Archives For vision

“Being busy does not always mean real work. The object of all work is production or accomplishment and to either of these ends there must be forethought, system, planning, intelligence, and honest purpose, as well as perspiration. Seeming to do is not doing.”

Thomas A. Edison

Being busy has become a status symbol in our culture.  If you’re not busy, you’re not accomplishing anything.  That’s what society is telling us.

What do you want to accomplish today?

I want to work on my book.  I want to schedule several blog posts and emails to the people on my email list.  I would like to talk to my daughter (who is away at college) on Facetime.  I’d like to take at least 10,000 steps.

What do you want to accomplish this week?

I want to write and give my next Toastmasters speech.  I want to schedule an appointment with my tax accountant.  I would like to clean up the house to make sure we are ready for any showings that might happen this week.  I’d like to meet one-on-one with my team members.

What do you want to accomplish this year?

I want to publish my next book (Rooftop Reflections).  I plan to go to Guatemala and build more houses.  I’d like to complete my Advanced Communicator Silver and my Advanced Leader Silver for Toastmasters.  I would like to move up at my company.  I plan to complete Dynamic Marriage Facilitator Training with my wife.  I hope to sell my house and downsize.

It’s not a bad idea to have plans for our days weeks, months, and years.  After all, “if we fail to plan, we should plan to fail.”  But what if our short-term goals and accomplishments don’t match up with our long-term objectives?

What does success look like to you?  When you reach the end of your life what do you want to have accomplished?

I think these are two very important questions to ponder.  And we need to have the answers to these questions in mind as we plan out our short-term goals and our plans for the next days, weeks, and months.

You will not succeed in meeting your long-term (life-time) goals by accident.  You must be intentional.  You must begin with the end in mind.

Here are a few of my long-term goals:

  1. I’m going to build 100+ houses in Guatemala for widows and orphans.
  2. My wife and I are going to be known as marriage builders.
  3. I will have deep relationships with my wife, my kids, my future grandchildren, and a few close friends.
  4. I will be known as a good steward, a generous person, and a role model.
  5. I will mentor other leaders, couples, and men in order to leave a legacy that outlives me and my name.

These are just some of my goals.  Knowing these, I’m in a much better position to answer the initial questions asked at the beginning of this post.

Being busy is a complete waste of time when we are busy doing the wrong things.  Be intentional in your busyness!

Over the next few days, I’ll be sending out additional information to those on my email list about living intentionally today.  If you want to get these emails, make sure you are on the list.  Sign up below!

What are you doing today?  How do your actions today match up with your long-term plans for your life?  Share your thoughts in the comments.

Marcos

Last night, my friend, James Cook, sent me this photo along with the message:  “Tomorrow, Marcos gets his new eyes.”

If you recall, Marcos is a special young man our family met last time we were in Guatemala.  We built his family a new home.  While we were building the home, we learned that Marcos needed new glass eyes.  Some people might call it a coincidence, but I think James Cook and his exploratory team from Liberty University was there for a reason.

Through essential contacts, collaborative prayer, and the grace of God, today is the day (nearly 16 months later) Marcos will get his new eyes.

He will still be blind, but this will give him more freedom to maneuver through the village of Xenacoj without the worry of losing his smaller glass eyes.  Also, James and his team are working to provide a tutor to teach Marcos to read Braille.

Interestingly, today is the day our family is heading to Morristown, NJ to witness the “town walk” (or final exam) of our most recent Seeing Eye Puppy.  Assuming Rio passes, he will be matched with a blind person to help them maneuver through their activities.

God is good.

As I reflect on these happening today, I am reminded of Psalm 121 which talks about placing our focus on the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth.  Today, I rejoice knowing God has orchestrated such a beautiful story being told in the lives of Marcos and Rio.  May God use them both in a mighty way to bring glory to His name.

Psalm 121

A song of ascents.

I lift up my eyes to the mountains—
    where does my help come from?
My help comes from the Lord,
    the Maker of heaven and earth.

He will not let your foot slip—
    he who watches over you will not slumber;
indeed, he who watches over Israel
    will neither slumber nor sleep.

The Lord watches over you—
    the Lord is your shade at your right hand;
the sun will not harm you by day,
    nor the moon by night.

The Lord will keep you from all harm—
    he will watch over your life;
the Lord will watch over your coming and going
    both now and forevermore.

If you want to read more about Marcos, click here.

Where are your eyes set these days?  How have you experienced God’s watchful eyes over you recently?

ice breaker ten years

To me – old age is always ten years older than I am.

John Burroughs

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’m always looking for Ice Breaker question ideas.  If you have an idea, send me an email at jon@jonstolpe.com.  If I use your question, I’ll give you credit and share your links.)

Question:  What do you imagine yourself doing ten years from now?

My Answer:  In ten years, I will be 53.  It looks weird to me to type in that number.  The youngest operations manager in my department besides me just turned 55 this weekend, so I will still be younger than people who are doing my job now.  As far as work goes, I’m guessing I will still be working at my current place of employment.  I’m pretty sure, I’ll have some opportunities to move up a little in the next ten years.  I’m excited for what the next ten years looks like at my job.

In ten years, Leanne and I will be “empty nesters” as both our kids will be out of college.  I’m not looking to rush the current stage of our parenting, but I am excited for the prospect of enjoying time together as a couple.  Our initial “honeymoon” stage of our marriage was only a year and a half, so this will be an exciting stage in our marriage.  I think we will live in a smaller house.  We won’t have a mortgage (or any other debt), and we will be free to travel, give, and serve.

I plan to travel to Guatemala three (or more) times a year ten years from now.  I look forward to helping widows and orphans by building homes, teaching skills, providing meals, and sharing the gospel.

And finally, I plan to continue writing and speaking.  In ten years, I hope to have a few more books published, and I look forward to speaking to others – challenging people to stretch in their leadership, their families, and their lives.

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.) And keep Stretching!

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Fridays are Ice Breaker days here on The Stretched Blog.  Before we get to this week’s question, I want to ask you to help me out by answering five questions related to short-term missions.  The survey was initially presented on the blog yesterday, but I understand some had trouble completing the survey on the blog.  After answering the Ice Breaker below, please click here to go directly to the survey.  It will only take a minute (I promise).

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’m always looking for Ice Breaker question ideas.  If you have an idea, send me an email at jon@jonstolpe.com.  If I use your question, I’ll give you credit and share your links.)

Many of us set goals for the new year.  Just over a week ago, you probably started or restarted some healthy routines.  Hopefully, you are still at it.  This week’s Ice Breaker question provides an opportunity to cast vision for your future.

Question:  What will it look like for you at the end of 2015 if you are really stretched this year?

My Answer:  I could go several different directions in answering this week’s question.  Looking ahead to the end of 2015, I will be stretched, and it will look something like this:  (1) I will have dunked a basketball again (see last week’s Ice Breaker), (2) I will have written my second book, and (3) I will have helped to build another house in Guatemala.

All three of these are major stretches for me.  I can barely touch the rim right now on a ten foot basket, and I’ll have to gain back nine inches or so to my vertical leaping ability.  After writing my first book last year, I now understand the work it takes to write a book.  This goal scares me, and I know it will be a stretch to complete this before the end of 2015.  Finally, I don’t currently have a trip planned to Guatemala, yet I believe God has given me a vision to impact others by building homes in Guatemala.  We’ll see what happens.

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.) And keep Stretching!

As a reminder, please take a minute to fill out the short-term missions survey.  To get to the survey, click here.

Homes For The Holidays

December 15, 2014 — 6 Comments

The Christmas lights are going up on many of the houses in my neighborhood.  Our family usually picks one or two nights during the month of December to drive around and admire the creativity of homeowners in our area.  To be honest, it’s also a time when we ask each other how much these crazy homeowners must spend on the lights and the electricity for some of these elaborate displays.

In the northern hemisphere where I live, this is also the time when the temperature gets a little chilly.  I’m reminded how nice it is to have a house with electricity, heat, and running water.  I’m not sure if this is really a right, but home ownership with these amenities is an expectation here in America.  Unfortunately, this isn’t the case for many in the rest of the world.  Countless people sleep in deplorable conditions throughout the world.  They are unprotected from rain, from thieves, and from general privacy.

What if we could do something this holiday season to change this for a family or two?

This year, my church‘s Christmas offering is going towards building two houses in Haiti.  Last weekend, they showed this video:

Christmas Offering 2014 (Haiti) from CHRIST’S CHURCH OF THE VALLEY on Vimeo.

The video inspires me as I consider helping to change the lives of families in and around the village of Santo Domingo Xenacoj in Guatemala.  For some reason, God gave me a dream to build 100 houses in Guatemala.  If you are keeping track, I’ve helped to build three houses so far.  Only 97 more to go.

I love the faith and vision of this video.  This video was shot early this spring by a couple from our church.  They have a dream to build two more houses for the families shown in this video.  And they had the faith to put it out there for our church to help out.  This summer, our church will be sending a team of fifty teenagers to Haiti to realize this vision.  It’s a trip that will change the lives of these two families, and it’s a trip that will have a major impact on the lives of fifty teenagers.

We need to have this kind of vision.

We need to have this kind of faith.

It’s not just about building houses though.  It’s about bringing glory to God.  I can see it in the faces of Keena and Mike Huss (the couple in this video).  It’s not about personal gain or fame.  It’s about pointing people to Christ.  And this is what inspires me more than anything about this video.  This is what it means to have a mission mindset.

If you want to help out with the Haiti project, click here.

If you want to help out with building more homes in Xenacoj, leave a comment or send me an email by clicking here.

What is your vision for the future?  How does it involve changing other people’s lives?

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The only thing worse than being blind is having sight but no vision.
Helen Keller

God may have given us a vision, but this is not all we need in order to fully achieve a mission mindset.

If we go full-out in an effort to realize the vision we have been given but we fail to cultivate our relationship with God, we will be useless.  We will be missing out on the key ingredient of a mission mindset.

In Exodus 2:11-25, we see Moses who has been given a vision to save and protect the people of Israel.  As a young man, he goes after this vision with pride and perhaps self-absorption.  He kills an Egyptian who is mistreating an Israelite.  His reputation among his own people quickly deteriorates.  It seems that Moses’ initial actions towards achieving his vision is done so without God.  Next, he heads into the wilderness where he lives for 40 years.  It is here, he meets “I AM WHO I AM” in the burning bush.  His wilderness experience provides an opportunity to be re-centered on God and to be personally humbled.  Only in this state can Moses lead effectively and can he appropriately approach the vision he had originally been given to save and protect the people of Israel.

I have a vision to write a book about short-term missions and mission mindset.  Last year, I spent a lot of time outlining this project and working toward this desired outcome.  I sent the outline out to some trusted friends and advisers who gave me incredible feedback and confirmation regarding this project.  I put the project on hold for several reasons.  In a way, I felt like Moses being sent into the wilderness to meet “I AM WHO I AM.”  I needed to be humbled and re-centered on God before I could effectively go after this vision.

As I’ve pursued my relationship with God more intentionally, this vision has been reignited and the content creation has become much richer and deeper than I originally outlined.  In fact, the outline which I spent so much time on last year is being altered based on my reinvigorated pursuit.

I don’t know what vision God has put on your heart, but I’m sure it’s exciting and worthwhile.  In the pursuit of realizing this vision, don’t forget to pursue God first.  This is a decision you will not forget.

What vision for the future have you been given?  What is preventing you from realizing your God-given vision? 

 

A Vision For San Antonio

October 7, 2013 — 25 Comments

Guatemala 2013 372

On Wednesday morning in Guatemala, our team took a trip 3 miles outside of Xenacoj (a 45 minute drive).  We short way requires a four-wheel drive vehicle and a stomach built for motion sickness.  The longer way is mostly paved, but it is up hill and curvy.  San Antonio is the home for approximately 25 families.  It is a mountain top community with an amazing view and an incredible level of poverty.  Most of our morning was spent feeding school children and their younger siblings who attend a small two or three classroom school in the center of this little village.

The Road To The San Antonio Vision

The Road To The San Antonio Vision

Towards the end of our visit, Dave (the missionary we were working with during our week) took a couple of us on a short walk to a small area on the edge of the village.  The area was covered in grass and had an incredible view of the valley below.  We could even see Xenacoj as we stood on top of this small mountain-top meadow.  This is where we stopped and listed to Dave share one of his visions for San Antonio.

Guatemala 2013 373

Here’s what Dave shared.

Imagine a place where pastors can come for retreat, for relaxation, and refocus.  Imagine a place where couples can come to recharge their marriages.  Imagine a place where students can be taught the Bible and other important skills that will allow them to serve other communities in Guatemala.  Imagine a couple of buildings on top of this mountain top where students can learn and sleep, where pastors can reflect, and where couples can connect.

I’m sure I’m missing some of the details, but this is the general idea behind Dave’s vision.

Dave believes in this vision.  I’m not sure what the timing will be for realization of this vision.  Regardless, it’s inspiring to listen to these ideas, thoughts, and dreams.

So often, we become content with the same old thing.  This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but sometimes I think we sell our earthly lives short.  We stop dreaming.  We stop capturing God’s vision for our lives.  We settle for life as it is instead of going after something bigger, better, and far more fulfilling.

Listening to Dave share on this hilltop reminded me of the importance of listening to God’s voice, of dreaming big dreams, and of pursuing God and the visions He’s given to us.

I’m starting to do this again.  Here are some of my dreams for the future:

  • To build another house in Xenacoj.  No.  To build 25 or more houses in Xenacoj.  Our trip to Guatemala last summer and this summer showed me how helpful a simple house can be to a family in need in Xenacoj.  I’d love to help in this way.
  • To travel to Guatemala at least two times a year for the rest of my life.  This could take some time to realize, but I believe it’s possible.  There is so much work that can be accomplished in a week or two in Xenacoj.  In addition, I’d love to continue the process of building relationships with those in this community that has captured my heart.
  • To bring other people to Xenacoj with me.  I want other people to experience what I have experienced.  I want them to meet the people, to see the things, to touch the hands of the orphans and widows.  I’d love to bring a group of bloggers to Xenacoj some day.  I’d love to bring a group of families to Xenacoj some day.  I’d love to bring a group of co-workers to Xenacoj some day.  I’d love to bring members of my extended family to Xenacoj some day.
  • To write a book about my experiences in Xenacoj.  I think this dream is closer than I realize.  I’m sure I’m writing content for this book – right now!  I want to write the book for several reasons:  (1) I want to share my story of Xenacoj with as many people as possible, (2) I want to follow in the footsteps of my Dad who has written a few books, (3) I want to potentially earn money that can be used to fund future ministry opportunities in Xenacoj, and (4) I want to experience the process of writing and launching a book.

I’m sure I have more dreaming to do.  My trip to Guatemala rekindled my desire to dream.

Now it’s your turn.

What are you dreaming about?  What visions to you have for the future?  What are you doing now to realize these hopes and dreams?

Glasses

A couple of weeks ago, I had an appointment with the optometrist.

When I was in first grade, I had to get glasses.  I was farsighted.  I’m not an eye doctor, but I apparently needed glasses to correct my vision.  Believe it or not, I was able to abandon the glasses around sixth or seventh grade when eye tests showed that my vision had corrected.  Amazing!  Eye tests in high school and college actually showed that I had better than 20/20 vision.

Here’s a picture of me in third grade sporting my Bob Griese brown plastic framed glasses.

After an initial eye exam sixteen or seventeen years ago when my wife and I got married, I went many years without a return visit to the optometrist.  That changed last year when I started dealing with migraine headaches.  Someone suggested that I visit the eye doctor.  My vision was still pretty good, but I had apparently reached the age in which reading glasses would be helpful.  (If you’re not 40 yet, just wait.)

My visit to the optometrist a couple of weeks ago confirmed that my eyes were continuing to change ever so slightly and a new prescription would be helpful for reading and computer use.  So my vision is apparently getting worse.  And I would suspect that this will continue for the rest of my physical life.

As I was thinking about how our bodies breakdown and wear out as we age, I was reminded of these words from the apostle Paul:

But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us.  2 Corinthians 4:7

The note in my bible says, “It was customary to conceal treasure in clay jars, which had little value or beauty and did not attract attention to themselves and their precious contents.  Here they represent Paul’s human frailty and unworthiness.”

There’s no question that our bodies are frail (see my post from a few weeks ago about  a visit with my Grandma).  I’m sure it’s not just my eye sight that is beginning to break down.  We’re not getting any younger.  Right?

The beautiful thing is that this verse reminds us that despite our human frailty, we have access to unending power and strength.  God’s grace is sufficient for each one of us.

So I’m hoping my new glasses will be a reminder to depend on God.  He’s all I need.

God, thank you for this new day.  Give me your vision.  Thank you for supplying all my needs, and thanks for the reminder through a simple visit to the eye doctor.  Today, I ask that you’d be with those who need eye care but don’t have it.  Use your followers to help those around the world in meeting this physical need.  More importantly, open my eyes to those around me who need Your vision.  Use me to point them to You – the ultimate optometrist.

Do you wear glasses or contact lenses?  What physical aging sign are you experiencing that can point you to God?

Where there is no vision, there is no hope.

George Washington Carver

Glasses

July 5, 2012 — 7 Comments

When I was a kid, I had to wear glasses. They were corrective lenses to help with my far-sighted vision. By sixth grade, I no longer needed the glasses. Since then, my vision has been perfect – often measuring better than 20/15 (which is better than 20/20 vision).

On Tuesday, I visited the eye doctor for the first time in a long time. I probably should have visited the eye doctor sooner, since glaucoma runs in my family. But I didn’t based on my past perfect vision and my general busyness.

You may recall that I have been battling headaches (including migraine headaches) for the past five or so months. One of the side effects of migraine headaches is temporary blurred vision. And supposedly, vision problems can sometimes be the root cause of migraine headaches. Based on this, I figured it was a good time to have my eyes checked.

So on Tuesday, the initial feedback was that I don’t have glaucoma and my vision is still pretty good. In fact, the nurse initially measured me at 20/20 vision. When the doctor came in, he agreed that my vision was indeed pretty good; however, I was getting to the “magic” age wear reading glasses may be a help.

So after some initial measurements with his fancy lenses, it was determined that I indeed need reading glasses. It was a bit of a blow, but I am game for trying them if they’ll help to keep the headaches away.

It was kind of amusing when he sent me into the office area to look at frames for my new glasses. He had just put drops in my eyes to dilate my pupils for the glaucoma test. I could hardly see a thing, and they wanted me to pick out new glasses! Thankfully, Leanne was 5 minutes away, and she was able to come to the office to pick out my new specs.

I don’t have to wear them unless I’m reading, so you may not see me wearing glasses very often. But don’t be surprised if you see someone looking like Clark Kent reading the paper, working on his blog, or with his nose stuck in a book. It just might be me.

As for the headaches, the last two weeks have actually been getting better. I stopped drinking caffeine which wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be. And the doctor changed around a medication. I am so thankful that the migraines have been non-existent over the past two weeks, and I have had very few regular headaches those of which could probably be attributed to caffeine withdrawal.

Unfortunately, my vision will continue to get worse as I get older.  These are the facts of life.  The reality is that my vision has never been truly perfect despite what the eye doctors have said along the way.  As a matter of fact, your vision hasn’t been perfect either.  In the book of I Corinthians, Paul talks about the fact that we can’t see completely yet.  But there will be a time when our vision is made perfect – when we see face to face the love of God.

For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known. I Corinthians 13:12

And so as I start the journey of wearing glasses, I now have a daily reminder of what I have to look forward to – the day when I’ll see my Savior face to face.  I won’t need glasses, contact lenses, or lasik eye surgery.  Everything will be perfectly clear.  I can’t wait!

Do you wear glasses or contact lenses?  Have you ever had surgery on your eyes?