Thank You Leader for Keeping it Real

Thank You Leader for Keeping it Real

More than a year ago I had the significant opportunity of working one-on-one with a character coach toward building a mission statement for my life.

Usually caught somewhere between who we currently are and who we want to be, a personal mission statement is meant to compass conscious thoughts and behaviors to be witnessed through a life lived out loud.

I’ll quickly give you the finished product of a three-month process:

“To exemplify a genuine and courageous life lived out for others with passion, inspiration and insight that propels people to take action.”

Every word in that statement has a purpose behind it, but the one that’s receiving our focus today is genuine. Through the sifting process of knowing who I want to be, I knew that included real and authentic.

As kind and considerate as many high-level leaders are, there is also an accompanying sense (real or perceived) of being unapproachable.

As my journey in leadership continues to mature, my mission is to remain accessible and candid about who I am as a person. In essence, here are my strengths and my weaknesses. Here are my ups and my downs. Here’s where I’ve succeeded and where I’ve failed. Here’s what I’ve mastered and here’s where I’m struggling. Open book would be the term to sum it up.

So here’s my “genuine” update on life…

One Simple Game to Remember God's Faithfulness (try it!)

One Simple Game to Remember God's Faithfulness (try it!)

At the end of this week, I’ll be another year older. On St. Patrick’s Day of 2018, I’ll be 27 years old – to be exact.

I’ve scarcely met a person who didn’t care about birthdays (and I would still guess they were slightly fibbing if that was their answer). In my observation, you either love them or loathe them. Depending on where you are on the age spectrum, it’s usually a celebration of maturity or a close reminder of our brief time on Earth.

I met my now mother-in-law almost a decade ago, and since that first meeting I’ve adopted her attitude toward birthdays. She determined since she was 18 years old that as long as she could avoid it, she would never work on her birthday.

Instead, she would try every year to take that day off and spend it celebrating life. I understand this isn’t feasible for everyone, but considering I was 18 as well when she shared this practice, I assumed it would be as good of a time as any to also implement such an anticipated annual day-off.

So far since my adult years began I’ve been able to keep this promise to myself. Matt and I will usually spend the day or weekend creating a memory – going somewhere we haven’t been before or trying out a new activity.

No matter what the plans our though, one conversational topic always comes around either during the drive there or the journey home. We always end up playing this game we like to call “Remember When.”

The origin story of this game didn’t necessarily start on a birthday.

During a 20+ hour drive to Massachusetts in college, we tried to outdo one another in recapping shared memories simply out of sheer boredom.

Today though, it’s bi-annual tradition (on both his birthday and mine) to take a birds-eye view of the last year as a whole, from that day looking back on the past 365.

 “Remember when I finished preaching early one Wednesday night, and right after I prayed the electricity went out in the church?”

“Remember when we surprised my mom on her birthday by flying in my grandparents?”

“Remember when we both were ordained at District Council?”

Though all our memories start out light-hearted, they always bring us back to the same conclusions of gratefulness and thankfulness by the time we park the car at home. Here’s how such a simple game became spiritual over time:

You Will Want to Quit Ministry

You Will Want to Quit Ministry

Two weeks prior to my college graduation I had my first-job lined up as a youth pastor at a church in Central Louisiana. I was excited and ready to change the world.

In mentioning this to a co-worker, he scooted his chair near mine: "Matt, I'm telling you. You will always want to way to quit ministry."

The backstory to this comment was unfortunate. My co-worker previously held a ministry position and after years quit. This was the first time he shared his transparent story with me, but full of zeal, I brushed off his comments. I knew there was no way I would ever have those feelings. 

Five short months later I contemplated everything. I was barely surviving financially, the youth group was stagnant, and my peers I graduated with were loving life in their big jobs in their big cities. I wanted to quit.

Maybe my co-worker was right? 

Next month will mark five years of ministry for my wife and I. We don't have it all figured out as people still give us crazy eyes when we say we are both 26-years-old -- but in five years, we've had some beyond unique experiences.

You're going to read about my inner battles. Kayla had those too. She could equally write her own lessons as we both traveled a long journey in a short time. But, the one constant of Kayla was her rock solid relationship with Jesus. She never wanted to quit serving Him or His church. She was our strength, so while I lashed out and went on a spiritual hiatus, she was the constant voice and person on the other side.

I'm going to take you through my perspective and battles of each year. Hindsight is so valuable. I'd love to go back to May 2012, shake myself, and move my mindset to present day. It's my hope that this blog offers a perspective for a young leader (and someone leading young leaders) of my struggles and conclusions.

It's my hope you can identify one of these "wanting to quit" moments and obtain a self-aware nature to change before it's too late. Also, be aware that I've not arrived (nor will I ever). I'll look back to 2017 in five years and laugh again, but perspective is key for others to share in seasons of life.

So, let's jump in!

From Idol to Assest: How Football Changed Everything

From Idol to Assest: How Football Changed Everything

It was the big leagues. The Super Bowl of preaching.

For the first time ever, I spoke to adults in a church service. It was Wednesday, June 13, 2012 and despite the fact that there was only 30 adults in the building, it was a big deal.

As I prayed and labored over my message, I decided to skip over the fun topics on God's love, grace and purpose, and instead go right for idolatry -- putting things above our relationship with God). 

If you read my last blog (The Story Behind the Frame) you'll get a reference to my perspective at this point. It was during this time of life that I was in the middle of my 'remove everything journalism' related stage along with my 'stop watching football forever' stage.

I had stopped watching football for two full years because I felt it was an idol in my life. I felt it was keeping me from being close to Jesus. The reality -- yes, hindsight is 20/20 is that my self-imposed barrier to Jesus was still there regardless of if I spent three hours watching the New England Patriots or not. 

Still, as I got ready to speak on idolatry I had a compelling idea. I spoke in a Patriots jersey and talked about my own personal idolatry hoping to connect with the audience. (Don't mind the cheesy Instagram filter. It was 2012)

Why I'm Thankful for My Couch

Why I'm Thankful for My Couch

It’s intriguing to see how people’s minds are triggered toward thinking about God. For some, a scenic walk through nature brings up deep thoughts of faith. Sometimes life events such as births, weddings and funerals shifts one’s mind to the spiritual. 

Interestingly though for me, my daily reminder of the one I serve sits unswervingly in the middle of my living room. Every morning I think of God when I sit on my couch.

This couch was our first furniture purchase as a married couple. We were fortunate enough when we got married in Summer 2013 to have all our needed furniture given to us by other families and friends. Our prior couch was given to us by a woman who moved to South America and literally couldn’t take it with her, and while it served its purpose in our newlywed years, the couch was on its best days a poor piece at Goodwill.

So when the cushions starting splitting from wear and tear, we made the appropriate decision to look for a new couch, specifically a larger couch that could seat more than three people and would last us for years to come. Our search landed us on a $1,000 sectional couch with an ottoman (our dog’s personal mini-bed). It was the best bang for our buck and from a notable brand name as well. 

The downside to the story? That decision and saving process was made more than a year ago… and up until the end of 2016 we still didn’t have the couch.

The money wasn’t adding up fast enough. At the rate we were saving, it would be another two years before we could even think about looking at a new couch. So, I got to work. I tried to sell household items I no longer needed. I became a Disney travel agent to make money on the side. I designed a few resumes. 

It somewhat transformed into a personal vendetta – what could I do extra to get this couch faster? My mind consistently went back to an adage from my childhood – if you want something, you have to work for it.