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!



Those Pastor’s Kids…

12821566_922719921179919_8072265062176788583_nI saw this picture on social media the other day. At first glance it made me laugh because I grew up in church and I have seen the extremes that often take place, and seeing the anti-hero Deadpool compared to the virtuous Captain America seemed to be an apt comparison.

As a son of a former deacon, I felt like I could laugh about this picture because of the stereotype that exists there, and even though people don’t like stereotypes, they exist because in many cases, they are true. Not always, but often enough that you can have a snicker from time to time over them. The Pastor’s kids got in trouble because the whole church was watching them The deacon’s kids probably got it the worst from the other deacons more than anyone else. We were a different group, but still in the mix.

After seeing this and thinking about it, I started to see different faces from my childhood – kids from school and church and how they “turned out”. Often they did swing to one of these extremes – “good guy” or “bad guy”. Whoa. Where am I in that mix?

Looking at the two extremes is just a part of the story. You also need to look at where a kid is in the process. They don’t just become Deadpool or Captain America. It’s a process. Some of it takes a long time, and sometimes, time is the best way to help us see where that person might land. I’m not saying I’m Captain America now, but I can say that there was a time that a fairly decent crowd might have considered me well on my way to being a Deadpool! Time was a good thing as it allowed God to work in me. Time is working in a lot of kids right now.

Since time is working on them, we might be better not to judge those kids we see out there. They might be dealing with some issues we don’t know about. They might have more on the ball than we give them credit for. We may have an unrealistic expectation for that kid, or we might just think they should be a little more mature than they really are.

At the end of the day, I don’t see this as a good person or as a bad person. I see them as two very different attitudes. In a way that is a little reassuring, but at the same time, it is a little scary. If it is an attitude, then it can be changed. It is not a defining thing unless you decide to leave it that way. Once you have slipped down a slope, it is harder to get back up. Doesn’t mean quit, but it will be hard.

Anyway, back to the attitudes. Here is how I see them:

Deadpool – “This is who I am. I’m not changing for you or anyone else. My reasons? Why should I try? Nobody expects anything better out of me, and being better than I am is more work than I am prepared to give. It will never be enough to satisfy those people. I know I could do better, but this is how they see me. So, I am just going to embrace it. This is all there is.”

There is so much potential in a Deadpool. So many things that could be done, but self is chosen over others or even a goal. Opportunities are missed, Potential is unrealized, relationships are hurt and sometime destroyed. There are glimpses of heroism from time to time, but they are tempered by a fear form those closest that they will soon decline again.

Captain America – “I might not be the best person for the job, but the job needs to be done, so I am here to do it. I’m willing to go the distance to help another person. I want people to live free and happy. I can follow directions, but I am willing to lead as well. I make mistakes, and I am trying to be better. I’m not satisfied at just being who I am, I want to be better in order to help those who need it”

There is a humility in a Captain America. They may be as gifted or even less gifted than a Deadpool, but they are not focused on themselves. They are focused on others. They are not settling for who they are, they want to grow and develop new skills. They have down times where they feel like they have failed, but they do not let those moments define them. They get back up and keep going because they see the goal is worth the effort even if those around them do not.

The pastor’s kids really aren’t any different than the rest of us; they just live under the microscope. Take any cross section out there and if you just want to take a snapshot of that moment in time, you will see the extremes, but the reality is that there is a near constant swing in kids as they are figuring out who they will be. Personally I see a lot more Captain Americas start showing up around the late twenties and early thirties. Life has a way of helping you see things in a different way.

There were a lot of comments and a lot of Scripture being taken out of context where I saw this pic. I saw a ton of legalistic talk, and I felt ashamed by that. It’s easy to draw lines sometimes when you don’t really know what you are talking about. I’ve never been a PK. Never felt the stress of living up to an expectation that I didn’t ask to be a part of. I know what it feels like to be held to a higher standard though…

I see that photo now as a warning to me. How do I look at people around me? We all have an internal struggle, and we will choose whether to take that struggle and use it as an opportunity to serve ourselves or to serve God. I hope that people see me as a guy who is Relentless in his drive to grow and make the right choice. I hope they see my failures as pivotal moments for me to stand up smarter, and stronger for the struggle rather than weak for failing. I hope I see the same in those around me.


Core Value #5 – Discipline

DisciplineDiscipline is something I value. There are things in my life I am disciplined in, but as I have thought about this more I have come to the realization that this value is not always displayed in my actions. In other words, I need more discipline in my life.

What is discipline? My laptop gives me the following definitions: Punishment, Self-Control, Regulation, Subject, Punish, Instruction, Correction, Chastisement, Castigation, & Persuasion

I think we are all pretty familiar with the concept of discipline as a punishment. That doesn’t require a whole lot of discussion. Sometimes that discipline is delivered well, and sometimes, not so much. I told my kids I loved them too much to not discipline them, and in the moment they probably thought I was lying, but now that they are older they are starting to see what my wife and I were up to all along!

I’m going to speak more to some of the other aspects of discipline: Self-Control/ Regulation and Instruction/Persuasion. Discipline need not always have a negative feeling attached to it. We need to welcome discipline as a building block in our character.


When we subject ourselves to a discipline, we are opening our eyes to understanding it better. Not a surface level understanding, but a deep understanding. We are looking at this discipline to see how it works, what it needs to grow, how it can be harnessed or channeled in a particular direction.

For example, I might not understand it because I don’t really feel like putting an effort into learning it, but my daughter does something called Natural Horsemanship with her horses. I have picked up enough to make doing the few things that I need to do with the horses easier, but other than that, she is the expert in the house.

When she goes out and works with the horses – for hours at a time some days – she is not only teaching them things, but also she is learning how they respond to different touches, gestures, or sounds. She is then able to take what she has learned and use it to make them do what she wants them to do as if it was their own idea!   That allows her to ride better, to get them to do a trick, or any other number of things. Someday I might have more time to learn more because it really is an amazing discipline, and I have been able to see how it can be tied into working with people as well.


This is the one that gets hard. There are a lot of topics I can pick on here, and a lot of people too! For the sake of the blog, I will only pick on the one person I know that is already mad at me and has learned to live with that – myself. After all, we are talking about self-control!

I have had some things come up where I have had to come face to face with my lack of it. How can I write about how to tell people how to be disciplined when I am not? I am approaching this as a sanctification process. That’s not letting me off the hook, but it does allow for the reality of my sin nature to explain my failures while not letting it be an excuse for them. I am not perfect, but I am committed to improvement.

So, I cannot speak about a need for discipline in my life without talking about two things – time and diet.

Time – I get 24 hours in a day. When I look at any given weekday, by the time I take work and sleep out of the mix I have about 7 hours left over to play with. There are probably about another three hours that are used for things that I can’t really work with. So I have about 4 hours a day to do something intentional with. In that four hours I need to be a godly husband and dad, be involved with extended family and friends, find a little time to relax, and do some work around the house or in some form of education.

That’s not a lot of time to be deep and intentional in any of those areas. It’s pretty obvious why I feel like sometimes things are out of control or I am falling behind or out of touch.   I need to be more proactive here.

I am starting to think harder about what I watch on television. I have some shows I watch because I enjoy them, but I am finding lately that I watch most of my TV basically because I don’t feel like I have time to DO anything productive, so why try? It might be time to look at that list of shows and do some culling. Limit my time in front of that screen and do something more productive with my time.

Diet – Here is where things get really painful. I’ve made declarations in the past of how I am going to get in shape, lose weight, blah blah blah. Somehow, at the end of the day, here I remain – too much of me remains. Changes need to be made.

Recently my son gave up drinking pop. He has been fizz-free for over a month now, and he is making the right choices. This past weekend I was at camp, and I decided that I am going to go pop free at least for the time I was there, but I decided I may follow him on this. It’s a little thing in the grand scheme of what I need to do, but it is something.

Food continues to be a struggle for me because I love it.   Camp is not a good place to start saying “no” to food, but I am working on that. I am committing to making some real changes in how I look at food now that I am home. I need this discipline because it is going to have a negative effect on my health, and my ability to do things that God has put in my life if I don’t get some control.

Relentless Living requires discipline. I have listed my values as God, Family, Friends, Balance and Discipline. Discipline must be in place to make the others be as impactful as possible. Balance and Discipline go hand in hand, but Discipline is what makes balance possible.

I know I have some people out there who will hold me accountable on this. Some who have held me accountable in the past may have given up since they saw no real change. I hope they will come back and help me again. After all, it’s a process! I’ll give an update on my progress in these two areas in a couple weeks.


A Very Good Thing

10534681_10204206015501628_1184979595712247813_nHe who finds a wife finds a good thing and obtains favor from the Lord. – Proverbs 18:22

Last night my wife and I did something we have not done in a few years.  We got supper and drove out to Old Mission Peninsula Park and enjoyed our supper on the beach.  This is something we did when we first started dating, and it became a tradition that at some point each summer we would make the trek.  Usually the dinner consisted of pizza from a shop on the way.

Tammi suggested we get Grand Traverse Pie Company for supper this time, and with the promise of pie, she knew she had me in the bag.  Unfortunately, without my knowledge, there was also a pickle in my bag, and my sandwich was soaked with that nasty flavor. (Sorry, not a pickle lover. Never have been and never will be…).  I guess it showed that we were a little rusty from not doing this for a few years.

The best part of the trip was just hanging out with my wife and talking.  Life has been too busy lately, and while we each hate that it happens, we get a little drawn apart.  It was good to have some time to talk about what has been going on in our heads, catch up with each other’s hearts, and do a little dreaming together.  That is something we have always done well together, but lately conversation has primarily been about the daily functions and necessary downloads of schedules and pertinent information to the next 24 hour period.

I am hoping for some more good time like this in the next week as our kids are at camp.  We miss having them around (I have to do the horses in the mornings), but it is good practice for remembering what it was like when it was just us (no horses) before kids (no horses).  I am glad to say that I am not worried about it.  When God gave me my wife, He definitely gave me to good thing that I needed.

Through our years together I have grown because of her in many ways.  I have my own reasons for wanting to grow in God, but one of them is my desire to be the man that she deserves.  Just in being my wife she makes me want to be a better husband.  I fail sometimes (please do not approach her for statistics), but I know that I am better in most ways than I was almost 20 years ago.

So, I just wanted to share how blessed I am feeling today to have this wonderful lady in my life.  Have a great rest of the weekend!

PS – The horses are not that bad.  At least when they let me catch them…

Relentless Growth -> Grow Deep -> Grow Strong


Alligator Mouth


And the king of Israel answered, “Tell him, `Let not him who straps on his armor boast himself as he who takes it off.’”                – 1 Kings 20:11

I read this verse in my devotional the other day, and at first it made me laugh because I like sarcasm, and this is one of those really neat verses in the Bible that has a really important lesson wrapped up in a sarcastic comment.  The king of Syria was boasting that he was about to wipe the floor with the army of Israel, and King Ahab (not usually one we would look to as a fount of wisdom) basically tells him not to count his chickens before they hatch.  The lesson in there is that we should not promise on a delivery that we are not certain we are able to make, or as my Dad often said to me, “Be careful that you don’t let your alligator mouth write checks your canary butt can’t cash.”

So, why do we do it?  Why do we puff ourselves up and say that we can deliver on things and then promptly forget about them and fail? (I place myself firmly at the front of the line in this.  Remember this is where I write to figure things out that I mess up regularly.)  I think there is a strong hint in the following quote:

“In a world where everyone thinks they are great or exceptional, we think that we can accomplish more than we actually can.”

Is that wrong??? I know that when you listen to the stuff you hear in schools and on the kids soccer fields today, you would hear a message that would validate the first part of the statement.  How often do you hear, “Everyone is a winner,”  “You can do whatever you want to do,” There are no limits!”  In a word, that is pure hogwash.

Let’s face the facts that we aren’t all winners.  *Collective sharp intake of breath courses through the internet.*  Every person on the planet is gifted in certain areas, and not in others.  There are things I can do very well, and others that I have done, currently do, and will continue to fail at.  This does not make me a failure.  This proves that I am human.  Sometimes no matter how hard we struggle to grasp the brass ring of success, we will find ourselves coming up with the plastic swizzle-stick of competence.  That’s not a bad thing – if we are giving out best effort.

The real lesson I am pulling from this is not being able to understand if I should try out for nose tackle for the Detroit Lions this year just because I wear the color blue as well as they do (maybe even better as I have been told it brings out my eyes).  It is that I need to watch what I say I can do so I can be sure to deliver on what I say.  Alligator-Canary lesson.

There was a very good question posed at the end of the devotional that prompted this blog.  Actually it is two questions, and I recommend you give a knee-jerk answer to the first and then ponder the second for a bit.  I’ll wait…

“Would people say that I do what I say I will do?”

“Who would be a good person to have give an honest answer to that question?”

Welcome back.  If you are like me, the answer to the first was a hearty yes!  It made me feel great to say it, and it was so easy!  I always want people to believe me when I say I will do something.  Who wouldn’t want to feel that way.  Why, there probably isn’t anyone I know that would answer otherwise about me!  Oh, you want names?  Sure let me work on that list for you.

Well, probably the best would be my wife. On second thought, she knows me too well, and hey, I should be able to be let things go occasionally with her, right?

My kids! No, that probably wouldn’t work very well either.  How many times have I had to cancel something with them that I had told them we would do.

My employees! Yeah.  We won’t go there…

My friends.  But which ones?  Well, when I think about it, I’ve let a lot of them down too after saying I would come through for them, but I didn’t.

When it comes down to it, that second question just flat kicks my canary keister.  Why?  I want to be a man of my word.  I want people to depend on and believe that the things coming out of my mouth are trustworthy things. I will do what I say I will do!  So why don’t I?

Time – Frankly, I am overdrawn on my time account more often than I want to admit.  In order to give time to the people I love, I have to pull time from the things that I promised other people I would do for them and vice versa.  The reasons for it are usually good – wanting to help, wanting to serve.  Too often thought the reasons are not good – avoiding guilt, making myself look good.  That leads to the next reason.

Image – Honestly, I want people to like me, and people tend to like you when you tell them you will give them what they want from you.  Great concept, but it always, and I do mean ALWAYS comes up short in the delivery.  You’d think I would be smart enough to avoid falling back into that trap. Still in process on that one.

Fear – Fear of failing.  Fear of guilt. Fear of myself.  Fear of what comes next if I don’t make the promise.

There are more things that enter into it, but I think those are my top three, and I would imagine that they would be right up there with a lot of people.  So, as my friend Lou would say, “What are you going to do about it?”

The best thing I can do about it is to ask God to help me with it.  Ask the Spirit to keep it at the forefront of my mind.  I tend to follow through more on the things I keep thinking about. I know, strange concept, but it’s true!  Looking to God for help should always be my first step.  He knows me and my weaknesses better than I do, and He wants to help.

I need to continue to watch my priorities too.  Sometimes it is the things I promise others, but at times it comes down to things that I decide I would rather do.  I need to look at my time as a more precious commodity and spend it wisely.  There are times to be on the go, but there are times that are best spent being still.  I need to get better at deciphering when each is appropriate.

I need accountability.  There are a few people I need to ask give me some feedback on that first question.  There are probably some that would love to get in that line!  I don’t think I need to go very far to find the truth in it though.  There are probably fewer than 10 people I need to ask, and their answers would likely be similar to my own.

I want to be better.  I’m going to work on that, and with God’s grace and help. I will get better.  I’ll never be perfect though.  May alligator part will beat out my canary part from time to time, but my prayer is that I will get things balanced out a lot better.  If you are reading this and have the same problem, I’ll be praying for your canary butt too!