My Son – A Graduate. Time Flies…

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

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

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

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

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

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

Zachary,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Stress Level – High

thThis past weekend my daughter graduated from high school.  Friday we rehearsed, Saturday we did pictures and graduated, and Sunday we had the Open House.  Sounds simple, right? A nice little three-day operation…

NOPE!

It was a good two weeks in the making as we painted the house, did a bunch of yard work, decorated a barn, bought a bunch of food, and took care of a lot of other details as well.  We had some much needed and appreciated help from our parents, and our friends, and without that help, we would not have been able to pull it off.  We cannot thank them enough for how they all came to our aid by making food, helping with set-up and tear down, filling bowls, running grills, and so many other things I cannot even begin to remember them all right now.  On top of all of that, things were very busy at work for both of us.

In a word, we were stressed.  I don’t mean just a little bit, I mean staring at the ceiling at 2am stressed because you are wondering if you have bought the right amount of relish to feed a couple hundred people that you think are going to show up, while you are hearing some of them say they aren’t going to be able to make it, and wondering if you have hedged your bet just right to come out okay between those that can’t come and those that you didn’t expect to come!  Throw a national holiday into the mix and that makes it even more unpredictable. See!  I’m twitching just thinking about it right now!

I hit a wall last week on Thursday and reached out for help from my friends for some prayer support.  They came through for me, and I wrote a little about that here.  Friday was a better day, but even though we were in a pretty good spot by Friday afternoon for the open house, I still went into the weekend feeling the after-effects of too much anxiety over all that we had needed to get done.

I began my day today feeling tired, wishing for a day at home.  I just wanted one day to be able to catch up on a few things that I had to let slide while we did party prep, but I had to go to work.  Not long after I got here I got a notification on my phone from my Bible app (learn more about that here) that a friend had posted an image.  I looked it up and found this:

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Verse image from my friend Mike W.

 Yes.  That was a good thing to see.  A promise of God’s peace that I can claim.  A simple statement of faith in God’s power to get us through the times that the stress dial is turned ALL THE WAY UP!  Keep your mind focused on God, and you will be able to face things around you with His perfect peace, not because the problems will necessarily go away, but because that trust in God just makes them pale in comparison.

I wish I had experienced more of that over the last couple of weeks.  I probably would have been nicer to my wife and kids, and I definitely would have been nicer to be around at work.  I might have slept better too!

You see, as wonderful as the promise of Isaiah 26:3 is, there is an unwritten opposing promise in that verse as well.  Allow me to paraphrase the verse to show what I mean:

“You will allow a stressful turmoil into the one whose mind is not stayed on you, because he does not trust in You.”

That’s kind of the spot I was allowing myself to live a lot of the last couple weeks.  My mind was not on God, but was on the stuff that I had to do.  It wasn’t necessarily that I did not trust God, but I definitely was not seeking His help in keeping my head right as I dealt with the stuff that had to be done under my power alone.  There is a word for that kind of thinking, and I think the Bible likes to use the word “foolish.”  Yep.  That word works better than any other I can think of.

Relentless Living means disciplining myself to look at my circumstances through the filter of God’s presence in my life.  There are days that I lose that perspective, but it is imperative that I don’t let my mind wander from Him, my trust in Him, and His perfect peace.

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What Lies Beneath

My daughter graduates this weekend.  Pretty crazy to think how fast time has flown.  She was a little girl just yesterday, and now she is a beautiful young woman getting ready to take on the world.  Graduation has pretty much consumed our thoughts and spare time lately as we  get ready to celebrate, but I’m not here to talk about that today.  We’re going in a different direction.

Getting ready for the open house has brought a whirlwind of activity to our home.  There was a fence to build, rocks to move, flower beds that need work, a barn to decorate, food to prepare, and worst of all… a house to paint.  My wife knows the dread that I feel when it comes to painting the house, and I will admit she is probably feeling even more stress about food and decorations, but for me, the house has been the big thing that has been hanging around my neck.  The main reason?

Rot.

Dry-rot-siding-and-trim-1I live in an old farm house built around the turn of the century.  (That would be the 20th century.)  When you live in a house this old, there are always things that need to be maintained, and one of the things that I just hate dealing with is the caulk.  It would be bad enough if you just had to go out and slop a brush around for  a few days to get the job done, but there is more when you live in a piece of history.  I have the joy of all the scraping and caulking before I do the painting.  Seriously, the amount of caulk that goes into getting my house ready to paint is staggering, but necessary if I want to keep the outside out and the inside dry.  When I get lax in it, I get…

Rot.

We have had to attack rot a few times in the past, but it is getting harder.  Some of that is because the time I have to put into staying on top of the painting process has been limited over the last few years, Things just get a little worse before the planets reach the proper alignment for me to get after it again.  I have to admit though, that a bigger part of it is that I just don’t like to do it.

So, this year we need to get the house painted to make it look nice before the open house.  As I started into it I found what I was expecting – Rot.  Some of it was visible (and a little overwhelming to look at), but when I would start removing the visible, I would come face to face with worse.

We had some ant damage in one wall, and the time frame (and checkbook) does not allow for a major repair at this time.  So, I pulled out as much as I could, installed some new wood with rreeeaallllyyy long screws, and caulked things back up again.  From the outside it looks great, but I know what lies beneath.

When I’m honest with myself, I can say that I am a lot like my house.  There are times that I really don’t want to take a hard look at making any changes or improvements on myself because I just don’t feel like putting in the time and effort.  I know the effort would be worth it, but I’m comfy right now, so I want to let it go “a little longer”.  The thing is, that just makes it, “a little harder”.

There are things I can see that need work (getting in shape), but when I start picking at them, I end up finding larger problems underneath (lack of discipline, laziness).  It is easier to not look too hard, because I might just have to keep digging (pride, idolizing food).  You see the dangers of looking inside?  It makes me face what is at the root of the problem.

Me.  My wants, thoughts, opinions, habits, and tendencies.  It all comes back to me.

I made some honest assessments about my house.  Some repairs were made that should last, but others were just a bandaid.  I will need to come back to them and make things right.  If I don’t come back and do what needs to be done, then I will see things continue to decline until I wake up one night looking at the stars, not through an open window, but through a hole that has appeared in the wall!

The honest assessment of myself also requires a response.  Some things I can take care of quickly, others will take more time, and some of them require resources that I do not have available to me yet.  That’s okay as long as I don’t fool myself into thinking that I have arrived and all is well.

In manufacturing, there is a philosophy called LEAN, and one of the LEAN tools is the PDCA cycle:

P – Plan – Come up with an idea using what you know.

D – Do – Put your plan into action.

C – Check – Check how the process worked.  Be honest and look at the facts.

A – Adjust – You may need to change how you do things to get a better result.

Relentless Growth requires that type of philosophy to avoid letting rot take over your heart and mind.  If you just go through life without thinking about how your action or non action is affecting you and those around you, I guarantee rot will grow.  Plan with God what you need to do in your life. Do what you need to do.  Check how you are doing, or be willing to listen to what someone else is seeing. Adjust your actions to bring yourself back in line with the Plan.

These steps will help in identifying those “soft spots” before rot can bring your life crashing down.  Relentless Living requires us to be willing to address what lies beneath.

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