September 28th, 2017
#iCONVICTION (Take Advantage of the Dash): Cape May County Herald

(Actual Column Online) I heard a really good sermon recently that challenged the listener to consider the impact and legacy of their temporal life. The main question was, “What are you doing within your dash?" 

You know the dash between your birthstone and your gravestone.  In other words, what are you doing with your life? 

Personally, I have a dash within a dash--if that makes sense. That additional dash was the five-year pause that occurred between the dash of my date of birth (DOB) and my date-of-death (DOD). 

It encompassed my time in prison—a metaphorical death of sorts—where I was removed from society and reduced to a number 314525E.  And though my dashes are all years apart and separate, they are inseparable. 

Please let me explain.

You see, every-eternal-thing that God has for me can be fulfilled within that dash from D-O-B to D-O-D (even a pause), the dash represents the time given by G-O-D. 

I was not responsible for my date of birth, nor am I in control of my date of death.  But what I do control are the actions and attitudes that are attached to the dashes latitude. 

And while we can micro-manage—to a certain degree—the quality of our lives, it is the time that existed in the dash of my prison life that exposed me to the true quality of life.

And here’s why: I may have been diminished to that dash of time by the system, but what I did with the time was not controlled by the system.  From arrival to departure, the dash was the most intensive part of my sentence.  It was where I learned to truly value time. 

And though that dash was given to me because of my recklessness, God still used that dash to teach me about His faithfulness. 

It was in the confines of my aloneness that I experienced God’s companionship.  It was in the daily chaos that I felt His peace.  And it was in spiritual solitude that I heard His still small voice.

A prison chaplain, Victor Hudson, once said something so simple, yet so profound, and it permeated into my mind and impacted my daily actions. 

He said, “Gentlemen, take root where you are planted.”  Now I’m not talking about taking on the indoctrination of a prison environment, but rather a spiritual application of utilizing my gifts and talents in spite of the prison walls around me.

Take advantage of the dash.  So I studied, I led Bible study, I encouraged people, and I shared my resources.   

As a result, I am still being blessed by the dividends of the time spent within the dash of my prison life. Those unique experiences, because they were given to me by God’s plan, have prepared me for what I am doing today. 

So maybe the most important question for you to ponder is:  What are you doing with your dash?  What legacy are you leaving to those around you? 

And what are you contributing in this life that will set you up for an inheritance in your eternal destination?

ED. NOTE: Matthew Maher is a former professional athlete and author of the books "U MAY B THE ONLY BIBLE SOMEBODY READS: R U LEGIBLE?" & “Imprisoned by Peace.” His “Decisions Determine Destiny” assemblies are funded by State Farm and service youth in the tristate area. He is the President of Soldiers for Faith Ministries and also the Director of Student Ministries at Coastal Christian Ocean City. He served four years and seven months in N.J. State prison and was released August 2014. You can learn more at Follow him on Twitter @mattmaherstory and Instagram @matthewmaher7. 

Love this quote from Matthew Maher: "Courage isn't the absence of fear, but the awareness of Jesus being near."
Debbie Kay Hope for the Broken Hearted Ministries
"I'd rather stand alone with Jesus than sit in a crowd without Him."
- Matthew Maher