Call to Arms (an interview)

What’s missing in your life?

When was the last time you felt close to the divine?

When did you feel accomplished?

What dream drives you into the future?

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When did you last feel freedom?

What makes your soul cry out?

What do you worship?

Are you still alive?

I want a life that expresses God’s creativity, words that cause international conversation and community, friendships that never end, faith to hold on in the darkness, strength that takes risks, living a life of faith beyond anything I could imagine.

We must think about these things as they drive us forward.  Our sentences are not complete, our stories not over, our dreams alive and well, our visions expanding and our hope the fire that burns deep inside.

Never stop believing.

 

 

 

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When God Moves

Tonight I took our youngest son to the grounds of a local museum.  They have a walking path that runs next to a small creek.  The water usual contains a variety of ducks and, as the boys grew up, we would take them over to watch wildlife in action.

The sun was making its way down the sky, the walkway shaded and groups of people rode bikes past us or walked their dogs.  At the end of one side is a garden, flowers intermingling with statues and benches. The garden breaks through a path shaped like a heart.

It was a peaceful moment and, as we walked the path, the benches were filled with people.  Every single person had their head down and their hands on a cell phone.

God still paints pictures if we take the time to see them.

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This month has been one of change for our family.  I’m starting a new chapter in my career life, some new work on writing projects, and a new front in my personal growth through education.

We started looking at larger goals and bigger targets.  Over the last 8 years of struggle, it is nice to feel God moving again.  Even though the movement never stopped.

Our heads were down, weighed under pressure and stress, money and time. We stood in beauty and failed to see it for the structures of this world.  Our five-inch screens weren’t playing Pokemon Go, they were playing a loop of guilt.

Why keep trying? What if you fail? Isn’t is just easier to do nothing?

We get captured by the words and they lull us to a sense of comfort in the darkness.

There is power in movement, in discomfort, in shifting spaces and setting yourself out towards a target no matter what the voices say inside and outside.

My faith hangs on the belief that God has planted big dreams on my heart and on the lives of my family.  I believe love wins. One person can make a difference if they keep fighting.  I believe that, as long as we are breathing, there’s still a job to be done.

It may not be easy, but God has immense visions and purpose waiting.  I believe we are called to make a dent in the universe.  We are called to keep moving.  One step at a time.

 

Early Retirement

I’ve written before on here about some of my favorite podcasts. A few weeks ago Scott Kramer, one of the pastors at our church and a friend of mine, recommended finding some ministry podcasts to listen to while working out or occupying your spare time.

I took the challenge and have found myself learning and being challenged with a variety of new and interesting messages. One of my favorites is from Pastor Erwin McManus of Mosaic Church in Los Angeles.

McManus is an interesting figure. I’d recommend any of his books you can find.  He’s a mix of scholar, pastor, communicator, encourager, and cultural architect.

His message last week was on knowing and asking God for exactly what we want. He stated his belief that some of us ask small because we are afraid of “proving God doesn’t exist.” We feel like we need to protect God by lowering our expectations when, in reality, more and greater things than we’ve ever dreamed await us.

He mentioned a friend who was retiring at an early age.  He had asked this friend why he was choosing to retire.  The man’s responded that he was ready for a quieter and more peaceful life. He wanted simplicity.

McManus commented about the nature of the man’s ideas and that he personally wanted to stay active, leading a community in a loud and noisy world until “the day the chariots of fire came to get him from Heaven.”

He then said something that struck me directly in the heart.

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He said there were younger people listening to the message who had hit “retirement” long before leaving their twenties.

It was like a card house falling, a lens sharpening into focus. The statement vocalized my state of mind quicker than anything I could have said at the moment.

I’d spent years lounging in the lull of simplicity, of sitting back and sitting on dreams, of the easy road holding off chances to make a dent in the universe.

I’d thought myself not good enough to dream, beaten down and hopeless, just happy to survive another day. Worry had ruled far too long.

Those days are over. It is time to start on the first steps of a new journey. It is time to get back in the game.

So I’ll fight with words, new projects, new books and bigger dreams. With a desire to inspire anyone who takes a moment to read and find hope.

Are you with me? Check out Mosaic’s podcast and stream the message titled What Do You Want?  I promise you will not be the same.

~Matt

 

Let’s Have a Dream

What do you want to be when you grow up?

It was a question lobbied at us as kids, one that grew into skills tests and teachers encouraging us to different directions. At some point, reality set in. The outside world spoke to us and we lowered our expectations.

The right path became the next path.

I was listening to Lewis Howes and his School of Greatness podcast where he interviewed Michael Hyatt. Hyatt spoke about giving ourselves permission to dream.  He said we focus too much on the how and ignore the what.

We say, “I could never ___ because I’m not smart enough, I don’t have a face to do videos, I don’t understand sales or marketing, etc.” Our doubts sabotage our vision and, eventually, we stop dreaming.

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Later that night I stood across our kitchen from Val.  I asked her when was the last time she had a dream.

When was the last time we had dreamed together as a couple?

It not as easy answer, but it cut to a valuable point.  We had transitioned to survival mode.  We were focused so much on making the next day that we let dreams fall to the side.

We just wanted to survive, not create something deeper and better with our lives.

I don’t know about you, but dreaming makes my pulse quicken. Ever meet someone who has stopped dreaming?  I see them every day in the medical field. There are people who beat cancer.  There are people that overcome disease to find new life.  They are the ones with dreams in their hearts that keep them going.

The ones that give up lose the fight.

This week, give yourself permission to dream. Write down the results and let them empower your life.

It is time for  our hearts to beat again.

~Matt

The Secret to Life

It is easy to get discouraged.

I met with two friends this week, both guys married and in the midst of careers.  We each go through our days and nights with family and, in our own way, we have struggles.  They can be rough jobs, stressful kids, not enough money or the weight of the future.

We break it down and encourage each other and there are moments when we need to understand the essence of faith.

Paul tells us:

For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, and then to the Twelve. After that, he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers and sisters at the same time, most of whom are still living, though some have fallen asleep. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles, and last of all he appeared to me also, as to one abnormally born.

For I am the least of the apostles and do not even deserve to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace to me was not without effect. No, I worked harder than all of them—yet not I, but the grace of God that was with me. Whether, then, it is I or they, this is what we preach, and this is what you believed.

Our walk is a choice.

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In the age where faith becomes a derogatory term and a political coin, we must break it down. Do we follow the one who is alive? Do we know that, after this life, is something greater?

Do we live with the power of the resurrection inside (Romans 8:11)?

That changes our life:

~God works through every conversation.

~Adversity is overcome to reveal glory.

~Struggle transforms us through refining power.

~Hope is constant.

~Prayer is war.

~Our calling puts a dent in the universe and changes eternity.

~Dreams are radar. Visions become our compass.

~Worship never ends.

I’m praying for this is my life and the life of our family.  How does that list make you feel?  Nervous? Excited? Scared? Remember, he is alive and this life is available for everyone willing to follow the path and change the world.

 

Three Ways to End Your Fear

Don’t be afraid.

The statement is repeated numerous times in the Bible. We are told, despite our natural instinct, not to fear. Fear, to me, was never paralyzing.  It is more a cold, blank sensation.

When Aiden was born, I stood in the delivery room and watched the nurses clean him off (a scheduled c-section). They hooked him to an oxygen monitor and I watched as his numbers started at 96 and gradually fell to 80. In this span of minutes, a NICU doctor was called in and they decided to give him a bed in the NICU.

He stayed almost a week before the fluid was clear from his lungs and stomach.

I’ll never forget watching those numbers fall and the glances the nurses exchanged with each other as he struggled to breathe. The fear in my heart implanted the images in my soul.

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Fear can be a catalyst.  When you stand at the Red Sea watching it part, you have two choices.  You can stay in danger or walk forward, facing the perceived greater danger, and see what happens. The unknown, even between walls of water, can unleash greatness on the other side.

Fear can be a dream. I remember having nightmares growing up.  One night a pair of cats were fighting outside my window.  The growls, scratches, and screams were surreal and seemed to be getting closer and closer. The darkness itself can bring condemnation and anxiety.  For some, dark nights carried the promise of no heat or electricity, hunger, or an abusive spouse or parent. In dreams, remember you will wake up. The sun will split the night and rise in the morning.

Fear can be control. This is the most dangerous. You are called.  Maybe it is a mission trip. Maybe a friend whose marriage is failing, maybe a family member mired in addiction. Maybe it is the business you are meant to start, the product that will change the world, the idea that can make a difference.  God puts this on your heart and you look in the mirror.

The small voice tells you that you can’t do it.  Not you. Not now.

What if you fail? Think of the laughter, the condemnation, the wasted time, money, and effort.

What if it all falls apart?

This fear is vanquished through community.  Find friends and colleagues making the same journey.  Look for resources in person and in the digital universe.  Find hope in a mentor who has been there already.  Find power in the permission to let yourself chase your dream.

Break the control of fear. The failure of not trying is always greater than giving it a shot. Step in the ring. You’ll be surprised at what can happen when fear is beaten down and destroyed. Even if you need to do it every day, it is worth the fight.

~Matt

The Joy Initiative

Around 12:30 last night the wind woke me from a dead sleep.  The curtains in our bedroom whipped out from the wall as rain pelted the windows.  I opened the door to the bathroom just in time to see a decorative picture fly off the windowsill and land in the sink.

The alarm sounded at 6:15.

I showered, dressed, and arrived at work by 7:00 for an ultrasound on my heart.

Last week I had visited the eye doctor who told me that my eyes showed signs of hypertension.  The advantage of working at a cardiologist office is that you can handle your own appointments and schedule your own tests, removing any chance to procrastination. The doc assured me that everything was precautionary, that my heart murmur was nothing to worry about and that my EKG was only mildly abnormal.

Something about your heart makes you think and, at a point in mid afternoon, a realization hit me.

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I’d spent way too long doing work that does not bring me joy or make the world a better place.

Change is coming. It will not happen all at once and it starts now. It consists of purposeful actions to gain freedom from the daily grind of earning a paycheck but not a life, stuff but not substance. I’m tired of punching a clock and coming home exhausted physically and emotionally.

It is time to start shaping a future of realized dreams, serving others and making the most of it. I want to feel like time is on my side again.

How about you? Does any of this sound familiar? We all get to this place at points in our life and only a few will do something about it. As long as you’re breathing, you have a chance.

Join me and take it.

~Matt

The Bird

I parked my car outside of work this morning with about five minutes to spare. I opened the car windows to let in a breeze and checked the headlines for the day on my phone.  Movement, just on the other side of the hood, caught my eye.

I had parked across from a shrub, about knee-high, and trimmed in the shape of a U.  It was a bright green and, just in the midst of the branches, flashed a streak of yellow.  As I watched, it flashed again and the movement took shape.

A smear of black sat above the yellow wings and body. Deep inside this shrub, a bird had settled in the morning sun.

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This was no forest, no sanctuary. This was no mountain or stream running close by.

This was a parking lot.

The bird could have flown to a much nicer environment.  An elementary school sits just past the parking lot surrounded by trees. In a minute, it could have found an entire group of trees, real trees, and set up shop. It could have lived a fairly solid bird life.

But it was nestled in this shrub, in this parking lot, not seeing the horizon beyond the branches.

This is one of those weeks, one of times of spiritual surgery. You feel like you are on the operating table and someone forgot the anesthesia. Doors close while others open. Prayers are answered as quick as needs arise. Through it all, God offers assurance.

Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they?

Faith is the search. The fight. The effort to keep moving even if you can’t see the end.  It is one more word, one last phone call, one hug that helps a person fight their depression one more night. It is picking up when you don’t have the energy to move and pushing through.

For our walls can be climbed. Our cage can be opened. Our future is planned and known.  Our dreams are a guide. Great things are coming. I don’t mean some corny prosperity gospel thing.

I mean victories. Creation. Love. Peace. Movement. Building bridges. Helping someone know and understand that they matter, that their fight is important to you.

For are known by the fight, not the end result.  We are called to radical love that destroys the precepts of this world. Jesus told us to Go. Follow. Pray. Sacrifice. Make Disciples.

The day to rest is the day we find ourselves called home once again.

The day to move is now.

~Matt

When You are Not There Yet

We love our quick fixes.  We love our trophy without the marathon, our abs without pounding the pavement.  We want wealth without work, marriage without romance, love without connection.  We’ll take a world bending to us, thank you very much.

Quick fixes go against our divine nature.

I believe you and I were created for the journey.  Our lives are ones of refinement. We walk through the fire to come out more pure on the other side, no matter how long it takes.

Saturday and Sunday were long days.  I mean two of the longest days we’ve had in a while. Carter, our oldest, seems like he’s sixteen not six.

Even though he’s young, it hurts to look in his eyes and see his anger reflected back at us. As parents, it drives you two directions. You miss the days of the baby and long for the days when he’s grown up.

You are Not There Yet.

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You work a day job and the moment you leave your mind goes to your passion.  You spend your nights designing a new small business.  You research loans and open storefronts. You email investors.

You are Not There Yet.

You’ve gone on the last date you think you can handle, suffered through mind-numbing conversations and went home alone. You’ll look in the mirror tonight and know.

You are Not There Yet.

You drive by the family at the end of the street and see their house fall apart.  You see children wearing the same clothes at the bus stop every day of the week, passing a single winter jacket back and forth.  You press the gas a little harder just hoping to pass.

You are Not There Yet.

A life in faith is a journey. As long as you draw breath, your work is not finished. Tomorrow is another chance. Keep connected in the moments. Make the choices that contribute to this world. Do something to make a difference. Change a life. Follow a dream.

Pick up that paintbrush, type the first sentence, take the first step.

You are Not There Yet but one day you will be. Never stop moving, no matter how long, hard, tired, or frustrating. Keep going. Win the day one at a time. Do it because there is no alternative. The sideline doesn’t exist. There is no waiting, there is only work and hope.

I believe this post is for someone specific out there, someone feeling like me tonight.  Know I’m with you and that we’ll push through together.

I’ll see you back out there tomorrow.

~Matt