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

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The Anger Addiction

I’ve spent a few years working in the medical field, from emergency medicine to rehabilitation and a doctor’s office.  In this time, I’ve met a ton of people and had the chance to see the highest moments of positivity and the darkest times of grief. People often stand at a crossroads.  They can overcome and find themselves better than before they arrived.

Or they can drown in their sickness.

Today I listened to an amazing sum of conversations and it hit me.

When did we get so angry?

As a culture we’ve become obsessed with it.  Watch daytime talk shows. Listen to the politicians.  We love angry people.  Pick up a cause and yell about it, in digital or real form, and you’ll find an audience.

As a church, we’ve embraced it.  If everyone can be offended, why not us?

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There’s a scene in The Godfather, one of my favorite movies (I’m a guy, it is required) where Al Pacino is sitting at his child’s baptism.  As he goes through saying the words, the shot cuts to various murders that Pacino’s character has ordered.  As he renounces the devil, he kills those who oppose him.

It works because of the contrast and the pull at human nature.  Who hasn’t wanted to get back at our enemies, to even the scales, to repay wrongs in prime, Old Testament fashion?

Jesus, the one we all do our best to follow.

The writer Donald Miller posted an excellent article on his blog about Learning to Walk Away.  He talks about the story of Jesus and the young rich man.  How, when the young man rejects his offer of salvation, Jesus walks away.  He didn’t hang out. He didn’t yell, argue, post smart Facebook comments and info-graphics.

He walked away.

Today I made a goal.  I would improve someone’s day when we interact.  Whether that person was Val, Carter, Aiden, or a patient I’m registering.  I would make their day better.  It didn’t matter if they were angry, upset, sad, or annoyed.  I’d do my best.

It won’t be easy.

Right now society is focused on what following Jesus isn’t. We need to revolutionize and embrace what it is.

Break the addiction of anger. Be less jaded. Open our arms. Love when it is hard. Forgive when it seems impossible.  Lay down our lives and pick up our crosses.  They’ll know us by our love.  Not our offense, our politics, money, donations, organizations, or righteous indignation. They’ll know us by our love.

A love without end, that supports everyone in our community, that acts against the logic of this world. When we pick up our crosses we drop our anger.  You can’t hold both.

It is time to choose.

~Matt

The Compass

I was sitting in an office at Hope Rescue Mission interviewing a resident.  He had lived years of his young life dealing with addiction and crime, illness and death. After listening to his story, he mentioned that he was enrolled in the local community college.

I asked what he was taking.

“Addiction counseling and social work” he said, “I just thought I could give back, you know?”

His life had shifted.

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In the midst of suffering, we feel thrown off the path. The way becomes blurry. Questions that were easy now present problems. Cooking dinner, at the end of the day, looks like a doctoral thesis.

Our pain points are our compass. They are construction signs better than any orange cones on the highway.

They are God’s arrows showing us the way to go.

The trick is to keep moving. How could you give back? What fires have you braved that you could help others put out? How can you turn the emotions into life for someone else who may be in the midst of the same?

We have a choice.  No matter how deep in the darkness, we always have a choice.

Your first step towards reclaiming faith and life in action is seeing a new target and new purpose. It can be the light you need for the next chapter of the journey.

~Matt

Inspiration Point

A new post series will be starting today and continuing on the weekends.  They’ll be a short hit of inspiration, from an image to line of a song or video.  My hope is that they’ll serve as a moment of encouragement for the the new week to come.

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A line from Val’s favorite worship song, Oceans. When the storm is raging, don’t forget to keep your eyes above the waves to the change that is coming.

~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

A Beautiful Collision

“The numbers were bad.  Some were made up. They had pluses where there should have been minuses. It took time, but they’re back in shape.”

I was on the phone with Gordon Mann from Public Financial Management.  PFM is serving as the Act 47 coordinator for the city of Reading. Mann’s passion is for the numbers.  His voice is confident and my pen rushes to keep up with the accounting information we discuss.

Act 47 is a governmental designation here in Pennsylvania saying the city is in fiscal emergency. Mann’s company must guide it back from the steps of ruin. He breaks the image down into understandable chunks. The only solution is cutting wherever possible. Contraction, not expansion.

Not popular terms for politicians promising assertive action to make things right again, to get the homeless off the streets and into jobs.

Two opposing forces are here moving towards collision.

Promises versus reality. Action and reaction. Faith during another night in the cold, unemployed with no answer in sight.

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We live our years here as followers of Jesus, a Savior calling us to shed our old selves and pick up a new cross.  The Bible tells the story of more than once of the rich man asking about entrance to Heaven.  Jesus advises him to sell everything and give the proceeds to the poor.

Not a story that makes us comfortable.

So where do we stand on the line?  Are we holding tightly to something we are called to release?

Both of my sons love their pillows.  They have favorite blankets that must be on the bed for any chance of sleep.

Where do we find peace?

I’m feeling the challenge this week to live in the midst of the conflict.  To lay down my insecurities, pick up my Cross and start walking. Cutting our comforts for an active faith is never easy.

This is why Monday is a huge day for P356. The next step of this outreach has arrived. I’ll have a post Monday morning with all the details.

For now, I’m standing at the starting line.

Will you join me?

~Matt