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Thriving In Adversity

bristlecone pineOn a recent hike in Great Basin National Park I came across an extraordinary sight. At about 10,000 feet, just below the tree line were these odd looking, but beautiful pine trees… Bristlecone Pines. I learned these pine trees are the oldest living things on the planet, some as old as 5,000 years.

When you consider they are growing in an area of great adversity, extreme cold and wind, rocky “soil” if you can call it that… it’s really just rock. It’s amazing they can not only survive, but truly thrive.

Many years ago Bristlecone Pines were planted at an elevation of about 5,500 feet where growing conditions are much more friendly. What they found was the trees grew straight, just like most pine trees and they’re lifespan was the same too. Thousands of years less than where they normally grow. This was fascinating to me!

Ok so by now you’re saying what’s this have to do with me. Well, we all enjoy seasons of peace and ease, but what really shapes us, what really makes us who we are, is the adversity we go through. Yet when we are in the middle of adversity we do anything we can to get out of it. What if God is using the adversity you are facing today to help mold you into the man He created you to be? What if you entered the next few days with this perspective? What I’m going through is tough, but I can do hard things. God is with me and this will ultimately be for my good and the good of others.

I think I’m beginning to see a little more clearly what James is talking about. Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. James 1:2-4

Your Untapped Potential

max and blueI went camping last weekend and we had two dogs with us, my brothers weimaraner Max, and my border collie Blue. Max is about nine years old and is a natural in the water. He will swim and fetch as far, and as long as you can throw. Blue has been in some creeks and streams, but never in deep water. While Blue loves to fetch as much as Max, when we arrived at the lake and threw his favorite ball in the water, he would only go in a few feet and look at the ball, not willing to risk going into the deep water.

We yelled and encouraged him every way we knew how but he wouldn’t budge. Then all of a sudden you could almost see him muster the courage, and he swam out and retrieved the ball. From then on you couldn’t get him to stop, and it occurred to me that Blue didn’t learn how to swim that day… He just learned he could!

I wonder what potential you and I are walking around with… potential that God has already wired within us that we are unaware of because we haven’t taken the plunge. The waters don’t part until your feet are in the water :0)

And as soon as the priests who carry the ark of the Lord—the Lord of all the earth—set foot in the Jordan, its waters flowing downstream will be cut off and stand up in a heap. Joshua 3:13

What Men Fear Most

ScaredWe may never admit we worry about anything, but trust me, we do.

Weakness and men don’t mix. With protector/provider ingrained in our DNA, men believe it’s our primal job to be strong. If something threatens our strength or ability to provide and protect, we may experience angst, stress and a desperate desire to regain control. However, since we are unlikely to share our feelings, the silent anxiety affects our relationships in untold ways.

As men we want to solve or dispel our fears, but we don’t want to admit them to others. Somehow we think admitting we’re afraid says we are less than a man, or something is wrong with us. Men walk around comparing the worst of themselves to the best other men are portraying, and this reinforces our decision to keep quiet.

So, what are the top seven things men fear most?

1. Failure
2. Do I make enough money?
3. Have I accomplished/done enough in life?
4. Am I going to lose my job?
5. Am I getting old?
6. Appearing to need help
7. Am I a good dad/will I be a good dad?

Romans 8:15 For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!”

2 Timothy 1:7 For God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control. Read that verse again… When you are afraid you lack power, love and self-control.

Here is the secret: Fear only breads when it’s kept inside. Admitting it releases it and prevents the weight of having to pose. Confession is the key to releasing fear and experiencing peace. Confession eliminates the control of fear. Find someone you trust and give it a go!

Finding Your Place

love-one-another“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” John 13:34-35

In this verse Jesus very simply tells us to love one another. Seems easy enough. Then He adds, “As I have loved you.” All of a sudden that’s a whole new level of love, isn’t it? He loved us so much He died for us. If you’re being honest, how many people are you loving like that?  Tough question for sure!

I’m reminded of the time God spoke to me about one of my friends. He said, “You are a good friend to him,” immediately I felt encouraged. Then He continued, saying, “but you haven’t been a friend to him like I’ve been to you”. OUCH! It pointed directly to the verse above.

You may still be looking and listening for God’s specific purpose and call for your life, but you can find your place today by loving the people He has put in your life, like Jesus loves you.  Start with one person. Who comes to mind first? Is it a family member, a co-worker, a friend? You loving them as lavishly as Jesus loves you will make a major impact in their life, and in the process you will find a place and purpose that’s been waiting for you all along. People will know whose you are without you saying a word. Jesus says, “ By this everyone will know that you are my disciples.”

Father’s Matter

father-grown-sonThis year my kids are 15, 21 and 26. Like all dads out there I’ve done some things right and many things wrong. If you are a father of young children know that you have an immense opportunity and responsibility. Your leadership will have more to do with their development and future than you now know.

I’ve done a little experiment, and polled a number of men to get their answers to two questions in hopes that we might glean some wisdom from their experience.  While I surveyed men from varying backgrounds and ages, it was very interesting to me how similar their answers were. My Dad used to say, “learn from other’s mistakes instead of making them all yourself.” Good advice!  Hopefully we can all apply it after reading this.

The first question I asked was:

As a father, the one thing I would have done different when my children were young is _____________?

The three most common answers were:

  1. Model Christ to my children better
  2. Focus more on my relationship with my wife
  3. Plan for regular vacations and purposeful memory making occasions.

So, young dad’s out there… How are you doing in these areas? The #2 answer says a lot in the fact that the question was direction towards children but focusing on the relationship with your wife. Don’t miss this one!  Today is a great day to start or restart.

The second question I asked was:

As a grown man the one thing I long/longed for my father to say is _______________?

The same three answers were repeated over and over. In fact these were the only answers given.

  1. I’m sorry
  2. I love you
  3. I’m proud of you

Fathers, listen up! Especially if you’re a dad of grown children. Chances are your children are longing to hear one or all of the above. You probably don’t have to think very long to know what that is. Men, do it now. Pick up the phone, go for a visit and bless your children with the words they long to hear.

He will turn the hearts of the parents to their children, and the hearts of the children to their parents; or else I will come and strike the land with total destruction. Malachi 4:6

The Hostage You’re Holding May Be You


I had lunch with my friend Grady today, and learned we shared a similar experience. So much so, I believe there may be a few of you who have also. While most people have heard the saying, “money is the root of all evil”. 1 Timothy 6:10 really says it a bit different, “For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil…” Money is not evil, it’s the love of money that is. Ok, now that we have that straight. What if like Grady and me, you have this money thing down pretty well. That is to say, you know God is your provider, it all belongs to Him, and you’re in a place where it doesn’t run your life nor do you run after it.

Over the years I’ve had the opportunity to say yes when friends have asked for loans. I’ve needed the same kind of help through the years, and I feel privileged to be able to pay it forward so to speak. Sometimes God has asked me to forgive the loans, which I have done, and I’m grateful to say the same has been done for me. Again, I think I’ve got this money thing down pretty good, which leads me to the part where I got tripped up.

Through most of last year I had these checks sitting on my desk. The checks were payments on loans, but I was asked to hold them until they let me know it was ok to deposit them. No problem right! Three months goes by and no word to deposit. Six months goes by and it’s gotten even quieter. The truth is, the amount of the checks is insignificant… it’s not going to make me or break me, but I’m seeing the checks on my desk and it’s the principle of the thing… At least continue to communicate with me… Then I’d see these people on Facebook and I’m admitting I didn’t like the feeling it produced in me. So the next day at work I hid the checks under my keyboard so they wouldn’t be a constant reminder and I removed the friends from showing up on my Facebook timeline. Problem solved, right? WRONG!

Had the checks never been written, I don’t believe I would have had a problem with it. It’s God’s money after all. You’ve heard it said, “it’s the principle of the thing” right? Well the principle of the thing was messing me up inside! I can remember praying, ‘God I don’t want to feel like this towards them, help me with this’, but it wasn’t until a Saturday morning when He helped me see those checks were doing a lot more harm than any good they could ever do. I drove to my office, ripped up the checks, forgave the debt and my peace returned. Grady’s story was so similar it just made me think someone else’s story might be too, and just maybe if you’re in that “stuck” place we were in for a while, this might help you get “unstuck” today.

Are you holding someone accountable for something that’s out of your control? Let it go today. The hostage you’re holding may be you.

Will The Real Hero Please Stand Up Series

will-the-real-hero-stand-up-blog-artToday’s post is on my friend Justin Brackett’s site. ( Justin has started a new blog series entitled “Will The Real Hero Please Stand Up”. Over the next month he is having multiple contributors tell who their heroes are and why. Ordinary men standing up and being real men… Heroic men. Check out my post and stay tuned to the rest of the series here: Kindness Changes Lives

It’s Your Timing That’s Off!

looking at watch2Check out this awesome promise given to the Israelites as God tells them about their promised land.

Exodus 23:25-30 Worship the Lord your God, and his blessing will be on your food and water. I will take away sickness from among you, and none will miscarry or be barren in your land. I will give you a full life span. “I will send my terror ahead of you and throw into confusion every nation you encounter. I will make all your enemies turn their backs and run. I will send the hornet ahead of you to drive the Hivites, Canaanites and Hittites out of your way. But I will not drive them out in a single year, because the land would become desolate and the wild animals too numerous for you. Little by little I will drive them out before you, until you have increased enough to take possession of the land.

To think that a blessing from God (Him basically wiping out all your enemies… literally clearing them from the land) to think that could be a negative thing… even a harmful thing is a bit shocking isn’t it. Me personally, the way I’m wired says, “lets get this done!” But look at the wisdom in verse 29 But I will not drive them out in a single year, because the land would become desolate and the wild animals too numerous for you. God knew exactly what to do, how to do it and when. His timing is perfect. The other interesting this is that He knew they needed to increase, they needed to change to make this successful as well.

God has made so many promises to each of us, but a lot of times it feels like His timing is a little off doesn’t it. Guess what I’m reminded of today. His timing is perfect. My wisdom is laughable to Him and I just might need to increase.

God Hurry Help!

God Hurry Help

Everyone has something going on in their lives. There is at least one area of your life where there is some kind of adversity or obstacle or resistance.  If that’s not true, give it a day or two.

James tells us to consider it pure joy when we face trials… but come on… no one enjoys Resistance and Obstacles and Adversity…

James 1:2-4 Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance.  Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.

Romans 8:28 And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.

Most of you will agree with me that God will use your current circumstances for your good. Regardless of how you got there, God can use it for your good. Whether someone did something to you or you made a bad decision that got you there… whatever the reason, right?! We have all made bad decisions that got us into a pickle… We can look back and say “Yep I did that.”

What I’d like you to consider is this: What if… God is responsible for, or has allowed, your current circumstances… I want to let that sink in for just a minute… What if… What if God has orchestrated events in your life that have directed you into a not so good place…

Some of you right now are beginning to think “God is good… why would He do that?” well stick with me. Would you just consider with me that the adversity you’re facing is God’s doing… for your good.

Here’s what I know to be true, Muscles only grow by experiencing resistance. Faith grows the same way… you can spend years studying, but if you never get to apply your learning your just book smart…

OK So all that to say, there is a strength that comes from adversity.

God has created each and every man to have Impact and Influence. He created you a certain way… He wired you a particular way, and He has created and allowed circumstances and adversity to help mold you, and form you, and mature you into that very thing. AHA! I’m starting to understand James a little better now!

The following is a familiar story but it’s right inline with what we’re talking about.

A man finds a cocoon of a butterfly. One day a small opening appeared, he sat and watched the butterfly for several hours as it struggled to force its body through that little hole. Then it seemed to stop making any progress. It appeared as if it had gotten as far as it could and it could go no farther.

Then the man decided to help the butterfly, so he took a pair of scissors and snipped off the remaining bit of the cocoon. The butterfly emerged easily. But it had a swollen body and small, shriveled wings.

The man continued to watch the butterfly because he expected that, at any moment, the wings would enlarge and expand to be able to support the body, which would contract in time.

Neither happened! In fact, the butterfly spent the rest of its life crawling around with a swollen body and shriveled wings. It was never able to fly.

What the man in his kindness and haste did not understand was that the restricting cocoon and the struggle required for the butterfly to get through the tiny opening were God’s way of forcing fluid from the body of the butterfly into its wings so that it would be ready for flight once it achieved its freedom from the cocoon.

Sometimes struggles are exactly what we need in our life. If God allowed us to go through our life without any obstacles it would cripple us. We would not be as strong as what we could have been. And we could never fly.

Here is an interesting thought… If God really IS orchestrating some adversity in your life to help you grow into the man He has created you to be. He has got to be saying “Bless your heart” when He hears you praying prayers that sound like this:

God hurry help
God get me out of this
God make a way
God rescue me
God fix this

So what I want you to consider is this. Take your current situation, your current season, take that thing that you’ve been praying to God for His help to break or release or rescue. Come on… Let’s get real honest for a minute… what is it? is it a financial hardship? is it a heath issue? is it a relational problem? Marriage, children, siblings? Are you going through life lately asking “What the heck is going on?!”
What if… just maybe, this thing you are trying to escape or fix is God’s doing or “allowing” FOR YOUR GOOD!

Jeremiah 29:10-11 For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.

How about Joseph: can anyone relate to Joseph? Genesis 50:20 You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.

Here is the verse about Joseph (Genesis 39:21)… Really a theme throughout his life that just blows me away.

Genesis 39:21 But the LORD was with Joseph and extended kindness to him, and gave him favor… WHAT! If you know Josephs story there are plenty of years in his life that didn’t look very kind or favor filled! Here are four things Joseph knew to be true:
1. God is in control;
2. God is at work even when it doesn’t seem obvious;
3. God’s work in our lives is complex and multifaceted; and
4. Even if everything is against us, God is for us.

Let me give you a personal example. In 2005 my wife and I were separated for 11 months and 14 days. She left for a lot of reasons but most importantly was the fact that I was not providing for my family the way I should have been.

What I was trying to do, and praying for God’s help to do, right up to the time she left was trying to save or prolong what had become a very dysfunctional relationship. We weren’t friends, we had grown apart, etc. I’m praying “God fix us”, “God help this business I’m trying to start to prosper” and He won’t… He didn’t… and today I am so very grateful he didn’t… You see I, and if your honest, most of you; we all want the easiest, quickest way out of painful situations and circumstances. All God had to do was answer a prayer or two I had prayed… Simply allow a few prospects to become customers… to me at that moment that’s what needed to happen… that would have fixed things.

The truth is, that would have prolonged things and the existing relationship… but come on, that’s a whole lot better than separation or divorce right… or so I thought. You see, I had one perspective (God help fix this spot I’m in) and God has His perspective… His is always better by the way. His perspective was this; I don’t just want to prevent separation or divorce, I want your relationship to thrive! I want you and Kirsten to both become more healed and whole so that you can love one another again… so you can like one another again… so you can be a help to each other and foster love to each other, your children and others. In addition to all that I want the Glory! I want you and those around you to have no other explanation… But God.

You want to know the problem with His perspective? To accomplish it, His plan involved almost a year of separation, His plan involved a time out of sorts to do some needed work in our hearts. His plan involved pain. His plan involved me having to learn and grow and change. His plan involved some hard work. His plan involved sacrifice.

All that to say, today looking back, I have proof if you will that God was much more than a bystander or someone to “help me out”. He orchestrated some things… even some hard things… all for my good

God is in this! Remember Genesis 39:21 “But the LORD was with Joseph and extended kindness to him, and gave him favor…” well the Lord is with Michael and He is extending kindness to me, and giving me favor… AND the same is true for every one of you! The Lord is with you, He is extending Kindness to you and showing you favor.

Can you just for a minute begin to look at your situation, your circumstance, your dilemma in a new way. In a way that has God in control and responsible, to see you though… to show you kindness and favor? I hope so!

You have questions and doubts, but God doesn’t. You have fears and struggles, but God doesn’t. Walk like that. Talk like that. Lead like that.

I’m Back!

Hi All,

After some comments from my last post it appears I didn’t make it very clear I was out of my funk. While it lasted 10 months, this last month I have been renewed and refreshed ;0) I’m back! Look for some good stuff to come very soon.


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