#ENCOURAGE

We’ve all been there.  You look around and all you see is gray.  The sun can’t shine bright enough, you feel like you are under attack, there is no end in sight, and there is nobody there to help you. Yep. Been there and got the lousy t-shirt.

So, what do we do?  How do we get through?  Where will we find the strength to get out of bed, put on a smile and head out the door to meet a world that we feel is out to get us?  When will this feeling stop? What can we do for ourselves, and what can we do for those we love who feel this way?

#Encourage them.  #BeEncouraged yourself!

Webster’s defines the word “encourage” like this:

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Time to Study

This weekend I have been rattling around the house by myself while my wife and son are in Ohio at Cedarville University.  My son Zach had an audition for a spot in the worship program at the college (Which he got! Way to go, Zach!) and then they are spending the weekend there before bringing my daughter home for Thanksgiving break.  I posted the other day that I was going to make a list of things to do in order to keep me accountable for my time while they were gone, and I would say that things have gone well.

I had the bulk of my list done on Friday with the longer items held for Saturday and today.  The CHRISTmas lights are up, the house has been kept tidy, the garage is clean, the chest in our room has been reconditioned, and while not on the list, I have shoveled a ton of snow this morning!  There is only one thing left to do:8446-shhhhh-quiet-everyone-study-wallpaper

STUDY

Life has been pretty busy lately.  While that seems to be the norm, the intensity of life lately has made it difficult to have any real time to put into studying God’s Word.  I have my daily verse I post, and I get in the occasional Quiet Time, but there has not been any real opportunity for me to just sit down and really dig into anything.  Well, at least not any opportunities I have been willing to recognize in the moment.

So, this weekend I have been trying to use the extra time here at home alone to allow my mind to FOCUS on what I should do.  I started thinking about using this time when I realized I would have it a couple weeks ago.  I wanted to put some serious thought into what God wanted me to get out of it.

As I thought about it, I remembered something I had heard somewhere and then heard it again when my wife also mentioned it several months ago:

Every Christian should determine to become an authority on at least one book of the Bible.

That little thought has been niggling around in the back of my mind for a while.  I tell people that I want Relentless Growth in Christ, and what better way to do that than to really dig in and learn about a book of the Bible so well that through time spent in it I can apply it into every aspect of my life?  The Bible is the avenue to a closer relationship with God, and knowing His Word that well is a life-changing endeavor.

So, while puttering around, completing my list of chores this weekend I have been thinking about where God may be leading me to spend my time studying.  What book of the Bible would be the launchpad for me?  What does He want me to learn?  What does He want me to overcome?  What does He want me to share with others?  Where is He leading this Relentless journey of mine?

As I thought and prayed over it this weekend, I have felt a desire to look into two books.  The reason I chose these books just seemed to become more and more clear as I thought about my life and how God has worked in it over the last 10 years in particular. In some ways, I feel like I have a kinship to the authors as a result of my life.

I have mentioned in the past that I was saved as a young kid, and as a result I have struggled with the feeling that I wasted an opportunity to grow closer to God because my Christian life was basically all I ever knew. I don’t have a real “turn from sin to God” moment.  No radical life change where I left an old me and became a new me.  It was not fully appreciated until after I was asked to teach an adult Sunday School class and I finally started to really read and seek to understand the Bible.  Then I realized what I had!

So, as a good old-fashioned Baptist, fully indoctrinated to feel guilt and shame over things I had done wrong and unwilling to forgive myself for past sins, I began to try to learn how God actually wants me to live my life.  It was time to move on past the feelings of missed opportunity to get to know God better as a teenager and young adult, and just get down to the business of knowing Him!  God doesn’t close the window of opportunity to know Him better to His children.

Thinking about that this weekend I began to think about people in the Bible who might have felt the same way.  Eventually (I am slow sometimes), two names came to mind.  They were both men who had similar opportunities to mine to know God REALLY well when they were young, but didn’t take advantage of it in those days.  It wasn’t until later that they fully realized the opportunity they had been given, and then they made the best of it, being willing to be used by God to the point of being the instruments the Holy Spirit used to write two books of the Bible!  Talk about getting it together!

So, who are these guys?  They are half brothers of Christ, James and Judas (Jude).  They grew up alongside the God-man, Jesus, but didn’t fully realize who He was, what He was here to do, and what it really meant for them until later in life.  See the connection?

I have spent time studying James before, but I have never spent any time in Jude other than a quick read.  In truth, I have avoided it because I connect it with a very hard time in my teenage years.  A former pastor used one of the verses in Jude as his “life verse” and  after how he spiritually abused me and many others I have not been willing to give the book much of a look since.  Funny how we blame God for how people mess up…

bible-jude4So, after looking at these two books, reading some commentary about them, and praying about it even more, I feel God is leading me to dig into the book of Jude.  It’s a short book, but I think it is going to be more than just a book to learn.  I think it is going to be an opportunity to dig into some stuff that might be hiding in me over past hurts.  Some bitterness that still needs to be dealt with.  Some confession of anger and forgiveness that needs to occur.

I don’t know exactly what will come of this at this point, but that is the joy of it!  I am open to what God wants me to get, and I am excited to take the journey.

My goal for the rest of the day today is to begin breaking some things down for a framework of study.  Not sure what I will find, but I am excited about it.  I look forward to sharing thing I learn with those interested or those who happen across the blog in days to come.  I’ll to make promises about timetables or schedules, but I do plan on sharing as time permits.

So, time for me to get to work.  I hope in some small way this is an encouragement to others to dig into the Word as well.  We have so much to learn, and are blessed with a God who is so willing to teach.  Dig in.  Be Relentless!

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Open Bar At The Wedding

Jesus Turns Water Into Wine ClipartI’ve started a new devotional book and it is taking me through the book of John over a 40 day period.  I loved that when I hit that first couple of lessons I was met with the instruction to put the book away if I was going to use it to simply go through the motions.  The author was very clear that his words were not important.  What he wanted to see is for the reader to FOCUS on the daily scripture passages and really let God’s Word sink in.

Today the passage I read was John 2:1-12.  Here we get the story of Jesus’ first and probably most controversial (at least among some of the “Old Guard” Baptists I know and love) miracles – the turning of water into wine. (Yes, I believe it was wine and not grape juice. Sorry if I have let anyone down.. Nah.  Never mind.  It’s good!)  I read the passage this morning and kinda let it run around in my head the rest of the day. (There was nothing in there to really keep it from enjoying the space!)

By the time I sat down to go through the devotional reading I had kinda cut my focus to a couple of things.  First, Mary had some pull.  She tells Jesus there is no wine left at the wedding.  Jesus tells her His time has not yet come, and she just turns to the servants:

His mother said to the servants, “Do whatever He tells you.” – John 2:5

I don’t know exactly why Jesus changed His mind after His response to Mary, but I wonder if it might have been related to her words immediately after His apparent refusal to help.  His time had not come, but she turned and said to the help that He was in control and something was about to happen.  Whether she intended for Him to go and get some wine at the local 7-11 or what, I am not at liberty to say.  She just took a step of faith and asked some others to do the same.

Right after that, Jesus puts these guys to work:

Jesus said to the servants, “Fill the jars with water.” And they filled them up to the brim. And he said to them, “Now draw some out and take it to the master of the feast.” So they took it. – John 2:7,8

Who were these guys?  Did they know anything of Jesus?  Were they there at His Baptism?  Had they heard Him teach?  What did they know about Him that made them just step into immediate obedience like that?  I wish I had an answer. Put yourself in their position.  There is no wine, this woman tells you to do what this guy says, He tells you to go and fill some pots with water and then take some of the water to the guy in charge so he can taste it.

And. They. Did. It.  Think about that.  They did it.  They just did it! and Voila! Wine!

We read that faith the size of a mustard seed can move mountains.  Well, I see here that the obedience of a waiter/bartender can result in taking tap water and turning it into a fine Chardonnay.  If they had not done as they were told, do you think this story would have gone the same way?  I think not.

Here is the neat thing about obedience to Christ.  When you step out and do something that Jesus tells you to do, you have positioned yourself to be in the perfect position to see Christ do something amazing!  Sometimes the crazier the act of obedience, the bigger the “payoff”.  These guys jumped to action when asked and they were soon partaking in the finest wine ever to be served.  What do you think that did in their lives?  Do you wonder of they followed Jesus after that?  I do.

The devotional asked me a question I am going to ask you.  I came up with an answer, and I challenge you to do the same.

“What do you believe God has been asking you to do that you have been sidestepping?”

Ouch.  That was a big step on the toes.  I know I have something that I have been making excuses over for a while now.  I keep looking for that perfect excuse, and I have been pretty good at coming up with one every time I feel that little “push” the Holy Spirit gives me.  That needs to stop.

If I am going to live a Relentless Life for Christ, I need to go ahead and do what He asks me to do.  He knows best, and He will pour into me and then unlock whatever He put inside me that is necessary to accomplish the task.  If it is His plan and goal, it will get done, and I will be blessed to be involved!

I have some work to do, and I’m not sure how it is going to shake out and look like at the end of it all, but I believe it is time to get myself out of God’s way and just do what He asks.  I don’t think it is going to result in an open bar or anything, but all that matters is that God’s best is poured freely into those around me!

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Just Breathe…

img_20160218_110849.jpgAnyone following my Instagram feed will see that I am not at home right now.  Tammi and I are in Florida for the remainder of this week and all of next to see some of our good friends and for me to do some training for my job.  I know, suffering in Florida in the month of February is not going to garner a lot of happy feelings from those back home where I hear it was -11 degrees last night.  I’d feel bad for them, but can’t hear their cries of woe over the sound of the crashing surf.  Wow, I am a snot today!

This morning I sat outside having my quiet time (in my shorts and t-shirt with no socks or shoes with the 70 degree sun on my back) and enjoyed reading about the freedom I have in Christ.  It got me thinking about the feeling of bondage I have been living in a lot lately.

God has been doing some work in my heart regarding working with stress and identifying the source of the stress in order to deal with the problem rather than just coping with the symptoms.  The problem I have is that too often the problem is me!  I have been doing better, but this trip is giving me an opportunity to regroup a little bit and do something I don’t usually take the time to do…

Just Breathe

img_20160218_075104.jpgYeah.  That’s a big thing for me.  I know I need it, but I don’t make a priority to do it.  I find myself being so busy sometimes that when I let just one or two things go I get a false feeling of relief.  A false feeling because I am just less busy instead of really busy.

David tells us what we need to know in Psalm 46:10a:

 

“Be still and know that I am God”

The thing about being still is that you have to be still.  David doesn’t say, “Be less still” or “Be mildly interested”, he says to “Be still.”  Well, when you are still, and I mean really still, you maybe surprised at what you might hear.

This morning, Tammi and I sat out at that table (in the sun, in our shorts and t-shirts) and I told her that I was so FOCUSed on enjoying this time that we are away and FOCUSing on being intentionally relaxed.  I have nothing on my schedule until 9am on Monday, and I intend to be relaxed in every moment.  I want to take the time to just breathe and enjoy myself and my time with her.

Not to make the rubbing any worse, but this afternoon we went to the beach for a couple hours and just sat there listening to the wind and the surf.  I tipped back in my chair, closed my eyes and just let the smell of the ocean and the sound of the waves wash over me.  I just listened and relaxed as the sun warmed my face.

img_20160218_155704.jpgBefore long I realized that I was fully involved in prayer.  It was a reflexive prayer that was happening before I even knew I was doing it.  The prayer was not born out of a desire to speak to God, but from a moment of complete peace. Peace brought me into His presence. In that moment when I put my FOCUS on relaxing I see now that God had every intention of pulling my FOCUS toward a conversation with Him.

End result?  I had a very good day.  Even though I set out for nothing more than relaxation, I had a day where I experienced a step in Relentless Growth.  They sneak up on you when you take the time to just breathe and be still.

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2015 – “Whatcha Doin’?”

Now therefore, if I have found favor in your sight, please show me now your ways, that I may know you in order to find favor in your sight. Consider too that this nation is your people.” And he said, “My presence will go with you, and I will give you rest.” And he said to him, “If your presence will not go with me, do not bring us up from here. For how shall it be known that I have found favor in your sight, I and your people? Is it not in your going with us, so that we are distinct, I and your people, from every other people on the face of the earth?” And the Lord said to Moses, “This very thing that you have spoken I will do, for you have found favor in my sight, and I know you by name.” Moses said, “Please show me your glory.

 – Exodus 33:13-18 (ESV) Emphasis mine

Many years ago, and by the date in the pic it was in the neighborhood of 14 years ago, I was sitting at the computer one night and Zach came over and asked a question.  He had a very good vocabulary for a little guy less than two years old, and I’m not sure why I did it, but I got the microphone down close to him and recorded the audio in the clip below:

He loved anything and everything about the computer and was always hopping up into my chair and grabbing the mouse.  He was a natural.  I don’t know how many times I would come back to the computer and find all the icons rearranged – or gone.  Some of it was his natural bent toward tech.  Some of it was he wanted to be like Dad, and Dad worked on the computer.

Over the years, we switched out computers a few times, but I have never gotten rid of that sound file.  It brings a smile to my face every time I hear it because it takes me back to the days when he was so little and interested in everything that I did.  “Whatcha doin’?” was a very common phrase in our house as he would toddle along behind me.  Whether outside, in the garage, at the computer, in the basement, or just coming in the house, it was almost a greeting, but I see now it was more than that.

That little guy’s query was a constant reminder of his desire to be a part of what was going on in my life.  He wanted to know everything!  Sometimes the answer would be enough in itself and off he would go to do his own thing, but other times it would prompt second questions or a request to help – to be involved.

wpid-2014-12-30-10.14.06.png.pngThis little guy will be 16 in five months.  Hard to believe how fast time flies.  He still asks the question from time to time, but the voice is a bit deeper now.  The hair on his head is a little darker, and there is a definite shadow of a beard on his face.  He doesn’t look up at me to ask the question like he did back then because he can just about look me in the eye now.  So much has changed, and it seems like a blink or two ago.

When Zach would ask me that question as a little boy, he was in pursuit of something.  I was too thick to notice it all the time, and really only picked it up as I started writing this post, but he was looking for a way to be a part of what I was doing.  I was focused on a task, an obstacle, a schedule, or a demand, but he was focused as much on getting to know me as he was on the work I was involved in.  Like I said earlier, sometimes the knowledge of what I was doing was enough, but other times he would join me in what I was doing.  In hindsight, I probably too often  turned him aside with excuses ranging from, “I don’t have time to let him help. It’s not safe for him. I want it done right.” I could have done better.

2015 is here.  Just like every year, people are thinking about the future.  What will this year hold?  Where will we be in twelve months?  We always get this way in late December and early January as we think about the unknown.  How will we get to the goals we have set?  Who will help?  Will I be happy?  Those questions have something in common.  As well-intentioned as they may be, they are about ourselves.  They’re not bad, but could we possible find a better option? Could we focus on our new year in a more Relentless way?

There are things I want to see happen this year, but there is something that I want to start doing particularly in my Quiet Times with God.  As I look at this new year, I am taking lesson from my son. I am going to take more time to ask God, “Whatcha doin’?”  In my life, my family, my job, my friends, my church – God, Whatcha doin’?

Three reasons I want to do this:

1. I want keep a daily focus on God. Keeping  daily focus on God by reading His Word and talking to Him about my life, the lives of those I love, and the  things that cross my path will keep my heart soft toward His direction.

2. I want to join Him.  If I am looking to God and asking Him to tell me what He is doing, I will see opportunities to join Him in things that He wants me to join Him in.  I won’t join Him in everything He is doing because I might not be the person He wants involved in it, but I will never join Him in anything if I am not asking what He is doing.

3. I need His help. I can do things on my own, but I need Him to show me the things that I am doing poorly.  I want Him to grow me, and if I am left to myself, then I will never be anything like what I can be with God.

When my son was little, I so very much enjoyed watching him trying to be like me.  Now that he is older, the feeling is more of a satisfaction.  I am pleased when his interests are in tune with mine and he wants to join me in the things I do.  I take joy in his individuality and in watching him pursue his passions, and I take joy in those times he wants to be like me.

I think God is the same way.  He made us all to be different, but He made us all to seek relationship with Him.  He made us all to have a free will, and He made us all have a desire to be a part of something bigger.  He has great joy in watching us use the gifts and talents He gave us that have no “real spiritual value”, and He loves it when we engage in activities that draw our hearts closer to His.Slide1

So, this year, this is my challenge to you.  Ask God, “Whatcha Doin’?” Look for Him in His Word. Get to know Him better.  See how He worked in the lives of His people in the Bible.  Seek out those around you that are showing Him at work in their lives.  Look inside yourself and see if there is anything holding you back from getting involved in something big for God, and let me say this.  If it is with God, it is big.  He is a big God, even in the little things.

So, can you do me a favor?  If you are reading this, could you share it with your friends and then do one more thing for me? I’d love to know something.  This year, “Whatcha doin'” to know God better?  “Whatcha doin'” to be Relentless in your growth in Christ?  “Whatcha doin'” to build relationships with others?  Message me or comment below.  I’d love to pray for your year too!

In HIS Grip,

Tom

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I Had a Gibbs Slap From God Today

dFKwd9WI love watching NCIS.  Jethro Gibbs is just about the coolest guy to ever be on television, and one of the coolest things he does?  The Gibbs Slap.  I know.  You could watch it all day long.

If you are one of the few people who have not watched NCIS, let me fill you in.  Gibbs is a no-nonsense kind of guy that doesn’t put up with childish, self-serving, foolish behavior.  Often he will settle it with a look, but sometimes, he chooses to apply a little more force to it and give a little whack on the back of the head to wake a person up to their foolishness.

God did that to me today.

A few days ago I decided to start reading in the book of Galatians for my devotions.  I had never studied it specifically on my own before, so I thought it would be a good choice.  I did it for a couple of days, but after my quiet time last night I decided that I might need to look for another book.

You see, my study Bible gives a theme for each book of the Bible, and for Galatians it said that it was about being a Christian in the workplace.  Well, that’s not bad, but I have a rule that I have been bending a bit lately.  I try not to blog here about work, and often I blog about things I am learning about my life through my quiet times.  Soooo, the potential existed for me to be blogging a lot about work if I kept this up.

The main reason I don’t like to blog about work is that I am concerned that I might say something that could have a detrimental effect on my job/employment.  NOT a good thing.  Also, I don’t want to say anything that puts my employer in a bad light.  So, when I take those rules of mine and put them up against a potential course of study that will put me on a collision course with those rules, I did the only sensible thing.  I backed out.  Decided I would look to another book.  The whole Bible is good, so I can’t go wrong with another book.

So, I picked another one and went to bed intending to start on it today.  Didn’t sleep very well last night.  Kept thinking about the Bible study thing.  Got up this morning and went to work still thinking about it.  No sense of ease in my mind.  I was not sure where I should read, but I was pretty sure I was not going to be in Galatians or the other book I chose last night.

I sat down at work this morning and prayed that God would show me where He wanted me to read and study.  After all, I wanted to be I His will and do what He wanted me to do.  As I pulled out my Bible App to check and see what the verse of the day was, I even said to God that I hoped the verse of the day would help me decide where He wanted me to go.  Well, it was almost like that moment when Tony has no idea that Gibbs is behind him as he says something stupid and then,  WHACK!

For am I now seeking the approval of man, or of God? Or am I trying to please man? If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ.

–  Galatians 1:10

“Sorry Boss!”

My thoughts this morning were that I wanted to be doing what God wanted me to do, but my thoughts last night were that I didn’t want to do anything that would upset someone else.  I never gave any thought to the fact that God could be at work in what I write and could make sure that I didn’t do anything that would hurt my career or keep me from doing something stupid.  I only thought about what would be the easiest thing for me to do.  Even though I tell my kids that the easy thing is usually the worst thing you could do in a given situation.

So, I will be continuing in Galatians.  I will be counting on God to keep both of my brain cells working in a rhythm that will be a help and a blessing as I write about what I have learned, and that He will make me a better employee as a result of this study.

Relentless Growth sometimes needs a slap to the head, and I am thankful for a heavenly Father that loves me enough to do it.  That little slap this morning will remind me of His direction in my life, and His love for me as I grow.  Just like Tony knows that Gibbs doesn’t slap those he doesn’t care about.

Relentless Growth -> Grow Deep -> Grow Strong

The Chase

Why Is Everyone Chasing MoneyMy church is doing a church-wide campaign using a well-known pastor’s material as a common focus through our small groups and several classes.  This week the main topic is that of our finances.  Each day we are given a passage to read in the Word along with a small devotional; then we journal our thoughts on what we read.  A simple, but effective method of spending a quiet time each day in the Word, and it is the best one that I have ever found for myself.

A couple of days ago I read the passage below:

So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ 32 For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. 33 But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.

-Matthew 6:31-33 (NIV)

The thrust of these verses is simple.  Don’t be caught up in the things around you, even the important things like food.  People who do not know God are always looking out for those things, chasing after them.  Instead, look to the kingdom of God, and chase after righteousness.  If you do that, then you will have the things that you need.  Pretty simple.  I have heard it all my life.  Makes sense.

Something popped in there for me the other day though.  the phrase “run after” was not in the version of the Bible that I had used as a kid.  We had the word “seek”. So I looked at another version, the Amplified Version, and they used words that paint the picture of the word “seek” in a different light. They use the words, “wish for and crave and diligently seek“.  Now that gives a picture of a chase or a hunt.  It has an imperative sense of urgency.

So, when I read the passage again with that thought in my mind of chasing after food, shelter, clothing – basically all the things that money can buy – the Bible says that is something that the pagans do.  Pagan meaning people who do not worship God.  Hmmm.  Not a crowd I want to be associated with.

So, what are we supposed to do? “But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness.”  The way that is phrased, I am led to believe that we are still supposed to be on a chase.  We are still supposed to “run after” something.  Still supposed to “wish for and crave and diligently seek” something.  We are supposed to have the same intensity for the chasing down and hunting the kingdom and a righteous life that a person would be expected to hunt and chase down food when hungry or clothing when naked.  I have been known to feverishly hunt for a Chik-fil-a or a Five Guys Burger and Fries, so I think I understand what Jesus is saying here.

So, if that is the intensity that we are  supposed to have for the things of God, it is pretty easy to draw a comparison in my life and see where I stand in that level of desire.  Pretty easy for all of us to do.  When we compare our desire for the things of life that we need every day to taking the time to read our Bibles, pray, encourage a friend, help someone in need, share the Gospel with someone, we come face to face with what we really want.  How much time do we spend preparing and eating meals in a week compared to the time we spend doing anything for God? *Ouch*

Christ doesn’t stop there though.  He gives us a promise.  If we do this, then all the things we need we will get.  All of it.  Huh.  So, let’s see if I am understanding this right.  Be Relentless in living a life that is in constant pursuit of God, the kingdom, and the good things He has gifted me to do, and all the things that the world tells me to chase will just be given to me?  You have my attention.

A Relentless life looks at a job not as a way to make money, but as a way to impact the kingdom through earning money to give to God’s work in the local church, through missions, or even personally impacting another person in need.  They see their job as a way that they can share what God means to them with the people they work with so they can have the same hope and strength of God at work in their lives.  They can look at the difficulties of a job as a way to let God teach them a lesson in humility or patience.  When a job is looked at in that way, the “work” of the job turns into something else.  It becomes a ministry.  God loves His people to have a ministry, and He rewards it in many different ways.  Employers see you as a person that has a purpose, a passion, a desire to succeed and help others.  They kinda like that sort of stuff in their employees and tend to reward that behavior too!

This passage has always been an encouragement to me, but I had never noticed how it is a great example of Relentless Growth in the Christian life.  It really encouraged me, and I hope it did you as well.  Let me know your thoughts.  Feel free to comment below and share it with your friends.

Relentless Growth -> Grow Deep -> Grow Strong

 

Pass The Ketchup. This Might Go Down Hard.

eating crowAs a rule, I really try to make it a point to never discuss anything about work on this blog.  I do that for a few reasons, but the main one is that I never want to say anything that might cast my employer, client, or co-workers in a bad light.  So, why am I going to break that rule?  Because in this story, there is only one person that really comes off looking bad, and since he is the one writing the story, I think we will be OK.

Wednesday I was trying to accomplish something with a person outside the organization, and I was having a very difficult time in getting anything done.  At one point in the conversation I began to feel as if I was being accused of not knowing what I was talking about (which I did) and that I was actually lying about it (which I was not).  Those of you that know me or have read some of my blogs, might recognize that these are two things that really bother me.  I have wrestled with them for years, and while I am getting better, I’m not where I want to be yet.

As the conversation continued, I began to feel myself getting angry. (Score a point for recognizing it!)  As I realized the anger was beginning to rise, I calmly requested that the person check their facts and they would see that I was correct in what I had said.  In fact, there are others that can corroborate the validity of my statement. (Score another point for being calm!)  At this point I politely requested that the person refrain from speaking to me in a manner that was condescending and accusatory. (Score another point for talking about my feelings as a path toward a reconciliation!)

We then carried on for a few moments in a civilized manner and progress started to be made as plans began to take shape.  I was pleased.  I had been heard.  I was right. I was recognized as telling the truth.  Then it happened…

“Well, since we are the subject matter experts, we will look into this to see where you made a mistake.  Once we figure that out and put together what you think you did, we will get back to you.”

*SNAP*  (All points fell off the board when that 30 megaton nuke hiding behind that little hangy-thingy in the back of my throat went off drowning out all other voices and laying waste not only to the conversation, but also any vestiges of cooperation that had been achieved.)

When I had finished my rant, I hung up the phone and sat back for them to make their little investigation knowing full well that they would find that I was correct.  Within a couple of hours I received a short and very direct e-mail stating that while the things I said were correct, it never should have been that way and there was something that had been wrong in the process in the past that needed to be rectified.  “We are looking into that and will let you know when we have come up with a solution.” Ha! Vindication!

Thursday morning when I woke up I could not stop thinking about the way I had acted the day before.  In my mind I realized I had been too hard on them.  Maybe I should have done things differently, but they were wrong and they refused to acknowledge it.  I had a duty to point it out! I came to work and needed to contact one of those people and received no response after a couple of attempts.  Later I did exchange an e-mail or two, but they were very short, direct, and cold.   I thought, “They’ll get over it.  It was their mistake. Not my problem.”

When I got home I sat down to have my daily Quiet Time in the Word.  I opened the book of Titus, where I have been reading and was faced with the following verse:

“Teach the older men to exercise self-control, to be worthy of respect, and to live wisely. They must have sound faith and be filled with love and patience.” – Titus 2:2

I was hit hard between the eyes with what I had done.  Nothing in the way that I had acted was controlled, worthy of respect, wise, filled with love or patient.  In a nutshell, I was a jerk.  I sat there staring at my Bible and began an argument with God.

“How can You show me this right now?  I was right, and they were acting out of their own interests in complete disregard for me and what I was trying to accomplish with them!  Why are You drawing my eye to this verse? There must be something in here that would better suit me for today!”

No.  This is the lesson for the day.

I walked away for a few minutes and did some other stuff in the house.  Refusing to even sit down and finish my journal entry.  Not because I didn’t want to confess it to God, but because I knew what else I had to do.  Something really hard.  Something I had seen my buddy Ray model for me earlier this year.  I love that guy, but in the moment I wished I had never met him so I would not have seen how God took him through a similar situation.  He had done the hard thing.

Eventually I returned to my desk, Bible, and journal.  I confessed my sin of anger and my lack of all those things that I should be showing in my life as a believer.

Then the really hard part.  I drafted a letter to the men that I had mistreated:

Mr. Jones and Mr. Smith,

As I have gone through my day today, I have felt badly about yesterday and how things took such a rough turn with Mr. Jones. It was a very frustrating time, and I did not come off well in that conversation. Thinking back, I can only imagine what you guys thought of me afterward, and deservedly so. Right or wrong, in that situation, I behaved wrong. Regardless of the subject matter at hand, who was correct or any of it, I was wrong in the way that I spoke to you in anger and with little to no respect.

Today when I got home from work, I sat down to do my daily Bible reading and I read this verse from the book of Titus:

“Teach the older men to exercise self-control, to be worthy of respect, and to live wisely. They must have strong faith and be filled with love and patience.”

Guys, I teach at my church. I lead a group of men in Bible study. I’m supposed to live out what I believe and teach. Not because it makes me look good, but because it is the right thing to do. Yesterday I didn’t do that. You can probably read back through the verse and tick off the things I botched up. I see it, and I am sorry.

I am asking your forgiveness for the way that I acted. I hope you can do that. I also ask that if I start to act out like that in the future, that you will remind me of this. Just say the word “Titus” either on the phone (then hang up on me) or in an e-mail. I will get the message. I will still do my job to the best of my ability, and there will be times that we will disagree, but I do not want to get angry and act that way. That is not who I aim to be.

Again, I am sorry, and I ask for your forgiveness.

Tom

I sent the letter off and while I was uneasy about how they would respond, and admittedly, I was nervous about sharing this part of my faith, I felt better as the night went on.  I knew I had done the right thing even when it meant sacrificing my “position” of being right.

This morning, I received responses from both of those men.  They were very gracious, and gave me the forgiveness I had requested.  It felt better than being right.  A lot better.  I’m not sure if in doing this a door to speaking to them more about Christ has been opened.  I do know that they saw the work of Christ in a life through it though.  I hope that will be a seed used in the future.eat crow

Relentless living is not about keeping score.  It is about staying close to God.  I messed it up.  No doubt about it.  the thing is, I was closer to Him now than I have been in the past when I have had similar outbursts, and I came face to face with it faster and through Christ I had the courage to do the hard thing.  Not just because it was right, but also because I had a friend show me the way to do it.  Thanks, Ray, for being Relentless in your growth as well.

So, I had to “eat crow”.  It wasn’t fun, and I know the result might not always be as good as it was this time, but it was the right thing to do. The hard thing to do.  The Relentless thing to do.

Relentless Growth -> Grow Deep -> Grow Strong

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