How to Survive a Personal Crisis

Posted by on Jan 31, 2017 in Blog | 8 comments

The picture connected to this blog is personal–I’ve been in that house many times. It is a picture of Adam, my son-in-law’s childhood home going up in flames last week. Thankfully his father, Jeff Eich, who was home at the time, was able to escape out of a second story window before the fire reached him. Thankfully, no one was injured. The picture still startles me. This lovely country home, where my daughter was married, where friends and family gathered year-after-year to celebrate holidays, was a total loss.

Fortunately, Jeff had planned for the worst and carried Homeowner’s Insurance that covered fire loss. It is one of those bills that most of us pay every year, with little thought, until it’s needed. Within a few hours, an adjuster with his national brand of insurance rolled up while the house was still burning and started the process of covering the loss. Jeff’s wisdom to retain insurance paid off–literally. While this is a massive disruption, I will look forward to a day in the future where many of us will gather for a new-house warming party when Jeff rebuilds. That’s what insurance is for—the unexpected disruption. If you live long enough, you realize that houses can burn, cars can crash, and a health crisis is just a heart-beat away.

Yet, many of us go through life unprepared for the possible disruptions that lurk around every corner. When cancer hits, we blame God. When a relationship sours like milk, we blame God. When a business partner disappears with all the cash, yeah, you get it, we blame God.


Step-back a moment and think this through. If God wanted to get even with us for some offense, do you think He would limit himself to these kinds of things? After all, as Creator, He could resurrect a T-Rex to chase us down the street (like in Jurassic Park).

Yet I’ve seen many Christians over the years experience a crisis of faith because life got tough. Jesus predicted this in his Parable of the Sower; “But since they have no root, they last only a short time. When trouble or persecution comes…. they quickly fall away.” (Matthew 13:21) I believe Jesus told that story to prepare us for trouble and persecution—so we won’t fall away.

I almost fell away too, as a pastor. In that role I had experienced so much heartache in my own life and that of my people that it began to negatively affect my outlook on life and my view of God—I began to think that He either didn’t care or wasn’t there at all. It was only when I investigated the role of disruption in scripture that I realize this truth: Life is hard—for everyone—But God is good.

How can we prepare for a personal crisis? Seven steps:

  1. Know that disruption is coming—so get ready.
  2. Read the Bible stories of great men and women of the past (Noah, Abraham & Sarah, Job, Mary the mother of Jesus, to name a few). Watch how they handled adversity and learn from them.
  3. Build a network of friendships today so you’ll have someone to lean on tomorrow.
  4. Give someone a hand-up. It feels good!
  5. Control what you can (buy house insurance) and leave the rest up to God.
  6. Stop blaming God today so you won’t blame Him in the future. Blaming God can turn you into a victim instead of a victor.
  7. Trust God to redeem your story for His glory, your ultimate good and to bless the world.

I hope these suggestions help. They worked for me. And remember, you’re not crazy, life is!

Dr. Tony

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Squeaky Snow

Posted by on Jan 18, 2017 in Blog | 1 comment

Squeaky Snow

The other day as I walked out mid afternoon to retrieve the mail, I noticed that the snow was “squeaky”. Scrunch, scrunch went my shoes as I hustled across the city street. If you grew up in the north, you know what that means, as the old song says—“baby, it’s cold outside!”

When I got back inside my warm house, I checked my weather app on my phone and it said that it was 12 degrees… and, “feels like 0”. Isn’t it goofy to walk outside, know that its freezing cold and then check some electronic device to confirm what you already know! Sheesh!

I shared all that to say that winter has arrived where I live with an unusually frosty grip. I have ice on my driveway and piles of snow that probably won’t be gone until early March. We probably won’t see temps in the 60’s for quite sometime—unlike my Arizona friends who keep posting pictures of people in short sleeves and cargo shorts as they soak up temps in the 70’s. I could almost despise those people!

But I do like winter, and what’s even more strange is that my wife likes it more! We both like a good winter with lots of snow (yes, I alpine ski), and cold. I know, we’re nuts. As bad as winter gets, we know this fact: winter doesn’t last forever. The season of white will eventually give way to the color of spring–the season of hope.

Maybe you’re reading this blog in the middle of a winter storm in your life, that blasted in like a prairie blizzard. Maybe your spouse told you they wanted out, or the test results confirmed your doctor’s suspicion that that lump you felt is cancer. There are so many people hurting and struggling around us, fighting to find hope in their own personal winter.

I don’t know a lot of things, but I do know this, winter doesn’t last forever. Your winter won’t last forever. Spring is coming. If God is good, and He is, then He is working on our behalf, even in the deepest winters. I know it doesn’t feel like it, but it is true. Nature tells us this.

In winter, trees are still alive, but are resting for the next season of growth. Speaking of trees, out here in the west, we’ve seen entire mountainsides of pine trees destroyed by the nasty mountain pine beetle. Millions of acres of forest have been destroyed by this beetle. I’m told that it has been thriving in the last decade because of the unusually hot and dry summers and mild winters we’ve had throughout the west. But this winter is going to put the hurt on these bugs. So I’ll go hug a tree!

Metaphorically, our personal winter seasons are probably removing unhealthy things from our lives as well; bad attitudes, harmful relationships, inadequate views of God and other issues of the soul. Harsh winter seasons seem to last forever, but remember, winter will end. Spring will come. Hold on. Keep believing. Keep growing.

After all, it is a crazy life for all!

Dr. Tony

PS A friend of mine in Fairbanks Alaska posted that it hit 50 below zero today… now that’s cold!

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Daddy’s and Daughters

Posted by on Jan 9, 2017 in Blog | 1 comment

Daddy’s and Daughters

I’m an eavesdropper. It is amazing what you can learn from watching and listening to others—even when they don’t know you’re snooping! About a week ago I was sitting in the coffee shop at Schweitzer Mountain Ski Resort waiting for some friends to show up to ski. The coffee shop is pretty cozy and had filled with people coming off the mountain to warm up.

I was just a few feet away from a Daddy and daughter duo. She was probably 10-12 years old and he in his early thirty’s. They were having hot chocolate and talking about their skiing plans. Propped up against the frosty windowsill was the terrain map of the ski resort. I heard the dad asking his daughter where she wanted to go. I didn’t quite hear her response but what the dad did next was priceless. He was actively listening, had good eye contact and was nodding his head while she spoke. He was clearly in her space and she loved it!

After she spoke a bit, he then did what dads are supposed to do. He challenged his daughter. He told her she was a good enough skier and should tackle steeper terrain. She balked. He listened and came right back and said, “I know you can ski steeper stuff. I’ll be right there with you. You’ll be fine.” She whined a little bit more. But he didn’t cave in, instead he repeated himself and sealed the deal with, “OK, its time to go take on the hill, get your stuff on.” The conversation was over. Dad had decided that they would tackle the hill together. She dutifully put on her sparkly hat and buckled her ski boots, joined her dad and they disappeared into the crowds to get their gear. I would have loved to ski behind them to see how she did. But I’m pretty sure she did well. Even if she fell, I knew the type of father she had. He’d be there to pull her up, wipe the tears and lead the way down the hill.

I loved being a daddy to my daughter. I still do! We had many great talks sipping hot chocolate in that very coffee shop. One of my favorite pictures is of Carli sitting in that same place with twin braids hanging out of her cute cap, rosy cheeks and a sweet smile!

We all need fathers to love us and to stretch us. If you didn’t have a father growing up, let me remind you that if you are a disciple of Jesus, you have an amazing father right now! We each have a Heavenly Father who loves us and stretches us for our good. Maybe this is what the anonymous writer of Hebrews had in mind when he wrote:

Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as his children. For what children are not disciplined by their father? If you are not disciplined—and everyone undergoes discipline—then you are not legitimate, not true sons and daughters at all. Moreover, we have all had human fathers who disciplined us and we respected them for it. How much more should we submit to the Father of spirits and live! They disciplined us for a little while as they thought best; but God disciplines us for our good, in order that we may share in his holiness.  No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it. (Hebrews 12:7-11)

Please don’t interpret discipline as getting a spanking. That’s not the writer’s intent. Think of it more like a seasoned coach—or a loving Father—who knows the demands that lie ahead in your chosen sport—and in life—and is preparing you for the hardship of battle. God doesn’t want you to grow weary and quit, so he pushes us to develop those spiritual muscles. He takes us to ever steeper terrain, so we won’t fear. I have a friend who likes to say that, “God is always working up stream on our behalf.” I like that. What it means is that God knows what might be coming up, so He prepares us, He looks into our hearts and says, “You’ve got this. I know you can do this. So let’s go ski the steep and deep.”

It is a Crazy Life!

Dr. Tony

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Letting Go of the Past

Posted by on Dec 28, 2016 in Blog | 2 comments

Letting Go of the Past

I focus on this one thing: Forgetting the past… St. Paul

With a New Year peaking over the horizon, I thought I’d write a few lines about how best to prepare for 2017. The first thing I would suggest is to let go of 2016. As you can tell this idea isn’t original with me. The Apostle Paul suggested it over 2,000 years ago (see the verse above), and it’s still good advice. He said to “forget” the past. The Greek word he uses here literally means: “neglecting, no longer caring for, given over to oblivion”. “Forget” really isn’t a very good translation. I’m convinced that Paul wasn’t suggesting that we actually “forget” the past—which is literally impossible. But instead, I think he was advising his readers to stop “feeding” the past in our present reality, to “neglect” it.

Paul had a jaded past. He was rather abusive to early Christians, to say the least. Combine that with the fact that he came from a rather privileged background as well—money, power and education. He could have been crippled with self-pity or unapproachable with his pedigree. Yet, he realized that letting these kinds of things “go” was important to move ahead in life.

Memory is powerful. The past can be like sourdough starter. You know that stuff that someone gives you to make bread? Sourdough starter requires that you feed it flour and water regularly. When you do that, it grows and expands, and then you have to do something with it or it will take over your kitchen (yes, there’s a little bit of personal experience here!).

The fact is, when we focus on some past experience, we’re feeding it and keeping it alive in the present. Even if what we’re focusing on was a positive experience, it can still keep us facing the wrong direction. If we’re focusing on a negative experience, then we’re often giving the memory more power than it deserves over our present, in the forms of anger and bitterness. Bitterness is anger turned inward, and the only person it hurts is you, so let go.

When we stop feeding the past, it doesn’t mean that we’ve forgotten it. There are some life lessons from the past that we should never forget—like what decisions led to personal failures or successes. A dear friend recently felt led to share this quote with Disa that was very timely for both of us; “If you accept the healing that God is trying to do in you, you’re not saying that what happened (in the past) was OK!”

I would be remiss if I didn’t share the rest of the Apostle’s thoughts when he said,

“…but one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus. (Phil. 3:13)

With the Apostle Paul’s brilliant advice in mind, Disa and I are going to schedule some time in the next few days to talk about something really important—the future. Yes, we will remember the past, for it can be a tremendous teacher. But we will do our best to neglect the negative and remember the positive and position ourselves to grow into 2017.

It’s such a crazy life, isn’t it?

Dr. Tony

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Fighting for the Light (6 Steps for Pushing Back the Darkness)

Posted by on Dec 20, 2016 in Blog | 10 comments

Fighting for the Light (6 Steps for Pushing Back the Darkness)

The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness can never extinguish it. (John 1:5)

The other night, a lady in our small group shared how she had battled through a very difficult season of depression. With quiet determination, she told the group how devastating an unexpected job transition was for her family and how it pushed her into a severe season of depression.

With a little probing from the group leader, this humble woman began to list the things that she did to slowly work her way back into the light–a better state of mind. After sharing, the leader said something that really struck me as significant. He said, “Did you guys here how our friend here kept fighting for the light?” It was a fitting comment as we were studying the concept of biblical light in the first chapter of the gospel of John.

Fighting for the light.

Isn’t that an amazing thought?

What does that mean? It means that most of us face some sort of encroaching darkness—a personal challenge that needs to be met with fierce light… or we’ll get lost in the inky blackness.

How do you do that?

There are six ways to fight for the light. Each of these things was shared by the lady in our group as a way to fend off depression. I think they’ll work for just about any mental challenge or situation you may be facing today.

  1. Ask your friends to help do what you can’t do right now.
  2. Focus on scripture that confronts the lies of darkness.
  3. Keep a journal.
  4. Connect with a local church.
  5. Help other people.
  6. Keep fighting for the light.

Ask your friends to help

What keeps us from asking for help? Pride. Many see asking for help as a sign of weakness. But it is really a sign of humility that unlocks the power of others. Most people want to help others and will gladly do so when given permission. This lady asked her friends to help her in her business, her personal life and her spiritual life. She literally had an army of sisters who responded to her call and together brought great light into her life.

Focus on scripture

This woman shared how she knew that she needed scripture to battle the lies of the enemy of our souls. But depression had sunk its hooks so deeply into her life that she was unable to do it for herself, so she asked a dear friend to text her life-giving scriptures and promises of God, every day. And nearly every day for months she received a verse from the Bible. She shared how often it was the perfect word that she needed in that moment.

Keep a journal

This woman wrote her thoughts, observations, scriptures and feelings on a daily basis. What she was really doing was recording God’s acts of faithfulness. Her husband picked up a new job and they were able to move closer to their kids, to name one.

Connect with a local church

Don’t stop reading yet! Here’s the paradox. This sweet lady was deeply wounded by church people. Yet, she knew that her healing lay in finding a new faith community. Which she did, in spite of the risk of being hurt again.

Help other people

Once she began to see the darkness of depression recede, she knew she needed to get back to helping others. Thus in her new church, she volunteered to serve in the nursery. Taking care of little children had always brought such joy and peace to her life; she knew that it would help chase away the darkness. And it did.

Fight for the Light

It was clear from this lady’s testimony that these six things were not a cure. Her depression ebbed and flowed. But these practices kept pushing the darkness back. She shared how she was slowly healing and experiencing the light of hope once again. What many in the group noticed, was that she was smiling more often. I especially noticed that she also laughed more often at home. After all, I know these things because I’ve been married to her for 37 years.

What a crazy life!

Dr. Tony

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A God-Thing

Posted by on Dec 10, 2016 in Blog | 8 comments

A God-Thing

As I sit here today in my home, there are stacks of books around me. Not just any books. But my books—1,500 copies of Crazy Life, recently published by Morgan James Publishing. I spent part of the morning personally signing pre-ordered and gift books. I looked over at Disa and said, “Look, I’m signing a book I wrote to help people! How cool is that?”

I don’t share this personal story to brag. Far be it from me to do so, because getting Crazy Life published was totally a God-thing. Crazy Life beat out over 2,500-3,000 other book proposals that were submitted last year to Morgan James. Truly, a God-thing. A dear friend of my family, Jan Harris, would call them “God-winks”. You know what I mean, right? If not, let me explain.

A God-thing means that a certain situation was impossible without God doing something special, even miraculous. My book, Crazy Life, wouldn’t have happened if it weren’t for a fairly long list of ingredients that came together like a favorite Christmas goodie, to form a beautifully delicious dessert. Hard work, key people, opportunities and yes, even more disruption made the mix possible. Losing my job and having six months off was incredibly painful at first, but it ultimately gave me time to finish the book when a publisher decided to pick it up.

You know what else is a God-thing?–your life! You are not an accident. The situation you may be facing today can either help you grow or tear you down. It’s really your choice. But some of you are probably thinking, “but, Tony, you don’t know how messed up my life is today!”

Let me ask another question. Is disruption your friend or foe? Your answer to that will determine whether you are open to growth and change or not. Here is a true statement: God is in every disruption. Did he cause it? Maybe, maybe not. I must confess that I rarely know who causes the disruptions in my life, or that of others. More importantly, I’ve discovered, it doesn’t really matter in the long run. Why? Because God can redeem any disruption for His glory, our ultimate good and to bless the world.

As I write this, I know that some of you are discouraged and disappointed with life. I get it. I really do. As this year rushes to a close, grab a cup of coffee and a sugar cookie—with lots of sprinkles as my wife would say—and take some time and reflect on your life. I believe that God has guided you, protected you and prompted you to grow, through the interruptions of life. You are stronger, smarter, deeper and more focused because of them.

Well, I’d better get back to signing another book and looking ahead to more “God-things”—like becoming a best selling author! I’ve already began notes for my next book… Crazy Leadership… it should be fun to see what God is going to do with that!

Disa and I wish you and yours a Merry Christmas—A most spectacular God-thing!

Dr. Tony

PS – The picture is courtesy of Bryan Tollbom, a fly fishing friend of mine!

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