Now, about making money…

If you have read this post from last week you will remember me talking about the pressing need I feel to make money for my fast growing family. This is an area that has been a phenomenal source of stress as my wife and I are entertaining business opportunities, moving into a new home and continuing my education. Not to mention having two new mouths to feed. This led to the following conversation two nights ago on the back porch of the house we are staying at:

Vicky: You know what we need? (not waiting for a response, proving the question to be neither rhetorical or response intended) We need someone to give us $50,000. That would really help us accomplish all of our goals.

Me: Well, that would be nice. We should ask God for $50,000.

Us: God would you please give us $50,000.

The prayer was a bit more reverential than that, but you get the point. Our thought behind the prayer was such: God loves us, God will provide our needs, God tells us to ask him for the things we need. God has the right to answer how he wants, we just thought we would ask.

Fast forward to the following evening. Before meeting Vicky’s brother to catch an advanced screening of Pineapple Express Vicky and I decide to meet at In-N-Out for dinner (note: due to an increasing need for iron in her system my wife has been craving double cheeseburgers like crazy). I was in my work clothes and Vicky was dressed casually. Right before our food arrived a woman came up to our table. She leaned in close and put her hand on my shoulder in preparation to say the following:

Lady: I don’t know why but God told me to give you this, and at this point in my life I just want to do what he says and not second guess it.

As she walked away Vicky and I sat speechless as we looked at a check on our table for $50,000.

Just kidding, she handed us a $20 bill. But it might as well have been a check for $50,000.

I am not sure there has ever been a time in my life that God has answered a prayer so quickly and definitively. I half-joked to Vicky that we should expect 249 more ladys with $20 bills, since apparently God has chosen to answer our prayer.

I have chosen to take 2 things away from this –

1. God is our father, he loves us, he hears us. For some reason (only he knows) he chose to put his hand on our shoulder and tell us that he heard us. To tell us that he is our provider and will not let us be without provision.

2. God has called me to be faithful with little. We immediately prayed and thanked God for his provision and asked for wisdom as to how we should steward this blessing. Basically, we are treating that $20 bill like it is a check for $50,000.

I wanted to share this story today because of the joy of my heart, and the rest my soul has taken in God my Father, who is my provider.

Gone Cruising

Tomorrow morning I will hop a flight to Seattle with my lovely wife Crystal.  We will be meeting up there with Crystal’s parents, sister and her husband.  We will then get to spend a few days in Seattle which is one of the coolest places I have ever been.  I would move there if I ever had the opportunity.  After that we will be boarding a cruise ship and set sail for Alaska.  Here is what the boat we will be on looks like.

Pretty cool huh?  What I am really excited about though is getting to see Alaska.  It has always been one of those places I have dreamt of visiting and getting to see.  Some of the sights we will get to observe are truly some of the most beautiful places in God’s magnificent creation.  Plus one of the activities we will get to do is board a crab boat and pull a few pots from the ocean!  If your wondering why this might be so exciting to me it is because I am a huge fan of the show Deadliest Catch.  I think the show holds such a place of fascination for me because it is one of the things that I watch and think, “could I do that?”  Could I work twenty hours straight on a crab boat out on the deadly Bering sea.  The answer is probably no.  But as a guy you are constantly looking all around you and trying to find ways to measure up and test yourself.  Little boys do it and you never really grow out of it.  Which is okay because how else would we ever find out how much milk a guy can drink in an hour without throwing up, or if it really is hazardous to jump head first into the shallow end of the pool.

All kidding aside this vacation comes at a weird time in life for me.  I know I am not the one on this blog who usually writes intensely honest posts about their life and how God is shaping them.  Nor will I do that here tonight as I still have massive amounts of packing to do and really should not be blogging.  But I will say that this summer has been…awkward…for Crystal and I.  God has a funny way of tipping over the apple cart and leaving you wondering why?  I am not complaining here or offer much detail.  Much of what God has been doing in my life is like the babies growing in Vicky’s stomach; in process and needing time to incubate.  So instead I will ask for you to truly pray for me as we go on our trip.

1.  That I may deeply enjoy our vacation.  Sometimes its so easy to get burdened by all that is unexplained in life that you mentally slip past the amazing moment that is going on right in front of you.  This trip to Alaska is truly a once in a lifetime opportunity that God has given to me and I want to really enjoy it and soak it up.

2.  That God would show me evidences of his mercy and grace.  The Christian life is really one of journey.  We grow through valleys and often through times in which God’s experiential presence is absent.  Pray that even in this season for me that I would remember that God is faithful and good.

3. Direction.  That whatever God would have for me I would be attentive to his Holy Spirit and clearly listen.

ryan

On Becoming a Good Daddy…

In preparation of impending fatherhood I have started reading a wonderful book entitled Grace Based Parenting. Vicky thinks I should focus on books that will prepare me for how hard it is going to be with twin babies. I find that idea to be quite superfluous. I mean, I don’t need a book to tell me how much getting kicked in the balls will hurt. Nor do I need a book to tell me how to brace myself for getting kicked in the balls. No, when kicked in the balls, it’s best to ride out the pain and find the best way to move forward (or get off the ground). So I am focusing on books about how to be a good daddy. I’ll just binge on the how-to stuff when the babies get here.

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Grace Based Parenting has been both wonderful and hard to read. It has been wonderful in that it has filled me with much hope and excitement about what being a parent means. You get to teach a kid how to be a human, and really, you get to love them and teach them how to love. This has me bouncing off the wall like a hypoglycemic kid at a candy store. It is hard in that it warns us of all the ways that we can jack up our kids. And let’s be honest, there are a lot of jacked up kids in the world. Just take a trip down to the mall on a Saturday and you’ll see both jacked up teens as well as parents preparing their toddlers to be jacked up teens.

The premise of Grace Based Parenting is that “grace” based parents will helped their kids develop into mature adults who bless society instead of developing into jacked up drains on society. Or to make a more timely reference, it helps us raise Mandy Moores and not Lindsay Lohans. As a future father of a daughter I can say that a daily trip to TMZ.com greatly inflames my desire to be a parent who uses “grace” as a primary parenting tool.

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Grace Based Parenting contends that grace is the best philosophy for parenting in that love is freely given not earned or withheld based on performance. We get this concept from God who, instead of dealing with us as we deserved, lovingly sent Jesus to take our place on the cross, and through his blood, cleanse us of all our sin. Because of this grace of God we receive only love and favor from God instead of his wrath and punishment. This grace provides the basis for our development as children of God.

Here’s a practical thought about being a Grace Based Parent: what would it mean for a child if they knew that nothing they did could make us love them any less?

In processing how to become a Grace Based Parent, I have encountered a MAJOR problem: I cannot say that I am a grace based husband. This is weird considering all that Vicky and I have been through in over five years of marriage. We had to see a counselor our first year just to get through, and then the next few years seemed like a tough climb We have been two passionate, immature people seeking to learn how to become one with one another as we traveled through life.

How we could have continued to grow and yet I still see myself as lacking so much grace in how I interact with my wife?

The answer: we have learned how to accommodate each others sinful behavior, instead of giving grace to each other.

My wife has subtlety learned how to accommodate an over-zealous, know it all, bossy, hot-head who must tell everyone around them how everything should be. In some amazing way she has found a way to subvert a hypo-critical theological and grammatical neat-nick. And I have learned to have fewer outbursts, apologize quicker, all the while subverting repentance and change. We aren’t holier or better people, we’re just more accommodating. And a marriage based on accommodation will lead to Accommodation Based Parenting, not Grace Based Parenting.

My prayer is that as I am learning methods to help me be a good father that those principles will find their first fruits in my behavior as a husband. That I would learn to repent of being a selfish control freak and learn to create an environment where grace enables my wife and I to best enjoy each other and God. I pray that you would also consider the ways that you have decided to accommodate instead of being sanctified in your relationships. I pray that we all would commit to repenting of our sin and eagerly showing grace to each other instead of finding ways to hide it, or accept the ways that others accommodate for it. God has dealt with our sin in Jesus, now we get to live in the freedom that grace supplies.

matt

Just Like Mommy and Daddy

Inside my wife’s uterus are two little babies. For some reason they have chosen to rest one on top of the other in a way the medical staff oft refers to as “bunk-bedding.” One baby rests down close to the cervix (Baby A) while the other rests comfortably of top of it’s sibling (Baby B). This might not always be how they are positioned, but it has been this way for 16 weeks, and we kind of think they like it how it is.

27 years ago two babies were born to two different women at the Woman’s Hospital of Southern Nevada on April 10. The first one, myself, came out sometime before 2:00am, while the second one, my wife, came roughly 30 minutes later.

Since Baby A is a boy and Baby B is a girl, it looks like our children are already acting just like their parents (note: the closest baby to the cervix comes out first).

matt

The Dark Knight

I went with a group of friends on Friday night and say the new Batman movie.  We went to the 10pm showing and I was a bit tired from the start.  Lucky for me the movie was enough to wake and keep just about anyone’s attention.

Going into the movie I was a bit skeptical.  The massive expecations, the rave reviews, and the early Oscar buzz had me thinking that there was no way this movie could deliever on all the hype.  I was wrong.  Ledger was better than I thought he was going to be, and the story was riddled with complexities and deeper questions about terror, fear, and the innate desire in some to just do evil.

Though only part of the movie that I really had a hard time with was with the two boats that were faced with a moral dilemma of killing the other boat before they killed them.  The Joker had bet this would be the defining piece of evidence in his thesis that people would generally seek self-preservation when faced with fear and death.  Of course Batman delivers the cheesy line of something like, “the people of Gotham are to good for that.”  And in an overly ideal conclusion; the Joker is proven wrong about the nature of Gotham’s citizens.  I just could not buy it.  It was too neat and clean.  Especially considering that a mob of people had showed up at a news studio, a few scenes before, to shoot a guy that was going to divulge the identity of Batman.

This is really a fundemantal weakness of all big blockbuster movies; they are unable to deviate to far off the PC nature and view of humanity and society.

This really is a minor critique, because most of us go to movies like this to be enthralled with a stunning film with a wonderful story.  The Dark Knight succeeded on both fronts.

For all of you who saw it, what are your thoughts?

ryan

I

Does Mark Driscoll Have A Twin?

I was watching Sportscenter and the showed a picture of uber-talented Yankee pitcher Joba Chamberlain.  I swore when I saw him I thought they had mistakingly showed an image of Mark Driscoll.  Is it just me or do they look just alike?

ryan

the times they are a changin

So says the Bob Dylan song. So is my life.

11 weeks ago I found out my wife was pregnant. 10 days later I found out that there were two human beings forming inside her belly. Being a father changes one’s outlook on life. I do not know this from experience, I have just been told as much. What I can tell you is that being an expectant father changes you. But first, you go through stages:

Utter Fear (from the moment you see the two embryonic sacs [which is really week 4] until about week 8 )

My jaw literally dropped when I looked at the screen and saw two sacs. As my wife marveled in joy over the next three weeks, laughing and crying with friends, picking out 73 different nursery designs, spending 23 hours a day on babycenter.com and babysrus.com – I freaked out. I considered things like, how can I make more money, how are we going to feed two more people, how can I make more money, do we need to get rid of the dog, how can I make more money, can I emotionally handle two, how can I make more money, what kind of dad will I be and of course how can I make more money. Sometimes this stage comes back in spurts – like when writing a blog about it.

Utter Joy (from week 8 until week 10)

Something clicked around week ten and I started acting like a junior high girl with a new boyfriend. Trips to Babysrus to register – more registering online. Dreaming about names and what they will look like. Touching my wife’s newly and quickly protruding belly whenever I get a chance. Noticing babies everywhere I went and making faces at them. This was fun, it really was. I miss it.

Planning (from week 10 until present)

This stage coincided well with buying a new house, making business deals and determining future plans. This stage is hard because you don’t want to make the wrong decisions. The wrong decisions could have you in the wrong city and/or the wrong church and/or the wrong/job and/or the wrong house, etc. Understandably this has left me a tad bit freaked out considering the track record of decisions Vicky and I have made. Yet, at the same time, it has helped me look at scenarios with a bit more maturity. This has caused me to sell-out, I mean re-look at vocational ministry. SAY WHAT, ah now we get to the meat of the blog post.

When Vicky and I left Campus Crusade for Christ we decided we were God’s hope for Las Vegas and decided it would only be a matter of time before God blessed us just like this guy says in this book.

Um, yeah. Problem is that I am not that guy.

So Vicky and I oriented our life spiritually (church planters), emotionally (full-time work plus trying to be missional and entrepreneurial) and financially (rent a house with a big living room) as if we were 35 years old with over a decade of ministry experience. This left us in debt spiritually, emotionally and financially. To summarize, we oriented our lives as if we were 35 even though we were 25, and it almost ruined us.

The logical next step seemed to be to move into a local church, serve humbly and move into leadership in a short period of time. We balked at a few good communities and once again bit off more than we could chew by joining the leadership of plant/venue/thingy. Once again we had to pull out, this time we were wise enough to do so before any harm came to us. What is the real issue? What were we really hoping for? What did we think God had for us?

The answer:
A leadership position within a church that I had neither the wisdom, experience or maturity to deserve.

My justification for such: the church needs me. It needs guys like me who care about the gospel and who care about being authentic and all the like. Those people doing it now have it all wrong. The church needs me.

The church needs me. Right.

As Colin Cowherd says, “Say it out loud. See if it still sounds like a good idea.”

This has caused me to approach/view the local church with a different lens. Seeking ways to bless the church faithfully from the inside, rather than being the rogue outside agent taking it on by force. Perhaps, people get to be 35 and qualified emotionally, spiritually and financially by growing in those areas. Even the best engineers work their way up to management by showing themselves faithful. Why should I get a pass? Why should the church suffer by letting punk mid-twenties guys with entitlement issues go right into senior management? Why should they not be blessed by letting faithful pastors prove their faithfulness with little, so that the church has proven godly men leading it?

So what is my next step? Do I re-enter vocational ministry? I’m not sure. But my entire perspective of the church is changing. Hopefully I will be so focused on serving and blessing the church that I won’t even resemble that old punk. Yeah, well at least in my attitude. The times they are a changin, and thankfully, so am I.