The Day After

I woke around 5 this morning realizing Carter had fully given me his cold from last week.  Nothing like another joy of parenting. I called off and went to an Urgent Care to get some medicine.

The day after a holiday weekend is never easy, especially returning to the routines of life. We split from our extended families and gradually recover from the coma of ham, filling, and jelly beans.

What happens the day after is just as important. We get the message and, now, what do we do with it?

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There’s a point in the Bible where Jesus returns to heaven. Imagine the next conversation. Did they keep looking at the sky, wondering if he’d return? Did they wonder about the next morning, the next week, the next month?

Think of the knowledge they had; the experiences of the past three years, the miracles and conflict, the bloodshed and revival. They had seen things that would change the world.

The Day After is the key to the story.  They could have rested or given up, instead they shifted into action.

The story doesn’t stop.

Day Afters are no fun but they are essential. They make us get up in the morning, watch our progress, spend valuable time doing valuable things.  They push us forward on our own terms, not ones set for us from outside sources.

We have Day Afters because the story isn’t over. As hard as it is to pull our heads off the pillow, we do it and keep going towards the best ending even if we can’t see all the details yet.

~Matt

 

A Victim Mindset

One of the email newsletters I find useful comes from Nick Loper and his Side Hustle Nation. I don’t always get the chance to read every one or listen to every podcast, but today’s edition really stuck with me.

Loper profiled an email he received from a frustrated young man living in a city.  The man lamented being poor and feeling stuck under a variety of forces, from poverty and race to oppression. He asked how to start without any foundation.

In a wise move, Loper opened up to the question to his forum of followers and compiled their responses in a blog post.  A guy named Andy McCabe replied with this quote: “What I’m reading is someone who is letting their circumstances define their possibilities. The two are not tied, except in the trapped thoughts of a victim mindset.”

Circumstances do not define possibilities and they are not tied, except in the mindset of a victim.

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That quote is worth a book.

Circumstances and possibilities are not connected.  Think about the meaning of this week. Jesus took his circumstances and exploded the possibilities into a supernova of grace that changed all of creation.

It is time to break free from this cult of the Victim. What is possible if we break the hold of circumstances? What freedom waits on the other side? How does life look with endless possibilities no matter where you start?

As we enter Easter weekend, think of the meaning of resurrection and the open door of new life. It is time for the fresh start that comes on the other side of the cross.

~Matt

Threads

This week is a unique one on a few fronts. Carter has two days of school, then he’s off for spring break. We are rounding the turn on warmer weather. Baseball, professional and youth, is on the horizon.

Summer seems just over the hill.

Easter is at the end of the week. In terms of Biblical history, Jesus has arrived through Palm Sunday and cleansed the temple.  Soon he will be arrested and find his way to the cross, rising again in victory.

It is a time of resurrection for us as a family. We’re moving towards new things, situations, times and experiences. On Saturday, I drove to Delaware to visit my dad and, driving home I started thinking about the threads that carry us through from past to present and future.

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Our pastor on Sunday said you can’t separate Christmas from Easter, the birth of Jesus from his death and return to life. The experiences of the past speak to our future.

The children we were influence the adults we are.

We throw down gauntlets with every painful experience, internal promises we make ourselves to avoid the same issues decades later. They can have positive or negative results. We tell ourselves we will never ____ (fill in the blank). It can drive us to obsessive levels of perfection or success.  It can also cripple us with doubt.

Every writer is scared of rejection. If I could go back and talk to myself as a kid, I’d tell him that it will be okay. All the struggle will amount to something. The people who have cycled in and out of your life all had their reasons and it was nothing against you. The first publication will feel as good as the first big one.

It takes birth and growing up to face loss and resurrection.

I’d tell myself to make the most of the years because they will pass too fast and you’ll find yourself sitting in front of a laptop typing a blog post while your own kids sleep in their beds. That the dreams will keep coming, the calling will get louder and more clear, that you will make a difference and the words will count for something in the end.

That it is never over, so many years later, and the fight is worth stepping into the ring even when you don’t have the energy to leave the lockers.

~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.

 

For My Wife or What I Learned Standing in Line at Ulta

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By the time to you read this, you’ll have the gift card in hand.  The boys will be watching a movie and you’ll probably see this alert as you’re playing a game of Word Chums on your cell phone.

This morning the line at Ulta was barely moving and, as Aiden watched YouTube videos on my phone, I had a revelation and some things I needed to tell you.

First, I’m sorry for the pressure. Sorry for the days of crazy kids and a living room that will never stay clean.  It is okay, trust me. The battle will continue and, for a few years, never have a winner. You do your best and I don’t tell you enough how much that means us.

Second, I’m sorry for the pressure. I’m sorry that beauty products cost so much and you can’t flip through an internet page without getting blasted with images trying to convince you that you aren’t perfect, trying to hold you up to the standard of the current celebrity or fitness model of the minute.

You are perfect to me.

Thank you for being an amazing wife and mother. I remember the girl I met when she was just a teenager and told me that I had a nice haircut across the registers at the local grocery store where we worked.  That conversation changed my life fifteen years ago and, from there, we’ve had eight years of marriage and two amazing children.

Thank you for tolerating me and the boys, when the line between them and me seems a little too thin. Thank you for working nights at the salon after a full day with Aiden and, somehow, coming home with a smile on your face.

Thank you for changing my life.

You are the best thing that has ever happened to me and I love you.

~Matt

What We Get Wrong

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Mistakes are only mistakes if you don’t learn from them. 

A crisis always brings opportunity. Change only happens when you wake up and realize you’ve had enough.

I had heard these three phrases in my last book interview with Commissioner Christian Leinbach. It took reading all the headlines about the fiascos in Indiana and Arkansas for me to realize just how much they apply.

This week we celebrate Easter, the remembrance of the ultimate act of love and sacrifice. People normally not in church will join their families out of obligation. We get dressed up and go through the motions. We try to follow the example of Jesus and there’s only one problem.

Our love is skewed by:

Politics, money, agenda, race, poverty, preconceptions, difference…

We are told to have open arms, not ask for admission tickets at the door. Jesus broke down walls. He went into the shadows. His table was available for anyone and everyone. He called those on the outskirts into the center.

In doing this, he angered enough people to end up on the cross.

There is hope.

We must learn from our mistakes and seize our opportunity.  We must, as parents, writers, business owners, and believers decide that we’ve had enough.

The agenda is simple. It is time for a shift back to Jesus, to the one radical enough to change the world.

So, on Sunday, celebrate the one who loved us enough to give up himself and set us free.  Then go and do the same for others

~Matt

New Publication

words can change the world

We write for two reasons.

1-To Be Heard

2-To Change Things

I started P356 with this goal in mind, that the words would make a difference.  Today marks the publication of my next e-book, Lazarus Art: Calling Christian Writing Back From the Dead.

“For too long the world of Christian writing has found itself in the margins. It is time to reach for a higher standard of creation. Using the Biblical story of Lazarus for inspiration, this book examines three critical areas for improvement and challenges writers of all levels to push themselves deeper into their work. Christian writing can change with some valuable first steps and find itself with new and greater audiences. The time to change is now.”

Lazarus Art

You can download the book here.

A portion of any proceeds will go to support Hope Rescue Mission, the next official Community Partner for P356.  The men at Hope are changing lives in this city on a daily basis and I am honored that they allowed me to visit and include their efforts in the current project. You can find more information about their work on the Community Partners page.

As we enter Easter Week, let us not forget the meaning beyond the candy and egg hunts.  We are called to follow, to celebrate the one who lived change on a daily basis to the point where death was no longer the final answer.

Never forget there is hope, light in the darkness, and freedom for those who search.

Sunday’s coming.

~Matt