Setting Things Right Again

There are a number of things about me that are weird.  Stick around and I guarantee you will find one for yourself to laugh at.  There really is no limit.  Making new ones every day, but there are some golden oldies that have been around for a few decades.  Wanna hear one?  Here goes.

Sometime around the age of 7, I took it upon myself to do a little project, and I recruited my brother and the neighbor kids in this rampant display of ridiculousness.  Looking back, I even think this was weird, but I do remember it vividly as something that meant a lot to me even though I think everyone thought I was insane.

This is not the mower, but it captures much of what I remember in its stellar good looks!

My Dad had a little push mower.  Green in color with a white Briggs & Stratton motor on top.   The mower ran well, but looked rough. The handle, once chromed, was pitted with rust.  The deck was covered in layers of “grass juice”, dried clippings, and was scratched up from years of use.  The motor was covered in dust, oil, and again, “grass juice”.  

I can’t tell you why, but I remember that I looked at it one day and I decided that it needed to be cleaned up and put back in order.  So, in what can only be described as delegation gone wild, I got 3-4 other kids to join me in cleaning up this mower.  I don’t remember if bribes were involved or how exactly I talked them into it, but they showed up.

So, there we were, armed with a bunch of rags and whatever aerosol products I could scrounge up in the garage that might have some type of solvent properties, we gathered around a 20 inch push mower with the determination to make it shine like new.

I can’t recall how much time we put into the project, but I do remember needing to talk a couple people into coming back to the job and trying to help them capture my vision despite their comments of “waste of time”, “just going to get dirty again”, and “you’re crazy”.  Who knew I was in career training…

At the end of the project I remember standing up, by myself because I had finally been abandoned by my crew, and looking at the mower expecting to be filled with a sense of pride and accomplishment.  Before me sat the fruits of my labor and it was…

Still a scratched up, stained, rusted, and still fairly greasy mower.

There was not a lot of appreciable change to the mower’s appearance.  Yes, the “grass juice had been washed off, and the dried clippings and caked sand were no longer all over it, and there were even parts of the motor that showed the slightest glimmer of shine in the paint, but it still looked rough.  I was disappointed.  It felt like a waste of time with no discernible improvement.

Later that night, Dad asked me about the mess that I had left on the floor of the garage.  Piles of rags, empty spray cans of brake cleaner and WD-40, and the pile of dried clippings we had scraped out from under the mower deck gave evidence of my deeds.  I told him what I had done and said I would go clean up the mess.  I said it was a waste of time anyway.  He said something then that I have not forgotten.

“It might not look like you did a lot on the surface, but what you did do will make a difference.”

He then went on to tell me that in cleaning off the motor, it would run cooler which was better for the motor.  In cleaning the air filter I was protecting the engine from debris that could damage it.  In getting all of the grass clippings and junk scraped off the deck, I was removing stuff that trapped water and created rust so I was helping the deck last longer.

My restoration project did not turn out like I had hoped it would.  There was no obvious change, but it had made an impact for the future.  Because I was willing to take the time and put in the effort, the mower was going to run better and last longer.  It was, in some ways, a success.

I wonder if that was the catalyst that has given me an appreciation for making the old look new and the broken re-usable.  Since then I have been interested in auto restoration, home repair, and recently using reclaimed materials to build things.  It seems like I am always trying to figure out how i can take something broken and realize the value in it.

God saw the value in His broken people and provided a way for us to become new as well.  Through the redeeming death of His Son, we can experience life change and eternal life with God.  On the surface we might not seem that different, but changes are made, and if we submit to the process, those changes will multiply in us until they are seen by those around us.  There is no work that God does in the heart of man that does not yield a result for good.  Let me say that again,

There is no work that God does in the heart of man that does not yield a result for good.

I have reached the end of another book study in the Bible, and it is time to move on.  Colossians taught me a lot about how we are to #SERVEandGROW in life.  We serve God and we serve others.  That is how we grow.  It’s not a difficult formula.  Pretty much just those three steps.  So easy I can follow it!  I have enjoyed the study , and I hope that anyone who read along with me did too.

Now I am going to take a swing at something different.  I have pretty much stuck with books of poetry or doctrine, but now I want to do a book of history.  It will change some of how I post my thoughts, but I will try to keep with the same basic format of a post a day with a verse and a  thought.  Forgive me if the text gets a little small from time to time.

We will be going through the book of Ezra.  This is the story of the restoration of the temple in Jerusalem after the Jewish exile when Babylon took Israel captive.  The city and the temple were destroyed, the “choice” people were taken away, the walls were torn down, and only a few stragglers were left behind.  Jerusalem was in shambles.  A near wasteland.  

God wanted a #Restoration.

God began orchestrating what needed to happen to bring His people home, and He started with the #Restoration of the temple.  Later Nehemiah would follow and rebuild the wall and set the city back in order.

Ezra’s efforts might have seemed a little odd.  In rebuilding a city, would it not make more sense to build a wall first?  Many would agree, but God knew that there needed to be a more important change first.  His presence was needed.  The city would not be complete because the temple was rebuilt, but without the temple, the city might not have been built.  The restoration of Jerusalem needed God more then man.

#Restoration is needed in my life.  There are things I have let go, things I should have taken better care of physically, emotionally, spiritually, and relationally.  Steps need to be taken to scrape out the junk that might be keeping my life from running as God intended.  I may need to wipe away some stuff that lets me see things that need repair.  All in all, I am in need of God’s redeeming, restorative work.

As I read through Ezra, I will be looking for what God has to show me in that regard and sharing my findings as I go along.  I will post them on my Relentless Growth Facebook Page, and I hope you will follow along.  If you see something that speaks to you, let me know!  I would love to talk to you about it.

Relentless Growth requires us to not only keep driving forward, but to be willing to take time to #Restore things that need work.  We have relationships around us that need God’s hand in them.  We have things in our past that we need to learn to overcome and use for God’s glory.  In His hands, there is nothing that is not salvageable.  Give your heart and life to Him and see what He can do with it!


Time To Start Over

2016 Calender on the red cubes

Well, another year has reached its end.  Tonight, I, along with everyone else in the world, will tip my hat to the year of 2015 and welcome in the new year of 2016.  It’s been a big year in a lot of ways for us here at Tanner Manor.  We have laughed, cried, stood in disbelief, and sighed in relief.  We made new friends and said goodbye to some old ones too.  We watched travesties and tragedies unfold in the news, but we saw people rise to stand for what is right in the middle of those tragedies as well.

We are at that time of year when I feel an urge to start over.  The year feels like a shirt I have been wearing just a little too long and I am ready for something fresh.  So, it’s time to look at what I am doing, what I want to do, and how do I get there!  While I say I’m a simple man (please don’t read that as simpleton), I have many different aspects of life to think about when it comes time for change.  Trust me, you aren’t any different.  Our categories may not all be the same, but you have at least as many as I do.

So, here are a few things that I want to work on this year.  I’ve pretty much been an open book on this blog over the last three years, so if you want to be a voyeur, this is your chance!

Me As a Believer – This year has been a good year for growth for me.  I’ve had challenges, faced them, had some good and bad outcomes, but I’ve learned something from all of them.  I have spent more time in God’s Word this year than I ever have, but when I add that up, I honestly have not been as close to Him as I would have liked.  Reading my Bible, journaling, and praying are drawing me closer to Him, but in the last few weeks I have come face to face with the fact that I still try to do too much on my own.  I need to be fiercely dependent on Him in all aspects of my life.  God’s will and direction need to be my first thought in anything I do or say.  Big goal.  A Relentless goal.

Me As a Husband – This year Tammi and I have had some really good conversations about fears, plans, situations, and how to endure.  We are approaching some major life change this next year as our daughter will be leaving the house for college in the fall.  We are bracing for that, and while there is an aspect of my life that can simply address that as a parent, I need to be ready to address it as a husband as well.  My wife will need me in new ways.  I will need to be listening to her and listening for new things and how I can meet her needs as a  husband.  I will continue to love her, support her, and grow closer to her, especially as our lives are changing and in a  blink we will be just the two of us again.

Me As a Father – Like I said, Jessica will be leaving soon, and Zach is hot on her heels.  I only have a short time left with my kids in my home, and just like every day for the last almost 19 years, I don’t know what I need to know for the next thing until it happens.  God has blessed me with two great kids, and I pray that as they continue grow they will understand just how seriously I took the job of being a Dad.  I might not have gotten everything right, but I’m not done trying either!  This final stage of “parenting in the home” is confusing for all of us as we try to give freedom to them while protecting them from trouble and guiding them to do the right thing.  Prayer time for my kids and their future is growing and becoming a greater comfort.  What better thing can I do than to ask God to carry them?

Me As a Friend – This year I have been working harder at being a friend.  It takes work for a guy like me, but the dividends are priceless.  I’ve had chances to weep with friends, laugh with friends, see my friends pour into my family, and times to just be together.  God never intended for us to live our lives as individuals.  Our first and greatest relationship is with Him, and He has given us His Son as our example, our brother, and our friend.  We should be taking that example and identifying people in our lives that we can grow with.  My goal this year is to deepen and strengthen the friendships I have and to continue to look for other men I can call friend as well.

Me As … Well, Me! – This year I have been much more aware of my health – and the lack of it.  Knee problems have plagued me for most of my adult life, and this year they have become harder to ignore.  It is requiring some changes in my lifestyle.  I’m not going to sit here and list out my goals for losing weight or eating healthy.  Let’s face it, nobody wants to read those because everyone knows that those goals are usually shot by March.  My goal this year is to be more conscious of my opportunities to make a better choice for my health (after tonight’s party – lots of good food tonight).  I want to take the opportunity to take the stairs, walk down the block, or skip the second helping.  That is the goal.  If more happens than that, then fantastic!  I just want a healthier me when I sit down to write at the end of 2016.

Me As a Writer – Like I said, this is the completion of my third year of writing this blog.  I’ve also had opportunities to do some writing for our church.  I love writing, but I don’t take the time to do it as often as I would like.  The goal for this past year was a post per week.  I fell a little short of that, but I had some of the highest numbers of readers/views this year as well.  I have been humbled by the number of people that have read my “stuff”.  Some of them even come back!  This year, the goal will be to blog at least once each week, but additionally, to write for 15 minutes at least 5 days per week.  I want to focus on developing this skill and figuring out how to best use it for God.

Me As an Employee – It’s been an interesting year at work.  I have been encouraged in how so many long-term projects have turned out, how relationships and trust are growing, and how lessons are being learned.  This next year has some larger projects ahead that will require a lot of preparation and thought.  My prayer and goal for work is that I will be more focused while there.  The focus cannot be singular.  The organization is complex, and so are the challenges.  I need to have a focus that is broad, but can be sharpened when necessary to deal with things.  I wan too work this year on developing some other staff as well.  Their development is necessary in order for me to be able to let some things go in order to do my job better.  This is going to be fun!

It doesn’t really make a difference if you want to look at a new year as new opportunities. Those opportunities are coming whether you want them or not!  Relentless Living is living in a way that prepares for what it can, plans for what may happen, and adjusts to what comes, all while clinging to God for His insight, direction, and leadership.  He knows what every tomorrow will bring, and through His grace I can face 2016 with my head up and my shoulders back, because together, We’ve got this!

Have a Relentless New Year!



People – Not Just A Magazine

Big-Group-of-PeopleI had a great conversation with a friend yesterday.  We sat together after church and just talked for awhile about the workplace and the dynamics of it.  We talked about some of the challenges we face in the culture of a workforce and how the structure of management impacts the environment.  It was a good talk.  It was a very good talk.

The culture of the workplace is made up from several factors: the work itself, the people doing the work, the history of the people doing the work, and the people tasked with managing the work and the workforce.  It requires a formula that takes the right amount of each of these and blends them together in hopes of creating a successful organization.  When the mix is right, things go well, when it is off, well, we can all tell a story about a place we worked that didn’t get it right.

I started my first “job” at the age of 11, so, I guess you can say I have 31+ years in the workforce now, and while I don’t think it makes me an expert, it does give me a right to speak with some knowledge on the subject.  In that time I have been self-employed, worked for a family business, a small business, a small corporation, a regional corporation, a national corporation, and a global corporation.  I have been the new guy, the veteran employee, the shift manager, the area manager, and a director.  I have worked by myself, with a group, managed a couple people, managed 20-30 people, and ran an entire store.  I have been paid by the hour, by the job, by commission, and by salary.  I have worked for great people and for people that I honestly would like to never see again.  I don’t really remember what it feels like to not work.

As my friend and I shared stories of top-down management and the ever-present dance of avoiding and assigning blame, I began to really think hard about what it was that made some of those managers great and some of them so “not-so-great”.  We have each experienced how “things roll downhill” and how sometimes the best thing you could say about your day is that you somehow managed to avoid the splatter when it all hit the air circulation apparatus.  As the day wore on and into today, I have not been able to get it out of my head.  

My friend asked me at one point why there does not seem to be a real focus in the Church (in general) on teaching men in leadership positions the importance of this kind of stuff.  We are taught to lead at home, how to lead our families, how to lead at church, and in other areas, but how do we lead in the workplace as godly Christian managers?  We are taught to be honest, to be focused, to be kind, to have goals, to pursue excellence, but how often do we really hear how to be a good, godly manager of people?

Looking back, I can see a lot of mistakes I made over the years, and I can tell you what the root problem was in each of them.  It is a common mistake among managers.  The mistake most of us make is when we start making the job or the goal the most important thing.  In that moment, we lose sight of the most important part of any business or organization – people.

I’ve been very fortunate to have access to some great leadership training through my work over the last few years, and I have also been blessed to have a great mentor and his wife that have poured their years of experience in to me as well.  In the combining of these two areas of education, I am starting to see how putting the focus on the people – in the right way – can bring about a better culture for working, and through that, a better result in the work.

About-People-2People are the most important thing in the workplace.  It is not the time schedule, the sales goal, the quota, or the records.  It is the people.  You can’t achieve any of those things without people, and usually the reason you are doing things in the first place is because at some point you are doing them for people.  Stop and think about that for a minute.  Every day at work you are doing something with people that results in doing something for people.  If you think about it like that, then you can’t help but notice that people are the common denominator!

People walk into our offices, not problems.  People need time from their managers, not orders.  People need to be heard, not surveyed.  People need to be cared for, not delegated to.  I’m preaching at myself a little here…

This isn’t a new concept.  Christ came to take care of the most important thing He had created – people.  He came to serve them and to be a sacrifice for them, and as His follower, I am called to do the same.  Christ gave of Himself to teach His people, to care for His people, and to protect His people.  Sometimes even from themselves.

I have a fine crew of people that “work for me.”  In truth, I have a group of people that serve the people in our community by working to keep their environment clean and safe.  They aren’t working for me.  They work for people.  My responsibility is to work for this crew and to care for them so they can do what they are there to do!  My job is to care about their home life, their dreams, their emotions.  To care about them!

Relentless Living is not something you just do at home and at church.  It is something you do every day, wherever you are, and when God places you in a position of leadership, you have a responsibility to lead as Christ led.  He was perfect in it, and we are not, but we have His example to learn from and follow.

Christ had a mission.  He came to settle our debt and to conquer death.  He could have done it without making disciples.  He could have done it without coming as a baby.  He could have done it without healing people.  He showed us that while the mission and the goal is important, it is done best by helping people along the way.

I’m going to be giving this more thought.  What can the Church do to better equip us as leaders and managers?  I’m not sure exactly what the answer is, but I know that it needs to revolve around people.  I guess we will see where God leads… I’m kind of excited about the trip!