Until Further Notice – Pray For Our Leaders

Prayer is the most concrete way to make our home in God.

Henri Nouwen

Nearly three years ago, I took over leadership of my department. With over 80 team members, leading can easily become exhausting and at times overwhelming. I am blessed to have a fantastic department with a group of key leaders under me and around me.

Nevertheless, leadership can be lonely.

Leaders are often left with big decisions. They are looked upon for wisdom and guidance when everything else seems to be in crisis.

As we navigate COVID-19, there will be many people second guessing leadership. He should have acted more quickly. She shouldn’t have treated her team so poorly. They should have put more rules in place. People will debate leadership decisions for years to come.

Regardless of your position on your leadership at work, at church, in your communities, or in your country, you have a choice to make. While there is a time to speak up and take a stand, there is also a time to pray. Chose prayer. Our leaders need prayer. They need prayer for wisdom, for strength, for courage, for humility, for grace, and for help.

Until further notice, I encourage you to pray for your leaders. They need it now more than ever!

Prayer: In times of turmoil, guide and direct those in leadership. Give them just what they need to lead with wisdom, with confidence, with humility, and with strength.

Ponder & Discuss: Have you taken time to pray for your leaders? What might praying for your leaders make possible? (Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments below.)

I urge, then, first of all, that petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for all people— for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness.

I Timothy 2:1-2 (NIV)

Until Further Notice – Stand Together

“What I’m not confused about is the world needing much more love, no hate, no prejudice, no bigotry and more unity, peace and understanding. Period.”

Stevie Wonder

I still remember the days and weeks immediately following 9/11. There was obviously a sense of uncertainty, despair, and loss. Planes flying into buildings and killing hundreds of lives will do that. I also remember a sense of resolve and a sense of unity. For a period of time, there was a sense of unity – we are all in this together.

Crisis can bind us together or tear us apart.

As we navigate the COVID-19 crisis, you and I have a choice. Will we seek to unify? Or will we choose our own path – a path of finger-pointing and a path of disharmony?

Everyone has an opinion. And there will always be differing political and social agendas. I get it.

We have more to gain by standing together.

It’s time we listen for understanding. It’s time we speak with compassion and empathy. It’s time we act with love.

The COVID-19 pandemic will mark humanity for years to come. May it be the tie that binds us together and reminds us to stand together for together we can change the world!

Prayer: In the midst of crisis, help us stand together. Give us a spirit of unity, and help us make a positive difference together.

Ponder & Discuss: Where have you seen others standing together to make a difference? What would unity make possible today?

As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received. Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to one hope when you were called; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.

Ephesians 4:1-6 (NIV)

Until Further Notice

Until Further Noticeuntil someone announces that a situation has changed or no longer exists

Macmillon Dictionary

The local library in my town as been undergoing construction. The construction started late this past fall, and initially the construction was only supposed to keep the library closed for a month. As I walked past the library multiple times throughout each week, I’ve noticed the re-opening date moving back further and further – January 2nd, January 9th, February 3rd, February 24th, March 16h, and April 6th. Last week, I noticed the sign changed one more time. It now reads “Closed Until Further Notice.”

This is the same type of creating that can be found on many businesses as we navigate the COVID-19 pandemic.

Until Further Notice implies uncertainty. For many, this sign indicates a hopelessness. And I get it. We all want things to return to “normal” – whatever that might be. We want to get on with our lives.

As I ponder this sign and its meaning, I am reminded of our need for hope, encouragement, and grace.

With this in mind, I’ll be using “Until Further Notice” as a reminder of the hope we can have in the midst of uncertainty. Look for more “Until Further Notice” posts in the days to come.

Prayer: In the midst of uncertainty, we ask for reminders of hope. Help us to be communicators of this hope to others.

Ponder & Discuss: What changed in your world as a result of COVID-19? What has this pandemic made possible for you? (Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments below.)

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.

Romans 15:13 (NIV)

Look for the Helpers

“When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, ‘Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.’ To this day, especially in times of ‘disaster,’ I remember my mother’s words and I am always comforted by realizing that there are still so many helpers – so man caring people in this world.”

Fred Rogers

Have you been watching the news lately?

The news can seem pretty scary right now.

I’ve tried to stay away as much as possible. So much of today’s news media is about blaming this side or that side for the COVID-19 crisis. Or the news is filled with emphasis on the rapid spread of the novel corona virus and the rising death toll left in its wake. I read or hear stories of people reacting out of fear – hording toilet paper, hording hand sanitizer, and yelling at people who appear to be too close to them physically.

Many media outlets are using the crisis as an opportunity to either support their political perspective or tear down the political position of the opposing side. This path will only create more disunity and higher walls in our country and in our communities. In addition, they are spreading a message of fear.

Crisis can either destroy us or can unify us.

So here is my question to you (and to me)….

How are you responding to this crisis?

Are you helping others? Are you reaching out? Are you spreading hope?

Or are you acting only for you and your benefit? Are you hording? Are you spreading messages of fear and despair?

I believe it’s important to be informed and to take responsible actions to prevent the spread of this virus. But I also believe it’s important to look for the helpers – and to become one of the helpers wherever possible.

This week, I saw some of the helpers:

I saw a team of co-workers creatively gathering PPE (Personal Protection Equipement) for distribution to our field workers who are faced with serving our customers who are providing life-sustaining services to others at hospitals, healthcare facilities, and pharmaceutical research and manufacturing sites.

I saw a group of Rotarians gathering grocery store gift cards to distribute to families in need due to furlough or loss of job caused by COVID-19.

I saw friends in the healthcare arena sacrificially putting themselves at risk by serving in hospitals, urgent care facilities, and portable COVID-19 testing facilities.

I saw teachers working together to connect with their students and to creatively continue education despite the current requirements to remain physically separated.

I saw pastors doing their best to connect with their congregations in an effort to bring messages of hope.

I saw people in my community doing their part to support local businesses who have clearly been impacted by the isolation required by the government orders to “stay at home.”

I saw family members and friends creatively using their talents to entertain and encourage others through YouTube, Facebook, Instagram, Zoom, and other on-line platforms.

These are stories that might not make it to CNN or FoxNews. But these are the stories we need to hear especially in the midst of crisis.

Look for the helpers!

Be a helper!

FREE Virtual Happy Hour for Men

Men:

I wanted to extend an invitation to each of you to participate in the first ever Stretched Men Group Virtual Happy Hour.  This will be an opportunity to connect as men, to share our thoughts and experiences related to the COVID-19 situation, and to be encouraged.  This invitation is open to you and any other guys who you think might be interested.  Just share the link below, and let me know they are planning to join us.  There is no cost associated with this event.

The Virtual Happy Hour will happen this Tuesday, March 24, 2020 from 7:00PM – 8:00PM.

My guess is we are all dealing with a mix of emotions, fears, and thoughts.  As many of us social distancing ourselves physically, the SMG Virtual Happy Hour will provide an opportunity to connect virtually.

Hope to see you there!

Jon

Join Zoom Meeting
https://zoom.us/j/9778629800

Trust In Action (in the middle of COVID-19)

I had intentions of writing a post with this title a few weeks ago (before the whole Coronavirus COVID-19 thing happened), and it seems like a great time to revisit it.

Back in January, Leanne (that’s my beautiful bride) and I decided to move forward with listing our house. Our kids are both in college, and we simply don’t need all the property and all the house that we currently have. We put our house on the market with the intention of moving closer to being completely debt free so we can live more, save more, and ultimately give more.

In the process, we also began our search for our next home. We set a dollar limit along with a search criteria related to the type of house and neighborhood we were pursuing.

And thus we entered the wonderful, crazy process of selling and buying a house.

Proverbs 3:5-6 has always been a central verse for Leanne and me.

“Trust in the LORD with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths.”

Proverbs 3:5-6

This is the verse that provided us hope and encouragement as we guided the early years of our relationship and considered marriage.

This is the verse that we leaned on heavily when we navigated some significant challenges several years ago.

And this is the verse that we come back to now as we consider the prospect of moving.

Trusting God implies God will do everything for us. He will direct our paths. Some versions say He will make our paths straight when we trust in Him.

I’m not saying this is wrong, but I think we must be careful not to take this as a call to sit on our hands doing nothing. While we may need to wait to see how God reveals Himself in the midst of our situation, He still gave us brains, hands, and feet. Our brains help us think and process our next steps. Our hands and feet help us take those next steps.

Getting back to our house, we officially put our house on the market in early February. Our realtor stepped into action with a few open houses, and we began to see prospective buyers come through our house. At the same time, we found the house in which we would like to move. After a few weeks without offers, we made the decision to drop the price of our current house. We also made the decision to put a refundable down payment on the house for which we would like to purchase. In other words, we took action.

We are still trusting God will work in our situation. We pray daily that God would bring the right buyer for the right price at the right time. We are giving that part to God. Meanwhile, we are trying to be wise – seeking godly advice and taking appropriate action.

As we encounter this strange time in history as it relates to COVID-19 (Coronavirus), I think this verse and these thoughts apply. God is in control. But we must also use our brains and our bodies to think and act appropriately. Washing our hands and temporarily distancing ourselves socially are not bad ideas. I’d also suggest we pray for our leaders, for those in healthcare, and for those who are sick. My pastor also encouraged us to reach out to our neighbors (particularly are aging neighbors) to make sure they were okay. These are all actions we can take.

It’s easy to become anxious when we face challenges in life whether they relate to personal uncertainty or global pandemics. Paul reminds us to keep our anxiety in check.

“Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.”

Philippians 4:6-7

As we navigate these times, trust and pray like God is in control and take action (spiritually and physically) like your actions matter.

One more thought, there are a lot of people who are scared and in need of hope right now. If you are a Christ follower, I believe this is a time when Jesus’ love and hope can shine brightly. Let’s be the voice of reason – the voice of calm – the voice that points people to the God who alone can be trusted in all circumstances.

Win Every Day – A New Book by Mark Miller

“Greatness hinges on execution. Everything we do should ultimately contribute to superior levels of execution.”

Mark Miller – Win Every Day p. 16

Everyone wants to win – at least I would like to believe this.

I want to win in my marriage. I want to win in my parenting. I want to win in my career. And I want those around me to win – my wife, my kids, and the team I lead.

Mark Miller does it again with an excellent allegory about leadership, business, and life.

In Win Every Day – Proven Practices For Extraordinary Results, Miller lays out three keys to get the results – the daily wins – you seek. Execution is not just about the end product. Executing with excellence involves executing at a high level throughout the entire journey.

This is the second book I have read by Mark Miller, and I really appreciate the thought he puts into each and every page of his writing. He helps enlighten readers on foundational leadership wisdom through the stories he tells. (Here’s a link to my review of Win The Heart.)

I walked away after reading this book with practical advice for taking my team to the next level.

If you desire excellence and results in your business and your life, I’d recommend you pick up a copy of Win Every Day. The book officially releases on Tuesday, March 10, 2020, and you can order your copy TODAY by clicking here.

Please note: I received a pre-release copy of Win Every Day in an exchange for an honest review. I was not required to positively support this book. I truly believe this is a book that could help you win every day! Also, I could receive a few cents if you order Win Every Day by clicking and ordering through one of the links in this post.

Stretched Men Group Spring 2020 STARTING SOON!!!

“The search after the great men is the dream of youth, and the most serious occupation of manhood.”

Ralph Waldo Emerson

“What is the most courageous thing you’ve ever done?”

This is a question that Dennis Rainey often asks men. Dennis is the co-founder of FamilyLife, a ministry focused on the family and on marriage.

Leanne and I had the blessing of going to the FamilyLife Weekend to Remember a few weeks ago. While we were there, I picked up a copy of Dennis Rainey’s book, Stepping Up – A Call to Courageous Manhood.

As we head into the next semester of the Stretched Men Group, we will be using this book as a starting point for our conversation.

If you are a man who needs encouragement, accountability, and wisdom, the Stretched Men Group is for you!

The Stretched Men Group is a virtual mastermind group for men. We meet every other Wednesday night for about one hour. The mastermind group uses a video conferencing software (Zoom) which allows men from across the country to meet face-to-face.

Each meeting starts with a teaching/discussion time on a specific topic (this semester we will use Stepping Up) to help guide our discussion time.

After 15-20 minutes of discussion, we will spend time with a Hot Seat exercise. The Hot Seat which rotates from week to week provides each man in the group to get help on an area they need help. Past Hot Seat topics have included: career decisions, parenting problems, marriage issues, and faith related topics. The Hot Seat encourages each man to take a step forward in their own personal journey.

When you sign up for the Stretched Men Group, you are not signing up for life. You are signing up for a three month semester. The Spring 2020 semester starts Wednesday, March 11, 2020 at 9PM. We will meet every other Wednesday night, and the semester is scheduled to finish on Wednesday, June 17, 2020.

The group costs $97/month if you pay monthly or $225 if you pay in one payment for the entire semester (due before the first meeting). The costs include: access to an exclusive, private Facebook group just for SMG participants, Stepping Up book by Dennis Rainey, and bi-weekly SMG mastermind calls. The fees help to defray the costs of running the group, and they also provide more motivation for men to take the group seriously and take the next steps in their stretching journey.

If you are interested in learning more about Stretched Men Group and about how you can sign up, go check out stretchedmengroup.com. This site will provide a little more detail along with a place where you can sign-up for a no obligation 30-45 minute phone call with me.

I hope you’ll consider joining the Stretched Men Group today. Also, please feel free to pass this along to other men in your life who would benefit from being part of this community.

What Brings You Joy?

Joy is the serious business of Heaven.”

C.S. Lewis

Joy – n. – A feeling of great pleasure and happiness. (According to Google)

What is missing from your life?

You appear to be walking around with the weight of the world on your shoulders. You seem down, depressed, and perhaps overwhelmed.

Does it feel like the world is pushing in on you from every direction?

Everyone wants a piece of you. You can’t seem to get ahead, and more and more is lumped onto your plate giving you little room to breathe – little room to be you.

Maybe things just aren’t going your way. Your job is challenging at an unbearable level. Your bills are mounting, and you are facing a personal health crisis. Those you once called friends have abandoned you.

The stress you feel is palpable. There’s a lack of hope and a lack of joy.

It’s time to stop!

It’s time to find joy again!

Joy is possible in the midst of struggle. Joy is available to you and to me.

Joy is found by turning to God.

“Splendor and majesty are before him; strength and joy are in his dwelling place.”

I Chronicles 16:27 (NIV)

Joy from God will strengthen us and help us get through the challenges we face.

“Do not grieve, for the joy of the Lord is your strength.”

Nehemiah 8:10 (NIV)

When your world seems devoid of joy, it’s important to remember the above truths. It is also important to remember the things that bring you joy.

Joy is found when we use our gifts.

God has gifted you with a variety of gifts, interests, and passions. And God has given you a purpose. Joy is found when we are using our gifts in areas that fill our hearts, align with our areas of interest, and fulfill our purpose.

What brings you joy?

Yesterday, I had the blessing of spending time with friends sawing wood. It sounds simple, but I could tell that the experience brought joy to my friends (and to me).

When life has lost it’s spark, it’s time to find joy.

Joy is found when we help others.

Finally, if you are still struggling to find joy, serve others in need. Helping others is often the catalyst we need to find the joy that seems absent from our lives.

“Since you get more joy out of giving joy to others, you should put a good deal of thought into the happiness that you are able to give.”

Eleanor Roosevelt

What brings you joy? Share your thoughts in the comments.

Everyone Needs A Coach

“Everyone needs a coach. It doesn’t matter whether you’re a basketball player, a tennis player, a gymnast or a bridge player.”

Bill Gates

What is a coach?

A coach guides, instructs, mentors, and sets an example.

Why you need a coach?

You are on a journey in which you have not yet arrived. You need someone who has gone in front of you who can share their wisdom which they have gained from their experiences, training, and education. You need a coach who can encourage you especially when you are lost or discouraged. And you need a coach who will spur you on when our motivation is diminished.

How do you find a coach?

Open your eyes and your ears. Your coach is possibly right in front of you. Look for someone who has experience or training in the area(s) in which you are striving. Listen for those who clearly have knowledge and also a solid reputation. Do some research and discover your options. Then ask. Finding a coach requires action on your part. You must ask for help. Pick up the phone and call your potential coach. Go out together for a walk or a cup of coffee. Finding your coach will most likely require your intentional action.

When should you get a coach?

Now! That’s the short answer. You need a coach when you are tired of complacency. You need a coach when you need help taking the next step (or steps) on your journey. You need a coach when you want to go to the next level.

How much should I pay for a coach?

You could find someone willing to be your coach for free, and that might work for a little while. But I want to encourage you to consider paying for coaching. When you pay for coaching, you are far more likely to take the coaching serious and to take the prescribed action to move forward in your journey. Additionally, your coach is spending their time and resources to provide coaching to you. This costs something. In my experience, coaching can cost anywhere from a few hundred dollars for a few coaching sessions to several thousand dollars for day-long or week-long one-on-one intensive coaching. Paying a coach is worth it!

Everyone needs a coach!

Why not let me be your coach!

Why you should pick me to be your coach?

That’s right! I’d love to be your coach. I have a passion for helping men take their next steps forward – steps to becoming a better father, steps to becoming a better husband, steps in their career, and even steps in their faith. As a husband of over 23 years, a father of 22 years, a business leader, and a committed follower of Christ, I have wisdom worth sharing. I’ve also gained knowledge from many who have coached me. Most recently, I’ve coached many men through the Stretched Men Group mastermind group, and I know I can help you.

What does coaching look like with me?

I’m currently offering three levels of coaching:

Stretch Player Level: This is my bi-weekly, three month semester Stretched Men Group mastermind group. This coaching opportunity allows men to connect with each other in a safe environment that helps each man stretch forward. Men who have participated in this level of coaching have taken steps forward in their families, their marriages, their careers, and their faith. This is a great place to plug into coaching.

Stretch All-Star Level: This is six (6) hour-long sessions one-on-one with me. These sessions will involve thought provoking coaching conversations with actionable outcomes. This is a great level to consider if you are ready to go further faster.

Stretch MVP/VIP Level: This is a full one day experience with me. From breakfast to dinner, we will spend the entire day together mapping out a plan to go to the next level and beyond. This day which includes three meals will be a more intensive opportunity for coaching. We will spend time understanding your current place and challenge. We will vision cast your life goals and mission. We will specifically analyze your priorities, your personal schedule, and the obstacles you may be facing keeping you from stretching to your potential. Finally, we will develop an action plan necessary to move forward. This coaching level includes three follow-up calls designed to make sure you are on track with your action plan. It’s also an opportunity to make adjustments to help you move forward.

How do you sign up for these coaching opportunities?

For more information, stop over to StretchedMenGroup.com. This will give you more information about Stretch Player Level (Stretched Men Group). I will be adding more information to these site soon about all three levels. In the meantime, sign-up over at the website for a free, no-obligation phone call with me. This will give us the opportunity to talk about coaching and which level might be a good fit for you.

Everyone needs a coach! Why not let me be your coach?