Thursday, December 18, 2014

Do You Want To Know A Secret?



It started innocently enough but then, most things do. A little background is in order. Due to my schedule, I eat an early lunch at school, the same time as our kindergarten kids. Their teachers, Mrs. Semanek and Mrs. Fitle, are aided in the cafeteria by three of our WCS seniors, Sarah, Wade, and Kirk. The little ones are an entertaining lot but I don't think I could endure a whole day- give me teenagers every time! About a month ago,
Mrs. Semanek asked if I could do her a favor. Some of the boys were misbehaving in the bathroom and she asked if I would mind talking to them about restroom etiquette. Now, I've preached weddings and eulogized at funerals. I have delivered commencement addresses and given fund raising speeches. Last week, I spoke at the 100 Year Anniversary of Georgia Christian School, a great honor. But none of those adequately prepared me to talk to this bunch of five year olds about being mannerly in the boys' room. I can't give a word for word account of my waxing eloquent but I did an employ a basketball camp technique. Every time I said the word BATHROOM, they all had to clap. I don't know if they heard anything else but they got that part. I must have implied it was a secret from the girls because beginning the next day, the boys would come up to me and whisper "Bathroom!" and then clap. Immediately, the girls demanded to know the secret but I told them, well, it's a secret! That didn't stop them. One of them came up to one of the young men and said, "I know what the secret is- toothbrush!" He replied, "No, it's not- it's bathroom!" The little boy learned a hard lesson- the girls will always outsmart you!

Anyway, in the intervening weeks. I've gone through the same scenario daily. The boys want to know what the new secret word is and the girls claim they have a secret of their own and they won't tell me or the boys! My favorite moment came last week when Charlotte, one of my basketball campers last summer, switched sides and told me she is now on the boys' team! I think she was doing some reconnaissance! But today, I found all of them outside eating their afternoon snacks with their wonderful teachers and I made a big announcement:
NO MORE SECRETS!
We'll see if they remember when we get back to school in several weeks. After all, some of them still believe I'm J.J. Watt. So much intrigue in such little bodies!


I wish I could say with confidence that these adorable children will totally give up the secret keeping as they mature but if they're like the rest of us, a remnant may stick with them. Secrets and whispers and gossip and betrayals mark our our society and every other society as well. There's just something about being in the know or having inside information that we can reveal at the just the right time to make ourselves seem connected or witty or powerful. But it's not a good thing. Jesus made it very plain two thousand years ago how to keep ourselves out of trouble with our tongues. In Matthew 5:37, He taught us to,
"Simply let your ‘Yes’ be 'Yes' and your 'No',  ‘No’; anything beyond this comes from the evil one."

It wasn't very complicated, was it? Amazingly simple but amazingly effective. Even a kindergartener can understand the concept but living it will be infinitely more difficult. Yes/No- I think we can all clap for that!

To hear one of my favorite Beatle songs, the one this devotional was named after, copy and paste the link below!
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BVQU6xH96k8


Applicable quote of the day:

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

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Day One


The first semester is ALMOST over! I don't like the beginning or the ending of school; I love everything between except I really detest grading  the fall finals. I have roughly ninety-five students and all my exams are hand corrected, eleven page tests that average about 530 answers. I'm almost done with the first semester finals. In case you read last night's entry, all five of my students with 100 averages made.......100!  The following, from April 7, 2006, is about grading.

This was the last day of the six weeks. Someone came up with a brilliant idea- all final days of grading periods have an early release at 1:00 pm. With several extra hours, teachers can finish grading papers and recording grades. I have to admit I resisted the introduction of computers into the report card business. I'm now convinced it is the greatest innovation in education EVER, with the possible exception of Spring Break. The grades calculate themselves on our computer program called Gradequick. No more poring over strings of numbers! By 3:00, I was completed with the six weeks and headed for my apartment. Five six weeks are now in the book with one to go. The home stretch has begun!

Last Monday was Opening Day for major league baseball. All thirty clubs had an identical record. Every team, at least theoretically, began with an equal chance to make it to the World Series. Next Monday, my classes start all over again. On Monday, each one of my one hundred and five students will have a clean slate. They all return to the starting line, grade-wise. The separation will begin shortly thereafter. I hope all of them will make an A but realistically, I'm confident that will not happen. Some will miss only several points total in the twenty-five or so scores recorded next to their name while some will struggle even to pass. Most will occupy the middle ground. But for one day, all are equal in the sight of Gradequick. Maybe it's like a do-over when we were kids playing baseball in the parking lot next to our house. Grace flowed freely in those summer games...on some days. Forgiveness, I think, is like the new grading period. The Lord's forgiveness is complete, never partial. Might we still bear some consequences of our sins? Absolutely, just as these kids are not absolved from what they accomplished or did not accomplish the first one hundred fifty days of the school year. The great news for the Christian is this: while students have to endure six weeks to wipe the slate clean, we can receive a fresh start three hundred sixty-five days per year. The Father in heaven doesn't use Gradequick- He's just quick to forgive his children.


Applicable quote of the day:
"You may have a fresh start any moment you choose for this thing we call failure is not the falling down but the staying down."
Mary Pickford

God bless,
Steve
Luke 18:1
http://www.hawleybooks.com/

E-mail me at steve@hawleybooks.com

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

The One Hundred Club


We took our Bible final yesterday. By 'we' I mean all the WCS students between grades 6-12. My classes reviewed in my room starting at 6 AM, going in two shifts, first for the high school kids in Gospels and then at 7:00 for my eighth graders who spend the whole year on the book of Luke.  I brought breakfast- fruit and cereal bars and Wheat Thins- and the big one, pots of Starbucks combined with NestlĂ©'s flavored creamers. My estimate is that about forty-five of my ninety-five students were present at least for a part of that time. My experience is that food attracts the numbers which in this instance is a double blessing for the kids. You never know who is going to show up for these review sessions. Often, it's the ones who don't need it while the ones in desperate straits are the ones conspicuous by their absences.

There were five kids in particular I watched for; Sophia, Sydney, Catherine, Chloe', and Kirk. Two of the five came. There's a reason I was looking for this quintet. You see, all of them made 100s in both of the nine weeks grading periods which make up the first semester. So, their efforts can only lead to two outcomes on their report card- maintain or go down. They cannot improve their marks. And yet, even though they have one hundred per cent averages, they haven't been perfect. Each of them has missed at least several questions this year. But due to rounding up and the extra credit they receive by making cards for sick and grieving folks, it looks like perfection. 

As believers, we all struggle with sin. Some are more devout than others and some are better at resisting temptation than the rest of us but all are dented and chipped and marred and scratched by our transgressions. My car looks brand new from a distance but a close inspection tells the truth. Some of us do a better job of walking in the light than the rest of us but we all have this in common- we are lost without the blood of Jesus. Romans 3:23 reminds us that, "all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God." Not some or the majority- all. Even the most saintly in our midst are flawed and possibly the most likely to admit it. We are all imperfect. We all need Jesus, no matter how righteous we appear on the world's report card. 

An update on the two of the five whose finals I've graded- both made 100%. What a shock! One of them came to the review and one didn't so I'm not sure how much it helped. I'm confident the other three will have 100s as well when my grading is completes. But do you know the best thing about these five young scholars? They are all great kids and tremendous representatives for Westbury Christian School and their families. And that can't be measured on any report card.

Applicable quote of the day:

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E-mail me at steve@hawleybooks.com

Monday, December 15, 2014

The Impact

Jesus told the Parable of the Sower, also known as the Parable of the Soils, in which the soils stand for the types of hearts of those who hear the Word. Teachers think they know who is what soil- we don't. This is from April 2, 2010.

In two weeks, I'll be preaching the wedding of Dennis and Sarah. Sarah was my middle school basketball manager, a prize student in my class on two occasions, and one of the sweetest young ladies you can find. I'm in the process of putting the finishing touches on the ceremony. One thing I do is have the parents write down some memories of their children growing up and I have the couple send me reflections on their courtship. I then weave these reminiscences into a story of the about-to-be-newly-weds. When Dennis' mother sent me her remembrances, she included a fascinating, to a teacher, snippet about how her son chose a college. When he was in fourth grade, Dennis had his first male teacher, a Mr. Divin. This gentleman was a graduate of Texas A+M and from that time forward, Dennis had his heart set on becoming an Aggie. His mom told me Dennis even wanted to buy Mr. Divin an A+M leather jacket for Christmas but due to financial considerations, settled for a tie that played the A+M fight song. Fast forward to 2008 when the not-so-young anymore Dennis Rees graduates from the university in College Station, another landmark in a career that is already skyrocketing.

The great thing about teaching is that you never know what is penetrating the minds of kids. The scary thing about teaching is that you never know what is penetrating the minds of kids. This week, my eighth graders talked about Jesus' grave warning to anyone who causes a child to stumble. On the other hand, you know the Savior must be smiling broadly when an adult heads a little one towards the right path in life. Who knows if the aforementioned Mr. Divin knows his impact on a youngster named Dennis who sat in his classroom some fourteen years back? Whether he knows or not, that influence will last for a lifetime and will undoubtedly carry over to the children of Sarah and Dennis. My guess is the Rees kids will be wearing A+M pajamas. Gig 'em!

Applicable quote of the day:
"The mediocre teacher tells. The good teacher explains. The superior teacher demonstrates. The great teacher inspires.''
William Arthur Ward

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

Sunday, December 14, 2014

The Ride


We all have to make decisions on the best use of our time. The difficulty comes when there are competing claims on that time. Sometimes, we do the right thing in spite of ourselves. This is from January 23, 2006.

Time is tight right now. Going back a week and a half and going forward five days, there is something EVERY NIGHT. There are ball games and Bibles studies, an Open House For Prospective Students at school and Monday Night For the Master at our congregation. All are terrific, especially the spiritual stuff, but I have to plan my days to the minute. Yesterday, Sunday, was Day 11 in my current lifestyle marathon. My clock scheme was humming. I preached for our Chinese service in the morning on The Man Born Blind and with the Lord's help, it went well. Lunch with my brethren saved me from having to cook. I snuck in a catch-up nap, followed by twenty minutes of aerobics on my Tony Little Gazelle. To top it off, Houston was receiving a much needed rain! I headed to our school building for ninety minutes of work before 5:00 pm worship. I had my minutes calculated to where I would be done with everything and home in time for a new episode of Cold Case, Sunday night's most watched TV crime drama (or so they say.) I traveled down Fondren Avenue when it happened- I got caught at a red light on the corner of Creekbend. A young man approached my car and I rolled down the window. He said the bus that was supposed to stop at 3:05 had not showed up. He had to get to work and asked if I could help. I told him to hop in. His name was Mark and he had just moved to Texas from Charlotte. His job was at a super market and he had to be there by 4:30. I thought it would just be a short drive to the next bus stop. I was wrong. I ended up taking him to the store, a considerable distance from the school classroom, my actual destination. On the way, I learned about Mark. He loves the Tarheels, the Panthers, the Bobcats- anything associated with North Carolina. He moved to Houston when his girlfriend moved. I asked whether he worshipped anywhere- he said not at the moment. He told me about his employers and working conditions. When we arrived at the store, he thanked me and shook my hand. He asked about my church and he said he might be coming by. It had taken forty minutes.

I'm not going to lie. I was getting more irritated by the minute as we traveled toward his job. I hid it but I had IMPORTANT STUFF I needed to be doing, getting ready to teach Bible to my 8th and 10th grade students this week. I arrived back just in time for evening worship. (OK, I did make a small stop at Starbucks to help me simmer down.) An hour and a half wasted! Slowly, I began to be ashamed of myself. I worked four years in a grocery store so I should have been sympathetic. Mark told me his normal bus ride takes an hour one way so he was spending two hours on the bus to carry out groceries for minimum wage. Isn't that what we say young people should do, work hard and pay their dues? How can I preach to my students that the Lord gives us good deeds to do and then be angry when he gives me my opportunity? Why did it work out that I stopped at that red light? If I had left five seconds earlier, there would have been no young man coming up to my Toyota. Of course, that young man MIGHT NOT have found a ride and he MIGHT have been fired. The scriptures teach to love our neighbor. In the Good Samaritan story, Jesus expanded the definition of neighbor to include anyone with whom we come into contact. Mark became my neighbor. I have no doubt the Lord used me to give that young man a chance and I was inwardly griping the whole time! Read the words of Ephesians 2:10:"For we are God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works WHICH GOD PREPARED IN ADVANCE FOR US TO DO." There is no wiggle room for me in that writing of Paul. It's a verse we ALWAYS memorize in my classes. It's a lesson the kids NEED to know! You should know, I got my work done- I always do. By the time I went to bed, I was feeling pretty sheepish. I resolved to do better and the next time, I will. Or, maybe the next time after that. One of these times, I WILL get it right, with a little help from the Lord!

Applicable quote of the day:
"It is easier to love humanity as a whole than to love one's neighbor."
Eric Hoffer

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

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Blest Be The Tie....






It's that time of year for giving and receiving of gifts. My guess is that I will be the recipient of at least one tie this Christmas. Many of my approximately 260 ties have come to me as presents. One in particular has special meaning. This is from April 7, 2009.
Winston was in my eighth grade Bible class when he gave me a tie for Christmas. I have an abundance of ties but I always really liked this one. It was a Perry Ellis number, with navy blue and black alternating stripes. Unlike Dad, the colors I prefer to wear have always been on the conservative side so Winston's present was woven seamlessly into my wardrobe. Now a WCS junior, Winston probably has not thought twice about the gift itself except the times when I have worn it. But in the past year, that tie has become a small part of our family history. You see, when I delivered one of the eulogies at Dad's funeral, I was wearing Winston's tie. Then, four days ago, when I again eulogized a parent at Mom's funeral, Winston's tie graced my neck once more. So now, in every picture and DVD recording of those twin celebrations of life, Winston's influence is visible. He did not mean to do some great deed but in a sense, he did. By honoring me, he eventually honored my parents. Acts of kindness sometimes take on a life of their own. Sometimes, that life includes the honoring of the dead. Winston gave me a tie but I find in that fashion accessory, he gave me something else. He blessed me with another connection to my mother and father.

Applicable quote of the day:
"A well tied tie is the first serious step in life."

Oscar Wilde

God bless,
Steve
Luke 18:1

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

Friday, December 12, 2014

Put Me In, Coach!

We had a Christmas band performance at WCS last night. I was tired but I was on hand as were our other teachers. You see, we were expected to be there and so we go. Every organization has guidelines to make it more effective and our presence is deemed by the WCS administration as important. I would have most likely attended, anyway- many of the band members are my students- but it was a long day and I had tests to grade and you can talk yourself out of almost anything. The following is a baseball story from March 21, 2006 about an employee who balked at his employer's job demands. In the long run, it worked itself out.

Alfonso Soriano refused to go to work yesterday. For the non-fan, Soriano plays baseball for the Washington Nationals. He's been a second baseman during his career but his new team wants him to shift to the outfield. Soriano was in the lineup Monday for the Nats, penciled in as leadoff hitter and left fielder. But when the Nationals ran to their positions in the first inning of their exhibition game versus the Los Angeles Dodgers, left field was vacant. Soriano refused to play if not at second base. The problem is, the Nationals have Jose Vidro, far superior defensively, already as their second baseman. Soriano made it clear in his previous stops with the New York Yankees and the Texas Rangers that he would resist attempts to reclassify him as an outfielder. The Nationals management made it clear that if he still refuses to play by Thursday, Soriano will be placed on the disqualified list, meaning he will not be paid and will not accumulate time towards free agency. How much will Mr. Soriano be recompensed for his skills this season, assuming he has a season? His paltry salary will be only $10,000,000.00! Is it possible he will continue his refusal, knowing what is at stake? Maybe he is trying to force a trade. If that is the case, his value is diminishing daily. Others have changed positions for the good of their teams, most notably Alex Rodriguez, who shifted from shortstop to third base for the Yankees. The Nationals should have foreseen this when they traded for Soriano last winter. However, it is hard to believe Soriano will muster any sympathy from fans who feel athletes are over-paid and spoiled.

Like Alfonso Soriano, I am the employee of an organization. My belief is that I am bound not only by my contract but also by my conscience to be the best employee possible. The Bible gives admonitions to both bosses and workers concerning effort and reasonable compensation for labor. Paul says our work is really for the Lord and not man. Even though he was speaking to slaves in that passage in Colossians, wouldn't our whole economy be blessed if both sides lived up to that teaching? I would think that lockouts and strikes would disappear or at least be significantly diminished with that proviso being added to bargaining agreements. And Alfonso Soriano would not have to put up with being mistreated for only $10 million per year.

Applicable quote of the day:
"By working faithfully eight hours a day, you eventually may get to be a boss and work twelve hours a day."
Robert Frost


God bless,
Steve (Willing to play left field for $10 million!)
Luke 18:1

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