Halfway to 88? Happy B-Day to Me!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

365 days to be 44.  Let’s do this!

A Kick in the Pants

Today I read a great blog post by a friend of mine named Danny Ray.  He is a loving husband and dad, a good friend to many, an award-winning, amazing magician, an inspiring speaker, and most important, a brother in Christ.  You can see more about Danny Ray and his ministry here at his website, and you can read the blog post here.

In reading his post today, he gives tribute to one of my closest friends, Joe Castaneda of Overboard Ministries for the blog posts that he writes.  He tells how a series of posts Joe had written were impacting people Joe didn’t even know about.  I won’t steal the story. I want you to go read it, and I want you to check out Joe’s blog here.

At the end of the article I got thinking about my little posts I put up.  I get all of the tracking data that says I have a loyal readership that amounts to grand numbers daily. (I am currently averaging an entire 3 people per day this month!)  I also have a Facebook Page where I post a daily verse, image, and thought that gets a few more hits, but still has modest numbers averaging into the double digits consistently. (Yes, as a result I often go out in sunglasses with a hat pulled low to keep the paparazzi at bay.)

I admit I sometimes fall prey to the pride that pulls at me in wishing that I was reaching more people.  Why aren’t more people reading?  I do work on these things!  Am I wasting my time?  What am I doing wrong?

I’m not saying I am perfect, but maybe I’m not doing anything wrong.  Maybe I am just sometimes not doing it for the right reason. The purpose of writing for me is not to gain a huge following.  I just want to share what God is doing in my life and hopefully inspire someone out there to get more interested in making God a bigger part of their lives too!  It’s not about me.  It’s about God.

I’m currently reading  great book by Paul Tripp called The Quest for More. In it, Paul talks about how we miss out on the MORE of serving God and His kingdom when we are focused on building up our own reputation.  He tells it a lot better than I do, but that is it in a nutshell. (Still, go get and read the book.  You won’t be disappointed!)

I have not been writing much here lately. I admit that a big reason has been that I have felt nobody is interested and it isn’t worth my time.  Read Danny’s post and you will see why that is exactly the wrong thing I should be thinking.  I am purposing to get more regular in posting here.  I might not write long posts, but just a thought a couple times a week would be something.

Thanks, Danny, for the kick in the pants.  I want to be Relentless in my pursuit of God and His kingdom.  I want people to be directed to Him through any means necessary, and if I get to play a part in it, that is all for God’s glory.  Thanks for being a “drive-by accountability partner” today.  You had words I needed to hear.

I owe you a $1 next time I see you!

The Gift

wp-1482595236595.jpgI was sitting in my living room this morning, enjoying the peaceful sounds of a home not yet awake.  I looked over at our Christmas tree in the corner of the room.  It is covered with lights and ornaments that were made by our kids over the years, or were purchased as souvenirs while we were on vacation in different places.  Underneath the tree are the presents.  They are all wrapped up, names attached, and ready for Christmas Day festivities.

The rest of the house has been decorated as well.  Christmas is my wife’s favorite time of the year, and she goes all out in the decorating and the preparation.  As I write, she will soon be getting started on what will likely be a day of baking goodies to share with family and friends.  She loves to do that kind of thing.  A great hostess, a great baker, and an all around sweet lady

wp-1482595126219.jpgThe kids are happy to be together as my daughter is home from college. Wow.  That is a sentence I have never written out before.  Hard to believe how fast this time came!  Anyway, those two are such good friends, and we have enjoyed listening to them catch up and laugh together.  It blesses our hearts to see the friendship they have, and we are confident that it will stand as they step into adulthood.
This is my second day off for this vacation at the end of the year that will extend into next.  I’m very thankful to have a boss that values my efforts and allows me these opportunities.  I won’t be completely shut out from work and will probably handle some things while off, but I have the ability to be with my family rather than spend my day in the building.  That is a gift that has not lost its shine over the last 6
years.

wp-1482595329988.jpgThis morning I have a hot cup of coffee beside me, a furnace that is rumbling away, and slippers on my feet.  I have my family under my roof, and a roof that keeps the outside out.  I have food in my cupboards, and clothes on my back.  I have friends who mean the world to me, and I am a healthier man than I was a year ago.

All in all, I would say I have been given many great gifts.  Some of the gifts I have are tangible or visible, but others are feelings. While I can’t always bring all of it to mind, I have a contentment and an understanding that I have been given much in this world.  There are so many things I have that others do not. Family, friends, food, shelter, clothes, a job, children, and the ever present “stuff” that fills closets, drawers, and cubbies.  All of that is around me, but there is something more.

“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.” – John 3:16-17

wp-1482595236596.jpgA little over 2,000 years ago, a child was born in a tiny little town in Israel.  There was no fanfare.  No parades.  No posts, tweets, snaps, or “stories”.  Just a man and his wife, maybe a few animals, and eventually some shepherds were there to witness the night that God came to earth as a baby in the body of Jesus.  Jesus Christ, the one who would bring salvation as a gift to all mankind.

Salvation through faith in Jesus Christ is the greatest gift ever given.  With it comes a relationship with God and adoption into His family.  We receive the Holy Spirit as a guide and helper for the decisions we must make in life. We receive Christ as an example of how we should live and act with others.  We receive eternal life and a home in the presence of God for all eternity.  What an amazing gift!

The gifts under our tree were purchased with care and thought of the one’s that will receive them. The giver is waiting expectantly to see the receiver open that gift so they can see the joy that they felt when they purchased it.  When you love someone and do something for them, you can’t wait for them to experience it.

That is how God feels every day.  He has given us the greatest of gifts.  It fits right, is the right color, and it will never wear out.  It is even better than a 5 star rating on Amazon with free shipping!  God knows that this is the perfect gift for all of us and He is dying to see us open it and claim it as our own.  He wants to see us use that gift for living our lives and He wants us to share the goodness of that gift with everyone we come across.

wp-1482595126223.jpgI am happy to have the gift, and I am happy to share that He has made great changes in my life.  It’s not a perfect life, but it is a Relentless Life, devoted to knowing Him better.  There is nothing that would make me happier than knowing that anyone around me is experiencing that as well.

Merry CHRISTmas, everyone!  Accept the gift. Use the gift. Share the gift.

As always, I welcome you to share, comment and ask questions.  Thanks to those who follow and like.  I appreciate the time you take to go through life with me!

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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!

 

 

The Next Chapter Of Life Will Not Be As Sweet

sweets_2623400kLast October I had one of those moments that take your breath away. I wish I could say it was from looking at a beautiful sunset, a display of human compassion, or even the peace of watching the horses in the pasture. It wasn’t. For me, it was a flight of stairs. 10 steps and I was sucking wind like a jet engine.  I was 42 years old and stairs had become the thing I dreaded most. Whether it was the knee that gave constant pain, or the knowledge that I would not be able to talk at the top of the stairs, I had begun to avoid them at all cost.

The next morning after a shower and with  a smile I stepped gingerly on the scale (It is a glass scale, so you will understand my caution in a moment.) to see my situation. I was at the heaviest I have been in my life. Just 3 pounds short of 300. I remember the sense of dread that hit me when I realized I was about to cross over into a world where my weight began with a three. That had not happened since I was 2 years old, and something needed to change. Immediately.

I went to work on it, and started changing my diet. Not huge changes, just being a little more aware of how often I would go back for seconds (or thirds) and not allowing that. I also started eating a salad a day or two a week, and set a hard rule about eating after 9pm. Again, not huge changes, but I was huge, so any change was good!

Results started quickly with me and the first ten pounds were gone in a month or so.  The holidays came next and I got through them with only picking up a couple pounds.  After that I started to average about a pound a week with the occasional stall, but the stall never bothered me as long as it didn’t turn into an upward trend. The stall would result in another little change, and then weight would start to move again. It was going well.

Last Thursday I went in for my annual physical and was actually excited. I had lost 25 pounds and was lighter than I had been in almost 4 years, and felt better than I had in at least that long. The Doc was pleased and we actually did a “high 5” at one point. (If you know my doctor, you would be surprised!) As I was getting ready to leave we briefly discussed the lab work I was about to have done, and how the results of those tests (cholesterol) couldn’t take away from the fact that I had done a good thing and I felt healthier as a result. We left the room with smiles on our faces.

That evening I was at a birthday party for my father-in-law when I got an e-mail to check my patient portal for my test results.  The cholesterol was not bad, but I got a shock I had not been expecting.  There were some bold lines of type with results on my blood sugar and a note from my doctor in all caps telling me I had diabetes and I needed to see him ASAP.  (That sound you heard was the sound of my good feelings being crushed.)

I am a diabetic.

To say that night was a hard night would be an understatement.  I understand now why they offer counseling groups for people who are getting news like this.  It rocked me all the way back on my heels.  I was doing a good job!  I had been losing weight and getting healthier.  Why?  What on earth is going on here?

That night as I lay in bed trying to wrap my head around this while clinging to the encouragement of my wife, I came to the conclusion that there is a reason for this.  God has allowed this into my life for a purpose, and I needed to figure out what it was.  God was good in that He didn’t make me take a long time to do it.  It was pretty obvious to me.

I love to eat.  I don’t just like food.  I love food.  I will sit and think about food I will eat in two hours, for supper tonight, for supper next week!  I will plan how to make sure I get to have the maximum amount of food when it is available even if it means short-changing someone else.  I have shared this sinful pattern before on this blog, but I have not really gotten control of it.  Food has continued to rule my life, and now something is going to need to change.

Things come into our lives for  reason.  Sometimes we get to experience really good things that cause us no pain while giving us the simple pleasure of feeling the love of God.  Sometimes God allows hard things to come into our lives in order to teach us something or to make us realize that we need to stop something or make a better choice.  No matter what is going on in your life, it is there in order for you to look at it and see where God is speaking to you in that moment.

Lying there in bed, I realized that God had allowed this to happen in order to teach me that food is a god that will leave me wanting.  In every way it is temporary, and when fully in control, it is damaging.  It is a substandard god.  It is an unworthy god.  It is a bad god. It was a god that THE God decided I needed to see in a different light.  The next morning I told Tammi that it was like God had just walked in and kicked food off the throne in my heart and said that it had been in His seat for far too long.  It was time for me to learn how good it is to have Him on the throne instead.

The last few days have been a little rough at times.  I’m on a new diet now that has me on a pretty tight leash.  I’m checking my sugar, taking my medicine, and looking at my food in a different way.  I have been very careful, and I have the support of my amazing wife and kids and some good friends and family praying for me as I walk this new path.  It’s a new chapter of my life, and while in some ways it will not be as sweet as it used to be, in others it is already tasting so good!

IMG_20160506_181517I’m still losing weight.  This is a picture of me last summer on our Wyoming vacation where I had not yet hit my peak weight along with me today being down 30 pounds.  I am committed to losing more while controlling my sugar in order to reach a healthy weight.  I’m not sure if God is going to allow me to get off the medication, but right now I believe that is a goal He has allowed in my heart, and I intend to follow it with Relentless determination.

The sugar levels are already moving in the right direction, and my prayer is that when I go to see my doctor in a month, he will tell me that I am on the right track.  It will be three months before I can get my A1C checked again to see just how much movement I have had.  I’m placing that in God’s hands.  He is writing this chapter of my life, and I am open to His direction.  My prayer is first of all to honor Him in this process.  He has placed me here for at least one reason I have already mentioned, but I believe that is going to lead to even more.

I would appreciate your prayers, and I will share my journey with anyone who wants to read or ask questions.  Please keep my wife and family in your prayers as well.  This is something we are all experiencing, not just me.  I am blessed with a family that loves me and is supporting me as we do this together, but I want to show them love and encouragement as well.

Thanks for reading, and as always, feel free to share this with anyone you know who might be encouraged by it.

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Peer Pressure Takes You Into Deeper Water

6eb331d6f9d0cd92b16c97d232202e10a558612a7c73382d025a538efc98e2a8_1Just wanted to share a quick thought from my Bible Study this morning.  Reading about the events leading up to the crucifixion of Christ I read the passage where Pilate has Christ standing before him and he is caught between what he believes to be the right thing to do and the will of the people.

“From then on Pilate sought to release Him, but the Jews cried out, “If you release this man, you are not Caesar’s friend.  Everyone who makes himself a king opposes Caesar.” – John 19:12

The devotional goes on to tell a story of a mother who sits her son down to give him some advice:

“If you are running with the wrong crowd, then you are the wrong crowd. Don’t expect to stay out of trouble if you are putting yourself in places where trouble can be found.”

Pilate was a man with power, but it was limited power.  He had attained a position that brought benefits as long as he kept Caesar happy, but part of keeping Caesar happy required that he keep the Jews happy-ish.  There was an inherent struggle there that made that aspect of the job quite difficult, and then Jesus enters the scene and brings all kinds of upheaval to the Jewish leaders.

All the people following Jesus caused the Jewish leaders to feel threatened which made them start looking for a way to take Jesus down.  They were stuck, so they used the only real tool they had – Pilate and the Roman Empire.  As we know, eventually Pilate caves in and order Jesus to be crucified.

Pilate is the perfect example of a guy who knew the right thing to do, but let the external influences dictate his decision.  He was a smart guy, able to see exactly what was happening, but he feared for his standing in the eyes of Caesar and the Jewish people.  He caved in.

I’m not looking down on him for that though.  Not my position to judge, and who knows what I might have done in the same situation?  What I am saying is that in looking at him I can see a warning against the damaging effects of peer pressure.  It can take you to a place where you KNOW you are doing the wrong thing just because of the pressure from those around you.

If I want to have a Relentless Life, I need to make sure that when I am in a tough spot, I take the time to:

  1. Pray – I need wisdom, strength, and protection to make a good choice
  2. Remember – What does God say about the situation?  What guidelines are in the Word to help me make a right choice?
  3. Pray again – For the words to say that will rightly articulate my decision to do the right thing without bringing pain to the situation.
  4. Speak/Act – Do what needs to be done in obedience to God
  5. Pray again – That God will get praise and glory for my right actions, and that He will forgive me where I may have allowed my own agenda to take control.

Peer Pressure is something we all face, but if we take the time to pray and think before we act, we will see Relentless Growth come out of it!

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What I Found At The Bottom

water-wellWhen was the last time you felt completely depressed?  I don’t mean, “I had a bad day and people at work don’t understand me.”  I’m talking more along the line of, “I don’t know how much longer I can take this! I am scrambling, dodging, weaving, listening, encouraging, helping, and supporting with all I have and I have reached a point where I AM OUT OF EVERYTHING PEOPLE NEED FROM ME!”

Anyone?  Seriously?  Nobody wants to raise their hand?  Buncha liars out there I guess. OK, maybe it’s just me.  Well, maybe one day you will feel that way, and if you do, this is something I want to share with you. I hope it helps.

At the bottom of you, you will only find the bottom of you.  I know!  We are talking some deep stuff here!  When you dig down deep, and go to the deepest part of you to find what you need for yourself or someone else, you will find…YOU!  Is that enough?  Will it meet your needs?  Will it meet the needs of your family? Friends? Co-workers?

Maybe you are a really deep person with a  lot in the well, but I guarantee that the day will come when you are looking at the bottom of it and you will find a deep, dark YOU staring back at you, and YOU will look at you and both YOU and you will ask, “Is this all I got?” (Unless you are a grammarian like my mother-in-law and then it will be, “Alas! Is this truly all that remains?”)

You see, I am a finite being, and news flash – so are you and YOU! That means that we will always reach a point where we have nothing left, and when that moment comes we are going to fail, flop, and fall.  Not because we didn’t give our best or our all, but because we are not enough in ourselves to get the job done in some situations.

That’s where God loves to show up.  He loves the moments when we realize that we don’t have what it takes and that we really need Him to be in control.  When we step back, give Him control, and do what He asks, we are going to be able to see things happen that we never could accomplish on our own.

He will take our moments of frustration and give us peace in heart and mind.  He will take the fear and replace it with a confidence that we can succeed.  He will take the loneliness and show us that we are never alone because we have Him.  When we feel like we just can’t keep caring, He gives us the ability to love with His love.

It might not always feel good to realize that you don’t have enough in you to do a job, but it does feel good to see something come to fruition that you know was possible only through God’s power.

Relentless Living requires us to keep our FOCUS on God and draw our strength from Him.  On our own, the bottom comes up pretty quickly, but with God, you can just keep going deeper and deeper.  You just can’t find the limit of Him.

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The Difference a Day Makes

0d2d09c6-55ab-4c1a-8597-92c7f66d48db-large16x9_SheriffDeVolI sat down yesterday to read my Bible and journal before going out to spend the day with some friends.  I had plans of sitting down to write a blog post when I got back home.  That didn’t happen.  The plan was to write about how to make positive change in difficult relationships.  Even relationships that are thrust upon us with no choice of our own.  I might get back to that one later, but yesterday was not the day.

Shortly after getting home yesterday I noticed on my Facebook feed that there were a number of profile pics that had changed to a picture of the Kalkaska Sheriff’s Department badge on a black background with a blue line over it.  It was not the traditional black line over a badge, but I was pretty sure I knew what it meant right away, and I began praying for those I know in the Department as I scrolled through the feed looking for more information.

Before too long I had found a reference to my friend Abe DeVol, Kalkaska County Sheriff.  It hit like a sledgehammer.  I began looking at news outlets to see if I could figure out what happened, and eventually found a news story stating that Abe had died unexpectedly of natural causes.  I spent much of last night in a fog, thinking about my friend.  He was only 44 years old.  Just two years older than I am.  Much of last night was spent thinking and worrying about my own health and asking the question no one likes to ask, “What if it was me?”  “What if I went to work on Monday and didn’t come home?”

Just a couple months ago Abe and I spent some time talking and he shared with me how he struggled with the demands of the job and how it made it harder for him to be there for his wife and daughters.  He loved them all, and he did everything he could to make sure that they knew he put them first.  I was glad to see that over the last couple of weeks he was posting pictures of himself with his daughters out in the woods together enjoying his passion of hunting.  He was that kind of Dad. Heavily involved in sports, and always willing to brag about his three girls.

Sleep last night was a little rough with all the thoughts that kept waking me up.  “Have I prepared things for my family if I am gone?”  “Why didn’t I spend more time thinking about my health?” “Why didn’t I spend more time with them?”  “How much time do I have?”  “What am I supposed to do?”

This morning I sat down to open the Bible and my study plan dropped me in Matthew 6.  Near the end of the chapter there is a section that is marked off in my Bible.  It is a bold section heading that states:

DO NOT BE ANXIOUS

The last verse of Matthew 6 says:

“Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.” – Matthew 6:34

In light of Abe’s passing, this verse really spoke to me and the worries that I had been experiencing through the night.  As I read through it, I had three thoughts that came to mind.

  1. Don’t Worry About Tomorrow – This isn’t a pass that takes away all responsibility in life, but it is a reminder that tomorrow is going to come no matter what.  It might have some good in it, and it might have some bad in it.  Either way, I am going to be facing it with God.  I can make plans, but I need to remember that plans don’t always work out.  Even that great philosopher Mike Tyson once said, “Everybody has a plan until they get punched in the face.”
  2. Tomorrow Is Coming… Quickly – There are so many things that are going on in our lives today.  It is a fast-paced world with technology, information overload, schedules, demands, responsibilities, and sometimes even some fun stuff too!  We need to make sure we are in the moment and not focusing too much on the past or the future.  Another great philosopher, Ferris Bueller once said, “Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.”
  3. Today Is Enough for Today – At work I have been taking the time each morning to lay out my day.  I use an app called Trello to keep everything organized, and it has allowed me to attack my day more efficiently.  Part of that daily planning is to assess my progress during the day and see if the task is possible to complete.  It might not be possible to do it all in one day, but I can make a little progress and then jot a note for the next day and return to it then.  I find that doing this is allowing me to come home in a better mood at the end of the day, even if the day was a little rocky.  I am seeing an improvement, and I want to take this same discipline into other areas, arguably the more important areas of my life.

I don’t want to live a life of worry.  There are too many things that I will miss out on if I live that way.  I want to know that at the end of any given day I have had a good day.  I want days that leave my family feeling loved and fulfilled.  I want my wife to know how important she is to me.  I want her to know that she has been an encouraging force in my life that has kept me moving in times that I didn’t feel like I could go another step.  I want my kids to know that I am proud of them, love them, and that I cared enough to equip them with things they need to know for life.  I want them all to know that there was never a place I wanted to be more than with the three of them.

These are things that I believe Abe wanted his family to know as well.  I’m sure when he went to bed Friday night he didn’t know what Saturday held for him, but I know that if he could talk to us today, he would tell us that we never know when it is time to leave and we should take the time to be sure to take care of the important things like our families, our faith, and our friends while we still can.

I am thankful that as a child of Christ, I know my future is secure.  I have a home in heaven, and I know that I will see my family again one day.  That faith stands strong to carry me past the point of worry to a place where I can stand resolute in my belief that tomorrow will be okay no matter what comes.  I’m going to continue to do the smart things of trying to getting in shape, to make sure I teach my kids what they need to know, and to shower my wife with love, but I don’t need to worry about tomorrow.  God has my tomorrow in His hands, and He is much more capable of handling it well than I ever could be.

Relentless Living doesn’t mean I don’t care about my tomorrow, but it does mean that worrying about tomorrow need not keep me from living today.

Our little town is a different place today without Abe in it.  He will be missed greatly, and I know that there are a lot of people here who are better for having known him.  He knew the importance of making a difference in his community, and that is something we all need to remember to do.  Please remember to keep his family in your prayers.

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I’ve Been Watching You, Tom…

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*This took place the morning of August 27, 2015*

I need you to know I have been watching you closely the last few weeks.  I think it is time that we take minute and talk about what has been going on.  It might be hard for you to hear, but I need you to hear it. Not because I want you to feel bad.  Nothing could be farther from the truth.  I need you to hear this because I love you.  I care about you.  I’ve been concerned about you, and I don’t know that you have realized just how much those things are true.  It’s time for you to hear Me.

For the last  month, I have watched you struggle with holding it together.  You have been facing a lot of uncertainty about some of your dreams and whether they are coming to an end.  You have been struggling with concerns about the future and your kids going to college.  You have been working overtime to help your wife feel loved, supported, and important when it has not been easy for her to feel those things.  You’ve been concerned about your friends and how they are doing when you have not had the time or energy to contact them the way you feel you should.  You are worried about responsibilities and promises that you have made, and how you will follow through.  You feel like you are dropping the ball in many different areas of your life – Family, Friends, Work and more…

I know you feel that way because I have heard you talking to yourself about it.  (Do you  realize how much you talk to yourself?)  You look at your circumstances and you try not to grumble about them.  I know it isn’t easy, I’ve had hard times that I had to get through without complaining too.  You take an inventory and then you develop a plan and move forward.  You look at the results of previous attempts and try new things.  You really have a knack for banging your head against a problem, you know that?  I gave you that trait to see what you would do with it.  Sometimes, you are a little Relentless about some things…

As I watched you this week, I noticed that your attitude had started to slip a little more.  I saw a more cynical approach to your problem solving, the complaining was a little louder, and sadly, you started to let your temper slip with people.  I know you were feeling ragged and worn, but that doesn’t make it right.  I hoped you would realize that blaming your circumstances is nothing more than a crutch to hide a bitterness that is building in your heart against those you feel have wronged you even when they might not even think they have.  I know that sometimes you have to forgive people BECAUSE they don’t realize what they are doing.

Yesterday I think you hit the wall.  You reached a point where you knew that your actions haven’t been right, but you felt too numb to do anything about them.  You knew you were about to leave town for a couple of days, and I was pleased to hear you tell yourself that this might an opportunity to unplug from the normal and get your head and heart right.  I was excited about where this work trip might take you even though you didn’t want to leave home, and I don’t think you even believed for a moment that you would see any change.

So, this morning you left in the dark hours of morning and began your drive.  You turned on some music and just drove.  You also did something you haven’t done in awhile.  You were quiet.  You weren’t talking to yourself.  You just listened to the music.  That was when I was able to do something that I haven’t been allowed to do in a while.  I was able to speak to you.  I chose a song, but you heard Me.  You weren’t ready to talk to Me yet, but I could see that you had heard Me speaking into your heart through the words of this song:

As the song came to a close I heard something I had been longing to hear again.  Your voice speaking to Me.  You acknowledged that you needed Me. You told Me that you were hurting, struggling, trying to hold it all together and you needed Me, but then you said that you felt like I had left you alone to get through all of it.  You were tired, and you had been doing so much to try and understand and cope, to be heard, to be help to others.  Through all of that, you were sure that you had been alone, so I spoke to you again to remind you that I never left you alone for a moment:

You see, Tom, I was there the whole time.  I listened to you as you tried to work things out for yourself, pulling different strings and throwing different plans and ideas together to see what you could build that would be a help to your weary soul, for your family, for all the stuff you have going on in your life.  I listened, and I tried to speak to you through the loving words of your wife, through the book you have been reading, and even through the encouragement of your friends and people at work, but you didn’t hear me.  You were too busy building, and this morning you finally noticed that you had been building on something else instead of Me.  I was to be the Cornerstone that you build your life on:

I want you to know, that I saw the brokenness in your heart this morning as you wept.  It made Me hurt to see you in pain, but it also made Me happy to see your heart open to hearing Me again – that you were willing to acknowledge my desire to be with you and to work with you in the struggles of life and that you were willing to say that you couldn’t do it anymore and I would need to do it for you.  It’s what I have been waiting for.  I want you to feel My power working through your heart and soul, for you to listen to the wisdom of My Word as it changes your thoughts and gives you words to say.  That you would be willing to set your agendas aside and abandon yourself to My will and to trust Me:

It’s what I was waiting to hear, Tom.  I love you, and I forgive you for trying to go it alone.  You’re probably going to mess up and do it again, but I want you to know I AM here.  Forever and always I AM here, and I will never let you go.  Just look to Me and keep talking to Me.  You’re Mine, and I want you to share in the glorious things I am going to do.  Be Relentless in your pursuit of knowing Me more deeply.


 

This post has been a little different for me.  I might have shared more than some of you realized has been going on in my head, but maybe you did know.  I’m not sure.  You see, I think that with a few exceptions, I have been putting together a pretty good front in my struggles, but I was not fooling Christ.  He has been watching the whole time, and waiting for me to realize I needed to step aside and allow Him to come in and rescue me with the power and strength only He can give.

As I drove this morning, These songs played on my Pandora station, and I really believe that I heard Christ speak many of the words that are written above.  I have taken liberty to speak for Jesus in this post, but as I have gone through my day, I really believe that He was there, speaking to me as I finally started to put the pieces together.  I felt His loving correction for my stubbornness, and I believe that He was pleased.

Why did today work?  I think it was a combination of hitting that wall yesterday, a long drive with nothing that I really had to think about, and the choice to put some good music in my head this morning.  My playlist for this drive was random from Pandora, and “coincidentally” every song I heard built on the one before as Christ spoke into my heart to take me through the stages of lamentation, repentance, and restoration.  I can’t explain it all, but I know I have a peace that was not there when I left that house this morning.

Relentless Living requires a time to check in with God.  It’s not just a prayer at meal time, but a real time of worship through song, prayer, and examination.  I stumbled into that this morning, but I want to be more intentional about it moving forward.

Dear Reader, God is watching you too.  He is feeling that same yearning to hear you address Him in your struggles.  Are you willing to do it?  It takes a moment of humility, but let’s face it, we can all use a bit of that!  Please, if you could do one thing for me, take a block of time this week to be intentional about talking to and listening to God.  Also, please share this post with anyone else that might benefit from reading it.  My prayer is that it will be a help.

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42 – What Happens Next?

Answer_to_Life“42 was found to be the ultimate answer to Life, the Universe and Everything. Unfortunately, it was not known exactly what the question was, so nobody is any the wiser.”

– ‘The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy’

Well, another year has come and gone, and I hope that I am a bit wiser for the last 365 days of spinning around the sun.  I know there are several people who would probably like to weigh in on that one, but they will have to do so in the comments below, and since that seems to be a fairly untrodden patch of dirt,  I feel pretty safe.

I have been trying to think of something witty to say for my 42nd birthday blog.  What type of topic would best fit such a year of significance?  Douglas Adams gave us the number 42 as the answer to everything, but as he said, if we don’t know exactly what the question is, 42 just falls kind flat.  So, that makes me ask, what has been the big question of my last 12 months?

“What happens next?”

Yep.  That has probably been the biggest question of the last year.  It has led us down roads that felt ominous, filled with worry and concern.  What is Tammi’s job going to be like?  What is my job going to be like?  What does school look like for the kids next year?  What is my Men’s Group going to look like?  What should I do about teaching? What should I be thinking about my future ministry opportunities?

Well, Tammi’s job smoothed out and things are going well.  I’ve seen a lot of change in my role at work and things have been getting steadily better there.  We are seeing the college situation for BOTH kids coming into focus.  I think the Men’s Group is in a state of change, but may very well be on the cusp of something amazing.  Teaching is still in the air, but future ministry opportunities are looking more and more interesting, even if they are on a slight pause at this time.

Monday I was reading in Joshua 1.  Joshua has just taken up the mantle of leadership for the nation of Israel, and is standing at the border of the Promised Land.  Moses is dead, and he is looking around at all these people who are looking at him expectantly.  I imagine the thought, “What happens next?” went through his mind.

I like to wonder if God saw these doubts in Joshua’s mind.  It makes sense that He did since He immediately came to Him to have a chat:

No man shall be able to stand before you all the days of your life. Just as I was with Moses, so I will be with you. I will not leave you or forsake you. Be strong and courageous, for you shall cause this people to inherit the land that I swore to their fathers to give them. – Joshua 1:5-6

Imagine that. God Himself speaking to you and saying, “No man can beat you for the rest of your life. I am with you. Always. Get ready to be strong and show courage because I am going to use you to fulfill MY promise to these people!” Got any goosebumps yet? I do! God goes on to tell Joshua two more times to be strong and courageous; reinforcing His promise to Joshua and the people of Israel.

I would think that after that, Joshua had to be feeling a bit better. He had been reassured by God and had been given a promise of protection and victory! The next step was to address the people. He told them to prepare for battle. He reminded them of promises made by God to them, and of promises made by the people to God. Things are looking pretty good, and then the people answer him:

And they answered Joshua, “All that you have commanded us we will do, and wherever you send us we will go. Just as we obeyed Moses in all things, so we will obey you. Only may the Lord your God be with you, as he was with Moses! Whoever rebels against your commandment and disobeys your words, whatever you command him, shall be put to death. Only be strong and courageous.” – Joshua 1:16-18

What a coincidence!  These people, who I do not believe heard God talking to Joshua, tell him the exact same thing that God did!  Why it almost makes you think that God might have used them to reinforce what He had just told Joshua!  That would probably be because that is exactly what He did!  God used this interaction with the men that he led to speak truth into Joshua at a time and in a place that he would know God was at work.

I have had a lot of these moments over the past year. “Coincidences” that just seem to come out of nowhere as someone tells me something “out of the blue” that I had just read that morning in the Bible.  I have had people walk up and make offers to do things that were direct answers to prayers that I had just prayed about that morning!  Some people would call it coincidence, luck, karma…  I call it God, and when it happens I find myself asking an old question in a new way – with expectancy!

“What happens next?”

I don’t know. I am on the cusp of a new year. I have never been closer to God than I am right now. My relationship with my wife and kids is better than ever. God has brought four men into my life that are the closest friends I have ever had. They speak truth into me and are often telling me in their own ways to be strong and courageous. I am looking at the future of what God is going to do with my life in regards to ministry, and I see His hand has been moving me toward a change for some time. Now I see it just over the horizon as I look at the opportunity to join in the work at Starwood Ranch and Overboard Ministries.

What happens next? I don’t really know, but I know that the Relentless Life I have been pursuing in my relationship with God has brought me here. It is taking me into new territories where I will need to trust Him not only for wisdom and strength, but for the courage to go the distance with Him.

This is going to be a big year for me. I’m going after it with my God, my family, and my friends. I’ll let you know what happened in 365 days!

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