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!

The Words Coming Out of My Mouth

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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“What Are Those Rocks For?”

a7e550f037ee595ae8d89a7e0fbe4245Last night I made a call to some friends to ask them for some prayer.  My wife and I have been working on getting ready for our daughter’s graduation, and that has led to a lot of hard work and stress.  We have been leaning on each other a lot, and I know we would be struggling more if we were not such a good team! Yesterday it became painfully obvious to me that I was on the verge of losing it at work.  At the end of the day I actually closed the door and worked in the dark for the last half hour so people would think I was gone!

I identified the source of my problem in fighting off feelings of anger, apathy, and a general “Leave me alone!” attitude as a lack of sleep and time in God’s Word.  Once that hit me, I sent a message out asking my buddies to pray for me, and also telling them that I intended to get in the Word last night.

This morning, one of the guys sent me a text to ask how my time in the Word and a good night’s rest helped me.  I felt like telling him that it was great and I felt better, but I “fessed up” and told him the truth.  I didn’t do it last night even though I knew I needed to. Then I told him I was going to take the time to do this morning what I needed to do last night and get in the Word.

I did it.

I read in Joshua 4 how the Israelites set up stones of remembrance on the bank of the Jordan after crossing into the Promised Land.  The stones were to be a reminder to future generations that God had showed up in the lives of His people.  Those stones had two purposes in my mind:20150522_094200

1.       They drew the eyes of those unfamiliar with a living God, and made them ask a question.  God’s plan was for His people to continue to tell His story to those that didn’t know it.

I have a paper on the door of my office where I have written things I am thankful for, and I have encouraged my staff to use it as well.  It has prompted some good conversations, and in a way it is like those stones.  A visual indication that something has taken place.

2.       They made the person who knew the story actually think about what God had done as they told the story.  They had to recall how God did His miracle there, and it probably brought back the feeling of awe at seeing God at work.

After reading my Bible this morning, I came back to my door and read through some of the things I have written and I remembered how I felt when I wrote them.  It was a great reminder to me that God wants to be at work in my life, and is actually there every day – even the days I choose not to notice it.

There was another thing I noticed when I read the paper on the door.  It had been two weeks since I had written anything on it.  Maybe if I had been thinking about what God has been doing for me, I would have been in a better frame of mind.

So, to the guys that were praying for me, I say, “Thank you!”  God used your prayers to turn my heart this morning.  I am still fighting the weariness and irritation, but I am very aware this morning of God at work in me, and I am relying on Him more today than I have been the last week or so.  I guess those stones on the banks of the Jordan still get the job done!

I could have just wallowed in my misery and enjoyed a big old pity party, but Relentless Growth will not allow that.  I want to thrive in the life that God has given me, and I am glad that He has loved me enough to give me His living Word and good friends I can talk to that care enough to talk back!

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My Daughter – A Tender Heart for Others

So my last post was about how we were able to see God working in my son’s heart at the fair last week as he dealt with disappointment and worked on having a good attitude in spite of it.  This time I want to share some of the things I saw in my daughter this past week.10364133_10203636597533961_2843149509723224561_n(1)

Let me preface this by saying that Jessica loves animals.  No, you didn’t understand me right.  She LOVES animals.  I’m still not sure you are really getting what I am trying to say.  SHE LOVES ANIMALS!  This started back at roughly 6 months of age when her favorite toy in the world was a mini beanie baby lizard from McDonald’s that she eventually named Weezard.

As she grew her love for animals became more and more apparent.  She was bit by a dog that she tried to kiss, and we thought that would finally temper her fascination, but it didn’t. She happily jumped in a  pen to play with bear cubs, was willing to grab snakes, bugs, spiders, or any other thing that ran across the yard.  A trip to the zoo for her was just about as close to heaven on earth as she could imagine.

10511299_814656361886595_5277955452073193160_nSo, when we started her in 4-H with dog obedience, I knew there were bigger things coming.  It seems like it all happened so fast, but I blinked one day and we had several dogs, a gerbil, horses, and pigs.  (I have thus far held off rabbits and cats, but she has been caught actually setting food out for the mice that live in the barn.)  The amazing thing is that no matter how many animals she owned, her first thought was always to share them with other people.

As she has gotten older and more experienced in the fair, she has really gotten good at showing animals and finding opportunities to excel in the different things that she does.  When she first started, she might win a prize or two, but now it seems like she walks away with a prize no matter what she enters!

This is the kind of thing that would go to the head of a lot of kids – I know it did to me when I was her age!  It never seems to happen with her.  She will win something, and she is actually surprised that she won!  Then she actually will feel bad for the people who didn’t get to win!  Not a fake pity, but a genuine concern for their self-esteem.

I think her attitude in winning is a part of how Zach was able to manage with his disappointment.  He never saw his sister gloat over her awards, and she cheered him on the entire time.  He could see her heart for him.

On a mission trip to Florida, she had the chance to work with a little boy that was, in her words, “a very naughty boy”.  As she spent time with him over the week, she was struck by the life that this little guy was living.  She said God broke her heart for kids who are hurting, in need, or with special needs, and she knew in that moment what God wanted her to do with her life.  Her plan is to take her love for animals and her love of sharing her animals and use them to help kids with special needs, emotional problems, or relational/trust issues.  It is all she wants to do.317950_4832775375732_2019616679_n

A couple of times last week, Jess had an opportunity to step out and help others get to experience a victory.  Zach was able to be a part of one of them, and that was one of his highlights of the week as well.

10354881_10203636555492910_1675975671504441886_nThere is a boy that belongs to some friends of ours that has some special needs.  He is a smart young man with a ready smile that melts your heart, and we have really enjoyed getting to know him. This year his parents have really been working with him to get him out in the pen to show his own pig.  This is not a small task for any kid, and for him it was a very big mountain to climb.I’m sure there were people that walked by without noticing what was happening that day, but my kids were so proud to be out in the pen with this brave little guy who boldly stepped out of his comfort zone to show this pig.

This is the type of work Jess has decided that God has called her to do, and I believe the heart that He put in her is already being exercised and molded to do just that.  She loves to work with the young kids, to show them love, and to make them smile.  She is learning to help little kids move past their fears to overcome obstacles.

There was a little girl at the fair that was terrified to go out in the ring with her pig.  Her mother was there trying to talk her into going out, but the little girl was crying and refusing to do it.  Jessica squatted down and started talking to her, and before we knew it, she was out in the ring with this cute little red-haired girl and helping her show her pig. As the girl kept walking with Jess and her pig, pretty soon, Jess started to hang back and let a little distance get between her and the girl.  Before long, Jess was just leaning on the fence, and this little gal was running her pig like she had been doing it for years.  Jess said that was one of the best parts of the whole week.10520633_10203636570773292_7859788137322730734_n

You  might be reading this post and thinking that I was just trying to tell you that my daughter was good with animals and likes kids.  You would be wrong.  What I want you to understand is something much deeper than that.

Like I said before, Jess has always loved animals, and she has always been a nice girl that got along well with others, but God did something in her heart a couple years ago that has become very evident.  Now there is a pairing of her love for animals with a God-given and internally RECOGNIZED mission to serve the little ones, the hurting ones, the “least of these.”  She has been given a heart that actually cries out the words of Christ:

But Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of heaven.” – Matthew 19:14

It brings Tammi and me such great joy to see how she is looking for opportunities to develop that calling in practical, real ways as she goes through life.  She is in her Bible and taking what she learns and applying it as she goes about her day.

She is going into her senior year now.  There are a lot of things that are up in the air right now as far as where she will go to school, what kind of track her education will take, and a lot of other things too.  I’m excited to see how things are going to go.  One thing I know is that at this point in her life, she is dialed in on being the young woman God wants her to be.  I am praying that it continues to be that way.

God has blessed us with two great kids.  Are they perfect? Not in the least.  Do they mess up?  You betcha!  They are my kids! So, why am I so proud of them?  Is it because they are so good at what they do?  Is it because Zach has a good attitude, or Jess is nice to people? No.  I’m proud of them because they have a relationship with God as teenagers that I didn’t have until I was in my late 30’s.  I’m proud of them because they are learning to lean and depend on Him in a way that will allow them to be stronger in their faith and able to  do more for the Kingdom.

The power at work in them is from their relationship with Christ.  Accepting Him as Savior was only the first step.  The important thing is that they are looking for ways to follow Him, and to learn from His example. My prayer is that they will always be Relentless in their search to know Him better.

You can know Him too.  If there are any questions you have concerning a relationship with Christ, please message me, and I would love the chance to share with you.

Relentless Growth -> Grow Deep -> Grow Strong