Friday, November 27, 2015

The Plot

I was with family and extended family the past five days. The talk at some time invariably turns to those of us who have gone on.  Some day, we will all fit into that category unless the Lord returns first. I now have a spot close to this obelisk honoring my mom's side of our family. The following is from July of 2006.

I'm back in Houston. Fourteen days and 2,200 miles after embarking, I pulled the Toyota back into its accustomed parking spot at the Braesridge Apartments last night. My trek took me through Arkansas, Missouri, Iowa, Nebraska, Kansas, Oklahoma, and back to the Lone Star State of Texas. My arrival was a day early than on the itinerary. Originally, I was slated to spend the night Monday in a motel somewhere but never tiring, I drove straight through from Wichita. It was a great experience for me. I was blessed to spend time with my folks and my brothers, sandwiched around a sojourn to my hometown of York, Nebraska. Skipping that extra night at some Super 8 Motel in Dallas even helped allow me to finish my trip under my projected budget! This Sunday, I leave for eight days in Honduras so no rest for the weary.

My brother, Scott, and I talked the other day about where we are going to be buried when we depart the land of the living. After residing in Wichita for fifteen years, he thinks his remains will remain in Kansas. I have moved around so my cemetery of record is up in the air. I wouldn't want to be interred in Houston- no family connection. We have no relatives in Nebraska so that is out. At one time, the plan was to lay my bones down on a baseball field in rural Georgia. We all have loose ends in our lives; this is mine. Tonight, there was a PBS documentary playing about gangs in El Salvador. A gang member was interviewed and he spoke about the conflict in his life between right and wrong. When he died, or more likely was killed, he anticipated spending eternity in hell. It was a chilling prediction. The young man, speaking through an interpreter, never mentioned a burial plot. He seemed more concerned with condemning himself to everlasting punishment. At least, he thought about the afterlife. Most of us are more preoccupied with our funerals than where our souls will reside. According to, the typical funeral plot sells for $4,000 but still in excess of 80% of Americans prefer burial to cremation. Maybe my casket will end up in the soil of a rural Arkansas hillside, alongside numerous relatives but one thing is for sure; that won't be my final resting place. I'm leaning towards heaven!

Applicable quote of the day:
"I tell ya I get no respect. I bought a cemetery plot. The guy said, 'There goes the neighborhood!' "
Rodney Dangerfield

God bless,
Luke 18:1

E-mail me at

Thursday, November 26, 2015

The Good Father.....Thanksgiving Edition

In all of my five Bible classes, we discuss my belief that God chose Joseph as carefully as Mary to be the earthly father of Jesus. Some kids think that Jesus would have been  Jesus no matter what but the angel told her that she was highly favored and not some random Jewish teenage girl. This week, as we learn The Lord's Prayer, we note it starts with Our Father. On Friday, my high school students wrote an in-class paper describing what they believe makes a good father. Here are some of their thoughts, boys in blue and girls in pink. We will do this for several consecutive days. All are used with permission.

A good father is honest, caring, and helps push you to achieve your dreams.  A good father teaches you right from wrong. He learns to accept your mistakes, no matter how bad. A good father sets a good example, an example of how a guy should act. He should spend quality time with you and share the same pain, joy, and happiness. A good father does not hold grudges; he must forgive and help others. Most importantly, a good father loves you forever and is never ashamed of calling you his little princess. -Jean

A great father is someone who can relate to his children, love his wife, and take care of the family. He needs to always be there for his family and be accountable at all times. Although he always loves, he needs to be firm and fair in disciplining his children because he has to raise them to be great young men and women. A great father has unfailing love, like mine.- Nic

A good father is a man of God. He always encourages his family to go to worship. He cares for his kids and is there for his kids. A good father loves, comforts, and helps his wife. He is not a dysfunctional man and loves his wife no matter what. A good father loves to have fun with his children and not push them away. He doesn't just walk away. A good father puts God first in his life. He always protects his family, no matter the situation. A good father is a role model to his son and teaches him how to be a good man, play sports, and how to treat a woman. He treats his wife like a queen and doesn't let her do everything for the kids. A good father is at sports, plays, and academic events for his children. A good father does not blow off his family for a party. He loves his family and God unconditionally. -Eme

A man who sacrifices for his family and genuinely cares for them is a great father. He will know when to be fun and loving as well as disciplined and strict. He will tell and show his family how much he loves them. A great father will work for and provide for his family and spend time with them. He will teach his kids right from wrong, left from right, and that 1 + 1 = 2. He will never hurt or abandon his family. He will teach his son how to be a man and how to talk to and respect girls. He will help teach his daughter how to be woman and how to pick the right guy. He will teach his kids values they will use for the rest of their lives. He will be an example of a great man and always put his family before himself. -Micah R.

A great father is someone who puts his family before his own needs. He is a man who does what he needs to so he can provide. A great father will make himself uncomfortable so his family can rest. A great father will be an example of sacrifice for his children and he will be God-fearing. He will always protect them and show them love. -Bria

A good father is one who does not let his troubles come between he and his family. A good father would die for his wife and children. A good father would love his family with all of his heart. He will follow in the path of the Lord, to forgive but also condemn things that are wrong. A good father would say no and not just yes all the time. A good father will spend time with his kids and not go to bars and get into trouble. He judges in the right way as God would. A good father will not unleash anger on his kids because their love for him will dwindle. -Kaleb B.


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

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

The Perspective

Almost Thanksgiving from Coffeyville,, Kansas! I came here this morning with Dave and Sally. Starting this evening, Sally's family will gather at the home of Paul and Trudy, Sally's brother and sister-in-law. They always graciously take me in. I am particularly excited about seeing my nephews and their wives and great nephews and great niece. They are growing up so quickly!

The first three days of my visit I stayed with Scott and Karen and their family. (They left this morning for Iowa to see Karen's kinfolk.) On Monday and Tuesday, I went to Wichita Collegiate where Dave and Scott both teach. Karen also works at Collegiate as the registrar. Yesterday, Karen invited me to eat lunch with her in the cafeteria as they were having the traditional Thanksgiving feast. Both Collegiate and Westbury Christian use SAGE Dining, a catering service which exclusively works with private schools. (Our SAGE manager, Jay, told me to take notes!) It was a wonderful meal as I knew it would be. I really enjoyed spending time with Karen in her world and I also am fascinated by seeing how other schools operate. But that was not the only reason I found the time memorable.

After we ate, we walked over to the kitchen area and spent ten minutes with the SAGE manager, Randy. This wasn't a coincidence. Randy is from my home town in Nebraska; in fact, I started school with his older brother. We are FACEBOOK friends; still, I cannot recall with certainty ever meeting Randy in the actual world. But as we talked, I found it fascinating how we viewed the same small town and many of the same folks from a different perspective. We spoke of people I knew whose siblings were Randy's friends. I shared some information about a situation which shed some light for him. He told me that he remembered me playing high school basketball because he came with his brother who filmed all of our games. (You might want to read last night's entry in relation to these films, several of which are now in my possession.) And as Karen and I returned to her office, I found myself with a brand new respect, both professionally and socially, for a man I only knew from a few FACEBOOK posts.

Last week, all five of my classes tested over material called Background of the Gospels. We speak of how the story of Jesus was written by four men who came to the telling from different backgrounds and were addressing different issues to different audiences at different times. Even through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, the author apostles would have had non-identical angles on what they saw and heard. The four books were penned at four different times, with John coming significantly later than Matthew, Mark, or Luke. Mark and Luke would have had different sources for their narrative. I illustrate this by asking the kids what would happen if I had four of them to write down their thoughts on the same chapel service in which they all participated. Their accounts might be much different but at the same time, accurate. When you put the four chronicles together, you have an overarching view of the life on earth of the Savior. And that's what I gleaned from talking to Randy. I have a fresher insight into my life decades ago in a place called York, Nebraska even though what I heard was not-earth shattering. Maybe my memories are just a little clearer today. Perhaps the road to and from my childhood which I have traveled on frequently has a few less detours for me to navigate. Maybe I'll gain some insight into the Jesus I teach for one hundred eighty days per year. And one more thing: the turkey was awesome!

Applicable quote of the day:

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Memories In Black And White

York City Auditorium
York, Nebraska
Basketball games in Texas begin earlier than in Nebraska. I would guess our high school teams at WCS have already played a combined 18-20 games. The following, from August 6, 2006, is a trip down my athletic memory lane.

Video tape has spoiled us. I can tape a basketball drill and immediately take my players off the floor to watch it. It was different when I played. Our high school games (York High: York, Nebraska) were recorded on Super 8mm film but because it took time to develop, we never watched them. Our coach, Dale Neal, swapped the films with other coaches for scouting purposes. Several years ago, York High sponsored an alumni basketball tournament. One of my high school teammates, Don Knipfel, found five cans of film from the games our senior year. Apparently, they were about to be thrown out and were available for anyone who wanted them. All five were home games played at the York City Auditorium. Don acquired the films and converted one into VHS format. I was blessed when he sent me a copy, along with the four remaining canisters. This week, I had one of the games converted from Super 8mm to DVD with a musical soundtrack added. By the end of the week, I hope to have mailed copies to my seven senior teammates from that long ago season. I have been looking for a way to reconnect and maybe this is the way the Lord will provide.

Do you believe in the supernatural? When I initially I viewed the films, it was like seeing a ghost. For the first time in my life, I saw myself playing basketball. I was a seventeen year old kid, with other seventeen year old kids, who thought the world revolved around Friday and Saturday nights from December through February. What emerged from those cans of film is grainy, black-and-white footage. It's obvious that the game itself has changed in the intervening decades. There was no three point line back then and every held ball resulted in a jump ball. Basketball was less physical then. More kids lift now and different interpretation of the rules allows a greater degree of contact. That's the coach side of me. The teenager side of me is struck by a flood of memories. It isn't the specifics of the contest that fascinate but a general glow from the time when I was blissfully ignorant. I catch myself getting frustrated when I miss a shot or fail to block out. In all five films that Don rescued, we won. I don't know if I could relive a loss, even years later. I don't remember who the camera man was but at the end of each game, there is a minute or so focused on the cheerleaders. They still look pretty good to this day.

I am so glad Don took the time to preserve those films. What those cans hold has meaning to twenty people or less in the world but to those select few, it might be pretty important. It wasn't just the act of saving the films; they had to be restored. Without the technician who performed the conversion, the memories would have remained celluloid strips disintegrating in a metal container. With the right touch and procedures, long dead images are in motion once more. Restoration is a dominant theme of the Bible. A nation gone astray; a child whose life-breath has ceased; a believer who has wandered- all needed the touch from the restorer of all things, physical and spiritual. When that touch came, precious life was restored. We all go through stretches where we long for restoration to friends, family, a happier time, or to the one who created us. Sometimes, we're just like that Super 8mm film. We just need someone to take us out of the can and hold us up to the light, making us useful again. Maybe in the restored version, we can edit out all my missed shots!

Applicable quote of the day:
"In memory's telephoto lens, far objects are magnified."
John Updike

God bless,
Steve (#32-white uniform)
Luke 18:1
E-mail me at

Monday, November 23, 2015

Putting My Stamp On The Address Dilemma

It's that time of year again- college recommendation season! Already, I have recommended five of our youngsters for acceptance into numerous and hallowed institutions of higher learning. There is now what is called a Common Application where you only have to do a checklist/impressions on a student one time and they can send it to whatever university they choose. When I do a formal recommendation, I type it and Jennifer Zalud who runs our copy room puts it on WCS letterhead and makes it look very official. Over the years, I've written so many of these that I can hammer out a good letter quickly while making our young scholars a must-have for any admissions department and do so truthfully. It really is an honor just to be asked. 

There is a protocol involved in the process. Often, the recommendations come with waivers, having the youngsters give up any right to see what was said about them by the recommender. I have my own criteria for privacy. I won't let the recommendee view any checklist or rating scale but I will have them read the letter I penned and let them make suggestions which they never do. The general rule of thumb is that the kids will bring a stamped addressed envelope to the college and I will sign over the seal, showing there has been no tampering. That's where it has become interesting this fall. The rest of this is going to be ANONYMOUS although I'm confident my students mentioned below would take no offense!

It started two weeks ago when I told a young man he needed to bring me stamped envelopes for his applications. He immediately asked, "Where do I buy a stamp?" I was dumbfounded so I replied I thought his folks would have both stamps and envelopes at the house. He didn't think so. I was telling this in the office soon after and the staff was giggling but a young lady who is an aide and might be valedictorian asked,  "Well, where do you get one?" We teased her and she laughed with us. She had a thought it might be the Post Office but she wasn't convinced. So, just on a hunch, I asked my seventh period Gospels' class, a bunch of bright juniors, how much a postage stamp cost. The first guess was ten cents and most of them were in that neighborhood. I told them that was the price forty years ago and they seemed shocked when I informed them of the current 49 cent price tag. But the story gets better. The day we left for Thanksgiving, another senior brought me the eight letters I had penned for her along with the envelopes for me to sign. She had addressed the first one....... but she put the address of the university in the upper right corner where the stamp goes. In a move never taught in teacher training, I took a blank envelope and showed her the proper method. I think she gets it now.

Right off the bat here, let me assure you I don't think this is alarming. The kids I mentioned are terrific students who besides excelling in academics are amazing in electronics, drama and music, athletics, and leadership. They also are products of very high achieving families! They will bless any campus upon  their enrollment. (If we turn it around, they find it unbelievable I can't set the margins on my Word notes or change a ringtone on my cell phone.) This is the point: No one has taught them these things. Letters are rarely dropped in mail boxes anymore so the skill is not as necessary as in the good old days of the 1990s. I do think there is a spiritual application, though. How do we expect anyone to know about the Lord unless those teachings are passed on? Common Bible knowledge isn't common anymore. Bible scholarship isn't common anymore. Paul put the responsibility on the shoulders and or feet of the believers in verse 14 of Romans 10:
How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them?
How would my students know about Jesus unless someone took the time to explain Him in a kind and understandable way? You don't learn how to address an envelope by osmosis. The same is true for knowing our Savior. This Thanksgiving, I'm thankful my parents taught me about Jesus....... and how to send a letter.

Applicable quote of the day:

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

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Sam I Am ....Or Not

If you read this blog on a regular basis, you know that I work out every day. I belong to a fitness club about a mile from my place which meets my needs perfectly. On the weekend, I go in at 8:00 AM and come back in the afternoon. Typically, I lift and then swim although Sunday is a pool only day. On school days, or Monday through Friday, I start my workout at 5:45 AM. Technically, they don't open until six but they are getting things ready for the day and don't mind if I get a head start. A little over a month ago, a new guy started up at the same time as me. He had just become a member and is an administrator in the public schools. He introduced himself as John and I told him I was Steve. We greet each other every morning except Wednesday, his Sabbath from lifting. There is one slight problem. I see him first usually as he wears headphones and I get his attention.
"Good morning, John."
He smiles and replies:
"What's up, Sam?"
That's right- he thinks my name is Sam. I let it go so to John, it is Sam.

I presented the situation to my seventh period Gospels' class, all juniors, on Thursday. They were appalled that I was not handling it. I explained that I am handling it by ignoring it.
"But Coach, what if he finds out?"
He won't.
"But what is he sees you wearing something with your name on it?"
I don't wear stuff with my name on it.

"But what if someone calls you by your name and he hears it?"
The little old ladies who come in don't know what it is.
They still were unanimous in their incredulity. Except for Micah R. He had my back.

I don't care if John thinks I'm Sam. In my view, it might embarrass him if I broke the news.  Look at the list of apostles. Several have multiple monikers like Peter aka The Rock aka Cephas aka Simon. Maybe I would make a good Sam; maybe John sees something in me that I don't! Names matter- I try to call each student's name every class period- but to me this isn't a big deal. It might if John were my boss but he isn't. I do hope he suspects I have a third name as well- Child Of God.

Applicable quote of the day:
“It ain't what they call you, it's what you answer to.”
W.C. Fields 

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

Saturday, November 21, 2015

Empty House

The top picture is of our grandparents, Harold and Minnie Hawley, and Mom and Dad. I like our folks are holding hands!
The second shot is our last home in York, Nebraska:
927 York Avenue, maybe the favorite house of all to me!

Thanksgiving is almost here and with it, the nostalgia. I found I have become much more empathetic to others by watching the decline and passing of my folks.  I'm still hurting over the inevitability of aging and what I saw happen with my parents, an inevitability many of you know well. This is from August of 2007.

She was always there. She was there when I was born and on my first day of school. She spanked me when I needed it and loved me when I didn't deserve it. She sewed patches on my jeans and ironed my shirts. She cooked my supper before my high school ball games and sat with me as I ate. When I took the lovely Deb Schark to the York High School Sports Banquet, she went to the florist with me and helped me select orchids. She knew when I was messing up and she worried when I got hurt in sports. She forgave me when I hurt her feelings and drove six hours through a monsoon when I had hernia surgery. She taught me how to be content with what I had and she let me lick the beaters when she made frosting. I watched her diligently grade papers at night, little realizing I would follow her footsteps into the teaching profession. She came to my college and spoke to the girls about what makes families tick. She told me stories about her relatives in Arkansas and made me feel like I was there. I watched her partner with my dad as they raised three biological and two foster kids through lean times and better times. And then, she forgot. Her mind has been left with little capacity to maneuver in a world that increasingly closed in on her. She doesn't know me but I know her. I won't forget.

We put Mom in a nursing home yesterday in St. Louis. I should say Dave did as the rest of us are currently in Kansas, Montana, Arizona, and Texas. I'm glad it was Dave. I don't know how I would have handled it. He went back today and decorated her room with some of her possessions to make it more like home. She'll only be there for a few months until we can get both Mom and Dad moved to Wichita but she'll never sleep in her own bed again. Their house is empty until Dad has recovered from his stroke sufficiently to leave the hospital. I pray the workers in the West County Care Center treat her with the dignity that she- and all the other residents whose children and grandchildren grieve with the separation- deserve.

I passed an elderly woman who lives in my apartment complex this morning as I was doing laundry. When we talk, she is invariably upset with her son. He doesn't invite her to his home much and she despises his wife. Today, he was late to take her to the store and she was angry. I felt sorry for both of them. Proverbs 23:22 gives guidelines for relations between parents and their offspring:
"Listen to your father, who gave you life, and do not despise your mother when she is old."

I never thought they would get old. I'm lucky, though. Mom's mom died when she was only fifty-five so Mom never got to watch my grandmother age. It's been hard but it's been a privilege. Not everyone is so blessed.

Applicable quote of the day:
"Some people, no matter how old they get, never lose their beauty- they merely move it from their faces into their hearts."
Martin Buxbaum

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