Saturday, January 24, 2015

Too Late For Art Linkletter


This past Wednesday morning, I was walking by our lower school office. I saw Bethany sitting with her kindergarten teacher, Mrs. Fitle. Being a K-12 school and not a huge one at that, it's safe to say I know most of the kids by sight if not by name. I know Bethany by name; her mom is our elementary art teacher. There are four other siblings and I've taught two. In fact, I've written blogs about her two sisters. Kathryn, a senior, painted a ceiling tile in my classroom with her rendition of the Last Supper. Margaret, now a sixth grader, has been giving me a thumbs up or down on my clothes selection since kindergarten, or approximately the same age as Bethany. Apparently, Bethany wants to join the august company of blog inspirers. As I walked past three days ago, Bethany proclaimed,
"Coach Hawley, you're dressed like a girl."
Mrs. Fitle quickly came to my defense:
"No, he's not!"
Bethany countered with,
"Yes, he is. He's wearing pink!"
That part was true. At the insistence of Silvia., my personal Jos A. Bank wardrobe consultant, I had purchased a pink Traveler dress shirt and Minna, my senior teacher's aide who basically tells me what to wear every school day, had matched it with a purple tie/black pants/black shoes and socks/black belt. I tried to explain I was just doing what Minna told me but I doubt she comprehended. I saw Bethany's mom shortly afterwards and laughingly relayed our conversation. I can't remember if mom said anything: I do remember her slapping her forehead!


Shortly after being down by Bethany, I went to lunch in our cafeteria. I eat early with our elementary kids because there is no crowd/standing in line so I buy myself the equivalent of an extra 1/2 planning period. It also means more interaction with our younger students. As I stepped up to the serving line, I was jointly bear hugged by Oluwaseya and Lana, two of the sweetest children ever, concurrently. Simultaneously, they noticed my name tag which identifies me as STEVE HAWLEY, or by first name. Both the young ladies blurted out that they thought my first name was Coach- they had never heard of Steve Hawley! I guess I have a new identity! I wish I was funny enough in my own right to make this stuff up. I guess I'll have to just report what I hear!

If I were to ask my current students to tell me anything about Art Linkletter,  I would be met by dozens of blank stares. But to older generations, his was a constant gentle voice. Born in Canada and abandoned at birth, Linkletter was adopted by a minister and his wife. He married his wife, Lois, and stayed married for more than seventy-four years. He made a name for himself on radio, moved into TV, and once had five shows on the air at the same time. A well-known humanitarian, Linkletter died in 2010 at the age of ninety-eight. He spoke at one of our WCS fundraisers and was terrific. But what I remember him primarily for is his book, Kids Say The Darnedest Things. (In deference to Mom who considered darn  to be borderline profanity, I am going to change that part of the previous sentence to Kids Say The --------- Things.) Linkletter would simply talk with uncoached ordinary children and found the words coming from their mouths were often shocking, sometimes insightful, and invariably giggle inducing and he made a career of it. Just like the things the little ones at my school say to me. Like the stuff we can imagine little kids in Israel blurted out in front of Jesus which I'm sure the apostles, spiritually mature as they were, considered childish. Kids haven't changed much in the last two thousand years if my thought processes are accurate. I just wonder if Jesus ever wore a pink shirt. If He did, I'm sure some little girl called Him on it. I'll bet He would have laughed with her.

Here's a clip of Art interviewing kids:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JPQpVetcxIk


Applicable quote of the day:
"The two best interview subjects are children under 10 and people over 70 for the same reason: they say the first thing that comes to their mind. The children don't know what they're saying and the old folks don't care."
Art Linkletter

God bless,
Steve
Luke 18:1
www.hawleybooks.com
E-mail me at steve@hawleybooks.com

Friday, January 23, 2015

Tower Of Doom

We've talked about fear recently in my classes and how worry cannot add anything to our lives, only subtract and make  us miserable. The following is about one of the first times I felt real fear in my life. It's March 5, 2011.
One thing I'm increasingly grateful for is that my parents made us kids work. We always had chores around the house from the time we were little. As we got older, we were strongly encouraged to find jobs that made money, lessening reliance on any allowance. In a small rural Nebraska town, those employment options were plentiful. I started carrying the Lincoln Journal-Star newspaper in about fifth grade. That was sandwiched around raking leaves, shoveling snow, mowing grass, and every Nebraska kids' favorite task, detassling corn. Entering high school, I embarked on a four year career at one of the local food stores, Jack And Jill, where I advanced from carrying out groceries to running the cash register to being semi-in charge when the bosses stepped out. As time went by, I also worked on the maintenance crew at York College and coached American Legion baseball, a Midwestern institution, in the summer. In Houston, it's much more difficult for a child to have any sort of the labor experiences I was blessed with. Funny, I rarely viewed them as blessings at the time.

My parents were frugal, to put it mildly. Each Sunday, they bought an Omaha World Herald newspaper, the largest publication in the state. It was huge and cost a quarter! (Do you know what I remember? The Sunday funnies, in color, especially Dick Tracy!) But my folks didn't throw the paper away when they were finished. Instead, they gave it to a family in our church, the Thoms. Guess who the delivery boy was? Every Monday, beginning when I was five years old, I would carry the World-Herald to the Thoms who lived about five blocks away. I can still retrace the route in my mind; south on Kiplinger, turn right on Ninth Street, cross Blackburn and Elmer Avenues, and there was the Thom's house, about the tenth house on the block on the right. I could probably walk it in five minutes or so ... but I left something out. Between Blackburn and Elmer, on a grassy lot, was a water tower, the biggest thing I had ever seen. It's no exaggeration to say it terrified me. When I gazed skyward, I was sure it was about to fall so I sprinted past it as fast as I could. There was no alternative route. You know, I don't know when I overcame my fear but I do know it never toppled over and sent me prematurely to my final destination. If only I'd known that when I was five.


It isn't there anymore. Some time after my parents moved to Texas in the latter part of the 1970's, that source of dread in my life was dismantled and removed. I don't know if it was no longer functional or an eyesore but a recreation of my route today, courtesy of Google Earth, shows an empty lot where that water tower stood. (It also showed a guy walking down the sidewalk. Wonder if they have his consent?) Fear can dominate our life if we allow it. I doubt I ever told my mom or dad that I was terrified to make the trip to the Thoms. My guess is that they would have made me face up to my anxiety but I bet they would have walked with me, at least once, to show there was nothing to worry about. Age doesn't always diminish our fears although it may redefine them. We always have an ally. David worded it best in his 23rd Psalm when he proclaimed he would fear no evil, because the Father was with him, even in the valley of the shadow of death. The shadow I feared back then came from a water tower which now seems tremendously silly. Someday, the things that make my heart afraid now will seem equally childish. I have to remind myself that the Father walks with big boys- and girls- just like He does with little children. We can stop our running anytime; the Lord is holding our tower up or maybe He's shielding us from the fallout. Maybe He's letting us survive some struggles to make us stronger. I was never alone when delivering the paper; the Father was there by my side. He is still is but now, He's delivering me from evil.


Applicable quote of the day:
“You can milk a cow the wrong way once and still be a farmer, but vote the wrong way on a water tower and you can be in trouble”
John Fitzgerald Kennedy


God bless,
Steve

Luke 18:1
http://www.hawleybooks.com/
E-mail me at steve@hawleybooks.com

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Napoleon Complex



I don't watch many movies but like you, I have my favorites. I can't really tell you the qualifications for making my list- I just know it's good when I see it. The following, from March 29, 2006, is about the film that cracks me up every time!

I'm convinced most adults could not identify Napoleon Dynamite. As a matter of fact, I heard about him by coincidence a year ago Christmas while preaching a wedding. We (the groom, groomsmen, and me) were waiting for our cue during rehearsal. The kids started talking about this movie I had never heard of like it was the funniest film of all time. I rarely go to movies and find few decent rentals so my interest was piqued. Not long into the New Year, I rented it. At first, my impression was that it was the stupidest movie ever. But as it sunk in, I changed my mind and it ranked as one of the funniest movies I've watched. Costing only $400,000 to produce, Napoleon Dynamite became a cult classic, raking in in excess of $40,000,000. The story centers on Napoleon, a high school student in Preston, Idaho, an actual town where the movie was filmed. Napoleon is the classic geek taken to the extreme. The film depicts a misfit and friends navigating the teenage world, conquering at the conclusion. Reviewers adore it or despise it with absence of middle ground. It is very clean, reflecting the Mormon culture of both the director/writer and the star. What began as a short film for a college class became a sleeper hit. Napoleon Dynamite gear- t shirts, notebooks, etc-are found in America's schools as a tribute to a kid with his own unique language. (For $6.95, you can purchase the Napoleon Dynamite Talking Doll, with seven quotes from the movie!)

There was a biographical article in this past weekend's PARADE Magazine. The section featured Jon Heder, Napoleon Dynamite in the movie. I found several interesting items about the actor. First, he was roughly twenty-five years old when he played the only high school student I know who stored Tater Tots in his pants for snacks. I found out he spent two years as a missionary in Japan and speaks the language. I discovered that when his movie played at the prestigious Sundance Film Festival, he was so lacking in funds that his wife was barely able to make the trip. (For his part in this blockbuster, Heder was paid a whopping $1,000!) Jon Heder comes off as an unassuming celebrity not ruined by fame. I was most intrigued by something that was not part of the article. What stunned me was when I saw his picture, I did not recognize him. In no way did he resemble the person I watched on my television screen by way of DVD player. The guy in the movie was gangly, bespectacled, socially awkward, with a bushy brown semi-Afro. The person in PARADE was blonde, glasses-free, and sophisticated. I don't know if I have ever seen as much of a transformation from real life to reel life, from everyday appearance to costumed. I had made an assumption that whoever played Napoleon Dynamite must be like him in reality. Nothing could be further from the truth.

People fool us all the time. They appear to be one thing when in actuality, they are a completely unrelated character. The majority of us do the same. One constant I see with many students is their belief no one could possibly like them if they could see their true identity. I have students who are charming in one-on-one settings but in front of their peers, they mutate into someone almost unrecognizable and not nearly as charming. Adults are not much different. We tend to take on a different persona depending on the group we are associating with. The apostle Paul said he became "all things to all men" but he was speaking of evangelistic effectiveness, not personality inconsistency. My favorite kids in are the ones who are the same, day in and day out. I wish I was the same, day in and day out. Napoleon was a stereotypical nerd...but he didn't change from hour to hour, week to week AND, he was the hero in the end. There is a lesson in there for well-adjusted adults.


Applicable quote of the day:
"Sweet!!"
Napoleon Dynamite

God bless,
Steve
Luke 18:1

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

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

The Match Maker

This might not make sense if you don't know me but for the last several years, students have picked out what I wear each school day. Last year it was Jean, this year it's Minna, and next year has already been reserved for My. That might explains some of this devotional from March 8, 20011.

I have to dress up this week for a banquet and dressing up is not my strong point. Still, I have a nice suit to start with and in Sunday's post, I spoke about buying some new shoes and ties. That's where Margaret comes in. Margaret is my wardrobe guru and adviser in spite of the fact she is only in second grade. I thought it would only be fitting to give Margaret the honor of matching the tie to the suit which will accompanied by a white shirt. It came down to two but she picked a light blue checked CHAPS tie to adorn my neck. From my vantage point, she made the right choice.

If you want to know why I turn to a barely eight year old child for fashion advice, you might want to read Approval Rating, my entry on April 14, 2010 in the archives. Suffice it to say that I kind of identify with Margaret. There are five kids in her wonderful family and there are five in mine. Her parents place a high value on Christian education as did mine. Her mother is an elementary teacher as was my mother. But when it comes to clothes, here is why I value Margaret. First, she tells me the truth. If I don't match, she doesn't withhold that information. How many of our public figures would be better off if someone would have the guts to be honest with them when they veer off course? Secondly, I trust Margaret's judgment. Margaret's mom is an art teacher and she has marveled to me at her daughter's gift when it comes to color and style. When Margaret gives me her opinion, I believe her. We need that person whose advice we can take unhesitatingly because we implicitly trust them. I won't ask Margaret how to coach my basketball team or how to teach my Bible classes but I know where to turn when I need to know how to present myself in a more professional way. Do you recognize the name of Bezalel? He was an Israelite from the tribe of Judah. In Exodus 35, Bezalel, who had all sorts of artistic gifts, was called on to help with the building of the tabernacle. In that same chapter, we're told that his gifts came from God. Undoubtedly, that's where Margaret's talent comes from, with an assistance from her mom and dad's DNA. The Lord sure didn't give me that gift but He did the next best thing; He lets me borrow some insight from His child, Margaret, from time to time.

Applicable quote of the day:
“Every child is an artist. The problem is how to remain an artist once we grow up.”
Pablo Picasso


God bless,
Steve
Luke 18:1

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

*Thanks to Michael Fonville, our WCS Creative Director, for the picture!*

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

That (One) Thing You Do


I like feel good movies, where there are likable characters, no real bad-bad guys, and things come to some sort of a happy conclusion. That's why I'm a fan of the Tom Hanks' written/directed/starred in 1996 film, That Thing You Do. It's the story of a fictional band called The Oneders which everyone mispronounces as Oh-Needers, prompting the name change to The Wonders. It's about a group  of Pennsylvania young men of varying abilities who put together a band in the summer of 1964. They have a huge record, travel the country, and break up within several months. One hit wonders (no pun intended) like Norman Greenbaum (Spirit In The Sky) and Carl Douglas (Kung Fu Fighting) spring to mind. But there is the love interest that must  be wrapped up and the lead singer's girlfriend, Faye, realizes he's a jerk and ends up with the better guy, whose name is, well, Guy. I hope I didn't spoil the dramatic conclusion if it's on your to-see list.

As in all movies, there is a pivotal moment and my interpretation of what that spark is in this one is this: When the band's regular drummer breaks his arm, a stand in, the aforementioned Guy, is added as his replacement. At a college talent show, Guy speeds up the tempo of a slow ballad called That Thing You Do much to the chagrin of lead singer and the song's author, Jimmy. But the kids in the crowd go nuts to the fast version, the group wins the talent show, and the rest is history, even if an exceedingly short one. Without that instantaneous uptempo shift, there would be no record, no hit, no fame, no movie, and no blog tonight. 

I'm not trying to be real deep this evening. All the time, I tell my students their lives can change in a day, an hour, a minute. Truthfully, that might be good or bad but our lives can turn on a dime. We never know how close we are to a breakthrough, perhaps even a metamorphosis . In Mark 12, Jesus was having a discussion with one of the teachers of the law. The Savior was obviously impressed with this learned man's line of reasoning. Here is how The Christ ended the conversation in verse 34:
"When Jesus saw that he had answered wisely, He said to him, “You are not far from the kingdom of God.” 
I've sometimes wondered if that unknown scholar ever found his way into God's kingdom. He was close! Maybe he was like us, in the academic sense or relationship-wise or career mode or most importantly and in the same fashion, the spiritual arena. I often remind the kids of what Jesus told His disciples to pray and not give up. Hang in there and keep fighting but do me a favor: Don't give up on me, either. I might be closer than you think!

To watch The Wonders perform That Thing You Do on tour, click or copy and paste below:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wPMLG8mnCRM

Applicable quote of the day:
"Can I say something? Jimmy, from now on, you stay away from me. I've wasted thousands and thousands of kisses on you. Kisses that I thought were special because of your lips and your smile and all of your color and life. I used to think that was the real you when you smiled, but now I know that you don't mean any of it. You just save it for all of your songs. Shame on me for kissing you with my eyes closed so tight."
Faye Dolan/ AKA Liv Tyler (Breaking it off with Jimm
y)


God bless,
Steve
Luke 18:1

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

Monday, January 19, 2015

Loss For Words

Dave and me, Brooklyn days
I don't know of a time I've ever known so many folks on a close level who are going through sorrow or sickness or a combination of the two. My brother, Dave, wrote this on July 9, 2007, filling in for me while I was on a mission to Honduras. Just 24 days after Dave posted this, our father had a stroke which would eventually take his life. His words seem appropriate to me tonight.

Of all the people in our family, I think of two who usually are NEVER at a loss for things to say- my Dad and me. Everyone else seems to have moments of good old fashioned silence. I can't speak for Dad, but I'm afraid that I view silence too often as missed opportunities to enlighten the world with my wisdom! Many of my early reports cards had some variation of the theme of 'Dave never lacks for things to say' or 'Dave loves the sound of his own voice'. Not only do I admit that to be true, but I'm pretty sure I'm usually ok with that!

All of this leads me to my problem today....I'm at a loss for words (oh, really, you think to yourself!). It's not that I can't think of anything to say, but instead, there is too much. I can never remember a year in my life that even closely resembles this one, and in most ways, that has been a distressing thing. If you read this blog on a regular basis, you know that our precious granddaughter of 10 months died 3 months ago...I'll never quite see life the same way again. Our mom continues to slide away from us to a disease that can only be described as hideous and emotionally painful to the ones observing it. One of my favorite tennis players I have coached died five days ago of liver and colon cancer at the age of 23. There is no way to say that is fair to her parents and friends. Our daughter Meagan is doing a great work in an orphanage...in Zambia, half a world away. The fact that we can't reach out and touch her at a moments' notice is frequently on my mind. We have had several major marital issues at our church which boggles my mind. All in all, this is not how I would have drawn up the year.

About a year ago, I taught a class at church about the origins of songs that we sing and what inspired them to be written. I was amazed at how many songs were penned at a time when believers are presented with challenges to their lives. I take comfort today in several of the lines I find in those songs:
*"God moves in a mysterious way, HIS wonders to perform...."
* "Nearer, still nearer, close to thy heart, draw me ,my saviour, how precious Thou art..."
*"Peace, perfect peace...in this dark world of sin..."

I guess what I MEANT to say was...I'm at a loss for THINGS to say...big difference from words to say!

My guess is that it would do me good, in these times of trials, to "Be still and know that Thou art God"....

God bless you all,

Dave (Steve's proud brother)

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Fame And Father


I often pray in the morning that our Father will give me something to write about that day. Sometimes that gift comes from odd places and sources of inspiration. Sometimes one thing I see leads to another. Yesterday, I saw a Facebook post by Mike Tune with a youtube link about a song called The Rain, The Park, And Other Things. It often is called  simply The Flower Girl and it came from The Cowsills, a family band from Rhode Island. The group had some successes with several other songs (Indian Lake, Gimme A Kid With Hair) and were the real life inspiration for the smash TV show, The Partridge Family. As I often do on youtube, I perused the comments and found that several years ago, a documentary was made about them, entitled, A Family Band: The Cowsills. I was able to locate a ten minute clip, also on youtube, and what I saw was fascinating, and sad. I thought this was fascinating. Their dad, Bud, who served as manager, insisted his wife and band member, Barbara, play the role filled by Shirley Jones when The Partridge Family was being cast, even though Barbara had stage fright and did not want the job. But the rest of what I saw just made me sorrowful. Bud, was by all the accounts of his children, an alcoholic and abusive. The mom was caught in the middle. The siblings blame dad for breaking up the band and mismanaging the money that should have been banked. There was never any real reconciliation and the kids were left with bitterness. It shattered what I had assumed, knowing as little as I did, that the Cowsills were an idyllic family. I was so wrong.

This morning, I was in charge of communion thoughts in both our English and Chinese speaking services. In the English worship, I referenced Dad and how he (and Mom) modeled consistency for always being with our congregation on Sundays and always partaking of the Lord's Supper to remember our Savior. I told our church family, along with a large contingent of visitors, that the last meal Dad ate on this side of eternity was communion on a Sunday afternoon only thirty-six hours before his passing. Up until his death, our father was teaching us even as we prayed he would stay with us just a little while longer. I was struck by the contrast of the interview of one of the Cowsill's sons who remembered how when their parents went out, the kids prayed they would never return. I know what I saw of the documentary was only one side of the story- I was reminded of similar reported dysfunction in maybe the two most famous American family bands, the Jackson 5 and the Beach Boys. And while the dads were obviously instrumental in at least the early steps to stardom, their offspring were left with differing depths of bitterness. In Colossians 3:21, Paul makes this appeal to dads:
Fathers, do not embitter your children, or they will become discouraged.
Easier said than done in some families. And no catalog of # 1 hits can take the place of a father whose children love him with all their heart. I miss my father.


To watch an overview of A Family Band: The Cowsills, copy and paste the link below:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4oZrzyZODus


To listen to The Rain, The Park, And Other Things, copy and paste the link below:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ThmkXSiaK-c

Applicable quote of the day:
E-mail me at steve@hawleybooks.com