Check Your Mirror

For the last few months I have been posting a daily photo on Instagram and on my Relentless Growth Facebook Page that contains a verse and a thought for the day.  Psalms is a book of praise, a songbook of sorts.  It is full of songs of praise and worship to God, encouragement for us, and insights into how we can praise God in the every day moments.  The lyrics in the book of Psalms are truly lyrics for living our lives in relationship with God as David did.

Posting a daily image with a verse and a thought has been really good for me.  Since so much of Psalms drew from David’s coping with adversity, it has been helpful for me in facing the challenges that come across my desk and life on a  daily basis.  I have been shown that I can praise God Relentlessly while I am still IN the trial.  That encouragement has been the source of power that has gotten me through some very hard days without doing or saying something that I would need to apologize for later!

I have also been encouraged by a number of people who have reached out to me over the past year or so of posting these images.  There have been times that I have not “felt” the desire to take the time to read in the morning, but I know that there are a few people who are checking in on me day to day, and that gives me a feeling of responsibility to keep going. It’s not that I have such wisdom to share, it’s all about sharing God’s life changing power at work in my life and the lives of others.

Let the one who is taught the word share all good things with the one who teaches. – Galatians 6:6 (ESV)

So, since I want to share the good things I am learning in hopes that it will help others, and since people are sharing with me as well, this last day in the book of Psalms makes it necessary for me to pick a new book of the Bible to go through.  After a lot of prayer and thinking, it has been made clear to me that the next book I will go through will be James.

The book of James is both one of my favorite books and one of the most convicting I have ever read.  James does a fantastic job of showing us the Truth of God and the example of  Christ as the standard to which we should compare ourselves.  It’s not about being better than the next guy in order to feel good about yourself. It is all about measuring yourself against Christ in an effort to be a bold, Relentless follower who lives for the Kingdom of God.

I don’t do a lot of mirror “selfies”, so enjoy this one!

To put it simply, the book of James is the biblical equivalent of looking in the mirror every morning to see what needs to be done.  When I get up in the morning and look in the mirror, I see a guy that needs some change! If I were to just walk out the door without making any changes then that would be pretty foolish! I need help!

So, I am going to go to James every morning now to see what I need to fix.  It will be my daily “mirror check” before I put feet on the floor so God can have the first shot at me and turn me in the direction He wants me to go.  My hope is that as I share what He is showing me, it might spark something in someone else too.  Maybe it can be a mirror check for all of us.

If I want to live a Relentless Life, I must be willing to take the time to not only look at what needs to change, but then to take the steps necessary to do it.  If I don’t take those steps, then I am a fool.  I don’t know  about you, but I don’t like to look like a fool.  I want to make the wise decisions that bring God glory as He shapes me into what He wants me to be.

So, starting tomorrow, those of you who are interested can meet me over at the Relentless Growth page for the daily #mirrorcheck.  I hope it will be encouraging to you.  I’m excited to see what God is going to show me about myself and where I need to make adjustments for Him!  Hope to see you there, and I would love to hear what God is doing in your life too!

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Happy Birthday, Relentless Growth!

number-candles-perfect-for-any-cakeI started blogging 4 years ago today. The blog page has gone through a lot of changes since then even though you can’t see it here, but I hope the same cannot be said for me.  God has done a lot in my life over the last four years, and I am thankful that I have been able to experience that change and have had the opportunity to share some the story with you.

Click the link here to see how it all began, dig through the archives, feel free to share it with your friends, and let me know if there has been anything that has been a blessing to you.  We all like a little encouragement on our birthdays – even blogs!

Get out there and live a Relentless Life!

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Grace And The Church – Grace Part 3

Last year I was asked to help in writing a book of devotionals for our church campaign on grace. It was the first time I had been asked to write something for a book, and I really appreciated the opportunity. I have decided to post these devotionals every other day over the next couple of weeks. I hope you enjoy them and that they make you think about the wonders of the grace of God.

You can see the previous posts by clicking the links below:

scriptureongraceWhat Are We Here For?

And Stephen, full of grace and power, was doing great wonders and signs among the people. – Acts 6:8

Have you ever wondered what the purpose of the church is? A support system?  A source of community benevolence?  A place for  people to worship? A place for friends to get together?  A place to learn how to be abetter person?  Well, I think it is all of those, but it is more than that.

Think about what we have been given as believers.  We are given the grace of God that has given us salvation!  We are blessed with eternal life and a source of power for living.  We have had the truth of God’s love, mercy and grace revealed to us through His Word and his people, and we have been given a direction for its use.  Are we supposed to just sit on that?

No.  Absolutely not!

Stephen was called to be a deacon in the church, and he took his job seriously as he went out to serve people. Acts 6:8 says he was “full of grace and power.”  A man like that isn’t going to sit still waiting for Sunday morning and the Adult Bible Fellowship or Sunday School class to share what he has been given.  Stephen was out talking to people, sharing the work of Christ in His life in whatever way he could.  God was giving him the ability to do amazing things, and he made sure to not let Him down.

What is different from Stephen than you and me?  Do we not know the same God?  Do we not have the same access to His power?  Does the God Stephen served not allow us to speak out boldly in our faith?  What is holding us back? We have the same Spirit of God at work in us, and we have the same grace in our lives.  Where is the power?  Is it possible that we could do amazing things in the lives of those around us if we let God work in us?

Think about the things that people are enduring every day – cancer, divorce, loss, addiction, emotional abandonment, and the list goes on.  What difference might be made in their lives if a person full of grace and power from God were to get personally involved in their lives?

There are so many opportunities in a day for us to speak of the goodness of God and His life changing work in our lives.  While the Christian faith is under more persecution here in America than at any other time, we still have the ability and freedom to show God’s grace to those around us.  How you do it is up to you and your skill set, but there is nothing stopping you or me from doing it.

We can show the grace of God by not getting irritated with person at work, by giving someone the benefit of the doubt in a moment of annoyance, by showing humility in a confrontation.  We can show sympathy and empathy to those who are struggling.  We can share out life stories and how God works in our circumstances to show us how He is always there, and in that, we can show people the ultimate grace – extending God’s offer of salvation to them!

God didn’t show us grace to have us sit in a building on Sundays.  If grace was just meant to put my body in a chair on Sunday mornings then I am doing no good for God here on earth.  He gave us grace so we can show the reality of a life changed to those who do not yet know Him.  As the church, it is our mission to reach out and show a bit of Christ everywhere we go.  Stephen understood that mission and embraced it.  How about you?

  • Who do you know that could benefit from a friendship with someone who can share God’s grace with them?
  • Who are you encouraging in the church to reach out to others?
  • What next step will you take to living a life “full of grace and power?”

Father, you gave your grace to us to save us in your mercy, but you also gave it to us so we can share it with others.  Give us your heart for the hurting that we can bring them to know you.

Over the last several years I have been slowly coming to the understanding that as part of the Church (the bride of Christ) I have been commanded to share the gospel not only in how to come to Christ, but in how Christ in me is changing me.  Relentless Growth comes from surrendering to Christ’s call through the Spirit to share what He has done.  Not every work that God has done in me is a miracle, but in giving Him the credit and the glory for what has happened, I believe He is giving me more power to speak of His gift and involvement in my life.  That is where the growth happens, and it is what every believer is called to.

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“He Just Kept Going!”

11169918_10206751378810895_8385502505395207127_nThis past weekend was the 79th Annual National Trout Festival here in our little town.  I often joke that it is the time of year when everyone climbs out of their winter dens to show off their new tattoos (present company excluded).  It’s your typical display of small town flavor with parades, a carnival, flea market, and a lot of other stuff too.  I haven’t been to any of the festivities over the last few years due to scheduling conflicts, but this year I was able to make a long overdue appearance.

This year I got to experience a part of the Festival I had never seen before.  Every year, the Rotary Club of Kalkaska puts on a race called the Trout Run.  It is a 1 mile fun-run combined with a 5k and a 10k race for those people who feel a need to have their heart pound hard (I don’t understand such things).  This year my schedule was different, and for the first time as a Rotarian, I was able to be there at the race to help out.  I had a blast!  It was  fun seeing all the different people who came out to run for the fun of running!  We even had one guy who ran the 5k in waders!

It was a beautiful morning Saturday.  Clear skies and a good bit of sunshine made the 30 degree temperature during set-up feel tolerable.  By the time the first race race began we were looking at a balmy 40 and a lot of sun with just a bit of wind that would be in the racers face as they headed out, but would be a nice benefit on the way back.

After the 1 mile run was completed, everyone was ready to go on the 5k and 10k races.  They all lined up together for the start, we counted it down, and the siren went off for the start.  After that it was a lot of milling around for us non-racers, but it gave us the opportunity to talk to the crowd a bit and just enjoy a good morning of community fellowship as we caught up with old friends, met people from town,  or from as far away as Kentucky!10653394_10206499225830453_4074547252641429684_n

After the 5k runners had been coming in for awhile and the 10k runners had started showing up as well, we started hearing a bit of concern regarding one of our contestants.  The parents of a young runner, I heard someone say he was 5 years old, were starting to ask runners if they had seen their son on the course.  He had set out to run the 5k, and they thought he should be back by then.

After a few minutes, a report was given that he had been spotted on the course safe and sound – WELL PAST the 5k turnaround point.  He was running the 10k!  I can tell you that there were a lot of people waiting there at the finish line to cheer this young man on as he crossed with a smile on his face. (With no hint of jealousy in my voice I can tell you he wasn’t even really out of breath!)

After he had a chance to reunite with Mom and Dad and all the questions got answered we found out what had happened.  Apparently in the past, there has been a cone on the course to mark the turnaround point for the 5 and 10k runners, but this year the cones were not put out.  When he reached the turnaround for his race, as one person said, “He just kept going!”

11174764_10153334467509047_3988499782460960483_nWhen all the racers were in and the awards were given out, there was an extra award given to that little guy.  He was given a gold medal for being the first runner in his age group to finish a race he didn’t set out to run!  His parents were understandably proud.  Who wouldn’t be? As I thought about this kid who went the distance, I was reminded of a verse:

And if anyone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles.

– Matthew 5:41

I can assure you that if you saw me on that course, you can safely assume that someone forced me into it.  If I had to do it, I would do it, but I can tell you that I would not have done a single step more than I was forced to do.  Running is not a fun activity for me, and I would definitely consider that the least amount of effort required would be more than enough.

Some days I get that way in other aspects of life too.  I know that there is always room to do better.  There is always room to improve.  The thing is, it’s too easy to say, “I’m a good enough…

  • Husband – After all, I come home every night and I don’t fool around on my wife.  I tell her I love her.  Isn’t that enough?
  • Dad – I keep a roof over their heads.  I never beat them.  They have clothes to wear and food to eat.  I tell them I love them.  Isn’t that enough?
  • Employee – I show up for work.  I put in my time.  Everything is getting done that needs to be getting done.  Isn’t that enough?
  • Friend – I talk to my buddies from time to time.  I try not to take advantage of them.  I follow them on Facebook.  Isn’t that enough?
  • Christian – I go to church.  I read my Bible.  I put money in the offering plate.  Isn’t that enough?

By the standards of some people I know, these are all acceptable levels of performance in different areas.  They would look at results like this and be happy with them.  They did what was required of them.  They did “Enough.”  But is it really enough?  Is that the kind of memory you want to leave in the minds of others?

Imagine your funeral:

“We are gathered here today in this place to remember the life of (insert your name here).  He was an adequate man in most things.  Always managed to do the minimum that was required of him.  He is survived by his wife who says she will now be able to watch her television shows, but does admit that she will need to kill the occasional spider in the house.  His children say that they will appreciate the extra car left behind, but will miss having him put gas in it.  

Today he will be carried to his final resting place by 6 day laborers as his friends in attendance said that while it is good to see him off, he is not worth pulling a muscle.  His employer has sent this lovely vase of flowers this morning after realizing he had not been at work the last three days as his work was being taken care of by two of the people in his department and somebody finally realized he was gone when it was his turn to bring in the donuts and they weren’t there.”

That’s not what I want.  That is not a life that screams Relentless Growth!  Relentless living is the kind of living that just breezes right past the turn around and keeps going.  Now this little guys didn’t know he was about do a 10k, but he knew that there was a race to run, and that was what he was there to do!  I have a race to run too!  I’m  not sure what the half-way point is of my life either, but I know that I don’t want to live in a way that is looking for the turn around.  I want people to say, “He just kept going.”

How about you?  Are you living an “adequate life”?  Do you aspire for more?  If you are, here are a few things I would suggest you do to make a positive change:

  • Take a good, hard look at who you are.  If you want to be really bold, ask your spouse or siblings evaluate you honestly.  Get ready for the feedback and take it not as a criticism, but as a baseline to work against.
  • Find a mentor.  When you see a weakness in yourself, look for someone that is strong in that area and ask them for help to improve!  A good mentor will always love to share what they know.
  • Set a goal.  Make it small at first.  Taste a victory or two in an area.  If you like to eat entire pies at a sitting, set a goal for 3/4 of a pie.  Baby steps!
  • Accountability is key.  You need someone that can talk to you without dancing around the issues.  Someone that can say, “Tom, 3/4 of a pie is not a goal that is going to help you no matter how you try to rationalize it.”  Let them help you with your goals.
  • Talk to God about it.  Honestly, if you are going to try and make any lasting change in your life in an area that you are really struggling to grow in, you need help that is stronger than you.  You need to know God and allow Him to be the strength in your decisions.

We all have a race ahead of us.  We don’t know our half-way point, and we can’t see the finish line.  Do you want to be the guy that ran a little while and said, “Enough.”  or do you want to be that guy that just kept going?  Go big.  Be Relentless!

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Hands and Heart – Part 1

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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My Life as a Tree

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 “I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing. If anyone does not abide in Me, he is thrown away as a branch and dries up; and they gather them, and cast them into the fire and they are burned. If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. My Father is glorified by this, that you bear much fruit, and so prove to be My disciples. 

                       –  John 15:5-8

I grew up in a very legalistic church and attended a very legalistic school.  As a result of that, I received two things:

  • I know all about the “Rules”.
  • I deal with a lot of guilt.

I’m not going to sit here and say that Fundamental Baptist churches are cults or that they are warping the minds of those who attend them.  I am sure there are a lot of them that are doing great things, and that God is being glorified through them, but I am going to say that many are so overwhelmingly governed by legalism that they are harming the children that grow up in them.  The focus on rules and guilt takes the truth of God’s Word and twists it into something that does not bring a desire to know God or to be in close relationship with Him.  Instead, it drives them to perform in order to pacify an angry God that desires nothing but obedience and withholds His love until He gets it.

OK. Enough of that soap box.  That was just said so I can say that this passage used to scare me to death. My belief as a kid, based on what was presented to me as truth, was that this passage meant that if I did not regularly lead someone to Christ, I would be taken from earth.  God would end my life.  I was not leading anyone to Christ.  I didn’t really even know any “unsaved” people since I was in a Christian school and that is where all of my friends were.  Can you see how this would make me a little nervous?

As I got older, I had someone explain something about the care of grapes and vines and all of that, and that did shed some light on the truth of this passage, but I still struggled with portions because I still could not really relate to the word picture that Christ was giving here.  In reading the Bible for myself now and getting a better and deeper understanding of the person and mission of Christ I know that there is nothing about Christ that would defend that abrupt and cold finality that I had been presented.  That would not be the act of a Savior.

I came across this passage in my devotions the other day, and I felt that old guilty feeling hit me again.  As the day went on I continued to mull it over in my mind and a different picture began to show up in my head. I might not understand much about vines and grapes, but I do have a very good understanding of Christmas trees.  So, I’m going to take what I understand about the nature of Christ and the act of tree pruning and use Christmas trees as a word picture.

First off, I know. Christmas trees do not produce fruit as we would consider it.  For the purpose of this example the tree itself is the fruit.  The whole purpose of that plant is to grow it to maturity, and that maturity is where the value is realized.  The purpose to the grower is to sell it for a nice profit as a Christmas tree in a few years, but if cannot be used for that purpose they are forced to wait until the tree is very large – 30 years or more and then sell that tree for pulp and make pretty much the same profit.  It just takes more time.

We have all seen Christmas trees.  The nice ones have a conical shape without a lot of holes.  The branches are strong and spaced so the tree has places to hang ornaments.  A lot of people don’t realize that trees like that don’t just “happen”.  There are varieties of trees that will produce a passable version of it, but usually those trees are very large, old trees, and their sheer size makes it look like it has that perfect shape.  Imagine the tree at Rockefeller Center.  If you look at that tree closely, you will see huge gaps in it.  It is not something you would want to see in a small tree, but its mass covers the flaws.

The growth of a Christmas tree is dictated by the conditions around it.  The slope of the land, the type of soil, the prevailing winds, the rainfall, and insects will all determine the growth rate and the shape of the tree.  If a tree is left to itself, especially a pine tree, the tree will have vast differences in growth from year to year, and there are times when that tree will have parts that will just die off altogether.  The result is a tree that has no value for its intended purpose.

So, the grower must step in.  The grower will put things in place to give the tree a good chance to grow well.  A nice, flat area with sandy soil works quite well.  Space is provided for the trees to grow without crowding each other.  Sometimes a deep furrow is used to prevent grass and weeds from choking the tree out when it is very young.

Then the grower starts looking at the harmful damage of outside forces.  Insects, fungi, and parasites can have damaging effects on the trees, so the grower will provide sprays that will help keep that damage at bay.  Sometimes they work, but sometimes they don’t.  Sprays are often washed away by a rain that will allow the pests to still invade.

The most direct method a grower has to make sure that things grow properly is to prune.  To get right into the tree and physically examine it for its problems and determine a course of action that always requires a pruning.  Not to cut back and harm, but to promote healthy growth.

There are times that trees will take off and grow fast.  I have seen them grow as much as 18 inches in a year.  That sounds great when you are trying to grow a tree quickly, but when it is allowed to do that, the tree will not fill in properly and have that desired shape.  It must be cut back so it can fill in and be complete.  There have been times that I have felt a real desire to take off and do things for God. I feel like I have grown and now I am ready to tackle things that are good for God.  But I lack in other areas that are going to leave gaps in my life.  If allowed to continue, I will not be as effective in my purpose God has for me, so He will put hard things in my life as a way to prune me back so the weaker areas have a chance to develop so I am ready for the next step in life.

Some years a tree will have almost no growth.  When that happens the tree will put on a lot of buds.  If the conditions are good the next year with rain and temperature, that tree will go absolutely insane with growth, but it will be misdirected.  The grower must get in and pick out those small buds that could lead the tree to grow in the wrong direction.  It takes an understanding of the final product.  During the times in my life when I feel like I am not growing spiritually I often feel like there are numerous little things that draw my attention from God.  I’m distracted from the important to the immediate. Those times in my life scream for me to be in the Word.  I need to have the truth of it in my mind, to have the Holy Spirit speak to me about the things that I am allowing to pull my attentions from the example of Christ.  When I find those things I have to remove them.  They will take me the wrong way.

Sometimes the top of a tree will just die.  A bug will get inside the crown of the tree and destroy it.  When this happens a tree will lose its shape entirely unless the grower does something radical.  The top of that tree contains a branch called the “leader”.  If the leader dies, a new one must be selected that is close to the center of the tree and looks stronger than the surrounding “potential” leaders.  When that leader is found, all of the others need to be completely removed.  If they aren’t, they will keep trying to take over the spot as leader and the tree will need to go through the same process for several years until that leader is firmly established.  This also results in a setback to the tree that can take a couple of years to overcome.  It’s a setback, not a death.  Sin is like that in my life.  There are choices I have made that have changed the direction of my life.  Sin that must be removed.  Directions I thought were clear and established are no longer there because of my actions.  But God is good.  He has taken the time to identify the other things in my life that have value and potential.  I might not get where He wanted me without some extra scars or as quickly, but He is faithful to keep working on me to bring me to maturity.

I know that an analogy of a tree does not hold all the way through as a picture of the life of a Christian, but I can see very clearly how those instances have presented themselves in my life.  In all of them, God’s plan was not my destruction, but my growth – a Relentless Growth.  The pruning was not to hurt, but to bring me where I needed to be.  A place where I can grow straight and strong.  I’m at a point now in my life where I have enough of it behind me that I can see some of these patterns emerge.  The beauty of it is that I am recognizing this work more quickly now.  Some of it is a willingness to look at my life honestly, but more of it comes from a willingness to listen to the truth that God speaks through close friends.

So, I’m not sure if this meant anything to you, dear reader, but I know that this is true in my life.  I hope it helps at least to spark a thought into what the pain of trials and struggles might be doing in your life as it is in mine.

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