Even the strongest introvert needs human interaction.
COVID-19 has altered our ability to connect. Many have stopped meeting face to face to adhere to CDC guidelines and to avoid spreading the virus. These developments have altered the way we work, the way we go to church, the way we learn, and the way we connect.
When I started the Stretched Men Group several years ago, I started with virtual meetings with the hope of creating a community of men who wanted to take their next steps toward being better fathers, better husbands, and better men. While I hope to host live events someday, I’m thankful for the start with virtual meetings as it works well with our current COVID-19 situation.
Our 60-90 minute bi-weekly virtual meetings have led to men taking significant steps forward in their careers, their faith, their marriages, and their families.
The next semester of the Stretched Men Group is scheduled to kickoff at the beginning of October. Now is the perfect time to get more information about the group through a one-on-one call with me. I’d love to help answer any questions you may have about the group and see if now is the right time for you to join this special mastermind group of men.
The first official meeting of the fall semester will be October 7th at 9PM (Eastern Time – US & Canada).
If you are a looking place for connection with other men along with a place you will be stretched to take your next step forward, I’d encourage you to head over the stretchedmengroup.com TODAY and sign-up for a FREE, no pressure discovery call to learn more information about how you can join the Fall 2020 Semester of the Stretched Men Group.
You don’t want to miss it!
And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.
Early this past week, I received very sad news. A friend of mine was killed in a car accident late last week just days after I talked to him for almost an hour. We hadn’t spoken to each other for over a year, yet he reached out to me. The phone call was so encouraging. Little did either of us know it would be the final time we would speak to each other this side of heaven.
Besides being shocked and saddened by the news, this verse (above) immediately came to mind.
Make the most of every opportunity (Ephesians 5:15-17). This has often been a motto I have tried to follow. We don’t know when we will get a chance for our lives to intersect again with those who come across our paths. This is why making the most of every opportunity is essential. Whether it is taking the opportunity to enjoy creation around is, taking the opportunity to share good news with those who need it the most, or taking the opportunity to simply be together with those we call family or friends, we should make the most of it. Don’t let life be a waste!
Always say “I love you” for you don’t know if/when you will see each other again. I recall as a young first or second grader, I had a fear of never being able to see my Grandpa Miller again. He had just dropped me off at school, and he and Grandma were getting ready to travel from Wheaton, IL back to Minneapolis, MN. I remember the school called my home after the school day started to give me a chance to talk with my Grandpa. He ended up walking or driving back to the school before his trip back to Minneapolis just so I could say “I love you.” Now, Grandpa is 93 years old, and the last few years haven’t been kind to him. I don’t talk to him nearly as frequently as I should, but every conversation ends with “I love you.” This is how it should be with everyone we love. We don’t want to live in regret thinking we left things on a bad note.
Don’t be afraid to take risks. Life is short. The young man mentioned above was seven or eight years younger than I am. I still consider myself to me reasonably young at 48 years old. Nevertheless, life is meant to be lived in bubble-wrap, backed away removed from any chance for scratches, dents, or scars. We were meant to live our life to the fullest, and that means taking risks.
And by all means, pick up the phone and call a friend – even if you haven’t talked for a long, long time. Don’t wait for the other person to reach out to you. Be proactive. Be assertive. Be the initiator. I was talking to a friend earlier this week who mentioned she had decided to begin a 100 day streak of connection – reaching out to others. Why not join her in this streak. Pick up the phone and call someone who hasn’t heard your voice for a while. Write an actual handwritten letter to someone who could use a word of encouragement. Schedule a time for coffee or lunch with a friend.
Teach us to number our days…remind us to live life to the fullest.
A few weeks ago, I was on a walk with a very good friend of mine when he asked me a question that has had me thinking. His question is probably a question many of us should be asking if we are being honest with ourselves.
“What do you do when you find yourself in a spiritual funk? How do you get out of it?”
Okay. Maybe it was two questions. Honestly, I’m not sure these were his exact words, but you get the idea. What should we do when we find ourselves in a spiritual dry spell – perhaps a desert?
It’s really a good question we all should ponder. After all, we are human. We do not always live on the mountaintop. We sometimes find ourselves in the valley. For many, 2020 has perhaps felt like the deepest, darkest of valleys.
Acedia might also be the word to describe where you are and what your are feeling:
“Acedia comes from a combination of the negative prefix a- and the Greek noun kēdos, meaning “care, concern, or grief.” (The Greek word akēdeia became acedia in Late Latin, and that spelling was retained in English.) Acedia initially referred specifically to the “deadly sin” of sloth. It first appeared in print in English in 1607 describing ceremonies which could induce this sin in ministers and pastors, but that sense is now rare. Acedia now tends to be used more generally to simply imply a lack of interest or caring, although it sometimes still carries overtones of laziness.”
Acedia means apathy or boredom. Are you feeling apathetic or bored when it comes to your faith? If so, that’s acedia.
I don’t know about you, but acedia is not a place I want to stay. I want to be excited about my faith. I want to be stretched by my faith, and I certainly do not want to dwell in a place of spiritual funk or acedia.
So what should we do when we find ourselves in a spiritual funk?
I’m not a theologian, so I’ll give you some of my ideas then I’ll follow them up with a few articles you may want to read to expand on what I am sharing.
6 Steps To Take When You Find Yourself In A Spiritual Funk
Acknowledge you are in a funk. They often say the first step to solving a problem is to recognize the problem. It’s okay. You are not alone. When you acknowledge your acedia, you are better prepared to take steps to move out of this valley. (Psalm 42)
Tell someone about your funk. You don’t necessarily have to broadcast it to the entire world; instead, find a few close friends who will walk with you through your valley. This can be a courageous step as we often fear admitting our vulnerabilities to others. (Proverbs 27:9-11)
Admit your funk to God. You don’t have to be eloquent or elaborate. Simply lay your feelings at His feet. God knows it already (after all, there is nothing He doesn’t know). If you are struggling with this, take some time to read through the book of Psalms. There are plenty of times where David or the other psalmists admit to God their feelings of distance from Him. (James 4:10)
Listen for God’s voice. God speaks to us in many ways. He speaks to us through His Word – the Bible. He speaks to us through nature. He reveals Himself through others. Often the thing missing when we are in a spiritual funk is a connection to God and His voice. (Job 37:5-7)
Connect with others. We were meant for community. The author of Hebrews says it well, we must continue meeting together spurring each other on (Hebrews 10:24-25). In this time of COVID-19, many of us are missing this essential element as we attempt to stay physically distant from each other.
Decide not to stay in your funk. Let’s be honest, no one really wants to stay in a place of spiritual funk or acedia. It may not be easy, and it may take time, but today is the day to begin the journey out of your valley. (Joshua 24:14-27)
What is your experience with spiritual funk? How have you dealt with acedia? Please share your thoughts in the comments below!
For additional reading, here are some articles you might find helpful:
Though the fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines, though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food, though there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will be joyful in God my Savior. The Sovereign Lord is my strength; he makes my feet like the feet of a deer, he enables me to tread on the heights.
There is a scene towards the end of Thor – Ragnarok the really hit home. I’ll let you watch the scene here and then I’ll explain.
The church I attend has not met in the church building since March when the Pennsylvania governor began setting restrictions on meeting in large groups. Since then, my church (Christ’s Church of the Valley) has been “meeting” through live-streamed church services every Sunday morning. The production quality has been amazing, and it is nice to see familiar faces and to hear familiar voices through the preaching and the worship songs.
I’m sure I’m not the only one who would say I look forward to meeting together again in person.
Back the the Thor movie clip…
Thor’s father, Odin, provides a very good reminder. Just like Asgard, the church is not a place. (In the Thor movies, Asgard is Odin’s kingdom and Thor’s home.) The church is wherever it’s people stand or gather.
I have been blessed to gather virtually with a group of guys every Friday morning. This is the church.
I was blessed this week to share my story with a group of men from my church (G3 – Guys’ Growth Group) who have been meeting weekly for fellowship and Bible study. This is the church.
Almost every Saturday morning since the pandemic started, my wife and I have been meeting with a group of friends to go for a walk. This is the church.
In my talk this week to the G3 group, I shared a verse from Hebrews:
“And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.”
Hebrews 10:24-25 (NIV)
The fourth discipline in the 7 Week Stretch Challenge is to engage in key relationships. This was a truth before the pandemic, and it is still true during the pandemic. We, the church, are called to meet together – to encourage one another, to spur one another on toward love and good deeds.
While I long for the day when our church can physically meet in the building many of us call church. I am reminded of the privilege, opportunity, and responsibility we have to find ways to meet as the church whether it’s in the building, virtually, or somewhere else.
I leave you with this passage from the book of Acts. This is a description of the early church. In the passage, it’s clear the “Fellowship of Believers” was not based on a building.
“They devoted themselves to the apostles teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Everyone was filled with awe, and many wonders and miraculous signs were done by the apostles. All the believers were together and had everything in common. Selling their possessions and goods, they gave to anyone as he had need. Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.”
Leanne and I celebrated our 24th wedding anniversary with a weekend trip to Ocean Grove, NJ. This provided an excellent opportunity to stop, to reflect on and celebrate our marriage, and to consider next steps for our lives together. In this busy season, this is exactly what we needed.
The following weekend, I made a trip to Catawissa, PA to “camp” with three of my buddies. This was our annual gathering that has been going on for nearly 30 years. The trip always provides an excellent opportunity to pause life, to reconnect and catch up on our lives, and to enjoy the great outdoors. We fished in the Susquehanna River and Roaring Creek. We played a few games of corn hole. We ate some great food. I even finished reading a book (Playing for Pizza by John Grisham). And we simply enjoyed sitting around.
When I arrived home from this trip, it was time to kick it into high gear for our move. We packed all our belongings into the moving trucks on Wednesday, July 22nd, and we officially closed our nearly fifteen year Centennial Street chapter. The next day, we officially started a new chapter on Snoopy Lane (still in Schwenksville, PA – actually in Lower Frederick, PA).
Our first week in the new house has been all we could ask for and more. We love our neighborhood. We have met so many genuinely nice people, and we have begun making new friendships. Leanne has enjoyed several walks with one of the women in the neighborhood. And we enjoyed our first Friday night neighborhood Happy Hour this week.
We have been busy unpacking and figuring out where everything goes. Yesterday, Isaac and I spend quite a bit of time painting the garage, hanging utility hooks, and organizing the garage. We still have a few things to do in order to finish up the garage project (hanging the bikes, getting a garage door opener, and painting/sealing the floor); otherwise, we are happy with the progress on this project. And I’m looking forward to the next projects.
I’m sure there is a lot in which I could share. I have had so many thoughts and reflections that have gone on through this experience. Perhaps, I will share more in the days to come. In the meantime, I wanted to share one of the experiences that left a mark on me.
A couple nights after we moved in to our Snoopy Lane home, Leanne and I were sitting outside our garage when a young neighborhood family stopped by to say hello. The oldest boy (I think he is 8 years old) asked Leanne and me if we knew Jesus. His exact words, “Do you know Jesus.” This led to a conversation that made it clear we did, and it is a conversation I have thought about over and over again since then.
I think his mother was a bit embarrassed by her son’s question when we were just getting to know her family. I think we set her mind at ease by our response. What makes it so easy for a child to have such “boldness” when we are all called to share our faith? People can debate about the best ways to share our faith with others which is a subject for another conversation.
But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander.
This little boy challenged me and encouraged me. I want to confidently share my faith with boldness, with gentleness, and with respect.
I’m looking forward to the opportunities we will have in the coming days, weeks, months, and years to connect and grow in our community.
Yesterday, I officially joined VLAUGUST, a private Facebook vlogging community that encourages participants to post a vlog once or twice a week on a specific theme. This year’s theme is “How To Be Still.” I posted my first vlog this morning. In my post, I shared about my history of struggling with the notion of being still. As part of the post, I shared Psalm 46 – specifically Psalm 46:10 that reminds us the “Be still and know that I am God.” I’m excited to see how this challenge will stretch me.
God continues to stretch me for which I am grateful.
Change happened. Change happens. Change will happen.
Change is hard. Change seems impossible. Change is possible.
Change causes anxiety. Change causes euphoria.
Change can be overwhelming. Change can be just what we need.
Change is often feared. Change is also welcomed.
Change may not be what we want, and yet change may be exactly what we need.
Change moves from the past into the future. Change can make a world of difference by making the world a little different.
Change doesn’t have to be a bad thing. Change can actually be very, very good.
We are all watching change happen. We are all changing. We are all on the brink of change. We are all in need of change.
We need change that matters. We need change that makes the world a better place not just for us but for everyone. We need change that shines hope on the hopeless. We need change that shines light on the darkness. We need change that brings freedom to those in chains. We need change that amplifies love and quiets hate.
Are you ready for change? (Am I?) Will you be the change our world needs? (Will I?) What changes to you need to make? (What changes to I need to make?) When will you break from your ruts and embrace change? (When will I?)
The time for change is now. While change may be uncomfortable, it is worth it!
Be the change our world needs!
Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!
2 Corinthians 5:17 (NIV)
For those of you who struggle with change, I’d encourage you to lean on God’s love which does not change.
Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.
When I was 12, I flew all by myself to Minnesota to stay with my Grandma and Grandpa Miller in Minneapolis. While I was there we visited my Uncle Wes and Aunt Carol who lived in a more rural area north of Minneapolis.
While bailing hay with Uncle Wes and my Grandpa. I found a moose shed – the antler of a moose that had fallen off for the season. I took it from Uncle Wes’ farm back to Minneapolis and on the airplane back to Philadelphia. The moose antler has gone with me from Mt. Holly, NJ to our first house in Schwenksville, PA and then to our second house in Schwenskville, PA. I haven’t seen it for a while, but it did come to my mind a month or two ago when I received word that Uncle Wes had passed away. I rediscovered it yesterday as I was cleaning out my basement in preparation to move again in just over a month.
Honestly, I shed a few tears yesterday as I said goodbye to some things that remind me of my past. I said goodbye to my pennant collection that had faded away. These reminded me of my love for baseball along with some of the amazing places I visited as a kid like the real Field of Dreams in Iowa. I said goodbye to several old photographs that had collected wrinkles, creases, and dust in an old footlocker I got before my freshman year at Grove City College. One of the photos was of my housing group, AEX, as we posed for a Christmas photo in Harbison Chapel in December of 1993. These along with many other items were a reminder that I am extremely blessed…EXTREMELY blessed!
I’m so thankful for family, for friends, and for all the special memories made over the years.
As my wife and I pursue this path of downsizing, I’m reminded of how temporary our stuff is. We can’t take any of it with us when we are done with this life. We must remember to hold onto our stuff lightly and hold on to the memories and invest in relationships. These are the things that matter. These are the things we can take into eternity.
“Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”
2020 has been perhaps the craziest year of my life. We’ve dealt with COVID-19. We saw one of the biggest dips in the stock market along with one of the biggest swings in the unemployment rates in history. We saw the rise in popularity of a crazy Netflix show called Tiger King. We are navigating the primary election season for what is sure to be a crazy fall election. And we are witnessing the deaths of several Black individuals and the protests along with some rioting and looting that followed the most recent killing of George Floyd at the hands of a white Minneapolis police officer.
These most recent events in particular have left me reeling. We do not watch a lot of news at our house as it hasn’t historically been healthy for our minds and hearts. And yet, I realize there is an importance to being informed.
I’ve done a lot of reflection this week, and I’ve also begun with more investigation and self-education. I’ve talked to people who have different opinions than me, different backgrounds than me, and different skin colors than me. I still have a long, long way to go. Knowing full well that I have family and friends with a wide variety of opinions and perspectives on what is going on in our country these days, I have three challenges for all of us in the coming week.
3 Challenges for You This Week
Examine your own heart. We all have work to do in our own hearts. I love what King David says in Psalms 51:10: “Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me.” I also think of King David’s words in Psalms 139:23: “Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts.” Is my heart and my mind aligned with God? Does my heart break for the things that break the heart of God? Am I doing what the Lord requires of me (“He has shown you, O mortal, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.” Micah 6:8).
Do your research. Don’t just depend on your own go-to-resources like FoxNews or CNN. Seek to understand. Check out the movie “Just Mercy” that is streaming for free on many platforms right now. Watch the “13th” documentary on Netflix. Don’t just rest there, look for resources that help explain the position of others with whom you may not agree. Do your homework.
Talk to someone who is different than you. If you are white, talk to some Black people. Seek to understand their perspective. If you are a Christian, talk to someone who is Jewish – talk to someone who is Muslim – talk to someone who is an atheist. If you are conservative, talk to someone who is liberal. If you are a Democrat, talk to someone who is Republican. Go into these conversations prepared to listen and learn. Resist the temptation to convert others to your viewpoint.
Our country and our world is divided. And I believe we stand at the precipice of great calamity or a great change. Hate is not the answer, and love takes work as it often takes us out of our comfort zone. Choose love.
“You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteousness. If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? Be perfect, therefore, as your Heavenly Father is perfect.”
“So I say to you, Ask and it will be given to you; search, and you will find; knock, and the door will be opened for you.“
Jesus Christ (Matthew 7:7)
Can I ask you a question?
To late, I just did.
Learning to ask questions is the key to opening the door to countless opportunities, experiences, and relationships. Kids typically do a great job asking questions. If you have ever been with a young child, you’ve heard this question over and over again: “Why?”
Kids are curious. They want to learn. They want to grow. They want to try new things. And they seem to know that asking questions is the key to getting what they want. Kids also don’t let the fear of sounding stupid stop them from asking questions.
Somewhere between childhood and adulthood, most of us forget the power of asking questions. We lose our curiosity. We don’t want to appear like we don’t know all the answers. And we’re afraid we might be told “No” when we ask for something.
I’ve learned something recently:
The answer will always be “No” if we don’t ask.
This is why we must learn the discipline of asking questions.
In the writing and speaking world, there are many opportunities available to those who ask.
If I want to speak, I have to ask. If I want to write on someone’s blog or platform, I have to ask. If I want to be on someone’s podcast, I have to ask. Sure I may get an invitation from time to time without asking, but this is not the norm.
You may not be a writer or a speaker, but you still have a lot to gain by asking questions. When you practice the discipline of asking questions, many things happen.
You get to know people better when you ask questions. Where were you born? What do you like to do in your spare time? What do you want to accomplish in the next five to ten years? What’s your favorite color? How did you get to where you are today? When you ask questions, you get to know people.
You come across as more interesting when you ask questions. Questions are the gateway to great conversations. And when you have conversations, you automatically increase your “I’m interesting” factor.
You show people they matter when you ask questions. When people ask me questions, I feel valued. When you ask questions, you show others they are valued. By asking questions, you have the opportunity to show people they matter.
You learn new things when you ask questions. Be curious. Questions will take you to all kinds of new places and new information. I’ve learned a lot about blogging as a result of the questions I have asked other bloggers. In my career, I grown a lot and seen new opportunities as a result of asking “How can I do this better next time?”
You clarify your path forward when you ask questions. Sometimes we get stuck. We develop a type of paralysis, because we aren’t sure how to proceed. Asking the right questions can give us clarity on the direction we should be taking.
You can move more quickly when you ask questions.
You become a better leader when you ask questions.
“Who questions much, shall learn much, and retain much.”
I have used a set of questions that have helped me grow personally and professionally. If you begin using these questions, you will grow as well. These questions require an open mind and a willingness to take action.
5 Questions That Will Take You To The Next Level
How are you? This seems so simple, but people don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care. Asking this question provides an opportunity to connect at a deeper level. I have learned so much by asking this simple question. When it comes to leadership, I have learned when my team members are going through a tough time or when they have something to celebrate. I have learned more about my customers and about the things that make them tick. Start your conversations with this simple but very important question.
How can I do this better the next time? Asking for feedback is the best way to learn. Especially if you will be doing similar activities again, this question can lead to massive growth for you and can lead to tremendous loyalty with those whom you ask this question. As an engineer, I used this question repeatedly to become a better engineer – to put out designs that were more useful for my installers, my start-up technicians, and my customers. As a leader, I use this question to grow in my leadership.
What else can I do? Asking for more work when you have a lull in your current workload is an excellent way to demonstrate work ethic. This question demonstrates to others that you are a team player and you are not lazy. When I was fairly new to my company, this question led to my assignment on a high profile four year project that propelled my reputation and my career. I learned so many things by simply asking “What else can I do?”
Can you help me? Asking for help takes humility. Many of us don’t want to appear as if we can’t do it ourselves. Here’s the reality, we can’t always do it ourselves. Sometimes our knowledge and skill limit us for the time being. We need to ask for help to expand our knowledge and skill and to make sure our task is executed as necessary. Sometimes our schedules limit us, and we need to ask for help because we cannot get to everything on our plate. More recently, I have realized that this question is a very important leadership question. As leaders, we must as for help in an effort to delegate. Delegating tasks to others gives them a chance to expand their experience, it prepares others to take on more responsibility in the future, and it frees up the leader to address other issues and tasks.
How can I help? When people come into my office, this is the question I try to ask. What can I do to make your job/life easier? What direction or assistance can I provide that will keep you moving forward? This question breaks down walls. This question is the key to collaborative solutions. Everyone faces obstacles, and these obstacles seem smaller when there is help.
One thing worth noting, once you’ve asked your question(s) make sure you stop to listen. The real learning happens when we listen to what others have to say in response to our questions. And if you’re asking yourself the question(s), make sure you take time to reflect and process your responses to your own questions.