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Each week on The Stretched Blog, I ask an ice breaker question. The questions are designed to help us get to know each other here in The Stretched Community. I’ll provide my answer to the question here in the post, and then you can leave your response in the comments. While you’re in the comments section, see how others answered the ice breaker question.

(I’m always looking for Ice Breaker question ideas.  If you have an idea, send me an email at jon@jonstolpe.com.  If I use your question, I’ll give you credit and share your links.)

Question:  Trick or treat?  Why?

My Answer: I don’t like when people play fast ones on me, so I will have to go with treat.

Answer this week’s ice breaker question by leaving a comment. I look forward to reading your response! (As always, feel free to share links.) And keep Stretching!

Home

October 30, 2014 — 2 Comments

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We have a chain in our backyard.  We use it to keep our dog from running away when he is outside.  One end of the chain is attached to a stake in the ground, and the other end is attached to a metal loop on his collar.

The other night, I put Iso (our forever dog) on the chain.  He likes to go out in the backyard to take care of his business and to sniff around for a while.  I came back in the house for a few minutes while Iso was doing his thing.

When I went outside to bring Iso back in the house, he was gone.  The chain broke, and Iso was wandering in the dark of the night.

My heart sunk as I feared I would struggle finding him in the dark.  I quickly ran inside the house view the back patio door, and I quickly ran to the garage to get my shoes, a flashlight, and the box of Milk-bones.  These are the tools necessary to go on a hunt for your runaway dog.  Before I opened the garage door, I quickly looked out the mud room door.  As I turned on the light, I was relieved to see our black dog standing at the side door steps with the other half of the chain following behind him.

I can remember panicking as a child whenever our family dog, Snickers ran away.  She was a beagle, and her instinct to chase rabbits made it challenging for my parents to contain her even when she was tied to a stake in the middle of a fenced in backyard.

It’s amazing how dogs can capture our hearts.

I’m thankful Iso knew to come to the side door.  He knew where is home was.  He could have run around the neighborhood or even run away, but he desired the safety and comfort of home.

We all have a yearning for home.

Sometimes we don’t realize it.  We run away.  We chase after things that lead us temporarily away from home.  But after our running and chasing, our instincts call us home.  And when we get there, our loving Father is standing at the door waiting to welcome us home.

Are you wandering?  Are you running away?  Are you chasing after things that lead us away from home?

Turn back now.  Your Father can’t wait to welcome you home!

Where is your home?

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I have a crazy idea, and I need your help.

I am in search of track & field coaches and cross-country coaches who would be (or might be) interested in reading my book.  On Track: Life Lessons from the Track & Field takes observations from the track and field and uses them to encourage readers to live a life on track.

OnTrack3dCover04132014I believe this book could be valuable for anyone, but I especially think the message will resonate with those close to the track and field.  I would love to send a copy of my book to coaches.  I’m targeting coaches at Christian high schools and colleges, but I would happily send it to any interested coaches – for FREE!

If you a coach any you are interested in reading my book, leave a message in the comments, so we can connect.  If you are not a coach, but you know a coach who would benefit from my book, send me a comment, so we can make it happen.  I’d love to send my book to 50 coaches before the end of the year.  I’m hoping you can help make this happen.

Who was your favorite coach?  When was the last time you received something for FREE?

Taught To Teach

October 28, 2014 — 9 Comments

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If you don’t have a teacher you can’t have a disciple.
Dallas Willard

It’s hard to be an effective missionary if we are unwilling to be taught.

Let me explain.

The Great Commission instructs us to go into all the world and make disciples.  (You can look it up here.)

Teaching is one of our primary responsibilities as Christ followers and missionaries.  But teaching does not happen very well if we are not willing to be taught or discipled first.  If you want to have a mission mindset, you must have a willingness to learn.

Who is investing in your life?  How are you learning and growing to become a disciple of Christ?

He [Jesus Christ] is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only ours but also for the sins of the whole world.

I John 2:2

More than anything, this is the significance of Christ’s life to us and to the world.

Today’s culture has watered down this message.  We talk very little about sin.  “What’s okay for him is okay for him.”

Sin is real.  And it ultimately leads to death (“the wages of sin is death”) and separation from eternity with Christ.

But there is a remedy.

Christ died for our sins.  He sacrificed His life so we might have the opportunity for eternal life.  (John 3:16)

This is the crux of the missionary message.  In order to have a mission mindset, we must recognize Christ’s role in dealing with our sins, and we must find ways to carry this message to a lost and broken world.

What is your perspective on sin?

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Each week on The Stretched Blog, I ask an ice breaker question. The questions are designed to help us get to know each other here in The Stretched Community. I’ll provide my answer to the question here in the post, and then you can leave your response in the comments. While you’re in the comments section, see how others answered the ice breaker question.

(I’m always looking for Ice Breaker question ideas.  If you have an idea, send me an email at jon@jonstolpe.com.  If I use your question, I’ll give you credit and share your links.)

On this date in 1911, Orville Wright stayed in the air for 9 minutes and 45 seconds in the Wright Glider in North Carolina.  Considering I flew from Newark, New Jersey to Guatemala City, Guatemala this summer in 5 hours, this event seems rather unspectacular.  But what if no one had never done this before?  Obviously, Orville Wright’s achievement was monumental in demonstrating the early potential of man to fly.  Today’s Ice Breaker is inspired by the Wright Brothers and their accomplishments.

Question:  What human achievement amazes you the most?

My Answer:  I have always been interested in space and space travel.  I am amazed that man has been able to land a man on the moon, land a rover on Mars, and fly a space craft beyond the edges of our solar system.  These achievements remind me of the creative minds God has given us.

Answer this week’s ice breaker question by leaving a comment. I look forward to reading your response! (As always, feel free to share links.) And keep Stretching!

Plate Spinning

October 23, 2014 — 10 Comments

A few months ago, I had to explain what the expression “plate spinning” means to one of the younger members of our department.  He had just been promoted from a design engineering position to a position that required more project management responsibility.  As I was explaining to him about the challenges of staying on top of all the different aspects of his new job, I used the expression “plate spinning”, and he looked at me with a puzzled look.

I explained to him what the expression meant, and I thought to myself “I am getting old.”

Plate spinning was a popular “talent” exhibited on television shows like The Ed Sullivan Show.  I seem to remember seeing it for the first time on The Bozo Show.

I use the phrase all the time as it often describes very well the self-inflicted challenge I face by trying to accomplish too many things at the same time.

I’m glad I could educate my team member on the fine art of plate spinning, but this conversation was a good reminder of our need to stay culturally relevant.  If I didn’t take the time to explain this expression, my younger team member may have simply thought I was crazy.  It’s essential we find ways to connect with those coming behind us.  We have things to share and a message to pass along, but we will miss out on opportunities for this message to be received if we don’t connect with the receiver of the message – if we don’t speak their language.

If we’re serious about having a mission mindset, it is important that we take the time to become culturally relevant – to know and understand those around us and to consider how we can share our message in a way that connects with our audience.

This is one of the reasons I enjoy hanging out with the teenagers at our church.  It seems impossible to me, but I’m one of the “older” adult volunteers in the group.  I have learned quite a bit from the teens.  I often find myself asking them what a phrase or comment means.  For example, someone said “YOLO.”  I didn’t know what they were saying, so I asked.  (You only live once.)

So here is my question for you:  What are you doing to make sure your message is heard?  How are you staying culturally relevant in an ever evolving world?

What’s your favorite expression and does it still make sense in today’s world (or do you need to explain it)?

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Great things are not done by impulse, but by a series of small things brought together.
George Elliot

When was the last time you did something impulsive?

Going out for ice cream is one of my most favorite impulsive things to do.  But I’m sure I’ve done some other pretty impulsive things.  After I graduated from college, I impulsively leased a Limited Ford Explorer.  This was such a dumb move.  Many of my impulsive moves involve stupid purchases.  For example, I bought a set of books about the worlds greatest inventions.  I only had to pay for the 30 volumes in 15 “easy” payments.  What was I thinking?  I’ve barely cracked open these books.

When was the last time you did something impulsive to develop yourself?

This is a bit more of a challenge.  I’ve probably signed up for a race or two on impulse, but it required a lot of work to prepare for the race after I signed up.

Developing yourself doesn’t happen by impulse.  It happens by discipline.

Discipline isn’t often very fun.  It requires focus and determination.  It requires stamina.  And it requires a vision for the end which happens after hard work.

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 12:11

This is true in many areas of our lives.  If I want to be a better runner, I have to put in the practice.  If I want to be a better speaker or writer, I have to do it repeatedly.  When we reach our goal time in a race or when we publish something worthwhile that we wrote, we can see how discipline pays off in the end.

Why don’t we realize this when it comes to our relationship with God?

Growing closer to God does not happen by impulse.  It happens through a series of repeated small steps.  It happens by discipline.

If we want to have a mission mindset, we have to be focused first on our growing closer to God – we have to live a life of discipline.

Do you consider yourself to be impulsive?  In your life, how has discipline led to greater rewards?  What steps do you need to take to grow closer to God?

For The Sake Of The Name

October 21, 2014 — 6 Comments

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There is always the danger that we may just do the work for the sake of the work. This is where the respect and the love and the devotion come in – that we do it to God, to Christ, and that’s why we try to do it as beautifully as possible.

Mother Theresa

Having a mission mindset requires us to be attached only to Christ.

We must focus on Christ and His nature.

I too easily get distracted.  I am easily swayed by the “attractions” and “distractions” of this world.

And this is why I need the Holy Spirit in my life – to remind me, to teach me, to rescue me, to point me back to the Name.

It was for the sake of the Name that they went out, receiving no help from the pagans.  3 John 7

God, I want to serve You.  I want to know You.  I want to bring glory to Your Name.

What is distracting you from having a mission mindset?

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I was talking to a friend the other day, and he asked me how my book was doing.

I get this question a lot.

I filled him in on the general statistics, and we proceeded to talk about the challenge of releasing a book project in today’s social media driven world.  As I work on my next book project, I wrestle with the idea of pursuing a more traditional book publishing route for this project.  I went the self-publishing route with my first book project.  A more traditional book publisher could bring a wider audience and distribution which is attractive, but there are also pluses to the self-publishing method.

Either way, a larger platform is critical to success in today’s world – in terms of quantity of book sales.  And this is where I struggle.

I heard it said by one of my author friends that 90% of books sell less than 200 copies.

This is the reality in today’s world.  I’ve learned that it takes a lot of hard work and self-promotion just to approach this number.

Publishers are looking for a large e-mail list, lots of Twitter and Facebook connections, and a lot of blog traffic.

This doesn’t happen by accident.

How does a person remain humble with a correct focus while promoting themselves and their platform?

This is the problem with platform.

We are instructed to be humble.  We are taught to put aside our own interests for the sake of others.

Is it possible to build a platform while staying humble and pointing people to Christ?

I think so, but I think it’s a challenge.

This is the challenge I now face.  As I pursue my next book project, I’ll be taking steps to grow my e-mail list and blog traffic.  Meanwhile, I plan to use this platform to point people in the right direction.  I’d appreciate it if the Stretched Community would keep me accountable to staying on the right track.

Thanks!

What are your thoughts on building a platform?  What have you learned in the process of building your own platform?

This song by Colton Dixon speaks to me as I pursue this next project:

(For the record, I’ve sold or given away 116 copies of On Track – Life Lessons from the Track & Field.  This includes paperback and Kindle eBook versions.  This does not include the electronic copies given away to subscribers of my blog.  As you can see selling more than 200 copies is no small task.)