The Open Hand

Today at church we started a series on Detours, those moments you find yourself off the path of life.  We all have them.  Some detours just knock you a block over and some are severe, causing a journey far out of the way.

The pastor mentioned the route Israel took leaving Egypt and making their way to the Promised Land.  It was not straight and direct. It was a “roundabout” way. It was a journey of internal work, progress of change through something not to something.

In this process we read that God leads with a hand outstretched.  Pastor Jason Mitchell made an excellent observation that our view of God’s hand is usually one of two ways.  It is either shaking hands in making a deal.  Or the open and calming presence of a father to his child. Each one impacts your view of faith.

You may see God as a deal-maker. If I just _______ enough it will all work out, heal, go away, come back, pay off, jump on, add up, respond, whatever you may need.  If I do what I need then God has to come through. When you have this view and a major detour strikes, your faith evaporates.  You hang on the WHY question.  Why did God not do what he’d promised when we made the deal. Why did God not come through.

When you see God as the father, your view shifts.  You flip the question from Why is this happening to What does God want to do in me. The one question answers the other.

pexels-photo-65440

Fortunes have been made by pastors pushing God as deal maker. Books have been sold. Seminars booked. Checks cashed. There’s a power dynamic so appealing to people looking for control, for the deal offers control.  If we can just be good enough, God will come through.

When Val and I dealt with a miscarriage in 2018, this was me.  I had nothing to say to God. My deal maker hadn’t held up his end of the bargain. Even though I’d made progress, even though my faith had grown, even though I’d thought I’d matured as a believer, there was still work to be done.

This morning, the nail was driven home.  I realized he was right.  My pillars built up over the years were wrong.  My God is not the one of the deal.

My God is one of outstretched hands with big dreams, plans and visions.  Words that reach nations. Legacy with impact. My God is not the one of control. My path is not A to B.  It is the roundabout journey through the desert.

Jesus offers no deals.

Follow me. Do Not Be Afraid. I have overcome the world.

So go forward and enjoy the work. When the detours come, know the job is not yet finished.  You are still being refined for greater things. For life and life to the fullest.

For the journey not yet written, the path not yet taken, and bridges not yet built.

 

 

Legacy

Michael Hyatt is an interesting figure.  He was the CEO and President of Thomas Nelson Publishers, leaving the industry to start on his own as a businessman on the internet.  His blog/podcast is worth following (one of the top in the field) and his writing is motivational and faith-based.

Tonight I listened to a podcast where Hyatt was interviewed about his new book, Living Forward.  He stated that the book is based on three important questions.  I heard the first before the boys were acting up enough that I had to pause the podcast.

He asked, how do you want to be remembered at your funeral?

pexels-photo-25366

It is almost a cliché but, after thinking about it, the topic has merit.  He asked, on the podcast, if your friends and family were gathered at your funeral what kind of conversations would you hear?

This afternoon we had one of Carter’s baseball games.  It had rained all morning and, two hours before the game, stopped to give way to wind and sunshine. The boys played well.  They went to the adjacent playground as I watched and gave them some time, thinking about the big picture.

I’d like my legacy to be three-headed.

First, I want to be a cornerstone of our family.  I want to be someone our boys came to in times of trouble.  I want to be a resource, to have had an active relationship with them as they became men with families of their own.  I want them to be proud of me as a father.

Secondly, I want my writing to have meant something to an audience, to have someone say “that book, blog post or devotional helped me through a rough time.” I want to know the words hit home and made a life better.

Finally, I want them to say I was a man of faith and community. I want deep roots in a church family, friends to laugh and cry with, and the strength that comes with years. When my grandfather passed, my grandmother said “he had a rough night.” At his funeral she put a rose on the chest of his suit.  She knew she would see him again and it helped process the loss of a seventy-year marriage.

This is all a work of progress and purpose, one happening on a daily basis. I’m praying for more focus and less drift, as Hyatt calls it.I’m praying to move forward and make the most of each new day.

Our legacies start now.

~Matt

 

Why We Write: To Leave a Legacy

Everything we do leaves an imprint in the universe.  Every statement and action, breath and thought come together and impact the world.  We write to make this impact, to change things and leave a lasting imprint for generations to come.  Creating a legacy is a divine purpose and operates in a dichotomy of forward and backwards movement.

Let me explain.

One night I was sitting in the dining room at Ender’s Island Retreat next to Da Chen.  Chen is an author, artist, lawyer by education, musician, and all-around awesome guy.  He asked me what my thesis novel was about.  I proceeded on this lengthy explanation of plot and characters, running through the story as he watched and listened.  I finally stopped and took a breath.

“You know what your novel is about?” he asked, “it is about being a father.  You teaching your boys how to be a man.”

Chen has written a selection of award-winning novels including, Colors of the Mountains, Brothers, and My Last Empress. His works are textual paintings, brush strokes of scenery and richness detailing his past and the past of his native China. Part of his writing legacy is casting his glance backwards and capturing what he sees from memory and history.

His comment was perfect.  The novel was my glance backwards, analyzing my past and teaching my boys about their future.

2398572388_0c19999959

Photo Credit: kevin dooley via Compfight cc

I met another good friend the first night of my first residency on Ender’s.  Colin Hosten is a skilled author, professor, and activist.  I’ve had the pleasure of hearing him read more than once and tell the story of his past on the island of Trinidad. We roomed together that first residency and I’ve met very few people so easygoing and friendly.

One of the main points of his writing has been efforts to see his marriage with his husband validated by a change in law, capped with the end of the Defense of Marriage Act in 2013. His words capture the fire and passion of an activist.

His legacy, and his words, are changing the world moving forward.

As you look at the blank page, consider what legacy you want to leave.  Can you look back at the past or is it too painful? Can you look forward and blaze a new path, pick up a new cause or accomplish a new goal?

All it takes is a first step, one word, and the time is now.

Soundtrack Inspiration: A classic from Van Halen.  This video has been around a long time and most of the messages still apply, regardless of how they make us feel.

What Will be Your Legacy?

I love movies.  Before the years when I had to get a summer job, I would walk to the local West Coast Video and rent movies multiple times a week.  I love getting lost in visual stories, arresting atmospheres, and conflict beyond anything I’ve experienced.  The best movies pull you out of reality and usher you into the suspension of disbelief. Take something like The Matrix for example.  That trilogy took society by storm and made people genuinely question the deeper levels of existence.  This love led me to take a semester of screenwriting in Fairfield’s MFA program and complete a full length screenplay.

I believe that movies can teach us about life.  One of the films that hits every qualification on my list is The Gladiator from the year 2000.  Russel Crowe plays Roman general Maximus, betrayed by the emperor and sold into slavery.  His family is killed and, as a gladiator fighting in the Coliseum, he works to win his freedom and get revenge. You can see the trailer below and, if you listen closely, guess at the topic of this post.

Crowe’s character says, in a classic movie speech:

“What we do in life echoes in eternity.”

As a man, this idea is important in three areas:

Father: Your children notice everything.  Sit with that for a second.  They notice every word, glance, action, and expression.  They absorb your very presence and use it to fuel their growth into adults.  They will use your example to make choices and parent their own children one day.  Your actions echo into their lives.

Husband: There’s a reason you stand in front of a pastor, priest, judge, religious official, etc. to get married.  It is a serious commitment.  As much as your children notice everything, your spouse notices even more.  I can try to hide things, but Val sees through my defenses.  We’ve loved, suffered, healed, and grown together. As men, we are told to operate on two fronts: leading and serving.  We are to guide our families and, in the same moment, show them selfless love. It is not an easy job.

Faith: Our walk with God is a marathon, not a sprint.  It is a path filled with mountains and valleys. If you don’t know God and are in the midst of your search, know this: There is an answer to your questions. There is filler to your empty spaces, as large as the universe and as intimate as the oxygen you inhale. Your choice is faith will echo for your own eternity.

As men, we are called to be servant leaders. We may suffer. We may lose everything but we can never lose hope. There is always something worth fighting for. Every day, every step, every word and deed will echo into eternity. When your time is over, what legacy will you leave?

 “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” John 16:33

Soundtrack Inspiration: