And Then He Was Two

I can hardly believe that this Saturday my little boy Matthew turns two.  Where has the time gone?  I can still remember the day he was born clear as day.  I wrote a blog then and if you did not get a chance to read it then, you can read it here.

Oh how the memories of his birth flow back to me like a river released from a dam.  The feelings of being a new father and knowing that this new life, which you help bring into this world, will be shaped and formed by the person you are.

Making life fills you with humility, balls, arrogance, a mighty manliness, confidence, terror, joy, dread, and love, a sense of calm and reckless adventure.  It is a complete bag of different emotions.  Isn’t anything possible now?  If we can populate the world, can’t we create and shape it?  Then reality and diapers and formula and sleepless nights and child seats and yellow custard crap and cream cheese vomit set in.  But…oh, these are the blessed needs and fluids of my boy and at the end of each headachy, tiring new world of a day, we are exhausted but exalted by new identities, Mom and Dad!

At home, we take alternating shifts.  I walk my boy lost miles across our tiny bedroom floor until his eyes go from full to half-mast to…sleep.  Sitting back in the recliner chair with Matthew upon my chest, I watch him rise and fall with each breath I take.  I listen and count each and every exhalation of his lungs, his breaths still so few as to remain countable, a prayer to God, Matthew’s ultimate Creator.  I inhale his baby smells, secure him gently in my hands, synchronize our breathing, and I drift to sleep in peace.

The endorphin high of birth fades, but its trace remains with you forever, its fingerprints indelible proof of love’s presence and daily grandeur.  You have offered up your prayer.  You have vowed service to a new world and laid a bedrock of earthly faith.  You have chosen your sword, your shield, and where you will fall.  Whatever tomorrow brings, these things, these people, will be with you always.  The power of choice, of a life, a lover, a place to stand, will be there to be called upon and make fresh sense of your tangled history.  More important, it will also be there when you waver, when you’re lost, providing you with the elements of a new compass, encased within your heart.

From here on, the hard gravitational pull of the past will have a formidable challenger: your current life.  Together, Stephanie and I made one and one equal three.  That is God’s miracle.  That is life.

This new life revealed that I was more than my life had ever previously been.  It was more than any song, any story, any night, any idea, any truth, any lie, any shadow, any question, any answer, and any moment could ever bear.  All of these were just a restless figment of my own and others’ imagination.  Work is work and play is play, but life is life, and life trumps everything else.

Matthew, these past two years have been the greatest years of my life.  Anything I have ever done or accomplished pale in comparison to what you have given me.  You have given my life a new purpose.  You have made me see the world in a completely different way.  You have shown me God in a way I had never previously known.  Matthew, you have redefined who I am as a man and that is really the greatest gift anyone could ever hope to get.

I know that this is not the end.  There are so many days (God willing) to come, so many memories to write unto my heart, and so many things I still want to teach you.  I just wanted to take this moment in time to pause and tell you what you mean to me.  You are my little boy and I am prouder of you than I will ever be able to express to you in words or actions.  I am proud of the little boy you are today and I am proud of the man you will become one day.  Each day I get to spend with you in my life is a gift from God and I cherish each moment.

You truly are the best part of me Matthew and I hope you enjoy your day.  You deserve it!

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Remembering Christmas as a Kid and Ideals Christmas

I can remember back to when I was a little boy.  Many of my memories revolve around my Grandma Rose and time spent on the farm with her.  So many memories filled with snow and Christmas and life on the farm.

I can remember that Grandma Rose would always buy a copy of the Ideals Christmas, which is published by the Ideals Company out of Nashville, TN.  Each year we would look through the publication and it was filled with Christmas stories, recipes, poems, and songs.  I can remember Grandma reading me these stories.  It was a very joyful time for me each year.

As what happens with most of those, I grew older and it was no longer “cute” to me to go through that publication each year.  Grandma would continue to get the publication each year, but at some point, I stopped looking at it.  It stopped becoming “cool” to go through it with Grandma and have her read the stories and poems to me.  It certainly was not appealing to me to sing the Christmas songs found in the book.  Over time, it was just something I no longer had interest in.  This all happened over 30 years ago and the memories that came from that publication had left my mind completely.

Fast forward to two months ago.  I was going through the Christian Book catalog, looking for Advent devotionals for the upcoming season and then I saw it.  The 2017 edition of the Ideals Christmas publication.  I was completely shocked.  I had no idea that they even still published this.  I guess that was foolish thinking since it has been around for so long.  It had just completely left my radar, until now.  I was completely stopped in my tracks.  I immediately ordered it and when it came in the mail later in the week, I went through it and was flooded with memories.  What had grown “boring” and “no longer cool” in my younger years, was now filling my soul with the wonder and excitement of Christmas.  It was amazing to me all over again.  It is amazing how things can come around again and be completely different to us depending on our mindset when we look at them.

I have now officially fallen in love with the Ideals Christmas publication all over again.  I am sad that it took so long, because this is the first Christmas without Grandma Rose and I can no longer share the joy of this publication with her, but I can share it with my son, Matthew.  That is exactly what I will be doing this Christmas season and for many more to come.  Until he no longer finds it “cool” and then it will be just me reading it, just like it was for Grandma.  That is how the circle of life goes isn’t it?  Who knows, maybe someday, when Matthew has long since grown up and moved away, he too will come across this publication again, just like I did, and he will share it with his children someday.  Pretty cool to imagine.

 

In today’s blog I want to share with you one of the poems I found in the 2107 edition of Ideals Christmas.  I can’t remember exactly what year it was, but I remember my fascination with sleigh bells.  I had grandma help me find some sleigh bells and we worked together to attach those bells to the harness of one of our ponies.  We then attached a sled to the back of the harness and I remember going all over the farm on that snowy day with the sounds of sleigh bells all along the way.  It was a great memory locked away deep in my heart and was brought back when I read this poem.  What a great time of year to look back and remember Christmas as a kid and all the wonderful memories that remind us of how special it was.  I want to share that poem with you here:

 

Sleigh Bells

By Elma Helgason

 

Our modern ways of travel

Are surely swift and grand;

We dash about in comfort

By air or sea or land.

 

But sleigh bells softly ringing

Across the drifted snow;

Remind me of the journeys

Of Christmas long ago.

 

And oft there comes before me

A picture from the past;

Where dear ones in a farmhouse

Heard sleigh bell sound at last.

 

I see the ponies plodding

Through miles of drifted snow;

And faces at a window

Alight with lamplight glow.

 

And in the frosty twilight,

The tinkling bells sound sweet;

With sound of sliding runners

And crunch of horses’ feet.

 

Through weeks of isolation

In wintry storm and blast;

The sound of tinkling sleigh bells

Meant company at last!

 

In spite of modern travel,

It sets my heart aglow;

To hear the sound of sleigh bells

Across the miles of snow.

Posted in Animals, Attitude, Bible, Christmas, Communication, Decisions, God, Inspirational, Jesus, Motivational, Opportunity, Reinventing Yourself, Relationships, Remembering, Thoughts/Mindset, Time | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Have a True Thanksgiving This Year

Philippians 4:10-20 (NIV)

10 I rejoiced greatly in the Lord that at last you renewed your concern for me. Indeed, you were concerned, but you had no opportunity to show it.11 I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. 12 I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. 13 I can do all this through him who gives me strength.

14 Yet it was good of you to share in my troubles. 15 Moreover, as you Philippians know, in the early days of your acquaintance with the gospel, when I set out from Macedonia, not one church shared with me in the matter of giving and receiving, except you only; 16 for even when I was in Thessalonica, you sent me aid more than once when I was in need.17 Not that I desire your gifts; what I desire is that more be credited to your account. 18 I have received full payment and have more than enough. I am amply supplied, now that I have received from Epaphroditus the gifts you sent. They are a fragrant offering, an acceptable sacrifice, pleasing to God. 19 And my God will meet all your needs according to the riches of his glory in Christ Jesus.

20 To our God and Father be glory for ever and ever. Amen.

 

The original plan for the first Thanksgiving, held in the fall of 1621, was to celebrate a successful harvest with three days of fasting.  The pilgrim of Plymouth later decided to invite the Wampanoag tribe, who had helped them secure their footing in the New World, to join them for a feast instead.

Today, Thanksgiving weekend is also a three-day event.  It begins on Thursday when some of the most eager stores open up early for Black Friday.  Then, of course, there’s Black Friday proper and finally Cyber Monday.  Three days of shopping, splurging, and shoving.  Sandwiched in between is the turkey feast, but it’s difficult to recognize the spirit of those first pilgrims in our celebrations.

It’s estimated that there were only five women present among the fifty or so at the first Thanksgiving.  Most of the women, along with the many men and children, had died, either on the voyage over or during that first winter.  Yet those who survived gave thanks to God, recognizing His goodness despite their monumental losses.

This type of thankfulness and contentment is exactly what Paul describes, “whether living in plenty or in want.  I can do all this through him who gives me strength.”  Paul discovered that Jesus plus nothing is just as satisfying as Jesus plus everything.  Either way, there’s cause to be thankful.

As we move into our Thanksgiving holiday, I would like us to consider two questions:

  1. How was Paul able to be thankful even while in prison?
  2. What are some things you are grateful for this Thanksgiving?

A.W. Tozer once said, “Gratitude is an offering precious in the sight of God, and it is one that the poorest of us can make and not be poorer, but richer for having made it.”  I agree with that 100%.  Gratitude does not have to be dependent on our situation or our current financial status.  Giving gratitude will always bring us up from wherever we find ourselves or whatever we find ourselves in.

I want to wish you and your families the very best this Thanksgiving holiday season.  Don’t eat too much.  Don’t watch too much football.  And certainly don’t spend your whole weekend shopping.  If you get a chance, take a moment and think back to the very first Thanksgiving and what it was really about.  Let’s get back to more of what that first celebration was like.  If we can do that, we can have a true Thanksgiving this year.

Posted in Attitude, Bible, Change, Decisions, Difficult Times, Friendship, Giving, God, Jesus, Life Stories, Love, Opportunity, Purpose, Reinventing Yourself, Relationships, Remembering, Thanksgiving, Thoughts/Mindset, Time | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Uncharted Territory

This season all of the faithful Cyclone Football fans have seen what a special season this is.  We have trusted in the process that new coach Matt Campbell has been talking about and now we are starting to see some of the payoff of that process and what can be achieved.

No one and I mean no one saw that win in Norman, Oklahoma coming.  What a sweet win that was.  To follow that up with the win again TCU at home at the end of October was just an amazing thing to witness as a fan.

Normally, the pattern is that every decade or two Iowa State will have an amazing upset.  A good example of this is when ISU upset Nebraska back in 1992.  What an amazing game that was.  Cyclone fans would have to wait until 2011, when the Cyclones had an epic upset against Oklahoma State in Jack Trice Stadium.  That is a long time to go between major upsets.  This season, we experienced two major upsets of that caliber not only within the same season, but the same month.  This really is uncharted territory for ISU fans.

Cyclone fans really don’t want to admit it, but really, the Cyclone football tradition is that of losing.  We lose more games than we win.  It can be difficult, but over time, you get seasoned to it and your expectations diminish and you expect less success for your team.  Then along comes a special coach who says, “Enough is enough, we are not going to accept losing.  We are going to start a new culture where winning is expected.”  It sounds great, but how could it change when it has been this way for as long as people remember.

But then we start to see change.  Instead of close losses, we start seeing close victories.  We see going to a bowl game as a yearly expectation, not just a reward that comes every 5 seasons.  We start talking about competing for Big 12 Championships, which has never really been mentioned before in the history of the program.

What is even more amazing than the winning we are seeing on the field is how he is doing it.  Coach Campbell is not about taking short cuts.  He is doing things the right way.  It is just as important how the player acts off the field as they do on the field.  They are expected to excel in the classroom and not just on the football field.  The student athletes are expected to be involved in the community and do positive things and be positive role models.  If a player is not on board for all those things, if they are just here to take from the team and excel on the field and do their own thing, they will not be around very long.  That is the way it should be and that more than any victory or any amazing upset, is what makes me so proud of the state of the program right now.

By no means is the climb over.  We are not yet where any of us want to be.  The team has accomplished so much already, but there is still so much.  We are entering into uncharted territory.  We are witnessing our program going into a place that honestly, it has never really been before.  This is just the beginning of the journey and trust me, I am enjoying every bit of the ride.

In this blog, I wanted to include this transcript of what Coach Campbell said to the team as he addressed them in the locker room immediately following their upset of TCU at Homecoming.  I think his words speak for themselves.

“A couple of things for you guys.  Listen to me and then I will let you go.  So the biggest thing I’ve got to tell you is this.  You are teaching the world, that in this sport, college football, toughness, discipline, and details still matter.  That’s your platform.  Your platform is, it is team above self.  That’s the platform that you’re using.  And no one wants to buy into that in our culture today.  OK.  Our culture says “it’s all about me.  Our culture says “screw process.  I want instant gratification.”

But here’s a fact and young guys listen to me.  If you fall in love with the process…If you fall in love with the process, then eventually, eventually, the process will love you back.  But see here’s what’s crazy about that.  You don’t know when it’s going to love you back.  OK.  All you have to do is be prepared for your opportunity, when it’s ready to love you back.  Now think about that, because that’s powerful.  There’s some young guys in here that are still trying to climb the ladder.  What you guys that have grinded it out, have stuck it out, have believed it out, you fell in love with the process.  And the process is now loving you back.  And if you let it continue on this journey, I’m telling you it’s a dark, lonely road.  You see all this around you, they all want to buy the stock right now.  Alright.  They want to jump in.  They want to be a part of it.  OK.  But you’ve got to shove it away.  It’s a dark lonely road, if I told you, for you to stand on that platform at the end of this and the confetti comes down, and you stayed the course.  It’s really hard to do.  Easy to say.  Well, what does that mean?  That means people will say that this is the biggest game.  Come on.  OK.  We’re not falling for that anymore. 

It’s the next game.  It’s going to be a great challenge.  You are going to have to go on the road into a really hard place to play.  We have to play again at 2:30.  We didn’t even play our best football today.  There was some great defense.  At times, made some plays offensively.  Didn’t play great on special teams again.  OK.  And there’s some things that we have to correct, but what?  Isn’t that football?  Isn’t that sport?  Isn’t that what this is all about?  Getting better, one day at a time.  But you’ve got to collectively, listen to me, it’s not just the other guys.  It’s you young guys.  You have to make the choice.  OK.  Because the image one here projects the image of all of us.  You’ve got to make great decisions.  You’ve got to come back on Sunday ready to rock n roll. 

If you fall in love with the process, at some point in life, the process will fall back in love with you.  OK.  It will give you everything you want.  Back to January.  Friday night.  Saturday night.  Nobody here.  You could have easily took the hard road, but guys were in here working out.  When no one is watching, that is sacrifice.  It doesn’t just happen.  Greatness doesn’t just happen.  You’ve got to be willing to sacrifice everything.  In between 18 and 22 years old, that’s really hard.  It is.  It’s really hard.  Cause we’ve got a lot of things grabbing at us.

I couldn’t be prouder of you.  Awesome win for us.  It’s great for our family, great for everything, but most importantly, great for you.  Cause you sacrificed.  OK.  Because you sacrificed. 

But it’s not over.  To be honest with you, I could care less, they’re going to talk to you about a bowl, but I don’t give a shit about 6 and 6.  Remember, this isn’t about being 6 and 6.  OK.  Only bullshit programs care about being 6 and 6.  OK.  This is about staying the course, and at the end of it, did we reach our full potential?  And you can do whatever you want.  We’ve got to get better.  We must get better.  And we must demand it. 

Stay the course.  Stay locked in.  Come back tomorrow ready to rock n roll.  I love you, but I appreciate you.  I’m really, really proud of you.”

 

I ready to go play for this guy.  What about you?

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Forever a Pirate

Dear 2017 Hudson Pirate Football Team,

Last Friday, my wife Stephanie, my son Matthew, and my mother Jill traveled to Belle Plaine to see you guys play.  I want to start by congratulating your team on an undefeated regular season.  Just an awesome accomplishment!    Sadly, this was the first time that I had the opportunity to see you play in person this season.  Some would say that makes me a terrible Pirate fan, but someday you will understand if you live out-of-town and have kids of your own.

I had the wonderful opportunity to watch part of one of your practices about a month ago as I was passing through town for work.  What I saw in the first 5 minutes of that practice was only confirmed in what I saw in the game last Friday night.  That is that this football team is special.  This team really has what it takes to be a state champion.

Please understand that I do not throw around the word “special” lightly.  I had the privilege to be a part of a very “special” Hudson football team in 1994 that went undefeated and won a state championship.  I know first-hand what it takes to be able to do something that so few ever get to experience.

That team was a special group.  Please don’t think that us accomplishing that feat was ever easy.  We had a really outstanding team the year prior in the 1993 season and we suffered two bitter defeats in that season.  The first came in a bitterly cold and rainy game at Grundy Center.  Despite that loss, we still made the playoffs and we were determined to win state that year, but suffered a very bitter defeat in the UNI Dome at the hands of Aplington Parkersburg team that went on to win state and may have been one of the best teams that school ever put on the field.  That loss made us absolutely sick and we made a promise to ourselves that we would never feel that way again.

We worked harder in that off-season than we had ever worked before.  We did everything we could to improve ourselves in every way we could each and every day leading up to and during that season.  Despite the athletic talent our team possessed, the biggest factor in our success in that state championship season was that we became a team in every sense of the word.  It was never about individuals or statistics or trying to earn college scholarships.  It was about our team and doing whatever it took to be successful.  Anything less than a state championship was not going to be considered a success in any form of the word.  It did not matter who shined in any particular game and often it was someone different in each game.  We did not set out to beat teams, but to literally break the wills of our opponents.

Even with all that, we had hard times.  We had a practice that we were starting to get a little full of ourselves.  We were listening to everyone else tell us how great we were and we were believing them and we thought we could just let up and coast a little bit.  We were having one of the worst practices we had ever had in my time as a Pirate.  Lineman were missing blocks, QB was making bad throws, RBs were fumbling, and WRs were dropping passes.  Defenders were missing blocks and it was apparent that we were not practicing to the standard we had set for ourselves.  I give Coach Urbanek all the credit in making the decision to not settle.  He decided that there was not any use in practicing like we were so he stopped practice and the coaches left the field.  We were all standing there like, “what is happening?”  We decided that if we wanted to accomplish our goals, we were going to have to do better and that it started with us.  We had to take responsibility.  As a team, we decided that we would go on and finish practice on our own, without the coaches.  I can’t remember how long we practiced, but it seemed like forever.  Our worst starting practice ever ended being one of our greatest practices ever and that day, more than any other I can remember, defined who we were going to be the rest of that season.  We went on with the season, more determined than ever to not only not let anyone defeat us, but more importantly, we were not going to defeat ourselves.  As hard times came, we drew closer and knew that as a team, a true team, we could do whatever our hearts and minds willed us to do.  That led to an undefeated season, a state championship, and one of the best football teams in the history of Hudson.  It was truly a “special” season and one none of us on that team will ever forget.  I had the good fortune to go on and play at Iowa State and played against some of the best players in the country in the first 4 years of the Big 12 Conference.  I was also so fortunate to make it to the NFL and play with the St. Louis Rams.  They had just won the Super Bowl so I can truly say that I was a part of the team, who at that time, was considered the best football team in the whole world.  Those were amazing experiences, but the team that I am the most proud of, my favorite team I was ever a part of in my whole football career, was that 1994 Hudson Pirate team.  That 1994 season at Hudson was one of the greatest accomplishments of my life and I will carry that with me the rest of the days I walk this earth.

Enough about me and my memories.  After all, that all occurred 23 seasons ago and none of you players were even born yet.  I want to address why I think that this 2017 Pirate team is so special.  I noticed right away when I watched practice, how great this team really was.  I saw players pushing themselves to their limits to improve themselves in practice.  I saw upperclassmen pushing underclassmen to do better when they needed motivating.  I saw coaches coaching their butts off.

I am an old has been when it comes to the game of football.  I have not strapped on pads since the 2000 season.  But I do know the game of football well.  I watch the game of football differently than most people do.  I see things that most people don’t.  I can see things in teams that make them championship level teams.  Please know that I see some of these things in your team.  For what it is worth, here are some of the things I think are key ingredients to having a state championship football team:

Great leadership is where great teams start.  You have to have good coaches, but more importantly, you must have seniors that lead well.  Players have to push each other to be the best they can be and I see that in your team.

Every player has to have great work ethic.  You have to have the discipline to work hard when no one else is watching.  Each player needs to pick one thing each day they focus on improving and at the end of practice, that player needs to be able to say that they improved that one thing.  Do that each and every day and that is when you will see great improvement over the course of a season.  You never stay the same.  Each day you either get better or you get worse.  You have to be willing to do what it takes to improve as a player.  If every player does that, the team improvement will be good and special things happen.  From the little bit I have observed, I see that happening on your team.

You have to have amazing hustle.  That means that every player gives everything they have on every single play.  It is not just going full speed through your block, but going full speed until you hear the whistle.  If you are a defensive end and the play goes away from you, take the right angle and go full speed to where the ball is going.  You never know when a fumble might happen and if you are going full speed, you might be the one who falls on it.  I see amazing hustle with this team.

You have to play as a team.  It is not about individuals getting the glory, but as a team achieving great things.  A real team is truly in it together.  If one player messes up, the whole team takes responsibility for getting it corrected.  If a RB has an amazing run for a touchdown, each and every player shares in the glory knowing they were a vital part of that play.  There is a reason you do not have names on your jerseys.  It says “Hudson” on the front of your jerseys and no name on the back.  This is because you are playing for your team and not yourselves.  You are playing for everything that Hudson represents.  You are playing for your coaches, your teammates, your family, every player who has ever wore the Pirate uniform, and the whole community of Hudson.  Last on the list is playing for yourself.  Small towns are special.  Know whole town of Hudson supports you and is behind you.  Your team does a really outstanding job of playing as a team.

You have to have really great lines, both offensively and defensively.  No offense to the other position groups, but championship level success starts with the lines.  The offensive line has to have the ability to move the line of scrimmage into the defensive backfield and get the play to the second level.  Each OL has to occupy the DL and LB and the goal is to get a pancake, not a stalemate.  The defensive line has to get penetration and disrupt the normal backfield of the offense.  Don’t let them feel comfortable running their offense.  Make the RB think he is going to get hit the second he gets the ball.  Make the QB wonder where the hit is going to come from on this play.  Make the other team adjust from what they are comfortable doing and you have them.  We had a dominant offensive and defensive line on that 1994 team.  We were able to do what I just described on most plays.  I do not say this lightly, but from what I have seen, your offensive and defensive lines are just as good as or better than the lines we had.  Just amazing line play in that Belle Plaine game.

Maybe the most important key, especially when it comes to the playoffs is how you handle adversity when it hits.  Trust me, you will experience adversity at some point.  Now you are in the playoffs and all the teams are good.  There will come a time when something does not go how you had planned it would and you will get knocked down a bit.  How you respond to that will determine if you are able to take it all the way to the state championship.  If you don’t respond well, it can often mean the end of your season and regret for not reaching your ultimate goal.  For our 1994 team, the adversity hit us in the first couple of minutes of the state championship game.  Our defense had been dominant all season long.  Pocahontas had the ball on offense and on the second or third play of the game they ran a dive play right up the middle.  This should be one of the easiest plays to stop, but a bad angle here and 2 missed tackles later they ran the ball for a long TD.  I believe it was the only time we trailed all season.  I could be wrong though, my memory is fading.  At that moment we had been exposed and felt a huge shift in momentum swing to their favor.  They had never lost that season either and could well have taken control of the game.  Instead, we were the team that responded and we came back and marched right down the field and put momentum back on our side.  We continued to dominate the rest of the game and won the state championship by a large margin.  How we responded, in that moment, is what won us the championship.  I saw how you responded as a team when Belle Plaine came out in the second half and tied the score at 14. Momentum was clearly in their favor, on their home field, at that time.  Your team responded in that moment and you took the game over from that point and won the game in dominating fashion.  Adversity will come your way again in the playoffs.  How you respond will determine your success.  You have already shown you are capable of responding well.

I know that you won’t truly appreciate what I am about to say until about 20 years from now.  I know because it was that way for me too.  Being able to put on those pads and play the game of football is such a special gift.  There will come a day, very soon, when you will be taking off those pads and never putting them on again.  For most of you, high school will be the end of your football experience.  For some of you, you will extend your career on into college, but know that time goes fast and before you know it, you will be putting on those pads for the very last time.  Once you take them off, they never go back on.  Know that I would give just about anything, to put on my pads and go out there for just one more series and play this great game.  But that will never happen and that is OK because that is life.  My point is to enjoy the moment.  Enjoy each day that you do get to play this great game.  Know that when you do take those pads off for the last time that you gave it everything you had.  If you can’t say that, it will haunt you the rest of your days.  You are doing something right now that so many Pirate teams from the past have never had the chance to experience.  Enjoy every minute of the ride.  You will remember it the rest of your lives.

Most importantly, the relationships you develop with your teammates, will be with you for life.  Once you are a Pirate, you are a Pirate forever!  Even today, some of my closest friends are my teammates from the Hudson teams I played on.  We stay in each other’s lives because we love each other and we have a bond that will never be broken, even by time.  We experienced things together that no one else will understand.  It is the same for you and that is also something you will not truly appreciate until later in your lives.

Football is the best game ever created (in my opinion).  It is about so much more than just the game.  It teaches you about how to handle life.  Ups, downs, wins, losses, how to handle victories with dignity, how to handle defeats, set goals, never quit, work as a team, never, ever quit.

The values, morals, character, attitude, and discipline learned in football is immeasurable in life.  Football is like a miniature game of life.  Football teaches life lessons that make us better men.  The most important lessons don’t always affect the score directly.  Loyalty, respect, the concept of being a team member (it’s about us, not me).  Treating everyone as equals, regardless of abilities.  Serving others, overcoming adversity (both as an individual and as a team).  You will carry the lessons you learn in football on into your lives.  Long after you hang up the pads for the last time, you will use what you learned from your days of playing football in your own lives.  Those values you have learned through football will set you apart from others as you live your lives.  These are some of the core values that make football such a special sport.

You can’t control what comes your way.  How you handle it is what defines you as a person.  When you step off that field, you should have no regrets.  Go all out on every play and know that you did everything you could to be successful and you are a winner no matter what the score is.

I am writing this letter on behalf of every member of that great 1994 state championship team and for every player who has ever wore the Pirate uniform.  Please know how proud we are of what you have accomplished, but know that your journey is not yet over.  The most important part is yet to come.  How you finish this season will define who this team is.

Your team has all the elements you need to win a state championship so why not you?  Why not be remembered as one of the greatest teams ever in the history of your school?  You have everything in place you need.  Now go do it!  I wish you only the best in your upcoming battle with Pekin this Friday.  Let that game just be another chapter in your great story, not the conclusion of it.

All of Pirate nation is with you and behind you!  I could not be any prouder of you!

 

Forever a Pirate!

Bill Marsau

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The Perfect Marriage is Yet to Come

heaven 1

Revelation 21:1-7 (NIV)

21 Then I saw “a new heaven and a new earth,” for the first heaven and the first earth had 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, “Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell 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.”

He who was seated on the throne said, “I am making everything new!” Then he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.”

He said to me: “It is done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. To the thirsty I will give water without cost from the spring of the water of life. Those who are victorious will inherit all this, and I will be their God and they will be my children.

 

We are told several times throughout the Bible that God want to relate to His followers as a husband relates to his wife.  He wants to know us intimately, to love us, and unite with us.  He is the Bridegroom of the church.

If you’re married and a man, you probably remember the day you stood anxiously as your bride walked down the aisle toward you.  I remember this day well.  Stephanie looked so beautiful and all our family and friends were there.  It was a day I will never forget.

While that day seems so perfect, it seldom lasts long.  It is very easy for discontentment to creep into our lives, as well as our marriage.  Those who aren’t married might long for the day that they will be married, while those who are married sometimes question whether they made the right decision to get married.

We live in a society where marriages often end up in divorce.  Relationships tend to be based more on “What can you do for me,” rather than a “What can I do for you” mentality.  People want to bail at the first sign of difficulty instead of addressing the issues.  Many couples would rather quit than commit to the hard work it takes, on a daily basis, to grow a strong marriage.  Make no mistake, marriage is difficult!  Seeing the failure of so many marriages all around us, it can be difficult to even understand what a perfect marriage even looks like.

No matter how perfect your wedding day might have seemed to you, it does not even compare to the wedding day that all believers will get to experience someday.  In the above verse from Revelation, it gives us a perspective of what the ideal marriage is and what it looks like.  None of us, no matter how good we think our marriages are, has a perfect marriage.  Because the perfect marriage still awaits us.  It hasn’t happened yet.

John C. Broger said, “The relationship between Jesus Christ and His church is the supreme example of the committed love that a husband and wife are to follow in their relationship with each other.”  I do agree with that, but why can’t we achieve a perfect marriage now?  The answer is a one-word answer: sin.  As long as there is sin in the world, nothing can be perfect.  Until Christ returns and takes away sin, a perfect marriage or anything for that matter, simply can’t be achieved.

Your spouse can’t take the place of Christ.  Marriage has ups and downs, conflict, sin, misunderstandings, and pain.  However, it can also be a foretaste of the ultimate consummation, the eternal embrace, when the Lord will wipe away every tear, right every wrong, and bring everlasting peace to His followers.  We can see this list of promises in the above Scripture in verse 4.

Rest assured, a day is coming when Christ’s followers will “walk down the aisle” to Him, and He will receive us with unconditional love as His beloved bride.  And that will be the perfect marriage.

 

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God Speaks Through Disappointments

God speaks

Numbers 14:17-24 (NIV)

17 “Now may the Lord’s strength be displayed, just as you have declared:18  ‘The Lord is slow to anger, abounding in love and forgiving sin and rebellion. Yet he does not leave the guilty unpunished; he punishes the children for the sin of the parents to the third and fourth generation.’19 In accordance with your great love, forgive the sin of these people, just as you have pardoned them from the time they left Egypt until now.”

20 The Lord replied, “I have forgiven them, as you asked. 21 Nevertheless, as surely as I live and as surely as the glory of the Lord fills the whole earth, 22 not one of those who saw my glory and the signs I performed in Egypt and in the wilderness but who disobeyed me and tested me ten times— 23 not one of them will ever see the land I promised on oath to their ancestors. No one who has treated me with contempt will ever see it. 24 But because my servant Caleb has a different spirit and follows me wholeheartedly, I will bring him into the land he went to, and his descendants will inherit it.

 

I don’t know about you, but I find that too often, I become so focused on something or someone that I’m unable to hear what God is trying to tell me.  In those times, one of God’s most effective yet painful methods of getting our attention is through disappointments.  But don’t we really hate this approach?

Disappointment is one of the ways God spoke dramatically to the nation of Israel.  In Numbers 14, He directed His people to the Promised Land.  However, fear invaded their hearts and they were scared of the inhabitants, so they refused to enter.  As a result, God told the Israelites that “not one of them will ever see the land” for 40 years, until after the death of the generation that had been too fearful to enter.

The postponement was so disheartening that they decided to change their minds.  Sadly, though, it was too late; God had already settled the issue.  As a result, the people were distraught with grief because of what they had missed.

At that moment, when they were in the midst of their disappointment, do you think God had their attention?  Absolutely He did.  The next time He gave Israel a command, don’t you imagine they listened a bit more intently?

Tragically, failure is a rather common in situations such as this.  Instead of looking to God when disappointments occur, we are quick to blame circumstances, other people, fate, or even the enemy, Satan.

We are hesitant to believe that our loving Father could be responsible for our frustrations.  Yet He is willing to use disappointments to realign our thoughts and plans with His.

Take a minute to think back on some of the difficulties or major disappointments that you have faced in your life.  Do you think that God might have been trying to say something to you in the midst of those trials?  You may not be sure and since you most likely were not listening for God during those times, you probably don’t know what He was trying to tell you.

I want to pose a challenge for all of us: the next time we come up on some major trial or experience some disappointment in our lives, instead of trying to blame the world, let’s look to God and listen very closely to hear Him.  He might be trying to teach us something very important.  That is a lesson we don’t want to miss!

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