Archives For Jon Stolpe

Building a Dynamic Marriage

September 17, 2017 — 1 Comment

A successful marriage is an edifice that must be rebuilt every day.

Andre Maurois

Marriage requires effort, intentional actions, and the support of others.

Leanne and I have watched and wept as we’ve seen a few marriages around us collapse.  On the other hand, we’ve been so blessed to see many of the marriages around us thrive.  And we’ve also witnessed the simple survival of many marriages.

We celebrated our 21st wedding anniversary this summer.  We’ve had our ups and a few downs.  We’ve felt distance at times, and we’ve felt amazing intimacy in our marriage.

What we’ve learned is building a dynamic marriage – a marriage that grows, evolves with life, and thrives – takes work.

Early this summer, we traveled to New Jersey to become certified facilitators for the Dynamic Marriage class associated with Marriage Dynamics Institute.  The weekend training was intense and powerful.

This week (actually tomorrow), we will be starting our first Dynamic Marriage class.  The class is 9 weeks long, and it will take participants through and intentional path toward building a stronger marriage.  Twelve couples have signed up for the class (a full class) which means thirteen couples (including Leanne and I) will have the opportunity to significantly impact their marriages.

We’d love your prayers for the couples in this class and for us as we facilitate.

If you’re interested in participating in a future Dynamic Marriage class, let me know.  You can email me at jon@jonstolpe.com.

What is one thing you have done to invest in your marriage?

 

“Oh I get by with a little help from my friends…”

With a Little Help From My Friends (Billy Shears)

When you read the lyrics to this song made popular by Joe Cocker and The Beatles, you can see it might be a song promoting drugs and the experience of “getting high with a little help from my friends.”  I choose to interpret the song as a reminder of the need for a helping hand in our lives from time to time.

“Everybody needs a helping hand
Take a look at your fellow man
And tell me what can I do today
‘Cause everybody needs a helping out
If that ain’t what it’s all about”

Amy Grant (Helping Hand)

Maybe this song is a bit more appropriate.

The bottom line is this:  We all need people in our lives who will encourage us, lift us, and push us to become the people we were meant to become.

The main reason I started the Stretched Men Group mastermind group for men was to provide a helping hand to men who want to become better husbands, better fathers, and better leaders.  We are a week and a half away from the start of the next semester of the group, and I want to make sure you don’t miss out on the opportunity to get the helping hand you need right now.

If you want to plug into a group of men who will challenge you and help you, now is the time to do something about it.

Go over to the Stretched Men Group website (click HERE), and sign up to get information TODAY.

(The next group starts on Thursday, September 21st and will run for three months.)

 

Sometimes we find ourselves in desperate situations. It seems like there is no hope, no future, and no prospect of things getting any better.

As I was going through old emails today, I discovered an email that had a video link to the work site where we build a house earlier this summer. The video shows the dusty location where our team would build a house for Lydia and her family. Check out the video below.

Now look at these pictures of Lydia, her family, and the house.

I don’t know what your situation is right now.  I don’t know what uphill battle you are facing.  I don’t know the dusty, barren period you have found yourself in recently.

But I do know there is HOPE for you!

Hope rises from the dust.

“If you find you are weak in persistence, surround yourself with a Mastermind Group.”
Napolean Hill (Think and Grow Rich)

A few years ago, I joined a mastermind group for entrepreneurs.  This group gives me a place to share my ideas and to get the feedback I need to keep moving forward.  It’s also a place where I can help other entrepreneurs as they process their next steps.  I haven’t been disappointed with the experience so far.

Last year, I launched my own mastermind group.  After wise advice and consistent encouragement, I started the Stretched Men Group.  This mastermind group is all about encouraging guys to become better men, better husbands, and better fathers.  The group runs for three-month semesters.  After each semester, mastermind members have the opportunity to continue on with the group (or not), and new members have the opportunity to jump into the group.

The next semester is getting ready to kick off in the middle of this month, and there are still a few open spots.  I’d love to fill the spots with guys who want to take the next steps in their journey.  If you’d like to find out more information about the group, I’d encourage you to go over to the groups website (click here) and sign up for a FREE informational (no pressure) phone call from me.

In the meantime, I’d encourage you to check out this video from my friend, Ray Edwards.  In the video, Ray offers some fantastic tips about what to look for in a GREAT mastermind group.

If you’re looking to experience these five essentials and your path to becoming the man you were meant to be, I’d encourage you to check out the Stretched Men Group.

Don’t wait.  The next semester will be starting soon!

“The Great Commission is not an option to be considered; it is a command to be obeyed.”

James Hudson Taylor

Then the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had told them to go.  When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted.  Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.  Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”  Matthew 28:16-20

This is a passage known as The Great Commission.  It captures some of the last words Jesus shared with his disciples.

I’m not a theologian, but I interpret part of this to mean we are supposed to share Christ and His love at home and abroad.

When people hear that my family is involved in short-term missions in Guatemala, they sometimes ask why we need to go so far away to serve others.  They point to the incredible need in the United States, and they don’t understand why in the world anyone needs to travel so far away and “waste” so much money to serve people elsewhere.  Some also point to the perceived inefficiency and ineffectiveness of overseas short-term missions.  (I’ll try to address that in a future post.)

I can’t be everywhere at the same time, and I definitely won’t have an opportunity to serve and make disciples in all nations; however, I can do for one or for a few what I want to do for everyone.  And if every Christian develops this mindset, we can actually reach all nations.  Our family makes a point of serving in our local community (this is one of the reasons we started H.O.P.E.), but we also try to intentionally invest outside of our local community and around the world.

Short-term missions provides the opportunity to live out part of the Great Commission.

If you and your family are looking for ways to make the Great Commission a greater reality in your lives, you might want to consider these ideas:

4 Ways to Make the Great Commission a Reality in Your Life

  1. SERVE – Serve in your local community.  You can serve at soup kitchens, shelters, food pantries, and nursing homes.  There are hundreds of ways to practically share the love of Christ right where you live.  Open your eyes.  Get involved.  Serve!
  2. GIVE – Give your financial resources to support others who are sharing Christ’s love.  Give to your local church first.  Then look for organizations or missionaries to bless with the overflow of your finances.  If you need help in figuring this out, you should check out organizations like Compassion International, CMF International, Lifeline Christian Mission, and Casas por Cristo.  In the wake of the recent catastrophe in Houston, you might want to check out IDES (International Disaster Emergency Service).  People don’t like to talk about money, but finances are one of the key ingredients for making life change possible at home and overseas.  Don’t underestimate that power of your gift to help others know the love of Christ.
  3. PRAY – Pray.  It seems simple, but prayer is essential to sharing Christ’s love around the world.  Pray for missionaries who are serving.  Pray for wisdom, for energy, for boldness, and for protection.  Pray for those being served.  Pray for God’s provision, for open hearts and minds, and for wholeness and healing.
  4. GO – Sign up today to go on a short-term missions trip.  My words can only give you a small glimmer into the power and effectiveness of a short-term missions trip on the lives of others and on your life.  Don’t just take my word for it.  Start planning your trip now.

Does the Great Commission involve more than short-term missions?  Yes.  The Great Commission talks about baptizing and teaching.  These are other important areas for you to discuss and discover.  Many people do not feel equipped to teach and baptize, and they use that feeling as an excuse not to serve others and to get involved.  The Great Commission was meant for the disciples and for you if you call yourself a Christ-follower.  If stepping into short-term missions scares you, remember the last sentence.  Christ is with you!

What are you doing to make The Great Commission a reality in your life?  Share your thoughts in the comments below.  

Going home and spending time with your family and your real friends keeps you grounded.
Jennifer Ellison

There’s no place like home!

Yesterday, I took the day off of work.  Leanne and I had intended on going to the shore for the day, but the temperature was a little chilly for Jersey Shore weather.  We stayed around our house for most of the day.  I went to my men’s group (DIBs – Dudes In the Basement) at 6AM.  Then Leanne and I went to The Energy Station in Vernfield, PA for a rare breakfast out together (that place is amazing).  We drove down to King of Prussia, PA to pickup a new pair of running shoes at Road Runner Sports and to try out some donuts at the new Duck Donuts in the King of Prussia Town Center (the donuts didn’t disappoint and my new running shoes are a welcome change from my old shoes).

Friday late afternoon, we drove to Mt. Holly, NJ to attend the family gathering at First Presbyterian Church to honor and celebrate the life of Phil Olson.  Phil was the Minister of Local Missions at the church for 13 of the 18 years my dad was there as one of the pastors.  Phil passed away earlier this week after a long, hard-fought battle with cancer.  The gathering gave family and friends a chance to greet Phil’s family and to say hello to old friends from the church and the community.

(I’ll always remember Phil as an important friend and co-worker for my father.  I’ll remember his love for the New York Mets (I’ll never understand this one).  I’ll remember that his family always eats ice cream on Christmas morning (I love that tradition).  I’ll remember catching up with Phil a few times at the Plymouth Meeting Mall where he served as the Pastor at The Church on the Mall.  And I’ll always remember his passion for practically ministering to the local community.)

For me, it was a real homecoming.

First of all, being back at First Presbyterian Church felt like home.  It felt like I was going back in time to a significant time in my childhood and teenage years.  This was the church where I worshiped and grew in my faith from 8 years old (1980) until I married Leanne in 1996 (now you can figure out my age).  The building itself is beautiful – stained glass windows, stone exterior, tall steeple, majestic pipe organ (but that’s a story for another time).

More than the building, the people made it feel like home for me.  People remembered me (and my family), and I remembered most of them.  Some people had changed (as have I), but many people seemed exactly the same.  I’ll treasure the opportunity to talk with people like Ray and Joann Rivera, Mark Redlus, Dave and Nora Kennedy, Dan and Marla Kennedy, Thad Livingston, Larry and Linda Taylor, and so many others.  They asked about my parents who were part of the congregation for 18 years.  It’s hard to imagine it’s been over 20 years since my parents moved away from Mt. Holly.  It seems like it was yesterday.

After our time at First Presbyterian Church, Leanne and I met up with some wonderful friends (the Grovers and the Becks) for dinner and time to connect.  It turned into a later night for us, but it was so heart-warming to be at home with old friends.

Home means many different things to me.

Mt. Holly, NJ will always be home to me in some ways.  I treasure the memories and the people there.  They saw me grow up, and many of them helped me grow up.

Schwenksville, PA is my home now.  In fact, I’ve lived here for longer than any other place in my life.  I’m thankful for the community we live with here, and I look forward to the memories and friends we will create in the years to come in this area.

My physical home is my sanctuary away from the rest of the world.  It’s where I find real encouragement.  It’s where I often find rest.  My home is a place where I can leave a mark on those who mean the absolute most to me.

Phil’s passing was a reminder that there is another home that is waiting for me.  As we passed through the receiving line waiting to greet Phil’s wife, Holly, and the rest of the family, I noticed a verse that was posted near some of the flowers and other memories of Phil:

For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain. If I am to go on living in the body, this will mean fruitful labor for me. Yet what shall I choose? I do not know!  I am torn between the two: I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far;  but it is more necessary for you that I remain in the body.  Convinced of this, I know that I will remain, and I will continue with all of you for your progress and joy in the faith, so that through my being with you again your boasting in Christ Jesus will abound on account of me.  Philippians 1:21-26

I don’t know what the future days hold.  I strive to make the most of the opportunities (Colossians 4:5) here in my earthly home.  And I yearn for the day when I’m in my eternal home.  From what I can tell, Phil lived his life this way.  He impacted the lives of so many people here on earth (I’m sure the funeral service today was packed with some of the many people who were impacted by Phil and his ministry), but this verse was a clear reminder that Phil also longed for the opportunity to be home with Christ in heaven.

What comes to your mind when you think of home?  Share your thoughts in the comments.

Have you ever wanted to start an online business but you didn’t know quite where to start? 

Have you ever thought about the possibility of becoming an entrepreneur?

Have you ever wanted to start a blog?

Last night, I talked with entrepreneur and encourager, Ellory Wells, about these questions and more.  As part of the conversation, Ellory shares about a program he is launching this fall (8 Weeks to Exit) to help people get started in their on-line business.

This is a conversation you don’t want to miss!

During our time together, we talked about a few things you may want to check out for yourself:

Exit Strategy (the book) by Ellory Wells

Thrive! Giveaway

Catalyst Mastermind (for entrepreneurs)

ElloryWells.com

8 Weeks to Exit

 

“Failure is simply the opportunity to begin again, this time more intelligently.”
Henry Ford

This month I failed.

At the end of July, I signed up for Ellory Wells’ 31 Day Writing Challenge with the intent of writing a new blog post every day during the month of August.  I started on the right foot with several new blog posts.  Then the wheels fell off my ride of best intentions during the second week of August, and I’ve struggled to regain momentum since then.  When it comes to the Writing Challenge, I am a failure.

Now, I could give you ten or twenty excuses as to why I failed.  Do those excuses really matter?  The facts are I did not even come close to writing every day in August.  As I look back on August and on my weak efforts during the challenge, I’ve learned a lot.

Here is what I’ve learned as a result of my failure.

4 Lessons From My Recent Failure

  1. Intentions do not automatically translate into success.  I have great intentions when it comes to a lot of things in my life.  Unfortunately, I fall short in many of these areas of intention.
  2. Our actual actions indicate the reality of our priorities.  My words in late July indicated that I wanted to make writing blog posts a priority; however, my writing output shows I may have let other things have a greater place in my priority pyramid.  My family went on vacation to the Jersey Shore during the second week of August, and this trip was a priority for me.  My job has required a lot of attention this month, and this was an important and necessary area of focus for me in August.  Finally, I noticed that my fitness and overall health had slipped a little bit over the past few months.  In the second half of August, I took steps to make my fitness and nutrition more of a priority.
  3. Accountability is essential to achieving the results we desire.  I’m independent and self-motivated, but I need people in my life who will give me an encouraging word or a swift kick in the butt from time to time.  I rely heavily on my wife, the guys in my small group, a few of my co-workers, and the people in my mastermind groups.  They remind me to stay on track.  They encourage me when I’m feeling discouraged.  And they won’t let me wander off course for very long.
  4. It’s never too late to start over.  When we experience failure in our lives, we have a couple of choices.  We can let our failure define us.  Or we can use our failures to motivate us.  I’m making the second choice.

“Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts.”
Winston Churchill

How have you responded to failure in your life?  What lessons have you learned from your failures?  Share your thoughts in the comments below.

 

We love because he first loved us.  Whoever claims to love God yet hates a brother or sister is a liar. For whoever does not love their brother and sister, whom they have seen, cannot love God, whom they have not seen.

I John 4:19-20

I’m just returning from a week of vacation at the Jersey Shore.  This was actually the first time I ever stayed at the Shore for more than a night or two.  We had a great week!

As I was catching up on work emails and other news last night, I was surprised to see my news feed full of updates about what is going on in Charlottesville, VA.  I don’t claim to be at all up to speed on what is going on there.  In fact, I feel rather behind when it comes to knowing the details.

One thing I know for sure is that when I see signs promoting “white supremacy”, I know something is wrong.

What happened to the song we used to sing in Sunday School?

“Jesus loves the little children – all the children of the world – red and yellow, black and white – they are precious in his site…”

Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good.

Romans 12:9

Hate is alive and well in the world, and I hate this fact.

I have more questions than answers.

  • How can we change the hearts of those who hold such hatred deep inside?
  • What can I do to be part of the solution?
  • When will this kind of hatred end?
  • Where can I have the biggest impact on helping to encourage positive change and a move towards love?
  • Why do people think this kind of behavior is appropriate?

God, again I ask You for a heart that breaks for the things that break Your heart.  Give me wisdom in knowing how to share Your love.  Help me to be a voice against evil.  Thank You for loving me despite my shortcomings.  Thank You for sending Your Son and for showing us how to love.  I ask for peace and understanding in Charlottesville, and I ask for Your wisdom and love to fill the hearts of our leaders as they respond to the current situation.  Amen

This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.

I John 4:10

Every great dream begins with a dreamer. Always remember, you have within you the strength, the patience, and the passion to reach for the stars to change the world.

Harriet Tubman

When I was a little kid, I wanted to be an astronaut.  Seriously, the thought of blasting into space and exploring the “final frontier” was an amazing dream I had for a few years.  Now, I’m quite content to have my feet firmly on the surface of the earth.

Over the years, I’ve had many other dreams.  I’ve dreamed about the possibility of writing a book (a dream that came true with my first book – On Track).  I’ve dreamed about the possibility of going to the Summer Olympics in Barcelona (a dream that did not come true).

I think there is something positive about having dreams and desires for our lives.  These dreams give us reasons to live intentionally.  They give us an avenue to escape from some of the realities we face in our everyday existence.  Dreams can give us hope for what is yet to come.

Sometimes our dreams and desires get twisted and tangled.  Maybe we let the dreams of our parents become our dreams.  Or maybe we look at the “perfect” world of those on television or in the movies thinking our lives would be better if we were just like them.  And sometimes we simply chase after the wrong things.

One of the things I love about going on a short-term missions trip is that they always seem to have a way of recalibrating my dreams and desires.  Besides expanding your community and changing your perspective, they have a tendency to adjust the way you think about the future.

For example, my dream of building 100 houses in Guatemala for widows and their families didn’t just appear suddenly while I was working at my job in Blue Bell, PA.  This dream and desire came about as a result of spending time in Guatemala serving widows and orphans.  My short-term missions trip experience in Guatemala allowed me to see the impact a house could have on a family, and I wanted to replicate that for other families.

Last year while our family was coming home from Guatemala, Leanne and I made a decision to sell our house, so we could live more, save more, and give more.  After an unsuccessful attempt at selling our house this spring, we remain committed to seeing how this plays out in the coming year.  We believe the dream and desire to downsize was not placed on our hearts by accident, and our trips to Guatemala for short-term missions were instrumental in recalibrating our dreams and desires in this way.

When you go on a short-term missions trip, you open yourself up to the possibility of new dreams and desires that go way beyond your wildest expectations.  And they go way beyond your self-centered, normal way of thinking.

If you like to dream but need to dream bigger, you should consider going on a short-term missions trip.

“A dream doesn’t become reality through magic; it takes sweat, determination and hard work.”
Colin Powell

How has the practice of serving others impacted your dreams and desires?  Share your thoughts in the comments.