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Finding Favor: God’s Blessings Beyond Health, Wealth, and Happiness officially releases TODAY.
I had the privilege of reading an early release of this new book by Brian Jones. Here’s part of my Amazon review:
People often look at God like Santa Claus. Prayers are sent God’s way like little kids making a list for Santa Claus the weeks before Christmas. When God doesn’t provide exactly what they wanted, people become discouraged, desperate, and disillusioned.
When I initially picked up a copy of Finding Favor, I was a bit skeptical. I’m one of those people who have prayed for healing, for conflict resolution, and for provision. Some of those prayers have been answered; however, many prayers weren’t answered – at least not in the way I desired and expected.
In Finding Favor, my perspective on prayer and God’s response to prayer was challenged and changed….
To read the rest of my review, go to Amazon.
Better yet, do yourself a favor and pick up a copy of yourself. Click here to order now.
You remember having the item at one point in time, but now you can’t find it.
The search begins. You look all over the place for your lost item. Every closet, every corner, and every crack is checked and checked again. You look under every bed, and you look everywhere else. The search continues until you find the lost item or until you lose hope.
When you find the item (especially after a long search process), you celebrate.
This seems to be a recurring theme in my life. In June, I wrote about The Parable of the Lost Blue Water Bottle. There was much rejoicing when I found my lost bottle. Since I made this story public, I’ve had several people point out my water bottle, “Is that the famous blue water bottle?”
Almost two years ago, I wrote about a lost item.
Over two years ago, I wrote about a lost child.
Four years ago, I wrote about a lost key.
Over five years ago, I wrote about a lost landscaping plan.
The lost and found theme that seems to run through my life is powerful. Despite the countless stories of missing items, I’m generally a very organized person. But God seems to be trying to get my attention.
My collection of lost and found stories grew last weekend when I discovered a long-lost item.
At my house, we have been going through a season of de-cluttering. We are selling and giving things away, and we are simply discarding things we no longer need. As we go through each room in the house, we take time to sort through the “stuff” we have accumulated since we moved into our house ten years ago. I’m amazed to discover how many things we never use.
Last weekend, we spent the day cleaning up our basement. As I was cleaning up my workshop area, I came across a brown bag full of paperwork. I decided I should probably look through the paperwork to see if anything needed to be saved. After twenty minutes of paging through appliance owner’s manuals and other miscellaneous pieces of paper, I discovered a familiar folded up document – I found our lost landscaping plan!
A smile immediately crossed my face, and the smile quickly turned into laughter. I couldn’t contain my excitement. I ran upstairs where Leanne and Isaac were preparing lunch, and I unfolded the landscaping plan for them to see. They could hardly believe their eyes.
We had the landscaping plan designed for us shortly after we moved into the house. We had big dreams of using the plan to beautify our property over the years. Unfortunately, we lost the landscaping plan several years ago, and the initial landscaping plans were replaced with a new make-it-up-as-we-go plan. We looked high and low (but not in the brown bag in the basement).
Whenever we lose an item in our house, our family jokes that the lost item must be with the landscaping plan.
This week, we celebrated the return of our landscaping plan with our H.O.P.E. group. Leanne made cake. I shared the story of our rediscovered landscaping plans. And our friends helped us celebrate.
I’m planning to frame the landscaping plan to hang in our house as a reminder. This new wall hanging will remind our family of the humorous story that has become a part of our history. And the wall hanging will remind me of something else…
At one point or another, we were all lost. God went to great lengths to “find” us. He sent his Son to give us a way home. When we decide to follow Christ, there is much rejoicing in heaven. My lost landscaping plan reminds of the measures God took to help me find my way home, and the landscaping plan reminds me of the opportunity to share God’s love with others.
If you want to read more stories about the lost and found, check out Luke 15.
Yesterday morning, I woke up at 4 A.M. (when my alarm went off) with the E.T. movie theme song swirling around in my head.
Why the E.T. soundtrack?
I have no idea.
As I rolled out of bed, I remember thinking about the feeling I first had when I heard that music while Elliot flew his bicycle in front of the moon with E.T. safely tucked in the basket on the front handlebars. As I watched E.T. for the first time, I experienced a feeling of wonder.
I wonder what it is like to fly.
I wonder how the moon was so full.
I wonder about the possibility of rescuing an extraterrestrial.
Recently, I had this feeling again as I dropped our oldest off at Messiah College for her freshman year.
I wondered again at the feelings of freedom and excitement that clearly shown on my daughter’s face as she prepared to embark on this new journey away from home.
I wondered again at the thought of meeting so many new people and learning so many new things.
And I wondered again at the opportunity to plug into the community offered at a Christian college.
I think we sometimes forget to look through the lens of wonder as we move into adulthood. We allow our sense of responsibility and our tendency for routine take over. We forget to look at the world with enthusiasm and zest for life. This trickles into our relationships and even into our faith.
I like routine, but I don’t want to become complacent as I experience life around me. I want to approach the world with energy. I want to take on each relationship and each conversation with a sense of purpose. And I want to live like me faith is fresh and God’s mercies for me are new every single morning.
Over the weekend, Leanne and I were taking a walk along the Perkiomen Trail. As we approached the base of the steepest hill on the entire trail, we crossed paths with a man who was running down the hill with a heavy bag held behind his neck. We exchanged greetings, and I asked him how he was doing. His response made me chuckle, “Tired.”
Of course he was tired. He was running with a huge load on his back. What does he expect. If he had simply left the bag at home, his run would have been easier. And he wouldn’t be so tired.
We kept walking, and I started thinking.
How many of us go through life with a heavy weight tied to our back?
I know I’ve been carrying around a couple of heavy loads lately. I’ve lost sleep. I’ve experienced other signs of stress and fatigue.
How would my life change if I let go of these burdens?
I wouldn’t be so tired. I’d have more energy for other more productive things. I’d be happier. I might even have less gray hair.
We all have burdens to carry, but there are a few things we can do to lighten our loads:
“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” Matthew 11:28-30
I have a blue water bottle. It travels with me most places I go. From the looks of it, the blue water bottle isn’t anything special. I picked it up at Target several years ago for $5. It’s metal, and it has scratches and dents all over it. I’ve had to hammer out the bottom of the bottle several times, so it can stand up straight on a flat surface without wobbling.
I could easily replace the bottle, but I’m hoping it will stick with me for a while. It has value to me. It’s been to Guatemala three times so far. It reminds me of my times there, and it also reminds me to be thankful for the clean water I have at home. In some ways, I feel like I would be lost without my blue water bottle.
Friday night, I took my blue water bottle to Hannah’s graduation ceremony. I took a few sips of water throughout the evening, and I tucked the bottle under my chair to prevent others from tripping over it.
At the end of the ceremony, we stood up and moved into the sea of graduates in hopes of finding Hannah. When we found her, we embraced, celebrated, and preserved the occasion with pictures in the middle of the football field. Eventually, we exited the stadium and headed to our car and home weaving through the heavy foot and vehicle traffic along the way.
As we pulled into our driveway, I realized I had left my precious water bottle under my chair. I was crushed. I knew I couldn’t go back for the bottle that night as I didn’t want to sit in traffic for another hour while our family waited at home, so I did the only thing I knew how to do. I tried to move on.
Friday night, I tossed and turned in bed as I reflected on Hannah’s milestone, time with our extended family, the party coming up the next day, and my lost water bottle.
On Saturday morning, I woke up early to take care of a few things. Then, I drove back over to the high school in hopes of finding my water bottle. When I arrived there were a few people on the field stacking chairs and tearing down the stage. I was hopeful that my blue water bottle would be found. As I walked towards the chair I had been sitting in, I was saddened not to see any signs of my blue water bottle.
Next, I did the natural thing, and I started looking under all the other chairs. I walked towards the stage to see if anyone on the tear down crew had seen my prized possession. Luckily, one of the maintenance staff members (who thought I looked a little old to have just graduated) offered to help. He drove over to the grounds building at the side of the field, and we looked through the area to see if my bottle happened to make its way over there. No luck.
Then one of his team members rolled up in his gator. We asked if he had picked up a water bottle from the night before, and his response caused my heart to leap. He said, “You mean a blue water bottle?” Within minutes, I was reunited with my treasured, blue water bottle. I thanked both of the gentlemen and explained how much the bottle meant to me. They were glad to help.
As I brought my blue water bottle back into the house, I proclaimed “The lost has been found. All is right. My blue water bottle which was lost has now been found.” And we celebrated later that day with a big party under a tent in our backyard. Actually, the party was for Hannah’s graduation, but I think I celebrated a little bit more knowing my blue water bottle was safe and sound.
Every time I find something I previously lost, I am reminded to what lengths the Father went to find me. He sent His Son to pay the price for my sins and to make it possible for me to come home – safe and sound. I am blessed!
“Or suppose a woman has ten silver coin and loses one. Doesn’t she light a lamp, sweep the house and search carefully until she finds it? And when she finds it, she calls her friends and neighbors together and says, ‘Rejoice with me; I have found my lost coin.’ In the same way, I tell you, there is rejoicing in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.” Luke 15:8-10
I can’t wait!
I long to take in the beautiful mountains of this country I have come to love. I can’t wait to smell the aromas produced by local street vendors. I can’t wait to walk the streets of Xenacoj where smiles and stares greet me. And I can’t wait to experience the magnificent people who hold my heart.
Our family is going back again. There are many reasons for our trip (admittedly some of them are selfish):
God continues to shape and mold us, and He takes our selfish, misguided motives. And He shows us over and over again how good He is.
Many of you know, I have a goal. I want to build 100 houses in Guatemala before I leave this earth. I’ve helped build three homes so far. Only 97 more to go!
A couple of months ago, our family launched a gofundme.com site to help raise funds for our trip and for building a house in Guatemala this summer. We had already paid for our airfare and some of our expected expenses, but we needed to close the gap the costs associated with the trip and the house build. When we launched the fundraising site, we honestly weren’t sure what to expect. Would people step up to close the gap? Would we have the funds to build a house this summer? Would God provide?
Why did we doubt?
God is so good!
If you check out the gofundme.com site, you’ll see that we are close to meeting our goal. We will definitely be going to Guatemala, and we will definitely be building another house.
God is so, so good!
I received a phone call last week. Someone is stepping up to make a second house possible this summer.
Sometimes, serving others requires a leap of faith. And often, reaching our crazy, big goals requires one step at a time. We questioned and we doubted, and God provided through others.
God is so very good!
As our family prepares to return to Guatemala, we are humbled and thankful. We can’t wait to see how and where God continues to work. Thank you for being part of our journey.
This is a question that somebody in my Friday morning men’s group posed to the group last week as we were closing up our time together.
We talk a lot about doing things for people, and we talk about wanting to share our faith. But do we put prayer behind it? And what would it look like if we put corporate prayer behind these requests?
In other words, what would happen if a whole group of men (or a whole group of people) made the conscious decision to pray for the same person every sing day for the next month?
Do not be anxious about anything but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your request to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:6-7
I think there is amazing power behind prayer. That power may be to impact the person for whom we are praying, but I also think there is amazing power to impact our own lives and the lives of those in the group of people who are praying corporately for the same person.
On Friday, my group decided we were going to pray for three people for the next 30 days, and I am interested to see what happens to the people for whom we are praying and for the people in our group.
“If you are willing to invite God to involve himself in your daily challenges, you will experience his prevailing power – in your home, in your relationships, in the marketplace, in the schools, in the church, wherever it is most needed.” Bill Hybels – Too Busy Not To Pray
For other interesting articles on prayer, check out these links:
Yesterday, my friend, Rocco DeLeo, released the first part of our interview for his podcast – And Dad Makes 7. In this part of the interview, we talk about being “On Track” in the various aspects of life. Please stop by and give it a listen. I had such a blast talking to Rocco, and I believe our conversation will encourage you. Get to the interview by subscribing to his podcast or by clicking here.
I had the best of intentions.
I had every thought of writing a nice, new “STRETCHY” post last night for you today, and then my plans kind of got derailed.
There have been a few things going on in my world the past few days that have caused a little higher amplitude to the normally steady, manageable waves I’m used to experiences. Sometimes, life causes us to experience fear, anger, anxiety, disappointment, and fatigue. I think I’ve felt a little bit of each of these things over the past few days.
Instead of writing a nice, new “STRETCHY” post, I’m left writing something with more rawness. I hope you don’t mind.
I wish I could fix things.
I wish I could mend relationships.
I wish I could tear down walls.
I wish I could heal wounds.
I wish I could make scars vanish.
I wish I could snap click my heals together three times and be home.
I wish I could sleep soundly.
I wish I could just make it all better.
But I can’t. I can’t do any of these things. I wish it wasn’t so, but there are times when I need these reminders. I need to be reminded that I can’t do it all.
But I know the One who can.
I know the One who can fix things (even if I don’t understand the remedy).
I know the One who can repair relationships.
I know the One who can tear down walls.
I know the One who can heal all wounds.
I know the One who provides the security of home we are all looking for.
I know the One who provides perfect rest.
I know the One who can make it all better.
And it’s this knowledge – it’s this One – that keeps me from being swallowed up by the giant waves of life. And this is right where I need to be right now.
The nice, new “STRETCHY” post will have to wait for another day, because this is all I have for now.
In my distress I called upon the Lord; to my God I cried for help. From his temple he heard my voice, and my cry to him reached his ears. Psalm 18:6
When I looked it up on Google, this is what I found:
Pursuit is “the action of following or pursuing someone or something.”
Synonyms include: striving toward, quest after/for, search for
What are you pursuing?
Better yet, are you pursuing anything?
People pursue happiness, success, and wealth. They pursue the American Dream. Or they pursue inner peace. Are these the right things to pursue? I suppose you could argue either way.
A few weeks ago, I wrote a note to myself in my journal:
If I’m honest, I pursue safety, and this has been my pursuit most of my life.
When I was a little kid, I was the cautious one. My brother and my best friend (both named David) were the adventurous ones. They were willing to go off the high dive. They were willing to swim to the bottom of the pool. They weren’t afraid to do anything. Me on the other hand, I was chicken. I remember crying when my swim teacher tried to get me to go off the low diving board. I was absolutely terrified I would drown in the deep end of the swimming pool.
Sometimes I wonder if my childhood tendencies to avoid danger traveled with me down the road into adulthood.
I still seek the safe choice more often than I take a chance on doing something that might be dangerous.
I pick the safe choice when it comes to my investments, my career steps, and in other areas of my life.
Am I missing out because of this tendency – this desire – to stay safe?
I don’t know about you, but I want to live a life that matters. I want to make a difference, and I want to bring glory to God by the choices I make and the actions I take each and every day.
On this day when we celebrate the life of Martin Luther King Jr., I thinks it’s safe to say that MLK did not pursue safety, and he lived a life that matters.
The only place we will really find safety is when we are in the arms of God and when we are following Him.
Chuck Swindoll said it well, “The world has changed and it’s going to keep changing, but God never changes; so we are safe when we cling to Him.”
Finding safety in God doesn’t mean we were meant to avoid taking risks. In fact, I think there is a certain aspect to risk taking that gives us the opportunity to fulfill our purpose. I’ve mentioned it here before, and it’s worth mentioning again. Several years ago, sociologist Tony Campolo responded to a survey taken by people in their nineties. Campolo concluded that the survey respondents which they had taken time to reflect more, to risk more, and to take actions that would leave a legacy.
I’m not in my nineties yet. There is still time for me to live differently. I want to make a difference even if it means doing something a little dangerous.
In his commencement speech to the class of 2014 at Maharishi University of Management, Jim Carrey challenged graduates to take a risk:
“Fear is going to be a player in your life, but you get to decide how much. You can spend your whole life imagining ghosts, worrying about your pathway to the future, but all there will ever be is what’s happening here, and the decisions we make in this moment, which are based in either love or fear.
So many of us choose our path out of fear disguised as practicality. What we really want seems impossibly out of reach and ridiculous to expect, so we never dare to ask the universe for it. I’m saying, I’m the proof that you can ask the universe for it — please! (applause) And if it doesn’t happen for you right away, it’s only because the universe is so busy fulfilling my order. It’s party size! (laughter)
My father could have been a great comedian, but he didn’t believe that was possible for him, and so he made a conservative choice. Instead, he got a safe job as an accountant, and when I was 12 years old, he was let go from that safe job and our family had to do whatever we could to survive.
I learned many great lessons from my father, not the least of which was that you can fail at what you don’t want, so you might as well take a chance on doing what you love.”
I love these words. If you’re like me, your fear of failure is keeping you on the safe path. Perhaps, it’s time to take a leap of faith so you can do something that matters.
(One thing worth noting, pursuit implies going after something or someone with all you have. Whatever you are pursuing won’t just be handed to you. You have to go get it!)
Don’t forget to sign-up for the 7 Week Stretch Challenge. You can sign up right here: