Stop, Go, Hear, See

It was like meeting an old friend.

I fired up my laptop computer, waited for it to charge, and started a search that ended about five minutes later.  A novel, one I’d poured myself into about 5 years ago, waited to be finished.  It was time to crack open the pages again and get moving.

I emailed it to myself and, over the past two weeks, have started the process to get back with the story.

The changeover in a year is a traditional time for analysis and examination.  Most people take stock and think about the coming 365 days. There’s a point where you run into a wall and realize it is time to turn around. So, Val and I started the usual efforts.

Going to the gym, clean eating, living with a purpose.

I’ve decided to live with momentum this year. Move forward with purpose.  Pivot around any attempts to disrupt path and progress. It won’t be easy.

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I just finished reading Josh Malerman’s novel Birdbox, the source for the popular Netflix movie with Sandra Bullock.  Honestly, if you’ve seen the movie take the time to read the book.  He’s a skilled writer and the story is that rare combination of pace and depth.  He knows when to ratchet up the tension and carry a balance between exposition and action.

There’s a scene with a dog going crazy that still chills me today and I finished reading it this weekend.

One of the themes of the book,  examined deeper than in the movie, is childhood and how “parenting” is now teaching children to hear and not look, wake up without opening their eyes, and prepare them to hear deeply. Malerman makes the point often that hearing, in this new world, is salvation.  Characters die in their inability to hear, sometimes the lies in conversation and sometimes the monsters at the door.

Vision, in Malerman’s world is dangerous.  What we see is now our death.

How we see can harm us. How we react can harm us.

We make choices daily. Be paralyzed or move forward. Listen to your body now or listen to your future body where you look the way you want.  Listen to your finances now or your future finances with stability and growth.  Choose for now or choose for later.

I’m tired of things I can’t control.  2019 can be a new start.  At 36 I’m ready for new.  This can truly be our best year, for me and for you.

It is time to live without the option of going back.

Want to know why something like Birdbox is so popular? Because it is emblematic of an American feeling.  Burn down the present and restart. Even with a struggle, fight through it and find hope.

Keep moving, listening, and surviving.  One day at a time.

 

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A Thought to Change Your Life

As we grow, we develop filters through which we see our lives. Aiden, at three, sees the world differently than I do.  We spent tonight together playing and watching cartoons. He’ll run his toy trains through imaginary worlds while making sound effects and cheering them on. He trusts people. He’ll follow Carter even if he ends up hurting himself in the process.

He has yet to be spoiled by negativity.

At the moment, I’m making my way through Mark Batterson’s book, If, and it is a powerful process.  In the chapter I read last night, he writes about a shift in perspective that can change your life as you start the new year:

“Spiritually speaking, the tipping point is when you believe, without any reservation, that God if for you.  It is the revelation that God doesn’t just love you, he likes you.”

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We project our life experiences onto God.  One part of psychology believes that we see God as we do our father figures. If our father happened to be vacant, we take the same insight to understanding the one who gave us life and breath.

It is the essence of faith for many.  “If bad things happen, they must be from God as all things are from God and we are clearly being punished.” Entire systems of faith build their towers on this idea as it drives money into offering buckets.

How would your life change if you adapted Batterson’s statement above.  What if God is for you, not just every now and then, but every single moment? What if God cares for you and wants good things for you, for me, and for everyone?

This changes the narrative and breaks down walls of separation.

When I think back on all I’ve done and experienced, that small voice speaks up too quickly and tells me that I’m not worthy.  How can God love me and, especially, how can he like me?

That’s the gift of the cross. The one sacrifice to seal the deal and prove for all time that God has our best interests at heart.

So as you look towards a new year, drive it into your head.  Write it down. Make it part of your daily prayer life. Tell your children, spouse, and family.

God loves you and likes you. Use this is a base for what is coming. Shift your perspective and you’ll see even more fall into place.

It is time for 2016 to change everything.  Let’s make it happen.

~Matt

 

Birthday Favorites for 7/3/2015

Tomorrow I’ll celebrate another year of life. I remember when turning thirty freaked me out.  Now, making my way through my thirties, it has truly been a refining few years.  I’ve felt like I was nearing the end of one season in life and starting a new one. The plot of my family had taken plenty of turns and things are starting to, slowly but surely, clear.

The clouds are lifting.  The journey isn’t over and we are finally seeing progress.

There are still things on the horizon and, I pray, our paths will be straight. I’m thankful for a time of professional, personal, and spiritual development.

Here’s a quick review of the last year and some of my favorites:

Favorite Post:

Why I Believe

Favorite Worship Song(s):

I have a few to pick from so here’s a pair of them:

Promises I lean on:

Jeremiah 29:11-“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”

Proverbs 3:5-6-“Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.”

Family Loss:

Hazel Shaner, “Princess,” my grandmother.  She was the matriarch of our family and lived a full 98 years of life.  She was a great woman and embodied the love of God.  Princess, you will be missed and I know I’ll see you again one day.

Church Tragedy:

The motorcycle accident that took the life of our pastor’s wife Lynn Koch and landed our pastor Bryan Koch in ICU.  This occurred just last month and has caused numerous deep conversations within our family and friends about struggle, suffering, and grace.  You can see one of my posts about it by clicking here.

Looking Forward:

My current book project about poverty and activism in the city of Reading, Pennsylvania (Poorest city in the US in 2011) is in the draft editing phase. I’m excited to lay it out, tighten it up, and get it in front of publishers! It is a non-profit project and I can’t wait to see what God will do with it! There are other developments shaping up to make this next year a big one for us.

I’ve decided to dedicate my writing to God, to give it back to the cause of changing our community, society, and the world.

I dedicate this year to:

~My wife and sons.  Thank you for putting up with a dreamer, father, and husband working to be the best man he can be.  I am nothing without you.

~My audience.  The writing, all of this, is for you to celebrate faith and life in action.  I pray you find hope here, that the words resonate with you and you know, deep in your heart, that you are not alone.

~The dreamers.  The ones looking to do worship, church, creativity, and community differently.  Now is the time for a shift, for open doors and changed lives. Now is a time for authentic service, for unity and hands raised in triumph over hate, discrimination, and violence.

~The writers. If you are making this writing journey with me, I dedicate this next year to you.  We are a community, drawn in by the pen/pencil/keyboard and we do this together.  Never stop writing.

~The soldiers. To everyone I’ve met compiling this book on Reading, this next year is for you.  For the men and women on the front lines of the fight against poverty, this is for you.  For the ones who wake up every morning to serve those in need, this year is for you.  My prayer is that this book shines light on your actions and inspires support through increased volunteers, funding, and effort from an audience around the world.

For everyone that’s taken the time to read my thoughts, thank you for being a part of this community and spending time with me every week.  I’m honored that you stop in and I promise you more content, stories, actions and real connection.

Tomorrow is a new year for me, this blog, and my writing. Come with me and we’ll make the journey together.

~Matt

 

The Measuring Stick: Honestly Breaking Down 2014

This morning I received an email newsletter from Jeff Goins, a writer I follow through social media.  The email included three questions of self-evaluation for 2014.  Now, I know you’ll see plenty of resources offering opinions on setting goals and reflection of the past year.  As you sift through, consider these three questions as the most valuable you’ll find.

Have I settled? Where did I fail? Did I measure the right things?

I spent the day thinking about my answers and it wasn’t an easy process.

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Photo Credit: Auntie P via Compfight cc

Have I settled?

No. I’ve stayed restless.  Every day, living unsettled is my inspiration to launch this outreach, write this book, and make a difference in this community.  My story is just getting started and, in my early 30’s, that is an intimidating thought.

My life this far was a journey of refinement to get here and I truly feel that we, as a family, are close to finally breaking out of our struggles.  So no, I haven’t settled, and I don’t plan on it.

Where did I fail?

1/ I failed Val by checking out emotionally way too much.  I sent my anxiety, worry, and frustrations inside.  I let my shortcomings as a husband shut down my emotions and that is one thing I plan on fixing in 2015.

2/ I failed my sons by not putting in the extra efforts when I was too tired or distracted.  This too, I plan on changing in 2015.

3/ I failed my writing by stalling on the nights I should be attacking and squeezing every word onto the page. My work, and craft, will pick up in 2015.

Did I measure the right things?

This is the hard one, if you take a second and think about it. I don’t believe I measured the right thing. I believe we inherit our measuring sticks in our childhood.  We grow with an instinct to put ourselves up against others.  Watch toddlers playing together when a favorite toy is involved.  You’ll see value being assigned fairly quickly.

I spent too long comparing myself and worrying about the other stories out there that differed from my own. 2015 will be the year of a new focus, a goal to write to make a difference for the highest calling.

I want it to count, for every day to change someone’s life.  If one post, one sentence or thought provides a glimmer of hope, then I’ll consider it a success.  We are called to great things and must start by measuring the right places.

A great place to start is with service.  Who can you help today? For 2015, my goal is to never miss a chance to make a difference in the life of my family, my kids, and my community.

Let the journey begin.

“His master replied, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!'” Matthew 25:23

~Matt