Jon Stolpe Stretched

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Of Thunderstorms And Dreams

I woke up this morning a little groggy thanks to a dream and a storm that woke me up in the early hours of the morning.  The thunderstorm shook the house for a while as I could hear the storm approaching and passing.  It sounded like a drummer pounding the drum head in the sky for thirty or more minutes.  As it passed by, I eventually fell back asleep.

A short time later, a dream woke me up.  In my dream, someone shared some disturbing news with me which led me to breakdown in tears.  And then I woke up again.  As I laid in bed, I reminded myself that it was just a dream, and I began to pray.

I wonder if this was just a coincidence or if God was sending me the storm and the dream as a reminder.  Do I believe that God still speaks today?  Yes.  I believe He speaks through His Word – The Bible.  I believe He can speak through life’s circumstances and surroundings.  But does He speak through storms and dreams in the middle of the night?  It’s a good question.

I’m not an expert on dreams (can you tell?).  But I’m thinking that our dreams are sometimes simply a response to our fatigue level, the happenings of the previous day, and the pizza we ate the night before.  But my hunch is that God can and does still speak to us through our dreams.  If that’s the case, does this mean that one of my loved ones is in trouble?  Or is it simply a reminder to reach out to this person and to pray for them more regularly?  More questions.

Whoever dwells in the shelter of the Most High
will rest in the shadow of the Almighty.
 I will say of the Lord, “He is my refuge and my fortress,
my God, in whom I trust.”

Surely he will save you
from the fowler’s snare
and from the deadly pestilence.
He will cover you with his feathers,
and under his wings you will find refuge;
his faithfulness will be your shield and rampart.
You will not fear the terror of night,
nor the arrow that flies by day,
nor the pestilence that stalks in the darkness,
nor the plague that destroys at midday.
A thousand may fall at your side,
ten thousand at your right hand,
but it will not come near you.
You will only observe with your eyes
and see the punishment of the wicked.

If you say, “The Lord is my refuge,”
and you make the Most High your dwelling,
 no harm will overtake you,
no disaster will come near your tent.
 For he will command his angels concerning you
to guard you in all your ways;
 they will lift you up in their hands,
so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.
 You will tread on the lion and the cobra;
you will trample the great lion and the serpent.

 “Because he loves me,” says the Lord, “I will rescue him;
I will protect him, for he acknowledges my name.
He will call on me, and I will answer him;
I will be with him in trouble,
I will deliver him and honor him.
 With long life I will satisfy him
and show him my salvation.”

Psalm 91

God, Thank You for this new day.  Thank You for storms and dreams.  My I always be listening for Your voice and be open for how You speak to me.  Thank You for being with me throughout the day and throughout the night.

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July 23, 2013 Posted by | thoughts | Leave a comment

Riding My Bike Without Any Hands

Last night as I was heading over to the VFW to drop Isaac off for scouts, I noticed a man riding his bicycle in the 95 degree heat.  As he approached a straight away with no traffic, the man took his hands off the handlebars and sat up in this saddle.

When I was younger, I loved to ride my bike with no hands.  There was something unbelievably freeing about taking my hands off the handlebars and basking in the breeze as my bike traveled down the road.

Today, it scares me to take my hands off the handlebars.  I’m sure most of it is my lack of confidence in my own balance.  My center of gravity and my sense of coordination has changed since I was a kid.  Generally, I don’t want to give up control of the bicycle, and I certainly don’t want to risk a crash.

Carrie Underwood sings “Jesus Take The Wheel” as a reminder to let God be in the driver seat.  Maybe that’s a message I need to hear, because quite frankly, I like to be in control of my life.  I like to have my hands on the handlebars of my life trusting that I can guide my path.

The reality is God knows best and is a far better driver than me.

How would my life look different if I gave God the steering wheel?  I’m guessing my direction would be better, and I’d be more likely to enjoy the ride of life.

You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh; rather, serve one another humbly in love.  Galatians 5:13

God, I confess to You that I want to be in control.  So often I let this desire get in the way of the life You have for me.  Thank You for the reminder to give You the steering wheel.  I ask You to guide and direct me, and I pray that my eyes would be open to ways that I can serve others in love.  Thanks for sending Your Son so that I could experience this freedom.

July 18, 2013 Posted by | faith, thoughts | Leave a comment

Optometrist

Last night, I had an appointment with the optometrist.

When I was in first grade, I had to get glasses.  I was farsighted.  I’m not an eye doctor, but I apparently needed glasses to correct my vision.  Believe it or not, I was able to abandon the glasses around sixth or seventh grade when eye tests showed that my vision had corrected.  Amazing!  Eye tests in high school and college actually showed that I had better than 20/20 vision.

After an initial eye exam sixteen or seventeen years ago when my wife and I got married, I went many years without a return visit to the optometrist.  That changed last year when I started dealing with migraine headaches.  Someone suggested that I visit the eye doctor.  My vision was still pretty good, but I had apparently reached the age in which reading glasses would be helpful.  (If you’re not 40 yet, just wait.)

My visit to the optometrist yesterday confirmed that my eyes were continuing to change ever so slightly and a new prescription would be helpful for reading and computer use.  So my vision is apparently getting worse.  And I would suspect that this will continue for the rest of my physical life.

As I was thinking about how are bodies breakdown and wear out as we age, I was reminded of these words from the apostle Paul:

But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us.  2 Corinthians 4:7

The note in my bible says, “It was customary to conceal treasure in clay jars, which had little value or beauty and did not attract attention to themselves and their precious contents.  Here they represent Paul’s human frailty and unworthiness.”

There’s no question that are bodies are frail (jump over to my main blog today to read about a reminder from a visit with my Grandma).  I’m sure it’s not just my eye sight that is beginning to break down.  We’re not getting any younger.  Right?

The beautiful thing is that this verse reminds us that despite our human frailty, we have access to unending power and strength.  God’s grace is sufficient for each one of us.

So I’m hoping my new glasses will be a reminder to depend on God.  He’s all I need.

God, thank you for this new day.  Give me your vision.  Thank you for supplying all my needs, and thanks for the reminder through a simple visit to the eye doctor.  Today, I ask that you’d be with those who need eye care but don’t have it.  Use your followers to help those around the world in meeting this physical need.  More importantly, open my eyes to those around me who need Your vision.  Use me to point them to You – the ultimate optometrist.

July 17, 2013 Posted by | thoughts | Leave a comment

Denny

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.

July 16, 2013 Posted by | life, prayer, thoughts | 2 Comments

Guest Post – How To Have God’s Will For Your Life

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.

Pray

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.”

-Colossians 3:2

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?

January 11, 2012 Posted by | blog spotlight, Brandon Gilliland, God's will, guest blogger, life, prayer, stretch, teaching, thoughts, wisdom | 8 Comments

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?

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

Book Review: Starting Over A Manifesto on Being Myself by Michael D. Perkins

Over the years, I’ve reviewed many books here on The Stretched Blog.  Today, I’m reviewing my first eBook.  Starting Over A Manifesto on Being Myself is a creative and challenging eBook by pastor and blogger, Michael D. Perkins.  In Starting Over, Perkins challenges bloggers (and other creative persons) to break free of the formulas that govern traditional blogging (and other forms of creativity).  Michael’s unique blogging style which usually appears on The Handwritten is taken to the next level in this handwritten work as he encourages readers to avoid copying others and to find ways to be ourselves.

From a personal perspective, I was challenged by every page of Starting Over.  My engineering personality thrives on formulas and routines.  So much of my blogging has been influenced by “big name” bloggers like Michael Hyatt, John Saddington, and Jon Acuff.  I think it’s okay to be influenced, but it’s important to find our uniqueness in our on original styles and forms.  Starting Over definitely STRETCHES me as I consider my Stretched Blog.

If you are a blogger, I definitely recommend downloading a copy of this FREE e-book.  You can pick up a copy by clicking here.  Let me know what you think!

How about you?  Who had influenced you as a blogger?  And how have you found your unique voice through your blog?  What do you need to change in order to become yourself?

January 9, 2012 Posted by | blog spotlight, blogging, book review, Michael D. Perkins, Starting Over, stretch, thoughts | 9 Comments

January 7, 2012 Week In Review…

It’s time for The Stretched Blog Week in Review – the first for 2012!   The traffic to the Stretched Blog is at an all-time high this week.  In fact, blog traffic on Wednesday was the highest ever on the blog (and Thursday’s traffic was right behind).  Thank you!

Here’s the rundown on the posts for the week:

Monday:  December 2011 Top Posts

Tuesday:  Meet Irwin

Wednesday:  One Word For 2012: Transformed

Thursday:  The Stretched Blog Visits The Analogous Truth

Friday (this actually posted Saturday do to a visit to me by the stomach flu):  Ice Breaker – My First Car

Your continued contribution to the blog through comments is greatly appreciated.  Your comments are what makes this Stretched Community!  Please remember to take the time to Subscribe to the blog, so you can have Stretched delivered daily to your e-mail inbox.  Also, don’t forget to stop by the Jon Stolpe Stretched Facebook fan page.  Become a fan to keep up with some additional Stretched stuff.  I have started to share more blog highlights from other blogs that I read regularly.  I think you’ll find some great stuff here.  Thanks!

Here are a few of my favorites from around the blog world this week:

It should be a fun week upcoming.  Brandon Gilliland will be guest posting on Wednesday.  We’ll have another fun Ice Breaker on Friday.  And there’s sure to be more Stretching the rest of the week.  Please stop back so you can see what’s going on here!

How about you?  How was your week?  If you’re a blogger what happened over your way this week?  Did you read any great blog posts this week?  Share with the rest of us!

January 7, 2012 Posted by | Arny Sanchez, blogging, Brandon Gilliland, guest blogger, Ice Breaker, Irwin, looking back, One Word 365, puppy, Seeing Eye, stretch, The Analogous Truth, thoughts, transformed, week in review | Leave a comment

Ice Breaker – My First Car

It’s that time of the week again…time for an ice breaker question!  Since it’s the first ice breaker of the year, I thought I would ask a question about firsts.  For those of you who are new or who forgot, ice breaker questions are used to help people get to know each other – to “break the ice” so to speak.  I love hearing what other people have to say and how they think.  So for today, I’m excited to throw out another simple ice breaker question.  I’ll answer it first, then it’s your turn.  Answer the question by leaving a comment for us all to enjoy.  Thanks!

Question:  What was (or is) your first car?

My Answer:  Here you go….

My answer will be pretty simple.  My first car was a 1974 Chevy Nova.  It was midnight blue with a white hard top.  It had a straight six cylinder engine in it, and I could stand next to the engine if I lifted the hood.  The Nova had four doors and a JVC stereo that I installed.  The ceiling fabric was falling down, so I used push pins to hold it up.  It had an Oakley sticker in the back window.  The Nova felt like it was floating when I drove down the highway.  I’ll always have fond memories of the Nova.

So there you have it, my answer to the question.  Now it’s your turn….I can’t wait to hear what you’ve got to say!

January 6, 2012 Posted by | car, Ice Breaker, questions, stretch, thoughts | , , , | 14 Comments

The Stretched Blog Visits The Analogous Truth

Today, I have the privilege of guest posting over at The Analogous Truth.  The Analogous Truth is a blog written by my friend, Arny Sanchez.  Arny creatively relates pop culture to faith.  My post today (I Love You Man!) fits into Arny’s theme.  Please stop over to read it and add a comment or two.  Also, please consider adding The Analogous Truth to your regular blog reading routine.  Thanks!

(Note on guest posting:  I’d love to share a guest post on your blog sometime or to have you guest post here about your stretching story.  If either of these two opportunities interest you, drop me a comment.)

January 5, 2012 Posted by | Arny Sanchez, blog spotlight, blogging, faith, guest blogger, The Analogous Truth, thoughts | , | 7 Comments