Keeping Up With The ________

Keeping up with the Jones’ – that common saying that basically means, comparing ourselves to some other family, group, person and trying to live up to what we believe they are, or have, that we do not…but wish we did.

There was a time when this would occur within the confines of our neighborhoods where the casual peek over the fence, or happenstance glance at the new car driving up the road. We’d see it or experience it on a small scale, perhaps with just a few people who were near to us.

Now, in this time, the Jones’ and the rest of the world are at our fingertips, sharing their lives, their high points, on every screen in front of us through social media.   And if we aren’t careful we can find ourselves perpetually wishing we have or are what someone else is sharing.

Let me be clear: I am not anti-social media, nor do I think that Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc. are necessarily bad things. They are and can be amazing tools and resources that connect all of us in a better way reaching across, in a limitless way, the globe. Just like any good tool, it can also be used in the wrong way and cause damage.

The power and strength of connection and re-connection that these mediums provide is amazing and at times overwhelming. And we must remember that most people, most of the time, aren’t posting their worst moments …but usually only their best.

I often wonder when watching people view their social media pages on their phones what is going through their minds.  Is it simply the enjoyment of sharing moments with their friends and loved ones that they otherwise may not have been aware of? Or, are they experiencing feelings of jealousy and self-doubt that can come with comparing their circumstances with those they are viewing?

We all compare ourselves at some point or another to someone and gauge How am I doing? in comparison to someone or some standard we have set for ourselves.  This can be a healthy approach to keep up with how you may be progressing in a certain area of your life that you have chosen to work on improving.  However, the pitfall exists where you shift from providing yourself with a healthy mile stone or measuring stick to wishing your situation was like someone else’s.

When viewing social media, if you find yourself feeling jealous, envious, or even just wishing that was yours…stop, put it away, and take in what you do have and what you are blessed with.

Enjoy and celebrate with what others share—but don’t feel the need to keep up with the whoever’s or whatever’s.

Just keep up with yourself and the blessings you have.

 

–Wade Jackson

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A Reminder from Joshua 1

Sometimes God must tell me something more than once. Does that ever happen to you? Sometimes it seems that ever devotion I read, every sermon I hear, and every Bible study I attend has the same words, telling me the same truth over and over, driving the message into my thick skull. God knows I learn through repetition, I guess!

Joshua must have been a bit hard-headed too. The Lord told him the same thing three times in nine verses! “Be strong and courageous” (vv. 6,9). “Be strong and very courageous” (v. 7). Joshua was about to assume the role as leader of the Israelites, a daunting task for sure. God assured Joshua of His presence, His power, and His protection. “I will never leave you,” He said in verse 5. And because of that promise, Joshua could go in confidence and boldness, because “the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go” (v. 9).

In what areas of life do you need courage? What is God calling you to do in His name? Be bold. Be tenacious. Be resolute. God is with you.

 

Brenda Harris is the prayer coordinator for Kendrick Brothers Productions.

 

A Jar Full of Marbles

Build Memories, Not Just Moments

I love taking my grandchildren to Disney, to the playground or to the beach. These activities are fun, but do they create memories that keep on keeping on even after this lifetime has passed.

 

A lifetime runs out,

but eternity is a very, very long time!

 

Build…

Buildings that have no foundation will never stand the winds of time. Wow, how profound. Life’s trials will come and go, but the foundations you help build in your grandchildren’s lives will last for a life time

The key words I think of when building anything is “structure” and “Intentional.” What kinds of structures are you intentionally building into your grandchildren’s lives that are done with a purpose and done on purpose?

 

Build with purpose.

Build on purpose.

 

It’s hard for your grandchildren to see God’s purpose working out in their lives just as it is for us. God does not do anything by accident. All we have gone through is all part of what God wants to build in us. Year by year, challenge by challenge, decision by decision, God uses them all to build his image in us.

Think about how you can intentionally build in each of your grandchildren. Here are some things I want to build in my grandchildren and in myself.

 

It is more caught than taught.

The world around us is in direct conflict with what we want to see in our grandchildren’s lives. The world creates expectations that may have nothing to do with God’s purposes. We must live and actively proclaim the truth over the lies. As a grandfather, I want to be one of the louder voices saying to our grandchildren that God loves them and has a wonderful plan for their lives. Words, thoughts and actions can build up or tear down, which do they hear and see from us?

 

What you want your grandchildren to remember

must be said and lived now.

 

Memories…

 

The best legacies you will ever leave

are the memories you create.

 

If I were to ask each of my grandchildren what was their most memorable moment I hope there are seven, one for each of my grandchildren. Why? Let me say it again, because they are all individuals. We must see them as individuals and seek to build memories that last for their life-times.

 

Memories are made over time.

 

I am sure all of my grandchildren will remember the great time we had at the lake, at an amusement park or on a Disney cruise. But what memories would each of my grandchildren recall as being special; working together on a project, a mission trip to the Navajo Nation, maybe playing Scrabble or Dominoes and beating Papa over and over again? Those memories have very specific meaning, because of the time and conversation we have while doing them.

 

I want to change history and memories on purpose.

Memories by accident can be scary.

 

Build, structure, and create the times you want to live and the memories you want to leave. Recently we spent a week in Breckenridge, Colorado, and the best things I did with our grandchildren was make snow angels. It did not cost us one dime. It was not the reason for the trip; it was simply spontaneous and great fun. We have the pictures!

 

Your grandchildren will not judge you by the car you drive,

the house you live in or by the stuff you own

but by the memories you live and leave.

 

For a Lifetime

 

Maybe you’re thinking, “Wow, for a lifetime!” “There is plenty of time for that.” Really? Only God knows for sure, and you ain’t God! So what are you waiting for?

 

How much lifetime do we really have left?

Oh, you don’t know!

You might want to get on with it now.

 

May I make a suggestion? Well, I’m going to do it anyway. Ask each of your grandchildren this simple but leading question, “If I could do anything for you or with you that I can afford, what would you like most?” What would they say? If you don’t know, at least ask. I promise I will, too!

 

Remember…

Money and stuff will be spent and rust away but memories last for a lifetime.

 

When you ask them what you could do for them remember they are different ages. You may need to ask the parents for some insights.

 

Reminder: YOUR greatest investments or achievements are not found

 in your “what’s” – possessions, power, privilege or prestige –

but in your “Who’s” – God, your wife, family and

the legacy you live and leave.

 

 

Written by our dear friend, the late Dr. Dan Erickson. May the memories we have of him live on as we create new memories with our loved ones.

Bible Bullet: Tragedy in Texas

Recently, our nation has witnessed tragic, unjust and horrific events. The massacre in Las Vegas, the terror in New York, and the slaughter of the innocents in Sutherland Springs, Texas. Evil seems everywhere—flowing directly from the one who opposes God the most.

The Bible teaches in Genesis 3 that Satan led Adam and Eve into sin by deception. He questioned the goodness of God and undermined the authority of God’s word to Adam and Eve. When they ate of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, our world drastically changed. Disbelief and disobedience led to a breech in their relationship with the Creator, their marriage experienced shame, and the creation around them was no longer harmonious. Their sons experienced conflict, and jealousy and envy led to the first murder (Genesis 4).

The violence that has occurred in Nevada, New York, and Texas reminds us that we live in a sinful, fallen world.  Unfortunately, the same evil experienced by the Christians at the First Baptist Church of Sutherland Springs has plagued Christians for years around the world.

Is this evil a subtle power, a generic force, or some type of impersonal energy? Not according to the Bible. Both Jesus and Paul referred to Satan as an evil force (cf. Matthew 13:19, John 14:30, Ephesians 2:2, 2Corinthians 4:4); and Paul teaches that “creation was subjected to futility”, but the “creation itself also will be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God” (Romans 8:20-21).

No one can give a simple answer to evil in this world.  If anyone had a reason to ask the question why? it was Job.  Having lost his children, his flocks and herds, material goods, and even his health, Job asked God the reason for his suffering. When God finally spoke out of the whirlwind, no answer was given to satisfy intellectual understanding. God’s word to Job was to worship in the midst of his suffering, and so Job did: “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked I will depart; the Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord” (Job 1:21).

We don’t need intellectual understanding—we need God. Rather than seeking an answer to the question why, we are to seek Him. His presence is our answer. Join me in praying for bereaved families—that they will experience His presence and the “the peace that passes human understanding” (Philippians 4:7).

I share these biblical truths to remind us of what we already know. Often comfort comes as we encourage ourselves in remembering who God is, what He has done, and His amazing creativity in bringing good from evil. Remember that Almighty God turned the worst event in human history—the murder of the sinless Son of God—to the greatest achievement in history: the provision for the forgiveness of sin, our justification before a Holy God, and the gift of abundant and eternal life in Christ. God always has the last word, and His last word at the cross was the resurrection.  Even so, He will have the last word in these tragic events.

There is much we don’t know, but through God’s word there is infinite knowledge of Him “who has given us all things that pertain to life and godliness” (2Peter 1:3). Be encouraged as you ponder on these truths from the Bible:

 

  • Death for God’s people is not final (cf. Isaiah 25:9, Revelation 21:3-4).

 

  • Jesus has prepared a place in heaven for us (John 14:1-3).

 

  • Life in Christ is abundant (John 10:10).

 

  • Life in Christ is eternal (Matthew 28:20).

 

  • Jesus’ victory over death becomes ours (John 11:25-6).

 

  • The same power (the Holy Spirit) that resurrected Jesus resurrects us (Romans 8:11).

 

  • Just as Jesus suffered and was glorified, so those in Christ will be glorified (Romans 8:18).

 

  • Nothing—not even physical death, can separate us from the love of Christ (Romans 8:35-39).

 

  • Our relationship with Christ is sufficient for life and death (Romans 14:7-9).

 

  • Even physical death is used for God’s purpose (Romans 8:28).

 

A glimpse into glory: Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth passed away, and there was no longer any sea.  I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband.  And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Now the dwelling of God is with men, and He will live with them.  They will be His people, and God Himself will be with them and be their God.  He will wipe every tear from their eyes.  There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away. —Revelation 21:1-4

 

–David Maddox  

 

Safety in the Arms of Our Father

Remember playing tag as a kid? Hours flew by as you ran for your life from someone who wanted to get you. The goal was survival. You darted around, barely dodging that outstretched arm. Out of breath and sweating profusely, you finally made it to a base.

The base area was set aside so you could temporarily take a break from the intensity of the game—you could calm down, strategize, and refuel for the challenges ahead.

The feeling of being on base is what should be experienced in a relationship with a father. In a dangerous world full of spiritual predators, a father must act as a safe haven. Having a caring father helps us become more aware of ourselves. When we feel threatened, we withdraw and become blind to what is happening both within and outside of ourselves. Our view of life narrows, causing us to overlook our own gifts and skills. We suppress our need for external guidance and miss the meaning found in our relationships. However, when with our father, we can thrive.

Building a complex attachment with a good father creates a secure base we can launch from. When we feel safe, we experience our value, despite being aware of the imperfections that creep into every aspect of our lives. Knowing we are loved through our failures acts as a powerful healing force. Bouncing back and starting again seems less daunting. A father provides us with a resource for feedback that confronts our inadequacies. He gives us an example of resisting passivity and actively stepping toward our self-development and need to contribute to the world.

Fathers show us how to self-initiate by pursuing a relationship with us individually—while also making life better for the family as a whole. In the security of their presence, they teach us to set goals, understand our existence, pay attention to details, make difficult choices, establish our values, consider our priorities, express our thoughts and feelings, and strengthen our faith. A father is an essential influence.

In a world that often makes us feel lonely and disconnected, we hear a father’s voice saying, “You are not alone. I want to get to know you and help you to know yourself better. Your thoughts, feelings and dreams are all important to me. You matter despite what the world says. I’m here for you, and my presence empowers you to exceed your expectations. To be with me is to discover the greatest parts of yourself. My eyes reflect the value of who you are. You can always rely on me to give you the best of who I am.”

As a base, a father is always accessible relationally. Our behaviors, choices and lifestyle, no matter how negative, cannot destroy the bond between us and our father.

A father is also responsive. He listens to others and communicates his own perspective in order to strengthen his relationships. He tunes in to what others are trying to say and perceives verbal and non-verbal messages accurately.

Lastly, a father is engaged. He deliberately attempts to understand and respect the perspectives of other people. He willingly sacrifices himself in order to help others succeed.

A father meets us where we are at. A secure relationship with an accessible, responsive and engaged father is a miraculous advantage in having a fulfilling and meaningful life. “A.R.E. you there for me?” we ask. He loudly replies, “You bet I am!” May we be that base that our children can rely on. Thank you, God, for being our ultimate Father. It is because of your presence and love that fatherhood can be positively expressed among us (1 John 4:19).

 

Dr. Roy Smith has worked for over 35 years as a psychologist/counselor to men and their families. He is an ordained minister, founder of Pennsylvania Counseling Services (www.pacounseling.com) and author of Knights of the 21st Century (www.K21.men), a men’s ministry. Through K21, Roy has written several books and DVD programs in the area of men’s issues and has consulted on two women’s curriculum series (www.realwomen21.com). He also founded Servant’s Oasis, a non-profit that provides books and DVD resources to men and women in prisons (www.servantsoasis.org). Roy has a M.Div. and a Ph.D. in clinical psychology. He is married to Jan, also a psychologist, who has been supportive though the process of creating K21. They have two children and one grandson.

Can You Pray Your Kids Get Caught?

For years, Ben and Sarah routinely said a prayer they hoped would not come true for any of their four children.  They knew how kids could be.  They knew how the culture pulls good kids from good homes to make not-so-good decisions.  My friend Ben is especially aware because he was more than a bit rebellious in his younger days.  Looking at him, you wouldn’t know it today, but Ben was deep into narcotics in his early twenties.

So, Ben and Sarah prayed specifically that if and when their children did something illegal or immoral or simply made a really bad choice, that they would get caught.

That’s the exact words they used.  And not long ago their prayer was answered.  It was a holiday weekend with lots of activity in the house, and Sarah needed something that was last seen in their teenage daughter’s closet.  Looking there, she found a bottle of rum and some fruit-mixer concoction.

The Christmas celebration took a sharp, unpleasant, yet necessary turn.  With sincere apologies, some of the guests were asked to leave.  The festivities were postponed.  The family huddled and their daughter was confronted.

I wasn’t there, so I don’t know exactly what was said.  But the core message was very personal and very compelling.  Up until that day, Ben’s four children only had an inkling of their father’s drug addiction from two decades earlier.  How far he’d fallen.  And how God had rescued him.  It wasn’t a pleasant story.  And it’s not a story you should tell to small children.  After all, when kids are young and impressionable, they need to see dad as a hero.  Invincible.  A solid rock they can count on.

Ben had been that dependable dad for their entire lives.  Which is a great thing.  And which made his testimony to his children even more powerful.   Over the years, Ben had shared his story with men’s groups and other individuals who were struggling with addiction.  He talked about Satan’s power, hitting bottom, and finding hope only after turning his life over to Christ.  But his kids only knew small bits and pieces of the story.

That evening they heard something they didn’t want to hear, but needed to hear.  However, they were old enough to listen, understand, and learn from their father’s mistakes.  The teenager who was hiding the liquor really didn’t receive a severe punishment.  Listening to her dad open up about his personal battle — the stumbling, helplessness, surrender, and recovery — had more than enough impact.  In a sense, the family was broken that night.  But they soon healed stronger than ever.

Thinking about Ben and Sarah, the word that comes to mind is courage.  Courage to overcome.  Courage to trust.  Courage to pray the way they did for  their kids.  And courage to see the big picture.  They weren’t just dealing with a bottle of rum found in a teenager’s closet.  They were standing up against Satan who had chosen that Christmas season to seize a new foothold in their family.  But the father of lies and deceit didn’t have a chance.  Instead of sweeping it under the rug or delaying any repercussions until after the family event, that mom and dad addressed the situation firmly, efficiently, and without hesitation.  How did they know what to do and what to say?  Only because that’s what they had been praying for.

Your past may be different than Ben’s.  But your children are facing the same cultural challenges.  Do you have the courage to pray for your children to get caught?  Will you have the courage to confront your children’s unhealthy choices at the top of the slippery slope?

 

PRAYER FOR WISE CHOICES

Heavenly Father.  We pray that our kids make choices that honor you.  But we also know that our kids have sinned and will sin.  In their humanness, they will fall short of your glory.  In humility and brokenness, Lord, we ask that you open our eyes to those times when we need to intervene.  We pray they get caught.  In those difficult moments, we pray that we have the courage and wisdom to respond with love and truth.  And, thank you Lord for preparing our heart and minds to be the parents our children need in every situation.  In times of joy.  And in times when the world seems to be crumbling around us.  Thank you for being our rock.  We love and trust you.  In Jesus’ name.  Amen.

 

Pray that we may be delivered from wicked and evil people, for not everyone has faith. But the Lord is faithful, and he will strengthen you and protect you from the evil one.

                                             2 Thessalonians 3:2-3 NIV

 

 

Jay Payleitner is a national speaker on parenting and marriage and best-selling author of 52 Things Kids Need from a Dad and What If God Wrote Your Bucket List?  His latest book is 52 Ways to Connect as a Couple.  For more, go to www.jaypayleitner.com.

Standing in the Gap: The Value of Mentoring

 

In his book Good to Great in God’s Eyes, author and pastor Chip Ingram states, “A master’s ceiling can become his disciple’s floor if the disciple knows how to absorb the lessons of the master’s life.” In my own experience, I have witnessed countless times the significance and eternal impact that mentoring creates. There are literally MILLIONS of children (many right in our own neighborhoods) who do not receive any of the parental affirmation and protection they so desperately need to make it in today’s world.

As Christian parents, I believe it is our responsibility to seek out and build up today’s youth who may not have strong parental figures of their own (men mentoring boys, women with girls). Obviously mentoring begins at home with our own kids, but there is probably a child in need of a little (or a lot!) of guidance within your sphere of influence too. Please understand I am not challenging everyone reading this to jump into a full-time mentoring role, but even small amounts of encouragement and generosity can go a long way in a child’s life. If in fact you do find yourself being led to mentor a youth, here are a few quick points to help get you going:

Be Consistent

Almost without a doubt, a troubled youth has had more than one parent, family member, or friend bail on them in life. If you do decide to become a mentor, establishing a set day, time, and duration will bring a welcome change of consistency into his or her life.

Be Authentic

Don’t judge based on what their outside life may look like to us. There probably are many underlying issues such as being lied to, abused (in any form), or manipulated. We are all damaged individuals—the difference being as Christian adults we are now capable of trusting and turning it over to Christ. This may or may not be an option for your mentee, so keep that in mind.

Be Faithful

There is so much to be said for Christians who live their faith out on a daily basis. Stay true to that while mentoring too. Show the love of Jesus through your words and actions, and allow the Holy Spirit to direct the relationship. When we do, lives are impacted and generations are changed for God’s glory.

 

Moms and dads, who is the Lord leading you today to begin investing in as a mentor?

 

And the King will answer and say to them, ‘Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me’. –Matthew 25:40 (NKJV)

 

Matt Haviland is the founder and director of A Father’s Walk single dad ministry. More information at www.afatherswalk.org.

Facing the Blitz: Pass on a Blessing

Pass on a Blessing

“My father gave me the greatest gift anyone could give another person: He believed in me.” –Jim Valvano

Game Plan: 

“To Timothy, my dear son: Grace, mercy and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord. I thank God…as night and day I constantly remember you in my prayers. I am reminded of your sincere faith, which first lived in your grandmother Lois and in your mother Eunice and, I am persuaded, now lives in you also. For this reason, I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of my hands For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self-discipline…He has saved us and called us to a holy life—not because of anything we have done but because of his own purpose and grace. This grace was given us in Christ Jesus …our Savior…” –2 Tim 1:2-9 NIV

Time Out:

Think about the blessing you wished you’d gotten from your father or mother. Remember how God the Father said of Jesus, “This is my Son, in whom I am well pleased.” Who is God asking you to bless? A child or grandchild? Spouse? Someone without a parent in his or her life?

Pray about the persons you want to affirm and bless by asking for God’s very best in their heart and life.

“Think about the blessing you wished you’d gotten from your father or mother. Pray about a person you want to affirm and bless by asking for God’s very best in their heart and life.” –Jeff Kemp

Go Deep:

Talk to God about this. Do the following for the person you want to bless:

  • Write down one sentence about how you love and are pleased with him or her.
  • One sentence about their identity.
  • One sentence about their mission.
  • One sentence about God’s control and benevolence in their life.
  • Pray that blessing for them privately for a period.

Let God tell you when you should create a special time to bless them by putting your hand on them and praying the blessing out loud. Or, write it in a letter and send it to them.

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Bold and Courageous: What the Resolution Means to Me

For the past couple years, I have dreamt of holding a Resolution Ceremony in my city, like the one in the movie Courageous. This year it became a reality. Traditionally, my Father’s Day events have been specific to single fathers and their children, but I decided to broaden our scope this time around. Even more so, to partner with other churches to maximize our outreach. The event was a success: 18 men (myself included) from several churches took the Resolution before God and our families. It could not have been a more special evening.

Even though this was only a few days ago, I feel different. Not like I’ve become some super man or anything—but grateful that this means something to me. Perhaps even instilling a fear of the Lord. I keep thinking of the line in the movie where the ceremony facilitator reminds the men that they are now “doubly accountable.” The Bible tells us that “The fear of the Lord is the instruction for wisdom, and before honor comes humility.” (Prov. 15:33) and that “If we go on sinning willfully after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sin.” (Heb. 10:26). God has pulled on my heart for a couple years to do the Resolution, I feel now He is giving me the strength to live it out.

Along with the personal convictions and expectations I have from this past weekend, here are some other areas that really stick out to me and what I hope all men who rise to this challenge realize too:

The Resolution is about living biblical principles out in our daily lives. This may sound cliché, but when push comes to shove in life, anyone that is less than sold-out for Christ tends to gravitate to the easier road. Taking these vows with an undivided heart really helps raise the bar.

It is a daily reminder of putting ourselves third. God is first, our families and others are second, we are third. The glow of the night may fade over time, but having the Resolution hanging in your living room is a constant reminder of why we do what we do.

Locking arms with other brothers to take the vows with. Some of those men I met for the first time that evening, others I have known for over a decade. Men are strong when in community, standing shoulder to shoulder with each other. An event like this has the potential to both create new friendships and strengthen old ones—building a foundation that is so desperately needed among guys.

Silos can be broken. It was amazing to partner with three churches on the planning committee—to have leaders from other church homes work together for a greater purpose. Oh, imagine the possibilities if this became the norm in our country!

This is only the beginning. Anyone who has been in men’s ministry for any length of time knows how challenging it can be to get men engaged—especially in the deep subjects. Our plan is to have an end-of-summer cookout at the lake, and begin the book study The Resolution for Men in the fall. Each church can work at their own pace and schedule. What if over the years the number of men and churches who participate in the Resolution ceremony continues to grow—followed by small groups and other forms of ministry? A revival of manhood could be born!

 

The Challenge

Are you willing to lead the charge in helping men rise to their God-given calling as husbands, fathers, and leaders? Can you partner with other churches and organizations to bring change to your community? Will you act on this prompt sooner than later?

 

Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go. –Josh. 1:9

 

Matt Haviland is the founder and director of A Father’s Walk single dad ministry, the coauthor of The Daddy Gap, and the cofounder of the Midwest Single Parenting Summit. He is an ordinary guy who chases after an extraordinary God. Matt lives with his wife and daughter in Grand Rapids, MI. For more information, please visit www.afatherswalk.org.