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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.

 

3-ways-to-find-the-validation-you-need

Everybody is looking for validation, no matter who you are, and I think that’s a need of the human condition – to look for affection or recognition or validation.

Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu

Over the weekend, my wife and I went to see The Wizard of Oz at the Walnut Street Theater.

I’ve seen the movie dozens of time, and the musical held true to the movie with a few additions.

In the story, Dorothy is looking for a way back home.  The Scarecrow is looking for a brain.  The Tin Man is looking for a heart.  And the Lion is looking for courage.

At the end of the story, the Wizard provides a diploma for the Scarecrow, a heart clock for the Tin Man, a medal of bravery for the Lion, and an offer of a balloon ride home for Dorothy.

With these gifts, the Scarecrow begins to think, the Tin Man begins to love, and the Lion begins to believe in himself.  (And Dorothy begins to realize the blessing of her home and family in Kansas.)

The Wizard didn’t really give the Scarecrow a brain, the Tin Man a heart, and the Lion valor.  He simply spoke into their lives and expressed belief in them.  He validated them as creatures who bring value to the Land of Oz.

Do you believe in yourself?  Or do you struggle with confidence, fear, and acceptance?

We all need to be validated.  We all need someone to speak into our lives – someone to believe in us.  We need someone who can tell us we can do it.

Who is that person for you?

My parents have validated me since I was a little boy telling me I was smart, caring, and capable.

My boss at work has validated me since I started working at Siemens over 20 years ago encouraging me to pursue my dreams and challenging me to step into new opportunities.

My wife has validated me since we met reminding me that I am loved.

And honestly, you have validated me letting me know that my words matter and that they are worth reading.  (Thank you!)

We all need to be validated.

What happens when this kind of validation is missing from our lives?

We lose our way.  We find ourselves wandering and lost.  We don’t live our lives to the fullest.  We become voices of doubt and negativity for those around us.

I don’t want to live this way.  I want to live with intention.  I want to live a life that matters.  And I want to be a voice of positivity for others in this world.

Finding validation is critical to our lives.  Here are a few suggestions for find the validation you need:

3 Ways To Find The Validation You Really Need

  1. Look to the ultimate “Validator.”  Look to God.  Remember, He created you, and He created you for a purpose.  He loves you.  He sent His Son to die for you.  You matter to God.  This isn’t meant to be cliché.
  2. Surround yourself with encouragers.  Look for people who lift each other up, and find ways to hang out with these people.  Jim Rohn says “You are the average of the five people you hang out with the most.”  Hang out with people who will encourage you.
  3. Avoid the naysayers.  You may need to separate yourself from people who consistently tell you “You can’t.”  Negative people will suck you into their negativity, and they will prevent you from feeling good about who you are and why you are here.

Finally, I’m guessing there are people in your life who struggle with feelings of inadequacy, feelings of doubt, and feelings of despair.  Take time to be a voice of validation in their lives.

Find the good in others, and help them see it for themselves.

I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.  Psalm 139:14

Do you struggle with self-doubt and self-worth?  How have you overcome these feelings?  Share your thoughts in the comments.

“You’re sick, and you’re making yourself sick,and you can make yourself unsick by stopping doing what you’re doing.”

Daryl Isaacs from Supersize Me

Sometime between the 1970s and the 1990s, America fastfood chains conducted a “Supersize” Revolution.  Restaurants like McDonalds and Burger King began offering extra large portions of soft drinks and french fries at a “value” price.  And Americans ate it up.  Literally.

People began ordering unnecessary and unhealthy amounts of fries and sodas to make the most of the “deal” being offered by these convenient food chains.

And America’s problem with obesity went to a whole new level.

Many fast food chains have toned down their advertisements related to the “Supersize” Revolution in the wake of health and fitness reports.  They’ve even been offering healthy menu options and smaller portion sizes.  Subway even glamorized their ability to help customers reduce their waste size when they jumped on the Jared bandwagon several years ago.

I go to the gym every morning, and I see people working out.  They’re trying to fight obesity and get in better shape just like me.

It all looks good on the surface, but there is still a problem which goes much deeper than the waist line.

Americans (just like me) are caught up in the pursuit of bigger, better, and just plain more.

I’m guilty of it, and I’m guessing many of you are too.  We may not be “supersizing” our food consumption, but we’re busy trying to “supersize” our lives.  We want more.  We want the best.  We want the biggest.  And we definitely want to keep up with the Jones’ (or even surpass them).  (Nothing personal if you happen to be a Jones.)

Eleven years ago, our family moved one mile away to “supersize” our house.  We went from a 1,200 square feet single floor ranch house to a 3,600 square feet two-story “mansion.”  We have also “super sized” our cars over the years going from a Toyota Corolla and Ford Taurus to mini-vans and SUVs.  We purchased bigger “super sized” furntiture to go in our “super sized” house.

And it hasn’t stopped at material items.

We’ve “super sized” our lives by making sure we are involved in every activity and organization under the sun.  From Boy Scouts to jazz band, from Toastmasters to masterminds, from MomsConnect to H.O.P.E., and from cross-country to Chick-Fil-A, our family is maxed out on activities.

Does this sound anything like your experience in life?

How does your “Supersize” life make you feel?

Here’s how I’m feeling.

I’m exhausted.  I’m worn out.  I feel like I’ve gone 15 rounds with Apollo Creed.

I feel like I have way more than I can handle, and it’s time to make some changes.

This is where it gets scary for me.

I hate saying “No”.  I hate giving in.  I’m not a quitter.  And I don’t want to let people down.

It’s not too late for you or for me.  We can decide today to end the “Supersize” Revolution in our own lives.  We can even start are own “Downsize” Revolution.

4 Ways to  Join the “Downsize” Revolution

  1. “Downsize” your calendar.  Take time to purge some of the things on your calendar.  Before you sign-up for another commitment, take a hard look at your current list of commitments.  Decide what is really important, and start getting rid of the rest.  As you head into the holidays and the new year, be intentional about freeing up your time.  You need this time to live, to relax, to focus, and to breathe.
  2. “Downsize” your stuff.  Get rid of the junk that’s clogging your closets, your basement, your garage, and your tool shed.  Sell stuff.  Give stuff away.  And throw away the stuff you simply do not need anymore.  By purging your possessions, you will have more opportunity to enjoy the things you have and the people who mean the most to you.
  3. “Downsize” your relationships.  Don’t make enemies, and don’t disown those around you.  Simply spend more time with the people who mean the very most to you.  Too often, the people who most deserve our attention get our leftovers, because we are too relationally burned out because we hung out with other people too much.
  4. “Downsize” your residence.  Seriously, do you need that four bedroom, three bathroom collosal home?  Imagine for a second the possibilities created by downsizing your house.  Your mortgage could shrink (or even go away).  Your tax bill and your utility bills will decrease.  Your upkeep expenses and upkeep time will dramatically decrease.  You’ll suddenly discover more money to live, to give, and to save.

Our family is embarking on a “Downsize” Revolution.  Will you join us?

By “downsizing”, we’ll be able to “supersize” the things that matter the most in our lives.

What steps do you need to take to “downsize”?  In what areas do you need to “supersize” your life?  Share your thoughts in the comments.

The shoe that fits one person pinches another; there is no recipe for living that suits all cases.

Carl Jung

Today is my wife’s birthday.

When gift shopping for my wife, I try to get her something she wants, something she needs, something to wear, and something to read.  One of her gifts from me this year was a brand new pair of brown boots.  (This kind of fits into two categories – something she wants and something to wear.)

When I she opened them tonight, I told her I couldn’t try them on as my feet were too big.

I laughed at my typically corny comment.  I’m not sure she appreciated my comment as much as I did, but I’m learning to accept this about my wife.

As I was thinking more about the comment, I realized that there is so much to gain by learning from the perspective of others.  How often do we find ourselves in some sort of disagreement, misunderstanding, or fight because we have failed to put ourselves in the shoes of others?

I genuinely try to live this way, but I fail too many times.  It’s hard to relate to others when we don’t really take time to understand where they are coming from in their lives.  What experiences from their past are influencing their present?  What hurts, pains, and scars impact how they go about life?

As I observe the present climate in the week following the election, I’m seeing our culture is suffering from this same problem.  People are protesting, fighting, and spewing all kinds of hate towards one another.  In all likelihood, they really don’t understand the person or people they are protesting.

And on the other hand, many of us are likely to dismiss the protestors as being misguided instead of taking time to understand why they are so frustrated.

I think this world might be a much better place if we all took a little time to walk a mile in someone else’s shoes.

When we take time to ask questions, to listen, and to withhold our judgements, we might actually find some commonground on which we can base our relationships.

As we head into the unknown of tomorrow, let’s take time to try on someone else’s shoes.  Let’s do what we can to build a better world for tomorrow regardless of how we voted.

Who’s shoes do you need to try on first?  Who do you simply not understand?  What is one thing you can do to gain a better understanding of their perspectxive?  Share your thoughts in the comments.

“Appreciation is a wonderful thing: It makes what is excellent in others belong to us as well.”

Voltaire

Tonight, I had the honor of attending the Annual Awards Dinner for my company where employees are recognized for their years of service to the company.  This year, I celebrated my 20th year with Siemens (actually, we were Landis & Gyr Powers when I started).

It’s hard to believe it’s been 20 years.

And I really appreciated the opportunity to applaud others who were there to celebrate their 5th, 10th, 15th, 20th, 25th, 30th, or 35th year with the company.

We need to remember to stop and recognize those around us who have shown up every day – the people who keep things going in our lives.

A thank you goes a long way.

Who do you need to thank?  And how are you going to go about showing your appreciation to someone who deserves it?  Share your thoughts in the comments.

Where Is Your Trust?

November 9, 2016 — 1 Comment

Some trust in chariots and some in horses,  but we trust in the name of the Lord our God.

Psalm 20:7

Facebook (and other social media channels) has been littered with posts bashing the candidates, prophesying doom, and destroying any hope of unity our country might have had.  People are protesting the election results in cities all over the country.

I’m thankful we live in a country where people have the right to freedom of speech, but I’m also reminded of the words of James – “be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to become angry.”

I was not thrilled with either of the two major party candidates this year (which may give you a small indication of how I did or didn’t vote), but I’m a firm believer that God is still in control, that I’m called to pray for our leaders, and that I can be part of the change I’d like to see in this world.

As “brothers and sisters in Christ” pronounce doom and gloom on the world in the wake of the election results, I challenge all of us to remember where our allegiance lies.  And I challenge all of us to be unifiers instead of dividers – bridge builders instead of wall builders – and people of action instead of people who simply voice our disgust without taking any positive steps forward.

Some trust in chariots, some trust in horses, some trust in presidents, some trust in their jobs, some trust in their bosses, some trust in their retirement accounts.

Me?

I trust in the name of the Lord my God.

I don’t know what tomorrow brings, but I know who holds my future.  It’s not Donald Trump.  It’s not Hillary Clinton.

Where is your trust?