Books I’ve Read So Far This Year (Part 1)

At the beginning of this year (2018), I set a goal to read at least 52 books – one book per week on average.  I’m happy to say I’m on track to achieve my goal.

Reading is an important discipline.  It provides new and different perspectives for learning and STRETCHING.  It provides a fun escape to other times and other places.  And reading helps keep your brain flexible.

Here’s a list of the books I’ve read so far this year:

Building A Story Brand by Donald Miller – This book provides excellent tips on positioning yourself as a teacher or a guide for your customer.  It also teaches you to make your customer the hero of the story.  I really appreciated Donald Miller’s teaching in this valuable resource. [Note:  I read the hardcover version of this book.]

Play the Man by Mark Batterson – I used this book as part of my Stretched Men Group (mastermind group for men).  This book lays out the framework for intentionally discipling your sons.  Play the Man inspired me to put in motion a “Year of Discipleship” with my own son that has included reading seven books and taking a life-changing trip to Washington State (more on that in a future post).  [Note:  I read the hardcover version of this book.]

The Big Leap by Gay Hendricks – I read this book at the recommendation of Cliff Ravenscraft.  The book talks about dealing with your limiting beliefs in order to be the person you were meant to be.  Many of us get stuck in the routines of life.  We are often too scared to break out of these comfort areas to go after something bigger and better.  This book will make you think again about how you are living your life.  [Note:  I read the paperback version of this book.]

The Book of Mistakes by Skip Prichard – I had the privilege of reading this book as part of the launch team for the book.  The book teaches important leadership advice through the masterful storytelling of Skip Prichard.  Once I started reading this book I couldn’t put it down.  [Note:  I read pre-release digital  version of this book.]

The Graduate Survival Guide: 5 Mistakes You Can’t Afford to Make in College by Anthony ONeal and Rachel Cruze – This is the first book Isaac and I read together as part of his “Year of Discipleship”.  This book simply outlines important reminders for students as they make the transition from high school to college.  As this book was released as part of the Dave Ramsey organization, there are a lot of solid financial tips in this practical guidebook.  [Note:  I read the hardcover version of this book.]

Let’s Stop Meeting Like This by Dick and Emily Axelrod – I received a free copy of this book to read in exchange for a review.  I liked this book.  It provides practical tips for running more effective meetings.  In my position, I sit in a lot of meetings, and I also facilitate a lot of meetings.  This book was a big help!  [Note:  I read the paperback version of this book.]

The #1 Secret of Genuinely Happy People by Brian Jones – I received a free copy of this eBook when I signed up to receive Brian’s newsletter.  This book was simple, practical, helpful, and inspiring.  If you are looking for a quick and helpful read, check it out.  [Note:  I read the digital eBook version of this book.]

Wealth Is It Worth It? by S. Truett Cathy (founder of Chick-Fil-A) – Common sense advice and stories from a true business person of character, Truett Cathy provides fantastic leadership and financial wisdom in this handbook.  [Note:  I read the hardcover version of this book.]

No Compromise: The Life Story of Keith Green by Melody Green – This is the second book Isaac and I read together as part of our “Year of Discipleship”.  This biography tells the riveting story of Keith Green from his youth as a seeking Christian Scientist to his life of sold-out commitment to Jesus Christ.  [Note:  I read the paperback version of this book.]

Motives of the Heart: A Biblical Study on Pride and Humility by Reb Bradley – I picked up this short book to help me prepare for some teaching I was doing for my Stretched Men Group.  This helpful resource dives into the Bible to find helpful teaching and verses on pride and humility.  [Note:  I read the paperback version of this book.]

Due to the overall length of this material, I will be breaking it up into a few posts.  Stay tuned for the continuation of my 2018 reading list.

What book(s) have you read this year?  Share in the comments below.

[Note:  There are affiliate links in this post.  If you make a purchase as a result of clicking on any of these links, I may receive a small affiliate commission.  This should not impact the pricing you see on any of these products.  Thanks in advance if you happen to purchase one of these books by clicking on one of the links above.]

A Broken Heart – Guatemala 2018 Update

I’d rather have a broken arm than a broken heart.

Christie Brinkley

I’m preparing for an upcoming Toastmasters speech where I will be sharing part of my book, Rooftop Reflections, with meeting attendees.  Specifically, I’ll be sharing part of the chapter titled A Broken Heart.

In the video below, there is also an update about our plans for an upcoming trip to Guatemala later this year along with what I’ll be sharing at Toastmasters..

More Than A Barber

Being a barber is about taking care of the people.

Anthony Hamilton

Late last week, I drove through Mt. Holly, NJ.  Mt. Holly (and Lumberton) was my hometown for 16 years of my life.  I drove past my old house on Glenwood Road in Lumberton.  I drove by my church (First Presbyterian Church) on Garden Street in Mt. Holly and my high school (Rancocas Valley Regional High School) on Jacksonville Road.  And I stopped on High Street to visit my old barber shop (Don’s Barber Shop).  As I stepped through the front door, my usual barber, Pat, smiled and said “Hello, Jon!”

I hadn’t been to Don’s Barber Shop in 16 (or more) years, and Pat still remembered me.  She even knew my name.

I climbed up into her chair (easier than I did that first haircut in the early 80s), and I asked her to give me a haircut.

Over the next 20-30 minutes, we caught up.  She told me about her 10-year-old granddaughter, and she asked about my parents and my brothers.  I showed her updated pictures of my family.  And Pat shared a few details about some of the people I knew from my time living in the area.

As I walked out, Pat offered me a pretzel rod.  The price of the haircut was a bargain, and I benefited with great conversation, great memories, and a great pretzel rod.  I quickly ran back to my car to retrieve a copy of my book, Rooftop Reflections.  I walked back in the store, and gave Pat a signed copy as a thank you.

At Don’s Barber Shop, you get more than a haircut.  You get a smile.  You get a strong sense of community and of belonging.  And you get reminder of the truly good things in life.

How I Got to Guatemala in the First Place

My passion for Guatemala started several years ago.  Here’s the story:

Our family is planning our next trip to Guatemala this December.  Here’s how you can help:

  1. Donate funds to help make it happen.  Go to, then click on the GIVE! link.
  2. Go to Guatemala with us.  We need a team of 12-15 people to make it happen.  If we have more than 15, we’ll build another house (or more).  Go to, then click on the GO! link.
  3. Spread the word about Guatemala.  Go to, and click on the ORDER YOUR COPY TODAY! link.  Read it for yourself, and send copies to your friends and families.
  4. Pray.  Seems simple, but this is an absolutely important step as we move forward.  Thank you!

Your Name Matters

Remember that a person’s name is to that person the sweetest and most important sound in any language.

Dale Carnegie (How to Win Friends and Influence People)

At lunch time today, I walked across the street from my office to head to my Toastmasters International regular club meeting.  Due to scheduling conflicts, I haven’t been to the club for a couple of months.  Prior to my relatively brief absence, I was a regular member of the club for the past three or four years.  I even served as the President of the club for one year.

I pride myself on making sure everyone feels welcome.  I try to introduce myself to guests and new members as they check out the club for the first few times, and I try to learn a little bit about each person.  I also try to remember the names of the people who come to the meetings.  Our club has added several new members the past few months which has made this a bigger challenge.

Today as members were gathering for the meeting, I mistakenly referred to one of the newer members by the wrong name.  I had the best of intentions, but I completely botched his name.  I tried to laugh it off and even joked about it, but I really felt bad about my blunder.

Last month, Isaac (my son) and I read through How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie.  (We’ve been intentionally reading through a book together each month as he prepares to make the transition from high school to college.  That’s another topic for another time.)  One of Carnegie’s principles for winning friends and influencing people is to remember people’s names.  People like to hear their name.  When you remember someone’s name it shows them you care and they matter.  When you use someone’s name you establish and strengthen a human connection with the other person.

There’s a person at my church who is amazing at this.  Her name is Terri Stone.  Our church’s typical Sunday morning attendance is 1700-1800 which means there are probably around 2300-2500 who call our church home.  I would bet that Terri knows 75% or more of the names of these attendees.  Terri makes it a point to find out a person’s name when she meets them.  She uses their name at least a few times during their initial conversation.  The next time she sees the person, she goes out of her way to talk to the person she met a week (or longer) ago, and she uses their name every time.  Many people I know at our church would tell you that Terri Stone made them feel welcome, and they would comment on how she remembered their names.

If you want to make a difference in someone’s life, take time to get to know them and to know their name.  As Dale Carnegie says, you will provide the sweetest sound to their ears.

Maybe I’m being a little hard on myself, but you can bet I’ll get that guys name right the next time I see him at Toastmasters.

What’s your name?  How do you remember people’s names?  Share your thoughts and ideas in the comments below.

If you want to take it a little deeper for fun, what’s your middle name?

3 Things That Made Your Heart Sing

When the day is over and your energy is spent

Your feet are heavy like they’re stuck in cement,

It’s time to reflect on the happenings of the day,

To hug your loved ones, say what you need to say.

Sure there were downs and ups throughout,

But that’s what most days are all about.

Did you hit your goals you set at the start?

Did you leave some unfinished business in your cart?

To close the day on a positive upswing,

Write down three things that made your heart sing.

For me those things included a morning walk,

Time with my wife when we could talk.

And finally, the thing that felt right

Was the moment I had simply to write.

What made your heart sing today? Share your thoughts in the comments.

Holy Celebration

Last week, I wrote a post called Holy Anticipation. I shared how much I struggled to sleep before a big event.

Tonight, I’m experiencing excitement on the other end of a big event. For the past few months, I have been hosting/facilitating the Stretched Men Group every other Wednesday night. SMG is a mastermind group for men designed to help men “stretch” themselves as husbands, fathers, leaders, and men.

The conversations we have in the group are inspiring. I have witnessed the growth of men in their marriages, in their careers, in their parenting, and in their faith. I am humbled that they would entrust me to be a guide for them on this journey.

Tonight, we concluded the spring semester of SMG. During the semester, we talked about the traps men face. We talked about pride, possessions, pornography, people-pleasing, alcohol, and busyness. We were challenged to face these traps head on – to get the help we need – and to find ways to avoid these pitfalls in the future.

At the end of each semester, we take the opportunity to celebrate what we have experienced. In a sense it’s a Holy Celebration. And this is what causes me to struggle with sleep this time. It takes some time to unwind from these uplifting and deep conversations.

If you’d like to be part of this kind of discussion, you should consider joining the Stretched Men Group. I’ll be running an abbreviated summer semester starting on June 27th. If you’d like to learn more, go to You can sign up for more information. I’d love to connect with you to answer your questions and to help you STRETCH.

In the meantime, back to my Holy Celebration!

Living on Purpose

If we aren’t intentional, we’ll waste valuable opportunities to make a difference, to move forward, and to achieve a dream or goal. We have to live life on purpose.

Too many people simply coast through life. They go with the flow in hopes they will end up somewhere decent.

“Those who don’t make plans don’t make much at all.”

I just finished reading The ONE Thing – The Surprisingly Simple Truth Behind Extraordinary Results by Gary Keller. I was struck by Keller’s observations about purpose.

It’s easy to get wrapped up in way too many things. I am guilty of this for sure. When we do this, we cheat ourselves (and others) of our very best. Keller suggests we need to focus on the one thing that will allow us to achieve our goal and will make everything else easier.

We must first determine our overall goal. Then we must determine what we must accomplish in the next five years to achieve this goal. Then we must determine what we must accomplish in the next year to achieve the five year goal. Then we must determine what we must accomplish in the next month to achieve the goal for the year. Then we must determine what we must accomplish in the next week to achieve the goal for the month. Then we must determine what we must accomplish today to achieve the goal for the week. When we keep going, we must determine what we must do this moment in order for us to achieve our goal for the hour or day.

When we break things down in this manner, we give ourselves a much better chance of making our overall goal happen. Big things happen one small step at a time (not all at once).

We must be purposeful in our plans and our actions if we we want to do something big.

What do you want to achieve in your life? What is the next step you need to take to make your overall goal a reality? Share your thoughts in the comments.

Break Down to Built Up

A break can be the thing you need to take your work to the next level.

This weekend, I had the blessing of spending a few days away with some good friends. For the most part, we were without cell service which meant we were disconnected from the internet, from the notifications, and from the tendency to respond to every message we received (because we didn’t receive any messages).

This was exactly what I needed.

I sat around. I took a few long walks. I read. I fished. I enjoyed great food and fantastic conversation.

As I shut down for the evening, I know I’ll be climbing back into the “connected” world tomorrow. I believe my time away is just what I needed to take the things I’m working on to the next level, and I’m excited.

When was the last time you took a break? What benefits did you receive as a result of getting away? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

The Pause That Refreshes

As I predicted I didn’t sleep all that well last night (see my post from yesterday). It’s okay though, because I have a weekend to pause. I’m fairly certain I will be refreshed by the end of the weekend.

We all need to take time to pause, to get away from the hustle of life, to reconnect with ourselves and those we love, and to be refreshed.

That’s what I’m doing this weekend.

And I’m so thankful.

What refreshes you? Share your thoughts in the comments.