Noise

I just went home for lunch.

Now where I work, I’m afforded the opportunity to do this as it is about five minutes from our house.  We’re in the midst of a winter revival in the northeast so it was nice to get into the warmth of the house for a quick lunch.  As I walked in, Aiden was sitting on the couch.

The living room was dark and he had a movie on Netflix (a total Matt Shaner move). I went to say hello and he shushed me.

“Shhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh.”

I said, why?

“If you talk, Happy won’t sit with me.”  Happy is our cat.  Aiden loves the cat and the cat doesn’t like him.  Yesterday, for the first time, Happy sat on his lap.  This afternoon, he’s angling for a round 2.  He was watching the movie and keeping an eye on the cat, waiting for Happy to make his move.

Noise often disrupts our best intentions.

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We live in a world where we are afraid of the quiet. We’re hammered with images, sensory input from many screens. This normally splits people into two camps.

The first are like Aiden and myself.  There’s a home in the darkness and peace in the stillness. We can stand on a beach at night, breathe in the surroundings and get lost in the waves.

The others are like Carter and my wife.  Get lights on, go towards the lights, thrive in the sensory input. Stand in the midst of Times Square and feel hearts beat in time with the city.

The trouble comes in losing ourselves to both extremes as they can build walls. We defend ourselves with these walls and prevent others from seeing the genuine humanity inside.

I believe there is value in changing dynamics.

This week I had an email conversation with a friend of mine about church.  I told him I’d had this crazy idea. What if church could exist without a building? Without a paid staff? What if it was just random meetings to discuss life, spirituality, the Bible, and build community?  What if it meant random Saturdays doing work on the home of a disabled veteran? Or running a pop up soup kitchen in the middle of a city?

What if speakers were anyone who had something to say? What if worship came from a guitar or piano in the dark corner of a club?  Or a DJ set on the stage?

What if we haven’t scratched the surface of what God wants to do in our lives and in this world? What if a thousand years of history is no more than a heartbeat of practice?

We are standing on the edge of great things and the dreamers and visionaries, regular people with God-sized seeds planted in their souls, will carry us forward. The question is, are we ready to make the journey?

~Matt

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Make Your Hands Clap

My son Aiden loves music.  Not just songs for kids either.  We’ll be riding around in the car and, before I know it, he’s singing along with whatever I have on the radio.  I can listen to pretty much anything but country music so I feel like he’s picked up this quality from me.

The other day the song HandClap came on the radio.  It is the newest release from the band, Fitz and the Tantrums. If you’ve never heard it, check out the lyric video below.

I showed him the video and he insisted I make the hand motions.  On a whim I decided to look up the band and found one of those rare moments of inspiration that can speak into your life.

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Lead singer Michael Fitzpatrick had always loved music.  He studied it throughout school and found his way into a career behind the scenes of recording and production.  He decided, at age 32, to take piano lessons.

This expanded his world musically and led to their first hit, Breaking the Chains of Love, that Fitzpatrick composed on an old church organ he purchased from a friend for $50.00.

Imagine, living more than thirty years with a vague idea of what you want to do and, one day, you decide to take a shot at it. You take a risk and it pays off.

We often go through lives with vague ideas and passions. It takes effort and risk to see the end result. Fitzpatrick could have settled and yet he looked forward.

It takes courage to keep moving when the weight of the world rests on your shoulders. There are times when you get caught up in the circumstances and forget the why that drives you.

Find your joy, even in the future, and chase it down. Don’t settle. There’s no time limit to the race.  You can find it in your twenties, thirties, forties, and onward.

Make sure to stop and clap your hands every once in a while and experience the happiness you find on the way.

~Matt

 

13 Crosses

On Friday, Sue Klebold gave her first television interview since the events of Columbine High School.  Her son Dylan was one of the shooters who rampaged through the school taking the lives of thirteen of their classmates.

Columbine was a turning point.  I remember being in high school at the time, watching news coverage that seemed surreal.  It was the first of the major school shootings and it prompted many copies.  People pointed fingers at the parents of the shooters, mental health issues, even violent music.

Large wounds create a search for answers.

I’m not a Michael Moore fan but, in his documentary Bowling for Columbine, he asks musician Marilyn Manson if he’d have any advice for parents out there. (Manson was a favorite of the shooters).  He replied that he’d tell parents to listen to their kids.  It was a profound response from one of the main targets of society’s disapproval.

That summer I attended the Creation Festival held in Mt. Union, Pennsylvania.  It is the largest christian music festival in the country meeting in two forums, one on the east coast and one on the west. On a hillside during the festival stood thirteen crosses, the original thirteen taken from Columbine to memorialize the victims.

In the seventeen years since, we still look for answers.  We debate issues of gun control and mental health. We digest the concept of forgiveness. We think about the value of listening and wonder if the world will ever get back the innocence lost that morning in Colorado.

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Childhood is not what is used to be.  I spent a few months working in alternative education (part of the school system for students who cannot exist in the regular population). The stories broke my heart more than once.  Each moment I’d think that could never happen, then I’d talk to a fellow employee and find out that it did and a certain kid had survived horrific abuse or worse.

Klebold is writing a book about her experience and donating all profits to mental health research.  I look at my boys and could not imagine.  Where does the scale tip? The questionable new friends? “Aggressive music”? Wanting to be alone? In all the months of planning and acquiring weapons and resources, where do you miss the chance to stop it?

How do you live without massive guilt?

Or do you?

We are called to forgive.  In many ways, it is the door to second chances. We must be attentive. We must build bridges, especially as fathers with young boys. We must listen to our kids.

Small actions have huge consequences. One conversation can inspire your child to help another. One outstretched hand can create a second thought that stops violence. One embrace, a bridge built, can inspire hope.

In the years since Columbine, when reality has shattered childhood as we attempt to rebuild it, hope is needed. I pray that Klebold’s interview and book might get out there and help a parent prevent an act of violence, that it will create conversation as parents and kids figure out this thing called life.

~Matt

What Uptown Funk Teaches Us About Worship

The only way you haven’t heard Mark Ronson and Bruno Mars on the radio is if you’d been under a rock.  Their hit, “Uptown Funk”, has had massive air play. Ronson’s song is a throwback to James Brown and Mars adds the vocals to make it into an instant classic.

So what can we learn from the song about worship?

The Value of Past and Present Together- The first engaging and intimate worship experience happened for Val and I when I was in college.  We attended The Bridge, a service for students that saw over a thousand kids at two different meetings every Sunday night.

The church was blessed with talented musicians. The room was dark, the stage lit by candles. The songs were modern, relevant, and emotional. As you stood in the presence of God you felt a connection to the early church and their worship in the dark under the eyes of governmental persecution.

You Can Dance- A few months ago, we attended a worship concert with Kristian Stanfill.  He covered Chris Tomlin’s song “God’s Great Dance Floor.” The music and the environment had you moving. Now, I know not everyone is down with that level of engagement during worship, but part of connecting with God is experiencing Joy.  When was the last time you felt it?

Keep Looking Forward- As we consider worship in the church today, how will it progress?  Technology will move forward whether or not the church is in step with it. What else could enhance worship? How do we find a balance between multi-sensory engagement and drawing an audience towards God?

Think of the untapped potential. What will worship look like in twenty years? Lights? Sounds? Art? Instruments, voices, and electronics? I can’t wait to find out.

~Matt