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Today is International Polar Bear Day!

Bet you didn’t know this interesting fact.  International Polar Bear Day was created by Polar Bears International to raise awareness for the conservation of polar bears.

When I think about polar bears, I can’t help put think of people doing the polar bear swims.  Polar bear swims require a bit of craziness.  Jumping into a frigid body of water when the air temperature is even colder is crazy.  Today’s Ice Breaker is all about doing something a little crazy.

Question:  When was the last time you did something really crazy?  Tell us about it in the comments.

My Answer:  My guess is the answers to this question will walk the line of craziness and stupidity.  I’m not known for straying to far from the straight, narrow, and normal, so thinking of something crazy from my past is a bit of a challenge.  Going to Guatemala the first time a few years ago seemed a little crazy to me.  It may not have been crazy, but it was definitely a leap of faith.  Driving on some of the roads of Guatemala has been a bit crazy.  Eating some of the food in Guatemala may not seem crazy to the locals, but to other gringos consuming the local food is crazy.

Outside of Guatemala, the last time I did something a little crazy may have been when our family was vacationing in Vermont a few years ago.  I went on a giant swing ride which required me to be ratcheted up to the top of a tree before I was released out over the edge of a mountain.  It was a little scary, and my stomach ended up in my throat when I started to drop.  There was also a feeling of exhilaration as I swung back and forth over the mountain edge.

As I type this, I begin to think of other craziness from my past.  Maybe I’m not so crazy after all!

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!

 

 

John R. W. Stott Quote

February 26, 2015 — 6 Comments

“Why is it that some Christians cross land and sea, continents and cultures, as missionaries? What on earth impels them? It is not in order to commend a civilization, an institution or an ideology, but rather a person, Jesus Christ, whom they believe to be unique. ”
― John R.W. Stott

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Why do you think people become missionaries?

Today’s post is brought to you in the form of a video blog.

Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful. And pray for us, too, that God may open a door for our message, so that we may proclaim the mystery of Christ, for which I am in chains. Pray that I may proclaim it clearly, as I should. Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; make the most of every opportunity. Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.

Colossians 4:2-6

What opportunity lies in front of you today?  How can you make the most of this opportunity?

 

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Have you seen the Prudential Retirement Challenge commercial?

Here it is to refresh your memory:

The commercial is designed to get you thinking about taking small steps today to create a larger retirement later.

Last week, I spoke at Grove City College on the topic of delegation, leadership, and legacy.  At the end of my presentation, someone asked me a question that went something like this:  “How do I lead and delegate effectively when people in my organization don’t seem to really care?”  The question as I remember it implied the hopeless feeling we can all feel at times when a desired outcome seems so far out of reach.  I referenced the above Prudential commercial in my response.  I talked about how taking small steps can be the catalyst for major change down the road.

What are your dreams?  What are your big, scary, audacious dreams and goals?

Don’t think small here.  Think GIGANTIC!

What do you want to accomplish in your life?

Maybe you want to build 100 houses in Guatemala.  Okay, this is one of my dreams.  Maybe you want to become a doctor.  Maybe you want to become a pilot.  Maybe you want to write a book.

When we look at these dreams, it can be easy to become discouraged.  How in the world are we ever supposed to achieve these targets we set for ourselves?

What would happen if we started looking at our targets – our hopes – our dreams – a little differently?

What if we saw these dreams in terms of small steps we can take today that will push us closer to realizing our dreams down the road?  I call this the Discipline of Small Steps.  This is a concept I mentioned first on Tammy Helfrich’s Right Where You Are Podcast a few weeks ago.  The idea of small steps makes a lot of sense when you step back and think about it.

Just like your retirement savings can grow to large figures when you practice small steps – or small deposits, you can achieve your big, crazy dreams by practicing small steps.  You don’t build 100 houses in Guatemala all at once.  You build 100 houses one at a time.  I would even argue that you build 100 houses one cinder block and one piece of wood at a time.

What small step can you take today that will get you closer to your big dream in the future?  Tell me your thoughts in the comments.

5 Ideas For Teaching Our Sons

February 23, 2015 — 5 Comments

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My son was in a special band concert last night for the area’s best band musicians in seventh through ninth grade.  He had the opportunity to play his trumpet in both the concert band and jazz band portions of the concert.  Sometimes, it can be a challenge to see our son during concerts because the trumpets are usually tucked a few rows behind the flutes, clarinets, and other instruments.  His seat for the concert band portion of this program put him right in my view this time, and it was nice to see him as he played.

I noticed my son was wearing a necktie for the program, and it struck me that I can’t remember spending a lot of time teaching him how to tie a necktie.  I have to wear a necktie every day for my job, so I can put one on without much thought.  But he rarely wears a necktie.  So I started thinking.  How did he learn how to do this?  He must have learned either by watching me or by following a YouTube instructional video.  I’m hoping it’s the first one.

Teaching our sons is not an option.  It’s a responsibility! 

Here are some useful tips for making the most of those teaching moments:

5 Ideas for Teaching Our Sons

  1. Live life out in the open.  Our sons need to see us doing life right in front of them.  Whether it’s putting a tie on, changing the oil in the car, taking out the trash, or paying the bills.  It’s important for our sons to see us doing things.  They will learn just by watching.
  2. Encourage questions.  Most boys are very inquisitive.  They want to learn, and they are looking to you for wisdom and knowledge.  The pace of life can keep us from stopping to listen and answer our sons.  Resist the urge to put them off.  Stop, listen, and answer.  Not only will you teach your boys about the subject of their questions, you will teach them how to listen.
  3. Get help when you need it.  If you don’t know how to do something, find the answer yourself.  Maybe you don’t know how to tie a tie.  Ask a friend to show you.  Look online for instructional videos.  Learn so you can pass this knowledge onto your sons.
  4. Practice humility.  Learn to apologize.  Learn to admit your shortcomings.  A dad can teach his sons just as much through the things he doesn’t know as through the things he does know.  As a dad, you won’t always get it right, and your boys need to see you responding appropriately to these moments.
  5. Don’t wait for tomorrow.  Time is short.  Your sons will be out of the house on their own before you know it.  Make the most of each opportunity to invest in your boys.  You won’t regret it!

This article originally appeared on Daddy Press.

What tips do you have for teaching our children well?

Ice Breaker – School Days

February 20, 2015 — 6 Comments

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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.)

This week, I spent some time at Grove City College.  This is where I also spent four years of my life pursuing my mechanical engineering degree.  Today’s Ice Breaker question is inspired by my visit to my alma mater.

Question:  Where did you go last go to school?  Where did you first go to school?

My Answer:  Grove City College is one of my favorite places, but it’s not the last place I went for school.  I went to Penn State University (Great Valley Campus) for my MBA.  Not counting preschool, Lowell Elementary School in Wheaton, IL is the first place I went to school.  I spent my first three years of elementary school here (Kindergarten through 2nd Grade).

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!

Homeward Bound

February 19, 2015 — 1 Comment

Yesterday was a spectacular day!

I spoke on the topic of leadership, delegation, and legacy to student leaders on campus at Grove City College.  Overall, it went very well.  I’ll try to post a video of my presentation when it becomes available.

I interviewed engineering students in the morning campus, and it reminded me how well Grove City does at selecting and educating students to contribute in a major way to this world after college.

I enjoyed a fabulous dinner at Rachel’s Roadhouse Grille with my wife.  This was a favorite spot of ours while we were students at Grove City College.

Today, we’ll enjoy breakfast in MAP Cafeteria before we head home.

As I was thinking about our journey home and about all the things that await us when we get there, I was reminded of this post from a few months ago.  I think it applies today just as much as it did five months ago.

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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?

 

Stretched On The Road

February 18, 2015 — Leave a comment

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Today, I’m traveling.  I’ll be back.

If you want to read or listen to more great content by me, please stop by these places:

5 Ideas For Teaching Our Sons over at Daddy Press

My son was in a special band concert last night for the area’s best band musicians in seventh through ninth grade.  He had the opportunity to play his trumpet in both the concert band and jazz band portions of the concert.  Sometimes, it can be a challenge to see our son during concerts because the trumpets are usually tucked a few rows behind the flutes, clarinets, and other instruments.  His seat for the concert band portion of this program put him right in my view this time, and it was nice to see him as he played.

I noticed my son was wearing a necktie for the program, and it struck me that I can’t remember spending a lot of time teaching him how to tie a necktie.  I have to wear a necktie every day for my job, so I can put one on without much thought.  But he rarely wears a necktie.  So I started thinking.  How did he learn how to do this?  He must have learned either by watching me or by following a YouTube instructional video.  I’m hoping it’s the first one.

Teaching our sons is not an option.  It’s a responsibility! [Read more by clicking here.]

7 Habits That Build A Lasting Marriage over at The Good Men Project

A few weeks ago, I visited my wife’s family for the holidays.  As part of the visit, I spent a fair amount of time with my wife’s aunt and uncle.  Uncle Dave is in his mid-eighties. He has always had a wit and charm about him.  Over the last couple of years, I’ve been able to see that Uncle Dave is starting to lose a little pep in his step.  He has struggled to stay alert and to remember things he normally would recall with ease.  This visit in particular, I could see how he is heading further down the path of Alzheimer’s (though I’m not sure if he has officially been diagnosed).
Uncle Dave and Aunt Donna have been married for over thirty years – second marriages for both of them.  They have always had an active love affair with each other.  They used to work together.  They golf together.  And they go out for coffee every morning together.  Their habits have clearly bolstered their marriage.
During my visit, it was obvious that Uncle Dave’s mental health was frustrating Aunt Donna.  She appeared more tired than normal, and she struggled at times trying to keep Dave in-line at meal times.  Throughout my visit, I thought a lot about her and the hard times she is having as a result of Dave’s fading memory.  The day I left for home, our family went to church together.  In the middle of the service, I noticed the two of them holding hands.  I couldn’t help but smile. I even snapped a picture while nobody was paying attention.  This small gesture reminded me of the commitment they made to each other and the one I made to my wife.  Even when times get tough, I ultimately want a marriage that goes the distance.
Marriage is hard.  According to the American Psychological Association, 40 to 50 percent of marriages in America end in divorce.  Throw health, job, or parenting challenges into the mix, and it doesn’t get any easier.  It takes commitment, diligence, and discipline to overcome these challenges.  [Read the rest of the article by clicking here.]

Jon Stolpe on Learning to Stretch {Podcast Episode #74} on the Right Where You Are Podcast with Tammy Helfrich

Click here to listen to the podcast.

Please stop by each of these.  Read.  Listen.  Leave a comment.  Then come back and answer today’s question.

Which article or appearance was your favorite?  Why?

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Tomorrow, I have the honor and privilege of presenting at my alma mater, Grove City College.  I’m speaking on the topic of delegation and legacy, and the presentation is targeted towards leaders in fraternities, sororities, and housing groups on campus.  I’m excited for this opportunity.

A lot goes into a presentation.  It’s more than standing up there and talking.  Here are the five steps I have taken to making sure my presentation is the best it can be:

5 Steps To A Great Presentation

  1. Prepare – Do your research.  Know your audience.  Know the purpose for your presentation.  Create an outline.  Write your speech.
  2. Polish – Review your presentation.  Edit.  Edit some more.  Clean it up, and simplify it.
  3. Powerpoint (Visual aids) – Determine which visual aids will help get your point across.  It may be Powerpoint, a prop, a video, or something else.  Visual aids used correctly will move your presentation from good to great.
  4. Practice – Go over your presentation again and again.  Watch yourself in the mirror as you present, or video yourself while you are practicing.  Know it.  Get feedback.  Exaggerate.  Self evaluate.
  5. Present – If you have put the effort into the other four steps, you should be good to go.  Relax.  You have something worth sharing.  Have fun.

There is one more “P” you might want to use as you prepare for your presentation.  Prayer.  My good friend, Cindy Starr Stewart, reminded me of this important “P” word which is often overlooked.  Seek wisdom, help, and confidence from the ultimate resource.

When was the last time you gave a presentation?  What steps did you take when you gave your presentation?

Teach Us To Number Our Days

February 16, 2015 — 3 Comments

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Teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom.  Psalm 90:12

Last week, I received news that two connections are facing the end of their time here on the earth.  A college classmate was told the chemo was no longer working in her 14 year bout with cancer, and she is heading towards hospice.  Another connection was told their infant daughter has an incurable illness that will lead to death within two years.  On top of this news, my parents lost a good friend in Dallas, TX who was instrumental in helping my parents and my little brother feel welcome when they moved to the area several years ago.

These pieces of news left me a little down heading into the weekend.

Life can be tough, and it’s hard to see people suffering.

As I was participating in worship at our church’s high school youth group, the band began to lead us in Bebo Norman’s song, Nothing Without You.  I’ve always liked this song, but it hit me a little differently this time when the band began to sing the final verse:

Take my time here on this earth
And let it glorify all that You are worth
For I am nothing
I am nothing without You

We don’t know how long we have here.  We may live to 100, or we may not see our next birthday.  Either way, we have a limited time left to live here on Earth.

What will we do with our days?

Will we waste them?  Or will we use them to the fullest?

I want to glorify God with my days.

How about you?

These words lifted me up out of my melancholy.  They reminded me of the hope I have, and they reminded me to make the most of my days.  Sometimes we need a few words of encouragement.  And sometimes these words come from simple songs like this one.

When was the last time you heard a song at just the right time?  What was the song, and how did it lift you up?