Dr. Tony L. Nelson

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




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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


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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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