Sunday, October 04, 2015

The Identification

I sat behind Kenneth and Lynette tonight at worship service as I often do. After fifteen minutes of singing, our children are released to Bible classes in our courtyard. Their son, Kaeden, jumped up to go and as he left in typical warp speed fashion, I called out his name. His dad told him to respond and Kaeden, referring to me, said to Kenneth, "That's the guy from basketball camp!"
Kaeden, who had just turned four right before camp in June, was an enthusiastic camper in our morning sessions. I even wrote a blog about Kaeden asking his mom why I wore a red shirt while the campers wore the same style top but in white. What I find fascinating is that camp is just a very small part of the interaction that I have with this very young man. I would guess I have sat directly behind Kaeden on about 75% of the Sunday mornings since he has been alive. I also see him everyday in the halls at WCS where he is in his second year as a kindergarten student and we often interact there. But when it comes to telling his dad about me, all that comes to mind is that I was a coach at basketball camp.

Unless we deliberately lead the life of a hermit, we're known for something. (In the interest of full disclosure, Isabel, another small WCS child, still delights in telling anyone who will listen that I am J.J. Watt- who knows when that reality will set in.) In American history, Abraham Lincoln is known for being honest, Rosa Parks is remembered for bravery, Will Rogers is noted for his wit, and Benedict Arnold is reviled for treachery. In the word of God, Andrew always brought people to Jesus, Thomas doubted, Peter spoke out of turn, and the noble Bereans checked up on the preacher. But Jesus taught us the best identifying mark in John 13:35 when He spoke these words:
''By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.''
What an ID! Kaeden knows me as the guy from camp. Others might note I teach Bible at WCS or I'm the son of Roger and Nelda or I could probably win The Voice if I auditioned. (Just kidding about the last one!) But Jesus hammered home that affiliation with Him was not based on fasting and praying, although those are vital and necessary means of worship. No, it's if I love others. That's sometimes more of a challenge than fasting and praying. And certainly more significant than basketball. Well, not to Kaeden yet but one day, he'll understand.

Applicable quote of the day:
"If I had a street named after me, I'd carry that around instead of a driver's license for ID. You are what's named after you."
Jarrod Kintz (This Book Has No Title)

God bless,
Luke 18:1
E-mail me at

Saturday, October 03, 2015

He Will Lift You Up

You may not know this but for a number of years, we had a very famous person on our campus. Charlie Ward was our WCS high school football coach and this entry, from October 24, 2011, is about him.

Last Thursday in my Gospels classes, we were discussing the return of Jesus to his hometown of Nazareth and his Sabbath visit to the synagogue. The Savior was handed a scroll and he found this passage from Isaiah:

“The Spirit of the Lord is on me,
   because he has anointed me
   to preach good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners
   and recovery of sight for the blind,
to release the oppressed,
    to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”

I made the point that this prophecy he read while standing defined the ministry of Jesus. I then gave my students a name or two of people who work at our school and asked them to define that person in one word. In my sixth period class, I asked Micah Green to define Coach Ward in one word. His answer: "Humble." Five minutes later, Kenneth Okwuonu, who shares my room as a Bible teacher and works with Coach Ward in football, walked into my classroom looking for some papers. I asked Kenneth the same question that I had asked Micah about Coach Ward. Without hesitation and without hearing the sophomore's answer, Kenneth replied, "Humble." Two for two is a pretty good percentage and to me, enough of a meaningful sample to make it significantly accurate.

If you don't know much about Westbury Christian School, you might not know that our only famous employee is Coach Ward. (In the interest of full disclosure, I should note that in my senior year of high school basketball in Nebraska, I was named one of the Players of the Week for the state by the Omaha World Herald for a seven day period in December.) You see, Coach Ward is Charlie Ward who is renowned not only for a ten year career in the National Basketball Association but also for winning the 1993 Heisman Trophy as quarterback of the Florida State Seminoles. Even casual sports fans know his name. And yet, one of the best things I can say about Charlie Ward is that our kids know he never makes a big deal of himself. I'm afraid it might be different if it were me. When I graduated from college, I had every intention of pursuing my doctorate simply so I could add the title 'Dr.' in front of my name. I asked one of my classes today to name the Bible character who was called the most humble man on the face of the earth. It took about fifteen tries and some clues before we came up with the correct answer of Moses. (Numbers 12) Moses had a pretty good job resume'- saw a burning bush, turned the Nile into blood, overthrew the most powerful man in the world, parted the Red Sea, and led the children of Israel for forty years and the scriptures praise his humility. WOW! Moses and Coach Ward; pretty good company...and Moses never even won the Heisman!

Applicable quote of the day:
"If I only had a little humility, I would be perfect."
 Ted Turner

God bless,
Luke 18:1
E-mail me at

Friday, October 02, 2015

The Kiss

I was in my room yesterday not long after the end of the day bell rang, getting stuff squared away before I went to work out. The door opened and one of our janitorial staff came in. Our cleaning is contracted out to a service but some of their employees have been with us for three or four years so it really seems they are employees of WCS. This gentleman always calls me 'Maestro' or teacher and I call him 'Hermano' or brother. (My Espanol abilities are very limited!)  He comes in each day about the same time and empties the bag in my trash can, replacing it with a fresh one. To have this make sense, I should note here that the far wall opposite of my desk is perpetually covered with student art work, currently the traced hands of all the youngsters in my five periods. This year, our Director of Curriculum, Gracie Greer, graciously ordered 3' x 5' flags of Honduras and Haiti, the two countries where our student body and staff have helped build and maintain Christian orphanages. These flags now are bookends to the art and remind the students of our project which is based on James 1:27 which says:
Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.
I'm pretty sure my friend did not realize I was watching but he walked to the flag of Honduras, tenderly smoothed it out, and kissed it. I'm not emotional but I admit the scene was touching. I asked if he was from Honduras and he told me he was. I told him I've made eleven trips there, to Tegucigalpa, Choluteca, and San Pedro Sula- he told me he was from San Pedro Sula. Amazing- I never took the time before to ask where he was from.

Today in several of my classes, I asked my students of many of their parents or grandparents really missed their homeland and could relate to that story; a number raised their hands. I can't empathize as my travels are all about a month or so and I'm not gone long enough to get home sick. In my seventh period class this afternoon, I showed a clip from a German based disco band. The song, Rivers Of Babylon, beside having an infectious beat, is solely on words from the Psalms. The first part is Psalm 137:1-4 where the writer is lamenting the Babylonian captivity. (The last verse is from Psalm 19:14 which we often sang as a family when I was little.) I was struck by the hopefulness of the message which had always struck me as totally mournful. I'm reminded that Paul on several occasions spoke of his yearning to leave this terrestrial ball and truly go home:

"Now we know that if the earthly tent we live in is destroyed, we have a building from God, an eternal house in heaven, not built by human hands.  Meanwhile we groan, longing to be clothed with our heavenly dwelling." 2 Cor. 5:1-2 (NIV)

"Now it is God who has made us for this very purpose and has given us the Spirit as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come. Therefore we are always confident and know that as long as we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord. We live by faith, not by sight." 2 Cor. 5:5-7 (NIV)
We like that phrase, our citizenship is in heaven. It gives us a reminder of our ultimate destination Meanwhile, we live to praise God here below in a variety of nations and languages and under the authority of a wide variety of flags. Some day, those things will pass and we'll have a home where VISAS and passports are not needed and we no longer miss the shores of our birth. It can't come too soon.

Applicable quote of the day:
"Every man has a map in his heart of his own country and that heart will never allow you to forget that map."
Alexander McCall Smith

*To listen to Rivers Of Babylon, copy and paste the link below:

God bless,
Luke 18:1

E-mail me at


Thursday, October 01, 2015

Lindsay And The Doxology

I guess I'm not mad at Lindsay anymore and I'm petty sure she knows I never was. Lindsay is a junior at WCS and in my third period Gospels class. She is also from South Korea and her given name is Yeonji although I had to look it up to know. Lindsay lives with John and Gracie Greer along with Kishi, a young lady from China, who is a senior at our school. I worship with John, who is one of our elders, and Gracie, our Westbury Christian School Director of Curriculum, as part of the Westbury Church of Christ. The Greers have made a home for a dozen Asian students, all girls, over the past decade, and it has become a mission for them. Lindsay and Kishi are simply the latest in a group of wonderful young women from China and Korea to live within their walls. I'm not unbiased here- I have been blessed to baptize three of these ladies (Annie, Ellie, April) into Jesus Christ. There is no telling the number of folks who will be added to the Book of Life because of Gracie and John.
I guess I should get back to Lindsay. At our Sunday night worship five days ago, she sat with her American guardians several rows ahead of me. But, when the final AMEN was sounded, she didn't come to say hello to her favorite Bible teacher. In her defense, she told me Monday that she never saw me so how could I be mad? Also, she did the best job of any of my 100 students on the Johnny Lingo discussion test the previous Friday so that helped ease my disappointment. Lindsay is a very good Bible student; I don't think I'm violating any privacy guidelines by revealing she has a 99% average in my class. If she comes through with a 100% tomorrow on our Test # 4, she could well be in triple digits with her score. As we finished our section notes this morning, we wrote down, or really typed into our laptops, the definition of doxology, which I gave as
 “an expression of praise to God, especially a short hymn sung as part of a Christian worship service.” As an example, we wrote down the best known English example, Thomas Ken's Praise God From Whom All Blessings Flow, penned in 1674. It goes as follows if you aren't familiar with it:

Praise God, from whom all blessings flow;
Praise him, all creatures here below;
Praise him above, ye heavenly host;
Praise Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. Amen.

I sang the short chorus, which we often sang as a family in Nebraska, and asked if any of the kids knew it. Several raised their hands, including Lindsay. On the spur of the moment, I told her I would give everyone in the class one extra test point tomorrow if she would sing it in Korean. To the delight of those who can desperately use that additional point, she did. In a quiet but firm voice, she sang it in her native tongue. This is how it reads in Korean:

I was extremely proud of Lindsay. We are so used to hearing our praises to our Lord sung only in English that it’s a joy to hear them sung in other languages. I’m not going to say it was like the Day of Pentecost when all those in Jerusalem heard the Word preached in their own dialect- Lindsay is the only Korean student in the class- but it sounded really wonderful to me. All of us clapped when she finished and not just in gratitude for the bonus. More than half the youngsters in that section are either international or have close relatives in other nations. Nine times, the scriptures speak of singing a new song to the Lord. Today, Lindsay sang a very old song in a very new way, at least to those of us who are not Korean. And I think our God must have been pleased as well.

Applicable quote of the day:
“Perhaps it takes a purer faith to praise God for unrealized blessings than for those we once enjoyed or those we enjoy now."
A.W. Tozer

God bless,
Luke 18:1
E-mail me at steve


Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Dad And Dandelions

Sometimes I tell my students stuff about my family I don't think they believe, seen through their 2015 eyes. This is one of them from November 14, 2011

To listen to Tony Joe White sing Polk Salad Annie, please copy and paste the link below!

Each Monday through Friday, I eat lunch with our elementary teachers, which means with a bunch of lovely ladies. On Friday, Katy Shirley related a tragedy concerning a couple who tragically ate mushrooms from their backyard that had been added to soup. I mentioned my mother's family eating polk salad picked wild in rural Arkansas and to my surprise, none of them knew what I was talking about. I mentioned one of the greatest songs ever, Tony Joe White's Polk Salad Annie, posted at the top of the page; none of them had ever heard of it. I tried to describe the turnip-green like plant but to no avail. What was amazing to me was that all these women are from the south and I just assumed all southerners knew polk salad. I was mistaken.

When we were kids, I had amazing and a different kind of parents than I see with many of my students. Much of it has to do with life in a small town versus metropolitan living. Some has to do with my parents being raised through The Depression and growing up with a frugal outlook. With that in mind, we did not always eat what the other kids ate. My mom was a southerner so we dined on  grits and cornbread and black eyed peas. That's pretty mainstream even though not part of the cultural landscape of Nebraska. But Dad thought outside the box. He got the idea that if my mom's family could eat polk salad, we could eat dandelions. And so, he would pick and cook dandelions as if they were turnip greens. I don't recall if they made us eat any. My contention was that there were dogs in our neighborhood and we all know that dogs mark their territory and....................... You see where I'm coming from. But our father was in effect killing two birds with one stone- lawn maintenance AND supper.

You know, this really isn't an entry about polk salad or dandelions or even Tony Joe White and one of the greatest songs ever. It's about family. In classes this semester, I've told the students how my mom had no name for six months after birth and how my great grandparents were immigrants from Denmark. If they were listening, they've heard how I scared my brother, Dave, to death one night and that my maternal grandparents got married when my grandmother was only fifteen. They found out my second cousin, Caleb, made it to the final round of twenty-four on American Idol and that I was born in Brooklyn and Mom could see the Statue Of Liberty out of her hospital window. Every family has stories and legends and tales which tie them together or in the sad cases, tear them apart. The Bible tells us that our Father set the lonely people in families. Our families define our perspective on life and our outlook for both this life and the one to come. My dad turned into a good cook when Mom's Alzheimer's left her incapable of the simplest steps in the kitchen. Dandelions weren't his best dish but it's a reason why we loved him. He wasn't afraid to be different but more importantly, he wasn't afraid to show his love to his wife or kids or the Lord. And he always put food on the table, even if it sometimes came from the backyard.

Applicable quote of the day:
The family.  We were a strange little band of characters trudging through life sharing diseases and toothpaste, coveting one another's desserts, hiding shampoo, borrowing money, locking each other out of our rooms, inflicting pain and kissing to heal it in the same instant, loving, laughing, defending, and trying to figure out the common thread that bound us all together."
Erma Bombeck

God bless,
Luke 18:1
E-mail me at

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Lifting Holy Hands (Diane King)

For years, our WCS Moms In Prayer group has come to my room and prayed for the hands of our students on the wall. Each student traces their hand and tells me something about themselves by their decoration. I have included a picture of this years' group as well as some hands from past students. I asked Diane King, our school librarian who heads the Mothers' fellowship, to give me some insight to her thoughts on their vigil two weeks ago.

The Moms in Prayer group has been honored to pray over the hand drawings on your classroom walls for years.  The moms refer to your classroom as a museum because of the hand print drawings and the scenes of Jesus painted on the opposing walls.  Even during the early years of this project, there was a hushed quiet as we prayed over each student--hand to hand until each of us prayed over every student.  In those days each drawing was a reflection of the person it represented and as such was decorated with sports teams, quotes and meaningful verses.  A few key verses were repeated on more than one person's drawing.  We prayed for each student by name.
Over time the student's work has changed.  This year there are more drawings displaying complicated and colorful art work and a wider variety of scriptures.  Some of the quotes and scriptures stand out because of their deep thoughts.  I've also changed how I pray for the students.  This year I prayed for the deep thinkers as much for the depth of their souls as for the specific messages on their papers. Other papers had Christian messages that were up front, perhaps reflective of an outgoing student, while others had decidedly Christian messages in the background. An introvert?  I'm glad we have room for both.  Perhaps the students are putting more time and thought into the project. 
Still there are always some drawings that are simple, no more than a handprint, birthday and name.  These students fulfilled the requirement but didn't put much time into it or use much creativity.  Maybe they were busy since our society has accepted super busy as normal.  I spent more time over these papers this year than I used to.  I pray these students learn to express their true selves and that their true selves are positively influences by their experiences in this classroom as well as the school.  I pray that even if their paper is simple, their hearts are full.  

God bless,
Luke 18:1
E-mail me at

Monday, September 28, 2015

All Locked Up For The Night....Or Maybe Not

I'm no doctor as you can tell but I think I can spot some trends in the medical community. Everything today is a condition or disorder or something now identified with initials. When I work out, I can't avoid the radio in the weight room and it seems at least a quarter of the ads are about diseases I've never heard of but now require a specialist or at least medication. Without poking fun at those with very real illnesses, I cannot be the only person believing we are over prescribed, over analyzed, and over medicated in our society. We've spawned a whole generation of non-medical medical experts who can tell you exactly what is wrong with other people, especially kids and especially dealing with a capital letter prognosis. Like OCD. My guess is that is the arena of people who are habitually habitual and maddeningly so at times. I think we lay persons throw those three initials around way too much......... .

Well, of course, my case is different because it's always different if it's you or me. I admit that I'm a creature of routine and find some comfort in doing things to extreme on some limited situations. For example, as a high school and college basketball player, I would tie and re-tie my Converse shoes countless times before games, trying in vain to find the perfect feel. Perhaps that was just a superstition which athletes must have to be considered athletes. But, in all sincerity, I do have an issue which is not life threatening and affects no one but me and it has to do with the picture at the top of the page. Before I go to bed each night, I check the locks on my door to make sure they are all in the locked position and the little chain is in the groove. I check...and double check and triple check...and sometimes more. I also have to know the exact location of my keys. Sometimes, I'm already in bed and I get up just to make sure. My phobia, if that's what it is, was exacerbated a number of years ago by a neighbor who sufficiently unnerved me that I began sleeping with an aluminum bat and barricading my door with furniture before hitting the sack. Fortunately, the neighbor moved on but I'm still recovering from the experience. And I cannot go to sleep unless I'm absolutely sure everything is tightly secured for the night. Good thing for melatonin!

I know it's silly and I know I'm in no danger but that doesn't mean I can easily give up the compulsive door checking. It's kind of like guilt. As Christians, we know we're forgiven BUT just in case, we feel that nagging sense of shame anyway. We know God's promises and the blood of Jesus and the promise of 1 John 1:7 but we want to beat ourselves up to make ourselves feel better about ourselves. How can that make any sense? The door is locked or it isn't. Feeling nervous about my salvation doesn't bring me closer to the Lord. I know I'm saved...... but let me peek one last time. It doesn't make for restful nights. Repeat after me the words of Sabine Baring-Gould from his timeless hymn, Now The Day Is Over:
When the morning wakens,
Then may I arise
Pure and fresh and sinless
In thy holy eyes.

And let Steve and all the Steves out there say, AMEN. Well, maybe two AMENS just to be sure!

Applicable quote of the day:
“I do not have OCD OCD OCD” 
Emilie Autumn

God bless,
Luke 18:1
E-mal me at