Hands and Heart – Part 2

unnamedI guess when I posted the first part of this blog, most people would have rightly assumed that the second part would come next.  Sorry about that, but as a loyal reader, you are now being rewarded for your patience with me!

For those of you who are on Facebook, you have probably seen a few posts from your friends using the Timehop app.  Timehop is an app that accesses your Facebook and Twitter feeds to bring up the things that you posted on the present day in history.  It is a nice little window into what you may have been thinking about, sharing with others, or in the case of many, the pictures of what you ate.

A couple of days ago my Timehop hit on a post from 5 years ago.  It was a Facebook post where I mentioned a trip I had to take down to Big Rapids to meet with my District Manager and Zone Manager with Kellogg’s.  It was not a good meeting.  In that meeting I was cut apart, had my character questioned, and was told that I was not a good employee.  They had all kinds of papers and charts to show how their numbers proved it, but many of those numbers were twisted and out of context to the point that they were terribly untrue.  The problem was, I was not in the position to make the rules.  I left that meeting on probation.

On my drive home that day I remember battling feelings of depression, anger, doubt, and fear.  I needed this job.  It was a good job, and if I had been allowed to run it the way that my customers were asking me to do things, I could have been very successful at it for them, the company and for myself.  The problem was, I didn’t make the rules, and I was not honest enough with myself to admit that I felt miserable in that job.  By the time I got home I had closed my fist as tightly as possible around the false security of that job though.  I refused to let go.

I went to work with a renewed vigor and did whatever it took to meet the demands that had been placed on me.  They were unrealistic and required me to work as many as 16 hours a day at times.  I decided it was worth it though.  It was something I refused to let go of.  I put myself in a position where I was unwilling to look at anything other than what I wanted, and that was to hold that job.

Over the next several weeks I will probably share some more of how God took me through the process of His opening my hand.  It will be a bittersweet journey for me.  I don’t like to remember the pain, but I do enjoy looking back and seeing how God worked things out and brought me to a better place.

The journey taught me the importance of letting God have access to what is in my hands.  I could close them like a fist and keep things, or I could open them to His purposes and see what He wanted to do.  It sounds easier than it is.  I felt like after God opened my hands through losing that job I was pretty much all set.  When you have had your hands opened up like I did, you are reluctant to hold tight again any time soon.


The problem was that I didn’t open up all the way.  I had a couple fingers that were still closed.  They couldn’t hold much, but in my heart I was still hanging onto things that I didn’t want God to have.  Some of them were just things I was unwilling to trust Him to handle.  Did I think He couldn’t? No.  I just wanted that feeling of control in an environment where I had almost none.  I had so much taken from me in a short period of time, and I had such a tenuous grip on the rest that I was living in fear.

I was blessed to have a supportive wife who built into me and was also an example for me as we went through that time.  Through her, I saw an openhanded example, and while it took me a lot longer to grasp it, I believe that she was the one that planted that seed.

I also had a mentor and some friends who showed me how they lived an openhanded life, and as I spent more time with them and in my Bible I began to come face to face with the fact that I was still living a selfish life.  I didn’t have as many things to be selfish about, but I was clinging to what I had left!   Funny to think that I was hanging on to things so hard even then.

Over the last year I have learned that the key to joy in the Christian life is in the simple phrase “Thy will be done.”  When I give myself  over to what God wants, open my hands to whatever He deems right to put there, allow Him to remove the things that should be gone, I will be a happier person.  It might be painful at times, but the result has always proven to be better for me.

Relentless Growth is living in the pursuit of a relationship with God. The way to do that is to approach Him with a humble, open spirit, willing to accept what He has for your life.  It is a willingness to ask God to give me the desires of my heart that are in line with what He wants for me.  A willingness to accept what might feel hard for a time in order to receive a blessing over time.

Relentless Living requires open hands and an open heart.  I know I still stumble in this, but I have some great people that help me in it, and God keeps showing me opportunities to grow.



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.


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!