What do you consider sacred?  Aidan Rogers shares a story which will have you stretching and thinking about what it means to be sacred.  Her story telling is beautiful.  I hope you’ll read her post, answer her questions in the comments, and head over to visit her blog.  For more information about Aidan, see the bio at the end of the post.

Sacred Spaces

“Would you provide a benediction on the 5th?”

It was a simple question my mother asked me, and I responded without hesitation.

“No.”

She shook her head and walked away, and I reached over to grab the television remote. I had been working on the 5th in my head for at least a month. It was our first big family reunion since the matriarch of our family, my great-grandmother, had us all down on the farm twenty years ago. Back then, I was just a little girl. Today, not so much.

I had planned to spend the 5th just staying out of trouble. Trying to be a better, more grown-up version of myself. Trying to establish myself as a strong, but fun, young woman, a good friend, an enjoyable presence. I had planned to spend the 5th trying to relax and just be myself. To let my family, who I don’t get to see as often as I like, see who I really am.

The irony is that who I really am is a newly-ordained Masters of Divinity student working her way toward board certification as a chaplain, all because God has called me to share life’s sacred moments with people.

I regretted my “no” as soon as I said it.

I think sometimes, the difficulty of having people close to you is that you start to relax around them. They get to see your good and your bad, who you are when you’re relaxing and not trying to really be anything. They get to know sort of your baseline and how you operate. They see you in your natural state.

The people you share your space with know so many of your secrets, it’s hard to remember to show them your sanctified side, too. It’s hard to remember they need to see you in more than your natural state; they need to see you in your created state, as you were really intended to be.

So often when we’re trying to make an impression on this world, at least for me, we’re tempted to stretch ourselves ever thinner. We push out into wider circles, step out into bigger spaces. We reach for the horizon and, if we’re lucky, we touch it, for however brief a moment. But I think sometimes we’d be better off digging deeper instead of reaching broader. Putting down roots instead of growing branches. Standing firm on our own two feet and declaring who we were meant to be.

There’s a trick to this, and it sounds a bit callous. We have to stop living for those around us. The people we share our sacred space with, those closest to us, they have a front row seat to our growing process. They see clearly our hypocrisy, our fallen moments, our weaknesses. They know all our secrets, and it’s too easy to live a shallow life hoping they won’t call us on it. If we don’t profess a bigger thing for ourselves, nobody really notices our little things. But we can’t let this keep us from the depth of all we are.

We have to live, particularly in our sacred spaces, for the God who calls us. We have to live listening to His whisper. We have to live knowing who He’s created us to be and claiming that, even if we don’t get it perfectly right. Our families, our friends, our loved ones need to see us not just reaching out to our world but reaching into our hearts.

The 5th came and went, and you know? It was pretty nice. I spent the day serving, laughing, and loving. I spent the day owning my weaknesses and stepping into my insecurities, taking every opportunity to immerse myself in the beauty of family, a treasure I am just coming to understand in my young life. And just as we all gathered round to start to eat, I prayed a benediction over my family like it was something I was called to do.

I barely remember what I was so worried that people might say if I dared to pray in front of them. But almost to a man, my family gathered ’round me said what I had hoped they would say:

What would it mean for you to touch your heart instead of just touching your world? What if you stretched down deep? Who needs to see that from you?

Aidan Rogers is an author, blogger, speaker, and artist from central Indiana where she is a member of Turning Point Church.  Aidan has served her congregation in many capacities and currently serves as a member of the Worship Arts ministry team, coordinator of the women’s ministry monthly newsletter, and Communion devotional speaker. She is a Masters of Divinity student at Lincoln Christian Seminary, with the goal of becoming a board-certified chaplain.
Aidan is a writer who doesn’t believe in answers; she believes in asking the truest questions.  She never set out to be an expert on anything or the kind of author who wants to help you fix your life in six steps.  Life does not work that way.  Instead, she works to be authentic while honoring the beautiful gifts God has blessed her with.  She wants to invite others on the journey of asking the hard questions and finding the Answer from the only One with the authority to say so – that is God.  And she warns, when you find Him, He’s probably eating an apple.
In her free time, Aidan enjoys worship, riding her retro bicycle, working with her hands, fixing things around the house, playing the piano (or a number of other instruments), and dancing.  She also enjoys spending time with her two dogs – Rocket Scientist and Mia – niece, and two nephews.  You can find more about Aidan at her blog:  aidanis.com

Twice As Nice

July 22, 2014 — 1 Comment

After some misinterpreted directions, our team started building the back wall of the first house incorrectly yesterday. I finished yesterday’s work a little unsatisfied with the results. When we arrived at the site this morning, we took a new approach to the other walls. The results were so much better. After some efforts to repair the back wall this morning, we decided to disassemble the back wall and start over. It put us back a little from a time perspective, but we will complete the first house with much more satisfaction.

We worked really hard today, and we continued to build relationships. Tomorrow, I think we will finish the first house. This is not a small accomplishment. This home will house Betty and her five children (Marcos, Fernando, Rosita, and two others). Then it will be on to house number two. Keep praying for energy, strength, and wisdom.

Pondering Prayer

July 22, 2014 — 8 Comments

Leah Adams shares about some thoughts on prayer today.  This post should stretch you to consider your prayer life.  You can read more about Leah in the bio at the end of the post.  After you answer Leah’s question in the comments, I would appreciate it if you would pay her a visit over at her blog.

…..

I want to thank Jon for the privilege of guest posting here at The Stretched Blog. Jon does a great job providing meaningful, engaging posts here, and I hope to do the same in my post today. Hope you are having a great vacation, Jon.

Pondering Prayer

Today I want us to ponder for a bit on prayer. How is your prayer life? Are your spiritual knees calloused from time spent on them before the throne, or has it been a while since you gazed at the Father from your knees? Do your prayers feel fervent and effective, or like they hit the ceiling and smack you on the head on the way back down? I know at different times in my life I could fit into all of these categories. Sometimes in the same day!!!!

I have spent a bit of time in recent weeks examining some of the prayers recorded for us in Scripture. It has been a blessed time of study that has opened my eyes to a few pearls with regard to prayer. I’d love to share them with you, and hopefully make application to my life and yours.

Thus far, I have studied three prayers prayed by three different individuals in the Scriptures….all from the Old Testament. Each prayer has a different purpose and style, but many of the same elements. Here they are:

  • 2 Samuel 7:18-29 – the prayer of King David after the pronouncement of the Davidic Covenant
  • 2 Chronicles 20:1-12 – the prayer of King Nebuchadnezzar when he learned of his enemies coming against Israel
  • Daniel 2:20-23 – the prayer of Daniel in thanksgiving for answered prayer from God

The first thing the Holy Spirit opened my eyes to from each of these prayers was the humility of the person uttering the prayer. They went to God first, and they saw Him as their leader, provider, and protector. They acknowledged Him as the source of their strength and wisdom. They didn’t call a committee meeting, or text a friend. They turned immediately to God, and acknowledged their need of Him. Each pray-er saw himself as he truly was, needy and sinful, against the back drop of God’s holiness and majesty. I’m not sure we get that today.

Absolutely, we are told to come boldly to the throne of God with our prayers, but ‘boldly’ in no way means we approach God flippantly, as if we were doing Him a favor by talking to Him. We must come humbly and reverently, acknowledging that HE IS GOD, and we are not.

Next, I was stunned to realize that the actual request they brought to God was only a small part of their prayers. The vast majority of their prayer was spent remembering God’s faithfulness, and acknowledging Him as God. In essence, they fixed their eyes on God rather than their circumstance or need.

As I thought about my own prayer life, I recognized that there might be just a teeny bit of work that I need to do. I want to come to Him more reverently and humbly, (read that, face-to-the-floor figuratively, and maybe literally) with my mouth full of praise for Him. ‘He must increase, I must decrease’ (John 3:30) would be a good motto to structure our prayers around, perhaps.

So, what about your prayer life? I would love to hear how you pray, when you pray, is there a structure to your prayer, and whether you feel you are doing pretty well with your prayer life or if it could use a bit of work.

“Prayer does not fit us for the greater works; prayer is the greater work.”

Oswald Chambers

BIO

Leah describes herself as the “prodigal son’s sister” after spending several years walking far from the Lord in her twenties. Helping others understand the grace that is offered by Jesus to anyone who will accept it is the passion of Leah’s heart. In a works-based and failure-prone society, grace is a concept that many people have difficulty grasping and Leah’s speaking and writing ministry, called The Point Ministries, seeks to point others straight to Jesus and his amazing grace.

A speaker and communicator, Leah lives in northern Georgia with her husband, Greg, who is also her dentist. She holds a Doctor of Pharmacy Degree from Mercer University School of Pharmacy. Leah is a CLASS certified speaker and is the author of a Bible study for ladies entitled, From the Trash Pile to the Treasure Chest: Creating a Godly Legacy. She recently released another book entitled, HeBrews A Better Blend.  She writes for Internet Café Devotions, CBN.com and Christianparenting.org. Visit Leah at her ministry website at www.leahadams.org. Find Leah on Facebook at Leah Colwell Adams and on Twitter (@PointMinistries).

We made it to Guatemala safely. I don’t have easy access to the internet this year, so my updates will most likely be very limited.

We have already been very busy working on the two houses. It’s quite a bit different than our previous trips. But different is good. God is doing a new thing in Xenacoj, and it is good!

Flikr Image by Florin Gorgan.

Flikr Image by Florin Gorgan.

I am honored to share a post by Carol Peterson today.  Her bio appears at the end of the post, and I’d appreciate if you could pay her a visit after you answer the question at the end of the post.  I really resonate with what Carol has to share as it is something I have struggled with recently in releasing my first book.  Whether you are a writer, a musician, a pastor, or something else.  We all have something worth sharing.  Carol’s words today address an important aspect of releasing what you have to share.

Marketing for the Humble-Hearted

Scripture reminds us to be humble. It tells us that pride is a “deadly sin.” We are taught to have the attitude of a servant.

Writers hope our books bring value or at least a joyful respite to our readers. But despite the buckets of sweat, the gallons of coffee and the trash bags of shredded revisions that went into completing our books, writing them remains the easy part of this business.

The hard part of being a writer is getting our books into the hands of readers so they can be helped or brought joy. It’s that marketing and promotion thing where Christian writers often stumble. How can we be humble while striving to promote our books?

The key is in the value we bring. If our books have no value, then strutting our stuff and marketing our books is indeed prideful. But if what we have written has the possibility of helping even one person, then we have the responsibility to do what we can to help that one person find our book.

To be a Christian is to try to follow Jesus’ example. Jesus didn’t sit in the corner of his house with a few friends and discuss the Ten Commandments. Rather, he traveled the cities and countryside, speaking both to the few and to the multitudes. Often the demands on him necessitated that he escape for quiet moments by himself.

Being God incarnate aside, Jesus did what was tough because what he had to say was important. He did the work of promotion, so to speak, in order to spread the Gospel. Because people needed to hear it.

Doing what is necessary—even if it is difficult and painful—is what having the attitude of a servant is about. A servant seeks to do what is good for someone else and sacrifices his own comfort for the benefit of others. Most of us writers are happiest sitting in a corner and writing. Doing the scary, hard, tedious work of marketing and promotion is all about sacrificing our own comfort.

Many of us Christians write as a ministry—to educate, entertain or inspire others. If we are writing in obedience, part of that obedience involves letting people know about what we have written—because people who need our books can’t be helped by them if they don’t know our books exist.

We come to the writing business to serve others. Part of serving includes promoting so we can reach the people who need to be served. In other words, part of a writing—or any other ministry—involves stepping out into the world. Following the example of Jesus.

Is there something you feel timid about doing? How might looking at it from the point of view of serving others empower you?

Carol Peterson

CAROL PETERSON writes teacher resources for kids and Bible studies for adults. Her latest series, With Faith Like Hers focuses on individual studies of women in Scripture for lessons modern gals can learn about their own character and circumstances. www.carolpetersonauthor.com

Guatemala 2013 321

There is an electricity in the air.

The excitement is building, and there is this feeling that something life-changing is about to happen.

In just over an hour, our family will be heading towards Newark, NJ to catch a flight tomorrow morning to Guatemala.

We have thoughts, ideas, dreams, hopes, and even some fears about what we are about to experience.

We want to change lives – lives of widows, lives of orphans, lives of those who don’t know Jesus.  This will probably happen, but it won’t be the only change that happens.  With little doubt, we will be impacted.  Each of our lives will be transformed by our time away in a foreign land.

What stories we will have to share upon our return.  I can only imagine.

And so as we stand on the brink of amazing expectation and opportunity, we patiently wait with anticipation of what is to come.

I’m not certain about my ability to connect while we are in Guatemala.  I’ll try to check in from time to time if time and accessibility permits.  In the meantime, I have a great line up of guest bloggers who will keep you stretching while I am away.  Read their posts.  Leave comments and enter the discussion.  Jump over to their blogs.  (And while you are at it say a prayer for us, for our partners, and for the people of Guatemala – specifically of Santo Domingo Xenacoj.)

Until next week, keep stretching and look for something life-changing.

 My eager expectation and hope is that I will not be ashamed about anything, but that now as always, with all boldness, Christ will be highly honored in my body, whether by life or by death.  Philippians 1:20 HCSB

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.)

Questions:  If you were to create a slogan for your life, what would it be? (Example: Eat, drink, and be merry, for tomorrow, we all die.)

My Answer:  Make the most of every opportunity.

Make

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!

On Track – Life Lessons from the Track & Field is now available on Amazon in paperback and for Kindle.  Click the link below to get your copy today.

As a reminder, I am offering a FREE pdf copy of the interior of the book to subscribers of The Stretched Newsletter.  Head over to the main page of the blog and sign up on the right hand menu bar to get your copy today for FREE!

It’s time for me to start packing for our trip to Guatemala.  We can take up to 50 pounds in our suitcases.  We must plan appropriately to make sure we are bringing the necessary items.  Here is a list of things you should consider if you are traveling internationally for a short-term missions trip:

10 Things To Pack On Your International Short-Term Missions Trip

  1. Long pants or long dresses.  Short shorts are not the norm in most of the world.  In fact, uncovered upper legs are quite offensive in most cultures.  We will be wearing pants and long shorts, and the girls will also be wearing long dresses and capris.  If you are traveling overseas, make sure you dress appropriately.
  2. Clothes to leave behind.  The past two years, I have come home with less than half of the clothing I brought.  I can always get more t-shirts and shoes at home in America.  My shirts and shoes are treasured possessions for our friends in Guatemala.  If you are planning to go to a third world country, plan to come home with lighter or fewer suitcases.
  3. Camera.  You don’t have to or want to bring an expensive camera, but you want to bring something to capture the faces and places you will be visiting. Our pictures from last summer of some of my most prize “possessions.”  I treasure the beautiful people and memories represented through these pictures.  (Plan to leave many of the other devices at home.  For one, you probably won’t have access to internet.  Secondly, our devices could cause us to stick out like a sore thumb to a pick-pocket or thief.)
  4. Snacks.  You will want to try some of the food in the foreign land you are visiting, but there are times when you need a little snack or just a taste of home.  Pack granola bars, nuts, gum, or trail mix just in case.  These will come in handy when you are in the middle of a busy day far away from safe food and water.
  5. Water bottle.  We drank a lot of bottled water during our trip last year.  This water was safe to drink, and it kept us hydrated during our travels.  Make sure your water source is safe before you drink it.  Once you find a safe water source, be sure to fill your water bottle as often as possible.
  6. Rain gear and light weight jackets.  It is the rainy season in Guatemala while we are there, and it also gets cool at night.  Rain gear will help you stay dry during the random rain showers, and a jacket or sweatshirt will keep you warm in the cool evenings.  People often think we will be really hot in Guatemala, but we will actually be hanging out at 7,500 feet above sea level.  It’s much cooler at this elevation.  Find out what the weather is like where you are traveling, so you can plan and dress appropriately.
  7. Hand sanitizer.  I can’t guarantee there will be soap and water around when you get dirty.  Make sure you have some type of hand cleaner on hand just in case.  You’ll need it.
  8. Bible and journal.  I would probably recommend a small travel Bible to safe space.  You will want this while you are in the mission field.  God will speak to you in amazing ways, and His Word should be an important part of your listening.  You will also want to have a journal so you can capture your thoughts along the way.
  9. Spending money.  Don’t go overboard here.  You don’t need a lot of money.  You can exchange it at the airport or at a local bank.  You need just enough for snacks, a few souvenirs, and a small gift for your hosts.  We brought $100 per person which seemed to be the right about for a week-long trip.  I would guess that we spend most of this on souvenirs for those at home and for a gift to our host family.  Carrying around lots of money is a recipe for trouble.
  10. Cipro. Cipro is short for a longer pharmaceutical name.  This medicine is crucial for traveling overseas to third world countries.  Despite your best efforts, you will most likely be exposed to bacteria and germs your body is not used to having around.  Travel diarrhea is not fun.  In fact, it can be pretty hard on your body.  Make sure you have Cipro around just in case.  (Malaria is not a problem where we are going, but this is something you should be aware of depending on what part of the world you are visiting.  Depending on where you are heading in Guatemala, you may or may not need to take medicine for malaria.  Malaria medication typically must be taken before, during, and after your trip, so plan ahead.)

One more thing:  Don’t forget your passport!  You might need this to get into and out of a country.

What am I missing?  What questions to you have about packing for an international short-term missions trip?  What else would you want to bring on your trip?

Blogging All-Stars

July 16, 2014 — 4 Comments

Yesterday, Major League Baseball celebrated its best players with the annual All-Star Game.

As a fan of the game, I have always enjoyed the All-Star Game.  It’s an opportunity to recognize the outstanding players and the fan-favorite players of the league.  This year’s game only featured one player from my team – Chase Utley of the Philadelphia Phillies.  It was also the last All-Star Game for New York Yankees shortstop, Derek Jeter.

The players in this game are well-loved and recognized throughout the sport and its fan base.

Don’t you think it’s time we recognize the all-starts of the blogging world?

If I were going to choose a Blogging All-Star Team, it would include the following bloggers:

  • Joe Lalonde – Joe writes a great blog designed to encourage leaders.  I love Joe’s insights and encouragement.  If you are looking to learn and be inspired in your leadership, go check out Joe’s blog.
  • Matt McWilliams – Matt writes about life and leadership.  He is an entrepreneur who passes along excellent advice.  Matt is also the founder of the Thank You Revolution.
  • Larry Carter – Larry “The Deuce” is one of the most consistent bloggers I know.  His blog is a great mix of humor and faith.  He will get you thinking twice about things in your everyday life.
  • Dan Erickson – Dan is one of the most creative bloggers I know.  He blogs about communication, social media, and a variety of other topics.  Dan doesn’t follow the trends followed my many other bloggers.  I like the way he goes against the flow.
  • Jeff Goins – Jeff is one of the premier bloggers in the blog world.  He blogs about writing, and he shares practical advice and stories about being a writer.
  • Rob Shepherd – Rob is a pastor, a father, a husband, and a comedian.  He’s also a Lakers fan, but I try not to hold that against him.  I love the way Rob makes you laugh and think.  He is also a movie buff, so I appreciate the movie reviews he occasionally brings to his blog.
  • Shawn Smucker – After an absence from the blogging world, Shawn is back at it.  This guy can write.  He will inspire you.  He will stretch you.  And he will make you smile.
  • Seth Barnes – Seth is the leader behind Adventures in Missions.  His blog challenges readers to live radical in a comfortable world.
  • Dee Riggs – Dee is a friend from years ago, and she is one of the most gifted writers I have ever read.  Her blog takes life from many different angles.
  • Dustin W. Stout – Dustin is a social media and blogging guru.  He is also a creative designer.  He provides practical tips for improving your blog and your social media presence.
  • Michael Hyatt – Michael is the Babe Ruth of the team.  His blog is one of the most followed blogs in the whole blog world.  He blogs about intentional living and leadership, and he also shares a lot about building your platform.  I have learned a lot over the years from Michael, his community, and his guest bloggers.
  • Carlos Whittaker – Carlos is a worship leader, songwriter, author, and creative family guy.  He also approaches life with creativity, intentionality, and passion.
  • Eileen Knowles – Eileen writes about the “scenic route” of life.  She is an amazing writer who writes on a variety of topics.

There are many people who I could add to the list.  If you are a blogger and you are not on the list, don’t take it personally.  I follow so many blogs, and it is a challenge to narrow it down to the very best.  Having said this, I hope you will check out the blogs mentioned above.

Who would you add to the list?  Who would be on your Blogging All-Star Team?

In a few short days, we will be eating this breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Our family has this meal nearly once a week since our trip
To Guatemala last year. It reminds us of our trip, our friends in Guatemala, and how many people live all the time. We can’t wait to go back this weekend.

What did you have for dinner tonight?

Published via Pressgram