Sunday, March 29, 2015

That Loving Feeling



It took some time to  select a headstone for Dad's grave in Arkansas which also became the headstone for Mom. We talked about it at his burial as we walked through the New Corinth Cemetery where so many of our kinfolk are buried. After picking the style, we came to consensus on the engraving. In my classes, we have discussed at times what we would like to have written on our tombstones and what it would say about our lives on earth. What follows is the story of a well-known musical hit and its origin in a graveyard. It was first posted on 5-26-07.


Phil Spector is on trial for murder. Spector, a legend in the pop-rock music business, is accused of shooting actress Lana Clarkson at his home in February of 2003. During the 1960's, Spector became identified with the wall of sound, overlaying conventional rock-and-roll with orchestra music, characterizing groups like the Ronettes. Showing amazing versatility, Spector also co-wrote one of the biggest hits ever, You've Lost That Lovin' Feeling, and acted in the movie, Easy Rider. His later years have been marked by his induction into the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame as well as increasingly bizarre behavior. His trial, like those of other celebrities, has become fodder for tabloid journalism. It doesn't look good for one of the true innovators of the American music scene.

Several years ago, I preached the wedding of Becca, one of my former high school basketball players. Making it personal, I weave a story into the ceremony of how the couple came together. This one was easy- Becca and Brian had known each other since they were children. I was able to incorporate a beautiful song from 1958 by a group called The Teddy Bears. The writer of that tune as well as its guitar player, backup singer, arranger, and producer was none other than seventeen year old Phil Spector. The song rocketed to the number one spot in the charts and established Spector as a force to be reckoned with. The title and repeating line was To Know Him Is To Love Him. Spector penned the song for teenager Annette Kleinbard, the lead singer of The Teddy Bears, with the inspiration for the smash record coming from an unlikely source. Spector's father had committed suicide nine years before the song was released. On a visit to the cemetery, Phil noticed the epitaph on Ben Spector's headstone read, "To know him was to love him." Making a slight change from past to present tense, he used the tribute to his dad as a springboard to a classic piece of music history. 


It's easy to play armchair psychologist and wonder if his father's death helped cause Spector's problems; the murder charge is not the first allegation that he used guns to intimidate others. Maybe a more normal childhood would have led to a more normal adult life. I just returned home from our Westbury Christian School graduation. As always, I was overwhelmed with the family connections between our seniors and moms and dads, grandparents, aunts and uncles. The correlation between the spiritual family and love is a welcome Biblical theme. Look at the measurement John chooses:
"How great is the love the Father has lavished on us that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are!" 
(1st John 3:1) 
I like lavished. It would be a sweeter world if all earthly fathers loved that way. Judging from his tombstone, someone thought Phil Spector's father was a pretty remarkable guy. It's a shame Phil only had nine years to find out. It might have made a difference.

Applicable quote of the day:
"I'm dealing in rock'n'roll. I'm, like, I'm not a bona fide human being."
Phil Spector

PS: To view Phil Spector and this beautiful song, click the youtube selection below. 
Phil is the one playing guitar.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DCnUsInBQws

God bless,
Steve
Luke 18:1

http://www.hawleybooks.com/
E-mail me at
steve@hawleybooks.com

Saturday, March 28, 2015

My Grandfather's Clock


Several years ago, I did a little remodeling with the assistance of some wonderful friends from church, Rosemary and Lee Martin. For two Spring Breaks in a row, Rosemary took me to IKEA and helped me pick out some furniture. They also came over to help put it together! One new piece was a bookcase and on the second shelf sits something very dear to me which you can read about below. This entry ran July 4, 2007, only four weeks before Dad had the stroke which eventually cost him his life.

I've been sleeping on the living room couch during this trip to my parents' home. Dad is having back problems that have interfered with his ability to care for Mom. By having the sofa double as a bed, I am within earshot if they should need my assistance, as they have on several occasions. Comfort is no problem but there has been a wrinkle in the system. Dad has two mantle clocks on opposite sides of the living room . One was a present from a family after Dad preached their loved one's funeral in west Texas. The other was a wedding gift from my Hawley grandparents to each other eighty-five years ago. Incredibly for very old clocks which are wound by hand, they have been almost synchronized. They also chime very loudly on the hour. So, each midnight right when I am deep in my REM sleep mode, twenty-four chime blasts reverberate next to my place of rest, jerking me back to the land of the conscious...or maybe semi-conscious. At least at one AM, there are only two gongs. By four AM, I am impervious and don't wake. It might take weeks for my sleep patterns to recover. Dad wants me to rewind both time pieces before I return to Houston. I might just wait until I am walking out the door!

At the risk of sounding like I'm exaggerating, those clock bells sound like the percussion section of a philharmonic orchestra. But without measuring the decibels, I'm sure they are just as loud in the morning or afternoon. I rarely even hear them during my non-sleeping hours. Why do they make no impression at times but in different circumstances seem overpowering? Sometimes I am tuned in and sometimes I am so distracted, the chimes just don't register. Do we ever feel that way in our relationship with the Lord? Does the word of God get louder and softer or does our listening intensity alternate between waning and focused? Does his voice get softer and louder or do we turn the volume up and down on our spiritual remote control? I have felt closer to the Lord this past ten days, perhaps because our family was dealing with a crisis. Maybe it has just been easier for him to get my attention with issues swirling around. He has my full attention now. I hope I let him keep it.

Applicable quote of the day:
"Our brains are seventy year clocks. The Angel Of Life winds them up once for all, then closes the case and gives the key into the hand of the Angel Of The Resurrection."
Oliver Wendell Holmes


God bless,
Steve
Luke 18:1

www.hawleybooks.com
E-mail me at
steve@hawleybooks.com

Friday, March 27, 2015

The Living Years



Next Tuesday will be the sixth anniversary of Mom's passing and in nineteen days, we will mark the seventh anniversary of Dad's death  I guess you have to lose a mother or father to realize how much you love them. The following is from August 6, 2006.

To watch and listen to The Living Years, please copy and paste the link below!
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gUdiQWxps5E

I'm in St. Louis. Yesterday, I flew here to be part of a surprise celebration for my mother and father. Their congregation, the Lafayette church of Christ, hosted a banquet in appreciation for my parents' labor in the kingdom of heaven. The brainchild of Don and Jeanette Gartner, the event was an outpouring of love. My brother Scott, his son, Nathan, and I represented our family in the festivities. The meal was catered, the teens of the church served, and eighty brothers and sisters in Christ turned out to bless my folks. Dad was completely surprised. Even though the planning had been progressing for months, the church managed to keep it a secret. Scott, who coincidentally was already in town, maneuvered Mom and Dad to the church building for the party. The auditorium was transformed into a hall befitting a gala. There was a video presentation, featuring members of the congregation putting into words how much they love Roger and Nelda. Four speakers, including Scott and me, spoke ten minute tributes, sharing anecdotes to emphasize the impact of these two lives. An open mike, scrapbooks of remembrances, and letters from around the country completed the party. The whole night was perfect. Dad soaked in the love and kept commenting of how unworthy he felt. Mom smiled as friends she no longer recognizes hugged her and told her of their abiding affection. As a son, I was humbled and as a Christian and human being, I was reminded of our innate desire to be connected.

In 1995, an English musician named Mike Rutherford penned a song, delving into his life-long battle with his dad over the things fathers and sons fight about. The lyrics convey a son trying to make peace but never completing the armistice. Suddenly, it was too late. He references his father's death and sentiments left unspoken. Recorded by Mike and the Mechanics, Rutherford concludes his epitaph with these words:

I wasn't there that morning
When my father passed away.
I didn't get to tell him
All the things I had to say.
I think I caught his spirit later that same year.
I'm sure I heard his echo in my baby's new born tears.
I just wished I would have told him in the living years
.

That's what I learned last night. There will come a time when it's too late to tell the people we love we love them. My problem is not with my folks- I tell them I love them everyday. The issue is with the rest of humanity. We put things off until all the tomorrows have run their course. I am so proud of my parents' church. They continually show their dedication to the Lord through their dedication to his creatures. Dad has some tough decisions to make in the future concerning his care for Mom. Her Alzheimer's is marching on at an unrelenting pace. But he is not alone as he tries to fulfill his marital vows. From those older than Mom to those in their teens, this congregation has made itself available with prayers, encouragement, and a physical presence in moments when Dad needs a little relief. In June when I visited, Dad acquired tickets to the Missouri History Museum for a Benjamin Franklin exhibit, necessitating someone sitting with Mom. A sixteen year old young lady from their church, Caleigh, spent the afternoon with Mom. When Dad and I returned, we found Caleigh had been reading to my mother. The material: Clifford, The Big Red Dog, a classic children's tale. Mom absolutely loved it; it's possible she has read the same book to her grand kids. But probably what thrilled her most was the undivided attention from a wonderful Christian girl like Caleigh. My belief is that a person's diminished mental capacities do not diminish their ability to respond to love and kindness. Caleigh received that gift of love and kindness from her parents and is passing it on to my parents. And she, like the rest of her church, is doing it at the time when it matters most....the living years.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gUdiQWxps5E

Applicable quote of the day:
"Age does not protect you from love. But love, to some extent, protects you from age."
Jeanne Moreau


God bless,
Steve
Luke 18:1

http://www.hawleybooks.com/

E-mail me at steve@hawleybooks.com

Thursday, March 26, 2015

The Young Men And Women In the Mirror 2015, Chapter II




We worked on one of my favorite assignments in our classes last week. Back in October, one of our written memory verses was James 1:22-24:
"Do not merely listen to the word and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like a man who looks at his face in a mirror and after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like.''

We discussed the meaning and I brought up that Mom, in her late stages of Alzheimer's, did not recognize her own image. I told the kids that sometimes at the end of the day, I look at myself in the mirror, and don't always like what I see. The kids finished this statement: 'When I look in the mirror, I see....' Every student was allowed complete confidentiality and I did not even read any that requested privacy. My students were very honest. Over the next few nights, I'll run some of the responses of those who wanted to share.  Some will choke you up. All are used by permission. Boys are in blue and girls are in pink.

When I look in the mirror, I see a confused girl. On the outside, there's a smile on her face but on the inside, she is full of anger and sorrow. I also see a beautiful, talented girl who wants to explore the world but she does not know where to start. I see a girl who has been torn apart by family issues and trust issues. I see a girl who knows about God but who is not close to Him personally. I also see a shy timid girl who wants to be alone. I see her beautiful lips and eyes, her natural hair, and her love for everyone. -J.

When I look in the mirror, I see a guy who wishes he could see into the future. I see a guy who wishes he still didn't act like a boy and who desperately wants to reform himself. Then, I see an older guy, a man. He is tall and strong, with eyes he can turn dark or let shine. I see a family with him- three boys, one girl, and a beautiful woman. And then they all disappear and I see God smiling. -T.

When I look in the mirror, I see a pretty young girl, not perfect but good enough and perfect in the sight of God. I see a broken girl but I also see a renewed girl with so much power and strength beyond her imagination. I see a child of God and a lover of Jesus. I see greatness AND imperfections but that's OK because I a fine with who I am- I embrace my imperfections. I see lots of things ahead of me, a huge destiny. I see a brave, wise girl ready to be used by God to change the world even though she does not know what she's made of yet. -W. 

When I look in the mirror, I see the details of my face and life. I see the little things no one else would see or pay attention to. I constantly judge myself, wondering why I can't do things to the best of my ability. I question my decisions and the motives of my heart. I see someone who constantly needs to get his act together. -D.

When I look in the mirror, I see a girl who is winning the battle. I see all the knowledge she has obtained. I see the independence she has pushed for. I see the strength she has trained hard for. But mostly, I see the new found faith she has fallen in love with. I see a glowing child of God who wants to share her faith. I see me! -S.

When I look in the mirror, I see a confident young man who believes he can accomplish anything he puts his mind to. I see a young man who works hard for his future and can let go of his past. I see a guy who is sometimes selfish when it comes to others wants and needs but who can be very caring and loving in times of despair. He loves his brother and father to death and will do anything to satisfy them and keep them on this earth. -M.

When I look in the mirror, I see a boy who needs to try harder. I see someone who was held down by what other people thought of him . I see someone who can do so much more if he would just put effort into what he does. I see a guy who complete his goals if he would just put time into doing it. -J.

When I look in the mirror, I see a humble young woman striving for success in the game she loves. I see a quiet yet brilliant young lady with childlike qualities. I see thick skin because she has been through hardship. I see a girl at a small private school in Texas coming all the way from Queens, New York. I see a girl dedicating her life to school and basketball, spending her days in the gym, sacrificing everything to reach her dreams. But most importantly, I see a smart, brave and cherishing young woman who follows God's ways! -C.

Applicable quote of the day: 
"A man has only one escape from his old self: to see a different self in the mirror of some woman's eyes."
Clare Boothe Luce

God bless,
Steve
Luke 18:1

www.hawleybooks.com
E-mail me at steve@hawleybooks.com

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

The Passing Of Porter






I often offer my services to my students in class to sing in their weddings which are some years down the line. Although I have preached a number of these nuptials, no one has accepted the singing part. Being silly, I sometimes break out the chorus of I Will Always Love You. It's a terrific song....and there is connection with my dad who died seven years ago. The following is from October 31, 2007.

They're laying Porter Wagoner to rest this week in Nashville, Tennessee. The country music legend who died three days ago of lung cancer at the age of eighty was a staple on the Grand Ole Opry, as well as his own Porter Wagoner Show. The first time I remember hearing about him had nothing to do with country music. Grandpa Chesshir, my mother's father, used to tease my dad of being a dead ringer for Porter Wagoner. Dad, as good natured a soul as you could find, hated it...which is probably why Grandpa kept bringing it up. I never saw much of a resemblance myself but it was funny to see Dad irritated just a little bit.

As I read the story of Porter Wagoner's life on The Tennessean website, I found he had released an album recently, produced by current star, Marty Stuart. There is talk he might even receive a Grammy nomination for his latest- and last- effort. I also was reminded of his four decade association with his former duet partner, Dolly Parton. Wagoner had hired the unknown Parton in the 1960's to perform on his television show and the alliance boosted the careers of both. But I also discovered another side of their relationship. Porter and Dolly had a very bitter split in the 1970's as they went their separate ways professionally. In tribute to her friend and mentor, Dolly penned and recorded I Will Always Love You, a song which made it to the #1 spot on the country charts. Almost two decades later, Whitney Houston remade the country ballad into a pop classic, selling twelve million copies, the most ever for a female vocalist. It's the most beautiful song, and most beautifully done song, that I think I have ever heard. All those years of listening to it had convinced me that it was simply another romantic love song, although an almost flawless one. The fact that the pain in the lyrics came from the dissolution of a close friendship makes it even more poignant to me. Proverbs 27:10 gives a terrific description of friendship that can survive a lifetime of anger and arguments:
"Do not forsake your friend and the friend of your father, and do not go to your brother's house when disaster strikes you- better a neighbor nearby than a brother far away."
When Porter Wagoner passed away on Sunday, Dolly Parton was, with his biological family, at his side. I don't know if the funeral has been finalized to the last detail but I can guess one song that might be heard during the service. If so, I will venture to say there will be few dry eyes as Dolly dedicates one last number to her old friend, Porter Wagoner. I think Grandpa Chesshir would have approved.

Applicable quote of the day:

"I'm not offended by dumb blonde jokes because I know that I'm not dumb. I also know I'm not blonde."
Dolly Parton


To watch and listen to Dolly sing I Will ALways Love You, copy and paste the link below!
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NuZO1iT4kD0


God bless,
Steve
Luke 18:1

www.hawleybooks.com
E-mail me at steve@hawleybooks.com

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

The Young Men And Women In the Mirror 2015


We worked on one of my favorite assignments in our classes last week. Back in October, one of our written memory verses was James 1:22-24:
"Do not merely listen to the word and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like a man who looks at his face in a mirror and after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like.''

We discussed the meaning and I brought up that Mom, in her late stages of Alzheimer's, did not recognize her own image. I told the kids that sometimes at the end of the day, I look at myself in the mirror, and don't always like what I see. The kids finished this statement: 'When I look in the mirror, I see....' Every student was allowed complete confidentiality and I did not even read any that requested privacy. My students were very honest. Over the next few nights, I'll run some of the responses of those who wanted to share.  Some will choke you up. All are used by permission. Boys are in blue and girls are in pink.

When I look in the mirror, I see myself wondering who I am, where I'm going in life, how it will turn out. I wonder if I'm pretty. I look at my appearance but think of a deeper meaning. I try to act mature but am I really mature? My face has changed each and every day since I was little. God has made a beautiful creature to let me live His life through Him. -C.

When I look in the mirror, I see a deep soul. Calm, quiet, and thoughtful, he rarely sees eye to eye with his peers but when he speaks, he is heard. His discontent with rarely finding others like himself results in unfathomable appreciation when he does. He notices but doesn't draw attention; he listens and thinks but does not speak. An outsider accepted for one reason- the decency of the people around him. These people are the reason this instinctual introvert bothers to spend time with others; it's their mutual acceptance which causes the parties to appreciate the other. Although his life is not what he would like it to be, it's the ability people have to accept others, the simple beauties in life, and the venture toward a greater future that pushes him through each day and brings him peace of mind. -M.

When I look in the mirror, I see a strong willed girl searching for who she really is. I see a girl with big opportunities but too scared to take them. I see a girl who has anything and everything but who feels like something is missing. I see a girl with a free spirit, one who tries to see the good in everyone. Most of all, I see a girl who is imperfect with many flaws who tries to stay positive and always thank god for what she has. -M.


When I look in the mirror, I see a hard working young man who is doing all he can to make people proud of him but it never seems to be enough. I see a good person who loves to listen but who is never listened to. I see a boy willing to do anything to provide for his family. I see a boy who loves many but who is loved by few. I see a heart and eyes longing to be successful. I see a boy who has the thing he loves taken from him frequently. I see a lion hearted young man! -S.

When I look in the mirror, I see failure and disappointment. I see a girl giving up on herself and pushing everyone who loves her away. I see anger and hurt. I see a girl who doesn't like the way she looks and how she dresses. I see a girl wanting to love who can't figure out HOW to love. I see a girl curled up in a ball crying, with scars on her arms and embarrassment on her chest. I see a girl wanting to find happiness within herself but she just can't find it. I see a girl who has vowed to be the best for herself only and for nobody else. I see a girl who will be prosperous in the future. -F.

When I look in the mirror, I see a young man who has endured a lot for his age; a young man sometimes disappointed by his actions; a young man who has yet to capitalize on the opportunities God has set before him; a young man who is learning how to live life; a child of God who continues to sin knowing he is sinning; a young man trying to follow God the best he can; a young man who trusts the wrong people and severely struggles with trust; a young man who knows where he needs to be while doing the bare minimum trying to get there; a young man who has yet to realize that you cannot pour your heart and soul into everyone; a young man who is very naive; a young man who struggles with discipline; a young man who loves his family but loves his God most of all. -T.

Applicable quote of the day:
"A beautiful woman should break her mirror early."
Baltasar Gracian 

God bless,
Steve
Luke 18:1 

www.hawleybooks.com
E-mail me at steve@hawleybooks.com

Monday, March 23, 2015

Why I'll Go To Jared



If you are a regular reader, you might have noticed a number of consecutive posts about weddings. That is, of course, due to my performing the nuptials of Gina and Keith two days ago. (The ecstatic couple safely made it to Tokyo for their honeymoon!) One thing about being in a wedding and the preceding rehearsal is that you hear all sorts of stories. Some are nostalgic, most are filled with laughter, and some make you think. Listen to this one that came up last week.

No wedding is totally free of drama or miscues. This affair was low maintenance but a little rain must fall on every event and it really poured cats and dogs on what was supposed to be an outdoor ceremony. But that wasn't the only water related mishap. You see, several days before the wedding, the diamond in Gina's engagement ring popped out of the setting and into the dishwasher! Fortunately, they were able to save the gem before it made its way into the public waste system. However, with the wedding only a few days away, it added one more task, a significant and vital one, to the to-do list. They took the ring/diamond back to the seller of origin, a highly reputable jewelry store. The jewelers were more than happy to re-set the stone and live up to the conditions of the warranty. There was a problem, though. They had no one on staff who could do that particular restoration and it would require being sent out of the store. With a wedding looming, that was not a viable option. I'm not sure how Keith and Gina conceived the next step but they ended up at a Houston location of Jared, The Galleria Of Jewelry. Jared honored the warranty of the other jewelers and saved the day with their on-sight craftsman/craftswoman. The diamond was re-set, the couple exhaled, the wedding went on, and a crisis was averted.

You know, I have never shopped for a diamond ring although I hope to some day. But when the day comes, there is no doubt which jeweler will be first on my list. Proverbs 22:1 teaches that,
'A good name is to be chosen rather than great riches, and favor is better than silver or gold.'  
Reputation, even in our social media crazed universe, is everything.  Word of mouth from friends carries weight that slick, focus group driven advertising can never duplicate, especially in an age of increasingly shoddy customer service. By seeing how they treated a young couple in desperate straits who were not even their own customers, I am assured they would do the same for me. That's why I hope some day, someone will say of me, 'He went to Jared!'   

Applicable quote of the day:
God bless,
Steve
Luke 18:1
www.hawleybooks.com
E-mail me at steve@hawleybooks.com