Category Archives for "stretch"

Rest For The Weary

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.  Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”  Matthew 11:28-30

Stretch 2011 started last night, and it went great.  I’m co-leading the games again this year with a new friend.  Let me just say that we have an awesome Games Team this year.  Everything went very well last night.  And it was obvious as I walked around that the kids were having a great time.  I don’t know the numbers, but it seemed like it was the biggest opening night we’ve had since Stretch began several years ago.

After cleaning up and driving home, I didn’t get to bed until 11:30PM.  This is late for me.  So when my alarm went off this morning at 4:50AM, it’s no surprise that I was exhausted.  I managed to get out of bed and out for my morning run despite my fatigue.  As I ran, this verse from Matthew 11 came to me.

I don’t know what you’re going through right now.  Maybe you volunteered at Stretch last night, and you’re feeling weary.  Maybe you just drove half way across the country.  Maybe you are fighting illness.  Maybe you’ve poured your energy into a project that seems unending.  You’re feeling worn-out, tired, exhausted, weary.  The verse above is a reminder that we can come to Jesus when we’re weary.  He promises to give us rest.

How are you feeling today?  When was the last time you faced exhaustion?

Stretch Starts Tomorrow!!!

Middle school (or junior high) can be an awkward time in life.  The girls are growing way faster than most of the guys.  Kids are trying to figure out how they work and where they fit in.  They don’t get the attention of elementary aged children, and they’re not big shot high school teenagers.

Tomorrow night, I’ll be volunteering at a FREE three night camp designed just for middle school students.  The camp is called Stretch (Yes, they used my nickname without consulting with me, but I’m okay with it.)  I have participated as a volunteer for this event since it started several years ago.  And this year is extra special as Leanne and I now have two kids who will be in middle school this fall.  If you live in the area and you know someone who is going into sixth through eighth grade, plan on bringing them to three unbelievable nights.

The night is designed for kids this age.  Here are some of the things that will happen there:

– Laser Tag

– Video Games

– Basketball

– Dodgeball

– Karaoke

–  Amusement Ride – I call it the puke machine

–  All kinds of food (pizza, hot dogs, cheeseburgers, soda, cotton candy, etc.)

–  Stage Games

–  Slip and Slide

–  Volleyball

–  Inflatable

–  Music

–  Great Speakers

If any of this sounds like fun, you don’t want to miss Stretch Uncut 2011.

Wednesday, July 27 – Friday, July 29, 2011

6:30PM – 10:00PM (Friday night until 11:00PM)

Christ’s Church of the Valley

1560 Yeager Road

Royersford, PA

Hope to see you there!

How does your church connect with middle school students?  What cool activities do you think would be great to add to an event like this?

Middle School Missions Trip Recap

Today, I am so proud that I can introduce my daughter as my guest blogger.  In her post below, Hannah shares her take on a missions trip she took two weeks ago with my son and a group of middle school students from our church.  I think you’ll see that this trip had an impact on Hannah, and you’ll see that God can use anyone – even a group of crazy middle schoolers!

(If you’re interested in guest posting on my blog, please drop me a comment.  I’d love to connect with you.)

 

Two weeks ago, I went on a missions trip to Johnstown, PA with my church’s youth group.  We had a great time and were able to help and shine God’s love to so many people. As well as serving people, I also learned a lot about how I should live according to God’s Word.  One of the biggest things I learned can be found in Luke 22:42:

 “Father, if you are willing take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done

A lot of the times, I want to do what I want to do.  I’ll want to do this. I won’t want to do that.  But as a follower of God, He calls me to do His will – to step out of my comfort zone and not necessarily do what I want to do.  He has amazing plans for me, but they can only happen if I follow His will.  Two weeks ago, whatever we did we asked God for guidance so that we could do His will.  Whether it was asking Him what He wanted us to do that day or listening to Him to see if He wanted us to talk to someone, His will was done and it was amazing to see His plans for our group unfold.

Here’s a recap of our week:

On Monday, we went to a church down the street from where we were staying.  This church has been closed for two years due to the economy.  With the amount of churches closing in their area, they have decided to reopen.  As it has been closed for two years, there was a lot of work to do.  We mopped, swept, weeded, trimmed bushes, painted, scrubbed, and scraped paint and rust off poles.  It was amazing to see how much work our middle school group was able to accomplish in such a short time.  It also was great to see how grateful everyone was for the work we accomplished!Tuesday was by far my favorite day.  On Tuesday, we went to an old hospital in the town of Culver.  The owner of the hospital (Jeremy) is turning it into a community center for Culver.   It will have apartments, a kitchen, his house, and other things for youth – such as a gaming room.  On Tuesday, my middle school group and the high school group that was staying with us helped to clean out the hospital and tear down the walls and ceiling.  It was God’s miracle that no one got hurt despite the large amounts of plaster that continually fell.  After we finished our work, a friend and I explored the hospital.  There was lots of papers, x-rays, and old equipment.  Later that evening, we played volleyball, roasted marshmallows, sang songs around a fire, and watched fireworks.My day on Wednesday was split into two parts.  In the morning, I baked cookies and made cards.  Another group would hand out the cookies, cards, and Bibles to people the next day.  Their decision to do this definitely involved following God’s will by stepping out of their comfort zones to talk with the people who received the Bibles.

In the afternoon, we went to Goodwill.  We swept up trash and threw trash it into a big dumpster. Then a few people who worked there told us about what Goodwill does. We also got to meet a man who was employed by Goodwill a couple of years ago.  He was very thankful for his job and groups like ours who help out at Goodwill.

On Thursday, we went to a soup kitchen and a nursing home.  At the soup kitchen, we moved wood and sorted food and utensils. At the end, we were able to eat lunch with a few recipients of the soup kitchen food.

At the nursing home, we did several things.  First, we escorted the residents to their rooms after a ballroom dancing show.  A few of the people on our team were able to talk and pray with residents.  After that, we cut and colored Forth of July coloring pages with residents.  Later, the nursing home staff were going to put the decorations on the residents’ doors.

On Friday, we traveled home, but first, we made some detours.  After a small lunch of pop tarts at the church we were staying at, we went to McDonald’s for a bigger breakfast.  We then followed the GPS until we arrived at the incline plane in Johnstown.  We took a round trip on the incline plane and then headed to Chuck E. Cheese’s for some last-minute fun.  After Chuck E. Cheese’s, we sat on the pavement and went around in a circle complementing and encouraging each other.  After that, we went to the food court to grab some food before heading home.

All in all, it was a great trip.  I’m so glad I went, and I look forward to future opportunities to serve!

Have you ever been on a missions trip?  What was something you learned on this trip? 

Faith Stretch

Here is a guest post by Beck Gambill.  Beck is an author, mentor, wife, mother, and Christ-follower.  I have enjoyed following Beck on her blog for the past month, and she graciously agreed to share her thoughts and talents with us today.  Her writing is inspired and beautiful, and I love what she shares below and how she says it.  Please chime in on her questions, and don’t forget to get connected with Beck.  Besides her blog, you can follow her on Twitter.

(If you’re interested in guest posting on my blog, please drop me a comment.  I’d love to connect with you.)


Lately the very fibers and sinews of my heart are being pulled tight in a deep faith stretch. Three months ago my husband, Chris, and I took a risky step of faith. After serving as worship pastor for four years in a Wyoming church, due to some difficult circumstances and God’s leading, we left our place of ministry trusting God had a plan. My human assumption was that the plan would be revealed quickly and before long we would be serving in a new place of ministry. I was wrong.

We are thankful for dear friends who have graciously opened their home providing a place for us to stay while we wait. Yet I’ve learned it’s not good for a man to live without fulfilling work or a woman to be without a home. God knows this.

There are moments in the waiting that fear and hurt swell, choking off my breath. There are also moments of deep joy. The difference, I find, lies in the abiding. A tenacious sitting at Jesus feet decides if I will sink in despair or soar on wings of faith. Time in the word of God fills my heart with life-sustaining truth that counteracts the lies I would otherwise believe. Lies that say; God doesn’t see you, he has abandoned you, you’re not good enough, you have failed, you will never know fulfillment.

Daily I come, I press on, my spiritual muscles stretched and strengthened. As I come Jesus is always faithful to meet me. He recently revived my heart with the words of Psalm 18. Are you weary from the journey of life, stretched by your limitations or circumstances? Let me share some of those verses with you.

But in my distress I cried out to the Lord;
yes, I prayed to my God for help.
He heard me from his sanctuary;
my cry to him reached his ears…

He opened the heavens and came down;
dark storm clouds were beneath his feet.
Mounted on a mighty angelic being, he flew,
soaring on the wings of the wind.
He shrouded himself in darkness,
veiling his approach with dark rain clouds.
Thick clouds shielded the brightness around him
and rained down hail and burning coals.
The Lord thundered from heaven;
the voice of the Most High resounded
amid the hail and burning coals…

He reached down from heaven and rescued me;
he drew me out of deep waters…

He led me to a place of safety;
he rescued me because he delights in me.

 Can you see the God of heaven leap to his feet at the sound of your voice crying out in need. Imagine him take flight on the wings of an angel, thundering his approach, reaching down his mighty hand to rescue you! Like a mother stalking across the playground, determined eyes focused, set to rescue her child from the bully, so is our God with his own children. In a purely physical sense we may not see God on the move but we can be sure when we call out in need he hears and acts.

In the midst of messy circumstances God is stretching my heart to trust him. He challenges me to show up daily to sit at his feet to be fed. As I obey, my heart is comforted that God sees me, he rescues me and it’s his delight to do so.

Are you being stretched through difficult circumstances? How has God reminded you of his care?

God in the Spaces

Today, I have the honor of presenting my dad, Norman Stolpe, as my guest blogger.  I have so many things that I could write about in describing my dad.  He has probably been one of my biggest writing influences.  Dad helped me through my senior year of Honors English in high school.  Writing has always surrounded Dad as he has written books, stories, curriculum, poems, and countless sermons.  He is a true inspiration to me.  Today, he shares about finding God in the Spaces.  I think you’ll enjoy what he has to share.  To read more from my dad, you can follow him on his blogs:  Christlink and Writing Workshop.

(If you’re interested in guest posting on my blog, please drop me a comment.  I’d love to connect with you.)

Monastery of St. Scholastica - "Ora et Labora"

My son Jon asked if I would write something for his Stretched blog about how I am being stretched by my current transition. After 35 years of ordained ministry and long-term relationships with three churches (one exception was 2 years), I “retired” from Central Christian Church in Dallas, Texas where I had been the pastor for almost 11 years. I am viewing this as a transition to a new phase of ministry as an interim pastor. I am in conversation with a couple of congregations, and the prospect of serving one of them by September is encouraging, but nothing is definite yet.

I believe I am being stretched as I watch for the presence of God in this in between space. Though I have intentionally described this as a transition, I am learning to accept that other people label it “retirement.” I am anticipating several years of active, full-time ministry, but I am adjusting to recognizing how major this transition is.

My wife, Candy, and I consciously started down this path couple of years ago and worked with Central Christian Church for a transparent, smooth, healthy transition for their pastoral leadership. My last Sunday to preach was May 29, and my successors (Revs. Drs. Steve and Debbie Chisolm) will preach for the first time July 10. God’s hand in that process was gentle but clear to us and the congregation.

I have been amazed at how many seemingly minor details have fallen into place for exactly the right timing as our transition has unfolded so far. I have felt that this has stretched my faith to expect the details will continue to fall into place at just the right time as it becomes clear which congregation we will be serving next. We know we will have an income gap of at least a month, hoping to fill it with supply preaching and temp work. So far we seem to have navigated the uncertainties and ambiguities with minimal anxiety.

However, reflecting on that is stretching me in another direction. I have to ask myself, “Why should I expect my path to be smooth with everything provided at just the right time? Other people who are at least as faithful to Jesus have to endure hardship and deprivation on their paths. I certainly don’t deserve to be exempt.”

In this in between space, I feel the tension between trusting God, perhaps presumptuously, and the pull of frantic activity to bring in income and perhaps force a premature decision about where we will serve. I believe I have to take responsible steps as acts of faith that God is the one actually orchestrating events. I am reminded of the inscription above the door of the Monastery of St. Scholastica (St. Benedict’s sister) in Subiaco, Italy (and other Benedictine monasteries). “Ora et Labora” pray and work. The priority is to pray first. Then work finds its place in harmony with God’s activity.

My patience is being stretched, not in the sense of anxious impatience, but recognizing that church processes move slowly. God is patient too, not just with our individual foibles, but also with the unhurried unfolding of history. With this stretching patience, I am learning to watch for God to slip the smallest details into place at just the right time. As I recognize God’s hand in the details, I am also learning that God’s story doesn’t revolve around me and having my journey unfold smoothly, but that I am privileged to play some part in God’s greater plan. If I will be patient, I will discern just how the details fit at just the right time.

How have you seen God in the spaces of your life?

Be My Guest

I am so excited to share the talents of some great guest bloggers this upcoming week.  Over the past couple of weeks, I have shared guest posts by my wife and my son, and it has been remarkable to see the response.  Recently, I’ve started asking people if they would be interested in sharing their “stretch marks” on my blog.  This has provided an opportunity to hear what others have to share, but it’s also been an incredible opportunity to connect the blogging community.  I cannot wait for you to read the posts coming up this week, and I’m looking forward to the feedback and dialogue that will be generated through these posts.

On May 27, 2011, Jeff Goins shared some tips for guest posting on Michael Hyatt’s blog.  I think you’ll find this interesting, and I’d encourage you to head on over to see the full post.

Here are seven steps to successful guest posting:

  1. Check the guidelines. Many established blogs, including this one, have a list of guidelines that you can follow to make a guest post. Before submitting your post, read the guidelines and follow them.
  2. Study the blog. Do some research to understand the subject and voice of the blog and to see what topics haven’t been covered yet. If you know someone who has guest-posted for the blog, ask him how he did it.
  3. Contact the blogger. Email is probably best. In the message, get right to the point. Either pitch an idea or send the whole article, but don’t waste time with unnecessary flattery or self-deprecation. Don’t say “sorry,” and don’t be arrogant. Just be yourself.
  4. Write the best post you can. (This may happen concurrently with #3). Once you’ve made contact with the blogger, you can begin writing. Fight the temptation to hold back your “A” content for your own blog. Guest posts are your best marketing collateral, so don’t submit something less than your best. Once finished, send the ready-to-publish post to the blogger with a byline and link to your website.
  5. Follow up. Depending on the guidelines, give the blogger some time (usually a week) before following up. When you do follow up, keep it positive and polite. You can follow up again a week or two later. If you don’t hear back in a month, tell the blogger that you’d like to take the article elsewhere.
  6. Engage and promote. If the blogger posts your article, first thank her. Then, treat it as you would one of your own posts, if not better. Tweet it, share it, email it, etc. Post an excerpt on your own blog and link to the whole article. Interact in the comments and engage readers who respond. This is a must.
  7. Repeat. Whether you succeed or not, start the whole process over again. If you get rejected, don’t get discouraged. And don’t let it be the last time you try to guest post. Sometimes, the topic is just wrong. Other times, it’s the wrong audience. Regardless, you need to guest post more than once for it to be an effective strategy. So, don’t give up.

If you’re interested in joining in and becoming a guest blogger on “Jon Stolpe Stretched”, please drop me a comment.  I would love to connect with you!

Thanks!

Are you a blogger?  Have you ever had others guest post on your blog?  What tips to you have for guest bloggers?

Still Stretching – Looking Back and Looking Forward


Four years ago on this Wednesday, I started this blog. So far it’s been quite a ride. Here’s how it started 416 posts ago…

Well, this is the start of it all… I’ve been contemplating doing the blog thing for some time. You might be wondering where the“Stretched” thing comes from. For starters, when I was in high school at Rancocas Valley Regional High School, I was short – 5’6″ to start my junior year. Since then, I’ve grown to almost 6’6″. Many of my friends started calling me Stretch. On a more recent basis, I often feel “stretched” by all the things going on around me – career, marriage, parenting, church, running, reading, friendships, extended family, relationship with God, etc. (in no particular order). My hope is that this blog will provide an opportunity to express some of my “stretch marks” and to possibly hear your thoughts as well. So here we go….

When I look back at all the posts and comments since the start, I believe the blog has served this purpose. Here are some of the highlights: family vacations, Supernanny parenting group, Kids Camp and Stretch, the Perelman building, several movies, Elizabeth’s adoption, blog spotlights, book reviews, small group thoughts, and personal wrestlings.  Recently, I’ve also started guest posts which I think will add a lot to my blog experience.

From my tallies, I’ve had over 6600 visits to the blog since I changed to WordPress a couple of years ago, and I’ve had over 300 comments. It’s all pretty amazing.

So where do I go from here? Great question. I think it just continues. I’m quite confident that I will continue to be stretched in the coming year. So get ready, I’m sure I’ll have more stretch marks to share.

Until the next post, I’ll be stretching

How long have you been blogging?  Why do you blog?  Please feel free to include a link to your blog so others can enjoy.

Detours

Today, I have the privilege of presenting my wife as my guest blogger.  Leanne and I will be celebrating our 15th anniversary in less than two weeks.  We’ve been through a lot together over the years, and I look forward to the adventures that lie ahead.  Her thoughts below are extremely insightful while being very transparent.  Leanne doesn’t blog at the moment, but your comments and feedback may help spur her on to share more of her life and story.

This week I took a day off and went to the beach. This is something I used to do a couple of times a year but recently haven’t done for quite some time. So, it was a big deal to me. I filled up my tank with gas. I packed a picnic lunch, and figured out my directions. I put my tunes in the cd player and started on my trip. I didn’t even get on the turnpike when there was a detour – right at the start of my trip!

It reminded me of how this past year seemed like a detour in many ways.

  1. I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder after being treated for a bipolar/postpartum psychosis diagnosis for 10 years. My doctor encouraged me to get a second opinion and when I did, the diagnosis was postpartum psychosis. So, I came off my medicine and gradually began having symptoms which led to a severe reaction. I have spent a lot of the year recovering but have found a greater understanding for people who deal with mental illness but also special needs in general, especially as they relate to children.
  2. I decided to resign as my position of our church preschool director because I missed the children. I found myself spending most of my working hours behind a desk instead of with the children I love. Through tutoring and subbing this year, I have rediscovered a passion to be with students in the public school.
  3. We had to put the trip of my dreams – Africa – on hold, but we have a greater resolve to make a difference in our local community as a family. We are excited for our service group to start-up again this fall. It was also a lesson of control. We quickly learned how much we are not in control of our lives.

In all these things, I am now able to look back and see God working for the good in all things. At the time, life seemed like a series of detours.  A friend asked me the other day if life made sense and for the first time in a while I was able to say that yes, right now it actually did. That doesn’t mean that life is without problems and everything is perfect but there’s faith, recovery, hope, and the support of family and friends.

What detours have you experienced in your life?  How have you seen God working good in your life through the ups and downs?

(I’m looking for guest bloggers to share their “stretch marks” here.  If you’re interested in becoming one of my guest bloggers, please drop me a comment, so I can get in touch with you.)

Plan Your Epitaph

I’m in the process of reading Chazown by Craig Groeschel, and I just finished Part I.  At the end of this section he encourages the reader to finish six statements.  “Forget the past, because you can’t change it.  During those final days (of your life), how do you want to be able to finish the following statements?”  I thought I throw out my initial responses to these statements here (but to be honest I have more pondering to do to fully finish these completely).  I also thought it would be challenging for you to consider these as well.  I’d love to hear how you would finish these statements.

1.  The thing that was most important to me was…

God (first) and my family (second).

2.  People say I stood for…

loyalty, integrity, Christ, and community.

3.  I made a difference in my world by…

setting an example for my own family and other families and by pointing others to Christ.

4.  God was glorified because I…

followed Him and led out loud in my home, in my job, in my community, and in my church.

5.  People knew I loved them because…

I listened to them.

6.  The reason I expect God to say “well done” is…

(tough one) I stuck with it through thick and thin.  I stayed true to Him.  I trusted in Him.  I lived to help others find Him.

Lemons Into Lemonade

I just had to share the thoughts from Isaac’s devotion for yesterday:

From The One Year Every Day Devotions (Devotions to help you stand strong) by Stephen Arterburn and Jesse Florea:

Have you ever heard someone say, “When life hands you lemons, make lemonade?”

As goofy as it sounds, this saying holds a lot of truth.  First, it says that life will hand you lemons.  It doesn’t say if, and it doesn’t say life might hand you lemons.  It says when.

Lemons are the bad things that happen in life.  Maybe a pet dies.  Maybe your best friend decides not to be your friend anymore.  Perhaps you’re not treated fairly by a teacher.  Whatever it is, you’ll have to face your share of lemons in life.

The second part of that saying is the hardest to follow – “make lemonade.”  In other words, take the bad things that happen and make the best of them.  Look for the positives.  Find the good part.

Sometimes finding the good part is really difficult.  When a friend turns her back on you, it hurts.  Sure, you can make other friends.  But it hurts right now.  Making lemonade is probably the last thing you want to do.  That’s why it may be a good idea to add another sentence to that saying:  “When life hands you lemons, make lemonade.  And God is the ultimate lemonade maker.”

God can take the worst situations in your life and make something good from them.  At first, you may find it hard to see the good, but over time you’ll look back and see how God turned bad things to positive experiences in your life.  And here’s the best part:  while you’re waiting for God to make things better, you can hide in him.  Use that time to get to know him better.  Take comfort that God love you, cares for you, and can use bad things to make you stronger and more like him.  When things get tough, look to God and take comfort in his strength.

Psalm 141:8  But my eyes are fixed on you, O Sovereign LORD; in you I take refuge….