In the first 26 years…

In just a few short days (Tuesday, to be exact) I’ll be turning 26. It’s funny how random thoughts can make you stop in your tracks. I was heading to the store today and remembered that I’ve been driving for 10 years – which is hard to believe since it seems as though last week I was turning 16. It’s amazing how time flies.

While my life has been far from extraordinary (some would even say it’s boring – you know who you are…), I thought over the next few days I would share from my experiences and thoughts that have shaped me these 26 short years. So, here it goes:

Matthew’s Rules to Live By: These guide my life for the most part and influence how I act, react and respond to the people and world around me. They are listed here in no particular order. (And remember, I’m only 26 – there’s probably a lot of things that you think should be on here but aren’t. Go write your own list!)

  • Choose to be positive. Getting angry or upset rarely fixes anything, in fact, it usually makes a relatively harmless situation worse. Case in point: many times after church – ok pretty much every week – there’s a group of people who go out for lunch. Sometimes there can be as many as 30 of us. Naturally with a group that size, someone’s order is going to be messed up or a drink not refilled right away or something that has the potential to make someone upset. It’s amazing to me as I watch it happen to different people and how they react and I’m shocked at how often it seems to completely derail their day. Choose to be positive! Yes, it’s happened to me more than once, and getting upset does nothing to fix the situation.
  • Be on time. Those of you who actually know me, know that I am a pretty punctual guy. If I say I’ll be somewhere at a certain time, I’m usually there 5-10 minutes early. Not showing up when you say you will tells those who are waiting for you that you’re time is more valuable than their’s. That’s not to say that I’ve never been late before, but I always try to alert those who might be waiting that I’m not going to make it – and whatever it is that’s making me late, you can bet it’s big, because I usually have to make myself stall because I’m going to show up way to early.
  • Tell those around you how you feel. This is one that I’ve really tried to work on especially in the last couple of years. The plain and simple truth is that life is just to short and the time we have with people too fleeting to let a moment go by without expressing how much they mean to us. Through a phone call, a note or a card – even simply spending time with them – take time to let them know how important they are in your life because you never know when it may be the last time you have that chance.
  • Do Something! Life is to short to sit there – do something! This can be both good and bad. Rarely do I find myself doing nothing. If I am, it’s not for very long. I’ve been bred with a work ethic that keeps me going and a passion for what I do that drives me further every day. However, because of this drive, I have a hard time with 2 important things: 1: days off. It’s almost painful for me to stop working on church stuff for a day, especially on those days when I have nothing pressing to do outside of work. I know that it’s healthy and necessary to disengage from work, but man it’s hard! Number 2 goes along with number 1 in a way, but it’s hard for me to sit back and watch around Journey. We’ve been talking about getting a rotation going for our setup team (which I think is totally necessary) but it would mean that I would only have to be there for setup every other week. Most people would shout for joy. I shudder and think “There’s no way I’ll be able to do it. I’ll end up feeling guilty for not being there and showing up anyway.” Definitely something I need to work on!
  • Be nice to those who serve you. It goes along with the first one, but too often we look at the people who serve us as almost less than human. The servers at the restaurant, the cashier at the grocery store, the people we encounter who are just doing their jobs. Take a moment and say “Hello” and actually mean it. You don’t have to get their whole life’s story, but remember that they’re people too. And yes, because they’re people, they’re bound to have bad days from time to time. Don’t fault them for it. I know I wouldn’t want to be judged every time I have a bad day!
  • Remember that you’re being watched. No, I’m not a conspiracy theorist or paranoid that I’m being spied on, but I do realize that people are always watching. Though you may not realize it or ever know who they all are, people are watching – looking to see who you really are. Our environment often plays a huge role in how we behave. At church, we’re prone to act differently than if we were at the grocery store – or the club. Especially in our ultra connected digital age, people who aren’t even around me can see what I’ve been up to via Facebook or MySpace (does anyone still use MySpace?). We are all role models for the people around us and stopping to remember that people are watching and waiting to see what you’re going to do, what you’re going to say or how you’re going to act can have a huge impact on how we respond to the world around us.

Look for more over the next few days!

About Matthew Starner

Matthew Starner is pastor of Journey of Faith Church in Grand Rapids, Michigan, where they help people take their next step on their journey with Jesus.

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