What Are You Looking At?

This is Sydney, our Australian Shepherd.  Technically she belongs to my daughter who has raised her from a puppy and has given her more love than a dog really should be allowed to have. Sydney has been trained in agility, obedience, and the impressive (yet scarcely called upon) ability to catch slices of banana spat from the mouth of her caretakers. (I personally do not get involved in this one.  Not judging.  Personal preference.)  Sydney is a joy to have, and we marvel at her intelligence and canine personality.  She gives us lots of things to talk and laugh about. (Or write about if the time and the will permit!)

This picture was taken at a recent weekend getaway to a family cottage we were blessed to use.  There are three large windows behind the couch that give a view of the road out front, several other cottages, and a hopeful glimpse of the lake beyond them.  While the road does not have a ton of activity on it, there is enough to catch her attention, and she can often be found either at the window like this or at the sliding door that provides a slightly different scene to monitor.

No matter which observation point she takes, Sydney stands #Vigilant, ready to report what she sees whether it is the kid down the road in his little electric jeep, Bailey, the chocolate Labrador’s meanderings, or the scurrying of a squirrel or a rabbit enjoying the neighborhood’s green grass.  Sydney is on point, doing what she was bred to do.  She keeps watch over those in her charge – us.

I have reached the end of my journey through the book of 1 Peter, and it is time to move on.  The last several weeks have brought a number of special things to my mind and I have enjoyed sharing Peter’s words of #Encouragement through my daily posts.  I have been #Encouraged through what I have read, and I pray that those of you who have joined me on the journey have been as well.

While on the aforementioned weekend getaway, I took my study Bible to decide where to go after finishing 1 Peter.  I didn’t want to just “soldier on” to the next book in the sequence, as I have enjoyed moving around in my readings.  I’d been thinking about going through an Old Testament book like Joshua or 1 Samuel, or maybe even tackling one of the prophets like Jeremiah or Ezekiel.  I wasn’t sure, but I was hoping that God would give me a nudge in the right direction.

I got up on the Sunday morning we were there to enjoy the quiet cottage and sounds of the breeze in the leaves of the apple tree outside to read my Bible, post my daily picture and thought, and peruse the notes in my study bible to see what I might find.  I usually do my daily reading on my phone, but that day I decided to look into 1 Peter in the hard copy as well and finished reading through to the end of the book.  I have to admit that even though I prefer electronic media most of the time now, there is something special about the rustle of those thin pages!

When I got to the end of 1 Peter, right there across the page was the heading information and outline for 2 Peter. (Funny how that works, isn’t it?)  At the top of the page beside the little synopsis of the book was a picture of a dog/wolf that was calling out a warning.  It caught my eye and I decided to read into the material there to see what it had to say.  By the time I had finished that I was already on my way to reading through the 3 chapters that make up the book of 2 Peter, and at the end of that I had made my decision – with more than an ample nudge from the Spirit.

2 Peter it is.

Peter pens this second letter as a warning to his readers.  He will soon be martyred and he takes this last opportunity to reach out to those he loves and those he hopes to help with the imperative message of being #Vigilant for things to come.  He wants to shout a warning of some things and inform them about others, and it all comes as a result of his years following Christ and serving Him in helping to start, grow, and care for the church.

Peter was a bold man, prone to putting his foot in his mouth from time to time and being impetuous in his behavior.  Probably the most transparent example of the Christian walk we have in the New Testament, he has always been a hero of mine as I struggle with many of the same tendencies he did.  Perhaps that is why I wanted to move on in a different direction rather than continuing to read his words.  He strikes too close to home!

After reading 2 Peter, I see three main things that Peter tells us to watch for:

Opportunities to Grow in Christ – In chapter 1, he shows us that as we work out our faith in our attitudes and actions, we will be presented in every circumstance to “level up” in our walk. (2 Peter 1:5-8) We will never fully “arrive”, and we need to be looking at how we handle things that take place around us and take an honest look at ourselves as well.  How do we do it?  Through the Truth of God’s Word, carefully prepared for us through the Holy Spirit working through the hands of man. (2 Peter 1:16-21)

Dangers to Growing Christians – Chapter 2 is full of warnings of things to watch out for. Whether false prophets, personal desires, or the influences of others, there is no shortage of things Satan will send against us to pull us from our walk in Christ. Our spiritual health is in jeopardy and under attack on every side, but God is there for us and He knows how to rescue us from any attack (2 Peter 2:9)

The Hope to Come – There is more to come than this earth, and Peter impresses on his readers that they need to be watching for it. It is not that we will miss it, because there will be no doubt when the Lord returns. What Peter is impressing upon us is that as we watch for the return of Christ, we will also be watching our actions as we prepare for His coming.  We will talk to those we know and love about Him.  We will share His goodness, and we will try to live a life that is not in slavery to sin.

I am looking forward to this next book for my personal time, and I also look forward to sharing a little of it.  What about you?  Are you spending time in God’s Word every day?  I hope you are.  If we are going to live our lives in Relentless devotion to God, we need that time.  It draws us close to Him for comfort and strength, but it also gives us insight into the events unfolding in the world around us.

Whether it is home, work, school, church, or wherever you may happen to be, we need to be watchful like Sydney.  We need to be on guard against dangers to ourselves and those we love.  We need to be ready with a defense, but also to rescue, comfort, or be a shield to someone under attack.  We need to be determined to hold our position as leaders, husbands, mothers, teachers, and friends.  In short, we need to be #Vigilant.

Vigilant – Keeping a careful watch for possible dangers or difficulties.

Keep your eyes open, everyone.  There is a lot going on out there.

Thanks for reading and following this page.  I appreciate your comments and feedback, and would love to hear from you.  Feel free to share with your friends and don’t forget to like the Facebook Page Relentless Growth for a short daily message to challenge and encourage you.

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Halfway to 88? Happy B-Day to Me!

Wow.  I am 44 today.  Think back to when you were a teenager.  What is that “oldest age” you ever really pictured yourself as?  Do you remember?  It seems like I do, and it was right about here.  44 years old… (I don’t see that as any type of foreshadowing about what this next year holds, just kind of funny that it popped into my head this morning.)

This last year has been a crazy one, and it looks like I am poised to do it all over again.  Time to give a quick little breakdown about what has happened, what is happening, and how I hope I Relentlessly respond to it.  I like to share since I tend to stay more accountable to some of this stuff when people know about it.

Health – Well, as far as the diabetes goes, I am doing better than great.  My doctor actually stopped me in the hall the other day after my bloodwork hit his desk and gave me a hug.  If you knew my doctor, you would be amazed!   I have kept a normal blood sugar since my diagnosis, have stepped my meds down, and kept my weight down.  I also am showing great numbers in the cholesterol and triglycerides.  Probably the healthiest I have been in 20 years in that regard.

New challenge.  Just found out I have two herniated cervical discs.  Not sure what the treatment will be yet as I am waiting to get in to see the specialist.  Pain is terrible, and I feel basically useless.  Hard to enjoy the above success when I feel this way, but I am pressing on.  My son asked me the other day what the lesson God has for me in this, and I have been thinking about that a lot since He asked.  I still don’t have a solid answer, but I am wondering about something.

I have often wondered if I am modeling a life of dependency on God for my family and friends to see.  I have other friends who I look to and think that they are so dependent on God, and I wish I could be that way too.  Maybe I am starting to model it because my son is asking me what I learn from the trials I face.  He has heard me talk about how God used diabetes to remove food from the throne of my heart.  He has heard that I don’t always need to know why, but I need to trust that God will show what I need to see when I need to see it.

So, Zach, maybe the lesson in this is that God is telling me that while I have not arrived, I am definitely in the process of Relentless Growth in this.  He chose to give me a blessing in the knowledge that you are seeing me try to live a life of dependence.  There may be more to come, but I will take this in humble praise to Him for the moment.

Fatherhood – I am finishing up my last year of what I term as “active parenting”. My role as protector and guide is shifting into advisor and counselor/consultant as Zach will join Jessica at college this fall.  I am so proud of my kids and I know God is going to do great things in their lives.  It is definitely a bittersweet feeling to watch them at this stage and know just how much different things will be at Tanner Manor this fall.

My challenge is to be present, but not controlling.  Available, but not underfoot.  I have often found this balance difficult and tend to pull back rather than be a hassle to the kids (unless I feel they need a good hassling!).  Praying that God gives me the wisdom and insight to be there for them while they are at school.

Husbandhood – Tammi and I have had some amazing discussions this past year, and I hope she agrees that we have grown much closer as a result of them.  Seeing Jessica go to school last year and experiencing that change in our family dynamic has definitely turned me more toward watching Tammi. I see how I have taken advantage of her sometimes in how she always handles things for our family.  I need to be more present for her, attentive to her needs.  Actually think about what could be wrong and what I can do about it rather than just ask her all the time. (She will like that one!)

We are soon going to be just the two of us again, and that is going to mean a little more freedom, but also a little more responsibility.  She will still need to talk about her feelings, thoughts, and dreams, and I will be the only one there.  I will need to shift some of how I tend to love my wife in order to meet that need.  We have talked about it some, and we know we have always done these new things together.  We have been parenting actively for the last two decades, but we only had a little over two years before that as a couple, so this is still a somewhat unexplored realm for us.  It is kind of exciting to think I will be able to have her to myself again though! (Sorry kids, Mom was here first!)

Friendships – It has been a strange year in this regard.  The extensive change that has taken place has pulled us from being as close to some as we once were, but has brought us into new friendships with others.  I think I had set some unrealistic goals in trying to “fast track” some things that needed more time, and that left me feeling discouraged a few times.  This year I want to just be more present in those moments that come before me.  Take the time to identify what God might want me to be in that moment rather than just looking at how I want things to be or what I can get out of it.

My Walk – I started something new a little before my birthday last year.  Every day I post a verse of the day with an image and my thought for personal application.  It has helped me keep the thought alive in my mind every day since I do it before my feet hit the floor.  Over the last year I have gone through Proverbs a couple times, the book of Psalms, and am now going through James.  You can follow those by “Liking” my Relentless Growth Facebook Page.

This next year I would like to find time to expand my time of study and start spending more time in areas that I really need to grow.  I want to be realistic in that though.  For now, maybe the verse a day and writing here a little more often might be the best thing.  Something to pray about for sure.

Priorities – It has been a year of shifting and reassessing for us in many aspects.  Work, family, church, friends, service, and the list goes on.  So many things have shifted and will continue to shift as we enter another year of major change as “empty nesters”.  Praying that God will give me wisdom, grace and insight necessary to lead my wife well with a servant leadership that build into her as we face the challenges together.

I hope I don’t bore you with a long post like this that is basically about me.  I’ll admit that the biggest reason for this post is to take a minute to actually write down and think about what has happened and how I am going to respond to it over the next year.  I need that for me because it helps “reset” the panel.  I can look at everything that has happened. See a little bit better in hindsight and hopefully that gives me insight and if things REALLY work out some foresight!

Let’s face it. Life is Relentless.  It will never stop coming at us.  If we want to get anything of quality out of it, we need to be Relentless in our pursuit of God and in our growth for His glory.  Relentless Growth.  We all need it.

365 days to be 44.  Let’s do this!

Check Your Mirror

For the last few months I have been posting a daily photo on Instagram and on my Relentless Growth Facebook Page that contains a verse and a thought for the day.  Psalms is a book of praise, a songbook of sorts.  It is full of songs of praise and worship to God, encouragement for us, and insights into how we can praise God in the every day moments.  The lyrics in the book of Psalms are truly lyrics for living our lives in relationship with God as David did.

Posting a daily image with a verse and a thought has been really good for me.  Since so much of Psalms drew from David’s coping with adversity, it has been helpful for me in facing the challenges that come across my desk and life on a  daily basis.  I have been shown that I can praise God Relentlessly while I am still IN the trial.  That encouragement has been the source of power that has gotten me through some very hard days without doing or saying something that I would need to apologize for later!

I have also been encouraged by a number of people who have reached out to me over the past year or so of posting these images.  There have been times that I have not “felt” the desire to take the time to read in the morning, but I know that there are a few people who are checking in on me day to day, and that gives me a feeling of responsibility to keep going. It’s not that I have such wisdom to share, it’s all about sharing God’s life changing power at work in my life and the lives of others.

Let the one who is taught the word share all good things with the one who teaches. – Galatians 6:6 (ESV)

So, since I want to share the good things I am learning in hopes that it will help others, and since people are sharing with me as well, this last day in the book of Psalms makes it necessary for me to pick a new book of the Bible to go through.  After a lot of prayer and thinking, it has been made clear to me that the next book I will go through will be James.

The book of James is both one of my favorite books and one of the most convicting I have ever read.  James does a fantastic job of showing us the Truth of God and the example of  Christ as the standard to which we should compare ourselves.  It’s not about being better than the next guy in order to feel good about yourself. It is all about measuring yourself against Christ in an effort to be a bold, Relentless follower who lives for the Kingdom of God.

I don’t do a lot of mirror “selfies”, so enjoy this one!

To put it simply, the book of James is the biblical equivalent of looking in the mirror every morning to see what needs to be done.  When I get up in the morning and look in the mirror, I see a guy that needs some change! If I were to just walk out the door without making any changes then that would be pretty foolish! I need help!

So, I am going to go to James every morning now to see what I need to fix.  It will be my daily “mirror check” before I put feet on the floor so God can have the first shot at me and turn me in the direction He wants me to go.  My hope is that as I share what He is showing me, it might spark something in someone else too.  Maybe it can be a mirror check for all of us.

If I want to live a Relentless Life, I must be willing to take the time to not only look at what needs to change, but then to take the steps necessary to do it.  If I don’t take those steps, then I am a fool.  I don’t know  about you, but I don’t like to look like a fool.  I want to make the wise decisions that bring God glory as He shapes me into what He wants me to be.

So, starting tomorrow, those of you who are interested can meet me over at the Relentless Growth page for the daily #mirrorcheck.  I hope it will be encouraging to you.  I’m excited to see what God is going to show me about myself and where I need to make adjustments for Him!  Hope to see you there, and I would love to hear what God is doing in your life too!

Well, Isn’t That Fantastic…

Not too long ago, I asked my son if he had watched the reboot of the Fantastic Four yet.  Wish I could put into this post the trembling sound that accompanied his reply,

“N-n-n-ooo…”

As funny as it was to hear that fearful tone, it was trumped moments later when I pulled the movie out of our library and headed toward the DVD player:

“But I’ve been good!”

Thank you, Fox Studios.  The varied success of the X-Men movies aside, you have planted seeds of doubt and mistrust in the heart and mind of my son.

Well, I am not one who has ever allowed my kids to avoid something they don’t want when I think there might be a lesson in it for them, so of course the disc was fed into the machine and we sat down to enjoy the show.

If you are not familiar with the attempts from Marvel to make these characters into another version of the box-office juggernaut Avengers, then you might be in a good place.  Not being subjected to two of the Fantastic Four movies has probably left you with a little more confidence in Marvel.

The movie was a re-boot of the franchise, and it altered the story line quite a bit.  I grew up reading comics, and one of the biggest things I have had to come to grips with during this onslaught of super hero movies has been the constant use of the re-boot.  I have gotten better about it, and this movie proves the point I am going to try to make.

As the movie started, I told Zach to forget about the other two movies that were made and enter this experience with fresh eyes.  I wanted him to judge this movie on its own merit rather than comparing it to other movies whether they were good or bad.

At the end of the movie I asked him what he thought about it and he agreed that while it was not the best movie he has seen, it was not a bad movie.  It was a great transition into discussing expectations versus reality when it comes to communicating thoughts, and how something that seems to be great may not always translate to an audience we are trying to reach.  Since he is looking into marketing as a career, I think that is going to be a big part of his life moving forward.

Expectations are good things, but we when we expect something from a person, we need to be sure that they are capable of delivering on that expectation.  If they are not, then we need to change the expectation. Holding someone to an expectation they cannot achieve is wrong on our part – not theirs.

Relentless Growth requires us to look not just at how we view our expectations of others, but also at ourselves.  Do we set expectations that we cannot reach?  Sometimes we do.  It’s good to stretch, but there are things we cannot achieve on our own, and we are just as wrong to hold ourselves to those unrealistic expectations as we are to hold others to the impossible.

God has standards and expectations that we cannot reach our own.  There are gaps of holiness that we can’t get past, but He was willing to provide His Son to us in order to bridge those gaps and allow us access to Him.  He doesn’t ask us for more than we can do, but He does ask us to let Him do in us what we cannot do for ourselves.  We CAN have the expectation that the unfailing God will pull through and deliver on His Word.

So, get ready for Him to do Fantastic things! (Yeah. that was a groaner!)

Relentless Growth

 

 

Time To Slow Down So I Can Go Faster

As I sat down tonight to write, I saw the date of my last post here on my blog, and I was a bit surprised at how long it has been. 37 days!  I would ask if anyone missed me, but I might be afraid to hear the answer.  I guess we will see what happens when I drop this post!

slowdownThe last month and a half has been very busy.  In truth, 2017 has been busy!  It seems like almost every day I crawl into bed with that “Where have you been all day?” feeling.  Come on, I can’t be the only one!

The last three weeks have had work training me in Chicago twice and now I am away again to a company retreat and meeting.  It seems like this year all of the training was crammed into a very tight little window.  A lot of time away from work and home.

Tonight I sit in a hotel room alone.  Over the last month I have spent several nights in hotels, and for a few of them I was fortunate enough to have my wife and son with me, but tonight is not one of those nights.

I had my “social” time that we are encouraged to participate in so we can get to know each other and network to exchange ideas and best practices, but I am that guy who steps away from the crowd before things get “really fun” in order to go back to my room for something more productive.

With all of the training I have been to lately, I have been inundated with a boatload of information that has resulted in being motivated to get all kinds of action plans together in order to be a better manager and improve countless processes.  The amount of stuff I have before me makes me feel that old weight of performance-based anxiety settle in on my shoulders.  I don’t like that feeling…

Also with all the time I have been gone, I have felt the longing for time in my home and with my family.  To be apart from them is wearying to my bones, and with Jessica already away at school, I only have two of my three favorite people to be with in the evenings.  I want to give them my full attention, and that workload is something I have been struggling to put behind me when I walk in the house.  Not as successful on that front as I would like to be some evenings…

Also, on the outer edges of my mind has been this feeling of missing my time with my friend Ray doing a Bible study, sharing life, and kicking each other in the teeth when we need it.  We have both been experiencing an uptick in stress lately, and those times we get together to share and do a little life as men really helps us.  We did have a meeting a couple of weeks ago, but my travel has taken that off the table this week and last…

So, tonight when I got back to the room and got comfortable, I fired up the laptop to do what I usually do when I am alone in a hotel room.

I work.

Yep. Party guy am I…  I usually take these opportunities to settle in and get some of the stuff done that has been hanging over my head and catch up a little.  My family is not here for me to engage with, so I might as well take care of some of the stuff piling up at work to reduce some of the stress, right?  Isn’t that a mature thing to do?

Well, tonight I chose to write instead.

Writing is something I love to do.  It helps me clear some of the cobwebs from my mind and get some  thoughts in order.  My wife can tell you that I am one who thinks out loud, and dumping out my brain from time to time to see what might be stuck in the corners is a very good thing for me.  Writing helps me do that, but I have not been very good about it lately.

With everything going on, I had pretty much decided that I was probably going to say goodbye to this blog. Probably not forever, but for a time at least.  I just don’t have the time to build a readership and develop this thing into the ministry I hope it could be one day.  It takes time to write, and I just have not had the time to devote to doing it well.

That is part of the reason I started to post pictures to my Relentless Growth Facebook Page instead of here every day.  I thought I would just let this page fade away.  Nobody would probably miss it anyway.  If I can’t do it well, then why should I bother?  Might as well quit.

That thought went through my mind when I opened up WordPress tonight.  What was I doing?  Is this a good use of my time?  I could be working!  It’s not like that pile of stuff is going to go away on its own!  Then I remembered a pic I saw the other day:

17021596_688409401346179_8034827712348665336_n

It became clear to me that this is a fight I need to stay in.  Not necessarily because there may be twos of threes of people who might read this and be encouraged.  Right now, it is because I need it.  I need this little break from my work thoughts so I can shake out those corners of my mind and set some things straight again.  I need it to because my priorities may be getting out of whack!

I need this time to slow down and examine some of the stuff I am working through in order to get the right perspective for moving forward again.  It’s like I learned in one of my classes last week:

“When I slow down, I go faster.”

I need the slow down to keep me from burning out.  I need the slow down to take me away from work.  I need the slow down to be a better husband, a better father, and a better follower of Christ.  Those are the things that matter the most to me on this earth.  They are so much more important than a budget, a  process, or an action plan.  They are the things that keep me centered.  The things that keep me FOCUSED.

This little break tonight is part of my Relentless Growth.  It was a nudge from God to hunker down for a second and let the battle rage around me, but not be in it for a little while.  Time to sit and think about what is important. Time to acknowledge the gifts He has given me and see where the priorities of my life need to be.  Time to see that this is a time that I hear Him speak into my heart as I write.

I’ve neglected this too much lately.  I need to do it more often, and I am going to start scheduling it into my week somewhere.  There must be time to do this because God doesn’t seem to want to take this desire to write away from me.  He apparently wants this door to remain open.

So, as for you, Dear Reader,  I guess I am back.  Not sure what the schedule is going to look like for posts, but I am going to be here again on a regular basis.  Not daily, but regularly.  If you feel like subjecting yourself to my thoughts more often, then come over to the Facebook page for Relentless Growth and “Like” it for a daily dose.

Before I log off tonight, I just want to take a minute and say thanks to those who do encourage me to write.  My wonderful wife, Tammi, is chief among them, and I know she sometimes feels she is keeping me from doing just that. (She is almost always right, but not on that one!) I appreciate your words, and I hope mine encourage you in some way as well.

So, goodnight all!  I will see you here again!  I think I might go read my book before bed!  Work will be there tomorrow!

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Two Decades! Happy Birthday, Jessica!!!

January 1997:

  • Fargo wins Best Film at the Critics Choice Awards
  • Pete Sampras wins the Australian Open
  • The Space Shuttle Atlantis returns home
  • Dennis Rodman kicks a camera man in the groin
  • The Packers and the Steelers were getting set to play in the Super Bowl (Please, not again. As I write this I can still pull for the Steelers and Falcons…)
  • 321491_4832527489535_88458044_nJessica Rachelle Tanner came into the world

January 23rd, after a long and tiring delivery (seriously, I was absolutely exhausted and Tammi was pretty tuckered out too! – I will pay for this…), Jessica made her presence known with a few grunts and then a well throated wail.  She was here and we knew our lives would never be quite the same.  We were parents.

Wow!

14845_4832535569737_1004727741_nLooking back now, I was so proud of my wife and her ability to just know what to do.  She took to being a mom like it was the most natural thing in the world, but me?  Well I never dropped her on her head or anything, and I knew which end food went in (no doubts about which end it came out) but I remember thinking several times, “Who on earth decided that I have the maturity to raise a child into an adult that will offer some type of value to society!? Shouldn’t there be some type of screening?”

312424_4832536289755_358998531_nOver all, she was a pretty compliant little rascal.  She had her moments when she was handful, but she was a quick learner and was always willing to please.  We kept watching her and wondering, “Is she about to go nuts yet?”  I know what I was like, and I just kept thinking that eventually I was going to see behavior in her that would allow parents, teachers, Sunday School Superintendents, Little League Coaches, and almost every member of the ladies missionary committee to start with the comments.  You know the one in particular…

“Now he is getting the payback he deserves!”269250_4832546410008_2047369841_n

We waited.  She turned two and nothing.  We waited a little longer and she turned three. Nothing.  We waited a little longer and as 4, then 5, and then 6 passed by, we still saw nothing that led us to believe that we were in any trouble or that any was on the immediate horizon.

319800_4832619651839_1615562737_nSchool was going well, She loved to learn and play with friends.  She loved church and all of her friends.  She was good in just about any situation and we just kept waiting.

428156_4832566610513_1096762012_nThe double digits hit.  Then the teen years began and I thought that if it was ever going to happen, now would be the time, but nothing.  It was like she just didn’t have it in her to get into trouble like her old man did.  She even got along with her little brother!  Seriously!  Where did this kid come from!

10947232_910103895675869_4578714176413601194_nLet me be clear.  Jessica is not perfect.  She had plenty of times when she made bad choices and got herself into a bit of trouble.  There is no such thing as a perfect kid.  Also, Jessica was not a push-over.  She has a very stubborn streak in her that has been the foundation for a lot of things that have made her into who she is today.  Sometimes that stubborn streak made things a little challenging, but it never got to a point of considering a boarding school…

14374_10204988308685895_8072762211283183066_nI look back and wonder what did we do.  Tammi and I had talked extensively about how we wanted to raise our kids.  We discussed discipline, education, boundaries, how we would love on them, all kinds of stuff.  We did what we thought was right and we prayed that God would kinda push us into line where we might be slipping off the track.  We were consistent, but this was also our first attempt at things!

1524871_10204988312125981_6073152218507561151_nI realize that there was much more at work than us.  It was more than grandparents (although she has four fantastic ones). It was more than aunts, uncles, cousins, teachers, and even more than her little brother.  It was more than the books we gave her, the television shows she watched or the songs she sang.

It was God.

1531582_10202369106847486_1823399421_nJessica knew that she was our daughter, but she also knew she was a child of God, and she wanted to make Him happy.  She asked questions when she was little about how she should do things that make Jesus happy, and would talk about how Jesus made her happy.  She saw the animals that she loved as a way that God gave 69612_4832795136226_313258255_nsomething to her to enjoy. (I still think she really believes that all animals were put here for her enjoyment, but at least I have been able to make her understand that she is not responsible to house all of them!)

10931362_10204988326286335_7658708027850509645_nShe knew that she wanted to know God more, and as she got older, she began to do more about it.  She started to read her Bible almost every day. She began journaling.  She wrote out prayers. She talked with people about God.  She had an understanding that the real God, Creator of the universe, knew and loved her, and she wanted to know and love him too.

13925696_10207273181213396_854820111773209752_oI think that was the biggest reason the teen years have flown by.  We watched her grow into the young lady she is today, and we just keep being amazed at what she has become.  Again, not perfect.  Again, a touch stubborn at times. In the end, a young woman with a loving heart, a beautiful smile, and a desire to serve God.

13710545_10208928556869637_8601244820599326179_oTammi and I are so proud of our daughter.  We did what we could.  We gave it our best, and we are thankful for who she is today, but we know that her relationship with God is the lion share of what made her into who she is.  We are just very thankful hat Go allowed us to have a part in it.

12957503_10208158878748165_5934551320912919766_oToday, Jessica is 20.  Two decades have passed since I was told I had a little girl.  I will always be able to see her at that moment. I will always be able to recall that  feeling of excitement and fear all wrapped up together.  I will always ask that question, “What did I do to deserve this?”  I say it now too.

13934659_10210114881419583_3885674236626471502_nHappy Birthday, Jessica!  I’ve loved you from the first moment I set eyes on you, and I am very proud to be your Dad.  I know that like your old man, you sometimes feel inadequate – not up to the task.   You want to do things the right way the first time and you get frustrated when that doesn’t always happen.  You want to be more, to do more, and to never let anyone down.  I love those things about you.  They scare me sometimes too.

14021570_10209124877977542_8285539014382639705_nThey scare me because I know how the doubts can weigh on your mind. They drag you down and make you feel unworthy of good, unable to help, paralyzed.  I don’t want that for you.

As I said to you the other day, I want you to see yourself as I know you are.  I am able to stand on the outside and see the woman you are becoming.  You have not only potential to become something amazing, you are already potent in this moment as you are making a difference in the lives of those around you.  You are already being that amazing woman, and the day will come that you will recognize those strengths.  You are going to do great things as you lean on God and partner with him to help others even more.

14066285_10210114881059574_7554383755240265358_o

I love you, squirt!  You have done a lot with your first two decades.  I can’t wait to recap the next two in 2037!

Love you,

Dad

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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The Words Coming Out of My Mouth

Here is the second piece I wrote for our church’s Daring Faith campaign.  Feel free to comment and share!

Romans 10:17 – So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.

wp-1474424742028.jpgAre you like me? Are you a little concerned at times that sharing your faith in Christ might offend someone?  Has it kept you silent in those opportune moments when you have a person in front of you who needs to hear the truth of God’s Word?  Yeah.  Me too, and if we are honest, we all would admit to having those moments.  So how do we change it?

Growing up, I always viewed this verse as a mandate for me to share the Word of God with every unsaved person I meet in order to give them the opportunity to come to a saving knowledge of Christ, but is it possible there is more there than that? I think there might be.  I see Paul’s words here in Romans 10 as a challenge to us, just like I was taught, but I also see something that should make us all pause and think for a moment.

What if this verse is talking about my faith as a believer being the catalyst for someone to come to know Christ?

I sometimes feel that sharing my faith will fall on deaf ears or that I might offend, but when I am honest with myself, I think it is more like I am not always able to show a true belief in what I am saying.  I believe in Christ, and I trust Him for my salvation, but my faith in Him is not strong enough to compel someone to ask a question or engage in a conversation.  It’s not that an unsaved person is dependent on anything I bring to the table, but am I making a strong enough case for what Christ is doing in my life that it makes them want the same thing?

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The time I spend in God’s Word has a direct effect on how well I am able to speak to the spiritual needs and concerns of those I come in contact with.  My time in the Word provides insight to situations, points our deficiencies in my character I can address with God’s help, and knowledge to know just how to do those things as God provided His wisdom and the opportunities to use it.

That time in the Word develops my faith in the living God and it keeps Him in the front of my mind.  It gives me strength for the day, and excitement to share what He is doing.  It provides instant recall to His promises and His record of provision.  Having all of this at my fingertips as a result of my time hearing the Word allows me to provide a more compelling testimony to those who are searching.  We might not realize it, but they are always listening for real faith.

That is why I want to be Relentless in my growth as a believer.  I am not going to do it right all of the time, and I will have periods of time when it seems like nothing is happening at all, but I never want to settle.  The actions I take toward knowing Christ better and the experiences I share about how He is working in me are all opportunities for someone to hear that little thing that may draw them to know Christ as well.  It’s not me.  It is Christ using me.

  • Do you have opportunities to share God’s work in your life? Are you capitalizing on them?
  • Are you spending time in the Word on a regular basis?
  • Who can you start talking to about what God did for you this week?

Father, we have a hard time believing those we don’t know, and we have your Word to show us how to know you better.  Help us to take those moments in Your Word and treasure them.  Use them to build our faith as we listen to Your Spirit speaking into our hearts and give us the opportunity and excitement to share Your good news with those who need You.

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Just Give The Old Guy A Chance To Talk

jco_richard-petty-motorsports43_1043.  I am 43.  Today I am 43 years old.  The geek in me wants to say that I am over 43 due to the leap year factor, but for sake of argument, we will just simplify this and say that today is the day.  Ready to start a new year with some new perspective.

The past year has brought a lot of change with it.  A year ago I was not the father of a college student.  I was seeing more transition in my job duties.  My son wasn’t sporting a beard.  Areas of life had less stress.  Areas of life had more stress!  People have come into and gone out of my life.  Relationships have grown stronger.  My thoughts have become heavier.  Then, to top it off, as I posted last week, I now have diabetes to consider.

Much has changed, and that is a good thing.  Change is a necessary part of life, and it is an integral part of a Relentless Life.  Without change, things grow stagnant, sour, weak, and irrelevant.  I don’t want that.  There are still things to do, things to see, things to experience and share.

I’ve been thinking a lot more lately about my life.  Specifically, about how my actions affect the future for myself and others.  Obviously I am experiencing some of what my passion for food has done to my body, and how I must make change in order to correct as much of that as I can, but there have been other actions that are having affects on me and those around me as well. Some of them need to be changed in some way or another if there is to be growth.  The FOCUS needs to shift if there is going to be growth.

Whether you are interested in them or not, here are some of my thoughts on things I would like to have a better grip on before I hit the “double 4”.

My Family – Things are changing in our home as our daughter leaves for college in the fall and our son is going to finish high school and has entered the work force before he leaves for college next year.  Tammi and I are going to be spending more time as we started – just the two of us.  There are going to be new ways I will need to adapt to the needs of my family in these new circumstances.  I want them to see that I love and care for them not in the way that is convenient for me, but in the way that they need it.

My Health – As of today I am down 32.5 pounds with a goal of another 34.5.  My blood pressure is dropping with the weight, and I am hoping to get off that medication by next year.  Praying to see the blood sugar straighten out with the changes in diet as well.  So odd that in the middle of feeling so good and healthy from losing weight I find I have a whole different problem, but like I said here, I think it is more of a spiritual issue than a a health issue.

My Friendships – The last year or so has bought me into closer relationships with a group of good and godly men.  I want to work harder at making those friendships grow deeper and stronger.  There are things I had done that I need to get back to doing, and there are thing I need to start doing that I never have done!  A good friend is not something to be ignored.

My Work – God has put a task before me, and I want to honor Him in that.  There is an aspect of worship to God in my work that I cannot ignore.  I need to remember that I am always serving Him in the things that I do, and hopefully that will make the rough times better.  I also will be more intentional about how I can provide for my family outside of my main job.

My Faith – Over the last year I have been more intentional about my time with God, and I don’t want that to change.  I need that time with Him to keep my heart right and my head clear.  The time I spend in God’s Word gives me purpose and courage to take hard steps in all aspects of life.  God gets the glory for what He is doing, and I get the joy of being able to have a front row seat in His plan.

grumpy-old-man-list-card-19I get a lot of ribbing from a buddy of mine about being old.  That’s OK.  I’m finally at an age where I am starting to see how my decisions can play out. I have enough life experience that before I do a stupid thing I get that feeling that I have been here before! Sometimes it even stops me from doing it!!!  I guess that is the benefit of age though, and I hope my mistakes, experiences, and thoughts are a help to someone else.

What are you going to do with your next trip around the sun?  Be Relentless in it.  Feel free to share this post and I would be happy to hear your comments either below or e-mail at myrelentlessgrowth@gmail.com!

 

 

The Next Chapter Of Life Will Not Be As Sweet

sweets_2623400kLast October I had one of those moments that take your breath away. I wish I could say it was from looking at a beautiful sunset, a display of human compassion, or even the peace of watching the horses in the pasture. It wasn’t. For me, it was a flight of stairs. 10 steps and I was sucking wind like a jet engine.  I was 42 years old and stairs had become the thing I dreaded most. Whether it was the knee that gave constant pain, or the knowledge that I would not be able to talk at the top of the stairs, I had begun to avoid them at all cost.

The next morning after a shower and with  a smile I stepped gingerly on the scale (It is a glass scale, so you will understand my caution in a moment.) to see my situation. I was at the heaviest I have been in my life. Just 3 pounds short of 300. I remember the sense of dread that hit me when I realized I was about to cross over into a world where my weight began with a three. That had not happened since I was 2 years old, and something needed to change. Immediately.

I went to work on it, and started changing my diet. Not huge changes, just being a little more aware of how often I would go back for seconds (or thirds) and not allowing that. I also started eating a salad a day or two a week, and set a hard rule about eating after 9pm. Again, not huge changes, but I was huge, so any change was good!

Results started quickly with me and the first ten pounds were gone in a month or so.  The holidays came next and I got through them with only picking up a couple pounds.  After that I started to average about a pound a week with the occasional stall, but the stall never bothered me as long as it didn’t turn into an upward trend. The stall would result in another little change, and then weight would start to move again. It was going well.

Last Thursday I went in for my annual physical and was actually excited. I had lost 25 pounds and was lighter than I had been in almost 4 years, and felt better than I had in at least that long. The Doc was pleased and we actually did a “high 5” at one point. (If you know my doctor, you would be surprised!) As I was getting ready to leave we briefly discussed the lab work I was about to have done, and how the results of those tests (cholesterol) couldn’t take away from the fact that I had done a good thing and I felt healthier as a result. We left the room with smiles on our faces.

That evening I was at a birthday party for my father-in-law when I got an e-mail to check my patient portal for my test results.  The cholesterol was not bad, but I got a shock I had not been expecting.  There were some bold lines of type with results on my blood sugar and a note from my doctor in all caps telling me I had diabetes and I needed to see him ASAP.  (That sound you heard was the sound of my good feelings being crushed.)

I am a diabetic.

To say that night was a hard night would be an understatement.  I understand now why they offer counseling groups for people who are getting news like this.  It rocked me all the way back on my heels.  I was doing a good job!  I had been losing weight and getting healthier.  Why?  What on earth is going on here?

That night as I lay in bed trying to wrap my head around this while clinging to the encouragement of my wife, I came to the conclusion that there is a reason for this.  God has allowed this into my life for a purpose, and I needed to figure out what it was.  God was good in that He didn’t make me take a long time to do it.  It was pretty obvious to me.

I love to eat.  I don’t just like food.  I love food.  I will sit and think about food I will eat in two hours, for supper tonight, for supper next week!  I will plan how to make sure I get to have the maximum amount of food when it is available even if it means short-changing someone else.  I have shared this sinful pattern before on this blog, but I have not really gotten control of it.  Food has continued to rule my life, and now something is going to need to change.

Things come into our lives for  reason.  Sometimes we get to experience really good things that cause us no pain while giving us the simple pleasure of feeling the love of God.  Sometimes God allows hard things to come into our lives in order to teach us something or to make us realize that we need to stop something or make a better choice.  No matter what is going on in your life, it is there in order for you to look at it and see where God is speaking to you in that moment.

Lying there in bed, I realized that God had allowed this to happen in order to teach me that food is a god that will leave me wanting.  In every way it is temporary, and when fully in control, it is damaging.  It is a substandard god.  It is an unworthy god.  It is a bad god. It was a god that THE God decided I needed to see in a different light.  The next morning I told Tammi that it was like God had just walked in and kicked food off the throne in my heart and said that it had been in His seat for far too long.  It was time for me to learn how good it is to have Him on the throne instead.

The last few days have been a little rough at times.  I’m on a new diet now that has me on a pretty tight leash.  I’m checking my sugar, taking my medicine, and looking at my food in a different way.  I have been very careful, and I have the support of my amazing wife and kids and some good friends and family praying for me as I walk this new path.  It’s a new chapter of my life, and while in some ways it will not be as sweet as it used to be, in others it is already tasting so good!

IMG_20160506_181517I’m still losing weight.  This is a picture of me last summer on our Wyoming vacation where I had not yet hit my peak weight along with me today being down 30 pounds.  I am committed to losing more while controlling my sugar in order to reach a healthy weight.  I’m not sure if God is going to allow me to get off the medication, but right now I believe that is a goal He has allowed in my heart, and I intend to follow it with Relentless determination.

The sugar levels are already moving in the right direction, and my prayer is that when I go to see my doctor in a month, he will tell me that I am on the right track.  It will be three months before I can get my A1C checked again to see just how much movement I have had.  I’m placing that in God’s hands.  He is writing this chapter of my life, and I am open to His direction.  My prayer is first of all to honor Him in this process.  He has placed me here for at least one reason I have already mentioned, but I believe that is going to lead to even more.

I would appreciate your prayers, and I will share my journey with anyone who wants to read or ask questions.  Please keep my wife and family in your prayers as well.  This is something we are all experiencing, not just me.  I am blessed with a family that loves me and is supporting me as we do this together, but I want to show them love and encouragement as well.

Thanks for reading, and as always, feel free to share this with anyone you know who might be encouraged by it.

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