18 Years to Prep for Battle – Happy B-Day, Zach!

The birthday blog has become tradition here at Tanner Manor, so here is my letter to my son on his 18th Birthday.  A fine, young man he has grown to be, and Relentless in his pursuit of God and life.

Today I met in the woods again with Zach, my Dad, and my friends Ray and Joe.  These important men in my life all had words of encouragement and affirmation for Zach, and when I was done, I presented him with a gift.  I did this two years ago, and it was time to do it again. We need to recognize moments like these in the lives of our children.  Milestones are  important, and they need to hear from their parents just how proud they are of them.   I have been both waiting for and dreading this day since day 1, and it is here.  I know they will always need me, but still…

Zach,

18 years ago today, you entered this world. You were quiet. Too quiet. I immediately thought that the son I had waited for was gone before he had the chance to live. I remember the fear in my heart, what was wrong?  Why is he so quiet?  What’s going on?  Is he ok?  C,mon, son! Fight!

After what seemed to me to be an eternity, you finally began to stir and then you found your lungs.  I was the Dad of a healthy baby boy, and I could not have been happier.  I had a daughter and now a son.  Our family was complete, and it was all smooth sailing from that point on…

Not exactly. It didn’t take much time for me to figure out just how little I knew about being a husband and dad.  I was getting by alright with the occasional bump or hiccup, but there was a lot of stuff that I just didn’t have the answers to, and truth told, I still feel that way sometimes!

Over the years there have been a few things I have done that I know were good moves, and one of the biggest was doing the men’s group and the Authentic Manhood studies.  That study showed me a lot about myself, and the importance of trying to teach those principles to you.  They showed me that there are battles that will take place in life that I would need to fight for you, but also I would need to teach you to fight for yourself.

There have been good and hard times on this journey.  I want you to know that I own the responsibility for the majority of those hard times as I have been growing and changing and making mistakes along the way.  One of the most important things I have wanted you to learn is that we are not perfect, and our decisions have consequences and impact on those around us both for good and for bad.  No man is really an island.

During this journey of your life, I have been trying, along with the help of your Mom, to give you the tools you need to thrive as a man.  Lessons, examples, books, mentors, and stories from my life are just a few of the ways I have done that.  I have always said that the experiences of others are the best teachers because you can learn the lesson without personal pain or loss.  We have shared victory and defeat on that front, but we have continued to learn and grow – me as a Dad and you as a son.

Two years ago we took some time with some friends and had a celebration of you at the age of 16.  Men God has brought into your life shared with you some of their own insights and wisdom as they encouraged you to continue to grow in God and as a man.  It was a good time.

That was when I presented you with your shield carrying the family name on it.  The shield represented the period of life you were entering where there would be attacks that would come to you as Satan desired to tear you down and destroy your reputation.  You would see trials and struggles that would strain relationships, and, unfortunately, see some fall away.  The battles would be real, and you would need to learn to defend not only who you are, but what you believe.

Through the last two years, I have seen you grow in your ability to stand strong in trial.  You have become more resolute in your faith, and you have served as an example to others as well.  I have enjoyed watching you grow and have been very proud of you.  You have been tested, and some of those battles have appropriately hardened you – tempered you for bigger challenges to come.

Now you are 18.  You will be leaving the house this fall for college, and you will be stepping out into the world as a man.  My time for instruction, while not completely finished, is undergoing a change to an advisory role. I will be there when you need me, but the day is coming that I might not be a part of your daily life.  This will be a hard adjustment for me, and in some ways for you, too.

For the last 18 years, it has been my responsibility as your Dad to stand and fight for you, to be the one who stood guard over your heart and to fight anything of this world or any other who would dare come for my son.  As your Dad, that was my job, and as hard as it was sometimes, it has been one of the most rewarding jobs I have ever had.

Along with that job has been the charge to teach you the things you need to know about life, how to defend yourself against the attacks Satan will be certain to throw against you, and how to fight for those you care about, as well.  I have done my best to do so, and in spite of my shortcomings and failures along the way, I believe that you have learned much of what you need to know, and I want to commemorate this moment as well.

So, today, I give you this sword as a picture of my belief in you and the man you have become.  It signifies that I believe that you are equipped to do battle against Satan and his influences.  The sword means that you are no longer simply one who defends, but now you are carrying the battle with you as you walk with Christ.

You will now step into the lives of those you see struggling and offer aid to them. You will not just endure, but you will overcome.  You will be a warrior for Christ in all aspects of your life and give Him the glory in the victories that God gives to you.

Stay in the Word.  There is nothing you can do that will give you more than that for the battles you will face.  God’s truth will guide you in the hard choices, and will comfort you in your moments of doubt and pain.  Stay close to God and allow Him to guide you.  He knows your heart and your needs even better than I.

For the last 18 years, you and I have been preparing for this day.  I love you as my son, but also as a man of God, and a warrior for His kingdom  You have made me proud in so many ways, and I know that God is going to continue to do great things with you and through you as you strive to walk with Him.

I’m always here  for you when you need me.  I got your back and am always willing to fight at your side.

I love you, Zach!

– Dad

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To My 16 Year-Old Son – Happy Birthday!

10947232_910103895675869_4578714176413601194_nZachary turns 16 today!  Since it has become a custom, here is the birthday blog post to this little homeboy that seems to be growing up into quite the young man.  Allow me to brag on my boy here for a little while.  If it seems to mushy for you, then feel free to go find a YouTube video of sword fighting cats or something.  I don’t mind at all.

Zach,

I can’t believe you are already 16 years old.  The time has flown by, and while I have always been aware of how fast it moves, I can honestly say that this last year has been a bigger blur than usual!  There have always been certain “parts” of who you are that seem to develop more in a 12 month period than others, but the changes in you over the last 12 months have been astonishing in all aspects.

Physically – Dude, I can honestly say that I am starting to regret telling you that the day you can whip me you will have earned it.  You’re becoming a tank, and I am starting to feel the need to watch you out of the corner of my eye just in case you decide it is time to go for it!  I’ve always enjoyed wrestling with you and goofing off together like that, and I beam with pride when I hear people say things like, “I just saw your son. What have you been feeding him?”  Acorn & Tree. Chip & Block.  You have grown a lot over the past year, and I don’t see you being done just yet.

10301298_10204434300596039_4767409375357062929_nMentally – This past year of school has been impressive to say the least.  Your Mom and I are very proud of the work that you have done over the year in studies that are intended for an older student, but you have not only done well in your classes, you have OWNED them!  To see the way that you are grasping complex concepts as well as learning to write at a higher level has been a joy.  This next year as you start on college courses, we feel confident that you will continue to excel in what you do.  You have grown a lot over the past year, and I don’t see you being done just yet.

Emotionally – We’ve had some important conversations over the past year when it comes to handling emotions in a godly manner like a man should.  The conversation that we had just the other day meant more to me than you will probably ever know, and as a man I was impressed, but as a Dad I could not have been more proud of you.  Learning to handle our emotional responses is vital in our relationships, and you are learning it at a younger age than I did.  My hope is that by doing so, you will be in a better position to handle the hard things of life as they come across your path than I was. You have grown a lot over the past year, and I don’t see you being done just yet.11205523_10205739218578173_7479264338994749135_n

Relationally – I have seen you develop better and stronger friendships over the past year.  You are learning better how to be a friend to those in your peer groups, and sometimes that means calling them out!  I’ve seen you do that on a few occasions over the past year, and that is a testament to the man you are becoming.  Not because you told someone they were wrong, but because you came alongside someone and helped them see a damaging thing in their lives and helped them for their benefit, not for your ego.  You didn’t throw a judgement and walk away, you stayed with them to help them.  That’s a trait that honors God, and I am so proud to see that in you. You have grown a lot over the past year, and I don’t see you being done just yet.10730949_10205859982517196_4482399068858361253_n

Musically – Your guitar skills have taken a huge leap over the past year, and I thought you were really good then!  The passion that you have for your music shows when you play because it flows out of your heart.  I can’t wait to see what God is going to do with you as you continue to look at your music skills and how you can develop them more.  I know it is going to be big with you. You have grown a lot over the past year, and I don’t see you being done just yet.

Spiritually – Zach, since your birthday last year, you have a new relationship with Christ, and it is making a difference in you in ways that are impacting these other aspects of your life.  You have been in your Bible more, reading some better books for spiritual growth, journaling, and focusing on not only the act of playing of worship, but worshipping in your playing.  Over the last 12 months I challenged you to grow in your life spiritually, and I have been so thankful for what I have seen God doing in you as you accepted that challenge.   You have grown a lot over the past year, and I don’t see you being done just yet.

11150650_10206570837340696_2142947637021693128_nYou might have noticed a phrase repeated through this. (I hope so, I just said you were smart!)  I want you to know that I write that as a challenge.  I see so much potential in you to go farther and grow more, and while I am impressed with what the last year has been like, I believe that you are just getting going!  There are things that God is going to do with you as you keep yourself tender toward Him, and I know that He has plans for you that are beyond my imagination.  Are you open to it?

I want you to be Relentless in the growth process.  Growing is never done until you are dead.  I want you to never feel that you have arrived, but to have a hunger to keep pushing to be the best that you can be.  I’m proud of you, and I always will be.  I want you to be able to look back on your life one day and say,

“I’ve grown a lot over the past year, but I don’t see me being done just yet.”

I love you, son.  Happy Birthday!

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Calling Him Out & Up

11205113_10206541655531169_195957320906306357_nThis past weekend was my annual Men’s Retreat.  I have been doing these things for  along time, and I have enjoyed each and every one of them, but this year the reason was a little different.  My son, Zach, was along for the adventure.  Let’s be clear, this is not one of those strip down and put on a loin cloth while dancing around a fire in the middle of the woods kind of things.  Trust me.  NOBODY wants to see that!  These retreats are opportunities for a group of guys to get away, hear some good teaching, and just enjoy some time as men.

Men need times like this.  It’s not that I wanted to get away from my wife. She’s AWESOME, and I love being with her.  The thing is, as much as I love being with her, I need to be with guys too!  She is my best friend.  She is intelligent, cultured, refined, kind, and sweet.  Basically, she is very much NOT a man. (I thank God for that each and every day!)

So, on these retreats, one of the things that we have tried to do for the last 5 years or so is to get the guys that do go on this trip to put a good amount of time into talking about the things that we struggle with.  Sometimes we will take the material that we are being given and use that as our springboard, but often it is just the things that we are dealing with in our lives that brings the best conversation.  Then, we will talk about what God would want us to do in that situation and set up  some type of plan for making a change that will bring us more in line with what God would want us to do.  Then, we assign a little bit of accountability. If you want to read a great article on THAT “dirty little word” then just click here.

I joined a great men’s group several years ago with my buddy Ray (He wasn’t my buddy until about half way through the class.) where we did a study called Authentic Manhood.  It was a great study, and it has opened up many doors for growth in my life.  It talks about how a man should live in the home, at work, and at church.  It gives insight into why we are the way we are because of things from our past, but it gives us a promise that we are not prisoners to that past.  We CAN change!  It tells us how to be better husbands, fathers, employees, bosses, financial managers, and pretty much anything else you would want to be.  Like I said, it opens up MANY doors for growth.

11180295_10206547099467264_1789966459726332317_nOne thing taught in the study is the importance of building into the lives of our sons through intentional conversations, activities, and friendships.  As we do these things, there are moments where it is good to “call up” your son into manhood.  It’s not an “all-at-once” thing.  It happens in stages, and those stages are marked by ceremonies that the young man will be able to look back on as he grows as moments where he was called out to be a man among men.  It’s not just tied to his age.  It’s more than that.  He is called out by men who believe in him and want to see him grow.  Those men will offer their advice to him and will stand with him as he grows.  This is something that we need!

So, this retreat was very special to me because I had asked four men that God has brought into my life as my closest friends to help me in calling up my son.  There were a lot of things that we did at the retreat, but this was by far, the most important thing that happened there that weekend.

The men that spoke to Zach are men that I love and respect.  Yes, I said I love these guys.  They are men that I pray for every day, and I know they pray for me too.  We have shared things that are struggles in our lives, and we have been building a strong bond that encourages us when we are getting weighed down with the stresses and trials of life.  I need these guys, and I hope they all need me too!

Me talking to Zach about a legacy of Faith
Me talking to Zach about a spiritual legacy

I asked each them to speak to Zach about something important.  They spoke about Discipline, Integrity, Faith/Following God, and Friendship, then I ended it by talking about the importance of building a spiritual legacy that carries into eternity.  At the end, I presented him with a gift.  He now owns a shield that has a Tanner family crest on it.  My hope is that he will always keep that shield and look back on this day when his dad and his four friends told him that he is becoming a man, and that they are going to help him grow into a good one.  I want him to remember the respect that they showed him that day as men who are living out principles that they talked to him about.

As Zach grows over the next 5-10 years, there will be a couple more of these “ceremonies” that we will do.  The topics will change, and there may be some other men that enter the mix, but one thing will stay the same.  There will be an intentional focus on helping Zach to see the importance of men in his life.  We were not designed to go solo, and it is a foolish man that thinks he can do it and get away with it.

11150650_10206570837340696_2142947637021693128_nI want there to be men that tell Zach the same story.  Men who will echo my words that he should have a Relentless pursuit of God and relationship with Jesus Christ.  I want him to love one woman with all his heart and to raise godly kids that he can teach the same things to.  I want him to see the importance of giving his best at work, but knowing when it is time to set it aside for family.  I want him to learn to identify his shortcomings and not just stew over them, but to determine and purpose in his heart that a failure is an opportunity to learn and be strengthened by God for a future victory.

I hope I pass this legacy on to Zach, and that he will take it on to his kids and almost as importantly, to other men.  Let’s face it, we will all impact out own kids on purpose or accidentally.  There is no arguing that, but think about what could happen if men were intentional about not inly impacting their own kids, but the children of their friends as well!  Now we are talking about Relentless Living!

Many thanks to the four men who spoke to Zach this weekend.  Mike, Tom, Joe, & Ray, I appreciate it more than I can ever tell you.  Justin, Noah, Phil, and Marty, I am glad you were there too as witnesses and as participants in a weekend that I know I will never forget!

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My Son – A Man in the Making

This past week we have been heavily involved in the Kalkaska County Fair.  We raise pigs for the kids to auction, and my daughter also has a dog she shows and does horseback riding as well.  There are things my son does with joy and passion, but anything involved with animals is not on his top ten list.  He makes it quite clear that he is, “in this for the money.”  I see no sign that this will change anytime soon, as his interests are definitely non-agricultural.  So, when fair week comes around, we have always looked to him and done our best to get him excited about it, and remind him that it is character development – hard work, responsibility, dedication, and so on.

DSC09975Looking at our pigs this year, we really thought that Zach had a nice looking pig of a decent weight and shape.  Every time we went out and looked at the pigs, I would think that he would have a contender for big market money, and his sister would just need to settle for the usual goal she has of being a showman.  His pig was exactly the shape the judge has been looking for the last two years.  He heard me say it over and over, and I think he was really starting to get excited for the fair this year.  I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t surprised.

Well, we got our pigs up there and started looking around and found that Zach’s pig, while looking good, was much smaller than many of the other pigs.  Our worst fears were realized when she was weighed and we found that she was significantly under the weight for a market swine.  I was so surprised at the weight that I asked for her to be weighed again, and we got the same result.  This was a little pig. (we later found out she was the second smallest out of 40+ pigs this year.

Zach was crushed.  The main reason he does the pig is for the money, and he has a small pig.  Roaster pigs are sold at the end of all the other pigs, and usually your buyers have spent most of their money and the bids are low.  Low bids + low weight = less money.  That was a hard hit for him.  We talked to him and tried to get him fired up again.  I don’t think he was buying it much.  We pointed out to him that since he was one of the oldest kids in his class and had been showing for a few years, he had a great shot at winning the Showmanship award.  I think he perked up a bit at that, and he went the next morning with a good attitude, ready to give it a shot.

He did great.  I really thought it was his best performance yet as a showman.  He actually looked like he was enjoying himself!  When the results came in, he did not win the Grand or the Reserve spot.  I have to admit, that was hard for me to see.  I had just watched my son bounce back from a hard hit the night before in something he does not like doing, knuckle up and go at it again, only to be denied the prize he was after.  I looked him in the eye and told him that I was very proud of him and his efforts.  Inside I was devastated for him.  I didn’t understand it anymore than he did.  I pretty much concluded at that point that his week was pretty much over.DSC00018

I didn’t know what was going on in him though.  At camp last week, Zach was impacted by the messages and his time in the Word.  He came home and told us all about how God became much more real to him while at camp.  What I didn’t know, was that in the middle of all of this disappointment, Zach was reaching out to God for help with his attitude.  He was praying that God would still give him a good week at the fair.

Over the next couple of days, we watched Jessica rack up one award after another.  Her side of the pig pen was covered in ribbons, a plaque, and a trophy that fairly shouted to anyone walking by that this girl knew what she was doing.  We felt bad that Zach’s side of the pen was vacant of any award, and the number of hers almost made it look the barn was tipping with the weight of them!  Even though that was what we saw, there was something else we could see as well.  Zach was having fun.

He was there at every event supporting his sister.  He was feeding and caring for the animals with little to no push.  He was helping other kids out with their animals.  He was laughing, smiling, and not feeling sorry for himself.  He was out lifting up other people.  It became so apparent to us that his attitude was so impressive that we decided as a family it would be fun to take a picture of him and put it on his side of the pen with a sign that said, “Best Attitude with No Awards!”  It just seemed like a fun thing to do, and it would put something on his side of the pen.  We thought the buyers might get a kick out of it when they walked through the pens.  Honestly, we did it for the laughs.

DSC00093Well, the auction took place, and Jessica did well with her pig.  It was the 6th place market swine, and took a respectable price.  Bidding was going very well last night, but as we often see, as the pigs got smaller, the average bids did too.  You would see the occasional pig tip a large number, but we saw what we expected.  We told Zach to just get out there and have fun.  He had a pig to sell, she was small, so he needed to sell himself too!

When he got out there, I could not have been more proud of him.  He was smiling, had a bounce in his step and a grin on his face.  He even did the moon-walk as he walked with his pig!  I wasn’t even paying attention to the bidding until I heard the auctioneer yell out that he had received a $4.00 bid!  That was the same price per pound that the Grand Champion pig received.  By the time all was finished, Zach had received a final bid of $4.50!  That was a full $2.00 per pound m0re than I was HOPING for!  His pig brought in more money than his sister’s pig that weighed 50 pounds more than his!

The buyer was a complete stranger.  When we went to give her the buyer gift that we had purchased for her, she said that she and her daughter had been walking through the pens and saw the picture of Zach smiling and giving the thumbs up, and had decided right then that they would buy his pig.  Not because ot was a great pig, but because he had a great attitude, and it was showing on his face before and during the show.

Talking with Zach later, he said that he had prayed for a good result, but he had prayed more about a good attitude.  He said he is working on having an attitude of praying without ceasing and giving his thoughts to God when they start to go dark.  What better thing could a Dad hear his son say?  I told him that I thought God blessed him last night for something better than hard work.  He was blessed for his determination to have a good attitude.  I believe that with all my heart.  This was a battle for him this past week.  It was a man-sized battle, and he knuckled up and hit it head on with God at his side.  I could not be more proud.

Phillippians 4:8-9 say:

Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me—practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.

Matthew 6:33 says:

But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.

Zach did the hard thing this week.  He chose a Relentless attitude of trust and put his thoughts on God rather than focusing on his current lot.  I can learn a lesson there, how about you?  What hard thing has you discouraged right now?  Are you dwelling on the circumstance, or are you asking God to show you what you need to learn, to let you lean on Him, to direct your steps and spirit as you continue to walk?  That is a life of Relentless Growth.  That is kingdom living, and God wants to reward us for it.

Relentless Growth -> Grow Deep -> Grow Strong

Happy Birthday, Zach! I love you!

So, this morning I wake up and I am the father of a fifteen year old son. Amazing! I decided that I would give a tribute to my son, Zach as I did for his sister in January. Harder to come up with touching and sweet when you have a kid so much like yourself. This was his Facebook status this morning:

1660968_10202940390941805_14487435_nCannibal – (Noun) – Def: someone who is fed up with people

Yep. My kid! So, settle in if you want, but this is for my boy.

Zachary,

I can’t believe the years have flown by the way that they have. It seems like only a blink ago that you were a squirmy, smelly little thing scooting around the floor in the house. We could put you down and you would find all sorts of things to amuse yourself. Whether you were standing in the cupboard looking for a snack, rooting through the fridge looking for a snack, or digging in the couch cushions looking for a snack, you always had a smile on your face.

You used to give us heart attacks the way you would come down the stairs. So glad that we taught you to do it on your belly, but you could come down the stairs so fast it always made us think that we were going to find a maimed little boy at the bottom by the time we sprinted over there, but all we ever found was a smiling kid ready to climb back up and do it again.2014-05-29 06.32.46

I remember you wearing the colander on your head as you sat and watched Rolie Polie Olie and how you liked to run around the house with it while looking for a snack. I remember the early morning whispers at the side of my bed:

Zach: (Loudly whispered like only a kid can) Dad?
Me: (Grunting myself awake) Huh?
Zach: (Again in the loud whisper, but now three inches from my ear so his sleepy dad can understand him) Can I have a piece of cheese?
Me: Yes
(5 minutes later)
Zach: (Now with less whisper because well, why bother?) Dad?
Me: What?
Zach: Can I have a Gogurt?
Me: Yes, just go be quiet

2014-05-29 06.30.42I would get up a few minutes after that and go out to see you sitting in my recliner, usually with a bowl on your head while you watched TV. A few years later we gave that recliner away and when we were moving it I saw some plastic and when I pulled it out I found about 30-40 cheese wrappers stuffed into that chair along with a few gogurt wrappers. Glad you finally got that trash can thing down!

Before we knew it you were in school and we found out that you were a smart little fella! It has always been a treat to see your grades when they come back. Sometimes the work was very easy for you, but when it wasn’t, we would talk to you and you would always buckle down and give us your best, and you always saw a victory when you did that. I hope you never forget the lesson that God doesn’t ask us to be perfect, but He asks for our best.

Mom and I were so happy when you accepted Christ, and how even at a young age we started to see the change that comes from having Christ in your life. As you have grown I see more and more of that, and while you are not perfect (as your father’s son), you are growing, seeing the need for God, and I have been very happy to hear some of the questions that you ask. Don’t be afraid to ask, and never be afraid to dig deep into God’s Word for the real answers.2014-05-29 06.31.58

542431_3590688134928_605155567_nIt wasn’t very long after you were born that we began to see just how much like me you were going to be. I apologize for that. Seriously though, you got my sense of humor, your sarcasm, your ability to memorize things, some of my physical features, and the way that you think. I’m not sure why God made our brains work in such a similar fashion, but it really is something, and you know what I mean. Sorry that has made it easy for me to know what you are thinking more often than you would like!

You might be like me in a lot of ways, but I am so thankful that you are like your Mom too. Your musical skills are so definitely from her, and it is so neat to see how much you enjoy playing. I know it makes her heart swell with pride as she knows that is a bond that the two of you share. You also got her good looks, so again, you are welcome!

1390705_10202174021543049_2122419166_nI love watching you out on the soccer field, and even with all of the hassle of schedules, driving, and all of that, you know that when I get sat down in my chair at the edge of that field I am all in, and I am not only your biggest, but your loudest fan. Seeing your skills develop over the years has been awesome, and I can’t wait for another season. It is fun to see you play, and to remember how much I loved playing, but even better is sharing the love of the game with you.

Another thing that just fills my heart with pride is how you have stepped up as a leader in the youth group with the band. Not just to play, but to sing as well. Now you are even writing songs, and that is a blend of the gifts you got from me and Mom. You can’t even imagine how great it feels to watch you pick up your guitar and use the talents God gave you whether it is in the living room, the youth room, or by a camp fire. I love it!534754_4523631847337_1474451275_n

Zach, you are now 15. Hard to think that our time with you as a “kid” in our home is coming to a close. You are well on your way to becoming a young man. I expect over the next few years we will have some tense and tough moments together. Please remember that my goal is not to hold you back, but to strengthen you for what is to come. At times you might feel like I am keeping you from things, but in reality I am keeping harmful things from you. You might not want to talk to me about the things that I want to talk about, but they are necessary to help you think for yourself when I am not there. You might feel like you are all alone sometimes, but I am always there if you need me.

1004687_10201251091417799_255220507_nOver this next year I am going to challenge you. There are some things that I am going to ask you to do to help you develop some good and godly habits. There are some things that I am going to challenge you to do to develop some life skills. I am also going to do something else. I am asking a few men to take an interest in your life. They have agreed to reach out to you and to check in with you to see how you are doing. These men will ask you some tough questions from time to time, and I want you to feel free to answer them. I trust these men, and I trust them to speak truth to you and share their life perspectives with you in a way that gives you an opportunity to take that wisdom and apply it in your own life.

As your Dad, I have a responsibility given to me by God to raise you, teach you, discipline you, love you, protect you, correct you, cheer for you, rebuke you, comfort you, but most importantly, to prepare you for your life. We have had the discussion before that I am not supposed to be your friend right now. I have a weightier and more pressing role as your Dad, but I look forward to the day that I can just be your friend and a trusted advisor. I see that day is coming, and I get glimpses form time to time on how it is going to feel. I love it!

So, as your Dad, I want to give you a little advice right now. It has taken me most of my life to understand this point, but I think you might have a better handle on it than I did at your age, and I my prayer is that you will take this advice and use it as the foundation for your life:

Spend time in God’s Word

You are a Christian, and in this world that can end up being a confusing title at times. You will have people that question he things that you do in light of the fact that you are a Christian, but if you want to really understand what it means, what your identity in Christ really is, you have got to spend time in God’s Word.

It can be work to get in there some days and see what He has for you, but I promise you that you will always get something out of it if you go into it knowing that you need it. Hunger for it. Devour it. Memorize it. Make it a part of who you are. It is a shield against the things of this world that will pull you down. You can hold it up to the confusing issues of this world to see them for what they really are in light of its truth. You can rest in it, behind it, and under it when you feel tired and worn down by people, pressure, and pain. It pushes through the things that will try to tangle you up and make you fall. There is no greater advice I can give you as my son, but to seek God out in His Word regularly.

The second piece of advice is to be a leader. Don’t be afraid to stand up and do the hard thing when it is the right thing, and it usually is the hard thing. Take the principles you get from your time in the Word and use them to become a leader like Christ. Be a servant leader, willing to step out, but also willing to help others along. A leader cannot al2014-05-29 06.31.01ways be the man out front. If he is, he will eventually see that he is taking a walk by himself.

Zach, I love you, I am proud of you, and I want great things for you. God is going to use you for something big (until then, take this pill), and I cannot wait to see how you are going to use your life to bring Him glory.  Be committed to Relentless Growth in Christ!

Dad