We all have hopes and dreams. We all want to accomplish great things in our lifetime. We all have important things to attend to on a daily basis.
And we all get distracted.
Distractions sidetrack us from achieving our hopes and dreams. Distractions derail us from the things in life that really need our attention.
The world is full of distraction, and I am guilty of falling into the traps of distraction. This is not my intention, but it is the predicament I find myself in more often than I care to admit.
What can I do to get rid of distractions in my life?
It’s time we make a change. It’s time we deal with the distractions that derail us from doing great things. Here are some ideas to get you started:
At some point, the leaders in your company, church, or organization will step down. They will retire. They will leave the organization. And they will leave a vacancy in leadership.
Who will step up and fill the leadership void?
Maybe it’s you!
I’m excited to announce the release of a new book by Jonathan Pearson. Next Up: 8 Shifts Great Young Leaders Make provides insight and advice for those who will fill the leadership gaps left by those who have gone before us.
I read Next Up with a keen interest. The book was an encouragement for me as I consider my own future opportunities to move further up the leadership ranks in my own endeavors. And it was also an encouragement as I consider how to encourage the future leaders of my organization.
In Next Up, Pearson provides 8 key shifts that every person must make to advance in their leadership mindsets. For example, he talks about the importance of shifting from unreliable to consistent and from passive to passionate.
(Please note: I received a copy of Next Up for free as part of a giveaway during the launch of this book. 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.
Also to note: There are affiliate links in this post. Should you purchase Next Up 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!)
Yesterday for our Easter celebration brunch, I decided to make cinnamon rolls. My Mom is the queen of cinnamon rolls, and I figured it was time I give it a try for my family. I have such great memories of smelling and tasting Mom’s famous cinnamon rolls when I was growing up. Living so far away now, it has been a long time since I indulged in this delicacy.
I started out by following the recipe in one of our cookbooks. I combined flour and yeast. Then I added warm milk, sugar, and butter. I mixed the dough for a few minutes before adding more flour. I then proceeded to knead the dough for several more minutes. I was started to dream of the smell and flavor of the cinnamon rolls.
Then my plans started to unravel.
I set the dough aside for an hour to let the yeast do its work. According to the recipe, the dough should have doubled in the hour. When I came back to check on the roll dough, I was disappointed to discover that the dough did not rise.
The yeast was bad.
In the book of Matthew, Jesus warns his disciples to be aware of bad yeast.
“Be careful,” Jesus said to them. “Be on your guard against the yeast of the Pharisees and Sadducees.” Matthew 16:6
It’s a great reminder. We need to be careful about how we fill our minds and hearts. Here are some ideas to get you thinking:
I ended up making the cinnamon rolls anyway. They actually tasted pretty good, but they just weren’t the same as the ones my Mom makes. Time to throw away the bad yeast in our refrigerator, and time to get new yeast – good yeast!
Over the weekend, we had the opportunity to visit with some college friends. We have all experienced changes since graduating from college. We are older. We have kids. We have new jobs, responsibilities, and interests. Our kids came with us, so they had the opportunity to meet our college friends and to hang out with their kids.
It’s fun to listen to the life updates and stories everyone has to share, and I enjoy jumping into the fray with my own stories.
Saying goodbye always takes some time which isn’t the greatest thing for impatient kids. I was sharing a story with a couple of our friends right before we left which delayed our departure. When we finally got in the car, my son began to mock me by repeating my story almost word for word. I don’t remember is words exactly, but he said something about me droning on and on and on about something few people cared to hear.
It’s funny how the tables turn. I seem to remember having the same response when my own father would drone on and on and on about this or that. My friends actually started calling my dad Cliff Claven, the postman from the popular sitcom, Cheers. Cliff was known for sharing a lot of details about a lot of trivial things. My dad seems to know a lot of things about a lot of things.
I smile as I think about a video my high school friends all refer to where my dad was briefly caught on video walking past a door. As he walked by the door, he could be heard saying, “Do you remember the All In The Family episode?” My dad has always been able to relate some sort of pop culture tidbit with a conversation or experience.
My dad is one of the smartest people I know. Seriously, he knows so much. His reading over the years and his ability to keep up with popular culture have helped to fill his mind with information. When you meet my dad, you will eventually be blessed with a story or information taken from the huge database of his brain. This trait used to drive me crazy as a teenager, but it has come to be something I greatly admire and respect.
As our family drove away from our college friend get together, I listened to my son, and I smiled. Maybe, I am turning into my dad. But maybe this isn’t a bad thing. I wonder if he’ll have the same thoughts in 25 years when his kids give him a hard time about his stories.
What I mean, this post is all about how to respond when our words or actions are stupid.
We all do stupid things.
We do things we regret – things we’d like to take back.
We have all said something dumb. Once we say it, we want to catch our words and stuff them back into our mouths.
We’ve even done something really ugly. We’d like to go back in time and delete a scene from our life reel. But it’s not that easy.
If you are a college basketball fan, you may have heard about the stupid words and actions of a Texas Tech fan and an Oklahoma State basketball star. If you missed it, Marcus Smart of Oklahoma State pushed a Texas Tech fan after words were exchanged between the two in the stands at a recent game.
I’m pretty sure, they would both like to take back there words and actions.
I don’t know all the details, but from what I’ve seen both Smart and the fan have responded pretty well since the initial incident of stupidity.
So what can we learn from the Marcus Smart incident?
How do you respond to your own stupidity? What additional tips to you have for others who have said or done something stupid?
We all have baggage from our past. This baggage weighs us down. It influences our decisions and interactions moving forward.
Over the weekend, Leanne and I visited the Walnut Street Theater in Philadelphia, PA. Right now, they are featuring Other Desert Cities, a play written by Jon Robin Baitz. The play tells the story of the Wyeth family (a daughter, a son, a mom, a dad, and an aunt) as they deal with junk in their trunk.
I really did not have any expectations as I went to the play. Other Desert Cities was simply the third show in the five show season we are currently enjoying as subscribers to the Walnut Street Theater, and I was looking forward to a night out with my wife.
The play left me thinking quite a bit. The daughter in the play (Brooke Wyeth) comes home to Palm Springs, CA to spend Christmas with her family. She brings a couple of copies of the manuscript for a book she is getting ready to publish about her family. The manuscript reveals some dark details about her brother and his death. It exposes some deep, dark secrets her politically connected parents would rather keep quiet. The play which takes place in the living room of the Wyeth home is the dialogue which happens around Brooke’s manuscript. The parents don’t want it published. And we find out there is more to this story than initially meets the eye. Many aspects of this play hit a little too close to home.
Other Desert Cities reminded me there is more to the story than meets the eye. We are all coming at life from a slightly different angle. We have baggage. We have experienced things differently than those around us. We react differently because of different life experiences. Before we jump to conclusions, it’s important to listen to the stories of others.
Sharing our junk with other people takes courage, wisdom, and trust. We need courage to expose ourselves. We need wisdom to know how much to share and with whom to share it. And we need to trust those who hear about our junk will respond appropriately.
There is power in sharing our junk to help others. The play reminded me how common my junk is. When people share their junk, they give others a sense of belonging, and they provide a sense of hope. By sharing your junk, you have the opportunity to give someone hope and a new perspective.
There is freedom which comes from sharing our junk. When we share our junk, we are no longer carrying it by ourselves. There are others to help us along the way. This can provide tremendous freedom. One word of advice here…not all junk should be shared openly. Confidential counseling is a great place to release some of your junk. A few years ago when I was going through a tough time, I sought out the confidence of a paid, professional counselor. This was really helpful in helping me process what I was experiencing.
I’m not sure what junk is in your trunk. But I would encourage you to share it with someone.
How have you dealt with the junk in your trunk? How has it helped you and others to share your junk?
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!
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!)
As we wrap up the year, I’m taking some time to reflect on the top posts written this year. Today’s post is great to review. As the weather has turned colder again, I’ve been logging more mileage on the treadmill. I hope today’s post will STRETCH you again. (This post was originally posted in February 2013.)
I’ve been logging running mileage again, and it feels great. Most of my miles these days are happening on the treadmill at the gym thanks to the cold weather and early morning darkness that blankets our area at this time of the year.
The other day, I was up early running a quick 4.5 miles at our local YMCA. I had the treadmill ramped up to 7.8 miles per hour (which for me is a pretty decent pace). While I’m on the treadmill, I listen to podcasts and glance up at the televisions to see the latest sports highlights and news updates. About a mile into my run as I was lost in my own world, the treadmill suddenly stopped.
Imagine driving your car at 65 miles an hour and it suddenly stops completely. Or imagine riding your bicycle at 15 miles an hour when someone jams a stick in your spokes.
This is how it felt when the treadmill stopped for me. I somehow managed to catch myself before a complete catastrophe occurred. The guy running next to me commented, “Wow! Nice catch.” I tried to get the treadmill back up and running, but it wouldn’t power up and restart. I switched treadmills and continued my workout.
Sometimes life is like this. We are coasting along when something happens in our lives that brings things to a screeching halt. It’s happened in my life a few times – like the time I crashed my car two weeks before my wedding, like when my wife was rushed to the hospital shortly after our son was born, and like the moment I learned that my grandfather had passed away six years ago.
I certainly don’t have all the answers, but I’ve learned a few things through life events like these.
“No one will be able to stand against you all the days of your life. As I was with Moses, so I will be with you; I will never leave you nor forsake you.” Joshua 1:5
Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight. Proverbs 3:5-6
“See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland.” Isaiah 43:19
I returned to the gym this morning to run more on the treadmill. I’m sure I was a bit more cautious, but I’m ready to keep going. I’m thankful for the reminder that a simple treadmill experience can provide. I have no idea what the rest of the day holds, but I look ahead with confidence knowing that it will be okay no matter what transpires.
What have you learned from a life stopping experience? What other tips do you have for handling these kinds of times?
Parenting is an important focus for my wife and me. We want to raise our kids well. We want to protect them, and we want to give them their independence as they get older. Today, we look back at the third most popular post written in 2013. If you are a parent or plan to be a parent, I think this post will STRETCH you. Check it out, and let me know what you think….
We’re approaching a parenting milestone later this year. Our daughter, Hannah, will be able to get her driver’s permit towards the end of the calendar year. It’s a bit scary to imagine our little girl behind the wheel of a car.
Over the Easter weekend, I had a chance to talk with my Grandpa who lives in the Midwest. Our conversation was filled with updates on our family and the activities that keep us running from one thing to the next. At the end of our conversation as always, my Grandpa prayed for our family. He inquired about things in our family that could use prayer. The subject of Hannah’s driver’s permit came up, and Grandpa specifically prayed that God would put His hedge of protection around Hannah and our family as we navigate these times. He recalled a verse from Job 1 indicating that God put a hedge of protection around Job and his family:
“Have you [God] not put a hedge around him [Job] and his household and everything he has? You have blessed the work of his hands, so that his flocks and herds are spread throughout the land.” Job 1:10
The teenage years can be pretty challenging. Kids in the age group are faced with pressures from peers like never before. They are faced with a world full of media that points people away from God and toward themselves and stars who are undeserving of such adoration.
As parents, we play a huge role in creating a hedge for our children. It can be such a tough thing to do – to create realistic and appropriate boundaries while fostering independence and responsible decision-making. We want the best for our kids. We want them to experience things that we never experienced, and we want them to have the things we never had. In the pursuit of providing the best for our kids, we can overlook the ultimate purpose in our parenting – to point our kids towards God, His Son, and His Word.
Are you a parent? How do you protect your kids? What did your parents do to point you towards God, His Son, and His Word?
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!