You Are Allowed to be Silent

Tragedy is a tool for the living to gain wisdom, not a guide by which to live. – Robert Kennedy

I’m a nervous talker. My oldest son has inherited this trait. Put us in a pressure situation and we’ll talk through it, fighting to kill the silence.

This quarantine has created different new realities. The media is saturated with “journalism” meant to drive clicks and advertising. The future is leaning on politics, not unity. Throw a stone and you’ll hit an “expert” telling you that the world is over and will never return.

We are pushed for a response.

Both of my boys have finished the school year at home.  The oldest will go to 6th grade next year which means a new school and environment. We’ve seen worry come about in different ways over the last few weeks.

No matter how you feel, understand this: silence is acceptable.

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Photo by Zino Bang on Pexels.com

Enjoy the Silence

One of my favorite memories is sitting on the porch with my grandfather as he told me stories. Thinking back now, I realize it was not a single exchange.  He spoke but, in the end, he also listened.

We’ve lost the art of listening.

We speak then formulate our response to what is being said well before it is our space to talk. We race forward missing the ebb and flow of exchange.

Tragedy.  Events that blow up our world. Loss. Death. Struggle. These things bring us to our mirror moment, the point where we look at ourselves and wonder, now what?

Take a minute. Breathe and know you can absorb it before you push away again.

The Power of Silence

There’s an old interrogation technique used by law enforcement.  In John Douglas’s book Mindhunter, he mentions it. He talks about asking questions then, at a certain point, stopping and staying quiet.

Just look at the other person and wait.

You’ll be surprised at what happens.

Silence generates a response. People will fill the space.  It is a natural instinct we can use to our advantage.

The Weight of Silence

No matter how far we go, the power of touch will never be replaced. The grasp of a hand, the arm around the shoulder, a hug, all of these mean more than words. We are wired as humans to respond to touch.

For men, this isn’t always easy.  Let’s be honest. If we haven’t grown up with it, it can be hard to generate. For those of us who have dealt with other childhood trauma, it can be even harder.

There are moments I need to remind myself to physically interact with my boys. The security created by casual physical encouragement is important and will stretch into the future for them.

When words are lost, physical actions matter.

The Space of Silence

In 2018, my wife and I suffered a miscarriage. I’ll never forget walking out of the ER that morning. It took time to recover and we still both experience grief from time to time.

For a while, a few weeks at least, I had nothing to say.

I had nothing to write. No words. No prayers. No conversation with God.

I realize now, God was close. I realize the space was needed.

Some wounds hit so deeply they take time to heal. In this healing, allow yourself space to recover. It will not be easy, but it will be worth it.

Conclusion

This quarantine has led to some exciting developments for me. I’ve launched a new website. This is still in the early phase and I’m adding content often. Please pay it a visit and drop your email address to subscribe to future updates. There will be new information soon. 

Keep working. Keep writing. Keep surviving with those you love. We will make it through.

 

Kobe Bryant and The Art of Legend

The stories are numerous.  From his start at Lower Merion High School (not far from where I type this) to his years in the NBA, Kobe Bryant was a phenomena. He worked, drilled, fought, and practiced harder than his peers. He was relentless, driven, and passionate. He demanded more of himself and pushed his teammates to follow.

Today, in a helicopter crash in California, Bryant and his daughter along with six others passed away. They were traveling to a basketball game when the helicopter crashed and caught fire.  There were no survivors.

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Pic from the LA Times. 

Story is a powerful force.  We write one in our heads on a daily basis.  We tell it to our loved ones. We base our identity on our stories. This can help, when the plot drives us forward, or hurt when it shackles us in place.

I’m sure many young men in the Philadelphia suburbs picked up a ball pretending they were Kobe.  I saw a tweet saying, “How many of us crumple up a wad of paper and shoot it into the trash can saying ‘Kobe’ as we let go?” Carter does this all the time.

Not many are influential enough to change the lexicon of society. Sports offer hope and lessons.  They teach the value of work.  For every shot Kobe took in a darkened gym alone, he made many more under the lights of the NBA.

If there’s anything we can take from all this, that is the bottom line. What we do in the shadows plays out in the light. What we do alone writes our story in public. Small efforts expand in big ways.

Before he made it, Bryant could have walked away more than once.  He could have stopped, hit the snooze button on the alarm and went back to bed. He lived a life where that wasn’t acceptable and reached the pinnacle of his game.

Rest well Kobe. Your legend lives on.

The School of Tragedy

Stephen Colbert recently started his run in late night television with a captivating interview.  He had Vice President Joe Biden on as a guest and, if you haven’t seen it, I recommend looking up the video.  Biden and Colbert had both gone through traumatic losses in their lives, each man losing loved ones and family members in accidents.  Biden’s in a car accident and Colbert’s in a plane crash.

They discussed the recent passing of Biden’s son Beau, in May.  Both men being practicing Catholics, Colbert asked how Biden’s faith helped him in grief. Joe quoted Kierkegaard in response with:

“Faith sees best in the dark.”

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Yesterday we paused, as a nation, to remember the years since 9/11.  I believe tragedy and loss teach us more than the good times. Our struggles make us see God more clearly.  Our pain draws our eyes upward. Our emotions seed our souls for the divine.

Every generation has their traumatic moment.  My grandparents had WW2.  My parents had the assassination of President Kennedy. We had September 11th.  Our children will certainly have their own.

We can only hope and pray the scars do not run too deep.

For tragedy breeds hope. Hope, unity. Over a few days, back in 2001, we forgot about politics and dividing lines. Everyone just wanted to help.

In the Biden interview he also stated that America could be great if we could just get out of our own way. Maybe that’s the point.  The losses, death, struggle and despair helps us get out of our own way. It strips us from all pretense.

I pray, if you are in the midst of tragedy in this season in life, you find yourself closer to the divine.  I pray you see more clearly in the dark, for your time is not over.  Your story hasn’t ended.  You carry on, hold memories close, and step forward with those losses living right by your heart.

For hope is real and strength will come from above to carry you through.

~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

 

When You Don’t Like Your Kids

It has been a long two weeks.  Here in Pennsylvania, we’ve had a stretch of horrible winter weather. We’ve seen snow, ice, rain, cold, and round and round again. With the bad weather, we’re stuck inside most nights.  Combine that with two energetic boys and elementary school cancellations.

The result?

Two tired parents.

Val and I often ask ourselves about what we did before kids.  It’s funny how those moments gradually fade into a blur of passing time. There are days where you get pushed.  Tag can only be played so much. The pillows can only stand up to so many fights.  One room is cleaned as Aiden empties drawers and throws toys in the other.

We get stretched. We look at each other and wonder where these little humans came from.  How did my six-year-old turn sixteen overnight?

Yesterday, I read an article on Yahoo Parenting that changed everything for me. The title, one of the most engaging I’ve seen in a long time, is My Husband Killed Our Kids.

It tells the story of the Mendoza family as written from an interview with Zoey Mendoza.  Her ex husband, suffering from depression and not taking his medication, picked up their five and three-year-old children from daycare one afternoon.  He drove them to his parent’s abandoned home, killed them both and then himself.

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Photo Credit: hugovk via Compfight cc

Mendoza takes you through the moment she found out what happened. She talks about dealing with grief and, one night, how her children visited her from Heaven. She got a tattoo of an infinity symbol on her neck, the ink mixed with the ashes of her children, symbolizing how they’d be with her forever.  As I read through it, ending my day at work, I had to brush the tears from my eyes.

I’ll take the long nights, the obstacle courses, watching multiple episodes of Power Rangers on television. I’ll gladly stay up hours into the night trying to get Aiden to sleep as he sings “Happy Birthday” to me in the dark of his room. I’ll take every argument, battle, bath, dinner, and homework assignment.

It is all worth it because they are there and alive.

We’ve been blessed to have two children and, even in the stressful times, we must never forget it.

Because one day they’ll move out.  Carter will call me on the phone and say, “Dad, my kid is driving me crazy.  Was I ever like this?”

And I’ll tell him he has no idea.

~Matt