Saturday, August 29, 2015

Manly Footwear

Tomorrow, I preach to our Chinese church about my most recent mission (last month) to Vietnam. The following, from September 4, 2011, is about my first trip.
Roughly two weeks ago, I posted hundreds of pictures on FACEBOOK from my mission trip to Vietnam which concluded on August 3. Some of the photos had been posted other people. It is very difficult to navigate FACEBOOK in Vietnam and so I sent pictures and updates to a number of folks and had them place them on their FACEBOOK page for me. A number of the pictures were of the three worship services I was blessed to be a part of. One of the shots (Vietnam 2011, part 2 picture 5) was of Uncle Ten praying for the bread during the Lord's Supper. I am sitting with my eyes closed next to Tom Tune, the missionary I was working with. One custom I struggled to remember was that of taking off shoes when entering a house but there I am, involved in worshipping God, minus my normal footwear. I can't tell how many people viewed that photograph but some might have noticed my barefoot status. There was one comment on the picture and this was it:
i'm in are wearing socks!!!!
That message was left by Sherri Scott Barber and she noticed something no one else would or even would have considered extraordinary. You see, Sherri and I grew up together in York, Nebraska. We went to school together, first grade through college. Her folks were the friends of my folks and we were in the same Sunday school class from age six on. Her dad was the reason I became a history teacher and Sherri and I had our first teaching jobs at the same small school in Georgia where her father, Dr. Robert Scott, was the principal. Sherri knows that from the time I was in junior high until I grew up that the only times I had socks on my feet were church service and when I was involved in playing basketball or baseball. Her little brother, Jonathan, even swore off the  wearing of said footwear and claimed I was his role model. So, perhaps it was not surprising that Sherri discerned a very slight detail which registered on no one else's consciousness.

You have to know a person well to notice the little things. I have two girls that rate my clothes every day at school. Margaret is a third grader and Angela is senior. Margaret has been giving me thumbs up this new year but Angela is harder to please. Last week, she liked what I was wearing but demanded to see my socks to make sure they matched my belt. When she saw one of my socks was inside out, my positive rating suddenly turned negative. No one else bothered to look at my socks that day, or any other day to be honest. Many men pay little attention to their feet but the Lord often does. In the Psalms, references to feet are often correlated to a right relationship with our God. For example:
Psalm 17:5
My steps have held to your paths; my feet have not slipped.
Or how about:
Psalm 31:8
You have not handed me over to the enemy but have set my feet in a spacious place.
Or consider this well-known verse:
Psalm 119:105
Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light for my path.

The Lord obviously considers feet to be important to His children, at least symbolically. I may have overcome my childish habit of going sockless only to fall prey to the inside-out sloppiness which marks many of my getting dressed in a hurry mornings. But to our Father, my feet matter only in regards to where they are planted, in His courts or the courts of the enemy. That's why the Sherris and Angelas of the world matter to guys like me. By watching my feet, they keep me on my toes. And sometimes, those toes get stepped on.

Applicable quote of the day:
"Women speak because they wish to speak, whereas a man speaks only when driven to speak by something outside himself  like,  for instance, he can't find any clean socks."
Jean Kerr

God bless,

Luke 18:1
E-mail me at

Friday, August 28, 2015

The Gospel Of Shoes

In the US, we take shoes for granted. I am no shoe collector but I have seven pair of tennis shoes and six pair of dress footwear. In Haiti, Honduras, China, and Vietnam, I have seen kids who are barefoot and at risk. The following, from June of 2006, is about what we take for granted.

It was shoe buying time this Saturday. I rotate two pair of running shoes during the year and purchase a third before I go to Honduras in the summer. My brown dress shoes had completely split from side to side in the soles so that was added to my list. On top of those must haves, my khaki coaching shorts had developed a split in a most inopportune location. So, Saturday afternoon, I headed to Academy Sports And Outdoors, a large sporting goods and clothing retail chain. The shorts were easy to buy with an everyday price of $9.99 per pair- I didn't even try them on. But I just couldn't find running or dress shoes I liked at the price I wanted so I left empty handed...I mean footed. As I retreated to my car, I remembered there is a Shoe Carnival store in the same strip mall so I figured it couldn't hurt to walk over and see what they had. I found the running shoes section at the back but what really caught my eye was a discount pile. Everything on this table was only $29 according to the sign. There was a sweet pair of Nikes, labeled WIDE, in my size on the stack. I tried them on- perfect fit! I was so excited, especially at the register when the cashier told me they accepted personal checks. I told her I was ecstatic about the Nikes and remarked that I wish I knew when they had sales. To my surprise, she told me, "Well, you know, we have a buy one-get the second pair half price deal going on for the next fifteen minutes." I DIDN'T KNOW! She took my check, went over the details of the offer again, and I was off to the dress shoes aisle. I agonized a little bit, especially when they began announcing how many minutes were left in the special, but I settled on a pair of Giorgio Brutini tasseled loafers, which will last me five years. They were originally $49 and on sale for only $39. So, with with my buy one-get the second pair half price deal, I was able to obtain two great pairs of shoes for only $53.50 before tax. Plus, the cashier lady and I had a conversation about her interest in enrolling her brother, who is her ward, in Westbury Christian School next school year. All around, a very successful twenty minute excursion into Shoe Carnival.

You probably can tell that I am excited about my new shoes. But it isn't really the shoes; I just feel blessed that someone offered good news to me. If the cashier hadn't opened up, I would have never known and would have departed the store in ignorance. I was a seeker and she had just the information I needed. The gospel of Jesus is like that. It requires a seeker and one with the knowledge and the desire to share. I think the Lord will match up seekers and sharers. In the New Testament, the term good news is invariably preceded by action words: bringing, telling, preaching, proclaiming. It isn't to be buried like the man who hid his talent in one of Jesus' parables. I don't know if that cashier received a commission from her interaction with me but I think she deserves one. She was persuasive! The scriptures imply non-monetary rewards await those who, in a similar analogy, share the Gospel of a risen Savior:
"How beautiful on the mountains are the feet of those who bring good news." (Isaiah 52:7)
I can only hope my feet are beautiful!

Applicable quote of the day:
"If God sends us on strong paths, we are provided strong shoes."
Corrie TenBoom

God bless,
Steve (size 10.5)
Luke 18:1
E-mail me at

Thursday, August 27, 2015

The Voice

What does John the Baptist have to do with the Little Mermaid? Read on to find out in this entry from October 10, 2011!

Jodi Benson turned fifty today- I know because I heard it on  Radio 610 AM's Celebrity Birthday segment as I drove away from school this afternoon. I did not recognize the name but the description of the birthday girl caught my ear. Jodi Benson was the voice of Ariel in The Little Mermaid and that was the topic of my devotional yesterday! A google search revealed that Ms Benson is very well known for her voice work in both movies and video games and today she turns fifty. Let me join my voice to others celebrating this very often heard voice: Happy Birthday, Jodi Benson!

Each spring semester, my Gospels classes watch the Robin Williams' movie, Awakenings, which chronicles the true-life story of a Brooklyn doctor who worked with comatose patients others have ignored for decades with spectacular results, at least in the short term. One of my students two years ago noted that she thought Nurse Costello in the movie was the voice of Marge Simpson of The Simpsons. I'm no fan of that show but I googled it and guess what? Eleanor Costello, the heroine of Awakenings, was played by Julie Kavner who does indeed turn out to be the voice for Marge Simpson. I never would have made that connection.

As we continue our study of John the Baptist in my Bible classes, we note that when he was asked his identity, John quoted Isaiah, the prophet:
"I am the voice of one calling in the desert, 'Make straight the way for the Lord.' '' (John 1:23)
There's that concept of a voice again. Jesus himself made references to his voice. He spoke of being the Good Shepherd and that his sheep know his voice. The same is true with parents and their children; we trust the voices which were the first we heard and recognized and loved. I have to ask myself as a teacher and coach- What do my students hear and recognize in my voice? Is it respect and love and acceptance or is it anger and condescension and apathy? In John 10:5, Jesus says his sheep will not follow a stranger because they do not recognize the voice. I'm pretty sure some of those sheep of Jesus are in my classroom and on my team. I pray I'm not a stranger to them.

Applicable quote of the day:
"In the theater, characters have to cut the umbilical cord from the writer and talk in their own voices."
Irwin Shaw

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

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Send The Light

One byproduct of my parents' passing was a temporary, huge increase in mail parked in my box on a daily basis. E-mail, and now FACEBOOK, has curtailed my use of stamped letters and notes to almost nothing, to my regret. Finding cards in my box brightened many days during my times of grieving. The thoughts were not profound necessarily but simply expressions of shared grief and prayers for healing. The following was an entry from October 2, 2006. I wished I practiced better what I wrote about.

It's Monday evening so that means Monday Night For The Master at our congregation. On the first business day of the week during the school year, our church eats supper together and then goes about the Lord's business jointly. We might be engaged in projects in the building or making visits. One group prays and another makes phone calls. I'm a card writer. Tonight, I penned five post cards. One was a follow-up to a visitor from yesterday's worship but the other four were to brothers and sisters of our number. Collectively, they have endured a difficult week:
one elderly brother was released from the hospital
one sister was in a car accident last Friday, reducing the number of family vehicles to just one

one teenage brother underwent shoulder surgery today to repair a football injury
one brother was robbed and beaten last week and awaits surgery at home

I hope my notes bring some measure of peace when the mailman delivers them on Wednesday. The messages weren't earth shattering, just reminders that God loves them and so so do their brothers and sisters. Increasingly, I am convinced that any encouragement can go a very long way. The realization that another cares enough to call or knock on the door or jot a few lines of comfort can revive a flagging spirit and renew a spark of hope. We can see Jesus in each other. Everyone wants a little light to lift them up. We talked in my eighth grade Bible classes today as we memorized from John chapter 1. Jesus is described as the light and the true light in these passages detailing the relationship between the Christ and John the Baptist. I asked the kids how many of them slept with night lights; a number of the girls admitted they do. I asked the size of the lights and the answer was ''small." But even a tiny light gives reassurance that we are safe. Every little child at Westbury Christian School knows, "This little light of mine, I'm going to let it shine!" We use it as a children's song but it could just as easily be a grownup's hymn. We are never promised an easy path in following the Lord. Jesus prophesied in John 16 that,
"In this world you will have trouble."
Fortunately, he didn't leave it there!
"But take heart! I have overcome the world."
In between the trouble part and the overcome promise is the take heart section. That's what the card writing is about- the take heart ministry. Just picture customized paper night lights that never need to be plugged in!

Applicable quote of the day:
"Most of us, swimming against the tide of trouble the world knows nothing about, need only a bit of praise or encouragement- and we will make the goal."
Robert Collier

God bless,
Luke 18:1

E-mail me at

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Easy As One Two Three (Dollars)

I guess I started sitting by Shirley during Wednesday night Bible study about six months ago. I didn't really know her much until then. On Sundays, she worships with another congregation although her daughter is here with us. Her adult child, Brenda, is wheel chair bound and deaf but remarkably independent. The first interaction I had with Shirley was several years ago. I had given a report on my summer trip to Vietnam to that same Wednesday night class. She came up with tears in her eyes and pressed some money in my hand. Shirley told me her dear husband had been killed in Vietnam and that the pictures of the kids really got to her. The same scene was recreated last September when I gave the report on my most recent mission. One Wednesday evening, I sat next to Shirley and she started saving me a seat. She even sent me a picture of my empty chair last month when I was in Can Tho! Shirley reads my blog now and often comments on it. She is just a remarkable lady. That brings me up to last Wednesday night. 

There is a brother in our church who makes and sells a cheese spread that is very popular with our members. Two weeks ago, he brought Shirley her order after the final amen. Unfortunately, she was three dollars short and asked Asher to take an IOU until next week, which he was more than willing to do. But, I was sitting there and had my wallet so I passed three dollars to Shirley to finish the transaction. I guess she told me would repay me at the next Bible study but I really can't remember. As I sat down this past Wednesday, Shirley handed me the three dollars plus an extra quarter 'for interest' wrapped in plastic. By my unscientific calculations, that's 8.33% interest.I wish I could get that on my savings account at Chase Bank!

Let me tell what I find fascinating about the three dollar incident. Shirley had to tell me what the money was for. Until she brought it to my memory, I had zero recollection and I doubt I would have ever recalled it. I had totally forgotten it and had to be reminded. Good thing Shirley is so honest although I probably could have gotten by without the reimbursement! As I've thought about it, it seems to me that is how the Lord is with our sin. There are a number of scriptures in both the Old and New Testament which bear witness to this, that He forgets our iniquities. I struggle with this concept even though I believe it because I don't forget easily when I perceive others have done me wrong. How could our Almighty Father? Look, I'm not trying to be deep or scholarly here but I found it refreshing that I easily forgot Shirley's monetary debt to me. Maybe that is how God deals with my transgressions. We, or at least me, try to make it up to God even though we say He has forgotten the sinful things we have done. I liken it to my mouthwash, better known as Crest-Pro Health! How about this conflicting advice on the label:

24 Hour Protection!

   *very next line*
USE 2x/Day

I call that the just in case directions. You know, it works one whole day but just to be safe, gargle twice! If I believe God, why does my guilt make me try to make sure and work extra hard so I can be confident He really has forgotten? I have no trouble remembering those I owe money to and I am paranoid about removing the debt as soon as possible. But I tend to forget the fiscal debts others have yet to make right with me. Maybe there is hope for me yet and maybe a bit of the Father in me after all! What a blessing to serve a merciful Father who has compassion on His children! I need that mercy!

Applicable quote of the day:
“To be a Christian means to forgive the inexcusable because God has forgiven the inexcusable in you.”
C.S. Lewis

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

Monday, August 24, 2015

Word On The Street

Back: Grandpa Hawley, Sandy, Dad, Mom, Dave
Middle: Cecelya, Grandma Hawley, Aunt Bertha Hawley, me
Front: Scott

My/our father, Roger Hawley, died more than seven years ago and it seems like yesterday. We talked about families today in several of my classes and I find I am still discovering things about my parents. I wrote this three months before Dad passed away about influence he had I knew nothing of. I chose purple font, which matched at least half of the shirts in his closet. We miss you, Dad. I like this picture of Dad and the rest of us in front of our house at 809 East Avenue, York, Nebraska.

I'm in the middle of writing thank-you notes for Christmas. Santa was good to me again this year. My wardrobe improved significantly as I was the recipient of gift cards to Kohl's, Macy's, and Target as well as seven beautiful ties to accent my dress shirts at school. My sister-in-law, Karen, made sure I smell good with a gift set of Lucky You Cologne and related products. Aside from clothes and grooming, I was also blessed by several unexpected presents. An anonymous donor gave me a pre-paid cell phone, good through May or 140 minutes, whichever comes first. (My lovely niece, Karis, had to show me how it works.) Two days ago, during teacher in-service, Ben Johnson brought me another gift. This past summer, while on my Honduras mission, I roomed with John, a fellow Christian and successful businessman who also is from Houston although we attend different congregations. I mentioned that I was in such a rush in the morning that I just drink leftover coffee from the day before, often not bothering to heat it up. Apparently, that was a cause for concern in John's eyes and he had Ben, who worships with him, deliver a new coffee maker with an automatic timer. Now, I can program the aroma of percolating coffee to wake me up each morning. Sweet!

This was a tough Christmas for our family. Traditions were replaced by the realities of our parents' health issues. This has all come as a shock to me as I never conceived my mom and dad would grow old and get sick. The way we did the holiday season growing up is bygone although Dad has pledged that next Christmas will be a terrific one. I would guess he means he will shop once more and decorate a tree, a real one that comes from God's good earth. This was the first Christmas in my life that Mom and Dad did not give me a present. But that doesn't mean that they were uninvolved with the best gift of this most recent Yule. I was out exercising in the neighborhood my last full day in St. Louis when I ran into Debbie. I have seen her over the years: she's one of these addicted walkers who get their five miles in daily no matter what the weather, and it was about 15 degrees that afternoon. She stopped and asked about Dad. I knew she and my father had the acquaintance that fellow-walkers share but that was about it. Debbie told me she was praying for Dad and then she told me this: When her nephew was in trouble, Dad worked with him in counseling and helped him survive the situation. When Debbie's best friend, Peggy, lost her husband to cancer, my mom was by Peggy's side each step of the way and helped her navigate the grief. It was obvious my folks have had a profound impact on this lady's life ....and I had no clue. What she passed on to me on Hannah Avenue last week will stay with me long after the cologne has run dry and the ties have gone out of style. Her words will remain when my cell phone minutes have expired and my coffee maker won't percolate. She gave me the gift of insight into my Mom and Dad. I thought their story had all been written but apparently there are a few more chapters to go. I can't wait to read the next installment: I have a lot to learn.

Applicable quote of the day:
"The everyday kindness of the back roads more than makes up for the acts of greed in the headlines."
Charles Kuralt

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

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Boxed In

I've been back from my mission to Vietnam for twenty-two days now. School is seven days in and I am almost in a routine once more. I like my school schedule, I think, but I would prefer non-back-to-back planning periods. I'm not complaining, though. At my previous two stops, we only had one. I don't have much time to recover from my trip before school starts so some stuff I have to do on the fly. When I go on these missions, I am going by myself as opposed to my first thirteen trips when I was part of groups. I have several folks helping me, primarily Sherry Ann who books my tickets and Ann who handles my finances, but life basically stops for me the several days before departure. I clean up the kitchen and the bathroom but a lot of stuff just lays where it is. So, I have some straightening up when I get back to my normal life.

If I do say so, I've done a pretty good job of re-acclimating this year. The first several days are always spent with thank-you stuff and getting pictures developed as well as getting into a school frame of mind. But the apartment scenario is always lurking and I can't ignore it. I love living in a spotless apartment- I just don't like cleaning. Still, I have vacuumed, 
shined the bathroom, scrubbed the kitchen, emptied the suitcase, and washed all dirty clothes as well as iron every nice item I owned. I have dusted a little and paid all my bills (just threw that in there) and sorted all of my Vietnam memorabilia. There's just one catch- the box you see at top of this entry. 

I always through the kindness of our school take WCS shirts to the folks in the church in Vietnam and this year was no different, as well as a set from our youth group at church. Then, Lisa Berglund, our Wildcat Store manager, gave me access to a BUNCH of WCS t-shirts and PE shorts we have never sold. My goal was to stuff as much as I could into two suitcases with 50 pound weight limits. And I did, as much as humanly possible. There were still a good number of shorts/shirts when I headed out the door at 4:30 AM on July 8. The box had been there since I am guessing July 1. And as you might have guessed, it has not moved an inch. I have cleaned to the right and left of it and all around it but it remains where planted more than seven weeks back. I keep thinking this is the day I will put it up but it hasn't happened. Maybe I am slow because I'll have to come up with a place for it in the closet and move something else to make some room but it doesn't matter. I could have dealt with it when I walked back in my place at 9:45 PM on August 1 but I let it linger and it has become an eyesore, if only to me.

I am convinced many of us have obstacles in our lives like that box. We know we need to take care of them but something gets in the way. Often, it might be something minor we just procrastinate into being something major. Maybe it's laziness; maybe we just get used to it. I've been pretty close to having my place presentable but ONE THING remains in the way. Jesus told the rich young ruler he only lacked ONE THING. I'm not approximating a box of light clothing (which I will stuff in my suitcases NEXT YEAR) with what have been an enormous fortune but many of us have a stumbling block that we leave lying around to our own detriment. Stuff like that tends to trip us up. Jesus taught two thousand years ago that the road to life is narrow and they haven't added any lanes. Let's not make that path any harder to navigate.

Applicable quote of the day:
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