The Last Word

Did you ever meet someone who just had to have the last word in any conversation? Maybe you have someone in your family like this. My oldest son is that way.  We can be telling him to do something and he’ll negotiate. If the negotiation does not go well (usually me saying, no you just need to do this) he’ll start adding in questions and phrases to make sure he is the last voice heard. I can keep going but I’ve learned to choose my battles wisely when dealing someone who has only been on this planet for five years.

In church this morning we sang a song titled The Last Word by Elevation Worship.  You can see their video below.

I love every lyric:

“Your word stands through the ages
Your voice shatters the darkness
In you we are more than conquerors
You speak strongholds surrender
Your name overcomes the enemy
In you we are more than conquerors”

There are times we can get caught in our circumstances. We try to move forward, to overcome an obstacle that seems to great, to fix a problem that seems the size of a mountain.

We know what it takes to move mountains.

We know that the last words belong to God, the beginning and the end, the light of the world that shatters the darkness. When fear sneaks in those moments, know that it does not have the last word.  When doubt nags at the back of your mind, when your past only offers pain and sorrow, know that it does not have the last word.  When you have nothing to pull from, know that you are not alone.

I believe we are here for a purpose.  Have you experienced a moment where the clouds were ripped away and divinity injected itself into your life like a bolt of lightning? Maybe it wasn’t that dramatic. Maybe it was the moment your new baby held your hand or you laughed with a friend over coffee. I believe that God has the last word, that good will win, that strongholds will surrender and that, in him, we are more than conquerors. So, as you go forward, remember who walks with you. He can change your life in an instant and your reality will never be the same.

~Matt

Crossing the Void

My mother has worked at the same hospital for over forty years now.  During one of my periods of looking for work she told me that the hospital had an opening for a registration clerk.  This consisted of getting patient information, collecting payments for service, verification of insurances, and all that fun stuff.  The only catch was that the position was in the emergency room working second shift.  I applied, interviewed, and got the job.  Overall, I spent two years working there and they were years I will never forget.

During my training, the supervisor told me that I’d always remember my first “code.”  If you aren’t up on medical lingo, that is the phrase for any patient who had died or was in the process of it.  As registration staff, we were the first people the family members would come in contact with. The challenge was keeping a straight face, staying calm and in control while you had emotional family crying and yelling for their loved ones they would never see alive again. It was a job with good times (getting to see babies as they were delivered in the emergency room) to sad times and crazy experiences (our hospital had a psych ward and we would often get those individuals going through mental struggles).  The job taught me one important thing: We are never far from the other side.

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I would drive home, always after midnight, and think about the people: the ones going home without their husbands, wives, grandparents, or children. It was an odd feeling, being that close to death. It taught me to value what I had. There were many mornings I would hug my sons and feel so blessed that we were intact as a family. As believers we must keep in mind that we are never far from the other side. We walk each day with our creator. We live according to his guidance as best we can. We push through troubles. We celebrate victories and process defeats.

The hard part is not getting caught up in the routine.  As a guy, I tend to pull away and keep things inside my shell when I get stressed or angry. My wife has had many conversations with me about this and it is something I work on every day. Our lives are full of wisps of eternity, embers of heaven that take form in the laughter of children, good music, strong emotions, and eternal love. Don’t get caught in the routine. Keep a strong grasp on the beauty of creation.

One of the most radical things we can do is to serve.  Serving breaks the mold and shatters the expectations of the world. Jesus called us to serve. It is one of the reasons I stand on pay what you can for my writing services. I feel like he has allowed me to write so I can serve those who need the words. Validation comes through engagement and appreciation not profit and greed. I still believe this world can be changed and it will happen one servant at a time.

~Matt

Teaching

I mentioned before that I am reading Chuck Pagano’s book Sidelined where he talks about his battle with cancer as a man of faith and professional football coach. He talks about running the team from his hospital bed, meeting with players and family members in the hospital. He hits on something that is one of the real secrets in life and I’ll put it to you in the form of a question:

Who are you teaching?

We all have a need to teach.  We have unique knowledge and experience that can be communicated to someone else.  We write. We take our children in the back yard and show them how to kick a ball, climb a tree, or swing on the swing. We guide them on first steps and through first bad dreams. On our journey of faith, we seek to follow Jesus as the ultimate teacher.

There is more than one scene in the Bible where Jesus is speaking to the crowds.  He starts as a child in the temple and progresses to growing masses of followers.  He heals the sick, casts out demons, and changes lives.  He angers and inspires.  In the book of Acts we read of our commission, to go and tell the world of the good news. We are meant to teach, to share our lives with others and not live in a vacuum.

In Pagano’s book he mentions the first game he watched from the sideline after nearing the end of his cancer treatment.  The Colts won the game and cameras recorded his post game speech:

He tells the team that they chose to live in a vision and not their circumstances. He mentions that his battle is already won and that he will dance at the weddings of his two daughters. You can see the message light up the faces of the players. Pagano used his situation to teach the team the lesson of ignoring the outside voices and chase your dreams.

My oldest son, even a month after the end of his t ball season, still calls me coach. He soaked up every moment we had together at those games and I know, as a father, he soaks up any moment we have together. He yearns to learn.

We all have a deep desire to learn. We are all called to teach. We are created to live in community with others.  See the pattern?

So as you enter this weekend, think about who you are teaching. Who is watching you for inspiration? Your neighbor? Friend? Spouse? Child? Make the most of each moment, live in a vision, and never miss the chance to teach someone.

Peter tells us to always be prepared when asked about the source of our hope. Are you?

~Matt

 

 

 

 

 

Faith

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I’ve had a difficult relationship with faith over the years.  I grew up in a Methodist church and found myself in the midst of a conditional belief system. God was a slot machine that, if I was good enough, I could pull the lever and see a reward. If I could just work hard, avoid the bad things, and live well then God would show up on my side.

It took years to find out my mistake.

I met my wife in high school and, as we dated throughout my college years, we moved through some dynamic churches and congregations. I started to get glimpses of grace and the meaning of a radical and awakened faith. I found material written, spoken, and worship songs by some of the top artists and thinkers in the business. My faith grew and molded. Still, there are days with challenges.

One of the prime movements in psychology is that we place the identity of our fathers onto our picture of God. As you can imagine, that can be hugely damaging to people. Fathers are imperfect. Fathers can hurt, disconnect, devalue, and detach. God is a different story.

I feel like I’ve grown in some ways in my understanding of faith.

Life is a refinement process. Struggles serve as preparation for callings to come. I believe we are all called to step out and follow our dreams. We have a drive and a passion in our hearts that, when identified, can electrify this short time we have on this planet. This drive has led me to start this business, to chase my dream of launching a ministry that carries creative writing into faith-based organizations and the communities they serve. This drive has led me to offer my services on gift based pricing (you pay me what you can afford).  After research and prayerful consideration, this was placed on my heart and I’m willing to follow it through.

Refinement also lets you see what you do not want.  It can be the forty-hour week at the job you are doing for the paycheck and not the passion. It can be looking at your spouse across the table and realizing you need to fill the gap with the love you once shared when the wedding was only weeks old.  It can be finally mending old wounds and cleaning the scar tissue that forms over broken hearts.

Faith is not easy and, yes, it is intentional. God wants to see what you believe and, when you go forward and walk in the straight paths he forms for you, the ending will be greater than anything you imagine.

~Matt

Why Me?

This spring my oldest son, who is five, played t ball for the first time.  He’s a baseball nut and loves the game. We’ve pitched to him in the back yard since he was a toddler. Initially, we were not counting outs. Every kid was able to stay on base and run the bases. They could experience the feeling of getting a hit and scoring a run. As we neared the end of the season, we started counting outs.

I was the assistant coach for the team and I felt bad sending our first real “out” back to the bench. Then the game happened where Carter was forced out at second base.  I remember the look on his face when he walked past me.  He walked past the bench, went to my wife, and broke down in tears.

One of the biggest things we will ever face in life is that moment where a door is slammed shut, a job is lost, a loved one passes away, and tragedy pays us a visit. We look to God and ask why.

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In Luke 22:42, Jesus is in the Garden of Gethsemane and he prays, “Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done.” After he is arrested, tried, and in the midst of hanging on the cross he says, ““My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”

A friend of mine who is a pastor wrote to me once that God is a big boy, he can take your honesty.  We all face circumstances where we question the divine reason.

This Monday I had my blood drawn to be sent to the Mayo Clinic to be evaluated for any sign of cancer.

It hurts to write that sentence.

We will keep going as a family.  The specialist I’m seeing believes that things will work out, that the cause of my past altered lab results is something rare and specific, not the possible darker option.   He told me to trust him.

I know where I put my trust.

So as you go forward this week remember the bottom line. Know that we are in the midst of a refinement process, that this world is not perfect and know the truth of the verse I pray every night:

All things work for the good of those who love him and are called according to his purposes.

~Matt

 

Ask the Right Question…

I spent two years getting a teaching certification for English grades 7-12. We studied all kinds of classroom management techniques, assessments, lesson planning, and models of teaching. One of my favorite models is called the Inquiry Method.

The gist of the Inquiry Method is this: every unit is designed around an essential question. The questions are large-scale and open to create conversation. Every time I presented a lesson centered around an essential question, the students would light up.

The key to engagement, professionally and personally, is connection to essential questions.  The song in the above video is by 10th Avenue North and it is one of my favorites. I included the lyric video with a point. The chorus is:

“Let me see redemption win
Let me know the struggle ends
That you can mend a heart that’s frail and torn
I want to know a song can rise from ashes of a broken life
And all that’s dead inside can be reborn”

The band hits five essential questions for believers everywhere. Can redemption win? Will the struggle end? Can a heart be mended? Can you sing again after being broken? Finally, can you be reborn?

As you go forward, consider the questions and remember the answers. The walk of faith often moves in circles. Read through Psalms and you’ll see David experiencing all the ups and downs of the journey: confirmation and doubt, struggle and success. Keep in touch with the deeper meanings in life and know that everything matters. Identify your mission and purpose and know that every person you help is one step closer to seeing it through.

~Matt

The Journey to Happiness

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I always hated math class.  I mean, hated it with a passion.  I remember sitting at the table with homework and, with one particular teacher, knowing that I could get away with putting at least two question marks on problems I couldn’t figure out. I would save those babies and, when I had enough, drop ? on the line and move on. It was a way to avoid the problem, literally, and take the easy route.

When I was an undergrad at West Chester University, I attended a dynamic college ministry. The pastor made this statement one night and it stuck with me ever since.  After a call to accept Jesus he said, “It will be the most dangerous prayer you ever prayed.”

Danger?

I had grown up with a conditional faith, with the idea that, if I tried hard enough, God would reward me. If I didn’t, God would watch with a cosmic clipboard checking off requirements until I met the standard for something good to happen in my life.

When I was saved, everything changed.

The bottom fell apart. I had health issues, faith issues, family issues and struggles. It was opening my eyes for the first time. God had started a work in me, a refinement towards an end result. He led me to meet the beauty who would be my wife. He gave me two wonderful children. He’s given me a family and all the ups and downs that come with it.

The key is to never forget that moment, that point when you make the choice to answer the calling in your spirit, to reach out towards your creator, to serve and make a difference in the world around you.

To know GRACE and that conditions no longer apply.

As you start this week, know that God has a plan for your life, professionally and personally. Know that he loves you and has an end result customized to let you experience full joy in him.

So tonight marks the first step in the journey of p356 Creative Services, and my movement to serve Christian businesses, churches, and individuals around the world. Join me and we’ll take the walk together.

~Matt