My son heads to scout camp in Vermont this morning.
In about an hour, we’ll be putting him on a bus with others scouts and leaders from his troop. From there, he’ll begin the journey to camp where he will work on merit badges and scout skills. He will bond with others, and he will be challenged to work on his character. I anticipate that he will come back next weekend exhausted yet STRETCHED.
The Boy Scouts of America has taken some hits in the media through the years thanks to their position on several key issues. While I’m sure there are some very bad experiences that some kids have had in their scout troop, this is not the case for most boys. I’m thankful for this organization – especially our local troop – where my son has been pushed. Over the years, I have seen him develop more confidence, stronger leadership skills, and better decision-making skills.
And so today, I pray for Isaac.
God give Isaac and his troop safety as they travel today to Vermont. May this be a week that Isaac will always remember. Help Isaac to stand tall, to grow, and to represent you well while he is away this week. I pray that You would ease any struggles he experiences with home-sickness. And I thank You for this opportunity for Isaac. More than anything, help him to know Your love this week and always.
Yesterday, I learned that someone my age passed away. Seventeen and a half years ago, we had worked together for our former employer. We both put in long hours. We learned a lot through the experience. I left the company when the company went through some traumatic events and changes right before I got married. And he stuck it out as the company emerged like a phoenix from the ashes. I learned yesterday that he stuck it out at the company for a total of twenty years before jumping over to my company. He spent his last two years working in a different office and department, so I had no idea. It would have been nice to reconnect after so many years.
I’m not sure how or why he died. After doing some investigation, I learned that he did have a young son. It doesn’t appear that he was married. There are so many things I’d like to know.
Life has a funny way of reminding us that life is fleeting and relationships matter. At the age of 41, it seems unfair that he would depart from the world leaving his son without a father. But I guess I’m reminded that life is short. We’re not guaranteed an extra year, an extra day, an extra minute. His passing is a reminder to make the most of my life. His passing also reminds me that relationships matter. We lost touch as soon as I left the company. Life can be like that. People come and go from our lives. In some regards that is natural. But his passing reminded me that each and every relationship matters. I don’t want to take my relationships for granted. I pray that my interactions today would be intentional – that I would live and respond as if its urgent.
The grass withers and the flowers fall,
but the word of our God endures forever. Isaiah 40:8
God, thanks for Denny. Comfort his family. Help me to be intentional with my life and my relationships. Thank you for today.
Today, I have the honor of presenting Brandon Gilliland. Brandon is a young leader with lots of passion and incredible talent. He’s training to become a surgeon. In his spare time, he plays the guitar, and he blogs about leadership, following Christ, playing the guitar, and becoming a surgeon. Brandon currently writes at two blogs. You can check them out here and here. Please jump over and become one of his regular readers.
(If you’re interested in becoming a Stretched guest blogger, let me know in the comments, and I’ll get back to you. I’m always looking for people to share their Stretching stories.)
How To Have God’s Will For Your Life
A question that encompasses many Christian’s lives is “How do I follow God’s will for my life?” I have wondered this myself many times. As a student on track to become a surgeon, I have many doubts in my mind. I commonly question myself the methods that I am going through. A few short months ago, a really questioned if this track was God’s will for my life. I sometimes still question it, but I am starting to discover that becoming a surgeon is what God desires for me to do with my life. It is a lot of work, but if it is God’s will for my life, He will give me the strength and the necessary opportunities that will ultimately allow me to become a surgeon.
Like I said earlier, there were a few moments when I was not sure what God’s will for my life entailed (on the career side of things). As Christians, we should desire to stay in God’s will for our lives. If we are truly following Christ, we should have the desire to please and serve Him.
If we are always questioning if what we are doing is God’s will, then how can we serve Him to our absolute best ability? The answer is rather simple: focus on God. This is easy to say, but it is not easy to live out on a daily basis. There are a few things that I have to remind myself of all the time to be able to be assured that I am living God’s will for my life.
First off, prayer is important. If prayer is not an important part of your life, you can be certain that you are not in God’s will. If you are not on the same wavelength as God, you are not going to make the decisions that He wants you to make.
“Pray without ceasing…”
-1 Thessalonians 5:17
Keep the Main Goal in Mind
After prayer is an important part of your life, you need to keep the main goal in mind. Obviously, this goal can not be set properly without consulting God first. When you believe that God has revealed to you a certain goal after you have prayed about it, you can begin to focus on that goal. Go can desire something else, but you can have the right thought pattern. That leads us to the next point…
“Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth.”
Focus on the Small Things
Ultimately, it is essential to know God’s main goal, but it is not beneficial to focus entirely on it. If you focus too much on the main goal, you can begin to drift. Instead, it is important to focus on the small tasks that lead to the ultimate goal. This method insures that you can follow God’s will. If you are doing everything that God wants you to do at every moment, you can be 100% sure that you are in God’s will for your life.
That is the problem though. We do not always pray. We do not always focus on God. We are not always on God’s wavelength.
This is the reason why we can stray from God’s will. He desires so much more for us, but sometimes we give up on the blessings He has for us.
What do you need to follow God’s will on?
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?
When I get to this time of year, I often think about my Grandpa Stolpe. (I’ll tell you why tomorrow.) My Grandpa passed away a few years ago, and he is missed by his whole family. Grandpa has two kids, seven grandchildren, and fifteen great-grandchildren. I’m sure each one of us would have a different perspective on our grandfather, and I wanted to share a little bit about my take on the man my cousin calls Big Grey.
Grandpa was first and foremost a follower of Christ. He lived it. He breathed it. He provided a clear example that Christ should come first in our lives. I remember Grandpa leading us in prayer and Bible reading when we sat down for breakfast when we were there for a visit. He was always involved at church. And he had a huge heart for missions and bringing God’s love to everyone around the world. As we sat down for breakfast, I remember Grandma and Grandpa praying specifically for missionaries around the world.
Grandpa was a killer croquet player. Whenever we went over to Grandma and Grandpa’s house, the croquet set would come out of the garage and the croquet match to end all croquet matches would begin. Grandpa knew the rules like the back of his hand, and he was always quick to teach us the correct way to play the game. After Grandpa beat the rest of us around the croquet course, he would go back and knock out the older cousins so the younger grandchildren could win.
Grandpa had a great sense of humor. Some of my cousins and siblings might argue with me on this, but this is something I carry with me. Grandpa had a desire to make everyone laugh. He always had a corny joke or response that broke the ice and made you chuckle. For example, when the cantaloupe came out, he would say, “I can’t elope. I’m already married to Grandma.” Or if we had nectarines, he would say “I don’t neck with Irene; I neck with Grandma.” I’m proud to say that I picked up some of that humor.
Grandpa was Swedish. Grandpa knew how to speak Swedish. He shared the Swedish traditions with our family – especially the Christmas Swedish traditions. I big part of celebrating Christmas is eating the Swedish food. I attribute this to my Grandma and Grandpa. At Grandpa’s funeral, they even sang a Swedish hymn.
Grandpa was an incredible example. After his faith, his marriage was always his top priority. He and Grandma were a team. They complimented each other well. They put each other first before their own interests and needs. Grandpa would do anything for Grandma. After his faith and Grandma, family was a top priority. He would do anything for all of us. He always wanted the best for each one of us. He and Grandma prayed consistently for each one of us. Grandpa had a special relationship with each of us. When we showed up for a visit, he showed us off like we were movie stars.
I share about my Grandpa to brag, to share, and to remember.
Who in your life to you want to remember and why?
When I was a little kid, I slept with a night-light. I can remember calling for my parents in the middle of the night, because I was scared of the monsters under the bed or the robbers that might be in the house in the middle of the night. Obviously, these things don’t scare me now, but there are things that keep me up at night. Sometimes, it’s something I ate earlier that day. Sometimes, it’s a stressful decision that I need to make at work. Sometimes, it’s a relationship that needs mending. Sometimes it’s the challenges of life.
This afternoon, I took some time to read on my deck, and I came across these verses:
“On my bed I remember you; I think of you through the watches of the night. Because you are my help, I sing in the shadow of your wings. My soul clings to you; your right hand upholds me.” Psalm 63:6-8
This is a great reminder for the times when sleeping is a challenge. I can trust God for help. He upholds me. I can cling to that. I’m looking forward to a good nights sleep.
A long time ago, I learned an acronym that can be used to organize our prayers. A.C.T.S. The “A” stands for acknowledge – expressing how great God is and who he is. The “C” stands for confession – Lord forgive me for…. The “T” stands for thanksgiving – thank you for blessing me…. And the “S” stands for supplication – God, please help so and so….
I’ll be honest I do an okay part at the T, and I do a great part at the S, and sometimes I hit the C. But if I’m completely honest, I most often miss the A. I was reminded of this today when I was reading in 1 Chronicles 29. Look at David’s prayer; his prayer is full of praise for God.
From 1 Chronicles 29:
10 Then David blessed the Lord in the presence of all the assembly; David said: “Blessed are you, O Lord, the God of our ancestor Israel, forever and ever. 11 Yours, O Lord, are the greatness, the power, the glory, the victory, and the majesty; for all that is in the heavens and on the earth is yours; yours is the kingdom, O Lord, and you are exalted as head above all. 12 Riches and honor come from you, and you rule over all. In your hand are power and might; and it is in your hand to make great and to give strength to all. 13 And now, our God, we give thanks to you and praise your glorious name. 14 “But who am I, and what is my people, that we should be able to make this freewill offering? For all things come from you, and of your own have we given you. 15 For we are aliens and transients before you, as were all our ancestors; our days on the earth are like a shadow, and there is no hope. 16 O Lord our God, all this abundance that we have provided for building you a house for your holy name comes from your hand and is all your own. 17 I know, my God, that you search the heart, and take pleasure in uprightness; in the uprightness of my heart I have freely offered all these things, and now I have seen your people, who are present here, offering freely and joyously to you. 18 O Lord, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, our ancestors, keep forever such purposes and thoughts in the hearts of your people, and direct their hearts toward you.”
See what I mean. I’m guessing the reason that this comes so hard for many of us is that we are so self centered – instead of God centered. I’m thankful for God’s patience in my slow and erratic growth pattern. I’m also thankful for reminders from the Word that help to transform my thoughts, my actions, and my heart.
Until the next post…
Well, it finally happened. I caught the bug that the kids had last weekend. I haven’t thrown up, but yesterday and last night, I was miserable. The chills, not hungry, aching, feeling like I might throw up, and just plain tired.
This morning when I woke up, I was obviously starting to feel better. After hanging in bed for a while, I ventured down stairs to consume a few of those great bug dietary delights – banana, ginger ale, jello, chicken noodle soup, and saltine crackers. Yum!!! Late this morning and early this afternoon, I actually made it outside to cut the grass. After a short nap later this afternoon, I am feeling okay. I expect to feel better tomorrow. We’ll see.
Being sick isn’t fun at all. Dealing with a short 24 hour (or so) bug is nothing compared to what some people I know have been dealing with…
Dan – pancreatic cancer
Anna – cancer
Mike – brain cancer
Barbara – breast cancer
Kathy – breast cancer
Grandma – aging
These are a few of the people who have been on my prayer list. If you think about it, say a prayer for them (and their families).
Until the next post, try the B.R.A.T. diet (banana, rice, applesauce, and toast), it’s great…
Today was not necessary the most fun day in the world. I started today knowing that I was heading for a big meeting at one of my projects – a meeting where heads could role. Before I went to bed last night, I prayed that God would allow this potentially volatile meeting to go well and to be effective in bringing closure and completeness to this project.