Seeing the Future

Today was one of the longer days I’ve had in a while.  Both of the boys were up for hours last night, finally falling asleep around 5-6 in the morning.  I had to start work at 6 and, originally, was going to end at 2:30 in the afternoon. We happened to be short-staffed and, when I arrived, they asked me to do a full day.

So here I am, after ten hours of work and a hundred patients handled on my own, ready for some quality writing.

Two headlines captured my attention today.  The first was the recent passing of Back to the Future day, the date that Michael J. Fox actually visits during his trip to the future.  In the same spirit, I read about a unique image found in a music video from 1999.

In the video for “Sleep Now in the Fire” by Rage Against the Machine, a man is seen at the 1:04 mark holding up a sign stating “Donald Trump for President, 2000.”

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Michael Moore directed the video that featured members of the band performing on Wall Street directly in front of the NY Stock Exchange. The clip also features various news images and a faux game show knock-off of Who Wants to be a Millionaire? The questions to the contestants are easy and powerful.  One asks how many Americans did not have healthcare at the time.  The other asks how many people in the world live on less than 1.00$ a day. A third asks what percentage of wealth does the top ten percent of the USA own.

It is a visual and sonic judgement against a government driven by money, power and control.

Fifteen years later, now with Mr. Trump actually running for president, how far have we come?

Have we lost our cause?

People who claim to follow Jesus have recently been pushed to the margins by various groups standing up against discrimination. The faith started by the man who changed the world so long ago is no longer seen as an answer.

Many churches sit on the brink, unable or unwilling to respond to pressure.

I don’t think our cause has changed.  Jesus told us to go forth and make disciples of all the nations. He said to love our neighbors. He told us to stand up for the least of these and that every time we did, it would be known.

We must pick the right battle and the right weapons.

For our fight is love, not money. Grace, not hatred. Open arms, not closed fists. Forgiveness. Self worth. A focus on charity and helping those in need.

The message of the song is evident.  If we keep going, the end result of the status quot is getting burned.  In a time when so many go with the flow and trap themselves in the race for possessions and status, we must be different. Because you can’t take it with you. Because a love of stuff prevents anything else from getting in, including family and friends.

Because it is time for the American Way to be reconsidered and rewritten.

Now who will pick up the pen?

I’ll give you a clue, it won’t be Donald Trump. It will be the author of all things and the Giver of Life, the Maker of Heaven and Earth.

Let’s get started.

~Matt

 

 

 

 

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Real Neat Blog Award

neatblog

I want to thank my friend Roxanna for a Real Neat Blog Award nomination.  Her blog is filled with encouragement and she is passionate about making a difference for her readers.  You can find her blog by clicking here.  If you are ready for a positive change and new purpose, check it out and follow tonight!

Thank you for everyone in my audience.  I’m blessed that you’ve decided to join this community on a journey that can change your life.

In terms of the Real Neat Blog Award, here are the rules…

RULES

  • Put the award logo on your blog.
  • Answer 7 questions asked by the person who nominated you.
  • Thank the people who nominated you, linking to their blog.
  • Nominate any number of bloggers you like, linking to their blogs.
  • Let them know you nominated them (by commenting on their blog, etc.)

Here are the questions and my answers;

1. Who has been the single most influential person in your life to date?

-This could go so many ways.  Right now, I’d say my son Carter.  He’s six years old and he’s everything I never was in my childhood.  He’s athletic and outgoing. He had endless energy.  He’s funny and, in many ways, he’s my hero. He’s teaching me about myself as a man, husband, and father. I hope, and pray, I can live up to his expectations one day.

2. What book has impacted your life the most (so far)?

-I’m going with one from the fiction and nonfiction worlds.  The War of Art by Steven Pressfield is a necessity for anyone looking to amp up their creative efforts. It is encouragement and a much-needed kick in the rear end. The Heart of the Matter by Graham Greene is the other.  Greene is a master, the novelist I wanted to emulate from the moment I read him in college. There are parts of his books that have seared themselves on my heart. If you haven’t read either of these books, check them out ASAP.  You won’t be disappointed.

3. Share with us a link to a blog post by you that you think we ought to read (or re-read 😉 )

Why I Believe.

4. Share with us a quote which is either funny or cheesy :-p

-I love everything from Pressfield’s book that I mentioned above.  Here’s a solid quote that covers all the bases: a little funny, a little cheesy, and true.

There's a secret that real writers know

5. What do you want to change in your community?

-I want to see widespread social and economic change.  I want to see people living lives of faith and life in action.  I want people to know that God does cut through the cosmos and interject into our lives, that reality can be changed and hope is real. I want new lives, to draw attention to the people fighting to make a difference and give them the encouragement needed to wake up and do it all again tomorrow.

6. What inspires you (or pushes you 😉 ) to blog?

-When I graduated with my MFA in creative writing, I had a thesis novel in my hands and a major question waiting to be answered.  What would I do? The idea hit me like a hammer, what if I could write to make a difference? What if the words could change people and speak into their situations? That drove me to this blog and my current project writing about the battle against poverty in the city of Reading, Pennsylvania (named the poorest city in the United States in 2011). I believe we are all called to make a difference and I want to tell the stories that matter.  That drives me to every post and publication.

7. Share with us the happiest period of your life so far.

-I’ve been blessed by marrying my high school sweetheart.  We’ve had two amazing boys and any of these moments count.  I’d say these current times are my happiest.  They aren’t easy but, for the first time in a while, I’ve felt God’s hand on my progress and purpose.  I feel like a ship with new wind just starting to pick up the sails. Writing to serve has transformed my creative efforts and, on a deeper level, my life.

The only thing I’m missing is nominees.  Here’s some blogs you should check out, all deserving of recognition and your time!

Blogs You Should Check Out:

1/A Writer’s Path

2/ Wiley Coyote

3/ Memoir Notes

4/Anewperspectiveperhaps

5/ Words on a Blackboard

6/Keithgarretpoetry

7/Fiction All Day

 

~Matt

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.

Faith and Life in Action: Mercy Community Crisis Pregnancy Center

I met Sherry Camelleri, Executive Director of Mercy Community Crisis Pregnancy Center, one afternoon and we had a deep conversation about faith, poverty, family, and life.  Sherry has been with the Center since 1996.  In our interaction together, her passion to help the families in the city of Reading was clear. I was honored to visit a few more times since then to interview staff, drop off donations, and witness the Christmas program. We must be concerned about the national plight of children in poverty.  Mercy fights this battle one day at a time. Here’s Sherry:

 

It was Monday morning. He was overwhelmed. Three little girls to care for and their mom was now doing time in Berks County Prison. No family to help. So, he came to Mercy Community Crisis Pregnancy Center. The volunteer introduced him to Jesus Christ. Supplies, parenting education, referral to a good local church, but Jesus Christ changed his heart and life, and the lives of his children.

Faith and Life in Action_

That day, and every day the doors of Mercy CCPC are open and volunteers serve, they do so as an act of FAITH – not faith in what we can do, but FAITH in WHO God is, FAITH in the heart and life changing power of Jesus Christ.

Scripture provides examples of heroes of faith, Hebrews 11:

“Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.”

Ordinary individuals who faced obstacles unfamiliar to us today– we have not been asked to build an ark or hide spies. However, we face situations that look impossible for us to solve.

The commonality among the heroes of faith and us – we are called to live out our faith. Serving at Mercy Community Crisis Pregnancy Center IS an act of FAITH – knowing WHO we serve and that HE IS faithful to use our simple acts of service to bring a harvest for His glory.

You can find Mercy’s website here, including information on available programs and donations.  They can always use volunteers so, if you have the time, please pray and consider it today.

Faith and Life in Action: 3e Restoration Inc.

I connected with Pastor Fred Liggin after publishing this article in RELEVANT Magazine. We exchanged emails and I learned of 3e Restoration Inc., a program revolutionizing the fight against poverty in Williamsburg, Virginia. Liggin is the Founder and President of 3e and pastor on staff at Williamsburg Christian Church. He’s a man of God, husband, father, and passionate activist. I’m proud to call him a friend and publish this post with the story of 3e and Faith and Life in Action. Without any further hesitation, here’s Fred:

 

I’ve been walking with folks from homelessness to holistic sufficiency now for just over twelve years. Four years ago when I came to WCC, I began walking with a family living through homelessness. This evolved into calling members of our church to serve as what we called “All In Friends.” From there I began to build a network of relationships within the city—professionals willing to donate services (mental health, job-training professionals, occupational therapists, financial advisers, dentists, etc.) to help with wrap around services.

As other local faith groups caught word of what we were doing I was asked by an inter-faith collaborative to teach other churches how to do it. We began piloting a city-wide effort together. Upon the completion of this pilot we launched a non-profit to keep up with equipping other local churches to do the work.

We now have three local churches that have embraced the process and have trained twelve leaders from seven different local congregations to move toward implementing the process in their congregations. We also have three more local churches discerning how to embrace the 3e Restoration process and engage those living through homelessness through gracious hospitality and meaningful relationships. 

A beautiful movement has begun here in greater Williamsburg, Virginia.

I strongly believe that just as the gospel was born on the margins in the narrative of Scripture, missional renewal is born on the margins for the local Church.

This is why I deeply believe in the Church despite her brokenness.

Williamsburg Christian Church found Jesus on the margins four years ago as they were a church in decline. It was there we found renewal and that has given birth to a whole host of beautiful stories to include those living through poverty, those experiencing wealth; those wrestling with addiction, those enjoying sobriety; those moving upward in their career, those working multiple jobs to make ends meet; those living with intellectual disabilities and mental illness (we have an entire assisted living home gathering and sharing in life with us now), those with PhD’s.

life is a(1)

3e Restoration was birthed out of this context and from 12 years of personal experience. So this isn’t a story about me. It is a story about our missionary God inviting His people to rediscover their identity as a missionary people who genuinely seek to be present with their neighbors—even the one’s no one claims–and make His kingdom known in tangible ways.

I find that when a church, or even a Christian, embraces gracious hospitality as a posture and way of being in society, surprising friendships are formed and healing can begin for all, even the discouraged. Sometimes when I am burdened by the frustration of the Church, I go away and be with the “least of these.” I believe that we can catch glimpses of Him in them.

Honestly some times I see more of Jesus in the downtrodden, the last, least, lonely and left out than I do myself or other Christians.

I have to just go and serve and get away from the trappings of institutionalized Christianity and its way of life. I learn from them. I see Jesus in them. I walk away encouraged.

Then I return to the institutionalized Christianity. That is important. I must come back to put my hands and feet to work among God’s people, remind as many as I can of the way we should see the world, ourselves and others, and call us back out into the margins and away from the center of society.

I think another thing is that I must believe that my life is not happenstance and neither are my encounters with others. People are too precious to God for this to not be true.

So I must be attentive.

As every day people living in everyday places we must choose to learn how to be open to the possibility that nothing or no one is irredeemable–a resurrected King Jesus makes us prisoners of hope. His kingdom is breaking-in, my job is to bear witness in word and deed, tangible expressions of grace, hope and love. And this best happens in community.

Now my resurrectional identity is more than a theological platitude. It becomes what it means to be a child of God and citizen of His kingdom. And it inevitably moves us closer to others where surprising friendships are formed and healing begins–healing for us all.

You can connect with Pastor Fred in multiple ways:  His blogWilliamsburg Christian Church and 3e Restoration. He’s on twitter @liggin and on Facebook. Be sure to follow his posts and the efforts of 3e. Their work is valuable to the national conversation about poverty.  He is an inspiration.  If you are struggling this week, consider his story of stepping out and making a difference. We are called to the margins and, when we return, we are never the same again.