A Song Outside a Hospital Room

I ran into a friend today.  We’d met at church a few times and our families had crossed paths once at the local Dunkin Donuts.  He’d been dealing with some health issues.  I asked him how he was feeling and he said:

God is good.

This friend works in the city of Reading, Pennsylvania running a halfway house for men dealing with a variety of addiction and legal issues.  We’d talked before about the book I was writing dealing with poverty in Reading. (You can find it on Amazon here and the kindle download is only $1.00)

As he walked away, my mind went back to when we’d first met.  Just after our pastor was involved in the motorcycle accident that would take his right leg and kill his wife, getting plowed into by a driver under the influence on a warm night last June.

I remember his tears.  He said to me that, just maybe, a group of us could visit and sing to Pastor Bryan from outside his hospital room.

Something in the sincerity of his voice from that moment still brings tears to my eyes.

And it shows the hardest part of faith.

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All of creation, from day one, points us towards God.  We matter.  We believe we matter and this places meaning on our lives.

We sing songs outside hospital rooms because our voice matters and we want to show love. We run halfway houses in the midst of one of the poorest cities in the country and work with men we may never see again, because we can make a difference.

We get up in the morning because we know something better is coming.

This positive result only happens if we matter.

The knife-edge falls with suffering.  If we matter, then why do bad things happen?  Why car accidents that kill spouses? Why child abuse? Why war, famine, and desolation?

Humans hurt each other on a daily basis. This world groans with imperfections, longing for the day the universe is back in alignment with the Creator.

Suffering is a mirror.  Our weakness is our target.  Our pain is a sign that we mean something. We hurt when we break because we are designed to be whole.

The fulfilled promise, the tight rope, the parted Sea is the glorious power of the love of God.

I believe God is for us.  I believe this world needs more love and less condemnation. I believe these words matter because someone out there will bring up WordPress on their phone or computer and come across this post and understand.  They’ll identify with it, at the end of their rope, and know things will be okay.

I believe I’m not perfect, that I’ve screwed up more times as a husband and father than I can count but I know I’m surrounded with a loving (and patient!!) family.

I know I’ll get it right someday.

We Will Never Forget

In the years before summer jobs, I spent the days at my grandparents.  In the afternoons, my grandfather and I would sit on the porch and he’d tell me stories.  We’d fill glasses of iced tea and look out into the street.  Gradually, like the condensation that crept down the outside of our glasses, he’d open up and the conversation would move to WW2.

He’d been drafted and went to the Italian front, leaving behind a wife and two young girls.  He told me about crossing the ocean, about front line battles and hiking through the snow.  He told me about spending Christmas sleeping in a bombed out church on a live grenade belt. He told me about hiding behind a wall as it was pocked with machine gun fire and waiting for a chance to go forward, keep moving, and never ever retreat.

When he passed away a few years ago, there was a flag ceremony at his funeral.  The flag and three spent shell casings now sits in the bedroom at my father’s house.

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Thank you to all the men and women who serve so that we can publish our thoughts in books, eBooks, and blogs like this. We may debate war and international policy behind the guise of politics. We may argue over right and wrong.

At the bottom, after all the noise is over, we will never forget. Thank you for your sacrifice and your service.

You are heroes.

Happy Memorial Day.

~Matt

Choose Life

This morning, in church, we had our service remembering veterans and their sacrifices to our country.  The service is traditional and powerful, always including a time to invite veterans in the service to the stage to be recognized.  Every year the stage is full of men and women, young and old, from all branches of the military. I’m always touched by this display and thankful to my friends and their loved ones who have served.

Two young men split the message today, both wounded in action in the Middle East, and both representatives of Operation Warrior Reconnect. They were poised, eloquent, funny, and emotional. The first spoke about being talking to his wife on the cell phone, in his bunk in Afghanistan, and having the building hit by a rocket attack.  He spoke about the desire to keep fighting, even with deep injuries to his leg, back, and head.  He talked about coming home and the struggle of his wife and family, about the challenges of adapting to normal life.

This soldier, and his wife, had both attempted suicide more than once.

A line from his story stuck with me.  He said:

You don’t have to be in combat to get wounded.  The key is to choose life.

Every day is a choice. You can live or stay on the sidelines. I’m tired of the sidelines. There’s too many goals I’ve put off for tomorrow, too many missed opportunities.  What if we lived every moment as a chance to be at our best? What if every situation was there for the taking? How would your life look if you grasped all the promises of the next sunrise?

Layka Wardog

National Geographic made this their most recent coverage image.  Photographer Martin Schoeller snapped this shot of Layka, a Belgian Malinois, who lost a leg from three AK-47 rounds in Afghanistan. Layka took this fire protecting a squad of troops.  You can see her medal in the picture. There is something of beauty and power there.

I’d take a thousand magazine covers like this over the usual crap at the grocery store.

So this month, don’t forget to say thank you and welcome home to a veteran you know and love.  We are free because some chose to stand and fight, to protect the innocent and right the wrongs of the world.  Use their sacrifice and service as inspiration to fight your own battle.  Find your day one.  Turn away from the addiction. Call that person you’re avoiding. Write the first sentence.

Write the first word. Take the first step.

Seize the day.

~Matt

Soundtrack Inspiration: This music video made national headlines as the David Crowder Band actually used Lite Brites in the filming.  The story of the song will touch your heart.