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Do you want to live a meaningful life?
Do you want to do things that matter?
Do you want to make a difference in this world?
Do you really want to know the answer to these questions?
I think I may have the answer, and it’s actually pretty simple.
Are you ready?
Here it is:
If you want to live a meaningful life, serve others.
If you want to do something that really matters, serve others.
If you want to really make a difference in this world, serve others.
Be like my friend, Camela, who decided to serve her husband by giving him one of her kidney’s last week.
Be like my co-worker, Bob, who stopped to serve me by holding open the door as I was coming into the office the other day with my hands full.
Be like my friend, Mark, who is giving up his day off this Saturday to serve a family in our area as they move from one house to another.
Be like my friend, James, who is serving the poor and broken in Guatemala by providing medical care for the poor and powerless.
Be like my friend, Dave, who is intentionally serving widows and orphans in the village of Santo Domingo Xenacoj.
Be like my friends, German and Susie, who despite having little find ways to serve by opening up their home to feed the hungry in and around Xenacoj.
Be like my brother, David, who serves the inner-city youth of Milwaukee by providing discipline, guidance, and a caring shoulder to lean on at Frank Lloyd Wright Middle School.
Be like my friend, Sean, who serves my church week in and week out by setting out our signs early in the morning and picking them up at the end of our Sunday services.
Serving others can take a few seconds, a few minutes, a few hours, a few days, or the rest of your life. Serving others doesn’t require special training, a certificate, a specific formula, or an invitation. It simply requires a willingness on your part to focus on others instead of yourself. Along with the willingness, it takes a little action. Serving others can happen through a phone call, an email, a walk across the street, a drive across town, and a plane ride to a far away land.
If you want to change the world, serve others.
Have you ever wanted to make it to the next level? Have you ever dreamed about a big promotion? Have you ever put all your focus on the next big achievement?
I think it’s good to have big dreams, big goals, and big aspirations.
These kinds of desires can be the fuel we need when we feel stuck in the here and now.
Here’s the problem:
Sometimes we let our desires for the future take over in a way that we forget the present. We forget the importance of making the most of today’s opportunities. We fail to understand that today matters.
If you want to succeed at the next level, don’t you think your performance right here and right now matters?
Don’t get too far ahead of yourself.
Be the best you today, and tomorrow will take care of itself.
I remember doing everything I could to get more baseball cards. I bought bubblegum packs at the local 7-Eleven store at the edge of my neighborhood in Lumberton, NJ. I bought triple packs at Woolworth’s in Mt. Holly, NJ. I traded cards with friends, and I worked hard to accumulate more and more cards to complete the set of cards for the year.
An annual Topps baseball card set consisted of 792 cards when I was growing up. I opened each pack, and looked at each card hoping to find a star player or a card I needed to complete my set. I turned over the card and read the information about the baseball player pictured on the front of the card. Then I sorted the cards. First, I’d sort the cards into hundreds. Then I would take each stack of hundreds and sort them into piles of tens. I would insert the cards I still needed into my set, and I’d add any doubles into another box which I would use to trade with my friends.
My obsession with gathering more and more baseball cards for my collection grew and grew through high school. In college, this obsession began to shift as I focused more on my studies and the next stage of my life.
I stopped gathering baseball cards, and I started gathering CDs (these are the round metal things that used to contain music for playing in a compact disc player). I wanted to keep up with my brother, my college friends, and others who were also collecting CDs. For a while, I couldn’t get enough CDs. I had to have the latest album from U2, R.E.M., Billy Joel, They Might Be Giants, DC Talk, Stephen Curtis Chapman, The Kry, and others. I remember visiting the local music store with my friend, John Kosydar, as we both searched for the next set of CDs to add to our collections. One CD was not enough. I had to have more.
Eventually, I outgrew this obsession, and I switched to bigger, more expensive pursuits like cars, houses, and vacations.
After pursuing these things, I have come to realize these things don’t really satisfy. In fact, they leave me feeling empty. My baseball cards sit in my house gathering dust. My CDs are filed away rarely getting played. My cars and house wear out.
My pursuit of more is clearly misdirected. And I’m sure I’m not alone.
What are you pursing? What obsession has your attention?
In considering disciplines worth following, I think it’s time we start looking at the discipline of less.
My friend, Dan Erickson, writes about the simple life on his blog – hipdiggs.com. After his own failed efforts to find happiness by pursuing stuff, he has made a shift. Dan has decided to simplify his life by becoming a minimalist. Instead of accumulating stuff, Dan is accumulating relationships with his daughter, with his students, with his neighbors, and with his friends in the blog world. Dan seems to be practicing the discipline of less, and I think we could all learn a thing or two by taking a page out of his book.
The discipline of less actually provides more time, energy, and resources for the things that matter.
They say “Less is more.” There’s only one way to find out if it’s true. I challenge you to find out for yourself by taking up the discipline of less starting TODAY!
My basketball experience was inspiring at first.
However, things turned a different corner the next day when I developed a pain in my lower left leg. I can’t be 100% sure, but I’m fairly certain this pain was caused by my efforts on the basketball court. After years of running for distance, my legs were not used to the running required on the basketball court. On the court, you stop. You jump. You sprint. You run backwards. And you cut around other players on the court. For some reason, my leg didn’t like this experience.
I tried to work through it for a few days by walking and biking, but the pain in my leg only became worse.
Instead of visiting the doctor, I did the thing that most guys would do. I kept running, and I kept complaining about my leg pain. This lasted until my daughter (who currently knows everything) looked up my symptoms online.
What did we ever do without the internet?
Within a few minutes, she determined that I might be dealing with some micro-tears in my lower calf muscles. She prescribed rest and a few other tips based on her web findings.
To confirm her findings, I consulted a few friends who are part of the medical field. Naturally, they recommended rest, ice, and some stretching. They also suggested a gradual return to exercise along with some muscle-building exercises should I desire to return to the basketball court.
Up until this injury, I have been very consistent with my daily morning workouts.
The injury forced me to slow down.
Sometimes we need to take a break. We need to give our minds and bodies the opportunity to recover, to rest, and to recharge.
Don’t wait until you face burnout or injury, decide today to build breaks into your schedule. These breaks will help you become more effective when it comes to pursuing your passions and dreams.
My leg is finally starting to feel better. Today, I will head back to the gym to restart my exercise routine. I won’t be able to jump back in at full tilt. I will have to slowly build back up to my pre-injury intensity. I won’t get back on the basketball court today, but I’ll get back there sometime soon with proper training which will included opportunities to recover, rest, and recharge.
We had a melt down this week at our house.
Our refrigerator has been making noises for over a year. I knew it was only a matter of time before it quit. This was the week it decided to stop working. Monday night, I came home from work to a puddle of water in front of the freezer door. Leanne and the kids mentioned that the ice was not coming out of the ice maker right. I opened the door to the freezer, and I immediately realized the freezer was not working. It was still cold, but things in the freezer had begun thawing out.
Leanne called a friend, and we were able to find a temporary home for our frozen food. And we spent the evening in search of a new refrigerator.
The next morning, our refrigerator stopped working and I filled our coolers with the food from the refrigerator and several bags of ice.
The great melt down of 2015 has been an inconvenience for our family this week. Purchasing a new refrigerator and living out of ice chests was not on my agenda for the week.
Despite the unexpected costs and the inconvenience, I have tried to maintain a positive perspective this week.
Life has a way of sneaking up on us. We are thrown for unexpected loops all the time. We get sick. We get into an accident. We face a change in jobs. When things like this happen it’s easy to become discouraged.
I remember nearly five years ago when my wife faced an unexpected hospitalization. Honestly, this was one of the hardest things I have ever had to go through in my life. I remember asking God “Why?” This is a natural response when things don’t go as planned in our lives.
As my wife was recovering, we both decided to find the positives in the craziness we were facing. We didn’t know what it would look like, but we were convinced that God would use this experience in our lives for good. Since then, we have seen countless times when we have been able to help others who are navigating similar predicaments in their lives.
I don’t know what you are situation you are facing right now. Maybe you’re refrigerator stopped working, or maybe you are facing something much more serious like an illness or hospitalization. I challenge you to find the positive in the midst of the trial you are facing, and I challenge you to look past the current pain or suffering you might be enduring.
God can use the junk in your life for greater things.
If I think back on my past, I can remember missed opportunities – things that I regret. There are times when I didn’t speak up when I should have said something. There are times when I should have been there for someone. There are times when I didn’t take risk or a step of faith.
Part of me kicks myself (figuratively of course) when I initially remember these times.
I don’t want to be a person who misses out on opportunities. In fact, I want to make the most of the opportunities in my path.
But I must also remember that there is redemption even in the missed opportunities. If we take an appropriate amount of time to reflect on our past regrets, we can actually learn to live life with more courage, with more action, and with greater confidence that God will work through our fears, our insecurities, and our laziness for something far better than we could ever imagine.
And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. Romans 8:28
I’ve seen It’s A Wonderful Life a hundred times, and there’s always something inside of me that wants to tell George Bailey and his friends not to go sledding onto the ice.
I’ve seen Back To The Future many, many times, and there’s always something inside of me that wants to throw some plutonium into the DeLorean before Marty McFly goes back in time.
Have you ever watched a movie that you’ve seen before? Even though you know what will happen, do you ever wish you could change the outcome of the movie or of a scene from the movie?
What if you knew how to change the outcome of something in your life? How would that change your life?
We all have a story. We all have regrets. We all have somethings in our lives that we’d like to alter.
But what if those things were meant to be? What if we came to appreciate how our past shaped us for today?
We can’t change the past, but we can change the way we look at it. We can also chose to use our past to push us ahead to the future.
After all, Dorothy may never have learned the lesson that “there’s no place like home” if she hadn’t endured the trials brought on by the Wicked Witch. George Bailey may never have learned the true blessing of friendship if he never lost his hearing in the frozen pond water. And Marty McFly may never have learned the value of family and the value of standing up for others if he went right back to 1985 instead of staying in 1955 for a while.
I’ve been writing about discipline for the past few weeks. Why would I spend so much time focusing on disciple?
The theme of my blog is stretch. I write about things that are stretching me. I reflect on life’s stretch marks. And I hope my reflections will help others to stretch as well.
Do I have these disciplines down? By no means. In fact, these are disciplines I am challenged to work on myself. These are disciplines that cause me to stretch.
I want to keep stretching; therefore, I ponder the areas I need to cultivate in order to make the most of my life of stretch.
Over the weekend, I saw the movie Selma. I hadn’t heard a lot about the story before I watched the movie, but I was told this was a movie I needed to see. The movie portrays part of the journey of Dr. Martin Luther King and his pursuit of civil rights for African-Americans particularly the right to vote in the deep south – in towns like Selma, Alabama. Selma’s population was nearly half black, but most of this population was restricted from voting. In their efforts to stand up to this injustice, blacks were repeatedly knocked down by a white-controlled government and law enforcement.
Martin Luther King was committed to standing up against this injustice in a non-violent manner. He risked ridicule, harm to his family, and harm to his personal safety. And yet, he persisted. He stood up when “enough was enough.”
Standing up for what you believe in is easy when everyone else is on board, but it’s not so easy when you risk going against the grain of culture.
I want to fit in. I don’t want to rock the boat. I don’t want to risk disruption to my “happy” world.
It’s time to institute another discipline. We must learn to practice the discipline of standing up. We must learn to stand up when “enough is enough.”
God has given you and me a voice – a voice to stand up and speak out for things that matter.
Are you content to go along with the status quo? Or is it time for you to stand up, to speak up, and to make a difference?
These are questions we all must ponder. I don’t want to reach the end of my life and wonder if I could have done more to stand up for my beliefs. I want to know for certain that I took a stand and I rallied others for a cause that matters.
“Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go.” Joshua 1:9
I keep track of my daily exercise on a calendar. I track my mileage. I track the amount of time I exercise. And I track the number of days I exercise as the year goes along. With these measurements, I can determine if I’m on track to meet my fitness goals. Recently, I started tracking my weight lifting on a smart phone application. This helps me remember where I am, and it helps me see growth.
I keep track of my daily devotion time. I write down the passages of scripture I read, and I take note of anything that stuck out to me. I write these things down in my journal.
I keep track of our families financial status. I keep it up to date on a spreadsheet, and I graph our progress to make sure we our on track to meet our financial goals.
I keep track of a lot of things at work. I track the performance of my team members. I track my daily schedule. I track my customers response rate and satisfaction level.
Some people might think I’m a little crazy, but I think there is something powerful about the discipline of measuring our lives.
Measurement is a process of recording what is happening in our lives. It’s the action of tracking what is going on, and it helps us see how we are being stretched.
Take time to measure what is going on around you!
Yesterday, one of my team members came to me for some advice (and help). He has several projects in his backlog that require his project management attention and design engineering attention. I remember the feelings I had when I was in a similar position many years ago. I often thought “Where do I start?” and “How do I keep all these plates spinning?” My team member constantly gets phone calls from customers and installation staff with “urgent” requests for assistance. This is a problem many project managers face, and the problem has only gotten worse in today’s “Gotta Have It Now” world where we are all connected instantaneously through smart phones and email. We have conditioned our customers to expect an immediate response. This isn’t all together bad. After all, we want to bring a superior level of customer service to our customer base. However, without appropriate boundaries, we set ourselves up for failure. We will never accomplish the important things, because we are busy attending to the urgent things.
You may disagree with me, but I suggested to my team member that he shut his email and his phone off for a period of time to focus on some of the things on his “To Do List” that needed attention. Before lunch and before the close of the day, he can turn them back on to check in on any messages that he may have received. This will give him the chance to get work done and then to address any “urgent” needs of his customers.
We all need boundaries in our lives. As a matter of fact, I would suggest we need to practice the discipline of boundaries in our daily lives. Boundaries mean thinking through the list of goals you have and creating fences around your time and your commitments to make sure you can hit these goals. Boundaries also protect us from going to unhealthy places in our lives.
I would challenge you to consider what boundaries you need to set in your life. What needs to go? What needs to stay?