I Hope to Be Sober in 2018

So, I have a confession to make.  I have a problem.  I get better for awhile, but then I slip and I find myself right in the middle of it again.  I know I need help, and I know that I have friends and family that want to help me, but sometimes their help just drives me deeper into it.  I need to get sober, and I hope that this is the year.

Now, before we go any further, I am not struggling with any type of alcohol or drug addiction, and I am not mocking those who do.  My struggle is one of a different nature that while not physically damaging, can be just as destructive to the relationships I value.

Anger and a lack of self-control.

I have had a rough time with this since I was a teenager.  If I felt mistreated when I didn’t deserve it, I would get angry.  It would be even worse when I KNEW I was right.  It has been a part of me for years.  It ebbs and flows enough that I don’t think  that I am known as a hot head (I might be wrong about that), but I am sure that there are enough people out there who have had a peek into that part of me to know it is there.

This past week it rose up again.  I lost it and got pretty loud.  I realized it right away and made my apologies, but that doesn’t make anything go away.  I’m tired of those apologies.  I want something better for the people I do life with.

One of my favorite characters on television is from the show Blue Bloods.  Tom Selleck plays NYPD Police Commissioner Frank Reagan (Francis to his Dad).  Frank is a Marine.  He is the son of a cop who also was the Police Commissioner.  He has three sons who became cops, and a daughter who works as an assistant district attorney.  The family gets together for Sunday dinner every week, and while not perfect, they are always trying.

Week after week I watch Frank come face to face with some seemingly overwhelming obstacle and no discernible right answer.  Sometimes he is caught between two of his kids that want him to take their side in an argument.  Sometimes he is caught between his church and his work.  Sometimes it is the mayor or some publicity issue that is waging war against his personal convictions.

No matter what it is that comes up, by the end of almost every episode, we see that he is able to come to some type of resolution.  I know.  The magic of television would be VERY convenient if we could just sprinkle it over our own problems!

So, where was I going with this?  Oh, yeah.  One thing we rarely see happen is Frank “losing it.”  His voice gets a little high and he might wave his hands and arms a little as he expresses his frustration with the situation, but even when that happens, we always see the same move take place at that moment when you think he is about to REALLY tee off on someone.  I call it the Frank Reagan Scowl of Sober Deliberation. (FRSSD for short)

Rather than lose his temper, Frank pulls out the FRSSD.  On screen that usually leads to a soft fade, commercial break, or a quick switch to one of the other story lines that the episode is covering.  We don’t get to see how Frank wrestles the problem, and we don’t always get to see how much time the FRSSD needs to be employed before we get to the next step.

What we see is a man who is willing to confront his fears and his anger and hold them in check rather than lashing out.  We see a man who looks inside and examines the nuances of not only the situation, but also what his responses might be along with their consequences.  He doesn’t react when faced with these tough spots.  He thinks about how to face the situation in a manner allowing him to maintain his character and bring about the most equitable solution possible.

I don’t want to say that he is holding it all inside rather than spilling it all out.  He spills!  However, he only lets out what is necessary for those around him to reach an understanding that he is in turmoil over something, but not willing to lash out while he works on getting to the next face.  I call that one the Frank Reagan Face of Bold Resolve.   (FRFBR for short.)

When the FRFBR comes out, you know that the situation is now in hand.  Frank is getting ready to move ahead.  He knows there may be some consequences, but he has measured them and sees them as acceptable.  He knows that feelings may yet be hurt, but he has determined that it will not be done in a careless manner.  He builds his heart into his response.  He usually ends up giving a little more of himself in those situations and plants a seed for growth in the relationship that will help with future confrontations as well.

In 2 Timothy, Paul is speaking to his disciple, Timothy, and telling him how he should conduct himself in his role as a young pastor.  Paul knew full well the challenges Timothy would face. Churches are not easy places to live, and it is even harder if you hold a position of leadership.  One piece of advice he gave Timothy was this:

As for you, always be sober-minded, endure suffering, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry. – 2 Timothy 4:5

That sober-mindedness he refers to is that Frank Reagan-type of mind.  A mind that chooses not to rage at the injustices he sees around him, but to slap on that FRSSD and work on a solution that will allow him to fulfill his ministry as a pastor and reach souls for Christ.  He has a job to do, and losing his head will not get it done.  He needs to get to that FRFBR and move boldly forward for God in love for those he serves.

Peter also tells us that there is another need for taking the time to wear the FRSSD.  It is because there are bigger things at play than what we are facing. Just like there are layers to Frank’s problems and our problems, we have a bigger problem in the wings.

Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. – 1 Peter 5:8

Satan wants to get believers to “lose it. ”

If he can get us to “lose it”, he gets to see us hurt the reputation of Christ and His redeeming work.  People look at us and see our flaws, but not necessarily the work that God is doing in our lives as a whole.  They are just more likely to remember the guy who loses his temper.

If we allow ourselves to “lose it” too many times, we will develop the habit of lashing out and hurting people.  Over time that will cause people to pull away from us and also cause us to withdraw to avoid causing pain when we realize that is what we are doing.  Once you pull back too much you will find it hard to crawl out again.

So, with 2018 just around the bend. I have decided to make a greater effort at being that SOBER man that Paul and Peter admonish us to be.  I like to pick a word every year to focus on, and the year it is #SOBER.

I would love to end this next year looking back and not being able to remember when I had to apologize for losing my temper and saying rash or hurtful things.  I would like to be able to see where I put on the FRSSD and worked it out to get to the FRFBR without needing to hang my head in between.

I’m going to need to work at it, and I will need to put some reminders in place over the next year. (My wife and co-workers might start to think I have crush on Tom Selleck because of having his picture taped and tacked up in are different places!)  I’ll also need some accountability from my friends, family, and a few co-workers.  Tell me to get my “Frank Face” on instead of letting myself get loud.

I’m living a life that is imperfect.  I make mistakes, but I am not settling for living that way.  Relentless Growth is a determination to not live as I am, but to grow in Christ even when it is hard.  This is going to be hard.  I am attacking one of my deepest weaknesses in this.  What better place to ask for the unlimited strength of God!

I hope you have a great new year and that you find something you are going to focus on as well.  Feel free to comment and share this post with others.

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On Time – Not Early

I have been asked again  to share some of my writing with my church family in the form of a devotional for our church’s fall campaign.  I thought I would go ahead and share them with anyone else who might be interested in reading them as well.  So, here it is!  I will share the others every other day  until I get through them all.  Hoping by then I have had an opportunity to do some more writing on some of my current thoughts!

On Time – Not Early

timing-is-everythingPhilippians 4:12-13 – I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me.

Back in 2010, my job came to an abrupt end on a sunny Tuesday afternoon in April.  I had gone to work that day feeling like I was on top of the world after a very trying time showing my employer that I was the guy they needed in my position.  I had fought hard to meet every demand and had even surpassed their expectations.  I was feeling pretty good, and then I got a phone call telling me that they wanted to meet with me later in the day.

I went home that day in a cab with a little cardboard box on my lap that contained the remnants of 11 years of hard work and a pile of paperwork explaining my severance package.  When I got home to face my wife and kids, all I could say was, “I don’t have to get up in the morning!”

Over the next couple of months, we watched as our savings went away and the job offers did not come in.  Unemployment was taking forever, but the bills showed up right on time.  We managed to keep the lights on and the mortgage paid, and through the generosity of family, friends, and church family, we even had food in the fridge.  It was not looking good, but we always managed to find just enough when we really needed it.

Then the day came when I was leaving to go do some handyman work for some family members that had been paying me $100 a day.  The plan was that I would go and work for two days, but I would spend the night away since gas money was tight.  As I was leaving, my wife looked at me with fear in her eyes and told me that we needed $300 by Monday to make the mortgage payment.  What were we going to do?  I knew that I was going to make $200, but where would the extra come from?

I remember looking her in the eye and saying that I didn’t know how it was going to happen, but God was going to provide it.  I think back to that moment and remember that for some reason I really believed it.  I couldn’t explain it!  After all, it was Friday morning and I was leaving for two days.  What was I thinking?

On my drive downstate I had an hour with myself and I used it talking to God.  I prayed Psalm 27:13 to Him and talked to Him about the fact that my family needed to see His goodness by Monday.  I shed tears, and I praised Him for what He was going to do.  I didn’t know how, but I knew He would take care of it.

I believe that I shall look upon the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living. – Psalm 27:13

I spent the next two days under the floor of a cottage crawling around in a damp crawlspace, and finally it was time to go home.  I collected my check, folding it in half and putting it in my pocket without looking at it, hugged goodbye and got in the car to head north.  I was still wondering what the next day might give me in work so I could make that mortgage payment.

wp-1474253527844.pngI got a call from my wife when I was about halfway home.  She asked me if I got paid and I said of course I did as I reached into my pocket to fish out the check.  When I opened it I saw that it had been written for $300 instead of the usual $200.  God had come through with a whole day to spare!

Since that day I’ve seen God do a lot of things “just in the nick of time.”  I have seen how He has changed my level of contentment.  I have seen Him bring me from pride in myself to a dependence on Him.  Our mortgage payment was not made because I went out and really worked hard.  God honored that, but I believe with all of my heart that my mortgage was kept current because I had faith and He held the solution.

  • Where do you need to have a moment of humility so God can work His miracles?
  • Are you willing to truly trust God with the big things and the little things?
  • Do you see worry as a sin that hinders God from working in your life?

Father, sometimes we need to know despair before we can truly know what it feels like to feel dependence on You.  Let my pride be brought low so that I may be in the position of humility before You.  Open my heart and eyes to see You at work in my life, and let my faith grow RELENTLESSLY as I praise You for the mighty things You do!

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Where Did the Joy Go?

Erosion.  Webster’s defines it as “the gradual destruction or diminution of something.”  Some of the more common uses of the word revolve around water and wind erosion of the soil.  Often a natural event, but there are times when erosion takes place due to the actions of mankind.

hqdefaultI would imagine that when the house in this picture was completed, there was no thought given to it eventually ending up like this.  Most likely they were filled with joy at having a new home with a beautiful ocean view and promises of sunsets and enjoyment for years to come.  The thought of it falling into the ocean could not have been further from their mind.

I am reading a devotional right now by Tim Walter called Proceeding On: Discovering the Gospel in the Corps of Discovery.  It follows the expedition of Lewis and Clark – their pursuit to find the source of the Missouri River and their hope that it would lead to a connection to the Pacific Ocean.  That was not to be, but they did make the journey across the country experiencing hardship after hardship in the pursuit of their quest.

At times the expedition was under such great duress that they must have thought they would never make it.  The joy of the adventure was gone.  They were now simply enduring the next day as they trudged forward.  Hope kept them moving, but sometimes hope is only enough to keep the feet moving, not enough to keep a spring in the step.

Finally, they made it to the Pacific.  I can only imagine the joy that must have flooded back into their hearts and minds after such a long and hard trip.  William Clark recounted it in his journals using these words:

“Ocean in view! Oh the Joy!  That great Pacific Ocean which we been so long anxious to see!” – William Clark, 1805

The journey was hard not because of any singular obstacle they faced, but because of the many they faced one after another.  No single event could have robbed them of their desire to move forward.  No single event could have eroded their spirits.  It was the repeated difficulties of the journey that took it away much like the crashing waves and blowing wind took away the sand that held that house up.  It never happens all at once, and there are opportunities to set things right before all is lost.

The devotional talks about how I could be experiencing the joy that I felt in the day I accepted Christ as my Savior.  He asks me to reflect on that and ask myself if I am remembering the feeling of the Holy Spirit working in me and asking God to restore that feeling in me as I go through life.  It got me thinking pretty hard about it and taking stock of where I am right now versus where I have been in the past.

As far as remembering the joy of the day I accepted Christ, I was about 4 years old, and I mainly remember a feeling of relief that I would be avoiding Hell!  Sure I was happy about it, but at that age, I would say that I was pretty sure that I was more relieved at getting out of the biggest punishment I could imagine at that time.  Obviously, as I grew up, the enormity of that decision became clear, and it means so much more to me that I have gained something so much greater than anything I have avoided!

So, as a Follower of Christ for almost 40 years, I can sadly look back on my life now and see the ebb and flow of experiencing joy in my salvation. The joy in my salvation has experienced some rough storms, had the foundations of it battered and beaten, and at times I have wondered if it would hold.

While I can look back and see times that things were bad, I can always see that the foundation held.  The troubles, doubts, and fears of life worked as hard as they could to undermine it and take away my hopes of holding on.  The sand around that foundation might have been friends, family, finances, work, or health, and there have been times that they all felt like they had been washed away, but the foundation held because it was built of something stronger – Christ.

Being a Christian is not an easy life.  Jesus didn’t promise to save me from trouble.  If He was about avoiding trouble, He probably would not have died in such a horrific manner.  He promised to be with me during the hard times, to help me hang on when I feel like I am about to go over the edge.

No matter how bad things may have felt, I had my Bible and the words of The Living God to give me stability and protection.  The storms raged, and it felt like more things were washing away, my joy seemed to be gone or at least diminished to the point it was hard to see or feel, but the reason for joy was still there, and it held until the storm stopped and things could be set right again.

I love how Tim put it in his devotional:

“There is no greater tragedy in the Christian walk than the loss of joy in our salvation.  This tragedy does not occur at a special time, but it comes slowly, over the daily battles we fight as we follow Jesus.”

It is in the minutia of our daily walk where we can win or lose the battle to keep our joy.  Allowing the stress of work to build, allowing a relationship to fade, or to let fear reign over safety or finances.  These are the places where the battle takes place – the subtle moments that are all easily defeated by the knowledge that God keeps His promises to us.  They only have power against us when they are not dealt with one at a time and are allowed to claw away at our joy a small piece at a time.

Tim used this verse from Psalms to encourage me today:

“Restore to me the joy of Thy salvation, and sustain me with a willing spirit.” – Psalm 51:12

It should be the prayer of every believer.  Calling out to God to keep the joy of our salvation alive is a necessity in Relentless Living.  It can’t be something that waits until things get bad, we need to be aware and focused on that daily as our safeguard against despair and fear.

So, how about you?  How is your joy?  Do you remember what it was like to be joyful in your salvation?  If you are like me, you struggle from time to time, but that is okay.  I’m in one of those moments right now, and I am thankful that the Holy Spirit is sustaining me as I get through this, and that I am able to see today that I can experience that joy on a daily basis.

I feel a bit like Clark today as I have been reminded that I have reached that shore!  Salvation is mine, and I am so thankful for the gift, and for the experience of the hard times that make that gift even more precious!

51nsihkrf8lIf you would like to enjoy this devotional like I am, here is the link on Amazon.  I have not met Tim, but I hope to meet him one day and thank him personally for the encouragement I have been receiving from his insights into God’s Word and the glimpse into history as well.  I feel like Lewis and Clark were a little bit Relentless, and I want to be the same in my Christian walk, and this book is a great tool for it!  A big thanks to my friend Joe from Overboard Ministries for putting it in my my hand!

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My Take On Election Year 2016

DvELet me start off this post by saying that this year I have made a point of trying to stay out of the political arguing and banter going on out there.  I have made it a personal goal to not get into any political arguments or take off on any social media rants like so many are fond of.  I might slip a time or two, but for the most part I am trying to stay out of it for my own sanity as well as the heath of relationships.  We all have opinions and those opinions are not always held by those we call friends.

That being said, I want to make a couple of comments here and address what I feel to be a big issue in these times in which we live.  You may not agree with me, and that is your right.  I just hope that we can all take a moment and think about things like adults.  I admit to being a little handicapped in that area, but I promise to do my best.

I read an article the other day asking Christians to avoid voting in this election because there are no candidates that would be a good choice in God’s eyes.  While I do agree that the moral integrity of the candidates that are basking in the media spotlights right now is somewhat suspect, I don’t think that is a good reason for us to abstain from voting.  We need not be fearful of making a “wrong” or “flawed” choice.  We are all human, and flawed humans picking a leader from a pool of flawed humans will always succeed in selecting a flawed human as their leader.  Face the facts.

I have often walked into the voting booth picking “the lesser evil” with my vote.  Not exactly an inspiring thought when putting someone in a position of authority like that, but it really is about all I can do.  When I go into the booth I am doing my part to make a good selection, but the system does not always allow for us to have a “best choice”.  We do what we can with what we are given.  Frankly, I am not going to get that worked up about it.  I will continue to vote and be a good citizen, but I often feel that my part in the process does not matter in the grand scheme of things.

My family has been talking extensively about the candidates still available to us for next week’s primary, and we are discouraged.  There are no candidates that match our values.  We see the frontrunners as untrustworthy and dangerous to not only the dignity and safety of our country, but also to our way of life and the freedoms we enjoy.  It is disheartening to sit and look at the choices available and not only feel a sense of malaise, but an actual fear.  What does all of this mean for the USA and for us?

Allowed to run unchecked, these fears can bring us into a near panic over our situation.  What will happen to us?  Isn’t there anyone that can save us in this troubled time?  What is happening with our country, and why can’t the majority truly see the truth of who these candidates are?  There must be better choices than those we are allowed to actually vote on.  What am I supposed to do as a believer?  Where does my sense of responsibility begin and end?

Basically, I have decided I can do four things:

Pray – The Bible tells me that it I should worry about nothing and pray about everything.  The thing to remember is that I need to be praying for the right things.  God’s will to be done is the first and foremost thing to remember.  He will allow the person to be elected.  That is not mine to decide.  My part in this is to ask God to show me how to rightly respond to how that person will eventually lead this country.  I might not agree with what they say, but I can still respond appropriately.  I need to pray in preparation for whatever God decides to bring into my life.

Learn – We are told to be wise.  That means that we are supposed to learn about the candidates.  We shouldn’t just listen to the media sound bytes and read the stuff on social media.  What are the real facts about the candidates?  Take some time and dig in to see what is actually there.  A Christian should never vote based on what they saw on Twitter. C’mon, everyone.  We need to be smarter than that.

Vote – We have a duty as citizens of our country to vote.  God is OK with it. I promise!  Christ showed us the importance of paying our taxes and the apostles wrote of the duty we have to be subject to the authority that God has placed over us.  Why would God tell us to pay taxes and be subject to our rulers set over us if He did not also want us to be involved in the process?  It might not be a command, “Thou shalt vote/not vote for the _____________party”, but there is definitely an understanding that we have a governmental system that God intends us to work with.

Pray Some More – After the election it will be time to pray some more!  The person in office will need to be lifted up in prayer.  The leader of the USA is probably under more pressure than any other leader in the world.  Like the old saying, “Heavy hangs the head that wears the crown.”, we need to be praying for wisdom, protection, and guidance for our President as they will be under a heavy burden while in office.

At the end of the day, all the talk, arguing, and shouting about politics pretty much just leads to a ton of anxiety and anger.  I’ve decided that I don’t need that.  I would rather FOCUS on living a Relentless life.  The political environment breeds fear, and emotional turmoil.  I choose to try to live in the peace that God brings to the situations around me.  Peace like God tells us about in Isaiah:

“Do not fear, for I am with you; do not anxiously look about you, for I am your God.  I will strengthen you, surely I will help you, surely I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” – Isaiah 41:10

The election is coming and there will be a President.  God already knows who that will be. He will not be surprised, and He will still be on the throne of the universe.  I’m going to rest in that.  It gives me peace no matter what happens in the arena of politics.

Pray. Do your homework. Vote. Pray some more.  In all of it, TRUST GOD!

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Get Me Outta Here!

I’m going to share something with you today.  I’m a little embarrassed by it, but I feel the need to share it with you.  I’m going to share something that has caused some of my deepest anxiety to come to the surface.  Every time I have to face this, I feel my heart race, I get a cold sweat, my hands go clammy, breathing gets more rapid, and my vision actually “tunnels” a little bit.  *deep breath* Here goes, please don’t judge me too harshly:

I am absolutely terrified of using Fitting RoomsCabines-d'essayage-Copenhague

There. I said it.  Not feeling very many reassuring words out there just yet. Maybe they will come as I continue.

I’m not sure where it all began.  My earliest memories of fitting rooms had me inside with an armload of jeans while my Mom stood outside telling me to come out and show her how they fit.  I’d rush to get changed and then step outside for the required tug, smooth, “Show me your butt”, and “How do they feel?” before going back in to try on another pair so I could go out and do the dance again. (Disclaimer – Mom cared and wanted to be sure I didn’t grab the wrong pair.  She wasn’t out to embarrass me. – OK.  Back to my story)

I remember thinking it would be better when I started shopping on my own and I didn’t have to go in and out so many times in order to come to an informed purchasing decision.  With age would come the freedom to understand whether or not I needed a “scoche” more room for freedom of movement and comfort.  What I didn’t expect was that the anxiety would not lessen.

Going into the changing room continued to be a problem.  The moment the door closed behind me it would all start.  The sweat, breathing, rapid heart rate would all come rushing back again.  Was it the sense of confinement? The fact that I am taking off my shoes AND pants in a place where strangers are walking past my door or curtain?  How would I defend myself?  Could I run if I had to?  Was it standing in a place where I could not help but question the hygiene of the person that had been in there before me?

Eventually I decided that I would just grab what I wanted off the rack and just buy it.  When I got home I could try it on and then just return it if it didn’t fit.  Not convenient, but it was a solution.  Not a good one as I did return a pair of jeans four times one time after trying to figure out just what size felt best and had the right “scoche” factor. I knew I had to try to get back into the room again.

So, the new practice of psyching myself up of the fitting room began.  I took a little time and started thinking more about what I was there to purchase.  No longer would I purchase shirts and pants at the same time.  I got no time for that.  Too much exposure and tucking is required.  Also, when going in I will rarely have more than two or three items.  We’ve only got a few minutes before I am curled up on the floor next to a pile of pins and a suspicious Kleenex.  Get in. Get done. Get out.  That became my mantra.

Honestly, I think most of it is the fact that I am a big guy.  I’ve been the size of an average adult male (or larger) since about the 6th grade.  When I get into those small rooms, I just start feeling closed in.  It’s not a true claustrophobia because I have no problem crawling under my house where I actually need to exhale to slide under the floor joists!  I just need more space. (Another true confession – If it is available, I will always use the handicapped fitting room.  Apparently the ability to turn a wheelchair around will also help lower my anxiety.)

arms-wide-open-1457804Coming out of the fitting room is the only thing on my mind from the moment I enter it, and when I swing that door open I almost feel like breaking out into song or screaming “Freedom!” all Braveheart-style.  The world gets a little bit brighter, the air feels fresher (there might be some truth to that), and life feels like it is worth living again!

When it comes down to it, I know the problem is not the fitting room.  It is a stressor.  Stress is the enemy.  It comes in different shapes and sizes for different people, and it changes with your circumstances and life events.  I’m on vacation right now and have been since last Thursday.  Stress right now is low, and I am loving it!  That was not the case a week ago.

Last Monday I woke up to get ready for work and I was literally sick with stress.  I’d had a headache behind my right eye for about three weeks, and my stomach was a rollercoaster.  The thought of getting up and going to work had me in a near panic.  The stress was all work-related, but it was not “bad” stress.  Just the stress of a large project nearing completion that requires a number of last minute details to be taken care of immediately – if not sooner!  My boss and the people I work with are all feeling it.  The end is in sight, but we aren’t there yet.  We’ll all have a big hug then!

Lying there in the dark I decided to do something I had failed to do for the previous three weeks.  I prayed about it.  Not just a quick, “Please help me, God”, but a sincere prayer asking Him to show me what I needed to understand in the situation that might make it more manageable.  I asked Him to give me wisdom, peace, and a clarity in the midst of the mess and change me where He needed to so I could get through it.

I got up and went to work feeling lousy, and I knew that the day held a lot of hours for me that included coming back in to work that night.   Shortly after arriving, my head started pounding, and as the morning progressed it just got worse.  Something happened around 1pm though.

I remember sitting there thinking that I had not felt this kind of stress since I worked for Kellogg’s.  The last three months there were terrible.  I was working 12-16 hour days and was in a constant battle to keep up standards and increase sales.  Then it hit me.  During those three months with Kellogg’s I was fighting for my job.  All of the long hours, distractions, demands, and hard work were in order for me to keep that job.  It was a job I hated, working for people that didn’t really want me around.  I was in a completely different situation then.

Now I work for an organization that appreciates the things that I do and actually helps me become better at my job.  Pretty big swing between those circumstances.  It has been very busy.  Nobody working there will question that right now, but the busy-ness of the situation was not the problem.  Busy was not the cause of stress.  The cause of the stress was the fear of losing my job – again.  Pairing busy, stressful work with a fear from the past made it all the more stressful.

As I sat there, I believe God chose that moment to remind me that I was going to be okay.  I was not in jeopard of losing my job.  I was just busy.  Things will be alright.  Just lean on Him and it will be okay.  The moment I had that thought, my head stopped hurting.  A week later, my stomach is returning to normal.  I’m on vacation, and that is helping too, but without that thought of security, I can assure you that this vacation would not be as good as it is!

A couple days ago I read this verse in Psalm 18:

“He brought me out into a broad place; He rescued me, because He delighted in me.” – Psalm 18:19

Just like I feel that relief when I am finally able to escape the fitting room, God brings me out of those stresses and shows me that the world is wider than I have made it.  He shows me that by confining my view to my problem, I can’t see the breadth of Him!  When I shift my view to Him I see the possibilities, the freedom, and His grace for living.  He rescues me from myself and He does it for one, simple reason.  He delights in me.  He loves to see me live.  I don’t mean just regular living, but Relentlessly Living.

Living Relentlessly in the face of stress is maintaining a fierce dependency on God.  Recognizing that my issues are mine and that God is not hindered by them.  In reality, my issues and my frailties are where He is longing to come to me.  He expectantly waits for me to realize my need and reach out to Him.  That is where the peace of God is found.  Seeing only Him in the middle of the chaos.

I hope this serves as a help to you if you are facing a stressful time right now.  If you aren’t, then buckle up!  It’s coming!  File this one away for when you need it.  If it has been help, or if you would like to share a similar experience – even if it is about fitting room fears – feel free to share it with me through the comments or e-mail below.  If you know someone this might help, please share it with them as well.

Be Relentless in your life – even in the fitting room!

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Tomorrow I Am Dropping a Load.

d0e3072a5eb59ceacee00b148c090c0cDo you ever get that feeling that you are carrying too much? That feeling like you have a heavy armload of something too important to drop, but you can’t find a place to lay it down? Before long, you can’t even move because of the weight of the load and the fear of dropping it paralyzes you.

You don’t get that feeling? Oh. I guess that it’s just me…

Lately life has had a lot of stuff going on for our little family. The weight has been heavy, and the spots to set things down are few and far between. To complicate matters even more, we seem to pick other things up along the way. Yep. Gluttons for punishment, we are!

Why do we do that? Well, I can’t answer for my family, but I can answer for myself. I think it is based on two things that are very different, but both lead to the same thing – a worn-out Tom! Why yes, I did plan on sharing, so here we go!

FEAR

Of what? Failure. Disappointment. Loss. Hurt. Damaging a relationship. Career suicide. Watching someone else go through pain. Being seen as “not good enough. Take your pick. Some days it is one or two of them. Lately it has felt like all of them at once at least once a week.

What do I do about it? Well, I have tried worry. That hasn’t worked out very well, even though it does seem to be the “go-to” method for most of us. I have found that all it does is make the fear worse. I’ve also tried thinking about other things. Surprisingly, the head in the sand approach will only work until you take your head out to get a breath, and then it all comes crashing back on you again.

HEROISM

What? How can heroism be a bad thing? Well, I think one of the reasons I have been so heavy-laden lately is that deep down, I want to be the guy that can come in and be a hero for someone. I hear of a problem, and I want to step in and take care of it. It sounds noble, but I am coming to understand something. Helping people is not a bad thing, but needing to help people might be.

When I overextend myself by helping people at the expense of my responsibilities, I am not making a wise choice. Instead, I might be robbing someone of a chance to grow and do new things just so I can revel in their adoration of me. (Was that too much?)

So, how do I stop this? What can I do tomorrow to drop a load that I never should have been carrying? How can I just let go and feel that release?

Look at who should own what I am carrying. – Some of the stuff that I carry is not mine to carry! Some of it I should be carrying, but maybe I am carrying more of it than I should. Is it that the other person is not doing their part, or am I just trying to take it onto myself for one of the two reasons above? When I figure out whose load I have, it is time to drop what is not mine and let that person have it back. It might take some apologizing, and grace, but I have got to let it go.

Look at what I am carrying. – Is it even worth carrying? I’m not going to make fun of “preppers”, but I am thinking that a drop in the DOW over oil prices should not make me start putting a bunker in my back yard tomorrow night. Some of the load just needs to be set aside because it is only impacting my life because I have refused to set it down. Bitterness, hurt feelings, concerns about the future. So many things that I cannot impact or influence. Do what I can, but drop the rest of it.

Look at what I might pick up. – Should I take this load on? That e-mail that might have had a snarky tone? The request for something that is simple enough for the person to do for themselves? Is it something that needs to be done? What do I expect to get out of it? Is it an option or an order? The ultimate measure of whether or not it should be done – will it bring God glory?

The last few days have felt quite heavy, but I am in a spot right now to drop the load. I want to live my life in a Relentless way, and that means I can’t carry everything. I just want to have what God wants me to have. He had asked me to take His yoke and pull with Him. If I am keeping my focus on God and what He wants, I will see more clearly what I should take up.

How about you? Are you carrying too much? Are you feeling a load on your shoulders that is slowly pulling you down? Stop. Take an inventory. Give it a hard look and see if you are carrying things that you shouldn’t and let them go. It is easier to fight the battles that come along when you aren’t carrying things you don’t need, and every day is a battle.

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How To Take Down An Elf – My Journey to Unemployment & Relentless Living

KeeblerLast week I shared a story about golf. In it I shared a glimpse into the early days in my last job and a glimpse into my lack of character at that time in my life.  Well, today I want to share one of the hardest days I ever had to go through.  Why?  Because this is the fifth anniversary!  A cause to celebrate!

So, if you want to catch up on the story of how golf nearly took my job, go ahead and click the link above and we will wait for you here.

You’re back?  Good.  Let’s get rolling!

So, at the end of my golf career I had a face to face encounter with a boss’ boss who came to check up on my progress as I was nearly killing myself to dig out of the hole that I had created with my lack of discipline.  He dropped in on a store and went through my shelves to see if the conditions had improved.  I had overhauled that store just the week before and felt every confidence that I would pass the test.  Well, I missed one thing – just one thing.  I looked him in the face and knew what was coming.

To say I was dressed down would be an understatement.  I had a very hard time holding it together as he stood IN THE GROCERY STORE AISLE and yelled and cursed at me.  Eventually I went outside as he followed me screaming at me to turn around.  When we reached my van I did turn around.  That was when things got a little dicey.

The specifics of what I said escape me, but the gist of it was that I would not tolerate that out of him in front of my customers again.  That elicited a response inquiring something like what I thought I would do about it which got an answer that may have included a rearrangement of his teeth or something like that.  Then there was something about how I might need to look for a job which got a reply that we would be doing it together because after a call to Human Resources I was pretty sure he would be doing the same.  What can I say?  I knew how to make friends.

At that point he looked me in the eye and asked if I was serious.  I could not have been more serious in that moment – or scared!  He then asked me if I thought threatening him was a good idea.  I stood my ground and asked if he was more afraid of the punch in the mouth or Human Resources.  He then put his hand out to shake mine and said that we would just move forward.  I shook it.

I sometimes wonder what might have happened if he hadn’t said what he said next.  He was not a nice man, and he did not have a nice smile, but he looked at me and with a large, scary smile said, “That’s quite a grip you have.  If you had wanted to, you probably could have kicked my *___*!  I’ll remember that threat the next time I yell at you!”

Was he joking?  He might have been trying to, but he failed.  I saw and heard nothing but a veiled threat in his face and voice.  I’m older and wiser now, and I don’t think I would respond the same way today as I did back then, but I looked him in the eye and said, “Please don’t think that I threatened you.  I made you a promise.  Here’s another one.  I am going to show you that I have learned my lesson and I will be one of your best salesmen from this point on, but I will never let you talk to me like that in front of my customers again.”  Like I said,  I was good at making friends.

Over the next few years I made good on my promise.  I went above and beyond on my territory and saw consistent growth in my sales volume, profit margins, and customer relationships.  Things were really looking good!  I was given awards and company accolades that brought me opportunities to do meet and greets with some important people.  At one of the meetings that boss’ boss mentioned to me that he was surprised that I was still with the company and I told him that I had made him a promise.

I’m not sure if that reminded him of the OTHER promise I had made, but within a few months my route was changed.  I lost some of my best accounts and my volume dropped like a rock.  I went to work and rebuilt only to have the route changed again and the volume to drop again.  As I built that back it was changed again, adding huge amounts of drive time between stops.  What was going on?

Well, by this time I had a new boss, and when that boss came in, he told me that his boss had told him during his interview that he would give him the job if he would fire me.  It all became clear.  I’d made a promise and I was making good on it, and this drove the boss’ boss crazy.  Before long the route changed yet again to something that was completely unmanageable during my normal 55+ hour week. I was driving over 1,200 miles a week and conditions in my stores began to suffer again as I worked to get as much done as quickly as possible without making my family feel the burden of me being gone even more.

Eventually I was put on probation.  I went home and told Tammi that I was going to beat this, but it was going to be hard.  For the next 90 days I worked 16 hours most days  Monday through Friday, and threw in quite a few Saturdays, too.  The result?  My stores were top notch, I was seeing double digit increases in volume and profit margins.  I did it!  I turned it around again.

April 14, 2010 was a beautiful morning.  I was at the Speedway in Grayling filling my car up before heading to Lewiston and Mio when I got a phone call from my boss asking me to meet him at a restaurant later in the day to go over some things.  I don’t know how I knew it, but I knew it was over.  I called Tammi and told her I was getting fired that afternoon.  She told me that was ridiculous.  I had done everything I had been asked and I had nothing to worry about.  I knew she was wrong, but I told her I loved her and thanked her for believing in me.

After I hung up I had a little battle take place in my head as I debated whether or not I should even bother finishing out the work I had planned to do that day.  Why should I?  What good what it do?  I was ready to pack it in and go home to wait for the appointment and then I heard a voice in my head that said,

“Finish well.”

So, I got back in the car and went out and finished my stores with every bit of the attention I had given them over the last 90 days.  Then I went to my meeting, met my boss, signed some papers, cleaned out my car, put my stuff in a cardboard box, got in a cab and rode home to tell my wife that I was unemployed.

It was a rough night, but rougher nights were yet to come over the next few weeks.  I had a lot of doubts about myself and how I had handled things.  I spent a lot of time crying and praying as I tried to pull things together.  Tammi and the kids were great to me, and I would have been absolutely miserable without their love and support.  Besides my family, there were two other things that I had to hang on to:

1. My belief that I had finished well.  I had risen to every request, and at the end I had gone above what I knew I needed to do.  They didn’t even replace me on the territory.  They chopped it up and gave it to other salesmen and said they just didn’t need me anymore.  I know from talking to one of the guys that covered for me that of all the routes out there, I had the one that was impossible to do anyway.  That was by design.

2. God was ever with me.  I spent so much time talking to Him and leaning on Him.  I saw Him provide through family and friends.  Through this time He showed me the importance of friends as I made my first real and best friend. I saw Him open doors to opportunities to re-discover myself and develop new skills and passions.  I saw His goodness all around me.  It gave me a new perspective.

You see, I was an elf.  I was a darn good one too, but in the end, it wasn’t enough.  The mistakes I had made years ago and had learned from came back in the end, and it was enough to take a good elf down even though I had made the changes and had surpassed the expectations.

But I’m not down.  I realized that I was not an elf.  I had let my job define me.  Through losing that job I was forced into a new life.  A life that would force me to grow in a way that an elf never could.  You see, the elf lived in a hollow tree.  A hollow tree is destined for death anyway.  That’s no place for a Relentless Life to grow.

I now live a life that brings me joy.  Don’t get me wrong, I’m not perfect, and neither are all the aspects of my life!  I work, and I have rough days, but that isn’t where I find joy.  Joy comes from sharing God’s grace with people, engaging them where they are, feeling what they feel, encouraging them through the hard times.  A Relentless Life that is dedicated to Relentless Growth in Christ for myself and for others!

As a boss, now I have a keen awareness of how I can impact the people I work with.  I want to be the kind of boss that lifts people to their potential rather than drives them toward frustration.  I want to promote people to positions that will allow them to reach their potential.  I want to share in their successes and be there to help them in their failures. I want to live a Relentless Life!

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Hands and Heart – Part 2

unnamedI guess when I posted the first part of this blog, most people would have rightly assumed that the second part would come next.  Sorry about that, but as a loyal reader, you are now being rewarded for your patience with me!

For those of you who are on Facebook, you have probably seen a few posts from your friends using the Timehop app.  Timehop is an app that accesses your Facebook and Twitter feeds to bring up the things that you posted on the present day in history.  It is a nice little window into what you may have been thinking about, sharing with others, or in the case of many, the pictures of what you ate.

A couple of days ago my Timehop hit on a post from 5 years ago.  It was a Facebook post where I mentioned a trip I had to take down to Big Rapids to meet with my District Manager and Zone Manager with Kellogg’s.  It was not a good meeting.  In that meeting I was cut apart, had my character questioned, and was told that I was not a good employee.  They had all kinds of papers and charts to show how their numbers proved it, but many of those numbers were twisted and out of context to the point that they were terribly untrue.  The problem was, I was not in the position to make the rules.  I left that meeting on probation.

On my drive home that day I remember battling feelings of depression, anger, doubt, and fear.  I needed this job.  It was a good job, and if I had been allowed to run it the way that my customers were asking me to do things, I could have been very successful at it for them, the company and for myself.  The problem was, I didn’t make the rules, and I was not honest enough with myself to admit that I felt miserable in that job.  By the time I got home I had closed my fist as tightly as possible around the false security of that job though.  I refused to let go.

I went to work with a renewed vigor and did whatever it took to meet the demands that had been placed on me.  They were unrealistic and required me to work as many as 16 hours a day at times.  I decided it was worth it though.  It was something I refused to let go of.  I put myself in a position where I was unwilling to look at anything other than what I wanted, and that was to hold that job.

Over the next several weeks I will probably share some more of how God took me through the process of His opening my hand.  It will be a bittersweet journey for me.  I don’t like to remember the pain, but I do enjoy looking back and seeing how God worked things out and brought me to a better place.

The journey taught me the importance of letting God have access to what is in my hands.  I could close them like a fist and keep things, or I could open them to His purposes and see what He wanted to do.  It sounds easier than it is.  I felt like after God opened my hands through losing that job I was pretty much all set.  When you have had your hands opened up like I did, you are reluctant to hold tight again any time soon.

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The problem was that I didn’t open up all the way.  I had a couple fingers that were still closed.  They couldn’t hold much, but in my heart I was still hanging onto things that I didn’t want God to have.  Some of them were just things I was unwilling to trust Him to handle.  Did I think He couldn’t? No.  I just wanted that feeling of control in an environment where I had almost none.  I had so much taken from me in a short period of time, and I had such a tenuous grip on the rest that I was living in fear.

I was blessed to have a supportive wife who built into me and was also an example for me as we went through that time.  Through her, I saw an openhanded example, and while it took me a lot longer to grasp it, I believe that she was the one that planted that seed.

I also had a mentor and some friends who showed me how they lived an openhanded life, and as I spent more time with them and in my Bible I began to come face to face with the fact that I was still living a selfish life.  I didn’t have as many things to be selfish about, but I was clinging to what I had left!   Funny to think that I was hanging on to things so hard even then.

Over the last year I have learned that the key to joy in the Christian life is in the simple phrase “Thy will be done.”  When I give myself  over to what God wants, open my hands to whatever He deems right to put there, allow Him to remove the things that should be gone, I will be a happier person.  It might be painful at times, but the result has always proven to be better for me.

Relentless Growth is living in the pursuit of a relationship with God. The way to do that is to approach Him with a humble, open spirit, willing to accept what He has for your life.  It is a willingness to ask God to give me the desires of my heart that are in line with what He wants for me.  A willingness to accept what might feel hard for a time in order to receive a blessing over time.

Relentless Living requires open hands and an open heart.  I know I still stumble in this, but I have some great people that help me in it, and God keeps showing me opportunities to grow.

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Hands and Heart – Part 1

The Hand In Your HeartAt the end of my arms are these things called hands.  They are “handy” to say the least. (OK, that was bad, but if you know me, you know I like a good pun, and I really like a bad one!) Hands can be used to do anything from brain surgery to automotive repair to plunging a toilet.  They can wage war, build buildings, and comfort the sick.  Some are big, some small, but all of them have one thing in common – they are servants of the heart and mind and will reflect the attitude of the person that owns them.

I have been thinking a lot about hands lately, and how they can be a reflection of the heart.  I don’t think it is a coincidence that God made the human heart about the size of your hand when closed in a fist.  How we hold our hands can be a picture of the heart.  Take a minute and think about how your heart feels and put your hands in that position.  Are they closed in a fist? Open?  Are they trembling?  Limp? Are they clenched in anger or fear?

10 years ago I would tell you that my heart and hands were pretty hard and closed.  I didn’t really intend it to be that way, but my default was usually a fist.   A fist has its benefits:

  1. I could hold things tightly. – I didn’t want to lose the things that I had.  There were things that I had worked very hard to get, and at time I felt that I was having them taken from me.  That made me very fearful, and I would hang on with all I had to keep those things close.
  2. I could keep things away from me. – Ask anyone in law enforcement, and they will tell you that in some circumstances the way a person stands will tell you what they might be willing to do, and a closed fist is a sign to be very cautious.  I would let people be around me, but I know that I didn’t attract many either.   That “closed fist” aura was around me, and I was fine with that.
  3. I could fight at any time. – It doesn’t take long to make a fist, but I was already set to go.  I was willing to wade into a war at a moment’s notice.  If I felt the threat it was go time.  If I saw a cause I wanted in on, it was time to throw down.  It didn’t need to even be my problem, I was willing to make it my problem.  I wasn’t physically fighting, but my heart was a closed fist and ready to go to defend anything.

Slide3As time went on I began to see that this closed fist mentality also had some real problems too.  I had an opportunity to join a men’s group about 5 years ago, and as a result I learned that I had some changes to make.  Our leader saw some things in me that needed change, and as we reflected on them together, he helped me see some of the negatives of a closed fist way of living:

  1. I was pretty much alone. – Like I said, I did a good job of keeping things and people away from me.  I knew I had people that could hang out with me, but I didn’t really have anyone who knew me well.  I lived a life where I didn’t trust people or want them to get inside a certain level of friendship because it could cost me something.  They might want to get into my hand and take something from me.  I couldn’t let that happen.  It was “better” to be alone.
  2. I had alienated people. – My words, actions, and selfishness had driven some people away from me.  I needed to be heard, understood, and most importantly, I needed to be right.  To that end I would escalate simple differences in opinion to the point of pushing good people out of my life.
  3. I was unable to give. – My hands were so tightly closed around what I perceived to be mine that I was not able to even comprehend what it was like to have a generous heart.  I saw people enjoy giving gifts, or helping others and I just could not understand how they could do that.
  4. I was barely able to receive. – Make a fist and then have someone throw you an apple. Try to catch it with that hand.  I was so clamped down on life that I know I let opportunities pass me by because I was more concerned with what was in my hand than what better things might have been available.

I’m a child of God, and when God has a child that He wants to speak to, He will send gentle reminders from time to time in order to bring them around.  Looking back, I can see a lot of them that He sent my way, but I missed them at the time.  When a person is a closed fist, they tend to miss a lot of things – did you catch the apple?  Eventually, God may decide it is time to put His hands into the process.

When my kids were little, they would sometimes grab things that they were trying to shove into their mouths.  We would tell them to stop and try to take it from them, but they would squeeze their little fist as tightly as they could to hold onto that prized morsel of indeterminate and probably unsanitary nature. We would grab their little hands and pry their fingers apart to take it away.

God’s hands are bigger than mine.  Almost 5 years ago He used His big hands to pull my fist of a heart open.  My heart that was determined to do things my own way needed to be pried open as only God could have done it.  I lost my job, and that was the beginning of the release of a lot of things.  I lost my income, and in a lot of ways, I lost my identity.  I lost some pride, but that was a good thing!

I’m glad I no longer had a fist in my heart.  It was finally open, but I can tell you that it was broken.  I was dislocated in a lot of areas, and that was difficult to get past.  God had broken my closed-fisted heart in order to get me to see what I was and my need for Him to be in control.

Looking back, I am glad He did.  It set me on a journey, and that journey has brought me where I am today.  It led me to an understanding that the call of my life is to be Relentless in my pursuit of what God may have for me.  I can tell you today, that it is becoming clear.  God is making some changes in my life and that of my family as well.  We are very excited to see how things will play out as we continue to see His leading in our lives.  I look forward to telling  you more about it next week!

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My Dog Clyde. What A Wise Dog.

DSC02920This is my dog Clyde.  I got him on November 15, 1994 from the Kalkaska Animal Shelter.  When I got him he was just a cute little guy with a very big stink.  When I got him home and cleaned him up I was very pleased with the little fuzz ball I had before me.  I distinctly remember the conversation I had with Tammi regarding naming him:

Tammi: What are we going to name him?

Me: (Holding him up and looking in his eyes) His name is Clyde.

Tammi: No. That’s not a good name for such a cute puppy!

Me: (Visions of Clint Eastwood and an orangutan riding around in a pickup flashing in my mind, “Right turn, Clyde.”) Yes.  His name is Clyde.  He will grow into his name and it will fit him well, as he will be my buddy.

Not sure if my wife realizes that I named our first pet after an orangutan, but she will soon!  He did grow into the name, and it really did fit him well.  He was a great dog, and in a lot of ways still reminds me of the orangutan.  Loyal, a great companion, a source of dismay and amusement.  He’s been gone for about 8 years now.  A good dog.  One of the best.  So, why am I writing to you about my old yeller dog?  Well, settle in and we’ll get there.

Let’s talk about hope for minute first.  Why do we hope?  What does hope feel like?  Why do we need it?  Is it really that valuable?  I think it is.  We hope because deep down we know our own limitations. We have an innate knowledge that we are not able to do all things.  We come up against challenges and struggles that bring us pain, hold us down, and we don’t know what to do about them, how we are going to get through them or why we are in them.  That is where hope comes in.

Hope gives us that little bit to do one more day.  It tells us we can handle it one more time.  It is that little push in the back of the mind that says, “I’m going to make it.”  So important when you feel you are at the end of your strength, abilities, understanding.  We recently lost an icon in Robin Williams.  At the end of it all, he had no more hope. I am not discounting the reality of depression as an illness.  It really is, and while medication can be used to combat it, at the end of the day the medication allows people to deal with their depression well enough that they can hang on to that all important thing.  Hope. Hope is a very powerful thing, and we need it for life, but we also need it for beyond.

So, back to Clyde.  He was a good dog that spent most of his time around the house, but like any animal that is allowed to run free (we live in a very rural area), he would wander out from time to time to see what he could see.  Sometimes he would come home with a treasure of some sort: a chunk of a dead deer, a dead bird, and unrecognizable piece of dead something, or just an overwhelming stench from the dead something he had found to roll around in.  It never mattered to him.  He had been out experiencing life, and he was happy.

One day, he came home with something different.  He had found a porcupine, and you guessed it, he had a muzzle full of quills.  Not a happy dog.  It was weird that when I first saw him he looked so ashamed of himself.  He was whining and definitely felt miserable.  He came to me, full of pain and his eyes were pleading for help.porcupine_668_600x450

So, we did the only thing you can do.  We went to the garage and got the pliers and I went to work on him.  I don’t remember how may quills we had to pull, but I do remember that near the end, he was losing his patience with the entire operation.  He never bit or growled at me, but he was whining louder and definitely was showing that he wanted to be anywhere but where he was.

What I remember the most though was his eyes.  He just kept looking at me with those big brown eyes.  I am not a person that looks at animals as human beings.  They are not humans.  I don’t believe they are capable of emotions in the way that humans are.  I say that, but at the same time, I can say that in his eyes there was a mixture of fear and pain that was combined with a love, trust, and resignation to the process.  It was like he knew that with every quill I pulled, as painful as it was; he was getting closer to feeling good again. As I talked to him and stroked his head, he trusted me in the process.

I recently finished a devotional series by Oswald Chambers on hope.  In that study he said something that reminded me of this moment with my old yeller dog.  He said,

“Have you ever had to do something to a pet dog in order to get it well, something that hurt it very much – pulled a thorn out of its foot, or washed a wound, or anything of that sort?  If so, you will remember the expression of dumb eloquence in the eyes of the dog as he looked at you; what you were doing hurt him tremendously and yet there seemed to speak from his eyes such a trust of you as if he would say, ‘I don’t in the least understand what you are doing, what you are doings hurts, but go on with it.’”  That is an apt illustration of “suffering according to the will of God.”

Clyde looked at me with eyes that were in pain and not understanding the why of the situation.  He knew he had done something that seemed right, then not so much, but the thing he had done wrong was gone, why was he still hurting?  All he really knew was who to turn to.

I’ve had trials in the last several years, and there have been times I have felt the same way.  Hurt from my actions, from the actions of others, and sometimes hurt that I couldn’t even understand where it was coming from.  I would try to take care of it myself, but that didn’t work, and eventually I would go to the One who could help me. God.

Sometimes those conversations went well, but other times I could not understand what He wanted me to do.  I would whine and I would thrash, but in the end, I knew that what I needed was in Him.  Staying close to Him was my way out.  Only by staying close to Him would I hear His calming words, be reassured by His people, have the sins in my life revealed and forgiven.  It wasn’t as fast as I wanted, but it always brought the result that I needed… HOPE!

The hope that I have as a result of my relationship with Christ is two-fold.

1.  I have a hope for life.

 “I would have despaired had I not believed that I would see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living.” – Psalm 27:13

This is that hope that Clyde demonstrated in me.  This is the hope that we experience from knowing God will be there for us.  We can trust His Word and the promises in it that tell us we will be okay.  This is talking about the struggles we face and how as we stay close to God we will see our perspective of things come closer to His and we can see His hand at work.  Sometimes we see it in hindsight, but He is always faithful to do His work.

2.  I have a hope for eternity.

“For God so loved the world, that He sent His only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life. – John 3:16

We need a hope that takes us past life too.  If all there is in life is what we see, then we are in dire straights indeed.  God sent His Son to help us reach an eternal destination where we can have our relationship with Him be what it was intended to be.  He sent His Son to die for us so we could have that hope.  Real Hope!  A Hope that is Relentless is the life of the Christian.  A Hope that rages against Satan’s lies that will pull us down and make us ineffective or feeling empty.

Do you have that Hope today?  I want that for you.  God wants that for you.  I don’t know how you can go through life without it.  I know you don’t want to go through eternity without it.

Relentless Living is being willing to do the hard thing when it hurts because you have the hope that God is doing something good through the pain.  That He sees farther than you see, and that His methods will work for your good.  Those promises are in His Word, and they are vital to the life of a believer.

If you want to know how to have that hope, I would love to talk to you about it.  There is nothing better than having that hope.

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Relentless Growth -> Grow Deep -> Grow Strong