Acceptable Obsession

I have been obsessed with many things over the course of my life. Unfortunately, I have a personality that lends itself to the addiction of obsession whether it be about people, things, situations, or fears. This has taken different forms over the various seasons of my life but it has always been present.

As a child I struggled with obsessive behavior due to fear. I had plenty of different fears but the worst by far was of someone breaking into the house during the middle of the night. Rather than being able to think rationally about the situation I developed behaviors to help ease my nerves. Those behaviors led to routines and eventually I became a slave to those routines. Thankfully, later in life God gave me freedom from that but I would be lying if I said that I don’t think about it still on a daily basis.

Later in life I’ve found that my obsessive tendencies are found more in the pursuit of goals. I have a tendency to set fairly aggressive goals for myself in areas ranging from career to hobbies and I become fixated on them. I am constantly evaluating my strategy and I have a difficult time finding rest until I achieve whatever benchmark is in front of me. The only problem is that once I reach my destination, I am immediately plotting my next course.

The first step is awareness! And praise God that He has given me peace and freedom from this, particularly in recent times. I have a long way to go but Im so thankful for words like the ones I read in My Utmost from 6.2 entitled “Are You Obsessed By Something?”. Chambers writes:

“If we are obsessed by God, nothing else can get into our lives – not concerns, nor tribulation, nor worries. And now we understand why our Lord emphasized the sin of worrying. How can we dare to be so absolutely unbelieving when God totally surrounds us? To be obsessed by God is to have an effective barricade against all of the assaults of the enemy.” 

My prayer is that I would be so fully obsessed by God that nothing else could distract me. Rather than being derailed by fear and anxiety I would love to be constantly and intimately aware of God’s presence in my life. Knowing and believing that God is exactly who He says He is leaves no room for doubt, insecurity, fear, or worry. The convicting reality is that God is the only thing worthy of our obsession.


Perspective and Humility

My daily time of prayer typically happens when I’m in the car. Specifically, I try to spend the 20 minutes each morning on my drive to work in conversation with God where I both talk and listen. I have a much easier time praying in that setting than trying to be in a completely still place and I also find that seeing the world passing by me as I drive is constantly reminding of things to be praying for or celebrating. It certainly doesn’t hurt that I get to drive across the James Island Connector each morning where I see a landscape that reminds of beautiful things about God’s character.

Nearly every morning for months I have prayed consistently for two things in my personal life. The first is that God would give me His perspective in my work, relationships, and ministry. Secondly, I have prayed for humility and that any desire to be heard, understood, appreciated, affirmed, awarded, or validated would be quieted in my heart.

At the same time of praying that prayer I have also been reading through each account of Christ’s life and ministry on earth in Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. Undoubtedly, the one thing that has connected with me the most is the humility of Christ throughout His ministry, but particularly in how everything played out related to His betrayal and eventual crucifixion.

What I’ve come to realize is that true humility is achievable when we have an appropriate perspective on God and on ourselves. It seems to me that the reason Christ was drawn to the outcasts, built his leadership team from the most common of people, and endured ridicule, pain, mockery, and a savage death, were all because His perspective allowed Him to constantly have the bigger picture in focus. In that bigger picture was confidence and purpose and there was no need to exercise power or control because He knew exactly who He was and what He had come to accomplish.

In my life, pride is a symptom of poor perspective. When I forget who I am and more importantly, who God is, I begin to struggle with the fight for myself. Fighting for a voice, for a place, for acknowledgement. I think part of the reason for this is because I’ve lost the big picture so my response is to grasp for the right now. Unfortunately, there is absolutely no freedom in that endeavor. There is no end to the pursuit of trying to be someone, trying to accomplish something, trying to gain power, influence, fame, or whatever your goal is.

Thankfully, there is enormous freedom in the right perspective. When I am able to approach my faith, people, and situations with an eternal perspective I am freed up through humility to simply be Christ in all aspects of my life. The lack of drive for personal gain leaves me available to simply be used however God sees fit. This of course is all in theory as it manifests itself probably less than 1% of my functional hours.

Praise God for the ability to live simply. God be my filter to avoid the noise that would damage my perspective.


A Letter To My Little Love


You are one of God’s greatest and sweetest gifts to me. Every day of your life my love for you has grown in a way that only time will allow as I would swear that today I simply couldn’t love you more than I do in this moment.

When we found out that you would be added to our family I wondered how I would love a child as much as I loved your brother. But I can assure you that there is no competition between the two of you. Somehow God has given me a heart capable of being completely full of love for you, Henry, and your mom.

Your first year of life has not been without challenges but I can honestly say that your smiles and laughs make the tough times difficult to remember. You have a sweetness that is addictive and it shows in the way that I can not keep myself from being physically attached to you if we’re in the same room.

I love waking up early with you every morning and having you in my lap for our bottle/coffee and the 6am news. I love waking you up from your naps and feeling the hot side of your face that was on the pillow. I love when you drive your brother crazy and think its the funniest thing in the world. I love when you get tired and have calm moments of snuggling. I love that I get to play with you after bath time every night and see how hard I can make you laugh. I love that you humor me and give me kisses each day with the hundreds of times that I try to steal them. I love that you are sweet, outgoing, slightly reckless, and very funny. I love that you are a chatterbox, love to have fun, and have a very funny sour face when you don’t get what you want. I love that you already remind me of your sweet momma.

Rhodes, my heart melts for you. Your little bell-shaped mouth and white-blonde hair are too much for me. The tone of your chuckles and your newfound love of walking make me so happy. Today, on your birthday, you slipped and fell at the pool. I was so sad to see you fall but the result was at least ten minutes of close snuggling with my little upset baby and I wouldn’t trade those minutes for anything in the world. I love to be with you and close to you.

I want you to know that I will always love you deeply. You will always have my approval and acceptance. You will always have my support and I will always want to be deeply involved in your life. You are a treasure to me and I hope my life and relationship with you will always reflect that. Im so glad you’re mine.

On your first birthday I celebrate the love of God in blessing me with you as my daughter. I celebrate the gift of a full year of seeing you, being with you, and growing in my love for you.

I love you little lady. Happy birthday!


A Few Recent Points of Reflection

I am a very impatient person, which plays itself out in many ways. Knowing this about myself I have tried to approach my time with the Lord in a slightly different way than ever before in my 32 years. I am trying to slow down and let the text settle on me so that I can be still with it and recall it at will throughout the day. Its amazing what happens when you slow down.

The Lord is working on a few things with me right now in a way that He never has before and I know he is using a variety of sources to both challenge and encourage me. The challenge always reminds me of how imperfect I am but also is a gentle reminder of my need for something much greater than myself. The encouragement comes in knowing that a sovereign God knows me, accepts me, and covers the ugliest parts of my life with abundant grace. I feel as though I had the blinders taken away recently and was allowed to see the pervasive selfishness in my life – it is/was extremely hard to observe but it made me so thankful in spite of myself, God sees Christ when he sees me.

These have been my points of reflection for the past two weeks.

1.) My Words: “Let your conversation always be full of grace” – Colossians 4:6

2.) Humility / Selflessness: “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit but in humility consider others better than yourselves.” – Philippians 4:3

3.) My Actions: “Let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth” – I John 3:18

4.) The Cost of Service: “True charity requires courage. Let us overcome the fear of getting our hands dirty so as to help those in need.” Pope Francis

5.) Anxiety: (Which I have struggled with a great deal this year) “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything through prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:6

6. Family: “Biblical leadership means that a man places his family’s interest above his own. He uses his leadership to put each member of the family in the best position possible to know and experience the care of God.” Each For The Other

7.) Identity: “Like a filled balloon, our ego has no core or substance; it is empty. It is stretched thin and pushed to the limit – it hurts. With our ego, like the case with any part of our body, we typically give it attention only when there is something wrong. So if our ego is commanding too much attention, that would seem to indicate not a good, but a bad thing. The ego is desperately trying to keep itself inflated – busy at creating a sense of identity on its own rather than resting in Christ for it.” – Steve Walker

8.) Attitude: “Do everything without complaining or arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure, children of God without fault in a crooked and depraved generation” – Philippians 2:14

9.)  Truth and Obedience: “When a truth of God is brought home to your soul, never allow it to pass without acting on it internally in your will, not necessarily externally in your physical life. Record it with ink and with blood – work it into your life. The weakest saint who transacts business with Jesus Christ is liberated the second he acts and God’s almighty power is available on his behalf.” – Oswald Chambers


A Few Tips For New Dads

Here are a few lessons that I am in the process of learning…

1.) Constructive criticism of your wife is never actually constructive.

As husbands and dads we often times think it is prudent to point out the things in our wife’s life that perhaps she could be doing better. Whether it is how money is being spent, a parenting issue, or perhaps even a personal appearance thought, the truth is that when in the season of transition to life with a new born, none of these things will be appreciated or even tolerated. In fact, they may provoke a very strong response. Therefore, please be smart and when you want to say something just try to imagine all of the things that are wrong with yourself and become fixated on any of them so that your mind can be distracted from the very dangerous move you are about to make. Bonus lesson – This concept not only applies to life with a newborn but actually the entire duration of your marriage.

2.) Your transition is difficult but do not compare it to your wife’s.

New dads carry their fair share of weight in the transition to life with your first or newest addition to the family. It is difficult and there is no getting around it. You go through the process of trying to balance your life after adding in a pretty significant new responsibility. However, despite the moments when you feel like your wife does not understand the challenge you are under please be reminded of several important things:

  • Your wife carried the baby for 9 months without requiring a single thing from you
  • She went through the process of delivering the baby, which thankfully is something you will never have to experience
  • She is the primary person responsible for nurturing the child in the first season of their lives requiring full attentiveness around the clock
  • You likely have a job to retreat to whereas she will stay for at least some length of time in the middle of the chaos

For these reasons and all of the ones Ive overlooked it is important that you not try to make a case for how tough things are on you. You should refrain from saying things like “Im exhausted” or “I could use a break” unless you want to open yourself to a swift kick to the nuts.

3.) Time, attention, and availability are among the best gifts you can offer your family.

I actually wrote a long blog about this that I never posted but I’ve realized that of all the things you can offer your spouse, none is greater than your time and attention. It is ironic that the most valuable gift is free but also the most difficult to give. As men we often want to do things that are more tangible. We want something that has a defined beginning and end. An act of service, a material object we can purchase, solve a problem, but what we fail to offer our family is often just our presence and availability. From my experience, just being available and engaged is the greatest of gifts so that your wife and partner knows that you are fully invested in the situation for both good times and the more challenging ones.

4.) As hard as it might be, stay focused on the day without losing sight of the big picture.

I tend to think pretty big picture. Im certainly not scared to think 10 or 20 years down the road but that doesn’t mean that I can afford to lose sight of today. We have been having some challenges with our little Rhodie but Hannah had great perspective on it this morning. After her night with very little sleep she told me that she is trying to remember that our time with Rhodes is not guaranteed so she is going to take advantage of every minute and every day rather than allowing herself to dwell on the tougher moments. The balance for me is remembering that today is critical – I need to live it with purpose – but I also need to remember that the difficult seasons will pass and we will find a new normal before we even know it.

5.) The busyness of the day does not relieve you of the need to communicate love, support, and attraction to your wife.

I am an introvert. When I enter into situations where I feel busy, stressed, or overwhelmed I tend to retreat inside of my own head and a go into a mentality that could be summarized as “Keep your head down and plow through. Do not become emotionally involved. Do not let things bother you. Stay focused. Get it done”. Believe it or not, there is not much room in that mentality for me to express my love and appreciation for my wife. This is obviously problematic. Something about the lack of sleep, nursing, hormones, and nonexistent personal time tends to leave new moms feeling a little less attractive than they might otherwise normally feel. This presents a huge opportunity for husbands to support their wives and affirm their value.

So these are all the things Im learning/not doing very well. Thankfully there is always room for growth and I have a wife who is full of grace for me.


Top 5 Questions

Here are the top 5 questions swirling around my head right now:

1.) How do you process the amount of tragedy that takes place in the world every day? I find that I am sickened by it and can barely even stand to read the news any more. Whether it is the story of the doctor in PA killing newborns or yesterday’s tornado that took the lives of  children at school, I am overwhelmed more than ever by the intentional acts and catastrophes that happen daily. Even more overwhelming are the atrocities that occur every hour in so many parts of the world beyond the US. Do you try your best to ignore it and stay focused on your situation or the place where you can impact change?

2.) Is it possible to live a life absent of comparison? Can you have a career, possessions, family, or even faith that is not defined by what other people have? What does it look like to live in a culture of comparison, which is blanketed in social comparison marketing (broad) and social media (person to person) without being consumed by it? Do we have any chance of observing our life objectively through the lens of how God has uniquely positioned us and what He has given us?

3.) For a Christian, how much of our life or lifestyle is justified through the Bible and how much do we justify ourselves to make us feel better about how we spend our money and time? If we truly believe that nothing else matters more than our relationship with Christ then are all aspects of our life in alignment with that?

4.) How do you live with urgency for today while maintaining a vision for what is to come? What is the balance of planning if you are to live every day like its your last? I have no problem thinking out ten years and beyond but how do I utilize that strength without neglecting the here and now? The trap of expecting tomorrow leaves a great deal undone today.

5.) What are the weaknesses in my life that I need to be aware of and how do they affect my role as a leader, father, friend, and husband? What are the repercussions if I’m not intentional about addressing them?

Catching Up

I have probably sat down to try and catch this blog up at least a dozen times and each attempt ends the same…I get frustrated about 60% of the way through, give up, and decide Im done blogging. However, I have realized lately that there are a lot of great things that happen in life which are easily forgotten if you don’t take the time to write them down.

If I tried to describe all that has happened since I quit writing this blog it would probably be far longer than even I would care to read. So much has happened in the last two years that each topic could have its own mini-novel. But for the sake of time and creating a starting point to more regularly record my thoughts, I am going to catch up through five general updates. They are as follows:

Jesus – Is faithful. As I look back over the whole course of my life but particularly the last few years I am blown away by his protection and provision. There have been a variety of things he has gently brought to my attention recently, which have dealt with very ugly places in my life. On more than one occasion he has woken me up at night, always at 2am, to deal directly with a specific issue I was facing. I would say that I sense the Holy Spirit in a new and more powerful way than I ever have before and I think it is resulting from true brokenness in my life. For an awfully long time I was convinced that I could create results, or safety, or always find a sense of control. Life experiences have since taught me that its just not the case but instead of feeling the “I told you so” from Christ when my shortcomings come to the surface I instead feel the quiet comfort of an all powerful God reminding me that he is in control and that I can find genuine peace and freedom in that. I am amazed by my own insecurity and how the things I’ve stood the tallest on at points in my life mean nothing. I’m even more amazed at how God has been so patient with me through all of it. I’ve just finished reading Genesis and I love seeing the evidence of how God used people in crazy circumstances to accomplish things for his glory – it gives me assurance that he can use me despite all of my problems. Three specific things that have been on my mind in the last week:

1.) I was at a conference recently where a woman talked about making Jesus famous. It may sound strange but something about that resonated with me deeply. I think it is because our society is so focused on making ourselves famous through shameless self promotion on blogs, social media and every other medium available. It made me think about the importance of making Jesus known and doing everything in our lives to bring him glory.

2.) I have been thinking a lot about the simple concept of covering people and situations in prayer and how Christ has covered us in grace and mercy. At church yesterday I had a brief vision that involved liquid being poured over what looked like a rocky, cliff line on the horizon. The liquid filled in the gaps and created a flat line at the top. The liquid later turned red and I realized that it was the blood of Christ covering the good and bad places in my life to make me a whole person. The even line on the horizon was the former me coupled with the redemption of Christ to make me new and complete. Again, I am both struck by my own insufficiency and the incredible nature of God’s love and sacrifice.

3.) In Philadelphia a couple months ago I heard a man named Leroy Barber talk about how you will never transform your community until you care as much about the poorest kid on the street as you do your own child. The weight of his statement did not hit me in that moment but it has since. It particularly has hit me (to the point of tears) when thinking about my friends Michael and Kristen Overcash and the challenges they have gone through with their son Gideon. I can not imagine the agony that they are going through but it is amazing to reflect on the impact their lives have had because they care so deeply for the poorest child not even on their own street but in other countries around the world.

Family – I could never do this justice but I’ll give it my best shot.

Hannah – I am so thankful to be married to a woman who knows the worst in me but never uses it against me. I am confronted with how opposite of that I am. If anyone in the world could look at me and just shake their head it would be my wife but instead she does a great deal to encourage me and uphold me. It has been a crazy couple of years for both of us but I truly love the place we are in right now. I think we are welcoming our baby girl into a wonderful season in our family. Im thankful that Hannah has committed to spending more time at home and putting her career on the back burner for the sake of investing in our family. Her effectiveness as a mom is evidenced by our wonderful little boy Henry and the way he constantly desires to be with her. Im sure that in some ways everyone would desire to have Hannah as a mom – always something fun to do, guaranteed afternoon ice cream breaks, 40 different drawing stations in the house, sing you to sleep for your naps and homemade doughnuts….Im actually thinking about asking her to be my mom as well.

Henry – To say that Henry brings joy to my life is like saying that Im mildly intrigued with deer hunting. I would have never imagined how much fun I could have with my little boy and how he would earn such a special place in my heart. My heart quite literally breaks for him and I am already so proud of the little man that he is becoming. My prayer for him is that God will inspire his little heart  and that even now he will get in the habit of dreaming big about what is possible in his life. At the same time I am praying that he understands that life as a follower of Jesus is all about bringing glory back to God in everything that we do. Im also praying that God will give him a great deal of patience with his dad who asks for kisses at least 60-80 times per day. Talk about being a different type of dad than you ever thought would be? Try kissing your son on the mouth and telling bedtime stories coupled with looking at deer magazines, holding fish and making jokes about stinky feet. I find that I am encouraging him to be all boy but I am always wanting to hold him and be close to him. Im clearly way more of a softy than I ever realized.

Rhodes – And speaking of being a softy I am probably getting ready to have my entire world rocked at some point in the next three weeks. I can not imagine having a daughter so I have tried not to – it generally starts well but ends up with anxiety about everything that happens during the teen years. Yesterday I actually started worrying about what type of swimsuit she is going to wear when she is in high school….breathe Matt, breathe. Despite my fears, I could not be more excited to welcome our sweet little girl into the world. On a serious note, I am a little scared about having a daughter because I know how much I will care for her and how Im sure that she will do things that will hurt me deeply over the course of our relationship. Its one thing for a little boy to do something stupid, get in trouble, make a bad decision etc but it is quite another for a clingy, overprotective dad to have that happen with a daughter. Hopefully she will have a lot of patience with me, God will provide me comfort and Hannah will console me when it does happen.

School  – At some point I will post a lengthy blog I wrote about my experience going through the MBA program at USC. The primary point though is that its over and oddly enough I would love to start another program at some point soon. I would say overall that it was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made and also one of the biggest challenges. I learned much more than was taught in the classrooms and most of it was about myself and how God has uniquely wired me. I made some great friends in the process and figured out a little more about what I’m actually capable of.

Health – In March of 2011 I decided that it was time to lose a few pounds. Henry was born a few months prior to that decision and I just wasnt feeling very good physically. The problem was that I had no time to work out due to school, baby, and PMI so the only option I had was to change how I was eating. It was interesting to see how important eating is in the process of losing weight. Without working out at all I dropped about 30 lbs just by changing my diet and really sticking to it. I followed South Beach Diet pretty closely but also just adjusted portion size from “Lumberjack” to “Normal Human Being”. I continued eating well and after about 15 months I decided that I had enough time to add in running, which would require very little in the way of extra time since I could just step outside and go for a jog. All told, I have lost about 55 lbs going from just over 240 lbs in March of 2011 to under 190 lbs. I have also gone from a size 40 waist to a 34 and for the first time in my life I genuinely enjoy exercise. It is amazing how much better I feel physically and mentally. It is also amazing how that potential was always there but I just didnt act on it. Really makes me wonder what else I should be focusing on!

Get ready for a “Things People Say When You Lose Weight” blog coming very soon.

PMI – Is it possible that PMI has now treated almost 50,000 people through our short-term trips and permanent project sites? I am so blessed to work in a setting and at an organization that focuses on serving people. This is probably one of the things I most quickly and easily take for granted but am also very easily reminded of. How amazing that God allowed me to be a part of what he wanted to do through PMI. He certainly didnt need me and there were plenty of other people who were more qualified, less prideful, and more teachable who could have done it but Im thankful that he gave me the chance.

I also genuinely love the people who I get to work with each day both those who have been here since the beginning and those who are relatively new to the scene. Its fun to work with people who are much better at many things than I am and get to see them excel in their respective areas of responsibility. Im thankful for the days when it was just Marianne and I doing our best to juggle everything but it is fun to watch the organization grow. It is particularly fun to have Michael in the office – it was a great season of problem solving via skype from the US to Uganda but I would say that I prefer a shout down the hall to a constantly interrupted international call. I just feel sorry for the girls at the office who have to put up with the constant use of the words “bro” and “man”. To be such a professional group of people we have no fear in using either of those words when talking to pretty much anyone.

Im excited about where PMI is going. Things are happening in Uganda that are shocking to me. I hear the stories and reports all the time but when they sink in it just seems unreal. I love that we’re being given the opportunity to test it in Nicaragua and that other folks are asking us to partner with them for projects in Central America and East Africa. I love that we have so many friends that have supported us all along the way and that the culture of family is prevalent from our donor base to our volunteers to our staff. Im thankful that together we have been able to impact a little town called Masindi and hopefully many people’s lives are better physically and spiritually because of it.


Ok, I think that somewhat catches me up but Im sure I forgot plenty of things. Whatever I forgot I will do my best to be a little more diligent about updating more than once a decade.