Jon Stolpe Stretched

What's S-t-r-e-t-c-h-i-n-g me now?

Don’t Hold A Press Conference

We all like to be noticed.  We all like to be recognized for doing something good.  We like to hear people say, “Good job.”  We want the praise of man.  I think this is a normal human desire.

The other day, I was reading in Matthew 6 which is part of the Sermon on the Mount given by Jesus.  In part of this sermon, Jesus talks about how we should give to the needy, how we should pray, and how we should go about fasting.  Three times in this passage Christ says, “Then your Father who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.”  When we give to the needy, when we pray, and when we fast, we should do these acts so no one knows but God.  We want the recognition.  We want to hold a press conference when we do these things.  But Christ tells us to keep it between God and us.  Surely, God’s reward is far greater than any recognition we get from man.

As a blogger this is a huge topic to ponder.  I often blog about the activities of my family including the activities related to serving others.  I hope that my main motivation in sharing these things is to encourage others to find ways to serve with their families, but I confess that there may be a part of my motivation that wants to hear others say, “Your family is so good.  You are a great parent.  You and Leanne do such a great job.”  These compliments do mean a lot, but my suspicion is that these praises of people pale in comparison to the reward that God promises.

Ultimately, I want to glorify God.  Whether it’s giving to the needy, praying, fasting, working, running, blogging, or whatever, I want my thoughts and actions to bring glory to God.

And so I stretch!  (In a year of being transformed, transformation of my motives is a great place to start.)

What do you think?  Do you struggle with seeking the praise of people?  How do you fight this?

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January 10, 2012 Posted by | blogging, experiences, fasting, giving, heart, parenting, prayer, press conference, stretch, teaching, thoughts, transformed, wisdom | 17 Comments

Meet Irwin

Our family has grown in the last couple of weeks.  No, Leanne and I did not have another child.  But we did add another dog to the mix right before Christmas.  Irwin is a golden retriever and Labrador mix, and I believe he turns 9 weeks old today.  He’s not your normal 9 week old family dog.  Irwin has a purpose, and we only get to have him for a short period of time.  You see, Irwin is a Seeing Eye puppy.  He was bred to help a blind person.  As puppy raisers, we will have Irwin until he is 12-18 months old.  Our job is to get him house broken, teach him a couple of basic things (sit, come, etc.), and to get him exposed to public places as much as possible.  From there, Irwin will return to The Seeing Eye in Morristown, NJ where he will go through 8 months of intense training.  This is when he’ll learn the skills required to guide a blind person.  At the end of his training, he will go through a final exam and health check to make sure he’s ready to go to work.  Assuming he passes, he will be matched up with a blind person.  They will work together for a month up at the school before they are sent home to live and work together.

The whole new dog thing has definitely added a chaos to our home, but it has also been fun.  Hannah is the official puppy raiser, and she has been doing an unbelievable job.  She takes him out to “park” whenever it’s time for him to go.  She lets Irwin sleep by her bed at night.  And she wakes up early to make sure he gets outside before any accidents.  If Hannah does this twice before she graduates high school, she’ll be eligible for a scholarship from The Seeing Eye.  So it’s likely that this won’t be the last new puppy we’ll see in our house.

Many people have asked, “how can you raise the puppy for a year and let it go?”  That’s a great question.  I’m sure it will be tough to say goodbye to Irwin when the time comes, but it will be easier to release him knowing that he has a purpose.  As parents, we have a similar experience with our kids.  Sure we get them for more than a year, and those 18 or so years can be filled with all kinds of ups and downs, but I think it’s important to realize that we have influence and responsibility over our children for a relatively short period time.  In essence, they are on loan from God.  There comes a time when we must release them for their greater, God-given purpose.  And so, Irwin reminds me of this.  I want to make the most of the time with my kids while they’re under my roof, and I want to release when the time comes them knowing full well that God has a purpose for them.

Have you ever had to release someone or something in order to pursue a higher calling or purpose?  What made this transition easy or hard?

January 3, 2012 Posted by | experiences, family, Irwin, life, parenting, puppy, Seeing Eye, stretch, thoughts | | 10 Comments

Book Review: Rumors of God by Darren Whitehead and Jon Tyson

Several months ago, I received a free copy of Rumors of God from Brandon Gilliland (Thanks, Brandon!) as a prize for reading and commenting on his blog.  I love this time of the year as it gives me a chance to catch up on some reading.  I finally finished reading this book this week.

Rumors of God was written by two pastors from Australia – Darren Whitehead and Jon Tyson (he even spells his name correctly).  It seems that this book was written as a challenge to American churches and American Christians to live like God is real – to live like the rumors of God aren’t just rumors, God is real!.

“But what about us (America)?  Are we simply content to watch the American church limp into eternity?  Are you ready to drift through the rest of your life, lulled and softened by our comfort and ease?  We believe that deep in your soul you long to see the fame and deeds of God renewed and known in our time.  We believe that you were created for a radical pursuit of Jesus and his kingdom.”

The book does an excellent job reminding readers that faith is meant to be experienced.  For many Americans, our faith is generally inactive, private, and stuck in our heads.  In Rumors to God, Whitehead and Tyson share stories and stories from scripture that inspire readers to make their faith active, out-loud, and alive.

I really appreciated how the authors start at the personal side of faith by challenging readers on the topics of love, grace, generosity, and abundant life.  And I love how they end with challenges related to community, justice, and hope.  The book definitely provided encouragement and inspiration.  I would recommend it.

Have you read Rumor of God?  What did you think?

What steps are you taking to experience your faith?

What are you reading right now?

December 29, 2011 Posted by | blog spotlight, book review, Darren Whitehead, experiences, faith, Jon Tyson, Rumors of God, thoughts | 5 Comments

Top Posts of 2011 Number 1 – Top 10 Things To Do At Grove City College

We are down to the top Stretched post from 2011.  Sharing these top posts provides an excellent opportunity for me to take a small break during the holidays, and it also provides an incredible opportunity for you to catch up on things you may have missed over the past year.  I hope you’ll hop on over to the original post, so you can read the entire post and add your comments to the existing comments string.  Thank you for letting me take this break and for letting me take this opportunity to share these posts.  Your support for the Stretched Blog this year has been incredible!

 

And so, drum roll please,…the most popular Stretched post from 2011 was a fun look at my college experience shared right before Homecoming.  The post is titled Top 10 Things To Do At Grove City College.  Here’s an excerpt to get you going:

Top 10 Things To Do At Grove City College

Leanne and I are getting ready to head out to Grove City College for homecoming and Leanne’s 15th reunion.  I’m excited to go back to the place we first met.  My four years at GCC were extremely memorable.  Since I’m thinking about it, here’s my Top 10 Things To Do At Grove City College:

1.  Go to chapel (16 times a semester).  As much as that may sound dull, we were blessed with some great speakers at GCC.  I particularly remember John Guest, Tony Campolo, and R.C. Sproul.

2.  Look to your left and look to your right.  As Nancy Paxton would tell all freshman, your future mate may be in sight.  As it turns out, I met Leanne at the end of my junior year.  The rest is history, so they say.

To read the rest of this post, head on over to the original Top 10 Things To Do At Grove City College post.

Share one positive memory about your college or high school experience!

December 28, 2011 Posted by | blog spotlight, blogging, college, experiences, Grove City College, looking back, stretch, thoughts | 2 Comments

It’s 40!

Yesterday, I shared about my Grandpa, and I mentioned that I think about him every year at this time.  The reason I think about him especially today is that we share a birthday – today!  Yep, that’s right, the Stretched blogger turns 40 today.  How did that happen?

As I consider this milestone, I’m thankful.  I’m thankful for all the life I’ve experienced so far and for the life that lies ahead for me.  I’m grateful for the people that God has placed in my life.  And I’m so thankful for a God who loves me in the ups and downs, the goods and the bads, and in my successes and failures.  Today’s Psalm applies perfectly to my thoughts for the day.

1 I waited patiently for the LORD; 
   he turned to me and heard my cry. 
2 He lifted me out of the slimy pit, 
   out of the mud and mire; 
he set my feet on a rock 
   and gave me a firm place to stand. 
3 He put a new song in my mouth, 
   a hymn of praise to our God. 
Many will see and fear the LORD 
   and put their trust in him.

 4 Blessed is the one 
   who trusts in the LORD, 
who does not look to the proud, 
   to those who turn aside to false gods.
5 Many, LORD my God, 
   are the wonders you have done, 
   the things you planned for us. 
None can compare with you; 
   were I to speak and tell of your deeds, 
   they would be too many to declare.

 6 Sacrifice and offering you did not desire— 
   but my ears you have opened— 
   burnt offerings and sin offerings you did not require. 
7 Then I said, “Here I am, I have come— 
   it is written about me in the scroll. 
8 I desire to do your will, my God; 
   your law is within my heart.”

 9 I proclaim your saving acts in the great assembly; 
   I do not seal my lips, LORD, 
   as you know. 
10 I do not hide your righteousness in my heart; 
   I speak of your faithfulness and your saving help. 
I do not conceal your love and your faithfulness 
   from the great assembly.

 11 Do not withhold your mercy from me, LORD; 
   may your love and faithfulness always protect me. 
12 For troubles without number surround me; 
   my sins have overtaken me, and I cannot see. 
They are more than the hairs of my head, 
   and my heart fails within me. 
13 Be pleased to save me, LORD; 
   come quickly, LORD, to help me.

 14 May all who want to take my life 
   be put to shame and confusion; 
may all who desire my ruin 
   be turned back in disgrace. 
15 May those who say to me, “Aha! Aha!” 
   be appalled at their own shame. 
16 But may all who seek you 
   rejoice and be glad in you; 
may those who long for your saving help always say, 
   “The LORD is great!”

 17 But as for me, I am poor and needy; 
   may the Lord think of me. 
You are my help and my deliverer; 
   you are my God, do not delay.

Psalm 40

How do you celebrate and process the milestones in your life?

December 8, 2011 Posted by | experiences, family, life, looking back, thankful, thoughts, trusting God | 22 Comments

Thoughts From Seeing Mary Poppins On Broadway

Last week during our New York City adventure, we visited the New Amsterdam Theater to see the Disney musical, Mary Poppins.  Our Broadway evening  actually began in the afternoon when we lined up in the middle of Times Square to purchase discounted show tickets at the TKTS kiosk.  As we waited in line we decided to pursue tickets for Mary Poppins or Sister Act.  When we reached the end of the line, the Mary Poppins tickets were available at a better price, so we went with this show.

When we arrived at the theater later that evening, we discovered that our seats were up near the back of the balcony in one of the biggest theaters in the theater district.  Nevertheless, we were happy to be there seeing a Broadway show with our kids.

As the show began, we quickly learned that we were in for a treat as we experienced sets and props that were amazing and actors that did an amazing job with the songs we all grew up listening to that were part of the original movie.  My favorite songs were Step In Time and Supercalifragilisticexpaladocious (did I spell that correctly?).  You couldn’t help but tap your feet and clap your hands as the dancing and hand jiving continued on the stage.

For me, the story as played out in the musical emphasized the importance of taking time for family.  In the musical, Mr. Banks discovers that his focus on his career and wealth have clouded his focus on what’s more important – his family.  By the end of the musical, Mr. Banks finds a balance between work and family.  I was inspired by this part of the story.  I generally believe that I keep my family first, but there’s no question that there are times when my focus on work and other things can overshadow things that should have a higher priority in my life.

And so…I left New York City seeing a great show and being reminded of a great lesson.

What’s got your focus right now?  Are your priorities in the right order?

Have you ever seen a show on Broadway?  Share your experience.

November 30, 2011 Posted by | experiences, family, life, looking back, new experiences, thoughts | 14 Comments

The 9/11 Memorial

Our first stop during our visit to New York City last week was to Ground Zero and the recently opened 9/11 Memorial.  The memorial is located on the grounds of the World Trade Center twin towers that were destroyed when terrorists crashed two planes into the buildings on September 11, 2001.  The memorial consists of two pools located in the footprints of the original towers.  The names of the victims of 9/11 along with those who died in a previous terrorist plot in 1993 are inscribed in stone and are located at the perimeters of each of these pools.

It was a moving experience to visit this memorial.  As we looked at the names and observed the water falling into the 30 foot deep pools, we noticed a family who had just found the name of a loved one on the perimeter stones.  See this family shed a few tears as they rubbed their fingers against the engraved name brought a reality to our visit that I hadn’t expected.  I didn’t know anyone who was killed on September 11th, but I remember the surreal feeling of watching the normally busy skies around Allentown, PA suddenly become quiet.  I remember catching news reports as I went to lunch with some fellow construction workers and as I drove home that day.  It hardly seemed possible.

Seeing the site of the World Trade Center Towers reminded me of these events, but it also brought some positive thoughts and feelings as well.  As we prepared to leave the memorial and head up to Midtown, I had a feeling of hope as we walked by the construction sites of many new buildings that are going up around the 9/11 Memorial.  I was reminded that good can come out of such tragedy.  And I was inspired by the challenge to re-discover unity.

Where have you been that has stirred a variety of emotional responses?  What was your response?

November 29, 2011 Posted by | experiences, looking back, new experiences, thoughts | 16 Comments

Thanksgiving Marathon Recap

The race started and finished at the tortoise and the hare statue

As promised, here are some of my reflections on completing this year’s Thanksgiving Marathon in Van Cortlandt Park in the Bronx, New York City, NY.

As I’ve shared before running a marathon is an ambitious task.  Most don’t just get up and decide they’re going to run a marathon today.  It takes time, energy, and lots of training.  But something I’ve relearned through my experience on Thursday is that you can be a runner at any distance.  People can get so caught up in the “I could never do a marathon” or “I’m not a runner” or “I admire people who can run, but it’s not for me.”  What I loved about Thursday’s race is that runners could choose from a multiple of distances – 5K, 1/8 Marathon, 10K, 1/4 Marathon, 1/2 Marathon, 3/4 Marathon, and Full Marathon.  It was also clear that you didn’t have to be Ryan Hall, Jesse Owens, or Carl Lewis to get out there and run.  There were runners and walkers of all ages and abilities.  I loved it!

Regarding my experience, the day was perfect – sunny and cool.  We arrived at the park in plenty of time to find a parking space at the Van Cortlandt Golf Course.  As we walked through the park, we could see people gathering across a flat open field.  I thought to myself that this is a good sign the course will be somewhat flat.  Was I ever wrong!  As we arrived at the starting line, I grabbed my runner’s bib.  I love that they give all the runners number one for these holiday races.  I stretched out and began to find my place at the starting line.  Before the race started, the race organizer gave some instructions at informed runners that the marathon course had been changed due to the previous two days of rain.  Now, we were running 8 hilly trail laps instead of 4 flatter trail laps.  That didn’t sound too exciting, but there was nothing I could do about it besides get moving.

Coming off the trails for a lap around the field

As the gong went off to start the race, I started my watch and my GPS to track my time and mileage, and I started my marathon journey.  About 1/2 mile into the race, we split off of the flat open trail and turned onto a gradual uphill trail that began to narrow.  Every twenty or thirty yards there was a railroad tie to hop over.  I’m pretty sure they were placed to control erosion, but they became quite an obstacle as the race wore on.  The course proceeded to run up and down through the wooded and sometimes single track trails.  As I popped out of the woods the first time, I was greeted by my own personal cheering section.  It was such an encouragement to see Leanne and the kids throughout the morning as I made my way through the course.  (Apparently, they were the only spectators for the race, and they received many thanks from other runners.)

Bringing me into the finish

Despite the challenging course, I was off to a good start.  I ran the first half of the marathon on pace to finish at 3 hours and 20 or 30 minutes which would have beat my marathon PR by a huge margin.  But…  I kind of knew that this was probably a bit too fast for me – especially on this course.  As the race continued, the uphills became more and more of a challenge.  Eventually, I was walking most of the uphills and trying to run the downhills and the flats.  It’s amazing how the body breaks down over the course of a marathon.  I didn’t quit, but it was a real challenge to keep my body moving as fast as I wanted it to go.  As the laps continued, I also realized that a marathon course that requires this type of repetition is probably not my favorite type of course.

The Gong - The privilege of the finisher

Nonetheless, I kept going until the finish.  My daughter ran the last quarter-mile with me as I approached the finish line.  You could tell that she was proud of her dad.  What more could you ask for in a marathon experience?

If that wasn’t enough, Leanne and the kids reminded me to hit the finisher’s gong after I crossed the finish line.  I collected my finisher’s medal – a 12″ serving fork!  And I signed into the race log book where I entered my time of 4 hours 1 minute 0 seconds.  Years ago, I would have been more disappointed that I didn’t break 4 hours but not this year.  I was happy to run!  I was happy to finish!  And I’m already thinking about the next one!

Slow and steady wins the race

Hope all is well with the Stretched Community!

How was your Thanksgiving?  How did you counteract the calorie intake?

November 28, 2011 Posted by | exercise, experiences, family, looking back, running, thankful, thoughts | 17 Comments

A Quick Marathon Update

Happy Thanksgiving!

I’ll provide a more detailed update when I get home, but I thought you might enjoy hearing that I did receive the 12 inch fork finisher’s medal for finishing today’s Thanksgiving Marathon! I finished the very hilly trail course in a time of 4 hours 1 minute. I can’t complain.

Hope you’re doing well today. What’s your favorite Thanksgiving dish?

(My 1st post from my Blackberry.)

November 24, 2011 Posted by | exercise, experiences, new experiences, running, stretch, thoughts, unbelievable | 4 Comments

Tomorrow Is Marathon Day

Tomorrow I’m running the Thanksgiving Marathon. I’m ready. I’m excited. And yes, I’m a little nervous. Training for marathon is a long process. I started training back in May or June. It has taken a lot of time and a lot of hard work to get to this point. I’ve logged miles on local streets and trails. I’ve run on trails in Canada. I’ve run the streets of Cape Cod, and I’ve run around Gifford Pinchot State Park. I’ve even run on the boardwalk along the New Jersey shore. I’ve run in the rain, in the heat, in the light, in the dark, and in the freezing cold. I’ve run when I wanted to and when I didn’t want to run. Tomorrow’s race will be the longest run of my training season. And as tough as it sounds, I”m picturing it more as a celebration of the journey. I don’t know for sure what tomorrow has in store, but I’m thankful for this chance to remember that life is a journey and a marathon – it’s not a sprint. Life takes work, and it’s not always easy. So tomorrow I’ll celebrate running, and I’ll celebrate life.

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart. Hebrews 12:1-3

What have you worked hard for in your life? How has life been like a marathon for you? What keeps you going when you don’t feel like you can keep going?

November 23, 2011 Posted by | exercise, experiences, looking back, new experiences, running, thankful, thoughts | 14 Comments