Picks of the Week- 10/13/2014

Scripture: “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” Jeremiah 29:11

I’ve put up this verse on here before and it is one of my favorites. I pray it every morning. It is valuable to remember and know that, in struggles, you have a hope and a future.

Reading Materials: Spry Literary Journal

Spry Literary Journal is a quality publication started by fellow graduates from Fairfield University’s MFA Program. If you need something to read, stop by and check it out.  If you are a writer, don’t forget to submit your work for publication!

Family Activity: Tag

This is Carter’s new obsession. We play in the house, outside, and at the playground.  He’d play every minute of the day if possible.  It is a great workout and he loves being chased. Lace up the sneakers, get out and run on these cool fall nights.

Marriage Activity: Bed and Breakfast

It is the perfect time of year to book a night at a Bed and Breakfast. You can go local or far away. Take your time together and make the most of it.  Even if you only get one night, that only ups the importance.  Every second counts.  Sometimes we forget that in marriage.

Val’s Style Pick of the Week:

tt_special_shampoo_product

Tea Tree Special Shampoo from Paul Mitchell: Special ingredients and tea tree oil rid hair of impurities and leave hair full of vitality and luster. Paul Mitchell makes Tea Tree products for men and women.  They are some of Val’s favorites to add life to your style!

 

Val’s Bag of the Week:

3885978A0000_Q

Timeless Memory Pouches only $5.00! You can find other specials for October and the entire new catalog for the month at Val’s personal Thirty-One site.

 

Soundtrack Inspiration: One of my favorite bands and a great song to start the week.

Fatherhood Friday 10/10/2014

nationalfatherhoodinitiativefatherabsencecrisis

We are living in the middle of a crisis. Fathers are absent more than ever before.  The above infographic is from the National Fatherhood Initiative, an organization dedicated to improving families and the involvement of fathers in their families. As men, we must understand that children are a lifetime commitment. We must be their heroes, their guides, protectors, shoulders to cry on, and hands to high-five. We will be their conception of men and, statistics show, of God.

We must love, deeply and fully, to break the bonds of prior generations. If you are a father making it work, I applaud your efforts.  If you are a guy who never had a father, know that there is hope, that you are strong enough to be a good father to your own children. If your father burned you more than once in more than one way, I’m sorry.  Know that you can start fresh and keep your eyes on the one true Father.

At that time Jesus, full of joy through the Holy Spirit, said, “I praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and learned, and revealed them to little children. Yes, Father, for this is what you were pleased to do.“All things have been committed to me by my Father. No one knows who the Son is except the Father, and no one knows who the Father is except the Son and those to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.– Luke 10: 21-22

Soundtrack Inspiration:

Killing Competition and Changing the Game

Second post in the preview series for Ignition, my upcoming e-book for men.

It starts early:

“Let’s have a race.”

That sentence has been uttered on playgrounds across the world.  Boys are stacked against each other.  The fastest wins. The strongest survives.  Young faces look across the starting line and take inventory.  Why is he bigger than me? Can I win? What if I don’t?

The primal urge tells them to run.  It plants the seed that grows throughout formative years.  We tell our boys to be tough.  Don’t cry. Be a man. Walk it off.  Stifle your emotions.  Eliminate weakness. Don’t be afraid and if you are, God forbid, don’t show it.

Every aspect of adolescence is placed against a measuring stick. Our education system is funded on test results. Athletics become tickets to college scholarships. We split students into groups and skill levels, tracking them through more than a decade of school meant to prepare them for the world when, in the end, all it does is create a stock member of society. Our boys are set for a lifetime of work at meaningless companies where they’ll find themselves at the starting line again in the race up the corporate ladder.

What if it could all change?

What if we foster our boys and their passions? Allow them to explore their feelings and know what it means to be sad, angry, or upset? What if we teach them the value of peace and teamwork, that the race is fastest when completed together? What if we help them celebrate their differences and reach across racial and economic lines?

There is hope for the future and it takes redefining competition.

Jesus calls us to a high standard in the Sermon on the Mount, saying:

“Blessed are the poor in spirit,
    for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
 Blessed are those who mourn,
    for they will be comforted.
 Blessed are the meek,
    for they will inherit the earth.
 Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness,
    for they will be filled.
 Blessed are the merciful,
    for they will be shown mercy.
 Blessed are the pure in heart,
    for they will see God.
 Blessed are the peacemakers,
    for they will be called children of God.
 Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness,
    for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” Matthew 5: 3-10

Remember, at this time, Jesus is speaking to the minority population living under Roman rule. These statements were like bombs exploding the status quot. The dove of peace was flying in the face of the Roman eagle. Jesus was redefining competition, laying down new rules, creating a new field of play.

4483

The Creator had come to change the game.

As fathers we can easily get caught up in the spirit of competition.  We see our sons in contrast to their friends. We live vicariously through them (sit in the stands at any youth sports event and just listen for a while). We see them as extensions of us and not their own individuals.

So what can we do?

Teach them to serve: Go to a local charity or outreach. Donate some clothes, toys, or food. Tell them what you are doing and why you are doing it. Their world will expand when they see the realities of life and existence.

Teach them to love: Empathy can change reality.  Want to stop the violence? Fight poverty? Build bridges? Make peace? Show your boys that others are important, that they are called understand feelings and make someone’s day better.  Help them to have a good heart.  It will go a long way to their future.

Teach them to pray: This is so simple and so powerful.  Carter prays every night. The prayers of children can change the universe. I get emotional listening to the cries of his heart as  it calls out to God.  Prayer builds a foundation that they will have for the rest of their lives.

The world’s view of competition can be harmful but, with effort, it can be reclaimed for good.  As fathers, our work is never done. As men of faith, our sons must see a legacy to follow. They are our mirrors.  Always give them something positive to reflect.

Redefining competition is a great place to start.

~Matt

Soundtrack inspiration: A great song from Common.  Listen closely to the words as the man is a poet.

 

 

 

 

Faith, Fatherhood, and Football: The Perfect Storm

This post starts a series previewing chapters from my upcoming e-book devotional Ignition for men:

I love football.  If you ask Val, I probably love it too much. It is a sixteen game season, unlike baseball’s marathon year, so every game counts. There is a physical, cerebral, and emotional element. Two teams of warriors meet on the battlefield in prime condition.  We’ve embraced the sport as a culture, pushing the NFL to stunning financial heights.  Boys still play the game in schoolyards and wear the jersey’s of their heroes on the weekends. Father’s and sons make it a tradition through generations of season ticket holders.

My team is the Philadelphia Eagles and one of my favorite players to ever wear an Eagles’ uniform is Brian Dawkins.

Dawkins played safety for the Eagles.  He was under-sized for the position and, after developing under defensive coordinator Jim Johnson, became one of the best safeties to ever play the game.  He was intense and vibrant, often laying down hits to the opposition that could be felt in homes across the Philly area. He embodied what it meant to be from the city; to work hard, fight, and never give up.

He is also a man of faith.

Follow Dawkins on twitter or listen to any of his interviews.  His faith is front and center.  He speaks with the passion of a preacher, talking about the blessings God has provided in his life.  The NFL has a website dedicated to player engagement and it featured Dawkins in an article here. There is a wealth of valuable information in this short piece.

Talking about fatherhood, Dawkins says:

It’s a tremendous responsibility and honor to be a father. Not every man that has kids is a father to his children. I understand that and know that it’s a responsibility and a blessing as well. The Lord blessed me to have these little ones and raise them to worship him.  All these other accomplishments are great blessings, but at the end of the day if I’m not raising them in the omniscience of the Lord then I’m not doing what I’m supposed to do.

He’s right.  Not every man who has kids is a father.  It is a title we need to earn and we need to earn it daily. 

fatherson

He offers the following advice:

My advice would be to make sure that the foundation is laid in your faith. To walk the walk, don’t just be a church go’er or just attend bible study. Have a relationship with the Father. Don’t have religion have a relationship.  When you have this, it allows things to fall where they need to fall because now you’re being led by the Father in all that you do. Your footsteps are being ordered when you have your eyes set on him. That way he won’t allow you to stumble, and if you do stumble it will be something you will grow from because he has his hands on you. Secondly, don’t let somebody’s opinion of you define you.  If you allow that, then whatever bad thing that happens in your life, you will allow other people to have the pen in writing your story. I want you to look in the mirror and be able to say, Yes I made that mistake, but that’s not who I am. I’m going to continue to write this story with my FAITH!!

There are way too many things waiting to take control. As guys, the static in our lives can rise to deafening levels.  It can be the job, friends, money, addiction, sex, other people’s opinions, acceptance, even other family members.  We must know where we stand and what is our foundation.  We need a relationship, a real interaction with the Creator.

I don’t know about you, but I need my steps ordered.  I’ve tried grabbing control way too long.  The Father has bigger and better things planned for you and for me so, as we walk, we keep our eyes him.  Everything else will fall into place.

“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.” Hebrews 12: 1-2

Soundtrack Inspiration: (I’m challenging myself to expand my musical selections this week so, for the first post, here’s a classic)

 

 

 

Picks of the Week- 10/6/2014

Scripture: “Trust in the Lord forever, for the Lord, the Lord himself, is the Rock eternal.” Isiah 26:4

The verse of the day on Bible Gateway, a great site for Scripture and study. In these days of uncertainty, we must hold fast to the Rock Eternal.

Reading Materials: Change This

Change This is a website of manifestos surrounding current topics  impacting society today.  You can easily spend hours reading challenging and inspiring material.

Family Activity: Tag

We visited the playground tonight and finished our time with a game of tag. Nothing better than a simple game and the laughter of children to finish out a cool fall night.

Marriage Activity: Live Music

Not all great concerts come with traffic, expensive parking, and bad seats.  Check the news for live music on the weekends. Go and support your local artists who are making the rounds before their big breaks.  I used to work with a guy who was from Ireland. He told me, more than once, he had seen U2 in a bar before they made it big. You could add a similar story to the books of your marriage.

Val’s Style Pick of the Week:

ColorExtend_Magnetics_Family_460x250

From Redken: “Color captivating care for color-addicted hair. Color Extend Magnetics are a line of hair color protection products that capture salon-fresh vibrancy with next generation hair color care technology. Redken’s exclusive IPN and Charge-Attract Complex deliver charged amino-ions that are attracted to the hair fiber to help seal in color. Color Extend Magnetics products make sure hair color is secured with maximum vibrancy and alluring shine.”

Val’s Bag of the Week:

 

 

retro-metro-collection_968

 

One of four Metro Bags available for 50% off after a $35.00 purchase. You can find other specials for October and the entire new catalog for the month at Val’s personal Thirty-One site.

Soundtrack Inspiration: Go- Hillsong United Miami Live

We are Parents and that is Okay

Before I jump into the new series of posts, I read something this morning that necessitated a response:

A friend of mine on Facebook shared an essay published on the Quartz blog entitled How American Parenting is Killing the American Marriage. The post itself is related to an article in the New York Times in 2005 by Ayelet Waldman, where she discusses ideas like not liking her children, telling them that she loves her husband, their father, more than them and that this is a good thing.  The authors of this post took Waldman’s views and analyzed them a step further.  In doing so, they make some important mistakes.

I’ll respond to a few of them here:

They talk about the current focus on children and call it a religion.  They say how we shoot down anyone who dares utter a disparaging word about their offspring. To site their own words:

The origins of the parenthood religion are obscure, but one of its first manifestations may have been the “baby on board” placards that became popular in the mid-1980s. Nobody would have placed such a sign on a car if it were not already understood by society that the life of a human achieves its peak value at birth and declines thereafter. A toddler is almost as precious as a baby, but a teenager less so, and by the time that baby turns fifty, it seems that nobody cares much anymore if someone crashes into her car. You don’t see a lot of vehicles with placards that read, “Middle-aged accountant on board.”

I wonder if they’d ever spoken with someone who had lost a teenage child in a car accident, or their husband, wife, mother, or father. Yes, we value babies and toddlers, but all human life is precious.  Talk to the family supporting their elderly parents in hospice care and ask about the value of their lives. You know what the Baby on Board signs did? They made money for their inventor, that’s it, not as signs of the start of a plague on modern parenting.

19853

Another sign of the parenthood religion is that it has become totally unacceptable in our culture to say anything bad about our children, let alone admit that we don’t like them all of the time. We are allowed to say bad things about our spouses, our parents, our aunts and uncles, but try saying, “My kid doesn’t have a lot of friends because she’s not a super likable person,” and see how fast you get dropped from the PTA.

We can admit we don’t like our kids all the time.  Carter and Aiden press our patience often.  I would never, in my life, utter the final quote in the paragraph. Even if your kid wasn’t “super-likable”, wouldn’t that be something you’d want to work on as a parent? How responsible is it to make that claim in the first place? Kids take effort and that conclusion is equal to throwing your hands up and saying, what the hell, and moving on.  As a father, that possibility never crosses my mind.

Mothers are also holy in a way that fathers are not expected to be. Mothers live in a clean, cheerful world filled with primary colors and children’s songs, and they don’t think about sex. A father could admit to desiring his wife without seeming like a distracted parent, but society is not as willing to cut Ms. Waldman that same slack. It is unseemly for a mother to enjoy pleasures that don’t involve her children.

I’m not sure where they’re getting this idea. Mothers should think about sex.  I’ve posted about this more than once. Women should live well-rounded lives with their own passions and exist without condemnation. A healthy marriage, with equal parties, allows it to happen.

In the 21st century, most Americans marry for love. We choose partners who we hope will be our soulmates for life. When children come along, we believe that we can press pause on the soulmate narrative, because parenthood has become our new priority and religion.

We can easily lose ourselves in parenting, but, it is not because children are a religion. They are part of us, a creation with a purpose to draw us closer as spouses and families.  Carter and Aiden enhance our marriage.  The trick is to find a balance.  We must build up our children.  I spent time working in Alternative Education and had more than one conversation with a child ripped down and abused by the parents. I’ve looked in their eyes and seen the weight of their disappointment, anger, and rejection. Children need our love, not our worship, but not our outright dislike either.

Kids are a project. They take effort, time, emotion, and patience.  Marriages take the same.  Children should enrich our marriage experience. The bottom line of the Quartz post is a cry of selfishness. Perfect love is selfless. Parenting is selfless. When we serve each other, we can make a difference.  When our children see our selfless love, they will learn a model of servanthood drastically needed to change society.  Change is possible, marriage can be saved, and parents will take a vital role on both fronts.

~Matt

Soundtrack Inspiration:

Feel Good Friday 10/3/2014

Robin Macmillan is a photographer in Canada and a cancer survivor.  It took a brush with the disease to inspire her to follow her dreams and create stunning photography. There is power is creation and finding your passion.  Macmillan used her camera to tell her story.  If you are in the midst of suffering, document your feelings in words or pictures. Capture the storm inside. Use it for motivation to find victory.  Don’t ever give up.

You can find Macmillan’s story and her photographs here.

 

Berks Coalition to End Homelessness

safe_image.php

Like the volunteer pictured above, the Berks Coalition to End Homelessness is a cooperation of individuals and businesses directly making an impact on the city in the effort to combat homelessness. It includes over sixty agencies and businesses. The Coalition takes the lead in HUD grant application for the county and is an important contact point for other service agencies in the city.  I met with Sharon Parker, the Executive Director, one afternoon at Barnes and Noble.  She told me about the numerous projects they have on the table including an effort to obtain housing for homeless families in Berks County. You can find their website here with a wealth of information and links.  You can find donation information here.

Soundtrack Inspiration:

Finding Victory in the 1/3rd Life Crisis

One day you’re sitting at your desk at work and the email comes across. Layoffs, happening in an hour, and you are one.

You spouse, boyfriend, or girlfriend says they are finished with you. The door shuts and you are alone. Again.

The illness is back.

The kids are crazy.

The cabinets are empty.

Or maybe you’re the opposite.

You live in a new house.

The car is waxed.

The lawn is green.

Sprinklers wisp water on Saturday mornings.

You look in the mirror and wonder:

Is this it?

15424

The crisis can take many forms and, as we progress through life, it can linger well past our 30’s. We live our days unsettled, searching for meaning and the security that we thought we’d find when our youth ended. We measure our faults, weigh our deficiencies, and pick out our imperfections. In the midst of the crisis, there is something to remember:

“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” – John 16:33

When you face uncertainty, fall back on what you know. Remember the promises of Scripture and recall the moments your prayers were answered. Troubles will pass. The sun will rise and keep rising with each new dawn.

Make use of these moments.

Journal, draw, write, take pictures, create. Get your feelings out in some form of expression.  You’ll find it cathartic, freeing, and the weight will lift.

You’ll find freedom and that is worth it all.

~Matt

Soundtrack Inspiration: