Dr. Tony L. Nelson

Good Friends are a Good Thing

Posted by on Oct 13, 2017 in Blog | 1 comment


My wife has taught me that God brings people into our lives for a reason, a season or for a lifetime. The picture on this blog is of a life-long friend, Kenton Cleveland. Since college days, we’ve never lived near each other. We’ve rarely seen each other in over 30 years, save for a vacation where Kenton’s family visited us in Sandpoint.

I moved out west and he moved to Wichita, working in the aerospace industry as an engineer. What’s funny is he didn’t like me at first… but later warmed up to my endearing personality! Seriously, he’s one of those guys that I know I can always count on when needed. In the past couple of years he’s provided wise counsel as I went through an incredibly tough season in ministry. The picture was taken just a week ago when Kenton was passing through Coeur d’Alene and dropped by for a brief visit. That’s what good friends do—they invest in each other.


5 Reasons why we all need good friends:

  1. Because life is crazy and you’ll need someone to talk to, lean on or cry with. Right now you can probably make a list of people you know who are going through a very rich and rewarding time or a very rough and damaging time. Both seasons require good friends.
  2. Because we’re all hard wired for relationship. It’s unnatural to be alone, and unhealthy. The #1 thing that infants still react to is a human face. It’s also the reason why “Facebook friendships” will always have severe limitations. Tablets are not faces. FB friends often aren’t true friends. Watch a family at a restaurant this week and see how eroded normal face-to-face relationships have become. It might be time to set up a standard that when we meet with our family or friends, we put our smart phones and tablets in a basket on a table and leave them alone for an hour. Honestly, most of us aren’t that important that we need to immediately respond to a text.
  3. Because we’re not that smart. Need I say more? OK, I will. We all have limited experience, intelligence and reasoning ability. A friend can be someone who’s successfully navigated a season of life that you’re in right now and can offer sage advice. Over the course of 30+ years of pastoral ministry, I’ve counseled hundreds of people. I’d say that 90% just needed a good friend to talk to—instead of a pastor who barely knew them. The other 10% needed a good therapist. So find and nurture some good friends, because it’ll save you big bucks in the long run!
  4. Because we tend to stray and need someone who can bring us back to center. A close friend knows what you need when you need it. They can read you like a book. They can tell when you’re down, up or sideways. Find a person you respect and build a friendship where they are allowed to speak into your life.
  5. Because we need to pay it forward. We learn how to be a good friend by having a good friend. There is someone that God has placed in your life for a reason, a season or a lifetime, who needs you—to be a good friend.

Of course, the best friend we can ever have is Jesus. One of the most endearing comments he made to his disciples was this; “I no longer call you servants, …Instead, I have called you friends….” (John 15:5)

That’s something worth thinking about.

It is a crazy life… but we have a crazy God who is our friend!

Dr. Tony

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Building a Life to Withstand the Storms

Posted by on May 31, 2017 in Blog | 1 comment

I am not a handyman. The “Tool Man Taylor” I’m not (that’ll date me right there—a.k.a. Tim Allen’s character on one of my favorite sitcom’s of all time—Home Improvement!). When we purchased our home here in Coeur d’Alene, it was significantly short on storage. My lovely wife did the research and we ordered a 10X12 ft. Tuff Shed from Home Depot. We debated as to whether we should get a “kit” and build it out together, saving a few hundred bucks. I’m so glad we didn’t go that route. Why? Because it may have cost us our marriage…

Knowing my limitations, we ordered the shed to be built on site. After preparing a pad for the building, a two-man crew arrived at noon. A little over two hours later they were done. Two hours! They had a system in place to get the shed done in a short time. Materials were laid out in the right place, they had the right tools (air nail gun—how cool is that!) and you could tell that they had worked together long enough to assist each other in the build. It was truly poetic to see them build my shed.

It would have taken me at least two weekends of yelling, kicking and throwing tools, and eventually calling in favors from my builder friends! As I stated earlier, I don’t know how to build. I’ve never been taught how to put 2X4’s on 24-inch centers, or how to shingle. My new shed is built right and should survive all the inclement weather that North Idaho can throw at it!

That brings me to an important life lesson. Few of us have been taught how to utilize God’s tools to help us frame a life that can withstand life’s disruptive pressures. We hack and chop our way through many of life’s challenges, wondering, “There’s got to be a better way to do this!” There is a better way. Let me suggest a few life lessons I’ve learned that continue to help me weather life’s storms:

  1. Build relationships in advance, because you’ll need them in the future. Scripture constantly admonishes to “love one another, pray for one another, and encourage one another”. When it gets tough, don’t isolate or insulate, but reach out and ask for help. Let me add, social media is amazing, but you need real friends with real faces who can give you a hug when you need it, not just a “like” on your Facebook feed.
  2. Develop spiritual disciplines that work for you; fast, pray, read the bible, read Christian literature (I know a good book—Crazy Life), listen to positive life music, etc.
  3. Take care of your body. Lose 20 pounds. Start walking 30 minutes daily. Do yoga—seriously—I’ve been practicing for over 5 years and it makes a difference.
  4. Connect with a life-giving Bible based church. Beware of toxic churches and ministries that beat you down. Life already has plenty of that.
  5. Focus on God in the storm. He’s bigger. He’s more capable. He cares because He’s in the storm with you.

That’s a short list, but it works. If you prepare in advance for life’s disruptions, you’re less likely to throw tools and yell, making your neighbors hike back indoors!

Remember, life is crazy, but you aren’t!

Dr. Tony

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How to Achieve Your God Given Dream

Posted by on May 7, 2017 in Blog | 3 comments

Spring is for dreamers. My Facebook account reminded me today that I graduated from George Fox Seminary in 2013. It showed the posted picture of me getting “hooded”. I remember that day well! My family and friends were with me in Tigard, OR at Beaverton Christian Church. The ceremony was held in their large auditorium. I was sitting with a handful of other successful students when my name was called. I walked the aisle to the stage and as you see from the picture, kneeled as they gave me the beautiful red hood and medallion, ancient academic signs of my accomplishment.

Earning a doctorate was the fulfillment of a dream that God had given me five years prior, in 2008. During those five years, I continued to work full-time, completed two years of course work, experienced a season of ministry burn-out, changed my dissertation topic twice and finally ended up writing a monster 250 page dissertation on “Redeeming Disruptions.” Did I say I did this while working full time yet?! I was awarded a Doctor of Ministry Degree in Leadership and Spiritual Formation from George Fox Seminary (now Portland Seminary). Less than 50% of my classmates every achieved the dream.

I don’t share this story to brag. Instead, I want my journey to be an inspiration to those of you who are chasing a dream. You know the old adage, “If I can do it, so can you!” I truly believe that. I didn’t come from an educated or wealthy family. But I came from a family of pioneers who forged their way west to start a better life for their families through sheer determination and hard work.

Every great dream faces tough challenges. The question is, how do you achieve a dream? Here are a 9 key steps that worked for me:

  1. Say yes! When given a dream, to many make excuses and starve their dream of oxygen before it ever gets life. Scripture says to “take every thought captive” (2 Cor. 10:5), that includes God given dreams. Capture it and say yes!
  2. Verbalize your dream. Once I made the decision to pursue this degree, I began to tell people. That takes a dream from an idea to a goal. I got mixed reviews too. Some said “great”, while others simply asked, “why would you do that to yourself?” But the word was out. Tony was going back to school!
  3. Visualize the dream. My wife—who was my biggest cheerleader—made a big poster board for me and hung it on the wall directly in front of my desk at home (where I did most of the work). This board included a Photo-shopped picture of me receiving a diploma! I must have looked at that poster a thousand times in the next five years, visualizing the day I would graduate.
  4. Act on the dream. I did this by enrolling for the next cohort. I bought a laptop computer, backpack, ordered books and started logging assignments and meeting my classmates.
  5. Expect it to be hard work. I was working full-time when I started the program. Class work added another 15-20 hours to my 50-hour workweek. You can do the math. It made for some long weeks. Hunting and fishing were definitely curtailed for the next two years… that’s not to say I didn’t still do some, but not like before. Big dreams require sacrifice. You have to give up to get.
  6. Celebrate key milestones. I rewarded myself for accomplishing a lot of little and big goals during the journey. It could be as simple as getting another cup of coffee after finishing assigned reading, or going fishing after I finished writing a chapter (powerful motivation!).
  7. Don’t quit. I started the program in 2008 with a plan to graduate in 2011. I finished the class work on time. But the dissertation (i.e. monster research paper) took me another two years to finish. I had to take a year off to figure some personal things out. Part of me wanted to quit, but another part of me said, “You’re not a quitter. You’ve got this”. As a dear family friend used to say, “God’s delay is not God’s denial”. During that delay, God redirected my dissertation topic, which later received the title, “Redeeming Disruptions.” My editor later said that no one to her knowledge had ever written specifically about how God utilizes disruption to shape us spiritually.
  8. Give God the glory, but take a bow. Someone wisely wrote, “God is for you, but it’s not about you!” I like that. God gets all the glory for this project. He made it possible for me to earn the degree without acquiring any debt. The Lord opened the door even though I didn’t have the normal academic credentials. He guided me to see and understand things in scripture I had never seen before. God rescued me from a crisis of faith as a direct result of my writing. I worked like everything depended on him and like everything depended on me. Yoked together, we finished together.
  9. Grab the momentum and chase a new dream. I look at my desk today and see my first published book, Crazy Life, sitting on a shelf (with a dozen more). This new dream of getting published was achieved three years after receiving my doctorate. I believe it is what God wanted all along—a book to help people navigate through life’s disruptions without losing their faith.

I am grateful to God, to my lovely wife Disa and host of friends and family who believed in this work for Christ. I hope my journey can inspire you today to “…press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called… (you) heavenward in Christ Jesus.” (Phil. 3:14)

May God’s goodness overwhelm any craziness in your life today!

Dr. Tony

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