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

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

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

Zach,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I love you, Zach!

– Dad

Advertisements

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.

Picture3

 

Valor: Sometimes Getting You To Step Up Requires A Push

468758345_640One of the stories from the Bible that I have always loved is the story of Gideon.  It is the ultimate story of God reaching down and taking a guy who appears to be the least likely of leaders and turning him into a warrior with the honor of leading the original 300.  I’ve heard and read the story a hundred times, but like so many times lately when I read God’s Word I am seeing something new.

The Call of Gideon

 Now the angel of the Lord came and sat under the terebinth at Ophrah, which belonged to Joash the Abiezrite, while his son Gideon was beating out wheat in the winepress to hide it from the Midianites. And the angel of the Lord appeared to him and said to him, “The Lord is with you, O mighty man of valor.” And Gideon said to him, “Please, sir, if the Lord is with us, why then has all this happened to us? And where are all his wonderful deeds that our fathers recounted to us, saying, ‘Did not the Lord bring us up from Egypt?’ But now the Lord has forsaken us and given us into the hand of Midian.” And the Lord turned to him and said, “Go in this might of yours and save Israel from the hand of Midian; do not I send you?” And he said to him, “Please, Lord, how can I save Israel? Behold, my clan is the weakest in Manasseh, and I am the least in my father’s house.” And the Lord said to him, “But I will be with you, and you shall strike the Midianites as one man.”

– Judges 6:11-16

Valor is defined as “boldness or determination in facing great danger, especially in battle.”  Not exactly the words you would think of using when describing a guy who is hiding in a winepress thrashing some wheat where he won’t be seen.  Nevertheless, that is what the angel of the Lord called him.  That just really stood out to me when I read it.  “Man of valor?”  Why would Gideon be described that way? I used to think it was God speaking through the angel with a little sarcastic tone in His voice. (We do tend to make God into our own image…)  As I thought about it more, I began to think more about the people involved here and what they were doing.

Gideon – Hiding from his enemies, but still working.  I don’t know if he was thrashing this grain for himself, his family, or for someone else, but in the middle of this oppression from the Midianites, he was still doing something rather than just sitting around and crying for help.

The Angel – Sent on a mission to deliver a message.  Was the angel of the Lord actually Christ?  Not sure. Doesn’t really matter for the sake of the account.  The angel was there to do as it had been told, speak truth to Gideon.

God – The Creator of all mankind, the Jehovah God of the Israelite nation.  All powerful, and all knowing.

The more I thought about it, I realized that when the angel spoke God’s words to Gideon, he was not speaking of the Gideon that stood before him.  He was speaking of the warrior inside him.  Even in the act of grinding out wheat in a secret place, he was acting with a determination to do something.  I believe God had been looking at the nation of Israel to find the one who would lead His people into battle, and Gideon was just the guy He was looking for.

When the angel spoke, Gideon’s fear and frustration came out.  “With us?  What do you mean God is with us?  Look around!  I’m scraping together a little wheat for bread, and who knows when I will get caught? I’ve heard all the stories of how great God is, but where is He now?  He is the one who put us in this mess with Midian.”  Bold words.  Possibly foolish words, but God saw the heart.  He could see the determination in Gideon, and He wanted to draw that out.

Telling Gideon to go fight Midian on his own was God’s way to help Gideon understand that not only did God know the abilities of Gideon, but He also wanted Gideon to know that He knew Gideon understood his own limitations.  “Fight on your own, Gideon, and you will fall, but I am not sending you out alone.  Go with ME, and the entire army of Midian will fall as if it was a single man.”

Time and again in God’s Word we see Him use the lowly, the weak, the unassuming to do great things.  God does this to bring the glory where it belongs – to Him!  That is what we are created to do, and when we surrender our desires and our fears to allow ourselves to be used by God, He will do great things with us.  It is our opportunity to join Him in His plan, His will, and sometimes, His miracles.  Sometimes He just needs to come along and give us a little push.

I believe God used Gideon because he was doing something.  It wasn’t a big thing, but it was something.  That heart, that attitude is what God is looking for.  He wants to see us determined. He wants to see us being Relentless about something.  If we are moving and wanting to be used, God will use us!

I’ve had some very hard times over the years that have shaken my faith.  At times I have wondered about God much like Gideon did.  I just wanted to find a place to curl up and give up.  It is just too hard.  I quit… I never could completely quit though.  Call it faith, stubbornness, habit, or whatever you want, but I kept trying to at least do something.  I wish I could always say that I had nothing but God’s glory in mind, but it was usually not much more than maintaining the status quo as much as possible.  Just keep on truckin’.

Whenever those moments would come, God would send someone along to say something though.  It would be just the right thing to spark that determination in me again.  The words would be there to give me hope, and in that hope I would dig into God and His Word, see His truth, His power, His promises, and I would be able to do something through Him that I could never accomplish on my own.

Valor is a word we don’t hear much anymore, but maybe we need to resurrect it.  A life of Relentless Growth should be a life of valor. I know it is what I want in my life, and I want it for my son and my brothers in Christ.  I’m not sure what God is going to do with me through the rest of my life, and there will be times that He will need to give me a push to get it rolling, but I hope that God will look on me as a man of valor.  I hope I can influence others to that as well.

Relentless Growth -> Grow Deep -> Grow Strong