Connect with Us


Social Connect by NewsPress

Custom Search

Join the Stretched Community

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 1,737 other subscribers

Top Stretched Commenters of the Month

    Top Stretched Posts of the Month

      All posts in "book review"

      On Track Book Launch Update

      On Track – Life Lessons from the Track & Field is coming together.  I wanted to give you a little update on the launch.

      The book front cover design is complete, and the editor returned the manuscript to me on Friday.  In addition, the book has picked up a few endorsements.  Here is what people are saying so far about On Track:

      “This small book packs a big punch. When Jon writes about his races, I feel as though I am there. He draws me in and then promptly gives me a life lesson to take away. Whether you’re an athlete now, have one hidden inside, or have never so much as laced up your running shoes, read Jon’s book to discover how to get your life ‘on track.’”  Matt McWilliams, entrepreneur, leadership guru, author of The Power of Gratitude (

       “This well-written, easy-to-read book is a great reference for any runner.  But it’s so much more.  Jon Stolpe teaches us great strategies for winning the race, both on and off the track.  This little book is packed with lessons for runners and lessons for a life of faith.  Take an hour to read this book.  I guarantee that you’ll be motivated to run the good race.”   Dan Erickson, musician, teacher, author of A Train Called Forgiveness and At The Crossing Of Justice and Mercy (

       “I have known Jon for over 7 years, and followed his blog since its start. I find his unique perspective on life so very intriguing, and refreshing. It is not often that you find a writer who integrates his faith, his hobbies, his family – his life – into his writing. ‘Get out and live your life’ is not just a catchy quote from his book. Jon shares how life can be lived as a race that can be run at your own speed, but it’s a race you need never run alone. With his faith out in front, On Track, is a great example of how to live a life with God right by your side. No matter if you are starting, finishing or just trying to get in the race, you will find something inspiring to take with you.”  Diane Karchner, Life Coach, author of Losing the Mask (

       “Jon is a runner. At times a reluctant runner, but that’s what makes On Track so enjoyable. It’s not a book written by someone who never struggles or has all the answers. It’s a book written by a real person who has learned a thing or two about how similar a relationship with God is to running. Jon includes great quotes, Biblical insight, and personal experience into a book that can speak to the seasoned or rookie runners in life.”  Rob Shepherd, pastor, author of Even If You Were Perfect Someone Would Crucify You (

      I’m excited and anxious to release the book.  I had originally planned to launch the book on Monday, March 31, 2014.  After careful consideration and timely advice, I’m moving the launch date back to Tuesday, April 22, 2014.  This will provide more opportunity to strategically release the book.  If you’d like to be part of my launch team and pick up a preview copy of the book, let me know.  You can e-mail me at, and I will send out a preview copy to you later this week.  I am looking for people who can read the book, write a review on and possibly on their blog the week of April 21-27, 2014, and promote the book to their friends, family, and social media contacts.

      On Track will be sold on, and there will be a special discount available for subscribers to the Stretched Newsletter.  Check out this post to find out how to sign up.

      Book Review: It’s Possible – How To Thrive (Not Just Survive)

      Do you ever feel like you are in survival mode?

      Does it feel like it’s impossible to get out of the rut you’re in?

      Sometimes, we need a simple reminder.  Sometimes, we need a little encouragement.

      In Dave Arnold’s latest book, he challenges readers to renew their vision for what is possible. It’s Possible: How To Thrive, Not Just Survive is filled with stories from Dave’s personal experiences designed to help you imagine a life outside of survival mode – a life of thriving.

      The book contains common sense lessons about recognizing your destiny deterrents, refusing to settle, and running your race.  (I especially liked the running analogies towards the end of the book.)

      Is the book ground-breaking?  Probably not.  But I think it can be useful in giving a shot in the arm to anyone who needs a little encouragement to get over the mountain or speed bump they are facing.

      The book officially releases today on Amazon.  Pick up a copy for yourself by clicking here.  If you order the book this week (Feb. 17 – 23), you are eligible for a few special bonuses.  The bonuses are: (1) a digital copy of Dave’s book, Pilgrims of the Alley: Living Out Faith in Displacement; (2) Dan Black’s book, The Leadership Mandate; and (3) a video Dave did in Detroit that ties into the book.  Email Dave your receipt at to get the bonus material.

      (For more information about Dave Arnold, check out his blog and consider following him on Twitter.)

      (Please note:  I received a copy of It’s Possible for free in exchange for a review.  I was not required to provide a favorable review.  I truly believe this book can be a great reminder to any reader in helping them move from survival mode to a position of thriving.  It’s my honor to be part of the launch team for Dave’s new book.

      Also to note:  There are affiliate links in this post.  Should you purchase It’s Possible by clicking one of these links, I receive a small percentage of the purchase.  These funds are used to support The Stretched Blog and to extend ministry and missions to Guatemala.  Thank you!)

      Book Review: LIFE after ART by Matt Appling (@MattTCoNP)

      When was the last time you took an art class?

      When was the last time you were in an art room (besides at meet the teacher night for your kids)?

      When was the last time you created something beautiful?

      When we become adults, we often put things aside.  We now have responsibilities.  We have “important” things to accomplish.  We don’t have time to play.  We have to work.  We have to make money.  We have to provide.

      When we grow up, we leave the art room, and we stop creating beautiful things.

      In Life After Art: What You Forgot About Life and Faith Since You Left the Art Room, Matt Appling challenges readers to become artist’s again.  Matt, who is an art teacher in Missouri, takes readers back into the elementary school art room.  He reminds us how creative we once were when we were young.  From here, Matt goes on to describe how society is suffering from an epidemic of lost creativity.  He then takes readers through the process of relearning to create, to take risks, and to be artists again.

      I appreciated the perspective Matt brings to this book.  An an engineer and operations manager for the past 20 years, I recognize the tendency to fall into a state of complacency.  I do the same things day after day.  It becomes easy to stop thinking and to stop creating things of beauty.  Personally, my writing has become a place for me to create again.  I may never be the next Monet or Van Gogh.  I may never become the next C.S. Lewis or J.R.R. Tolkien.  But I can create something beautiful.  Thanks for the reminder, Matt!

      To learn more about Matt, check out his blog or follow him on Twitter.

      This month, I’m giving away a copy of Life After Art: What You Forgot About Life and Faith Since You Left the Art Room to someone in the Stretched Community.  To be considered for the giveaway, you must be one of the top 10 commenters during the month of February.  If you don’t want to wait for the winner to be announced, feel free to pickup a copy of the book by clicking here.

      What is the last thing you created?  What was your favorite thing about elementary school art class?

      (Please note:  There are affiliate links in this post.  Should you purchase Life After Art by clicking one of these links, I receive a small percentage of the purchase.  These funds are used to support The Stretched Blog and to extend ministry and missions to Guatemala.  Thank you!)

      (Special thanks to Tammy Helfrich who sent me a copy of this book.  You should consider reading her blog and listening to her podcast.)

      Book Review: The Noticer Returns by @AndyAndrews

      I love it when people send me books to read.

      Late last year, Matt Ham sent me a copy of The Noticer Returns: Sometimes You Find Perspective, and Sometimes Perspective Finds You by Andy Andrews.  I’ll confess I didn’t know exactly what to expect.  So far, I’ve only read one other book by best-selling author Andrews, so I didn’t have a lot to go on besides the recommendation of several other bloggers and podcasters.

      The Noticer Returns is set in the south along the coast of the Gulf of Mexico.  It’s a story of several people whose lives intersect thanks to the presence of Jones, an older gentlemen who wanders in and out of the lives of people.  Jones is a mentor and friend who seems to parallel the role of Christ in our lives.  He says throughout the story that he’s always there for each character in the story.

      The ending of the story in particular left a big smile on my face as the characters in the story come to understand truths essential to moving forward with their individual lives and situations.  The story is riddled with valuable lessons for the reader.  I walked away with several key points or lessons:

      • Mentors are an important part of growth.  Jones plays this role for most of the characters in this story, and some of the older characters become mentor figures to younger characters.  We need people in our lives who have gone before us who can help us learn valuable lessons for living life.
      • Life is full of circumstances.  We have a choice of how we will react to these circumstances.  Will we get flustered?  Will we give up?  Will we get angry?  Or will we stay composed?  Will we keep going?  Will we choose to be positive?
      • If you want to do something extraordinary with your life, you have to be different.  Doing the same thing as everyone else is only contributing to average.  Don’t be average.
      • What we do today matters for our own future and for the future of our country and for the future of our society in general.  You and I contribute to the standards that others will follow.  How will we contribute or respond to the standards our society is creating?  As parents, we play a huge role in raising our children.  What results do you want for you kids when they grow up?  Everything we do matters – all our actions have consequences.
      • We must pursue wisdom throughout our lives.  We can’t stop learning when we finish school.  We must have a passion to get wisdom.
      • Obedience to God’s Word is the first step towards gaining understanding.
      • Once we’ve gained wisdom, we must give it away by mentoring others.

      The Noticer Returns is a story that will get you thinking about life, the pursuit of wisdom, and the transfer of wisdom to others.  I’m thankful for the opportunity to read this book, and I’d recommend it to anyone looking for a book about wisdom or to someone who is simply looking for a story to read.

      This month on The Stretched Blog, I am giving away a copy of The Noticer Returns to a lucky winner to the blog.  To find out more information on this GIVEAWAY check out the December 2013 Top Posts & Top Comments post by clicking here.

      What have you noticed lately?  Who has been a mentor in your life?  Who are you mentoring?

      (Please note:  There are affiliate links in this post.  Should you purchase The Noticer Returns by clicking one of these links, I receive a small percentage of the purchase.  These funds are used to support The Stretched Blog and to extend ministry and missions to Guatemala.  Thank you!)


      Book Review: Starting Small (@benreed)

      What is a small group?

      To those outside the church world, a small group might be defined as a tiny grouping of something – a small group of rocks, a small group of kids, or a small group of something else in common.

      Inside the church world, a small group is kind of like a mini-church.  A small group is a way to make a church small and intimate.

      I grew up surrounded by small groups.  My parents were part of small groups for as long as I can remember.  They hosted small group at our house sometimes, and I can remember sneaking out to the dining room to grab some of the delicious snacks set out for their friends.  As I grew older, I started to understand the importance of small groups in my own journey.  In college, I was part of a couple small groups that challenged my faith and pushed me to grow in different areas of my spiritual life.  Since getting married, my wife and I have led and participated in all kinds of small groups.  As a result of these groups, I have seen connection and life change.

      This week, I’m excited to announce the launch of a new book by Ben Reed.  In Starting Small: The Ultimate Small Group Blueprint, Ben shares some practical advice for taking small group ministry at your church to the next level.  Whether you are just starting a small group ministry at your church or trying to figure out a way to get new people plugged into small groups at your church, Starting Small will give you some ideas for moving forward.

      Having been part of small group leadership at my church, I can vouch for the content of this book.  It’s practical.  It’s inspiring.  And it’s helpful.  Starting Small will get you thinking about what you can do next to build your small group ministry.  It will refocus you on the purpose of small groups in your church.  And it will inspire you to do something new today with your small group ministry.

      I’m a big believer in the power of small groups to connect people to each other and to God, and I believe Starting Small can help you towards this goal.  For this reason, I recommend Starting Small to small group champions, leaders, and pastors who are interested in taking their small group ministry to the next level.

      Does your church have small groups?  Are you in a small group?  How have small groups impacted your life?

      Please note: I received a copy of Starting Small for free in exchange for an honest review.  I was not required to like or recommend this book.  My recommendation is based on my belief in the power of small groups and in the ability of this book to help people find connection through small groups.  Ben Reed speaks from an experience I can relate, and I find his book helpful in your own small group discovery and journey.

      Also note:  There are affiliate links in this post.  If you purchase a copy of Starting Small as a result of clicking on one of these links, I receive a small “commission”.  Any “commission” received will be used to support The Stretched Blog and to support continued ministry in Guatemala.  Thank you!

      Don’t forget to sign up for the weekly Stretched newsletter.  Check out this post to find out how to sign up.

      Book Review: The In-Between by @JeffGoins

      As a little kid, I remember struggling to sleep the night before Christmas and the night before the first day of school.  More recently, I’ve struggled with sleep the night before our trip to Guatemala and the nights before big meetings at work.  In all these cases, I am so focused on the next big thing on my schedule.  In the intensity of my thoughts for the future, I miss out on sleep.

      On a larger scale, we spend so much time focusing on the big events in our lives – things like college, marriage, home purchase, children, promotion, and retirement.  In our focus on these next big things, we often miss out on the life that is going on right around us.

      In The In-Between: Embracing the Tension Between Now and the Next Big Thing [A Spiritual Memoir], Jeff Goins shares stories from his own journey in learning to live in the spaces between the big events of life.  The In-Between is part memoir and part call to action.  Jeff stories will draw you in and take you to places of “in-between” in his life.  These are stories in which we can all relate.  And he will challenge you to appreciate and embrace the everyday life you are living right now.  As I read The In-Between, I literally found myself smiling, crying, and thinking.  I thoroughly enjoyed the book, and I would recommend it to anyone who needs a fresh look at life.

      I’m giving away a copy of The In-Between to a “lucky” member of The Stretched Community.  The winner will be selected at random from the top ten commenters this month (October 2013) on the blog.  Your chances of winning increase the more you comment.  I’ll announce the winner at the beginning of November.  If you can’t wait, pick up a copy yourself by clicking the link below.

      What are you waiting for?  What are you doing while you wait?

      (Please note:  There are affiliate links in this post.  Should you purchase The In-Between by clicking one of these links, I receive a small percentage of the purchase.  These funds are used to support The Stretched Blog and to extend ministry and missions to Guatemala.  Thank you!)

      Book Review: The Leadership Mandate by @dbonleadership

      Today is an exciting day for my friend Dan Black.  His new eBook launches today on Amazon.

      The Leadership Mandate provides 10 practical and essential elements for developing leaders.  This book is a helpful refresher for established leaders.  But this book is not just written for people in positions of authority.  The Leadership Mandate provides excellent advice for everyone who is serious about leading others or about leading themselves.

      Dan Black has been blogging for quite a while about leadership.  The Leadership Mandate focuses so much of Dan’s great daily blog content into a concise guide that will help you act like a leader.  Dan presents 10 foundational things that will propel people to leading with influence and effectiveness.  The Leadership Mandate teaches, and it challenges leaders to take action – to develop the leader inside you.

      The Leadership Mandate is available starting today on for $2.99.  Help my friend Dan out and help yourself out as well.  Go pick up a copy today.  Click the link below to get your copy today.  As a special BONUS, Dan has put together a special package of extra material for anyone who purchases The Leadership Mandate between September 30th and October 7th.  The BONUS package includes six great leadership books and tools (Vision Impact! by Bernard K. Haynes, Navigating Change by Ngina Otiende, The Little Guide To Figuring Out Your Dream by Kimanzi T. Constable, I’ve Been Promoted: Now What Do I Do? by Ernie Wenk, The Big Blog Push by Jared Latigo, and a discount on leadership coaching by Joe Lalonde).  To get the BONUS, e-mail your receipt to Dan at  To get more details on the BONUS, click here.

      What do you think are the most essential elements of a leader?

      (Please note:  I received a copy of The Leadership Mandate for free in exchange for a review.  I was not required to provide a favorable review.  I truly believe this book can be a helpful reminder to any reader in helping them to take steps to become better leaders – at work, in the community, at church, and at home.  It’s my honor to be part of the launch team for Dan’s new book.

      Also to note:  There are affiliate links in this post.  Should you purchase The Leadership Mandate by clicking one of these links, I receive a small percentage of the purchase.  These funds are used to support The Stretched Blog and to extend ministry and missions to Guatemala.  Thank you!)

      Book Review: Creating Community (@AndyStanley and @BillWillits)

      For those of you who have been around for a while, you may know that I have a passion for small groups and for seeing people connected and growing in community.  I’ve been to three or four groups conferences over the past decade.  I’ve been plugged into a group of one kind or another for the last fifteen years.  And I grew up in a house where small groups were modeled as a way to connect people to each other and to encourage people to grow in their relationship with God.  I’ve written more than a couple posts about small groups over the past six years.  In fact, one post is among the top viewed posts of all time:  Ten Things Every Small Group Leader Should Know.

      For a while I was helping to lead in the small group ministry for our church, but I took a break for a few years due to other commitments and some other circumstances.  Recently, a friend reached out to me and began to rekindle my passion for group ministry leadership.  As part of our conversation, he passed along a book by Andy Stanley and Bill Willits about building a small group culture.

      Creating Community: Five Keys to Building a Small Group Culture was written to explain the success that North Point Church has had using small group ministry as the center of their strategy for helping people grow in their relationship with God.  Creating Community was also written to help churches and church leaders to develop a course of action that could be vital in achieving the mission of the church.  Stanley and Willits share about the importance of moving church goers from the foyer to the living room to the kitchen.  They share some of their own experiences of what worked and what didn’t work along the way.  If followed closely, I believe their method for creating community will not only catapult groups ministry to a whole new level but it will propel local churches in their pursuit of living out the Great Commission and expanding the Kingdom.

      Creating Community is a quick read.  And I would recommend it to anyone who is passionate about small groups, the local church, and connecting people in community.  Stanley and Willits are not simply trying to create another program at your church.  They are presenting a mind shift for how you do church in general.  North Point, where Stanley is the lead pastor, has grown by leaps and bounds and is having a tremendous impact on the Atlanta, Georgia area.  North Point’s small group culture is a huge part of this growth and impact.

      Check out Creating Community by clicking the link below!

      Are you in a small group?  How has community impacted your life?  What are you doing to invite others into community?

      Book Review: Wooden (Coach John Wooden)

      A friend of mine passed along this book to me before I left for Guatemala last week.  I read through most of the book on the way to Guatemala, and I finished it up on the way home.  It’s an easy read, and it’s broken up into bite size thoughts and stories.

      Wooden: A Lifetime of Observations and Reflections On and Off the Court by Coach John Wooden is a collection of stories and thoughts from the famous UCLA basketball coach.  Each story and thought point to a common sense approach to succeeding in life and leadership.  In the book, John Wooden shares how he was influenced by his parents, his teachers, his players, and his family to develop his definition of success and his overall view on life.

      This is a book that I will reference again and again.  It will make a great addition to my office leadership library, and it’s a book I would recommend to anyone who wants to be successful in leadership and life.

      My book is full of highlights and notes.  Wooden is a wise man who has clearly learned from life.  Here are just a few of my favorite quotes from the book:

      Being a role model is the most powerful form of educating.  Youngsters need good models more than they need critics.

      By applying yourself to the task of becoming a little better each and every day over a period of time, you will become a lot better.

      You can give without loving, but you cannot love without giving.

      Be more concerned with your character than your reputation.

      Perfection is what you are striving for, but perfection is an impossibility.  However, striving for perfection is not an impossibility.  Do the best you can under the conditions that exist.  That is what counts.

      Success is peace of mind that is the direct result of self-satisfaction in knowing you did your best to become the best that you are capable of becoming.

      As a sports fan, I appreciated the sports related stories that appear throughout the book.  As a student of life and leadership, Wooden: A Lifetime of Observations and Reflections On and Off the Court offers so much great advice and information to chew on and digest.

      What is one thing that you have observed about life that deserves sharing?  Share it here!

      Sign up for the weekly Stretched newsletter.  Check out this post to find out how to sign up.

      Book Review: Losing The Mask by Diane Karchner

      What do you fear?

      For many of us, we fear failure.  We simply don’t want to get it wrong.  We want to be right.  We don’t want to risk the possibility of letting others and ourselves down.  And so, we often lead a life of paralysis.  We miss out on life worth living, because we won’t take a leap of faith.

      In Losing the Mask: Overcoming the Fear of Failure, Diane Karchner tackles her own fears and puts them on display for all to see.  She provides valuable insights into what it takes to overcome our fears, and she encourages readers to take the next steps in removing masks in our lives.

      I love this quote from the book,

      At the end of my days, I don’t wish for any successes to be applauded, nor talents bragged about, as if that was all there was to me.  Rather, I want my eulogy to read that I was ‘a woman who risked a lot, failed a lot, and always got back up.’

      What is holding you back?  What mask do you need to remove from your life?  Check out Losing The Mask today.  It’s a helpful and quick read that I recommend to anyone whose fear of failure is holding them back from living life to the fullest – a life worth remembering!

      Losing the Mask: Overcoming the Fear of Failure is available for Kindle at  Go pick up your copy today!

      [Note:  I received Losing The Mask:  Overcoming The Fear Of Failure for free in exchange for a review.  I was not required to provide a favorable review.]