Choose Life

This morning, in church, we had our service remembering veterans and their sacrifices to our country.  The service is traditional and powerful, always including a time to invite veterans in the service to the stage to be recognized.  Every year the stage is full of men and women, young and old, from all branches of the military. I’m always touched by this display and thankful to my friends and their loved ones who have served.

Two young men split the message today, both wounded in action in the Middle East, and both representatives of Operation Warrior Reconnect. They were poised, eloquent, funny, and emotional. The first spoke about being talking to his wife on the cell phone, in his bunk in Afghanistan, and having the building hit by a rocket attack.  He spoke about the desire to keep fighting, even with deep injuries to his leg, back, and head.  He talked about coming home and the struggle of his wife and family, about the challenges of adapting to normal life.

This soldier, and his wife, had both attempted suicide more than once.

A line from his story stuck with me.  He said:

You don’t have to be in combat to get wounded.  The key is to choose life.

Every day is a choice. You can live or stay on the sidelines. I’m tired of the sidelines. There’s too many goals I’ve put off for tomorrow, too many missed opportunities.  What if we lived every moment as a chance to be at our best? What if every situation was there for the taking? How would your life look if you grasped all the promises of the next sunrise?

Layka Wardog

National Geographic made this their most recent coverage image.  Photographer Martin Schoeller snapped this shot of Layka, a Belgian Malinois, who lost a leg from three AK-47 rounds in Afghanistan. Layka took this fire protecting a squad of troops.  You can see her medal in the picture. There is something of beauty and power there.

I’d take a thousand magazine covers like this over the usual crap at the grocery store.

So this month, don’t forget to say thank you and welcome home to a veteran you know and love.  We are free because some chose to stand and fight, to protect the innocent and right the wrongs of the world.  Use their sacrifice and service as inspiration to fight your own battle.  Find your day one.  Turn away from the addiction. Call that person you’re avoiding. Write the first sentence.

Write the first word. Take the first step.

Seize the day.

~Matt

Soundtrack Inspiration: This music video made national headlines as the David Crowder Band actually used Lite Brites in the filming.  The story of the song will touch your heart.

Feel Good Friday 10/3/2014

Robin Macmillan is a photographer in Canada and a cancer survivor.  It took a brush with the disease to inspire her to follow her dreams and create stunning photography. There is power is creation and finding your passion.  Macmillan used her camera to tell her story.  If you are in the midst of suffering, document your feelings in words or pictures. Capture the storm inside. Use it for motivation to find victory.  Don’t ever give up.

You can find Macmillan’s story and her photographs here.

 

Berks Coalition to End Homelessness

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Like the volunteer pictured above, the Berks Coalition to End Homelessness is a cooperation of individuals and businesses directly making an impact on the city in the effort to combat homelessness. It includes over sixty agencies and businesses. The Coalition takes the lead in HUD grant application for the county and is an important contact point for other service agencies in the city.  I met with Sharon Parker, the Executive Director, one afternoon at Barnes and Noble.  She told me about the numerous projects they have on the table including an effort to obtain housing for homeless families in Berks County. You can find their website here with a wealth of information and links.  You can find donation information here.

Soundtrack Inspiration:

Graduation

Tomorrow morning we leave for Connecticut. I spent the last two years attending Fairfield University’s MFA program.  We meet twice a year in Mystic, Connecticut at St. Edmund’s Retreat on Enders Island for ten days. I’ve met some amazing people and had the chance to work with great writers and academics. The island is a world of difference between the summer and winter residencies. I’ve spent mornings at 15 and 75 degrees, seen the place swept in snow and sunlight. There is a mystical (fitting) beauty to the island and it provides moments of exquisite solitude. On Friday, I’ll graduate and tonight I’m thinking about the future.

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Graduation is a time for transition, whether it is kindergarten, high school, or college.  When I was a freshman, I went to my adviser and said I wanted to be a writer. He was about 107 years old and laughed over his rumpled suit and tie.  He said, “You probably won’t be successful, so you should consider an alternative.”  I knew, in that moment, I would write. It was a seed planted in my soul. I’m one of those people who don’t respond well to being told that I can’t do something.  One thing he did not know, or see, was my passion.

I finished my first novel roughly five years after that conversation.

Carter told Val today that, when he grows up, he “wants to be a writer like daddy and write about Jesus.” That is priceless.  That is the point of being a father. He doesn’t even need to end up writing. If he uses his passion to serve and live a satisfied life, I’ll be happy. Time goes so fast. Both of my boys get bigger each day. They are like living mirrors, reminders of the future that is to come.

Today I landed my first interview with a local business owner for Overcome (Rescuing the City of Reading). I am excited to talk with him and get rolling on this project.  I feel like so many forces have converged to this week and that good things are coming.  It is a mix of excitement, nerves, and happiness.  I am truly blessed and thankful.  Always remember, no matter what anyone says, never stop fighting. Never stop chasing your dreams. Never stop following your passion and serving others.  The trick is to be, like the shark, always moving.

On Friday we will celebrate on the island, laugh and trade stories. I’ll forget about stresses for a few hours and allow myself a moment of peace.

That is worth the cost of any degree and the launch for the next step of this journey.

~Matt

Work

I’ve had a few jobs since college. I remember graduating and thinking that companies would somehow get this grand email announcement that I was available to work.  I had no idea that you needed to chase the jobs. My first position was going door to door in the city of Philadelphia selling credit card processing machines.

I learned a lot from my time in the city, and it was enough to know I needed something with stability.  I went from there to a bank and a lawn service company. I transitioned to a hospital through a family connection.  I’ll never forget the day that I decided to start my own business and chase the writing life.

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I believe we all have a calling, a purpose on this planet. We have dreams on our hearts and reasons to wake up in the morning. We must find the courage to chase the dreams.

I had a line I identified with past jobs: when it was worth more to spend time searching than working, I knew it was time for a transition. Every journey starts with one step, yes it is a cliché, but it is true. Choices are powerful things. Momentum can sweep you and those around you towards a common goal. Story creates movement and engagement. Stories are driven by dreams.  It is one large cycle that keeps rotating until you finally decide to take the leap of faith and go for it.

I believe that God has his hands on our dreams and he will bless our progress, even through the dark times. So, if you are feeling the tug on your heart, have the courage to follow it through.

~Matt

The Seed

Every movement starts in a moment. It starts in a moment of choice, the determination to do something and go forward. God places these seeds in our lives throughout the years. I think back to my own life experience and can find the blocks that have landed me here. The rough part of life is that bad and stressful times tend to hang on in our heads much longer than peace and joy.

I went to the library today and picked up Chuck Pagano’s new book.  Chuck is the current head coach of the Indianapolis Colts. You can see a promotional clip from the book below:

He mentions his cancer diagnosis and his battle with the disease. He talks about learning from his fight and that is an important point. We must learn from our difficulties and our struggles.

My wife and I were eating dinner tonight and wondering what we did back in the years when things were simple, back before bills and kids and when the greatest stress was what to do on a Friday night. I’ve been blessed with every moment we’ve had together and yet, I know our hard times have shaped our relationship even more than the easy. We’ve always banded together in adversity. We’ve always faced problems together and handled issues as they arrived.

Life is a refinement process. When the days get dark, when profits slim and doubts creep into your mind, don’t forget that struggles will pass and you will find a seed to generate motivation and movement. Time is important and how you use it can truly determine your destination.

~Matt