A New Heart

I am an only child.

Usually, when I impart that bit of information on someone, they come up with a variety of conclusions.  Only children are spoiled. They never had to share anything. They grew up lonely.

I don’t know how many of these are true, at least not for me.  The internal life I may have gained from being an only child most certainly helped me on the path to being a writer.  It made me an observer, someone willing to sit outside the crowd and watch what happens.

I have a few cousins, though, and one is my closest older relative in age.  Her and I were always close.  We mourned together when our grandparents passed away a few years ago. She is someone I can not see for months and automatically restart a conversation when we meet like it was yesterday.

As of this week, she is now on the transplant list waiting for a new heart.

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Heart is a weighted term. We talk about people “having no heart.” The world is filled with broken hearts, mended hearts, new hearts and old hearts. We know some walking through life as “cold-hearted.”

A few things have happened over the last two weeks that have tested my faith.  I prayed, as I’m still doing, for God to be present in a way that it is only possible and clear to be him.  I prayed for a life where faith is no longer confused with a noun, but only a verb.

These longings have shut doors and opened new ones.

Why is it so hard? We latch our hands so far in this world that we ignore the cry of our heart and soul for adventure, passion, engagement and creativity. We are content to hold in a survival pattern and just make it through.

We are waiting on the transplant list, staring at our cell phone willing it to ring.

Then God answers. Things fall apart.  The Creator tells us to step out and risk, leave the details to the one skilled in painting the art of our daily lives, setting up the camera shots of the epic movie of faith.

Tonight isn’t easy. This week isn’t easy. This month may not end easy, but the fight continues.  I’ll still pray, still look forward, still strive to live faith as a verb and not a noun, still want a life that can only be accomplished by the interjection of God.

I want the answer to be clear; that it wasn’t me.  That, in the midst of suffering, we leaned on God and he carried us through. The transplant will happen. The phone will ring if we are willing to be embraced by the vastness of God’s love and grace.

A new heart will happen.  It will happen for her and for us, for my family and yours. Never give up. Never stop fighting. Never lay down after you stumble in fear of rising again.

New life is coming. Stand strong. Keep moving. Walk forward and see what tomorrow brings.

 

 

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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

 

A Faith of Mondays

“You hit my car.”

I listened to the conversation from across the room.  Two women, one arriving and one leaving.  The one attempting to leave waited for the driver of the van, confronting her as she sat down.

“You hit my car.  There’s white paint on the door and you hit it.  You parked so close I can’t even get in.”

After a pair of hushed sentences, both stepped back outside.  Ten minutes later, the cops arrived.

It was a Monday.

I, like Garfield, hate Mondays. He spent many a comic strip lamenting the start of the week. Sunrise on a Monday meant five more days of school or work. In the professional world, Mondays carried an extra bit of edge. People sat at their desks and talked about the weekend, wishing it could be Friday once more.

Mondays are obligation, picking up the path that we can’t avoid.  Carter will tell me, on Sunday nights, how much he doesn’t want to go to school the next day.  I tell him that he doesn’t have a choice, that it is the law (met with a loud and dramatic “Awe daddddddddddddd”).

Has our faith turned into a case of the Mondays?

In the Bible, we read about Daniel. Daniel was a man of elevated status, following God in a land not accepting to his beliefs. He was an outsider, a “sheep among the wolves.” Twice he faces death, once in a den of lions and once in a fiery furnace.  Both times he comes out alive with help from God.

One of my favorite television shows is Supernatural.  Jensen Ackles and Jared Padalecki play brothers Sam and Dean Winchester as they hunt all variety of evil things and attempt to save the world.  They contact angels, demons, deities, and other sources well used for dramatic effect.  Death, played by Julian Richings, is a main force and character on multiple seasons of the show. In an episode, he bets Dean Winchester (Ackles) that he cannot take being Death for one day. Dean takes him up on the bet and finds himself lacking the ability to succeed.

Imagine, being Death for one day. Knowing you will impact the eternal destination of anyone you touch. Knowing your words and action will change the world forever.

It may not be standing in a den of lions or walking laps in a furnace.  It may not be facing a gunman on the campus of a college in Oregon. You may never find yourself in one of these places but your significance is still the same.

How do we break a Faith of Mondays?

Make the most of it. Every action is intentional. Every conversation has meaning, from work to school and home.  Every family dinner is a treasure. Every dream is worth following if you do it to change the world and serve those around you.

Time is not on your side. Time is a transaction. Oh, you can work out and eat right all you want but we all have expiration dates. We get an allotment of space on this spinning globe. As followers of Jesus, we can find a comfort zone too quickly. We think that there’s always tomorrow. We can pray tomorrow, read more tomorrow, contact that friend in need tomorrow. Tomorrow is never guaranteed. Look at those students in Oregon. Their families will be changed forever.

Embrace the heat. Shift back to a dangerous faith. Take a stand in radical love that breaks societal boundaries. Be the person of faith that doesn’t fall in line with stereotypes. We follow a teacher that changed the world, one standing against every accepted construct of the day. He existed outside expectations from friends, family and authorities. He was life and love incarnate. He forgave. He healed. He opened eyes and hearts. The blind would see, the lame walk, the dead live again.

He did all this as a marked man.

We are all marked, for faith cannot exist without suffering and struggle. We are refined by fire.  Daniel didn’t get a free pass.  He still felt the heat and heard the roars of the lions. We are told to keep walking, that we will never be alone or forsaken.

Does that make you feel courageous or content? Power or peace?

Personally, I’ve spent too much time chasing contentment. I’m ready for courage, for power in faith to not settle.  I’m ready to move.

Are you?

~Matt

The End of Boring

This afternoon I had to go and pick up a refill of Val’s medicine at the local Target pharmacy.  I left work and drove over with thirty minutes to spare before I needed to get Carter from after school childcare. The pharmacy, as per the usual practice, did not have the refill ready so I ambled around the store to kill time.

I stopped at the magazines and, in the current Men’s Health edition, they surveyed a large segment of women and found that they were bored in their marriages. The writer offered a number of suggestions to spice up the situation, but the underlying issue remains.

How many of us are bored with our marriages, our jobs, our lives, or our walks with God?

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We are beings hard-wired to chase satisfaction.  Addicts find it many different ways, from money to fitness and drugs. We demand value and will sacrifice whatever it takes. Talk to the bully or the one throwing themselves at others for acceptance. We want to be wanted and in control.

At the same time, we want to consume.  Our drive to gratification demands one more minute on the phone, one more text message, one more status update or photo upload. And don’t wait because, in the minute you put your phone down, you could miss a friend’s baby picture or workout status and clean meal of the morning.

Maybe we’re missing the point.

Bored is focused inwards.

Passion is focused on them.

Passion is about what we give to a situation, whether a job, family, marriage, or faith walk.  Want to light up your days? Think about what you can do for someone else.  Tip the scales the other direction.  Sacrifice your time for a greater goal.

Donate. Create. Shape your contribution and release it into the world.

So tonight, if you are living in a stagnant situation, there is time for change.  There is time to step out of your comfort zone. Time to give, to enter a new situation and make it better.

Anyone can sit back and consume.

The time for waiting is over.  Take a small step and do something for a friend or family member or, even better, someone you don’t know. See what happens.

A life of epic faith, love, family, and passion is possible.  It takes one day of change at a time.  Let tomorrow be your Day One and see what happens.

~Matt

Calling

Make tomorrow different.

Do it because you can. Because you don’t know if you’ll have Friday.  Because somewhere, someone is sitting in the darkness of their home regretting the fact that they didn’t do it.

Ignore the doubts. Silence the critics. Choose what voices matter and keep them close.

Find your idea. Ignite a new passion. Connect with friends and make partnerships.

Do it because it is in your history, in your blood going back through the generations.

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Do it because you were called to fight, because somewhere three hundred years ago people decided to rise up and claim their freedom. Do it because this year a soldier didn’t make it home to their family.

Do it because someone believes in you. Your mother. Your father. Your children look up to you and see inspiration.

Close your eyes.

See your goal.

Take that first step. Lace up the sneakers and hit the track. Set up the meeting with the perspective investors and put your idea on the table and know, even if they say NO, it only means they weren’t the right ones and there’s an entire country waiting to support you.

Do it because time is short. Because giving matters. Because tonight a kid is hungry somewhere and your success could inspire someone to give back and their donation could help put food in the fridge. Because a person you haven’t met needs to know your story and understand that

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is

hope.

When the sun rises and the alarm sounds, open your eyes. Draw a breath and be thankful because your work isn’t complete. You are needed. You have another chance to make a difference.

Do it because the fear of success is greater than the fear of failure. Because you are worth having a dream, chasing it down, grasping it and never letting go.

Hear that? That small voice in the silence? That voice speaking in your heart whenever you close your eyes and listen? That thrumming in your soul pulses out a beat driving you forward, waiting, coiled and ready to expand and explode.

That voice is the calling.  Will you respond?

~Matt

The Push

If you are bored, try this.

Do an informal survey.  Ask you family, coworkers, and friends a simple question:

Are you happy?

Wait and listen to their responses.  I promise you will learn something.

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You’ll have conversations about missed dreams, tossed away passions, and regret for the passing of time. You’ll hear people who settled into a career and, rather than knowing it theirs they settled and spent their years clocking in and out, going on summer vacations, and slowly climbing the corporate ladder.

In each talk, in the spaces of unspoken words and covered emotions you’ll find The Push.

The Push is the moment God revealed a divine calling, a passion that affirms life. You’ll hear it in the language.

“I wish I could do that again. If I just had the chance, I would…, At this point, I only have a few years and I’ll retire!”

I don’t know about you but I think it is time to end the talk and start the action. Too many people are missing out on life, on their calling and their passion.  Too many people have settled for the safe route. There’s a reason that creatives celebrate the road not taken.

It is the fire that can light us to burn for an eternity.

Our job is two-fold: to answer the call and help others do the same.

~Matt