The Floor

I hit bottom last night.

I’d woken up not feeling well from the night before, went to work and had a stressful twelve hours, had to stay late for reasons outside my control and, by the time I sat in the car, I was finished.

Everything just piled on. Every area of our lives felt like it is malfunctioning. We’re getting attacked on all fronts.

At these points you stop expecting something good to happen and worry about when the next bad news will hit.

I called Val as I drove home, my voice breaking with emotion. I felt like a boxer in the final round, the punches starting to hit home, and legs starting to give out.

After we ended our call I turned down the radio and prayed.

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God can handle honesty, so I let it fly with every single What is Happening and Why Us question I could find, the pain, hurt and frustration flowing until tears blurred the tail lights of the cars in front of me.

There’s a point where you let go of every cultural reference, movie, book, conversation, influence, or resource that you know. You stop trying to find solutions, give up on logic and sit in silence.

Your heart and God. Creation and Creator.

I wish I could say I heard an answer and found a direction, that a sign fell from the sky and landed in the back seat of the car but it didn’t. The rest of the ride was silence.

And that’s okay.

Because it needed to come out and maybe that’s the point in silence. For God to pull down through the walls we build up as men, husbands, and fathers and draw out the emotions we work so hard to hide.

The truth will set you free.  Even if its standing at the foot of the cross and pointing a finger to the sky in frustration.

At least you’re standing there.

As I type this, gratefully off from work for the day, Aiden is sleeping on the couch to my left. The house is quiet. The day is sunny and warm for November.

The breakdown of last night is still in my mind and I wonder what will happen today.  How will things be different? There’s a cliché that the only constant force is change.

I’m praying that’s true because we can’t live in the brokenness.  The wounds from ten years of struggling are too deep for too long and it is time to start moving again.

One step at a time.

 

 

 

 

The Night Of

If you are looking for a new television show, head to HBO or download their app and check out The Night Of. Penned by outstanding crime author Richard Price, and based off a series in the UK, it is a classic murder mystery set in the tensions of today’s society.

I’ll spare more important plot details and just tell you to watch it.  Seriously, you’ll be hooked.

There’s a scene where John Turturro, playing the veteran defense lawyer, is counseling his client, played on point by actor Riz Ahmed. Turturro tells Ahmed not to speak to anyone.  It doesn’t matter who comes into his cell and asks questions, just say “I don’t know,” and “Talk to my lawyer.”

Ahmed states he just wants to tell the truth, asking “don’t you want to know the truth?”

Turturro says no, that the truth doesn’t matter.

It is only their story versus the prosecution and which one will stand up in the eyes of the jury.

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Story has the power to move.

Write a sentence that plays the right chord and you’ll have an audience in the palm of your hand. I once had a professor tell me that no story is unbiased.  Watch the news and you are seeing an interpretation of events. There is nothing that scrolls across the screen of our smart phones without being filtered through an agenda.

One of the most interesting statements in the Bible comes from Pilate at the trial of Jesus. We read in the Gospel of John that Jesus tells Pilate, “Everyone who belongs to the truth listens to my voice.” Pilate replies:

“What is truth?”

You could take this multiple ways and write multiple books on the subject. Pilate certainly wanted to move on from the trial.  He ends it after his rhetorical question and tells the audience of religious leaders that he has no basis to charge Jesus of any crime.

He could have assessed Jesus to see if there was any claim to royalty, any threat to Roman rule.  Or, as one experienced in litigation, maybe he followed the rule Turturro stated a few thousand years later.

What is truth?

The story matters, for in the story hides the truth.

There’s a reason Jesus preached in parables. There’s a reason a movement started inside an empty tomb a few days after that trial as the story spread mouth to mouth. There’s a reason the movement caught fire when people realized the potential of true, selfless love.

We stand at a crossroads, a country facing a change in leadership that could drastically shift the future. It is time for those who claim to follow Jesus to stand on the power of the story and know the bottom line.

The line that ends, and starts, at the cross.

~Matt

The Gift of Showing Up

This week I’ve been praying for God to show up.  Not in a Christmas story, angels in the sky kind of way.  Just in a moment or two where the divine breaks through the atmosphere and you can feel it.

This time of year it is way too easy to phone it in. We pack our weeks with activities, shopping, preparation, and stress.  The push is on to get that last gift, stock up on the required groceries, and finish remaining deadlines before the new year.

As a writer, and a dad, I tend to live in my head.  The internal conversation started when I was young, growing up an only child, and helped me tap into the words that became short stories, novellas, and finally novels.  Stephen Gaghan, writer of the movie Traffic, said that everyone who wants to write has a desire to explain themselves to the world.  I rehearsed this inside my head for decades.

Because the truth can be scary. Emotions can scar. Fear can paralyze. Moments of genuine experience hit like hammers and leave us euphoric or reeling in the aftermath.

They light the fire of our souls.

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God has shown up this week and answered my prayers in multiple ways. Yesterday, I met more than one person struggling to make it this month, but held up and hanging on by their faith. Last night and today Carter had the chance to play with good friends and practice the sports he loves.

I was honored to have someone witness to me today. We talked about faith and they told me to lean on Jesus every day because we need it, every day, to survive.

The Gift of Showing Up works on two levels.  First, make the effort to slow down and be present these next two weeks. Enjoy the quiet moments. Reflect on what has happened, the fact that you’ve survived, and the hope of the future. Play with your kids. Talk to your spouse. Make it count.

Second, you’ll be surprised where and when God will arrive.  Tonight I met with my friend Sherry, director of Mercy Community Crisis Pregnancy Center.  I updated her on the progress of my current book project.  We talked about family and friends, the daily process of an outreach organization, and the courage to keep coming back.

She shared stories of clients surviving in the journey of parenting, education, and escaping the web of poverty. She is a woman of hope, one that has shown me God every time we’ve met.

Find people like this and be sure to spend time with them.  They will equip you to go out and shine the light of hope to others.

You’ll truly understand the power and gift of showing up.

~Matt

 

Fire Words Week: Truth

Pilate always fascinated me. I remember reading the account in the Bible of the trial of Jesus.  The imagery is crisp. The drama is palpable.  I pictured these two men facing off across a Roman version of a courtroom in a volley of questions and answers.  At one point, in John 18:38, Pilate lays down the greatest rhetorical question of all time:

What is truth?

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I had a professor back in college that advised us to consider every source when we were researching our papers.  There are reasons behind every story.  Show a room of ten people a picture and ask them to describe it. You’ll likely get ten different answers.

We each have our own lens that we use to view the world.

In On Writing, Stephen King stated the best way to write authentic characters was to remember that everyone feels like they have the camera on them.  We are the stars of the show.

We have truth locked down.

Want to alienate someone quickly? Act like you know all the answers.  It is practically a membership requirement for churches in this country. Peter writes that we should have answers ready when someone asks us the source of our hope. He’s right. We just ignore one part of the statement.

We answer whether or not we have an audience ready to hear.

At the same college I mention above, a street preacher would set up shop in the warmer weather.  It was great theatrics. He’d yell and argue with students.  He’d call down condemnation on any and every sin.  I’m sure he meant well.

A month after I graduated, he was arrested for attempting to solicit a teenager.

The truth was not his truth.

There is always mystery in truth.  It is fluid, running like water. We build our lives on salvation, love, family, and grace.  The mystery comes in our work to improve all of these elements from our imperfect human condition.

Life is a journey of exploration.

You will face some tough questions.  Have your answers ready and don’t be afraid to say that you don’t know. The truth comes when we attempt to live as Jesus lived in new and radical love. When we reflect his example, truth and light shines through.

~Matt

Crossroads

Say you have a hobby.  Your regular job is in the corporate world but, on the weekends, you referee low-level football games.  The 2012 NFL season arrives and the usual refs are locked out.  Your friend tells you to apply to be a replacement.  You do and you make the cut.  One night, you are stationed in the end zone watching the final pass of the game between the Green Bay Packers and Seattle Seahawks as it flies towards you.

Both Seattle and Green Bay players catch the ball at the same time.  You call a touchdown and, suddenly, your life is changed forever.

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Photo Credit: kevygee via Compfight cc

Yahoo Sports posted a great article profiling Lance Easley, the referee involved in the play I mentioned above, now known as the “Fail Mary.” Easley was a family man, a believer, and a guy taking a chance to do a job on the biggest stage in football.  His incorrect call drew vast criticism, as far as getting mentioned by President Obama on the campaign trail.

You can find the article here. Even if you are not a fan of sports, I recommend reading it.

Easley is now suffering from PTSD and severe depression.  His wife of almost thirty years left him.  He has been in and out of psychiatric hospitals and rehab centers, receiving numerous death threats after the game.  He is on medical leave from his corporate job and struggles financially to make ends meet. As the article says, the only thing remaining of the old version of the man is his faith.

The lesson is an important one. We all have moments where we are on our own stage and our choices, right or wrong, carry consequences.  Healing takes time, sometimes years, but it will happen.  The fight to silence our worst critic, the voice inside, can be overwhelming.  We must know where we stand, even if we write it down and read it every morning as a reminder. The truth can always silence the noise.

“For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” Ephesians 2:8-10

~Matt

Picks of the Week-9/15/2014

Scripture: “Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” John 8:32

We live in a world where truth can seem subjective and, yet, we know the truth and it will always set you free.

Book: The Artisan Soul: Crafting Your Life into a Work of Art by Erwin McManus

McManus is the pastor of Mosaic church in Los Angeles. Pick up his books if you can.  He’s a thinker and leader with a valuable voice for the church. You can find this new release here.

Worship Song:

Chris Tomlin has a new cd out this month.  We’ve seen him twice in concert and each experience has been an amazing encounter of worship.

Website: Side Hustle Nation.

Great resources for entrepreneurs starting their businesses while working full-time. I learn something with every visit.

Family Activity: The Beach

If you can swing it, head down for a beach weekend in September. The crowds have lessened and the weather is still warm enough to enjoy it. It is a great time to bring the kids and actually have space to walk around and see the sights.

Marriage Activity: Work it Out

With the passing of summer, this is the time to start into exercising. Find a sport and do it together.  Get outside and run, hit the playgrounds.  Make the most of the good weather. Set a goal and chase it down as a team.

Val’s Style Pick of the Week:

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Redken Strong Hold Anti-humidity Finishing Spray. This is the time of year where the wind and environment can impact hair.  This is a great product for anyone needing more control with their hair.

 

Val’s Bag of the Week:

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Littles Carry-All Caddy. Great choice for supplies, toys, or even a gift bag.  You can find it here for $12.00. You can find other specials for September and the entire new catalog for the month at Val’s personal Thirty-One site.