18 Years to Prep for Battle – Happy B-Day, Zach!

The birthday blog has become tradition here at Tanner Manor, so here is my letter to my son on his 18th Birthday.  A fine, young man he has grown to be, and Relentless in his pursuit of God and life.

Today I met in the woods again with Zach, my Dad, and my friends Ray and Joe.  These important men in my life all had words of encouragement and affirmation for Zach, and when I was done, I presented him with a gift.  I did this two years ago, and it was time to do it again. We need to recognize moments like these in the lives of our children.  Milestones are  important, and they need to hear from their parents just how proud they are of them.   I have been both waiting for and dreading this day since day 1, and it is here.  I know they will always need me, but still…

Zach,

18 years ago today, you entered this world. You were quiet. Too quiet. I immediately thought that the son I had waited for was gone before he had the chance to live. I remember the fear in my heart, what was wrong?  Why is he so quiet?  What’s going on?  Is he ok?  C,mon, son! Fight!

After what seemed to me to be an eternity, you finally began to stir and then you found your lungs.  I was the Dad of a healthy baby boy, and I could not have been happier.  I had a daughter and now a son.  Our family was complete, and it was all smooth sailing from that point on…

Not exactly. It didn’t take much time for me to figure out just how little I knew about being a husband and dad.  I was getting by alright with the occasional bump or hiccup, but there was a lot of stuff that I just didn’t have the answers to, and truth told, I still feel that way sometimes!

Over the years there have been a few things I have done that I know were good moves, and one of the biggest was doing the men’s group and the Authentic Manhood studies.  That study showed me a lot about myself, and the importance of trying to teach those principles to you.  They showed me that there are battles that will take place in life that I would need to fight for you, but also I would need to teach you to fight for yourself.

There have been good and hard times on this journey.  I want you to know that I own the responsibility for the majority of those hard times as I have been growing and changing and making mistakes along the way.  One of the most important things I have wanted you to learn is that we are not perfect, and our decisions have consequences and impact on those around us both for good and for bad.  No man is really an island.

During this journey of your life, I have been trying, along with the help of your Mom, to give you the tools you need to thrive as a man.  Lessons, examples, books, mentors, and stories from my life are just a few of the ways I have done that.  I have always said that the experiences of others are the best teachers because you can learn the lesson without personal pain or loss.  We have shared victory and defeat on that front, but we have continued to learn and grow – me as a Dad and you as a son.

Two years ago we took some time with some friends and had a celebration of you at the age of 16.  Men God has brought into your life shared with you some of their own insights and wisdom as they encouraged you to continue to grow in God and as a man.  It was a good time.

That was when I presented you with your shield carrying the family name on it.  The shield represented the period of life you were entering where there would be attacks that would come to you as Satan desired to tear you down and destroy your reputation.  You would see trials and struggles that would strain relationships, and, unfortunately, see some fall away.  The battles would be real, and you would need to learn to defend not only who you are, but what you believe.

Through the last two years, I have seen you grow in your ability to stand strong in trial.  You have become more resolute in your faith, and you have served as an example to others as well.  I have enjoyed watching you grow and have been very proud of you.  You have been tested, and some of those battles have appropriately hardened you – tempered you for bigger challenges to come.

Now you are 18.  You will be leaving the house this fall for college, and you will be stepping out into the world as a man.  My time for instruction, while not completely finished, is undergoing a change to an advisory role. I will be there when you need me, but the day is coming that I might not be a part of your daily life.  This will be a hard adjustment for me, and in some ways for you, too.

For the last 18 years, it has been my responsibility as your Dad to stand and fight for you, to be the one who stood guard over your heart and to fight anything of this world or any other who would dare come for my son.  As your Dad, that was my job, and as hard as it was sometimes, it has been one of the most rewarding jobs I have ever had.

Along with that job has been the charge to teach you the things you need to know about life, how to defend yourself against the attacks Satan will be certain to throw against you, and how to fight for those you care about, as well.  I have done my best to do so, and in spite of my shortcomings and failures along the way, I believe that you have learned much of what you need to know, and I want to commemorate this moment as well.

So, today, I give you this sword as a picture of my belief in you and the man you have become.  It signifies that I believe that you are equipped to do battle against Satan and his influences.  The sword means that you are no longer simply one who defends, but now you are carrying the battle with you as you walk with Christ.

You will now step into the lives of those you see struggling and offer aid to them. You will not just endure, but you will overcome.  You will be a warrior for Christ in all aspects of your life and give Him the glory in the victories that God gives to you.

Stay in the Word.  There is nothing you can do that will give you more than that for the battles you will face.  God’s truth will guide you in the hard choices, and will comfort you in your moments of doubt and pain.  Stay close to God and allow Him to guide you.  He knows your heart and your needs even better than I.

For the last 18 years, you and I have been preparing for this day.  I love you as my son, but also as a man of God, and a warrior for His kingdom  You have made me proud in so many ways, and I know that God is going to continue to do great things with you and through you as you strive to walk with Him.

I’m always here  for you when you need me.  I got your back and am always willing to fight at your side.

I love you, Zach!

– Dad

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Halfway to 88? Happy B-Day to Me!

Wow.  I am 44 today.  Think back to when you were a teenager.  What is that “oldest age” you ever really pictured yourself as?  Do you remember?  It seems like I do, and it was right about here.  44 years old… (I don’t see that as any type of foreshadowing about what this next year holds, just kind of funny that it popped into my head this morning.)

This last year has been a crazy one, and it looks like I am poised to do it all over again.  Time to give a quick little breakdown about what has happened, what is happening, and how I hope I Relentlessly respond to it.  I like to share since I tend to stay more accountable to some of this stuff when people know about it.

Health – Well, as far as the diabetes goes, I am doing better than great.  My doctor actually stopped me in the hall the other day after my bloodwork hit his desk and gave me a hug.  If you knew my doctor, you would be amazed!   I have kept a normal blood sugar since my diagnosis, have stepped my meds down, and kept my weight down.  I also am showing great numbers in the cholesterol and triglycerides.  Probably the healthiest I have been in 20 years in that regard.

New challenge.  Just found out I have two herniated cervical discs.  Not sure what the treatment will be yet as I am waiting to get in to see the specialist.  Pain is terrible, and I feel basically useless.  Hard to enjoy the above success when I feel this way, but I am pressing on.  My son asked me the other day what the lesson God has for me in this, and I have been thinking about that a lot since He asked.  I still don’t have a solid answer, but I am wondering about something.

I have often wondered if I am modeling a life of dependency on God for my family and friends to see.  I have other friends who I look to and think that they are so dependent on God, and I wish I could be that way too.  Maybe I am starting to model it because my son is asking me what I learn from the trials I face.  He has heard me talk about how God used diabetes to remove food from the throne of my heart.  He has heard that I don’t always need to know why, but I need to trust that God will show what I need to see when I need to see it.

So, Zach, maybe the lesson in this is that God is telling me that while I have not arrived, I am definitely in the process of Relentless Growth in this.  He chose to give me a blessing in the knowledge that you are seeing me try to live a life of dependence.  There may be more to come, but I will take this in humble praise to Him for the moment.

Fatherhood – I am finishing up my last year of what I term as “active parenting”. My role as protector and guide is shifting into advisor and counselor/consultant as Zach will join Jessica at college this fall.  I am so proud of my kids and I know God is going to do great things in their lives.  It is definitely a bittersweet feeling to watch them at this stage and know just how much different things will be at Tanner Manor this fall.

My challenge is to be present, but not controlling.  Available, but not underfoot.  I have often found this balance difficult and tend to pull back rather than be a hassle to the kids (unless I feel they need a good hassling!).  Praying that God gives me the wisdom and insight to be there for them while they are at school.

Husbandhood – Tammi and I have had some amazing discussions this past year, and I hope she agrees that we have grown much closer as a result of them.  Seeing Jessica go to school last year and experiencing that change in our family dynamic has definitely turned me more toward watching Tammi. I see how I have taken advantage of her sometimes in how she always handles things for our family.  I need to be more present for her, attentive to her needs.  Actually think about what could be wrong and what I can do about it rather than just ask her all the time. (She will like that one!)

We are soon going to be just the two of us again, and that is going to mean a little more freedom, but also a little more responsibility.  She will still need to talk about her feelings, thoughts, and dreams, and I will be the only one there.  I will need to shift some of how I tend to love my wife in order to meet that need.  We have talked about it some, and we know we have always done these new things together.  We have been parenting actively for the last two decades, but we only had a little over two years before that as a couple, so this is still a somewhat unexplored realm for us.  It is kind of exciting to think I will be able to have her to myself again though! (Sorry kids, Mom was here first!)

Friendships – It has been a strange year in this regard.  The extensive change that has taken place has pulled us from being as close to some as we once were, but has brought us into new friendships with others.  I think I had set some unrealistic goals in trying to “fast track” some things that needed more time, and that left me feeling discouraged a few times.  This year I want to just be more present in those moments that come before me.  Take the time to identify what God might want me to be in that moment rather than just looking at how I want things to be or what I can get out of it.

My Walk – I started something new a little before my birthday last year.  Every day I post a verse of the day with an image and my thought for personal application.  It has helped me keep the thought alive in my mind every day since I do it before my feet hit the floor.  Over the last year I have gone through Proverbs a couple times, the book of Psalms, and am now going through James.  You can follow those by “Liking” my Relentless Growth Facebook Page.

This next year I would like to find time to expand my time of study and start spending more time in areas that I really need to grow.  I want to be realistic in that though.  For now, maybe the verse a day and writing here a little more often might be the best thing.  Something to pray about for sure.

Priorities – It has been a year of shifting and reassessing for us in many aspects.  Work, family, church, friends, service, and the list goes on.  So many things have shifted and will continue to shift as we enter another year of major change as “empty nesters”.  Praying that God will give me wisdom, grace and insight necessary to lead my wife well with a servant leadership that build into her as we face the challenges together.

I hope I don’t bore you with a long post like this that is basically about me.  I’ll admit that the biggest reason for this post is to take a minute to actually write down and think about what has happened and how I am going to respond to it over the next year.  I need that for me because it helps “reset” the panel.  I can look at everything that has happened. See a little bit better in hindsight and hopefully that gives me insight and if things REALLY work out some foresight!

Let’s face it. Life is Relentless.  It will never stop coming at us.  If we want to get anything of quality out of it, we need to be Relentless in our pursuit of God and in our growth for His glory.  Relentless Growth.  We all need it.

365 days to be 44.  Let’s do this!

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.

Zach,

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!

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“I’m In Hot Pursuit!”

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

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

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

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

But he kept pursuing.  Why?

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

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

I’m tired.

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

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

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

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

Relentless Growth -> Grow Deep -> Grow Strong

 

 

 

Happy Birthday, Zach! I love you!

So, this morning I wake up and I am the father of a fifteen year old son. Amazing! I decided that I would give a tribute to my son, Zach as I did for his sister in January. Harder to come up with touching and sweet when you have a kid so much like yourself. This was his Facebook status this morning:

1660968_10202940390941805_14487435_nCannibal – (Noun) – Def: someone who is fed up with people

Yep. My kid! So, settle in if you want, but this is for my boy.

Zachary,

I can’t believe the years have flown by the way that they have. It seems like only a blink ago that you were a squirmy, smelly little thing scooting around the floor in the house. We could put you down and you would find all sorts of things to amuse yourself. Whether you were standing in the cupboard looking for a snack, rooting through the fridge looking for a snack, or digging in the couch cushions looking for a snack, you always had a smile on your face.

You used to give us heart attacks the way you would come down the stairs. So glad that we taught you to do it on your belly, but you could come down the stairs so fast it always made us think that we were going to find a maimed little boy at the bottom by the time we sprinted over there, but all we ever found was a smiling kid ready to climb back up and do it again.2014-05-29 06.32.46

I remember you wearing the colander on your head as you sat and watched Rolie Polie Olie and how you liked to run around the house with it while looking for a snack. I remember the early morning whispers at the side of my bed:

Zach: (Loudly whispered like only a kid can) Dad?
Me: (Grunting myself awake) Huh?
Zach: (Again in the loud whisper, but now three inches from my ear so his sleepy dad can understand him) Can I have a piece of cheese?
Me: Yes
(5 minutes later)
Zach: (Now with less whisper because well, why bother?) Dad?
Me: What?
Zach: Can I have a Gogurt?
Me: Yes, just go be quiet

2014-05-29 06.30.42I would get up a few minutes after that and go out to see you sitting in my recliner, usually with a bowl on your head while you watched TV. A few years later we gave that recliner away and when we were moving it I saw some plastic and when I pulled it out I found about 30-40 cheese wrappers stuffed into that chair along with a few gogurt wrappers. Glad you finally got that trash can thing down!

Before we knew it you were in school and we found out that you were a smart little fella! It has always been a treat to see your grades when they come back. Sometimes the work was very easy for you, but when it wasn’t, we would talk to you and you would always buckle down and give us your best, and you always saw a victory when you did that. I hope you never forget the lesson that God doesn’t ask us to be perfect, but He asks for our best.

Mom and I were so happy when you accepted Christ, and how even at a young age we started to see the change that comes from having Christ in your life. As you have grown I see more and more of that, and while you are not perfect (as your father’s son), you are growing, seeing the need for God, and I have been very happy to hear some of the questions that you ask. Don’t be afraid to ask, and never be afraid to dig deep into God’s Word for the real answers.2014-05-29 06.31.58

542431_3590688134928_605155567_nIt wasn’t very long after you were born that we began to see just how much like me you were going to be. I apologize for that. Seriously though, you got my sense of humor, your sarcasm, your ability to memorize things, some of my physical features, and the way that you think. I’m not sure why God made our brains work in such a similar fashion, but it really is something, and you know what I mean. Sorry that has made it easy for me to know what you are thinking more often than you would like!

You might be like me in a lot of ways, but I am so thankful that you are like your Mom too. Your musical skills are so definitely from her, and it is so neat to see how much you enjoy playing. I know it makes her heart swell with pride as she knows that is a bond that the two of you share. You also got her good looks, so again, you are welcome!

1390705_10202174021543049_2122419166_nI love watching you out on the soccer field, and even with all of the hassle of schedules, driving, and all of that, you know that when I get sat down in my chair at the edge of that field I am all in, and I am not only your biggest, but your loudest fan. Seeing your skills develop over the years has been awesome, and I can’t wait for another season. It is fun to see you play, and to remember how much I loved playing, but even better is sharing the love of the game with you.

Another thing that just fills my heart with pride is how you have stepped up as a leader in the youth group with the band. Not just to play, but to sing as well. Now you are even writing songs, and that is a blend of the gifts you got from me and Mom. You can’t even imagine how great it feels to watch you pick up your guitar and use the talents God gave you whether it is in the living room, the youth room, or by a camp fire. I love it!534754_4523631847337_1474451275_n

Zach, you are now 15. Hard to think that our time with you as a “kid” in our home is coming to a close. You are well on your way to becoming a young man. I expect over the next few years we will have some tense and tough moments together. Please remember that my goal is not to hold you back, but to strengthen you for what is to come. At times you might feel like I am keeping you from things, but in reality I am keeping harmful things from you. You might not want to talk to me about the things that I want to talk about, but they are necessary to help you think for yourself when I am not there. You might feel like you are all alone sometimes, but I am always there if you need me.

1004687_10201251091417799_255220507_nOver this next year I am going to challenge you. There are some things that I am going to ask you to do to help you develop some good and godly habits. There are some things that I am going to challenge you to do to develop some life skills. I am also going to do something else. I am asking a few men to take an interest in your life. They have agreed to reach out to you and to check in with you to see how you are doing. These men will ask you some tough questions from time to time, and I want you to feel free to answer them. I trust these men, and I trust them to speak truth to you and share their life perspectives with you in a way that gives you an opportunity to take that wisdom and apply it in your own life.

As your Dad, I have a responsibility given to me by God to raise you, teach you, discipline you, love you, protect you, correct you, cheer for you, rebuke you, comfort you, but most importantly, to prepare you for your life. We have had the discussion before that I am not supposed to be your friend right now. I have a weightier and more pressing role as your Dad, but I look forward to the day that I can just be your friend and a trusted advisor. I see that day is coming, and I get glimpses form time to time on how it is going to feel. I love it!

So, as your Dad, I want to give you a little advice right now. It has taken me most of my life to understand this point, but I think you might have a better handle on it than I did at your age, and I my prayer is that you will take this advice and use it as the foundation for your life:

Spend time in God’s Word

You are a Christian, and in this world that can end up being a confusing title at times. You will have people that question he things that you do in light of the fact that you are a Christian, but if you want to really understand what it means, what your identity in Christ really is, you have got to spend time in God’s Word.

It can be work to get in there some days and see what He has for you, but I promise you that you will always get something out of it if you go into it knowing that you need it. Hunger for it. Devour it. Memorize it. Make it a part of who you are. It is a shield against the things of this world that will pull you down. You can hold it up to the confusing issues of this world to see them for what they really are in light of its truth. You can rest in it, behind it, and under it when you feel tired and worn down by people, pressure, and pain. It pushes through the things that will try to tangle you up and make you fall. There is no greater advice I can give you as my son, but to seek God out in His Word regularly.

The second piece of advice is to be a leader. Don’t be afraid to stand up and do the hard thing when it is the right thing, and it usually is the hard thing. Take the principles you get from your time in the Word and use them to become a leader like Christ. Be a servant leader, willing to step out, but also willing to help others along. A leader cannot al2014-05-29 06.31.01ways be the man out front. If he is, he will eventually see that he is taking a walk by himself.

Zach, I love you, I am proud of you, and I want great things for you. God is going to use you for something big (until then, take this pill), and I cannot wait to see how you are going to use your life to bring Him glory.  Be committed to Relentless Growth in Christ!

Dad

 

A Parable…of Sorts

custom-paulownia-casket-fullThere is a grievous evil that I have seen under the sun: riches were kept by their owner to his hurt, and those riches were lost in a bad venture. And he is father of a son, but he has nothing in his hand. As he came from his mother’s womb he shall go again, naked as he came, and shall take nothing for his toil that he may carry away in his hand.

– Ecclesiastes 5:13-15

As I read these verses the other night, a story took shape in my mind.  I pictured a man who had determined that he was going to be a good provider for his family.  A man determined to give his children all of the best things in life.  So, the man did the honorable thing – he worked.

I  pictured this man getting up hours before the sun came up in the morning, going to work at a job that asked much of him, and he was willing to give.  He was doing it for his family.  At the end of that work day he went to a second job and worked until late in the evening, coming home to collapse into his bed.  He was tired, but this was for his family.

As time went on, the work week spread over into the weekend.  He missed vacations, birthday parties, and music recitals, but this too was for his family.  The kids were growing, but he had a plan, and even though he hurt so badly every time he saw his family look at him sadly after he told them he could not join them, it was for his family.

Over the years, the money he earned grew, and it grew significantly.  His plan was beginning to come together.  He could see the end of the journey had had begun all those years ago.  He was almost there.  Then it happened… The big opportunity arrived.

A friend came to him with an investment opportunity that was guaranteed to double his money, and that was a significant amount.  If this went as planned, he could actually quit working and spend the rest of his life just living off interest and leaving a very comfortable life for his kids when he finally passed away as an old man.  He went all in.

Things looked good for awhile, the business was slow to start, but there was still hope.  Then he started feeling ill.  A trip to the doctor revealed the worst news, and he was given two months.

Deciding he would spend his remaining time giving his family their every desire, he went to cash out on his investment. Tragically, he found out that there was nothing left.  His partner had taken his money and invested in in several other businesses, and it was gone.  He was left with nothing, and eight weeks later, he was gone.

At the funeral, his 16 year old son stood up to speak of his father.  He approached to platform, and stopped to look at his father lying there in the casket.  After a few moments, he stepped to the podium and began to speak.

“I wish I could tell you that I know the man lying here today.  I wish I could tell you of all the fun times we had.  I wish I could tell you about vacations, camping trips, birthday parties, and tickle fights on the living room rug.  I wish I could tell you about his favorite song, his favorite food, or about his favorite book, movie, or his first car.”

“I wish I could tell you all of those things and more.  I wish I could tell you how much he loved us.  Tell you about the hugs, the laughter, the smiles, and the warmth of a life with him.  There are so many things I wish I could tell you about this man, but there is a problem.  I don’t know him well enough to tell you these things.”

“As I grew up, Mom always told us how much he loved us.  She knew his plan to make enough to retire before I graduated high school so he could do all sorts of stuff with me and the rest of my family.  She told me all about the money he was saving so I would have a good start.  She told me how it was his way of showing me he loved me.”

“So, now I stand here beside the casket of a man I barely knew.  Friends and family have helped us put this funeral together because we didn’t have enough money to do it on our own.  My college dreams are starting to fade away as I look at my younger siblings that are going to need me to step up and help support them.  The plan he had for me is gone.”

“So, what do I have to say today?  Why did I get up here?  Was it to make you all feel sorry for me? No.  I wanted to point out a tragedy that took place in the life of my father.  Here was a man with the noblest of intentions.  He wanted to give us so much, but in the end, he left this world unable to do that.  He had two dreams.  He wanted to spend time with us and give us an inheritance.”

“I wish I could feel anger about this, but in the end, I feel pity.  He came into this world with nothing, he worked to build wealth at the cost of knowing those he loved, and he left this world with nothing.  All I can say that he really left me is a desire to do things better.”

Maybe these verses mean something a little different.  Maybe I am off my rocker and had a sandwich that was just a little too spicy that day.  I’m not sure what put that little story in my head, but I wanted to share it.

I’m glad that I had a Dad that was there for me.  He worked long days, shift work, and sometimes weekends to make the money that was needed to keep us going, but he was there for us too.  He showed me the value of being there for your kids, and I hope I am doing a good job being there for my kids too.

There have been opportunities for me to take jobs that might have been great financial decisions, but I have always had this thought in my head that the money only does so much for you if you can’t be with the ones that you love.

God speaks so much about money in His Word, and I’m pretty sure it is because He knew we would have such a problem with it. Part of Relentless Growth is looking at the wisdom of the Bible as it speaks to our financial picture, our family responsibilities, and the fact that the money belongs to God anyway.  We are just stewards.

So, at the end of the day, all you dads out there, keep working.  Your children need to see your drive and your determination to provide for the family.  It is a character trait they will thank you for, but be there for them too.  They need both.  It is sad when they don’t have one or the other, but it is grievous when they get neither.

Relentless Growth -> Grow Deep -> Grow Strong

Surrender

surrenderThe last week of July I was fortunate to be able to be a part of a Senior High adventure trip to the beautiful Upper Peninsula.  It was filled with a lot of laughter, fun, great food, and some new games.  We took kids to Tahquamenon Falls, Mackinac Island, the Lake Michigan shore, and a rock quarry for swimming.  I have never been with a group of twenty kids for 3 hours and heard them laugh as much as I did at that quarry.  It was a fantastic trip!

One of the things that we did was to put together a series of “chapel” times at night and in the morning where we would discuss five topics and the importance of them in the life of a teen today.  We talked about Respect, Wisdom, Grace, Destiny, and Perspective and how mastering these five “Life Threads” would provide them with:

  1. A healthy Respect for God and the people He has put in authority over us – like it or not.
  2. Wisdom in how to face the trials of life when they come – and they will.
  3. Grace to overcome the hurts that people put us through time and again by realizing that we are recipients of the grace that God has given us for hurting Him time and again.
  4. A sense of Destiny as we learned that God has a plan for our lives, and He will nudge us toward that plan.  He wants us to come to Him, and He has certain things that He wants to see us accomplish
  5. A godly Perspective as we view the world around us. The world has lost its moral compass. And there are so many things that are eagerly jumping up to grab the attention of our kids today, and even though things are more blatant than they used to be, it is still the subtle things that pull us away from God and lead us astray.  We need to see the world for what it is, and see God for who He is!

So, we had some great teaching, but this year we also added the element of a worship time.  I’m going to brag a little bit here, so hang on and bear with me.  It will come back around the right way!

This year my son Zachary brought his guitar and together we led worship for the group.  It was so much fun seeing him do so well at something he loves to do (play the guitar) and to be doing something together that we both really enjoy (music).  He is growing as a young man, and is starting to flex his leadership qualities a little more.  He is still young, and is going to make mistakes, but I am so blessed that he is doing so much better than I was at his age.  I can’t wait to see what God does with him.

One really neat thing about Zach leading the worship is that we brought a new song to the group.  We sang it at almost every chapel, and then on our last night when we sang it, I shared with the group that the song had been written by Zach.  They were all really impressed, and I know that positive feedback did something really good to Zach’s confidence.  I can’t wait to see how that pans out moving forward!

Here are the lyrics to the song:

“I Surrender” – by Zachary Tanner

 Verse 1
We say You’re in control,
But do we mean it?
I’ve said it before,
But I just don’t feel it.
I don’t want to give up the reins.
We say God is good; God is great,
But do I trust You with my fate?
It seems all You give me is pain.

Chorus
God, I surrender.
I give it to You.
No matter what, I know
You’ll pull me through.
You know my story
You know what I’ll do
God, I surrender.
I give it to You.

Verse 2

It’s easy to say.
Not so easy to do,
Especially when things take the place of You.
We call out to family and friends.
We stew in anger, but we just don’t see,
Maybe we should call out to Christ the King.
And do what Your will intends.

Bridge

I give it all to You, my God.

I give it all to You.

I give it all to You, my God.

I give it all.

After we got back from the trip we saw several of the teens posting comments on Facebook about the song, posting lyrics from the song, and had leaders from the trip tell us how that song is stuck in their minds.  Someday we are going to sit down with Zach’s guitar teacher and we are going to record it so we can share it with more people.

I see the song as not just something I can be proud of my son for writing, but something I have started to see in his life simply in getting to the point that he would be willing to get up in front of people and share his gift with them.  He struggles with that, but he has been working very hard at surrendering his fear to God and allowing God to strengthen Him to do things outside his comfort zone.  I think that sometimes he feels like I am the one giving him the “strength” because I just force him to do it, but I am seeing a growth take place in him – bit by bit.

The song is striking a cord in me as well.  I’ve shared with people the struggles of growing up in a legalistic church where religion was used as a rod on my back, and it put a lot of disrespect for the church and distrust of church leadership in my heart.  I have seen some terrible things done to people in the name of “godly interest.”  I was not allowed to think for myself, to ask questions, or to do much besides blindly follow.  I felt many times like my life was nothing but surrendering what I wanted to do in favor of something that somebody else said I should do.  Surrender is not what I thought it was.

Surrender is a yielding of my strength, wisdom, desire, and direction in favor of someone else’s.  It is a voluntary thing that shows a heart that wants something better than the current situation.  I don’t have to surrender just the things I want, but I can also surrender the things I don’t want in my life.  That is what God is asking for when He asks us to surrender to Him.  He wants us to enter into a trusting relationship where we can delight in what He has for us rather than what we can do in ourselves.  He wants us to give Him access to the things that are holding us back.  Sometimes we realize it, but sometimes we don’t.

Our lessons were about Joseph, and when the topic of Joseph was chosen, the words to Zach’s song were not in my mind.  When we decided to debut his song on the trip, I was not even thinking about how the message of the song tied in so well to Joseph’s life.  Joseph lived a life that had a lot of pain and betrayal, but he lived a life of surrender to God.  He knew that God was taking him somewhere, and in the end, he was able to say with confidence that God meant it all for good.

I’m thankful for the opportunity we had to share the message of Joseph and the 5 life threads.  I am thankful that Zach was able to share his song and that it had an impact on the teens.  I am thankful that I get the opportunity to not only have fun, but to work with youth and with good people.  The trip is one of the best trips I have ever been on, and the things I took away from it are going to stick with me for the rest of my life.

So, how about you?  Is there something you need to surrender?  Let it go.  Give it to God.  He’s got a better way of handling it!

If this was encouraging to you in any way, I’d love to hear from you!   Feel free to comment below.

In His Grip,

Tom

P.S. – By the time I am posting this on Monday morning I am face to face with the need to surrender some stress that has been thrust upon me in the form of water well issues and some disgruntled people outside of my home.  Taking the time right now for prayer and asking God for peace in my heart and mind and for wisdom in handling the things that  must be handled.

 

Meanderings

Brook

Proverbs 18:2 – A fool does not delight in understanding, But only in revealing his own mind.

This verse hit me like an axe handle to the head yesterday when I read it.  Hmmm. Reading it again now, should I be blogging about it?  Well, I think it is okay for the circumstances.  I like to read the passages in the Bible that talk about the fools.  It is kinda like one of those little games where you have to find a person you know to fit into all of the different categories.  “Oh, this fool would be ___________”!  Yeah, I know, not a very nice thing to do, and I’m sure I am the only one that has ever done it.  I’ll wait while we all pray for forgiveness…

Reading this yesterday I was immediately struck by my own sin though.  I like to be heard, and I like people to understand me more than I want to understand them.  It hurts when you see something about yourself that requires a change so bluntly said.  The nice thing is that God loves me enough to give me His Word to remind me about my struggle in this area.  I need to be more caring toward others, to listen to their thoughts, their struggles, and their opinions.  I think God is using this verse to point out a real weakness in my life that He wants to use.  He knows me, and that means He knows how deep this is ingrained in me, so that means He is prepared for the long haul as I learn to master this weakness with His help.

Dad-Life

I’ve got two great kids at home, and I am excited to see what God is going to do in their lives.  My daughter is such a sweet, beautiful girl (yes, much like her mother!) and she has such a heart for God! My son is growing so fast.  He is tall, lean, and a good looking kid (again, thankful for my wife’s DNA) and he loves to use his talent at the guitar in the praise band at church.  I don’t know what I did to deserve two kids as great as this.  Frankly, at times it scares me.

I’ve had a couple of things come up recently that remind me that I need to be more intentional as a Dad.  I know I am with my kids more than a lot of Dads get to be with their kids, and I am thankful for that.  We do fun things together, go on trips, eat meals, watch movies, and a lot of other stuff too.  Those are important things, and I know that it will provide them some great memories one day to share with their kids.  Is it enough?  I don’t think so.

It is time for me to step up my game.  The stark reality is that I have a quickly dwindling amount of time with my kids at home.  I need to be more Relentless about putting the Truth of God’s Word into their hearts and minds.  I need to be a better model of what a man is for my daughter so she will find a good man of her own!  I need to be a biblical model of a man for my son so he see what he should be focused on.  I just want my kids to have the best Dad that they can.

I’m going to be working on some plans for some things I intend to do with my son over the next few years.  I think it will be exciting, and I am looking forward to sharing it with some other men that I intend to bring into this to help me and to influence Zach as well.  There will be a lot of work, but I am looking forward to seeing it all come together.  From what I have heard about other fathers and sons that have done this, it should be a tremendous thing for us both.

Well, I think I will call this complete for tonight.  Just wanted to share some things that have been on my mind and in my heart lately.  If it helped somebody else, drop me a line and let me know.  I’d love to hear from you.  God Bless!

In HIS Grip,

Tom

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