The _nd.

On Friday night we met with another couple, dear friends of ours, to start our small group centered around Mark Batterson’s book, If. We talked about our goals in life, our current spots, and what we see for the future.

How can we shift If Only regrets to What If possibilities?

The idea of shifting regret to possibility is one of changing stories. As a writer, I’ve always seen the catalyst for changing a story as finding a more complete ending.  Some writers know the ending before it starts.  I’m not one of them.

In my formative years, I read Stephen King’s On Writing where he mentions stories as fossils to be unearthed and his aversion to outlining. I know this spurs hours of conversation between creative types but, I believe, there’s a divine mystery to writing without an ending in mind. You may find yourself in a corner but, at the same time, mysteries and wonders will be revealed that enrich a story far beyond any outline.

The flow of shifting regret to possibility starts when we realize our ending is not complete.

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I think of Saul riding his horse down the Damascus road.  You think we have violence today?  This guy had raided homes, pulled Christians out and stoned them.  He was an enforcer, the best of the best, a Roman citizen working for the government doing his job.

He had blood on his hands.

Maybe that day was hot and dry as he rode forward with his companions.  Maybe he replayed the latest raid and killing in his mind.  Maybe he thought about a cushy government pension and villa somewhere that he would spend his days in after retirement.

The next moment, in a flash of light, his If Only had shifted to What If.

In his transformation days, blinded by the Redeemer he had chased so virulently, his regrets were fuel for his What If’s. He would now walk into cities and tell a new story.

He, the worst of the worst, was saved by grace coming from the greatest sacrifice in history.

When his eyes opened, he was now Paul, and would go on to write more than half of the New Testament. His ending, at the time, was not written.  Even in later years, when he understood he would face death at the hands of the same government he had served, he kept writing.  He kept pushing for expansion of the church.  He kept reaching out, burning away the regrets with new fire and new dreams.

He changed the world.

No matter where you sit tonight as you read this, your story is not over. The end is not complete. Time is not a conviction, it is the conviction to get moving. We must, as Einstein put it:

Try not to become a person of success, but rather a person of value.

Where can you make a difference? Contribute to a story? Add value? I know the arguments, believe me.  It is so much easier to curl up with some popcorn and Netflix.  Let this year be your year.  Let it be OUR year.

Look forward and see your What If as it emerges from the blinding light of contact with your Creator. As your eyes open, you will never be the same.

~Matt

What Lights Your Fuse?

Most of us can articulate what we want.  Ask someone on the street or in the next desk at work and you’ll get a quick list of the usual answers of bigger, better stuff and success.  We have these dreams that quicken our heart rate and all it takes is one negative voice for them to quiet down.

This week, as I near finishing the editing process for my upcoming book about the fight against poverty, I’m devoting time to refining my dreams and goals:

~A writing business that makes a difference in the lives of clients and organizations.

~Publications that inspire, engage, and spread hope across an international audience.

~To be able to work from my computer.  Whether at home, a Barnes and Noble, a bench at the park or a blanket on the beach.

~To be there for my boys as they grow up, create a legacy they’ll be proud of, and set a foundation for their future and generations to follow.

The choice is really a tipping point. Google success stories and you’ll find plenty. What makes those people different from you and I?

The decision to go.

The last instructions of Jesus were to Go and Make Disciples of all the world. The order still applies. Time is too short to stand still.  Make use of every day you have and keep moving.

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This is our son Aiden in a pic taken this weekend.  Every time I see it, I smile and I understand.  This is why.  This is one of the flames that light the fuse every morning, in every quiet moment and dark time, and keeps me burning for what is to come.

Find your inspiration this week, grasp it, and get to work.

~Matt

 

What is at Stake?

During my time at Fairfield University’s MFA program, I had the chance to work with many talented faculty members.  Lary Bloom, a veteran journalist and writer, manned the world of nonfiction.  He always asked students to identify what is at stake with a story? What matters?

Why should anyone care what we have to say?

Last night I read through this section about fear in Pressfield’s The War of Art:

Fear of the consequences of following our heart. Fear of bankruptcy, fear of poverty, fear of insolvency. Fear of groveling when we try to make it on our own, and of groveling when we give up and come crawling back to where we started. Fear of being selfish, of being rotten wives or disloyal husbands; fear of failing to support our families, of sacrificing their dreams for ours…Fear of throwing away the education, the training, the preparation that those we love have sacrificed so much for, that we ourselves have worked our butts off for. Fear of launching into the void, of hurtling too far out there; fear of passing some point of no return, beyond which we cannot recant, cannot reverse, cannot rescind, but must live with this cocked-up choice for the rest of our lives.

Every line made sense. I’ve felt the sting of the emotions and worry in the dark times.  He continues this section by saying that none of these match up with the “Master Fear, the Mother of all Fears that’s so close to us that even when we verbalize it we don’t believe it.”

Fear That We Will Succeed.

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Photo Credit: Arya Ziai via Compfight cc

Success pulls us out of our comfort zone.  It makes us into the person we’ve chased since we were children.  It is the culmination of our efforts and the force allowing us to change the world. We surpass the expectations of our teachers, parents, friends and loved ones. As you go forward, embrace success and give yourself permission to stand out.

Take the risk. Make a difference.

Break from the crowd.

See where it takes you.

~Matt

The Tipping Point

Malcom Gladwell writes some of the most interesting nonfiction books you’ll find on the market.  The first book of his I’d read was titled Blink, all about the science behind split-second cognition and how and why we think the way we do. He has a gift of taking research and breaking it down into terms easy to understand and digest.

He also wrote a book titled The Tipping Point. The concept behind a “tipping point,” is that one moment when an idea, product, or movement is embraced by the masses.  It is the moment something reaches viral status.  It is the catalyst for change, when you must do something.

We have these moments in our lives.  I had one today.

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Photo Credit: edbadle via Compfight cc

You can be driven to your tipping point by positive and negative forces.  Our dreams and successes pull us forward into life changes.  Our stresses and fatigues push us to make a move. Fear is often the only thing holding us back and, believe me, fear works both ways.

Fear of success can be just as strong as fear of failure.

There are times we need to set hard end lines in life. We must embrace change, push ourselves forward into the journey and make a real move towards our end result.

There are times we are called out on the water. Today, as I drove home from work, that impression hit me clear as the ice that coated my car windshield. It is time to step out of the boat, to have an active and alive faith, to make a move towards total dependence on God and transforming P356 into a valid and living ministry.

I’m typing this listening to our neighbors fight while Carter and Aiden sleep in their rooms.  They deserve so much more.

So, if you are where I am tonight, know that you are not alone.  If you’ve debated that dream, pray about taking a step towards it. If you are too scared to face the storm, know that there is one who calms the waves.  He reaches out his hand is waiting for you to grasp it.

This is the first step.

~Matt

Soundtrack Inspiration: Val’s favorite song.  I’ve posted it here before but it is so relevant to my feelings tonight.