“So I say to you, Ask and it will be given to you; search, and you will find; knock, and the door will be opened for you.“Jesus Christ (Matthew 7:7)
To late, I just did.
Learning to ask questions is the key to opening the door to countless opportunities, experiences, and relationships. Kids typically do a great job asking questions. If you have ever been with a young child, you’ve heard this question over and over again: “Why?”
Kids are curious. They want to learn. They want to grow. They want to try new things. And they seem to know that asking questions is the key to getting what they want. Kids also don’t let the fear of sounding stupid stop them from asking questions.
Somewhere between childhood and adulthood, most of us forget the power of asking questions. We lose our curiosity. We don’t want to appear like we don’t know all the answers. And we’re afraid we might be told “No” when we ask for something.
I’ve learned something recently:
This is why we must learn the discipline of asking questions.
In the writing and speaking world, there are many opportunities available to those who ask.
If I want to speak, I have to ask. If I want to write on someone’s blog or platform, I have to ask. If I want to be on someone’s podcast, I have to ask. Sure I may get an invitation from time to time without asking, but this is not the norm.
You may not be a writer or a speaker, but you still have a lot to gain by asking questions. When you practice the discipline of asking questions, many things happen.
“Who questions much, shall learn much, and retain much.”Francis Bacon
I have used a set of questions that have helped me grow personally and professionally. If you begin using these questions, you will grow as well. These questions require an open mind and a willingness to take action.
One thing worth noting, once you’ve asked your question(s) make sure you stop to listen. The real learning happens when we listen to what others have to say in response to our questions. And if you’re asking yourself the question(s), make sure you take time to reflect and process your responses to your own questions.
“The happiness of your life depends upon the quality of your thoughts: therefore, guard accordingly, and take care that you entertain no notions unsuitable to virtue and reasonable nature.”Marcus Aurelius
I had a bit of a mishap this morning.
After my 6AM call with my men’s group and before my 7:30AM call with my Rotary club, I thought I had enough time to trim my beard, take a shower, and get dressed for the day.
I was right on all three accounts; however, things didn’t quite go as I expected.
I took the hair trimmers out of the linen closet in our bathroom. I removed the cover from the trimmers, and I proceeded to begin “trimming” my beard. To my surprise or perhaps horror, I realized I had failed to put the appropriate guard on the trimmers before I started my “manscaping.”
I called into the other room to alert my wife to my predicament.
I couldn’t just leave it as it was, and I couldn’t put the guard on now as the beard hair length had already been determined. What should I do?
I left the guard off of the trimmers, and I essentially shaved off my beard leaving a layer of stubble across my face. I’ve had the beard for a couple of years, so my face looks a bit different now. Perhaps, I even look a little younger without the beard.
My morning mishap with the beard trimmers left me with a lot to ponder.
In general, I am a fairly guarded person. I’m not great at spontaneity, and I typically think before I speak. Most people would label me conservative or at least rather serious. Sometimes I’m envious of people who let their guards down with more ease than I do. They can get their feelings out there for others to hear.
On the other hand, the Bible talks about the importance of guarding our hearts.
“Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.“Proverbs 4:23 (NIV)
Guard rails are there to protect us. They protect us from going of the right path, the right road, the right trail. They keep us out of danger.
When the author of Proverbs talks about guarding our hearts, he is telling us to protect our hearts above all else – to make sure we are keeping the bad out and allowing the good inside. He reminds us that what comes out of our heart is a direct result of what we permit into our hearts.
Paul seems to echo the writer of Proverbs:
“Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.”Philippians 4:8 (NIV)
We must guard what goes into our hearts and minds.
I recently came across an excellent resource initially spoken by Earl Nightingale and now available as a short book. In The Strangest Secret, Nightingale says “We become what we think about.” It’s a call to be intentional in our goal setting, but it’s also a reminder to make sure we are thinking about good things.
As a result of Nightingale’s challenge, I began writing a goal on a new index card every day, and on the back of the card I write out Matthew 7:7-8:
“Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.”Matthew 7:7-8 (NIV)
What guard rails have you but in your life? How are you dealing with the thoughts and ideas that come into your heart and mind?
These thoughts are the result of my morning mishap.
My beard will come back. I’ll be more diligent in making sure I am using the right guard for the trimmers. And I’ll be more intentional in guarding my heart and mind.
“When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, ‘Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.’ To this day, especially in times of ‘disaster,’ I remember my mother’s words and I am always comforted by realizing that there are still so many helpers – so man caring people in this world.”Fred Rogers
The news can seem pretty scary right now.
I’ve tried to stay away as much as possible. So much of today’s news media is about blaming this side or that side for the COVID-19 crisis. Or the news is filled with emphasis on the rapid spread of the novel corona virus and the rising death toll left in its wake. I read or hear stories of people reacting out of fear – hording toilet paper, hording hand sanitizer, and yelling at people who appear to be too close to them physically.
Many media outlets are using the crisis as an opportunity to either support their political perspective or tear down the political position of the opposing side. This path will only create more disunity and higher walls in our country and in our communities. In addition, they are spreading a message of fear.
Crisis can either destroy us or can unify us.
So here is my question to you (and to me)….
Are you helping others? Are you reaching out? Are you spreading hope?
Or are you acting only for you and your benefit? Are you hording? Are you spreading messages of fear and despair?
I believe it’s important to be informed and to take responsible actions to prevent the spread of this virus. But I also believe it’s important to look for the helpers – and to become one of the helpers wherever possible.
I saw a team of co-workers creatively gathering PPE (Personal Protection Equipement) for distribution to our field workers who are faced with serving our customers who are providing life-sustaining services to others at hospitals, healthcare facilities, and pharmaceutical research and manufacturing sites.
I saw a group of Rotarians gathering grocery store gift cards to distribute to families in need due to furlough or loss of job caused by COVID-19.
I saw friends in the healthcare arena sacrificially putting themselves at risk by serving in hospitals, urgent care facilities, and portable COVID-19 testing facilities.
I saw teachers working together to connect with their students and to creatively continue education despite the current requirements to remain physically separated.
I saw pastors doing their best to connect with their congregations in an effort to bring messages of hope.
I saw people in my community doing their part to support local businesses who have clearly been impacted by the isolation required by the government orders to “stay at home.”
I saw family members and friends creatively using their talents to entertain and encourage others through YouTube, Facebook, Instagram, Zoom, and other on-line platforms.
These are stories that might not make it to CNN or FoxNews. But these are the stories we need to hear especially in the midst of crisis.
I had intentions of writing a post with this title a few weeks ago (before the whole Coronavirus COVID-19 thing happened), and it seems like a great time to revisit it.
Back in January, Leanne (that’s my beautiful bride) and I decided to move forward with listing our house. Our kids are both in college, and we simply don’t need all the property and all the house that we currently have. We put our house on the market with the intention of moving closer to being completely debt free so we can live more, save more, and ultimately give more.
In the process, we also began our search for our next home. We set a dollar limit along with a search criteria related to the type of house and neighborhood we were pursuing.
And thus we entered the wonderful, crazy process of selling and buying a house.
Proverbs 3:5-6 has always been a central verse for Leanne and me.
“Trust in the LORD with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths.”Proverbs 3:5-6
This is the verse that provided us hope and encouragement as we guided the early years of our relationship and considered marriage.
This is the verse that we leaned on heavily when we navigated some significant challenges several years ago.
And this is the verse that we come back to now as we consider the prospect of moving.
Trusting God implies God will do everything for us. He will direct our paths. Some versions say He will make our paths straight when we trust in Him.
I’m not saying this is wrong, but I think we must be careful not to take this as a call to sit on our hands doing nothing. While we may need to wait to see how God reveals Himself in the midst of our situation, He still gave us brains, hands, and feet. Our brains help us think and process our next steps. Our hands and feet help us take those next steps.
Getting back to our house, we officially put our house on the market in early February. Our realtor stepped into action with a few open houses, and we began to see prospective buyers come through our house. At the same time, we found the house in which we would like to move. After a few weeks without offers, we made the decision to drop the price of our current house. We also made the decision to put a refundable down payment on the house for which we would like to purchase. In other words, we took action.
We are still trusting God will work in our situation. We pray daily that God would bring the right buyer for the right price at the right time. We are giving that part to God. Meanwhile, we are trying to be wise – seeking godly advice and taking appropriate action.
As we encounter this strange time in history as it relates to COVID-19 (Coronavirus), I think this verse and these thoughts apply. God is in control. But we must also use our brains and our bodies to think and act appropriately. Washing our hands and temporarily distancing ourselves socially are not bad ideas. I’d also suggest we pray for our leaders, for those in healthcare, and for those who are sick. My pastor also encouraged us to reach out to our neighbors (particularly are aging neighbors) to make sure they were okay. These are all actions we can take.
It’s easy to become anxious when we face challenges in life whether they relate to personal uncertainty or global pandemics. Paul reminds us to keep our anxiety in check.
“Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.”Philippians 4:6-7
As we navigate these times, trust and pray like God is in control and take action (spiritually and physically) like your actions matter.
One more thought, there are a lot of people who are scared and in need of hope right now. If you are a Christ follower, I believe this is a time when Jesus’ love and hope can shine brightly. Let’s be the voice of reason – the voice of calm – the voice that points people to the God who alone can be trusted in all circumstances.
” Joy is the serious business of Heaven.”C.S. Lewis
Joy – n. – A feeling of great pleasure and happiness. (According to Google)
What is missing from your life?
You appear to be walking around with the weight of the world on your shoulders. You seem down, depressed, and perhaps overwhelmed.
Does it feel like the world is pushing in on you from every direction?
Everyone wants a piece of you. You can’t seem to get ahead, and more and more is lumped onto your plate giving you little room to breathe – little room to be you.
Maybe things just aren’t going your way. Your job is challenging at an unbearable level. Your bills are mounting, and you are facing a personal health crisis. Those you once called friends have abandoned you.
The stress you feel is palpable. There’s a lack of hope and a lack of joy.
It’s time to stop!
It’s time to find joy again!
Joy is possible in the midst of struggle. Joy is available to you and to me.
“Splendor and majesty are before him; strength and joy are in his dwelling place.”I Chronicles 16:27 (NIV)
“Do not grieve, for the joy of the Lord is your strength.”Nehemiah 8:10 (NIV)
When your world seems devoid of joy, it’s important to remember the above truths. It is also important to remember the things that bring you joy.
God has gifted you with a variety of gifts, interests, and passions. And God has given you a purpose. Joy is found when we are using our gifts in areas that fill our hearts, align with our areas of interest, and fulfill our purpose.
What brings you joy?
Yesterday, I had the blessing of spending time with friends sawing wood. It sounds simple, but I could tell that the experience brought joy to my friends (and to me).
When life has lost it’s spark, it’s time to find joy.
Finally, if you are still struggling to find joy, serve others in need. Helping others is often the catalyst we need to find the joy that seems absent from our lives.
“Since you get more joy out of giving joy to others, you should put a good deal of thought into the happiness that you are able to give.”Eleanor Roosevelt
“Everyone needs a coach. It doesn’t matter whether you’re a basketball player, a tennis player, a gymnast or a bridge player.”Bill Gates
A coach guides, instructs, mentors, and sets an example.
You are on a journey in which you have not yet arrived. You need someone who has gone in front of you who can share their wisdom which they have gained from their experiences, training, and education. You need a coach who can encourage you especially when you are lost or discouraged. And you need a coach who will spur you on when our motivation is diminished.
Open your eyes and your ears. Your coach is possibly right in front of you. Look for someone who has experience or training in the area(s) in which you are striving. Listen for those who clearly have knowledge and also a solid reputation. Do some research and discover your options. Then ask. Finding a coach requires action on your part. You must ask for help. Pick up the phone and call your potential coach. Go out together for a walk or a cup of coffee. Finding your coach will most likely require your intentional action.
Now! That’s the short answer. You need a coach when you are tired of complacency. You need a coach when you need help taking the next step (or steps) on your journey. You need a coach when you want to go to the next level.
You could find someone willing to be your coach for free, and that might work for a little while. But I want to encourage you to consider paying for coaching. When you pay for coaching, you are far more likely to take the coaching serious and to take the prescribed action to move forward in your journey. Additionally, your coach is spending their time and resources to provide coaching to you. This costs something. In my experience, coaching can cost anywhere from a few hundred dollars for a few coaching sessions to several thousand dollars for day-long or week-long one-on-one intensive coaching. Paying a coach is worth it!
That’s right! I’d love to be your coach. I have a passion for helping men take their next steps forward – steps to becoming a better father, steps to becoming a better husband, steps in their career, and even steps in their faith. As a husband of over 23 years, a father of 22 years, a business leader, and a committed follower of Christ, I have wisdom worth sharing. I’ve also gained knowledge from many who have coached me. Most recently, I’ve coached many men through the Stretched Men Group mastermind group, and I know I can help you.
I’m currently offering three levels of coaching:
Stretch Player Level: This is my bi-weekly, three month semester Stretched Men Group mastermind group. This coaching opportunity allows men to connect with each other in a safe environment that helps each man stretch forward. Men who have participated in this level of coaching have taken steps forward in their families, their marriages, their careers, and their faith. This is a great place to plug into coaching.
Stretch All-Star Level: This is six (6) hour-long sessions one-on-one with me. These sessions will involve thought provoking coaching conversations with actionable outcomes. This is a great level to consider if you are ready to go further faster.
Stretch MVP/VIP Level: This is a full one day experience with me. From breakfast to dinner, we will spend the entire day together mapping out a plan to go to the next level and beyond. This day which includes three meals will be a more intensive opportunity for coaching. We will spend time understanding your current place and challenge. We will vision cast your life goals and mission. We will specifically analyze your priorities, your personal schedule, and the obstacles you may be facing keeping you from stretching to your potential. Finally, we will develop an action plan necessary to move forward. This coaching level includes three follow-up calls designed to make sure you are on track with your action plan. It’s also an opportunity to make adjustments to help you move forward.
For more information, stop over to StretchedMenGroup.com. This will give you more information about Stretch Player Level (Stretched Men Group). I will be adding more information to these site soon about all three levels. In the meantime, sign-up over at the website for a free, no-obligation phone call with me. This will give us the opportunity to talk about coaching and which level might be a good fit for you.
“You don’t change the world with the ideas in your mind, but with the conviction in your heart.”Bryan Stephenson
When you look around at the world, what do you see?
Do you see hopelessness? Do you see a world that is either not changing at all or is changing in the wrong direction?
Or do you see hope? Do you see possibility and the ripples of positive change emerging from the pond of life?
Honestly, I find my self on both sides of this question from time to time. I more tend to believe the positive, but there are times when I grow weary of things I see and hear in the world – things like unnecessary violence, unfair judgement, and lack of unity within the communities in which we live locally and globally.
But then I see people who are making a difference, and I realize there is still hope – still real potential for change that makes a difference.
“Change will not come if we wait for some other person or some other time. We are the ones we’ve been waiting for. We are the change that we seek.”Barack Obama
On Friday night, Leanne and I went to see Just Mercy starring Michael B. Jordan and Jamie Foxx. We had listened to Just Mercy, the book by Bryan Stephenson, over the holidays, and we were looking forward to seeing the movie.
Bryan Stephenson is a graduate from Harvard’s law school. Upon graduating from Harvard, he left his home in Delaware to move to Alabama where he started Equal Justice Initiative, an organization dedicated to finding and fighting for justice for those who have been wrongly convicted or punished excessively.
Stephenson has sacrificed financial success and personal safety to follow the conviction of his heart. His action and advocacy has led to the reversal of several convictions of those wrongly accused of murder. For more about Brian Stephenson and his work, I’d encourage you to check out the Just Mercy the book, Just Mercy the movie, and the website for Equal Justice Initiative.
What do you believe in your heart? What ideas in your head have been sitting dormant? Which ideas in your head need to become convictions in your heart? What action do you need to take TODAY to change the world?
You won’t change something in yourself unless the idea in your head moves into your heart. Similarly, you won’t change your community or the world unless the ideas in your head move into your heart.
One of the reasons I continue to go to Guatemala is because of the conviction of my heart. I feel called in the depths of my soul – in my heart – to help be a catalyst for positive change for those who need a home.
What is your Guatemala? What is your Equal Justice Initiative? What is the next step you need to take to cause change? What are you waiting for?
“Be the change that you wish to see in the world.”Mahatma Gandhi
“Returning hate for hate multiplies hate, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars. Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate, only love can do that.”Martin Luther King, Jr.
Last Sunday, I had the blessing of attending a Martin Luther King, Jr. Service of Rememberance at Bethlehem Baptist Church in Ambler, PA. I wasn’t the only white skinned person there, but I was definitely in the minority.
The service which lasted over 2 1/2 hours was filled with singing, dancing, preaching, prayer, and sharing. The event which was put on by the Wissahickon Faith Community Association included presentations from various congregations around the area including Baptist churches, Muslim mosques, Jewish synagogues, and several Christian churches.
As part of the service, Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro was presented with an award related to his community service. During his acceptance speech, he said something about our responsibility toward hate:
“We have a responsibility to speak up against hate.”Josh Shapiro
While there may have been some significant progress in addressing racial injustice since the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr., it’s clear that we really haven’t made all that much progress when it comes to hate.
Watch the news, and you will see hatred. Pay attention to your social media feeds, and it’s not hard to find hate.
We can do better. You and I have the opportunity – we have the responsibility – to combat hate.
We must seek to understand each others different perspectives.
We must speak up when we are face to face with hate.
It may seem overwhelming. It may seem much easier to put our heads down and ignore the problem.
We must be brave. We must fight the tendency to be cowards.
Thank you, Josh Shapiro, for this reminder.
And thank you, MLK, for speaking up and setting an example.
“Do not forget to show hospitality to strangers, for by so doing some people have shown hospitality to angels without knowing it.”Hebrews 13:2 (NIV)
Do you think things just happen by accident? Or have you ever had the feeling that something happened for a reason – perhaps with some purpose and direction behind it?
Early this week, someone reached out to me. He found me on LinkedIn, and he realized we had at least three mutual connections. When he reached out to me, he explained the connection and the desire to chat more both about my business and about my faith.
We scheduled time to get together for lunch near my office on Wednesday, and we met for the first time as we shared a meal. During lunch, we had the chance to introduce ourselves, and I had the opportunity to hear more about this man and to help him as he considers making a career change.
An hour later, we went our separate ways. I returned to my office with a sense of wonderment. I don’t think this encounter happened by accident.
I don’t know exactly what the result of our conversation will be. This man may end up working at my company. Perhaps, he will join the Stretched Men Group (although we didn’t talk very much about this). And maybe, our conversation will simply be the encouragement he needed to take the next step in his career progression.
This was just one of my encounters last week. I talked to many, many other people at the office, at a job site, at the doctor’s office, at the gym, on the phone.
When Paul tells us to “make the most of every opportunity,” I believe he is reminding us to make the most of every phone call, of every email exchange, and of every conversation. God has a purpose for our interactions. And we have blessing of being part of the divine.
“Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; make the most of every opportunity.”Paul – Colossians 4:5 (NIV)
“An object in possession seldom retains the same charm that it had in pursuit.”Pliny the Elder
How much stuff do you have?
How many social media accounts do you have?
How many appointments do you have on your calendar this week?
As I consider these questions, I realize I have been pursuing more for far too long.
I have “stuff” I don’t use. I certainly can’t keep up with everything going on in my social media feeds (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc.). And I know my calendar is jam-packed next week.
We live in a society where so many of us seem to be in a race for more. More stuff. More “connections.” More appointments.
More isn’t always a bad thing; however, I think we could all benefit through the pursuit of less.
Leanne and I are in the process of downsizing. Our kids are grown (and we are so proud of them). Our house no longer is necessary for our family – especially for just the two of us. Over the past few weeks, we have begun the task of going through our house, getting rid of stuff, and making sure the house is ready to put on the market.
When it comes to our stuff, we have been selling stuff, giving stuff away, and throwing away things. In some cases, it has been challenging – like getting rid of my CDs and cassette tapes (when was the last time I used one of those) or my comic books. As we have gone down this path, it has been easier to part with our possessions.
Getting rid of our stuff has actually been refreshing. We have felt a remarkable sense of freedom as we have been minimizing our things. Don’t get me wrong, we are still hanging on to some of our possessions (I’m not quite ready to part with my baseball card collection). We are rediscovering what is really essential. We are redefining what really matters.
Here’s the reality: It’s not our stuff that really matters. It wears out. It breaks. It gets dusty. And we can’t take our stuff with us at the end of our lives.
In the pursuit of less, I think we are realizing it is also a pursuit of more. Less bondage to our stuff, and more freedom to live – to give – to save. Less time taking care of our stuff, and more time for deeper relationships.
When someone says “less is more”, I think they might just be on to something. Less really is more!
“Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”Jesus – Matthew 6:19-21 (NIV)