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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 — 5 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 — 4 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.)

Ice Breaker – Yacht

October 17, 2014 — 11 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.)

Question:  If you had a yacht, what would you name it?

My Answer:  Stretch seems like the obvious choice.  If I followed the pattern of my recent blog posts about having a mission mindset, you might think I should go with On A Mission.  I like the name Hope Floats.  I never saw the movie, but I think the name sounds “uplifting.”

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!

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Pray as though everything depended on God. Work as though everything depended on you.
St. Augustine

We want to be people to be people of action.

We want to be part of things being accomplished.  When we go on a short-term missions trip or when we chose to serve in our community, this typically means we want to get our hands dirty.  We want to build houses.  We want to feed hungry children.  We want to help widows.  These actions are important, and I believe they are part of every Christ followers calling.

Those who consider themselves religious and yet do not keep a tight rein on their tongues deceive themselves, and their religion is worthless.  Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.  James 1:26-27

But what if we are missing out on the key action we must take to truly move from just having a mission mindset to actually going on a mission?

The action we can easily overlook involves getting our knees dirty instead of our hands.  Yes.  Prayer is the action we must take if we want to be the most effective missionaries.

 “Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.”  Matthew 9:38

  • Prayer keeps us connected to God.
  • Prayer humbles us.
  • Prayer gives us appropriate perspective.
  • Prayer reminds us who is in charge.
  • Prayer works.
  • Prayer is effective.
  • Prayer is an action.

Let’s not forget about prayer!

How is your prayer life?  What is so hard about praying?  How has prayer changed your life?  How do you think your life would be different if prayer became a larger part of your life?

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The only thing worse than being blind is having sight but no vision.
Helen Keller

God may have given us a vision, but this is not all we need in order to fully achieve a mission mindset.

If we go full-out in an effort to realize the vision we have been given but we fail to cultivate our relationship with God, we will be useless.  We will be missing out on the key ingredient of a mission mindset.

In Exodus 2:11-25, we see Moses who has been given a vision to save and protect the people of Israel.  As a young man, he goes after this vision with pride and perhaps self-absorption.  He kills an Egyptian who is mistreating an Israelite.  His reputation among his own people quickly deteriorates.  It seems that Moses’ initial actions towards achieving his vision is done so without God.  Next, he heads into the wilderness where he lives for 40 years.  It is here, he meets “I AM WHO I AM” in the burning bush.  His wilderness experience provides an opportunity to be re-centered on God and to be personally humbled.  Only in this state can Moses lead effectively and can he appropriately approach the vision he had originally been given to save and protect the people of Israel.

I have a vision to write a book about short-term missions and mission mindset.  Last year, I spent a lot of time outlining this project and working toward this desired outcome.  I sent the outline out to some trusted friends and advisers who gave me incredible feedback and confirmation regarding this project.  I put the project on hold for several reasons.  In a way, I felt like Moses being sent into the wilderness to meet “I AM WHO I AM.”  I needed to be humbled and re-centered on God before I could effectively go after this vision.

As I’ve pursued my relationship with God more intentionally, this vision has been reignited and the content creation has become much richer and deeper than I originally outlined.  In fact, the outline which I spent so much time on last year is being altered based on my reinvigorated pursuit.

I don’t know what vision God has put on your heart, but I’m sure it’s exciting and worthwhile.  In the pursuit of realizing this vision, don’t forget to pursue God first.  This is a decision you will not forget.

What vision for the future have you been given?  What is preventing you from realizing your God-given vision? 

 

Hitting The Right Stride

October 14, 2014 — 3 Comments

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“The test of a man’s religious life and character is not what he does in the exceptional moments of life, but what he does in the ordinary times, when there is nothing tremendous or exciting on.”

Oswald Chambers

I am nearly six and a half feet tall (six feet five and three-quarters inches to be exact), and I have long legs.  With long legs, comes a long stride.  If I’m walking down the hall at my office, there are many of my co-workers who simply cannot keep up with me.  Their legs are too short, and they cannot match my stride.

In Genesis 5, we meet Enoch.  He is part of the genealogy between Adam and Noah.  There is not a lot shared about him in the Bible.  We know his father’s name is Jared.  We know he had a son named Methuselah.  And we know he lived 365 years.  But this isn’t it.  Enoch walked with God.

Does this mean Enoch had long legs and a huge stride?  I doubt it.  My guess is that Enoch was probably fairly short compared to today’s standards.  Most likely, he had a complete, intimate focus and relationship with God.  I get the feeling Enoch knew God.  The Bible doesn’t give us any other details about his life.  He didn’t invent the wheel.  He didn’t rule the land.  He didn’t do anything spectacular as far as we can tell, but he walked with God.

In today’s world, most of us have a thirst for adventure.  We want to achieve greatness.  We want to be well-known.  This becomes our focus and even our god sometimes.

What if we changed our focus?

What if we really pursued a relationship with God?

At the end of my life, I would love to be remembered as a man who walked with God.

How about you?

How would your life be different if walking with God became your first priority?

How To Have The Best Dreams

October 13, 2014 — 3 Comments

Dream as if you’ll live forever. Live as if you’ll die today.
James Dean

People are always talking and writing about dreams.  I think it can be healthy to dream and to have big dreams for the future.  But it can be discouraging when the dreams don’t come true.  Maybe we don’t always have the best dreams.

What if I told you the secret to having the very best dreams?

A short-term missions trip can be the catalyst for developing a vision for the future.

Shortly after returning home from my last trip to Guatemala last summer, I took time to write down some of these visions or dreams in a post titled “Guatemala Dreams.”  These visions and dreams are great, but they often fall to the wayside when we return to the pushes and pulls of everyday life off the mountain.

Keeping these dreams and visions alive can be a real challenge.  I look at this list, and I remain hopeful that they will be realized over time.

And yet, I’m reminded that it is so important that these dreams are birthed out of a vision from God.  Knowing God’s vision for me will only truly happen as I seek to know Him.

I still have these Guatemala Dreams, but I see how I must pursue Him first… then all these things will be added unto me….

But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.  Matthew 6:33

And this is how you will have the best dreams!

What are you dreaming about?  How do you know you are having the best dreams?