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the-parable-of-the-lost-landscaping-plan

Don’t matter how much money you got, there’s only two kinds of people: there’s saved people and there’s lost people.

Bob Dylan

Have you ever lost something?

You remember having the item at one point in time, but now you can’t find it.

The search begins.  You look all over the place for your lost item.  Every closet, every corner, and every crack is checked and checked again.  You look under every bed, and you look everywhere else.  The search continues until you find the lost item or until you lose hope.

When you find the item (especially after a long search process), you celebrate.

Recurring Theme

This seems to be a recurring theme in my life.  In June, I wrote about The Parable of the Lost Blue Water Bottle.  There was much rejoicing when I found my lost bottle.  Since I made this story public, I’ve had several people point out my water bottle, “Is that the famous blue water bottle?”

Almost two years ago, I wrote about a lost item.

Over two years ago, I wrote about a lost child.

Four years ago, I wrote about a lost key.

Over five years ago, I wrote about a lost landscaping plan.

The lost and found theme that seems to run through my life is powerful.  Despite the countless stories of missing items, I’m generally a very organized person.  But God seems to be trying to get my attention.

Found!

My collection of lost and found stories grew last weekend when I discovered a long-lost item.

At my house, we have been going through a season of de-cluttering.  We are selling and giving things away, and we are simply discarding things we no longer need.  As we go through each room in the house, we take time to sort through the “stuff” we have accumulated since we moved into our house ten years ago.  I’m amazed to discover how many things we never use.

Last weekend, we spent the day cleaning up our basement.  As I was cleaning up my workshop area, I came across a brown bag full of paperwork.  I decided I should probably look through the paperwork to see if anything needed to be saved.  After twenty minutes of paging through appliance owner’s manuals and other miscellaneous pieces of paper, I discovered a familiar folded up document – I found our lost landscaping plan!

A smile immediately crossed my face, and the smile quickly turned into laughter.  I couldn’t contain my excitement.  I ran upstairs where Leanne and Isaac were preparing lunch, and I unfolded the landscaping plan for them to see.  They could hardly believe their eyes.

We had the landscaping plan designed for us shortly after we moved into the house.  We had big dreams of using the plan to beautify our property over the years.  Unfortunately, we lost the landscaping plan several years ago, and the initial landscaping plans were replaced with a new make-it-up-as-we-go plan.  We looked high and low (but not in the brown bag in the basement).

Whenever we lose an item in our house, our family jokes that the lost item must be with the landscaping plan.

This week, we celebrated the return of our landscaping plan with our H.O.P.E. group.  Leanne made cake.  I shared the story of our rediscovered landscaping plans.  And our friends helped us celebrate.

I’m planning to frame the landscaping plan to hang in our house as a reminder.  This new wall hanging will remind our family of the humorous story that has become a part of our history.  And the wall hanging will remind me of something else…

We Were All Lost

At one point or another, we were all lost.  God went to great lengths to “find” us.  He sent his Son to give us a way home.  When we decide to follow Christ, there is much rejoicing in heaven.  My lost landscaping plan reminds of the measures God took to help me find my way home, and the landscaping plan reminds me of the opportunity to share God’s love with others.

If you want to read more stories about the lost and found, check out Luke 15.

When was the last time you found something you previously lost?  How did you celebrate when you found the missing item?  Share your thoughts in the comments.

Rediscover The Wonder

September 8, 2016 — 2 Comments

rediscover-the-wonder

Look up at the stars and not down at your feet. Try to make sense of what you see, and wonder about what makes the universe exist. Be curious.

Stephen Hawking

Yesterday morning, I woke up at 4 A.M. (when my alarm went off) with the E.T. movie theme song swirling around in my head.

Why the E.T. soundtrack?

I have no idea.

As I rolled out of bed, I remember thinking about the feeling I first had when I heard that music while Elliot flew his bicycle in front of the moon with E.T. safely tucked in the basket on the front handlebars.  As I watched E.T. for the first time, I experienced a feeling of wonder.

I wonder what it is like to fly.

I wonder how the moon was so full.

I wonder about the possibility of rescuing an extraterrestrial.

Recently, I had this feeling again as I dropped our oldest off at Messiah College for her freshman year.

I wondered again at the feelings of freedom and excitement that clearly shown on my daughter’s face as she prepared to embark on this new journey away from home.

I wondered again at the thought of meeting so many new people and learning so many new things.

And I wondered again at the opportunity to plug into the community offered at a Christian college.

I think we sometimes forget to look through the lens of wonder as we move into adulthood.  We allow our sense of responsibility and our tendency for routine take over.  We forget to look at the world with enthusiasm and zest for life.  This trickles into our relationships and even into our faith.

I like routine, but I don’t want to become complacent as I experience life around me.  I want to approach the world with energy.  I want to take on each relationship and each conversation with a sense of purpose.  And I want to live like me faith is fresh and God’s mercies for me are new every single morning.

I want to live with wonder!

What causes you to wonder?  What part of the world are you seeing with fresh, new eyes?  Share your thoughts in the comments.

 

4 WAYS TO DEAL WITH THE BURDEN YOU ARE CARRYING

None knows the weight of another’s burden.

George Herbert

Over the weekend, Leanne and I were taking a walk along the Perkiomen Trail.  As we approached the base of the steepest hill on the entire trail, we crossed paths with a man who was running down the hill with a heavy bag held behind his neck.  We exchanged greetings, and I asked him how he was doing.  His response made me chuckle, “Tired.”

Of course he was tired.  He was running with a huge load on his back.  What does he expect.  If he had simply left the bag at home, his run would have been easier.  And he wouldn’t be so tired.

We kept walking, and I started thinking.

How many of us go through life with a heavy weight tied to our back?

I know I’ve been carrying around a couple of heavy loads lately.  I’ve lost sleep.  I’ve experienced other signs of stress and fatigue.

How would my life change if I let go of these burdens?

I wouldn’t be so tired.  I’d have more energy for other more productive things.  I’d be happier.  I might even have less gray hair.

We all have burdens to carry, but there are a few things we can do to lighten our loads:

4 Ways To Deal With The Burden You Are Carrying

  1. Ask for help.  Our pride gets in the way of asking for help.  We don’t want to appear weak, or we don’t want to let others into our world.  Sometimes we need help.  Plug into people who can help you when you need it.  This may be a small group or church group.  Or it may be a professional.  Several years ago when I was carrying a heavy load, I met with a counselor for a few months.
  2. Limit the time you carry your burden.  Either take care of the issue that is causing the burden as quickly as possible, or give yourself fixed periods of time to deal with the burden you are carrying.  A prolonged period of feeling overloaded leads to fatigue, ineffectiveness, and even depression.
  3. Let it go.  This is easier said than done for most of us.  Maybe the writers of the Disney “Frozen” song had something right.  We may need to simply drop the heavy bag from behind our necks and keep going.  This may not sound responsible, but it may be the choice you need to make today to get out from under the heavy load you’ve been carrying around.
  4. Give your burden to the One who can carry it no matter what.  Cast your cares on the Lord and he will sustain you; he will never let the righteous be shaken.”  Psalm 55:22  This is a promise.  The bumper sticker “Let Go And Let God” seems so cliché, but maybe there’s far more truth in it than we care to admit.

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.  Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.  For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”  Matthew 11:28-30

What burden are you carrying?  What step will you take TODAY to lighten your load?  Share your thoughts in the comments.

THE PARABLE OF THE LOST BLUE WATER BOTTLE

Not until we are lost do we begin to understand ourselves.

Henry David Thoreau

I have a blue water bottle.  It travels with me most places I go.  From the looks of it, the blue water bottle isn’t anything special.  I picked it up at Target several years ago for $5.  It’s metal, and it has scratches and dents all over it.  I’ve had to hammer out the bottom of the bottle several times, so it can stand up straight on a flat surface without wobbling.

I could easily replace the bottle, but I’m hoping it will stick with me for a while.  It has value to me.  It’s been to Guatemala three times so far.  It reminds me of my times there, and it also reminds me to be thankful for the clean water I have at home.  In some ways, I feel like I would be lost without my blue water bottle.

Friday night, I took my blue water bottle to Hannah’s graduation ceremony.  I took a few sips of water throughout the evening, and I tucked the bottle under my chair to prevent others from tripping over it.

At the end of the ceremony, we stood up and moved into the sea of graduates in hopes of finding Hannah.  When we found her, we embraced, celebrated, and preserved the occasion with pictures in the middle of the football field.  Eventually, we exited the stadium and headed to our car and home weaving through the heavy foot and vehicle traffic along the way.

As we pulled into our driveway, I realized I had left my precious water bottle under my chair.  I was crushed.  I knew I couldn’t go back for the bottle that night as I didn’t want to sit in traffic for another hour while our family waited at home, so I did the only thing I knew how to do.  I tried to move on.

Friday night, I tossed and turned in bed as I reflected on Hannah’s milestone, time with our extended family, the party coming up the next day, and my lost water bottle.

On Saturday morning, I woke up early to take care of a few things.  Then, I drove back over to the high school in hopes of finding my water bottle.  When I arrived there were a few people on the field stacking chairs and tearing down the stage.  I was hopeful that my blue water bottle would be found.  As I walked towards the chair I had been sitting in, I was saddened not to see any signs of my blue water bottle.

Next, I did the natural thing, and I started looking under all the other chairs.  I walked towards the stage to see if anyone on the tear down crew had seen my prized possession.  Luckily, one of the maintenance staff members (who thought I looked a little old to have just graduated) offered to help.  He drove over to the grounds building at the side of the field, and we looked through the area to see if my bottle happened to make its way over there.  No luck.

Then one of his team members rolled up in his gator.  We asked if he had picked up a water bottle from the night before, and his response caused my heart to leap.  He said, “You mean a blue water bottle?”  Within minutes, I was reunited with my treasured, blue water bottle.  I thanked both of the gentlemen and explained how much the bottle meant to me.  They were glad to help.

As I brought my blue water bottle back into the house, I proclaimed “The lost has been found.  All is right.  My blue water bottle which was lost has now been found.”  And we celebrated later that day with a big party under a tent in our backyard.  Actually, the party was for Hannah’s graduation, but I think I celebrated a little bit more knowing my blue water bottle was safe and sound.

Every time I find something I previously lost, I am reminded to what lengths the Father went to find me.  He sent His Son to pay the price for my sins and to make it possible for me to come home – safe and sound.  I am blessed!

“Or suppose a woman has ten silver coin and loses one. Doesn’t she light a lamp, sweep the house and search carefully until she finds it?  And when she finds it, she calls her friends and neighbors together and says, ‘Rejoice with me; I have found my lost coin.’  In the same way, I tell you, there is rejoicing in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.”  Luke 15:8-10

When was the last time you lost something that meant a lot to you?  How did you go about searching for your lost item?  What did you do when you found it?  Share your thoughts in the comments.

GUATEMALA UPDATE 2016

In less than 5 weeks, I’ll be in Guatemala again.

I can’t wait!

I long to take in the beautiful mountains of this country I have come to love.  I can’t wait to smell the aromas produced by local street vendors.  I can’t wait to walk the streets of Xenacoj where smiles and stares greet me.  And I can’t wait to experience the magnificent people who hold my heart.

Our family is going back again.  There are many reasons for our trip (admittedly some of them are selfish):

  • We want to get away from the hustle and bustle of life in Pennsylvania.  We have found the pace of life so different in Guatemala.  Relationships and activities aren’t rushed.  They happen when everyone is ready.  They happen when they happen.
  • We want to wrap our arms around the people we have come to love – families, children, widows, brothers, sisters, and friends.  It’s been nearly two years since our last visit, and we miss the people of Xenacoj.
  • We want to re-calibrate ourselves.  A trip to a third world country for a week or two (or more) will teach you a lot of things (if you let it).  In the past, our family has learned a lot about being content with very little, about being generous, and about caring for those in need.  Yes, this is how we try to live here at home.  But there is something amazingly powerful about traveling even further outside your comfort zone.
  • We want to help widows and orphans.  We want to encourage.  And we want to help them get on their feet to help them survive and thrive.  Widows and orphans in Guatemala are often forgotten.  We want to help them know they are loved and valued.  We want to give them the boost they need to make it to tomorrow and the next day and the day after that.  We want to be the voice for those who don’t have a voice.  We want to help tell their story, so others will get involved to help.
  • We want to do something with our lives that matters.  Life is so short.  We have a relatively short period of time to leave our mark.  Our names may not be remembered in Guatemala, but I’m convinced these trips have helped families get on their feet.  And I’m convinced the fruits of our labor will far outlast us.  Our kids are different, because we went to Guatemala.  Assuming our kids have families one day, their families will be different.
  • We want to follow God’s calling for our lives.  In the great commission, Jesus instructs us to go into all the world sharing the gospel.  For our family, this means going into our local community and going to Guatemala.

God continues to shape and mold us, and He takes our selfish, misguided motives.  And He shows us over and over again how good He is.

Many of you know, I have a goal.  I want to build 100 houses in Guatemala before I leave this earth.  I’ve helped build three homes so far.  Only 97 more to go!

A couple of months ago, our family launched a gofundme.com site to help raise funds for our trip and for building a house in Guatemala this summer.  We had already paid for our airfare and some of our expected expenses, but we needed to close the gap the costs associated with the trip and the house build.  When we launched the fundraising site, we honestly weren’t sure what to expect.  Would people step up to close the gap?  Would we have the funds to build a house this summer?  Would God provide?

Why did we doubt?

God is so good!

If you check out the gofundme.com site, you’ll see that we are close to meeting our goal.  We will definitely be going to Guatemala, and we will definitely be building another house.

It gets better!

God is so, so good!

I received a phone call last week.  Someone is stepping up to make a second house possible this summer.

Sometimes, serving others requires a leap of faith.  And often, reaching our crazy, big goals requires one step at a time.  We questioned and we doubted, and God provided through others.

God is so very good!

As our family prepares to return to Guatemala, we are humbled and thankful.  We can’t wait to see how and where God continues to work.  Thank you for being part of our journey.

What leap of faith do you need to take?  What’s preventing you from seeing God’s goodness in your life?

[Note:  If you want to get in on the action our family is taking this summer in Guatemala, please pray for safety and effectiveness in our ministry.  If you want to give to the cause, click here.  Any funds raised above our goal will be used to build more homes in Guatemala.  Thank you!]

Commitment to Prayer

March 21, 2016 — 10 Comments

COMMITMENT TO PRAYER

When we work, we work; but when we pray, God works.

What would happen if you made a decision to pray for somebody every single day for the next month?

This is a question that somebody in my Friday morning men’s group posed to the group last week as we were closing up our time together.

We talk a lot about doing things for people, and we talk about wanting to share our faith.  But do we put prayer behind it?  And what would it look like if we put corporate prayer behind these requests?

In other words, what would happen if a whole group of men (or a whole group of people) made the conscious decision to pray for the same person every sing day for the next month?

Do not be anxious about anything but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your request to God.  And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.  Philippians 4:6-7

I think there is amazing power behind prayer.  That power may be to impact the person for whom we are praying, but I also think there is amazing power to impact our own lives and the lives of those in the group of people who are praying corporately for the same person.

On Friday, my group decided we were going to pray for three people for the next 30 days, and I am interested to see what happens to the people for whom we are praying and for the people in our group.

“If you are willing to invite God to involve himself in your daily challenges, you will experience his prevailing power – in your home, in your relationships, in the marketplace, in the schools, in the church, wherever it is most needed.”  Bill HybelsToo Busy Not To Pray

Have you ever made that kind of commitment – to pray for someone every day for a month?  What was the impact on your life?  What was the impact on those for whom you were praying?  I’d love to hear your thoughts and experiences in the comments.

For other interesting articles on prayer, check out these links:

AND DAD MAKES 7 PODCAST INTERVIEW

Yesterday, my friend, Rocco DeLeo, released the first part of our interview for his podcast – And Dad Makes 7.  In this part of the interview, we talk about being “On Track” in the various aspects of life.  Please stop by and give it a listen.  I had such a blast talking to Rocco, and I believe our conversation will encourage you.  Get to the interview by subscribing to his podcast or by clicking here.

After you give it a listen, let me know what you think in the comments below.

WHEN THE WAVES GROW FIERCE AROUND ME

I had the best of intentions.

I had every thought of writing a nice, new “STRETCHY” post last night for you today, and then my plans kind of got derailed.

There have been a few things going on in my world the past few days that have caused a little higher amplitude to the normally steady, manageable waves I’m used to experiences.  Sometimes, life causes us to experience fear, anger, anxiety, disappointment, and fatigue.  I think I’ve felt a little bit of each of these things over the past few days.

Instead of writing a nice, new “STRETCHY” post, I’m left writing something with more rawness.  I hope you don’t mind.

I wish I could fix things.

I wish I could mend relationships.

I wish I could tear down walls.

I wish I could heal wounds.

I wish I could make scars vanish.

I wish I could snap click my heals together three times and be home.

I wish I could sleep soundly.

I wish I could just make it all better.

But I can’t.  I can’t do any of these things.  I wish it wasn’t so, but there are times when I need these reminders.  I need to be reminded that I can’t do it all.

But I know the One who can.

I know the One who can fix things (even if I don’t understand the remedy).

I know the One who can repair relationships.

I know the One who can tear down walls.

I know the One who can heal all wounds.

I know the One who provides the security of home we are all looking for.

I know the One who provides perfect rest.

I know the One who can make it all better.

And it’s this knowledge – it’s this One – that keeps me from being swallowed up by the giant waves of life.  And this is right where I need to be right now.

The nice, new “STRETCHY” post will have to wait for another day, because this is all I have for now.

In my distress I called upon the Lordto my God I cried for help.  From his temple he heard my voice, and my cry to him reached his ears.  Psalm 18:6

Feel free to add your thoughts in the comments below.

What Are You Pursuing?

January 18, 2016 — Leave a comment

WHAT ARE YOU PURSUING_

It is not in the pursuit of happiness that we find fulfillment, it is in the happiness of pursuit.

Denis Waitley

What is pursuit?

When I looked it up on Google, this is what I found:

Pursuit is “the action of following or pursuing someone or something.”

Synonyms include:  striving toward, quest after/for, search for

What are you pursuing?

Better yet, are you pursuing anything?

People pursue happiness, success, and wealth.  They pursue the American Dream.  Or they pursue inner peace.  Are these the right things to pursue?  I suppose you could argue either way.

A few weeks ago, I wrote a note to myself in my journal:

“Am I pursuing safety, or am I willing to take risks and to be dangerous to live a life that matters?”

If I’m honest, I pursue safety, and this has been my pursuit most of my life.

When I was a little kid, I was the cautious one.  My brother and my best friend (both named David) were the adventurous ones.  They were willing to go off the high dive.  They were willing to swim to the bottom of the pool.  They weren’t afraid to do anything.  Me on the other hand, I was chicken.  I remember crying when my swim teacher tried to get me to go off the low diving board.  I was absolutely terrified I would drown in the deep end of the swimming pool.

Sometimes I wonder if my childhood tendencies to avoid danger traveled with me down the road into adulthood.

I still seek the safe choice more often than I take a chance on doing something that might be dangerous.

I pick the safe choice when it comes to my investments, my career steps, and in other areas of my life.

Am I missing out because of this tendency – this desire – to stay safe?

I don’t know about you, but I want to live a life that matters.  I want to make a difference, and I want to bring glory to God by the choices I make and the actions I take each and every day.

On this day when we celebrate the life of Martin Luther King Jr., I thinks it’s safe to say that MLK did not pursue safety, and he lived a life that matters.

The only place we will really find safety is when we are in the arms of God and when we are following Him.

Chuck Swindoll said it well, “The world has changed and it’s going to keep changing, but God never changes; so we are safe when we cling to Him.”

Finding safety in God doesn’t mean we were meant to avoid taking risks.  In fact, I think there is a certain aspect to risk taking that gives us the opportunity to fulfill our purpose.  I’ve mentioned it here before, and it’s worth mentioning again.  Several years ago, sociologist Tony Campolo responded to a survey taken by people in their nineties.  Campolo concluded that the survey respondents which they had taken time to reflect more, to risk more, and to take actions that would leave a legacy.

I’m not in my nineties yet.  There is still time for me to live differently.  I want to make a difference even if it means doing something a little dangerous.

In his commencement speech to the class of 2014 at Maharishi University of Management, Jim Carrey challenged graduates to take a risk:

“Fear is going to be a player in your life, but you get to decide how much. You can spend your whole life imagining ghosts, worrying about your pathway to the future, but all there will ever be is what’s happening here, and the decisions we make in this moment, which are based in either love or fear.

So many of us choose our path out of fear disguised as practicality. What we really want seems impossibly out of reach and ridiculous to expect, so we never dare to ask the universe for it. I’m saying, I’m the proof that you can ask the universe for it — please! (applause) And if it doesn’t happen for you right away, it’s only because the universe is so busy fulfilling my order. It’s party size! (laughter)

My father could have been a great comedian, but he didn’t believe that was possible for him, and so he made a conservative choice. Instead, he got a safe job as an accountant, and when I was 12 years old, he was let go from that safe job and our family had to do whatever we could to survive.

I learned many great lessons from my father, not the least of which was that you can fail at what you don’t want, so you might as well take a chance on doing what you love.”

I love these words.  If you’re like me, your fear of failure is keeping you on the safe path.  Perhaps, it’s time to take a leap of faith so you can do something that matters.

(One thing worth noting, pursuit implies going after something or someone with all you have.  Whatever you are pursuing won’t just be handed to you.  You have to go get it!)

Are you missing out on something because your pursuit is too safe?  What can you do about it today?

7 WEEKSTRETCHCHALLENGEDon’t forget to sign-up for the 7 Week Stretch Challenge.  You can sign up right here:

 

 

 

 

 

How To Set Right-Sized Goals

December 29, 2015 — 4 Comments

HOW TO SET RIGHT-SIZED GOALS

If your goals don’t scare you, you aren’t thinking big enough.

Michael Hyatt

Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.

H. Jackson Brown

The ultimate reason for setting goals is to entice you to become the person it takes to achieve them.

Jim Rohn

Like many of you, I have been doing a lot of thinking about my goals for 2016 and my dreams for the future.  I’m thinking about where I want to be this time next year.  I’m thinking about various aspects of my life where I want to focus – family, finances, faith, fitness, career, etc.  And I’m taking time to write things down.  Sometimes I wonder if my goals and dreams are the right size.

Are your dreams big enough?

Are you setting goals that will stretch you to become a better person and accomplish more in 2016?

I think many of us fall into the trap of being too safe.  We are too timid with the plans we make for ourselves.  We must learn to be courageous dreamers.

I’m all about setting SMART goals (specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, and time-sensitive), but I think we too often underestimate what is attainable and realistic.

As you ponder your goals and dreams for the future, I challenge you to look at these two verses:

For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self-discipline.  2 Timothy 1:7

Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.  Joshua 1:9

Finally, don’t underestimate the importance of prayer in laying out your plans.  Without God, our plans will ultimately fail.

The mind of man plans his way, but the Lord directs his steps.  Proverbs 16:9

How do you know your goals and dreams are the right size?

For excellent reading on goal-setting, check out these articles: