Bomb-proof love

“This is the love you have been looking for all your life. This is the only love that can’t let you down. This is bomb-proof love. Not friend-love, not personal acclaim, not married love, and not even romantic love — it is this love that you are after, underneath all your pursuit of those others. And if this love of active obedience is an active reality in your life, you will be a person of integrity; you will be a person of prayer; you will be kind to people who mistreat you. If you have this love, you will be a little more like him. Look at him dying in the dark for you. Let it melt you into his likeness.”

-Timothy Keller, Encounters With Jesus

Matt’s Top Ten 2013 Highlights

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1. Milestones
There were a number of milestones in our families in 2013. My mom turned 60 on April 1 and we threw a surprise party, her first, a few weeks later at my parents’ church. My parents also celebrated their 40th anniversary and my in-laws celebrated their 25th anniversary with a beautiful ceremony at Fairland BIC Church in Cleona, where Sara and I said our own wedding vows five years ago.

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2. Alaska
I visited my 48th state back in May as part of my third Creative Missions trip. I teamed up with my friend Dave last year and some wonderful newcomers on some website projects for a couple of church plants in the Anchorage area and after the trip ended spent Memorial Day Weekend with my first college roommate, Fred, who lives in Anchorage with his wife and two daughters. Though I spent most of my time working, the painting-like background everywhere we went was every bit as beautiful as everyone always says it is.

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3. Yosemite National Park
I scratched Yosemite off my bucket list when Sara and I went to the park as part of our California vacation in July. Fortunately, we made it there before all of the wild fires and Government shutdowns. Driving was a challenge, dodging deer and other wildlife and handling switchbacks on windy roads with no guard rails but the scenery was well worth it.

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4. Record shopping in Nashville, San Antonio and Austin
Sara had a couple work conferences this year so I tagged along with her to Nashville and San Antonio and had plenty of time to explore both cities and hunt for records and do other nerdy things I love like go to the Johnny Cash Museum, explore the site of the 1968 World’s Fair and find the Daniel Johnston mural in Austin.

5. Moving to a college campus
I didn’t go to Eastern University and I don’t work there, but I became a resident of one of the country’s most beautiful campuses in August and minus the occasional late night phone call for Sara, the Doane Hall resident director, it’s been a blast (not paying rent or utilities is pretty nice, too).

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6. Red Bull Away
I attended my first Philadelphia Union away game at Red Bull Arena in Harrison, N.J., and it was an incredible experience standing with a couple hundred other Union supporters cheering the boys in blue and gold to victory. Also up there was seeing the U.S. Men’s National team score five goals in a friendly in San Diego and watching Louisville come back from a 2-0 deficit in the first half to win in a game we caught in Louisville on our way back from Nashville. I also saw my first soccer game in Canada during our June trip to Toronto but it unfortunately it was a forgettable one for the Union.

7. Shenandoah and the Big Apple
I ended up doing a couple road trips with each of my brothers this year. Mike and I went to Shenandoah National Park at the end of August and camped out for a couple nights and Dave and I did an overnight trip to New York City in November. I’m blessed to have two incredible brothers as my closest guy friends and both trips reminded me how fortunate I am to have both of them in my life.

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8. Salinas, Cannery Row and John Steinbeck
John Steinbeck has been my favorite author since middle school so getting to go to the museum in his hometown of Salinas, walk down Cannery Row in Monterey and have lunch at his boyhood home were truly a dream come true.

9. Church
I haven’t been an official member of a church since I graduated confirmation class as a kid so it was kind of a big deal to commit to Blue Route Vineyard, the church we have been attending in Media since June 2012. We also joined a small group and started helping with kids church.

10. Eastern University
Seeing Sara fulfill her dream of working in higher education at her alma mater was an incredible blessing and answer to prayer in 2013. After years of having jobs she liked but didn’t love, it’s awesome to see her thriving in a position that’s difficult and demanding but a perfect fit for her skills and expertise. I like to say now that my wife is a powerful person because she is – she is in charge of a building of nearly 200 college kids, the boss of nine RAs and the assistant dean of students. Can you tell I’m proud?

Born on the first of April

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The following is a piece I wrote for my mom’s surprise 60th birthday. My mom has since celebrated her 40th wedding anniversary with my dad. It’s been a year of milestones.

It was anything but a practical joke on April Fools Day in 1953 when Carla Mae Kent was born in Ramona, South Dakota. On any other April 1 it would have been cause for celebrating a birthday but on this particular day Carla crashed her mom’s birthday party with a birthday of her own.

I remember as a child celebrating one of the many joint birthdays my mom shared with my grandmother in South Dakota with a mother-daughter cake and thinking that was pretty much the coolest thing ever. That my mom and grandma were both born on April 1 was always something that separated my mom from the other kids’ moms.

Of course, it also meant that pranks were purely off limits. Pranks on my mom at least. As a kid my mom always made sure to get us with April Fools jokes, the one where she rushes into my bedroom on a Saturday morning yelling at me that I had overslept and was running late for school one that still burns me to this day.

That my mom is from a small town in South Dakota and that she was born on April Fools Day were two biographical features I loved telling people growing up and still love telling people about today because they are so unique but they don’t even begin to tell the story of my mom.

If you talk to people who have known my mom at various stages of her life, from her time as a young girl in Madison, South Dakota, to her days as a college student in Kansas and her life as a pastor’s wife that began in Ohio and her long career as an educator you will start to see a biographical pattern that is not so much unique or remarkable as it is consistent.

I often like to joke about my mom that even 40 years removed from the prairie, she’s still South Dakota to the core. She’s still skittish about driving in Philadelphia, buys her produce at farm stands, strikes up conversation with strangers at Target (or Terget as my grandmother would always say) and faithfully attends church several times a week singing the hymns with the same passion she sang when first learning the words at her small country church back home.

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