Category Archives for "wisdom"

Resource Review: EntreLeadership Podcast

A couple of years ago, I had never heard a single podcast.  Now, I listen to several podcasts that STRETCH me on a regular basis thanks to the wonders of technology and the iPod.  In keeping with the recent trend on The Stretched Blog, I’d like to use this Monday to provide feedback on a resource.  (Last week, I reviewed The Circle Maker by Mark Batterson.   And the week before, I reviewed an eBook by Michael D. Perkins – Manifesto On Being Myself.)

Today, I’m passing along my two cents on the EntreLeadership podcast.  EntreLeadership is based on a book of the same name written by Dave Ramsey.  The EntreLeadership podcast launched on August 17, 2011 by Dave Ramsey and his team.  Since then, twelve podcasts have been published (twice every month) that have highlighted different aspects of leadership.

The podcasts vary in length between 35 and 50 minutes.  Each podcast which is hosted by Chris LoCurto typically starts with an excerpt from a Dave Ramsey speech followed by interviews from various leaders.  These leaders have included Jim Collins, Dan Miller, Tony Dungy, Tim Sanders, Dan Cathy, Simon Sinek, and others.  Each podcast is focused on a leadership topic.  The topics have included servant leadership, recognition, mission, accountability, unity, and decision-making.

I typically listen to the podcasts while I’m running or driving.  Occasionally, I’ve had to pull the car over to jot down a key point or note from what I’ve just heard.  The podcasts are filled with wisdom for leaders.  Whether you are starting your own business, leading in your company, leading in your church, or leading in any type of organization, I would recommend checking out the EntreLeadership podcast.  The podcast provides information that will inspire you and encourage you to step out and be the best leader you can be.

Do you listen to the EntreLeadership podcast?  If so, what is one of your biggest take aways from what you’ve heard?  What other podcasts do you recommend and listen to regularly?

Managing Conflict – A Leadership Stretch … Guest Post by Frank Chiapperino

Today is a big deal for me!  I get to share Frank Chiapperino with my readers.  Frank is a great friend who has my deepest respect.  Frank has a huge heart for leadership and for connecting people to each other and to God.  For several years, I served on Frank’s small group ministry team at our church in Pennsylvania.  I’ve had the privilege of hitting a few conferences with Frank, catching several breakfasts and lunches with him, and sharing leadership/social media/blogging ideas.  Frank is probably the biggest reason that I started The Stretched Blog.  Frank is now pastoring a church in Minnesota, but we still keep in touch from time to time.  You can follow Frank on Twitter or at one of his two blogs – Frank Chiapperino and  Check out these sites and become one of his regular readers.

(If you’re interested in sharing your STRETCHING story as a guest blogger here, drop me a comment so we can connect.)

Managing Conflict – A Leadership Stretch

I’m so delighted that Jon asked me to guest post on his blog.  I’ve known Jon for quite a few years and valued his friendship as I served and led ministries at the church he attends in the suburbs of Philadelphia.  Currently I serve a church in Rochester, Minnesota and my role has changed.  What is stretching me now is leadership and managing conflict as our church works through change.

It kind of reminds me the challenges I navigate with my boys as a parent.  My boys are getting older and beginning to play together more and more often.  You know what that means… they fight more often too.  One time my wife Shelli made us some great french toast and we enjoyed breakfast together at the table as a family.  Shortly after, Shelli went up to shower and the boys were playing with cars and toys on their train table. They were enjoying themselves and seemed to be fine so I began reading today’s paper.

All of a sudden I hear my oldest son scream, “No AJ, NOOooooooo.”  Anthony (AJ) looked like King Kong on a path of destruction in the little town Michael had created on the train table.  Michael gave him a big shove and my youngest boy brandished his teeth like a german shepherd on the attack, going at his arm for the bite in defense. Luckily, I stepped in just in time and separated the construction engineer from the wrecking ball before any injuries occurred.  What I did next was set some ground rules for the boys. I gave them each a side on the table to play on and they each took a few toys to play with and asked them each to stay on their side. The rest of our morning was quite peaceful.

Sometimes as leaders we need to be a guiding presence and help others navigate through conflict. There are times I will have a staff member or another volunteer leader at our church call me and say, “Frank, I need help. There are some members of my team that are at each other’s throats.” For some strange reason they don’t share my joy when I say, “THAT IS GREAT!” When I manage conflict I normally start where many Christian leaders do, following Matthew chapter 18:

15″If your brother sins against you, go and show him his fault, just between the two of you. If he listens to you, you have won your brother over. 16But if he will not listen, take one or two others along, so that ‘every matter may be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses.’ 17If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if he refuses to listen even to the church, treat him as you would a pagan or a tax collector.

  • Go to them privately and confront them on the issue
  • If a private discussion doesn’t work take a witness. That means someone who has seen the behavior you are speaking to them about.
  • If that doesn’t work attempt to involve church leadership to aid in resolution of the problem.
  • If that fails, end the relationship.

That is pretty much what Matthew lays out, and it is sound advice that works. However, I do have a few other guiding principles I follow that aid in confrontation and conflict resolution:

  • Be wise with your words. Everything you say in a confrontation will either escalate or de-escalate a conflict. Try to use words and responses that we de-escalate the tension.
  • Don’t discuss nameless people. Sometimes people will say, “Someone told me…” If they refuse to use actual names of real people, don’t acknowledge it as a leader in the church. It only leads to pointless discussion because you can’t get the real person behind whatever it is involved.
  • If you’re wrong, admit it right away. This is powerful in conflict resolution. Think about it for a minute. How often do you hear people actually admit they are wrong? Not often, it is a real sign of maturity and it will have an immediate affect on the situation.
I find these guiding principles useful and I hope you do too. By the way… take a look at the picture below. Can you tell which side of the table belonged to Michael and which side was AJ’s?–

What would you add to Frank’s list above when it comes to resolving conflict?

Guest Post – How To Have God’s Will For Your Life

Today, I have the honor of presenting Brandon Gilliland.  Brandon is a young leader with lots of passion and incredible talent.  He’s training to become a surgeon.  In his spare time, he plays the guitar, and he blogs about leadership, following Christ, playing the guitar, and becoming a surgeon.  Brandon currently writes at two blogs.  You can check them out here and here.  Please jump over and become one of his regular readers.

(If you’re interested in becoming a Stretched guest blogger, let me know in the comments, and I’ll get back to you.  I’m always looking for people to share their Stretching stories.)

How To Have God’s Will For Your Life

A question that encompasses many Christian’s lives is “How do I follow God’s will for my life?” I have wondered this myself many times. As a student on track to become a surgeon, I have many doubts in my mind. I commonly question myself the methods that I am going through. A few short months ago, a really questioned if this track was God’s will for my life. I sometimes still question it, but I am starting to discover that becoming a surgeon is what God desires for me to do with my life. It is a lot of work, but if it is God’s will for my life, He will give me the strength and the necessary opportunities that will ultimately allow me to become a surgeon.

Like I said earlier, there were a few moments when I was not sure what God’s will for my life entailed (on the career side of things). As Christians, we should desire to stay in God’s will for our lives. If we are truly following Christ, we should have the desire to please and serve Him.

If we are always questioning if what we are doing is God’s will, then how can we serve Him to our absolute best ability? The answer is rather simple: focus on God. This is easy to say, but it is not easy to live out on a daily basis. There are a few things that I have to remind myself of all the time to be able to be assured that I am living God’s will for my life.


First off, prayer is important. If prayer is not an important part of your life, you can be certain that you are not in God’s will. If you are not on the same wavelength as God, you are not going to make the decisions that He wants you to make.

“Pray without ceasing…”

-1 Thessalonians 5:17

Keep the Main Goal in Mind

After prayer is an important part of your life, you need to keep the main goal in mind. Obviously, this goal can not be set properly without consulting God first. When you believe that God has revealed to you a certain goal after you have prayed about it, you can begin to focus on that goal. Go can desire something else, but you can have the right thought pattern. That leads us to the next point…

“Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth.”

-Colossians 3:2

Focus on the Small Things

Ultimately, it is essential to know God’s main goal, but it is not beneficial to focus entirely on it. If you focus too much on the main goal, you can begin to drift. Instead, it is important to focus on the small tasks that lead to the ultimate goal. This method insures that you can follow God’s will. If you are doing everything that God wants you to do at every moment, you can be 100% sure that you are in God’s will for your life.

That is the problem though. We do not always pray. We do not always focus on God. We are not always on God’s wavelength.

This is the reason why we can stray from God’s will. He desires so much more for us, but sometimes we give up on the blessings He has for us.

What do you need to follow God’s will on?

Don’t Hold A Press Conference

We all like to be noticed.  We all like to be recognized for doing something good.  We like to hear people say, “Good job.”  We want the praise of man.  I think this is a normal human desire.

The other day, I was reading in Matthew 6 which is part of the Sermon on the Mount given by Jesus.  In part of this sermon, Jesus talks about how we should give to the needy, how we should pray, and how we should go about fasting.  Three times in this passage Christ says, “Then your Father who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.”  When we give to the needy, when we pray, and when we fast, we should do these acts so no one knows but God.  We want the recognition.  We want to hold a press conference when we do these things.  But Christ tells us to keep it between God and us.  Surely, God’s reward is far greater than any recognition we get from man.

As a blogger this is a huge topic to ponder.  I often blog about the activities of my family including the activities related to serving others.  I hope that my main motivation in sharing these things is to encourage others to find ways to serve with their families, but I confess that there may be a part of my motivation that wants to hear others say, “Your family is so good.  You are a great parent.  You and Leanne do such a great job.”  These compliments do mean a lot, but my suspicion is that these praises of people pale in comparison to the reward that God promises.

Ultimately, I want to glorify God.  Whether it’s giving to the needy, praying, fasting, working, running, blogging, or whatever, I want my thoughts and actions to bring glory to God.

And so I stretch!  (In a year of being transformed, transformation of my motives is a great place to start.)

What do you think?  Do you struggle with seeking the praise of people?  How do you fight this?

How I Spend My Time Is A Moral Issue

“How I spend my time is a moral issue.”

This was the statement someone made to me yesterday, and I can’t stop thinking about it.

How does this statement impact you?  I mean if we’re serious about it, this statement could change the way we live or at least change the way we think as we live.  Is wasting time immoral?  When I fail to make the most of each and every opportunity am I sinning?  How do I really live in light of this statement?  Do I make the most of the time that I’ve been given?

Does watching TV count?  I mean, come on, I love watching those reality TV shows like Survivor, Amazing Race, and Biggest Loser.  Are you telling me that watching these shows could be wrong?

How about surfing on the internet?  I’m not into porn, but I probably spend too much time on the computer surfing the social media scenes on Facebook, Foursquare, Empire Avenue, Twitter, etc.  Could too much time on the computer mean that I’m sinning?

How about during my drive time?  I’m in the car at least an hour every day driving to and from work.  Surely, I don’t make the most of my time in the car.  Hmmm….

Do you see what I mean?  This statement has got me thinking!

What do you think?  Does that statement hit you the same way?


Today, I am blessed to share a guest post from Tara Watson.  Tara is a wife, mom, friend, and fellow blogger.  This year, she started blogging about her weight loss journey, but I think it’s turned into so much more.  I would highly encourage you to check out her blog (Chewing The Fat On Skinny) and become one of her readers.  Today, Tara shares about changing her view from CANNOT to CAN DO!  I love what she writes below.  Check it out, and let me know what you think by sending me a comment.

(I’m always looking for guest bloggers to share on Jon Stolpe Stretched.  Let me know if you’re interested in writing a guest post.  Thanks!)

When Jon asked me to be a guest blogger I thought, that’s like Picasso saying ‘Tara, come on over and we’ll sketch for a while’, because I consider Jon a fantastic writer. And then I thought “why not?”

When I was pondering about what was stretching me, plenty of things came to mind, but one thing came to the top of my mind. I’m reading this (fiction) book about an overachieving working mother of three whose life is turned upside-down after she sustains a traumatic brain injury (uplifting eh?). This (truly inspiring) book follows her journey before, during and after the injury. At one point during the book, she is in the hospital doing her physical therapy, feeling sorry for herself, and on the road to Doomsville as she calls it. Then she has an a-ha! moment. She realizes that she has been focusing on what she can’t do instead of what she CAN do. And this really changes how she approaches not only her recovery but her life.

This story, for many reasons, really resonates with me. I am an overachieving working mother of two who happens to have a neurological illness. I was diagnosed with this illness in 2002, and it has gotten worse over the past few years. It’s called trigeminal neuralgia/atypical facial pain (isn’t that a mouthful).  It causes me to experience a variety of pains in the right hand side of my head from pinching and pulling, to feeling like someone is driving nails in my head, to stop you in your tracks lightning bolts of pain. I am now on a (mostly) successful treatment program that has helped reduce the frequency and intensity of the attacks, but it still very much impacts how I can live my life.

Some of my pain triggers are cold weather,  hot weather, stress, noise, surprise, crying, laughing, going to the dentist…pretty much every day living. 😉 This impacts what kind of job I can hold, what I can do with my kids, and what kind of volunteer work I help with. It limits the time I can enjoy being outside doing hobbies, going to concerts, and doing adventurous things. Truth be told, if I sat down and made a list of what I can’t do because of this illness I’d most likely need some tissues and chocolate.

Instead, just like the character in the book, I am choosing to focus on what I CAN do. I can be a loving Mom, a compassionate wife, a giving family member, a kind friend and a helpful co-worker. I can hug, love, laugh, cry, jump, run, see and feel. I can dance, exercise, read, do my job well, and be crafty and funny. I CAN do soooo many more things than I cannot.  Another thing I can do is to look at myself through God’s eyes.

You see, God doesn’t look at what we can’t do because he knows what we CAN do. He knows the very essence of who we are. He doesn’t see our limits, He sees us as limitless.  He doesn’t see handicaps or illness, skin color or gender. He sees our beauty, talent and our untapped potential. God knows our faults and flaws, and He loves us anyway. And He has great plans for us, if only we would believe.

When I think about God’s great love for me and what He sees in me, the idea of cannot is erased. If God believes in me, I need to believe in me too. I need to love me like God loves me and accept that what I cannot do does not limit me, it defines me. You see, life’s pain and troubles refine me into exactly who God wants me to be.

This week, I ask you to take stock in how you are living your life. Are you focusing on what you cannot do? Chasing after things that you cannot have?

Or are you living in the can-do?  Remove the self-imposed limits you put on your life, focus on the little and big things that you CAN do, and realize that with God by your side and in your heart, you are limitless!

Purpose For Me

The LORD will fulfill his purpose for me; your love, O LORD, endures forever–do not abandon the works of your hands.  Psalm 138:8

Did you ever think about the fact that God has a purpose for you?  Did you ever stop to realize that God’s love for you endures forever?

Those are two pretty powerful statements.  This is what I’ll be pondering today.

Blog Spotlight – LeadingSmart – Tim Stevens – A Space for Margin

One of the many blogs I follow on a regular basis is by Tim Stevens who is the executive pastor at Granger Community Church.  Tim writes a lot about leadership.  I’ve really appreciated his wisdom as I’ve followed him over the past few years.

Last week, Tim wrote about the importance of making space for margins in our lives.  His post (below) really resonated with me.  Our family often seems to be running from one activity to the next.  We pack our calendars so full of stuff that we don’t leave time for rest, relaxation, and more importantly for God to intervene in the spaces that surround our lives.  Events at our home over the past couple of months have forced us to take a brave new look at how we organize our time.  Tim’s post couldn’t have come at a more appropriate time.



I’ve been thinking a lot about margin.

A margin is the portion of the page that you intentionally leave blank. You don’t write all the way from the left side of the page to the right side—no, you typically leave space all the way around, and we call those margins.

Yet in life, everything in our culture is telling us to ignore margins. Spend more money than you make and you will have no financial margin. Fill your schedule from early morning until late night—and you will have no time margin. Surround yourself with needy people and be constantly reactive to their expectations—and you will have no emotional margin.

Mark Batterson wrote, “You need margin to think. You need margin to play. You need margin tolaugh. You need margin to dream. You need margin to have impromptu conversations. You need margin to seize unanticipated opportunities.”

I want to live a life with margins.

When I live on less than I make, I have the financial margin so an unexpected expense won’t capsize me, and so I can respond in the moment to someone else’s real need.

When every moment of my life is scheduled, I don’t have the margin to stop and listen to someone who needs an ear; I don’t have the time to jump in and help a neighbor fix their sprinkler; or don’t have the flexibility to go to my kids sporting event that was scheduled at the last minute.

Margin makes you pleasant; no margin makes you grumpy.

Margin allows you to be generous; no margin makes you Scrooge-like.

Margin helps you listen; without margin, you come across like someone who doesn’t care.

Margin gives you the space to learn, grow and dream; without margin and you become stale and empty.

Margin increases the chance you will hear the still small voice of God when He speaks;  without margin and you might continue through life without the blessing of God.

Where are you feeling the lack of margin in your life? What should change?


Plans for Me

I feel like I have recently been in a mental wrestling match with myself about my plans, the future, and trying to live one day at a time.  I like to have a plan for things.  I like it when I can map things out and know where I’m headed.  I have a quote hanging in my office, “If you fail to plan, you should plan to fail.”  I think it’s important to have a plan, but I’m also learning that it’s important to be flexible and to trust.  Trusting God for my future sounds easy and maybe it should be easy, but I must have the brain of a mule (stubborn).  I still get hung up on the “what ifs” of tomorrow, next month, next year, etc.

As I’ve been processing this and meditating on the word ‘plans,’ Jeremiah 29:11-13 came to my mind:

11 “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. 12 Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. 13 You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.”

These verses point very clearly to that fact that God has plans for me that include hope for the future.  He simply asks me to come to Him, to seek Him with all I’ve got, and to be open to His plan.  I’m learning, and I’m thankful today for this reminder.  With this in mind, I can let go of my anxiety and my personal wrestling match.

One day at a time…

Where Does My Help Come From?

Words of encouragement for me this morning.

Psalm 121

1 I lift up my eyes to the hills—
where does my help come from?

2 My help comes from the LORD,
the Maker of heaven and earth.

3 He will not let your foot slip—
he who watches over you will not slumber;

4 indeed, he who watches over Israel
will neither slumber nor sleep.

5 The LORD watches over you—
the LORD is your shade at your right hand;

6 the sun will not harm you by day,
nor the moon by night.

7 The LORD will keep you from all harm—
he will watch over your life;

8 the LORD will watch over your coming and going
both now and forevermore.