Throw Away Old Stories

I’ve mentioned Donald Miller’s Storyline blog on here more than once and for good reason as I almost always get some selection of inspirational material.  If you haven’t followed them yet, I recommend it.

This past week, there was a post about changing the narrative you are living.  The writer told a story about a friend’s mother and this woman’s visit to her friend’s house. The friend complained that, when her mother was over, she “turned into a twelve-year-old again.” The writer continued to talk about growing up as an outsider and how she needed to overcome that to succeed in her creative efforts.

The post was up on Saturday and it has bounced around in my head since then.

How many of us are living old stories?

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I feel like this past year has been a journey to break the hold of old stories on my life.  I was not what you’d call an outsider as I had friends from different social groups.  I was not, though, the popular kid.  I didn’t jump at opportunities to show off.  I wasn’t a sports star or an actor with the drama club.

Oral presentations scared me until I took a public speaking class in high school.

These stories carried over into my early 30’s and I feel the fight rising. It is only a conflict because the old stories still exist.  Because the old part of my soul still stands on the sidelines content to be okay.

The time to be okay is over.

Change is possible if we allow ourselves to do it.  How many of us avoid the difficult conversation about Jesus at the water cooler because we were rejected in the past? Because someone made fun of us for being different? How many let those with stronger wills influence our lives and the lives of our children? How many refuse to stand because we’ve been knocked down too much that it is just easier to stay there?

Do we avoid risk because we fear failure or success? Breaking apart or breaking the bonds that hold us down?

I pray this week is one of change for you.  That you step out of your comfort zone and throw away the old stories impacting your life.  Starting writing new ones and see what happens.

~Matt

What Lights Your Fuse?

Most of us can articulate what we want.  Ask someone on the street or in the next desk at work and you’ll get a quick list of the usual answers of bigger, better stuff and success.  We have these dreams that quicken our heart rate and all it takes is one negative voice for them to quiet down.

This week, as I near finishing the editing process for my upcoming book about the fight against poverty, I’m devoting time to refining my dreams and goals:

~A writing business that makes a difference in the lives of clients and organizations.

~Publications that inspire, engage, and spread hope across an international audience.

~To be able to work from my computer.  Whether at home, a Barnes and Noble, a bench at the park or a blanket on the beach.

~To be there for my boys as they grow up, create a legacy they’ll be proud of, and set a foundation for their future and generations to follow.

The choice is really a tipping point. Google success stories and you’ll find plenty. What makes those people different from you and I?

The decision to go.

The last instructions of Jesus were to Go and Make Disciples of all the world. The order still applies. Time is too short to stand still.  Make use of every day you have and keep moving.

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This is our son Aiden in a pic taken this weekend.  Every time I see it, I smile and I understand.  This is why.  This is one of the flames that light the fuse every morning, in every quiet moment and dark time, and keeps me burning for what is to come.

Find your inspiration this week, grasp it, and get to work.

~Matt

 

The Kindness Challenge

Tell me if this has ever happened to you.  You have a family member, client, friend, business partner, boss, perspective client, etc who has asked you to do something.  It may be part of your normal routine or maybe an effort above and beyond.

If you are like me, you like to see problems through until the end, even if it means going the extra mile.  So, you work.  When it is all said and done, you go back to this person with the results and you hear….

Nothing.

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We found ourselves in the midst of a consumer culture. Every conversation is an exchange, a presentation of need and delivery.  Our boys do this all the time and, as kids, it is natural behavior.  It’s why we drill into them, “say please and thank you.”

Did you ever look around your office or your church and wonder what happened?

This weekend, take a day and make a point of saying thank you.  Do it often.  If you go out to breakfast, thank the waiter or waitress.  If you are in the grocery store, thank the cashier. Tell your spouse that you appreciate them.

Thank your kids for listening.

Send a family member, friend, or client an email thanking them for being a part of your life.

We talk often of sacrificial love, of social change and a revolution of faith. The mountains can only be climbed with a first step.

Kindness is where we start.

~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

Unlived Lives

At the moment I’m working my way through Steven Pressfield’s The War of Art. It is one of those books that I had heard about before and waited way too long to pick up.  Pressfield talks about the Resistance and what we face on a daily basis when we choose to do something creative and authentic. It is the counter voice, the part that tries to tell you to relax and not risk it.

In one of his small chapters, he talks about what happens to the brain when a person is given a critical medical diagnosis like cancer. Their mind shifts from the ego to the self and the thoughts of missed opportunities emerge. Suddenly, we look outwards and not in. We concern ourselves with the greater good and finding meaning.

Part of this comes with reconciling our “unlived lives.”

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What about that painting you never completed from college? The book never finished? That missions trip to Africa that seemed like a one-time opportunity? What tugged at your heart in the quiet of the night?

What inspiration lit a spark inside that you are remembering as you read this?

Why not chase it now?

I think of the years leading up to this day, having a rough idea that I wanted to write but not knowing what that meant, going through school, getting married, and having kids. Faith was an accepted concept.

I had an unlived life waiting.

In the last few months on this project, the life is taking shape. The focus is moving outwards. The words flow with new inspiration. Faith has shifted to a live and electric pulse that cuts across the reality of this city and into this family. It is a process. It is not easy.

It is always worth it.

~Matt

Unknown Memories

Val has needed a new phone for a few months now.  She’s had it for a while and I’ve nagged her to replace it.  We talked again today as Aiden took his nap and Carter watched a movie.

“I need to go through my pictures,” she said.

“How many do you have on there?” I asked

Now, guys, this is similar to other great questions from our playbook.  It can apply to shoes, purses, makeup, whatever the subject.

“A little over two thousand,” she replied.

Two thousand pictures.  Years of shots from when the boys were younger. She started going through them as we talked.

The best memories, I told her, are the ones we haven’t made yet.

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Photo Credit: Adikos via Compfight cc

We all have goals and deadlines.  I’ll lose a certain number of pounds by this date.  I’ll get a new job, new car, new house. As a writer and someone starting a business, my goals are glaring in the windshield every day that I move forward.

As parents, we could write books of the goals we have for our children.

Our focus can be so intense that we lose sight of the meaningful rewards.

I’m in the process of reading The War of Art by Steven Pressfield and I have no idea why I’d waited this long. He has some great insights on the nature of Resistance and how we handle it in our lives. It is the force going against us as we attempt to complete the creative act we are called to do.

Pressfield writes that fear is good and we must use it as a barometer as we proceed. The more fear we face, the more we are called to completion and know the path is for us.

Fear, for me, was never anything front and center.  It sat in the back corner of the bedroom late at night, a cold fog that drifted across my pillow and manifested in doubt.  What if, it asked, what if you failed?

What if you lost control?

I had a counselor tell me once that God meets us in the center of our greatest fear. I had mentioned the loss of control and he replied, “then I’d hate to see what may happen.” While I’m not totally over my control issues (why I spend hours behind a keyboard, because the words tend to listen most of the time), I feel like I’m getting better.

Progress requires faith.  Letting go requires picking up our new path.

Our best memories are the ones to come.  We must value our impact on the world.  Our calling will better ourselves and those around us. I pray, every day, that these words will make a difference in someone’s life.

The journey happens in steps. Don’t forget to soak up and enjoy the important moments along the way.

You can, and you will, change someone’s life.  The only question is how.

~Matt

Mindset Matters

I’ve spent more than a year working the insurance side of rehabilitative medicine. For those of you not familiar with the term, a rehab hospital takes on patients after their surgeries, illness, or accidents. They work on restoring function and daily life activities with exercises for the body and mind.  This experience has taught me the importance of mindset.

Those hurt most deeply can heal if they believe they can.

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Now, don’t get me wrong.  I’m not a name-it-and-claim-it guy. God isn’t a fax machine that receives our requests and returns a response as soon as our faith level is higher than a set point. The battle, the fight that flows one step at a time, relies on mindset.

I’ve seen patients come through the door in severe states of injury and illness.  The ones who believe they can improve make the highest gains. The others who do not can, and will, get stuck.

I’m on the email list of John Lee Dumas, founder of Entrepreneur on Fire. If you are interested in starting your own business, or already in the journey, check out his site.  In his most recent email he wrote the following:

The only way out of following your dreams is that you have to quit.

Read that again.

Following your dreams can take many forms.  It can be personal, emotional, financial, health, or wellness.  It can be writing that book that’s haunted your soul for years, running that marathon, losing that first pound, and having a single good day.

One day of victory. One day of hope available for anyone willing to chase it. Everyone deserves a shot to follow their dreams.

Mindset matters.

Know any people who just bring down a room? When the caller ID shows their number you cringe just a little inside.  We can carry the weight of our pain and make it our identity.  We take out our resentment on the closest target, whether we know them or not.

Nothing is easy. We are told in Scripture that we will have troubles in this world, but we know who has overcome the world. We remember the verses, talk to friends, pray, journal, and take on the next day to fight again. We choose how we feel and enter into a mindset.

We pick our lens to view the world.  So, how are you seeing things today? What is your frame of reference?

What dream are you chasing?

~Matt

Soundtrack Inspiration:

Something different for today.  David Jack is an athletic trainer. He’s appeared on more than one television program and publication.  He’s an inspiration and a man of God. This video is the first in a series of three.  Every statement he makes here is golden and speaks volumes about the importance of mindset in life.

 

Just Say No

I love freelance writing.  It has provided some side income and offered a chance to work with people around the world.  I’ve participated in a few different side projects and genres. You get the chance to test your limits as a writer and see just how far you can go.

You also learn to say no.

As an entrepreneur, I’m still learning my limits, learning when the balance of work and compensation leans too far one direction. I’ve learned that my time is valuable and there are moments when you need to walk away, to pivot a different direction and keep moving.

We are raised to accommodate, to listen to every authority figure and follow our marching orders. We are told to submit to the status quot. Our fear keeps us from setting boundaries. If we say yes, everything will be okay. If we don’t make waves, we can go with the flow.

Then life happens.

Jobs are lost. Family members get sick. The car dies. Our kids get in trouble at school. Favor seems to pass for someone else. We read the Bible and are told, more than once:

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What if God is calling us to something greater? What if we need to step out on the water? Peter had to and this man, first person contact with Jesus, caught sight of the waves and starting sinking. His fear pulled him down.

That dream, that passion that sets your heart on fire, is not just a passing moment.  That desire you see staring at the ceiling at night, it is a hand reaching out from the divine, pulling you towards a future more than you could imagine.

This journey starts with saying no.

No to the old ways, the old life, the old body. You turn away from the chains of the past, from destructive people and relationships.  Weigh everything and, if you find it lacking, have the courage to set it aside.

The apostles, after the Great Commission, went out into the world.  They faced harsh opposition and every single one died for their faith. They set the world on fire.  They stood up to the established world and changed it forever.

Do not fear. Do not lose hope. Don’t be afraid to say no.

It can be the start of something big.

~Matt

Soundtrack Inspiration: Tenth Avenue North, a great band with powerful music. Check it out!

Surviving a Crisis of: Money

The day your bank account shows a $0.00 balance can be a humbling experience.

I remember working my first job as a teenager, getting paychecks, and having nothing to do with them.  I remember going to the mall to buy a cd (crazy, I know). You could save up for something you wanted, buy it, and start over again.

Things were simple.

As time passed, obligations increased. In the recession of 2008, millions of people lost their jobs. We had been long enough out of college and into a career that security felt like a guarantee.  Then, in a few months, it all fell apart. Val and I had to look at each other and face reality. We needed to restart and redefine our goals for the future.

We needed to change our view of money.

Money means different things for different people. There are children today being raised to worship the objects they have. It is the embodiment of the old line, “He who dies with the most toys wins.”

There are churches operating with this theme today, leaders talking about money every Sunday, pastors driving luxury vehicles and preaching a gospel of prosperity. Their God is a giant slot machine in the sky. Give to their church and God will give to you, the larger the amount, the better.

They are wrong.

If you are facing a crisis of money, here are two things to think about:

Hustle: Do a search online and you’ll find multiple resources for individuals looking to make extra money. There is a thriving gig-based economy across the digital universe. Have a talent? Someone out there is willing to pay you for it. This is a great time to start a business online.  Find your passion and make it work for you while providing a service to others. Picture yourself as your own boss. Become an entrepreneur. You can start today with a computer and internet connection.  The sky is the limit.

Serve:  In the midst of our money struggles, we would constantly look for a place to cut back. We saw the little we had and, like a child, grabbed and held it close. Jesus calls us to a different path.  He says to serve our brothers and sisters. Find a charity. Donate to your child’s school. Set up a tithe to your home church. Do what you can without expecting anything in return. Your giving can help to change your outlook on money.  Break the chains, have faith, and know that God provides.

Connected Scripture:

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?” Matthew 6:26

Soundtrack Inspiration:

A classic from Lifehouse. I’ve been in services with this song in worship.  It is the perfect combination of music, lyrics, and depth to draw you closer to God.

 

Picks of the Week- 9/22/2014

Scripture: “It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.” Galatians 5:1

Our memory verse for the current message series. Always remember the freedom that comes through faith.

Book: The Bone Clocks by David Mitchell.

David Mitchell is one of the writers who inspired me to write and chase my dream. Read his books, any of them, and you’ll come away amazed and inspired.  You can find his newest release here.

Worship Song:

We’ve had the chance to worship at church with Brad and Rebekah a few times and it is always a great experience. They are talented, passionate, and their music brings listeners closer to God.  This is one of my favorites, We Are Free.

Website: Entrepreneur On Fire

John Lee Dumas operates this site full of advice for those starting and running their own business.  He also posts his monthly income reports.  Check them out and know, if he can do it, so can you!

Family Activity: The Playground

We spent more than an hour tonight with friends at the playground behind Carter’s school.  The nights are getting cooler.  Throw on sweatshirts, hit the playground, and burn some energy.  You know, those slides, bars, and rock walls aren’t just for kids, right?

Marriage Activity: Sunday Drive

Find your local woods and go for a drive.  The trees will start to change and take note of nature’s canvas and, while you’re at it, put away the cell phones and talk!

Val’s Style Pick of the Week:

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Redken Work Hard Molding Paste for Men. A great, versatile product that lasts all day and stands up to the winds of Fall.

Val’s Bag of the Week:

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Cinch Sac: So cute and sporty! Toss all your items for ballet, soccer, school and sleepovers into this bag, pull the drawstring and you’re good to go! There are so many patterns and colors to choose from to make it uniquely yours. Measures approx: 18.5”H x 14.5”W  You can find it here for $20.00. You can find other specials for September and the entire new catalog for the month at Val’s personal Thirty-One site.