Beauty & Wonder Take Time To Form

Earlier this week my wife and I got away for a couple of nights to beautiful Mackinac Island.  The purpose of the trip was to finally celebrate our 23rd Anniversary which took place back in August.  By the time we finally left for the island, we had another reason to go.

I needed a break from things.

We all need a break from time to time.  Work pressure, things that need to get done around the house, personality conflicts, etc…  They all pull and drain us and we need to be able to get away from them and recharge.  After all, nothing good can come from being hammered all the time, right?

On our walk around the island, we made the trek up to Arch Rock.  For those who have never been to Mackinac Island, Arch Rock is a natural limestone formation caused by water run-off and crashing waves.  The limestone is porous and soft in comparison to other types of rock, and water is able to cut into it.  In the case of Arch Rock, the stone that fell away left the arch pictured below.

The rock has been a focal point of the island for almost 200 years, and was one of the reasons that much of the island was preserved as a state and then national park.  It has been revered by Native Americans as a spiritual portal, has been the backdrop for countless pictures, and the site of a number of proposals.  I have never been there and not observed at least a half dozen people climbing the stairs to take a picture!

You can read more about Arch Rock here if you are interested.

After returning to work and stepping back into a stressful situation, I wished I could go back to the island where peace seemed to reign.  I thought about Arch Rock, the beauty of it, and how that location was peaceful and majestic.

But it wasn’t always that way.  The rock has endured years of being battered by the environment.  It has weathered storms. It has been undermined.  It has cracked and pieces of it have fallen away.  All of this has happened over time, and that time has brought about what we now see.

The same types of things happen to me.  I get undermined.  I get beat up by what seem to be unrelenting forces.  Cracks form in me, and sometimes parts of me that I feel important end up falling away or are taken from me.  I feel hard, haggard, and like I will inevitably fall.

But that is not how I need to live.

Just like Arch Rock endured much in order to become one of the top selfie spots on Mackinac Island, I am enduring to become what God wants me to be.  The transition is hard, and there are times I want to get away from it, but at the end of the day, I know that God will complete His work in me, and despite what I see in the mirror in the morning, it will be a beautiful work.

Relentless Living requires me to remember that I am not on my timetable. Peter tells us:

But do not overlook this one fact, beloved, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. – 2 Peter 3:8

Time is not a barrier that God sees because to Him it is not something He needs to worry about.  Everything works out in His time for His pleasures and even if it takes a thousand years, He will see His plan come to fruition.  He has promised to do a good work in me, and He has promised to complete it!

I might feel battered, wet, worn, and falling apart, but God is not done.  He is working, and He uses His Word to both refine me and to encourage me in the process.

Hang in there.  Beauty takes time!

 

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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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What I Found At The Bottom

water-wellWhen was the last time you felt completely depressed?  I don’t mean, “I had a bad day and people at work don’t understand me.”  I’m talking more along the line of, “I don’t know how much longer I can take this! I am scrambling, dodging, weaving, listening, encouraging, helping, and supporting with all I have and I have reached a point where I AM OUT OF EVERYTHING PEOPLE NEED FROM ME!”

Anyone?  Seriously?  Nobody wants to raise their hand?  Buncha liars out there I guess. OK, maybe it’s just me.  Well, maybe one day you will feel that way, and if you do, this is something I want to share with you. I hope it helps.

At the bottom of you, you will only find the bottom of you.  I know!  We are talking some deep stuff here!  When you dig down deep, and go to the deepest part of you to find what you need for yourself or someone else, you will find…YOU!  Is that enough?  Will it meet your needs?  Will it meet the needs of your family? Friends? Co-workers?

Maybe you are a really deep person with a  lot in the well, but I guarantee that the day will come when you are looking at the bottom of it and you will find a deep, dark YOU staring back at you, and YOU will look at you and both YOU and you will ask, “Is this all I got?” (Unless you are a grammarian like my mother-in-law and then it will be, “Alas! Is this truly all that remains?”)

You see, I am a finite being, and news flash – so are you and YOU! That means that we will always reach a point where we have nothing left, and when that moment comes we are going to fail, flop, and fall.  Not because we didn’t give our best or our all, but because we are not enough in ourselves to get the job done in some situations.

That’s where God loves to show up.  He loves the moments when we realize that we don’t have what it takes and that we really need Him to be in control.  When we step back, give Him control, and do what He asks, we are going to be able to see things happen that we never could accomplish on our own.

He will take our moments of frustration and give us peace in heart and mind.  He will take the fear and replace it with a confidence that we can succeed.  He will take the loneliness and show us that we are never alone because we have Him.  When we feel like we just can’t keep caring, He gives us the ability to love with His love.

It might not always feel good to realize that you don’t have enough in you to do a job, but it does feel good to see something come to fruition that you know was possible only through God’s power.

Relentless Living requires us to keep our FOCUS on God and draw our strength from Him.  On our own, the bottom comes up pretty quickly, but with God, you can just keep going deeper and deeper.  You just can’t find the limit of Him.

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Get Me Outta Here!

I’m going to share something with you today.  I’m a little embarrassed by it, but I feel the need to share it with you.  I’m going to share something that has caused some of my deepest anxiety to come to the surface.  Every time I have to face this, I feel my heart race, I get a cold sweat, my hands go clammy, breathing gets more rapid, and my vision actually “tunnels” a little bit.  *deep breath* Here goes, please don’t judge me too harshly:

I am absolutely terrified of using Fitting RoomsCabines-d'essayage-Copenhague

There. I said it.  Not feeling very many reassuring words out there just yet. Maybe they will come as I continue.

I’m not sure where it all began.  My earliest memories of fitting rooms had me inside with an armload of jeans while my Mom stood outside telling me to come out and show her how they fit.  I’d rush to get changed and then step outside for the required tug, smooth, “Show me your butt”, and “How do they feel?” before going back in to try on another pair so I could go out and do the dance again. (Disclaimer – Mom cared and wanted to be sure I didn’t grab the wrong pair.  She wasn’t out to embarrass me. – OK.  Back to my story)

I remember thinking it would be better when I started shopping on my own and I didn’t have to go in and out so many times in order to come to an informed purchasing decision.  With age would come the freedom to understand whether or not I needed a “scoche” more room for freedom of movement and comfort.  What I didn’t expect was that the anxiety would not lessen.

Going into the changing room continued to be a problem.  The moment the door closed behind me it would all start.  The sweat, breathing, rapid heart rate would all come rushing back again.  Was it the sense of confinement? The fact that I am taking off my shoes AND pants in a place where strangers are walking past my door or curtain?  How would I defend myself?  Could I run if I had to?  Was it standing in a place where I could not help but question the hygiene of the person that had been in there before me?

Eventually I decided that I would just grab what I wanted off the rack and just buy it.  When I got home I could try it on and then just return it if it didn’t fit.  Not convenient, but it was a solution.  Not a good one as I did return a pair of jeans four times one time after trying to figure out just what size felt best and had the right “scoche” factor. I knew I had to try to get back into the room again.

So, the new practice of psyching myself up of the fitting room began.  I took a little time and started thinking more about what I was there to purchase.  No longer would I purchase shirts and pants at the same time.  I got no time for that.  Too much exposure and tucking is required.  Also, when going in I will rarely have more than two or three items.  We’ve only got a few minutes before I am curled up on the floor next to a pile of pins and a suspicious Kleenex.  Get in. Get done. Get out.  That became my mantra.

Honestly, I think most of it is the fact that I am a big guy.  I’ve been the size of an average adult male (or larger) since about the 6th grade.  When I get into those small rooms, I just start feeling closed in.  It’s not a true claustrophobia because I have no problem crawling under my house where I actually need to exhale to slide under the floor joists!  I just need more space. (Another true confession – If it is available, I will always use the handicapped fitting room.  Apparently the ability to turn a wheelchair around will also help lower my anxiety.)

arms-wide-open-1457804Coming out of the fitting room is the only thing on my mind from the moment I enter it, and when I swing that door open I almost feel like breaking out into song or screaming “Freedom!” all Braveheart-style.  The world gets a little bit brighter, the air feels fresher (there might be some truth to that), and life feels like it is worth living again!

When it comes down to it, I know the problem is not the fitting room.  It is a stressor.  Stress is the enemy.  It comes in different shapes and sizes for different people, and it changes with your circumstances and life events.  I’m on vacation right now and have been since last Thursday.  Stress right now is low, and I am loving it!  That was not the case a week ago.

Last Monday I woke up to get ready for work and I was literally sick with stress.  I’d had a headache behind my right eye for about three weeks, and my stomach was a rollercoaster.  The thought of getting up and going to work had me in a near panic.  The stress was all work-related, but it was not “bad” stress.  Just the stress of a large project nearing completion that requires a number of last minute details to be taken care of immediately – if not sooner!  My boss and the people I work with are all feeling it.  The end is in sight, but we aren’t there yet.  We’ll all have a big hug then!

Lying there in the dark I decided to do something I had failed to do for the previous three weeks.  I prayed about it.  Not just a quick, “Please help me, God”, but a sincere prayer asking Him to show me what I needed to understand in the situation that might make it more manageable.  I asked Him to give me wisdom, peace, and a clarity in the midst of the mess and change me where He needed to so I could get through it.

I got up and went to work feeling lousy, and I knew that the day held a lot of hours for me that included coming back in to work that night.   Shortly after arriving, my head started pounding, and as the morning progressed it just got worse.  Something happened around 1pm though.

I remember sitting there thinking that I had not felt this kind of stress since I worked for Kellogg’s.  The last three months there were terrible.  I was working 12-16 hour days and was in a constant battle to keep up standards and increase sales.  Then it hit me.  During those three months with Kellogg’s I was fighting for my job.  All of the long hours, distractions, demands, and hard work were in order for me to keep that job.  It was a job I hated, working for people that didn’t really want me around.  I was in a completely different situation then.

Now I work for an organization that appreciates the things that I do and actually helps me become better at my job.  Pretty big swing between those circumstances.  It has been very busy.  Nobody working there will question that right now, but the busy-ness of the situation was not the problem.  Busy was not the cause of stress.  The cause of the stress was the fear of losing my job – again.  Pairing busy, stressful work with a fear from the past made it all the more stressful.

As I sat there, I believe God chose that moment to remind me that I was going to be okay.  I was not in jeopard of losing my job.  I was just busy.  Things will be alright.  Just lean on Him and it will be okay.  The moment I had that thought, my head stopped hurting.  A week later, my stomach is returning to normal.  I’m on vacation, and that is helping too, but without that thought of security, I can assure you that this vacation would not be as good as it is!

A couple days ago I read this verse in Psalm 18:

“He brought me out into a broad place; He rescued me, because He delighted in me.” – Psalm 18:19

Just like I feel that relief when I am finally able to escape the fitting room, God brings me out of those stresses and shows me that the world is wider than I have made it.  He shows me that by confining my view to my problem, I can’t see the breadth of Him!  When I shift my view to Him I see the possibilities, the freedom, and His grace for living.  He rescues me from myself and He does it for one, simple reason.  He delights in me.  He loves to see me live.  I don’t mean just regular living, but Relentlessly Living.

Living Relentlessly in the face of stress is maintaining a fierce dependency on God.  Recognizing that my issues are mine and that God is not hindered by them.  In reality, my issues and my frailties are where He is longing to come to me.  He expectantly waits for me to realize my need and reach out to Him.  That is where the peace of God is found.  Seeing only Him in the middle of the chaos.

I hope this serves as a help to you if you are facing a stressful time right now.  If you aren’t, then buckle up!  It’s coming!  File this one away for when you need it.  If it has been help, or if you would like to share a similar experience – even if it is about fitting room fears – feel free to share it with me through the comments or e-mail below.  If you know someone this might help, please share it with them as well.

Be Relentless in your life – even in the fitting room!

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Tomorrow I Am Dropping a Load.

d0e3072a5eb59ceacee00b148c090c0cDo you ever get that feeling that you are carrying too much? That feeling like you have a heavy armload of something too important to drop, but you can’t find a place to lay it down? Before long, you can’t even move because of the weight of the load and the fear of dropping it paralyzes you.

You don’t get that feeling? Oh. I guess that it’s just me…

Lately life has had a lot of stuff going on for our little family. The weight has been heavy, and the spots to set things down are few and far between. To complicate matters even more, we seem to pick other things up along the way. Yep. Gluttons for punishment, we are!

Why do we do that? Well, I can’t answer for my family, but I can answer for myself. I think it is based on two things that are very different, but both lead to the same thing – a worn-out Tom! Why yes, I did plan on sharing, so here we go!

FEAR

Of what? Failure. Disappointment. Loss. Hurt. Damaging a relationship. Career suicide. Watching someone else go through pain. Being seen as “not good enough. Take your pick. Some days it is one or two of them. Lately it has felt like all of them at once at least once a week.

What do I do about it? Well, I have tried worry. That hasn’t worked out very well, even though it does seem to be the “go-to” method for most of us. I have found that all it does is make the fear worse. I’ve also tried thinking about other things. Surprisingly, the head in the sand approach will only work until you take your head out to get a breath, and then it all comes crashing back on you again.

HEROISM

What? How can heroism be a bad thing? Well, I think one of the reasons I have been so heavy-laden lately is that deep down, I want to be the guy that can come in and be a hero for someone. I hear of a problem, and I want to step in and take care of it. It sounds noble, but I am coming to understand something. Helping people is not a bad thing, but needing to help people might be.

When I overextend myself by helping people at the expense of my responsibilities, I am not making a wise choice. Instead, I might be robbing someone of a chance to grow and do new things just so I can revel in their adoration of me. (Was that too much?)

So, how do I stop this? What can I do tomorrow to drop a load that I never should have been carrying? How can I just let go and feel that release?

Look at who should own what I am carrying. – Some of the stuff that I carry is not mine to carry! Some of it I should be carrying, but maybe I am carrying more of it than I should. Is it that the other person is not doing their part, or am I just trying to take it onto myself for one of the two reasons above? When I figure out whose load I have, it is time to drop what is not mine and let that person have it back. It might take some apologizing, and grace, but I have got to let it go.

Look at what I am carrying. – Is it even worth carrying? I’m not going to make fun of “preppers”, but I am thinking that a drop in the DOW over oil prices should not make me start putting a bunker in my back yard tomorrow night. Some of the load just needs to be set aside because it is only impacting my life because I have refused to set it down. Bitterness, hurt feelings, concerns about the future. So many things that I cannot impact or influence. Do what I can, but drop the rest of it.

Look at what I might pick up. – Should I take this load on? That e-mail that might have had a snarky tone? The request for something that is simple enough for the person to do for themselves? Is it something that needs to be done? What do I expect to get out of it? Is it an option or an order? The ultimate measure of whether or not it should be done – will it bring God glory?

The last few days have felt quite heavy, but I am in a spot right now to drop the load. I want to live my life in a Relentless way, and that means I can’t carry everything. I just want to have what God wants me to have. He had asked me to take His yoke and pull with Him. If I am keeping my focus on God and what He wants, I will see more clearly what I should take up.

How about you? Are you carrying too much? Are you feeling a load on your shoulders that is slowly pulling you down? Stop. Take an inventory. Give it a hard look and see if you are carrying things that you shouldn’t and let them go. It is easier to fight the battles that come along when you aren’t carrying things you don’t need, and every day is a battle.

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Stress Level – High

thThis past weekend my daughter graduated from high school.  Friday we rehearsed, Saturday we did pictures and graduated, and Sunday we had the Open House.  Sounds simple, right? A nice little three-day operation…

NOPE!

It was a good two weeks in the making as we painted the house, did a bunch of yard work, decorated a barn, bought a bunch of food, and took care of a lot of other details as well.  We had some much needed and appreciated help from our parents, and our friends, and without that help, we would not have been able to pull it off.  We cannot thank them enough for how they all came to our aid by making food, helping with set-up and tear down, filling bowls, running grills, and so many other things I cannot even begin to remember them all right now.  On top of all of that, things were very busy at work for both of us.

In a word, we were stressed.  I don’t mean just a little bit, I mean staring at the ceiling at 2am stressed because you are wondering if you have bought the right amount of relish to feed a couple hundred people that you think are going to show up, while you are hearing some of them say they aren’t going to be able to make it, and wondering if you have hedged your bet just right to come out okay between those that can’t come and those that you didn’t expect to come!  Throw a national holiday into the mix and that makes it even more unpredictable. See!  I’m twitching just thinking about it right now!

I hit a wall last week on Thursday and reached out for help from my friends for some prayer support.  They came through for me, and I wrote a little about that here.  Friday was a better day, but even though we were in a pretty good spot by Friday afternoon for the open house, I still went into the weekend feeling the after-effects of too much anxiety over all that we had needed to get done.

I began my day today feeling tired, wishing for a day at home.  I just wanted one day to be able to catch up on a few things that I had to let slide while we did party prep, but I had to go to work.  Not long after I got here I got a notification on my phone from my Bible app (learn more about that here) that a friend had posted an image.  I looked it up and found this:

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Verse image from my friend Mike W.

 Yes.  That was a good thing to see.  A promise of God’s peace that I can claim.  A simple statement of faith in God’s power to get us through the times that the stress dial is turned ALL THE WAY UP!  Keep your mind focused on God, and you will be able to face things around you with His perfect peace, not because the problems will necessarily go away, but because that trust in God just makes them pale in comparison.

I wish I had experienced more of that over the last couple of weeks.  I probably would have been nicer to my wife and kids, and I definitely would have been nicer to be around at work.  I might have slept better too!

You see, as wonderful as the promise of Isaiah 26:3 is, there is an unwritten opposing promise in that verse as well.  Allow me to paraphrase the verse to show what I mean:

“You will allow a stressful turmoil into the one whose mind is not stayed on you, because he does not trust in You.”

That’s kind of the spot I was allowing myself to live a lot of the last couple weeks.  My mind was not on God, but was on the stuff that I had to do.  It wasn’t necessarily that I did not trust God, but I definitely was not seeking His help in keeping my head right as I dealt with the stuff that had to be done under my power alone.  There is a word for that kind of thinking, and I think the Bible likes to use the word “foolish.”  Yep.  That word works better than any other I can think of.

Relentless Living means disciplining myself to look at my circumstances through the filter of God’s presence in my life.  There are days that I lose that perspective, but it is imperative that I don’t let my mind wander from Him, my trust in Him, and His perfect peace.

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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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Frazzled

logo_frazzledI’m feeling it.  That pressure that sits right behind the eyeballs.  The pressure of knowing there is more to do than can be done, and that leaves you feeling paralyzed and unable to do anything.  Sleep is not the answer because once it happens, the dreams wake you up again.  You end up going through the day feeling like you are constantly trying to catch up as you see yourself falling farther behind.

Yep.  That’s where I am right now.  Call it what you want, stressed, frazzled, tired, deprived, or half crazy.  I just know that I have had a headache for the last five days, and have averaged about four hours of sleep for the last 4 nights.  I’m beat.  Feeling like I got little or nothing left.

So, I guess I only have one of two choices.  I can either continue to feel sorry for myself or I can give it to God.

Pity Party for One – The problem is, I know that having a pity party for one is not possible.  You just can’t feel sorry for yourself without affecting other people.  They will either fall into your funk, or they will get fed up with your funk!  Either way, you will end up dragging others down.  I know I have done that today, and I need to apologize to my kids this evening.  Tammi is gone tonight, so she avoided my party.  (At least today’s party…)  Tammi, I’m sorry for the last couple days!

Give It to God – Psalm 27:13 says – “I believe that I shall look upon the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living!”  I have looked at that as a prayer in the past, but what if it was a statement of war against Satan’s constant attacks at my joy?  Would I see a difference in my attitude?   Probably so.  I think that is going to be my “mantra” tomorrow.  (That should have some old Baptists cringing! Tom is chanting!)  I need to keep my head focused on looking for God’s goodness.  A Relentless view of God’s hand at work in my life and around me.  That should help with the joy problem!

Relentless living doesn’t mean you can’t have rough days, but it does mean that as you think them through, you can and will find your joy again.  It probably won’t be in the events around you, but it can always be found in God!

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Probably Time To Get This Wart Removed

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Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. – Philippians 4:6-7

We are currently on a much needed vacation in Florida, and I can honestly say that am completely chilled out! It has been a long time since I have been able to enjoy this much time away from work, and I have come face to face with the fact that I need to make sure I don’t wait this long again!

Before we left, my wife was telling me that it was so nice to be able to stop worrying and just relax after her last shift ended. I told her that I will not stop worrying until we are at the hotel. She asked why, and I said that is just the way I am. I worry about things. I know it is wrong, but I do it anyway. One could even argue that it is just the way God made me, but that would be an invalid argument.

When I read the verses above this week in my devotional time, I had a thought hit me right between the eyes. I have heard people say that worry is a sin because it takes God out of the picture, but it never really hit home the way it should. As I thought about worry the other day though, I realized something:

Worry is NOT a part of how God designed us!

Back in the Garden of Eden, God made a man and a woman and He gave them everything they needed. They had food to eat, a job to do, and fellowship with their Creator. Nothing existed to worry about. All needs were met, and everything was literally “perfect”.

You don’t read that Adam worried about finding a mate. You read that God saw it was not good for him to be alone. You do not read that Adam worried about irrigation for the Garden, you read that a mist came up from the ground. You do not read that Adam and Eve worried about friends, they had each other and God.

Then you read about the fall, and the worry starts immediately. Sin brought worry with it. Plain and simple. You could say that there was not a need for worry since it was perfect, but honestly, I believe that we were not designed for it.

Think about the adverse affects of worry on the body. Ulcers, hair loss, high blood pressure, stroke, heart attack, depression. These things should stand as proof that worry is not a good thing for our bodies. If worry was a good thing then our bodies would actually thrive from it, but they don’t. Worry slowly kills.

What is the antidote? Getting close to God. The closer we are to Him, the better we see His hands at work. The easier it is to see His love and comfort in the tempest. The easier it is to feel the protection of the one and only omnipotent God. Whom shall I fear? If I am where I should be, nobody and nothing!

This doesn’t mean that everything will always feel wonderful, but it is a promise that God will clear the worry, anxiety, and fear from our minds and replace it with peace, comfort, and confidence if we just draw near to Him and take our problems to Him first rather than trying to solve them ourselves.

There is an old hymn that echoes this facet of a Relentless life:

“Only trust Him, only trust Him,
Only trust Him now.
He will save you, He will save you,
He will save you now.”

Sounds too simple, but that is how God works. Just like our salvation comes from simply believing we are sinners with a need of God’s forgiveness and recognizing Him as Lord. God doesn’t want to confuse us in these important things.

How about you? First of all, do you want to avoid worry? Then I ask if you know God. If you don’t then that is the first step. After that, it is all about staying close enough to Him that your problems cannot be allowed to be seen as bigger than they really are.

Relentless Growth -> Grow Deep -> Grow Strong

It All Looks Good with the Right Perspective

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This is a picture of our home from the air. I absolutely love this pic because it is my home, my favorite place to be. In the pic you can’t see the weeds in the yard, the fence posts that need replaced, the walls that need to be painted, or the small holes in the garage roof.  You can’t see the carpet that needs to be replaced, the toilet that has a small crack in it, or the washer with a very tired drive motor.

The last week has been a very busy blur. We are sitting two dogs for friends who went out of town, and we have had two different house guests since Sunday evening. I have put in a full work week with a day left to go, and to sum things up I would have to say I am tired. Very tired.

Tomorrow we are planning an afternoon/evening out for just the four of us, and I would be understating things if I said that this will be a welcome respite from our busy routine.  We have the expected shopping to do, but are also planning a bit of fun.

Over the last couple of months, my stress level has been very high at work. I am covering another position as well as trying to do my job, and that has proven to be extremely problematic with several large projects, some mandatory training, and several other annual tasks that all seem to have decided to attack at once.  The end result is that I was really having some trouble sleeping.

About two weeks ago, I was made very aware of how rough things had gotten, and it was at the same time that I had arrived at Paul’s description of the armor of God in my Bible study time. Reading through those verses and really looking at those verses has helped me get my head straight again.

Part of what I learned through those verses was the importance of my prrspective. I was so focused on the problems and the work in front of me that I couldn’t even begin to see what I was accomplishing.  By pulling my eyes from the mountain of things that were needing to be done, I was able to see a different story.

I have been getting things done, but I have also been allowing a lot of stuff to be put on my plate without finishing the stuff that was already there. It’s not that I don’t finish things, but when you keep adding without finishing, you are forced to split your time across too many things and you feel stalled.

So, I made a decision this week to not take on any project that I could not complete in 10 minutes, and no more than 4 of those in a day. That would allow me to pick away at the unfinished tasks and give me the time that is needed to attack a couple of large projects that I have been wanting to tackle.

It took stepping back and looking at my position to see things better.  Once I did that, solutions started to flow, and accomplishments started taking place.

This summer we have some work to do on our house. It can be a bit daunting when we walk through it and look at the many things we would like to do, but when I see that aerial photo I am hit with an appreciation of what I have, and thankfulness to God for all the wonderful memories we create under that roof.

I struggle with that perspective, but Relentless Growth means I can never give up on doing the things that are necessary to identify where my focus has shifted to myself rather than what God has to teach me about Himself.  I’m glad He never gives up on me, and through His Word, He shows me that much needed truth.

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