"CRAZY LIFE: NAVIGATING THROUGH LIFE’S DISRUPTIONS"

Dr. Tony L. Nelson

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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Hazard Signs on the Road of Life

Posted by on Mar 23, 2017 in Blog | 2 comments

My lovely wife Disa and I were driving down an unpaved county road on Monday. Lined up along the left side were a series of hazard signs and cones (the blog picture is actual). The area where this road runs received a lot of snowfall this winter. Combine that with early spring rains and it created significant run off, severely rutting the road.

We had previously driven this road the night before. One stretch of road had not been marked as hazardous. Had we driven too far right, we could have experienced a fairly serious accident as the run-off ruts were several feet deep. I was grateful for the warning signs on my trip out. Had we not heeded them, we would have risked injury and damage to my old Chevy truck.

The hazard markers, reminded me about an important life lesson—it is important to pay attention to hazard signs or you might end up in the ditch.

3 PERSONAL WARNING SIGNS TO LOOK FOR IN LIFE

TO MUCH DEBT-If you’re only paying the minimum amount on your credit cards, you’re already in the ditch! The Great Recession of 2008 seems to have already been forgotten by average Americans. Many still have more month than money, so they extend their reach via easy credit. Dave Ramsay likes to say, “Live like no one else today so you can live like nobody else tomorrow.” My wife and I went through a significant financial reversal in the last 18 months and never missed a meal! We entered this unexpected turbulence debt free and were able to adjust our lifestyle to 50% less without losing our shirts. If we had entered it with credit card debt, car and house payments, it could have been another story. If you’re finances are a mess, check out Crown Ministries at www.crown.org, where you can get practical help from a faith based organization.

MARRIAGE PROBLEMS-If you’re married you will have problems. Period. Learn to pay attention to early warning signs. Ask yourself, How good are we getting along with each other—really? What cues are we giving off? If you answered; “We’re great, no one is arguing.” That may also mean that no one is talking! Most marriage failures I’ve observed didn’t happen overnight. Instead, the relationship began to erode like a North Idaho dirt road—long before the marriage ended up in the ditch. If things aren’t going well, or even if you just need a tune-up, get some help. We’ve spent thousands on counseling and clinics. That’s probably why we’re still together after 37 years. A good marriage requires hard work and financial investment, where you learn to relate to each other in a healthy way.

LIVING LIKE AN ATHIEST-How you live your life matters. It matters to God. It matters to others. Your personal life and your public life are not separate entities. That’s why God gave us scripture like the 10 commandments. You’ve heard of those, right? They’ve never been called the 10 Suggestions! The first four are about your relationship with God—“Thou shall have no other gods before me…” and the last six are about your relationship with people—“Honor thy mother and father…” We can either see God’s Word as cosmic kill joy or as warning signs designed to protect us. I don’t know anyone who regretted living their life according to the 10 Commandments (and other clear teachings from scripture). But I have visited with many who’ve ended up in the proverbial ditch because they didn’t pay attention to the warning signs. Many today claim to be Christ followers, but they live their lives like they’ve never read the Book. That’s what I call a practical atheist… someone who lives like there really isn’t a God who has spoken. If you find your life is in conflict with God’s word—repent. Change your mind. Get settled in a Bible based church, enroll in a small group and start DOING the Bible (James 1:22).

After all, life is crazy enough without us ignoring God’s Word and landing in the ditch.

Dr. Tony

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