Friday Night Worship

A perfect atmospheric worship song from Phil Wickham to end a stressful week.

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Let’s Have a Dream

What do you want to be when you grow up?

It was a question lobbied at us as kids, one that grew into skills tests and teachers encouraging us to different directions. At some point, reality set in. The outside world spoke to us and we lowered our expectations.

The right path became the next path.

I was listening to Lewis Howes and his School of Greatness podcast where he interviewed Michael Hyatt. Hyatt spoke about giving ourselves permission to dream.  He said we focus too much on the how and ignore the what.

We say, “I could never ___ because I’m not smart enough, I don’t have a face to do videos, I don’t understand sales or marketing, etc.” Our doubts sabotage our vision and, eventually, we stop dreaming.

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Later that night I stood across our kitchen from Val.  I asked her when was the last time she had a dream.

When was the last time we had dreamed together as a couple?

It not as easy answer, but it cut to a valuable point.  We had transitioned to survival mode.  We were focused so much on making the next day that we let dreams fall to the side.

We just wanted to survive, not create something deeper and better with our lives.

I don’t know about you, but dreaming makes my pulse quicken. Ever meet someone who has stopped dreaming?  I see them every day in the medical field. There are people who beat cancer.  There are people that overcome disease to find new life.  They are the ones with dreams in their hearts that keep them going.

The ones that give up lose the fight.

This week, give yourself permission to dream. Write down the results and let them empower your life.

It is time for  our hearts to beat again.

~Matt

Legacy

Michael Hyatt is an interesting figure.  He was the CEO and President of Thomas Nelson Publishers, leaving the industry to start on his own as a businessman on the internet.  His blog/podcast is worth following (one of the top in the field) and his writing is motivational and faith-based.

Tonight I listened to a podcast where Hyatt was interviewed about his new book, Living Forward.  He stated that the book is based on three important questions.  I heard the first before the boys were acting up enough that I had to pause the podcast.

He asked, how do you want to be remembered at your funeral?

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It is almost a cliché but, after thinking about it, the topic has merit.  He asked, on the podcast, if your friends and family were gathered at your funeral what kind of conversations would you hear?

This afternoon we had one of Carter’s baseball games.  It had rained all morning and, two hours before the game, stopped to give way to wind and sunshine. The boys played well.  They went to the adjacent playground as I watched and gave them some time, thinking about the big picture.

I’d like my legacy to be three-headed.

First, I want to be a cornerstone of our family.  I want to be someone our boys came to in times of trouble.  I want to be a resource, to have had an active relationship with them as they became men with families of their own.  I want them to be proud of me as a father.

Secondly, I want my writing to have meant something to an audience, to have someone say “that book, blog post or devotional helped me through a rough time.” I want to know the words hit home and made a life better.

Finally, I want them to say I was a man of faith and community. I want deep roots in a church family, friends to laugh and cry with, and the strength that comes with years. When my grandfather passed, my grandmother said “he had a rough night.” At his funeral she put a rose on the chest of his suit.  She knew she would see him again and it helped process the loss of a seventy-year marriage.

This is all a work of progress and purpose, one happening on a daily basis. I’m praying for more focus and less drift, as Hyatt calls it.I’m praying to move forward and make the most of each new day.

Our legacies start now.

~Matt

 

ReFrame

I just started reading Andy Weir’s novel The Martian. If you haven’t checked it out yet in book or movie form, download or grab a copy today. It is the story of Mark Watney, astronaut abandoned on Mars after his crew believes he had died in an accident.

The concept is simple and powerful.  In the part I read last night, Watney realizes he is accomplishing many firsts as the days pass and he lives on the planet.  He figures out how to plant and grow food while maintaining his atmosphere.

The character must reframe his situation to survive.

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On Pastor Steven Furtick’s podcast last week, he spoke about the importance of frames in our lives. Someones how we speak is more important than what we say.  Our spouse, loved ones, and children pull so much from our tone and physical expressions.

We frame our speech, homes, jobs, and faith. We frame our conflicts and antagonists.

Tonight we had baseball practice.  One of the basic strategies in the game is that, if you are a runner on base and there are two outs, you run on contact.  The minute the batter hits the ball, you take off and never look back. For some reason tonight, the boys were having an issue getting it.

I probably yelled “run on contact!” twenty times (I usually coach first base). The coach turned to me, laughed, and said, “the thing is, they don’t have any idea what that means.”

I was using a phrase from the years I played so long ago.

We tend to fall back on the familiar. How many times have you criticized your children or spouse with a phrase from your past? An exact expression that makes you cringe and thing, “that’s something my dad/mom said?”

A glass is dropped on the floor and it shatters.  The sound takes you back to your parents and their fights while you pretended to sleep upstairs.

The familiar isn’t always negative.

A fresh glass of iced tea will always remind me of my grandmother. A good laugh takes me back to moments as a kid with my mother where she’d pretend to talk to me through my stuffed animals and I’d end up in hysterics.

Sitting in a diner with Val takes me back to our early dates, when we had no money and nothing to do but look at each other and marvel in the mystery of the early forms of love.

This week has been hard so far, but I’m working on changing the frame to one of faith and hope. Once your frame hits the foundation of God’s Word, the sky is the only limit to how high you can go.

~Matt

 

The Power of Love

This morning I continued my podcast journey by listening to Pastor Erwin McManus from Mosaic church in Los Angeles.  McManus has written a series of quality books about creativity and overcoming adversity and I’d recommend them all.

He’s well-traveled, educated, eloquent, and motivational.

The message I listened to was on love.  He talked about God operating out of love and our everyday lives being proof in that we aren’t struck down multiple times of day for our transgressions. He also said this:

Everything painful that you’ve ever done or has been done to you was motivated by love.

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We define ourselves by love.  If our heart is broken too many times, we decide “never to love again.” We can confuse sex with love and get caught in a game of devaluing what we have to offer.

My generation, now in their early 30’s, was known as the Divorce Generation.  Almost 50% of us have grown up in single parent homes. When I was in college, a professor asked us to raise our hands if our parents were divorced.  A little more than half the class responded positively, confirming the stats.

Those of us who follow Jesus are told to love our neighbors.  We’ve seen Jesus, motivated by love, make the journey to the cross.  Even so, it is a matter we get confused.

We close doors more than open them, talk about exclusion more than inclusion, and put a hatred of sin above the majesty of grace.

Love, Christ love, has the ability to change the world.  We step forward in faith, motivated by our love for others, to pray and study, have community and make connections.  We must be shoulders to cry on and hands to hold.

I’ve been blessed to be with an amazing woman who has loved me for the past seventeen years since high school. She’s looked past my faults, and believe me they are many, and hung in there. Val shows me what is means to be a better parent and follower of Jesus.

Tonight, know that love will define you in the way you let it, for better or worse, and it can make your life and world a better place.

~Matt

What Will You Do

“Faith calls you a conqueror when all you’ve ever known is defeat, then waits to see what you’re gonna do about it.”

~Pastor Steven Furtick

I downloaded Furtick’s latest podcast and the above line has stuck in my head since listening to it while running last night. I’ve been wrestling with the idea of faith, praying for new revelation and insight, depth and inspiration.

In his message, Furtick, pastor of Elevation Church in North Carolina, expands on the idea.  Faith flies against the norm. It calls you to something you never thought you could do.

It is a life pushing against society:

Love over Hate, Humility over Pride, Service over Selfishness, Giving over Receiving.

Peace. Joy. Hope.

It is knowing that things can be different and the time to start is now. It is a new challenge and new life trajectory when we make it part of our soul.

It is daily fuel for the journey to change the world.

~Matt

 

Help Yourself

Shopping on Amazon is almost too easy. In a few clicks you can find whatever book, movie, tech product, or toy you want. You’ll find recommendations and different price levels. Take the app to any retail store and you can scan items to see their immediate price on the website.

One of my favorite features is reading customer reviews.  Now, not all are honest. Sellers will pay people for reviews.  Even with this understanding, you’ll often find some interesting observations and consistencies.

Today I was reading a review of Pastor Steven Furtick’s book, (Un)Qualified. The guy wrote that the book was merely a combination of Furtick’s podcasts and reformatted stories from his prior publications.

His final line was this, “Do Christians really need another self-help book anyway?”

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Today was Opening Day for Carter’s baseball team.  I stood with the kids talking to another coach.  He is also the field commissioner for the league and spends a ton of time keeping them in shape.

As we watched, kids and parents crossed around us, all sinking deep into the dirt infield, now mud, created from a wet Saturday. He looked at me and said, “I wish I could say something.  I’m going to have to fix all this.”

Do we need another self-help book?

It depends on how you see your faith. At this point in life, I’m a work in progress.  Our family is a work in progress and I know Val and I have a ton of growing to do as a couple and parents. Personally, I find value in the work of speakers and writers holding up the mirror to life, telling me how to avoid sinking into the mud and how to climb my way out.

There is still a mystery of faith.

There are still many why’s waiting for answers.

There are still days I wake up wondering how much longer until the tide turns and the trajectory of life shifts.

So I guess maybe some people who follow Jesus feel they don’t need any more self-help books. Their lives are fine and they are secure. Someday I’ll join that club, even if it is day I do it in heaven.

Until then, let the work commence.  Tomorrow is a fresh start for different and better things.

~Matt

Measuring Up

My most recent blog post for our church’s website will go live on Monday.  We are in the midst of a series on dealing with drastic changes in life and it is on the power of the comparison trap.

It is too easy to paralyze ourselves as we see others succeed.

Some people thrive from comparisons. They live to compete, always have the finish line in sight, and chase goals with tenacity. The thrill of victory is enough.

For the rest of us, competition is much harder.

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I was never a Type A personality. Give me a book on a quiet Saturday afternoon, and I’m set. My motivation was intrinsic, not placed against outside forces.

I was the kid that responded to the individual recognition for the end result, not the race to the finish. Let me work in a vacuum and I’ll survive.

Probably the reason writing lives deep in my soul.

As you age, you realize this kind of success is impossible. There is no vacuum. All it takes is the first bad experience to know you will play a part in the environment around you no matter what you choose.

I remember the negative moments of my youth, the teasing and unkind words. I remember going to college and realizing the world is much bigger, that the point was to find your own identity and maybe getting a job would be the answer.

Then you realize the bullies took a different form as middle managers bent on making your days as rough as possible. There would always be someone grasping for power in their own kingdom.

You get married and have kids and do your best to help them find a safe path while learning how to process the bad things as they come.

The blog post on Monday scares me more than any other I’d written for the church.  It cut deeply. I’d felt like that kid again, that victim wondering why I was getting picked on and just wanting to disappear.

I believe God turns our scars into stories. Looking back is an important step in looking forward and finding the way to truly be free. Life is a journey and these tough nights and weeks are a part of the bigger picture.

The picture that will take shape into more beauty than we’d ever imagine.

~Matt

 

 

 

 

Broken Pieces

On Sunday, our church started a series on what happens when your life is shattered.  Pastor Bryan talked about the motorcycle accident that took the life of his wife back in June.

At the end of the message, a handful of people came to the stage and mentioned their own traumatic events.  They included a woman whose sister was killed in an act of domestic violence just three months before, a man fighting addiction,  a woman whose daughter had cancer at age 6, was cured by a blood transfusion only to contract HIV/AIDS and die from it years later, and Pastor Bryan’s sons talking about the loss of their mother.

We are sums of our experiences and nothing shapes us more than tragedy. Our reaction to grief may be the solution to change our future.

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Let’s take it a step deeper.  We are defined by our reaction to grief.

Train, research, workout, study, podcast, take notes, write books, do all you can to prepare and nothing matches the moment things all apart, that point you look in the mirror and realize something is wrong.

That diagnosis. That phone call. That argument.

The lines of demarcation that create our New Normal, the places that only exists as memories and warm summer afternoons, the ones we can’t go back to.

The starting point is knowing it is okay to grieve, to feel, to have the courage to face down what’s coming.

One of Val’s old coworkers is our age, married with two children, and starting chemotherapy this week for an aggressive form of cancer.

Her Normal has changed.

I wish I had a three-point summation, a quote, infographic, something to put a nice bow on this short run of thoughts, then I imagine her in a hospital bed tonight and I know that sometimes silence is the answer.

Presence is the answer.

Just being there, crying, holding hands and staying close.  Sometimes that’s all we have.

~Matt

 

Playing Catch

A few days ago I received an email from Verizon about eligibility for a free early upgrade. I went to the store and picked out a new phone, took it home, and messed around with the different apps and features.

In scrolling through an app that previews books, I downloaded a sample of (Un)Qualified: How God Uses Broken People to Do Big Things by Pastor Steven Furtick. Furtick is the head pastor of Elevation Church, one of the more popular churches in the country that consistently put out quality worship albums and books.

After reading The Comeback by Louis Giglio, I considered buying the book to see how it compared.

There seems to be a recent theme in writings for a faith-based audience.

Look back far enough to C. S. Lewis and G. K. Chesterton and you’ll find thought leaders.  You’ll find writers putting forth fiction and nonfiction materials that shifted society. They stepped up and stood behind what they put on paper.

At some point, we’ve shifted into defensive mode. It is now about rescue and recover, respond and react. Inspire and understand that things will be okay.

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Tonight we went to the playground. Carter asked to practice some baseball stuff and we had a catch on the field while Val and Aiden were on the equipment.

The field doubles for lacrosse practice and they had goals set up on either end.  After Carter went back to the equipment, I picked up his wooden bat and a few baseballs.

I walked across the field and stood in front of the net, the sun setting in my face, and tossed up the first ball.  It was comforting to hear the crack of the bat as the ball shot into the net.

I kept swinging one after another until my arms burned and hands stung.

When did we shift to the back seat and why have we accepted it?

It would be nice to live the difference, to see life on the other side.  To know and understand the promise.

Hitting those baseballs didn’t adjust anything and it will still take time for the lightning strike, but I know it is coming.

There’s a change in the air.

~Matt