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    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 www.stretchedmengroup.com. 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.

    Holy Anticipation

    I typically struggle to sleep on night’s before a big event just like I struggled to sleep the night before Christmas when I was a little kid. (Yes. I was once little.). Tonight is one of those nights. I have a big event coming up tomorrow, and I’m hoping I can get a few hours of sleep. It could be a challenge, but I’m going to do my best.

    Have you ever experienced this kind of anticipation?

    The day before the first day of school….

    The night before your wedding day….

    The night before you start a new job….

    The morning of a big test or a big game or a big meeting….

    Anticipation is that feeling you get when you are so excited to see what will happen next. That’s the kind of anticipation I have right now.

    What I am anticipating is a big deal for me. I look forward to it every year, and I’m always a little sad when it’s over. Then I have to start the waiting clock all over again.

    What if we had this same kind of enthusiastic anticipation for some other things?

    The hour before a meaningful conversation….

    The hour before we get to spend time with the one we love….

    The years before we spend eternity in heaven….

    This kind of anticipation is holy. There’s something extra special about relationships with others and with God.

    Unfortunately, many of us get caught up in the rat race of life, and we lose the sense of job and enthusiasm for things that will really last. Instead, we overly focus ourselves on things that will fade away.

    As you head into the day, stop and think about the things that really matter in your life. Now take a moment to get excited about these things. Share your enthusiasm with others.

    That’s Holy Anticipation.

    That’s worth your energetic excitement.

    What are you anticipating? Share your thoughts in the comments.

    Toxic Charity by Robert D. Lupton (Book Review)

    On my way out the door this morning, I loaded the Audible version of Toxic Charity – How Churches and Charities Hurt Those They Help (And How to Reverse It). I spent a lot of time in my car today, so I almost finished it. The book came at the recommendation of a friend, Shawn Smith, who serves in Guatemala. Shawn recommended the book recently after I reached out to him about Guatemala and our focus on Xenacoj.

    In Shawn’s reply to my request for information, he suggested I read Toxic Charity.

    Wow! This is a book, I’ll have to go back to again to fully digest the message. Many of the thoughts in this book have rolled around in my head especially in my more recent trips to Guatemala. You can actually read some of my thoughts in my book (Rooftop Reflections).

    How can we make a difference without creating a problem? How can we help without creating unhealthy dependency?

    Toxic Charity challenges the very essence of what we have come to know as mission trips and efforts to express our compassion.

    Whether you are trying to make a difference in your community or in the world, you should pick up a copy of Toxic Charity. The book provides solid advice to make sure your help is really helpful.

    When You Are Least Expecting It

    I don’t look at my book sales very often. I’ve learned that the numbers will be what they will be. For some reason, I decided to look at my book sales the other day, and I was surprised to see that copies of my first book (On Track – Life Lessons from the Track and Field) had “surged.”

    “Surge” is in the eye of the beholder for sure, but it was a surge to me considering I released the book over four years ago in 2014, and I haven’t seen many sales recently especially with all the attention pointed to my recent book, Rooftop Reflections.

    I’m guessing the “surge” in sales was either related to the spring track and field season or to a couple of generous people who decided to purchase several copies to give away (or both). Whatever, I was pleasantly surprised.

    Creating is a labor of love. You create. Sometimes people love it, and sometimes they hate it. Most of the time, they simply don’t care. In other cases, you have an impact that goes beyond your life, your knowledge, or your understanding. I’ve seen this over and over again here on my blog. People from all over the world have connected with me through the comments or through some other connection point. I’ve seen some posts simply flop, and I’ve seen others repeatedly draw traffic.

    I’ve recently returned to a more consistent blogging schedule (I don’t know if you noticed). While I hope my writing impacts others, I have learned that my writing impacts me too. The discipline of getting my thoughts out of my head and onto the screen (and perhaps into your eyes) has been extremely satisfying and rewarding.

    All this to say, keep creating. If you’re a writer, keep writing. If you’re a musician, keep playing music. If you’re a builder, keep building amazing things.

    Your creations pay tribute to our Creator. They tell a story about you. And you never know, they just might have an impact on others (even when you are least expecting it).

    What are you creating these days? What lessons have you learned from the creation process? Share your thoughts in the comments.

    Words Matter РYou Have the Power to Make Someone’s Day

    Today, I was in the city (of Philadelphia) for an important meeting related to the largest project my office has ever performed. Without getting into a lot of detail, there were a lot of suits (including me) sitting around a table in a 49th floor conference room talking about bringing this project to completion.

    After the meeting, I was walking through the lobby of the building where the meeting took place when a security guy took a few seconds to tell me, “Have a great day, young fella.”

    Both parts were really nice, but the “young fella” part really made my day.

    In my head I’m still 23, but my body is actually 46. While this may seem young to some of you, I’ll be the first to tell you I’m not as agile as I once was.

    The words of the security guard were powerful. The lifted me up. They brought a smile to my face. They made me feel important. They made me feel youthful and energized. And all it took was “Have a great day, young fella.”

    Our words matter.

    And we have the power to make someone’s day through the words we share.

    Don’t pass up the opportunity to use your words to positively change someone’s day. You never know. Your simple words make actually change someone’s whole life.

    You matter and so do your words. Use them wisely.

    How you words positively impacted your life? How would your life be different if someone used positive words instead of negative words? Share your thoughts in the comments.

    Prayer to Start the Week

    The past few days, I’ve been blogging about prayer.

    What a better way to end the weekend and start the week with a prayer. Here’s my prayer right now…

    God:

    Thanks for bringing the sun out today after several days of rain. The brightness and the chance to be outside was just what I needed.

    Thanks for the time with my family and my church, and thanks for some time on my own. These things seem to fill me up.

    As I prepare for a new week with challenges and opportunities waiting, I want to give you my worries and my concerns. I also want to thank you for how you work upstream. In the midst of the ups and downs, I want to represent you well. Give me the wisdom, the strength, and the recall to use my words wisely, to lift others up, and to listen to what others have to say. I’d also ask you to open up my heart to the needs of others. I can become so self-focused sometimes, and I need you to keep my eyes and heart open to the needs of others.

    Thank you for where you have put me in my life right now – father, husband, friend, leader, co-worker, writer. May I make the most of the opportunities you have given me, and may I also remember to trust in you and to rest in you.

    You are Great. You are Wonderful. You are Beautiful. You are Wise. You are Amazing. You are Marvelous. You are Good. You are Worthy. You are Love.

    May I reflect You as I begin this new week.

    In Your Son’s Name, Jesus, I pray.

    Amen.

    Repetitive Prayers vs. Creative Prayers

    Much of my growing up years took place in Mt. Holly, New Jersey where my parents moved when I was 8 years old so my dad could take a pastor position at First Presbyterian Church. It was here I remember hearing – then saying – the Lord’s Prayer every Sunday. I’m sure there were times when it had lots of meaning for me and there were other times when I said the words without putting a lot of thought to them.

    How’s your prayer life lately?

    Do you repeat the same thing over and over again when you pray?

    Do the words of your prayers mean anything to you or are you simply falling into a pattern of words you’ve said over and over again as you’ve prayed?

    I think it can be healthy to say prayers that others have written, and I would even say that sometimes all we have is the pattern of prayers to hold onto as we navigate everyday life.

    But I also think we could be more creative in our prayers. For one, we are made in the image of God, and God is the Creator. He is creative; therefore, we are creative.

    Perhaps our prayers should be more reflective of the creativity we have inherited.

    Here are some ideas to add creativity to your prayers:

    1. Pray in a different location than normal. If you normally pray at the kitchen table or the bed, go to a different room or a different place altogether and try praying.
    2. Pray out loud. If you are normally a silent prayer, try talking as you pray.
    3. Write out your prayers. Writing your prayers can be a great way to express what’s in your heart and to note what you are hearing from God through your prayers.
    4. Ask God for more creativity in your prayer life. This may sound silly, but I think God can make you more aware of the words you say to Him.
    5. Pray consistently. This may sound like a trap that leads to repetitive prayers, but I think it may actually cause you to be more creative with our prayers. You may have noticed that I have been blogging more consistently the past couple of weeks. Interestingly enough, the return to more consistent blogging has helped me be more creative in my writing.

    I’m sure there are other ways to add creativity to your prayers. In fact, I’d love to read your ideas for adding “spice” to your prayers.

    Share your ideas for creative prayer in the comments below.