The Edge

Maybe you’ve been there.

The boardroom, the dinner table, the athletic field.  The presentation that will make or break the contract.  The conversation that will pull your son out of depression. The date that will bring back the light in a spouse’s eyes.

There is an edge in life.  The feeling is cold.  The edge of a knife that runs through your core and into your soul. Hearts pound. Nerves grip and release. A cold sweat appears.

The edge is clear.  The edge is hard, the hardest thing you ever face.  The edge is powerful.

The edge is the door to your biggest dreams and deepest heartbreak.  For those of us willing to live there, it can be the most empowering place in the universe.

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The edge calls you.

It’s the reason you go to the gym, strap on the sneakers and pound the pavement.  It’s the moment you look in the mirror and decide this isn’t working and you are sick of it.  You are sick of feeling down and sorry.  You are sick of waiting for permission.

Here’s a secret: Permission isn’t coming. Know why?

Because it comes from you.

The way through fear. The way around worry.  The way to advance in the face of odds that seems so large.  The way through the darkness is to move.  One step at a time. One moment of a minute of an hour of a day.  One choice in the midst of the darkest night. One yell from the primal depth of your being to declare…

I’m done.

This isn’t working anymore.  It is time for a change. Starting now. I’m done with the old and I’m living in the new, on the edge, with momentum and purpose.

It is the first gasp of breath when you haven’t breathed in years.  It is the first beat of a heart that knows a reason for living.  It is the first embrace when your souls connect again after so many years apart.

It is life on the edge and it is calling. No more excuses.  No more waiting.  Time keeps moving.  Will you move with it?

The choice is yours.

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Throw Away Old Stories

I’ve mentioned Donald Miller’s Storyline blog on here more than once and for good reason as I almost always get some selection of inspirational material.  If you haven’t followed them yet, I recommend it.

This past week, there was a post about changing the narrative you are living.  The writer told a story about a friend’s mother and this woman’s visit to her friend’s house. The friend complained that, when her mother was over, she “turned into a twelve-year-old again.” The writer continued to talk about growing up as an outsider and how she needed to overcome that to succeed in her creative efforts.

The post was up on Saturday and it has bounced around in my head since then.

How many of us are living old stories?

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I feel like this past year has been a journey to break the hold of old stories on my life.  I was not what you’d call an outsider as I had friends from different social groups.  I was not, though, the popular kid.  I didn’t jump at opportunities to show off.  I wasn’t a sports star or an actor with the drama club.

Oral presentations scared me until I took a public speaking class in high school.

These stories carried over into my early 30’s and I feel the fight rising. It is only a conflict because the old stories still exist.  Because the old part of my soul still stands on the sidelines content to be okay.

The time to be okay is over.

Change is possible if we allow ourselves to do it.  How many of us avoid the difficult conversation about Jesus at the water cooler because we were rejected in the past? Because someone made fun of us for being different? How many let those with stronger wills influence our lives and the lives of our children? How many refuse to stand because we’ve been knocked down too much that it is just easier to stay there?

Do we avoid risk because we fear failure or success? Breaking apart or breaking the bonds that hold us down?

I pray this week is one of change for you.  That you step out of your comfort zone and throw away the old stories impacting your life.  Starting writing new ones and see what happens.

~Matt

The Peace Illusion

Last night I picked Carter up from school and took him to Wayback Burger for dinner (a Wednesday night tradition). We ran a few more errands and when we got home he told me he wanted to read me a book.  I thought he was joking.  He’s a kid that would rather toss a football than read a book any day of the week.

We sat on the couch and he grabbed the book, opened it up, and read through without getting frustrated. When he finished he looked at me and smiled.  It was one of those moments I wish I could keep forever.  My oldest boy, 7 going on 17, growing and changing so fast.

As a father, husband, and man who follows Jesus, change can be a challenge.

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I remember spending summer weeks with my grandparents.  Poppy would take me fishing. We’d play cards and eat lunch together (I would take a nap! Imagine that. I have no idea what that means now). Suddenly, one summer, it was time to get a job.

Then it was time to graduate and apply to college.  The day came to move into the dorms (complete with me sitting in my car, in tears, with Val next to me). Then graduation, job and job and job.

Marriage in 2007. Home. Carter. Aiden. Turning 30. Back to school. Publishing short stories and finally a novel. Work in the medical field.

Change.

In John 16:33, Jesus says, “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.”

This is one of those verses we remember and lean on in the rough times.  If you look closer, there’s an interesting dynamic.  He says we may have peace and that we will have trouble. Peace comes in hope, in faith knowing that one has taken our place and died to give us life again.

So many live on the Peace Illusion.

The idea that it will all calm down as long as we have _____.  Fill in the blank: money, time, a beautiful spouse, amazing kids, a vacation home, etc.

Churches live in the Peace Illusion: the deceptive draw of routine, of stubborn unwillingness to have a dialogue, of fear in stepping out to help those on the fringe, the very ones Jesus associated with on a daily basis. Churches seem to forget that Jesus constantly condemned religious leaders of the day. He scolded the pious and the wealthy.

He called those ready to live a life of change, outside the Peace Illusion.

Tonight, as you finish your day, think about what you accomplished and what will be different tomorrow.  Embrace change. Carter’s book will become a novel soon enough. He’ll be asking me for car keys and we’ll be loading his boxes for college.

The story isn’t over.  It is never too late to start fresh. Because tomorrow is a mystery that can change in an instant.

And I’m okay with that.

~Matt

Your First Step

How many moments have you found yourself back at zero?

All thoughts disappear. Sounds stop. The air in the room is frozen and, if you reach out your hand, you can catch the dust particles in the sunbeams. If you are lucky, these happen in positive times on your path of life.

If you are like the rest of us, you’ve been blindsided by forces outside of your control.

The secret is: the moment will pass.

You’ll need to make a first step.

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Our days are often spent building bridges.  We find friends and family members and set up transactions that can turn into dependency. We’re mired in people and places that are not helpful.  From every direction you hear:

What can you do for me?

When you make your first step, you must evaluate the bridges.  Consider the people in your life. Take inventory.

Decide what can be left behind as one thing is clear:

You can’t stay the way you are. The critical moments create dividing lines in your life. It is impossible to go back.

The hope is looking forward.  It is looking for new bridges to cross and build.

In the coming weeks, I’m going to be telling more of our personal story.  You’ll find some guest posts here from people writing about their own first steps, faith, and lives in action. You’ll find new materials and fresh community.

I invite you to be a part of it, join the story and see what it means to find yourself again. Wherever you are on the journey, feel free to contribute and make your voice heard.

~Matt

What is Radical Change?

“Radical change is achievable and, at times, done with small moves.”

I was in mid conversation with Craig Poole, businessman and general manager of a Hilton Hotel under construction in the city, as “Gimme Shelter” played over the Peanut Bar’s sound system.  We were talking about how changes are made. Mr. Poole walks Penn Street and visits local businesses.  He meets with owners about the future.

He finds a bench in the rough part of town and stops to talk with people, much like he does with me.

“People will ask me about what I do and how they can do it.  I say it is nothing crazy.  The seat I sit in will be empty tomorrow.”

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What does radical change look like for you?

At my lowest points, it was simply holding hands with Val.  The motion pushed me back to living and chipped away at the emotional walls I had built. If it feels like you are looking up from the bottom of a well, start small.

Find the first stone that provides a foothold.

If your faith has become routine, look for the next empty seat.  Go to an outreach program. Volunteer an hour on a Saturday to serve. Assess your community and support the good things that are happening.

Radical change happens with a shift in:

  • Thoughts
  • Behaviors
  • Speech

Think of a better future. Act on the thoughts to make it a reality.

Speak positivity.

Tell your children that they are “bad” and they will grow up to believe it.  Talk to a child of an abuser or addict and you’ll hear the same story.

Our actions speak into our families, our churches, and our cities. Our compassion changes reality.  Our love completes the picture.

To start your own radical change, consider the empty seats in your life and take the first step to get them filled.

~Matt

 

 

 

Here I Am, Send Me

This season, in our lives, is one of shifting times on multiple fronts. We’re facing developments professionally and personally.  The boys are changing and growing. Aiden has fully embraced the terrible 2’s.

We are riding the waves of life. In these moments it can be a challenge to keep focused and not get frustrated.

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Every moment I first sit at the keyboard, I send up a silent prayer.

Please let the words make a difference and let me never forget to tell my story.

I was seated in the office of County Commissioner Christian Leinbach the other morning.  I asked him about his motivations and background as a government official who is also a believer.  He quoted a pair of verses from Proverbs 31:

Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves,
    for the rights of all who are destitute.
Speak up and judge fairly;
    defend the rights of the poor and needy.

Everyone deserves a voice at the table, even if they can’t speak.  Our job as writers is to give them voice and let their words take flight.  We are tasked with making words that change things, whether it is inspiring our spouse, children, coworkers, or the public.

Those of us who are genuine do it to make a difference, they do it in the dark nights before selling a single copy or putting a single page in front of a reader and waiting for their response.

We also must remember that our story is our own. The gut instinct is to find value in comparisons. The secret is, they don’t matter.  You were given a story to tell. It is different from every other one on the planet.  When you try to change your story to fit a different one, you lose authenticity.

In the uncertain and tumultuous times, you press on.  Raise your hand in the static. Answer the calling.

Go forward.

Pressure is progress. Change is good. The future will be here before we open our eyes to recognize it.

Don’t miss your chance.

~Matt

The Power of Permission

Our lives are based around the concept of permission. Whether or not we know it, we constantly allow other people and forces to be influential. We accept this as reality.

Change happens when we stop allowing the darkness to effect us and we permit ourselves to start on a new path.

This is the dance of denial and permission.

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Photo Credit: rknickme via Compfight cc

Denial

Those who change the world step out against the status quot. They fight the tide. They have a dissenting opinion.

Jesus tells us he has overcome the world. As believers, we are to follow his path of resistance. We are to love well, deeply, and radically. We are to stand up for those who cannot and give voices to ones without strength to open their mouth.

Permission

Some people spend their entire lives waiting for permission. Our children grow their trust and understanding as they watch our cues.

Our spouses treasure our encouragement. When was the last time you told your partner to go and chase their dream?

As a man, I struggle with both of these at times. As a writer, I throw my words into the wind on faith that they will make a difference for someone who catches them.  As a husband, I should lift Val up more often.

As a father, I can get annoyed when Carter asks me to do something new, especially at the end of a long day.

No flows easier than Yes at times.

If you are reading this tonight, I pray it stirs something inside. I believe we are all called to change our world, to find the power of permission, to stand up against the forces around us and make a difference.

So, as Nike says:

Just Do it.

~Matt