Since releasing this book and my second book (Rooftop Reflections), I’ve had several inquiries about the availability of my books in an audio format. The thought of recording an audio book scared me a little bit as I wasn’t sure of the technology to use to make this happen.
With the help of some good friends, I learned some important information about the tools I needed to record an audio book. I recently ordered these tools, and I have begun recording the audio version of On Track.
Today, I share with you the audio Introduction to On Track. I hope you enjoy! And with a little time and hard work, my audio book will be available for Audible.
In less than 23 days, we will learn the results of the 2020 election here in the United States. Will President Trump keep the presidency, or will Joe Biden be the next President of the United States. Regardless of the outcome, I have some friends and family who will be extremely happy about the outcome while other friends and family who will be saddened, unhappy, and even scared by the same outcome.
From all the polls, the latest news, and the buzz on social media, half of the people in our country will be unhappy with the results. And half of the people will be happy or at least in agreement with the outcome of last nights election.
I’m not so sure that God is arranging the outcome of the election. After all, God gave us minds and free will to make our own decisions. But I do think that God has given us a new day today and in the days that follow the election. This is the day the Lord has made. Let’s rejoice and be glad in it!
You may or may not be excited about the policies and ideas of our next president and the leadership in our country. But you have a choice to make today. How will you treat today? Will you rejoice in the day that God has made? Or will you pout, stamp your feet, and cross your arms in dismay?
How to Respond to the 2020 Election Results
Realize the blessings and freedoms that we experience in this country. We have the right to vote. We have so many rights and privileges that are not granted in other countries. We are definitely blessed!
Realize that you have the power to make a difference. Just like Esther demonstrated the power to impact an entire people group through her actions, we have the ability to leave our mark – even if we sometimes feel as though we’re acting alone.
Respond with honor. Represent God and your faith with integrity in how you react to this election. Our leaders deserve our respect – even if we don’t agree with them. Stomping our feet may make us feel better initially, but it will eventually leave our feet sore and will fail to be productive.
Commit to make a difference. You still have the ability to impact your neighborhood, your state, your country, and the world for God’s kingdom. That will not change following the election.
Pray for our leaders. Whether it is the president of the United States or the mayor of your town, leaders have big decisions to make. They face stresses that few of us could ever imagine. They need our prayer.
Reach across the lines of division and be a unifier instead of a divider. This is one of the nastiest elections in my memory, and I’m sure our media and social media haven’t help the situation. Regardless, of where you fall on this election, it’s time we all learn to reach across the lines of division. It’s time we learn to listen to the voices of those who are different that us – in our opinions, in our beliefs, in our skin color, and in our socioeconomic status. “Making our country great again” depends so much more on you and me than it does on our next President.
Put on a smile. Sitting on your hands and frowning is not productive. Period. Decide today to have a good attitude.
“Regardless of who wins, an election should be a time for optimism and fresh approaches.”
One month from yesterday is Election Day here in the United States. Around the country, citizens will be casting their ballots for the next leaders in their communities.
Today, political signs and flags are posted throughout our communities. The “debates” have started, and “news” coverage for the campaigns is growing. Candidates and their support teams are making their final appeals for votes. A lot will happen in the next 30 days.
I’ve always had an interest in politics. We are so blessed to live in a country where we can take part in the selection process for our local, state, and national leaders. Voting is a right, a privilege and a responsibility (Four Important Responsibilities of Voters).
Free speech is also one of the rights that we have in this country. Free speech gives us permission to defend our position on an issue or on a candidate. I’m thankful for this right. But I sometimes wonder if this right has gotten our country into trouble.
With the creation and rise of social media, everyone has a say. People’s thoughts and opinions are out there for everyone to read. Once it’s on Facebook or Twitter or once it’s published on a blog, it’s a permanent record for all to read. And it seems like everyone has something to say.
Maybe I’m forgetful of past election cycles, but it seems to be that more and more people are posting personal character attacks on Facebook and other social media outlets. Photo-shopped photos of candidates with disrespectful comments dominate my Facebook news feed. Comments often taken out of context are used to slander and debase the character of individuals. To be honest with you, it’s wearing me out.
Sure, it’s okay to disagree with policies, budgets, and agendas of our leaders. But it needs to be done with respect. The other day, I was reading the Bible and a passage from Ecclesiastes stuck out to me:
“Do not revile the king even in your thoughts, or curse the rich in your bedroom, because a bird of the air may carry your words, and a bird on the wing may report what you say.“
Today, it just doesn’t seem like people care about reviling or respecting our leaders. So how should we as Christians respond responsibly and respectfully?
4 Keys To Being A Politically Active Christian
Pray for our leaders. Whether or not you agree with (or like or dislike) a particular political leader, we should pray for our leaders. Paul directs this in his first letter to the Timothy:
“I urge, then, first of all, that petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for all people — for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness.”
Don’t participate in the disrespect. Don’t add fuel to the social media fire by being disrespectful in your posts, comments, or conversations. In our country where free speech is our right, dialogue intelligently and respectfully with each other.
Vote. This is your right, responsibility and duty. Let your voice be heard through your vote.
Win, lose, or draw, live your life in a Christ-like manner. Whether “your” candidate wins or not, you have the opportunity to make a difference by how you choose to live your life. If you feel strongly about an issue like helping the poor, get involved by helping the poor. We don’t need our candidate in office in order for us to make a difference. We can make the most of each and every opportunity, and we can do so with respect. And we can still choose to love those who lead us and who debate with us – even if they disagree with us. (John 15:17)
What other suggestions do you have for Christians to participate responsibly and respectfully in the political process? Are you being respectful or are you adding to the clutter?
Last week, my wife received to text messages that really encouraged me.
The first message was from our next door neighbor. The text message included a picture of our neighbor’s three year old son wearing a new shirt. Along with the picture was a message saying “Mr. Jon will like this shirt.” Apparently, I had made a connection with my little neighbor. This text message encouraged me!
The second message was from another neighbor. This text message shared something from her nine year old son. When asked by one of his teachers who teaches us about God, he answered Mr. Jon. I’ve given this young man copies of my two books (Rooftop Reflections and On Track). This text message encouraged me as well!
It has been another challenging week. In the wake of last Sunday’s post (Life Giving or Life Taking), I’ve been writing down the things each day that have brought me life along with the things that have sucked the life out of me. Needless to say, these two text messages made my list of things that brought me life.
We need encouragers in our lives. When the writer of Hebrews told us to meet with people who will spur us on (Hebrews 10:24-25), I think he was recognizing the importance of having encouragers in our lives.
When I think of people in my life who have encouraged me over the years, I think about my wife (she’s an amazing encourager), my parents, my former boss (Craig), several of my youth leaders, and some close friends. These are the kind of people I need in my life.
Today’s message is simple: Look for the encouragers, and find a way to be an encourager for someone TODAY!
Who encourages you? How can you encourage someone today? Share your thoughts in the comments.
“Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing.”
Have you ever found yourself in a place where it seems like life is sucking more out of you than you are getting back in return?
Have you ever asked yourself why you are doing what you are doing?
Have you ever wondered if you are in the right place, the right job, or the right role?
I recently found myself asking some of these same types of questions.
I’ve been at my current place of employment for nearly 25 years, and I’ve been in my current role for over three years. This has been an extremely challenging year as we navigated the challenges and distractions brought on my COVID-19 in the middle of having our best year ever from a revenue standpoint. Instead of proactively bringing new things into my team to help elevate us to the next level, I have often felt the stresses and pressures of responding the a variety of “issues” brought on by corporate direction, product developments, and resource restrictions. (I want to be cautious in how I describe this. I happen to work for a great company with a history of innovation and success. Sometimes, I can lose sight of this fact in the day to day minutia.)
Meanwhile, I have felt a lack of creativity, time, and energy for some of the things I have enjoyed on the side of work – writing, speaking, etc.
I shared these feelings this week with a close group of advisors. And they offered some fantastic advice.
First, COVID-19 and our recent move to a new home are both extreme events requiring a lot of time and attention. We live, work, and play in seasons. Sometimes the seasons of life require us to “muscle” through hard times. Sometimes the seasons of life require more focus on work. Sometimes the seasons of life provide more time for pressing into deeper areas of exploration towards our areas of passion.
Second, they reminded me of the importance of delegation. Delegation (which I’ve written about here in the past) is an excellent tool for passing knowledge on to others. It is also an great way to enable myself to do the things I like to do. As a natural people pleaser with perfectionistic (or maybe it’s OCD) tendencies, I tend to do more things myself which takes me away from things I’d rather be doing as the leader in my department and in turn leaves me depleted of energy and zest for my work. Delegation is a must in order to replenish my energy and enthusiasm.
Third, it is okay to explore new things and to consider a possible pivot. According to scientists, we are essentially completely new people every seven years as old, dead cells are replaced by new cells throughout our bodies. It goes without saying as we become new people there may be shifts in our passions and our approaches to work and life. For some, this may mean a seismic shift in our careers and jobs. For others, this may simply mean smaller shifts in our approach to our current work or activities. One of my advisors suggested I read Necessary Endings by Henry Cloud. I am someone who desires stability in my life and is terrified of change, it’s important that I learn how to bend. I need to give myself permission to change.
Finally, understanding what brings me life and what takes life out of me is important for determining my path forward. In Sleeping with Bread (Holding What Gives You Life), authors Dennis Linn, Sheila Fabricant Linn, and Matthew Linn, encourage readers to daily ask two questions as a means of finding meaning and direction for life. These two questions are: For what am I most grateful? For what am I least grateful? Asked another way: When did I feel most alive today? When did I most feel life draining out of me? As a result of the conversation with my advisors, I have begun answering these questions in my journal. Over the course of the next several weeks, I will take time to review my daily responses to find patterns that could help give me direction on how to make the most out of life.
Recently, I’ve been reading Think Like A Monk by Jay Shetty. In the book, he encourages readers to look for purpose in our work. He suggests we look at our jobs and our activities through a lens of purpose, passion, skills, and calling.
As we look for fulfillment in our lives, it’s a good idea to reflect on our purpose. Why are we here? How are we serving others through what we do? How are we best utilizing and enhancing our skills to meet our areas of passion?
What is giving you life today? What is taking life away from you today? How do the answers to these questions impact your world today?
By the way, we all need a group of advisors who can help us through our times of questioning, though our times when we are stuck, or through our times when we simply can’t see the path forward. If you are interested in being part of a group like this, I’d encourage you to check out the Stretched Men Group. This is a mastermind group for men looking to move forward in their parenting path, their marriage path, their career path, their faith path, and their life path. Spots are currently open. If you are interested in learning more about the group and how you can become involved, check out StretchedMenGroup.com.
Even the strongest introvert needs human interaction.
COVID-19 has altered our ability to connect. Many have stopped meeting face to face to adhere to CDC guidelines and to avoid spreading the virus. These developments have altered the way we work, the way we go to church, the way we learn, and the way we connect.
When I started the Stretched Men Group several years ago, I started with virtual meetings with the hope of creating a community of men who wanted to take their next steps toward being better fathers, better husbands, and better men. While I hope to host live events someday, I’m thankful for the start with virtual meetings as it works well with our current COVID-19 situation.
Our 60-90 minute bi-weekly virtual meetings have led to men taking significant steps forward in their careers, their faith, their marriages, and their families.
The next semester of the Stretched Men Group is scheduled to kickoff at the beginning of October. Now is the perfect time to get more information about the group through a one-on-one call with me. I’d love to help answer any questions you may have about the group and see if now is the right time for you to join this special mastermind group of men.
The first official meeting of the fall semester will be October 7th at 9PM (Eastern Time – US & Canada).
If you are a looking place for connection with other men along with a place you will be stretched to take your next step forward, I’d encourage you to head over the stretchedmengroup.com TODAY and sign-up for a FREE, no pressure discovery call to learn more information about how you can join the Fall 2020 Semester of the Stretched Men Group.
You don’t want to miss it!
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.
Early this past week, I received very sad news. A friend of mine was killed in a car accident late last week just days after I talked to him for almost an hour. We hadn’t spoken to each other for over a year, yet he reached out to me. The phone call was so encouraging. Little did either of us know it would be the final time we would speak to each other this side of heaven.
Besides being shocked and saddened by the news, this verse (above) immediately came to mind.
Make the most of every opportunity (Ephesians 5:15-17). This has often been a motto I have tried to follow. We don’t know when we will get a chance for our lives to intersect again with those who come across our paths. This is why making the most of every opportunity is essential. Whether it is taking the opportunity to enjoy creation around is, taking the opportunity to share good news with those who need it the most, or taking the opportunity to simply be together with those we call family or friends, we should make the most of it. Don’t let life be a waste!
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.
Don’t be afraid to take risks. Life is short. The young man mentioned above was seven or eight years younger than I am. I still consider myself to me reasonably young at 48 years old. Nevertheless, life is meant to be lived in bubble-wrap, backed away removed from any chance for scratches, dents, or scars. We were meant to live our life to the fullest, and that means taking risks.
And by all means, pick up the phone and call a friend – even if you haven’t talked for a long, long time. Don’t wait for the other person to reach out to you. Be proactive. Be assertive. Be the initiator. I was talking to a friend earlier this week who mentioned she had decided to begin a 100 day streak of connection – reaching out to others. Why not join her in this streak. Pick up the phone and call someone who hasn’t heard your voice for a while. Write an actual handwritten letter to someone who could use a word of encouragement. Schedule a time for coffee or lunch with a friend.
Teach us to number our days…remind us to live life to the fullest.
A few weeks ago, I was on a walk with a very good friend of mine when he asked me a question that has had me thinking. His question is probably a question many of us should be asking if we are being honest with ourselves.
“What do you do when you find yourself in a spiritual funk? How do you get out of it?”
Okay. Maybe it was two questions. Honestly, I’m not sure these were his exact words, but you get the idea. What should we do when we find ourselves in a spiritual dry spell – perhaps a desert?
It’s really a good question we all should ponder. After all, we are human. We do not always live on the mountaintop. We sometimes find ourselves in the valley. For many, 2020 has perhaps felt like the deepest, darkest of valleys.
Acedia might also be the word to describe where you are and what your are feeling:
“Acedia comes from a combination of the negative prefix a- and the Greek noun kēdos, meaning “care, concern, or grief.” (The Greek word akēdeia became acedia in Late Latin, and that spelling was retained in English.) Acedia initially referred specifically to the “deadly sin” of sloth. It first appeared in print in English in 1607 describing ceremonies which could induce this sin in ministers and pastors, but that sense is now rare. Acedia now tends to be used more generally to simply imply a lack of interest or caring, although it sometimes still carries overtones of laziness.”
Acedia means apathy or boredom. Are you feeling apathetic or bored when it comes to your faith? If so, that’s acedia.
I don’t know about you, but acedia is not a place I want to stay. I want to be excited about my faith. I want to be stretched by my faith, and I certainly do not want to dwell in a place of spiritual funk or acedia.
So what should we do when we find ourselves in a spiritual funk?
I’m not a theologian, so I’ll give you some of my ideas then I’ll follow them up with a few articles you may want to read to expand on what I am sharing.
6 Steps To Take When You Find Yourself In A Spiritual Funk
Acknowledge you are in a funk. They often say the first step to solving a problem is to recognize the problem. It’s okay. You are not alone. When you acknowledge your acedia, you are better prepared to take steps to move out of this valley. (Psalm 42)
Tell someone about your funk. You don’t necessarily have to broadcast it to the entire world; instead, find a few close friends who will walk with you through your valley. This can be a courageous step as we often fear admitting our vulnerabilities to others. (Proverbs 27:9-11)
Admit your funk to God. You don’t have to be eloquent or elaborate. Simply lay your feelings at His feet. God knows it already (after all, there is nothing He doesn’t know). If you are struggling with this, take some time to read through the book of Psalms. There are plenty of times where David or the other psalmists admit to God their feelings of distance from Him. (James 4:10)
Listen for God’s voice. God speaks to us in many ways. He speaks to us through His Word – the Bible. He speaks to us through nature. He reveals Himself through others. Often the thing missing when we are in a spiritual funk is a connection to God and His voice. (Job 37:5-7)
Connect with others. We were meant for community. The author of Hebrews says it well, we must continue meeting together spurring each other on (Hebrews 10:24-25). In this time of COVID-19, many of us are missing this essential element as we attempt to stay physically distant from each other.
Decide not to stay in your funk. Let’s be honest, no one really wants to stay in a place of spiritual funk or acedia. It may not be easy, and it may take time, but today is the day to begin the journey out of your valley. (Joshua 24:14-27)
What is your experience with spiritual funk? How have you dealt with acedia? Please share your thoughts in the comments below!
For additional reading, here are some articles you might find helpful:
Though the fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines, though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food, though there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will be joyful in God my Savior. The Sovereign Lord is my strength; he makes my feet like the feet of a deer, he enables me to tread on the heights.
There is a scene towards the end of Thor – Ragnarok the really hit home. I’ll let you watch the scene here and then I’ll explain.
The church I attend has not met in the church building since March when the Pennsylvania governor began setting restrictions on meeting in large groups. Since then, my church (Christ’s Church of the Valley) has been “meeting” through live-streamed church services every Sunday morning. The production quality has been amazing, and it is nice to see familiar faces and to hear familiar voices through the preaching and the worship songs.
I’m sure I’m not the only one who would say I look forward to meeting together again in person.
Back the the Thor movie clip…
Thor’s father, Odin, provides a very good reminder. Just like Asgard, the church is not a place. (In the Thor movies, Asgard is Odin’s kingdom and Thor’s home.) The church is wherever it’s people stand or gather.
I have been blessed to gather virtually with a group of guys every Friday morning. This is the church.
I was blessed this week to share my story with a group of men from my church (G3 – Guys’ Growth Group) who have been meeting weekly for fellowship and Bible study. This is the church.
Almost every Saturday morning since the pandemic started, my wife and I have been meeting with a group of friends to go for a walk. This is the church.
In my talk this week to the G3 group, I shared a verse from Hebrews:
“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)
The fourth discipline in the 7 Week Stretch Challenge is to engage in key relationships. This was a truth before the pandemic, and it is still true during the pandemic. We, the church, are called to meet together – to encourage one another, to spur one another on toward love and good deeds.
While I long for the day when our church can physically meet in the building many of us call church. I am reminded of the privilege, opportunity, and responsibility we have to find ways to meet as the church whether it’s in the building, virtually, or somewhere else.
I leave you with this passage from the book of Acts. This is a description of the early church. In the passage, it’s clear the “Fellowship of Believers” was not based on a building.
“They devoted themselves to the apostles teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Everyone was filled with awe, and many wonders and miraculous signs were done by the apostles. All the believers were together and had everything in common. Selling their possessions and goods, they gave to anyone as he had need. Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.”
Leanne and I celebrated our 24th wedding anniversary with a weekend trip to Ocean Grove, NJ. This provided an excellent opportunity to stop, to reflect on and celebrate our marriage, and to consider next steps for our lives together. In this busy season, this is exactly what we needed.
The following weekend, I made a trip to Catawissa, PA to “camp” with three of my buddies. This was our annual gathering that has been going on for nearly 30 years. The trip always provides an excellent opportunity to pause life, to reconnect and catch up on our lives, and to enjoy the great outdoors. We fished in the Susquehanna River and Roaring Creek. We played a few games of corn hole. We ate some great food. I even finished reading a book (Playing for Pizza by John Grisham). And we simply enjoyed sitting around.
When I arrived home from this trip, it was time to kick it into high gear for our move. We packed all our belongings into the moving trucks on Wednesday, July 22nd, and we officially closed our nearly fifteen year Centennial Street chapter. The next day, we officially started a new chapter on Snoopy Lane (still in Schwenksville, PA – actually in Lower Frederick, PA).
Our first week in the new house has been all we could ask for and more. We love our neighborhood. We have met so many genuinely nice people, and we have begun making new friendships. Leanne has enjoyed several walks with one of the women in the neighborhood. And we enjoyed our first Friday night neighborhood Happy Hour this week.
We have been busy unpacking and figuring out where everything goes. Yesterday, Isaac and I spend quite a bit of time painting the garage, hanging utility hooks, and organizing the garage. We still have a few things to do in order to finish up the garage project (hanging the bikes, getting a garage door opener, and painting/sealing the floor); otherwise, we are happy with the progress on this project. And I’m looking forward to the next projects.
I’m sure there is a lot in which I could share. I have had so many thoughts and reflections that have gone on through this experience. Perhaps, I will share more in the days to come. In the meantime, I wanted to share one of the experiences that left a mark on me.
A couple nights after we moved in to our Snoopy Lane home, Leanne and I were sitting outside our garage when a young neighborhood family stopped by to say hello. The oldest boy (I think he is 8 years old) asked Leanne and me if we knew Jesus. His exact words, “Do you know Jesus.” This led to a conversation that made it clear we did, and it is a conversation I have thought about over and over again since then.
I think his mother was a bit embarrassed by her son’s question when we were just getting to know her family. I think we set her mind at ease by our response. What makes it so easy for a child to have such “boldness” when we are all called to share our faith? People can debate about the best ways to share our faith with others which is a subject for another conversation.
But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander.
This little boy challenged me and encouraged me. I want to confidently share my faith with boldness, with gentleness, and with respect.
I’m looking forward to the opportunities we will have in the coming days, weeks, months, and years to connect and grow in our community.
Yesterday, I officially joined VLAUGUST, a private Facebook vlogging community that encourages participants to post a vlog once or twice a week on a specific theme. This year’s theme is “How To Be Still.” I posted my first vlog this morning. In my post, I shared about my history of struggling with the notion of being still. As part of the post, I shared Psalm 46 – specifically Psalm 46:10 that reminds us the “Be still and know that I am God.” I’m excited to see how this challenge will stretch me.
God continues to stretch me for which I am grateful.