Fire Words Week: The Way

I’m back from a weekend at the beach and ready to start with some fresh and exciting material. This is the first night in a series about the words we use that start fires in our lives; personally, professionally, or spiritually.  They are the expressions that polarize the world. Each post will be mixed with some great music so check it out and enjoy!

Carter and I just spent two days in Millsboro, Delaware visiting my dad. The town is near the bottom of the state and we survived a pair of long car rides.

We were in the yard throwing Carter a wiffle ball to hit with one of the old-school yellow bats.  He loves baseball and dad and I were both working with him on his batting stance.  At one point he said, “Just let me do it my way.”

In six words he inspired and captured so much of the dynamic between fathers and sons.

way

We are not living in a world that enjoys singular answers.  We want our paths multiple and divided. We want independence.

Later on Saturday night we were fishing off the dock behind my dad’s house, three generations together throwing fishing lures into a lake as the night breeze pushed the smell of blossoms across our faces.  As writers do, I started thinking.

Our paths are connected, three men born across generations with different memories and experiences. We pass down a part of our souls.  There are things I say that sound exactly like my dad and Carter will come out with phrases from both of us.

He may want his own way and he will find it one day.  Until then, he will discover himself and negotiate the connection between his past and the future.

Jesus says, straight out, I am the way.

So, how do we handle it when asked about our faith?

I take a clue from Carter.  Sometimes, the clearest thing to do is say “this is my way.” Words carry weight and power. Own your faith.  Step out and you’ll see the connections and lives change in the process.

~Matt

Worship Song Inspiration: I am a huge fan of this song and the work of Worship Central.  Listen once and you’ll be hooked!

Find Faith, Stand Tall and Fix Your Eyes

Fight for the weak ones

Speak out for freedom

Find faith in the battle

Stand tall but above it all

Fix my eyes on you.

~Fix My Eyes by For King and Country

I was going to lunch late one night in the emergency room. My registration desk looked out at the waiting area.  A couple sat across from me with their child.  I watched the child, pale as a ghost, keep trying to stand and speak in jumbled words.  They were waiting for a room when I left for lunch.

When I returned, they were still there and, deep inside, I knew something was wrong. I went to get a nurse. They quickly opened a treatment room and ushered the family to the back.

In a few minutes, the alarm sounded for a code. The child’s breathing had stopped.  We could hear the screams of the parents from our desks.

A few days later, the newspapers ran the story.  After transfer to a higher level hospital and ICU, the child died from meningitis.

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Where is faith in that battle?  How do we stand in the midst of tragedy and fix our eyes on the author of our faith? How do you tell those parents that it will all work out in time, that their child is now in a much better place without pain, sickness, or suffering?

That face will stick with me for the rest of my life. Those words, the questions, asking and asking and asking. I can still hear it some nights in the silence.

Maybe it is not about justification. Maybe it is about honesty. Faith is telling God exactly how you feel.  It is questioning motives and results.  It is living with expectations and hanging on in the darkness, even if it is by a thread.

You can only stand in the battle through faith.

You can only fix your eyes with purpose. Every race is run with an endpoint in mind and every struggle will end.  It may be in joy and transition or tragedy and sadness. The trick is fixing your eyes no matter the circumstances.  It is praying through your tears and going on another day when you don’t have energy.

The series of posts this week is challenging.  I’ve felt the conviction of every writer, for words are really mirrors.  That is why we do it together, as a community and family. We move forward.  Today can be your day one. Start now.

Love without fear. Give whenever possible.

Life new life. Take time for another.

Speak out. Fight for freedom.

Find faith. Stand tall and

Fix

Your

Eyes.

~Matt

This is the last day you can find my novel, The City for FREE download on Amazon.com. Click here to download and check it out.

Speak Out and Fight for Freedom

Fight for the weak ones

Speak out for freedom

Find faith in the battle

Stand tall but above it all…

~Fix My Eyes by For King and Country

I’m in the midst of reading John Krakauer’s book Missoula: Rape and the Justice System in a College Town. In it, Krakauer examines the state of sexual assault reporting and prosecution at the University of Montana spanning the years around 2011 on a campus with horribly low numbers of both categories.  He includes detailed accounts from victims and the efforts taken by local law enforcement to avoid filing charges against some of the young men involved.

The book hits home on the heels of the Rolling Stone controversy about the University of Virginia rape case expose. Take the two hand in hand, one instance of falsehood and one of ignorance, and you find college campuses in this country seated at a tipping point in handling the instances of young women and men claiming sexual assault.

People are scared to speak up.

The challenge to Fight for the Weak and Speak Out for Freedom sounds great, like something we’d put on a bumper sticker.  We tell ourselves that we do it all the time. We share Facebook updates and send text messages to donate funds.  Isn’t that enough?

One day

Our heroes are the big-hitters of faith. Men and women who weren’t perfect but were perfect for the time they lived.  Martin Luther King Jr. decided to walk forward and exercise non violence against the evils he witnessed every day.  He took prison, police dogs, and night sticks to fight the idea of the status quot.

Doing nothing was not an option.

What if we adopted that mindset?

What if we stood next to one family in need and lifted them up with support? What if we took the hand of a child getting bullied and let them know we are there for them, that we will do whatever it takes to make it right?  What if we stopped the next water-cooler conversation that veers into racism and prejudice?

What if we listened to those that lash out in anger against the Church and apologize? Apologize for those of us that hid behind the stage when we should have stepped out. Apologize for those who told the hated, neglected, beaten down, rejected, addicted and struggling that they couldn’t come in.

Say we are sorry because we are all works in progress.  That we’ve taken this Gospel of Life and Love and made it into something else, shifted God’s voice to match our own out of fear.

Change is possible when we stand up and refuse to stay silent.

Isn’t that seat getting old?

~Matt

For the next TWO days you can find my novel, The City for FREE download on Amazon.com. Click here to download and check it out.

Living Life and Taking Time- Fix My Eyes Week: Day 2

I’d love like I’m not scared

Give when it’s not fair

Live life for another

Take time for a brother

~Fix My Eyes by For King and Country

Creflo Dollar wants a plane.  If you don’t know his name, do a quick search and you’ll find it.  Dollar runs a church in the south with eight thousand or so members.  He recently made headlines by asking donors to chip in for a $65 million jet that he could use to spread the gospel.

The backlash was quick and, with it, you’d think he learned his lesson.  His church even pulled the funding request down from the website.

Then he delivered a message saying his doubters were evil and that, if God wanted him to have the plane, it would be and should be his.

When did we go so wrong?

Faith is not safe.  Faith is not money. It is not calling on the giant slot machine in the sky and pulling the lever to get our payout.  It is not a God filling your bank account fresh every morning.

Faith is dirty.  It is living life for another, sacrificing yourself and your desires.  It is taking time for the ones in need. It is helping the family who does not have enough to feed their children breakfast in the morning.  Faith is giving of our time and efforts.

What if we aren’t called to be free and rich?  What if we are called to pick up our cross and take a dangerous walk, one with potential to change the world down the block and around the corner.

You know how many families could have their lives changed with $65 million in donations?

“She turned to the sunlight    And shook(1)

One of my favorite speakers is Reggie Dabbs.  I’ve had the honor to hear his story multiple times at our church and events like Promise Keepers. Dabbs was conceived by a young woman having sex with a man for $20.00 to get groceries.

He is now the #1 public speaker to school students in the country.  No one speaks to more kids in a year than Reggie.  He spreads a promise of hope, grace, and love. He tells every audience that he loves every kid in the audience, that his heart is big enough for all of them no matter what their situation. He breaks chains of anger, hatred, bullying, and discrimination.

He is living life and taking time for another.

Who are you speaking into this week? Who will you live for and give your time for?

Who will you love with a full and radical heart?

~Matt

For the next three days you can find my novel, The City for FREE on Amazon.com. Click here to download and check it out.

Fix My Eyes Week Day 1- Fearless Love and Unfair Giving

My new favorite album is RUN WILD. LIVE FREE. LOVE STRONG by For King and Country. The third track on the disc is titled Fix My Eyes and the chorus is serving as inspiration for this week of posts. It is a section of statements that serve as a reminder of the destinations we should be chasing as believers and humans wanting to improve this world.  A lyric video is below.  Check it out and pay attention to the chorus as we’ll be taking it apart a few lines at a time.

Love Like I’m Not Scared

Love scares us.  It means opening up when our instinct is to protect ourselves.  It means acknowledging someone is important and searching for acceptance. A friend of mine recently completed her divorce.  She was talking to me about the prospect of dating again, telling me how she never though she’d be in that position.

We don’t take our marriage vows to break them.

Love scares us on a faith level. Jesus provided the example of perfect and selfless love. The church as political unit gets hung up on the idea of a closed fist and pointed finger, not open hands with nail scars. We invite people in and, as long as they know their place, we are comfortable to have them around. We’ve convinced ourselves that revolutionary love is a thing of the past, confined to Jerusalem a few thousand years ago.

We can be the reps of Jesus, as long as the audience is Republican, moderately wealthy, white, and willing to not discuss their struggles at the dinner table after the small group meeting.

Give When it’s Not Fair

I love these five words and they are worth a book of writing. In the Bible, we read Jesus meeting a wealthy man in the streets.  He’s asked, as the guy looks up from checking his portfolio on his IPhone 6, how do I get into heaven?

The reply is simple and, as he did often, Jesus cuts to the core of the issue.

Sell everything.

He doesn’t say, sell some stuff, set up shop in the market and get rid of your antiques.  He doesn’t say to keep the receipts for a tax write off. He doesn’t say, make sure you give me ten percent and we’re all good, or go to the temple on Mission’s Sunday and put some extra in the pot.

He says, sell it all.

Not an easy statement.

The central idea here is a selfless life. Loving and giving, taking a risk to be there for someone else, taking your time to serve a family, charity, or group in need. 

It is pushing the capital ME (sell it all) down for the capital US (love without fear). It is a concept that can change the world when we embrace it fully and go forward.

~Matt

Also, for the next four days, my novel The City is available FOR FREE on Amazon.com

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If you enjoy some action and post-apocalyptic sci-fi, check it out.  You can download it by clicking here.

Mid Week Inspiration and a Free Book

Hope can be found at the intersection of

My name is Matt Shaner. I am a believer, writer, husband, and father. I’ve published thirty short stories, two novellas, and two novels. I’ve completed my MFA in Creative Writing at Fairfield University and I want to help you:

~Find an audience.

~Break the through the “Mainstream” lines that hold back Faith-based stories

~Get your writing taken seriously in traditional or self-publishing environments.

Lazarus Art is a book with four concise and valuable lessons to enhance your writing. Taking inspiration from the Biblical story of Lazarus, it will motivate you to find new life in your creative efforts.

Lazarus Art is available for download for free from Amazon.com. This special is running for the next five days.  It’s the perfect chance to check out my work and share it with anyone you know looking to take their writing to the next level.

Lazarus Art

You can download it by clicking here.

~Matt

Inspiration Week: Day 2

Have the courage to tell your

p356writing.com

My book, Lazarus Art, is available for free for a limited time starting tomorrow.  If you’d enjoy a book that will change your writing life, check it out. If a friend or family member is a writer, it makes a great inspirational gift.  Pick up a copy or two and pass them on!

~Matt