thing.  Got up this morning and went to work still thinking about it.  No sense of ease in my mind.  I was not sure where I should read, but I was pretty sure I was not going to be in Galatians or the other book I chose last night.

I sat down at work this morning and prayed that God would show me where He wanted me to read and study.  After all, I wanted to be I His will and do what He wanted me to do.  As I pulled out my Bible App to check and see what the verse of the day was, I even said to God that I hoped the verse of the day would help me decide where He wanted me to go.  Well, it was almost like that moment when Tony has no idea that Gibbs is behind him as he says something stupid and then,  WHACK!

For am I now seeking the approval of man, or of God? Or am I trying to please man? If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ.

–  Galatians 1:10

“Sorry Boss!”

My thoughts this morning were that I wanted to be doing what God wanted me to do, but my thoughts last night were that I didn’t want to do anything that would upset someone else.  I never gave any thought to the fact that God could be at work in what I write and could make sure that I didn’t do anything that would hurt my career or keep me from doing something stupid.  I only thought about what would be the easiest thing for me to do.  Even though I tell my kids that the easy thing is usually the worst thing you could do in a given situation.

So, I will be continuing in Galatians.  I will be counting on God to keep both of my brain cells working in a rhythm that will be a help and a blessing as I write about what I have learned, and that He will make me a better employee as a result of this study.

Relentless Growth sometimes needs a slap to the head, and I am thankful for a heavenly Father that loves me enough to do it.  That little slap this morning will remind me of His direction in my life, and His love for me as I grow.  Just like Tony knows that Gibbs doesn’t slap those he doesn’t care about.

Relentless Growth -> Grow Deep -> Grow Strong