Should I Miss What I Never Had?

Alright folks, I’m gonna get a little bit personal here.  Don’t worry, the kids can still read over your shoulder.  I’m just going to share a little story because I feel like when I share my struggles and publicly set a course out of them, I get a little better and grow a little more.  Accountability works like that.  So, here goes.

It is that time of year for the annual bonus to hit.  My wife and I had decided back in June or July that we were not going to set a whole lot of expectation on what that bonus may look like because it is money that we were not going to plan for until it was in hand.  We knew that we wanted to do something good with it (read “not stupid”), but we were determined that we would just welcome it as a gift and find a good way to steward that money.

Fast forward from July to early October.  The weather is finally starting to show signs of fall, and I start getting e-mails about the upcoming “Annual Incentive Program” and the wheels begin to turn.  We started having conversations about where we could best use the money.

We knew his would not be a windfall, by any stretch, but we  were building a plan on how to maximize the gift by doing things like vehicle repairs, home repairs, & a couple of other items that we really have been wanting to get taken care of, but the extra cash was never there.  I assure you that there was never a mention of a trip to Tahiti or a big screen TV.  We were living in the realm of practicality.

The more we talked about this money we had not yet seen, the more real it became.  We began to move from the hypothetical into the tangible.  Research was done on upcoming purchases to take care of some of these issues, online shopping carts were loaded and waiting for us to push that button the day the basket of hope landed in our checking account.  We were excited and expectant.

November 3 came.

Tammi gave me a call at work and said there was a deposit in the account.  Did I know what it was?  Surely it was not the bonus?  That number is WAY too small to be the bonus.  It was nothing like what we were looking for. So, I sent an e-mail off to ask what this little gift was that I was seeing in hopes that there had been some kind of mistake.  Certainly a digit had been forgotten.

Nope.  Just like the pig says:

A kick in the gut would have been preferable.  To see a number so much smaller than what we had expected was very hard.  I expected more.  I planned for more.  I felt that I deserved more.  I worked hard, and this is what I got?  Something is wrong. I have been slighted and I want this fixed.  My wife and I had plans and they have been pretty much decimated.

It was a rough day to get through.  A lot to process, and a lot of disappointment needed to be waded through.  After work (and some talk), supper (and some talk), and some Netflix with enough popcorn to strangle a mule, we went to bed to sleep on it.

I woke up this morning and the first thing that popped into my head was the word:


Webster’s says bonus means: an amount of money added to wages on a seasonal basis, especially as a reward for good performance.

So there it is.  I worked all year, and I got a paycheck on-time every time for the work I did.  That is all I really have to count on.  Anything else is an add-on, and I need to be grateful for it.  I may believe that I have been slighted, but at the end of the day, I got what was coming to me all year, and this was just something extra. (A little something…)

Before anyone thinks that is all it took for me to push this aside and move on with nothing but happy thoughts, I can tell you that as soon as that popped into my head this morning it prompted about 30 minutes of debate inside my skull that ended with the “ticked off” me just walking away from the argument.

He tends to do that when he knows he is going to lose.

He’ll come back later and take the lump, but for now he is avoiding that by writing to all of you who choose to read about his feelings of indignation and mistreatment at the hands of the global entity that has done him wrong.  See?  Told you.  This isn’t over yet…

I know that I am going to get to the place where I will be alright.  Though the skies are gray today, I feel a little more brightness than I did yesterday afternoon when I walked out of work in the sunshine.  I know that God was not surprised by this, that He knew how I would react, and that He is waiting to see how I will process it and grow.

So… Grow already…

I know that this is a moment where God has allowed me to be placed in a spot where I can either hang on to something I never had and mourn the loss of it, or I can take solace in the things that I do have and have joy.  I know that I can wallow in self-pity and allow bitterness to take over my heart, or I can choose to step up and see what I can do to improve my work and know that by doing hard thing – moving past this – I am doing the right thing.  Trusting God and allowing His grace, peace, and comfort to reign in me.

If I want to live a Relentless Life, I really only have one choice.  I’m going to have to send that little sulker back to the table where he can take his medicine and do the right thing.  Let’s be realistic.  He can be pretty stubborn and it is probably going to take at least a couple of days.

I’m thankful for a God who loves me even when I don’t “get it” right away.  I’m thankful for a wife who believes in me even when I am not able to bring home as much bacon as we thought I would.  I’m thankful for a healthy family and two great kids in college.  I’m thankful for a good job that allows me to work in a place where I know God is using me.  I’m thankful for friends who pray for me.

I guess anything beyond those things is truly a bonus.

Thanks for reading.  Got some things to go do to start the journey.



Loving Pain

painThere are a lot of words we can use to describe heartache.  Despair, discouragement, stress, struggles, difficulties, trials, loss, hurt, and probably a few more before we even get into the actual causes of some of those heartaches.  Words like death, divorce, job loss, financial calamity, and acts of nature all bring a tug at our hearts because we all know someone that has experienced one or more of these even if we have been able to avoid them ourselves.  The one thing they all have in common is that they all bring some sort of pain into our lives.

Why?  Why are we asked to face these things?  It goes back to the old question, “Why does God allow bad things to happen to good people?”  Why do innocent people suffer?  Why are we given these portions of pain that we must carry?

The simple, old-fashioned, answer is that we live in a fallen world. There is evil in the world that mankind introduced with his first sinful act. (Yes, I said his.  Adam failed his wife before she ever took a bite.)  Because of that, sin did enter the world and as a result, we are not living in the perfect, hazard free environment of the Garden of Eden.  The question I ask after that though is “What is the point of it then?”

I’ve heard a lot of answers to that question over the years, and I don’t want to sound cynical, but it is hard to hear them when you are in the middle of the pain.  They sound trite.  They sound too easy.  They sound insincere when the person has no idea what kind of pain you are dealing with.

A couple days ago, I stumbled across an article on Fox News that linked to an interview of Steven Colbert for GQ magazine.  Joel  Lovell interviewed Colbert about several different things, but one part of the interview really stood out to me as Colbert talked about the loss of his father and brothers when he was 10 years old.  Colbert was the youngest of eleven kids, and after the tragedy, he was the only child left at home with his mother.
Stephen-ColbertLovell asked Colbert how he could have suffered the losses in his life, but somehow still arrived where he is today, about to take over the microphone for the legend, David Letterman.  The thing that struck Lovell was not that Colbert did not exhibit anger or open woundedness, but that he appears to be “genuinely grounded and joyful.”  Colbert answered by stating that he did not want people to  think this was a pat answer, but it was because of his mom.
Colbert lost his father and two closest brothers in a plane crash when he was just 10 years old.  He would go on later in the article to say that it was “a bomb” that went off in his life.  In the aftermath he watched his mom cope with the loss, and the thing that hit him the most was that she was not bitter.  He said, “by her example I am not bitter.  By her example.  She was not.  Broken, yes. Bitter, no.”  He said he thinks that she drew on her faith in those horrible days of grief so that she would not be swallowed by it.  He also said that her faith may have been what allowed her “to recognize that our sorrow is inseparable from our joy…what is sorrow in the light of eternity?”  What a phenomenal example for a mother to give to her son! To be open and honest with the pain, but also showing that it need not take over your life.

As Colbert continues, he shares that we need to remember that acceptance of a terrible thing is not the same as being defeated by it.  We need to be real and accept that a bad thing happened.  The “bomb” went off, and it caused a huge explosion, but he said that he learned to love the bomb because of what he learned through it from his mother.  He said. “That is why you don’t see me as someone angry and working out my demons on-stage.  It’s that I love the thing that I most wish had not happened.”

Tolkien believed that death was not a punishment from God, but that it was a gift. God’s desire to give us a way back to Him makes that true!  Colbert echoes that belief today when he asks, “What punishments from God are not gifts?”  I believe that he really understands the crux of this through this last quote, “So it would be ungrateful not to take everything with gratitude.  It doesn’t mean you want it.  I can hold both of those ideas in my head.”

Let’s face it, we all have faced, are facing, or will face something terrible in our lives at some point.  It isn’t that God hates us, or that He has given up on us.  He has simply allowed it into our lives for the purpose of telling the story of His redemptive work in His most prized creation – us.  We go through things so we can help people go through things so they can help people go through things too, and it is all because God is working in hearts and minds for His glory and to help us grow.  That’s it.

I’m personally watching some people go through some of these things right now.  Some are near the point of coming out of the bad time, others have been in it for awhile now, and one in particular has just entered it.  I have also been able to see them all reaching out to each other for help or to give prayer support, and even to thank God for allowing them to suffer a similar situation so they could fully understand the hurt of another!  That is the answer to the question “Why does God allow bad things to happen to good people?”  It gives us the opportunity to be the hands of Christ in the life of another.

fogging-bombRelentless people living Relentless lives.  People who can see the importance of hurt, not to be a martyr or to gain sympathy, but for the expressed purpose of using it to help another.  I can say I have been on both sides of it, and it brings back all the pain when you enter into it with someone else, but I know the power of the love that flows from that person into me when I see that pain in their eyes as they share their hurt not to show me how they have gotten through it, but to show me that I can get through it.

So, the next time a “bomb” drops in your life, remember Steve Colbert’s words, “You gotta love the bomb.”  Remember these words too:

And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. – Romans 8:28 (ESV)

He has a purpose for each of us. Sometimes it will involve pain.  Embrace it. You will never know who God is planning for you to help one day.




How To Take Down An Elf – My Journey to Unemployment & Relentless Living

KeeblerLast week I shared a story about golf. In it I shared a glimpse into the early days in my last job and a glimpse into my lack of character at that time in my life.  Well, today I want to share one of the hardest days I ever had to go through.  Why?  Because this is the fifth anniversary!  A cause to celebrate!

So, if you want to catch up on the story of how golf nearly took my job, go ahead and click the link above and we will wait for you here.

You’re back?  Good.  Let’s get rolling!

So, at the end of my golf career I had a face to face encounter with a boss’ boss who came to check up on my progress as I was nearly killing myself to dig out of the hole that I had created with my lack of discipline.  He dropped in on a store and went through my shelves to see if the conditions had improved.  I had overhauled that store just the week before and felt every confidence that I would pass the test.  Well, I missed one thing – just one thing.  I looked him in the face and knew what was coming.

To say I was dressed down would be an understatement.  I had a very hard time holding it together as he stood IN THE GROCERY STORE AISLE and yelled and cursed at me.  Eventually I went outside as he followed me screaming at me to turn around.  When we reached my van I did turn around.  That was when things got a little dicey.

The specifics of what I said escape me, but the gist of it was that I would not tolerate that out of him in front of my customers again.  That elicited a response inquiring something like what I thought I would do about it which got an answer that may have included a rearrangement of his teeth or something like that.  Then there was something about how I might need to look for a job which got a reply that we would be doing it together because after a call to Human Resources I was pretty sure he would be doing the same.  What can I say?  I knew how to make friends.

At that point he looked me in the eye and asked if I was serious.  I could not have been more serious in that moment – or scared!  He then asked me if I thought threatening him was a good idea.  I stood my ground and asked if he was more afraid of the punch in the mouth or Human Resources.  He then put his hand out to shake mine and said that we would just move forward.  I shook it.

I sometimes wonder what might have happened if he hadn’t said what he said next.  He was not a nice man, and he did not have a nice smile, but he looked at me and with a large, scary smile said, “That’s quite a grip you have.  If you had wanted to, you probably could have kicked my *___*!  I’ll remember that threat the next time I yell at you!”

Was he joking?  He might have been trying to, but he failed.  I saw and heard nothing but a veiled threat in his face and voice.  I’m older and wiser now, and I don’t think I would respond the same way today as I did back then, but I looked him in the eye and said, “Please don’t think that I threatened you.  I made you a promise.  Here’s another one.  I am going to show you that I have learned my lesson and I will be one of your best salesmen from this point on, but I will never let you talk to me like that in front of my customers again.”  Like I said,  I was good at making friends.

Over the next few years I made good on my promise.  I went above and beyond on my territory and saw consistent growth in my sales volume, profit margins, and customer relationships.  Things were really looking good!  I was given awards and company accolades that brought me opportunities to do meet and greets with some important people.  At one of the meetings that boss’ boss mentioned to me that he was surprised that I was still with the company and I told him that I had made him a promise.

I’m not sure if that reminded him of the OTHER promise I had made, but within a few months my route was changed.  I lost some of my best accounts and my volume dropped like a rock.  I went to work and rebuilt only to have the route changed again and the volume to drop again.  As I built that back it was changed again, adding huge amounts of drive time between stops.  What was going on?

Well, by this time I had a new boss, and when that boss came in, he told me that his boss had told him during his interview that he would give him the job if he would fire me.  It all became clear.  I’d made a promise and I was making good on it, and this drove the boss’ boss crazy.  Before long the route changed yet again to something that was completely unmanageable during my normal 55+ hour week. I was driving over 1,200 miles a week and conditions in my stores began to suffer again as I worked to get as much done as quickly as possible without making my family feel the burden of me being gone even more.

Eventually I was put on probation.  I went home and told Tammi that I was going to beat this, but it was going to be hard.  For the next 90 days I worked 16 hours most days  Monday through Friday, and threw in quite a few Saturdays, too.  The result?  My stores were top notch, I was seeing double digit increases in volume and profit margins.  I did it!  I turned it around again.

April 14, 2010 was a beautiful morning.  I was at the Speedway in Grayling filling my car up before heading to Lewiston and Mio when I got a phone call from my boss asking me to meet him at a restaurant later in the day to go over some things.  I don’t know how I knew it, but I knew it was over.  I called Tammi and told her I was getting fired that afternoon.  She told me that was ridiculous.  I had done everything I had been asked and I had nothing to worry about.  I knew she was wrong, but I told her I loved her and thanked her for believing in me.

After I hung up I had a little battle take place in my head as I debated whether or not I should even bother finishing out the work I had planned to do that day.  Why should I?  What good what it do?  I was ready to pack it in and go home to wait for the appointment and then I heard a voice in my head that said,

“Finish well.”

So, I got back in the car and went out and finished my stores with every bit of the attention I had given them over the last 90 days.  Then I went to my meeting, met my boss, signed some papers, cleaned out my car, put my stuff in a cardboard box, got in a cab and rode home to tell my wife that I was unemployed.

It was a rough night, but rougher nights were yet to come over the next few weeks.  I had a lot of doubts about myself and how I had handled things.  I spent a lot of time crying and praying as I tried to pull things together.  Tammi and the kids were great to me, and I would have been absolutely miserable without their love and support.  Besides my family, there were two other things that I had to hang on to:

1. My belief that I had finished well.  I had risen to every request, and at the end I had gone above what I knew I needed to do.  They didn’t even replace me on the territory.  They chopped it up and gave it to other salesmen and said they just didn’t need me anymore.  I know from talking to one of the guys that covered for me that of all the routes out there, I had the one that was impossible to do anyway.  That was by design.

2. God was ever with me.  I spent so much time talking to Him and leaning on Him.  I saw Him provide through family and friends.  Through this time He showed me the importance of friends as I made my first real and best friend. I saw Him open doors to opportunities to re-discover myself and develop new skills and passions.  I saw His goodness all around me.  It gave me a new perspective.

You see, I was an elf.  I was a darn good one too, but in the end, it wasn’t enough.  The mistakes I had made years ago and had learned from came back in the end, and it was enough to take a good elf down even though I had made the changes and had surpassed the expectations.

But I’m not down.  I realized that I was not an elf.  I had let my job define me.  Through losing that job I was forced into a new life.  A life that would force me to grow in a way that an elf never could.  You see, the elf lived in a hollow tree.  A hollow tree is destined for death anyway.  That’s no place for a Relentless Life to grow.

I now live a life that brings me joy.  Don’t get me wrong, I’m not perfect, and neither are all the aspects of my life!  I work, and I have rough days, but that isn’t where I find joy.  Joy comes from sharing God’s grace with people, engaging them where they are, feeling what they feel, encouraging them through the hard times.  A Relentless Life that is dedicated to Relentless Growth in Christ for myself and for others!

As a boss, now I have a keen awareness of how I can impact the people I work with.  I want to be the kind of boss that lifts people to their potential rather than drives them toward frustration.  I want to promote people to positions that will allow them to reach their potential.  I want to share in their successes and be there to help them in their failures. I want to live a Relentless Life!



Hands and Heart – Part 2

unnamedI guess when I posted the first part of this blog, most people would have rightly assumed that the second part would come next.  Sorry about that, but as a loyal reader, you are now being rewarded for your patience with me!

For those of you who are on Facebook, you have probably seen a few posts from your friends using the Timehop app.  Timehop is an app that accesses your Facebook and Twitter feeds to bring up the things that you posted on the present day in history.  It is a nice little window into what you may have been thinking about, sharing with others, or in the case of many, the pictures of what you ate.

A couple of days ago my Timehop hit on a post from 5 years ago.  It was a Facebook post where I mentioned a trip I had to take down to Big Rapids to meet with my District Manager and Zone Manager with Kellogg’s.  It was not a good meeting.  In that meeting I was cut apart, had my character questioned, and was told that I was not a good employee.  They had all kinds of papers and charts to show how their numbers proved it, but many of those numbers were twisted and out of context to the point that they were terribly untrue.  The problem was, I was not in the position to make the rules.  I left that meeting on probation.

On my drive home that day I remember battling feelings of depression, anger, doubt, and fear.  I needed this job.  It was a good job, and if I had been allowed to run it the way that my customers were asking me to do things, I could have been very successful at it for them, the company and for myself.  The problem was, I didn’t make the rules, and I was not honest enough with myself to admit that I felt miserable in that job.  By the time I got home I had closed my fist as tightly as possible around the false security of that job though.  I refused to let go.

I went to work with a renewed vigor and did whatever it took to meet the demands that had been placed on me.  They were unrealistic and required me to work as many as 16 hours a day at times.  I decided it was worth it though.  It was something I refused to let go of.  I put myself in a position where I was unwilling to look at anything other than what I wanted, and that was to hold that job.

Over the next several weeks I will probably share some more of how God took me through the process of His opening my hand.  It will be a bittersweet journey for me.  I don’t like to remember the pain, but I do enjoy looking back and seeing how God worked things out and brought me to a better place.

The journey taught me the importance of letting God have access to what is in my hands.  I could close them like a fist and keep things, or I could open them to His purposes and see what He wanted to do.  It sounds easier than it is.  I felt like after God opened my hands through losing that job I was pretty much all set.  When you have had your hands opened up like I did, you are reluctant to hold tight again any time soon.


The problem was that I didn’t open up all the way.  I had a couple fingers that were still closed.  They couldn’t hold much, but in my heart I was still hanging onto things that I didn’t want God to have.  Some of them were just things I was unwilling to trust Him to handle.  Did I think He couldn’t? No.  I just wanted that feeling of control in an environment where I had almost none.  I had so much taken from me in a short period of time, and I had such a tenuous grip on the rest that I was living in fear.

I was blessed to have a supportive wife who built into me and was also an example for me as we went through that time.  Through her, I saw an openhanded example, and while it took me a lot longer to grasp it, I believe that she was the one that planted that seed.

I also had a mentor and some friends who showed me how they lived an openhanded life, and as I spent more time with them and in my Bible I began to come face to face with the fact that I was still living a selfish life.  I didn’t have as many things to be selfish about, but I was clinging to what I had left!   Funny to think that I was hanging on to things so hard even then.

Over the last year I have learned that the key to joy in the Christian life is in the simple phrase “Thy will be done.”  When I give myself  over to what God wants, open my hands to whatever He deems right to put there, allow Him to remove the things that should be gone, I will be a happier person.  It might be painful at times, but the result has always proven to be better for me.

Relentless Growth is living in the pursuit of a relationship with God. The way to do that is to approach Him with a humble, open spirit, willing to accept what He has for your life.  It is a willingness to ask God to give me the desires of my heart that are in line with what He wants for me.  A willingness to accept what might feel hard for a time in order to receive a blessing over time.

Relentless Living requires open hands and an open heart.  I know I still stumble in this, but I have some great people that help me in it, and God keeps showing me opportunities to grow.


Support Systems: Men Need Them Too

Aaron-and-HurToday I read in my Bible the story of Israel fighting the nation of Amalek in Exodus 17.  The children of Israel had not been long out of the land of Egypt, and the journey was starting to feel a little rough on some of them.  They had been hungry and God provided Manna for them to eat, they were thirsty and God had Moses whack a rock so they could have water.  Moses has already had one talk with God about these people he was leading to Canaan, and frankly, Moses was ready to hand them over.  Now they were going to face a battle too!

In verses 8 and following we read about this battle.  The army of Amalek came out to fight.  We see no real reason other than Israel was walking through their land, and when about a million people walk through your yard, you feel like fighting.  So, Moses gives the battle plan to Joshua that he should go out and fight Amalek the next day.  Moses’ part in the battle will be to stand on the hillside and hold up the staff of God.

The next day, the battle began.  Joshua went to the valley with his army while Moses, his brother Aaron and Hur went to the top of a nearby hill where they could watch the battle below.  Whenever Moses held the staff up Israel would gain the upper hand in the battle, but when he dropped his hands, the battle would quickly go in favor of Amalek.  Moses was getting tired, and things were starting to look very bad for Israel.  Then, in verse 12 we read:

But Moses’ hands grew weary, so they took a stone and put it under him, and he sat on it, while Aaron and Hur held up his hands, one on one side, and the other on the other side. So his hands were steady until the going down of the sun.

– Exodus 17:12

At the end of the day, Israel prevailed over Amalek.  As I thought about this passage I began thinking about how this battle was won.  Obviously God brought about the victory, but to me it was the way that He did it, and the lessons I can take from this battle and how God’s men were used in it.

Nobody doubts that Moses was God’s guy.  He was the one with the special staff, the one that talked to Pharaoh, the one that was leading the people and the conduit God used whenever He spoke to His people, but this was a time that Moses needed help.  If he had not had help then it would have simply been a story of God sweeping in and just blasting the enemy.  I think God wants us to see the importance of the men that were in it with Moses.  He was not alone. Sometimes we need people to come alongside us to give us specific support.  Moses had that. He had men that showed three very important attributes we need in those we do life with.

A Warrior – Joshua was Moses’ guy when it came to battle, and eventually he became God’s guy to use to conquer the Promised Land.  He was the guy that could see the obstacle, but also had the gifts necessary to overcome them.  We need people like that in our lives too.  They need to take care to not take up a battle they should not, but we should have that person we can count on when things get really bad.  We need someone who will just look us in the eye and echo Val Kilmer’s Doc Holiday and say, “I’m your Huckleberry.”  (Go watch the movie Tombstone if you didn’t get that reference. Best line of the flick.)

A Comforter – Moses was tired and needed to sit down or the battle would be lost.  Aaron and Hur hauled up a rock and gave him a place to sit in order for the battle to continue.  We need to have a friend in our life that is there to offer that comfort we need from time to time when we are just flat wore out. Maybe finances are rough and they drop a bag of groceries off or take you out to eat.  Maybe they just show up with a pizza and watch movie with you.  They don’t do anything really big, but they are there when the battle is raging to do something that gives you just that little bit of “normal” needed to keep you in the fight.

An Encourager – Moses was ready to drop. his arms felt like lead, and he had nothing more to give.  I imagine he was in pain, but Aaron and Hur stepped in and said, “We’re here.  You have to finish this, we can’t do it for you, but we are here to see you through it. We’ve got ya.”  These are the guys that allow us to experience victory.  These are the guys that help us conquer addictions, depression, and so much more.  They know the battle is not theirs but they just refuse to walk away and let you flounder.  They want the win for you as much or more than you do!

God has blessed me with men like this in my life.  One of those men challenged me to invest in the spiritual lives of those I call friend.  You could say he called on me to fight for the friends that I have.  Another of those men is a grand encourager to me.  I would call him a cheerleader, but nobody wants to see those legs in a skirt!  He is always telling me that I can do it through God’s help and he draws my eyes back to His battle plan.  Some of the others are guys that always seem to know when I am feeling the weight of battle and they just wander by and let me know they care.  Not a big, flashy role, but vital for victory.

I hope I am doing the same for those guys.  In a Relentless life, we all have our own battles, but we share the struggles with each other and lift each other up.  We provide a rest for each other when we just need a chance to relax.  We are willing to gear up to fight when necessary.

So, how about you?  Are you in the battle now?  Do you know someone who is?  Start looking at who is there for you an dhow you can be there for them.  You’ll be glad you did.