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    Count Your Blessings

    On the way home from work tonight, I talked to my brother. He is going through a rather challenging time. I won’t get into details here, but towards the end of the conversation he commented how he and his wife were seeing the Holy Spirit in their lives in the midst of their challenges. He said he particularly saw this in the people God had put in their lives.

    As we talked, we were reminded of the song our Mom often sang at home as we were children growing up – Count Your Blessings (by Johnson Oatman, Jr.,). It goes like this:

    1. When upon life’s billows you are tempest-tossed,
      When you are discouraged, thinking all is lost,
      Count your many blessings, name them one by one,
      And it will surprise you what the Lord has done.
      • Refrain:
        Count your blessings, name them one by one,
        Count your blessings, see what God has done!
        Count your blessings, name them one by one,

        Count your many blessings, see what God has done.
    2. Are you ever burdened with a load of care?
      Does the cross seem heavy you are called to bear?
      Count your many blessings, every doubt will fly,
      And you will keep singing as the days go by.
    3. When you look at others with their lands and gold,
      Think that Christ has promised you His wealth untold;
      Count your many blessings—money cannot buy
      Your reward in heaven, nor your home on high.
    4. So, amid the conflict whether great or small,
      Do not be discouraged, God is over all;
      Count your many blessings, angels will attend,
      Help and comfort give you to your journey’s end.

    In the midst of our darkness hours, our deepest discouragements, and our crushing challenges, we can discover renewed hope and purpose when we take time to count our blessings.

    I don’t know what challenges you are facing, but I’m sure there are blessings in your life worth counting.

    For me it starts with a wonderful, loving wife, a fantastic family, my health, my job, my church family, my friends. And this is just the beginning. God has blessed me in ways that far outshine my challenges.

    How have you been blessed? Take time to count some of your blessings today.

    Many, Lord my God, are the wonders you have done, the things you planned for us. None can compare with you; were I to speak and tell of your deeds, they would be too many to declare. Psalm 40:5

    Win The Heart (Book Review)

    As a leader in my company and the head of my department, I believe I have the responsibility to create and influence our culture. I want to build and be part of an organization that makes the world a better place, that grows and attracts talent, and that provides a place where people are proud to work.

    When I was asked to participate in the book launch of Mark Miller‘s new book, Win the Heart: How to Create a Culture of Full Engagement, I had no hesitation in saying yes. Miller, who also wrote Talent Magnet, Chess Not Checkers, and Leaders Made Here, is a leader at Chick-Fil-A. Having seen the culture that Chick-Fil-A promotes first hand (both my kids have worked for Chick-Fil-A at one time or another), I’ve seen how culture is an important focus for this organization.

    In Win he Heart, Miller tells the story of CEO Blake Brown as he sets out on a journey to discover the secrets of a fully engaged culture. Miller uses story telling to teach four main truths:

    C – Connection – If you want people to CARE about your organization, you have to make sure they are connected to the organization, the mission, and the team.

    A – Affirmation – If you want people to CARE about your organization, you have to affirm your team members through your words and your actions.

    R – Responsibility – If you want people to CARE about your organization, you have to make sure they have responsibility and are empowered to make decisions and take actions that will move the organization forward.

    E – Environment – If you want people to CARE about your organization, you have to create the right environment making sure team members have the right setting to get things done and to draw them into the organization.

    Win the Heart is all about helping people CARE about the organization and about moving their hearts into a deeper level of engagement.

    This book was rather simple. Sometimes simple is exactly what we need to inspire us, to motivate us, and to push us forward to lead our organizations to the next level.

    [Note: I was given a free copy of Win the Heart in exchange for my honest review. I was not required to endorse this book. I believe leaders are readers, and there is definitely value in this book to help you grow as a leader.]

    Time For You To Take A Risk

    No matter the risks we take, we always consider the end to be too soon, even though in life, more than anything else, quality should be more important than quantity.
    Alex Honnold

    Over the weekend, I watched 2019 Academy Award winner, Free Solo. In this documentary, Alex Honnold attempts to become the first person to free solo climb El Capitan’s 900 meter vertical granite face in Yosemite National Park. (Spoiler Alert: He does it!)

    I watched the movie Friday night after a long, long day. I fell asleep and missed the ending. Saturday, I watched it again. This time, I was wide awake, and the movie did not disappoint. The movie offers spectacular views and an intriguing look into the mind of Honnold.

    Honnold shares his honest thoughts on dying, taking risks, and pursuing dreams and passions. I was inspired (and a little freaked out) as I watched him climb this challenging cliff. When he reached the top, Honnold was clearly happy and thankful that he took the risk to follow his dream.

    While I’m not suggesting anyone attempt to climb El Capitan without any equipment or assistance, I am thinking the movie was an important reminder of the importance of taking big risks and going after our dreams.

    What dream has God placed on your heart? What passion burns deeply inside of you? What God-given goal have you been suppressing because you are too chicken to get outside your comfort zone?

    Life is short. We have seventy years – maybe eighty – and perhaps even ninety years to live our lives. This means I’m half way (or even more through my life). And the years seem to be passing more and more quickly as I get older. With this in mind, it’s time to get busy!

    What do I want to accomplish? What am I putting off because I’m scared or because I’m too comfortable in my routine existence?

    I want to build 100+ houses in Guatemala!

    I want to help men become the fathers, the husbands, the men they were made to be!

    I want to do something with my life that scares the S@#% out of me and leaves a mark – a legacy that far outlives me or my name!

    Now is the time!

    It’s time to take the leap of faith – the plunge. It’s time to begin the climb of my life.

    And it’s your time too! What are you waiting for? Dream big! And decide TODAY to take action. By taking one step at a time you too can climb your El Capitan!

    Are you in? What’s holding you back? And how can I help you?

    More to Life Than This

    Over the weekend, Leanne and I watched Bohemian Rhapsody, the Oscar-nominated movie about Queen and its lead singer, Freddie Mercury. The movie does a remarkable job telling the ups and downs of the band and Mr. Mercury.

    (The music and acting in this movie was quite amazing. There was very little profanity in the movie, but there were some uncomfortable scenes as the movie depicted Mercury’s struggle with bi-sexuality and drugs and alcohol. I left the movie wanting to listen to more Queen music, but I also left the movie feeling a bit sad for Mercury and for what could have been.)

    As I listened to the Queen channel on Spotify while I was making dinner tonight, I heard a song called There Must Be More to Life Than This by Freddie Mercury (from his Mr. Bad Guy album released in 1985). Here are some of the lyrics:

    There must be more to life than this

    There must be more to life than this

    How do we cope in a world without love

    Mending all those broken hearts

    And tending to those crying faces

    There must be more to life than living

    There must be more than meets the eye

    Why should it be just a case of black or white

    There must be more to life than this

    The song goes on to talk about hate, death, destruction, fighting, and killing. Mercury goes on…

    What good is life, in the end we all must die

    There must be more to life than this

    I haven’t done an in-depth study of Freddie Mercury or Queen, but the movie definitely depicted Mercury as someone who struggled to believe in himself and to find the meaning of life beyond riches, drugs, alcohol, promiscuity, and fame.

    We may not be as famous or “successful” as Freddie Mercury, but many of us struggle with finding the real meaning for our lives. We chase after a screwed up version of success. We seek prosperity, fame, comfort, and respect. I wouldn’t say that these things are in themselves bad, but I think we can do better.

    In this life, we have the opportunity to leave our mark for sure, and more importantly we have the opportunity to serve our Creator by serving others. For when we find our Father and when we discover how we were made to serve others, we will begin to understand that there really is more to life than we ever imagined.

    Stephen Curtis Chapman points to what we’re looking for in his song, More to This Life:

    But there’s more to this life than living and dying

    More than just trying to make it through the day;

    More to this life, more than these eyes alone can see

    And there’s more than this life alone can be

    So where do we start to find every part

    Of what makes this life complete;

    If we turn our eyes to Jesus we’ll find

    Life’s true beginning is there at the cross where He died

    He died to bring us … (more to this life)

    I’d challenge you to STRETCH your mind and your heart as you consider your life. Don’t be content to live a blah existence. Don’t stop at thinking there must be more to life than this. Keep seeking. Keep opening your eyes to your purpose – to your reason for being. You were made for more than this!

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

    (Scott and Lorraine, Thank you for an amazing evening!)

    I Miss You!

    It’s been a long, long while, and I miss you!

    “The hardest thing is not talking to someone you used to talk every day.”

    For the longest time, I connected with you all the time – typically a few times a week and sometimes every day of the week. It’s been quite a while since I’ve had any consistency to my writing here and to connecting with you right here.

    I’m sorry for the long absence. It wasn’t you. I can say that with a fair amount of certainty. It’s been more on my plate. I’ve been busy (I’m learning to hate using that word). I’ve been working on several other things including work. I’ve been consistent in some other things in my life, but my writing has definitely taken a break lately.

    I miss the writing, and I miss you and the opportunity to connect with you here.

    While I’ve always desired to STRETCH others, I’ve realized that you actually STRETCHED me through our regular visits here in this blog community.

    Life is like that. We move away for a time. We find ourselves distracted, or we simply find our attention diverted elsewhere.

    Sometimes, we need to stop and look around. We need to realize where we’ve been, where we’re going, where we want to be, and where we are right now.

    For this evening, I’m glad to be right here with you. You were missed!

    What did I miss?

    And did you miss me?

    Call of the Wild

    This morning during my early morning walk, I finished my 2nd book of 2019, Jack London’s Call of the Wild. (My first book of 2019 was The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership by John C. Maxwell.)

    Call of the Wild is a classic book which I had never read before this year. The book tells the story of a dog named Buck who gets thrust into a whole new world – a wild world – when someone steals him from his comfy home and sells him to dog sled drivers.

    Without giving the whole story away, Buck quickly adapts to his new settings and eventually gains a leadership role over a pack of sled dogs. A the story continues, Buck actually comes to realize his calling – a calling to the wild.

    Recognizing our calling can sometimes be easy but more often takes time, energy, and even failure from time to time.

    Last month, I shared Brian Jones’ definition of calling:

    Calling = Area of Skill + Area of Passion + Area of Opportunity

    You could say that Buck had a passion for the wild. He developed the skill for the wild. And he was given the opportunity to go into the wild.

    What’s your calling?

    As we kick-off 2019, it’s a great time for you to consider your calling. It make take some time to figure it out. I challenge you to pursue it. Go after your finding your calling with all you’ve got. You don’t want to waste your life never finding your calling.

    If you need help figuring out your next steps, I’d love to help you. Spots for the next semester of the Stretched Men Group are open and will fill up quickly. Go to www.stretchedmengroup.com now, and sign up for more information (you are not committing to the group just yet).

    Don’t let 2019 be just another year. STRETCH yourself. Get outside your comfort zone. Take that next step.

    Overcome Negativity in the World – Be Positive

    Have you noticed that there is a lot of negativity in the world these days?

    There’s negativity in the news.

    There’s negativity in the water cooler conversations at the office.

    There’s even negativity at the dinner table.

    All this negativity is dragging us down.

    We are better than that.

    What happened to “always look on the bright side of life”?

    What happened to the glass is half full?

    What happened to positivity?

    My wife and I were talking the other day about the importance of bringing a right attitude – a more positive attitude – into the New Year.

    While we know we will face challenges, we have decided to implement a practice of daily positivity. Each day, instead of asking ”How was your day?”, we will be asking each other “What were 3 wins for you today?”

    Can you see how this changes things?

    We started today when my wife arrived home from work (she’s a kindergarten teacher)?

    I gave her my 3 wins, and I’ll share them with you here:

    1. I got my cap fixed (temporarily). Over the holiday, my cap (my one and only) broke. I called my dentist, and today was the first day they were back in the office since the cap broke. They got me in for an appointment this afternoon, and they hooked me up with a temporary crown while the new one is built.
    2. I fixed the garage door opener. It was a simple fix really, but the key pad outside our garage hadn’t worked right for quite a while. After reading some instructions, I learned that there was a battery in the key pad. Thankfully, I had a new 9-Volt battery laying around. I grabbed a screwdriver and replaced the battery, and the keypad works like new now.
    3. While I was in the fixing mode, I decided to call the hot tub manufacturer about a problem I had noticed with the control panel for our hot tub. While I was on the phone, I realized that the control panel was actually still working fine. I just needed to order a couple on new light bulbs to provide the appropriate back lighting to see the control panel in the dark. It may not seem like all that big of a deal, but it was a win for me.

    Developing a positive attitude requires an intentional pursuit of finding the good in all things.

    As you start the new year, I encourage you to look for the positive. Go against the cultural norm, and be a light for the good in this world. A positive approach to your life can make a huge difference for those around you.

    What was one of your big wins today?

    Happy New Year 2019

    Happy New Year!

    2018 is in the books, and we officially begin 2019 TODAY!

    Many of us use the New Year, January 1st, to get a fresh start. We establish new goals. We make attempts at starting new habits. We pursue things like health, wealth, and happiness with more passion and vigor when the new year starts.

    I won’t lie I made some attempts at creating better habits and pursuing certain goals today, and I also already fell short on some of the things that ran through my head.

    The great thing is that tomorrow is a new day, and I get to start all over with a fresh start when my alarm goes off at 4AM on January 2nd.

    2018 was a pretty good year. I read lots of books. I traveled to some amazing places. I spent time with my family. And I took a lot of steps (and I mean a lot).

    As 2019 begins, I want to continue these things, but I also have aspirations for some other important things. I want to grow closer to God in 2019. I want to make strides in building deeper relationships with those around me. I want to go to Washington (state) again this year for a facilitators conference/retreat with Family Lines. I want to return to Guatemala and help build more houses. I want to host the first ever Stretched Men Live event. And I want to become a jump roping master (I’ve got a LONG way to go with this one).

    Above all else, I want God’s plans for me to be my plans. This will require an open mind, an open heart, and an all-out pursuit of Him.

    As 2019 gets underway, I pray God directs our paths.

    Who’s with me?

    Take Time To Review

    Twice and thrice over, as they say, good is it to repeat and review what is good.
    Plato

    Friday night, my DIBs (Dudes In the Basement) men’s group got together for an evening of pizza and conversation.  After an extremely busy week at work, this time together was a welcome respite.  DIBs started a little over four years ago, and we committed to meeting together for twenty years.  Each year at the beginning of a new year, we take time to chose a word to mark our year ahead.  (This year, my word was “Long-Term”.)

    As we were sitting around talking, one of the guys (thanks Matt!) suggested we take time to  review around words for the past year.  It was a fantastic opportunity to review and reflect on our words and how they played out throughout the year.

    I shared about our long-term planning related to Guatemala.  I shared about our transition to the empty nest (which has gone well thanks to our long-term investment in our marriage).  I shared about working towards building my department at Siemens for the long-term through key hiring decisions and strategic organizational structure adjustments.  I shared about the “Year of Discipleship” with Isaac and our “Father-Son Rite of Passage Trip” (with Family Lines) to the Cascade Mountains in June.

    As we rapidly move towards the close of 2018, I encourage you to take time to review your year.  What went well?  What didn’t go so well?  What did you learn in 2018?  What changes do you want to make in 2019?

    Take time to write down what you’ve observed through your review.  I’d also encourage you to plug into community by sharing with someone else something you learned as a result of your review.  Start by sharing in the comments below.

    How was your 2018?

    It’s Time To Reconnect

    People cross our paths throughout our lifetimes.  Some people stay in our lives for a short period of time, and some people are a constant part of our lives.  Others come and go and come again.

    Today, I had the opportunity and privilege to reconnect with three individuals who I haven’t talked to in a while.

    My friend, Michael, and I connected via Instagram chat when I commented on one of his story items.  It’s probably a year or more since we’ve connected either on-line or in person.  The brief exchange laid the groundwork for a face to face meeting at the beginning of the year.

    Another friend, Tom, and I reconnected over breakfast at Panera Bread this morning.  We initially met through Toastmasters, and we’ve have helped to launch a new Toastmasters club in the King of Prussia area of Pennsylvania.  We haven’t seen each other for a few months.  Our conversation at breakfast went pretty deep as we shared some recent challenges we were facing.

    And finally, my friend, Matt, and I reconnected over the phone.  Matt lives in Wilmington, North Carolina, and we initially met through the blog world.  We have never had the opportunity to meet face to face, but we’ve had a few voice to voice conversations in addition to our comments back and forth on-line.  (I was also interviewed by Matt on one of his early podcasts.) Our time together was a blessing as we briefly caught up on our families before diving deep into more spiritual discussions.

    God has put people in your path.  Some of these people need your encouragement.  Some of these people are there to encourage you.  And some of them are there to walk side by side through the joys and challenges we all face.

    Today, I want to challenge you to reconnect with someone from your past.  Think about people who have been a blessing to you, and think about people who might need a friendly word of encouragement.  Then pick up the phone, knock on the door, or send a message.

    What are you waiting for?  Take time to reconnect right now!

    How did we meet?  Share your answer in the comments below (or send me a private message or email).  I’d love to reconnect with you!

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