Saturday, May 23, 2015

Cap And Gown

This entry, from May 28, 2011 repeated itself yesterday as it does on a yearly basis.

I pulled  my graduation gown out of the filing cabinet in my classroom yesterday morning. It had been wadded up in the metal drawer the past 365 days since our last commencement at WCS- it showed. I sprayed it with Febreze and asked Trinka Sandahl, our WCS receptionist extraordinaire, how to iron it. Trinka suggested just throwing it in the dryer and even volunteered to do so for me. She did and hung it up and it was good as new, or as much as a five year graduation robe can be. When I put it on in the faculty marching line, I needed some help with the collar that goes around your neck showing your advanced degree and where it was achieved. Fortunately, Mike White helped me adjust it and I was mostly presentable. When the festivities were completed, I tossed it back into my classroom and tomorrow, it will go back into file cabinet storage for another year. My guess is that next year, the process will be repeated. I tend to be predictable.

We all have stuff we hide away and dust off just when we need it. It's in a safe place and we can retrieve it when we need to. It might be something as inconsequential as that thin black piece of fabric I donned for two hours last night. But, it could be a friend or a relationship or something more valuable. It's too often our fellowship with the Lord. We throw it into the figurative closet of our soul until we are lonely or depressed or in a pinch or desperate or all the above. We retrieve it, try to straighten out the wrinkles, and try to explain in prayer why we haven't worn it recently. Paul told us that when we are baptized into Christ, we are clothed with Him. He didn't say it was only for Sunday wear or once a year wear. I need to do better in each  department, both with my Jesus clothing and my graduation garb. I am formulating a plan, though. Next year, I might try to sneak in wearing my dad's doctorate cap and gown with his PH.D identification from the University of Nebraska. (It's stowed away in my mom's old cedar chest!) I have confidence Dr. Lacey would catch me but I already have my argument in place: "I'm just trying to honor my father." You know, that's what I should be doing with my daily wear, too. It goes both ways.

Applicable quote of the day:
"The fireworks begin today.  Each diploma is a lighted match.  Each one of you is a fuse." 

Edward Koch

God bless,
Steve
Luke 18:1

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

Friday, May 22, 2015

An Audience Of One


I just returned from graduation. It's a big deal at Westbury Christian School as it is in most places but we pull it off with a flair I have seen nowhere else. Our valedictorian and salutatorian addresses were given by Rebecca Godard and Clayton mith, respectively. These two both gave sterling efforts. I've spoken at graduation before but it sure wasn't as a student!  Below, I tell the story of my favorite valedictorian address ever. You'll see why when you read it. This ran on May 27, 2007.

Two days ago, we had our Westbury Christian School graduation. As usual, it was unusual. Our commencement exercises are formal and informal, funny and emotional, and definitely family oriented. The crowd overflowed our new bleachers plus the six hundred folding chairs which had been set out. We pulled about every spare chair we could find to seat the audience. A congressman spoke, mothers were given roses, and cheers erupted as seniors took their diplomas and Bibles, transformed into alumni. As tradition dictates, the salutatorian and valedictorian delivered addresses. I was blessed to teach both. Nancy Fitzpatrick, who finished second in her class academically, spoke of memories and the teachers who blessed her life. Nancy was flawless in her eloquence. The valedictory remarks came from Khai Le, a young man from Vietnam. Khai, intellectually gifted and a joy to be around, concluded his speech with a quotation from an interesting source, Dr. Seuss. When he finished, Khai informed the crowd that his grandfather had traveled all the way from Vietnam to be in Houston on this special night. In honor of his grandpa, Khai did something I have never seen before: he repeated his valedictory address, this time in Vietnamese so his grandfather could understand. I thought he got a little bit choked up at the end of it. If he didn't, I did for him. It was the best graduation talk I have ever heard...and I didn't comprehend one syllable. There were others in our gymnasium who speak Vietnamese but I would guess they all speak English as well. Besides, they listened with their ears as did the rest of us. Khai's grandfather, I'm sure, interpreted his address just a little differently. I bet it was translated by his heart.

Applicable quote of the day:
"At commencement, you wear your square-shaped mortarboards. My hope is that from time to time you will let your minds be bold, and wear sombreros."
Paul Freund


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

Thursday, May 21, 2015

The Ripple Effect


I saw Ryan back in February when Westbury Christian School celebrated our 40th birthday with a big reception. He graduated about ten years ago and I don't think I had seen him since. His mom had been a colleague of mine, even taking the pictures that adorn the cover of the book I penned. There was something new about Ryan this time around; a wife and the two precious little girls who were with them. He was all grown up with the responsibilities grown men take on. After the introductions, the talk turned to our Honduras collection which coincidentally turned 17 itself this year. As we did in Ryan's five years at WCS, our kids and staff save loose change to fund the building and sustaining of Christian orphanages in Honduras and now Haiti. Ryan and his lovely bride, Jo Lynn, both told me how much they waned to get their daughters involved in good works like that one. Never being  one to pass up an opportunity to recruit penny collectors, I walked to my classroom and retrieved several of our bank bottles from years past along with wooden cross necklaces worn by our students for my two newest pint size buddies. They were delighted as were mom and dad. They promised to begin immediately and I told them I would be waiting. And I did... until this afternoon. 

Several days ago, Ryan sent me a Facebook message and asked when would be a good time to drop off the money they had accumulated. We came to a time mutally beneficial, this afternoon about three. All four of them come and they don't live close by. The older girl, KaiLynn, who is seven, was carrying her bank bottle with her sister, four year old Addison, more than willing to assist. I did the old acting like it was too heavy for me to carry routine and they laughed. We made the trip upstairs- Ryan wanted his family to see his old classroom. I talked to Jo Lynn about the mural of Jesus on our wall and how it was painted in sections by our own students who came from all parts of the globe. I asked KaiLynn if she wanted to dump the contents of their bottle into one of the five gallon receptacles we use- she did! As often happens, there was a spill and the girls giggled as they picked the pennies off the carpet. I had asked KaiLynn earlier if she knew how much was in their bottle. She looked at  her folks who told her and she repeated the amount- $327. That is no misprint. Ryan had relayed earlier how the girls fervently began looking for pennies. They even asked the wife of a contractor who was working on their home if they could search her car for change. Permission was granted and somehow, they came up with a $100 bill which was somehow matched and voila, KaiLynn and Addison deposited 1/3 of a thousand dollars for impoverished kids they will never meet! Jesus said little children have their angels who constantly see the face of the Father in heaven. My guess is there were some pretty big grins up there today about 3 PM, CST. I know there were in Room 258.

I taught Ryan twice, both in eighth grade and as a sophomore. I doubt when he was sorting and counting change that he had the thought that his daughters would follow in his steps. Nor did I as I was directing he and his classmates in our annual project. Things I heard from my teachers and coaches and parents did not register at first but they did make an impression. I cannot tell you how much I am impressed with Jo Lynn and Ryan, not just as believers but also as parents. They passed along that their goal is one day to have the girls at WCS- that just became my goal as well! I don't believe we become generous and compassionate accidentally. It is modeled at home each and every day and the result is children who put others first.  Their two have been listening. As we walked back downstairs, KaiLynn told me she loves basketball. What a coincidence- I coach basketball! We have so much in common!!! And my world got just a little bit brighter.

Applicable quote of the day:

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Golden Girl



Today for more than four hours after finals, Michael, a senior boy from China, counted pennies in my classroom. For seventeen conecutive years, our students at WCS have collected loose change to help build and sustain Christian orphanages in Honduras and now Haiti. It has become a part of our school culture. Taylor, who I write about below and one of my favorrite people in the world, is an integral part of that culture herself. This is from 2-12-06.

I never made it too far in Scouting. Mom was a den mother and I liked the banquets but it wasn't really for me. Boy Scouts would have been much more time consuming that Cub Scouts so I retired after the rank of Webeloes. I have always admired young men who kept going where I left off. A number of my students have achieved Eagle Scout, the highest level in Boy Scouts. Last summer, I attended the Eagle ceremony of Jonathan Miller, one of our seniors at Westbury Christian School. It was an impressive celebration.

Last night, I participated in the recognition of another Scouting accomplishment. In Girl Scouts, the highest level
attainable is the Gold Award. It requires a minimum commitment of fifty hours and combines leadership and organization skills in a project to bless others. Yesterday's recipient was Taylor Aschermann, a Westbury Christian School junior and one of my students in 8th and 10th grades. During her four years at our school, Taylor has been involved in our project to raise funds for Jovenes en Camino, a Christian orphanage for homeless boys in El Zamarano, Honduras. Our kids collect change in bank bottles provided by Preston Hill, father of one of our seniors. Students at WCS, along with those from Friendship Christian, will pass the $150,000 mark this May in funds raised. Taylor, besides contributing her pennies-nickels-dimes-quarters, has taken an active role in counting and depositing the money. (You KNOW the bank loves to see us coming with all that change!) Because her heart was touched by these children, Taylor devised a unique project. Working with Steve Davidson, US director of Jovenes en Camino, Taylor decided to collect something vital to little boys everywhere: socks and underwear. She worked so hard. Taylor wrote a play and put it on in churches. She contacted individuals and businesses. She devised lessons for the kids in our after-school program. Taylor, on the reserved side, had to step out of her comfort zone, getting in front of crowds and making phone calls to people she had never met. Nature threw a curve, christened Hurricane Katrina, at her. Normal life in Houston ceased for weeks as we were given the task of opening our doors and resources to victims from New Orleans. This happened in the middle of Taylor's plans. Showing flexibility, this young lady modified her project and handled obstacles flawlessly. Taylor was able to ship her impressive collection to Honduras, by way of Nashville, Tennessee so that a bunch of young men she has never met were clothed by Christmas.

The ceremony was heartwarming. Taylor's mother, Princess, welcomed us and served as emcee. Girl Scout representatives spoke about Taylor and the impact of attaining this prestigious award in post-high school years. After receiving her Gold Award pin, Taylor thanked everyone who had a part in her efforts. I overviewed the work our schools have done on behalf of Jovenes en Camino. A video of the boys of JEC put the postscript on the event. As in most joyous occasions, we had a meal when all the words were spoken. It, too, was awesome! I had several insights as the night went by. One person with an idea and a heart can make a difference in an indifferent world. No one achieves greatness by themselves- the Aschermann home was filled with relatives and friends who lent time, expertise, and encouragement in this endeavor which required eighty hours. The project, while celebrated, is not complete. The commitment includes a trip this summer for Taylor and her mom to Honduras to work with the boys at Jovenes en Camino. Their lives will never be the same. In Matthew 25, Jesus tells of the judgement when he praises those who will inherit his kingdom by saying "I needed clothes and you clothed me." When surprise was expressed, the Savior revealed that "whatever you did for the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me." I'm confident in saying that Jesus has little brothers in Honduras that tonight will go to sleep in new socks and underwear. There's a girl in Houston they can thank. Her name is Taylor.


Applicable quote of the day:
"I think the most enduring lesson I was taught through my experiences of being a Girl Scout was that I was a member of a larger community. I outgrew my uniforms and badges years ago, but the memories of visiting nursing homes or organizing Earth Day tree plantings or my summers camping with girls from all different backgrounds will stay with me always."
Natalie Merchant/ Singer


God bless,
Steve (Cub Scout Pack 173, York, Nebraska)
Luke 18:1

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

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Sign Of The Times

(Picture of Smoots Creek is courtesy of Mike LeMasters at www.bridgehunter.com)

Several years ago, I was speaking to Karen and Gary Keese who had just returned from working for two weeks at a Bible camp in Arkansas. Apparently, they had bumped into a college friend of mine who had revealed a tightly held secret- my nickname. Fortunately, I've outgrown it or at least, I think I have! This is from 7-24-07.

I'm not big on nicknames. They help market athletes and entertainers but I think they tend to outlive their usefulness when we reach adulthood. Did you see the Seinfeld episode where George tried to give himself a nickname? He wanted, for some reason, to be called T-Bone. That being said, I was saddled with a college nickname. As a social science major, my American History classes often included a mention of the Smoot-Hawley Tariff of 1930, a bill which dramatically raised fees on thousands of imports. Amazingly, I got tagged with Smoot and it followed me for the remainder of my college career. My younger brother, Scott, also inherited the Smoot tag for which I feel I should apologize. When I left college, the nickname stayed behind. Needless to say, it was not listed on any subsequent job applications.

During my sophomore year at York College in Nebraska, there was a freshman in my dorm who lived in Kansas. He informed me that in Kansas, there just happened to be a Smoots Creek. It also just so happened that Smoots Creek ran through Kingman County and was marked by a road sign as it crossed under a bridge. Furthermore, he lived in the county adjacent to Kingman. Would I be interested in having that Smoots Creek sign in my campus residence? I'm sure I did nothing to dissuade my Kansas buddy. You can guess the next installment. I ended up with that Smoots Creek road sign decorating my dorm room. This is where it gets tricky. Somewhere along the line, my conscience began to kick in. At first, I considered it a prank, as did my friend, who has turned out to be a fine Christian gentleman. But as time dragged on as it seems to do in times of an awakening conscience, I felt I had to do something. I mailed a letter of apology and explanation to the Kingman County Road Department without mentioning the name of the young man who actually disconnected the Smoots Creek sign from its pole. Several weeks later, I received a reply from a gentleman named Joe D. Freeman, Kingman County Engineer, which I uncovered this week as I sorted through boxes of my past. I was hoping he would commend my honesty- and he did. However, he explained that in the interim the Smoots Creek sign had been replaced and he had no choice but to bill me for the replacement cost, a very reasonable $19.50. Mr. Kingman praised my commitment for doing the right thing and felt I would be rewarded in doing so. I paid the $19.50: I also found the receipt. This week, I uncovered all the evidence of this crime wave.... except the sign. I can't say when for sure but I disposed if it years ago. It still, in my mind, was stolen even though it was paid for and the receipt didn't make it right. In Romans 2, Paul speaks of how our conscience has the ability to both accuse and defend us. I tried to tell myself it was permissible- and the state of Kansas pardoned me- but they didn't have to live with that little voice in my head. Today as I cooked lunch- OK, it was only Ramen noodles- something got too hot and the fire alarm went off. In an apartment, the shrill noise from the smoke detector is unbearable. I ran around opening every window and door to make it quit. There was relief when, after an eternity of screeching, the stillness returned. I've heard that buzzing in my head quite a few times in my life when I knew I was wrong. I take the stillness that accompanies the soothing of the conscience as a sign. It just doesn't have Smoots Creek stamped upon it.


Applicable quote of the day:
"Nicknames stick to people and the most ridiculous are the most adhesive."
Thomas Chandler Haliburton


God bless,
Steve
Luke 18:1

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

Monday, May 18, 2015

The Exemption

Last Thursday, I saw Tyler, the young man spoken of in this entry. Now finishing his senior year of college, we shared a hug and updates on our lives. He came by as our alums often do to play some basketball. Truthfully, I had forgotten all about this incident. It is from May 23, 2011.
Finals began today! The exams for Bible were in the second testing period so I have well over one hundred semester tests to grade. Making them is easy; grading them is another story. Our kids all are required to take finals with one exception: seniors who have an A average in a class and three or less absences for any reason during the spring term do not have to take that particular test. It's a big advantage. You have one less final to study for and more time to prepare for the ones in which you struggled. There is one condition, however- you have to turn in an exemption form with your parents' signature by a certain date. Tyler is in my senior boys' Bible class. He's exceptionally bright and well-spoken, both in writing and aloud, and a terrific basketball player, to boot. Tyler met the criterion for grades and attendance but there was a problem; he forgot to get his folks to sign on the dotted line and by the time he turned it in, the deadline had passed. He came to me last Thursday and asked if I would plead his case to the higher ups to see if he could be granted an exception. I was glad to but explained there were no guarantees. I went to the administrator in charge but there was no exception granted. Tyler understood and this morning took the final with the other young men who had not met those standards. He even came in before school and had me review him on the material. As I am half way through grading the tests from his class, Tyler is flying through with a high A. You know, he may even improve his semester grade because of that too late sheet of paper!

Wouldn't it be great if we could be exempted from life's tests and trials? I have been reading some FACEBOOK postings from former students and I am amazed how many storms some of them are enduring. We know that to believers, tests can be used by the Lord to prepare us for what lies ahead and allow us relate to others who will meet the same crises. But it's sometimes hard to remember that when the waves of sorrow unrelentingly crash down upon us. Peter told us in his first epistle that we should, 'Cast all your anxiety on Him because He cares for you.' I'm not a very good caster but I'm working on it. Tyler might not want to admit it right now but his forgetfulness this month may help guide him to his aspirations next year. That's the way testing works.

Applicable quote of the day:
"Wise are they who have learned these truths: Trouble is temporary. Time is tonic. Tribulation is a test tube."
William Arthur Ward


PS: Tyler approved of my writing this entry. Please keep him in your prayers as he makes college decisions. As I mentioned, Tyler is a very good basketball players and he is weighing his options!


God bless,
Steve
Luke 18:1

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

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Only You Know And I Know


How many stories have we been subjected to recently about celebrities who do whatever they feel like....until they are caught. I'm glad so many of them break down and confess their guilt- that's scriptural- but I like it even more when someone confesses without getting caught. This is such a story, one I use each year in class, and it's from Memorial Day, 2007.

I counted pennies in my classroom this afternoon. It's Memorial Day so no one but me was in the school building- I'm still catching up on odds and ends. As I drove today, sports talk radio was fixated on the issue of steroids and baseball. The same names as always popped up; Barry Bonds, Mark McGwire, Sammy Sosa, Jason Giambi, Rafael Palmeiro. The history of baseball revolves around statistics. The radio conversation also centered on stats, particularly in light of wide-spread suspicion of the use of performance enhancing chemicals. There is testing but not for everything that has come out of the pharmaceutical chemistry set. Who did and who didn't? The odds of knowing accurately are probably nil. It would require an outbreak of honesty, an epidemic not running rampant in our society today.

There is hope. Several months ago, a young man lingered after all his classmates had exited when the bell rang. He had a confession to make. In preparing for our daily Bible quiz, he had read the wrong assignment and when we graded the papers, he panicked and changed some answers. Even in the few minutes that had elapsed, he could not live with what he had done. He simply was ashamed of himself. We talked and I told him that I was proud of him. I took no further action; none was needed. Without his coming clean, I would not have known. His punishment was knowing I knew, even if no one else was the wiser. The time came when he asked me to write a letter of recommendation for him, which I did gladly. In fact, the recommendation probably was better than if the incident with the quiz had never happened. I found out more about him in his misstep than I did in the other one hundred seventy days of Bible class. I don't know if those allegations of steroids are true- the denials have been loud and as persistent as the accusations and the whispers. The norm in our culture is to deny everything for as long as possible and then make excuses when the truth is revealed. My student made no attempt at that kind of charade. The term conscience-stricken is used only twice in the Scriptures, both in application to David. The ruler who made the leap from the pasture to the palace messed up often but he was always contrite....and God always forgave him. Most would not consider cheating on a twelve question quiz a big deal but it is to me. Thank God it was to that young man as well.


Applicable quote of the day:
"The torture of a bad conscience is the hell of a living soul."
John Calvin


God bless,
Steve
Luke 18:1

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