Sunday, May 03, 2015

Visa To Vietnam

This time next month, I will make my way to the Vietnamese consulate in Houston to obtain my Visa for my mission this July. I have found it to be a simple and painless process! This is from June 1, 2011.
This morning, I went to the Vietnamese consulate in downtown Houston and applied for my visa. It was simple; their website had it laid out perfectly. In several days, they will mail my visa and passport back to me in the pre-paid USPS envelope I provided. It was so quick. Last year, I spent an hour plus in the Chinese consulate; today, I was in and out in minutes. There were only three others applying for visas so it didn't take long. In fact, it took me longer to escape the parking lot afterwards due to a malfunction in the arm bar at the ticket booth. And I only got lost once so for me, a terrific morning!

I wasn't sure what to wear today so I settled for dress pants and shoes, a white shirt, and a tie. My reasoning was that if I am inviting myself into their nation, the least I should do was act like it's a big deal. I doubt that it mattered and I don't think the people behind the counter took my wardrobe into consideration when they passed me through. Still, I try to teach the kids in my classes, especially the young men, the importance of dressing and acting respectfully and appropriately in all situations. For almost a month, I will be a guest in another country. In the Parable of the Wedding Banquet Jesus told in Matthew 22, a guest was kicked out of the marriage festivities for being improperly clothed. I want to make sure that doesn't happen to me so I took precautionary measures when I dressed fourteen hours ago for the occasion. It certainly can't hurt and I want the good people of Vietnam to invite me back.

Applicable quote of the day:
"It's been said that a pretty face is a passport. But it's not, it's a visa and it runs out fast."
Julie Burchill

God bless,
Steve

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

Saturday, May 02, 2015

Trey Bien!


In three days, our Honduras/Haiti bottles will come flowing back in. Several months ago,each WCS student who wanted one was given a bank bottle to collect loose chnge for Christian orphanages we support in Honduras and Haiti. Below, from May 12, 2008, is one of my favorite stories in our thirteen year history of this project at Westbury Christian School. One person can make a difference!

It was a hectic week for me. The end of school is always busy but we also started our Honduras collection last Thursday. Our kids save change year round to sponsor two orphanages in Central America. Because of Dad's illness, I missed a considerable amount of school this Spring, putting our project behind in timing and preparation. There are so many things vying for attention at the end of the year, many after the conclusion of the school day. For teachers, some are mandatory and some are optional, but we are encouraged to be at any extracurricular event involving our kids. In my seventh period sophomore Bible class on Tuesday, Trey Wilson asked if I was coming to the Band Concert that night. I was waffling beforehand and the odds were 50-50 I would be in attendance but it's hard to say no to any youngster who wants me to witness their performance. I assured Trey I would be there ......and I was. As I drove home, I was happy I'd taken the ninety minutes to hear our musical kids do their best in a public forum. Trey was terrific, being spotlighted on both percussion and brass. He's a great young man: I've seen alot of growth in him the past several years. I also witnessed Trey in one of the most selfless acts I remember in school. Let me set the scene.


It was May 2005. I was sitting in the lobby of Mundy Hall, our main building at WCS. Several days previously, our students had begun bringing their Honduras change. Preston Hill, one of our parents, supplies specially made banks each year for our WCS kids, designed by our art classes. Many of our students- and teachers- forget to bring their bottles on the designated turn-in day. That's what I was doing at 7:15 that morning, reminding everybody passing through the front door to remember their pennies-nickels-dimes-quarters for the less fortunate. Trey was a seventh grader that Spring and he approached me, asking for another Honduras bottle. I'm the first to admit that I lack patience with middle schoolers of the male persuasion. I'd distributed the bottles back in January after making a video presentation in chapel and a short talk in each Bible class. How was it that he was requesting another bottle four months later? And then...... I remembered. A week before, there had been a big fire and the house of one of our kids had been destroyed. The student was Trey Wilson. In that moment, it became crystal clear. Trey had not been careless and lost his bottle- his plastic bank had burned up in the fire. And now, he was asking for another chance to help kids he would never meet with resources he seemed to be lacking. Allow me to put it into perspective. As a school, we were raising money to help Trey's family get back on their feet and here he is, wanting to make sure he's doing his share to bless the little ones with no one else to bless them. In Second Corinthians , Paul is exhorting the church in Corinth to give by using the example of the brethren in Macedonia:
"And now, brothers, we want you to know about the grace that God has given the Macedonian churches. Out of the most severe trial, their overflowing joy and their extreme poverty welled up in rich generosity. For I testify that they gave as much as they were able, and even beyond their ability. Entirely on their own, they urgently pleaded with us for the privilege of sharing in this service to the saints." (2nd Corinthians 8:2-5)
I've never seen a better parallel in real life to the Scriptures than I did that day with Trey and the long-deceased Macedonians. The financial situation his family faced was temporary but try telling that to a seventh grader who just had his worldly possessions go up in flames. It's easy to give what we have in abundance. It takes faith to give out of scarcity. Jesus told us the smallest act of kindness would be rewarded, even a cup of cold water given in his name. I'll bet Trey's pennies will be remembered when the accounting comes.


Applicable quote of the day:
"Every charitable act is a stepping stone toward heaven."
Henry Ward Beecher


God bless,
Steve
Luke 18:1

http://www.hawleybooks.com/

E-mail me at steve@hawleybooks.com

To see where our change goes, please visit:
http://www.missionlazarus.org/

http://www.hopeforhaitischildren.org/

Friday, May 01, 2015

What Lurks Beneath The Fridge

(Disclaimer: Not my apartment!)
It's hard for me to comprehend but I have lived in my apartment for seventeen years. That's four years longer than any other place I have called home. It's as long as my folks lived in Nebraska and that seemed like an eternity. I like it here and I don't like moving around. Plus, the complex is good to me. They are quick to address problems, it's quiet, the pool is awesome, and it's only four minutes from school/church. Several weeks ago, I noticed several tears in the linoleum in my kitchen floor. The wonderful Elaine, one of the managers, dispatched the maintenance to inspect it and they decided I needed a floor. Within ten days, or last Tuesday, it was installed when I was at school. I never saw them come or go but when I walked inside my abode, there was my new kitchen covering. It looks like rock tile- I'm pretty sure it's not but it is sweet. I could not be happier with the result. One of my dear friends, Yanping, surmised I might start cooking more but that would be a stretch.

I would be remiss, though, to not reveal the whole story. There was an ugly side to the vignette. You see, the flooring crew gave me a present. They left the kitchen trash can with a brand new trash bag liner and it was, I would guess, about 40% full. The disgusting material residing in the trash receptacle was what they swept out from under the stove and refrigerator when they removed the old floor and laid down the new. It was disgusting. And I had even used the broom and spot mopped before I left in the morning. From the look of that bag, I am the worst house keeper in metro Houston and maybe points east and west. My belief is that I'm not all that bad but based on the evidence in the trash can, I would be unanimously convicted.  

We all know the phrase sweep it under the rug in reference to hiding something we don't want to deal with or come to light. Well, I have never consciously made a desposit in the space under my GE stove or refrigerator. And yet that garbage got there somehow. I'm not big on pulling out the couch or bed to vacuum under but under those two pieces of furniture is more likely to be dust which seems more palatable. I clean feverishly when I know there will be guests but not where it is most needed. In Matthew 23, Jesus makes references to dishes and cups and tombs which look good on the outside but inside are stuffed with every kind of filth and rottenness. He makes the point that looking good to the world spirtually can be deceptive; we can still be lawless and hypocritical in the part of us we keep hidden away. My kitchen floor is like that. Well, it was. I'm assuming it is clean enough down there now to eat dinner off that new tile and not worry a bit. Sometimes, we have to pull back the appliances and do a thorough inspection. I need to do that with my heart, as well. It might not be too pretty.

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

Thursday, April 30, 2015

The Fab Four....And Billy


The end of school is drawing near. As always, I will miss the kids, some who I am closer to more than others. The end of school makes me nostalgic; the following, from June 7, 2006, is a nostalgic piece.

Billy Preston died yesterday. The musician, once tabbed The Fifth Beatle, became famous in the late 1960's for playing on several albums as a teenager with John-Paul-George-Ringo. After the breakup of the boys from Liverpool, Preston went on to a notable career in his own right with a number of hits, including Nothing From Nothing and Will It Go Round In Circles? Preston is also noted for having penned of one of the great love songs of the seventies, You Are So Beautiful, which became a smash for Joe Cocker. (I once sent a rose to a girl I was dating with that song title as the only inscription on the card. Utterly romantic...and not very expensive!) Billy Preston had a distinctive keyboard sound coupled with a unique voice, combining to create records that were easily recognizable. He was only fifty-nine at the time of his passing, having been comatose since last November. Years of alcohol and substance abuse led to attempted rehabilitations, kidney failure and subsequent transplant, and ultimately, death. In the end, the drugs won by a knockout. Billy Preston was not able to answer the bell one last time.

My first car was a 1970 Nova. It had belonged to my brother, Dave, who inherited it from my Grandfather Hawley when Grandpa could no longer drive. Of course, it had an eight track player and Dave, always the connoisseur of fine tunes, had a Billy Preston tape. Billy Preston, turned up extremely loud, transformed that gold, rust-covered Chevy into Carnegie Hall on wheels. His signature song was That's The Way God Planned It, taken from the album of the same name. It was a nice song, speaking in platitudes about a better world that could be brought about by cooperation. On the day after his death, it seems very ironic to reflect on Billy's much younger voice singing,
That's the way God planned it;That's the way God wants it to be.Obviously, that is not how the Lord wanted it to end for Billy Preston, one of the most gifted musicians of recent generations. In the oft-quoted Jeremiah 29:11, we are told:
"For I know the plans I have for you," declare the Lord, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future."
Look at the the promises God gives in that verse: PROSPERITY, SAFETY, HOPE, A FUTURE. All are contradictory terms in relation to drug use, the demon torturing so many lives around the world. We mourn for the family and friends Billy Preston left behind and will mourn again for others who fall into the same treacherous trap. Satan's temptations have grown more elaborate since the Garden of Eden but they still lead to the same deadly conclusion.


To hear one of the great songs of all-time, copy and past the link below of Billy singing Nothing From Nothing:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8HqyEHqEYho


Applicable quote of the day:
"I do believe that God has his hands on me and that he has work for me to do."
Billy Preston


God bless,
Steve
Luke 18:1

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

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

The Mean Green


The scriptures teach quite a bit on the subject of money. Sometimes, I doubt that we have been listening to what the Lord has to say about the thing that seems to drive our world. This is from August 6, 2007.

I bet it was an interesting Sunday morning in Tennessee. A church in Nashville is in the middle of a brouhaha revolving around the preacher. Members have brought a lawsuit against the minister, alleging he has been involved in financial misconduct, including mortgaging the church property without the permission of the parishioners. A meeting this week turned ugly and police were called to prevent the gathering from turning into, and I am using the terms used on The Tennessean's website, a near-riot and a brawl. The preacher has been legally barred from setting foot on church property. Members have stopped attending. I would guess it was an uneasy service today.

Money has the ability to anger us very quickly. Yesterday, I walked to a nearby store after stuffing some bills in my pocket instead of carrying my wallet. As I reached in to pay for my groceries, I discovered that I had lost a $5 bill somewhere between my apartment and the checkout counter. I retraced my steps but with no success. For the rest of the evening, I was mad. My hope was that whoever found it needed it more than I did. Have you followed the Michael Strahan saga in New York? The defensive end for the football Giants is either holding out for money or mulling retirement, whichever spin you choose to believe. Rumor is that he's not happy with his contract, worth only $4 million for the upcoming season. The Giants are not amused, fining Strahan in excess of $14 thousand for each day of training camp he misses. It might have something to do with his divorce settlement last winter which ordered the former All Pro to pay his former wife over $15 million plus $18 thousand per month in child support. (When you read the allegations of his infidelity, it's hard to feel sorry for him.) We just don't like to lose money, whether it's five bucks in my case or in the upper millions as regards to Mr. Strahan. Did Jesus carry money? Based on two scenes which involved taxes, it doesn't appear he did. In the one, concerning the payment of taxes to Caesar, the questioners brought him a coin. In the questioning of whether Jesus paid the temple tax, he instructed Peter to retrieve the money from the mouth of a fish he was about to catch. It might be easy to write it off by saying Jesus could produce what he needed out of available materials. But the Master left us a great example of not being consumed by wealth. The well-to-do did not come off in a positive light in his stories. That should be a lesson to us. I tend to see it as a lesson for people with more than I have: they're the ones who
really need it!!!!


Applicable quote of the day:
"Money often costs too much."
Ralph Waldo Emerson


God bless,
Steve
Luke 18:1

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

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

To Watch Over Me

It got cold today and the low tonight will be in the fifties. That is Nebraska weather in July but I now reside in Houston. Soon, I'll return to my apartment pool when the water gets above 80 degrees but for now, I'm keeping up my workouts in the heated pool at my fitness club. This is from June 14, 2011.
You might think this is a little bit odd but that's okay. Since the weather warmed up in Houston, which sounds redundant, I've returned to my pattern of running/swimming twice a day in my apartment pool. It's a nice pool, practically right outside my door, and the staff keeps it very clean. My pool times are slightly out of the norm, five AM and ten o'clock at night. I like to have the water to myself and these times give me a pretty good chance for that to happen. With only a couple of exceptions during the past month, I've had an audience for my workouts. This frog comes out, sits on the edge of the pool, and watches me. My students didn't believe me so I got in the water with my camera and took a picture. There he is (or maybe she, I'm not sure how to tell.) Once, he sat transfixed by my digital clock, almost as if it were an event in itself. Oftentimes, my little friend  is not there when I jump in the water but within a few minutes, he appears. This sounds strange but I've come to look for him. I am a creature of habit and so, apparently, is this frog. He does not seem to be scared of me but I try to give him a wide berth when I leave the pool for my apartment. It's not good to run your friends off.

I take comfort in routine. My life is a habitual exercise and that's what I feel at ease with. I like that most nights and morning when I'm in the water, I can see the moon in the sky. It moves to different places and it has different fullnesses but those characteristics are predictable and have been since it was placed in its orbit. Psalm 89 calls the moon, 'the faithful witness in the sky.' I like both the faithful part and the witness part. In my life, I crave order to make my existence manageable and I believe that desire was placed in me by our Creator. I know He put the moon up there to circle our small planet. And maybe He raised up that frog to remind me that we live in a world where even the insignificant creatures have a place in His design. That's what I think. Can I get a witness?

Applicable quote of the day:
"I'd kiss a frog even if there was no chance of  Prince Charming popping out. I like frogs."

Cameron Diaz

God bless,
Steve
Luke 18:1

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

Monday, April 27, 2015

Walk On By

Do you remember the old hit by The Police, a tribute to stalking called Every Step You Take? My entry tonight is about how we take those steps. It's from January 16, 2011.

I saw something fascinating yesterday on MSN.com, a very short piece from the Discovery Channel. The clip revolved around a study done on male and female subjects and how they walked. The researchers had the participants on laboratory treadmills and were filming them. One set of walkers was told they were being observed and their gaits would be studied for their stride or something along that line. The other group was led to believe that their walk would be analyzed and rated for attractiveness to the opposite gender. Guess what happened? Most of us could have correctly predicted the difference in the study groups. The first walked normally but in the second, the men used their shoulders to affect more of a swagger and the ladies had a much more of a pronounced sway in their hips. It boils down to this: knowing we are being observed has a direct bearing on every step we take.

Do I think I am conscious of the presence of the opposite gender? Who isn't? Earlier in the season, my basketball team played in a tournament at another school. One of the referees paid very careful attention to my assistant coach, Katy, who is extremely attractive. He made it a point to stroll by our bench during timeouts and linger nearby at halftime. I doubt if he even knew I was in the gym so I told Katy to load up on the lip gloss- we needed every break we could get. In the New Testament, the term walk is more often used to convey the image of how we live our lives as sacrifices for the Lord. In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus referred to His believers as salt/light and talked about our assignment to be a city on a hill, you know, that metropolis that cannot be hidden. It is imperative that we as disciples remain aware of how we are walking with God every moment we're in the public eye. My job as a Christian school teacher and coach leaves no wiggle room for non-Christlike behavior. Many of my shirts/jackets/gym bags/briefcases carry the name of our school which by design proclaims my allegiance to the Almighty. Even the parking permit hanging from my rearview mirror is a testimony to my place of employment which bears the name Christian. I should walk the same no matter who is watching because believe me, somebody is. I have one-hundred-twenty eyewitnesses in my classroom for thirty-six weeks a year..... and they see everything.

Applicable quote of the day:
"The best remedy for a short temper is a long walk."
Jacqueline Schiff


God bless,
Steve
Luke 18:1

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