Grandpa Miller

Tuesday morning, September 7, 2021, I was walking a job site for a project my team is working on when I received news that my Grandpa had passed away. While I wasn’t surprised given his recent health, I was still taken aback – sad and happy at the same time. I was sad, because I knew I would never see him again in this earthly life. I was happy, because I knew he was no longer suffering and I would one day see him again in heaven.

I’m still trying to capture all my thoughts and memories of him. Some initial things come to mind:

  • Grandpa had some responsibility for my musical skill and interest and for that of our family. While Leanne’s family rightfully gets most of the credit, Grandpa gave me his silver alto saxophone when I was getting ready to start fifth grade. That instrument led me into many practices, performances, and interactions I might never have had otherwise. My senior year in high school, I played in three separate jazz groups that went to states (in New Jersey). I still have the saxophone, and I’ll treasure it as a memory and connection to my Grandpa. Both my kids pursued music starting at a young age, and Isaac (my son) is pursuing a career in music.
  • Grandpa took a lot of steps in his life. As a USPS mail carrier, he loved his route and the people he met along the way as he delivered the mail. I think of Grandpa often when I’m out on my daily walks (today is day 1,240 in my streak of 10,000+ steps a day). While the last several years haven’t been kind to Grandpa’s mobility, I will always remember him as a man in motion.
  • Grandpa made the most of every opportunity when it came to sharing God’s love and God’s message with others. In my wallet is a card from Grandpa that includes two questions: (1) Do you have a prayer request for me? (2) Have you come to a place in your life where you know that when you die, your are going to Heaven? Grandpa gave these cards out, and he asked these two questions whenever he had the chance. He is responsible for introducing perhaps hundreds of people to Jesus Christ. While Grandpa was far from perfect, I think this is a model worth following.

As I continue to process Grandpa’s life and his passing, I will perhaps have more to share. In the meantime, I thought you might enjoy getting to know him a little better. He has been mentioned in several of my past posts. Here are links for you to learn more:

4 Things I Learned When Grandpa Called Me

Friday afternoon at the end of my workday, I received a phone call from my Grandpa.  Grandpa Miller lives in Minneapolis, MN, and I live outside of Philadelphia, PA which means we don’t see each other very often.  And I’m embarrassed to admit we don’t talk nearly as often as we should.  I think we both share the guilt for our infrequent conversations.

One of the things that keeps us connected is my blog.  Every time I publish a new blog post, Grandpa gets an email from me.  He keeps tabs on me in part by reading my blog posts.

I don’t know if you noticed or not, but I didn’t publish a single blog post last week.  One person did notice – Grandpa.  His phone call on Friday afternoon was a call of concern for me.  Was a sick?  Was I busy?  Was I okay?  Grandpa called to check-up on me.

Grandpa’s phone call reminded me of several important things….

Teach Us To Number Our Days

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.

Renewal Through Shared Disciplines

Recently, I was on the phone with my Grandpa Miller. Grandpa recently turned 94 years old. Physically, he is definitely showing signs of his age. He can’t run around like he used to when he was in his 70s and 80s. And while is mind isn’t quite as sharp as it used to be, I’ve been impressed by how well he is doing mentally and spiritually. During our phone conversation, he shared with me his pattern for prayer….

Teach Me To Count (last week’s post)

This fact has been hitting home for me on a much more personal level these past two or three weeks as my family watches my Grandpa Miller in his last days. At 94 years old, he has lived a long life. He is a retired USPS mail carrier (he loved his job). He served in the U.S. Army in Germany in World War II. He was always very particular about his lawn and his cars for which he always paid cash. Grandpa was frugal. He was a meat and potatoes guy. More than these things, he loved Jesus, and he loved introducing people to Jesus. Over the past few years as his physical body has been failing, he has remained committed to praying (I wrote about this in a recent blog post).

Grandpa is tired and worn out. He is ready to go home – to his heavenly home….

The Discipline of Preparation

As long as I can remember, I have always taken great pride in keeping a nice lawn. I may have been influenced by my Grandpa Miller who always kept his lawn green and well manicured when I was younger. My obsession with a nice lawn may also have been shaped by my experience as a teenager cutting people’s lawns throughout the area….

8 Things You Need To Know About A Positive Attitude

(This post was more about Grandma Miller, but Grandpa is mentioned in the post.)

When you think of someone with a positive attitude, who comes to your mind?

The first person to come to my mind is my Grandma Miller. Grandma passed away several years ago, but her positive attitude still impacts me. Grandma struggled with multiple sclerosis for most of her life. Her knees failed her. She suffered from seizures. And towards the end of her life, she could barely hold her head up. Despite her physical ailments, she remained positive. She often had a song on her lips, and she was friendly with every single person who crossed her path. If there was someone I know who had a positive attitude, it was my Grandma Miller….

Teach Me To Count

“Every man dies. Not every man really lives.”

William Wallace

I recently watched VAL, a documentary about actor, Val Kilmer. You may remember Kilmer as Ice Man in the hit movie, Top Gun. He’s also played key roles in other movies like Tombstone, Batman Forever, The Doors, and Willow. He had all the success you might expect from a movie start who has been part of many, many movies, and he had the good looks to go with it. Relatively recently, he developed throat cancer which has caused a tremendous interruption to his life and disastrous impact to his voice.

The documentary tells the story of Val Kilmer both before and after his cancer diagnosis, and I think it also provides a glimpse of hope we can find even when life doesn’t quite go as we expect it to. Here’s the trailer to give you a little taste. The documentary is available on Amazon Prime, and I’d recommend giving it two hours of your time.

The documentary was also a reminder that life is fleeting. We don’t know exactly what we might encounter as we journey through life. One thing is for sure, our days on Earth are finite.

This fact has been hitting home for me on a much more personal level these past two or three weeks as my family watches my Grandpa Miller in his last days. At 94 years old, he has lived a long life. He is a retired USPS mail carrier (he loved his job). He served in the U.S. Army in Germany in World War II. He was always very particular about his lawn and his cars for which he always paid cash. Grandpa was frugal. He was a meat and potatoes guy. More than these things, he loved Jesus, and he loved introducing people to Jesus. Over the past few years as his physical body has been failing, he has remained committed to praying (I wrote about this in a recent blog post).

Grandpa is tired and worn out. He is ready to go home – to his heavenly home.

What will you do with time you have left? How will you live your life? Will you live with regret always looking in the rear view mirror of your life? Or will you live with hope anticipating the good things yet to come?

I love how the Apostle Paul encourages us to make the most of every opportunity:

“Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is.”

Ephesians 5:15-17 (NIV)

It’s important for us to consider our lives and to make the most of every opportunity.

What are you waiting for?

“Teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom.”

Psalm 90:12 (NIV)

Iron Sharpens Iron

“For everybody in their busy lives, you need to invest in sharpening your tools, and you need to invest in longevity.”

Ryan Holmes

This morning on my walk (today is day 1,226 in my 10,000 steps a day streak), I crossed paths with one of my neighbors. He commented on how I was looking thinner. Honestly, I was flattered, but I explained to him I’d like to lose 10-15 pounds. (My height hides it pretty well.) He indicated that he also needed to lose 15 pounds, and he went on to tell me that he really needed to give up his daily Pop Tarts. I explained that I would have the same problem with Pop Tarts and an even bigger problem with ice cream if we kept them in the house on a regular basis. He then stated that he was going to get rid of his Pop Tarts. Five minutes later, I received a video text message from him crying as he threw his Pop Tarts in the trash. Our exchange ended with a text message back from me, “Be strong and courageous.”

We all have things to work on in our lives. We could be better in our eating habits, our exercise habits, our reading habits, our television viewing habits. I could go on. We each benefit when we take take to sharpen our skills and improve our habits.

In some cases this sharpening or improvement can happen with our own efforts.

But sharpening or self-improvement happens in a better way when we involve others in the sharpening process.

King Solomon said “As iron sharpens iron, so a friend sharpens a friend.”

We need friends in our lives who will sharpen us, who will encourage us, who will call us on the carpet, who will spur us on toward love and good deeds (Hebrews 10:24-25).

Who are those friends in your life? Who sharpens you? Who helps you become a better person?

If you don’t have an answer to these questions, I’d encourage you to search it out. I have found these kinds of friendships through my marriage, through my involvement at church, through my community at the gym, through a variety of community groups, and right in my own neighborhood.

I have also found sharpening through the Stretched Men Group, the mastermind group I founded to help men take the next steps in their journey. If you are interested in stepping into this kind of sharpening relationship, leave me a comment. I plan to launch the next semester at the beginning of 2022.

I’m thankful I ran into my neighbor this morning. Together we both have a shot at reaching our goal of losing 10-15 pounds and in improving ourselves for the future.

Keep stretching one step at a time!

“As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another.”

Proverbs 27:17 (NIV)

Keep Going

“You simply have to put one foot in front of the other and keep going. Put blinders on and plow right ahead.”

George Lucus

This morning I woke up to the sound of rain on my roof. I looked out the window and confirmed that it was raining. Should I crawl back in bed? It seemed like the perfect time to go back to sleep. Or should I put on some walking clothes, grab my umbrella, and head out for a walk? This morning after church, I have a gathering with my Toastmasters club (Jolly Road Toastmasters) and another gathering with our small group formed out of the last Dynamic Marriage class that Leanne and I facilitated. I knew I would struggle to get my steps if I stayed in bed, but the temptation was real.

What do you think I did?

That’s right. I put on some walking clothes, grabbed my umbrella, and headed out for a walk.

Keeping our commitments isn’t always easy. It requires us to overcome temptations when they come our way. And sometimes it requires to persist through conditions that are less than ideal – like poor weather, fatigue, and illness.

Today is day 1,219 in my streak of 10,000 or more steps every day. You can bet I’ve experienced all kinds of temptations and less than ideal conditions along the way. And yet, I keep going.

You can do it too!

Maybe you are struggling to keep your commitments to become more healthy, to become more fiscally responsible, to become stronger in a relationship. Whatever it is, decide today to keep going. You can do it. One step at a time. You don’t have to make it happen all at once. The bigger goals we seek are achieved when we attack our smaller goals one at a time – one step at a time. Take that next step. Keep going!

“Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit.”

Galatians 5:25

Changing Things Up

There is nothing permanent except change.

Heraclitus

I should preface this post with an acknowledgement that I hate change.

Okay, so maybe hate is a little strong. In reality, I like my routines. I like to go with what I know already. Change isn’t the first thing I think of when an obstacle stands in my way.

This week, I made a big change.

I changed from my Fitbit to a new Apple Watch I won as part of a company sponsored challenge. I’ve been using a Fitbit for several years to monitor my daily step count. My current Fitbit has been with me since before I started my streak of 10,000 steps or more each day (today is day 1,212 of the streak).

My new Apple Watch arrived early this week, and I took time to charge it before sliding it on my right wrist. Worth noting, my Fitbit remained on my left wrist. I slept wearing both devices, and I went to the gym the next morning wearing both devices. I must of looked like a real geek, but nobody commented that morning. When I realized the Apple Watch was indeed doing a good job of counting my daily steps, I made the decision to take off my Fitbit and move the Apple Watch from my right wrist to my left wrist. So far, I haven’t looked back.

Change happens. It is part of life. Being able to adapt to situations and organizational “transformations” is necessary to stretch and to keep up with the changing demands of the world where we live.

Change can be exciting if we open our eyes, our minds, and our hearts. Not all change is bad. Change can open the doors to new relationships, new beginnings, and a new outlook on life.

It’s okay to grieve when change happens, but it’s also important to look forward at the possibility that awaits when we encounter change.

One more thing. We are actually called to change. In Romans 12:2, the Apostle Paul encourages us to be changed or transformed by the renewing of our minds. Change is important to keep us growing towards God.

What needs to change in your life? How has change been a good thing for you?

And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.

Romans 12:2 (NKJV)

It’s Been A Minute

“Time is the wisest counselor of all.”

Pericles

I’m still alive!

It’s been a minute since I’ve written anything here which means it has actually been quite a while. Life has jumped in the way which is mostly a great thing. I’ve prioritized other things over writing. And perhaps, I’ve even struggled with inspiration and motivation to write as well.

Over the past few months, I’ve celebrated my 25th wedding anniversary to my wonderful bride. We had the blessing of traveling to Puerto Vallarta, Mexico for an unforgettable getaway where we renewed our vows as the sun set over the Pacific Ocean. I went on a family vacation to the Poconos with my wife and two twenty-something kids. I went on an extended weekend “camping” trip with my buddies originally from the Mt. Holly, NJ area. And I’ve kept busy with the pressures and responsibilities of work and home life.

I’ve thought about writing, but it just hasn’t happened.

What happens in our lives is typically a result of what and how we prioritize.

For example, today marks 1,205 days in a row with 10,000 or more steps. Clearly, I’ve prioritized my walking. It has become a non-negotiable. This was very apparent a few weeks ago when I arrived home from Mexico with some sort of bug that left me feverish, weak, and lethargic. I thought for sure my step streak might be over. Nonetheless, I found just enough energy to slowly walk around my neighborhood until I reached my daily goal. Some might say this dedication to a goal is idiotic or over the top. I say it’s what I’ve prioritized.

Over the past several months, Leanne and I have prioritized working together on our finances. We went through Ramsey’s Financial Peace University class. We now meet weekly to plan our budget, discuss our financial goals, and go over our expenditures. We have made significant progress, because we’ve made this a priority.

When I released my first two books, On Track and Rooftop Reflections, the writing and release of these books became a priority for me.

When I ran three marathons and several half marathons, I prioritized training to prepare for these events.

What is it you want to achieve over the next few months? What is it you want to see happen in your life over the next few years? What are some of the things you want to experience in the remaining years of your life?

Seriously, stop for a long minute, and ponder your answers to these questions.

Now, what is it going to take to make these things happen? What are you going to do about it?

Don’t wait another minute. Take time to prioritize your time. Be intentional in how you live your life.

“There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens: a time to be born and a time to die, a time to plant and a time to uproot….”

Ecclesiastes 3:1-2 (NIV)

Renewed By The Heart Of Leadership

“Today a reader, tomorrow a leader.”

Margaret Fuller

In one form or another, I’ve been leading for nearly as long as I can remember. In first or second grade, I led my Sunday School class in a newspaper drive. I don’t remember what the newspapers were for, but I remember walking around my neighborhood with my red wagon collecting used newspapers. In fourth grade, I directed and acted in a classroom play about a scarecrow. In fifth grade, my friend, James, and I were the lead editors for a publication known as “The Presby Press.” In high school, I participated in student government. In college, I led in several organizations. Since college, I’ve led countless small groups, I’ve led through my involvement in organizations like Toastmasters and Rotary, and I’m a recognized leader where I work as the Branch Operations Manager for Projects at Siemens Smart Infrastructure Philadelphia Branch.

While leadership has been part of me for a long, long while, I’m realizing (again) that I still have so much to learn. Thankfully, there are great leaders around me and great leadership resources to help me as I stretch in my leadership.

I recently came across an excellent leadership resource which is included in my Audible subscription – The Heart of Leadership: Becoming a Leader People Want to Follow by Mark Miller. Listening to this book renewed by sense of leadership and my responsibility to continue to learn and grow. Here are the main things I learned as I listed to the book:

  • Leaders must Hunger for wisdom. There is still more to learn. We must be students of leadership. If you’re looking for a place to start, I’d encourage you to pick up this book.
  • Leaders must Expect the best. Having a positive outlook is important, and expecting the best from those around you is a significant marker of someone who has developed leadership character.
  • Leaders must Accept responsibility. Leaders take the blame when necessary, and they share the praise when something goes right.
  • Leaders must Respond with courage. Leading is not always easy. In the face of adversity or change, a leader must be courageous.
  • Leaders must Think of others first. It’s not about me. It’s about my team members. How can I help them? What can I do that will help them succeed?

These lessons represent the HEART of leadership.

In this year of renew, I’m thankful for these reminders. I want to lead well. I want my leadership to leave a mark. And I want my leadership to make a difference.

What leadership lessons have your recently learned? How are you experiencing renewal in your leadership?

Renewed Through Accountability

“Accountability breeds response-ability.”

Stephen Covey

We all need a little accountability in our lives – that necessary kick in the butt necessary to keep us on the right path.

I’m working on my High Performance Leadership project necessary to earn my Distinguished Toastmasters (DTM) for Toastmasters International. For those unfamiliar, Toastmasters International is a world-wide organization of local clubs designed to help people improve their leadership and communication skills. And the DTM is the highest level of achievement in the organization (kind of like the Eagle Scout Rank associated with Scouting). In order to earn the DTM, I’ve given over 50 speeches and completed many leadership activities and roles.

The High Performance Leadership (HPL) project is the capstone necessary to earn the DTM, and I’ve been putting off my project for over a year. With a deadline of June 30, 2021 (which was extended a year thanks to the COVID pandemic), I only have a month to finalize the requirements of this project and to submit my paperwork which is required to make the DTM official.

To help move me along in this process and to ensure I meet the requirements by the deadline, I asked a couple of co-workers and fellow Toastmasters to hold me accountable. Last week, I made significant progress towards my goal thanks to the timely and repeated “prodding” of these individuals.

We need accountability in our lives.

My wife is one of my accountability partners for life, marriage, and family. I meet with a group of guys weekly who also hold me accountable in areas of faith, fitness, and finances. I meet with a group of entrepreneurs bi-weekly who hold each other accountable to moving forward in our businesses and side pursuits. And I meet with a group of leaders in my company on a monthly basis to hold each other accountable to leading well in our organization.

The idea of accountability can be scary. After all, we have to be transparent in order for accountability to be effective. We have to be willing to share our fears and our failings with others. Accountability is worth overcoming these fears.

Accountability is powerful. It can push us over obstacles holding us back, and accountability allows us to rise to our full potential.

One of the reasons I started the Stretched Men Group several years ago was to provide a place where men could be held accountable to stretch and take steps forward to become better husbands, better fathers, better leaders, and better men. If you are interested in joining this kind of a group, let me know (or visit StretchedMenGroup.com) by leaving a comment below.

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)

Renewed By Change

If we don’t change, we don’t grow. If we don’t grow, we aren’t really living.”

Gail Sheehy

Before the COVID-19 pandemic, I used Sunday morning before church as a time for writing. I took my laptop to a local Starbucks or business that offered free WiFi, and I wrote my weekly blog post.

When the pandemic forced me to write from home, I noticed my writing time was becoming more interrupted and less consistent. My wife noticed this trend as well, and she recently encouraged me to get back out to write.

This morning, I’m writing from the back patio of the Sunshine Cafe in Limerick, PA. (By the way, this is a fantastic place for breakfast. The food is good. The waitstaff is friendly. This morning, I tried the avocado toast which was delicious along with my usual decaf coffee.) The change in scenery and routine has been just what I needed.

I spent my first 30 minutes reflecting on the past week and planning for the week ahead. Then I opened up my laptop (actually my iPad) to write this post. And I’ll have some time to do some reading before heading to church at Christ’s Church of the Valley this morning.

This is just the change I needed. In this year of renew, we may need to change things up from time to time. While I’m a proponent of disciplines, routines, and habits, I’m realizing it’s okay and even healthy to change things up every once in a while.

What change do you need to make to find renewal in you life? How has change been a good thing for you?

A Renewed Outlook on Mondays

“There are two tests in life, more important than any other test. On Monday morning, when you wake up, do you feel in the pit of your stomach you can’t wait to go to work? And when you’re ready to go home Friday afternoon, do you say, ‘I can’t wait to go home?’”

Chuck Schumer

It’s Monday night.

How was your Monday?

For many of us, Monday has become a curse word – a word that implies dread, stress, and hopelessness.

Why is that?

I’m thinking Monday has taken on such a negative reputation because so many fail to find work that brings fulfillment. Instead, many workers simply take on a job that pays the bills.

Our work matters. What we do every day for over 1/3 of our days during the work week has the possibility to leave a lasting mark. It also has the potential to simply be a waste of our time.

I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to waste my time when it comes to my work.

As I approach my 50th birthday at the end of this calendar year, I’ve begun doing a lot of self examination. While I intend on keeping busy contributing to society for the rest of my living years, I’m realizing that I probably have 10-15 years left before I “retire” from work as I know it. I want those 10-15 years to matter. I want to do work that fulfills me and encourages others. I want to do work that utilizing my gifts, my talents, my skills, my knowledge, and my experience, and I want to do work that helps others along the way. I want to do work that contributes to my community and my world.

I’ve begun doing more homework to help me navigate this period of self examination. Specifically, I’ve most recently been reading through Halftime: Moving from Success to Significance by Bob Buford, 48 Days to the Work and Life You Love by Dan Miller, and The Proximity Principle by Ken Coleman.

I don’t want to dread Mondays. I want to be excited about my work. I want to pursue work that aligns with my vocational calling – the place where my skills meet my passions meets my opportunities.

How are you feeling about Mondays? What steps do you need to take to have a better outlook on your work? How could an improved work outlook make a difference in your life?

And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.

Colossians 3:17 (NIV)
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