“Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest.”Jesus – Mark 6:31 (NIV)
Is it just me or does life seem to be adding more noise to your life? Does it feel like all your energy is depleted trying to keep up with the demands of work and perhaps the commitments outside of work?
Today, many Americans might describe their lives like a rat caught in a wheel – never stopping, always moving, going around in circles, wondering when it will stop, considering whether or not it’s worth it or not. The pressures we find ourselves in can seem unending. Work requires more of your time and attention. You are in an endless pursuit of more trying to keep up with those around you. You are trying to provide the very best for your family – best college experience, best home, best exposure to the world.
Soon the more, better, faster, wealthier, sooner, and so on becomes so normal that we don’t know how to stop. We don’t remember what it means to experience real quiet and real rest in our lives.
I know it is true for many of you, because it is true for me.
In my year of renew, this could be one of the most important revelations. In order to experience the renewal I truly need, I must learn to seek out quiet places in my life and to relearn how to rest.
I’m on the go. I operate on minimal (probably unhealthy) levels of sleep. When I do finally find a few minutes at the end of the day to sit down, I too often rely on the screen on the wall of my family room (the television) to provide a break. While this is okay in moderation, it is not really providing the renewal my mind and body need. I quickly fall asleep at night out of exhaustion, but I often find myself awake at two o’clock in the morning as my mind processes the events of the past day or tries to solve the challenges I know I will face in the day ahead. This kind of sleep is not restful.
This weekend, Leanne and I got away to a bed and breakfast in the Delaware Water Gap in northeastern Pennsylvania. It’s just what I needed. It certainly is a quiet place. With over two feet of snow on the ground and no other places in site, it provided the perfect place to get away from the noise I typically face. It provided a place to rest – going to bed early, waking up late, and taking it easy for the first part of the day. I found rest.
I need to do this again!
Our reality doesn’t necessarily afford the opportunity to get away like this every weekend, so we must learn to find quiet places and rest in our every day. Here are some ideas to get you (and me) started:
Slow down. We are moving too fast. We’ve got to make our lives matter. We were meant for so much more than the noise and exhaustion we have come to know in our lives. We were meant for opportunities to find a quiet place, to find rest, to find connection with others and with our God.
“Take rest; a field that has rested gives a beautiful crop.”Ovid
We are all here on earth to help others; what on earth the others are here for I don’t know.W. H. Auden
Thursday didn’t start out quite the way I had planned. I’ll spare you all the details. The abbreviated version of the story has me checking myself into the emergency room at a local hospital around 8:30 in the morning. I ended up being discharged from the hospital around 2:00 in the afternoon after receiving help from a wonderful hospital staff. I’m still recovering to a degree; my visit to the hospital was rather minor compared to some of the other people I was hearing about who came into the emergency room that morning. I understand someone was having a stroke, and someone else was having a cardiac event. Again, my reason for going to the hospital was rather minor compared to the reason others visits. Nonetheless, I had no other choice but to visit the hospital based on what I was experiencing at the time.
As news of my emergency room visit spread to family, friends, neighbors, and co-workers, I quickly learned of people praying for me, of people helping Leanne as she taught her classroom from home and tried to figure out how to get to the hospital, and of people taking on my workload at the office while I laid in a hospital bed. I even had a group of friends graciously offer to donate steps to me to ensure my 10,000 steps a day walking streak continued (somehow I’ve been able to keep the streak alive despite a visit to the hospital).
I could tell you many other ways we received help on Thursday – a neighbor’s offer to shovel my snow for the rest of the winter, multiple neighbors’ efforts to find my keys that had somehow fallen out of my coat pocket as I shoveled earlier that morning, and multiple neighbors’ generous gift of a dinner certificate for a local pizza restaurant. I even heard that one of the neighbor boys had his entire fourth grade class praying for me on Thursday morning.
Despite a hospital visit and a medical issue which will require some follow-up and recovery, I find a sense of renewal. My energy is still low, and yet, I feel uplifted knowing there are so many people who care for me and my family. I also find renewal knowing I have a God who brings me help.
I lift up my eyes to the mountains—where does my help come from? My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth. He will not let your foot slip—he who watches over you will not slumber; indeed, he who watches over Israel will neither slumber nor sleep. The Lord watches over you—the Lord is your shade at your right hand; the sun will not harm you by day, nor the moon by night. The Lord will keep you from all harm—he will watch over your life; the Lord will watch over your coming and going both now and forevermore.Psalm 121 (NIV)
I don’t know what is going on in your world today, but I’d encourage you to look up and to look around you. Find God’s help along your path. Look for those who are doing good things for you and for others in your community. Be renewed as you witness the helping hand, the caring touch, and the thoughtful word or prayer that others have to give.
Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.Psalm 139:23-24 (NIV)
Maybe you simply like to do new things every once in a while, so you raise your hand and pursue new opportunities on a regular basis. Or perhaps, you are like me; you find a lane and you stick to it for a long time.
Last month, I celebrated my 25th anniversary at my company. In May of this year, I will officially be working in my industry for 27 years. My roles have changed over the years as I’ve grown through my experience and as the right opportunities have opened up for me. I started in more of an engineering and field technician role. After a few years, I moved into more of an project management and engineering role. Around the time I completed my MBA, I moved from a project management role to a people management role. Today, I find myself in charge of a large team with large revenue expectations. Perhaps, it is the increased stress and pressure I have felt in my role recently, or perhaps, it is simply the time of my life where I find myself asking the question above wondering if I am doing the right thing when it comes to my job.
On Friday morning, I had an important conversation with a couple of my friends. I shared with them my recent questioning, and I talked to them about my desire to find joy and significance in what I do for my career. At the age of 49, I still have very productive years ahead of me. I want to do work that matters. I want to leave a legacy. I don’t want to waste my time or my working energy by doing something that is insignificant and life-taking. One of my friends suggested I read Half Time – Moving From Success to Significance by Bob Buford. Without wasting any time, I downloaded the Audible version of the book. I’ve been listening, and I’m already learning – stretching.
In Half Time, Buford offers 13 questions worth considering as we consider how to make the most of our “Second Half”. I wanted to share them with you here. I’m still reflecting and figuring out my own answers to these questions, but I thought they might help you as well.
These are powerful and challenging questions. If you are like me, I’d suggest you find time to seriously consider your answers to each of these questions. If you are married, share the questions and your answers with your spouse. If possible, find a close friend or two with whom you can share your answers. I don’t believe these questions should be answered quickly. I think it will take time, reflection, revision, guidance, and prayer.
As I move through this year of renew, finding renewal in my work is extremely important to me. I recognize that work may not always be fun, but I also don’t believe it is meant to be a death sentence. Fulfillment in our work is possible. Significance in our work if achievable. Purpose in our work is important.
God, renew my sense of fulfillment, my sense of purpose, and my sense of significance in my work. Give me wisdom, and guide me as I seek to honor you through my work.
The thing I have discovered about working with personal finance is that the good news is that it is not rocket science. Personal finance is about 80 percent behavior. It is only about 20 percent head knowledge.Dave Ramsey
In this year of renew, I am focused on doing some financial housekeeping. Leanne and I do not have any consumer debt, but we do owe on our house. For the longest time, I have been the one who has handled the finances. I love numbers which has helped in this regard. Having said this, Leanne and I both agreed it was time for Leanne to get up to speed on our finances.
We are crossing into new territory in our lives as we prepare to launch our youngest out of college (we only have to pay for two more semesters). We moved this summer into a smaller home with a smaller mortgage. At the end of the year, I will be turning 50. I believe I still have very productive years ahead of me, but I also recognize I may want to direct my working attention elsewhere at some point with a possible early “retirement” from Siemens. This is the time to start making plans and to consider what steps we may need to take financially to ensure we are ready for these changes.
Over the last year or two, we have simply allowed our finances to coast. Thankfully, we had set many things in place to prevent us from calamity, but we also realized it was time to be more intentional. To help us in our focus, we decided to sign up for Financial Peace University at our church. We have been Dave Ramsey followers for a while, but this course is taking us from doing “Dave-ish” (this is when you only partially follow Dave’s teaching) to jumping on board more fully. After three weeks in the class, we can already see a big difference. We are working together on our budget. We are firming up our fully funded emergency fund. And we are making plans to firm up our savings (both retirement and non-retirement) while aggressively paying off our mortgage.
Regardless of your financial situation, it is always a good time to do financial housekeeping. If you are married, this is a great way to get on the same page and to solidify your relationship. If you are single, you may want to seek out some accountability and assistance to get you focused and moving in the right direction.
Ramsey’s plan makes sense when you look at it. He encourages his followers to take it one step at a time allowing yourself to see progress and to gain momentum. Because of our station in life, I can see us making it to Baby Step 6 and 7 fairly quickly. For others, it may take a little more time.
For Leanne and me, our next steps include connecting with a financial advisor to help us plan and prepare for Baby Step 7, retirement, and beyond. We are also in the process of making sure Leanne is in the know on everything related to our finances – account numbers, account values, account contacts, etc. I am excited for this financial housekeeping we are doing, and I’m excited to see the progress we are making.
I want to be a good steward of the resources God has given us, and financial housekeeping is part of the stewardship process. Dave Ramsey isn’t the only solid biblical-based financial expert out there, but I have seen how his program and system works. Don’t let your finances operate on coast mode; get the help you need and intentionally move forward.
As each one has received a gift, minister it to one another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God.I Peter 4:10 (NKJV)
Here are some resources to help you out in this area:
We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.Will Durant
For those of you keeping track, I surpassed 1,000 days in a row of 10,000 or more steps last Friday. Almost three years ago, I made the decision to walk or run at least 10,000 steps every day as monitored by my Fitbit.
I work in a job that has me sitting at my desk or at a conference table for much of my days. This means I am more sedentary than is healthy. (The American Heart Association says that 10,000 steps a day is a good minimum for those interested in maintaining a healthy heart. Here’s a great article to give you more information – click here.)
10,000 steps means I am moving over 6 miles every day. I typically get these steps walking early in the morning. Several of my steps come from my treadmill activity at my local Orange Theory Fitness studio. And sometimes, I have to throw on my shoes to venture outside for a late night walk to ensure I make my goal.
Over the past 1,000+ days, I’ve walked in France, Germany, Guatemala, and the United States. I’ve walked in Washington state, Arizona, Wisconsin, New Jersey, Florida, Virginia, Nevada, and Pennsylvania. I’ve walked in airports, grocery stores, shopping malls, hardware stores, and colleges. I’ve hiked in the Cascade Mountains, the Grand Canyon, Sedona, Green Lane Park, Spring Mountain, and countless other trails.
I haven’t done the math yet, but I’m guessing I’ve walked, hiked, or run over 7,000 miles during this walking streak. I don’t plan on stopping.
I want to live a life that goes the distance. This means it is important to establish and maintain healthy habits. In my year of renew, I’ve renewed my focus on some healthy habits – continuing my stepping streak, drinking more water, drinking less alcohol, and eating with more healthy intention. I’ve already seen the difference that these habits have had on my life. I’ve lost some weight. I feel more energy and focus. I sense a renewed sense of purpose.
The Lord makes firm the steps of the one who delights in him; though he may stumble, he will not fall, for the Lord upholds him with his hand.Psalm 37:23-24 (NIV)
As we approach the end of January, it is not uncommon for people to lose focus on the habits and goals they set at the beginning of the year. I encourage you to keep going. Take it one day at a time – even one step at a time.
A daily step streak doesn’t happen all at once. It happens one step at a time.
You can do it! Start today! Find some accountability (maybe it’s me). Take time each day to find renewal through healthy habits.
“Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.”Romans 12:2 (NIV)
I’m part of a group of men who are committed to meeting together every week for 20 years. We are over six years into that commitment. Each year at this time, each man in this group chooses a word of the year that represents their intention and hope for the year ahead.
Picking a word of the year can be an excellent way to strategically approach your life. A word of the year can clarify your purpose and direction. The word of the year when shared with others can provide an opportunity for accountability.
Yesterday, I met with the group of men I mentioned above. As we spent time together, each man had the opportunity to share a recap on their 2020 experience, and each man then shared their word for 2021 along with their reason for selecting that word.
When I initially shared my word for 2021, I shared the word reset. After feeling like much of my year was reactive in nature in part due to the pandemic, I explained that I wanted to reset – to be more proactive in my approach to life in 2021. One of the men kept confusing my word reset with the word renew.
After further thought and prayer, I decided to change my word for 2021 to renew. I think it fits much better with my intention for 2021.
verb (used with object)
1. to begin or take up again, as an acquaintance, a conversation, etc.; resume.
2. to make effective for an additional period: to renew a lease.
3. to restore or replenish: to renew a stock of goods.
4. to make, say, or do again.
verb (used without object)
1. to begin again; recommence.
2. to renew a lease, note, etc.Dictionary.com
2021 will be a year with many milestones in my life:
I don’t want to move about 2021 aimlessly. I want 2021 to be intentional. As I consider where I want to see renewal, I think of several areas of my life:
If you’d like help selecting your word for 2021, I’d recommend picking up a copy of One Word by Jon Gordon, Dan Britton, and Jimmy Page. In One Word, you’ll gain a very simple understanding and method for picking your One Word for 2021. Simply put, here is their method:
The Lord has done it this very day; let us rejoice today and be glad.Psalm 118:24 (NIV)
Last week, I wrote about 4 Keys To Being A Politically Active Christian. Today, I’m continuing on the topic with thoughts on how to respond to the election results.
In less than 23 days, we will learn the results of the 2020 election here in the United States. Will President Trump keep the presidency, or will Joe Biden be the next President of the United States. Regardless of the outcome, I have some friends and family who will be extremely happy about the outcome while other friends and family who will be saddened, unhappy, and even scared by the same outcome.
From all the polls, the latest news, and the buzz on social media, half of the people in our country will be unhappy with the results. And half of the people will be happy or at least in agreement with the outcome of last nights election.
I’m not so sure that God is arranging the outcome of the election. After all, God gave us minds and free will to make our own decisions. But I do think that God has given us a new day today and in the days that follow the election. This is the day the Lord has made. Let’s rejoice and be glad in it!
You may or may not be excited about the policies and ideas of our next president and the leadership in our country. But you have a choice to make today. How will you treat today? Will you rejoice in the day that God has made? Or will you pout, stamp your feet, and cross your arms in dismay?
“Regardless of who wins, an election should be a time for optimism and fresh approaches.”Gary Johnson
I’m speaking to myself as I write these words and ideas. I want to be known as a positive, respectful, and thankful person. You and I have a choice to make. How will you proceed from here?
“Those who stand for nothing fall for anything.”Alexander Hamilton
One month from yesterday is Election Day here in the United States. Around the country, citizens will be casting their ballots for the next leaders in their communities.
Today, political signs and flags are posted throughout our communities. The “debates” have started, and “news” coverage for the campaigns is growing. Candidates and their support teams are making their final appeals for votes. A lot will happen in the next 30 days.
I’ve always had an interest in politics. We are so blessed to live in a country where we can take part in the selection process for our local, state, and national leaders. Voting is a right, a privilege and a responsibility (Four Important Responsibilities of Voters).
Free speech is also one of the rights that we have in this country. Free speech gives us permission to defend our position on an issue or on a candidate. I’m thankful for this right. But I sometimes wonder if this right has gotten our country into trouble.
With the creation and rise of social media, everyone has a say. People’s thoughts and opinions are out there for everyone to read. Once it’s on Facebook or Twitter or once it’s published on a blog, it’s a permanent record for all to read. And it seems like everyone has something to say.
Maybe I’m forgetful of past election cycles, but it seems to be that more and more people are posting personal character attacks on Facebook and other social media outlets. Photo-shopped photos of candidates with disrespectful comments dominate my Facebook news feed. Comments often taken out of context are used to slander and debase the character of individuals. To be honest with you, it’s wearing me out.
Sure, it’s okay to disagree with policies, budgets, and agendas of our leaders. But it needs to be done with respect. The other day, I was reading the Bible and a passage from Ecclesiastes stuck out to me:
“Do not revile the king even in your thoughts, or curse the rich in your bedroom, because a bird of the air may carry your words, and a bird on the wing may report what you say.“Ecclesiastes 10:20 (NIV)
Today, it just doesn’t seem like people care about reviling or respecting our leaders. So how should we as Christians respond responsibly and respectfully?
“I urge, then, first of all, that petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for all people — for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness.”I Timothy 2:1-2 (NIV)
(Note: Parts of my article originally appeared at Wisdom Of A Fool.)
“If you are a leader, you should never forget that everyone needs encouragement. And everyone who receives it – young or old, successful or less-than-successful, unknown or famous – is changed by it.”John C. Maxwell
Last week, my wife received to text messages that really encouraged me.
The first message was from our next door neighbor. The text message included a picture of our neighbor’s three year old son wearing a new shirt. Along with the picture was a message saying “Mr. Jon will like this shirt.” Apparently, I had made a connection with my little neighbor. This text message encouraged me!
The second message was from another neighbor. This text message shared something from her nine year old son. When asked by one of his teachers who teaches us about God, he answered Mr. Jon. I’ve given this young man copies of my two books (Rooftop Reflections and On Track). This text message encouraged me as well!
It has been another challenging week. In the wake of last Sunday’s post (Life Giving or Life Taking), I’ve been writing down the things each day that have brought me life along with the things that have sucked the life out of me. Needless to say, these two text messages made my list of things that brought me life.
We need encouragers in our lives. When the writer of Hebrews told us to meet with people who will spur us on (Hebrews 10:24-25), I think he was recognizing the importance of having encouragers in our lives.
When I think of people in my life who have encouraged me over the years, I think about my wife (she’s an amazing encourager), my parents, my former boss (Craig), several of my youth leaders, and some close friends. These are the kind of people I need in my life.
Today’s message is simple: Look for the encouragers, and find a way to be an encourager for someone TODAY!
“Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing.”I Thessalonians 5:11 (NIV)
“Don’t settle for what life gives you; make life better and build something.”Ashton Kutcher
Have you ever found yourself in a place where it seems like life is sucking more out of you than you are getting back in return?
Have you ever asked yourself why you are doing what you are doing?
Have you ever wondered if you are in the right place, the right job, or the right role?
I recently found myself asking some of these same types of questions.
I’ve been at my current place of employment for nearly 25 years, and I’ve been in my current role for over three years. This has been an extremely challenging year as we navigated the challenges and distractions brought on my COVID-19 in the middle of having our best year ever from a revenue standpoint. Instead of proactively bringing new things into my team to help elevate us to the next level, I have often felt the stresses and pressures of responding the a variety of “issues” brought on by corporate direction, product developments, and resource restrictions. (I want to be cautious in how I describe this. I happen to work for a great company with a history of innovation and success. Sometimes, I can lose sight of this fact in the day to day minutia.)
Meanwhile, I have felt a lack of creativity, time, and energy for some of the things I have enjoyed on the side of work – writing, speaking, etc.
I shared these feelings this week with a close group of advisors. And they offered some fantastic advice.
First, COVID-19 and our recent move to a new home are both extreme events requiring a lot of time and attention. We live, work, and play in seasons. Sometimes the seasons of life require us to “muscle” through hard times. Sometimes the seasons of life require more focus on work. Sometimes the seasons of life provide more time for pressing into deeper areas of exploration towards our areas of passion.
Second, they reminded me of the importance of delegation. Delegation (which I’ve written about here in the past) is an excellent tool for passing knowledge on to others. It is also an great way to enable myself to do the things I like to do. As a natural people pleaser with perfectionistic (or maybe it’s OCD) tendencies, I tend to do more things myself which takes me away from things I’d rather be doing as the leader in my department and in turn leaves me depleted of energy and zest for my work. Delegation is a must in order to replenish my energy and enthusiasm.
Third, it is okay to explore new things and to consider a possible pivot. According to scientists, we are essentially completely new people every seven years as old, dead cells are replaced by new cells throughout our bodies. It goes without saying as we become new people there may be shifts in our passions and our approaches to work and life. For some, this may mean a seismic shift in our careers and jobs. For others, this may simply mean smaller shifts in our approach to our current work or activities. One of my advisors suggested I read Necessary Endings by Henry Cloud. I am someone who desires stability in my life and is terrified of change, it’s important that I learn how to bend. I need to give myself permission to change.
Finally, understanding what brings me life and what takes life out of me is important for determining my path forward. In Sleeping with Bread (Holding What Gives You Life), authors Dennis Linn, Sheila Fabricant Linn, and Matthew Linn, encourage readers to daily ask two questions as a means of finding meaning and direction for life. These two questions are: For what am I most grateful? For what am I least grateful? Asked another way: When did I feel most alive today? When did I most feel life draining out of me? As a result of the conversation with my advisors, I have begun answering these questions in my journal. Over the course of the next several weeks, I will take time to review my daily responses to find patterns that could help give me direction on how to make the most out of life.
Recently, I’ve been reading Think Like A Monk by Jay Shetty. In the book, he encourages readers to look for purpose in our work. He suggests we look at our jobs and our activities through a lens of purpose, passion, skills, and calling.
As we look for fulfillment in our lives, it’s a good idea to reflect on our purpose. Why are we here? How are we serving others through what we do? How are we best utilizing and enhancing our skills to meet our areas of passion?
By the way, we all need a group of advisors who can help us through our times of questioning, though our times when we are stuck, or through our times when we simply can’t see the path forward. If you are interested in being part of a group like this, I’d encourage you to check out the Stretched Men Group. This is a mastermind group for men looking to move forward in their parenting path, their marriage path, their career path, their faith path, and their life path. Spots are currently open. If you are interested in learning more about the group and how you can become involved, check out StretchedMenGroup.com.