What You Will Find Here

Inspired by a video on Donald Miller’s blog, I decided to write a mission statement and clarify what you will find when you visit here.  A speaker on his blog stated that churches need to remember every Sunday is someone’s first Sunday. This post is inspired by that idea and comes in preparation for the launch of my new book and author website coming soon.

Who I Am:

A husband and father of two amazing boys.  I am making my way on this journey of life riding the ups and downs while figuring out what it all means and finding joy in the process. I obtained a certification to teach English and, in 2014, completed my MFA in Creative Writing from Fairfield University in Connecticut. I’m learning to be a better husband and father every week and, I hope, take some steps forward as much as I stumble.

What I Do:

My writing covers a range of topics, from inspirational to parenting, sports, creativity, culture and media. I’ve written everything from screenplays to novellas, novels and devotionals.

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What I Believe:

I try my best to follow Jesus.  I believe that we are not perfect. We will all struggle in life and we will learn from our struggles.  I believe everyone deserves a second chance and that forgiveness can change the world.  I believe the church gets it wrong just as much as it gets it right.  I believe we are all searching to complete the sentences of our lives. We do this in different ways, from addictions to spending and chasing fleeting value.

I believe in the mystery of faith, that we may not ever have all the answers. I believe we all have the power to love and to hurt, even those behind the pulpit on Sundays. Our goals should be to make a difference, to know that Jesus sought out people like us and that the Holy Spirit gives us courage and power to face every new morning.

Mission Statement:

Proverbs 3:5-6

“Trust in the Lord with All your Heart and lean not on your own understanding.  Acknowledge him in all things and he will make your paths straight.”

In the summer of 2014, I was struck with a choice: chase a traditional career in writing or give back this gift to God and see how he unleashes it in my life.  In chose the second option and that led to my current project, an account of fighting poverty in the city of Reading, Pennsylvania.

I want all of you to be inspired, to find hope, to know they are not alone and that their voice matters. Everyone counts.  Jesus showed us that and, even though we bury it under politics and religion, the truth remains.  Everyone counts. Every life has the potential to make a difference.

Every story matters to God.

Where to Start:

To get a good sense of my writing, start with here with a digital copy of my book on writing called Lazarus Art. Starting March 5th it will be free on Amazon.  You’ll find additional work there also including a new devotional coming by the end of the month.  If you enjoy what you find here, feel free to share with friends and loved ones needing hope.

What is Coming:

A new author website and devotional.  The launch of Glass Jar City, a Year in the Fight to Save Reading, Pennsylvania, a nonprofit publication and a special chance to raise money for those in the daily battle to defeat poverty and start those struggling on a path of new life.  Personalized ministry materials for individual and group study.

More work, new worship, deep conversation and a dive into the search for truth.

Thank you for spending some time here and I hope you enjoy your weekend.

Worship Song Inspiration:

~Matt

Choose Against Yourself

A friend of mine, Dan Clouser, is founder and president of the Big Vision Foundation. Big Vision started as Berkshire Baseball by Dan and his friends from high school.  They were a bunch of guys, he says, trying to figure out how to keep living their glory days on the baseball diamond.

Now, years later, the Big Vision Foundation holds a number of seasonal tournaments in various sports. It is centered on a sports complex currently undergoing a multi-million dollar upgrade.   It generates more than $7 million dollars a year in tourism and income for Berks County.

Dan and his friends could have sat around telling stories but they decided to do something different. He chose against himself.

In Mark Batterson’s book, If, he writes about choosing against yourself.

It is the difference between the status quot and radical change, sameness and resistance, putting in the work when everyone else has gone home for the night.  It is what shifts us from regrets to dreams and visions.

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We all face inborn narratives. We inherit the stories that become our identities before we ever arrive on this planet, shaped by past generations. Every day is a choice. Every moment the scale swings between past and future, what we know and what our faith says about us.

So why break routine and choose against yourself?

It is the key to destroying the bonds that hold us down. Whether addiction or poverty, anger or sorrow.  It is recognizing that the old ways no longer work and the new has come. Because Jesus tells us in Matthew 16:

I will build my church and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.

This is a proactive statement. This is not playing it safe, settling into a routine that keeps us out of what God has planned.  This is not sitting on the bench.  It is stepping up and doing something about it.

It is making a difference, finding a cause, pulling closer to the divine purpose placed in your heart.  It is victory because the darkness shall not prevail, there is no condemnation for those in Christ, and if God is for us, who can be against us?

Today make a choice, just one, against yourself.  Take a step forward. Break routine. Your old stories may not turn into a Foundation changing the lives of thousands of children and athletes like Dan’s, but it will be something even more, a move of eternal impact and significance unique specifically to you.

Your story is waiting. Choose against yourself and let’s get started.

~Matt

The Gift of Not Having to Say Thank You

I’ve written before about my love for the television show Supernatural. On Friday night, as I watched one of the episodes from the tenth season, an exchange of dialogue hit me.

Sam and Dean, brothers played by Jensen Ackles and Jared Padlecki, are riding in a car going to hunt down the latest monster of the week.  In the midst of a rainy drive they are discussing the events of the past few episodes, moments where Sam had gone to great lengths to save Dean.

Ackles, perfectly in character, mentions that he never said thanks for being saved.

Padelecki looks at him, pauses for a moment, and replies:

“You never have to say that.  Not to me.”

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The moment works on many levels.  From brother to brother, it says that one will always be there.  Family stands high enough to mean there isn’t a need to say thank you.  You’ll always be there, regardless.

It also means that gratitude is understood and that things will be okay.

The idea of not having to say thank you works against everything we’ve put front and center in society. We demand recognition for our efforts and our input. The ones spending their lives in service to others know and understand that this dynamic fails.

This Tuesday, in Reading, a team of volunteers will gather to serve meals to those in need in an event called Cups of Compassion. The individuals I met during this past year of book research will fill some of the spots on this team.  They spend often more than forty hours a week in the world of the poor, ill, beaten down, and distressed.

They go to work every week, go home at night, and go back to do it again in the morning.  They see their clients often fall off the wagon of sobriety and end up incarcerated, in the hospital, or in the graveyard.

These warriors, ones like Sherry Camelleri, Rob Turchi, Frank Grill, Steve Olivo, Sharon Parker, Dan Clouser and Craig Poole and the staff at United Community Services, Berks County Prison, Berks Women in Crisis, Service Access Management, Opportunity House and other shelters in the city all do what they do without the expectation of thanks.

They do it because they care.  They will always be there.  They understand the need to save and their abilities to make it reality. They change lives with selfless love that embodies this time of year.

We can follow their lead and give back, all without expectation or condition.

For the need will never go away. We must rise to fight, step to the line, and give the gift of living to serve without having to hear “thank you.”

~Matt

 

 

Take Flight

I stood at first base watching my son Carter crouched at second, waiting for a ground ball.

We are a few weeks into baseball lessons at the Big Vision Foundation from Dan Clouser, founder and president, and a good friend of mine. Clouser is a long time coach.  He threw ball after ball as Carter fielded, pivoted, and threw across to me.

Later he hit and I chased his line drives all over the field.  My boy, the one I held for the first time almost seven years ago, is growing into a young man.  It was a transcendent moment.  The sun-drenched afternoon, sprinklers watering the fields around us, music playing from the loudspeaker above the concession stand, and the crack of Carter’s bat as he hit ball after ball.  It was perfection.

I inhaled and held my breath, willing it to stay in as long as possible.  Our souls were joined; father and son, young and old, across a game and a field, years and time, words and thoughts.

I saw the intersection of past, present, and future.

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This week our church holds Vacation Bible School.  Over 1,000 kids will participate over four nights of activities, songs, dancing, playing, and worship. I picked Carter up tonight and the excitement in the church was palpable.

This month has been brutal for our church and this country, with the horrific accident that took the life of our pastor’s wife and almost his own. He is still in ICU with additional surgeries coming.  Then the atrocity in Charleston has left so many questions, pointed fingers, and broken hearts.

I believe real change is possible and, as I walked through the church tonight to pick up Carter, the answer was there.

We must invest in the next generation.

There are children who don’t know racism, who don’t see skin tone or orientations. There are children untainted by hatred and anger.

Just today a group of students met on Penn Street in Reading to pray for the city and anyone in need.

We talk about lifting up the lives of our peers, family, spouses, and friends. It is time to lift up the lives of the children around us. We must lay the foundation while we still have the chance.

Racism, anger, hatred, and violence exist now but they all have a shelf life.  You may have laughed when you read that but I believe it is true. I have hope, faith in radical love that crosses boundaries and burns down borders. I believe there will be a day of equality.  I believe my boys will be a part of it and it is my goal as a father.

They will dream big, love well, and make peace.

All we can do as parents is to provide the means to make the world a better place, equip them, and let them take flight.

~Matt