Setting Goals and Pushback

A few weeks ago I made the choice to support The Freedom Journal by entrepreneur John Lee Dumas, host of one of the most influential podcasts on the business market.  Saturday morning, my copy of the journal arrived in the mail.  I went through the first few pages and set goals for the initial ten-day sprint.

The theme of the journal is accomplishing a larger goal through measured effort spread over 100 days.

This morning I wrote out three daily goals (this was the last day of four days in a hotel for us as a family.  Our floors were getting refinished after water damage.  You can find past posts about the experience around Thanksgiving 2015).  The first two were related to this business and my upcoming book.  The third was something I hadn’t considered before and, honestly had me the most nervous.

Spend devotional time with Carter.

We went to church and I had it planned out in my head.  It would be the start of something big and valuable for us as father and son.

Then we got home and everything fell apart.

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The water to the house had been turned off.  I turned it back on. The flow valve behind one of the toilets in the house broke and flooded the ceiling again.  Water dripped through a brand new ceiling onto our refinished floor. We scrambled for towels, calling the Restoration company we’d used for the original claim.

They came over and dried things out.  Now, three months after the initial incident, we have a pair of holes in our ceiling again and a new ding on our homeowner’s insurance. I put Aiden to bed and, by the time he fell asleep, Carter was in bed himself.

The devotional time did not happen.

Someone said once that resistance is a sign of moving in the right direction. I don’t doubt, for a second, that this was connected to my goal of spending time with Carter and teaching him about Jesus.

The process is about refinement.  Nothing worth it is ever easy and, to think about this drastic of a distraction, there must be a large calling on Carter’s life. The spark is there and it will take more than another leak to prevent me from making the connection.

Tomorrow, we will try again.

As for now, I type this in our bedroom as three blowers dry the dining room for the next three days. The process will continue. I’ve decided to live the next hundred days with fresh intention, fresh faith, new effort and push to get closer to God. I plan on living out the idea of truly giving back my writing as a gift to be used to change lives for the better.

If you are struggling tonight and stumble on this post, I pray you know there is hope. Don’t let what you see interrupt the work God has in your life for your life.

We were blessed to be able to reach out to friends and go to their house for dinner tonight.  If you are struggling, know you are not alone. If it seems that way, know I’m there for you.  Beyond this block of type, know you are being prayed for and feel free to reach out to me.  I will respond.

Have a great night.  This is just the beginning.

~Matt

Our Next Step

Today is a big day for P356.  This morning, my guest post went live on our church’s website.  They are starting a message series on the miracles of Jesus.  My post is centered on Peter’s attempt at answering the call of Jesus by walking on water.

You can read it here.

I’ve added two new pages to the site outlining the next step in the growth of P356 as an outreach and organization connected with the fight against poverty.

New Publications

My first devotional is now available for download and in print.  Wing Night, named after one of my favorite activities with friends (the purchase and consumption of hot wings) is a short read for men.  It is twenty days of thoughts, motivation, and inspiration centered around marriage, faith, and family.

The City is my first science fiction novel. It tells the story of two friends living inside the final city existing in the United States.  Their choices will determine the future as society falls apart around them.

You’ll also find links to my other novel and novella publications.  Please check them out.

Community Partners

It was my dream, from day one, that P356 would make a difference.  I wanted the words to matter.  With this in mind, I am donating partial proceeds from the sales of Wing Night and The City, to a local charity I have interviewed for inclusion in my current book project. The first official P356 Community Partner is We Agape You.

We Agape You was founded by Randall Simmons, a friend working daily to change the tide of homelessness in the city of Reading.  You’ll find more details including a link to his website on the Community Partners page.

With each additional publication, I’ll add another partner to the list.  Your support will help make a difference in the fight against poverty.

Every word counts and every person sleeping in the cold tonight matters.

Sunday morning, this song was included in our worship.  The image of chains carries a loaded set of meanings. We can be chained together, chained apart, tied down and tied up. Chains are weight and bondage.  They are stress and pressure.  They are real and imagined.

They are a connection point.

We know that we are a New Creation. We know that we are Free Indeed.  This freedom does not come without cost.

“The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’ ~Matthew 25:40 NIV

As you start your week, consider how you can make a difference. The hardest step in the first one. Today, these words are the next step for P356.  They mark a new journey. Chains are breaking. The shift is happening.  Reality is changing.

The time is now.

~Matt

Killing Competition and Changing the Game

Second post in the preview series for Ignition, my upcoming e-book for men.

It starts early:

“Let’s have a race.”

That sentence has been uttered on playgrounds across the world.  Boys are stacked against each other.  The fastest wins. The strongest survives.  Young faces look across the starting line and take inventory.  Why is he bigger than me? Can I win? What if I don’t?

The primal urge tells them to run.  It plants the seed that grows throughout formative years.  We tell our boys to be tough.  Don’t cry. Be a man. Walk it off.  Stifle your emotions.  Eliminate weakness. Don’t be afraid and if you are, God forbid, don’t show it.

Every aspect of adolescence is placed against a measuring stick. Our education system is funded on test results. Athletics become tickets to college scholarships. We split students into groups and skill levels, tracking them through more than a decade of school meant to prepare them for the world when, in the end, all it does is create a stock member of society. Our boys are set for a lifetime of work at meaningless companies where they’ll find themselves at the starting line again in the race up the corporate ladder.

What if it could all change?

What if we foster our boys and their passions? Allow them to explore their feelings and know what it means to be sad, angry, or upset? What if we teach them the value of peace and teamwork, that the race is fastest when completed together? What if we help them celebrate their differences and reach across racial and economic lines?

There is hope for the future and it takes redefining competition.

Jesus calls us to a high standard in the Sermon on the Mount, saying:

“Blessed are the poor in spirit,
    for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
 Blessed are those who mourn,
    for they will be comforted.
 Blessed are the meek,
    for they will inherit the earth.
 Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness,
    for they will be filled.
 Blessed are the merciful,
    for they will be shown mercy.
 Blessed are the pure in heart,
    for they will see God.
 Blessed are the peacemakers,
    for they will be called children of God.
 Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness,
    for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” Matthew 5: 3-10

Remember, at this time, Jesus is speaking to the minority population living under Roman rule. These statements were like bombs exploding the status quot. The dove of peace was flying in the face of the Roman eagle. Jesus was redefining competition, laying down new rules, creating a new field of play.

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The Creator had come to change the game.

As fathers we can easily get caught up in the spirit of competition.  We see our sons in contrast to their friends. We live vicariously through them (sit in the stands at any youth sports event and just listen for a while). We see them as extensions of us and not their own individuals.

So what can we do?

Teach them to serve: Go to a local charity or outreach. Donate some clothes, toys, or food. Tell them what you are doing and why you are doing it. Their world will expand when they see the realities of life and existence.

Teach them to love: Empathy can change reality.  Want to stop the violence? Fight poverty? Build bridges? Make peace? Show your boys that others are important, that they are called understand feelings and make someone’s day better.  Help them to have a good heart.  It will go a long way to their future.

Teach them to pray: This is so simple and so powerful.  Carter prays every night. The prayers of children can change the universe. I get emotional listening to the cries of his heart as  it calls out to God.  Prayer builds a foundation that they will have for the rest of their lives.

The world’s view of competition can be harmful but, with effort, it can be reclaimed for good.  As fathers, our work is never done. As men of faith, our sons must see a legacy to follow. They are our mirrors.  Always give them something positive to reflect.

Redefining competition is a great place to start.

~Matt

Soundtrack inspiration: A great song from Common.  Listen closely to the words as the man is a poet.

 

 

 

 

Faith, Fatherhood, and Football: The Perfect Storm

This post starts a series previewing chapters from my upcoming e-book devotional Ignition for men:

I love football.  If you ask Val, I probably love it too much. It is a sixteen game season, unlike baseball’s marathon year, so every game counts. There is a physical, cerebral, and emotional element. Two teams of warriors meet on the battlefield in prime condition.  We’ve embraced the sport as a culture, pushing the NFL to stunning financial heights.  Boys still play the game in schoolyards and wear the jersey’s of their heroes on the weekends. Father’s and sons make it a tradition through generations of season ticket holders.

My team is the Philadelphia Eagles and one of my favorite players to ever wear an Eagles’ uniform is Brian Dawkins.

Dawkins played safety for the Eagles.  He was under-sized for the position and, after developing under defensive coordinator Jim Johnson, became one of the best safeties to ever play the game.  He was intense and vibrant, often laying down hits to the opposition that could be felt in homes across the Philly area. He embodied what it meant to be from the city; to work hard, fight, and never give up.

He is also a man of faith.

Follow Dawkins on twitter or listen to any of his interviews.  His faith is front and center.  He speaks with the passion of a preacher, talking about the blessings God has provided in his life.  The NFL has a website dedicated to player engagement and it featured Dawkins in an article here. There is a wealth of valuable information in this short piece.

Talking about fatherhood, Dawkins says:

It’s a tremendous responsibility and honor to be a father. Not every man that has kids is a father to his children. I understand that and know that it’s a responsibility and a blessing as well. The Lord blessed me to have these little ones and raise them to worship him.  All these other accomplishments are great blessings, but at the end of the day if I’m not raising them in the omniscience of the Lord then I’m not doing what I’m supposed to do.

He’s right.  Not every man who has kids is a father.  It is a title we need to earn and we need to earn it daily. 

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He offers the following advice:

My advice would be to make sure that the foundation is laid in your faith. To walk the walk, don’t just be a church go’er or just attend bible study. Have a relationship with the Father. Don’t have religion have a relationship.  When you have this, it allows things to fall where they need to fall because now you’re being led by the Father in all that you do. Your footsteps are being ordered when you have your eyes set on him. That way he won’t allow you to stumble, and if you do stumble it will be something you will grow from because he has his hands on you. Secondly, don’t let somebody’s opinion of you define you.  If you allow that, then whatever bad thing that happens in your life, you will allow other people to have the pen in writing your story. I want you to look in the mirror and be able to say, Yes I made that mistake, but that’s not who I am. I’m going to continue to write this story with my FAITH!!

There are way too many things waiting to take control. As guys, the static in our lives can rise to deafening levels.  It can be the job, friends, money, addiction, sex, other people’s opinions, acceptance, even other family members.  We must know where we stand and what is our foundation.  We need a relationship, a real interaction with the Creator.

I don’t know about you, but I need my steps ordered.  I’ve tried grabbing control way too long.  The Father has bigger and better things planned for you and for me so, as we walk, we keep our eyes him.  Everything else will fall into place.

“Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” Hebrews 12: 1-2

Soundtrack Inspiration: (I’m challenging myself to expand my musical selections this week so, for the first post, here’s a classic)