Halfway to 88? Happy B-Day to Me!

Wow.  I am 44 today.  Think back to when you were a teenager.  What is that “oldest age” you ever really pictured yourself as?  Do you remember?  It seems like I do, and it was right about here.  44 years old… (I don’t see that as any type of foreshadowing about what this next year holds, just kind of funny that it popped into my head this morning.)

This last year has been a crazy one, and it looks like I am poised to do it all over again.  Time to give a quick little breakdown about what has happened, what is happening, and how I hope I Relentlessly respond to it.  I like to share since I tend to stay more accountable to some of this stuff when people know about it.

Health – Well, as far as the diabetes goes, I am doing better than great.  My doctor actually stopped me in the hall the other day after my bloodwork hit his desk and gave me a hug.  If you knew my doctor, you would be amazed!   I have kept a normal blood sugar since my diagnosis, have stepped my meds down, and kept my weight down.  I also am showing great numbers in the cholesterol and triglycerides.  Probably the healthiest I have been in 20 years in that regard.

New challenge.  Just found out I have two herniated cervical discs.  Not sure what the treatment will be yet as I am waiting to get in to see the specialist.  Pain is terrible, and I feel basically useless.  Hard to enjoy the above success when I feel this way, but I am pressing on.  My son asked me the other day what the lesson God has for me in this, and I have been thinking about that a lot since He asked.  I still don’t have a solid answer, but I am wondering about something.

I have often wondered if I am modeling a life of dependency on God for my family and friends to see.  I have other friends who I look to and think that they are so dependent on God, and I wish I could be that way too.  Maybe I am starting to model it because my son is asking me what I learn from the trials I face.  He has heard me talk about how God used diabetes to remove food from the throne of my heart.  He has heard that I don’t always need to know why, but I need to trust that God will show what I need to see when I need to see it.

So, Zach, maybe the lesson in this is that God is telling me that while I have not arrived, I am definitely in the process of Relentless Growth in this.  He chose to give me a blessing in the knowledge that you are seeing me try to live a life of dependence.  There may be more to come, but I will take this in humble praise to Him for the moment.

Fatherhood – I am finishing up my last year of what I term as “active parenting”. My role as protector and guide is shifting into advisor and counselor/consultant as Zach will join Jessica at college this fall.  I am so proud of my kids and I know God is going to do great things in their lives.  It is definitely a bittersweet feeling to watch them at this stage and know just how much different things will be at Tanner Manor this fall.

My challenge is to be present, but not controlling.  Available, but not underfoot.  I have often found this balance difficult and tend to pull back rather than be a hassle to the kids (unless I feel they need a good hassling!).  Praying that God gives me the wisdom and insight to be there for them while they are at school.

Husbandhood – Tammi and I have had some amazing discussions this past year, and I hope she agrees that we have grown much closer as a result of them.  Seeing Jessica go to school last year and experiencing that change in our family dynamic has definitely turned me more toward watching Tammi. I see how I have taken advantage of her sometimes in how she always handles things for our family.  I need to be more present for her, attentive to her needs.  Actually think about what could be wrong and what I can do about it rather than just ask her all the time. (She will like that one!)

We are soon going to be just the two of us again, and that is going to mean a little more freedom, but also a little more responsibility.  She will still need to talk about her feelings, thoughts, and dreams, and I will be the only one there.  I will need to shift some of how I tend to love my wife in order to meet that need.  We have talked about it some, and we know we have always done these new things together.  We have been parenting actively for the last two decades, but we only had a little over two years before that as a couple, so this is still a somewhat unexplored realm for us.  It is kind of exciting to think I will be able to have her to myself again though! (Sorry kids, Mom was here first!)

Friendships – It has been a strange year in this regard.  The extensive change that has taken place has pulled us from being as close to some as we once were, but has brought us into new friendships with others.  I think I had set some unrealistic goals in trying to “fast track” some things that needed more time, and that left me feeling discouraged a few times.  This year I want to just be more present in those moments that come before me.  Take the time to identify what God might want me to be in that moment rather than just looking at how I want things to be or what I can get out of it.

My Walk – I started something new a little before my birthday last year.  Every day I post a verse of the day with an image and my thought for personal application.  It has helped me keep the thought alive in my mind every day since I do it before my feet hit the floor.  Over the last year I have gone through Proverbs a couple times, the book of Psalms, and am now going through James.  You can follow those by “Liking” my Relentless Growth Facebook Page.

This next year I would like to find time to expand my time of study and start spending more time in areas that I really need to grow.  I want to be realistic in that though.  For now, maybe the verse a day and writing here a little more often might be the best thing.  Something to pray about for sure.

Priorities – It has been a year of shifting and reassessing for us in many aspects.  Work, family, church, friends, service, and the list goes on.  So many things have shifted and will continue to shift as we enter another year of major change as “empty nesters”.  Praying that God will give me wisdom, grace and insight necessary to lead my wife well with a servant leadership that build into her as we face the challenges together.

I hope I don’t bore you with a long post like this that is basically about me.  I’ll admit that the biggest reason for this post is to take a minute to actually write down and think about what has happened and how I am going to respond to it over the next year.  I need that for me because it helps “reset” the panel.  I can look at everything that has happened. See a little bit better in hindsight and hopefully that gives me insight and if things REALLY work out some foresight!

Let’s face it. Life is Relentless.  It will never stop coming at us.  If we want to get anything of quality out of it, we need to be Relentless in our pursuit of God and in our growth for His glory.  Relentless Growth.  We all need it.

365 days to be 44.  Let’s do this!

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My Take On Election Year 2016

DvELet me start off this post by saying that this year I have made a point of trying to stay out of the political arguing and banter going on out there.  I have made it a personal goal to not get into any political arguments or take off on any social media rants like so many are fond of.  I might slip a time or two, but for the most part I am trying to stay out of it for my own sanity as well as the heath of relationships.  We all have opinions and those opinions are not always held by those we call friends.

That being said, I want to make a couple of comments here and address what I feel to be a big issue in these times in which we live.  You may not agree with me, and that is your right.  I just hope that we can all take a moment and think about things like adults.  I admit to being a little handicapped in that area, but I promise to do my best.

I read an article the other day asking Christians to avoid voting in this election because there are no candidates that would be a good choice in God’s eyes.  While I do agree that the moral integrity of the candidates that are basking in the media spotlights right now is somewhat suspect, I don’t think that is a good reason for us to abstain from voting.  We need not be fearful of making a “wrong” or “flawed” choice.  We are all human, and flawed humans picking a leader from a pool of flawed humans will always succeed in selecting a flawed human as their leader.  Face the facts.

I have often walked into the voting booth picking “the lesser evil” with my vote.  Not exactly an inspiring thought when putting someone in a position of authority like that, but it really is about all I can do.  When I go into the booth I am doing my part to make a good selection, but the system does not always allow for us to have a “best choice”.  We do what we can with what we are given.  Frankly, I am not going to get that worked up about it.  I will continue to vote and be a good citizen, but I often feel that my part in the process does not matter in the grand scheme of things.

My family has been talking extensively about the candidates still available to us for next week’s primary, and we are discouraged.  There are no candidates that match our values.  We see the frontrunners as untrustworthy and dangerous to not only the dignity and safety of our country, but also to our way of life and the freedoms we enjoy.  It is disheartening to sit and look at the choices available and not only feel a sense of malaise, but an actual fear.  What does all of this mean for the USA and for us?

Allowed to run unchecked, these fears can bring us into a near panic over our situation.  What will happen to us?  Isn’t there anyone that can save us in this troubled time?  What is happening with our country, and why can’t the majority truly see the truth of who these candidates are?  There must be better choices than those we are allowed to actually vote on.  What am I supposed to do as a believer?  Where does my sense of responsibility begin and end?

Basically, I have decided I can do four things:

Pray – The Bible tells me that it I should worry about nothing and pray about everything.  The thing to remember is that I need to be praying for the right things.  God’s will to be done is the first and foremost thing to remember.  He will allow the person to be elected.  That is not mine to decide.  My part in this is to ask God to show me how to rightly respond to how that person will eventually lead this country.  I might not agree with what they say, but I can still respond appropriately.  I need to pray in preparation for whatever God decides to bring into my life.

Learn – We are told to be wise.  That means that we are supposed to learn about the candidates.  We shouldn’t just listen to the media sound bytes and read the stuff on social media.  What are the real facts about the candidates?  Take some time and dig in to see what is actually there.  A Christian should never vote based on what they saw on Twitter. C’mon, everyone.  We need to be smarter than that.

Vote – We have a duty as citizens of our country to vote.  God is OK with it. I promise!  Christ showed us the importance of paying our taxes and the apostles wrote of the duty we have to be subject to the authority that God has placed over us.  Why would God tell us to pay taxes and be subject to our rulers set over us if He did not also want us to be involved in the process?  It might not be a command, “Thou shalt vote/not vote for the _____________party”, but there is definitely an understanding that we have a governmental system that God intends us to work with.

Pray Some More – After the election it will be time to pray some more!  The person in office will need to be lifted up in prayer.  The leader of the USA is probably under more pressure than any other leader in the world.  Like the old saying, “Heavy hangs the head that wears the crown.”, we need to be praying for wisdom, protection, and guidance for our President as they will be under a heavy burden while in office.

At the end of the day, all the talk, arguing, and shouting about politics pretty much just leads to a ton of anxiety and anger.  I’ve decided that I don’t need that.  I would rather FOCUS on living a Relentless life.  The political environment breeds fear, and emotional turmoil.  I choose to try to live in the peace that God brings to the situations around me.  Peace like God tells us about in Isaiah:

“Do not fear, for I am with you; do not anxiously look about you, for I am your God.  I will strengthen you, surely I will help you, surely I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” – Isaiah 41:10

The election is coming and there will be a President.  God already knows who that will be. He will not be surprised, and He will still be on the throne of the universe.  I’m going to rest in that.  It gives me peace no matter what happens in the arena of politics.

Pray. Do your homework. Vote. Pray some more.  In all of it, TRUST GOD!

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“It’s Like My Parents Used To Tell Me…”

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I only had one black eye, and I never raised a fist to get it!

“If I’d Only Known…” #3

Hear, my son, your father’s instruction, and forsake not your mother’s teaching, for they are a graceful garland for your head and pendants for your neck.  – Proverbs 1:8-9

I think back to my time as a teenager, and it probably was not that different from any other teen’s experiences today.  I’m learning things, doing more things, being given more responsibility, trying to figure out who I am going to be, working on being my own person, but in the middle of all of that there is a problem.  I still have people telling me what to do, my actions are questioned, and advice I might not want to hear is being thrust upon me.  Any teens reading this?  Am I remembering right?  I thought so.

It is a time of life that inherently involves struggle.  Some people say it is the “time for rebellion”, but I think that is an excuse for not addressing the issues properly.  The point of parenting is to get your kids to think and do for themselves so you don’t have to think and do for them.  Equip them for the world they will face so you will not need to keep doing it.  The thing is, in the midst of the process of creating people who think for themselves, a problem arises – THEY THINK FOR THEMSELVES!

There were struggles in my teen years as I watched my parents seemingly losing touch with the reality of life and how it should be handled by one such as myself.  I did not think they were losing their minds, but they did seem to be refusing to grow as I was, and it was just making it more difficult for us to connect.  I didn’t think they were hearing me, and many times they spoke in dialects that confused my ears as well.

There were times we connected on things and I was able to understand what they were saying, but there were many times that I took what I considered to be the best path because their words just made no sense to me.  I heard them, I remembered them, but I didn’t understand them.  I just filed them away in hopes that one day they might make sense.

Well, one day it happened.  There is an amazing thing that happens in the life of a man. Around the age of 23-25, his parents miraculously become smarter!  Their advice can once more be trusted and sought out as valid for application in life!  I know it sounds odd that two people who have had such a slide in mental faculties throughout their child’s teenage years can once again be trusted as being a resource for wisdom, but it is true!

The reality, of course, is that all of the things they taught me through those “hard years” just finally started to make sense in my head.  All of those platitudes of wisdom now had weight and meaning and were beginning to serve as the building blocks of how I would live my life.  I now understood the dialect and could understand not only the meanings of the words, but also the heart that had been behind them.  The result was that the same phrases that caused such frustration were now comforting to me, and served me as guides in different situations.

I am now the father of two of those “teenage” beings.  I see the look of confusion in their faces sometimes as I speak to them, and I know that they are experiencing the same thing I did when I was their age.  I see their frustration with me, and I know I feel it at times as well.  I recognize it is part of the process.  They are great kids, and I am very thankful of them.  They have made the hard job of parenting easier than I deserve.

I find myself saying some of the same things my parents said to me “back in the day.”  Those bits of wisdom, those phrases, those pieces of instruction are a part of who I am now.  They have shaped my foundation for living.  Relentless Living means I cannot consider myself complete because of them though.  There is more to do, and my relationship with God is necessary for that to happen.  I want to give my kids even more to help them as they grow.

My hope is that one day (by my calculations it will be in around 7-9 years) they will come to the same conclusion that I came to with my parents.  I was loved enough to be watched and instructed.  My prayer is that they will understand that and that they will remember what they learned and go on to do all the bigger and better things they hope to accomplish.  Then one day they can say,

“It’s like my Dad used to say…”

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“You’re Not As Smart As You Think You Are!”

Criminal-Minds-Season-7-Episode-11-22-1a14If I’d Only Known… #1

To know wisdom and instruction, to understand words of insight, – Proverbs 1:2

“You’re not as smart as you think you are!”  Honestly, if I had gotten nickel every time I heard that as a 13-18 year old I would have…well, probably nothing more than a regret that I had lost a lot of nickels.  I heard it a lot, and I never believed a word of it.  Frankly, it didn’t make sense.  I was a great student – had gotten pretty much straight A’s since Kindergarten.  I was a valued employee that was always given extra responsibility at work because I “made things happen.”  I even had people tell me all the time that I had a smart mouth! (OK, that might not be the best defense…)  Whether it was my parents, my teachers, or the random adults I came across that spoke those words to me, I always seemed to turn a deaf ear to them.

My mind was like a sponge growing up, and I learned all sorts of stuff.  Trivia was like a drug for me, and the more I knew about something the better.  I would read books on trivia, memorize the Trivial Pursuit card decks, and browse dictionaries and encyclopedias just to increase my knowledge. (Notice that there was no mention of electronic media. No Google back then.  We had to actually know things! *said in a curmudgeonly voice*) I wanted to be that smartest person in the room.

What I did know was impressive, but looking back now, I see that I was deficient.  I knew a lot, but I didn’t have any experience in handling that knowledge, and not a clue with what to do with it.  I also had a little too much pride to realize I needed help with that.  Looking back, I wish I had only known that knowledge is where things start.  You need knowledge to get the ball rolling.  there is an old saying, “That guy not only doesn’t know anything, he doesn’t even suspect anything.”  There is a process, and here is how I see that process working:

  1. Knowledge – A collection of facts.  Purely data that you are capable of retaining.  It requires nothing more than a place to store it. You can use a brain, or you can write it down and keep it in a folder.  At this point you aren’t doing anything with it anyway.
  2. Understanding – You begin to see that the data you have might be useful in certain circumstances.  You might not know what to do with it, but you can see it has some type of potential if you can just get the pieces put together the right way.  Understanding is  a bridge that takes you from knowledge to wisdom.
  3. Wisdom – Practical application of knowledge.  This is taking what you know and applying it to a situation to achieve a result.  It might not always succeed, but it is using what you know in a constructive way.
  4. Insight – Personally I think this one is a God-given thing.  Insight is being able to draw wisdom intuitively out of something you read or see and use it to teach or help someone else. (This is my definition, anyway.  Webster may have something else to say about it.)

It has taken the last 20 or so years to get a better understanding of how smart I was back then.  There were things I needed to learn, and I probably missed some great opportunities to gain wisdom at an earlier age.  Look back at your own life before you throw any stones though.  This is a common affliction among the young.  At some point most people will grow out of it though.

I wish I had known the importance of looking deeper when I was younger.  At some point I started to need to not only know more, but I needed to know what to do with it.  Once I realized there was more to it than just being smart, the journey really began.

Relentless Living is not being willing to stay put.  My wife and I joked yesterday with our friends about how much easier it would be to live a Sedentary Life or a Stagnant Life, but there is no growth there.  If I’m going to be Relentless in my life and in my pursuit of God, then I need to be willing to admit I don’t know everything.  I need to try an understand what is going on in my life and then do something with what I know, all while asking God for the insight needed.  After all, He knows the answers!

I hope that today I can say that I am as smart as I think I am.  I know now that there are a lot of things I don’t know!  I have a better understanding of myself, my abilities, my personality, and my sphere of influence.  I make mistakes, but I learn from them now rather than blame someone else.  I still want to learn, but not to hold knowledge.  I want the things I learn to be useful in helping others.  It’s a process, and when I have a set-back I can now look back and see that things are getting better.  God is working in me – Relentlessly

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Looking Back

no-looking-back1We’ve all heard that hindsight is 20/20.  Choices and actions, once played out, dispense wisdom that would have proven useful at the time!  Even things planned with great care and thought can turn into major disasters when we leave some “minor” or “impossible” factor out of our thought process.

Case in point – the Titanic. In 1907 the White Star Line was watching their fleet begin to age, they began to plan for their next ships.  They wanted the new ships to be larger, faster, and more luxurious for their passengers. After a year of planning, the ship’s designs were approved.  After that, it was almost 4 years before the Titanic was ready to make her maiden journey across the Atlantic Ocean.  Deemed “unsinkable”, she was a testament to man’s ability to create wondrous things.

So much planning and work went into getting the Titanic from being an idea, to putting it on paper, and finally getting her into the water.  The result?  1500 people died.  In hindsight, a few things could have been done a little differently:

  • The number of lifeboats should not have been reduced
  • The crew should have been better trained in evacuation procedures as some of the boats were launched barely half full
  • Warnings about ice in the area were ignored
  • The ship ran at full-steam even though visual conditions were poor

1,500 people died in the icy waters of the North Atlantic, but if these things had been carried out, who knows how many might have lived?  Even if the iceberg had still been struck, any of those four things would likely have reduced the loss of life.

It’s easy to sit back and play Monday morning quarterback – especially with the mistakes that other people make, but how often do we sit down and do it with ourselves? It’s not fun to drag up our own mess and pick through it to find things we should have done better.  It brings feelings of guilt or shame, and none of us want that.  If we’re really lucky we might get that occasional treat and blame someone else though! Dig a little deeper and we will always see that the blame we put on others will most often still lead to a missed opportunity to make a better decision.

I don’t want to go through my life pretending that my mistakes didn’t happen, and I certainly don’t want to be one of those people that refuses to learn from them. It has been said that experience is the best teacher, but I can say that somebody else’s experience can be just as good if we are paying attention – and it hurts a lot less.

Relentless Living is taking the time to look into your past, see the things that you did, and pull the lessons from them.  Leave the guilt, the blame, and the shame in the past, but bring out the wisdom from the experience and use it for the things you currently face, store it away for the things you will face in the future.  Make right what needs to be made right and then get back to living!

I’ve been thinking a lot about what I want to do with this blog lately.  How often do I post?  How often should I post? Is anyone really interested in what I post?  How long should a post be? (I know I have given some long ones lately – sorry about that…)  I decided that I want to start doing something differently.

My new goal is to write something small once or twice a week that is a reflection on a mistake made, or a lesson learned.  I want to take the time to ask myself the questions, “What would I do differently if I could go back and do it over again?” or “What do I wish someone had told me about that before I messed up?”  It should be fun.  Then I will try for one post a week that is more like what I have been doing.

I don’t want to say that the tragedy of the Titanic was a good thing, but it did change how the shipping industry did things after that.  Lessons were learned, and behaviors changed.  That is what I am hoping to do here.  I want to change for the better, and I want that for anyone reading this too.  More importantly, God wants it for us!  That is why He sent His Son to die for us and gives us the Holy Spirit to reside in us.  He wants to help us sort through our decisions, both good and bad, and grow.

So, I hope to see you back here in a day or two!

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The Road to Hell…

Pasture with lots an' lots of daisies
Pasture with lots an’ lots of daisies

About fifteen years ago, Tammi and I decided to put in a nice little flower bed behind the house.  The plan was a “natural” looking bed that would be in the middle of our mowed yard. We pulled together some field stone we had collected and set it in a little circle, planted a Rose of Sharon shrub, and then we sat down to decide what we needed to add to finish off the bed.  The final decision was to purchase and plant a wildflower mix.  Sounded like a great idea.

That summer the flowers all came up, and it was really pretty.  I believe the botanical terms for the flower mix was something like, “little yellow weed-like flower”, “little pretty blue flower that grows for one year and is never seen again”, “little purple flower that puts out a vine that chokes little yellow weed-like flower,” and daisies.  That first summer was great, but the next couple years it just turned into a bed of daisies as they choked out everything else there.

Now I have daisies all over the place.  They are in the pasture, in the hayfield, and in the yard.  It’s not that they are not a pretty flower.  They are a happy little flower, but let’s face it, folks, they are a weed.  Yep. I said it.  They are right up there on the list with dandelions.  A happy little flower that runs rampant if you turn your back for even a second.

We never intended for this to happen.  Our hearts were in the right place.  We had good intentions…  Yeah.  How does that old saying go?

“The road to hell is paved with good intentions.”

When the Israelites went into the Promised Land, a buzz began to go through the region.  The cities and people had heard about Jericho and Ai and how the God of the Israelites was basically handing cities to them.  This news made some cities band together to fight the Israelites, but for the people of Gibeon, a different plan was formed.

The leaders of Gibeon hatched plan to put on old clothes, take a bunch of rotten food, and go out to meet Joshua and the Israelites in hopes of tricking them.  When they met the army of Israel, they told them all about how they had travelled such a great distance just to make a covenant with the Israelites.  The Israelites asked, “How can we know for sure about that?  After all, you could be trying to trick us!”  The Gibeonites were ready with their defense.  “Look!  We are wearing old clothes and have old food!”  I guess that was enough to satisfy their curiosity, because they went ahead and made a covenant with them.

Later on, the secret came out and the Gibeonites didn’t waste a second showing off that covenant.  Israel was stuck, because they had made the covenant not only with the Gibeonites, but had made it by swearing to the Lord that they would honor it.  If they broke their promise, they would be in violation of a covenant not only to the Gibeonites, but also to God.  They had to honor it, so they put these people on the indentured servant list from that point on.  Unfortunately, that wasn’t the end of it.

A few things stick out to me here:

1. People who want to do wrong things, can present themselves in a way that not only looks right, but can get you to do wrong.  – The Gibeonites were well aware that they were messing with God and His people.  They knew they were going to fall just like Jericho and Ai, but they looked for a way to survive that did not require them to give in to God.  Instead, they coerced God’s people and tricked them into doing the wrong thing in a binding way.

I’ve been a coercer and a coercee.  Not proud of either one.  At this point in my life I am much more aware of how my actions might pull someone else down with me.  Just thinking about the other guy has gotten me to turn away from some decisions that were definitely not good.  Not because I didn’t want to do them, but because I didn’t want someone else to suffer for my stupidity. I’m not calling that a victory, but at least I can call it progress!

2. When something smells fishy, take minute and look for the tuna! – The Bible says that the men of Israel did not seek the counsel of the Lord.  They did ask couple questions about the Gibeonites, but then just looked at each other, nodded their heads and said, “Seems legit.”  If they had taken a little more time and, I don’t know, said something like, “Hey!  Why don’t we take minute here and ask God about this?  It seems like He said something about driving everyone out, and these guys might just be trying to pull a fast one on us!”

Big, binding decisions NEED to be bathed in prayer and wise counsel MUST be sought.  That’s not to say that you cannot live a life of abandonment to God, but I am seeing that most people who “impulsively” follow God are living a pretty close life with Him. So even though it might not make sense to you or me, it is painfully obvious to them that it is time to jump Overboard. (Shameless plug for my friends Joe and Traci.)

3. Bad decisions don’t always feel painful right away. – The Gibeonites knuckled under and went to work, but this was not the end of their story.  They were a pain in the behind of the Israelites for many years, and their idols and way of worship were a part of what drove a wedge between the Israelites and God and eventually led to the kingdom of Israel being ransacked and the people exiled.

Those “wildflowers” we planted were pretty for a couple of years.  Now, I look out across the pasture and I see a ton of work that is necessary to pull them so they won’t eventually just choke out the grass the horses eat.  It’s ridiculous, and I’m pretty sure that a lawsuit is in order, but I threw the wrapper away so I got nothing to go on… No.  If I had just asked some questions, read that label a little more closely, and thought about it for a few minutes I might have realized that the word “wild” has more than one meaning.  It grows in the wild on its own, AND it is a voracious plant that will decimate anything around it!

Jessica came in the house with a nice little bouquet of daisies yesterday morning and said, “I thought I should pick some of these before you mow them all over.”  I should have picked them all several years ago.  If I had I would not be shaking my head about them now.

Relentless Living requires us to look at the things we are going to do and think about them.  We might have the best of intentions, but if we are not in-line with God’s intentions, well…. Let’s just say that there is a better road to follow.

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Pass The Ketchup. This Might Go Down Hard.

eating crowAs a rule, I really try to make it a point to never discuss anything about work on this blog.  I do that for a few reasons, but the main one is that I never want to say anything that might cast my employer, client, or co-workers in a bad light.  So, why am I going to break that rule?  Because in this story, there is only one person that really comes off looking bad, and since he is the one writing the story, I think we will be OK.

Wednesday I was trying to accomplish something with a person outside the organization, and I was having a very difficult time in getting anything done.  At one point in the conversation I began to feel as if I was being accused of not knowing what I was talking about (which I did) and that I was actually lying about it (which I was not).  Those of you that know me or have read some of my blogs, might recognize that these are two things that really bother me.  I have wrestled with them for years, and while I am getting better, I’m not where I want to be yet.

As the conversation continued, I began to feel myself getting angry. (Score a point for recognizing it!)  As I realized the anger was beginning to rise, I calmly requested that the person check their facts and they would see that I was correct in what I had said.  In fact, there are others that can corroborate the validity of my statement. (Score another point for being calm!)  At this point I politely requested that the person refrain from speaking to me in a manner that was condescending and accusatory. (Score another point for talking about my feelings as a path toward a reconciliation!)

We then carried on for a few moments in a civilized manner and progress started to be made as plans began to take shape.  I was pleased.  I had been heard.  I was right. I was recognized as telling the truth.  Then it happened…

“Well, since we are the subject matter experts, we will look into this to see where you made a mistake.  Once we figure that out and put together what you think you did, we will get back to you.”

*SNAP*  (All points fell off the board when that 30 megaton nuke hiding behind that little hangy-thingy in the back of my throat went off drowning out all other voices and laying waste not only to the conversation, but also any vestiges of cooperation that had been achieved.)

When I had finished my rant, I hung up the phone and sat back for them to make their little investigation knowing full well that they would find that I was correct.  Within a couple of hours I received a short and very direct e-mail stating that while the things I said were correct, it never should have been that way and there was something that had been wrong in the process in the past that needed to be rectified.  “We are looking into that and will let you know when we have come up with a solution.” Ha! Vindication!

Thursday morning when I woke up I could not stop thinking about the way I had acted the day before.  In my mind I realized I had been too hard on them.  Maybe I should have done things differently, but they were wrong and they refused to acknowledge it.  I had a duty to point it out! I came to work and needed to contact one of those people and received no response after a couple of attempts.  Later I did exchange an e-mail or two, but they were very short, direct, and cold.   I thought, “They’ll get over it.  It was their mistake. Not my problem.”

When I got home I sat down to have my daily Quiet Time in the Word.  I opened the book of Titus, where I have been reading and was faced with the following verse:

“Teach the older men to exercise self-control, to be worthy of respect, and to live wisely. They must have sound faith and be filled with love and patience.” – Titus 2:2

I was hit hard between the eyes with what I had done.  Nothing in the way that I had acted was controlled, worthy of respect, wise, filled with love or patient.  In a nutshell, I was a jerk.  I sat there staring at my Bible and began an argument with God.

“How can You show me this right now?  I was right, and they were acting out of their own interests in complete disregard for me and what I was trying to accomplish with them!  Why are You drawing my eye to this verse? There must be something in here that would better suit me for today!”

No.  This is the lesson for the day.

I walked away for a few minutes and did some other stuff in the house.  Refusing to even sit down and finish my journal entry.  Not because I didn’t want to confess it to God, but because I knew what else I had to do.  Something really hard.  Something I had seen my buddy Ray model for me earlier this year.  I love that guy, but in the moment I wished I had never met him so I would not have seen how God took him through a similar situation.  He had done the hard thing.

Eventually I returned to my desk, Bible, and journal.  I confessed my sin of anger and my lack of all those things that I should be showing in my life as a believer.

Then the really hard part.  I drafted a letter to the men that I had mistreated:

Mr. Jones and Mr. Smith,

As I have gone through my day today, I have felt badly about yesterday and how things took such a rough turn with Mr. Jones. It was a very frustrating time, and I did not come off well in that conversation. Thinking back, I can only imagine what you guys thought of me afterward, and deservedly so. Right or wrong, in that situation, I behaved wrong. Regardless of the subject matter at hand, who was correct or any of it, I was wrong in the way that I spoke to you in anger and with little to no respect.

Today when I got home from work, I sat down to do my daily Bible reading and I read this verse from the book of Titus:

“Teach the older men to exercise self-control, to be worthy of respect, and to live wisely. They must have strong faith and be filled with love and patience.”

Guys, I teach at my church. I lead a group of men in Bible study. I’m supposed to live out what I believe and teach. Not because it makes me look good, but because it is the right thing to do. Yesterday I didn’t do that. You can probably read back through the verse and tick off the things I botched up. I see it, and I am sorry.

I am asking your forgiveness for the way that I acted. I hope you can do that. I also ask that if I start to act out like that in the future, that you will remind me of this. Just say the word “Titus” either on the phone (then hang up on me) or in an e-mail. I will get the message. I will still do my job to the best of my ability, and there will be times that we will disagree, but I do not want to get angry and act that way. That is not who I aim to be.

Again, I am sorry, and I ask for your forgiveness.

Tom

I sent the letter off and while I was uneasy about how they would respond, and admittedly, I was nervous about sharing this part of my faith, I felt better as the night went on.  I knew I had done the right thing even when it meant sacrificing my “position” of being right.

This morning, I received responses from both of those men.  They were very gracious, and gave me the forgiveness I had requested.  It felt better than being right.  A lot better.  I’m not sure if in doing this a door to speaking to them more about Christ has been opened.  I do know that they saw the work of Christ in a life through it though.  I hope that will be a seed used in the future.eat crow

Relentless living is not about keeping score.  It is about staying close to God.  I messed it up.  No doubt about it.  the thing is, I was closer to Him now than I have been in the past when I have had similar outbursts, and I came face to face with it faster and through Christ I had the courage to do the hard thing.  Not just because it was right, but also because I had a friend show me the way to do it.  Thanks, Ray, for being Relentless in your growth as well.

So, I had to “eat crow”.  It wasn’t fun, and I know the result might not always be as good as it was this time, but it was the right thing to do. The hard thing to do.  The Relentless thing to do.

Relentless Growth -> Grow Deep -> Grow Strong

Just Call Me “Stretch”

stretchStretching is a good thing. It allows muscles and joints to work better. It can alleviate pain, and improve mobility. It is a necessary thing for growth in other aspects of our lives. Think about your education, your relationships, and your work. Stretching is a good thing!

Unless you take it too far. Stretching can also tear things. Stretching without proper understanding of limitations and abilities can cause harm. Think about a time when you went out and stretched yourself and got hurt in a relationship, a work experience. Stretching without understanding can be a very bad thing.

Recently God has been stretching me in some new ways. Work has been a very stretchy experience, and at times I think it is not all good, but I can say that I am learning how to better adapt to that stress, and I have gotten better at saying an unpopular word, “No!” I can’t, nor should I, say it all the time, but I am getting a little bit better at it.

God has been stretching my leadership as well. Not only at work, but at home, church, and with my group of guys. It has been great to see so much change lately in those areas, and it seems like it is all happening at once, but I know that it is just the results of little change that has been happening for a while.

I think the area that God has been stretching the most lately has been in my willingness. Yes. I stopped at willingness. Not a willingness to do something in particular, but just in my ability to be willing. Ask my wife. She’ll tell you that I have been a very unwilling person in some pretty significant areas in my life. Just in the last year or so, I have been willing to let go of some things in order to have an open hand that can receive or grab on to something new.

Why is that? Well, I think a lot of it is a control issue that I am known for. I like to be in control and that is just pretty much all that needs to be said about it. If I am in control then I get to be the one that decides how, when, and where something should be done. The downside of that is that I don’t have anyone to blame if something goes south, but I still get to control the timetable so I can say I will get back to that.

But I have had a lot of things happen in the last 4-5 years that have been completely out of my control. (Or at least my illusion of control, but that is a whole ‘nuther topic!) Over this last half decade I have been at times thrust into a stretch that I had not intended. Ever did the splits on ice? That hurts! Those stretches have been difficult, but I am starting to understand that there was a value in them.

Jeremiah 29:11 says:

For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.

Those painful stretches I have had are actually a part of God’s plan for my life. They have made me over (in some capacity) to be a person that can handle a little more than the guy I used to be. I’m not Superman or anything, and you will not see me doing a Jean Claude VanDamme split in any sense of the image, but I am now a more willing man.

Why do I bring this up? What would be the purpose of telling you about stretching? Well, it looks like God might be asking me to stretch again. I’m not sure, and I am praying hard about it, but God has put something in my path that I need to think about, pray about, and do some digging into in order to see if it is something I need to just step around, or if He put it there for me to go over.

Going around is always easy, and it doesn’t require much of a stretch. Going over can be problematic as it is difficult, requires stretching and trust, and to top it off, I am afraid of heights! I tell my kids that the hard choice is usually the right choice, and that is true, but sometimes the right choice, teh wise choice,  is backing away and stepping around something that could hurt you.

I don’t know what choice will take place. There is a lot I need to know. It will take some investigating to see what God might have to say about it. One thing I do know is that I want to be that willing man that is Relentless is his pursuit of God, and is Relentless about being where God wants him to be. You see, going over or around is not the most important thing. Stretching me is a good thing if I am smack dab in the middle of the plan God has for me. Taking the hard route over or the easy route around makes no difference if I am not in God’s will.

So, pray for me and my wife as we are praying. We want to be, as our friends Joe and Traci say, “Extraordinary” people. (I call it Relentless, but the thoughts are pretty much the same) God is good, and I know He wants what is best for me as I grow in Him.

He wants the same for you too. If you would like to know more about how to know Him and begin your own journey of Relentless living, I would love to talk to you.

Relentless Growth -> Grow Deep -> Grow Strong

 

Live & Learn… Why?

image“Live & Learn”

I heard this phrase the other day and it’s been rattling around in there ever since.  What can I say? There’s a lot of room in there.  I’ve heard it off and on over the years, and I’ve never really given it a second thought, but this time it really struck me.  Why?  Probably a lot of reasons.  All I know for sure is that I have been giving a lot of things extra thought lately…

So, anyway, “Live & Learn” is used quite often, and I think it is used for a few different reasons:

Encouragement – You see someone who really gave their best effort at something – really put it all on the line and came up short.  “I’m very impressed at how you handled that defeat.  Live and Learn!  I know you’ll get it next time!”

Discouragement – You see someone set a goal and fall short.  Then they just settle into the mindset of failure.  When you ask them what happened they just say, “I don’t know.  Won’t try that again.  Live & learn, you know.”

Passive Aggressive – You do something nice for someone with all the best interest at heart, but something doesn’t work out exactly the way that person hopes it would.  Then the person who is visibly upset says a nice thing that has a veiled dissatisfaction, “Wish we hadn’t done that.  Oh well, live and learn.”

There are a lot of things that we say in life that we never really think about.  Little phrases that are spouted off without thought, and I know I am guilty of it too.  The problem is the things I say without thought are often heard by people who are thinking.  This causes hurt that could have been avoided with just a few seconds of thinking before speaking. (A problem I have had since I was just a lad…)

So, since I am committed to Relentless Growth, I want to think more about the things that fall out of my mouth, making sure they fall through some type of a filter between brain and eye teeth!  So, here are my thoughts about “Live & Learn.”

Live
Living things are growing things.  If we are to be truly alive then we are going to be looking for opportunities to grow.  It might be education, relationships, physical strength, financial security, but always moving toward growth.  Being better than I was the day before, and committed to not settling for a life that is spent looking back.  It is not always easy.  Frankly, it would be a lot easier to just sit still and do nothing to improve.  I tell my kids that the hard thing is usually the right thing.  Living is hard, but it is better than giving up.  Giving up is not something I want to do.

Learn
I think there is value in looking back because you need to look back at the mistakes you made in life.  I’ve done a lot of that over the last 5 years.  In doing so I have made the decision not to live there or to live out of the pain of those mistakes.  Instead I look back to learn which direction I need to grow. Growth is good, but it needs to be based on wisdom gained from the things that we have gone through.  Those focused, intent looks back to the past give us the opportunities to see, in hindsight, the weaknesses we may have, the strengths we could have used for a better result.    We take those and pull together our plan, the next steps that will keep us moving to the most important thing – the thing that we never put into that little phrase…

Next Time
We live and we make mistakes.  We learn from mistakes.  Next time, if we learned and choose to keep living, we might not make that mistake again.  We don’t need to live in our past (not living).  We don’t need to look at where we are and accept it (not learning).  We need to purpose to be relentless in our growth and look at every single thing in our life as an opportunity to Live & Learn for the next time.  We always get one if we make the effort to look for it.

Live & Learn for the Next Time!

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