Dr. Tony L. Nelson

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.


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

Read More

Navigating through Life’s Later Winter Season

Posted by on Mar 4, 2017 in Blog | 4 comments

Winter lasts a long time in North Idaho where I live–especially this year! We’ve had snow on the ground for a record number of days. That translates into two things: 1) We’ve had a lot of snow that came early and kept falling and falling. 2) Our weather has been cold enough to keep snow on the ground. The towns just north of us have massive piles of snow collected from city streets and parking lots from the record snow fall this winter. You could almost ski down them! There has been a lot of complaining on Facebook as of late, by those who keep waking up to snow on their cars. I get it. I really do. Even though most of us like the winter, we do get sick and tired of it. The cold. The ice. The grey. Blah!

The four seasons are a good metaphor for life. We have those amazing spring-like times when everything seems hopeful that then turns into summer-time life experiences where life continues down a path of blessing. Soon enough fall arrives. Fall is a season where we get to harvest the fruits of our labor and begin preparations for the arrival of winter. The days get shorter along with dropping temperatures and too soon we see bare trees bowing to winter’s first gales. Early winter is an adventure. We adjust to the cold. But late winter is where we are put to the test. I’m still speaking figuratively here. Late winter might be those days when you’re chemo doesn’t seem to be working, or your marriage is still permeated with coolness. God sometimes seems aloof. How do you get through these days?

7 Ways to Navigate Late Winter

  1. Choose to be thankful. List 50 things that you are thankful for in the next 30 days. I’m serious. It might be as simple as a new toothbrush, or seeing the first robin of spring.
  2. Change the way you pray. Kneel down beside the bed first thing every morning and give God your first thoughts. Take a walk and pray for every person you meet. Say the Lord’s Prayer every evening.
  3. Give up to get. OK, I’m going to meddle here. This is the Lenten season where millions of Christians around the world give up something for Christ until Easter. So maybe it is time to stop watching the “negative news shows”, or take a break from Facebook, where it seems like everyone is on the beach in Mexico! Put down the phone and look others in the eye and smile!
  4. Surround yourself with good people. The Apostle Paul, during a tough season of ministry wrote, “Perhaps I will stay with you for a while, or even spend the winter, so that you can help me on my journey…” (1 Cor. 16:6). If he needed people to help him through winter, so do we. My wife and I have found great encouragement in a new small group that we joined about a year ago. Jesus ministers to us “wherever two or three are gathered…” (Matt. 18:20).
  5. Listen to good music. Go to a church where there is life-giving worship. Download good music and listen to it throughout the day. Your brain responds to good music by releasing endorphins that improve your mood.
  6. Get outside—especially if you live in the northern parts of the US. Sunlight is good for the soul, and helps boost your mood. This could be as simple as parking far enough away that you allows you to walk for a few extra feet to get to the store.
  7. Remember, you’re never alone. Jesus promises to be with us in the Great Commission to the end of the world (Matt 28:18-20). Believe it.

If you begin to practice some of these steps, then I promise, you’ll get through the late winter season of your life. You’ll have a fresh encounter with Christ.

After all, Jesus is walking with us through our crazy lives!

Dr. Tony




Read More

5 Ways to Adapt to a Harsh Environment

Posted by on Feb 10, 2017 in Blog | 5 comments

I recently hiked the Peralta trail, just east of Apache Jct., AZ (Phoenix). It’s a six-mile hike up a desert canyon with a 1,500 foot elevation change. Yeah, it was a good workout! I was hiking with my seminary buddy, Dr. Bob Hunter, who is 10 years younger and a good athlete. I was able to keep up with him, by utilizing the tourist trick—stopping and saying something about the scenery! “Oh, look over there! Isn’t that rock formation cool?” He would stop and look while I sucked air!

Both of us did stop often to marvel at the mighty sentinel of the Sonoran desert, the saguaro cactus. This is the only desert in the world where these beauties exist. They are amazing plants, growing up to 40 feet tall and living up to about 150 years. Saguaros were scattered all over the canyon that we were hiking, like desert billboards.

What amazes me about the saguaro is their ability to survive and even thrive in a harsh desert environment. I think that God gave us plants like the saguaro to teach us about life. Thus, I want to suggest 5 ways to adapt to a harsh environment.

  1. Utilize the good times when you can, because they don’t last forever. Saguaros survive because they store water in the season of abundance. These cacti have an amazing ability to pull in hundreds of gallons of water, when it is available, and store it for the future dry season. It is a reminder that in seasons of abundance, store for future down times. Whether it is finances, friendships or business opportunities, don’t squander your abundance today, because you will need it in the future.
  2. Believe that personal growth is possible, even in the desert seasons. Saguaros grow at a very slow rate, but they keep at it their entire lives. Growth is possible in a harsh environment. Truth be told, we often do our best growing in the hardest of times.
  3. Develop internal fortitude. Saguaros constantly grow a strong internal framework of woody ribs to support their burgeoning weight. Local Indian tribes used to utilize the ribs of dead saguaros for building material. It is important in life to develop your inner person. This is vital soul work that must be done day-by-day through spiritual disciplines (see book recommendation below).
  4. Choose to thrive in a harsh environment. The Sonoran desert averages just 7 inches of rain a year. It is brutally hot in the summer and cold in the winter. Yet, these tall beauties live twice as long as we do. Here’s the life lesson: attitude matters. You can whine and cry about the hard times, or decide to embrace the heat.
  5. Trust God for a season of blessing. I’ve seen the saguaro bloom in spring. They produce a cluster of beautiful white flowers that later turn into a sweet red pod. These pods are critical for many desert dwellers as a food source and for producing future generations of saguaro. And they bloom right before the harsh summer heat. God is good and knows where you are. He is diligently working on your behalf to not only bless you, but to help you be a blessing to others.

When you’re feeling the heat, remember the stately saguaro, and remember that you already have what you need to thrive in the desert seasons of life.

Remember, it is a crazy life, for everyone!

Dr. Tony

Book recommendation: Celebration of Discipline, by Richard Foster


Read More