The Difference a Day Makes

0d2d09c6-55ab-4c1a-8597-92c7f66d48db-large16x9_SheriffDeVolI sat down yesterday to read my Bible and journal before going out to spend the day with some friends.  I had plans of sitting down to write a blog post when I got back home.  That didn’t happen.  The plan was to write about how to make positive change in difficult relationships.  Even relationships that are thrust upon us with no choice of our own.  I might get back to that one later, but yesterday was not the day.

Shortly after getting home yesterday I noticed on my Facebook feed that there were a number of profile pics that had changed to a picture of the Kalkaska Sheriff’s Department badge on a black background with a blue line over it.  It was not the traditional black line over a badge, but I was pretty sure I knew what it meant right away, and I began praying for those I know in the Department as I scrolled through the feed looking for more information.

Before too long I had found a reference to my friend Abe DeVol, Kalkaska County Sheriff.  It hit like a sledgehammer.  I began looking at news outlets to see if I could figure out what happened, and eventually found a news story stating that Abe had died unexpectedly of natural causes.  I spent much of last night in a fog, thinking about my friend.  He was only 44 years old.  Just two years older than I am.  Much of last night was spent thinking and worrying about my own health and asking the question no one likes to ask, “What if it was me?”  “What if I went to work on Monday and didn’t come home?”

Just a couple months ago Abe and I spent some time talking and he shared with me how he struggled with the demands of the job and how it made it harder for him to be there for his wife and daughters.  He loved them all, and he did everything he could to make sure that they knew he put them first.  I was glad to see that over the last couple of weeks he was posting pictures of himself with his daughters out in the woods together enjoying his passion of hunting.  He was that kind of Dad. Heavily involved in sports, and always willing to brag about his three girls.

Sleep last night was a little rough with all the thoughts that kept waking me up.  “Have I prepared things for my family if I am gone?”  “Why didn’t I spend more time thinking about my health?” “Why didn’t I spend more time with them?”  “How much time do I have?”  “What am I supposed to do?”

This morning I sat down to open the Bible and my study plan dropped me in Matthew 6.  Near the end of the chapter there is a section that is marked off in my Bible.  It is a bold section heading that states:

DO NOT BE ANXIOUS

The last verse of Matthew 6 says:

“Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.” – Matthew 6:34

In light of Abe’s passing, this verse really spoke to me and the worries that I had been experiencing through the night.  As I read through it, I had three thoughts that came to mind.

  1. Don’t Worry About Tomorrow – This isn’t a pass that takes away all responsibility in life, but it is a reminder that tomorrow is going to come no matter what.  It might have some good in it, and it might have some bad in it.  Either way, I am going to be facing it with God.  I can make plans, but I need to remember that plans don’t always work out.  Even that great philosopher Mike Tyson once said, “Everybody has a plan until they get punched in the face.”
  2. Tomorrow Is Coming… Quickly – There are so many things that are going on in our lives today.  It is a fast-paced world with technology, information overload, schedules, demands, responsibilities, and sometimes even some fun stuff too!  We need to make sure we are in the moment and not focusing too much on the past or the future.  Another great philosopher, Ferris Bueller once said, “Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.”
  3. Today Is Enough for Today – At work I have been taking the time each morning to lay out my day.  I use an app called Trello to keep everything organized, and it has allowed me to attack my day more efficiently.  Part of that daily planning is to assess my progress during the day and see if the task is possible to complete.  It might not be possible to do it all in one day, but I can make a little progress and then jot a note for the next day and return to it then.  I find that doing this is allowing me to come home in a better mood at the end of the day, even if the day was a little rocky.  I am seeing an improvement, and I want to take this same discipline into other areas, arguably the more important areas of my life.

I don’t want to live a life of worry.  There are too many things that I will miss out on if I live that way.  I want to know that at the end of any given day I have had a good day.  I want days that leave my family feeling loved and fulfilled.  I want my wife to know how important she is to me.  I want her to know that she has been an encouraging force in my life that has kept me moving in times that I didn’t feel like I could go another step.  I want my kids to know that I am proud of them, love them, and that I cared enough to equip them with things they need to know for life.  I want them all to know that there was never a place I wanted to be more than with the three of them.

These are things that I believe Abe wanted his family to know as well.  I’m sure when he went to bed Friday night he didn’t know what Saturday held for him, but I know that if he could talk to us today, he would tell us that we never know when it is time to leave and we should take the time to be sure to take care of the important things like our families, our faith, and our friends while we still can.

I am thankful that as a child of Christ, I know my future is secure.  I have a home in heaven, and I know that I will see my family again one day.  That faith stands strong to carry me past the point of worry to a place where I can stand resolute in my belief that tomorrow will be okay no matter what comes.  I’m going to continue to do the smart things of trying to getting in shape, to make sure I teach my kids what they need to know, and to shower my wife with love, but I don’t need to worry about tomorrow.  God has my tomorrow in His hands, and He is much more capable of handling it well than I ever could be.

Relentless Living doesn’t mean I don’t care about my tomorrow, but it does mean that worrying about tomorrow need not keep me from living today.

Our little town is a different place today without Abe in it.  He will be missed greatly, and I know that there are a lot of people here who are better for having known him.  He knew the importance of making a difference in his community, and that is something we all need to remember to do.  Please remember to keep his family in your prayers.

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Can I Have a Moment?

a-moment-in-timeWhat is a moment? Well, here are a few definitions to chew on:

  • Little while
  • Short time
  • A bit
  • Instant
  • Second, Split second, Minute, Hour
  • Point in time

What can happen in a moment?  Admittedly, sometimes nothing, but other times we see matters of importance, significance, consequence, note, weight, concern, and interest.  The world can, and has, changed in a moment.

Man has crossed the oceans, flown like birds, set foot on the moon, and built skyscrapers.  Man has harnessed the power of the atom, transplanted hearts, and has changed the courses of rivers.  We have also seen a beautiful September day change the way we look at our nation’s security.

Those things all happened in a moment.  We remember the moments, but we forget all the preparation that went into those moments that made them stick in our heads.  Why is that?  What is it about the preparation for a moment that leaves us feeling flat until the MOMENT occurs?  Is it because they are boring?  They don’t have that little flare of “Wow”?  Is it because they sometimes feel a little like failure?

In a word – Probably.

The thing is, those moments of preparation take us to the MOMENT!  In the goal to put a man on the moon, there were a lot of failures.  There were a lot of steps that in hindsight probably seemed pretty insignificant, but they were integral to the MOMENT. If they had not taken place, we would still be looking up in the sky at the moon and wondering if it were made of cheese!

The way we live our lives can feel the same way.  We might struggle for years to attain something with what seems like nothing more than a pathetic result, but if we have been Relentless in that struggle, we have probably had some progress.  We might not be where we want to be, but we are not where we were.  We have had little moments that are building up until such a point that they can be released into the MOMENT we are looking for.  Well, if we are looking for one.

passing-time-2-51854c91a8333_hiresI think back over my life, and if I were honest, I would have to tell you that for a large chunk of it I was not looking for a MOMENT.  I was just biding my time.  In hindsight I was comfortable to let life happen to me, and I saw surviving it as a pretty good goal to have.  Yeah, that’s living!  It’s not that I didn’t have little moments that were happening all around me, I was just not looking for a MOMENT, so the preparatory moments never got my attention.

I don’t want to live that way anymore.  I have my eyes on some MOMENTS now.  God has done a work and is showing me that He has plans to put a MOMENT or two in my life, and as I look forward to those MOMENTS, I am much more aware of the little moments that are happening around me every day.  I don’t know if I need them all, and I don’t know which one might be the one that takes a moment and turns it into a MOMENT, but I’m afraid if I don’t give those moments my attention then I might not get a chance to experience the MOMENT.

I want to be Relentless in my pursuit of God and my relationship with Him.  That mindset has been a fairly recent discovery when you consider that it only came about in the last 6 or 7 years of my life.  Realizing my need to be closer to God has created hundreds of moments where I have had an opportunity to draw closer to Him.  I’ve blown more than I care to think about, but I can look back and see that this desire has brought about change through the moments.  It has put me in new positions to see the next moment, and how it might all one day fit together.

I’m experiencing another one of those moments now.  Tammi and I have had a dream of one day running a retreat for pastors and missionaries.  We have talked about it a lot, but it has always been one of those MOMENTS that we hope will happen, but have not had any real opportunity to do anything about it. We have always considered it to be something that we would start on when we retire.

Well, that is changing.  I now have an opportunity to get involved with a small retreat center right here in Kalkaska where I can learn more about that step.  Through some relationships both new and old, we have been presented with a preparatory moment that will, Lord willing, lead to a MOMENT for us!  We are excited for the opportunity to learn things both spiritual and practical that will allow us to embrace the MOMENT when God decides it is time.

I look forward to sharing more as the moments unfold.  For now, I would just like to challenge you to look at life. Are you looking for a MOMENT or just trying to get through life.  I don’t think there is a due date that you have to start by either.  If you can still fog  mirror then you are still able to look. When you find what God is showing you that grabs your attention, the start looking around you for the moments that will prepare you for the MOMENT!  That is Relentless Living!

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Just Call Me “Stretch”

stretchStretching is a good thing. It allows muscles and joints to work better. It can alleviate pain, and improve mobility. It is a necessary thing for growth in other aspects of our lives. Think about your education, your relationships, and your work. Stretching is a good thing!

Unless you take it too far. Stretching can also tear things. Stretching without proper understanding of limitations and abilities can cause harm. Think about a time when you went out and stretched yourself and got hurt in a relationship, a work experience. Stretching without understanding can be a very bad thing.

Recently God has been stretching me in some new ways. Work has been a very stretchy experience, and at times I think it is not all good, but I can say that I am learning how to better adapt to that stress, and I have gotten better at saying an unpopular word, “No!” I can’t, nor should I, say it all the time, but I am getting a little bit better at it.

God has been stretching my leadership as well. Not only at work, but at home, church, and with my group of guys. It has been great to see so much change lately in those areas, and it seems like it is all happening at once, but I know that it is just the results of little change that has been happening for a while.

I think the area that God has been stretching the most lately has been in my willingness. Yes. I stopped at willingness. Not a willingness to do something in particular, but just in my ability to be willing. Ask my wife. She’ll tell you that I have been a very unwilling person in some pretty significant areas in my life. Just in the last year or so, I have been willing to let go of some things in order to have an open hand that can receive or grab on to something new.

Why is that? Well, I think a lot of it is a control issue that I am known for. I like to be in control and that is just pretty much all that needs to be said about it. If I am in control then I get to be the one that decides how, when, and where something should be done. The downside of that is that I don’t have anyone to blame if something goes south, but I still get to control the timetable so I can say I will get back to that.

But I have had a lot of things happen in the last 4-5 years that have been completely out of my control. (Or at least my illusion of control, but that is a whole ‘nuther topic!) Over this last half decade I have been at times thrust into a stretch that I had not intended. Ever did the splits on ice? That hurts! Those stretches have been difficult, but I am starting to understand that there was a value in them.

Jeremiah 29:11 says:

For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.

Those painful stretches I have had are actually a part of God’s plan for my life. They have made me over (in some capacity) to be a person that can handle a little more than the guy I used to be. I’m not Superman or anything, and you will not see me doing a Jean Claude VanDamme split in any sense of the image, but I am now a more willing man.

Why do I bring this up? What would be the purpose of telling you about stretching? Well, it looks like God might be asking me to stretch again. I’m not sure, and I am praying hard about it, but God has put something in my path that I need to think about, pray about, and do some digging into in order to see if it is something I need to just step around, or if He put it there for me to go over.

Going around is always easy, and it doesn’t require much of a stretch. Going over can be problematic as it is difficult, requires stretching and trust, and to top it off, I am afraid of heights! I tell my kids that the hard choice is usually the right choice, and that is true, but sometimes the right choice, teh wise choice,  is backing away and stepping around something that could hurt you.

I don’t know what choice will take place. There is a lot I need to know. It will take some investigating to see what God might have to say about it. One thing I do know is that I want to be that willing man that is Relentless is his pursuit of God, and is Relentless about being where God wants him to be. You see, going over or around is not the most important thing. Stretching me is a good thing if I am smack dab in the middle of the plan God has for me. Taking the hard route over or the easy route around makes no difference if I am not in God’s will.

So, pray for me and my wife as we are praying. We want to be, as our friends Joe and Traci say, “Extraordinary” people. (I call it Relentless, but the thoughts are pretty much the same) God is good, and I know He wants what is best for me as I grow in Him.

He wants the same for you too. If you would like to know more about how to know Him and begin your own journey of Relentless living, I would love to talk to you.

Relentless Growth -> Grow Deep -> Grow Strong

 

War! What Is It Good For?

239902Now these are the nations which the Lord left, to test Israel by them (that is all who had not experienced any of the wars of Canaan; only in order that the generations of the sons of Israel might be taught war, those who had not experienced it formerly). – Judges 3:1-2 (ESV)

“War… what is it good for?”   Well, if you are channeling your inner hippie, you would answer that question with (all together now), “absolutely nuthin’!” Is it? I’m not asking about violence for the sake of violence. I’m talking about war. Warfare is defined as – the process of military struggle between two nations or groups of nations; war. 2. armed conflict between two massed enemies, armies, or the like. 3. conflict … For all intents and purposes, we are talking about the ability to fight.

I know some people think there is no reason to fight. We all just need to learn to get along. We need to be tolerant. Tolerant to the point of surrendering our thoughts and ideals because someone else has voiced theirs. Fighting has been replaced with simply stating an opinion? If that is what we are supposed to do, then I would suggest we are still in a form of fighting because that would mean the first person to speak wins!

Conflict is all around us, and I am not going to try and argue that all conflict is good conflict – it’s not. It is always good to learn how to deal with conflict though, and that is a type of warfare! Dealing with conflict is a battle inside ourselves to arrive at an outcome that is good without an escalation to violence IF possible.

I might start losing some people if I don’t get right to my point here, and if I am pushing any buttons with anyone, I want to let you know that my goal is not conflict in through this post. I have a direction here, and if you bear with me, we will get back around to it. I promise!

When the children of Israel came into the Promised Land they had some fighting to do. God had given them the land, but there were people in it that did not serve God and He wanted them gone. He promised the Hebrew people that if they would go out and take the land, He would drive their enemies out. They just needed to act on it. Well, they went to work, and they took much of the land – but not all of it.

Through many little slips, compromises, and probably a little laziness, they allowed several of the nations in Canaan to stay in the land. Long story short, those nations were full of pagan religions that eventually led many of the Israelites away from God. Why did the Israelites let this happen? Would a better question be to ask why God allowed this to happen? He could have just driven the rest of them out by Himself. He could have just made them all drop dead on the spot. Why did He let them stay if He knew that the Israelites would stray from Him?

They needed to know how to fight for what God had given them.

The generations that had fought were dying off, and the young men coming up had no experience on the battle field. They needed to have opportunities to learn and strengthen their skills in defending what they had been given. They needed to be able to stand strong as God’s people in the face of enemies. They needed to be tested.

Think of those pagan nations as the sin in our lives today. Wouldn’t it be easier to live the Christian life if there was no sin? Think about it! We could go through the day and never need to feel that tweak of the conscience that we had done the wrong thing. We could end each day with a clean slate and know that tomorrow would be the same thing! We could stand before God and say, “I am without sin!” Hmmm. Wouldn’t that be a bit prideful?

God has allowed sin to still be in our lives for a couple of reasons that I can see:

We need to learn to lean on Him

There are things in my life that I cannot have victory over by myself. I have weaknesses that Satan knows how to exploit. I get tired, bored, self-absorbed, and he pounces. I need to have God with me to give me strength, to keep me alert, and to keep me so focused on Him that sin cannot gain a beachhead in my life. Sin is a reminder of how much I need God.

We need to learn how to teach others

I have sinned too many times to count, and some of those sins have brought me great pain. My hope is that by sharing my experiences with others and allowing them to see how I failed and how I was able to get up and keep fighting with God holding me up, I will be able to help someone else struggling with the same sin. Help them avoid the pain and be victorious!

Sin will one day be taken away. Until that happens, I have a life ahead of me that requires warfare. It requires a dedication to training myself to fight against sin and its temptations. The presence of sin in the world makes it necessary for me to equip my friends, to train up another generation for the battle. Relentless Living is not putting my head in the sand and thinking that if I don’t offend I will not need to fight. The fight is always there. The question is, am I ready for the battle?

The best way to fight and win a battle is to prepare for it. I’m not sure when I am going to fall in to a trap of temptation, but I know that if I am spending time with my God in the Word and in prayer, I will be better prepared when the battles come. The best offense is a good defense.

So, my challenge to you is this. What are you doing to make sure that you are preparing? Are you devoted to Relentless Growth in your life? It’s going to mean conflict. It’s going to mean a fight. There is no better way to be ready than to be in God’s Word.

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Before the Foundation You Need Blueprints

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 “And you, Solomon my son, know the God of your father and serve him with a whole heart and with a willing mind, for the Lord searches all hearts and understands every plan and thought. If you seek him, he will be found by you, but if you forsake him, he will cast you off forever.  Be careful now, for the Lord has chosen you to build a house for the sanctuary; be strong and do it.” – 1 Chronicles 28:9-10

David is charging Solomon with the building of the temple, and as he does it, he delivers some key advice for his son – advice that comes from a lifetime of service to God.  Not a lifetime free of faults, but a lifetime that has had repeated opportunities to fail, repent, learn, and grow.

“know the God of your father and serve him with a whole heart and with a willing mind,”

David was a sinner, but he was also a man after God’s own heart.  How?  Because probably more than any other person we read of in the Bible, David understood the importance of repentance.  He wrote about it extensively in the Psalms, and the writers of the books of the kings in the Old Testament also spoke of his actions when confronted with his sin.  David saw God pour out blessings on his life time and again, not because he was perfect, but because he would surrender when confronted with his sin and turn his face to God and away from a self-serving path.

“the Lord searches all hearts and understands every plan and thought”

God is not fooled by the agendas of men.  He knows our hearts and motives even when we claim to be living a life in service to Him.  He knows the areas of my life I am unwilling to repent in.  If I am not in complete surrender to His plans I am not fooling Him.  The verse goes on to say that my heart’s attitude will have a great bearing on my future.  I can repent and yield or I can continue to play games. The problem with those games is that God may allow something painful to come into my life to help me realize my need for Him and His direction.  I am still learning to remember that.

“Be careful now, for the Lord has chosen you to build a house for the sanctuary; be strong and do it.”

I think this was more than an instruction in how to build a building.  I would like to think that as a father, David was building into his son’s life here as well.  The correlations to building the temple for the Holy Spirit in our hearts just seems too obvious to me.

Be Careful – We need to approach the work we do for God with the right attitude.  The work may be fun sometimes, but it is an important work, and we need to give it the care that it deserves.  We also need to be aware that Satan will oppose that work.  When he sees your life tuned to God’s will, he will set obstacles and traps in front of us.  He wants to see us derailed from the work we have been given.  Solomon did fail in a large part of his life.  He allowed himself to be derailed by his desire for the things of the world.  He lived a life that he himself called vain or worthless.  We need to be careful.

Be Strong – A person does not get strong in a day.  It takes time to build strength physically, and likewise we need to exercise ourselves spiritually so we will be ready for the task ahead.  It takes determination, discipline, and resolve to go back in to the “weight room” of God’s Word, to do the “aerobic” activity of prayer, and to do the necessary “stretching” of putting your faith in the unseen.  It takes work, but it is necessary for the day that we are called by God to act!

Do It – There is not a lot of description necessary.  When God calls you up, it is time to step into action for Him.  You have prepared your mind and are ready to approach the mission given with care and purpose.  You have prepared spiritually for the exertion that will come in the mission.  You know that you have all you need in the Spirit to get the job done because you are not doing it. God is!  It is a natural outflow of a life that has been immersed in a relationship with God.

This was a very real lesson for me today.  It is starting to hit me lately just how often I have put these things in the wrong order, but I see that now.  I am thankful for a God that allows me to make mistakes and grow from them.  I am thankful that He wants to know me, and I want to be a man after God’s heart too.