Psalm 101 for 2017

Note to the reader:  If you have been following this blog, you may have noticed that I am not posting an image here every day here anymore.  I have decided to move daily image posts to my Relentless Growth Facebook page.  You can find that page, like, and follow here.  This page will be reserved for writing moving forward.  Hope to see you in the Facebook world!

wp-1483279541415.jpgOne of the routines I have right now is reading in Psalms every morning before my feet hit the floor.  I don’t do it to be spiritual or to impress anyone.  I do it because I need it!  Since disciplining myself in this way, I find I have a little more grace to extend and a more positive outlook on the hard days as I have a bit of God’s Word rattling around in my mostly empty skull.

Last week I hit on Psalm 101, and after a couple days of looking at it, reading it, and thinking about it, I began to wonder what David’s thoughts were when he wrote it.  I know he was led by the Spirit to write it, but I wonder what the prompt for it was.

Since we were closing in on the end of 2016 and the thoughts of the New Year, goals, plans and dreams were running through my mind, I began to wonder if this was a “New Year’s Resolution” list for David. Is it possible that this was his list of things that he wanted to work on for the upcoming year?

I mentioned in my last post that I would be sharing more about this chapter and how I wanted to use it for myself in 2017.  Stop and think about it.  This is not a bad list!

  1. I will sing of your love and justice, lord.  I will praise you with songs. – I want to praise God more this year. I want to tell people about His love for me and how He has made changes in this life of mine that He has paid for.
  2. I will be careful to live a blameless life—when will you come to help me? I will lead a life of integrity in my own home. – I want to live a life that doesn’t make people wonder if I am a fake Christian, just putting on a show.  I want people to just believe that God is real to me and that I am the same person in the workplace that I am at home or with my friends. I want to be careful to avoid the things that cause doubts.
  3. I will refuse to look at anything vile and vulgar. I hate all who deal crookedly; I will have nothing to do with them. – I want to protect my eyes from things that are evil. I want to be sure that I am engaging in honest actions with people and avoid anything that will pull me into evil thoughts or actions.
  4. I will reject perverse ideas and stay away from every evil. – I want to keep my thought life clean and focused on things that give God glory rather than things that give my flesh power.
  5. I will not tolerate people who slander their neighbors. I will not endure conceit and pride. – I want to not only avoid negative talking about others, but also I want to be a voice that speaks up against that behavior.  I want to both be humble and promote humility in others.
  6. I will search for faithful people to be my companions. Only those who are above reproach will be allowed to serve me.  – I want to surround myself with people I can trust for encouragement, correction, love, and joy.  I want to help people live and work with a strong moral code.
  7. I will not allow deceivers to serve in my house, and liars will not stay in my presence. – I want to bring truth to light in my surroundings. I want to use grace and mercy to uncover the deceptions that are around me and  bring a restoration to the circumstances and people involved.
  8. My daily task will be to ferret out the wicked and free the city of the lord from their grip. – I want to be on the lookout for evil every day.  Evil is not usually a person, but evil actions need to be addressed for what they are and they need to be stopped.  In all things, I want God to be glorified where His people work and live.

seo-checklistI don’t know if this was David’s list for a New Year, but I do see where I can take this list and use it as an outline for how I would like to act this year.  If I can even make a little progress on it in my life, that will be a good thing!  There is nothing wrong with a single step as long as it is in the right direction!

2017 is a fresh start.  I have made my plans for this year, and in total, they are pretty big plans!  I will need to be Relentless this year in order to accomplish them.  I will need to keep a strong Focus on the goals.  I will need to be Resilient as obstacles pop up and try to pull me off track.

What do you think?  Would love to hear from you.  Feel free to comment and share!

Happy New Year!

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2017 – New Year -> New Focus

902016 has been a wild year, and like many people, I am ready to see it go!  I have said in the past that by year’s end, the year just starts to feel like a shirt that needs to be changed. But this year…  Well, this year the shirt is soaked in kerosene and is on fire… and full of angry yellow jackets… It just needs to go away.

I know we are supposed to have the patience and intelligence to look at the moments of life and see the beauty in them, savor the time, and drink deeply of the experience, but there are times that we just want to grab the spiritual equivalent of a pop-tart and a capri-sun and just run somewhere we can hide.  This year has been one of those times.

We all have weathered a number of tragedies this year including deaths of friends, changes in finances, family changes, celebrity deaths, and probably the biggest trial of the year… an election.  Yeah, that one is not completely going away in 2017 either. Sorry. Keep praying!

Through all of it, I have been really trying to keep that word that I chose last year to be my compass as I dealt with all of it – FOCUS.  It has not always been easy, but it did the trick to pull me back a few times when I started to drift a bit and let the moment’s emotional charge take control of my thoughts and actions.  It was not easy, and now that the end of the year has come, I look back at it and say that it was a good word.  A timely word.

So, now it’s time for the word for 2017.  I’ve been giving a lot of thought over the past few days as to what that word might be, and as the feelings of the past year have been going through my mind as well, there is one word that has come to mind:

Resilient: capable of withstanding shock without permanent deformation or rupture; tending to recover from or adjust easily to misfortune or change; able to recoil or spring back into shape after bending, stretching, or being compressed; able to withstand or recover quickly from difficult conditions.

There have been many times over the past 12 months that I have been left feeling battered, bruised, and beaten.  The stresses and the demands of life, relationships, work, learning, and enduring have been tough!  Sometimes I think I barely escaped with my sanity intact! (Some may argue that there was no way I would be able to hang on to that one!)

I had times when my temper got the better of me. Times when I shut down and didn’t want to engage because I just felt too drained. There were times when I know that my energy level was sapped not by physical activity, but by mental and emotional exhaustion.  None of this is healthy, and it has taken me much of the year to figure out where some of it has come from.  A lack of Resilience.

resilienceSo, how do I get built up to be more Resilient?  How do I make sure that at the end of the day I have more of me left than I have day?  How do I make sure that I am able to provide what is needed to those I love or lead?  How do I come back from the hurts and the pains that will inevitably hit me as the year goes by?

  1. Start with the source of Resilience. – I can do all things through Him who strengthens me. – Philippians 4:13  Just ask Him for the power to do things.  He has more than enough!
  2. Stay humble – Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will exalt you. – James 4:10 When you start thinking you can go it alone, you will quickly come face to face with how short your road will be.
  3. Keep the focus on Christ and His kingdom – Looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.  Consider him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted. – Hebrews 12:2-3  As we look at Christ and His life, we see His ability to face challenges because His eye was on doing His Father’s work.  He was working for the kingdom!
  4. No matter what happens, remember God is on your side – Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go. – Joshua 1:9  When God is on your side you will win the war! Just keep fighting!
  5. Pray for Resilience – Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. – Philippians 4:6-7 Prayer is our best weapon when we are attacked and in pain. Crying out to God, sharing our struggle with Him and asking for His sustaining grace is key in bouncing back from a trial.
  6. Be content – I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. – Philippians 4:12  There are things that we need and things that we want.  Look at how God always comes through with your needs and ask Him to help you find His heart with your wants.
  7. Keep moving forward – We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; 9persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed;  – 2 Corinthians 4:8-9  If we stop moving, we start dying.  Have a Relentless attitude that will not settle for giving up.
  8. Give thanks in all situations – Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. – 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18  No matter how bad things may seem, there is someone out there in a worse situation than you are.  Thank God for the blessings you have here on earth, and for His promises beyond this life!
  9. Give God the glory – Though the fig tree should not blossom, nor fruit be on the vines, the produce of the olive fail and the fields yield no food, the flock be cut off from the fold and there be no herd in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the Lord; I will take joy in the God of my salvation. – Habakuk 3:17-18  We do have a part in the outcomes in our lives, but we get where we are going through God’s strength and grace.  We owe Him the glory!
  10. Remember that this is not the end – I believe that I shall look upon the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living!  Wait for the Lord;
    be strong, and let your heart take courage; wait for the Lord! – Psalm 27:13  This verse has been my anchor since April 2010.  God has shown repeatedly that I am on a journey, and I am so thankful I am with Him as I travel!

Trials?  Yep. They’re gonna keep coming.  Troubles? They will be there, and sometimes they will bring their friends Worry, Doubt, and Fear to the party.  It’s gonna happen, but it’s not the end.  We will see the goodness of God in the land of the living.  God will not let us down, and He will provide the strength we need to bounce back when we are drawing on Him.

I want this to be another Relentless year of growth.  I want to take the lessons I learned about being focused (even when I failed in them) and combine it with a Relentless intensity that takes the power God has promised to me in order to have that little extra something at the end of the day to make me a better husband, father, and friend.  While it would be nice to somehow avoid the hard times, I don’t want them to keep me captive and in a funk.

At the end of the day I want to stand up and say that I am blessed by God to stand in His strength because I never trusted my own.  I want that for you too!

So, how about it?  What does the next year look like for you?  what is your word?  What is your focus for growth?  Where do you see yourself as we approach 2018?  There is a lot of time between now and then to get moving in the right direction!  So, go get after it!

Would love to hear your thoughts and comments, and as always, I appreciate the shares and follows.  Thanks for reading!

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Just Give The Old Guy A Chance To Talk

jco_richard-petty-motorsports43_1043.  I am 43.  Today I am 43 years old.  The geek in me wants to say that I am over 43 due to the leap year factor, but for sake of argument, we will just simplify this and say that today is the day.  Ready to start a new year with some new perspective.

The past year has brought a lot of change with it.  A year ago I was not the father of a college student.  I was seeing more transition in my job duties.  My son wasn’t sporting a beard.  Areas of life had less stress.  Areas of life had more stress!  People have come into and gone out of my life.  Relationships have grown stronger.  My thoughts have become heavier.  Then, to top it off, as I posted last week, I now have diabetes to consider.

Much has changed, and that is a good thing.  Change is a necessary part of life, and it is an integral part of a Relentless Life.  Without change, things grow stagnant, sour, weak, and irrelevant.  I don’t want that.  There are still things to do, things to see, things to experience and share.

I’ve been thinking a lot more lately about my life.  Specifically, about how my actions affect the future for myself and others.  Obviously I am experiencing some of what my passion for food has done to my body, and how I must make change in order to correct as much of that as I can, but there have been other actions that are having affects on me and those around me as well. Some of them need to be changed in some way or another if there is to be growth.  The FOCUS needs to shift if there is going to be growth.

Whether you are interested in them or not, here are some of my thoughts on things I would like to have a better grip on before I hit the “double 4”.

My Family – Things are changing in our home as our daughter leaves for college in the fall and our son is going to finish high school and has entered the work force before he leaves for college next year.  Tammi and I are going to be spending more time as we started – just the two of us.  There are going to be new ways I will need to adapt to the needs of my family in these new circumstances.  I want them to see that I love and care for them not in the way that is convenient for me, but in the way that they need it.

My Health – As of today I am down 32.5 pounds with a goal of another 34.5.  My blood pressure is dropping with the weight, and I am hoping to get off that medication by next year.  Praying to see the blood sugar straighten out with the changes in diet as well.  So odd that in the middle of feeling so good and healthy from losing weight I find I have a whole different problem, but like I said here, I think it is more of a spiritual issue than a a health issue.

My Friendships – The last year or so has bought me into closer relationships with a group of good and godly men.  I want to work harder at making those friendships grow deeper and stronger.  There are things I had done that I need to get back to doing, and there are thing I need to start doing that I never have done!  A good friend is not something to be ignored.

My Work – God has put a task before me, and I want to honor Him in that.  There is an aspect of worship to God in my work that I cannot ignore.  I need to remember that I am always serving Him in the things that I do, and hopefully that will make the rough times better.  I also will be more intentional about how I can provide for my family outside of my main job.

My Faith – Over the last year I have been more intentional about my time with God, and I don’t want that to change.  I need that time with Him to keep my heart right and my head clear.  The time I spend in God’s Word gives me purpose and courage to take hard steps in all aspects of life.  God gets the glory for what He is doing, and I get the joy of being able to have a front row seat in His plan.

grumpy-old-man-list-card-19I get a lot of ribbing from a buddy of mine about being old.  That’s OK.  I’m finally at an age where I am starting to see how my decisions can play out. I have enough life experience that before I do a stupid thing I get that feeling that I have been here before! Sometimes it even stops me from doing it!!!  I guess that is the benefit of age though, and I hope my mistakes, experiences, and thoughts are a help to someone else.

What are you going to do with your next trip around the sun?  Be Relentless in it.  Feel free to share this post and I would be happy to hear your comments either below or e-mail at myrelentlessgrowth@gmail.com!

 

 

Just Breathe…

img_20160218_110849.jpgAnyone following my Instagram feed will see that I am not at home right now.  Tammi and I are in Florida for the remainder of this week and all of next to see some of our good friends and for me to do some training for my job.  I know, suffering in Florida in the month of February is not going to garner a lot of happy feelings from those back home where I hear it was -11 degrees last night.  I’d feel bad for them, but can’t hear their cries of woe over the sound of the crashing surf.  Wow, I am a snot today!

This morning I sat outside having my quiet time (in my shorts and t-shirt with no socks or shoes with the 70 degree sun on my back) and enjoyed reading about the freedom I have in Christ.  It got me thinking about the feeling of bondage I have been living in a lot lately.

God has been doing some work in my heart regarding working with stress and identifying the source of the stress in order to deal with the problem rather than just coping with the symptoms.  The problem I have is that too often the problem is me!  I have been doing better, but this trip is giving me an opportunity to regroup a little bit and do something I don’t usually take the time to do…

Just Breathe

img_20160218_075104.jpgYeah.  That’s a big thing for me.  I know I need it, but I don’t make a priority to do it.  I find myself being so busy sometimes that when I let just one or two things go I get a false feeling of relief.  A false feeling because I am just less busy instead of really busy.

David tells us what we need to know in Psalm 46:10a:

 

“Be still and know that I am God”

The thing about being still is that you have to be still.  David doesn’t say, “Be less still” or “Be mildly interested”, he says to “Be still.”  Well, when you are still, and I mean really still, you maybe surprised at what you might hear.

This morning, Tammi and I sat out at that table (in the sun, in our shorts and t-shirts) and I told her that I was so FOCUSed on enjoying this time that we are away and FOCUSing on being intentionally relaxed.  I have nothing on my schedule until 9am on Monday, and I intend to be relaxed in every moment.  I want to take the time to just breathe and enjoy myself and my time with her.

Not to make the rubbing any worse, but this afternoon we went to the beach for a couple hours and just sat there listening to the wind and the surf.  I tipped back in my chair, closed my eyes and just let the smell of the ocean and the sound of the waves wash over me.  I just listened and relaxed as the sun warmed my face.

img_20160218_155704.jpgBefore long I realized that I was fully involved in prayer.  It was a reflexive prayer that was happening before I even knew I was doing it.  The prayer was not born out of a desire to speak to God, but from a moment of complete peace. Peace brought me into His presence. In that moment when I put my FOCUS on relaxing I see now that God had every intention of pulling my FOCUS toward a conversation with Him.

End result?  I had a very good day.  Even though I set out for nothing more than relaxation, I had a day where I experienced a step in Relentless Growth.  They sneak up on you when you take the time to just breathe and be still.

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I Got Robbed

cat_burglar_by_croonstreet-d3ce6mqHad a sad moment today when I realized that I had been a victim of petty theft.  Somebody had taken it upon themselves to get into my desk and remove a couple of items of mine.  They were not big things, but they were my things.  It saddened me, and it made me angry.  Why?  What gives them the right to take what was not theirs?

A few hours have gone by now since I realized my things were no longer mine.  I’ve calmed down, and things are coming into FOCUS.  My anger has faded, and I am now thinking about this in a bigger picture.  Am I better than this person?  Honestly, no.  I have nicked a thing or two in my lifetime, and I’m sure I made someone else feel the same way I felt today.  I’m not going to call that karma because I don’t believe in karma.  It’s a depraved world – nothing more, nothing less.

The thing for me to FOCUS on today is not that I was robbed, but what my response was.  I was angry – VERY angry about something that really wasn’t that big of a deal.  It wasn’t the items that were taken as much as it was that someone had dared to take from ME!  It was MINE!  I wanted justice! Uh-Oh…

You see, when I want justice, I am putting myself in a spot where I am asking to be put under a microscope myself.  I am climbing up onto a throne of judgement and I am going to let the hammer fall on someone.  That might feel good, but is that the way to show grace?  No. I want to be right in that moment, and I want justice for wrongs done against me, but in reality, the wrong was not against me, and I have no rights in it.

Once I had a chance to think about it, I realized that God must often feel the same way about me.  He bought me with His Son’s blood, and now I belong to Him.  My body and soul are no longer mine to control, but sometimes I steal control of my life.  It’s not long term, and you could “rationalize” it and say I was only borrowing it, but the truth is, I steal control because I want it.

God has the right as a holy God to punish me, or even end me, but He responds to me with Grace.  I might have to suffer some consequences, but He lets me have grace and forgives me, restores, me and grows me.  His example of grace and mercy are provided for me so I know how to live and interact with those who are around me.

So, RELENTLESS LIVING demands that I shift that FOCUS off myself and put it on God.  The thing to do is to FOCUS on the lesson that God has for me in this moment.  Something temporal may have been taken form me, but in the midst of that, He also provides an opportunity for me to experience some eternal growth.  In the end, that is a definite positive on the balance sheet.

I’m not sure if the person will step forward or try to return my things.  All I know is that I’m thankful for a God that cares about me enough to talk to me and show me where I can grow even in something like this.

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New Year, Fresh Fail…

failSo, a couple weeks ago I sat down and wrote a blog mentioning some goals I have for myself this year.  Now that we are 11 days in, I thought it was time to give a report:

So far, this year is a fail.  Let me tell you why.

  1. Writing at least 5 times per week? – Try this is the first time since January 1.  Doing the math on that I am only about, well, 10 days behind.  Need to work on that.
  2. Reading my Bible every day? – Well, better on this one.  There has been at least a few minute look into it every day, but I have not been the scholar that I have set out to be this year thus far.
  3. My health? – Well, we all get that holiday bulge, right?  I haven’t gained a lot, but I need to get that focus back if I am going to make positive change with a declining poundage!
  4. Me as an employee? – Depends in what you are looking at.  I have been VERY busy, but it has all been in handling the urgent things that have been coming up.  Most of the important work I feel I need to get done has been pushed aside.  I’m busy, and people are happy, but this is building in the background…

So, yeah. Not where I wanted to see myself 11 days into the year.  The thing to remember is that I have 355 days left in 2016 to turn it around! (Thank you, Leap Year!) There is no reason to let it get me down.  It’s just a reminder to keep the focus where it belongs.

Where does it belong though?  If I’m just focusing on these things, it will get very easy to be busy doing these good things, but in the end I could miss out on the best thing – seeing God at work in them.

The Bible is so great in how it tells us where we need to keep our focus in the midst of the hustle and bustle of life.  Solomon tells us about amazing, wonderful things that he was able to experience, and in the end it was like chasing the wind.  The Proverbs repeat over an over how important it is to keep a wise focus in our actions.  David tells us in the Psalms that in the middle of war, turmoil and family squabbles, all He really needed was God in His life.  Paul tells us that he doesn’t want to live his life in a way that is like just batting at the air.

All the things that we get busy with are not bad things unless they are pulling our focus from God.  Yesterday our Pastor talked about the importance of abiding in God.  Abiding in Him is what we are called to do.  The thing is, we get hung up on all the stuff that we are doing that are good things that will bear fruit, but the truth is that NOTHING WE DO will ever bear fruit.  That comes from God. He is the vine that brings life to the branch and in the life is the fruit.  Apart from Him we can never bear fruit.

We can live busy lives, but if we are not RELENTLESS about living in a way that keeps our focus on Him in our business, we are wasting time, energy, and maybe even our witness. Ouch.  None of us wan that, so what can you do?

Take time at the end of the day today and think about the things that kept you busy.  Ask yourself if God ever came to mind in those moments.  If He didn’t, maybe it would be a good thing to ask Him for a bit of forgiveness for shutting Him out or at the very least ignoring Him.  Then, take note of those moments and make a commitment to take control of that moment the next time and give it to Him.  Ask Him in that moment what He is trying to teach, what the eternal value of the action is, how your action or attitude might be modified to bring glory to Him in it.  Maybe you just need to ask if you should be doing it at all!

The new year is always going to bring fresh fails, but a RELENTLESS year is going to take those failures and use them to grow closer to God.  Even in the crazy times!

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Running Scared

This past weekend, we were at the Michigan 4-H Dog Show at the MSU Pavilion in East Lansing.  If you are not familiar with the Pavilion, it is the agriculture and livestock arena at MSU.  While I am a Wolverine fan, I do enjoy my trips to the Pavilion, and that is probably because I don’t see a whole lot of football stuff there!  Sorry, but I love the Big House!  Anyway, back to the story.

1526980_10202671943578215_1812938245_nJessica’s Aussie, Sydney, is a wonderful dog.  I have never seen a dog before that showed as much intelligence as she does.  When you look into her eyes, you are almost positive that she understands you.  We have taken to spelling things in our house because she knows what words mean and gets all excited when we don’t want her to be excited!  Unfortunately, she has now been showing signs that she understand the spelling as well!  There are times that we all find ourselves talking to her.  I don’t mean talking to her like you would a regular dog, but a real, conversational talking!  When I catch myself in that, there are times that I am almost surprised that she does not answer me.  Who knows?  She is still young…

If there was one thing I would change about this dog, it would be her fear.  Sydney is terrified of thunder.  A rumble in the sky and she is immediately shaking and panting.  She will go and hide in the basement, under a bed, anywhere where she can feel like she has put something between her and the sky.  We try to get her to come to us so we can console her, but nothing works.  She is consumed by her fear.

When we arrived at the Pavilion Saturday, Sydney was fine.  She trotted up to the building as if she was the queen of the world, ready for the show.  That all changed when we got inside.  The Pavilion has huge exhaust fans in the ceiling that rumble.  There are very loud speakers that are constantly going off as people give information overhead.  Often those people would tap the microphone, and those taps were loud booms through the building.  Within 5 minutes, Sydney was reduced to a quivering, panting mess with nowhere to hide.  To make matters worse, she had to go out and perform.

Jessica was discouraged and torn.  Here she was, ready for the show, and full of confidence in her dog’s ability to do well, but she was conflicted seeing her baby so riddled with fear.  I could tell that she wanted to stay and go home with almost equal measure.  We spoke to her and tried to encourage her, but I know that she still felt miserable because her dog was miserable.scooby-running-scared

The competition began, and in the first event, while Sydney did well, all things considered. She did not place in the event, and it is an event that she almost always does flawlessly.  She was just too scared to listen to Jessica.  Too scared to do what she knew how to do.  Too scared to just listen to her master’s encouragement and love.  Too scared to anything.

Watching her, I could only think of myself in some of the situations I have faced.  The fears of life begin to weigh on me.  I feel the rumbling thunder of the coming storm and I begin to worry.  I see the flash of lightning, and I just want to hide.  The darkening skies make me knees go weak. I can’t do this!  I run in circles. I’m inconsolable.  I pant and whine.  I hear nothing but the perceived threats around me.  God, where are YOU?

As our day wore on, Sydney began to calm a bit.  She never really relaxed, but as Jessica worked with her and spoke to her and calmed her, you could see that she eventually began to come around.  By the end of the day, she was still a little shaky, but she was doing a very good job in her events, and overall had her best show ever at MSU.  We were proud of both of them.  What made the difference? Jessica.  She never left Sydney.  Sydney’s surroundings never changed, just her focus.  As the day went on she shifted her focus back to Jessica, and she did well.

When the skies are dark, the thunder is rolling, and I can’t see or hear God – HE IS STILL THERE!  He never leaves me.  He is there to give me instruction, to calm me, to encourage me, to show me His love for me.  He is there to direct me and help me accomplish the task He has for me.  My circumstances may never change, but when I shift my focus to Him, the rest fades.  It is still there, but I am so caught up in Him that the rest of it pales and seems manageable again.  It might not be comfortable, but His love compels me to keep going.

Lately I have been faced with some very hard times, and last week they came in a crushing wave that caught up with me hard.  I was not aware how loud the storm had gotten until it had overwhelmed me.  I felt empty, worn, and torn.  I was getting good counsel, reading my Bible, and spending time in prayer.  I was looking so many places for help that I couldn’t hear His voice.  It finally came to me, and it was quiet when it did.  It came out of left field where I did not expect it.  It grabbed my heart and completely wrapped it up in His love and tenderness for me.  Sometime I will write about how He did that, but this is not the time.

I am thankful for a God that never leaves.  He is committed to His work in my life, and He will not give up on me until it is accomplished no matter if I am paying attention to Him or not!  If God is that Relentless in His pursuit of my heart, why am I not on the edge of my seat and eyes on Him at all times?  Too much of me gets in the way.

I want to be Relentless in all aspects of my life and in my relationship with God.  I learned some things this past week.  Being Relentless means I can’t just sit and chew on that.  Relentless Growth requires me to act, to take steps, to move into that next step of maturity in Him.  I’ll mess up again, but I hope that the next time I do I will recognize it earlier.  I  hope that I will not allow my eyes to drift from Him for too long.  I hope that my ears will stay tuned to His still, small voice that leads, comforts, and encourages my soul.

Sydney was running scared in all directions.  When I am scared, I want to run to my God.  My Protector. My Savior, Father, & King!

Relentless Growth -> Grow Deep -> Grow Strong

Two Steps Forward…

flat,550x550,075,f“The godly offer good counsel; they know what is right from wrong.  They fill their hearts with God’s law so they will never slip from His path.”

Psalm 37:30-31 NLT

 Over in Empire on the Lake Michigan shore, there is this little hill that runs down to the lake.  I say little, but it is stinking huge!  I have climbed it twice in my life, and I can tell you right now that the last time I did it was just that – the last time.  It was the most difficult day at the beach I have ever had.

All the way up that hill you are sliding.  It is the literal equivalent of two steps forward and one step back.  The sand just will not support 100% of your forward movement, and you keep sliding backward.  At first it isn’t so bad, but after your first 30 minutes of climb, it starts to get a little tedious.  By the fourth 30 minutes of climb it is downright discouraging!

As you struggle up the dune, your eyes tend to focus at your feet.  This gives a very good view of what seems to be the futility of the effort.  You see that spot where your foot goes into the sand and how far it slips.  That is tough!

Other than the fact that you don’t want to die on that hill – and it feels like you will at some point – you need an encouragement to get you to the top.  That is when you need to look in a different direction.  Two of them. (Not at the same time unless you can do that weird thing with your eyes)

Look up and see the top of the hill.  You are closer than you were a few minutes ago.  Progress is being made!  It still might feel like you will never get there, but you are still moving forward. Look back and see how far you have come.  At first that will feel like nothing, but after some time, it starts to give you a lift to see how far you have gone.

I see the Christian walk as being quite similar.  I have a goal, and that is to be like Christ.  That, my friends, is a steep goal!  I have to look at it honestly and admit that while I will never be as good as Him, the more I climb, the closer I get to Him, and that is what I want.  Looking to Christ and fixing my eyes on His example gives me the desire to keep going.

If I take my eyes off Him and focus on my struggle I get discouraged.  If I allow that discouragement to build I might not even be encouraged by looking to Him anymore.  It’s too much. It’s too hard.  I’ll never make it and the struggle is not worth it.  That is when I need to look back and see how far He has brought me.  I could still be wallowing at the bottom, but by following Him, I am not what I used to be.  I’m somewhere in the middle.  Not where I want to be, but not farther away from where I don’t want to be.

I have been reading the Psalms lately, and I have been finding a lot of encouragement from the prayers of David.  I see a relentless man, committed to knowing God better through prayer.  Whether David is enjoying a good season of life or a hard time, he is always reaching out to God.  He sees the importance of the balance of looking ahead to the goal, looking down at his current state, and looking back at how far God has carried him. I think that is a defining factor in the relentless life.

As I struggle with life I must not yield to the circumstances I find myself in.  Good or bad, those circumstances can pull me from God.  If they are too good, I lose sight of my need for Him.  I gain too much pride in my own abilities.  I can get side tracked and feel like I am still moving forward, but I am not following God any more.  If things get bad I can turn inward and feel like God isn’t there at all, He left me and now I am on my own to struggle.  I might as well give up.

Only through communication with God will I stay on the path.  My feet will still slip because I will lose sight of Him from time to time, but if I am relentless in my journey, I will keep moving forward.  I will not veer off the path.

A relentless life for God.  That is my desire.  I want to grow in His grace and reach out to others to show them what He can do for them as well.  Through all of it I want to give God the glory.

How about you?  Are you finding yourself on the side of a dune?  Slipping and sliding and feeling like there is nothing that you can do?  We all do at times.  I hope this has been an encouragement to someone out there.  If so, I would love to hear from you!

In HIS Grip,

Tom