Throw Away the Scale

All it takes is a picture on a social media feed. That friend, you know the one, that friend doing what they want when they want it.  The one mired in addiction, violence, anger and frustration.  You’re thumbing through and, wouldn’t you know it, they just picked up the new car you’ve wanted for a year now.

That girl who bullied you in high school and, somehow, found her way into a modeling contract and moved out west to an amateur film role where, for eight seconds, she’s in a crowd behind Will Smith.

That guy at the gym showing everyone pictures of his weekend conquests when the idea of a date grips your soul in fear and anxiety.

And we look and we say, okay, when will it be our turn? When will life finally even out?

In the Bible, Jesus spots Matthew (one of my favorite stories, I know, I’m a nerd) at the table working his job as a tax collector. At the time, tax collectors were despised. They worked for the Roman government, traitors to their neighbors and friends.  Who likes the guy knocking on the door for the bills?

Jesus tells Matthew to follow and he does.  That night, Jesus eats dinner at his house with, we read, “sinners.”

He is asked why he eats with sinners and he replies:.

For I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.

Something can happen to us when we decide to follow Jesus and we’re not careful.  We forget where we’ve come from. We pick up the mantle and stand a little higher as we look and the uneven scale burns. The plank in our eye fades as we point to others and tell God, see, see what they do and they get rewarded.

Why?

It is the peril of living without a 50,000 foot view.

Because the weekend conquests don’t matter. The car breaks down. Money, looks, success can fade.  Time passes.

Grace matters. Eternity matters. Giving and hope, love and the beauty of creation, matters. Reaching out matters. Reflecting the hope you have inside, matters.

It isn’t easy to play the game of life for the long goals, but it is our requirement as those who follow Jesus.  It is our investment in those around us. It is more than the “property gospel” trumpeted by those making millions as “preachers.” It is showing someone that they matter on a daily basis.

It is remembering that we are sinners, won by grace, so that none can boast.

The easiest way to lose weight tonight?  Throw away the scale and wake up lighter tomorrow.

~Matt

 

Finding Mystery in Marriage

Val and I have spent sixteen years together and, in this May, we’ll be married eight years. As I normally do in the mornings, I found myself browsing the news today. I came across an article titled 9 Small, But Overlooked Things That Put Your Marriage At Risk Every Day. Besides the title that, somehow, made it through an editor, the author had some interesting points.  You can find it here.

The author, Suzanne Jannese, writes about talking to each other, offering encouragement, and uplifting your spouse.   One thing she mentions that stuck with me was a point about reaching the Roommate Stage.

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Photo Credit: Vi-Ka via Compfight cc

When the kids arrive, the Roommate Stage is way too easy to find.  We burn our energies at jobs and childcare. We run to the playground at night, chase kids for two hours, and come home exhausted.  Date Nights fade from the calendar as one week goes to the next. You start to finish thoughts and sentences for each other.

You move from trying to impress your spouse to pure survival mode.

Finding the mystery in marriage is important and not easy. The Date Nights must reappear to the calendar. Whether a local restaurant or a big time concert. Go somewhere new and discover your next romantic dinner.

Work on yourselves physically and emotionally. Val and I have started a program recently.  It may only be an hour or so a few times a week but, it is time we are guaranteed together.

The key is to have a foundation before you rediscover the mystery. Comfort is not a bad thing. All relationships have peaks and valleys. Some days, the mystery is how Val has the patience to deal with me and the boys. If you don’t have a well of love and connection to draw from, the search for mystery can put lethal stress on a marriage.

I’m blessed to say I’ve found a partner to search with me.

~Matt

Creating a Treasure

Last night, Val and I stayed at the General Warren Inn in Malvern, Pennsylvania. I had picked up a package that included dinner and breakfast with a room, and gave it to Val for a Christmas gift. In a busy life of routine and stress, it was a welcomed escape.

The General Warren Inn was founded in 1745. The building started as a carriage stop on the route from Philadelphia to Lancaster. British loyalists used it to hold planning meetings during the Revolution.  One of William Penn’s grandsons owned the building and passed it down through history.

Val and I looked at each other across our table, located next to one of the antique fireplaces, working on our grilled salmon and pork loin.  We talked about the past and the future as a waiter made bananas foster at an adjacent table, flames dancing up from his skillet. We ate a meal more expensive than any we’d had in a long time and enjoyed every moment.

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Photo Credit: James Burrell via Compfight cc

We both acknowledged what our marriage was lacking.  We had lost ourselves in the boys, stress, finances, life, and the future.  We hadn’t spent enough time together and reconnecting. We missed dates on the calendar as goals, as end points, as dreams and positive experiences.

One of the most important things we can do in a relationship is to create our own treasure.  We must reward ourselves and our loved ones. This can be in the form of a night away, a date night dinner, or a movie. It can be sharing coffee after the kids go to bed.  Whatever you choose, make a point to focus and be with each other.

Don’t miss your chances. Even if the struggles continue, always have something to look towards and desire.  Put the work in and you will see the rewards.

~Matt

A Walk to Remember

This video started making the rounds online this week:

The clip is a compilation of ten hours of walking the streets of New York City.  The woman in the video received over a hundred catcalls and even threats of rape online.  You can read an article about it here. Her clothing was not revealing. Her manner not engaging or provocative in any way. She was a woman walking down the street and getting harassed at an average of ten unwanted verbal comments an hour.

The entire clip is uncomfortable as the comments span from a simple “good morning,” to a more disturbing set of people following her and demanding a reaction.

So, for the ladies out there, here’s a catcall from me:

I’m sorry.

I’m sorry that there are men in the world who are stupid enough to infringe on your public and private space with their lame attempts at validation.

I’m sorry that there are men who have no idea how to respect a woman.

I’m sorry that little boys watch these men and grow up with tarnished images of love, respect, conversation, and how to treat women in their families and lives.

As a father with two sons of my own, I’ll make you a promise.  I’ll do everything I can to be sure they are gentlemen, they hold doors and pull out chairs. They open car doors and meet parents and shake hands with fathers. They know that love is a partnership on even terms and, on no level, does being a man make you any better than your partner.

I’ll do my best.

And maybe, one day, you can walk down a sidewalk in peace.

 

Soundtrack inspiration:

 

 

 

Surviving a Crisis of: Love

Val and I have been together for fifteen years now. We’ve progressed through the ups and downs of dating and marriage. During these times, we’ve both had friends and family struggle with relationships.

Love is complicated.

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We are built to find a match.  Our hearts yearn for companionship, for genuine relationship and connection with another person.  When the 1/3rd life crisis hits and you are single, the voices can creep up as your friends get married and have children. They come from different places.

The Past:

In The Artisan Soul, Erwin McManus writes that most of us are haunted by ghosts of our pasts, not intimidated by spirits of the future. Our generation was the divorce generation.  Statistically, half of our parents separated in the decades of the 1980’s and 1990’s. This has a trickle-down effect. If we look to our parents, our first model of love, and see dysfunction we take that as normal and expect it.

We devalue ourselves.

The Present:

Bad relationships are plastered all over the media. There are numerous apps and websites centered on making connections at the swipe. You can message, or call, a connection in minutes. This creates good and bad situations. It creates expectation.  It creates options. Options, if they don’t work out, can be catalysts for defeat and shame.

We devalue what we have to offer.

The Solution:

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.  Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails. 1 Corinthians 13: 4-8

You probably recognize the verse. Paul sets a high bar here with his description of love. Let’s break it down:

Patience: No one is perfect. Keep that in mind as you head out to meet people.

Kindness: Throw off the fronts and be genuine. Be yourself, your complicated, genuine, funny, deep, real self. Be kind and, no matter how much you’ve been hurt, keep a sliver of your heart open. Your connected soul is out there.

No Envy, Boasting, Pride, Selfishness, Anger, Deceit: I’ve combined his list of negatives. I’m sure you can imagine people who fit each one of these descriptions. They could be a YouTube compilation of failed dates.  The point here is the opposite.  True love is selfless. Check the Cross for an example.

Protects, Trusts, Hopes, Perseveres: Love creates hope. Love lasts through the tough times, the struggles with money, with kids who don’t sleep at night, noisy neighbors, health issues, work problems, and all the other fun of the world. Love is trust. Say that again and hold it in your heart because it may be the biggest challenge you face from your past.

Love Never Fails: You may be going to bed alone tonight. You may be wondering if it is your future, if you can ever recover from the latest break up, fight, or bad date. You may wonder if your heart can heal enough to love again.  It can. It will.  You can overcome the past and make a soul connection. You are worth it. You will survive. You are beautiful and valuable and a key to the progression of this Universe.

You are never alone.

~Matt

Soundtrack Inspiration:

Let’s Talk About Sex

The final message in our church’s series about love, dating, and sex was this morning.  We didn’t make it as both of the boys are fighting colds but, they told us the talk this morning was about sex, so I though we’d jump in on our own.  Great reading for the holiday weekend!

My grandparents lived in the town of Spring City, PA for the majority of their adult lives.  The house was a few minutes away from Pennhurst State School and Hospital (famous for the tragic happenings inside and the haunting that followed). I remember my grandmother telling me that illegitimate and unwanted children were dropped at the entrance and left to grow up in the halls of the hospital.

Sex was different at the turn of the century.

It was always there.  You can check historical records of prostitution “the oldest trade” back thousands of years. It was used for domination, perversion, worship, and procreation. Beauty was recognized, regardless of gender, and the wealthy chased it with passion.  Times have changed.

We have reached a point of sex being a commodity. It is front and center with the advent of technology.  The secrets behind bedroom doors are now public material. The most intimate of acts has been thrust to the center of conversation for better or worse.

I spent almost a year working at the Children’s Home of Reading and spending time with the victims of human trafficking and abuse. I’ve listened to an in-service lecture at a local high school by a lawyer discussing current cases of teens “sexting” pictures of themselves and their partners. It is a dangerous world.

That’s why, as parents and couples, we must take it back.

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I look at Carter and Aiden and I don’t envy the world they will have to navigate as they get older. They will fall in love, date, have their hearts broken, date again, and keep going. They will be able to reach out and connect with love interests at the touch of a button. They need to be prepared.

As parents:

Have the Talk: Just do it. Talk about sex. Explain the importance of the act. Talk about how babies don’t just go away whether you are the mother or father.  Talk about the responsibility that comes with it. Build a bridge of trust and make sure your kids know the door is always open.  Sex is a scary thing and they don’t have to face it alone.

Use Technology to Your Advantage: There are programs available to monitor cell phone use.  Pornography is a vast and active problem in culture. Check the resources here from XXX Church based in Las Vegas. Keep an eye on browsing records, text conversations, and Instagram accounts.  Know what is happening. Be your child’s advocate. Step in when needed and show them you care.

In your marriage:

Have the Talk: Sex is made to bring you together with your partner yet, even in marriage, we use it for different reasons.  It can be a reward or withheld as punishment. It can be the foundation to the deepest level of emotional connection. It can also drive a wedge between you.

After the kids go to bed, sit at the table. Talk about what is working and what isn’t. Make sure you know what the other person wants and needs. Make sure you care.

Make the Effort: When the weight of bills, medical issues, the kids, jobs, and life starts to hit you can forget about your partner.  You walk into the room with a nod and without a touch of the hand or hug.  You say goodbye without a kiss.

You come home from work and hop on the computer, treadmill, or cell phone.

Take time for each other. Even if you have to schedule it. Pay attention. Buy the gifts. Make the dinner. Go to the movies, rent a movie, do something together. Hold hands. Compliment. Recognize the effort spent in a day of work.

Serve each other.

We can reclaim sex from this society and make it what is it supposed to be. I want Carter and Aiden to be gentlemen and, to do that, they’ll need to see my example.  It’s not always easy but it is always worth it.

~Matt and Val