Inspiration Week: Day 2

Have the courage to tell your

p356writing.com

My book, Lazarus Art, is available for free for a limited time starting tomorrow.  If you’d enjoy a book that will change your writing life, check it out. If a friend or family member is a writer, it makes a great inspirational gift.  Pick up a copy or two and pass them on!

~Matt

Live Dangerous

I love James Bond. Even growing up and catching the Bond movie marathons on Saturday afternoons. From Connery to Daniel Craig, the character is a classic hero.  He gets the beautiful woman, cool toys, and victory in the end, driving around in the newest Aston Martin. He faces danger on a daily basis.

Then I look in the mirror and realize how far away I am from the tuxedo and Casino Royale.

CRAFT

Are you taking risks?

I’m not talking facing down a bad guy.

What dreams haunt you in the night as your spouse sleeps at your side and the house settles? What conversations are waiting to happen?

What is a dangerous life?

It is being a parent and going the extra mile when you don’t have an ounce of energy left.  It is standing up for a coworker when they face times of trouble.  It is stepping out in faith and radical love that demolishes the walls of race, creed, and orientation.

It is going against the grain, against expectations, and seeing your ideal life play out before you.

There is peace in danger, in movement. There is energy in the flow that draws us forward.

So join the game, sit down at the table, throw on your tuxedo and order your martini shaken, not stirred.

Make a goal of taking a risk this week and see where it takes you.

~Matt

 

What We Get Wrong

tranquility

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

Here I Am, Send Me

This season, in our lives, is one of shifting times on multiple fronts. We’re facing developments professionally and personally.  The boys are changing and growing. Aiden has fully embraced the terrible 2’s.

We are riding the waves of life. In these moments it can be a challenge to keep focused and not get frustrated.

here i am, send me...

Every moment I first sit at the keyboard, I send up a silent prayer.

Please let the words make a difference and let me never forget to tell my story.

I was seated in the office of County Commissioner Christian Leinbach the other morning.  I asked him about his motivations and background as a government official who is also a believer.  He quoted a pair of verses from Proverbs 31:

Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves,
    for the rights of all who are destitute.
Speak up and judge fairly;
    defend the rights of the poor and needy.

Everyone deserves a voice at the table, even if they can’t speak.  Our job as writers is to give them voice and let their words take flight.  We are tasked with making words that change things, whether it is inspiring our spouse, children, coworkers, or the public.

Those of us who are genuine do it to make a difference, they do it in the dark nights before selling a single copy or putting a single page in front of a reader and waiting for their response.

We also must remember that our story is our own. The gut instinct is to find value in comparisons. The secret is, they don’t matter.  You were given a story to tell. It is different from every other one on the planet.  When you try to change your story to fit a different one, you lose authenticity.

In the uncertain and tumultuous times, you press on.  Raise your hand in the static. Answer the calling.

Go forward.

Pressure is progress. Change is good. The future will be here before we open our eyes to recognize it.

Don’t miss your chance.

~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

A Glass Jar City

The sky was the color of slate, rain tapping against the windows.  I was seated in the office of Peter Barbey, CEO of the Reading Eagle Company.  The organization produces print and online media for the Reading and Berks County region. The room is a page from Mad Men, furnished from a different time when journalists could not conceive of a concept like digital content.

Barbey’s family has roots in the area going back through two centuries.  His interest is professional and personal.  He is a student of history, politics, and numbers, the perfect combination for a captain of media.  We flank a small circular table, issues of Berks Country and Business Weekly framed over Barbey’s right shoulder on the wall.

“Reading is a glass jar city,” he says, picking up an imaginary jar in his hand. “We put all the poverty, addiction, homelessness and other stuff in one spot, flip the jar,” he turns his hand over, ” and say ‘deal with it.'”

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Photo Credit: frankieleon via Compfight cc

Throughout the journey of this book, the Problem in Reading has taken many forms.  The list is lengthy and detailed.  Industry has fled to the suburbs. The school district is struggling with a lower tax base. Crime increased with poverty. Immigration has changed the face of the businesses and streets.

The deepest issue may be in mind of those under and around the jar.  How do we break down walls and heal wounds? How do we have the difficult conversations about race and responsibility?

How do we change the soul of a city founded before the Revolutionary War?

The process will not be easy.  It will take men like Barbey with the resources and connections to get the ball rolling, challenge old standards, and usher the city into a new era.

It will take time and, at the moment, time may not be on Reading’s side. The glass walls will shatter when the tide turns.  Until then, we stand on the shore and wait, watching the waves crest on the horizon.

~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

Finding Mystery in Marriage

Val and I have spent sixteen years together and, in this May, we’ll be married eight years. As I normally do in the mornings, I found myself browsing the news today. I came across an article titled 9 Small, But Overlooked Things That Put Your Marriage At Risk Every Day. Besides the title that, somehow, made it through an editor, the author had some interesting points.  You can find it here.

The author, Suzanne Jannese, writes about talking to each other, offering encouragement, and uplifting your spouse.   One thing she mentions that stuck with me was a point about reaching the Roommate Stage.

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Photo Credit: Vi-Ka via Compfight cc

When the kids arrive, the Roommate Stage is way too easy to find.  We burn our energies at jobs and childcare. We run to the playground at night, chase kids for two hours, and come home exhausted.  Date Nights fade from the calendar as one week goes to the next. You start to finish thoughts and sentences for each other.

You move from trying to impress your spouse to pure survival mode.

Finding the mystery in marriage is important and not easy. The Date Nights must reappear to the calendar. Whether a local restaurant or a big time concert. Go somewhere new and discover your next romantic dinner.

Work on yourselves physically and emotionally. Val and I have started a program recently.  It may only be an hour or so a few times a week but, it is time we are guaranteed together.

The key is to have a foundation before you rediscover the mystery. Comfort is not a bad thing. All relationships have peaks and valleys. Some days, the mystery is how Val has the patience to deal with me and the boys. If you don’t have a well of love and connection to draw from, the search for mystery can put lethal stress on a marriage.

I’m blessed to say I’ve found a partner to search with me.

~Matt

Paris is Full of Surprises

Elisabeth von Thurn und Taxis is Vogue‘s style editor at large. She’s my age and has been in the position since 2012. She is also a member of a royal family.  She posted a picture on her Instagram on Saturday from Paris and Fashion Week.  The picture showed a homeless person reading a copy of the magazine with the caption, “Paris is full of surprises…and @voguemagazine readers even in unexpected corners!”  You can find coverage of it here.

The irony in this situation could fill more than a single post and it shines a light on a deeper issue.

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Photo Credit: Jonttu Leskinen via Compfight cc

The news article I mentioned above calls out the contradiction of Fashion Week as a spectacle of consumption with the presence of the homeless population in and around the city.  The contradiction of Paris is often played out in our own lives.

We all have reward mechanisms. Go long enough without rewarding yourself and the impulse will kick in. Some people go big and others go small.  It can be good or bad, from a workout to a cigarette.  Addicts hit their reward impulse without reservation and it can destroy their lives.

As people of faith, we struggle with delayed gratification.  We tell ourselves that things will happen in God’s time, as we watch others get promotions, cars, vacations, etc.

The cycle can shift with a moment of recognition.

Elisabeth von Thurn und Taxis saw her magazine and not the homeless person reading it. In my time researching and interviewing for my current project, I’ve had a chance to visit the front lines of charities and hear their stories.  When you see someone crying over a pair of donated socks for their new baby, you understand that there are concerns deeper than yours.

You notice the person holding the magazine.

When you see every part of your community, you are inspired to do something about it.  When you give, God’s time stops haunting your worries and starts driving you forward. You become a part of a greater movement.

Suddenly it all matters.

~Matt