18 Years to Prep for Battle – Happy B-Day, Zach!

The birthday blog has become tradition here at Tanner Manor, so here is my letter to my son on his 18th Birthday.  A fine, young man he has grown to be, and Relentless in his pursuit of God and life.

Today I met in the woods again with Zach, my Dad, and my friends Ray and Joe.  These important men in my life all had words of encouragement and affirmation for Zach, and when I was done, I presented him with a gift.  I did this two years ago, and it was time to do it again. We need to recognize moments like these in the lives of our children.  Milestones are  important, and they need to hear from their parents just how proud they are of them.   I have been both waiting for and dreading this day since day 1, and it is here.  I know they will always need me, but still…

Zach,

18 years ago today, you entered this world. You were quiet. Too quiet. I immediately thought that the son I had waited for was gone before he had the chance to live. I remember the fear in my heart, what was wrong?  Why is he so quiet?  What’s going on?  Is he ok?  C,mon, son! Fight!

After what seemed to me to be an eternity, you finally began to stir and then you found your lungs.  I was the Dad of a healthy baby boy, and I could not have been happier.  I had a daughter and now a son.  Our family was complete, and it was all smooth sailing from that point on…

Not exactly. It didn’t take much time for me to figure out just how little I knew about being a husband and dad.  I was getting by alright with the occasional bump or hiccup, but there was a lot of stuff that I just didn’t have the answers to, and truth told, I still feel that way sometimes!

Over the years there have been a few things I have done that I know were good moves, and one of the biggest was doing the men’s group and the Authentic Manhood studies.  That study showed me a lot about myself, and the importance of trying to teach those principles to you.  They showed me that there are battles that will take place in life that I would need to fight for you, but also I would need to teach you to fight for yourself.

There have been good and hard times on this journey.  I want you to know that I own the responsibility for the majority of those hard times as I have been growing and changing and making mistakes along the way.  One of the most important things I have wanted you to learn is that we are not perfect, and our decisions have consequences and impact on those around us both for good and for bad.  No man is really an island.

During this journey of your life, I have been trying, along with the help of your Mom, to give you the tools you need to thrive as a man.  Lessons, examples, books, mentors, and stories from my life are just a few of the ways I have done that.  I have always said that the experiences of others are the best teachers because you can learn the lesson without personal pain or loss.  We have shared victory and defeat on that front, but we have continued to learn and grow – me as a Dad and you as a son.

Two years ago we took some time with some friends and had a celebration of you at the age of 16.  Men God has brought into your life shared with you some of their own insights and wisdom as they encouraged you to continue to grow in God and as a man.  It was a good time.

That was when I presented you with your shield carrying the family name on it.  The shield represented the period of life you were entering where there would be attacks that would come to you as Satan desired to tear you down and destroy your reputation.  You would see trials and struggles that would strain relationships, and, unfortunately, see some fall away.  The battles would be real, and you would need to learn to defend not only who you are, but what you believe.

Through the last two years, I have seen you grow in your ability to stand strong in trial.  You have become more resolute in your faith, and you have served as an example to others as well.  I have enjoyed watching you grow and have been very proud of you.  You have been tested, and some of those battles have appropriately hardened you – tempered you for bigger challenges to come.

Now you are 18.  You will be leaving the house this fall for college, and you will be stepping out into the world as a man.  My time for instruction, while not completely finished, is undergoing a change to an advisory role. I will be there when you need me, but the day is coming that I might not be a part of your daily life.  This will be a hard adjustment for me, and in some ways for you, too.

For the last 18 years, it has been my responsibility as your Dad to stand and fight for you, to be the one who stood guard over your heart and to fight anything of this world or any other who would dare come for my son.  As your Dad, that was my job, and as hard as it was sometimes, it has been one of the most rewarding jobs I have ever had.

Along with that job has been the charge to teach you the things you need to know about life, how to defend yourself against the attacks Satan will be certain to throw against you, and how to fight for those you care about, as well.  I have done my best to do so, and in spite of my shortcomings and failures along the way, I believe that you have learned much of what you need to know, and I want to commemorate this moment as well.

So, today, I give you this sword as a picture of my belief in you and the man you have become.  It signifies that I believe that you are equipped to do battle against Satan and his influences.  The sword means that you are no longer simply one who defends, but now you are carrying the battle with you as you walk with Christ.

You will now step into the lives of those you see struggling and offer aid to them. You will not just endure, but you will overcome.  You will be a warrior for Christ in all aspects of your life and give Him the glory in the victories that God gives to you.

Stay in the Word.  There is nothing you can do that will give you more than that for the battles you will face.  God’s truth will guide you in the hard choices, and will comfort you in your moments of doubt and pain.  Stay close to God and allow Him to guide you.  He knows your heart and your needs even better than I.

For the last 18 years, you and I have been preparing for this day.  I love you as my son, but also as a man of God, and a warrior for His kingdom  You have made me proud in so many ways, and I know that God is going to continue to do great things with you and through you as you strive to walk with Him.

I’m always here  for you when you need me.  I got your back and am always willing to fight at your side.

I love you, Zach!

– Dad

My Son – A Graduate. Time Flies…

imageThis past weekend my son received his high school diploma.  13 years of school have come to a close, and we could not be more proud of his efforts.  Over the past 13 years, we have exposed him to three different education models, and he excelled in all of them.  The last two years he has been dual-enrolled in college at Cedarville University via on-line courses, and has done an amazing job there as well.  He will walk on campus as a sophomore this fall.

There are so many events in our lives that we want to remember.  Milestones exist so we can look back and see where we have been and how far we have come, and I have learned that those moments need to be recognized.  We need them as confirmation in our lives that we are moving forward – achieving goals.

I have been blessed to be in a small men’s group where I learned the importance of taking the time to recognize these moments and commemorate them with a tribute.  When we take the time to write something down from our hearts and give it to someone, it creates a lasting impression.  Those encouraging words will endure long past the moment and will be a touchpoint we can go back to when we are feeling the weight of the world.

Sitting on my desk is a framed copy of a letter I received from my mentor for my 40th birthday.  Aside from the words of encouragement I have receive from my Dad, it is probably the most prized collection of words I have received from any man on earth.  It has made an impression on my life because of the relationship that we have.  Men need to hear words like that and be reminded that they are doing good things – the right things.

So, it is with example from Lou that I put together this letter to my son on his graduation day.  I read it to him at the graduation ceremony, and there will be a framed copy of it for him to take to college this fall so he will be able to see that his Dad believes in him, is proud of him, and prays for him.

I hope that reading this will give you an encouragement to recognize those milestones with your family and close friends.  It may seem like it is only a letter as you write it, but I can tell you that when the relationship is there, the impact of a letter like this will last for years.  Take the time to do it.  It’s worth the effort.

Zachary,

I’ve wanted a son as long as I can remember, and I wanted that son to be just like me.  When you came into my life, I thought I was getting that gift, but your Mom and I got more than that.  We received a son that was a unique blend of the two of us.  Your physical and personality traits seem to morph and shift back and forth so often, but there is no doubt that you are ours.

One of the things I have learned as your Dad is that as much as I wanted a son to be like me, I am thankful that you are an individual, and I have been learning, albeit sometimes slower than either of us would like, to appreciate you as that individual.  You often hear that you are “just like your Dad”, but you and I know that there are a number of differences that make you an “individual”.

Your Mom and I are so proud of the young man you have become.  Our goal as parents has been to equip you to take on the trials of adulthood, to stand as a man of God in a world that needs men who know how to stand.  You have had opportunities to learn and grow in your faith, and have had to learn to lean on God during those times, and I am happy to see how you have developed.

You have made us very proud in your dedication to your studies, your love and devotion to your family and friends, and your desire to squeeze the fun out of life.  You are a thinker, a processor and yet still manage to be spontaneous.  A nice blend that has kept us on our toes.

Our dream is that you will be that man mentioned in Micah.  We have seen the beginnings of that man as you seek to do what is right, show God’s mercy and grace to those you relate with, and maintain a humility in your relationship with God.  We pray for those attributes to continue to grow as you enter the college campus this fall and begin the next steps toward what God will have you to do.

We have offered many prayers for you over the years, and today I want to offer this one more written by General Douglas MacArthur.  It is titled “A Father’s Prayer”, and I cannot think of words that would make it any more my prayer for you as your Dad.  Your Mom and I love you very much and will always be here for you when you need us.

“Build me a son, O Lord, who will be strong enough to know when he is weak, and brave enough to face himself when he is afraid; one who will be proud and unbending in honest defeat, and humble and gentle in victory.

Build me a son whose wishbone will not be where his backbone should be; a son who will know Thee—and that to know himself is the foundation stone of knowledge. Lead him I pray, not in the path of ease and comfort, but under the stress and spur of difficulties and challenge. Here let him learn to stand up in the storm; here let him learn compassion for those who fail.

Build me a son whose heart will be clear, whose goal will be high; a son who will master himself before he seeks to master other men; one who will learn to laugh, yet never forget how to weep; one who will reach into the future, yet never forget the past.

And after all these things are his, add, I pray, enough of a sense of humor, so that he may always be serious, yet never take himself too seriously. Give him humility, so that he may always remember the simplicity of true greatness, the open mind of true wisdom, the meekness of true strength.

Then, I, his father, will dare to whisper, ‘I have not lived in vain.’”

—GENERAL DOUGLAS MACARTHUR, “A FATHER’S PRAYER”

Be Relentless in your parenting. Build into the hearts of your kids and share with them how you feel about them.  They need it, and coincidentally, so do you!

A Kick in the Pants

Today I read a great blog post by a friend of mine named Danny Ray.  He is a loving husband and dad, a good friend to many, an award-winning, amazing magician, an inspiring speaker, and most important, a brother in Christ.  You can see more about Danny Ray and his ministry here at his website, and you can read the blog post here.

In reading his post today, he gives tribute to one of my closest friends, Joe Castaneda of Overboard Ministries for the blog posts that he writes.  He tells how a series of posts Joe had written were impacting people Joe didn’t even know about.  I won’t steal the story. I want you to go read it, and I want you to check out Joe’s blog here.

At the end of the article I got thinking about my little posts I put up.  I get all of the tracking data that says I have a loyal readership that amounts to grand numbers daily. (I am currently averaging an entire 3 people per day this month!)  I also have a Facebook Page where I post a daily verse, image, and thought that gets a few more hits, but still has modest numbers averaging into the double digits consistently. (Yes, as a result I often go out in sunglasses with a hat pulled low to keep the paparazzi at bay.)

I admit I sometimes fall prey to the pride that pulls at me in wishing that I was reaching more people.  Why aren’t more people reading?  I do work on these things!  Am I wasting my time?  What am I doing wrong?

I’m not saying I am perfect, but maybe I’m not doing anything wrong.  Maybe I am just sometimes not doing it for the right reason. The purpose of writing for me is not to gain a huge following.  I just want to share what God is doing in my life and hopefully inspire someone out there to get more interested in making God a bigger part of their lives too!  It’s not about me.  It’s about God.

I’m currently reading  great book by Paul Tripp called The Quest for More. In it, Paul talks about how we miss out on the MORE of serving God and His kingdom when we are focused on building up our own reputation.  He tells it a lot better than I do, but that is it in a nutshell. (Still, go get and read the book.  You won’t be disappointed!)

I have not been writing much here lately. I admit that a big reason has been that I have felt nobody is interested and it isn’t worth my time.  Read Danny’s post and you will see why that is exactly the wrong thing I should be thinking.  I am purposing to get more regular in posting here.  I might not write long posts, but just a thought a couple times a week would be something.

Thanks, Danny, for the kick in the pants.  I want to be Relentless in my pursuit of God and His kingdom.  I want people to be directed to Him through any means necessary, and if I get to play a part in it, that is all for God’s glory.  Thanks for being a “drive-by accountability partner” today.  You had words I needed to hear.

I owe you a $1 next time I see you!

Staying Mentally Hungry

Henry Ford was a man not only known for his ingenuity and manufacturing genius.  He was also known for his quotes.  Here are a few of my favorite “Fordisms”.

“Chop your own firewood.  It’ll warm you twice.”

“Failure is only the opportunity more intelligently to begin again.”

“My best friend is the one who brings out the best in me.”

“Thinking is the hardest work there is, which is probably the reason so few engage in it.”

I’m sure at least one of those strikes a chord with you as they do with me.  There is something about a good quote, and Ford had one more that I like that I am hoping I can change a bit and maybe leave it as my little mark on history.

“Whether you think you can, or you think you can’t–you’re right.”

I’d like to change it up and make it my own:

“If you think you can’t learn anything –you’re right.”

– Tom Tanner

(If you know of some famous person who has already said this and is getting a royalty or anything from its use, I beg you to forget you saw me use it and move along.  I am operating under the assumption that this was my idea!)

Recently I have been on a run of training for my position as a general manager.  Historically I have walked away from many of these training sessions feeling drained, depressed, discouraged, and basically just much more aware of what I don’t know without gaining any new applicable information.  It is hard when that next training period comes up and you know you are going to go and come home feeling behind from being gone, and more discouraged than when you left.

This last time, when signing up for this class, I remember thinking that this was waste of my time.  Maybe this time I should just push back and refuse to go since I have a mountain of projects I am involved in and the time away would just leave me feeling stressed when I returned.  I knew I needed to go, but the idea of it just left me irritated.

I looked over the course material and saw that this mandatory training had elements that I again was pretty sure I would not get much out of, but it also had a few that I have had exposure to in the past that had left me with a desire to know more.  The schedule was tight, and I was pretty sure that it would be done at break-neck speed, but I thought there was a chance.

Fast-forward to today. I got a lot out of it.  I decided before I left that I would be making a few choices to step out of my normal “student habits” and try to be 100% engaged in the class.  I thought that if this was going to be worth my time I was going to have to go all in to capitalize on the opportunity or it would just pass me by.

It worked.

I wouldn’t say that it was everything I would hope it would be.  I still cam ehome with a mountain of new stresses to greet me, and I didn’t learn all I had hoped, but I definitely learned.  The content got in my head, and I not only saw opportunities for application, I was able to come back and use most of what I HAD learned to immediately develop some new plans and practices that should make my job a little more productive and less stressful. (Praying pretty hard about that!)

So what was different?  Not a lot. I had one of the same teachers I have had in the past.  They were covering many of the same types of materials in the same high-speed way.  There was yet again too much stuff packed into too little time.  The material was so broad as to be largely difficult to apply to my specific circumstances.  What changed?

My attitude.

Almost every time I have gone to one of these things I have been pretty sure that I was not going to learn anything, and I have been correct every single time.  This time I made a change in my attitude and that made the difference.  I was able to focus more on forcing the material to serve me rather than being at the mercy of the process.  I was able to see what I needed and grab it rather than drown in the information dump of material that didn’t apply to me.

I came to learn.  That made the difference.  When we decide we have nothing to learn, then we are right.  Nothing will get past that wall of pride and self-righteous thinking.  We need to be humble in how we approach every opportunity in order to take away that nugget of information that we can apply to life moving forward.

We are never too old to learn.  I see the elderly every day at work, and those that I see still reading and trying new things are the ones that seem to have the best outlook on life.  I want to be that way.  I have not arrived. I have a long way to go!

Living a Relentless Life means that you know there are things that you don’t know, but you are not satisfied with it being that way.  It can’t be a matter of pride to be superior to those around you, but it certainly should be a matter of conviction to use what you can learn to help others.  After all, as believers we are here to serve as Christ did, and the more we know, the easier it is.

So, what are you doing today to learn?  Have you read a book?  Taken a class?  Have you taken something apart to see how it works?  Have you sat down with someone and just asked them about their life experiences?  There are opportunities around us every day where we can give learning a chance.  Go for it!  You’ll be glad you did!

Psalm 101 for 2017

Note to the reader:  If you have been following this blog, you may have noticed that I am not posting an image here every day here anymore.  I have decided to move daily image posts to my Relentless Growth Facebook page.  You can find that page, like, and follow here.  This page will be reserved for writing moving forward.  Hope to see you in the Facebook world!

wp-1483279541415.jpgOne of the routines I have right now is reading in Psalms every morning before my feet hit the floor.  I don’t do it to be spiritual or to impress anyone.  I do it because I need it!  Since disciplining myself in this way, I find I have a little more grace to extend and a more positive outlook on the hard days as I have a bit of God’s Word rattling around in my mostly empty skull.

Last week I hit on Psalm 101, and after a couple days of looking at it, reading it, and thinking about it, I began to wonder what David’s thoughts were when he wrote it.  I know he was led by the Spirit to write it, but I wonder what the prompt for it was.

Since we were closing in on the end of 2016 and the thoughts of the New Year, goals, plans and dreams were running through my mind, I began to wonder if this was a “New Year’s Resolution” list for David. Is it possible that this was his list of things that he wanted to work on for the upcoming year?

I mentioned in my last post that I would be sharing more about this chapter and how I wanted to use it for myself in 2017.  Stop and think about it.  This is not a bad list!

  1. I will sing of your love and justice, lord.  I will praise you with songs. – I want to praise God more this year. I want to tell people about His love for me and how He has made changes in this life of mine that He has paid for.
  2. I will be careful to live a blameless life—when will you come to help me? I will lead a life of integrity in my own home. – I want to live a life that doesn’t make people wonder if I am a fake Christian, just putting on a show.  I want people to just believe that God is real to me and that I am the same person in the workplace that I am at home or with my friends. I want to be careful to avoid the things that cause doubts.
  3. I will refuse to look at anything vile and vulgar. I hate all who deal crookedly; I will have nothing to do with them. – I want to protect my eyes from things that are evil. I want to be sure that I am engaging in honest actions with people and avoid anything that will pull me into evil thoughts or actions.
  4. I will reject perverse ideas and stay away from every evil. – I want to keep my thought life clean and focused on things that give God glory rather than things that give my flesh power.
  5. I will not tolerate people who slander their neighbors. I will not endure conceit and pride. – I want to not only avoid negative talking about others, but also I want to be a voice that speaks up against that behavior.  I want to both be humble and promote humility in others.
  6. I will search for faithful people to be my companions. Only those who are above reproach will be allowed to serve me.  – I want to surround myself with people I can trust for encouragement, correction, love, and joy.  I want to help people live and work with a strong moral code.
  7. I will not allow deceivers to serve in my house, and liars will not stay in my presence. – I want to bring truth to light in my surroundings. I want to use grace and mercy to uncover the deceptions that are around me and  bring a restoration to the circumstances and people involved.
  8. My daily task will be to ferret out the wicked and free the city of the lord from their grip. – I want to be on the lookout for evil every day.  Evil is not usually a person, but evil actions need to be addressed for what they are and they need to be stopped.  In all things, I want God to be glorified where His people work and live.

seo-checklistI don’t know if this was David’s list for a New Year, but I do see where I can take this list and use it as an outline for how I would like to act this year.  If I can even make a little progress on it in my life, that will be a good thing!  There is nothing wrong with a single step as long as it is in the right direction!

2017 is a fresh start.  I have made my plans for this year, and in total, they are pretty big plans!  I will need to be Relentless this year in order to accomplish them.  I will need to keep a strong Focus on the goals.  I will need to be Resilient as obstacles pop up and try to pull me off track.

What do you think?  Would love to hear from you.  Feel free to comment and share!

Happy New Year!

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On Time – Not Early

I have been asked again  to share some of my writing with my church family in the form of a devotional for our church’s fall campaign.  I thought I would go ahead and share them with anyone else who might be interested in reading them as well.  So, here it is!  I will share the others every other day  until I get through them all.  Hoping by then I have had an opportunity to do some more writing on some of my current thoughts!

On Time – Not Early

timing-is-everythingPhilippians 4:12-13 – I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me.

Back in 2010, my job came to an abrupt end on a sunny Tuesday afternoon in April.  I had gone to work that day feeling like I was on top of the world after a very trying time showing my employer that I was the guy they needed in my position.  I had fought hard to meet every demand and had even surpassed their expectations.  I was feeling pretty good, and then I got a phone call telling me that they wanted to meet with me later in the day.

I went home that day in a cab with a little cardboard box on my lap that contained the remnants of 11 years of hard work and a pile of paperwork explaining my severance package.  When I got home to face my wife and kids, all I could say was, “I don’t have to get up in the morning!”

Over the next couple of months, we watched as our savings went away and the job offers did not come in.  Unemployment was taking forever, but the bills showed up right on time.  We managed to keep the lights on and the mortgage paid, and through the generosity of family, friends, and church family, we even had food in the fridge.  It was not looking good, but we always managed to find just enough when we really needed it.

Then the day came when I was leaving to go do some handyman work for some family members that had been paying me $100 a day.  The plan was that I would go and work for two days, but I would spend the night away since gas money was tight.  As I was leaving, my wife looked at me with fear in her eyes and told me that we needed $300 by Monday to make the mortgage payment.  What were we going to do?  I knew that I was going to make $200, but where would the extra come from?

I remember looking her in the eye and saying that I didn’t know how it was going to happen, but God was going to provide it.  I think back to that moment and remember that for some reason I really believed it.  I couldn’t explain it!  After all, it was Friday morning and I was leaving for two days.  What was I thinking?

On my drive downstate I had an hour with myself and I used it talking to God.  I prayed Psalm 27:13 to Him and talked to Him about the fact that my family needed to see His goodness by Monday.  I shed tears, and I praised Him for what He was going to do.  I didn’t know how, but I knew He would take care of it.

I believe that I shall look upon the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living. – Psalm 27:13

I spent the next two days under the floor of a cottage crawling around in a damp crawlspace, and finally it was time to go home.  I collected my check, folding it in half and putting it in my pocket without looking at it, hugged goodbye and got in the car to head north.  I was still wondering what the next day might give me in work so I could make that mortgage payment.

wp-1474253527844.pngI got a call from my wife when I was about halfway home.  She asked me if I got paid and I said of course I did as I reached into my pocket to fish out the check.  When I opened it I saw that it had been written for $300 instead of the usual $200.  God had come through with a whole day to spare!

Since that day I’ve seen God do a lot of things “just in the nick of time.”  I have seen how He has changed my level of contentment.  I have seen Him bring me from pride in myself to a dependence on Him.  Our mortgage payment was not made because I went out and really worked hard.  God honored that, but I believe with all of my heart that my mortgage was kept current because I had faith and He held the solution.

  • Where do you need to have a moment of humility so God can work His miracles?
  • Are you willing to truly trust God with the big things and the little things?
  • Do you see worry as a sin that hinders God from working in your life?

Father, sometimes we need to know despair before we can truly know what it feels like to feel dependence on You.  Let my pride be brought low so that I may be in the position of humility before You.  Open my heart and eyes to see You at work in my life, and let my faith grow RELENTLESSLY as I praise You for the mighty things You do!

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No Excuses

there-are-no-excuses-4We have all been hearing the news of the Stanford rape victim and the lenient sentence passed down to the rapist.  Yesterday I read the young woman’s letter she had written to her attacker and I was hit with a few different thoughts and emotions.  I know I have not been here lately, and this is a pretty hard thing to come back from a hiatus with, but here we go…

  1.  I am impressed with this woman’s ability to so clearly articulate how she feels after this heinous act.  The way she described her emotional and mental state actually took me into her mind where I could feel the trauma she is experiencing.  I can never know what someone who has endured this has felt, but thanks to that letter, I have a much better idea of how deeply the wounds go into the mind and soul.
  2. I am full of respect for this woman for owning her part in this.  Careful.  No stone throwing… I did not say she should be blamed.  There is no excuse for what happened to her, but she admitted that allowing herself to get that drunk put her in a position for a bad thing to happen.  She could have made a better choice that evening, and she admitted that.  That takes character.
  3. I am cheering for the two young men who acted heroically by stepping in and stopping the act.  Truly Good Samaritans in their actions and bravery.  They must have a couple of very proud sets of parents today.  They saw evil and stepped in to do something about it.  Good job, men.  Good job.
  4. I am thankful that at the very minimum, and it was minimum, the attacker was convicted of the crime.  To the 12 jurors, I appreciate their ability to wade through all of the excuses and attempts to cast doubt and still come back with a decision that puts a mark on this man for what he has done that will stand for the rest of his life.  His victim has been marked, so should he.
  5. Beyond that, I have a range of thoughts and emotions I would rather not focus on in regards to the rapist, the passive father who made excuses for his son and tried to downplay his actions, the lawyer that worked so hard to humiliate a young woman who had already endured so much, and a judge who did not sentence a rapist with an appropriate punishment.  I am going to take the position that God will judge their actions.  I cannot change the past, and outrage simply for the purpose of being angry will accomplish nothing.

What we need to focus on is finding ways to make sure acts like this do not take place again.  Parents!  If you are going to count on school officials, government officials, and the ability of campus security to keep your children safe, then YOU ARE PART OF THE PROBLEM!  I am sorry, but this is not a problem that will be cured with programs and more parking lot lights.  This is a matter of the hearts of the kids that we are raising and the character we instill in them.  As a country, parents need to step up and insist on building character and integrity into their children.

We will never see a world without predators.  It is a broken world we live in and the effects of sin are far reaching, but we can fight against them.  The education we give to our kids in how to think past the moment in their choices is so important.  What are the consequences of this decision? Who could potentially be harmed if I do this?  What are the long term ramifications of this choice?  We focus so hard to get them to look both ways before walking across the street, but are we teaching them to pause and look both ways when given options on who to hang out with, what to drink, and what to eat?  Are we teaching them to weigh the possibilities of walking through a dark place alone rather than hanging out with a group of friends?

Again, we will never be able to stop all evil, but we can build into our kids wisdom, knowledge, understanding, and character that can guide them when we are not there.  Take the time, be Relentless in it!

To my daughter – You are beautiful, sweet and pure, and I want you to stay that way.  I want you to think about the places you go and the things that you do fro other viewpoints than your own.  I have tried to tell you as much as possible about how the mind of men works and where they are weak and potentially twisted.  I have tried to show you how to identify behaviors that you should avoid as well as indicators of character that you can trust.  I pray that you will make the right choices when given the opportunity, and I pray for your protection when the evil of the world crosses your path through no fault of your own.

To my son – You are a young man now.  You have been taught and have been showing you understand how to properly show women honor and respect.  You have been taught that while women are strong, and intelligent and capable of doing things on their own, God has charged men to be tender warriors for them.  Our job is not to hold them back and keep them captive “for their own good”, but it is our job to be men and stand up for what is right and protect their honor as those two young men did.  Women are not tools or toys, they are treasures and should be considered that way by all men.  You will have opportunities to choose, and I pray that you will make the right choice to show the same respect for them as Christ did in the Bible.  You will see men who will objectify them or hurt them and I pray that you will suit up and gear up for battle against that evil as one of God’s warriors.

Men, the battle is won in the preparation, and our home is the place it needs to start.  Show your wives how much you care for your children and their character.  Prepare your children, be involved.  Identify their battles. Teach them to recognize their enemies. Educate them on the weaknesses of evil. Coach them in how to fight evil. Cheer for them as they fight. Recognize their victories. Nurse their wounds. Encourage them for battle.

This world is not getting better.  We must be Relentless in developing children who can stand in it.

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My Take On Election Year 2016

DvELet me start off this post by saying that this year I have made a point of trying to stay out of the political arguing and banter going on out there.  I have made it a personal goal to not get into any political arguments or take off on any social media rants like so many are fond of.  I might slip a time or two, but for the most part I am trying to stay out of it for my own sanity as well as the heath of relationships.  We all have opinions and those opinions are not always held by those we call friends.

That being said, I want to make a couple of comments here and address what I feel to be a big issue in these times in which we live.  You may not agree with me, and that is your right.  I just hope that we can all take a moment and think about things like adults.  I admit to being a little handicapped in that area, but I promise to do my best.

I read an article the other day asking Christians to avoid voting in this election because there are no candidates that would be a good choice in God’s eyes.  While I do agree that the moral integrity of the candidates that are basking in the media spotlights right now is somewhat suspect, I don’t think that is a good reason for us to abstain from voting.  We need not be fearful of making a “wrong” or “flawed” choice.  We are all human, and flawed humans picking a leader from a pool of flawed humans will always succeed in selecting a flawed human as their leader.  Face the facts.

I have often walked into the voting booth picking “the lesser evil” with my vote.  Not exactly an inspiring thought when putting someone in a position of authority like that, but it really is about all I can do.  When I go into the booth I am doing my part to make a good selection, but the system does not always allow for us to have a “best choice”.  We do what we can with what we are given.  Frankly, I am not going to get that worked up about it.  I will continue to vote and be a good citizen, but I often feel that my part in the process does not matter in the grand scheme of things.

My family has been talking extensively about the candidates still available to us for next week’s primary, and we are discouraged.  There are no candidates that match our values.  We see the frontrunners as untrustworthy and dangerous to not only the dignity and safety of our country, but also to our way of life and the freedoms we enjoy.  It is disheartening to sit and look at the choices available and not only feel a sense of malaise, but an actual fear.  What does all of this mean for the USA and for us?

Allowed to run unchecked, these fears can bring us into a near panic over our situation.  What will happen to us?  Isn’t there anyone that can save us in this troubled time?  What is happening with our country, and why can’t the majority truly see the truth of who these candidates are?  There must be better choices than those we are allowed to actually vote on.  What am I supposed to do as a believer?  Where does my sense of responsibility begin and end?

Basically, I have decided I can do four things:

Pray – The Bible tells me that it I should worry about nothing and pray about everything.  The thing to remember is that I need to be praying for the right things.  God’s will to be done is the first and foremost thing to remember.  He will allow the person to be elected.  That is not mine to decide.  My part in this is to ask God to show me how to rightly respond to how that person will eventually lead this country.  I might not agree with what they say, but I can still respond appropriately.  I need to pray in preparation for whatever God decides to bring into my life.

Learn – We are told to be wise.  That means that we are supposed to learn about the candidates.  We shouldn’t just listen to the media sound bytes and read the stuff on social media.  What are the real facts about the candidates?  Take some time and dig in to see what is actually there.  A Christian should never vote based on what they saw on Twitter. C’mon, everyone.  We need to be smarter than that.

Vote – We have a duty as citizens of our country to vote.  God is OK with it. I promise!  Christ showed us the importance of paying our taxes and the apostles wrote of the duty we have to be subject to the authority that God has placed over us.  Why would God tell us to pay taxes and be subject to our rulers set over us if He did not also want us to be involved in the process?  It might not be a command, “Thou shalt vote/not vote for the _____________party”, but there is definitely an understanding that we have a governmental system that God intends us to work with.

Pray Some More – After the election it will be time to pray some more!  The person in office will need to be lifted up in prayer.  The leader of the USA is probably under more pressure than any other leader in the world.  Like the old saying, “Heavy hangs the head that wears the crown.”, we need to be praying for wisdom, protection, and guidance for our President as they will be under a heavy burden while in office.

At the end of the day, all the talk, arguing, and shouting about politics pretty much just leads to a ton of anxiety and anger.  I’ve decided that I don’t need that.  I would rather FOCUS on living a Relentless life.  The political environment breeds fear, and emotional turmoil.  I choose to try to live in the peace that God brings to the situations around me.  Peace like God tells us about in Isaiah:

“Do not fear, for I am with you; do not anxiously look about you, for I am your God.  I will strengthen you, surely I will help you, surely I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” – Isaiah 41:10

The election is coming and there will be a President.  God already knows who that will be. He will not be surprised, and He will still be on the throne of the universe.  I’m going to rest in that.  It gives me peace no matter what happens in the arena of politics.

Pray. Do your homework. Vote. Pray some more.  In all of it, TRUST GOD!

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Why It Is Important to Keep A Woman In Her Place

Ok.  With a title like that, I will give everyone a moment to find their seats and make sure they have all the tools they need for getting through this blog post.  Let’s see, pitchforks? Check.  Torches? Check.  Rope? Check. Concrete galoshes? Check.  Ok.  Is everyone in their preferred seat on opposing sides of the room? Everyone ready to comment with venom if I don’t take your position?  Good.  Then let’s get down to it.

Over the last couple of days, I have been seeing a couple of pictures hit my social media feeds over and over gain.  I will not single anyone out and if you posted either of them, let me assure you, I am not picking on you or your situation.  In truth, as I have been seeing these two pictures, I have had one recurring thought, “My heart hurts for these people,”  Most of the time I have seen the pictures, I know that they are experiencing something difficult, and no matter how hard we try, our hurt “leaks” from time to time.  I get that.  I don’t judge it.  I just wish I could stop the pain.

So, here are the two pictures, and then I will say my piece.  Good, I see the fire is lit under the vat of oil.  This post will be a long one, but it should be boiling by the time I am done…

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Ok.  Anyone need to switch sides yet?  I’ll give you a minute to do so.  Ready?  Ok.  Let’s get back into this!  Both of these are wrong.  Pure and simple.  *scanning the crowd*  If everyone will keep your seat, I will take a few moments to explain.

The Plan

When God made man, He gave him something to do, gave him some instructions, and then put him to work.  It wasn’t very long at all before God looked at Adam and decided that he was lacking something.  He was not complete.  This isn’t saying God made a mistake.  It is the Creator looking at His most beloved creation and saying, “It’s just not done yet. He needs something more that will bring him that special thing he needs.”

So, he put Adam to sleep and took a rib from his side and made Eve, the first woman. Adam was understandably impressed and appreciative of this new development and responded appropriately by stating that the woman was flesh of his flesh and bone of his bone because she was part of himself – in this case, literally!  God did not create a new creature, he finished the creation by bringing woman out of man.

The Fall

Everything went south in chapter three of Genesis.  There are many who like to say that Eve messed up by eating the fruit.  I disagree.  I think this has been one of the principal errors in understanding the male and female relationship throughout history. Somewhere along the line, it was decided that woman messed up and man had to pay for it.  Ludicrous!  Absolutely ridiculous!  The Bible tells us that Adam was RIGHT THERE WITH HER the whole time the serpent was talking!  What in the world was happening that he did not step in and do something? he took a passive approach to the situation and did not help his helper.

A snake starts talking to his wife and tells her to break one of the two rules she and her husband were given by the God that they had the chance to walk with every day in the garden and Adam says nothing!  Men, this is where the Fall took place.  This is where man let woman down.  Period.  As a result of this sin, they are banished from the garden and this struggle between man and woman begins.  Some people think that God cursed woman at this point and put her in her place, but I believe He was just telling her what was going to happen.  Man would blame woman for his problems, and woman was going to suffer for it because he didn’t step up and do right when she needed him to do it.

The Result

We now live in a world where people are pretty polarized.  For centuries in most cultures, women have taken a back-seat role in all aspects.  Equal rights for women is still a pretty fresh concept in our history not only as a country, but as a planet!  It is a struggle for women to get the respect they deserve for being the people they are.  The atrocities that take place against women every single day are disgusting and should bring us to tears.  As a result, there are many women who hurt so deeply and have been put in a position that they may never trust a man again.  Whose fault is that?  Well, guys.  I won’t lie.  It is primarily the fault of man for getting that ball rolling.  Now we have small groups of women that are so angry that they just refuse to show respect any man.

I’m not going to take a Rush Limbaugh stand and speak rudely about women.  They don’t deserve it.  My view on feminism is simply this:  It never should have been considered as necessary.  It is the result of men not knowing how to keep a woman in her proper place. (Before anyone gets upset, please keep reading. I promise, it’s not as bad as it sounds.) Now she feels the weight of man and bristles at it, wants to get away from it, and prove that she never needed it or him in the first place.  Honestly, why wouldn’t she? So, how do we put her where she should be?

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I’m going to tell you how I think this can be fixed.  I have consulted with my wife of 21 years, and I know she agrees with me on it.  Neither she or I think I get it right every time, but we do agree that this is the way to get it done.  We go back to the original plan.

Man was not complete.  He needed help, and God gave him a helper out of himself.  Adam recognized that.  The problem was, he blew it, and we repeat his mistake. I repeat his mistake! However, I want to do better, and as I think about this, I believe God had a purpose in picking a rib as the part necessary to complete man.

  • A rib gives protection to the internal organs.  Important things that keep a man healthy!  Men tend to be a bit abrasive or hard on the outside, but underneath all of that, we are vulnerable.  Just like a rib protects vulnerable organs, my wife is God’s gift to me for protecting and helping me process the feelings I have that I hold inside.  She’s good at it!  Much better than I could ever be on my own.
  • A rib is sturdy, but flexible.  Ribs absorb things that would injure internal organs.  They don’t just snap.  There are too many times that I will do something foolish that brings trouble into our lives.  Where I would be more harsh and possible lash out, my wife is able to absorb it all, protect me from myself, and carry on.  The thing to remember is that when a rib receives a hard blow and is bruised, cracked, or broken, it can bring extreme discomfort until a healing takes place.

The same is true with me and my wife.  When she absorbs something bad (whether or not I am the cause), the pain will linger until a healing takes place.  Time heals things, but open, honest, loving communication works faster.  It is vital to the healing. It is up to ME to notice that my wife is voicing her discomfort, and not take it as nagging, but as a reminder that she is experiencing a pain that I possibly caused.  I need to take care of her to promote the healing in the relationship.  How smart would a person be to not take care of a rib that is hurting?  The same applies here.

  • A rib is at the side of a man.  You don’t see ribs protruding from the front or the back of a skull.  Why?  Because they don’t belong there!  If your skull was made up of bones like ribs you would really be at a disadvantage in life!  They aren’t under foot either.  They would not serve a purpose there. To function as they should, they should be at the side.

I believe God used the rib to remind man that the best place for woman is at his side.  If she is out in front of him, he is not able to be there for her the way he should. My wife is the most important person in my life, and I like to have her beside me so I can protect her.  That doesn’t mean she is weak.  It means she is precious to me.  I want her with me so I can take care of her when she needs to be cared for, and take the physical hit if necessary.

If my wife is behind me, I can’t see her, maybe I can’t even hear her.  She might see something that could cause me harm, but the distance and location make it difficult to communicate the danger.  I can’t see her, so my ability to be there for her if she needs me is also diminished.

God also didn’t plan for me to have my wife stepped on by me.  She is of value and should not be dismissed as the equivalent of a floor surface. She should be held close, in a place of honor.

I want my wife at my side.  I want her to feel loved, appreciated, and cared for.  Men, that’s what we are supposed to do!  She is not there to make our lives easier, but to make us complete.  To complete us in our weaker areas and shore us up, as we are supposed to do for them.  We are to be one flesh and one bone.  Yes, we have two minds, but they should be tuned toward the needs of the other – SELFLESSLY.  That is where the relationship can thrive.  When my wife is at my side I hear her counsel, I can protect her from danger, she can protect me from my own mistakes, we can grow as God intended.  That’s good for both of us, and that is why it is important to keep your wife where she belongs!

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This was a loooong time ago!

I’m not perfect, and my wife can tell you that!  I mess this up more than I want to admit, but it is my Relentless desire to honor God’s plan for how my wife and I should interact.  We do that by staying close, complimenting each other in our strengths and shielding each other in our weaknesses.

I’m not saying that 21 years of marriage gives me the authority to tell people how to live their marriages out, but I am certain that what we work towards in how we relate to each other works.  We have bumpy spots because we are human, but time and again, we have seen how sticking to the plan works and draws us closer.  As we work through things together and share our ideas and our hearts, we build into each other.  My wife is a brilliant woman, and gifted in so many ways, why wouldn’t I want her building into me?

10534681_10204206015501628_1184979595712247813_nSo, here at the end of this post, I hope my point is made.  We can joke about the differences in our gender, and many of those jokes are funny because they are true, but let’s remember that God’s plan was a symbiotic relationship where we each care for the other in the way that they need to be cared for.  It is sad how it all got messed up.

Ladies, no disrespect was intended or directed to you in this.  I hope that message came through clearly.  If it didn’t, blame me.  Just know that I am not perfect, I am in process, and when it comes to being the perfect husband, my wife can tell you that I am not here, but I am trying.  Sometimes VERY trying!

Men, if you can accept the challenge to be the man God created you to be, you might be surprised to see how God can work to bring you and your wife closer together.  So, what’s stopping you?

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To My 16 Year-Old Son – Happy Birthday!

10947232_910103895675869_4578714176413601194_nZachary turns 16 today!  Since it has become a custom, here is the birthday blog post to this little homeboy that seems to be growing up into quite the young man.  Allow me to brag on my boy here for a little while.  If it seems to mushy for you, then feel free to go find a YouTube video of sword fighting cats or something.  I don’t mind at all.

Zach,

I can’t believe you are already 16 years old.  The time has flown by, and while I have always been aware of how fast it moves, I can honestly say that this last year has been a bigger blur than usual!  There have always been certain “parts” of who you are that seem to develop more in a 12 month period than others, but the changes in you over the last 12 months have been astonishing in all aspects.

Physically – Dude, I can honestly say that I am starting to regret telling you that the day you can whip me you will have earned it.  You’re becoming a tank, and I am starting to feel the need to watch you out of the corner of my eye just in case you decide it is time to go for it!  I’ve always enjoyed wrestling with you and goofing off together like that, and I beam with pride when I hear people say things like, “I just saw your son. What have you been feeding him?”  Acorn & Tree. Chip & Block.  You have grown a lot over the past year, and I don’t see you being done just yet.

10301298_10204434300596039_4767409375357062929_nMentally – This past year of school has been impressive to say the least.  Your Mom and I are very proud of the work that you have done over the year in studies that are intended for an older student, but you have not only done well in your classes, you have OWNED them!  To see the way that you are grasping complex concepts as well as learning to write at a higher level has been a joy.  This next year as you start on college courses, we feel confident that you will continue to excel in what you do.  You have grown a lot over the past year, and I don’t see you being done just yet.

Emotionally – We’ve had some important conversations over the past year when it comes to handling emotions in a godly manner like a man should.  The conversation that we had just the other day meant more to me than you will probably ever know, and as a man I was impressed, but as a Dad I could not have been more proud of you.  Learning to handle our emotional responses is vital in our relationships, and you are learning it at a younger age than I did.  My hope is that by doing so, you will be in a better position to handle the hard things of life as they come across your path than I was. You have grown a lot over the past year, and I don’t see you being done just yet.11205523_10205739218578173_7479264338994749135_n

Relationally – I have seen you develop better and stronger friendships over the past year.  You are learning better how to be a friend to those in your peer groups, and sometimes that means calling them out!  I’ve seen you do that on a few occasions over the past year, and that is a testament to the man you are becoming.  Not because you told someone they were wrong, but because you came alongside someone and helped them see a damaging thing in their lives and helped them for their benefit, not for your ego.  You didn’t throw a judgement and walk away, you stayed with them to help them.  That’s a trait that honors God, and I am so proud to see that in you. You have grown a lot over the past year, and I don’t see you being done just yet.10730949_10205859982517196_4482399068858361253_n

Musically – Your guitar skills have taken a huge leap over the past year, and I thought you were really good then!  The passion that you have for your music shows when you play because it flows out of your heart.  I can’t wait to see what God is going to do with you as you continue to look at your music skills and how you can develop them more.  I know it is going to be big with you. You have grown a lot over the past year, and I don’t see you being done just yet.

Spiritually – Zach, since your birthday last year, you have a new relationship with Christ, and it is making a difference in you in ways that are impacting these other aspects of your life.  You have been in your Bible more, reading some better books for spiritual growth, journaling, and focusing on not only the act of playing of worship, but worshipping in your playing.  Over the last 12 months I challenged you to grow in your life spiritually, and I have been so thankful for what I have seen God doing in you as you accepted that challenge.   You have grown a lot over the past year, and I don’t see you being done just yet.

11150650_10206570837340696_2142947637021693128_nYou might have noticed a phrase repeated through this. (I hope so, I just said you were smart!)  I want you to know that I write that as a challenge.  I see so much potential in you to go farther and grow more, and while I am impressed with what the last year has been like, I believe that you are just getting going!  There are things that God is going to do with you as you keep yourself tender toward Him, and I know that He has plans for you that are beyond my imagination.  Are you open to it?

I want you to be Relentless in the growth process.  Growing is never done until you are dead.  I want you to never feel that you have arrived, but to have a hunger to keep pushing to be the best that you can be.  I’m proud of you, and I always will be.  I want you to be able to look back on your life one day and say,

“I’ve grown a lot over the past year, but I don’t see me being done just yet.”

I love you, son.  Happy Birthday!

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