Walking through the streets of Xenacoj, you probably will see many signs that look like this.  The signs are posted outside of homes, and they indicate the locations of entrepreneurs.  The person who lives at this residence sells various items including soda, coffee, and ice cream.  Other entrepreneurs in Xenacoj sell tortillas or firewood.

I love the spirit of these people in Xenacoj.  They have a desire to provide for their families, and they have an instinct and courage to try something bold and different – even if it means starting with a few items, a piece of construction paper, and a black marker.

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This is not something you see every day in your hometown.

The streets of Xenacoj are filled with people, horses, stray dogs, and a few vehicles.

Recently, construction vehicles have been navigating the narrow streets of Xenacoj on their way to building a highway around Guatemala City.  A child was hit by one of the construction vehicles a few weeks ago which led to protests and road closures throughout the village.  I don’t know the condition of the child who was hit, but I have come to understand that the construction crews agreed to follow another route to their desired destination to minimize traffic through Xenacoj.

Please pray for those who walk and drive the streets of Xenacoj that they would be safe.

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Not far from German’s house, I snapped a picture of this sign.  It’s a new sign in Xenacoj where a gas station was built sometime between our 2013 visit and our 2014 visit.

I had the chance to hang out with Dave Sgro from GO! Ministries earlier this week, and he explained that small restaurants are starting to pop-up throughout the village.

Things are moving forward (or are at least changing) in the village we love.

Pray for the people of Xenacoj as they prepare to elect the next mayor of the village.

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German represents Christ well in all he does.  He has a hunger and passion to know Him more and to serve Him more deeply.

During our week in Guatemala last summer, German kept a feverish pace as he ran around transporting supplies and people and coordinating as we served in Xenacoj.

Please pray for German that he would be strong and courageous as he serves the people of Xenacoj.

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all in

I go to the gym on a daily basis.  I’m there for an hour, and my workout routine typically includes 40 minutes of cardiovascular training and 20 minutes of strength training in the wellness center.

When my workout is done, I sometimes stop to look into the basketball gym before heading out for the rest of my day.  There is always a group of guys playing basketball.  I used to play with these guys.  In fact, I was one of the original two founding members of the early morning basketball games.  I’m pretty sure my friend, Joe, and I started playing over ten years ago.  We would usually play once a week.  Eventually, other guys started coming into the gym to play with us.  Before we knew it, we had enough guys for a full court game.  Then we added more and split into two games going on simultaneously.

I stopped playing several years ago when I sprained my ankle one too many times and my lower back “complained” too much about the pain caused by playing.  It was a hard decision as I have always loved the game of basketball, but I needed to modify my workout routine to keep me healthy for running and for life.

Yesterday as I was leaving the gym, I looked through the window into the basketball gym just a little too long.  The guys waved me in as they needed one more guy to even up the teams.  Before I knew it, I was running full-court four-on-four basketball.  Despite my running shoes and my rustiness, I was able to keep up and contribute to the game.  After fifteen minutes of playing, it was time to head home so I could get ready for work.

When I arrived home to shower before work, I was floating.  I’m pretty sure I was smiling ear to ear when I told Leanne I had done something crazy at the gym that morning.

If you look back to the first Ice Breaker of the year, you may remember I set a fitness goal for 2015.  The goal was to dunk a basketball by the end of 2015.  Since writing that post on in early January, I have discovered that achieving this goal is going to take a much bigger effort than I could have ever imagined.  Besides adding a few pounds over the past few years, I have lost a lot of my explosive leg lifting strength as a result of focusing on running for so long.  My first efforts to dunk earlier this year were embarrassing and enlightening.  Dunking used to be pretty easy, but now it was next to impossible.

In March, I started adding consistent strength training to my morning workout routine.  Once I started working on my legs, I could see how much work I had ahead of me.  I am noticing improvement, but I still have a lot of leg strength to rebuild before my goal will be achieved.

As I ran back and forth on the basketball court yesterday, I tried to be careful not to turn my ankles as running shoes are not ideal for playing basketball.  When I left the gym, I started to consider the possibility of purchasing a pair of basketball shoes.  This would be an investment for sure.

Achieving our goals requires investment and sacrifice especially if they are stretch goals.  Making the necessary investment into achieving your goal will help you cross the line from casual pursuit to all-out commitment.  I’m guessing basketball shoes will cost $100.  If I make this purchase, I will be making a statement.  I will be telling myself and the rest of the world (for those who care) that I am serious about dunking a basketball again.

We can talk the talk, but it doesn’t mean anything unless we walk the talk.

Looking back on the goals you set at the beginning of the year, how are you doing?  What investment have you made to take your goal pursuit to the next level?

I love doing life with my wife.

Serving in Guatemala has brought us some of the greatest joy of our lives together.

When I look at this picture, I look forward to the adventure waiting in front of us.

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We have all known the long loneliness, and we have found that the answer is community.

Dorothy Day

When I started blogging nearly eight years ago, I didn’t know what I was getting into.  My friend, Frank Chiapperino, encouraged me to sign-up for my first blog and start writing.  And so, I did.  I wrote about my family.  I wrote about small group ministry.  And I wrote about things that stretched me.

As I continued the writing journey, I started connecting with people.  I met several people who started leaving comments on my blog, and I met other people as I ventured into the blog world to discover other writers and commenters from across the country and around the world.  Despite the lack of face time with these fellow members of the blog world, I could feel a sense of community developing.  We began encouraging each other and connecting on other platforms.  We started exchanging guest posts.  And we directed friends and followers to others in the online community.

I remember the sense of connection I felt with people from all over the world.  People like Larry Carter, Chad Jones, Joshua Rivers, Bill Grandi, and many, many others became friends.  I even remember feeling a sense of connection with more prominent bloggers like Michael Hyatt, Chris LoCurto, Jeff Goins, and Jon Acuff.

This continued for a while until it seemed like the community I was experienced was steamrolled by a massive drive to grow traffic, email lists, and followers.  I’ll admit I am guilty of this, and I’m sure many of my fellow blogging friends were too.  A few prominent bloggers like Michael Hyatt stopped accepting comments on their blogs.  Countless business and blogging coaches began advertising with more focus tips and tricks for growing email lists and income.  The blog world became less and less personal as it morphed into a business.  In addition to this, the blogging and podcasting world continued to fill up with more and more creators.  I kept subscribing to more blogs and more podcasts, and I slowly began to disconnect from the community I had come to love.

Am I connecting with any of you?

Monday night, I decided to try something a little different.  I decided to give Google Hangouts a try.  I went down my contact list and connected with a friend from Arizona, Chad Jones.  After a few minutes of passing text messages back and forth, we connected by video.  We had shared emails and comments before things became too busy for both of us, but this was the first time we connected face-to-face (through the computer).  We talked for several minutes about writing, about our families, and about our jobs.  We shared prayer requests before we signed off.  There was something restoring about this conversation.

After our video call ended, we continued the conversation on Twitter.  Here’s how it went:

  Very cool catching up with on

  Right back at you It was a blast hanging with you

  Reminded me of why I got into blogging back in the day: the community. I think that’s part of what’s been missing.

I think you are on to something. You and I can make a difference by making community happen.

 

Over the past few months, I have felt the loneliness that Dorothy Day talks about in the opening quote when it comes to the blogging community.  I know I could point fingers at those around me who seem to be falling off the map.  But I think a lot of the responsibility to experience this community rests on me.  I’m the one responsible for pursuing community.  I believe I was made to be in community, and you were too!

Pursuing and experiencing community requires commitment and intentional actions.  It means carving out time for others.  It means turning off the noise and pruning down the list of people we follow, so we can find meaningful connection.  The internet gives us the opportunity to connect with a global community.  This is a good thing, but let’s not forget to pursue depth in our relationships.

This is how we will conquer the loneliness that sometimes creeps into our lives.

Are you feeling lonely?  What’s missing from your life?  How are you experiencing meaningful connection and community in your life?  Tell me about it in the comments.

Jose was pretty quiet most of the time we were building his house, but he was probably the one my wife enjoyed hanging around the most.

As he enjoyed our late morning break time, I snapped this picture.  The expression on his face is the definition of happy.  He’s happy we are there, and we are so happy to help Jose and his family.

Happiness is not guaranteed in life, but I think it might be something that is contagious.  We’re giving it to Jose, and he is giving it to us and to others.

You and I have the opportunity to be agents of happiness.  It starts with a simple smile or a word of kindness.  Take time today to spread the happiness!

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foundation

For years, there was a small, family owned lumber and hardware store in my hometown.  Whenever I needed something for a project at home, I would run over to the local hardware store to consult with the owner.  He and his co-workers were always helpful giving advice on how to tackle my issue at home.

Several years ago, the owners moved out.  They were forced out of business by the advent of the big box home improvement stores which attracted the younger home owners looking for the cheapest price.  It was a sad day when they locked the doors on the old lumber yard.  Our community lost something.  Over the past few years, the structure which housed the hardware store was demolished to make room for a future revitalization project.

The former owner of the former hardware store lives down the street from me.  I don’t see him very often, but I often think about him as I walk or drive by his house.

What is he doing?  What does he think of the changes to our small town?  How has he adapted to the changes?

The other day I stopped at one of the big box home improvement stores to check out material for a potential home project.  As I was approaching the store from the parking lot, I noticed a familiar face outside the entrance.  It was a store employee neatly putting something away.  It was my neighbor – the owner of the old neighborhood hardware store.

I stopped to talk to him for a few minutes before I went into the store.  I mentioned that I lived up the street from his house and that I was a customer at his old store.  I had the opportunity to hear about his career path since closing down the local lumber yard.

He plays the organ at a local church, and he decided to go back to work for one of the stores that drove him out of business.  As he explained it to me, he has learned to adapt.  He could have forever scorned the place that put himself out of business.  Instead, he chose to join them and use his talents to provide local customer service at a place not always known for customer service.  I got the sense that he decided to embrace the opportunity to bring salt and light into the big box store and where ever he landed.

I was impressed by his attitude.

So often, we put on a poor attitude when someone does something to “harm” us.  Regardless of the circumstances, we have a decision to make.  We can stay negative, sulking in defeat.  Or we can see the opportunity in our circumstances.

I was talking to a local pastor on Sunday night, and we were talking about the recent SCOTUS decision on same-sex marriage.  He provided some amazing insight.

He said we are rapidly approaching a time when we will be living in a secular society.  As he mentioned this, he smiled.  He went onto say how excited he was by this possibility.  When Christians live in a secular society, they will be forced to hash out their beliefs.  The early church was formed in a secular society, and it grew at an amazing pace.  Imagine what could happen if Christians get serious about their faith.  The ramifications could be huge for the Kingdom of God.

He chose to find the positive in the time of major shifts in our country’s culture.  I hadn’t thought about it like this before, but I like what he had to share.

Just like owner of the former hardware store, we can find the positive if we chose to look from the right perspective.

If you’ve gone through changes and you are struggling to come to terms with the adjustments you are facing, I’d encourage you to step back and take a look around you.  Consider how you can transform your mindset to see the positive in what is going on around you.  It’s there if you keep looking.

Finally, when all else fails, I would challenge you to look to the ROCK when everything else seems to be shifting around you.

Truly he is my rock and my salvation; he is my fortress, I will not be shaken.  Psalm 62:6

How has a shift in your perspective changed things for you?  Tell me about it in the comments.

Time flies over us, but leaves its shadow behind.

Nathaniel Hawthorne

We purchased several bottles of Coca-Cola (made with sugar cane – not corn syrup) and some other snacks for a late morning snack.  We found a shaded area where we could sit down and share the goodies with the family while we took a break.  As we watched the back weaving I mentioned yesterday, Betty brought out some of her products.  She knew we were potential purchasers, and she wanted to show off her talents.

As I look at this picture again, I notice the shadow being cast on the green wall by the flash of my camera.  Within a fraction of a second the shadow is gone.  It’s a brief moment in time, but Betty is leaving her mark.  She is leaving a mark that will last longer than the shadow on the wall.  She is impacted her kids.  She is impacting her extended family.  And she is impacting her community.

This picture reminds me that we all have the opportunity to leave our mark.  We are here in this life for a short time.  Relatively speaking, our life is like the shadow on the wall.  We are here, and we are gone in the blink of an eye.

This isn’t meant to be depressing.  It’s a challenge to make the most of the time you have.  Cast a shadow that makes a difference in the world.  Keep things in a proper perspective.

What legacy are you leaving?  How are you making the most of the time you have here?

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Find out how you can make a difference in Guatemala by clicking here.