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Heart Condition

November 18, 2017 — 2 Comments

What’s the condition of your heart?

Last Friday night, I met with my men’s group (DIBs – Dudes In the Basement) for our DIBs Fall Summit 2017. DIBs is a group of guys who have committed to meeting together for 20 years. We have 17 years left in our commitment. During the Summit, we focused on the condition of our hearts. After some food and ping-pong, we gathered to talk about our hearts.

When it was time for me to share, I confessed that I felt overly busy. I honestly left very little room for “being still and knowing that He is God” (Psalm 46:10). There are a lot of great things I am doing – Dynamic Marriage, Stretched Men Group, Rooftop Reflections book launch, new job in June at Siemens, H.O.P.E., etc. I shared that I had been having trouble sleeping over the course of the previous two or three weeks. I honestly believe I was dealing with the feeling of overwhelm.

In my sharing, I paraphrased Psalm 19:14 to fit my current condition and desire: May the words of my mouth and this meditation of my heart AND MY SCHEDULE AND MY TO DO LIST be pleasing in your sight, Lord, my Rock and my Redeemer.

Does my schedule reflect a heart for God?

Do my thoughts reflect a heart for God?

Do my reactions and my actions reflect a heart for God?

Do my motives reflect a heart for God?

What am I doing to gain a better understanding of God’s heart?

How am I helping others see God’s heart?

These are all questions I believe are worth answering or at least pondering as I consider the condition of my own heart.

The men in the group challenged me to look at my schedule and consider what may need to go. Following the conversation, I realized I needed to start by giving up one activity that I was doing out of loyalty instead of out of passion.

In his book The Big Leap, Gay Hendricks encourages readers to give up living in their Zones of Competence and Excellence so they can live in their Zone of Genius. In order to live in this place, we must constantly be looking at our activities and commitments. We must do the hard work of finding where we are passions lie and getting rid of the other stuff.

I think this also applies to our heart. In what we do, think, read, say, etc. are we drawing closer to God’s heart?

What’s the condition of your heart?

“Failure is simply the opportunity to begin again, this time more intelligently.”
Henry Ford

This month I failed.

At the end of July, I signed up for Ellory Wells’ 31 Day Writing Challenge with the intent of writing a new blog post every day during the month of August.  I started on the right foot with several new blog posts.  Then the wheels fell off my ride of best intentions during the second week of August, and I’ve struggled to regain momentum since then.  When it comes to the Writing Challenge, I am a failure.

Now, I could give you ten or twenty excuses as to why I failed.  Do those excuses really matter?  The facts are I did not even come close to writing every day in August.  As I look back on August and on my weak efforts during the challenge, I’ve learned a lot.

Here is what I’ve learned as a result of my failure.

4 Lessons From My Recent Failure

  1. Intentions do not automatically translate into success.  I have great intentions when it comes to a lot of things in my life.  Unfortunately, I fall short in many of these areas of intention.
  2. Our actual actions indicate the reality of our priorities.  My words in late July indicated that I wanted to make writing blog posts a priority; however, my writing output shows I may have let other things have a greater place in my priority pyramid.  My family went on vacation to the Jersey Shore during the second week of August, and this trip was a priority for me.  My job has required a lot of attention this month, and this was an important and necessary area of focus for me in August.  Finally, I noticed that my fitness and overall health had slipped a little bit over the past few months.  In the second half of August, I took steps to make my fitness and nutrition more of a priority.
  3. Accountability is essential to achieving the results we desire.  I’m independent and self-motivated, but I need people in my life who will give me an encouraging word or a swift kick in the butt from time to time.  I rely heavily on my wife, the guys in my small group, a few of my co-workers, and the people in my mastermind groups.  They remind me to stay on track.  They encourage me when I’m feeling discouraged.  And they won’t let me wander off course for very long.
  4. It’s never too late to start over.  When we experience failure in our lives, we have a couple of choices.  We can let our failure define us.  Or we can use our failures to motivate us.  I’m making the second choice.

“Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts.”
Winston Churchill

How have you responded to failure in your life?  What lessons have you learned from your failures?  Share your thoughts in the comments below.

 

The year, we build with Casas por Cristo.  Casas is a fantastic organization, and I learned a lot through our experience this year that will be helpful as I pursue building 100+ houses in Guatemala.

Today, I’ll give you a glimpse into the building process.  Our large team split into two smaller teams, and we both completed our houses in 2 1/2 days.  The actual construction may have gone fast, but there were other steps before our build that paved the way for our visit.

Applying to Get a Home

In order to get a house, the pastor of a family in need must complete an application.  Through this process, the pastor and associated church commit to coming around the family in an effort to disciple them and help them with their ongoing needs.  The families selected make an average of $60 per week, and they typically live in huts made of cardboard, cornstalks, or bamboo.

Preparing the Site

The job site is prepared in advance of our arrival.  In our case, the church community dug dirt out of the hill in an effort to level the site for the house, and they carried all the wood, stone, concrete, sand, and other building supplies down a huge hill to the job site.

Building the Forms and Leveling the Ground

When we arrived at the site, we gathered to meet the family and pray before the fun began.  It didn’t take long to set up the cutting station and build the forms for the concrete foundation.  Making sure the ground was as level as possible was critical to the next step.

Pouring the Concrete

Next we mixed the concrete with two mixers.  Each batch of concrete included just the right mixture of sand, stone, concrete, and water.  Before lunch on the first day, we had completed the concrete slab.  This was a critical step, and we were reminded of the importance of having a firm foundation in our own lives to withstand the storms of life.

Building the Walls

Wall construction started on Monday afternoon and rolled into Tuesday.  We build the walls on the ground before lifting them up onto the slab.  Once the walls were square and attached appropriately to the concrete floor, we began the process of installing the exterior tongue and groove panels.

Installing the Roof

While the exterior walls were being covered, a few members of our team climbed to the top of the house and began installing the roof.  The roof consisted of wooden beams which supported the metal roofing material.  By the end of the second day, the roof was installed and the exterior walls were mostly complete.

The Finishing Touches

Wednesday morning, we arrived on site, and we quickly worked on finishing the house.  The exterior panels were completed.  The front door and windows were installed.  The interior walls were covered.  The electrical was installed and tested, and the trim work was completed.

Dedicating the House

This was my favorite part!  After completing the house in the morning.  Lydia and other ladies from her community cooked us all lunch (chicken, rice, corn tortillas, and a delicious red sauce).  Our team sat down at a long makeshift table in front of the house, and we enjoyed the meal before a quick rainstorm interrupted things.  When the rain died down, we all gathered in front of the house.  Lydia received a Bible and a set of keys for her house.  And we nailed a “Casas por Cristo” plate above her front door.  After a time of sharing, we laid hands on Lydia’s house and prayed for Lydia, her new home, and her family.  Listening to her pastor pray was one of the most moving experiences of the trip.  He wept as he prayed aloud.

Missionaries from Casas por Cristo will head back over to Lydia’s house in a few months to see how she and the house are doing.  And the pastor will continue to keep an eye on her as well.

Today, our family (minus one) embarks on another journey to Guatemala.

We’re excited to be doing something a little different this year.  We are going with a group from our church (Christ’s Church of the Valley) to build two homes in San Raymundo with an organization called Casas Por Cristo.

Here are a few of the things I am most looking forward to this year:

  • Working with Casas Por Cristo – Casas is an organization building homes in Mexico, Guatemala, and Dominican Republic for families in need.  The first house we build in Guatemala in 2012 was a Casas house.  After building hundreds of houses, Casas Por Cristo has their act together, and I’m looking forward to learning from them, so we can build more homes in Santo Domingo Xenacoj and elsewhere in Guatemala.  I will be taking a lot of notes and taking a lot of pictures with the intent of learning to bring better construction methods to Xenacoj.  If I’m going to build 100+ houses in Guatemala, it will be important to develop “quality” and cost effective processes and building methods.
  • Serving alongside others from my church – The past three trips to Guatemala have been a family effort.  I think that has served our family well, but I’m also looking forward to the fellowship and connections that will happen with others who attend our church in Royersford, PA.  I believe we were made for community, and my past experience has shown that incredible things happen when we serve with a community of people.
  • Seeing German and Suzy Espana – If all goes well, German and Suzy will be traveling from Xenacoj to San Raymundo to join us for part of the building process.  This will be a great chance for us to see friends who mean so much to us, and I hope it will be an encouraging visit for both of us.  More than likely, German will be a big part of building 100+ houses, and this will give us an opportunity to talk and make plans for the future.

Last night, Leanne and I watched Living on One Dollar.  The documentary tells the story of four young men who travel to a village in Guatemala where they live on one dollar a day in an effort to learn more about the challenges of people living in extreme poverty.  If you get a chance, I’d encourage you to check out the movie.  The movie was a reminder of the people we serve and the uphill battle they face every single day.

I’m glad we watched the movie last night as it helps to prepare my heart and mind for the week ahead.  This will be my fifth trip to Guatemala, and I don’t want it to be routine.  I don’t want it to feel too comfortable.  As I’ve prayed on my previous trips, I pray my heart will break for the things that break the heart of God.  I pray my eyes, heart, and mind will be open to the lessons I can learn as a result of the experiences we will have this year.

As we head out later today, you can pray for the following:

  • Safety and health for our entire team as we travel and work
  • Open hearts and minds for all our team members as we head to Guatemala
  • God’s provision for the two families who will be getting new homes this week 
  • A sweet reunion with German and Suzy Espana

“You may have a fresh start any moment you choose, for this thing that we call ‘failure’ is not the falling down, but the staying down.”

Mary Pickford

Have you ever wanted a “Do Over?”

I remember playing games as a kid, and asking for a “Do Over” when things didn’t go the way I wanted the to go.  One of my friends or I would yell, “Do Over!”  And if our friends were feeling generous they would let us start over again.

Sometimes in life, it feels like we could use a “Do Over.”  Maybe you a fresh start in a relationship.  Maybe you need a new beginning along your career path.  Maybe you to hit the restart button on fitness or nutrition.

You are not alone!

We are officially 1/3rd of the way through 2017.

How did you start the year?  Are you on track to meet the goals you set for yourself at the beginning of the year?

Or have you given up?

Life keeps us busy.  And too often, we find ourselves simply busy being busy.  We aren’t making the progress in life we’d really like to make, and we don’t even know it.  We give up being intentional, so we can keep up with the mundane every day tasks that distract us from reaching our real potential.  We feel stuck.  We feel stalled.  And we even feel lost.

It doesn’t have to be this way!

Now is the time for a fresh start!

This is the day that the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.  Psalm 118:24 ESV

This week I’ll be sending out emails to those on my email list on the topic of RESTART.  The emails will help you get the fresh start you need to make the rest of 2017 all that it can be.  To make sure you get these emails, simply fill out the form below.

“I know people who grow old and bitter. I want to keep making a fresh start. I don’t want them to defeat me. That would be suicidal.”

Robert Wyatt

 

In what area of your life do you need a “Do Over”?  Share your thoughts in the comments.

I’ve experienced the highest of highs and lowest of lows. I think to really appreciate anything you have to be at both ends of the spectrum.
John Elway

Yesterday was full of highs and lows.

I got to spend the early morning with a group of men for our weekly get together.  This was a high.

I visited a friend in the hospital.

I made it to the gym for 4.5 miles on the treadmill.  For me, this was another high.

We received word that a friend was struggling and in need of healing.  This was a low.

Our family took a 5 mile hike and Evansburg State Park on a beautiful day.  Yes, this was a high.

We had to put our 13-year-old lab (Iso) down last night.  This was really tough.  We will greatly miss him.

Life is full of highs and lows.  The highs lift us up, and the lows force us to reflect.  There will be more highs and more lows in the days, weeks, and years ahead, and this is okay.

When it seems like life is all over the place, it’s important to remember that God is constant.  His love for us never changes.  And His mercies never come to an end.

As I reflect on an up and down day, I am thankful for the opportunity to experience life – even though it hurts sometimes.

Heights and Depths

February 6, 2017 — 6 Comments

“You seek the heights of manhood when you seek the depths of God.”

Edwin Louis Cole [via DeliberateDads.com]

In this world of social media, multi media, and “real” and “fake” media, it’s easy to get disoriented, distracted, and disengaged.  It’s also easy to become worried, weary, and a little wacky.

When I look at my Facebook feed, I have “friends” on both sides of the political spectrum who are using this platform to proclaim their stance, to bash those against their viewpoints, and to rip apart the Body.  While I understand the desire to debate, to disagree, and to defend one’s point of view, I find it appalling the way people are treating each other verbally.

Facebook is no longer a place for friends to connect, to share life’s moments, and to encourage each other.  I’ve often asked my wife why there can’t just be a different social media platform where people can air their politics.

Some might say I’m simply avoiding the issues that need to be discussed.

Some might say I’m failing to take a stand or to choose a side.

Some might even think I believe something that I really don’t believe.

There maybe some truth to these thoughts and accusations; after all, I hate conflict.  But there is also a major part of my heart and mind that wants to be a voice and a model for positive, constructive behavior.  I want my actions and my words to represent Christ well.  I want people to see HOPE instead of despair because of how I choose to communicate.

With this in mind, I try to ask myself this question:  “In what I am saying, doing, and even thinking, am I building others up and am I building up the Body?”

I started writing this post with a different intent, but I guess I had other things I needed to say.

I’m concerned with helping men reach the heights of their potential as husbands, fathers, and men, and I think it starts with learning more about the depths of God.  (Visit Stretched Men Group to learn more.)

I think this applies to my thoughts above.  If I want to represent Christ well in my actions, my words, and my thoughts, I need to know Him more – more today than yesterday and more tomorrow than today.

If you and I want to change the world for the good, I think I might know where to start.

Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. Galatians 6:9

But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.  Matthew 6:33

In what you are saying, doing, and thinking, how are you building others up?  Share your thoughts in comments.

[I’ve recently been more active in sending emails to readers on my list.  If you want an opportunity to connect with me in a different way, sign up below.  This is a great way to get a different perspective on some other things I am doing and to be STRETCHED with additional thoughts and perspectives from me.]

Weary

January 30, 2017 — 3 Comments

Rest when you’re weary. Refresh and renew yourself, your body, your mind, your spirit. Then get back to work. 

Ralph Marston

A friend asked me today how I was doing, and here’s how I responded:  “Weary

I’m weary of dealing with things that don’t make sense.

I’m weary of chasing after things that really don’t matter.

I’m weary of disputing with the irrational.

I’m weary of social media and the lack of respect to on all sides of the political spectrum.

I’m weary of doing the right thing.

I’m weary of taking a stand.

I’m weary of holding my tongue when I simply want to blurt out words that won’t be productive.

I’m weary of uncertainty.

I’m weary of getting up early every morning.

I’m weary of being weary.

Honestly, I have a lot for which I am thankful.  I am truly blessed.  But I’m also human.  I deal with doubts, distractions, disappointments, and fatigue.  For this reason, I must rely on the wellspring of my life.  I must look for the true rest and total refreshment that can only come from my Maker.

And in the midst of my weariness, I find hope.

May God provide the enough energy and wisdom for today.

What is wearing you out these days?  Share your thoughts in the comments.

I’m honored to be the featured guest on The Answers From Leadership Podcast with Joe Lalonde.  My episode is titled Importance Of Stretching Your Leadership With Jon Stolpe.  I’d be thrilled if you stopped by and gave it a listen.  Click here (or subscribe on iTunes or Stitcher).

Then stop by and let me know what you think in the comments.

Time to Man Up

December 19, 2016 — Leave a comment

are-you-ready

“A real man loves his wife, and places his family as the most important thing in life. Nothing has brought me more peace and content in life than simply being a good husband and father.”

– Frank Abagnale

As men, we chase so many pursuits.  We want to climb the ladder at work as fast as possible.  We want to be the best athlete we can be.  We want to have the best things – the nicest car, the biggest house, the greenest lawn.  We over-involve ourselves in a variety of hobbies.  And we put so much attention on our favorite sports teams.

I’m not saying that any of these things are wrong, but I think our focus is often misguided.

If you were to create a list of your priorities and the way you spend your time, where would your wife and kids fit into the list?

If your marriage and your kids aren’t near the top of your list, it’s time for you reconsider your schedule and your priorities.

Last week, I announced the new Stretched Men Group website (www.stretchedmengroup.com), and I opened up sign-ups for first three-month mastermind in 2017.  For more information about the group, click here.

The Stretched Men Group is designed to help you understand your current list of priorities, to help you establish your desired list of priorities, and to help you create action steps required to get you from where you are to where you want to be.

The Stretched Men Group is also designed to help you find the accountability you need to make sure your good intentions become a reality.

Your wife and kids need this from you!

It’s time to man up!

If you are curious and want to learn more, I’d love to talk with you.  Sign up below, so we can set up a time to talk.