Intangibles

24 04 2017

Hi all, it has been a while.  I am not doing much writing  currently due to many factors but mostly a lack of time.  That is not a bad thing as the tasks that keep me busy are very rewarding including being the parent of a beautiful teenager, immersing myself in my career, working on being a great husband and the service we do in our community, our church and our school.

Most of my late writing has been short stories.  Motivational pieces that are supposed to turn young christian ladies into basketball machines in Christ, prior to a game.  However I found myself writing something different, a devotion.

I was following a theme that started this year on one of the boards I serve.  The theme is “personal”.  I noticed that many of my fellow board members were adding personal stories to their devotionals.  I struggle to share personal things in life and I struggle with intangibles so I stepped out on a limb.  This is real, real personal and with the help of my friend Curt Harding (www.curtharding.com)  I think worth sharing.

-Matt

Intangibles

It is late in November at a Midwestern Lutheran High School and there is trouble in the air.  Something has descended over the girls’ JV basketball team practice like fog – something powerful we can all relate to: Doubt.  Frustrated, the coach blows his whistle gathers his young team.  He has eight freshman and three sophomores, which is part of the problem.  They are tired, discouraged, afraid, uncertain, and lost.  They are being asked to learn systems, plays and fundamentals that are all new to them.  They are, for the first time, playing basketball six days a week.  They have laughed, cried, and shook their heads in dismay.  They have doubts, doubts they belong, doubts that they can be everything the coach says they can be.  They have heard stories of the successes that await them, but they cannot touch, feel, or even see it.  They are intangibles.

The coach is well liked for his abilities to teach and he is known for his old school humor and his unbridled enthusiasm.  He is not known as a soap box preacher, but on this day, as his team gathers, his frustration boils over.  He takes a deep breath and addresses the team.  “This has got to stop, right now,” he begins, “I know you’re frustrated, I know you’re tired and I know you don’t think you belong here.”  “I’m here to tell you, you do belong, you earned your spot, this isn’t some participation trophy, you are here because you are good enough and I know you can do this, I’ve seen it.”  “You have got to reach inside of you and believe you CAN.”  The coach’s voice is filled with feeling and love. Quietly he gathers his breath and softly says “I believe in you.”  He points to his assistant coach and team manager and says, “They believe in you, now you’ve got to believe in you.”  The rest of the practice was quiet.  As the team gathered for the ending prayer and final cheer, coach told them to break huddle with two words:  “We Believe!”

2016 Girls Believe shirtsWe Believe became their mantra.  The team applied it not only to basketball, but to life.  They embraced the notion that David took down Goliath because he believed.  We believe was built on a foundation of faith in Christ and a belief that if He is with them, who can stand against them.

The same is true for you and me.  We struggle with the intangibles, the things we cannot touch, see or hear.  And like that team, WE Believe Christ is our foundation.  We also need to believe that were chosen to serve Christ through Valley Lutheran.  We believe in what we do here.  It is needed in our world, educating minds, nurturing faith and cultivating leaders.  We believe in our faculty and staff, and in our administration.  We believe in the Growing campaign and the impact it will make on our children, and this entire community.

I struggle with intangibles.  One day, a friend helped me with this while we were working on some basketball stuff together.  He reached into his pocket and pulled out a handful of rocks, I immediately made a joke asking him if they were the rocks from his head.  He smiled and handed me a rock, this rock (pull from pocket). He said that this rock symbolizes Jesus our rock and salvation.  He told me that holding it offers him comfort and strength.   It has now become my comfort, my strength.  What a gift…  This is actually my third rock, I have to admit I panic a little bit when I lose one, luckily my wife will share hers with me until I can replace mine.  Tangible, solid, a gentle comforting reminder that without Him, I am weak.

These rocks talk.  Hold them up to your ear.  Do you hear anything?  No?  That is good, that means the name of Jesus is still being praised in the world.  In Luke Chapter 19 as He made his way down from the Mount of Olives towards Jerusalem, riding on a colt the whole multitude of his disciples praising him “blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord!”  Verse 39 and 40 state

And some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to him “Teacher, rebuke your disciples.”  He answered, “I tell you, if they were silent, the very stones would cry out”
My story began with a group of girls – a team, and a coach.  That coach is our very own Coach Carroll.  I was his assistant.   I got to live and witness the power of WE BELIEVE.

We Believe

Prayer:

Dear Lord we are weak and need constant reminders of Your love and mercy.  Help us with the intangibles and doubts in our lives.  Continue to guide us offering us wisdom and direction as we share Your word and share our faith that keep the stones quiet.  In your name WE BELIEVE,

Amen.





I made it to half time in the game of life.

19 09 2016

As the horn blew and I stepped off the court and into the locker room, I sighed a sigh of relief.  I made it to halftime.  The big 5-0, didn’t seem so big anymore, I felt like 24, looked a lot older but over all not what I expected at 50.

untitledThe first quarter was everything you would expect.  Young full of energy, no real lows tons of highs.  You are floating, bullet proof and going through school playing games and hanging out with friends.  Yes there are a few let downs like broken bones, sprains, losing a girlfriend or two along the way.  College comes around and  I started to consider…whoa careful there…responsibilities, yikes.  This quarter I play with the same teammates for the most part until the end with a few exceptions. Towards the end of the first quarter I am a full blown man with a career, payments and no summers off, time out needed.  Man that went fast.

Sydney first day 2nd gradeThe second quarter starts fast after a break to catch my breath.  This quarter is completely different.  This one makes the roller coasters at Cedar Point look smooth.  The second quarter is my country song.  You know, you find love, there are kids, the dog dies, the marriage fails, I get really sick, God gives me a rare disorder that tries to kill me ….. in my pick up truck in the pouring rain.  But wait, there are incredible highs too.  Through the rain an angel reaches out to me, one from a long time ago and I find love again in Jenny.  We dry off together and raise my little daughter who in the second quarter is transitioning from daddy’s little girl to an incredibly beautiful young woman.  This is the quarter where we are tested as a family with illnesses, job loss, another puppy goes to heaven, and moving two houses into one.  As a family we embrace our faith and are rewarded with a clean bill of health, a daughter who is embracing her faith and proud of what she does with it for Him and a Sam, he was new, he is a puppy.  We as a family have ramped up our service at school, in church and in our community.  We are looking further down the road with optimism and hope.  As the quarter turns toward half we are once again reminded how precious life is as we lose another loved one in our 14 year old puppy, Lucy.  Lucy came to us early in the second quarter.  As time runs out at half time, I find it is harder to catch my breath than it was in the first quarter and ironically I am surrounded by many of the same people as when we began.  Family and friends.

vl-auction-2016As I embark on the second half, I am calmly confident.  I am surrounded by my family and blessed that my parents and all of my siblings are still with me.  I was lucky in life as my parents gave me a built-in best friend in my twin brother Chris, yes we bicker sometimes, fight like all friends but he is always there for me and I like to think I am there for him.  My wife and daughter are  my anchors that keep me whole, grounded and loved like no other.  So time to snug up the laces and step onto the hardwood the whistle is about to blow.





Untold stories of my other family

21 03 2016

(Door slamming on its hinges) “All eyes on me!” I started, “ladies we will be successful this  year if we can focus on three things, and three things only….”

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Our team proudly displayed on our mantle, because we are family

This could have been the start to any pre-game pep talk or pre-season chalk talk, it just happens to be one of my favorites that came from Coach Jim Valvano and ends with Coach flubbing his lines and ending with the “Green Bay Packers” which in itself is not bad but he was coaching the Rutgers Basketball Team at the time.  As a coach, you find yourself collecting hundreds of these stories.  Most of us on the Charger staff have pockets of sport coats and pants with various topics stuff with these gems of knowledge.  We look to motivate our team or maybe teach a life lesson or both.  Many times both.

Today I find myself reminiscing.  The season ended weeks ago but I still find a void.  An ache….for my girls.   I admit, I miss them.  Every dysfunctional (ha ha) one of them.  They are each special in their own way.  All the different personalities, motivations and senses of humor.  Over the course of four months you get to know them, care for them, love them.  We become a family as much as a team and we have to learn to trust each other, push each other, trust each other.  We share a common faith and deep inside our Christ centered team we learn to forgive, to help, to reach and to guide.  I miss the lessons, both from us coaches and from the players, the laughter, the goals and the accomplishments.  Six days a week they became my other family, or better, additions to my family and Mrs. Princing becomes a team mom too.

Yesterday we held our end of season banquet.  One big room full of family, coaches and players.  Once again we are all together.  We discuss the team/family, we discuss the season, we thank our wives for letting us play basketball coach,  we take the time to thank the parents for allowing us into their child’s life.  I’m not sure that is enough.

To my girls.  Most of  you will never see this, but it should be said, your impact on our lives as coaches is Huge.  You wiggle your way into our hearts and stake a hold.  You test our patience, you make us laugh and give us your heart on the court and in practice.  Some we reach on a deeper level.  After the season, we watch what you do from afar making sure you are ok.  We will show up to soccer games, softball games, track meets and such, not because we are big sports fans, but to see you and your family.  We go to plays and music concerts, not because we are big arts fans, but to see you and your family.  One more smile, one more laugh is the fuel that keeps us going, to pick up the whistle again and teach the game, teach life, share our Faith and make a difference, hopefully in a child’s life.

So as I quietly read the notes in the card from  my girls last night, I file them all in their spot in my heart and I place the card with the team picture on the mantle above the fireplace.  That is where it belongs, with the other pictures of my family.

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photo credit Anne Frank





Dreams, hard work and answered prayers

3 06 2015

Saginaw, MI January 8, 1978

ground breakingThe fruition of many dreams, many prayers and a lot of hard work was about to become reality.  A very chilly day greeted us as we huddled in the middle of a farm field in Saginaw Township.  Looking around in all directions you only saw fields and trees and if your eyes were really good you could make out the Greek Church half a mile away.  I was eleven years old and was surrounded by my parents, brothers & sisters, some of my best friends and their families and a whole lot of friends that I didn’t know yet, strangers for now.

A man in a white-collar stepped forward and offered a prayer to start the ceremony.  The main attraction was a shiny shovel and the men who took to the shovel to turn the dirt.  We were not witnessing gardening by the masses, although you could say we were planting a seed, we were breaking ground.  The ground that was broke and the seed that was planted grew to become the building and grounds of Valley Lutheran High School.  Dreams, prayers, hard work.

The idea was to continue a Christ centered education beyond the K-8 that currently existed in many of the area Lutheran Churches.  The school started in the basement of Faith Lutheran off of Bay Rd in Saginaw and today was the day that the building of the new school would begin.

For the past 38 years Valley Lutheran has done what the founders had visioned and so much more.  Over that time frame, Valley Lutheran has nurtured the faith, educated the minds and created over 3000 Christian leaders through their high school education.  The future looks bright.

B&W flame (9)May 29, 2015 it is 10:15am and I am sitting in a chair in the front row in the gymnasium(Chapelgymnatorium formerly known as the Carpet Dome) of the high school I graduated from, Valley Lutheran High School.  I am an invited guest along with about 60 others and we are surrounded by roughly 350 students of Valley Lutheran.

It’s hot.  I’m sweating.  I’m smiling and emotional.  It is a smile of pride and a smile of feeling blessed.  I sit next to my parents, one of my many sources of pride and I know that my daughter Sydney is somewhere behind me among the students, another source of my pride.  Three generations, a shared dream, hard work and answered prayers.

A  man in a white-collar(metaphorically speaking Pastor Korte actually was wearing a tie) steps forward and offers a prayer to start the ceremony.  We were invited to join in the students chapel this morning and also a special ceremony to burn the schools mortgage.  Debt free.  As Al Kaul(VL ’87) would say in his message a little later, similar to how we are in God’s eyes, debt free.

Such an occasion is spectacular in scope and it of course has to have a hiccup or two.  One such arose with the fire codes. The Township fire code would not allow the burning of two sheets(yes one was fine) of paper indoors.  No worries, a ceremonial urn was placed outside the double doors of the Chapelgymnatorium for the burning.

Two couples earned the  honor to burn the mortgage by being the highest bidders at the schools annual auction.  My parents Dennis and Nancy were one and Dave and Donna Sting were the others.

My parents represented the beginning.  They both served the school when it was first organized and built.  They continued on with service on the various boards and foundations. They are founders, parents of alumni and this year grandparents of a student. They showed me what it meant to give back, to serve.

The Stings represent the future.  They are new to Valley Lutheran and have a granddaughter who is freshman and two more behind her.  They thought enough of what Valley Lutheran means to their grand children to bid high.

As the ceremony progressed and the burning began I was waved over along with my friend and fellow alum Rodney Wakeman to the burning.  We stood with my parents, the Sting’s, Dr. Brandt and Kyle DeWees(development director).  Call it one of the perks of the position, or call it dumb luck, it is a moment I won’t forget.  I am lucky enough to be the President of the Board of Directors of Valley Lutheran this year and Rodney is the President of the Valley Lutheran Foundation. coincidence?  I think not.  Rodney’s parents were there in the beginning too.  Dreams, prayers and hard work.





Turn your head and cough

22 04 2015

hormone-clipart-doctor-clip-artI just finished up one of life’s greatest joys as a  middle aged man.  The yearly wellness exam.  You have to love the PC term that they now give the formerly name physical exam, wellness…..hmmm I guess it sounds more positive.

We are blessed.  We have a great family doctor.  She takes very good care of us and generally cares about our family.  I went to school with her husband so we connect on a generational level too.  That doesn’t mean I look forward to our annual visit.

I suffer from what Doc calls white coat syndrome.  Whenever I see a white coat(Dr. lab coat), I get anxious.  No shit.  I would think you were some kind of a sadist if you didn’t.  My pulse quickens, palms sweaty and my blood pressure goes up.  I literally have to talk myself down in the waiting room prior to going in.  Stupid really with the caring staff that I encounter.  The fear of the unknown I am sure plays into that.

Doc, the nurses and I have really deep conversations.  Part of it is to distract my mind the other is simple curiosity.  We have discussed donuts, drinking, medical marijuana, sun burns and an array of other topics.  Kids, social activities, todays PC climate, poison ivy and somewhere in there she convinced me to get my tetanus updated….I used to think this was just a precaution when I did something stupid like impale a body part with a rusty nail, not anymore now they mix in some magic elixir that keeps stuff like Whooping Cough away.

Overall it went well.  I am a pretty healthy man.  Yeah yeah, I know I could lose a few pounds but she pointed out I had over the last year and she mentioned I should exercise more (how about any) and my back should be addressed and that I drink too much beer(didn’t think that was possible), which I read to say drink more wine, after all it is good for you.

Pretty easy visit.  I know you women get poked and prodded a lot more than men, but I have to tell you I will never be comfortable when she ends with “your going to feel a lot of pressure”…..yikes!





Him…

28 03 2015

It’s a lonely 18 mile stretch that I drive every morning and evening. It is here that we talk.

It is serene. Surrounded by fields, trees and a few houses before entering a city filled with sidewalks, houses and blight. It is quiet and easy to slip into thought and this is when I talk to Him.

Our talks tend to be rather deep. They range from emotional to quizical and cover the gammit of what, why, who and where.

Bridge in HeavenI often find myself asking for clarity and reason. I ask him for guidance, direction and strength. I ask for understanding, growth and patience. I offer thanks too, but not as much as I ask.

My talk with Him last night was powerful and emotional as many are. I don’t always understand but I find peace and at times He sends me signs. That’s probably one of those points where there is only one set of footprints in the sand.

Yeah, I ask for signs….I ask a lot of Him.





Miracles….treating the unborn

26 02 2015

I wanted to share this link and this story. It is very powerful and shows how God blesses us when he gives incredible talent to people who in turn use it in positive ways.

Sandy, who writes the note below, is a sailing aquaintence. That is how our two small worlds connect. Enjoy., Matt

Hi sailing friends,

Many of you have not met my husband Scott. He is a Midwestern guy who becomes seasick on the Delaware River so you won’t find him out on a boat a lot. My J22 Hotticket team and I call him our benefactor who supplies us with new sails every few years. He loves my passion for sailing and enjoys hearing all about my sailing adventures. We met 34 years ago at MGH; he was a surgical resident and I was an ICU nurse. 32 years ago we moved to San Francisco and a wild concept to treat the unborn was hatched and research began at the UCSF Medical Center lab. Today Scott & his team have operated on over 1200 mothers caring fetuses with birth defects at CHOP. PBS followed The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia Fetal team for over two years along with four families. Check out the PBS teaser below. I thought you would all find it an amazing story.

The PBS series will air over three consecutive weeks, on Tuesday, from 8-9 pm, between March 31-April 14. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_WHK2t4HT0s&feature=youtu.be . Tune in to watch Twice Born, Stories from the Special Delivery Unit.

For those that want to see a little bit more check out this short clip that was sent to the National media. First part is the same as the youtube video but shows more of the OR in the second part. Sue M this is especially for you as a former CHOP ER nurse:

https://www.dropbox.com/s/grokjet86lh51kw/PBS%20TCA%20TwiceBorn%20DNxHD115%202398%20709-1.mp4?dl=0.

I am looking forward to warmer weather ahead for some fun sailing. We might need to chip away a path to get to open water with these sub zero temperatures. Maybe we should all go south for the Midwinters:)

All the best,

Sandy