Setting Things Right Again

There are a number of things about me that are weird.  Stick around and I guarantee you will find one for yourself to laugh at.  There really is no limit.  Making new ones every day, but there are some golden oldies that have been around for a few decades.  Wanna hear one?  Here goes.

Sometime around the age of 7, I took it upon myself to do a little project, and I recruited my brother and the neighbor kids in this rampant display of ridiculousness.  Looking back, I even think this was weird, but I do remember it vividly as something that meant a lot to me even though I think everyone thought I was insane.

This is not the mower, but it captures much of what I remember in its stellar good looks!

My Dad had a little push mower.  Green in color with a white Briggs & Stratton motor on top.   The mower ran well, but looked rough. The handle, once chromed, was pitted with rust.  The deck was covered in layers of “grass juice”, dried clippings, and was scratched up from years of use.  The motor was covered in dust, oil, and again, “grass juice”.  

I can’t tell you why, but I remember that I looked at it one day and I decided that it needed to be cleaned up and put back in order.  So, in what can only be described as delegation gone wild, I got 3-4 other kids to join me in cleaning up this mower.  I don’t remember if bribes were involved or how exactly I talked them into it, but they showed up.

So, there we were, armed with a bunch of rags and whatever aerosol products I could scrounge up in the garage that might have some type of solvent properties, we gathered around a 20 inch push mower with the determination to make it shine like new.

I can’t recall how much time we put into the project, but I do remember needing to talk a couple people into coming back to the job and trying to help them capture my vision despite their comments of “waste of time”, “just going to get dirty again”, and “you’re crazy”.  Who knew I was in career training…

At the end of the project I remember standing up, by myself because I had finally been abandoned by my crew, and looking at the mower expecting to be filled with a sense of pride and accomplishment.  Before me sat the fruits of my labor and it was…

Still a scratched up, stained, rusted, and still fairly greasy mower.

There was not a lot of appreciable change to the mower’s appearance.  Yes, the “grass juice had been washed off, and the dried clippings and caked sand were no longer all over it, and there were even parts of the motor that showed the slightest glimmer of shine in the paint, but it still looked rough.  I was disappointed.  It felt like a waste of time with no discernible improvement.

Later that night, Dad asked me about the mess that I had left on the floor of the garage.  Piles of rags, empty spray cans of brake cleaner and WD-40, and the pile of dried clippings we had scraped out from under the mower deck gave evidence of my deeds.  I told him what I had done and said I would go clean up the mess.  I said it was a waste of time anyway.  He said something then that I have not forgotten.

“It might not look like you did a lot on the surface, but what you did do will make a difference.”

He then went on to tell me that in cleaning off the motor, it would run cooler which was better for the motor.  In cleaning the air filter I was protecting the engine from debris that could damage it.  In getting all of the grass clippings and junk scraped off the deck, I was removing stuff that trapped water and created rust so I was helping the deck last longer.

My restoration project did not turn out like I had hoped it would.  There was no obvious change, but it had made an impact for the future.  Because I was willing to take the time and put in the effort, the mower was going to run better and last longer.  It was, in some ways, a success.

I wonder if that was the catalyst that has given me an appreciation for making the old look new and the broken re-usable.  Since then I have been interested in auto restoration, home repair, and recently using reclaimed materials to build things.  It seems like I am always trying to figure out how i can take something broken and realize the value in it.

God saw the value in His broken people and provided a way for us to become new as well.  Through the redeeming death of His Son, we can experience life change and eternal life with God.  On the surface we might not seem that different, but changes are made, and if we submit to the process, those changes will multiply in us until they are seen by those around us.  There is no work that God does in the heart of man that does not yield a result for good.  Let me say that again,

There is no work that God does in the heart of man that does not yield a result for good.

I have reached the end of another book study in the Bible, and it is time to move on.  Colossians taught me a lot about how we are to #SERVEandGROW in life.  We serve God and we serve others.  That is how we grow.  It’s not a difficult formula.  Pretty much just those three steps.  So easy I can follow it!  I have enjoyed the study , and I hope that anyone who read along with me did too.

Now I am going to take a swing at something different.  I have pretty much stuck with books of poetry or doctrine, but now I want to do a book of history.  It will change some of how I post my thoughts, but I will try to keep with the same basic format of a post a day with a verse and a  thought.  Forgive me if the text gets a little small from time to time.

We will be going through the book of Ezra.  This is the story of the restoration of the temple in Jerusalem after the Jewish exile when Babylon took Israel captive.  The city and the temple were destroyed, the “choice” people were taken away, the walls were torn down, and only a few stragglers were left behind.  Jerusalem was in shambles.  A near wasteland.  

God wanted a #Restoration.

God began orchestrating what needed to happen to bring His people home, and He started with the #Restoration of the temple.  Later Nehemiah would follow and rebuild the wall and set the city back in order.

Ezra’s efforts might have seemed a little odd.  In rebuilding a city, would it not make more sense to build a wall first?  Many would agree, but God knew that there needed to be a more important change first.  His presence was needed.  The city would not be complete because the temple was rebuilt, but without the temple, the city might not have been built.  The restoration of Jerusalem needed God more then man.

#Restoration is needed in my life.  There are things I have let go, things I should have taken better care of physically, emotionally, spiritually, and relationally.  Steps need to be taken to scrape out the junk that might be keeping my life from running as God intended.  I may need to wipe away some stuff that lets me see things that need repair.  All in all, I am in need of God’s redeeming, restorative work.

As I read through Ezra, I will be looking for what God has to show me in that regard and sharing my findings as I go along.  I will post them on my Relentless Growth Facebook Page, and I hope you will follow along.  If you see something that speaks to you, let me know!  I would love to talk to you about it.

Relentless Growth requires us to not only keep driving forward, but to be willing to take time to #Restore things that need work.  We have relationships around us that need God’s hand in them.  We have things in our past that we need to learn to overcome and use for God’s glory.  In His hands, there is nothing that is not salvageable.  Give your heart and life to Him and see what He can do with it!

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I Hope to Be Sober in 2018

So, I have a confession to make.  I have a problem.  I get better for awhile, but then I slip and I find myself right in the middle of it again.  I know I need help, and I know that I have friends and family that want to help me, but sometimes their help just drives me deeper into it.  I need to get sober, and I hope that this is the year.

Now, before we go any further, I am not struggling with any type of alcohol or drug addiction, and I am not mocking those who do.  My struggle is one of a different nature that while not physically damaging, can be just as destructive to the relationships I value.

Anger and a lack of self-control.

I have had a rough time with this since I was a teenager.  If I felt mistreated when I didn’t deserve it, I would get angry.  It would be even worse when I KNEW I was right.  It has been a part of me for years.  It ebbs and flows enough that I don’t think  that I am known as a hot head (I might be wrong about that), but I am sure that there are enough people out there who have had a peek into that part of me to know it is there.

This past week it rose up again.  I lost it and got pretty loud.  I realized it right away and made my apologies, but that doesn’t make anything go away.  I’m tired of those apologies.  I want something better for the people I do life with.

One of my favorite characters on television is from the show Blue Bloods.  Tom Selleck plays NYPD Police Commissioner Frank Reagan (Francis to his Dad).  Frank is a Marine.  He is the son of a cop who also was the Police Commissioner.  He has three sons who became cops, and a daughter who works as an assistant district attorney.  The family gets together for Sunday dinner every week, and while not perfect, they are always trying.

Week after week I watch Frank come face to face with some seemingly overwhelming obstacle and no discernible right answer.  Sometimes he is caught between two of his kids that want him to take their side in an argument.  Sometimes he is caught between his church and his work.  Sometimes it is the mayor or some publicity issue that is waging war against his personal convictions.

No matter what it is that comes up, by the end of almost every episode, we see that he is able to come to some type of resolution.  I know.  The magic of television would be VERY convenient if we could just sprinkle it over our own problems!

So, where was I going with this?  Oh, yeah.  One thing we rarely see happen is Frank “losing it.”  His voice gets a little high and he might wave his hands and arms a little as he expresses his frustration with the situation, but even when that happens, we always see the same move take place at that moment when you think he is about to REALLY tee off on someone.  I call it the Frank Reagan Scowl of Sober Deliberation. (FRSSD for short)

Rather than lose his temper, Frank pulls out the FRSSD.  On screen that usually leads to a soft fade, commercial break, or a quick switch to one of the other story lines that the episode is covering.  We don’t get to see how Frank wrestles the problem, and we don’t always get to see how much time the FRSSD needs to be employed before we get to the next step.

What we see is a man who is willing to confront his fears and his anger and hold them in check rather than lashing out.  We see a man who looks inside and examines the nuances of not only the situation, but also what his responses might be along with their consequences.  He doesn’t react when faced with these tough spots.  He thinks about how to face the situation in a manner allowing him to maintain his character and bring about the most equitable solution possible.

I don’t want to say that he is holding it all inside rather than spilling it all out.  He spills!  However, he only lets out what is necessary for those around him to reach an understanding that he is in turmoil over something, but not willing to lash out while he works on getting to the next face.  I call that one the Frank Reagan Face of Bold Resolve.   (FRFBR for short.)

When the FRFBR comes out, you know that the situation is now in hand.  Frank is getting ready to move ahead.  He knows there may be some consequences, but he has measured them and sees them as acceptable.  He knows that feelings may yet be hurt, but he has determined that it will not be done in a careless manner.  He builds his heart into his response.  He usually ends up giving a little more of himself in those situations and plants a seed for growth in the relationship that will help with future confrontations as well.

In 2 Timothy, Paul is speaking to his disciple, Timothy, and telling him how he should conduct himself in his role as a young pastor.  Paul knew full well the challenges Timothy would face. Churches are not easy places to live, and it is even harder if you hold a position of leadership.  One piece of advice he gave Timothy was this:

As for you, always be sober-minded, endure suffering, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry. – 2 Timothy 4:5

That sober-mindedness he refers to is that Frank Reagan-type of mind.  A mind that chooses not to rage at the injustices he sees around him, but to slap on that FRSSD and work on a solution that will allow him to fulfill his ministry as a pastor and reach souls for Christ.  He has a job to do, and losing his head will not get it done.  He needs to get to that FRFBR and move boldly forward for God in love for those he serves.

Peter also tells us that there is another need for taking the time to wear the FRSSD.  It is because there are bigger things at play than what we are facing. Just like there are layers to Frank’s problems and our problems, we have a bigger problem in the wings.

Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. – 1 Peter 5:8

Satan wants to get believers to “lose it. ”

If he can get us to “lose it”, he gets to see us hurt the reputation of Christ and His redeeming work.  People look at us and see our flaws, but not necessarily the work that God is doing in our lives as a whole.  They are just more likely to remember the guy who loses his temper.

If we allow ourselves to “lose it” too many times, we will develop the habit of lashing out and hurting people.  Over time that will cause people to pull away from us and also cause us to withdraw to avoid causing pain when we realize that is what we are doing.  Once you pull back too much you will find it hard to crawl out again.

So, with 2018 just around the bend. I have decided to make a greater effort at being that SOBER man that Paul and Peter admonish us to be.  I like to pick a word every year to focus on, and the year it is #SOBER.

I would love to end this next year looking back and not being able to remember when I had to apologize for losing my temper and saying rash or hurtful things.  I would like to be able to see where I put on the FRSSD and worked it out to get to the FRFBR without needing to hang my head in between.

I’m going to need to work at it, and I will need to put some reminders in place over the next year. (My wife and co-workers might start to think I have crush on Tom Selleck because of having his picture taped and tacked up in are different places!)  I’ll also need some accountability from my friends, family, and a few co-workers.  Tell me to get my “Frank Face” on instead of letting myself get loud.

I’m living a life that is imperfect.  I make mistakes, but I am not settling for living that way.  Relentless Growth is a determination to not live as I am, but to grow in Christ even when it is hard.  This is going to be hard.  I am attacking one of my deepest weaknesses in this.  What better place to ask for the unlimited strength of God!

I hope you have a great new year and that you find something you are going to focus on as well.  Feel free to comment and share this post with others.

Next Book: Colossians

Yesterday was my last day in the book of 2 Peter for awhile. (I’ll come back to it, I don’t have it all perfected yet!)  Running through that book with #Vigilant as the running thought and theme brought a new focus to me in how I approached situations at home and at work.  So many times I think I am seeing things, but the truths Peter brought to light helped me look deeper.  No.  I have not reached perfection.  Far from it, but I have grown a little more, and that is the goal.

      So, as always, where to next?

I promote this page, poorly at times, as Relentless Growth, and that was born out of a study I did with my Mentor/Rabbi, Lou, and my best friend, Ray.  In that series, I learned a lot about who I am, but I learned a lot more about how God wants me to grow in Him.  The study is based on Colossians 2:7.  I’m going to add verse 6 to help with the context just a tad:

Therefore, as you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in him, rooted and built up in him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, abounding in thanksgiving. – Colossians 2:6-7

As I thought about that study, I am reminded how it brought me to the place where I finally realized my need for a daily walk with God.  It took some time to get the habit REALLY locked in, but the daily verse posts I do are a result of that time of learning and the hunger for God and His Word that came out of it. I have been thinking about that time spent with those men a lot lately.  I miss those times, and I would guess that all that thinking about those sessions woke up the desire to look into Colossians.

So, here we go!  I did a little more research on the book, and one of the best overviews I have found to whet my appetite for the book is from Chuck Swindoll.  You can read his take on Collosians here at his Insight for Living web site.  He gives an overview of all of the books in the Bible. Good stuff, and he is a far better writer than I!

Chuck’s overview talks about how well Paul described the sovereignty of Christ and the importance of recognizing His Deity.  Christ was not just a good man who did some neat things.  He is God!  He created the universe, spoke us into existence, came to earth to live as a man, and He died for our salvation. He rose again, and now sits at God’s right hand waiting for the moment He will return for His people and begin an eternal reign. WOW!

When you realize all of that, Colossians 2:6-7 is a natural response.  If Christ is our Lord, and we really recognize Him as Lord, we are faced with a choice of serving Him or not.  As Paul tells us in the very first verse of the book, he is a servant of God’s will, and that is what I am called to be as well.  Some days I do it well, and other days…

Relentless Growth is a reminder to me that in order to grow, I must first kneel.  I must take myself off the throne of my heart and put God there, where He deserves to be, as my Creator and Sustainer.  I must die to my desires and live in the grace, mercy, and new life Christ purchased for me. If I do that, then I will grow!  Kneel -> Grow.  Submit -> Grow. Serve -> Grow.

I can’t think of a better way to grow in Christ than to take what I learn from His Word and use it to serve others.  Whether I am posting a daily verse, doing life with my wife, helping a friend with a project, helping my employees at work, or talking with my kids, I am engaging in service to God that results in personal growth.

So, for the next several weeks, I will be making my way through Colossians as slowly as possible – digging as much truth out as I can in order to use it in service to God.  I will enjoy the time I spend learning and sharing.  I hope you enjoy it too.

you like what you read and see on the Relentless Growth Facebook Page, be sure to “Like” and “Share”.  Would love to hear your comments too!

#Serve&Grow

 

Tom

 

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.

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:

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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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