Today, I’m honored to guest post over at I Love Skippack for my friend, Michael Shaw (A.K.A. The Skippack Blogger). In today’s post, I share about our family’s experience with the 4H Seeing Eye Puppy Club. Here’s a teaser for my article. Please head over to I Love Skippack for the rest of the story.
Dogs terrified my son and daughter. Big dogs, little dogs, fat dogs, skinny dogs — it didn’t matter. When a dog crossed their path, my two children would scream and crawl up my legs into my protective arms or seek similar protection from my wife.
When our children were very young, their fear was understandable. As they grew out of toddlerhood, it became more troublesome. Friends and family had to quarantine their dogs when we came to visit. My wife and I felt it was time to help our children face their fear.
We thought about getting a puppy, but didn’t feel ready to make the necessary commitment. We did research, visited pet stores and dog breeders, and became more convinced that we were not ready for puppy ownership.
Acting on a recommendation from a friend, we found a solution that didn’t demand we become full-fledged pet owners…[Click here for more!]
If you’re visiting here from I Love Skippack, I hope you’ll stay around for a while and consider becoming part of The Stretched Community. I write daily about life’s STRETCH marks. My blog posts are often about family, faith, and a few other things that stretch me on a regular basis. Here’s a sampling of some of my posts:
On Friday, I asked you to ask me any questions. Today, I’ll do my best to answer the questions. This is one of my longer posts, but I hope you’ll find in interesting and perhaps a little humorous. I’d love to hear your thoughts on my responses to your questions. Thanks so much to each of you for some wonderful and challenging questions (I may just have to do this again some time).
Great question, Larry. I’d tell myself to buy stock in Apple. I’d tell 16 year-old Jon Stolpe to be confident in who God made him. I’d tell me that I am a writer. I’d tell me not to sweat the girlfriend thing, because God has an unbelievable wife in store for me for the future. I’d remind me that I am a leader.
This is really a tough one as I follow so many great bloggers. Perhaps, my favorite is my dad, Norman Stolpe. My dad is a writer’s writer. He has been writing for years. He doesn’t blog regularly though he keeps a blog. But his weekly sermons have to be considered as some type of blogging. My dad has inspired me on many different levels when it comes to my writing. I don’t ever expect to hold a candle to his writing skill, but I hope that my dad will be proud that I’ve followed in his writing footsteps in some small way.
What motivated you to start blogging? from Rob Shepherd at robshep.com
I have a friend, Frank Chiapperino, who was my biggest encouragement to start blogging. Frank was our adult ministries pastor at the time, and he now pastors his own church in Minnesota. Frank still blogs fairly regularly about leadership, technology, and small groups.
What verse in the Bible challenges you the most? from Rob Shepherd at robshep.com
Colossians 4:2-6 is one of my favorite verses and probably one of the verses that challenges me the most. Making the most of every opportunity means so much to me. I need to make the most in sharing my faith with others. I need to make the most of the time I have with my friends, family, and co-workers. I don’t want my time here on earth to be a waste. I want to hear God say, “Well done, my good and faithful servant.”
Would you rather have spam for hands or mayo for a tongue? from Rob Shepherd at robshep.com
This ones easy for me. I hate (I strongly dislike) mayo, so I’ve got to go with Spam for hands. If I had a mayo tongue, I’d be throwing up all the time.
“God love me – broken and bruised, impatient and imperfect, STRETCHED!”
In 15 years, I will be 55. I’ll have two kids in their later twenties, and I will have been married for over 30 years. I hope to be 100% debt free including the house. I hope to be giving way more than I’m getting. I’d love to have written at least one book by that time – though I’m still figuring all that out. If I stay at my current job (which is definitely a possibility), I will have been there for over 31 years. I’d like to continue to grow in respect. I’d like to be known for investing in others like no other leader before me. I’m not sure if blogging will still exist in 15 years, but I’d like to use my writing as a tool to expand the Kingdom.
As a man of strong religious beliefs, what do you think is in general the greatest challenge today to people who seek to maintain their religious faith? And what is the greatest challenge to maintaining your faith personally? For example, is it that science has called into question many fundamental beliefs in the Bible? Is it rampant materialism in our society? Is it pressure from the mass media to adopt more secular values? When people who are hypocritical in their religious practice are exposed to the public, is that the greatest challenge to believers? Or is personal hardship and suffering a greater challenge to faith than all of these? from Michael Shaw at I Love Skippack
Wow, this is a pretty deep question which I may need to explore in more depth in a future post. My short answer is this: The greatest challenge today to people who seek to maintain their religious faith is the same challenge that has plagued people since the beginning of time. We are so bent on being in control. We’re self-centered, sinful creatures. We all struggle with ME, ME, ME. And we live in a culture where this pull towards ME is so strong. It’s so easy to be distracted by the things of this world that call to us saying “I can help you get ahead by doing this or doing that.” For me personally, it’s not much different. I get distracted by thoughts of trying to get ahead, trying to make a name for myself, and trying to keep up with the Joneses. The Bible talks about “seeking first the Kingdom of God” in Matthew 6. This can be a real challenge and can be nearly impossible without the support of family and friends of faith who spur me on. This is part of the reason I love this blogging community. While I hope my writing will spur other on, it’s often the Stretched Community that pushes me to keep the faith. For that, I’m grateful beyond words.
Appropriately, this question is rather stretching for me. I’m fairly certain that I’ve shared this here before – I hate change. I like things to be the same. I would eat the same thing for breakfast and lunch every day given the choice. So it’s no surprise that “stretching” to achieve my God-given dreams is not always easy for me. Honestly, there have been a few setbacks along life’s journey that have dampened some of my dreaming, but I’m relearning some of the skill related to dreaming big again. I shared some of this in a guest post over at Expect the Exceptional a few weeks ago, and I’ve been sharing some of these thoughts especially related to my leap of faith decision to go to Guatemala. I think I struggle most in this area in trusting God financially to provide should I decide to leave my career and pursue something else. I’m not convinced that this is where God’s calling me, but I think it would be the biggest challenge for now. I’m not sure this fully addresses your question, but I hope it’s a start. Thanks!
Wow! This was more challenging than I expected. Thank you to everyone who answered the call to question me. What’s your answer to one of these questions? Or better yet, what’s the one question you’re most afraid to answer?
I have had the privilege to connect with many people across the country and even around the world through the wonders of the Stretched blog. I have had many on-line conversations with many bloggers who I may never meet in person. I’m so thankful for these friendships. It’s interesting to think of what it might be like to sit down face to face with these friends I’ve made over the web. Last week, I had the chance to experience this type of meeting.
On Wednesday morning, I had the honor of being part of the inaugural meeting of the Perkiomen Valley Blogger’s Society. The meeting took place at Mal’s American Diner in Skippack, PA where the “blogger’s society” met for breakfast. The meeting was setup by local community blogger, Michael Shaw, who I met over a year ago through the blogging world. Michael’s blog, I Love Skippack, tells the story of his love for his hometown. Through his story, he has the opportunity to support local businesses and community groups in the town of Skippack. Also in attendance was Brad DeForest. This was my first opportunity to meet up with Brad He is an architect and web designer who happens to call Skippack his home. And then finally, I was invited to join this group.
Our meeting consisted of breakfast from Mal’s great breakfast menu. We small talked for a while as we got to know each other a little bit better. And then we got down to business – although I struggle to call it business. Our conversation about blogging and social media was fun and thought-provoking. All three of us are trying to figure out different aspects of our blogs, and it was fun to think out loud about the next steps in our blogging journeys. I especially enjoyed the conversation about the visions we each have for our place on the web. For a more detailed and humorous take on our inaugural meeting, you should check out Michael’s blog post about the Perkiomen Valley Blogger’s Society.
So where do we go from here? That’s a good question that we’re trying to figure out. I’m hoping we can meet on a regular (monthly) basis for more breakfast and great conversation. Perhaps, we will bring in guest speakers who can teach us some new tips and tricks to enhance our blogs. I know we have many directions and topics that we can cover, and I look forward to seeing where it goes from here.
Have you ever met face to face with other bloggers? Describe your meeting.
Yesterday, in four or five conversations with different people the subject of busyness came up. The conversations went something like this:
My friend: “Hey, how are you?”
Me: “Okay, how about yourself.”
My friend: “Good, but I’ve been real busy lately.”
Me: “I hear you. I’ve been busy lately as well. It seems like I’m running from one thing to the next.”
Seriously, this conversation with minor variations was repeated several times yesterday. Why do we allow ourselves to become so busy. Do we like being busy, or do we just like the opportunity to tell others that we’re busy? In all our running around, are we making progress towards something that really matters, or are we just trying to keep up with the neighbors?
Staying busy for the sake of being busy is pointless. And even if our activities result in something good, we still need to analyze our list of activities. Are we participating in activities that match up with our gifts and passions? Are we leaving any space in our schedules for rest and reflection? Are we truly making the most of our opportunities – especially when we’re being pulled in a million different activities?
In the last couple of weeks, I’ve read a couple of blog posts and listened to a podcast or two that deal with this topic. Michael Hyatt talked about the importance of calendar triage in his blog in the past week. The FamilyLife Today with Dennis Rainey Podcast talked about the importance of simplifying our lives in an interview with Dr. Meg Meeker.
These are challenging messages to hear in this culture – especially in the Northeast where everyone seems so ME focused. So how can we change this? Here are four simple ideas that could make a huge difference in our journey to take control of our schedules:
1. Write it down. Take time at the beginning of each month and at the beginning of each week to write down and review the calendar. Seeing it in front of you on a calendar will quickly show you if there are any gaps in your calendar for rest and refreshment.
2. Prioritize and prune. As you list out your activities and commitments, consider prioritizing them. You may want to use a number system to assign a priority to each item on your calendar. Going to church is a top priority in our house, so it gets a 1. Other things might be a lower priority, so we can assign them a 2 or a 3. As you review your calendar, consider giving up one of the lower priority activities.
3. Schedule time for rest, refreshment, and reflection. Seriously, block off time on your calendar. Give this a top priority. Don’t let something else come along and take its place. This is something we’re still working on at home. We have tried to make Monday night open for our date night. This has worked most of the time; however, I must confess that the past couple of weeks we’ve let other things come in the way of this.
4. Practice sabbath. I was talking with my good friend, Michael Shaw, yesterday about this very subject. Michael, who is Jewish, holds the sabbath (sun-down Friday night to sun-down Saturday night) sacred. He literally shuts down each week during this time. God’s command for a sabbath was not just meant for us to focus on Him, I believe it was designed to create a regular rhythm of rest in our lives. It’s important that we find ways to practice the sabbath.
What is one thing that you need to trim off your calendar or schedule this month? What other suggestions do you have for slowing down?
Time for this week’s 3 Thumbs Up! Stretched blog post. Each week, I feature three things that get a thumbs up. Similar to last week, this week’s post highlights an iPad application, a podcast, and a blog.
Thumbs Up Number 1: WordPress application for iPad. This may not sound very exciting, but I have totally appreciated this application. For three of this week’s Stretched posts, I have been able to write most of the posts on my iPad. This has saved me time later on. While I still go back to the PC to clean up the post, I like having the ability to draft my posts through the iPad. In fact, today’s post was initially written on the iPad using the WordPress application last night.
Thumbs Up Number 2: This Is Your Life podcast by Michael Hyatt. I featured this podcast several weeks ago when it first launched. Since then Michael Hyatt has released ten great episodes about living and leading more intentionally. Each episode which typically runs for 30 minutes is packed with ideas that can be immediately applied to life. This week’s episode was about finding ways to shave 10 hours off your work week. Check out this podcast by clicking here.
Thumbs Up Number 3: I Love Skippack blog by Michael Shaw. Michael blogs about a town just up the road from me. Each post highlights a particular business or aspect of Skippack, PA, and the posts are sprinkled with Michael’s personal stories and passion for the town he loves. Michael and I met through the Internet,and we’ve actually had the chance to meet on several occasions for lunch or over a drink. I love the conversations we have about our faiths and about our passion for blogging. Whether you live near Skippack or not, you should check out I Love Skippack and become a regular reader. Leave a comment on the blog, and tell Michael that I sent you.
So there you have it. This week’s 3 Thumbs Up! Now, it’s your turn. What’s going on in your world that deserves a thumbs up this week?