Category Archives for "looking back"

The Best of 2014: Top Stretched Post #3

2014 is rapidly coming to a close, and I thought it would be a good time to back at a few of the top posts from 2014.  Starting today, I’ll be re-running the top 3 posts written and posted this year on The Stretched Blog.  It may surprise you to see which three made the top of the list.  On January 1st, I’ll provide more details on the top posts from 2014.  I hope you’ll take time to reread the excerpts from the posts and head back to the original posts to chime in on the comments.

My #3 post written in 2014 was posted on September 29th – “Redefine Rich.”  It’s kind of cool that this post was #3 as Matt Ham is just releasing his book (Redefine Rich: A New Perspective on the Good Life).  I just returned home from Western PA, and a pre-release version of the book was waiting for me on my doorstep when I arrived home.

Here’s and excerpt from the post.  Click here to read the whole post.

Redefine Rich

What does it mean to be rich?

Matt Ham is on a quest to redefine rich.  He writes about it on his blog.  He talks about it on his podcast.  And he’s getting ready to release a book designed to help you think differently about what it means to be rich.

I’m excited to share some special news from Matt Ham’s world.  He recently released a podcast interview with me.

Read the rest of this post here!  And check back tomorrow for the #2 blog post of the year.

If you are a blogger, share a link to one of your top blog posts from 2014 in the comments below.

What was one of your favorite Stretched posts from the past year?

5 Tips For Handling Life Stopping Experiences

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.)

When The Treadmill Stops Suddenly – 5 Tips For Handling Life Stopping Experiences

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.

5 Tips For Handling Life Stopping Experiences

  1. Hang on.  Sometimes this is all we can do.  When we don’t understand, when we don’t know the plan, we can trust God and hang on to His hand.  I remember asking during these times, “Why?”  Even in the toughest moments, we must remember that He will never leave us.

    “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

  2. Trust God.  In times like this, I’ve gone back to Proverbs 3:5-6 as a promise that God will make my paths straight even when life doesn’t make sense.

    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

  3. Lean into family and friends.  I can’t tell you how much family and friends have meant to our family when life’s train seems to have derailed.  It helps to know that someone is praying for me, is willing to talk or listen as I wrestle through the challenges of life, and is willing to be there when I can’t fully focus on my daily needs.  If you’re missing this in your own life, I’d encourage and challenge you to seek out this kind of friendship.  Our church small group experience has provided many of these types of friendships.
  4. Consider a change.  Sometimes a life stopping experience can be the catalyst to positive change in our lives.  This week, I switched treadmills.  Maybe these experiences are a call to change direction.

    “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

  5. Learn and grow.  Life halting experiences can be life altering experiences if we take time to learn and grow.  This is why I recommend a journal or even a blog as a way to record life’s happenings.  I have learned so much through the major speed bumps of life and the blog and my journal have become great places to record and process these experiences.

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?

8 Ways To Protect Your Teenagers

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….

8 Ways To Build A Hedge Of Protection Around Our Teenagers

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.

8 Ways To Protect Your Teenagers

  1. Keep God first in your own life.  We must lead by example.  If we expect our kids to follow God, we must seek Him first.  But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.  Matthew 6:33
  2. Place God’s Word at the foundation of your family.  There are tons of great parenting resources today, but the Bible has to be primary resource for everything in life.  These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts.  Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates.  Deuteronomy 6:6-9
  3. Pray like you mean it – like it depends on God.  Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.  James 5:16
  4. Learn that ‘no’ doesn’t have to be a negative word.  Parents these days are bent on becoming their kid’s best friend.  We are scared that saying no to our kids will somehow damage them.  Saying no is part of creating a hedge.
  5. Lean into the tough conversations.  I learned this week that the best conversations can sometimes be the toughest conversations.  Talking about tough things provides an opportunity to help your teenager process and establish their world view.  These conversations help our kids navigate and discover the truth.
  6. Find the strategic opportunities to demonstrate trust.  At some point, our kids will be on their own.  We will release our kids like an arrow leaving a bow-string.  If we aim them towards the Target, we need to trust that the arrow will fly straight.  Spreading their wings doesn’t have to be an all at once thing.  It works best as baby steps.
  7. Be a constant student of parenting.  Find parents who have gone on before you.  Learn from their experiences.  Seek out resources that will teach you how to be a parent who honors God.
  8. Balance truth and grace.  Our kids will make plenty of mistakes (just like we did).  We must teach them truth, and show them grace.  We must show them love.  Love speaks truth, and love shows grace.

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?

Ice Breaker – Questions For Me (Looking Back)

As we close out 2013, we’re remembering some of the top posts written in 2013.  Today, I’m sharing the top Stretched Ice Breaker from the past year (the sixth most popular post written this year).  It’s a great question to throw back at you as we get ready for 2014.  Just like last year, I will respond to your answers to this Ice Breaker.

Ice Breaker – Questions For Me

Each week on The Stretched Blog, I ask an ice breaker question.  The questions are designed to help us get to know each other here in The Stretched Community.  I’ll provide my answer to the question here in the post, and then you can leave your response in the comments.  While you’re in the comments section, see how others answered the ice breaker question.

I asked a similar Ice Breaker question quite a while ago, and I thought it was a good time to bring out this question as I suspect there will be many new answers this time around.

Who?  What?  When?  How?  Why?

Question:  What question(s) do you have for me?  What do you want to know about me?  This is your chance to ask me anything!

I’ll answer some of them in the comments and in a follow-up post next week.  I look forward to reading your questions.

Answer this week’s ice breaker question by leaving a comment.  I look forward to reading your response!  (As always, feel free to share links.)

Guatemala (Clothing) – A Look Back

Over the next two weeks, I’ll be highlighting four or five of the top posts written in 2013 on The Stretched Blog. If you’ve been hanging around for a while, you know Guatemala was a major focus this year.  (As I mentioned in yesterday’s post, our family is starting to work on plans for returning to Guatemala in 2014.)  Today’s post is the fourth most popular post written this year.  Of all the posts about Guatemala, this post received the most traffic.  Check it out to learn more about Guatemala.

Guatemala – Clothing


Over the next several weeks and months, I will intersperse facts and figures about Guatemala through the blog.  As I share this information, it’s my hope to further understand this country that has captured my heart.  Today, I’ll share about the clothing in Guatemala.  Last week, I shared some information about education (click here).

Photo by Adam Flora

From my experience last summer in Guatemala, the men dress fairly plainly.  I observed that most men wore button down shirts or T-shirts.  I don’t recall seeing a single man wearing shorts.  They were wearing blue jeans or khaki pants.  Many of the men wore some type of hat.  These hats were often fitted with a wide brim which I assume was used to protect them from the sun.

Photo by Adam Flora

The boys in the community where I served (Xenacoj) wore blue jeans, sneakers, T-shirts, and sweatshirts.  Many of the T-shirts and sweatshirts were decorated with American images and logos.  And I’m assuming the community thrived on clothing passed down from the United States.


The woman in the Guatemala dress more formally.  They wear a skirt and a colorful, hand-made blouse called a huipil.  Each town or region is known for its own color scheme.  The women in Xenacoj wore a reddish, purplish top with colored patterns.  These blouses are quite expensive compared to the average pay in Guatemala and often become the most prized and fanciest attire for the women in the villages of Guatemala.


The girls wear a mix of formal clothing like the older women, but they also wear T-shirts and skirts.  Again, I would assume that many of the shirts and skirts come through the United States and more advanced countries (although I would guess that many of these items are made in China).

For more great information on Guatemala clothing, I would encourage you to check out this website.  There are some great pictures and proper names for the clothing that we saw in Guatemala.

On a side note, one of the sad things I saw when we were in Guatemala this summer related to the clothing we wear here in the United States.  In the town of Xenacoj, workers were working ten to twelve hours a day for a few bucks a day making Hollister jeans.  I don’t own any of these jeans, but I’ve been told that they sell for approximately $80 per pair in malls and shopping centers in the United States.  As I think about this, a passage from Matthew comes to mind:

“When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his glorious throne. All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left.

“Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’

“Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’

“The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’

“Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.’

“They also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?’

“He will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’

“Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.”Matthew 25:31-46


Obviously, you and I don’t need to go to Guatemala to clothe the needy, feed the poor, and looking after the homeless, the sick, and the prisoners.  There are people all around us who could use a helping hand.  While our family is looking forward to helping the poor in Guatemala, we are also challenged to look to those around us right where we live.  Hopefully, learning a little bit about Guatemala will give us all a deeper appreciation for what we have an a better understanding of those around us and around the world who are needy.

What’s your favorite piece of clothing?  What’s your most expensive piece of clothing?  Are you willing to give up your favorite or most expensive piece of clothing to help someone in need?

Ice Breaker – Memory Moment Songs

Happy Friday!

Friday’s mean it’s time for the Stretched Ice Breaker.  Each week, I ask a question that is meant to “break the ice” and help The Stretched Community get to know one another just a little bit better.  Once the question is on the table so to speak, I’ll answer it in the post.  Then it’s your turn to answer the question in the comments.  Ready or not, here it comes!

Question (it’s not actually in question form this week):  Share a song that takes you back to a memory moment.  While you’re at it, share a little bit about the memory.

My Answer:  Lot’s of songs take me back to memories of getting to know my wife.  For example, Wonderful Tonight by Eric Clapton will always take me back to our first dance.  In Your Eyes by Peter Gabriel brings me back to the same evening when everyone cleared the dance floor to watch Leanne and I dance together.  And The Best Thing In Life by Big Tent Revival takes me back to the first band we saw together at Creation 1997.

Recently, I was introduced to a new band who is apparently popular – Mumford & Sons.  Roll Away Your Stone off their Sigh No More album takes me back to the streets of Xenacoj, Guatemala.  Our Casas por Cristo team leader, Josh Crabbs, drove around in a beat up Mazda pick-up truck.  I had the privilege of driving with him to and from the job site everyday during our house build project.  At the end of the day, Josh would plug his iPod into the car radio and introduce me to new songs and artists as he relaxed after a hard days work.  Once of the songs he played was Roll Away Your Stone.  I remember riding through Xenacoj with the windows down, the music blaring, and the emotions riding high.  Thanks Josh and students for opening me up to a whole new brand of music!

There you have it.  Now it’s your turn.  Share your answers in the comments.  I can’t wait to read your responses!

How Did 12 Years Go By So Fast?

How did 12 years go by so fast?

This is the question I asked myself as I crawled into bed last night. Twelve years ago yesterday, our lives were forever changed when our son entered this world. I remember spending that day working in the yard with our two and half year old daughter, Hannah, who was decked out in a cute watermelon themed outfit complete with a watermelon hat. As we were getting into the middle of the afternoon, Leanne suddenly came outside and indicated that we needed to get moving quickly. The baby was on the way. Little did I know how soon he would arrive. We rushed to the hospital.  And we barely made it out of the parking lot and into the hospital when Leanne’s water broke. Within an hour we were holding our 8 pound 6 ounce bundle of joy.

You would never think he was once so small when you see him now. At five and a half feet tall and just over the 100 pound mark, Isaac is rapidly becoming a young man. When we think of Isaac many things come to mind: he is talented – especially musically, he is kind, he is thoughtful, he is caring, he is funny, he is quiet, he is goofy at times, and he is a tinkerer. These are just some of the things that I think of when I think of my son.

But there is one thing that I am most proud of when it comes to Isaac. He loves God. His faith is important to him. He wants to do the right thing. Don’t get me wrong, Isaac is a 12 year-old boy who gets into trouble from time to time. But if you really get to know Isaac, you’ll see a kid who seeks to honor God. What more could a father ask for?

As we head into Isaac’s teenage years, I am beginning to realize that my time of influence is limited. I pray that I can have an impact on my son, and that I can help him to become the man God is calling him to become. As a father, I have the honor, the privilege, and the responsibility to intentionally teach him and lead him in his journey to manhood.

Isaac, I’ll do my best to help you. Be patient with me though, because I’m still figuring it out myself. Happy Birthday, son! I’m proud of you, and I love you, buddy.

What were you up to twelve years ago? How are you being intentional in your parenting?

March 2012 Top Posts and Top Commenters

March has come and gone.

As usual, I like to look back to see what happened on The Stretched Blog this month.

It was a pretty good month.  Overall traffic, was just under last month’s traffic.  And the comments were the highest so far.  Here’s a review of the top 10 posts from this month:

1.  Ten Things Every Small Group Leader Should Know (March 7, 2012) * Re-Post

2.  End Of An Era – An End To Suburban Chicken Farming (March 14, 2012)

3.  Help Me Write My First Book (March 8, 2012)

4.  Leap of Faith Continued (The Decision) (March 22, 2012 – highest traffic day this month)

5.  Leap of Faith (March 21, 2012)

6.  Migraine Madness (March 13, 2012)

7.  Book Review: How Do You Kill 11 Million People? (March 5, 2012)

8.  Ice Breaker – Songs On Your Playlist (March 23, 2012)

9.  Continue To Learn (March 20, 2012)

10. Back To The Basics – Guest Post From Joe Lalonde (March 6, 2012)

And the top 3 commenters for this month:

1.  Tom Neal (30)

2.  Joe Lalonde (24)

3.  Larry Carter (20)

One of the things that excited me most about the comments this month was the huge number of new commenters.  Your comments make The Stretched Community so great!  Please keep commenting.

Thank you!

So how was your month?  What was your most popular post?  What was your favorite post on your blog or here?


February 2012 Top Posts and Commenters

I blinked and February was gone.  Thankfully, I captured some of my thoughts and experiences here.  As always, I wanted to thank all of you for your daily readership and contribution to The Stretched Blog.  The new platform ( is growing!  I like to take the opportunity with the first post of the month to look back and to celebrate what’s been happening here.   So here are the top ten posts from February 2012:

1. Stretching To A New Focus – Guest Post by Leah Adams

2. Ten Reasons To Attend FamilyLife Weekend To Remember

3.  Say What You Need To Say (Jan. 2012)

4.  Log Eye Lessons

5.  Ice Breaker – Groundhog Day

6.  Stolpe Superbowl Scavenger Hunt

7.  Ice Breaker – Verse Of The Day

8.  Stretched Perspective

9.  The Kid Stretched Me – Guest Post by Tom Tarver

10.  Quality – Time

Here are the top three commenters:

1.  Tom Tarver (35)

2.  Joe Lalonde (29)

3.  Larry Carter (21)

Overall traffic increased on the blog despite the fact that I cut down my average posts per week from six to five.  This is a good sign that new readers are joining the community and conversation.  We had several brand new commenters and one or two new subscribers.  If you haven’t already, please consider subscribing to the blog (on the right hand side of the main page), adding the blog to your RSS reader, and becoming of the Jon Stolpe Stretched Facebook fan page.  These are all great ways to make sure you stay connected with what’s going on in and around the Stretched Community.

Finally, I’d like to highlight a few blogs that I’ve recently been enjoying.  Stop on over to these great blogs and see what’s happening:

–  Dicipulus

–  Some Wise Guy

–  The Isle of Man

How was your month?  What was your top post?  What was your favorite post here?  What other blogs can you share with The Stretched Community?

Stretching To A New Focus – Guest Post by Leah Adams

Quality – Lessons from Mr. Bobo

I’ve been thinking a lot about the word quality lately.  In my department, we are focusing on the quality of our product.  We want to produce the best product possible.  We want to be proud of our work.  This week The Stretched Blog will focus on quality.  To start the week off, I share how quality was instilled in me at the beginning of my working life.

When I was in high school, I had a clear interest in math and science.  I’ve always loved solving problems and figuring things out.  Little did I realize how important quality is to the math and science fields.

My dad was one of the pastors at the church where I grew up in New Jersey.  Sometimes it was tough being a PK (Pastor’s Kid), but most of the time I didn’t mind it that much.  My dad was a celebrity of sorts as he knew many leaders, personalities, and business people in and around our town.  He knew people from our church who were involved in all kinds of different career fields.

I’d like to think it was because I worked hard, but I’m guessing my dad had something to do with the calls I received to work at various jobs around the community.  I cut grass.  I shoveled snow.  I raked leaves.  I painted housed.  I washed dishes.  I hung curtains.  I did all sorts of things.  But one job I will always remember is the four years I worked as a land surveyor for Henry Bobo.  Apparently, Mr. Bobo had heard about my interest in math and science, and he needed a helper in the field to help him survey properties around the area.

Mr. Bobo was an older gentleman who lived with his wife, Grace, in the center of Mt. Holly, NJ.  He kept his surveying business going despite the physical demands of the trade that could be tough for a man his age.

When I started working for Mr. Bobo, I would ride my bike two and a half miles to his house where we would load up his equipment in his red and white van as we prepared for a day in the field measuring distances, taking elevations readings, cutting through brush along property lines, and marking out property corner stones and markers.  Working for Mr. Bobo, I learned a lot about the importance of precise setup and accurate measurement and note taking.  I remember how frustrated he would become when I didn’t hold the plumb-bob correctly or the rod just right.

When I started working for Mr. Bobo early in high school, I was the gopher and the “rod man.”  I was responsible for holding the reflector rod or the plumb bob while Mr. Bobo used the transit and took the field notes.  As time went on, I began to learn how to set up and operate the transit.  Suddenly, I was looking through the transit and taking notes.  Mr. Bobo was very direct in explaining how the numbers should be written in the log book.  I’ve always had neat handwriting, but I would always hear it from Mr. Bobo if my numbers weren’t written correctly.  This used to drive me crazy.

Towards the end of my time working with Mr. Bobo, he had me doing the drafting up in his office.  Here I would take the field notes and draw out the site plan and topographical map of the places we had previously surveyed.  It was through this activity that I understood why it was so important to hold the rod steady, to set up the transit properly, and why it was so important to write the field notes so clearly.  If the measurements and numbers weren’t written correctly, the plans wouldn’t come out right.  There would be “gaps” in the drawings.

Mr. Bobo’s demand for quality was essential to his final product.  His lessons in doing things the right way has been important in my career and in my daily activities.  I’m thankful for Mr. Bobo and his insistence on doing things right.

Who has had an impact on you when it comes to quality?

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