It is Okay to Ask Why

It is okay to ask why.

Today was the scheduled delivery date for the baby we miscarried.

It is okay to ask why.

When the bank account dips into the negative numbers and the cabinets are empty.

It is okay to ask why.

When you fight with your children and get the first “I hate you.”

It is okay to ask why.

When the roof leaks.  When the pipe clogs. When the car dies.

It is okay to ask why.

When your kid gets bullied, gets sick, struggles or suffers.

It is okay to ask why.

When it seems like God is so far away.

It is okay to ask why.

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Because God can handle our questions.

Can handle our honesty.

Can handle our anger and frustration.

Because faith is all those things.

Honesty. Anger. Frustration.

Because Jesus prayed to have this cup taken from him in a moment fully God and fully man.

Because the Bible says Do Not Be Afraid enough to make the point.

You will be afraid.

And that is fine.

Because faith grows through fear, strength through suffering, hope through doubt.

Because there are still empty tombs. Still dawn and dusk. Still a breath of summer wind and the crash and roar of ocean waves. Still a heart beating.

Still grace.

And one day grace will make you free.

Until then, keep fighting. Keep asking why.  Dig deep. Wrestle with a God.  Be a voice in the wilderness. Make an impact. Be a quiet influence.  Stand up for what is right.

Keep fighting.

Because one day the tide will turn and you’ll stand on the shores of Heaven.  You’ll see those who went before you.  You’ll experience pure and perfect joy.

One day.

We will meet our baby again.

One day we will come out of this. One day we will have peace.

Until then.

It is okay to ask why.

 

You Will Change The World

Reggie Dabbs, one of my favorite speakers, has visited our church a few times over the years.  He was a product of an encounter between his mother and a man she was sleeping with to get money for groceries.  No one, at this moment, speaks to more high school kids in this country than Reggie. His message of love changes the lives of students, teachers, and their communities.

Last week I met a young man working with We Agape You in the city of Reading.  He had grown up with violence, crime, gangs, drugs, and homelessness.  Now he delivers food to those in need and is building a new life for his wife and soon-to-be child.

Val has had clients who were sick and going through some tough times in their lives.  For the hour or two they are in her chair, she makes them feel valued and welcomed.  She helps them see their inner and outer beauty.

Thursday night Carter and I talked about school.  Out of curiosity, I asked him if there is anyone he doesn’t like.  He said, “Dad, I want to be friends with everyone.”

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Photo Credit: sdettling via Compfight cc

My visceral response to this is varied.  Ever have one of those Moses moments?  You know, where you tell God you aren’t fit for the calling?  You make up excuses.  Reality, the reflection in the mirror, seems to speak against your heart.

That small voice inside prompts with options.  When was the last time you…sat on the couch and relaxed, had a drink, fed the addiction? Shouldn’t you do something for yourself every now and then? You could always start tomorrow.

Nobody will buy that story/product anyway.

We must turn the focus around.  It’s funny, when I feel the insecurity the most is when I’m focusing on myself. Worry comes in waves.

The fact is, we are not enough. We can’t do it alone.

God, as Moses was told, designed us for a purpose. We are to change the world, to take our stories and tell them to provide hope for those going through the same. We are to be in a community of action and faith, belief and boots on the ground.

We must unite across location, race, economic class, political party, and agenda, holding hands not pointing fingers.

There is someone out there who needs you today.  They need you right now.  They may be a friend or neighbor.  They may be family. Drive to the city and you’ll see them on the corners or waiting outside the shelter. It is not easy but, if you step out in faith you will see God’s hand in action.

When we were driving around Reading this week, we were talking about shelters and the need for work and self-worth. The young man I mentioned above said this,

“Too many places give you a pillow and say, ‘get comfortable.'”

How comfortable are you today?

~Matt

Donuts

This year, as a family, we decided to change our mindset.  Inspired by a post I found on Reddit, we are taking every day to note down one thing that makes us happy that day.  The notes are going to be stored in a box and, next year, we will open it up.  Val, Carter, and I are each doing it so, in the end, we’ll have over 1000 cards of moments that made us happy.

Yesterday, my mother took Carter to her house to spend the night.  Val told me he did his Happy card for the day before he left.  She held it up to show me:

Donuts

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 Photo Credit: ThePhin via Compfight cc

Val had picked up one for him from Wawa in the morning and that was his happy moment for the day.

As parents, believers, writers, creators, and dreamers we tend to get trapped in complications.  We find our big ideas and, in our insecurities, can find trouble just as easily. The voice of doubt waits to strike the instant it gets a chance.

Want to know one of the most critical points in life?  That minute after inspiration.  That second you articulate your dream and the silence that follows.

I want to…write a book, change my career, join a life group, be a better spouse, find love…but

at this point we need to fight the followup. Ignore the excuses. Quiet the noise.

Soak in the joy from giving your dream voice and permission. Allow yourself to dream. Visualize your success.  What could life look like on the other end of the journey?  On the way, don’t forget to enjoy the small things and have a donut every once in a while.

~Matt

Faith vs. Fear

Imagine, you’re on a boat with this guy who you’ve followed around for a few years now. He’s sleeping below deck.  A storm blows in.  Not just any storm, a perfect storm-a George Clooney passing by on a fishing boat-kind of storm. Waves tossing and turning. Guys are getting sick.  They look at each other.

How is he still sleeping?

Just when the water starts breaking on the deck, when people slip and fall and are getting pulled towards the depths, when all hope is almost lost, the door opens.  He steps out.

He got up, rebuked the wind and said to the waves, “Quiet! Be still!” Then the wind died down and it was completely calm.

He said to his disciples, “Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?”

They were terrified and asked each other, “Who is this? Even the wind and the waves obey him!” ~Mark 4: 35-41

There is a fine line between faith and fear. Maybe you’ve lived there? You come home from work dreading the mail for the next set of bills.  Every text message sends a chill down your spine.  You spend your moments waiting for the bad news. There is a line in the Bret Easton Ellis novel, Lunar Park, that resonated with me:

The main character said that every intersection felt like a traffic accident waiting to happen.

I’ve spent years there.

So tonight, I made a choice.

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I’m done with fear. I’m done with worry. I’ve been handicapped too long by a focus on what I don’t have, by the numbers in a bank account balance. The fear feeds the doubt and questions and waves that pound and pound the shore. It is not a surprise that one of my repeated dreams is standing on a beach watching massive waves as they approach.

They say dreams of ocean waves are a sign of change coming.

So tomorrow is a new day.  I know that the enemy stalks like a lion. Fear will never give up.  Doubt will always be waiting for that prime moment to strike. The fight isn’t over.

I believe that God will provide. I believe that, in serving, we find our calling.  I believe that we are called to faith in the midst of the struggle. God meets us in the moment of our biggest fear, when the wave crests over our heads and we feel the first drops of water.

We know the one who walks on water and always remember that his hand is reaching out to pull us above the waves.

~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