Friday, November 24, 2017

Stop Being Thankful?

It’s Black Friday and I am up way too early and waiting around almost like everyone else, wondering if this is worth it. You know, wondering if we really learned anything about being thankful yesterday while gorging on turkey and stuffing, or in my case, ribs. Now, I’m not in a store shopping, I'm up waiting to go back to sleep because at 42 years old, I am getting to learn about how thankful I am for little things like toilet paper at 6AM. Sitting around waiting to get tired enough to get to go back to sleep so I can at least feel like I got to sleep in on a day off, is almost as much fun as waiting around to get something you never knew you needed until it is 75% off at 4AM for one day only. 

We hear a lot about being thankful and learning to be thankful as we grow up. Currently I’m still trying to figure it out as I raise my kids; but maybe that’s the wrong goal. I am not making some big, huge new parenting declaration here, I’m just making an observation and talking it though with you all because my bladder decided I should be up this morning. So here it goes. 

Should we focus on thankfulness or contentment?

I remember growing up having adults tell me and other kids that “you need to learn to be thankful”. I, like every other kid, have gotten the look on a birthday or Christmas that promptly tells you, “you will act thankful for the white socks that are 3 sizes too small that you got from Grandma’s aunt that came to the party this year…don’t say anything but ‘thank you’…do not embarrass me a parent or you may stop breathing…are we clear”. What I have learned is that being thankful gets way harder the older you get if you don't understand contentment. This is partly due to the fact that most adults harp on the act of being polite and call it thankfulness-leaving the heart out. I made this mistake with Peter when he was about 2 1/2 years old. We were all sitting around the table for a meal and he look at Kirsten and boldly said “I want more juice”. Being a good Dad I looked at him firmly and said, “Peter, what do you say to your Mother?” Because after all, you need to be stern with this young misguided kid so they don't grow up not being thankful, right? Peter looked at me, looked at Kirsten and you could see the wheels turning, the gears grinding as he contemplated the next words that would come out of his mouth. With apprehension and a lot of uncertainty he looked at me and the words that come out of his young, innocent 2 year old mouth, “I, I wannn’t morrre juice???” Ding, ding, ding, I needed to learn something that morning…not him. I was so concerned with teaching thankfulness (politeness) that I missed being content with Peter. He had just learned to simply say what he wanted when we asked him. He wasn't being rude, I just didn't meet him where he was at.  

Fast forward a year later, and I am sitting in a wheelchair after I got hurt and the kids are being polite and thankful for all the gifts that people were getting them for Christmas. I, on the other hand, was a mess. The guilt that I couldn't get anything for my kids was overwhelming. I was thankful, but far from content. This emotional dilemma went on for many years, fueled by the mis-teaching that my generation received on politeness over thankfulness. Life sucked. We were never taught about the relationship of contentment, thankfulness, grace and giving. 

I had to learn a few tough lessons in order to even come close to understanding what it meant to be thankful. The first lesson came one day when I was having a conversation with a mentor about not being comfortable receiving anything from anyone else. He looked me in the the eyes and asked, “Geremy, do you take joy in giving to others?” I replied “ Well, yes, what’s that have to do with it?” He answered, “Then why would you take the joy away from someone who wants to give to you?” Yep that stung and took a little time to get over. The next lesson is this: as a culture we are so worried about safety, that we do everything possible to prevent anything bad physically and emotionally from happening to us. The unintended consequence is that we lose the opportunity to overcome, the opportunity to learn faith. It is interesting to see the look on peoples’ faces when I tell them that one of the best things that ever happened to me was getting hurt.The third lesson is this: no matter how hard you work to change your circumstances, life still happens. The difficulties in life aren’t personal, they just happen. When we take them personally, we skew our understanding of grace. We don't deserve anything, grace is getting what we don't deserve.

Contentment is interesting because it changes your view on a whole lot more than you think. It changes how you are thankful. Contentment is being ok with whatever you get. It means you are ok with financial security or wondering where your next pay check is coming from. It means you are thankful for the success of other and the toys they are able to get, while not craving anything more for yourself. It’s not about politeness, it’s about being at peace with what you have and where you are at. 

Yes, life is worth waiting around for, both the good and the bad, the happy and the sad, the frustrating and the success. Many years ago a young man said it best, “God will get us through this, but if He doesn't, that’s ok.” So as we go through the holiday season let’s learn contentment and thankfulness. 

I wonder what the chances are that I can fall back to sleep…

Geremy Olson
Outdoorsman, Producer, Firefighter & Public Speaker

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

I Want My Money

We just got back from a long, rewarding, hard and fun weekend selling fishing tackle at a ice fishing show in South Dakota. Peter is going to be sixteen soon and it is a blast watching him shine doing what he loves-talking fishing. It’s hard to believe that he has been running Missouri Secrets Tackle with his brother for 8 years now. At first, Kirsten and I were just parents with a drivers license at sport shows like this one, but this year Peter got his own drivers license, bought a new truck and keeps mom and dad around for moral support. There is a lot of parental pride watching Peter and Dan’s success in a small little venture they started when they where eight and ten years old, respectively. However, there is a back story that needs to be told, not because of what we see in our boys, but what we hear from the older generations.

So how did Missouri Secrets Tackle come to be? Well, when I got hurt in 2005 we lost everything in a gradual destruction of our business and finances. It was a time when every financial decision we made was a no-win situation. Money wasn’t tight; it was non-existent. Due to our situation and the plan that we were going to raise our kids to work for what they wanted, before I got hurt, we started having the kids do odd jobs to earn some spending cash. Keep in mind that Dan was 5 and Peter was 3 when I got hurt.

When Peter was 4 or 5 he wanted to start shooting the .22 so we asked him if he had some money to buy some rounds. He went to his room and came out with a handful of change and bills. On our next trip to town we stopped at the sporting good store. Peter ran to pick out two boxes of .22 rounds and we looked at the price and made sure he had enough money to cover the cost. This was not the first time he bought something with his own money, but is definitely the time I remember. He proudly walked up to the register and placed his rounds on the counter. The clerk rang them up and asked for the total. Peter proudly counted out the money and gave it to the clerk. She took the money and placed it in the till. Peter’s face instantly turned from pride to a horrified, confused combobulation as he look at me and said, “what is she doing with my money?”. I said “putting it in the register, that’s her job”. He looked back and forth between me and the clerk a few times and with a desperate confusion in his young, crackling voice and tears streaming down his face he proclaims “I want my money” without skipping a beat, the clerk leaned over the counter and with all the compassion she could muster looks at Peter and says, “Honey, I feel the same way every time I go shopping”. After a little convincing by me and the clerk, Peter decided to leave his money in the till and take the .22 rounds home.

Fast forward 11 years…Dan and Peter are selling fishing tackle at sport shows across the upper midwest and one of my favorite things to do is talk to all the folks who are watching Dan and Peter sell tackle.  There is a comment made that completely caught me off guard the first time I heard it. But now that we've been following the boys selling tackle for eight years, we hear this comment between five and 10 times every show. What's interesting about this comment is who it comes from. It's typically from the generations that lived through the Great Depression and World War II. These are folks that I have a lot of respect for and they generally don't speak about personal things with much of anybody. And because of this, I was first caught off guard by this comment and now realize how close I was of been guilty of the same thing they're commenting on.

The conversation typically goes like this. They ask what exactly is going on with two young boys selling fishing tackle and I give them a quick little description of how Dan and Peter were earning money to support their hunting and fishing habits and learn the value a dollar. And then they look at me or Kirsten and say “this is amazing, I ruined my kids.” You can see why it caught us off guard the first couple of times we heard it. Every time I hear this comment we ask, “what do you mean by that” and the answer is typically the same. They say something to the effect of “I did everything I could for my kids so they didn't have to work like I did, and because of that, they have no work ethic and they expect someone else to do everything for them.” This show was no different; we had six people come and ask what was going on at our booth and make this comment and we had the same conversation.

What's humbling about this conversation is that Kirsten and I probably would've never stuck to our plan or at least never been as strict as we talked about before we had kids, if I never would've gotten hurt. And if that was the case, none of our kids would've learned the valuable lessons about faith that we as a family have had the opportunity to learn over the last 12 years. There's a really good chance I would not have had the opportunity to take the stage with my son Peter at this sport show and teach a seminar entitled “Raising an Angler”, where he and I discuss what it takes from the parent’s and child's perspective to raise a kid to love and respect the outdoors. So don't be afraid to make your kids work for things. Don’t be afraid of not giving them what everybody else has given their kids. What I've learned over the last 12 years is that the most important thing you can give your kid is the one thing only you can give and that's you. You can only teach them what you know and help point them in the direction they need to go for the rest of their life. It’s a lot of fun to learn hard work, determination and what it means to have faith together as a family. 

Don't miss out.

Geremy Olson
Outdoorsman, Producer, Firefighter & Public Speaker

Monday, November 6, 2017

Questions from the Blind

This year our house made an life changing decision. You know the kind of decision the neighbors and friends will question. The “what are the Olson’s thinking, have they gone mad” kind of decision. We chose to not apply for rifle tags for deer gun season this year, so we would have no excuse to not learn to waterfowl hunt. Yes, you heard me right, we gave up tenderloins for ducks. 

What makes this so hard to explain is that I really should be writing a blog on confessions of a failed water fowler. Quite frankly, I stink, no hope of ever being successful at water fowling, stink. My record for the last 30 years is 1 goose and maybe a dozen ducks. A couple of years ago some buddies invited Peter and I to go goose hunting on a cold, snow-covered veterans day and I shot my first and only goose to date. It took me 2 boxes of shells to down that first goose and I should look at it as a life long accomplishment. But I have to live with Peter who has the ability to humble any man in his presence with what I like to think is a unequalled lucky streak. That day at age 12, Peter, with a half a box of shells got his first 5 geese. This, with the knowledge that my kills are 1 duck for every 10-12 boxes of shells that I shoot, and my wife hits everything she shoots at, is enough for most guys to hang up the decoys and stick with the tenderloins.

So you are wondering what’s up with the life changing decision; well there is something about a waterfowl blind and the conversations that happen in that blind that you just can’t replicate anywhere else. In the blind you need to be still, but not quiet, giving you a time to talk about life, while allowing nature to put it all into perspective. There is a beauty to watching the sun rise over a fog covered pond with the anticipation of what is to come. Knowing you will always learn something that day that will help you make it through life. 

This year’s waterfowl season is only half done but it has exceeded any expectations I could have had when our family made this life changing decision. This isn’t because I shot my second goose and 2 ducks and I am only two boxes of shells in to the season. It has been a great season because of the questions from the blind.

There have been a lot of questions this year but the one that sticks out so far is, “dad, how do kids learn about God as their Father if their dad here on earth abuses them?” I’ll let that soak in for a minute. Pretty deep questions for a 13 year old waterfowl hunter. It is the kind of questions you get however when you’re sitting in the blind. 

The question, discussion and answer was the reason we made this life changing decision. It is our responsibility to demonstrate for our kids all the attributes of God our heavenly father: loving, patient, kind, just, forgiving, merciful, perfect, authority and all-knowing, just to name a few. This is a responsibility that we will never be able to fulfill perfectly or even close to perfect like God does for us. But it is our responsibility to work on our relationship with God so that we can better demonstrate for our children what God has done for us. So what about the kid who grows up in a home with the lack of this example and worse, the opposite of what God is done for us.

Scratching the surface of this question, sitting in the duck blind, we talked about the fact that we don't always learn everything from our parents and each one of us needs to be an example of what God does for us. We need to hold true to what our heavenly Father teaches us in the Bible and work on our relationship with Him daily. So that through us as parents, friends, coworkers, customers or just somebody a person runs into on the street, people see an example of the attributes of God. 

The questions from the blind are the questions that help us grow. The questions from the blind are the questions to help us learn what it means to change the world.

Geremy Olson
Outdoorsman, Producer, Firefighter & Public Speaker

Monday, October 30, 2017

Losing My Song

There has been a lot going on over the last 5 years and even more over the last 12 years since I got hurt. The kids are growing up and next year the oldest is heading off to college. As a family we have had a lot of fun, worked though a bunch of hard times and made a lot of memories. While doing all of this I have been learning how to deal with growing nightmares and PTSD related to the fire accident and the recovery from it.  

This last summer we had more fire than usual in the western states, meaning I was away from home more than usual. I love working on an incident management team because I am able to be myself and use the gifts God gave me to serve others during some of the hardest times of their lives. What made this summer unique is that I was in a season of life where I was broken and hopeless. I wasn’t sure how I got there and I was desperately looking for a way to get out. Little did I know, this fire season was what I needed. I needed to “find my song”.

Back in high school I was at a retreat and the speaker talked about “your song”; the thing in each of us that makes us tick, the thing that makes each of us different, the song that tells the story of what God is doing in and through each of us. I remember saying to myself “that’s cute”, and am pretty sure I never thought about it again until this summer. One night in central Montana this summer, I was evaluating life while gazing at the stars with all their brilliant beauty while the entire western horizon was glowing red with fire. As I lay in the back of my pickup watching the stars it started to make sense. As I laid there I realized I not only stopped singing my song, I put it in a box and lost it. 

What I realized is that I lost my song because I started listening to a group of people around me without questioning if their input was valid. They picked apart my podcast list, the music that spoke to me, mentors in my life, my life experiences, the books I was reading and even what I was learning in my personal Bible studies. Looking back I realized it was easier to stop listening and reading what I needed than fielding all the personal opinions of those around me. The natural progression was then to give up who I was for the same reason. The end result is “I lost my song”.

It wasn’t until the long summer out in Montana, where I got to be me without this group’s influence, that I found my song again. I had given up who I was for a group of people who are willing to naively sacrifice others for their own dreams, a group of people that asked me for my help, but really wanted me to do what they wanted at my expense, people who are impatient and willing to take every shortcut to get to where they want to go. I did this because they asked for my help and their dreams were and are the same as many of mine. But unlike working on a fire team, they are unwilling or incapable of working as a team, a team with mutual respect, a team worried about each other before yourself, a team that realizes that you don’t sacrifice another for personal gain, but you sacrifice together to save lives. 

I am not laying blame on these people for what happened, it was me that gave up who I was for them. It has been a hard lesson to learn. Most lessons have a sting to them. Like most lessons, however; it has been rewarding to see what happens when you live them out. A good friend unexpectedly passed away this last weekend and is the reason for this blog entry. Because I learned this lesson, we got to spend some much needed time together before he passed away. He and I talked about spending time together for four years but could never seem to make it happen because both of us were guilty of putting other people’s agendas before our call. Fortunately we were granted the chance to spend some great days in the boat together, gaining insight and wisdom that I would have lost if I hadn’t learned this lesson. Don’t give up who God made you to be for other people. It is hard to live with purpose when you give up who you are. It is impossible to go where God called you if you get off the road because of everyone’s personal opinions. So what is your song, your story and your call? Don’t be hindered by others, sing it, tell it and share it without apology. 

Geremy Olson
Outdoorsman, Producer, Firefighter & Public Speaker

Monday, October 16, 2017

Keeping the Fun in Fishing

The day started out the way you can only dream of for a fall fishing trip. It was an early morning with temperatures in the mid 30s, steam just pouring off Lake Sakakawea in North Dakota and we knew we are coming home with limits of fish. After getting to our spot we drop the jigs in the water, bang had a fish right away. For the better part of an hour or so we caught fish, hooted and hollered and just plain old had a good time. And that's when it happened, another boat came to the “community hole” we were fishing at and they could have changed everything.

The new boat was way nicer than ours, the rods were way more expensive than ours and from the looks of it the two gentlemen had way more time to fish than we did. But we definitely had something in our boat they did not have in theirs. And that was fun. What's interesting is that these two guys were catching just as many fish as we were, they just weren’t catching the fish they wanted to catch. In fact, if we weren't careful these two could've easily ruined our day of fishing. Because instead of laughing and having a great time together on the water they were complaining and swearing about how bad every fish they caught was, how stupid every fish that took one of the lures was. For us it probably wouldn’t have been so bad, in fact, I probably wouldn't even be writing this story if these two gentlemen wouldn't have been so close that they could probably have grabbed jigs out of our tackle  box. Which made it almost impossible to not hear every complaint about every fish that they encountered.

I'll admit that my initial reaction was to look at my buddy Mike and whisper “I'm writing a blog about these two”. I couldn't wait to get home and start talking about how these two guys could be out fishing on a beautiful fall day and literally do nothing but complain. However it's not because I want to make fun of these two guys. They just happened be great examples of what we all end up doing as part of our day-to-day lives. We love to make things more important than they really are and lose track of what is important. When it comes to fishing, one of the most important things is to have fun. Now that doesn't mean we don't encounter hard times you know like the nasty rainstorm on the one day you get to go fishing or the boat breaks down at the most inopportune time. But that doesn't mean we shouldn't still have fun.

When I look back on life, it’s amazing all the lessons I've learned and all the people I've met because things didn't go the way I thought they should. That's the trouble with great expectations, we miss out on not only a lot of fun, but also a lot of great people and even more life lessons. That's why I love taking my kids fishing. It's the perfect way to have fun together while enjoying nature's beauty and most importantly not having a clue what’s in store for the trip. Fishing gives you the opportunity to head out with a plan and still have fun regardless of how things go. Like great stories you get to hear when you sit in a small cafĂ© with a bunch old timers when you get rained out. Or all of the new places you get to find when your fishing spot is taken by somebody else or the ice is too soft to go pike fishing in the spring. Or as Mike and I learned, it’s not worth getting grumpy because somebody was fishing to close or complaining the entire time they were too close.

That's why it's important to keep your perspective. We go fishing to see what we can accomplish to see if we can outsmart the fish and most importantly have a new story to tell later. And regardless if you're a weekend warrior or a professional angler working hard to earn a living, we're out there to enjoy life. So next time you're on the water, remember why you're there, share some time in the boat with your friends, enjoy the company of the boats next to you, appreciate the fact that every fish you catch is more than the one the guy sitting at the office or at home is catching. At the end of the day, Mike and I didn’t catch the limits of fish that we knew we were going to catch when we started out but we sure did have fun trying.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

No Bull

I was the kid that was made fun of and picked on repeatedly growing up. So my insights on this topic come from not only learning how to deal with bullying but on how to overcome this issue…not only with people, but emotionally as well. One thing we all need to remember is that every bully is someone who has some sort of power, but is extremely insecure in their own life. Belittling and hurting others is the only way that they know how to have value in their own life. The second thing that we need to remember is that church and societal culture over the last 50 years has made bullying possible to the levels that it’s gotten to because of the untrue philosophy of “if you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all”. Nothing stops a bully faster than someone who stands up for themselves. And nothing makes bullying more possible than someone who doesn’t feel that they are allowed to defend themselves. Each of us has to ask ourselves this one question, “who determines our value?” Many people determine their value based on what other people think. Others determine their value on their self worth. The trouble with this is that setting our value on our own sinful nature or someone else’s sinful nature is that we devalue ourselves. It’s not until you truly understand that God created you with a purpose and regardless of what happens in your life, the value that God has given you remains constant. This same God created you with a body that protects itself, if you feel heat-you react to protect yourself. Why is it that when your body tells you that you are about to be hurt physically OR emotionally by someone, the church and society today tells you that you can’t defend yourself and hopes that someone else will fix the problem. Does this mean that if you accidentally burn yourself on the stove that you need to leave your hand sit there burning until someone else can come and protect you? Definitely not!!! The same goes for our interaction with other people. It is ok, Scripturally, to ignore somebody and walk away if they are treating you wrongly. I am sure this isn’t politically correct, but as a kid, it’s ok to punch somebody in the nose and tell them to leave me alone, as an adult, it’s ok to tell someone to “shut up and leave me alone!” Not because that’s what’s in your heart, but that’s what bullies understand. What we all need to remember, is that regardless of what society and churches teach us today about just being nice to everybody, the Bible teaches us that there is a time and a place for defending ourselves and others. There is a time and a place for taking action to protect ourselves and others. A great example of this: Was Jesus being nice when He took the time to build a whip and chase the “bullies” out of the temple? No, He was protecting His Father’s house and the people who were unable to defend themselves. Why did He do this??? He did it because He loves us. And sometimes loving people requires discipline and justice. And at the same time, He loved the same people He was chasing out of the temple. We, too, need to come to grips with the understanding that it’s ok to defend ourselves and STILL love someone and that God won’t take our “heaven card” away because we weren’t being nice. If anyone else has questions, feel free to get ahold of me at

“Stupid Dyslexic Kid” who is actually succeeding in the world, regardless of what everyone told him as a kid!


Tuesday, May 15, 2012

I Want

You know when your kids come to you with the ever-famous question “I want...” and they don’t realize what it takes to get those things?
 Are adults any different?? 
Go to almost any church in America today and you will hear these statements: “I want young people in this church, I want our church to grow, I want a good youth program, I want...I want...I want.” 
Over the last few years, my husband and I have worked with many churches and organizations who have asked us “what do we need to do to make our want a reality?” A majority of the time, when presented with a Biblical plan of action, the “I wants” turn into “I don’t want to”. 
Here are a few examples...
“We want high school students in our church!” But when the high school students came, they were told that they were too noisy and were literally locked out the church by members who didn’t want them there. {{I don’t need to expound on the fact that it was well below zero and that the kids stood outside waiting...}} 
“We want to reach young adults!” But they were unwilling to put any time, effort or money into internet ministries because “we don’t have time for that”. 
“We want everyone to be included!” But then the young families are told that if they can’t find childcare for their kids, don’t bother coming at all. 
“We want our church to grow!” But then you hear, “but don’t expect us to work anymore than Sunday mornings and Wednesday nights.” 
“We just don’t understand why young women don’t want to come to activities!” But when given options on how to reach those women then they say, “No one ever did that for us, why should we do that for them?”  
“We want the parents to stay too!” But then those parents overhear church members throughout the community talking about how those kids and parents don’t meet their expectations. 
So, what do we tell our kids??? Stop. Being. Selfish.
We tell our kids that we need to think about others before ourselves. But as you can tell by these examples, and countless other true stories, that churches have forgot that lesson. 
So instead of telling you what I think you should do, let’s just see what God has to say about it.
Don't be misled: No one makes a fool of God. What a person plants, he will harvest. The person who plants selfishness, ignoring the needs of others—ignoring God!—harvests a crop of weeds. All he'll have to show for his life is weeds! But the one who plants in response to God, letting God's Spirit do the growth work in him, harvests a crop of real life, eternal life.
When you happen on someone who's in trouble or needs help among your people with whom you live in this land that God, your God, is giving you, don't look the other way pretending you don't see him. Don't keep a tight grip on your purse. No. Look at him, open your purse, lend whatever and as much as he needs. Don't count the cost. Don't listen to that selfish voice...
My counsel is this: Live freely, animated and motivated by God's Spirit. Then you won't feed the compulsions of selfishness.
When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures.

It’s not about us. It’s about what Christ does for us. And the only way to share that love with others is by unselfishly caring for other people. 
These “I want” Christians that we’re talking about have forgotten how to be kind. Stop being mean and start caring about people in Jesus’ name. Think about how your words and actions will affect others and their eternity. 
What we need to remember is this: Our one and only focus is what Jesus is calling us to do; to humbly share the Gospel thru our actions and our words. When you do that, God will use you in ways that you would never expect.