ReFrame

I just started reading Andy Weir’s novel The Martian. If you haven’t checked it out yet in book or movie form, download or grab a copy today. It is the story of Mark Watney, astronaut abandoned on Mars after his crew believes he had died in an accident.

The concept is simple and powerful.  In the part I read last night, Watney realizes he is accomplishing many firsts as the days pass and he lives on the planet.  He figures out how to plant and grow food while maintaining his atmosphere.

The character must reframe his situation to survive.

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On Pastor Steven Furtick’s podcast last week, he spoke about the importance of frames in our lives. Someones how we speak is more important than what we say.  Our spouse, loved ones, and children pull so much from our tone and physical expressions.

We frame our speech, homes, jobs, and faith. We frame our conflicts and antagonists.

Tonight we had baseball practice.  One of the basic strategies in the game is that, if you are a runner on base and there are two outs, you run on contact.  The minute the batter hits the ball, you take off and never look back. For some reason tonight, the boys were having an issue getting it.

I probably yelled “run on contact!” twenty times (I usually coach first base). The coach turned to me, laughed, and said, “the thing is, they don’t have any idea what that means.”

I was using a phrase from the years I played so long ago.

We tend to fall back on the familiar. How many times have you criticized your children or spouse with a phrase from your past? An exact expression that makes you cringe and thing, “that’s something my dad/mom said?”

A glass is dropped on the floor and it shatters.  The sound takes you back to your parents and their fights while you pretended to sleep upstairs.

The familiar isn’t always negative.

A fresh glass of iced tea will always remind me of my grandmother. A good laugh takes me back to moments as a kid with my mother where she’d pretend to talk to me through my stuffed animals and I’d end up in hysterics.

Sitting in a diner with Val takes me back to our early dates, when we had no money and nothing to do but look at each other and marvel in the mystery of the early forms of love.

This week has been hard so far, but I’m working on changing the frame to one of faith and hope. Once your frame hits the foundation of God’s Word, the sky is the only limit to how high you can go.

~Matt

 

The Gift of 10 Lessons Learned

One of the most valuable things we can do this time of year is reflect on lessons learned.  As the quote from Socrates goes, the unexamined life is not worth living. Val and I have both felt the pangs of growing pains, that we are nearing transition.  As 2016 arrives and I shift to marketing my current book project, I feel the tension of expectation.

Looking back, this year has carried with it many valuable lessons.

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From Carter-When you have a chance, run.

From Aiden-Sometimes nothing is better than a snuggle on the couch under a blanket while you watch Tumble Leaf.

From Val-Your heart can grow big enough to handle the stresses of life.

From Hazel, my grandmother who was called home to heaven to be with my grandfather this year-Be prepared. A gallon of fresh homemade iced tea can go far.

From our pastor, Bryan Koch, and the story of his accident-You can worship in the midst of pain, stand in the midst of sorrow, and offer grace and hope when it seems that none are possible.

From the friends and colleagues I’ve met working on the book-Never underestimate the power of unity, service, selfless love, and the drive of people working to make a difference.

From my dad-Always say, “I love you” before you hang up the phone.

From my mom-Know what you are having for dinner.

From the kids I’ve helped coach in baseball and basketball-We all get a chance to hit or take the shot, when it is your time be sure to make it count.

From God-You are never alone.

What was your greatest lesson this year?

~Matt

Protecting vs. Preparing

“Do it again.”

The sun slowly crept towards the mountains surrounding the Big Vision Foundation’s baseball fields as Carter stood in the hitting tunnel.  Dan, his coach and my good friend, was working on his swing.  Carter had other ideas.

“Get lined up and try again.”

I watched Carter’s face as he gradually disengaged.  He’s more like me than I realized, I thought. Criticism never goes over well for us both, even if it is constructive.

“Eight more.  Make it count.”

After eight more hits, Carter ran off to play with Aiden and I thanked Dan for his time.  The question haunted me.

When do you shift from protection to preparation?

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As parents, we have natural instincts to protect our children. We build bonds that grow as they do, with the traditional “daddy’s little girls” and “momma’s boys.” Every generation has questioned the efforts of the ones before. With Carter, I’m standing on the edge of the protection and preparation barrier and it’s killing me.

Jesus spent the final three years of his life in active ministry.  At one point he tells his followers that he is sending them out like sheep among the wolvesHe says to go and make disciples of all the nations.  They had a choice here; to listen and go or live in fear and stay behind, meeting in the Upper Room to reminisce.  These were wanted individuals, men known for hanging around a criminal inciting rebellion against the Roman government.

They were equipped, empowered, and set free. Every one followed their calling, even to death for their faith.

For every calling includes opposition. That is why we are refined in the first place. We only gain strength through struggle, harmony through hardship, and grace through forgiveness of others and ourselves.

It is okay to struggle.

We are in the midst of a generation that avoids it. Struggle is a bad word. It is not the American Way. We have apps to help our fitness, budget, diet, and lifestyle. We read magazines that promise improvement. We follow motivational speakers and writers making millions because we struggle and want to get out of it as soon as possible and maybe, just maybe, their new book will give us the answers.

For a moment take a breath and give yourself permission.

It is okay to struggle because it is the only way to find peace, real peace that passes all understanding.

Carter will go back and have another lesson next week and we’ll keep at it.  Because the cold October nights will pay off when he’s playing baseball years from now and looks back in his memories. I want him to have a well of resiliency, strength, hope and inspiration that he can use when he’s an adult facing down challenges much larger than figuring out the right way to hit a baseball.

So maybe I’m not on the barrier as much as I thought.  This fatherhood stuff isn’t easy.

I’m praying I get it right one day.

~Matt

 

For the Love of the Game

A light rain fell under swirling clouds as I stood next to Dan Clouser, founder of the Big Vision Foundation.  We looked across the Charlie Wagner Field, a replica of Fenway Park including its own Green Monster wall.

In this sanctuary, as the wind pushed against us, always blowing at home plate, there is peace.  Kids from across the country, some as far away as Canada, will travel to play here in a varied offering of tournaments. They will even set up an inflatable movie screen on summer nights for the showing of family movies, though not without a screening of Field of Dreams to start the season.

Clouser’s efforts have proved the mantra of the novel and film.

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What started with a group of friends has blossomed to an organization changing lives in Berks County on multiple levels.  On the practical level, they generate needed income from tourism.  Local hotels, gas stations, and restaurants all benefit from Clouser’s patrons.

On a deeper level, they are building bonds that will change the shape of this area. Kids from different sides of society join in unity behind a set of uniforms. Teams from the city get a taste of baseball in an idyllic setting. They are together for one goal.

“Teamwork in baseball is different,” Clouser tells me, “Take basketball.  If you are down to the last few seconds, you can design something for your most talented player to get the ball.  Baseball doesn’t have that option.  If you are on your ninth hitter, then he needs to hit or you can go to a pinch hitter without a ton of game time. Every member of the team must be ready to contribute.”

We forget this in the mix of everyday life as our culture is set up to celebrate the star. We look to individuals as teamwork fades in the background.

When we struggle, it is too easy to get caught in the comparison trap.  We aim our frustrations on one target ranging from our spouse to our children or coworkers. We forget that we do not live outside community as that small voice yells inside, kicking and screaming against a heavy silence that can wash over us.

This week, as baseball season has started on every level, learn the lessons of the game.  Take in the sights, sounds, smells, and atmosphere. Celebrate unity and carry it through into your own life.  Find a team or create your own. Be a part of a greater cause.

One idea, shared between friends, can change lives.  It can shape the world.  You can, and will, be a part of it.

Play ball.

~Matt

 

 

Creating Your Legend

Over the next two weeks, I’ll be adding some posts leading up to the release of my new men’s devotional at the end of the month. Let the countdown begin!

This week, the world of college basketball lost Dean Smith, legendary coach at the University of North Carolina whose tenure included guiding Michael Jordan, the greatest to play the game.  I’m not a huge basketball guy, but I found myself reading the stories and response to Smith’s passing.  In doing so, I found a valuable lesson in the untapped potential of men.

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Photo Credit: cuppycakelolz via Compfight cc

A phrase that kept coming up in the memories of Smith was, “a second father.”  Many players stated he was the father they never had and they admired his influence. He was a man who taught his players beyond the hardwood. He valued skills that would apply into the world after college.

He graduated 96.6 percent of his players over a career of almost four decades, an impressive number that reflected how much he valued academics.

In 1967, he provided the first scholarship to an African-American basketball player in the University of North Carolina’s history. Imagine this move in the midst of a state, place, and time still dealing with segregation.

As men, what can we learn from Smith’s life?

Our reach expands wider than we know. Even if you aren’t a coach, you will influence the life of a young person out there.  It can be your children, family members, or the children of friends. You have a daily chance to make a difference. Reach out, Talk. Take action. Share your passion with a young person in need. Being a father is one of the greatest blessings in life.  Being known as a “second father,” is just as high of a calling and one you shouldn’t miss.

Push your boundaries. Legends take root in breaking ground.  They do things faster, stronger, and better than anyone before.  Smith, in shattering the racial lines at his basketball program, was working to pave the way towards a new future.  How could this look for us? Find an outreach, charity, or volunteer opportunity. It can be down the highway, the block, or at the corner. Push yourself and you’ll be amazed at what happens.

Two final thoughts to remember from Coach Smith himself as you progress through your week:

“The most important thing in good leadership is truly caring.”

“There’s a point in every contest when sitting on the sidelines is not an option.”