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“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!

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Thanksgiving Day is a good day to recommit our energies to giving thanks and just giving.

Amy Grant

Happy Thanksgiving!

Sunday, I introduced the Thanksgiving Tablecloth Tradition.  This is a tradition our family started 15 years ago, and it has helped ensure we intentionally reflect on God’s provision in our lives over the past year.  To read more about the tradition, click here.

This week, I’ll be sharing the things I’ll be writing on the tablecloth this year.  (Monday, I shared the first thing I’ll be writing on the tablecloth.  Tuesday, I shared the second thing I’ll be writing on the tablecloth.  And yesterday, I shared the third thing I’ll be writing on the tablecloth.)

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Today, I’m thankful for my kids.  They have kept me busy and proud this year.

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I’m thankful for Hannah, our oldest.  She kept us busy this year graduating from high school and starting college.  We’re excited to have her home this week to celebrate the Thanksgiving holiday.

And I’m thankful for Isaac.  He has also had a year of milestones – his first job, driving, and working on his music and scouting programs.

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Children are a heritage from the Lord, offspring a reward from him.  Like arrows in the hands of a warrior are children born in one’s youth.  Blessed is the man whose quiver is full of them.  They will not be put to shame when they contend with their opponents in court.  Psalm 127:3-5

Who are you thankful for this year?  Share your thoughts in the comments.

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I am grateful for what I am and have. My thanksgiving is perpetual.

Henry David Thoreau

Across America, people will be celebrating Thanksgiving this week.

Some people will be watching one of the NFL football games televised throughout the day.  Others will watch a Thanksgiving parade.  Many Americans will be gathering with family and friends to eat a traditional Thanksgiving feast.  A few of you may lace up your running shoes or your football cleats for a Thanksgiving 5K or a community Turkey Bowl game.

These are all great traditions.  I know I’m looking forward to spending time with my family and eating the delicious Thanksgiving feast.

Thanksgiving is more than family, food, and football.  Thanksgiving is a time to be thankful.  While we should be thankful all year, Thanksgiving gives us all the opportunity to more intentional in our gratitude.

For the past 15 years, our family has celebrated Thanksgiving with our Thanksgiving Tablecloth Tradition.

Here’s how it works:

We have a white tablecloth for our Thanksgiving table.  We purchased fabric markers.  Each guest at our Thanksgiving feast traces their hand print on the tablecloth using one of the fabric markers (make sure you put a piece of cardboard under the tablecloth while you are doing this part).  They write their name and the year in the palm of the hand print.  Then each guest writes five things for which they are thankful (one in each finger).  You may want to put a piece of clear plastic over the tablecloth after everyone has finished their hand print.

Each year we pull out the tablecloth, and we read over the hand prints from previous years.  It’s amazing to see God’s provision in our lives over the years.

We are on our 2nd tablecloth.  The tablecloths include names of family members who are no longer with us.  They include the colorful and sloppy handwriting of our youngest family members, and they include the beautiful hand prints from friends who joined us for the Thanksgiving meal.

Over the next week, I’ll be sharing the five things I’ll be writing on my hand print this year.

Start a new tradition this year – The Thanksgiving Tablecloth Tradition.  Go pickup a tablecloth and some fabric markers.  It’s good to give thanks.

Enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise; give thanks to him and praise his name.  Psalm 100:4

What’s your favorite Thanksgiving tradition?  Why are you thankful this year?  Share your thoughts in the comments.

It’s Friday night, and our whole family is home.

(Hannah is home from Messiah College for a short break.)

While Leanne and Isaac were at piano and Hannah was out for a run, I cut the grass ahead of the rainy weather coming tomorrow.  My wife reminded me that working outside is one of the things that refreshes me, so I decided to cut the grass when I arrived home from work.  There something therapeutic about riding the tractor back and forth across my lawn.  I love creating straight lines and cool patterns in my grass, and I always appreciate the way the yard looks after a good mowing.  Tonight, I had to finish cutting the grass with the tractor headlights on so I could see where I was going.  Fall is here and the days are getting shorter.  I don’t exactly like the shorter days, but I do appreciate the different seasons we get to experience here in Pennsylvania.

For dinner tonight, Isaac made crepes.  We first enjoyed dinner crepes with ham and cheese.  Then we pigged out on dessert crepes.  Mine were filled with strawberries, bananas, and whipped cream.  Everyone else in the family put Nutella in their crepes.  This was our first meal together at home in two months since Hannah departed for college.

After a busy day and busy week, it is nice to be home.

If you read my post from yesterday, you’ll know I’m struggling with exhaustion and overcommitment.  In my post, I started to ponder this question:  “What refreshes me?”

After I road the post, Leanne came and sat down on the couch next to me, and she said I looked more relaxed.

One of the things that refreshes me is writing.

I think I forgot this.  Or maybe I have simply allowed other things to crowd out my time for writing.  It’s crazy how we let this happen.  We find something we’re passionate about (like writing).  We go after it for a while, but then other things wedge themselves into our schedules and we forget to keep doing the thing that brings us the most joy and fulfillment.

For me, I haven’t been very consistent lately when it comes to writing.  I’ve been too busy doing other things.  I’ve been too tired to carve out the time to focus on writing.  And I think it’s had an impact on me.

Writing is cathartic.  It restores my soul.  It fills me up.  It helps me process the challenges of life.  And it simultaneously gives me the opportunity to encourage others.

And I’m back at it again tonight – two nights in a row.  Hannah is cleaning up after dinner.  Leanne is working on breakfast for tomorrow morning.  Isaac is practicing the piano for church on Sunday.  And I’m sitting here in my easy chair – writing, listening, and slowly filling up my tank.

This is the day the Lord has made.  I will rejoice and be glad in it.  The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases.  His mercies never come to an end.  They are new every morning.  I’m thankful for an evening to sit, to reflect, and to relax.

It’s Friday night, and I’m thankful for the weekend.

How do you unwind after a busy week?  Share your thoughts in the comments.

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I don’t understand this whole Twitter, Facebook stuff. I don’t get it. Make a phone call. Talk to somebody.

James Avery

Friday afternoon at the end of my workday, I received a phone call from my Grandpa.  Grandpa Miller lives in Minneapolis, MN, and I live outside of Philadelphia, PA which means we don’t see each other very often.  And I’m embarrassed to admit we don’t talk nearly as often as we should.  I think we both share the guilt for our infrequent conversations.

One of the things that keeps us connected is my blog.  Every time I publish a new blog post, Grandpa gets an email from me.  He keeps tabs on me in part by reading my blog posts.

I don’t know if you noticed or not, but I didn’t publish a single blog post last week.  One person did notice – Grandpa.  His phone call on Friday afternoon was a call of concern for me.  Was a sick?  Was I busy?  Was I okay?  Grandpa called to check-up on me.

Grandpa’s phone call reminded me of several important things.

Grandpa and My Niece

Grandpa and My Niece

4 Things I Learned When Grandpa Called Me

  1. I am loved.  Grandpa’s phone calls always remind me that I am loved.  We may not talk as regularly as we should, but I know we are thinking of each other.  In fact, Grandpa regularly prays for my family and me.  You are loved, too!
  2. I am missed when I don’t show up.  For over nine years, I’ve been writing blog posts here.  I don’t often realize the impact of my writing discipline.  The last couple of weeks have been particularly busy for me, so I decided to put attention to other things besides writing blog posts.  I guess I didn’t realize the impact of my decision.  It’s nice to know I was missed.  And I am reminded to practice the discipline of showing up – even here on my blog.  You are missed when you don’t show up!
  3. My words and actions matter to others.  It is my prayer that my words (and actions) will encourage others and will bring glory to God.  Grandpa’s phone call reminded me that my words do matter.  They keep people informed, and they stretch people to live life with more intention.  Your words and actions matter to others!
  4. I am meant to live in community.  When life gets overwhelming, I sometimes have a tendency to close up.  I’m an extrovert, but I also have a strong desire to be in control.  When I get too busy, it’s easy for me to put on blinders.  I focus so intently on the things on my schedule and my to-do list that I forget to latch into the people around me – my community.  If you’re reading this, you are part of my community.  I need you, and I think you may need me.  We need each other.  I can’t physically be with Grandpa thanks to the challenges of geography and responsibilities, but I can be present with Grandpa by connecting with him more intentionally.  You are meant to live in community!

Thank you, Grandpa, for calling!  It meant the world to me to hear your voice and to know you care.  I love you!

Who do you need to call today?  What are you going to do about it?  Share your thoughts in the comments.

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.

Made For A Purpose

December 8, 2014 — 11 Comments

The purpose of human life is to serve, and to show compassion and the will to help others.

Albert Schweitzer

Saturday afternoon, we received the following message in the mail:

Dear Isaac,

I would like to take this opportunity to congratulate you!  Cody has successfully completed his training at the Seeing Eye.  He has been placed with a man from Virgina.  The man travels extensively for his job and he came to the Seeing Eye for his fourth dog.  I did not have a chance to train them together but I was able to observe the team work and grow together.  The man was thrilled with Cody and was impressed with his calm demeanor, no-nonsense attitude, and his strong work ethic.  He was very thankful for the effort you put forth in raising him.

Cody was a great dog to train and I enjoyed the four months we spent together.  From the moment I met Cody I knew there was something special about him.  He always wanted to do the right thing and enjoyed putting the harness on to go to work.  I remember the trips to NYC and how the city was no big deal for him.  He loved Times Square and riding the subways.  His laid back attitude and his cautious work ethic made him a great dog to train.  I will always remember Cody and how he used to wait for me every morning in the kennel.  I will miss him.

I would like to thank you for the time and effort you put forth in raising Cody.  You did an excellent job.  It is your continued help and steadfast dedication that continue to make the Seeing Eye such a successful organization.  You have made a positive impact in someone’s life.  Cody is taking his first steps of an incredible journey with his new partner in travel.

Sincere thanks,

Jim Kessler

Leanne and I had the privilege of going up to the Seeing Eye in October to observe Cody’s town walk.  This is kind of like a final exam for Cody.  We couldn’t get close to Cody, but we were able to watch him from across the street and a distance behind him as he navigated the sidewalks of Morristown, NJ.  When we spoke with Jim, Cody’s trainer, he commented on how much Cody likes to work.  He essentially said that Cody was made for this.  He relishes in his purpose.  We could see this as we watched Cody from afar.

I know Cody is only a dog, but he provided great lessons for our family.  We learned patience and endurance as a result of having him in our house for his first year of life.  And we were reminded about the importance of pursuing our purpose for life.

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My wife, Leanne, recently launched her life coaching business.  Her primary focus is helping women discover their purpose and to help them take the next steps in pursuing their purpose.  If you need helping discovering your purpose or you need some help discerning your next steps in pursuing this purpose, you should touch base with my wife.  For more information about Leanne and life coaching, visit her site by clicking here.

What is your purpose?  What are you doing about it?

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Happy Thanksgiving!!!

This week I am celebrating a tradition in our house.  Our family Thanksgiving tradition includes tracing our hand prints onto a white tablecloth.  In each of our fingers, we write down something for which we are thankful.  This week, I’m taking time to share something I’ll be writing on the tablecloth this year.  I’m hoping you’ll contribute to the conversation by leaving something for which you are thankful for each day.

Here is the fourth thing I’ll be writing down this year:

Family & Friends

I am so blessed to have a wonderful family and some great friends.  I’m especially thankful for my wife, Leanne, and for our two teenagers.  It’s been a busy year, but we have enjoyed growing together.  Leanne has ventured into life coaching this year, and the kids are busy with running, youth group, band, and scouts.  I’m extremely blessed.

I am also thankful for my extended family.  This year, we said goodbye to my Grandma Stolpe, and it gave us the opportunity to spend time with parts of my family I haven’t seen in years.

Family is not an important thing. It’s everything.
Michael J. Fox

I have so many friends for whom I am thankful.  There are way too many to list here.  I’m thankful for those who have cheered me on, listened to me, and just hung out with me.

The greatest gift of life is friendship, and I have received it.
Hubert H. Humphrey

What is one thing you would put on your thankful list this year?  Why?

A Tribute To Grandma

October 8, 2014 — 9 Comments

On Monday, we said goodbye to my Grandma.  During the funeral service on Monday afternoon, I had the opportunity to share some thoughts about her.  Here they are:

As grandchildren, I’m sure we all have known the special touch of our grandparents.  Each one of us (seven in all) was always made to feel special whenever we were around.  (I was special, because I was born on Grandpa’s birthday.)  What a blessing!

I’m fairly certain we all have very special memories of Grandma.  She was certainly an amazing lady, and I’ll remember many things about her, but one thing stands out the most when I think about her special qualities.

Grandma was a woman of prayer.

When I was a young kid, I remember special times of prayer at the meal table.  Grandpa might read from a devotional.  We would look at a missionary card to learn more about a missionary or an unreached people group.  And then, Grandma would pray.  Her prayers were always soft-spoken.  It was obvious to me that Grandma knew God, and she was simply having a conversation with Him.

When I was in college, Grandma and Grandpa were visiting our home in New Jersey.  I was out late with friends while they were there one night.  When I pulled in the driveway, the house was dark.  My bedroom was in the basement of my parent’s split-level house, and Grandma and Grandpa slept in the basement family room during their visits.  I unlocked the door and quietly walked down the steps.  As I approached the bottom step, I heard voices.  At first, I thought Grandma and Grandpa were talking to each other.  Then I realized they were talking to God.  I sat down on the bottom step and listened as they continued the conversation.  Together they prayed for Norm and Candy (my parents), Max and Elaine (my aunt and uncle), Lauren (my cousin), Jon, Jane (my cousin), David (my brother), Tom (my cousin), Helen (my cousin), and Erik (my brother).  They prayed specifically for each of us mentioning specific concerns and even praying for our future spouses.  They especially prayed that we would have a relationship with Jesus.  This wasn’t an unusual occurrence.  It was clear to me they prayed for us every night.

After Grandpa passed away seven and a half years ago, I had a few opportunities to visit with Grandma.  These were always such special visits.  After talking together for a while about my family, the Cubs, the Bears, our extended family, and about other details, we would always pray together before we said goodbye.

Last summer during my last two visits with Grandma, It was clear that her memory was starting to fail her.  During my first visit in June, we talked for ten to fifteen minutes before she asked “What was your name again?”  In July, she knew my name, but she couldn’t remember Leanne’s name.  You could tell this was frustrating to Grandma who was always the smartest in the family.  After spending a couple of hours together, we gathered in Grandma’s room to pray and say goodbye.  I prayed, and as I said Amen, Grandma picked up the conversation with God.

In her final year, I understand it became more challenging for her to hold her thoughts together as she prayed.  I’m sure this was a sign she was ready to go home to heaven soon.  Nonetheless, Grandma would look up at the cork board hanging above her bed.  It was here she displayed her family tree which included her two children and their spouses, her seven grandchildren, and her fifteen great-grandchildren.  Even when she couldn’t hold her head up, she would pray for us as she looked up at her pictures.

Grandma will be missed by all of us.  We will miss the conversations, the Swedish pancakes, and the Swedish meatballs.  And I will miss hearing Grandma talking with her friend, Jesus.  I’m so thankful for the faith legacy left by Grandma.

It was sad to say goodbye to Grandma this week, but it was great to be with family.  And it was a privilege to celebrate the life of a saint – my Grandma.

How do you (or how will you) remember your grandparents?

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Our kids officially start back to school tomorrow.  They will both be in high school this year.  (How did this happen so fast?!?)

I love back to school time.  It means the start of fall sports, the onset of cooler weather, and the return to routine.

I love routine!

Seriously, I am a creature of habit, and back-to-school means our family gets back into a regular routine.  Getting back into a regular routine can be a real challenge especially after the relaxing summer months.  In today’s post, I want to help you identify essentials to establishing a routine that works for you and your family.

5 Keys To Establishing A Routine That Works

  1. Recognize the positives of having a routine.  A good routine can lead to more productivity, better focus, and higher energy levels.  A routine also helps to establish appropriate expectations and boundaries for our time and commitments.  A routine improves understanding and communication in relationships.  And a routine can lead to improved trust between individuals.  Those who thrive on chaos might argue that having a routine is too boring, but I’ve seen the benefits of routine in my house.  And believe me, our house is not boring.
  2. Start getting back into the routine before the routine is required.  Our kids have been used to going to bed late and sleeping in almost every day this summer.  The best way to get them ready for the routine of school is to start getting to bed a little earlier and waking up a little earlier the week before school.  For example, if school bedtime in your house is 9 PM but your kids are used to going to bed at 10:30 PM, make bedtime ten minutes earlier each night.  This doesn’t just apply to school.  Maybe you are coming back to work after a long vacation.  If this is the case, find ways to get your body adjusted to the work routine before you actually have to go back to work.
  3. Be willing to adjust your routine if necessary.  This is where I sometimes fail.  I become so committed to my routine that I fail to see where I need to make adjustments.  Most likely, your initially established routine is not the best routine.  It’s a great start, but it’s not the very best.  Learn to analyze and adjust.  By doing this, you will eventually establish a routine that works best for you and your family.  When I went to college, I remember playing around with my studying routine to make sure I got the most out of my classes.  Initially, I did a lot of studying in my room, but I soon learned that I needed to find a quieter place to study.  Eventually, I discovered the stacks in the library.  This is where I went when I needed to give my full attention to a specific subject.  This became a routine that paid off with great grades, better engineering knowledge, and solid preparedness for my career.
  4. Talk about your routine with your family and friends.  Talking about your routine with others is a great idea for two reasons.  First, friends and family can help hold you accountable to keeping your routine.  Second, friends and family can help you discern where you might need to make adjustments to your routine.  I tell people about my running routine and goals.  This helps me stay on task in meeting my goals, and it’s also helpful in making sure my targets are reasonable.
  5. Make sure you schedule breaks into your routine.  All focus, all the time is wonderful in theory, but we all need to take time for relaxation, recharge, and recreation.  We were made to work, but we were also made to rest.  I think this is why God gave us the Sabbath.  This applies to you and to your kids.  Your kids need a break from the rigors of academics and athletics.  Make sure they have a little time to have fun.  Going to see a movie, going out to dinner, or simply playing a game together as a family are great ways to take a break from routine.

September is such a great time find a routine that works for you.  Taking these steps will help you make the most of the season ahead.

How does having a routine stretch you?  How could a routine help you be more productive?